27 Aug 2014


Back a few years ago, when Marc Webb was casting what would ultimately become his directionless and empty-shirted Amazing Spider-man series, there was a web campaign to get Donald Glover, formerly of Community, cast in the lead. That didn't work out, but since then, in the Ultimate comics, Peter Parker has given way to Miles Morales, a half African American, half Hispanic Spider-man whom the internet has solidly suggested Glover would be perfect for. Amazing Spider-man producer Avi Arad has given a blunt and short sighted "no" on the possibility of Morales turning up on screen, but then again, pretty much every Marvel film Arad has touched has since been rebooted without him or been a critical flop, so maybe we don't listen to him. And if Sony's current plan for Spider-man keeps heading the way it is (re: poorly), they might need a drastic change sooner rather than later.

In the comics though, Morales has received a lot of acclaim, and taken his place as a Spider-man of note, in various cross overs. And now, that extends to TV, as Donald Glover will voice Morales on the new season of Ultimate Spider-man, Web Warriors, which will see Peter Parker travel the multiverse encountering all the different versions of himself, in and out of costume. Basically, it's a TV version of the current comic storyline, Spider-verse. Personally, I'm beyond my saturation limit for the cinematic Spider-man, but I still love the character and if they are able to do more interesting things with him on TV, in animation, where the bean counters obviously think things "count less," then I say let them. Let the Saturday morning cartoon show Sony how things should be done.

Via Uproxx.

Lake Bell Will Work With Children

Last year, Lake Bell's directorial debut, In A World... was released to much fan fair. I, for one, loved it. Bell clearly has a handle on putting a cast together that benefits the words on the page, and was more concerned with making the material work than being overly "auteur" about the camera work. Of course, it probably helped things that she wrote and starred in the film as well, and likely had the entire film constructed in her head before minute one of footage was filmed.

Now we'll get a chance to see how she does with someone else's words. Two someone elses, in fact. Bell has signed on to direct an adaptation of Claire Messud's novel, Emperor's Children. The script for the film was written by Greenberg and Frances Ha writer/director, Noah Baumbach. Now, I've not read the book, but the description - "about the intersections in the lives of three friends, now on the cusp of their thirties, making their way–and not– in New York City" - sounds very much in the vein of Greenberg's previous works, and Bell's work on the series How To Make It In America. She''s also touched on long standing female friendships in the film Black Rock. While slice of life, real world drama isn't a genre I naturally gravitate towards, Bell's involvement certainly elevates my interest in the project.

Via Collider.

Last Of The Difficult Pants

While reviewing season two, I think I made it clear that Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom made many improvements over the weaknesses of season one. And while doing so, somehow managed to make entirely new mistakes. The series can be frustrating that way. As one might expect from Sorkin and the cast HBO assembled, it is occasionally brilliant and often very funny, but then it lapses into bizarre diversion or it looses itself in it's own arrogance.

It also came to as tidy a conclusion as you can seemingly expect on TV. So that it is getting a truncated third season is a little strange. Season two didn't go out on top, but it did go out. Bringing it back seems... well, I'll just say, it seems odd. And I don't know who would have been the force behind it. Sorkin has a lot of other things on his plate, HBO doesn't need the "prestige" and the cast will all go on to bigger and better things from here, if they haven't done so already. So, I'll watch the Final Episodes this November when they air, and maybe that will explain why it is back at all.

25 Aug 2014

[Review] - Doctor Who, Series 8 Episode 1, "Deep Breath"

Here we go again, as Madame Vastra so ably put it. A new series, a new title card, a slightly new TARDIS interior, an absolutely new Doctor exterior, and all the potential in space and time. Any new Doctor's first time out, just kicking the tires and all that, is rarely an opportunity for the show itself to be remarkable, and Peter Capaldi has the unenviable task of following Matt Smith's introductory episode, probably the best the series has ever done (or, if not, top three). At 77 minutes, it certainly had the leg room to do some calisthenics should it be so inclined. And the results?

Well, it's not all sunshine and roses. To belabor the metaphor, it was more like a lovely field full of dandelions, occasionally falling into shadow by a cloud passing twixt it and the sun. Which is the long way round of saying that it wasn't bad, but it wasn't spectacular either. It was occasionally brilliant, and occasionally not at all that. It did what it had to, in a way that wasn't entirely necessary, but I wouldn't kick it out of bed for doing aggressive calisthenics. But you know what? It could have been 60 minutes even, and I bet we would have been the better for it.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have an enviable spleen.

[Review] - Walking With Dinosauress: The Arena Spectacular

Walking with Dinosaurs was, probably, the most influential modern programme about dinosaurs outside of Jurassic Park. It helped that it was technically cutting edge, and found a way to balance the science with entertainment. So, in 2007, when it was adapted into a "stage show," the challenge was to see if they could maintain the same balance, whilst also creating animatronic recreations of the series' animals that were effectively believable. In that, they also succeeded.

Currently in the middle of its second world tour, Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular is exactly that: a spectacle. An amazing feat of engineering, and easily the closest we will ever get to experiencing these animals in the flesh. Touted as an all ages event, this is not simply dinosaurs on parade or Jurassic fight club. This is edu-tainment: packaging real learning in an accessible and enjoyable wrapping. And, on its second time around, has managed to do what most are unwilling to: it has kept up with the research, and altered itself accordingly.

Hit the jump for the brief review.

Richard Attenborough Has Died

Richard Attenborough, Baron Attenborough of Richmond upon Thames, has died at the age of 90. Known as Dickie, Attenborough had a career which spanned six decades, stage and screen, in front of the camera and behind it. In 1982, he won the Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards for his epic biopic Gandhi, beating out Steven Spielberg for ET, about which Attenborough later said  "I was certain that not only would E.T. win, but that it should win. It was inventive, powerful, [and] wonderful. I make more mundane movies."

