Dark Knight Duality

IMAX is the way to do it. Honestly. If you have a chance, go and see it IMAX.

As for the movie: I’ve waited a few days to let it marinate or digest a little because I didn’t want to cast judgment immediately. But before you ignite the furnace of fandom outrage, hold tight for a moment.

This movie was my most highly anticipated movie of the summer. I mean, with Batman Begins, how couldn’t I be dying to see Dark Knight? The conclusion that I’ve come to and what’s been holding me up is this: I don’t think Dark Knight is really about Batman in the same sense that Batman Begins was.

Here’s my explanation. How many moments did we have with Bats or Bruce where we really knew what he was thinking or saw how he was even feeling about the Joker or Two-Face or Rachel? Honestly, it seems to me that this movie was more like Rachel or Dent or even the Joker relating the events that transpired instead of being from Batman’s perspective.

Is that a bad thing?

To be honest, I’m not sure. I think I’ll have a chance to see it again this weekend in San Diego and I’m going to go into the movie with the idea that this isn’t a movie about Batman, it’s a movie about the Joker and Harvey Dent. I think only then will I really be able to give it a fair rating as to its overall quality.

Batman Role: B-

However, I am no where near considering that I’d give this movie a complete thumbs down. What I did enjoy immensely as I’m sure did many others was: Heath Ledger as the Joker. So imaginative and innovative and humorous and wonderful. I felt even more saddened that he wouldn’t be making a reappearance (though somehow I’m doubting Nolan would do two Joker movies). Ledger’s performance was phenomenal. Period. He deserves an Oscar solely based on his performance (and I still worry it will be because he died more than that, but hopefully not). So if anything, this movie is worth seeing just for Heath.

The Joker Role: A+

What about the rest of the movie? To be honest, I think some of the problem was too many villains (and I don’t just mean Joker and Two-Face). We’ve got a Chinese investor, the lead mob boss, the Scarecrow, a couple of minor mob bosses, the Joker, and Two-Face–at least six areas to give screen time to. It’s honestly no wonder Bruce seemed a bit elusive. Despite that we’ve got a romance to build between Harvey and Rachel, ties to be made between the Joker and the other criminals and ties to be made between the Chinese investor and the mob bosses. I think the mass amounts of characters took time away from those that really mattered.

Personally, I would have just ditched the Scarecrow, ditched the Chinese investor, and trimmed down Rachel and Harvey. I would have liked to see Bruce getting a little more freaked out by the Joker and maybe even spending some time wondering if the Joker could be right (if they’re so similar to each other). I think I might have preferred Harvey become Two-Face in the next movie. I don’t know, I guess I was hoping for it to be more of a struggle between the Joker and Batman, but at times it almost seemed like the movie was more about the Joker and Two-Face. *shrug*


The Joker: I’m like a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught one.

I’m still in awe of the Joker, still loving Heath Ledger’s performance and will still always appreciate his being a part of Dark Knight. Perhaps a second viewing will help change my thoughts on the film, but for now…

Parents: I’d probably say 10 yrs old and up, depending on your kid, it’s pretty dark and there’s a lot of disturbing themes.
Non-Batman Fans: It’s a bit dark, but if you like “Silence of the Lambs” kinds of movies, you’ll probably enjoy this one.
Batman Fans: You probably already saw it, and if not, do it for the Joker.

Rating: B+

Fat Man in a Little Shirt

You can’t honestly tell me after seeing that picture you weren’t humming the tune “Fat Guy in a Little Coat” to yourself.

It took me until this morning to finally see the season premiere of Burn Notice because my DVR has been having some pretty major issues. It likes to freeze at a certain time, thus missing anything it was supposed to be recording until it’s reset. I know, it’s time to get a new one.

The important thing is that I finally got to see it and it was everything I hoped it would be. Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) returns with a vengeance, causing what is, I’m certain, a large number of women to spontaneously ovulate and wish their lives were just a little more dangerous (it’s all in the smile). Then of course Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) shows up in that little shirt and all bets are off. Fionna’s (Gabrielle Anwar) appearance is just icing on the cake.

