Thursday, 20 June 2013


You have to feel sorry for DC comics. After all, they started it all off with Batman and Superman, leading to a veritable plethora of super heroes, including genuine legends like The Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. Of all their characters, though, only Batman has had any longevity at the cinema, and even that was nearly killed off by the evil genius Joel Schumaker (who is Stan lee with a rubber mask on). Oh, sure, Superman 1 and 2 were good enough, but they were followed by the absolute guff that was 3 and 4, and the godawful reboot in 2006. What ties all of the previous Superman films together is the baffling continued presence of Lex Luthor, a power mad rich bloke. Why? Fuck knows, with all the good baddies they could have brought in. Anyway, the best news about “Man Of Steel” is that Lex is not in it. Hurrah!

What we do have is Krypton. Not just a little bit, either. We get Krypton in abundance, an actual history of the people with flying dragon type things, volcanoes, politics and lasers going “pew pew pew”. Central to all this is, of course, Jor-El, and we get thrown at us an actual reason for him bunging his baby off to Earth instead of “Oh noes - the planet’s exploding” of the past. Okay, so the planet IS going to explode, but there’s much more to it. We also get a decent backstory to General Zod, as well as a more convincing explanation of how he gets to Earth. All in all, this is a totally brilliant retelling of the origin story, with Russell Crowe (Neighbours) simply digging out his “Gladiator” persona and beard to play Jor-El.

So little Kal-El comes to Earth and is raised by the Kents, Martha and Jonathan. Even this is handled in an original way, as when we first meet Clark he is fully grown and powered up, with his early years being told using flashbacks. This is, again, very effective, with one moment that will bring a tear to many an eye. The Kents are very well played by Diane Lane (Cattle Annie & Little Britches) and Kevin Costner (Malibu Hot Summer), and they definitely give the viewer a glimpse into the love they have for their adopted alien child, as well as the need to instil firm morals into the man he will one day become.

And so to Henry Cavill (Midomer Murders), the first Brit to take on the role of Superman. To be honest, it’s very hard to fault his performance here, as he fits perfectly into the blue and red suit physically and emotionally. Until he becomes a bumbling reporter (not yet, wait for the sequel), Clark Kent is not the most interesting character, to be honest, yet Cavill plays him with a deep melancholy, the weight of the world on his shoulders. His polar opposite is General Zod, played by Michael Shannon (Kangaroo Jack). Zod is the warrior to Superman’s peacekeeper, a man bred for war, not raised on a farm. It’s a sharp contrast, played out very well by the two actors.

Some have felt that “Man Of Steel” is a little flabby at the end, but I didn’t feel that myself. Whilst watching the, quite frankly, massive amounts of property damage, I was thoroughly entertained. The effects are perfect, as you would expect from director Zack Snyder , with Zod and his henchpeople a genuine threat to both Superman and the entire planet. We don’t actually see innocent civilians die, but that’s what they’re certainly doing out of shot. What you have here is, basically, a serious Superman film. There’s barely any levity, and this is a good thing. Superman is not a comedy character, he’s an alien burdened with having to look after this clusterfuck of a planet because humans can’t be trusted to do it right. On the other hand, he’s a Kansas farmboy who loves his parents. The clash between these two sides is what makes the character the legend he is, and David Goyer, Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder have the honor of being the first writers and director to actually realize this, so well done them.

“The Avengers” was a big, tent pole movie that was, really, tons of fun, a true comic book movie in every sense of the word. “Man Of Steel” is a more introspective film, although no less entertaining for it. Sure, smaller kids may get a bit bored waiting for the big smackdown, but who cares what little kids think? “Man Of Steel” is up there with the best comic book adaptations, and I am already looking forward to the sequel. As long as it doesn’t have Lex fiucking Luthor as the main villain, anyway…


Friday, 14 June 2013


Richard Herring is primarily known for having a last name that sounds like a fish, and possibly for growing a Hitler Moustache. Then again, you might remember him from his early days with Stewart Lee, or be one of the few that knew him at school, where he was the headmaster’s son and not half as funny as he thought he was. Even if you’ve never heard of him, Richard Herring is someone you need to get acquainted with, simply because he is a very funny man, one of those comedians who is clever and erudite for the most part, but also not averse to the comedy equivalent of laying in the gutter and gargling his own piss. 

Another clever and erudite man who does not shy away from filth and depravity is Stephen Fry, a man as loved by the public as he is sometimes loathed by himself. Stephen Fry is a British Institution, whilst Richard Herring should probably be in one. Not really – I just couldn’t resist that gag. One notable thing about Stephen Fry is that if you use Google images to search for him (as I have done for this review) you get the additional options of “Fat” and “Thin”. 

One of Herring’s current projects is his extremely well received Leicester Square Theatre podcasts, wherein he interviews at some length various people. The line-up has been a veritable smorgasbord of comedic talent, with guests including Tim Minchin, David Mitchell, Charlie Brooker, David Baddiel, Dave Gorman and the inevitable Stewart Lee, who obviously needs the work since he split with Herring and the calls stopped coming. The podcasts are available for free in audible form, but are well worth paying for to own as videos.

Although there is a new one with classicist (and noted non comedian) Mary Beard now available, it’s the Stephen Fry one that I wanted to review, simply because it’s one of the funniest ninety minutes you can have without watching Bristol City try and scrape a point. If you, like me, think that today’s chat shows are boring, insipid and grovelling affairs where not enough guests are asked about sucking their own cock then this is the one for you. Nothing is off limits here, and early on I was very amused to find out which famous British thespian was renowned for saying “cunt” every other word, which is bad enough normally, but worse when you find out it was whilst he and Fry were filming a children’s television show. There are, inevitably, serious moments, but these tend to be a cue for Herring to whip out an Emergency Question, guaranteed to put the interview back on some insane track or other. It’s a marvellous example of interviewer and interviewee in perfect harmony, and Fry is on excellent form as the least bitchy luvvie who ever lived. 

Seriously, even if you only go for the free option of an audio download, you have to check this out. If nothing else, you can stick it on your iPod and mystify passers by as you snort and guffaw your way down the high street. Once you’ve done that, I guarantee you will, like me, work your way through the other episodes before writing to the BBC and demanding that Richard Herring be given his own late night chat show, although only if he cuts his hair first. 

Richard Herring's Homepage: 

Download or Stream  Podcast from The British Comedy Guide:

Video Clip: