Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Golden Linings Storybook.
109 Minutes. Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence & Rhys Ifans. Director: Susanne Bier.
Hustling their way across America, the sexiest woman and man on the planet, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper have been the toast of the Academy for the past couple of seasons. Even one Oscar has been raised in Lawrence's name amongst all the nominations. Showing their more than the formidable 'Hangover' and 'Hunger Games' franchises, Cooper and Lawrence woke up from any typecast headaches and got their teeth into more gritty roles. Their love in the oft-ignored face of mental illness story, 'Silver Linings Play Book' was more than a modern classic based on Matthew Quicks influential and inspired novel, it was also a crucial, generational art imitation of life and the difficulties facing millions of men and women around the world. Lawrence may have won the Oscar she so richly earned and deserved in all its gold, but you should check Coops impassioned MTV acceptance speech highlighting how anxiety and depression claims more soldiers lives than combat to see just how important this film is. Following that the director David O. Russell reunited them after barely a year with some of his 'Fighter' co-stars for the slick 'American Hustle'. This may have been more style than substance and the perfect on-screen partners may have shared a brief moment of actual screen time together (where their characters didn't actually acknowledge each other), but when it came to the Kodak theatre in February the cameras where on them again like the Golden Globes didn't matter. The nominations where sent back their way even though Bradley should have actually got the nod for last years underrated, best film 'The Place Beyond The Pines'. None of that would matter however thanks to 'Gravity' and '12 Years A Slave', this 'American' dream and its poster boy and girl couldn't hustle Oscar.
Now doing the hustle deeper into more traditional and historical America and looking like a country version of Bonnie and Clyde, Bradley and Jennifer are back together in their third charm and second vow of loving partnership, to have and to hold with no Raisin Bran in sight. This time in the new Brad and Jen its Cooper chasing Lawrence on horseback after all those mornings she kept jogging after him. So is the story of 'Serena', no not a film about the Williams tennis playing sister, but one that is such a good spot of sport, that it has Dallas Maverick basketball owner Mark Cuban as an executive producer. After dominating the Summer, 'X-Men's' Mystique and the 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' Rocket man are back to doing the other thing they do best, right in the thick fall night of the Summer blockbuster market giving way to Oscar season in an 'Interstellar', 'Fury' of 'Gone Girl's' and 'Nightcrawler's'. Their latest fall play for February gold also looks to book some ledger earnings in the timber trade as we head back to the old Smoky Mountains of the United States Of America's prosperous past, from the forests to the railroad. An old testament love story true to the tone and tenor of times gone by, director Susanna Bier brings us something 1992 or Robert Redford would be proud of, but more than a river runs through this heartland, haunting tale. To reveal more would be to air this cinema couples dirty laundry and you should know by now that that just 'aint right. Still its a skeleton in the closet scandal that could rock you to the bones. With an amazing atmospheric opening of Cooper sitting out on his North Carolina, tar-heeled, log-cabin in the woods porch, draped in poncho looking out to mountains mistier than the ones Hobbit's sang so deeply about, IMAX couldn't even do justice in all it's 4K to what this leading man and are eyes are witnessing.
There's a cold chill in the air that wool couldn't even warm and the eerie look of smoke across the fir of God's sincere landscape almost has a sinister look and feel to it. It almost looks like murder. And so the plot thickens like an opposite reflection to the airs altitude. How do you follow such a sensational scene setting, not seen on screens like this for storybook years? Something that the words of a Cormac McCarthy would be proud of needs a stellar scribe that can continue this engraving of epic evocation. That's where Ron Rash-taking a leaf out of the McCarthy's and Elmore Leonard's of the writing worlds books-and his tree turner comes into novel, script following play. The story may be a strange one that may turn your coffee table reading cold, but with some strong shots matched with a healthy measure on the cast front all the way down to an accented, all American psycho Rhys Ifans, there is a lot brewing here. There's more than meets the hungry eyes here for this lovesick story. The subject matter may be far from Hollywoodland, but in this 'Gone Girl' age of awareness, manipulative relationships will be brought to the light of two casting actors unafraid to deal with some of todays most prevalent and problematic topics that lay hiding underneath the surface of mental unawareness that need to be exposed to the redemption of recognition. If you thought Cooper's best year was his last one then you may be wrong, inbetween voicing Racoons and hunting pumas. Showing more of a range, that critics with him in the crosshairs took shots at him for not having, Bradley may be closer to Brad than you think. He's the best thing about this movie, even standing next to the one individual able to take shine off his star in 'Serena' herself Jennifer Lawrence. The new Meryl Streep on a streak that could surpass in just a few decades of matching work, Lawrence brings more diversity to this duality in a triple threat year that sees her latest award tour join her formidable 'Hunger Games' and 'X-Men' franchise stellar sequels. Could this even be her greatest year after owning the last two? One things for sure, you can expect her to be dancing around the Oscar podium as much as she is tripping over its red carpet each year at the Academy. With this dark drama and saving this from being a train wreck both actors show who they really are with more to them then even meets their number one fans eyes. Lets hope there's more than a big-three because on-screen for better or worse Mr. Cooper and Miss Lawrence belong together. It's a marriage of Academy gold lined matrimony. Now what will we see from the next page of the playbook? TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Wednesday, 22 October 2014
Bond Of Brothers.
134 Minutes. Starring: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal & Scott Eastwood. Director: David Ayer.
War! War! War! It seems like 'Fight Club' star Brad Pitt has been in a lot of wars lately and we're not talking about the one where the biggest and most recognizable star in Hollywood is still fighting against ironically also being one of its most underrated. From bidding wars with other top actor Leonardo DiCaprio's production company for a 'World War Z' with the zombie walking dead to even battling against racism for '12 Years A Slave'. This is the World War II acting veteran who became an 'Inglorious Basterd' of a Nazi scalper alongside Quentin Tarantino. Pitt didn't join his 'Oceans' team of George Clooney and Matt Damon for their magnificent 'Monuments Men' art heist from Hitler's Third Reich however. That's because he was in Germany putting together a fast and furious band of brothers featuring the young likes of Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal for a tank, fuel injection down the road for 'Fury'. Right now an apocalypse of a war movie this is as real, raw and hard hitting as a 'Saving Private Ryan' in the 'Das Boot' submarine, pressure container confides of tank warfare. This cabin fever immersing you and beating you senseless in its hull from your cinema seat gives us another film on the classic, epic 'Schindler's List' scale. You cant really call this harrowing horror show exciting or entertaining without losing some due respect, but boy is this brutal film brilliant.
