Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Thinking About Batman.

With The Dark Knight coming up, I was in the mood to watch the first four Batman movies, but I don't have any of them. I wanted to find out how much it would cost to buy them, so I looked up "Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997." This is a box set with 2-disc special editions of all four Batman movies (it would be stupid to try to buy any of them without getting the cool extras). But this box set is like, already out of print. It only came out in 2005, to promote Batman Begins. And now if I want to get it, I have to meet whatever price I can get for a used copy. That's so not Raven.

I found it a lot easier to enjoy these movies after Batman Begins came out. Before then, there was no live action Batman that really encompassed everything cool about Batman in a solid way. They all had good things about them. Even the two Schumacher ones (mostly Batman Forever). But they were always frustrating because they all had flaws, and there was no better live action Batman alternatives. Batman Begins changed everything, and I can now appreciate Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman & Robin for all their strengths, without forcing them to shoulder the burden of "representing Batman correctly."

The Schumacher movies are cool and interesting. But they are not proper Batman movies. They're outrageous, shiny, and gay. I don't mean that in a bad way. I just mean that one day, I watched them and I realized, this guy put in a lot of homosexual overtones, in both the heroes and the villains. The recurring imagery of sculpted rubber asses and nipples. The way Batman and Robin go on about being partners. The way Riddler and Two-Face flamboyantly mince around in costume jewelry. This interpretation is not necessarily crazy or wrong. It completely fits the style of the movie. But I can't ignore the fact that Joel Schumacher himself is gay. I have to believe that had something to do with the fact that he made a movie where everyone is a little gay. If Schumacher weren't gay, I don't know if I would've thought about it so much. It's an interesting discussion point.

The biggest atrocity the Schumacher movies commit is ruining five good Batman villains. The Riddler is a self-sabotaging genius. Two-Face is a tragic former friend of Batman, whose deformity leaves him a cold slave to chance. In the movie, they're both just hyper clowns. But they are both slightly redeemed by the brilliant actors portraying them, making them still be funny in a world that is otherwise without subtlety. Mr. Freeze is another cold, tragic figure. In the animated series, his backstory made you care for him, despite every horrible act he committed. And Poison Ivy is an inhuman monster who controls people with her sexuality. In the movie, they are both just gimmicky pun factories. And Bane, who, in the comics, was so formidable a foe that he actually broke Batman's back, is reduced to a grunting henchman. It's like they scrounged up a few minutes extra screen time and decided to assassinate another priceless comic book legacy while they were at it. They also turned Batgirl into a complete joke.

But in the end, it's good that these movies exist. Partly because their shittiness prompted the uproar that led to the faithful Batman Begins. But mainly because Batman is a character that has lived through the ages in countless thankfully unique interpretations. And every incarnation of the character is a part of who "Batman" is. Batman is the sum of every comic book, movie, and breakfast cereal boxtop about him.

Even that piece of shit indie movie where some guy captures Batman, then rapes and kills him. That's a part!


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Will Smith Movies.

I am going to see Hancock tomorrow. I've been looking forward to this movie for probably over a year, since it was just a vague premise under its original title, "Tonight, He Comes." I've also been thinking about Will Smith movies in general. In the early stages of his career, I considered him infallible. This changed after a few missteps (which, like his successes, were colossal). But it's been mostly good, which is impressive, considering he has starred in AT LEAST one movie per year since 1995.

I decided to look through his filmography and catalogue his Top Best and Top Worst movies, in my opinion. In my opinion, here they are, in fun countdown order:


4. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) -- One of my favorite movies of that year. Smith is wonderful in this inspiring adaptation of a true story.
3. Enemy of the State (1998) -- I don't remember too many specifics about this movie, but I remember it being an impressive thriller with a lot of good stuff in it.
2. Independence Day (1996) -- One of my favorite action movies of all time. Amazing cast, awesome action, and a marriage of script and performance that never gets old.
1. Men in Black (1997) -- One of the best overall movies of all time, hands down. A script so well-written and perfectly performed. I don't expect Big Will will ever top this. But I enjoy seeing him try.

Honorable Mentions: I, Robot (2004), and I Am Legend (2007).


4. The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) -- I never actually saw this movie, but I was on a plane once (either going to or coming from France) and this was up on the little TVs without volume. It looked kinda boring. Consider this entry a testament to how few bad movies Smith has actually made.
3. Shark Tale (2004) -- I didn't see this either, but I think I saw a part of it once. It doesn't stink because of anyone in it; it's just another one of those generic bullshit DreamWorks CGI projects with a ginormous cast (and nothing else of interest).
2. Wild Wild West (1999) -- This was the definitive moment when I realized Will Smith was, indeed, not infallible. This movie, from Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld, was one of the biggest wastes of money and talent the world has ever seen. I challenged myself to think of one thing about it I liked. I could only come up with the train full of gadgets that I think there was. And the Will Smith music video.
1. Men in Black II (2002) -- I actually couldn't decide which was worse; Wild Wild West or this, also from the frighteningly incapable Barry Sonnenfeld. I decided this was worse, not just because of how bad it is, but because it destroyed one of the most promising franchises of all time. The one thing I liked about it was the brief moment where Will Smith and Biz Markie speak in an alien beatbox language. And the Will Smith music video.

I've been avoiding the big spoilery trailer for Hancock. I've heard the audio for it a few times, but avoided the video every time. Despite this, I've still picked up a few peripheral images here and there. Finally, tomorrow, I can be staring at the screen when the entire story is flashed before my eyes. I just hope it's good. This time, they don't have a music video.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Cell Phones While Driving.

Today was the first day of the new law in California: All drivers have been prohibited from using the phone while driving. However, if you're 18 and over, you're allowed to use a hands-free device. I think this kinda defeats the purpose of the law. People are all gonna be fumbling with their new headsets and we're gonna see a spike in traffic accidents. And after a while, all the morons yakking on their cell phones will essentially be driving around in stealth mode and the rest of us will be unable to see the phones and maneuver around them with caution.

Here's the real problem: It's not the act of holding the phone with your hands that is causing accidents. It's the act of engaging someone in conversation that slows your concentration and reaction time. Phone conversations are actually more dangerous on the road than drunk drivers, and several studies have proven that hands-free devices do NOTHING to change that (not that we need studies to tell us what common sense should already have covered). They should just outlaw cell phones while driving altogether. We got along on the road for 100 years just fine without them.