Monday, June 27, 2011

DRINKABLE SUPER SOLDIER FORMULA

Aside from Batman, Captain America has always been my other favorite comic book super hero. I like what he represents. A man made to be a symbol of patriotism who kicks ass in WWII and fights for our country. Normally I'm not one for jingoism and patriotic crap, but something about the character brings out my fattest fanboy. I didn't mean that to sound the way it did...but from checking youtube comments on the newest film trailer, apparently a tightness in the pants was not an uncommon side effect from the new footage. As much as I feel like one of those people whose accused of taking the Christ out of Christmas, as soon as the movie was half a year away I started daydreaming about what sort of glorious food tie-ins we would get. While at first I felt wounded, confused and betrayed that 7-11 didn't come out with giant, obnoxious character cups like they did for Thor and Iron Man 2...what we ended up getting from DUNKIN DONUTS is much better. Trollops and belligerents, I'm pleased to present my favorite food tie-in item of recent memory.
The official title is THE FIRST AVENGER TRI CUP. I realize it's probably hard to comprehend the whole experience of the thing from the iphone pics which I took hastily as soon as I hop-skipped out of the store like a retard after it took them three tries to make the damn thing. The employees all look around at each other like "oh shit" when somebody orders this thing. You're making them earn their salary in the regular American tradition. So what is it?
Not to be confused with Tri-county or Tri-Clops, The First Avenger Tri Cup is a segmented vat of three Coolata flavors: Captain America Cherry. Blue Rasperry and vanilla something or other. Each of these segments is equivalent in size/volume to about one small coolata. If you order this thing...you're kind of in for it, but I was more than happy to finish it within ten minutes like some kind of crack-addled mosquitoe. After all I felt obligated at nearly SIX FUCKING DOLLARS. I don't see how the audience base for this thing will extend far beyond idiots like me and five year olds who will smack their parents and cause a scene until they're holding it at that price. But how could you NOT want it? They only advertise the thing in at least ...four corners of the store. Casual Cap fans with passing interest will get the Cherry Coolata or the star shaped donuts (which I also ate yesterday) but the true believers want the damn Tri Cup. It should be noted that the "release date" for the Tri Cup was today, 6/27 as I was informed yesterday at a local Dunkin...so I was really on my game with this one.
How majestic is that? I'm still reeling (mentally and physically) from the one I finished 20 minutes ago and I want another. The flavors are great and it's fun to kind of decide which order to have them in...I began with white so the best one, blue obviously, would be bookended like the 2nd act of some incredible film. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I really do like this one. The absurdly high premium is the only real drawback. The guy who handed me the cup probably didn't notice my pupils rapidly dilating and sweat forming around my brow. If this movie sucks I'm going to join the marines. Now if only I could get a three chambered RED RASBERRY REDSKULL cup.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My review of Super 8: marketing a film as retro doesn't mean it needs to be more of the same

Seeing a mob of confused people with failing electronic devices and flickering electricity in J. J. Abram’s newest virally-marketed flick, Super 8, I couldn’t help but be reminded of an episode of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone with an episode called The Monsters are Due on Maple Street. In the classic episode, panicked townsfolk turn to the knowledge of a child who has read too many fantasy stories to guide them through the panic of an alien invasion. Ultimately the twist makes a statement and isn’t something you saw coming, which was always the case with the classic series. Sadly, with Super 8 and its equally mysteriously marketed predecessor Cloverfield from 2008; there is no twist, and the “surprise” of the films is exactly your first thought from the trailers.

The film opens with the protagonist, a young boy named Joe losing his mother and then flashes forward a few months to a group of enthusiastic young film makers attempting to film a zombie movie with a Super 8 camera. For “production value” they film a train as it’s passing by and it happens to explode multiple times. Before you know it the military is involved and it’s up to Joe’s father, the local sheriff, as played by Kyle Chandler (who seemingly holds the position of every other elected official in the town and conducts one-man press conferences) to save the world. Of course since the loss of his wife there has been some distance between him and his son and this alien disaster is just the kind of therapy their father-son relationship needed to bring them together in a one-dimensional and forced emotional arc.

It’s not the only shallow and uninteresting relationship in the movie though. Joe also quickly falls in love with a girl named Alice (Elle Fanning) applying monster make up on the film shoot and is willing to risk his life in the subsequent days to find her when she goes the way of the local dogs and appliances-missing. Scenes of Joe showing Alice footage of his mother and their bizarre under-age bonding experiences are where the film really tends to drag, though the action scenes are equally underwhelming and should serve to prove that the more explosions, thrashing tentacles and spastic unintelligible motion sequences you have in a movie doesn’t add to its stark and tasteful ambiguity, it only leaves the viewer slightly bored.

