Monthly Archives: May 2012

My Buddy is a Cage – Raising Arizona (1987)

Honestly, I have no idea why Nicolas Cage has become such an easy punchline these days. Well, that’s not exactly true.  It’s fair to say he’s elevated the art of scenery chewing to a completely different plane of existence. Lord knows I haven’t been the kindest to Mr. Cage’s more recent ouevre, so what better way to apologize than with a weekly feature on a blog three people read?  As a gesture of good faith, I’m kicking this thing off with a film I already know is high quality: Raising Arizona.  See? I’m only a dick on Mondays!
Repeat offender and expert in petty crimes, H.I. (call him “Hi”) McDunnough falls head over heels for Edwina (call her “Ed”), the police officer who habitually takes his prints and mugshot on each station visit.  The two of them settle down and Hi pledges to walk the straight and narrow path.  However when they realize they can’t have children, they make the next logical step: steal someone else’s.  What follows is a game of hot-potato amongst several interested parties who all try to lay claim to the newborn infant.
Yes, this is my flaccid olive branch to Mr. Cage.  He’s pretty darn good here.  Maybe it’s because Cage’s wild, uncouth spasms don’t seem strange when bursting out of the much younger Hi.  Maybe it’s Hi’s slipshod tussock of a hairdo.  It’s probably his mustache.
I’m referring to that caterpillar just north of his upper lip.  We are firmly entrenched in the late 80’s, ladies and gentlemen.  The uncertain Southern drawl and the incessant Aloha shirt all add to Cage’s portrait of Hi McDunnough, a portrait that’s not split in two so much as it just hasn’t had its finishing touhes yet.  There’s a subtle (Yes! Subtle!) resignation to Hi, but Cage also weaves in this complacent melancholy.  Raising Arizona’s fantastic first ten minutes features some quality Cage narration where he details a compacted metamorphosis of a very, very old child into a young man:

“I tried to stand up and fly straight, but it wasn’t easy with that sumbitch Reagan in the White House.”  It’s goofy and a little morose at the same time, like a lot of the stories the Coen Brothers are interested in telling.  You can pick out elements from those opening sequences too: that up-to-no-good banjo? That’s O Brother Where Are Thou?  And narration and the jabs at Reagan?  Big Lebowski all the way.  Even bits of Fargo‘s black humor first take root here.  Tonally, Raising Arizonas probably closest to The Ladykillers, even if I’d just as soon forget about that one.

Maybe the connection the Coens draw between crime and love is a bit easy to make.  But it’s relevant.  Though he might not look it, Hi is a teenager.  That twinkle in his eyes belies as much of the mischief he finds himself in as the the head over heels love he’s stumbled into.   There’s an earnestness at work in Raising Arizona, a kind that forces its characters to make the difficult choice, to not shy away from the cold reality when one finds themselves penning a farewell letter to their dearly betrothed in the wee mornin’ hours.

Next time: We’ll jump forward to 2011’s Season of the Witch!  If I’m drunk enough!

* * * * *

Want more Cage? You got it.

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The Dark Knight Rises Trailer #3 Breakdown

Logos: Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures, DC Comics, SYNCOPY.  Usual stuff

We open with a shot of the Gotham skyline.  Looks pretty darn similar to the one from Trailer #2.

Ebeneezer Scrooge slumps about.  With the facial hair and burgundy bathrobe, you’d think Bruce Wayne was doing his best Lebowski impression.  What day is this?

Big Bane plane close in on puny CIA.  “There’s a storm coming,” Selina warns.  This looks like it was taken directly from the IMAX Prologue that played in front of MI:4.  Granted, my memory’s not perfect.  But my bootlegged copy is pretty accurate.

Dissolve to Alfred walking down a corridor in (presumably the rebuilt) Wayne Manor.  Also presumably to present Master Beaver Face with his soup and animal crackers.  No.  Dunkaroos.

It’s worth mentioning that in the wake of Inception, so many trailers popped up with that trademark BWOOOOOOOM sound.  So how do Nolan & Co. decide to open here?  Softly.

We’ve seen this scene back in Trailer Numero Dos, but the cut is different.  And the way she’s wearing that hat looks like she’s trying to lay low.

More bits from the Prologue.

Bane is revealed.

Another angle of the ballroom sequence between Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne.  “You sound like you’re looking forward to it,” Bruce responds.

Even more bits from the Prologue.  The CIA plane gets hijacked.

“I’m adaptable,” Selina says.  Gonna go out on a limb here and guess that applies to multiple areas…

Bane falls toward the camera.  Proooooologue.

“FROM CHRISTOPHER NOLAN”

“Who are you?”  I believe this is Ben Mendelsohn (of Animal Kingdom fame) but he isn’t credited on iMDb as starring in this.  Is he a government mole? A mob boss?  Animal masturbator?  Probably, that last one.  “Gotham’s reckoning.”

