Tag Archives: Colin Farrell

THE BATMAN is a twelve-issue miniseries of a movie

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

The Batman is dark. It takes place largely at night, features multiple scenes of its costumed hero slowly emerging from the shadows, and its new build of the always-murky Gotham City seems to be located in a rainier climate than before, somewhere near the unnamed city from Seven. And yes, The Batman is that other kind of dark, too. Batman, still a little green a year or two into his self-appointed job as protector of Gotham, spends much of the movie chasing down a serial killer who leaves clues scrawled in a creepy-kid handwriting/font-in-waiting, alongside a series of prominent corpses. This is the handiwork of the Riddler, last glimpsed wearing a series of brightly colored, question-marked bodysuits, springing his child’s-garden-of-brainteasers material with the infinite elasticity of comedy superstar Jim Carrey. Now he is a masked, muffled weirdo played by Paul Dano, watching his victims from a distance, working himself into a messy froth to subdue them, leaving taunting messages for the flummoxed authorities via complicated ciphers.

The Riddler may be the most flagrantly antisocial Gothamite we meet in this movie, but the other characters dress up in their own costumes of discontent. Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), recognizable though not referred to as Catwoman, grimaces through her degrading server work at a criminal-friendly club, as she sets up cat-burglary scores, attempts to protect her friends, and plots various forms of revenge, while Batman (Robert Pattinson) stalks the streets and irritates any cops who aren’t his tentative, already-weary ally Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright). The Bat and the Cat are matching his ‘n her skulkers with voids where their families should be. Only a scarred gangster known as the Penguin (Colin Farrell) seems to be having much fun.

Of course, Batman has a heavy burden to bear—thematically, sure (you ever hear about his parents?!?), but also practically, as the only mainstream superhero who allows rich swirls of darkness and shadow in their palette. (Plenty of superhero slogs get stuck in the gray zone of bad cinematography, falling short of inky blackness.) Certain fans believe that this confers a grown-up respectability upon this Bat-material, which, of course, is largely hogwash. This reputation does, however, give filmmakers more leeway to add textures and shading into the superhero universe. It’s been that way ever since Tim Burton and the stunning production design of Anton Furst brought Gotham to nightmarish life in the 1989 Batman.

Burton’s two movies about this character, especially his masterful Batman Returns, whimsically cross-faded gothic tragedy with circus-sideshowmanship. By comparison, it’s a little difficult to discern how seriously we’re supposed to take The Batman. Based on the past work of director and co-writer Matt Reeves—the dramatic clarity of his Planet of the Apes sequels; the ultimate doominess of his monster movie Cloverfield—it seems like he’s aiming for psychological realism, not too far removed from Christopher Nolan’s beloved Dark Knight trilogy. Those movies were pulpier than some of their most ardent fans gave them credit for, and The Batman is pulpier still, whether or not the filmmakers admit it.

Reeves must at least appreciate comic books; his compositions favor close-ups and shallow focus, and he extends this preference by occasionally affixing his camera to an unusual vantage point—the back wheel of a car, or Batman himself—as action shifts in the background, keeping his foregrounded image unnaturally steady. Here, those shots look especially like panels, without the ostentatious pose-and-crib styling of Zack Snyder, or even the experimental page-flipping of Ang Lee’s Hulk. It’s a more modest and (relatively speaking) subtle way of making the on-screen action resemble the dynamic action of comics. If his Warner Bros. stablemates the Wachowskis specialize in splash panels, Reeves seems to enjoy the smaller corners of the page, the way complicated action can be broken down into single images. He places these eerie moments of clarity within action-sequence tumult, most impressively in a scene where Batman’s muscle-car Batmobile relentlessly pursues the Farrell’s sputtering, wiseass Penguin, or in his longer shots of Batman in combative motion, deflecting bullets and bulldozing various stooges.

Batman does this a lot; he also keeps tromping, workmanlike, out of the shadows, and when he attempts a more majestic, fantastic escape flight, he wipes out spectacularly. I didn’t clock the screen time, but it feels like Robert Pattinson spends more time in that durable Batsuit than some of his predecessors. On the human side of things, he recalls the Keaton/Kilmer Batmen of the ’90s cycle—aloof, remote, and downright socially awkward as a Bruce Wayne who seems to be distractedly thinking of his superheroic tithing even (or especially) when he’s forced to appear unarmored in the harsh light of day. Reeves seems to want to give Bruce/Batman a worthy, knotty case to untangle, and remake his image as a sleepless, irritable private eye. Some of the movie’s zip derives from how unsuited Batman is to reclaiming that world’s-greatest-detective mantle: He clumsily interrogates the Penguin, tries to team up with Catwoman only to watch her repeatedly go rogue, and generally fails to make the friends or surrogate family that might sustain him. (How many Jokers have we gotten on-screen, and yet Chris O’Donnell is the only one allowed to play a proper Robin?!) The ever-loyal James Gordon brings around him to crime scenes and keeps referring to him, from a slight distance, as “man” (as in, “we really gotta go, man”).

