[Batman Day] Batman: The Movie (1966)

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Director: Leslie H. Martinson
Cast: Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin
Screenplay: Lorenzo Semple Jr.
105 mins. Approved.
I first saw the original Batman: The Movie (yeah, before Michael Keaton) about ten years ago. It was in the height of serious Batman Christian Bale’s reign as the caped crusader, and so I didn’t look upon the film too fondly. This year, I took the initiative to look back on Batman: The Movie in honor of Batman Day. Did my thoughts on the film change?
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In the film, the dynamic duo themselves, Batman (Adam West, TV’s Family Guy, Meet the Robinsons) and Robin (Burt Ward, Moving Target, Beach Babes from Beyond) are tasked with defeating four supervillains in their devious plan to use a weapon capable of dehydrating people to hold the world ransom. Batman finds himself emotionally involved when The Catwoman (Lee Meriwether, TV’s Barnaby Jones, The Ultimate Gift) disguises herself as a helpless damsel in distress to lure him in. As The Penguin (Burgess Meredith, Rocky, Grumpier Old Men) sets his plot in motion, the caped crusader finds himself fending off sharks and ridding Gotham of bombs. Can Batman defeat the foes? Or will he find himself in deeply dehydrating water?
Camp for the sake of camp. The 1960s saw Batman as a silly and over-the-top representation of truth, justice, and the American way. The 1960s were also a pretty confusing and sometimes scary time period. The world didn’t need villains. We already had them. What the world needed was an escape from the real. And, with Batman: The Movie, they got it.
The first season of the Batman television series has finished, and the producers decided to hit upon a movie’s budget to increase their usuable bat gadgets, a pretty genius idea all said and done. It’s what helps make the later seasons of the show stay exciting and fresh.
Adam West and Burt Ward play off each other really well, and it is their chemistry that drives the film. Both actors play the material as seriously as possible, and it makes the fun moments of cheese work so much better than playing them for comedy. And the screenplay itself, from screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. (Papillon, Flash Gordon) knows exactly what it needs to be.
From the rogues gallery, I particularly liked The Joker (Cesar Romero, The Little Princess, The Thin Man) and Meredith’s The Penguin. They have the most fun in role and absolutely steal their scenes.
Now, the film has some definite lagging issues in Act 2. By and large the best parts of the film are the Shark fight on the Bat Copter and the Bomb Chase sequence. The ending of the film falls flat too and isn’t all that memorable.
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From the film’s winning score to some truly unique visuals, Batman: The Movie is an interesting time capsule of a time we may never see again (though an upcoming DC animated film looks to see the return of the 60s Caped Crusader). It’s a lot of fun and has the potential to be a great passing of the torch for young viewers just getting into Batman and Robin.
3.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

[Freedom Films] Rocky (1976)

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Director: John G. Avildsen

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith

Screenplay: Sylvester Stallone

119 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Picture
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Director
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Film Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Sylvester Stallone)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Talia Shire)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Burgess Meredith)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Burt Young)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Song “Gonna Fly Now”

iMDB Top 250: #213 (as of 1/18/2016)

 

Today, on Independence Day, we look back on American Films about America. We will be taking some time to look at Rocky, the 1976 Best Picture winner, in this limited series of reviews during major American holidays. Rocky is the first sports film to win Best Picture. It also holds the distinction of being the Best Picture with the most sequels, six as of this year’s upcoming spin-off Creed. In 1975, Sylvester Stallone (The Expendables, Grudge Match) had less than $200 in his bank and not enough money to feed his dog. He believed in his screenplay and vision so much so that when the script was purchased, he gambled his career on the bet that he could perform. When casting Apollo Creed, Carl Weathers (Predator, The Comebacks) was hired when he made a crack about Stallone’s inability to act. Ironically, Weathers didn’t receive an acting nomination but Stallone did.

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Rocky Balboa (Stallone), also known as The Italian Stallion, is a southpaw boxer who hasn’t had luck in life. He boxes when he can, but in order to make ends meet, he has to hustle for a loan shark. He can’t seem to get closer to the woman he cares for, Adrian (Talia Shire, The Godfather: Part II, Palo Alto), and his closest friend is a drunk named Paulie (Burt Young, Once Upon a Time in America, Rob the Mob), who happens to be Adrian’s brother. But when Apollo Creed, the heavyweight champion of the world, needs a gimmick for his upcoming New Year’s Day fight, he calls upon the little guy, The Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa himself. Now, with the help of aging manager Mickey (Burgess Meredith, Grumpier Old Men, Santa Claus), Rocky is going to try and take on the biggest boxer in the business and seize his chance at being a somebody in this film from director John G. Avildsen (The Karate Kid, 8 Seconds).

Rocky is a great sports film, one of the greatest ever. Director Avildsen gives his greatest work as a filmmaker here, ably controlling several variable factors to make a compelling character piece. I think what makes it such a strong and moving film is the likable underdog in Rocky, written and played well by Stallone, and the focus on creating interesting characters first and foremost and keeping the focus on them over the actual sports moments. It’s just like how the best war films are about great characters experiencing war. Stallone and Avildsen worked well together to fix issues as they came up, with Stallone writing scenes like the one where Rocky points out the mistake on his shorts the night before the fight or him calling out the oversized robe. These scenes were added due to production errors but because of the partnerships, you’d never notice. Well, I guess now you would.

We also get great work from Shire, Young, and especially Meredith, who gives a performance that only seems cliché because of how many films copied it later. I even really loved Weathers as Creed even if he didn’t get the nomination.

The terrific score from Bill Conti is the stuff of legend, a piece of musical brilliance imitated but rarely met. The Academy Award Nominee song “Gonna Fly Now”, also known as the Rocky Theme, stands with it as a franchise signature.

Rocky suffers from some uneven cinematography not counting the fight scenes, which are top notch.

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So is Rocky the best film in the series? Yeah, I suppose so, but I do enjoy watching it in conjunction with the sequel, Rocky II. In fact, I love the Rocky series in general, with the notable exception of Paulie dating a robot in Rocky IV (still a great film, but I mean…c’mon…). Rocky is, from a technical sense, a great film with an ending that challenges the conventions of most other similar films. See this one, and love it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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