Thursday, April 30, 2020

"Batman Forever" - "Holey Rusted Metal, Batman!"


Joel Schumacher is generally credited with destroying Batman to the point that the series had to be rebooted and grounded in reality because he went so fucking crazy with Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. I am not a fan of Batman & Robin (though I don’t hate it as much as most people do), but I love Batman Forever. I blame nostalgia and the heyday of Jim Carrey for the most part. This movie came out when I was eleven, and I was all in. I watched it multiple times in the theater. “Kiss from a Rose” was easily my favorite song that year. I owned every collectible McDonald's glass from the tie-in. I even played the board game version of the film multiple times with a buddy who was equally obsessed with the film. Removed from that time period, I certainly see why this film is considered just as bad as Batman & Robin, but there’s a lot here I still sincerely enjoy. The romantic subplot is very interesting, the Batman is to blame for all this argument is pretty good, and, most importantly, it’s goofy as hell.

“Holey Rusted Metal, Batman!”

That cheesy in-joke made by Robin in this film could certainly be seen as the beginning of the end for this version of Batman, but I love it because it sets the tone of the film in the same realm of the Batman TV show I grew up watching (reruns, by the way, I’m not that old). That series was definitely tongue-in-cheek and part of me wants to see Batman being a bit goofy. But just like with all the other adaptations of Batman, I was always more interested in the villains than the Caped Crusader himself.

Villains in the old TV show were goofy as shit and seemed to be villains just to fuck with Batman. Sure, Two-Face and Riddler have legitimate issues with Batman and Bruce Wayne, respectively, but they basically exist just to torment him. And they enjoy doing it. I’m all for villains being compelling in modern comic book movies, but I also enjoy a good old-fashioned villain who’s just evil for evil’s sake. Riddler and Two-Face aren’t threatening and aren’t meant to be. It’s all supposed to be fun, and, at least for eleven-year-old me, it is.

Batman Forever isn’t meant to be taken seriously, which is why I enjoy it to this day. I get why people hate it, and I definitely find it to be one of the weakest Batman films, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. I like watching Jim Carrey go absolutely insane as the Riddler, and I enjoy watching Tommy Lee Jones try to keep up with him even more. 

Just like the TV show, Batman Forever was meant to be a bit of fun. The new films can be as serious and award-winning as they want to be, but when I want to shut my brain off and embrace the goofy side of Batman, Batman Forever will be my go-to. 

Getting Cock-Blocked by Your Own Alter Ego

Another Batman movie, another love interest. With this iteration of Batman, he was kind of like James Bond in that new ladies showed up in each film and were simply gone by the next one. It was necessary due to casting and plot points, but it led to an interesting subplot for Forever.

Chase Meridian (what a fucking name) is the love interest this time around, but she’s torn between two men: Batman and Bruce Wayne. It’s not the focus of the film, and Chase ends up just kind of deciding to be with Bruce before figuring out he is Bruce Wayne, but it makes for a very interesting element: Bruce Wayne gets cock-blocked by his own alter ego. 

Usually, Bruce has to struggle with his secret with his lady friends because he wants to be honest with them. Here, the struggle is, “Should I just tell her I’m Batman so I can get laid?” (Hilariously, at one point in the film Bruce decides to quit being Batman, and part of the reason has to be so he can pursue Chase without the distraction of Batman.) It makes for some funny moments throughout the film. And it also makes you wonder: where did Chase think her pursuit of Batman was going to lead? Would he keep the mask on when they had sex? Would she have to use the Bat Signal every time she wanted to hook up? Could she handle him constantly blowing off dates to fight disfigured and crazed villains? Like most of the film, it hasn’t been seriously considered, which is why I find it so funny. 