While it’s true, the use of child protagonists harkens back to older Speilberg films, you have to wonder how they became like a kid version of the A-team. One is a master of pyrotechnics, another a make up artist, one a brilliant actress and the other with an eye for storytelling. This premise unto itself, might have actually been more interesting than the wanton destruction and government conspiracies. Instead I’m left wondering why the film was marketed as if it were framed through a Super 8 camera and the logo of the film focused so much on that, as that plot line quickly devolves after the first 20 minutes until it’s no longer existent or relevant by the end of the film. While protagonists like Elliot in E.T. were able to stand alone in the 80’s and create a dramatic arc without forced drama, it was somehow necessary for Joe to be grieving the loss of his mother and making a film and falling in love prematurely to create a fully dynamic backdrop for alien invasion. And that aspect is nothing we haven’t seen before.

Super 8 borrows techniques and plot devices from tons of other films; from the accidental death of the mother as the result of the carelessness of a side character ala Signs to the government involvement of District 9, Super 8 felt like a movie that I’d seen before which added nothing new to the table. Some critics have said that if it was made in the 80’s it may have been a classic. I think it’s a little unfair to say that, because just about every movie that comes out now with advanced visual effects would have been as well. It feels slightly lazy to fall back on the draw of the film being a period piece with nods to older bodies of work to attempt to validate it. The movie magic surrounding Star Wars, E.T., Close Encounter of the Third Kind, and more is because those films really did something special that added to the ever changing medium of film and brought a new spectacle to the table. As much as I love homage’s to older movies and film connections, Super 8 just feels cut-and-dry and lifeless with no true emotional drive at the core and no genuine need to see how it ends, because you’ve seen it so many times before and you’re certain that all the characters will be fine. For a director that boasts such bold new visions, I can’t help but feel like this film is remarkably predictable and safe.

Toward the beginning of the film before disaster/invasion movie tropes became rampant and monotonous, the screenwriter of the group of kids is explaining how he read books on screenwriting and how you need to write in a love interest. When asked why he can’t supply a real reason other than “That’s how it works.” Thus Elle Fanning’s character is introduced into the zombie film. Ironically she exists in Super 8 for the same reason. For a movie apparently so aware of clich├ęs it never made one attempt to avoid them or deviate from that little how-to guide to screen writing.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

All Time Top Five Action FIgure Playsets!

This post is a little nerdier than most are willing to get. But I’m living life on the edge…taking chances. Namin names. So I’m sure you’re wondering based on the title of the entry…what in the hell is a playset? Well just in case you have grown up completely and all knowledge of your childhood has left you, a playset is like a giant house/castle/environment or diorama of sorts that exists as part of an action figure toy line to enhance kids playtime scenarios (or adult collector’s dioramas). That’s pretty much the worst sentence I ever wrote, and I think that I might as well castrate myself now. Let's just say it's like a doll house for young men. So now I’m going to recount my top five playsets of all time. Before you go complaining that the massive-as-fuck GI Joe U.S.S. Flagg is not on the list (and believe me I toss and turn at night and have nightmares about passing on the thing at a comic shop that went out of business), every playset that makes this list has to be one that I had or still have at some point in my life or played with at a friend's house counting down to number one…THE MOST ENJOYABLE ACTION FIGURE ENVIRONMENT OF ALL TIME!!!

5. Star Wars Droid Factory –Kenner-1980

and on the third day the Jawas made the three legged R2 and it was good.

Boy did I play with this one a lot, even though there isn’t a WHOLE lot to it. Basically you start with a blank slate, a fresh creativity pallet: a motif of robots and sci fi and working interlocking parts stands before you cast in bright orange plastic (though mine was a bit more dull than kids who got it a decade before I did) just waiting for you to go to work on it. There’s these molded grooves in the shape of droid parts, and various parts are included with the set including tiny connectors, arms, antennae, legs, bodies, and even a chrome R2 D2 top. The idea is you have the parts here; if you have the stamina and moxy to connect 5 interlocking pieces to form R2-D2. Interestingly enough, this was the only R2 with a middle/third leg in the basic kenner line. I find it odd that in later versions of R2 they could figure out how to tool him with a sensorscope that comes up or a pop out lightsaber, but not a third leg which he has in just about every shot of the film. Also included in the Droid Factory set is a large brownish/reddish crane piece with a sliding adjustable hook to spin droids around on. Fun shit.

