Batman Begins (2005)


You Must Become More than Just a Man in the Mind of Your Opponent.

Let’s go back in time to roughly 2004.  At this point, Batman had fallen on hard times, somewhat devastated by the shit sandwich known as Batman and Robin.  So devastating was this movie that it was almost a decade before they put out another one.  But this guy, he wanted to reboot the whole series.  What kind of bullshit is that?  We’ve all seen Batman’s origin story!  And you want to throw down your movie against the Tim Burton Batman’s origin story?  This has bad written all over it.  But, they wanted to take the movie in a darker direction, and it seemed as if they got mostly good people to be in it, so maybe I was judging too harshly.  I would still give it a chance.  Also, the word “Batman” was in the title, so there was a very good chance I would be seeing it anyway.  How could this movie possibly do?  We’ll find out as I review Batman Begins, written by David S. Goyer, co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan, and starring Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Mark Boone Jr., Ken Watanabe, Linus Roache, Sara Stewart, Richard Brake, and Gus Lewis.

A young Bruce Wayne (Gus Lewis) must leave a play because of his fear of bats.  His father Thomas (Linus Roache) and mother Martha (Sara Stewart) escort him into the alley behind the theater where they are murdered in a mugging gone wrong by a desperate criminal, Joe Chill (Richard Brake).  Later, when Chill is granted parole if he testifies against crime boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), Bruce (now Christian Bale) sets his mind on killing him, but is beaten to the punch by one of Falcone’s men.  Seeing how corrupt Gotham City has become, Bruce disappears into the world to study the criminal element and train physically and mentally in martial arts.  He gets himself arrested and, while imprisoned, he meets a man named Ducard (Liam Neeson), who offers Bruce the opportunity to train with and join the League of Shadows, a group of ninjas led by Ra’s al Ghul with a mind to bring justice to the world but, after training with them, he realizes that their plot is to dispel the evil from Gotham by destroying it and allowing it to rebuild.  Bruce says, “Good day,” picks up his hat and spikey gloves, and burns the place to the ground, killing Ra’s and saving the life of Ducard.  Bruce is picked up by his butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) and returns to Gotham to use his new skills and a pointy cowl to bring justice to Gotham in his own way.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but is Ra’s al Ghul immortal?  Are his methods supernatural?  Eh, it’ll probably never come up…

I tried, probably in vain, to act like I wouldn’t like this movie.  I can’t imagine anyone didn’t see right through that.  Of course this movie is awesome.  With each new reboot of the Batman it gets darker and better.  The old Adam West Batman was goofy and fun, then Tim Burton put out a much darker and more serious Batman with Michael Keaton that got goofier and more terrible over time as George Clooney took over the role.  What Christopher Nolan gives us is the darkest and most realistic look at the Caped Crusader we’ve ever seen, and probably the best Batman movie that had ever been released up to that point, renewing the faith of the fans that had been trampled down over the years.  I can’t recall if I went into this movie thinking that it couldn’t possibly be better than the Tim Burton Batman, but I would say it succeeded.  And, just as great, they went with some fantastic villains that we hadn’t seen in the movies prior: Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul.  I loved the realism in the movie as well.  Everything they changed they changed for the better, and all of it seemed like it could really happen.  The armor, the memory cloth cape, all of the setup stuff.  I don’t know that any of that stuff really exists, but it feels like it does.  The Tumbler seemed much more realistic, but I must admit that I miss the Batmobile from the first movie.  It’s an acceptable substitute.  Even the villains were more realistic.  Ra’s al Ghul stayed immortal with the use of the Lazarus Pit in the comic books; here he uses deception to spread the legend of Ra’s al Ghul as immortal.  Scarecrow was never all that unrealistic.  It’s probably not that hard to find an inhalant that will make you trip balls.  The only real issue I took with the story of the movie is that the fat cop was made out to be a dick for telling the guy he took food from that he should feed his kids falafel.  That’s just good logic right there.

No one should’ve been surprised that the greater majority of the people were able to bring it.  They got some fantastic actors to participate in this thing.  Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman; so many great actors that deliver in every way.  And Katie Holmes is in the movie too.  That’s perhaps harsh.  She actually did a fine enough job.  Not spectacular, but certainly not bad.  Christian Bale is probably the best performance in this movie as far as I’m concerned.  He really gives three performances.  The Bruce Wayne he puts on is mostly for show; what he’s been told a billionaire playboy would act like.  Then there’s the real guy, who is much more serious, but still finds the time to toss quips back and forth with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman – both of which bring a great deal of snarky comedy with their lines.  Then, of course, the Batman, who is always serious and speaks in a super gravelly voice that does grate on the nerves, but I didn’t take that much issue with it.  I think I more took issue with how breathless it always made him seem.  It was as if … he couldn’t do … more than three … words at a … time … like that …

Batman Begins is awesome.  One could argue that it starts out a little slowly as we have to sit through the origin story that the bulk of us were already familiar with, but once it gets moving, it gets moving.  This is the exact type of Batman movie the world wanted.  Or, in the very least, it’s the one I wanted.  The action is fantastic, the darkness and the realism are amazing, and the performances are top of the line.  I love you, Batman.  And you, Christopher Nolan.  Something tells me I might be saying that once or twice more in the next couple of days.  Come back to find out.  For now, Batman Begins gets “You’re not the devil.  You’re practice” out of “Death does not wait for you to be ready!”

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Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)


Where’s Hell Boy When You Need Him?

I was inspired to watch today’s movie by … uh … it being on Netflix.  That’s all it takes sometimes.  I’ve done quite a few review requests lately and felt like I needed to do a little something for me.  That doesn’t really explain why I decided to watch this movie though.  I didn’t have any super strong need to see this movie, but it did pique my interest.  I don’t know if it was the director that was attached … because it wasn’t directed by who I thought it was.  He just presented it.  Though I’ve not always been a fan of this guy’s movies, I am usually intrigued by his artistic direction.  So I said, “What the hell?  I’ll give it a go.”  Then I sat down and watched Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, written by Matthew Robbins and Guillermo del Toro, directed by Troy Nixey, and starring Bailee Madison, Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Garry McDonald, Jack Thompson, Julia Blake, Nicholas Bell, Edwina Ritchard, and Alan Dale.

A long time ago in Providence County, Rhode Island, Emerson Blackwood (Garry McDonald) has lost his mind.  You can assume this much based on the fact that he kills his housekeeper (Edwina Ritchard) with a hammer and chisel in order to offer her teeth to the tiny creatures that live in his stove.  But it turns out he might not be that crazy.  The tiny creatures have taken his son into the bottom of the fireplace and take Blackwood for trying to offer them adult teeth.  In what is supposed to be the present day, people are using Polaroid cameras for some reason.  They’re using them to take pictures of a young girl named Sally Hirst (Bailee Madison) who has been sent by her mother to live with her father Alex (Guy Pearce).  The pictures are being taken by his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes).  Sally gets right on top of being a little mopey bitch and shunning Kim’s attempts to get close to her.  In the house, the tiny creatures awaken in the ash pit.  Sally stumbles across a window that looks into the basement, causing Alex to find the basement door, hidden by a false wall, much to the chagrin of one of the workmen, Mr. Harris (Jack Thompson).  Sally gets really interested in the ash pit, to the point of removing the bolts that held the fireplace door shut.  Then shit starts going down.

I found this movie to be completely underwhelming.  It’s an interesting enough premise for a horror movie, but they never land on the scares.  I feel like it suffers from the same problem that most horror movies suffer from: that CG allows them to show their creatures.  I know nothing of the original movie this movie was based on, but I know that the little creatures that pestered the people of the house were mildly creepy at first, but you saw them so many times throughout the movie that they completely lost their ability to scare and just wound up being a slight step up in freakiness than some really annoying rats.  And without scares, it must rely on its story to be interesting, but it can’t really live up to it.  It’s basically just a movie about ruining the idea of tooth fairies for any kids unfortunate enough to stumble across this movie, that hadn’t already had the idea of the tooth fairy ruined by The Rock or Larry the Cable Guy.  Then there’s a pretty typical little kid being tormented by something supernatural, but no one believes her, as well as some stuff about the stepmother-type figure trying to win over the daughter that blames her for her parents’ problems.  Nothing’s completely shocking and it mostly turns out exactly like you expect.  But there were also a lot of things that bothered me.  At one point, Alex says that Kim would be a terrible poker player because she’s “been ironing that shirt for hours.”  Yeah, that’s a big tell, when you start ironing a shirt at a poker table.  I understand that you were TRYING to say that she was doing a poor job masking her concern, but your statement did little to convey that.  One of the bigger issues I took could be forgiven, but follows with something I can’t.  I can get behind Alex and Kim being too stupid and curious to think there was probably a reason that the basement door was not only locked, but they put a wall up in front of it.  Without that curiosity, there would be no movie.  What I cannot condone is the douchebag groundskeeper, Mr. Harris, being so clearly aware of why it was sealed up and refusing to say anything.  They probably wouldn’t have believed your tales of fairies that eat teeth living in the stove, but you could’ve tried.  At least you were the first one punished for your silence.  Then you have the next annoyingly stupid curiosity on the part of the little kid.  When I was a kid of her age, there is no way I would open up a stove that was conspicuously tightly sealed because I heard creepy voices inside calling my name.  I think I’d have the opposite reaction and would try to pour cement in there.  The kid can’t be blamed completely, as she was only really able to loosen the bolts and the creatures were able to unscrew them from behind … somehow.  I would really like to try to see how easy it is to unscrew bolts from the inside, because I get the feeling it’s nearly impossible after a certain point when you can’t grip them anymore.  And, if the fairies had this ability, why did they not do it earlier?  But the kid is also pretty stupid.  When she’s given the teddy bear that says, “I love you,” she disregards it as stupid.  Later, when the fairies are manipulating it and it’s still just saying, “I love you,” she asks it if it can talk.  It could talk before, you daft git!  The ending of the movie was also a bummer.  At first, it was kind of sad what happened.  Then, it was just stupid.  I guess the nicest thing I could say about this movie is that it’s only an hour and nine minutes.

