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The Killing Joke: We're Not Laughing Any More

OracleYesterday’s release of a trailer for the upcoming animated version of famous Batman story The Killing Joke kicked off much discussion of the source material in various circles.

For a number reasons more or less this exact discussion surfaces whenever The Killing Joke is in the news. I was particularly aware of yesterday’s iteration because well-known comics writer Gail Simone ended up at ground zero for a lot of the Twitter-based ‘debate’.

The various strands of conversation that intersected Simone’s timeline, often followed into other people’s feeds and then back again, seemed such a perfect representation of how in multiple ways a certain segment of fandom deals with the most common critiques of The Killing Joke that it felt worth spending a little time interrogating the key points.

In fact, as is evident from Gail Simone’s mentions, people who’ve never read a comic in their lives feel entirely qualified to express a view on this. Mostly, it seems, people who don’t like women very much.

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Stark Reviews: Day of the Outlaw (1959)

Day of the Outlaw

Stark says: “You won't find much mercy anywhere in Wyoming.

Seen The Revenant, yet? No? Well, if you’re pushed for time but harbouring a hankering for a hardscrabble, snow-choked Western, then go for Day of the Outlaw instead. If nothing else, it’ll save you an hour and a half, which you can spend doing… other things. Like smoking meat or practising macramé.

I will admit, there’s less grunting than there is in The Revenant, and less bear. Directed by Hungarian-born Andre de Toth – of House of Wax fame – what’s on offer here is a psychological, powder-keg of a Western that feels less like a yee-haw-thankee-ma’am-cowboy-movie and more like a taut, 1930s noir thriller.

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25 Superhero Films Just As Bad As Batman vs Superman

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Let's be clear, Batman vs Superman is not good.

It is too long, too ponderous and takes itself way too seriously. It has mediocre acting, macho ham-philosophy, a bad score and confusing action sequences. It is packed with 'easter eggs' that are largely meaningless, espouses terrible politics, devotes itself to building its own mythology, and is rife with visual decision-making that is, at best, suspect.

Which is to say, it is no worse than many, many other superhero movies. 

For controversy's sake, here are 25 recent-ish superhero films from the last 20 years that are just as bad - if not worse - than Batman vs Superman:

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Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark

From Photoplay (September 1981):

At last. At long last. A movie that brings back all those so-called old-fashioned values that made the cinema what it was but somehow got lost in the deluge of depressing pretentious rubbish that helped to close down cinemas. 

Raiders of the Lost Ark, for me, at least, brings back a Lost Art. The art of fun, escapism and pure hokum.

I never thought I'd see a film like this one again....

The Verdict:

If you enjoy your movies with lavish doses of terrifying thrills then this is what you've been waiting for. Raiders is a marvellous adventure romp reminiscent of those wonderful cliff-hanging serials served up as Saturday  morning pictures for kids. There's also plenty of action for the mums and dads to enjoy as well. Harrison Ford and Karen Allen will have you constantly on the edge of your seats, almost gasping for breath at the speed with which they have to cope with constant dangers. 

The effects, the sets, everything is stunningly put together. Ford emerges as a movie matinee of old, with a touch of the Errol Flynn's as he swaggers around complete with a bullwhip as his only weapon.

From the film's incredible exciting start set in an unbelievably trap-infested South American jungle - a sort of cheat death hurdle race - to its startling and quite horrifying climax, Raiders is an absolute cinematic joy.

The team of director Steven Spielberg (Jaws; Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and producer George Lucas (Star Wars; The Empire Strikes Back) pack their movie with a mighty punch. John Williams' music score underlines the action quite superbly.

Never a dull moment...


Quentin Tarantino's 10 Favourite Spaghetti Westerns

Another random famous person listicle, sorry! But this is an interesting list - Quentin Tarantino's twenty favourite Spaghetti Westerns. And the sort of thing that will keep Stark busy:

