30 Jun 2014

I'm Batman; It's Fun, I'm Good

With all the fun everyone had when Ben Affleck was announced as playing the Caped Crusader in Batman v. Superman: Yawn of Justice, FOX's Animation Domination decided to look at what it would be like if other notable actors not known for playing Batman were take on the cape and cowl, in what they call Future Batmen.

For future installments, I think they should consider Jay Baruchel.

Via The Mary Sue.

Be A Pal...

The last time the BBC released a trailer for the upcoming series of Doctor Who, it was 16 seconds of silhouettes and epileptic seizures. This time, it's still 16 seconds, but we get to see the new man in full, and he and Clara each get a line reminding us that with a new face comes new understanding of the man we call The Doctor. And, an exact date for when it'll be returning, in this case, the 23rd of August. Mark your calendars, Whovians, I will be.

As an aside, does it seem to anyone else that is less hoopla over Capaldi taking over the role than there has been in the past. Maybe it is a symptom of their announcing it way back a year ago, before the 50th, before the Christmas special. Have we just burned out our excitement over the new guy already? Or is it because, unlike with some of the more recent actors who have taken on the role (and even back in the old days, when folk like Davison or McCoy), Capaldi is an actor is good standing instead of some newbie. That we have many previous works of his to look upon and can reasonably tell how he'll be in the role? I honestly don't know, but to me it seems like there is less fuss this time around. Maybe I'm just blocking it out.

[Review] - Serenity: Leaves On The Wind

Courtesy of Dark Horse

We need to talk about the Whedon Brothers. See, Joss has went about the world creating something of a reputation for himself, as a creative force. He can write, he can direct, he can make huge portions of the populace fall in love with his genre works. He is a world builder, but more importantly he is a character designer. The reason his works are as popular, and generate the kind of crazed followings they do, is that he builds his worlds on the foundations of complex and evolving characters. Even on the Avengers, when he was working with previously established characters, he breathed new life through new understanding, into Black Widow, and the Hulk, and even Loki. There certainly would not have been talk of solo films for each of those characters before Whedon reminded the audience of what all they were capable.

And then you have his brothers, Jed and Zack. Both are writers in their own right, but both have an issue of falling back into their brother's worlds. Both have worked out in the wider world, but both inevitably seem to fall back into the gravity of their elder brother's works. Jed is co-runner of Agents of SHIELD, a show Joss pitched and nurtured (and is almost certainly the only reason it was piloted, let alone picked up). And Zack has just finished the six issue miniseries Serenity: Leaves On The Wind, touted as being the first substantial canonal continuation of the Firefly/Serenity story, picking up nine months after the end of the film. And it has very much the feel of a younger brother playing with his bigger brother's toys. The pieces are all here, but it lacks the spark that makes it special. There is a lot of drawing on the past, and not in a good way, and a lot of filler in order to top up the full six issues. And sadly, it adds very little to a verse so many adore.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that take to the sky, to see where it leads.

27 Jun 2014

Judy Greer Is the Best Movie Friend You Will Ever Have

I'm a big fan of Judy Greer. I didn't love her recent book, but she's perhaps the best character actor working in the industry today. And like any character actor, she's been pigeon holed into some very specific kinds of roles. This parody, starring Greer, Beth Behrs, and Ben McKenzie, looks at what happens to the rom-com best friend after she's helped her leading lady get the man of her dreams.

Via Uproxx.

The Bestiality Should Probably Stop

As you may be aware, I love me a good western. The key to that the word good, which are sadly few and far between. Especially when it comes to comedy westerns. Enter The Gunfighter, a brilliant short that is primed with the comedic dexterity and period absurdity that western comedies should be built on. And, it is elevated to additional heights of excellence by having Nick Offerman provide the sadistic, destiny spewing voice of the narrator.

Personally, I love the narrative device of an interacting third person narrator, and I don't understand why it isn't used more often. Seriously, the only ones that come to mind are Stranger Than Fiction and Winnie the Pooh. And now, this gem from director Eric Kissack and writer Kevin Tenglin. Enjoy.

Via /Film.

[Review] - Penny Dreadful, Season 1 Episode 7, "Possession"

Courtesy of Neal Street Productions
Unexpectedly, Penny Dreadful, in it's penultimate episode of the season, delivered a bottle episode. For those not familiar, a bottle episode is usually a cost saving measure, where the entirety of the action takes place on a single established set, and features only the main cast. This saves money on additional sets, and on guest stars. I doubt that Possession was a bottle episode for budgetary reasons, but it fits the description. The episode never ventured outside of Sir Malcolm's house, using only sets we've seen before (his study, Ives' room, the basement), and with the exception of a priest, only the central core cast appear (Croft and Gray sat this one out, and Caliban only put in a cameo).

