A note: This is the seventh in the Cinépathétic series, an interview-style back and forth between me and the interesting people in my life, jabbering about movies and why we love them so damned much. This week, I’m interviewing Darlene Phan, a brilliant freelance photographer and fellow comic book aficionado. We discuss the complexities of Batman on film, loving Norman Reedus, and calling New Zealand Middle Earth. As usual, be wary for spoilers throughout, and please, enjoy.
Darlene: Of course. I always do what I can.
DR: Where would you like to begin? Which film starts us off?
Darlene: Let’s start with Die Hard With A Vengeance.
DR: John McTiernan’s return to the John McClane franchise. I guess after Die Hard 2, it was necessary, no?
Darlene: I try to forget that the second installment never happened. But considering that you just reminded me of that, I would have to say yes. I know I’m not the only one thankful that McTiernan came back, if he didn’t this movie wouldn’t be on my list.
DR: This one featured Sam Jackson as a cohort of McClane’s. Zeus?
Darlene: Yup! Also known as Jesus for about 20 seconds.
DR: There was some interesting notes about the original screenplay. For instance, did you know that this was almost the third installment for the Lethal Weapon series?
Darlene: Huh. No shit. I didn’t have the slightest clue. This movie did come out when I was incredibly young and I saw it in theaters. I’m sure if it was a recent movie I would have actually done research on it. I usually do but since it was something I grew up with it never came to mind.
DR: I suppose it was just the interchangeable nature of the studio system back in the early nineties. But here’s something that always stuck in my craw, why did it take three movies to get John McClane in New York? Wasn’t he a New York cop?
Darlene: He is in fact a New York City cop. I’m sure John McClane would have been back in New York City in the second installment if McTieran had anything to do with it. Die Hard is a film adaptation for the book Nothing Lasts Forever which takes place in Los Angeles.
DR: Is that so? I had no idea.
Darlene: The book Nothing Lasts Forever was written in the late 70’s by Roderick Thorp. Fun fact, this is actually a sequel to his first book The Detective. Since the movie was only an adaptation there were some details that were different. For instance in the movie McClane was attending his wife Holly’s company holiday party. In the book McClane’s character was actually a retired NYCPD detective named Joe Leland, who was attending his daughters company party when a group of German terrorist take over the building. I still loved that they kept the name Gruber in the movie who was portrayed by Alan Rickman. Oh, I love Alan Rickman.
DR: Jeremy Irons played… Gruber’s brother?
Darlene: Yes he did. I also believe that was the same time I fell in love with Jeremy Irons. Apparently I fall in love a lot. Did you know Jeremy Irons was about 47 when they filmed this movie? And he looked great!
DR: What a trooper. What puts this film on your Top 5?
Darlene: Mostly because I was given 5 top film slots as opposed to 6. I had to choose between Die Hard and Die Hard with a Vengeance and I chose the latter. Growing up my uncle was the one who took me out to see all the action movies. It was some of my favorite times growing up so this movie does hold a special part in my heart. There was also a point in time where I was so obsessed with this movie and I literally watched it everyday before school. Trust me, this isn’t a movie you want to watch with me. I can’t help but quote this movie almost the entire time.
DR: Favorite line?
Darlene: Oh, that’s just not even fair. “Yeah, Zeus! As in, father of Apollo? Mt. Olympus? Don’t fuck with me or I’ll shove a lightning bolt up your ass? Zeus! You got a problem with that?” – Samuel L Jackson. This was when it was still okay for angry Sam Jackson to be angry Sam Jackson. Now it’s no longer tolerable. Well, for me anyway.
DR: It’s pretty insufferable. But the man has his schtick. What’s next on your list?
DR: Oof. I do love this movie so. For me, it’s the singular apex for the entire superhero film renaissance we’re going through. I love it more than The Avengers. I love it more than people. Why did you pick this one, aside from the fact that it’s amazing?
Darlene: You spelled amazeballz wrong. (No, I didn’t. – DR) I chose it because it is amazing. It was the superhero movie that all comic book kids wanted. It had 30 minutes of footage in IMAX that was incredible to say the least. It was filmed in Chicago which is by far my favorite city. And it’s a Batman movie? Wins all around!
