31 Mar 2014

The Password Is movietime

Community makes a lot of movie references. It's kind of their shtick. In an effort to add support to the #renewCommunity cause, which asks NBC to give the series a final sixth season pick-up (it's not like NBC is bursting at the seams with content anyway), this video compilation features many (but it would be impossible to include all) of the movie references from the five seasons thus far. Basically, it's all the obvious references.

It's definitely the John Belushi of internet video compilations. Not the Jim.

Via Uproxx.

[Review] - Hannibal, Season 2 Episode 5, "Mukōzuke"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
The word that kept coming to mind as I watched this episode of Hannibal was "disingenuous." This episode was a lot of things, and covered a lot of ground, but it kept coming back to explanations, and those explanations never felt true. It was the first time since the series began that certain elements have felt forced. That the characters were being manipulated by an unseen hand and not Hannibal's, but that of the writers.

That's not to say it wasn't good. As Fuller and the writers have shown, even the worst episode of Hannibal is quality television. It was just underwhelming considering the way things ended last week, and confusing in terms of what has come before, and distracting in terms of what comes next. And while there were several elements at play, and plenty of story to go around (it amazes me every week that they seem to be able to cram a feature length amount of content into 42 minutes), none of it really sat comfortably at the same table together.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that often play "find the liver" when they are bored.

[Review] - Bad Words

Courtesy of Darko Entertainment
George Carlin maintained that there are no bad words, just bad intentions. There are no bad intentions with Bad Words, Jason Bateman's directorial debut. And when you get down to it, not really that many bad words either. The film has a heavier foundations in emotional drama than most of the films opting for the "Bad" genre of extreme comedy. And while it does occasionally reveal in bursts of over-the-line offensiveness, it never strays too far, and always feels fit to pull itself back.

Normally, I'd say this riding-the-fence mentality was a sign of skittishness on the part of the filmmaker, but here it makes a certain sense. The film holds together better because of the back and forth. That's not to say it is a perfect film; there is much room for improvement. But as the freshman product from both Bateman behind the camera, and writer Andrew Dodge behind the pen, it's a more solid effort that you might expect.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that DON'T LOOK AT ME!

28 Mar 2014

Everything's Better When Orchestrated

Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble ACJW's have put together a fantastic compilation of theme songs from cartoons. 43 theme songs, in point of fact. And while I didn't recognise all of them (cheers to whomever decided to add animated aids), some of the them, like Babar, made my heart happy. And some, like Peanuts or the Looney Tunes, are simply too classic not to include.

But minus points for including Tiny Toons but not Batman: The Animated Series.

Via Uproxx.


Ninja Turtles aren't my thing. They never were. I watched the 80s/90s cartoon, but it didn't stick with me. I've got some action figures kicking around from back in the day, and I own the original live action films (the Jim Henson designed turtles in the original are still amazing). I never read the comics. So, the prospect of another film based on the franchise fills me with apathy. And to be honest, I have no problems with this trailer. The turtles look decent, but it also appears to be another overly CGI action movie, like every other damned summer movie. It'll just another one of the bunch.

And to anyone freaking out because the Shredder apparently Norman Osbourn-ed the turtles in this one, remember that the turtles regularly fight aliens from Dimension X, aliens sometimes sitting in the belly of a giant robot. If you are screaming for an "authentic" adaptation, then why aren't you clamoring for that? But, as I said, this isn't my particular rodeo.

What We Call Trailers Are Really Leaders. And What Trails The Film Are Now Called Stingers

I post a lot of movie trailers on this site, and like any cinephile I enjoy watching a trailer. But they aren't my favourite part of the movie environment. They are the most obvious piece of marketing, and are often so homogenized that they fail to make a statement. But back in the day, they were one of a limited number of ways to know anything about a movie ahead of release. It's no surprise that Apple Movies was one of the first and most popular sites on the internet.

In the modern online environment, we are inundated with too long a promotional period for films and TV, so for months ahead of a release, we get trailer after trailer of recycled footage cut into new arrangements, to keep our short attention spans focused on one specific product. Game of Thrones doesn't need to release a dozen trailers in the three weeks before it's premiere, but it does. And despite the fact that it doesn't come out until May, Amazing Spider-man 2 has basically given away the entire film with it's endless parade of trailers.

This short documentary, from Filmmaker IQ, explains the history of the trailer from conception to the modern carpet bombing techniques. It's fun, and a decent reminder that even back in the day, trailers were still overly long and gave too much away about the movie.

Via /Film.

27 Mar 2014

The Doctor, Bricked

Lego Cuuso strikes again, or at least they hope to. Until recently, despite fan clamour, Lego was prevented from creating any Doctor Who based sets because Character Building owned the license. And let me say, those Character Building were top notch (and Lego compatible). I bought most of them, along with far too many of the Lego inspired blind-purchase bags. But as was recently revealed, the license is at least partially available (Character Building has a new minifig line set for sale in 2014, including Capaldi and John Hurt's Doctors), and fans might be that much closer to seeing the TARDIS and the more recent Doctors in true Lego form. This set is currently up for vote on the Cuuso, and isn't far from the 10,000 votes needed to push it in front of Lego's official eyes.

I love the Character Building sets, and the figures with their specially molded heads. But this set includes a really solid looking K-9 (I built my own, but I like the body design on this one more). And that Dalek makes me giggle. Do I need official Lego Doctor Who sets, since I already have the Character Building stuff? No. Would I buy this set if it were available? Absolutely.

