Tagged: Christian Bale

Box Office Democracy: The Big Short

I probably don’t need to explain bubble economies to anyone reading this website.

In the mid-90s following a boom period, fueled by the idea that all comic books were guaranteed to increase in value, the comic book industry suffered a collapse that closed two-thirds of comic book stores nationwide. If it weren’t for their bankability as movie and TV properties, it might have forever pushed comic books to the fringes of the American consciousness. I don’t need to explain the volatility of an inflated market to a comic book fan, but if you’d like to see why the financial collapse of 2008 was the same kind of thing magnified 1000x by greed and fraud, I think you’d enjoy The Big Short.

My degree is in economics and I’ve always felt I had a good handle on the 2008 collapse (in fact, despite some of the claims in the film it wasn’t the complete surprise it’s portrayed as) but I’ve struggled to explain it to people, and The Big Short does an amazing job making complicated topics accessible. Director Adam McKay doesn’t hesitate to have characters break the fourth wall to explain the more complicated financial terms, and even brings in celebrity guests to do little vignettes demonstrating more complicated concepts providing clever and offbeat opportunities to bury some clunky exposition. That along with some healthy repetition makes the whole thing easy to understand. The Big Short is a masterful breakdown of a terrible time that I sincerely hope makes filmgoers good and angry.

Everyone in The Big Short seems to be acting as if they think every scene could end up on their Oscar reel. It’s good, but it’s good in that way where you can kind of see how much effort is going in to the performances. Steve Carell is hitting his accent just as hard as he can, and his righteous indignation burns smoldering hot. Christian Bale is playing is playing a character with Asperger’s, and his commitment to nail all the associated eccentricities is admirable but sometimes the seams show. Ryan Gosling is charming and funny and gets a higher laugh per line ratio than anyone else, and honestly probably speaks more than he has in his last three movies combined. It feels a little strange to want to ding a movie for everyone acting so well, but there was such a strong feeling of effort that was just a touch off-putting in an otherwise excellent film.

I suppose I was also a little uncomfortable with the insistence of playing so many of these characters as heroes for their role in the financial collapse. While none of them created the bubble or did anything specifically unethical, there doesn’t seem to be a herculean effort undertaken to stop it. They see something wrong, some of them make a token effort to stop it and then they make staggering amounts of money off of being right. Even Brad Pitt who seems inserted in to the movie solely to provide indignation on behalf of those who will be hurt when the economy collapses, doesn’t do anything to stop anything. If this is supposed to be a real takedown of the excesses of the system that almost destroyed the world less than a decade ago I wish it were a little harsher on the people who were simply willing to claim a slight moral high ground while pocketing nine figure sums for their trouble.

Box Office Democracy: “Exodus: Gods and Kings”

Exodus: Gods and Kings is a throwback to another era of filmmaking, a time when Hollywood was obsessed with sweeping epics and the infamous “cast of thousands” drawing people to the theater to see the sheer spectacle of it all. While there’s certainly no shortage of spectacle at the multiplexes these days Exodus feels less like a loving throwback and more like a lumbering dinosaur, it’s feels like a movie from a different era for sure but I would much prefer it felt like something I’d never seen than something that bored my in middle school. It wastes a talented cast and some stunning visuals but just ultimately feels pointless.

The problems in Exodus all come back to problems with the protagonist. Moses does not resemble the character I remember from Sunday school; he’s a brilliant general and a peerless swordsman to name two new characteristics. None of this newfound character badassery is of any use at all to the story though as all of the work of liberating the Hebrew slaves from their bondage is done by God. God even specifically calls out Moses’ ineptitude when his plan of guerilla warfare will take too long. The main character has nothing to do with any of the successes or failures in the main plot past the very first section of the movie and so there’s very little investment in the outcome especially when you consider that literally everyone in the audience knows how this story ends.

Ridley Scott is a fantastic director and he has made a beautiful movie. He makes the ten plagues feel so big and so horrible the mini-montages are practically worth the price of admission themselves. They show a level of craft and an eye for cinema that comes from a superb director, I have no doubt that most other people would have made worse choices and produced something that felt either overdone or campy. Unfortunately outside of the plague scenes the movie looks just a little too much like Gladiator for my taste. These old suits of armor and the massive armies don’t feel fresh to me; they feel like Scott is trying to use an old shorthand to connect to his audience. It feels just a touch too lazy and lazy is never a word I would have used about Ridley Scott before.

I feel it’s important to touch upon the race issues in the film because if anything I think they’re being underreported. Yes, all of the principle characters in the film are played by white people and that’s horrible but it’s really telling where they decided where it was ok to case people of color: the wives of Moses and Ramses. In these roles they cast an Iranian and a Spanish woman and exoticized them as much as they possibly could. These women have the darkest skin of almost anyone in the movie and with that comes an elevated level of sexualization. Nefertari is only seen in bed and Zipporah does this repeated bit of weird sexual gatekeeping. It’s the worst racial choice in a movie full where dozens of white people wear makeup to appear browner. It’s profoundly disappointing.

