Friday, April 3, 2009


Due to being buried in work and being messed about to the point of insanity with my new degree on top of being a new father I have been a little distracted.
Here are a few quick reviews:

Wonder Woman DC should just plug Bruce Timm into everything they do and wait for world domination. Wonder Woman's main flaw is it is far too short, the end shots really make you wish that you could watch another 45 minutes of top-notch arse-kicking. Nathan Fillion is as charming and funny as usual, Kerri Russell lends the role the blend of naivety and will that is needed and Alfred Molina is simply disturbing.
Wonder Woman continues to be the best character to be waiting for a comic that consistently does her justice, but is immensely interesting in Timm's animated universes.


Castle continues to be utterly predictable, unimaginative and stupifyingly watchable thanks to Nathan Fillion being Nathan Fillion and his devotees smiling blankly for an hour and chuckling.

Since the 6th episode (where apparently the Fox executives waved their hands in the air and let Whedon and Co. get on with it) Dollhouse has improved immensely, with the supporting cast becoming much more compelling; twists and turns effecting the story arc with more purpose and a focus on making the audience actually want to watch the next episode.
Dushku is still erratic at times (her confused, doting turn in Man on The Street was plywood when put alongside Patton Oswalt), but she is beginning to form a personality as Echo which will help with audience empathy and she is spending less time attempting to be convincing as a passive victim.
At the current rate of improvement the show should be just about good enough for me to be a bit pissed off when it gets cancelled.

Monsters vs. AliensSlightly amusing at times but mainly uninspired and certainly guilty of criminally wasting some of its cast. One of those films that News of The World critics would describe as "great for the kids!" while the rest of the world remembers that Toy Story happened and films like Monsters vs. Aliens are not good enough any more.
I didn't see the film in 3D but when one of the first shots is of someone playing "Bat-'n-Ball" towards the camera you can imagine how earth-shattering that experience is. The only time I want that old gag used is when the 3D Blazing Saddles is made.
Watch Kung-Fu Panda again instead.

HeroesCouldn't give a toss.

Marvel realised that other than the always readable Ultimate Spider-Man, their Ultimate universe had gone astray.
Their answer was to have an event (which is their answer for everything lately) which restructured the Ultimate universe. Fair enough, sounds like a good idea.
Then they asked Jeph Loeb to do it.
Not so good an idea.
A fictional universe created by Bendis, Millar and Vaughn being eviscerated by someone who wasn't deemed imaginative enough to write on Heroes this season. His other big contribution recently is a Hulk who, now get RED!
His follow on from Mark Millar's Ultimates series was so bad it was almost a parody.
Ultimatum is the latest example of Loeb's take on writing comics for Marvel: a process that involves writing "shocking" events onto small pieces of card, tying the cards to 30 bones, throwing them into his back garden and then listing whatever his dog shits out the following day. I figure his dog is a Bull-Mastiff as there's a lot of shit making its way into each issue of Ultimatum.
Someone dies, then someone else dies followed by a tragic death. Characters speak about the deaths in odd exposition laden mumbling with the tone of a 60 year old trying to imagine what a teen sounds like. The end.


More to follow when my brain becomes less entwined with my arse.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Who Watches The Watchmen? Me!

Small hand falls from novelty clock, film at 11.

I think my brain almost melted last night. Not from Zack Snyder's astoundingly faithful translation of Watchmen, but due to the reactions it provoked in the obviously braindead.
If I recounted all of the ridiculous arguments made against the content or style of the film I would most likely implode in the same fashion as the target of the Romulan Death Star seen in the shiny new Star Trek trailer.
No, I will just stick to two responses.
The first can easily be dismissed as the ramblings of the prepubescent who have been complaining about Dr. Manhattan's blue penis as being "distracting". In fact any divvy who was unable to watch the film and enjoy it due to a CGI azure wang, really shouldn't have been in the cinema (I myself was staggered at how many parents were queued up to see their film with young kids, Watchmen is rated R and deservedly so, the violence is very graphic and the sex explicit).

