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Who Played Batman the Best?: Part III

Today I will look at the two actors that played Batman in the two Joel Schumacher movies, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. I do catch a lot of flack for this but these are my two favorite Batman movies. They’re a lot of fun. I think I have already addressed my love of this movies (I will have to check my back articles).

Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton as Batman after Keaton dropped out because Tim Burton dropped out! I think Kilmer was a great choice. He portrayed the struggling and tormented Batman very well! As I write this I am coming more and more to the conclusion that all the actors who have portrayed the Dark Knight have done a very good job. It seems the reason why it is difficult to judge the perfomance as Batman is due to the fact that the actor gets to hide in the suit and it is the suit that does the acting. In Kilmer’s movie he begins with a suit almost identical to the one that Keaton wore in his two movies. However, we do see the introduction of the nipples to Kilmer’s Batsuit and I personally never had a problem with them..honestly I never noticed them!!

Now we come to George Clooney…the man who is said to be the worst Batman and the reason why the franchise fell apart. I have to disagree. I thought he did a fine job in the role. He is not my favorite but I do not think he deserves the flack and ridicule he gets. Remember this is coming from someone that did like the movie. However, if you didn’t like the movie I think the script is the problem and not Clooney’s performance. I once read from some fans that Clooney looks down a lot while playing Batman and I never really noticed it before. I watched the movie this morning and while I did notice he would look down while wearing the cowl, I didn’t think it was excessive nor did I find it bothersome.

Of these two I do prefer Kilmer over Clooney only because his projected a darkness that the character needs. Clooney was in a film where we are right back in the realm of the 1966 TV series with Adam West and all of that delicious camp. So, Clooney’s Batman didn’t need to be that dark for that type of film. However, despite the lack of darkness in this version of the Dark Knight there is a good deal of drama in the film. There is tension between Batman and Robin. Some of the tension is due to Batman not trusting Robin to be able to handle the difficulties of fighting crime and this leads him to being over protective which makes Robin resentful. This issues is used by Poison Ivy to further create a wedge between the dynamic duo.

Next week I will look at many people’s favorite…Christian Bale star of the Dark Knight Trilogy.

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Ben Affleck as Batman: My Thoughts.

It is a nice warm and sunny Friday morning as I write this. Late last night it was announced that Ben Affleck had been cast as Batman for the upcoming sequel to the Man of Steel movie. My first reaction was one of disbelief and shock. He wasn’t even on the radar. He wasn’t even mentioned as being in the running for the role. I also honestly thought that they would select a relative unknown and not a big name such as Ben Affleck. I think that is why I am so shocked.  But the more I think about it the more I do like the idea. I think he can really pull it off. Today as I write this I am watching the majority of my fellow nerdlings have a meltdown as the interweb explodes with the fallout from this news.

I actually like the guy and his work. Like most of us, I was introduced to Ben Affleck when I saw the movie, Good Will Hunting. An excellent film. He and his friend, Matt Damon, crafted a great story and both acted superbly in that movie. Sadly, Affleck’s acting career had some misses as well as hits while Damon’s acting career really took off. I am also a fan of Kevin Smith’s movies and Ben has acted in several of them, my favorite is when he teamed up with Damon once again for the movie Dogma. Ben also had a highly publicized romance with Jennifer Lopez. Ben also was the star of Marvel’s superhero movie, Daredevil, which was not well received. All of this creates too much baggage in the minds of many fans of superhero movies.

But that is not the whole story. He starred in and directed in last years Academy Award winning film Argo. He also starred and directed the critically acclaimed film The Town. He played George Reeves in the well acclaimed film Hollywoodland. Ben Affleck does have  awide range as an actor. He can do comedy as well as serious drama. Not every actor can do that.

I do understand that the last Batman, played by Christian Bale, is the most popular actor to don the Batcowl. So Ben does have some awfully big shoes to fill and hopefully he will not be in Bale’s shadow during his portrayal of the character.