No, this was a bottle episode for a purer reason then accountancy. It was an excuse to have these characters coiled up around each other for an extended period of time, so that they might fall into conversation and peel back the considerable layers between them. Ives was put on full display two episodes ago, so she serves as the catalyst for Sir Malcolm, Frankenstein, Chandler and even finally Sembene to explore each other (not in a sexy way though).

Hit the jump, which contains spoilers that worry for your virtue.

24 Jun 2014

The Queen In The North

The Queen is currently on a tour of Northern Ireland, and took the time to visit the Game of Thrones set in the Titanic quarter of Belfast. I can maybe see William and Kate being fans, and you know that Harry tunes in, if only for the boobs, but somehow I doubt that the Queen herself has ever enjoyed the series (since the series is loosely based on the War of the Roses, perhaps it hits too close to home).

The bigger point is... see, Dany! Do you see how easy it is to take Kings Landing. This is an 88 year old woman, and she just strolled in. Seven hells, they just stood at attention and let her come within inches of the Iron Throne. Why are you wasting time waffling about across the narrow sea? You have dragons, for the love of gods! What does Liz 2 have? Wales!? Honestly, get your act together, woman.

Via Uproxx.

Ripper Street To Feature A Fan Of Holmes

I think that it is safe to say that Ripper Street can be classed as "historical fiction," considering how much (and well) the writers incorporate real events into the fiction of H Division. For instance, the roles of persons real like Joseph Merrick or Jane Cobden in series 2. And it seems that the third series of the programme, given new life thanks to an agreement between the BBC, Tiger Aspect, and Amazon Prime, will continue this trend.

Currently filming new episodes in Dublin, the third series will feature an appearance by historical figure Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first woman in England to be qualified as a doctor. The size of the role is unknown, but she will be played by Louise Brealey, better known as Sherlock's Molly Hooper. As filming progresses, no doubt we will discover more of what the third series will have in store for us, ahead of the presumed release date of later this year. But this is an excellent start.

Via Den Of Geek

[Review] - Continuum Season 3 Finale, Episode 13, "Last Minute"

Courtesy of Reunion Pictures
And with that, another season is gone, and what a season. Taking full responsibility for two season's worth of mystery, intrigue and action, it managed to answer most of our questions, then completely uproot the premise and replant it in a strange new world filled with new threats, mysteries, and increasingly of the idea that the future is unknowable. Knowledge of the future seems only to make things considerably worse, and that those few characters remaining that are ignorant of the way things will be are acting on instinct and morality, and they serve the continuum the best.

Last week felt like a season finale in a lot of ways, leaving me to wonder where things would be taken in the proper finale. Turns out, to a natural conclusion. And in all the ways that count, Last Minute was a perfect example of what a finale needs to be. It concerned itself with wrapping up the arcs that have dominated this season, and only in the closing moments looked forward to a future (as of this writing) still uncertain. Some things felt a bit rushed, but most felt right. Then it smacked us upside the head and left us wanting more.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are the same shit, just different.

19 Jun 2014

[Review] - Orange Is The New Black, Season 2

Courtesy of Lionsgate Television
I binged True Detective in a day, House of Cards season 2 over a weekend, season one of Orphan Black over a couple evenings just before season two started. And season one of Orange is the New Black in a day and a half over this last May long weekend. So, before I did anything else with season two, I promised myself I would take my time. I'd watch it at an easy pace. And wonder of wonders, I did. It has been 14 days since it premiered on Netflix, and I just finished last night. One episode a day. And you know what, it didn't kill me to wait the 24 hours between each episode. In fact, I enjoyed it more.

There is research to suggest that we enjoy our TV less when we binge. I wouldn't got that far. Binge watching TV is really no different then getting really into a book and reading it straight through while on a plane, or at a cousin's funeral. And with shows like True Detective, once I had all the episodes at my disposal, I wanted to know what happened next because what was going to happen next seemed so immediate. Orange is never that... pushy. Each episode leaves you feeling satisfied enough that you feel the need to instantly jump into the next one. You can digest, and enjoy the next one all the more.

And you do. In it's sophomore offering, Orange is just as enjoyable as the first. From a storytelling perspective, the show has matured, found a studier, more pleasing voice. Because of the sheer number of storylines going on, some feel over extended, and too often the show props up it's characters with cliche. But the characters save it every time, by being unique and engaging and just so damned much fun to spend time with. Except Larry.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that aren't drunk, their Australian.

