Re: Just Watched
« Reply #2040 on: May 25, 2020, 05:42:08 PM »
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore (dir. Macon Blair)

It's not bad, but it reads like a checklist of lighter David Lynch and Coen brothers tropes mashed together without the respective authorial voices that make them work. Or rather, Macon Blair doesn't have the maturity as a filmmaker to channel the stuff he likes into a genuine expression of his own authorial voice. The film is saved somewhat by the central character, Ruth, being quite ordinary and relatable. They did a good job of building a down to earth character to centre the film around, but the pulpy aspects of the film are played too light to really feel like they impact on her world. Christian and his gang of creeps feel throwaway given how central they are to the story. It's not that they need to be deep characters to be threatening villains, but they are all wardrobe and not much else.

An okay film with some good performances of barebones material.

Glad to read this - I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore was on my radar, but I suspected it was going to fall a little too flat for me, and apparently that's how it comes out.  You saved 90 minutes  of my life.


In other news - any other horror film lovers out there?

Re: Just Watched
« Reply #2041 on: May 27, 2020, 07:21:41 PM »
I'm not reading all 100+ pages of this thread, so if i'm doing this wrong, too bad:

Shotgun style, existoid's short reviews:

The Lodge - atmospheric and enjoyable horror. Go into it cold, don't watch the trailer or read anything about it. If you like slow burn horror, you will very likely like this.

Fantasy Island - meh teen level horror.  Good enough for me to watch while playing SNES on another other screen.

Creepshow original Shudder series - exceptional anthology series. Must for horror fans. Sadly, Episode 1 is the best one, but it doesn't deteriorate very much from there.

1917 - "Saving Private Ryan" for WW1.

Come to Daddy - fine acting by Elijah Wood (as always), but also great performance from Stephen McHattie (if you don't know him, check out the exceptionally well done Canadian horror film Pontypool). Very good script and directing as well. Recommend.

Gretel and Hansel - I really wanted to like this; it has several good elements - acting, visuals, atmosphere - but in the end only deserved to have been a 30 min. show dragged out to full length feature. A shame.

Arkansas - Fun crime thriller with discount Chris Hemsworth (who does quite a fine job).

Birds of Prey - Very watchable. But also very forgettable. So, I guess that makes it decent entertainment?

Vampire Hunter D - Saw the original 1985 anime for the first time recently. Pretty good.


 







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Offline Roundy

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Re: Just Watched
« Reply #2042 on: May 27, 2020, 07:45:14 PM »
Birds of Prey - Very watchable. But also very forgettable. So, I guess that makes it decent entertainment?

That was pretty much my take. It was a couple steps above Suicide Squad, but still kind of short of even the weaker Marvel movies.
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Re: Just Watched
« Reply #2043 on: May 27, 2020, 08:24:30 PM »
Birds of Prey - Very watchable. But also very forgettable. So, I guess that makes it decent entertainment?

That was pretty much my take. It was a couple steps above Suicide Squad, but still kind of short of even the weaker Marvel movies.

Totally.

Although, despite the fact that I've watched every single Marvel film, I virtually never look forward to any of them anymore.  It's now more of a  chore to watch them.  The fact that they have more "phases" for the MCU endlessly is wearing me down.   Did we really need 20 films, and do we really need 20 more? 

But that's just me.



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Offline honk

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Re: Just Watched
« Reply #2044 on: May 27, 2020, 11:57:44 PM »
My own hot take on the MCU, as I've mentioned before on IRC, is that they've begun to drown on their own continuity and endless fanservice. Both Spidey movies, and to a slightly lesser extent, Captain Marvel, neglected telling strong, standalone stories in favor of cramming in as many superfluous references to the previous films as possible. Those movies could not exist in their current state without the prior existence of the MCU, and that's not a good thing. The shared universe can be a fun little bonus, but it's not a crutch, and audiences will eventually grow tired of it if the movies keep using it like one.
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Offline Crudblud

