action, blaxploitation, crime, movie, movie review

Flashback Review: May 1st, 2014 Movie – Black Fist

black fist

As you can guess from the title, I have yet another example of blaxploitation to watch today. This is yet another movie that didn’t make much of an impact on me when I first watched it so I don’t really remember if I liked it or not. That is the problem with have a bunch of movies like I do, it can be hard to keep track of them all. I guess that is one good thing about this blog; I am able to write down my opinion so if I forget a certain movie, I can look back and see what I thought and if it is worth giving a second chance. Now, let’s get to watching Black Fist.

The plot: In Los Angeles, a street fighter named Leroy Fisk is brought before a man called Logan and told that he can fight for him. When Leroy starts to argue with Logan’s bodyguards, Logan arranges an exhibition match with one of his fighters called Moose. Leroy is able to knock Moose down and bloody him up some but Moose is able to grab him and start hammering on his ribs and kidneys until Leroy is unable to fight back. Later, Logan tells Leroy that he has some skill but needs to learn how to really street fight if he wants to work for him and sets him up with a trainer, Ira, to teach him how to properly street fight. Meanwhile, a crooked cop named Heineken approaches a man named Fleichman, who owes money to Heineken and his boss. Fleichman is short but says he can get the rest after his man’s next fight. Fleichman is speaking with Logan, who is interested in trimming his stable of fighters, and Fleichman offers a trade for Leroy against his fighter but Leroy ends up winning the match. Later, Fleichman tries to plead his case to Heineken’s boss but when he gets upset and refuses to pay the rest of the money he owes, Heineken’s boss orders Fleichman to be killed. Meanwhile, Leroy is using his newfound money to make life better for his wife Bea and their son but he is approached by Heineken, who tells him he can either start paying him off or he will arrest him for illegal street fights. After a couple of fights and having to pay Heineken part of his take, Leroy approaches Logan, upset about the situation, and Logan tells him he will take care of Heineken but it will take time. Later, Ira tells Leroy that Logan and Heineken are in on the scam together, which upsets Leroy. As Leroy mopes about the situation, his friend Fletch shows up, having heard about his troubles with Heineken, and gives Leory Heineken’s notebook, which he had stolen. Inside the notebook are all of the details about the money Heineken receives from Leroy and the other street fighters, as well as from prostitutes and what Logan receives as well. Leroy confronts Heineken with the book, who goes to Logan to discuss the situation and Logan says not to worry about Leroy. Some time later, Leroy calls Heineken and tells him to come to his place and when he gets there, Leroy shows him Fletch’s body, which was left there as a message for him. Leroy tells Heineken that he is done with the fights and has Heineken deal with the body, then goes to speak with Logan himself. Logan arranges a fight between Leroy and Moose but Leroy insists he increase his pay to $25,000, then he tells Bea that if he wins this fight he is done with Logan and his men and they can take the winnings and open the club that they want. Logan is betting heavily on Moose to win and, at his assurance of Moose’s victory, Logan’s boss bets $50,000 on Moose. Meanwhile, Leroy goes to see Big Henry and bets all the money he has saved up on himself to win but is warned that if he doesn’t win, he had better hope that Moose kills him during the fight. Leroy ends up winning his fight against Moose and buys the club and as he celebrates with Bea, her brother shows up. Leroy decides they should celebrate and they start to head out but Leroy is called back to deal with an issue with the club so he hands Bea’s brother his keys but when they get in the car, it explodes. Logan and his men are celebrating Leroy’s death but Heineken shows up and tells them that they didn’t kill Leroy, but his pregnant wife and her brother. Leroy secretly attends Bea’s funeral, then sends his son off with his aunt for safety. He then returns to town in disguise and begins beating up people to find out who killed Bea and when he finds out that Logan did it, he kills one of his bodyguards and then works on a plan to get to Logan. Heineken is told about the girl helping Leroy and he pays her a visit and when she refuses to tell him where Leroy is, he attempts to rape her but Leroy shows up and stops him. Leroy takes Heineken to a meat locker and ties him up on one of the hooks and leaves him there to freeze to death. Avon, Logan’s other bodyguard shows up at the home of Logan’s boss, Mr. Ingo, and tells him that he killed Logan and Ingo congratulates him and says he is promoted to Logan’s position, but then has him killed. Ingo then contacts Leroy and invites him to his place and when Leroy gets there, he shows Leroy Avon’s body. Ingo then says that he took care of Logan as well and that now they can be partners but Leroy realizes that he was the one that had Fletch killed. Ingo goes to shoot Leroy but Leroy struggles with him and ends up shooting Ingo be accident. As Leroy stares at the body, he is haunted by Bea’s voice warning him about associating with gangsters and as he stares at his reflection in the bathroom, he begins lashing out and punching the glass as he realizes he brought all this on himself.

This wasn’t too bad of a movie but it did get a little confusing at times. The acting was decent, with Richard Lawson (Leroy), Dabney Coleman (Heineken), and Robert Burr (Logan) doing good jobs in their roles. The story could have been told better, as they didn’t really get into Leroy’s motivation for fighting until almost halfway into the movie; you were basically left to think that it was a typical “grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and fighting was the only way he could make a living” plot. After his wife dies, the revenge aspect was ok but they kind of jumped around to different scenes so it was a little difficult to really keep track of what all was happening. The fight scenes were pretty good all around but there wasn’t really enough action to keep you interested and the pacing of the story honestly left you bored. It wasn’t bad but it’s not exactly something worth hunting after to watch.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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action, blaxploitation, crime, drama, martial arts, movie, movie review

Flashback Review: April 29th, 2014 Movie – Black Cobra 2

black cobra 2

Ok, why is this series in the Martial Arts box set? There was hardly any sort of martial arts to be seen in the first movie, mainly a lot of shooting and some knife throwing. I honestly don’t remember when I first watched it but maybe there will be some actual semblance of martial arts in this movie. If not, then I will definitely feel even more gypped about this collection than I already am. Well, let’s just see what Black Cobra 2 has to offer.

The plot: In Chicago, Lt. Robert “Bob” Malone takes part in a sting operation to capture some drug dealers but when one of the suspects drives off on a motorcycle, Bob gives chase. When the suspect is hit by a car, the driver gets out to check on him and the suspect grabs her and holds her hostage, telling Malone to back off but when he briefly loses his footing, Malone shoots him in the head. The next day, Captain Marton chastises Malone for his reckless actions and as punishment, decides to send him to Manila as part of a law enforcement exchange program. When Malone arrives in Manila, a stranger strikes up a conversation with him as he eyes a man with a briefcase handcuffed to his hands. After taking his leave of Malone, the man uses the distraction provided by a couple of kids to quickly steal the briefcase and, after taking it to baggage claim, he places the claim ticket into an envelope and mails it before leaving the airport. As Malone gets his bags and goes through customs, he realizes that the thief had stolen his wallet and goes to chase after him but ends up stopped by airport security. Malone is turned over to Lt. Kevin McCall of Interpol, who escorts him to his hotel and warns him that he doesn’t want any trouble while Malone is here. The next day, Malone is going through mugshots of various criminals and picks out the man that pickpocketed him. McCall takes him to where the crook, Eddie Mallory. lives but when they go to confront him, they find him dead. As they search the room, Malone finds his wallet and when the cleaning lady spies the body, she starts screaming. Malone and McCall quiet her and ask her if she saw anything and when Malone finds a picture of Eddie with his daughter, the lady tells them where she lives. The two officers head to speak with the daughter, Peggy, to see if she has any information and afterwards, McCall invites Malone to his house for dinner. After dinner, Malone leaves McCall’s house but when he gets to his hotel, he asks the doorman about the bar the pickpocket’s daughter works at and heads over there. Malone sits at the bar and watches Peggy sing and after her set, she approaches Malone and tells him that she received an envelope from her father. The two go for a walk , where they talk about her father and as Malone escorts Peggy to her car, they are attacked by some men. Malone is able to fend them off and the attackers run when McCall and some police arrive. As some of the police chase after the attackers, McCall checks on Malone and Peggy, revealing that they had been following Malone when he went to the bar. The next day, McCall chastises Malone for trying to start an investigation while he is a guest in the country but agrees to follow up on the leads they have on the attackers. They head to a warehouse and question the owner, Asad Cabuli, as the car used in the attack was rented in his company’s name but he claims to have no knowledge of the events. As they are leaving, Malone tells McCall that he doesn’t trust Asad but McCall says they don’t have enough evidence to proceed further at the time. Meanwhile, Asad watches them leave and then makes a phone call, saying that Peggy has the briefcase. Fearing that Peggy was the target of the attack, Malone goes to speak with her and ends up taking her out to dinner. When they return to her place, Malone checks on the Interpol agent that is keeping watch on her place and then leaves but after he leaves, someone kills the agent and kidnaps Peggy. Malone is upset with McCall over Peggy’s kidnapping and heads back to the warehouse, beating up on some of Asad’s men to try and find out information about Peggy. McCall stops him and escorts him out of the building and into the car, before informing him that he had bugged the building’s phone. One of Asad’s men calls Asad to tell him about Malone being there and then grabs a shotgun and starts shooting at Malone and McCall. McCall is wounded but Malone manages to sneak up on the guy and after a brief fight, kills him. After making sure McCall is ok, the two head to the dock, where Peggy was being taken, and see her being carried by the men that attacked Malone the night before. Before they can rescue her, they are shot at by some men and are forced to take cover. Malone and McCall then make their way towards the warehouse that Peggy was taken too, killing their attackers along the way. Malone is able to reach the warehouse but finds that Peggy has been killed, and he kills the remaining attackers, while McCall manages to wound one of them, who Malone then knocks into the water before he can shoot them. After getting the wounded man and Malone out of the water, McCall has a search warrant issued for Asad’s business and they find the briefcase there but it is empty. Later that night, they decide to head to the hospital to question the surviving attacker and, finding the guard outside his room dead, McCall bursts in the room and stops Asad from killing the injured attacker. As they are interrogating Asad, news breaks out that the terrorists plan on blowing up a building and Asad attempts to use the distraction to try and escape, but McCall kills him. Heading to the building Malone and McCall come up with a plan to climb up the elevator shaft and break into the building, killing the terrorists and stopping them from blowing up the building. Some time later, Malone is heading back to Chicago and McCall and his family are there to see him off, with McCall and Malone shaking hands and admitting they made a good team.

