Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For Movie Review

Genre – Comic Book, Noir

Director – Frank Miller & Robert Rodriguez

Cast – Josh Brolin, Eva Green, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Powers Boothe, many others

Alluring element – Ten years ago, you loved Sin City, so the second one should be just as awesome, right?

Scorecard:
Plot – 4
Acting – 6
Representation of Genre – 6
Cinematography – 6
Effects/Environment – 7
Captivity – 5
Logical consistency – 4
Originality/Creativity – 4 
Soundtrack/Music – 5
Overall awesomeness – 4 
 
 
 

Ten years ago, fanboy director Robert Rodriguez had blown the comic book movie genre wide open with his adaptation of Frank Miller’s first Sin City graphic novel. The 2005 film had plenty of star-power, and really revolutionized the way the green-screen was used. Nearly the entire movie had been filmed in front of one, allowing for various props and scenery to be added artificially during post-production. It was a concept that looked aesthetically pleasing, and made it satisfyingly similar to the comic books that the movie was borrowing from.

Thanks to the movie bombs that were Robocop 2 and Robocop 3, Frank Miller had been all but turned off from Hollywood adaptations, but Rodriguez was determined to make it work. He put together a short vignette for Miller to show him what he wanted to do with Sin City (video below) and even withdrew from the Directors Guild of America in order to credit Miller as a co-director. The film was a commercial and financial success, surprising an industry who was growing drunk on the premonition that only big-name comic books like Batman, Spider-Man and the X-Men could carry their own films. Establishing the nickname “One Man Film Crew,” Rodriguez just about does it all. Nearly a decade later, Rodriguez and Miller teamed up once more for the sequel, Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For.

Sherif Elkhatib

I just recently picked up the Sin City comic books in order to really get the inspiration for the movies. I was very impressed how exactly like the books the movies are. There is, of course, the neo-noir style filming. Then there are the character designs, gore style, and even the dialogue. I could recite lines from A Dame to Kill For and they were exactly how they came out of the actors’ mouths. There were times when this was satisfying, but others that felt down-right ridiculous actually coming out from somebody’s lips. For better or worse, A Dame to Kill For was the exact same story on film as it was on paper. Unfortunately, it happened to be one of the worst stories I have ever read.

Before I utterly rip into this film, I want to express that A Dame to Kill For could have been good. There are a lot of “almost”s and “if only”s we threw around after the credits rolled – and, although not realistic, the movie could have been saved by actually omitting some of the more crude content and deviating a bit from the source content. There’s no denying that this franchise is a one-trick pony. You’re guaranteed two hours of obscene language, over-the-top sadistic violence and a bunch of boobs. What I wasn’t expecting was how disturbingly weird and misogynistic this installment would be. There’s something to be said when I raise an eyebrow more to A Dame to Kill For than the first film, which is centered around a guy who kidnaps women, eats them and feeds the scraps to his dog.

There’s really no way of getting around the fact that Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For was a bad movie. The best way I can describe Sin City 2 is that it’s Sin City with erectile dysfunction. The same moves are there, the acting is in many cases better, but there just isn’t enough to make it enjoyable.

Adrian Puryear

I’ll put it out there: Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For sucked.  I also apologize to the group of people who love me enough to come see the movie with me for my birthday this past weekend.  Our time would have been better spent  doing absolutely anything else.  Harsh you say?  No, not really.  Unlike my other half, Sherif, I have not read the graphic novels.  It was a plan of mine to read them and then review, but after seeing the follow-up film, I don’t plan on continuing on with the franchise.  I feel so strongly about how bad Dame was, that it may have tainted the first Sin City for me, a film I really loved.

I could nitpick that the green screen was badly done this time, that the dialogue was corny, Eva Green was badly cast as “A Dame to Kill For”, or that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was only cast because he is awesome, but that ultimately his character had no point.   But the reality is that the movie failed on two much greater levels.

Let’s talk about the plot first.  Sin City is famous for its vignettes, and the comics (there are six volumes) did a great job of showing the same vignettes from different point of views (thanks Sherif for telling me that).  But that translation onto the screen wasn’t so great.  Perhaps it was because there was 10 years between the first and second movie, but the timeline seemed very disjointed, and in actuality, not possible.  There were three main plots in the sequel, and all of them made me wonder why I should care.  Plot A: Joseph Gordon-Levitt gambles against the Senator, then he gets his fingers broken, gambles again, and then wins forever, except he dies.  Oh by the way, spoiler alert.  Plot B: Eva Green AKA Ava shows her boobs a lot, screws men, calls herself a slut, kills said men, and then shows her boobs some more.  Plot C: Nancy Callahan drinks herself into a tizzy, learns to shoot a gun to avenge Bruce Willis, dances at the saloon more but 10 years later so its not as sexy, and then she dresses like a Matador and says “Fucker” in the most hilarious way possible before the credits roll.

To be frank, I cared most about Joseph Gordon-Levitt just because I think he is cute.  However, the story was fruitless.  It related the least to the rest of the film, and then he died.  Why am I supposed to care about him?  I know nothing of his background and he had no redeeming qualities.  Then there was the black widow, Ava.  I don’t really care that she is crazy and kills her lovers.  Usually, that sort of story is slightly intriguing, but it was acted badly by Eva Green and in the end it didn’t matter.  Because she died.  And then there was Nancy who was avenging the forced suicide of John Hartigan (Bruce Willis).  I suppose this was the draw for many people, but it wasn’t fascinating to watch an exotic dancer becoming a self-abusing drunk.  Particularly because it wasn’t a convincing act while she was contemplating the murder of Senator Roark.  Avenging death is cool and all, but when you weaken yourself in the process, I don’t have much sympathy for you.  Since the movie was made 10 years later, I would have liked a reminder of why I should care.  Instead, I walked away feeling like I just wasted two good hours I could have used playing Diablo 3; a story that equally doesn’t matter, but at least I get to shoot stuff.

Now let’s get into what is more important about why this film disgusted me.  I’ll give you a hint; it wasn’t the overly cheesy nachos I ate, but I’m sure that didn’t help.  It was the Bechdel Test.  If you don’t know what the Bechdel Test is, it is a test for film that must follow these three rules: It must have two women in it, who talk to each other, about something other than a man.  There are some modifications of this rule that say the women must have names, too.  Sure Dame has more than two women in it, but they are nothing more than props for the use of men, no matter if Ava was killing some of those men.  The women only talked to each other in one brief scene with the vigilante prostitutes, but it was about men.  More often than not, women were not called by their own names, but rather by epithets for women that are not only overly used in our society, but were so overused in the movie, that I forgot the names of the characters.  You could say that most movies don’t fit the Bechdel Test, and you would be right.  Some of my favorite movies don’t, yet I don’t find them overwhelmingly offensive to women.  We are not props to use for “lucky” gambling.  Watching us dance in a saloon is not the solution to your problems.  Sleeping with us is not the solution to your problems.  Calling us “Bitch”,”Slut”, and “Whore” will not garner respect.  Portraying us by showing overt sex scenes and implying we have the power by showing promiscuity is not women’s liberation.  It was appalling at how poorly women were portrayed.  Even the “strong” female, Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) was a drunk who cut herself all in the name of a man who she thought was her only protection.  And she got shot at the end, sans the dying, but she still was weakened.  And for God’s sake, put Eva Green’s boobs away.  Yes they are nice, but it crossed the line of “Great rack,” to “Yeah, I get it.  She has a nice set of breasts.”  I am painfully aware of Frank Miller’s writing style and his personal bigotry, but in the modern day, is it too much to ask that if you are going to make a movie based off his work, its a little less …misogynistic?

