batman tagged posts

Justice League

Director: Zack Snyder

Writer: Joss Whedon, Chris Terrio (screenplay and story), Zack Snyder (story)

Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Ciarán Hinds, Joe Morton, Connie Nielsen

Cert: 12

Running time: 121mins

Year: 2017


 


What’s the story: With Superman dead, the world teeters on the brink of social collapse. Bruce Wayne (Affleck) and Diana Prince (Gadot), Batman and Wonder Woman, seek out superhuman recruits for a team of protectors when a cosmic threat looms in the form of Steppenwolf (Hinds).

What’s the verdict: A franchise with no future will always look to its past. Wonder Woman riffed on 1978 Superman’s fish out of water sweetness and noble derring-do. A perfect antidote to Suicide Squad’s cynicism and meanness.

Jus...

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Batman v Superman – The Electric Shadows Podcast

Batman-v-Superman---Podcast-lead-image
Episode 3 of The Electric Shadows Podcast sees Rob Wallis and myself look at the long-awaited Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Or rather we have a mini-group therapy session to deal with the visual, aural and plot incoherence of visionary director Zack Snyder’s latest masterwork… And make suggestions on how it could be improved. And make a number of scatology based comments on its artistic shortcomings…

More of Rob Wallis’ musing on movies can be found at his site Of All The Film Blogs. Check it out (after listening to the podcast)…

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Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman-V-Superman-posterDirector: Zack Snyder

Writer: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Diane Lane

Cert: 12

Running time: 150mins

Year: 2016


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What’s the story: Two years after the events of Man of Steel, Bruce Wayne has declared war on Superman. After deaths in a rescue mission in Africa are blamed on him, the rest of the world is also split between seeing Superman as a saviour or threat. Elsewhere Lex Luthor has gained access to General Zod’s spaceship and his body. For what reasons? And who is that mysterious woman hampering Bruce’s investigation into Luthor?

Batman-V-Superman---Henry-Cavill,-Ben-AffleckBatman-V-Superman---Henry-Cavill,-Ben-Affleck,-Jesse-Eisenberg

What’s the verdict: We now live in a world where Batman & Robin is the second worst Batman film...

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25 years with Empire

“I had it Marcus. I had it in my hands.”

Raiders Empire cover - yellow - web version

Fitting that a Raiders of the Lost Ark quote comes to mind when writing about Empire hitting its quarter century. Spielberg is their director of choice: he edited the 20th anniversary edition in June 2009, the magazine published a “Director’s Collection” one-shot dedicated to his work in 2001 and named him the greatest director of all time in 2005.

And 25 years ago, in Wakefield General Store in Raunds, Northamptonshire (don’t look for it, it’s not there anymore), I held Empire issue #1. The one with Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder on the front. I had it in my hands. And I put it back.

The name of the cheaper film magazine I plumped for has long since evaporated from my pre-frontal cortex (Melanie Griffith in Working Girl graced the cover though), but the memory of having that premiere issue of Empire in my mitts has not.

My first Empire moment proper occurred in July 1989, laid up in Kettering Hospital recovering from an asthma attack. Mum was being splendid and buying me anything with Tim Burton’s Batman on the cover to cheer me up.Empire 25 feature - issue 2

This is how I came to have issue #2. An issue that featured a set-report on Burton’s Batman, a feature on Ghostbusters 2, a piece on a young upstart named Steven Soderbergh whose first film had just won the Palme D’Or, an interview with a 27 year old Jodie Foster, and a skewering of Meryl Streep in the late Tom Hibbert’s short-lived but amusing “glittering career” hatchet job series. Danny Baker may have even had a back-of-the-issue column.

And I realise it’s an indication of our infantalised, pop-culture obsessed era that one of my most committed, successful relationships is with a film magazine (albeit the world’s most popular one).

There were movie mags pre-Empire. The Monthly Film Bulletin, Sight and Sound (originally a quarterly that went monthly in 1991 after absorbing MFB) and Film Review are notable examples, but they rarely reached my sleepy commuter town.

Yet, like Facebook’s appeal to those indifferent to Bebo or MySpace, Empire’s tone, layout and focus struck a chord, just as its big sister music mag Q had done before it.

Despite being launched at Cannes it is ashamedly populist, but with quality writing and classy design the magazine has shaped opinion and created debate from the get-go. I remember a letter criticising the political nature of an early Heartbreak Ridge review. Apparently the two-star Silence of the Lambs video review (by that man Hibbert again) cooked up a banquet of hate mail.

And issue #2’s letter pages featured five angry missives about Hibbert’s evisceration of Mickey Rourke in the premiere issue. I’ve never read the piece; it sounds hilarious.

Empire 25 feature - Star Wars coversEmpire 25 feature - Lambs IssueEmpire helped shape geek culture by making the magazine as cool as the films it covered. And they also knew how to make an event an event (or a ploy to get more money out your wallet) by doing those multiple cover issues, beginning with the Star Wars Special Editions in 1997.

The trademark white cover, used religiously up to issue 100 (for the newsagent shelf magazine at least, if not subscriber issues), was distinctive and recognizable. Though not used as much anymore they flirt with it from time to time.

And is it me or is the masthead (and name) based on the Empire Diner glimpsed in the opening montage of Manhattan?

