July 31, 2014

The Day He Arrives (2011)

If you wanted to write an instruction manual on how to produce the most archetypal bad arthouse movie, you could do a pretty good job just cribbing every creative choice from The Day He Arrives. It's a 2011 independent drama from South Korea, and pretty much nails every cliche it can on its way through.

The film, which is written and directed by Hang Sang-soo, follows morose film director Seong-jun as he returns to Seoul to catch up with old friends and confront his past. He meets his friends, drinks in a few bars, reunites briefly with an old girlfriend, wanders the streets, and has a generally depressed and high introspective time of it. There's more than a little of Samuel Beckett to the film, since he pretty much does the same things with the same or similar people twice.

It's worth running through all of the ways in which this film irritated me, not for the purposes of review but as a warning for future filmmakers to aggressively avoid this sort of thing. Reviewing the film is actually pretty easy: it's a boring, self-indulgent waste of time, and thankfully its obscurity will make it unlikely that many will have the misfortune of stumbling upon it.

Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva (2009)

Will there ever be a great motion picture adapted from a videogame? Certainly there have been a few reasonably enjoyable ones, and a fair share of watchable yet critically flawed attempts, but it seems generally agreed that the vast majority of game-to-film adaptations are pretty dire. One of the more recent attempts is Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, released in Japan in late 2009 and based on the popular puzzle-based adventure games for the Nintendo DS.

I entered the film with fairly high hopes – it is an animated feature, utilising the same animation and design work as the videogames it’s based on, and supervised by the original game design studio Level 5. The characters in the games are remarkably appealing, and they already boast a very film-like aesthetic and narrative. Sadly The Eternal Diva doesn’t quite live up to its promise, but it does remain an enjoyable distraction.

After a bizarrely inaccessible and confusing opening ten minutes – which includes two flashbacks, one nested inside the other – the film settles down to exploring a strange mystery. Archaeologist and renowned puzzle solver Professor Hershel and his apprentice Luke Triton travel to view a new opera performance whose composer, Oswald Whistler, has just adopted a young girl claiming to be the reincarnation of his dead daughter. Soon the situation explodes into death-defying escapes, radio-controlled sharks, a theatre that transforms into a cruise liner, a mysterious Atlantis-like island and – potentially – the secret to eternal life.

July 30, 2014

Doctor Who: "The Ordeal"

With Elyon dead, the Thal expedition continues their dangerous journey into the mountain ranges behind the Dalek city. When Antodus in injured in a rockfall, it leaves them with no opportunity to turn back - even if the path ahead seems impossible to traverse.

When we last caught up with Ian and Barbara, they were setting off on an expedition to stop the Daleks from killing off the peaceful Thals. When we end this episode, Ian and Barbara are still off on their expedition to stop the Daleks from killing off the peaceful Thals. Herein lies the problem: Terry Nation has seven episodes to fill with this serial, and to be honest he has the plot for four. The result has been more than a fair share of episodic padding and faffing about in an attempt to hide the fact that nothing is really happening here.

The Doctor and Susan do get a bit more to do. They return to the Dalek city, muck about short-circuiting some electronics, and wind up captives of the Daleks again. Fools.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "The Nagus"

One of the great things that Star Trek: The Next Generation did with the franchise canon was to take pre-existing Trek cultures like the Klingons and the Romulans and actually develop their backstories, religions, societies and the like. They took characters that had previously been simple plot cyphers and gave them depth and nuance. In the same vein, Deep Space Nine took a species from The Next Generation - the Ferengi - and not only installed one as a series regular, they gave them a similarly detailed treatment. That process begins with "The Nagus".

When the Ferengi leader, Grand Nagus Zek (Wallace Shawn), arrives on Deep Space Nine, Quark fears it's to buy his bar. Instead it's to establish Ferengi business interests in the Gamma Quadrant. When Zek unexpectedly dies, however, Quark finds himself unexpectedly advanced to the leader's role - and under target for assassination.

July 29, 2014

Kiki's Delivery Service: 25 years on

There are few films in the world more delightful to watch than Studio Ghibli films, and there are few Studio Ghibli films as delightful as Kiki's Delivery Service. I've heard it said that the first Hayao Miyazaki film you see will always be your favourite, and while I'm not entirely sure I could pick a favourite these days I can't deny I will always have the warmest of affections for Kiki.

Today it turns 25, since it was on 29 July 1989 that it premiered in Japanese cinemas. It remains one of my favourite films, so it seems appropriate to wish it a happy birthday.

It was a critical production for Studio Ghibli, since its preceding double-bill of My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies had failed to turn a profit, and the high cost of producing animation meant that the studio would close shop if Kiki wasn't a hit. Thankfully it turned a healthy profit, grossing almost three times its ¥800 million yen budget by the time it left cinemas.

PSX20 #9: Ridge Racer Type Four

PSX20 celebrates the 20th anniversary of Sony's Playstation videogames console by counting down my 20 favourite videogames for that platform. These aren't necessarily the best PSX games ever made, but they are the ones I liked and played the most.

Ridge Racer started life as a series of arcade titles, but like all mid-90s arcade games it rapidly found its way onto the PlayStation beginning in 1994. The original PSX Ridge Racer was one of the key early titles and went a long way towards selling the system in both Japan and overseas. Given its huge success it's no surprise that Namco followed it up with Ridge Racer Revolution in 1995 and Rage Racer in 1996. It was the fourth and final PSX Ridger Racer title, Ridge Racer Type Four (1998), that really grabbed my attention.

That's the thing with videogame sequels - they're almost the opposite of Hollywood, where the quality goes down with each instalment. Videogame quality tends to go up, as technology improves and designs refine. Type Four isn't just the best of the Ridge Racer games. It's my favourite racing videogame ever. I'm sure there are better titles out there, but for sheer nostalgia and the number of hours of entertainment found, Type Four is my sentimental favourite.

July 28, 2014

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "Move Along Home"

Deep Space Nine plays host to the first-ever delegation from the Gamma Quadrant - the myserious Wadi, whose interests seems less in diplomacy and more in the games at Quark's Bar. When they catch Quark cheating them out, they force him to play a game of their own - with the lives of Sisko, Dax, Bashir and Kira in the balance.

