Sunday, July 22, 2012

Batman Fangasm and Nitpicking (Spoilers)

Back in May I wrote a blog post fretting over the Dark Knight Rises trailer. It was called Douchey Fangirl Whining, and boy was that title appropriate. I loved this movie. I never should have doubted Nolan. It wasn't perfect, but neither was Dark Knight. Damned if he didn't not only take on the daunting challenge of following up Dark Knight and throw in working almost the entire Inception cast in there and pull it off. This isn't really a review, just scattered thoughts I'm too excited to not write down.

Spoilers below!

Hot villain in Nolanverse? Facial disfigurement time!

Favorite things:

-After Dark Knight's intricate, instant classic opening, they had to step up this film's early action sequence, and they did. It's not a masterpiece like the last one, but still impressive and a crowd-pleaser.

-How gorgeous was everything? Beautifully shot. Beautiful effects.

-Stock broker screaming on the back of Bane's motorcycle. Lol.

-I was ready to cringe at Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, but she did a good job. Some of her lines were corny, but she brought depth to the role.

-Bane beating Batman around forever while everyone watches silently. Whoa.

-As dark as that was, Nolan's borrowing of images from current events were the most harrowing moments. From Abu Ghraib's hoods and mock executions to Los Zetas' strung-up bodies, Nolan studies evil in all its forms: perpetuated by governments, gangs, corporations, and individuals.

-Bane was brought into being to break Batman backs over his impressive thigh and chew bubblegum, and in this movie his face has been destroyed by the plague or something so he can't chew bubblegum.

-Cillian Murphy shows up as Scarecrow again, and is hilarious and menacing. Him doing the Judge Joker thing was welcome humor, and not overdone.

-Talia! Not totally unexpected, but well executed. Marion Cotillard was perfect for the role. I was having a fit when they were spinning Bane as Ra's al Ghul's kid, and when they turned it around it was neatly done.

-Talia/Bane. OMGWTFOTP. Not totally new to the canon, but this time it's swoooooooon. Tom Hardy's eye-acting in this scene was powerful and perfect.

Oh, husband. Stop that and get into a well tailored suit.

WTF things:

-John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) knows Bruce Wayne is Batman because his parents also died, duh.

-Uh, Commissioner Gordon, you kinda caused the Two-Face thing. Remember? The corrupt cops you insisted on keeping on the force despite Harvey's investigations? Remember that at all? No? Don't make me break out naked rollercoaster.

-Juno Temple, why are you here? There is literally zero reason for your part to be in the script.

-So this MacGuffin software erases you from all databases. And Selina Kyle/Catwoman wants it so she can clear her name and start anew. Boy, is she going to be pissed when she discovers Google.

-Someone should go back in time to Knightfall and tell Bruce to just get some old guy to punch him in the back. Could have avoided that whole Jean-Paul thing.

-Batman can jump just as far as an undernourished little girl. Hooray?

-Bane is unstoppable. Unless you do some push-ups in prison. Then you're good.

-Also, his Venom mask is now...what exactly?

-John Blake will be the next Batman. I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Fervently. He's one of our best actors. Period. But...what is he going to do to criminals? Play twee music at them? Defeat them in Zoolander-style walk-offs in gorgeous suits? Yeah, he kicked ass in Brick, but that was against fellow high-schoolers. Maybe he could take on Baby Doll. Possibly the Ventriloquist as long as Scarface isn't around. He is willing to put children into dangerous situations, though, so he has that Batman trait going for him.

-Argh, I thought we were promised no Robin. And then they had to have John Blake's real name be Robin. Don't make me break out my crowbar.

-Speaking of which, yeah, as I feared, the zero mention of Joker, or even Arkham, was kinda noticeable. Cillian Murphy rocked it in his Scarecrow cameo, but it also reminded the audience that oh, hey, what about Arkham? Were those inmates released? Wouldn't Bane want to utilize them as well as the Blackgate inmates? On the other hand, I can't imagine a scenario where they could have mentioned the Joker and have it make sense. I'm just going to assume when things got cray-cray and Arkham was let loose, the Joker and Dr. Quinzel took off for a tropical island.

