Basketball’s not exactly my sport. I’ve always been a fan of Hockey, but I understand that I’m not the target audience for Space Jam – A New Legacy. Watching the movie, I get the feeling that Warner Bros. finally figured out just how large it is. Just as Disney did with Ralph Breaks the Internet, there are tons of references to the WB’s home grown content. Castles from Harry Potter, outfits from The Matrix, Mad Max: Fury Road, Game of Thrones and even Pennywise the Clown make an appearance in the movie. It’s nice to see, but a lot of it pulls away from the story in the same fashion that Ready Player One did. I found I was so busy watching the background that I didn’t care too much about LeBron James and his kid.
Space Jam – A New Legacy does have some new elements. LeBron James (playing himself) is a little at odds with his son, Dom (Cedric Joe). Dom really isn’t into basketball, though he does have a basketball themed video game he’s designing. LeBron would rather he be into the actual sport. When the WB’s AI, known as Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle, Avengers: Endgame) makes a failed pitch to LeBron on behalf of the Warner Bros, he decides to get revenge (and recognition) by way of pulling both Dom and LeBron into the Warnerverse for a basketball game to end all games. If LeBron wins, he gets his son back (who happens to be playing against him), and if he loses, he and the entire audience – everyone – will be trapped inside of the Warnerverse, forever.
Just writing that feels a little strange. Stuck in HBO Max because of a bad basketball game?
Either way, he finds Bugs Bunny and together, they form an All Star team based off of the other Looney Tunes. The film does address one thing I liked. Since they had the entire Warnerverse at their disposal, it would be easier to build a team off of superheroes. The story finds a way around this.
Now, let’s not act like the original Space Jam was ever part of the Criterion Collection. It was a fun film with a major star playing among cartoons. There wasn’t a whole lot to expect, though it was enjoyable and I have the soundtrack for it. Michael Jordan had the benefit of Danny DeVito, Wayne Knight and Bill Murray to help him out for comic relief. Here, it’s more or less just LeBron vs the Goon Squad. When it comes to acting, LeBron James is okay. Most of his lines are centered around informing the toons and the audience that he has to get him back.
I do have to say that Don Cheadle does great here, which is expected. The same can be said for Sonequa Martin-Green (Star Trek: Discovery) and Lil Rel Howry (Get Out)There are some moments in A New Legacy that do work (Granny’s scenes in particular are standouts that made me laugh, along with a great Wile E. Coyote Fury Road moment), but that’s only because of the connection between all of the other WB franchises. It’s as if they didn’t feel comfortable enough with the story they had, so they said “Why not just litter the screen with everything we’ve got – King Kong, It, The Matrix, Harry Potter, and see what we get?”
Warner Animation Group does appear to be getting better over their previous attempt in Tom & Jerry. Maybe it’s because it’s easier to interact with cartoon characters that can talk back, but some of the animations (particularly the CGI ones) are good. They’re just incredibly overused. Malcolm D. Lee’s direction is also good, for what he’s given. It’s not Roll Bounce or Undercover Brother, but the flow of the story moves well. Before you know it, you’re in the Big Game.
Space Jam – A New Legacy isn’t the worst thing out there, it’s just stuffed with more content than it needs. It’s not on Tom & Jerry’s level of bad. Besides, it’s for Kids. If you love Basketball, LeBron, Looney Tunes or anything Warner’s Related, you should be good here. Just take it for what it is and enjoy. Thankfully, if you have HBO Max, it’s free to watch for the next 30 days (as of this writing). It just don’t see myself running back to it.
This isn’t so much a review for Batman as it’s just me looking back on the film.
I spent the Saturday Morning of June 24th, 1989 standing on a line that snaked around the white walls of the Sunrise Multiplex Cinema in Valley Stream. Thankfully, by the time I arrived, there were only a few people there. Most of them were my friends, so we were close to the door. The following year, the Sunrise would go down in history as being the only movie theatre I’ve ever known with metal detectors after a shooting around the release of The Godfather Part III prompted tighter security. Before then, anyone going into the theatre had a free run of the place. From that incident to the theatre’s shutdown in 2015, you always had to pass the metal detectors.