I'm not quite sure what to make of "Move Along Home". It's relatively awful - in fact I remember it being widely regarded as the worst episode of the season when it was first broadcast. At the same time there is a kernel of potential in what's presented. You can see a solid and inventive episode buried inside, but the episode as broadcast is basically an hour of silliness without a point to it. I despair that I will never see another decent episode this season.

The Pull List: 23 July 2014

Doctor Who has a long, rich history of being adapted into comic books. It is, in fact, the single longest-running comic book adaptation in television history. There's been a Doctor Who comic or comic strip running somewhere in the United Kingdom since 1964. In recent years the Americans have been in on the act as well, with IDW publishing several ongoings and miniseries. Some of those books were pretty decent. Some, like their 50th anniversary maxi-series Prisoners of Time, wound up being significantly less than decent. Obviously someone within the BBC wasn't happy, because IDW lost the license, and now an all-new range of Doctor Who comics are kicking off at British publisher Titan Comics.

Titan are simultaneously launching two Doctor Who monthly comics, both titled Doctor Who with the exact same logo. One features ongoing adventures for David Tennant's 10th Doctor and the other features ongoing adventures for Matt Smith's 11th Doctor. A 12th Doctor comic, featuring Peter Capaldi's interpretation of the character, has already been announced and will come along in a few months. This opens up a worrying possibility that we'll soon be seeing a monthly 9th Doctor comic, then an 8th Doctor comic, and before long we'll all be getting hit up for 12 monthly comics - one for each Doctor. Part of me would love to read a regular 2nd Doctor comic book. Another part of me screams for my bank balance.

Both books come with absolutely gorgeous painted covers by Alice X. Zhang. Really: they are the classiest comic book covers for Doctor Who since Ben Templesmith did some early ones for IDW. Absolutely stunning. Let's look at what's inside each one.

Under the cut: reviews of (deep breath) Doctor Who: The 10th Doctor, Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor, All-Star Western, Aquaman, Batman, Batman and Robin, Batman Eternal, Daredevil, The Flash, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Revival, Saga, Star Wars Legacy, Wild Blue Yonder and Wonder Woman.

July 25, 2014

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "The Passenger"

While en route to the station, Major Kira and Dr Bashir intercept a damaged Kobliad freighter. Onboard they find a security guard, Ty Kajada, and her dying prisoner, Rao Vantika. Despite Vantika's death, on arrival at Deep Space Nine Kajada insists her prisoner may still be alive. Has Vantika somehow faked his own death, and transferred his consciousness into someone else's body?

Here we go again: great concept, dreadful execution. This was originally a really cool concept for an episode of Star Trek, with a police officer trying to hunt down a vanished criminal only to learn that the criminal is actually hiding inside their own mind. It brings to mind all manner of Philip K. Dick novels and stories, and could have been a wonderfully twisted story rich with paranoia. The problem of course is that it would have been based around the guest star, with the regular cast relegated to supporting roles. That makes a certain amount of sense, and there's another good episode to be made here where we don't know which of the station command crew has been secretly possessed.

Except we do know, because for reasons known only to its creators "The Passenger" flat-out tells us within two minutes of the episode starting.

JSA: Joint Security Area (2000)

Park Chan-wook remains one of South Korea’s most acclaimed directors – and deservedly so. JSA: Joint Security Area would seem almost inarguably to be one of his best works.

A shooting has occurred across the demilitarised zone that separates North and South Korea. With both nations on high alert, an investigative team is dispatched on behalf of the United Nations. They are ordered to interview those soldiers involved and establish exactly what transpired that led to the fatal event. The diverging accounts, and the truth behind what happened at the titular “joint security area”, form the basis of this exceptional, unexpectedly human drama.

It is easy to fall into the assumption that there are two Koreas – the pro-US, democratic South and the anti-US, militaristic North. Korea is, culturally at least, still the one nation. Families and friends are separated across seemingly arbitrary border. The Korean War never actually ended – there was a cease-fire, but certainly no formal declarations or treaties exist. The demilitarised zone between the two Koreas remains a tense, rigorously monitored and patrolled border, and as such makes for a remarkable setting for a motion picture. It gives JSA an edge, as well as political machinations, the military and a constant sense of urgency.

July 24, 2014

The Equation of Love and Death (2008)

In the Chinese city of Kunming, a chain-smoking taxi driver named Li Mi (Zhou Xun) is obsessed with her mysteriously vanished fiancée. She questions her passengers about him one by one, runs strings of numbers in her head. Everything about him she keeps in a scrapbook on the passenger seat. When she unsuspectingly picks up an inept pair of drug dealers, her life is thrown further into disarray – and drawn face-to-face with a man who may or may not be the lover she lost so long ago.

Ignore the overly pretentious title – the Chinese title of the film translates as Li Mi’s Guesses – and believe me that this is an absolutely superb film. The Equation of Love and Death is a wonderfully off-kilter, quirky black comedy. While it does lose momentum during its second half there’s nonetheless enough here to keep you well entertained.

It is the second film by writer/director Cao Baoping, and follows his 2006 debut Trouble Makers. As far as I'm aware he hasn't made another film since.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "Dax"

A group of alien visitors attempt to violently seize Lieutenant Commander Dax and abduct her from the station. Once captured, they announce they are enacting a sanctioned extradition to take Dax back to their planet on a charge of murder. There's only one problem: the accused is former host Curzon Dax, and it is up to a Bajoran magistrate to decide whether one host can be tried for the crimes of another.

"Dax" (imaginative title there, guys) is one of those episodes where you can see the reasoning behind it, and you can see why the creatives thought it would make for an engaging hour of television, yet it's painfully obvious why it was never going to work. Jadzia Dax is a fascinating character with enormous scope for science fiction drama, and I imagine the writers were keen to start exploring her potential as soon as possible. At the same time a courtroom drama is an inexpensive format that could save money likely spent on the pilot, and can generate great character-based drama through dialogue and passioned debate. After all, this entire approach worked wonders for Commander Data in The Next Generation's "The Measure of a Man"; why not here as well?

July 23, 2014

PSX20 #10: Soul Edge

PSX20 celebrates the 20th anniversary of Sony's Playstation videogames console by counting down my 20 favourite videogames for that platform. These aren't necessarily the best PSX games ever made, but they are the ones I liked and played the most.

Soul Edge if you're in Japan, Soul Blade if you're in English language territories. Either way, this was a tremendously addictive and enjoyable fighting game that had me sitting in front of the television, PSX controller in hand, for months on end.

