Tag Archive for 'Batman'

Gotham, Season 1

Gotham, Season 1 (5/5/15) FOX (2014-15 ***) Created by Bruno Heller, starring Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, Robin Lord Taylor, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Mazouz as young master Bruce Wayne. 22 episodes, originally aired 9/22/14 – 5/4/15. When a young boy loses his parents in an apparent robbery, he forms a relationship with one of Gotham City’s newest police detectives, Jim Gordon. As a lifelong Batman fan, and in particular a fan of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One, I was very much looking forward to this show. I saw its “show the legend before he becomes the legend” premise as a variation of Smallville (2001-2011). Consequently, I had no problem with the show’s format and liked seeing the pre-formed versions of Batman and one of the best-known rogues galleries. Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin was a definite breakout, but I also loved Camren Bicondova, the young actress who played Selina Kyle, the future Catwoman. I know the show has been criticized for a variety of reasons, but I haven’t paid too much attention to that noise. For the most part I enjoyed the first season and look forward to the second.

Batman ’66, Vol. 1

Batman ’66, Vol. 1 (2/10/15) Comics (2014 ***1/2) Written by Jeff Parker, illustrated by various, including cover art by Michael and Laura Allred. Originally published in Batman ’66 #1-5. The televised Batman universe from nearly fifty years past is recaptured in this series of new adventures. As a life-long fan of the Batman TV show that ran for 120 episodes between 1966 and 1968, I was very excited to learn of this comic series. While I don’t consider it to be an absolute home run, it comes quite close to capturing the campy spirit of the original show. Parker’s scripts were reasonably good at matching the tone of Adam West’s dialogue. My only regret is that the stories themselves weren’t structured more like the original show, and they were deliberately brief, feeling more like 8-minute animated cartoons than 1-hour 2-part episodes. While I can see why that choice was made, I still wonder what a “meatier” version might have been like. My other minor complaint was the artwork, which was perfectly functional, but I would have loved to have seen at least one story rendered by more skilled hands, such as those belonging to husband & wife team Michael and Laura Allred, who created the non-variant covers for the issues contained in this volume. I did, however, appreciate the respect given to the show that meant (and still means) so much to me. I especially liked the touch of pairing Batgirl with Season 3’s Eartha Kitt Catwoman. Still, earlier criticisms notwithstanding, I very much look forward to reading further installments in the series as they become available in softcover form.

The New Adventures of Batman, Season 1

The New Adventures of Batman, Season 1 (11/15/14) DVD (1977 **) Directed by various, featuring the voices of Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin), Melendy Britt (Batgirl) and Lou Scheimer (Bat-Mite). 16 episodes, originally aired 2/12/77 – 5/28/77. Batman, Robin, Batgirl and other-dimensional imp Bat-Mite protect Gotham City from a variety of super villains. God bless Filmation, the “animation-on-the-cheap” studio behind so many cartoons from my childhood. And I did watch these cartoons, both when they were originally aired and later when they were re-broadcast as part of the Batman / Tarzan Adventure Hour. Believe it or not, at one point Batman and Robin were on Saturday morning TV at the same time on competing networks: This program aired on CBS and (more famously) they were also on ABC with Super Friends (1973-79, 1981). I’m sure that is the answer to a trivia question somewhere. I bought this show on DVD because it featured the voices of Adam West and Burt Ward (though sadly excluded Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl). Did I enjoy it? Well, my tepid 2-star review probably provides a clue. It was actually quite a kick to hear Adam West’s voice, and he was terrific. Burt Ward’s voice, on the other hand, was not nearly as distinctive, though it was still nice to know it was my childhood idol. I was somewhat ambivalent about the inclusion of Bat-Mite, since his presence was based on the “Scrappy Doo” cartoon fad of the time, but of course the episodes would have improved by his absence. The animation quality was certainly not up to modern standards, but I had a certain interest in seeing all the re-use of animation assets. However, after watching a couple of episodes I wound up treating it more as a radio program, half-watching while working on an art project. But even then it was lacking: The writing, was pretty mediocre and, while I acknowledge that TV animation writing has come a long way (baby) since the 1970s, I have a feeling it was even sub-par for the time. Overall, the $17.80 I spent for the 2-disc DVD was probably not the best use of my money.

Starring Adam West

Starring Adam West (6/2/14) ENC (2013 ***1/2) Directed by James E. Tooley, featuring footage of Adam West, his agent, friends and family. Best known as TV’s Batman, this documentary tells Adam West’s journey from his humble beginnings to short-lived meteoric fame to somewhere in-between. I was suprisingly impressed by this documentary, which was funded via a Kickstarter campaign and directed by West’s son-in-law. While it’s not exactly a hard-hitting expose’, it did touch upon the period of West’s life when his behavior was less than heroic. The through-line of the piece was the years-long fight to get West a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. The documentary as a whole was quite informative: I learned a lot about Adam West that I didn’t know before, but my real take-aways were how much his fans (and I’m one of them) love him and his skewed sense of humor.