You knew Tim Burton’s Batman was going to be something grand when they first put up the posters in bus stations. The character was so well known that the poster was simply a black and gold Batsymbol with a date – June 23. In my neighborhood, the poster lasted a week before the bus stop’s glass was broken and it was stolen. This was how mad people were for the film. Although merchandise was already available, it moved at an incredible pace. For a film made before pre-Internet, the buzz was just amazing.
“Okay, Everyone, we know you’re looking forward to seeing the movie.”, came the announcement over the theatre’s loudspeaker, which caused a few murmurs from everyone. It was a smooth, business like voice, probably from someone who had never even heard of The Caped Crusader. “We’re going to open up the doors and we want everyone to proceed to the ticket booths in a nice, orderly fashion.”
I was 14 at the time. Batman was the first movie I ever saw without my family. My parents, a cop and a bartender, saw so much of the worst of NYC that they figured the best place for me was home. Still, since I was among friends they knew, I gave me a pass. It was a big deal. My friend Pierre and I had a plan, along with the 4 others that came with us. We’d head in, make for the ticket booth and go right in for our seats near the back right side.. No refreshments were necessary, since we could all go eat at the mall later on after the move was done. To make sure I didn’t miss anything, I had already read the novel for the story beforehand.
Anyone close to the door could see the theatre workers as they approached, keys in hand. The layout of the Sunrise was such that after stepping through the front door, you could cut to your immediate left or right down a open path to separate ticket booth. As the door unlocked, was pushed open and secured, someone from near the middle of the line decided it was time, declaring in a loud scream.
It was madness. Utter madness. Bodies piled into the theatre in a mad scramble for the ticket booth. On the way there, I was shoulder blocked and fell to the floor. I instantly curled into a ball to keep from getting trampled, wondering if my parents were right about not letting me out. ‘Here lies Lenny…”, my epitaph would read. “…he died at the movies after being let outside on his own just once.”
Thankfully, I was scooped up to my feet a few seconds later by one of my friends.
“Go on! We’ve got your tickets! Head for the ticket guy, we’ll meet you there!” he yelled over the crowd passing us on sides.
“Okay!!” I’d been to the Sunrise tons of times, so I knew it well. I moved through the crowd, bypassing the concession stand, which was already developing a line of its own. I thought they were going to go in without me and leave me there. I don’t know they did it, but within a few minutes of reaching the ticket taker. most of my group caught up, tickets in hand for all of us.
The actual experience of Batman was a packed crowd with almost non-stop talking throughout. After all, the audience was made up of teens and DC fans that that were ravenous for anything Batman related. Superman had about four films by the time Batman premiered. I think the only real time the entire audience hushed was near the beginning when we first see Batman grab the one robber and they ask him what he is. After that, the crowd pretty much erupted in applause.
Of course, that line would become famous and reused over the years, such as it was with the WB’s Supernatural.
Even before the film was released, the buzz for Batman was immense.
Batman focuses on Gotham City, a grand town with a great deal of crime. Reports are coming in of a mysterious vigilante figure resembling a giant bat that’s taking down random criminals. Crime in Gotham is run by Boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance, City Slickers), with his right hand man, Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson, The Departed). After discovering that Napier’s spent some quality time with his girl, Alicia (Jerry Hall, Urban Cowboy), Grissom sets him up so that he’ll be caught by the cops. Things don’t go as planned, and after falling into a vat of chemicals, Napier is reborn as The Joker. Can the Dark Knight defeat this new menace?
