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Batman [DVD] [1989]
Batman [DVD] [1989]
Dvd ~ Michael Keaton
Price: £3.00

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It has dated quite badly, 27 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Batman [DVD] [1989] (DVD)
Wow, this film seemed so impressive and mystical when it was released in 1989. Clearly heavily-influenced by Frank Miller's efforts to turn Batman into a mature man's superhero, but also with an added surreal twist that was plainly all director Tim Burton's own, beyond doubt there was nothing quite like it in the realm of superhero movies, at least back then.

Alas, a couple of decades on, the hype that surrounded the movie back in the day no longer seems convincing. Part of the problem is that the series that this film spawned very quickly deteriorated into increasingly mindless and incoherent run-arounds and set-piece stories with each passing sequel; it is almost impossible to believe that Batman & Robin is even part of the same continuity. Also, the correct decision to 'reboot' the series, with Chris Nolan taking over the reins, does this film no favours, for the simple reason that Batman Begins and its successors were so obviously, effortlessly, and intellectually superior, that in hindsight, the Burton/Schumacher series seems shallow and childish.

But also, the sad fact is that this movie has many aspects to it that have dated in their own right. Batman's physical stunts seemed exciting in their time, and many scales more impressive than Adam West's campathons in the 1960's TV series, but nowadays they look rather static and stilted. (Tim Burton was never much kop at directing action anyway.) Michael Keaton's performance as Bruce Wayne is okay in a quirky way, but in the batsuit, his attempts to appear brooding and mysterious instead come across as lazy boredom, reducing the Batman to a characterless 'Well-we-need-someone-to-beat-up-the-baddies-don't-we?' figure. He isn't helped by not really being big enough to play the part, and so sometimes looking like he's almost 'drowning' in the costume. Kim Basinger is utterly wasted as Vicki Vale, who is the sort of stereotype 'helpess female' character who would never get near a movie script today. She falls in love far too easily, she is unintelligent, she becomes obsessed with Bruce Wayne's activities for no reason when she is supposed to be investigating the Batman, and she is all screams and squeals and (inadvertently-suggestive-sounding) yelps any time anything scary happens, just waiting for the big brave hero to come running to rescue her. She is there simply to give Batman someone to save, and Bruce Wayne and the Joker someone sexy to fight over. While Jack Nicholson's performance as the Joker is engaging, once again he is retroactively upstaged by the breathtaking display by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight about twenty years later (and indeed Mark Hamill's brilliant take on the character in the cartoons from the 1990's). In the end, Nicholson is less playing the Joker, more doing a self-parody, and again, you come away unsure that an actor would be allowed to do that today.

The late Michael Gough, always an actor of distinctive stature, is a redeeming feature as Alfred Pennyworth, and it is in the relationship between Bruce Wayne and his butler/surrogate parent that the film is probably at its strongest. It is perhaps unfortunate that this wasn't focused on more, but the film shows an odd reluctance to make explicit who the man behind the mask really is, even though everyone already knows before the titles begin. Instead, it keeps offering coaxing hints hither and thither. Bizarrely, in the second half, the film almost seems to shrug its shoulders and acknowledge that the whole world has known the secret for decades, by acting like it had been revealed ages earlier in the story, when it casually just shows Alfred putting the batsuit away while Bruce looks on.

Much was made in the media back in 1989 about what a fascinating character study and contrast the film was when comparing the two mentally-unstable lead characters - one a brooding, revenge-driven half-psychotic who makes himself as dark and menacing as possible in order to intimidate his enemies, the other a ruthless, greedy killer who makes himself into a clown in the apparent hope of making the world laugh itself to death. In fact, while this contrast is genuine, it is not nearly as interesting as it might have been, chiefly because the Batman gets very little dialogue. Most of what he gets is very functional e.g. a lot of flat instructions such as, "Hold tight", "Come with me", "Shields open", "Tell all your friends about me", "Let's go", "Take that to the press" and so on. I suppose this might be intended to imply that the Batman is all-business, no humour, but at the same time it conveys no implication at all of a man teetering close to insanity. Compared with how Christian Bale was able to explore all sides of Bruce Wayne's/Batman's personality in the rebooted series, in which he was at least as fearsome and menacing but also allowed to display gritty humour (NOT campy humour, a la Batman Forever) and a kinder side to the man, this script really does leave Michael Keaton badly short-changed. There is supposed to be very stark light and darkness in the character, but only the darkness comes across here, leaving the impression of a very one-dimensional personality.

