Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Round-Up#34 (Bumper/Comic-Book Edition)

Film Review: Dick Tracy, Detective (1945)/Dick Tracy's Dilemma (1947): No. Neither of these films are Warren Beatty's stylish if extravagant 1990 film adaptation of Chester Gould's classic comic-strips. These two films are one half of what has become known as the "Four Classic Dick Tracy Films", two of which starred Morgan Conway as Dick Tracy, while the other two starred Ralph Byrd as the square-jawed detective. In my humble opinion, these two films, Dick Tracy, Detective and Dick Tracy's Dilemma, are the best of the bunch and are worth re-discovering.

Dick Tracy, Detective (1945), starring Morgan Conway and directed by William Berke, is a gritty take on the comic-book hero, with Berke's stylish direction giving the film an effectively noirish bent that works really well. And the story, which features grisly murders, stage magicians and fortune-telling, is dark and intriguing. Also, Conway's take on Tracy is interestingly down-to-earth, which, despite making the detective lose his mythic grandeur, works within the universe Berke creates. Also, the film is the only one of the four classic Dick Tracy films to feature a score by famous composer (and occasional Hitchcock collaborator) Roy Webb.

Dick Tracy's Dilemma (1947), on the other hand, is something else entirely. With Tracy now being played by Ralph Byrd, who bears a striking resemblance to Gould's drawings of the character, the films moved more into Comic-Book territory, with the monstrous "The Claw", who has a hook for a hand and leonine features, serving as the villain of the film. John Rawlins's direction gives the film a shadowy, ethereal atmosphere that complements Byrd's take on the character, who, with his radio-watch and yellow overcoat, looks and feels like he just stepped out of a Chester Gould Comic-Strip.

Both films are fast-paced, entertaining blasts from the past, and both are a must for comic-book aficionados and Dick Tracy fans.

You can watch both films, for free, below, courtesy of the Internet Movie Archive.

Film Review: Batman: Gotham Knight: Co-produced by David Goyer and Emma Thomas, both of whom worked on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Batman: Gotham Knight is a thrilling piece of entertainment. The film consists of six loosely connected stories featuring The Batman. Each story is told in a different animation style. All the stories are a joy to watch, but highlights include the opener, Have I Got A Story For You, about a group of city teens who regale each other with stories of how each came across Batman in action; Crossfire, written by Batman expert Greg Rucka, which revolves around a war between two rivals gangs in Gotham City and Commissioner Gordon's growing trust in Batman; In Darkness Dwells, which features The Scarecrow, and boasts messy, grainy visuals that befit this dark, violent tale; and the closer, Deadshot, about the titular assassin who's hired to take out Commissioner Gordon.

All the segments have their strengths, which is to be expected considering the talent involved, which includes Greg Rucka (No Man's Land), David Goyer (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight), Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets) and Alan Burnett (Batman: The Animated Series).

With its tight scripts, breath-taking visuals, and impressive voice-work (including fan-favorite Kevin Conroy as Batman), this is a must-see for Batman and Animation fans.

Book Review: Batman: As The Crow Flies by Judd Winick, David Nguyen and Richard Friend: Although not considered essential reading for Batman fans, this book tells an entertaining and fast-paced story about The Penguin and The Scarecrow joining forces to take over Gotham City's criminal underworld. Suffice it to say, all hell breaks loose, including a giant Scarecrow monster that hunts down The Penguin's enemies and tears them to pieces. The story itself isn't groundbreaking and doesn't add much to the Batman mythos. But it's Winick's writing and Nguyen's unique art that make it a worthwhile, stylish and action-packed read. The jaw-droppingly gorgeous covers by Mat Wagner are also a bonus.

Extra! You Can Dance by Bryan Ferry: This edition's Extra! selection is the new single by Bryan Ferry (one of my all time favorite artists) off his upcoming album Olympia. This smooth, art-rock number features a killer synth riff lifted from the track "True To Life", from the seminal 1982 Roxy Music album Avalon. Check it out here.

That's it for me. Till next time, keep browsing those shelves!

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