Behind the camera, Attenborugh's films tended towards political biographies, with the likes of Young Winston, Cry Freedom and Chaplin among them. In front of the camera, he was known for the energy and enthusiasm that, by all accounts, was his every day bubbly and indomitable spirit. In 2008, faced with the rigors of age and the recent loss of his daughter and grand-daughter, the Guardian captured a record of a man still fully in the throes of life.

His best known roles were almost certainly Roger Bartlett, the mastermind in The Great Escape, and as John Hammond in Jurassic Park, a role which saw him return to acting for the first time in nearly fifteen years. It is no exaggeration to say that part of what makes Jurassic Park such a successful film is the boyish enthusiasm that Attenborough brought to Hammond, a far cry from the villainous and cynical version of the character in the original novel. The same eternal charm made him arguably cinema's best Santa in the 1994 remake of A Miracle on 34th Street.

Attenborough was a titan of cinema, and his loss is a reminder that his kind is a rarity these days.

22 Aug 2014

Ron Might Be In Something... I'm Not Entirely Sure

Every year, around this time, the world is treated to a brief moment of pure joy, as the Parks and Rec blooper reel is released in advance of the previous season's DVD. I think I'll miss these bloopers more than the show itself, once it's gone. And as much of a creative hit as the show took last year, these bloopers prove that behind the scenes, the folks involved were still having fun.

It is in these that we first came to know how funny Chris Pratt really is. It was in these that we learned what Nick Offerman's breaking point of child-like giggles is. That when Amy Poehler gets laughing, she can't stop easily. And that these people all seem to really enjoy each other's company (considering how many films they've all co-starred in together since the show started, I think it's safe to say they have a very healthy acting trope family dynamic built up here.

Via Collider.

Some Things Are Unforgivable

15 years ago, Kate Holmes was in Teaching Mrs. Tingle, where a bunch of students try to... kill a teacher, if I remember correctly. It's a been a while, because that movie was not good, as has become the expected norm from films starring Katie Holmes (Batman is, of course, not applicable). Now, she's playing the psychopathic teacher in Miss Meadows, about a vigilant murderer who spends her days dressing like it's the 1950's and taking the part of the job description that calls on her to protect the kids a bit too far.

I get a solid "come back" vibe off of this trailer, like this is been geared towards trying to reignite Holmes' career. The trailer also plays things towards a middle ground of a Death Wish-if-it-were-an-independent-movie, which is an odd choice but might pay off. There looks to be a lot of emotional, character stuff that the trailer pushes back in favour of gun play, so it might turn out to be a really dark character study. Which might be enjoyable. Or, it could turn out like The Brave One, refuse to really take a position, and flounder until the credits roll.

The film opens on November 14th.

[List] - 8 More Of The Best Logo Gags

From Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
A while back, I highlighted some of my favourite instances of directors having fun with the company logos that appeared before their films. A company logo is usually something that the audience blanches on, so ubiquitous, that changing things up is both an excellent way to grab their attention early on, and set a particular tone. Or, sometimes, its just a chance to have a bit of fun sooner than you'd expect.

After the jump, I've included eight more logo gags that tickle my cinephile heart strings.

20 Aug 2014

The Only Way I Can Solve A Rubik's Cube Is To Throw It Out The Window On The Highway

Back in 2011, Penn and Teller had a fantastic show on ITV called Fool Us, where magicians would perform in front of the skeptical duo, and if Penn and Teller couldn't explain how the trick was done, the magician won a warm-up gig in front of Penn and Teller in Las Vegas. It was a brilliant show that ran for 9 episodes. This... is not that.

Wizard Wars airs Tuesdays on the SyFy network, which might as well just rename themselves the Fake Shit network, is a reality show created by those two guys up top, Richard Lax and Justin Flom. The show is basically the same as any other "talent" based reality show, except that it involves close up illusion. Teams compete to create tricks using only household materials, and then are judged on the quality and complexity of the trick by Penn and Teller.

I've long said that if anything got me to actually watch a reality TV show, it would be magic (meaning that the action precipitating the event would be a supernatural force exerted by unquantifiable sources), and it turns out that it really was magic (meaning the highly skilled and dexterous exhibitions of prestidigitation was enough to override my loathing of the medium).

Via The Mary Sue.

Marvel Acts Small, Casts Big

Ant-man officially entered production on Monday, and Marvel was quick to release an official image from the film, if only to prove that this is still a thing that is happening (I can only imagine that Kevin Fiege is desperate to get this monkey off his back and be done with it). So, now we know that Paul Rudd's Scott Lang will at some point be rocking the hobo-chic look, adding yet another to the modern pantheon of superheroes looking like they'd ask you to spare a couple of bucks on your way out of the coffee shop.

Much more interesting then Rudd being thankful that Days of Future Past undid Magneto's needless destruction of everyone's favourite bridge (sorry Brooklyn, London, and Madison County's), they released the full production list (sans writing credits, oddly) including the full cast. And it includes some familiar names. Namely, Judy Greer and John Slattery. Slattery should be familiar to Marvel fans as having played the 1970's version of Howard Stark in Iron Man 2, possibly meaning that we'll be seeing a flashback to that era, likely relating to Michael Douglas' Hank Pym (one doubts a scientist would have developed a particle that causes people to shrink without attracting the attention of SHIELD).

