Movie Review: Batman and Robin (1997)

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Movie Reviews

Directed by Joel Schumacher
Starring: George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Gough and Pat Hingle
Review by Andrew Kosarko


“Batman” fights Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy and Bane.


As you can most likely tell from my synopsis, I’m none too enthused with reviewing this “film”. Please be advised there will be numerous quotations used throughout this review because I openly mock any chance of dignifying the attempts of this scrap heap of a “movie.” It should be noted I’m very upset not only because I love Batman, but because Mr. Freeze and Bane are my favorite villains. And they get pissed on even more than Batman in this “movie”. I tried to watch the “movie”…got literally 30 seconds into it and remembered everything I hated….and turned it off. Here is the result:

The Story:

Mr. Freeze needs diamonds (rocking dat ice yo – get the pun?) to power his massive freezing machine used to hold Gotham ransom for the funds he can use to cure his frozen wife of her disease. Poison Ivy wants to bang Mr. Freeze and take over the world with plants, killing all people. Bane…..uh….breaks stuff. Batman and Robin….well, they run around in rubber bantering about plant/ice puns. Oh, and Alfred is dying of the exact same thing as Mr. Freeze’s wife. Well isn’t that quite a lucky parallel? The script is honestly ¾ of ice puns and homosexual innuendo. The nipples on the suits are the least of this movie’s problems. Everything that happens for pure aesthetic reason. The characters are openly mocked – Batman and Robin as a homosexual couple having their first lovers quarrel, Mr. Freeze as a madman driven by love who wants to joke about his physical deformation, Poison Ivy as the crazed lunatic who wants to enslave the world and Bane…..reduced from a cunning muscle assassin to a Poison Ivy lackey. The plot is trite and boring and really doesn’t take much artistic risks.

Acting: George Clooney had great potential to be a memorable Batman. Instead, for once in his career, he threw his artistic integrity to the wind and decided to play in the sandbox. Arnold….don’t even get me started. Three people really do a good job though – Michael Gough’s Alfred has the best character arc in this film than he does in the first 3. Chris O’Donnell, while still stuck with a shit script, makes a good Robin. But the best, Uma Thurman really takes the Poison Ivy role and makes it fun. It’s actually my favorite part of the entire film – which is shocking because Batman is my all time favorite character, Bane and Mr. Freeze are my two all time favorite villains and most of all – when it comes to comics, Poison Ivy is my least favorite villain. Go figure.

Directing: I don’t blame Joel Schumacher. I honestly don’t. I blame the studio for this debacle. Chris O’Donnell is on record saying that production was rushed on this film and toy concepts were created before the script was written. The whole movie is one big toy commercial. Joel has his faults for sticking to the project, but in the end, it’s very obvious of his capabilities as a film maker and what the final product was. Were some of the faults of the film his decision? Most likely, but the opportunity to explore dark territory was all but destroyed after Burton’s Batman Returns.

Cinematography: One of the biggest things that I hate about this movie, is the lighting. Neon colors are very comic booky, yes, but this is a movie. You don’t need bright red, green and blue colored gels to tell this story well. Oh wait, there is no story, we’re selling toys to kids. My mistake. Oh, and for crying out loud, I don’t care what you are doing, FILMING THE LIGHTS AS PART OF THE SCENE IS THE MOST UNPROFESSIONAL THING YOU CAN DO. And you did it on purpose. Congratulations, you’re a horrible cinematographer.

Production Design: Nipples on Bat-suits….do I really even need to go past this?

Editing: Actually……the editing I can deal with. Maybe a few hundred extra cuts to eliminate the puns and I’d nominate that person for an academy award. We could have a decent movie if we could eliminate 90% of the dialogue.

Score: Ok, my 2nd biggest beef with this movie. I can overlook nipples, puns and bad lighting. But 2nd only to the story, this pisses me off the most. It started back in Batman Forever with the trumpets. Now….it just drives me nuts. I love film scores and this…is a mess of a circus fanfare. I mean, since this is a 2-hour commercial, I’d have been happier with a catchy jingle. The studio even felt like this sucked. They used Elfman’s Batman Theme in all the trailers….a very sneaky move. Honestly, if you could replace the score in this film, eliminate the puns, and take the gels out of your Arri kit, you might have a decent once in a while movie on your hands….but you didn’t.

Special Effects: You’d think for a “movie” trying to sell toys, they’d put some more money into the effects and props. Not so much. There’s a moment where a frozen Robin is lifted out of a pool of….water….but he’s frozen……um….anyway…Robin is about as light as a pool raft. There’s CGI that freaking LAGS on the film. It’s jumpy. I mean…come on, here, even little kids know crap CGI when they see it.

In closing: Batman and Robin isn’t a film. It’s not a movie. It’s a 2 hour mocking of characters in an attempt to make them kid friendly and make an audience buy the toys. That’s it. There’s nothing all that fun in the movie to enjoy, no great characterization, plot twists, action scenes. This is even a shit movie to watch drunk….ok, maybe it’s fun to watch drunk but still. Lots of movies are good to watch under any circumstances. If you want to see a loyal interpretation of the Batman comics, this is it. You read correctly, this accurately portrays the Batman comics of the 50’s/60’s – which were also merchandise crazy. Why was it unsuccessful overall? Because people don’t buy things that look cool. We buy things when we can relate to them and feel a personal connection to them. That’s my personal marketing mind at work, but still. Just because you can draw batman and call it batman, and put a batman mask on and call yourself batman…you are not Batman. Batman is the character originally created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. This is not their Batman. It’s not THE Batman. This is a bastardization of a character simply being exploited for someone’s personal greed and money hungry desires. F*ck this movie…err…commercial.

