SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

Yesterday marked the start of my holiday from work and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve needed some time off and am planning on making use of it whilst I can. Knowing me, though, this will actually entail me sleeping til noon every day and then wasting my days in front of Netflix. Hopefully, I’ll get some reading done and some actual stuff accomplished. I’m definitely planning on seeing The Ghost in the Shell later on this week. I’m not sure how I feel about it but have some faith in it. I feel pretty safe with Scarlett Johansson but the film hasn’t done well so far. I can’t tell if that’s because it is genuinely bad or because people are just boycotting because of the whitewashing outrcry. I understand why people are pissed, obviously. There is a problem with casting white actors in roles that should be filled with Asian actors and Hollywood continues to deny that that problem exists. However, I’ll give the film a chance because that’s what I do. And because my friend really wants to go and see it. No doubt you’ll see my thoughts on here very soon.

Just Finished
  • Little Black Classics
In order to shamelessly get my reading count up for March I ingested a few of these LBC. I got through The Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift, O frabjous day! by Lewis Carroll, and On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts by Thomas De Quincey. They were all as fabulous as these books always are and I succeeded in making it seem as though I’d read more books this month than I would have done.

Currently Reading
  • The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion
Slowly getting on with this one and, quite frankly, I love it. At first I didn’t think that it was quite as engaging as The Rosie Project but I think I’m actually liking it more now. I realise that Adam Sharp is a bit of a cad but he is an understandable one. Everything he does seems realistic and is reminiscent of how normal people would act in those situations. It feels more representative of real life than The Rosie Project ever did. 
Recently Purchased
  • So Much Poetry
I got a bit excited yesterday and ordered a few books of poetry. I didn’t need to but I’m just in the mood for poetry right now. They are all contemporary poets who mostly deal with issues about love but that’s fine with me. I just need to get back into poetry. The works I bought are: Mouthful of Forevers by Clementine von Radics, the princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace, and No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay.

Recently Watched
  • Lego Batman
I have to admit that I was excited to see this film and I wasn’t disappointed. Find out more in my review last Tuesday.

  • Batman and Robin
Re-watched this 90s classic, which is so often called the worst film ever made. Weirdly, my TBT review didn’t just consist of me criticising it. Want to find out more, check out my review.
  • Netflix binges: 24
I have to admit this week’s Netflix binge wasn’t actually a Netflix binge. I’ve gone back to my collection of 24 DVDs and have finished season 5 and started season 6 in the past few days. I love season 5 because of Martha Logan and Aaron Pierce. Fabulous. Of course, it presents sadness from the heartbreaking death of Edgar. I’ve never gotten over that one. However, season 6 is, perhaps, the worst series of the whole show. It’s so boring and everything gets bogged down in politics and the Bauer family drama. I don’t give a shit about his brother or sister-in-law. I just want him to fuck up more terrorists.
TBT – Batman and Robin (1997)

TBT – Batman and Robin (1997)

I’m so tired right now. I’ve had a string of early shifts this week and it’s killing me. Tomorrow is my last day before I have a week off and I can’t wait. I just need to sleep for a week. I have no plans and, quite frankly, it’s a delightful thought. Still, before I can start to relax too much I have to get tomorrow over and done with. And before I can get work finished I have to go to bed. And before I do that I have to finish this review. God, why did I leave this to the last minute again? I was getting so much better with my schedule. So, this is no doubt going to be terrible and rushed but it’s an idea I’ve been thinking about all week. So let’s just get on with it.

Apparently, back in 2010 Batman and Robin was officially named the worst film ever by readers of Empire magazine. I mean, I know it’s a terrible film, that’s not something I’m going to argue with, but “the worst” film ever made? That seems a bit melodramatic. I’ve since loads of films I’d rather watch less than I’d watch Batman and Robin. Plus, a lot of the arguments against Joel Schumacher’s second time adapting the adventures of the Caped Crusader onto the screen revolve around it being a killer of a successful franchise. When it was released this would have been true but you can hardly say that now. Without Joel Schumacher there would, realistically, have been no Christopher Nolan. It took a film so desperately bad and stupid for people to say “we need a new, darker Dark Knight”. Batman and Robin is the Joker to The Dark Knight‘s Batman. And don’t people really love the Joker?

Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that this film is full of redeeming features. This isn’t like the time I tried to defend the prequels to you all. I’m not stupid. I know this film is bad. However, I’m here to argue that is falls into the category of ‘so bad it’s good’. Everything about this film is trying to get me to hate it but I just can’t. It makes me cringe but in the same way that people really seem to like about The Inbetweeners. You know that everything happening before your eyes is bad and should be stopped. Can you stop watching it though? I can’t.

Of course, I’m not a fucking moron. This film is downright bad. It was a misguided attempt to turn the character of Batman into a cartoon character that would appeal to children and create loads of money through merchandising. It was film-making for all the wrong reasons and Joel Schumacher was too arrogant to see that he couldn’t pull it off. Batman, as fans of the comic books are always ready to remind us, is serious business. This film is like a fucking toy advert that makes Adam West’s television series look like a bloody Shakespeare play. It’s bad. The batsuit nipples, the bat credit card, Alicia Silverstone, Mr Freeze, Uma Thurman, Chris O’Donnell, Bane. I could sit here just typing out everything single person or inanimate object that appears in this movie because it’s all just awful.

However, I can’t help but like this film just a little bit. I mean doesn’t it kind of fill you with joy that a film could be made that’s quite this bad? There are barely any (and that’s being too nice) redeeming features of this film which, in itself, is a bit of a redeeming feature. It’s the same mentality I have about Mama Mia. I hate that film with every fibre of me being but I sometimes have a huge desire to sit there and watch it. Why? Because it’s so fucking bad and that’s kind of comforting. I think we live in what could be described as a Golden Age of Hollywood where actors are getting better, scripts are getting more intelligent and well-written, and directors are finding new ways to knock our socks off. So, when one major fuck up slips through the cracks you have to kind of love it. It’s like those contestants that somehow get through to the live rounds on X Factor despite having no real talent. The audience loves them because they are so bad.