Smoke rises from the inside of the tank, outside the port hole just like some grenades have gone off inside, but it's Pitt, the original Bradley of the Academy with a pack of cigarettes up his sleeve. Hair back and sides shaved, with an up top slicked back further than his age 50 defining years as he speaks in a traditional tone that is a throwback to his 'Basterd' character but once more with more feeling and realism. He and his crew are swearing and spitting like it's 'Moneyball' tobacco, making another big swing for the Oscars. Still no polished gold will gleam greater then the men whose medals they honour with this all too real and raw film that is anything but spit and polish Hollywood. Explosions of fireworks with no celebration and ammunition flying through the early 1900's air like futuristic lasers as men tear each other down like trees in what would otherwise be a peaceful park is all too poignantly insultingly ironic. That's the point too from people dying like its nothing in gratuitous violence that shows how much of a horrid waste war is. Showing a new generation of moviegoers who may not want to pick up a history book, just how bloody, injust and evil it got. Stopping mens hearts and destroying their souls on all sides from the most horribly awkward dinners to young boys being taught how to be men in all the wrong ways that you wouldn't dare nightmare of bringing someone up like today. We live in a watered down internet world today where we go to social media "war" over nothing. Time we remember a period where young men and their families gave everything and lost the same. It's time in this ignorant iPhone app age to stop treating this like its nothing.
This film really is something, just like its captain Brad Pitt. The master of many disguises Brad Pitt continues his 'Seven' 'A River Runs Through It', 'The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button' and 'The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford' vast versatility. Here he has you hanging on the war torn tone of his every word, whilst learning more expression from his face to face time with another man he's gone to battle with, George Clooney. Here Pitt starts by being the man that says more with a few choice grimaces then he does with a thousand words wrote home. Sure he's not the earnest "earn this" of Tom Hanks' 'Saving Private Ryan', but realer and rawer he's still admirably performing a heroes role honorably. Put this amongst his greatest roles and best works as he honours the folded flag proudly and bravely with all due diligent respect to the men that did this for real. As do the rest of Brad Pitt's crew directed by corporal director David Ayer, the writer of 'Equalizer' Antoine Fuqua's 'Training Day' classic and the man who caught some more cops on camera for the inspired 'End Of Watch', to go along with directing Arnold Schwarzenegger's 'Sabotage' this year. No wonder he's been given the comic license for the 'Suicide Squad'. Here bringing 'End Of Watch' actor Michael Pena along for the ride, who yet again shows he's more than the man who speaks for everybody about the scary scale of just a few men going against what seems like hundreds (see 'Gangster Squad'). And how about the crazy talent of the mad Jon Bernthal? Remember the guy that could sell you a pen in 'The Wolf Of Wall Street'? There's a lot of hands on deck here. Even Clint Eastwood's singing son Scott who honours the flag of his great directing father. Speaking of 'Letters From Iwo Jima', you can put 'Fury' next to this and the 'Monuments' best that show different sides of the battle of WW2. The real draws are the kids here though. 'Percy Jackson' and a Disney kid. What a revelation Logan Lerman is here, growing up on unfolding screen in more ways than one. If you thought 'The Perks Of Being A Wallflower' and 'Noah' put him on the map then this just may Google him to the Kodak Theatre. Just like Shia, who continues this transforming, 'Lawless' acting that is putting him in terrific, tear-jerking territory. Forget the cutting and non-bathing, method actor behaviour, here the man that hit big on 'Wall Street' showing 'Money Never Sleeps' is a measure and the standard of emotional brilliance. An emotional and physical film to the soul core of pain in itself, this is relentlessly violent in its teaching method, moral message. Clunking and clanking around in a tank, this film beats the living and spiritual shit out of you. The middle-aged Pitt may look the part amongst these young bucks, but aside his award worth acting, Logan and Shia's poignant and poised presence reminds us of something. The war took too many of our young and that's just one tragedy of all too many that is such an important thing to acknowledge here more than the bullets and brimstone leaving us furious. Even in the heat of battle in an all encompassing war, nobody ever really wins. But boy they should never lose our pride and honour. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Sunday, 19 October 2014
142 Minutes. Starring: Robert Downey Jnr, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio, Dax Shepard, Jeremy Strong & Billy Bob Thornton. Director: David Dobkin.
Judgement day! Okay Robert. Or should I address you as Downey? Or Mr. Jnr? It's time to face a jury of your peers. Or as they are otherwise known as, 'movie critics'. With your 'Due Date' in court, you're making your 'Sherlock Holmes' case (and I move to recess for another one of those) that you are more of an Academy Actor looking to bring order to the gold statues than just the man in the iron mask. Sure 'Iron Man' and this new superhero phase of 'Avengers' and Marvel in this 'Age Of Ultron' is more than just R.D.J's career calling card, it's his ace in the hole saviour. Plus with news only this week that he will be in the 'Captain America 3' sequel (or should we say 'Iron Man 4') in a superhero, comic-book turning page that will lead to a 'Civil War', it's clear that Stark has many more marks to come. Still more than Tony, more than Oscar, Downey wants to show you he's still a real actor inbetween the Happy, Favreau assisted 'Chef' cameos to tide us over. I mean have we forgotten how beautiful he played in 'The Soloist' with a duet with the electric, eclectic Jamie Foxx? This is a man who overcome the dark depths of a drug depression and added the real and the raw to his trademark, evergreen, no matter the light, cocksure charisma and charm. All this and still the juries out as critics want to judge, 'The Judge'!?