I don’t want to talk too much about this episode because I’m not one to give spoilers and I firmly believe that if you haven’t yet watched this series, you should. As a matter of fact, if you haven’t watched the USA Network lately you are missing out on some of the best programming on TV. I don’t think there has ever been a time where I’ve been so captivated by one network. Between Burn Notice, In Plain Sight, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Monk (which I don’t watch regularly, but only because I want to see it from season one) I can only think the executives at USA are so high they’re not paying attention or they’ve been replaced by space aliens in the first wave of an invasion. Whatever the reason, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that nothing changes anytime soon.

If you need a basic rundown, see my post here. Believe me, this show is well worth your time. And, just to make things easy for you, you can find the first season on DVD here. If you’d rather rent I’m quite certain you can find it on Netflix.

‘Hancock’ Superhero Drag?

I love Will Smith–from the Fresh Prince days to the present, love him. So naturally, being the Will Smith fan that I am I made my way into Hancock over the 4th of July weekend.

Hancock, for those who haven’t bothered with a trailer, is a movie about a man with superhuman strength, but who’s more lazy and drunk than iconic with a red cape. The point of the movie is to see the hero’s transformation from delinquent to dashing hero.


Will Smith plays the ‘drunk for most of the movie’ would-be superhero, Hancock. I think Will is a great actor, and I loved him in recent films I Am Legend and Pursuit of Happyness, but I thought his acting, although not necessarily terrible was nothing memorable either. His role consists of being drunk, showing a disinterested attitude, being drunk, showing some social awkwardness when trying to turn over a new leaf, and being drunk. Maybe he just didn’t get any sleep during the entire making of the film?

Charlize Theron plays Mary Embrey, wife to Ray Embrey and without spoiling too much, a significant player in both the lives of Hancock and Ray. She handles herself well, but her character only gets minor development and while potentially could have been more interesting just turned out to raise more questions than answer.

Jason Bateman plays Ray Embrey, a well-meaning, kind of “go green!” PR guy who wants to change the world starting with Hancock. I’m most familiar with Jason from Arrested Development and he has a similar sort of personality here, and played the part of comic relief well. Out of all of the stars, his performance was best, though still not the best we’ve seen from him.

You can’t really say “too predictable” about a superhero movie plot because they’re all built predictable. Superhero realizes his powers + villain appears + final showdown where hero wins = superhero movie. Ironman had this same predictable plot line, but that isn’t the point. The point is in being original in how you get there–or at least interesting. I think a bit too much time was spent in the beginnings stages, and not enough payoff in the end.

Two ways to go with this story: 1) focus on the back story of Hancock to set up the end, or 2) develop a villain strong enough for a final showdown. Neither of these things took place, so we’re left with a mediocre movie. All we learn about Hancock is all we learned about jumpers and paladins in Jumper (Paladins kill Jumpers, duh! *sigh*). The writer gave us a little information with no real explanation which added little to the story except to make you wonder why it was put in at all.

The villain they sort of kind of sort of made–Red (Eddie Marsan)–wasn’t much of a villain at all. His biggest crime was being the disfigured bad joke.

From the previews you’d think you’d be bowl full of jelly laughing–at least in a dark way–and while there were several memorable moments (“You should sue McDonald’s for ****ing you up,” the French kid getting thrown miles up into the air, and the youtube video inclusions were great), I found myself waiting for the movie to finally get going–even when I knew we were at the end.

I guess if this was the first of two or three movies it could sort of work the way it did, but a first movie should be able to stand by itself, independent of sequels (think the first Matrix or Star Wars–a New Hope, not the Film Menace).

Parents: Be warned, this film is filled with as much PG-13 language as a movie can get away with, bad behavior, and little to redeem itself for the young kids. Unless you’re bringing teens, leave the kiddies with the babysitters.

Die-Hard Will fans: You may enjoy a couple moments here and there, but it isn’t Will’s best, not even his 7th best. Do a matinee, but don’t pay full price.

Regular movie-goers: You may want to skip this one, at least until it makes it to a second-run movie house or DVD. Save your superhero going for Dark Knight.

Rating: C-

Tarzan in the Big City

When I was in middle school I started reading the Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. My dad had the whole set (all 24 of them) and I read them all. I was totally obsessed and to this day I lament the disappearance of most of those books. Because of the Tarzan series I read more books by Edgar Rice Burroughs so I know who Frank Frazetta is and I’m not lost when the name John Carter of Mars comes up. Edgar Rice Burroughs may be my own personal most-read author.

