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Posts Tagged ‘Batman Begins’

On episode 5 of the Film Don’t Hurt podcast Kai and Dylan talk about a list devised on The Vulture of the best 25 action movies since die hard. You can see what they came up with HERE. While I don’t disagree with any of there list (except Suppercop that I haven’t seen) I have my own ideas so thought I would come up with my own list. Die Hard is probably my favourite action movie. I have stated many times that it reinvented the genre. While this is largely true, if you look at it from a different point of view, it also killed the genre. Through the 70’s and 80’s action meant big men like Stallone, Schwarzenegger or Lundgren. With Die Hard Bruce Willis made it possible for the everyman to be an action hero. Then through the 90’s things changed with the rise of comic book movies and directors like Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich who just want to blow shit up. I like comic book movies but am a board of blowing shit up movies as reflected in my list. It was surprisingly difficult, there are at least another fifteen movies I would have liked to have included. I couldn’t decide on the order for the list. The best movies or the ones that represent the genre best. I decided to go for a chronological list, firstly for simplicity but I also think it gives an interesting overview of the changes in the genre. I used the same three simple rules:

Not every movie with action in it is an action movie. (it had to be a film that wouldn’t make any sense if you took all the action scenes out)

Only one film per franchise.

No animation.

Nikita (1990)nikita
Total Recall (1990)Total Recall
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)Terminator 2 Judgment Day
Point Break (1991)Point-Break Utah and Bodhi
Hard Boiled (1992)hard boiled
Speed (1994)Speed
The Crow (1994)The Crow
Desperado (1995)Desperado
Run Lola Run (1998)Run Lola Run
Taxi (1998)taxi
The Matrix (1999)The Matrix
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Gladiator (2000)Gladiator
Battle Royale (2000)Battle Royale
Blade II (2002)Blade 2
The Bourne Identity (2002)The Bourne Identity
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)uma thurman kill bill
District 13 (2004)District 13
Serenity (2005)river
Batman Begins (2005) (I prefer The Dark Knight but Batman Begins is more of an action film)Batman Begins
Casino Royale (2006)Casino Royale
Apocalypto (2006)Apocalypto
300 (2006)300
Doomsday (2008)Rhona Mitra Doomsday
Avengers Assemble (2012)Marvel Avengers Assemble
 

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The Dark Knight Rises may turn out to be both the biggest and the best film of the year. Every movie fan with a virtual soapbox to stand on will review it in one way or another, I may do so myself some time in the future, but for now I will not. Instead I have decided to do something different. I am looking at the key players in the movie and picking out my favourite of their movies or performances excluding The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Christopher Nolan: The modern interpretation of the term masterpiece refers a pierce of art (in any medium) that is receives high critical praise and is often considered the pinnacle of the artists career. But the original, true meaning is very different. During the old European guild system, an apprentice wishing to graduate from a guild and become a master craftsman or member of their guild would have to produce a Masterpiece. If successful, the piece would be retained by the master or the guild. Using this theory, Following (1998) is Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece. An ultra low budget mystery, crime, thriller with no star names. This led to him making Memento (2000), a simple revenge, thriller that is elevated to a superior mystery by the ingenious idea of telling the story backwards. Using the same criteria, it could be argued that Following was a practice run and Memento is the true masterpiece. Taken on its own merits Insomnia (2002) is a great movie, it just isn’t as good as the Norwegian original. It is a worthy and justified remake that is sympathetic to the story of the original but has its own individual touches. You know how movies come in two’s, this year there are two Snow White movies, a few years ago there were to giant asteroid movies, 2006 was the year of the Victorian stage magicians. Neil Burger’s The Illusionist was good, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige was much better. Legend has it that after The Dark Knight took a billion dollars Warner Bros let Nolan make any movie he liked. What he came up with was Inception (2010) a little art house movie disguised as a big budget studio blockbuster. Inception may well be his best (non Batman) film, but for introducing me and most of the rest of the world to his work I am declaring Memento to be both his masterpiece and finest hour for Christopher Nolan.

Wally Pfister: Cinematographer/Director of Photography Wally Pfister started out as a cameraman for a Washington news service before being given his first break by Robert Altman. He then enrolled in American Film Institute where a film he worked on was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. Like so many great filmmakers, he received his first break as a Cinematographer from Roger Corman. Most of his notable works have been on Christopher Nolan films, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight finally winning for the movie that truly is his finest hour, Inception.