Objection! One that will not be overruled. This all seems ironic...it may just be ignorance. Sure even if this is more Oscar bait than material, we still get the hook. Script, line and sinker. This law and family disorder is more than just Robert popping up in 'Ally McBeal', playing piano, showing he can sing like his subtly strong solo album...yeah just like the Black Widow Scarlett Johansson's super singing career, you didn't know, did you? This is the realest thing he's done since walking barefoot around an empty house singing along to Elton John's 'I Want Love' better than Justin Timberlake did impersonated the star specs for 'This Train Don't Stop Here Anymore'. Right now in this science fiction, superhero age, following the red hot Summer blockbuster season of Marvel, Oscar season is going 'Interstellar' in full 'Fury' force. It has been ever since 'Amazing Amy' went missing and everyone blamed Batman like Harvey Dent was murdered again. Why are superheroes getting even more serious? From Wolverine getting his claws and chords into the 'Les Miserables' stage and even more Academy 'Prisoners' bars, to even another X-Men in co-star Jake Gylenhaal...oh wait...wrong 'Nightcrawler'. Still, even in this geek generation there's got to be more circumstance behind this pomp and the man who hides behind his cockiness is about to show more shades of himself than Grey. Staying forever young and successful like Dorian, Downey paints an almost perfect picture with this performance. Almost in the sense that this master of the poker face, finally wears his heart on his sleeve and shows us his vulnerabilities. He's only human...and what a quality that really is. Give him a hand, because he's played a great one. In 'The Judge', Downey is the greatest executioner. And the winner is...
Another Robert! Duvall perhaps. What more can we say about this iconic legend? What in another case would be a man heading for retirement is actually one sustained, reigniting that fire. In a league or lake of his own, sitting in his trademark fishing boat showing us more to tackle with like that minute and a half he proved he could sing in 'Crazy Heart'. Here playing a legendary judge, with more family fond integrity than Phillip Banks (Rest Peacefully James Avery) he's on trial for his life, but will he accept the counsel of his lawyer son Robert? A son who passed the bar but also the 'Welcome To Hoosier Country' sign as he left a fractured father son dynamic in the state of Indiana to the winds of big city change in Chicago. This deep drama is more than a simple story of family values or reflective metaphor. It's a yellow legal pad, by the book scripts of moral and mortality tales that brings a new firm to those law dramas of the past. Forget a gavel...this hits you like a jackhammer. If you cant handle this truth like the small town, small falls beauty of Carlinville, Indiana, then there's plenty more holding court. From strong, albeit almost stealing performances from Vera Farmiga an Vincent D'Onofrio. As well as a moving one from Jeremy Strong and a puking one from 'Punk'd's' Dax Shepard. If this wasn't enough your 'also starring, and' in this Dobkin directed piece leaves us with the great Billy Bob-Thornton. Clearly attending the same 'Darrow' law school as Kevin Spacey did for 'A Time To Kill' and having one swish metal drinking cup that he puts away with a slice to any opponents imaginations jugular, this man plays prosecution with conviction. Still, at the core of this courtroom drama is a father and son one that shows no matter how many disillusioned decades of ignorant pride and mislead and fired anger there can be a hope of resolution and redemption if things are worked on and through together. From toilets to tornados, dignity and desperation and for better or worse these two R's and Roberts, funny and forthright, work together for that gold. The verdict? Sure this film is guilty of appealing to this Oscars like this article is to cliches, but its still all genuine. Amongst all the hate it's that heart that matters. Some stories are just as simple and soulful as that. No further question your honour. The defence rests. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Monday, 13 October 2014
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? Well, then you'll know what we're talking about! That infamous night of tragedy for one family, but not just any old family. The billionaires taking a walk down the wrong alley after the final curtain call from an opera show. But in this moment the fat lady was about to sing for them like a shot out of a revolver, screaming like a siren of the blue and red emergency services in response. You've heard about this story like you've seen it all before. Again and again like Peter Parker and Uncle Ben, but you can't change it. Just live it over. Scary isn't it? Like that wrong turn on that cold and strange feeling night where you just knew something wasn't right. Steam rises from the cities grids like smoke from a fire about to rise. Brimstone is in the air. There's a chill that runs down your spine. It almost feels like Winter, but its only another dark night because its after hours. A man approaches a man, wife and son as they head for the welcoming lights of a busy, public street. Their sweet escape, no doubt. Yet after the wife clutches tighter for her husbands arm like it was getting even colder the shadowy figure cuts them off. He's scary, desperate. Like a drifting street thug from no home to corner. Looking almost like he's wearing make-up, or even half a face. It depends all on how you tell it. He's after the usual stranger, late night exchange. The time...right off your wrist. Your spare change...and the rest of the money you own in that wallet and of course those pearls. SNATCHED! As they break and fall into nothing so do two bodies as husband and wife become concrete as two shots ring out and only the stranger stands. Before he runs past the kneeling boy who screams into this dark night. Screaming until the sirens appear and a young detective rushes out of his police cruiser and puts his coat around the little boys shoulders. Flashing his badge as the boy reads two things, "Gotham" and "Gordon" the cop tells the boy its going to be ok and asks his name. Through shivering cold and fear the boy replies, "Bruce...Bruce Wayne".
You may know him...as the Batman. The Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader, Bats. The superhero president of D.C. in the face of the Avenging Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Incredible Hulk and everything else to Marvel at. The t-shirt worn and paraded around by everybody, every second street. No matter their age, race, culture, country. Worn as a solidarity symbol like he's actually a hero of this modern worlds generation as kids run around with his toy. Well he sort of is....and he's been doing this since the last year of the 1930's. He's Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck. He's Dick Tracy, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond. He's Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Prince with the 'Partyman' theme. He's Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth. Heck he's even Superman to most people. Forget the Man Of Steel versus the Dark Knight. In this 'Dawn Of Justice ' we already knew who won the war the first time we saw that Easter egg of a teasing poster in a derelict, moss covered Times Square in Will Smith's 'I Am Legend'. He's the superhero with money as his power, with bucks in reserve. Like his kevlar, stealth and martial arts training. Still he's not the spoilt, little brat...even if you want him to be. His only entitlement is to use his "power" for the greater good. You know what they say, with great amounts of money comes great responsibility. Forgot super speed, X-Ray vision, a ring, or the ability to talk to the fishes like Dr. Doolittle had trouble with the Mafia, this guys got all the cash collateral to save the day through all the tech and gadgets. Tony Stark's Iron Man even knows this. He's even got his Alfred butler in the form of the pre-computer voiced Jarvis. Now tell me what came first, the bat or the tin-can?