DR: No joke. I spend so much time downtown pretending the Board of Trade building is Wayne Enterprises. Seeing this in IMAX changed my goddamned life forever. You’re not wrong when you say this is the superhero film that all the kids had wished for forever. I remember surviving the gauntlet of the Burton/Schumacher series and barely loving Batman Begins. But when this came out, I was bowled over. Devastated.
Darlene: The Burton ones didn’t bother me too much. I actually enjoyed them a little. But then again when these came out I wasn’t reading comics. The Schumacher ones were god awful and I really enjoyed Batman Begins. I felt that when that movie came out it gave us comic book readers hope of what the future holds for superhero movies, and boy were we not let down….. for the most part. In my opinion what Nolan did for the Batman franchise changed the industry of comic book movies forever. He did what comic book writers like Frank Miller did in the late 80’s. Took it to a much darker place and made it less comical and it’s so, so good.
DR: I absolutely agree. Although, that “dark superhero” bubble burst for me with Man Of Steel. But we needn’t discuss that. But Christopher Nolan, what he did with arguably one of the biggest franchises in cinematic history, is not just admirable, it was truly groundbreaking. Dark Knight Rises might have been slightly underwhelming after this film, but really, what could surpass it?
Darlene: Comic book movies? None. I’m not sure if The Dark Knight Rises was that bad or if it was just an overall let down from The Dark Knight. I’ve tried watching it a few more times and didn’t enjoy it. I’ll just stick with the best.
DR: What made the prospect of The Dark Knight so enticing (before it came out, obviously) was the tease at the end of Begins. Featuring the cinematic return of The Joker was almost too much to bear.
Darlene: To be honest, I, like most comic readers, have been let down so often by all of these super hero movies that I wasn’t sure how I felt about The Dark Knight coming out. A lot of mixed feelings. I was excited, hopeful, confused and discouraged. Not all at the same time but my emotions did go through the motions. I was so afraid of possibly being let down again and of all movies I didn’t want it to be this one. Anything but Batman. When they announced that Heath Ledger was going to be The Joker I wasn’t sure how I felt. I’m sure I felt the same way most people felt when they announced Ben Affleck being casted as the new Batman. Heath Ledger’s performance proved us all so very wrong. I remember when the teaser for The Dark Knight came out when you saw nothing but only heard the Joker speak. I was sitting at work and my co worker watched it over and over and over until we couldn’t handle it anymore. And I think it was at that very moment I became excited for The Dark Knight.
DR: I remember that trailer. When I first heard his voice, when he says “I’m a man of my word”, I was completely sold. I think I watched the full trailer six times a day every day until it came out. But comparing Heath Ledger’s potential as The Joker and Ben Affleck’s potential for Batman are two completely different things. Ledger was a young man, with so much yet to prove. Ben Affleck is old as fuck, has proven himself to be an awful actor, but a spectacular director. Life is funny that way.
Darlene: (laughs) True. Who knows. I won’t judge him until the movie is made. And we all know that if Snyder has his way with it again it’ll at least be very visually appealing. By the way, can someone please re-do Daredevil? Is that really too much to ask? I didn’t watch that trailer six times a day but I did watch that movie a fuck ton of times though. Out of the people I actually know you’re the only person that has seen it more times than my 7 times in theaters. And if I’m not mistaken the 4 or 5 times I saw The Dark Knight it was in legit IMAX. There’s so much I love about this movie it’s absolutely disgusting. The scene where Batman is standing on a skyscraper and the camera pans down right before he leaps down into LSI Holdings always puts me to the edge of my seat. Every time I saw it in IMAX I always caught myself leaning over looking down at the screen to see if there is more to see. And the ending scene to that movie gives me goosebumps. We all know it. Batman on is Batpod riding into the light as Gordon explains to his son why Batman has to run… if I don’t stop explaining now I might start to cry.
DR: “He’s the hero Gotham deserves… Just not the one it needs right now.” That ending slays me. Every time. I remember seeing it on the opening midnight showing, a theater filled with people, and when the light breaks over the fugitive’s shoulder and cuts to black, everyone in that room was dead silent. Movies that stun that thoroughly are truly rare. The Dark Knight is beyond amazing. We could seriously talk about it for the rest of the night.
Darlene: Don’t even get me started on Hans Zimmer doing the score for The Dark Knight. I really could talk about this forever. But we just don’t have the time.
Darlene: Boondock Saints.
