30 Jul 2014

Can You Save 15% Or More On Birth Control By Switching To Space Geckos?

Have you been watching Last Week Tonight? You really should. It isn't, as some thought it might be, just a more cussy version of the Daily Show. It uses only the most basic of the Daily Show's style, but it has become something so much more than that. John Oliver has settled on long form, lecture style "edutainment" segments that delve deep into issues of international importance and dissect the aspects of that subject that get ignored because they aren't "upvote" worthy or can't be explained in 140 characters.

I especially like that, among his verbal essays on nuclear weapons, FIFA corruption and America's prison sentence inequality (and other issue considered "unimportant" by American media), he keeps things much lighter by talking about a former President's penis, or the above segment, in which he becomes quite worked up over the fact that Russia lost a bunch of geckos in space, whom they were watching have sex. As should we all. Russian already are pioneers in the field of extreme fetch; they cannot be allowed to dominate the growing field of reptilian zero-g pornography.

When The Inevitable Remake Comes Along, At Least We'll Know Who'll Get The Part

Kristen Bell better be careful, biting the hand that feeds her all that delicious Frozen money. Of course, she's so damned adorable, even as a soul-crushingly pessimistic Mary Poppins, that I'm sure even Disney couldn't stay mad at her.

Via Uproxx.

[Review] - Mandatory Fun, By "Weird Al" Yankovic

After more than 30 years, Weird Al's continued and growing success cannot be contributed to the wave of eighties nostalgia that has a hipster-lead death grip on the modern cultural environment, for the simple reason that Al has never went away. And more than that, Al has proven to be as adept at reading cultural shifts as he is at switching musical styles. His brief pause in album releases in the mid aughts was during a time of major cultural upheaval, as the internet age came into being, and Al saw a democratization and proletarian seizure of his livelihood as the age of CDs and music videos came to an end, and the rise of Youtube made every teenager with a webcam into an amateur parodist.

But Al adjusted, and returned with Alpocalypse, his best album since 1996's Bad Hair DayAlpocalypse was a reinvigorated Al, imbued with seemingly singular vision and intent, and returned to his raison d'etre with vigour and zeal. Mandatory Fun is a return to Al Classic. Not that Al Classic is bad; far from it. With the possible exception of Poodle Hat, the modern Al has yet to produce a bad album. But Mandatory Fun sees Al return to the comfort zone of his musical abilities, and an album arrangement that is familiar. He remains as Al as ever, filling the disc with food, obesity and absurdity obsessed songs, and handily parodies the modern billboard chart. It is a comforting album, that doesn't challenge; it reaffirms, and maybe that's exactly what we need.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains the lyric "I want you inside me, like a tapeworm."

28 Jul 2014

And The Rest... [Updated]

As with every year, Comic-Con produces a random assortment of news items that aren't really big news in and of themselves, but are worth mentioning. So, I've collected such items after the jump.

But first, was the official release of the Wonder Woman costume seen above, that Gal Gadot will wear in the upcoming Batman v. Superman: Flan of Justice. And you know what? I like it. I really like it. And I like her in it. She looks like Wonder Woman. Really looks like her. This is exactly what I've always pictured when I imagined what Diana would look like in a live action film. The classicist in me loves that the outfit is actual armour, and that it has a Greek-style skirt, rather than being a one piece bathing suit. I love that it is monochrome and appears to be made out of bronze, as is befitting a Bronze-age soldier. I love that there is no American iconography anywhere near it (other than an eagle, which weren't exactly unknown to the Greek and Thracians, which Amazons were more likely to have been were they real). I love that she both her sword and lasso (in a world where "Superman" doesn't snap people's necks, the sword is important because it symbolizes the fundamental philosophical differences between what she is willing to do compared to what Superman and Batman are unwilling).

This is legitimately the first thing to have come out of DC in years that I'm excited about. Make no mistake, I feel that Batman v. Kramer will still be terrible, as there are far too many factors stacked against it: Synder being unable to direct actors to save his life; David S. Goyer being an absolute talentless asshat; the unrelenting misery that is Man of Steel (I rewatched it a couple weeks ago at the suggestion of some friends, and my opinion of it worsened); Warner Bros and DC's general apathy over their own products, resulting in time tested quality control issues and passionless filmmaking, etc. etc (I could literally go on).

But at least the Princess looks like she should.

Hit the jump for more random stuff.