For me, one of the most interesting elements of Tim Burton’s Batman is how Jack Nicholson was the main draw for the film. Nicholson stands front and center in this film. If any real eyebrows were raised, it was over casting Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight. Keaton and Burton worked together on Beetlejuice, so there was some chemistry. However, when the announcement for Keaton being cast in Batman, most people were pretty skeptical. Keaton was known for playing more comedic roles, and playing the Batman required a more serious attitude. However, I’ve always felt that comedians are the most shocking when they take on a serious role. Some examples of this are Patton Oswalt in Big Fan, Robin Williams’ Academy Award winning performance in Good Will Hunting and most recently, Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems. I feel that worked for Keaton, and most viewers underestimated what he could bring to both Bruce Wayne and Batman. As Wayne, Keaton seems a bit subdued. As Batman, he’s a little scary simply because he doesn’t quite look like the kind of individual who would roam the streets at night dressed as a bat. My parents would later argue over Batman’s drop of Jack Napier at Axis Chemicals. I thought it was a situation where he just couldn’t hold on to him. My parents’ viewpoint was that Batman deliberately did it. We never really know for sure, but it did seem a little convenient that Batman couldn’t hold on to Napier. Overall, Keaton’s Batman plays second fiddle to Nicholson’s Joker, who also had a some sway in the design of the nemesis for the film.
Batman’s cast also includes Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) as Vicki Vale, Robert Wuhl (Bull Durham), Billy Dee Williams (Nighthawks) and Pat Hingle (Sudden Impact) as Commissioner Gordon, The cast is pretty perfect here, without anyone really falling out of step. Batman stories would grow more serious by the time Nolan would step in, but for the 1980s, it was just fine.
Anton Furst would win an Oscar for Best Art Direction for his design of Gotham City, which was for its time, quite dazzling. On par with some of the designs from Blade Runner and The Crow, Furst’s rendition of Gotham was dark and brooding, compared to the more modern backdrop of Batman Begins. In addition to Gotham’s look, Furst also helped design the Batmobile, which was based off the Chevy Impala (another Supernatural connection). When the film was released on home video, my family caught sight of the Batmobile up close on the street as it delivered VHS Copies to a video store in Manhattan. Although he died some years later, Furst’s work on Batman remains an influence on both the comics and future installments of the movies.
1989 was also a big year for Danny Elfman. His score for Batman would earn him a Grammy, and the main theme would become a definitive one for the Caped Crusader throughout the early 1990. Shirley Walker would build on the theme with her music from Batman: The Animated Series. It was also something of a surprise for Prince. With songs like Trust, Electric Chair and Vicki’s Waiting, Prince’s Batman Soundtrack is full of great hits that you really wouldn’t think would fit in a story like Batman. Still, they manage to do just fine, and even elevate scenes like the Joker’s entry in the Gotham Museum and the Balloon Parade.
Batman is not without a few problems. It gets a little long in the tooth in the film’s second half, particularly in the scenes leading up to the Monarch and Bruce losing his parents. It’s not a terrible slowdown, since it has to set the tone for some of the more spectacular fights later on. It could have been edited just a little tighter. Additionally, when compared to some of the modern versions, 1989’s Batman can feel a little bit dated (to me, anyway). That’s more of a nitpick, or where you stand on the Batman universe as a whole. Everyone has their favorite adaptation on the Caped Crusader.
Burton and Keaton would later reunite in 1992’s Batman Returns, and the franchise on a whole would take a different turn with Joel Schumacher’s takes in 1995’s Batman Forever and 1997 Batman & Robin.
Adam Robitel’s Escape Room was a fun surprise back in 2019. Starring Taylor Russell and Logan Miller, the film focused on a group of people playing in an Escape Room. Escape Rooms are ones you’re locked in, where you’re given riddles to solve before moving on. Only in this case, the rooms were deadly. The sequel looks like it offers even greater challenges, this time to individuals who have already survived the games before.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions premieres on July 16.
Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Baby Driver) showcased the teaser for Last Night in Soho on Twitter today. This trailer gives me the same set of goosebumps I had for Drew Goddard’s Bad Times at the El Royale. The film stars Thomasin McKenzie (JoJo Rabbit) and Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit). I’m enjoying the 1960s backdrops for some of the scenes. The story was written by Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917), so it’ll be interesting to see where this goes.
Last Night in Soho is set to release this October in cinemas.
