"That's a nice-a donut."

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Batman Movies

Seeing as how Sin City opens nationwide in theaters tomorrow ( and is getting some pretty good reviews so far ), I've started to think about another little comic book movie coming soon. Batman Begins. Even with Christopher Nolan directing - the man behind the wonderful Memento, the very good Insomnia, and the seldom seen but quite good Following - I'm not sure that I've ever been more skeptical of something in my entire life.

Just the word "Batman" in the title sends a very uncomfortable feeling down my spine. Sure, it's based on the phenomenal Year One storyline by legend Frank Miller (who, of course, is also the creator of Sin city), but let's go back and look at the history of the last four Batman movies.

First, there was Batman. This was a smash hit back in 1989, making what is now considered just chump change in it's opening weekend, though it probably would have put up Spiderman numbers if it were first released today. And it was a very good movie too, featuring dark gritty photography and solid performances by Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack as The Joker. I think it's lost a little of its magic since it was first released, but it's still a fine achievement. The verdict: B+

Next came Batman Returns. It followed the theme of most sequels by trying to be bigger than the first. Namely, more characters and more story. Eh, it's decent but began the steep decline for the franchise. B-

Batman Forever was next. A new actor in the leading role and a new director spelled doom. It had a couple decent hit songs and that's about the only good thing I can say about this. C

Batman and Robin. I refuse to speak of this, other than to say that it is one of the worst movies of all-time. F

And so where does that leave us with Batman Begins? Will it continue the downward trend? That seems impossible. It seems to have nowhere to go but up.

Porco Rosso

Well, with this first post I will give a brief review of the movie I watched last night: Porco Rosso. This fine animated feature was recently released on DVD along with some other films by its great director, Hiyao Miyazaki, who is perhaps best known for the 2001 Academy Award winning Best Animated Film Spirited Away.

To give any substantial summary of the movie is to do it an injustice. In short, our hero is a cursed half-man/half-pig seaplane pilot named Porco Russo who is sort of a bounty hunter (almost reminding me of Han Solo) in Italy sometime after World War I. He is defeated in a battle with an American and his great plane is ruined. With the help of a smart, adventurous young woman, he must rebuild his plane, avenge his defeat to keep his honor, and pay off his debts. It is a heartwarming, beautifully rendered tale that is just perfect for children of all ages. Children from 6 to 106.

It is rather ironic that the film is being distributed on video by Walt Disney Studios. That is the same once-great Disney company that in recent years has shut down its vaunted 2-D animation studio and, well, hasn't had a good family film in at least 10 years. I wish more movies were like this. Porco Rosso is just the sort of movie that I would be happy to watch with my family.

The verdict: A-.


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