Saturday, March 5, 2022

Impressions of The Batman


Scott D. Parker

As I will do for every Batman movie ever made, I saw the new Batman movie on opening day. Lifelong fan of the character than I am, I have thoughts.

There will be spoilers.

Thirty-three years ago, we got a dark and brooding Batman in the form of Michael Keaton. Turns out, it wasn’t so dark, but holy cow was it at the time. Then after a more bright series in the 1990s, we got a darker, broodier Batman in Christian Bale. Then we got Ben Affleck who was dark and broody.

And now we have Robert Pattinson who is uber-broody. Like others have said, he's Emo Batman. And you know what? I'm fine with it. I actually enjoyed the film quite a bit, all three hours of it. And my middle-aged bladder was able to make it through the entire film without compelling me to run to the bathroom. Why? Because I didn't drink a lot of water. But mostly because the movie was rather compelling.

The Voice - Kevin Conroy is all but the definitive Batman for me when it comes to how he does the voice of Bruce Wayne and Batman. Bale's gruff growl became distracting and I particularly appreciated Affleck's voice modulator. Pattinson's low, non-gruff voice worked for me.

The Suit - A fully functional, bulletproof body armor bat suit. I loved the collar. The cowl was also well done, showing all the scrapes he's endured. And I liked that they acknowledged he wears black makeup around the eyes. I loved the gauntlets that could be deployed at a moment's notice. And the use of the taser. The bionic contact lens was a nice touch.

Jeffrey Wright - Can we just get a TV show with him as Gordon? Really, really liked how he stood up for Batman from the jump. We even got a few of the bewildered Gordon moments like when he looks back and Batman's gone.

The Police - Really liked how the cops go from disliking Batman to grudging acceptance. And that scene when Batman and Gordon walk Falcone out and they see all the good cops? Wonderful.

Colin Farrell/The Penguin - Completely could not see Farrell in the makeup. But I really liked his ferocity with the character. Sure, it's a little on the Deniro side of things but Oz is a crime lieutenant. It's was fun.

Zoe Kravitz/Selina Kyle - Her action scenes were fantastic with her multiple kicks per strike. I liked her one-track mind to help find then avenge her friend. And she had some of the few funny parts in the movie.

Paul Dano/The Riddler - Going into the theater, I could not have picked Dano out of a lineup. And I so liked that his visual style was basically a geek. A genius geek, but just a normal guy on whom the world had shat on for years. His monologue in the jail cell was pretty darn fun.

The Riddler's Big Plan - I so love movies when the villain is 25 steps ahead of the hero, and this movie had that in spades.

Batman as Detective - Very, very nice to have a movie like this. Yeah, we've had the big explosion version of the character so why not basically have a PI solving riddles and crimes who just happens to wear a bat-suit rather than a trench coat and fedora. T'was nifty that Alfred helped out with that.

The Fight in the Dark - Maybe 30 seconds, but holy cow, was that sequence awesome. One of the best in all of Bat-movie history. I'd bet money that director/writer Matt Reeves was inspired by the hallway sequence with Darth Vader in Rogue One.

The Finale/Mist Scene - As soon as Batman exploded that fire extinguisher and created a cloud of mist, I knew he was going to jump out of it. Fantastic visual.

And a child shall lead - When Batman, with red flare in hand, goes to help the mayor-elect and others get out of the flooded arena, I so loved that it was the young boy who was the first to take Batman's offer of help. The boy recognized the hero that Batman was and showed the way.

The Ending Speech - I appreciated the mirror version of Gordon's closing speech in 2008's The Dark Knight. This Batman, for all his mopiness, recognizes the need for hope in Gotham. That is an intriguing plot thread to open.

The Mood - I'll admit I was a tad leery of yet another brooding Batman movie, but I was sucked in almost instantly. It was a slow burn movie, punctuated with intense fighting sequences, but I really liked it.

The Music - John Williams's theme to Superman is arguably the greatest super-hero theme every written. Well, not arguably to me. But Danny Elfman's Batman theme is definitely second. When I saw that Michael Giacchino as the composer, I was excited. But a theme like from Williams or Elfman would not have worked in a movie like this. The slow, downbeat score, with the new Batman theme scattered throughout the movie, worked really well. Of particular note was the harp-and-cello piece when Bruce Wayne went into his parents' room.

The Verdict

Up until 2022, there has only been one live-action Batman at a time. That changes this year. Later, when we get The Flash movie, veteran Batman Michael Keaton returns and we'll a second live-action Batman, even if it is a return of an old favorite. That's a good thing, because if you don't like the mopey Batman, just wait. Or watch other versions.

