School of Movies
Batman: Breakdown [Audio Drama]

Batman: Breakdown [Audio Drama]

May 13, 2022

[Digital Gonzo 2012]

This was my first full-length audio drama. It was designed to be enjoyed by folks who saw the Nolan films the Arkham video games or the Animated Series. I wanted to write something significant, honest and authentic about the Batman legend and with a lot of help from long-time serious Bat-fan, David Hartrick, I was able to shape a bunch of ideas into a hopefully coherent story. It was originally released a week before The Dark Knight Rises.

None of the cast, including myself were professional actors, but we all worked very hard to capture the essence of the characters we portrayed. The writing, organisation and editing all of this together took dozens of hours, and it was equal parts exhausting and rewarding. For comic fans this is an Elseworlds (What If?) tale that takes place after Hush (2002) and Under the Hood (2005). This also fits with the motion-comic/audio drama adaptation of The Killing Joke that I put together the following year in 2013.

Script: Alex Shaw / Story: Alex Shaw & David Hartrick / Editing: Alex Shaw

Cast

Bruce Wayne/Joker/Jason: Alex Shaw
Barbara Gordon/Oracle: Leah Haydu
Dick Grayson/Nightwing: Taylor Nova
Tim Drake/Robin: Daniel Floyd
Clark Kent/Superman: James Batchelor
Diana Prince/Wonder Woman/Estelle: Tara Nelson
Selina Kyle/Catwoman/Bank Clerk: Cassandra Corgard
Alfred Pennyworth: Matthew Ramsey
Doctor Jennifer Whitman: Sharon Shaw
Cops: Matt Whetter/Sharon Shaw/Alex Shaw
Thieves: Taylor Nova/Matt Whetter/Alex Shaw

David Hartrick writes for In Bed With Maradona, the award-winning home of World Football: http://inbedwithmaradona.com/

The Batman

The Batman

May 6, 2022

[School of Movies 2022]

One of the biggest films of the year, celebrated for its dark beauty and mature themes. If you loved Matt Reeves' The Batman chances are the vast majority of moviegoers and critics are in the same boat.

I'm not in that boat. I'm on a tiny little raft made of twigs and optimistic delusion, drifting off towards a whirlpool leading straight down to sea-Hell, surrounded by electric sharks and mecha-jellyfish. For many reasons this was a miserable experience for me, but the last thing I wanted to do was moan about it or tread on anyone's toes for liking it. 

So I crafted what I hope is a really entertaining episode that actually looks back over all of the Batman movies. It gets meta, because that's what this series is; a perpetually shifting cultural statement on how to make darkness, vengeance and crimefighting appealing. And next week, as a companion piece, I have something I made about Batman a long time ago that a lot of you won't have heard.

Batman: The Animated Series

Batman: The Animated Series

September 3, 2021

[School of Everything Else 2021]

One of the greatest, most influential TV shows of all time. We watched the whole thing on blu ray, and not only does it hold up, it still surpasses most Batman media. Oftentimes lynchpins like this are hyped and oversaturated to the point where they can hardly live up to the cultural expectations, but this one really does.

The first season was a HUGE run of 65 episodes which spanned a year from September '92 to '93. The second season was a more conservative 20, which went from May '94 to September '95. By this point it was time for Superman to get his own show (encapsulating the classic character rather than subverting him) which we will hopefully be covering soon. 

There were a series of movies released on TV and VHS (as well as a brief, invisible theatrical release for Mask of the Phantasm, which we covered all the way back in 2012. And then 24 episodes of The New Batman Adventures switched up the art style and went from September '97 to January '99. It's the finer points and highlights of these three seasons that we focus on in this mammoth show. 

Guests:

Toby Jungius @TJungius of Through the Wind Door

Kevin Veighey @GoldenTalesGeek whose Let's Plays on YouTube can be found here 

The Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad

August 20, 2021

[School of Movies 2021]

Militarized slaves are sent to an island to clean up a violent mess with plausible deniability. An instant hit with both audiences and critics on release, this 2021 film is the realization of the John Ostrander-era of the Suicide Squad/Task Force X concept that actually first appeared as far back as 1959 (prior to Marvel's Silver Age of The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and The Avengers.

And yet it faltered at the box office, due to several reasons. Being R-rated in the middle of a pandemic, the sour taste of the 2016 David Ayer film, the absence of Joker and let's not discount an abundance of dark superhero satire in TV and movies, which this feels like. By all rights, fans of The Boys and Invincible should have turned up in droves, and yet that association may have worked against the film in the end.

This episode is simply me telling Sharon about the experience of watching the film in the cinema for the first time, augmented by further thoughts as I mulled it over in the interim days. It was a mixed bag for me, with strong elements sat side by side with things I've seen done better elsewhere. 

