The DC Fandome is currently underway! DC and Warner Bros. are showcasing the lineup for some of their new movies, shows and video games. One of the first offerings was a peek into Black Adam, starring Dwayne Johnson. Black Adam was a long term project, as Johnson is an executive producer for Shazam!
With Black Adam playing as an adversary to Shazam!, that should make for an interesting battle. We’ll see when the movie releases next year.
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.
Once upon a time, there was this comic book company called DC. DC was fortunate enough to be owned by Warner Bros. back in 1968. I’ve always thought of this as a good thing, despite not being the best of fans. It meant that any tv show or movie would have the full backing of Warner Bros., and DC would never need to shop around for production and/or distribution rights for their work. So, when Superman finally happened in 1978, it was a watershed moment in the history of Comic Book films. It would take more than a decade for the WB to finally make a film about a second DC Hero with Tim Burton’s Batman.
But over the last 30 years, we’ve had:
7 Superman Films (5 Original, plus the Singer reboot, the Snyder Reboot and a sequel with Batman v. Superman)
4 Batman Films (4 Original, plus the Nolan Reboot and Snyder sneak-in on Batman v. Superman
That’s not counting films like Steel, but generally, outside of 2011’s Green Lantern, the support for DC’s character base outside of what they needed for Justice League really wasn’t strong, in my opinion. So getting a movie that stands outside of the usual top tier is worth trying, even if it stutter steps the way Suicide Squad did.
So, Birds of Prey, fully known as Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn) isn’t perfect, but I enjoyed it and give me a bit of hope for what comes next from DC/WB. The film focuses on Harleen Quinzel (Margot Robbie, reprising her role from Suicide Squad), who suffers a bad break up from The Joker. To cope, she gets herself a new place and a new pet hyena (a good throwback to the Paul Dini / Bruce Timm Batman: The Animated Series version of the character). When she runs into mobster Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor, Doctor Sleep), he gives her a mission to recover a precious diamond from Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Bosco), a young pickpocket. Also thrown into the hunt for the diamond is Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell, True Blood), who works for Sionis. Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez, Do the Right Thing) is looking to take down Sionis and The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Death Proof), who has her own reasons.
The performances are nice, and it seems like everyone enjoyed themselves. No one really phones in their roles – both McGregor and Robbie excel with their parts, and there’s nothing really wrong with anyone’s work here. I haven’t much to say on that.
The story for Birds of Prey, written by Bumblebee‘s Christina Hodson, is a bit unsteady at first. It makes sense, given Harley’s madness, and makes for some fun exposition in the same way Suicide Squad did. Of particular note are the fight scenes, which feels a lot like what you’d find in John Wick. Birds of Prey has its own particular style. My only real problem with the film was the change over in Cassandra Cain’s character from the comic, who is pretty dangerous. Bosco’s Cain isn’t really written that way, but her pickpocket abilities does make up for it, somewhat. It’s not a terrible thing, but if you’re expecting the Batgirl you’ve read about, it’s not happening. Additionally, Moviegoers expecting to see either Jared Leto or Ben Affleck will probably be a little disappointed. Birds of Prey works with the inclusion of the two DC majors, but I enjoyed that.
Overall, Birds of Prey is a fun popcorn flick that may not be as strong as Shazam!, but offers quite a bit in the way of humor and action. I’m happy that DC’s taking these chances, and hope they continue to do so going forward.
When I used to play games like Vampire: The Masquerade, they had this disclaimer that said: “You are not really a Vampire. If you can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality, you need to put this book down.”
I think the same can be said of Todd Phillips Joker, and it may be the source of a lot of the fear associated with it.
I believe the big fear that everyone has with Joker is that it’s going to incite people to violence and/or mimicry. It’s the same kind of fear that probably happened with films like Death Wish and Taxi Driver. It’s also the kind of thing that did happen with 1993’s The Program, a film that contained a scene with kids laying down in the middle of a busy road. Someone actually tried it, and ended up dying. As a result, people get a little nervous when Hollywood produces something that could lead to someone mimicking what they see on screen. In that sense, any film has the potential to have an idiot try it out, despite all of the warnings.
If that makes you in any way uncomfortable, the movie will be out on VOD in 3 months time, not a long wait. Still, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is easily worth the price of admission.
Looking past all that, Joker is actually very good. The Crow, The Dark Knight and Conan the Barbarian are comic book films, but are so serious that you wouldn’t really associate them with a comic unless you knew it beforehand. Joker falls into the same category for me. This might be a little off putting for some who are expecting a more “comic action” like performance along the lines of say, Batman Forever. It’s the kind of film where if you stripped the credits from it and sat someone down to watch it, they might not figure it all out until 3 quarters of the way in. It feels like just another film, save that happens to be dropped in Gotham City.
