Batman, Heights, Traveling Pants, Summer of Love:
A Summer Winner and Three Almosts

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


                2005 is a lousy movie summer.  We are supposed, it seems, to subsist on blockbusters and worthless junkers until September brings Hollywood and the distributors to their senses again.  In the present doldrums, there are pockets of light along with flawed attempts, but most of the fare is an insult to audiences of any age. 

                The big surprise is “Batman.”  Unexpectedly, this action hero movie succeeds because at last someone had the sense to assemble a great cast and hire good writers for a comic book tale.  Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, and Morgan Freeman play their supporting roles with sophisticated humor that makes the story soar way beyond the earlier Batman movies – all of them terrible.  Christian Bale is terrific as Bruce Wayne, kind son determined to avenge his murdered parents.  Katie Holmes has just the right contemporary edge as the fiery Rachel.  But it is Michael Caine, loyal guardian/butler who lifts the movie up at the beginning keeps it there.  The rest of the capable actors rise to his occasion.  Watch this as if you were reading a comic book with all its exaggerations and unrealities.  The fires, explosions, and fisticuffs are merely devices that frame the pure transition of vengeful son to the “Prince of Gotham.”  Christian Bale’s straight arrow has a tender heart – and that’s just what it used to be like in the good old comic book days.  “You make yourself more than a man if you have an ideal….”  Now there’s a nice philosophy for an action hero.

Another bright spot is “Heights,” a good movie powered by a grand performance by Glenn Close who plays a Shakespearean actress and master teacher dealing with the vagaries of professional and private life.  Diana lives her image fiercely in public but plunges into her own vulnerabilities when she retreats to home and family.  There is undeniable pleasure in just watching Glenn Close.  She’s tough, accomplished, and unpredictable and that’s worth the price of the ticket.   

                “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” has a nice premise – four lifelong friends linked by the fact that their mothers took the same Yoga class before they were born.  Bound by one magical pair of jeans that they will mail to each other throughout their first summer of separation, they embark on individual summer journeys.  The shy girl (Alexis Bledel) goes to Greece, the athlete (Blake Lively) goes to soccer camp, the aspiring filmmaker (Amber Tamblyn), is stuck at home, and the wonderful America Ferrera visits her father.  High appeal here for teenagers on the cusp of independence.   

                “My Summer of Love” – the very title implies impermanence – is an abstraction of a Yorkshire  summer.  A poor girl and a rich girl – one living in fantasy, one in reality – have 24 hours a day of unobligated time to try a lesbian romance and to test the limits of emotional cruelty.  The landscape of Yorkshire is a sustaining feature of this somewhat interesting but slow trip.


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