Aquaman

Aquaman

August 13, 2021

[School of Movies 2021]

By far and away Warner's highest grossing superhero film of the DCEU so far*, this one had the global market sewn up with a dazzling, epic ocean-hopping fantasy quest. Dismissed as 'dumb' by the critics, Aquaman is nonetheless one of my very favourite superhero films, and on today's show we go into detail as to the thriving ecosystem that exists just under the surface. 

The pandemic, and constant studio shake-ups have definitely hurt the DC brand (sadly including The Suicide Squad which we're covering next week). But at least this one and Wonder Woman proved that DC could find success beyond endless Batman, Superman and Joker movies.

*Aquaman $1.1b / Batman V Superman $873m / Wonder Woman $822m / Suicide Squad $746m / Man of Steel $668m / Justice League $657m / Shazam! $366m / Birds of Prey $201m / Wonder Woman 1984 $166m / Zack Snyder's Justice League $70m

Guests:

Brenden Agnew @BLCAgnew of Cinapse

Jerome McIntosh of GameBurst @JeromeMci

Shazam!

Shazam!

August 6, 2021

[School of Movies 2021]

Our Summer season of DC spotlighting reaches Captain Marvel. This was a big change for the recent movies, eschewing the epic scale of gods among humans and focusing on a regular kid imbued with the power of the gods.

Part 1980s coming of age movie, part found-family drama, part weirdly disturbing villain origin. And unlike most other superhero movies this one has an unusual time limit on it as a series, which is why we recruited some very particular guests this time around.

https://franchisekillerpod.podbean.com/

Guests:

From the Franchise Killer Podcast: @FK_Podcast

David Schmitzer

Irena Schmitzer

Rhys Paine

Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey

July 30, 2021

[School of Movies 2021]

One of our very favourite DC universe movies, added to the towering collection of three dozen shows we've covered in the past (and yes I do list all of them).

Criminally underviewed and undervalued, and launched mere weeks before lockdown began in early 2020, this is a crazed cult crime caper for the ages. A collection of disparate, separate, embattled women all find that their aggressors lead to one place. 

It's filthy and violent and only one person has a superpower which gets used once. This was Margot Robbie's treasured project that couldn't be more different from 2016's Suicide Squad. 

[Next Week: Shazam!]

Guests:

Hollywoo Actress  Maya Souris @Mayasantandrea

Victoria Luna B. Grieve: @VixenVVitch 

Jerome McIntosh of GameBurst @JeromeMci

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

April 2, 2021

[School of Movies 2021]

After the moderate box office takings and middling-to-negative critical responses to Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Warner Bros. became increasingly worried that they had placed the DC Expanded Universe in the hands of a director who appealed to an increasingly niche crowd who would not make them the billions of dollars they wanted.

Seeking to just get the third film finished quickly and cheaply in a way that would appeal to the middle, so that they could course-correct for later financial investments WB relieved Snyder of directorial duties (which coincided with family tragedy) and hired Joss Whedon to magic the footage they had into an Avengers-level success. The result delighted few (we covered it at the end of 2017).

Then after years of online demands, and a pandemic which made traditional filmmaking extremely difficult, Warner invested a sizable additional chunk of change into the prospect of Snyder restoring his version. The resultant four-hour opus was utilised to upsell an online subscription service. The niche audience were delighted. 

Wonder Woman 1984

Wonder Woman 1984

January 15, 2021

[School of Movies 2021]

This follow-up to a fantastic debut in 2017 was long-awaited, much-anticipated and spent several years in production. At the end of a blockbuster-drought of a year, we were all looking forward to sinking back into the comfortable environs of an inspiring superhero story. Perhaps with some tactfully handled real-world symbolism in there, and a call to arms for women in particular.

Unfortunately, this thing is a HUGE mess. It makes so many baffling decisions that it was actually tricky to keep up with. By the time we'd finished reacting to one moment, another had flown by. So we're giving this one the all-clear for you to listen to, whether you've seen the movie or not. Because we CANNOT spoil it any more than Warner Bros. have done. 

The show ran long, so there is a 45-minute Cutting Class episode coming to Patreon with everything that didn't make the final cut. Because editing is important! 

Stonespring Maidens is now available to buy from Amazon in paperback.

Guests:

Hollywoo Actress  Maya Santandrea @Mayasantandrea

Victoria Luna B. Grieve: @VixenVVitch 

Joker

Joker

October 11, 2019

[School of Movies 2019]

This turned out to be one of the most gruelling ordeals for us in terms of lead-up, viewing, preparation, recording and editing. This is an intensely divisive film with smart, decent people who dislike it and smart decent people who love it. And the last thing we want is to divide and clash. 

We DO however have to account for how this film made us feel, which is not great at all. Of course we didn't go in hoping to hate it, but what started out as "Okay this isn't bad" descended into "God, get me out of here!"

Next Week: Zombieland

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