[Review] - Fargo, Season 1 Finale, Episode 10 "Morton's Fork"

Courtesy of MGM
There is a moment in the finale of Fargo, where Molly is telling a parable, something like the thirtieth this series has told. She tells it, and Lester listens, and responds with a scrunched up face, having no idea what Molly is going on about. I understand the point of the story, and I understand that the point of the scene was that Lester didn't understand the point of the story. But, at that moment, I was 100% on Lester's side. For far too much of this series, I've sat listening to character drone on, most of the time about nothing in particular, and wondered, "what is the point of all this?" And now we know: quite a lot, and very very little.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are not prepared for urban warfare.

[Review] - Penny Dreadful, Season 1 Episode 6, "What Death Can Join Together"

Courtesy of Neal Street Productions
After last week's sojourn to the past, this episode picks up the morning after the events of episode four. Despite a sighting of the elusive Master and some steep emotional events having occurred, this episode began with a slight reprieve for everyone. Some down time to devote to study, be it to corpses, ship manifests, or the allure of a stranger. But by episode's end, they were all battered and bloodied and for every step forward their mission seems to take, they are forced to take two steps back by distraction. With only two episodes to go this season, there is certainly no sign that things will be waning again anytime soon.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that miss the facts, but found the truth.

17 Jun 2014

[Review] - Continuum, Season 3 Episode 12, "The Dying Minutes"

Courtesy of Reunion Pictures
Wait. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Wait...

All of that, and it's not the season finale? Anyone else feel like we might get curb stomped next week?

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that always make it a point to end business deals by stabbing the other party.

[Review] - Game Of Thrones, Season 4 Finale, Episdoe 10 "The Children"

Courtesy of HBO
Another season has come and gone, and unlike in season's past, episode 10 was promised to be the emotional one. In the past, the big events of episode 9 have usually concluded the season's major arcs, and episode 10 has taken on the cinematic equivalent of an epilogue, devoted to getting the characters into tenable positions for next year. Not so with season four. As big as the Battle of the Wall may have been, it had very little to do with the rest of Westeros in the short term. So it fell to episode 10 to give us the conclusions we needed.

In a technical way, and in and of itself, it was a successful episode. Not the best the show has done, and not the worst. In 66 minutes, they managed to cram a hell of a lot in, and there inlies my issue with it. What they did, they did very well (for the most part). And as a book reader, I was pleased as punch to see so much that was original to the series. But I had issue with what the writers chose not to include. As an adaptation, it is the most difficult thing to decide what does and what stays, and I've applauded, for the most part, the choices Benioff and Weiss have made over the last four years. But to sacrifice major emotional and character developing moments for the sake of being a bit rushed, or believing that audiences won't follow the logic is disingenuous and short sighted. So, as much of a high water mark as season four has been, by the time the finale ended, it left me cold and damp.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that went full Jason and the Argonauts. You never go full Jason and the Argonauts.

[Review] - How to Train Your Dragon 2

Courtesy of Dreamworks Animation
It's been four years since How To Train Your Dragon impressed audiences beyond reason, and Dreamworks enough to invest in another potential franchise. However, it failed to meet the usual pattern for animated sequels, churning them out year after year, until the franchise is beaten and splintered into pieces, a fragment of it's former self. Writer/director Dean DeBlois, displaying unusual ownership over the property, took the time to get things right. While the studio kept the memory of the franchise alive in a TV series and a couple direct to video shorts, the film was held back until they had something that could match the emotional journey of the first.

Have they succeeded? Well, like every sequel, everything here is bigger than the first time around. Bigger, and slightly more complex. And like so, so many sequels, it buckles under the weight of wanting and trying to do more. Unlike other sequels, it doesn't buckle much. Not so much to distract that, at it's core, it remains a refreshingly earnest story, and isn't afraid to shift the narrative in entirely new directions. Like Hiccup, the franchise learns to be a new kind of brave with every offering, even if that means falling off the back of their dragon from time to time.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are as beautiful as the day they lost you.

13 Jun 2014

Watch Out, Spain

I'm not the biggest fan of Washington Correspondents performances. The comedy rarely comes off well, because the room is one of the least receptive audiences to humour. And sometimes the comedy is bizarrely watered down to avoid risking offence. But I make an exception to the 2014 Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association Dinner, which took place last night, because the key note was delivered by Nick Offerman. The video of the speech is available to be watched on CSPAN's website, and is a quality speech and exactly what you'd expect and hope from Offerman.