Because kenner loved to repaint and reuse vehicles and larger sets thinking kids wouldn’t notice (and in later lines than Star Wars, figures too), the Droid Factory was repainted and rereleased sans the droid parts as Jabba’s Dungeon in 1984 or 1985 exclusive to Sears. You’d think that if they took out the droid parts that would kind of defeat the purpose but no…one of these two sets was ten times better than the Droid Factory. One of them just came with three common action figures…but the OTHER included three rare figures from the final vintage line of star wars characters. Growing up, the acquisition of some of these “final 17” was impossible for me and in my head, they have an almost mythical status. For these reasons I think my childhood self would have traded a kidney to have owned Jabba’s Dungeon with BARADA, EV9D9 and AMANAMAN from 1985.

4. The GhostBuster’s Fire House Headquarters-Kenner-1984

BRIGHT COLORS FUCK YEEAAAHHH!!!

Boy kenner was full of good ideas in the 80’s weren’t they? They pretty much created the existence of every action figure collector on the planet with the Star Wars line, so we owe a lot to them today. I’m sure that if time machines are invented eventually, and given the rising cost of action figures, some proactive parents are going to go back in time ala the T-800 and kill off the kenner toy people to safe them money in the future. That took a dark turn.

At any rate, kids always have use for a big old apartment building headquarters. Sure it was Ghostbusters and it had the classic logo, but any creative kid could conveniently ignore that and it could become an evil headquarters or a battle ground. You could spin the busters down the fire poll like the village people if you were so inclined, or you could trap a tiny orange ghost using the trap. I have fond memories using this playset with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures, before I discovered that there was just something fundamentally wrong with pizza-eating turtles that lived in a sewer and battled evil ninjas. Tell me if that ain’t the trippiest thing you ever heard? Also, this great playset had double doors for vehicles to park in. You couldn’t exactly fit the Millennium Falcon, but it was a good place to park a Batmobile. In regards to playsets, size DID matter, and the fact that this thing was a couple feet tall really helped its case.

3. Jurassic Park Command Compound-Kenner-1993

Watch out Jeff Goldblum, there's a gigantic terrifying child on the other side of the fence...don't let it in!

I’m now realizing that this list is made up of my five favorite kenner brand playsets. It wasn’t clear to me at first (as the choices came to me while writing except the top two) but now I’m seeing that one great company gave me so much fun over the years.

So the best dinosaur movie ever (Sorry Tree of Life) Jurassic Park had a pretty legendary toy line in its day as well. Not only were there big rubbery dinos with JP stamped on their asses and removable hunks of meat that you could pull out of their sides, but there were vehicles and human characters to beleaguer them with as well. At the center of it all was the (((ELECTRONIC))) Command Compound. So you had the iconic gate which connected to fences which surrounded the thing like a fort or some kind of battle arena and you also had TURRETS to watch over the place. It even threw down a net, if you were so inclined to catch tiny dinos or need an instant picnic set up for your Jeff Goldblum figures. You know what else I liked about this establishment? It was always open. The torches were always lit. Come right in…unless you were a big ass T Rex. Or Newman.

At the center of it was this awesome like gazebo type structure which was actually pretty good sized where your action figures could hide out, conduct their evil plans, take hostages, etc. If I recall correctly the only action figures worthy of having hideouts when I was a kid were the villains. But a good exception to the rule might be …

2. The Batcave Command Center-1992-Kenner

yet another ugly child intruding on this somber vision of Batman.

NEW YORKS HOTTEST PLAYSET IS THE BATCAVE/WAYNE MANOR…and THIS ONE HAS EVERYTHING. Garage Doors. MIDGETS. Spinning chairs. COMPUTER SCREENS. RAILINGS. But perhaps I shouldn’t imitate Stefon of SNL and denegrate this manliest of caves any further.

Planned out as part of the Kenner Dark Knight Collection in 1990 or 1991, this playset featured the stately front of the Wayne house as based on it’s appearance in Batman 89’ which folded open to reveal…THE BATCAVE on one side, and on another side a garage door interior. The best part to me was the chemical factory which also meant it could be a villain playset. It was sculpted to be Axis Chemicals from 89’ but since this toy never panned out in that film, it became Arctic World/The Penguin’s Sewer from Batman Returns. Pretty cool. It had a lot of features. Let me describe them in great detail as you read on bored or skip ahead.

So you unlocked the beast and then you could let figures fall clumsily through the sklights, swing batman on a string across the place, or even make Bruce become Batman or vice versa but spinning him around in this magic “Vault” chamber where you’d strap him in and he’d change into the Batsuit. Pretty cool. It had a good parking garage for Batmobiles, but when you had the whole ensemble closed up, this was pretty pointless. On the arctic world side, there was a falling trap door, and a vat which you could detach which was intended to be the spot where the Joker was created in 89. Now it might just be a very modern, minimalist cereal bowl.
The Batcave Command center made up for missing its release for 89 by being the most rereleased playset of all time. It was repainted with purple stripes for Batman The Animated Series, garish green for Batman Forever, Hideous blue for Batman and Robin and twice more for The New Batman Adventures in pretty normal colorings. By far the best bat cave toy…better than the toybiz one that DID come out for 89 and the other kenner one which took up half of a room for Batman Forever.

