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Comic books have become the dominant source material for franchise filmmaking. There is a staggering amount of IP out there, ripe for exploration on the big screen. And yet, there are a handful of characters to which we invariably return. Characters upon whom filmmakers can’t resist placing their own stamp.

Few characters have seen the kind of churn that we’ve gotten from Batman over the years – a churn that continues with the release of “The Batman.”

Since Tim Burton’s “Batman” hit in 1989, laying the groundwork for the superhero explosion that would eventually follow, we’ve seen numerous artists and artisans embrace the character in their own way. Early on, we got Burton’s neo-Gothic vibes and Joel Schumacher’s candy-colored neon fever dreams. After that, Christopher Nolan’s trilogy redefined the possibilities of what the character – and comic book movies in general – could be. Next, we got Zach Snyder’s stylized grimdark take as the character was moved into a wider expanded cinematic universe.

And now, Matt Reeves has entered the ring.

“The Batman” promises a more grounded take on the character, moving away from the more extreme interpretations and focusing on a younger Batman, one still learning the logistical challenges and harsh realities that come with costumed vigilantism. With Robert Pattinson assuming the cowl, the film seeks to dig into the early years of the hero and his development.

The film seeks to embrace verisimilitude – at least, to the extent that a movie based on a superhero comic can – and focuses more on the idea of Batman as detective, an aspect of the character that has largely been underplayed or outright ignored by previous adaptations. The result is a movie that, while uneven, offers room to evolve and expand in ways we haven’t yet seen on the big screen.

Published in Movies

There’s nothing quite like a Wes Anderson movie.

The writer/director has carved out an auteur space all his own, a space unlike that occupied by anyone else in American cinema. His films are exquisitely and meticulously constructed, so finely tuned and detailed that they play almost as kinetic dioramas. Each screen picture is built and presented just so, resulting in films packed with moments and images that linger in the memory.

“The French Dispatch” is Anderson’s latest, a film about a magazine intended to be an analog for The New Yorker. It makes total sense – the magazine shares many of Anderson’s tendencies toward specificity of presentation and an inherent preciousness that appeals to those of a certain mindset while also reading to others as pretention.

At any rate, that structural framework allows Anderson to do something he’s never really done before – an anthology film. And that separated story structure also allows him to pack even more talented and wildly famous performers than usual into this film’s 108 minutes or so, all while unspooling a trio of compelling tales, each of which is rich enough to hold up on its own as well as part of the larger whole.

Published in Movies

From the moment he exploded onto screens in 1962’s “Dr. No,” James Bond – 007 – has cast a suave and swaggering shadow across the cinematic landscape.

It doesn’t matter that multiple actors have played the role. It doesn’t matter that there’s little to no consistency or constancy to the timeline – some events carry forward, others are forgotten. Over the course of decades, we’ve watched assorted Bonds ply their craft. They thwart elaborate plots with even more elaborate gadget-driven schemes, saving the world and inevitably falling into bed with one or more beautiful women.

That’s it. That’s the job. Or at least, it was.

Things changed when Daniel Craig assumed the mantle. For the first time, Bond was more than an unstoppable heavily-armed lothario in a tuxedo. Craig lent a heretofore unseen gravitas to the character, creating someone who actually dealt with the consequences of his actions, both bad and good. There was no more wiping clean of the slate – Bond’s deeds had lasting impact.

“No Time to Die” is Craig’s fifth – and final – outing as James Bond, and as far as sendoffs go, well … he certainly could have done a lot worse. It is very much a Bond movie, with all of the globetrotting intrigue and wild action set pieces that label entails, but it is also a surprisingly engaging character study of a man forced to confront the inexorable passage of time. Craig’s Bond is a flawed Bond – and arguably, the best of the lot.

Cary Joji Fukunaga helms this latest installment, taking the reins from Sam Mendes, who directed the previous two Bond films; Fukunaga also shares screenplay credit with three other writers. It is jam-packed with the sorts of extended action and convoluted plotting that marks most of the franchise’s offerings. One could argue that it is overstuffed – the runtime is a gargantuan 163 minutes – but considering that it doubles as a farewell to its lead actor, I’d say that it deserves to take as much time as it likes.

Published in Movies

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