Batman

2014_review_moviesbefore

Looking over the big movie titles of 2014, there aren’t a whole bunch of trends to be found. The most noticeable has to be privacy/surveillance in the digital age, which is the subject of a major documentary (Citizenfour), one of the top-grossing hits of the year (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and one of the worst box office duds (Men, Women & Children). Also, there are other ties related to great scientific minds, such as with the oft-acknowledged pair The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything, plus how those relate to films as different as The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, Transcendence, Particle Fever and Interstellar. And there was the surprising trend in truly good vampire movies, namely Only Lovers Left Alive, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and What We Do in the Shadows, although that last one hasn’t officially been released yet. One way to spot trends or at least connections between the year’s movies is to consider their influences, some of which are shared among various titles. We look at essentials of the past each week in this manner with our “Movies to See After…” lists, and occasionally the same oldies show up for multiple new releases. Those and other significant precursors relevant to this year’s noteworthy titles are now on the following list of movies to watch after you’ve seen the movies of 2014. Just as was the case last year, a lot of them are well-regarded and familiar classics that you probably should already have seen. But those are the kinds that most clearly inform […]

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Blade Runner Roy Batty

This year we had Maleficent, and Sony is working on a Sinister Six movie. Wicked has been on the verge of being made for years. Now is the age of the villain film. They’ve moved beyond the horror genre (where Jason and Freddy are the real stars) and now anyone is fair game. I, for one, am stoked. Let’s get some bad guy movies for…

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Gotham Harvey Dent

Hey, isn’t this supposed to be Gotham? The Gotham that’s “not a city for nice guys?” The Gotham with a golden rule of “no heroes?” The Gotham overrun with thugs, crime lords, and crazies a few years away from donning colorful crime suits? Well, in “Harvey Dent,” evil takes a backseat. To the smiles and laughter of children, playful bagel fights and puppy love. It’s weird. But not entirely bad-weird (or bad-weird at all, really; it’s actually quite nice). Selina Kyle, as both a key witness in the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne and a ruffian hoofin’ it on the streets, has been sequestered by Gordon in lavish Wayne Manor for her own sake. At first, stashing a petty thief in the most lavish fictional home on television goes as terribly as you’d think — while Selina doesn’t outright steal anything (oddly admirable of her), she doesn’t fit in at all. She snaps at Bruce, manhandles a Ming vase and sets Alfred into a pissed-off, barking-orders mood just by existing anywhere near him. At least, until Bruce and Selina click. Chuck a bagel or two at each others’ heads and suddenly they’re the best of friends; even if she’s all street smarts and he’s all book smarts, or even if she keeps taunting him with a kiss he won’t receive for several episodes, probably.

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NOCTURNA discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Nocturna Tim is a typical orphan, round-headed and curious about the night, but when an after-hours misstep lands him in the grip of a creature named Cat Shepherd he finds himself on a very unique adventure. His new friend becomes a guide of sort as he shares with Tim the world of Nocturna, the nighttime world the rest of us sleep through, and shows him the true faces and beings behind our tussled hair, late night noises, dew-covered trees and very dreams. It’s not all fun and games though as a dark shape is floating over the night threatening to steal the stars right out of the sky. This Spanish film is a 2007 release, but its US debut was worth the wait for fans of animated wonder and pure imagination. The story keeps one sleepy toe in the real world even as it reveals an original and beautifully-crafted one behind the curtain of the night, and the animation follows suit as the familiar gets an inventive and enticing make-over. It’s a gorgeous dream of a film with scenes of true beauty and inventive thrills, and it deserves to be seen by more eyeballs. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, featurette]

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20th Century Fox

Batman only ran for three seasons back in the late ’60s, but its impact on pop culture remains immense and ongoing. It entered syndication shortly after its initial run, and several generations of children have enjoyed its mix of action, morality and pure campy goodness in the decades since. The big budget movies that started hitting theaters in the ’80s have mostly avoided the show’s highly comedic and innuendo-filled tone — although Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin sure does try — making the series a 120-episode pop culture time capsule. I was one of those kids who used to love watching the show on weekday afternoons after I got home from school, and while I’ve seen bits of episodes over the years I haven’t actually sat down to watch one in full since my childhood. Part of the reason may be that the show’s never been on DVD before, but there’s also the matter of me growing up and deciding the dialogue, cartoonish action and tights were beneath me. That’s no longer the case though — clearly I’ve grown more self-aware and immature — and now I find myself appreciating the over the top but sincere goofiness for what it was. Warner Home Video is finally releasing the series on Blu-ray/DVD tomorrow, fully remastered in high definition and featuring over three hours of new featurettes and an episode guide detailing the plots and guest stars. The Blu-ray limited edition set adds Adam West’s photo scrapbook, a pack of collectible trading […]