Well, at least there was some martial arts action involved with this movie, albeit somewhat slow and uncoordinated. Still, this was a decent time suck of an action movie for the most part. The acting was ok, with Fred Williamson and Nicholas Hammond doing decent jobs as Malone and McCall respectively. The story was kind of confusing and honestly seemed to be dragged out for way longer than was necessary just basically fill the required time limit for the movie. I will say that I did laugh at the little goof in the movie where they had the same sequence of McCall and his family waving goodbye to Malone and his turning to wave back at them play twice. It was like a weird skip/repeat on the DVD. The action scenes were incredibly slow paced when it came to the fighting. Even some of the gun fights felt kind of slow. Like I said, it is a decent time suck of a movie but that is about all it is good for.

Rating: 2 out of 5

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comedy, crime, movie, movie review, thriller

Flashback Review: April 23rd, 2014 Movie – Big Trouble

big trouble

This right here is how sometimes, real life can actually kill a movie. See, I remember seeing the previews and trailers for this movie back in 2001 and thinking that it looked pretty funny. I had actually been given the book for a birthday present earlier that year so I was eager to see what the differences might be between the two. Then, September 11th happened, and there was absolutely nothing funny about that event whatsoever. Now Big Trouble was supposed to come out on September 21st, but due to what had happened, the studio wisely felt that a movie featuring a scene with a nuclear bomb on a plane would not exactly sit well with most audiences. I admit that the selfish part of me wasn’t happy about having to wait for this movie to come out but I understood the reasoning for the delay and thought it was the right move to make. However, when they finally did decide to release it, they gave it almost know marketing or push whatsoever. I honestly didn’t know it had even been in theaters. I saw it in Blockbuster one day and thought that they had just decided to release it to video instead. Oh well. I still rented it, watched it, and ended up buying it so it didn’t make too much difference to me, just makes me feel bad for the people that worked on it.