Joker is the story of Arthur Fleck, a man with a variant of Tourettes that causes him to laugh at inappropriate moments, among other issues. Working as a clown and hoping to become aThrough a series of events, Arthur falls and is pushed until he reaches a breaking point. That is the quickest way to explain Joker without divulging too much. Let’s focus on the particulars.
Todd Phillips’ direction is good here. We move from scene to scene with ease, and as far as I could tell, there didn’t appear to be any editing issues (which is more than what I can say with The Dark Knight). Gotham is a dark, gritty city, reminiscent of NYC during the late 70’s. The film also manages to make connections to DC Lore in some great ways, My only complaint there is that while it’s a city that could use the Batman, it wasn’t exactly screaming for help. Personally, I thought it would be better if you saw that Gotham had more issues of corruption or crime. Nothing bad, just a nitpick.
From a casting standpoint, Phoenix is the heart and soul of Joker. Having dropped some weight for the role, Phoenix throws himself fully into the role of a man trying to keep it together while his world slowly crumbles. Come awards season, I would be shocked if he wasn’t at least in talks for nominations. Between the moments of laughter, there’s a lot of pain being expressed. Granted, this isn’t entirely new to Joaquin Phoenix, who had a similar role in The Master, but he definitely takes it to some new levels here.
Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2) is okay here as a woman living in the same apartment complex as Arthur, but isn’t given too much to do here. The same could be said of Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under), who plays Arthur’s mother, who tries to keep him on the right path. Robert DeNiro also stars as a late night tv show host who Arthur admires, which will remind some viewers of Martin Scorcese’s The King of Comedy. Of particular note is the score of the film, handled by Hildur Gudnadottir (Sicario: Day of the Soldado), which ties in nicely to every scene with its haunting themes.
If I had any problems with Joker, it would be that the film makes it sound like being a loner automatically qualifies you for crime. There are tons of people who prefer solitude to companionship (or at least in short doses). It showcases both Mental Illness and firearms in such a way that could scare some audiences, suggesting that if you are medicated and stop, you will eventually cause someone some harm. If you own a gun, someone will probably be harmed. Having grown up around cops, guns, and family members with Bipolar Disorder, I don’t agree with that. This didn’t make the film bad in any way for me. In the context of the film, however, Joker is bound to raise some concerns.
Again, it’s mainly nitpicks, but for a story that shows the rise of a villain, it does work. There’s nothing mystical about Joker’s rise, and perhaps that’s scarier than finding out he was irradiated by gamma rays or some other superpower. I will say that watching Phoenix have these strange moments of slow tai chi like movements had me wondering what was up with him. That was strange, indeed.
Joker is also a film that doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of action. If you’re expecting a major third-act action sequence, it’s not exactly there. As a dramatic piece, Joker excels at moving the story forward, and as someone who was originally tired of the idea of yet another Batman related story (with all of the heroes /villains DC has at their disposal), this film was quite the surprise.
Overall, Joker is definitely worth the watch for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, though if you’re not ready for it at the theatre, you can always wait for it on Digital / VOD.
Whenever I hear the name “Birds of Prey”, I think of the old CW show with Dina Meyer, Ashley Scott and Rachel Skarsten. Thankfully, WB has seen fit to upgrade all of that. It also changes the story somewhat, as the original Birds of Prey focused on Oracle (a.k.a. Batgirl / Barbara Gordon), The Huntress, and Dinah Lance. I’ll admit that I’m a bit excited for this, as Margot Robbie really was one of the best parts of 2016’s Suicide Squad and this film features Cassandra Cain, one of the more deadly versions of Batgirl in recent DC History. It even has the hyenas from Batman: The Animated Series.
Having broken up with the Joker, Harley is ready to strike out on her own, teaming up with The Huntress and Black Canary to save a child (mostly likely Cassandra).. On board are Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Fargo) as The Huntress, Ewan McGregor (also Fargo) as Black Mask, Jurnee Smolett-Bell (True Blood) as Black Canary. Additionally, Ella Jay Bosco, Rosie Perez, & Chris Messina are featured.
Christina Hodson wrote the script. Having previously worked on Bumblebee, that definitely should work out well. Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) is handling the directing duties.
Birds of Prey: And the Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is set take on Gotham in February 2020.
Do you know the exact moment when you sold your soul? Or when your soul is forfeit are you so far gone that you don’t notice?
Dick Grayson started as the damaged hero and ended with nothing. He’s a tragic hero whose pride destroyed him. He became seduced to believe that his pain allowed him to decide life and death, causing him to commit the paragon of sins: Patricide. As you look at the 11 episode arc, you see Dick losing his identity as Robin, and in doing so, he loses his moral compass and his soul.
I reviewed these last two episodes together because they flow as one episode. It could’ve been titled The Last Temptation of Dick Grayson. Unfortunately, he made the wrong the decision and we see his soul die. Not only was the story brilliantly written, but these two episodes had a creepy factor that was palpable. In fact, the story began and ended in a haunted house.
