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Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten

Sony/BMG
Movie A
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

On Dec. 22, 2002, 50-year-old Joe Strummer, founding father of the Clash, was kicking back on a sofa. He was experiencing a musical renaissance of sorts, enjoying some creative prosperity with his new band, the Mescaleros. Just a few weeks before, he'd taken the stage with former Clash-mate Mick Jones for an impromptu performance; it was the first time the two had occupied the stage together in nearly 20 years.

The man was back after a few years "in the wilderness" after The Clash disbanded. He had remained creative, doing soundtrack work and acting in some films, but his mainstream musical voice had been quieted to some extent. Now, with a new backing band and a new purpose, he was turning out some of the best music he'd ever written.

And then ... he just quietly passed away on his couch. He was too young to die and ready to enter a new phase in his creative evolution, but some undiagnosed congenital heart disorder snatched him away.

Director Julien Temple's examination of Strummer from childhood through death makes for an epic rock film. Containing treasured footage of Strummer in his different band incarnations, tons of cameos and narration by Strummer himself culled from his radio-show broadcasts, this is a movie that both teaches and entertains. Watching Strummer go from a screaming punk artist to a rock-music patriarch is an incredible journey, and Temple has assembled the story masterfully. Temple is no stranger to great rock documentaries; this is the guy who made The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle.

One of the more entertaining aspects of the film is the fact that guys like Johnny Depp, Bono and John Cusack show up in interview footage with no introduction and no fanfare. Everybody just sort of stops by to discuss their buddy and/or hero, and then it's on to the next chapter.

Special Features: A bunch of extra interview footage that's worth watching, and a great commentary by Temple.


Batman: Gotham Night

Warner
Movie B
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

This is being marketed as the first PG-13 animated Batman movie, but that implies that it is an actual film with a continuous narrative. In reality, it's sort of an animation anthology, blending together six separate stories by six different writers and directors.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. Each writer-director combo brings something different to the Bat, utilizing differing styles of Japanese anime. Villains like Scarecrow, The Russian and Deadshot weave their ways into the stories. The first segment, "Have I Got a Story For You," allows director Shoujirou Nishimi to depict Batman as everything from a robot to a demon as skateboarder kids recollect on sightings of their hero in exaggerated fashion.

While some of the past animated Batman films have been interesting, this is an exciting direction in which to take the character, and it took me by surprise. I hope there's more like this in the future. Also, I watched all of this on Blu-Ray, one of the greatest technological breakthroughs in the history of man, and I will continue to sing its praises until something better comes along. Then I will abandon it like the little bitch it has become, for I am a fair-weather tech-fiend friend.

Special Features: Batman lovers will rejoice regarding the extras, including an in-depth look at all of the villains that piss Batman off. There's also a commentary, extra "old" Batman cartoons from the '90s and a Bob Kane (creator of Batman) documentary. All in all, this is a very nice effort.


Batman: The Movie

20th Century Fox
Movie B-
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

Before the stylish anime, and before Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher and Christopher Nolan delivered their Batmans, Adam West and Burt Ward wore the funky tights. This film was an offshoot of the TV series, and, it's fair to say, your appreciation of it will depend upon your feelings for the campy TV show.

I prefer the work of Burton and Nolan, yet I did experience some nostalgic glee while watching this stupid movie. Batman and Robin (West and Ward, respectively) battle four supervillains (Cesar Romero's The Joker, Lee Meriwether's Catwoman, Frank Gorshin's Riddler and the great Burgess Meredith's Penguin). The four have devised a way to suck moisture out of people, turning them into dust and threatening world peace.

It's all very, very silly, especially when Batman battles an explosive shark and when he tries to dispose of a bomb. Still, it's better than Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, for sure. Joel Schumacher is the Antichrist. I'll take any chance I can get to say that.

Special Features: Oops ... this has the same features as the "Holy Special Edition, Batman" DVD released seven years ago. I think they changed the cover to confuse consumers. If you don't have this yet, it's worth it for the West-Ward commentary. If you own the other one, stay away.

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