Archive for July, 2009

Psst! Fox! DC Comics! Warners! Make ‘Batman’ on DVD happen.

July 21, 2009

So last summer, to commemorate the theatrical release of The Dark Knight, I did a ten-part review series called Batmania, in which I reviewed every Batman movie, in addition to some Batman-related spinoffs. I’m not going to lie—it was fun.

The first film I reviewed, Batman: The Movie, kinda’ baffled me. I knew of the campy TV series from the 60’s, but had grown up mostly with the dark Tim Burton-esque Batman (which, compared to The Dark Knight, looks a little campy itself). But recently I watched a documentary called Holy Batmania!, which explained the cultural climate surrounding the TV show. I finally got it–Batman was campy on purpose, because in the mid-60’s, anything superhero-related was considered poison. To produce a live-action show based on a comic book, the producers felt they had to be tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing, knowing that being ludicrous was the only way to get people to watch.

So now that I understand the context better, I want the series on DVD.

But there’s a problem. The original Batman TV series is like the one thing Warner Bros., DC Comics’ sister company, doesn’t have the distribution rights to. The show was produced at 20th Century Fox, but the rights to the characters still lies with DC. It’s kinda’ complex, and you can read a better explanation of it at TVShowsOnDVD.com.

Hell froze over a couple of years ago when Disney began releasing The Muppet Show on DVD, something I thought would NEVER happen. Could Fox, Warners and DC play nice (you kinda’ did it before, with the whole Watchmen lawsuit last year) and get a significant piece of Batman and television history out on DVD before my bones turn to dust? Does anybody have any new information?

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Review: ‘Public Enemies’

July 21, 2009

There are a few directors whose films, regardless of buzz, I will go see in the theater: Tim Burton; Christpoher Nolan; M. Night Shyamalan; JJ Abrams. Whether or not I like their latest film, I want to see for myself what these directors have done. It’s a short list, and even some of my favorite directors are noticeably absent (Woody Allen being the biggest omission). But there is one director that I didn’t realize I have seen all his movies in the theater (barring one) since 1992: Michael Mann.

After seeing Public Enemies, I went over to IMDb.com to see what films he had directed. Last of the Mohicans. Heat. The Insider. Ali. Miami Vice. I had seen all of these in the theater. Collateral was the only one I hadn’t. (I saw it on DVD, and now desperately wished I had seen it in the theater. It’s the one movie that I can honestly say had me on the edge of my sofa seat.)

Mann’s films brim with the right amount of intelligence and testosterone, and Public Enemies is no exception. And while Public Enemies wasn’t a knock-your-socks off action film, it is a solid entry–and better than 2006’s Miami Vice–in the Michael Mann canon.

Courtesy IMPAwards.com

Courtesy IMPAwards.com

What’s it about? The year is 1933. John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and his band of…bandits steal from the rich and give to themselves. Even when he gets caught, Dillinger has the right connections (and amount of chutzpah) to escape. After breaking free from jail or robbing a bank, Dillinger will cross state lines, making it hard for state police to do anything.

The FBI is getting under way, doing what local law enforcement can’t do: catch guys like Dillinger. J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup), director of the FBI, assigns Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) to head the Chicago office with one goal: catch guys like Dillinger.

At a speakeasy in Chicago, Dillinger meets the Billie Frechette (Oscar winner Marion Cotilard), a half French-half Native American woman. The attraction is instant, and Dillinger, a man who gets what he wants, begins a whirlwind romance with Billie.

Eventually Purvis and his men, after numerous close calls with Dillinger, use Billie to get to him. It is when Billie is in FBI custody–and the fact that his bank-robbing skills are no longer appreciated by other criminals with bigger and broader illegal operations–that Dillinger’s days are numbered.

What’s good about it? Depp, as always, gives a charismatic performance as Dillinger. And Cotillard gives a devastating performance in what could have been a throwaway part. One sequence in particular–when she is interrogated by the FBI–is heartbreaking.

Colleen Atwood’s costumes are outstanding. (There’s at least one Oscar nomination right there).

I personally like Mann’s directorial style, which usually entails using digital hand-held cameras. It gives the film a sense of immediacy. Often times period pieces are romanticized or glamorized. But Mann gives the 1930’s a shot of adrenaline rarely seen.

