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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The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)


Convert Now … or Fall Forever

I certainly hope that douchebag friend of mine by the name of Fabio appreciates the hard work I went through to write this review for him. I tried many times to make my computer play this DVD from my collection, but I fear my computer is on it’s last legs. I installed two more DVD playing softwares on my computer, hoping it was my original software. This didn’t help. And since I was NOT going to pull myself off of Skyrim to watch a movie on my X-box, what was I to do? I finally brought my laptop into my room and was able to watch my movie wearing an uncomfortable set of headphones. So, yeah, my “hard work” never really involved me leaving the seat I’m writing this review from. …Fuck you guys. This movie is The Chronicles of Riddick, written and directed by David Twohy, and starring Vin Diesel, Colm Feore, Judi Dench, Karl Urban, Thandie Newton, Alexa Davalos, Linus Roache, Nick Chinlund, Keith David, and Yorick van Wageningen.

A group of bad people called Necromongers are slowly taking over the universe, lead by the Lord Marshal (Colm Feore). You either convert to one of the Necromongers, or die by their hand. Elsewhere, a group of bounty hunters lead by Toombs (Nick Chinlund) are chasing a Viking across the top of a labyrinth. Oh wait! That Viking is Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel) on a planet without electric razors. Well Riddick kills all of them dudes and throws momma from the train. By train I mean spaceship. And by momma I mean Toombs. But if you watch the movie, Toombs does look an awful lot like my mother. Anyways, Riddick goes after the people that put the money on his head and finds out that it’s his old “buddy” from the first movie, Imam (Keith David). Imam brings Riddick up to speed, telling him that the boy/girl from the first movie, Jack, went looking for him, killed some people, and is now locked up on the prison planet of Crematoria. Also, an Elemental named Aereon (Judi Dench) put the money on his head because Riddick ran out of minutes on his cell phone and she needed to talk to him. Cue Necromonger attack! Imam gets killed and Riddick decides it is good strategy to walk into the middle of the Necromonger army to kill the guy that killed Imam. This somehow works for him and he gains the respect of Lord Marshal. He gets on the bad side of Lord Marshal when he finds out that Riddick is the last of a race called the Furyan’s, who were prophesied to kill Lord Marshal, ‘causing Lord Marshal to slaughter them all. Finish up the movie with Riddick trying to get revenge on Lord Marshal – who may also have to worry about his right-hand man Commander Vaako (Karl Urban) and his treacherous wife Dame Vaako (Thandie Newton) – and save Jack (Alexa Davalos).

I’m beginning to think that I should stop pointing out when a movie has common story elements because it makes it seem like a criticism. It’s not really intended to be. I love it when a fresh concept I’ve never seen happens in a movie, but having seen so many movies in my life – and with so many more left to see – one can’t really expect every movie to be truly original. That being said, The Chronicles of Riddick certainly doesn’t break any new ground in it’s story, but it still makes for a very watchable movie. Riddick is a very cliche amalgam of every action star ever; you got a prophecy that makes a leader kill a group of people, you got a right-hand man getting manipulated into usurping power by his lady, you got a rescue, a prison escape, and you got a guy that becomes king by killing the old king. Every one of those things was in Hamlet … according to the SparkNotes … that I didn’t read. But, as I said, all good fun to watch. The action scenes were pretty spectacular, the visual effects were a big step up from the previous Riddick joint, and the lines (though usually corny) worked for the scene. Crematoria – though it’s one of the least imaginative names ever – was a pretty sweet location. The concept of a prison planet that only allowed about a five minute window of entry lest the sun melt your ship and sear your flesh, was great. Everything looked like it reeked of sweaty B.O. Also, the lava-panther looking creatures were pretty awesome. I want one of those as a pet. It also lead to part of it that clashed with Riddick’s over the top badassdom. As they were running along the surface, trying to stay ahead of the sun, he tells them that they have to keep up with him or they’ll die, but he also apparently has time to stop and make a cocky comment about how much faster he is than they are. There was also one part that was completely lost on me when the bounty hunters were transporting Riddick to Crematoria. Everyone was asleep on the ship and the female bounty hunter gets up and goes and sniffs Riddick, then straddles him and removes his goggles. He wakes up and makes some comment and she runs off. Did you wanna fuck him? ‘Cause he kinda indicated he’d go through with it, so why’d you run? This part was pointless and confusing. And it’s these kinds of questions that will drive me insane because they’ll never be answered.

The performances are every bit as good as you expect out of an action movie, maybe a little bit better. Vin Diesel spent most of his time raspying out one-liners, but actually had a few moments where he busted out the emotions near the end. I feel like I’m turning the corner on this guy, at least until I rewatch XXX and the Fast and the Furious movies. I don’t have much to say about the Necromonger crew of this movie because their characters involved them being fairly emotionless and mellow all the time, but they also maintained a good amount of creepy. Especially Karl Urban’s hair. Though she did a great job in her performance, I still wonder what inspired Judi Dench to be in this movie. Nowadays it’s easier to stomach because she was also in Pirates of the Caribbean 4, which was a much worse movie. I was happy to see that Jack grew up into a much hotter woman than the one that actually played Jack. She performed her part of being hot well, but the character herself annoyed me. It seemed that every decision she ever made was to try to impress Riddick, and I found that tedious. But she was hot, so I dismissed these complaints.

So there’s your review, Fabio. As per our agreement, you must start reading them all. But don’t worry, you’ve already finished one. That only leaves you 100+ to go, with a new one every day until I don’t feel like it anymore. ENJOY! The Chronicles of Riddick was no ground breaking movie with no ground breaking performances, but it was a fun action movie that’s pretty to look at. And with an action movie, how can you expect much more? The Chronicles of Riddick gets “Death by tea cup” out of “Been a long time since I smelled beautiful.”

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