The plot: Eliot Arnold was a columnist for the Miami Herald but was fired after putting his foot through the editor’s computer monitor after a disagreement about a story. Earlier that day, he had found out his wife had been having an affair and after the divorce was final, he bought a Geo, which makes his son Matt ashamed of him, and started an ad agency. One year later, Eliot is meeting with a client, Bruce, who is upset about the ad Eliot had designed to promote Bruce’s beer. As Bruce is leaving, he gets a call from his son Matt, who asks if he can borrow the Geo as he and his Andrew have to kill someone after school Figuring it is a joke, Eliot agrees to loan him his car. Meanwhile, a suitcase nuclear bomb arrives at the Miami airport and is smuggled onto a van. At the same time, two hitmen, Henry and Leonard, arrive in Miami and head out for their assignment while a homeless man named Puggy arrived in Miami, as he had read that Miami had great Cuban food and, having a love for Fritos and thinking they are close to Cuban food, had gone there to see for himself. Puggy heads to a dive bar run by two Russians and orders a beer and a bag of Fritos. As he is eating his Fritos, two former convicts, Snake and Eddie, enter the bar and the bartender threatens to kick them out, as they have caused problems before, but Eddie says they have some money and want to buy a drink. The two sit down necxt to Puggy and, while he is distracted watching TV, Snake steals his change. When Puggy notices his money is missing and asks them to give it back, Snake punches him and starts beating him while he is down. The bartender hits Snake with a bat and when he goes after Eddie, Snake moves to hit him with a bottle but Puggy trips him up. The bartender kicks Snake and Eddie out, with Snake vowing revenge on Puggy, but the owner tells Puggy he can stay and offers him free beer. When the van from the airport arrives, the bar owner pays Puggy to unload the suitcase and, seeing how strong he is, tells him to come back tomorrow for more work. That night, Puggy finds a nice tree to sleep in that happens to be on the property of Arthur Herk.As Puggy is in his tree, he sees Matt and Andrew arrive, as they are there for Matt to kill Arthur’s daughter Jenny, their classmate, as part of a game at school called “Killer”. Jenny is with her mom Anna watching TV while Arthur is busy trying to seduce their maid Nina, who hits him with a crucifix and hides in the bathroom. As Matt and Andrew get into position, Henry and Leonard show up, as they are there to kill Arthur for embezzling money from his company. When Anna opens the back door to let their dog in, Matt rushes into the house to squirt Jenny with a squirt gun, only for Anna to jump on his back, causing him to fall onto Jenny. During the confusion, Henry shoots at Arthur but misses and hits the TV, and Arthur runs towards Nina’s room, who gets scared when she sees him and rushes outside. Running through the backyard, she trips under the tree Puggy is in and Leonard trips over her as he tries to leave. When Henry shows up, Puggy jumps down on him and grabs his gun to keep him from hurting Nina, but then gives it back when they hear police sirens approaching and Henry and Leonard quickly leave. Officers Monica Romero and Walter Kramitz arrive and question Matt, Anna, Jenny, and Arthur about what happened when Eliot arrives, as Andrew had called and told him what happened. While everyone is talking, Walter finds the bullet in the TV and they ask who fired the gun, but they all had no idea. Romero and Walter leave, ignoring Arthur’s desire to press charges against Matt, and Anna and Jenny escort Eliot and Matt out of the house, with Anna and Eliot both becoming attracted to each other. The next day, Anna pays a visit to Eliot and they talk briefly before they start making out. Later, they are talking about their relationship with their kids, as Eliot wishes that he had a better one with Matt like Anna had with Jenny. Meanwhile, Henry and Leonard are meeting with the man that set up their hit on Arthur, asking him about who the other people were at the house. After a brief encounter with Bruce, where Henry breaks Bruce’s fingers for refusing to put out his cigar, Henry tells the client that it will cost another $10 grand a piece to do the job. Elsewhere, Arthur confronts his boss about the hit, as he knows that they had arranged it, and threatens to spill the beans on their operation to the Feds if they don’t back off. Meanwhile, Matt and Andrew are approached by Jenny, who asks if he was given credit for the kill, and when he says no, she arranges to meet him that night so he can squirt her. They meet up that night at a strip mall and Matt goes to shoot her but a drunken security guard, mistaking Matt’s squirt gun for a real one, fires at them. Matt and Jenny run off and Andrew manages to grab the gun when the security guard trips and drops it, then he runs off. Romero and Walter are on patrol when they see Andrew with the gun and stop him, then arrest the drunken security guard. As they question Andrew, he tells them what happened and they decide to head to the Herk’s house to speak with Matt and Jenny. Meanwhile, Arthur heads to the bar, intending to buy a missile to deal with his bosses, but is shown the bomb and agrees to buy it instead.  As he is leaving, Snake and Eddie show up to rob the place only to find that the bar has no money, as it is really a front for arms smuggling. They then decide to rob Arthur and head back to his place to see what else he has to steal. At the Herk’s home, Eliot arrives after Anna calls him and after chastising Matt for the game, he calls the police to report what happened. Snake and Eddie show up with Arthur and Puggy, who is carrying the suitcase, and they proceed to tie up Anna, Matt, and Jenny with the phone cord. Eliot attempts to bluff Snake with the squirt gun and get them to leave but Snake notices the water dripping from the barrel and calls Eliot’s bluff, then ties him up as well as Walter and Romero when they arrive. After everyone is restrained, Snake and Eddie leave, taking Jenny as a hostage and Puggy, who is still carrying the suitcase. Back at the bar, FBI special agents Greer and Seitz show up looking for the suitcase and after shooting the owner in the foot, he tells them that Arthur has it. Back at the Herk house, Nina cuts Eliot, Anna, Matt, and Walter free and they head off to rescue Jenny, leaving Romero behind as she is handcuffed to a brass shelve with Arthur. Romero and Arthur drag the shelf to the back door and break through the glass to call for help, just as Henry, who had been watching the whole situation unfold with Leonard, fires at Arthur. Arthur lands in his dog’s food bowl, where a hallucinogenic toad had been living for the past month, and he ends up getting squirted by the toad. Greer and Seitz arrive and question Arthur, who is unable to answer as he is hallucinating that his dog is Martha Stewart and is after his soul. Romero tells them about Snake and the suitcase but refuses to tell them anything else until they free her. Snake and Eddie arrive at the airport and buy some tickets for the Bahamas but as they try to bluff their way through security, they accidentally activate the bomb, with the timer set for 45 minutes. Eliot, Anna, Matt, Nina, and Walter arrive at the airport and split up to try and find Jenny, with Walter going to alert airport security but when he insults the head of security, who is the twin brother of the drunken security guard, he ends up being given a strip search. At the Fly by Air gate, the go to board the plane but Puggy manages to slip away, where he manages to run into Matt and Nina. Matt finds his dad and Anna and he tells them about Jenny being on the plane and they tell him to find the cops while they go to try and get Jenny. When they arrive at the gate, Snake, who is trying to get the plane to take off, fires at them and Eliot tells Anna to go get help, then he runs off and manages to get on the plane. Romero, Greer, and Sietz arrive at the airport, just as Henry and Leonard arrive, and Romero pulls the bolt from Henry’s rifle, which Leonard had dropped, and follows the agents inside. When they see the plane taking off, the question Anna and the others about the bomb and Puggy tells them that it had been turned on, forcing Greer to make the call to have the plane shot down over the ocean. On the plane, Snake tells Eddie to close the rear door of the plane but Eliot knocks him out, then attacks Snake with the fire extinguisher. With Snake distracted, the pilots radio the tower and Greer is patched in and tells them to get the suitcase off the plane. The pilot tells Eliot and he shoves it out the door but Snake grabs it and then grabs onto the stairs to keep from falling. When he refuses to let go, Eliot pulls the lever to disengage the stairs, sending Snake and the bomb falling into the ocean, where the bomb explodes harmlessly, while the Air Force breaks away from attacking the plane. When the plane lands, Jenny hugs her mom and tells her about what Eliot did and Matt hugs his dad, having finally grown to respect him after almost losing him. Greer and Sietz tell Eliot that the President offers him his thanks, though nobody can ever know what happened. Romero sees Walter running naked through the airport and it is learned later that Walter would quit the force and become an exotic dancer. Henry and Leonard consider the Herk job the lowest point of their career and are stuck on a plane with a bunch of Florida Gator fans, as the runway is obstructed by a bunch of goats. Anna and Eliot get married a week after Anna’s divorce goes through, while Matt and Jenny, and Nina and Puggy start their own romances. Meanwhile, Arthur, still suffering from the hallucinogen, has been dragging the shelf down the street begging someone to help him save his soul from Martha Stewart.

Big Trouble met with mixed results from the critics, holding a 48% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “With its large cast and frantic comic pacing, Big Trouble labors for slapstick-style hilarity, but it never really gains steam.” The interior shots at the Miami Herald office building were actually shot at the Miami Herald. The crew ran over a few hours but were allowed to stay and finish due to Dave Berry, who had written the book the movie was based on and was a columnist for the Herald at the time. The movie was a box office bomb, earning $8.5 million off of a $40 million budget.

This movie is one of those nonsensical comedies where a lot of things are happening all at once, but connect to form a pretty funny movie. The acting was good, but I personally liked a lot of the secondary characters over the main ones, with Jason Lee (Puggy), Dennis Farina (Henry), and Patrick Warburton (Walter) being my favorites. The story was a bit convoluted, which admittedly can make it hard for people to follow, but actually stayed fairly close to the book. Honestly, I thought that all of the different story arcs that were going on but managed to intersect and stay connected helped keep the movie more light hearted, so you aren’t just focusing on one thing. The comedy generally relied on some situational comedy, with a bit of slapstick antics at times but it actually worked out well for the most part. I know it’s not going to be for everyone but I think this is a pretty funny movie that is worth giving a chance.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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comedy, crime, movie, movie review

Flashback Review: April 22nd, 2014 Movie – The Big Lebowski

the big lebowski

Some times, an actor will take a role and for the rest of his life, he will always be referred to as that character, no matter at what point in the actor’s career he played that character. Jaleel White is always going to be Urkel, Daniel Radcliffe is always going to be Harry Potter, and for Jeff Bridges, he will always be The Dude. Now I admit that I did not go see this movie in theater when it came out and when I finally decided to rent it, I was kicking myself for not having watched it sooner. I have probably made up for it some by the amount of times I have watched it since. Of course, this movie kind of plays a role into a night among friends that has since been dubbed “Bad Idea Saturday”. I had gone bowling with my friends Emily and Charles and we decided to name ourselves characters from the movie in our game. I wound up being The Dude and in honor of that, decided I should be drinking White Russians, which wound up being some of the nastiest White Russians I had ever had as the bartender was using little packets of creamer to mix in the drink. Anyways, drinking those drinks was one of many bad ideas that occurred that night, but I am definitely getting away from the point here. Right now I should be focusing on enjoying The Big Lebowski for the untold time.