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Movie Review: BATMAN FOREVER (1995)

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Movie Reviews

Directed by Joel Schumacher
Starring: Val Kilmer, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones
Review by Andrew Kosarko


The third installment in the “Batman” series. Here the Caped Crusader must once again contend with two strange-looking, personality-impaired villains. First, there’s maniacal ex-DA Harvey Two-Face, so named because half his countenance has been horribly disfigured by acid. Then there’s the wise-cracking, hyperactive Riddler, whose alter-ego Edward Nygma is a nerdy, highly disgruntled ex-employee of Bruce Wayne. Together, these two masterminds plan to conquer the world with a device that not only mesmerizes users with 3-D television images, but also transports the viewer’s thoughts into the Riddler’s mind. Batman also has to contend with two other new people in his life. One is lovely psychiatrist Chase Meridian, who has fallen in love with Batman AND Bruce Wayne. Then there’s Dick Grayson, a young, orphaned acrobat who desperately wants to become Batman’s crime-fighting sidekick in order to get revenge on the man responsible for his parents’ death: Harvey Two-Face.


“Maybe, maybe not. You could say we’re of two minds of the subject. One man is born a hero, his brother a coward. Babies starve, politicians grow fat. Holy men are martyred, and junkies grow legion. Why? Why, why, why, why, why? Luck! Blind, stupid, simple, doo-dah, clueless luck!” That’s Two Face’s opening speech. That’s the high mark of this film pretty much. The only time someone really *nails* their character’s portrayl. From that point on, it’s pretty much down hill, with one exception that I’ll get to later.

The Story: Batman and Two Face are going at it. That’s right, no real origin for Two-Face. Just him and Batman battling it out over little clever crimes built around the number 2. Meanwhile, all this Batman-ism is causing Bruce Wayne to have a lack of a love life and piss off his employees at Wayne Enterprises. One of which is Edward Nigma, the Riddler, who decides to go into business for himself and suck the minds of Gotham with a 3-D TV Projector do-wap thingy. And on top of all this, drop Robin in there too. The main problem with this plot is basically the same problem as every other Batman film (Sans Batman 1989 but including even Nolan’s newer films), Batman wants to stop being Batman to live as Bruce Wayne. Normally I wouldn’t harp on it, but it’s the primary focus of this film. Batman is original because he’s one of the few superheroes who embraces his calling. Once he becomes Batman, he IS Batman. There is no looking to get out of it. If anything, Bruce Wayne is the one who falls by the wayside. Which they dipped their toe in that pool in Batman Begins but decided otherwise in The Dark Knight. It’s really boring seeing every superhero “giving up the costume” for a normal life. Save that for Superman and Spider-man, aka heroes who have their calling forced upon them. Furthermore, the villains of Two-face and the Riddler are basically just watered down Joker rip off’s after Batman Returns’ dark evil baby killing penguin made parents cause an uproar.

Acting: As stated above, Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones are enjoyable…..if they were playing the Joker. Both are upbeat and sinister. Which is alright for little kids. But for the more adult crew, it’s a little too over the top. At least for me it is. As far as Val Kilmer goes, I am one of the few people who hate him in the role. Now he’s passable as Batman. I can manage…..some of the time. But as Bruce Wayne he commands no attention from me. He just bores the hell out of me. I don’t know why, because he’s amazing in Heat. But this go around he just annoys me because he’s so boring. Nicole Kidman is the love interest and I really can’t find myself interested in her either. I honestly don’t find her attractive and it’s just a generic role. They don’t even take enough liberties with her shrink role to make her and Batman’s relationship interesting. The single greatest acting in the film, in my humble opinion, is out of Chris O’Donnell. Aside from “Holy rusted metal Batman!” He nails down Robin and Dick Grayson just the way I think he should be. You can’t tell me watching him beat the living hell out of Two Face on the rocks (That was for my mother! My father! My brother! And this is for me!) is not badass. I’m sorry. It is one of the few times Robin and badass are in the same sentence. I really wish the next installment had taken it more seriously because I think he’s the perfect Robin. He was able to bring a tragic past to the role and I’ve never really heard anyone mention the common homosexual nature that normies mock when it comes to his portrayal of the character. Sure there’s some moments where it gets implied, namely the bondage comparison of him being equal to Batman as the love interest, but that’s the script and Joel Schumacher’s fault.

Directing: Speaking of Captain Schumacher, let’s get into that shall we. Dude….you made A time to Kill. The Lost Boys. You can’t make a dark, yet not too dark for the kids Batman movie? Now I don’t blame you entirely, as the studio pressure is to blame as well. But I mean, come on. You could have tried a little. The second the electrified thug in the first scene started making the sound my little brother makes by smooching his lips together, humming and moving his finger up and down, I knew this movie would disappoint. I would like to see a “directors” cut which limited down the stupid dialogue quips and more of the “red book” subplot about Thomas Wayne’s diary and why Bruce became Batman to begin with. You had a real good chance of showing Bruce wandering off the path he chose for himself and then exploring the origin you wanted. That, and an opening of Arkham Asylum with a murdered guard by Two Face, who then wrote on the wall in the guard’s blood; “The Bat must DIE.” I mean…..come on, that’s awesome.

Cinematography: Please excuse my French, “shitty”. There’s neon lighting littered throughout this movie and it’s really annoying. It’s unnatural and not even used in a stylistic way. I can see the actual lights in more than several shots. I mean, like not accidentally in there, not part of the set, but used for lighting the scene. Come on man. This isn’t an Andy Warhol movie for Christ sake.

Production Design: See the French word above. There’s giant naked men statues littered throughout. The costumes well……we all know about the nipples. I got the idea behind it. Greek Gods. Michelangelo’s sculptures. I get it. But, you have pick or a side here. You’re either making an art movie, a good movie, or a campy mocking movie. Stick to what works.

Editing: It’s fine. Like I said, I just wish that the Red Book storyline or Two Face’s escape from Arkham had not been cut. Otherwise there’s nothing really out of place to me.Score: I’m sorry, after Danny Elfman’s iconic score, either keep it or as the Rock would say, “Bring it.” This score sucks. And I say that as someone who listens to film scores every day. Usually I can listen to most of them no problem. Sure some are better than others, but this is one that annoys the hell out of me. The use of trumpet is…well it’s just too much. You can’t do “heroic” or “dark” with a trumpet. You need a French horn for that kind of tone. This….yeah, sorry. No thanks.