Christian Bale: Where do you start with Christian Bale? A child star in Empire of the Sun who found real fame in his late twenties. Noted for his extreme physical transformations for the movies The Machinist and Rescue Dawn, in I’m Not There, it is a tossup between him and Cate Blanchett as to who is the best “Dylan”. In 3:10 to Yuma, The Prestige, The Fighter, Public Enemies and Terminator Salvation he gives more subtle and low key performances than his co stars, it is therefore a surprise that his finest hour is probably his most showy and over the top performance, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

Anne Hathaway: Many people know Anne Hathaway from her film début The Princess Diaries and can’t see beyond that. I first saw her in Havoc or Brokeback Mountain (saw them both around the same time) where despite all the praise going to Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal I thought the best performances came her and Michelle Williams. I was impressed enough to go and see The Devil Wears Prada and enjoyed it, but her finest hour is Rachel Getting Married. A family drama about a young woman who is released from rehab to attend her sisters wedding. A truly an amazing performance, her character is ultimately a miserable, selfish, narcissistic bitch but she also comes across as vulnerable, funny and sometimes even likable. 

Tom Hardy: I have seen many movies featuring Hardy and remember a great buzz about him around the time of Star Trek: Nemesis, but to be honest I really didn’t take notice until Bronson. Since then he has been brilliant in everything I have seen him in. as for his finest hour, it could easily be Warrior where his performance is monumental or Inception where he offers some great comic relief within an ensemble, but it has to be Bronson. 

Gary Oldman: How do you pick the finest hour from the thirty year career of an actor as talented as Oldman? Far more varied than you would think Oldman is at his best when he is wild and out of control, look back at Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy, Stansfield in Leon and Beethoven in Immortal Beloved. That is why it may come as a surprise that his best performance may well be his most low key and economical performance, George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. 

Michael Caine: Gary Olman’s career may be long but Michael Caine has been around for ever, certainly since before I was born. Many of his most notable performances came in the mid/late 60’s and early 70’s and include: Alfie, Sleuth, Zulu, Get Carter and The Ipcress File. He reinvented himself in more comic roles in the 80’s such as: Educating Rita, Without a Clue and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Outside Christopher Nolan movies, the pick of his 21st century movies are The Quiet American, Children of Men and Harry Brown, but for his finest hour, you need to go back to the 60’s for his iconic performance as Charlie Croker in The Italian Job.

Morgan Freeman: Freeman found fame relatively late in life. In his early fifties and after thirty years in the business, in a two year period he appeared in Driving Miss Daisy, Glory, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Bonfire of the Vanities. He makes a lot of movies, therefore there is a certain amount of crap in there too, but the highlights are very high, the include: Unforgiven, Se7en and Million Dollar Baby. His finest hour is probably The Shawshank Redemption. 

Marion Cotillard: A captivating actress who has been brilliant in every film I have ever seen her in. For many people she if best known for her Oscar winning portrayal of Edith Piaf in La vie en rose. Others will know her from her English language movies: Public Enemies, A Good Year, Big Fish and Nine. She was also memorable in Midnight in Paris and Inception. Although deep down I know her finest hour was as Edith Piaf in La vie en rose, I still go back to where I first saw her, Lilly, the long suffering but high maintenance girlfriend in Taxi (and its first two sequels).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: The former child actor found fame as a teenager in the TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun. his most notable movie appearances from this time is probably 10 Things I Hate About You. He went on to appear in: Havoc (along side future Dark Knight Rises co-star Anne Hathaway) and earned acclaim in Mysterious Skin Stop-Loss and The Lookout. In recent years he has impressed in 500 Days of Summer, 50/50 and Inception, but his finest hour is still the high school noir Brick. 

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“It’s the car, right? Chicks dig the car.”  

The Batmobile has always been an important part of the appeal of Batman.  It has gone from a vehicle to get Batman to the scene of the crime to an import weapon in his fight against crime.   Here is a brief look at how it has evolved:

The Batman (1943): A little like the original comic book, Batman drives a regular car and not The Batmobile, in this case a 1939

60’s TV Show & 1966 movie: For the 60’s TV show car customizer Dean Jeffries was hired to design and build a “Batmobile”, due to time constraints the original design was dropped in favour of the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car.

Batman (1989) & Batman Returns (1992): The long low sleek Batmobile was designed to reflect Tim Burton’s Art Deco vision.  It was designed by Anton Furst who won an Oscar for the Art Direction/Set Decoration.  The car was built on a Chevy Impala chassis.

