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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits
page added: 12/9/05

Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel

Doogan's Views - Main Page

Okay... so I've liked the X-Men movies.

I've never been one of those they're-the-end-all-be-all of superhero flicks advocates, but I thought they were at least good cinematic experiences. Bryan Singer is a very competent director. He knows his way around both actors and the camera, and that's hard to find in a director these days. And say what you will about Brett Ratner: he's slightly hacky and his movies tend to be style over substance, even when he's trying to do something more substantial like The Family Man. But his action films are very well handled and always engaging. He does have a tendency to hire dramatic actors that "don't" need directing because they're so damned good, but my experience as a filmgoer shows that those are exactly the actors that need to be directed. A fine actor getting great directing always makes for a better film. Left to themselves, you get self absorbed performances that reek of ham.

So, with all that said, the trailer for X3 is out now and it's pretty damn sweet. Check it out here.

I love and hate trailers. They've gotten so good (and bad) that I don't even need to see a flick anymore. I can just watch the trailer and know exactly what happens. Hell, I watched the trailer for Saw II and knew instantly that someone in the trailer was in on Jigsaw's action plan. Still haven't seen the film or read a single review, but I promise you I know just from the trailer how it ends.

The same goes with the X3 trailer. Want a SPOILER based on nothing but the trailer? Without an informed behind-the-scenes/spy script review, I will say that Jean goes bad (but probably not as the Dark Phoenix we know and love from comic book continuity) and Professor X dies saving her (and thusly the world) and that's his funeral in the trailer.

Beast and Juggernaut look like ass though. Sorry, but Nightcrawler and Colossus looked like ass in X2, so I won't hold Ratner responsible for those grievances.

Look, if Ratner just made Rush Hour, Money Talks and Family Man, I wouldn't be scared. But he raped the pooch with Red Dragon. There was no reason for that flick to suck as bad as it did. There was no redemption with After the Sunset either, which was a waste of time, money and celluloid. BUT heading up my favorite new show on this TV season, Prison Break, has saved him a bit, in my eyes at least. This X3 trailer ups his cache a little bit more. Enough to excite me a smidge. So I say to you fan boys and girls, if a jaded prick like me can want to see something of Ratner's and not hold Family Man, Red Dragon and After the Sunset against him, why can't you?

Alright, so my rant is done. My time became limited again, but I'm training (*cough* forcing *cough*) myself to at least write about something this week. So... since the subject was superheroes how about a Doogan's View look at the recently released Batman quadrilogy on DVD?

'sright? 'sright.

Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989 - 1997

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Encoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

Buy this DVD now at Amazon!

Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989 - 1997
1989-1997 (2005) - Warner Bros.

We all know Batman. We seem to like him more collectively in his Begins version than we do in his previous incarnations on TV, movie serials and the Burton/Schumacher four-fer. But we shouldn't loose sight that the first three versions of Batman on the big screen are actually pretty good. You just have to... uhm... keep 'em in perspective. Here's the deal...

Batman, directed by Tim Burton and released in 1989, is a dark, foreboding vision that ushered in an era of darkly stylized filmmaking the like of which really hasn't been seen since the days of film noir from RKO, Fox and WB. It also represented the Frank Miller Batman style without the storytelling of Frank Miller. Miller will now be more closely linked to Begins, so in all fairness, Batman (1989) really is more akin to the serials in tone. I would certainly say that as a film adaptation of the Batman serials, Batman is utterly perfect. Nicholson is genius as Joker... but why, oh why did they kill him? Oh well. I give Batman a solid B+ as a Batman movie.

Batman Returns is not a Batman movie. I mean, obviously it is, but it's so purely Burtonesque that it's just not fair to rank it as a franchise film. As such, it would fail. But as a piece of cinema, Batman Returns is my very favorite of all the Batman incarnations. Keaton is great, Penguin is great, Catwoman is great, Max Schreck is great, the music, production design and effects... they're all great. Batman Returns is just great. But my rank for Batman status is C+. As a film, it's an A.

Moving on, Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever is presented as a comic book on film. It's the 1970s Batman brought from the page to the screen. Kilmer is wonderful as Bruce Wayne/Batman. The villains are in line with the first two: a bit over the top, but not the TV versions quite yet. Sure, Chris O'Donnell is a weak-ass Robin, but he's hardly in the film so he barely tarnishes it. Overall, this is a great Batman film. We can look back on it now and hate it because of its sequel, but don't kid yourself... when it came out, we all loved it. This Batman gets an A-.

