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The Beauty of Film: Batman the Movie

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Batman: The Movie (1966) — Howard Schwartz (cinematographer) & Leslie H. Martinson (director).

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Julie Newmar as Catwoman and Burgess Meredith as The Penguin on his submarine.

Inside Out

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***

Take her to the moon for me. Okay?

This film has excellent animation. For Pixar it is their best ever — although the faces & bodies fit into the Pixar-verse.1 There are a couple of unique, interesting characters, like Bing Bong, Riley’s former imaginary friend. The film makes an excellent point which is that when kids have imaginary friends they do not have the constraints on their imaginations that screenwriters do. Thus he has an elephant’s trunk, a fluffy tale, a torso made from cotton candy and he cries candy. Unfortunately, much of the film lacks the creativity that would have made the rest of this world great. Are you angry that I do not love this film? Then just stop reading, because my contrarian position will not go down any easier with me saying that dumb characters are difficult to relate to.

It's Bing Bong leading us on a short cut in Inside Out.

It’s Bing Bong leading us on a short cut in Inside Out.

Speaking of dumb characters, pretty much without exception everyone, inside and out, is extremely dumb. That made the film difficult for me to relate to.  There are basically two worlds inside the film: the real world, with human beings, houses, schools, and meals; and the anthropomorphized emotions in our brains. Each emotion is a unique (dumb) individual. Only by working together can you be a whole person. Obviously. There, now you do not have to see the movie. This lesson is obvious from minute ten. The start of the film, with only one emotion—Amy Poehler’s “Joy”, has promise, but as more ostensibly humorous emotions arrive (sadness, anger, fear, and disgust) the film never becomes what it could have been. Unfortunately, Riley is a child, so maybe that is why her emotions are so unintelligent; the mirror emotional teams inside of Riley’s parents’ heads were great and humorously flawed, instead of showing the over the top incompetence of Riley’s.

The problems do not stop with just the characters, other aspects of the world that should have been great, like the Harry Potter memory balls, get derailed by terrible geography. Joy and Sadness—Phyllis from The Office—screw up and destroy their human’s personality, winding up far away (sometimes) from the headquarters (yeah, that is the level of comedy, Urkel-esque physical bungling, that dominates the film). By not having a map, either visually or aurally, I did not know when to be excited or depressed about the hero’s journey. The film tries to break the rules by doing that. Another way it tries is by going for a joke about a giant puberty button/light. This setup should have a satisfying payoff before the end of the movie. This rule comes from James Bond gadgets—if you show a watch with a laser in it, you have to use the watch laser. It was a daring strategy to eschew convention, but it backfired. Had the logic within the film either been inconsistent and the film had committed to that premise, instead of merely having inconsistencies, then it could have been great. To be extremely predictable without providing the expected satisfactions is like any number of movies with excellent casts that wasted their talent: Shoot Em Up2, Fast 6, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, to name three.

On balance, there were several scenes with the kernels of greatness. There were moments like an escape sequence with Bingbong that reminded me of Batman’s escape in Dark Knight Rises. The technical beauty of the animation is undeniable and from that standpoint it might be worth watching. The story is not bad, but it is kind of like Sucker Punch—a waste of incredible imagination and impressive beauty, in something pretty average.

1 You know, the ones they conceived in the mid 90’s for Toy Story.
2 Recently got a trivia question wrong about what Paul Giamatti is eating throughout the movie. I would have gotten it right had I not blocked out 99% of it for being Garry Marshall level bad.

Captain America: Civil War

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Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War L to R: Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) Photo Credit: Film Frame © Marvel 2016

Our people’s blood is spilled on foreign soil. Not only because of the actions of criminals, but the indifference of those who pledged to step them. Victory at the expense of an innocent, is no victory at all.

Call it what you want. Captain America 3, Avengers 2.5, Civil War, this movie kicked ass. This has everything that people loved about Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and so much more. This has the elements of espionage that people liked in 2, but has action that rivals The Avengers. I use that as the gold standard, but is it? A discussion for a different time. In the moment I thought, “these are the greatest action sequences I have ever seen”. They were well spaced out. All looked perfect. Each action scene served a function and hit its marks. The internal logic of the action was pretty much consistent, which is pretty damn rare. For instance, Captain America is amazing with his shield. He is Minnesota Fats with it.1  But one character2 says to him, “That thing doesn’t obey the laws of Physics at all!”  I like having a cinematic world conscious of this quirk, which allows me to have the pleasure without the guilt.

