BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM

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another cool one from mondo posters

 

Between the unmitigated piece of shit that is Batman v Superman and the merely bad Batman: The Killing Joke it seems 2016 hasn’t been a good year for Batman (though i have no idea what’s going on in the comic book world). So i attempted to rekindle my Batromance by watching one of my favorite Batmovies.

As a side note it is an absolute travesty that Mask of the Phantasm isn’t as well known as even Tim Burton’s Batmovies, and i hope in the coming years more and more people will watch this movie and give it the credit it deserves.

So i’ll do my part with it here:

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BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

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i’m going to be honest and up front here, this isn’t a review. I would waste time and effort in trying to write one, as this movie can be described with a single sentence:

This movie is a fucking mess.

I can’t think past that, i can’t give you the Good, the Bad, and The ugly about this… This thing… This movie that cost Two Hundred and Fifty Million dollars to make.

So here it is up front: this is a hit piece. If you want to read a review of this movie, read no farther than this last sentence.

Spoilers ahead.

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heads up for 2016

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I’m really going to try and follow up on that promise i made in the TYTL movie awards about posting more, so in effort to do so i will do more editorials and other opinion pieces instead of strictly movie reviews. So whenever i feel the need to talk about something related to pop culture (movies and video games mostly) i will try and get something out (although this is ten years too late after all).

When i actually sat down to write the TYTL Awards and figured out how many movies i had seen in theaters last year i was very surprised and a bit saddened that i had only watched 7 movies the whole year. I’m going to honestly try and get out to see more current movies this year (and write more reviews), so let’s take this opportunity to see what’s coming down the pipe line.

I’m using IMDB’s most popular feature films and just going down the list providing my initial thoughts and it’s position on the list. So lets look at the top ten.

Here we go!

 

#1 DEADPOOL 

I’m kinda sick of smarmy witty dialog, so a character built around it as well as being played by the annoying Ryan Reynolds is not going to be on my list of most anticipated releases for 2016. Frankly i don’t care about Deadpool, it wouldn’t matter to me if he wasn’t getting a movie or if he didn’t exist at all.

Release Date: 12 February

Verdict: I’ll Pass Thanks

 

#2 ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

My interest in seeing a proper Star Wars episode was at an all time low, so a spin off of the series is right there at the bottom. It’s curious and hilarious though that the release of this film has been completely eclipsed by The Force Awakens. In fact i’m curious to know how many people even know it’s coming out who aren’t hardcore Star Wars fans to begin with. In the end, i don’t care that this is coming out (nor the adventures of Han Solo movie either) and will only watch the proper episodes.

Release Date: 16th December

Verdict: Not Interested in the Slightest

 

#3 SUICIDE SQUAD

2016 isn’t shaping up to be a very interesting year for me. I will admit this had a very eye catching teaser but over all i couldn’t shake the overwhelming feeling of meh at the thought of another superhero team being marketed in hopes of draining my wallet for years on end. As for Jared Leto as the Joker, well he wouldn’t have been my first pick (he isn’t my first pick in anything really) but he looks creepy at least.

Release Date: 5th August

Verdict: The Meh is Strong in This

 

#4 XMEN: APOCALYPSE

It’s an old and worn out internet joke to point out that they made one of the most dangerous super villains in the marvel universe look like Ivan Ooze from the Power Rangers movie, but frankly it’s true. I’m not excited for this release, just like i wasn’t overly excited for Days of the Future Past, but i am curious. Singer knows how to get decent results from the material, so at least i can trust it’s in good hands.

Release Date: 27th May

Verdict: I Won’t See it Opening Day, But i Will Go Eventually

 

#5 Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

You know despite me not having the best opinion of Man of Steel it was decent enough for me to want to see what came next. Then the announcement that Ben Affleck would be playing Batman came up and i couldn’t check out harder. Look, i know it’s been a long time since Daredevil and Gigli, a long time since BenLo and People Magazine giving him the “Sexiest Man Alive” award, but it’s torn between me and him. Torn. I refuse to see anything he is in or directed. I might go to this if i’m bored out of my skull, but all i have to do is look at any poster or trailer and see Affleck to remember why i don’t want to see it.

Release Date: 25th March

Verdict: Maaaaayyyyyybeeeeeeenoooooooooo

 

#6 GHOSTBUSTERS

I don’t know why this particular movie has such a rabid fan base, but i suspect it has less to do with the movie and more to do with the fact that it had a successful Saturday morning cartoon show and tons of toys (i had some too). In the end i’m interested in a third film coming out, i’m interested that the cast is all women, and i’m interested if anything unique will come of it. But i’m not interested in watching a film that has the irritatingly foul Melissa Mccarthy in it.

