Tag Archives: George Clooney

Batman & Robin is terrible, and here’s why you should watch it immediately

By Kwame Opam of The Verge

Does It Hold Up is a chance to re-experience childhood favorites of books, movies, TV shows, video games, and other cultural phenomenon decades later. Have they gotten better like a fine wine, or are we drinking cork?

BnRDid you know that Batman & Robin is one of the worst movies ever made? That it killed Batman until Christopher Nolan resurrected it? Well, I have a confession to make: I love it. Sincerely. I recognize that I’m rare here — it took Netflix just one month to realize it made a grave error in adding the film to its streaming movies stable. But almost 20 years after it very nearly killed all love for superhero movies at the box office, I enjoy (almost) every minute of it. Not because it’s a good movie. It isn’t. I’m not a crazy person. It’s because it’s fun in a way that some of the best, most memorable comic book movies are, and it’s a reminder of how truly silly this entire genre can be.

Let me be clear, lest you decide to cast me into the pit of fire made for woefully misplaced fandom. Batman & Robin is terrible. It’s the Titanic of superhero films (the actual ship, guys, not the James Cameron movie); the movie was born of pure Hollywood hubris for the sake of selling toys, and watching it is watching a major franchise sunk by bad design and even worse puns. The casting, writing, costuming, and even set design were all so bad as to be utterly incoherent. It demonstrates a piss poor understanding of what makes Batman, well, Batman, and it wrecks what little of the source material it actually gets right. Not to mention, yes, the bat nipples. Sure, most of the film’s stars managed to escape what might have been a career-ending vacuum created by the film, but poor Alicia Silverstone’s star fell the furthest from her Clueless heyday. (Meanwhile, the world may never know what happened to Coolio after his decision to marshall Gotham City’s neon motorcycle races.) It takes a singular piece of dogshit cinema for a director to publicly apologize for it — Sam Raimi recently did so for another classic mess of a modern superhero film, Spider-Man 3 — and director Joel Schumacher is still apologizing to this day. It’s that bad.

Tragic Trio

All this being said, there’s a kind of sick thrill in watching a movie this bad. For me, Batman & Robin rests comfortably in the space where legendary bad films can be adored for how irretrievably awful they are, alongside the likes of Plan 9 from Outer Space and The Room. This is a special class of bad movie — the kind that, with time, lets you laugh at its mistakes like a drunk old friend. It lets you look back and appreciate how far you’ve come, and even wish you could go back and see it all for the first time again. And after a while, even the egregious has its charms.

There’s some actual, honest-to-god good to this movie, trapped under all Ivy versus the Duothat flash and bad acting. For one, Uma Thurman is perfect as Poison Ivy. Not because she does justice to the comics character, because that’s a mixed bag. Rather, in a movie that’s so committed to Schumacher’s over-the-top campy style, she vamps it up flawlessly. She commits, and she even looks like she’s having some real fun in the role, which is a far cry from George Clooney’s bored-and-boring take on Batman. For another — and you have to dig a bit here, so bear with Pamela and Bruceme — there are kernels of a good, well-paced story here. There are heartfelt and genuinely affecting meditations on the nature of family, partnership, and life and death in this film, hinting that, had things not been so mucked up by Warner Bros’ need to make this a family picture, Batman & Robin might have been something else entirely. Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (who wrote A Beautiful Mind, by the way, so he’s not a total hack despite this god-awful script) even had the good sense to lift Mr. Freeze’s back story from Batman: the Animated Series, which comes close to Greek tragedy in its pathos.

But most importantly, it took this movie for studios to start thinking about what could make a superhero movie actually work. Batman & Robin is a watershed moment because, while it did decently at the box office, it was a failure of legendary proportions among critics and fans. All the industry at large had to do after this cautionary outing was do better — and it did. The evidence is obvious enough in how Marvel and DC now hold the box office in the palm of their hands, but today’s directors, who probably wouldn’t touch his style with a 10-foot pole, are actually just much better at what Schumacher already did.