But that’s not the only reason to love it. Batman and Robin is camp and shitty, undoubtedly. But it’s meant to be camp and shitty. It plays off against the super dark Tim Burton offerings to get back to the unintentionally camp and shitty 60s show… on purpose. If nothing else, you have to admire the fact that Joel Schumacher sees Batman for what he kind of is. Yes, the comic book character is dark and gritty and everything. But there has always been an inherent silliness to the character. He’s a billionaire who dresses like a fucking bat. He has loads of bat related toys, gadgets and vehicles. That’s always been silly. This just puts that at the forefront instead of pretending this is all just very cool and realistic. The reason this film is so reviled is not because it is truly “the worst film ever” but because it’s the worst Batman film ever. For awful comic book fans that’s the worst thing in the world.

They need to chill the fuck out. Now, I love Tim Burton’s Batman films more than any other films that have been made about Bruce Wayne and his alter ego. But I have to admit that there are some improvements here. These feel more self-aware and less bogged down with u necessary tension. George Clooney makes a pretty decent and not-someone-you-instantly-want-to-punch-in-the-face kind of Bruce Wayne. Yes, he’s not great but he brings a softer and more human side to the character. It’s nice. This is the one of the few versions of Bruce Wayne that you might actually want to have a beer with. These positives aren’t anything to write home about but they’re something.

I’m not going to pretend this film is good: it’s not. It fails at being a comedy, it fails at being dramatic, it fails at telling a decent story, and it fails at creating interesting characters with interesting arcs. It is the results of three or four small plots being sewn together by someone who has never seen a needle and thread before. However, it does succeed in being terrible. Which, quite frankly, is not nothing. It’s something. And it’s something that demands to be remembered every now and then. Because, how else will we all remember Arnie telling us it’s “ice to see you”?

Tuesday’s Reviews – Lego Batman (2017)

Tuesday’s Reviews – Lego Batman (2017)

Let’s be honest, Batman has something of a chequered history when it comes to live action adaptations of the comic book character. Aside from the supremely cheese but colourful television show of the 1960s and the best forgotten Joel Schumacher films of the late 90s, the Dark Knight has provided something of a literal interpretation. The films created by Tim Burton, Christopher Nolan and, Zack Synder are all part of that super cool, edgy and moody brand of superhero film. Batman has long since shed the image of his cartoony caper when Adam West was the man behind the cowl and has transformed himself into an angsty longer who most probably listens to MCR and muttering about people just don’t “get him”. So, when Lego Batman, voiced by the supremely funny Will Arnett, became the breakout star of the 2014 The Lego Movie nobody was sure how his solo outing would fit within Batman’s canon. Especially cause, as we know from the past, comic book fans are massive dicks about this kind of thing. A colourful, family friendly and comedy filled story is hardly on a even playing field with the politically heavy and mature narratives on display in Nolan’s trilogy. After all, the sillier that Batman became the more his fans complain. I mean are we still not ready to admit that there is something so gleefully bad about Batman and Robin that we kind of don’t completely hate it? No? Okay then.


I was excited about Lego Batman and I could never understand the people I met who weren’t. The signs were all there that it could end up being magnificent. The Lego Movie was great, Will Arnett is always super funny and Lego leads to so many possibilities. Like all the other Lego video games I’ve played over the years, the Lego Batman one were full of in-jokes and silliness that made my heart leap. The only thing that could go wrong are the fans. As we’ve seen before, there are certain Batman fans out there that take their shit very seriously. They don’t like the idea of someone taking the caped crusader and making a mockery out of him. Which, when you think about it, is kind of silly considering what he’s put himself through over the years. He is an ageing billionaire who dresses up at night and plays with expensive toys in the streets of Gotham. If that doesn’t deserve even some gentle ribbing then I don’t know what does.

And Lego Batman is full of references to the character’s past. There are multiple references to the comics as well as each film adaptation and the, now, infamous television series. We see flashbacks to previous costumes and mentions of iconic moments. We are in no doubt that this is supposed to be the same characters who, as he points out himself, has aged remarkably well since his first appearance. There will be people who will fan this continual fan service annoying and will become irritated by the endless in-jokes and self-parody. I, however, have always been one of those people that loves it when these Easter Eggs appear.

Of course, none of this means that Lego Batman doesn’t know who it’s main audience is. There are plenty of jokes for the older members of the audience who remember where Batman has come from. However, it is, at its heart, is a children’s film. It is filled with the same sort of action and adventure that the first one offered and it hammers home its major theme with exuberant force. That moral being “it’s better to face things together than alone”. After all, Batman is the solo hero who never plays well with others and avoids significant relationships. There is a beautiful moment, after he has once again saved Gotham, where Bruce Wayne sits alone in his mansion eating Lobster and watching Jerry Maguire. He doesn’t celebrate with her super-friends but microwaves his dinner and reminisces about his dead parents. He’s sad, wounded but has too great an ego to realise it.

Until he finds himself unwillingly taking on partners. When Commissioner Jim Gordon retires at the start of the film his daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson) offers the masked vigilante a chance to work with the police instead of against them. He, unsurprisingly ignores this offer and, when his nemesis the Joker (Zach Galifianakis) hands himself and his evil colleagues over to the police, Batman, against Barbara’s better judgement, decides it is time to rid the world of Mr J once and for all. When sending him to the Phantom Zone only results in the escape of every famous villain of film, television and literature Batman must finally accept help to get things back to normal.

All the while Bruce must come to terms with his issues with family when he accidentally adopts an orphaned boy, Dick Grayson (Michael Cera). Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), his father figure and butler, thinks it will help him to accept the boy but Batman just uses him in the same way the Lego Star Wars games used young Anakin: to get into small spaces. The back and forth between Batman and Robin is fantastic and their relationship is a perfect melding of both sides of the coin. We have a sidekick who is straight out of the 60s TV show and a brooding hero that has more in common with Christian Bale than Adam West.