Wright makes that line sound like his own, whether it is or not. He brings some actorly personality to his short scenes, as does Farrell. Pattinson and Kravitz rely more on their looks, but not in an empty-model sort of way. They cut the right figures in their various guises, which is half the battle in such a visually driven environment. Regrettably, Pattinson is denied the opportunity to masquerade as Bruce Wayne’s undercover identity as a low-level criminal named Matches Malone. Kravitz, however, has enough DIY for the both of them, sporting a cat-eared ski mask and fingernail claws. It’s fun to watch the Bat, the Cat, and the cop warily circle each other and attempt to chase down clues.

Where the clues ultimately lead, though, feels less lucid. Not so much because the movie is indecipherable (it’s not) or overplotted (it probably is that) but because it scans so much like a comic book, and not a great one. Like most past Batman movies, it pulls from and amalgamates a number of sources. Unlike those past movies, the dominant rhythm is that of a readably unspectacular twelve-issue miniseries—though the comics-world coinage of “maxiseries” makes particular sense for this three-hour movie that’s neither endless slog nor gripping epic. The story adds up, in a nominal sort of way, and has some unexpected twists and tweaks in the final stretch, meant to challenge Bruce Wayne’s obsessions and guide him toward the lessons he’s lost in the pursuit of, as he puts it and as Selina drolly echoes back to him, “vengeance.” What the movie doesn’t do is reach a true crescendo, either of tension (as in Nolan’s films) or grotesque beauty (as in Burton’s). It hits its notes early and often, like the insistently memorable Michael Giacchino theme that accompanies it.

That leaves The Batman most resembling, of all things, the follow-ups to Burton’s work, when Joel Schumacher took the reins for Batman Forever (the one with Carrey’s Riddler) and Batman & Robin. It’s a different tone, of course. Schumacher embraced live-action cartooniness—sets that look like sets; actors that act like chattering wind-up toys—and making kids laugh. If anything, Reeves’ comic relief carries the faintest echo of Burton’s mordant humor. Yet Reeves shares with Schumacher an inability to make the characters feel like they truly exist in between the plot points and set pieces. That’s why certain characters, like Bruce’s loyal butler-guardian Alfred (Andy Serkis), depend on the presumption that they’re arriving pre-endeared to the audience at large, and therefore in little need of character development.

The Batman isn’t completely devoid of feeling. Kravitz has a heat that short-circuits some of Pattinson’s more po-faced tendencies, and it lingers in the air between them even as they’re pulled apart. (Imagine, superheroes with the desire to kiss each other before their relationship is fully and clearly defined!) There are even moments, toward the end, when the movie turns hearteningly optimistic amidst the viscerally rendered gloom, evoking the muddling-through so many of us have found ourselves performing (albeit on a less dramatic scale). Yet much of the actual story consists of lateral piece-moving, dependent on a bunch of gradually revealed and remodified backstory. If the serial-killer trailing and cipher-decoding is supposed to evoke the historical unease of Zodiac (“This is the Riddler speaking,” Dano intones at one point), it lands closer to ’90s thrillers that slickly repackaged dread as flashy excitement–aimed at adults in quote marks, perhaps equally well-suited to fourteen-year-olds. Sound familiar, comics readers? The darkness of The Batman is somehow both richly textured and flimsy–a painting done up on newsprint.

THE GENTLEMEN: Don’t call it a comeback; Guy Ritchie will be here for years

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

How much would my bro-na fides go up if I admitted that one of my great thrills ever experienced in a movie theater happened during the Guy Ritchie movie Snatch, which I saw at least twice, possibly three times in the winter of 2001? I went along with Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels as yet another post-Pulp Fiction, post-Trainspotting attempt to make guns and/or fliply executed violence and/or UK accents seem extra-cool. Sure, fine, a fun movie, though in the back of my head I admitted to myself that it wasn’t as satisfying as I hoped. But when Brad Pitt’s Irish-gypsy-boxer entered the ring in the final stretch of Snatch, accompanied by a blast of the then-recent Oasis instrumental track “Fuckin’ in the Bushes,” I was nearly out of my seat. It’s the kind of moment that the internet might well spoil and pre-digest today. In January 2001, I had no idea that Ritchie had one of my favorite Oasis tunes up his sleeve, using it with the exact same badass swagger as the movie a 20-year-old Oasis fan was already playing in his heart.