Batman Forever (1995): New Batman, new Batmobile.  H. R. Giger was chosen to design it but sadly departed the project sighting creative differences. What we got was something that had lost its sleek lines in favour a more aggressive looking car.

Batman & Robin (1997): As the franchise lost its way so did the design of the car.  Without a roof or a passenger seat it isn’t the most practical crime fighting vehicle.  It does have one nice if pointless design touch, the GoodYear tires have Batsymbols in the treads.

Batman Begins (2005): Every Batman movie up to this point featured Batman as an established character.  As an origin story Batman Begins doesn’t just tell the origin of the character it tells the origin of the car.  A prototype military vehicle called “the Tumbler” designed by the character Lucius Fox.  More practical, manoeuvrable than the last few Batmobile’s, it looks like something that could exist in the real world just like Christopher Nolan’s Batman.

The Dark Knight (2008): The Tumbler returned for a second movie but this time with a new part trick. After being hit by rocket-propelled grenade fired by The Joker the Batmobile is damaged beyond repair. Batman ejects motorcycle like vehicle know as the Batpod formed from the front wheels of the Tumbler.

The Dark Knight Rises (2013): Trailers and images from the new film suggest that the primary villain Bane has got himself a fleet of Tumblers.  We also see Catwoman riding a Batpod.

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Lewis Wilson – The Batman (1943): Before the 60’s TV show came a serial staring Lewis Wilson as Batman. Made during World War II and seeing Batman as a U.S. government agent pitted against Japanese agent Dr. Daka.

Adam West – 60’s TV Show & 1966 movie: With a movie and 120, 25 minute episodes between 1966 and 1968 Adam West has by far the most screen time as Batman. The camp action comedy show is considered a bit of a joke now but was hugely popular at the time (and in the early 80’s when I saw the rerun) and led to West being offered the part of James Bond in the early 70’s.

Michael Keaton – Batman (1989) & Batman Returns (1992): Looking back Its hard to believe that there were more than twenty years between Adam West handing up the bat cape and Michael Keaton taking it up. What is also hard to believe is that it has been a further twenty years since Keaton gave up the role. Now sadly tainted by the two Joel Schumacher efforts and lost in the shadow of the Christopher Nolan movies, Tim Burton’s original two films are well worth another look.

Val Kilmer – Batman Forever (1995): In fairness to Val Kilmer he isn’t a bad Bruce Wayne / Batman, sadly he is hampered by being in a truly bad film.

George Clooney – Batman & Robin (1997): As bad as Batman Forever was, it is Citizen Kane in comparison to Batman & Robin. A few years ago I fell into a conversations about how many more Batman movies Christopher Nolan should make. We all agreed a trilogy was about right, I then suggested they should make a movie based on Frank Miller’s seminal graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns. I suggested Michael Keaton reprises the role of Batman, no one agreed with me and the question was then asked, what square jawed actor in their late 40’s early 50’s could play the part? When George Clooney’s name was mentioned we all thought it was a great idea for about a minute until we remembered Batman & Robin, but you never know!

Christian Bale – Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) & The Dark Knight Rises (2012): The star of the most recent Batman series isn’t Christian Bale, its Christopher Nolan. Like Quentin Tarantino, the director has achieved superstar status over his actors, unlike Tarantino, he has done it without acting in his movies. Bale’s standing was further dented by the admiration for Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. This is unfair, Bale really makes the movies work and like Daniel Craig in the current Bond movies, there are few actors who could do such a good job.

Tomorrow, The Batmobile. 

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Another strong decade, 2004 and 2009 only just missed out.

2000: Almost Famous, Battle Royale, The Claim, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Memento

2001: Mulholland Drive, Donnie Darko: Amelie, Training Day, Y Tu Mamá También

2002: City of God, 28 Days Later, Talk to Her, Hero, Punch-Drunk Love

2003: Oldboy, Kill Bill vol 1, Lost in Translation, X2, Azumi

2005: Sin City, Batman Begins, The Descent, Good Night and Good Luck, Serenity

2006: Pan’s Labyrinth, Casino Royale, Children of Men, Miami Vice (I know I’m of about three people who like it), The Departed

2007: Juno, No Country For Old Men, The Orphanage, Death Proof, Into the Wild

2008: The Dark Knight, The Hurt Locker, In Bruges, Let the Right One In, Gran Torino

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