But more excitingly, Judy Greer! Long time readers and attentive library hobos know that Greer's name in a cast is enough to raise my interest two whole notches. And considering that Ant-Man plummeted several notches when Edgar Wright left, they need all the good will they can get on this one. Greer's role hasn't been announced, and as much as I would love for her to become the snarky female Coulson replacement for the next couple phases, I feel like this might be like when they announced Stephanie Szostak was going to be in Iron Man 3, and we all spent months assuming that she'd be playing Wasp, only for her to ultimately have about five minutes of screen time and be little more than a very oblique reference to Man-Thing. So, I hope for big things for Greer in the film, but I expect it'll be more something along the lines of Pym's secretary. We can cross our fingers that she's named Cheryl.

Finally, when Agents of SHIELD made it's comic con season two announcement, they said that Mockingbird would be joining the cast this season, but that they hadn't cast anyone is the Rule 63-for-Hawkeye yet. That has now changed, as they have announced that Adrianne Palicki will be assuming the role for the fifth episode of the season, with the option to recur later in the season (those who watched last year will be wary of the phrase "recurring character," as this has generally meant maybe two appearances). Palicki will be familiar to fans of genre stuff, having appeared in the Red Dawn remake and the G.I. Joe sequel, as well as the failed pilots for both Aquaman and Wonder Woman, though she remains best known for her role on Friday Night Lights. In short, she's a sold choice for the role, and on par with a series that has previously cast the likes of Saffron Burrows, Bill Paxton, and Patton Oswalt.

Via Entertainment Weekly.

We Need A New Word To Describe The Discovery Of "New" Extinct Species

Whenever you deal with topics as complex as those that science encompasses, there is always going to be a division between what the trained experts know and what the public understands. In the case of paleontology, one of the biggest misconceptions involves bone beds. Fossils are often found in bone beds, areas where a lot of bones from a variety of species are all found in the same area. Occasionally, this can be indicative of the animal's behaviour, but far more likely is that the area was one of gradual accumulation. Animals died, and their bodies ended up moved to a centralized location, usually through flooding or other natural phenomena. Pat of the paleontologist's job is to study how and where the bones were found, in order to determine if the site was a mass grave, or an accidental smorgasbord for mammalian science folk.

Take, for instance, a monster of a find by Alexander Kellner, a paleontologist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. He has published an article describing a bone bed containing 47 distinct fossils of a newly discovered pterosaur, dubbed Caiuajara dobruskii. The team currently believes that this grouping represents a colony of these animals, whose wingspan reached up to 7.5 feet and featured a distinct crest on their upper beak. The area, in modern day southern Brazil, would have been a desert lake in the late Cretaceous period, an odd location to find pterosaurs at all, but especially ones so large, who tended to keep to ocean shores, where they could ride the currents generated by the seas. Several of the fossils were of young, suggesting perhaps an inland breeding ground or other migratory behaviour. What the researchers now have to attempt to determine is if all of these creatures died together, and if so, what might have killed so many so quickly. Or, if like other bone beds, the 47 animals died gradually, and were latter collected centrally by time and tide.

I feel like it is also important to note that C. dobruskii was a pterosaur, a flying lizard, and not a dinosaur in any way. They were contemporaries, and generously distant cousins, but pterosaurs were as closely related to dinosaurs as a human is to... I don't know, a dog. There are similarities, and common ancestors way way back, but since then we've taken different paths.

Via National Geographic.

18 Aug 2014

Time Grows Closer

We're a week away from the premiere of series 8 of Doctor Who, and the BBC have finally gotten around to releasing the episode titles for this year (included below). It includes seven scripts written (or, for a first) co-written by showrunner Steven Moffat, and only one script by his space/time buddy, Mark Gatiss. It also includes the return of cliffhangers, as the final two episodes are paired, as well as possibly epsiodes 5 and 6 (though that is only speculation.

Moffat also revealed that, on top of the Doctor getting a new face, and the TARDIS getting an internal refit, there will be a new opening credits sequence. I'll have more thoughts on that in my first review, if it proves to be true. The new sequence plays like a bit of fanfic: pro CG artist Billy Hanshaw made it himself for fun and put it on the internet, where a fan showed it to Steven Moffat, who loved it, hired Hanshaw and put it on the front end of the new series. Hanshaw's original is above, and we'll have to wait to see how close the official version gets. I like this version, in the very least.
8.1: Deep Breath; Written by Steven Moffat and directed by Ben Wheatley

8.2: Into The Dalek; Written by Phil Ford and Steven Moffat, and directed by Ben Wheatley

8.3: Robots Of Sherwood; Written by Mark Gatiss and directed by Paul Murphy

8.4: Listen; Written by Steven Moffat and directed by Douglas Mackinnon

8.5: Time Heist; Written by Stephen Thompson and Steven Moffat, and directed by Douglas Mackinnon

8.6: The Caretaker; Written by Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat, and directed by Paul Murphy

8.7: Kill The Moon; Written by Peter Harness and directed by Paul Wilmshurst

8.8: Mummy On The Orient Express; Written by Jamie Mathieson and directed by Paul Wilmshurst

8.9: Flatline ;Written by Jamie Mathieson and directed by Douglas Mackinnon

8.10: In The Forest Of The Night; Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce and directed by Sheree Folkson

8.11: Dark Water (Part 1); Written by Steven Moffat and directed by Rachel Talalay

8.12: Death In Heaven (Part 2); Written by Steven Moffat and directed by Rachel Talalay
Via Den of Geek.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Says What Regular Cop Shows Are Thinking

As much as the dip in quality that Parks and Rec took last season bothered me, it might have been understandable considering that the folks behind it were busy making Brooklyn Nine-Nine the best new sitcom on TV. Michael Schur's shows tend to be fantastic until he gets a better idea, and moves on. So that assumes that Brooklyn Nine-Nine will continue to be awesome for another few years, until he goes off and develops a show about, I don't know, travel agents in Tulsa or something.

