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Laceyvision Strikes Back

Laceyvision goes to the movies in order to hide in the back row and make dank, embarassing criticism inside his coat to fuck-awful blockbuster Spider Man 3, disappointing indie drama The Oh In Ohio and even more disappointing rom-com The Baxter.

Spider-Man 3

The recent Hollywood desire to turn every film into a trilogy may be financially motivated but it has not been without it's benefits. Third outings had previously been crippling to big-name franchises, either killing them outright or being seen as the point in which they went off the boil. They were seen as blatant money-grabbing opportunities, often with little of the original talent returning on either side of the camera. It's only really since Lord Of The Rings that it's become apparent modern audiences are willing to follow characters and film-makers through multi-film narratives - as such, third films now represent a kind of closure that makes them often the most fervently anticipated of the whole series. That as unusual a film as Pirates Of The Caribbean has now spawned two sequels with all of its talent and charm intact is marvellous, frankly. And whatever your opinion of the Harry Potter films, the continuity of the series is already its strongest asset with 3 films still to come. This upkeep in quality has yet to make it over to the superhero genre, however. Where those films style of storytelling would seem to lend itself easily to the idea, Superman Returns (a supposed sequel to the first two Superman films) was little better than the original Superman III (it didn't have Richard Pryor in a huge cowboy hat so it's probably worse, in fact), and Batman Forever and X-Men III - The Last Stand have all been a great big awful load of bollocks. And now, Spider Man 3 can be added to the list.

It's not as epic or spectacular a failure as those other films. In fact, there's a lot of good bits in it, enough certainly for the film to accrue quite a lot of goodwill on the part of the viewer. I spent some time trying to think around it from different angles, to find some way of giving it a good review, but I'm sad to say that there's simply too many glaring idiocies in the script for the film to ever engage, entertain or move as much as it's predecessors. And it's trying so hard, it's sad to watch. The plot, if you stand some distance away from it and squint your eyes a bit, seems fine. Peter Parker is happy with Mary Jane Parker at last, and planning to ask her to marry him. Then a whole shitload of problems turn up at pretty much the same time - a photographer trying to steal his job, a bankrobber made of sand who may have been his Uncles ACTUAL killer, and an alien goo which clings to his suit and somehow turns him into a super-pillock. Any closer inspection reveals how much the whole story relies on coincidence, re-configuring important aspects of the original film (how lame is it to mess with the history of a character that you set up just two films ago? it's insulting, really), and how much it's mired in the kind of tedious Peter Parker/MJ relationship dross that has really, really been done to death by now. The ending of the second film (and the start of this one) implied that a lot of Parkers insecurities were solved and we might get a film about a happy, functional, mentally-well Spider Man doing battle with whatever villains were thrown up in this one. And yet the same stupid problems (ALL OF WHICH COULD BE SOLVED QUITE EASILY IF PETER JUST TALKED TO HIS GIRLFRIEND A BIT MORE AND IF SHE WASN'T SUCH A TOTAL BITCH, TWO THINGS WHICH REQUIRE FAR TOO MUCH SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF BY THIS STAGE IN THE SERIES) occupy so much of the screentime that one villains backstory is restricted to a sign reading "Danger! Particle Physics Experiments Inside This Fence!" and his climactic team-up with the other villain is limited to a five second scene in an alleyway where one says to the other "shall we, like, team up?". None of the characters arcs in this film really make sense. It's been said that there's "too much plot" in the film, but that's not quite the truth - at it's length, it could easily sustain as many plotlines as it does, it just prioritises them badly. The Spider Man films have always had strong, stirring endings, but this one literally ends with a bunch of people crying and saying sorry to eachother. Against a picturesque sunset. It should be called "Spider Homo", just incase any Spider Man fans have accidentally watched it.

After all the buildup in the series towards Harry Osborn assuming the mantle of the Green Goblin, it's incredibly frustrating when his first encounter with Spiderman leads to a concussion and then half a films worth of amnesia. Yes, this film is so bad, it has to resort to "amnesia" as a plot device. Or as a device to regurgitate the plot of the first two films, so we get to see him turn evil and attack Spider Man allover again. Hooray, eh? No. In a film as frenetic and confusing as this one already is, there's no need to go over things already established in the previous two films. No need at all. Stop it. The fact that Harry only goes evil for about ten minutes undermines his climactic "salvation" to the point where I doubt even the six year olds in the audience will give a hoot about it. You can't really fault the acting here - all the main players are comfortable in these roles and play them perfectly now, but it's hard to stay emotionally involved with them in such a bloody stupid film.

