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The LEGO Batman Movie: Death of a Police Commissioner, Birth of a Batgirl

(Spoilers below? Oh yeah.)

A few years back there was a Lego movie. It’s name escapes me right now. Anyway, the Lego movie was thought to promote collectivism and criticize capitalism. The makers of the Lego movie (whatever it was called) denied an anti-business agenda BUT… the bad guy in the film was named “Lord Business.”

Well, a few years have passed and now we have The Lego Batman Movie on our hands. Perhaps to bring a Ra’s al Ghul-ish balance to the cinematic Lego-verse, this film asserts a strong critique of police policies largely revealed through the Barbara Gordon character. Her shedding of the commissioner’s uniform (Don’t get excited, it’s a PG film) in favor of her Batgirl costume formalizes her abandonment of supposedly enlightened law enforcement policies.

In the first reel Police Commissioner Jim Gordon finds himself in a crisis: The Joker has assembled a huge bomb to blow the literal floor out from under Gotham City. Gordon does what the G.C.P.D. does best: Call BATMAN!

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Lego My Batman

If you are anything like me, “skepticism” best described your thoughts when learning of The Lego Batman Movie. Yes, I love Lego’s. And yes, I love Batman. But “The Caped Crusader” in an animated film depicted by the world’s favorite plastic block construction toys? Sounded like too much of a good thing to me, perversely so in fact. I just did not think that Lego Batman could do the character justice. I did not think it could tell a Batman tale that anyone over 11 years old could get behind. I am glad to say: I was wrong.

Spoilers throughout.

The premise for the film is a rather simple one—what if Batman believed himself to be the bad ass that we believe he is? That’s Lego Batman, a narcissistic, frat-boy superhero who always saves the day, and always knows the he will. Lego Batman sacrifices friendship and relations out of his commitment to the superhero craft and out of his fear of losing others in the same way he lost his parents. Lego Batman’s narcissism is so profound, that even the Joker is disillusioned by it. In fact, we find that the Jokers criminal behavior is largely attention seeking. He just wants validation from Lego Batman, and to be accepted as the plastic hero’s arch nemesis.

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Despite Some Cool Moments, Batman v Superman a Disjointed Mess

First, the good news… Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t a total disaster.

Even as a moderate fan of Man of Steel, every new bit of overshare for this movie cranked out by the Warner Bros. marketing team over the last year caused my expectations to drop lower and lower to the point that even a passable film would be considered a success.

It’s an ambitious movie and there are a number of good parts, but to be perfectly blunt, I’m not sure it even met that bar.

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Good Batman. Better Bruce Wayne.

Some positives: Ben Affleck is an excellent Bruce Wayne and a pretty good Batman, and I think his character is (mostly) handled pretty well. He has the most fleshed-out motivation of any character in the film, though that isn’t saying much. The first scene in the film – which of course, you’ve already seen in the trailers – immerses us in Bruce Wayne’s perspective during Superman’s battle with Zod from the end of Man of Steel, and it is that point of view which shapes most of the film. It’s clear why he doesn’t like Superman, and when it comes down to their titular fight, Batman’s ability to hold his own and even defeat Superman is plausible, if largely cribbed from Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns, Pt II”. This film also contains one of the best Batman fight sequences ever made, so that’s a pretty big win.

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Wonder Woman ex machina.

Jeremy Irons is also excellent as Alfred Pennyworth, Gal Gadot is a strong choice as Wonder Woman, and Amy Adams continues to make a ballsy Lois Lane. Overall I think the performances and casting in this film are pretty solid. The problems with this film, much like with Man of Steel, really don’t come down to casting and I can genuinely say that I’m interested to see the upcoming solo films featuring Batman & Wonder Woman.

I’m probably in the minority here, but I even like Jesse Eisenberg’s largely unhinged take on Lex Luthor. Apart from the complete mystery that is his motivation for a lot of his specific actions, he is at the very least really good at being a villain.

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defendor

You May Have Missed: Defendor

You may have missed the movie Defendor. If that is the case, here is the trailer.  The short version is that Arthur (Woody Harrelson) is a simple, honest man who adopts the person of Defendor (a DIY Batman) to rid the streets of crime, especially his nemesis, Captain Industry.

The difference between Defendor and other “super” hero movies is Arthur’s character.  All heroes want to help, but most are also seeking a little bit of glory.  Arthur never asks for recognition, he is simply trying to right the wrongs he sees in the world. Throughout the film various characters try and understand his angle: his hooker friend, the crooked cop, his court appointed psychologist.  Most have trouble accepting that he wants nothing more than to do what’s right.