Special Effects: Pretty good seeing as most stuff was done for real and CGI was only used when needed. The plane crash through the sign was good special effects and the CGI for the Nigma Box was good. It matched the tone of the film and was not something that reminded me “I’m watching a movie.”

In closing: This movie is ok for kids to watch. Which is kool. Because kids should get a chance to see a live action Batman that isn’t dark and complex as Nolan’s new film series. But you could it and still have it be good. Batman 1989 is a perfect example of this. But truth be told, this movie is aimed for kids. Kids want the happy meals, the toys, the tee shirts. That’s how you make money. Then again, if you make a quality film, you could make, oh I don’t know, say a billion dollars and then money on the merchandise as well? Oh what do I know? I’m only a person with a vested interest in these films.

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Movie Review: BATMAN RETURNS (1992)

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Movie Review

Directed by Tim Burton
Starring: Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfieffer, Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough
Review by Andrew Kosarko


The Caped Crusador (Michael Keaton) is pitted against the demented, ravenous Penguin (Danny DeVito), a pitiful, orphaned psychopathic freak who once went on a baby-killing spree, and a “power” hungry capitalist villain Max Shreck (Christopher Walken). As the two criminals plot to gain domination over Gotham City, BATMAN must plot to stop them. Cat Woman (fearlessly and fabulously played by Michelle Pfeiffer). She is the slinky, sharp-clawed alter-ego of Shreck’s secretary Selina. Batman must overcome his own dark past, and his present love entanglements, to rid Gotham of it’s evil enemies.


People who like this movie seem to like it because it screams Tim Burton left and right. Some people who absolutely hate this movie, hate it because it’s not Batman. I may be the only person who sees both sides of the light.

The Story: Now one who’s a hardcore Batman fan can see where this was once a Batman story. And in some ways, it still is. The Penguin is on a quest for political power through means of intimidation, greed and corruption. Max Schreck is a capitalist helping the Penguin lie his way to the top. All Batman fans knew that originally that was going to be Harvey Dent and that Selina’s kiss of death at the end was supposed to scar the corrupt D.A. into two-face. I’d say the only down fall from the story is that there is no real arc for Bruce/Batman and there’s a bit too much focus on the villains as opposed to Batman (a problem that seems to be inevitable in Batman sequels.) That and Catwoman’s creation…..that was little much. Getting licked back to life by cats is a little too “I wanna kill the Spider, you wanna kill the spider” for me.

Acting: By my opinion alone, I think this is some of the best character acting in a Batman movie up until Ledger in The Dark Knight. Keaton does a great job as the distant, brooding Bruce/Batman yet gets some spunk in his life with Selina. Pfieffer does a great job at contrasting her before and after transformation as the sexually explicit Catwoman. She’s by far the most accurate of portrayals in the whole film. And Danny DeVito threw so much of himself into the freak Penguin that he scared a monkey shitless (no lie.). Christopher Walken, get this, actually acts in this movie. There are very little Walken-isms in this film and I’m still amazed at his actual ability when I watch this.

Directing: Ok Tim, here’s where you catch some heat. The sets are amazing, the story is alright, the direction of some of the characters…….not so accurate. Batman, as highlighted in Christopher Nolan’s series is not a killer. Yet, in this film, he sets a man on fire and throws a man down a shaft with a bomb attached to him. Can you say “oopsie?” You got away with it in Batman ’89 because the killing of the Joker was accidental and not intentional but this time, it was intended. Now the heat you catch for “freaking” the Penguin, in my opinion, is unwarranted. Chris Nolan can un-permawhite the Joker and get away with it, but if you add an elongated nose and disabled flipper hands, it’s a bastardization? That’s unfair in my opinion. And it fits well into the Gotham that Burton has created.

Cinematography: Perfect fit for the Burton Gotham. Stark black and whites. Shadows all over the place (some great throw backs to the Batman 60’s TV show at one point) and it’s wonderfully covered. Not too many close ups, not too many wide shots. It’s just well shot.

Production Design: Again, amazing. Not as perfect as the Batman ‘89’s Gotham, but still ranks up there higher than the newer franchise at capturing the “gloominess” of Gotham. Everything is just a bit too “new” and clean and shiny. That’s the only problems with it.

Editing: Well edited all around. There wasn’t a point where I felt it was choppy or out of place. Everything is covered well and truth be told you never really get bored with anything that’s going on. The marks of good editing in my opinion. Score: Danny Elfman does it again. Expanding on his original Batman score, he really hits a high point with this one. Gloomy, dark, and gothic. It doesn’t get any more Batman than that.

Special Effects: Where there special effects in this one? I can’t really tell. I mean the make-up department does a fantastic job. But as far as the rest of it goes, a lot of it is so well masked that you really think everything that’s going on is real. Explosions, bat-boats, and giant rubber duckies. It works.

In closing: Batman Returns catches a lot of heat because of it’s stylistic differences from both the comics and the original Batman film. But in Burton’s defense, he’s an artist trying to create his own original piece of art. It works as a Batman movie on some levels and on others it fails. Same as Chris Nolan and Joel Schumacher’s entries. It’s just the way adaptations work. I think some great additions were made, and some essentials were left out. But overall, I can sit back, watch Batman Returns and be entertained. It may not be perfect in what people hoped it would have been, but it is one solid piece of work. Burton committed himself to his own originality, which in turned, made him a greater film maker or the bastard director of Batman. You be the judge.

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Movie Review: BATMAN (1989)

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BATMAN, 1989
Movie Reviews

Directed by Tim Burton
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton and Kim Basinger
Review by Mike Peters


Gotham City is under siege. Criminals and corrupt officials rule and the innocent are left defenseless. Crime boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance) and his right hand man, Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) are the true leaders of this city. They rule with an iron fist. However, Jack is eventually set up by Carl and is forced to fend for himself while on a routine mission at Axis Chemicals. This is where Jack, on the verge of escape from the police, first encounters Batman. Batman prevents Jack from escaping by dropping him into a vat of toxic chemicals. Jack reemerges as The Joker and vows to destroy the city of Gotham and Batman. Batman, on the other hand, vows to save the city from the corruption of crime and from the unstable actions of The Joker.