This is all to say that I have a soft spot for Guy Ritchie, mildly bad boy of the UK film scene and eventual blockbuster director for hire. Though the disastrousness of Revolver and Swept Away (the latter as yet unseen by me, so maybe it’s merely a financial disaster) indicated a downward trajectory swifter than the likes of Robert Rodriguez or Kevin Smith, Ritchie pulled out of his talespin with two hit Sherlock Holmes movies, enjoyably forgettable and forgettably enjoyable; made a genuinely zippy wannabe-blockbuster out of The Man from UNCLE, made a compellingly misguided wannabe-blockbuster out of King Arthur, and a similarly misguided but actual blockbuster out of Aladdin. Aladdin was his biggest global hit by like a billion dollars, but now Guy Ritchie is back, baby, with The Gentlemen: a bit of the old ultraviolence, chaps, in that it is mostly about mostly-English hoodlums punching each other, shooting each other, threatening to punch each other, or threatening to, well, you get the idea.

The thing is, Ritchie has been back before; RockNRolla was his supposed return to form in 2008, a gangster tale with the humor and cheek sapped out. The Gentlemen isn’t quite so dour–there are laugh lines aplenty, capably delivered–but there’s a certain hardness at its center. Not hard-boiled, mind, but something calcified, with some of the dead-stiff philosophizing that turned his Revolver into a barely-walking corpse. Weirdly, that sourness is owned and operated by one Matthew McConaughey, whose presence is typically both more pleased and more pleasing. Here he plays Mickey Pearson, an American expat living in England, making his living as an ambitious and successful weed impresario. But Mickey is ready to exit the business and spend more time with his beloved wife Rosalind (Michelle Dockery)—though she seems plenty occupied by her car-customization business. (Telling, that she commands a fleet of all-lady mechanics… who have about a minute of combined screentime, almost as if Ritchie is admitting that he understands how women could easily be a bigger part of his world and wants to make the conscious choice to keep it to one per picture.)

Mickey is getting ready to sell his various secret growth and distribution centers to Matthew (Jeremy Strong), but he’s also fielding some interest from Dry Eye (Henry Golding), at the behest of Dry Eye’s older boss. But the negotiations are framed by Fletcher (Hugh Grant) a sort of freelance bottom-feeder who approaches Mickey’s right-hand man Ray (Charlie Hunnam) with information that requires Fletcher to spin a long, tangled narrative for context (which he has also conveniently provided in screenplay format). A lot of this stuff revels in the fun and needless complications of Ritchie’s earliest films, guided along by Fletcher’s rococo insinuations and occasional rhapsodizing about the magic of shooting on film rather than digital. (OK, Guy.) Though there is some violence, a lot of the movie is talk, and it’s a fun one to listen to, even if Ritchie’s insistence on putting racial slurs in the mouths of his characters (who are racist, to be sure, though not in especially interesting or important ways) is suddenly the most authentically Tarantino-esque thing about him. It’s all just more shit-talk for Ritchie, and a lot of it is disreputably entertaining; Henry Golding is a lot more fun as conniving gangster than a himbo, which is to say the Colin Farrell principle applies here. Twice, actually, because Farrell himself makes an appearance as the requisite Irish boxer, trying to keep a pack of teenage hooligans on the relatively straight and relatively narrow. When he fails, they make YouTube music videos of themselves performing a grime number whilst robbing one of Mickey’s illicit dispensaries.

Toff_Guys_Day_24_173.ARW

Watching this amusingly wacked-out sequence, it struck me that 20 years ago, the gang of YouTube hooligans (or their pre-YouTube equivalents) would be more prominent characters in a Ritchie movie. Here, they’re colorful support, wrangled by Farrell, but far less important to the narrative than characters with vastly better-appointed homes and gardens. Hunnam—not even the kingpin, but his main henchman—begrudgingly entertains the sleazy Fletcher with a smoke-free backyard barbecue, grilling fancy steaks. Instead of scrappy strivers and lowlifes, Ritchie sympathizes with the richer criminals—especially McConaughey’s Mickey, who whinges on about how the lion must (get this) “be the lion” in order to, uh, be the lion. The metaphorical lion, in the metaphorical jungle. Just a slight calibration and this guy would be the pompous jackass

McConaughey lends him some baseline rooting interest, and that’s his job as an actor. But what’s Ritchie’s excuse? Why is he making a cheeky gangster caper that amounts to an enormously wealthy, white, not-even-English dude who makes time for grotesque revenge on a tabloid editor? (Eddie Marsan is in this, too; guess who he plays?) Obviously English tabloids can go fuck themselves, but I’m not sure McConaughey’s character has any high ground that the movie doesn’t hastily and arbitrarily pile up for him. (He deals exclusively in weed! He’s not like a regular drug dealer, he’s a cool drug dealer.)