Happy as a dog with three shiny blue dicks.

The other response that staggered me was that of a writer I respect greatly: Brian Michael Bendis.
He was very critical of the film and recommended that his fanboard members go see the film purely as it would fuel debate, though he himself felt the film was a "fascinating failure".
He stated: "i (sic) think it's(sic) success will rely on how many people want to sit there and feel that humanty(sic) is ugly and useless and a joke for 2.5 hours."
If you know nothing of Watchmen I can understand about how the desolate and desperate tone of much of the film could be jarring, but for someone who is a leading figure in the comics industry to be surprised an adaptation of Watchmen offers a critique on aspects of modern society, and particularly that of the 80s, makes me scratch my head until I make sparks on my skull.
This doesn't mean I think Watchmen is the best comic book film ever made, that title is still owned by The Dark Knight, it is however a good film.
I do think it is about as faithful an adaptation that is possible to make without simply filming every pane of the comic (and yes it is a bloody comic, but if you want to say Graphic Novel to make you feel easier then ok).
The performances are excellent in the main (particularly Jackie Earle Haley and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Rorschach and The Comedian) with only Matthew Goode's overplaying of Veidt's affectations being a choice I found uncomfortable.
Malin Akerman as the Silk Spectre II is capable in the action scenes and frankly jaw dropping when disrobed while maintaining a playful sense of humour in her scenes with Patrick Wilson. I do think her character is an aspect of the film that suffers from the translation as her role is trimmed down somewhat. I don't think it is Akerman's fault that the character doesn't shine in comparison to the others.
Wilson is affable and likeable as Nite Owl II and though some will complain that he is certainly not the flabby mess that Rorshach witheringly accuses him of, it is only a small criticism and did not detract from his empathy.
Snyder does not overuse the slow-mo in the action sequences, though it is difficult to criticise his choices in the film in relation to use of camera as it seems Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons made most of those decisions.
It really is amazing how many of the scenes are shot for shot from the original text.

Spoilers for the next paragraph:

The montage for the opening titles is sublime. Using Dylan is the first of many smart music choices in the film. I won't go into too much detail but I found the background use of Tears for Fears at one point hilarious. When a message board mewler complained that 99 Red Balloons was a stupid song to use, it did make me realise that there are many morons with access to the Internet.
Snyder's decision to get rid of the squids and have Dr. Manhattan as the scapegoat to save the world makes perfect sense. All of the subtext and clues about the missing engineers and the island would have been to unwieldy in an already long film and would have been difficult to pull off visually without being underwhelming when devoid of that subtext.
I didn't like the titillating shots that were used before the sexual assault on Silk Spectre and also how after The Comedian mocks Hooded Justice, HJ continues the assault. In the books Moore has Justice walk away to emphasise just how true The Comedian's appraisal of him is, a consistent theme that runs through the story (a la King Lear).
The sex scene between Nite Owl and Silk Spectre is a little long, Snyder lingers on the scene for obvious reasons, mainly that Malin Akerman is stunning, but also this is the payoff from their clumsy initial fumbling as Dreiberg and Jupiter, their coupling becomes overtly stylised due to their empowerment by the costumes. A comment on the fetishistic psychology of the vigilantes.

Spoilers off.

I found the film satisfying but I am still undecided on how good it is to be honest. It demands a second viewing as I feel I spent too much time being blown away by how accurate a translation it was to really judge it as a film on its own.

Hopefully I can do that soon.

Even so this is certainly not the huge disaster this film could have been (Brett Ratner's Watchmen, set in 2020 with a split screen of two squid creatures destroying the US and Moscow by flattening people with tendrils that are obviously moved on wires, in the background Rorschach cries for the dead).
After seeing it my initial response was pleased but somewhat muted, the more I think about it the more I like each aspect, a second viewing is just necessary.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dollhouse: The Sound of Deflation

The following is done while half-knackered and breathing relief that the latest round of tests on the impending arrival have gone ok. Forgive the rambling.

