Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Batman Movie Franchise Reboot

On the off chance Michael Uslan or the powers that be at Warner Brothers may be reading my blog, here is I would like to see when Warner Brothers reboots the Batman movie franchise in the next few years.

First, on the fast track to a 2015 release, I'd like to see "Batman Triumphant".  It would be the third chapter of the unfinished Burton-Keaton trilogy, heavily inspired by and based upon Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns graphic novel.  The story needs to be streamlined to fit in a single two-hour movie and to better follow the continuity of Batman and Batman Returns. Tim Burton would return as director, from a script by Sam Hamm (with perhaps some tweaking or revisions by Wesley Strick).  Danny Elfman would return to compose the score.
Michael Keaton would return as The Batman,

Jack Nicholson as the Joker,

Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle,

and Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent.

The story should open on Alfred Pennyworth's funeral, with Bruce at the grave.  It would be revealed Bruce quit being Batman some fifteen years earlier when Commissioner Gordon was shot and killed, with Batman blaming himself.  The current Commissioner, Ellen Yindel, seems ineffective with the rising crime rate in Gotham.  From there we stick close to the graphic novel, with rising crime by punk gang members and muggers during a heat wave, Bruce becoming increasingly uneasy, resulting in him reemerging as The Batman.  As Batman battles the punk gang members and the "cured" Dent, Carrie should be brought in quicker, since Alfred and Gordon are gone, and Bruce needs someone to confide in (Selina's role most likely would also be made larger than it was in the graphic novel).  As in the graphic novel, the Joker emerges from his catatonic state when news reports of Batman appear.  Again, follow the graphic novel with the Joker's break for freedom and resulting crime wave, and Batman and Robin's attempt to stop him, as Yindel sends in forces to bring in Batman, while the media debates Batman's vigilantism. After the Joker's suicide, the cops' battle with Batman should be the film's finale (replacing the battle with Superman).  Likewise, since Christopher Nolan co-opted the "Bruce fakes his death" ending for The Dark Knight Rises, this version needs to come up with a new ending. What, I don't know... if I did, I'd write the script myself and get signed to a WB deal.

A few years later, in 2019, the 80th anniversary of Batman, and the 30th anniversary of the first Tim Burton film, the full reboot I call "Legend of The Batman", or perhaps simply "The Batman" should be slated for release.  This would be a completely new take, yet still embraces the best aspects of other versions, incorporating them into it.  From the Nolan movies, the only aspect I would want to see retained is the well planned and choreographed action sequences. Nolan did raise the bar in that regard in The Dark Knight, and the film makers need to strive reach that quality.

From the Tim Burton movies, I'd like to see the aspect of The Batman being a character shrouded in mystery return. No need to over explain every detail.  No need for Batman to give long monologues in a ridiculous frog voice or to have his own version of James Bond's Q.  Michael Keaton's portrayal of The Batman should be the foundation on which the new actor cast should build his interpretation on. Also from the Burton movies, I'd like to see Gotham City be more unique, and less of a doppelganger for Chicago. I'm not saying Anton Furst's Gotham should be recreated as it would be for the Batman Triumphant concept, but Gotham should be its own unique hellish city, not just generic Chicago or New York location shooting.  Stylistically dark.

I want to see a real Batmobile.  No more Tumbler.  It would be cool to see the classic 1950 Batmobile from the comics brought to life for the first time.  It kind of looks like a bat-themed hearse, which would be a great visual.

On the other hand, there is the standard that the Batmobile needs to be the ultimate muscle car, following in the tire tracks of the 1966 and 1989 models.  I'd be happy with either of those choices.

I want to see the Batcave.  Nolan's films had so little Batcave,  just the entrance with the waterfall.  That's all we ever saw it seems.  There's no need to go full blown into the comics with the giant penny and dinosaur, but it needs to be more defined and detailed than what we have seen in the recent movies.

I believe there are also some aspects of the Adam West TV series that can be utilized.  Well, at least from the pilot episode, Hi Diddle Riddle/Smack In The Middle.  The pilot episode had a sense of excitement, of fun, of daring adventure, and a photography style, that if divorced from camp and grafted onto a serious take of Batman, could really supercharge it.