Namco's sword-wielding brawler originated in arcades, but by the end of 1995 it had been transported to the PlayStation in an expanded and considerably improved form, so much so that I'd argue it's the home console version and not the arcade original that's the definitive version. While weapon-based fighting games had been made before (the Samurai Shodown franchise being an obvious example), Soul Edge was the first game of its type among the PSX generation polygon-based titles. It took an awful lot from Namco's Tekken games, but managed to introduce enough fresh ideas and game mechanics to feel very much like its own game.

Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler (2009)

Kaiji Ito (Tatsuya Fujiwara) is a listless 30 year-old compulsive gambler. When a friend whose loan Kaiji promised to guarantee skips his payments, Kaiji finds himself confronted by a local loan shark and given two choices: pay up the millions of yen in debt and interest, or take his chances on a high stakes card game on a cruise liner. When that escapade fails Kaiji finds himself forced into indentured service building a vast underground city - with only one chance to make it out.

Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler is one of a wide array of live-action adaptations of popular manga. In this case it adapts Fukumoto Nobuyuki's Ultimate Survivor Kaiji, a long-running serial that's been published off and on since 1996. It joins other live-action films of recent years including Bunny Drop, Rurouni Kenshin, Death Note (which shares much of this film's cast) and several others. I think it's important to remember that the film is adapted from a manga, because taken on its own merits it's ridiculously unbelievable, emotionally over-the-top and utterly silly.

July 22, 2014

The Pull List: 16 July 2014

Rat Queens is a feral, foul-mouthed, inappropriate, hilariously funny Dungeons & Dragons riff featuring a cast of characters so distinctive and entertaining that the book actually transcends its pulp sources and really becomes its own thing. I was sucked in by the first trade paperback, and picked up the next monthly issue in June. Now I'm back reading issue #7 and it continues to be one of the best comics on the market.

This isn't a book that will please everyone. For one thing its lead cast tend to drink, swear and sleep around quite a lot. On the other their responses to their monster-fighting high fantasy life are so bluntly realistic that they make the whole book feel like a breath of fresh air. This issue develops the latest threat to the frontier city of Palisades - giant demonic tentacles are involved, as is a god called N'Rygoth - but also manages to give the characters some unexpected depth and nuance. Whereas they started back in issue #1 as cyphers for jokes, they're now becoming fully-developed and three-dimensional people. That's taking the book up a notch from hilarious pastiche to something altogether better.

Kurtis J. Weibe is just getting better and better as a writer. I adored his earlier miniseries Debris (with Riley Rossmo) but this is a leap even better. Roc Upchurch's artwork is fabulous and filled with personality and emotion. If you've ever wanted Princess Leia to punch Darth Vader in the face and tell him to stick his Death Star up his ass, or for Frodo to proclaim 'fuck this shit' and make a beeline for the nearest pub, this is your comic book. (5/5)

Under the cut: reviews of Batman Eternal, Batwoman, Eye of Newt, The Last Broadcast, Robin Rises: Omega, She-Hulk, Silver Surfer, Umbral and The Wicked + The Divine.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: 60 years on

Nostalgia-fests for this blog have covered The Lion King and The Shadow's 20th anniversaries and The Muppets Take Manhattan's 30th. Today I want to jump back even further, because today is the 60th anniversary of Stanley Donen's 1954 musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

We tend not to talk about Seven Brides too much these days, probably because it's based on a fairly repellent premise: a farmer comes down from the mountain into town and finds himself a wife. His six brothers then kidnap another six women and hold them hostage over winter until Stockholm syndrome runs in course and all the women fall hopelessly in love. On the other hand the film's got a nice line in hummable songs and at least one stand-out dance sequence. What's a musical lover to do?

As always the key to enjoying Seven Brides is context: its premise is unsettling to us today, but in 1954 it was considered harmless fun. The film was a big hit for MGM at the time, far more so than their intended prestige musical for that year - Vincente Minnelli's comparatively sterile Brigadoon. Seven Brides even lost some of its budget to Brigadoon mid-shoot, so it must have been satisfying for Stanley Donen and his crew to see Seven Brides become one of the year's biggest hits and win an Oscar while Brigadoon lost a truckload of money.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "Q-Less"

The runabout Ganges returns to Deep Space Nine from the Gamma Quadrant with an unexpected passenger: Vash, a human archaeologist last seen departing the USS Enterprise with the omnipotent entity Q. Sure enough, as soon as Vash in onboard Q is not far behind, desperately attempting to secude, goad and threaten her back into travelling the universe with him. Meanwhile the station begins to suffer unexplained power failures - is it Q's work, or is something else going on?

Deep Space Nine's uncertain reliance on The Next Generation continues. The pilot featured Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise, and "Past Prologue" included Lursa and B'Etor; now "Q-Less" guest stars John de Lancie as Q, pretty much the definitive antagonist for The Next Generation. Therein lies the problem: Q is a TNG villain through and through, and despite the best efforts of the cast and writers Hannah Louise Shearer and Robert Hewitt Wolfe his wacky hijinks are an ill fit for the already darker and more complex style of Deep Space Nine.

July 21, 2014

Fearless (1993)

The other day I reviewed Dead Poets Society, a 1989 drama directed by Peter Weir. It was four years before Weir directed another film, but I personally think it was worth the wait. Fearless (1993) focuses on the aftermath of a horrific passenger jet crash, specifically on the effect it has on architect Max Klein (Jeff Bridges), who walks freely from the crash site but whose life gradually falls apart over the following weeks and months.

It's a beautifully structured film, because while the entire story follows from the crash we actually begin after the plane has hit the ground. It's entirely about repercussions, and Weir deliberately avoids showing us anything that is going to sensationalise what has occurred. Instead he focuses entirely on character - not just Max but also his wife Laura (Isabella Rossellini) and fellow survivor Carla (Rosie Perez), whose infant son did not survive the crash.

July 20, 2014

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "Captive Pursuit"

Deep Space Nine has a first encounter with a humanoid reptile from the Gamma Quadrant. He calls himself "Tosk", although it's unclear whether that's his name or his species. He's desperate for O'Brien to repair his starship so he can be on his way. Even after he's caught trying to break into the station's armoury he still refuses to explain who he is or what he's running away from.