In recent years, comic book fever has hit Hollywood. Every sort of superhero has popped up in celluloid from Spiderman and Superman to Daredevil and Ironman. This genre has quickly become a bona fide financial juggernaut. As the films continue to be released and the quality continues to diminish, one starts to ponder the validity of these once iconic figures. Originally created to cope with the stress of war and famine during the 1930s and 1940s, these characters once represented hope and faith for a nation in a stage of turmoil. Now that these characters are merely exploited for financial reasons, they tend to lose what they once stood for. Their honor and truth are stripped from them by greedy capitalists.

Prior to the bombardment of the superhero films, studios were extremely hesitant to green light any film based on a comic book. These films were not viable entities and were not considered serious modes of art by many critics. Superman was released in 1978 and was a major hit but as the sequels continued, the product diminished and the film eventually ended its embarrassing run with Superman 4: The Quest for Peace in 1987. As the hoopla quickly subsided and the crowds diminished, so did the superhero film.

This posed serious risk for the film version of ‘Batman’. Having bought the film rights in 1979, producers Benjamin Melniker and Michael Uslan (and eventually Peter Guber) struggled for nearly ten years to bring the caped crusader to the big screen. However, after numerous changes to the script, director and actors, the film finally was green-lit and was set for release on June 23, 1989.

Tim Burton, known for his work on Beetlejuice (1988), was a surprise candidate to some but eventually was hired on as director of this big-budgeted film. This did not sit well with some industry professionals as they were concerned with how this former artist from Walt Disney would handle the dark world of Batman. The character had changed so often in the past fifty years that many were unaware of how the film would go about depicting the legacy of the caped crusader. With a great amount of stress on his shoulders, Burton persevered and decided that he was going to introduce the world to a reinvented Batman. Having been greatly inspired by Frank Miller’s 1986 comic ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns”, Burton aimed to create a bleak and unrelenting landscape for his ‘Batman’ film. Gone were the days of the psychedelic camp excesses of the 1960s television series starring Adam West (Batman had become a joke of sorts with his portrayal in this series). Instead, Burton vowed to once again honor the ‘Batman’ story with the respect and admiration he felt it deserved.

Batman is a story about the good and evil in everyone. Bruce Wayne (A.K.A. Batman), is a character haunted by the murder of his family. He was defenseless during their attack and the traumatic situation has left him a vulnerable soul. He is a brooding, melancholy individual who has never been at peace with who he is. Attempting to escape his pain and self loathing, Bruce Wayne transforms into the crime fighting idealist known as Batman. Crime destroyed Bruce Wayne but Batman vows to destroy the crime.

Jack Napier, on the other hand, is a cold and calculating master criminal who aspires to be the top dog. His ambitious nature and his arrogance are, however, his downfall. Having had enough of Jack, Carl Grissom vows to rid himself of him forever. After being dropped into the vat of chemicals, Jack is transfigured into a demonically possessed, fun loving, insane criminal mastermind. The Joker becomes Jack’s alter ego and though he is as ambitious as Jack is, The Joker is the antithesis of him in regards to personality, demeanor and appearance.

Thus, the performances from Keaton and Nicholson are crucial in the understanding of the motives behind these two characters decisions. Bruce Wayne is clumsy and reserved but Batman is fearless and heroic. Jack is a vindictive but controlled man. The Joker is uninhibited and sadistic. Both Bruce Wayne and Jack Napier are the complete opposite of their alter egos. They are allowed to live out their fantasies as a result of their defined title as outsider. The fact that Bruce Wayne lives on the outskirts of Gotham City is highly symbolic of his ostracized role in society.

Keaton is restrained (reserved) and slightly comedic in his performance. In a sense, he plays the straight man to Jack Nicholson’s over the top portrayal of The Joker. With Keaton playing it straight, Nicholson is allowed to chew the scenery with relish (and boy does he ever). Perhaps this is the most fun any actor has ever had at portraying a role. The Joker is demented but goes about it with such an uncontrolled giddiness that Nicholson’s performance borders on flamboyant. However, Nicholson does steal the show and truly deserves top billing. He brings life to the film and, to some, is more of an interesting character then Keaton’s Batman. Whereas Keaton needs to be the brooding, reluctant hero, The Joker adds flavor to an already spicy role.

The characters exist in an urban hell. It is a city devoid of life. Highly reminiscent of Metropolis (1927) and Blade Runner (1982), the film oozes bleakness. The darkness is highly representative of the character’s emotional detachment to life. Production designer, Anton Furst, beautifully depicts a city being eaten away at its core by creating a cold and sterile environment. It is highly reminiscent of a hopeless world. That is until Batman vows to battle the crime infestation of the city.

Anton Furst’s production design goes hand in hand with the dark, visual scope of Tim Burton. Burton’s zealous in creating a dark world has become a common distinction amongst his films. The darkness that seeps through the crevices of his films may appear to be bleak and unmanageable but he always allows for the chance of hope and redemption to surface. Aiding Burton’s visual extravaganza is the score by Danny Elfman. From the beginning of the film, Elfman presents a raucous and riveting musical accompaniment that truly gets ‘Batman’ off to a quick start. Aided by the artist (formerly known or known or whatever he is now) Prince, the music helps to drive the story forward and assist during some of the lulls experienced in the film.

Batman is in no way a perfect film. There are many plot lapses and the film is not as deep as Christoher Nolan’s superior, albeit completely different Batman Begins (2005), but the film holds a special place in my heart. I grew up with this film and to this day it still makes me excited when I watch it.

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Movie Review: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)

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the_dark_knight_rises_poster.jpgReviewed 1 week before the film premiered in 2012


Review by Joshua Starnes


Eight years after the Joker’s reign of anarchy, the Dark Knight is forced to return from his imposed exile to save Gotham City from the brutal guerrilla terrorist Bane with the help of the enigmatic Selina.