I’ll admit, his writing is a bit cheesy, mostly in the dialogue area. Of course, I’ve never read anything else written between the 1910s and 1940s – that I know of – so it could just be the era it was written in. But the fact of the matter is that Burroughs could write a good pulpy adventure story and I loved every minute I spent reading the Tarzan series, not to mention his numerous other works.

At this point you may be wondering why I’m bringing up books written by a man who’s been dead since 1950. Well, it’s because I finally watched the WB’s Tarzan – all eight episodes – and I feel compelled to review.

If you know nothing about Tarzan, you’re about to get a quick schooling (and shame on you for not knowing the real story of Tarzan, not the Disney-fied version). Lord and Lady Greystoke (AKA John and Alice Clayton) were on their way to the west coast of Africa were John was to investigate the treatment of black British subjects by another European power; they never made it. They were instead marooned in the middle of nowhere on the coast of Africa. Within nine months John, Jr. was born. A year later John, Sr. and his wife were both dead and the baby was being cared for by a great ape that had lost her own offspring in an accident.

The baby grew up as an ape and was called Tarzan. During that time he taught himself to read and write English from books his parents had brought with them and were still in the hut his father had built (though obviously he didn’t know anything about his real parents). About 20 years later he was introduced to the American Jane Porter and her father Archimedes, as well as several supporting characters that don’t really matter in a brief history of the real story of Tarzan. BTW, you saw that right, Jane is actually an American in the original story. Anyway, many mishaps and adventures befall the group, Tarzan saves Jane, Tarzan falls in love with Jane, eventually Tarzan and Jane get married and have a son named Jack, which is, in itself, a whole other story.

Being as it is that I know the original Tarzan story I’m probably harder to please than most people when it comes to film and TV adaptations involving one of my favorite characters. Even before I read the books I liked the idea of Tarzan (yes, at one point I wanted to be Jane so I could swing through the trees with Tarzan). So forgive me if I concentrate too much on odd details as this review goes on.

I’ve long felt that there hasn’t been a really good Tarzan adaptation to film or TV – at least not recently. Greystoke annoyed me (and I’ll tell you why when I get around to reviewing that film) and almost every other adaptation has been utterly forgettable. I’m not kidding, I know I’ve seen a few and I remember nothing about any of them. It’s a travesty, really, and one I’d like to see remedied. Enter WB’s Tarzan.

Continue reading

Don’t let ‘Speed’ Pass you by!

I’m a big Speed Racer fan. I watched the cartoon religiously, bought posters, made a Mach 5 pinewood derby car (see Dee Animated‘s header if you have doubts)–I love it.

So when I heard the Wachowski brothers were taking on making a live-action Speed Racer, I was both excited and nervous. I loved the original Matrix and I knew they could take good care of comic book/anime style material, but Matrix 2 & 3… let’s be honest, they weren’t all that awesome.

So the day came and I went to my local IMAX (I mean, if I found I only wanted to see it once, might as well do it right) with worried expectations. The movie seemed a bit slow for the first half and pretty exciting for the second half, but all in all, worth the time and money. I was thinking, yeah, I guess maybe I’ll give this a B.

For me, I really have to let a movie kind of wash over me, like listening to a new CD. I need to feel it out a little. I felt out this new Speed Racer, and after giving it some more thought I realized there was a lot more going on that I had let my pre-conceived judgment get in the way of.

In other words, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much I did enjoy the movie.

Then Indiana Jones 4 comes out. How is this related? Well, I saw it on Thursday and family came into town over the weekend and wanted to go to a movie while in town on Saturday. (Thank Buddah Indy Jones 4 was sold out! Don’t get me wrong, but twice in the same weekend….) I suggested/convinced them to go to Speed Racer, thinking of all the movies out it was one I could do again.

The second time was definitely the charm.

