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Back In Black…. And Yellow

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76 years. 76 years of Batman punching bad guys, brooding, having shitloads of cool gadgets and general bad-assery. It is hard to find a figure that had endured as long in popular culture as The Dark Knight. We’re all very familiar with the story by now. Young child, Bruce Wayne accompanies his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne to a screening of  The Mask of Zorro. They leave the theater and are gunned down by one of Gotham’s many criminals. The young Bruce vows to clean up his city and trains to become the ever present, ever vigilant silent guardian of Gotham CityBatman. And now he’s back in cinemas, in Lego form!

I’m going to put this out there. This is, in my humble opinion, the best Batman movie since The Dark Knight. The movie opens in hilarious fashion with Batman (a hilarious  Will Arnett) narrating what we can see, “Black. All good, serious films start with black. And music, ominous, scary music…..” “This movie is brought to you by DC. The house that Batman built. You heard me Superman, come at me bro!!” There’s your tone for the whole movie. An affectionate, self referential addition to the Batman franchise.

There is so much to love in this movie. As mentioned already, Will Arnett nails the role of our big eared, narcissistic hero. And this is the crux of the story, and essentially the heart at the core of the movie. Batman is a loner, a strong entity that feels he can get by on his own without anyone’s help. The movie joyously sends up the much used image of Batman being a brooding, quiet loner and a gruff hero, ultimately a man’s man who just does what he has to do. Preferably on his own.

The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) tries to take over Gotham. And as is his wont, Batman shows up and puts a stop to his plan. In a glorious showdown, our two leads meet after a huge battle (of which there are many, which all utilize the wonder of building Lego to achieve master builds) and Joker decries Batman for being his “number one enemy” and that “he needs him, because we need each other.” Batman responds in typical bravado, “I don’t have a number one enemy. I fight a lot of villians, I like to fight around.” Joker is morally offended and upset and does not get the validation he needs. So he surrenders freely and this leaves Batman at a loose end and needing to focus on more important things.

Mainly the orphan, Dick Grayson (a charming turn by Michael Cera) who Bruce Wayne unwittingly adopts and invites himself to become Robin. This is where the movie hits a small dip. Overall the story is quite heartening and ultimately it shows a character grow while all the time not changing dramatically. And ultimately sends out a message of the importance of family and indeed friendship. A strong 40 minutes, a weak twenty and then a lovely bright finish.

There are numerous references to the Batman franchise. Visually, aurally and there are lovely nods to the different actors who played The Dark Knight. This movie is aimed at kids but it is an adult’s movie. Very clever, bright and loud and as a love letter to the franchise, it is a valuable addition. And if you’ve forgotten, a character in the movie reminds us, well me specifically how much Batman means to people, when he roars lovingly, “Hey, Batman. I love you more than my kids!”

4.5 / 5

 

Written by thepanch

February 6, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Batman Vs Superman

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First of all, I need to get this out of the way. Upon my first viewing I wanted to call this review Batman Vs Superman: Yawn of Justice. I know right, I’m so whimsical. But I felt I needed to watch it again, so I did! And I rethought my initial knee jerk reaction and gave it another deserved chance. This film has been quite undeservedly derided universally. Now I can see why but it is a bit unfair. It’s going to be hard to convince you otherwise if you already hate it and to be honest, I’m not going to try. The best way to approach this is the simplest approach, what was good and what was bad. Right, the good.

Batman fights Superman. If like me you’ve been waiting for this since your teens it delivers and then some. But Zack Snyder makes you wait, oh he makes you wait. It is worth it to be fair. The fight borrows heavily aesthetically and in terms of action from The Dark Knight Returns. The heavily advertised metal suit Bats sports, the use of kryptonite and Superman’s inability to see through lead based products with a craftily deployed smoke bomb. The fight is everything I hoped for. Two titans kicking the living tar out of each other.

Ben Affleck. Holy fuck! His hulking frame, shown in a glorious training montage, is impressive enough but his performance behind the beef and indeed the cowl is spectacular. His Batman is world weary, greying, physically and mentally broken. And gone beyond vigilante, I mean he flat out kills loads of guys in this movie! And there has been a lot of huzzah about this. I don’t feel any moral outrage about it, I don’t condone it but I understand the reasoning. He sees it as the only way to solve Gotham’s problem. Well, it’s either this or burning the whole place down, the place is a hole.

