Lincoln

Shortly after reelection, with the end of the Civil War in sight, Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) decides to take advantage of a lame duck Congress in order to pass the thirteenth amendment which abolished slavery. The idea is that many of the Democrat Congressmen that were not reelected could be convinced into voting for the amendment seeing that they would suffer no political consequences. Meanwhile, the president battles family troubles as his oldest son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) wishes to enlist in the army and serve his country against his mother’s (Sally Field) wishes, who is still mourning the death of one of the youngest children.
While Abraham Lincoln is one of the most famous men that ever lived, little is known about who he was. He lived in a time before film could capture the sound of his voice or the way he walked but Day-Lewis becomes him so completely it just may be how we picture the man from now on. One thing the film does well is show Lincoln as a man not a saint. While it is still a very complimentary portrayal, this Lincoln has a sense of humor, often telling funny stories to the troops and his cabinet. Lincoln was known by his peers as a lover of a good joke and it’s great to see that side of him celebrated.
While Day-Lewis was the stand out of the film, the rest of the cast is strong. Tommy Lee Jones is stellar as Congressman Thaddeus Stephens, the dedicated abolitionist who must learn to hold back and compromise for the good of the cause. The film does a great job of making the legislative parts fun by showing how feisty Congressional sessions could get. Republicans and Democrats fling cleverly crafted insults at each other. James Spader is also hilarious as part of the team lobbying to change the outgoing Democrats’ minds. Sally Field does well as the emotionally unstable Mary Todd Lincoln and Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes you wish his role was larger.
It was a bold move by Spielberg to make the passing of the thirteenth amendment the focus of the film. For a filmmaker known for large action movies, this film has a lot of talking. Considering there is a war waging in the background throughout, the climax is a vote. The suspense caused by what men will say yay and which with say nay. Also, considering Lincoln is know as much for being assassinated as for freeing the slaves, his death is portrayed as an afterthought. It is clear Spielberg sees Lincoln’s life as the remarkable story, not his death.
Considering the subject matter, the film is careful not to stumble into schmaltzy territory. There are a few moments where it stumbles in that respect, namely the opening where soldiers, white and black, recite the Gettysburg Address to Lincoln. However, I must say I was proud of Spielberg for not winking at the audience when reciting what future could hold for black America after slavery was abolished by having someone say something like “What next, a black president?”
While this isn’t a film I would say must be seen on the big screen, it should be seen by anyone that appreciates top-notch acting and doesn’t think big explosions are needed to keep an audience entertained.

The Batman Movies

What got me into this. My short takes on all the theatrical Batman Movies.

Batman the Movie (1966)
Pros: It’s Campy
Cons: It’s Campy
In short. No point getting into specifics, It’s a 90 minute long episode of the 60s Television series. If you like the show you’ll like the movie, if not then you won’t.
Fun Fact: One of the many quirks of this series was Ceasar Romero’s refusal to shave his mustache for the role of the Joker, In fact you can see it through the make-up

Batman (1989)
Pros: Michael Keaton is a great Batman: unassuming, intimidating, and even subtle at times. The music is awesome, It seems as close to the original comics as you can get with a movie and even though I prefer other versions more Nicholson is a good Joker.
Cons: I like it at the beginning but towards the end it loses me. I actually owned it growing up yet I almost never watched it. To me the tone is a little off. At times it’s very serious but at others its too goofy and unrealistic. Plus I can’t tell what time period it’s supposed to take place in; The fashion and aestetics clash. Plus why Prince??????
In Short: I understand why comic fans and 80s junkies like it and at the time it was the best example of a comic book movie, but to me it hasn’t aged as well as it could. Good movie, just not my taste.

Fun Fact: Thanks to smooth negotiating deals with salary and box office, Jack Nicholson walked away with $50 million make him the highest paid actor for a movie. He held this record until 2011 when Johnny Depp collected $75 million for Pirates of the Caribbean 4.

