Friday, August 30, 2013

Hot Fuzz - 2007

"Hot Fuzz" - 2007
Dir. by Edgar Wright - 2 hrs. 1 min.

Official Trailer #1

by Clayton Hollifield

When you're going to do a comedy version of a genre film, there is a wide chasm waiting for potential filmmakers to stumble into.  And that chasm exists between overt amateurism and professional polish.  Anything that falls in between those two goalposts is going to pull viewers out of the film.  Good gags and scenarios will get you pretty far, but when it comes down to the action-filled climax, the goods must be delivered.  That, or it needs to be so absurdly, recklessly, irresponsibly stupid that all you can do is sit there and laugh that the filmmakers tried to get away with whatever they're trying to get away with (like the mansion fire near the end of "Orgazmo," or the bus-leap in "Spice World").  Yes, "Hot Fuzz" works as a comedy, but the action is passable, too.

Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is an overachieving, driven London Police Officer who's enthusiasm and skill at his job is making everyone else look bad.  He's given a "promotion," a better title in a rural village in the countryside, much to his co-workers' delight.  Nicholas arrives in Sandford to find a cozy model community, where things like teens in hoodies and gold-painted mimes are the scourge of the town.  Nicholas is paired with PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), the sort of slow, yet enthusiastic son of the police chief.  A series of mysterious deaths in Sandford convince Nicholas that a murderer is on the loose, but finding proof proves difficult.

The first hour of "Hot Fuzz" is flat-out hilarious.  Once Nicholas' stern, by-the-books character is established (and it takes all of about a minute to do that, with one of director Edgar Wright's signature near-montage sequences), literally everyone and everything starts hammering away at him.  It's an interesting approach, to show how an over-zealous approach (which is somewhat necessary to excel at anything) works in a real world where everyone is not even zealous, but complacent.  At least his partner is ambitious (or envious, maybe both), but without skill, that ambition isn't worth a lot.  The Angel character is an interesting flip from Pegg's character in "Shaun of the Dead"; instead of having to be roused to action, Nicholas is all tension and fury waiting to be unleashed, and must be forced into inaction.  Nick Frost's character is also not the same thing as in their previous work; Danny is eager to please, whereas Ed was antagonistic and a drag on whomever was around him.  It's very easy for comedians to slip into the same role and dynamic over and over again until every drop has been milked from it, but Frost and Pegg have avoided that completely here.

The second hour of the film when it turns direction into Nicholas vs. the baddies, and that's also when the action starts to take over a bit.  Now, I'm not going to tell you that "Hot Fuzz" would be a standout film if it had to rely on its dramatic chops, but it's close enough that if you caught it on cable, you wouldn't think it stood out as being incompetent either.  That's something that sometimes sabotages comedies; the people involved in making something think that just seeing Adam Sandler run in slow-motion (to make up an example) is going to be funny enough to overshadow the lack of professional rigor that a dramatic film would require of the scene.  Yes, it's pretty fun to see Simon Pegg atop a horse, armed to the teeth.  Yes, it's awesome watching Nick Frost jump through the air whilst shooting two guns.  But it's even better when the scenes make sense, work visually, and ALSO have Nick Frost jumping through the air whilst shooting two guns.

The result is that "Hot Fuzz" is a really good movie.  The humor's great, the action stuff works, there's some visual flair in the direction and action, and it's paced very well, without lulls.  I like "Hot Fuzz" better than "Shaun of the Dead," and that might just be because I like cop movies better than zombie movies.  Your mileage might just vary.  But if you like one, I'm pretty sure you'll like the other.  So I'll just shut up so you can get to watching "Hot Fuzz" and laughing along.

4 / 5 - Streaming

Sunday, August 25, 2013

R.I.P.D. - 2013

"R.I.P.D." - 2013
Dir. by Robert Schwentke - 1 hr. 36 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

Yes, "R.I.P.D." is pretty much exactly "Men in Black," except the mentor is the one running his mouth instead of the pupil.  But, there has been probably around six thousand films based around the old cop/young cop dynamic, so it's not as if "MIB" reinvented the wheel.  All it did was jam one of these aforementioned cop movies into a tight container with "Ghostbusters," stirred, and delivered sequels.  So I don't have a problem with "R.I.P.D" doing exactly the same thing.