Actually sitting through the film isn't as painful an experience as thinking about it afterwards, but no amount of spectacular effects, dance routines, amusing cameos or action scenes are going to kid me on that it's any good, but many of the scenes singled out for criticism so far have been ones I enjoyed. I frankly found it relieving and an accurate reflection of Parkers character that when he "turns evil" (like Superman in Superman III - another scene from that film which towers over anything from Superman Returns) he turns into a stupid prat with messed up emo-hair using his spider-sense to throw moves like John Travolta in a bar full of people who probably think he's a completely ludicrous tosser. That's exactly what an evil Peter Parker would be like, and I'm glad they didn't just make him stubbly and over-violent. People will complain about the dance routines in Spider Man 3, but this one is one of the few moments in the film where Sam Raimi remembers he's a fun and stylish film-maker. Another is the cameo from Bruce Campbell as a "french" waiter, a hilarious turn with little relation to the rest of the film but welcome all the same. In fact, most of the humour in the film is great. One thing that's great about Spider Man is that you can make fun, kid-friendly films about him without short-changing the character. Unlike Batman, this really is an all-ages product. There's no need to saddle it with all the darkness and emotional baggage that served Batman so well. Also, it may have cost a squillion pounds, but some of the effects just look shit. Fuck off, Spider Man! 1/5.

The Oh In Ohio

There's a certain strain of US independent film which this really wants to be a part of - the low key bittersweet ensemble comic drama with big name stars taking supporting character parts and quaint music and bare emotions and lessons learned etc etc etc. It's a little bit undercooked to really fly with the likes of Thumbsucker or Little Miss Sunshine, with many unresolved plot threads and glib moments, but it's also got a lot of charm and some good performances. Paul Rudd, making his second appearance in this column, plays the down-at-heel husband of Parker Posey, whose inability to achieve orgasm has turned their once promising relationship (two good looking successful types married straight out of high school) into a bitter sham. Mischa Barton, Heather Graham and Danny De Vito all pop up as the couple drift apart and come to terms with life without eachother and specifically "with" other people (in a sex way). It's annoying that the supporting cast are so interesting, because while they are used where necessary to pad out the narrative, they're all sort of ignored by the ending which pretends that the failing marriage of Rudd and Posey was the only plotline we cared about, when in fact it was probably the least interesting onscreen relationship. They might have a touching dinner where it's finally made clear they'll never get back together, but so what? Where's the extra ten minutes where all the various plot threads which distracted from that are given some kind of resolution? This film aspires to use the end of their marriage as a catalyst to make lots of points about sex and life and love, with some moments so manipulative I was surprised they didn't have a subtitle saying "start crying NOW!" at the bottom, but never actually remembers to make those points - this is halfway between a nonsensical sex comedy and a profound sex drama (like the brilliant Shortbus) - it's just a nonsensical sex drama elevated by a cast it doesn't quite deserve. 2.5/5.

The Baxter

Michael Showalter isn't really known at all in the UK, but a friend from America introduced me to him with the film "Wet Hot American Summer", a very likeable pitch-perfect spoof of 80's coming of age teen dramas, starring Showalter alongside Niles off Frasier and Paul Rudd. Showalter and Rudd re-enacted that recent spat between David O'Russell and Lily Tomlin on the set of "I Heart Huckabees" to amusing effect on some website recently, so I decided to see what else they'd done together and came across this romantic comedy. The setup seemed like another interesting spin on genre conventions - taking as it's main character not the brave, romantic hero who runs into a wedding in order to stop it and make a heartfelt speech to win back his childhood sweetheart (etc etc), but the awkward fool left standing at the altar. The "Baxter", as it were. Showalter is as convincingly earnest and good-hearted as this preppy, repressed accountant needs to be, but just doesn't have the comedic chops to take on such a large role. The underwritten supporting cast (Rudd, disappointingly, turns up for about two minutes, which appear to have filmed when he was drunk on a day off. They are the films best two minutes, though) and various other flaws could have been forgiven were there a performer of some calibre really having fun with the socially awkward aspects of the character - a Ferrell or a Carrell would really make this film - Showalter just makes his Baxter into a bit of a boring prick. Where the film keeps hinting that he might muster up the balls to tell his irritating, bland wife to stop treating him like a fucking doormat, all he manages is one little rant at her before getting jilted at the aisle and going to find the nerdy secretary girl he "should have been with all along". But it's a pretty worthless happy ending if she's nothing more than his second choice. Also - weddings! So much comedic potential in weddings. These people have been and should be here funnier than "My Best Friends Wedding", for goodness sakes. The Baxter is an interesting concept let down by an insufferably banal execution, and far too much focus on the least interesting character. 1/5. Actually no, 2/5, because I really fancy the secretary girl out of it.