Finally, a Reluctant Hero I Agree With

A common element in comic book movies that I cannot stand is the reluctant hero. Wolverine and Hulk come to mind as two guys with superpowers who just want to be left alone, but it seems to happen to nearly every character at some point. They want a regular life, or they lost someone, or they lose faith in humanity, or, in Batman’s case, they think everything is all their fault. Almost always they end up continuing to fight the good fight, and they learn they were right all along. They are the good guy, and they must always fight the bad guy for the sake of humanity. I find it to be an overused plot device, and it’s boring because we all know the hero is going to keep being a hero. But with Batman Forever, I feel differently. It really is all Batman’s fault.

It’s a common theme in the Batman mythology that Batman is just as crazy as his villains and/or they only exist because Batman is there. With Forever, the latter is definitely the case. Two-Face blames Batman for the attack that led to his new name. And the Riddler hates Bruce Wayne for not embracing his dangerous new technology. Batman realizes this and does decide to call it quits, but he jumps the gun a bit.

I’m all for this Batman giving up the crime-fighting because the two main villains feel the need to escalate their insanity to match Batman’s. Two-Face wrongfully blames Batman for the attack in the courtroom that led to his disfigurement, but perhaps he would have just been bitter for a while after the attack had he not had to witness Batman showing up all the time as Gotham’s savior. Eventually, he was bound to think, “Fuck this guy!” 

The Riddler was just pissed off with Bruce Wayne and seemed generally happy just to get back at him by being successful. But when he finds out Bruce is Batman he goes even crazier. Not to mention, he wouldn’t have become a villain without Two-Face’s existence, so it’s Batman’s fault too. 

So Batman should stop, but not while two maniacs are still running around terrorizing a city. He wants to just quit (and get with Chase, which might actually be his main motivator here) while both villains are at large. I get why he wants to quit, but he also needs to clean up the mess he created first. Not to mention, he’s cock-blocking (did not intend to use “cock-blocking” more than once in this article, but if the shoe fits…) Robin’s revenge plans. It’s okay for Batman to get revenge by killing the Joker, but when Robin wants to do the same thing, it’s “You don’t want this, man!” (And to top it off, Batman kills Two-Face right in front of Robin. What a dick!) 

Robin should be a lot more pissed off for a lot more of this film’s running time. Yeah, he blames Batman for his family’s death, but he gets over it pretty quickly. Hell, he has more of a right to become a villain than Two-Face does. Instead, Robin wants to do what Batman does. Hey Robin, here’s hoping you get someone’s family murdered some day too!

Batman obviously doesn’t stick with the retirement plan as his hand is forced by the villains he created. So he has to finish the job. Okay, so once he’s done the Two-Face and Riddler he can quit, right? No! Somehow the events of the movie have reaffirmed his resolve to be Batman. He feels more needed than ever! Why? Because he has made peace with his parents’ death (again)? All the more reason to stop dressing up like a fucking bat and inspiring psychopaths to meet your level, Bruce. 

I knew he wasn’t going to really quit, of course. After all, the movie is Batman Forever, not Batman Until He Gets over His Parents’ Deaths and Takes Care of Two-Face and Riddler and Also Gets with Chase Meridian. But this is the first time I’ve watched a reluctant hero and thought, “Yeah, you do need to quit this shit.” And if he had quit at the end, it could have ended the franchise for a bit. Instead, Batman deciding to keep fighting crime led to Batman & Robin. I think we can all agree Forever should have been the end. 

Why Do I Own This?

This was a pivotal movie for me in my childhood, so I like having it to revisit from time to time to see if I still like it as much as I used to. I still like it for all its goofiness, but I will admit that I'm not nearly as into it as I used to be. But how could I be? I was playing-the-board-game and playing-Kiss-from-a-Rose-on-the-jukebox-every-chance-I-got into this movie when it came out.

Random Thoughts 

Nicole Kidman took a "whispering is sexy" acting class before taking this role. 

So Batman was just hanging out in the courtroom in costume when Harvey Dent was attacked? 

This is what I miss about Batman movies these days: villain goofiness. Sure, they kill people and have motives, but they also enjoy stupid ass theatrics. I know the Joker was goofy a bit in The Dark Knight, but he was nowhere near as silly as Nicholson's Joker, and he's not even on the same radar as Two-Face and Riddler in this one. 