The best way to describe this film in two words is “ethical dilemmas.” The premise is the world is grateful to the Avengers, but also afraid of them and the collateral damage they cause. They operate without any sovereign authority and thus the Sokovia Accords are created and shall be ratified by the United Nations [UN]. The Avengers would come under the auspices of the UN, which would have the sole authority to dispatch them. Iron Man feels guilty because Ultron was his fault and (Stark) wants to be controlled. Captain America was a pawn for the American government and after the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D. from Hydra within it, he does not trust any governments. As Cap says, it comes down to this, “What if this panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go and they don’t let us?” This is similar to the question posed by Batman v Superman earlier this year.

This was a much, much better movie than Batman v Superman, however, that does not mean that this movie presented a more interesting question. Because this causes the Avengers to schism there can be no Hulk and no Thor, because their power levels are too high. I guess. I bought that line initially but Scarlet Witch and Vision are 6/7 on the powers scale.3 Batman v Superman has an unpowered, less armored Iron Man facing an amalgam of Thor + Hulk + Vision. Both films did a great job of creating reasons for heroes to fight each other. Batman v. Superman asked, with unlimited power, great collateral damage, and no authority, should there not be some sort of restraint? Batman followed up by posing an even tougher question, “He has the power to wipe out the entire human race, and if we believe there’s even a one percent chance that he is [humanity’s] enemy we have to take it as an absolute certainty… and we have to destroy him.” The same could be said of the Avengers. However instead of posing this as a question in the film, the villain, Zemo—Rush‘s Daniel Brühl—tries to destroy the Avengers for personal vengeance.

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Daniel Brühl (the German guy in the beginning of the Bourne Ultimatum whom Jason Bourne tells that he, meaning Bourne, killed in the middle of the last movie) as (not Baron) Zemo, in Captain America & the Winter Soldier 2: Civil War 1, © 2016 Marvel.

The largest criticism of this generally well received film was the villain’s plot. Some people care about the feasibility and logic of plans. People like that reject The Dark Knight because the Joker’s plan was ridiculous on almost every level and every stage. Then there are the majority of people who loved The Dark Knight and only demand enough logic so as to not end the enchantment we call the willing suspension of disbelief. Lastly there are people who like Transformers—a/k/a people who seek a wholly visual and subconscious movie experience. The good news is that this film should please all of those people. Zemo’s elaborate plan was achievable and relies on Bourne levels of espionage. When Martin Freeman with an American accent asks, “So how does it feel? To spend all that time, all that effort, and to see it fail so spectacularly?” Zemo retorts, “Did it?” I get chills just typing that out and that is what makes this film great. Even after all the action, his hypothesis might prove to not only be correct, but to have succeeded where gods have failed.

An empire toppled by its enemies can rise again, but one which crumbles from within? That’s dead… forever.

This might be a record for quotations in one of my reviews, especially since none are super badass. The film is just so well written, so well acted, so well cast, and so well executed. So kudos to the screenwriters—Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely—and to the directors—the Russos. For me, this felt like how Captain America 2 felt to most people.

****½

Mini-review of the Mid-Credits Scene: Well, it serves a purpose to explain why that character will not be back in the future, and gives Chadwick Boseman—Jackie Robinson—another opportunity to sound awesome as T’Challa–the Black Panther.

Mini-review of the End-Credits Scene: Not worth the wait. It is the guy who talks about physics and the shield looking at a ceiling because his watch now has his superhero logo.

1 First, I initially wrote Fats Domino. Second, Minnesota Fats is a real life billiards hall of famer, made more famous by his fictionalized version appearing in the The Hustler. Obviously, he shows an amazing ability to bank shots, just as Captain America can, but with a pool ball, instead of a vibranium shield. Know what vibranium is? It comes up a lot in this film.
2 Trying to avoid a spoiler here, but the last preview gave him away, here’s a hint, in one universe he went by Ben Reilly.
3 According to Marvel’s wiki Thor has the maximum in strength and speed, Hulk has the maximum in strength and endurance, whereas Vision has 6/7 for durability and energy with a 5/7 for strength, and Wanda Maximoff only has 6/7 for energy. But Scarlet Witch did depower almost the entire world’s mutant and created a false reality for the entire world…that is almost limitless power.

Minions

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**½

This is Queen Elizabeth! And I really, really, really want her crown!

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Bob, Kevin, and Stuart, trying to get to Orlando for a conference. Minions, 2015.

Going into Minions, I thought they would be shown going off on adventures in the post Despicable Me 2 world. Not at all. Instead I learned the origin of these yellow its, particularly how they were saved from ennui by Kevin, Bob and Stuart in the 1960s. There are plotholes-a-plenty, but it is just a silly kids movie. The animation was pleasant, and in the mold of the Despicable Mes. Still, as art it seemed pretty awful.