The cost of being a superhero

Thanks to Stan Yip for pointing this one out to me. Those folks over at Mashable have shared some infographics, created by MoneySupermarket.com. They prove why only rich industrialists and philanthropist billionaire playboys can really take superherodom seriously. Batman, apparently, would cost a cool $682 million. But he pales into financial insignificance compared to Iron Man, who clocks in a price tag of more than $1.6 billion!

The Mashable posts have full infographic breakdowns of the costings, so check them out:

The Batman one is here.

And the Iron Man one is here.

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Goodreads Best Horror Novellas list

You’re a member of Goodreads, right? www.goodreads.com You really should be. It’s a brilliant site, excellent for cataloging your reading. It’s one of the best places to do just about the best thing you can do for authors – rate and review their work.

I’ve said this many times, but it bears repeating because it really does make a difference. If you enjoy a book, spend a few minutes at places like Goodreads and Amazon and rate and review that book. It doesn’t have to be much. Even single lines like:

Great horror novel, highly recommended.

Or

A fast-paced, exciting read.

Anything like that. Along with a star rating, it really helps an author’s work get noticed. And if you like an author’s work, you really want them to get noticed, because that means they’ll build a career and make more work. Everybody wins!

And at the moment over at Goodreads there’s a list of the best horror novellas of 2012. My novella, The Darkest Shade Of Grey, is on the list. If you’ve read it and you liked it, I’d love your vote.

And while you’re there, a line or two in review and a star rating would be extra awesome. The same goes for my other books if you’ve enjoyed them too. I’ll love you extra special hard if you do rate and review my work – all authors love their readers more when they do that.

The Best Horror Novella list is here: http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/22066.Best_Horror_Novellas_of_2012

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The Dark Knight Rises – thoughts on a trilogy

There aren’t any spoilers in this post, but there are some spoilers at the places I link to at the end, so be warned.

It’s no secret that I’m a Batman fan. In fact, that’s an understatement – I fucking love Batman, in a totally platonic way. I’ve often said that Batman and the Joker are the two greatest fictional characters ever created and I stand by that. So when talk of a new Batman film started back in 2003 or 4 or whenever it was, I was dubious. But it was to be made by Christopher Nolan, a man whose talents I already admired. The result was Batman Begins, the first of a proposed trilogy. I was very pleasantly surprised.

The first thing to remember when films are made from established literary canon, be they novels, comic books, games or anything else, is that a film is a self-contained thing. It’s finite. Batman comics have been going since 1939 and there’s a metric fuckton of established canon and ongoing story with which a film can’t hope to compete. Nor should it try. So a film will always make changes to established canon and we fans can’t be precious about that. It’s how the film plays with that canon that matters.

In Batman Begins, Nolan turned the notion of Ras Al Ghul a little bit on its head. He made Ras and Henri Ducard the same character, which they absolutely aren’t in the comic canon. He also made Ras an Irishman. But the things he then did with those characters, with Ras’s mission as an idealistic eco-terrorist, were bang on the money. Nolan did a brilliant job of retelling the Batman genesis and origin, and adding in a well favoured supervillain. Within that, he kept the darkness essential to the Batman’s story. He kept the gothic, noir edge of the characters and setting. He made Gotham an integral character in the film. So while he played with some aspects of established canon to make a film-sized story, he did it well and kept enough of what we already know intact to make a very impressive, cohesive whole. I was very happy with the film.

But all along it was touted as a trilogy. And this is where we go back to the nature of film compared to an ongoing series. This film was to be finite in three instalments. The second film, The Dark Knight, stands tall for many reasons. Not least of these is that amazing performance from Heath Ledger as the Joker, which is still the highpoint of the trilogy for me. And again, Nolan took some liberties with established canon, but stayed true to so many parts that we love that we went with him for the ride. I did, anyway. And most importantly for me, he totally got what the Joker is all about. The Joker is the worst monster imaginable, because he’s the embodiment of absolute chaos. No rhyme, no reason, no appealing to any sense or intelligence. Just pure, insane chaos. Some men, after all, just want to watch the world burn.

