Stuff I’ve Read, Watched, Done #22 – October 31, 2021 (including a whole lotta Batman)

Happy Halloween!

Actually though, we Halloween is not really a big deal in Australia, so it’s not something I really have on my radar. Mainly, I’m aware of the date because I know that in England this is the day the new Doctor Who season–for better or for worse–debuts.

And what did the week that was contain?

Paddington 2

Following on the success of watching Paddington with the family last week, this week kicked off with us tuning into the sequel. It’s a bit of a case of “second verse, same as the first,” but when the tune is as charming and joy-filled as this one, that’s no problem.

Once again, Paddington and his human friends and family get into family-friendly misadventures, this time involving a special pop-up book of London that our titular is hoping to give as a gift for the aunt bear that raised him. It turns out thought that the book contains hidden clues to a treasure, which leads everyone into trouble with a former actor (played by Hugh Grant) who is out for the riches himself. This leads Paddington into a stint in prison of all places, where he encounters another round of colorful characters to add to the ones we’ve already had.

Nearly the entire cast of the first film is back, with the exception of the villainous Nicole Kidman, now replaced by the villainous Hugh Grant.

Peter Capaldi (the Twelfth Doctor from Doctor Who) is back at the unpleasant Mr. Curry, who doesn’t have quite as much to do this time around. The cast also includes a returning Jim Broadbent as one of the family friends, and Joanna Lumley in a small role as the Hugh Grant character’s agent. This means that according to some counts, the movie includes four Doctors from Doctor Who, since Grant, Broadbent, and Lumley all played iterations of the character in the 1999 comedy special The Curse of Fatal Death.

In any event, the movie is sweet and fun and includes some highly inventive visuals, especially when it animatedly takes us insie the pop-up book.

Death in Paradise

My wife was away before this week so when she came back, I pushed for us to get through Season 8 of Death in Paradise…especially since as of tomorrow we no longer will have access to the streaming service I watch it on (just can’t afford to keep all these services). Season 8 stars Ardal O’Hanlon as DI Jack Mooney, with Joséphine Jobert co-starring for most of the season as DS Florence Cassell.

The big story for the season was a two-parter in the middle in which Florence was shot, and her fiancé killed. Joséphine Jobert is a pleasant presence on the show, but her character has never been all that interesting. That changed with this two-parter, which really gave her some meaty material to work with.

Unfortunately it also signified her exit from the program, so that’s all we have of the character for the being. I know from the internet that she returns eventually, but for the moment she is replaced by Aude Legastelois-Bidé, who plays DS Madeleine Dumas. The mix up the format just ever so slightly with this characer in that even though she is of a similar ethnicity to both of her predecessors, she is not from the islands herself–rather, she is from Paris. So now, both of the senior members of the Honoré police force are outsiders.

It’s all incredibly formulaic and predictable, but somehow utterly charming and watchable. The mysteries themselves are almost always baffling and the solutions interesting–even if one isn’t sure that the police have the evidence to actually convict anyone. That was the case with the season finale–Murder Begins at Home–when a dead body is found inside the fully locked police station itself. The solution was quite ingenious, but it was just luck that the murderer broke down and confessed when the answer was pointed out, as there was barely any evidence offered to secure an actual conviction.

Anyway, I find it’s a great way to pass a stress-free evening. I’ve just discovered it’s on BritBox, along with nearly all of Doctor Who ever, so I may have to spring for that at some point.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

On the prowl for something to watch with my daughter, I came across this old animated film–an actual cinema release from 1993–which I hadn’t seen in years. My daughter had never seen it but has expressed interest in Batman: The Animated Series–I thought this might give her a taste.

And boy, does this movie hold up well. Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and the gang really knew their stuff. Watching it is like a breath of Batman-related fresh air. Of course I’d say that Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are better movies, but this is more like the Batman I actually think of when I think of the character than almost any other version I’ve seen. I think there is something about animation that just allows for a nearer-feeling translatoin of comic book sensibilities than live action. After watching both this and Young Justice I feel more convinced of that than ever.

