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We’re in For a Show, Kid.
Today’s review is brought to you by Smodcast. Well, Kevin Smith and Smodcast are in no way paying me to write this review, but it probably wouldn’t have come to pass if it weren’t for Kevin Smith. I listen to numerous Kevin Smith podcasts, and I think I’ve heard him rave about today’s movies on a few different podcasts he’s taken part in. The movies are based on some comic books that meant a lot to Smith, but I had never read. I had attempted to read them, but I found them a little verbose and not as visually interesting as the comic books that I tend to go for. Then these movies came out, and Smith loved them. If I remember correctly, he stated that he is brought to tears by the retelling. After hearing him talk these movies up numerous times, I finally decided that they begged a rental. And that brings me to review Part One and Part Two of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, based on the comic books by Frank Miller, screenplay by Bob Goodman, directed by Jay Oliva, and starring the voices of Peter Weller, Michael Emerson, David Selby, Ariel Winter, Mark Valley, Wade Williams, Maria Canals Barrera, Robin Atkin Downes, Paget Brewster, Michael McKean, Gary Anthony Williams, Tress MacNeille, Grey DeLisle, Bruce Timm, Conan O’Brien, and Frank Welker.
Part One. The government has banned superheroes. Billionaire Bruce Wayne (Peter Weller) retires from crime fighting as the Batman. But, without the Batman, Police Commissioner James Gordon (David Selby) is left to fight a losing battle against the gangs of Gotham City. Harvey Dent (Wade Williams), having undergone surgery to repair his face, relapses and returns to crime. Bruce also relapses, succumbing to the gangs, Harvey’s reappearance, and the memory of his parents’ death, and returns to the cowl after saving the life of 13-year-old Carrie Kelley (Ariel Winter), who he starts training as his new Robin. But Batman’s return may have other consequences…
Part Two. Batman’s return brings the return of the Joker (Michael Emerson), who remained in a catatonic state in an asylum in Batman’s absence, his life having no purpose. Joker intends to make his big debut on a talk show interview, and Batman determines to stop him, even though he must get through Commissioner Gordon’s successor, Ellen Yindel (Maria Canals Barrera), to do so. But making such a public showing of the Batman’s return comes with another danger: the government may send Superman (Mark Valley), who works as a government operative now, to deal with the vigilante detective.
I was really happy with this movie. I knew that the comic books were well-written and entertaining, but I’m too easily bored by reading to make it through. Turning these into a movie was the perfect way to enjoy the story without any of that annoying reading stuff. And the story is definitely one that’s worth getting into your brain, either by reading or by watching. I start into the movie a little closed off because I don’t like seeing Batman retire, but I also understand the world that Miller creates that leads to Batman retiring. And then I like it even more when Batman comes back because of Two-Face. But if Two-Face no longer has two faces, doesn’t he have to change his name to Harvey Face or Scary Face? Plus, don’t they already have a villain that walks around with his face wrapped up like a mummy? Hush or something? I also thought it was cool that the movie shows us what it’s like to be an aging Batman, in the shadows planning his move against a group of criminals, and then you get to see a little bit of what it’s like to be one of the criminals, getting beaten down by the Batman, but not knowing where it’s coming from. But really, I feel like I was more excited to get to part two of the story. Part one does a lot of hinting at bigger things on the horizon. I was waiting to see what would happen with Superman, and I was waiting to see what would happen with the Joker. The relationship between the Joker and Batman has always been a fascinating one. I really liked Kevin’s Smith’s take on it in the comic book series Batman: Cacophony, and that one seems to take some ideas from Dark Knight Returns in things like the fact that the Joker is catatonic in a world without Batman and only comes back when Batman does, and Joker says something to that effect in Smith’s book. But the talk in Smith’s book was only a preamble to what happens further along in the timeline in this story, and it is an epic conclusion to their relationship to be sure. I also knew that part two would include a showdown between Batman and Superman, which I was very excited for. Mainly because I hate Superman. Such a goodie two-shoes son of a bitch. And not even a bright one! Why would he shove a train to a halt to save one blind man on the tracks when he could’ve just … I don’t know … picked him up and carried him off of the tracks instead of demolishing a train by shoving it to a stop? Fuckin’ douche…
I really don’t have a lot to say about the look of the movies. I wouldn’t say that I “liked” it, per se, but I do respect that they captured the look of the comics very well. I just wasn’t that big of a fan of the look of the comics. It works very well either way, but it’s not really my bag. I also like how the fights are realized in the movie. They’re very effective. It’s kind of like watching a UFC fight … in mud … between Batman and a mutant guy with spikey nipples … Also, I was a fan of that Bruno chick, or as I called her “Swastika Titties.” Swa-stick-ons? Swa-tit-kas? I don’t know, you work it out.