My moneys on Batman. He's still my favourite superhero. Heck isn't he eveybody's? No power, just an everday, everyman...with a trust fund. Right now in this comic-book, superhero saga and geek generation ahead of the 'Ultron' sequel it really is the age of the Avengers and Marvel in their Phase Infinity. From their Captain America leading team to the X-Men academy and Fantastic Four family they really are a formidable franchise of formidable franchises. This is before we even begin to mention the likes of Deadpool, Daredevil, Blade and the Punisher. Lets not forget that young high school kid that likes to take photos and go all over the web too. With all due respect to Clark Kent, Green Lantern and the Flash, Marvel have the best heroes...except for one. D.C. on the other hand have all the best villains (sorry Loki), they're just all in Batman (sorry Lex) and his gallery of rogues. From the brutality of Bane to the questions of the Riddler, the cat, someone who you'd put in your field to protect your crops, the guy who shifts from good to bad, dark to light in a flip of a coin, to the guy with the umbrella that waddles funny and the clown who has the last laugh. No wonder Gotham is the worlds most dangerous city, no matter how fictional it is. No wonder the detective of detective comics has been doing this for almost 100 years. The century of the caped crusader hasn't just been about battling with the baddest bad guys. It's also been spent fighting his own inner demons.
CRASH! BANG! WALLOP!! Ever since Bob Kane and Bill Finger sketched down the 'Worlds Greatest Detective' they always knew there was going to be more. More incarnations and redesigns, but here's betting they didn't think it was going to be quite like this. From all the black and white, light and dark, Master Wayne has come in many forms. From the camp Caped Crusader to the devilishly Dark Knight. From news stands to consoles...and for the most part, they have all been as hero worshipped as the original icon himself in his legendary legacy. You may remember the 'Bat Touche'. Even if you want to forget the 'Bat Card'. Always leave home without it! So those thinking the latest in the Knighthood line isn't worth his sword should realise that superhero films are becoming like comic-book libraries. There's so many of them that this collection is now a catalogue and as you reach in your coral of comics you'll always find a dynamically different darked crusader of the cape and cowl...so why not the same for cinema? After the 'Bat-Man' made his 1940 solo debut, kids and kidults alike where being entertained by his herosism on a weekly basis and it still lasts today in this ass-kicking age. Still these captivating cells of movable action, also like any great responsibility powerful hero had a moral message behind it. This writer was recentely brought a Batman comic by his girlfriend from the year he was born (forget a newspaper, now THAT is a true love, romantic present (oh and it was from July 20th, 1985...I know, I'm old)) and it was all about Batman saving a tree. You forgot he was the original billionaire, playboy philanthropist right?
CRASH! KAPOW! SOCK?! Twenty years after sandwich boy kids saved all their pennies to read all about it, they ran home as quickly as they could to watch it on their television sets as Batman had made it to a household name. Back then Adam West really was a family guy and quite possibly the campest thing next to his Robin sidekick, Burt Ward's extremely short shorts. Back then compared to this NBA players looked like they where wearing Hammer pants. We see you John Stockton to Allen Iverson. Holy tongue in innuendo inducing cheek Batman! What was this? Chasing after a phone flashing bright red phone protected by a cake dome and sliding down firemans poles. This was so gay...and yet so great. We mean happy too as this laugh a minute look at the darkest hero not taking himself too seriously was a good, clean fun classic and it turned West into an icon for more than being the first ever, "real" Batman. He managed to keep a straight face through it all too even though he never took himself too seriously. Through having explosive shark repellent, spray rack handy, to running round with a Willie Coyote ACME bomb above his head and not having a place on the beach and boardwalk between all the sunbathers and fish to throw it. It may have only run for two years, but twice weekly and into 120 episodes like it was the only thing on the box it still lasts to today. With its eat your greens, drink your milk and wear your seatbelt life lessons to the theme music this was just awesome fun and with some 'BOOM' and 'BANG' ahead of its time fight scenes. 'POW', 'ZONK'! Na, na, na, na, naa!
Batman was in need of taking his row of tents back to his darker roots however. A different bat-time and a different bat-channel needed to be tuned into. The legendary likes of Frank Miller and Alan Moore in the eighties tapped into this aesthetic with classic comic-book graphic novels like 'The Dark Knight Returns' and 'The Killing Joke' respectively. Two brilliant books that still today remain as popular and sought after as the modern movie inspired by them too. From your standard comic strip to some of the amazing artwork you've ever seen painted and created on cell canvas there are even more spin-offs and side projects to keep this cape flying through the darkest knight. From the 'Black and White' looks of kids cartoons to some of the harshest pencil lines ever scrawled into scribe their is a vast array and epic, eclectic mix of a celebration of the characters captivating creations. Just look at the Japanese juxtaposition of the brilliant 'BatManga' that reads backwards, in more ways than one for example. The series mixes classic camp Batman and Robin with some inventive villains that you can't find portrayed in the Rouges Gallery, but appear to have their own unique, supernatural side. Until our caped detective brings their reality to light. Sherlock Holmes like, elementary my dear! From the comics to the cartoons, children and readers today still get the chance to keep their weekly wonder of the Caped Crusader going at a Batsignal to the sky alert! The comics also offer something most mainstream movies cant. Everything from making otherwise conflicting characters like Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze look convincingly cool to exploring some character roots that are too dark for the P.G.-13 route. Just like Harvey Dent returning to his Two-Faced alter-ego via acid and a scalpel. Ouch Hollywood! Some of the most vivid and captivating comics capture the crusader like the Gotham P.D. never could and bring to life this man and his Metropolis in a way that even Frank Miller's classic 'Sin City' couldn't on its movie-making and changing cinema screens. Now this my dames, is a hero to kill for. Even if he isn't the hero we deserve. Don't worry though, he can take it.