This season, the show moves from it's pre-or-post New Girl Tuesday timeslot to the crowded, animated environment of FOX Sundays. It was an odd move, when it was announced, and I don't know if it'll work for them, but there is nothing else I watch on Sundays, so I'll probably be watching it live this year. This first look, focusing mostly on Charles and Gina, gives us a taste of what is in store for the Nine-Nine when it returns September 28th.

Via Uproxx.

The Slightly Earlier Show, With Craig Ferguson

Despite his claims to the contrary, since Craig Ferguson announced that he was leaving The Late Late Show, I've had the feeling that it wasn't entirely his decision. I have no doubt that the reasons he gave were true in their own way, but there was a read-between-the-lines-iness that made it seem that, without David Letterman at CBS to back him, Ferguson was being gently suggested to move on. But, he was already confirmed to be hosting Celebrity Name Game for Freemantle North America, so all assumed that his future was clear.

Just the other day, whilst brushing my teeth, I got to wondering if Geoff Peterson would be part of Celebrity Name Game. And low, the television gods did hear me, and sent forth an answer that makes me warm in my bits. Craig Ferguson, it was announced last week, will be hosting a syndicated half hour comedy/talk show for Tribune Media, which owns stations like KTLA in Los Angeles, and WPIX in New York. But more than that, it'll essentially be the Late Late Show transplanted to a more visible arena.The show will be run by current Late Late Show producer, and ever-present foil to Ferguson, Michael Naidus. Additionally, Josh Robert Thompson will follow Ferguson in the guise of Geoff, the gay robot skeleton. And Secretariat, his pantomime horse, will trot along behind for good measure. The show is expected to air at 7 o'clock, ahead of a syndicated sitcom and the affiliated network's prime-time lineup.

Ferguson, when asked if he would ever like to take over the Late Show from Letterman, often said something along the lines of no, because CBS would expect too much of him in that position. At 12:30, he was able to do whatever he wanted, with little interference from the network because, in his words, they had forgotten he was there. The counter to that was he received little support from CBS (his support came almost entirely from Letterman), and was forced to build up his own following. Which he did. I've long maintained that Ferguson is the only host worth watching in the current late night environment. But that timeslot is a killer, and I struggle to keep up-to-date, even with timeshifting.

This new program, and it's timeslot, is incredibly good news for Ferguson. Being syndicated means he won't be beholden to a network's meddling. He might have to try to scale back the "tootsie-fruitsie" and the dirty old man stuff, but that all is part of Ferguson's charm, and part of the package Tribune has bought. Being half an hour means a more honed expression of Ferguson's skills, and let's all be honest, the first half hour of the show, when Ferguson and Geoff interact with the audience and each other, is the best part of the show. Not that his interview skills aren't top grade; he's easily the best in late night, if only because he refuses to be sycophantic. Ferguson has repeatedly said that he won't do something unless he's deeply interested in it, and I see this deal as being a distillation of all the best qualities he's honed at 12:30 over the last ten years. He might finally have what he's wanted for so long, and that CBS never gave him: true trust and freedom.

 Via Deadline.

15 Aug 2014

"Grooting" Needs To Become A Thing

And for once, it probably won't be dirty. I'll put the business of the post after the jump, because it does spoiler one of the better jokes from the film, and there may well be a handful of folk out there who haven't seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet. For those people, there clearly is no hope, and I say we should collectively drive them out to the country, and leave them there, to pine by the side of the road watching in the direction the car left in, hoping that we'll return, until they are mauled by a badger at dusk. Like nature intended.

To get us slightly in the mood (and is tenuously related), the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack has hit number one on the billboard charts, which I believe is a first for Marvel. The album, titled Awesome Mix Vol. 1, "sold 109,000 copies in the week ending Aug. 10 (up 83 percent), according to Nielsen SoundScan. It debuted a week ago at No. 3 with 60,000." It is also notable because "it is the first No. 1 soundtrack where the whole album is composed of previously released songs." So, not only does James Gunn have a great sense of humour and an eye for untapped talent, but also a golden ear for diegetic music. Looks like the pressure is on for Awesome Mix Vol. 2.

After the jump, we look at the perfect companion to Awesome Mix Vol. 1, and how you can make Groot do that other thing he does, other than say his name, at home.

Character Actors Are People Too. Just, You Know, In Supporting Roles

It must speak to my own interests and attentions, that I recognized every person in this video. I've always been impressed more by character actors than by "stars." I'm drawn to the J.K. Simmons, the Judy Greers, the F. Murray Abrahams, if only because they tend to be more reliable than the big guys, especially in big, actiony films. Look at Keanu Reeves, Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis, and they just play themselves, or at least the exact same guy, in every single film they're in. Whereas character actors might get typecast into a particular kind of role, at least they'll put their all into (nearly) every role they get, be it big tent pole stuff, or made for the SyFy network. They put in the effort, and while we might not know all of their names, at least we do recognize them. I'd rather be a "hey, what do I know you from?" sort of guy than Channing Tatum any day. Partly because his name sounds like a witch's curse from a Disney film.

And you've got to figure at this point, Doug Jones really hates Andy Serkis. Like, leaves weird stuff in his mailbox, hates.

Via The Mary Sue.

[List] - Marvel Roles Best Suited For Nathan Fillion

Ever since Joss Whedon was announced as director of Avengers, the internet has been clamoring for Nathan Fillion to be cast in a Marvel film. And it makes sense; Fillion and Marvel seem like natural bedfellows, especially since they kicked off their film series with Robert Downey Jr. displaying the same roguish charm that Fillion is known for himself. Chris Pratt's performance in Guardians of the Galaxy is just more from that same wellspring of handsomeness mixed with sarcastic indignation.

