THE HOLLARS – Everything’s Going to be Okay

SONY-HLOS-01_27x40_062416.inddThe Hollars is a film that has been unfortunately glossed over by many critics and (judging by the box office numbers) audiences – including myself, until recently. I wasn’t planning on seeing this movie, and had little to no expectations going in. However, my wife adores both Anna Kendrick and John Krasinski, and since I adore my wife, I agreed to see it…and I’m glad I did.

John Krasinski not only stars but also directs, and proves himself to be just as capable a director as he is an actor. I enjoyed his work on The Office, and he has taken his comedic chops to the next level. Not only is the comedy good, but the emotion feels real between characters and in quiet moments, courtesy of a strong ensemble cast.

This is a touching and funny movie that gives a very real look at modern family dynamics. The Hollar family brought up a lot of issues that many families go through: guilt, resentment, regret. But the film touches on how, despite all this, families stick together and support one another. It’s also a reflection on how everyone looks to their closest relationships for assurance about life.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

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BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – Top 10 Episodes

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Reviewing Batman: The Killing Joke prompted a little nostalgic look back at where I fell in love with Warner Bros. Animation and its take on the Dark Knight – Batman: The Animated Series. I watched some of my favorite episodes again, and the magic is still there. For people my age, this will forever be the definitive version of Batman.

Originally premiering in 1992, Batman: The Animated Series broke the mold on supposed “children’s programming.” Supervising Producer and series stylist Bruce Timm and his crew created a show that was more layered than anything seen before then. They were bolstered by the unbelievable success of Tim Burton’s first Batman film three years earlier, and sought to elevate the material to a more mature place, just as Burton had done.

The art is gorgeous – from the animation to the backgrounds. It has a timelessness that never goes out of style. There’s a blend of the old world in the streamlined art deco design and black-and-white televisions, and the new world with supercomputers and awesome vehicles. Even the episode title cards were absolutely beautiful; a prime example of minimalist design, yet it brilliantly conveys the story to follow.

The voice acting is so good. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill were perfect as the voices Batman and the Joker, respectively. They are still, in my mind, the quintessential interpretations of these characters.

The stories told were powerful. Bruce Timm said that his approach was to treat these 22-minute stories like mini-movies, with quality storytelling and clear character motivations. Episodes touch on heavy themes of good and evil, fighting the good fight, revenge, grief and guilt in a way that is understandable to children, but still very engaging for adults. In fact, the series was so good that it was actually presented in primetime in addition to its weekday afternoon time slot!

My re-viewing of some episodes made me really think about making a top 10 list. However, this task was very difficult, as there is something in virtually every episode I enjoy. But after some thinking, I believe I’ve narrowed it down.

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BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE – “One Bad Day,” One Peculiar Adaptation

Killing Joke PosterThere are very few comic books that had a more profound influence on my pop culture consumption than The Killing Joke. Before I read this book, superheroes were fun and awesome, but I didn’t see them as full, well-rounded characters. The Killing Joke really made me “grow up” in comics. I understood what really good storytelling was all about. My heroes now had feelings and flaws, and actually had introspective thoughts.

The Killing Joke has also influenced modern interpretations of both Batman and the Joker. Tim Burton cited it specifically as his favorite comic, and a direct influence on his first Batman film. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight also contains many thematic allusions to this seminal work. And there is a reason for all this: The Killing Joke is simply a masterpiece of storytelling. Writer Alan Moore thrusted these two iconic enemies into a whole new world of understanding, giving them added dimension and pathos.

When I first found out that The Killing Joke was being adapted to animation, I was very excited. Then I learned that the lead characters’ original voices from Batman: The Animated Series, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, would be voicing Batman and the Joker, respectfully, and I was super-excited!

This adaptation, which was released directly on Blu-ray and DVD in August, lives up to its the hype…when it’s actually adapting the source material. However, it also suffers from these same creative people over-thinking their product and adding to the narrative where it really needs nothing else to be sufficient and wonderful.

As a story, what makes The Killing Joke compelling is its thematic subtext. While there is definitely a lot going on, its biggest push is if we truly believe what we believe when we have “one bad day.”

SPOILER ALERT!

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