The New Batman is Here, and He is Sparkly

Okay, okay, okay…

So we finally have an announcement as to who is taking up the mantle for the next entry in the Batman series, currently titled The Batman. The film, to be written and directed by Matt Reeves, is scheduled to begin production later this year for a September 2021 release.

The new Batman is Robert Pattinson.

The internet took it pretty well actually. No wait, I didn’t say that right. Let me correct…The internet lost its collective shit because the internet hates everything, and as I said about Game of Thrones recently, no one hates Batman casting picks as much as Batman fans do.

Early reports claimed that Reeves was searching for a younger Batman, and upon reading everything I’ve read about the film, I still believe it will be tangentially related to the larger DCEU, set some time before Batman looked like Ben Affleck. There will likely not be any reference to the larger DCEU, but that would be a smarter thing than forcing it in or confusing the general movie-going audience by adding another separate Batman franchise next to the standalone Joker movie and the DCEU proper. It’s just messy.

As far as Battinson (see what I did there?) goes, I’m rather excited. No, he wasn’t a very good sparkly vampire, but his work in the Twilight franchise was a decade ago, and he was working from a not-great screenplay and source material. Compare the Twilight books to the larger Batman comic books. If you agree that Batman’s source material is better, then you have to assume that a better screenplay and director at the helm can only help.

If you’ve seen Battinson in films like The Rover or Good Time, then you’ve seen a range that will separate him from his Twilight days quite effectively. Hell, he wasn’t half-bad in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

To put it simply, and to paraphrase Spongebob Squarepants’s thoughts on Krabby Patties, the only people who don’t like Battinson have never tried him.

I think I’ve made my point.

 

UPDATE: Just as this was set to be published, as with all news stories from DC, it appears there is more to this than previously thought. It would seem that Nicholas Hoult, known for his work as Beast in the X-Men films and also playing J.R.R. Tolkien in the new biopic, is also in the mix for Bruce Wayne/Batman. Now, I don’t have any funny nicknames for Hoult as with Battinson, so that’s one strike.

On the other hand, though, Hoult has proven himself time after time to be an excellent actor with a wide range similar to that of a Michael Keaton. Keaton was a controversial choice back in the 80s to play the Caped Crusader, but with turns from Beetlejuice to things like Mr. Mom, he proved he had the right mixture of professional acting and insanity, something I would argue Hoult also has. Don’t believe me? Check Mad Max: Fury Road to see that level of Let’s-Get-Nuts that a Keaton would have. There are indeed similarities.

So what it boils down to is that both of these choices would be inspired, and in Matt Reeves I trust, so whatever he decides, I’m down for the ride.

So what do you think? Who should play Bruce Wayne/Batman? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2017oscardeathrace] Hell or High Water (2016)

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Director: David Mackenzie

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham

Screenplay: Taylor Sheridan

102 mins. Rated R for some strong violence, language throughout and brief sexuality.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Jeff Bridges) [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Original Screenplay [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing [Pending]

 

Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski, The Little Prince) is known most recently for two personas. The first is a hippie, as seen in his landmark role of The Dude in The Big Lebowski. The second: The cowboy. In Hell or High Water, from director David Mackenzie (Starred Up, Perfect Sense), we see the latter. That isn’t to diminish the role, far from it. In fact, each time Bridges personifies a cowboy, he brings something wholly new and unique to the role.

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Hell or High Water follows two brothers, Toby (Chris Pine, Star Trek, The Finest Hours) and Tanner (Ben Foster, Warcraft, Inferno), who become bank robbers to afford the reverse mortgage on their mother’s land, where oil was recently discovered. As the two brothers get hasty, Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton comes onto the case with his partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham, Twilight, The Space Between Us) to track down the masked robbers.

My big fault with Hell or High Water is the simplicity. There is an allegory about debt here that’s nice, but mostly, the film is pretty straightforward, and it didn’t really surprise me much in the way it played out. It was still quite enjoyable, and the performances from its main cast, particularly Chris Pine, who rises above preconceived notions to put out an award-worthy showcase. Foster and Birmingham are exceptional here as well, and Bridges earned his nomination, but for me, it just didn’t have that feeling of a Best Picture nominee.

