28 Feb 2014

All Men Must Die

I was just having a conversation with someone about HBO's motif's for the Game of Thrones season thus far. Season one was Ned and the throne, season two was a crown, and season three was the dragon. While season three wasn't particularly dragon-y (no more than any of the others), it made sense considering that dragons are probably the most associated element with the series in the public mind set. But those three images pretty much expended the series specific iconography, leaving only general fantasy elements, like a sword or a broken shield, to adorn future season's DVD box sets.

This deluge of posters from HBO suggests that they've either went with the text-based Valar Morghulis, or the three eyed crow for the present season. I'd side with the crow if the above image weren't so obviously computer generated. In fact, that poster up top is pretty "intro to photoshop" for an official product. The crap load of character specific poster after the jump are better (but only just), and a reminder that this show has the biggest friggin' cast on TV.

The Muppets Sing A Sequel Song, And Take Some Selfies

Muppets Most Wanted will be the first direct sequel the Muppets have ever made, as evidenced by the show opening number, the Sequel Song, which picks up the action literally during the credits of the previous film. Because, to the Muppets, the fourth wall is really more of a suggestion.

Hit the jump for some of the selfies the Muppets have been posting on Instagram.

Found: One Head, Very Old, Slightly Fossilized

The dinosaur capital of the world, Drumheller, Alberta, has produced yet another amazing find. The University of Calgary unveiled a nearly complete Pachyrhinosaurus skull last week, the first found in half a century in the dinosaur-rich city, the first belonging to a mature male of the species, and the first in such complete condition.

Prof. Darla Zelenitsky, who headed the team that discovered and excavated the skull, said “So far, the upper part of the skull has been exposed and the skull will be flipped over to prepare the lower part, including the jaws. There are still many months of work necessary in order to clean the entire skull." Because the skull is believed to belong to a mature male, it will provide important information regarding the life cycle of the 26 foot long, 72 million year old ceratops.

Some might recognize the Pachyrhinosaurus as the star of the recent and abysmal Walking With Dinosaurs 3D. Which is a shame because the animal, with it's distinctive and ornamented crest and flat, thick boney plank above the beak (instead of the usual horns) deserves more public attention. Sadly, with the lackluster reception Walking received, poor ol' Pachyrhinosaur might have to spent a few more years in relative obscurity.

Via the Globe and Mail.

27 Feb 2014

Just Funny-Lookin'

FX's Coen Brothers produced version of Fargo is the type of remake I can really get behind. Rather than just passively retelling the same story over again, with different actors and better production values, they're using the basic framework of the film and constructing a new narrative and characters to inhabit the space. That's what a remake should be: an opportunity to tell a new story under familiar circumstances.

This first look at Fargo is little more than a tease, introducing us to Billy Bob Thornton's character in condition that most of us in eastern North America can sympathize with right now (seriously, at a certain point the sky has to just run out of snow, right?). I suspect this will be the first of several character moments, before FX gives us a full trailer ahead of the April 15th premiere. I'm looking forward to it.

Good Lorde

This fan made trailer for season 4 of Game of Thrones, using only footage taken from the Foreshadowing teaser HBO aired a few weeks ago, is really very effective. Yes, some of the sound edits are a bit wonky, but stop nitpicking this apart internet. Someone has done something very good here, and they deserve to be patted on the back for it. The footage is well edited, the song choice (Lorde's Everybody Wants To Rule The World cover) is inspired, and it works as well if not better than the actual (and surprisingly few) trailers HBO has officially delivered so far.

So, kudos.

Via Geekologie.

(I meant to post this earlier in the week, but then Harold Ramis died, and I was distracted and sad.)

[Review] - Justified, Season 5 Episode 7, "Raw Deal"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
Episode seven of a thirteen episode season is the fulcrum episode. The episode where the narrative sits in a kind of equilibrium, as it begins to shift from set up to pass off. Past episodes sevens of Justified have seen the introduction of Bo Crowder, the Winona/money fiasco, the introduction of Sammy Tonin (and beginning of the end for Gary), and Elmore Leonard's final story credit on the series. This episode saw the series long conflict between Boyd and Johnny come to a head, but beyond that, it was more evidence that this season feels a little directionless.

There isn't a central thesis, an ongoing conflict or a Big Bad to united against. The Crowes are a presence, yes, but after a traditional introduction, they've taken to occupying a supporting role rather than an out and out villainous one. It was a by-the-numbers-Justified episode as you can get. Raylan was single minded, Boyd was crafty, and there were plenty of jokes. Which is fine, a standard issue episode of this show is still better than 90% of the rest of TV. But heading down the penultimate stretch, things should probably be at a higher level than just fine.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that intend to seduce you with their feminine wiles.

26 Feb 2014

Ripper Street To Keep Ripping

I'm a big fan of Ripper Street. Even if the late 1800s weren't my favourite historical period, and even if Victorian London wasn't one of the most complex social environments ever, and even if the cast wasn't completely engaging in their decidedly unromantic portrails of the characters, and even if the show didn't do one of the best jobs I've seen blending damned good fiction with established events, it'd still be a show worth watching. I enjoyed series 2 far more than season 2 of House of Cards, or Newsroom.

So, it was sad when the BBC announced that the show had been cancelled, for something as petty and insignificant as rating (though a high quality two series run isn't that unusual for British TV). So it must be Christmas today, since the BBC have announced that the series has been uncancelled. This isn't actaully much of a surprise, as it was pretty much assumed that Tiger Aspect, the producers of the show, was heading in this direction right from the cancellation announcement.

Amazon Prime will foot the bill for, and air first, series 3 of the historical police procedural, with the BBC remaining as a partner, and eventual broadcaster in the UK. Said the Beeb's Ben Stephenson, "This deal gives fans another series of the show they love at excellent value to the licence fee-payer, ensuring that the BBC can also commission an entirely new, yet-to-be-announced drama series." Basically, the BBC gets to have it's cake and eat it. Which is fine by me, so long as I get a slice.

Via Den of Geek.

Warehouse 13 Returns To Leave

I was not pleased with the last season of Warehouse 13. It wasn't good. The second half was better than the first half, but only marginally. So the news that the series had been cancelled really wasn't that big of a shock (that, and Syfy seems completely incapable of letting a show last more than four years). What was a surprise was, after the backlash they received concerning Eureka's cancellation, was that they greenlit a final, six episode wrap up season, to resolve the various plot lines left open.