Promo artworkI’m not talking about what makes a superhero story work regardless of medium. I’m talking about how the movies themselves are presented on the screen. Little by little, comic book movie directors were forced into becoming better filmmakers, and we’ve seen the fruits of that over the past decade, all tinged with lessons learned from Joel Schumacher’s colossal failure. The Dark Knight trilogy is the most obvious because it ran from the previous franchise as fast as it could for the sake of gritty realism, but the Spider-Man franchise reveled in its own camp sensibilities and it worked. Man of Steel didn’t shy away from overwrought action cheesiness and anatomically-correct costumes, and it mostly worked. And while DC and Warner Bros. have allegedly enacted a “No Jokes” policy for their movies going forward (which means no puns in Batman v. Superman), Marvel has been having fun for years, most evident in the recent Guardians of the Galaxy, which was every bit a comedy as it was an action movie.

Rogues gallery artworkWhy does Batman & Robin hold up? Because at this point you could (and should) watch the movie as an unwitting parody of the good superhero movies that came after it. It’s much easier to laugh at what’s wrong when you think about what’s right buried beneath the surface. As comics continue to dominate pop culture, so much of what we love owes this movie for helping studios think of superhero movies as films instead of just toy commercials. And you know what? Sometimes bad jokes are still funny. With all this in mind, it’s a shame that its run on Netflix was so brief. Oh well. We can only hope it’s not gone forever.

I was going to suggest renting it online, but… I’m not a monster. Wait for it to play on TNT or something.

Hmmm.  This is a tough one.

On one hand, this film was terrible in the scheme of the Bat-Universe and the nail in the coffin for the original Bat-series created by Tim Burton while also bringing about the spiral of Joel Schumacher’s career, which before taking the helm of the two Bat-sequels for Warner Bros., was doing quite well. To his credit while he burns in Bat-Hell, the regime at Warner’s demanded a light family fare in response to Burton’s previous efforts… in effect a living comic book.  It probably would have been easier for them to reboot under an Adam West like guise or seriously consider more cinematic animated tales than continue with the original Keaton/Burton story-line in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.

Batman and RobinOn the other hand,  this film also opened the door for Marvel to slowly take over the comic book cinematic universe.  Blade brought us some grit for a Marvel Knights tale, X-Men took us closer to mainstream and finally the aforementioned Spider-Man blew the doors off.

This film also forced Warner Bros. to look for a non tent-pole director to helm a reboot for the Bat-Universe and gave us Christopher Nolan, who demanded non-interference from the Warner’s regime and gave us an actual/factual comic book Batman in return.

If only Bryan Singer thought of that for Superman Returns.

Is Batman & Robin watchable in the grand scheme of things?  Sure, just don’t go in with any expectations.  It is what is, an Adam West-esque Bat-tale that will kill some time.

Thank You Joel Shumacher… Batman & Robin (1997)

Batman & Robin TeaserThanks to you, a very promising film series was brought to a very loud screeching halt. Sure, with the film’s predecessor, ‘Forever’, there was some potential. Val Kilmer was the new Batman, the story wasn’t too bad, but the Adam West-esque fun and glow in the dark vehicles just didn’t fit.

Oh boy! Now comes George Clooney to provide a quick fix. Now, I’m not going to say that George didn’t play a good caped crusader, he just had a very poor film to do it in (honestly, I’d prefer to see him in Zack Snyder’s re-image for the Man of Steel sequel… sorry Ben Affleck). Being the third actor to play the role in three films didn’t help either. It certainly didn’t help Roger Moore taking over for Bond, but he at least had a chance to make up for it.

FreezeGlow in the dark cars, boats and planes just don’t work for a guy who travels at night by stealth. Uma and Arnold… yes comic villain genius, in an Adam West world. Yes, in the minds of comic book film fans and especially Batman fans, Schumacher will rot in hell for all time. Which was unfortunate for a rather good director who ended up being sidetracked for his two poor choices in films with great potential (even if the brass at Warner Bros. was directly involved with its demise).

Bat Family

Bring popcorn, but plan a bathroom break.

3 Stars

10 Movie Remakes That Are Better Than The Original

From: Yahoo! Movies

Last week, Sony Pictures and MGM released its remake of horror classic “Carrie” starring Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore.