Just look at his movie career. It's had more ups and downs than Mel Gibson's, but this lethal weapon with a braveheart is anything but expendable. They may take his pride, but they'll never take his...yeah you know the rest. After the original Robert Lowrey 1940's serials where a little more serious than the series that came after, Batman needed an even darker route to the dirty streets of Hollywood. They had no idea how dark it would eventually get, but before that the 'Sleepy Hollow' scissorhands of darkest director Tim Burton where perfect in bringing the wings of the Bat to life. Only this week 'Birdman' superhero Michael Keaton may have been reported as saying he has, "zero interest in Batman", but as classic cool and controversial as the time he called Michael Jordan's first game out of retirement at Madison Square Garden on live BBC as "f###### boring", this guy better say Bruce Wayne's name three times like Beetlejuice. Batman, Batman, BATMAN! He's the original big name, big town one in a graphically vivid Gotham that was brought to it's undead life. With love to Adam, many consider Michael the man and the original Batman, even if he did take second billing to two legends, Jack Nicholson and his Joker. A character that proves sometimes the bad guy is the best and even more popular than the iconic hero, which has been Batman's Joker's calling card across comics and movies for almost a century. Back then Nicholson was considered the original Joker as it was criminal to believe anyone else could don his purple suit and clown smile, aside perhaps the man that made it rain purple like a Laker win. You're laughing too right? And I thought my jokes where bad!
'Batman' had everything the fans wanted...even a full, soundtrack album from THE artist himself Prince! And you thought R. Kelly's 'Gotham City', Seal's 'Kiss From A Rose' and U2's 'Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me' where great huh?! It was only right Batman and Burton returned...for erm 'Batman Returns' and when the legendary Mr. Strange Christopher Walken is a villain that gets dispatched in the first act, you know this sequel is worthy of a third. Anyone who thought Nicholson was the only Joker didn't know Jack, (or should we say Heath) but right now aside from the 'Gotham' origins could you see anyone but Danny Devito waddling the waddle of the Penguin (despite Empire's Phillip Seymour Hoffman prediction which sadly now will never come to light)? Forget the classic 'Roxanne'-nosed, suit wearing comic character, Devito really was a penguin riding round in a rubber duck that looked like it belonged in the Hulk's bath. Arguably this funniest mans greatest role. No wonder Warner Brothers once considered Steve Carrell and the late, great Robin Williams for the new millennium Joker the rate comedy actors can reach deeper and darker, amazing acting depths. Danny wasn't the only problem for the Boy Wonders boss however. Michelle Phiffer's turn-leather suit classic Catwoman character was as super as it was sexy. The storm of Halle Berry may have almost ruined the character, but at the top of her career and game, Michelle made the cat purr...her way. Selina Kyle was a formidable feline and with the cat and the top hat, Batman had more stories to deal with at night than Dr. Seuss.
'Batman Forever'! That was the idea when the golden era of 90's movie became the big and bold blockbuster one. In the 1995 midpoint of this decade too, director Joel Schumacher put the pedal to the metal like his Michael second-namesake to make the mainstream movie as 90's and action hero as Schwarzenegger (watch this space) and Stallone. Riddle me this, riddle me that! Who's afraid of the big, black bat? With Keaton gone like Burton's Bat tombstone, it was a case of "whose your huckleberry" as the Joker like pouting of Doc Holliday went from the Wild West to the Adam one. Val Kilmer was the new Bruce Wayne, with the chisel, chin and cold demeanour to don the cape and cowl. With Chris O'Donnell and those plastic pecs by his Robin muscle-breasted side this D.C. Universe was expanding too. From the gadgets to the grandiose it was clear this was getting bigger and bolder...but better? Only time and the ridiculousness of Alicia Silverstone's Batgirl could tell. As asked for and appreciative as this Alfred like alliance was its clear people preferred it when the man in bat worked alone. Thank comic-book God's for the darkly camped up bad guys and the legends of the 90's though. Runaway 'Fugitive' legend Tommy Lee Jones' Two-Face entrance was good, but Jim Carrey's Riddler one was better...no question. Both seemed born to play their roles and don that crazy, twin tailored suit and Lantern envious green, showing a little too 'Borat' much spandex. Before a new young and impressing, Harvey Dent lawyer and the rumours of everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Eminem walking with the Riddlers cane their was nothing like this devilishly good double act. Even when things got silly it still got super and even a Scrooge McDuck rain of coins bringing the end to the dime flipping one of Dent was called perfectly. With all this paying off in box office receipts and Academy appreciation what could possibly go wrong?
After what seemed like 100 cheesy one-liners, and Arnold Schwarzenegger freezing and busting through a wall in escape, only to poke his head back through the hole, nodding and grinning for your approval whilst saying; "chill"! That! THAT! Motherf###### that was what could go wrong. What killed Batman? The ice age! The same thing that killed the Dinosaurs made the Bat extinct and it all came cheesily confirmed from Schwarzenegger. There's more freeze ridicule here than the amount of cold themed villains D.C. actually have as 'Robot Chicken' hilariously dead-pans in a sketch where all the freeze villains don't check their cold, calculated calenders as they attack the same place on the same day. Hey Arnold! What the hell was this! What a way to ruin two of America's favourite superheros careers in one cold front sweep. No wonder you ran for office. You ran from Hollywood. I mean we love you but this heavy duty suit almost killed you. It gave you a heart attack and this film could have even gave Michael Bay a migraine. George Clooney has since apologised for this 'Batman & Robin', thank God his Academy career accepted that mistake. On paper this looked great, the suave Clooney as Bruce Wayne and Arnie as Batman's ultimate foe. Who knew this would be all too true. By George did you see the Batsuits he brought with that damn Batcard? Schumacher ran this one off the road. Even Adam West wouldn't do this camp s###! Even Chris O'Donnell and Alicia Silverstone could do better. Clueless? Did you see how they de-iced a frozen Robin? Riddle me that! Sure Uma Thurman was the perfect choice for Poison Ivy in this pulp fiction but they even killed that one Bill! Thank God for that Smashing Pumpkins song that ended up beginning the dark phase of the 'Watchmen'. I remember as a kid my mum punished me for some unruly behaviour by grounding me and not allowing me to see this movie. This boy wonder was devastated. Holy staying in doors Batman! Little did I know she was right. She WAS doing me a favour. For a fun laugh I'd love to watch this today and see if it still holds up, but I'm not sure if it even qualifies for the 'it's so bad, it's good theory'. I'm the biggest Clooney and Batman fan that will put up with anything, but this!?! Then again we may have this film and everyone involved to thank, owing it a debt of gratitude for what it and its extended hiatus resulted in years after. The ultimate reboot in the redux age. So for that Schumacher, Clooney and Arnie we salute you. Maybe we all just need to, "cool down" in our best Austrian accent! OR MAYBE HELL NO NOT! THAT MOVIE ALMOST RUINED ALL OUR COLLECTIVE CHILDHOODS LIKE THE 'TURTLES' AND 'TRANSFORMERS'! OK...OK, I'll chill out...wait, what?! Damn!