So I’d been waiting patiently and slightly nervously for The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final instalment. So often a third film is where a series can jump the shark. It can be the step too far. But Nolan always said this was to be a trilogy and I trusted him as a storyteller enough to hope that he would see it through well. Again, liberties were took. The big bad this time is Bane, and he’s very different from the comic book character. In the comics, Bane is addicted to and fuelled by Venom. But in this film, Venom doesn’t even get a mention. Bane’s origin is also played with, as are the origins of other key players (who I won’t discuss for fear of spoilers). But that’s okay, because Nolan is using Bane in his own way, like he used Ras Al Ghul in the first one. And he does a good job of it.

Nolan also does a very good job of using the Selina Kyle character. She’s never called Catwoman in the film, her cat ears are just her night goggles, pushed up onto her head and so on. But the core of the character is there. She’s a tough, sassy, very capable cat burglar. She’s a real-world foil to the Batman’s black and white view of crime and culpability. She’s so much more than a sexy accoutrement and Anne Hathaway does a brilliant job with a character that is very hard to play well.

And using these characters and settings, Nolan brings threads from both previous films together in The Dark Knight Rises and ties them into a truly epic story, worthy of its comic book roots and also worthy of its cinematic grandeur. He does tell a complete story in three films and he does it bloody well.

Each of the films is successively darker, more epic and more daring than the last and by far the best thing about them is that Nolan has made an absolutely self-contained trilogy. It’s not the same as the comic books, because the comics are still going on, and will continue to do so. Nolan has taken the characters and spirit of those stories and turned them into one complete and very clever tale. We see the full life of the Batman, from genesis, through origin, through rise and fall and rise again, right out to final closure. And it’s very satisfying.

Sure, the films have flaws. With The Dark Knight Rises there are illogicalities, there are strange timing issues, there are simple nonsensical things (like the one I mentioned the other day – how the hell does Bane eat? And he’s a big boy, so he must eat a lot.) There’s actually not nearly enough Batman in the third and final Batman film. There are often certain events in the movies which are entirely too convenient and plot-driven. But, these things are relatively few and far between and largely eclipsed by all the good stuff.

There are those who have suggested that this final instalment is a pro-fascist movie (although I disagree with most of that post and the author obviously doesn’t have any real understanding of the ideology of Ras Al Ghul). I mean, sure, all superhero stories are fundamentally fascist – the super power steps in with violence, operating outside the law, to battle the greater threat on behalf of the people. But that’s a whole other discussion and not one limited to Nolan’s interpretation of Batman.

There are those who have asked what the hell happened to the Joker after the second film. Although Ledger died and couldn’t reprise his role, it’s strange that there was never any mention. Though one possible answer lies here.

(Remember – spoilers at the above links!)

There are several other concerns raised in various reviews and posts I’ve read, some valid, some not so much. Regardless, Nolan has created in his Batman trilogy something rarely seen from Hollywood these days – an intelligent, complex, complete and satisfying story along with the incredible special effects and cinematic epicness we’ve come to expect. Effects are so often utilised at the expense of story, but not with these films. The Dark Knight Rises is possibly the best of the three when it comes to simply amazing set pieces of action and downright brilliant photography. But it’s the combined power of the three films together that really stands out as Nolan’s crowning achievement here.

Personally I can’t wait till The Dark Knight Rises is released on DVD so I can put aside a day to sit and watch all three films back to back in a beauteous Bat-filled marathon of cinematic awesomeness.

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The stories of the last three weeks

I’m back. My brain is a puddle of blancmange, swilling around in the back of my skull somewhere due to 25-odd hours of air travel and transit waiting I’ve just been through, so I’m not making much sense. But I have to stay awake till bedtime on the Australian clock to avoid jet lag, so here I am, rambling at you lot. The trip was fantastic, we saw great things in Paris and the UK and attended my cousin Joanna’s wedding to Chris. It was beautiful wedding and I drank a lot of wine and danced like an idiot all evening. Bloody brilliant.