1. Ewok Village-Kenner-1983

Five identical Chief Chirpa figures on this box means that's how many I want.

Here it is, my favorite playset of all time. And I still have this one too, which is something I can only say for 3/5ths of this list. So it’s big. Check. It’s geared towards star wars. Check. It’s nature-y. Check. It’s Return of the Jedi themed. Double Check. It’s intended for use with ewoks. I’m pretty sure the Kenner gods made this specifically for me. And just about every other fanboy who was ewok crazy. We’re talking hours of enjoyment on this thing. Why climb a try and risk breaking an arm when you can send your ewoks up into their lavish tree fort via an elevator pully system? Don’t like that stupid fuckin tauntaun? Throw a net over it’s head, raise it up and then roast it on a spit. (Yeah seriously you can roast shit on spits in this). This played into kids more animalistic sides of their imagination. There was a chute where you could dispose of naysayers of the religion of C3PO, and even a chair for them to hoist threepio up and hail him as a god. I particularly liked the look out towers on top of the giant trees where you could perch ewoks and have them taunt stormtroopers like the Frenchmen in Monty Python.

Kenner repainted this playset as Sherwood Forest for their Robin Hood Prince of Thieves line with big ugly bursts of green flame which I assume were intended as the tops of broccoli stalks on top. Combine this with the refurbished Ewok Battle Wagon from the Power of the Force Line and the Gamorrean Guard lending his fat assed body to the friar tuck figure, and the Robin Hood line really looks like some half assed shit.

Well there ya have it. Shame I never had the USS Flagg or that awesome Well of Souls playset from the kenner indy line. Maybe someday when I’ve unlocked the infinite money cheat and I don’t have to be embarrassed screaming commands at ewoks while sitting Indian style in my backyard.

Ten badass women of cinema from 2010

You’d think by now I’d have stopped harping on the 2010 and I’d be preparing myself for 2012 by building a bomb shelter that can withstand the wrath of angry birds. But if MTV is allowed to ham up twitter for a night giving twilight more awards than Meryl Strepe’s earned in her career, I think I can be allowed to backtrack.
I noticed that year after year even though the academy doles out best actress awards for inspiring feminine roles defying societal gender constraints and rising to positions of prestige; little recognition goes toward the BADASS women of cinema. In 2010 in particular I noticed no less than TEN “tough broads” on the screen. For the most part, the characters on this list made their respective movies enjoyable for me and were by all accounts the “saving grace” often lacking the graceful aspect.
More attractive than Tim Burton!
10. Kathryn Bigelow –Director of The Hurt Locker
Ok so technically this is cheating, but sue me this is my blog. It’d be like trying to sue Willy Wonka for murdering the fat kid. You think anyone would believe you that he cast him into a river of chocolate and fed him to orange midgets? THIS IS MY MECCA! But seriously it is pretty cool that she beat her ex, Jim Cameron at his own game. Hopefully this encourages him to take revenge by making Avatar 2 NOT CRAP.
The fact that she wasn't a Padme decoy in the prequels was a missed opportunity
9. Mila Kunis as Lily-Black Swan
While all the attention of this overhyped movie (yes I’ll admit I played into it) was on doe-eyed Natalie, the seductive and dark side of Meg Griffin was the real prize. You never knew throughout if she was just a friendly person or if she was and evil ballet dancer.
Light up T shirts were cool in the 90s...does this make her a hipster?
8. Olivia Wilde as Quorra-Tron Legacy
If someone told me that Olivia Wilde played a computer capable of learning that was eager to learn about the ways of the world in a film I’d say it sounded like the worst thing ever…and yet her performance makes perfect sense given that description. Quirky, open-minded and calculating and able to ride a fucking lightcycle.
Homely as a white Aunt Jemima
7. Amy Adams as Charlene –The Fighter
Another movie that the American public ruined for me before I even saw it, while Amy Adams isn’t the best part of the movie (that seat is reserved for Christian Bale, though he’d probably take it by force even if it wasn’t), we sure did see a LOT of her…And the best part? She slaps down chain-smoking red neck crones on the front porch. Go massholes!
no that's not Adam Lambert
6. Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Sander-The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series
When America found out Russia was planning to send humans into space we had to beat them to it. Sweden may have gotten the jump on us with this franchise, but we’re already flaunting the new version and in a week Rooney Mara’s nipples are some of the most famous in the world. Even so…it might be worth watching the OLD version.
Would you still like this as much if it turned out she was actually a midget?
5. Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl-Kick Ass
I didn’t like this character nearly as much as everyone else did. Not because her use of the C word offended me…nor did her butchery of everyone who opposed her. I just thought it was an over played character that felt out of her element in the movie. Even so…deserves a spot on the list right?
Cockblocked by the aspect ratio.
4. Emma Stone as Olive-Easy A
Never have I seen such charming female manipulation and deceit since Mean Girls until Easy A. What a refreshing little slice of charm…and Emma Stone whores it up in the best way possible. She doesn’t seem to have that transparent hotness that other girls of her looks have. She’s cool. I feel like she’d put someone in her place if they were pouty enough.
She's hunting down Rob Marshall for Nine.
3. Marion Cotillard as Mal-Inception
I’m not a fan of Inception. In fact it shook my entire faith in Nolan as a director. But in a sea of wooden performances and floating people in tight-fitting vests, one character in the film really stood out. Mal is as close as the movie comes to a true antagonist and she’s absolutely chilling. Unforgiving and totally insane, Marion Cotillard proves as this suicidal dreamer that she is one of the most versatile actresses yet again.
Incoming File Transmission from Heaven
2. Michelle Rodriguez as Luz-Machete
I love it when Michelle Rodriguez plays butch, ass kicking roles. I don’t think we’ll ever top seeing her with a shot out eyeball as a resilient taco-selling revolutionary shooting double barreled shotguns from the hip. She’s become a parody of herself, but often times that’s when actors really find their niche.
Matt Damon's waiting it out.
1. Hallie Steinfeld as Mattie Ross-True Grit
This performance blew me away. I think it blew away everyone who saw the film actually. It’s a true shame that they discriminate based on age at the Oscars (believe me they do) with the assumption that the actor or actress will win when they get a little older. Confident, badass, and able to wear the shit out of a hat too big for her, Mattie was not just the best female character of the year, but maybe the best character of the year in general…and generally children ruin movies. Take that Anakin.