Thomas and Martha Wayne's murder has to be the most flash backed moment in cinema history.

Does Two-Face really eat raw donkey meat?

"Hey, Two-Face! Show me how to punch a guy!"

Robin doing extreme laundry is possibly the dumbest part of the franchise, and that's saying something. 

This movie predicted how stupid 3D TVs would be. 

It also predicted how we would willingly give up most of our personal information in the name of entertainment and/or distraction.

You have to appreciate a gang that makes good use of black light and glow sticks. They like to party...and rape.

When Batman shows up at Nygma's party, some fucking dildo yells out, "Batman! Yeah!"

I get that losing his parents has defined his life, but how is Bruce not coping with it better by the third film?

I just like how fucking giddy Two-Face and Riddler are to be evil.

God help me, but I like the "Holey rusted metal, Batman!" joke.

Tommy Lee Jones basically just makes a series of strange grunts and moans throughout the movie. It's a...strange performance. In his defense, he was going up against personification-of-cocaine Jim Carrey.

Why does destroying the green light thing make everything blow up? And how did Batman know that would work? It's just lazy.

And taking out Two-Face by throwing a few extra coins? They really phoned it in figuring out how to take out the villains with this one.

"Why can't I kill you?" What are you talking about? You stopped Two-Face from killing him two scenes earlier. Unless the question is more about why he couldn't let Two-Face kill him, then that's kind of interesting. Touché, Batman Forever.


"Batman" - "Love That Joker!"


These next two articles are completely random. My internet and TV went out a few days ago, so I had to find a movie to watch. When you own as many movies as I do, picking one can be an ordeal. For whatever reason, I ended up picking Batman and Batman Forever. These are my two favorites of the early Batman movies. Most people would agree with the first film, but would call me crazy when it comes to Forever (I’ll defend that choice in the next article). Looking back at the 1989 movie, I was surprised by how dark it was, and I loved Nicholson’s Joker even more than before because it was the perfect mix of goofy and homicidal. Nothing against the more serious Nolan movies (which I love), but Tim Burton’s first Batman movie made me remember that a Batman movie could be dark and fun.

Batman Was Actually Pretty Gritty Before the Gritty Reboot.

As a rule, I can’t stand when a movie, especially a remake/reboot, is referred to as “gritty.” Thankfully, that term has been overused to extinction, but it was certainly applied to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. At the time, it made sense to focus on the grittiness of the new portrayal of Batman. After all, Joel Schumacher’s abomination, Batman & Robin, was the last time we had seen Batman in a feature film. That film was such a goofy mess that the series had to steer hard into more realistic territory. 

Because of Schumacher’s more light-hearted, neon bright movies, people tend to forget that Tim Burton’s movies were fairly goofy, as well. But Burton, especially at the height of his powers, is the master of balancing goofy and dark whereas Schumacher’s films just ended up being plain goofy.

Batman has plenty of goofiness going for it, mainly thanks to all the Joker’s shenanigans, but the overall atmosphere of the film is quite dark. According to IMDb trivia, the look of the film was influenced by Brazil and Metropolis, and it shows. There’s this futuristic yet retro look to the sets (all the sets are amazing, by the way). It makes everything feel just beyond reality, which is the type of world in which Batman and his rogues gallery would exist. 

While a lot of the sets have a sanitized look to them, there is still plenty of grit to be found. The chemical plant comes to mind, as does the general look of the streets of Gotham. Despite the inherent silliness, this is still a shitty world. 

And shitty worlds have gangsters. Gangsters who kill people, sometimes for no reason. Of course I’m mainly talking about the Joker, but his early kill as Jack Napier sets everything in motion. In this version of Batman, the Joker killed Batman’s parents years ago in a robbery gone wrong. But the way it’s presented doesn’t make it seem like much of an attempted robbery. Jack guns the Waynes down seemingly for fun since he and his accomplice don’t appear to get any valuables from them. Jack even lingers to tell a young Bruce his favorite murder catchphrase. 

