Tag Archives: Warner Bros.

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.

“I’m not so sure about that Bette Davis..” Three on a Match (1932)

3 on a MatchThat was a quote from the director when speaking to the WB front office about the great turns shown by the young cast members of ‘Three on a match’. Ann Dvorak received high marks for this great showing as a socialite who tires of her lifelong place in the upper crust of virtue and society only to take the most devastating of falls to the bottom. Joan Blondell also received high marks for her role as Dvorak’s childhood friend and social opposite who soon takes her place at home and in high society. Davis, who gave a standard turn for a supporting role, didn’t earn Mr. LeRoy’s kudos… but everyone makes a mistake now and then.

I’ll admit, I didn’t expect too much out of this film and was greatly surprised. The story starts out innocently enough (as many a WB early 30’s crime drama did) and then opened a wound just to pour salt in it with a lemon juice chaser by the very riveting end. Lyle Talbot and Warren William turn in very good supporting turns along with a very early gangster cameo for Humphrey Bogart.
The 3Well paced and to the gritty point, this one is a keeper. Popcorn and absolutely no bathroom breaks.

5 Stars

Michael Keaton Says He’d Play Batman Again — Under One Condition

In his new film Birdman, Michael Keaton plays an aging actor living in the shadow of a past superhero role.  It would be easy to see this as Keaton’s swan song to Batman, a character he re-invented for the big screen in Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. But Keaton says that’s not the case. In fact, he’d be willing to play Batman again – under one condition.

“If it was Tim Burton directing? In a heartbeat,” Keaton tells Entertainment Weekly in a new cover story.

Tim and his Batman

That idea of Keaton and Burton making another trip to Gotham should be enough to give Batman fans heart palpitations, however unlikely it may be. For now, Warner Bros. won’t give the cowl to anyone except Ben Affleck, who plays the Caped Crusader in the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And Keaton famously bowed out of the third Batman movie when producers started asking for bigger (and broader) approach. “I hadn’t been stupid about it,” the actor told EW. “I always knew it was a big machine with a big studio and a corporation behind it. But the simple answer was, [that approach] wasn’t any good…I tried to make them understand. But when somebody says to you, ‘Does it have to be so dark?’… I thought, ‘Are we talking about the same character?’”

Bruce WayneFor Keaton, the character’s appeal lies in his dual personalities: Vigilante superhero Batman and wealthy dilettante Bruce Wayne. “Now I can say this, because for many reasons, I never allowed myself to say it at the time: It was never about Batman for me. It was always about Bruce Wayne,” Keaton tells EW.  “He’s funny! He’s screwed-up! The guy is the coolest motherf—-er in the world, and he’s messed-up!”

Despite (or perhaps because of) his personal investment in the character, Dark Dark KnightKeaton hasn’t seen Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and has no notes or advice for Ben Affleck. But he does feel strongly that Tim Burton still “gets” the genre better than anyone else. “Tim, in movies, really invented the whole dark-superhero thing,” Keaton says. “He started everything, and some of the guys who have done these movies since then don’t say that, and they’re wrong.” 

Star Wars meets Witness… Blade Runner (1982)

Blade RunnerHarrison Ford certainly has depth… but this role was meaty. Not a run of the mill sci-fi flick, Han Solo’s slightly darker edges from ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Empire..’ slam into ‘Witness’ hard nose John Book and do it well.

Called back from retirement or waiting to die, Ford’s ‘Blade Runner’ is on the edge and keeps us on the edge. Sure it does drag in some spots but will pick up with the ebb and flow of the film’s course. Rutger Hauer’s shining moment with some great roles for the younger Sean Young and Darryl Hannah… Well scripted, well paced and well done.
Match MetIf you can see it on the big-screen, do so. Popcorn for sure.

4 Stars

Completing one of the Best Trilogies on Film… The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

235402id1a_MagnusMask_27x40_1Sheet_VER3.inddYes, even surpassing the Original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy and ‘The Godfather’ Trilogy only because the third installment for each of those was the weak link. Though not the strongest film in its own Trilogy, this film can nearly stand alone, lose little in transition as an indirect sequel to ‘Batman Begins’ and neatly tie the strings from both predecessors with a minimum of fuss while delivering on the journey.

