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Batman Begins

Warner Home Video
Movie A
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

When it was announced that Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia) would be taking over the Bat franchise, hope sprang eternal that his movie would be a good one. When the casting of Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne was announced, hope was no longer necessary: It was a foregone conclusion that it would be good.

It's actually beyond good. It's great. Nolan's franchise restart, an origin story that does great justice to the Batman mythos, is one of 2005's best films. The look, the script, the cast and the direction are all superb.

Joel Schumacher had turned a dark, deep character into a campy joke that was no fun to watch. Nolan achieves something akin to the great original Superman film of 1978, where a great story was given the scope and seriousness it deserved. Bale is one of his generation's great actors, with a look that is perfect for the cowl. While the other Batmans (Keaton, Kilmer and Clooney) portrayed Batman as some sort of split personality or, in Clooney's case, somewhat of a dullard, Bale takes a different approach. We never lose sight of the human being beneath the mask.

This is due in part to the great script by David S. Goyer, which provides not only the reason for Batman's emergence (his parents' death) but the training background and travels that lead Wayne to his decision to go vigilante. Bale doesn't even put on the cape for the film's first hour, and the movie doesn't feel long.

Special Features: The two-disc special edition comes with a nifty mini comic book that collects some of the stories that inspired the film. Behind-the-scenes documentaries reveal much coolness, such as Bale overdoing it at first with his muscle buildup, causing some of those involved to christen the project "Fatman." Screenwriter Goyer sits down for an extensive discussion on his inspirations for the story, including Richard Donner's Superman film. Regrettably, there's no commentary from Nolan or Bale, which makes this otherwise decent collection feel a little incomplete.

Psycho II

Universal Studios Home Video
Movie C+
Special Features F
DVD Geek Factor 5 (out of 10)

This was the first R-rated movie my dad let me see in a theater. He had rented a couple of videos (Raging Bull, Apocalypse Now) but this is the first one he took the kids to. (He was going through a "cool dad" phase.)

I think the coolness of that excursion clouded my critical judgment. I remember it being a lot better than it actually is. Sure, it's kind of neat to see Anthony Perkins back as Norman Bates, and seeing the Psycho house in vibrant color is delightful, but the film is pretty stupid. The whole "real mother" subplot is ridiculous, and Perkins gets sort of goofy by the film's end (although his bit with a shovel is quite neat by horror standards).

Universal has released this and the also-mediocre Psycho 3 on better-looking DVDs than the pieces of garbage that have been trolling about since the initial DVD releases in '99. No special features, but the film does look better.

Special Features: None, but this DVD definitely has better production value over the original release.

Rumble Fish

Universal Studios Home Video
Movie B
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

Francis Ford Coppola released two films based on S.E. Hinton works in the same year--one for the kids (The Outsiders) and this more adult take on a popular teen novel. Coppola essentially made an art film here, and while it wasn't a total screaming success, the film certainly has its merits.

Matt Dillon stars as Rusty James, a wannabe gang leader with a legendary brother nicknamed Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke). The movie is some sort of adolescent fever dream, shot in black and white and scored by former Police drummer Stewart Copeland. It actually possesses some of the more interesting imagery Coppola put to film in the '80s, including a great sequence where an unconscious Rusty rises from his body, takes a short flight and observes the state of his life.

Rourke is good, even though his speech pattern is more of a mumble, as the mysterious Motorcycle Boy. Nicolas Cage makes his first major impression on screen as a traitorous friend, and Dennis Hopper makes for a mighty convincing drunk as Rusty's no-good dad.

Dillon starred in three Hinton adaptations in two years (Rumble Fish, Tex and The Outsiders). While they were all good, his performance here is perhaps the best of the three. As for Coppola, what seemed like pretentious movie-making in the day comes off as rather adventurous and interesting more than 20 years later.

Special Features: Coppola delivers one of his great commentaries, expressing his admittedly overambitious desires for the project. The disc's best feature would be an extensive look at Copeland's soundtrack, where Copeland himself sits down and dissects the tracks that made up the score. Coppola and Copeland intended for the percussive music to give off the sensation of frantic time-ticking, and they succeeded at that.

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