Nick (Ryan Reynolds) is a Boston policeman with a crisis of conscience: he and his partner, Hayes (Kevin Bacon) have taken some gold from a crime scene, and now Nick doesn't want anything to do with it.  It has to do with his wife, Julia (Stephanie Szostak), and the adoring looks she gives him, which is as good of a reason as any.  Unfortunately, Hayes isn't on board with Nick's plan to come clean, and takes the opportunity to kill him during some chaos on a bust.  On Nick's way to the afterlife, he ends up in an office with an offer: Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) can give him a letter of recommendation in terms of his eventual fate, but only if he joins the Rest In Peace Department for a term of 100 years.  Nick agrees, and is partnered with an Old West lawman named Roycephus Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges), and together they will hunt down Deados who have escaped from Hell.

As per custom, let's get the good stuff out of the way first.  Whether or not you enjoy "R.I.P.D." largely depends on how much you like Jeff Bridges and his work.  I'm sure Ryan Reynolds has fans (he's got to, right?), and Mary-Louise Parker does too (myself included), but he has the straight role in the film, and her role simply isn't big enough to do more than lift up her own scenes.  I will show up for just about anything Jeff Bridges does, and his goofier version of Rooster Cogburn was a huge part of the reason I wanted to see this film.  Bridges delivers consistently throughout, which makes "R.I.P.D" zip along a bit faster than it probably should.  He's the reason to watch this.  I wish his performance had been in the context of a better film, but Jeff Bridges doing what only Jeff Bridges can do is enough of a consolation.

While I don't hold the comparison to "Men in Black" against "R.I.P.D.," that's also an explicit admission that "R.I.P.D." doesn't have much new or compelling to offer.  I've seen Kevin Bacon play baddies before, and one of the other beasties in the film seems to be a CGI Fat Bastard (from the third Austin Powers film).  There are a couple of good visual scenes - my favorite being the immediate post-death scenes where a character will walk around in a freeze frame of the chaos surrounding them, which means cars and people are hovering in mid-air mid-explosion.  The other good visuals are of the female variety, and since there's only two real female characters in the film, I'll just say that the film is two-for-two instead of getting into specifics.

It's hard to get mad about a film like "R.I.P.D."  It aims to be an hour and a half of popcorn fun, of Jeff Bridges running around like Yosemite Sam and Mary-Louise Parker simmering, and with goofy monsters being dispatched back to the underworld.  To get frustrated that this doesn't deliver more would be to enter the theatre with wildly unrealistic expectations.  There's nothing anywhere to suggest viewers should expect anything new or revolutionary.  "R.I.P.D." is exactly what it purports to be, and it kind of met the low bar that it set for itself.  If you adjust your expectations going in, you can have a good time for an hour and a half.  I'm not disputing for a second that there are better movies all around it, and that you might have a better time at one of them, but it's not going to be the end of the world if you sit through this one instead.

2 / 5 - Theatre

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Shaun of the Dead - 2004

"Shaun of the Dead" - 2004
Dir. by Edgar Wright - 1 hr. 39 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

It seems hard to believe that by 2004, there was already some comedy push-back on the idea of zombie movies.  I mean, it's hard to believe it considering that the nearly ten years since have seen an explosion of films all offering up their tiny new wrinkle on the concept, to the point where rolling your eyes and sighing exasperatedly at any idea that includes even a mention of zombies is a more-than-reasonable response.  Especially considering that "Shaun of the Dead" pretty much nailed whatever needed to be nailed about the scenario (and "Zombieland" took care of the rest).  Thankfully, this is less a "zombie movie" than a lot of people's introduction to a Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright/Nick Frost film, which is far more interesting.

Shaun (Simon Pegg) is an underachieving pub denizen in London, and the predictability of his routine (along with his nonexistent goals) seem to be the source of friction between himself and pretty much everyone in his life.  This includes his flatmate Pete (Peter Serafinowicz), his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield), and his step-father Philip (Bill Nighy), who all want more out of Shaun, and also feel that he's being dragged down by his loutish friend, Ed (Nick Frost).  Aside from the zombie outbreak that seems to happen in the background, Shaun has a terrible day that sees everyone he knows get angry with him.  And then, zombies.

"Shaun of the Dead" is a successful film for a lot of reasons.  A lot of those reasons are boring, nuts and bolts storytelling stuff (like character arcs, and good characterization), but that foundation holds up some pretty good performances (and good comedy bits).  Shaun is a character that everyone feels like they know.  At the same time, everyone seems to expect more out of him, and judging by the first act of this film, I'm not sure what basis that opinion was formed on.  He doesn't appear very bright, is certainly unmotivated by anything other than routine, and most of his friends just yell at him all the time.  His only friend who doesn't yell at him is pretty far from a good influence, and is also content to pass the time cracking wise in a pub.