The man needs to stop claiming he and Ron Swanson was entirely different people, because it's performances like this that showcase the fact that except for being more rounded, better read and less moustached, they are more similar than not. Offerman here speaks with eloquence and biting wit, being both reasonable and correct in most of his analysis, as well as getting in an impressive number of historical references. And his walking tour of the constitution is next to brilliant.

Do yourself a favour, cap off the week by setting aside fifteen minutes and learn what's what from someone who at least seems to know what he's talking about.

via Uproxx.

I Haven't Seen Him In The Mornings

Paddington continues it's slow advertising campaign (they've got until Christmas after all). While the first trailer pulled pretty hard on my nostalgic heart strings, this trailer tries to establish a tone for the film by showcasing a bit of slapstick. I'm going to have to see more footage before I'm completely sold, but the Paddington effect at least looks fairly strong.

Everybody Shake Your Hands

After much anticipation, Laika and Focus Films have released the first plot trailer for their fall feature, The Boxtrolls. The previous trailers focused more on the technique by which the film was created, and how filthily beautiful the film looked. This one gives us a proper look at the characters and plot, and does nothing to knock it from the top of my Most Anticipated List for 2014.

And considering how much of a bust the summer season has been thus far, it looks like I'm going to need something good to top me up come the autumn.

12 Jun 2014

There Will Be Humans On This Dinosaur Tour

Universal has released the first official "still" images (meaning, not behind the scenes set pictures) from next year's Jurassic World. While they provide no further information about the film, or the characters depicted in each of them, or feature any dinosaurs in any way, they are still a fun bit of advanced press. Especially considering that, the more I learn about the movie, the more excited I'm getting for it.

Colin Trevorrow spoke recently to /Film recently, debunking and confirming some of the story details that have been leaked recently (don't click that link if you want to avoid spoilers), but I have to say that Trevorrow has won me over with his vision for the film, and the franchise. Now, if he can execute that vision is yet to be seen. But more so than I was a year ago, I'm game.

Hit the jump for the new photos, which give us a first official look at Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins.

There's Nothing That Can't Be Done Now

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has a new series of documentary shorts called Moments That Changed The Movies, which explore... well, exactly what it says on the tin. In this short, they focus on Jurassic Park, for whom enough cannot be said about how dramatically that movie changed film-making. The modern overly reliant state of CG in films can be traced back directly to Jurassic Park showing people in an incredibly impressive and utterly unexpected way what was suddenly possible with the help of computers (Jurassic Park kicked off the use of CG on a regular basis, Lord of the Rings can be blamed for the over saturation).

What I really like about this short is that is speaks to the technicians that created the technology rather than the filmmakers that integrated it (Kathleen Kennedy aside). It also includes shots of Phil Tippetts original stop frame tests of the T-rex escape and the raptor kitchen scene. It also includes Spaz Williams' early T-rex animatics that so impressed Kennedy that she convinced Spielberg that CG was the way to go on the film. I challenge you to find a more interesting nine minutes to watch today.

Via Collider.

[Review] - Fargo, Season 1 Episodes 8 And 9, "The Heap" And "A Fox, A Rabbit, And A Cabbage"

Courtesy of MGM
When I'm ingesting a story, be a film, a series, a book or any form of narration, the technical part of my brain is constantly asking, "why did that happen?" Unless you are some avant garde absurdest, story demands structure, and structure is only stable if it is built with purpose. So when "big things" happen, once the whoa factor subsides, a critical audience should ask themselves, "why did that happen?" What was the point of that, in the grander scheme? Was it included just for shock value, or does it have a role to play in the larger story.

Fargo, thus far, has sought shelter in events. But these events, while at the time are perhaps shocking, or engrossing, or tense, have very little payoff. There is very little point to their purpose, or at least the purpose could have been achieved in a less sensational way, that resulted in less pointlessness and distraction that have bogged this series down.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that didn't cheat on Miss Hubbard County!

11 Jun 2014

If You Don't Vote, You Can't Complain

I'm going to do something I never do on this site, and get political for just a moment. But only for those readers in Ontario. For the rest of you, here is a video of a teenager flipping out over seeing boobs on Game of Thrones. Enjoy.