The once fun series will return Monday April 14th. I won't be reviewing them per episode, but I will do a season review after its all done. According to the NBCUniversal press release:
"Everything has been building to the fifth and final season. Claudia’s (Allison Scagliotti) epic battle with Paracelsus (Anthony Head) will unleash an unexpected horror -- and the Warehouse may never be the same. In the new season, the entire Warehouse team confronts old questions – and new revelations. From a painful realization that Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly) must face, and Artie (Saul Rubinek) accompanying Claudia on a soul-searching journey about her sister, to Steve (Aaron Ashmore) colliding with his past, the final six episodes of Warehouse 13 takes viewers on an emotionally-charged roller coaster ride."
Yeah, I have no context for that photo.

Via TV By The Numbers.

They Were Trying to Kill It

A brand new trailer for Godzilla has arrived, and it's still more of an introductory trailer than anything. Yes, we get to hear from the human characters this time, but it doesn't reveal much about the plot (as much plot as "Godzilla attacks things" might additionally have). It's still hints and mysteries, and furtive shots of various parts of the beast without actually showing him. There is a shot of something possibly alien, which might be part of a larger conflict the filmmakers had hinted at late last year.

All that being said, the film looks (as in visually) good. I just hope that it finds a way to keep itself going for two hours. Bryan Cranston can't just yell at people for the entire run time, though I would totally watch that movie.

25 Feb 2014

It's Not Magic, It's Talent

I think we can all agree on certain things concerning Mike Judge. King of the Hill, brilliant. Office Space, genius. Idiocracy, remarkable  Bevis and Butthead... um, timely? Extract... exists! The point is, he produces things that a lot of people find amusing. And he's trying again, on HBO. Silicon Valley looks like it's more in the vein of Office Space than anything, tackling the world of competitive tech innovation. Think a more sarcastic version of The Social Network, only because Judge doesn't mind cussing when he can, with more cussing. And it's got Martin Starr in it, and that's pretty much all I needed to know.

The comedy premieres April 6th, the same night as Game of Thrones. Which, along with the later premiere of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, makes for a very interesting lineup.

It's Crokinole On Ice

Canada won gold in both men's and women's curling last week in Sochi, and it would probably be best to have the game described by a Canadian. Sadly, I don't think there is a Canadian Muppet. The Swedes took silver in women's and bronze in men's, so the Swedish Chef I suppose has just as much pedigree to explain the wonderful game of curling as anyone.

Via the Mary Sue.

Mr. Pink, In The TARDIS, With The Doctor

A colleague of mine once summed up the companion situation on the TARDIS thusly: "The TARDIS needs boys." And while that comment might be very narrowly scoped, the larger message is that the TARDIS works better when it's full. The Doctor plus one gets boring quickly, and in the modern environment tends to lead towards romantic entanglements. Steven Moffat seems to understand this (more so than Russell T. Davies ever did), and surrounds the Doctor with companions at every occasion. And so, with the arrival of the Dozenth Doctor later this year, along with Clara and the Paternoster Gang, the TARDIS will be home to Danny Pink, played by former Emmerdale actor Samuel Anderson.

Said Moffat: "For the fourth time in Doctor Who history, Coal Hill School is coming to the aid of the TARDIS. In 1963 teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright accompanied the First Doctor. These days it’s the turn of Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald. And very soon now, Sam Anderson as Danny Pink will be entering the world of the Doctor. But how and why? Answers are coming later this year in Peter Capaldi’s first series of Doctor Who!"

Via Den of Geek.

24 Feb 2014

Harold Ramis Has Died

Harold Ramis, perhaps best known as the stoic Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters, has died at the age of 69. He suffered from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, which had nearly debilitated him in 2010. Ramis could pretty much be considered the king of 1980s comedy, having written, produced, directed or starred in a string of hits and classics, from National Lampoon's Animal House and the first Vacation film, to Caddyshack, to the aforementioned Ghostbusters, to Groundhog's Day.

For me however, his enduring contribution and greatest influence was his role as head writer and part of the ensemble in the early years of the masterpiece that was SCTV. It was there that he honed his comedic talents, and his character work, before graduating to the films that would inspire the comedians working today. His name attached to a project promised a pedigree, even if his most recent films failed to live up to the work of the past. 

On a personal note, I've written far too many obituaries lately.

Knick Knack, Paddywhack

While at one time TV was treated like film's ginger-headed step brother, now all the big names are coming to the small screen. Right now you've got David Fincher and Kevin Spacey on House of Cards, Don Cheadle on House of Lies, Kevin Bacon is leading The Following, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are killing it on True Detective, and it seems like every new show that gets announced has an A-Lister in the cast or behind the scenes. This is only a good thing.

For instance, Cinemax (who is desperate to get away from the perspective that they are only good for late night soft core porn) is entering the original content cable network war with Knick, a new series starring Clive Owen and directed by "retired" director Steven Soderbergh. While the brief teaser above might seem a little Dexter, the premise is promising. Set in 1900's New York at the Knickerbocker Hospital, it follows a surgeon in a time when medical science was still risky business, and cutting into a person was as potentially deadly as not. Given that it's Soderbergh, I think we can expect something unique and unexpected from what would traditionally be a period piece, but this trailer doesn't give us any indication of what they might be. I guess we'll have to wait for some real footage before getting properly excited about this one.

[Review] - The Invisible Woman

Courtesy of BBC Films
Full disclosure: I've never been that interested in Charles Dickens. While I respect this contribution to literature, he's not my favourite of the Victorian authors, and I rarely revisit his works. Because of my lack of interest in his works, I've never been over come by the desire to learn much about his life. So, while The Invisible Woman covers a period in Dickens' life that is largely unknown to those that are familiar with the author, I went into the film almost completely blind. Perhaps because I had no expectations, or brought any preconceptions into the theater with me, the film had an opportunity to win me over or lose me completely. And happily, it managed the former.

