New on DVD: ‘Batman: The Complete Series’

Batman-DVD setFrom 1966 to 1968, ABC showed one of the greatest series ever to grace the American TV screen. The original Batman TV show was different from pretty much everything that came before. Full of bright Pop Art colors and tongue-in-cheek satire, it both celebrated and mocked the superhero genre in a way that kids could take straight and adults could enjoy as comedy.

Finally, after years of legal wrangling, all 120 episodes are finally available for your viewing pleasure on DVD and Blu-ray. My review of Batman: The Complete Series is at PopMatters.

Also, here’s The Jam performing the unassailably cool theme to Batman:

Department of Weekend Reading: December 19, 2014

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New in Theaters: ‘Mr. Turner’

Timothy Spall in 'Mr. Turner' (Sony Pictures Classics)

Timothy Spall in ‘Mr. Turner’ (Sony Pictures Classics)

Mike Leigh tends to be the director one goes to for deft character studies (Secrets and Lies, Another Year, and such), not gorgeous period pieces. Nevertheless, Leigh took on the life story of one of Britian’s greatest painters, J.M.W. Turner, with all the costumery and flattering lighting one could ask for.

Mr. Turner opens this week in limited release. My review is at Film Racket:

Anybody looking for a cozy holiday costume drama about a famous painter should steer clear of Mike Leigh’s uncompromising, sometimes brutal film. J.M.W. Turner is best known these days as the man who painted all those landscapes hanging in London’s National Gallery where boats on and buildings along the Thames nearly disappear into a rainbow-hued swirl of sun-dazzled shimmer. These are pre-Impressionistic, even quiet works. But in Mr. Turner, the man who heaved and hurled those paintings into life appears as a great snuffling boar of a man with coarse manners; the farthest thing from a nineteenth-century aesthete one could find…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Song of the Sea’

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Song of the Sea is the newest dream-woven piece of Irish animation from Tomm Moore, director of the uncommonly beautiful Book of Kells. It opens in limited release this Friday.

sonofthesea-posterI reviewed it for Film Journal International:

The film begins as morose as a funeral lament, albeit a gripping one etched in splendidly dark tones. That tone ratchets further down once the children’s stern old hunchbacked Granny comes to stay. But after she convinces Conor to have Ben and Saorise live with her in Dublin, Moore limbers the story up like a traditional Irish storyteller pulling in a lungful of air to give the folks what they asked for. After a brief interlude in Granny’s deathly dull and rules-bound house, Song of the Sea becomes a picaresque odyssey through an Ireland where the fairies and other wee folk hide out in traffic roundabouts behind manhole covers that read: “Feic off. No humans”…

Here’s the gorgeous trailer:

Writer’s Corner: Your Life is Always Good Material

(Steve Lyon)

(photo by Steve Lyon)

When I was teaching — I taught for a while — my students would write as if they were raised by wolves. Or raised on the streets. They were middle-class kids and they were ashamed of their background. They felt like unless they grew up in poverty, they had nothing to write about. Which was interesting because I had always thought that poor people were the ones who were ashamed. But it’s not. It’s middle-class people who are ashamed of their lives. And it doesn’t really matter what your life was like, you can write about anything. It’s just the writing of it that is the challenge. I felt sorry for these kids, that they thought that their whole past was absolutely worthless because it was less than remarkable.

David Sedaris, January Magazine, June 2000

Remember, there’s a lot of stories out there, yours included. Ultimately, it’s the telling that matters.

New in Theaters: ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’

Martin Freeman as Bilbo in 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' (Warner Bros.)

Martin Freeman as Bilbo in ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ (Warner Bros.)

hobbit-posterSix films and who knows how many gajillion dollars of revenue later, Peter Jackson’s monumental, exhausting adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ring novels comes to an end with the third film in the second Hobbit cycle. Love it or loathe it, this is the end—and it’s going out with a bang.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies opens in all known territories next Wednesday. My review is at Film Journal International:

Amidst all the clashing armies, fell spirits, and talk of destinies and dynasties that fill J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythological adventure novels, the author’s eye never drifts far from the plucky little hero who finds unknown strengths in terrifying times. Peter Jackson dutifully sounded the same tune in his films of Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. But where Tolkien was a humanist, Jackson is a strategist, ever marshaling his forces for grander victories. There’s no denying the films’ quality as battle-ready spectacle of the first order. But the final installment, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, is just about all Jackson and precious little Tolkien. In other words, if you like orc-killin’, and lots of it, this is your film…

Here’s the trailer:

Department of Weekend Reading: December 12, 2014

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