For those Ontarians left, tomorrow is election day, and this is me telling you that you need to vote. During the 2011 election, voter turnout was 49%, a record low in the province, down from 52% in the 2007 election. With figures from the advanced polls already in, voter turnout this time is expected to set a new low record. This downward trend is not just confined to provincial elections (and is a trend across most if not all provinces), but federal as well, which has seen a steady decline over the past twenty years, with only a slight tick up in the 2011 election. Understand, in a country that doesn't mandate it's citizens to vote, actively not taking part in the process is not a political statement, it is ignorant laziness.

This provincial election is one of the most interesting that I can remember, in that it contains a field of candidates who all equally lack appeal and suitability for the position. There is the Liberals, headed by Kathleen Wynne, who have spent the last 12 years in power proving to be dishonest, untrustworthy, and potentially corrupt. Their platform is built on the concept of plunging the province into a deficit so deep it'll be insurmountable within the next twenty years. Alternatively, there are the increasingly ironically named Progressive Conservatives, lead by Tim Hudak, who insist that 100,000 public sector workers are going to willing give up their jobs for the good of the province, and that privatisation and tax breaks for businesses will magic up one million new jobs (and those numbers have all be accused of being flimsy to the point of being made of wet toilet paper). Finally you have the NDPs, lead by Andrea Horwath, who have utterly failed to distinguish themselves at all during the election. The Liberals and PCs have consistently stated that the choice is between one of them, and the NDPs have proven to be such an non-entity that they are proving the other party's point. The incredibly negative ads being lobbed back and forth between the reds and the blues haven't mentioned the oranges at all, and have monopolized the air time to such an extent, that the single NDP ad I've seen during the entire election aired on a Sunday afternoon during a rerun of Murdock Mysteries.

None of these are appealing options. Current polls suggest the Liberals will irk out a slim majority, though the chances of either the Liberals or the PCs ending up with a minority is equally possible.But really, this isn't just devil-you-know, or rock-and-a-hard-place. This is damned if you do, damned if you don't, damned if you choose door number three, Johnny. There is another option, one little know and never publicized: you can decline your ballot. Spoiled ballots are terrible, childish things, but a declined ballot is a perfectly legal means of having your cake and eating it. Quote:
"53. An elector who has received a ballot and returns it to the deputy returning officer declining to vote, forfeits the right to vote and the deputy returning officer shall immediately write the word “declined” upon the back of the ballot and preserve it to be returned to the returning officer and shall cause an entry to be made in the poll record that the elector declined to vote. R.S.O. 1990, c. E.6, s. 53."
If you want to engage in active and legitimate political protest, decline your ballot. It is counted differently than a spoiled ballot, but more importantly, you are counted. You are marked as having voted. The numbers will read that you came out, and that you refused to choose between these terrible choices. Is that good democracy? No, but it might send a message about the kinds of politics that we want. Whomever loses this election will lose their job. Hudak will have run two unsuccessful campaigns, same with Andrea Horwath. After having assumed control from the denigrated Dalton McGuinty, this is Kathleen Wynn's test of appeal with Ontarians, and if the Liberals lose their decade+ hold on the province, the party might be inclined to bump her in favour of someone with less of a shadow hanging over their head. If the turnout numbers and the party tallies don't match up, declined ballots could play a significant role in how the parties and Elections Ontario move forward.

The point is, vote who whomever you want, or for no one at all. But if you didn't take advantage of the advanced polls, get out tomorrow. It is quick and painless, and is your responsibility as a citizen. Even if the choices are crap.

Croft Raids Again

In the wake of the critical success of the latest Tomb Raider reboot, it was a question of when rather than if a new game would appear. And with the introduction of the latest consoles, I expected it would be soon. And soon it is, as Crystal Dynamics announced at E3 that Rise of the Tomb Raider will be released for Christmas next year. It's a terrible, or at least cliched, title, but if the game plays like the last, that should make up for it. The trailer makes it seem like they've embraced Lara becoming a straight up murderer, so that should be fun.

The question remains: will there be a T-rex?

Via the Mary Sue.

[Review] - Penny Dreadful, Season 1 Episode 5, "Closer Than Sisters"

Courtesy of Neal Street Productions

Before we start in on the past, let's look towards the future. Late last week, Showtime announced that Penny Dreadful has been picked up for a second season. A second season that will see the episode count extended from 8 to 10 episodes. Showtime is incredibly happy with the way Penny Dreadful has performed thus far, both critically and in the ratings, the latter of which is impressive considering that it is going up against the juggernaut that is HBO's Sunday lineup, a juggernaut that has reduced other cable network's Sunday programming to ruins. Said Showtime President David Nevins, “picking up Penny Dreadful was one of the easiest decisions I’ve made. The series has had worldwide impact, drawing big, passionate audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, and more than any other show on our network has hit the bullseye with viewers who want to watch television in all the new ways that are available...We are extremely excited for what’s in store for season two.” As am I.

