The Batman Reboot

I remember when Tim Burton’s Batman came out. I saw it on the big screen, and I was blown away. It was so dark, and so decidedly different from the only Batman I was familiar with — the Adam West series — that I couldn’t help but enjoy it. And then the years passed, and when I watched it later, after Batman Begins, I realized how decidedly campy Tim Burton’s film actually was.

See: to an extent, I’m one of these assholes who can’t watch a film without thinking, “Okay, so, the bat cave’s cool, but did he hire contractors to pour all the concrete and stuff? Or did he do it himself?”

In any case, Batman Begins was a welcome change from the absolutely stupidity that became of Warner Brother’s Batman films. Batman Forever was so terrible I think I hated myself for actually watching it. For one thing, Batman Begins was grounded in the notion, “What if some guy actually wanted to become Batman? How would he do it?” Okay, granted, not everyone’s going to be super brilliant, have a gigantic family wealth to draw on, and own a huge tech development corp with cool toys left over from government contracts … but there were actually plausible explanations left for how the Bat Cave might come to be.

And thank GOD nobody called Batman’s anything “the Bat ____.” His ride wasn’t “the Bat Mobile” rather, “…it’s a tank!” Heck, I’m pretty sure Bruce Wayne never even called himself “The Batman”, it was all the press.

And then The Dark Knight. Which I didn’t like a whole lot. Mostly because it got kind of ridiculous with the “how would Batman do something in the real world?” because I had a hard time believing Joker could wire a shit ton of explosives through a hospital in the real world without someone noticing (among other faults). In any case, I enjoyed it enough that I’ll certainly be in the audience for the next Nolan/Bail Batman flick, The Dark Knight Rises, due sometime in the future (let’s say May 2012).

And The Dark Knight Rises is that, as they say. Not that in far as “no more Batman movies”, but that as far as “no more Batman movies set in this Batman universe.

Which is the nice thing about TV. We can have the 1960s Batman universe, where he runs around in tights in broad daylight and always gets captured by the bad guys thirty-minutes in and somehow outsmarts them because they’re too fucking dumb to just shoot him. We can have the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher universe, where Bruce Wayne keeps getting cosmetic surgery and conducting massive exterior renovations to Wayne Manor and upgrading the Batmobile every few months and adding Bat Nipples to his Bat Armor because, hey, why not?

And then we can have Nolan’s nice three-movie series which envisions a Batman (mostly) grounded in reality. A trilogy. And when it’s over, it’s over. And the Batman reboot can then take Batman in a more comedic tone, or a darker tone, or a whatever tone.

Yes: reboot. It’s happening:

“We have the third Batman, but then we’ll have to reinvent Batman…” says WB president Jeff Robinov. “Chris Nolan and [producing partner and wife] Emma Thomas will be producing it, so it will be a conversation with them about what the next phase is.”

Whether that means the WB will jump straight into a new Batman film, or re-launch him with the Justice League movie, remains to be seen.

But to reboot Batman on-screen for the third time in 30 years is surely going to result in serious audience fatigue – especially if they insist on retelling Bruce Wayne’s origins story all over again.

There are two reasons I think this reboot is a good idea:

1.) Bruce Nolan’s Batman does not exist in a world where Superman exists. If they’re going to insist on shoe-horning Batman into a Justice League movie, might as well do a Batman reboot where the Caped Crusader carries kryptonite around in his utility belt on the off-chance Superman’s gone bat-shit insane and the Dark Knight has to put wrong to right.

Particularly since both Nolan and Bail are done with the series as director and actor after TDKR, another film set in Nolan’s Batverse with a new lead as Bruce Wayne/Batman (and who can say for the rest of the supporting cast?), hitting theaters as about the same time as a Justice League movie with yet another actor as Bruce Wayne/Batman, might confuse the hell out of some people. Probably the same people who were confused about Superman Returns.

2.) Who wants to see what happened to Burton’s films happen to Nolan’s? A devolution into garbage writing and performance. No thanks.

Sucker Punch (2011)

You know how last year people were saying “Man, Kick Ass is kick ass!”

(Well, I was.)

Conversely … Sucker Punch (wait for it) sucked.

So, here’s the deal. Baby Doll’s mom dies, which sucks because her step-father is possibly a priest, and almost certainly molesting her. Baby Doll gets a gun and tries to kill him, but, oops, shoots her sister instead. Baby Doll is sent to a mental ward, where she finds out she’s going to get lobotomized in five days. At this point, the movie goes from black and white to color. I’m not sure what the distinction is, except that all the staff seem to be wearing classier clothing, her step father is suddenly in a priest’s collar, and what been a dingy room looks like a high class lounge.