So let’s get the obvious out of the way up front. No, it’s not as good as “The Dark Knight.” That said, “The Dark Knight Rises” is probably as good a follow-up as you could reasonably expect, providing everything you could possibly want from a Batman film.

Except that it’s not really a Batman film, though he is inextricably bound up in it. More so than any of the previous installments, “The Dark Knight Rises” is an ensemble film that just often includes Batman (Christian Bale) but just as often doesn’t, spending large amounts of time with the investigations of young cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the machinations of hulking villain Bane (Anne Hathaway) or the crimes of cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway).

But, if Batman is not always readily present in “The Dark Knight Rises” it is always about him in a way none of the other films in the series has been, examining the reasons for his existence and asking hard questions about whether they’re strong enough that he needs to stay around forever.

We pick up the action eight years after the events of “The Dark Knight” and time has not been kind to Bruce Wayne. The years of jumping from rooftops and onto moving cars have irrevocably damaged his body to the point where he needs help from hi-tech leg bracers to do more than limp. His sacrifice has helped bring Gotham to a point of general peace, however, and Wayne and his alter-ego have gone into general seclusion. That is until a beautiful cat burglar breaks into his home to steal his fingerprints, gradually seducing him back into the world crime and criminals once again.

There is a stark and unglamorous undercurrent to “The Dark Knight Rises” as it asks difficult questions about, among other things, accepting the eventual consequences of your life and dealing with the realization that you can’t really go home again. Bale, who has grown immensely as an actor even since “The Dark Knight,” has always presented something a flawed Batman, a talented man who is prone to not giving his enemies enough credit due to the extent of skills, nor of seeing his own weaknesses. His older, broken Bruce Wayne is a man desperate to prove to himself that he is still the man he was, and refusing to admit that might not be the man he should be anymore.

As good as he is, he is nearly upstaged by Hardy’s Bane, a hulking wall of a man with patience and cunning to match who is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, including nearly being thrown out of a plane. With a mask covering much of his face, Hardy’s performance is largely body language and silky voice control, but he makes the most of it, commanding his scenes. That said, with the deep voice, the slow menace and the breathing sounds, it’s often hard not to think about Darth Vader when he’s around and for all his strength’s he lacks a little in originality.

The rest of the supporting cast is nearly as good, though they benefit from a script (from director Christopher Nolan and brother Jonathan, based on a story by Nolan and David Goyer) that focuses on character as much as action and plot, giving everyone a moment to shine. Part of that is the sprawling length of the narrative, which allows major characters to disappear for long periods of time without losing to much in the way of presence in the film. Commissioner Gordon and loyal butler Alfred, in particular, only figure in about half of the film, and yet they always feel like they’re around. Even the new women in Bruce’s life, cat burglar Selina and wealthy business woman Miranda (Marion Cotillard) come and go as the plot dictates, making the best of the moments they do get.

As Bruce continues investigating what the beautiful Selina is up to and how she may be tied up with a dirty businessman on the Wayne Enterprises board of directors, he gradually becomes aware of wheels within wheels moving around him, particularly once a daring daylight raid on the Gotham Stock Exchange causes him to lose most of the vast resources he has taken for granted for so long. In typical Bruce fashion he continues to barrel along, heading straight for a headlong confrontation with Bane without bothering to stop and think if he is really the man he used to be.

Ultimately, and not surprisingly, “The Dark Knight Rises” belongs to its director, not its actors or characters. All of Nolan’s great screen interests are here as he fuses his themes about facing fear and human nature with his great love of science fiction devices and twisty crime plots. Bane’s exact plan is labyrinthine and there are hints of a man behind the man in his backstory who is actually pulling the strings. “The Dark Knight Rises” is steeped not just in general Batman mythology but within its own, calling back to each of the previous films but particularly “Batman Begins” as the choices of Bruce’s past come back to haunt him.

The end result is exquisitely crafted, with everything we deserve from action films but seldom get, even if it is not quite as relentlessly entertaining as “The Dark Knight Rises.” The sheer length and breadth of its scope often robs the film of inertia, particularly during the climax which comes along suddenly before quickly shifting gears. And for all the excellent work done by all the actors, particularly Gordon-Leavitt as a young cop representing Bruce’s youthful idealism, Batman’s own frequent absence from his own film is noticeable.

What flaws “The Dark Knight Rises” has are few and far between, with most of it hitting the just the right note as it prances between the darkest depths and the most hopeful highs like a cat on a hot tin roof. There is a definite feeling of The End throughout that perfectly fits “The Dark Knight Rises” and allows us to look over what flaws it does have. This should be the blueprint for summer spectacle. You can keep your “Transformers,” I’ll take “The Dark Knight Rises.”

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Movie Review: THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

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Reviewed two days before the film premiered in 2008.

Movie Review
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman
Review by Matthew Toffolo


In this sequel to The Batman Begins, Batman raises the stakes in his war on crime. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to dismantle the remaining criminal organizations that plague the city streets.


This is an epic movie. The first of its kind in the action genre (which is how it will be categorized). There’s something for everyone in The Dark Knight. But for those expecting to see your typical comic book hero action film will be a tad disappointed. In its essence, this is really a detective film about a city trying to get back the proper soul it thinks it wants, and to do that it needs to get rid of all the heavy hitter criminals.

Enter Batman who is there helping the detectives rule evil and make good. But of course when someone like that steps up on one side, someone else steps up from the other side. Enter The Joker, a man who just loves the game and will do whatever it takes to stay in the high paced, high drama game he plays with Batman for the entire film.

A lot will be said about The Joker’s (Heath Ledger) performance as it’s on scale with Hannibal Lecter as being one of the worst/best characters in the history of cinema. One thing to watch out for when seeing this film is the use of sound design and how it really heightens the character and Ledger’s performance into what it is. A stand up job by the creative team in pushing the drama and emotion with The Joker and making us feel something very unique to this person. It’s so unique, most of us won’t know how to react as we’ve never seen anything like it.