That’s an awful lot of morality parsing, I know, for a Guy Ritchie movie that aims for a form of cheerful amorality, and truth be told, I was able to roll with much of The Gentlemen. Grant is a delight! Farrell is a delight! Dockery, despite being someone who was on Downtown Abbey, is a delight! Hunnam, so often ill-used in bigger movies, has a commanding scene where he marches into a drug den full of posh miscreants and firmly retrieves one of them on behalf of their family. Half the cast is stylishly bespectacled for some reason. Moral correctness is not especially the point of The Gentlemen, and the movie’s ending even regains some its playfulness by suggesting just how much of this is storytelling for its own sake, more tangled-up screenplay fodder for Fletcher or Ritchie himself. But the cheeky thrill of self-reference (hey, is that a Man from UNCLE poster?) can’t match the Oasis-scored mischief of Snatch, which was self-conscious, sure, but a bit less self-regarding. And maybe it’s just wishful thinking, the fleeting idea that Ritchie might be self-effacing enough to see himself as desperately for-sale Fletcher—instead of the preening, bloviating Mickey. Sometimes, The Gentlemen gives the impression that Ritchie doesn’t consider this a return to form so much as an insistence that no number of flops would dare issue him a comeuppance.

The SportsAlcohol.com Mini-Podcast: True Detective Season 2

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Well, the long national nightmare that was True Detective Season 2 is now over. But some of your friends at SportsAlcohol.com didn’t really consider it a nightmare. Actually, we have some pretty positive things to say, as well as some constructive criticism. So investigate one of the internet’s hottest takes as we do an uncharacteristically quick post-mortem on the second season of the show people love to hate for some reason. Marisa, Jesse, and Nathaniel are on hand to discuss the high fashions, low morals, confusing storytelling, and Strong Female Characters of True Detective Season 2. Spoilers abound, for the finale and the rest of the season!

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Problems With The Daredevil Movie Besides Ben Affleck

Rob is one of the founders of SportsAlcohol.com. He is a recent first time home buyer and it's all he talks about. Said home is in his hometown in Upstate New York. He never moved away and works a job to pay for his mortgage and crippling chicken wing addiction. He is not what you would call a go-getter. This may explain the general tone of SportsAlcohol.com.
Rob

Something has been building inside of me. I can’t hold it in any more.

It probably started during the run up to the release of Mark Steven Johnson’s Daredevil movie. This was during the height of media scrutiny of Daredevil star Ben Affleck’s relationship with Jennifer Lopez. If you weren’t watching a lot of TV in the early 00’s, it’s hard to describe exactly how over-covered their relationship was. People were sick of it, so they made jokes. It really took hold during the Bennifer backlash when it was reported that Ben Affleck filmed a cameo for the Elektra film but it was cut due to an anticipated negative reaction. It grew when Affleck was cast as Batman in the forthcoming Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. A lot of people made jokes. I found exactly one funny.

Then, the unthinkable happened: a legitimately good live action adaptation of Daredevil happened. I’ve already mentioned that this has profoundly affected me. The release of Netflix’s Daredevil show roughly coincided with the release of the first trailer for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice as well as the discovery of Affleck’s boneheaded attempt to suppress information about a slave owning ancestor from a TV show about his heritage. I was at trivia the other night when the host had a question about this brouhaha, puncuated by a snickering joke about how distraught Ben Affleck must be now that his legacy as Daredevil has been overshadowed.

SO many jokes. Please keep laughing, but know this: Ben Affleck is not the problem with the Daredevil movie. Not even close.

I feel so weird being a Ben Affleck apologist. I have a lot of affection for him from his work in Kevin Smith’s films during my teenage years, but it’s not like I keep up on his oeuvre. It’s just that the hate is too much. At some point in time, it became cool to hate Ben Affleck. Just saying his name became a punchline. However, if you watch that Daredevil movie more than once, you see he’s practically an asset to it.

That being said, there are a couple of things I want to make clear:

1. I wasn’t happy when Affleck was cast in the Daredevil movie. I didn’t think he’d be terrible, but Guy Pearce was rumored at one point and that’s basically how Daredevil looks in my mind.