The look of the movie was fine enough, but I found myself being a bit disappointed.  It’s mainly due to Guillermo del Toro’s involvement.  I thought he was the director of the movie, so I expected, if nothing else, it would be a visually striking movie.  I wouldn’t say I like his movies, but I like how they look.  When this movie had none of that to it, I was bummed out.  It’s a pretty basic looking movie.  It’s thankfully not as dark as you might expect a movie about creatures that are injured by light to be.  Well, technically, they acted more irritated by light.  It’s not the kind of movie that’s overly graphic; I can only think of two occasions in the movie that are actually brutal.  One was when Mr. Harris is attacked by the creatures with various tools, such as a utility knife and a screwdriver.  The second was less bloody, but bothered me more.  It was when someone’s leg gets pulled back really hard and snaps backwards.  As someone who’s broken their leg before, it made me uncomfortable.  There was also a point in the beginning when you could hear the scraping of the chisel Lord Blackwood had on the housekeeper’s teeth that made my skin crawl.  Beyond that, you just see the creatures too much and they lose their effect.  And their constant whispering irritated me fairly quickly.  Imagine an entire movie about Harry Potter speaking in Parseltongue.  Losing the effect of the creatures left them to try to go for cheap scares, like the drawn out scene of the girl looking under the sheets, but I’ve seen that kind of scene before and we all knew what was going to happen.  I think there was a ghost movie that did the whole sheet thing and had some ghost feet in there.  Wasn’t scary then either.

I can’t think of any performance in this movie that really worked for me.  A great deal of that responsibility is due to Bailee Madison.  She wasn’t a particularly bad actress, but her character was such a little bitch for the first half of the movie.  It’s probably not a popular belief system, but I am all for kicking a little girl in the throat for being a little snot like that.  Too far?  I’ll reel it back.  She did get on my nerves terribly bad.   I got the feeling that, if Katie Holmes had gotten to name her, she would’ve been named Surly Cruise.  Yeah!  I stayed up all night writing that joke!  Katie Holmes’ character didn’t bother me that much.  She seemed a little dumb at first, but was thankfully the first one to start believing the kid.  I always find myself getting annoyed with the parents when they act like everything the kid’s saying is horseshit even with all the signs to the contrary.  Speaking of which, Guy Pearce!  That was my description of his character in the movie.  The actual parent was just waiting to yell, “You’re full of shit,” every time the little girl started talking.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark made no impact whatsoever on my fear of the dark.  First of all, I don’t like being told what to do.  And second, it wasn’t very scary.  There was no suspense, no chills, and the creatures may be unsettling on the first viewing, but lose their steam pretty quickly as you see them about as much as you see any other character in the movie.  The premise is interesting, the delivery is not, and I found the majority of the performances irritating.  Not the worst movie, and at least it’s pretty short, but there’s no good reason to watch it.  Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark gets “Turn off the lights” out of “Don’t tell me you believe this.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Jack and Jill (2011)


This is the Guy Who’s Gonna do a Dunkin’ Donuts Commercial.

Today’s movie was not a request.  Instead, it sprang forth as a sign of my own self-loathing.  I’m pretty sure that everybody that saw the trailer for this movie knew better than to see it, but I saw it and said “I wanna make fun of that.”  That was, of course, once I had figured out that the trailer wasn’t a joke, like some Funny or Die mock trailer.  When I found out it was a real movie, it was on.  But there was no way in Hell that I was going to the theaters to see it.  Instead, I waited patiently for the moment it popped up in a RedBox near me and called to me.  And now the time has come to talk about Jack and Jill, written by Steve Koren, Robert Smigel, and Adam Sandler, directed by Dennis Dugan, and starring Adam Sandler, Katie Holmes, Al Pacino, Rohan Chand, Elodie Tougne, Eugenio Derbez, Tim Meadows, Nick Swardson, Allen Covert, Valerie Maheffey, Gad Elmaleh, and Gary Valentine, with cameos by Dana Carvey, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Norm MacDonald, Regis Philbin, Shaquille O’Neal, Lamar Odom, Bruce Jenner, Johnny Depp, Drew Carey, Jared Fogle (The Subway Jared), and John McEnroe.