But also, for something that's billed as a comedy (and is very funny all the way through), there's more of an adventure approach to the story.  There's jokes, and physical comedy, but the film isn't paced as a series of gags.  "Shaun of the Dead" isn't a film with crackling dialogue and shocking moments, it's about Shaun seeing around him what everyone else has been seeing with Shaun.  To Shaun's friends, who have goals and motivations (sort of), seeing Shaun working a dead-end job and killing time at the pub seems like a waste of time and potential.  But when the rest of society's normality drops to shambling about, groaning and biting at people, Shaun is finally moved to action to avoid falling into that trap, the same way his friends are motivated by not dropping to Shaun's level.

Because the main character changes over the course of the film, and because this isn't just a series of gags and one-liners, and that there's an actual story being told here, "Shaun of the Dead" holds up pretty well.  The humor is built up within the story, and doesn't rely on timeliness or current pop culture material, so what's funny is still funny.  "Shaun of the Dead" is really, really funny, even after a handful of viewings, and even after another decade of zombie material being beaten into the ground.  It would still be funny if it was released now, that's the hallmark of a good comedy.

4 / 5 - DVD

Monday, August 19, 2013

Elysium - 2013

"Elysium" - 2013
Dir. by Neill Blomkamp - 1 hr. 49 min.

Offiical Trailer #2

by Clayton Hollifield

I think, at a fundamental level, people are either open to science fiction or they are not.  It's probably determined at a genetic level.  Quick check: how do you feel when you hear a baritone say, "In a world where...?"  If your interest isn't primed a little bit by just the beginning of that sentence, you probably don't need to see "Elysium."  There's nothing about raggedy battle exoskeletons, near-space travel, and robot servants that's going to make a convincing case for seeing this film.  There are other, more genteel movies starring Matt Damon that will be more to your liking.  No hard feelings, please move along.  However, for those of you who DO want to see robots and janky exoskeletons, grab some refreshments and have a seat.

In a world where the classes have become so stratified that the rich have escaped Earth to live on a plush summer resort satellite in the sky and everyone else is so poor they have to live in garbage dumps (which is pretty much what the entirety of Earth has turned into), we are introduced to a very young Max (the adult version is played by Matt Damon), who is raised by nuns, and pretty much immediately falls in love with another girl who shows up, Frey (the adult version played by Alice Braga).  They dream of escaping Earth to live on Elysium (the satellite in the sky).  Over time, their paths diverge, Frey becoming a nurse, and Max becoming a tattooed ex-con who works on the line at a robot factory.  One of the chief differences between Earth and Elysium is that there are medical pods on Elysium that will instantly cure whatever ails you, while Earth citizens have mid-20th century resources.  When an accident on the line starts the clock ticking on Max's life, getting to Elysium becomes a matter of life and death, and the only way to make that happens means turning recidivist and tackling a very risky job.

Like all good sci-fi, a decent parable is the foundation of the story.  This time, "Elysium" focuses on rich vs. poor themes, particularly on what the access to quality health care means in practical terms.  Even cancer goes from capital "C" to lower case "c" when you have a pod that can fix you up in about thirty seconds.  But when the "haves" also choose to defend their turf (and access to that technology) with lethal force in the hands of the immoral Delacourt (Jodie Foster), those on Earth are left with only bad choices and risky choices.  This is the larger point behind "Elysium."  These choices are illustrated early on in the film, and turn personal when we follow Max's sudden need for a nap in a pod.  He's a former big-wig criminal trying to stay on the right side of the law (with no help from the automated legal system), so he doesn't have the resources to gain access to the technology, but which leaves only a bad, extremely risky proposition as the only way out.

The action in "Elysium" is pretty good.  Part of what I enjoyed about the film is that in director Neill Blomkamp's world, everything kind of sucks.  That means that everything's run down and graffitied on, and the only stuff that really even kind of works is the stuff that hurts people.  Although "Elysium" if rife with robots and exoskeletons, they're not awesome and flashy.  This isn't a "Transformers" movie, where everything seems designed only to look cool (and with debatable results), this is a world where everything seems sourced from a sleazy pawn shop.  Even Max's suit isn't really a suit; it's a bunch of metal that has been screwed onto his skeleton with power tools, over his clothes.  It's a step up from normal, but it's also an outdated model.  The only guys who have anything cool are Delacourt's secret mercenaries, led by Kruger (Sharlto Copley), and that's because they've been outfitted with weapons and tech from Elysium.  As a result, the fight scenes are kind of ugly, and there are at least a couple of moments where the carnage is very, very explicit.  That's the sort of thing that keeps a fairly violent film from seeming gratuitous - blood is spilled, and faces are graphically destroyed.