In the new millennium it was time for a new beginning! Forget Alfred of Commissioner Gordon, although the British intelligence of Michael Caine and Garry Oldham redefined and made these characters like Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox in an 'Inception'/'Interstellar' intergalactic inspired party of cast members. Batman's greatest ally may just be director Christopher Nolan who showed the 'Dark Knight' would return like Frank Miller promised. With 'Batman Begins' this man brought the darkness of night back to the light of a Hollywood day with a film that is now the manufactured model, carbon copy for almost every action and/or superhero flick that is following in more ways than one. As soon as that monorail soared into the grand metropolis of the new Gotham City, by way of a gothic, Chicago portrayal you knew this was going to be epically special. Especially with Wayne Manor being given an old English face-lift and the classic Batmobile a tumbler tumble for the new internet, digital, social media news cycle age. Everything came in black. Even new, previously un-unleashed villains came to legacy making light. Liam Neeson's Ra's al Ghul and Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow being the sinister shape of things to come. Then of course there was Master Wayne himself and as a boss Bruce like Springsteen, the American superhero dream was redefined in Brit 'American Psycho' Christian Bale, who after all the Keaton's, Kilmer's and Clooney's proved to be the perfect cave man for the Batsuit. From the underground lair to the signal in the skies, this was all done with dark depth and raw realism. It just worked...perfect, cinematic wonders. Then if you thought it couldn't get any better at the end of the film Gordon handed Batman the evidence bag of a new crazed criminal in towns calling card. Batman turned it around. It was a playing one. A Joker card! Every hair on ever neck of everybody stood still. They where about to do it!
How about a magic trick? Forget for a second how great Christopher and Christian made 'Batman'. Forget about Maggie replacing Katie for Rachel. Forget even how realistically raw and terrificly, terrifyingly talented Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent metamorphosis into Two-Face was. Forget another scintillating, superior score from classic composer Hans Zimmer. Forget the brilliant bank job that classics like 'Dog Day Afternoon' with more Pacino and De Niro 'Heat' could only dream of. Forget the Mann Michael's 'Collateral' damage action and tension inspirations. Forget about 'The Dark Knight' gliding around an IMAX Hong Kong dawn like Superman. Forget about this being the best childhood reliving, inspiring film that reminds you of why you fell in love with big budget cinema and formidable filmmaking since the dinosaurs ruled the blockbuster earth in 'Jurassic Park'. Forget the fact that this writer saw this film almost 20 times at cinema and never got bored for one scene, still eagerly anticipating Christmas for the DVD release. Forget the fact that I was dating a girl who worked at a cinema at the time probably being the reason. Forget the hype, because even with all the big buzz around every superhero film that comes out, especially in this 'Winter Soldier', 'Amazing Spider-Man', 'Days Of Future Past' and 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' year of Marvel nothing....NOTHING compared to this! Forget all the hate. The message board that would have been a Twitter hate-crime today abuse that came with the casting. Forget all the 'How dare he's' and 'Jack Nicholson is the only Joker'. Affleck take inspired note. It was all erased in an internet refreshed in a social media cycle when they first heard that voice on that trailer. "Starting tonight people are going to die...I'm a man of my woooord"! Then they saw that face.
"Goood evening Commissioneeeer?! Self-applied clowns make-up, covering self or abuse harmed scars like war paint. In artistic blotches like the bleached, slicked back gangrene hair. All in an off-purple suit carrying nothing but knives and lint! Why so serious? Heath Ledger is the Joker with the last, "hee, ha, hoo, haar" laugh in a legacy that will last and last in his name. We wish the tragically late and great actor-who died shortly after filming-was still here for his family and not our entertainments sake. Even if another 'Dark Knight' duel with Nolan and Bale was really what every wanted for the trilogies epic conclusion. Still Ledger's Academy certified, posthumous Oscar winning supporting, villain role (and the first time someone playing an already so deeply and diversely established character of an entertainment franchise to win) made more than just pencils disappear. The anarchist agent of chaos showed us it was not about money, sending us all a message as Nolan let his clown out the box. It was almost beautiful but all too sadly poignant when the Joker made his escape exit, by hanging his head out the back of a cop car in an iconic and classic moment of madness. Still the cult and cinema fans wanted more. This may be about Batman, but like we are all nothing without breaks us down and makes us. Completing him like 'Jerry Maguire' in an inspired interrogation of law and disorder, what is Batman without the Joker? And who is the Joker without Heath Ledger? Even if we didn't really get to find out how he got those scars. It's almost too tragically bitter that one of Ledger's Joker's last lines to Bale's Batman were, "I feel like you and I will be doing this forever". If only and somewhere in heavens fondest memories. We still miss you Heath. Never forget!
