The plot is B-movie simple: Doctor Charles Decker (Michael Gough), presumed deceased, returns from dark and mysterious Africa with a formula to grow things big. We're talking a laboratory of man-sized plants and other nasty mutations. And when Decker giganitsizes his pet chimp Konga, all of London is in dire trouble.
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Tim Burton's first two Batman films were all about this nerd auteur playing with a gigantic train set, so even though the stories were threadbare and superficial, at least Burton brought a highly stylized pop Gothic look. Jack Nicholson hammed it up nicely as the Joker and Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman was an unforgettably sexy femme fatale who was able to hold her own in a power struggle with the caped crusader. Say what you will, the films had their moments, and even miscast Michael Keaton was an enjoyable wild card.
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Despite the remarkable assemblage of talent, Cacoyannis' Cherry Orchard feels self-aware of adapting a renowned classic from stage to screen. The cinematography is handsome and stately, but more appropriate to the colorful orchards and vast family estate, the 1900 costumes, the theatrical entrances and exits, than to the intimacy of Chekhov's vivid characters. (It almost makes one long for the hand-held documentary treatment of Louis Malle's seminal Vanya on 42nd Street.) The stylistic choices here take a while to get used to, especially during a drawn-out prologue, absent in the original text, as Madame Lyubov and her buoyant teenage daughter Anna (Tushka Bergen) make elaborate preparations to return to their Russian estate after a self-imposed exile. Some may be exhausted by this Masterpiece Theater treatment (lingering over every piece of luggage) before Chekhov's social entanglements kick in -- which happens shortly after the dozen major characters have assembled at their estate.
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Pronounced "sahn TEEVE," the film is based on a Robert Louis Stevenson tale about a Napoleonic Era French captain named Jacques St. Ives (Jean-Marc Barr) who is captured by the British during the war, sent to P.O.W. camp in Scotland, and falls in love along the way, of course. The object of his affection is a local girl (the forgettable Anna Friel), who lives under the protection of her mother (Miranda Richardson), a woman who is having a dalliance with the stiff prison camp boss (Richard E. Grant), who is oddly enough receiving lessons in the ways of love from our very own, very Frahnch St. Ives.
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A lot can be said for the idea that the setting of a picture thoroughly controls its tone. What we Batman Forever is an attempt to make Gotham more like Los Angeles, full of neon, black lights, and people sporting primary-color wigs. Unfortunately, something has been lost in translation.
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Gotham was dark and so was the script. Darkly comic, darkly romantic, and darkly dramatic. This tale told of Michael Keaton as Batman in a love/hate relationship with Catwoman, of a freak raised by penguins, of a power hungry industry giant who sought to leave the legacy of a polluting power plant. The Penguin: a man raised by what became his namesake, seeks to discover the identity of his parents, and then exact vengeance upon the world. Selina Kyle was a lowly secretary who got pushed out of a window for opening her mouth: exhausting one of nine lives, and then becoming Catwoman. And Bruce Wayne was a man haunted by his past and compelled to fight crime at night as Batman.
Continue reading: Batman Returns Review
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