All The Trailers (Well, A Few Anyway)

While some studios go to Comic-Con to build excitement over a single film, most of the studios go to tease their collective genre output for the coming year or more. So, it isn't unusual for there to be a bounty of trailers released over the course of the week. Rather than give each it's own post (because none of them deserve it), I've collected some of the new trailers and put them all after the jump.

Except, obviously, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, which is up top.

All The Game Of Thrones News

Having just finished off a solid, but divisive season (for book readers), Game of Thrones made their march to Comic-Con last week, and unlike Marvel, made some casting announcements that actually are of interest. That's the difference between the two franchises. With Marvel, people are interesting in where it is going because they are telling original stories with a largely established cast. With Game of Thrones, to know the what and where all you need to do is read the books. What we're interested in is who will be playing these characters, and thus replenishing the charter bank that gets well culled by the end of every season.

So, season four left some characters in very new, very uncertain places, and it left other characters really very dead. The show has all but thrown off the shackles of direct adaptation, and even this new fluid adaptive environment no longer conforms to any particular novel. Next season means very new things, but it also means drawing on what nearly all fans agree are the weakest books in the series. And these are the characters you'll have to learn to tolerate (or gird your growing sense of adoration for the inevitable mourning period).

Hit the jump for the new faces of Westeros (with spoilers for past seasons, but nothing from what is to come).

All The Marvel News

Assembly was required
Last week was Marvel's big Comic-Con chance to release a slew of updates on their various projects, and they took advantage of the opportunity. Over the course of the entire week, they released the above Avengers: Age of Ultron promotional image piece by piece, and leaked information in the lead up to the Marvel TV panels on Friday, and the Marvel films panel on Saturday night.

It was, all told, one of their lighter announcement periods. Kevin Feige has in the past, said that he only takes Marvel to Comic-Con when there is something worth making a fuss over. And unlike last year, where they announced the name of the Avengers sequel, as well as had Agents of SHIELD to hock, this year was high on quantity but light on quality. Most of what they announced was either casting details or technical information. And Phase 3, with two exceptions, is still entirely a mystery.

There was no Daredevil cast and crew present, despite the past month seeing nearly that entire show come together. There were no announcements about any of the other Netflix-backed Marvel series. There was a cameo appearance by Josh Brolin, cementing his role as Thanos, but that was about it. With a bunch of rumours concerning Doctor Strange surfacing this past week but none of them confirmed Saturday night, I suspect that Feige was expecting to be able to announce something big that just didn't happen in time, and thus the Phase 3 roll out will have to wait until either next summer's Comic-Con and D23 expo.

After the jump, I've gathered together all the news concerning the MCU that we didn't know before, including update on Guardians of the Galaxy, Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter, Age of Ultron, and Ant-man.

25 Jul 2014

So... J.K. Simmons Is Finally Going To Get That Oscar That He's Deserved Since Forever?

The other day, I was watching the Coen Bros. version of The Ladykillers (shut up, it'd been a while and I had forgotten), and I kept getting distracted by an itchy question. Is there a character actor, either working today or in the past, that is 1) capable of more range and 2) capable of moving from supporting roles to leading roles and back so seamlessly as J.K Simmons? The first time I saw Simmons in anything, it was as one of the shrinks on Law & Order, and since then, the man has been second to none in every role he's taken. It's pretty much a guarantee that if he's in the cast of a film, he'll be the best thing in it despite the quality of the rest of the film (see the aforementioned Ladykillers, Jennifer's Body, Juno, pretty much the rest of his filmography).

Up until now, his best work has been as J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi's Spider-man films (a role he continued in two separate Marvel animated series, and single handedly kept the character from reappearing in the Amazing series of films). That will probably change with the release of Whiplash (written and directed by Damien Chazelle), where Simmons plays an abusive Jazz instructor, who torments Miles Teller into emotional insecurity. And it looks fantastic. Not big on laughs, but potentially a great character-focused film.

Shall We Take A Voyage Of Discovery Together?

As I was watching this trailer for Space Station 76, I was overtaken by a thought. This is a comedy, obviously, lampooning the sci-fi aesthetic of Space: 1999 and the original Battlestar Galactica. The kind of spit shine and spandex that was common before 2001 and Alien upturned the notion of a "clean" future and science fiction settled into something with a little more grime on the dashboard.