I found myself very conflicted by the voices in the movie. I liked them all, but I kept feeling myself missing the people that I had become more familiar with. Batman’s voice for me has pretty much always been Kevin Conroy from Batman: The Animated Series, which may have been one of the first times I heard him speak. Either that or Pete Holmes imitating Christian Bale. Those are my Batman voices. The same could be said for the Joker. No one does Joker like Mark Hamill. Peter Weller and Michael Emerson do good jobs, but my brain is so resistant to change that I will probably always shy away from any deviation.
If you’re anything like me, you should definitely go out and buy Parts One and Two of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. It allows you to experience Frank Miller’s fantastic story of the aging Batman and his return to crime-fighting without all that tedious reading. They capture the comic book entirely, as best I can tell from my limited skimming of the graphic novels many years ago. Definitely worth buying for any comic book fans, Batman fans, and people who lack the attention span to read things. Of course, if that’s you, I doubt you made it to the end of this review. I wouldn’t have read it all, that’s for sure. Part Two is way better in my opinion because it has the fights with the Joker and Superman, but you kind of need Part One to set it all up. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns gets “It took years and cost a fortune. Luckily, I had both” out of “This isn’t a mud hole. It’s an operating table. And I’m the surgeon.”
WATCH REVIEWS HERE! YouTube OTHER JOKES HERE! Twitter BE A FAN HERE! Facebook If you like these reviews so much, spread the word. Keep me motivated! Also, if you like them so much, why don’t you marry them?!
The Fuck-est Up-est
I purchased today’s review on DVD based entirely on the people involved with it, even though I knew very little about it beyond that. I don’t have much experience with British television shows. I don’t have a problem with them, I just haven’t seen very many of them. But I decided to purchase the entire series (2 seasons, as we call it over in America) on DVD because I had heard it was enjoyable, and was the genesis of a couple of movies that I loved. When I got the DVD’s, it took me quite some time to get around to watching them. But when I saw they were on Netflix streaming, that sealed the deal. So let’s hear my verdict on the TV show Spaced, created and written by Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson), directed by Edgar Wright, and starring Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Julia Deakin, Mark Heap, Nick Frost, Katy Carmichael, Ada the Dog, Anna Wilson-Jones, James Lance, Peter Serafinowicz, Michael Smiley, Bill Bailey, Clive Russell, Lucy Akhurst, Reece Shearsmith, with notable cameos by Olivia Williams and Ricky Gervais.
The basic premise of the show is that two people, aspiring writer Daisy Steiner (Jessica Stevenson) and aspiring comic book artist Tim Bisley (Simon Pegg), have recently become homeless. They become friends looking through the newspaper for somewhere to live until they eventually find a house that seems perfect, but is only accepting couples. They develop a plan to pose as a couple in order to get the flat. They meet with the landlady, Marsha Klein (Julia Deakin), and move in soon after. They also meet the person living below them, brooding artist Brian Topp (Mark Heap). When they finally get unpacked, Daisy decides to throw a party, but few people come. Just Marsha, Brian, Daisy’s friend and fashionista Twist Morgan (Katy Carmichael), and Tim’s friend with aspirations of being in the Territorial Army Mike Watt (Nick Frost). Also the paperboy. Later, Daisy fails an interview with a women’s magazine by saying “Girl Power” and Brian gets nervous about going to to meet his former partner Vulva (David Williams). Vulva acts like a dick to Brain, but Tim gets crazed on a combination of Resident Evil 2, Twiglets, and free boose, punches Vulva, and “rescues” everyone. Daisy gets dumped by her boyfriend and cheers herself up by getting a dog named Colin (Ada the Dog), but Tim is horribly afraid of dogs. Tim and Mike go paintballing, only to run into Duane Benzie (Peter Serafinowicz), the man that stole Tim’s girlfriend. He gets his revenge by shooting Duane in the balls. Later, Tim is forced to walk Colin and he’s abducted. Daisy believes he did it on purpose, but he redeems himself by getting the group together for a rescue. In later episodes, the group goes clubbing with Tim’s friend Tyres (Michael Smiley), then some trouble is stirred up when Tim’s ex wants him back, Daisy fears for him, Brian asks Twist out, Mike rejoins the Territorial Army, and Daisy finally starts writing again.
