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Batman – Year Two (Review/Retrospective)

23rd July is Batman Day, celebrating the character’s 75th anniversary. To celebrate, this July we’re taking a look at some new and classic Batman (and Batman related) stories. Check back daily for the latest review.

Batman: Year Two is an… interesting read. It’s much-maligned by comic book fans, and there are a lot of reasons for that. Most obviously there’s the fact that it really doesn’t make a lot of sense, but there’s also the fact that it was published by DC as a way of capitalising on the success of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Year One is a classic comic book story, one of the greatest origins ever written, and one that endures to this day, where even Scott Snyder felt intimidated in writing over it more than two decades after it was published.

Batman: Year Two is not that sort of classic.

In fact, it’s not any sort of classic. However, divorced from context, it’s an interesting read. It feels like writer Mike W. Barr is consciously and gleefully subverting absolutely everything that worked so well in Miller’s Batman: Year One, rejecting the notion of a version of Batman anchored in something approaching the real world, and getting right down to the comic-book-y-ness of the character. Positioning it as a sequel to Batman: Year One feels odd. It would almost read better as a rebuke.

Welcome to the late eighties...

Welcome to the late eighties…

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Watch! Spike Lee’s Oldboy Trailer!

If you haven’t watched the original Oldboy, you should really do so now. I’m not as head-over-heels in love with it as most, but it’s a stunningly powerful piece of film making, “visceral” in the strongest sense of the word. After years of trying to get the film off the ground, the American remake is incoming. I remember when there was gossip about a Steven Spielberg and Will Smith version, which it’s hard to imagine working anywhere near as effectively as the original. The team of Spike Lee and Josh Brolin, on the other hand, looks more likely to deliver something as twisted and bold as Pan Chan-wook’s original.

Anyway, the trailer’s below. So have a look and let me know what you think.

Non-Review Review: Men in Black 2

I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of any of the Men in Black films. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike, it’s just that they tend to be enjoyable and entertaining… and yet completely forgettable. Of the bunch, Men in Black II (or MIIB) is probably the most forgettable. Again, it’s not that it’s terrible – although some elements flat-out don’t work – just that there’s not really anything exceptional about it either. It’s a reasonably competent comedy adventure, even if it’s never an especially good one.

Black up there a minute…

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Non-Review Review: Men in Black 3

Men in Black 3 is a fine film. Like Men in Black and Men in Black 2, it’s a perfectly entertaining piece of popcorn entertainment if you’re willing to just go along with it. It’s not superb, it’s not exceptional, but it’s not bad either. It’s a decent movie. It manages to probably offer some better moments than the earlier two films, but these are averaged out by some painful deficiencies. You lose Tommy Lee Jones for most of the runtime, but you gain Josh Brolin. That’s a fairly reasonable trade, even if Brolin and Smith don’t share the same chemistry. You get the same wonderful production design, this time heightened by a sixties setting, but a plot that threatens to evaporate if you think about it too hard and any number of developments that are far too easy to predict. Nothing is truly fantastic, but nothing is exceptionally terrible. It just sort of is.

Putting the star in 69…

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Non-Review Review: You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger is – we’re told at the start by the (now seemingly customary) narrator – “a tale told by an idiot, filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing.” It doesn’t use the exact quote from Macbeth, but it references it pretty explicitly. However, this seems less like the genuine intention of Woody Allen and more like an excuse scribbled on the introduction to a term paper he couldn’t be bothered finishing, as if to declare to the world, “It’s okay if nothing is ever really resolved or developed and random stuff seems to occur for no reason – that’s the stylistic approach I’m adopting!” I don’t doubt that the movie’s inconclusive nature is undoubtedly intentional, but it’s inconsistency is still infuriating – perhaps more for the sections of the movie that do engage rather than those that meander. It’s not necessary a bad film – Allen is still a great storyteller, even when he doesn’t seem especially bothered – but it’s just not up there with Vicki Cristina Barcelona or even Match Point.

Growing old disgracefully...

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Non-Review Review: Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps

The words “too big to fail” are, understandably, bandied around quite a bit over the course of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. While they refer, of course, to the bloated financial institutions holding the world’s democracy to ransom, it’s hard not to get a sense that they could also apply to Stone’s film. The financial crisis continues to prove that Stone’s original Wall Street was a powerful condemnation of all-consuming unchecked capitalism, and one might assume that the timing is right for a sequel. Indeed, Stone’s attempts to make his movie reflect on the harsh economic climate are admirable – but one gets the sense that the director is unable to decide where to focus the camera. As a result, the film loses a lot of its punch as it jumps around from macro-economics to personal tragedies without thinking too much of the gap between them.

Family fortunes?

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Wall Street Guy

What with my review of Wall Street going up today and the release of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, I thought I’d post this quick bit of marketing genius from the guys over at Fox. Basically, somebody in the marketing department must have discovered that they were releasing a Family Guy DVD boxset on the same day as the 20th anniversary edition of Wall Street, and though it would be hilarious to mash-up Gordon Gekko and Stewie Griffin. It’s a fun little clip, and it shows that the marketing at the studio doesn’t exactly take itself too seriously (after all, I doubt there was too much overlap between the two fandoms), but it works.