And while it looks like this film does a solid job picking at the tropes of that period and style of film-making, I wondered what would happen if someone made a completely serious film in this style again. Then I realized that J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies were exactly that, and they were shit. So I stopped wondering, and enjoyed this trailer. The film was written and directed by Jack Plotnick (who had a recurring role in the third season of Buffy) and stars Matt Bomer, Patrick Wilson, and Liv Tyler.

Oh, and anyone who laughs at the old fifties notion of everyone in the future walking around in spandex suits all the time, next time you're out take note of how many people are wearing yoga pants as real pants and stop laughing.

[Opinion] - How Not To Train Your Dog

Last week, I was on vacation. And despite my best efforts to spend my week of solitude in complete isolation, away from the constant distracting presence of the internet, in an attempt to both relax and get some solid hours of writing in, all while either sitting in the middle of a lake or drinking Belgian beer (or some creative combination of the two), something usually transpires to shatter the peace of my furlough.

Last year it was an asshole. This year, it was Rufus.

Rufus was a dog with no training whatsoever, and that puppy mentality that stays with a full grown dog when the dumb ass owners decide that everything their dog does is adorable. Until, of course, it starts attacking children or attempts to recreate Homeward Bound all on it's own. And in all honesty, it wasn't Rufus that was the problem. It was his pair of prat owners, who spent days and days attempting to reprimand Rufus in their uniquely ineffective way, at a volume that allowed the entire lake to partake in Rufus' wrongdoing. And since they were my neighbours, I was treated to a front row seat to the idiocy.

Hit the jump for a microcosm of what my week turned out to be, rather than productive.

23 Jul 2014

If You Can Move, Don't

The internet has fallen in love with super cuts, and I honestly can't blame them. Distilling the shared joyful substance of a running gag of recurring trope down into an easily binge-watched montage, that like pop culture cocaine right there.

While some super cuts are nothing more than an excuse to here the same line read half a hundred different ways in two minutes, some are doing the Lord's Work. Like this one, which assembles every instance of Brett getting shot on Archer.

Note to aspiring writers: this is how a perfect running gag works. Fans of the show recognize it, but when displayed like this, you realize that over the five existing seasons, it didn't actually happen all that often. Enough for it to be fun, and not too much for it to become old. And always in a new and inventive way. This succinctly shows the patience and willingness to let a joke "play out" that so so many writers, producers and entertainment folk in general are completely incapable of.

And yet more proof that Archer might be the best produced show on television today.

Via Uproxx.

Good News Everyone...

Futurama may be over, again, but that doesn't mean it's gone (it never seems to be). It continues to live on in the public imagination, like animator Alexy Zakharov, whose work can be seen above. He has rendered the world of New New York into a breath-taking photo-realistic sequence. This is what the year 3000 would actually look like, and I for one wouldn't mind it at all.

And it continues to live on in an official capacity, as Matt Groening and company know when not to leave a good idea alone. Futurama will return to FOX this November in a cross over event with The Simpsons, complete with the entire voice cast (Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom,Tress MacNeille, and Maurice LaMarche) returning to their beloved roles. This is separate from the Family Guy/Bob's Burgers crossover that is also happening in November on the Simpsons, and might be a sign that the Simpsons producers have just finally said "f*#k it." At least Futurama and Simpsons share a heritage (and have crossed paths before).

Now, when news of this broke earlier in the week, it rustled something in me from a ways back. I could have sworn this was announced a year of so ago, and sure enough it was. At last year's San Diego comic-con, it was announced that it was happening, though at the time they were uncertain if it would act as the finale of season 25 or the premiere of season 26. It won't be the premiere, that "honour" goes to the episode in which a long time character will die, but it will happen early in a season that is shaping up to be "all gimmick."

Hit the jump for some still images of Alexy Zakharov's beautiful renditions of the Planet Express ship.

What Did You Do During The War?

We now have a first trailer for The Imitation Game, the first film for a light year in Benedict Cumberbatch's career, as he only has three films set for release. In this one, he plays Alan Turing, the mathematician credited with breaking the Enigma code and dealing a power blow to the German war machine in WWII. Turing's life is pretty much the personification of the idiom "no good deed goes unpunished" and that of course makes for ripe material for a bio-pic.

The film, directed by Morten Tyldum, co-stars Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode as Turing's fellow code breakers, and Charles Dance and Rory Kinnear as various officials lending aid or not to Turing during his official life.

