JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Batman Returns (1989)

Written by Bianca Garner

People probably don’t realise just how successful Tim Burton’s gothic version of Batman (1989) was, it made a staggering $410 million, (it had a budget of $35 million) so therefore it would be inevitable that a sequel would be made. Despite being classed as a ‘christmas film’ Batman Returns was released in June 1992, regardless of this fact Batman Returns is a Christmas film just as much as Die Hard is. At first, the director had no real interest in returning to helm the sequel. It was only when he was given more creative freedom that he agreed to come back to Gotham. Critics have criticised his first film as too dark, but they were probably not expecting things to get even darker.

The film begins at Christmas (33 years prior to the film’s events) where socialites Tucker and Esther Cobblepot give birth to a deformed baby boy, Oswald. Disgusted by his appearance, they ultimately throw him into the sewer, where he is discovered by a family of penguins at Gotham Zoo. We fast forward to the present where millionaire Max Shreck proposes to build a power plant to supply Gotham City with energy, somehow Schreck is kidnapped and meets Oswald who is now a crime boss, going by the name of Penguin. Schreck and Penguin, both want the same thing, control over Gotham, but which one is more evil and twisted?

At first, the Christmas setting of Batman Returns seems hardly noticeable; we are far too caught up in grimacing at the revolting Penguin (played by the superb Danny De Vito) and watching Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer who oozes sex appeal) seduce Batman. However, the film’s first lines of dialogue is an exchange of ‘Merry Christmas’ and rewatching the film through the lens of Christmas, we realise that it has always been there in one form or another. The mise-en-scene with it’s giant Christmas trees decorated with tinsel and twinkling fairy lights, seem to be lost in dark, bleak and gothic architecture of Burton’s Gotham city. Occasionally we will witness a character reference Christmas, and the season of goodwill, but the idea of Christmas cheer is far from the minds of our main characters, and we can understand why this is the case. Burton’s decision to set the film’s events at Christmas is an interesting one. Of course, there must be Christmas in Gotham, however, Christmas in Gotham is like no other. The concept of Christmas is presented as a hyper-real portrayal, clearly representing the German expressionism films that Burton was influenced by. To Burton, it would seem that Christmas is just as twisted a holiday like Halloween.

Okay, so far Batman Returns just seems to be an odd pick for a Christmas film, why on earth would anyone want to watch something so depressing, right? It is what I refer to as an anti-Christmas film, a perfect antidote to all the sentimental films that get shown this time of the year. Christmas isn’t always a time of happiness and goodwill, bad things can still occur at Christmas, and Burton isn’t afraid to remind us of this fact. Batman Returns is the far better film out of Burton’s Batman flicks. Its main villain is far more loathsome than Jack Nicholson’s The Joker, and I am not talking about De Vito’s Penguin here. Walken’s Max Schreck is the film’s true villain. A man who uses people’s vulnerability and their Christmas spirit, to exploit them and manipulate them in order to get what he truly desires. One could argue that Schreck is the embodiment of everything gone awry with Christmas, a symbol of greed and corruption. Schreck tries to pass himself off as a contemporary ‘Father of Christmas’, with his tousled white hair, his red bow tie and wide smile. He seems very jolly at least on first glance. However, he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who thinks nothing of pushing his secretary, Selina Kyle out of a window.

Christmas films tend to follow a basic feel-good formula about personal growth or gratitude, our main protagonist is meant to grow as a person. There is no real redemption here, Batman still remains shut off. If we can judge anything about his current track record with women (err, what exactly did happened to Vikki Vale?), then we know that his relationship with Selina will be short-lived (if she ever returns to him that is). Batman Returns helps to reinforce the idea that not everyone is able to share in the warmth and love that the Christmas is supposed to offer. Heroes aren’t like everyone else, they aren’t always allowed to partake in the celebration of Christmas. Crime never sleeps. If anything, Burton’s Batman Returns helps to reinforce the isolation and pain that Bruce Wayne aka Batman, must have to endure every year. We can picture him reminiscing in the Batcave on Christmas day, alone and reflecting on his parent’s brutal death, while Alfred brings him his Christmas dinner.