Jack Sadelstein (Adam Sandler) works in advertising and lives with his wife, Erin (Katie Holmes), and his two children, Gary (Rohan Chand) and Sofia (Elodie Tougne).  His twin sister, Jill (don’t make me say it) comes to visit his family for Thanksgiving.  She’s annoying as shit, causing Jack to snap at her occasionally, which causes her to extend her vacation so that she doesn’t leave on a bad note.  Jack is also stressed because his work wants him to get Al Pacino (himself) to do a commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts and their new drink, the Dunkachino.  Luckily for Jack, Al Pacino develops a crush on Jill when they first meet.  But Jill, even though she’s incredibly lonely, is having none of Scarface and his tomfoolery.  That’s when shit gets really crazy.

The truth about this movie is a rather surprising one: It’s not as painfully bad as I expected from the commercials and trailers.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s also not good and not very funny, but it wasn’t PAINFULLY so.  It was just another mediocre Adam Sandler comedy (as he’s prone to making these days) with a shitty premise and a good meaning to it.  The premise of the movie seems like Adam Sandler just found out about the phenomenon of twins, ran into the office of his writing partners, and exclaimed “Did you guys know that two people of different genders can look exactly alike?  I have such the movie for you guys!”  And then it was off and running.  Putting Adam in a dress, having him do a voice we’ve heard him do before for her, and having him play opposite himself like Mike Myers.  And then they needed a conflict.  How about one as original as “siblings don’t get along”?  BRILLIANT!  The whole Al Pacino subplot is original, but many people thought it was insane for Al Pacino to fall in love with a female version of Adam Sandler.  That part I can actually get behind.  Pacino seems that crazy.  Then you tie the whole thing up with some “love your siblings for who they are” mess and you have a movie.  All of this would have been forgivable if they made the movie funny, but they didn’t.  The only part that made me laugh was in one of their cameos.  It’s at the basketball game where Jack is trying to talk to Pacino and Jill doesn’t really know who he, nor the person he’s watching the game with, are.  The only funny part of the movie is when Jill asks the friend (are you listening, Loni?) Johnny Depp if he was in Duran Duran, and Johnny says “Yeah, that was me.”  I’ve just saved you two hours!  Except for Loni, that is, who will now watch this movie just because Johnny Depp is in it for two minutes and has words coming out of his mouth.  The whole movie winds up being thoroughly “blah”, with a few moments that are cute, but just as many moments that are painfully not funny.  Jack’s son, Gary, has some strange habit of taping things to himself that is stupid and completely insane, but they managed to get a little bit of almost funny out if it, like when he tapes a salt shaker to his head and Jill uses the shaker while it’s still on his head.  Near the end of the movie, there’s a part where Jack and Jill show off their fantastic jump roping abilities together that is just painfully not funny.  There’s also an entire scene at the picnic of Jack’s gardener that was so blatantly stereotypical that even I came close to finding it really offensive, and I’m not even Mexican (thank God).

The performances did what they could with what was written, but never really impressed either.  Adam Sandler is probably the most to blame for this movie, having written it and for playing two roles in it.  As Jack, he was mainly just normal, but never really realistic.  As Jill, he was annoying and about as far from realistic as you could get.  The problem for me of making the sister so utterly annoying is that you don’t really sympathize with her when Jack is rude to her.  I would be too!  Al Pacino played himself like I want to imagine him: completely insane.  He had a couple of entertaining parts, like when Jill accidentally broke his Oscar and said, “Oh, I’m sure you have others,” and he said, “You’d think so, but no.”  Maybe it’s because you’re doing movies like Jack and Jill now, and not Godfathers and Scarfaces.  I also found him entertaining at the very end of the movie when he was in a bar dressed as Don Quixote.  I like Tim Meadows, Nick Swardson, Dana Carvey, Norm MacDonald, and David Spade, but none of them really brought any comedy to this beyond David Spade being in drag just like Sandler.  As with most Sandler movies, there are a huge number of cameos in this movie, but none (beyond Johnny Depp) ever did anything for me, it was just interesting that they were there in the first place.

Jack and Jill isn’t as bad as you expect it to be.  It’s just regular bad.  It’s a pretty bad premise to base a movie on, it’s not that great of a story, and the only part I found really funny was delivered by a cameo actor.  I can’t surprise any of you by saying that I recommend you watch this movie, even for a dollar.  You can’t really mock a comedy MST3k style because comedies are already trying to be funny and any joke you’d make would just be “That was dumb.”  That being the case, there’s no reason to see this.  Jack and Jill gets “Busted, disgusted, never to be trusted!” out of “We play games, we eat, we steal white people’s money.”

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