Release Date:  15th July

Verdict: Why Couldn’t They Have Gotten Schumer?

 

#7 CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

It’s very kind for Marvel/Disney to give us another Avenger’s movie so soon after the release of a rather lackluster outing. It’s also nice that this is part of the build up to Thanos that i wanted to see since his reveal at the end of The Avenger’s. But in the 4 or so years since that came out just about all my enthusiasm has dried up. Of the ten movies planned for phase three i’m only interested in seeing 2, and already my expectations have been deflated by having Josh Brolin take up the mantle of Thanos. Pro tip here Marvel i see through it all, i know you just want to pad it out to drain as much as you can out of my wallet before people stop caring, well i stopped caring a looooong time ago.

Release Date: 6th May

Verdict: A Solid Maybe, if i Can Work up the Motivation to Drive to a Theatre

 

THE REST

2016 doesn’t look to be my year for movies, i know at the start of the list i said i would do the top ten but numbers 8-20 can be summed up by either a meh or a flat out no. Number 21 is Star Trek Beyond which i will go and see to determine if it is either the last nail in the coffin of the rebooted series, or yet another drip feed to entice me to see another.

As for other releases i’m sad to say nothing really catches my eye. We’ll just have to see what the future holds i suppose.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

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Oh childhood… so many things that filled my life completely and are now forgotten. I was at a buddy’s place watching old movies and noticed he had the original ninja turtles movie on tape, it was then i realised it must have been 20 years since i last watched it. I was very eager to see if it held up now considering how my tastes have changed in such a long time.

I have memories of shots, music cues, and lines of dialog that i still recall on a regular basis and considering how lots of things from our childhoods don’t hold up, I had hoped this would.

 

THE STORY

Four mutated turtles and a rat use their ninja skills to battle the foot clan’s crime wave in the big apple, yes it’s as ridiculous as it reads.

 

THE GOOD

I think the real reason why i still like the movie is that it forgoes overly kiddy plotting and instead really puts effort into developing an emotional and serious tone. Particularly the film focuses on different father son relationships; now anyone who knows me (or reads this blog) knows that i’m a sucker for them, and this film has three. The central of which is Splinter’s fatherly guidance and wisdom to his children, and honestly the scene between Raphael and Splinter has to be one of the most touching scenes put to screen between a man in a rubber suit and a hairy rat puppet (honestly i tear up every time i see it).

The second is between the Shredder and the Foot Clan recruits and how instead of guidance, wisdom, and understanding all his sons get is reprisals, fear, surrogation, and immaturity. The third is a variation of the first; some sons rebel against a father’s guidance, and come to understand its value when understanding allows them to see the error of their immature thinking. I must say that this has to be one of the movies that shaped me into liking father son interactions in the first place.

I’m also quite glad that the film makers decided to go the opposite route with the look of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The sewers, turtles, and various other places the film goes are all grimy, swathed in shadow, and showing their age. While there’s nothing wrong with giving a movie a colourful aesthetic, considering the source material and intended audience it could have easily been too kiddy for me to take seriously now, unlike say… Turtles III…

 

holy shit

 

Don’t get me wrong though, this is a serious product of the 90’s were dealing with. However the look of the film is done well enough to not call too much notice to itself (unlike Scarface).

Jim Henson designed the creature effects and whats on display is reflective of his mastery of traditional SFX, while the turtle’s lip movements are by and large unconvincing the various masks are at the very least very expressive (with the exception of Splinter’s puppet as it is universally great), and coupled with good voice acting make moments like this and this (god i tear up during that one too) don’t come off as silly. The fights themselves (while nothing too special) are at the very least well practiced, and the fact that the stunt men in the costumes move as well as they do considering the rubber suits and helmets makes them at least notable.

Lastly i want to mention that while the subplot of Casey Jones and April’s romance is pretty paint by the numbers it gets one thing crucially right: it establishes a hint of attraction between the two before they start fighting. Scarface and The Empire Strikes Back fail miserably at convincing me that although the two lovebirds are at each others throats when they interact they like each other in spite of it. That’s because there is never a scene that shows both of them liking each other in private. I have no idea why so many films fail in this, but here we have a “she likes me, despite her hating me” romance that i find works.

All this coupled with a decent score wraps this little movie quite nicely i’d say.

 

THE BAD

I’m sure there are tons of problems here like the turtle rap, however i can’t see any that are really worth mentioning here as they would distract from what i really want to talk about, and that is: Casey Jones.