Once Jack becomes the Joker, the indiscriminate killings escalate. His ultimate goal, aside from revenge, is to gas as many Gothamites as possible. He even kills his own men for little to no reason (Bob the goon deserved better!). And he gets pretty fucking brutal with some of his murders. Grissom’s death scene is flat out disgusting, though it is cartoonish since it’s done with a joke handshake buzzer.

Despite where this series of films ended up (Batsuit nipples and dozens of ice puns), it actually began in a place closer in tone to Nolan’s “realistic” films than one might think. Though Burton’s version is certainly the more comic of the two. But I’m glad all the different versions of Batman exist, even the failures. Just like how comics can be very different in tone, so can their adaptations. Usually when I pick a movie from my collection, I have a certain mood in mind. Do I want to watch a comedy? Something serious? Since the Batman franchise is so varied, there’s a film to match nearly any mood: a Batman for all seasons. Tim Burton’s version just reminded me of this and why I fell in love with this character in the first place.

“Love that Joker!”

One of my favorite things to nitpick about superhero movies is how they go about planning and designing things. I wonder how Bruce Wayne went about having his Bat Cave built and how he developed self-driving technology in the 1980s. I don’t need to know these things or even see them; I just like the ridiculous idea of Bruce Wayne considering the best lighting configurations for the parking spot in his Cave. When you turn that attention to a villain, especially the Joker, it becomes even funnier.

Revisiting Batman, I was pleasantly surprised to see a few scenes of Joker putting his plans together, and I saw plenty of insanity that made me wonder how Joker went about getting things done. 

For instance, we see the Joker actually cutting out pictures from magazines at one point while looking for inspiration for his project (the experimentation and alleged suicide of his first project, Alicia, is another horrifically dark element of the film). We see him physically go to the chemical plant to essentially perform a supervisor’s job of making sure things are going well. And you know he put in a lot of work making that commercial.

That’s just the stuff we see. Where did Joker get all of his clothes? Where did he get his goons’ leather jackets monogrammed? Who did he get to paint his logo on a helicopter? Where did he get a helicopter? Who designed his logo? Did he learn to cut together a commercial? And how to hack a TV network? Where the fuck did he get parade balloons? How did he get access to all that previously unreleased Prince music? 

Even without getting to see the majority of the behind the scenes stuff done, it was still nice to see the Joker handling a lot of the legwork himself rather than just sitting around making speeches and commanding goons.

Why Do I Own This?

This was the first superhero movie I fell in love with, and I'm glad I have it to revisit from time to time.

Random Thoughts 

Not sure that "Gotham City" at the beginning is necessary…

The first image of Batman is clearly animated.

There is not enough uproar about the fact that we never got to see the Billy Dee Williams version of Two Face.

"What are they seeing up there?"
"They're drinking Drano."

A chemical plant is a terrible place to have a shootout.

And man, those tanks must be paper thin.

So did Joker have to hold off on that gangster meeting until the monogrammed leather jackets for his goons were done?

"I'm of a mind to make some mookie." Huh?

I don’t mind the Prince music, but it definitely feels tacked on rather than natural.

The Gotham state flag is the same as the Indiana state flag. Just pointing that out because I’m a Hoosier.

"Check his wallet!" Are you fucking serious? You really think Batman packs a wallet, Bob?

Speaking of Bob, I actually had his action figure as a kid. Not sure why he even had an action figure…

I like Keaton as Batman largely because he would have been a good Joker, as well. It adds to the idea that they’re pretty similar: both a bit crazy and enjoy theatrics. They even say the same exact thing when they enter Vicki’s apartment. The main difference is simply that one is “good” and the other is “evil.”

I think I like “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” more than Ezekiel 25:17 when it comes to cool shit to say before killing someone.


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

"Double Team" - Stefon from "SNL" Wrote the Ending.