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Re: Just Watched
« Reply #2045 on: May 30, 2020, 07:08:47 AM »
Wildlife (dir. Paul Dano)

Quietly earthbound and uncomfortable drama set in 1960 in Montana. A young boy's family life disintegrates as his father, out of work, prideful and desperate, decides to leave home and join his fellow unemployed in fighting forest fires for a pittance. While Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal both turn in fine work as a married couple set to split on diverging paths, Ed Oxenbould's understated performance as fourteen year old Joe (the actor himself was around sixteen at the time of filming) is what holds the film together, its quiet innocence gradually poisoned by tensions between the adults in his life. Dano's direction is a confident and consistent blending of naturalistic photography with cinematic artifice, but may yet lack identity, it is after all his first feature behind the camera—what is clear is that he has learned much from working with Paul Thomas Anderson. Nonetheless, this quiet—I keep using that word, I assure you with good reason—and unflashy debut is a convincing and promising piece of filmmaking.

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Offline Crudblud

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Re: Just Watched
« Reply #2046 on: May 31, 2020, 12:39:11 PM »
The Vessel (dir. Julio Quintana)

Religious (or is it?) drama about an island whose inhabitants live in perpetual mourning for the children who were swept away into the ocean when a wave hit the local school. The story picks up when Leo, whose brother was lost in the tragedy, awakens after drowning during a drunken farewell to his best friend, who does not survive. Leo is compelled for some reason to build the titular vessel out of old tables, chairs, and other wooden debris left behind at the ruined school. The island's priest, at first confused by it, sees the vessel as a symbol of hope and renewal, and helps Leo to complete his project, but the superstitious locals are disturbed by the thought that Leo may be a messenger from God, and a violent energy begins to grow among them.

Pretty much every scene is littered with arresting images, and in that sense it is a successful film, but its wonky script wants on the one hand to be naturalistic while on the other being resplendent with grandiose profundity, so you end up with a pretend everyday speech that feels off. Its unwillingness to embrace a more purposefully artificial style of dialogue in the post-Shakespearian vein of (for example) Herman Melville seems to me to keep it from ever really reaching the heights that it achieves in its visuals. This is no more apparent than whenever the priest, played by Martin Sheen, is on screen. Sheen, who can deliver reverberant thunder in his performances, has a commanding presence befitting his central role among the islanders, but the script subdues him, and when he does get raw it rings untrue because the words sit so ungainly on his tongue.

So, a mixed bag. At under 90 minutes and with visual beauty to spare, it's worth a watch, but I can't ignore that the characters and their words felt largely hollow and weightless, no match for the images they inhabit. Terence Malick, whose films I tend to feel similarly towards, lent his name to the film as executive producer, and I think that just about sums it up.

Offline Dionysios

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Re: Just Watched
« Reply #2047 on: June 13, 2020, 09:46:36 PM »
‘Apartheid Did Not Die’
By John Pilger

Although admiring Nelson Mandela and especially what he stood for, this outspoken leftist activist actually criticises Mandela and the African National Congress as sellouts to the white racist power structure which actually continues in power in South Africa to this day.

This perspective brings to mind the largely phoney and half-hearted denazification of West Germany after World War 2.

https://vimeo.com/17184007

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Offline Crudblud

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Re: Just Watched
« Reply #2048 on: July 29, 2020, 10:27:41 PM »
2020: A Buttshit Odyssey & Nipples

Batman & Robin (dir. Joel Schumacher)

How exactly do you follow a film like Batman Forever? The question must have been front of mind for Joel Schumacher and Akiva Goldsman when they returned to the franchise to craft the fourth and final entry in Warner's first attempt at a Batman feature series. With both Schumacher and Goldsman being complete hacks, it is frankly surprising that they rose to the challenge of answering it as well as they did, which is about half as well as they would have had to were they to actually make a good film. Make no mistake, Batman & Robin is every bit the superior to its predecessor, it is more cohesive, more stylish, more deliberate, and more enjoyable, if only because it doesn't come across as being actively hostile towards the audience. Yet for every good idea there is a lingering cloud of noxiousness, for every great moment a dull quarter of an hour, for every refreshing change an inescapable reminder that you are watching the sequel to Batman Forever.
 