The film manages to avoid the trap of most historical biopics, in that the established events are not allowed to dictate the course of the story. Rather, Abi Morgan's script and Ralph Fiennes direction focuses entirely on the characters of Dickens and his secret lover Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones), as their romance evolves over the course of the final thirteen years of Dickens' life. It is as deliberately and dryly paced as any of Dickens' novels; a slow, winding character study that manages to both bask in and treat as immaterial the fact that it is a beautifully laid out period piece.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have known the comforts of many fallen women.

21 Feb 2014

They Make A Terrible Mess

Everybody has one of those moments: you hear a song you haven't heard in ages, then suddenly its on every radio station you listen to, your favourite TV show uses it in a promo, you overhear your coworkers talking about the band in the break room, etc. It's a really uncomfortable thing to have happen, mostly because you then spend the next half hour convincing yourself that you aren't actually living in a Truman Show-esque reality show, where your every thought is being subtly controlled by a douchey looking "auteur," and that the universe is just really really coincidental sometimes, and stuff like that freaks humans out.

That's what happened to me last week. Within the span of 24 hours, I read an article about keeping dinosaurs as pets, had an unrelated conversation with several people about keeping dinosaurs as pets, and then this infographic from John Conway about keeping dinosaurs as pets pops up on the internet.

So, if the guy in the control room is reading this, we need more Diet Dr. Pepper in the vending machine on the second floor. And stop stocking Fanta, it tastes like foot-ass.

Via Geekologie.

You're Welcome

This week is the week of the Guardians of the Galaxy. First came the fantastic trailer, then the internet took their turn at the same, now Marvel has released a bevy of material, including the first poster for the film, seen above. Just like the trailer ran counter to every modern convention for trailers, the poster does the same. Lots of empty space, full figures in natural(ish) almost relaxed positions. And humour. How dare a high concept film embrace it's nature in a forthwith and forward manner? I mean, Iron Man 3 was a comedy, something that was completely hidden from us in the advertising beforehand. I was looking forward to Guardians before. Now I'm frothing with excitement.

After the jump, find a micro interview with director James Gunn about what to expect in the next six months of advertising, what to expect from the film that will follow that advertising, and a series of character-focused mini trailers for each of the Guardians (which are a mix of what we've already seen with some hints of what we haven't), including the first official footage of Rocket Raccoon speaking.

[Review] - House of Cards, Season 2

Courtesy of Media Rights Capital
Last year, Netflix entered the original content industry with a thunderclap. The one-two punch of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black made the service an instant contender in the premium content business. It was a bold move, kind of like starting off your career with Symphony #40, or Don Quixote. Which also meant that the pressure to make the follow-up seasons as good as near perfection was immense. House of Cards, you'd have thought, wouldn't have felt the pressure as badly, for two reasons. First, it's based on the British series of the same name, which lasted three series, and whose plot the Americans appear to be following in broad strokes. And second, the series was pitched (and ordered) as a two year series, which assumes that Beau Willimon new where he would be taking things in the sophomore season.

The result however, is that while the second season is still home to some of the best performances in current "television," and still makes for intriguing watching, it isn't as interesting as season one. The manipulations are far less subtle, and strain credulity in their effects. While in the first season, there was a joy that built up watching Frank Underwood make Washington his bitch, this season his cold plotting lacked enthusiasm as it built towards it's inevitable conclusion. After a shocking start to the season, it lapsed fairly readily into obviousness.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers for the entire season, even the guinea pig stroking bits.

20 Feb 2014

Guardians Of Parks And Recreation

It took the internet a whole day to produce a version of the fantastic Guardians of the Galaxy trailer to the Parks and Rec theme. A whole day. What's the matter, internet, were you too busy having the sex with your Canadian girlfriend not to draw that connection immediantly, than cut, time and reedit the footage into the originally rendered framework, than upload it for the world to see? It only took tumblr like, an hour to make the same Bert Macklin joke, but as a gif. I have had it with your excuses, internet. If this sort of slippage continues, well I just don't see how we'll be able to keep you on through the next quarter.

Via Uproxx.

Movie Titles Are A Terrible Way to Break Someone's Heart - I Use Corporate Slogans

POYKPAC Comedy has made a sketch (that must have been excruciating to research) of two people breaking up using nothing but (154) different movie titles. It's a bit like that party game where you can speak only in song titles, except with more crying and less chance of random, Sting-influenced sexy times afterwards.

Also, the pregnant lady is Jenn Lyon, who played Lindsey in seasons three and four of Justified

Via Uproxx.

Hobbit Set To Desolate Your DVD Collection

The Desolation of Smaug was a significant impriovement in terms of pacing, character development and overall story, over it's predecessor. Will the DVD release be equally impressive? Well, initially, not so much. The DVD will feature part 2 of the New Zealand: Home Of Middle Earth, while the Blu-ray will include "Peter Jackson invites you to the set", the Ed Sheeran I See Fire music video, and several of the production videos.

All of this is just treading water until the extended cut is released in the fall, which will inevitably be brimming with all the in-depth features we've come to expect from Jackson and Co. The bare bones release date has been set for April 7th in the UK, and April 8th in North America.

Via Den of Geek.

19 Feb 2014

Penny For Your (Even Longer, Darker) Thoughts

Showtime has released what they are calling the "first" trailer for their new psychosexual drama series Penny Dreadful. I say "first" because it's really a trailer we've already seen, but with an extra minute of gore, implied sex, implied nudity, and really very obvious monsterism. The May premiere is still a ways off, so I can understand they want to pace how much they reveal ahead of time, and confirming that the show will have plenty of scary sexy times is as good a way to keep us interested for three more months without giving away the farm.

In The Game Of Thrones, You Play the Music Or You Light the Lights


I like Game of Thrones. I like the Muppets. Not surprisingly, I'm rather taken with artist Yehudi Mercado's mashup of the two. He's pegged the Muppets into pretty decent role, and now my mind can't help but figure out which Muppets would be best suited for the characters he didn't use. Gonzo as Theon? Sweetums as the Mountain? Robin as Bran?

Hit the jump to see the rest, or visit Mercado's website for a great set of Community "action figures."

I'm Hooked On A Feeling

And that feeling is one of glee. The first Guardians of the Galaxy trailer has arrived, and everything about it is fantastic looking. Aesthetically, the film looks fantastic; the make up, set design and CG all look suitably alien (it helps that James Gunn is a user of practical effects on top of CG). Content wise, this is clearly a Gunn film, propping up tropes just to knock them down with a heavily sarcastic sense of humour. And the characters look like they're ready to be impressive.