There are moments when Lego Batman loses its grip slightly and some jokes that just don’t land properly. There is an awful lot going on and a huge range of characters to contend with. A usual criticism of super hero movies is the final act when the big bad is suddenly joined by more big bads to up the tension. Here, we see every possible bad buy stepping forward to cause chaos and, whilst the end results is exciting as fuck, it proves to be a tricky thing to pull off. It doesn’t quite work on a visual basis and there are perhaps one too many irons in the fire. However, I feel as though it’s worth it for Eddie Izzard’s Lord Voldemort and Jermaine Clement’s Sauron. The final action piece is another of those moments that has so much fan-service to contend with that the story gets lost a little. It could have done with some refining.

Watching Lego Batman is not the same as watching The Lego Movie. But it’s not supposed to be. This isn’t a sequel and it has dropped several of the themes that made the previous film so refreshing and original. It is, instead, a celebration of an iconic character using the same beautiful animation and propensity for fun that it’s predecessor was so loved for. This is a Batman film like we’ve not see before. In a sea of endless bleakness where Bruce Wayne is concerned, this film puts him back in the fun zone and shows us that superheroes don’t need to take themselves so seriously, Who else but Will Arnett could get away with rapping his way to victory? Not Christian Bale that’s for sure. Unlike everything we’ve been programmed to believe, Lego Batman shows us, once and for all, that silliness is best and being broody and dark is not the best way to achieve anything. Wouldn’t you rather microwave Lobster for four instead of one? This isn’t the Batman we know but he is the one we deserve. And, after the abysmal Batman vs Superman, he’s also the one we desperately need right now.

TBT – Batman (1989)

TBT – Batman (1989)

Everyone has their favourite incarnation of Bruce Wayne. After this years Batman vs Superman some may well say Batffleck is their number one and even I have to admit that he was ABS-olutely fantastic in the role. Then there are those fucking idiots that will say Christian Bale is the top dog. However, that just goes to prove that people are easily pleased and that Christopher Nolan can make anyone look better than they are. There’s a reason that Heath Ledger is the main thing people talk about when they discuss the Dark Knight trilogy: Christian Bale is so forgettable in the role the supporting characters outshine him. I also imagine, because human beings continue to surprise me, that there are those who prefer the nippley George Clooney and Val Kilmer. Of course, we all know that they are probably mentally unstable or have only seen Joel Schumacher’s two films. Now when it comes to the ultimate Batman there can only be one real winner. Yes, my favourite and, by association, the Number 1 big screen portrayal of Gotham’s vigilante is Michael Keaton. Tim Burton’s Batman and the slightly superior Batman Returns are just amazing. Which is why I’m going to talk about the first of them this week.

We owe a lot to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film. Let’s be honest, before that came along the caped crusader was best known as the homoerotic and super cartoony Adam West version. You know the colourful chap who hung about with a boy in super tight and super tiny shorts. It was Tim Burton and co. who let the world see a darker and more serious version of the hero who would only get darker and more serious as the years went by. It came out during a time when the likes of Frank Miller and Alan Moore were taking part in a graphic novel overhaul for the character and bringing him into a grittier world than he was used to. However, when it came to those outside of comic book circles, Batman was still that camp 1960s show that was something to laugh and cringe along with. Which is why, when it was announced that 1980s comic actor Michael Keaton was to take the role comic book fans were filled with such a murderous rage. It seemed like Burton was taking a step backwards.

Of course, as we know now, that all changed when the film was released. Tim Burton brought his Gothic edge to the world of Batman and showed the world a different side to the infamous vigilante. We open on a version of Gotham that is in the middle of an economic and social downturn. Things are difficult for the people of the city and crime is taking over. This isn’t the 1960s circus town that we were used to. Batman was angry and covered in black, Robin was nowhere to be seen, and the Joker was leaving bodies in his wake. Suffice it to day, this wasn’t the Batman that cinema goers were used to. This was a version of the hero that spoke about the decade in which he appeared and the story spoke of the troubles that many saw facing society at the time.

As such, the film is less about Batman than it is about aesthetics and socio-political messages. The story doesn’t really follow the comics and there are several infamous moments that have infuriated comic book fans for years. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good film. There is something great about this film, which is probably helped by the fact the superhero wasn’t the main focus. There is something very real about the whole thing and the classic fairy tale narrative of good vs evil is timeless in a way that perhaps Christopher Nolan’s works aren’t. This isn’t the story of who Batman is or why he decided to dress up as a bat one day. It is the story of an ordinary man fighting against the great evils that are plaguing society. It speaks to everyone.

Now, I’d be lying if I said this film was perfect because it isn’t. There are several things that could be better and a handful of subplots that could be dispensed with entirely. The Vikki Vale/Joker connection seemed tacked on and the Prince soundtrack does kind of feel out-of-place. Still, there is a great deal to love about this film. It comes down to the basic principle of good vs evil but explores the idea further by revealing that the Joker was the person who killed Batman’s parents. In this sense, the Joker created Batman and Batman helped create a world where the Joker could thrive. This isn’t just a fight but a reciprocal relationship. It’s a revelation that won’t please comic fans in the slightest but is something I have also felt to be a fascinating twist to the tale.

Batman set out a solid environment for the further growth of the hero and his desire to save his city.  It paved the way for the better film Batman Returns 3 years later whilst still being a great film in its own right. It was basically the X-Men of it’s day.  Yes it doesn’t boast the best narrative or script of the many adaptations that have appeared since but it gave us a truly inspirational portrayal of the man behind the mask. Michael Keaton is fantastic in the role and, despite existing in a world full of action heroes like Sylvester Stallone and Arnie, genuinely looks like a playboy who suddenly decided to fight crime. I also happen to prefer Jack Nicholson’s Joker. I know that’s probably one of the most controversial things I’ve ever said on this blog (and there’s been a few) but it’s true. Yes, he may seem quaint and camp when compared to Heath Ledger but he inhabits everything that I understood about the Joker. He’s crazy and homicidal but he also just wants to have fun. Something that Tim Burton and co. are also happy to do in the midst of all the death and despair. This film doesn’t deserve to be overshadowed by more modern adaptations. It’s too fucking good.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice

Tuesday’s Reviews – Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice

I really don’t want to write this review. I’ve sat with it open ever since I got home from work and I’ve not managed to come up with anything. If I’m honest, I never actually wanted to watch this fucking film. I mean Man of Steel was just dreadful and proved that Zac Snyder really should have called it quits on comic book movies after Watchmen was only hated by a handful of people. Those of you who were around at the time of my review of the first of Snyder’s Superman films will remember that, aside from it being badly written and really fucking long, it wasn’t exactly complimentary. I just didn’t get Snyder’s vision for the most popular alien in the DCEU. Still, those photos of Ben Affleck looking super buff got me interested and I finally decided it was time to watch it. I was a big fan of the Batffleck before watching this film so it would be just like Snyder to fuck that up for me too. I decided it was right to watch the Ultimate Edition and, after a gruelling day at work, I sat down for a gruelling 3 hours of muted tones, smack you in the face symbolism, and terrible parts for women. Classic Snyds.