Frankly, I am a little surprised it still hasn’t been recognized as the phenomenal film it is–at least by the fans–but perhaps they went in too judgmental like I did. So, I give you my review, a comparison of the old series vs. the new movie, pros and cons, music, and what to watch for if you’re seeing it for the first time or giving it a second chance (it’ll be longish, so grab yourself a snack and let’s roll):

The Original SPEED RACER:

First of all, I think we should all tip our hats to Peter Fernandez, the brains of the US side of Speed Racer. For those who knew nothing going into the movie, Speed Racer is the American version of a Japanese anime called Maha Go Go Go! Peter had previously done work on Astro Boy and signed up for the chance to work on Speed Racer. (See Planet Comic Book Radio for an interview recently done with Peter Fernandez. He talks about the show as well as the new movie)

The elements of a typical Speed Racer show include Speed doing impossible sorts of stunts with his car, all the while Spritle and Chim Chim are in the back, and usually fighting crime at the same time as winning a race. Throw in Racer X, some oddly named bad guys (Dr. Morebucks) and you’ve got it made.

How does the film compare? We saw Speed doing some impossible sorts of stunts, fighting crime, Racer X, etc. So aside from the quick dialogue traditional to an old Speed episode, I’d say the film stayed pretty true to the original anime.

Now there were some modernizing modifications, but I don’t see the big deal any Speed Racer fan would have with them. Speed Racer was made in the ’60s. Some of the ’60s stuff just isn’t going to work anymore. The new tracks I thought were an excellent touch in lending to the Speed Racer style of racing. And I think the production design is something Tatsuo Yoshida might have done himself if the manga had it been written in the present day.

Emile Hirsch plays Speed Racer, and I thought a great cast as far as looks go. One of my cons for the films is this Speed doesn’t seem to have as much depth to him as the original series’ Speed. It may have been Hirsch’s acting, but he frankly doesn’t have that many lines when I thought about it, and I think only a sequel would really make that call clear. But I thought for sitting a car that isn’t really “moving” so to speak (green screen), he did a very good job making me believe he was “driving” that car.

John Goodman plays Pops Racer, and I thought his casting was spot on. He was everything I imagined a live action Pops Racer would be, and I think he brought more depth to the Pops character. I doubt the Academy would hand out many Oscars to the Speed Racer movie, but John, you’ve got my vote for at least a nomination as best supporting actor.

Christina Ricci plays Trixie, Speed’s girlfriend, also a good cast. Trixie in the original series was pretty “girl power” for the time, and Ricci took it to a modern level for Trixie. However, overall her performance was nothing revolutionary by any means. I think you could some it up with lots of alluring kind of smirks and seductive talking. Don’t get me wrong, I think she did well enough with the role, and maybe that’s just the way she was directed, but I would have liked to have seen just a little more.

Susan Sarandon plays Mom Racer. I’m not really a Sarandon fan, but I appreciated having her in this role, because I think she helped bring the Racer family together in the movie. She’s barely present in the old series (not super surprising with Japanese culture) and I liked her inclusion in the movie.

Paulie Litt plays Spritle, and they may well have named it Spritle Racer, cuz this kid stole the show. Although I never imagined Spritle as a freckled-face, practically red head, he is the quintessential younger brother. He and Chim Chim provided fantastic comic relief and probably one of my favorite scenes of the movie is when him and Chim Chim are battling in Japanese anime style. I hope to see Litt soon in the future.

The rest of the cast was well chosen too. I loved Royalton (kept thinking, is this Tim Curry’s brother?), thought the newish version of Inspector Detector was great, Sparky was also spot on, the bad guys were great, and I love all things Japanese, so Rain was a welcome guest as Taejo Togokahn.

On casting, I think it’s only fair to rate this movie A+

We have Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Lost) to thank for a spectacular score. Something I always dislike is when the composer will just completely throw away any already established themes for the movie version of the show/video game, etc. Giacchino took the themes and ran with them.

I Am Speed” which plays right at the beginning is probably my favorite from the CD. Of course I’m thinking of all the color swirling as I’m listening to it, but from a musical standpoint, it’s telling us that we do in fact have a Speed Racer movie and it’s going to be big.

Racing’s In Our Blood” does a great job to heighten the emotion on the great scene where Speed and his father are watching the old Grand Prix race, by taking the original theme and slowing it down and turning it into a beautiful score.