 

he found something to hit somebody with here…

 

It never struck me how much of a maniac he is until i saw it with an adult mind. He is literally a psycho, in a hockey mask, running around at night beating people up with various bludgeons. He is what Batman would be if he had no money, and if he actually existed. As it’s clear that Jones has a lot of anger for being injured and having to give up playing professionally. This isn’t really a bad thing though, Elias Koteas gives Jones a nice guy charisma that hides his psychosis enough to make him likable, he’s just a really bizarre character to me nowadays.

 

THE UGLY

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is no masterpiece. Its drama is simple but it has a sincerity in its approach that i can’t help but be touched by, and it does enough right by me to still be worth an occasional watch now and again. Especially if i feel nostalgic for my childhood, and i’m personally very happy that this piece of it still manages to stand the test of time (unlike other movies…)

 

3.5 starsOUT OF FIVE

PS

in case anyone gives a shit: Raphael is my favorite.

MAN OF STEEL

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After a long break i think its about time to get back to work here.

 
I’m not a huge fan of Superman. This stems from the fact that he is paradoxically so developed as a character that he is completely undeveloped. The fact that he also is a demigod and impervious to just about anything makes it really hard for me to believe that he can fail in anything so there is very little tension in his stories without having to jump through ridiculous hoops.
That being said there are a number of Superman comics and stories that i quite like, they are no more than a handful so i might as well list them here:

 

  • Death, Life Without, and Return of Superman
  • Red Son
  • All Star Superman
  • Man of Steel (kinda, more on that to come obviously)

 
I feel it must be addressed before someone in some misguided attempt to suage my opinion posts a link or suggests that i just watch this video, i have to say: I’ve seen that video about the Death of Superman, and it’s funny. I also completely disagree with the vast majority of the points he makes, and with his horrible and biased paraphrasing of the story to make it sound stupider than it really is. I’m not going to go more into depth with that, so stop. Just stop before you send me a link or more likely think i’m a dumb ass for liking (really liking mind you) the whole death and return of Superman.

 
Now that we got that out of the way, lets get to the nitty gritty eh?

 

 

THE STORY

The last son of Krypton finds out that he isn’t alone, and must stop General Zod and the other survivors attempts of building a new Krypton atop the ashes of earth.

 

THE GOOD

Zack Synder has made his mark in cinema for creating spectacular imagery (with the help of his cinematographers Larry Fong and Amir Lokri of course) and here in Man of Steel the imagery is so evocative and memorable it almost washes away the nagging issues inherent in the film. This film is filled with the type of movie moments that can only really come from mega budgeted Hollywood motion pictures. For all of tinsel town’s failings scenes like Superman’s first flight, or Krypton’s political instability and ultimate destruction can only have been realised as magnificently as it is in Man of Steel by its vast resources of talent and money.

 
The film thankfully only pays homage to the Chrisopher Reeves films (most notably by the similarities between Ursa and Faora) instead of being shackled by them like Superman Returns was, and goes in a different and much darker direction than just about any of the Superman stories i have been subjected to. Whether this is a pro or a con is a matter of debate, as many (including myself) have had just about enough of grim dark representations of people running around in coloured underwear. However i do find it at the very least an interesting route for an uninteresting character.

 
It also has the benefit of having an interesting antagonist in General Zod that is portrayed in a rather superb manner by Michael Shannon. Shannon munches scenery and the writers give him enough room to stretch out that Zod again just about saves the film from itself. Its a perfect example of how important making a good villain is to these types of movies (large scale action films), and cements my opinion of why Age of Ultron was such a failure had to do with how Ultron himself was a failure. Speaking of performances however, while Shannon steals the show no one is poorly chosen in Man of Steel and all acquit themselves admirably.

 

 

THE BAD

Strangely enough the script of Man of Steel contains both the origin story of Superman and its logical sequel, and while it runs at a healthy 2 1/2 hours long it still manages to feel like its trying to cram in too much story into not enough running time. Narrative jumps and wrinkles abound in the film due to its desire of cramming in as much plot as it can into its running time. One example being the film gives an extended introductory sequence on Krypton, only to breeze over Clark’s formative years. Another casualty is Lois Lane and Clark’s relationship, as it springs out of just about nowhere and comes across as very awkward and forced because it just isn’t given enough room to breath nor enough antecedent information for it to become plausible.