So Batman vs Superman was one of the most anticipated films of 2016 because it would show the first movie meeting of DC’s two biggest male superheroes. It promised the fight of comic book geeks’ fantasies and would pit the square jaw of Henry Cavill against the rockhard abs of Ben Affleck. Plus, it would introduce the world to Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, Ezra Miller’s The Flash, and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg. After all, Batman vs Superman was just the warm up to next years Justice League movie. Kind of like Captain America and Thor were just whetting the audiences’ appetites before The Avengers came out… but with added good guy fighting. As long as the two titans both got into some sort of homoerotic penis comparison using their fists. Forget a good narrative or sensible structure, that’s what the fanboys really want.
Aside from giving us something in the way of the fight the title offers, there isn’t that much to celebrate in Batman vs Superman. The little there is in the way of story is all over the fucking place and is stitched together so weirdly is difficult to keep up. After all, pesky things like plot and character development only get in the way of large men fucking shit up. This is the kind of film where the ‘wakes up panting and realising it was a dream” thing isn’t a massive Hollywood cliché but a handy-dandy way to get out of a tricky narrative bind. Really it feels like Snyder filmed the fight scenes and then realised he needed someway to glue them together and hastily put some shit together.
One of my favourite reviews for this film described it as “a grown man whacking two dolls together”, which it essentially is. This is Zac Snyder acting out the games he played with his action figures as a child but with a fucking huge budget, special effects, and some crazily beefed men to help him. It’s action porn for those creepy little fanboys who left this film feeling that Gal Gadot’s outfit just wasn’t revealing enough. There is so much wanton destruction here that it leaves little room for actual film stuff. There is no attempt to create a coherent story or develop characters. Everyone is either dark and brooding, evil and brooding, or happy yet brooding. There are so many needless plot twists here that Snyder quickly loses control of the strands and just ties bits together whenever he regains his grasp. The editing does little to help with the confusion and the endless time jumps, flashbacks/forwards, and dream sequences are handled incredibly badly.
Batman vs Superman doesn’t even have the good sense to have a good sense of humour about itself. It’s entirely humourless and any attempts at comedy fall flat and stick out like a sore thumb. It just feels wrong and completely out-of-place: like making jokes at a funeral. This is perhaps the most serious blockbuster about such a stupid topic that has ever existed. You wouldn’t have thought it possible after the dour Man of Steel but Snyder has upped the darkness. By this, of course, I mean he’s got rid of the lighting and literally made everything darker. There is plenty of shadows to show you that evil shit is going down and more than enough close-ups and shaky cam to try to amp up the excitement. Then there’s the endless fucking lens flares. What is this? A fucking JJ Abrams Star Trek movie? One of the notes I wrote whilst watching this just reads “how can something be both dark and light at the same time?” because there is so much light in such a lightless environment. It’s all just ridiculous. This is a film that is all about the visual that it just feels silly. It’s like people who are too into fashion: they’re so much about style over substance that you just can’t take them seriously anymore.
There are a couple of things to love here: Ben Affleck is as good as I’d hoped as Bruce Wayne and I can’t wait to see his solo effort. I don’t think we really needed ANOTHER origin story but this was essentially Batman’s film. Not the greatest thing in a Superman flick but I’ll never complain about more Batffleck. Joining Ben on my list of good things about Dawn of Justice is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. She’s a great addition to the cast even though she really didn’t get any chance to tell her story. Then again, in this environment, maybe that actually helped her. Finally, there’s Jeremy Irons as Alfred. This Alfred isn’t the stuffy, wise butler we’re used to but is a hands on kind of guy. He’ll chop your wood, fix you gadgets, and listen in on your secret conversations. I think this could be a great partnership.
And that’s it. The only good things I can think of about this film. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and, let’s face it, every other woman barely get a look in and exist only to get themselves into a position they need saving from. Lex Luthor is just every other Jesse Eisenberg character we’ve ever seen but with access to a spaceship. The brief glimpses of the other member of the Justice League are just absurd and completely unnecessary from anything but a marketing point of view.  The script is awful: I’m still cringing over Holly Hunter’s peach tea speech. Too much terrible and unsubtle symbolism. Too many failed attempts at religious metaphors. And just too many twists to keep dragging things out. I’m so angry that I ever wasted my time on this shit. It should have been amazing. It could have been fun. I mean imagine what could have happened if these characters were in the MCU. It would have been unbelievable. Yes, it would have ended with something crashing to Earth at the end but it would have been wonderful. Dawn of Justice had so much potential but it just fucked us all. Zac Snyder basically pissed all over our dreams and then probably cut to us waking up panting and sweating.
SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

Today has been all about eating unfortunately. I had a massive Scottish breakfast this morning and. despite not wanting any proper meals, I’ve snacked way more than somebody who feasted on so many calories earlier should. Thankfully, I’m getting back into my regular exercise routine and am at the point where I actually want to do something when I get home from work. It won’t last because it never does. This is why I have to mention my triumphs so much. They’re so few and far between that I need to make a lasting record of them. Otherwise, who would fucking believe me? It’s kind of like the reason I do this rundown. If I don’t write down what I’m reading and buying then how would I ever keep track? I’ve tried to keep a reading list but I always forgot to update it. It meant I could never remember how many books I read in one year. Making it impossible to set myself yearly goals. One day, with the use of this blog, I’ll become an organised and put together human adult… or at least as close as someone with the amount of toy swords and guns possibly can get.