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Dark Knight Rises

Lynchian. Kubrickian. Felliniesque. A directorial adjective can have strong, transportable power, even if its exact meaning may rely more on general impressions and evocations of inspiration than a concrete set of rules. Many of these terms, however, gain currency well after a director has established a set style, producing a moniker that results as a sort of shorthand for auteurism: a term pregnant with assumed meaning to describe an implied close familiarity with the themes, styles and obsessions that codify a filmmaker’s body of work. “Lynchian” was arguably solidified as popular parlance with David Foster Wallace’s 1996 essay from a visit to the set of Lost Highway, a work of writing that tied together both Lynch’s idiosyncratic film style and his esoteric personality as a person. And that’s the essential formula for the directorial adjective: unlike the auteur theory, which provides insights into the person but takes an analysis of the films themselves as a primary concern, the directorial adjective suggests a fluid coherence between the defining aspects of films and the outsized personality of their maker. To be Kubrickian is to be an obsessive perfectionist of form. To be Hitchcockian is to possess a sadistic sense of humor imbued through the events of the thriller, a personality that regularly makes murder into a game. You don’t know it when you see it with the directorial adjective, you know it when you feel it, when you sense the currents of that personality speak through choices of style and narrative. There […]

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Gotham Arkham

Gotham‘s begun to develop an odd pattern. Just as “Selina Kyle” used Selina Kyle as a minor cog in a much larger machine, this week’s “Arkham” is only a little bit about comicdom’s most iconic loony bin. There was about as much actual Arkham Asylum in “Arkham” as there were women dressed as cats in “Selina Kyle” (really, just that one poor schmoe who ended up barbecued outside the gates), but to a lesser degree, a fair chunk of the episode was rooted in the Arkham landgrab. Politician killing (the Arkham vote machine) and shoring up mob cred still count. So in honor of “Arkham,” let’s dig into the history behind this most spookiest of mental institutions. This October, amazingly enough, is the 40th anniversary of Arkham Asylum. It was in October of 1974 that the jumbo, 100-page “Batman #258” hit the stands, an issue comprised mostly of old re-run stories from the ’50s, but also a new tale entitled “The Threat of the Two-Headed Coin.” Written by Denny O’Neil and with art by Irv Novick, the story introduced us to one Arkham Hospital (named after the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusetts, frequent monster spot in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft), where both Two-Face and some nobody named General Harris were being housed. Harris’s cronies break in and free him — at which point Harris demonstrates why he was a generic villain no one remembers, and invites the clearly insane Two-Face to be a part of his coup. Naturally, the coup […]

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Gotham

There’s an age-old debate in the Batman mythos: Does Batman really stop crime? Or does the very presence of Batman, a man gallivanting around in bat ears and a cape, attract costumed criminals that wouldn’t have shown up in the first place, thus doing more harm than good? Gotham, Fox’s shiny new Batman prequel series, set in the grimy corruption of the Gotham City Police Department, throws all this good/evil Bat-debate in the trash. “Nope!” it proclaims, fancifully showing off a parade of before-they-were-villain villains, “Freaks were running around Gotham and committing meticulous theme-based crimes long before Batman ever started doing the same.” That’s already par for the course on Gotham, a prequel interested in a new take — a Batmanless take — on Batman. It will pursue that newness to any end, even if it means scrapping the subtlety and the blurred lines of good and evil that are present in just about every Batman story.

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The Gray Ghost Sweating Bullets

Why Watch? Batman has probably inspired more fan films than any other character, but I appreciate this short film from J.L. Topkis and Matt Landsman because it moves beyond the typical cosplay action sequence by channeling a Batman television show that channeled the Batman serials. They take their inspiration from a 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series (aka the best Batman TV show ever) where young Bruce Wayne is shown watching a show called The Gray Ghost and, in the present-day as Batman, has to find a copy of the show in order to solve a copycat crime. As a bonus, Adam West voices the actor who plays the Gray Ghost in the Animated Series episode. Here, Topkis and Landsman have imagined the show within a show as a real adventure series, crafting a live-action hero who leaps into young Bruce Wayne’s life at exactly the right moment (with some Sin City-style CGI to help). To be fair, The Gray Ghost: The Lost Reel (or maybe it’s called Sweating Bullets?) is pure nostalgia and design with a blustery script that follows a formula blazed almost a century ago. That doesn’t stop it from being a lot of fun — an excellent distraction that makes me wish they’d made a longer short. One warning, though. The acting and fighting in it is stiff like a 1930s serial would be. Not the look-how-accurate-we’re-being version of serial parody that we’re used to, but legitimately broad and direct. Get on board with the homage, and you’ll have a swell time.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Tim Burton Batman

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Batman-1989-Logo

If you were around and old enough to know anything in the summer of 1989, you remember what a phenomenon the release of Batman was. Tim Burton‘s comic book movie was almost as significant to blockbuster history as Star Wars, only in a different way. The DC superhero adaptation was sort of a peak for Hollywood’s aims in the wake of the surprise game changer of 12 years prior. Warner Bros. went all out to sell Batman as an event long ahead of its June 23rd opening and then used that hype to in turn sell the world on Batman merchandising, especially to those who weren’t already hardcore fans. There’s very little about today’s blockbuster and fan culture that wasn’t around for Batman 25 years ago. Even the Internet was involved. To commemorate the anniversary of the movie that sent America into a frenzy of Batmania, I’m not going to highlight a bunch of scenes we love or controversially compare it preferably to The Dark Knight or champion Michael Keaton’s return to the cape and mask after he returns to the black and white stripes of Beetlejuice. Instead I’ve selected a bunch of my favorite ridiculous facts about Batman, many of which are mostly crazy for how similar the preconception and reception was way back then to what we commonly see with tentpoles today.