Hit the jump to see more of the specs of this particular set.

Simpson, Eh?

When the massive 742 Evergreen Terrace Lego set was announced, I only had one problem with it: the minifigs were pretty terrible looking. At the time, The Simpsons set seemed to be a one off. It was internet available only, and the $200 price tag put it squarely in the realm of the dedicated collector. But, the Lego Movie cameo form Milhouse suggested more was to come, and more has come indeed.

Starting in May, the next wave of Lego's successful (and profitable) blind-purchase minifig packages will be the residents of Springfield: the entire Simpsons clan, along with some front-line secondary characters. And they look fantastic. These are the fig models I was expecting with the house. Neutral and in keeping with the baseline of each character (oddly, Maggie was the one fig I didn't have a probelm with before, and here her eyes are a bit weird. But she comes with Bobo, so I can forgive it).

While there might be some muffled complaints from some corners, along the lines of "why Nelson instead of Smithers," or "Itchy and Scratchy, but no Sideshow Bob," or "why can't I get no Tang around here," but those are the words of crazy people. This set is perfect. In terms of licensed toy lines, it might sit up next to the Palisades Muppets in terms of perfection (and frustrating incompleteness). I might as well buy a whole box of the damned things right now, because I'm sure as hell going to want to collect them all.

And you know that Ralph is going to be the rarest of them.

Hit the jump to see each figure in detail.

[Review] - Craig Ferguson: Hot & Grumpy

I've seen two Scottish comedians perform in the past two weeks, and they've both made jokes about Hitler. I have no analysis, I'm just noting the correlation.

For my money, Craig Ferguson is the only late night talk show host worth watching. While his show follows the basic formula of his predecessors (monologue, comedy bits, interviews), he spends every evening subverting and undermining that standard. He's the late show host we need. His stand-up isn't quite as subversive, though he still manages to pack it with enough of his proud punk rock anti-establishment background as he can. This show in particular was overdue, having been rescheduled from a tour earlier in the winter, during which he contracted pneumonia. It was worth the wait.

Hit the jump for the brief review.

26 Mar 2014

Tucker & Dale Vs MORE Evil

One of my favourite movies of 2010 was Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil. Starring Reaper's Tyler Labine, Firefly's Alan Tudyk and 30 Rock's Katrina Bowden (all usually supporting actors), it was a pretty damned funny send up of horror movies, as two innocent hillbillies bumble their way through the woods as a series of unfortunate events conspires against a pod of idiot college students. It was the horror movie equivalent to The Man Who Knew Too Little. The movie quickly became a cult hit, and since we live in the days of Netflix, cult films can reach a larger audience than they used it. Which might undercut the meaning of cult, but whatever.

Tudyk and Labine recently announced that a sequel is officially in development, and while I'm excited about the prospect of the two reuniting for a project, I don't know how well Tucker & Dale will hold up to a second offering. A lot about what made the original good was how lightning in a bottle it was. The core concept doesn't have the same imaginative catch for me if it's being retread, and the characters certainly shouldn't be taken by as much of a surprise if events set to repeat themselves. But, as Labine states in the video above, the actors enjoyed the characters as much as the audience did, and suggests they won't just make a sequel for a sequel's sake. So put me down as tentatively interested. It's certainly a project I'll be following as it develops.

Via Collider.

It's A Little Bit Illegal

I quite enjoy New Girl, and despite some calls from the internet, I've enjoyed the return of Damon Wayans Jr. to the cast. He fits in perfectly with the rest of the weirdos in the apartment, chief among them Jake Johnson. Pairing the two in a buddy cop film is a logical choice, and plays just as well if you imagine the entire scenario as one of Nick and Coach's extended fantasies.

The film, Let's Be Cops, is a subversion of the black-and-white-buddy cop formula, in that it's about two losers who pretend to be cops to abuse the privileges associated with it. This will inevitably lead to problems for them, though this first red-band trailer only hints at those problems. It focuses more on the gags, which is par for the course with comedies. Only after release will we know if the trailer was loaded with the most solid laughs, leaving the rest of the film to flounder, or if it actually has a deeper wit that will hold up over the length of the film.

And I'll be honest with you, the last comedy I saw that managed the latter was The Heat.

[Review] - Justified, Season 5 Episode 11, "The Toll"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
It took me until the second return to the scene above, Boyd and Picker's meeting with the increasingly alluring and interesting Catherine Hale, to realize that this was a bottle episode. A bottle episode, in the business, is an episode that uses few guest stars and limited sets, that is quick and cheap to film, in order to save on production costs. The mark of a bottle episode is whether or not the entire thing takes place in a single room, and is light on action and heavy on talking.

Considering that this is the third to last episode of the penultimate season, it is not the most natural place to expect a bottle episode to land. And yet, the producers of Justified managed to turn this necessity into one of the strongest episodes of the year. It certainly covered more ground, and set up more intrigue between parties than a lot of this season's maneuverings. And it finally gave reasonable backing for Raylan's hate for the Crowes, though at a steep price.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are involved in what you might call a "time will tell" situation.

25 Mar 2014

It's Actually "Heracles."

