Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Also known as: Arkham, Gotham, Batman 3 (working titles), Magnus Rex (fake working title), TDKR (informal short title)
Release Date: July 16th, 2012 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Matthew Modine, Ben Mendelsohn, Burn Gorman, Juno Temple, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Nestor Carbonell, Desmond Harrington, Thomas Lennon, William Devane

DC Entertainment, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 164 Minutes

Review:

“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” – Selina Kyle

Where I’ve seen the first two films in this trilogy at least a dozen times each, I’ve only seen this one once: in the theater. If I’m being honest, I didn’t have much urge to see it again after my initial experience. But I’ll explain why as I roll on and review it.

I was pretty excited for this film but I also knew that it would be damn hard to top The Dark Knight or to try and replicate its greatness. Well, I wasn’t wrong. And while this isn’t a bad movie, it’s certainly the weakest of the trilogy and just falls flat when compared to the other two pictures.

To start, I was a bit perplexed when I first heard that Bane was going to be the big bad of the movie. I don’t necessarily have a problem with Bane but after following The Joker and Two-Face, I felt like the third film should’ve featured more of the old school villains, as opposed to bringing in a more modern one that is kind of boring by comparison. I mean, a Christopher Nolan movie featuring The Riddler, The Penguin or hell, even The Mad Hatter, could’ve been really intriguing.

What we got instead was pretty much a rehash of the threat and the plot of the first movie: Batman Begins. In fact, in this film, Bane is even tied to the same villainous organization of that film. We also get a curveball where we find out he really isn’t the big bad but that just kind of makes the overall story even more redundant.

I guess I understand why Nolan chose Bane, as he wanted to try and keep his Batman films grounded in reality as much as one can with a comic book property but seeing a secret Illuminati-type group descend upon Gotham City with the hopes of using a superweapon to destroy it is derivative of the director’s own work.

Now we do get Catwoman in the film but she is written to be the most sterile and boring version of the character I’ve ever seen. Sure, Anne Hathaway is stunning but for whatever reason, Catwoman just doesn’t feel sexy or believable as someone that can ensnare Bruce Wayne/Batman. She just isn’t interesting and it’s hard to imagine her as someone that could pull Bruce’s heart out of the pain it still feels, eight years after the death of Rachel.

Hell, Bruce’s little romantic moments with Miranda/Talia seem more genuine and their relationship isn’t supposed to be the one the audience is pulling for even before the big plot twist reveals itself.

The film’s overall story is trying to be as good of a thriller as the previous two. It just isn’t and that’s the real issue with it. While I do want to see the heroes beat the baddies and win out in the end, the film just comes off as repetitive and dull. It feels like a weak copy of the first two pictures with a much slower pace and a broken back side quest that slows the movie to a halt. I just can’t get as into it as I did the other movies.

Now I get that “breaking the Bat” and dropping him into a hole was about building him back up to make him stronger and that we needed to get him out of Gotham so that Bane could grow his power but it’s a half-assed recreation of the Knightfall plot. This story also only seems to borrow from it because it was Bane’s most iconic moment and biggest temporary victory in the comics. And with Batman overcoming his incredible injury and then climbing out of a hole deemed “impossible” to escape, it all kind of wrecks Nolan’s strive for realism. You can’t simply punch a popped disc back into someone’s spine.

I also hated the film’s ending but I think I’m done harping on the negatives, as I probably sound like I dislike this quite a bit, when I actually don’t.

The film is well-acted and that’s what really makes this work where it does.

I really dug Tom Hardy as Bane, even if his voice has become a social meme. I also just loved seeing the regular cast get back together for one more adventure. Bale, Caine, Freeman and Oldman are all so great in these roles and I loved the final act of the film where we get to see Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon get very involved. My only complaint about Caine’s Alfred is I didn’t like how Bruce pushed him away and left him without much to do in the second half of the film.

Additionally, I really enjoyed Marion Cotillard as the character who would reveal herself as Talia al Ghul. I only wish that we would have gotten to see her be more of a badass but her big reveal comes at the end of the movie and she’s not around much longer after that. Not having a Talia versus Selina fight was a missed opportunity.

The film also boasts great cinematography but why would anyone expect any less from Nolan at this point? I liked the brighter look of the town, especially in the third act, and how a lot of the film happens in daylight.

The final act, which sees Batman and the GCPD bring the fight to the League of Shadows in the streets was superb and chilling. Watching Batman and the cops take it to the villainous terrorists head-on was incredible and the best moment in the film. Watching Batman and Bane fight in a sea of people was also damn spectacular.

All in all, this is still one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. It just happens to be the worst of its trilogy and if I’m being honest, it felt like Christopher Nolan and the writers were just tired and wanted to move on to the next phase of their lives.