Batman Returns is as twisted as a Christmas movie can get and that’s why it’s great. The Penguin’s plan revolving around stealing Gotham’s first-born sons like the evil king David from the story of the nativity reminds us just how morbid the actual nativity story is when you deconstruct it. It is also a well written dark comedy that reminds us of a screwball comedy from the 1940s (‘’A kiss under the mistletoe. You know, mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it.’’ ‘’But a kiss can be even deadlier… if you mean it.’’). A film like Batman Returns helps to remind that mayhem and chaos occur 365 days a year and that Christmas in the Burton household must be a blast.

 

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Ant-Man & The Wasp

Year: 2018
Directed by: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, Hannah John-Kamen, Abby Ryder Forston

WRITTEN BY CHRIS GELDERD

This 2018 American superhero film is the sequel to 2015’s ‘Ant-Man’ and the twentieth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It is directed by Peyton Reed and stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Michael Douglas, Hannah John-Kamen, Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park and Michelle Pfeiffer.

One of the most under-rated Marvel superheroes launched in 2015 with his big-screen debut, bringing together a solid cast and adding more pieces to the MCU puzzle. In ‘Captain America: Civil War’, Ant-Man stole the show by becoming Giant-Man in an all to brief but highly entertaining appearance. Now it’s time for the inevitable sequel; one that not only surpasses the original, but lets core Marvel values shine brightly in a franchise currently clouded by recent doom and gloom.

Grab your popcorn and kick back. It’s time to have some fun once again.

This film belongs to Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly – it’s a film about partnership, about family, friendship and being. It’s ‘Ant-Man & The Wasp‘; equal heading, equal footing on marketing and everything in-between. Rudd doesn’t need to try too hard to be humorous, but he still manages to do it in a very heartfelt and endearing way, making Scott Lang stand out as one of the Marvel heroes simply wearing a super suit and uses his heart, head, and honour to fight evil, rather than gifted God-like superpowers.

On the other side of this duo, Evangeline Lilly holds her own across the whole film. She is ballsy, brainy and badass.  She’s a real humane hero who doesn’t become a damsel in distress. She clearly takes care of herself when the heat is turned up and, along with Rudd, shows some real heart and emotion that pushes the core themes forward. Rudd and Lily are equal, neither have greater ability than the other when it comes down to fighting the good fight, and none of them are there as a spare tool. It’s equality, and then some, and so much more enjoyable for it with them being together. The trailer used lyrics It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it outta’ sight.” Never a truer phrase in this case.

With a stellar supporting cast including veterans Michael Douglas (who has even more to do this time around thankfully) and the amusing guilty-pleasure comedy of Michael Peña who all add to the story rather than be expendable, new faces also add to the overall quality. Laurence Fishburne helps expand character relations and morals, Walton Goggins as our charming black market bad guy for hire and Michelle Pfeiffer as the original Wasp and wife of Hank.

Young Abby Ryder Forston as Cassie, Lang’s daughter, shines with as much warmth and wit as Rudd in her scenes and is a joy to see on screen. But it is Hannah John-Kamen who strikes a chord as Ava Starr – our ‘Ghost’ – who has a molecular instability thanks to reasons left to be discovered. She’s pushed as the villain of the piece, but is she? Director Peyton Reed tiptoes towards MCU cliché in her goals and actions, but each time pulls back from the brink to give us something a little different and unexpected. Her story is a sad one and while she is highly dangerous in what she does and why, it’s the journey she takes mirroring the heroes that add some great moments and thrills, thrills that come thick and fast, and help define “popcorn entertainment”.

We have a brilliantly choreographed car chase that involve trucks, motorbikes, Pez dispensers and Hot Wheels racers. We have a hotel lobby and kitchen fight, once more perfectly choreographed, that showcases Lily in full force. We also have eye-popping ‘Doctor Strange’-esque quantum realm travel and bone-crunching hand to hand combat. The whole pace of the movie is perfect, and the action compliments each development and progresses everything and everyone without being pointless.

There isn’t the need for city-wide destruction and mass genocide here. It’s a family-friendly film, but one that harkens a little more to classic Marvel themes before the stakes were as high as they could be and it felt things had peaked. ‘Ant-Man & The Wasp’ takes the threat of Thanos out of the equation for a couple of hours and reduces all pointless cameos and Avenger interaction to give Ant-Man both a fair stand-alone sequel but also presenting new ideas for the future of the franchise.