The film's first move is to both acknowledge its status as a sequel and to shit on the thing it is a sequel to. “I want a car,” says Robin. “Chicks dig the car.” “This is why Superman works alone,” Batman replies, almost rolling his eyes at the camera. Alfred completes the undoing of the previous film's opening exchanges with the line “I'll cancel the pizzas.” Through this, it makes a promise to the audience that it is proceeding in good faith with an attempt to deliver a knowingly silly Batman experience. Yet it fails to progress from that stage in a holistic way, rather some parts advance while others linger, entangled in the wreckage of prefatory catastrophe. This piecemeal approach to making improvements over the misbegotten formula of its prior efforts means that the film ends up being very much in two halves, one an agreeable camp caper, the other a mess of half-baked characters reciting often simply unfunny jokes in service of a story that doesn't make sense. In lieu of needlessly prolonging this review, so without delving into details of plot, I invite you to ponder this question: are there any plants that can thrive in an ice desert?
 
While many cast and crew members returned for the sequel, Val Kilmer did not. You could hardly blame him for wanting to be somewhere else, though of all the somewhere elses he could have ended up, The Island of Doctor Moreau was probably the one he was least prepared for. But Kilmer's absence is notable only because his replacement in George Clooney so effortlessly provides the qualities he could not. In a film like this, Batman absolutely has to be the unflappable straightman, someone who can deadpan his way through all the plot has to throw at him, and Clooney is most definitely up to the task. Very early on we see Batman skating down the spine of a model dinosaur after announcing, in a calmly assured voice, “Hi Freeze, I'm Batman.” It is of course ludicrous, but Clooney's unflinchingly suave coffee advertisement demeanour totally sells it. Chris O'Donnell's Robin is meanwhile thrust into being the comedy sidekick, a role which he is not best suited for. In the previous film he excelled, or at least came closest to excelling in quieter scenes which more or less called for plain, indeed borderline human charm, but here he is left floundering in the form of a wholly unnatural goofball while Alicia Silverstone sort of takes over the troubled-but-good-kid role he played previously. It isn't so much that O'Donnell lacks the chops for comedy, but that he is essentially performing the role of the ignition to the engine of this comedy and the key doesn't fit. 
 
The mismatch of role and player in Robin's case is nothing compared to that of Mr Freeze. In any other possible world, Arnold Schwarzenegger, forever best known for playing a cold, emotionless killing machine in The Terminator, would have been perfect for playing a cold, emotionless cure-researching machine here, but Akiva Goldsman and whoever else clearly ignored the superlative—and surely most popular with this film's alleged target audience—version voiced by Michael Ansara in Batman: The Animated Series, so Schwarzenegger is staggeringly miscast. The infamous ice puns rarely make any sense and are only ever remotely funny because they're so incredibly awful. There is a reason the “ballpoint banana” joke from the 1966 Batman works, and that is Burt Ward's complete earnestness of delivery. There's no grinning or winking, just a straight-faced, clear-voiced annunciation of absurdity. Arnie meanwhile bites chunks out of the scenery like he's bulking for Mr Universe. Of course, by this time no one would have expected much else from Schwarzenegger, who had since the mid-'80s become a mainstay of the Hollywood action-comedy blockbuster scene, providing a springboard to questionable comedies like Junior and Jingle All the Way, as well as increasingly mediocre action movies like Eraser. The two meet in Batman & Robin, which should have been the nadir of his career, but alas, who among you could have foreseen four more Terminator sequels, let alone his starring in three of them?
 