The 'story', as with all the other films in the Burton/Schumacher series, is largely plotless and incoherent. There is very little to connect any of the Joker's activities beyond the fact that it is the Joker who does all of them, while the Batman's 'investigations' also seem very haphazard and ad hoc. The way that Bruce discovers that the Joker is the man who once murdered his parents only carries the plot forward by coincidence, rather than by the hero's shrewdness; had the Joker not recited his utterly meaningless and pointless "dance with the Devil" slogan during their confrontation in Vicki's apartment, Bruce would never have found out. And no one would have cared either, as his parents' deaths in fact have very little to do with the story at all.

On the plus side, there remains considerable merit in the Danny Elfman soundtrack for this film, especially the very stirring title music, which has rightly earned its status as one of the most iconic themes in superhero movie history. The music is about the only aspect of the original series that can be said to be superior to what is in the Nolan series, whose soundtracks are comparatively monotonous.

As for this DVD-release itself, it is utterly devoid of extra features, meaning it is very much a bare-bones package. And as the film in that package has faded into much-of-a-muchness, it can only really be recommended by virtue of the fact that it is easy to obtain very cheaply.

Sad. I used to really enjoy this movie, but the onset of time has not been kind.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 7, 2013 9:01 AM GMT


Spider-Man 5000 Complete Collection [DVD]
Spider-Man 5000 Complete Collection [DVD]
Price: £17.67

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Harmless rubbish, 27 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There were two Spider-Man cartoon series made in 1981; Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, which everyone remembers, and this series of solo adventures, which seems to have fallen through the gap. In truth, I remember as a kid preferring the solo series, but it came as a shock to the system watching this DVD and realising just how bad a series it was. The writing is infantile, the artwork scrappy, and some of the animation actually manages to be inferior to the animation from the 1960s cartoon that this is (supposedly) a sequel to.

Most episodes are self-contained, but the characterisation is so short-hand and generic that it really makes no difference at all which guest villain is the 'bad-guy-of-the-week'. They may have different voice actors, but they are all portrayed as having exactly the same megalomaniac, 'I-want-to-rule-the-world-for-no-particular-reason-and-now-nothing can stop me!!!' personality. And the way they're performed is always so stagey that you can't help but cringe. Meanwhile, Spidey himself is very much portrayed as the least interesting form his character ever took - an over-relaxed smart alec with a very trite, ill-timed quip on standby for even the most violent occasion.

There is a story arc running through about six or seven of the episodes, featuring Dr Doom in twin power struggles - one for control of the United Nations (winning which, for some reason, Doom seems unswervingly convinced will make him ruler of the world - clearly no one has ever explained to him that the UN is a forum and not a Government), and the other against a resistance movement in his native Latveria. This arc doesn't really follow any logical or coherent pattern as it (half-)progresses though, and all it therefore does is give the impression that Doom is being used too often. Why not give Dr Octopus or the Green Goblin another outing instead? They seem very short-changed by this series in comparison.

The only real strength the series has is that some of the music is terrific. It has an excellent title tune (only slightly spoiled by the over-the-top fanfare at the very beginning, and the condescending insistence on having Stan Lee call out "SPIDER-MAAAAAN!" both at the beginning and the end of the titles. Marvel Productions must have assumed that none of its audience can read, even though most of them would have been comic-book readers), and some very fine incidental music. The notorious 'generic rock song', which will be very familiar to viewers of the other Spider-Man series, and to viewers of The Transformers cartoons from a few years later, can start to grate, seeing how often it is used to give the impression that there's a party/concert in progress, but listened to in isolation it's actually quite a good track.

All-in-all, this series is one of those things you can have playing in the background while you're doing something else, to give the room a bit of atmosphere. You won't do nearly so well if you go so far as to pay close attention to it while it's on.

On the other hand, I still prefer it to S-M&HAF, if only because, for the entire duration of the DVD, I never once have to endure watching the 'token-cute-companion' Miss Lyon, nor do I have to endure listening to three grown adults, who really should be old enough to know better, clamouring in cheesy voices, "SPIDER-FRIENDS... GO FOR IT!"

Ouch.


Logic 3 I-Station TOUR Wired Active
Logic 3 I-Station TOUR Wired Active
Offered by Gagitech
Price: £7.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Solid for what you pay, 27 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Cheap and cheerful. It's sturdy enough, gives decent sound output, and it costs very little. Nothing special, but as a quick budget option, a very respectable buy.


