Author of fantasy horror comedy novel Lemons Loom Like Rain, which is available on Amazon. You can also read excerpts at stevenshinder.com and check out facebook.com/StevenShinderStorytelling.
'Batman Returns' - That Other 'Nightmare Before Christmas'
With the success of Batman in 1989, a sequel was inevitable. That sequel was Batman Returns, released in 1992. For this sequel, director Tim Burton was given more creative control. The result is a more Gothic interpretation of Gotham and its villains. With a plot leading up to Christmas and music by Danny Elfman (again), this feels like a taste of what was to come in Tim Burton's 1993 classic The Nightmare Before Christmas. I could imagine Danny DeVito's Penguin as a resident in Halloween Town. The stitching aesthetic of Catwoman's suit reminds me of Sally. My nostalgia for Nightmare might be partly why I prefer Batman Returns over the previous film. To me, the pacing also feels better as Batman faces three main villains.
'Batman' (1989) - Looking Good at Thirty
Thirty years ago saw the release of the Tim Burton-directed Batman movie, starring Michael Keaton as Batman, and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. When you watch it, you see a Gotham City that, despite having some characteristics of the present time of the film's release (such as Prince's music and Vicki Vale's 1980s fashion style), is heavily dominated by aesthetics of the 1940s, a trend that would carry over into the 1992 Batman: The Animated Series. It seems like a surreal, anachronistic marriage of time periods, but it works. Even when one watches it today. The film feels very much like a comic book, with little regard to when exactly it is supposed to take place and what would be authentic to a specific point in history. And while the film no longer resembles the present, it has aged very well.
'Toy Story 4' the Next Kid—A Non-Spoiler Review
When it was officially announced four years ago that Toy Story 4 was in development, I was skeptical. Toy Story 3 felt like a perfect ending to the film series. We did get three shorts and two specials in the years that followed the release of Toy Story 3, and they were fun. But what more was there to tell that would warrant another film? Well now I can say that even though this movie did not feel as strong as Toy Story 3, it was a follow-up worth making. Here are my big takeaways from the movie, without any spoilers.
'Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe' Album Review
Those familiar with the progressive rock band Yes know of the many twists and turns throughout that band's history. One such turn involved lead singer Jon Anderson bringing together Yes alumni to record an album together while Yes was still somewhat active. This new band included drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and guitarist Steve Howe. Under the name Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, they recorded a 59-minute album, which was released 30 years ago. Additional musicians included bassist and Chapman stick player Tony Levin (who had worked with Bruford in King Crimson), keyboardist Matt Clifford, and rhythm guitarist Milton McDonald.
I Was Never a Bo Peep Fan, But That Could Change
When it was announced that Bo Peep would return for Toy Story 4, some fans got excited. And I could not help but scratch my head, because the character has never really interested me that much. I knew what she meant to Woody, but I did not feel certain that her return justified the making of another Toy Story film after Toy Story 3 seemed to wrap things up pretty nicely. But now that we've seen more of Bo Peep in promotional material, I cannot help but wonder whether Toy Story 4 will change my mind about the character.
'Toy Story 4' Probably Won't Ruin the Perfect Ending of 'Toy Story 3'
Whenever I talk to people about Toy Story 4, the general consensus seems to be something along the lines of, "It looks good, but I thought 3 was the perfect ending." Some people, including myself, have questioned whether Toy Story 4 is necessary. The people behind the film have said that they were so happy with Toy Story 3 that they would not have made a fourth one unless they felt that there was a story that really needed to be told. Whether or not Toy Story 4 will seem "necessary," it seems like it will be, at the very least, a well-animated, entertaining film. It is difficult to imagine it being a better ending for the series than Toy Story 3 would have been. But would its mere existence diminish the ending of Toy Story 3? I am inclined to say no.
'Fear the Beast' Could Have Been 'The Incredible Hulk' of 'X-Men' Films
In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, composer/editor John Ottman revealed that, toward the end of X-Men: Apocalypse's production, his assistant Byron Burton tried pitching the idea of a spin-off focused on Hank McCoy. Titled X-Men: Fear the Beast, the script was written by Burton in a span of two weeks, and was then tweaked by Ottman. Since the script featured such characters as Beast, Professor X, and Wolverine, the spin-off had to be given the go-ahead by Simon Kinberg as he was working on Dark Phoenix. That film would feature Beast and Professor X, and Kinberg was tinkering with the idea of bringing Wolverine back. Not wanting to be influenced in regards to handling Wolverine, he declined to read the script. With Dark Phoenix marking the end of the latest onscreen iteration of the X-Men, the writers are sharing their 100-page script online for people to see. It can be read here:
'Swamp Thing' Movie Review - Camping Out in the Swamp
With the current Swamp Thing TV series airing on DC Universe, I have been going back and reading earlier Swamp Thing media. After reading the 1970s comic series, I decided to give the 1982 film a view. I have thoroughly enjoyed the fantastical aspects of the original comic series, including the sorcery, Un-Men, the time travel, the T-Rex, and the demon Nebiros. But as was the case with the new TV series, I went into this film expecting something more grounded. I was intrigued by the fact that this was the fifth film both written and directed by horror filmmaker Wes Craven, with the subsequent film being A Nightmare on Elm Street.
'Dark Phoenix' Review - What It Does Well and Not So Well Compared to the MCU
This is a non-spoiler review of the new X-Men film Dark Phoenix, another retelling of The Dark Phoenix Saga, this time set in 1992. (Though, thankfully, the film is not too "in your face" about it being 1992.) It is being perceived as the final X-Men film before the property eventually gets integrated and reinvented by the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Technically, The New Mutants will be the last film of this continuity. And while Dark Phoenix may not necessarily feel like as grand of a finale as one might hope for the cast of the 2010s X-Men films, it puts me in a position where I appreciate what Fox has done well and what Marvel Studios has done well.