About this entry


I just COULD NOT BELIEVE the whoe Harry amnesia thing. Talk about a copout. And it's just so Raimi can still cram in dull-as-hell scenes with Harry, MJ and Peter and everyone can pretend everything's all right. That was the first sign that they shouldn't have even done this movie. The second is that the symbiote/black suit stuff just HAPPENS to land next to Peter Parker. This wasn't a film for people who like good films, that's for sure. Spiderman 2 was though.

Even Return Of The King had third movie-itis. After the brilliance of the first two films it suddenly became apparent that Peter Jackson had way too much stuff left to cram into one movie and so a lot of it felt like a car crash, and then he annoyed general audiences by having the end go on for 20 minutes (it's truer to the book but probably should have been on the Extended Edition only).

By performingmonkey
May 15, 2007 @ 1:58 pm

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My favourite well-crafted plot point in Spider3 was the Osborn butler revealing that he'd known exactly what was going on all along. Presumably he'd just let Harry descend into madness and spend the next 2 years trying to kill his best friend for shits and giggles.

"Sir, there's been an hilarious misunderstanding..."

By Andy M
May 15, 2007 @ 4:04 pm

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> The Spider Man films have always had strong, stirring endings,

I've been saying the same thing! But having re-watched them this weekend I think it's what we felt, rather than what was shown.

Film one may end with a triumphant-ish swinging Spidey shot, but it comes off Peter saying no to MJ because of S-M, while at the funeral of the second father figure he's lost in the film...which will, it's clearly indicated, make him a victim of his best friend's hate as he dons the mask. That Spidey shot isn't just a celebration of the hero - it's an acknowledgement of the sacrifices made to become him. And trouble still to come.

Then the second film totally, totally undercuts an even more epic hero shot by cutting back to Mary-Jane. The last thing you see in the film is her face, worried, clearly dreading the troubled times ahead.

Its interesting how the quality of the films makes us feel more triumphant at the end than the ACTUAL endings suggest.

> People will complain about the dance routines in Spider Man 3, but this one is one of the few moments in the film where Sam Raimi remembers he's a fun and stylish film-maker.

Hell yes! Thank you! I was starting to think it was just me...

> 1/5

Fuck off! :-)

I agree with almost all of the various criticisms of the movie - overly villained, too much co-incidence - but some of the low scores...I just can't fathom this still-inventive and heartfelt movie being rated below stuff like Elektra or Batman and Robin. Is disappointment pulling down more reasonable scores?

The action sequences still thrilled me, Raimi's kinetic energy - as ever - showing that well-imagined and well-cut FX can get away with ropeyness where poorly-directed material cannot. It's Evil Dead with greenscreen and CGI instead of stop-motion and prosthetics; but the philosophy is the same. Fun is the priority.

MJ got nothing but lousy material this time - again, watching the first two films, pain or not, she was actually fun once in a while. This time she's all whinge. But the constant focus on Peter - and Maguire's performance (his 'that was our kiss' moment of realisation in the restaurant is a corker) - was the intelligent, difficult move of a decent filmmaker.

For me it succeeded more than it failed - for every lousy British reporter there was a Sandman birth; for every random meterorite an adorable Gwen Stacey - and certainly attempted bolder things than it's being credited for. Even if the plotting was a mess!