I did enjoy "Elysium" quite a bit, but I didn't think it was a home-run.  The story ties up in a neat bow, which isn't so much a problem as just being hopeful.  After a film that illustrates the way a system can beat down people who are just trying to exist in it, it was nice to not leave the theatre depressed.  At the same time, the story does indicate that the only way to overthrow the tyranny of greed is through violent means, so if you're not in touch with your inner revolutionary, it might not be a good idea to dwell on that message.  "Elysium" gives enough story to chew on, more than enough in the way of action and interesting visuals, and Matt Damon makes for a convincing main character.  But this is all coming from someone who likes science fiction and high concepts (in the story sense, not in the sensimilla sense), and is very open to films in this vein.  I'm not claiming that "Elysium" is great, but it's pretty good, and I'd watch it again given half a chance.

3.5 / 5 - Theatre

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pulp Fiction - 1994

"Pulp Fiction" - 1994
Dir. by Quentin Tarantino - 2 hrs. 34 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

We're almost at the twenty-year anniversary of the release of "Pulp Fiction," which seems like a fair enough amount to time to see exactly what came in it's wake, and how it's held up over time.  On another note, I'm sure that this means there will be another super-snazzy home video package next year, trying to entice me (and others) to re-buy a movie that I've already re-bought repeatedly.  But that's another issue entirely!

"Pulp Fiction," if you've never seen it, is a series of crime-based vignettes that do not play out in chronological order, with certain characters that reappear over the course of the film.  There are a pair of hitmen, Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta), who have to retrieve a mysterious glowing briefcase and return it to it's owner, local crime boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames).  Wallace also is involved in fixing a fight, paying Butch (Bruce Willis) to throw the fight, although he's visibly reluctant.  And there's also the scenes that bookend the film, where Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) attempt to rob a diner.  Plus, unexpected gunfire, wildly inventive and frequent swearing, and more style than ten films usually combine for.

As far as I'm concerned, "Pulp Fiction" is the kind of film that I use to measure other films by.  By that, I mean there's a certain exhilaration that I feel when I've watched a perfect film.  I felt that after I watched "Pulp Fiction" for the first time when it came out, where I was completely amped up, and wanted to watch it again immediately (but I couldn't, because the rest of the night's screenings were sold out, and I had hitched a ride into the big city with one of my friends anyways).  To me, that's the difference between a really good film and a flat-out great one - that feeling where I'm so flabbergasted that I need to watch it again to make sure it was real.  I could understand if someone coming to "Pulp Fiction" now didn't quite get the same feeling out of it that I did; the things that made it stand out have been imitated (or plainly copied) and parodied so much that the iconic scenes might not hit as hard.  Even so, and even after having watched "Pulp Fiction" as frequently as I have, this is a sound film.

The main thing that has suffered in PF over the years is the heavily pop-culture referential bits of dialogue.  It was quirky and clever (in that referring to things in a sideways manner), and now it's just okay.  That doesn't diminish the film, but I'd say that Quentin Tarantino agrees.  His recent films are largely devoid of that pop-culture chatter (I'd suggest that his choice to make period pieces of a sort are one way of forcing him away from that stylistic crutch).  But what stands out still are the idea of theatrical criminals who feel the need to verbally dominate people before committing whatever crime has to be committed.  The guns aren't even the point, they're a post-script.  The point is enjoying a little pretense before brutishness, ugliness, and inevitability takes over.

If Tarantino's dialogue has suffered a bit over the years (although it did win the Academy Award for Best Screenplay that year), that shift means that a repeat viewer might notice the acting performances even more (although Travolta, Jackson, and Uma Thurman were all nominated, so it's not like no one noticed back then).  The cast almost universally turns in incredible, spell-binding performances.  It's to the point where, if you're recalling great moments from "Pulp Fiction," it's tough to find a starting point.  There are endless piles of quotable lines, there's Christopher Walken's monologue, the entire final diner scene.  Even Tarantino's acting role, while not exactly proficient, serves a larger purpose.  Like introducing an intentional flaw into a piece of artwork that sets off the skill the rest of the piece is executed with, watching Tarantino act against Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel shows the difference between real actors and someone trying to act.  When you see Tarantino deliver his own lines, and then Jackson deliver lines Tarantino has written, you explicitly see what good, dynamic acting does to elevate written material.  But to throw a little love Tarantino's way, these actors rarely reach the same levels working with other writers' material.