Another point I want to make as my fellow nerds are all upset this morning is that back in the late 80s there was a similar outcry when Tim Burton cast Michael Keaton as Batman. Even I thought that was pretty certain back then that Keaton was wrong for the part he proved all of the nay sayers wrong and did two great performances as Bruce Wayne/Batman. The other thing I find fascinating about the nerd meltdown is that they have a problem with long-term memory. When Heath Ledger was cast as The Joker for the movie, The Dark Night, many fans were all up-in-arms and outraged about that! Today he is, and for a long time will be, the standard by which any portrayal of the Joker will be measured.

I am “borrowing” some points by a blogger   and they are all points that I completely agree with.

Let us go back through the history of movie casting:

  • When Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Iron Man, people thought he would be TERRIBLE because of his past. This actually helped his character and made him the face of Iron Man.
  • When Christian Bale was cast, people still thought of him as a small actor who would be terrible.
  • Heath Ledger was BASHED up and down the street because of his pretty face when he signed on to play the Joker. Now most people now consider him the greatest Joker ever portrayed.
  • Daniel Craig as James Bond… people did go crazy about it which most of you should remember, since it was just a few years ago.
  • Chris Evans was the Human Torch and was thought of as a terrible actor. Uhh, have you seen London? And now he IS Captain America.
  • Chris Hemsworth looks like an Abercrombie and Fitch model and he was in Star Trek, but now he IS Thor.
  • Hugh Jackman was a broadway star. How in the hell is he going to be the ferocious Wolverine? Go remove your foot from your mouth now.

Read more at http://nerdreactor.com/2013/08/23/ben-affleck-batman-awesome-news/#P1HWDMlZFBvU2FXI.99

As I said, Ben Affleck was not even on the radar as being in the running to play Batman. Many sites on the internet listed whom they believed would be a worthy successor to Christian Bale to play Batman. The favorites were: Matt Bomer (my personal choice), Richard Armitage, Josh Brolin, Armie Hammer, Ryan Gosling and others. I think Affleck as a better choice than Brolin. I just don’t think he has the looks. I now am wondering if these were true rumors, that the studio was looking at these actors, or were they just the dreams of fan boys?

I am more than willing to give Ben Affleck a chance in the role and I think he will do just fine. There are more important things to consider such as the script and the tone of the film. I am more concerned about the script than who they cast as Batman. Look at Clooney in Batman and Robin. While I may enjoy the movie as an homage to the campy 60s show, Clooney did not do a bad job acting as either Wayne or Batman. The problem was people did not want a campy Batman movie, or at least the level of camp that was in that movie. So if Clooney had been Batman in a less campy movie I think people would not be putting the blame for that movie on his shoulders.  If they set the tone of this movie like they did with Iron Man then I think Afflack will do just fine.

I am sure the tone of the film will be similar or exactly like the one established in Man of Steel. If that is the case then I really have no worries about Ben Affleck being able to play Bruce Wayne and Batman. I just hope they have a good story to tell and that the script is well written.

Guilty Pleasures

Last Wednesday I listed movies I do not like. This week I list my 6 favorite guilty pleasures. 

Back in the early 1990s I called a local radio station in Rochester NY that had a movie reviewer, Bill Klein, and I asked him a question about how he reviewed movies that he knew were not really good and he should give it a negative review but for some reason he liked the movie anyway. He told me he called them “guilty pleasures” and he said would be honest in his reviews about them being guilty pleasures.

Today I will list my top five guilty pleasures. These are movies that the majority of the professional reviewers and the fan base generally do not like but for reasons, which will be explained below, I do enjoy them a great deal.

Batman & Robin 1997

This movie literally brought the Batman franchise to a grinding halt. Warner Brothers had planned on doing a sequel to Batman and Robin entitled Batman Triumphant, with the Scarecrow as the main villain until this movie tanked at the box office. I have even read that director Joel Schumacher has apologized to the fan base for this movie.

I grew up on the Batman TV series starring Adam West which was pure camp and very fun to watch. I think Batman & Robin is in that same vein because it is fun and campy as hell! I also think there is a good story in there. I like the addition of Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. Her rebellious nature and desire to help her uncle Alfred out is touching. The conflicts between Batman and Robin as they learn to trust one another is good character developments as is the relationship between the dying Alfred and Bruce Wayne. Both Arnold Schwarzenegger and  Uma Thurman, Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy respectively, chew up the scenery with witty puns and dialog that made me laugh and groan.