Some douchers have already started bitching about how Bane’s voice now sounds too intelligible.  Damned if ya do, damned if ya don’t I guess.

On a related note, “reckoning” is an interesting choice as it suggests a kind of settlement, a payment for past debts.  What does Gotham owe, though? I pulled that definition from Dictionary.com because as an English major, I’ve gotten to be pretty damn qualified to look up words I should already know.

A recall back to Bane detonating the Gotham Rogues’ stadium.  That’s definitely a shot of Mayor Garcia staring longingly into an explosion of light, broken glass and popcorn.  Is he in some sort of pressbox at the game?  Nolan wasn’t afraid to axe the old commissioner in The Dark Knight, so I wouldn’t put it past Bane at this point.

Those explosions with the SWAT team start making more sense now, too.  Perhaps Bane leads police on a cat-and-mouse chase underneath the stadium only to have it explode and crumble on top of them.

I’m not sure where this raid is taking place exactly, but some of it looks to be pulled from those same Trailer #2 shots of Gotham’s elite getting ransacked and dragged away from the comforts of their mansions and Jell-O palaces.

Arguably the biggest surprise in this trailer is how much John Blake features in it.  Here, JGL stares in shock as the Gotham bridges collapse in succession.  Remember how in Begins the police sealed off the Narrows from any outside help?  Apparently that was nothing.  CGI or not, this shot is pretty eerie.

Bare feet?  Apparently Tarantino has a guest director’s spot in this.

“Did they kill him?” John Blake asks.

Shots of Bruce scaling that wall.  I might have been wrong last summer when I assumed this was Bane climbing out of here.  I’m guessing Bruce gets tossed in along with a bunch of Gotham’s fat cats.  And now he has to climb out on his own.  Without a suit.  Suck on it, Stark.

“I’m not sure.”  Still hard to tell if these two are talking to each other.  Judging by that furniture it looks like Selina’s in a waiting room of some kind and seems to be upset.  Hospital maybe?  Let’s not forget that Gordon will be bed-ridden for at least some of the film as well.

More of battered Bruce.  Those blurry closeups of Bane make more sense now.  “Why didn’t you just kill me?”  Why is Bruce such a buzzkill in this?  And why so serious?  No?  Fine.

“Your punishment must be more severe.”  This isn’t a profound guess, but I’m assuming this is right around where Bruce receives Bane’s “permission to die.”

Is this Bruce falling?  I don’t know what to believe anymore.

“HOPE IS LOST”

Batman graffiti.  This is the same symbol WB used on Monday for its viral marketing campaign which actually lead to the release of this trailer.  Irrelevant?  Definitely.

“Do you think he’s coming back?”  One can only hope, little orphan cherub.  One can only hope.

That’s a broken cowl.  Falling water in the background looks like the same location as the teaser trailer.  This also explains where that badass poster came from.

Who’s Selina looking at through these bars here?  There was a similar shot featured in the IMAX sizzle reel but she appeared to be on the outside of the cell.  Check out that hand.  Is it gloved?  Is it Batman’s?

Camouflaged Tumbler in the snow.  But whyyyyyyy, maaaaaan?

That’s John Blake getting shoved off some sort of ledge by what appears to be one of Bane’s men.

Hard to tell if that’s still Blake in the second shot, though.

“Why would you run?  Bane?” A shot from that stock exchange sequence.  Warner Bros. released this still of Bane in a similar place, so I’m assuming these coincide.

“You should be as afraid of him as I am.”  That’s definitely Catwoman on a Batpod.  Or should I say… Catpod?  I’ll stop.

Blake doing his best Gene Kelly impersonation through some deep puddles.

Things a bit chilly, Bane?  Some shots have him with no coat, but in others he’s all bundled up.  Either this movie runs through quite the seasonal change or severe global warming exists in comic books too.

“FAITH IS BROKEN”

More tank-ness, and explosion-ness.  Goodness

“I won’t bury you,” Alfred says.  Apparently automatic weapons are no good against a Bat-clothesline.

“I’ve buried enough members of the Wayne family.”  Bats is on the wrong side of some kind of fencing or gate.

This is easily my favorite moment from the trailer.  Gordon lights a flare in the night, looking for something or someone…

“A FIRE WILL RISE”

HOOOOOOOOOOO MAAAAAAAAAAN

But this shot is a close second.  Batman atop a Gotham City bridge, cape flowing in the wind.  I tend not to drop the “e” word but I’ll allow myself to use it here.  Epic.

“You don’t owe these people any more.”  I kind of agree, and I’m guessing this is the philosophical dividing line between Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne.

Blake is on the wrong side of… something.

“You’ve given them everything.”  Looks like that epi- err grandiose showdown between Batman and Bane is here.