It was going to take a hell of a lot to follow something and someone who could never be replaced for 'The Dark Knight Rises'. So how about the brute force of the muscle bound Bane? Played boldly and brilliantly by an almost completely unrecognisable Tom Hardy, in 'Bronson' shape and form, who had his own hijacking opening scene on board an aircraft as this franchise soared to new special effects heights. If the Joker's mad mind beat Batman up psychologically, then his next foe needed to beat him down physically to really matter and Bane did that brutally beautifully in a back breaking moment that is the trilogies most forceful and formidable fight scene. Marion Collitard joined Hardy in Nolan's 'Inception' cast after party but it was Anne Hathaway who proved to be the real heroine (sort of) overcoming some initial Ledger like Joker hate from fans to show she had the cat ears (and suit...my word) to bring Selina Kyle back. A moment where she escapes both the criminals and the cops physically and creatively in a bar is truly inspired. Cat got your tongue? In a movie past the Dark Knight peak and trying to one-up the last in 'Baying' everything up there was some faults with these stars, but on the whole this conclusion was an epic, big one it deserved. Even if it did remind you a little of Adam West running around with that big fused bomb. Picture this as a better ending, Batman fights Bane on a rooftop in front of all the cops and criminals below, holds him up and breaks HIS back, breaking HIM along with the spirits of the thugs being defeated by Gothams finest below. Happy?! From even bigger bats to rocking stadiums and shutting down cities this was something else entirely. Still hit replay on 'Record' star Joseph Gordon-Levitt and you'll see more from this Flash Gordon. In a movie of 'Inception' stars (minus only DiCaprio's rumoured Riddler) and show stealers the man who did exactly that to Nolan's last did that here too. Levitt's beat cop John Blake was the new Jim Gordon this city deserved full of a rising fire inside of hope and integrity to do the right thing. Even throwing his badge into the Gotham river in the end he wanted to follow in Batman's law assisting but not always abiding principles and as he picked up some of Bruce Wayne's handed down things his government name was revealed, perfectly and classically. His name being 'Robin' as this Nightwing looked to take the place of the end of the Dark Knight. A trilogy that some see right there with the greatest, 'Lord Of The Rings', 'Star Wars' and 'Godfather' ones.
Still, it's on you now Ben! Still not before another prequel for a true origins story between D.C's 'Green Arrow' and 'Flash' T.V. series' as 'Gotham' airs now, going to battle with Marvel's 'Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D.' and forthcoming 'Daredevil' and 'Agent Carter' in the battle of the small screen. The perfect show for fans of cop ones and Batman (holds up hand) takes us back to Bruce Wayne's childhood before Batman, and you thought you where tired of seeing Spider-Man's Uncle Ben die (holds hand up, stretched put even further like a teacher ignoring). Starring Ben McKenzie in the lead role as young, beat cop Jim Gordon (before the commission) and Will Smith's wife Jada Pinkett and a young Bruce with a big coat on his shoulders this is set to be bigger than you think. A nice, fitting origin, spin-off story that see's the city of Gotham fall with no heroes to the dark desperation that made it necessary for a new detective to step in, despite cop Gordon's valiant by the book work. Sticking to the script we also get to see a young Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Riddler and Penguin before the accidents and/or incidents that made them truly evil and the villains they are known for in fond fiction today. It's a concept that is as interesting as it is inspiring and with a powerful pilot hoping to give wings to more seasons, this fall the first Batman series since West and Ward could be this franchise of eclectic incarnations ace in the hole and who knows what could happen if Jim Gordon's desk is presented with a Joker card. Right now we'd settle for a young Harvey Dent in law school for the second serial before he revealed both his faces of lawful truth and court conflict disorder. Still with all due honour to Heath and the respectful leaving alone of his character, one day and in one way or another the fans will and need to see the Joker again. Maybe in a different light-hearted dark. Like the spiky, skinny, traditional British villain in the 'Arkham' video games as portrayed by Mark Hamill. Star Wars' own Luke Skywalker of all people.
The rise of video games over television and movies as a prime, not primitive form of storytelling and fan interactive entertainment is an interesting and influential future concept in itself too. A different and even darker and cooler side of the Bat itself, the 'Arkham' video game series is so playability perfect and graphically great that cult fans even make 3 hour Youtube video movies out of their cut-away footage. Just look at the Deathstroke 'Arkham Origins' trailer. Who cares about the darned 'Not Actual In-Game Footage' small-print disclaimer. If the next Batman film looked like this for the video-game, rich like '300' graphics of its director, Zac Snyder would have no problem following in the hot seat that's back read, 'Nolan'. From joystick thumbing and tapping, hand-to-hand combat fight scenes to a Gotham and its side-street corner, side-stories these computer generated imaged look the part more than anything else and the scripts are as well wrote as the matrix layers of code. Just look at an image of the Dark Knight perched like a Gargoyle on the edge of a skyscraper soaked to the cowl in a rain harder than Christian Slater and Morgan Freeman. How has a movie not captured a mesmerizing and monumental moment on screen like this...yet?! Forget Hollywood, every consoled household knows that Batman exists in many forms that can lay claim to be the best. Just like the opening childhood debate of the 'Batman Begins' sister and spiritual sequel in the animated 'Gotham Knight' and all the pulp fiction like separate stories that follow. From robots to ghoulish creatures the knight of Gotham, Batman could be anything. Even a popular LEGO character.
Even Ben Affleck. Even a formerly Marvel derided 'Daredevil' (that was a lot better than people like to admit) speaking of small-screen series. Even a man that came back to Academy favour and told ever critic to 'Argo' f### themselves and is about to do it again. Even a man that actually turned down Snyder's directing job for 'Man Of Steel' because he felt he had a lack of special effects experience, only to be picked up by Zac for the sequels biggest attraction. Even a man that has already played Superman himself and donned that suit. Albeit with a false nose and albeit by portraying George Reeves in 'Hollywoodland'. Even a hero of heroes who has more to him that you think. Even what some have dubbed as the most hated man in America, from his internet trolling that made Ledger's look lame to being the prime suspect in his wifes murder in his role in the new media movie storm that is 'Gone Girl'. Still he too can prove everybody wrong. From it's first look it seems that paying heed to what your hearing can really be the appearance that is truly deceiving. Ladies you don't need a shower scene and a wide lens in his latest movie to see this man has the bulked up body to play the brute Bruce Batman we see in the comics. Plus the classic cowl and off-grey suit that mixes and matches the comics and the last incarnation of the 'Dark Knight' that is widely, favourable received as the best, this could be the perfect potion to take this avenging superhero back to power over Marvel's most wanted. Forget the 'Age Of Ultron', this is the age of 'Batfleck' for better or worse with no Matt Damon Robin. An amazing actor that has shown action ability in 'The Town' is about to take Gotham by storm battling both critical hate and the most powerful hero in the world in 'Batman vs Superman-Dawn Of Justice' while Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League will come to assembling alliance in a league of their own. The Flash, Green Lantern, Cyborg and Aquaman look to have some epic company in the concrete form of a Superman battling suit as seen in the teaser trailer at a convinced comic-con and in the amazing Frank Miller animation 'The Dark Knight Returns' which is as much a part of the Wayne's latest legacy as Nolan's age is. It all looks so damn good and those missing Christopher and Christian Bale will see a new day and maybe one day like 'The Dark Knight Returns', an old Batman decades later, out of retirement and reunited with his cape and cowl. Bale would be old and Hollywood weathered enough to do that in a couple of decades around 2040. There's your signal under the pale moonlight. Now that would be a way to mark a century. Now after 100 years, THAT would be a Batman.