"Captive Pursuit" is a step down in quality from Deep Space Nine's first few episodes, but it is still an entertaining hour of television. Unlike previous episodes it doesn't really establish a new character relationship, and it doesn't further explore the Bajoran recovery. Instead it showcases Chief O'Brien, and delivers a by-the-numbers Star Trek story of moral quandary and phaser-shooting action. That's not always a bad thing. I like some good phaser-shooting action from time to time.

Dungeons & Dragons 3: The Book of Vile Darkness (2012)

First there was 2000's Dungeons & Dragons, a hilariously awful movie that made quite a bit of cash purely by being the right film at the right time. The Lord of the Rings was coming, everybody was getting rather excited, so Warner Bros figured they'd give an aspiring filmmaker named Courtney Solomon the chance to adapt his favourite role-playing game to the big screen. It had a few big names in it - Jeremy Irons, Thora Birch (pretty much killing her career stone dead after such a promising break in American Beauty) and Marlon Wayans - and while not hugely expensive had enough of a budget to avoid entirely embarrassing itself. Most of the embarrassment came from the direction and the really, really awful script.

Five years later a UK/Lithuania co-production (no really) saw the original film get a sort-of sequel: the only actor to return was Bruce Payne, who played Jeremy Irons' henchman in the original. This production managed to feel a bit more authentic in terms of adapting the game, and had an ordinary but not shockingly awful screenplay. It was a pleasant D-movie distraction: hardly worth hunting down, but enjoyable enough if you were addicted to elves and dragons and had a Sunday afternoon spare. Personally I'm an absolute sucker for low budget high fantasy cinema. I go into every movie with a lot of hope, and go out of them hoping the next one will be better.

It turns out that in 2012 someone else had another go at a Dungeons & Dragons movie. This one is Dungeons & Dragons 3: The Book of Vile Darkness, directed by Gerry Lively (who also directed the second film).

July 19, 2014

Bodacious Space Pirates: "A Beautiful Launch"

Marika and Princess Gruier receive data on the location of the golden ship, but before they set off to find it they must return to school for a series of meeting and conversations. Jenny plans a school yacht club cruise to cover for Marika's absence. Chiaki admits that Barbaroosa will be hunting down the ghost ship and destroying any rivals on the way. Not a lot else happens.

I just cannot get my head around this series. Every time it feels like the show is finally firing on all cylinders, I find an episode like this one. Very little happens here. It ends pretty much where I figured it would begin, with the Bentenmaru finally off on its quest to find the long-lost 'golden ghost ship'. Quite why it takes so long to get there is beyond me.

Dead Poets Society (1989)

It wasn't intentional, but for some reason in recent weeks I keep finding myself watching movies directed by Peter Weir. He's possibly the most talented Australian director of all time. No, not possibly, he is our greatest-ever film director: incisive, inventive and thoughtful.He works at a fairly slow pace - since 1980 he's averaged one film ever three years - but his films are uniformly excellent. There aren't many directors you can point at and claim they have never directed a bad film. I honestly believe Weir is one of them.

One of the films I watched recently was Dead Poets Society, a 1989 drama written by Tom Schulman. In an elite American prep school, a group of teenage boys have their lives changed with the arrival of their new English teacher John Keating (Robin Williams). One boy in particur, Neil (Robert Sean Leonard), is enboldened to push back against his pressuring father and finally dictate his own future.

It would be relatively easy to dismiss Dead Poets Society. It has that nostalgic vibe you get in a period piece. It follows young men through a critical phase in their lives, as they move towards adulthood, start following their own dreams and chasing after sex and romance in a big way. It's got Robin Williams in a very big, theatrical role. He struts and quips and jokes around. He makes his students laugh and fills their minds with easy-to-digest ideas of independent thinking and resistance to authority. Then you start picking at the film's details, and really taking a look at its narrative choices, and it becomes apparent just how good a film this is.

July 18, 2014

Snowpiercer (2013)

17 years after a catastrophic accident freezes the surface of the Earth, the last survivors of the human race live on the Snowpiercer, a high-tech passenger train in perpetual motion. Those in the train's front carriages live decadent lives of luxury and comfort. Those in the tail live in cramped conditions and abject poverty, exploited by those in the front and kept in charge by violent armed guards. One tail-ender, Curtis Everett (Chris Evans), inspires a popular revolt. If he and his friends can take over the train's engine, they take over the world.

Snowpiercer is one of those marvellous kind of international productions that gets me tremendously excited: it's an English language science fiction thriller directed by a Korean, shot in the Czech Republic and based on a French graphic novel. It is also the best new film I have seen this year. It is tense, intelligently performed, inventively staged and emotionally powerful. Its director, Bong Joon-ho, has previously directed some of the best contemporary films of his home country, including Memories of Murder (2003), The Host (2006) and Mother (2009). They're all pretty much masterpieces of cinema. Snowpiercer is better.

Drug War (2013)

When mid-level drug boss Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) is captured by mainland Chinese police - led by the stoic Captain Zhang (Sun Honglei) - he turns traitor on his underground empire, leading the cops into a complicated sting operation to shut down a lucrative methanphetamine ring.

I am a huge fan of Hong Kong writer/director Johnnie To. I think he's the bees knees: easily the best director working in Chinese-language cinema today and arguably one of the best who's ever directed for film ever. He is the definitive post-handover Hong Kong director: building on a foundation laid by the likes of John Woo, Tsui Hark and Dante Lam, but finding his own slightly odd idiosyncratic route through the traditional Hong Kong film landscape. He may make wacky romantic comedies, and an awful lot of semi-automatic-wielding crime thrillers, but he makes them in a way where unexpected things constantly happen, and the action is regularly punctuated by moments of messy, inconvenient realism.

July 17, 2014

Judging the New 52: June 2014

Sales figures for Diamond Distribution are out for June 2014, so it seemed an opportune time to see how DC's New 52 superhero books are faring mid-year.

June saw a lot of books come with 'bombshell' alternative covers, depicting various DC superheroines and sidekicks in sexy poses like old-school 1940s and 1950s glamour illustrations. I found the whole exercise more than a little skeezy to be honest, but that didn't stop a lot of books enjoying a massive sales bump for the month. Aquaman jumped 12,000 copies, The Flash more than 13,000, and so on. Batman got a 23,000 unit sales spike. This wasn't pocket change for DC: I suspect the success of this set of covers is going to lead to more and more alternative cover gimmicks every month until the market tires of it.