On top of all that, Marvel has crafted the perfect first trailer for the film. It introduces the concepts, rather than diving into plot, which is important because Marvel can't bank on prior knowledge for this film. Guardians is being called one of the biggest risks both of the year, and of Marvel's film series, because it is introducing a very different kind of film full of characters that very few are familiar with. And I'm so very excited about that. I've felt since the announcement that Guardians has the potential to be Marvel's diamond in the rough, and from this first, brief look, Gunn has managed just that.

Also, I'm guessing that this trailer has had some subtle editing in terms of language and content, that might be bumped up in the final release. "A-holes" seems a little bowdlerized.

Hit the jump for a pile of pictures.

18 Feb 2014

Somebody Else's History Book

HBO has released a new trailer for the forthcoming season of Game of Thrones, which doesn't make the still slightly more than a month long wait any easier. Looks good though. Looks real good.

In other, slightly late news, the highly successful Game of Thrones exhibition that HBO has tested in Toronto the past couple years is returning, for a larger world tour in 2014. According to the press release:
"Following the great success of HBO’s first of its kind Game of Thrones international exhibition that traveled to five cities in 2013, HBO is extending its global reach by visiting Mexico City, Mexico; Austin, Texas at South by Southwest® (SXSW®); Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Oslo, Norway; Toronto, Canada; Belfast, Northern Ireland and Vancouver, Canada in 2014.  The exhibition will also be featured as a part of Time Warner Cable Studios in New York City."
The New York dates were in January, so if you missed that, I guess you'll have to wait until next year. Or, you could come up to Toronto May 14th to 18th, when the exhibit returns to the place of it's birth, the Bell TIFF Lightbox. The 2013 edition will feature "a collection of nearly 100 original artifacts from pivotal scenes in seasons 1, 2 and 3, plus select pieces from the fourth season premiering in 2014." Which will be half over by the time the exhibit comes around, and well done by the time it makes it's way to Belfast and Vancouver.

As per usual, the exhibit is free, though I gather the Vancouver dates will have an admission fee for the facility that is hosting the exhibit.

Via HBO.

[Review] - The Lego Movie

I freely admit that, when it was announced, I bemoaned the Lego Movie. In the wake of films like GI Joe, Transformers, and Battleship, I, like most saw a Lego movie as nothing more than another transparent attempt to synergised the easily profitable children's movie demographic with toy sales. Then, they announced that Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the minds behind Clone High, 21 Jump Street, and the first (and brilliant) Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs were going to write and direct. Thus all fears were assuaged. These are men that are able to bring an intelligent form of absurdity to even the blandest of concepts, and elevate what would be, in the hands of any other, empty and trite into the sublime and invigorating. They have continued their streak with The Lego Movie, an utter success on nearly every level.

Everything is awesome.

Hit the jump for the brief review, which contains spoilers that have pigs.

John Henson Had Died

John Henson, the second youngest of the children of Jim Henson, died suddenly on Friday after suffering a massive heart attack; he was 48. John was not as involved in the Henson Company as other of his siblings, though he did temporarily take up the role of Sweetums for a time, following the 1992 death of Richard Hunt. John's death comes less than a year after his mother Jane's death last April, and is a stark reminder of his father Jim's passing at the equally early age of 53, in 1990.

John is survived by his wife and two daughters, one of whom was with him when he suffered his attack. While the Henson family no longer have an legal ties to the Muppets, such a tragedy occurring so close to the release of a new Muppet film will no doubt overshadow the lasting legacy of their family. 

Via CNN.

14 Feb 2014

Best Brick Nominees

Have you seen all nine best picture nominees for this years Oscars? Would you be more likely to see them if they were Lego? Would seeing the movie posters in Lego help convince you? Why are being so disdainful towards this concept? Well, dammit, can't you just go with things sometimes? It just seems like you're being purposefully dismissive. I didn't say you were, I said it seemed that way. Well shit, I don't know, maybe to provoke a reaction! Like the other night, at Bob and Cheryl's, you didn't have to say the casserole was dry, you could have just let things be. But nooooo, you always have to make things into a performance. I don't care if it was dry, that is not my point! Sometimes other people's opinions are valid too! Like the wall paper. I hate that wallpaper, but you never even asked what I thought. And it looks like a baby puked in it's own diarrhea. There, I said it. I said it, and I'm happy I said it. Are you? Are you happy? Is this... what makes you happy?

I am sobbing with happiness right now, aren't you?

Hit the jump for the rest of the poster, which includes a very Ron Swanson-looking Joaquin Phoenix.

Marvel Still Holds All the Cards

Via The Geek Twins.

Between Avengers: Age of Ultron starting to film in South Africa, Kevin Feige's recent comments that a Black Widow solo film might still be in the works, and the release of yet another trailer for Amazing Spider-man 2 (a film I still cannot get excited about), it's as a good a time as any for an info-graphic to clearly explain where the rights to various Marvel characters stand, and who we might be able to expect to pop up in future MCU offerings.

Feige and Marvel have been doing a decent job bringing the previous loosed chickens home to roost over the last couple years, so "Everything Else" is a pretty good description of what Marvel themselves own. My guess is, Namor and Man-Thing will probably be welcomed back into the fold in the next couple years, as I can't see either of those two characters getting their own film any time soon. Spidey and the mutants though, they're on their own; they ain't never coming home.

But really, Lionsgate? Man-thing?

Via ComicsAlliance.

I Love You, Netflix

Happily, for those of us who prefer to not make a deal out of a day celebrating a man who failed to be pummeled to death, and are forced to spend the evening at home because all of our favourite restaurants are fully booked, today is the day that Netflix is releasing the entire second season of House of Cards. I suppose Frank and Claire are as good a role model for modern romance as any others. Calculating, understanding, forgiving, loyal, dastardly, potentially lethal, completely asexual and sharply dressed. Just like mother always hoped for.

You want romantic plans for tonight: curl up with your significant other, and binge watch Kevin Spacey ninja his way through Washington politics. What could possibly be more romantic than that.

Hit the jump for a less romantic trailer for season 2.

