DC Universe: Inheritance

For the first time ever, I am disappointed in one of the DC line of books based on their comics. Overall, the story wasn’t bad, but it was a case of the background and side stories being far more interesting than the main plot.

DC Universe: Inheritance is mainly about sidekicks. The story starts with the President of Qurac and his son heading to America, Gotham specifically, and then someone tries to kill the President’s son. Turns out the assassin was Deathstroke, and he shouldn’t have missed. Its obvious he’s tried to get Batman involved. Batman goes looking for Arsenal because he needs info on Cheshire (its less confusing if you know the comics, but they do also explain it all in the book too), and to find Arsenal Batman asks Green Arrow, who involves Aquaman, Nightwing and Tempest. Nightwing, of course, is the original Robin; Arsenal is Speedy, Green Arrow’s sidekick from back in the day; and Tempest is Aqualad. Batman and Arsenal head off to Qurac, Green Arrow and Nightwing go searching after Deathstroke, and Aquaman and Tempest are set to protect the Qurac President and son at the harbor/bay where a Qurac oil tanker will be docking in the next day or so.

Within each pairing, as the story follows them, you delve into how each one became a sidekick and their experience. Nightwing deals with the death of his parents, training with Batman, and the eventual realization that his can’t be a sidekick forever. Arsenal shows his life on the reservation as a white man being raised by an indian, his beginning sidekick days, and his collapse into and recovery from heroine addiction. Tempest, the shortest interludes, give glimpses of his growing up under the King of Atlantis and how when the chips were down Aquaman was willing to sacrifice Tempest for the life of his own child.

Some of the trail following and piecing together of who is trying to kill the President’s son is interesting, but the final fight as the truth is unveiled is a let down from the buildup done throughout the book. It was a good read, I just wish it had ended better.

Batman Begins

When Batman came out in 1989, I was wary of the casting of Michael Keaton, Mr. Mom, as the caped crusader. But it turned out that he was actually able to capture the duality of Batman and Bruce Wayne extremely well. And while I was disappointed with the death of the Joker (why do they insist on killing the bad guys? the comic books don’t), the movie as a whole was just good.

With Batman Returns… well, Keaton was still good, but the way they chose to portray the Penguin was just… well… crappy. Catwoman wasn’t bad (a zillion times better than the most recent incarnation with Halle Berry) but there were issues with the movie.

Then Keaton flees Batman, and we get Val Kilmer. Now, Val, I thought, could make a very good Batman and Bruce Wayne, but watching the movie, he seemed to be phoning in his performance. He was very wooden in both roles. Add to that the introduction of neon day glo Gotham, and the movie’s suck factor began to swell. Making Robin not be a kid was a step in the wrong direction. He’s supposed to be a teenager, that’s the whole point of his freakin’ character, a young foil to help keep Batman from plummetting off the deep end. I thought after seeing this movie that it had to kill the franchise. Whatever pull Bob Kane had he’d use, and DC would look at the movie and say “Oh, hell no.” and we would never see a Batman movie again. Then the stupid thing, propelled by Jim Carey as the Riddler, made truckloads of money. God help us all.

Val exitted stage left, and we got George Clooney. Now, I like George… he was great on ER, he did a fine job in From Dusk ‘Til Dawn and even in One Fine Day. As Batman/Bruce Wayne he brought so much bravado and swagger to the role that the film choked on it. I figured when I saw Batman Forever we’d seen about as over the top a film as could be made… Then somehow Joel Schumacher managed to double and then triple it and cram it all into the godawful Batman & Robin. The plot was horrid, the actors all gave the worst perfomances of their lives, and Gotham became the new Las Vegas. Utter trash. Thankfully, without the odd star power of a Jim Carey, B&R died (well, it made over $100 million, but it was far less than any of the others in the franchise).

Now that I’m done with that walk down memory lane, let’s get to the movie at hand…

Forget all four of the previous films, Batman Begins is THE Batman movie. Much like I pretend that there is only one Highlander film, and thanks to Episode III I now pretend there are only 3 Star Wars films and it ends with Return of the Jedi, I will now happily pretend that this is the first Batman movie ever made.

Christian Bale is Batman. Christian Bale is Bruce Wayne. He’s able to pull off the brooding superhero, the tortured man, and the facade of the billionaire playboy like no one else. Add to that surrounding him a fantastic cast including Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, and more. Then add a fantastic script that isn’t full of camp and punchlines (though not without its laughs). And finally put Christopher Nolan (Insomnia, Memento) behind the wheel. What you get is a film about the construction of a hero, a crusader, a legend.

If you go to the film looking for the ‘Biff’ and ‘Wham’ of the old TV show, or the tongue in cheekiness of Batman Forever or Batman & Robin, you are going to be horrible disappointed. You’ll probably think this is the worst movie ever made.