DC Comics released a brand-new monthly in June: Infinity Man and the Forever People, another adaptation of old Jack Kirby characters by Dan Didio and Keith Giffen. It shipped an estimated 24,907 copies through Diamond Distribution - that's the lowest launch of a DC monthly in the history of the New 52, beating previous record holder Sword of Sorcery by about 2,000 copies. Sword of Sorcery lasted eight issues. I'd expect something similar from this. As I've noted in my Pull List reviews, it's not a bad comic by any stretch but certainly not good enough to sustain itself beyond its first year.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "Babel"

Chief O'Brien is overrun with repair duties across the station. While fixing a food replicator he accidentally triggers a long-dormant booby trap - one that unleashes a virus that renders its victim incapable of understanding or expressing intelligible speech. While Kira, Bashir and Sisko race to find a treatment, the entire station falls under quarantine - and those infected begin to suffer more severe and life-threatening symptoms.

"Babel" is a bit of a break from the more character and backstory-heavy episodes that launched Deep Space Nine. While there's still some good character development and enrichment going on here, it is at heart a very self-contained and wonderfully tense medical thriller. Director Paul Lynch teases out a fabulous sense of rising tension in this episode: there's a growing horror that builds each time another member of the cast falls victim to the mystery virus.

July 16, 2014

PSX20 #11: Resident Evil 2

PSX20 celebrates the 20th anniversary of Sony's Playstation videogames console by counting down my 20 favourite videogames for that platform. These aren't necessarily the best PSX games ever made, but they are the ones I liked and played the most.

Resident Evil (Biohazard in Japan) was one of the franchises that seemed to really make the PlayStation: Capcom's George A. Romero-inspired pastiche created the most effective horror games to date, and sold consoles by the bucketload. Now I personally found the original Resident Evil to be a fairly awful game: it was crippled by one of the worst control mechanisms I had seen and had some very silly live-action video sequences. Its 1998 sequel, however, is a different story.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "Past Prologue"

Major Kira finds her new position in the Bajoran government sorely tested when she crosses paths with Tahna Los, a former member of the Kohn-Ma terrorist cell that has continued to attack Cardassian outposts well after their withdrawal from Bajor. Meanwhile Dr Bashir meets Garak, a Cardassian tailor living on the station who may or may not be a spy.

I like that, only three episodes into the series, Deep Space Nine is bold enough to dive straight in and start exploring issues of post-conflict politics, terrorism, trust and compromise. This is exactly the kind of story that DS9 was built for, and which The Next Generation struggles to achieve. The Next Generation covered the Bajoran recovery once, in Season 5's "Ensign Ro". DS9 is embedded in Bajoran politics, and will be for the next seven years.

July 15, 2014

7 bad films with great soundtracks

It was producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson who wised up to the commercial possibilities of the pop music tie-in soundtrack to movies. While movie soundtracks obviously long pre-dated them, they were pretty much the first to specifically produce and tailor a various artists album of songs to coincide with the release of - and help promote - their movie. They did it with great success to Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop and a string of others. This trend really exploded into the 1990s, when pretty much every Hollywood feature seemed to have its own soundtrack album in tandem with a more traditional recording of the orchestral score.

When it comes to the soundtrack album, often half of the songs don't even make it into the movie. Maybe they're "inspired" by the film, but more often than not a bunch of disparate pop hits are thrown together and the movie's poster slapped on the front of the CD. Some are good, some are bad. This leads to a special situation I've often noticed: really quite awful movies that get blessed with an absolutely stunning soundtrack album. It's like a silver lining on a cloud of excrement. Here are my personal favourites.

The Pull List: 9 July 2014

Another week, another new Image book. This one is Death Vigil, about the recently deceased getting recruited by a sexy blonde Grim Reaper to fight demons.

This is not an original comic book. It follows a path furrowed by many a preceding comic book, and gets jammed in the potholes more than once. Stjepan Šejić is drawing a long tradition in this sort of comic book, which emphasise gorgeous-looking sexy people fighting sexy monsters and villains, while sharing in witty, vaguely self-aware dialogue as they go. This is by no means the worst comic of this type that I've ever read, but you have to really like this kind of book to get anything out of it. I'm not particularly enamoured with it, so for me this book came up wanting.

On the plus side: the artwork is very expressive, with the best character expressions I've seen since Jamie McKelvie. It's also a super-sized premiere issue for the price of a standard book, so there's certainly value for money going for it. This is a bit of a two-edged sword, however, since I get the impression Šejić doesn't use the extra length to give us more plot. Rather, he uses it to tell a flabbier version of a story a better writer could tell in fewer pages.

I do think he's a fabulous artist, but a middling writer, and with time he might develop his skills and come up with something quite wonderful. For now, however, we have Death Vigil: you may like it if you like this sort of thing. (2/5)

Under the cut: reviews of Batgirl, Batman Eternal, Daredevil, Detective Comics, The Empty Man, FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics, Grayson, Infinity Man and the Forever People, Red City, Star Wars, and Worlds' Finest.

July 14, 2014

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "A Man Alone"

When a former Bajoran criminal arrives on Deep Space Nine, Odo wants him off straight away - even going as far as threatening physical violence. When the same Bajoran turns up dead in a holosuite, Odo suddenly shifts from chief investigator to prime suspect - and a lynch mob is building up outside of his office.

"A Man Alone" is an excellent episode. It's not great because it's central murder mystery is great; in fact, the mystery is the episode's weakest element. It's a great hour of television because it simply uses the plot as a framework, and spends most of its time further exploring the series' cast of characters. In particular it cements the relationship between Odo and Quark, which is one of my favourite parts of the whole series. They're essentially on opposite sides of the law, but there's a respect there and an almost perverse level of affection. It helps that both Armin Shimerman (Quark) and Rene Auberjonois (Odo) are such strong actors, because they play a lot of emotions in between the lines they're given.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: "Emissary"

A while back I reviewed the second season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, pretty much out of curiosity over how it compared to the first season of Babylon 5, which was broadcast at pretty much the same time. It's still my favourite of the Star Trek series, and while I've been enjoying my episode-by-episode rewatch of The Next Generation I felt like a slight break and have jumped back to the very beginning of Deep Space Nine. Yes, I know, not much of a break - one Star Trek to another. It's really striking how different a series it is, when watching with "Emissary", the 90 minute premiere episode.