13 Feb 2014

Soon, Last Week Tonight, On Sundays

John Oliver proved himself worthy of being more than just a corespondent during his summer long tenure as host of the Daily Show, and HBO wisely 1) decided to get into the satirical news coverage game and b) hire Oliver almost immediately. Oliver, who has been developing the series while also returning to his role as Ian Duncan on the freshly redeemed season 5 of Community, will show us all what he's got as his own man later this spring:
"HBO has confirmed the title and launch date for John Oliver’s topical half-hour comedy series. Presenting a satirical look at the week in news, politics and current events, LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER will debut SUNDAY, APRIL 27 (11:00-11:30 p.m. ET/PT), with other weekly editions debuting subsequent Sundays at the same time on HBO."
I'm very interested to see what kind of format Last Week Tonight takes. Will it edge closer to The Daily Show, or Politically Incorrect, or an extended version of Weekend Update. Personally, I thought the interviews were Oliver's weak point during his substitution, but he got much better was the summer went on. His celebrity stuff tended to be sycophantic, though his political and social stuff was better researched than actual reporters. So I'd be just as happy to see Oliver do a solid 30 minutes of news coverage every week, and because it's HBO, he'll be able to cuss all he wants. And it'll sound classy, because he's British.
Also, just so everyone is clear, John Oliver's comedy news show will have as it's lead in, Game of Thrones and Veep. Sundays are going to be fantastic this spring.

Via Uproxx.

[Review] - Justified, Season 5 Episode 6, "Kill the Messenger"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television.
After last week's bloodbath, this episode was pretty reserved. There was still a lot going on, and a lot of ground was covered before the hour was over, but it felt smaller. Tighter, and focused. Everybody had a goal to work towards over the course of the episode, clear and simple (or, as simple as these character's lives ever get). It reminded us of character dynamics as we move into the back half of the season, and established new relationships that will inevitably lead to confrontation. It was a welcome breather after all that death, that never felt like filler.

And really went out it's way to prove that Danny Crowe is a crazy sonofabitch.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have enjoy a consexual relationship.

Sid Caesar Has Died

Legendary comedian Sid Caesar has died at the age of 91. I say legendary, and he truly deserves such a superlative. His career, which saw him regarded as one of the best comedians both of his era and in general, not only established himself, but helped establish the careers of the Greats: Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, and Larry Gelbart were just some of the writers that got their start with Sid. Beyond that, the way he ran The Show of Shows set the standard for sketch comedy for the next fifty years, moving away from vaudeville style one liners and towards theatrical, long form sketches (which had been experimented with by others, but embraced by Caesar). Sketch comedy in the US would follow his lead, and one liners would all but disappear in the 50s and 60s.

He was also an early adopter of what we'd recognize as modern showrunning. Caesar would rely on his staff to create everything for him, but provided feedback on every concept, and encouraged spaghetti-against-the-wall style brainstorming, where any and every idea would be pitched, and only those that got a reaction from the room would make it to the screen. It was also one of the first shows to use a large staff in a "Writer's Room." His influence cannot be understated, and his passing is yet another reminder of the waning of an era, an era that has no equal.

12 Feb 2014

Because The Internet Can't Take A Joke

Seriously. Developer Coffee Stainput out material for a so-called Goat Simulator as a gag, and the internet collectively had an irony fit, and now Coffee Stainis making Goat Simulator a reality. I am the last person to tell others what to do with their money, and if they want to waste $10 on Stream for a game that will have fantastic entertainment value for about half an hour, than never play it again, they can go right ahead. But I won't.

Now Badger Simulator. That'd be another matter.

Via Gamma Sqaud.

New Archer Credits Really Blow

Anyone who has been watching Archer this season knows that the production team has done a fantastic job completely retooling the direction of the series. It's fresh and inventive, but still completely Archer. Despite the hard right the narrative took, it didn't feel forced, which speaks to Adam Reed's confidence in the characters to carry whatever plot he might through at them.

Part of the retool has been an upgraded credits sequence (now with 100% more Lucky Yates), complete with a damned impressive title card, which looks like this:

The video above explains how the animation team pulled off this cool effect, and the answer is refreshingly practical.

Via Uproxx.

Whom So Ever Holds this Hammer, Will Be Clumsy As Hell

Here is the gag reel from Thor: The Dark World in which it is shown that Edna Mode was right, that Jamie Alexander really likes mugging for the camera, and everyone looked to be having a fun time. Which is good, because Marvel has already started working on Thor 3, so if they haven't started getting along by now, the next couple years are going to be a chore.

Via Gamma Squad.

11 Feb 2014

Forces of Earth And Asgard Assemble

Courtesy of Marvel Television Studios

Marvel has released the first image of Jamie Alexander as the Lady Sif, as she will appear on Agents of SHIELD. Her episode, which will see the team lend the Asgardian aid as she hunts for the witch Lorelei under orders from Odin (cough), will air on ABC on March 11th. Because everyone is taking the Olympics off, which is really starting to egg my car. If I don't care about international sporting events, I don't feel like I should be punished by having the TV I am interested in postponed (as has been done with Archer, Parks and Rec, Community, SHIELD, and next week's Justified).

In other MCU news, Avengers: Age of Ultron officially went into production today, with Joss Whedon's even more character heavy film beginning it's shoot in Johannesburg, before cycling through Italy and South Korea before settling in London to finish the principle photography. The film, which sees all of the Avengers return, as well as several news faces working for the forces of good and evil, has also upgraded Paul Bettany from being able to literally phone in his performance as JARVIS to actually having to show up, as he'll be playing the Vision. This makes one assume that Vision, as created by Ultron, will be a physical upgrade to the JARVIS AI. I would be remiss in my own self promotion  if I failed to mention that, back when we all thought Coulson was a robot, I had a similar theory about JARVIS being involved with Ultron's creation. While I was almost entirely wrong, I was write enough to mention it here and pad out this entry.

So consider that accomplished.

Via Den of Geek.

Pavlovian Conditioning At It's Most Adorable

I like Parks and Rec. You like Parks and Rec (if you know what's good for ya). Greg doesn't like Parks and Rec, but he's going through some things, and will come to his senses in time. But this baby loves Parks and Rec. Note how, when the theme starts, he stops whatever he is doing, in order to dance. Note how when the theme starts to reach it's crescendo (about the time Chris Pratt show up on screen), he stops dancing and starts giggling like a goon. That is the appropriate response.