2. I don’t think this movie is good. It’s not good. I would know. I’ve watched it several times, including the director’s cut.

Thanks to SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Jesse for the necessary research materials
Thanks to SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Jesse for the necessary research materials

3. I don’t think Ben Affleck is that great of an actor and his performance here isn’t some great revelation. It’s just that he brought his usual steady, workmanlike talent to this and people call it the Affleck Daredevil movie like he’s problem. He’s not! These are the real problems:

[There are spoilers beyond this point, but do you really care?]

Continue reading Problems With The Daredevil Movie Besides Ben Affleck

The Fuzzy Math of Winter’s Tale

Gripes
There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

Warning: This post contains major spoilers about Winter’s Tale. Even more important warning: If the previous warning scared you, it means you might be considering watching Winter’s Tale. Having seen it, I say: maybe just don’t? 

So, I didn’t take my own advice. I saw Winter’s Tale on Valentine’s Day. To say it was full of nonsense about good and evil, angels and demons, and star-crossed lovers and terminal illnesses, would be to make it sound way more interesting than it is. The lesson: Always listen to SportsAlcohol.com.

It is fair to say, however, that it is full of nonsense. Vulture‘s article, “6 Ridiculous Things That Happen in Winter’s Tale,” doesn’t even really begin to cover it. Yet even in a movie filled with spiritual mumbo-jumbo, flying horses, hokey miracles, and Will Smith doing a cameo as a devil in a Hendrix t-shirt, one thing—which I haven’t seen discussed too many other places—struck me as more preposterous than the rest: its willful misunderstanding of how time works (at least how it is perceived by humans, setting aside any flat circles for now).

With respect to Pushing Daisies (RIP, Pushing Daisies), the facts are these:

  • Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is born in 1886.
  • Most of the movie takes place in the “past,” in 1916, when Peter is 30 years old. It’s during this time that he meets Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), his true love 4eva.
  • There is time skip, and Peter wakes up in? is transported to? miracles??? finds himself in the “present day.” I haven’t read the novel, but I assume the “present day” of the novel is 1983, when the book came out, meaning the skip is 67 years. The “present day” of the movie is this present day, meaning 2014, or a skip of 98 years.
  • The movie treats the ensuing years, between 1983 and 2014, like they just don’t exist.

It doesn’t seem like there should be any contradictions. Dude is in the past, then he’s in the present after an absurd amount of time, meaning everything and everyone he knows should be gone and not cause any problems. But there’s so much magic in Winter’s Tale that it ties itself into knots creating time-travel problems.

In the movie, Beverly has a younger sister, Willa (Makayla Twiggs). They don’t say how old she is, but she looks about 7 or 8 to me. She’s certainly not an infant. Of course, since life is beautiful, after the time-skip, Peter is somehow reunited with Willa, who in the interim became the editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper.

Let’s do the math here. It certainly seems possible if we’re using the book timeline (if, in fact, Willa is a character in the book). Willa would be 7 in 1916, making her 74 in 1983. It’s unusual, but not impossible, for a 74-year-old woman to be a spry editor-in-chief of a newspaper.

But that’s not the timeline in the film. According to the movie , Willa would be 105 years old. She’d be one of the oldest people on the planet. Yet with all of the dwelling on all of the awe-inspiring things in the film, not one person seems amazed that the world’s oldest woman is running a daily paper in New York City. No one addresses it at all, really. (The actress playing Old Willa is Eva Marie Saint, who’s actually 89 and doesn’t look like 105—though it’s hard to tell what 105 looks like since so few people make it that far, let alone people growing up in the 1900s with consumptive sisters.)

You can say it’s an aberration and explain Willa’s existence away with miracles!!! fuzzy math, but she’s not the only one who doesn’t realize what year it is.  Peter finds Willa through a newspaper reporter, Virginia (Jennifer Connelly). Viriginia looks up some old articles on microfiche to figure out who Peter Lake is and where he comes from. She quickly finds a photo of Peter and Beverly in front of the Penn’s lovely Hudson Valley estate. Her jaw drops in amazement and she asks: “Is that your father?”

Father?! If I were Peter, I’d be incredibly offended. It’s a good thing Virginia is a food reporter and doesn’t cover economics or anything that has to do with numbers. I don’t know how she thought that someone who looked like he was 30 in 1916 could sire someone who looks like he’s 30 in 2014. Perhaps she thought Peter Senior sired Peter Junior when he was 98?

I know it’s a little silly to look at the flying horse and look at the time-travel timeline and say that the horse is believable but the time-travel timeline is beyond the pale, but details are important. Especially if you want people to lose themselves in your love story, and not just snicker at it.