-Speaking of couples escaping...the ending was just no. No. Unless you think Alfred's imagining things, it's stupid fluff. I understand the desire for a less crushing ending, but it made no sense. And it made this scene a little too relevant:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild

When I told my mom I had seen Beasts of the Southern Wild, she told me that she had read many reviews that praised it, but no reviews that really said what it was about. And I had the same problem trying to explain the movie, a narrative film with forays into surrealism and metaphor, to her. What is it about? A girl. A parent and child. A hurricane. A community. A planet. It's difficult to expand on, perhaps because one of the film's greatest strengths is in director Benh Zeitlin's commitment to letting the film just be.

It's the dreamlike story of Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), a six-year-old girl living with her father Wink (Dwight Henry) in the Bathtub, a quickly disappearing island on the other side of Louisiana's levees. They live in patched together trailers filled with debris and mementos. Hushpuppy is largely left to her own devices, conversing with a mother long gone and listening to the heartbeats of her chickens, pigs, and dogs. Their neighbors' situations are mostly the same: a collection of people who have separated from the rest of society and make do. They might joke about the rising water taking away their home, but they refuse to believe it will actually happen. When the "big one," a hurricane that might or might not be Katrina, does finally strike, the surviving parties of those who didn't evacuate must band together closer than ever. But with rescue choppers hovering, how long can they stay in their beloved, beautiful wilderness? 

Wallis as Hushpuppy and Henry as Wink.

But despite being a social services nightmare - what with townsfolk ignoring mandatory evacuations and kids not going to accredited schools and staying with whatever kindly drunken neighbors take them in - it's easy to see why the residents are so fiercely committed to remaining on their island. The Bathtub way of life, with its joyous celebrations, close community, wide-open naturalness, and feeling of freedom, is far more appealing than the cramped, florescent-lighted shelters and overwhelmed community hospitals they would likely be living in otherwise. 

The girls of Bathtub journey to the changing shoreline.

The cast is mostly composed of first-time actors, Louisiana locals. Dwight Henry is a baker, but with the desperation and determination he brings to Wink, you'd never know this was his first acting role. And Quvenzhané Wallis is quite the first-grade-aged artist. Her performance thankfully lacks any of the annoying, cloying mugging common in child actors. Instead, she is tough, wide-eyed, and intuitive, and very much a six-year-old. When Hushpuppy doubts her father's plans for staying, you can see it in her eyes and body language without Wallis overacting. Her strength makes her moments of vulnerability all the more deeply felt.

Beasts of the Southern Wild opened last weekend in a limited release, but it seems to be in more theaters (at least here in the SF Bay Area) this weekend. I definitely recommend checking if it's near you. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Read This Webcomic: Nimona


Nimona is the new webcomic of plucky young illustrator Noelle Stevenson, who was propelled to internet fame via The Broship of the Ring (her take on the epic with skinny jeans instead of leggings) and various other fanart offerings. Now she's focusing on her own work, which can be a tricky and frustrating move for an artist beloved for a particular expected output. I'm really enjoying "Nimona," but since I'm an English major who can't just enjoy simple things (not even veeps with sandwiches), let me dissect it!

The story follows supervillain Ballister Blackheart, who finds overly enthusiastic and pugnacious shapeshifter Nimona foisted upon him as sidekick - even though he'd rather not have help battling longtime archenemy Ambrosius Goldenloin. At first I thought the comic was just Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer (or Kate Beaton's nemeses) with a Mary Sue - and it kind of is, but as the story continues its own charms are on display. For starters, Nimona is stocky and butch, and it's great to see variety like that with female characters, especially in comics and geek culture in general (group side-eye, everyone). I also like how Stevenson plunges into her world of science, magic, high-rises, and medieval sword-fighting with confidence and zero explanations. 

I'm sure once Nimona reappears (at the moment Nimona seems to be dead, but I'm guessing not really, since the comic is called "Nimona") we'll see more of her developing partnership with Blackheart, but for now the main interaction has been between Blackheart and Goldenloin. The essential superhero/archnemesis relationship has been analyzed by self-reflective comics, parodied by multiple Adult Swim shows and the like, and slashed to death by fangirls. And the relationship here, between Captain Hammerish bimbo Goldenloin and Dr. Horribleish beta-male Blackheart, is pretty fanservicey. Stevenson wears her love for Blackheart, and all her characters really, on her sleeve. But she has left room for interesting developments and plenty of humor.

Anyways, it's a fun comic, and also beautiful. Stevenson's figures are expressive and lovingly rendered, and the muted color palette gives the comic a storybook feel. It's a treat every Tuesday and Thursday, and still new enough to be catch-upable.