Batman Begins (***)

Posted on June 1st, 2005 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

When I saw Christian Bale (or almost saw, as he was virtually too thin to actually reflect light) in The Machinist I would never have imagined that he could assume the mantle of Batman. But he does so with stunning authority, and I felt as if I were watching the first major motion picture based on the character. What I was doing, however, was watching the first really good big-budget Batman film. The first one (with Michael Keaton) was passably entertaining, but I have never sought it out to watch it again. The rest of the flock (or would that more appropriately be “colony”?) were not even that good, at least as far as I can remember, and I don’t really remember anything about them, other than Nicholson’s creepy grin and Schwarzenegger’s crazy ice cream man.

But in Batman Begins we finally have what is to me the first worthy representation of the Dark Knight on the big screen. There is no Burton-esque surreality or Schumacher-ian crassness tainting the story, which tells the tale of young Bruce Wayne and his journey to becoming Batman. Christian Bale plays the young billionaire orphan playboy with the right amounts of panache and pathos, and the supporting cast is excellent, including Michael Caine as the best-ever Alfred, Liam Neeson as Obi-Wan, Katie Holmes as Lois Lane, Gary Oldman as not-yet-Commissioner Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Q, and Cillian Murphy as Johnny Depp. Those comparisons to other movies/characters are not meant to be derogatory, but they sum up each performance better than several paragraphs of drivel.

My one big complaint with the film is that way too many of the action and fight scenes are filmed in extreme close-up, meaning that the actual action can only be inferred, not observed. In some cases this makes sense in that the director is trying to show the perspective of Batman’s foes as he attacks them without being seen clearly, but the technique is used to the point of becoming a crutch, perhaps so that the director would not have to deal with the hairy continuity issues that come with ornate digital effects.

One would think, however, that the director would be a master of continuity, as this film is directed by Christopher Nolan, who also directed the time-warping (and iron-man continuity marathon) Memento. However, other than a bit too much jump-cutting and close-up-ing, Nolan sets a very good tone and pace for the film. One wonders if the kaleidescopic nature of the action sequences was a preference of the director or a command from a lunkhead studio moneyman.

Overall, however, the film works, but loses a half-star to the cheap pyrotechnics. Cheap as in unworthy, not cheap as in poor, as all the special effects are first rate, even if what they are depicting is blurred nothingness in a black cape at night in a rainstorm fighting black-suited bad guys. So, if the words “A Jerry Bruckheimer Production” get you

Michael Jackson Verdict: Innocent?

Posted on June 1st, 2005 in Commentary by EngineerBoy

So, Michael Jackson has been found innocent of all charges in his most recent court fight. As this drama has unfolded it has all smelled very fishy to me. The family was just a bit too questionable, for example, and had a history of grifting and shady dealings. Witnesses kept flip-flopping on their stories. The mother was quite a freaky subject on the witness stand. It kind of felt like the prosecution was supposed to fail.

Hmmm. That sure has the ring of truth to it, doesn’t it?

I mean, why would the prosecution go after such a high-profile, and hitherto untouchable celebrity like Michael Jackson when they would have to build their case on such a shifty foundation? It seems ludicrous, in retrospect, as if the final outcome was pre-ordained by the very fabric of the prosecutions case, which was the accuser and his family.

Well, bear with me for a moment and open your mind to an alternate theory.

What if Michael Jackson and/or his people staged this entire thing, with the prosecutors being unwitting/unwilling pawns?

Think about it for a minute. Here is Michael Jackson, whom I think we can all say is an indisputable freak. However, he has never been successfully convicted of any kind of freaky crime. Yes, there are rumors that he has paid off past accusers to silence them. But why didn’t he just do that here? I mean, I think we can all stipulate that this family would have loved nothing more than to score a few quick million from MJ and slink off into the night to blow it all raising emus or something, right?

Why did he choose to stand and fight this time? Why did he decide to allow the sordid details of his freaky existence to be dragged out into the light, confirming to most of us just how bizarre he really is? Why not just pay these people off? I find it difficult to believe that they would not have taken a cash payment. Did MJ finally decide to stand up for himself against false accusations? Or did he do something else? Did he choose to damn all his accusers with the faint praise of his current accusers? Think about it for a minute.

Michael Jackson (or his talking heads) can now point to these accusers as unquestionable rip-off artists who brought false claims to the public. They can then easily spin this to defuse any future claimants, and to discharge the built up negative static electricity of previous claims.

“See, Mr. Jackson has been set upon by money-grubbing liars, just like we told you.”

I think that a distinct possibility is that Michael Jackson bided his time and finally picked an opponent he knew he could beat, in the hopes of quelling some of the negative publicity and preventing future accusers from coming forward, based on their fear of suffering the same fate as the