Here's the thing: in the summer of 2008, we got one of the best Batman movies ever in The Dark Knight. Later that fall, we got the equally fun and light-hearted animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Boy did I love that series. And I also liked that year's epic Batman movie. I can appreciate both of them because there is room for Batman to be interpreted in different ways.

This is Matt Reeves's interpretation of 80 years of Bat-stories and the character and situations. As much as I love the brightness of the Marvel movies, Batman works well in this kind of story. Like I mentioned at the top of this post, I was a little leery/weary of broody Batman.

But Reeves's story, direction, and cinematography as well as Pattinson's performance won me over. It did for my wife as well. (Note: she is not a super-hero film fan but loved Bale's Batman, especially The Dark Knight, perhaps the only super-hero movie that she'll start to watch if she runs across it on TV.)

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and look forward to seeing it again.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Roll With It - Jay Stringer. Released April 5th



“You really think you can get me all the way there by yourself?” Ben Nichol paused. “I mean, no offence, but…”

      Chloe Medina didn’t smile. Didn’t take her eyes off the road. “You keep talking, I’ll get you all the way there in the trunk.”

      One hand steady on the wheel of the Shelby, the other near the gun strapped to her thigh. The line about the trunk was mostly a bluff, but it sounded good. Medina had two shotguns, three suitcases and two Kevlar vests stowed back there.  A box full of batons, handcuffs and stun-guns. Not room enough for a wanted felon. 

      Right now, she had two problems. 

      The same set of headlights had been in the mirror for five minutes. A black van. Outlines of two people visible through the windscreen. Only two vehicles on this stretch of road at night, both heading towards the border. Most likely it was nothing. But the driver was hanging back, keeping a steady distance. 

       Nichol was twitchy. The tightening of his shoulders and neck. Tattoos moved as he coiled. Even with his hands cuffed to the door handle, Medina could read the signs. He was gearing up for a second go. 

      He’d reacted the same way when she first caught up with him, sitting at the bar of Eddie’s Safari. A roadside joint on 602, just off Bronco Road and before the Zuni reservation. The place served burgers, burritos and frybread, while women danced around a pole on a stage decked out in a faded jungle theme. Nichol seemed to sense Medina was there for him the minute she walked in, and his body had tensed up right before he bolted into the men’s room. Medina followed him, and they fought a bit. Her shoulder smashed into the mirror. It still stung like hell, but he’d never know. Nichol’s face flushed bright red as she led him out of the place in cuffs. An ego like that could be dangerous. He’d want to go again, make himself feel less of a wimp.

      Medina watched the lights. The quickest way back to Phoenix was to stay on the 53, straight through the Zuni reservation to the Arizona border. Problem was, she hadn’t applied for permission to track a fugitive onto tribal land. Even though she’d caught him before crossing the border, technicalities like that didn't go down so well with the Rez cops. 

      They passed a dirt road on the left. A small gateway with a cattle guard, and nothing but the evening darkness beyond. 

      The van took the turn. 

      That left only one problem. 

      “You don’t remember me, do you?” Medina said. “We’ve met before.”

      “If I’d met you, I’d remember. Hey, these cuffs are real tight.”

      “Deal with it. The trial for your brother’s gang. What was left of them.”

      “The bank job?” Nichol grunted. In her peripheral, Medina could see him reappraising her. “That was so dumb. Those masks, firing guns into the air. They’d seen it in a movie the night before, eating edibles like candy. I’d said to Jimmy, don’t do banks like that, you’ll get hurt. Truth be told, I’d said don’t do banks at all. There’s no money in it. Not these days. But he never listened. Comes running out and, right there in the street, there’s this U.S. Marshal. Blonde. Total coincidence. Just having a coffee. Jimmy comes out, and she’s standing there in the road, all on her own, and…” Nichol grunted a second time. “Shit. You look different.”

      “I used to dye it. And it was ice cream, not coffee. Still had it in my hand when I walked across the street, told them to freeze. I warned your brother to stop, right there.”

      “They said at the trial.”

      “Three times.” More like two and a half, Medina thought. “I told all of them. Put your weapons down, drop the bags, in that order. Then put your hands over your heads where I can see them. Your brother started to raise his gun. Semi-auto, I already had reason enough to shoot, but I gave him two more warnings.”

      “See what I mean?” Nichol said. “Told you he never listened.”

      “I wanted it to go another way. But he was going to shoot.”

      “Don’t worry about it. He was an asshole.”

      “When the ambulance arrived, the cops, I walked back across the street, bought another ice cream. That’s the one I’m holding in the news pictures. The TV crew got a kick out of that, tried to make out like it was the same one I’d had to start, shot three guys without dropping it.”

