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Batman Returns (#110 of 6)

The Bat, the Cat, and the Penguin Batman Returns at 25

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The Bat, the Cat, and the Penguin: Batman Returns at 25

Warner Bros.

The Bat, the Cat, and the Penguin: Batman Returns at 25

The current draft of film history states that the DayGlo abomination that is Batman & Robin is directly responsible for not just putting Batman on film into an eight-year coma, but poisoning the idea of comic-book film adaptations altogether, to the point where the X-Men movie that followed three years later felt like a cowed, fearful gamble. Time, distance, and no small amount of insider stories have since provided some measure of vindication. Batman & Robin was simply a life-threatening complication stemming from a malignant fear struck into the hearts of Warner Bros. execs by letting a completely unshackled Tim Burton make Batman Returns.

Holy Moly! Batman TV Series Now on Blu-ray and DVD

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Holy Moly! Batman TV Series Now on Blu-ray and DVD
Holy Moly! Batman TV Series Now on Blu-ray and DVD

It’s easy to forget that there was actually a time when Batman was fun. That time was 50 years ago, when the ripples of Fredric Wertham’s despicable anti-comic diatribe Seduction of the Innocent were still being felt. His book claimed that comics were sinful trash that converted the children—by God, the children!—into homosexual deviants. The television series Batman, which ran from 1966 to ’68 on ABC, knowingly acknowledged and lampooned Wertham’s seething, masturbatory harangue in a way that defied the era’s TV standards. Starring Adam West and Burt Ward, two unknowns cast largely for their affable faces, the series (now available for the first time on DVD and Blu-ray in a snazzy, wallet-purging boxed set from Warner Home Video) remains one of the format’s great cultural touchstones. Replete with double entendres for the parents and giddy inanity for the kids, it’s everything Susan Sontag loved and loathed about camp amalgamated into a half-hour lark.

Sinful Cinema Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Most Offensive and Homophobic Football Movie Ever Made

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Sinful Cinema: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Most Offensive and Homophobic Football Movie Ever Made
Sinful Cinema: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Most Offensive and Homophobic Football Movie Ever Made

One of my favorite things about recalling my movie-watching past is considering the ways I viewed certain films through younger eyes. To see these movies again, today, is often a wildly different experience. Back then, there were countless passages I didn’t get, and, surely, dialogue I couldn’t grasp. A childhood story I’ve recounted ad nauseam involves Batman Returns, and my recitation of the word “bastard” at a friend’s house during playtime. I was eight, and I was scolded by the friend’s mom, but all I knew was that’s what Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman said when she landed in a truck full of kitty litter. We all have stories like this, of course. But I recently discovered that, in my personal viewing history, perhaps no movie has played more differently for my current and former selves than Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Co-written by lead star Jim Carrey, this 1994 football-themed farce made the rubbery comedian a household name, and was quickly followed, within two years, by the onslaught of The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Batman Forever, and the Ace Ventura sequel, When Nature Calls. I’m not sure if I ever loved Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, but I clearly absorbed enough of it to remember its hallmarks well: lines like, “Alrighty then”; Ace’s signature, tidal-wave up-do; and gags like Ace literally talking out of his ass. What I didn’t realize is that this movie is shockingly offensive, and not in the tongue-in-cheek, envelope-pushing way most modern comedies are. It’s set during the lead-up to a Super Bowl, and while I’m sure plenty of football films have delivered their share of queer slurs, I don’t think any are as homophobic—or, in large part, transphobic—as this one.

Sinful Cinema Catwoman

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Sinful Cinema: Catwoman
Sinful Cinema: Catwoman

If 2004’s Catwoman expressed anything, it wasn’t female empowerment, but the empowerment Halle Berry felt after winning her historic Oscar three years prior. Having already rocked her Bond-girl bikini in 2002’s Die Another Day, Berry kept on trucking with the sexualized-heroine angle, liberated by the kudos she netted for letting Billy Bob Thornton make her “feel good,” and no doubt thinking more about Catwoman’s iconography than the actual strength of the new film’s material. It’s hard to recall a recent Oscar victor with an odder post-win career than Berry. Critic David Edelstein has rather aptly called her out as being a “lovely non-actress,” and her taste in projects has been, quite frankly, bonkers. From Gothika to Cloud Atlas, there’s really no Berry film that one can admit to liking without a disclaimer. Catwoman, at least, is vividly exceptional, a good piece of trash with copious watchability, for both its car-wreck qualities and abundant camp delights. She may have showed up to collect the Razzie she ultimately won (again, galvanized by her shield of Academy approval), but it is a bit sad that Berry really isn’t in on the joke here. As Edelstein says, she’s an endearing and uncannily comely star, but she’s largely—and often, hilariously—to blame for this film’s undoing.

15 Famous Women in Black

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15 Famous Women in Black
15 Famous Women in Black

This weekend, Daniel Radcliffe celebrates his first post-Potter effort with the release of The Woman in Black, a horror thriller about an axe-grinding female ghost who need only be seen to claim a child’s life. The veiled phantom surely has the edge when it comes to offing the little ones, but she hails from a long line of ladies who’ve gone all Hot Topic for the camera. Witches, wives, and even Whoopi made this list of women who sport only the darkest uniforms, making them scary, sexy, cool, sophisticated, and in some cases, all of the above.

15 Famous Movie Ledges

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15 Famous Movie Ledges
15 Famous Movie Ledges

Hitting theaters this week is Man on a Ledge, a rather unsubtly titled thriller that stars Sam Worthington as a guy whose nowhere-left-to-turn predicament has him doing the old wave-down-at-the-masses bit. This isn’t the first time Worthington has flirted with dizzying precipices (his motion-captured doppelgänger braved the floating mountains of Pandora), and it certainly isn’t the first time Hollywood has tormented acrophobics. Movies have long been living on the edge, ever intent on serving up vicarious vertigo. For proof, here’s a list of 15 memorable movie ledges, from cliffs to rooftops to ominous subway platforms. Safety nets not included.