Hot off her Oscar win for Nomadland, Chloe Zhao and Marvel released the teaser for her newest film, Eternals. Again, this was something where I had to delve into the Marvel Encyclopedia to fully understand. Originally, the Eternals are a group of humans gifted with accelerated evolution by Celestials to help guide others (perhaps similar to the angels in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire). I’m not sure where the MCU is taking this, but they’ll definitely need to explain why they’re only showing up now.
Eternals showcases quite a cast, including Captain Marvel‘s Gemma Chan (pulling a Chris Evans and playing a second Marvel character), Richard Madden (1917), Kumail Nanjiani (Stuber), Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones), Brian Tyree Henry (Godzilla v. Kong), and Angelina Jolie (Those Who Wish Me Dead)
Ask any kid who ever played with G.I. Joes in the 1980s about their favorites, and it would usually be Snake Eyes, the silent ninja who usually saves the day while being courted by his nemesis, Storm Shadow. It’s only fitting that we get a back story on our mysterious hero. Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, The Gentleman) plays the lead role, and the movie looks like it’s going to have quite a bit of action. The film also stars Warrior‘s Andrew Koji, The Raid‘s Iko Uwais, and Money Heist‘s Ursula Corbero
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, directed by Robert Schwentke (Divergent, Insurgent) is set to release on July 23rd.
In the Purge universe, America is given a single night to commit all of the crimes it wants without any consequence. The Forever Purge – the fourth film in the series – seeks to answer a question that has yet to be asked in any of the films before it: What if the Purge lasted longer than a night? It’s a different angle for the series, hopefully a good one.
The Forever Purge stars Ana de la Reguera (Narcos), Will Patton (The Mothman Prophecies), Josh Lucas (Ford v. Ferrari), Tenoch Huerta (Days of Grace), and Leven Rambin (Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters). The film is set to release around the 4th of July.
Tonight, tonight, we’ve received a surprise tonight.
An announcement was made over social media earlier today that during tonight’s Oscar presentation, the trailer for Steven Spielberg’s remake of Robert Wise’s 1961 classic, West Side Story. With Rita Moreno as an Executive Producer, the poster states that they’re keeping just about everything as it was, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s music included.
West Side Story is the tale of two individuals whose families are rival gangs, a musical version of Romeo and Juliet. It’s the kind of film that you normally don’t need to remake or even touch. It was perfect. As bold as it is to remake the film, I’m hoping it’s great.
The film stars Rachel Zegler, Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Corey Stoll (Ant-Man), Brian d’Arcy James (Molly’s Game) and Rita Moreno in a supporting role.
Warner Bros. has us prepped for the summer with another installment of The Conjuring! Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona) takes over the directing duties from James Wan (who serves as a Producer here). This time around, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) are investigating a case that puts them and an entire town in the spotlight. When a young man is arrested for a murder based on demonic possession, the Warrens are called in to find the truth. We’ll find out for sure when the film releases both in Cinemas and on HBO Max on June 4th.
Actor Simu Liu (Meeting Mommy) dropped some teaser images from Entertainment Weekly for Marvel’s upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, where he plays the lead. As I’m unfamiliar with the character, I found myself where I always go for information on Marvel Characters – my hardcover version of The Marvel Encyclopedia.
According to the Encyclopedia, Shang-Chi premiered in Special Marvel Edition #15 back in 1973, and while that version of the character didn’t have any superpowers, the trailer suggests this may be a little different. After all, he was also given an Ultimates treatment (where many Marvel characters were brought up to date with new stories and even new origin variants).
Shang-Chi also stars Awkafina (Jumanji: The Next Level), Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians), Ronny Chieng (Bliss) and Tony Leung (Hero, Hard Boiled), who is trying to pull Shang-Chi back to a world he’s walked away from. Murmurs across the internet say that Leung’s character is tied to the Mandarin (or is the True Mandarin instead of Ben Kingsley’s fake one in Iron Man 3) We’ll have to wait and see. The fighting action looks great so far.
Marvel Studios is pushing for a September 3rd release. Whether that is on Disney Plus and in Theatres remains to be seen.