Currently Reading
  • His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Oh what a difference a week or two makes. When I think back to trying to force myself through those two Stephen King novels I just feel foolish. I’ve finally got back that feeling of wanting to read. This book is so good that I can’t wait to read more. I’m being unsociable on my lunches and reading at work again. Turning off my computer early and getting an hour or so in before bed. Macrae’s Man Booker nominated book is like the literary version of Making a Murderer. It’s fucking awesome. This is an engrossing tale and learning more about Roderick’s life is fantastic. I can’t wait to delve further into his history and psychology.

Recently Purchased

  • A Song of Ice and Fire – books 2 to 5
After buying the beautiful new edition of A Game of Thrones however long ago it was I’ve been trying to justify getting the whole set. Eventually I just decided to go for it. Thanks to Amazon’s 3 paperbacks for £10 I managed to get all 6 books I don’t have incredibly cheap. It also gives me the great excuse to start rereading the series whilst George RR is finishing book 6. I need to recap a few things before then.
  • Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
The second of my Man Booker shortlisted novels. When the longlist came out I picked this and My Bloody Project as the two I wanted to read most. When it was announced that both had made the shortlist I was super excited. As soon as I’m done with Macrae’s novel then I’m onto this one. We’ll see how many of the other nominees I manage to get through. Probably none if the past is anything to go by.

Recently Watched
  • Batman vs Superman
It was about time I watched this. Now I have. You can read about it on Tuesday.
THAT’S WHAT SHE READ – SUNDAY RUNDOWN

THAT’S WHAT SHE READ – SUNDAY RUNDOWN

You’ve caught me in an unusually joyful mood today. I’ve watched an amazing film, just started a weeks holiday and I’m feeling good about my chances of getting ahead blogging. I’ve already got my subject sorted for Monday and I can’t wait to start writing my Tuesday review. Sensibly, I’ve not arranged to do much besides sleep so I have time to read and watch things. I also, stupidly, decided to rebuy The Sims 2 for my laptop. I wasn’t sure The Sims 3 would play adequately and I was getting pissed of with the PS3 version. Despite having to get used to the shitty gameplay again, I’m loving this wave of nostalgia and can imagine losing hours to the game. At uni, I played it for so long one day that I wasn’t able to sleep that night. I was so fucking grumpy. Thankfully, adult life doesn’t really allow for these types of gaming binges so I’m able to approach the whole thing in moderation. I mostly spend hours creating my Sims and then decide it’s time for bed. Maybe one day I’ll actually get through an entire week. 

Recently Finished
  • What She Left by T.R. Richmond (Kindle edition)
This ended up being a pretty quick read but there were more than a few times that I felt it dragged. Some of the letters seemed to go on longer than they needed to for no reason whatsoever. It was an interesting idea for a novel but I felt the whole thing was just self-indulgent. There was no rush to get to the, again fairly obvious, ending and everything was dragged out to frustrating lengths in an attempt to create tension. I thought the first half of this book was alright but I cared less with every additional page. Could have edited out about a third and tightened up the plot to make this worthwhile. A misuse of a good concept. 

Currently Reading
  • The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North (Kindle Edition)
Very nearly gave up on this one immediately but, thanks to a shitty experience with public transport today I’ve kept going. I still have some issues with it, some of which I’ll possibly rant about tomorrow, but I’m going to push on. It’s an interesting concept and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. I so want to like this.

Recently Purchased
  • Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
I’ve seen this book on Instagram for fucking ages and wanted it for myself. I love books that really mess with form. This is written as documents and communication and it looks fucking awesome. When I was a kid I remember reading a series of novels written through the letters/e-mails that a set of pen-pals sent each other. Since then I’ve lapped up anything that’s not written in a  traditional form. We’ll see how this YA sci-fi goes though.
  • Harry Potter Books 5 and 7
I really wanted to buy something on Amazon that was an add on item. Of course, this meant I HAD to buy other things to get my order up to £20. Decided it was time to finish my collection. These books are so fucking adorable and I think the artwork is just amazing. It really captures what I thought the characters looked like on first reading. Since playing Lego Harry Potter recently I’ve felt really nostalgic about this series so may have to re-read or re-watch them all. We’ll see. I might make a thing out of it. 
  • Adventures in Human Being by Gavin Francis
Saw this in WH Smiths on the way home for about £4 and it sounded really interesting. A book full of essays about the human body by ex doctor, Gavin Francis. It sounds informative but also quite literary. A perfect blend for someone who never quite feels ready for non-fiction. 

Recently Watched
  • Love
I wasn’t sure what to think of Netflix’s new series but, at about halfway through, I think I really like it. It’s a bit weird but really good. Interesting characters, bit quirky, kind of realistic: what’t not to like?
  • Gotham
I decided to give Gotham another chance recently and I’m really glad I did. I love it. I mean it’s a bit weird and play fast and loose with the source material but I’m okay with that. The cast is pretty spot on and it’s an interesting idea to show where the villains of Batman’s world came from. There are some that don’t quite work but the majority is great. I also think I’m pretty firmly in love with Sean Pertwee’s Alfred. I never thought I could love a portrayal of Alfred Pennyworth more than Michael Caine but I can’t resist this one. 
  • Deadpool
Fucking Deadpool man. Fuuuuuuuck. Finally saw it and I’m so ready to review it. See you Tuesday. 
TBT – Batman Begins (2005)

TBT – Batman Begins (2005)

This week marks the 10thanniversary of the film that launched one of the most popular film franchises of all time. 2005 was the first time since 1989 that it was OK to be a film fan who also loves Batman. Batman Beginsset the trend that has plagued Hollywood ever since: the dark comic book reboot. Batman had already been the star of 4 films since in the 16 years prior to the release of Christopher Nolan came along and each subsequent movie had made the supposed dark knight more of a laughing stock. The hero, first created by Bob Kane in 1939, was patiently waiting for the chance to show what he could really do and Nolan and co-writer David S Goyer knew the only way to go was to be super-serious . Nolan’s film was the dark comic book movie that Tim Burton wished he could have made in 1989 and it was a refreshing change. Of course, now it’s just par for the course but Batman Begins was a revelation in 2005. It was fucking exciting.