This kid is going to be fine. His parents are doing things right - so far. Though they should start him/her/it on the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness soon. Poop in your pants as long as you want, kid, but you need to understand the perils of Skim Milk and importance of Property Rights early on. Otherwise you might end up as some kind of man child, soft and prone to wearing velvet.

Via Uproxx.

Who Else Has Dragons, Really?

HBO is going whole hog in promoting the upcoming season of Game of Thrones. Each season, almost episode to episode over the first three years, has gained new viewers which is practically impossible to pull off, let alone maintain. They really want to see that trend continue, and have opted this year to give us a fifteen minute "foreshadowing" of the new season, with interviews with the cast and crew, and sneak peaks of new footage.

They also press the point that this season isn't a ramp up to a big event, like the Red Wedding, but rather that the first three seasons have been a ramp up to this. Which, if you've read the books, you know is kind of true. And, if you've read the books, you recognise the purpose of every one of the scenes they are giving us a sneak peek to. And anyone who hasn't read the books really has no excuse at this point. This is season 4 already. Just read the damned things so the rest of us don't have to be so spoiler cautious.

Additionally, Gwendoline Christie seems really giddy about being on this show.

10 Feb 2014

It's Always Time To Play The Music

One of the best things about the Muppet Show was how every song sung across all five seasons was a cover. Traditional folk, Victorian poetry, and contemporary rock (the Muppets version of What's It Worth is still one of my favourite pieces they ever did). It was brilliant, because it showed not only the talents and range of the cast, but also because they didn't have to get bogged down in writing original songs every week, and could concentrate on the humour (they saved the original songs for the films, where they became classics). Of course, it's for this very reasons that only three heavily edited seasons have been released on DVD, because of fussy copyright lawyers who hate joy.

Last week, Jimmy Fallon stepped away from Late Night and into The Tonight Show. And his final act was to perform a full rendition of The Weight by The Band, with The Muppets. Even Robin and Rizzo were there! Yes, they are in heavy promotion for their new film, but it's stuff like this that serves as additional reminder that a modern Muppet Show would work just as well as the original. And yes, at this point, I am waging a one man campaign for Disney to bring back the Muppet Show proper.

Damn, I think my eyes are leaking.

Via Uproxx.

The Conclusion I Have Drawn Is That You Are Dangerous

While not as stylish as the first teaser for season 2, this new full trailer for Hannibal's second year is still very good (though NBC's voice over guy is trying a little too hard). Despite burying it on Friday nights, I'm comforted that NBC is making an effort to advertise the show, which deserves every bit of success it can muster.

And I am very intrigued by this footage. Will's hallucinations were a major part of the narrative structure last season, so I'm hesitant to suggest that the footage we've seen in all of these trailers between Hannibal and Jack is a spoiler, when it could just as easily be a vision. And it looks like, despite her laissez faire attitude last season, this year Gillian Anderson seems to be stirring the pot somewhat.

I am so very properly excited for the show to be back.

[Review] - The Monuments Men

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures
The Monuments Men falls squarely into the hole that so many "based on historical events" films do, which is that what happened, happened. Even by condensing events, amalgamating characters and fabricating drama, the end result can never not be that Germany surrenders, Hitler dies, and art will be recovered. The way to get around this narrative constricting dilemma is to make historical films about character rather than plot. To focus on the people that took part in such events, to understand how they dealt with things and how they accomplished their tasks, rather than the specifics of the task.

Which is where George Clooney's script and film really fall over. Because Monuments Men isn't about either. The characters are ill defined scene fillers, and two years worth of the second world war are glossed over with such speed and abandon that it barely feels as though they were in any danger at all. While the film posits a fascinating potential, it never achieves it, and ultimately feels hollow, bred more out of nostalgia than any specific desire to tell a story, plot or character based.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that were unnerved by the incredibly still horse in the barn scene.

7 Feb 2014

Zombeavers. That Is All

Visonary Director: OK, so I've got this great idea for a movie.

Accomplished Producer: Shoot [makes finger pistols].

Director: So, it's a commentary - I don't want to say satire, but definitely an homage - to horror movies.

Producer: Horror movies are hot right now.

Director: Yeah. A group of friends go into the woods...

Producer: Will there be nubile young twenty somethings?

Director: Umm, yeah.

Producer: So, there will be boobies?

Director: S...ure. Though, the story I really want to tell is...

Producer: And lots of implied sexuality? Nothing too overt, you know. Got to watch that rating.

Director: Sure, whatever. So, these kids they go into the woods, and I want to use the isolation of the wildness to make a comment on how isolated and removed the youth of today are from society.

Producer: Well, we'll stick a pin in that for a moment. Can we talk about the boobies for a second.

Director: Well, I'd like to fini...

Producer: I'm thinking, lots of swimming sequences. Get that Jaws style tension building, plus plenty of opportunities for tops to slip off. And handbras. Everyone loves handbras.

Director: Yeah, that's fine. But the message I really want to send, you know, with a fresh new edge that the audience can relate to, is that for society to function, you can't hide behind technology, but have to work together. And that's the only way we'll survive.

Producer: I don't really see a lot of money in that. I mean, that'll be a hard sell in the domestic market.

Director: But what I want to get across is if we, as people, don't band together, than society will crumble. Just like they'll all die at the hands of zombie beavers.

Producer: ...

Director: See, there are beavers. That are zombies.

Producer: ...

Director: And they are a metaphor for the current state of our culture. Slowly being rotted by apathy and indifference. But, you know, with beavers.

Producer: ...

Director: That are zombies.

Producer: I could kiss you hard on the mouth right now, you glorious bastard.

Simon Pegg Searches For Happiness

I'm not big on road trip movies, where a character travels in order to "discover themselves." However, I am a fan of Simon Pegg. So will the latter be able to counter the effects of the former? I don't know. The first trailer for Hector and the Search for Happiness doesn't really set it aside from the standard soul journey/bucket list/walkabout sort of film.