Batman Returns (1992)

Pros: It’s a very Tim Burtony movie. It has a distinct and interesting visual style. Keaton’s great as always. Walken is fun to watch. The Penguin and Catwoman are fascinating to watch and the action is pretty good. Growing up it was actually my favorite Batman movie. I even scored some of the happy meal toys before McDonald’s cancelled it due to parents complaining. It doesn’t take itself as seriously as the last movie so when it dips into the silly comic book stuff it’s not as jarring. Plus it’s got penguins and penguins are cute.
Cons: It’s a VERY Tim Burtony movie, and he’s not exactly the guy you want to give total creative control to. While I tolerate the goofy stuff more it DOES go too far eventually and becomes depressing and weird. While interesting the Penguin becomes disgusting and unpleasant and Catwoman is a little annoying at times. Also parts of the story make no sense (would anybody really want the penguin to be mayor?) and the script is AWFUL at times (“mistletoe” and “ointment”)
In Short: While not technically good it’s very interesting and memorable. I don’t really recommend it to most and I understand why it alienated a lot of people. However if you’re a Tim Burton fan or like weird movies it might make a guilty pleasure. The refined adult in me is appalled by it, but the sick child in me loves it.

Fun Fact: Sean Young was originally cast as Vicky Vale, but a horseback riding accident left her unable to play the part. This time around feeling gypped out of what could have been her big break (In her mind) she wanted the role of Catwoman so badly she would dress up in costume and show up uninvited to the studio. It got so bad Tim Burton took to hiding under his desk to avoid speaking to her.

Batman Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

Including it here since it did have a Theatrical release (albeit a short one)
Pros: Great visual style. Kevin Conroy is awesome, Mark Hamill is awesome. Great Story with a pretty effective mystery to it. Does not pander to us. Treated us more like adults than some of the live action movies did.
Cons: It’s a cartoon so adults will laugh at you for liking it. I remember as a child thinking it was a little boring and grim. Also NO HARLEY QUINN! Will she EVER be in theatrical Batman film?!?!
In Short: It’s an under-appreciated little gem that is actually better than most of the live action theatrical films at the time. It’s a cartoon, but a really well-done cartoon.

Fun Fact: This is the only Batman film to get two thumbs up from Siskel and Ebert. Siskel gave thumbs down to Batman & Robin. Ebert gave Thumbs down to Batman, Batman Returns Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. However Gene Siskel stated that he didn’t like Mark Hamill as the Joker (Boo!).

Batman Forever (1995)

Pros: I loved this movie when I was a kid. It has a lot of good action scenes and its a very visually pleasing movie. Basically a bright a colorful neon light show. Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey are very entertaining to watch and it brings you on a fun ride of a story. It’s pretty much what we wanted in a comic book movie back then
Cons: As an adult I realized how pandering this movie is. The dilemmas are really dumbed down and symplified and everything else is exaggerated to the point of sillyness. While Carrey is funny (as pre-majestic carrey was) the Riddler really doesn’t have a character beyond his usual schick. Val Kilmer is dull as Batman, Kidman plays the world’s worst psychiatrist, O’Donnel is distractingly too old for the part of Robin in the story (Would social services and charities really bother with him?). I also realized that Jones as Two-Face is really derivative of Nicholson’s Joker. (The goofy schemes, the laughter, the henchmen, falling to his death, and killing Robin’s parents). Also where do the villains get all their stuff????? and Bat nipples….
In Short: The movie is like a cheap chocolate bar you got as a kid. At the time you loved it and now it would still hit the spot in a childish way, but when you had your first Godiva you realize how gypped you were. Entertaining but has nothing substantial in it.

Fun Fact: Ironically Christian Bale auditioned for the part of Robin in this movie.

Batman & Robin (1998)
Cons: As a serious entry this movie fails at everything. Everything bad about Batman forever is amplified. The scenarios are beyond ridiculous. The ice puns. All the actors know it’s bad and deal with it in their own way. Poison Ivy is annoying (I like Uma Thermon and i know she’s trying to have fun, but she’s awful in this), In another movie Clooney would’ve been a good choice but here he clearly doesn’t care, O’Donnel is a whiny brat, Bane is a joke. The action scenes are essentially like watching a toy commercial. Batman appearing in public at a sexist auction and whipping out a Bat credit Card….
Pros: As a spoof or parody it’s hilarious. Schwarzenegger is an enjoyable doofus. If you’re a fan of stuff like MS3K this is a great movie for riffing. It’s enjoyably bad crap. Also it was so spectacularly bad it forced the studio to abandon this sinking ship of a franchise and start from scratch.
In Short: The worst Batman movie. It’s bad, spectacularly bad and if that’s your thing this movie is ripe for the riffing.

