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New Escapist Column! On “Wednesday” and the “Superherofication” of Everything…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the massive success of Wednesday on Netflix, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the show in the context of larger pop culture trends.

Wednesday is an addition to the larger Addams Family franchise, focusing on the family’s eldest child. The show is built around the decision to send Wednesday to an elite private school for freaks and monsters, “Nevermore Academy.” The series obviously riffs on the genre conventions of young adult drama, particularly the high school show. However, it is also notable for leaning into another inescapable trend in contemporary pop culture. At its core, Wednesday is a superhero show.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the Forgotten Nineties Pulp Superhero Boom…

I published a new piece at The Escapist this evening. With the looming release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at Sam Raimi’s first superhero movie: Darkman.

Darkman is notable because it belongs to a wave of early nineties superhero movies that were heavily influenced by the pulp heroes of the thirties and forties: Batman, Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer, The Shadow, The Mask, The Phantom. This is a fascinating and often overlooked trend in the history of what would become the biggest genre in Hollywood. It’s interesting to look at these movies collectively, to place in the wave of a broader cultural nostalgia for the pop culture of the era.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “Batman Returns” as the Most Unconventional Christmas Movie…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. It’s Christmas, so it seemed like a good time to take a look back at one of the most underappreciated Christmas movies ever: Batman Returns.

Batman Returns is a decidedly unconventional Christmas movie, packed with weirdos and freaks, commercialism run amok and climaxing with the aborted mass murder of an entire city’s firstborn sons. However, it is this weirdness that makes Batman Returns such a delightful Christmas movie, and one that is arguably perfectly suited to this most strange and surreal Christmas. At its core, Batman Returns is a mood piece built around what it feels like to be lonely at Christmas.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

“… You Wanna Get Nuts?” The Unique Legacy of Tim Burton’s “Batman”…

Tim Burton’s Batman is thirty years old this year, having opened in Irish cinemas thirty years ago this weekend. It leaves a complicated and underappreciated legacy.

To be fair, at least part of that is down to how the series ended. Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Batman and Robin count among the worst blockbusters of the nineties and the worst comic book movies ever made. Taken together, they were responsible for killing not only that iteration of the cinematic Batman franchise, but also for effectively killing the superhero as a blockbuster genre until the triple whammy of Blade, X-Men and Spider-Man kick-started it again at the turn of the millennium.

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Non-Review Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children works best when it serves as a vehicle for Tim Burton’s imagination, exploring a world where tall tales seem to be real and monsters manifest themselves literally, where trauma and loss are explained through escape into fantasy, and where shadows distort and bend into uncanny shapes as if to suggest that there is so much more to this world than it might first appear. This is all stock Burton imagery, but the director approaches it with an endearing energy.

Unfortunately, there is more to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The film is not content to play as broad Burton fantasy of childhood mythmaking and coming of age. Despite an opening act that hints at something of a young adult follow-up to Big Fish, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children inevitably gets bogged down in the finer trappings of its young adult source material. Exposition is ladled on, rival orders are established, sequels are set up, familiar plot beats are not so much hit as hammered.

Movie night.

Movie night.

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Batman: Shadow of the Bat – The Last Arkham (Review)

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.

In 1992, DC comics launched Shadow of the Bat. It ran for eight years and ninety-two issues. Alan Grant wrote most of those issues, before his creative relationship with the publisher eventually broke down. (Grant is still upset about the manner of his dismissal.) As the driving force behind the book, Grant was able to give Shadow of the Bat its own unique flavour, focusing on the madness of Gotham, and the strangeness of its inhabitants.

The opening four-part story, The Last Arkham, remains perhaps the most definitive of Grant’s contributions to the Batman mythos, teaming up with artist Norm Breyfogle to offer a rather creepy and unnerving exploration of the city’s ever-slipping sanity.

Me thinks the Batman doth protest too much...

Me thinks the Batman doth protest too much…

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My 12 for ’13: Iron Man 3 & Shane Black’s Christmas in April

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 9…

While Tim Burton’s underrated Batman Returns remains the definitive superhero Christmas movie, Iron Man 3 comes pretty darn close. Which is very strange, for a movie released in towards the end of April in Europe and in the United States in early May. This paradoxical festivity is just one of the many ways that Iron Man 3 feels more like a Shane Black film than a piece of the expansive and ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe.

And that’s a good thing.


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Non-Review Review: Oz – The Great & Powerful

Oz: The Great & Powerful is a fabulous production. A few minor misgivings aside, it looks and sounds fantastic. Sam Raimi has done the best job bringing Oz to the screen since the original version of The Wizard of Oz all those decades ago. In its best moments, there’s an enthusiasm and a lightness of touch that fits the material perfectly and captures the wonder that we associate with Oz. It’s very clear that a lot of love and care was put into the production design of the film, and that Sam Raimi’s hand moved with the utmost consideration and affection for the original film. It makes it a little disappointing, then, that the script to Oz: The Great & Powerful should feel so undercooked, more like an early draft than a finished screenplay.

Up in the air or down to earth?

Up in the air or down to earth?

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Birthing Hips Sink Ships: Dark Shadows & Improbable Feminism…

I will concede that I am fonder of Dark Shadows than most. I’ve been disappointed with a lot of Tim Burton’s recent output, but something about his revival of the seventies soap opera worked strangely well. I’ll be the first to concede that it’s pretty esoteric. After all, like Casa de mi Padre, it’s effectively one single joke stretched across a film’s runtime. However, I couldn’t help but warm to it, at least because it seemed like Burton was enjoying himself a lot more than head been with films like Alice in Wonderland. There was something quite cheeky about it, from the way that it portrayed its central character as ridiculously unheroic through to the fact that it was perhaps the year’s most subversive feminist film.

Indeed, watching the film again this weekend, it struck me just how feminist the narrative actually was, despite the somewhat superficial distractions from that.


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Non-Review Review: Nick of Time

Nick of Time is an underrated nineties high-concept thriller that really runs on the charm of its cast and the skill of director John Badham.In a way, Badham seems stuck in a race against time that is just as tense as anything facing his protagonist. Badham has to make it from the start of the film to the final fadeout before the audience stops to think too much about the somewhat convoluted plot taking place. Nick of Time features perhaps the most ridiculously convoluted assassination attempt ever, but it’s generally so much fun that it’s easy not to get tangled in some of the logic problems.

They weren’t trained for this…

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