Oh, and all the girls are now being forced into prostitution. As part of their prostitution, they all have to dance, I guess to tantalize the men in the crowd into wanting them.

Okay – this is weird. So basically, “high rollers” from the town come to the mental hospital to fuck mentally ill women. Yeah, real nice guys. Anyway, turns out when Baby Doll dances, she enters some sort of imagination-reality-warping-zone where her co-conspirators among the girls can experience as well (sort of). Also, while she’s dancing, men are so entranced they don’t notice her co-conspirators copying maps, or stealing keys and knives (well, they sorta notice the knives).

The alternate worlds Baby Doll’s dreams take place in are pretty much the only reason to see this film. They’re visually incredible. If you ever wanted to know what the siege of Hornberg would’ve been like with silenced M4s, well, you’ll get your answer. Personally, my own favorite sequence of the film is set during The Great War, with the Kaiser’s troops reanimated with steam. Even that, though, left me aching for the cash no longer in my wallet.

Basically this film felt sort of like one of my better dreams, but dressed up as a female empowerment tale. So, long story short: Zack Snyder’s good at directing other people’s stories, but his own story left me scratching my head in total confusion.

Oh! Just when you thought I was done! At the very end of the film? Baby Doll narrates the fucking morale of the story which has something to do with your imagination setting you free, except Baby Doll winds up lobotomized, so if that’s your definition of “free”, hey, this is the film for you.

My experience wasn’t all that bad, though. Went down to Georgetown to see it, then I had a thunderbeer! And a thunderburger! And all was right with the world.

Jane Eyre (2011)

If I had known Jane Eyre was about vampires, lesbians, and arson, I probably would’ve read the book.

(No, the actual Jane Eyre, not Jane Slayre*).

The first two might be a reach, but not by much, especially if your introduction to Jane Eyre is Cary Fukunaga’s new movie, which opened in DC last week. I saw it last night. I was not, in fact, dragged to it, rather I used the opportunity to catch up with a woman I used to work with and who I know is all into the Bronte/Austin stuff. Me, I kind of wanted to see it when I was watching the trailer and thought “Oh, cool, a gothic horror with the girl from Tim Burton’s Alice and Dame Judi Dench!” and then a character mentioned “Jane Eyre” and I was like “…the fuck?” And the movie was sort of like that too — like, just when I’d realized it wasn’t actually a horror film, there’s a clumping and a clamping and Jane’s running through a really dark house, and then I’m like: “The double fuck? Does that guy have puncture wounds in his neck!?”

Yes, those are neck puncture wounds.

Anywaaaaay, so I kind of want to read this book now.

Totes fun fact: you can tell who is getting dragged to see this film by their lady friends, because they tend to drift around the lobby for the whole show (yes, I have a new part-time job, yes, it’s in a theater, more details to come soon). We had one guy on Sunday who got a large soda, and came out like SIX TIMES for refills, and NOT ONCE went to the restroom. I would just like to say I admire that man’s bladder.

*Which is, in fact, an actual book! I know, I know, shock and horror.

Paul (2011)

Last year, in an effort to save money, I decided to get rid of my cable TV service. People sometimes ask me, “Don’t you miss it?” and I say “No.” And I don’t: I have streaming Netflix and a vast amount of DVDs. Plus, I’m rarely actually home, usually at one or the other jobs. I have recently begun to notice that while I don’t miss TV itself so to speak, I do miss information.

Particularly regarding A.) new movie releases and B.) new models of cars being released.

I could care less about the new cars, but I do kind of miss knowing what movies are out there. For example, the only reason I knew Paul was out was because I accidentally stumbled upon it while trying to find a trailer for Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Pt. II. Anyway: Paul is a story about two Brits who come to the U.S. to do a tour of UFO related sites, and wind up bumping into an alien and trying to get him home. Throw in some meddling Feds, and a bunch of rednecks (of the “fuck anything female with a pulse” and “bible-thumper” variety) and you’ve got yourself either a wonderful little time, or a “why wasn’t this straight to DVD?”

On the plus side: the movie stars and was written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead fame).

On the downside: the movie also stars Seth Rogen. Well, sort of. His voice.

On the other plus side: Kristen Wiig! I’ve got a total crush.

On the other downside: Jason Bateman. Who I kind of dislike. Mostly because he kind of reminds me of a grownup Michael Cerra, who is pretty much enough of a reason to keep me from watching a movie.

Anyway, so I went yesterday to Friendship Heights to see the movie at Mazza Gallerie. Aside from the too-chatty teenager in the row ahead of me who I wanted to kick in the back of the head with my boot (and from all the “will you shut the fuck up?”s from her friends, it was clear they wanted me to kick her in the head, too), it was a pretty awesome movie experience. Okay, it’s kind of choc-full of geek references that a.) if you’re not a geek, you probably won’t get, and b.) even if you don’t get them, you might still enjoy the movie, I guess.