But honestly, the best part of watching "Pulp Fiction" is seeing what a lot of filmmakers were trying to pull off, but done well.  As is usually the case, the imitations take the stylistic surface innovations (lots of swearing, chatty lowlifes, abrupt violence, cool characters) and ignore what it is that makes Quentin Tarantino unique: his ability to build tension and tease it out for what seems like an impossible amount of time until the audience is squirming for resolution.  This skill has popped up over and over through his career (see the opening scenes of "Inglorious Basterds" or "Django Unchained" for more recent examples), and it's very easily to get distracted by the stylistic hallmarks.  But the overdose scene, the Gimp sequence, and the final diner scene is absolutely masterful storytelling.  It's on par with Alfred Hitchcock's finest work, and these scenes are built on a rock-solid foundation that has aged like fine wine (and not like turning to vinegar, to flip Marsellus' speech to Butch).  For one film to have three extended sequences of this quality is a bounty, an all-time classic.

5 / 5 - Blu-Ray

Monday, August 12, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness - 2013

"Star Trek Into Darkness" - 2013
Dir. by JJ Abrams - 2 hrs. 12 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

By Sunday afternoon standards (which is when I saw this), "Star Trek Into Darkness" is perfect entertainment.  I grew up on weekday afternoon repeats of the original TV series, and then weekend episodes of "Star Trek: the Next Generation," and the newest movie fits right into that sort of slot.  It's funny, the characters play well off of each other, and the visuals are pretty stunning.  But if I'm being 100% honest about things, I'm not exactly sure how the content of this movie justifies it being a film that took four years to deliver to theatres, rather than the end-piece of a season of a kick-ass TV series.

ST2 opens up with Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Karl Urban) having stolen a sacred scroll on an alien planet, luring the aliens away from their village that will be destroyed by an impending volcano explosion, which will basically exterminate that particular species of life.  Kirk, Bones, and Spock (Zachary Quinto) sort of succeed at this task, but not seamlessly, and it didn't really fall under their orders anyways, which leads to some demotions from Starfleet.  Meanwhile, another Starfleet officer, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), organizes what you'd have to call a terrorist attack against Starfleet headquarters itself, which leaves him on the run, many dead, and the Enterprise on his trail to a very dangerous locale.

One of the things that ST2 does really well is the brief, sharp exchanges between characters.  There aren't really soliloquies here, so much as commas punctuating the action sequences.  Kirk is a man of action, and although he's not an unthinking character, that's about all the self-examination you can realistically expect from him.  And since he's in charge, the other characters largely follow suit, albeit in ways that work with their own personalities.  There are also a number of stunning visuals, the best of which is probably in the opening scene, which has a planet with a red and white forest.  It's hard to explain how exotic it looks, but one of the film posters uses a picture from that scene:

Beyond that, there's plenty of space porn: nebulas, moonscapes, alien planets, ruins, enormous space stations.  And in at least a couple of scenes, director JJ Abrams really gets across a solid sense of the scale of these ships, something that's easily lost in space scenes with no normal points of reference.  In terms of the story, I felt like it worked (although one of the third act twists was so apparent from a very early point that there appeared to be a giant shoe hovering over the screen for the duration of the run-time, waiting patiently to drop).  Long-time Trekkies won't be entirely surprised by some of the things that happen, but I didn't find it to be a detriment to my enjoyment of the film.

But to get back to my early point, I'm just not sure that what was here was worth a trip to the theatre and waiting four years for a second installment.  That's not to say that I didn't enjoy ST2 quite a bit, and it's also not to say that you wouldn't, either.  I liked this one a lot better than the first one.  I will grant that some of the scenes of calamity aren't anything that you couldn't accomplish on a tight schedule, and that this movie had a couple of fairly intense moments.  But I'd argue that it wasn't any better than ST:TNG's Borg storyline, merely a bit prettier.  Part of the burden of doing franchise movies is that you have to realize that the characters' histories are loping behind you, and having watched years of Star Trek TV series, I feel like that's a more ideal environment for stories involving these characters.  You can't do big, action-filled stuff every week (and that's not really what the shows were all about), but more than half of the appeal of the earlier TV series is that you can see characters you like engaged in everything from drudgery to excitement.