Batman Beginsstarts a afresh with Batman’s origin and assumes that its audience knows fuck all about the motivation behind Bruce Wayne’s double life. Drawing a lot of inspiration from classic storyline Batman: Year One, Nolan introduces us to the tragedy that shattered Bruce’s childhood and the path he took to give it a positive conclusion. Batman Beginsalmost tries to remove the comic book traces from one of the most popular superheroes as Nolan makes his Gotham City a very realistic pit of poverty, crime and greed. Of course, the Batman myth is never going to be a plausible one but Nolan came the closest to make it happen. His re-imagining of the journey from orphaned young boy to night-time vigilante has such depth that it almost felt like the obvious reaction to your parents murder was dressing up in a cape.
Nolan’s greatest success with the first film in his Dark Knight trilogy was how subtle he was. Batman Beginsforgoes the superhero staple of relying too heavily on action sequences. Nolan places more of a focus on story and character. The film is as much of a success in terms of drama as it does in sheer entertainment. The final act contains the obligatory good vs bad showdown but there is a distinct lack of high-tech action on display. The action sequences use CGI sparingly yet still offer enough visual spectacles to keep explosion nerds more than happy. It has all of the elements you need for a comic book movie but without the blinding sheen that Joel Schumacher dripped over his efforts. It’s understated, it’s held back, and it’s bloody good.
The film features the type of jumpy narrative that Nolan had used so effectively in his previous film Mementoas we piece together Bruce’s past. We first meet the grown Wayne (Christian Bale) after he was arrested trying to steal a crate of his company’s goods. After being visited by the mysterious Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), Bruce treks to the mountain-top retreat of the League of Shadows, an organisation that promises to help him on his path for vengeance. Although, this assistance comes at too large a price, as the League’s leader, Ra’s al Ghul, wants Bruce to help him destroy the city his parents helped build.
Returning alone, Bruce sets out on a more righteous path by defending the people of Gotham from mob boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) and his dangerous ally Dr Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy). Crane’s alter ego, the Scarecrow, is planning to tear Gotham apart using his own brand of hallucinogenic drug. Working alongside police sergeant James Gordan (Gary Oldman) and scientist Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Bruce must stop Crane whilst still keeping his identity a secret.
When it comes down to it, Batman Beginsis the only film of the trilogy in which Batman himself really shines. Christian Bale, growly voice aside, did a great job at getting to the real heart of the character. Considering the film is all about Batman’s origin, the actual murder of Bruce’s parents is fairly perfunctory. It has been dealt with so many times that Nolan gets it out of the way as efficiently as possible. Instead he focuses on the emotional and psychological resonance of that one moment. We see the young Bruce being comforted by a young Jim Gordan and the college-aged Bruce determined to make his parent’s killer pay. This is richer and deeper depiction of Bruce Wayne than we have been treated to yet.
My number one main quibble with Batman Beginsis the romance that Nolan clumsily inserts into the narrative. I’m not saying that romance and Batman shouldn’t go hand-in-hand but I don’t think it works here. That’s partly thanks to the complete lack of chemistry between Bale and Katie Holmes, who plays his childhood friend Rachel Dawes. On the whole though, the romance just feels like a misstep in a story that is about one man’s struggle to work out who he is. It seems unnecessary and drags the already bloated plot out even further. It is a long film, after all, and does take some time to get going. Nolan never really loses his audience but there is a lot that could have been cut to streamline the process. The lack of Katie Holmes could have done a great deal in his favour.
Although, the rest of the cast do a pretty sterling job and, with supporting cast of the likes of Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, Nolan’s work is treated with respect and care. None of them necessarily get a great deal to do but each bring what emotional depth to the narrative as possible. The performances, though not major, are reliable and memorable enough that you want to see more from them in the future. Of course, it is the bad guys that usually stick in your mind in these sorts of films and Batman Begins is no different. Cillian Murphy is both terrifying and comical in his portrayal of the freak Scarecrow. He’s still one of my favourite parts of the trilogy and I’m still upset he didn’t get bigger roles in the sequels.

Batman Beginsis not the best example of a comic book film that you will ever see. Nor is it, in the minds of most people, the greatest in its own trilogy. However, it was undoubtedly an important film at the time and, despite a few missteps here and there, it was the reboot that the Dark Knight desperately needed in Hollywood. It made Christian Bale the true A lister than he is to this day and it showed the world that the director of Mementowas truly a great director. Just think where we would be without it.
Batman: the hero we deserve… just as long as you’ve done your homework.

Batman: the hero we deserve… just as long as you’ve done your homework.

In which I say something outlandish and probably hugely offensive … on the Internet of all places. Sheesh! (Oh and as you can tell I’ve just found out how to take a screenshot on my new phone and went a little bit over the top in regards to my visual aids. For the single person who accidentally comes across this page and decides it’s worth a punt, I hope you can see them.)

A few weeks ago Simon Pegg tweeted in response to his first viewing of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.

Of course this prompted a vast array of replies from the typical Twits craving attention from celebrities and believing that following someone on a social networking site basically means you know them well enough to act like their friend. (But that’s an issue I should probably work on some other time.) The replies included attempts at humour referencing Miller’s infamous rant concerning the Occupy Wall Street protesters; general insulting and idiotic comments about Miller himself; and replies that actually pertained to Pegg’s original point (i.e. the relationship between Miller’s graphic novels and Nolan’s films).

To clarify his point Pegg followed up with this tweet:

It is this statement that started to get me a little riled up. The phrase “too few people will appreciate” is in keeping with the air of smug, superiority that I feel is in the background of Pegg’s writing. Before I go any further I’d like to point out that I, like most people in the world, am a big fan of Simon Pegg. From being a fan of Spaced when it first aired to thoroughly enjoying Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, I have always had a great deal of respect for the work that he is doing. However, there is something about his constant pop-culture references and allusions that give the impression that he‘s out to prove that he‘s better than all of us (I’m under no illusion that Simon Pegg is better than me but I find it off putting that he always has to remind me of that fact). I can’t help but feel that the inclusion of so many in-jokes and references are merely a device used to alienate a large section of the audience. There is no doubt that Simon Pegg is knowledgeable about all things relating to general geekery but his constant need to show us his knowledge has a pretty clear judgemental tone behind it.