Daisy uses the money she made from selling a couple of articles to go on a trip through Asia. When she returns, Tim is still struggling to get over the pain caused by the release of The Phantom Menace. Mike has been staying in Daisy’s room in her absence. Later, Tim is fired from his job at the comics store for yelling at a kid that wants to buy Jar Jar merchandise. He joins Daisy at the unemployment office to get some money. Brian finds out that his relationship with Twist has made him happy and, thus, unable to paint. Marsha’s daughter, Amber, runs away from home, and Mike fills her empty room. Later, Tim and Mike have their chances of winning Robot Wars damaged by saboteurs, but they’re able to get their robot back on it’s wheels. Tim is called by Damien Knox of Darkstar Comics, wanting to see his portfolio, but Daisy mistakenly puts a picture Tim drew of Knox saying that he’s “a massive wanker” in the portfolio. With the help of Tyres, Mike and Tim break into Knox’s office, but the picture was already removed by his secretary, Sophie (Lucy Akhurst), who asks Tim on a date. Later, Tim and Daisy have a night on the town, but run afoul of a group of ruffians, defeating them with a slow motion shootout with imaginary guns. When Daisy’s birthday arrives, Sophie is unwittingly driving wedges into the group’s relationships. Mike is jealous of how much time Tim is spending with someone else, Daisy is a little jealous of Sophie, Marsha thinks Tim is cheating on Daisy because he sees Tim and Sophie together, Brian and Twist break up, and even Colin is upset that Daisy is ignoring him so he goes to spend time with the old lady next door. Over dinner, the truth comes out that Daisy and Tim were lying all along, and Marsha leaves feeling betrayed. To tie it all up, Tim and Daisy must find Marsha and try to convince her to come back before she sells the house and leaves them all homeless.
What a surprise, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright did something that I thought was awesome. Not to leave Jessica Hynes out of it, but this was my introduction to her. I already had love for Simon, Edgar, and Nick Frost. Now I guess I have to like all of the rest of these people as well. This show is really the kind of show for me. It’s funny, charming, and filled to the brim with references to things I love, from movies to video games and all other things popular culture, if you know to look for them. The show isn’t what I would call uproariously funny. It’s just not the type of comedy they were going for. But it was charming all the way through, and certainly had it’s share of good laughs. I was thinking about the idea they put out in the show that men can walk up to each other and start a slow motion shootout, and any man would start to play along. I thought that was ridiculous for a second, but then I realized I would totally play along if it happened to me. If there’s something negative I could say about the show, it would be that I may have missed some things because I’m not British, and that’s just downright racist of them. I thought it was interesting that they had a lot of things they could get away with on English television that we definitely couldn’t over here. They say “fuck” and “asshole” a couple of times, as well “cunt” and “twat”. Hell, at one point Daisy is trying to get inspiration from magazines and one of them is one called “Huge Fat Cocks”. They don’t let us get away with stuff like that in this fuckin’ twat of a cuntry. There’s also a good amount of drug use in the show that wouldn’t fly over here, even though they never really made a big deal out of it on the show. They smoked weed every now and then, and had an entire episode that was basically devoted to clubbing and ecstasy. I feel like some of the jokes in that may have gone over my head since I know next to nothing of clubbing or drugs, but I feel I got the spirit of it. Most of my enjoyment came from recognizing the nerdy things they referenced in the show. They reference all sorts of things, like The Shining, Scooby Doo, Resident Evil, Star Wars, Robocop, the Matrix, and Star Trek. They made a joke about Star Trek in the show that was made much funnier after the fact when Simon Pegg said that “Every odd numbered Star Trek film is shit”, not yet knowing that he would be in Star Trek number 11. I also really liked their Fight Club joke when they were in the Robot Club, ’cause the first rule of Robot Club is you don’t talk about Robot Club. The second rule of Robot Club is you don’t talk about … wait, I’ve got that wrong. The second rule is “No Smoking”.
Edgar Wright also filmed the show in the cinematic style that he would later come to perfect, with fast cuts and interesting wipes from scene to scene. The show’s zombie episode shows signs of Shaun of the Dead being in their minds, and they also use the joke between Pegg and Frost that was used in Shaun, the one where someone says that Frost is on the phone by saying “Your boyfriend’s on the phone” and he responds with “He’s not my boyfriend”, then picks up the phone and says “Hey babe.”