As ever, these characters inhabit Gotham City, which returns in a more fleshed-out and stylish vision that can occasionally impress the eye. In Batman Forever it was reduced to a kind of lifeless neon interstice between scenes of questionable cohesiveness, here it is not so much a believable city as it is a gigantic art museum, but at the very least it has physicality and style. In its design it pays homage to Fritz Lang's Metropolis, with elevated roads snaking their way around gigantic statues, but here all is surface, and the answer to the question “why did you put that there?” is “because!”, which goes some way to summing up the film itself. Unlike in Batman Returns, there is little sense of society (that's another eleven years down the line, folks) in the Gotham of this film, the characters exist pretty much entirely apart from the broader world around them. Not that, for example, a man in a diamond-powered exosuit (the only remotely subtle ice pun in the entire film, by the way) who goes around freezing people has to have a deep relationship to his context to be effective as a villain, but Mr Freeze seems to have nothing at all to do with the world he inhabits, and this is not addressed in a way that makes it appear deliberate, if it is even addressed at all. Everything we see of Gotham is supersized to match the operatic performances it is intended to contain, but there are precious few combinations of role and player that can actually expand to fill such a space, and this leaves Batman's beloved city feeling empty for entirely different reasons than it did in the previous film.
 
In fact, when I say “precious few,” I actually mean “precisely one.” For there is among the main cast one above all else, a woman who could almost make you believe you're watching a better film. If ever a “yas queen” should escape my begrudging lips, let it be for Uma Thurman in this film. She throws herself into every line, every pose, every glance, every scene without the faintest care about looking stupid, which is precisely the fearlessness required to sell such questionable goods. From knowingly clichéd eco-warrior to genocidal plant goddess, there isn't a moment in the entire film when Thurman is both on screen and outdone. The only problem is that she's playing Catwoman from two films ago. Pamela Isley sees something she wasn't supposed to, her boss kills her, she comes back with superpowers to get her revenge. When the best part of your film is just one ingredient of a much better film warmed over, you should rethink just what in the heck you're doing, but since “you” in this sentence is either one of or an almost definitely satanic fusion of both Joel Schumacher and Akiva Goldsman, maybe it is in fact I who should rethink just what in the heck I'm doing. Besides inviting the unflattering comparison to better days, the film also serves the Poison Ivy character poorly by encumbering her with weak practical effects and even worse CGI. Poison Ivy has the potential to be a one-woman circus, and Thurman is more than a match for any level of lavishness, but she is consistently undercut in the phantasmagoria department by lacklustre support.
 
But what wasn't Pamela Isley supposed to see? What was it that brought forth her untimely demise? I'm torn between “a golden retriever with gland problems” and “a man in an inflatable rubber suit,” so for one time only you get two (count em') shitty yet accurate and dismissive jokes for the price of one, said price probably being your patience. Bane is pretty much a non-entity throughout the film, his job is to be large and throw less large people around, and to respond to button presses like some kind of Pavlovian golden retriever with gland problems (three! ...sort of! (count 'em)). Professional wrestler Robert Swenson, who wrestled for WCW and other promotions, plays the beefed up version of Bane, but his mat skills are not really put to any good use here. It's unfortunate, since, for all the supposed homoeroticism in this film, one would think that the chance to have a big muscular man do a thing he is good at would not be passed up. But alas. Well, I guess so far as Swenson is a supremely large lad, his performance is successful. Bizarrely, one of his most active scenes is to the film's detriment, highlighting one of the major tonal issues it struggles with, or rather ignores throughout. The Turkish bath scene, in which Poison Ivy has him throw a bunch of street punks out of a derelict building, features numerous cartoon sound effects that feel totally out of place. Taken at face value it is a relatively minor blunder, yet one which brings to mind the deep-seated identity confusion of Batman Forever. While the film makes overtures to outlandishness, its stagey acting style and often clunky action scenes mean that attempts to play up an atmosphere of cartooniness rather than of operatic drama fail miserably.
 
