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Holy Camp, Batman: The Redemptive Queerness of “Batman & Robin”…

The podcast that I co-host, The 250, will be looking at Batman and Robin this weekend. It is a fun discussion, well worth a listen, and I hope you enjoy. However, I had some thoughts that I wanted to get down before specifically about the film.

Batman and Robin is not a good movie, by any stretch of the imagination.

However, it is somewhat unfairly vilified. This is particularly true in comparison to its direct predecessor, Batman Forever. Very few people would attempt to argue that either Batman Forever or Batman and Robin were good films on their own terms, but the consensus seems to have formed around the idea that – to paraphrase Edward Nygma – Batman Forever was bad, Batman and Robin was worse. This calcified into the idea that Batman and Robin is among the very worst comic book movies ever, and Batman Forever is not.

It is interesting to speculate on why this might be. Batman Forever and Batman and Robin are both cynically constructed blockbusters aimed at the youngest and least discerning audiences, eschewing concepts like plot and characterisation in favour of cheap thrills and terrible jokes. Both films offer incredibly condescending exposition, betraying the sense in which they have been constructed for audiences with the shortest possible attention span. However, while Batman and Robin embraces this cynicism, Batman Forever clumsily tries to disguise it.

Much has been made of the fact that director Joel Schumacher wanted to make a better movie than Batman Forever. He singled out Batman: Year One as the Batman movie that he wanted to make. Traces of this better movie occasionally surface in discussions of Batman Forever and are often framed in reference to the film’s admittedly darker and more artistic deleted scenes. There is a clear sense that Batman Forever harboured something resembling ambition before it was brutally bent and broken into its final released form.

However, Batman Forever also offers its audience condescending and trite pop psychology. The result is a veneer of faux profundity that suggests hidden depths that the movie is unwilling and unable to explore. Batman Forever vaguely touches on the question of whether Bruce feels responsible for the death of his parents and the trouble he has reconciling the two halves of himself, but in no real depth. Two-Face is one of the primary antagonists of Batman Forever, and the film can’t even be bothered to make that thematic connection.

It’s interesting to wonder if Batman Forever has a slightly warmer reputation because of this unearned grasp at weightiness, these small gestures towards the idea of “psychological complexity” and “psychological nuance” in the most trite manner imaginable. After all, Batman Forever is a movie that has Bruce Wayne dating a psychologist, and feel inordinately proud of that idea. It’s easier to pass off Batman Forever as more mature or more considered than Batman and Robin, because it gestures broadly at ideas that are a little darker and more complex.

This is strange, because there’s a lot more interesting stuff happening in Batman and Robin. Unlike its direct predecessor, Batman and Robin makes no broad gesture towards profundity or insight. It is a profoundly stupid movie, and it is cognisant of both that stupidity and the audience’s relationship to that stupidity. However, there’s something much more interesting going on underneath the surface of Batman and Robin, in direct response to Batman Forever.

Batman Forever feels like a moral panic picture, a direct response to some imagined public outrage about certain earlier interpretations of the Caped Crusader. As such, it aims to produce the most generic and vanilla iteration of the character, the most boring and the most normative. What makes Batman and Robin so interesting is that it represents a firm rejection of that conservativism, and actively works to inject a lot of the queerness back into the Batman mythos. It doesn’t do this especially elegantly or smoothly, but it does it nonetheless. The results are compelling and engaging.

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188. The Truman Show (#177)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Kurt North, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Peter Weir’s The Truman Show.

Truman Burbank has the perfect life. He has a good job, a loving wife, a charming best friend. He lives an idylised existence, one where he wants for nothing. However, a series of freak occurences jolt Truman out of his blissful world and force him to confront a potentially horrifying reality: what if everything that he knows is just an elaborate lie?

At time of recording, it was ranked 177th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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“The Truman Show” Didn’t Just Predict Our Future, But Also the Future of How Movies Would Be Sold…

More than twenty years after its release, it feels like everything that might be said about The Truman Show has already been said.

The Truman Show is that rare Hollywood blockbuster that feels somehow simultaneously timeless, timely and prescient. It speaks to anxieties that resonate throughout history, fears that were very particular to the cusp of the millennium, and to nightmares that were yet to come. It belongs at once to that age-old anxiety that the world is an illusion and human comprehension is insufficient, to the difficult-to-articulate existential uncertainty of the so-called “end of history”, to a future in which everybody would willingly become the star of their own Truman Show.

Indeed, The Truman Show seems to say so much about the world outside itself and the human condition that it’s possible to miss the film itself. Peter Weir’s late nineties blockbuster is a surreal slice of history itself, a relatively big budget mainstream release starring one of the most famous people on the planet, built around a rather abstract high concept. Not only was the film a massive critical success, it also managed to survive and prosper against a heated summer season.

While its actual themes and contents might be dystopian, The Truman Show itself offers an optimistic glimpse of a kind of blockbuster that seems increasingly unlikely.

