Surprisingly Not Much Running!

You know which actor I like? This might seem like a tough question, if you know me, you know that I like a lot of actors, and if you don’t, there are a ton of actors out there, but for the inquisitive among you, you are thinking, “This is a review of ‘See How They Run’, so probably either Sam Rockwell or Saoirse Ronan.” The smart person that you are would be right on both counts. Sam Rockwell specifically, but Saoirse Ronan is great as well, and they really are the reason to watch See How They Run.

Sam is the seasoned world-weary Inspector Stoppard, and Saoirse is the young overly excited Constable Stalker, and they bounce off each other wonderfully as they try and solve the mystery of who killed Adrien Brody’s jerky American director Leo Köpernick. All this is framed around the pre-production of a movie based on original staging of Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap. This humorous take on a Christie-esque mystery really allows all the players to have a few fun moments in the spotlight, but it always comes back to the duo of Rockwell and Ronan.

However, nothing really separates ‘See How They Run’ from a lot of other who-done-its. It is a long-standing genre, so if getting fancy people in a room and interrogating them isn’t your cup of tea, even if they are being quite funny, you can probably skip this film, or watch it when it comes to Hulu or HBO Max or wherever it goes after its theatrical run. I on the other hand love this sort of thing, and to have it done by two very talented actors is a treat. Also, in this age of streaming, this has been the type of movie to head straight streaming instead of going to theaters, so it was fun curl up in my theater chair with my slushy and watch actors chew on some scenery.

In hindsight, this review almost seems unnecessary, if this kind of movie looks like something you would like, you probably will. It was well-written, well-staged, and well-acted, but if you think it looks like too much talking and funnily enough, not enough running, you will probably be bored. For me ‘See How They Run’ was comfort food, and I was more than happy to give it an hour and a half of my Sunday evening.

Detective Batman

When Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) took over from Ben Affleck to write and direct The Batman, he said he wanted to show the detective side of The Dark Knight. It has been part of Batman’s comic book persona for decades, but when it comes to the big screen we had seen him be several things: zany in 1966’s Batman, weird in the Burton films, silly in the Schumacher movies, a grounded ninja in the Nolan movies, and buff and angry in the Znyder flicks, but rarely smart. The closest we have gotten was in the ’66 movie were Batman solves Riddler’s ridiculous riddles in a blink of an eye, so it was only fitting that The Riddler would make Batman put on his thinking cap once again.

Of course this Riddler is nothing like Frank Gorshin’s classic take on the villain, Paul Dano plays a much more twisted version of the character. A serial killer with a message for Robert Pattinson’s Batman, and while Batman is a able to figure out the riddles, it will take him quite a bit of effort to figure out what they all mean. Even better it will make Bruce Wayne take stock and examine what it means to be The Batman. Giving him an actual character arc, and not just one where we see some pearls and some popcorn (we don’t see any pearls or popcorn) and now he runs around in a rubber suit.

Dano really gets in to this Riddler, and as dark and sinister as he is, his is still somewhat silly. Which was a nice touch. A nod to his past. Pattinson’s Batman is still trying to figure it all out. He has been Batman for a while, but Gotham doesn’t seem to be getting better, and he doesn’t know what it means to be Bruce Wayne. He is more lost than we are used to. Dano and Pattison are not alone, and the supporting cast all stand out. Write, Kravitz, Farrell, and Turturro are all fantastic. Giving memorable takes on their classic characters. Write in particular might be the most relatable Jim Gordon has ever been. Giving Batman a buddy when he needs one.

In style this movie seems like it would fit closer to the Nolan movies, but it is much darker and dirtier, and the movie isn’t a grand epic. It is a street level thriller that is a bit of a slow burn. Now, I know what you are thinking, a slow burn in a movie with a three hour run time is a bit of a red flag, and the movie is too long, but for most of the film’s run time it is quite engaging. It just takes a little too much time here and there, and it has two too many endings, but it is worth it for the other 90% of The Batman. Don’t worry, there are still some well done action set-pieces.

I had a lot of fun with The Batman, not something I thought I would say about a Batman version of Seven, but it did still manage to be fun. Matt Reeves figured out a way to have Batman solve crimes, and not just be a very strange episode of Columbo. I am curious to see what he does with the character next. Reports are that Warner Bros. is quite happy with this movie, so I am sure we will be seeing a lot of The Batman.

Welcome To The FanDome!

