After a four-year buildup and heaps of fan speculation, The Dark Knight Rises turned out to be a tad disappointing. Maybe it was the lack of a villain as captivating as The Dark Knight's Joker. Maybe it was a somewhat convoluted opening act, with sociopolitical plot turns that didn't really amount to much. Maybe it's because there were no eyeballs on plates and people bleeding from the hands. That seems to be David Bowie's opinion, anyway. The music artist has released a video for his new song "The Next Day," planting TDKR stars Gary Oldman and Marion Cotillard in haunting, brow-raising roles and it's left us with a brilliant (or harebrained – take your pick) theory.
Playing a cantankerous, lecherous priest and a lady of the evening, respectively, Oldman and Cotillard are a far leap from their Nolan characters... but perhaps only at surface value. Sure, Bowie claims that this is simply a video for "The Next Day" (the title song from an album that he has referred to as "vampyric," "Balkan," and "osmosis" ... don't ask), but maybe this is the cinephile's own attempt to make the Dark Knight Rises he would have wanted to see:
The scene: Gotham, eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. In Bowie version of the film, corruption reigns supreme, and Batman keeps to the shadows. Once good men like Commissioner James Gordon have succumbed to the drink, turning to God for answers but only tumbling deeper into a well of despair and debauchery. Figures of prosperity, like Wayne Enterprises board member Miranda Tate — who traveled to Gotham to avenge her torturous childhood — have fallen victim to their own greed, wrath, and pride, decaying to subhuman levels in the destitute metropolis' underbelly.
And as once great figures like Gordon and Tate are robbed of their blood and will, we see the newest Batman villain rise up in the form of Bowie. A charismatic, Satanic figure, Bowie represents the cunning of R'as al Ghul, the ruthlessness of Two-Face, the unpredictable strangeness of the Joker. So we wonder, which villain is the music artist portraying here? What character in the Gotham universe can envelop all of the darkness embodied by Arkham's leviathan of patients?
Simply: Batman. No one, not the Joker nor Bane, has more darkness inside of him than Bruce Wayne himself. As such, Bowie's "Next Day" represents the ultimate transformation from hero to villain. Not only is Bowie's Dark Knight falling, he's taking his entire city down with him.
Jury's still out on that lady with the crazy eye-lashes, though. Poison Ivy? Sure, we can go with that.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
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As easy of a joke as it is, there is something refreshingly honest about the opening scene of the premire of Charlie Sheen’s new FX sitcom Anger Management, during which Sheen’s character — an anger management group therapist — takes out his frustration on a rubber doll, shouting phrases along the lines of, “You think you can replace me?” and “It won’t be as good without me!” Exquisitely unsubtle meta-references to Sheen’s boot from Two and Half Men back in 2011. Any daringness existent in the scene doesn’t come attached to the writers’ willingness to pay credit to Sheen’s professional past. In fact, a star whose off-camera life can be successfully farmed for jokes is found money. What is commendable about the material is that it acknowledges why people are watching Anger Management. Straight out the gate, the show is making Two and a Half Men jokes. It doesn’t wait until a few episodes in, nor the end of the pilot, nor the end of the first scene, nor the end of the first sentence. The very first thing viewers are given when they tune in is Sheen, faced directly at the camera, spouting a gag about his dispute with Men creator Chuck Lorre and his resultant replacement by Ashton Kutcher. It’s an admission from the show itself that the reason people are tuning into Anger Management is to see the other side of the Sheen tunnel.
So how does it hold up? Admittedly, I wasn’t exactly on board the Sheen bandwagon back in his glory days of Two and a Half Men. For those in the same company — those not looking to fill the void of the CBS sitcom’s pre-Walden Schmidt era — Anger Management isn’t going to do you any favors. The sitcom presents itself with many of the same ideals as its predecessor. Some of the larger themes involve sex, divorce, sexuality, and contentious social relationships with a comedic spin. But to those seeking a complete rehashing of the adventures of Charlie Harper, Anger Management only meets you half way.
Perhaps in light of Sheen’s public “rehabilitation,” his Anger Management character (also named Charlie) is a tad more “together” than those of past. Another homage to Sheen’s life, the character is a former baseball player (an obvious nod to the actor’s Major League days) whose athletic days were also his days of “rage”… and of alcoholism and infidelity. But now, Charlie — surnamed Goodson this time around — is better. He’s learned how to live happily. He is an anger management therapist with his own group of one-note patients — the token gay guy, the token bigot, the token pervert, and the token girl — to cure. He’s also the attentive father of a teenaged girl struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The show actually does deserve props for not grabbing at a more stereotypical portrayal of OCD: Charlie’s daughter Emma (Daniela Bobadilla) is not shown to be particularly neat or clean, but struggles with anxiety that manifests in repetitive habits. Her scene of locking/unlocking the door over and over is meant to be played for laughs, but at least it’s not hand-washing. Charlie Goodson stands up for tolerance, nonviolence, and healthy human behavior.
