Batman Begins – A Movie Review

I know this was a good movie because I went to see it with several friends and their wives, including mine, and the wives, including mine, loved it!

This was the Batman that every fanboy has longed to see.  He was intense, guilt-ridden, an expert fighter, truly frightening, and took what he did very seriously. 

The film dealt with the parts of Batman that the average person doesn’t know much about, which is why I know my wife and the other wives really loved it.  They never knew that Bruce Wayne was a man who had everything he loved taken from him at a young age by a common criminal.  They didn’t realize he blamed himself for the murder of his parents.  It was news to them that he fights a battle against the forces of evil nightly in order to make up for what he couldn’t do then.  He fights to make sure that what happened to him happens to no one else.  They enjoyed the explanation of how he obtains his equipment.  They were shown that he is a mortal man, not a super-man, using the cowardly psyche of the average criminal against them.  It allows us to witness him get hurt, really hurt, and it makes us pity him when we see his bruises, his cuts, his scars. 

This is Batman.  He is only a man to those who know his true identity, but a man who makes himself a force of nature to those he hunts through intelligence, discipline, and chicanery.

The movie succeeds in all the right ways.  Unlike the other Batman movies, we care about this Batman, we root for this Batman, we want to see this Batman on the screen, not the over the top villains of past films.  Batman is the star of this picture, not a mere challenge to the antagonist.

The uniform was plausible, the vehicle was probable, the plot was tight, the acting was superb (in nearly all cases), and the directing was magnificent.

In other words, see this film.  You won’t be sorry.

And remember, we fall down so that we may learn how to pick ourselves up.

The Prestige by Christopher Priest – A Book Review

I picked this book up because I heard that Christopher Nolan, director Batman Begins, was going to direct a film adaptation.  On top of that, Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and David Bowie have all agreed to star in said film.  I figured if talent of such high caliber saw something redeeming in this novel, I would as well.  Thus, I picked it up at my local bookstore.

I was not too familiar with author Christopher Priest.  I knew he was primarily a fantasy writer who occasionally dabbled in the world of comic books.  I honestly wasn’t expecting much from The Prestige, but when I picked it up and saw that it had won a World Fantasy Award, well, it immediately seemed that Christopher Nolan and the previously mentioned actors knew exactly what they were doing.

The first three quarters of The Prestige are entertaining, but I would not necessarily say captivating.  In fact, at times, I was quite unsure what the allure of this novel was.  However, the last quarter of The Prestige was absolutely riveting and I could not put it down until I had finished.

The book is written from several different perspectives, mostly in a journal format.  It spans several generations dealing with a feud that began in the late nineteenth century between two rival stage magicians.  We’re not talking wizardry here-we’re talking good old craftsmen who were at the top of their profession of trickery and illusions through hard work and cunning. 

However, early on in their lives they developed a dislike for one another and it continued between the families, even to this day. 

What’s so interesting is getting both men’s perspective on why the feud began and why it continued for so long.  Of course, both think they’re in the right, and neither seemed especially nefarious when reading their own thoughts.

The title deals with a facet of one of the magician’s tricks called “In a Flash.”  He developed this trick after he saw his rival transport himself from one cabinet to another several feet apart within seconds.  His rival called this “The New Transported Man.”  Hoping to one up his competitor, he discovered means to transport himself even further with the aid of electricity. 

Oh, this plot is so full of so many aspects, far too many to convey in such a short review.  Let me just say that while this book seems utterly trivial for its first seventy-five percent, it all proves important in the last twenty-five.  It will leave you breathless and stunned, I promise.

This Is Nothing To Joke About

Note: Originally Published 8-1-06

First and foremost, if you are not a fan of Batman Begins or, more specifically, Batman, than this little article will not interest you in the least.  However, if you are a Bat-Fan, then you must read on.

It has been confirmed by Warner Brothers that Heath Ledger will play the role of the Joker in the sequel to Batman Begins, called The Dark Knight.  Now, a lot of the fanboys have already started with the “Brokeback Joker” tirades and are dismissing Ledger as a respectable Joker.  I couldn’t disagree more.

First of all, highly respected filmmaker and director Ang Lee hired Ledger to star in Brokeback Mountain, a very serious drama that required real courage to take part in.  Second of all, Ledger has had some nice moments in his acting career thus far.  For instance, I thought he was very good in The Patriot, and though it was a comedy, I also thought he did a nice job in Ten Things I Hate About You.  And yet, I will admit it, he’s had some flops as well.  But, you have to think, if Christopher Nolan, the director of Batman Begins and its follow-up, has faith in Heath Ledger, than shouldn’t we as well?  After all, he brought in Christian Bale, someone I never would have dreamed of, and Bale brought an intensity to Batman never realized on film.  He brought in Cillian Murphy, a truly creepy villain as the Scarecrow, and need I mention all the big names he brought in to play minor roles.  Nolan is respected and Nolan is intelligent.  He knows what he’s doing.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, “But Scott William Foley, Ledger will never be able to out-do Jack Nicholson’s hilarity as the Joker!”  You’re right.  You’re exactly right.  You’re right because Jack Nicholson, as awesome as he was, was playing Jack Nicholson.  You looked at the screen and you didn’t see the Joker, you saw Jack Nicholson in white make-up.  And what was fine!  He rocked!  I loved his Joker.

However, you want to realize that what makes the Joker work is not his flamboyancy, it’s his utter and psychotic maliciousness.  The Joker is a mass murderer.  The Joker is sick and twisted, he is terrifying, remorseless.  Imagine a Joker who wasn’t funny at all.  Imagine simply a psycho who looks like a joker from your deck of cards.  Imagine the intensity required for that sort of Joker.  I think Ledger can pull it off.