Thanks to Covid-19 all of our favorite fan conventions have been shutdown. No PAXes, E3s or Comic Cons of any type. The online conventions that people have been throwing are fine, but they have lacked any oomph. They have all been lacking in one way or another. The PS5 event lacked release dates, the Xbox events lacked a killer app, and the online Comic Cons have lacked cool announcements and star power. With Summer 2020 coming to a close, Warner Bros and DC have finally given us something to cheer about. I mean look at all the things they announced in one day!

  • The Flash will fight along side Keaton’s Batman and be mentored by Affleck’s Batman
  • A new Wonder Woman trailer
  • WB Montreal is working on a Bat-Family game with the Court of Owls
  • The Suicide Squad had a behind the scenes trailer and character role-call
  • The Titans will be fighting the Red Hood. Also, the Titans still aren’t canceled
  • Milestone Media will relaunch in 2021
  • A new Snyder Cut Justice League trailer, and the movie/miniseries will be FOUR HOURS LONG
  • The Black Adam movie will feature the JSA, and more importantly DOCTOR FATE
  • Shazam 2 is now call Shazam: Fury of the Gods, and it may have Sinbad in it because that would be funny
  • Rocksteady is making a game where the Suicide Squad has to kill the Justice League
  • The Batman has a new trailer, and it is amazing

In fact, here is that trailer:

And that was all day one! Day two is in mid-September and will have more comic book and TV stuff. Warner Bros managed to make a day full of announcements worth watching, and I am not going to miss day two that is for sure. Which is not something I expected from a company that usually announces movies during earnings calls.

Hey, being locked inside is not fun, and Warner Bros gave us something to gawk at and cheer for, and I think that is something to applaud. Other media organizations should take note. This is how these events should be done. I hope we can get back to doing stuff in person next year, but I could get used events like this.

The Joker Ain’t Funny

There have been as many takes on the Joker as there has been on Batman. From petty criminal that leaves practice jokes to psychopath that cuts smiles in to the faces of his random victims, but Todd Phillips’ version is unique even among those. He doesn’t fight Batman, Batman doesn’t even exist, instead he is a dark meditation on poverty, mental health and gun violence.

Joker is a hard movie to do a synopsis for. It is best not knowing anything about it going in to it, but it will be shock to those looking for Batman movie. This is a DC Comics movie almost in name only. They do add some connections to the Batverse, but they are the exception not the rule. Just know that Arthur Fleck’s (Joaquin Phoenix) life is a brutal and sad one.

Todd Phillips and the rest of the writers really took a swing for something with Joker. It is clear they wanted to make a riff on the 19070’s/80’s Martin Scorsese films. It would fit comfortably with Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy. In fact, Scorsese was attached to produce for a while until breaking off to do The Irishman for Netflix. Still, it is a pretty convincing imitation. You could have told me this was a Scorsese movie, and I would have believed you.

What really makes Joker work is Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role. He is mesmerizing, and keeps the audience rooting for Arthur for longer than they should. The rest of the cast is talented, but this mostly a one man show, and I think whether or not you like this movie will depend on how you feel about Phoenix’s performance.

Joker is not a movie for those looking for the next popcorn comic book movie. It is for people who want to see a dark tale about mental illness in America, but since this is 2019, your movie has to be based on some IP (intellectual property) or part of some ‘verse to get movie executives’ attention, and the fact Todd Phillips used Batman’s greatest villain to get his movie made, might be Joker’s best gag.

P.S. This movie is a hard ‘R’. Please don’t take your kids to see it.

Brad Pitt Goes To The Stars!

I am finding Ad Astra to be a hard movie to review. The film by James Gray is gorgeous, and features a great performance from Brad Pitt, but considering Gray and Pitt have both admitted that Apocalypse Now and 2001: A Space Odyssey were the main influences for this movie, it shares the flaws of those two films: It is a slow internal struggle of a man set to some amazing imagery, and that is it. Ad Astra is a very hard film to engage with since it bores you and keeps you at arms length. Seemingly saying, “Look at me, but don’t get to close!” I could go on about the story, or Pitt’s acting ability, but I would just be writing in circles to fill space, and that doesn’t help anyone making a decision to see this film or not.

In the end, if you want to see Pitt at the top of his game, and Gray do his best to bring the lifeless void of space to life, give Ad Astra a shot. If you really like 2001 or Apocalypse Now and wonder why they don’t make films like that anymore, you are in luck, but for everyone else, you can probably skip it, or wait for some lazy rainy Sunday when a slow movie about a man finding himself while getting lost would go great with a warm blanket and some hot chocolate.