Aisle of the Damned: 4/7/17- Mighty Morphin’ Wrist Cutters

What about Ranger Smith?

It’s a passionate discussion this episode as we tackle some news dripping with Sony’s flop sweat. They’re working on a stand-alone, R-rated Venom movie. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. has been talking to Joss Whedon about making a full-blown Batgirl film.

More importantly, we discuss the American remake of Ghost in the Shell and the big-screen adaptation of the ’90s kiddie kaiju show, Power Rangers. (Or is that Saban’s Power Rangers? Might depend on how you feel about adding “John Carpenter’s” to the title of films.)

We also discuss a slew of summer and fall trailers that have come out since the last episode. How are the studio marketing teams trying to sell us the biggest and smallest films of the season? Don’t forget our regular recommendations. All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
They Might Be Giants- Sensurround

Aisle of the Damned: 02/14/17- What’s Shannon Elizabeth Up To?

He's thinking he's back.

Welcome back! Kent and Bryan talk about the 90s for a while before moving into some new films that run the gamut from terrible to kick ass: Monster Trucks, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, Resident Evil: Final Chapter, The LEGO Batman Movie and John Wick: Chapter 2. 

Our recommendations bring up Joe Bob Briggs and Scott Bakula (two fine gentlemen), discuss the problem of putting 90’s special effects driven shows on blu ray, and we talk a little bit about movie news.

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
The Black Angels- Don’t Play with Guns

Aisle of the Damned: 11/21/16- Strange(r) Things

Don't talk to strangers

Sorry for the lateness. You know how it is when turkey is involved. But here’s one Thanksgiving leftover you won’t want to leave in the fridge.

Kent and Bryan discuss the films Arrival and Doctor Strange, two pieces of pulp that seem to be trying harder than usual to engage your brain. We also say goodbye to Robert Vaughn and discuss our DC-flavored recommendations of the week, both of which are revivals of a TV series in one way or another.

All this and less in Aisle of the Damned!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Echo and the Bunnymen- People are Strange

Aisle of the Damned: 8/11/16- Suicide is Aimless

Mom, my crayons melted

Bryan and Kent take on a mission with little chance of survival; they’re bringing you their thoughts on Warner Bros.’ latest DC offerings, the controversial-for-all-of-five-minutes-because-of-an-R-rating Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (The Ultimate Cut) and David Ayer’s Suicide Squad.

After discussing the showy failures of Squad, they also discuss the tempered rewards of the 13th film in the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek Beyond.

Plus, Kent talks about Jason Bourne and Lights Out and the fellas give their recommendations for the week, one DC related and one decidedly not.

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

Music:

The Aquabats– Stuck in a Movie
Death Hymn Number 9– I Reckon You Gonna Die

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Sad Batman is Sad

I’ve been a defender of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Despite the issues I have with it (the terrible color correction, the insane death of Jonathan Kent, etc.), I thought it made the best of some source material that I always found questionable, aka forcing a Xerox of Batman’s spirit quest around the world into his mythology. I guess I was so relieved to finally have a Superman movie without an awful, over-the-top bumbling Clark Kent performance, a nonsense Luthor scheme, fluctuating powers that defy the movie’s internal logic, bastard kids or a thoroughly dislikable Lois Lane that I could overlook the flaws. After all, despite the bleakness, there’s promise in the film. Clark has finished a costly first battle and is in a position to use that sacrifice to learn and be the hero he should be. He can take his actions from Man of Steel and build on them, vowing to never take another life. Though unlike all the people who apparently have forgotten both the comics and the ending of their beloved Superman II, I had no problem with Clark killing Zod, seeing as how he’s the one character Superman has ever knowingly offed.

The question was, would the sequel build on that promise, or would it double down on the unique problems this take brought to the franchise? All of the marketing material seemed to indicate this would not so much be a Superman sequel as either a proto-Justice League movie or a jumping off point to a Frank Miller Batman franchise, none of which sounded particularly appealing. Unfortunately, this is largely correct. Superman seems like an also-ran in his own film for the most part.

After a strangely gripping prologue that gives a street level view of the devastation wrought by the battle between Clark and Zod in Man of Steel, the film settles in for an hour or so, spending a lot of time introducing us to this version of Batman, who follows the natural through line from Burton to Nolan to Snyder, finally adopting a fully-functional Dark Knight Returns-style Batman who is equal parts psychotic and broken. An impotent man who takes out his fury by torturing criminals and not especially caring if people die in his pursuit of self-serving justice. It’s certainly not my favorite style of Batman (I skew much farther towards the Denny O’Neil-style well-rounded version) but much as certain fanboys may deny it, this version of Batman is what many of them have been angling for.  Be careful what you wish for.