But really, that character is like a rocket ship. It’s going straight up in the air with one destination in mind and from a storytelling standpoint, it’s really not that original. This is not The Joker’s film, but it’s really three other character’s films:

The first is district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) who has the largest story beats and is the character that defines the overall thematic of The Dark Knight. He’s a man who wants to do so much good, he’s actually ahead of his own emotions. He’s an intellect who thinks he’s smart, but he just doesn’t have that overall control of his own self to be that smart. He utters the line that defines this movie – “You’re either going to die a hero or live long enough to be the villain.” It’s the circle of life where if your emotions are too far on one side, you fall over to the opposite side you believe in. Kind of like an extreme leftest really masked as a fascist wanting to control everyone.

Then you have Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale). Our hero who knows that in order to be the hero in this world, you can’t really be the hero. Bruce is the man trying to what he set out to do in the first film, bring Gotham City to the purity his father envisioned. His encounters with The Joker are some of the best scenes in the film because it’s filled with so much inner conflict. He should kill this man but he can’t because of his inner code. The Joker knows that and takes full advantage of it. Bruce/Batman fights with what is right and wrong throughout the entire film. Because those aren’t black and white questions are they?

And last but certainly not least you have detective Gordon (Gary Oldman). The character that is the straw that stirs the drink of the film. He’s the self appointed idealist and perhaps the smartest person in the film because he’s really the only one who isn’t the idealist. He gets it and is haunted by it everyday because he needs to keep on trucking to do what’s right. He balances his passion for the people and the world with his passion with his own family. And that’s a hard thing to do that could harm his loved ones.

There you have it. This is a film with three major character developments and three leading men who are all being countered by The Joker.

The Joker is the one who wants to point out to the world that things aren’t that black and white. What is good? And what is evil anyway? Does anyone really know?

In many ways director/co-writer Christopher Nolan is telling the anti-comic book movie in The Dark Knight. Superman, Spiderman, Ironman etc…. all wrap up in a little bow with a showdown between good and evil as the audience roots for good. But life really doesn’t work like that and that’s what Nolan has set out to tell us in The Dark Knight. What makes a man like The Joker and what makes a man like Batman? Harvey Dent is in the middle and what direction is he going to?

If this was your typical comic book movie you would have a love triangle happening with Batman, Harvey and Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal). And then The Joker would see that and of course kidnap her and wait for Batman to save her and prove to her his love. That is the exact opposite of what Nolan did.

This is a film that will be a huge hit and it’s really a landmark film. It proves to Hollywood that audiences want to see smart films, bottom line.

Yes, The Dark Knight could of been trimmed down a bit as 160 minutes is a long time for a film like this. There was a little too much dialogue happening where they were telling us instead of showing us, which is the minor flaw in the film. But this is a very solid movie and the 2nd best film (WALL-E being the first) I’ve seen so far this year. So cheers to The Dark Knight for taking us in on an exploration of the human soul. And who would of thought it would come from the Batman series!

3 1/2 stars out of 4 for The Dark Knight!



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Movie Review: BATMAN BEGINS, 2005

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Movie Reviews

Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Katie Holmes, and Cillian Murphy
Review by Andrew Kosarko

8.3/10 on IMDB fan rating.

Read More Professional Reviews


Director Christopher Nolan tackles the challenge of re-starting the Batman franchise by delving into a physiological take on the Caped Crusader’s origin story that had never been fully realized in the comics. His approach involved an all star cast lead by Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman and takes a realistic approach in explaining how and why a billionaire would dress up like a giant bat and take on the underworld of crime.


I am a Batman fan. I’m pretty passionate about it I’d say, but by no means as crazy as some of the other fans. I’ve read a good portion of the “good” Batman comics. And by good, I mean a mixed bag of stories from the start of his career all the way through today’s latest graphic novels. This film, kicks Superman: The Movie’s ass. Hands down. Now, that’s not being bias I assure you. Batman Begins has the edge of modern day film making technology, but that’s not what makes these films great. Characters and stories that are loyal to the source material are the reasons why Superhero films stand a cut above the rest. If the little cartoon drawings and funny books can make people so obsessed that they are emulate them to the point that they spend thousands of dollars on costumes worn on days other than Halloween, then you know there’s something there. Batman Begins showcases those reasons perfectly and opened up the comics world to what us fan boys call “normies.” I’m going to give a nutshell review in a single sentence right here: See this movie. Now the reason I do this, is because Christopher Nolan is notorious for being a master of “twist endings” and this film has unexpected turns every 5 minutes. So if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth a look. The rest of the review will contain spoilers that will essentially ruin the biggest twists of the film so tread carefully.

The Story: Structure is one of the most important things in storytelling. It isn’t always the what, the who and the how that are important. This story demonstrates all of those and still hits the appropriate marks when things should happen. Almost everyone and their sister know how and why Bruce Wayne becomes Batman. His parents get shot in an alley way in front of him as a child. Wait…1989’s Batman covered that but kind of left the whole “bat” thing in the dust. And they also forgot about why Bruce feels like he has to protect other people by some means other than donating money to the police force of the city. This film, however, nails it perfectly. His parents are in the alley way because of Bruce’s fear of bats, thus he feels responsible for their deaths. The police force, sans Jim Gordon, is corrupt and doing a poor job at helping things, and furthermore, the good who want to make a stand are being intimidated by a crime boss who owns the city. It gets to the point where Bruce decides “enough is enough.” To start his journey, he travels the world and infiltrates criminal organizations as a foot soldier so he can understand their mentality.