That brings us to the plot.  I'd like to see the movie set a few weeks after Dick Grayson becomes Robin.  A pre-credits sequence could quickly recap Batman and Robins' origins.  The actor to be cast as the Boy Wonder should actually be a 14 or 15 year old kid. He should use as a foundation for his interpretation of the character the Douglas Croft version from the 1943 serial: a quick witted, wise cracking daredevil who is competent and resourceful. I'd like to see the Riddler be the main villain, with The Penguin as a secondary villain, portrayed as Gotham's top mob boss, perhaps incorporating the idea of him owning a popular night club as a front. Not a sewer dwelling mutant, this Penguin should be an aristocrat of crookery who knows how to live the good life. This movie should highlight Batman as a detective, something that has been ignored or only slightly touched on in every movie to date. With the Riddler as villain, it is the perfect opportunity for a great mystery and detective work.  The actor cast as Edward Nigma should echo Frank Gorshin's definitive performance, yet still bring some deadly menace to the role.  I'd also like to see some classic style deathtraps for Batman and Robin to escape from, reviving their titles of world's greatest escape artists, another aspect neglected in the recent movies.

For Batman's costume, I'm guessing the standard rubber suit will be retained, but I do not want to see all the padding and over done plates from the Nolan movies.  Go back to a simpler, less detailed design, like in Batman Returns or even the "panther suit" from Batman Forever, just minus the nipples. I'd also like to see the navy blue and gray color scheme return, along with mirrored lenses in the eye slits, thus removing the need for Batman to wear eye makeup.  The chest logo should be black and large, without the yellow oval. 

For Robin, stick close to the original design, albeit in rubber, and just extend the short sleeves and trunks to long sleeves and long pants.  Alter the gloves to black for contrast and to match the mask, and change the green elf shoes to black boots.

My pick would be for definitive Batman writer Steve Englehart to co-write the script with my choice for director.  To direct... okay, I know this will get a lot of jeers... Frank Miller.  I know a lot of "fans" have turned on him in recent years, but the fact remains he is the author of two of the most popular Batman arcs of all time, he redefined Batman in a way that is still being felt to this day, and he is actually a good, visual director.  The Spirit looked good, even if the script was crap.  But we would have Englehart to make sure the script is good.  Just imagine, a Batman movie done by two of the best Batman comic book creators, Miller and Englehart.

I do think it should be carved in stone that this franchise continue on and on, like the original James Bond franchise, before it rebooted with Casino Royal. The second film could move the Penguin into the spotlight as main villain. The third film could introduce the Joker.  At some point, there needs to be a Joker-Penguin team up, something we've been cheated out of in Batman movies so far.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: Popeye # 5 and 6

Popeye #5 sees the return of Bruce Ozella as artist.  His work in this issue is better and more polished than his turn in issue #1.  This issue spotlights Swee' Pea in a pair of stories.  The first one deals with Swee' Pea running away from home because Popeye scolds him for misspelling "cat".  Most of the humor in this story focuses on Popeye misspelling words, thinking he is correct and everyone else is wrong.  Swee' Pea hooks up with a gang of kids and punches out several dogs.  Kind of a weak script by Roger Langridge.  The second story has Popeye and friends making home made comic strips to entertain Swee' Pea. Its slightly better than the lead story, but feels like a filler.  This issue's variant cover is the great John Byrne cover originally planned for issue 4, but it would have been a better match for the next issue.  Issue #5 gets a C.

Popeye #6 features the return of Ken Wheaton as artist. Like Ozella, his art this time around is better and more polished than his first try in issue 2.  The story, by Langridge, is one of his better efforts.  Capturing the type of parody and satire that E.C. Segar excelled at, the plot deals with movie director Flash Meischer (a caricature of Max Fleischer) signing Popeye to a movie deal. Hot Hollywood types are cast in the leads, only to have Meischer suffer a breakdown.  Wimpy takes over as director, and decides to use the real people instead of actors, but then its revealed Bluto is the movie's main investor. There is a good homage to Popeye Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves, and a parody of product placement in movies crowds out Popeye's spinach.  The movie is saved when Wimpy inserts "reality" fight footage of Popeye into the final edit. Wheaton's art depicting the black and white film footage is stellar, and has a sense of fluidness in contrast with the stiffer panel compositions of the IDW house style for Popeye.  All in all, issue 6 ranks up there with the best issues of the IDW run, and earns an A.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Davy's Replacement on Monkees Tour

In a series of Facebook posts, Michael Nesmith voices his ideas of who should replace Davy on the tour. I'm reposting them here, not only because they are very funny, but many fans are taking this seriously, making the whole thing even funnier.