Sherif Elkhatib

All this being said, A Dame to Kill For is not a complete loss. Robert Rodriguez’s green screen filming method adds a lot of character to the film, and even if the characters run in place like Adam West and Burt Ward in Batman, a part of me gets lost in the moment. There’s also no shame in admitting that the Sin City franchise has completely captured the neo-noir atmosphere better than any major motion picture has in the ten years since the original came out. Now the heavy sigh… maybe we should just come to the conclusion this Sin City movie didn’t need to be made.

There’s no doubt that Frank Miller the writer is a legend, with books like The Dark Knight Returns, Robocop300Ronin and some of the best Daredevil books ever published under his belt. His best work is gritty, ultra-violent, and has severe political “fuck-you”ness tattooed on each page. On the other hand, he’s also the stereotypical chauvinistic a-hole that today’s industry is fighting against – the middle-aged straight white man, who wants the industry to stay straight, white and male. He uses racial slurs liberally and openly pokes fun at the gay and mentally challenged. Just see what he did to Batman in All-Star Batman & Robin, or the ridiculous black-face he gives his African-American characters. Or the whole damn Holy Terror book.

For better or worse, though, this has been the same Frank Miller for over thirty years, and asking Robert Rodriguez to tone down Frank Miller’s source content is just unrealistic. There are plenty of other books of his that deserve our attention, that aren’t riddled in reminders of how far we have come as a nerd industry, only to regress using special effects. Honestly, I’m ready to put this whole thing behind me if Robert Rodriguez can admit that the All-State guy is not a suitable replacement for the late, great Michael Clarke Duncan. There will always be a demographic that loves what A Dame to Kill For was made of, but unless there is some sort of compromise on content, Miller and Rodriguez will see this franchise fail time and time again.

 

all media belongs to Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Dark Horse Comics and Dimension Films

Monthly Movie Preview: August 2014

July has come and gone in the blink of an eye. August promises to close out the summer in style, with a few notable blockbusters and some good independent films sprinkled in. Check out what we have to say about August’s films:

August 1 – Guardians of the Galaxy

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro

I’m hooked on a feeling… that this might be the greatest Marvel movie ever made. Although the Guardians have been around in comic books for decades, and the team being used for the film having existed since 2008, the number of people who can name any of the individual team members is far surpassed by the volume of fans who have no idea what is going on – and that will work to the film’s benefit. Nobody has any expectations of this rag-tag group, whose diversity is its strongest card. A talented set of actors, endless humor and explosive action will round out the intergalactic adventure that, at worst is a thrilling movie to see with the family, and at best could be this generation’s Star Wars. One thing is certain – we will be at the theaters on Friday to find out. – Sherif

August 1 – Get on Up

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis (True Blood), Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Craig Robinson, Jill Scott, Octavia Spencer

HEEEYYY!!! Now one more time, say that with your best James Brown impression. Couldn’t do it? That’s okay, because Chadwick Boseman sure can when he plays James Brown in the upcoming biopic titled Get on Up. If you are a fan of James Brown, soul, funk, music, and history, this movie is for you. Be prepared to get on up and enjoy this movie directed by Tate Taylor (The Help). However, get on up silently because, well, you are still in a movie theater. I honestly believe this movie is going to be great and it’ll make you feel so many emotions including excitement, happiness, sadness, and sorrow. Despite this movie being about the music of the godfather of soul, it is also about his family and his life, which has not been struggle-free. Basically, I think this movie is going to be fantastic; however, if James Brown and his music is not your thing, it is possibly the drama and the history will be enough to hold your interest. So one more time, get on up, and give it your best HEEEYYY!!! – Evan

 

August 5 – Dragonball Z: Battle of the Gods

Starring: Original voice cast

I’ve been trying to get into DBZ since I recently signed up for Crunchyroll, but there are just so many other great animes out that I haven’t gotten a chance to get to really dive into the series. What really has me interested is the fact that a year after its release, Funimation has taken it upon themselves to get the American theatrical release rights and is showing this in select theaters for a few nights. Something happened with a Tekken animated movie a few years back and it was definitely worth the trip. I don’t personally care about this movie and I figure that any major fan would have already seen the dubbed version, and while I don’t really care for some of the business practices of Funimation, this gives me hope for the future. Anything that gets a big enough following could be a potential candidate for the big screen. There are plenty of animes I would pay to see so if this is your type of thing, make sure to get out there and support it as it will give companies a reason to continue doing this in the future. – Robert

 

August 8 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Starring: Johnny Knoxville (voice only), Tony Shalhoub (voice only), Megan Fox, William Fichtner, Will Arnett, Whoopi Goldberg

August is here, and whether or not fans burn down the House that Bay built depends on this film. Long-time fans are either reserved or outraged, whether it be the way the Turtles look, the fact that Megan Fox is playing April O’Neil, or if it’s just based off the fact that Michael Bay is the director. All of these points are quite valid, but I can’t help but want to take a chance on this new take on the Heroes in a Half-Shell. We all have our own impression on what we consider the Turtles to be, and I think that any major motion picture attention to the franchise is a win in my books. There’s simply no way this TMNT incarnation will be as amazing as the originals, or even the new Nickelodeon television series, but as long as Bay can capture the magic of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that made it such an instant classic 30 years ago, it may continue to be at the forefront of pop culture for all ages. – Sherif

August 8 – What If

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver

Originally titled The F Word for its initial 2013 debut, What If is the tale of Harry Potter trying to avoid being put in the friend-zone with a decidedly hot blonde. It sounds like a cliché concept, but What If has already garnered a lot of critical acclaim, earning Best Adapted Screenplay at the Canadian Screen Awards. Daniel Radcliffe is finally believable as an adult actor, and his best friend in the movie is played by Adam Driver – who is the one sole reason that HBO’s Girls is a watchable show for me. This movie won’t break any new ground, but for any guys looking to get over the Friend Zone hump, this would be the movie to take her to (unless she likes TMNT, in which case you should just marry her). – Sherif

August 8 – Step Up: All In

Starring: Ryan Guzman, Briana Evigan, Adam Sevani, Stephen Boss, and Cyrus Spencer