And then of course we have parts of the original theme as well as hints through out all of the rest of the soundtrack, with the remaining score always playing back to the same style. The end theme song is by Ali Dee and the Deekompressors and I tend to favor the movie version over the remix single. I like that they’re trying to incorporate multiple languages and the original theme, as though the Wachowski’s wanted to tip off their hats one more time in homage to Speed.

Original Score: A
Pop Remix Theme: B+

The editing was revolutionary, and though likely unnoticed by most, reminded me of the same visual pleasure I got from seeing 24 the first time. It’s a little more complex than it looks, and truly a subtle homage to Japanese anime. I loved the composite of one image over another, it made me believe I was watching live action manga in all its full blown glory.

The production design was reminiscent of Tim Burton (no not the creepy side, the bright color side–he’s got two sides). I didn’t mind the Mach 6 design, as Speed in the original series had a couple extra versions of the Mach 5 he’d use on occasion.

This movie is full of little Speed Racer references and other fun things to tantalize fans. We got to see the majority of the characters in their cartoon version outfits–something not often done when transferred to the big screen. Speed jumps out of his car in the end in full blown Speed Racer pose. I loved Chim Chim wearing human pajamas and Spritle wearing monkey pajamas. Peter Fernandez appears as one of the announcers. The car jack sound effect was the same as the original–basically I found the movie to be a huge homage to the original show. I can’t understand the reviews I’ve seen that say otherwise.

On first view I thought the story was a bit slow in going, but upon more thought I realized it was all just playing into the end and bringing us along to understand the journey of the Racer family. Perhaps it’s just cuz I come from a rare breed of the nuclear family, but I loved seeing a movie where the family stuck together and relied on each other–even if some members did it more distantly. The race truly did become “a work of art” as Mom told Speed, because it was the warmth and art of the people who built the car that triumphed vs. the coldness and machinery or anonymity of the corporate rival.

So Moms and Mormons, this is a movie for you.

To be completely honest, I don’t think they could have chosen any better directors than the avid fans themselves. Worry as I might about Morpheus leaping out of the sky and telling Speed he is “the one,” (LOL) they did a great job with this piece. They picked a great crew which we owe for the awesome use of colors, production design, costuming, camera angles–the list could go on forever.

They said they weren’t finished with Speed yet and have hinted at a sequel, and as far as I’m concerned, I’ll be there opening weekend.

IN CONCLUSION: Seeing it twice did nothing but make me want to own it on DVD now. *sigh* I hate waiting. I went and picked up the manga and video game and I’ll let you know what I think once I’ve given them ample play time.

Go see this movie! Whether by DVD, regular theater, dollar theater, Netflix–go see it!

Overall Rating: A
Buy it on DVD? Definitely.

Dark Knight Dreaming

Today marks exactly 1 month before what I believe is the most highly anticipated movie of the year. I loved Speed Racer, I’m anxiously awaiting the release of the X-Files 2movie, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is due out the end of this year, but this easily trumps them all. Please put your hand together and get your geek on for The Dark Knight.


Most of the original cast is back (in case you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere), with the exception of Katie Holmes, and you can send me all the hate mail you like, but I say GOOD RIDDANCE. She was the weakest link for me in Batman Begins and hearing she’d been replaced by a far more competent actress came as good tidings. (Once again, in case you’ve been hiding under that notorious rock) Maggie Gyllenhaal(Stranger than Fiction) will do us the honors of playing Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne’s sorta love interest.

But what’s the real draw for most?

heathI’ve been following Dark Knight news since Batman Begins, and never did I feel more confusion in my life than when I first heard Heath Ledger would be playing the Joker. Eeeeh? 10 Things I Hate About You teen heart throb, Brokeback cowboy playing one of the most memorable and terrifying villains of our time? Either, A) Christopher Nolan got bribed or went looney, or B) Heath gave him such a fantastic audition there was no way he could cast anyone else.

I think B was the correct answer. I remember seeing the initial promo pics and preview and thinking, that’s Heath?! I think we’ll be in for a real pleasant surprise. Unfortunately a lot more draw to the movie is without a doubt circling around Heath’s untimely death. I have to admit, at least a small part of me is eager to see this Joker that could fatally wound his actor.

The basic plot from IMDB(I mean other than villain threatens city, Batman defeats villain and saves city):

Batman raises the stakes in his war on crime. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to dismantle the remaining criminal organizations that plague the city streets. The partnership proves to be effective, but they soon find themselves prey to a reign of chaos unleashed by a rising criminal mastermind known to the terrified citizens of Gotham as The Joker.

For those of you who are only familiar with Batman via movies, the Joker is THE VILLAIN. Sure, Batman has some other enemies that are interesting and terrifying, but this one pwn’d them all. I think something else most will go into this movie with is “can he be better than Jack Nicholson?” I may be casting my vote early, but I’m going to give it a big fat “without a doubt.” (By the way, the material Christopher Nolan gave Heath Ledger as his inspiration was The Killing Joke comic.)

No! No one can beat Jack, you might say. Well, I think Mark Hamill already did in Batman:TAS as the Joker. To be honest, I didn’t care about or think much of the Joker until Batman:TAS (and a little later for me, comics). [And as a side note, didn’t think much of Michael Keaton either–it’s Kevin Conroy who’s Batman for me.] I guess I just don’t get this Jack Nicholson obsession over the Joker, probably because no one else has really done the Joker live action before or anyone’s better than Cesar Romero.

Point being: Heath’s gonna trump them all.

I’m the type of person who will go to a movie just to see a preview. (Come on, you all know that most of you did it for Episode I, despite how the movie turned out). So when I heard 6 minutes of The Dark Knight would be on the front of IMAX I Am Legend, not caring much about the movie, I went. Of course, I Am Legend was great, especially IMAX sized, but *squeal with excitement* YEAH, DID THAT BATMAN SCENE ROCK!

imaxAnd for those who don’t know, 4 of the scenes for Dark Knight, will be IMAX sized. What’s the difference? Well, usually when you see a Hollywood movie on the screen it’s like you’re watching a widescreen movie on a 4×3 TV space. It’s still big, but there’s space not being used. When you go see Dark Knight, for those four scenes all the space will be used.

Why is that cool? The point with IMAX is your peripheral vision is covered better, so it’ll be like you’re right there with Bats and the Joker. OK, so maybe I am geeking out over this a bit, but c’mon! Don’t we thrive on the fact that bigger is better? At least some of the time?

IMAX will be worth it. If you’ve got IMAX near you, go there. Period.

[CAUTION: The following may cause some to wet themselves with excitement]

dvdThe last of my geeking out in this post has to do with something very, very cool, especially for the animation addicts like myself. I give you Batman: Gotham Knight. There are six episodes in all on the discs, from six different Japanese anime directors, such as Hiroshi Morioka (Tsubasa Chronicles), and others who worked on films such as Akira, Evangelion, and .hack//SIGN (and one even worked on the Animatrix).

cutBasically, it’s like the concept for the Animatrix, except some go back to more young Bruce/Batman roots. Batman will be voiced by Kevin Conroy which should be a delight to Bruce Timm Batman fans, and we’ll even hear from Will Friedle (Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond) and Andrea Romano (famous DC Animated Universe voice director, just another little treat for those who’ve followed any DCAU shows). Bruce Timm (basically DCAU king, Batman:TAS, Superman Doomsday, Justice League) is one of the executive producers on the project.

This DVD releases July 8, the week before Dark Knight and is available for pre-order.

If you haven’t seen Batman Begins, you probably won’t be lost, but I think you will be losing out a little on back story. So see it. As for the rest of us, I guess we’ll count down the days and try not to build it up too much. 😉

P.S. Have you checked out Whysoserious.com ?

P.P.S. I was at Comic-Con and a guy who did voices for radio (he’s there all the time, but can’t remember his name) was telling us about when he asked Batman creator Bob Kane how he came up with the idea for the Joker. He said a lot of his inspiration for the Joker came from an old movie called The Man Who Laughs. I checked this out via Netflix. It’s a must see for any Batman fan, especially those who love the Joker. The movie is still fascinating and definitely creepy.


Gattling Guns and Deep-Fried Arms

Though I don’t read Chris’s Invincible Super-Blog as often as I should, I did happen to go there just now and find a review for a Japanese movie called The Machine Girl.

I have not seen this movie but after reading his review I really want to. Read the review.