This leads him astray as he succumbs to his anger and resorts to just surrounding himself with criminals and beating them senseless without affecting any real change other than his own personal feelings. It is at this point where the story introduces “Ducard” who offers Bruce a chance to become a leader and use his anger to make real changes in the world. Bruce, lost and willing to take any encouragement he can get, joins The League of Shadows, an underground ninja cult dedicated to the eradication of corruption throughout the world. A master named Ras Al Ghul, who instructs Ducard in training his army, leads the cult. Bruce studies and trains for months, while Ducard grooms him to be his greatest student. As the time approaches to face his final test, Bruce falls back on the philosophy of his closest family and friends from back home as his own self standards. Ducard, upset that Bruce will not execute a criminal offers him an ultimatum: Kill or be killed. Bruce stands by his decision and turns against his mentor, fights off Ras Al Ghul and burns the temple to the ground. And yet, amongst Ras Al Ghul’s accidental death from falling lumber, Bruce still manages to save his unconscious mentor and leave him to a local villager for care. The story then shifts gears and goes back to Gotham, highlighting Bruce’s creation of Batman. All the bases are covered from how he makes the suit, acquires gadgets and forges alliances. After a few scuffles with The Scarecrow, Bruce is re-introduced to his former mentor, Ras Al Ghul, who was really Ducard all along. This return of the villain sets the precedent of Bruce’s problem of not killing his enemies and having them return to cause more problems. The film ends with a climatic battle between two heroes of different ideals and a tease of what’s to come that’s so good, I still get goosebumps thinking of the final Batman / Gordon rooftop moment.

Acting: Christian Bale – Bruce Wayne / Batman: The character is so complex and multi layered that this film finally captures the 3 separate personalities that Batman is. He’s the tortured orphan, the play boy billionaire farce, and the driven and animalistic (and pissed off) Dark Knight avenger. Bruce is not only complex, but never boring and never outshined by his villains in this film, as it should be. His views and actions are much different than other heroes and it’s great to see a film that showcases that.

Michael Caine – Alfred: Taken to a new level in these films, Alfred is no longer just the comic relief and someone to have Bruce spew out exposition to. No, he’s a moral guide that keeps Bruce in check when he over steps lines and does his best to be a surrogate father and raise Bruce in the vain that his father wanted.

Gary Oldman – Jim Gordon: Alright. Time for me to be bias for once. Gary Oldman is the man. No, he IS the man. The greatest actor of our time and I feel as though because he’s not some teen beat “Brad Pitt” cover model that he is often overlooked. Gordon, while having limited screen time, is used to the best of his ability and is no longer a bumbling, incompetent man who relies on Batman for everything from cleaning up Gotham to flying through giant question marks in the sky. He is a man torn between his personal morals and the changes he can make with both hands tied behind his back.

Liam Neeson – Ducard / Ras Ahl Ghul: The film respectfully neglects an aspect of the characters comic mythos, which is the best way to do it. The character encompasses the same beliefs without the Lazuras Pit, a sci-fi twist in the comics that allows the character to rejuvenate his body but causes him to go temporarily insane. Instead, the film dances around the idea but never directly (or indirectly for that matter) claims that such a chemical exists. The character is much stronger because he is a personal reflection of Bruce Wayne and helps to contrast the two of them, making them both more interesting. Ras is ruthless in his beliefs, as is Bruce, and the disagreement between them is the core relationship of the characters. Thus, the plot is largely based around their opposing ideals creating a perfect story that keeps an audience interested and entertained.

Katie Holmes – Rachel Dawes: An original character created by the storytellers, Rachel is understandably the weakest character in the film as she is basically there for women to identify with (though, I’m not sure I know many women who liked her character that much). Although many critics and fans like to rip on Katie because of her “Dawson’s Creek” past, seeing her as a actress muscled into the film by WB Execs, I stand by my point of view that she did the best she could with the role and was actually quite likeable. Granted, standing next to Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Sir Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy and Tom Wilkinson she doesn’t stand that much of a chance to shine with the role she’s given. However, if you don’t think Katie Holmes can be a great actress – I strongly recommend that you see a film called “Pieces of April” where she proves that she can act her way out of a paper bag.

Morgan Freeman – Lucius Fox: Not given all that much of a purpose, other than to be Bruce Wayne’s “Q”. But still does a fine job is bringing some humor to the film and keeping some nods to comic book fans.

Tom Wilkinson – Carmine Falcone: Wilkenson’s Italian accent threw me off a bit at first but it’s since grown on me in the 82 subsequent viewings of this film. Falcone is a man who represents everything Bruce is trying to stop. He corrupts, murders, steals and hurts so many to the point that it’s crushing the city. Also, another lovely nod to comic book fans of “The Long Halloween.”Batman Begins PIC

Cillian Murphy – Jonathon Crane/ Scarecrow: Magnificent. I only wish his role had been larger. Cillian was a perfect choice for the spineless (pun intended) Scarecrow. While he is pretty much a 2nd rate villain throughout, he still holds a threat level that makes you sit up in your seat every time he’s on screen.Directing: Christopher Nolan is comic book movie God. I’m sorry, he is. Robert Rodriguez came close with Sin City, as did Zack Snyder with 300, but Nolan not only translatedcomic book literature to film, he added to it. The mythos of Batman has been forever changed because of the film and not many people can do that to a character who’s been around for over 60 years. And then furthermore, when you see films of this genre, the audience knows a lot more than they should. They know Lois Lane will never die because Superman will always save her. Yet, in this film, the final train fight between Batman and Ras had me sitting on the edge of my seat worrying about whether or not Batman would save the city. That, my friends, is damn good storytelling.

Cinematography: Wally Pfister does a fantastic job of photographing the film. It’s crisp, it’s clear and it shows you what you need to see to get the emotion across if not the plot. The only criticism that I can agree with is the coverage of the fight scenes being shot so close. For the initial reveal of Batman it works, but as the film goes along it becomes annoying as the audience is dying to just sit back and watch Batman kick all kinds of ass. The close up shots exceed in creating an impact level that returns fights to a much more violent and threatening place.Batman Begins PIC

Production Design: Gritty, grimy and the way Batman should be. The city is decaying without someone standing up for it and so Batman’s sleek technology is a kick in the face of the crime and is a very artistic way to showcase Batman’s contrast to his city at this point of battle with his war on crime.