Well that wraps up the list. Hopefully I’ll be able to gush about how badass it is when Ron’s mom finally gets Helena Bonham Carter to shut the fuck up and cease her Wicked Witch of the West impression in the Harry Potter series.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

It's human nature to fear the unusual: A critical look at Batman Returns

The inspiration to write a post struck me late at night, and here I sit in the dark attempting to set a record straight and right injustices against a family name, much like Oswald Cobblepot aka The Penguin pouring over birth certificates in the hall of records about a third of the way through Batman Returns. The family name I’m out to defend is that of the Burton Batman films, and this one in particular which as Christopher Walken elegantly puts it “frankly has a bum rep.” Perhaps the conclusions you can draw from the film’s plot itself and the reputation it has are eerily similar. Abandoned at it’s conception by critics and “comic fans” alike, Returns perhaps isn’t nearly as bad as some make it out to be, only misunderstood by those who can’t see past the grotesque exterior. Much like Batman himself, I feel the need to defend something which cannot save itself, and much like Catwoman; the subject matter at hand is too sexy and insane to be revered in the eyes of the public.

Batman 89’, which I might have been too harsh analyzing is still universally respected by critics and comic fans, many of whom are too bitter and jaded to admit that it may very well be a more true-to-form Batman and Joker story than The Dark Knight. Its sequel Returns however, falls prey to several complaints that are almost always the same by anyone criticizing it; which I’ve heard so many times that I’d venture to call them stereotypical critiques. While Batman 89 is decidedly dated at times and often very aged and misguided feeling in parts, I feel like Batman Returns builds and expands on the themes while incasing the story within the austere whimsical world of Tim Burton. I’d go so far as to say that Batman Returns is the most stylistically affected, though not afflicted, film Burton has ever done. This was a director at his peak; and it’s a shame to see how studios lost faith in these macabre visions for a while after this film’s release.

Perhaps one of the biggest faults Returns has, isn’t even to blame on the film itself so much as the untimely and nonsensical summer release. This is a Christmas film through and through, though it explores the darker and less jolly aspects of the holiday. Prevalent arctic themes, tree lightings and even a bittersweet wishing of Merry Christmas on the last line of the film add to the perversion of the holiday across a comic book landscape.