The plot: In 1991, Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski has just returned to his apartment after buying some half & half when he finds two thugs waiting for him inside. One of the thugs grabs The Dude and forces his head in the toilet, demanding the money he owes their boss while the other thug pees on The Dude’s carpet. When the thugs tell The Dude that his wife Bunny owes their boss, porn magnate Jackie Treehorn, but when The Dude tells them he isn’t married, the two thugs realize that they have the wrong guy and leave. Later, The Dude is bowling with his friends Walter and Donny and tells them about what happened. Walter says that The Dude should track down the other Lebowski, the millionaire that the thugs were looking for, and have him compensate The Dude for the rug and The Dude agrees with him. The Dude goes to see Jeffrey Lebowski, who tells him that what happened is not his fault and whatever trouble that Bunny got into is between her and Treehorn, and doesn’t involve him. After leaving Lebowski’s office, The Dude tells Lebowski’s assistant Brandt that Lebowski said he could have any rug in the place as compensation and Brandt has some men take the rug The Dude picks out and place it in his car. That night, while bowling, Walter pulls out a gun on their opponent when he barely steps over the line during their league play, causing them to be disqualified for that match. The next day, Brandt calls The Dude and tells him that Lebowski wants to meet with him. When The Dude arrives at Lebowski’s place, Lebowski tells him that Bunny has been kidnapped and shows him a ransom note he received. Brandt then tells The Dude that Lebowski wants him to deal with the ransom exchange, offering him $20,000 and letting him keep the rug as payment. Later, The Dude tells Walter and Donny what’s happening as the watch Jesus Quintana, a rival bowler, and The Dude says thinks that Bunny just kidnapped herself as a way to get the money from her husband so she can pay back Treehorn. Later that night, The Dude is laying down on his new rug when he notices a woman and two men standing over him. One of the men punches him, and when he recovers, he hears the pager that Brandt gave him going off. The Dude meets with Brandt, who gives him a cell phone and a suitcase with money and The Dude goes to make the exchange. He picks up Walter, who asked to come along, and Walter has a satchel filled with dirty underwear and a wrapped package with him. Walter explains the satchel is a ringer, as he says they should keep the $1 million themselves. When The Dude asks what they should do if Bunny really is kidnapped, Walter says that he can simply grab one of the guys during the hand off and beat him for information. The Dude receives a call on the phone telling him where to go and as they approach a bridge, he is told to throw the money off the bridge. Despite The Dude’s protests, Walter grabs the satchel and throws it, then jumps out of the car in order to grab one of the people that goes to get the money but Walter’s package, which was a wrapped sub-machine gun, begins firing erratically when it hits the ground, shooting out one of The Dude’s tires and causing him to crash. The Dude gets out of the car with the suitcase of money as three motorcycles ride up from beneath the bridge and he tries to flag them down but they ride off in the other direction. Walter convinces The Dude to go bowling and forget about it, as they have the money now, but The Dude is worried about what he is going to tell Lebowski. When Donny tells Walter that their next league match is on Saturday, Walter gets upset, saying he doesn’t roll on Saturday as he observes Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. As Walter rants at Donny, The Dude gets fed up and leaves only to find that his car has been stolen, with the briefcase of money still inside. The Dude heads home and contacts the police about his stolen car, being vague about what is in the briefcase. As he is talking to the police, he receives a call form someone named Maude who says she is the one that took the rug and wants to meet with him. The Dude shows up at Maude’s place and she reveals that she is Lebowski’s daughter and that Lebowski had embezzled money from their family’s foundation and asks The Dude to recover the money, as she also feels Bunny kidnapped herself, and offers to pay him $100,000 if he succeeds. Maude has The Dude taken back to his apartment but as soon as he gets there, he is grabbed and forced into another car, where Brandt and Lebowski are waiting for him. Lebowski asks The Dude where the money is and The Dude says he dropped off the money like he was supposed to but asks if they considered that the kidnapping was faked and that the “kidnappers” were saying that they didn’t get the money in order to get more money from him. Brandt hands The Dude an envelope containing a severed toe, with the toenail painted the same color as Bunny’s when The Dude met her at Lebowski’s place, and Lebowski tells The Dude that he told the kidnappers to get the money from him. As The Dude is relaxing in his bath, the police call and inform him they found his car, just as three Germans enter his apartment, saying that they are the kidnappers and demand the money from him or else they will cut off his johnson. The Dude goes to get his car from the impound lot but there is no sign of the briefcase and the police have no intention of looking for it. At the bowling alley, The Dude tells Walter and Donny about the Germans and gets upset at Walter’s attitude about the situation. As The Dude sits at the bar, a stranger sits next to him and they start talking when The Dude receives a call from Maude, wanting to meet. The Dude meets with Maude, who tells him that the Germans, who were actually a band, were friends of Bunny’s and not likely to be the kidnappers, then asks The Dude to go see the doctor she recommended. After going to the doctor, The Dude is driving around and notices a blue Volkswagen Bug following him. As he tries to avoid it, he ends up wrecking his car when he accidentally drops the joint he was smoking into his lap. As he is recovering, he finds some homework from a kid named Larry in the seat of his car. Walter tracks down where Larry lives and they go to see him, with Walter trying to intimidate Larry into telling him where the money is. When Larry doesn’t answer, Walter goes outside and begins smashing the new sports car parked outside the house, thinking Larry used the stolen money to buy it but it turns out it was the neighbor’s car, who begins smashing The Dude’s car in retaliation. The Dude returns home only to have Treehorn’s thugs grab him and take him to see Treehorn. Treehorn asks The Dude where Bunny and the money is and The Dude tells him he doesn’t know where Bunny is but that Larry has the money before passing out from the drugs Treehorn slipped into his drink. After suffering from a hallucination from the drugs, The Dude is picked up by the police as he is running down the road and taken to the station, where the sheriff tells him not to bother Treehorn again. The Dude is placed in a cab and sent home but when he tells the driver that he hates The Eagles, the cabbie kicks him out of the cab and as The Dude yells at him, he doesn’t notice Bunny driving by in a sports car, having taken an unannounced trip to Palm Springs and not missing any of her toes. Meanwhile, the three Germans are seen at a diner eating with a woman, who is missing one of her toes. When The Dude gets home, he finds Maude there waiting for him and she tells him to sleep with her. Afterwards, they are talking and Maude tells The Dude that her father doesn’t have any money, as her mother was the rich one and left all the money to the family’s foundation. When Maude pulls her knees up to her chest, The Dude asks what she is doing and she tells him she is trying to ensure she gets pregnant, as she wants a child but tells The Dude that she does not want anything to do with the father, easing The Dude’s concerns about fathering a child. The Dude realizes he was played and calls Walter and has him pick him up. When he goes outside to wait for him, he sees the Volkswagen parked up the street and confronts the driver, who is a P.I. that had been hired by Bunny’s family to find her and bring her back home to their farm in Minnesota, as she had run away from their. When Walter gets there, The Dude tells him about Lebowski not having any money so he stole the money from the foundation and kept it, giving The Dude an empty briefcase so he can blame the money’s theft on the kidnappers. Arriving at Lebowski’s house, they see Bunny has returned and confront Lebowski about his using Bunny being missing to steal the money and pin it’s disappearance on the kidnappers or him. Lebowski says that it is The Dude’s word against his and Walter insults Lebowski, not believing that he is really paralyzed, and picks him up out of his chair and drops him on the floor, then they quickly leave when they realize he is paralyzed. The Dude and Walter head to the bowling alley to practice and when they leave with Donny, they find the Germans have set The Dude’s car on fire and demand the money. The Dude tells them they know that they didn’t kidnap Bunny so there is no ransom so the Germans decide to just rob them. Walter fights the German’s biting the ear off of one of them and knocking all three out but Donny ends up suffering a fatal heart attack due to the excitement. The Dude and Walter take Donny’s ashes to the Pacific Ocean to scatter them and accidentally ends up throwing them in The Dude’s face when the wind shifts. Walter apologizes and tries to wipe the ashes off of The Dude, who gets upset at Walter for ruining everything, and Walter hugs The Dude and tells him they should go bowling. At the bowling alley, The Dude encounters the stranger again and the talk briefly before The Dude heads over to go bowling, telling the stranger that “The Dude abides.” The stranger, breaking the 4th wall, addresses the audience and says he takes comfort in that. He then says he hopes they liked the story as he did, and comments that even though he was sad that Donny died, he knows that a little Lebowski is on the way and figures that is just the circle of life.

The Big Lebowski received mixed reviews on it’s release but in recent years, the critics have changed their opinion of the film, as shown by the certified fresh rating of 82% it holds on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Typically stunning visuals and sharp dialogue from the Coen Brothers, brought to life with strong performances from Goodman and Bridges.” Before filming a scene, Jeff Bridges would ask the Coen Brothers if The Dude “burned one on the way over” and if they said he did, then he would rub his knuckles in his eyes before doing a take to make them appear bloodshot. Though the movie was a success at the box office, earning $46.2 million off of a $15 million budget, the studio considered it a disappointment. However, it would become end up becoming a cult classic over time and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2014.