I am of two minds about this trailer for Hercules, starring Dwayne Johnson and directed by Brett Ratner. On one hand, Ratner does not inspire the greatest confidence as a film maker. As far as I'm concerned, the only film he's competently put together was Red Dragon, and that film had no artisitic soul. It was paint by numbers, that film. Additionally, Greek mythology and Hollywood have a very poor track record together (see: pretty much everything having to do with Greek mythology).

On the other hand, as someone who has spent an not inconsiderable amount of time studying Greek mythology and love those stories to an extent some might consider unhealth, I get a tingling sensation seeing glimpses of the labours playing out in this trailer. I spy the Hydra, Cerberus, the Nemean Lion and the Erymanthian Boar, and that makes me excited in my geekiest of places.

Hammer Space/Time

I was literally just having this discussion with someone, and specifically mentioned that Thor's hammer would have enough gravitational effect that if he brought it to Earth, the entire solar system would be thrown out of whack by its presence, and the Earth would essentially collapse. Also, him hitting someone with it would atomize them instantly. Which, from that perspective, he doesn't "fly" using the hammer, he just holds it up and the universe moves closer to him.

Neil deGrasse Tyson claimed that Thor's hammer weighed the same as 300 billion elephants, and people have spent a lot of time refuting that calculation since. No matter how you cut it, that hammer is bad news.

Via The Mary Sue.

[Review] - Continuum, Season 3 Episode 2, "Minute Man"

Courtesy of Reunion Pictures
"Some things are obvious when you pay attention... and time travel is involved." Really, Kellog? Because I've generally found the opposite to be true. Obvious is not the word I'd use. But yes, paying attention is very important. Critical, I'd say. Necessary, in point of fact. Take this episode, for instance. Compared to last week, this was fairly tempered. No massive info dumps, not as much exposition, and less timey-wimeiness.

But it was still a densely packed episode, one that required the viewer to keep the events of the final two episodes of last season in the back of the mind, to compare and contrast the effects that Alec has had on the timeline. Because he has, and it's not all been sunshine and roses. I'd go so far to say that, despite the death and emotional turmoil that the old timeline was soaked in, this timeline has all the markings of being a darker sequence of events.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that intend to exact painful and bloody revenge.

24 Mar 2014

All That Time, Fighting Each Other

Last summer's cinema offers were pretty rubbish once the dust cleared, and this summer's don't look much better. Aside from the MCU films, there aren't many that I'm excited for. Days of Future's Past is getting there. Each trailer makes the film look better, and the more footage we see, the more I'm starting to think it will redeem all the various missteps in the X-Men films. This new trailer, for instance, looks amazing. It focuses on the futurescape, because that's what everyone is interested in, but I'm betting only a fraction of the film takes place there.

Still and all, some Stewart/McKellen is better than no Stewart/McKellen. And McAvoy/Fassbender looks to be a worthy successor.

[Review] - Hannibal, Season 2 Episode 4, "Takiawase"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

Hit the jump for the review which contains spoilers that SERIOUSLY, GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!

[Review] - Muppets Most Wanted

Courtesy of Disney
Occasionally, my cold critical perception is clouded by an overwhelming adoration for the subject matter. Not often, and it takes a lot to skew my perspective, but the Muppets are definitely one such influence. It takes a lot of focus and effort to overcome the nature ear-to-ear smile that marks my face as I'm sitting there, watching them sing and dance across the screen. But I do try, and walking out of Muppets Most Wanted, I pushed down deep the deafening cries of my inner voice belting out half remembered lines from the opening musical number, and had to think about what I'd just seen critically.

It was a good film. Not perfect, and with more than enough room for improvement. But a good film none the less.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have learned heartwarming lessons like sharing and taking your turn and the number 3.

21 Mar 2014

This Isn't Reality, It's Fantasy

I like science fiction. Aside from westerns, it's easily my favourite genre, and that's mostly down to the lack of restrictions inherent to the definition, which allows for a larger range of stories to be told within the context. That sounds like a very douchey explanation, but it's true. With science fiction, not even the sky is the limit.

BBC America has put together a four part documentary, The Real History of Science Fiction, which will explore the history of the genre from it's origins in literature up to modern film and television (I wonder if it will touch on why some people still treat it like a second class genre). The series, narrated by Doctor Who writer Mark Gatiss, "determines why science fiction is not merely a genre… for its audience it’s a portal to a multi-verse – one that is all too easy to get lost in."

Via /Film.

I Feel Like Shakespeare When That Monkey Tried To Make Fun Of Him

With all the hoop-la of Game of Thrones premiering on April 6th, we can't forget that Veep will be kicking of season 3 the very same night. And Veep is as funny as Game of Thrones is awesome.

Lady POTUS 2014!

[How To] - Make Muppets Clue

Today sees the release of the eighth Muppet feature film, Muppets Most Wanted. To celebrate this fact, I have created a Muppet variant of the classic detective game, Clue. If you frequent this site, you may have gleaned that I have a borderline obsession with Clue, and am continuously disappointed with the lack of licensed variants of the game (at least, as of late). Monopoly has been adapted to fit every single minor facet and property in the world, but Clue gets forgotten despite it's highly adaptable formula. So, in honour of the new Muppet heist film, I have put together a Muppet crime game.

Those who took a look at the Doctor Who Clue I put together for the 50th anniversary might notice that the Muppet version is slightly rougher and not as detailed. This is because I made the Muppet version first, and anything I was unhappy with, improved for the Time Lords. Still and all, I'm happy with the outcome.