What might be holding Marvel up somewhat is that Fillion, for all his charm and pre-existing fan base, is not conventionally a movie star. He's had great and continued success on TV, and appeared in many films in supporting roles, but has only actually played the lead role in a major, studio released motion picture twice. It helps that the two men who cast him in those roles are, in order, Joss Whedon (Serenity, 2005) and James Gunn (Slither, 2006). It should therefore be no surprise that one of the most common questions to hear in interview with these two men are "what role is there for Nathan?"

Many expected him to turn up in Guardians of the Galaxy, perhaps teasing a future larger role in the sequel. Sadly, his confirmed role was little more than some background voice work, leaving the future wide open for him to play an active physical role in the MCU in some way (the same is true of Alexis Denisof). And while, considering that Fillion's major roles have all been on TV, the assumption might be that it makes more sense for him to pop up on Agents of SHIELD (I'd hate to see him wasted there) or Agent Carter, I thought it'd be fun to take a look at those comic characters for whom Fillion would be best suited towards playing, who haven't yet shown up in the MCU.

Hit the jump for the list, which turned out to be pretty heavily celestial (because that's where my head is these days), so be wary of spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy.

13 Aug 2014

A Terrible Offspring Of Our Pride Will Get What's Coming To It

As I mentioned last month, the RiffTrax kickstarter to unlock the 1998 Roland Emmerich travesty Godzilla for live riffing was a wild success, to the extent that it also covered them for Anaconda as their Halloween show. But first things first, and the first thing is a giant iguana. Tomorrow night at your local cinetorium (well, not my local. I have to make a bit of a trip to catch it myself), across the US and Canada, Mike, Kevin and Bill will be mocking the movie that propelled Matthew Broderick into cinematic obscurity.

I've attended five of these now, and I don't laugh as hard, as often, and leave a theater feeling as satisfied as I do when I see RiffTrax live. You've still got time, I suggest you figure out where this is playing nearest you, and go to there tomorrow night, tickets in hand. A better evening you won't have.

Via RiffTrax.


Amazing as it may seem, we're just over a week away from the 23rd of August premiere of series 8 of Doctor Who, featuring Peter Capaldi as the man himself. I've mentioned before, there seems to be much less pomp about this series kicking off than there has been surrounding previous series, at least from a media push. The show however, is treating this as just as special as any other series premiere, and any other new Doctor induction.

The episode, Deep Breath, will be feature length, premiere around the world simultaneously, and will be kicking off a full, uninterrupted "back to basics" series and Steven Moffat promises will be less flirty and human friendly than the series has been since it's return. And, with more online content, in the vein of Pond Life and the superb Night of the Doctor. And all of it will be reviewed on this site, as is the standard operating procedure, with reviews going up probably on Mondays (I haven't quite nailed that down yet).

I can't wait, me.

Somber Thoughts

Late Monday, the world learned that Robin Williams had died, and it was a coarse, stark reminder of what real grief feels like. Because after hearing the news, I refused to accept it. It didn't make sense, and was clearly some terrible clerical error. As the news sunk in, the total weight of the loss welled up inside, as we took stock of what we no longer had: a boundless fount of energy, a true light of humour and wisdom and compassion was gone from the world. I won't bother doing the usual run through of his accomplishments, because everyone already knows them. And it was twice a tragedy. First, because he was gone, and second because he had killed himself.

This is a subject that I am woefully, painfully ill-equipped to speak on, so I'm not really going to try. I have had dark days, but even at the bottom of my personal umbra, I recognized that it would pass and that things would get better. The villain of depression is the lack of that perspective. From the midst of a true, paralyzing depression, there seems like there is no getting better. Everything looks equally black, in all directions, or so I've been told. It's a bitch of a disease, only too late and still misunderstood as a disease. And those that succumb to it, like Williams, are victims of its ravages.

I'm going to link to two pieces that deal with the issues of depression and suicide far better than I ever could, if only for the simple fact that the authors have lived through it: first is an essay from Cracked's David Wong essentially about Poliachi Syndrome, the notion that those who try the hardest to make us laugh are themselves trying the hardest not to cry. The second is Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half graphic telling of her own battle with depression, perhaps the best way I've ever seen depression described if only because it made me, for the first time, really understand what it was like. She managed to impart 1% of what it really feels like to be in the grip of this disease, and staggers the reader knowing that she and millions like her had to go through the other 99%. And that for some, like Williams, that 99% is ultimately too much.

Here are some additional suicide resources, which are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what is available to help.

Read This First
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

11 Aug 2014

I'm Taking A Long Weekend

True, last weekend was an actual long weekend (in Canada, at least), and true on that occasion I both managed to watch a live panda consume it's species into oblivion by munching on some nutrient-free sticks and get a full rack of posts up on Monday. But this week has been busy. At the very least, I put an end to nearly a century long crypto-zoological mystery. That can be bracing. I also don't have any reviews to throw up today, because you'd have to pay me to even consider seeing Ninja Turtles, and I still wouldn't go (though that didn't seem to stop the rest of you - for shame). So, I'm taking an extra day. If it's within your power, I suggest you do the same (though, since this is getting posted at 10:30, I guess you might have to settle for a half day. Those are fun too).