An unexpected win for the film is it’s cinematography and editing, both top notch characters of their own, they elevate the simple story and are more than likely the main reason Hell or High Water was recognized with a Best Picture nomination. It is gorgeous filmmaking from David Mackenzie and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Sicario).

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I don’t want to give away the film’s climactic ending, but suffice it to say that this character piece is well-worth your time, especially for fans of modern westerns, a subgenre becoming more and more pronounced due to the talent contributing to it. Check out Hell or High Water, which slid under the radar for much of 2016; it deserves your attention.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Oscar Madness Monday] Still Alice (2014)

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Director: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

Cast: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parish

Screenplay: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

101 mins. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, and brief language including a sexual reference.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role [Julianne Moore]

 

Well, there simply aren’t enough days during Oscar season to talk about movies. There aren’t. So, on the occasion when I feel like it, I’ll be talking with you on some Mondays about films the Academy has deemed worthy of admiration. Today, an Oscar winner from this most recent awards ceremony: Still Alice. So let’s begin.

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Alice Howland (Julianne Moore, The Big Lebowski, Freeheld), a brilliant linguistics professor, lives for her mind. Her world is that much more shattered when she is diagnosed with Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Now Alice must learn to lean on her family, including caring husband John (Alec Baldwin, The Departed, Aloha) and strained daughter Lydia (Kristen Stewart, Twilight, American Ultra) as she slowly loses the parts of her that make up who she is.

Still Alice isn’t a perfect film. It has faults, to be sure. I find that the runtime could be shortened. A few of the character arcs are believable. A few of the story points are cliché. But none of that really matters.

This is Julianne Moore’s film. She controls the screen in perhaps her most captivating roles. She takes viewers on a journey with her as we see Alice slowly deteriorate in front of her family’s eyes. Seeing her in her place of zen, a cabin by the beach with husband John, struggling to remember where the bathroom is. The scene is heartbreaking. There is a difficult and triumphant sequence in which Alice attempts to give a speech on her disease. Her character’s emotional and physical transformations are on full display, and Moore’s nuanced performance carries this film, so much so that the problems I encountered bothered me a lot less.

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Still Alice is one of those difficult movies. Like Precious or 12 Years a Slave, it isn’t a film I like to watch. That doesn’t stop it from being an important and challenging piece, moving in its own right. Julianne Moore owns the screen and her statue due to an unparalleled and unstoppable command of the craft.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of (2015)

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Director: Stephen Kijak

Cast: Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, A.J. McLean, Kevin Richardson

101 mins. Not Rated.

 

The Backstreet Boys kind of just disappeared in the mid-2000s. Like many boy bands, the formula just stopped working after a while. The new documentary Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of chronicles the band reuniting for the 2013 album In a World Like This and the ups & downs associated.

Featuring rare footage of the many songs being worked on for the album mixed with a history of the band’s highs and lows and emotional scenes discussing the band’s difficulties in the past years since originally forming.

My big problem with the film is that we get a lot of people that seem to be upset but I wasn’t convinced by the tribulations of their lives. I understand that during the history of the band segments we see how they were screwed by management, but these performers still came off as over-privileged complainers. They bicker amongst each other over who is to blame for this or that and who should get lead vocals.

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I imagine the film would be impressive to hardcore fans much in the same way that the many Twilight documentaries outlined the terrible series that it was. It just didn’t work for me.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

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Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson

Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden

Screenplay: Kelly Marcel

125 mins. Rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language.

 

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you my review of the highest grossing adaptation of a rip-off of a bad book series…of all time perhaps, Fifty Shades of Grey. No contracts to sign for this one, folks, so let’s jump in.

Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson, 21 Jump Street, Cymbeline) has been tasked with interviewing the mysterious entrepreneur Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan, TV’s The Fall, Marie Antoinette) for her friend’s school newspaper. When Grey starts to follow Ana and takes an extreme interest in her personal life, she begins to see that he has wants for more than she may be able to give. As Christian’s sexual fantasies take flight with Ana as a passenger, she questions what or who she really wants in the film from director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy).