Now back to the original point. The phrase “too few people will appreciate” is highlighting the fact that Pegg is obviously a fan of Frank Miller’s graphic novels whilst simultaneously suggesting that those who go to see The Dark Knight Rises without being aware of his material are worthy of criticism. An idea carried on to his next tweet:

The idea that people who go to see a comic book movie without being aware of the original source material is a horrible and incredibly pretentious suggestion. Now I’m aware that this is something of a hypocritical statement for someone who has probably not discussed TDKR without uttering the phrase “in the comics” at least once. However, I wouldn’t dare to group myself in with the Batman fans who have been following the comics for years. As someone who got into the Dark Knight, and comics in general, as a teenager rather than a child, I’m aware that I still have a lot to learn but it is being in this position that allows me to have a certain amount of detachment when it comes to the much-loved work of writers like Miller.

I find it strange that so many of the replies to Pegg’s tweets were angry about the fact that Nolan took inspiration from, and in some cases lifted scenes straight out of, the comics. I doubt any of them would have been happier had Nolan gone off book and written a completely freestyle script. That leads to terrible, Joel Schumacher style abominations after all. There is no getting away from the fact that the film’s are based on a popular comic book character and writers have continued to pen stories about Bruce Wayne and friends since 1939. Of course Nolan and his co-writers were going to look at certain stories (sensibly the most popular and critically acclaimed stories at that) to find inspiration for the films. Complaining about the use of ideas from The Dark Knight Returns or Knightfall is as stupid as watching an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and complaining that the writer references characters from Austen’s text. What we are really dealing with here is the awful hipster-ish quality of wanting it to be known that you liked something before it was cool or popular. I guess that a possible problem for a lot of die-hard Batman fans is that liking superheroes, something that was perhaps considered uncool and geeky, is now becoming something that absolutely anyone can enjoy. If the subculture becomes a normative part of the wider culture what does that mean for the original fans? They can no longer be differentiated from anyone else. Holy hipsterism, Batman! 

This is an idea that I have long associated with graphic novels as a whole. I find the term ‘graphic novels’ to be flawed and intentionally conceited. The definition of the term taken from the OED is “a novel in comic-strip format” which is fair enough. Graphic novels, as I see it, are basically longer comic books or, in some cases, collections of shorter stories that fall under one theme/idea. However, the term has become a way to make comics appear more socially acceptable and upmarket. It is a term that has come to have more importance for the readers than for the creators of  the graphic novels themselves. If I may quote Daniel Raeburn:

I snicker at the neologism first for its insecure pretension — the literary equivalent of calling a garbage man a ‘sanitation engineer’ — and second because a ‘graphic novel’ is in fact the very thing it is ashamed to admit: a comic book, rather than a comic pamphlet or comic magazine.

Sticking a hardback cover on a story told primarily through artwork does not magically make it better than a comic book. It is something that sellers picked up on to make works appealing to a wider audience. In an interview in 2000, Alan Moore also turned his back on the term.

 It’s a marketing term. I mean, it was one that I never had any sympathy with. The term “comic” does just as well for me. The term “graphic novel” was something that was thought up in the ’80s by marketing people… But no, the term “graphic novel” is not one that I’m over-fond of. It’s nothing that I might carry a big crusade against, it doesn’t really matter much what they’re called but it’s not a term that I’m very comfortable with.

Similarly, when Neil Gaiman was described as being the writer of graphic novels rather than comic books he suggested that he “felt like someone who’d been informed that she wasn’t actually a hooker; that in fact she was a lady of the evening.”

The term has never really sat well with me and there is a part of me that agrees with the idea that the difference between the comic book and the graphic novel is the binding. Yes a graphic novel may present more of a complete narrative but there is no need to remove the idea from the simpler format. Sticking the term graphic novel onto a collection of comics is a basic way of jacking up the price and allows self-conscious readers to feel better about their reading habits. I agree that there are some fantastic graphic novels out there but the inclusion of the word “novel” does make the work comparable to the likes of Ulysses. I’m all for keeping people happy but we need to keep a bit of perspective here. I’m sorry to say that you’re reading comics and having read them does not make you better than those who have not.

I went to see this film with a group of friends who had no real knowledge of the Batman universe and only had the last two films as a basis. I don’t see how it is possible to say that they would have missed out on a major aspect of the film because they weren’t sat there thinking “ooh that scene is lifted straight out of The Dark Knight Returns” and “this film has taken a lot of ideas from No Man’s Land”. As it  happened, the first time I saw this film I was trying to second guess Nolan and trying to look for plot twists where there were no plot twists. “Oh well if this is like such and such a comic then this will definitely happen” was constantly at the forefront of my mind and I wasn’t able to appreciate the finer points of the film itself.

Of course, I do admit that I found a small amount of pleasure whilst watching the likes of the “you’re in for a show tonight, son” scene taken straight from Miller’s story. Even though the inclusion of the famous ‘breaking the Bat’ scene from Knightfall was a necessity once Bane was chosen to be the villain I still rejoiced when it happened. Also, the allusions to No Man’s Land made for an interesting setting for Bane’s plan. Without a doubt I would recommend these titles and many others to those who enjoyed Nolan’s films but I fail to see how it aids your viewing to know who came up with the original ideas referenced in the final script. I was certainly less offended by people who hadn’t read the comics watching DKR than I was by the people who hadn’t seen Batman Begins. The first installment to the trilogy was vital when it came to the ideas being explored in the third. The people who had picked up on Nolan’s Batman thanks to the hype surrounding Heath Ledger would have been missing vital information that the director expected (nay needed) his audience to know. At least have the decency to watch the whole trilogy before you claim to be a fan.