8 Aug 2014

In Space, No One Can Hear the Gender Inequality

Lego has a problem, and that problem is a tiny, yellow, plastic Y chromosome. As I may have mentioned before, Lego has woefully under represented women in their sets, and have done so since the beginning. I think the first time I got a female minifig was with a Star Wars Episode I set. Granted, the past decade they've made real steps forward in correcting this issue, but it still persists. For example, they just launched a new line of sets called Ultra Agents. The first wave contains 6 new sets across the usual price ranges (from "minorly expensive" to "third mortgage") and complexities. Within these 6 sets are 19 minfigs, and of these only 4 are female, and those only come in the three highest priced sets.

The same is true of the Superhero sets, which feature Pepper Potts, Black Widow, Mary Jane, Wonder Woman, Lois Lane, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and Batgirl, but only in the higher price range sets, traditionally those with the lowest sales. Only Catwoman came in a low-range set (Wonder Woman's set was mid-range, and was actually a Superman set). The City line has the same level of inequality, but manages to spread the figs out over a larger portion of their sets in various ranges, though I've noticed that a female minifig never comes with the cheapest sets (please correct me with an example if I'm wrong there). The only Lego line I can find with anything resembling parity are the blind-bag minifig sets, which are generally half-and-half, but because of distribution statistics, you're less likely to get a female figure than a male.

As a Lego collector, this irks me big time smiley. There is such a disparity in my collection of male to female figures that I've found myself consciously making the decision to only purchase sets that include female figures. Lego is expensive, so when I spend that much on a set, I want it to make my collection better. I championed the soon-to-be-available, and already-sold-out Research Institute from it's early days, though not just because it was an exclusively female set, but because it looked awesome. When it hits shelves later this month, it'll be priced at $19.99 US, and only features female figures, which are two things that, to my recollection, have never happened before.

There is a project up on Lego Ideas called Planetary Exploration right now that has been specifically designed for two reasons: first, to provide even more roles for female minfigs in a Lego set, and second to make a more "hard" science fiction set than Lego has ever done before. And it looks pretty solid. Personally, I'd remove the aliens entirely, and just leave it as a straight up planetary science set, with exclusively female figures, but that's just me. I encourage you all to jump over to Lego Ideas and give it your support, because I'd dearly like to own it, and that's not going to happen otherwise. And, if this set hits the 10,000 supporters that it needs to be considered, and so soon after Research Institute, then Lego as a company might start to reevaluate their current policies regarding female figures.

Hit the jump for more pictures from the proposed set.

The Internet Just Solved Bigfoot

Bigfoot bothers me. So does the skunk-ape, and the yeti, and other cryptids that that sort. Because, to be perfectly frank, if they were real, we probably should have discovered them by now. The Rocky Mountains, like the swamps of Florida, are not the desolate, intractable regions of the world where super-fauna might actually live, like the depths of the sea, or the interior of the Amazon. The Rockies especially is a well trodden track of land, heavily populated and very well documented. So the idea that there is a mega-ape trouncing around out there is foolishness of the highest order. And yet, there are sightings of something meandering through the brush. Setting aside drunks, and folk who go out needing to see something, and liars, the ones who started the craze back in the twenties had to be seeing something out there that made them associate with old Native legends.

The above video is, aside from frustratingly having been filmed vertically, from New Jersey, where a homeowner caught a black bear wandering around the neighbourhood on it's hind legs. The internet's reaction to this has been "bear thinks it's people,' in keeping with all the other recent people-esque behaviour from bears, like hammock sitting, and slide sliding. But me, I looked at this video, and thought, "if I were in the woods, and saw that, I'd think Bigfoot." Watch the end of the video, where it ducks into the woods, and tell me that watching it through the tangle of branches doesn't give off a solid Bigfoot vibe. And when standing bipedal like that, a black bear can reach up to seven feet tall, in keeping with the standard Bigfoot dimensions.

It doesn't explain everything, but it doesn't need to. The legend of Bigfoot has grown in the telling, like the kraken before it. But if you strip away the bull that has built up around it by the insane and the desperate over the decades, a hiker seeing a bear walking like a person from a distance might be a reasonable enough place for a legend to begin. Its just a thought.

Via Gawker.

[Analysis] - Marvel Phase 3 And Beyond, Part 2: Do We Really Know Anything?

Let's try this again, shall we?
Following the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I put together what at the time I believed was a reasonable analysis of the future slate of Marvel films. Some things have changed since then. About a week after I posted that original analysis, Edgar Wright dropped out of Ant-man, thus reducing it from "highly anticipated" to "who gives a sh*t about Ant-man?"

In the wake of Marvel's 2014 Comic-Con panels, we now have a more structured vision of the release schedule (though the expectation was that we'd have a much clearer idea of what Phase 3 would look like, which we still don't). However, what little time has passed has revealed more clues as to what the future holds. Despite any official announcements not having yet been made, as I originally promised this seems as good a time as any to add what we know now to what we knew then, and see if it reveals any more about what we will know at some point down the road

Hit the jump for the analysis which, as always, uses logic and deduction to create a reasonable hypothesis based on available data, and contains spoilers of the entire MCU up to and including Guardians of the Galaxy.

6 Aug 2014

I Ain't 'Fraid Of No Ghosts

Let's get this out of the way straight off: there are no such things as ghosts. Like fairies in the garden (it's squirrels and fireflies) and monsters in the closet (they're your pre-adolescent anxieties taking the form of 1980's politicians), they are fictions invented by the mind to explain drafts. However, they are fictions I approve of. Like illusionists pretending to be magicians, ghosts are lies that I respect. Because a cold house with a sinking foundation and overly reflective dust motes becomes far more interesting if it's inhabited by the wandering spirit of the rum-runner who used to use the basement as a speak-easy. I would never halt the use of imagination to make the mundane marvelous.