 
Emphasis on “getting to the good stuff” also results in so many action scenes filled with wall to wall destruction and explosions that it can’t help but become white noise to me. One large scale action scene populated by people that i care about will have an effect ten times that of 3 or 4 huge sequences filled with people that i don’t. Which highlights another glaring issue with Man of Steel, in that i really don’t care about anyone in the story its telling. I really want to like Clark, after all Superman is one of the most endearing and enduring heroic archetypes in human fiction. But the way the story is paced, i just can’t find anything to say about him other than he was raised by good people. Which gets straight to the heart of the issue of him being both over and under developed as a character, strangely enough i end up liking and sympathising with Zod almost more than Clark.

 
The rest of what i don’t like is just nit picky stuff. Things like how Jor-El condemns Zod for deciding who gets to live and who gets to die by his own whims, when he himself condemns all of Krypton using the same logic and justifications. Or how Superman essentially commits genocide upon his race, and how that doesn’t really seem in keeping with his character. Or how Metropolis is quite literally leveled and people just show up to work normally afterwards. Or how an advanced civilisation that has conquered the stars for 100 000 years can just stay on their planet and die with it. I’m not in the habit of criticising plot holes, as just about all movies good or bad have them, but just like in Into Darkness or Star Trek the amount of little things that bother me just keep growing and growing and snowball into something that simply can’t be ignored.

 
Lastly i want to talk about the score. Hans Zimmer is often lauded as a genius for his contributions to film scores based almost solely on the fact that his songs can rattle dishes off of shelves when played loud enough. I myself enjoy his music as pure spectacle and will always admit that his music packs a punch. Here in Man of Steel we do indeed get a main track that embodies all of the speed and power that a man like Superman would have, but it fails almost completely in being nuanced and interesting after the initial thrill is done.

 
Don’t get me wrong either, a cheesy theme like the one John Williams wrote would be horribly out of place in the grittiness of Man of Steel, however i find that Williams’ score is far truer to the character and is far more nuanced than the bare bones affair Zimmer provides. To compare the two is to compare Chuck Berry’s Johnny b Goode to Mozart’s Turkish March; both are good songs, both are pieces of simple breezy music made by important people in their respective genres, and both have made their impacts on culture and music.

 
However one is clearly just a bit more complex, musically nuanced, and expressive than the other. I’m sure you can figure out which one it is. Again though, that’s not to say that Johnny B Goode is a bad song, nor am i saying that Berry lacked talent and wasn’t important or expressive, but if you can’t see the forest for the trees in which one of the two was clearly a more robust musician then there’s no point in trying to convince you further*. The same goes for Zimmer, he writes fantastic songs that hit hard and bring you straight into the moment, but he has not in his career written a work as monumental as Williams has with Star Wars or Howard Shore has with The Lord of the Rings.

 

 

THE UGLY

Man of Steel is filled with great moments, but a great film works as a whole and is the sum of its parts, and the sum of Man of Steel’s parts is not a number i can say i would want. As trying to be both origin story and direct sequel makes it hamstrung by a confusing plotting and muddled character development.

 

 

2.5 starsOUT OF FIVE

 
*you can make the argument that the comparison is invalid due to the differing genre’s of music and different time periods they were written in. I will concede that is a partially valid point, as it doesn’t affect the analogy of it applying to Zimmer and Williams who write in the same genre.

FILM REVIEW: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

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Well i will say this is the fastest i’ve pumped out reviews in a while, but i figured the time was right and all my thoughts were more or less organised so that i could write my definitive take on these movies.

After i had finished watching the The Dark Knight and been disappointed by it and honestly myself, i promised myself that i would never hype or follow any film closely. I would be content with knowing what date a certain film was coming and watch the trailer only, no interviews, no on set visits, no obsessing over anything. These rules have largely been the status quo for six years and it has produced wonderful results.

I kept myself completely in the dark about Rises, i paid no attention to any news or speculation. Some things were unavoidable, like watching the teaser and trailer a few times, and seeing that first picture of Bane, but i would never dwell on them. I knew most people would probably be as dissatisfied as i was with The Dark Knight Rises as i had been with The Dark Knight because everyone else would be clinging onto any news about it and the hype and expectations would rise so high that it would never be able to live up to them.

When it did come out, i waited a few weeks before i went to see Rises and i didn’t read any reviews, and i avoided talking to people about it as much as i could, i just went when it was convenient for me to go. My self-control paid off, and when i walked out of the film i had a growing sense of satisfaction and yes that all so important sense of exhilaration was there.

I find it much easier now to ignore movie news thanks largely to the lesson i learned with The Dark Knight. I really wasn’t in a hurry to watch The Avengers, and i’ve missed out on Iron Man 3, Thor 2, and will probably not bother with the rest and just settle for watching Age of Ultron when it comes out, and honestly i’m much happier for it. Not everyone can do this, but its the best thing for me.