Mike Gold: And This Is How The World Ends!

Gold Art 130828OMG! OMG! Did you hear who they’ve signed to play Batman in a whole bunch of movies, starting with Man of Steel 2? No, not Anthony Weiner. And not Ann Coulter –she’s already signed to play Nick Fury in the S.H.I.E.L.D. teevee series. No, Warner Bros. found somebody far worse. They hired the very personification of celluloid evil: Ben Affleck.

Yes, I’m sure you heard of this. So did literally tens of thousands of “fans” who were so upset they signed a petition condemning the action. And seemingly hundreds of thousands went to Facebook, to Twitter, hell some even reactivated their My Space accounts to express their extreme displeasure. Yea, verily, Ragnarök is upon us!

To quote the immortal William Shatner, get a life. You’re entitled to your opinion; if you don’t think Ben Affleck is a worthy actor, that’s your opinion. In my opinion, you’re wrong – Ben Affleck is a perfectly fine actor on his worst day. Besides, it doesn’t matter who’s inside the rubber suit. Lassie would look fine in the Batsuit, as long as she didn’t try to lick herself.

The question is, can the performer handle the role of Bruce Wayne? Quite frankly, this is not a tricky part to handle. Any handsome high school senior who did The Great Gatsby can do it. It’s hard to imagine Affleck turning in any less a performance than Michael Keaton – who I thought was fine – and a better performance than Keaton’s first two successors.

I realize it’s heresy to say this, but that’s never stopped me before: Christian Bale didn’t have all that much to do as Bruce Wayne. When he did, he was fine but nobody was wailing about his being cheated out of an Oscar (Registered Trademark, AMPAS, All Rights Reserved, Watch Yer Ass).

I’ll even defend the Daredevil movie. Ben Affleck wasn’t what was wrong with that movie, and, honestly, in my opinion it wasn’t a bad movie. We had come to expect better Marvel superhero movies, but it was better than both Hulks and either Fantastic Four. More important, the director’s cut was actually a good movie. Not Spider-Man 2 good, not The Dark Knight good, but a solidly entertaining movie with some fine performances. Direct your wrath at whomever cut the theatrical print.

Besides, Affleck can’t help but walk all over Henry Cavill. It’s the approach to Man of Steel 2 that concerns me. The first one was totally misguided. It wasn’t Superman. Actually, it was Batman.

I’ll say one thing for the hiring of Ben Affleck. It shows that Warner Bros. is willing to put their money where their, well, their sundry body parts are. Signing him to a multi-movie contract shows they’re in it for the long haul. It shows they understand what Robert Downey Jr. did for the Marvel movie universe.

And if there’s ever a Marvel/DC crossover movie – calm down; this is just a what-if – I can’t think of a more enjoyable pairing than Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Affleck.

Besides, we already know Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark sit on each other’s board of directors.




The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Coming in September

Batman Begins_bat-signalA day after Christian Bale confirmed he would not don the cape and cowl for a Justice League movie comes the official announcement of his three Dark Knight films being collected in time for the holidays. Christopher Nolan’s vision of Gotham City and its defender resuscitated Batman after a fallow stretch and showed us a darker view of heroism and its costs. Here’s the official press release:

Burbank, Calif. July 1, 2013 – Christopher Nolan’s reimagining of the Batman franchise beginning with 2005’s Batman Begins enjoyed phenomenal critical and box-office success.

Now on September 24, Nolan’s three Batman films Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises – will be released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment as The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition. The six-disc set will feature all three films with their existing extra content, two new featurettes and exclusive new collectible memorabilia. This must-own collection for fans of DC Comics’ Caped Crusader is available in premium packaging and will sell for $99.97 SRP.

TheDarkKnightRises_TeaserPoster-600x887About the Ultimate Collector’s Edition (UCE):

*Disc 1 – Batman Begins Feature and Special Features

*Disc 2 – The Dark Knight Feature

*Disc 3 – The Dark Knight Special Features

*Disc 4 – The Dark Knight Rises Feature

*Disc 5 – The Dark Knight Rises Special Features

*Disc 6 – Bonus Disc of New Special Features (details follow)

NEW Special Features:

  • The Fire Rises: The Creation and Impact of The Dark Knight Trilogy  The inside perspective on the fascinating story behind the creation of one of the most celebrated franchises and how it changed the scope of movie making….forever.  Full of never-before-seen footage, rare moments, and exclusive interviews with  Guillermo Del Toro, Damon Lindelof, Michael Mann, Richard Roeper, Zack Snyder and others.
  • Christopher Nolan & Richard Donner: A Conversation – For the first time, Directors Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy) and Richard Donner (Superman) sit down to discuss the trials and triumphs involved in bringing the two most iconic superheroes of all time to the big screen, and how Superman influenced Nolan when developing Batman Begins.
  • IMAX® Sequences: The Dark Knight; The Dark Knight Rises – See your favorite scenes as they were intended in the original IMAX© aspect ratio