No Title Available

67 of 67 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars AVOID, 27 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
THIS ITEM IS A FAKE. DO NOT BUY IT.

The MicroSD card's genuine capacity appears to be only 8GB. Above that point, it corrupts data. It has been designed to 'fool' any device it is inserted to into seeing more space than it really has.


With Hope in Your Heart
With Hope in Your Heart
by Christopher Whittle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Clumsy, but tugs the heartstrings, 14 Jan 2013
Christopher Whittle is not a professional writer, and he wrote this account, not for literary or commercial reasons, but to give himself a catharsis from his past trauma. Sadly it does rather show, for this is an awkward, at times inarticulate work, which shows unfortunate symptoms of being published without the help of an outsider editor. There are spelling mistakes, questionable word-selection, a tendency to jump from subject-to-subject, and an overriding tone of aggressive-defensiveness, which, although understandable given everything Whittle has been through, is to the book's detriment. Also mildly brow-furrowing is Whittle's needless habit of 'highlighting' for the benefit of the reader any moments of comic-relief, by punctuating the relevant sentences with triple-exclamation-marks. Frequent and unnecessary capitalisation of words for the sake of emphasis, a very schoolchild habit of writing, also detracts from the text's readability, and the less sympathetic reader may come to regard this as petulant, whiny, or even, in a strange way, somewhat bullying, in tone. It is entirely unintended, I am sure, but even so, there is an unmistakeable air of a writer who does not wish to be argued with.

While the book is still a valid addition to the wide body of written work available on the subject of the Hillsborough Disaster, and does have some useful personal insights to offer on the background to what happened, the actual description of the events on the day of the Disaster is far too brief and feels rushed, as though Whittle may still be too traumatised by the memories to be willing to dwell on them. Again this is entirely understandable, but ultimately his account offers only a cursory summary of what happened on the day, one that imparts very little useful information that cannot be found from countless other sources.

Whittle not only offers his memories on Hillsborough, but also offers his thoughts on the Heysel Disaster of four years earlier (at which he was not present). Now his views on it are sustainable, but are perhaps a little one-eyed. He claims, as though it is a matter of categroical certainty, that the tragedy in Brussels was provoked by the Juventus fans and not the Liverpool fans. This version of events is entirely possible; there are famous claims from eyewitnesses that a young Liverpool fan stood in the wrong section of the terrace was being attacked by Italian supporters, and other Liverpool supporters only started fighting when they moved to intervene. However it is only a possible explanation of what happened, one that has never been established as definitive, and Whittle is perhaps guilty of being defensive of his club colours by making it sound as though it has.

Later sections of the book discuss Whittle's post-Hillsborough struggles with Post Traumatic Stress, not to mention the cruel brutality of battling against the vicious smear campaign in the police and media against the victims. These parts are actually better-written and, perhaps ironically, more moving than his description of the Disaster itself. Maybe this is just because the struggle with PTSD is the aspect of the story that is most unique to himself, but these chapters add a much-needed air of earnestness that earlier chapters lack, and it is really at this point that the reader will start to feel a deep sympathy for what Whittle has gone through.

Towards the end, Whittle offers up a list of people he holds responsible for the Disaster. Some of his assertions, especially one he makes against Margaret Thatcher, really could do with reliable sources. Unfortunately, what endnotes the book has are so broadly-worded that it is extremely difficult to verify any of Whittle's claims.

Would I recommend the book? Well, it depends on what you are looking for. Strangely, as a source or authority on Hillsborough, or even of stadium disasters more widely, 'With Hope In Your Heart' is of very limited value or use, at best. It is equally meagre fare when judged purely as a work of literature. However, if we remove it from the context of the 'Hillsborough library' so to speak, and instead view it as an insight into the long-term struggles of coping with trauma, and of battling against unfair public stigmatisation, it becomes worthwhile.

Worth a look, I suppose.
Comment Comments (16) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 30, 2013 12:11 PM GMT


Hillsborough [DVD] [1996]
Hillsborough [DVD] [1996]
Dvd ~ Christopher Eccleston
Price: £4.90

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tragic necessity, 16 Mar 2012
This review is from: Hillsborough [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
In hindsight, Jimmy McGovern's Hillsborough is possibly a little over-rated, as it doesn't exactly go out of its way to let the audience draw its own conclusions about (undoubtedly) one of the most flagrant instances of British legal corruption in the Twentieth Century. But even if its message could have been stated a little more subtly, it was probably for the best that it wasn't, given the then-widespread misunderstanding of what happened on April 15th 1989. The Disaster had been badly and cynically misportrayed in the media and in Government for over seven years by the time the docu-drama was made, and correcting for this had to be the first priority. That the film had to be made at all was a tragedy in its own right, and over-rated or not, it is still one of the great British docu-dramas.