However, even if someone else would have to step in and do it, I’d rather see this film series continue, as opposed to seeing Warner Bros. keep trying to reboot Batman. Just let Nolan produce and pick the best creative team to help build off of his vision. I mean, a Joseph Gordon-Levitt Nightwing movie in this cinematic universe would certainly get my money.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

TV Review: Lethal Weapon (2016-2019)

Original Run: September 21st, 2016 – February 26th, 2019
Created by: Matt Miller
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Lethal Weapon by Shane Black
Music by: Vo Williams, various
Cast: Damon Wayans, Clayne Crawford, Jordana Brewster, Keesha Sharp, Kevin Rahm, Johnathan Fernandez, Chandler Kinney, Dante Brown, Michelle Mitchenor, Seann William Scott, Chandler Kinney, Dante Brown, Thomas Lennon, Hilarie Burton, Floriana Lima

Good Session Productions, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Fox, 55 Episodes, 42-46 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’ve been slowly working my way through this show since I finished revisiting the movies over a month ago. Initially, I didn’t want to watch this TV series reboot but those who have watched it spoke pretty highly of it. With that, I figured I’d check out a few episodes to see if it was worth investing my time into watching the whole series.

I have to admit that I was also intrigued by the controversy surrounding the show and its stars, which if you aren’t aware of, you should Google it, as there’s too much to sum up in a sentence or two.

Now knowing that the two leads pretty much hated each other, it’s incredible that they have a pretty natural bond and chemistry, as characters onscreen. And they are playing Riggs and Murtaugh, which are big shoes to fill, so having chemistry was absolutely key for this to work. Somehow, it does; magnificently well, in fact.

At it’s core, this is a fairly formulaic, episodic, police procedural, action dramedy. But really, it’s just about what you would expect from a TV show reboot of Lethal Weapon. I typically don’t vibe with shows like that but this one works for me simply because I love the characters and I love the broader stories that happen slowly over the course of each season. This show does a solid job of character and relationship building and that’s honestly the glue that holds this all together for me.

I also really, really like Clayne Crawford’s version of Martin Riggs, even if this role did make him miserable. I don’t think it was the role itself, I think he was just unhappy with the overall experience. But within the realm of the show, he doesn’t seem to let it effect his performance and he delivers. The guy is a hell of an actor and he makes you care about Riggs, probably on a deeper level than Mel Gibson had time to do in just two hour films.

Full disclosure, I know that Riggs gets killed off because Crawford was fired but I’m not there yet. I’m close to the end of season two, just before his exit. After watching season three, if my opinion of the show drastically changes, I’ll update this post at the bottom.

I also like Murtaugh, played by Damon Wayans, and that this film gets to expand on his family dynamic a lot more than the movies did. I like that part of the show and how Murtaugh’s wife is very instrumental in helping Riggs through his grief in the first season.

The supporting cast is good too, especially Kevin Rahm as the police chief and Jordana Brewster as the police psychologist. Rahm was one of my favorite actors on Mad Men and Brewster actually gets to show off her acting chops much more than just being eye candy in sportscar heist movies.

Overall, this is a pretty good show that was better than I thought it could be and maybe I should’ve given it a chance from the get go instead of initially looking at it as just another soulless, cash cow remake attempt.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the Lethal Weapon film series, as well as other action/comedy buddy cop television shows.

Film Review: Batman Vs. Two-Face (2017)

Also known as: Batman and the Face of Crime (working title)
Release Date: October 8th, 2017 (New York Comic Con)
Directed by: Rick Morales
Written by: Michael Jelenic, James Tucker
Based on: Batman (the ’60s TV show) by William Dozier, Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger
Music by: Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis
Cast: Adam West, Burt Ward, William Shatner, Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Steven Weber, Thomas Lennon, Jeff Bergman, William Salyers, Wally Wingert

Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 72 Minutes

Review:

“I always knew you’d make an asp of yourself, Batboob.” – King Tut

I was really happy with the first film in this duology of animated features that have resurrected the Batman ’66 universe. So when I saw that there was a second film, that it introduced Two-Face and that William Shatner would be providing the voice, I was pretty stoked.

If you are a fan of the first film, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, then this one shouldn’t disappoint. Plus, you don’t just get the addition of Two-Face, you also get Bat-villains Harley Quinn and Dr. Hugo Strange.

I love that the voice cast is comprised of the original actors. Sadly, Adam West passed away before this was released and that probably put the kibosh on a third film getting made, but this was a great final outing for him.

They also brought in Lee Meriwether, who was the original film version of Catwoman. She shares a few scenes here with the original TV Catowman, Julie Newmar. While Meriwhether doesn’t play her best known Batman character, there is a nice in-joke in the film where her character gets put into the cat suit and likes it.

One thing that is always fun about these modern versions of the Batman ’66 universe, whether in these films or the comics, is that they are able to dip really deep into the villain well and have a myriad of them in scenes together.