What it has working in it's favour is an impressive cast, who aside from Pegg include Rosamund Pike, Christopher Plummer, Toni Collette, Stellan Skarsgard, and Jean Reno. The comedic bits also look solid, but we know Pegg can pull those off without much effort. It's the drama that I'd be interested to see if it lands. Hector will be released in the UK his autumn, with no current word on any international releases in cinemas.

Via Collider.

Continuum Returns

I've made no secret over my enthusiastic liking of Continuum. For my money, it's the best science fiction series on television right now. Intelligent without being pretentious, complex without being impenetrable, fun without being corny. And it's a Canadian show! Yay us!

The second season was masterful in the way it dug into the mythology of the show, and dealt with the complexities of time travel, and left we viewers with so many questions. But in a way that wasn't frustrating, like so many other arc-based mythology building shows. We were all clamouring for season 3, and it's nearly here. The third season of the Rachel Nichols lead series will begin on Showcase on March 16th (Showcase has branded that date the "world premiere," but I am uncertain as to when Syfy intends on airing the new season - sorry Americans). March and April, by quirk of scheduling, will be heavy with shows I'm inclined to review, but make no mistake, Continuum reviews will be front and centre.

And if this teaser is any indication, things might be getting a little Back to the Future Part 2 on us this year. I can't hardly wait!

Via Showcase.

6 Feb 2014

Friendship Is Ambush Tactics

I have never seen an episode of My Little Pony. I am not the target (or secondary) audience, and "Bronie" sounds like a terrible desert of some kind. But I don't begrudge or judge others for their interests. To each their own. That being said, artist Cherry Garcia has found a way to make me interested in MLP, and that's by making the characters dinosaurs. Raptors, to be specific. Magical, rainbow raptors, but we'll stick a pin in that for now.

I don't really understand why grown men are increasingly becoming infatuated by a show about cartoon ponys using magic to become friends. I would completely understand why grown men would increasingly become infatuated by a show about cartoon raptors using magic to become friends. That just makes sense. Perfect, obvious sense.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the cast, some of which have feathers!

Where Are Your Gods Now?

Earlier last year, HBO seemed confident that their long gestating American Gods series would see some signs of life by the end of 2013. I even took the opportunity to make some casting suggestions (all of which I stand behind). Turns out for HBO, not so much. Quietly, and late in the year, they allowed their option on the series to expire. Why? Says Neil Gaiman:
"I wrote this first draft script that I loved. One of the reasons I loved it was because I go to do all this new stuff that wasn’t in the book. I got to open it up. Look, the book begins with Shadow in prison, about to get out of prison, so I opened the [pilot episode so] you got to see the bank robbery that went wrong, you got to see all the things that wound up with him in prison you got to see his entire three-year stretch in prison… you’re half an hour into this thing before he’s getting out of prison – stuff like that – and it was definitely the sort of awkward, embarrassed notes from HBO where they’re going ‘Um, can you make it more like the book?’"
Personally, I agree with both of them. I feel that it would be irresponsible of Gaiman not to open up the story wider, as he'd have to do to fill in the hours that a show would require. His book is dense, but it's still only one book. I also agree with HBO, who would probably be looking at this from a Game of Thrones perspective, and that strict adherence to the book at least in the early days of the series would gather a larger audience, and original elements could be introduced over time. It's Gaiman's story, and he can do what he likes. Me, I'd probably keep the opening the way it is, and introduce backstory slowly throughout the run of the show rather than dump it all at the front.

The series is still moving forward, with FremantleMedia buying the option, and Gaiman is on board as an executive producers, as well as presumably still doing some writing duties. They'd be free to now shop the series to other possible outlets, such as Netflix, who rarely turn down an opportunity to kick HBO in the kidneys. Additionally, the semi-but-not-really-sequel, Anansi Boys, is being adapted for the BBC by Red Productions, who previous produced Bedlam, Blood and Queer as Folk. So that's exciting.

Via Den of Geek and  /Film.

[Review] - Justified, Season 5 Episode 5, "Shot All to Hell"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
Last week, I noted how some of the elements of that episode, particularly the disconnected scenes that came at the very end, seemed like they were either filler or things that belonged elsewhere but didn't work. So they were packaged together in episode 4, so that the narrative could sprint past them in order to get to something meatier. This episode confirmed that belief, as all those little moments needed to be got out of the way for this 42 minute bloodbath to take place.

In the five seasons Justified has been on, there have been bloody episodes, but never to this extent. The alternate title here could have been Thinning The Herd. Not only did a record number of people die, both reoccurring characters and new, but the episode also brought an end to one of the major story lines of the series. In many ways, it had a season finale feel to it, except for the dozen or so other story lines that are just getting going. And a helpful reminder that even on a good day in Harlan County, nobody comes out a winner.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that think they dropped a toonie somewhere.

5 Feb 2014

If They're Shooting At You, They're Bad Guys

Some weeks, I have to scrimp and scrape and bleed the internet to find things I feel are worth posting (and I only post two or three things a day). Other weeks, I'm spoiled for choice, like this week. The sheer amount of stuff that came out of (or rather, during) the Superbowl on the weekend means I'm just now getting through the last of it. And here it is, the last of it: a new Captain America: Winter Soldier trailer.

I've included the European trailer rather than the American one for a couple reasons. One, despite reusing the same opening as the first trailer, I feel it's a slightly better version of the second trailer. And second, it gives us our first (and to date, only) look at Sharon Carter, who considering the casting hoopla around the character I assumed would have a larger (read: lead) role, but has been completely absent from promotions thus far.

Also, I'm very curious as to who dies in this film to get every character into that graveyard. Nick Fury gets the hell beaten out of him, but Samuel L. Jackson's in Avengers: Age of Ultron, so it's got to be someone else. Guess I'll have to wait another two months to find out.

Cool Beans

I don't really think I need to include a blurb with these Muppets post anymore, do you? Other than I love the suggestion that Constantine and Kermit will do a Marx Bros mirror gag at one point in the film. Now that's cool beans.

Hit the jump for additional Swedish Chef.

[Review] - Agents of SHIELD, Season 1 Episode 13, "T.R.A.C.K.S."