The movie’s cast include Kevin Conroy (for many, the most iconic Batman) and Mark Hamill (for many, the most iconic Joker), both at the top of their game. Also involved is Dana Delaney as Andrea Beaumont, a newly created love-interest from Bruce Wayne’s past, and Abe Vigoda as a mobster. The movie has some great action scenes, strong character drama, and some cool flashbacks that show Bruce Wayne’s early attempts to fight crime before the bat-inspiration came. It’s all highly recommended.

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker

Eager for more Batman-fare, we dove into this 2000 animated feature release, which tied into Batman Beyond, itself a spin-off of Batman: the Animated Series. Batman Beyond tells the story of Terry McGinnis, a high school student who falls in with an aged Bruce Wayne, becoming a new Batman with equipment and methodology fitting for the somewhat-in-the-future world his stories are set in.

The film Return of the Joker is exactly what it sounds like–a strange mystery that unfolds when the long-dead Joker suddenly returns to terrorize Gothan anew. Its a good action-mystery with high emotional stakes and great vocal performances once again from Conroy and Hamill, as well as Will Friedle as Terry. The cast also includes Michael Rosenbaum, Dean Stockwell and the seemingly ubiquitous Tara Strong (as Batgirl).

It also includes a sequence where young Tim Drake is kidnapped by the Joker and tortured until he’s turned into a junior version of the Clown Prince of Crime, which my daughter said is by far one of the creepiest things she’s ever seen.

Batman (1989)

Completing a trifecta of Batman-related films, we also watched Tim Burton’s Batman, with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Of course this movie was the biggest deal of them all back in 1989, and it’s still fun today, but I was never the biggest fan. It’s macabre, weird, creepy, and extremely silly, and consistently all that gets in the way of telling a logical or meaningful story.

On top of that, Batman wears a costume that he can’t seem to move his neck in at all, jarring Prince music plays fairly randomly on the soundtrack, and people constantly shoot Batman in the chest where he is wearing body armor, but not the face where he is exposed. Furthermore, Batman regularly kills his enemies (he literally blows up a building full of them), which is something that you get in the movies a lot but you really shouldn’t–Mask of the Phantasm contains in its narrative a pretty good argument for why this should be part of Batman’s story.

So we credit Batman with basically inventing the modern superhero blockbuster, but I can’t really say that I really like it.

Real Life

Before, after and in between all the viewing comes real life. My steps went well, as you can see–I was able to hit my 10,000 / day average even though I haven’t been feeling all that well at the end of the week–that’s where all the hard work in the early days pays off!

I did work on two documentaries (neither of which I can talk about fully)–one is in the early stages of preparation, and I had a good meeting about that where we set some actual dates for shooting some stuff. And the other is in desperate need of clean-up editing, something I am helping with. My first real step is to try to make sure I understand the literally dozens of pages of notes from our client-partners. Fun times.

Song of the Week

I have a playlist on my phone called “Ben’s Mix”, which is made up of 100-200 songs that I like which I shuffle between when I’m driving, etc. I was thinking about how with each of these songs there is a bit of a story about it, about what it makes me think of or why I like it. So I’m going to let my phone pick one randomly and then try to write up some comments on it while it plays.

Pilate and Christ by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice

This is specifically from the original concept album for the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar. This is the bit which covers the initial conversation between Christ and Pilate, before Jesus is sent to Herod. It’s sung mainly by Barry Dennen (as Pilate) with a bit by Ian Gillan (Jesus). I love this album–it’s not exactly biblical in its presentation but it captures the emotions of a lot of the characters in the way they react to Jesus, I think.

It’s also quite short so there’s not a lot of time to say things about it here (in fact, I’ve gone well over time!)

3 thoughts on “Stuff I’ve Read, Watched, Done #22 – October 31, 2021 (including a whole lotta Batman)

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