Exclusive NEW Memorabilia:

  • Premium Mattel Hot Wheels Vehicles: Batmobile, Batpod and Tumbler
  • Newly commissioned collectible art cards by Mondo featuring Scarecrow, Joker, Bane, Harvey Dent, and Ra’s al Ghul
  • 48-page hardcover book featuring production stills and behind the scenes images from all three movies

About The Films

Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins explores the origins of the Batman legend and the Dark Knight’s emergence as a force for good in Gotham. In the wake of his parents’ murder, disillusioned industrial heir Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels the world seeking the means to fight injustice and turn fear against those who prey on the fearful. He returns to Gotham and unveils his alter-ego: Batman, a masked crusader who uses his strength, intellect and an array of high tech deceptions to fight the sinister forces that threaten the city.

New Images and IMAX TV Spot Debut For The Dark Knight RisesThe Dark Knight (2008)

The follow-up to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in his continuing war on crime. With the help of Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The triumvirate proves effective, but soon find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker (Heath Ledger), who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces Batman closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante. Maggie Gyllenhaal joins the cast as Rachel Dawes. Returning from Batman Begins are Oldman, Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox.

Dark Knight Rises (2012)

It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act.

catwoman poseBut everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane. Christian Bale stars, along with Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Morgan Freeman.


Street Date: September 24, 2013

Order Due Date: August 20, 2013

Catalog/UPC #: 1000372133 / 883929308002

Pricing: $99.97 SRP

Note: All enhanced content listed above is subject to change.

Blu-ray Disc™ and Blu-ray™ and the logos are the trademarks of Blu-ray Disc Association.

® & © 2009 IMAX Corporation. All rights reserved.

Warner Home Video Blu-ray Discs™ offer resolution six times higher than standard definition DVDs, as well as extraordinarily vibrant contrast and color and beautifully crisp sound. The format also provides a higher level of interactivity, with instant access to extra features via a seamless menu bar where viewers can enjoy features without leaving or interrupting the film.

Emily S. Whitten: Awesomely Terrible Movies I Love – Equilibrium

Whitten Art 130226After years of being vaguely aware that there exists a movie in which Christian Bale is the star and the most ridiculously-named martial art ever, “Gun Kata,” is also a thing, I finally sat down to watch Equilibrium last weekend. (Netflix is responsible for many of my viewing decisions these days, for which I am unashamed. The very minute I saw they’d added this, it went in my queue.) From beginning to end and even after the credits rolled, I found myself saying, “This movie is awesome.”

If by awesome, of course, you mean at times both grandiose and sublimely ridiculous. I may also have been laughing hysterically when I said it. I may have even slapped my knee. I may have then gone to Twitter and posted, “OMG you guys, Equilibrium is the craziest movie. The craziest.” Regardless of all of that probably not being the reaction writer and director Kurt Wimmer was going for, I thoroughly enjoyed this film.

Equilibrium is about a post-WWIII future in which some doofus the citizens refer to as “Father” decided that the way to avoid a fourth World War (which it was postulated humanity could not survive) was to eliminate human emotion in the population, and apparently everybody else was just A-OK with that. The movie’s government “eliminates” emotion by a) administering a mind-numbing drug (Prozium) that citizens are required to take at regular intervals; and b) destroying anything remotely artsy or multicolored, and killing those who have tried to keep it because they are guilty of having feelings, which in this film is called a “sense offense.” (I love the way that sounds. “What’s his crime? Sense offense!!!” It’s so dramatic.) The government enforces its will with “Clerics,” who go wherever anyone is, as the Internet would say, “having feels” about something, and, you know, shoots them in the head, efficiently and martial-artsily. (This is where the Gun Kata comes in.)

John Preston (Christian Bale) is the Mary Sue Cleric who is super amazingly good at knowing (one might almost say sensing) when someone is having the feels, and at killing them in various efficient and emotionless ways, and burning art and stuff. There’s also a plot that includes Taye Diggs and is actually supposed to be a driving part of the main storyline, but it pales in comparison to watching Christian Bale a) kill people and burn things in various dramatic ways; and b) manage to somehow get his acting point across while being completely “emotionless.” He’s actually very good at it (and when he finally quirks a tiny smile it’s fantastic). I also suspect this role was superb practice for calm and methodical Batman.

