Christmas Stories: Batman Returns (1992)

While I do love traditional Christmas movies like White Christmas, Holiday Inn, Elf and even Love Actually, I’m also quite fond of genre flicks that happen to be set around the holiday like Gremlins (in fact, I wrote a whole list about just that over at Topless Robot). All of which reminded me that Batman Returns–the movie I almost wore out on VHS from watching so much–is set around Christmas time with major moments revolving around tree lighting and other festivities. It’s been a while since I watched this flick and the first thing I was surprised by was how well I know this movie. I don’t just know scenes or lines, but how people are posed in scenes. I knew the exact way that Michelle Pfeiffer was holding herself when she used the taser on her would-be attacker. It’s kind of crazy.

The next thing that stood out to me was how unlikely it would be to see another Christmas-based superhero movie. Even though this one, directed of course by Tim Burton who readers will remember I think is Awesome, doesn’t get into any of the religious aspects of the holiday, it still seems like the kind of thing that studios would shy away from now (what would foreign markets think?!). Heck, I’m surprised they did it back then, frankly.

Anyway, I love how cartoony this movie is without ever being too silly. It really is a comic book movie with a gang of evil circus performers, a mutant being carted around as a mayoral candidate and penguins with rockets tied to their backs! What Burton does, though, is that he makes it all seem real and plausible by creating a world like our own, but clearly different. Yeah Penguin’s kind of ridiculous, but the scenes of him researching his background are pretty heartfelt and you can’t help but be on Selina Kyle’s side because she’s being bullied by the real villain of the movie: corporate crazy asshole Max Schreck played pitch perfectly by the one and only Christopher Walken.

The action’s not as cool as you might see in a recent Batman flick (though you can always tell what’s going on at least) and it might seem kind of over the top, but I would completely recommend this movie if you haven’t seen it and you’re a big fan of Grant Morrison’s run on the book. I highly doubt there’s someone out there reading Morrison’s Batman who hasn’t seen this movie, but I guess it’s possible for people who missed out the first time around or might be younger. Anyway, this is an all time, childhood favorite of mine that I will always cherish, but I think still holds up as a particular kind of movie that will probably never get made again. At least I’ve got it on DVD, plus a butt-ton of toys so I can recreate it on my own if the world ever looses power. I’m pretty sure I could recreate at least 75% with little trouble.

Halloween Scene: Seeing Halloweeners

Much like spying Lost cast members, I love seeing folks from the Halloween movies (well, the ones I’ve seen and liked at least) in other flicks. I’ve recently had the pleasure and surprise of seeing Danielle Harris and Donald Pleasence in various flicks I didn’t even know they were in.

Danielle Harris popped up as a kid in two flicks about dads she doesn’t really like who get into some crazy situations. First up, I watched a movie called Back to Back (1996) starring her and Michael Rooker (who I’ve only seen in Mallrats, he looks kinda funny with hair). Oh, Bobcat Goldthwait is in it too and is super annoying, but don’t worry, he gets blown up pretty good.

Back to Back is not a good movie. It’s not altogether bad, it’s just kind of unremarkable. Rooker and Harris get kidnapped by this guy who has a score to settle with someone for some reason, so he escapes from a police station and blah blah blah. I guarantee you’ve seen this kind of movie before done better. But, if you’re like me and you’re looking for something to watch on Netflix Instant, you can probably do worse.

Harris also appeared as the angry daughter in The Last Boy Scout (1991). I’ll be honest, I wasn’t all that interested in the movie and still haven’t finished it from early last week (I had pretty bad luck picking movies as I’m sure I’ll get to in further detail in upcoming posts). I’m sure there’s some good stuff in there, I just need to finish it out. Thanks to this commute, though, it’ll be rough. Anyone want to give me one of those plug-in internet things? I’d greatly appreciate it and even plug the heck outta you, for what it’s worth.

On the Donald Pleasence front, I peeped him in two movies as well, first up the Sean Connery James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967). In it, Pleasence plays Blofeld, the big villain for the early Bond flicks. Pleasence was the first guy to play Blofeld in person (you saw him petting his cat a lot and feeding fish before this) and boy does he look crazy nutso, but in a good way. It’s pretty clear that Donnie here was the inspiration for Dr. Evil in Austin Powers (down to the suit and even some of the mannerisms).

Pleasence also appeared in the 1979 version of Dracula starring Skeletor-Nixon himself Frank Langella as Drac. I read about the movie on Horror Movie A Day and thought it sounded pretty good. I was bored to tears for most of it, but Pleasence played a mental institute-running Dr. Jack Seward. He didn’t do much but be a dad for the parts I saw (this was another movie I couldn’t get through, even being a captive audience on a train. Ah well, you can’t go wrong with crazy Pleasance, though he still, in my opinion, never topped the upper echelon’s of crazy-old-guy he reached in Halloween 6.