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Let’s discuss our leads here. Dakota Johnson acts to the character well enough, but the character isn’t any good. She doesn’t give her character a path or any catharsis to lead to. Then there’s Jamie Dornan, who is absolutely dreadful as the billionaire playboy. Not only is the character completely unlikable, but Dornan plays him as a whiny baby. His character is a selfish prick, he doesn’t give anything to Ana in terms of her relationship needs. It is all take-take-take. Who would find him an enjoyable character to follow?

The only thing worse than the leads here is the chemistry between them. It is a shame to have some of my favorite character actors given so little screen time to bolster this film as they are squandered in the background. I’m referring specifically about Marcia Gay Harden (TV’s The Newsroom, Into the Wild), Andrew Airlie, and one of absolute favorite people Callum Keith Rennie. Our leads are incapable of driving this story forward, and it really doesn’t end.

So how good is the rest of the film? It isn’t particularly well shot, especially the poorly-shot initial love scene. It is almost as if the director didn’t watch the dailies, because the scene breaks even the simplest of guidelines around how to shoot a scene (I can hear my filmmaker friends telling me that there are no guidelines to shooting a scene, but I even they would agree with me). The film has a tonally broken look to it, similar to the book itself.

Then there is the sound and music editing. There are scenes with Anastasia typing on her new computer and she finishes typing before the sound stops. It is blaringly noticeable. Not to mention Danny Elfman trying his best to not be Danny Elfman, and he fails. The best decision made in this film is not using his score for the sex scenes and opting for some more sensual tracks from major artists. Can you imagine the Beetlejuice soundtrack during the lovin’?

Another great decision by the filmmakers is to avoid using the phrase “inner goddess” which E.L. James’ novel put into the triple digits. They still get away with the wretched “laters, babe” which made my breakfast churn in my stomach.

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Eventually, Fifty Shades of Grey makes its way into classic romantic cliché and shtick with a side order of complete boredom. The film is somewhat slightly better than the original tome it is based on, but that doesn’t make it any good. Perhaps the adaptation that Bret Easton Ellis wanted to write would have been better. As too with less input by the dreck that is E.L. James. It takes a special kind of bad for me to wish for Twilight over this fan-fiction slop.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So have you seen Fifty Shades of Grey? What did you think? Was it so “Crazy Right Now” or did it reach your hard limits? Let me know!

 

[Happy 5th Birthday!] A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

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Director: Samuel Bayer

Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz

Screenplay: Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer

95 mins. Rated R for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror and language.

 

Earlier this month, I discussed Platinum Dunes and their remake of The Amityville Horror. In that review, I mentioned that I believe a remake was an unsuitable idea for that franchise and, indeed, the entire horror genre. Most horror fans understand that the endless barrage of sequels boils down to mostly remake material, but we love the thrill of an unstoppable horror that keeps coming back. By hitting the remake switch, we get stuck with a new thread that may not be strong enough to carry a film. I happen to think that, if you want to bring back a franchise, do it like Star Trek did, where the new film could constitute a beginning of a series while being honest to the fans. Easy? No, but did we ever want easy? No. Even Friday the 13th’s remake was a better choice than just the same movie over again. Friday the 13th took the route of rebooting the series by the taking the best parts of remaking the franchise rather than just the inciting film. In A Nightmare on Elm Street, we get a straight remake, so we don’t get scared, because we’ve seen it all before.

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The teenagers in town are dying when they fall asleep, and there’s not much that can be done about it. Quentin Smith (Kyle Gallner, American Sniper, Dear White People) and Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara, The Social Network, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) are willing to try anything to stay awake as they attempt to uncover the dark secret about their town, their parents, and the man who haunts their dreams, Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen, RoboCop).