Hey, there’s even a reference to a 1992 Oscar nominated film starring Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon. It’s kind of subtle, and it took me a somewhat embarrassingly long time to get it, but I’m not really much for Nick Nolte films (besides, of course, Tropic Thunder).

There’s also some great cameos: one from Jane Lynch who you may know as the grouchy cheerleader coach on Glee, but who I remember as the grouchy lesbian dog groomer from Best of Show, and Jerry’s sex therapist on Boston Legal. The other – man, and I don’t want to spoil it – so I’ll just say this cameo is the person that, if you’re a movie buff, and especially a sci-fi movie buff, this is the person you probably think of when you think of alien. Or aliens. Anyway. Good movie, very fun, can’t wait to see it again when it hits the Dee-Vee-Dee.

Also: Kristen Wiig. Adorable as a cycloptic-bible-thumper who shares a “Vulcan mind-meld” (sorta) with Paul and realizes it’s okay to cuss and fornicate. Her swearing is possibly the cutest thing about the whole damn movie. Still not going to go see Bridesmaids, though.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Last week, I went to see a movie whose trailer kind of reminded me of the best of The Twilight Zone. What I saw felt like a velvet hammer cloaked in Mad Men, an impression certainly not helped by a.) the end narration (YES I GOT THE FUCKING POINT ALREADY THANKYOUVERYMUCH) or b.) John Slattery in a fedora. And I’ve never even seen a single episode of Mad Men, so casting directors? In the future? Don’t put Mad Men cast members in anything requiring them to wear a fedora. I don’t even know if Slattery wears a fedora in Mad Men but all I could think was “Hey, based on this, Mad Men’s like a poor quality Twilight Zone. Weird.” (I did see the scene on YouTube where some drunk chick runs over some guy’s foot with a mower at an office party, and I wish my office had parties that cool, but we don’t, so boo.)

Oh, a whole paragraph and I didn’t even mention the movie. I guess I assumed you would know I was speaking of The Adjustment Bureau (perhaps because you read the subject line?), which stars Matt Damon as a washed up politician about to make a comeback, and Emily Blunt as a ballerina with an obsessive over controlling mother and a fragile psyche who – wait, wrong movie, but I’m glad I saw The Adjustment Bureau before I saw Black Swan because I would’ve been like, “SHE’S A BALLERINA DUDE! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!” (They’re all nuts, right? Ballerinas?)

I saw a much better Emily Blunt movie last week. She’s a scam artist who rips off a millionaire (Rupert Everett) with a faked Rembrandt (or some other Renaissance artist) painting. He claims he’s not a gangster, but immediately puts a contract out on her life. Fortunately for her, her assassin is Bill Nighy (WIN!) who stalks her all over London in an effort to put a slug into the back of her head, only to decide not to kill her only, it would seem, so he can find out why “What do you weigh?” is her pickup line of choice. It’s a romantic comedy, so it all turns out alright in the end, even though this movie also, like Black Swan, has a creepy mother figure in it (of the quasi- variety as opposed to the bat-shit type, although this one is trained in all kinds of things that go boom-boom). Thrown in for the mix are Martin Freeman and Rupert Grint, making this possibly the only movie I’ve ever seen where two people named Rupert are in the cast and holy shit, there’s more than one person named Rupert who is a movie star? It’s one of those things I didn’t quite realize until I wrote this paragraph and now my mind is kind of wobbling around. Anyway, the movie’s called Wild Target and it’s on Netflix, so go see it.

And I’d skip The Adjustment Bureau. It’s a movie about Free Will. Trust me, they’re not shy about making sure you understand this, to the point that you just want to punch whichever person or persons making the film decided their audience was so fucking stupid they needed to be pinched by the nose and told what to think. Seriously, fuck you.

Black Swan (2010)

I got this poster and took it into work last week. The full size double-sided 27×40 poster. I hung it up over the desk of my Office Boo, and it freaked everyone out. Like, it was kind of “NATALIE PORTMAN’S RED EYES ARE DRILLING INTO MY SKULL AHHHHHH” crazy. Anyway, now the poster hangs randomly on the cubicle walls of people who’ve been “swanned.”

Personally, I think it’s a wonderfully lovely poster and kinda want it back so I can hang it on the pillar at my cube to ward away my boss and his supervisors. Instead, I’ve got the Smurf teaser poster where they’re stuck in a train door. Basically, I’m being mooned by Smurfs all day. It’s great.