Friday, 3 October 2014
149 Minutes. Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon & Kim Dickens. Screenplay: Gillian Flynn. Director: David Fincher.
Ben Affleck is the most hated man in America right now! So says the opening lines of the trailer and the premise for his character in this movie. Still, it might be an accurate real-life reflection for how one half of the Matt Damon 'Good Will Hunting' power Boston brotherhood is perceived in the entertainment world via the internet of all trial commissioned things. This trend of social media is a recurring theme here too. You don't have to scroll far through the hash-tags and message boards to see that fan boys and girls are none too pleased that he's the next in line to play the dark knight in the new 'Batman Vs Superman' movie. After years of redeeming himself as an actor in 'The Town' and being a revolutionary Oscar winning director with 'Argo' after his 'Daredevil' flop, his return journey into superhero stardom is met with more angry rants than Christian Bale on the set of 'Terminator'. Hasta la vista, Batfleck! It's even joked about in this film that he has an untrustworthy chin. Still looking at him now, it sure appears like he will make an amazing Bruce Wayne from the suit to the cowl. Still Justice isn't dawning on us yet and after getting used to being directed again, playing the villain for the tech-cool 'Runner, Runner' last year, the man that debuted his new direction with 'Gone Baby Gone' teams up with the twisted and twist king David Fincher for 'Gone Girl'. The book adaptation of the Gillian Flynn modern day bestseller that has been milk carton missing off bookstore and library shelves by the millions itself.
Seek this one out if you can because it's more than your average book club, page turner. Just like this is more than your average Hollywood thriller, sniffing at awards and hinting at the Academy. Even with rumours of a different ending from a book that is the anti-'50 Shades Of Grey', this latest 'Hunger Games' popular novel idea will not stay on the shelf. All you need to know and what we can tell you plot wise is that Rosamund Pike's 'Gone Girl' is missing and thanks to a trial by social media, gossip and information fire, Mr. Affleck is suspected of wearing the blame of blood on his hands like a murderous glove. To say anymore would be the ultimate spoiler in this trailer and Twitter age that demands more to be known about a film before its even seen. Still when this movie is being directed by the man that kept us bewildered and guessing in the Brad Pitt, 90's double-act of 'Se7en' and 'Fight Club', easily two of the greatest movies of modern and all-time, its a 'Gone' given to trust David Fincher. He knows how to adapt amazing books into brilliant, forceful films ('The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo') and from the neo-noir, cinematography perfect looks of things he can even make a movie about something as trite as Facebook in this social shallow age and make it a definitive movie of our modern times ('The Social Network'). Here the man that made 'The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button' gives us an altogether different, race against time love story. It's clear from the first, suburban isolated outlook that the search party for the 'Amazing Amy' book-star has all the big-names in residence. From the Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, nine-inch sensational and atmospheric setting score networking to the production diaries of Reese Witherspoon. Even Flynn is on screenwriting hand and detail to turn her baby of a book into a movie darling the right way...her way.
Script and pitch perfect all we need to check out now is whose reading and the reference are more than just a big-name footnote. Forget 'How I Met Your Mother', how did Neil-Patrick Harris meet Amy? Because the superb sinister streak here from the lovable Barney is anything but funny. This really is crazy! Even the it girl from that Robin Thicke video is here to blur the lines of what is really going on. Talk about a storm in a hash-tag. Carrie Coon and Kim Dickens are about to save more famous face too as a sister in support and a cop on the case respectively. Carrie is scary good as the no b.s. reality, all loyalty relative. While Dickens is a classic cop, never far from donuts ('Dunkn' coffee mind (America apparently runs off it...I know me and mine do)) and always close to what lies beneath the blood and betrayal of the ten o'clock news and the morning gossip syndicates. Just when you thought this film that goes to the police academy of 'Zodiac' and 'Prisoners' detection was getting a little bit too much, Alex Cross gets on the case. Tyler Perry's suited and booted caring charm and his screen star charisma ties this all together like the thousand dollars keeping his shirt tied on his lawsuit and booted back. Then of course there's the happy, go F yourself couple. Affleck is amazing in the face of missing Amy. Able to simultaneously curry the favour of our sympathy one news cycle minute, only to show us he could be dastard, bastard enough to do it in a second of sentencing later. Just like the man of all sorts of directions that he is in the public eye, Affleck knows how to toe the line between peoples love and social media propaganda hate. It's a brilliant balancing act just like the mid morning taking out of the trash, both in the form of his recycling bins and the throng of press waiting outside to dig through his. Still this search is all about the girl and Pike is perfect as the absent Amy who gets to tell her side of the story through diary entries that come to flashback life. Look again at this social study of everything from domestic to technological abuse. After his Facebook film, Fincher wastes no time poking around at hot topics and trends of the moment, like a classic book that only seems to have been around for as long as it took this film to be made. This is brilliantly but brutally both horrifically unsettling but helplessly interesting. Tell me you don't want to get to the bottom of this! Although its hard to sympathize with callous characters in a film that shows no one here is truly innocent, it gives us a moral message and meaning to a two faced world. One that we parade on the internet and then differently hide behind closed doors. Read between the lines and open more than this book and you'll find more than what's 'Gone'. TIM DAVID HARVEY.