Fun Fact: Had this film not failed at the box office there was another film set to be made called Batman Triumphant. Rumor had it the villains would have been The Scarecrow and Harley Quinn, however the same rumor stated they would be played by Howard Stern and Madonna…..

Batman Begins (2005)
Pros: It’s very realistic and believable. It accomplishes the near impossible task of making a movie about a man who dresses up as a bat and fights crime plausible. The training segments are awesome. It actually explains where he got those wonderful toys, Morgan Freeman made them! The cast is great. Love Cain, Freeman, Murphy, Neeson. Gary Oldman is PERFECT as Jim Gordon and even though Christian Bale isn’t my favorite Batman (It’s fun to mock, but I actually don’t mind the growl), but you can tell he REALLY cared about this part.
Cons: The first and second halves feel like completely different movies. The fight scenes are a disorienting mess (it’s intentional, but I don’t like it). The Scarecrow has a disappointing departure. Even though she’s not that bad, Katie Holmes does seem like the odd one out in terms of acting prowess. At times the dialogue is a bit pretentious at a time when the franchise didn’t have the right to be.
In Short: There are kinks to iron out, but the film proves to be one of the best and most realistic origin stories of any comic book hero and it provided a solid strong foundation to take story of Batman to incredible heights.

Fun Fact: The part of Alfred Pennyworth was offered to Anthony Hopkins who turned it down.

The Dark Knight (2008)
Pros: HEATH LEDGER!!! He gives one of the greatest performances of a villain in film history. Every time he’s on screen you can’t take your eyes off him, too many awesome moments to mention. You feel he’s not just playing a part, you feel he is this character. The design, voice, mannerisms, lines, and actions are all perfect for the Joker in this universe. Cain, Freeman, Bale, Eckhart and Oldman are all great. The action scenes learned their lesson from the last movie and are allowed to be awesome and coherent. Music is awesome. The story is intriguing and the moral dilemmas are valid and thought-provoking.
Cons: It might be a little too long and analytical for some and some of the nit-picky things from Batman Begins are still there. Gyllenhaal is just ok but still better than Holmes. A little sad watching when thinking about Ledger’s tragic death. He did such a good job and didn’t get to see the praise.
In Short: I am in love with this movie. The best Comic book movie in my opinion and even if you don’t like everything else about the movie Ledger has earned every bit of praise he got.

Fun Fact: The Joker’s face paint was reportedly designed by Heath Ledger himself, who used white clown makeup and cosmetics from a drugstore.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Pros: Christopher Nolan was smart enough to end his story of Batman with a bang instead of having it continue until people got sick of it. Bane is awesome and bad-ass. I actually liked Hathaway as Catwoman(even though they never call her Catwoman) more than I thought I would. Joseph Gordon Levit is a welcome addition to the ensemble. The action scenes and destruction scenes are incredible. It has some pretty effective twists. Christian Bale is at his best and it ties up the loose ends of the story with a satisfying resolution.
Cons: At times it’s hard to understand what’s going on. There’s a lot of story they’re trying to get through and it may take a second viewing to get it all. Some may not like Banes voice (Yes he does sound like a mix of Sean Connery and Darth Vader) along with Bale’s voice (I’ve just accepted this is how this Batman roles) A few things can be interpreted as plot holes or contradictions but I think any Nolan apologist (which I am) can rationalize it. No matter what it will be looked on as a step down from the last one. The most unfortunate of all is we’ll always be haunted by the tragic events in Colorado when viewing or remembering this film.
In Short: It’s not as good as the last one and it’s definitely nit-pickable, but to me it’s a great movie and a satisfying conclusion to a great series of films. Much better people than me have summed up the implications and lessons of the events associated with this film. All I have to say is RIP to everyone we lost and condolences to all loved ones.

Fun Fact: Anne Hathaway originally thought she was auditioning for the part of Harley Quinn.