Anyway, actual plot aside, the movie is mostly about what happens when Mr. Mary Sue goes off his meds. Hint: it involves a lot of gratuitous violence. The script has some interesting points it’s trying to make, but they never quite land, and I think it’s because the suspension of disbelief required is just too much. The audience is asked to believe that everyone just acquiesced to this silly “no feelings” rule as the best way to eliminate war; and then the few at the top of the government (who obviously must be having, as the internet says, “all the feels,” while the population gets none, because I doubt they could run the government while on Prozium) use ultraviolent war-like tactics anyway to wipe out anyone who’s still feeling; and so we know the government is corrupt and doesn’t believe its own message; but then we never see any benefit the few government folks who are running the Clerics and everyone else actually get except at one point when we see that the head dude, Dupont, has a nice office (with art!); and, and, and…what exactly is the point being made here? That it’s important to feel things? That art is good? That people will try to repress you using shoddily thin reasoning just for the hell of it? I think it’s trying to say something about free will, but I’m not 100% sure, because the movie never exactly gets wherever it’s trying to go in that regard.

There’s also the fact that none of the people who are supposed to be “not feeling” are that good at it. For instance, Taye Diggs’ character Brandt is a Cleric who keeps saying he’s going to “make his career” with Preston; so he’s ambitious. Which, one would assume, is one of the “feelings” the government would be most keen on eliminating, because ambition can sure cause a lot of war and stuff, eh? Nevertheless, one of the main “unfeeling” characters is practically blazing with ambition throughout the movie. He also shows a tiny bit of (sadistic) humor. Is he off his meds, too? Why would he be? It doesn’t seem to really advance the government’s plans for him to be feeling. It’s a total contradiction. And then there’s Sean Bean’s Cleric, Partridge, who has been on and off his meds and just pretending to be an unfeeling bastard for about two weeks when the movie starts. And William Fichtner’s underground fighter, who is not on meds but forcing himself not to feel so he can help the others who do. And then we find out there are even more characters who somehow suddenly decided to stop their mind-numbing meds and are just pretending. So clearly the Prozium doesn’t work that well, and the government should have fallen long before Superstar Cleric John Preston decided to rebel. It’s all just a little hard to swallow.

But putting all of that aside; oh the fun of this movie! There is a lot to love about it despite the contradictions and leaps in logic, including that it seems to actually be taking itself seriously. (Also that Kurt Wimmer apparently “invented” Gun Kata “in his back yard” Hah!) This is a movie that’s trying to be at least four movies at once – it’s got the serious “dystopian” message; the visual aspect that reminds me at times of an art film (like the scene with Preston at his bedroom window); the “emotional” journey of a lead character; and the amazingly gratuitous violence of a Bruce Willis/Vin Diesel/Jason Statham/insert-other-action-hero-here film, all snuggling up with each other to somehow produce a decently cohesive film.

The dystopian message, while hopelessly muddled, is at least somewhat interesting. Visually, the movie is pretty darned cool. The stark uniforms and buildings; the (hit-you-over-the-head metaphor) contrast of Bale’s black and white outfits; and the way they make the “feeling” underground area a mix of great art and graffiti that contrasts with the colorless overworld are all appealing. Amazingly, Christian Bale’s acting in a movie which for the most part is supposed to be showing people not feeling at all kept me interested, in that kind of “fascinated scientist/trainwreck-watcher way, in what was going to happen next. And the action, while insane, is fun to watch; from Bale taking out a roomful of guards in seconds in a pristine white suit, to the bit where he apparently pushes a button or something and nail-heads suddenly jut from the bottom of two gun barrels so that he can use the guns to more effectively smash guards in the face. (Seriously, who even thinks of that? Or is that an actual real-life thing for some reason?)

Look, I’m not even going to pretend that Equilibrium is a “great” movie, nor that I enjoyed it in the way Wimmer intended. It is ridiculous and violent, with pretensions of grandeur and thinkiness. It’s a little bit Boondock Saints-ish, but with less of a linear point being made, and even more gratuitousness to the violence. It takes itself so seriously that it comes out the other side and becomes slightly cheesy. But the combination of action and attempts at making a grand statement make for a movie that at least kept my attention, and it has the right amount of cheese to make it enjoyable to watch. Despite having only one outright humorous line in the whole film, I laughed a lot. Plus, of course, Christian Bale is smokin’, and we get Sean Bean and William Fichtner acquitting themselves well, too. (If only Oliver Platt had played the government leader Dupont instead of Angus Macfadyen, the casting would have been perfect.) I’m not saying Equilibrium is for everyone; but if you go into the movie for the words “Gun Kata” and “Christian Bale” you probably won’t be disappointed.

So if you’re looking for a movie to watch this week and have streaming Netflix…well, you know what I’d recommend.

Enjoy! And until next time, Servo Lectio!





John Ostrander: That Shiny Nude Dude With The Sword!

Ostrander Art 130224Sometime tonight, in about the second hour of what will seem like a three day Oscar broadcast, my butt will go numb and I will ask myself, “Why am I watching this?” It happens every year and then the following year, I do it again. Am I a masochist? Do I just forget? Why do I care who wins what? I haven’t seen most of the films or performances nominated.

I’m not alone in this. Umpty-bum millions of people will tune in to the broadcast worldwide. It’s not the only movie awards show on anymore, either. You have the Director’s Guild, the Screen Actor’s Guild, the Independent Spirit Awards, the Golden Globes and more all handing out awards. That’s not even mentioning the Tony Awards or all of the different music awards or the People’s Choice Awards, The Emmy Awards or what have you. I’m surprised they don’t yet have the Awards Channel on cable; all awards, all the time. And the Red Carpet shows that precede them.