The first post:

"As I get relatively older the corporeal sense data set goes more and more non-linear. I’ve been watching Emmy Blotnick all morning and laughing hard, but I know somewhere deep down I am not laughing at the right thing.

"There is a kind of horror in finding oneself inapt, and yet, there is a certain joy to it – coming loose from the moorings, as it were.

"Emmy does this stand-up that is very funny to me – “I made you a sandwich” and I watched it two or three times just this morning – and something inside me wants to tell Emmy why I think it’s so funny.

"But I know better than to do that, so I am keeping my mouth shut and laughing with the rest of the people that think she is funny.

"The reason I was watching her is because she is a blogger for Jimmy Fallon.

"And I have been talking to Mick and Pete about how we are going to do Daydream Believer without David. We have some ideas – and clearly we have to do it – it’s one of the Monkees best songs – but how?

"Stay with me here.

"Mick and I are heavy into rehearsals and hanging out – and I have started privately nourishing this idea that – in New York and LA at least – I think Jimmy Fallon should come do Daydream Believer with us.

"First, he is a good singer and musician. And second, he seems pretty easy going. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, he is the only person I think that could actually do the Davy dance with the proper gravitas and respect it deserves.

"(Lord knows Axel Rose did his best – and it may be that Axel has even won the name wars for the dance – but to me it is, and always will be, the Davy dance and not the Axel Rose dance.)

"In any case -- I think Fallon could do it great, sing the song great, and I am thinking seriously about inviting him to come and do it with us – just a couple of nights. I am giving it a lot of careful thought.

"Careful, non-linear-wacked-out, goofy thought.

"So far I haven’t got this past Mick and Pete – I actually haven’t even asked them – but I am drifting that way because of Emmy Blotnick who has now (unwittingly)re-enforced the notion that Fallon could do it great – “birds of a feather” is more than enough validation for me. That’s the best I can explain it: Blotnick sandwich = Jimmy Fallon sings Daydream Believer and delivers his version of the Davy dance.

"So, Mick and Pete and I have the show covered, it will be fun and satisfying to the hardest core Monkees fan –but --

"There is this one last thing we absolutely have to work out and get right -- who will sing Daydream Believer?

"I’m starting with Jimmy Fallon – and if he won’t do it -- then I’ll just let the non-linear world take over and see where the ball lands next.

"It may land in the town we’re coming to."
The plot thickens with the second post:
"I am shocked!

"Shocked and dismayed. I just got a call from Jimmy Fallon and he was cackling with glee. (At least I think it was Jimmy. He swore to me it was really him) It's very unlike Jimmy to cackle. He is so sweet and kind on his show, and he treats his guests with respect and asks smart questions, so I was so surprised to listen as he delightedly told me that he had hacked my Facebook page!!

"He was unabashed. He said he tacked a post on to the one I wrote about Emmy Blotnick and her sandwich routine.

"Then, (and this is really weird) he begged me to let him sing Daydream Believer and I didn't know what to say -- I had no idea what he was talking about. How did he find out Mick and Peter and I were thinking about who should sing Daydream Believer with us? Its very important to us, of course, but we have been keeping the discussions very quiet and just between the three of us.

"What I did say was that "we haven't decided yet, Jimmy." Sheeez.

"I'm not sure what he posted on my Emmy Blotnick post. I haven't had a chance to read it yet , but he did a lot of damage here on the site, I can already tell. There is a whole thing of chocolates missing from my FB page. And half the bottle of cologne is gone. Vanished. It was that really good Axe cologne that makes women chase you around -- just like they show on TV.

"I'm sure he took them. Or had something to do with it. So unlike JF.

"I am heartbroken. I love Jimmy Fallon and his show and his whole zeitgeist thing he does. He is my favorite late night guy. I admit I'm not up that late that often. But I almost always watch the one from the night before while I have dinner at 4:30PM. That's my me time. But I am not going to watch now for a long time.

