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Christopher Walken (#110 of 11)

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.

On Trend Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and the Rise of the Over-50 Action Hero

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On Trend: Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and the Rise of the Over-50 Action Hero
On Trend: Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and the Rise of the Over-50 Action Hero

You might have noticed that Hollywood’s superhero well is running a little dry. If a comic book legend hasn’t made it to the multiplex, he’s found a home on the small screen (see The CW’s Arrow), and high-flying favorites who only just resurfaced are getting pushed back through the sausage factory (see The Amazing Spider-Man, Man of Steel). Box-office returns are surely holding steady, as The Avengers’ $600 million-plus is history’s third-biggest domestic haul, but this party can’t last forever, and Tinseltown knows it. As usual, the dwindling resources have left industry bigwigs scrambling for the next bankable formula, and in a rare twist, one such formula involves ditching fresh faces for weathered ones. Thanks to the success of the Expendables franchise, which Sylvester Stallone fashioned into a frat party of over-the-hill meatheads, yesterday’s action stars are back in vogue in a big way, as proven by all the over-50 fare that’s followed Stallone’s guns-and-grunts series. The world needs new heroes. Will its old ones suffice? What can be learned from their resurgence?

15 Famous Movie Drug Dealers

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15 Famous Movie Drug Dealers
15 Famous Movie Drug Dealers

In Pusher, which hits theaters this weekend, Briton Richard Coyle stars as a mid-level drug dealer, whose business is booming in London’s underground culture. A remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1990s thriller, the film (which also marks director Luis Prieto’s English-language debut) watches as a drug lord’s life implodes, a process with which filmgoers are quite familiar. Throughout much of cinema history, and especially in recent decades, drug pushers of all walks have graced the screen, providing brief escapes for lost souls and party people. But be them morphine sellers, pot distributors, or even moonshine runners, the party has to stop some time.

Poster Lab: Seven Psychopaths

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Poster Lab: <em>Seven Psychopaths</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Seven Psychopaths</em>

No, it’s not just you—the poster for Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths looks awfully familiar, despite the blinding neon green it uses to lasso your attention. Not long ago, you saw a markedly similar lineup of badass characters, glaring out at you from the one-sheet for Guy Ritchie’s Snatch. Like that memorable image, which put Brad Pitt front and center in a stylish hat, the new ad features one guy in the contrasting gleam of a leather jacket, and another in a heavy coat that highlights his exasperated, straight-man’s shrugged shoulders. But it’s more than just single file and fashion that unites these two posters. Seven Psychopaths follows Snatch’s lead so fully that it even opts to spike its plot—and, subsequently, advertising—with a little dog too. Instead of Pitt’s leashed, squeak-toy-swallowing pooch, there’s a wee, fluffy Shih Tzu, whose ironic cuteness speaks to McDonagh’s light-black tone, and who reportedly serves as the movie’s MacGuffin. However fun it may be to eye up a row of attractive rogues, it’s a tad disheartening that this Irish maestro’s latest had to plainly mirror a cult British production, as if there’s only one way to sell Euro crime comedies.

Take Two #12: Hairspray (1988) & Hairspray (2007)

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Take Two #12: <em>Hairspray</em> (1988) & <em>Hairspray</em> (2007)
Take Two #12: <em>Hairspray</em> (1988) & <em>Hairspray</em> (2007)

[Editor’s Note: Take Two is an occasional series about remakes, reboots, relaunches, ripoffs, and do-overs in every cinematic genre.]

In the month since the last Take Two column, a civic rift has formed in my semi-hometown of Baltimore that, to my mind, says everything that needs to be said about the city’s current identity. It was discovered that Denise Whiting, owner of the iconic Café Hon in Hampden, has in fact held the copyright to the even more iconic word “hon” since 1992. Click the link to get a whiff of the pre-Christmas protest that Hampden residents organized on 36th St. (better known as the “Avenue”), the neighborhood’s main drag over which the Café’s two-story foam flamingo looms like a kitsch Godzilla.

It so happens that my last apartment was near enough to Café Hon that our kitchen window looked down on its rear parking lot. The living room window, however, faced the intersection of Roland Avenue and 36th, where a Royal Farms sidewalk offered local drunks and addicts a stage for nightly freak-outs and blow-ups. This was a relative step up for my wife and me; we moved to Roland in December 2008 after a shooting took place at the bar across the street from our first place, also in Hampden. Only a few months before that, a parked white pickup truck erupted and burned to ash outside our bedroom in the middle of a Saturday night. In early 2009, a row house by the post office spontaneously combusted, singeing its two immediate neighbors and sending all five of the resident family’s children to the emergency room. The blaze was rumored to have started when the owner lit a cigarette near his stockpile of compressed air tanks. Apparently he was trying to build a cooling system on the cheap.

Summer of ‘85 A View to a Kill

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Summer of ’85: A View to a Kill

MGM

Summer of ’85: A View to a Kill

Roger Moore saved my evening once. I took a friend for a drink at Elaine’s, near where I lived on the Upper East Side. My friend knew that celebrities congregated there, and refused to leave for our appointed dinner until we saw one. I sighted a New York character actor, but no go—it had to be a name-above-the-title star. For a seeming eternity, none came into our orbit. Then, when I could stand the waiting game no longer, who should enter but…Beau Maverick. Simon Templar. James Bond. There could be no argument: Roger Moore was the real deal. Dinner was served.

Karmically speaking he did me a good turn, given how thoroughly he had ruined another evening of mine in May of 1985. I was 19 years old, the film critic for the Daily Northwestern, and eager to convert another friend into Bond-age. (I was a fan since my dad took me to see a double feature of Diamonds Are Forever and Live and Let Die in 1974 or thereabouts.) Things were looking up: 1983’s Octopussy, with Moore, was divertingly silly, and Never Say Never Again later that year was a more-or-less satisfying one-off for the returning Sean Connery. A View to a Kill, which we were seeing at a preview screening at the Esquire Theater in Chicago, should have clinched it, and brought another fan into the fold.

A Behanding in Spokane at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

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<em>A Behanding in Spokane</em> at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
<em>A Behanding in Spokane</em> at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

A Behanding in Spokane is enfant terrible Martin McDonagh’s first play to be set in America, and stars Christopher Walken, the one celebrity who would seem the perfect fit for the Tarantino-of-the-stage’s mix of startling menace and hilarious absurdity. But the multiple Tony-nominated and Academy Award-winning Irishman’s latest project—despite the presence of always finely tuned Walken and a nothing less than revelatory Sam Rockwell—is minor McDonagh. And that’s being generous. Without those two tent-pole presences holding it up, Behanding would fold like a cheap house of cards.

East-West, None Know Best: Balls of Fury

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East-West, None Know Best: Balls of Fury
East-West, None Know Best: Balls of Fury

Balls of Fury looks like another sports-spoof throwaway, but it does have a piercing reason for being. American men love Eastern cultures in direct proportion to their staggering ignorance of same. They salivate over Asian women and cuisine; alternate between awe and mockery of the continent’s ancient practices (religions, martial arts); snicker at their relatively petite, slender men (the same ones whose kung fu/jujitsu/karate they applaud); envy the wisdom, richness, efficiency, and industriousness of their societies. And so American fans kowtow and condescend in the same awkward motion. Charlie Chan. Kill Bill. Wax on, wax off. Balls of Fury is all about this phenomenon. It’s a Chinese odyssey for people—men, especially—who call all Asians Chinese.