21 Jul 2014

Because "Into Darkness" Worked So Well For That Other Sci-fi Franchise

Finally, a trailer for the approaching series of Doctor Who that is longer than sixteen seconds! That shows actually footage! That includes both dinosaurs and Madame Vastra! That includes... oh, bloody hell, Daleks? Again? So soon?

Listen, I have a theory about Dalek usage. Considering that many of Dalek stories across the history of the programme have been crap, there needs to be an embargo on their use: one per regeneration. Or, to be more fair, once every four years, within a regeneration. The Daleks were used to an absurd degree during the runs of the first three Doctors, and from Tom Baker's time through to McCoy's, this pattern held fairly true. The Doctor encountered the Daleks only once per regeneration (and because they had so run out of Dalek stories by this point, it also always included an appearance from Davros). The exception was the Fourth Doctor, who due to his length of tenure, met his arch-foe twice.

Since the return though, Nine, Ten and Eleven have in seven television years encountered the Daleks every single series, usually twice a series, and in nearly every single finale. This needs to stop. Despite Moffat once saying that the Daleks needed to go away for a while (that lasted nearly a full series), they haven't gone anywhere. And to be frank, in the nine years of the revival, their best appearances have been when they are ancillary, like in The Pandorica Opens or Day of the Doctor (special mention must go however to Dalek, which is probably the greatest Dalek-focused story ever told, and rendered completely meaningless by everything that has come since). So, if we must Dalek again, let it be for the last time in this half of the decade, please?

[Review] - Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five To Go

Beautiful plumage.

The lasting influence of Monty Python's Flying Circus cannot be overstated. Therefore, I won't even try. But, since its original broadcast in 1969, those six highly educated gentlemen redefined both the notion of sketch comedy, and called into question the very nature of comedy itself. Certainly, their predecessors and contemporaries like Spike Milligan and Peter Cook were experimenting with structure and content in the fifties and sixties, but it took Cleese, Palin, Idle, Jones, Chapman and Gilliam (and one needs to remember to mention the seventh Python, Carol Cleveland in the same breath, who readily and ably appears throughout this show too) to actually take comedy in a bold new direction, a direction that has been endlessly copied ever since.

And close to fifty years later (45 to be exact), this is it. Monty Python is no more. It has ceased to be. It has passed on (see what I mean, sometimes it's just unavoidable), if the memorial card that closes the show has any truth to it. Python has been put to rest by the very men and one woman who birthed in the first place, after a series of ten live shows at London's O2 arena, the last of which was broadcast around the world on Sunday. And 45 years on, not much has changed except for the member's agility. And that, in part, is the problem.

When the show was announced, Cleese specifically said that people wanted to see the old material but the boys didn't want to do it in the same old predicable ways. Unfortunately, since the announcement last year and these shows, that sentiment seems to have been lost, because Monty Python Live was really no more than Monty Python at the Hollywood Bowl, by way of The Secret Policeman's Ball, with a heavy pinch of Spamalot thrown in for good measure. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't what it could have been for one last hoorah.

Hit the jump for the review, which waited a full fifteen minutes before putting on a dress.

James Garner Has Died

I never enjoy starting mornings off this way. James Garner has died at the age of 86, of natural causes. He was discovered Saturday evening in his Los Angeles home. The actor's trademark was his affability, and despite roles in films and TV series spanning hard drama to action and comedy, it was his good natured, never-quite-sarcastic quality that quickly made him a leading man.

He is being remembered for his roles in the TV series Maverick and The Rockford Files, both roles that were known for their tendency to play against the conventions of their genres, with Garner's charm often allowing him to find the alternative way out of a cliche. On screen, he of course took part in The Great Escape, still one of the best movies ever made (and I'll hand fight anyone who says different), and returned to the old west in Richard Donner's 1994 Maverick film, which might well be one of the better examples of Garner's range. He was an Emmy winner and an Academy award nominee, and a pioneer in what we'd now call employment rights for actors. Despite a fairly unrelenting career that spanned close to sixty years, he moved ably between the big and small screen throughout, a move that predicted the modern exodus of big names to television roles.

But above all that, he was a gentleman, a man of class and distinction. They don't make them like this anymore, and now they don't have them like this anymore.

