New Comic: Our Only Hope
Batman the Animated Series was a landmark in animated television. Not only because of its dark decor animation, but for its hardboiled plotlines and complex characters. This is a show that premiered on Primetime. How many non-sitcom animated shows can claim such a feat? This is the show that gave the world Harley Quinn, Mark Hamill’s Joker, and turned throwaway villains such as Mr. Freeze and Clayface into fan favorites.
As good as any live-action “adult” drama of the time BTAS excels with mature storylines and unflinching action. It’s a show that meant a great deal to many of us that grew up in the 90s, and will continue to captivate generations as the best incarnation of the Caped Crusader. With that being said I present my favorite episodes.
Fates be damned! The recording of this podcast was erased from all the this reality, and while we could all go listen to it in another dimension, I don’t think getting killed by a character from DragonBall Z is something any of us are trying to do (remember how instead of saying “I’m going to kill you” they said they would send people to another dimension). So, our spirits diminished, we nonetheless promised you a list. So here it is.
This podcast isn’t very long, but you can skip it anyway after the break.
Not satisfied with a lengthy review, hastily written at some ungodly hour? Neither were we! So we worked up something real special for you: our first official podcast review. No, this isn’t a snarky “Top 10 Plot Holes” episode, like our usual show; this is a real, unscripted discussion of the film. And we had some fun doing it too, if you’d like more of these, let us know!
Yup, that’s one ridiculously long album title, and yet it’s probably the least remarkable thing about Fiona Apple’s latest album, so let’s move on. This is another album that I didn’t really expect to get into since I’d always kind of regarded Apple as one of those half-remembered artists from the ’90s that I had little reason to care about. But after listening to The Idler Wheel… I can see that I’d be a fool not to care, since this latest effort from Miss Apple contains some of the most beautiful, soul-baring, and undeniably affecting music I’ve heard all year.
It’s been seven years since Fiona Apple released her last album Extraordinary Machine in 2005, and from what little I’ve heard of that album, this one’s definitely a much more stripped down affair. Most of the songs seem to contain little more than piano and some unique, almost tribal-like percussion that complements Apple’s voice. And yet despite this approach, the songs always seem very vibrant and full of emotion, which can mostly be credited to Apple’s singing. She’s got a voice that has this boistrous beauty to it, and yet there are moments like on “Regret”, where she goes into to this gutteral yelp that isn’t quite in key, but somehow still feels appropriate for an album that lyrically sees Apple contemplating her messy imperfections.
I’m trying to pin down exactly why this album has been working for me as well as it has, and I suppose it mostly has to do with how direct Apple is in terms of expressing her own personal turmoil. Yet on top of that, it’s still music that I would say is very accessible because Apple has this innate knack for jazzy pop songs that are certainly artsy, but are also likely to get stuck in your head. The line that’s been sticking with me recently has been the one from the verse of “Anything We Want” where Apple sings “Let’s pretend we’re eight years old, playing hookie / I’ll draw on the wall and you can play UFC rookie”. It’s not profound or anything, but Apple just has this natural ability to make these smaller moments seem just as compelling as the bigger, more impassioned moments in her music.
Favorite Tracks: “Every Single Night”, “Werewolf”, “Anything We Want”
If you’ve paid any attention at all to the kinds of new music we usually review on this website, you can tell that we’re not terribly well-versed in modern hip-hop. I personally can’t really say that I’m opposed to what’s going on in hip-hop nowadays, it’s just usually not the kind of thing that resonates with my very white taste in music. So I was surprised when I stumbled upon the latest album by alternative hip-hop producer/rapper El-P, but of course I was a little disappointed when I learned that El-P is a white guy. But regardless of that, this album basically sums up what I feel like hip-hop should sound like in 2012: entrenched in old school sounds while still being legitimately forward-thinking.
It seems that it’s just been recently that I’ve found that what for me sets apart most “good hip-hop” from your average Top 40 bullshit is the production. And I can unflinchingly say that the production on Cancer For Cure is second to none. El-P’s songs are made up of these incredibly dense electronic soundscapes that are merged with bonecrushing beats that makes for a sound that I would almost describe as Sci-Fi hip-hop. Even the lyrics often have this tinge of distopian paranioa that’s interspersed with El-P’s distinctly aggressive rhymes. And it’s pretty amazing to hear what a commanding presence El-P has on the mic in addition to being one of hip-hop’s most highly regarded producers.
My only problem with the album is also one of it’s greatest assets, and that’s the fact that the songs are so unrelentingly hard-hitting and amped up. It’s not a terribly long album at 49 minutes, but I find myself feeling a bit worn out by the last few songs. That might just be a case of me not being accustomed to listening to an album’s worth of hip-hop, but either way, Cancer For Cure is about as badass as anything that I’ve heard all year and has been a nice reassurance that modern hip-hop isn’t necessarily as impenetrable as I usually treat it.