While it may not be better than the 1976 original — it’s tough to top the Oscar-nominated performances of Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie — there are plenty of remakes that have improved upon the original.

We’ve weeded through a ton of remakes — including some you may not realize are remakes — to find the best ones.

The films on this list were selected according to audience and critical reception via Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic (where available) along with awards won. If two films were equally matched in reviews, we went with the movie more fans are familiar with today.

From oldest to newest, here are 10 films that are better than its original.

“The Maltese Falcon” (1941) Warner Bros. Maltese Falcon

Remake of: “The Maltese Falcon” (1931) Rotten Tomatoes: 100% / 67%*

John Huston’s adaptation of the best seller starring Humphrey Bogart as private detective Sam Spade has been called one of the American Film Institute’s best films and has been nominated for three Oscars.

Even Roger Ebert called it one of the best movies ever made.

Maltese Falcon rogues gallery

The film was so successful, Warner Bros. originally wanted Huston to work on a sequel in ’42. That project was shelved since he and the actors went to work on other projects.

“The Ten Commandments” (1956)  Paramount PicturesTen Commandments

Remake of: “The Ten Commandments” (1923) Rotten Tomatoes: 91% / 83%

More than 30 years after making the silent film, Cecil B. DeMille returned to direct the ’56 classic. The movie won one Oscar for visual effects and airs every year around Easter on television (Definitely a fond childhood Holiday memory).

“The Ten Commandments” is among the highest-grossing films of all time when adjusted for inflation.

Heston as Moses

“Airplane!” (1980)   Paramount PicturesAirplane

Based on: “Zero Hour!” (1957) Rotten Tomatoes: 98% / 46%**

Chances are you’re unfamiliar with ’50s movie “Zero Hour!” But if it didn’t exist, there probably never would have been an “Airplane!”. Leslie Nielsen’s parody classic borrows heavily from the original.

Airplane Fever

Surely we must be joking? We’re not, and don’t call us Shirley.

“The Thing” (1982)  Universal PicturesJohn Carpenter's The Thing teaser

Remake of: “The Thing From Another World” (1951) Rotten Tomatoes:  79% / 87%

Time may have named the original the “Best sci-fi movie of the 1950s,” however, you can’t deny John Carpenter (the man who brought us “Halloween”) and ’80s Kurt Russell.

Total Film:  “The Thing is one of [Carpenter’s] greatest moments, creating a terrifying atmosphere of claustrophobia, suspense and paranoia. And Kurt Russell is as good as he’s ever been, wearing one of the best beards in movie history.”

Kurt Russell

Empire:  ” The Thing is a peerless masterpiece of relentless suspense, retina-wrecking visual excess and outright, nihilistic terror. …  Back in 1997 Carpenter told Empire that ‘You’ll never, ever, see anything like The Thing again.’ Like MacReady and Childs we’re still waiting. We might be for a long time yet.”

“Little Shop of Horrors” (1986)  Warner Bros.Little Shop of Horrors

Remake of: “The Little Shop of Horrors” (1960) Rotten Tomatoes: 90% / 92%  Metacritic:  81%

Sure, the original may have had Jack Nicholson in it, but that was in a small, small role. While the critical reception for the original may edge out the remake, Frank Oz’s rendition of the musical based off the original film with Steve Martin and James Belushi helped make it a cult classic.

The New York Times: “WHO could have imagined that ”Little Shop of Horrors,” the 1960 comic horror film shot by Roger Corman in two days’ time, would continue to grow bigger, mightier and more formidable, much like the man-eating plant that is its unsung star? …  Mr. Martin’s solo number has been hilariously staged, as he combines Elvis Presley posturing with a wonderfully wicked delivery of phrases like ”root canal.” Seldom has one single film sequence, in which Mr. Martin gleefully terrifies his patients and brandishes the most ghastly array of instruments, done as much to set back the integrity of an entire profession.”

Audrey II

“Fatal Attraction” (1987)  Paramount PicturesFatal Attraction

Remake of: British television movie “Diversion” Rotten Tomatoes:  78%  Metacritic: 67

Technically, we’re still going to count this one since it’s probably not well known that this was an adaptation of a TV movie.