DR: Ugh. Dipshit Troy Duffy’s sack of shit action flick that completely apes Tarantino in all the wrong-minded ways. (coughs) Why is this on your list?
Darlene: (laughs) Yes, Troy Duffy is a sack of shit and it has nothing to really do with him. I saw this movie when it came out and it never even hit theaters. My uncle rented it from Blockbuster and I stole it from his room to watch. I enjoyed it, that’s why it’s on my list. I mean, this is my list right? I really enjoyed watching Norman Reedus on screen. He was the no name actor no one gave two shits about until 2012 when he was supposed to be a one off character on The Walking Dead? After watching this movie back in 1999 I started to follow Norman Reedus’ career. A LOT. I became quite obsessive actually. Everything pre and post Boondock Saints. Floating, Six Ways to Sunday, 8mm, Blade 2, Gossip, Deuces Wild, and he even had a small bit in Guillermo del Toro’s film Mimic. But I’ll get back to talking about Boondock Saints and not all of Norman Reedus’ other work. I was obsessed with this movie I had to call all the Blockbusters in the area to see which one carried it so I can purchase it. I ended up having to take a bus an hour and a half across town in the rain at the ripe age of 13 by myself to get this movie. When I like something I really like it. I have a very addictive personality sometimes.
DR: Who did Norman Reedus play in 8mm? I don’t remember him in that film.
Darlene: No one of importance really. He played Warren. The guy in jail Nicholas Cage ended up questioning about his ex-girlfriend who ended up disappearing.
DR: The guy who asks him for a cigarette, and Nic Cage stubs his out and is all, “I don’t smoke.” I remember now!
Darlene: Yup, that guy! Man I hate Nicholas Cage.
DR: Whaaaat. How can anyone hate Nicolas Cage.
DR: And yet you love Boondock Saints. What is the appeal of this film, aside from your boyfriend you love so damn much?
Darlene: The relationship between the characters. The companionship. It’s actually a reoccurring theme with all the movies that I’ve chosen for my top 5. I also found Boondock Saints to be entertaining and awful in all the best ways. There really isn’t much to this movie, it’s a terrible action movie that I really enjoy.
DR: Worst part of the movie?
Darlene: None. I love it all equally. If I didn’t it wouldn’t be on my list.
DR: I always lump this movie with the films I just can’t stomach. For me, it sits among Donnie Darko and Napoleon Dynamite, a terrible trifecta of movies that are inexplicably popular, mostly because they are, themselves, inexplicable. Is this a guilty pleasure for you? How many times have you seen it?
Darlene: All I have to say is I can quote this better than Die Hard with a Vengeance.
DR: Give me a quote, Darbs.
Darlene: “We’re sorta like 7-Eleven. We’re not always doing business, but we’re always open.” -Norman Reedus.
Darlene: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.
DR: Peter Jackson’s 2003 recipient of the Academy Award for Best Picture. And all the other Oscars. This movie gives me all kinds of goosepimples. Why is this here?
Darlene: Because Frodo finally made it to Mordor after 9 hours. I love all three movies and it was really hard to choose between The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King. I became more attached to the characters by the time that third installment came around. Frodo with Sam, Pippin with Merry, and Legolas and Gimli.
DR: The Frodo/Sam/Gollum subplot was so goddamned riveting by this film. But the speech Aragorn gives at the Black Gate gives me chills every time I think about it. I think I like it more than Theoden’s speech, but man… I loved that one too. The Battle of Pelennor Fields. The siege at Osgiliath. The Grey Havens. This movie made me sob like a little child.
Darlene: Near the end of the film when Aragorn says to Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry, “My friends, you bow to no one,” AND EVERYONE KNEELS DOWN! Makes me cry.
DR: Fucking right. Fucking right everyone kneels. Considering the journey from the Shire to the Cracks of Doom, they earned everything that came to them. The hobbit’s goodbyes at The Grey Havens was as sweet and lovely as I remember reading in the book. You’ve read The Lord Of The Rings, right?
Darlene: Sad to say that I have not. Only The Hobbit. I’m terrible I know. AND SHH. Don’t get all nerd on me. I own the books, they’re just at home. By home, I mean Chicago.