Incidentally, which villain would people have dropped, given the choice?

It's easy to say Venom, but I really believe the black suit stuff is great for the character arc. And dropping New Goblin would seem harsh given films 1 and 2. Only...well, without Sandman, who provides a clear and present danger for the first half of the film while Spidey's being 'dark'? I just can't see Harry sustaining interest that long...

By Andrew
May 15, 2007 @ 5:13 pm

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I agree with Andrew. Also, the film entirely justifies its existence because of Gwen Stacy. Gwen Stacy. She's so lovely, I even like saying her name. Gweeeen Stacy.

Also also, I'm distinctly worried by the re-appraisal that Batman and Robin appears to be getting in the wake of Spidey 3. Let us be clear about this, alright? It is the worst film ever made. It is deeply, deeply insulting on every conceivable level. It is not fun, it is not campy, it is not a kitsch classic.

Here is a list of other comic book movies that Spider-Man 3 is much, much better than :

Superman III
Superman IV : The Quest For Peace
Batman Forever
X-Men : The Last Stand
Fantastic Four
Captain America

It's not a Spider-Man 1/2, an X-Men 1/2, a Superman I/II, a Batman/Returns/Begins or even a Mystery Men. But it's still a solid film with some excellent, excellent bits. Just because it's not an instant classic doesn't mean it's suddenly among the lower echelons of superhero flicks - because it has a long, long way to fall before it reaches that level. If anything, it's a credit to Raimi that expectations were raised so much by the first films that this one can be seen as such a disappointment.

By Seb
May 15, 2007 @ 5:57 pm

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> Batman Forever
X-Men : The Last Stand

I enjoyed those two more than Spides 3. Well, maybe X-Men 3 is on par with it, it was a prime example of a series being ass-raped in the name of the dollar sign (and in the insanity of Bryan Singer wanting to masturbate over a model in a blue suit and red cape then spraying his load on Richard Donner's original film) but it was still enjoyable to an extent, just like Spider-man 3. As for Batman Forever, I still think parts of it are good. Jim Carrey as Edward Nigma/The Riddler is fantastic, and every time she's on screen I just want to have sex with Nicole Kidman (pity she doesn't look like that now...). Sadly, Two-Face is crap, and hopefully this will be rectified in both The Dark Knight and the film that follows that. I also liked the comic book feel to Forever (I wish people would stop saying the comics are so dark because apart from stuff like The Killing Joke they're not, it's all in people's imaginations!!)

By performingmonkey
May 15, 2007 @ 8:08 pm

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I'd drop Sandman. The re-writing of the back-story was irritating, his family story was boring and his 'accident' was lame.

The amnesia thing was similarly awful. I expected that to be a complete mislead, so that when Peter approached Harry's bed in hospital, Gobby Jr would whisper something about his intent to get better so he could hunt him down and kill him.

My hasty rewrite that I've posted in waaaay to many places:

Everything is going well for Parker although he's getting rather smug and annoying (as in the movie). Harry has disappeared since the events of Part2 and Peter has no idea where he is. At about the 30 minute mark, Harry resurfaces and bribes MJ into dumping Peter as part of his grand revenge sheme. Peter is infected by the symbiote and goes on his rampage of cheesy dancing and making Eddie Brock's life a misery.

Harry appears as the New Goblin and they have an almighty smackdown (at about, ooh, the 45 mins). As in the movie, Peter is responsible for him getting scarred in the explosion. Realising what he's done, Peter gets rid of the symbiote and tries to apologise to Harry in hospital who isn't having any of it. Eddie is infected by the symbiote and becomes Venom and startes roundly kicking Spidey's arse. Eventually, Peter realises that he's not going to beat Venom on his own and tries to persuade Harry (who's on the road to recovery) to help him beat Venom. He's not keen and Spidey goes off to fight Venom...He's about to be killed when Harry appears, saves the day...and promptly dies.

It's X-Men 3 all over again. Somewhere inside the mess is a really good movie wanting to escape. 3/5.

Oh, and Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest sucked Hairy Balls.

By Pete Martin
May 16, 2007 @ 12:13 pm

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> Oh, and Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest sucked Hairy Balls.