Editing: Ok, this is my biggest overall qualm with this film. I hate the editing. Nolan is notorious for having a “fragmented” way of storytelling. Which is fine. It cuts out the boring parts of the story, but physical continuity cannot be ignored as it is so much. Shots are so fragmented at some parts that it takes you out of the film because you feel like you missed something. Shots come off as random and unsupported, almost as if you were watching a documentary.

Score: Danny Elfman made the Batman theme. There is no topping that in Batman. It’s the equivalent to Christopher Reeves as Superman. It just don’t get any better than that. Sorry folks. BUT, Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard give him a run for his money. The score is strong and uplifting. It matches the mood and tones of the film and it’s scenes and conveys the right emotions while still being memorable. Although Batman is never given an official “theme”, when the “bat flap” sound effects are heard with the mighty banging of the drums… know who the music is for. I remember seeing the trailer for the first time and hearing a piece of the score from Begins, looking to my mother and saying “Is this a new Batman?” and she replied, “They don’t make those anymore thank God.”

Special Effects: There were special effects in this movie? I didn’t notice. Nolan is a true film maker. He never skimps on the real live action things, implementing CGI and visual effects only when absolutely necessary. Mostly he uses green screen for background plates that you would never notice (See: Windows during train fight). Everything is top notch in every stunt and completely believable.

In closing: Batman Begins is an art film disguised as summer block buster. Everything serves the story and helps to establish great characters in a believable world, while still pushing the boundaries into fantasy. Fear Toxin and a machine that evaporates water around it (but oddly enough makes no impact on the 80% made of water human bodies around it) are so forgivable that you’ll fall prey to the great story and characters that are hidden within it. If you haven’t seen it, give it a chance. If you have seen it, go watch it again. You know it’s just that damn good.


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Winning Comic Book Screenplays

Watch the winning Comic Book Screenplay Readings performed by professional actors at the festival.

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June 2013 Reading
Written by Adam Kennedy
December 2015 Reading
Written by Peter Harmon & Larry Postel
ACTORTV SPEC – ARROW “Second Chances”
March 2015 Reading
Written by Molly Driscoll
ACTORSHORT SCRIPT – Batman: Patient Zero
December 2015 Reading
Written by Andrew Akler
March 2015 Reading
Written by Glenn Magas & Dale Fabrigar
March 2015 Reading
Written by Craig Glatt

festival posterVALOR CAT

Animation/Comic Book, 7min, USA
ACTORTV PILOT – Vincent Locke: Villain-At-Law
December 2015 Reading
Written by Christiaan Alexander Kutlik


Watch the Batman Table Readings from the Fan Fiction Festival

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Watch the Batman Screenplay Winners:

Watch BATMAN: PATIENT ZERO by Andrew Akler:

Watch GOTHAM NIGHTS TV Pilot by Adam Kennedy:

Watch Bridge Over Troubled Water (Superman Batman Fan Script), by Glenn Magas & Dale Fabrigar:

Batman “Joker’s Vendetta” by Sean Ballantyne:

Table Reading of BATMAN: PATIENT ZERO by Andrew Akler

BATMAN: PATIENT ZERO was the Fan Fiction November 2015 Screenplay Winner.

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Watch BATMAN: PATIENT ZERO by Andrew Akler:


NARRATOR – Sean Ballantyne
BATMAN – Steve Shand
JOKER – Brett Kelly
RIDDLER/NIGMA – Scott Beaudin
SCARECROW – Kunal Jaggi
HARLEY – Aidan Black Allen

Get to know writer Andrew Akler:

1. What is your screenplay about?

Batman heads to Arkham Asylum when he hears that The Joker has escaped and staged a takeover. As he progresses through the asylum, Batman fights through a host of villains that challenge him in a different way. This forces Batman to examine parts of himself and eventually come to a shocking realization. My goal was to take the audience on an almost “standard” Batman crusade, while introducing the psychological elements until we land on that twist at the end. I wanted to give you the Batman we all know and then take all that away while keeping it all justified.

2. Why does this screenplay fit into the overall Batman series?

There’s always been suggestions to Batman being just as crazy as his Rouges Gallery. The Arkham Asylum graphic novel hints at this. I actually see my story fitting in well in the Arkham game series universe, as I envision the characters in a similar way. For me, Bruce’s sanity has always been the underlying question of Batman.

3. This story has a lot going for it. How would you describe this Batman short in two words?

Wicked and Twisty.

4. What movie have you seen the most in your life?

I think it’s a tie between Inception and The Dark Knight. I’m a huge Nolan fan.

5. This is a very tight, emotionally engaging and fun screenplay. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I had the concept in my head for a while but only started writing it over the summer of 2015. I like creating the world in my head before putting it on paper.

6. Who is your favorite Batman universe character?

The Joker. He’s what I like to call a simple complex character. In that, I mean he has all these different layers and versions to his character but on occasion, he can become the extreme of one and embody that trait fully. He’s the ultimate king of mischief

7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?

I’ve always loved how each of Batmans’ villains have psychological disorders. There have always been references to Bruce having some of his own which is what drives him to be Batman, but I wanted to take that idea to the extreme and explore what it would be like if Bruce actually had all these disorders that he sees in his villains.

8. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

I always tend to think a few steps ahead of what I’m doing so I kept thinking about budget and how on earth we would be able to make the story look convincing. That prevented me from writing certain sequences that I feel really made the story stronger. I had to learn to write for the story.

9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I love music. I started out composing for film and gradually moved into writing and then directing. I’ve directed three films since 2013 and plan to pursue that as well as composing.

10. What influenced you to enter the Fan Fiction Festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I know it’s often hard to get fan fiction work recognized and when I found out about the festival I saw it is a wonderful opportunity. This was the first screenplay I have submitted to a festival and the quality of the feedback was amazing. I feel like it has helped me understand further into the screenwriting craft and will ultimately help me become a better writer.

11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?

Just write. Even if it sounds forced or stunted, just get the ideas on paper. Don’t worry about budget or shooting, otherwise it will distract you from crafting the best story possible. Always focus on the story first.