"THE BATMAN: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON"


        MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Rino Romano as THE BATMAN
    Alastair Duncan as ALFRED PENNYWORTH
    Kevin Michael Richardson as THE JOKER
    Danielle Judovits as BATGIRL
    Evan Sabara as DICK GRAYSON
    Tom Kenny as THE PENGUIN
    Mitch Pileggi as COMMISSIONER GORDON

    not rated
    Studio: Warner Bros.

    Own it on DVD November 20

    Check out the Superheroes Official Site

    Buy the DVD here.

When it comes to comic book adaptations, the big-budget Hollywood movies can’t hold a candle to their animated series counterparts. I’m not talking about the old “SuperFriends,” but rather the breed of animated television series that have been around since the early 1990s. No theatrical incarnation has given the same depth of character and intellectual honesty to the source material as the television shows have.

Why is that? I have no idea. Even the “Spider-Man” films which (at least for the first two movies) were considered some of the most truthful adaptations, along with “Batman Begins,” still couldn’t emerge unscathed from their directors’ egos. Maybe things work better in these smaller formats because the people working on them have their egos in check.

I’ve been a fan of the Batman for years, from growing up with the comic books to watching the big-budget theatrical films, good and bad. I even liked the campy 1960s television series to a point. However, it is the animated series “The Batman” that really rocks my world as a comic book fan.

Season four is now available on DVD, and it follows in the footsteps of the comic book by opening up Batman’s universe – and heart – a little bit. It’s a season of sidekicks, starting off with the introduction of Robin. While Batgirl was introduced earlier, it’s the special bond that Batman shares with Robin that adds depth to the stories in Season Four.

But it’s not just Batman who gets his sidekicks. The Joker warms up to Harley Quinn, and even the Penguin takes a shot at an entourage. As the season rolls towards the end, fans also get a taste of Batman joining up with some other notable figures.

What makes a show like “The Batman” work so well, especially in this season, is the Rogue’s Gallery of villains. Only in the long-form world of a television series can these characters be fully explored. Even though there’s plenty of villains to go around (including comic book stand-bys like Killer Croc and Clayface, who never have been brought to the silver screen), things aren’t cluttered. That’s because in a 13-episode season, they don’t have to cram too many characters into one story, like we see so often in the movies (e.g., “Batman Forever,” “Batman and Robin,” “Batman Begins” and this summer’s “Spider-Man 3”).

“The Batman: The Complete Fourth Season” is enough to hook any rabid Batman fan. It’s a true vision of what the comic books could be in the format of moving pictures.

The DVD comes with only a single behind-the-scenes look at the fourth season, as well as some trailers. What would have made this perfect would have been some more insight into bringing the comic books to life in the truest sense.



"PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END"


        MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Johnny Depp as JACK SPARROW
    Geoffrey Rush as CAPTAIN BARBOSSA
    Orlando Bloom as WILL TURNER
    Keira Knightley as ELIZABETH SWANN
    Jack Davenport as NORRINGTON
    Bill Nighy as DAVY JONES
    Jonathan Pryce as GOVERNOR WEATHERBY SWANN

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Disney

    Directed by: Gore Verbinski

Any fan of the “Ask a Ninja” segments on the Internet will understand the frustrations of many with “Pirate of the Caribbean: At World’s End.” It’s not that the first film was a simple little art-house flick, but in retrospect, it’s downright puny compared to its subsequent sequels. And while “At World’s End” wasn’t the best of the bunch, it was certainly the biggest.

But that doesn’t mean it was all bad. As epic summer movies go, “At World’s End” was pretty good. Like many other films I’ve seen of late (such as “The Golden Compass”), this film is better enjoyed by just finding yourself in awe of the special effects and action. Don’t try to make sense of anything, or you may suffer an aneurysm.

“At World’s End” wraps up most of the storylines we saw in the first two films, and creates a few more of its own. The beginning of the film shows the crew of the Black Pearl trying to rescue Jack Sparrow from the netherworld, and the rest of the film has them trying to defeat the octopoid Davy Jones and the dastardly ruler of the East India Trading Company.

The DVD release is as big as the movie’s production. Available in the 2-disc limited edition, there’s an entire second disc devoted to bonus features. The most interesting features include the behind-the-scenes elements of the film, which explore the wizardry behind everything from the maelstrom sequence to the nightmare sequences of Captain Jack.

Other features include a spotlight on Keith Richards, bloopers, two deleted scenes, a doco on production design, a nod to Chow Yun-Fat, the music of Hans Zimmer, the story behind the pirate song and a run-down of the different pirate lords.