I disagree with that. Although I know a lot of people didn't like it because there was a lot of new plot and no resolution (I think all most people wanted was a dumb summer flick). The darkness also put people off. I think what happened is a lot of people just assumed it was going to be a comedy, or at least a lighter film, due to the trailers maybe giving that impression.

By performingmonkey
May 16, 2007 @ 8:09 pm

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I think Batman and Robin succeeds in what it was trying to do to a large extent, it's just that a campy technicolour kids romp wasn't what anyone wanted from the series, even most kids. Spider Man 3 doesn't know what kind of film it is - there's a really confused tone which renders the whole thing just as poor as Batman and Robin for me, even if there were a collection of good sequences. I'm not going to give it points for TRYING to be a good film, because it wasn't one. Although the fight scenes were pretty repetitive and the final Sandman one was just a yawnfest.

As for the endings of the previous two, the fact that they weren't totally upbeat and the ace webslinging sequences were offset with the "my power will always put the people i love in danger" thing was what made them so stirring, it was nothing to do with what i "wanted" to see. I don't think MJ looking a little bit worried at the end of 2 implies that there's going to be more split up-get back together boring shit in the next film, coming as it does after the scene where she says LETS STAY TOGETHER FOREVER AND NOT HAVE ANY MORE BORING ARGUMENTS ALRIGHT?

If we're into the business of re-writing the film, I'd have completely got rid of Sandmans involvement in his Uncles death and replaced that with a bit more backstory about his daughter, because they've got a good record of setting up their villains well and have just a great actor who deserves a role as good as Alfred Molinas or Willem Dafoes, and the potential to set up a villain in a different manner to the "mad scientist" thing. I'd get rid of all the amnesia stuff, have Harry be a bit more generally villainous for a bit instead of just chasing after Peter (perhaps he could kidnap Gwen Stacy and Spider Man would save her and theyd end up kissing, instead of that stupid awful scene where he kisses her at the ceremony thing. or maybe he could just rob a bank), so you know he's a REAL dick now. Then have the two of them and venom team up, earlier in the film, and with a bit more dialogue explaining as to WHY except that it would make a good ending. Have MJ stay with Peter despite the black suit turning him into a bit of a dick, because she's his WIFE now and she SHOULD. Then you'd have Spider Man REALLY in the shit, you could have a mid-fight scene where Harry turns into not-a-dick and joins forces with him, and then instead of Sandman giving some faggy apology and being let off the hook, a dying Harry could say fuck it I've got loads of money I'll pay for her cancer to get fixed and then Sandman would have to go to prison for like, injuring loads of people. And Venom would escape. And Spider Man would say sorry for being a dick but he wouldn't make such a big fucking deal about it and then he'd finally get to propose. Then he'd SWING MAJESTICALLY THROUGH THE STREETS OF NEW YORK, the end.

By Michael Lacey
May 16, 2007 @ 8:54 pm

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I think Batman and Robin succeeds in what it was trying to do to a large extent

It doesn't, though. It's trying to be a new version of the Adam West TV series/movie. The difference being that the Adam West version is FUNNY. Batman and Robin is not funny in the SLIGHTEST. Bat credit card, for fuck's sake? Ice skates come shooting out of their boots? "The Oxbridge Academy"? It's fucking ATROCIOUS. There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING GOOD ABOUT IT. I've no problem with a fun, campy, entertaining version of Batman (no "OMG HE HAS TO BE THE MILLER DARK KNIGHT!!1111!!" from me) - I absolutely love the 1966 movie (although I think the TV series is a lot weaker, but the movie distilled everything that was great about it into one ludicrously marvellous feature) - but Batman and Robin is not it.

By Seb
May 16, 2007 @ 10:25 pm

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Yeah, what Seb said.

> I don't think MJ looking a little bit worried at the end of 2 implies that there's going to be more split up-get back together boring shit in the next film, coming as it does after the scene where she says LETS STAY TOGETHER FOREVER AND NOT HAVE ANY MORE BORING ARGUMENTS ALRIGHT?

Weird - I think that's exactly what it says!