But before we get there, we have to finish this season, and Closer Than Sisters once again showed that John Logan is not setting this series to any standard formula. On the backs of last week's revelations concerning Chandler, and the increasingly complex relationships between the various characters, this episode paused the building tension in favour of a prequel. Much like Frankenstein's creation's getting a half episode backstory a couple episodes ago, this week devoted the entire run time towards explaining Ives and Sir Malcolm's unique agreement with each other. It was a tense and horrific as anything the series has done so far, and did it largely without monsters. It was a period piece within a period piece, and a showcase of Eva Green and Timothy Dalton's talents, as if either of those things were in question.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that loves you enough to kill you.

10 Jun 2014


Lego has announced the winner of the Winter 2014 review, which takes the ideas from Lego Ideas with the most votes, and turns them into purchasable products. Previous winners include the Back to the Future DeLorean, the Ghostbusters and not the Muppets (because this universe is a harsh, angry, joyless place).

The winner this cycle was actually a hold over from the previous. While Ghostbusters was too good to pass up, the Female Scientists set from Ellen Kooijman couldn't be discarded. So they held it over and gave it the go ahead. I'm a big fan of this set, and not just because it contains a dinosaur skeleton made of Legos (of which, it should be noted, I will buy several). Female minfigs are woefully under produced by the company, averaging (and I have no data other than being an observant collector) about one out of every ten figs in a product line, though that number is slightly higher in the City collection, probably to one in six. One could argue that this is because the majority of Lego sets are licensed, and the properties they are adapting have fewer female characters. Which is a problem in an of itself.

But the point is, this will be a line of exclusively female characters who aren't Disney princesses, or pink, or those weird giant Polly Pocket style figures that don't mesh with regular Lego. These are series women, studying paleontology, astronomy and chemistry, and I can't wait to add them to my collection (again, with three or four of the dinosaurs - you know what, better make it a half dozen just to be sure).

Via Lego Ideas.

[Review] - Continuum, Season 3 Episodes 10 and 11, "Revolutions Per Minute" And "3 Minutes to Midnight"

Courtesy of Reunion Pictures
As much as I would have loved to dissect each of these episodes individually (sorry again about that), there have been perhaps no two better episodes to review together. Because what a wallop they delivered. Between Alec's continued descent down the rabbit hole of unconscionable behaviour, the revelations brought forward by the magnificently bearded John Doe (or Brad Tonkin [updated: I originally identified the character as Brett, which is how he was referred to in some supplementary literature, but not in the show. I have changed it to the broadcast identity]), or the general corruption of ethics in the face of ideals being experienced by everyone else, it has been a busy couple weeks.

It also delivered a potentially seismic shift to the series' paradigm. Everything we assumed to have known about the implications of action concerning the way timelines work in this series has changed. We're back to square one in being able to predict what will happen next. It feels like the heady days of the first season, when everything was still a mystery. Now, like the characters, we have to reassess everything in the shadow of the knowledge that the future is less certain than ever.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have decided they are just going to stay away from all power tools.

[Review] - Game Of Thrones, Season 4 Episode 9, "Watchers On the Wall"

Courtesy of HBO
Watching this season's episode nine event brought my mind around to season two's Blackwater, an episode that is receiving a lot of comparisons with this. My mind turned to how ultimately bloodless that sophomore season episode was. Yes, thousands burned and died, but not a single major character expired during the course of those events. The same cannot be said of Watchers on the Wall.

In fact, despite sharing a director (the cinematic and dependably creative Neil Marshall) and that the events of the episode focused entirely on a single location, comparisons with Blackwater are not applicable. Nor should they be. The minute the writers or the audience starts judging the rest of the series against that one episode is the minute the series starts to fall under it's own shadow. Watchers established it's own rhythms, it's own path, and never tried to be anything but itself.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are a source of irony, if nothing else.

9 Jun 2014

[Review] - Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey

Courtesy of Cosmos Studios
The original Cosmos: A Personal Voyage had a simultaneously simple and complex intent: educate the public on the immensity and complexity of the universe, and ignite a interest in science that had waned somewhat from the headier days of the space race. Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey had a similarly difficult challenge facing them: reignite that interest in science, and combat a growing duel-nature culture where intellect and science are vilified.