It is extremely difficult to approach anything by Joss Whedon without it being in context. When Dollhouse was first announced my excitement was barely containable for a number of reasons.
Reason 1:

My favourite series of all time, it still blows me away due to the sheer ballsiness that it exuded consistently. The first season was somewhat rough around the edges, but by the second season, Buffy was unmissable television with intelligent scripts developing absorbing characters that linger to this day. Only on Buffy could a relationship like Willow and Oz's be so joyful, tender and fragile and yet still have me rooting for Willow and Tara shortly after.

Reason 2:
A spin-off of Buffy, Angel was originally the darker side of the Buffyverse that had a first season which, though rocky at times, was sporadically excellent (I Will Remember You, To Shanshu in L.A.). In its 5th season Angel was near to the quality of Buffy at its best, containing genuine hilarity (Angel and Spike's married bickering), heart-wrenching tragedy ("Two words: Winifred Burkle") and though it was cancelled prematurely, it has as perfect an end to a series that you could wish for.

Reason 3:
I remember watching Firefly (we got it in the correct order unlike the US audience, us crazy Brits) and each week I felt a mixture of awe and horror that something that was so mesmerising from the first minute could become better each episode and yet have already been cancelled.
Containing the same friction of a dysfunctional family that the ensemble casts of Buffy and Angel contained at their most effective, Firefly was funny, inventive, exciting and as intelligent as anything else on television.
No wonder Fox killed it.
It also made Nathan Fillion the geek-God he is today, I'll even watch Castle just to see him being goofy and it looks pretty bloody awful.

Reason 4:
When Joss Whedon took over on my once-favourite example of popular culture, I was similarly as excited for it as I was for Dollhouse (I'm getting to it I promise). My expectations were exceeded as Whedon displayed a complete understanding of the characters and used a classic interpretation of them in their prime to tell new stories. Whedon effortlessly incorporated a flair for character beats that were simple yet startling (Wolverine and the beer can, Colossus returns, Cyclops no longer a whiny bitch).
If you ever read an X-Men story, read the Astonishing X-Men hardcover collection not written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Simone Bianchi (utter shite).

Throw in some Dr. Horrible and you see that Joss Whedon has been my favourite figure in pop-culture for a long time.

We'll varnish that floor for $29.95!

With such an impressive record, one cannot be surprised that I was so looking forward to the premiere of Dollhouse, even if it was with the terror that something fantastic was going to be murdered by Fox.
The move to Friday nights was a warning as I grimaced over in my previous post along with the awful promotion Fox was pushing. Rumours of executives interfering and requesting rewrites and reshoots were also worrying but still, this is Joss "Buffy,Angel, Firefly" Whedon we're talking about. Firefly had the same problems but what was made was still fantastic.
So as I moved further from the edge of my chair to a resigned and reclined position last Friday, I could almost hear the sound of a balloon slowly deflating in my head.

Dollhouse may still turn out to be excellent television, but the first episode certainly wasn't indicative of that.
Eliza Dushku has a fabulous arse, there is no doubt about it, it is well-proportioned, toned and firm. In the first five minutes we pretty much got to see this arse in its entirety but that was as exciting as things got.
I suppose the biggest indictment of the first episode is that it was just so bloody ordinary. The ideas were interesting but the flair wasn't there, I can remember no witticisms or touches of class, while the conceit of the show killed the dramatic tension of the main plot.
Echo (Dushku) is imprinted with the brain patterns of a number of hostage negotiators in order to assist a billionaire in the return of his kidnapped daughter. In the process of the exchange, Echo recognises one of the kidnappers as a child molester who raped one of the people who formed the mental template for Echo.
Echo falls to the ground in an asthma attack (apparently the mental engrams produce Matrix-style physical consequences, though that isn't how Dr. Babble explained it), panicking in the realisation that she is face to face with her worst nightmare and fully knowing that the child will be killed.
The problem with the situation is that the audience knows she never actually met the bastard, she only thinks she did, so our sympathy for her is disconnected, the bravery needed to walk into the hideout comes from whom? Echo or a programmed consciousness?
Can you cheer on a well-proportioned flesh robot who isn't acting of her own accord?
Of course we are meant to feel satisfaction that the memories of a dead woman find victory and closure in facing her worst fears, but I didn't. This may be as when Echo has not got the personality of someone else she reverts to child-mode. In Dushku's case this means staring off blankly and tilting her head.