Some have cried blasphemy that I actually prefer to watch this over The Dark Knight. Sure, I get in the mood for a more serious take on Batman and will watch the Christopher Nolan movies, but most of the time I will watch the two Schumacher movies because they’re a heck of a lot of fun! I could have included the other Schumacher Batman movie, Batman Forever, in this list because that had uneven reviews. But Batman Forever isn’t as hated as Batman & Robin. I must admit that I do like Batman Forever more than Batman & Robin.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier 1989

It was actually many years before I learned that this movie was not well received by the fan base. Star Trek V did elevate the comedy which the very successful Star trek IV: the Voyage Home had originated. I saw this movie in the theater back in the summer of 1989 and the theater was jam packed and people were laughing and having a good time and I was one of them. I left the theater entertained and happy with the movie.

But it didn’t do that well at the box office (it made only $52 million) and a large majority of the fan base did not like it. Today I think some of the comedy has not aged well but there is still a good movie in there. I think the way the relationships between Kirk, Spock and McCoy were examined and expounded upon have never been done better. I liked the “villain” of Sybok, Spock’s emotional half-brother. Was he crazy, insane or a misguided religious nut? I think the movie does demonstrate how we must keep our beliefs anchored in rationality. I have reached a point in my life where I need to have some type of evidence in order to believe in something, otherwise we can believe in anything under the sun without evidence. So, I think Trek V clearly demonstrates that wisdom. Plus…say it with me…it is a lot of fun.

Planet of the Apes (Time Burton) 2001

First of all I must admit I am really not a big Tim Burton Fan. I liked the first Batman movie he did, I really liked Beatlejuice and this movie…that is about it. Now I do not think this movie holds a candle to the 1968 original starring Charleton Heston. I think the that movie is the best science fiction movie ever and a well deserved classic. What makes this remake a guilty pleasure for me is the story. Spoiler alert if you have not seen the movie. In this movie the planet where the apes live is not earth but we find out it is the events which Mark Wahlberg’s character sets in motion at the start of the film are what caused the planet to become what it had become in the future. That is a good twist. I love time travel movies as well so it has that in its corner. There is genuine humor and good action as well as some things I didn’t care for. For example, the settings feel cramped and claustrophobic at times. Helena Bonham Carter, whom I always like, has ape makeup that makes her look too human and not ape-like enough. This movie does have some great action scenes and great special effects.

Godzilla (American) 1998

I am a huge Godzilla fan. In the last few years I have rekindled my love for the franchise. I also love giant monster movies in general so I really enjoyed this lighthearted, fun adventurous take on Godzilla. I don’t want to say too much about the movie because I will be giving it an official review in my Friday’s review of the entire franchise. I am doing those in chronological order and I will be doing my full review in the weeks to come.

I remember reading some hard-core fans reaction to this movie and they called it GINO…Godzilla In Name Only. I rolled my eyes and thought they’re just being too harsh and ridiculous. However, I have come around to their way of thinking. I do see the monster as Godzilla in name only because the monster depicted in the movie does move too far away from the established characteristics of the Japanese Godzilla. However, the main difference between me and the vast majority of the fan base is that I still love the movie. I also love the design of GINO, or Zilla as he is called by Toho, so much that I have a two foot tall figure of him in my home.

Judge Dredd 1995

Judge Dredd is a comic book character and the film, starring Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider, plays like a comic book movie. I must admit the tone is a bit uneven as there are some real funny moments with Rob Schneider’s character who is there purely for comic relief, and then there are some bloody and dark serious moments with Armand Assante. I have not read the comics and this movie supposedly deviated too far from the the comics for the fans. I guess the main point was that Judge Dredd never is seen with his helmet off and in the movie you hardly see Stallone with the helmet on!