Confession time:  I have seen every single episode of So You Think You Can Dance.  Every. Single. One.  I haven’t seen any of the Step Up movies, but I am always happy for the contestants of SYTYCD when they make it to gigs beyond the show.  For Stephen Boss aka tWitch and Cyrus Spencer aka Glitch, this is exactly the case.  And really, is anyone going to see these movies for the plot?  No, its a dance movie.  But the dancing should be worth seeing this film, even if it is just for the SYTYCD alum.  – Adrian

August 15 – Frank

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domhnall Gleeson (AKA Bill Weasley), Scoot McNairy

I have absolutely no idea what to make of this movie. It looks like Deadmau5 has a crack-head brother or something and we are getting to watch the story of his tomfoolery. The story of a guy who wears a fake head and never ever takes it off seems like it could be humorous but I don’t know if this is my kind of comedy. After watching the trailer my interest is definitely piqued but there are too many other things I would rather see so I would say that I will wait to rent this at Redbox or something, but truth be told I will probably forget about this movie once I’m done writing this. – Robert

 

August 15 – Life After Beth

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, Anna Kendrick, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon

As much as I love these actors and zombies, I am rather sick of people being in love with monsters. Although the idea may be over done in this we see upcoming actor Dane DeHaan (Amazing Spider-Man 2) as Zach, a young man who we see struggling emotionally due to the loss of his girlfriend. This quickly changes as Zach sees Beth (Aubrey Plaza), his lost girlfriend and finds she has been resurrected somehow, and although she initially shows no signs they start to figure out she is a zombie and needs to eat human flesh. This will almost guaranteed bring laughs if for nothing else due to the cast, but ultimately it will be lost among the other blockbusters this month. It is definitely not a family film and is marketed towards the teen and young adult community. Although the film itself may be easily forgotten due to other massive films this month don’t forget it as it will likely be a well liked film among certain groups. – Jacob

August 15 – The Expendables 3

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, Kelsey Grammer(?), Terry Crews, Victor Ortiz, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzenegger

Initially sold as a man-gasm inducing thrill-fest, this franchise is two strokes away from permanently shooting blanks. I love action flicks as much as the next guy, and I genuinely thought the franchise was a good idea, but is there something really so wrong with just letting the legends ride off into the sunset without having to sit through multiple hours of screaming, slow-motion firefights and catchphrases that barely worked twenty years ago? Let’s be honest; nobody is watching this film for the acting, or the storyline. Twenty & thirty-something men get to see some of their action star idols duke it out as one last hurrah. The third installment gives us Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson (the new bad guy), Harrison Ford, a post-prison Wesley Snipes and Kelsey Grammer. If the fate of the world is in Frasier Crane’s hands, we’re all screwed. There’s no way I’m influencing you’re decision to see The Expendables 3, as you’ve likely already made your decision before reading this. – Sherif

August 15 – The Giver

Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Odeya Rush, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift

I won’t lie.  When I see the trailer for The Giver, I get chills.  Based off the book The Giver by Lois Lowry, the movie will be a look into one boy’s world… a utopia that isn’t actually that perfect.  It feels odd to be writing a preview on this for two reasons.  One being that practically every millennial and younger have read the book in school.  The other being that if I say much more for those who don’t know the plot, there is a lot to give a way.  In short, go see this movie.  You will not be disappointed.  -Adrian

August 22 – Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Starring: Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Rosario Dawson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, Bruce Willis

Is it 2005 again, or did Robert Rodriguez just find a way to make Jessica Alba hot again?? It’s been nearly a decade, but Frank Miller’s Sin City is coming back to the silver screen in its second installment, A Dame to Kill For. Just like last time, the star-studded cast will take turns adding their pieces to the puzzle. Sin City vets like Alba, Bruce Willis and Josh Brolin are back, but several big name newcomers will also be sharing the spotlight, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Viewers should expect multiple plot twists, both in a sequel and prequel aspect to the original. Miller and Rodriguez’s visual style also looks to be prevalent throughout the film. This is going to be a fun movie any way you look at it. If you can’t wait for the movie to come out, you can also read the graphic novel of the same name, as it was released over 20 years ago. – Sherif

August 22 – To Be Takei

Starring: George Takei

Oh my! To Be Takei is a documentary depicting the life of brilliant and ever-exuberant George Takei. It tells his story from his childhood in a Japanese internment camp to his ground breaking role on Star Trek to his coming out story and marriage. This promises to be an incredibly inspiring film, especially for anyone who has felt trapped by society just for being who they are. George cleverly reminds us in the tagline that “It’s Okay to Be Takei!” As a Trekkie and proud member of the LGBT community, I’m extremely excited to see this movie hit the big screen, On Demand, and iTunes on August 22nd.  – Charlotte

 

August 22 – Are You Here

Starring: Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Poehler

This movie looks like it could be a more light-hearted sequel to Due Date. The movie stars Zach Galifinakis as yet another crazy person with a myriad of issues, only this time he inherits a small fortune and everybody seems to be out to get it from him. It actually looks pretty funny but looks like it might have more of those light-hearted friendship moments than I would prefer from a movie with him in it. His usual style of comedy hasn’t yet grown old to me so this definitely looks like something worth checking out. – Robert

August 22 – If I Stay

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Jaimie Blackley, Liana Liberato, Mireille Enos, and Joshua Leonard

Honestly, I have never read If I Stay.  However, it doesn’t look half bad.  The story follows a teenage celloist named Mia who has a pretty good life going on until her family gets in a fatal car wreck.  Mia experiences an out of body experience while in a coma and must decide whether to go back to living or go… elsewhere.  I don’t know whether this will appeal to the masses, but anything that gets teenagers to read seems pretty decent to me. – Adrian

August 29 – Life of Crime

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, Isla Fisher, Yasiin Bey

Life of Crime reminds me of the type of comedy that my parents would have watched when I was a kid, and one that I wouldn’t have understood for the life of me. I have a feeling this could be the same way. Tim Robbins plays a rich man whose beautiful wife (Aniston) is kidnapped. When the kidnappers attempt to collect the ransom, Robbins refuses to pay. If it sounds like an idea that’s been done before, that’s because it has. The 1986 movie Ruthless People had pretty much the same premise, and Life of Crime is credited as being based off the book The Switch. I’d be lying if I said that Jennifer Aniston, Mos Def and Tim Robbins didn’t sell me on seeing the movie, but otherwise, Life of Crime doesn’t bring nearly enough to the table to make me want to sit through it. – Sherif

Batman Day – Best Graphic Novels

DC Comics has dubbed today Batman Day. The Dark Knight has been fighting crime and serving justice for his 75th year since the 1939 debut of Detective Comics #27. Batman has been a big part of our lives, and was responsible for making me in the comic book fanatics we are today, whether it be through comic books and toys or television and movies. To show our appreciation for the man, the myth and the legend, we have compiled a plethora of Bat-themed lists. We hope that we can inspire you to read more about Batman and his legacy, or even give us some feedback if you agree or disagree with the lists. Sound off below! Or click on the picture below to take you to all of our Batman Day articles.

batman day logo

 

 

Top 20 Batman Graphic Novels

The legacy of Batman isn’t dependent on the video games, movies or toys. Batman’s mythos is based on his greatest comic book tales. Whether canon or not, each story we chose here added to the collective representation of who we have built the Batman to be. Whether or not they are the “best” is not what we aim to debate, but these are the stories that define the Batman to us.