Defendor plays like It’s A Wonderful Life in reverse.  Instead of seeing the effect of one man’s absence, you see the impact of one man’s presence. There is a device throughout the film of voice over for a radio host and his callers to show public opinion about the state of things in the city as well as Arthur’s influence as he goes on his crusade.  Initially you hear the public’s frustration with the status quo, but also their complacency to just call in to a talk show and complain, either because it gives them a sense of doing something productive, or because they think there is nothing else they can do.

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High-Profile Kickstarter Campaigns Coming in 2014

Last week, we saw the Kickstarter campaign for Reading Rainbow dominate social media. The timing was perfect, as anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s was more than happy to throw money at the idea of having Reading Rainbow for their own kids. Sure, some people criticized the idea of a for-profit venture asking for millions of dollars in donations, but it isn’t really a Kickstarter campaign without some good ol’ fashioned negative media.

 

Despite the negative attention that many campaigns receive, most of it is moot if the goals are met and the donors make it rain (less Kickstarter’s 5% cut and Amazon’s 3%-5% processing fee). Which is why you can expect to see bigger, and “better” projects during the rest of 2014. Kickstarter isn’t just for small indie short films produced by your brother’s roommate in college. Nope. Don’t be surprised if you see some of these high-profile projects in the near future.

 

Avatar 2 – $250 million

 

 

If Zach Braff can raise over $3 million, why can’t James Cameron raise a quarter billion? Yes, Avatar 2 is already in production and has a budget/funding/major studio support/blah/blah/blah, BUT this is James Cameron we’re talking about. If anyone could find a way to spend an extra quarter-bill, he could (even if it’s making sure the a character’s retinas sparkle JUST RIGHT). Best Donor Perk:  For $10,000, you can have virtual 3D sex with the Na’vi of your choice. Better start growing out your hair now.

 

Jaden Smith’s “I am God” Project – $500 million

 

 

You don’t wear a custom made white Batman suit to someone else’s wedding without having a God complex. And once he sees James Cameron’s Kickstarter, he’ll be all over Kickstarter like white on…a Batman cowl worn by Jaden Smith. The point of his Kickstarter campaign will be a bit unclear, but it will be full of confounding hyperbole. Since it’s hard to connect the dots and figure out how donating to his campaign proves he’s God, he’ll throw in references to “making his own Avatar, but better” and “painting all trees blue.” Best Donor Perk:  When you donate $100,000 he’ll personally mention you in one of his punctuation-deficient, philosophically confusing tweets.

 

U.S. Government – $1 billion

 

 

Sooner or later Republicans and Democrats will be united with the a bi-partisan realization that Kickstarter can be used to syphon more money from the American people. Republicans will be happy, since tax breaks for the wealthy can continue, while the Democrats will be excited at the prospect of looking “hip” to the kids. The only downside is we’ll have to ignore the fact that the cost to produce and run the Kickstarter campaign is projected at $1.5 billion.

Best Donor Perk:  $500 gets you an American flag t-shirt. (What do you expect? It’s the U.S. government. Also the t-shirt is made in China.)

 

Boko Haram Ransom Campaign – $1 katrillionzillion

 

At its core, isn’t Kickstarter already set up for ransom negotiations? “You want to see a sequel to you favorite movie? Give me fifty bucks, or I’ll never release it!” It’s only natural that it would eventually be used for real kidnappings. Plus, Boko Haram has already had success with viral videos, so they’re already dominating social media. Might as well tap into that Vine fame and make some serious money with Kickstarter.  Best Donor Perk: $1 million gets you a “100% promise to never kidnap your village or take over your country.” Money well spent.

 

Satan’s “I’m not such a bad guy” Short Film – $10,000

 

 

After taking a Robert McKee’s Story seminar, the Lord of the Underworld is inspired to follow his dreams of being a filmmaker. The story centers upon a down on his luck writer, who is perceived by the outside world as a bad guy. From what I understand the script is okay with some quirky characters (especially his hispanic roommate Jesús), but suffers from a lack of stakes and clear plot points. Best Donor Perk:  You can be listed as an Executive Producer and hang out on set for just $2,500. You also get the perks from the previous levels, including a digital copy of the script, blu-ray DVD, and poster signed by the cast, crew, and Lucifer himself. If you’re low on cash and want to contribute, you can score a “thank you” in the final credits simply by pledging him your soul.

 

But what about the rest of you, who have brilliant ideas (iphone wallets ARE the future) but aren’t high-profile enough to convince strangers to send you buckets of digital money? You’re in luck, because my research partner, Crystal Hubbard, and I are working on a list of sure-fire steps you can take to ensure a successful Kickstarter campaign. Stay tuned! (aka just keep your RSS feed reader linked to Smash Cut Culture).