DR: (laughs) No, you’re not terrible. But it’s so, so worth it. The immersive world of Middle Earth is beyond addictive. Jackson truly did the book justice. It’s staggering to see Minas Tirith on the big screen. There are no words that conveyed what I felt when I finally saw this movie. And I completely thought there was no surpassing the battle of Helm’s Deep.
Darlene: That battle is amazing. I remember watching some behind the scenes stuff for when they filmed that. Insane! I couldn’t imagine ever doing something like that. The amount of work involved in all three movies was nuts but totally worth it. For them and for the viewers.
DR: My jaw was on the floor the entire time.
Darlene: Side note. A few weeks ago I saw a guy playing the accordion at the subway station right by my work on my way home. I let my train, 3 of them, leave without me just to hear him play some Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
DR: (laughs) Howard Shore’s score?
Darlene: Listening to it right now.
DR: IT’S PHENOMENAL.
Darlene: And when he did the score for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey I almost cried. Howard Shore and Peter Jackson took me back in time with this movie and reminded me of how much I love Lord of the Rings.
DR: Dude. Yes. Seeing An Unexpected Journey for the first time got me all nostalgic and whistful. And these flicks are barely 13 years old.
Darlene: Eventually I’ll have enough money to take a trip out to Middle Earth.
DR: Um. New Zealand? Because the books will take you there for FREE.
Darlene: YES, NEW ZEALAND. It’s really just another excuse for me to travel and support my nomadic lifestyle.
DR: The flight is just under 22 hours. Plenty of time to put a good dent in the book.
Darlene: For you. I can’t be on a plane that long. I also would be making a lot of pit stops. If I were to do that trip from New York City I would stop in Chicago, San Francisco, Hawaii, then New Zealand. True story.
Darlene: I Love You, Man. And I’m talking about the movie.
DR: (laughs) 2009, um, “bromance”. With Paul Rudd and Jason Muppets. Low-rent Apatow fodder?
Darlene: Oh fuck yes. Everyone needs a good bromance in their life. Especially if that bro is Sydney Fife.
DR: Explain yourself.
Darlene: Sydney Fife is that friend who let’s you be you. Who doesn’t judge you, accepts you for who you truly are and makes you talk about the possible uncomfortable topics in life you don’t want to talk about. Not to mention he is and forever will be your biggest cheerleader in life. “Trying is having the intention to fail. You gotta scrap that word from your vocab. Say you’re gonna do it and you will.” – Jason Segel as Sydney Fife.
DR: You seem to really respond to the themes of companionship. Real, unadulterated friendship.
Darlene: I wasn’t kidding when I mentioned that this is a reoccurring theme with my choice of movies. For always living a very nomadic lifestyle even growing up I moved around a lot and it was very hard for me to make friends. Nowadays this isn’t the case. I make friends all the time in the most random places. My friends are all that I really have. My friends really are my family. I also see a lot of myself in Sydney Fife. A lot of my friends are quiet, introverts, socially awkward with low self esteem and have a tendency to let people walk all over them. I’ve been told a lot, especially as of lately that I’ve helped them a lot with all of these problems. I had a good friend tell me earlier this year that she loved hanging out with me when we were younger because I made her feel that she was invincible and everything was possible.
DR: You are a terrific person, Darlene. That is without doubt.
Darlene: Aww, thanks man. I think I’m everything Sydney Fife is minus the love for divorced women. I also don’t have a jerk off station. Or a Vespa.
DR: Wait. “Jerk off station”? I haven’t seen this movie.
Darlene: Yes. Jerk off station in the man cave. Where women aren’t allowed. This also holds everything else he loves in life. All his musical instruments, and where the guys come to hang out. Oh man. I need me one of these. Man cave that is.
DR: First you need to get a place to live.
Darlene: I’m working on that.
DR: Is there anything else you would like to add? Any honorable mentions?
Darlene: Merry Christmas buddy! And I think that’s it? Thanks for having me. Let me know when theres a top 5-10.
DR: (laughs) I surely will. Thanks again, Darbs.
Darlene Phan was born and raised mostly in San Jose, California, but has also lived in Houston and Chicago. According to her East Coast friends she is now considered a New Yorker. She’s a freelance photographer that would do almost anything for a photo and a good cup of coffee. She has no kids, no pets and usually surrounds herself with friends she’s made from loitering at coffee shops. Lastly, she’s a terrible dancer and an avid comic book reader.