Henry Cavill. Sadly, like in the woeful Man of Steel, treated rather shabbily by an underwritten part and a hammy script. Anyone who knows me is well aware of my dislike of Superman, but he can be made interesting (see Death of Superman (graphic novel), the first two original Superman movies with the impeccable Christopher Reeve). There are glimpses of hope in this movie. Supes is struggling with the weight of being himself. Cavill does a great job but is let down by an underdeveloped arc.

Jesse Eisenberg. I wanted to hate this version of Lex Luthor. The trailers made me physically wince and shift uncomfortably in my seat, but he grew on me over the course of this film. His maniacal, and as the film moves forward completely mental plans are made all the more delicious by his unnerving jumpy nature. This guy really hates Superman and he goes to great lengths to try and stop him.

Gal Gadot. It’s pretty easy to shoehorn in a hot chick to play a well-loved, renowned superhero but with the casting of Gadot, the film does Wonder Woman a great justice. She was powerful, sexy and could hold her own with the two guys. I will gladly watch her in her inevitable solo outing! Which, in a rather ham fisted way, brings us to the bad elements of this movie.

Wonder Woman. Not Gadot. Or indeed the character in general, no it was more the way she was shoehorned in to be one of the reasons for Bats and Supes to forget their hatred and unite to fight a common foe. The last half hour is rushed as fuck. And an email attachment Bruce Wayne sends her instantly sets up the Justice League with tiny trailers for Aquaman, Cyborg, The Flash and indeed Wonder Woman. Now the whole rushed ending. Two things here.

Doomsday. I got it, I totally got it but come on that ridiculous CGI, the lasers and really bright flare. Completely ruined an otherwise great battle. And ultimately, he was only here so our heroes could team up. To be fair, Gadot can handle that Lasso of Truth like a boss and looks bad ass doing it. Could have done with less of this hulking CGI mess. Now another reason that the last half hour was ham fisted and lazy as. I got a hold of an exclusive deleted scene. Text only mind.

INT: ABANDONED WAREHOUSE. Batman stands triumphantly over Superman. He raises his arms up to bring down a kryptonite tipped spear into Superman’s chest. Just before he bring sit down, Superman wearily raises a hand.

Superman: “Wait.”

Batman looks at him, smirks and slowly brings his arms down to his side.

Batman: “Make it quick. This ends now!”

Superman: “Right on the count of three, say the first thing that comes into your head.” Batman: “What?”

Superman: “Say the first name that comes into your head.”

Both: “Martha!”

Batman: “What?”

Superman: “Did we just become super best friends?”

Batman: “I think we just did…. Shit.”

 This didn’t happen like this I admit but it was pretty close. I call bull shit, Zack Snyder!

Anyway, I enjoyed it more on the second viewing. Not a perfect film by any means but it is enjoyable. And serves as a nice taster for The Justice League and reportedly three solo Batman films starring Ben Affleck and hopefully in the guise of his ever present butler, Alfred Pennyworth the ever reliant Jeremy Irons. He was great in this film and did a great job as Pennyworth. If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend going to see it as it is a lot of fun but don’t expect any jokes.

2.5 / 5

 

 

Written by thepanch

April 3, 2016 at 10:52 am

Beware False Prophets

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Jamie’s Good News

Batman: Arkham City was for my money the greatest game I have ever had the privilege of getting my mitts on. To go full geek, you actually felt like Batman. Your decisions as to how you approach a fist / gun fight had outcomes for you and at some stages the poor unwilling innocents held victim by the scum of Gotham. And you got XP points for “intimidating” said scum. Now for those who haven’t played it first off, what the hell? Secondly, I will not produce any major spoilers as regards the ending. But it left the game in a quandary, where do you get a sequel from that? The simple answer, you don’t!

This train of thought must have influenced the decision for the newest addition to the Arkham franchise, Batman: Arkham Origins. As I said, it is not a sequel and Rocksteady Games will not be developing the title which initially made me recoil in nervous horror but from what I’ve seen so far it looks pretty tasty despite this revelation! The game focuses on Batman’s early years as The Caped Crusader.

However it is not a direct “origin” story instead it focuses on The Black Mask aka Roman Sionis who puts a bounty on Bat’s pointy eared head to try and get him off his back. Batman goes on to take out a number of assassins who are out to claim their prize and make their name over the course of a cold and dreary Christmas Eve in Gotham.
Early screenshots look pretty impressive featuring the aforementioned Black Mask, The Penguin and Deathstroke.