Favorite Tracks: “The Full Retard”, “Drones Over Bklyn”, “True Story”
The Dark Knight Rises tells you everything you need to know about it with its title. This isn’t The Dark Knight, a film that succeeded in evolving super hero movies into credible, award-worthy cinema. This is a movie that aspires simply to live up to the expectations that the followup to that landmark film was guaranteed to have and provide a satisfying finish to this trilogy. It’s not the Batman movie we deserve, but maybe it’s the one we need right now.
It’s been eight years since Harvey “Two-Face” Dent died and Batman (Christian Bale) took the fall. In that time, Gotham’s seen a radical decline in crime, thanks to the Harvey Dent Act, which greatly expanded military authority and enabled Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) to finally clean up the streets. Bruce Wayne has been reduced to a crippled recluse, forcing himself into solitude after retiring from his vigilante ways, to the dismay of his butler, Alfred (Michael Caine) and the determinant to his company, run by Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman).
But The Dark Knight Rises attention is largely focused on new characters. A young patrolman played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt is probably the best part of the movie, in part because he seems to be one of the few people who’s not constantly in a bad mood. There’s also a cat burglar (Anne Hathaway) who adds some fun and is a great juxtaposition to the damsels in distress from the last two movies. On the other end of the spectrum is Marion Cotillard, a rich lady who has taken it upon herself to save Bruce Wayne, or at least his company. Of course, there’s also a terrifying masked man called Bane (Tom Hardy) who is the most credible threat to Gotham yet: a man who can at least match Batman physically and mentally, with an underground army to do his bidding.
I think this is a satisfying conclusion to The Dark Knight trilogy, which is I guess what we’re calling it. The movie is heavily focused on the themes that drove the first two movies; the power of fear, the nature of sacrifice, the difference a man can make versus a symbol; that sort of stuff. That thing that Harvey Dent said in the last movie, about dying a hero or living long enough to see yourself become a villain? That’s important to this one. And by the end of The Dark Knight Rises, Chris Nolan has gone so far, I think a reboot is the only plausible direction for the franchise going forward.
And that’s OK. Christian Bale is a good Batman, but he’s never been the best part of these movies. He’s gotten better in the role, and though he never quite figured out a good Batman voice, here it’s at its least distracting. The one member of the cast I’d really miss is Michael Caine’s Alfred, as much as I like to joke that Gary Oldman is the real core of the franchise. If Christopher Nolan wants this to be a trilogy and actually stay a trilogy, none of this fourth-movie-a-few-years-later bullshit, I’m cool with that, and happy with all three of these movies.
The Nolan films have always taken some liberties with the franchise, my least favorite of which being the character Rachel Dawes, who does come up in this movie in a way that surely will leave her with even less fans. Here, he takes Batman in a direction I didn’t like, and I never feel like he makes anything satisfying out of it. What made the Knightfall story cool in the Batman comics, after Bane broke the Bat, was watching what happened when other characters stepped up into the Batman role. With no eligible candidates to take the cape and cowl in The Dark Knight Rises, instead we get a Bruce Wayne arc with an interesting beginning, a somewhat boring middle, and an ending that I’m not a fan of… And to say any more would be a spoiler. It’s true to Nolan’s Batman, but not the Batman I grew up reading and watching.
It’s been said that The Avengers is a great comic book movie, while The Dark Knight is a great comic book film. The implication being, I guess, that the Batman movies deserve to be talked about on serious terms, while the Marvel movies are simply popcorny, turn-your-brain-off action. I’m not sure I buy into either assertion, but The Dark Knight Rises certainly is a lot darker. It’s story has a vaguely ripped-from-the-headlines appeal, cashing in heavily on post-9/11 and Occupy Wall Street feelings. But it’s far from satire, and miles away from believable. Especially when you have action sequences like the ones on display here.
The events of The Dark Knight Rises have to be described as epic, made even more spectacular by Nolan’s dedication to do as much practically as possible. Scenes of massive explosions, huge crowds battling and tons of wanton destruction are a lot to take in, and hardly make sense, but make for fine entertainment. The Dark Knight Rises is running time is closer to three hours than two, but it’s paced very well, carrying swiftly through a surprisingly sprawling story.
I just can’t shake that this is the least “Batman” Batman movie I could have imagined. Christian Bale spends most of his time hiding only behind an ugly beard, and when he finally goes out as the caped crusader, it’s generally underwhelming. Now, sure, I’ve been up for a really long time and I haven’t really had anyone to talk with or even edit the review for me, but right now, I feel disappointed. I just think too many decisions this movie made were wrong. It’s executed very well, I think JGL and Anne Hathaway were great, but right now, with no one to talk me down and thoughts of the tragedy in Colorado filling my head, I’m gonna say The Dark Knight Rises left me only mildly pleased.