Fun fact: “Diversion” writer and director James Dearden actually wrote the screenplay for the Hollywood film adaptation. The movie went on to become the highest-grossing film of the year worldwide and received six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Director.

Glenn Close Fatal

“True Lies” (1994) 20th Century FoxTrue Lies

Remake of: French film “La Totale!” (1991) Rotten Tomatoes:  72%  / n/a

We’ll admit, we’ve never seen the French film from Claude Zidi; however, you can’t beat a James Cameron film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger secretly working as a government agent while his wife (Jamie Curtis) believes he’s a computer salesman (also serves as a wonderful homage to the James Bond films).

The film received an Oscar nod for Best Visual Effects.  At the time, the film was one of the most expensive ever made (an estimated $115 million)

Curtis for Arnold

“Ocean’s Eleven” (2001)  Warner Bros.Ocean's Eleven

Remake of: “Ocean’s Eleven” (1960) Rotten Tomatoes:  82%/ 46%

The Rat Pack may have starred in the original, but it was George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt, who made robbing a Las Vegas casino look awesome while also infuriating Al Pacino (Note: Al Pacino was not in this film!  He was in Ocean’s Thirteen… tsk tsk Yahoo!).

Successful Eleven

Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers: “What is Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh doing remaking a 1960 Rat Pack flick best remembered for Frank Sinatra’s orange sweaters and Dean Martin being Dino? Answer: having a ball …  Forget Oscar, Ocean’s Eleven is the coolest damned thing around.”

“The Departed” (2006)  Warner Bros.The Departed

Remake of: “Infernal Affairs” (2002) Rotten Tomatoes: 92% / 95%  Metacritic: 86 / 75

Another phenomenal casting list comprised of Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga, and Alec Baldwin  about an undercover cop (DiCaprio)  trying to discover a mole (Damon) in the Massachusetts State Police force (Shot in various locations in and around Boston, including my hometown of Southie).

The film won four Oscars including Best Picture of the Year and Best Director.

Leo Jack Departed

Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, highlighting the positives of both films, while not discrediting either.  “The story is inspired by “Infernal Affairs” (2002) by  Alan Mak  and  Andrew Lau , the most successful Hong Kong film of recent years. Indeed, having just re-read my 2004 review of that film, I find I could change the names, cut and paste it, and be discussing this film. But that would only involve the surface, the plot and a few philosophical quasi-profundities. What makes this a Scorsese film, and not merely a retread, is the director’s use of actors, locations and energy, and its buried theme.”

“True Grit” (2010)  Paramount PicturesTrue Grit

Remake of: “True Grit” (1969) Rotten Tomatoes:  96%  /  90%  Metacritc: 80

Though John Wayne made the original film a classic and earned an Oscar for his performance, the update from the Coen brothers starring Jeff Bridges as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn along with Matt Damon and Josh Brolin was celebrated by critics and moviegoers not only for sticking closer to the source material, but also all of the actors’ performances.

However, despite 10 Oscar nominations — including Best Picture, Director, and Actor — it won none.

The Denver Post’s Lisa Kennedy: “This ‘True Grit’ makes the original almost unwatchable except as a curio …  In the new version, Portis’ novel is returned to its proper locale: the post-Civil War frontier where the James brothers raised such a nasty ruckus.”

Bridges True Grit

Ebert: “In the Coen Brothers’ “True Grit,” Jeff Bridges is not playing the John Wayne  role. He’s playing the Jeff Bridges role — or, more properly, the role created in the enduring novel by Charles Portis , much of whose original dialogue can be heard in this film. Bridges doesn’t have the archetypal stature of the Duke. Few ever have. But he has here, I believe, an equal screen presence. We always knew we were looking at John Wayne in the original “ True Grit” (1969). When we see Rooster Cogburn in this version, we’re not thinking about Jeff Bridges. … Bridges’ interpretation is no doubt closer to the reality of a lawman in those years of the West.”

*Denotes critical reviews for the remake and original, respectively when applicable. **Audience score