Three years after losing his wife during the Battle of Wolf 359, Starfleet Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) accepts a position commanding the new Starfleet facility Deep Space Nine. When a wormhole is discovered a few light years from the station, it sets off a crisis that will make or break Sisko and the station he commands.

July 13, 2014

The Muppets Take Manhattan: 30 years on

Today it's been 30 years since The Muppets Take Manhattan, the third feature film based on Jim Henson's Muppet characters, was released into cinemas. Today is aso the 30th anniversary of failed sci-fi blockbuster The Last Starfighter, but to be honest I'd rather talk about Muppets.

I think it's interesting to look back on this film in hindsight, because at the time there was very much a sense that this was the Muppets' last hurrah. Jim Henson aand his growing troupe of puppeteers had been performing as the Muppets since the late 1950s, and by 1984 he was well and truly prepared to move on. He had made a jump from television to directing feature films - first with The Great Muppet Caper and then with his acclaimed fantasy The Dark Crystal in 1982. At the time of The Muppets Take Manhattan's production he was neck-deep in preparations for directing Labyrinth for Lucasfilm Ltd, and happily ceded control of the third Muppet movie to his long-time colleague (and co-director on The Dark Crystal) Frank Oz. That's significant in itself, because Oz didn't stop directing with The Muppets Take Manhattan. To date he's directed another 10 movies, including some absolute classics including Little Shop of Horrors, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Death at a Funeral.

July 11, 2014

10 awesome contemporary films directed by women

A post on Indiewire this morning reported that screenwriter James Vanderbilt has signed on to make his directorial debut with the forthcoming drama Truth starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford. The post highlighted the uncomfortable fact that this kind of story - where a first-time director gets a huge break on a high profile film - never happens to women.

It's not a controversial statement to claim that film industries around the world are patriarchal spaces (what industry isn't?). It's very difficult for women to get directorial assignments, and certainly all-but-impossible for them to get backing to make larger-scale films within the studio system. Whenever this problem is raised in filmgoer conversations, someone inevitably points out Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker and Point Break, as if the presence of one woman in Hollywood somehow argues for the presence of many others. The same goes for the late Nora Ephron, who found enormous commercial success with her romantic comedies, as well as Nancy Meyers, whose oddly misogynistic comedies (What Women Want, Something's Gotta Give) once made her the most commercial successful female director in the world.

In the interests of furthering the conversation on women in film, I figured it might be worth pointing out 10 great contemporary films directed by women. This isn't some kind of "best films directed by women list"; it's simply 10 films, released since 2000, that were directed by women other than Kathryn Bigelow (because we all seem to have her covered) and that are well worth tracking down and watching. Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

Dune (1984)

It has been a long time since I last watched Dune, David Lynch's 1984 adaptation of the classic Frank Herbert novel. As a child I found it visually fascinating but difficult to follow. As an adult it's still visually fascinating, but while it remains difficult to follow it's very clear why and how those difficulties have occurred. Condensing an inch and a half thick science fiction epic into a 137 minute movie is a pretty big ask, and while I think Lynch made a valiant attempt it's clear that his end product fails to a certain degree. This is a case where a movie is worth watching because it's interesting, rather than because it is good.

In the far future, a manipulative Emperor pitches two rival houses against one another in the hope of eliminating one entirely. This has a knock-on effect of bringing about an ancient prophecy, giving rise to his greatest enemy and causing his own downfall. Plus there are giant sand worms and Sting is in it. I don't know. It's a complicated story to tell in a single feature film: you try and write a three sentence synopsis of the damn thing.

July 10, 2014

Air Doll (2009)

An inflatable sex doll spontaneously comes to life. When her owner heads out to work each day, Nozomi sneaks out herself. She meets the various people living in her neighbourhood. She finds herself a job at the local video library. She even tentatively begins a romance with a co-worker. Through her adventures, she tries to work out what it is to be human.

Sadly the answers she finds to her philosophical questions are ultimately not kind ones. Air Doll is a very strange movie. It begins with a fairly skeezy-sounding premise and certainly has more than its fair share of on-screen nudity. By the halfway point it's become something rather bright and wonderful, displaying a sort of naive optimism that wouldn't be out of place alongside Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie. By its final act it's overwhelmingly depressing. I've seen the film described elsewhere as a tragedy - that overplays the emotions at work here. I'm not sure what the correct word is: disappointment comes to mind, although it's not a disappointing film.

July 9, 2014

Batman & Robin (1997)

In 1995 Warner Bros released Batman Forever to widespread popular acclaim. The film relaunched the studio's Batman franchise in a new direction under director Joel Schumacher, and most importantly for the studio it was a licensing juggernaut. Toy manufacturers and sponsors who had felt badly burned by Tim Burton's less commercially oriented Batman Returns had flocked back to the property in droves. Indeed the studio was so keen to see another Batman film from Schumacher that they greenlit in on an accelerated schedule. Rather than be released in 1998 as original planned, Batman & Robin would be released a year earlier in the summer of 1997.

In Batman & Robin, Gotham City's masked crime fighters Batman (George Clooney) and Robin (Chris O'Donnell) come up against the super-criminals Mr Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). Meanwhile Wayne Manor is visited by Barbara Wilson (Alicia Silverstone), niece to Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Gough) and secret motorcycle riding daredevil.

July 8, 2014

In the Dust of the Stars (1976)

Let’s talk about In the Dust of the Stars, aka Im Staub der Sterne. It was produced in 1976, it’s many things: it’s odd, it’s camp, it’s hilariously dressed in vinyl and pleather. It has an unusual interpretive dance sequence. It’s in German, and it’s communist propaganda. The film was produced by DEFA, a state-owned production studio in East Germany, and a little knowledge about DEFA will go a long way to explaining the sort of environment in which In the Dust of the Stars was made.

DEFA (Deutshce Film AG) was a production company licensed by the Soviet Allies in May 1946. As part of East Germany’s new system of government, DEFA was a wholly government-owned production company, charged with producing feature films, television programs, documentaries and animation. It was initially part-owned by East Germany and partly by the Soviet Union, but in 1953 the USSR handed over its stake allowing it to be a 100% German endeavour.