But if you go for Batman… if you like The Dark Knight Returns, or Batman: Year One, or the current run of the comic books. If you view the ‘camp’ of Batman as a blip wrong detour of a much better and larger tale, then this movie is for you.

I can only hope that Batman Begins really is a new beginning, and that at least another movie or two with this collection of folks manages to find its way to the big screen.

A Number of Reviews

Lets start with the beginning… Spider-man 2.

Oh my.

And I mean that, really. Its very rare… in fact, I’m not 100% I’ve ever encountered it… this sequel was better than the original. And when you consider how good the original was… damn. It was just simply awesome. I was amazed at the first film with how well they took Spidey from the comics to the screen, and with this film I’m just floored with how well they continued it. When Batman came out, one of the actors (I forget which) from the TV series said, "I would have gone to see Batman 2, and 3, and 4, and so on… but Batman Returns?" That’s how I felt about the Batman series, and when X2 came out, I had the same reservation. But X2 was as good as X-Men, so when hearing about Spidey 2, I thought "X-Men pulled it off… but…" I should never doubt Sam Raimi though. All my reservations vanished as the movie unfolded… I was literally on the edge of my seat at some points.

Rock on Sam Raimi… I’m in, Spider-man 3, and 4, and 5… I’m in.

Now, some quick NetFlix reviews…

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Not bad. It wasn’t like super totally mega awesome, and Jodi didn’t like the ending, but I’m satisfied. It ended how it had to end. Quality.

The School of Rock. Jack Black is god… a god of what, I’m not sure, but he’s got to be one. And the movie was good, but after seeing it, I don’t want to see it again. It wasn’t side-splittingly funny enough for me to want to own it. A thumbs up, but only one time.

Seabiscuit. I had no desire to see this movie in the theater. Horse racing? Bah! But there was buzz about it, Oscar nominations and stuff, so I was intrigued. Well, I finally saw it, and it was good. A very solid movie… a testament to the will of the person who will never give up, never quit. Two thumbs up.

Pieces of April. A good, oddly funny film about a disfunctional family at Thanksgiving. I enjoyed it. Oliver Platt is the man.

The Core. HA HA HA HA HA HA! Oh wait, its supposed to be an action thriller? … HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!! Man, oh man.. I couldn’t stop laughing at this movie. It was ridiculous, but fun.

Honey. For a movie about a dancer who gets into the music biz while trying not to leave her roots behind and open a dance program "for the kids", it wasn’t too bad. It helps that Jessica Alba is hot.

The Missing. This was good. I remember the previews. It came out at a time when there were a few horror movies out, and the preview, in its attempt not to give anything away, made it sound like a monster or ghost movie. But its not. I liked it. Ron Howard doesn’t disappoint.