11 Jul 2014

Sorry About The German

Last November it was announced that the what remains of Monty Python would be reuniting for a one-off show (or rather, a series of one-off shows) at London's O2 arena for a live re-imagining of the greatest hits of the group, as performed by elderly people. And that day is nearly here! But, while you certainly won't be able to get tickets to see the show live in London, you might still be able to get you hands on some from your local cinema.

Yes, across the world, next Sunday (20th July, 2014), you too can watch from the comfort of your multiplex what may well be the last gathering of the group that proved once and for all that herrings are funny, and accountants are not. I'm on vacation for the next week, so I won't have the chance to mention this to you before the big day, so I urge you to go out right now and get tickets for this 3.5 hour event, broadcast either incredibly late at night or very early in the morning, depending on your region (I'm getting it mid-afternoon).

I'll see you on the other side, with a full review.

Via Monty Python Live.

She'll Seem Wistful

With all the talk of American Gods maybe possibly finally finding a home on Starz, not enough attention is being paid to Neil Gaiman's other projects. He has a new book coming out this October, a "Toon-Book" called Hansel & Gretel; Sandman is still assumed to be in some stage of development at Warner Bros (though with them, you never really can tell); and his short story How To Talk To Girls At Parties is being adapted into a film by Hedwig And The Angry Inch director John Cameron Mitchell, who is writing the film along with Philippa Goslett.

The original short story, the entirety of which can be found on Neil's website, concerned two English lads attempting to chat up some girls at a party in 1970's England. For those who haven't dashed to that link or watched the above video, or read it before, I won't spoil it for you, but let's just say that Gaiman's affections for Douglas Adams might have played into the twist a tiny bit. The film will star Elle Fanning (recently seen in Maleficent) as one of the titled girls, whose interests at such a party aren't entirely concerned with boys, though her attentions may yet be diverted in such a way.

When announcements are made of adaptions, I generally get less nervous when the original work is a short story, like this here, than a novel. Usually, adapting a novel means hacking away at the plot, mining the work of the bits that "really work," usually at the sacrifice of character or intent. Adapting a short story mean that it falls to the adaptors to fill in the gaps. Plump up the original, usually very isolated moment of time with original content and character development. To my mind at least, short stories have a better chance of going right in their adaptations, while novels have a better chance of going wrong.

Via Den of Geek.

What A Way To Make A Livin'

Netflix really is going out of their way to distinguish themselves. The recent Emmy nominations all but prove that the era of the broadcast networks is over, and Netflix has, in only a couple of years, proven themselves to be on equal footing with the cable companies (something that other digital services like Amazon have yet to do). And like any object gaining momentum in a friction-reduced environment, they intend to continue accelerating until an opposing force provides adequate resistance (I ask you, what other sites use the dynamics of physics to describe television production). Case in point, their newly announced 13 episode sitcom Grace and Frankie, created by Friends producer Marta Kauffman and According to Jim producer Howard J. Morris, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. Described as such:
"The single-camera comedy centers on nemeses Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin), whose lives are turned upside down when their husbands announce they are in love with each other and plan to get married. The women, much to their dismay, find that their lives are permanently intertwined and, much to their surprise, find they have each other."
The husbands in question? To be played by Sam Waterson and Martin Sheen, making this cast perhaps the most gravitas rich cast of any TV series, ever. And it's a comedy, something everyone here is more than capable of, but not know for (Tomlin excepted). It's clear that Netflx was interested in chemistry when assembling this cast. Tomlin and Fonda are of course two thirds of the cast of 9 to 5, but Waterson and Fonda are both coming off of great interactions in HBO's The Newsroom. Tomlin meanwhile played Sheen's secretary on West Wing for more than half of the series run. And yes, that mean they've all also been through the Aaron Sorkin meat-grinder.

Now, if they can find a cameo role for Dolly Parton, they'll be set.

Via Uproxx.

9 Jul 2014

Like Sharks In A Tornado, These Are The Riffs Of Our Lives

A gentle (as gentle as a meteorological disturbance filled with marine life of some kind) reminder that tomorrow night, RiffTrax will be performing live their mockery of the infamous Sharknado. Having attended several of these events in the past, I can tell you that Mike, Kevin and Bill never fail to make it an evening to remember, even if the film isn't worth the jam from between the "director's" toes. Tickets are likely still available at your local cinetorium in either Canada or the US.