Finally, there is Batman & Robin. What can I say? This is a movie version of the TV show... and there should NEVER have been a movie version of the TV show. Everything about it sucks. Clooney wasn't a good Batman. O'Donnell still isn't Robin. Batgirl is a misstep in purpose, origin and casting; Uma and Arnold are not worth discussing. I hate Batman & Robin. You hate Batman & Robin. Let's just give it an F and be done with it. Although, hey... if you want to see a version of the film that actually works a bit more (not much more, but it's still better than the original), troll around online and see if you can scare up a view of the bootleg edit Greencapt's Batman & Robin Deassified. I've seen it and I have to say it makes an unwatchable film watchable.

So, as a whole, the Batman films are worth seeing. Okay... maybe not Batman & Robin. But as DVDs, I think these new special editions are all really worth owning. Let's see if I can explain why.

Batman: Two-Disc Special EditionBatman Returns: Two-Disc Special Edition

Buy this DVD now at Amazon!Buy this DVD now at Amazon!

All the films feature new digitally-restored transfers in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and I have to say, they look really nice. All of 'em. The first two - the Burtons - are dark and rich with subtle grays, hard blacks and electric white and blue. There's some grain here and there throughout these two films, especially the first one, but it's not a fault of the transfers. I'd have to guess that what we're seeing here are the limitations of special effects films made in a time before digital CGI, magnified by Burton's love of in-camera effects. The second two films look more like what we're used to seeing on DVD. The colors here are more vibrant, the blacks are very, very solid and there's very little print issues left behind.

The audio for all four films is available in DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1, in both English and French. All of the surround tracks sound very, very good and represent the films' sweeping scores and brilliant sound design incredibly well.

Okay... so the extras are what you're really picking these DVDs up for, right? Well, believe me that it will take decades of research for someone to beat the stuff that's been included on these discs. I don't think you'll find better special editions for any of these flicks for a long time. If you're a fan of the Batman films, superhero films or just plain ol' film films, these are must seen discs. Even Batman & Robin is suddenly good on DVD. Okay... that's a bit hyperbolic, but still.

Batman Forever: Two-Disc Special EditionBatman & Robin: Two-Disc Special Edition

Buy this DVD now at Amazon!Buy this DVD now at Amazon!

Each film DVD is packed to the gills - two discs filled with commentaries, galleries and video extras galore. The best amongst the extras is a massive multi-part documentary, spread over all four of the film discs, entitled Shadows of The Bat. Also excellent is the additional documentary on the first film, Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman, which is a very cool look at the history of Batman over the six or so decades he's been around, including all of the influences upon Bob Kane (and screw it, Bill Finger, because credit is due and someone should be saying it around here).

The DVDs also include a collection of soundtrack music videos (from Prince, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Seal and others), promotional docs that appeared on The WB, hero and villain profiles, storyboards and, in the case of the latter two films, deleted scenes. Why are there no deleted scenes from the first two films? I have no idea.

I should point out that the audio commentaries are all really good as well. Burton is very interesting, but he's somewhat aloof, as he tends to be on his commentaries. Joel Schumacher's commentary tracks are very enlightening. Amongst the ass-kissing there's a lot of honesty. He discusses the flaws of his two versions of Batman with one simple word: "toyetic" (or letting toy companies have a say on what costumes, props and vehicles can and should appear in the film based on it's tie-in value on toy shelves). Brilliant.

As I stated up above somewhere, you really should check these DVDs out if you haven't already. You can pick them up all at once, in the new four-film box set (see the artwork at the top of this review) or you can buy each two-disc set individually. If you're a fanboy not up to buying the second two flicks, just buy the first two and put the others on your Christmas list and let someone else buy them for you. That way it's guilt free. But you won't regret watching all four of these films and their supplements on disc. There's a lot of great stuff on these DVDs, and man... will they ever look good on your screens.

I'm hoping to check in again before the holidays sweep me up. But until then, make sure to load up your lists with all of the DVDs you can. I know I plan to. Hopefully, Santa will bring me a couple.

Keep spinning those discs!

Todd Doogan

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