The success or failure of Carl Sagan's original programme can be measured, with the benefit of 24 years hindsight. It introduced a willing audience to concepts and terminology that entered the public consciousness. While not everyone understands exactly what they are or how they work, there are few that wouldn't recognize the word "supernova." And while it didn't turn the West into a science-mad super culture, it inspired enough minds at the right moment, to spur a new generation of professional discoverers. Will the refresher course be as success? Only time will tell. But between Neil deGrasse Tyson's impassioned narration, and the majesty of the visual, it certainly packs enough punch to do so.

Come with me...

[Review] - Chef

Courtesy of Aldamisa Entertainment
Chef is a cruel sort of film. not in it's tone, or in it's execution. It's actually an entirely agreeable film; a very engaging film, filled with characters that you actually give a damn about. What makes it cruel and infuriating is that it is filled with food. It is food porn of the highest quality. It outmatches Hannibal and the Food Network's prime time lineup. Do not see this film on an empty stomach. Hell, I saw this film minutes after having gorged myself on a beef roast, and still walked away craving a Cuban sandwich and a slice of the Texas slow roast, seen above.

Jon Favreau seems to  have found himself again with this film, after Iron Man 2 and Cowboys & Aliens, two films which while technically competent, lacked any sort of passion behind the camera. This film is built on passion. The entire thesis of the film is passion. If the writing and directing and starring and releasing this film was a way for Favreau to find the spark in the film making process again, then he succeeded. While it is short on story, it isn't a story piece. It's a character piece. It's a little bit road movie, a little bit hero's journey. It's about redemption and rediscovery, and about learning how not to be a jack-ass.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that gladly would have eaten that burnt sandwich.

Life Finds A Way...

... to kick you in your ass sometimes, which is exactly what it did to me last week. Whatever I had ready to go late Sunday evening is what I was able to get up at some point last week. I honestly can't remember what was and wasn't posted; I'll have to go back and check. Anything that wasn't up last week will be folded into this week's posts, which will appear at their regularly scheduled times, baring some other catastrophe.

4 Jun 2014

Milk The Tragedy, All The Cool Kids Are Doing It

In my review of Gravity, I made the bold statement (OK, not that bold) that any science fiction movie made afterwards would live in its shadow, in much the same way that 2001 utterly transformed the genre at the turn of the 1970s (in that, all science fiction went from looking less like the Star Trek tv series and more like the Star Trek films). Anything space based that doesn't confirm to the new paradigm established by Alfonso Cuaron's beautiful film must be judged inferior (Guardians gets an exemption, as stated in the universally recognized raccoon clause).

But that is not to say the film is perfect. No movie will ever conform exactly to science. Fiction doesn't work like that, nor should it. Fiction isn't documentary, it is about expressing human stories, not lecturing data. But that doesn't mean it's not fun when Face Of Space 2.0 and noted wet blanket Neil deGrasse Tyson can look at what they did do wrong, in an entertaining way, which Cinema Sins was able to pull off.

It kind of bugs me though, that the one thing that really bothered me about Gravity, they don't bring up at all (spoilers): when she's swimming for her life at the end, her legs should be experiencing a certain level of atrophy that would have reduced her powerful kicks to pitiful little waves as she sunk helplessly to the bottom. But I guess that would have made the movie utterly depressing.

Via Uproxx.

[Review] - Penny Dreadful, Season 1 Episode 4, "Demimonde"

Courtesy of Neal Street Productions
If this show hadn't impressed me enough, they went and tipped the scales in their favour by hiring David Warner as (a properly elder) Van Helsing. He only appeared briefly in this episode, but it's David freaking Warner! As much as his literary nemesis, the role of Van Helsing is one that has been filled in a variety of ways and levels of success over the years, and casting Warner is a vote of confidence as to how this rendition of the character will play out.

And, as with the rest of the characters being pulled from the literature, this version strays closer to the original than most adaptations are bothered to attempt. Here, the good doctor is a hematologist, a blood specialist (the original was a man of various letters and areas of expertise, with a mind towards rare diseases). Elsewhere, having covered Frankenstein's past last week, this was Dorian Gray's turn in the limelight, as the season reached it's halfway mark, we attended a penny dreadful production, and the monsters came calling.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have so many sins on their back, it would kill them to turn around.