Additionally, the success of the Godzilla '98 Kickstarter has been announced, and boy howdy was it a success. After accruing nearly three times the asking goal, the MST3K crew will lampoon Roland Emmerich's giant lizard of a film on August 14th. That is only a month away! And because of the wild success of the campaign, they have announced that 1997's Jennifer Lopez vehicle Anaconda has been added to the RiffTrax Live bill as their Halloween feature this year, happening on October 30th.

No word of whether these next two shows will be shown in Canada or not. To ensure this happens, I ask all good and honourable Canadians who read this to send tweet after tweet to Cineplex, asking them to let us take part in the joy that is tearing apart something that so many spent so long making horribly.

Via RiffTrax.

It’s Continuing Mission Is To Party

I'll be honest with you, I've lost track of Robot Chicken in recent years, but clips like this remind me why I was once such a fan. Because it is only Seth Green and those writers that have the time to think of things like "what does the night crew of the Enterprise get up to?" And "can we get Chris Pine to voice Captain Jake?"

Personally, I feel like the day crew's relationship to night crew would be more similar to that of the Dean and Delta Tau Chi in Animal House, but any excuse to hear Patrick Stewart say "beer me" is good enough by my (admittedly low) standards.

Via Collider.

That Is The Most Real, Authentic, Hysterical Laugh Of My Entire Life

A third, and one presumes final, trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy dropped earlier this week. In keeping with the tone of these trailers, and one assumes of the film and, it is augmented by unexpected musical accompaniment, this time The Runaways' Cherry Bomb.

This trailer, the last chance James Gunn and Marvel has to sway anyone as of yet undecided about the film, steps away from Chris Pratt's character slightly, giving more of the spotlight to wise ass Rocket (and also giving us a better listen to Bradley Cooper's voice work). It does a better job than the previous films in setting up the tone of the film, highlighting the kind of comedy the film will be implementing, as well as reminding us that it may well be an immensely dark film at time. As such, we get to see and hear more of Lee Pace's Ronan the Accuser than we ever have, as well as getting a split second look at Michael Rooker as Yondu.

A lot of people had Guardians pegged as a "love it or hate it" kind of film, and that may yet prove to be true But I suspect that there will be a lot of material here that is universal appealing to the audience. The fact that the material will be delivered by a talking raccoon is where the challenge lies.

7 Jul 2014

Happy Belated Day Of Colonial Aggression, Americans

Which is entirely how I will be referring to the Fourth of July from now on, so just live with that.

While Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert celebrate Independence Day with two weeks off, John Oliver is only taking a single weekend off. And, like he did when he took Memorial Day weekend off, he left us with a little something to hold us over. Which I think is a classy way to take a vacation.

And I'm really liking the comedic stance he and the writers have opted to using this time: interpreting events that, from their perspective, haven't happened yet. Last time it was a much more general "this is what usually happens in a week," and this time it describes every single fireworks display in the 14 centuries since they were invented. With John's usual amount of respectful indignation.

Which I believe is actually Britain's national motto. England: the usual amount of respectful indignation.

Via Uproxx.

Mostly Harmful

Marvel has set up a viral marketing website called Galaxy Getaways, which allows you to explore some of the locations the Guardians of the Galaxy will be visiting. Which is cool, if with a month left before the film arrives, a little late for viral marketing. But, it does appear to be keeping in tone with the film, which is basically punch-you-in-the-throat sarcastic.

And, it comes with the above introduction video, which feels way more in keeping with The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy than Guardians. So, let me say this, right now: if Guardians ends up being a superpowered, Chris Pratt starring homage to Hitchhiker's Guide, it stands a real chance of just being my favourite film ever. And the current holder of that title has dinosaurs in it. So, you know, that's a big toothy obstacle to overcome.

Via /Film.

[Review] - Black Canary And Zatanna: Bloodspell, by Paul Dini And Joe Quinones

Bloodspell was released back at the end of May, so from a certain perspective this review might seem a little late. But, there is good reason for that: I forgot this book was meant to exist. Originally announced back in 2006, Bloodspell was advertised as an original graphic novel from DCAU writer and known Zatanna "enthusiast" Paul Dini. But as things go, there were delays. Dini went over to Top Cow to develop Madame Mirage, and eventually came back to DC where he put together Gotham City Sirens and a solo monthly title for Zatanna herself, all the while working on a couple Batman video games. Then came the "New 52," and the assumption that the occasionally touted project was indefinitely dead as the new continuity and bad editorial direction carved up the DC universe into an indistinguishable shape. And yet here we are.