Hit the jump for the game, which Disney lawyers should be aware is for my personal use, and is not being marketed or sold. NO SUING PLEASE.

20 Mar 2014

It's A Bit Strange, Huh

FX has released a full trailer for their limited run adaptation of Fargo, from the Coen Bros. It also gives us the first hint of Martin Freeman's Minnosota Nice, which sounds pretty solid. It doesn't reveal too much about the plot, other than it seems to be hitting the same wide notes as the film.

Fargo will replace Justified on Tuesdays in FX's schedule starting April 15th, and reviews will replace Justified's on Thursdays on this site.

El Marserino, If You're Not Into The Whole Brevity Thing

Anyone who watched Veronica Mars back when it was on, and was familiar with the Big Lebowski, was sure to spot a few references here and there. The writers were big fans of the film. So big in fact that those few references turned out to be a substantial number of references, which in honour of the release of the film last weekend, has been gathered together in a supercut, because on the internet that sort of thing happens.

Via Uproxx.

[Review] - Justified, Season 5 Episodes 9 and 10, "Wrong Roads" and "Weight"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
Now that we're in the final stretch (only three episodes left!), the main storyline seems to be getting down to brass tacks. This season has felt more meandering than those in the past; less focused and driven by a central idea. Everyone seemed content to be doing their own things, getting distracted by little annoyances rather than focusing on the big picture. And maybe that is the message of the season, because all those little annoyances seem to have brought nothing but hurt to all involved.

These two episodes were about very different things. Wrong Roads was about confronting the future, while Weight was about acknowledging the past. Both were Justified working at peak efficiency. They dealt with the continuity of the universe, tore down some established walls while building up new ones, and had more than their fair share of both laughs and shocks. After a few weeks of weaker episodes, it seems like season five is shaping up to end strong.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that didn't take from this what I meant.

19 Mar 2014

Jurassic Park Gets A World Builder

Courtesy of Universal
When last I discussed Jurassic World, it was with the news that Vincent D’Onofrio had joined the cast as a representative of a new company that are cloning InGen style dinosaurs. Now comes word that B.D. Wong has joined the cast as Dr. Henry Wu. Wong previously played Wu in the original Jurassic Park as the chief geneticist responsible for creating the animals for Hammond. If a new company is taking over where Hammond left off, it would stand to reason that Wu, the man who practically invented the technology, would be involved.

The third film of the series was made up largely of set pieces from the original novel that weren't used in the original movie. And it stands to reason that the producers of this new film would return to the source material to create this fourth edition. I've already explained how D’Onofrio's character might take some inspiration from the Dodgson and Biosyn scenarios from The Lost World novel. Wu's inclusion is a nice supplement to the original novel, where he has a much larger role in the plot (the film gave most of his scenes to Bob Peck's Muldoon, reducing Wu to one scene that also ensured his survival).

Perhaps more important to his role in Jurassic World will be a scene in the original book between him and Hammond, where Wu explains that with genetic engineering, they can design "better, slower and tamer dinosaurs." He explains to Hammond that people don't want to see real dinosaurs, they want to see what they expect dinosaurs to look like. Colin Trevorrow announced this casting by saying, "He spent two decades living in Hammond’s shadow, under-appreciated. We think there’s more to his story." If they incorporate the novel's belief that they can make the dinosaurs into whatever they want (what JP3's Grant described as "theme park monsters"), it could explain why Jurassic World's dinosaurs won't have feathers - because that runs counter to the public perception of the animals.

Trevorrow also described Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard's characters in greater detail, saying:
"He’s a classic hero in a very modern context. He’s the guy who will get you through the jungle alive – but like Malcolm, Grant and Sattler, he’s an expert in a scientific field that’s connected to our story. The character allows us to explore some new ideas about our relationship with these animals, without losing the humor and sense of adventure. He’s a great contrast for Bryce Dallas Howard’s character, who starts off very corporate, very controlled. Until the running and screaming starts. Then they need each other." 
I've been healthily skeptical about World thus far, but I think I'm starting to come around to the idea.

Via Collider.

Animation Is The Way to Go

There was a pile of news relating to animation over the last week, so I thought I'd clump it all together. First off, they've released the first trailer to the Paul Feig produced Peanuts movie, which I didn't know was happening. There is no reason why this movie couldn't have been conventionally hand animated, other than hand animation is apparently akin to cinematic leprosy, but I do enjoy the style they've went with. It has an Aardman/clay animation feel to it, and it appears the models are 2.5D, maintaining the classic Peanuts comic look and feel. The trailer feels like the Peanuts too, and that's important. Here's hoping that the full movie is able to maintain that without going off the rails. Luckily, the Peanuts have been adapted to long form stories before with moderate success, so the task can be done.

Next, Warners is moving forward with the Lego Movie sequel, which like everything, is awesome. Unfortunately, because of prior commitments, Lord and Miller won't be the geniuses behind the camera this time. Last time they left a project, the results were Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2, and that was crap. Wonderfully, Lord and Miller are still on the Lego follow-up as producers and probably will have story input as well. And their replacement isn't that much of a replacement: it's Chris McKay, who managed the stop-frame cinematography on the first Lego Movie, based on his experience directing Robot Chicken. So, he's both a natural and perfect choice. It promises that the next film will at least look as fantastic as it's predecessor.

Hit the jump for the latest Boxtrolls trailer, which actually reveals some plot information and introduces some of the characters, rather than just looking gorgeous.