Or, at least, it demonstrates that she's aware that the 'stay together' lines are optimistic at best, given the circumstances. She doesn't LIKE watching him go, what she'll have to share him with. Hell, it's a staple of the comic books, even after they married

If her line was meant to be taken literally 'as all sunshine and flowers from now on relationship-wise for us and no mistake', why include that shot? It's surely to show a storm brewing - one still based on Peter and MJ's relationship, but now twisted because she KNOWS why he's letting her down.

By Andrew
May 16, 2007 @ 11:59 pm

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There is - Schwarzenegger. Yeah the movie is a piece of shit but I always get a kick out of Arnold doing one liners even if he's in a shitfest. His moments in the film are classically bad but that makes them ten times better than the lameness of Clooney as Bruce Wayne and the cheesier than cheddar Alfred storyline with him having an illness and his niece played by Alicia 'can I act?' Silverstone becoming Batgirl.

By performingmonkey
May 17, 2007 @ 4:04 am

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Ah, yes. Arnie. The most convincing Nobel Prize-winning scientist ever seen on screen, I feel.

By Seb
May 17, 2007 @ 9:15 am

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Batman Forever was fast, fun and exciting. Batman and Robin was terrible. Forever was a good camp Batman movie, Robin was not.

By Rad
May 17, 2007 @ 11:17 am

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As if Batman Forever isn't dead shit.

By Michael Lacey
May 17, 2007 @ 5:56 pm

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"Or, at least, it demonstrates that she's aware that the 'stay together' lines are optimistic at best, given the circumstances. She doesn't LIKE watching him go, what she'll have to share him with. Hell, it's a staple of the comic books, even after they married"

Yeah they are optimistic, but that's why it's sort of an optimistic ending, isn't it? She may not like watching him go but I thought the ending made quite clear they realised they'd face adversity and would have to stay strong / face it together etc, with her expression maybe implying that she knew it wouldn't be easy. That one shot of her face at the end is not in and of itself justification for them repeating the whole split up / get back together / peter or harry thing from the other films.

And Uma Thurman is fucking boss in Batman and Robin. I don't think it's trying to be the 60s TV series. Not that there aren't plenty of similarities, and it's certainly influenced by aspects of it, but I don't think B&R was simply trying to ape an old show that everyone laughs about. Is it not also just possible that the reason that film failed so spectacularly is because the choice of villains is so gay? Poison Ivy and Mister Freeze, for fucks sake? I think there's similarities between it and SM3 in that there's clearly too much plot and largely because they've lifted huge chunks of the previous film and played them out again - Batman worrying about whether or not Robin might hurt himself is BOOOOOOOOOOORRIIIIIING.

By Michael Lacey
May 17, 2007 @ 6:08 pm

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And Uma Thurman is fucking boss in Batman and Robin.

No, she isn't. She really isn't. She's better as Poison Ivy than she is when she's playing Dr Isley, but that's not saying much, because her performance pre-transformation is one of the worst performances in movie history. I agree with pretty much everything said about B&R here :

And they're absolutely dead on about the freaky "eye open kissing" thing, too.

By Seb
May 17, 2007 @ 7:51 pm

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She is. She really is. NO BACKS, I WIN

By Michael Lacey
May 17, 2007 @ 9:48 pm

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I've never seen the movie so don't take this as a nod of agreement, but man, that article was hilarious.

By Philip J Reed, VSc
May 18, 2007 @ 1:40 am

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The Agony Booth is one of my favourite sites on the internet, it's just a shame they don't update more often. I particularly recommend their Superman III and IV recaps - the latter brought the phrase "masonry vision" to the world, and I don't think I would have enjoyed re-watching it quite so much when I got the Reeve boxset had I not laughed so repeatedly at that recap first. But part of what makes the site so excellent is that you can enjoy the recaps even if you haven't seen the films (as you did with B&R, and as I have done with a number of ones on there...)

By Seb
May 18, 2007 @ 10:25 am

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I wonder if Christopher Nolan would risk introducing Robin in the third film of his series? It seems he's setting up the main villain in that one to be Two-Face (it's highly likely we'll see Harvey Dent get scarred toward the end of The Dark Knight).

By performingmonkey
May 18, 2007 @ 5:54 pm

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I'd love it if Nolan just made one normal film then one Batman film for the rest of his career, and got in all three robins. and knightfall. that'd be tits

By Michael Lacey
May 18, 2007 @ 6:14 pm

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