But this news report irks me. Because they believe the fiction. Now, before any of you get all uppity about "we don't know everything" and "if not ghosts, than what," let me say this: the base position has to be one of skepticism. Science gives us very clear methods for determining the validity of things, and those methods must be followed. And for those methods to be effective, you cannot go into an experiment with a preconceived notion; it biases the data. And in a situation like this, give the options that the house is possessed by a demon, or that it isn't, you must assume that it isn't until proven otherwise beyond all reasonable doubt. And these reporters clearly allowed themselves to be overtaken by the home-owner's convictions and story-telling skills. And the news producers clearly enjoyed playing that up.

I have no doubt that they experienced something. But I would remind people that humans, especially those that are... susceptible to suggestion, are easily influenced by they're willingness not just to believe, but to be among those that believe. To join in, to feel something, so that when the next dinner party comes along and artists and agents are discussing drudgery, they can lean forward and say, "I've seen a ghost." It's a good story, but that's all it is.

(Oh, and anyone interested in seeing the investigation the reporters mentioned, it can be watched here).

Via Uproxx.

Another Long Dark Tea-time Of The Soul Approaches

With no trace of hyperbole, there is no single person who has had more of an impact on me, professionally, personally, and philosophically, than Douglas Adams. Without getting into any personal garbage, there was a time when things weren't right with me, and I discovered (not given, but found, as if guided by providence, which is of course ridiculous) the Hitchhiker's Guide, and as I worked my way through, things suddenly began to click and make an alarming amount of sense. In an age when people douse themselves with meds, spend more time with therapists than with family, and are constantly ponying up cash for the latest get-well-quick scheme, I somehow managed to avoid all of that, and a lifetime of potential misery, because a brilliant man wrote some fantastic books. I have, in the past, drawn comparisons between Adams and Jim Henson: both added magic to the world in greater volume than a room full of people are usually capable of, and were prevented from adding anymore far too soon.

I devoured everything Adams wrote, from Meaning of Liff to Last Chance to See, and of course the Dirk Gently pair of novels. The first was a reworking of his Doctor Who: Shada script, something that becomes immediately obvious if you've had the chance to read the completed Shada novelization. The second was wholly original, and as bizarre and unique as the original Hitchhiker's concept was. And Dirk was an idea that Adams was keen to return to, at least in part, leaving behind The Salmon of Doubt unfinished when he died. His agent, Ed Victori,claims that Adams "always maintained that his Dirk Gently novels had much greater dramatic potential" than his other properties. And that claim is going to be tested by IDW and Max Landis.

IDW Entertainment, the TV and film arm of the comic book publisher, has announced that they will be assembling a TV series based on the two completed Dirk novels. Landis will write the pilot, and act as executive producer. Now, if this all sounds a bit familiar to some, it's because the BBC tried this recently. Roughly in 2012, BBC4 attempted to get into the original drama game with a three episode series (plus pilot) by Howard Overman, and starring Stephen Mangan. It was the first series I reviewed per episode for this site. And it wasn't very good. Or rather, it was half good. Literally, of four episodes produced, two were brilliant and two were rubbish. And, wisely I thought, it used the elements of the novels, while avoiding being a direct adaptation. Unwisely, I thought, it had no sense of direction. Despite the novels involving Norse Gods, aliens, time travel and other oddities, the series seemed to want to be grounded and realistic. And yet still involved time travel and robots. When it embraced these elements, it was great. When it shunned them, it ran off course.Will IDW and Landis suffer the same fate. Based on Landis' comments, I don't think so"
“Alongside the obvious yada yada I’m a lifelong fan, Long Dark Teatime Of The Soul (the second Dirk Gently novel) is one of the best books ever. Douglas Adams is a visionary who forever changed the way science fiction is written and talked about and even thought about and even the way real actual science is thought about and without whom our culture would be noticeably different for the worse, I’d also just like to say holy crap, it’s Dirk Gently. This is any writer’s ultimate project, and in the current TV space, it fits ridiculously well. Imagine a playground where you could come with any mystery, no matter how improbable, convoluted, or totally insane and then, simply by finding the right connections, you could tie it all down to one man, one private eye. If you’re familiar with the property, you know: there’s no freaking rules. Ancient gods? Sure. Larceny and petty crimes? Of course. Extra-dimensional aliens? I mean, probably; as long as you can make it funny, Dirk’s on the case. This is a dream project of mine, no joke, and I absolutely positively couldn’t be happier.”
I think that Dirk is in good hands with this one.

Via The Mary Sue.

Home Is Where You Don't Die Of Oxygen Deprivation

Evolution is fantastic at Research and Development. It's all it does, really Constantly testing little tweaks to an existing model, until it finds something that works super well in a very specific set of circumstances. The problem is, with rare exceptions, because evolution is incredibly influenced by the environment, the resulting creatures don't have extraordinary range. Internal thermal regulation requires specific and constant external temperatures, or diet is based around a singular and very limited source of a particular plant, or a hundred different ways that evolution locks it's creations into a very narrow slot.

Humans are an exception. We can live, and live comfortably, pretty much anywhere on Earth, and do so with very little additional adaptation. In fact, the only significant difference between humans living in the Afar Region of Africa, the hottest inhabited place on the globe, and Yakutsk, Siberia, the coldest, is a couple layers of clothing and a change in skin colour. That's remarkable for a tenuously balanced ape that was originally built for tree and field life in temperate Africa. And the number of other species that have that amount of global freedom can be counted on one hand.  