[Review] - Agents of SHIELD, Season 1 Episodes 15, "Yes Men"

Courtesy of Marvel Television Productions
Let's all just admit to ourselves that Agents of SHIELD won't be getting a second season, yes? The inconsistent quality of the series thus far (or rather, the consistent low quality) doesn't really warrant another chance. And at this point it's very obvious that ABC has lost interest in the series. This week, instead of a new episode, it aired what amounted to a clip show for the MCU films, something which the television network has no stake in whatsoever, but which they decided was a better use of the hour than airing a new episode of their actual original series.

And all of that is sad, because occasionally SHIELD has an episode that shows us what the show could have been; namely good. Yes Men was mostly such an episode. It was, at the very least, what the series should have been since much earlier on in the run. And I don't mean filled with guest stars from the films (though that helps). I mean it had purpose, was engaging, and felt like part of the universe it has been meant to be expanding, rather than just sort of hanging off the side of the beast like a vestigial limb. Preempting a fresh episode in favour of a cinematic back-slapping session really undermined the level by which Marvel itself considers SHIELD part of the MCU.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers (for this episode, and The Dark World) that don't want Thor to know they are alive.

18 Mar 2014

The Who's Who Of Westeros

One of the issues new viewers might have with Game of Thrones is how many characters there are to have to keep straight, and how they associate with each other. This animated version of the GoT title sequence helps slightly, by clustering the actor's credits with the iconography of their character's stories (Starks at Winterfell, Lannisters at King's Landing, etc.).

Mostly, I like it because the animation resembles the Guide entries from the Hitchhiker's movie.

Via the Mary Sue.

DC Makes Some Progress

I've been saying for a while now, considering that DC and Warner Bros seem incapable of getting off their asses and putting together any films that aren't Bat-based, that while Marvel dominates the cinema-scape, DC should focus on television. Because TV productions aren't as beholden to Warner Bros Pictures bottom line, DC has had years of success getting their properties onto the tube. Lois & Clark, Smallville, Arrow, now the Flash. Creating a complex shared continuity in television productions would allow DC to bring their characters to the waiting audience, in a medium that is far more conducive to building arcs and continuity than bi-annual films.

While they continue to flummox and falter with their film properties, they do have two new series entering pilot season. One, Gotham, is moderately interesting to me in that they finally managed to get a Batman series to pilot (though how interesting it will remain without being actually Batman is yet to be seen). The other, Constantine, is very interesting to me. First of all, they're adapting the character correctly this time, keeping him British and presumably an asshole. Secondly, magic is the one area Marvel hasn't really tried yet, and DC can stake their claim if they get in their quick. Third, if the series takes off, they've got Sandman and Justice League Dark films waiting in the wings to tie into the character (who would have a role in both, presumably). Fourth, Neil Marshall is directing the pilot. Fifth, while I was off last week, they released the first image of Matt Ryan as John, seen above, and damned if he doesn't look exactly like the chain-smoking con-man. A bit young, but that's in keeping with his New 52 look. The show will also feature LOST's Harold Perrineau as an angel, True Detective's Charles Halford as Chas, and Robin Hood's Lucy Griffiths as Liv, a woman marked by a demon.

The only thing I worry about is that it's being developed for NBC. That is never a good sign. But, Hannibal has proven that when the network steps back and lets a show be it's own thing, it can be spectacular. So, at this point it depends on whether the writers can craft a quality enough show to do the Vertigo character justice. And that writer is... David S. Goyer.


Via Den of Geek.

[Review] - Continuum, Season 3 Episode 1, "Minute to Minute"

Courtesy of Reunion Pictures
It speaks to the complexity of the universe that Simon Barry has created in Continuum, that the show can dedicate an entire hour towards explaining the mechanism behind the show's largest mysteries to this point, and it still leaves us with more questions than answers. It speaks to the quality of that complexity that, having provided a massive info dump, it didn't immediately start tripping over itself.

Season three returned off the back of a continuum shattering cliffhanger, which saw Kiera and most of Liber8 held captive by the Freelancers, Carlos and Betty turning to Julian in their moment of greatest need, and Alec disappear into time with motives and alliances unknown. And while this hour was dedicated mostly to explaining the who's and the where's, it also set up what will be the driving force behind this season.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are settling old debts.

17 Mar 2014

He'll Get To It, Eventually

I took a week off, and it's usually when I do that something major happens and everyone has talked about it to death by the time I get back (the last time, it was the Veronica Mars kickstarter). I'm only just starting to wade through everything I missed while I was gone, so I'll probably be playing catch up for the next couple days.

Apparently the first thing I missed, by minutes, was the first trailer for Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, HBO's foray into late night satirical news. Still no idea what the format will look like, but from the looks of this trailer, so long as Oliver is up to his usual form, it won't matter that much.

[Review] - Hannibal, Season 2 Episodes 2 and 3, "Sakizuki" and "Hassun"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
As Will continues to question the reality of his predicament, the show draws a tighter line towards explaining why Hannibal will eventually get caught after years of being so careful: he cares for Will. Yes, he's arrogant, and more than a little prideful and theatrical in his work (which has only gotten worse since he's become involved in the FBI's manhunt for himself), but it's his devotion for Will - not love, and not friendship in any human way, more akin to an owner and a pet - that will see his facade unravel. He's exposing too much of himself, both physically and psychologically. And because even Will's eyes have begun to shift off of him, he still believes that he will get away with his crimes.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that discard the feet first.