 

20.) Batman and Robin: Reborn

After Batman was “killed” by Darkseid in Final Crisis, I was almost ready to throw in the towel for reading comics. How could DC get away with killing off Bruce Wayne? By putting Dick Grayson in the cowl, that’s how. Grant Morrison’s idea to make the former Nightwing into Batman helped fill the part of the void left by Bruce’s departure. It was like reading a completely new book, as the dynamic between Dick and Damian Wayne was a far cry from the father and son one that Robin shared with Bruce. There was also a noticeable amount of humor that just hadn’t existed between Batman and Robin, the two taking on a big brother-little brother relationship. Dick tried to assume the fatherly rol, but it was often shoved back in his face by the prodigal Damian, often too smart for his own good.

 

19.) Batman: Zero Year

The mega-arc from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo just ended today, and it has already secured a place among my favorite books of all time. The time period prior to Frank Miller’s Year One is one of great mystery, so for us to get a complete detail of his rise to becoming the Batman. Bruce’s journey is full of tidbits that had never made it into other comics; thanks to the fact there was no canon material to prove Snyder right or wrong, he could really do what he wanted with the story. A show-down with the Red Hood Gang and the introduction of the Riddler, as well as a different take on the origin of James Gordon were just some of the twists that made the arc feel familiar, yet brand new. Greg Capullo’s art is on point. His model of the first Batsuit is incredible, complete with purple gloves and all. This book is a love letter to Batman, and you don’t need any previous knowledge to enjoy and understand it.

 

18.) Death in the Family

When Jason Todd learns that his biological mom is still out there somewhere, the stubborn Robin runs away from home to track her down. His hunt leads him to the Middle East. He does end up meeting his mom, but hits a patch of bad luck when she ends up being on the Joker’s payroll. Yikes. Long story short, the Joker beats Robin senseless with a crowbar before leaving him and his mother in a warehouse with a bomb. There’s no happy ending here, as Jason Todd blows up just before Batman can save the day. This wasn’t all bad news for fans though, as DC had actually released a survey asking people whether or not Robin should be murdered. His death was a particularly brutal one, like something you’d see on Goodfellas, and considering Jason was just a kid, a lot of people felt it was too much. The largest impact Jason’s death had was on Batman’s psyche, haunting him for years. He considered Jason’s death the worst failure he’s ever had.

 

17.) Mad Love

Vroom! Vroom! Harley Quinn tries so hard just to impress her man in this story, but she just can’t win. After putting on a special outfit and enticing the Joker, he shrugs her off, brooding over his failed attempts at catching and killing the Bat. So Harley does what any loving woman would; she captures Batman all on her own. As she brags to Batman about how proud Joker will be, Batman tells her that he only cares about himself, but Harley shrugs it off (Note: If Batman is telling you your relationship is toxic, you know something is wrong) Excited to share the news with Mistah Jay, he becomes infuriated, telling Harley that he had to be the one to do it or it didn’t matter. That’s when things stop being funny. Joker continues to beat Harley, pushing her out of the window and into the trash. Coming from an abusive home as a child, this was really the final straw for Harley, as she renounces the Joker… for a little while anyway. Relationship woes aside, I gained  lot of respect for Harley after Mad Love.

 

16.) Under the Hood

Jason Todd, like most superheroes, couldn’t stay dead for long. However, the way that he came back was very unique from the rest of the comic book world. Taking on the moniker of the Red Hood, named after a gang Joker ran with when he turned into the white-skinned psycho he is today, Todd returns in a big way, sweeping the crime world by taking it over, and annihilating anybody who opposes. Bitter from what he considered Batman letting him die, Jason turned to more extreme measures in dealing with the bad guys. It takes Batman a while, but he finally figures out that the Red Hood is somehow Jason Todd. Cutting into his action, Black Mask joins with other super-villains to put a hit out on Red Hood. The Joker ends up captive in a room with Red Hood, who savagely beats Joker and prepares to kill him. In the end, Batman is forced to make the choice of stopping Jason from killing Joker, driving a wedge further between them.

 

15.) No Man’s Land

Gotham has suffered an earthquake of catastrophic proportions, resulting in a city-wide blackout. Civilization as we know it has ceased to exist, and random gangs have began vying for territory all over the city. Meanwhile, Batman is nowhere to be found as Bruce Wayne in in DC, fighting for national aid to Gotham. What makes the story great is that all the minor characters who never get the spotlight deserve play a major part in the resurrection of Gotham. The story feels very real and everybody acts how you would imagine they would in that kind of situation. Citizens’ fears are felt just as much as the police’s bravery. James Gordon is just the bit of hero that Batman was, proving that you don’t need to be Batman to make a difference. This huge event spanned nearly 15 series and six months, making it one of Batman’s largest-scale stories of all time.

 

14.) All-Star Batman and Robin

For some reason, this Batman is really pissed off. All-Star Batman and Robin isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s one of the most entertaining stories I’ve read. Not only does Batman get laid, say “Goddamn” a lot and defeats the Green Lantern by literally using the color yellow. The books chronicles the recruitment of Dick Grayson as Robin and Batman’s introduction to the Justice League, as well as a few other minor events. The Batman in this book is a raging asshole; he puts his hands on Alfred, constantly belittles Robin and shows little value in the life of criminals – notably by hurling a Molotov cocktail at a group of them as them erupt in flames. The real take-away are the beautiful full-page spreads by Jim Lee, who manages to calm down the rage-aholic writing of Frank Miller.

 

13.) Dark Victory

The sequel to Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s The Long HalloweenDark Victory continues along the lines of a mystery story that just happens to have Batman characters in it. We get an introduction to Robin, and a brand new villain with a new shtick, The Hangman. Many of the corrupt politicians from Year One are found hanged to death by this mystery murderer. We also get to see the complications of Batman and Catwoman’s relationship, but Batman feels perpetually alone, refusing help from Catwoman and Gordon on numerous occasions.

 

12.) Knightfall

Bane gets overlooked a lot of the time for being a hulking beast, but he’s one of the smartest villains in Gotham. In Knightfall, he strategically breaks out all the villains from Arkham, wearing Batman out as he tried to contain the situation. Bane deduced Batman’s secret identity, meeting him in the Batcave for a super-sized beat-down, ending in Bane shattering Batman’s spine and his confidence. It was an eye-opener for fans that realized defeating the Batman was, in fact, possible. Batman began a rigorous training regiment with Lady Shiva to get his mojo back, and charged Jean Paul Valley (Azrael) to take over as Batman in his stead. JPV let the role go to his head, and before we knew it, he had modified the Batsuit to become a nightmarish Azrael suit. The first volume of the arc was the best, but there were still enough interesting events in the rest of it to warrant reading.