I'd be happier if my feet weren't so friggin' cold.

When the lithe figure of Sierra (Dichen Lachman), a new operative of the Dollhouse, burst through the door to save the day, it made me realise just how much of a schism there has been between what Dushku's character has been built up to be and what she is in this first episode.
Instead of the promised arse-kicking excitement, we were given ponderous exposition. I remember the first episode of Angel when the character of Doyle is used to tell the audience what has happened. It was clunky but forgiveable, yet in the premiere of Dollhouse absolutely everyone vomits swathes of exposition.
Consistently we are told things instead of having them shown to us, which I hear is only usually done in radio.

I pout, therefore I am.

Having a series built as a vehicle for Eliza Dushku to show her range of character acting is in itself a fraught premise. In Buffy and Angel her range was to switch from annoyingly confused to to pouting more than Keira Knightley on a red carpet.
Though in the main Dushku does ok, the introductory piece of exposition in which The-Person About-To-Be-Known-As-Echo talks about the terrible things she has done without saying what they were (tune in kids) is risible. Dushku paces around a lot and holds her hand to her head because being frantic isn't easy. The Joey Tribiani school of acting works wonders. The show needs to put her on familiar territory quickly and play to her strengths if she isn't able to play her sultry Joe 90 to better effect.

The supporting cast's quality is very hit and miss.
The ever-reliable Harry Lennix plays Boyd who is (repeatedly) said to be new to the mysterious operation and seems to care too much about Echo, who he is meant to handle and back up on her engagements. The vast majority of the empathy for Echo is channelled through Boyd and Lennix does a good job of being the father-figure who is uneasy in his role.

Olivia Williams plays Adelle De Witt (rhymes with...) the head of Dollhouse. Her forehead is stamped with the words "Ice Queen" which amazingly fails to make it more obvious or trite. I think her look of constipation is meant to be aloofness and composure but I could be wrong, she may just really need a balti.

Even a genius finds matching trainers to shirts difficult.

Fran Kanz plays Topher, the young, possibly evil genius who gives all of the technobabble exposition. He is very enthusiastic about what the Dollhouse tech can do while not giving much of a crap about the humanity. Kind of a Werner Heisenberg in comfortable shoes.

Laurence Dominic (Reed Diamond) is De Witt's right-hand man and attack dog, he keeps Boyd in order with his mean, analytical dipshittery. Diamond is astoundingly bad, stiff and unconvincing as he poses in mean guy mode. At one point he grabs Boyd's arm in what was meant to be a threatening and domineering manner but instead he looked like someone pleading not to have the shit kicked out of him.
Thamoh Penikett plays Fox Mulder, an agent who is unable to stop his relentless pursuit of the mysterious Dollhouse even when chided by his superiors. Fox is tall and angular with a sculpted six-pack and has a mean high-kick when using a steroid-junky as an allegory for never quitting.

It is difficult to explain how a show with the pedigree of those involved could have a premiere that is so uninspired.
It would be easy to point at interference from the suits upstairs and there is certainly a sense of that in play, but it is almost like watching Spider-Man 3.
Now don't get me wrong, the first episode of Dollhouse is by no means as execrable as Spider-Man 3, but the same sense of someone purposefully making what he has been told to make in order to show how crappy the idea is to begin with seems evident.
I can almost see Joss Whedon thinking "You want a by the numbers opener? I'll give you a damn by the numbers opener! How many over-over-2 shots can you take?" while pointing like an evil monkey.
Venom? I'll give you venom!