It is undeniably harrowing, effective viewing, acted with great realism by a gifted and knowledgeable cast; a very young Christopher Eccleston portrays Trevor Hicks so convincingly, for instance, that it's easy to miss that he was probably TOO young, while Ricky Tomlinson, as John Glover, shows he can do drama at least as effectively as he can do parody.

Every time I watch the film I well up, alternately wanting to cry at the needless loss of life, and shaking with the same powerless rage that the families of the Disaster's victims forever feel, in the face of the bungling and mendacity of the South Yorkshire Police force, and the heartless indifference of the Thatcher/Major Government. (How sad that the likes of Paul Middup, Irvine Patnick and Bernard Ingham weren't given the 'treatment' in this as well.)

Most of the scenes portraying the unfolding Disaster are remarkably well done given budget limits, although the reconstruction of the Leppings Lane terrace is a bit obvious. But what stands out above all is the very accurately bleak, almost insidious atmosphere. That 96 lives could be lost through such casual negligence, and that grieving relatives of the victims could be treated with such callous disregard, provide the bleakness; that such insensitive and cowardly attempts to obscure the causes could occur provides the insidiousness.

Sadly, the cut of the film that appears on this DVD has been significantly abridged (costing it a star in my rating); after objections lodged with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission by one former policeman about the way he was portrayed in them, scenes showing medical information being falsified before submission to the Coroner's Inquests - including an officer being pressured into changing his statement - have been excised.

In the years after the film was made, it was discovered that the South Yorkshire Police had edited over one hundred and eighty statements that their officers had written for submission to the Inquiry into the Disaster. The edits were trying to play down reference to the poor performance of the match commanders and to play up references to supposed crowd misbehaviour. One is given to wonder what extra impact the film would have had, were these additional details known then. Between the 'mysterious disappearance' of two CCTV tapes from the stadium control room during the evening after the crush, the untrue assertion that one of the CCTV cameras covering pens 3 & 4 on Leppings Lane was malfunctioning, the pressuring of several key witnesses to change their stories, the editing of official witness statements, the incorrect imposition of a 3:15pm 'cut-off' time for information from the day of the Disaster to be considered valid at the Coroner's Inquests, and the persistent smear campaign against the Liverpool supporters in the media, the Hillsborough cover-up should be seen as one of the most vile legal scandals in living memory. How no one in the SYP has ever been convicted over the cover-up (to say nothing of over the Disaster itself) is an indictment of the British judicial system.


Wing Commander [DVD]
Wing Commander [DVD]
Dvd ~ Freddie Prinze Jr
Price: £4.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Yawn Commander, 30 April 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Wing Commander [DVD] (DVD)
If you read the novelisation before the film itself, you may get the impression that it has a clever, dramatic and imaginative plot. Unfortunately, almost all the important plot twists and character details have been cut out of the film-script, leaving behind a very basic, linear and generic Star Wars-wannabe space opera. The irony is that, as a film, it makes for a vastly inferior movie experience to playing the series of games it's based on.

A lot of the details that have been left in are among the most tired and derivative in the script; for instance, the introduction of a society called 'Pilgrims' is so unsubtle that it practically screams 'Jedi Knights!'

And some of the casting is highly questionable. Freddie Prinze Jr may LOOK a lot more like 'Bluehair' than Mark Hamill ever did, but his acting is woefully inferior, while Saffron Burrows is a complete plank as Colonel Devereaux (and wasn't Angel supposed to be Belgian, not English, anyway?) and David Warner's performance as Geoffrey Tolwyn is too hammy and self-conscious when compared with Malcolm McDowell's. And why is Paladin a Frenchman? He's supposed to be Scottish...

The combat scenes are poorly-filmed; the shaky, jumpy camera angles mean that a lot of the time you can't quite follow what's happening, and because of the absurd World War II-style of the flightsuits and the fighters, they look pretty comical too. To be fair, it was an innovative idea, about the only one the movie had, but it was also a daft one.

All in all, it's a short but slow wade through a lot of cliches and very occasional original-but-dumb ideas. I'd like to say it at least passes the time, but to be truthful, it only does that when you're too tired to think about what you're watching.


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