(dir. Tim Burton)
THEN: The seemingly perfect casting of DeVito, plus 80's babe Michelle Pfieffer made this seem like the ideal follow-up to Burton's (at-the-time) phenomenal 1989 Batman re-imagination.
A change in scheduling moved the production from London's Pinewood back to Burbank in California, where a whole new Gotham took up 50% of the Warner Brothers back-lot, which at the time provided a mixed continuity. Little did we know the inconsistency of the future franchise.
NOW: With some of the pressure off after the success of the first movie, Tim Burton created a movie which fits far more homogeneously into his directorial cannon, thanks to the the skull-headed clowns, the Christmas setting and the disturbed strangeness of the penguin. Many of the problems from 1992 still exist - too many anatagonists, the dumb Max Shreck character (Christopher Walken), the doofus Penguin - but Michelle Pfeiffer pretty much plays the definitive Catwoman (with a sympathetic Selena Kyle origin story to boot). There's also no over-the-top Jack Nicholson to chew his way through the back-lot scenery and no shoe-horned Prince soundtrack.
In retrospect, the change of shooting location made for a massive improvement in the art direction of this second movie, without the visible location repetition that shrinks the scale of the first. The result is a surprisingly organic Gotham and a much fuller world. There are still many touches of the camp comedy of the TV show - which is bizarre, considering how dark and dirty Burton's Batman films seemed at the time.
Retroactive-praise aside, this is still way too long, pretty campy and extremely dopey for a superhero movie. Action and suspense-wise it offers virtually nothing, but it can certainly take some credit for paving the way for Christopher Nolan's far more thoughtful re-boot.Read more 3 star reviews
Sugar Mountain Live At Canterbury House 1968
Great entry in the ongoing Neil Young archive marathon. This set's taken from a solo gig he played soon after walking out on Buffalo Springfield in 1968 to see if, you know, he'd be able to hack it as a solo artist or not...
Full of lots of bits of chat - talking about growing his hair; what he gets from writing songs ("you know, besides residuals"); introducing "new ones" and Springfield hits like Mr Soul (which apparently "took only five minutes to write - and it takes only five minutes to sing. If you can think of any words I should change after I finish, be sure and let me know!"); playing tantalising little excerpts of others like Winterlong without actually going into it (maybe he hadn't written the words yet); talking about his time working in a Toronto book store (he got fired for "irregularity" - some "really great diet pills" were involved...); and generally perfecting that fragile acoustic sound that we know and love...
Won't necessarily win over any new fans, but if you're on board the Young train (or electric car) you'll enjoy it. Completists should note that it won't be included in 2009's bumper Neil Young Archives Vol. 1 (1963 – 1972) 10-disc Blu-ray and DVD package.
On The Way Home
Expecting To Fly
Last Trip To Tulsa
I Used To Rap
Winterlong/Out Of My Mind
Out Of My Mind
If I Could Have Her Tonight
Classical Gas Rap
I've Been Waiting For You
Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing
Tuning Rap/The Old Laughing Lady
Old Laughing Lady
(dir. Curtis Hanson)
Hot shot poker player Huck Cheaver (Eric Bana) struggles to raise the $10,000 needed to get into the World Series of poker. His chances seem slim when his world champion father returns to town and cleans him out. Luckily, he meets aspiring singer Drew Barrymore, who puts a few things into perspective and teaches Huck a few life lessons. A deal with a loan shark gets him into the final and Huck has finally has the chance to prove himself to his father.
Eric Bana's series of hollywood mis-steps continues with this dull poker-drama from 2007. As usual, you can see the thinking behind his unfortunate choice - written by Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, Ali, Munich, The Good Shepherd) and directed by LA Confidentail man Curtis Hanson. Unfortunately Hanson's reputation is one of inconsistency, having followed LA Confidentilal with a series of not unsuccessful left-turns - the excellent Wonderboys, then 8 Mile, then In Her Shoes. What's the comon demonimator here?
You've seen this movie a million times before - Rocky, Karate Kid, Color Of Money - but with poker the subject matter is so dull that a near-constant stream of exposition is needed to let the viewer know what's happening. "Two Kings? Huck's going to need a Jack or better to win this one!". Hanson's already covered this story in the excellent 8 Mile, and without the captivating double act of Tom Cruise and Paul Newman in Color of Money, or the flashy direction of Casino, this is just another dull Vegas drama.
Robert Duvall is the wise old man who teaches his distant son a thing or two - the hard way. Drew Barrymore delivers a fairly typical sub-par performance, telling Bana the cold hard truth and making him look inside himself. Unfortunately on this occasion he doesn't find a green giant.Read more 2.5 star reviews
With Warner Bros officially jumping ship from HD-DVD to Blu-Ray, it seems that the format war is close to an end - with HD-DVD looking likely to go the way of Betamax.
Universal and Paramount are the only big studios still supporting the format and speculation has it that Paramount has a specific clause in their contract to allow them to also leave if Warner Bros do. So there.
With movies downloading sure to become as big as music, it may be a fairly short lived victory.
(dir. Andrew Dominik)
With much of the gang captured and brother Frank heading into retirement, the outlaw Jesse James leads a rag-tag bunch of thieves through Missouri. Robert Ford has big hopes for his position in the gang, but the lack of respect he is paid leads him to turn on the leader in a search for his own fame.
The traditional aspects of the Western take a back seat in this movie, which instead deals with the end of the gunslinging era and the beginning of the media age. Celebrity and fame come into consideration, as Robert Ford clamours for a taste of Jesse James' celebrity - before his own fame leads to his downfall. That's not to say there aren't any shoot-outs however, or an atmospheric train-robbery which makes the most of Roger Deakins' photography.
Casey Affleck and Sam Rockwell put in excellent performances as the two Ford brothers and Brad Pitt is chilling as the quiet, bullying, megalomaniac gang leader who steps into his brother's shoes and spreads utter paranoia through the entire gang. This paranoia makes for the films strength - building massive tension in the lead up to the final act.
Chopper Director Andrew Dominick took some five years getting this film together and it is clearly a project that a lot attention has been paid to. While the mood and tone is suitably slow however, something is missing from this film which holds it back from hitting either the elegiac magnificence of Terrence Malick or the high-tension drama of Sergio Leone that it so clearly aspires too.
(dir. Jay Chandrasekhar)
Notably mainly for it's ZZ Top sound-tracked car chase and Luke Duke's Zeppelin T-shirt, this mindless entertainment is watchable enough ...especially if you happen to be flying long haul. "Appalachian Americans if you please".Read more 2 star reviews
(dir. Paul Crowder, John Dower)
…the extraordinary story of the New York Cosmos
Once In A Lifetime is a tightly shot documentary tracing the story of how the Warner Bros execs tried to sell "soccer" to the States by packing a team full of 80s galacticos - Pele got on board first (after intervention from Henry Kissinger), then Italian striker Giorgio Chinaglia, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto etc etc.
Great soundtrack, Matt Dillon narrating, Mick Jagger, Warhol and Robert Redford hanging out in the changing rooms, a Cosmos table waiting for them at Studio 54, and the resistance of US TV to this "upstart" non-baseball sport make for an entertaining pre-World Cup experience. Good goals too…