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Non-Review Review: Kick-Ass 2

Kick-Ass was a rare treat, a movie that managed to perfectly balance wry cynicism with an almost surreal optimism. It was the story of a kid with a crazy and reckless idea that somehow managed to do some genuine good. It was also arguably a movie that benefited from the fact that it wasn’t a franchise or a brand – it was cheekier and freer than most superhero films. While still an enjoyable ride, Kick-Ass 2 loses a lot of that edge.

"Right, so everybody has watched the Avengers, right?"

“Right, so everybody has watched the Avengers, right?”

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Win! Kick-Ass 2 Goodies!

Thanks to the wonderful people over at Universal Pictures Ireland and Kick-Ass 2 we have two (2!) Kick-Ass 2 goodie packs to give away.

Kick-Ass 2 is the sequel to Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman and Mark Millar’s 2010 hit Kick-Ass, one of our favourite superhero films of the past few years. Most of the cast is returning, including Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Kick-Ass, Chloé Grace Moretz as Hit Girl and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the Mother-f&%!#?. There are also several new additions, including Jim Carrey as “Colonel Stars ‘n’ Stripes”, but also Donald Faison and John Leguizamo.

It’s released here in Ireland next Wednesday, 14th August. You can check out the trailer below and get a glimpse of what’s in the packs below.

Simply fill out the form below to enter.

Each pack includes:

  • 7″ Action Figure
  • Character Pin Set
  • Kick-Ass Keyring
  • Hit Girl Keyring and Heroclix Mini Figure

It’s quite an impressive haul, as you can see below.

Kick-Ass-2---Packshot---High-res

To be in with a chance to win, fill out the form below:

The competition is now closed. Winners will be notified shortly.

Your contact details will only be used to inform the winners. You must be a resident of Ireland or Northern Ireland to enter. Good luck!

Check out more details on the Kick-Ass 2 facebook page.

Going Straight: Comedic Actors in Dramatic Roles…

New pictures from I, Alex Cross were introduced over the weekend. If you aren’t familiar with it, don’t worry – it’s an upcoming adaptation of an Alex Cross novel, the same series that gave us Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. While Along Came Spider wasn’t anything special, Kiss the Girls was a fairly decent nineties serial killer film, if not quite on the level of it obvious influences in The Silence of the Lambs and se7en. There were two surprises in these shots. The first was how incredibly freaky Matthew Fox looked – he looks pretty damn scary, so respect to Fox for pulling off that transformation. The second surprise was just how convincing Tyler Perry looked in the lead role. Perry is the latest in a long line of comedic actors looking to expand their range, and I can’t help but wonder why so many comedic performers tend to branch out so far.

Not a man you want to Cross…

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“Must Do Better”: Dramatic Talents & Wasted Potential…

There’s something very sad about Eddie Murphy. His latest movie, A Thousand Words, opened last Friday in the States with an almost impressive 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That means that there wasn’t a single reviewer who though that the movie was even “okay”, let alone “good” or “great.” It’s are to find a film that can generate such a consensus, although I don’t think anybody was especially astounded that Eddie Murphy headlined a comedy that was frustrating and disappointing. Of course, he has undoubtedly made a lot of money, and has decided that this is what he wants to do, but there’s something very frustrating about actors like Eddie Murphy, who have demonstrated uncanny ability, but seem willing to settle for generic film after generic film.

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Non-Review Review: Just Go With It

I have to concede, I think Adam Sandler is sort of struggling through something a transitional stage of his career. We’re past the point where Sandler can so easily play the angry young man who defined films like Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore or Big Daddy, so we’re faced with an actor trying reconcile himself with that fact. Now, it seems the actor is preoccupied with the idea of finally growing up – as we see in films like Grown Ups and Just Go With It. The problem is that Sandler isn’t nearly as convincing or as interesting as a mellowing out man instead of an acting-out manchild.

Divorced from reality...

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Non-Review Review: Bruce Almighty

I like Bruce Almighty. I’ll concede that I might even like it more than any other of Jim Carrey’s madcap comedies. I think that it’s easily among the best of the comedies he produced after the millennium, doing well from a strong supporting cast and nice central moral. It isn’t deep or profound, and it’s unlikely to offer any more philosophical insight than anybody had going in, but it also manages to avoid being completely vacuous or empty. It’s remarkably satisfying for a light screwball comedy, even if it is a little on-the-nose.

All at sea...

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Non-Review Review: A Christmas Carol (2009)

I’m yet to be sold on the Robert Zemeckis school of “motion capture.” Don’t worry, I don’t hold a prejudice. I’m just waiting to be convinced, and I worry that Zemeckis – for all his championing of the technology – might not be the one to do it. For, as impressive as the technical merits of his technique might be, I think that Zemeckis has yet to find a story that truly needs to be told in that format, or at least a story that resonates in that format. Much as Pixar have somewhat validated computer-generated animation (a school of filmmaking that met with a ridiculous amount of cynicism in its early years), I think the key to proving the worth of this sort of approach lies in finding a story that connects with audiences, while demonstrating the strengths of the tool being used to tell it.

While it’s an enjoyable enough holiday film, A Christmas Carol simply is not that film.

Totally Scrooged...

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