I understand why it’s a big deal to those nominated for the Awards (whichever Award it is) or to the Industry (whichever Industry it is) but why should it matter to anyone else? Why does it matter to me? Why do I watch? Why do any of us?

Let’s face it, fellow nerds – we aren’t represented. The films we mostly watched aren’t up for awards. Where’s the Oscar for the best actor in a superhero movie? Nominees would have to include Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises, probably Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man, and then there’s The Avengers which could be a category all by itself. Who do you not include? Certainly Robert Downey Jr.’s turn as Tony Stark/Iron Man is amazing but how could you not include Mark Ruffalo who made a Bruce Banner/Hulk really work on celluloid for the first time ever.

And the support actors! Again, in The Avengers – Samuel L. Jackson (who should get an Oscar just for being Samuel L. Jackson) or Tom Hiddleston as Loki who almost steals the movie. Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson who provides the heart and the reason to call the group The Avengers – where’s his nomination?

You can make the same argument for The Dark Knight Rises with Michael Caine’s Alfred who is heart wrenching, or Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon who is really the moral center of all three Batman movies. Daniel Day Lewis was amazing in Lincoln but he only had a beard to cope with. Let’s see him put on Bane’s mask and do any where near as good as Tom Hardy did. C’mon – let’s handicap these races for degree of difficulty!

Anne Hathaway got a nomination (and will probably get the Oscar) for her role in Les Miserables but did you see that, my fellow nerds, or did you see her as Catwoman? Sally Field was great as Mrs. Lincoln but why isn’t she recognized as Aunt May?

And best director? Okay, okay – Ang Lee did a knockout job (or so I’m told; I haven’ seen it) of getting a boy and a tiger on a lifeboat in Life of Pi. Stephen Spielberg did an outstanding job in Lincoln, not only creating the characters of the Civil War but the setting, making you feel like You Were There. And there’s all kinds of talk about how The Academy snubbed Ben (Daredevil) Affleck on Argo.

I got two words for you. Joss Whedon. The third act of The Avengers with the attack on Manhattan by the alien hordes, balancing and making all the superheroes – the lead characters in their own movies – work well together. ‘Nuff said.

Why don’t these movies get Academy Award consideration? They made money. Gobs and gobs of it. So far as Hollywood is concerned, that’s their award except maybe for the grudging technical awards. Maybe it is. The folks doing those may have longer careers than those who get an Oscar tonight – because if there’s one thing Hollywood respects more than Awards, it’s cash.

So, yeah, I’ll watch the Academy Awards tonight. Force of habit, maybe. Maybe we’ll have to have an alternative award for folks like us – the Nerdies.

As a great man once said – Excelsior!




The Point Radio: Nolan & Bale – The Final Words On DARK KNIGHT

As the nation continues with the healing process, we look again at THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. We talk with Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale (and Anne Hathaway, of course) on the pressures they felt even before the first tickets were sold. Plus THE HOBBIT may be three movies, and an ill John Noble halts production on FRINGE.

Don’t miss a minute of pop culture news – The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

A Mike Baron Short Story: Bat Fan v. Fat Ban

This was it. Ragnarok, Armageddon, and Doomsday rolled into one. This was the premier of Batman: The Killer Croc’s Revenge, the latest installment in the greatest movie franchise of all time. Christian Bale as Batman. Gary Oldman as Chief Gordon. Lindsay Lohan as Rachel Dawes. And Sean Penn as Killer Croc.

Wayne Callard stood in line with 1500 other Bat Fans waiting for the Cinegrande Cineplex to open its doors. Wayne had been waiting in line for nineteen hours. He’d camped out on the sidewalk the previous night, swathing his bulk in two double-sized down-filled sleeping bags on a foam mattress. Wayne was five feet seven and weighed 350 lbs. He’d been born Cicero Wayne Callard.

“Man,” said Manny Ramirez standing next to Wayne and blowing on his hands, “I hope they open the doors soon! I could use a tube steak!” Manny wore Bat sneakers and a Batpack.

“Haven’t you heard?” Wayne said. “They pulled all the hot dogs. The fat content was too high.”

Manny regarded Wayne dubiously. “You’re shittin’ me.”

“No sir. The mayor signed the executive order yesterday. He doubled the food tax on all fast food items and mandated the removal of such items as hot dogs, French fries, jalapeno poppers, and deep fried cheese curds.”

“You gotta be shittin’ me!” Manny wailed. “What kind of dumb fuck would do that?”

“An overreaching municipal, state, and federal government that seeks to control all aspects of our lives and treat us like children.”

“I been thinkin’ about that hot dog all night! It’s the only thing that kept me going!”

“Hang, bro,” Wayne said. “I got you covered.”