The humour is on top form where you will find yourself chuckling along a lot of the time without even knowing it thanks to the snappy character exchanges. Yet, fear not, the movie isn’t stupid nor does it rely on infantile humour to get the laughs. There is a lot of heart to this film – the narrative is more about family and faith over Infinity Stones and nuclear wars – so you will certainly be able to invest in the characters, what they do and why.

Another strong reason this film seems to make great leaps forward to Marvel is the visual effects that stand amongst the best in the current franchise. There is no need for constant green screen and masses of CGI locations thanks to keeping things Earth based with practical sets and effects. The stand-out moments are the shrinking and enlarging of Ant-Man and Wasp. Split second transformations in the middle of breakneck fights are seamless and fluid, with the environment and characters reacting accordingly. Nothing feels jarred or loose. It’s tight, imaginative, entertaining and exciting. And when Ant-Man loses control of his suit’s regulator, there’s just more good fun to be had.

Ant-Man & The Wasp’ doesn’t try to compete with the juggernaut of ‘Infinity War’, it instead does the wise thing and distances itself far from it. If the bar to judge all MCU films hinges on ‘IW’, then you’ll find you miss out on these smaller gems that expand the forgotten heroes and their own stories.

However, for the ones who are worried, then don’t be. Events of ‘Infinity War’ are referenced in the film. How? When? You’ll have to find out for yourself and watch that Marvel cloud of doom and gloom smother the care-free fun you just had.

CHRIS’ RATING:

5

Teamwork Makes The Dream Work In Brand New ‘Ant-Man and The Wasp’ Trailer

“As Scott Lang balances being both a superhero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past”

Directed by: Peyton Reed

Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeine  Lilly, Walton Goggins, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Michael Peña

Release Date: August 3rd, 2018

Evangeline Lilly Takes Flight In First ‘Ant-Man And The Wasp’ Trailer

“As Scott Lang balances being both a superhero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past”

Directed by: Peyton Reed

Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeine  Lilly, Walton Goggins, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas, Michael Peña

Release Date: August 3rd, 2018

Murder on the Orient Express

Year: 2017
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Leslie Odom Jr.

Written by Jo Craig

A packed Friday night screening jostling with curiosity from a varied audience sees Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ as an impressive turnout for the classic enigma’s opening night, prompting a relentless interest we as a nation have in a good whodunit with an itch to solve the crime before the protagonist. Furrowed brows, swift chuckles and an envy for lavish conduct awaits on this expedition, but instead of partaking in the detective work more is to be gained from kicking off Jessica Fletcher’s slippers and settling for spectator as a sedative to preclude headache.

Previously made for the big screen in 1974 by Sidney Lumet and Albert Finney, ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ joins Hercule Poirot, the greatest detective in the world on his most puzzling case, becoming the sole investigator of a murder on-board the long-distance passenger train while travelling on its isolating journey from Istanbul across Europe. Transporting an opulent array of passengers, it’s Poirot’s duty to catch the killer before arrival and keep his head above its surrounding secrecy.

Humour is not a common factor when it comes to productions in the crime genre of late, however Poirot’s resume equips us for a level of tongue-in-cheek quips that colour his meticulous problem solving and is a component that’s used to the advantage of Kenneth Branagh’s retelling. Performing on and off camera validates the skippers acting flair and stability with directing, not to mention his dazzling blue eyes that looked as if the universe existed within them against the niveous scenery. Comic timing contrived on both sides of the 65mm camera remained impeccably placed from the outset and operated as the features redeeming asset when the plot bottle necked but ultimately became a distant memory during the last quarter. Branagh’s emphasis on Poirot’s obsessive trait towards “unbearable” imperfections addressed an insecurity that stuck, despite being labelled unshakeable and supplied a quirk to the police work.

Daisy Ridley and Josh Gad kept the 1930’s current for modern day viewing and worked a vital freshness into the timeless mystery that was threatened with regenerated humdrum. Ridley’s Mary Debenham teases with a bubbly demeanour but is frequently deprived of independence, while Gad’s theatrical background sufficiently peddles his engagement as the shady MacQueen. Pfeiffer and Depp remain sturdy as the backbone to a polished cast while maintaining the progressive gravitas alongside Branagh, unlike Dame Judi Dench who became outclassed by her servant Olivia Coleman, whose fleeting but expressive role surpassed Dench’s few humorous lines. Performances from a dreary Cruz, and doctor on-board Leslie Odom Jr. are forgotten amongst larger personalities, adding extra baggage to an already crowded compartment that demanded extra scrutiny.