There are few writers with the chutzpah to put out a 95 page original graphic novel, with no ties to the current continuity or editorial direction that the company has been attempting to sell for the past three years. There are fewer writers who would be able to convince a company to stick with such a story nearly eight years after it was pitched. And there are the fewest writers yet who would be able to put out such a work with as seemingly little editorial butchery (even Grant Morrison can't swing that at DC these days) as Paul Dini can. He has earned his position as a grandfather of the DC universe, and as such we are treated to a short, pure as pulp and a hell of a lot of fun story as this.

Hit the jump for the brief review, which contains spoilers that feel that fishnets need to be a theme in more fiction.

4 Jul 2014

Save The Cheese!

The BBC gets all the attention when it comes to historical dramas, but ITV gives as good as they get. Take, for instance, their upcoming series The Great Fire. The series is set against the four day long fire that ripped through 1666 London, gutting the Roman sections of the ancient city, but killing very few.

Written by Tom Bradby, the series will star Broadchurch actor Andrew Buchan as Thomas Farriner, whose bakery on Pudding Lane is where the fire began. The series also stars Game of Thrones alumni Leslie Rose as Farriner's sister-in-law, and Charles Dance as Lord Denton, emissary to King Charles II, who will be played by Jack Huston. The series will last four episodes, and is expected to broadcast later this year.

Looks Like This Time, They're Going Hot To Cold

I have fond memories of Horrible Bosses. Actually, what I have fond memories of is seeing it in Belgium, and having the two Germans in the seats next to me realise they were in the wrong theatre about ten minutes in, lean over, and ask me if this was Transformers 2. They got up and left, obviously making the wrong cinematic decision, but that's confused Germans for you.

The film itself, on paper, isn't really anything special. But boy howdy was it saved by the performances of Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis. Those three had great chemistry, and Kevin Spacey spent the entire time being an unrepentant asshole, and that's always fun (that man doesn't get enough opportunities to do comedy). Now, I am very much of the opinion that not every movie needs a sequel, and I feel that Horrible Bosses was one of those films. It's not like those characters became amazingly iconic after the first one came out, so why doesn't the studio just put those three guys in a different film? Because the studios think we're stupid, and to a certain degree they are right (though no more stupid than they themselves are).

My feelings of unease are exacerbated by the presence of every actor from the first film, despite there not being any obvious reason for them to be there (I'm looking at you, Jamie Foxx). I get a strong sense of the unneeded repetition of jokes that generally passes for comedy sequels, and somehow doubt that I'll be walking away from this film with an odd story about Germans.

[Opinion] - 6 Public Domain Victorian Characters (And 1 Real Guy) I'd Like To See Turn Up In Penny Dreadful

Courtesy of Neal Street Productions
Season one of Penny Dreadful has finished, and by my reckoning, it was a smashing success. It was certainly well received critically, and got a second season pick up, which in television is pretty much the only metric for success that means anything. Before it premiered, I mentioned that I was predisposed to giving the series the benefit of the doubt, as it promised to be a blend of many of my favourite forms of fiction. Despite the fact that they are usually crass and exploitative, I'm a sucker for portmanteau fiction, where public domain characters pal around with each other (it explains why I've stuck with the Thursday Next series this long). It's a Victorian period piece, which I believe I've established as being my favourite historical period, on either side of the ocean. And it utilizes hands down my favourite period of literary history: the Victorian Gothics, and the birth of genre fiction.

Happily, the series was a character obsessed visual treat, so I didn't have to spend the duration of the series making excuses for it's failures. It wasn't a perfect eight episodes, but the faults were vastly outnumbered by it's successes. And one of the most unexpected of those successes was in how John Logan treated the public domain characters. With the exception of young Dr. Frankenstein, all of the principle cast were original creations, though certainly all built on the archetypes of characters and Victorian tropes well established. The public domain was reserved for the secondary characters, and only lightly sprinkled. The likes of Dorian Gray, Mina Harker and Prof. Van Helsing all appear, and the season arc is a loose adaptation of the events of Stoker's Dracula, but Logan was never slave to the source, and chose to adapt freely.

With the world established and the original characters in place, as the series prepares to move into a second year it presents an excellent opportunity for Logan to dip his toes into the pool of the public domain yet again. Because season one was very focused on these six characters, with only a few recurring satellites. The breadth of literary canon offers multitudes of characters who don't necessarily deserve regular occurrence, but from whom a guest appearance wouldn't be unappreciated.