A shout. A huzzah rose up the line. They had opened the doors. It was ten-thirty in the morning. Excitement was palpable among the faithful, overwhelmingly comprised of adolescent boys with a few sullen adults shepherding their cubs and hapless girlfriends in tow.

Two security guards met them at the door. “Please deposit all liquids, foods, and recording devices here. Sir, would you mind opening your coat?”

Wayne dutifully spread wide his bulky pea coat revealing a round mound covered with a nicely pilled argyle sweater that had belonged to his grandfather. The guard looked away and waved him through.

“Sir, would you mind opening your backpack?” the guard said to Manny.

Manny slipped it off and flipped open the lid. “It’s a Batpack.”

Tickets were nine dollars for the eleven o’clock matinee, twelve dollars for shows after noon. Wayne got his ticket and waited for Manny in the lobby where the snack counter was doing a brisk business in popcorn made with sunflower oil and available with virgin olive oil, tofu on a stick, and fruit smoothies.

Manny entered the lobby. “Ahmina get a Coke and some buttered popcorn, okay?”

“There is no buttered popcorn. It’s available with sunflower oil and olive oil.”

Manny’s jaw crushed a toe. He looked toward the refreshment counters which resembled festival seating at a Who concert. He resigned himself to water. Wayne took off at flank speed. It was imperative to get your seats first and fish for food second. By the time Wayne and Manny gained the theater, the plum rows eight through twelve were taken with sniveling, squirming, texting, snarfing boys and men in a state of perpetual shiftiness emitting a low rumble of conversation punctuated by invective.

Wayne took the third seat in the 13th row except it was labeled the 14th to avoid the onus of superstition. Manny sat on the aisle. The big screen showed a ruddy, cheerful Santa Claus in coitus with a reindeer, guzzling Coke and shouting, “Shake, it Prancer, you hot bitch!” It was a Very Special Christmas.

During the trailer for Punisher IV – Marvel 0, a flat top and his date, who looked like Betty from Betty & Veronica, entered the aisle causing Manny to swing his legs to the side. Wayne had to stand and even then it was like squeezing by a mattress stuck in the doorway.

“Do you smell McDonald’s?” Betty whispered to her date.

“Shhh!” Wayne shushed. Dude gave him the stink eye but Wayne ignored him. The troublesome couple sat three seats away. They watched a trailer for Zits, the new Will Ferrell comedy in which he plays a child/man forced to grow up when he takes over the family summer camp. They watched a trailer for Grits, the new Adam Sandler comedy in which he plays a child/man forced to grow up when he takes over the family plantation. They watched a trailer for Pits, the new Ben Stiller comedy about black holes. 

Finally, after ads for plastic surgery and whole grain crust chicken and sun-dried tomato pizza, the lights lowered and the feature began. Manny stared at the screen in fascination until the smell of a Big Mac got his attention. Wayne nudged him and passed over a Big Mac.

“What? How?” Manny said, pleased and delighted.

Wayne reached down and pulled a portion of his belly away from himself like a lid. “Prosthetic belly,” he whispered. “Costume store. Got the Big Macs last night in Jersey. Kept ‘em warm with body heat.”

“Shhhh!” Betty shushed harshly.

I know what you’re thinkin’, Wayne thought to himself. In all the confusion, did he pull out two burgers, or three? The question you’ve got to ask yourself, lady, is do you feel lucky?

Batman had a utility belt. Wayne had a prosthetic belly.

Wayne and Manny ate their burgers. Dude immediately in front of Wayne turned in his seat. He had a buzz cut and a ring in one ear and through his nose. “Dude, like that burger you’re eating is totally horrendous. Take it outside, why don’tcha?”

Other young men swiveled to see the object of wrath. Wayne deftly tucked the rest of the Big Mac into his cavernous maw, chewed and swallowed. Reaching into an inside pocket of his pea coat he withdrew a canned Coke, popped the lid and drank copiously. He belched like the Mother of All Bullfrogs. He rolled it out like a black furry carpet. It just kept on rolling. The belch caromed off the ceiling frieze and tumbled ‘round the room.

Onscreen, Batman foiled an attempt by the Punisher to crash his movie.

Buzz Cut jabbed a finger at Wayne. “Why don’t you get up off your fat ass and go sit somewhere else?”

“Yeah!” said his sidekick, Li’l BC.

With a sigh Wayne heaved himself to his feet and motioned for Manny to do likewise. He had not come to rumble with Nazis. He had come to see the movie. He and Manny moved further upslope until they found two seats in the narrow aisle next to the wall.

Onscreen, terrorists had taken over Gotham Tower and were jamming all radio, Internet, and short wave transmissions. In the theater, a gang of twenty-something boys sitting behind Wayne and Manny had seized control of the 18th row and jammed transmissions from the screen by hooting, making noises, and throwing Junior Mints.