In the previous episode, Starfire starts choking Rachel. Dick and Donna burst in and Starfire stops, but the damage has been done and Rachel’s mom insists that Starfire leave. Starfire does and Dick and Donna follow. Rachel’s mom has successfully separated the group. We learn that Starfire is an Alien and needs to stop Rachel from unleashing her father Trigon who is basically the Devil.
Rachel has been trying to keep from using her powers because she can’t control them and they seem inherently evil because … well … they are. Rachel’s mom as it turns out is still all about Trigon AKA Satan and she really wants her some Satan. In order to do it, she needs to get Rachel to use her evil mojo and pull her dad out of a mirror. Rachel’s mom accomplishes this by infecting Gar through a haunted mirror. Rachel’s mom tricks Rachel into pulling her dad out of Hell because only he can save Gar. Well, she does and Gar is healed by Trigon, but evil is now unleashed upon us. How did this work? Rachel was manipulated and seduced. She knew that her father was likely pretty pretty bad, but she was willing risk us all to help her friend, making the act selfish, but disguised as altruistic.
Dick Grayson enters and he is in his idealized reality, but not all is well. First of all, he’s in Southern California, which is almost a hell dimension all on its own. Dawn is his wife and he’s got another baby on the way AND they both have left the hero business behind to pursue a life of….well let’s just assume real estate? They probably have some really cool pictures of themselves on local benches. In fact, Minka Kelly should really be on ALL advertisements at all times.
Jason Todd arrives in a wheel chair and informs Dick that Batman has run a muck, killing the villains instead of beating them to near death, which is …. better? Dick returns to Gotham and is continually manipulated by Satan that Bruce can’t be stopped without killing him. Dick fights his way through the mansion and upon seeing that Starfire was killed by Batman, he gives into his wrath and commits patricide. By giving into this final act of evil, Dick becomes Trigon’s minion. Dick even gets evil eyes, but I didn’t not to use a screen cap of that because it might spoil visually.
These episodes and the season as whole take a deep dive into PTSD and human weakness. Dick was filled with bitterness and pain and when he burned his Robin suit he also burned the last vestige of his hero identity. When he kills Bruce, he wasn’t in costume; he was just angry Dick Grayson who wanted to get back at his Dad. Dick answers the question for us posed at the beginning: we don’t know when our soul is forfeit because we left all our scruples behind getting to that point, therefore, we become a husk of a human being capable of anything.
Whether you call him the Caped Crusader or the Dark Knight, it’s hard to believe Batman has been in the public eye for eighty years! Making his debut in Detective Comics #27 (cover dated May 1939) in a story titled “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” by co-creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Batman has gone from mere comic book crimefighter to king of all media! Not bad for a poor little rich kid from Gotham City!
Artist Bob Kane (1915-1998) had been toiling in the nascent comic book field for three years when DC’s superhero character Superman took off like a rocket. Comic houses were scrambling to compete in this new genre of costumed cavorters, and Kane came up with some sketches of a masked vigilante, basing his design on Lee Falk’s Phantom, Douglas Fairbanks’ ZORRO, and the 1930 horror/mystery THE BAT WHISPERS. Kane asked writer Bill Finger…
Why should they, though? With Batman’s 80th birthday, it makes sense to keep the fires burning by announcing a film taking place in his playground. With Joker, we now have the 4th iteration of Batman’s nemesis over the last 30 years (not counting animated/tv versions, anyway).
When Todd Phillips’ name is mentioned, the first movie that comes to my mind is The Hangover. Comedy is where he shines, so seeing the first trailer for his upcoming Joker is interesting. It’s looking more like Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down or Scorsese’s Taxi Driver than anything else. I’m curious to see where this goes, honestly. If there’s anyone that can bring the creepy and crazy to The Joker, it’s Joaquin Phoenix.
Phoenix stars as an individual trying his best to smile through life’s challenges, only to become Gotham City’s greatest villian.
Joker makes his appearance in theatres this October, which worked extremely well for Venom in 2018.
Ben Templesmith has been one of the more interesting artists when it came to horror comics or, at the very least, when going for a more horror-themed cover. He has done cover work for comic publishers like IDW, Image comics and lately for DC Comics.
Born on Match 4, 1984 in Perth, Australia, Ben Templesmith like most comic artist would get his start working on a degree in graphic art and design which he would use to begin work as early as 2002 doing cover work for Todd McFarlane’s Hellspawn series. This would be the beginning of what would be a career of doing work for the large indie comic publisher Image Comics.
Yet, it would be the cover and interior artwork that he creates for Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night horror franchise over at IDW Publishing that would be his claim to fame. His covers for the main series and the off-shoots would lead to more personal horror works such as Welcome to Hoxford, Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse and Choker.
Ben Templesmith has a unique rough-hewn style that’s both disturbing and beautiful and brings to mind a dreamlike (or nightmarish depending on one’s predilection) and surrealistic style. It’s no wonder his style has become very synonymous with modern horror comic art.