But wait…one of the main complaints about the movie is that it’s not a very good comic book film and it’s bogged down by being too unrealistic. Ask yourself for a moment if ANY film with a man dressing up like a bat, a woman dressing up like a cat and a man called “the penguin” can ever be interpreted as true-to-life and that argument goes out the window. Perhaps you’re looking for the hyper realism served up in The Dark Knight. You might notice that every moment the most whimsical and unrealistic character, The Joker, who seems to bend the laws of space and time with his all-too-convenient plans is not on screen. Compare that to the romantic arc in Batman Returns. Batman and Catwoman are enemies but Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne are potentially lovers. Upon realizing each other’s identity for the first time, the immediate question posed is “do we start fighting?” This is a great way to delve into the psychological aspect of Batman. He’s often conflicted in his best moments by circumstances that make him want to give up his crusade; times when he’ll rise to the occasion and prove himself to be the true hero that he is. If you're questioning the scene where he kills a thug with dynamite you might as well question the scene where he levels Axis chemicals with explosives in 89', and also take into account that Bob Kane's Batman smoked a pipe and carried a gun. You have to wonder if Bruce meant what he said when he took off his cowl at the end of Returns and asked Selina to come away with him, or if he already knew she would never attempt to lead a “normal” life. Compare this to when Bruce wants to give up being Batman as a result of Rachel being DEAD in The Dark Knight. It makes for an excellent Batman arc…which contradicts how a lot of people say this isn’t a “Batman film.”

Isn’t the whole point of Batman the idea that he’s like an urban legend that strikes fear into the heart of his enemies? Batman isn’t going to flaunt around in every scene. That takes away a crucial element of mystery. Besides, he had his origin story in Batman 89. While the films don’t blend seamlessly given the shrunken scope of Gotham in Returns, you already know this Batman and what he’s capable of. Keaton delivers the same anger-fueled insanity in the role as he does in 89. If you don’t think there’s enough Batman in Returns, ask yourself what more was needed. As opposed to one villain in the first film, now there’s two that are extremely well developed, more so than any others in superhero films with multiple antagonists and there’s more action in this film than just about any of the other Batman films save for 89; all thanks to Batman and his comic book inspired arsenal of gadgets.

People have said that Returns is too dark for a comic book movie, but look at Watchmen on the other end of the spectrum…since when did comic books need to be lighter fare for kids? In addition to bringing comic book movies into the spotlight, 89 also legitimatized them as films for adults and kids alike. Returns knows exactly what it wants to be. It’s not totally stuck in fantasy, but it’s not grounded in realism either. It’s carved out a nice niche for itself in between the campiness of the silver age Batman comics and their outrageous plots and the darkness of its predecessor of a film. Part of the appeal of comic books at the time of their introduction as a graphic medium was the ability to convey the impossible without limitations opening up new kinds of storytelling. Now this is becoming more and more possible thanks to CGI, but it’s great to see a film that was able to set its own standards and create a unique world in the span of roughly 2 hours. It’s just the right blend of black comedy and horror tragedy while still safely under the mantle of Batman.

The iconography of a Batman film is present throughout Returns, often times less in-your-face than it is in the newer films or in 89’. For example: pimping the bat logo. There’s an unforgettably moronic shot in Batman 89 where the Batwing flies past the moon and creates the bat logo. Not only does this defy physics, but it’s superfluous. Even less realistically, the Begins Bat signal is comprised of a prisoner wearing cut rags tied to a searchlight. How about a nice way to tie in the iconic logo and the bat signal without shoving it down our throat like the simple shot of Wayne reading in Returns when the logo shines through the window and he stands up and looks at it. It’s simple. It’s effective. It’s purely badass. Some would say that the shape of the bat signal is too precise…I have to argue, does that matter AT ALL? Like I mentioned before, realism flies out the window period in comic book films, so the logistics of the shape of bat signal are much less relevant than the source of the logo being from a tormented Arkham escapee or an idiotic shot of the batwing blocking the moon. Also part of the Batman iconography in addition to the obvious batsuit, is the Batmobile. While the design of the Batmobile is introduced in 89, the scenes with it are a bit unceremonious and don’t really show off the sleek awesomeness of the vehicle to its full potential. There’s something very “constructed” and fake about it as it cruises through the streets tipping fruit stands. In Returns, it’s a viable threat when it’s under the penguins control, driving recklessly through streets and smashing cars at top speed. Then in one of the single greatest and most innovative comic book movie moments I can think of, the Batmobile splits off the sides into the “Batmissile” to squeeze through a narrow gap between two buildings. It’s this same kind of enthusiasm you see in the “Batpod” scene of The Dark Knight that really makes the truck chase scene stand out. It’s Batman being one step ahead, and ready for anything.