Half of the game will take place in Old Gotham, years before it was turned into the prison we saw in City. The second half will take place in New Gotham which looks to borrow heavily from Tim Burton’s Batman. This pleases me greatly as I wanted to live in that Gotham for a good two years when I was a young chap. The release date is set for October 25th this year and for more information and screenshots and indeed all things Bats, go to:

http://www.batmanarkhamorigins.com/

or

http://www.ign.com

Beware False Prophets

Now William Martin Murphy and his Dublin Millionaires
Tried bribery, corruption, hypocrisy and prayers
To spite the Transport Union their scats they did enlist
But all their graft was shattered by a scarlet iron fist.

When the bosses tried to sweat the lads way down on Glasgow’s Clyde
A voice like roaring thunder soon shook them in their stride
In Liverpool and Belfast where worker lives in Hell
But Connolly rose and gave them hope, the truth to you I tell.

Oh Irishmen the day will come when workers one and all
will rise up from their bended knee and rally to the call
Throw out the bosses tyranny and shout from shore to shore
For a working man’s Republic and freedom evermore.

And Connolly was there, Connolly was there
Bold, brave and undaunted; James Connolly was there.

You know what it’s like. You’re in a bar, you see a woman that catches your eye. You are no longer John, the accountant from up the road who still lives with his mammy after the messy divorce. No, you are Big Bill Brady. You are just back from a three month trek in The Andes where you went mountain climbing in your spare time. Your time was mostly spent helping poor orphans who were left homeless because of some disaster. You would offer her a lift on the Harley but it’s in the shop. People lie. If you want something, you lie to obtain it. The people you swore into power lied. They lied hard to get what they wanted.

Labour wanted to bed the country; they wanted to have its wicked way so they promised us the following:

• Child Benefit will not be touched
• No increase in college fees
• Fair Taxation and higher taxes for the rich
• Abolish prescription charges
• No Property Tax
• Burden sharing with bondholders

They all sounded lovely didn’t they? Sure, they’re great altogether. Only a moron, a dribbling moron would not vote for these smooth operators…… “What’s that? The Budget, ah sure that’s never pleasant….. Here turn up the tele there…. Sssh, here’s the first one”:

• Child Benefit to be cut by €10 a month for the first and second child, €18 a month for the third child and €20 a month for fourth and subsequent children.

“That’s not too bad…. Bit steep but sure it won’t matter….. you’ll be going to college sure….”

• €250 increase in the registration fees.

“They might hit the fat cats… I’ll be paying the same as the big fellas with their four houses….”

• €264 increase in PRSI for all those including those earning under €18,000 a year.

“Shite…. Least I’ll be able to get me tablets for me chest and your mother will be alright with the inhaler….”

• Tripled the prescription for medical card holders.

“Ah for f*** sake…..Here. Least I owns the house…”

• A property tax at 0.18% of the value of your home.

“F*****’ Hogan….. This is ridiculous…. Least them b********’ bondholders will be raked over the coals!!!!”

• Bondholders, including unsecured bondholders continue to be paid in full.

“******************************!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (Pulls tele out of the wall and fires it out the window, gets a letter about the licence anyway)

The Great Rock And Roll Swindle? Nothing rock and roll about that, just a bunch of smooth tongued devils, not holding pitch forks though. They’re winking on camera and kissing babies, trouncing all over the ideals the party was founded on. Enda Kenny called Margaret Thatcher “a formidable leader.”
Who would’ve thought it, eh? A man admiring a woman that liked to make grown men quiver and shake like brassy school children? Oh, zat is some good strudel…. A woman that presided over a party which decimated small towns, families and vital industries and businesses, leaving families to make the decision, food or power? I can see why he was a fan alright. Goodbye Ireland, we hardly knew ye…..

Written by thepanch

July 6, 2013 at 9:03 pm

New Year, Wha?