Anyway onto:

 

THE GOOD

These types of films always leave the best impressions when the villain of the story is well, good for a lack of a better term. Heath Ledgers Joker is so monolithic that a comparison between the villain roles in all of the films is to be expected, and i quite honestly believe Tom Hardy’s Bane can easily stand favourably with Ledger’s Joker, in the history of Batman villains. Hardy (being the talented actor he is) clearly put a lot of thought into how to make Bane come to life much like Ledger did, and for the most part focuses on making Bane physically intimidating but also brutally sophisticated. Much like Joker, Hardy’s Bane steals every scene he is in with a combination of physical performance and unique vocalisation, and coupled with how weak and out of touch Bruce is in comparison Bane truly becomes a very dangerous and threatening presence that is felt throughout the entire film.

Thematically i also find Rises to be more interesting than The Dark Knight (which may be one of the reasons i was disappointed with the latter). I find the theme of pain both emotional and physical to be a much more engaging thematic drive than chaos. Chaos is just chaos to me, and invites no real thought or will to expend the effort to do so as it is wasted effort by the very nature of the subject matter. Pain however is more personal and more relatable than chaos as hopefully we have all felt it in our lives. “Suffering creates character”, says one of the characters here, and it is most certainly right. Here in Rises Bruce Wayne suffers the most he ever has, everyone he loves or holds dear has left or leaves him, his strength is sapped as he lets pain take over his life and is physically brutalised for it. But despite this he finds the strength to set aside this pain and complete his journey, and it is this that shows that Bruce Wayne was truly meant to be the hero he is.

With the thematic focus being more personal in nature i found myself actually caring and rooting for Bruce just like how i did throughout Batman Begins. This was most evident by my long-awaited scene of Alfred walking out on Bruce, i’ve lost father figures (not remotely in this way but that doesn’t matter) and i always wanted to see what Batman would do without Alfred there to guide him. I have never seen Batman this alone, and naturally i sympathise with him.

 

 

THE BAD

(some spoilers here)

All of the above would make The Dark Knight Rises head an shoulders better than The Dark Knight if it weren’t for that damned twist ending. How the writers managed to build up effectively over the course of three films a growing sense of finality and tragedy and flush it all down the toilet is truly head scratching. Having Miranda Tate revealing herself as Talia Al Ghul adds nothing to the plot in fact it serves to confuse and muddle up a number of things that happened previously (like Bane being born in prison and saying so himself, although he could just be lying but that really robs him of a lot of his intrigue). Most heinous of all is letting Bruce Wayne still be alive by the end, as that destroys everything the series has been building up to and hurts his growth as a heroic figure.

(end spoilers)

The bad writing doesn’t stop with just the inclusion of the unnecessary twists, and while the film doesn’t have anywhere near as many plot holes and contrivances that the rest of the internet has decided it has, it nonetheless starts to stretch itself dangerously close to being ridiculous at times (the way that Batman’s back was “fixed” honestly takes a lot of assumption on my part to accept). However i will admit that i wasn’t aware of them during my first viewing.

Hans Zimmer delivers a score here that much like the rest of the entire series is very much bereft of any development. Quite literally if you’ve heard the score to one of these films you’ve heard them all. None of the promised development of the main theme has come about, all the action scene ques have been recycled and as a result the score is for the most part dead in the water, and most disturbingly this is continues to be the norm for a once very engaging composer.

 

THE UGLY

When The Dark Knight Rises hits its high points the film really soars for me. It’s a far more personal experience and is therefore more engaging for me. However while i was able to ignore its flaws during my first few viewings, repeated exposure to them really starts to chip away at my first impressions.

However while i can’t say that it is a better film than The Dark Knight, i liked it more, and yes that reason alone is enough for me to say it is a great cap off to a solid series of films.

**** OUT OF FIVE

p.s

I hold a bit of a fascination about the ending of things, stories in particular. How a story ends i feel is the most important part of a story, as i had stated in my review of The Desolation of Smaug that a story without an ending can really have no meaning. After all, all the intrigue and conflict in acts one and two would be ultimately pointless if it just stopped instead of ended. This fascination with endings is something i’ve had for almost as long as i can remember, i used to as a child flip to the last page of any book i picked up (text books, novels, etc.) not to spoil the ending but to see what the last sentence of the book would be, i even looked up and read about the last episode of Friends (anyone who knows me will find that quite strange), even though i had no investment in the show in fact i have contempt for it. But i was curious as to how it would end. With all of this in mind, hopefully it is clear as to why i was always going to like Rises more than The Dark Knight.