Like any relationship, the beginning is always the most exciting part and those early issues evoke fond memories still.

As a teen developing a love of cinema, it was thrilling to have a feature on cult movies in issue #8 when few were available on VHS and DVD (or ordering from America) was near sci-fi.

A weird and wonderful extended profile of David Lynch and his work in issue #15 was read and re-read.

The striking double page close up of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in a Silence of the Lambs piece entitled, “The doctor will see you now…” in issue #24 promised a horror film like no other.

And Empire has spotted talent early, awarding Reservoir Dogs, Shallow Grave and Memento five stars upon release and remaining good friends with their creators ever since. Handy when you need an exclusive.

There have been rough spells. Many of us will remember a less than purple patch in the mid-90s when the magazine devolved into endless lists. Imagine issue #301’s mammoth Greatest Movies of All-Time feature every other issue. Although at least the Empire staff would include 1968’s if…., the greatest movie of all-time.  I mean, Christ guys, The Fifth Element was on that 301 list, and voted above Suspiria, The Seventh Sign, My Neighbour Totoro, JFK, and M.

Empire feature - dinerLike every other incumbent, the internet has caused the magazine to rethink strategies. Wistfully I look back on the days when the cover story would involve a film out that month or next, rather than in a year’s time. Oddly, it seemed to make the mag seem more immediate and relevant.

But, the internet has created a culture of getting there first being as important as getting it right. Meaning last year an Empire interview with JJ Abrams had him assuring the mag (and its readers) he was all about Trekking the Stars, having no plans to War with them…

This drive for first position means wagons are hitched to a movie long before cameras roll. Optimism reigns supreme; what’s the point in covering a movie you think will be a dog?

Then, after months of features and teasers, it is fun to play the “veracity of the review” game. We knew the Farce would be strong with The Phantom Menace when Empire originally awarded it 4 out of 5 stars. There had been too much coverage, too much build up, too much excitement at the idea of another Star Wars movie (imagine that), for it to be a 4 star flick. It had to be 5; anything less meant there was something wrong with it.

The same goes for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Both those films’ follow-ups received the crimson celestial quintet. Smaug was generous but understandable, Attack of the Clones a sign of enthusiasm dulling the senses.

In some ways though, ‘twas ever thus. Empire’s cinema reviews have often had their critical edge blunted by the heat of publicity and anticipation.

An Empire video review of an over-praised movie back in 1994 nailed this dilemma with, “Are we allowed to say Philadelphia is not very good yet?”

But, the writing remains never less than enjoyable and often electric, forever putting clear blue water between it and the infinite monkeys flinging their thoughts into the cybersphere.The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug - Bilbo, Cumberbatch, Freeman

The monthly Masterpiece section provides fresh opinions on thoroughly dissected titles. A recent feature on The Master of Disaster Irwin Allen was an engaging, bouncy overview of a (semi)forgotten filmmaking legend.

And for anyone hurling brickbats that Empire’s mantra is “more pictures, fewer words” check out this snippet from Ian Nathan’s bizarre, irresistible psycho-critique of Matthew McConaughey in True Detective:

“(McConaughey) has got this whole post-rational prophet vibe going down, a man of deep and curdled thought riffing on Nietzsche, Poe, Lovecraft and oddball, deep-Google mystical brooders like Thomas Ligotti or neo-Darwinian, empathy-is-extinction shaman-anthropologist Carlos Castaneda.”

What would the reader moaning about Heartbreak Ridge’s write-up have made of that?

Empire 25 feature - issue 30018546I have held many issues of Empire in my hands since that almost-had #1. There were a few missed months during my years living in Japan. But, not The Last Samurai edition that had my Japanese colleagues giggling when I asked them to translate the spine quote – Tom Cruise’s “Respect the cock!” credo from Magnolia rendered in Japanese.

Still, it made me knuckle down with my s...

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Man of Steel

MOS - bannerDirector: Zack Snyder

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne

Cert: 12

Running time: 143mins

Year: 2013

The lowdown: Six years after Superman Returns, Bryan Singer’s sort of sequel to the original Superman movies, Batman reviver Christopher Nolan and Watchmen director Zack Snyder deliver the first real Superman reboot.  Going the origins story route that resurrected Batman Begins, Snyder, Nolan and Dark Knight co-writer David S. Goyer retell the legend of the lad from Krypton with the realism and grit now expected from comic book adaptations.  And happily the Bat-method has worked; Man of Steel is big, bold, epic moviemaking, not without flaws great and small but enough to get all suped up about a second instalment...

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The Dark Knight Rises

TDKR posterDirector: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cottilard, Matthew Modine

Cert: 12

Running time: 164 mins

Year: 2012

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The lowdown: The most eagerly awaited film of 2012 arrives with an Everest of expectation resting on its caped shoulders. But, with Christopher Nolan again at the helm and series familiars Bale, Oldman, Caine and Freeman joined by hot new blood Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard and a purr-fect Anne Hathaway, there was no doubt The Dark Knight Rises would deliver the goods. And it does so in awesome and ambitious style, mixing blockbuster spectacle with a gripping story that weaves in the Occupy Movement, banker bashing and the War on Terror...

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