Our first (and only glimpse) we’ve gotten of Lucius Fox.  Not sure what he’s computering at there.

Bane and Bats duke it out.  Batman looks slow as shit.

“Not everything.  Not yet.”

Batpod.

Gordon, presumably watching something take off judging by that hair.

“ON JULY 20”

Selina Kyle drawing from her knowledge of Shawn Johnson-ian martial arts and breaking this doucher’s hand.  I have no doubt Rises will feature its fair share of “Holy Shit” moments along the lines of Joker’s disappearing pencil gag, and I suspect this is one of them.  The question now is, does Selina escape?  Or is she released?

This film has constantly been described as a war film.  I’m assuming this is why.

“THE EPIC CONCLUSION”

Now, our first (and only) shot of Miranda Tate.  Batman may be on the DL, but Bruce is clearly cranking some homers.

Nondescript military vehicle drives through explosion.

Selina with a sweet kick/takedown.  And who’s that fighting with her in the background?  Boom.

“TO THE DARK KNIGHT LEGEND”

As you can see, this shot reminds me of Inception.  Inceptionesque.  And no, that’s not a word.

Explosionzzz.

That shot of the Bat from Trailer #2

Weird flashlight gun.
 

BOOM.

FIRE.

“THE DARK KNIGHT RISES”  We get a new logo here. No more of that rising into the Gotham sky like the previous two trailers.  I like the ice (glass?) theme WB has been working with here.  The Batman logo in front of the Prologue also showed cracking ice:

Kinda neat, right?

“My mother warned me about getting into cars with strange men.”  Interestingly enough, she mentioned nothing about armed robbery while wearing stilettos.

“This isn’t a car.”  And we don’t need roads, Marty.

FUCK.
THE.
BATPOD.
* * *
Ten months ago, I toyed with the idea of the death of Bruce Wayne.  I may have been wrong.  Firstly, and perhaps obviously, The Dark Knight Rises suggests a triumph of some sort just in its title, and it’d be pretty hard for that to happen if Bruce bites the big one by the end of it.  At the same time, I could most definitely see a metaphorical or implied death.
In Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Bruce Wayne publicly fakes his own death before retreating to a hidden underground base of operations.  Oh, and the story takes place after a long absence of Batman, which is nice since there’s quite the time lapse in Rises, too.
Miller also includes a battle for Gotham’s soul between Batman and a powerful force…
So there’s also that similarity.  Now I still find it very unlikely that Rises will do anything but loosely play with some of these ideas, but if you’re convinced Nolan’s scripts are 100% original, pick up a copy of The Long Halloween or Batman: Year One.
What I can be sure of is that Nolan has repeatedly shown a fondness for riffing on the thematic elements of his previous films.  After all, the irony of the Batman character has always been that “Bruce” is really masking the righteous humanitarian that is Batman.  Mrs. Cruise touched on the idea back in Begins, maybe a bit too obviously, but it never hurts to call this kind of thing back into play.
Begins focused on the act of just one man.  The League of Shadows groomed Bruce Wayne into a one-man force to be reckoned with.  Fortunately, Bruce isn’t a dick, so that ended up working out in the end.  With Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, we saw what can happen when this burden is extended beyond just one man.  Judging by the massive flippin’ chaos that’s run amok in Gotham’s streets here, I’d say that one man has changed to many, many men in The Dark Knight Rises.  It’s even moved past that secretive partnership between Gordon and Batman.  We don’t have Harvey Dent anymore, but it seems a certain number of Gotham’s finest still fight for what’s right, including one, John Blake.
On the subject of chaos in Gotham, one of this trailer’s shots confirmed what I had already suspected.
Those Wayne Tech tumblers are angled toward the charging officers.  Back in December, I wondered how those tanks got into the wrong hands in the first place.  That still seems like a relevant question here.
We also get a better idea of Selina Kyle’s place in this trailer, too.  She’s definitely the wild card, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that Rises will inch toward an unsteady partnership between her and Bats by the end (especially considering that she fears Bane on some level, judging by some of those lines).  Along the vigilante/crusader line that Batman so deftly straddles, Catwoman is more of the former, but likely with fairly good intentions.  At the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if she hotwired that Batpod.
What’s really interesting is that Batman is out and about during the day.  It seems he really has transcended from just a man into a symbol, a banner for the good people of Gotham to follow into battle, to whatever end.
I’m starting to think that maybe Bane was onto something with all this “reckoning” business.  Maybe Gotham has to pay for its corruption and wrongdoings before it learns to move forward.  And I don’t see how that means removing Batman from the picture.  As I said before, Harvey Dent kind of already made that sacrifice.
Beyond this though, I’ve just got blatant speculation.  Where does Miranda Tate fit in?  And what about that rumored Liam Neeson cameo?  If anything, this final trailer raises more questions than it answers.  As it should.

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