Most likely though I am making excuses for someone I hold in very high regard. This was simply not a good example of television from someone who is usually excellent.
We all make mistakes, hopefully the rest of Dollhouse's first season rectifies this one.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dollhouse: The Foxening

Last night many promo spots were shown on Fox to support Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the premiere of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse.
Here's a taster of how Fox is pushing their new Friday night schedule:

Hi my name's Summer Glau, you may remember me as River from Firefly. We all loved that show but since Fox hadn't a clue about what it was or how to market it, it was quickly cancelled.
Now we can't really blame Fox for this, they are only people who make television after all and so therefore are run by executives who can't distinguish a shit from a chocolate muffin.
With that in mind let us give them our full confidence as they switch my show, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles to Fridays. Fridays have often been named "The Day Where Shows Go To Die" but Joss Whedon says this time Fox have a different expectation and he's great so I'm sure his show and my show will be fine.
Hey thanks for the exposition Summer (which by the way there'll be plenty of in my brand new show tonight!), and hello to all of you Friday night viewers! My name is Eliza Dushku and as you can see I'm hot, bendy and have to share my clothes with the sensational Ms. Glau.
Those great guys at Fox have realised that although Buffy, Angel and Firefly had a large female fanbase, the best way to grab a good audience on a Friday is for Summer and I to pout in a very forced and uncomfortable way while promising to suck your cock like a golf ball through a hosepipe.
They have realised that all of the Buffy nerds are 14 year old boys who cannot go out on a Friday evening and so we will ensure the continuation of the "Whedonesque" following by making vapid allusions to our breasts and how kicking the acne off your chubby pock-marked faces would be fabulous.

Nicely put Eliza, and hey I love that shirt, you look so tough yet inappropriately cleavaged. Where was I? Oh yes, in another show near it's death.
There are people who ridiculously think Fox executives make these decisions while snorting coke from the aerobicised ass of a prostitute. They then dare courageously to prove they are correct in investing in cheap reality television. I mean who would call them geniuses if they didn't throw a good writer to the wolves in order to point and scream "I told you so!" every few seasons?

Well they do earn the big bucks Summer. And please look where you aim, it is very disconcerting.
So that's us, Terminator and Dollhouse, or as we are being made to sell them: "Robot I'd Like To Fuck" and "Blow-Up Doll House".
We hope you can put down your Yu-Gi-Oh! cards at the same time every Friday to watch our sexy, sexy adventures. I know there will be some talky bits that you won't like and though the dramatic parts might make you wonder why you are not watching the WWE wrestling as usual, just remember we are much hotter.

We'll see you soon, we have to go cry in a corner as we are thrown into the imaginary puddle of semen on the cold stone floor of a non-existent kids' basement.

A review of the first episode of Dollhouse to follow, but my word Fox's promotion is not encouraging for long-term success.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Jack Bauer Power Hour

kevlar girdles are very chic

Some spoilers may be included in this article though none of them earth-shattering to anyone who watches the opening titles or who knew anything about the last few seasons or who has used the Internet much.

Sunday evening 24 returned with some fanfare but more concerned misgivings.
After the general apathy surrounding last season, 24 needs a return to form with the urgency that Jack Bauer displays when stabbing someone in the head with whatever is at hand (including his hand).

One of the reasons I personally got tired of last season's 24 was the politicisation of the show. It seemed each episode was a call to torture and a protestation against the criticisms of those bleeding heart liberals and their "legality" and "morality" complaints.

Don't those pig-headed do-gooders realise Jack Bauer has a country to save? Jack himself had been brought up at various Republican conferences as a shining example of what the good ole USA needed and what on earth was a Geneva Convention anyway?

Becoming the poster boy for Bush propaganda certainly didn't endear the all-new more-torture Bauer for me, but it was mainly the repetitive plot conventions and the foregoing of tension for inventive object insertion in various ethnic stereotypes that pushed me away.
Jack didn't use his wits to sort problems out, unless his wits were a brand of pliers or a fancy new blowtorch-chainshaw combination. The tension of the show was petering out, the shaky camera caused by yawning cameramen rather than quivering anticipation of what revelation would happen next(a mole in CTU? NOOOOOOO!).

