The Movie Buffer

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

DVD reveiw: Batman Gotham Knight


What harm are spoilers if you have no mouth to speak them?


Batman Begins is probably the best “reboot” film ever and The Dark Knight is the best sequel of all time.  So, spin off material was bound to show up sooner or later and in this case. it is the animated feature, Batman Gotham Knight.

Taking place in a timeline outside the continuity of the film frees Gotham Knight to explore other aspects of Bruce Wayne and Batman. We see two sides of Batman: the idealized version as seen by a bunch of kids and maligned version of him as portrayed by two detectives. There are also several stories that bulk up the Batman origin story and mythos.

Gotham Knight follows the same formula that The Animatrix set out: Six vignettes created by different animation studios that tackle different aspects of the character. It’s kind of gimmicky way of tacking on some exposition that was too lengthy to add to the films. 

The first and second segments make up what I think is the best part of the movie. The first segment is about how kids see Batman, as an awesome superhero. The four friends regale each other with stories of close encounters and how great he his. Eventually, they end up meeting him in person and though it’s apparent he is really just a man in a suit and cape, they can't help but project their fantastic ideas onto him. The second segment is about how the cops react to Batman joining the fight against crime. The detectives in the story talk at length about how he may be helping people but is hurting the reputation of the police force. 

The other four segments play up the action parts of Batman’s life. The first of these action stories shows us the how Batman will not risk innocent lives during his missions. The second is about Killer Croc and the Scarecrow involved in a kidnapping, which Batman resolves by kicking ass. The third segment is about how Bruce developed his skills of pain management during a trip to India. The fourth segment is a very rushed story of an assassination attempt on Lt. Gordon’s life. Batman shows his fierce loyalty to Gordon, not only averting the assassination but by taking a few bullets himself. 

These actions stories were pretty standard fare and failed to excite because there was so little time to get into them. Moreover, the fight scenes were pretty lame compared to what we got in the live action films. I liked the two other parts because they spent their precious time explaining something outside the two films, creating something new.

The animations styles vary wildly from one part to the next, so it was hard to get bored with the visuals of any of the sections. I preferred the animation style of the first segment which was a very simple and streamlined approach, where as the rest are overwhelmingly detailed and stylized. 

Though this film will probably get over looked because of it’s proximity to the release of The Dark Knight, it’s worth a look for fans of the two newer Batman movies as well as animation fans. Despite it’s flaws, Batman Gotham Knight is an okay footnote to the two great Batman films. 

Monday, August 11, 2008

DVD Review: Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay


I needed Spoilers 'cause I had none..


After Harold and Kumar finally get to White Castle, eat their burgers and each have epiphanies, they segue into a trip to Amsterdam in order to follow Harold’s love interest, Maria, and smoke a ton of legal weed (Of course).

The films are separated by 4 years but the events of each flow together uninterrupted. What the viewer felt as a couple of years was, in movie time, just a couple of hours. They wash up after a long night of extreme mayhem and just keep on trucking.  

John Cho and Kal Penn play the eponymous Harold and Kumar, respectively. These characters seem to be within the comfort zone of the actors so, there is very little change in this film from the first. The plot does allow for more development of Kumar, who was left rather hollow. New comer, Danneel Harris (from One Tree Hill) plays Kumar’s ex girlfriend/soulmate, Vanessa, who has reformed from her pot-smoking ways to become the fiancée of an up and coming young Republican, Colton Graham. Upon learning of the wedding, Kumar realizes that he can’t lose Vanessa to such a “douche-bag” so, wedding crashing becomes the secondary mission.

The jokes start up pretty fast and furious with one about shit and another about pubes. There are plenty of nods back to the first film that were rather superfluous, but, as always, if you hadn’t seen the first one you wouldn’t notice. Like the first film there are a plenty of raunchy jokes and being a sequel the writers jacked it up with even more offensive racial jokes. But these jokes never tread too deeply into the hate-mongering side of the stereotypes.  

I intentionally skipped this film in theaters because I knew an “unrated and uncut” version would arise at some point, loaded with several new scenes and more dialog. Unfortunately, most of the new dialog is just over-dubbed on the original cut so, it sounds pretty cheesy. I would have liked them to pay a little more attention to their production rather than add a few extra lines.

"Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" had a certain charm that was lacking in this installment. Though the antics were pretty much the same, "White Castle" always held a grain of realism so they could ground the story, but "Escape from Guantanamo Bay" is much more fantastical it doesn’t draw the viewer or make a lick of sense if you think about it. Nevertheless, I liked the characters, the continuation of the story and the final conclusion so, I would recommend this film.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pineapple Express


No spoilers! Yeah, what!


The duo of Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow strike again with this pot-fueled extravaganza. Pineapple express deserves such fanfare because there is quite a bit that goes on especially for what is essentially a buddy comedy.  

Even though these guys could probably get anything green lit right now, they seem to be focused on putting out some seriously funny material. Many fans were eagerly chomping at the bit to see this movie, myself included, and we were not denied. The plot of the film is pretty straight forward, it’s like Cheech and Chong meets Snakes on a Plane, Dale (Seth Rogen) witnesses a murder and unwittingly drags his dealer/friend Saul (James Franco) into a string of acts of extreme violence and heart-warming male bonding.  

The director of this film, David Gordon Green, hasn’t been in the director’s seat for very long and his other fare has been in the vein of serious drama. But to the contrary of what Harold Zoid says, “You’re un-funny and untalented – that’s why you’re perfect for drama!”, Green is talented and handles comedy with a sleek no-nonsense style.  

Rogen and Franco have great chemistry together and they play the pothead and dealer with ease, despite the characters being pretty stereotypical. Even though some of the jokes are pretty weak, their delivery of the lines and their mostly drugged out performance really shines through.

When the film gets a little deeper into the action parts, there is a bit of gore, gunshot wounds mostly, but it’s mostly for comic effect. 

Given that the other characters are one-liners, the actors play them well (there are a few notable names but the film is really about Rogen and Franco). Ed Begley jr. and Rosie Perez are the next biggest stars of the film and they get a few solid laughs.

The structure of the film is pretty lopsided – the first half is all talk and the second half is nothing but running around, explosions and vehicular man-slaughter. And like I said before the writing does slack-off here and there.  

The last thing that I can praise this movie for is changing my opinion of James Franco. I never really liked him in his other roles. To me he always seemed like a Hayden Christensen-type, sour faced, crybaby actor but now I can see him in a different light.  

Overall the film is good: Good laughs and a good heart with decent acting and some clean directing add volume to a pretty typical movie plot. The deficiencies are mostly negligible but as a whole the front half feels wordy and the back half feels tightly packed. This is not a film for everyone but I would happily recommend it.

Phew, I got through this whole review without resorting to a weed pun! Hooray!