As a final thought, if we’re saying that only comic book fans can watch and appreciate comic book movies what do we say of filmmakers unaware of the original material making superhero films? I’d like to ask those who are offended by an audience member watching DKR without having read The Dark Knight Returns whether the fact that Bryan Singer did not like the X-Men comics when he made the first film meant it was worthless and terrible. Cinema is a mass culture. As a secondary example, was it necessary for people to have read all of Tolkein’s books regarding Middle Earth before indulging in Peter Jackson’s outstanding films. Is it vital that people have read the ridiculous Tom Bombadil scene before they watch Elijah Wood and the guy out of the Goonies set off on their long walk? Of course it fucking isn’t! What about the Lion King? Not only does the story take ideas and themes from Hamlet but basically copied scenes directly from Kimba the White Lion, an anime series from the 60s. The Lion King is still one of the most popular Disney films of all time and many people consider it to be their favourite Disney film, if not all round film. Do we have to track these people down and tell them they can’t have it because they aren’t aware of the either of these sources? Yeah that sounds stupid doesn’t it.

Surely the point of film adaptations is to open up material to new people whilst still containing enough in-jokes and ideas that fans will appreciate? It’s barbaric. Cinematic apartheid is not a road we want to go down people. It should be enjoyed by all whether or not they spent their childhood devouring comics or not. To quote my favourite reply to Simon Pegg’s tweet: “Oh. And I rather enjoyed it too, I didn’t realise there was homework we had to do beforehand”. Kudos, my friend. Kudos.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The final instalment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy had a huge benchmark to reach as it was, without a doubt, the most anticipated film of this year. Particularly after the amazing success of 2008’s The Dark Knight which was a hit with both audiences and critics alike. The hype surrounding Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker has given The Dark Knight a better reputation than it really deserves. Ledger’s Joker aside, the film lacks a great deal of what made the first film so fucking awesome. The Harvey Dent/Two-Face storyline is as much of a fucking joke as the Spider-Man/Venom storyline in Toby Maguire 3. Then you have the annoying Rachel/Harvey/Bruce love triangle thing and a fucking stupid ending. Why was necessary for Harvey to be the good guy? Why not allow Gordon (a strong symbol of honesty, lawfulness and justice… also hotness) to step forward as Gotham’s White Knight? Yes, there were stand-out pieces (the sequence on the two boats is unforgettable) and great visual effects but I was certainly not one of the people who went into the third film predisposed to see only the Heath Ledger shaped hole.

In the four years between Ledger’s shock death in 2008 and the release of The Dark Knight Rises the rumour mill went into overdrive about who would be Batman’s next foil. (In a potential villain Fuck, Marry Kill, I’d definitely have fucked Neil Patrick Harris as the Riddler and killed Angelina Jolie’s catwoman). Nolan’s decision to make the material more realistic is both a blessing and a curse. It had taken the series in a wonderful new direction but had also limited the number of existing supporting characters that would fit the bill. Seriously, what the fuck could he have done to rewrite the likes of Man-Bat or Clayface into his gritty, gangster underworld? Ultimately though, there was only ever going to be one choice: Bane.
It’s fair to say that the Joker has always been the quintessential Batman nemesis. He is the Other to Batman’s crime fighting vigilante: a force for chaos acting against Bruce Wayne’s desire for order. On the other hand, Bane is the all important “big guy” when it comes to villains: the man who broke the Bat. A friend of mine came out of his first viewing of The Dark Knight Rises and insisted that Bane could never have been as terrifying as The Joker was. I could understand where he was coming from, Ledger and Nolan created a highly intelligent psychopath who made up for his lack of strength with his deadly mind games… and a pencil.
I also politely disagree. Bane is a fucking mountain. I sat throughout TDKR absolutely sure that Bane would definitely be able to punch through my skull without any trouble. He feeds off pain and gives the people of Gotham just enough rope to hang themselves with. He’s clever and has the strength to back it up. Tom Hardy did a great job with the character and certainly stands up next to the much-loved Joker. Well perhaps if we could hear him a little better.
Yes, we now find ourselves back in the all too familiar position that we found ourselves in with Michael Fassbender’s Magneto a year ago. Much has been made of the issues surrounding the recording of Hardy’s dialogue and there are multiple schools of thought. I neither know nor give much of a shit about what happened. All I can say for sure is that in the second and third viewings it gets a whole lot easier to figure out what the masked terror is shouting about. Although, a conversation between the mumbling Bane and the raspy Batman certainly makes for an interesting exchange.
The aspect of The Dark Knightthat was so compelling were the moments that the Joker and Batman got the chance to interact and play off each other. Unfortunately, Hardy and Bale share very little screen time in TDKR and that basically consists of the two beating the shit out of each other. The action sequences are, surprisingly, not the stand out sequences of the film. This is not to say that they are bad but I find myself preferring the more intimate moments where the main cast interact one-on-one.
Christian Bale and the usual suspects are all as good as they have been in previous instalments and they are joined by the equally wonderful Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle and Joseph Gordon Levitt as a young police officer, John Blake. It is the moments in which we see Gordon wrestle with his conscience and Alfred terrified for the young boy he watched grow up that provide the best moments. Thankfully, the cast are all more than up for the task at hand.
Although, I freely admit I was initially horrified when it was announced that Hathaway had been cast as Catwoman, Brokeback Mountain aside, I had seen very little evidence that she was worth her high reputation and the emotional scars from her attempt to sound like she was from Yorkshire in One Day still ran deep. Even I have to admit, she was a fucking badass in the end. Her eventual realisation that the coming storm may not be the blessing she first thought is played with an amazing subtlety. She also handled the action sequences remarkably well, which is more than I can say about the lovely Marion Cotillard who joined the cast as Miranda Tate.

The Dark Knight Rises is not a perfect film, the plot is not necessarily as strong as one might have expected, there are several annoying plot-holes and Bane’s plan does not feel quite as important as it should do. Then again this is a film, as the title suggests, about Batman’s struggle to get back to his position as protector. The journey Bruce must undertake from crippled, shut-away to the Dark Knight is captivating and there are plenty of old faces along the way to please any fan of the series. As an end to the trilogy, it does everything that it needed to do and was, as we all expected, highly entertaining. I, as I’m sure most viewers did, went out of the cinema feeling more than happy with the final chapter of this raspy-voiced Batman’s story.