 

11.) Battle for the Cowl

Bruce Wayne is gone, and Dick Grayson must take up the mantle of the Bat, but is reluctant. Sensing that Batman is gone, an impostor show up to take the gig over. That impostor ends up being a sociopathic Jason Todd. In an attempt to stop Jason Todd, both Damian and Tim Drake are shot and severely wounded. At this point, Dick realized that only he can inherit the mantle of the Bat. The story isn’t that long, but the repercussions of it echo all the way into Bruce’s return.

 

10.) Joker

Batman’s number one villain gets his own mini-series in this story by 100 Bullets‘ Brian Azzarello and artist Lee Bermejo. The story is told through the eyes of a common criminal looking to join the ranks of Joker’s gang. This perspective, unlike the first-person perspective of the supplementary Luthor book, enhances the perspective that nobody really knows what the Joker is thinking. Reading the book, you get lost in the madness, but sober right up as you realize just how frightening Joker is. In a confrontation with Harvey Dent, Joker glues shards of broken glass to his fists in preparation for the fight. This is right after blackmailing him and right before raping Dent’s wife. Joker also commits other unspeakable acts such as: skinning a man alive, shooting over a dozen people (not all in anger) and stabbing one of his own men in the eye with a glass bottle. This book is a clear example of digging beneath the surface and realizing you probably shouldn’t have.

 

9.) The Black Mirror

Before Scott Snyder was awarded Batman in the New52, he wrote The Black Mirror, a creepy story about the dark reflection in Gotham that stares back at our protagonists. Commissioner Gordon, Gotham’s hero on the police force, beloved by the people, is hiding something, or rather someone, when it turns out that his estranged son is a complete deviant. Dick Grayson, meanwhile, who was still Batman at the time, infiltrates an auction held by The Dealer, where items used by villains were used – the item for bid was the crowbar The Joker used on Jason Todd before murdering him. It’s all pretty gruesome stuff, and would set the tone for the dark material in the New52 relaunch.

 

8.) The Killing Joke

Alan Moore’s stand-alone story is commonly thought of as the greatest Joker story ever told. There are plot points in this book that would remain canon and have repercussions that lasted decades. We get a good glimpse into the Joker’s twisted psyche, as he visits the home of Barbara Gordon and shoots her point blank, paralyzing her. The Joker then kidnaps Commissioner Gordon, takes him to an abandoned amusement park (I think Gothan has one too many of those) and shows Gordon pictures of his daughter, all to prove that even the most upstanding citizen can lose their mind after one bad day. The ending to The Killing Joke is very artistic, and many believe resulted in the death of the Joker.

 

7.) Flashpoint Batman: Knight of Vengeance

Flash might have been the headliner here, but the alternate timeline that Batman was set on was as clever as it was tragic. When Flash altered reality by way of the Speed Force, Batman’s origin changed with it. Instead of Martha and Thomas Wayne taking the bullet, it had been Bruce. Engrossed in guilt, Thomas dealt with the situation by becoming Batman. This Batman was much more lethal with his methods, and operated a casino in town where he oversaw all the crime in town. Meanwhile, Martha developed another coping mechanism – laughter. My mind was blown. The Waynes, who were once the Jay-Z and Beyonce power couple of Gotham City, were now bitter enemies. The story ends in tragedy (as most Batman stories do), and all I could do is thank the stars that Flash was able to set the timeline straight again.

 

6.) Batman: Year One

Frank Miller’s Batman wasn’t always insane. The quintessential origin story, Year One took us through Bruce Wayne’s first attempt at fighting crime. In short, he kind of sucked at it. Gotham was a city where the rich got fat at the poor’s expense. While Batman was making his introduction on the streets, James Gordon had transferred from Chicago to be met by a very corrupt police force. Bruce and Gordon’s stories paralleled each other very well, adding to the feeling they would work well together. This is as good as any place to start in the Batman mythology if you don’t know where to start reading.

 

5.) JLA: Tower of Babel

Batman has a contingency plan for everything – even his friends. When Justice Leaguers start dropping like flies, with methods specifically designed to eliminate them, everybody is completely lost as to the mastermind who came up with these designed traps. Everybody, that is, except for Batman, who had kept a file detailing the Justice League’s weaknesses in case they got out of control. Ra’s al Ghul, who had a habit of being able to sneak into the Batcave whenever he wanted, sneaked in and stole the files, intending to use them to immobilize the heroes while he did his global domination thing. As Batman is the only one left to defend the world, he must undo the damage that his files wrought on the League. Tower of Babel was great commentary on whether or not that much control over a situation is a good thing, especially when the information wasn’t secure.

 

4.) The Dark Knight Returns

A retired Bruce Wayne has watched his city fall apart without a Dark Knight to protect it. It would seem, though, that the world is not ready for his reemergence, as Superman, who has pretty much become the President’s bitch, must make an example of this vigilante. That’s really the least of Batman’s worries, as he takes on Two-Face, a revitalized Joker, and a gang of punks called the Mutants. The story is chock-full of socio-political commentary that has stayed relevant throughout the decades.

 

3.) Batman: The Long Halloween

The Long Halloween was the first comic book I’ve ever read, and I was instantly hooked right in. Armed with Jeph Loeb, one of the greatest comic book storytellers in recent history, and the unique art style of Tim Sale, this book was enthralling. Part mystery, part action, Batman had to solve murders around town that were committed on holidays. He even enlisted the help of Calendar Man. The story takes place early in the Batman timeline, chronicling the transformation of Harvey Dent into Two-Face and before Jim Gordon was Commissioner. The story included a plethora of villains, and when the headlining Holiday is finally found out, it’s a big Aha! moment you just don’t get in comic books anymore.

 

2.) The Court of Owls

Scott Snyder kicked The New52 off with a bang, as a brand new series with a brand new villain emerged. The Court of Owls are an underground society of Gotham’s oldest and wealthiest families. They control everything going on in the city, and have decided that Bruce Wayne and the Batman have got to go. With an army of trained, slightly-undead soldiers called Talons at their disposal, they are an instant force to be reckoned. The owl-like masks, as well as the detailed Talon design added to the Courts intrigue, and the way Capullo arranged the panels when Batman tangles with the Owls in their maze echoes the insanity Batman feels. While the reboot allowed for tinkering to the mythology, Court of Owls actually added a lot of interesting gadgets and tidbits to it. At a whopping twelve issues, this book won’t fail to hold your interest.

 

1.) Hush

Call us biased, but Hush is the best Batman graphic novel of all time. In no other book are you introduced to so many beautifully drawn villains. Jim Lee’s art in Hush will go down in history as legendary, with a mixture of regular pencils and even taking a stab at water colors. Hush also marks the return of Jason Todd from the dead and introduces Thomas Elliott, Bruce’s childhood friend. Like other great mysteries by Jeph Loeb (The Long HalloweenDark Victory), you don’t find out who the villain is until the end of the book. In Hush Batman finally lets Catwoman into his heart, giving her a big smooch and revealing his identity to her. This has since been undone in The New52, but it has remained canon in my heart. Hush is the book that made me officially fall in love with comic books, and it’s one any Bat-fan will enjoy.