At its height the company was producing about 15 feature films, 100 short and documentary films and about 55 animated shorts and television cartoons. The company’s films accounted for about 12% of all films screened in East Germany between 1946 and 1990. It was the largest East German film company, and by the mid-1960s the country’s largest distributor as well – both domestically and overseas.

July 7, 2014

An Empress and the Warriors (2008)

An Empress and the Warriors, directed by Ching Siu-Tung and starring Kelly Chen, Donnie Yen, and Leon Lai, is a romantic action epic set in ancient China. A princess named Yen Feier (Chen) inherits a kingdom when her father is murdered. When an attempt is made on her life she is rescued by a handsome monk (Lai), and recuperates with him deep in the forest. They fall in love, Yen abdicates her crown, and then she is forced to return when politics back home spill into a bloody civil war.

Ching Siu-Tung is best known as the director of the Chinese Ghost Story trilogy. He shoots a very pretty film here. The forest vistas are gorgeous, and the film draws a lot of mileage from the Chinese countryside. Coupled with this is some fantastic costume design – much of the armour in particular is beautifully elaborate. The actors are all good, and generally do what they're best at - Donnie Yen in particular is impressive, and gets a wonderful fight scene towards the film’s climax. Ultimately, however, there’s nothing here to make me want to recommend it too heavily. It’s one of those films that is just there. It does nothing wrong, but doesn't do enough that is exceptionally right.

Batman Forever (1995)

When 1992's Batman Returns only managed to gross $266m worldwide in comparison to Batman's $411m, Warner Bros looked to reinvigorate the franchise with a new look and a new director. Tim Burton was awkwardly eased out of the director's chair and Joel Schumacher was installed in his place. Despite being relatively amicable according to all concerned, the transition was somewhat problematic: Burton's Batman 3 was already in development and several actors had already been cast. Schumacher, then, was placed in an unenviable task: continuing development and production of a movie already underway, and juggling the triple challenge of continuing Burton's franchise, finding an authorial voice of his own, and pleasing Warner Bros - who, more than anything else, wanted a Batman movie that could be sold to merchandisers and sponsors en masse.

Sometime after the events of Batman Returns, Batman (Val Kilmer) must fight against the deranged former district attorney Harvey Dent (Tommy Lee Jones), who has escaped from Arkham Asylum on a mission to murder Batman. This task is complicated by the rise of the Riddler (Jim Carrey), a new Gotham-based villain, the amorous attentions of psychologist Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman), and the addition of orphaned acrobat Dick Grayson (Chris O'Donnell) to Wayne Manor.

July 6, 2014

The Killer: 25 years on

On this day, 25 years ago, John Woo's acclaimed action thriller The Killer was released in cinemas throughout Hong Kong. It's a pretty legendary film, earning widespread international plaudits as well as being a massive hit in its home market. It was also pretty much the creative peak for an entire generation of Hong Kong filmmakers: it wasn't the first of John Woo's 'heroic bloodshed' thrillers, since it followed on from A Better Tomorrow, and it wasn't his final word on the genre, since it was followed by Hard Boiled. It is, however, the best of his films. I honestly don't think he's topped it.

Cinema in Hong Kong was pretty shaky by the late 1970s. The enormous craze for kung fu films had kind of died down, and there wasn't a lot being produced that could challenge the popularity of foreign imports (mainly from the USA). The 1980s saw a renaissance in the industry though, and it was pretty much driven by three things. First of all there was a shift from performing films in Mandarin Chinese to Cantonese, which was the language actually spoken by the majority of people in Hong Kong. Secondly there was the rapid ascension of Jackie Chan as an action star, director and producer. Thirdly, there was John Woo and his crime movie directing colleagues. Jackie Chan we'll leave for another day: let's talk Woo.

July 5, 2014

Batman Returns (1992)

Three years after Batman become a monster worldwide hit, the franchise returned with Batman Returns. This second film saw both Michael Keaton return as star and Tim Burton as director, as well as adding Michelle Pfieffer as Catwoman and Danny DeVito as the Penguin. I'm not even going to hide my bias: Batman Returns is my favourite of the Batman quartet by a country mile. Beyond that blanket statement, however, it gets a little bit complicated.

Batman's return sees him pitted against underground criminal leader Oswald Cobblepot (Danny DeVito), aka the Penguin, and corrupt Gotham City industrialist Max Shreck (Christopher Walken). Their battle is complicated by the arrival of Catwoman (Michelle Pfieffer), aka Selina Kyle, a rogue element who at different points in the movie fights against all three. Outside of their costumes, Bruce Wayne and Selina begin a romance, unaware that they're fighting each other on the rooftops at night.

July 4, 2014

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 2 in review

Now that I've finished reviewing all 22 episodes separately, it's worth taking a step back and assessing Season 2 of Star Trek: The Next Generation as a complete piece. It was a season produced under fairly trying circumstances, with an industry-wide writers strike putting the team firmly behind the eight-ball from day one, and the crushing realities of day-to-day television production pretty much ensuring they never got out from behind it all year.

All up, it is fair to say that it was a better season than its predecessor. Then again, looking at it purely from a binary good episodes vs bad assessment, it scored 41% compared to Season 1's 36%. That's hardly significant, and still worse overall than the score I gave Babylon 5's first year - and I hate Babylon 5.

Attempts were made to shake up the series, and while some of them were successful others were not. It's worth going through them all bit by bit.

The Pull List: 2 July 2014

The looming juggernaut that is the Guardians of the Galaxy movie finally hits comic book shelves in a big way: Marvel have been publishing a relaunched Guardians comic for more than a year now, but this week's they've added new ongoing monthlies based around Peter Quill, aka Starlord, and Rocket Raccoon. I haven't sampled Legendary Starlord - I can't buy everything - but I did pick up a copy of Skottie Young's Rocket Raccoon to give it a look. After all, he's an intergalactic raccoon who shoots people with laser guns: what's not to love?

Skottie Young has established a very successful career doing immensely cute alternative covers for Marvel's books, and prior to that he was illustrating a long run of L. Frank Baum Oz adaptations. It's nice to see him tackle something within the Marvel Universe proper, and Rocket Raccoon is a pretty perfect fit for his style. This is a straight-up comedy comic book, with alien wrestling matches, chase scenes, shoot-outs and zippy one-liners.