      “Was the other thing true, the bit you said to the reporters?”

      “They asked me why I’d joined the Marshal Service. I said I liked catching the bad guys.”

      “That was a good line.”

       “I mention this, your brother, because there were three of them, and one of me. I put all three down before they fired their weapons. And I figure whatever you’re planning in the next ten seconds doesn’t beat that math.”

      Nichol laughed. Caught out. His muscles started to relax. He eased off slowly, his pride still in control. 

      “I like you,” he said. Trying to make it sound like his choice to stay in custody. “So how long you been tailing me?”

     “Since you ran.”

      “I mention this, because, maybe you don’t know why I ran.”

      Medina looked over at him now. The threat had passed. He was going for the laid-back charm that probably worked more often than not. His smile. The shock of Jack Nicholson crazy hair. 

      “You ran. I caught you. That’s all I need to know.”

      Nichol leaned forward to rub his bruised jaw. Medina was glad the fight had gone out of him. She didn’t think her shoulder was up to much. She was good at playing tough, but it took a lot out of her. 

      “I’m just saying, if you knew the reason, we could maybe cut a deal.”

      “I meant what I said about riding in the trunk. You start telling me how none of this is your fault, I’ll pull over and change the seating situation.”

      They drove in silence for a couple more miles. 

      Nichol said, “If you like catching bad guys so much, why’d you leave the Marshals?” 

      “Better pay.” 

      Medina heard the van before she saw it. The roar of an engine. No lights. Tyres crossing a cattle guard. The large black shape moved at them from the left. The impact spun the Shelby, taking them off the road.



Time for portals with Beau


This week, Beau takes a look at Incarnate by Steve Stred.


Summer, 1976. For Ryan, turning thirteen is a big deal.  Turning thirteen while staying at a haunted house? Amazing. After pleading with his parents to stay in The Matthews House, they’ve agreed. This summer will be the best vacation they’ve ever had. 
Too bad something still claims the house as its own. Something Lillian Matthews accidently called forth all those years ago. Ryan and his parents will have to fight to survive this summer,

When they meet evil Incarnate in the flesh.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Scalpel Please

I mentioned in a recent Facebook post that I'm revising an old story I wrote.  It's something I wrote over 30 years ago and have long wanted to come back to.  As I said in the post, the main thing I'm encountering in reworking the story is the overuse of particular words and phrases.  Most of these words and phrases, over time, I've come to recognize as the ones I use over and over in thing after thing I write, and now I look out for them while writing.  I'm proactive, you could say, in avoiding them.  But since this story I'm reworking is from so long ago, I'm looking at something I did then with what you might call less writerly self-awareness than I have now. People always seem to "start" and "begin" to do something -- like "start" or "begin" to get up from a chair instead of just getting up from the chair.  There are myriad examples of these repetitions, and I'm sure most writers are familiar with them and have their own way of dealing with them, carving them out of their stories.

This story I'm revising is a horror story set a bit in the past, something of a ghost story in the classic fashion about the terrible end that comes to those who read a mysterious, haunted book of uncertain provenance.  I wouldn't call it a pastiche, but it does have a slightly retro feel.  Besides the search and destroy/change word missions I've been on, I've been revamping the language so that it sounds less self-consciously retro and more compact.  That has been fun, and I think the story improves for it. The basic plot and how it unfolds over 8,000 or so words is strong, I think, and it's the main reason I've wanted to go back to the story for all these years.  Try to make this story the best it can be, has been the goal, and for all this time I've had a nagging feeling that with a few weeks' worth of revision I could do that.  

I haven't been mortified to re-read this story, I have to say.  Little has made me cringe, long ago as I wrote it.  But the main difference, I've found, between my approaches then and now is that I must have trusted readers a lot less then.  The story moves well enough, but the older version has an overabundance of adjectives. In several parts, there's a tad too much descriptive detail.  So it's mainly been a process of cutting the attempts at stylish wrapping and making things leaner.  Describe just enough for the reader to fill in the rest of the picture.  Trust the reader. Let the reader use their imagination.   I can see from looking at this 30-plus-year-old story that I didn't do that much then; it's as if I felt I had to spell out nearly everything for the reader for fear the reader wouldn't see the scenes clearly.  It's taken time, I suppose, to understand the idea that you do have to trust the reader, and to this day I'm always working on scaling back, scaling back, scaling back.

Well, I'm almost done with the revisions and I'm glad I decided to do them.  It's been a worthwhile project, kind of the equivalent of psychiatric self-analysis, writing style.  And I haven't even charged myself anything for the treatment!