Director Gore Verbinski has made it clear in the press that he has no intention on doing a fourth film, which is probably a good thing for him. If there were to be a new movie, it should have a different visions, much like the “Harry Potter” and “Mission: Impossible” flicks have done. I’d like to see what happens to Captain Jack, but I’m not willing to sit through a four-hour monstrosity with 87 subplots to do this.



"WAITRESS"


        MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Keri Russell as JENNA
    Nathan Fillion as DR. POMATTER
    Cheryl Hines as BECKY
    Jeremy Sisto as EARL
    Andy Griffith as OLD JOE
    Adrienne Shelly as DAWN
    Eddie Jemison as OGIE
    Lew Temple as CAL

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: FOX Searchlight

    Directed by: Adirenne Shelly

If you’re not a fan of the indie hit “Waitress,” you have to tread on thin ice. After all, when the writer/director phenom who brought her dream to fruition is murdered during post-production, being critical is kinda hard. But then again, I’ve never been one to stoop to sentimentality in lieu of honesty.

It’s not that I hated “Waitress.” It’s just that I didn’t think it was great. For what it’s worth – a quirky indie comedy exploring a young woman’s yearning to move on to a bigger world – it worked. Keri Russell plays a waitress in a small diner who hates her job, hates her husband and hates her lot in life. When she discovers that she’s pregnant, she struggles with her emotions and the pressures of the world and uses the event to push herself to make a better life.

My biggest beef with “Waitress” is that it’s full of whiney characters that eventually make the right decisions only after an unprecedented amount of hand-wringing. On one hand, the story isn’t neat, with Jenna having an affair with her OB/GYN without the comfort of the shrewish wife. But on the other hands, things do wrap up neatly in an independent film sort of way.

Jeremy Sisto takes things too far as the awful and abusive husband. The character is just too unbelievably terrible, and ultimately it’s annoying to see Jenna trapped by nothing more than her own insecurities. After all, this isn’t the 1850s. Women can leave their husbands. They do it all the time.

The DVD comes with several behind-the-scenes featurettes about the production, the actors and the pies. There’s also commentary from the producer and Keri Russell and FOX Movie Channel spotlights on the cast. Also included is a heartfelt memorial to Adrienne Shelly as well as a push for the Adirenne Shelly Foundation. Oddly enough, there is no explanation of how Shelly lost her life, but I would imagine that most fans of the film already know what happened.

Ultimately, it’s a real shame that Adirenne Shelly suffered such a fate because she definitely had a handle on movie making. This could have been her “Bottle Rocket,” and her later works could have been stellar. Sadly, she was taken from the world right when she was on the verge of making some great films.



"THE NAMESAKE"


        MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Irfan Khan as ASHOKE GANGULI
    Kal Penn as GOGOL GANGULI
    Jagannath Guha as GHOSH
    Ruma Guha Thakurta as MRS. GANGULI

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: FOX Searchlight

    Directed by: Mira Nair

I have a friend who probably loved “The Namesake.” He’s an Indian immigrant who still feels very tied to his culture while completely accepting and living within the American system. He is in an arranged marriage and doesn’t regret it, and he is extremely interested in any Indian import film or film about his home country.

I, on the other hand, am not Indian. I’m nowhere near Indian. I’m about as far from Indian as you can get. I’m a pasty white chubby dude of Irish and Hungarian heritage. And while I have plenty of immigrant experience (and oppression as well) in my family’s past, it’s utterly different than what your average Indian immigrant faces in the world today.

The bottom line is that “The Namesake” is not made for me. It is steeped in Indian culture, which is interesting but not explained in the film to someone like me. It’s not an attempt to bring Bollywood to the U.S. since there’s nothing in there that gives it that typical Bollywood feel (or at least the feel a pasty white chubby dude like myself would expect).

The film tells the story of a family from India that moves to New York for a better life. The parents struggle to assimilate into the American society, but the kids fell oppressed by their overbearing Indian culture.

“The Namesake” is a very well made movie, and it is beautifully shot and effectively acted. However, it lacks focus and never quite finds its footing. I kept wondering if it’s a story of a man trying to make a better life for his family, a father’s struggle to do the right thing, a mother’s challenge to persevere hardship, an immigrant family’s attempt to retain its heritage or a son’s struggle to live up to his family’s name.

I suppose “The Namesake” is all of those things, and that’s probably why it’s a great film for the right audience. However, I felt it lacked direction while steeped in a whirlwind of brilliant production art.

The DVD has plenty of special features an that make it a nice grab for anyone who enjoyed the film. The standard extras include a director’s commentary, deleted scenes and several behind-the-scenes featurettes. Other, more unique, features include a Kolkata love poem and a spotlight on the photography of the film.

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