What’s bad about it? I hate to say it, but Christian Bale’s quickly becoming Hollywood’s top second banana. After a ho-hum performance in Terminator Salvation (in which Sam Huntington stole the show from him), Bale is once again overshadowed by his costar.

The film tries to say a lot about celebrity, crime and the ethics of crime fighting. But even at a running time of 140 minutes, it comes up a little short. It feels as if some scenes to flesh out character got omitted to keep studio execs happy. Perhaps there might be a directors cut when it comes out on DVD?…

Perfect for: Depp fans, action fans, history buffs.

Sound Bite Me.

July 18, 2009

I really enjoy writing on this blog. However, I’ve been awfully busy these last few months. I never apologize for not keeping my blog current (after all, it’s my hobby, not my bread and butter), but I have seen a few movies this year that I haven’t reviewed,  and I though I would share some blurb-y, sound-bite-worthy reviews, all under five words or less.

Star Trek: Highly Entertaining!

The Proposal: Not that Funny!

The Brothers Bloom: Pretty Good!

X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Meh! Better than X-Men 3!

Terminator Salvation: Toothless and Boring!

Monsters Vs. Aliens: DreamWorks Will Never Be Pixar!

Up: Seriously, Best Movie Of 2009!

Watchmen: I Wish I Hadn’t!

Drag Me to Hell: Crazy Awesome! I Mean It!

He’s Just Not That Into You: Neither Am I!

Earth: Wasn’t this on Discovery Channel?!

What would be your five-words-or-less review of a movie you’ve recently seen?

Netflix this: ‘Lady and the Tramp’

July 16, 2009

Picture this: Christmas 1986. My parents, in a festive mood, decide to take the entire family (all seven of us) to the movies. I, of course, am beyond enthusiastic, because any opportunity to see a movie in the theater must be seized. The movie? An American Tail, the (non-Disney) animated adventure of a family of mice emigrating from Russia to America. Was I terribly excited to see it? Not particularly. Hell, it could have been an hour and a half of talking heads and I would have wanted to see it. (Such was/is my obsession with movies; sometimes it doesn’t matter what I watch, just that I’m watching.)

We arrived at the mall, which was quite a drive away from our home. The mall, in my nine-year-old eyes, had the luxury of having two multiplexes within it, one at each end. To our dismay, An American Tail was sold out. We would have to turn around and go home. But that was a fate I could not accept. I was seeing a movie, dammit!

As a kid I would scour the movie listings in the newspaper everyday. If there ever was a movie emergency and we had to go to a movie right then and there, I would save the day and and know the show times. My years of preparation was about to pay off; I knew that Lady and the Tramp was playing at the other theater at the other end of the mall.

I successfully convinced my parents to take the family to that instead, even though we had to wait about an hour for the next show time. Did I remember the movie? No, not really. But that sweet satisfaction of getting what I wanted has lasted all these years.

Fast forward to Summer 2009. I rent Lady and the Tramp from Netflix because I can. And now, nearly 23 years after seeing it for the first time, I discover how wonderful this movie really is.

The theatrical poster from the 1986 re-release.  Courtesy IMPAwards.com

The theatrical poster from the 1986 re-release. Courtesy IMPAwards.com

What’s it about? Lady and the Tramp tells the rather simple story of a cocker spaniel named Lady (whaaaa?!), who possesses what every dog should: loving owners, a warm house, and a fancy collar with ID, which ensures that if she is lost of caught by the pound, she’ll be returned to her owners.

Lady goes through an identity crisis when her owners, “Jim, Dear” and “Darling,” have a baby and her quality time with the new parents diminishes.

Months later, “Jim Dear” and “Darling” go away on a vacation, leaving the baby with Aunt Sarah, an old, dog-hating woman who believes her Siamese cats are absolute angels, but really cause a lot of problems for Lady. (Thus reinforcing the universal truth: cats are evil.)

Aunt Sarah, under the false impression that Lady has injured her cats, puts a muzzle on the dog, which sends Lady into a panic. She escapes from Sarah, spends some time in the pound, and gets acquainted with Tramp, a Mutt from—you guessed it—the wrong side of the tracks, with whom she falls in love.

What’s good about it? The animation is absolutely beautiful. The animators captured the canine movements so expertly. There’s also so real emotion to this film; if you’ve ever had a dog, you might even get a little choked up.

What’s bad about it? Some parts might be too dark for really young viewers.

Perfect for: Disney fans, dog enthusiasts.