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The Batman

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I understand that a superhero movie with the runtime of nearly three hours may not be continuously entertaining. That said, there was a lot I liked about “The Batman”.

Synopsis: When the Riddler (Paul Dano) begins to kidnap and record the murders of high-profile individuals in Gotham City, Batman (Robert Pattinson) is forced to intervene.      

The film’s flaws do stem from its runtime, as this episodic story doesn’t warrant anything over two hours and fifteen minutes. But as a Batman movie, what director Matt Reeves does to separate himself from the Christopher Nolan’s or the Tim Burton’s of the world, is two things:

1. Reeves tweaks the genre. In this neo-noir, Reeves takes his time establishing the world of Gotham and blends it quite nicely with a predictable murder mystery. He makes the argument that his film is a whodunit where the detective role just so happens to be played by a superhero. And while a detective may be an accurate description of what Batman has always been, in the past it has been action/superhero elements that have been the focus.

2. Reeves grounds Batman in a level of realism. This is one of the younger versions of big screen Batman. And so, he’s also visually a skinnier, less imposing version. This Batman is shown to have a privileged, immature mindset towards the concept of right and wrong at times, as would be expected being he is a young billionaire. And lastly, Reeves makes the world around Batman react to the fact that this is not only a “vigilante”, but a man in the suit and mask, and the entire getup. When Batman walks into clubs or onto crime scenes, he is looked at by others exactly as most of us would look at someone who was entirely out of place in the world, standing in the middle of the room with a Batman costume on. I believe Reeves highlights this aspect throughout purposely to create an imposing, but less authoritative character. This may be the most vulnerable Batman I’ve ever seen.

Since the story and the atmosphere play such a heavy role, I feel as though the acting did become sidelined and masked by a melodramatic tone throughout. Not to say that there aren’t fine performances. Most here are completely serviceable. Although, I think Dano is a damn good Riddler, even if some may downplay his performance, comparing him to Heath Ledger’s Joker.  As for Pattinson, I feel it’s hard to judge if he is actually good or bad in this. Much in the same way that I found it hard to judge Ben Affleck or Christian Bale, as these brooding Batmen are tasked to simply not smile. And, Pattinson does just that.

Final Thought: There have been so many versions of Batman in recent years, that in retrospect going into “The Batman” all I really wanted was something different. So yes, a chunk of my high rating is due to this particular Reeves interpretation of the character and not so much the story itself.  While I do agree that the movie doesn’t hit as hard as anything in the Nolan trilogy, “The Batman” gives us said different look, on top of being an entertaining film overall, with some of the better-looking action sequences I’ve seen in recent years. 

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The Devil All the Time

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

“The Devil All the Time” is the nihilistic movie we deserve right now. Just to be upfront, this form of woefully depressing, life is meaningless storytelling is right up my alley.  

Adapted from Donald Ray Pollock’s acclaimed debut novel of the same name (he also serves as the narrator in this movie, oddly enough) by writer/director Antonio Campos, and set between World War II and the onset of the Vietnam War, this “Hillbilly Gothic” tale follows the lives of three groups of people, a war vet and his son, a couple of evangelical preachers and a couple of serial killers, all seemingly trapped in a hyper-religious area within the Bible Belt, whose lives intersect in random and vicious biblical ways.

To some, the things in this movie may come off as violent and random, but every action and event that happens to these characters has divine meaning to them. This is the key thing to understanding how these characters interact with one another and the dichotomy at play. These are characters who live in a closed off world crawling with random acts of violence and predatory preachers. It’s our job to watch them squirm. So, if that sounds like a painful experience, then “The Devil All the Time” will be a tough watch.

That said, with tons of moving parts Campos does a superb job of methodically maintaining this ever changing two hours plus story of relentless despair and making it engaging while teasing us with hope and a plethora of fantastic characters. 

The movie also stars Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgard, Riley Keough, Eliza Scanlen, Mia Wasikowska and Jason Clarke. I just made the runtime seem so much more tolerable, didn’t it? And the performances do not disappoint; especially from Pattinson, who is only in this for all of twenty minutes, but really shows why his willingness to take chances will eventually lead to an Oscar. Also, Jason Clarke does the best southern accent of any non-American, or even American actor working today. Someone had to say it.

Final Thought: If “A Serious Man” and “The Place Beyond the Pines” had a child, “The Devil All the Time” would be it and have a similar score.

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