But that's Earth. Once you step outside that comfort zone, life becomes very hard to maintain without significant scientific intervention. In fact, it becomes downright impossible. As Neil deGrasse Tyson quickly explains, humans do very well here, and very poorly everywhere else. I'd like to see an extended version of this video, where he discusses the various moons of Jupiter and Saturn that he'll probably eventually land on, but his answer would be the same: too cold, too breathless. It is a little slice of solace that evolution is a universal force, and that once we land on Mars, loaded up with enough kit to make certain we don't end up like Cohaagen at the end of Total Recall, we will adapt to the existing environment. Over generations, bone and muscle density will change based on the lower gravity, and there will come a point when those Martian Humans wouldn't be able to step foot on Earth without going all sloth-on-a-highway.

And at that point, a Martian Tyson will look to Earth and say to his fellows, "don't go there."

Via The Mary Sue.

4 Aug 2014

Science Can Be Sexy

Instead of a culture obsessed with vapid, empty, peer-approval desperate, self-confidence hollowing schlock like pretty much every magazine at the market checkout and the E! channel, imagine if culture was oriented around science, and driven by a love and thirst for knowledge instead of getting the most retweets or "likes". Even the geek culture that has become so pervasive in the last five years or so really isn't any different from the celebrity worship, fad/trends/viral sensations nonsense, it's just a different flavour of the same basic problem: we're focusing too much on the aesthetic and the vain rather than on the substance and the legacy.

This mock cover appeared on Reddit a couple weeks ago, and it makes me giggle, sure, and it also makes me wonder how hilariously wonderful an alternate reality would be if science were treated the same way sex and clothes were treated in this one. And men like Neil deGrasse Tyson were treated like Justin Bieber. In that universe, Orlando Bloom probably would have landed the punch: he would have better understood the physics.

Via Geekologie.

In This Hollywood Town, You Can't Trust Anybodies

Before the release of Muppets Most Wanted, I championed the return of a modern Muppet show, off the success of the celebrity infused marketing campaign. That seems not to have happened, though there is now Disney Drive-On With The Muppets, a weekly digital series of shorts starring Walter as he acclimates to life among the Muppets, and working for Disney.

It's the not the Muppet show that the world needs, but it is a Muppet show, so I'll take it. My favourite part of this first episode? That Pepe keeps calling Walter "Howard." That's just funny, even if it from Pepe.

Via The Mary Sue.

[Analysis] - Guardians Of The Galaxy, With Spoilers [Updated]

Courtesy of Marvel
This past weekend saw the release of Guardians of the Galaxy. I thought it was great, but was very careful in my review not to detail anything remotely spoilery or to get too geeky about what happened in the film. That time has passed.

Everything herein contains spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy. You have been warned (and if you haven't seen it already, just do yourself the favour and go. It is genuinely, properly good.)

1 Aug 2014

BREAKING NEWS (From Yesterday): Marvel Will Introduce The Greatest Character In Its Catalogue

I really hate posting two things about Marvel on the same day, but I can't not mention this, when I've been such an active proponent of it in the past. Marvel has trademarked "Squirrel Girl," for future use in a film or television series.

Squirrel Girl, people! She controls squirrels. And despite them being well known minions of darkness, she's a hero. She's the biggest damned hero in the Marvel universe. She defeated Dr. Doom, Deadpool and Thanos, and is the Avenger's go-to babysitter.

There is, of course, no indication as to what capacity she'll be appearing. The smart money would be in either Agents of SHIELD or one of the Netflix series. In fact, my money would be on Jessica Jones or Luke Cage considering that it was their baby that Doreen babysat for the most (I'm thinking plucky neighbour kid, with squirrel powers). But it's just as likely that she might be a gifted teen that Coulson and Co. track down this season, after reports of squirrel attacks.

Coulson and Squirrel Girl... They could pretty much just end the MCU right there, with perfection (obviously, they could continue to make Guardians films).

Via Bleeding Cool.

Is This Real Or Are You Making A Film?

I've been hearing things about Birdman for a while now, but I hadn't really been paying attention until this full trailer appeared. Michael Keaton has been on a steady incline back into the public mind the last few years, with rolls in The Other Guys, Toy Story 3, and Robocop, but it looks like he's giving the performance of his career in this footage.

It's a solidly meta story - a guy who was famous for playing a comic book character thirty years ago sees his career stall, and tries to be taken seriously again as an actor. Thing is, if Birdman is as good as it looks, no matter what happens in film, Keaton can expect some renewed attention (and never not earned or deserved) his way. The film from Alejandro González Iñárritu co-stars Edward Norton and Emma Stone, and opens on October 17th.

[Review] - Guardians Of The Galaxy

With Guardians of the Galaxy, I feel that Marvel finally has an answer to the increasing number of complaints concerning how bogged down the MCU movies are becoming in each other's business. A shared universe is one thing, and Easter Eggs are another, but the over-reliance on inter-connectivity has resulted in movies that are incapable of standing on their own. It is no surprise that the least effective films Marvel has put out, Iron Man 2 and The Winter Soldier, were the ones so weighed down in table setting that they lost their own identities in the process.

There hasn't been a Marvel movie as purely driven by it's own desire to exist, and exist well, since the original Iron Man, until now. Guardians isn't just a good Marvel film (though it is, probably the best they've done in ten films). It isn't just a good science fiction space opera (though it is, wearing it's influences on it's sleeve). And it isn't just a good James Gunn film (though, again, it is; easily his best to date). Guardians is a good film. It's Star Wars in '77 good. It's Back to the Future in '85 good. It's "this will be to some kid in the audience what those films were to us when we were kids" good. If you've never seen a Marvel film before, you won't notice, or care. If you don't like superhero movies, you won't notice or care. It's not a perfect movie, far from it (and few are). But damned if it isn't the best science fiction comedy starring a talking raccoon I've ever seen.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains something good, something bad, a bit of both, but no spoilers (for once).
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