I'd love to see these characters bored out of their minds and getting on each other's nerves (space is big and empty, it can't possibly be all explosions), but as long as there's one movie every so often, that'll never happen.  There's an obligation to deliver something specific if you're going to build up a story as an event, lest you derail the franchise and kill off any future sequels.  That totally didn't happen here: "Star Trek Into Darkness" is a lot of fun, and it's good popcorn entertainment.  But I was a little bummed out that there's not going to be another, tonally different story with these same characters next week.

3 / 5 - Theatre

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Batman - 1966

"Batman" - 1966
Dir. by Leslie H. Martinson

Theatrical Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

There have been many, many Batman movies, with a wide range of approaches and levels of watchability.  I regard "The Dark Knight" as the best of all of them, but I haven't been able to re-watch it even once since seeing in it the theatre.  I haven't even seen last year's "The Dark Knight Rises" yet; TDK was so intense that even though I think it's the best Batman film I've ever seen, I'm not eager to revisit it as a viewing experience, and it kind of killed my interest in continuing with the franchise.  The Joel Schumacher-helmed films are unwatchable for other reasons (namely that they're fucking stupid (and I rarely swear that hard on this blog, but I feel that strongly about the films in question), and until I watched them it had never occurred to me to associate Batman with neon and rubber nipples, which isn't nearly as funny as putting Batman and Robin on the ocean to fight seafood).  The Michael Keaton movies were pretty good, evidence of action film-making before every accessory needed to be designed to look like a Transformer.  And then there's the Adam West version.

Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) are crime-fighters deluxe - the kind of people who have an awesome crime lab and have shark repellent bat-spray on hand for when they venture out onto the open seas in a helicopter.  But they also have a league of villains: the Joker (Cesar Romero), the Riddler (Frank Gorshin), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), and the slinky Catwoman (Lee Meriwether).  Behind a plan hatched by the Penguin, they've joined forces to dehydrate the United World Organization's Security Council.  But they also need to lure Batman and Robin out into the open to distract them from their real goal, so the villains decide to kidnap Bruce Wayne, which will be sure to get the Dynamic Duo's attention.  Catwoman pulls double duty as Kitka, a Russian journalist, when she seduces Wayne into a more compromising situation, allowing the kidnapping to take place.

"Batman" is also really stupid, but it's so silly that it's kind of awesome.  Maybe this is what Schumacher was trying to update when he committed his crimes against humanity, but all the fetish gear and ridiculously serious attitude got in the way.  Here, the whole situation is played strictly for laughs, and pretty successfully.  I'm not going to pretend that "Batman" paved a whole new direction for films, but after watching it again, it's easy to see where films like "Airplane!" or the Austin Powers series came from.  I know that this film may have derailed the Batman comics for quite a while (I'm sure that there's a whole generation who thought this was the approach from the very beginning, and were disappointed when they picked up a copy of Detective Comics), and I also know that comics fans are really touchy about having their source material taken as seriously as possible, but the results are worth the complete lack of fidelity.

As far as the actors, well, Adam West's portrayal is iconic for a reason.  He nailed the sort of required naive egotism and absurd leaps of logic these kinds of characters can take too seriously (or, as West shows, not seriously enough).  All of the villains are awesome, loopy, and hyper-caffeinated, plus Lee Meriweather really wears that Catwoman costume like nobody's business.  Everyone with a decently-sized role handles their comedy well.  And beyond that, I found it hilarious that Batman seemed to take up residence somewhere on the west coast, has an awesome convertible, and is revered by the police department.  Talk about liberties!

I can understand Batman fans hating the 1966 movie, because it's an outlier.  All the rest of the film adaptations have at least tried to take the character's concept seriously, and this version openly mocks the idea that Batman knows what he's doing, that he's trustworthy (or even competent at times), and that he's some master of disguise.  At the conclusion of this film, he and Robin have to discreetly leave through the window while everyone else is distracted, because they've kind of fouled things up.  But, at the same time, you know that everyone will forgive them tomorrow, when everything's been sorted out.  I may be a comics fan, but you'd think that with the constant rotation of artists and writers on work-for-hire books like Batman, comics fans would be a lot more accepting of the idea of varying approaches to the same characters.  I don't have a problem with a bumbling, super-serious version of Batman.  It doesn't detract anything from the character, and this film was pretty damned funny.  And if truth be told, if I'm going to re-watch any of the Batman movies, it's likely to be this one.

3.5 / 5 - Theatre