Hit the jump for the list, which includes spoilers for all of season one of Penny Dreadful.

2 Jul 2014

Well, This Is Christmas

The problem with Sherlock isn't just that it's good, it's that the two stars of the show are this close to being the biggest stars in the world. Which means that finding the time in all the various schedules when there would be an opportunity for everyone to get together and film three episodes is harder than aligning the planets with a croquet mallet. It speaks to the affection the cast has for the series, the fans, and the characters that they are willing to go out of their way to make certain that such alignments do happen, even if they are very far apart.

It's with that in mind that Sherlock series 4 has officially been announced! And it's slightly bigger than usual, as the Baker Street Boys has been awarded the coveted BBC Christmas Special for 2015. Production on the special will begin in this coming January, and the following three episode fourth series will film at some point in 2015, with an expected broadcast date of 2016, be it early or late (my guess is that they will follow on from the special, if they can get schedules sorted). This gives Moffat and Gatiss half a year to finish writing the things, and a full calendar year to film them, which should ease the pressure off somewhat.

After the last series ended, I had my own thoughts on what a fourth series might include, going on the Doyle canon, and a fourth episode opens up those opportunities all the more. Of course, it is early days, and there is absolutely no word on what the special might be about, who might appear, and how awesome Mrs. Watson will be throughout.

Via Collider.

Shoot For The Starz, You Might Land Among Gods

It was in February that we found out that American Gods no longer had a home at HBO. Despite developing the project for years, and having spent a horse load of money trying to get the project off the ground, they never found an adaptation that they felt did the novel justice. It is a rare thing for a network to sink money into a project, and just let it go, but HBO isn't just any network. They've got standards (and also dragons, but that's neither here nor there).

While some other networks were rumoured to be interested in American Gods at the time HBO let their claim lapse, we hadn't heard anything more about it until now. Starz, who is till trying to establish themselves as an original content developer (after the commercial or critical failures of shows like Camelot, Boss or Torchwood, and the sexy successes of Sparticus and DeVinci's Demons) have stepped up and taken on the task. The pilot episode will be written by Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller, and his former fellow Heroes writer Michael Green, who will serve as showrunner, saving Fuller from having to do double duty on both series (one can't help but wonder if Fuller set this up in case Hannibal didn't get a third season). Both will produce the show along with Neil Gaiman, who one also expects will eventually add his own talents to a script or two (I envision his role on the series as being similar to the model George R.R. Martin has established on Game of Thrones, but that's just me spit balling).

Said Gaiman, "it’s really important to pick your team carefully: you don’t want to let the fans down, or the people who care and have been casting it online since the dawn of recorded history [editor's note: I have done this myself]. What I love most about the team who I trust to take it out to the world, is that they are the same kind of fanatics that American Gods has attracted since the start." Added Fuller, "Neil Gaiman has created the holiest of holy toy boxes... Michael Green and I are thrilled to crack this toy box wide open and unleash the fantastical titans of heaven and earth and Neil’s vividly prolific imagination." It should be noted that one of Gaiman's last drafts he completed for HBO added in additional material not from the novel, which HBO didn't like. Fuller's comment might be suggestive that Starz was more receptive to broadening the scope of the novel to include original content, which I would be fine with.

This is an early announcement, and really we're no further along than we were a few years ago when HBO announced something similar. But it does show that there is still interest in the Gods, and that one day it might actually happen. And to anyone who pulls it off, it has the potential to be their own Game of Thrones.

Via Collider.

[Review] - Penny Dreadful Season 1 Finale, Episode 8, "Grand Guignol"

Courtesy of Neal Street Productions
And so ladies and gentlemen, both discerning and earnest in your applications and endeavours, we have come at last to the end of this inaugural volume of macabrey. Settle your more delicate of dispositions, for the house lights have come up and reveal it all to have been an illusion most captivating but entirely ethereal. May the haunts so elegantly enumerated, and which threatened to enter your own imaginings, be so ably disposed as one might wipe the filth from a shoe. These preternatural occurrences and blasphemous theatrics have justly been vanquished by the strength of good character, the like of which threatens to be banished from a civil world today. Before we adjourn to our own comforts, let us recount so savoury these conclusions and allow the more wanton of us ponder the grave implications for some future performance.  

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that take the happiness they can.
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