[Review] - Phillip Phillips

With rare exceptions, my knowledge of music tends to drop off somewhere around the end of the eighties. The sounds coming out of Top 40 and modern rock stations all sound too homogenized and soulless to be anything beyond a passing distraction, without any true lasting power or influence. But, I have a strict policy of not turning down something offered for free, so when I was handed tickets for Phillip Phillips I was game, despite never having heard the name before.

It became one of those rare events where I went into it completely without expectations. And happily, I left having been both surprised and impressed. The sound was analogous without being overly derivative, and the band played with rampant enthusiasm. I left the show wondering very much how their live sound compared to their studio sound, which I suppose is as good a result as they could have hoped for from a complete newbie.

Hit the jump for the brief review.

7 Mar 2014

Return To Cosmos

I'm taking next week off, so you can expect double reviews of any of the usual shows I cover the following week. As I head off, I felt it important to remind you that Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, premieres on Sunday night at 9 on every network owned by FOX, and every network owned by the National Geographic.

Watch it, and learn things. Important things. True things.

Calling People Horrible Things For The Greater Good

What is the funniest scripted show on television right now? Parks and Rec? Brooklyn Nine-Nine? Community? Archer? Rick and Morty? I think that's all of them, except the real answer, which is Veep. It's fiercely intelligent and incredibly filthy, and that's just how I like my political satire. Armando Iannucci's American answer to The Thick Of It will premier it's third season on Sunday April 6th, on HBO. That's the same night as Game of Thrones and Silicone Valley, officially making Sundays on HBO the only night on television that you absolutely have to watch. You can watch everything else online later in the week. But Sundays are event TV.

And later in the month, you can add John Oliver to that list, so suck it everybody else.

Via Uproxx.

Better Late Than Never

The long promised Sin City sequel, A Dame To Kill For, finally actually exists. All credit to Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, other directors would have given up on the project a long time ago, but they stuck with it, and after nearly a decade, come August we'll see if they can hit the mark again.

I won't say that the original was a good movie. Like most of Miller's writing, it lacks any trace of subtly, and the dialogue is hammy and dodgy. But it works in the context of the story, and the translation to film of Miller's art is striking. This first trailer certainly hammers home the notion that the sequel won't be losing any style points. And maybe ten years is long enough for audiences to be struck by the uniqueness again.

6 Mar 2014

Nothing Slips By A Muppet

I didn't watch the Oscars, but the internet tells me that John Travolta made a fool out of himself and embarrassed one of the performers by getting her name not just wrong, but utterly and completely different. Like intending on ordering a burrito and actually planting an axe in the waiter's face.

Happily, the masterful folks behind the Muppets Most Wanted ad campagin are as quick on the button as they were when the last film came out, and dashed off this quick nugget of mockery.

Dare To Be Square (And Slightly Mildewy Around the Corners)

The last two trailers for Laika's The Boxtrolls have been charming and endearing. This one is just beautiful. If this movie isn't high up on your most anticipated films of 2014 list, then you need to reevaluate some things.

And if Transformers: Age of Extinction is anywhere on your list, you need to sit yourself down and undergo a deep period of introspection. 'Cause that ain't right.

[Review] - Justified, Season 5 Episode 8, "Whistle Past the Graveyard"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
After four solid seasons, I guess we can begrudge Justified a filler episode or two. This week's offering felt like little more than an extension of last week`s, covering pretty much the same territory for all the various story lines. Boyd and the Crowes remain in Mexico, sorting out their mess from last week, Ava continues to dig herself in deeper, and Raylan goes off on another one-off adventure, though one substantially less developed and interesting than last week's.

The writers managed to slip in a couple surprising character developments, though one was transparently little more than a way to keep the drama of the episode going, while the other has been a long time coming. It was a weak episode, possibly the weakest they've ever done. And at slightly over the half way point, I find myself becoming disinterested in the ways things are developing. That's not a good thing; not on this show.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that were born to lose.

5 Mar 2014

The Arkham Knight Rises

Time to come lean: I'm not that big a fan of Arkham City. It, like so many franchises, stuck to the idea that bigger equals better. That is rarely true. City didn't do anything that Asylum hadn't already, except add more. Asylum was new and fantastic, and City was just the same. It was a bigger arena, which meant more potential game play, but less focused storytelling and more long stretches bat-lining and gliding through the blue and grey city scape. The combat missions were just as repetitive, except there were more of them, and while adding Catwoman as a playable character was nice, her story was minor and limited. So, I began to feel for Arkham as I had for most other franchises - bored (except Saints Row, which avoids being boring by being batshit insane). And while Origins looked the nicest of the bunch, it was even more of the boring repetition, and on top of that the voices were all wrong.

It was no surprise that a third Arkham game would be coming soon, and that it would be a launch(ish) title for the next gen console. But while Batman: Arkham Asylum was the game that convinced me to buy a PS3, Batman: Arkham Knight (a ridiculous title, that) won't be the game that convinces me to buy a PS4. The voices might sound right again, and it might look all kinds of impressive, adding Batmobile missions isn't enough of a change to what will undoubtedly be the same core game play that was the basis of the first two (three) games. The game description reads thusly:
In the explosive finale to the Arkham series, Batman faces the ultimate threat against the city he is sworn to protect. The Scarecrow returns to unite an impressive roster of super villains, including Penguin, Two-Face and Harley Quinn, to destroy The Dark Knight forever.