I really enjoy Jackie Earle Haley’s work here. I’ve often found him to be an interesting character actor who specializes in the darkness within humanity. As Freddy Krueger, he found a menacing voice and strong physical performance that adds something new to the character. He even improvised some truly disturbing dialogue to keep the actors unhinged during shooting. I particularly like the unsettling line about the how the brain still functions seven minutes after death. The problem with his character is that his face is half-CGI’d and that lead to a more wooden character than we should have had. The irritating part was that the reason for the CGI (from the same group involved with Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight) was meant to be true to actual burn victims. Then, at the last minute, they scaled it back, hindering Haley’s work without a reason, and effectively crushing the intensity of the film.

As for the teenagers of Springwood, I can’t be as happy about. Gallner and Mara tune in flat work, bolstered by some pretty good (if not completely cheesy) acting from Katie Cassidy (TV’s Arrow, Monte Carlo) and Kellan Lutz (TV’s The Comeback, Twilight).

The new addition of micro-dreaming is cool, but it boils down to jumping the shark here. Where does the story go if they can’t even stay awake.

New director Samuel Bayer takes his touch for music videos and applies it well to the cinematography of this film. He absolutely can’t handle using practical effects which result from the over-shiny quality of the picture. Where’s the brooding darkness? Good question.

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There is a lot of good that A Nightmare on Elm Street did (I don’t agree with Rooney Mara speaking out against the film once she “made it” as an actress). There, unfortunately, is too much that this remake did wrong. The entire film comes off as a flimsy reminder that we had better 30 years ago. It can’t carry the weight of a franchise, and now fanboys like me are waiting around to see if we will ever get another tour of Elm Street.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror: Day 12 – Daybreakers (2009)

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Director: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig

Cast: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Sam Neill, Vince Colosimo, Isabel Lucas

Screenplay: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig

98 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and brief nudity.

 

There are so many great ideas in filmmaking today. Ideas for completely new stories and ideas for imagining old stories in a completely new way. Most of these ideas get muddled by poor direction, cheap performances, and no subtlety. Daybreakers is one of those films that takes its idea, a reworking of the vampire myth, and brings it all the way through to fruition.

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Daybreakers exists in a world where the undead have taken over the planet. Vampires have a lifestyle all their own. Humans are on the run, the few that are left, that is. The others have been contained and are being bled dry to feed the ever-weakening population that can’t be regularly fed. Blood prices are up and the world is on the brink. It’s the story of Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke, Training Day, Boyhood), a vampire scientist trying to discover how to deal with the global catastrophe in the making. He is trying to solve the blood shortage crisis as Charles Bromley (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park, Escape Plan), a vampire business leader, hordes the blood for the wealthy. As the blood runs thin, normal walking vampires turn into horrific creatures (more like your were-vampires with tones of Nosferatu) who uncontrollably attack others to get their fix. Edward gets kidnapped by Lionel “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man, John Wick), an ex-vampire who has found the cure to become human again. Together, they must, under cover of daylight, discover how to cure the general population and solve the blood crisis before the vampires morph out into monstrosities.

This was just a really cool idea. I was so excited to see how it played out, and not only was I not disappointed, but I was shocked to see such political undertones in a January release horror film. There is so much ingrained about the wealthy 1% versus the other 99, the Occupy Wall Street movement (which hadn’t even really happened yet), unemployment, gas prices, and now more than ever, our fear of an outbreak that we can’t even begin to understand. In today’s world of Ebola outbreaks in the United States, this film has a lot more to say for something essentially skipped over during its general release.

The cinematography is beautiful here, as it complements the art direction of playing off an alternate version of Earth. The changes in lifestyle are so paramount and yet subtle enough to make us look inwards at our lifestyle and how so easily it sits on the brink of societal collapse. These vampires live each day thinking their lives are okay and that someone is working to help them. They live in denial, like so many of us today.

I don’t really want to get political with this movie, which boils down to being a lot of fun at the core. The vampire mythos needed to get turned over with this. We had too much Twilight in our lore at this point and needed something with a bit of bite.

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Daybreakers is a lot of fun for the casual moviegoer and for the viewer looking for a bit more of substance to his gore. Check this film out for the interesting take of the myth, a cadre of well-performed characters, and some actual thought.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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