  1. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
  2. For a Few Dollars More (Sergio Leone, 1965)
  3. Django (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
  4. The Mercenary (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
  5. Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)
  6. A Fistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone, 1964)
  7. Day of Anger (Tonino Valerii, 1967)
  8. Death Rides a Horse (Giulio Petroni, 1967)
  9. Navajo Joe (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
  10. The Return of Ringo (Duccio Tessar, 1965)
  11. The Big Gundown (Sergio Sollima, 1966)
  12. A Pistol for Ringo (Duccio Tessari, 1965)
  13. The Dirty Outlaws (Franco Rossetti, 1967)
  14. The Great Silence (Sergio Corbucci, 1968)
  15. The Grand Duel (Giancarlo Santi, 1972)
  16. Shoot the Living, Pray for the Dead (Giuseppe Vari, 1971)
  17. Tepepa (Giulio Petroni, 1968)
  18. The Ugly Ones (Eugenio Martin, 1966)
  19. Viva Django! (Ferdinando Baldi, 1967)
  20. Machine Gun Killers (Paolo Bianchini, 1968)

The playlist above contains the trailers for all 20. This comes via Open Culture, who picked it up via The Spaghetti Western Database (which doesn't seem to exist any more?). Open Culture have been stalking Tarantino's faves for some time, and have a recent post that does compares Tarantino's 2002 and 2012 'top 12' lists...


Stark Reviews: Duck, You Sucker A.K.A. A Fistful of Dynamite (1971)

A-Fistful-of-Dynamite

Stark says: “If you shoot me, I’ll fall. And if I fall, they’ll have to alter all the maps.”

A Fistful of Dynamite… sounds almost like a Leone film doesn’t it? Yeah, well that’s because it is a Leone film: his least known and most overlooked Western, but a Leone film all the same. It also marks his exit from the Western genre with a deafening, nitroglycerine-fuelled bang.

We’ve covered a few Western subgenres – weird westerns, acid westerns, dinosaur westerns, surrealist animated Westerns – but get ready because here’s another one coming at you: a revisionist-epic-spaghetti-Zapata Western.

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Ben Smith on "The Long Way Round to a Frances Marion Kickstarter"

Frances MarionI’m a huge Howard Hawks fan.

It’s my project to see every film he ever made - and without splurging box-set style, but instead to eke them out across the decades. I go for a new one every few years, as I'm in no rush to deny myself future pleasure. So it should come as no surprise that, a couple of years ago, I was filling in time by reading Todd McCarthy’s excellent biography of the man, Hollywood’s Grey Fox. From it, I learnt that Hawks had been part of Douglas Fairbanks' circle of energetic young men.

So then I searched out a Fairbanks biography, which was pretty remarkable, and then that led me to my first encounter with Frances Marion, named as one of his screenwriters and a close confidant of Mary Pickford.

Naturally, I then happened upon another book in a remainders shop, Joseph P Kennedy’s Hollywood Years, about JFK’s father - a banker, film producer, US ambassador and Nazi sympathiser. It contained an incredible story about Frances Marion and her husband’s ill-treatment at Kennedy’s hands. So I then picked up that author's other biography, this one about Frances Marion. Without Lying Down is so called because Marion spent her whole life looking for a man she “could look up to without lying down”.

I was completely sold on her. 

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Stark Reviews: West & Soda (1965)

West and Soda

Stark says: “If he’s dead, why is he still smoking?”

I first came across West & Soda a few months back, after taking a tumble into a dusty corner of the Internet. As soon as I saw the words “1960s Italian animated parody Western” I just knew I had to get me a copy of the DVD.

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"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" by Adam Roberts

rey hanging with bb8

The most interesting thing about Star Wars: The Force Awakens has to do with the cultural moment into which it was received. I don’t mean that it has been greeted so rapturously by fans and cinema-goers, that it has already earned a shedload of money, that it is set fair to overtake Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time—we could all see that coming a mile off. I mean the acute and often panicky paranoia about spoilers this release has occasioned. How angry people get! Spoiling Star Wars became suddenly one the worst things a person could do, just below genocide and just above admitting a fondness for Coldplay.

[Editor's note: ...which is probably the right time to say - "contains spoilers".]

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Stark Reviews: Grim Prairie Tales (1990)

  Grim_Prairie_Tal_538428f21548fStark says: I got a story that’ll stick to you like an eyeball to a cactus needle

So what if someone told you there was a film where Wormtongue and Thulsa Doom sat around a campfire, trying to scare the bejesus out of each other? Well, that’s basically what Grim Prairie Tales is, and I couldn’t pass it by either. Plus, I’m never one to resist a title that contains a pun, now, am I…

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