A Junior Mint bounced off the back of Wayne’s basketball-sized head. Wayne slowly swiveled with a steely glare. The obstreperous ones studiously watched the screen on which Bruce Wayne was fending off Poison Ivy’s attentions.

Another Junior Mint sailed past. Giggles emanated from the 18th row. Wayne didn’t bother to turn and look. With a sigh of resignation, he gripped his arm rests and heaved himself from his seat. My city bleeds, he thought. He ponderously made his way up the aisle toward the 18th row.

“Oh oh,” they joked. “Look out now, here he comes!”

“Beware the Fat Fury!”

Wayne wondered if the benighted ones were even familiar with Herbie Popnecker. Without looking at them Wayne reached the 19th row and turned in. He sat behind what he took to be the ringleader, a dude in an Oakland hoodie, pants down his ass and BKs on the back of the seats in front of him as if he weren’t the issue of wealthy white mandarins on the Upper West Side.

“You smell something?” the White Negro said.

“Yeah,” said one of his minions. “Something stinks.”

The White Negro turned to confront Wayne, whose knees were up against the back of the seat. “Whassup, you fat faggot? Why don’tcha move your bulk somewhere else, know what I’m sayin’?”

Wayne reached into his belly prosthetic and brought forth a halogen flashlight and a water pistol filled with dog urine. “Please turn around and enjoy the movie for which you paid nine dollars.”

Onscreen, Batman confronted a crazed Killer Croc in the act of planting a bomb.

Offscreen, the White Negro said, “Or what? You gonna make me?”

Wayne turned the flashlight on the White Negro’s face. He squirted dog urine on the White Negro’s shirt.

“There,” Wayne said. “Now you have a smell to complain about.”

The White Negro heaved himself over the back of his seat and attacked Wayne with both hands, delivering blow after blow to Wayne’s prosthetic belly. The White Negro’s fist penetrated several of the twelve thumbtacks Wayne and pushed through the front of his sweater. Stinking of dog urine, the White Negro stared in horror at his bleeding fists.

The manager, a pale young man with a ponytail, came up the stairs with his own flashlight which he shined on the whole sorry scene. He sniffed. “Okay, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you all to leave. Your ticket money will be refunded out front in the lobby. Let’s go.”

The White Negro turned on him in wounded innocence. “But we didn’t do anything! This fat fuck started messing with us!”

Wayne remained seated. “They threw Junior Mints at the back of my head. I’m sure a police search will reveal the Mints.”

“What’s that smell?” the manager said.

“Smells like dog piss,” one of the minions said. He had the makings of a fine detective.

“All right, that’s it,” said the manager with newly found authority. “Out of here right now or I’ll stop the film, turn up the lights and call the cops.”

There was some grumbling but when two more ushers appeared with flashlights on the landing below the White Negro resignedly got to his feet and led his minions out the door. “It sucks anyway.”

The manager turned his flashlight on Wayne. Wayne turned his flashlight on the manager. “You too,” the manager said.

Moi?” Wayne said. “I have troubled no one. I have thrown Junior Mints at no one. I merely seek to watch the movie which is ruined for me now, ruined I say because of incessant interruptions and the obstreperous and contumacious nature of your clientele.”

“Let’s go,” the manager said. “You can get a refund in the lobby.”

Wayne rose with dignity. “Fine,” he said and waddled down the stairs, pausing only to glance at Manny, who dutifully joined him. The two lads soon found themselves nine dollars richer individually and out on the street.

“Now what do we do?” Manny said.

Gazing at a poster for The Bourne Natural Killers, Wayne deduced their next move. “Come on. We’ll make our own movie. We’ll shoot it on my phone.”

©2012 Mike Baron. All Rights Reserved


Watch The New Trailer and Viral Campaign site for “The Dark Knight Rises”


Anne Hathaway as Catwoman in The Dark Knight R...

There’s new viral stuff up at http://www.thedarkknightrises.com/ (if anybody makes it to the Empire State Building, let us know what you find) and we have a new trailer for The Dark Knight Rises to show you.

Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ “The Dark Knight Rises” is the epic conclusion to filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Leading an all-star international cast, Christian Bale again plays the dual role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. The film also stars Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle; Tom Hardy as Bane; Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake. Michael Caine plays Alfred; Gary Oldman is Commissioner Gordon; and Morgan Freeman reprises the role of Lucius Fox.

“The Dark Knight Rises” hits theaters July 20.

Marc Alan Fishman: Avengers Vs. Dark Knight Rises – The Battle for the Multiplex

This past week on my podcast (which you’re not listening to, but totally should), a debate sparked that was left largely unresolved. Since I have this digital soapbox, might as well use it to bring said debate to you.

In a few weeks, the mega-multiplexes of America will be screening the culmination of years of work by the House funded by the Mouse. The Avengers will see the fruition of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger in one massively multiplayer action adventure flick. About a month or so later, Warner Bros. unleashes the end to Christopher Nolan’s bat-child, The Dark Knight Rises. There’s no doubt in my mind that both of these movies will be amazingly profitable. But the debate is this: which will bank more bucks? Which will be a better movie? Let’s look at the tail of the tape.