And that’s all I can remember for now…

1 July 1998

There are 2 things I want to talk about here in my .plan, but one will have to wait until tomorrow (or the next update).
As happens often, my judgement of “good” movies has been called into question. Mostly this time it was triggered by an offhand comment about my selecting Outland as a movie to go rent, and how I was full of it. So I decided that maybe I should fill people in on how it is that I judge movies.
First, never have any expectations. That’s my #1 rule because I find that if I believe the hype of a movie I am ALWAYS let down. The only times the hype ever helped a movie in my opinion were Batman and Independence Day. If you remember the commercials and previews for those movies, they gave absolutely nothing away. Hell, the Batman promos were just the Bat Symbol and the date it was coming out. Only later did they actually show you what Batman or the Joker looked like. The way they handled it, you were salivating whenever you saw a commercial because they new you already wanted to see it (I mean, who didn’t want to see Batman) all they had to do what make you NEED to see it. ID4 did the same thing by never showing the aliens, by only showing fast moving and fleeting shots of the alien crafts. Both movies promos made you feel like you needed to see the movie and kept enough from you that they delivered. Sure you can drive trucks through the plot holes in ID4 but who cares, you were on the edge of your seat anyway eyes plastered wide open. Jurassic Park is one I waffle on in this category because they showed a little more in the previews and commercials, but the fact that most theaters sold 7-day advance tickets for it shows that the campaign worked. A bad example of this, although I liked the movie, Deep Impact. About 80% of the movie was revealed in the trailer, so there wasn’t much to surprise me, I saw it all coming, but this is part of it. I prefer it if I don’t KNOW what the movie is going to tell me before I see it, but even if I know every step they will take I can still enjoy the movie. So to recap this, never have any expectations, or just have them low enough that the movie will exceed (i.e. – if you went to Godzilla looking for a monster to tear up New York, you were happy… if you were looking for an emotional struggle of the people who’s lives were affected by the destruction of the city, you were insanely stupid and hated the movie). I guess the true guide is, go in with basics, not specifics.
Second, don’t think. This one is where people get stuck. Most people have no problem with setting aside expectations of a film, it’s not hard. But to ask them not to think is hard. Now I need to explain myself. A movie is entertainment. Sure, it can contain a deep meaning and be socially important, but there IS a difference between a documentary and a movie. A movies is not just presented facts, it’s a story. I like to think of it as a ride. Let me give you a human example of what I mean. One of my friends, Joel, is a movie-thinker. It’s all he does. He wants to be challenged by a movie. We went and saw The Usual Suspects and The Game. He loved both of them for one reason, they beat him. He couldn’t out-think those movies. They took turns he didn’t expect and they gave him an ending he didn’t see coming and he applauded the movies for doing that. Now, I’ll admit, I’m being hard on him. For romance movies or for “classics” he suspends the “challenge me” attitude. And once a movie beats him once, he always respects it, so seeing The Game again wouldn’t make him hate it since he knows what’s going to happen now, he’ll remember that at one time it did win. My attitude is that the story unfolds as they tell it. I watch, I pay attention. I take notes of things, “He just put the knife in his own pocket and not the desk drawer”. But I don’t try to stay a step ahead, mostly because (to toot my own horn) I’m a smart guy, and I’d win too often if I tried to out-think a movie. The only thing that can ruin a movie for me storywise is if they say “Ah, remember! I put the knife in my pocket!” but they never showed it, either because it was edited or because it was left out on purpose (because otherwise you would have figured it out). Other than that though, I sit back at let the movie pull me along at its pace. That’s what I mean by “don’t think”. Don’t try to win. Let the movie tell you its story.
Third, it’s all you. By this I mean that there are some movies you are just not going to like. If you hate horror movies then don’t go see H2O when it comes out (Halloween: 20 years later, for those not in the know). If you hate disaster films, don’t see Armageddon. Remember what you like and don’t like, and choose accordingly. And if friends are going to see a movie of a type you don’t normally like, tell them, or get them to pay (there is nothing better than being able to say “Well, that movie sucked. At least I didn’t pay for it.”), or just bear it for one of 2 reasons. 1, tastes change, you may like something you previously didn’t. And 2, related to the hype thing, some movies get billed wrong (i.e. – If you saw Event Horizon what you saw was a haunted house movie in space, but all the commercials were pushing it as a SCI-FI suspense thriller, email me if you still don’t get the distinction and I’ll explain, I guess a better choice would have been to fine one of those “screwball comedies” that make you cry when you see them cause there are only like 2 jokes in the whole movie). So to sum up this one, keep in mind who you are.
Fourth and finally, opinions and assholes. Like the old saying goes, everybody has one. Remember that. You hate a movie, fine, that’s cool, say it, say it all you want. But don’t try to tell me, or anyone else, the I didn’t like it either. I say I like it, that means I like it. If you care and ask I’ll be more than happy to tell you why I liked it (I watch a movie called The Stoned Age once every couple of weeks cause, damn, that movie is just funny as shit). And I’ll be sure to ask you why you hated it. But never, ever presume that you can change my mind by repeatedly saying “That movie blew! It sucked ass!” or even “That was the best movie ever!”, the only way you can move me is to show me why I should move and allow me to move on my own, pushing just makes me push back (and most people are the same way).
That’s it… the “Jason Pace Patented Movie Viewing Policies”… Don’t expect more than the basics, don’t try to out-think the movie, remember who you are, and that your view is your “opinion”. And keep in mind throughout all of this, it’s just a movie. If you rent a movie I recommend and hate it, email me and tell me why you didn’t like it, but don’t expect a refund.
I guess I should also throw in as an after note, that some movies are viewed with a purpose, to see one scene or for a particular special effect or for an overall mood and not a specific story, and that should also be kept in mind in reading my recommendations.
Another long one… told you it would happen again… and I’ve got another that it in the wings…
Today’s Song: anything by Seven Mary Three. That’s not a song, take it literally. I’ve got both American Standard and Rock Crown in the player today and I stop every 2 hours to hear the local radio station play the new one (if you know when the release date is, email me). They rock… they roll… they are damn good… every albums gets better. I should also say, I guess, that I feel the same way about Better Than Ezra as I’ve got Deluxe and Friction, Baby in the player as well. I think SMT is coming to town soon, gotta check the TicketMaster page (all venues in Atlanta are TM venues).
Today’s Movie: Dogfight. I forgot how good this movie is. I watched Nick of Time again because I was feeling like it, and then decided to take on something a little more dramatic, so I popped in Dogfight. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the lowdown. River Phoenix plays a marine who is about to ship out to Japan right near the beginning of Vietnam (the real fighting hasn’t started yet, it’s still just “military assistance”). He and his buddies have what is called a Dogfight. It’s a party where everyone throws $50 into the pot, the dance hall, food and drinks are paid for out of that and the winner gets the rest ($100). What’s the contest, bring the ugliest date. River was always good in his roles, even the cheesy ones like in The Explorers, and Lili Taylor does a great job as the woman he gets involved with. Damn good movie. Go see it.