I think this really was a movie that was a bit ahead of it’s time because it is fantastic. Jeff Bridges and John Goodman were fantastic as The Dude and Walter respectively and their interaction was hysterical throughout the movie; with The Dude constantly being incredulous at Walter’s suggestions and actions. I also liked Steve Buscemi (Donny) and you kind of feel bad for his character, as he constantly came in halfway through The Dude’s and Walter’s conversation and when he tried to figure out what they were talking about, Walter always yelled at him. The story was great, as it was a nice little red herring of a crime drama with the stoned Dude getting dragged into a mess and trying to figure a way out, and somehow stumbling into what is really going on. The comedy wasn’t really in your face, mostly involved with the banter between people and some of the resulting actions from it. Definitely one of the Coen Brothers best movies and well worth watching.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Flashback Review: April 10th, 2014 Movie – Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker

batman beyond return of the joker

At the beginning of 1999, as everyone was talking about the new century/millennium that was fast approaching, a new Batman appeared to give us a glimpse of what the future might bring. When Batman Beyond first debuted, I was curious about it as the initial concept sounded pretty interesting. So I watched the pilot movie and thought it was incredibly well done and couldn’t wait to watch the cartoon when it started up on a weekly basis. Now some time after the show started, there were some rumors that started up saying that the 5th Batman movie might possibly be based on this new cartoon. If there is one thing that I will never forgive Batman & Robin for, it is the fact that they deprived us of the chance for a live action version. However, they made up for it by making an animated film involving the Joker and bringing Mark Hamill in to reprise the character. As soon as I first saw the ad for this movie I knew I had to watch it so I bought the DVD as soon as it came out, then upgraded it to Blu-Ray a few years ago. So let’s sit back and enjoy today’s movie, Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker.

The plot: In the year 2040, a gang of Jokerz (Bonk, Chucko, Ghoul, the Dee Dee twins (Deidre and Delia Dennis), and Woof (who has been spliced with hyena genes)) are stealing some high tech equipment when Batman (Terry McGinnis) shows up to stop them. Batman works on taking them out but gets briefly distracted by the Dee Dees when he sees them cowering in fear only to have one of them hit him with a taser when he turns his back and they both attack him. He manages to get away from them but Woof bites him and as Ghoul goes to help Woof, Bonk, Chucko, and the Dee Dees manage to get away with the equipment. Batman knocks out Woof and Ghoul and gives chase and when he attacks Bonk, he disengages from the device and flies off after him, leaving the other two unable to continue carrying the device. The Dee Dee that is with Bonk tries to attack Batman but ends up falling off the lifter. Batman manages to snag her with a grapple but Bonk attacks him. The other Dee Dee uses her lifter to save her sister as the device crashes to the ground and Chucko grabs the memory board from it before Dee Dee picks him up and they fly away before it explodes. Bonk continues attacking Batman but is struck by a flag pole and hangs onto it. Batman manages to jump from the lifter before it crashes but when he recovers, he sees that the Jokerz have gotten away. Returning to the Batcave, Terry tells Bruce about the Jokerz when he notices the news broadcast talking about Bruce returning to take control of Wayne Enterprises. Terry comments about some disparaging remarks from Jordan Price, who had been in line to run the company before Bruce’s return, and Bruce says he will keep him around so long as he is able to work by his rules. Despite Bruce telling him he should get some sleep, Terry heads out to meet his girlfriend Dana at a club but he ends up falling asleep on his feet there. Meanwhile, the Jokerz return to their hideout at an abandoned Jolly Jack candy factory, where Chucko hands the memory card to their new boss, who says it is worthless. As their boss calls them losers, Bonk loses his temper and yells at him, saying he wants out. The boss, revealing himself to be the Joker, pulls out a gun and threatens to shoot Bonk, who quickly apologizes. When Joker pulls the trigger, a flag with the word “Bang” printed on it pops out and Bonk breathes a sigh of relief, until the Joker pulls the trigger again and the flag is propelled into Bonk’s chest, killing him. Joker then addresses the other Jokerz and after getting a renewed pledge of devotion to him, has Ghoul find another facility that has the equipment they need. When he picks one, Ghoul worries about the security there but Joker says that it will make things more fun. The next night, Bruce and Terry attend a function welcoming Bruce back to the company when the Joker’s laughter is suddenly heard through the speakers just before Woof appears and rushes the stage, avoiding Terry’s attack. Security is called in but they are taken out by Chucko and Ghoul, who then proceed to steal the scanner they were after. Bruce manages to knock Woof aside with his cane, then tells Terry to get to work while he tries to leave but the Dee Dees grab him and knock him back onto the stage, just as Joker appears. Bruce reacts in shock at seeing Joker, who tells Bruce that he is the real deal and he should know, inferring that Joker knows Bruce was Batman. Batman shows up but Joker has Woof deal with him and once he hears from Chucko and Ghoul that they are almost done, he calls for a retreat, detonating some explosives and sending some of the guest falling to the ground, forcing Batman to save them and allowing him to get away. As they are leaving, Terry tries to get some information from Bruce on the Joker, who refuses to tell him anything. The next day, Terry goes to see Barbara Gordon, the police commissioner, who refuses to go into details but tells him that the Joker was like nothing he had ever faced before and to let it drop, then dismisses him as she has an appointment coming in to speak with her. Back at the Batcave, Bruce is analyzing the Joker’s voice from last night with a previous recording from an old crime and the computer says that they match. Terry returns to the Batcave and asks Bruce why he never talked about the Joker, even though he mentioned all of his other criminals. When Bruce says it can’t be the real Joker because he saw him die, Terry asks if he killed him. Bruce doesn’t respond and instead, asks Terry to return the Batsuit, saying he had honored his father’s killers and gone above and beyond to protect the city but he no longer needs to do that. Terry argues that before becoming Batman he was the type of punk that Bruce wouldn’t have wasted a second punch on and this was his way of making amends for his past. When Bruce chastises him, Terry tosses his backpack with the suit inside at his feet and leaves. Later that night, Bruce is working on making some Joker antivenom when Ace hears something and, growling, heads upstairs only to quickly yelp in pain. As Bruce calls out to him, some gas pellets drop down the stairs and Joker appears and confronts Bruce. Meanwhile, Terry heads to a dance club, where Dana is out with some of her friends, and tells her that he no longer has a job so he can focus on her more, which she is happy to hear. Suddenly, the Dee Dees, without their make-up, approach Terry and Dana and separate Terry from Dana, allowing Ghoul to grab her. As Terry tries to find her, the Dee Dees attack him, with Chucko and Woof showing up as well. Dana tries to get away from Ghoul, who ends up shoving her off the raised platform they are on and Terry saves her from getting seriously hurt but she still falls unconscious. As the Jokerz continue trying to attack him, Terry leaves Dana with thier friend Chelsea and tells her to hide, then leads them away before knocking over a giant lava lamp, catching the Jokerz in the rush of falling liquid, then knocks out Chucko when he tries to shoot him. Heading back outside to check on Dana, who is being loaded into an ambulance, Terry tells Chelsea to stay with her, then he gets on his motorcycle and heads to Wayne Manor. As he is driving, Terry calls Bruce and starts to leave a message when he realizes Bruce should have picked up and quickens his pace. When he gets there, he sees the wounded Ace and the entrance to the Batcave broken open and heads down to find the Joker has covered the cave in graffiti. Seeing Bruce lying on the floor, he discovers that he has been infected with the Joker’s toxin but Bruce is able to tell Terry about the antivenom and he quickly grabs it and administers it to Bruce. Terry calls Barbara to help tend to Bruce, then forces her to tell him what happened to the Joker. Barbara tells him that their last encounter with the Joker happened after Dick Grayson had left to become Nightwing; leaving Bruce, herself, and Tim Drake, the new Robin, to patrol Gotham. One day, Robin was captured by Joker and Harley Quinn and for three weeks, Batman and Batgirl searched for him with no sign of him. When they received a package from Joker, they head to the old Arkham Asylum grounds and find Joker and Harley there. Batman approaches them, having Batgirl sneak up to a higher vantage point. Batman asks them about Robin but the feign ignorance, then comment about their “Little J”, and when Batman heads in the direction the indicated, Harley uses her bazooka to trap him. Joker then explains that they have been doing this game for years and he decided it was time to start a family but Harley didn’t want to deal with pregnancy so they simply borrowed one of his kids, then molded him in their own image. Joker then reveals that Tim has been turned into a mirror image of Joker and an enraged Batman breaks free from his bonds and goes after Joker. Batgirl swoops down and knocks Harley back, then tries to talk with Tim to see if he remembers her but Harley attacks her, then tells Tim to get her bazooka. Batgirl renews her attack on Harley, chasing her outside where the building is falling apart. As they argue over what they did to Tim, Tim shows up with the Bazooka and tosses it to Harley, who begins firing at Batgirl but she is able to knock it aside and a stray round causes both of them to fall. Batgirl manages to stop her fall and tries to pull Harley to safety but Harley’s costume rips and she ends up falling to the water below. Meanwhile, Batman continues chasing after Joker, who leads him to the theater room and shows him the video of how he tortured and changed Robin, revealing that in the process Robin told him all of his secrets. Batman smashes through the projection room and assaults Joker, and prepares to kill him but stops when he sees Tim watching them. Joker takes advantage of the distraction to slash Batman with his knife before stabbing him in the leg, then knocking him to the ground. Joker then tosses a gun to Tim and tells him to finish off Batman and, laughing maniacally, Tim pulls the trigger, making the flag come out, but as Joker yells at him to finish it, Tim points the gun at Joker before pulling the trigger again, sending the flag into Joker’s chest. Tim continues laughing before the laughter turns into sobs of pain and Batgirl rushes in and consoles him. Barbara then says that they buried Joker in Arkham, while there was no sign of Harley, and her father helped them hide the truth from everyone but after Tim was restored to sanity, Bruce forbade him from wearing the Robin costume again and Tim eventually left. He became a communications specialist and is now married and has children, which Barbara feels he deserves after what he went through. Terry decides to question Tim, who tells him that he had nothing to do with the Joker and he was just as surprised as anyone when he returned. Leaving Tim, Batman heads off to investigate Jordan Price, as he would also have reason for wanting Bruce out of the way. On his private yacht, Jordan is surprised to find the Jokerz waiting for him and he asks what they want, as he already gave them the codes they needed to rob Wayne Enterprises, and the Jokerz say that their boss wants them to tie up loose ends. Jordan tries to get away but Woof knocks him down and they handcuff him to a table, then contact the Joker. Joker tells them to get out of there and Batman, who had been recording their conversation, tries to stop them but they slip out and Batman moves to follow but notices the light suddenly shining onto the yacht. Freeing Jordan, he gets off the boat with him and heads to shore, just as a laser beam shoots out of the sky and destroys the yacht. Batman gets caught in the wave that formed from the explosion but is able to rescue Jordan and heads to shore, where he turns Jordan, as well as the audio recording of his working with the Jokerz, over to the police. Returning to the Batcave, Terry chastises himself for not being able to figure out where the Joker is when Bruce comes down to the cave. As they discuss Bruce’s reason for not wanting Terry to face off against the Joker, Terry notices that despite all of the cases being smashed, Robin’s costume is the only one that was destroyed. Telling Bruce that Tim might be somehow involved this, he shows him all of the equipment that the Jokerz stole and how someone with Tim’s knowledge can turn it into a satellite jamming system. Bruce accepts Terry’s logic and tells him to suit up and Terry says he needs to bring something with him, staring at Ace. Batman goes to see Tim at his lab but finds it is a hologram, just as the lab is sealed off. Joker appears on the monitor and says that Tim is working for him and explains what he has planned, then invites Batman to try and stop him. Terry manages to get out of the lab and contacts Bruce but Joker interrupts their conversation and uses the satellite to attack the Batmobile, first by firing single shots and then turning the laser into a solid beam of light. As he is laughing at Batman’s plight, Joker suddenly gets woozy and cuts off the transmission, and as the satellite stops firing, Batman heads towards Joker’s hideout. As he nears the Jolly Jack factory, Chucko shoots the Batmobile down but Batman steers it right at him and takes out the tower he was on, knocking him out. Woof appears ready to fight but Terry sends Ace out to deal with him, leaving him free to deal with Ghoul and the Dee Dees. Batman heads inside to find an unconscious Tim on the floor and when Batman questions him, Tim says he doesn’t know anything about the Joker but then suddenly recalls seeing him. Tim seems out of it at first but then tells Terry that he is ok and when Batman asks how he knew his name, Tim says he knows everything about him, then throws a trap at him that incapacitates his suit. Tim then addresses Bruce, as he is watching through the suits video feed, and begins laughing and suddenly transforms into the Joker, shocking Batman and Bruce. Joker explains that he had placed his consciousness onto a microchip and placed it on Tim’s body when he was his captive, intended as a back-up plan. At first, he had to limit the time he was able to take control of Tim’s body, who would always chalk it up to nightmares about the Joker, but over time he was able to take control at will. He then plans on using the satellite to take out Wayne Manor, as well as Terry’s home and the hospital that Dana is in, then taunts Terry and asks if he has any last words for Bruce. Batman says “Yeh, sic ’em”, and Ace leaps out from behind Joker and knocks him into some cables. Batman calls Ace to him, who is able to bite the clamp off of his suit, then rushes at the Joker but Joker uses his joy buzzer to stun Ace. Before Joker can finish him off, Batman tackles him and the joy buzzer slips off his hand and short circuits the satellite controls, sending the beam straight towards them. Saying his plan is ruined now, Joker plans on leaving and when Batman tries to stop him, Joker easily pummels him, saying that he knew everything about Batman and Robin in their prime and that Terry was out of his league. Batman asks Bruce for advise but realizing the difference in their styles, Terry starts fighting dirty and then begins mocking Joker, causing him to get enraged. Joker eventually starts throwing explosives at Batman and traps him under a table before starting to choke him but as he taunts Batman, Batman reveals that he had grabbed the joy buzzer and uses it to short out and destroy the microchip, ridding Tim of the Joker once and for all. Able to free himself, Batman helps Tim and Ace out of there just before the laser destroys the factory before shutting down. Some time later, the Dee Dees are released from jail into the custody of their grandmother, who is revealed to be Harley Quinn. Meanwhile, Terry stops by to check in on Tim, who thanks him for what he did and says Bruce couldn’t have chosen anyone better to wear the suit. As he is leaving, Terry encounters Bruce, who stops Terry and tells him that he was wrong about what he said earlier; the Batsuit doesn’t make him a better person, but rather he makes the Batman a better person. Bruce then heads inside Tim’s hospital room to reconcile with his former sidekick while Terry heads out and puts on the Batsuit to patrol the streets of Gotham.