Opposed to the one-dimensional Bane, Alicia Silverstone plays Barbara Wilson, this film's Batgirl, with not so much multi-dimensionality but rather the sense of lots of individual unconnected dimensions existing in separate realities. With the Hardyesque Pat Hingle playing Commissioner Gordon, there's no way Silverstone could have convincingly played his daughter, so it makes sense to shoogle the role around a little. Instead of the usual ties, then, Barbara Wilson is in fact a relative of Alfred Pennyworth. Alfred is sick and Barbara has come to petition Bruce Wayne to send Alfred back to his native England, where he may live out his final days in the bosom of family. I bring this up not to pad out the review, but because this sub-plot, while as vigorously bungled as one might expect, is a nice send-off for Michael Gough, who returns to play the much mistreated butler one last time. As for Silverstone, her performance is, as previously mentioned, quite strange. In her very second scene she sleepily proclaims “both of my parents were killed in a car accident five years ago,” which I must confess caused me to burst out laughing. Her nonchalant line delivery and not-all-there smile are presumably intended to be read as an affectation of unassumingness by which she hides her true rebellious biker chick hacker chick ten-words-per-minute chick self, but in practice she simply appears to be high. Despite having just arrived in Gotham, on break from “Oxbridge Academy,” she speaks without the faintest hint of received pronunciation (this is probably for the best), and is furthermore intimately familiar with the meet locations and customs of the city's underground bike racing scene. (Said scene is apparently being run by Coolio, who, originally just a cameo, has been revealed to have been playing Jonathan Crane, aka Scarecrow. If you think that sounds like complete nonsense, it is, but it's also true.) Her performance is as confused as the role itself, yet as Batgirl, Silverstone's scenes have probably the most straight up fighting of any of the main cast's, and she also has the best hero/villain banter in her scene with Poison Ivy.
 
With the main cast now fully accounted for, surely there can be no love interests? Well, you'd be right, and also wrong. Elle Macpherson, one of several supermodels featured in the film, plays Bruce Wayne's girlfriend Julie Madison, a throwback to Batman's original run on Detective Comics. I will, broken record as I am, now talk about past episodes from the annals of cinematic Batlove history. Vicki Vale is nothing special, but her relationship with Bruce Wayne and Batman begins as two separate threads which weave together over the course of the film, culminating in the third act. Selina Kyle brings this idea to new heights by having her alter ego act as an adversary to Batman while she romances Wayne, and by having their dual natures so closely mirror one another. Chase Meridian, well, she's at least involved in both sides of Bruce's life. Julie Madison simply sits or stands near Wayne in some scenes but mostly just doesn't exist. We're supposed to believe that there is some conflict when Wayne, under the lingering effects of Poison Ivy's pheromones, spaces out during a kiss with Madison, but Madison's sparse appearances render her a thin gruel of a character, and there is not a moment that, despite the false amours of Poison Ivy fogging his mind, we can ever believe that Wayne gives a shit about her in the first place. Given that there is no indication that Macpherson can act, this is probably for the best, and Madison is thus saved from being the worst of the Batman love interests in the first Warner series only by virtue of the fact that, unlike Chase Meridian, she is completely irrelevant to the main action of the film.
 
So that's Batman & Robin. It far outstrips Batman Forever, but it can almost never be spoken of positively in itself, only in relation to the disaster that precedes it, and too many of its own failings are reminiscent of said disaster for it to successfully make the case that it has learned and moved on from it. Add to that the fact that so much of its good parts are either homages or perhaps unwitting reiterations of good things in previous Batman films and you end up with something that can't with any sincerity be heralded as an actual improvement, the same bunch of idiots simply got luckier overall with their selections of material this time around. Schumacher, may he rest in peace, I suppose knew he was making some bullshit, and later on he went so far as to apologise for his contributions to Batman's career on the silver screen. Yet at the time this film was released, a third, or rather fifth entry was slated for production. Batman Unchained, which was to feature cameo Coolio as Scarecrow, and allegedly, and most bafflingly, Jack Nicholson returning as Joker, was planned to be a darker and more serious Batman, closer to the comic books of which Schumacher claimed to be a fan, but the box office intervened and for better or for worse we shall never know what hell may yet have been unleashed, or unchained, or whatever. Well, looks like I'm running out of things to say, guess that's my cue to put this review on ice!