So with the writers strike delaying the full season, 24: Redemption was released to some positive responses but certainly not with the anticipation one would have expected 3 seasons ago. However the tv movie did prove to be a palate cleanser to get the fetid taste of the 6th season out of the mouth even if it wasn't a full return to form of the first three seasons.

Jack shoots dwarf

What I liked the most about 24: Redemption was that it was Bauer being the unequivocable good guy, it is difficult to be more of a good guy when saving a village full of photogenic war orphans from genocidal warmongers. There were no attempts at being thought-provoking (in the same way that Fatal Attraction was thought provoking in the US, ie it wasn't anywhere else) by having Jack make tough decisions all the time, which were mostly decisions about whether to be lawful or stab someone in the kneecap to make them instantaneously want to divulge everything they knew and certainly not just make up crap that they thought might make the bad man stop.

Season 7 begins with Jack under investigation for his actions. Kurtwood Smith plays the smugly self-righteous senator who berates Bauer for his actions and flagrant disregard for the law. My toes were starting to curl just as Jack is served a subpoena and forced to help the FBI with a matter of national security.

"I'll take Kitchen Utensils in Orifices for $1,000 Alex"

At this point I will be more general as I don't want to ruin anything.
Although the question on just how far one should abide by the law in order to save the day is touched upon (spoiler alert: Law 0 - Mavericks United 3) more time is spent building the plot and making events important than on blood and bluster.
Jack even gets to seem competent when investigating the latest threat to the USA (though this does make most of the FBI seem like well-dressed radishes).

Devil with a pant-suit on?

The new President (gasp it is a lady! And she's more Hillary than Caribou Barbie!) is introduced, her husband is hinted to be mental (harkening back to a previous presidential spouse) and subplots are introduced and quickly brought together with the main thread of the story arc.
This in itself is a pleasant change from the interminable side stories that have gone nowhere in past seasons and were mainly used to fill time while we wait to get back to Jack saving the day.

GILF: Chloe never looked better

New faces are introduced (it is nice to see Janeane Garofalo as the requisite uber-geek and reassuring Liberal) and old ones return (I won't say who, but speaking of old faces: Jack's is certainly starting to show the wear and tear of being shot a lot while shouting "DAMMIT!").

By the end of Monday's episodes, the first 4 hours were done with but my interest wasn't.
Yes there are a lot of reused plots and familiar character types, but it still felt more like the 24 of old where the daftness was easy to overlook in pursuit of regular thrills and dramatic payoffs.
Even my wife who has never watched an entire season of 24 was checking that Mondays were the regular night for the show as she has been drawn in by the opening episodes.

Could this be the revival of the Bauer Power Hour?

I hope so, though if it does NBC might be hammering nails in Heroes' coffin.

Ho hum.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


I've been pondering writing some machinima shorts for a while and in the new year I might give it a serious go, certainly in the Summer.
For those who don't know; machinima is the latest new media to spring out from gaming. Using various games (Halo, Half-Life 2, World of Warcraft and many more) as 3D modelling and background creators then using camera angle options to create films.

While roving around on the Interwebs I found a piece which isn't actually machinima but full animation after taking World of Warcraft's models and sounds and slapping them into an animation studio.

I thought this was pretty dazzling:

The Craft of War: BLIND from percula on Vimeo.

For the non-WoW people the female who is the target of the Blood Elf rogue is actually a dragon called Onyxia in human-form, she has infiltrated the city of Stormwind in order to manipulate the young king.

The potential for these tools staggers me and though I have no chance of producing something as amazing in an animation sense, I will definitely be giving machinima a whirl at some point in the next year (impending parenthood and starting a new degree not withstanding).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On my knees

No dirty thoughts please.
A month ago we had a scan for Spina Bifida on the impending arrival. All clear.
Then they found a hole in the heart.
Yesterday we had the scan to see the extent of the defect.
It has closed.

I might sleep at some point now.