I have to admit that this was a bit darker than I expected but still a fantastic movie to watch. The voice acting was great, with Kevin Conroy and Will Friedle doing great jobs reprising their roles of Bruce and Terry respectively. Mark Hammill was fantastic coming back as the Joker, while Dean Stockwell did a good job as the older Tim Drake. The story was good but surprisingly dark considering it was essentially a kids movie. I liked how they were able to tie in the past events with the future, while the reveal that Harley was the grandmother of the Dee Dees, who were essentially a new generation of Harley, was pretty funny. The initial DVD that I bought had some scenes changed from the uncut version that is on the Blu-Ray, mainly how Joker killed Bonk and Tim killed Joker. The scenes showing Robin being tortured were definitely a little hard to watch and definitely not something that would be suitable for kids. The animation was great and felt like a step up from the animation from the TV show, which was pretty good to begin with. I wouldn’t necessarily let young kids watch it but it is definitely worth watching.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Flashback Review: April 8th, 2014 Movie – Batman: Under The Red Hood

batman under the red hood

The 80’s was an interesting time in the Batman universe. Dick Grayson, the original Robin, had grown up and began leading the Teen Titans, eventually changing costumes and becoming Nightwing. Eventually, Batman would find himself a new sidekick, Jason Todd. However, while Dick Grayson was loved by just about everyone, a lot of people didn’t think too fondly of him. In fact, DC gave their fans the opportunity to decide on if he lived or died and though it was close, the fans voted for him to be killed off. This death would have a rather profound effect on Batman for years to come, almost as big an impact as the death of his parents. However, there is one constant when it comes to death in the comics; and that is that Uncle Ben is the only person that can stay dead. Thus, Jason Todd would eventually come back to life in the comics in 2004 and 6 years later, an animated movie was made based off of that story line. I first saw this movie on Netflix several years ago and I immediately decided to grab a copy on DVD so I could enjoy watching Batman: Under The Red Hood whenever I wanted.