Batman Day – Best TV Episodes

DC Comics has dubbed today Batman Day. The Dark Knight has been fighting crime and serving justice for his 75th year since the 1939 debut of Detective Comics #27. Batman has been a big part of our lives, and was responsible for making me in the comic book fanatics we are today, whether it be through comic books and toys or television and movies. To show our appreciation for the man, the myth and the legend, we have compiled a plethora of Bat-themed lists. We hope that we can inspire you to read more about Batman and his legacy, or even give us some feedback if you agree or disagree with the lists. Sound off below! Or click on the picture below to take you to all of our Batman Day articles.

 

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Top 10 Episodes

If you’re like us, you grew up watching Batman in animated form take over the TV in animated form on Saturday mornings, or syndicated after school. For almost a full decade, Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and a complete cast of supporting characters set a new standard for cartoons with Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures, headlining an already-phenomenal decade of classic cartoons. Since the original spin-off Batman Beyond ended in 2001, DC has had years of success in the animated world riding the wave of B:TAS. In fact, Batman has been the only superhero to carry a solo series for over a season since (minus Green Lantern, but shhh) Superman: The Animated Series aired alongside Batman’s. The newer incarnations never lived up to the quality of the 90’s, but it doesn’t mean they weren’t special in their own way. We go through ten – and yes it was hard to limit it to ten – of our favorite episodes from the animated series.

 

10.) Batman: The Brave and the Bold S1 E24, “Mayhem of the Music Meister”

Anytime a show’s episode is compared to Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s “Once More With Feeling,” the show is doing a good job. BATB was a silly show, but there were still enough serious moments to keep the show believable. It was great at straddling the line between corny and serious crime fighting every episode. There was just enough wiggle room for an episode like “Mayhem of the Music Meister to sneak through. Thanks to the talents of Neil Patrick Harris (Dr. Horrible‘s Sing-A-Long Blog), the episode is full of hilarious ditties, capped by the heroic performance of Batman and his voice of justice. “Music Meister” proved that Batman series don’t always need to take themselves so seriously.

 

9.) The New Batman Adventures S1E12, “Over the Edge”

Watching this episode as a kid, I had my jaw open the whole time. Batgirl, in a struggle with Scarecrow, had been knocked off a building, falling to her death. In a fit of rage, Commissioner Gordon’s reaction to discovering that his own daughter was the Batgirl was one of I couldn’t quite comprehend. What came next was the complete annihilation of the trust they have worked so hard to build, the invasion of Wayne Manor by the GCPD. I though I was watching the end of the show, when suddenly, it turns out that none of it was real. It had all been a hallucination caused by Scarecrow’s fear toxin. I can safely say that I have never felt as fooled by a plot twist as when watching “Over the Edge.”

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8.) Batman: The Animated Series S1E30, “Perchance to Dream”

Another hallucination-based episode, “Perchance to Dream” dangles Batman’s greatest desires in front of him. Waking up after a hard hit knocks him unconscious, both his parents are alive, but there is no sign anywhere that he is the Batman. On the plus side, he is engaged to Selina Kyle, living the life of a boring rich kid. As more memories flood in of his time as Batman, he begins to think he’s going insane, haunted by the shadow of a Batman. It turns out the Mad Hatter had Batman under his control, ripping the would-be great life away from Batman. Kevin Conroy, a student of Shakespeare, says that this is favorite episode of all. With the deep exploration of Batman’s psyche, it took B:TAS beyond the status quo for Saturday morning cartoon.

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7.) Batman: The Animated Series S1E60-61, “The Demon’s Quest”

This Ra’s al Ghul-centric arc is based on the story written by Dennis O’Neil, who created the character with Neal Adams in 1971’s Batman #232. O’Neil actually wrote the first episode of the two-part arc. Ra’s al Ghul’s proper introduction into the show was so appropriate for him. He is a villain unlike any other. Immediately, Ra’s knows Batman’s secret identity, but doesn’t much seem to care. The great thing about Ra’s is that he doesn’t want Batman dead, but rather to take over the family business of global domination. There’s also a really fun swash-buckling scene where Batman and Ra’s engage in combat. The whole thing feels very Lawrence of Arabia; bringing this classic comic book story to animated form was a great call and a pleasure to watch.

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6.) Batman: The Animated Series, S1E2 “Christmas With the Joker”

Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg. Batmobile lost its wheels, and Joker got away! “Christmas With the Joker” is one of the funnest episodes of the series. Just hand Mark Hamill the microphone and let him go wild. Joker kidnaps Gordon, Harvey Bullock and Summer Gleason, putting on a Christmas special for Gotham, drawing the Batman out and sending him and Robin on a wild goose chase around town. After finally catching up with the Joker and foiling his plan, he gives Batman a Christmas present – a big ol’ pie right in the face! He went through all that trouble, kidnapping law enforcement, riggin toy soldiers to kill, all to give Batman a pie in the face. Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce and Dick watch It’s A Wonderful Life, to which Bruce comments, “it has its moments.”

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5.) The New Batman Adventures S1E19 “Legends of the Dark Knight”

There’s nothing like a good tribute episode to really get the fans into it. The episode follows three kids as they argue back and forth about what they think the Batman is like. The children featured are actually tributes to famous kids in the DC Animated lore. Matt is the brother of Batman Beyond‘s Terry McGinnis, Carrie is the Robin from The Dark Knight Returns, and Nick is from the “I’ve Got Batman in My Basement,” where he and two other children hide Batman in their house when they find him injured and in danger. Each account of the Batman is a callback to a famous time period in Batman’s history. Matt’s version is a tribute to the Dick Sprang style Batman, which inspired the Brave and the Bold cartoon. Carrie’s version is a callback to The Dark Knight Returns, which was unique because Frank Miller’s TDKR is one of the most adult versions of the Batman created, so to see it toned down for a cartoon was really neat. As they continue walking around the block, they run into Firefly, who is quickly dispatched by the Batman himself. The episode is hero worship in the purest sense.

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4.) The New Batman Adventures S1E21 “Mad Love”

Harley Quinn has always been down for her man, even if Mistah Jay treats her like crap. However, this episode – based off the 1994 Batman Adventures: Mad Love book – is where Harley draws the line. After trying to get Joker in the mood he abusively shrugs Harley off, focused on his many failed attempts at taking  Batman down. Just to make him happy, Harley devises a plan to capture the Dark Knight on her own, and it works! Expecting Joker would be happy about her accomplishment, he was furious that Harley did a better job than he did – that Joker had to be the one to do it. Joker then proceeds to beat the crap out of Harley, and not in a comical way, but rather in a domestic violence kind of way. The issue opened my eyes to the topic of domestic violence, and even then I knew it was wrong.