Now I've personally come away from the book slightly underwhelmed. It feels a little too self-aware and a little too scrappy and loose, when this sort of thing needs to be tight as can be in order to properly work. I suspect a lot of people will absolutely love it though, and if it looks like your kind of thing there's a good chance that it probably will be. (3/5)

Marvel. Story and art by Skottie Young.

Under the cut: reviews of Action Comics, Aquaman and the Others, Batman Eternal, Black Widow, Enormous, Justice League 3000, Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures and The Woods.

July 3, 2014

Batman (1989)

Tim Burton's 1989 film adaptation of Batman turned 25 recently, and this inspired me to give it and its three sequels a rewatch. It's been about three years since I last watched both Batman and Batman Returns, thanks to a brilliant Tim Burton retrospective at Melbourne's ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image). It's certainly been longer than that since I've rewatched Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Let's have a look at all four, one by one, to see how they stand up, and how they fare as both films in their own right and as adaptations of the Batman comics.

In crime-ridden Gotham City, ageing crime boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance) uses a corrupt police sting to take out his untrustworth lieutenant Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson). When the sting coincides with a strike by the mysterious Batman (Michael Keaton), Napier finds himself shot in the face and dropped in a toxic vat of chemicals. He emerges as the Joker, a self-professed "fully-fledged homicidal artist" with plans to kill millions of Gotham's citizens and a romantic eye on photojournalist Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger).

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Shades of Gray"

Riker is infected with a toxin that's going to kill him, unless Dr Pulaski can save his life by making him dream the first two seasons of the series - condensed down into 42 utedious, montage-heavy minutes. "Shades of Gray" has a few distinctions: it's the season finale for The Next Generation's second year, it's Star Trek's first and only clips episode, and it's almost uniformly regarded as the worst episode of Star Trek ever made. Given what I've sad through this season alone, that takes some doing.

As the episode is a clips show, I figured the most appropriate form of review would be a clips review. Under the cut, I attempt to review the episode using only sentences from earlier reviews of the first 46 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This is The Angriest's first-ever clips review.

July 2, 2014

PSX20 #12: Bushido Blade

PSX20 celebrates the 20th anniversary of Sony's Playstation videogames console by counting down my 20 favourite videogames for that platform. These aren't necessarily the best PSX games ever made, but they are the ones I liked and played the most.

Bushido Blade is a fighting game that was published by SquareSoft in 1997. It allows players to engage in one-on-one sword duels using an array of traditional Japanese bladed weapons. There is also a single-player narrative, but as with most fighting games it's the multiplayer part of the game that is the most satisfying.

And it is so satisfying.Bushido Blade is a stunning videogame. It brings an unexpected brutal realism to the genre. While competitors like Soul Edge featured long brawls and extensive trading of blows, a round of Bushido Blade can be won by hitting a single button on the controller. The trick is in knowing which button, and exactly when to press it.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Peak Performance"

Due to the looming threat of a Borg invasion, the Enterprise is put through its paces in a ship-to-ship wargame - an exercise that's interrupted by the arrival of a hostile Ferengi starship. Meanwhile Data suffers a crisis of confidence when he loses a strategic board game to one of it's all-time masters.

While this has been a shaky and often dreadful season of television, one of the best advances The Next Generation has made with this second year is its loosening-up of characters. Commander Riker is a case in point: in the first season he's deadly serious at all times, whereas in the second he's relaxed, warm, genuinely funny and constantly does that weird thing where he swings his leg over the back of a chair before sitting in it. Part of the reasoning for my doing these TV series rewatches is to re-assess shows with a fresh perspective, and one of the biggest re-assessments I've made with this series is my opinion of Jonathan Frakes. It's not that I ever disliked his performance or his character; I just never before appreciated just how funny Frakes can be.

July 1, 2014

The Pull List: 25 June 2014

Last week's All-Star Western provided me with exactly the sort of pulp western pastiche that drew me to Gray and Palmiotti's Jonah Hex comics in the first place. This is a shame, because the book is returning to its strengths at precisely the time DC have chosen to cancel it. Sales have never been strong for either this or the pre-New 52 Jonah Hex, but it's generally been a decent and highly entertaining book in a genre that really doesn't get a play in modern comics. I really hope that Hex gets another shot at a comic some time soon, because this current volume managed to run a solid two years before sales dropped below 15,000 copies and there's no indication that the same wouldn't be true of a well-publicised relaunch in a year or so.

Gray and Palmiotti are moving on to their new title, a relaunch of DC's old war comic Star-Spangled War Stories. This will be DC's third post-2011 comic based around war stories, after both Men of War and G.I. Combat crashed and burned. I do think there's potential for a decent, long-running war comic at DC, but clearly they've yet to identify what it is. I'm not sure the adventures of a zombie soldier fighting through history (Star-Spangled's premise) is going to be it.

I love the idea of DC stretching its books beyond their superhero lines, but the sad fact is that their brand is so specific now that any books outside of those narrow lines is going to struggle. I'd love to see DC's pirate comic, or a solid medieval action book, or a science fiction book. Sadly I don't think the company is aligned for these sorts of books to take.

There are two more issues of All-Star Western to come. Enjoy them while they last. (4/5)

DC Comics. Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. Art by Staz Johnson.

Under the cut: a big week, with reviews of Aquaman, Batman, Batman Eternal, The Flash, The Fuse, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, The Massive, Ms Marvel, Revival, Saga, Star Wars Legacy and Star Wars: Rebel Heist.

The Shadow: 20 years on

Last week I posted about The Lion King, and remarked on the film's 20th anniversary. This week heralds the 20th anniversary of another film from 1994, albeit a much less successful one. Russell Mulcahy's The Shadow opened one week after The Lion King and simply failed to compete for an audience. By the time it limped out of cinemas it had grossed only $32m in the USA, and $48m worldwide, earning less money than The Little Rascals, Timecop, Junior, Beverly Hills Cop III and Street Fighter: The Movie. The Shadow is, for the record, a better movie than all of those films.

The film is adapted from the famous crime-fighting hero created by Walter Gibson, who starred in radio serials and pulp novels in the 1930s. It's a film visibly made in the shadow of Tim Burton's Batman films (which were released in 1989 and 1992), and shares Burton's strong visual aesthetic and period-inspired setting. Of course in the case of The Shadow it's an actual period movie, and it brings in a far more overt supernatural element due to the Shadow, aka rich playboy Lamont Cranston, possessing psychic powers.