Meanwhile, we see Superman performing many acts of heroism, saving people around the world from disasters, intercut with footage of a world who doesn’t know how to react to him or trust him. It’s not so much a bad portrayal of Kal-El, but it certainly does create a morose environment surrounding him. After much sturm and drang, this overall paranoia leads to the confrontation of the title. To reveal much more would be to give away the mechanics of the plot, but it is fair to point out the much touted appearances by other Justice League members don’t just feel distracting, but actually lower the excitement over Warners’ plans for their characters.

The good news is that while the film is full of bad ideas, the ideas are filmed and acted competently. The bad news is that competence doesn’t fix bad ideas, it simply makes them go down easier. Make no mistake; there are some things to enjoy in the film which make it still worth seeing. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman does great things with her limited screentime. Gadot herself, apart from seeming to have trouble getting her Israeli accent around some of the overinflated dialogue, is a wonderful physical actress. Jeremy Irons’ Alfred manages to be an absolutely necessary source of humor in an otherwise dour affair. The majority of the acting is fine, even Ben Affleck’s, though he comes up short selling Batman’s character arc and revelation moment. The major exception is Jessie Eisenberg who seems to be edited in from a completely different film. While I’ve never been a fan of the way Luthor has been used in the Superman films, it’s quite a shock to go from the intelligent menace of Kevin Spacey’s portrayal to Eisenberg’s collection of tics and vocal contortions masquerading as a performance. He plays Lex Luthor as some kind of bizarre Joker variation, his motivation either making him pathetic or a puppet. Sometimes he is effectively creepy, but mostly he comes off as annoying.

The plot grabs famous storylines from the two characters at random like Scrabble tiles from a bag. In the end, what we have is a mess. A mess that is interesting, but overly long and needlessly complicated. It has a fourth act tacked on because there was never a scenario where the Superman/Batman fight could be dramatically satisfying as a conclusion.

Worse, in their misguided race to force a rivalry with Marvel Studios, Warner Bros. attempts to cram huge amounts of set-up into the film and none of that set-up feels earned. Watching it feels like we missed a few movies that were released between Man of Steel and now. Many audience members may even be completely lost as to what a lot of what is going on. When your entire movie is based on laying a foundation for future installments, that should be rather disconcerting. As of this moment, I’m not particularly looking forward to Justice League. Or Suicide Squad with its copy and paste characters who look like they stepped out of a 90s pitch meeting when “edgy” was still a buzzword. Wonder Woman and the Lego Batman Movie are they only DC film projects which continue to pique my interest. As I am a person who was a big DC fan until fairly recently, that kind of reaction should have Warner Bros. concerned. Somehow, I don’t think they’ll care.

(Two and a half damns given out of five)

Aisle of the Damned: 3/29/16- Batman Can’t Get a Boner

The right one is up front

In the historic tradition of such epic cinematic grudge matches as Godzilla vs Mothra and Kramer vs Kramer comes Batman v Superman. As DC bets the farm on Frank Miller fanboys, Bryan and Kent also set about to fighting; one of them hates it while the other… hates it less. Also, looks at 10 Cloverfield Lane, London Has Fallen, Zootopia, the Ghostbusters ’16 trailer and our host recommendations. All this and less on Aisle of the Damned.

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Will Arnett- Untitled Self Portrait

Aisle of the Damned 08-27-15: We’re so sorry, Uncle Alfred

 

WalkenUnfortunately we lost Yvonne Craig instead of the people associated with The Fantastic Four. But at least we get a patented Bryan rant about how terrible that movie is. Afterwards, we discuss some of our favorite movies that haven’t really gotten critical or audience respect over the years. (Hint, FF isn’t on the list.)

Spend your valuable back to school time with us as we discuss Alicia Silverstone’s virtual disappearance, Jessica Alba’s hotness vs. talent dichotomy, 90s bands in movies and Frank Langella’s surprisingly poignant turn as Skeletor. All this and less on Aisle of the Damned.

baseketball_3

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Reel Big Fish- Take on Me

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: The Dark Knight Rises

What are the odds that these buildings would do that? Crazy, man!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the risk of infuriating fanboys the world over, The Dark Knight Rises is not the greatest film ever made. It’s definitely a good, well-made film, but whether it’s truly a “Batman film” is arguable.