As usual, the first article of the month is a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. The reason I chose Double Team actually has a slight connection to the current stay-at-home orders most of us are under. My wife spotted this on a premium channel that we had as a free preview for a few days during all this, so she recorded it. I own Double Team already, but out of sheer laziness, I thought, “Well, I’ll just watch this on DVR and save myself the trouble of getting up and putting in a DVD.” So, yes I do own this, but I technically watched a recording of it. I just wanted to be honest about the way I ended up watching the Van Damme/Rodman collaboration that everyone in the ‘90s had demanded.

Stefon from SNL Wrote the Ending.

The ending saved this movie for me because it is crazy. It’s so nuts that when I started listing all the stuff that happens, it made me think of those insane lists that Bill Hader’s character, Stefon, would list on Weekend Update on SNL (which were written by John Mulaney). If Stefon were to describe the ending of Double Team, I think it would go like this:

“If you’re looking for some of the wackiest crap you’ve ever seen in an action movie, then look no further than the ending of Double Team. Set in an actual old Italian coliseum, this ending has everything: Jean-Claude Van Damme, a shirtless Mickey Rourke who only answers to ‘Stavros,’ land mines, Dennis Rodman on a dirt bike, a sniper, a minutes-old newborn baby in a basket, cybermonks, a tiger that gets kicked by Van Damme, a Coke machine being used as a shield, Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark holding a baby, an explosion with Coke machines, Mickey Rourke blowing himself up with the tiger, and an end credits song featuring Dennis Rodman.”

Release the No Rodman Cut!

Double Team, at best, is often confused with Double Impact. At worst, it’s known as “the one with Dennis Rodman.” Stunt casting is almost always terrible, but for this film it’s even more frustrating because there’s a good film within Double Team, but the inclusion of Rodman took all the focus away from the interesting elements. 

By far the most compelling segment of Double Team is Van Damme’s time at the Colony, a secret prison/resort/think tank populated by spies who have “died.” The film does a good job of establishing the Colony and its rules (and many security features), but the runtime spent there is woefully short. Pretty much as soon as Van Damme arrives, he develops an escape plan. A couple montages pass, and then he’s gone. 

I get that Van Damme’s desire to leave so quickly has more to do with his pregnant wife back in the real world than it does with getting him back to Rodman. But they still could have made his stay there last longer in the film. Perhaps have a few more scenes of Van Damme getting to know the lay of the land. Have a few more moments of him accepting his fate a bit, maybe some conversations with the other inmates about how they’re dealing with similar issues there. Or instead of having his pregnant wife out there in the world, have him think that she died in some Stavros attack or something. Sure, he’ll still want to get out to get revenge, but he’ll also be destroyed and much more likely to accept his fate. Then when he sees the message from Stavros (“I have you butterfly.”), it spurs him into action, and then he escapes. 

Double Team’s original script was titled The Colony, so I know there was much more material for that segment than ended up in the final film. But for whatever reason, the filmmakers felt that the Colony was only worthy of a side plot, and instead turned the majority of the film into a buddy cop type movie with Van Damme and Rodman. 

If Rodman or his character were compelling or entertaining in any way, this wouldn’t be a problem. But his casting is so clearly a cash in on his popularity of the time, and his acting ability is so poor that it nearly ruins the movie.

Rodman’s acting is actually the least of the problems with his appearance. His line delivery is lazy throughout, but he’s serviceable in a role that would have been fine if left as a glorified cameo. But the more he sticks around, the more clear it becomes that he should not be an actor. 

Rodman’s acting is one thing, the constant basketball puns and references is another. First off, he’s not (technically) playing himself, so any reference to basketball makes no sense. It breaks the fourth-wall because it’s the film acknowledging the fact that he is Dennis Rodman. It’s a needless, unfunny distraction. On top of that, many of the references are painfully bland puns, and the use of a basketball-instead-of-a-parachute gag is just fucking stupid.