Which brings me to refute another fault of the film, is that The Penguin isn’t a credible threat to Batman. Physically, he never was, and never should be, even in comics. The appearance of the character, deformed physically and mentally in Burton’s vision immediately creates a more formidable presence than anything prior in the comics or other adaptations. The audience fears the Penguin. He admonishes the viewer for treating him differently. First invoking feelings of fear, then pity, and then feelings of hate, the same cycle of emotions that Shreck and the other denizens of Gotham feel towards Penguin in the film. Batman, ever-vigilant is never scared of The Penguin because he knows what he has to do to stop him. Despite his confidence, The Penguin still manages to nearly kill Batman several times in the film, including the Batmobile bomb, an umbrella gun at the end and with the penguin commandos.

One of my friends in particular, a fellow Batman enthusiast faults the film the most for the inclusion of the “penguin commandos” aka live penguin army that lives in the sewer and eventually waddles into the streets of gotham with rocket launchers strapped to their backs while responding to a frequency signal. I think given the absurd nature of the rest of the film, this fits in pretty well. With every failed attempt, the Penguin continues to get angrier and angrier at Batman until he goes to an extreme which he’s clearly had in reserve for a long time coming. This is every bit as dangerous, if not more so than the Joker spraying the city with laughing gas from parade balloons or say…fear toxin in the water supply. If anything I would say that this is slightly more believable than those. If you’re asking how penguin could have possibly acquired the resources, then you also have to ask yourself how The Joker is able to employ Police Officers in The Dark Knight and plant a bomb inside of an inmate while unarmed inside of a holding cell. There’s certain things you just have to accept because like it or not…Batman is still based on a comic book, and like I said earlier, comic books serve to tell stories in a visually appealing way which you couldn’t find elsewhere. As Returns plays out like a big screen comic complete with it’s own artistic style, taking the penguin commando army in stride should be easy to get past after the first five minutes of seeing a baby eat a cat and get tossed into a sewer. At worst you can laugh at these “lighter” deaths and at best you can build a hatred of The Penguin’s pathetic character. The pathos are all there. I would say that there’s less suspension of disbelief involved in frequency controlled penguins than Doc Ock controlling tentacles with his “brain chip” in Spiderman 2…or even the concept of a Spider bite giving someone super powers. I don’t see how it could be difficult to accept, especially in a universe as absurd as Batman’s.

So I’ve written a lot now trying to defend Returns from various possible criticisms (Why do people always bring tomatoes to speeches?) but what sets it apart from the rest? I can safely say that personally, as a lifelong Batman fan, Returns may be the most enjoyable Batman film to me. While for nostalgic reasons, The Dark Knight is still the most fun I ever had with a film given all the hype surrounding the release, Returns is worth a watch if you can overlook the lack of Nolan.

It’s the perfect mix of comic Batman characters with elements of movies ranging from comedy to horror. The suit is there. The tech is certainly there (remote controlled batarang anyone?). The action sequences are tight and well edited. On top of that, it also has my personal favorite musical score of all time for a film. Dark brooding, moody circus music perfectly fits the character of the Penguin and the slinky, screeching effects suit Catwoman’s character very well. Elfman also expands on the already great Batman theme from 89 and mixes the best cues when Batman is on screen with heightened versions of the Penguin suite when the characters are intercut on screen (such as the pursuit of the penguin through the sewers in the third act).

Speaking of the pursuit scene…out of all the secondary bat vehicles introduced in the third act of the Batman films (Batplane, Batwing, Bat sub, Batpod, Bat…sled…) the Batskiboat which narrowly dodges wayward missiles from Penguin Commandos is by far the coolest and most practical. There’s this great overwhelming presence of the absurd in Batman Returns, but the subject matter is so dark (I’ve heard people compare the film to an inkwell) that it’s hard to laugh at it. I think it’s a great mix for a Batman movie. It’s sad, often poignant at times, but also tends to feel like a sitcom akin to the 1966 Batman show crossed with the Addam’s Family. It’s a perfect cross between darkness and camp…beauty and the beast if you will.

One of the greatest scenes in the film is the death of the Penguin. After he has supposedly fallen to his watery grave through glass, he emerges dripping blood and bile from the water behind Batman, in one final attempt to kill him. He reaches for an umbrella, and accidentally "picks a cute one" before collapsing needing a "cold drink of ice water." Hated by everyone his entire life, in his death, the penguins emerge from the corners of his sewer lair and drag him into the water to sink to the bottom. It's touching, bizarre even to Batman, who watches the procession unfold. The music is powerful, sad and extremely fitting. It's incredible to see an incredibly humanizing and tragic end to a character that is so easy for most people to hate throughout the film.