What it is, in the end, is a better than average action film with some good character moments that are not in line with, not just the comic and other media adaptations of Gotham’s heroes, but the previous films of Nolan’s trilogy.

There will be some heavy spoilers for Dark Knight and some very light spoilers for other Bat-media (like Rises) included herein, so consider this your warning.

When last we left stately Wayne Manor, Bruce had taken Batman to the next level and started really cleaning up the streets while Commissioner Gordon was managing to slowly clean up the police force when the Joker killed Bruce’s childhood sweetheart and drove Harvey Dent into madness as the villain Two-Face. Batman took the fall for Dent’s “murder” and went into hiding.

Eight years later, Wayne is hidden away as a recluse in the rebuilt Manor, limping along with a cane as a metaphor for his broken spirit after Rachel Dawes’ killing. And right away we see our first issue with the film.

There are examples of Batman hanging up his cowl in various alternate stories, certainly. In Batman Beyond, Bruce quits after suffering a heart attack in his sixties while performing a rescue and having to use a gun to defend himself. (The Bat’s pathological hatred of firearms is well-established since at least the 70s, which always made me confused when his Bat-vehicles contain so much firepower, especially in the Nolan films.) There’s Dark Knight Returns in which Frank Miller had Batman coming out of a retirement based on a mysterious and convenient plot maguffin. But in the past, it has been indicated as a simple fact of the character that Bats would never stop his vigilantism until he’s physically unable to do so. Seemingly, this was present in the first two films as well.

If we ignore that issue, there are still some very strange turns for Bruce, Bane, Alfred and a few of the other characters. Looking at the film singly under its own logic, the choices mostly work. Looking at it as part of a trilogy, it gets less so. This would not be as big a problem if there weren’t so many allusions and continuations of plot threads from the first two films. Admittedly, while watching the film I was caught up in the narrative and it wasn’t until later that the issues presented themselves. The story takes its time, which is not a bad thing. It may seem just a tad clunky towards the beginning, but by the halfway mark things settle in and start getting more and more dense. When the film ends, it is amid a flurry of revelations and big action, most of which works well.

If you’re looking for political commentary, you certainly can. Granted, that’s true for just about every film if you really dig hard enough (or are crazy enough), but Dark Knight Rises, absolutely lays claim to more than most. The smart thing Nolan did was make it ambiguous and based enough on the stylized fantasy aspects of Gotham, a fictional city that is often seemingly a mix of Dicken’s London, 1930’s Chicago and a goth kid’s imagination, that it can be interpreted in a variety of different ways and it doesn’t seem like some Law & Order “ripped from the headlines” episode. Not any more than The Joker’s reign of terror in Dark Knight could be seen as a direct commentary on Al Queda. It may be there, but it’s well-written enough that it is folded into the narrative and used as an undercurrent for existing material.

The film introduces a couple of major foes from the Bat-universe; Selena Kyle, popularly known as the sometimes anti-hero Catwoman but never referred to as such in the film, is largely responsible for the fall that requires the “Rise” of the title. Fortunately, Anne Hathaway’s natural likability is enough to keep the audience from turning on her. Her part in the film is that of the disenfranchised from Gotham. Seemingly borrowing some elements from the excellent Ed Brubaker run on the character, she deals with Gotham’s criminal underclass. She slips in and out of high and low society with ease, slipping into her various roles with a slinky confidence which always carries an undercurrent of confidence and self-preservation under any circumstances. Bane finally gets his due in the film as he gets to show off the kind of thinking that set him up as Batman’s Doomsday in the 90s. He was used to decent effect in the animated series for sure, but like Ras Al-Ghul before him, he had never been adapted halfway properly in live-action. His only appearance? As a lackey in Joel Schumaker’s franchise-murdering Batman and Robin. While he is certainly not a direct translation from the books in Rises, he is absolutely taken seriously as an adversary. As far as new characters go, there’s Officer John Blake, a surface-level point of view that is supposed to show what the average Gothamite thinks. He takes up a good chunk of the movie, so it’s a good thing Joseph Gordon-Levitt is able to keep him just interesting enough to not be sleep-inducing.

Let’s be honest; if you have seen the first two Batman films, you know what you’re walking into. While Rises is the weakest of the trilogy, it does not end with a whimper. There’s plenty here to inspire desire for yet another film. There are explosions, fights, car chases and everything else you’ve been waiting for and it’s all better done than a hundred Transformers films.

(Three and a half out of five stars)