If it wasn’t clear from Rodman’s increased presence in the latter half of the film that someone thought he should be more of a co-star than a cameo, then the end credits make it painfully obvious. As soon as the credits roll, a bland techno-type song starts, and it features Dennis Rodman. So they not only thought Rodman should be a co-star and the title of the film should reference his basketball career, but he also needed to be on the soundtrack?

None of it makes sense to me, even through the lens of the late ‘90s. Yes, Rodman was a pop culture figure at the time, but why did the studio think he was going to be a box office draw? Tabloid interest doesn’t equal a film career (at best, it makes for a reality show). It just sucks that the filmmakers couldn’t just let this be a Van Damme movie and instead turned it into a Dennis Rodman movie.

This wouldn’t be all that bad if the film had been conceived as a vehicle for Rodman and Van Damme from the get-go. But they took a script that focused on Van Damme at the Colony and shoe-horned Rodman into it. It’s a waste of a good Van Damme movie. Double Team could’ve been The Colony. And sure, I don’t know how good that original script was, but I know what Double Team is, and I don’t think it’s crazy to assume that The Colony is a better movie.

Why Do I Own This?

It’s a Van Damme movie, but thankfully this was part of one of those four-packs of Van Damme movies. 

Random Thoughts

I sketched Van Damme in his wig and sunglasses disguise in this film for my grid art project in high school, which is the picture above. I think I really captured his misshapen mouth and scribble-like hair, but the rest of it is pure trash. What can I say? I wasn’t much of an artist, but inspiration struck when I saw this film.

Stavros is such a perfect bland villain name.

So Van Damme was a spy, but Rodman has a machine that can scan JCVD’s hand, and it brings up a bio?

For whatever reason, the scene with Rodman firing a gun always bothered me. It shows a close up of a gun firing and moving around, but when it cuts to a close up of Rodman’s face (twice), it’s perfectly still. It just feels wrong, but then again, Rodman’s general presence in the film is wrong.

Ten minutes in, and I have no clue what the fuck is going on. Why are they even at a carnival, and why are there so many people with guns there? And why are so many people at an outdoor carnival in the pouring rain? And why is it pouring rain in some shots, but not raining at all in others?

Okay, Van Damme slipping on cans of soda and somehow turning that into a kick is pretty cool.

So how exactly did Stavros’s son die? He looked alive when he picked him up away from the dead nanny (or mother?). I know Stavros was being shot at after he picked up his son, but it seems like he was just suddenly dead. Like most of the gunplay in this movie, it was unclear who got shot when by whom? Maybe that’s a better title for these Hong Kong English-language films: Who Got Shot When by Whom?

The Van Damme stretching/workout/holding breath underwater montage is damn near softcore porn, even down to the score.

“My husband loved that swan. He thought it was a cow.” What the fuck are you babbling about?

Van Damme training in his cell using the bathtub and whatnot is very Rocky IV-esque.

“You going to send an e-mail message?” Ah, the mid-90s…

In the message, it states “Stavro’s” instead of “Stavros’” or “Stavros’s.” As a former English teacher whose last name ends in “s,” the inability to know how to show possession with a name ending in “s” is infuriating. It’s “Stavros’s.” Yes, it sounds a little silly, but I think it sounds better than saying Stavros as if there’s more than one Stavro or that there’s a person named Stavro who owns something. What I don’t get, is if you don’t know the rules dealing with a surname that ends in “s,” then why write a character with such a name?

What the fuck was going on in that town square segment exactly? What was the plan for anyone involved?

Totally forgot about the cybermonks.

I thought the point of land mines was that you don’t know where they are. Telling someone about land mines is pretty stupid, but to go so far as to mark them is even dumber. If you’re going to mark them, do it in such a way that only you notice the mark, like by making some kind of indication in the dirt. But to put up a fucking cross at each mine? Why? Not to mention, the cross plan is what leads to Stavros’s downfall because Rodman switched them around. Just all around fucking stupid. 

That end credits techno/whatever song with Dennis Rodman is the most ‘90s thing about this movie.