Batman done right, something Christopher Nolan was never able to accomplish!
A handful of movies this week,
Pon (Phone, 2002, Byeong-ki Ahn, South Korea) **1/2
There are moments within Pon that are well done. The story sure as heck gets in the way, what with it’s desire to pile twist upon twist. But, outside of the story there are some interesting framing shots and character choices that make for a creepy film. I wish the story hadn’t been as littered with twists as it was, because it did distract from the other decent qualities in Pon. I was especially impressed with the performance of young Seo-woo Eun, who managed to be a creepy kid and believable, a deadly combination if I ever saw one. Pon isn’t a terrible film, it’s a decent effort that has the misfortune of a derailing story at its core.
Batman Returns (1992, Tim Burton, United Kingdom/United States Of America) ***1/2
I find Batman Returns to be a glorious entry in the annals of comic book films. This is what happens when Tim Burton is allowed to go all out and isn’t restricted by telling an origin story. The gothic elements are integrated into the story seamlessly. Character, setting, and tone all take on a dark edge that never feels off for a second. Batman Returns is funny, ironic, tragic, and campy in the best of ways. The Batman franchise, excluding any animation efforts, would never be better than Batman Returns, and yes that includes all of the Christopher Nolan misfires. Gotham City looks and feels like an actual comic book city, the line between hero and villain is wonderfully blurred, and above all else Batman Returns is a fun action/adventure film with a gothic fantasy twist that works in spades.
Gomorra (2008, Matteo Garrone, Italy) **1/2
If it had been made earlier in time Gomorra would have packed more of a punch. However, that’s not the case with Gomorra, and it suffers because of all the gang violence films that it has to follow. In the end I didn’t feel that Gomorra was doing anything new or interesting with its gang violence premise. People die, kids do stupid things, corruption is everywhere, and the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Gomorra takes those tried and true elements of a gang violence film and simply puts them on the screen. Matteo Garrone doesn’t do augment or toy with those tried and true ideas in any fashion, and that’s why Gamorra was such a disappointment.
Monster High: Friday Night Frights (2013, Dustin McKenzie, United States Of America) **
I’ll give Monster High: Friday Night Frights this much, it is short and to the point. For being nothing more than an attempt to help sell a toy line, Monster High: Friday Night Frights has a decent message, decent animation, and isn’t all that bad story wise. I know it’s damning with faint praise to say that Monster High: Friday Night Frights is merely decent. But, to be honest I expected it to suck pretty badly, but it’s simply a mediocre toy line adaptation, and that’s not all that bad.
Hotel Transylvania (2012, Genndy Tartakovsky, United States Of America) **
At first I was on board with Hotel Transylvania. Sure, Adam Sandler was a tad annoying, but the first ten or so minutes of the film showed some genuine humor and a playfulness with the character mythos. Then Andy Samberg’s character showed up and the movie slowly devolved into a steaming mess of poop. The animation gradually worsened, the humor quickly left and was replaced by lot of unfunny references and gross out gags. Any toying with the mythos of the horror characters was replaced by a trite love story and lots of Mr. Sandler somehow managing to mug for the camera like an idiot while in animated form. I wasn’t a fan of any of Genndy Tartakovsky’s work for the Star Wars: Clone Wars series, and Hotel Transylvania continues the trend of his work being utterly unimpressive.
Pretty In Pink (1986, Howard Deutch, United States Of America) **1/2
Harry Dean Stanton is pretty great, and Molly Ringwald is her usual solid self. The John Hughes mark is on Pretty In Pink, but his mark is not a strong one. Pretty In Pink is aimless, with characters who are more ideas than actual people. The drama is the type of teenage bullshit that I don’t have much time for anymore. Mostly, when Miss Ringwald’s character had a break down about money every five minutes I realized that Pretty In Pink is a not so funny or romantic teen comedy about a bunch of characters acting decidedly like adults as opposed to teenagers. Basically, I was bored by Pretty In Pink, and that’s shouldn’t be the case with a teen romantic comedy.
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003, Stephen Norrington, Czech Republic/Germany/United Kingdom/United States Of America) **
A great premise from a great comic book is nullified by incoherent action and a lack of a compelling story. Making a property like The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen work isn’t that difficult. The actors are all fine, and the story premise is a great one, but the characters need to be fleshed out more and the action needs to be easier to follow for the movie to make any sort of a mark. In actuality I’m not sure why Stephen Norrington and company decided to make The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen into a generic action flick. That is the great downfall of the film, it’s premise is wasted and its story is stunted because of how badly the film wants to be an action film and fails to be a dynamic one. The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a great comic book and a great idea, but it’s a failed movie.
It was no contest this week, for plenty of reasons Batman Returns takes home movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!