You’ll find a random selection of photos from the trip if you go over to my Tumblr blog and scroll back to 6th July. You’ll see Notre Dame, cheese, Cornish coastlines, castles and handsome couples in love among many, many other things.

I thought I might say a few things here about each of the stories I consumed this trip, given that this site is story-powered. I tend to watch a lot of movies when I fly long haul. I read a lot naturally, but in short bursts between in-flight films. So, here’s a brief line about each thing:

Movies watched on planes:

JOHN CARTER – A rollicking sci-fi adventure in the old pulp style. Great fun.

WRATH OF THE TITANS – Truly, truly awful, but incredibly pretty to watch.

CHRONICLE – I was surprised by this one. I had no idea what to expect and it turned out to be really good. Three lads get inexlicable superpowers after stumbling across something (perhaps a meteorite – it’s never explained) and the film explores what happens to them. It’s a handycam, found footage piece a la Blair Witch, but done very well. I liked how it quickly went very dark.

SEEKING JUSTICE – A clever thriller about freelance vigilantes who start getting a bit out of control. I thought this one would be quite cheesy, but it was actually very engaging. Interesting questions about the morals of vigilantism were explored.

SAFE HOUSE – An exciting who’s-really-on-what-side espionage thriller. It was set in South Africa, which made a nice change from US-centric Hollywood movies and was very well put together. If you’re a thriller fan, I’d recommend this one.

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE – Even for a comic book movie, this was fucking ridiculous. It was absurd and kind of crazy, but did play up some interesting ideas. As a 33,000 feet high distraction, it was entertaining enough.

JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME – This was a surprise gem. A very clever and funny movie, excellently acted, that tossed around ideas of fate, destiny and coincidence.

MAN ON A LEDGE – The title of this film is exactly what it’s about. The man in question being a framed cop who is using the ledge antics as part of a great caper. It’s quite clever, but the caper is absolutely ridiculous.

THE RUM DIARY – A film based on the Hunter S Thompson book of the same name. Johnny Depp does an excellent job in this. In fact, the whole thing is brilliantly acted. Loads of fun.

RAMPART – A gritty police drama with Woody Harrelson as the most corrupt cop ever. The film explores corruption and morality. It’s very good but has a deeply unsatisying, ambiguous ending where some closure was really needed.

So that’s ten movies during a total of around 40 or so hours of flying. Not a bad effort. And no, my memory isn’t that great – I jotted them all down in my notebook as I watched.

While I was in England I saw two films:

CATFISH – A documentary about a social media friendship that quickly develops into something much greater and creepier than originally thought. It was a very entertaining film and a fascinating comment on the nature of our online identities, but I have a suspicion that the whole thing is a cleverly constructed hoax. (And a quick check on wikipedia shows I’m not the only one who suspects this!)

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES – I may well blog a lot more about this during the week, but suffice to say I really enjoyed it. It was certainly flawed (how the fuck does Bane eat, for example?) but nonetheless a very solid completion of a very solid trilogy of films. Throughout Nolan’s Batman trilogy there have been many changes made to canon, and I’m a Batman nerd, so I know of what I speak and I’m hard to please. However, for the sake of turning Batman into a single, coherent story over three films, I’m okay with those changes and these are the only Batman films to date that I think are worthy. It really is one of the strongest film trilogies ever, I think.

And then I read a couple of books while I was away:

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING by Julian Barnes – A philosophical story addressing life and consequence. It’s a very short book, but a good one (it won the Booker) and I enjoyed it a lot.

SUITED by Jo Anderton – This is the second in the Veiled Worlds trilogy – the first was Debris. I loved Debris and this was an excellent second installment. The world and mythology was developed in much greater depth and I can’t wait for the third book in the series now to see how it all wraps up.

So there you have it – the stories I enjoyed while I was away. And now, I’d betterzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

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