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Warner Bros. Entertainment

When Tim Burton’s Batman hit theaters 25 years ago, it was more than just a pivotal film in the superhero genre. It was a pivotal film in any genre — largely due to its phantasmagorical sets and vehicles. The 1989 vision of Gotham City, the Batmobile and the Batwing all sprang from the dark, fertile imagination of the film’s Oscar-winning production designer Anton Furst. Watch some of Furst’s earlier films and it’s easy to see how his and Burton’s aesthetics would play well with each other. For The Company of Wolves, Neil Jordan’s 1984 horrific take on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, Furst created a world that merged storybook fantasy with gothic gloom. For Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, he created crumbling sets and morphed actual locations in the UK into a war-ravaged Vietnam. In Batman, Furst’s vision would synthesize fantasy and realism into a dystopia crawling with life. Like the Los Angeles of Blade Runner, Batman’s Gotham City is a retro-futurist hellscape. Its look is influenced by Art Deco, Streamline Moderne and Brutalist architecture. Batman’s stalking grounds are layered with trash and caked-on soot, giving it the feel of NYC at its sleaziest and most decadent. The best of times and the worst of times. It’s as if Furst took a once-gleaming dieselpunk metropolis and smeared it into the sticky floor of Travis Bickle’s taxi.

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Ben Affleck Batman

After all the consternation and fear, here is an absolutely stunning first look at Ben Affleck as Batman in Zack Snyder’s Batman vs Superman.  I shot this with my @Leica_Camera M Monochrom. #Batman #Batmobile #Gotham http://t.co/WPHKLxgBLM pic.twitter.com/p5DEf6fLzJ — ZackSnyder (@ZackSnyder) May 13, 2014 That’s a hell of a plug for Leica, yeah?

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Batman: Strange Days

Why Watch? Bruce Timm is one of those people who gets Batman. He’s got a marrow-deep understanding of who the character is, what he’s capable of, and what he evokes. Of course he’s also worked extensively with Batman for two decades. Since this year marks the 75th anniversary of the shadowy hero, Timm has animated a Casablanca-evoking short film that trades on horror classics (Mad Scientist, Monstrous Henchman, Kidnapped Damsel) while turning Batman into Sky Captain with 20% of the pastiche. The details are all important in this swift adventure. The fighting, the determination, the fear. Batman: Strange Days at once feels like it could play after a WWII newsreel and like it belongs firmly in the present. It’s also a nice reminder of why Bruce Wayne’s hometown is called Gotham. Now how about a new short starring Freakazoid? The people demand it. For now, enjoy this new/old Batman adventure.

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Tim Burton Batman

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Need For Speed Movie

Need for Speed will not be remembered fondly. If that seems unnecessarily cruel towards Need for Speed (which it does), it’s because the truth can be cruel sometimes. And it is the truth. The film currently holds a 23% on Rotten Tomatoes, and although it was projected to win the box office with a mediocre $25M, it only managed a paltry third place with $17.8M. Two weeks from now, Need for Speed will be naught but faded memory. But there’s one place where Need for Speed will continue to thrive: in the great argument why “video game movies suck” (and if that seems unnecessarily cruel, which it does, take it up with all the many many many articles using that exact phrasing). It’s no secret. Films based off of video games have a garbage rep; the most critically acclaimed one, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, scored a 44% on our foremost bulbous red fruit-based scale. Every other video game movie in history has scored in the thirties or below.

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david mazouz and camren bicondova

Young Master Wayne and Selina Kyle, AKA Catwoman, have been chosen for Fox’s Batman prequel, Gotham. David Mazouz will play the tragedy-stricken Bruce, shortly after the murder of his parents and now under the care of Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee). Mazouz is best known for his role in Fox’s short-lived, ASCAP Award-winning sci-fi series Touch alongside Keifer Sutherland and Danny Glover. That show managed two seasons before being cancelled. Portraying pre-Catwoman Selina will be Camren Bicondova, a relative newcomer to Hollywood, whose major claim to fame is being a runner-up on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew with her group, 8 Flavahs. She has also appeared in small roles in the horror flick Girlhouse and Cinedigm’s dance drama Battlefield America. Bicondova’s role as Selina will be as another orphaned teenager, well on her way to master thief as an expert pickpocket living on the streets of Gotham.

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Watchmen (2009)

Some superheroes have their origins in ways unavailable to your average person. Batman and Iron Man rely on their own personal well-funded technology. Captain American is a result of a highly complex super soldier program. Thor is a space alien god, which could also be said for Superman. And someone like Ghost Rider or Jonah Hex has his origins in the supernatural. Still, there are plenty of superhero origins that rely on pure chance, often a result of a horrible accident. That got me thinking… could an industrial accident really turn you into a movie superhero?

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Batman 1989 Logo

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
A-


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