Courtesy of Marvel Television Productions
Often times, especially with shows that have heavy serialised components, the show is better afterwards, when watched all in one go. ABC is doing the exact opposite of that with SHIELD. The flaws of the series would be less noticeable if we didn't have so long between episodes to matriculate on them. I want to feel something other than resigned acceptance towards this series,especially off the end of a stronger episode, which this was. But if the inconsistent quality of the individual episodes aren't doing their own part to drive viewers away, ABC isn't doing the show any favours with this uneven broadcast schedule.

After several weeks off for the holidays, they came back for two episodes, than took another two weeks off before giving us T.R.A.C.K.S. Now, the show departs for another month, before new episodes and some Asgardian action return. It's no wonder viewers are leaving, they're having problems knowing when to watch. Which is a shame, because when the show is good, it really is worth watching. And T.R.A.C.K.S. ended up being one of the show's better outings, even if the orange groves of California looked nothing like the Italian countryside.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that really dig the fact that Stan Lee had a woman on both arms.

4 Feb 2014

I've Always Found The Idea Of Death Comforting

Last season, Bryan Fuller was not shy about sharing his hopes and visions for Hannibal's future. Unfortunately, all of those hopes were dependent on the various rights holders of the various Hannibal novels to work in cooperation with the series. Fuller, for season one, only had the rights to materials and characters originating in Red Dragon, and as such Fuller set the series on a three or four year course that would cover the background and contents of the novel, in it's own unique way. Fuller wants, however, to cover the entire Hannibal saga, including Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. He got to have his cake and eat it a bit last year, with characters like Miriam Lass and Dr. Abel Gideon standing in for Clarice and Hannibal in their Silence states.

Based on the resounding success of the first season, it seems that at least some of Fuller's dreams might come true (or at least, the rights holders have realised that Dr. Lecter's cinema days are long gone, and this show is the best possible future the character has). We know this because season two has announced a hog of cast additions, and front and centre is Mason Verger, played by Michael Pitt. Verger comes from the third book in the trilogy, Hannibal, as Lecter's lone surviving victim. Katherine Issabel will be playing Verger's twin sister, Margot. Also joining season two with be Cynthia Nixon as an officer of the Inspector General, investigating Jack Crawford; Amanda Plummer, Jeremy Davies, and Chris Diamantopoulos will each have appearances; as will returning guests Gillian Anderson as Dr. Du Maurier, and Eddie Izzard as Gideon. Back in the summer, Fuller had confirmed that they had asked David Bowie to play Lecter's uncle, but I haven't found any further confirmation of that.

What we can take away from this is that Fuller is fully engrossed in the mythology of Hannibal Lecter, and if this second trailer for season two, starting at the end of the month on NBC, is any indication, it'll be just as frankly terrifying as season one. Yay!

Via Den of Geek.

Back Off Man, I'm A Builder

Lego Cuusoo continues to make excellent choices (though I'm still bummed that Muppet Lego didn't happen... yet) in their official selections. Minecraft was a perfect fit, and the Back to the Future set was fantastic (three time machines in one!). But they will undoubtedly pale in comparison to the just announced and official Ghostbusters set.

The video above was the submission to Cuusoo, which included the amazingly detailed Ghostbusters HQ, which sadly hasn't been approved for production. What we will be getting is all four Busters, plus the Ecto-1. Which will make a nice pair with the DeLorean (I guess it is too much to ask for a Slimer minifig to go along with it)

Now, if someone could get Lego to make a Roger Rabbit set, that'd be my three favourite eighties movies Legoized. I guess I'll have to settle for two for now.

Via Gamma Squad.

If Neil deGrasse Tyson Asks You To Travel To The Cosmos With Him, You Say Yes

Children, pay attention: this is what epic looks like.

Cosmos returns March 9th, on FOX.

3 Feb 2014

People Die At The Fair

Earlier last week, we got a series of character posters for Seth MacFarlane's A Million Ways To Die In The West.I said at the time that unless the trailer really sucked, I was going to be looking forward to this one. Well, at the end of the week the trailer, above, dropped. And...

I like it. MacFarlane obviously has written the film to his strengths, ie. sexual depravity and extreme foulness. But, anyone familiar with the time period has to admit that those aren't too far off the mark. I like the use of western tropes to set up decidedly modern jokes. Blazing Saddles did the same thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not comparing this to Blazing Saddles. I haven't seen this yet. Only the trailer. And I like the trailer.

And, very few people give Charlize Theron a chance to be funny. Which is a shame, because she's hilarious when given a chance. So that's one thing Million Ways will have going for it.

[Review] - Inside Llewyn Davis

Courtesy of StudioCanal
Some filmmakers evolve over time; some become bloated with success and scale. The Coens aren't like that. They appeared years ago fully formed, and there is a sense of comfort in watching Inside Llewyn Davis, and understanding that very little has changed from their early films. The patience, the humour, the purposeful disregarding of convention in favour of a visceral, human story is all in place, and just as engaging as ever.

What can you say about a Coen Brothers film, other than what you expect is what you're going to get: a damned good film. A misstep for the brothers is rare, and tends to happen when they are trying to be commercial. This isn't that. This is the brothers at their most artistic. This film exists because they wanted to explore a character, and a place, and a time, in that order. And they've executed it magnificently.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that want the Cincinnati file.

Philip Seymour Hoffman Has Died

Philip Seymour Hoffman has died at the age of 46, of a suspected drug overdose. In May of last year, the respected actor had revealed that he had relapsed after over 20 years of sobriety, and had sought treatment for his problem at that time.

As tragic as the cause may be, Hoffman will be remembered as one of the most dedicated and versatile actors of his time. Rising during the Indie resurgence of the nineties, and establishing a position in Paul Thomas Anderson bank of players, Hoffman was a chameleon of an actor, disappearing into whatever role he was called upon to play, and seemingly able to playing everything across the spectrum from light comedy to hard drama. He first came to my attention as a lead in Owning Mahowny, in 2003, though I had noticed him long before that in films like Hard Eight, State and Main, and of course, the Big Lebowski. Seeing his name attached to a project immediately elevated it into another class. The internet seemed to agree, as evidenced by the Her trailer above, which replaced Hoffman as the voice of Samantha.

Hoffman is yet another in a list of recent deaths by artists that have died far too young, for reasons that might have been avoided. Life, as we are reminded far too often, is a series of choices, and those choices don't always go our way.
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