The performances in this show are easily the best part. Everybody in the cast – both main and supporting – were enjoyable and funny. Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes were not only the main characters, but the writers of the show, so their the ones that get the most credit for the show’s clever dialogue. Nick Frost, not surprisingly, was the character I enjoyed the most. He was all crazy gun nut all the time, especially when he was dual-wielding in the paintball match. I tended to think Mark Heap’s character was pretty funny too, usually seemingly like he was barely restraining some form of psychosis. He also introduced the show to Vulva, which lead to a lot of things I though were funny as they kind of lampooned the artsy fartsy stuff I hate by showing the crazy interpretive art of a man dressed like a woman yelling random things on a stage as a guy with a vacuum attached to him jumped around on stage. That’s basically how I view all of that kind of art. Julia Deakin made me laugh too. The big joke about her was that she would drink and smoke semi-constantly, but they got a lot of mileage out of it. Katy Carmichael’s character Twist was mainly a little stupid and a little bitchy, but she was funny when she was around. She also had a moment I found really cute when she was trying to talk Tim into letting her take her makeup bag with them on their covert mission to rescue Colin. My favorite character that wasn’t in the main cast was Michael Smiley as Tyres. He had a super short attention span as a result of his overuse of ecstasy, and he would talk really fast and start raving whenever things around him made noise to a beat. One of the things I found funniest in the series was over the credits where it showed him dancing in front of a crosswalk light that was beeping. I was amused to see Peter Serafinowicz in the show, having already known him from Shaun of the Dead. That guy’s pretty good at playing a douche nozzle. I liked a couple of their cameos as well, mostly Olivia Williams playing the part of a cyclist Tim and Mike had hit with their car, an obvious reference to the Sixth Sense that Olivia Williams was actually in. Ricky Gervais had a small bit part, but it was cool to see him too.
The DVD of the show was an excellent purchase, as I found out after I had fallen in love with the show and started checking out the extras. There’s a lot of good stuff on these DVD’s. Unfortunately for me, my disc two DVD would not work, but each disk had some good outtakes, and I love watching them. If you’re a fan of commentaries (like I am) you can enjoy not only the original commentary track, but ones with other fans of the show like Kevin Smith, Diablo Cody, Matt Stone, Patton Oswalt, Bill Hader, and Quentin Tarantino. On top of that, there’s a Q&A with the cast, and a feature-length documentary about Spaced that ties up a couple of loose ends left by the show not having a third series.
I seem to have gotten a little long-winded about the show, but I couldn’t help it. This was a pretty great show. It’s just the type of show for a nerdy guy like me. Very funny, very charming, and with tons of references to other nerdy things I love. Top that off with some great directing and fantastic performances, and this is a show I can fully recommend. If you’d like to try it out, it’s available on Netflix streaming at the moment. If you like it, buy it. The only thing I regretted about my purchase is that my second disc isn’t functioning. Either way, Spaced gets “It’s a subtle blend of lateral thinking and extreme violence” out of “You’re the best auntie I’ve ever had.”
Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!
Today I consider myself a professional movie reviewer because I received an early viewing of Kevin Smith’s newest and second to last movie, Red State. …Okay, to be honest, I viewed it on iTunes in an early showing type thing for $10. But still! Red State stars Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman, Kyle Gallner, Kerry Bishe, Michael Angarano, Stephen Root, and Kevin Smith’s wife, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith … and it rocks!
Red State starts off as the tale of 3 high schoolers lookin’ for some sexy time. One of the kids, Jared (Kyle Gallner), finds a site on the interwebs where people can meet up to get laid. The woman he meets on this site says she will take on him and his two friends, Travis (Michael Angarano) and Billy Ray (Nicholas Braun), so the 3 head out for some action. On the way there, Travis accidentally sideswipes a car parked on the road and, when they go to investigate, a man pops up and startles them off. Shortly thereafter, so does the man in his lap (GAY ROADSIDE NOOKIE!). The 3 continue on and arrive at a trailer in the middle of nowhere where they are greeted by the woman, Sarah (Melissa Leo). She accommodates them in her trailer with beers and the boys soon find out they’ve been drugged. Meanwhile, at the police station, the man who was sideswiped earlier turns out to be the local law, Sheriff Wynan (Stephen Root), a closeted homosexual who can apparently oft times be found on the side of the road with men, unbeknownst to his wife. He sends his deputy off to find the car that sideswiped him.