The plot: In his hideout, Ra’s al Ghul says he regrets hiring the Joker to distract Batman when he learns that Joker has kidnapped Robin (Jason Todd) and Batman won’t reach him in time. In Sarajevo, Joker has Robin tied up and beats him mercilessly with a crowbar before leaving him to die in an explosion. Batman races through the streets of Sarajevo towards Robin’s location but is too late as he gets there just as the building explodes. 5 years later, 8 crime bosses are gathered for a meeting and as they argue over who set it up, they are confronted by a man wearing a red hooded helmet. The Red Hood, tells them that they will start kicking up 40% of their profits to him in exchange for protection from both Black Mask (the reigning main crime boss in Gotham) and Batman but warns them not to deal any drugs around schoolyards or to kids. When they ask why they should do that, he drops down a duffel bag containing the heads of their lieutenants, claiming to have done that in two hours, then leaves. Elsewhere, Batman is stopping some men from stealing some cargo but as he restrains them, the cargo activates, revealing itself to be Amazo, the super powered android that can copy the powers of other meta-humans. As Batman faces off against him, he is joined by Nightwing and together they are able to destroy Amazo. Afterwards, they go to question the crooks who say they work for the Red Hood but before they can say anything else, they are killed by the Red Hood. Batman chases after him, eventually tracking him to a factory where he confronted a previous criminal called the Red Hood and he had fallen into a vat of chemicals, transforming him into the Joker. As Batman stares at the chemicals, the Red Hood comments about this being the site of his greatest failure but it wasn’t his last, then he shoots at his crashed car, which ignites the chemicals and causes an explosion, covering his escape. Back at the Batcave, Nightwing was able to get a picture of the Red Hood and they comment about the previous criminals who used that name, then Batman decides to head to Arkham Asylum to question Joker. When they get there, Joker taunts both of them and says Nightwing is no more fun since he grew up and stopped being Robin, then taunts Batman some more over Jason’s death. Batman loses his temper and grabs Joker by the throat and he asks if he is really going to kill him this time or just put him in a body cast again and Batman drops him and they eventually leave. Meanwhile, Black Mask is yelling at his men for allowing Amazo to be stolen by the Red Hood and then destroyed by Batman. He then discusses their next arms shipment, unaware that Batman and Nightwing are listening in, as well as Red Hood. That night, Red Hood attempts to steal the helicopter with the next shipment of weapons when Batman and Nightwing show up to stop him. When they disable the helicopter, Red Hood maneuvers it to crash over the city, forcing Batman and Nightwing to stop it from hurting the people below, then they chase after him. Red Hood manages to elude them, even severing Batman’s grapple when he tries to ensnare him, and as they follow him to the train station, he uses a bomb to slow them down, injuring Nightwing in the process. As Batman and Nightwing recover from the blast, the Red Hood makes a comment to Batman but it is drowned out by sound of an oncoming train. Returning to the Batcave, Alfred tends to Nightwing’s injuries while Batman replays video he recorded of their encounter with the Red Hood. After sending Nightwing home to recover, Batman replays the audio and after removing the noise from the train, hears Red Hood call him Bruce, revealing he knows his identity. Shocked, Batman thinks back to Jason’s training as Robin and how he became more violent when he got older and he realizes that the Red Hood might be Jason somehow. Meanwhile, Black Mask is angered over another arms shipment destroyed and he orders his men to shake down the crime bosses working for Red Hood in order to force him out of hiding so he can have him killed. His men succeed and when Red Hood confronts Black Mask’s men, he is attacked by 4 cybernetic ninjas. He fends them off for a while until Batman shows up and helps him defeat them. When Red Hood kills one of the ninjas, Batman argues with him about his methods but Red Hood says he is doing a better job cleaning up the city than he ever did before leaving. Batman takes the sword one of the ninjas had cut Red Hood with and takes it back to the Batcave to analyze the blood, which confirms that Red Hood is Jason and as he stares at the screen, he hears a noise and turns to find a shocked Alfred had dropped the tray he was carrying when he saw the results on the screen. Meanwhile, after hearing of the latest failure to kill Red Hood, Black Mask is forced to break Joker out of Arkham and works out a deal with him to deal with Red Hood. Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce digs up Jason’s grave and discovers the body in his coffin is a fake. Chastising himself for being careless and not checking the body when he brought it back, Batman head out to confront Ra’s al Ghul, knowing he was involved in Jason’s return. When he gets to Ra’s’s home, he confronts him and Ra’s admits that when he hired the Joker to distract Batman while he tried to topple Europe’s financial markets, he underestimated Joker’s madness and never intended for Robin to be killed. He figured Bruce would be too grief stricken to perform an autopsy and was able to replace the body with a fake. He intended to use the Lazarus Pit to restore Jason to life and send him back to Bruce but something went wrong and Jason returned deranged and had escaped his lair. Batman leaves Ra’s’s lair and as he is flying back to Gotham, Alfred alerts him to a situation on the bridge. Joker has the crime bosses that work for Red Hood, as well as Black Mask and his assistant, tied up in a truck and is pouring gasoline on them. As he goes to set them on fire, Red Hood shows up and reveals that he had antagonized Black Mask in the hopes he would break Joker out of Arkham, as he wanted to confront him face to face. Annoyed that the joke was on him, Joker goes ahead and lights the gasoline but Batman appears and douses the flames, then goes to capture the Joker but Red Hood grabs him and severs the cable, sending them both into the water below. As Batman searches for them, he receives a message from the Red Hood saying to meet him in Crime Alley. Red Hood takes Joker to am abandoned building and begins to pummel him with a crowbar, much like Joker did to him before he killed him. When Batman arrives in Crime Alley, he thinks back to his first encounter with Jason, where a young Jason had stolen the tires off of the Batmobile. Red Hood appears and the two begin fighting, with Jason eventually taking off the hood and revealing he is wearing Robin’s mask underneath. The two continue to fight until the reach the house, where Jason says that he forgives Bruce for not saving him but wants to know why he didn’t kill Joker afterwards. Joker, realizing who the Red Hood is, starts laughing and tells Batman that Robin has a point and as Jason and Batman argue over the matter until Jason throws a gun at Batman, telling him that the only way to stop him from killing Joker is to kill him. Batman drops the gun and walks away, and Jason fires at him but Batman dodges the bullet, then throws a Batarang at Jason’s gun, blocking the barrel and causing a misfire when he tries shooting again. Wounded, Jason activates some explosives he planted and Batman goes to disarm them but Joker stops him, wanting them all to blow up together. Batman knocks Joker out, the grabs Jason to try and save them as the bombs go off. When the dust settles, Batman finds Joker trapped underneath some rubble but there is no sign of Jason anywhere. As the news reports talk about the aftermath of the events, Alfred asks if he should remove Jason’s costume from where it is kept but Bruce says no, that the current situation doesn’t change anything. As he leaves to go on patrol, a flashback is shown of Batman and Alfred watching as Jason dons the Robin costume for the first time and how excited he was wearing it.

This was a great movie to watch and probably one of my favorite Batman movies out there. The voice acting was really good, with Bruce Greenwood doing a good job as Batman while Jensen Ackles was great as Red Hood. I also liked John DiMaggio, Jason Isaacs, and Neil Patrick Harris as Joker, Ra’s al Ghul, and Nightwing respectively. The story was good and did a good job of briefly recapping what happened in the past that set up the present events. I liked the brief inclusion of Nightwing in the movie to kind of showcase the differences between Dick and Jason, primarily in their character as they got older. I also liked the way they had the Joker portrayed, as they didn’t make him overly crazed but he simply had that mad unpredictability that made him really interesting. The animation was pretty good and the action scenes were well drawn while not taking away from any of the drama that was written into the scenes. Definitely not for little kids but a very well made movie that is worth watching.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

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Flashback Review: April 7th, 2014 Movie – Batman: Mystery Of The Batwoman

batman mystery of the batwoman

In 2003, DC still had a pretty strong presence on television. Batman: The Animated Series, Superman and Batman Beyond had all concluded their runs, while Teen Titans, Static Shock, Justice League, and a new Batman cartoon were going strong. Around this time, a new movie would come about, showing that DC wasn’t just content to have their characters on TV. I remember seeing the commercials for the movie and thought it was interesting so I rented it and watched it. I thought it was entertaining but didn’t consider buying it at the time. A couple of years ago, when I started buying some of the DC animated movies, I remembered this movie and made sure to pick up a copy of today’s movie, Batman: Mystery Of The Batwoman.