Drawing from 3 very important storylines in the Batman mythos; ‘No Man’s Land‘ (Gotham in disaster), ‘Knightfall‘ (Bane) and most importantly Frank RetiredMiller’s groundbreaking and industry changing ‘The Dark Knight Returns’, the film does at times feel a bit ‘smushed’ between the three. Set eight years from the close of ‘The Dark Knight’ (10 years in Miller’s ‘TDKR’), we find the lost soul of Bruce Wayne in need of transition. Here, to me, is one of the few failures in the script. In Miller’s ‘TDKR’, Bruce is an older retired bored still physically imposing but brooding man waiting to find the right death suitable to a crime-fighter of his former self…. in ‘Rises’ we have a Howard Hughes-esque recluse, a shell of the vibrant crime-fighter who traveled the world, who simply withdrew from the world and appears to be waiting for something worthwhile to do in the cape n’ cowl (Alfred has to elude it may be his death). If the script had simply given three minutes more screen time and explanation to this (aside from the Rachel Dawes tidbits), I feel a lot of the story would have situated itself better in the following acts.
A ReturnThat said, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is still a worthy closure to such a hard-hitting epic telling of a comic book journey. As usual, Nolan takes us on the realistic journey of such a legendary fictional universe and delivers us a cast of characters who we easily can recognize with in both scope and circumstance. Just as with ‘The Dark Knight’, we are again shown a comic book world that we easily can watch in awe telling ourselves “Yeah, I can see that happening in today’s society.” And that was the idea that clicked in the very first ‘Batman’ back in 1989 before it got so lost in its sequels… the idea that finally brought Marvel’s comic book heroes to the forefront in the last decade… realism. Comic Books have, for several decades, not been about good versus evil and Boys saves Girl but about the realistic approach these fictional characters, be they hero or villain, take to their lives. ‘Rises’ like ‘Spider-Man’, ‘Iron Man’ and its own ‘Batman Begins’ fulfills that promise (unlike Spidey and Stark as their sequels never lived up to the original).
The BraveWith great turns from returning stars like Bale and Oldman we get just as great support from Nolan players such as Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and of course Michael Caine in a slightly more limited turn.
The BoldThough not perfect in the ‘Bat’ scheme of things, it certainly does reach epic. Popcorn, SnoCaps and no bathroom breaks!

5 Stars

John Wayne plays ‘Dirty Harry’… McQ (1974)

McQ posterOriginally turning down the role of both ‘Frank Bullitt’ and ‘Dirty Harry Callahan’, Wayne was given another shot by Warner Bros. to play his first ‘policeman’ role in the legendary career.

Not out of his league by any means, the Duke definitely fills the bitter seen it all lost my partners kill some drug dealers genre cop of the early 1970’s. Not so much a rip-off of ‘Dirty Harry’ as a different take on the idea. Just as Eastwood’s character was another take on ‘Bullitt’.
McQ under fireThe story moves along and doesn’t skimp on much, definitely bring the popcorn and maybe one quick bathroom break.

4 Stars

Two Crooners and ‘ole Dusty Britches… Rio Bravo (1959)

Rio BravoIf you were to think ‘great western film’, you’d start with Wayne, probably add Ward Bond and maybe even Brennan… but Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson?

Well, a great western you get.
Rio Bravo Promotional Still
Nothing too dramatic, nothing too over the top, just a really well paced and flowing film that keeps you moving start to finish. Sure, Martin also has some meaty acting credits… and Nelson was doing well at the time, but they lend a fine hand to this dusty little Hawks film.

Dickinson Rio Bravo

Excellent popcorn film.

4 Stars

It’s not just one of the Greatest Westerns… The Searchers (1956)

The Searchers Lobby PosterIt’s not just one of the greatest John Wayne films… it’s one of the greatest films of all times. Having inspired directors such as Spielberg and Lucas, ‘The Searchers’ mixed John Ford epic with Saturday afternoon serial western and achieved new heights.
Ethan EdwardsThe story moves along at a good pace, keeping you involved and in the dramatic adventure mix, while the characters stay crisp. As always, Ford’s cinematic rendering of western landscapes is inspired and at times, breathtaking. If you have a chance to see it on the big screen… do so.
John Wayne Jeffrey HunterOtherwise buy it and prepare for an epic.

5 Stars

An underrated classic… Hondo (1953)

Hondo Italian Theater PosterThough not usually listed at the top of John Wayne fan films, ‘Hondo’ easily is one of the top five Duke films in a Western category. Sure, he won the war single-handedly in the 40’s and tamed the West all alone, but one time, he saved a single ranch and it’s widow (and originally, he did it in 3D).

If you include ‘The Searchers’ and ‘Angel and the Badman’, you get a very good rounding of Duke Westerns.
Duke and Page
Classic, not epic, but popcorn all the way.

4 Stars

A great screwball comedy… The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941)

The Bride Came C.O.D.Sure it had been done once or twice before, and it was done a dozen times following… but this one is a classic on merit alone.

Davis and Cagney were the top two Warner’s actors at the time and had fought their own respective legal battles with the studio in the years prior, as well as being very good friends. This film catches them at the tops of their game, just being allowed to be silly and have fun in a movie no one really expected much out of. The formula works and though the pacing isn’t the best, hang-in because it’s worth it.
Friends at playSaturday afternoon popcorn film.

4 Stars