I will now undo all of my previous arguments by saying that I still wanted Crispin Glover to get the role.

Good Call On Gyllenhaal

Note: This Post Originally Published 3-10-07

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Maggie Gyllenhaal has all but signed on to the Batman Begins sequel (called The Dark Knight) to replace Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes.  Let me say, I couldn’t be happier about this decision.  First of all, the sequel will tout the talents of Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Heath Ledger, and Aaron Eckhart.  Does Katie Holmes really stand a chance of standing up to talent like that?  No way.  But does Gyllenhaal?  Most definitely.

Listen, I liked Katie Holmes just as much as you did up until the literal day Batman Begins opened.  I didn’t care she was linked with Tom Cruise, didn’t bother me at all.  However, what did bother me was when she brought him along to the premiere and everything and everyone got overshadowed by all-powerful Tomcat.  I’m sure Christopher Nolan was seething that his hard work had turned into just another media circus for the Hollywood power couple. 

Listen, Holmes, by doing that, proved that she cared more about herself than her art and the film she was promoting at that moment, and, in my eyes, that contradicted everything the rest of the cast and crew were doing. 

To top it all off, in my opinion, Gyllenhaal is twice the actor Holmes is, and I think her every-woman appeal will prove a good match with Bale.

The Dark Knight – A Movie Review

(No Spoilers Ahead)

Simply “wow.”

This movie surpassed even my lofty expectations as a Batman fan.  Epic in nature with nonstop action and a tight, logical storyline that organically meshed with the characterization of its players, The Dark Knight deserves every bit of the accolades it’s amassing.

Christian Bale’s Batman is truly a force of nature-savage yet noble, fierce yet heroic.  He teems with intimidation and generally looks like he could explode at any given moment, which is all part of Batman’s psychological warfare against the criminal world.  Other actors have played Batman either too coy or too cool, but Bale depicts Batman as a warrior, someone ready to take back his streets by force.  Bale brings an emotional intensity to Batman that is totally necessary to the character and translates brilliantly to the screen.

With the untimely death of Heath Ledger, there was a palpable fear that folks would go overboard in applauding his efforts as the Joker.  Christopher Nolan earned my respect with Batman Begins, so when he broke convention and cast Ledger, I trusted his decision.  However, when people started talking about an Oscar for Ledger’s Joker, I snickered a bit.  Let me tell you, after seeing his performance, it would not surprise me in the least if Ledger was nominated.  Ledger was absolutely unrecognizable as the Joker.  It didn’t look like Ledger, it didn’t sound like him-it really felt as though what we saw on screen was THE Joker, not just an actor playing a role.  Ledger utterly disappeared.  I knew Ledger would be good, but he was so incredible brilliant, I was blown away.  And his Joker wasn’t the flamboyant “mobster” of 1989’s version or the harmless clown from the 1960s-his was a calculating, homicidal, disturbed, “agent of chaos.”  I rarely have nightmares, and just last night Ledger’s Joker entered my dreams and scared the pudding out of me.  No joke.

Aaron Eckhart’s role as Harvey Dent was much bigger than I expected, and he also brought a real complexity to the movie that added a thematic layer about “heroism” versus “duty” that really enriched the overall story.  His character when compared and contrasted to Commissioner Gordon’s and Batman’s showed you all the various shades of goodness and just how fragile such a notion can be. If you know the comic books, you know Dent’s fate.  I won’t spoil anything for you, though.

Finally, all the actors were sublime.  Oldman as Gordon, Freeman as Fox, Caine as Alfred, Gyllenhaal as Dawes-all of them worked hard to make their characters well-rounded, emotional people that we could connect with.  I think the actors’ dedication to their characters-no mater how small the role-along with Ledger’s performance and the raw emotion of the movie pleased me the most.

Director Christopher Nolan really seems to understand what makes Batman tick.  His The Dark Knight felt like all of the best qualities of a comic book blended with the noir of a thriller rooted in realism.  I’ve never quite seen anything like The Dark Knight, and judging from the box office, neither has anyone else.  Whether you’re a fan of Batman or not, this one is definitely worth the price of admission and I guarantee you’ll enjoy it on several levels.

3:10 to Yuma – A Movie Review

While the premise of this western is fairly straightforward, it is anything but simple thanks to two actors who give us their absolute best.

Russell Crowe, playing a role he was born for, is Ben Wade, a charming, debonair, magnetic thief and murderer.  Christian Bale plays Dan Evans, a dismembered Civil War veteran and small-time rancher on the verge of losing everything.  When the two men’s worlds collide, Bale has a chance at making some money if he can only get the captured Crowe on the 3:10 train to Yuma.

Though Crowe is technically the villain, you can’t help but root for him when he clashes with everyone but Bale, whose desperation to provide for his family and capture some self-respect in the process is heart breaking.  The audience can’t help but hope against hope that Bale becomes the man he so acutely wants to be.  At times it seems even Crowe’s character is rooting for Bale, thus making his role as “villain” all the more ambiguous. 

The sheer acting of these two men and the charisma they emit makes the movie speed along.  It has moments of terrible violence, light-hearted comedy, pure drama, and suspense that will make you feel as though someone is sitting on your heart. 

I completely recommend you watch this movie.  If you are a fan of westerns, Crowe, or Bale, you will not go disappointed, because 3:10 to Yuma is an example of the best of each.  If you’re a fan of none of those things, I dare you to check it out anyway, because I bet you’ll be won over by the time you’re finished.