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Offline Crudblud

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Re: Just Watched
« Reply #2049 on: August 07, 2020, 06:41:41 PM »
The Batshit Odyssey continues, with the first part of the "Dark Knight" trilogy!

Batman Begins (dir. Christopher Nolan)

A new decade, a new series, a new Batman, a new you! The first major reboot in Batman's cinematic history sees Christopher Nolan, then a rising star known for reasonably clever thrillers like Memento and Insomnia, in the director's chair. Immediately I must make a confession, which is that throughout my years of knowing his work, I have found Nolan's oeuvre consistently underwhelming. While I am trying to prevent this from clouding my judgement of Batman Begins, I don't think it's unreasonable to say that, criticism largely being a vehicle for vanity and all, I have doubtless failed in that task, and for that reason I won't make any overtures to fairness. Having said that, I don't think this review reads as unnecessarily critical, but then what the fuck do I know? I just wrote the damn thing, you're actually reading it, and possibly not for much longer.

Batman Begins begins (it's a bit I can only do once, let me have it) in a much different manner than either Burton's or Schumacher's films. As the title implies, the film deals with Batman's origin story, and it spends quite a lot of time trying to establish the moral code of Batman through comparison and contrast of his childhood experiences against his later interactions with various figures, such as Joe Chill, the man who killed his parents; Carmine Falcone, a mob boss whose sphere of influence encompasses all levels of Gotham City's social and legal power structures; and the League of Shadows, a mystical fraternity of assassins lead by the mysterious Ra's al Ghul. His apprenticeship under Ra's culminates in his refusal to execute a criminal, and the subsequent burning down of the base of the League of Shadows high in the Himalayas. I think this introduction to Bruce Wayne, which invites us to view Gotham as he does, both in the idealism of his father's vision for the city in his youth, and in the tattered idealism of his own as he returns to save the city, mostly works as written.

However, there's something odd going on with Christian Bale in this film. Especially in the pre-Batman portrayal of Bruce Wayne, Bale simply seems like he doesn't know what he's doing. This may well be deliberate, since it is appropriate to the character at that time in his life, but there's something off about it that I can't quite put my finger on, it's as if we are seeing Bale not getting it rather than Wayne not getting it. However, once Wayne returns to Gotham, Bale fits much more comfortably with the material. In this film, Bruce Wayne plays up to an expectation of rich youth, lacking in morals and manners, which, for his parents were good people, beloved of Gotham, he must have chosen to cast aside to indulge in nihilistic libertinism. The scene in which Wayne gets his birthday party guests to leave so that he can confront Ra's al Ghul is brilliantly played, and ultimately shows just how deliberate his decisions have been ever since his return to Gotham.

This film deals much more with Gotham as a living, breathing society than any of the previous series of films did, even Batman Returns, with its three-way intersection of crime, politics, and business, and one of its major villains an outcast aristocrat, doesn't present a full picture of Gotham's interdependent social strata. To be fair, this film doesn't present a full picture either, but it is more willing to delve into social themes, to show the effects of poverty on ordinary people, even presenting Joe Chill as a victim of circumstance rather than a cold-blooded killer—in fact, Tim Burton praised the film for going where at the time it was felt that he couldn't in his own Batman films. Chill is assassinated by Carmine Falcone, against whom Chill testified in order to shorten his prison time, and who is flooding Gotham's ghetto neighbourhoods with drugs. While Batman works with an unwitting old acquaintance, district attorney Rachel Dawes, to get leverage on Falcone, the seemingly all-powerful mobster is swept away by a yet greater tide of evil washing over the city in the form of Ra's al Ghul. This is one of the film's major missteps. While Bruce Wayne's actions absolutely should have consequences, the reveal of Falcone as a pawn in a game of global proportions causes Batman's first crusade to lose its identity as a reclamation of a city and people that were failed by his own socio-economic class. I think Ra's al Ghul's return should have been simply implied at the end and brought to fruition in a later film, since in the final scene we see that they were already confident of a sequel.