"Not after he broke into my FB page and posted stuff and takes valuable items. That just goes beyond the pale.

"And just for the record, no offense JF, but my choice is for Bono to sing it.

"I'm even thinking of asking Bono to join us for the whole tour just for that one song. Especially now, after Jimmy just trashed me.

"And I am sure it was Jimmy that called, I have the call back number on my cell, and sure enough it's from North Carolina, which is where JF's cell phone is registered.

"And besides, it sounded just like him."
Mike responds to fans threatening to boycott the upcoming Monkees tour if Kevin Spacey is not invited to sing Daydream Believer as a tribute to Davy Jones.

"OK now this is getting out of hand -- or maybe out of control -- or something.

“Apparently there is a fan group -- Monkees fans -- who have formed a large contingent to boycott the upcoming tour unless and until we invite Kevin Spacey to sing ‘Daydream Believer’ as a tribute to Davy.

“Now, I like Kevin. He is a close friend that calls all the time, at least he says he is Kevin Spacey, and we talk a lot, but there are too many things that are just plain wrong with this, if I may be so bold as to scold.

“First Micky and Peter and I are in rehearsals now and working very hard to put together a great show that includes a solution to what to do about ‘Daydream Believer.’ We have some very good ideas, and we think they will work out well.

“None of them include having Kevin sing, and as good a friend as he is -- he calls all the time, really, like at 3 a.m. and so forth -- I just can't agree to this.

“Yes, I think David would like the Bobby Darin connection, and, yes, Kevin is a good singer, a really fantastic impressionist, but he is waaay too old, and he cannot, as far as I know do the Davy dance. Not that he would ever need to, but I don't think he can do it.

“I mean, he limped a little in ‘Usual Suspects’ -- but that is a very long way from the Davy dance -- a really, very, very long way.

“And now these so-called ‘fans,’ as they call themselves, want to boycott this concert tour unless and until we invite Kevin to sing ‘Daydream Believer’ at the end of the show.

“I am beside myself with worry over this, and don't know what to do. To have such a revolution among people who should know better and who have never even talked to Kevin as I have, sometimes for hours and hours when he was thinking about maybe leaving show biz, just makes me so sad and confused.

“But for you ‘Spacey Cadets,’ as I will now call you disparagingly, Peter and Micky and I have got this whole Daydream Believer thing right at the top of our list of things to bring to the concert in the best and right way. It is important to us, and we don't intend to mess around with this. There are times when the Monkees just have to get serious and this is certainly one of them.

“So, pushing us around, and making the three of us have agonizing conversations in the rehearsal studio, and sometimes during meals, even, is just not helping at all.

“Please stop -- and please do not boycott the shows, and please do not poison anyone else into boycotting the shows. I am asking nicely because I just don't know what else to do.

“These shows are going to be so much fun, and will represent the whole Monkees part of our lives so well, that you just don't want to miss them. (Micky and Peter are sounding better than ever, BTW).”

Let me just add, Mike is the best.  Eventually, Micky Dolenz stepped in to set the record straight in an interview with Musicradar:

[Laughs] "That's a joke! It's a total joke. That was just, like, goofing. No, what has been discussed is having friends and people come on stage in select places and singing along with us. Ringo does that. U2 – Bono brings people up. In fact, Davy Jones joined U2 on stage once for 'Daydream Believer'. So that's what that was all about. We understand that Jimmy is a fan and likes the music, so maybe he will show up on stage somewhere as a guest. But he wouldn't be replacing Davy."

Micky also tells an interesting story about his unique right-handed, left footed drumming style:

"What happened was, I started taking lessons from my first teacher, John Carlos, a very famous drum teacher. But before that, when I was a kid, I had a leg-bone disease. Fortunately, it didn't turn out to be serious, but it made my right leg weak – it still is – and I'm right-handed. So this presented a problem.

"I sat down and started playing at a traditional kit, but my right leg got very tired playing the kick. I told this to John Carlos, and he said, 'Well, you're still learning. Just switch it around.' I started playing the kick with my left, which was fine, and I played the snare with my left hand and the hi-hat with my right leg. It became this sort of V-formation. That's how I learned, and it became kind of interesting. I think it contributed to some of the unique rhythms I've come up with because of that configuration."