Rather than just elude to the accepted truths of the Batman mythos like the super-urban high tech current films, grim to the core, I think Batman Returns is a good superhero film that’s certainly worth watching again if you feel like it’s “stupid” or not a “batman film.” I wish I could have spent more time praising the nuances in Devito’s performance or the greatness of Catwoman’s role in this film as the only truly well written female character in the Batman series’, but the pitiful legacy Returns has acquired among comic fans made this more of a crusade to set the record right. Though I would hardly call myself a Returns apologist…as there’s nothing to be sorry for. This is an excellent film.

"Come what may...Merry Christmas Mr. Wayne..."

"Merry Christmas Alfred. Goodwill toward men. And women."

Friday, May 6, 2011

THE DEATH OF OSAMA. THE EGGMCFUCK. THE THORCUPS. GREAT TRIUMPHS FOR AMERICA!

I don’t normally write posts that don’t relate to some kind of movie or fast food product, but this has been a helluva week so I feel like I need to attempt to organize my thoughts into some kind of poignant ramble for the sake of posterity. Where were YOU on the day of the Royal Wedding No one cares; dumb Brits. Get a divorce and settle for a bazillion dollars then throw cash on the streets. But now…where were you when they SHOT BIN LADEN IN THE FUCKING EYE? Why I was out celebrating with the rest of the good ol’ citizens of America. I’m not one for blatant jingoistic sentiment, but my excitement built up over the course of Sunday night until it hit critical mass. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to pet Obama’s head so badly. Perhaps I should slow down. I wouldn’t want to forget to mention the Thorcups.

Then it was time to celebrate active hater of my blog, Tyler Lopachin’s 21st birthday. We went to a couple bars, and by the time we walked into a second one, some rowdy Boston peasants were telling us that they got Osama…it was just uphill from there. I ended up spending the night hanging out with a friend at emerson watching the developments on the television and rejoicing in the death of a terrorist. We blew up the Death Star. We destroyed the T-1000. We won the Nascar 500. It was a collective victory. Pretty soon people were busting out the Charlie Sheen chants. I decided the time was right in the morning. It was time for the Egg Mcfuck at Dunkin.

I don’t really remember how good it was because I was coming down from “euphoria” but I remember really appreciating the tiny specks of pepper. The bread tasted like sex. I guess. I don’t know. I’ve eaten a lot more bread than I’ve had sex, so I might have to draw a more normal comparison somewhere.

Did I mention that I finally got the giant fucking Thor cups? I think I went to around ten 7-11's trying to find them. Did I succeed? Yeah I did. We drank out of them after haggling with some dumbass 7-11 employees who thought we were trying to con them out of slurpees the night of THOR at midnight. Which was pretty entertaining actually. I’d give it a solid B.

I’d give this post a solid C. It’s far too normal.

Monday, April 25, 2011

I'M KINDA EXCITED TO SEE THOR

Hark! The title bestowed upon this blog post was so obvious an old man and a fool could have agreed upon it. This entry shall here by be wrote in the tongue of the Norseman and the mighty Anthony Hopkins. Upon the rumblings of April, the heavens of Asgard opened and struck the world with Thor-mania. Odin looked upon his work and proclaimed it was good. 7-11 was among the first of puny human establishments to fall to the might of the mjolnir. Thou dare visit 7-11 upon multiple happenstance to exchange currency for thine mighty Thor Slurpees? Nay. Surely you jest Loki! I jest not. Thou hath consumeth now a trifle short of four Thor Slurpees, with the number equivalent to three.

Be there a flavor of god nector flavored with the scent of the maiden Natalie Portman or Thor Sweat, my attempts to find it have been met with failure. I have filled my goblet and drank well of COCA COLA and CHERRY FLAVORED slurpees emblazoned with the thor crests of advertising.

The first thing mere mortals may notice about the goblets is they are adorned with the lenticular motion patterns of hammer-tossing. Atop the perch of the ...lid...rests a mighty statue of a god or foe or Asgard for children drinking the slurpee to devlope idol worship upon. They will cling to these miniature talismans of the mighty Marvel franchise for the rest of their pathetic lives, spiting their foolish parents who try to make them believe the heroic avenger's golden locks are but myth.

So far in my travels thou has exchanged around a grand total of around ten dollars of human currency for thor related slurpee trinket, now posessing resuable plastic cups and straws with the manly visage of Thor, Loki and the evil fire breathing destroyer. Tis a grand bargain and cause for celebration surely!

What could improve perhaps these glorious tokens of asgard? Why of course the jolly liquid known as VODKA. Nave, coward and god alike shall walk the streets swinging hammers with reckless abandon under it's spell with Thor slurpees posessing more spikes than the armor of thee destroyer!

Having enjoyed them to maximum godly potential now, I still require one more cup and miniature ho figurine to have them all. The marking spell of Odin is absolute. So I will soon pound my fist upon the countertop of 7-11 yelling for ANOTHA!