Stylistically the view of the future looks identical to the way it was depicted in the Bruce Willis movie, The Fifth Element. I have never read the comic so the complaints do not bother me in the least. I love Stallone’s over the top portrayal of the Judge and the movie has a lot of great action sequences and Rob Schneider, a person people seem to love to hate, is really quite good in this movie and it wouldn’t be the same without him. There is a new version of this movie coming out, starring Karl Ubran from the Lord of the Rings and Star Trek 09. This version looks to be more authentic to the comic and more dark and gritty which is the way Hollywood seems to be going, but my question is…will it be as fun and enjoyable as the original?

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 1999

I never understood the hate for this movie. Honestly the entire franchise is uneven. I am not the biggest Star Wars fan and I think the original movie is by far the best, but all of the films are not perfect and I think the Star Wars: Phantom Menace  doesn’t deserve the bad rap it gets. Sure the kid playing young Anakin Skywalker, Jake Lloyd, is painful to watch in some places but over all the movie is the best of the prequels in my opinion. I think the movie is spectacular to look at. I think the performances by Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor really make this movie. With apologies to Sir Alec Guinness I think Ewan McGregor eqaully captured the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Natalie Portman is also as cute as a bug in this movie and really protrays the sweet innocent charms of  Queen Amidala aka Padme.

George Lucas has mentioned that the Star Wars saga is based of of old serial shorts of the 30s and 40s. That is very evident in this movie and I mean that in a positive way. This movie is filled with spectacular scenes of action and adventure. The pod race alone is worth the price of admission. Sure it gets bogged down in the boring politics of the series but other than that it is a great visual extravaganza and has a larger than life epic feel accompanied by the brilliant work of composer John Williams. For what Star Wars is supposed to be, a fun action adventure space fantasy, Phantom Menace sure does deliver and it is my 2nd favorite Star Wars movie after the original. 

Top 20 Super Hero Movies.

First a Disclaimer. I may be one of the few that have not seen Marvels’ The Avengers so that it is why it is not on my list. As soon as I see it I am sure it would be on there! Also, the Dark Knight Rises comes out in two days and I am sure that would be on my list too! 

20. Batman & Robin

I know it is terrible right? But to me it is still a fun and corny movie. 

19. X-Men 3: The Last Stand

Another movie that I don’t think it deserves the bad rap it gets.

18. X-Men

I was never in to Marvel Comics or its Characters that much but I have really enjoyed the movies based on their characters. 

17. GI Joe: Rise of Cobra

The epitome of a fun over -the-top movie.

16. X-Men 2

I solid sequel to the first movie.

15. X-Men: First Class

A very good prequel to the franchise. Very good story. 

14. Green Lantern

I really enjoy this one and think it got a bad rap. The scenes set out in space are the best. 

13. The Mask of Zorro

One of the first superheroes. Very good story with Sir Anthony Hopkins in a delightfully engaging and fun role. 

12. Batman Forever

Another over the top movie but I really like the addition of Robin and how he plays into this story. 

11. Hancock

A bit uneven in places. It gets too serious in the later half of the movie but still enjoyable. I really enjoy Will Smith.

10. Spider-Man 2

I am not always keen on origin stories so that is why I like Spider-Man 2. Sorry, haven’t seen the reboot yet.

9. Kick-Ass

A very different superhero movie!

8. Batman (1989)

Tim Burton’s take on the Caped Crusader is like a graphic novel come to life.

7. Thor

Perfect mixture of science-fiction and fantasy.

6. Superman Returns

Great Special effects! Superman saving the jumbo jet is worth the price of admission.

5. Superman: The Movie 

Gets bogged down in the origin story but once it is rolling it still holds up very well today.

4. The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger’s take on the Joker will be the standard by which all villains and usage of the Joker will be measured. 

3. Batman Begins

I did actually like this one better than the Dark Knight. I think the story is a little tighter in this movie and not as dark.

2. Iron Man

Didn’t know much about him until the movie. Robert Downey Jr. is spectacular both as Tony Stark and Iron Man. 

1. Superman II

With his origin story out of the way Superman gets down to a fun, sometimes corny, action adventure movie with a great villain  and special effects that still hold up well today. The best Superman and superhero story.