Batman: Arkham Knight introduces Rocksteady’s uniquely designed version of the Batmobile, which is drivable for the first time in the franchise. The addition of this legendary vehicle, combined with the acclaimed gameplay of the Batman Arkham series, offers gamers the ultimate and complete Batman experience as they tear through the streets and soar across the skyline of the entirety of Gotham City.

First of all, save the addition of the car, that sounds like every other one of the Arkham games. Literally every game has seen Batman's primary rogue's gallery threaten the safety of the city. Now, give me an open sandbox game where you can play as multiple members of the Justice League, each with unique power sets and range of skills which you must utilize to proceed through the missions, and I might get interested again. Until then, and I'm glad that Knight will be the "last" of the Arkham games (I assume they're using last in the same way that there "were only three" God of War games).

Via Collider.

Take Care Of This Bear

When they first announced a live action Paddington Bear movie, called simply Paddington, I was nervous. First off, no film could match the wonderfulness of the BBC shorts from the seventies, in terms of presenting Paddington to the world. And second, I was just nervous in general. Paddington Bear isn't my favourite bear in British children's literature (a surprisingly dense field), but he ranks. And anytime studios try to merge live action with a CGI character, the results are flimsy at best (I'd say Stuart Little is probably as close as such films comes to "good").

This first trailer is really nothing more than a teaser meant to tug at the nostalgic heart strings, and give us a fleeting glimpse of what Paddington himself looks like. It's got a stellar cast though, with Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville as Mr. Brown, and Sally Hawkins as Mrs., with Julie Walters Jim Broadbent Peter Capaldi filling out the human cast, and Colin Firth providing Paddington's voice. He's an understated and elegant choice, which is smart for Paddington. I'm interested to see actual footage, but won't get properly excited until it's made clear that the producers aren't treating this one as a big joke.

[Review] - Agents of SHIELD, Season 1 Episode 14, "T.A.H.I.T.I."

Courtesy of Marvel Television Productions
Is ABC disappointed in Agents of SHIELD's performance? Yes, you better believe it. If they hadn't gotten a full season order straight out of the gate, based on the rating I doubt they'd have gotten much past 13. How do we know ABC is disappointed in the show? Well, aside from the fact that they came out and said so, all you have to do is look at how they've treated the show. In the early days, they gave the show every opportunity to find it's footing. They advertised the show loudly, and allowed it the consistency of broadcast so that viewers could find it. The writing let the network down, and viewers left the show in droves. So, it's a shame that as the writing had begun to pick up that the network has become apathetic. Five episodes have aired in the last three months.

Granted, there was the standard Christmas break in there, and even taking into account the ridiculous time off for the Olympics (if new episodes had aired while NBC was botching that broadcast, SHIELD's rating would have skyrocketed if only because nothing else new was on), they came back for two episodes in January and one in February. It's been a month since Skye's cliffhanger confrontation with Quinn, and viewers would not be held accountable for forgetting exactly how things have transpired since the turn of the calendar. This episode picked up on the lingering plot, and took Coulson's mystery into a genuinely interesting direction. It was lacking in a lot of places, but at this point I was just happy for a new episode.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are not so magical.

4 Mar 2014

There Isn't Life On Mars, But Man Kind Might Take A Picture As We Drive Past

The U.S. House of Representative's Science, Space and Technology Committee met yesterday with a single goal: to accomplish nothing. Sorry, no, they had two goals. To ultimately accomplish nothing, and to discuss the potential benefits of allowing NASA to cooperate with a private company in sending a pair of humans on a flyby mission to Mars in 2021. The company in question, Inspiration Mars Foundation, had intended on sending a manned flight to Mars in 2018, but they did the math and concluded that it qualified as "too ambitious," which happens occasionally (hey, Apollo didn't make to the moon until the 6th try, and that was war motivated science).

The IMF needs government authorisation to use the NASA built Orion spacecraft, as well as the Space Launch System, a launch rocket that NASA has developed for their own Mars missions (which, at the current budget level, will probably never happen). IMF seems adamant that they will be able to send a pair of astronauts to Mars for a fly-by, and have them return safely to Earth, though there remains some skepticism especially on the part of NASA. And it's valid skepticism, considering that we haven't been to the moon since 1972, and have never attempted a manned extra-planetary journey. Some see 2021 as being too soon, though it should be remembered that we went from near Earth orbit to literal moon walking in less than a decade, though it helped that there was a war on. IMF took the opportunity to remind the House of that, by boogeymanning Russia and China's growing manned space programs, and the likelihood that they, being perhaps less concerned about the safety of the astronauts over the glory of the achievement, might send someone sooner.

It's also important to note that NASA has no vehicle ready, no budget to conduct a large scale mission, and is as under funded as it is undervalued. Private companies represent the best opportunity for advancement in the modern era, as governments become distracted by social policy rather than actual, worth while programs. Allowing NASA to aid these companies is the best of both worlds, experience on one hand and money on the other. I don't know if 2021 is doable, but a private group like IMF would be the only ones who could if it can be done.

And eventually, it must be done.

Via PhysOrg.