So I took the time to see Black Swan this afternoon. I spent the whole movie thinking someone really needed to punch Barbara Hershey in the face, but then it turned out her daughter really WAS bat shit insane, and I felt bad about wanting Barbara Hershey punched in the face. Also, I really liked the dragon on Mila Kunis’s back, but I kept thinking I was watching The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and I bet when that movie comes out people’ll say, “Hey, this Larsson asshole ripped off Kunis’ tattoo from Black Swan!”

Still, I’m pretty sure I liked The Wrestler better, although boy oh boy am I glad Mickey Rourke didn’t have a passionate sex scene with Ernest Miller. Fun fact: did you know Black Swan and The Wrestler were once upon a time going to be the SAME MOVIE?

Natalie Portman and Mickey Rourke. Admit it: your mind, it is blown.

(Yes, I do in fact realize that I’m advocating punching crazy people in the face, but I tend to think the world might be a better place if more people were willing to punch crazy people in the face, but I’m not actually advocating anyone punch anyone in the face, and I’m certainly not encouraging anyone to punch Barbara Hershey or Natalie Portman in the face, although they certainly play psychotic characters, but I do think Vincent Cassel could stand a solid knuckle sandwich, or perhaps a knee in the crotch. And speaking of crazy: Winona Ryder! Right?)

Even the Rain (2010)

I am not very good at writing reviews. I find things I read or watch fall into three categories: Amazing! Good. Bad/Horrible/Whatever. So lets see if I can put a bit more thought into these categories, as I rarely spend too much time analyzing why I like or hate something.

Wednesday afternoon I went to see Even The Rain, a Spanish film set in 2000 about a film crew making a movie about Christopher Columbus’ exploitation of the indigenous population of the Caribbean. Due to financial considerations, the crew is actually going to be filming outside of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Unknown to them, the government is in the process of privatizing the water supply, which will lead to the Cochabamba protests (I didn’t know what they were either, until I Googled them).

Luis Tosar plays Costa, the film’s director. Costa came to Bolivia because he can hire extras cheap — the only way he’d have the budget to make the movie otherwise would be to “film in English” (and presumably, in that case, financed by a major Hollywood studio). Costa doesn’t actually want to be in Bolivia, evidenced in a scene where he demands a long line of Bolivian would-be actors be turned away. Fortunately, Sebastián (Gael García Bernal) wants to honor a pledge that everyone who turned out would be seen, and discovers Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri) who is cast as Hatuey, who leads the resistance to Columbus’ rule.

Even The Rain is a film with leftist sympathy (this should be obvious to anyone who pays attention to the Howard Zinn quote at the end of the trailer, or for that matter, that the film is dedicated to him). Fortunately, the movie doesn’t bludgeon the audience over the head with its moral: “Look! Columbus came and exploited people for gold! And now other people are exploiting the natives for water!” For example, I think Aaron Sorkin is a great writer, and I generally tend to agree with his politics, but watching just about anything he’s written can be uncomfortable because he just beats his message into his audience’s head with a cinematic baseball bat. Fortunately, writer Paul Laverty and Icíar Bollaín (mostly) avoid this trap.

It’s interesting how the movie-within-the-movie parallels the events unfolding in the real world. It’s interesting how the actors in the film show their colors through the increasingly perilous situation: I’m thinking mostly here of a scene at a restaurant where one actor teases the others for trying to learn how to say certain words in Quechua. The film crew’s association with their characters is a fractured reflection of the events they’re witnessing to unfold. Anton, playing Columbus (and portrayed by Karra Elejalde), takes pride in revealing the hippocracy of his cast-mates, who take pride in the noble characters they portray for their role in speaking against Columbus’s excesses, yet cower from emulating their heroes. It’s Daniel who exists in the same role in both film, and riots. Where the wealthy and well off can afford to debate matters over cocktails (witness the scene with the city’s mayor, who when being told that peasants can’t afford the water increase, replies to the effect that the film company could always increase their pay for extras), the peasants are always on the wrong side of the stick.

The one big negative for the film are the subtitles. Not, mind you, that’s it is subtitled, but the subtitles themselves, which are in a thin white or light-yellow font (I’m pretty sure they change color in the latter half of the film to yellow). While perfectly legible on a dark background, particularly towards the end, the subtitles became very difficult to read. It’s annoying trying to watch the film while having to squint to make out the subtitle. Usually, I don’t mind subtitles, I just sort of absorb them when watching the film, and I’m sure that’s a difficult balance to meet: subtitles legible enough to be easily read, but not so attention grabbing that they interrupt the movie-viewing experience. Also, I was completely thrown by a scene where the two leads have a conversation in English with their Scottish financier. For a split second I thought I’d absorbed enough Spanish to be able to understand the language without the subtitles — osmosis for the win!