But of course, he’s still Charlie. He’s still a womanizer — driven by the casual sex he is having with friend and fellow psychologist Kate (Selma Blair), obsessed with fancy cars, and not above childish pride. Not to mention his character history: The man fought, drank, cheated on his wife, and used people to benefit him. He’s got Charlie in him… but will it be enough for Two and a Half Men fans?
Here, Sheen is playing his own straight man. He’s got the wild side of Charlie Harper in his character, but he’s also meant to be a believably good father and skilled medical professional. As such, he’s going to be a slightly less “colorful” character. While those averse to the ways of the Sheen will be put off by Goodson’s cons, those looking for the same old, hedonistic, free-wheelin’ Charlie Harper might actually be put off by his pros.
It might not seem fair to keep comparing Anger Management to Two and a Half Men, but it’s the show’s doing. If it didn’t want comparison, it wouldn’t open its very first scene with jokes about Sheen’s ousting from the series. Anger Management begs us to draw parallels with Sheen’s life. The only problem is that this isn’t the venue for it. A comedy rooted in the appeal of sex jokes doesn’t work when its character is meant to be past the stages of suspended adolescence. Granted, the pilot does attend to the idea that Goodson still has some work to do on achieving self-betterment. But unfortunately, the show’s humor doesn’t look like it has any intention of maturing along with its character, or with its star.
So can Anger Management work for anyone? People looking for crazy Sheen might be disappointed. People uninterested in Sheen altogether will be put off. People who actually hoped for a spinoff of the Adam Sandler/Jack Nicholson movie will have no idea what is going on. Anger Management doesn’t really know who it’s trying to make laugh, and as such, there’s doesn’t look to be a whole lot of laughter.
[Image Credit: FX]
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This week it was announced that both the original Star Wars trilogy and those miserable prequels would finally make the high-def jump to Blu-ray. Some of you may be stymied by the disconnect between the title of this column and the fact that I am covering Star Wars this week. If there is one movie franchise that registers a mighty, moon/space-station-sized blip on every radar screen across countless cultures, it’s Star Wars. Furthermore, the only people who didn’t catch wind of the announcement that Star Wars was coming to Blu-ray were those who thought it already existed on Blu-ray.
But the question going conspicuously, if expectantly, unanswered is whether or not the new Star Wars Blu-ray set will feature the original theatrical releases for Episodes IV-VI, or whether or not we will be subjected to those atrocious “special” editions from the 1990s. If you aren’t familiar with what I’m talking about—because you aren’t a fellow complete and total nerd—George Lucas decided that the limitations he faced when creating the original trilogy inhibited the amount of stupidity he had initially intended to include. Ergo, he released an edition with a slew of dopey, nonsensical scenes featuring bad CG and content antithetical to the greatness of the films we knew and loved. Because who needs understated allegory and old-world storytelling set against a futuristic sci-fi backdrop (a glorious juxtaposition) when you can add computer-generated muppet musical numbers and completely muddy character compositions by switching the order of gunfire in a seminal scene?
So enamored with his bastardization—and setting himself as the ultimate cinematic history revisionist—Lucas began doing everything he could to banish the real versions of the films to oblivion and convince younger generations that his moronic modifications were Star Wars doctrine. He even went so far as to destroy prints of the original versions, something akin to a war crime in certain eyes. And now, in an effort to further elicit vitriol from fans, Lucas seems to be on the cusp of shining the high-def spotlight and tendering preservation solely to these abhorrent pretenders to the Star Wars legacy. But as much as I obviously, like many, bear a wookie-sized chip on my shoulder in this regard, I must swallow every ounce of remaining pride I have and urge everyone to purchase these Blu-rays.
I feel traitorous to my brethren even uttering these words, and my original intention was to champion a boycott of preorders on this Blu-ray set until someone finally came out and guaranteed that the untarnished versions would be available. But then my memory shifted to the DVD releases from just a few years ago. When we were finally treated to Star Wars on DVD after a long format silence (Lucas still bitter after his Betamax misstep), all that was available were the aforementioned “special” editions. But after those DVDs sold through the roof, Lucas finally relented and made available the untainted theatrical releases, though his decision to release them letterboxed instead of anamorphic stung just a tad.
My point in all this geek-fueled rambling is that the only chance we may have to see the theatrical releases of Star Wars on Blu-ray five years hence is if the Blu-rays of these less-than-favorable rerelease versions put up massive numbers now. If you are a casual Star Wars fan who cares little about Lucas’ meddling and enjoys the goofy scene featuring Jabba and Han’s conversation, please buy these Blu-rays. If you find yourself on the verge of spitting on the ground at the idea of a digitally inserted Hayden Christensen at the end of Return of the Jedi, surely you know someone with less discerning Star Wars proclivities for whom you could buy this as a gift. As long as these insipid defacements of some of the greatest films ever made make enough money to sate a certain filmmaker’s greed, if precedent is to be trusted, we will get our beloved, unblemished saga on Blu-ray before we die.