But Ra's al Ghul's what we get, so what he got? He is played by Liam Neeson, which apparently is supposed to be a shock. I read that Nolan cast Neeson since he had usually played mentor figures, which Ra's very much is at the start of the film. Given that Neeson is now known for appearing in endless reiterations of the same action movie in which the editing cuts so frequently that you can't tell what is actually happening, it seems like the choice was made for the wrong reasons. Having said that, I like Neeson's performance quite a lot. The character is not necessarily well served by the writing, especially in the latter half where he seems to be there only to fulfil the need for a big villain reveal, but Neeson himself is very convincing as the leader of a global terrorist organisation. From his very first scene, laying out a path for Bruce Wayne to become the Batman, he exhibits calm and debonair charm, with a charisma and mystique that makes us want Bruce to accept his offer so we can see what he's all about. As we learn the truth behind Ra's's (you didn't think I would, but I did) philosophy of justice, the film gambles on the hope that we'll be torn between Bruce's loyalty to Gotham, to the ideals of his father, and the more cosmically minded campaign of Ra's, who seeks to save the world through catastrophe. You can see that the film in this conflict takes its cue from Watchmen, but is it really that compelling? For me, at least, the idea that disaster begets some kind of cleansing empathy was never sound, but I think the film is designed to be perceived to be more morally complex than it actually is.

Ra's is being supported by Jonathan Crane, better known as Scarecrow. Crane is in charge of Arkham Asylum, and is using a substance derived from a rare Himalayan flower in experiments on the inmates. Under the guidance of Ra's, Crane dumps the substance into the Gotham water supply, though I have to question just how rare the flower is if enough of Scarecrow's fear toxin can be produced to poison the entire city. Regardless of the mechanics of their villainous plot, I rather like this portrayal of Scarecrow. Cillian Murphy plays Crane as a weasely, insidious, amoral figure, and while there's more than a dash of the stereotypical mad scientist who doesn't care what lines he has to cross in pursuit of his research, the understated relish of Murphy's performance makes him engaging to watch. Instead of appearing in full costume, the Scarecrow is a simple sackcloth head covering with eyeholes and a mechanism for dispersal of the fear toxin. The Scarecrow therefore appears less a persona in itself than Crane's perversion, lending him the air of a serial killer, which I suppose he is, since his drug so completely destroys the mental faculties of those exposed to it, including, ultimately, his own.

By the time of Batman Begins, the caped crusader had yet to star in a film which really sold him as a capable fighter. The Tim Burton films were deliberately theatrical and often featured unrealistic fighting in keeping with their urban fairytale style, while Joel Schumacher's Batman would usually flash some improbable gadget or found prop as a goof in the face of his foes. Nolan's foray into the franchise shows a martial arts based approach, more grounded than that of its predecessors and also of earlier high-profile western examples of martial arts action like The Matrix. Christian Bale even trained in kung fu as part of his preparation for the role of Batman, but for all of that, and perhaps foreseeing (or sealing?) Liam Neeson's own fate, the fight scenes in this film are absolute pants. Nary a punch is thrown that isn't cut in two with needless editing, and while it isn't quite as bad as Taken, in which the least movement of Neeson's body must be captured in three different ways cut against each other, the impacts lack weight because they are so often shorn of their actual physical context. The relationship between the physical impulse behind a punch, the movement of the body, from the core up and out through the chest and down the arm to the fist, the cadence of the impact, simply isn't there, and any potential for real excitement is wasted.

All scenes, cut to ribbons or not, are set to the predictably dull music of Hans Zimmer, king of the hack composers of Hollywood. Even if the fight scenes were awe-inspiring, there is nothing this man cannot make boring by association. But the flavourless harmonies and workaday rhythms of Zimmer's score are a perfect match for the film's bland colour palette and pedestrian camera work, so in a way the composer has done a brilliant job. I didn't intend here to talk about both music and visuals, but seeing as the one underlies and enhances the other, or at least as that is the intended relationship, it seems as good a time as any to say that there are no arresting images in the entire film. From dockyard drug deals to opulent mansions, the film exists in light grey and dark brown, with anything in between getting dragged one way or the other into a black hole. Pretending towards realism is one thing, but the desaturation of colour coz dark innit seems rather to take life out of the equation. Still, the music and visuals are of a piece, so despite their aesthetic beigery they cannot really be faulted in that they serve the overall purpose of the work.

