Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Movie - Batman Begins and the Dukes


First some perspective, courtesy of Mandy, upon the entrance of one of
the movie's key characters:

Her: Oh no, not him.
Me: What?
Her: Is that Jerry Springer?
Me: Uh... that's Rutger Hauer.

But ya know what? The similarities are striking. Long way from Blade
Runner, indeed.

So despite what you heard elsewhere, Batman Begins is a hell of an effort, if you keep in mind the limitations built into the movie. No, not any prequels-are-hard-to-do nonsense. No, the director,
Christopher Nolan (who did Decade Top 10-shoe-in "Momento"), was
saddled with Liam Neeson and Katie Holmes.
As far as Neeson, the likable Scot goes - well, to quote Sherry and
Terry, the Simpson's purple twins, "You ruin everything, you ruiner."
Between his franchise-sinking effort in Phantom Menace and this, Neesan
is arguably right there with Michael Bay as the worst thing in the
history of action movies. He can do no right. I keep thinking its the
script, because he unfailingly has horrific material to work with (and
his lines in this movie are hilariously bad), but he also is utterly
unbelievable as a tough guy. Or even an in-shape guy. He makes Pierce
Brosnan's anemic James Bond look like The Rock.
Neeson bookends this movie with wildly dull catfights and mindless
gibberish about 'confronting your fears by becoming your fears' and
it's best to ignore both episodes completely.
Everything in between is really good.
Well, except for Holmes, who is terrible, but you knew that going
in, right? Fortunately, Nolan spots the danger early and solves it
with an ingenious sidestep. He does this to her: A) she plays an
assistant DA with B) straight black hair and skin tight cashmere
numbers who c) spends every second onscreen striding purposefully down
hallways holding a legal briefcase or D) in edgy conflict with her
boss, the DA, a nameless actor who is E) cast, clothed and made-up to
look as much like Sam Waterston as possible.
In other words, the director clearly knew from the second he was told
he had Holmes what just about everyone else knows, too: in a fair
world, she MIGHT be a good enough actress to play the Angie Harmon-et
al role of the Law and Order pin-up girl.

(any question of how interchangable the hot-bimbo-DA role is on that show should be put to rest with that link - notice that the bio is for the NEW hot-bimbo-DA, while the previous-generation hot-bimbo hasn't even been stripped from the show's banner at the top of the page)

So, like renting a blow-up castle to let the kids bounce around in
at a grown-up party, what Nolan does, brilliantly, is build Holmes her
own little L&O episode - replete with the Waterston look alike to talk
down to her - to play in while he and the rest of the cast shoot a
Batman movie. By her fifth time on screen - demanding to see
evidence, earnestly arguing for an indictment, telling the cops to
watch their step - I was greeting her appearance with my own little
"Dum-duummmm."

So Neeson is relegated to play against the credits and Katie is sent
out to find Lenny. That leaves the rest of the movie, which finishes
miles ahead of the previous contenders as the best Batman movie to
date.

And it's mostly because of Christian Bale.

Being handed Batman was clearly a make-or-break opportunity for Bale
who, ever since American Psycho, I've had listed right there with Jason
Stetham (Turkish from Snatch) as a guy who needs to be handed a 5-movie
franchise. He crushes this one. He's smart, tough, mean and dark, and
roles through the movie like he was born to it. The entire point of
the movie is to put a story to Batman's dark impulses, and, once spun,
Bale wears the weight of that backstory as easily as he wears a tux. In
key moments, he doesn't preen or overreach. When the moment is funny,
he flows with it and lets the joke breathe - and then has the grace to
walk away. When the moment is dark or tense (which is pretty much all
the time), he lets loose a little bit of the fury he brought to Jason
Batemen in "Psycho" and attacks.
When not having to carry Holmes of Neeson on his back, he's a wonder.
Comparing him to the other Batmans....
He's relaxed and engaged as both Bruce Wayne and Batman, versus the
perpetually lost Michael Keaton.
He has no false swagger or smarm - which is pretty much the
definition of George Clooney in every movie.
And he's not an introverted geek like Val Kilmer.
OK, so lapping that field is no big deal. But Bale is better than
just 'better than those guys.' He's smart, grounded, stubborn and -
when the light goes on - a born man of action.
Been a while since I found myself thinking, "here's a guy who could
play Indiana Jones" but, well, here's a guy.

The toys of the movie are terrific especially the Batmobile, a
dead-even mix of M1A1 tank and Lamborghini Countach. Morgan Freeman
and Michael Caine, both heavyweights in flyweight roles, handle their
business with expert timing (it's still another reflection on Bale that
he never cedes the screen to these two high-end actors when they are
together). Unlike the other movies, the villian is kept very
deliberately in the background, so there's no vamping comic or
brand-name action star to steal screen time. The villan is Batman's
past (and, i guess Neeson and Holmes), no problem for Bale.

Terrific movie.

Also, saw the trailer for Dukes of Hazzard. unwatchable. Since you
know the best 3 jokes of the movie are in the trailer, this mght be the
least funny movie of the year. I saw three quick sequences that
sounded like jokes, but as far as actually laughing? Forget it.
And, Jessica Simpson, tits and ass predictably ablaze, is making a
major push for Worst Fake Southern Accent Ever.
Which would be quite an accomplishment, since she's from Texas.
Who has ever been more successful on less talent? She's like a
porno-barbie version of Tom Arnold.

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