Batman: Gotham Knight

Batman: Gotham Knight (8/24/13) Netflix (2008 ***) Directed by Yasuhiro Aoki, Yuichiro Hayashi, Futoshi Higashide, Toshiyuki Kubooka, Hiroshi Morioka, Jong-Sik Nam and Shoujirou, Nishimi. The  facets of Batman’s splintered psyche are revealed in six related animated stories. The premise of this anthology was that Batman is such a mythic character,  he appears to take different forms when encountered by different people, in this case a group of kids comparing notes in an abandoned swimming pool. That premise was, of course, just an excuse for presenting several animated shorts, directed and animated by several different talented Japanese artists. While I admired the film for accomplishing what it set out to do, I can’t say I was entirely engaged by it emotionally.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (8/20/13) Netflix (2013 ***1/4) Directed by Jay Olivia, screenplay by Bob Goodman, based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson, featuring the voices of Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Michael Emerson and Mark Valley. Batman comes out of his ten-year retirement to rescue a dystopian Gotham City from itself. It took a lot of chutzpah for DC to green light an animated adaptation of one of the greatest (and revered) graphic novels of all time. And I’m one of those who holds it in high regard, having bought the original comic series in serial form when it was first released. I will understand fully if some will want to trash this 2-part direct-to-video animated film as a cheap rip-off. However, I respect the film’s creators and believe they did the best they could within obvious budgetary constraints.

Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellant?: And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia!

Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellant?: And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia! (10/6/12) Nonfiction (2012 ***1/2) Written by Brian Cronin. Cronin is the creator of the “Comics Should Be Good” blog and had previously written Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed (2009), a book I read back in 2010 and also gave ***1/2. I devoured this entire book cover to cover in 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon. While I clearly live smack dab in the center of Cronin’s demographic bullseye, this book was objectively a well-written delight and one that should appeal even to those far less steeped in comic book trivia than I. To be honest, I already knew about half the trivia contained in this book, but that didnt bother me in the sightest. I don’t know what’s been in the zeitgeist lately, but between this book and AMC’s Comic Book Men, I’m in comic geek heaven lately!

Batman Live

Batman Live (9/30/12) Staples Center, L.A. (2012 ***1/4) Directed by Anthony Van Laast and James Powell, written by Allan Heinberg. Millionaire Bruce Wayne takes a recently-orphaned aerialist named Dick Grayson under his wing, and together they dress up to fight the forces of evil in Gotham City. According to the BatmanLive.com website, this big-budget arena show premiered in the UK on July 19, 2011 and requires TWENTY semi trailers to move its sets from location to location. Lifelong bat fan that I am, my wife brought us tickets for this show as an early birthday present. A few days before the show, I talked to a friend at work who’d just taken her boyfriend to the show, also for his birthday. She warned me that it was highly cheesy with a flimsy storyline. Well, forewarned is forearmed, and I braced myself for the worst. But you know what? I loved it! I thought the creators had made a very smart move by focusing on the Robin origin story and I completely accepted the unabashed way in which they featured all of Batman’s rogues gallery. A break-out at Arkham Asylum allowed them to feature The Penguin, Catwoman, The Riddler, Two-Face, The Scarecrow, Harley Quinn and (of course) The Joker. Some of the pyrotechnic effects were stunning, such as when (mild spoiler ahead) Harley Quinn shoots her clownish boyfriend’s hot air balloon with a bazooka. For my wife, a clear highlight of the show was the Batmobile, which was featured prominently. The show’s creators clearly paid close attention to small details. For example, as we left the show, I noticed that the confetti that had been shot from The Joker’s enormous confetti cannons was shaped like little bats!

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises (7/21/12) Beach Cities Arclight (2012 ***1/2) Directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. Batman comes out of retirement to take on Bane, a terrorist intent on picking up the mass destruction of Gotham City where Ra’s Al Ghul left off in Batman Begins. My wife and I saw this film on opening weekend, just two days after the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado. I felt a certain sense of pride for not allowing a maniac whose name I won’t even repeat here from stopping us from going to the movies. But tragic footnote aside, I liked Chris Nolan’s third and final Batman film, though it felt about half an hour longer than it needed to be. Comparing it to the other superhero mega-blockbuster of the summer of 2012, I definitely didn’t feel a desire to see it again right away like I did with The Avengers. In addition to its slower-than-expected pace, for a movie nominally about Batman, the main character (both with and without the mask) spent a surprising amount of the film off-screen. However, the performances Nolan got from his ensemble were impressive and far more nuanced than you’d expect from a comic book movie, especially the acting by Bale, Oldman and Michael Caine. Now, if you’ll allow me teensy nit to pick: I really wish they’d chosen someone other than Matthew Modine for his role. Every time Modine was onscreen I was pulled completely out of the film, and I have no idea why. I wonder if any of the filmmakers felt the same way?

Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt

Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt (6/27/12) Netflix (2003 **1/2) Directed by Paul A. Kaufman, starring Adam West, Burt Ward, Jack Brewer and Jason Marsden, with special appearances by Lee Meriwether, Frank Gorshin and Julie Newmar. When the Batmobile is mysteriously stolen from a Hollywood charity event, actors Adam West and Burt Ward follow clues that lead them nearly forty years in the past. Having recently finished watching the three seasons of the original Batman TV show, I thought renting this little “gem” would provide a nice little button. This made-for-television film, originally broadcast on CBS, included re-enactments from the show’s history, reminding me of a similar 2000 project: Daydream Believers: The Monkees’ Story. Return to the Batcave, however, alternated the “flashback” material with pretty cheesy footage of Burt and Adam. But it was all intended in good fun. Though I can’t in good conscience recommend this “film” to everyone, if you’re a fan of the original dynamic duo and are willing to put up with some pretty corny material… hey, knock yourself out.