Jared wakes up in a cage, hearing a sermon. He finds himself in the chapel of the Five Points Church, a group of religious nuts modeled after the Westboro Baptist Church. The sermon is being delivered by their version of Fred Phelps, Pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks). After his fire and brimstone “God hates fags”-type speech, he unveils a gay man saran wrapped to a cross and they proceed to shoot him in the head, dropping his corpse into a basement where Travis and Billy Ray are being held. They then saran wrap Jared to the same cross. Outside, the deputy arrives at the Five Points Church and sees the car that sideswiped the Sheriff. The Pastor goes out to meet him and send him away. Meanwhile, Billy Ray and Travis start to free themselves using the dead gay corpse’s exposed bone to cut their bindings. Billy Ray leaves Travis to rot, but is soon shot by Ralph Garmin, who is then shot himself. The deputy hears the shots and calls it in, and is then shot himself. The Pastor threatens the Sheriff with photos of his roadside gayness in order to keep him silent. The Sheriff makes a call and it gets to ATF Special Agent Keenan (John Goodman). The rest of the movie is how self righteous, religious gun nuts react to someone trying to serve a search warrant to them. Hint: it doesn’t go well.
I’ve got to say, I’m a huge Kevin Smith fan. I own every movie he’s directed (yes, even CopOut) and I love the greater majority of them. And lately, even more than his movies, I love him for his podcast/internet radio endeavors with Smodcast Internet Radio. And, being an avid listener of Smodcast, I have been beaten over the head with this movie for a very long time now. So when listening to his podcast and I realized I was still in time to catch this movie on iTunes, I could not pass up the opportunity. So, let me say right now, Smith has not let me down. This movie is great. This is Smith’s first attempt to venture out of comedy (though his comedies have varied in comedic genre quite a bit) and into horror. Well, he called it horror if memory serves. I don’t know that I would call it horror. It’s somewhere between horror and action to me. I’d call it suspense. This movie was absolutely riveting from start to finish. As I usually do, I was attempting to play a video game while watching this movie on my computer, but I had to stop because my controller kept turning itself off from inactivity. I couldn’t take my eyes off the thing!
This movie not only plays different from other Smith movies, it looks completely different. A lot of his movies (Clerks excluded, of course) are pretty colorful movies. This movie is dark and gritty, with a lot of the color really toned down, somewhat like what they did in Saving Private Ryan. Also, as Smith himself tends to say, most of his movies don’t involve any movement for the camera. And in a dialogue heavy movie as his usually are, that works fine. This movie is filmed as if by a frantic bystander with a handheld camera and really draws the audience in to feeling like they are there amongst the religious craziness.
The acting continues the awesomeness of this movie. A lot of the movie hangs around Kyle Gallner, and he is great. I spent the entire movie trying to figure out where I’ve seen him, and it apparently was in the new Nightmare on Elm Street, Jennifer’s Body and the Haunting in Connecticut. Good to see he’s finally allowed in a good movie. Another big part of the movie is following Dan Connor … I mean John Goodman, who is also fantastic. He had to be really conflicted about the orders he received in this movie and really did a great job, though I can’t say I expect much less from Goodman. He seemed to have slimmed down a good amount for this movie too. The driving factor of the whole movie has to be Michael Parks; a man most movie goers would recognize but not by name. He was twice in Kill Bill and was pretty memorable in From Dusk Till Dawn too. Oh man is he good in this. He is freaky and charismatic at the same time, the kind of guy that would attract these kind of crazies. And backing him up was recent award winner Melissa Leo who loses her shit after the death of her husband in this movie and may have freaked me out more than Parks.
If there was a complaint to be made of this movie, I’d say I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending. I don’t want to ruin it because I think you should all see this in whatever method you can, but suffice to say the ending is a little deus ex machina and unsatisfying to me, but nowhere near enough to ruin the movie. Saying more would ruin it, so I shan’t. Go see this movie! I was happy to give my money to this movie in order to support a man that has given me so much enjoyment in his other movies while he takes his movie away from the studio system and brings it straight to the fans where it belongs. And if Kevin Smith hasn’t brought you enjoyment through his movies or podcast, then I’m not sure how we are even friends.
My personal kudos to Kevin Smith for a job well done. I will happily be purchasing this movie when it is released on DVD. In the meantime, if this review goes up while it’s still available on iTunes, I fully recommend you go rent it there or almost anywhere else video on demand can be found (I think it’s on X-box live, Playstation Network, etc.). It was only 10 bucks for me, and let’s face it, that’s how much a movie costs anyway, and iTunes will save you the drive. And Kevin Smith shot his wife in the face for this movie! …Okay he only wrote it in the script, but I saw it happen in the movie! I give this a “I highly doubt God hates fags, but Robert loves Red State” out of Eleventeen.
And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others. It may help me get better.