First up? Marvel’s Mightiest Heroes. Behind the scenes, we have the consummate king of the nerds… Joss Whedon as director. His writer team? Well… Whedon wrote with Zak Penn. Penn you’ll note wrote the successes such as The Incredible Hulk and X2, and the failures such as X-Men: The Last Stand and Electra. On the screen itself, the cast is of course a veritable galaxy of stars. Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scartlet Johansson, and Gwyneth Paltrow will all be in the film. Unlike any other franchise in history, The Avengers will coalesce four franchises into a single picture. From here? It’s all but a given that the there will be a sequel, as corresponding sub-sequels for all the individual characters. Can you hear that? It’s the sound of money growing on trees. Trees that became paper. Paper that became comic books.

The Dark Knight Rises, as previously mentioned, is helmed by Christopher Nolan. Nolan’s career has been nothing short of a meteoric ascent to directorial gold. Nolan also helped pen this end to his triptych with his brother Jonathan, and David S. Goyer – who, as you will recall, helped pen Batman Begins and Blade 2. And Ghost Rider: Spirit of Bad Acting. But you can’t win them all, can you?

Under the cape and cowl will once again be Christian Bale, joined by series stalwarts Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman. The villain this go-around will be played by Tom Hardy. You’ll recognize Hardy as the mildly funny Brit in Inception. While not as big in scope as Marvel’s upcoming blockbuster, The Dark Knight Rises is the follow up to the single most profitable comic book inspired movie of all time. For those who don’t recall, The Dark Knight did so well in the movie theaters, comic retailers reported sales of The Watchmen had gone up in response (which is nothing short of amazing, if you ask any retailer these days). With TDKR, Nolan puts his series to an end. Speculation on the plot, and how things will resolve has most everyone around in a tizzy.

The question then to ask: Which movie will make more money? Needless to say, both will bank boku bucks. For the sake of this argument, I’ll remove revenue from merchandise. Why? Because face it: Nolan’s Bat-Flicks haven’t spawned successful lines of toys; Marvel’s has. Specifically speaking on ticket sales? This is quite the toss up, is it not? On one hand you have the obvious ultimate popcorn movie in The Avengers. From the trailers we can safely assume there’s going to be wall to wall action, explosions, the Hulk, fighting, one liners, and boobs. Opposing that mentality, Nolan will nab those looking for a bit more substance. Whereas Marvel’s flicks were squarely targeting tweens and teens (with a side of general comic nerds and action geeks to boot…), DC’s Bat-Franchise has been nothing if adult in its complexity.

Gun to my head… if you asked me to choose, I’d end up with the nod to the Avengers making more moolah at the end of the day. The Dark Knight had the death of Heath Ledger, on top of the oscar buzz for his performance, on top of previous audience gained from Batman Begins. But TDKR features a villain most people aren’t familiar with (Bane ain’t exactly a household name now, is he?), and a star whose potential is only just now being noticed. And if other comic book trilogies are to be looked at (Spider-Man, X-Men, and previous Bat-Incarnations), the end of an era does not always translate into positive earnings. With The Avengers, we simply have too many stars to not draw an amazing crowd. Fans of any of those feeder movies no doubt want to see a team up. It’s the whole reason books like The Avengers and Justice League always sell so well!

Now, I would give The Dark Knight Rises the edge ultimately in terms of potential film quality. Not a knock on The Avengers mind you… I think from what we’ve seen, Whedon will deliver the goods. But The Avengers has more chance to pratfall than ascend to nerdvana. With so many stars on screen, there’s a real chance too much time will be spent assembling, mocking, and joking. And we can tell much of the movie will be dealing with a Loki-lead invasion fight scene. And just how much CGI action can we effectively sit through? Given the spectacle (and disappointment) of the last Matrix movie, suffice to say I’m fretful.

With Batman, Nolan seems to have been methodically building a dramatic arc. Bruce Wayne by way of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight has been an evolving force of nature. But Nolan’s best job has been grounding that force in reality. He’s delivered where so many others have failed: comic book movies without heroic quips and a knowing wink to the camera. When that theme of the dissonant chords let us know the Joker was at work, it was truly chilling. To think that Nolan is ending this series, one must postulate he’s had an ending in mind since the start. On that knowledge, I give the edge over to DC. Simply put, I’m more excited for their flick because I genuinely do not know what will happen.

In The Avengers? I’m almost certain we’ll have the following: Loki attacks. Avengers assemble by way of initial in-fighting. Disaster. True assembling. Fighting. Explosions. Boobs. Victory. Open ending for more sequels. Not that it’s a bad formula… but it’s just that: a formula.

So, plenty of points to discuss. Flame me, Internet, for I have opinions. Will Bats take more money? Will Avengers be the Return of the King for Comic Book movies? Discuss!

SUNDAY: John Ostrander