The Storm Of Swords Will End With A Feast for Crows

Courtesy of HBO

HBO has learned, over the last three seasons, to keep certain things close to it's chest when it comes to Game of Thrones. This season has seen a significant (and welcome) decrease in the number of trailers for the season. In past years, these sorts of trailers would become repetitive and recycled. So too, now almost exactly a month away from the premiere, have they released just the first four episode titles. Guessing at what each episode will contain based on it's title is fun for readers of the books, because we know what will be happening, just not when. But, in both seasons two and three, there were last minute changes to episode titles, so this time it looks like they are playing it safe until everything is locked in.

This year, we will be privy to 401- Two Swords (58 mins); 402- The Lion and the Rose (52 mins); 403 - Breaker of Chains (56 mins); and 404 - Oathkeeper (54 mins). As noted all over the internet, to those in the know, three of these have very clear meanings, and reasonable assumptions can be made towards their contents. Only episode 3, Breaker of Chains, has some mystery to it. But that's only because it's obvious meaning (and that of episode 4) might suggest an advancement of certain plots beyond Storm of Swords, and into the next book.

I shall keep this spoil free, but a reasonable assumption can be made that episode one is going to be a very content heavy episode. There is a lot of territory that needs to get covered before anything else can happen.

Via Hypable.

A Dog And A Rat Buy Ice Cream

We're only 19 days away from Muppets Most Wanted. Here is a short film of Rowlf and Rizzo ordering food in a drive through. If this isn't the highlight of your day, you've got biggest problems.

Via Tough Pigs.

3 Mar 2014

Jurassic World Just Got That Much Creepier

I've avoided talking too much about the casting of Jurassic World, previously Jurassic Park 4, for the usual reasons: until the film actually gets made, casting can change at the drop of a hat. But the most recent announcement got me thinking more about the source material, so I thought "what the hell." Joining Chris Pratt, who will be playing a "rugged, ex-military man named Owen" (probably not related to Lost World's Nick Owen), Bryce Dallas Howard, and Ty Simpkins (the kid from Iron Man 3) will be Irrfan Khan (Amazing Spider-man, Life of Pi) and Vincent D’Onofrio (Men in Black, Law & Order: CI). Khan will be playing "Patel," a billionaire who owns a new Jurassic Park, while D'Onofrio will play the CFO, who "projects the image of a normal family man to mask a hidden edge."

What appeals to me about this set up is an element from both the original film and novel that none of the follow up films... uh, followed up on. Crichton goes to extreme lengths to show his homework concerning the state, and the competition in the field of genetic engineering at the time. He specifically mentions that other companies are going this sort of work, but Ingen got there first, and that very shortly everyone will be in on the game. Nedry's actions are specifically those of corporate espionage. He's stealing the genetic sample for Biosyn so that, as the movie says, "18 minutes and [they can] catch up on 10 years of research."

The sequel novel follows up on this, seeing Dodgson and Biosyn invading Site B intent on stealing Ingen's property since the company was dissolved. The Lost World film briefly touches on the concept of the dinosaurs being Ingen's intellectual property, but never really follow up on that. It seems, with this announcement, that in universe other companies have either copied the Ingen method of cloning an created their own "theme park monsters," or have purchased/stolen the method from the former Ingen in the twenty years since Jurassic Park. And that is genuinely exciting, because it's an evolution from the original story, that draws on elements from the source material. And it's entirely believeable that a new company would try the Jurassic Park experiment again, with the huberis of "it didn't work the first time, but we're better than them so it'll work this time." That's absolutely something a modern company would say.

Except, in the real world, people don't get eaten by dinosaurs when their ideas go bad. And that makes me sad.

Via Collider.

I Haven't Thought Of You Lately At All

Joss Whedon has said that one of the biggest challenges of making Serenity (after getting the film green-lit) was making a film that someone who had never seen the series could enjoy, while making a film that fans of the series wouldn't be bored with. He succeeded, in part due to a fantastic and concise opening sequence that manages to cover the history of the 'verse, the basic plot of the series, introduce the plot of the film, and the ship and all her crew.

Rob Thomas is in that exact situation with Veronica Mars. The show hasn't been on for seven years, and wasn't watched by many when it was on. So how do you sum up the series, to introduce new viewers to the backstory that the film will hinge upon, without boring those already educated. In advance of the March 14th release, the producers have made the opening 2 minutes of the film available, to show us exactly how it's done (basically, put to good use the returning voice over, apply lots of footage from the series, and ignore everything that happened in season two and three). I wouldn't say its as successful as Serenity, but its a quick and easy way to bring all the new marshmallows up to speed.

Via Collider.

[Review] - Hannibal, Season 2 Episode 1, "Kaiseki"

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
Season one of Hannibal was about establishing a new arrangement for these characters. The character of Hannibal Lecter had, in my opinion, had all the intrigue drained out of him through over use. Bryan Fuller proved me wrong, by creating a twisted reinterpretation of the sparse back story provided by Red Dragon. The series reintroduced us to the likes of Lecter and Will Graham, Jack Crawford and Dr. Chilton. And, despite the show's obvious self assurance, it was a tentative first season. It teased us at first, allowing us to acclimate to the new surroundings. It balanced the familiar with the extreme, comforted the viewer in convention, while also proudly being daring and original.

Season two isn't holding anything back. The last vestiges of conventionality are gone, allowing the show to explode with it's own violent, lingering, silent passion. This is a show that shouldn't be on network TV. Network TV doesn't deserve this show. This is madness, and it's delicious.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers whose inner voice sounds like Mads Mikkelsen too.
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