The plot: Some crooks are attempting to smuggle some guns through Gotham when they see shadow of a bat overhead but instead of Batman, it is a woman dressed as Batman and flying on a bat-shaped glider. Batwoman lands on the truck carrying the guns and begins destroying the crates, taking out the crooks escort car in the process. The crook riding shotgun climbs back onto the trailer and begins fighting with Batwoman, but she manages to toss him off the truck and into the water below. Batman and Robin (Tim Drake) are alerted to the commotion and as they fly there in the Batwing, they see Batwoman grab one of the guns and get back on her glider, then fires at the truck, separating the trailer from the cab and sending the cab plunging off the overpass to the city below. Batman is able to use the Batwing to stop the cab from crashing and Batwoman flies towards him and stares at him through the cockpit before flying off. The next day, Rupert Thorne and Carlton Duquesne (pronounced Du-Kane) meet with Penguin, who is the third party in their arms consortium. Penguin wants to know how Batwoman found out about the shipment, saying that their international buyers will want their money back if they don’t deliver the guns. He tasks Duquesne, who was brought on as their “muscle”, to deal with Batwoman. Later that day, Duquesne is on the phone with his men telling them to find out who Batwoman is and deal with her when his daughter Kathy comes home from shopping and he chastises her for leaving without telling him where she was going, then continues his phone call. Meanwhile, Bruce is also trying to figure out who Batwoman could be and as the news reports discuss the new vigilante, Barbara Gordon calls Bruce and jealously asks if he had replaced her but Bruce quickly makes an excuse to leave before hanging up the phone. Later, Bruce is attending a meeting where one of his researchers, Roxanne “Rocky” Ballantine, is showing a programmable and adaptable metal that she invented. Bruce takes Rocky out to dinner to discuss the metal and it’s applications further when they see the Batsignal in the sky and Bruce cuts the dinner short. On top of police headquarters, Batman finds Gordon, Detective Harvey Bullock, and his new partner Sonia Alcana waiting for him with some of the remains from the destroyed arms shipment. As they discuss the weapons, Bullock says the driver isn’t talking but Batman grabs the keys that he is tossing in the air and stares at them, then hands them back and tells Gordon he will be in touch before leaving. Later, Batman and Robin head to the shop that Penguin, Thorne, and Duquesne own and as they approach the building, they hear a muffled explosion coming from within. Inside the building, Batwoman is dealing with some of the crooks guarding the place when Batman and Robin drop in and help her. As they are fighting, Batwoman warns them about the charge she placed in the lower level where the arms are being made and they quickly leave before the building explodes. Batwoman explains about the weapons being made and goes to leave when Batman tries to stop her but she quickly attacks him in order to get away on her glider. Batman uses a grapple to snag the glider and follow after her but she uses a batarang to cut the line. Batman uses another grapple to keep from falling and, using some binoculars, sees Batwoman heading towards Duquesne’s penthouse. When Batman gets there, he hears Duquesne yelling on the phone after hearing about what happened at the plant and when Batman has a confrontation with his bodyguards, he yells at him to get away from his home and family, as Kathy looks down from her window. Bruce, suspecting Kathy of being Batwoman, decides to follow her as she goes shopping and then decides to get a closer look. As he is keeping tabs on her, Kathy manages to slip away form her bodyguards, then asks Bruce to help her get out of the store. Bruce does so and they manage to drive off in her car and Kathy takes her to her favorite spot; a place on the cliffs that she used to go to with her mom before she was killed. Bruce ends up getting close to Kathy and they start to kiss when her bodyguards show up and she reluctantly heads off with them. Later that night, Batman meets with Gordon, Bullock, and Sonia and tells them he suspects Kathy Duquesne of being the Batwoman, and Gordon says that he will put a tail on her. Meanwhile, Penguin and Thorne are discussing Duquesne’s inability to protect the shipment and Penguin decides to bring in someone else to stop Batwoman. When they discover Batwoman in Penguin’s office, she is able to get away and Thorne agrees to Penguin’s plan. Later the next day, Bruce is at the office talking with Rocky when Kathy shows up, inviting him to dinner and Bruce accepts, knowing that the police will be watching them. They end up heading to Penguin’s lounge and Bruce asks her what she is playing at, causing Kathy to walk off. Meanwhile, Batwoman confronts Penguin in his office but his bodyguards show up and begin fighting with her. As Penguin joins the fight, Batman shows up to save her but as Batwoman gets away, Batman notices Kathy watching from the crowd. As Bruce takes Kathy home that night, she apologizes for the evening and he apologizes for misjudging her but the bodyguards interrupt them before they can kiss. Later, Batman meets with Sonia and hands her a fragment of the alloy Batwoman used to restrain Penguin and as he goes to leave, she comments that he had saved her life once when her parent’s building caught fire and Batman says he remembers the men being linked to Thorne but nobody could prove it. Penguin, Thorne, and Duquesne meet with Bane, who Penguin had brought in to deal with Batwoman and Bane tells them he wants complete control to deal with Batwoman as he sees fit, unaware that Batwoman had snuck in and was listening to their plan. Back at the Batcave, Batman is trying to figure out who really is Batwoman, as both Kathy and Rocky have alibis for when she had appeared. Having Robin try to find any connection between the two, Batman heads to Duquesne’s place to see if he can find some information and finds the connection in Kathy’s sketchbook. Meanwhile, Batwoman returns to her lair and it is revealed that Kathy and Rocky were both Batwoman, as well as Sonia, as all three had reasons to take down the three crime bosses. Sonia explains what the criminals are planning and Kathy goes to blow up the ship smuggling the weapons but ends up getting caught by Bane. As Sonia watches from the police HQ roof, Batman confronts her about the connection between her, Kathy, and Rocky, and asks where Kathy is, just as Rocky contacts her and says she can’t reach Kathy. On the ship, Bane had contacted Penguin and when he, Thorne, and Duquesne arrive on the ship, Bane reveals Batwoman to be Kathy, which shocks her father. Penguin says he knows that she isn’t working alone and moves to torture her and when Duquesne tries to stop him, Bane grabs him and threatens to break his neck. Batman shows up and stops Bane, then rescues Kathy but as they are making their way off the ship, she sets the bomb, intending on making sure things end there. Bane captures Duquesne and uses him as bait to trap Batman and Kathy so he can kill them. Meanwhile, Penguin and Thorne attempt to escape but Sonia and Rocky show up to try and stop them just as the bomb goes off. Sonia and Rocky are knocked from the gliders and Sonia is knocked out but Rocky manages to keep her afloat only to see Penguin and Thorne bearing down on them. Robin, in the Batboat, saves them and as he helps Sonia onto the boat, Rocky goes after Penguin and Thorne and manages to stop them. Back on the ship, Kathy was thrown off the top decks of the ship and as she is suspended over the burning lower decks, Duquesne saves her and they make their way off the ship. Meanwhile, Bane and Batman continue fighting, with Bane using his Venom supplies to increase his strength. Batman uses Rocky’s restraining alloy to try and stop him and succeeds in severing the tubes for the venom. Bane is able to break free from the alloy but Batman, seeing the ship about to crash into the bridge, uses his grapple to climb up the underside of the bridge away from the ship as the ship hits the bridge, destroying the top portions of the ship and sending Bane falling into the fires below. Sonia, having recovered, uses her glider to fly up and rescue Batman, then drops him off on the police boat, revealing to Gordon and Bullock that she is Batwoman. Some time later, Sonia is shown to have been fired from the police force, as Gordon can condone vigilantism but can’t employ one. Batman stops by as she is cleaning out her desk and gives her the evidence that Rocky needs to free her fiance Kevin, who was framed by the Penguin for a crime. Later, Rocky and Kathy are talking outside the prison, as Kathy was there to visit her father while Rocky is waiting for Kevin to be released. As Rocky hugs Kevin, Kathy leaves them only to find Bruce waiting for outside. When she asks why he is there, Bruce, who had grown to have feelings for her, says that he missed her and the excitement her life provided and the two drive off together.

This was a pretty good movie and of the three early standalone Batman movies, I would probably place this in the middle as far as which one I liked best. The voice acting was pretty good and the cast from the show that returned to reprise their characters did a good job. The story was pretty interesting and I loved the somewhat Hitchcock motif involved with the identity of the Batwoman. The misdirection involved really felt inspired by Strangers On A Train, where each woman had their own reason for working together on taking out the crime bosses, and were constantly switching which one was wearing the costume so that it would throw suspicion off of the others. The animation mirrored that found in the later episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, which was ok but I felt wasn’t as good as the original animation style and design. It’s a solid animated movie and one that is well worth giving a watch if you get the chance.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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