I was really excited to see Bookworm get his own sequence in the film, as he was my favorite villain created just for the classic television show. You also get King Tut, Egghead, the Clock King and a bunch of others.

William Shatner did a fine job as Harvey Dent a.k.a. Two-Face and I liked how they handled the character in this universe and I thought his big evil scheme was pretty good and entertaining, even though it wasn’t something wholly original.

These are just fun movies and much more family friendly than the other animated DC Comics features.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The film before this one: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, as well as the 1960s Batman TV show and movie, the Batman ’66 comic and other DC Comics animated films of the last decade.

Film Review: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)

Also known as: Batman ’66 (informal title)
Release Date: October 6th, 2016 (New York Comic Con)
Directed by: Rick Morales
Written by: Michael Jelenic, James Tucker
Based on: Batman (the ’60s TV show) by William Dozier, Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger
Music by: Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis
Cast: Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, Steven Weber, Thomas Lennon, Jeff Bergman, William Salyers, Wally Wingert

Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 78 Minutes

Review:

“Quickly, Robin, to the crosswalk!” – Batman

It’s kind of cool to see the old ’60s Batman get some life again over the past couple years. There was the Batman ’66 comic series, I already reviewed all the collections, and then there were two of these animated features that were made just in time to use the voices of the original cast: Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar. Sadly, West recently passed away, so a third film in this series probably won’t happen.

But I’m here to talk about Return of the Caped Crusaders, which is the first of the two Batman ’66 movies. I’ll review its sequel at a later date.

I guess the thing that I liked best about this movie is that the tone and the humor were spot on. It really captured the spirit of the show and felt like it was written by people that cared about the source material.

I also liked that this could be much larger in scale than the show. It featured a dozen or so of the television series’ villains but had a larger focus on the big four from the series: Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman.

There is also a whole side plot where Batman turns evil and has to be saved from himself by Catwoman and Robin. If you remember the show, you probably remember the rivalry for Batman’s attention between these two characters. It just makes for some good, amusing moments.

This is a quick and action packed film like everything else DC Comics has been doing as animated features. But this one really stands out due to its style and how well it works without DC sticking to their regular animated formula.

Good, fun story and overall, a really awesome experience for fans of the old show.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The sequel to this film: Batman Vs. Two Face, as well as the 1960s Batman TV show and movie, the Batman ’66 comic and other DC Comics animated films of the last decade.

Film Review: We’re The Millers (2013)

Release Date: August 3rd, 2013 (Traverse City Film Festival)
Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Written by: Bob Fisher, Steve Faber, Sean Anders, John Morris
Music by: Ludwig Goransson, Theodore Shapiro
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, Will Poulter, Ed Helms, Luis Guzman, Thomas Lennon, Ken Marino

New Line Cinema, Newman/Tooley Films, Slap Happy Productions, Heyday Films, Benderspink, Warner Bros., 110 Minutes

Review:

“We are all now officially international drug smugglers. Add it to the resume.” – David Clark

I didn’t have much urge to see this film even though I like a few of the people in it: mostly Sudeikis and Offerman. However, Aniston can be fun and Emma Roberts has been growing on me, even if I can’t stand her show Scream Queens. Ed Helms is awful in every way though but he is only in this sparingly. Plus, I’ve liked Kathryn Hahn since her time on Parks and Recreation.

I’m glad I ended up giving this film a chance though, even though most modern mainstream comedies are lowest common denominator schlock. We’re The Millers was pleasantly surprising. That’s not to say it was great but it had my attention throughout the picture and I laughed at some of the gags. Plus, the cast worked really well together.

In this film, we see Sudeikis’ David rope in stripper Rose (Aniston), runaway criminal Casey (Roberts) and his virginal neighbor Kenny (Will Poulter) into a scheme where they pose as a family on a RV trip to Mexico. On the trip, they are to acquire some drugs and bring them back to the States for Ed Helms’ character. Along the way, they run into trouble at every turn and while they bicker and fight, they find a real family unit with each other.

The picture is pretty straight forward from a stylistic approach. It’s an American comedy made for the general public, so there isn’t much in the way of cinematic artistry. The cinematography is fine but average, the directing isn’t notable for being either good or bad and the acting is exactly what one would expect. But then again, these films aren’t made to even compete for Oscars.

I’ve grown to like Jason Sudeikis a lot in the last few years. This just solidifies my appreciation for him. Offerman was also awesome, as a sexually freaky bad ass DEA agent. This is probably the best comedic role Offerman has had outside of Parks and Recreation.

We’re The Millers is not a movie that anyone will probably fall in love with but it is a better than average comedy film when compared to what’s come out of Hollywood in the last decade. It is not a classic by any means and will probably be forgotten in a few years but then they are supposedly working on a sequel to keep this thing living. It’s probably not a good idea though, as sequels to these sort of pictures tend to fall flat and cheapen the original.

Rating: 6.25/10