A long-winded introduction presenting the movie as a character piece rather than a wholesome thriller emerged as wasted time when arriving at the films core, presenting the crime’s foundation as a careless interjection into the narrative which ultimately caused a detachment from Poirot’s deliberating, abandoning all hope of solving the puzzle with him. This late addition of a critical layer to the plot, combined with a plethora of identities and jigsaw pieces caused major brain cramps when tasked to juggle them all at once, all the while trying to decipher Branagh’s often incomprehensible speech that muddled a decent French accent every time Hercule got excited. A retrospective scene delved into a fitting noir-scope which brought punch to the denouement and bound any loose ends, but stretched into a dragging conclusion that begged for the inspector’s no-nonsense psyche to halt its runaway manner.

Hair-raising scenery of snowy mountains and vertigo-summoning drops were efficient in contrast to a packed locomotive interior, with credible cinematography from Haris Zambarloukos (‘Thor’) and Rebecca Alleway’s (‘The Duchess’) convincing set decoration that brought the allure of the era and a rather majestic looking choo choo. Branagh’s clever trick in the director’s chair pinned our stellar actors to the background as much as the foreground, encouraging the viewers to look beyond the spotlight for evidence like the cunning detective.

As it stands, no vehicular journey is without shoogling as ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ plays to its strengths as a kitsch conundrum with Hollywood’s most glamorous, almost excusing its accelerated second act pace and a platter of redundant clues that lend no hand to budding crime aficionados who haven’t read or watched the original material. Viewers young and matured will certainly get a thrill from Branagh’s version as an alternative to family Cluedo night and ‘CSI’ re-runs, with the exception of Branagh’s quality act hiding behind a two-layered, preposterous moustache.

Jo’s Rating: 6.0 out of 10            

All Aboard! New Trailer For ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ Rolls In

“What starts out as a lavish train ride through Europe quickly unfolds into one of the most stylish, suspenseful and thrilling mysteries ever told. From the novel by best selling author Agatha Christie, “Murder on the Orient Express” tells the tale of thirteen strangers stranded on a train, where everyone’s a suspect. One man must race against time to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.”

Directed By: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Tom Bateman, Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom, Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Marwan Kenzari, Olivia Colman, Lucy Boynton, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Sergei Polunin
Release Date: November 4th 2017

Chilling First Trailer Arrives For Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Mother!’

“A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.”

Directed By: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson
Release Date: 15th September 2017

 

Production Officially Begins On ‘Ant-Man and The Wasp’

Marvel’s official Twitter feed just confirmed that production has begun on ‘Ant-Man and The Wasp’, and marked the occasion with a brilliant video which shows where Ant-Man and The Wasp will spend their down-time between takes.

Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly are both returning for their respective roles, but this time Lilly’s Hope van Dyne will don her mother’s Wasp costume, as teased at the end of the first film. It was also recently confirmed that Michelle Pfeiffer has been cast as the original Wasp, Janet van Dyne, mother of Hope and wife of Hank (Michael Douglas).

Also recently confirmed as members of the cast include Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, and Randall Park, who has been confirmed to play S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Jimmy Woo. Michael Pena, T.I and David Dastmalchian are all returning for the sequel.

We also have an updated synopsis for the film, which is as follows: 

“From the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes a new chapter featuring heroes with the astonishing ability to shrink: “Ant-Man and The Wasp.” In the aftermath of “Captain America: Civil War,” Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) grapples with the consequences of his choices as both a Super Hero and a father. As he struggles to rebalance his home life with his responsibilities as Ant-Man, he’s confronted by Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) with an urgent new mission. Scott must once again put on the suit and learn to fight alongside The Wasp as the team works together to uncover secrets from their past.”

Director Peyton Reed has also just released a better look at the new logo for the film.

‘Ant-Man and The Wasp’ opens in cinemas July 6th 2018

Teaser Trailer For ‘Mother!’ Released

“A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.”

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer
Release Date: 15th September 2017

The full trailer for this “riveting psychological thriller about love, devotion and sacrifice” will be released on August 8th.