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The kids from Sandy Hook went back to school last Thursday. Alarm bells rang, mothers fretted, fathers grunted and reached for the paper, bread was buttered, cereals were wet with milk, shoelaces were tied, buses were chased, boarded and stopped at their destination, Sandy Hook Elementary School, where just a month earlier twenty pupils and six teachers were needlessly gunned down by Adam Lanza. Gunned down as they attended school, I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it was to go back to that place, that place that would have been full of laughter, finger paints and scraped knees. Now it will forever be associated with a monumental loss and a damning indictment of the gun law in America.
When news broke of the killings, I was physically disgusted. And my mind went back to the killings outside that cinema in Chicago around the time of the release of The Dark Knight Rises. I remember the cry of the ignorant and the right wing that a fictional character, a hero to many of the kids that lost their lives ironically, was responsible for their deaths. A character that does all he can to avoid death and gun violence in his crusade for justice and peace. Yea, it was his fault. Damn you, Bats.
The media whipped up a frenzy again after the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School, looking for a scapegoat to pin the senseless loss of life on. No it wasn’t Superman, it was video games. Yes, those pesky pixelated devils. Adam Lanza was “obsessed” with first person shooters, namely Call Of Duty and Medal Of Honor. Senator Joe Lieberman said, “The violence in the entertainment culture – particularly with the extraordinary realism to video games – does cause vulnerable young men to be more violent.” There are two obvious arguments to this quote. One if the issue of mental health was more prevalent in the media and in health matters in general, would these young men be so “vulnerable”? And secondly, Senator Joe must not have access to a television set in his little bubble world. I watched Sky News for ten minutes yesterday and I saw four people blown to smithereens in a van bomb and a mother searching for her dead son in the rubble. At 4 o clock. In the day. In real life. Hey Senator Joe, the world is violent…
As stated earlier, the pupils and staff returned to some sense of normality last Thursday. A traumatic enough experience, so how do you help these people settle back in? A group in a neighbouring town, Organisation SOS, were offering gift vouchers in exchange for violent video games. These games were then subsequently burned, now to be fair the group did not say the games were directly responsible for the deaths, but they argue that “violent games and films desensitize children to acts of violence.” Turn on your television.
So they are burning what they believe are adding to the problems of violence, crime and unnecessary deaths in the land of the free. I begrudgingly commend them, personally I think they are a mile off, but they are entitled to their beliefs and maybe it will bring some comfort in the wake of the tragedy. Surely the US population would put some effort into a gun burning or ban on firearms? Ha, think again.
The number of FBI background checks required for buying a gun in the US has set a new record in the month of December. The Feds recorded a massive 2.8m background checks during the month, an increase of 2 million since November. Someone who passes a check is officially deemed “able to possess a firearm.” I wonder if one of the questions is “Do you own an X Box?” God Bless America…..

Written by thepanch

February 7, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Ice To See You

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“Criminals are a terror. Hearts of the night. I must disguise my terror. Criminals are cowardly. A superstitious terrible omen. A cowardly lot. My disguise must strike terror. I must be black. Terrible. Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. I must be a creature. I must be a creature of the night. Mommy’s dead. Daddy’s dead. Brucie’s dead. I shall become a bat.”

Batman, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (Morrison & McKean)

As my esteemed colleague has given you a potted yet concise history of The Bat, The Dark Knight, Batman, I will give you a history of my love affair of all things Bat. It all began when I picked up a copy of Year One by Frank Miller. Year One is an origin story for the Batman, and in my opinion the definitive. And it served as an inspiration for Christopher Nolan’s interpretation in Batman Begins. From the comics, I started to follow the reruns of the 1960’s T television show, which by the way are still being rerun on ITV4. I still love them, and then I turned my attention to the films, beginning with Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns which are both excellent films. And the latter saw me developing my first famous person crush on Michelle Pfeiffer as Selena Kyle / Catwoman. Meow. Batman Forever came next with Val Kilmer as the Batman. This was before he got all fat and weird, and he was surprisingly good. Then we were given the film in the dock this month, Batman And Robin.

I saw it in the cinema, I loved it then and I still love it now. All initial reservations point to me hating the film as a Batman fan, cheesy dialogue (mostly from Mr. Freeze, more to come later), dodgy looking sets, weak main actor, terrible supporting actors and Bat gadgets up the wazoo. But I bought it all, hook line and Bat sinker, I feel that it is an absolute joy of a film. And all the reasons I should hate it are the reasons I love it. It was made with that intent, to be fun. Now I know Batman is broody and probably doesn’t watch YouTube videos of cats talking, but I found it impossible not to smile while watching it, and I still do.

The studio insisted on Schumacher lightening the mood for this one and he does not disappoint. The whole film is bright, retina burning bright. The cowl is filled this time by George Clooney, who was fresh off his turn as the ludicrously handsome, yet very clean Dr. Ross in ER. He was hot property and to be fair, he’s easy on the eyes. So, what did the studio decide, let’s go with George. He is terrible to be fair, but this is not the film’s fault. He sleepwalks his way through the film, again I feel this is the sign of a lazy actor and he is to blame here.