[Review] - Game Of Thrones, Season 4 Episode 8, "The Mountain and the Viper"

Courtesy of HBO
If this episode illustrates anything, it is that the producers need to either 1) adapt more of the songs that George R.R. Martin wrote in his books, or 2) stop drawing attention to the fact that there are apparently only two songs in the entirety of Westeros. It would be like if the only two songs in the whole world were Black Day In July by Gordon Lightfoot and Mamma Mia by ABBA. It doesn't pass the bullshit test. Which is the test in which the event transpiring either causes or fails to cause you to exclaim "bullshit!" It is like the English writing a couple weeks back: a minor detail, and in the grand scheme not that important. But as a single detail in a detail obsessed universe, it's pretty glaring. 

Oh, and this may well have been the best episode of the series to this point, from a writing, acting, choreographic and cinematographic perspective. Except for Dany. Dany's story still sucks the air from the room.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that killed my father, prepare to die.

2 Jun 2014

Come On Kids, We're Going To Go Down To The Rancid Whale

You wouldn't expect it, but I have a bit of history covering beached whales on this site. Well, exploding whales, actually. Still, if it's as good a traditional as I've got, I might as well keep it going.

On May 19th, a 57-foot dead fin whale washed ashore in San Diego county. The carcass was towed back out to sea in the hopes that it would sink or be eaten, but like a bad penny, it decided to come back. Like a 57 foot, rancid penny corpse. The whale returned to it's native beaching grounds over the weekend, much to the delight of the more disturbed of San Diego's frolicking seaside children. Having learned the lessons from failures of the past, and not wanting to pelt beach bums with airborne blubber, officials in consultation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have begun to disassemble the carcass for "exploratory necropsy," or in layman's terms, "whale salvage."

Meanwhile, the Royal Ontario Museum had their hands full trying to remove the remains of two dead blue whales from the Trout River in Newfoundland at the start of last month. When the first of the whales washed up at the end of March, the assumption was that nature would reclaim it's lost treasure. When the second appeared to join it, outside help was needed. And, turns out funding for the removal of one whale was doable, but the number crunchers couldn't justify both of the formerly aquatic mammals. The logistical nightmare, not to mention the growing smell, left the neighbouring Woody Point an unpleasant place to live for a couple weeks there. The six day operation to strip and preserve the whales, and ship them back to Toronto for study, has since completed, leaving only a greasy smug and a pile of discarded viscera as a reminder of the event.

But neither one exploded unexpectedly, so we'll give the points to humans this time. Your move, dead whales!

Via Uproxx and the CBC.

Quel Dommage!

The Doctor Who 50th anniversary was a time of many surprises, but perhaps the most surprising was that the best of all the celebrations was Peter Davison's The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. The comedic attack on the anniversary by the three elder Doctors (Davison, Baker the second, and McCoy) was the loving punch to the arm that the proper special needed. A bit of good natured being brought back down to Earth. Disappointingly, the special, which was released onto the internet to widespread acclaim, never received a release on DVD along with all the other anniversary material.

That appears to be changing. Colin Baker, speaking recently at a convention, announced that the Five(ish) film will accompany a Matt Smith themed DVD set that the BBC is currently putting together. Whether Baker's words hold any merit is yet to be seen, but I for one am hopeful that this turns out to be more than just a rumour. In a perfect world, the BBC would release Five(ish) along with Moffat's Curse of Fatal Death in a special double set, reserved for those celebrations of the long running series that place the tongue firmly in the cheek.

But that appears to be too much to ask.

Via Den of Geek.

[Review] - A Million Ways To Die In The West

Courtesy of Fuzzy Door Productions
I had high hopes for Million Ways, Seth MacFarlane's directorial sophomore effort. The western has experienced a prolonged renaissance the last couple decades (in terms of quality, if not financial success), and no one has approached the genre with a comedy mindset since City Slickers (though comedy westerns abound in the 1970s). While I'm not the biggest fan of MacFarlane's chosen brand of humour, I did (like most, I think) find Ted surprising and genuine. Universal was clearly willing to greenlight whatever project MacFarlane pitched them next, to stay in the MacFarlane business. Unfortunately, Million Ways isn't a project anyone is going to look back on with any pride.

There is a lot going on in Million Ways, and a lot going wrong. And most of it can be traced back to what I perceived to be an awkward uncertainty about the project. The story is limited, and to fill in the obvious gaps, MacFarlane uses his usual juvenile jokes to distract from the fact that his film has no direction, only a piddling thesis, and no ability to corral the various sub plots and Western tropes that he uses to inflate the narrative. In fact, he uses every opportunity to distract from what are the increasingly glaring problems with the film, to the point where the distractions become the biggest indicator that something has gone horribly wrong.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that died at the fair.
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