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3.) Batman Beyond, S1E1-2 “Rebirth”

The year was 1999 and Batman: The Animated Series as we knew it was over. Sure, there was still Justice League, but sharing screen time with the other Leaguers left me pining for more Batman. Enter Batman Beyond. It was Batman… from the future! Reprising his role of Bruce Wayne, Kevin Conroy was a link to the show we loved so much. What made this story so great was that it was a completely new world, with futuristic characters and gadgets, as well as adaptations of villains years in the future. Terry’s character was also completely relatable: single parent home, sibling rivalry, high school relationships. This show rejuvenated the Batman animated world, and became an instant fan favorite. Schway.

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2.) Batman: The Animated Series S1E14, “Heart of Ice”

“Heart of Ice” was the first episode of the series directed by creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. Victor Fries is one of the most tragic villains in Batman’s rogues gallery. Sure he blasts innocent people to death with his freeze ray, but he’s got a good reason to be upset with the world. Working at GothCorp, Fries had been working tirelessly to find a cure for his cryogenically frozen wife, Nora, when company CEO Ferris Boyle coldly shut down operations. When Fries tried to stop Boyle, Boyle threw Fries into the a table of chemicals, essentially turning him into the monster he is today. Mr. Freeze’s goal is simple revenge – and who could blame him? The issue itself was poetic, as Batman and viewers alike could feel Freeze’s pain.

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1.) Batman: The Animated Series, S1E46 “Almost Got ‘Im”

If you want one episode to represent Batman in the animated world, “Almost Got ‘Im” is your show. Joker, Ivy, Penguin, Killer Croc and Two-Face play a high stakes game of poker as they share stories about the time they came so close to killing the Batman, each coming up with one excuse or another as to why their plan didn’t fall through. Their recollections are brief, but still intriguing. The best story had to be Killer Croc, who said that he once threw a rock at Batman. When the rest of the rogues looked unimpressed, he insisted “it was a big rock.” After Joker spills the beans about his and Harley’s plans to ground Catwoman into cat food (kind of morbid, but whatever), Croc reveals himself to be Batman in disguise, with GCPD hiding in wait. The whole thing had been a setup. After rescuing Catwoman, she proposes that they run away together, and after seemingly giving this consideration, he pulls his signature disappearing act, to which Catwoman says, “Almost Got ‘Im.”

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So Far This Week… April 30th, 2014

Holy crap! Get ready to have your socks knocked off; this week brings in a lot of great news tidbits.

This Sunday is May the Fourth!  Hush Comics is lucky enough to be running a panel at StarFest to commemorate the holiday.  Come see us at 10 AM!

This Saturday, May 3rd, is FREE COMIC BOOK DAY! Head to your local comic book store for free issues of some of the biggest (and smallest, in the case of Mouse Guard) stories in the industry. Many local shops are holding insane sales for books, so it’s an amazing opportunity for new fans to dive in head-first to the comic book world. Don’t believe me? Just take Levar Burton’s word for it.

For more information on which books are available, this is your one-stop shop (figuratively, I mean, you still have to go to the shop to get the books. duh.). Also, Denverites, visit the Mile High Comics’ Jason Street Mega-Store for some awesome festivities on  Saturday.

If you’re like us, you like to occasionally use the ComiXology to supplement the physical copies of comics you buy at your local stores… RIGHT?? Well, since the acquisition by Amazon, there have already been some swift changes to the storefront. If you’re as confused as we are, check out this informational article.

Today marks the return of the Amazing Spider-Man to the comic book world. After over a year of Otto Octavius as Spider-Man (it’s complicated), Peter is back in command and with a new lease on life! And just in time for the movie, Amazing Spider-Man 2, to hit theaters.

Gwen Stacy herself challenged Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon to a lip-sync battle, which is quickly becoming my favorite recurring bit on the show. Emma Stone destroys Fallon – all she does is win, win, win.

Before last week’s episode of Game of Thrones, “Oathkeeper,” a trailer for the upcoming series called Leftovers. I’m still not too sure what it’s about, but I’m interested enough to check it out when it airs June 29th.

Speaking of Game of Thrones, the upcoming video game by Telltale Games is getting some narrative assistance from the story creator’s right hand man, Ty Corey Franck as a story consultant. With games like The Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us, I’m sold with anything Telltale puts out.

Marvel is not just trending, but making it a priority for gender equality in their books. Our article on what Ms. Marvel means to us (and the world) is just the start. Now that Elektra, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, X-Men (all female cast) and the aforementioned Ms. Marvel have solo titles, it’s time for another leading lady to get her own series; Storm debuts this summer, written by Greg Pak – an interview from C2E2 can be found here.

Not even a year after the series’ Felina, and we’re still mourning the legendary Breaking Bad. Fans should check out this 8 minute-long tribute (seriously, whoever made this should win a freakin’ award) to the Heisenberg; while you’re at it, read our Breaking Bad Week articles. You’re God Damn Right.

Image Comics (The Walking DeadSagaDeadly ClassBlack Science…..) is trying to get some much-deserved cred with Humble Bundle, a site that lets users choose how much they pay for these works (sorry, there is a minimum payment lol). Here are some more details on the deal.

2014 is the year of the Bat…man 75th Anniversary, and July 23rd has been officially dubbed Batman Day! To celebrate, go to your local shop and pick up a FREE issue of a reimagined Detective Comics #27; Batman Day also coincides with the release of Grayson #1 and Robin Rises: Omega #1. Ah, it’s a good time to be a Bat.

The DC New 52 run of Batman has been arguably the best comic out since it went to print in 2011. A line of Greg Capullo-inspired action figures will be released soon (Batman and Talon coming this month). I want to buy an army of Talons, but I will likely settle for two.

Saturday morning cartoons meets Sunday night slow jams! Check out this awesome rendition of the classic Ducktales theme song.

Spider-Man is definitely the topic of choice this week, but DC and Warner Bros. can’t let Marvel steal all the shine. Zack Synder has been announced as the director to a Justice League movie to be released after Batman vs Superman.

Classic Frank Miller graphic novel, Ronin, is getting picked up by the SyFy channel. Hell yes.

Just in time for Star Wars Day, the initial cast for Star Wars: Episode VII has been released. What do you think?

To continue to expand upon its appeal to fourteen year old boys (just a good ribbing from a PlayStation person), X-Box One has launched WWE Network on consoles.

The Disney-Marvel connection will be in full effect this fall when Disney Infinity brings the big guns to its platform for its second iteration, Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes. I haven’t gotten a chance to play the game, but it seems like a great game for kids.

DC’s adult alter-ego game, Injustice: Gods Among Us, is rumored to be getting a sequel out next year. I’m not too sure how a new installment will be justified, but I’m excited, nonetheless. We’ll have more news on that as it develops.