His sidekicks, the Boy Wonder Robin is played by Chris O’ Donnell. Yes, your man from that historical documentary of 50’s Oireland, Circle of Friends. I know, you’re trying to think of what else he did. He was Al Pacino’s foil in Scent of A Woman. He, despite a lashing from critics and fan boys gives a very gung ho performance, and he nailed the brash, cocky attitude Dick Grayson was blessed with. He is great at what he does, but you want to slap his smug face. Alicia Silverstone plays Barbara, Alfred’s niece. Look, she wears a skin tight PVC outfit, put your academia away and enjoy her for what she is, the eye candy.

Now, the villains, I knew they were villains from the inspired poster campaigns. There was one for the “Heroes” and one for the “villains.” They need to make a comeback…. Fast. Anyway, there’s Poison Ivy, played by Uma Thurman. Ivy has always been for me a very good character who like Catwoman oozes danger and sexuality. Thurman does a pretty stellar job here. She is accompanied by Bane, a hulking monster who is basically her lackey. Here he is portrayed as a mindless thug, not too far removed, but they toned down his violence, understandable enough given the target audience, and I enjoyed it as part of the overall film.

The main villain is Mr. Freeze, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is a scientist who is trying to find a cure for the disease killing his cryogenically frozen wife, Nora. And Arnie is having a blast playing him. He is such a stereotypical villain it is hard not to love him. As I mentioned before, he has some of the cheesiest and best lines. Nearly all his dialogue is puns or quips based around ice. My personal favourites are as follows:

• “You’re not sending me to the cooler!”
• “Mercy? I’m afraid my condition has left me cold to your pleas of mercy.”
• “Ice to see you!”
• “What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!”
• “If revenge is a dish best served cold, then put on your Sunday finest. It’s time to feast!”
• “Allow me to break the ice. My name is Freeze. Learn it well. For it’s the chilling sound of your doom.”

Arnie, we hardly knew ye!
To sum up, this is a very enjoyable film. And that’s exactly what they set out to do, make a fun film. It didn’t ruin Batman as some critics would have you believe. If it did, would we have the magnificent Batman Begins and all that has since followed? No, the franchise would have died with Mr. Freeze. Instead it was given new life by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer. Right, I’m going to go and rewatch the movie now. Altogether now, “Let’s kick some ice!!”

Written by thepanch

April 23, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Film Reviews

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Batman Goes Method

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Christian Bale is at it again. Ah, in fairness at least this time he’s not shouting at a poor defenceless lighting guy. No, no this time Bale’s anger is being spit out at a film critic who branded his weight loss for the new film, The Fighter, as “another one of Bale’s trademark weight loss roles.” Understandably, Bale is not best pleased. He has been quoted as saying that he’s “never seen any welterweights with any fat on them.” This is true. The man is portraying a boxer in the welterweight division, who also happens to be a crack head. Hence, the character would be quite slim, don’t ya think?
Again, Bale goes above and beyond for a role, and some hack laughs it off as something he has done before, and therefore “it would be easy for him.”

I’ve never lost 70lbs for a film role, and I’m pretty sure this journalist hasn’t either. Bale has every right to chew this guy out. He is one of few actors working in the shiny disco ball that is Hollywood that truly does what he is paid to do, act. By the journalist’s reckoning Robert De Niro would have been foolish to move to Italy for three months in order to play a young Don Vito Corleone. Was Al Pacino silly for hiring a Spanish voice coach to speak only that language to him on the set of Scarface? No. Speaking of Al Pacino, I can highly recommend Glengarry Glen Ross, a 1992 independent film version of David Mamet’s play. The play is based on Mamet’s experience as a salesman in the 1970’s.

This film is really and truly an actor’s film. The cast consists of Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin, Jonathon Pryce and the aforementioned Mr. Pacino. The beauty of the film is nothing happens, nothing except four salesmen competing for money and ultimately their jobs. All this is played out with sparkling, foul language that flows like a tap from these actor’s mouths. The film is a tour de force of great acting and blistering writing. Plus, you get to hear the late Jack Lemmon swearing like a docker, directing a lot of hate at Kevin Spacey! A word of advice, don’t tell Christian Bale that you lost 70lbs “just for the heck of it.” He will shout….. loudly.

Written by thepanch

February 23, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Thoughts

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