The lack of character present in the film's cinematic elements are compensated for somewhat by a range of likeable performances from the supporting cast, chief among them Michael Caine, who replaces Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth. Caine is refreshingly unposh, while retaining the understated wit of prior incarnations, and bringing a fatherly warmth to the butler of Wayne Manor. I guess it's hard not to like Michael Caine, generally speaking, but Alfred might be my favourite of his performances next to his impeccable Ebenezer Scrooge in The Muppet Christmas Carol. Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman. Agreeable, reliable old Morgan Freeman. There's not much to say, he does what he does very well, even if it is nothing we haven't seen from him before. Jim Gordon, not yet commissioner, is played by Gary Oldman, and he comes off as a bit of a doofus, occasionally betraying his Englishness through inconsistent accent work, but he looks Gordonesque, far more than did Pat Hingle in the previous (alleged) continuity.

The wealth of content lifted from the comic books lends authenticity to the film, which is rich with elements and references lifted straight from the panels themselves, but the tone seems to have arisen partly from embarrassment, if not disgust at its comic book origins. The use of an amalgamation of real world metropoleis as a model, as opposed to the grandiose invention of previous films, often leaves Gotham City without even the semblance of a character of its own. While I'm wholly in favour of getting away from the nonsensical neon nightmares of Joel Schumacher, they could at least boast some unique and memorable architecture. Nolan's Gotham, realistic though it may be, is a city like any other, and in its universality it is reduced to a kind of nowhere, a state of being which reflects the film as a whole. Competence is consistently substituted for style, but there is little of value in mere competence. The platitudinous mantra “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” speaks of taking risks only as it applies to characters within the film, while its rote form and flat, simplistic vision more adequately suit the form of the film itself. No risks are taken here, Nolan is too competent and too satisfied by his competence for that.

Batman Begins is an underwhelming film. It lacks the stylishness of previous Batman films, and while, by varying degrees, it undeniably outdoes them in consistency of quality, it also cannot reach the heights that those less assured efforts could, even if it avoids the lows to which they sometimes sank. A mountain range is dangerous and difficult to cross, but a flat line provides little challenge or reward. See? I can do simplistic lines, too. Flaws can often add character and charm, but in Nolan's vision of Batman, the flaw is the lack of character itself. Character is often located somewhere in the margins, never allowed to take too much away from the central idea of a grounded superhero movie, something that can wipe away the occasionally mad excesses of what has come before it and replace them with the reassuring beige of competence. I, at least, find myself in the throes of desire for mad excess, if only to break from the monotony of “realism” as it is presented here. It seems, then, that where this Batman begins, I must stop.

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Offline J-Man

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Re: Just Watched
« Reply #2050 on: August 12, 2020, 02:01:31 AM »
Shark week.....
What kind of person would devote endless hours posting scientific facts trying to correct the few retards who believe in the FE? I slay shitty little demons.

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Offline Fortuna

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Re: Just Watched
« Reply #2051 on: September 21, 2020, 02:09:54 AM »
Just started watching Star Trek TOS for the first time. Currently on episode 9. In one of the first episodes there was a villain Kirk had to fight, and he made a gravestone and hole that Kirk was supposed to fall into, but the gravestone said James R. Kirk. Any Star Trek loremasters know what's up with that?
« Last Edit: September 21, 2020, 08:24:36 PM by Fortuna »

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Offline Rama Set

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Re: Just Watched
« Reply #2052 on: September 21, 2020, 09:50:48 AM »
No lore issue to be explored. It’s just a continuity issue.