Village idiot Joe Dirt may be getting a sequel. Yeah, that’s where we’re at with comedies…

300: Rise of an Empire Review

Genre – Action

Director – Noam Murro

Cast – Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, 

Alluring element – A sequel to the epic 2006 movie about the Spartan 300

Scorecard:
Plot – 8
Acting – 8
Representation of Genre – 9
Cinematography – 9
Effects/Environment – 9
Captivity – 7
Logical consistency – 7
Originality/Creativity – 8
Soundtrack/Music – 8
Overall awesomeness – 8
 
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Rise of an Empire marks the return of the Frank Miller-based story of Greek’s resistance against the Persian Empire. After great success of the first film, ROAE builds on the story in a weird kind of backwards-spinoff way. We begin our tale a decade before the battle at the Hot Gates, where Themistokles (not to be confused with the Greek mythologist Themistocles – just so there is no allusion of historical accuracy here) leads the Athenians in a well-planned attack against the Persians. Themistokles ends up putting an arrow in King Darius and sparking his son, Xerxes, to give his soul to become a God-king. Xerxes, however, is just a token for the real story.

Well Scissor Me Timbers!
Well Scissor Me Timbers!

Judging by the trailers, I figured that this movie would follow the same formula as its predecessor. That is, Themistokles rises against the Persians, the Persians throw everything they can at the Athenians, and then somehow, one of them comes out victorious. I also thought that Xerxes would have a lot more screen time than he actually did. His whole back-story seemed for naught, because it added nothing to Xerxes’ character – or anybody else’s for that matter. Instead, the plot follows the strategic battle between Artemisia (Green) and Themistokles as they are in deadlocked in naval battle. It’s an interesting approach that gave it some much-needed separation from just being a 300 film.

That being said, Rise of an Empire brings with it the return of everything that made 300 such an enjoyable film. The bullet time kills are all there in its barbaric splendor. We didn’t see the film in IMAX 3D, but the way the fight scenes are orchestrated, we could tell that this was a movie that was made for, not adapted to, 3D film. The cartoonish way the blood flows and limbs are dismembered helps take away from the gruesomeness of the violence. The aspect that always stands out to me is the choice in colors. Themistokles’ royal blue cape is a sharp contrast to the Spartan red, and the melancholy grays of the Greek skyline.

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It’s not just limited to color swaps, though. The difference between the Athenian and Spartan army is very apparent. The Athenians know it, the Spartans know it, and now we know it. The Athenians are stout politicians and strategists, where the Spartans rely on unwavering strength and brotherhood. The fact that the Athenians were everyday tradesmen really rings true; they’re still incredibly fit, but nowhere near the 24-packs the Spartans sport. The Immortals, for one, are much more terrifying in this film as they tear through the Greek ranks of farmers and sculptors. The battle scenes are also distinct from 300. Most of the action in Rise of an Empire takes place on the Aegean Sea. So, it’s not as breakneck paced as 300, but there’s still an ample amount of bloodshed.

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300: Rise of an Empire clocked in just less than ten minutes less runtime than the original, but it felt a whole lot shorter. It felt as though there were more moving pieces and more character development. While Themistokles hogs up most of the screen time, the real winners of the film are Artemisia and Queen Gorgo – the two lead women. Both are characters that viewers will gravitate to for their fortitude and wit (“You’ve come a long way to stroke your cock while real men train!”). They are strong and they are respected; they have the most powerful position among the two armies, and yet they’re still objectified. It culminated in one weird, hardcore display of affection between Artemisia and Themistokles that left me laughing out of confusion and discomfort; I felt the same way watching this scene with two of my best friends as I did watching Kate Winslet’s boobs in Titanic with my parents… at ten years old.

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Honestly, with the blockbuster that 300 was, Rise of an Empire could have coasted the whole way through on the coattails of the original – and in many ways, that’s exactly what it did. However, the formula didn’t always work, as the “inspirational” speeches from Themistokles pail in comparison to the cries to battle that Leonidas gave his troops. The development from farmers to proud warriors happens too abruptly to be believable. The story feels incomplete, as nothing is really resolved once the credits roll, and unlike 300, there are no real lessons to learn at the end of Rise of an Empire.

Make your own 300 war face at http://appcloud.warnerbros.com/300/warfacempc/index_flash.html?cid=us&df=false
Make your own 300 war face here

There was plenty of visual stimulation; from the killing to the unique cinematography, I was enthralled throughout. However, the abrupt climax and logical missteps really take away from any movie empire that Frank Miller had been hoping to build upon. Rise of the Empire a clear case of style over substance, but it’s enough to tip the scales in favor of wanting to see the film.

All photos belong to Warner Bros. and Frank Miller

Diggin’ Through the Crates: Lupe Fiasco “Lightwork”

Artist: Lupe Fiasco

Song: “Lightwork”

AlbumFriend of the People: I Fight Evil (2011), a mixtape that followed up his third studio album (Lasers). Free download here.

Lyric: “They wanna be fiascoes, reproduce his failures/Emperor is his alias, but not Marcus Aurelius/This is more like Sparta: kick you down a well, kid”

Character Reference/Meaning:

With the release of 300: Rise of an Empire, we felt that this week’s “Diggin’ Through the Crates” had to be a reference to 300. Most casual fans might not know that before Gerard Butler was dining in hell, 300 was a mini-series run published by Dark Horse Comics in 1999 written by Frank Miller, the same creative genius behind Sin City, The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. Not only does today mark the return of 300 to the theaters, but it also marks the return of Lupe Fiasco to “DTC.” A few months ago, Lupe made the pages of Hush for his Wolverine references. We try to switch up the artists as much as we can, but this was the best Spartan/300 reference out there – And believe me, there were plenty to choose from.

Just to catch some people up, the scene in 300 that Lupe is referencing is when a Persian messenger comes to relay a message to the King of Sparta, Leonidas. The message is this: we own you now; lay down your arms, kneel before us, and we won’t slaughter your men and enslave your children. It sounded like quite the raw deal, as Leonidas thought, and so he showed his hospitality by kicking the messenger down a giant well. Aside from being one crowd-pleasing moment, it’s also a sentiment that resonates within the Hip-Hop community.

In poor, urban communities like the ones Wasalu Jaco (Lupe) grew up in, there’s always somebody coming in to take what you and yours have. This might surprise you, but a lot of the time, that doesn’t always come in the shape of peers. The Athenians and Spartans frequently butt heads. They fought with each other for the dominance of Greece multiple times. When the Persian empire came to their doorstep, both were out-powered by the unstoppable force.

Today, gentrification and police abuse are the Xerxes and prison is the new slavery (oh yeah, I went there). Young black men are constantly antagonized by the police officers and ridiculed by white wealth. It’s no surprise that Hip-Hop artists gravitate towards being able to tell somebody to get the hell out of their home.

Fun Fact:

The line “They wanna be fiascoes, reproduce his failures” is a clever play on words, as the word “fiasco” is actually Greek for failure. Lupe also references Marcus Aurelius, a Greek philosopher that the Spartans saw as a personification for weakness. You can tell Lupe really does his homework.