30 Sep 2014

[Review] - Doctor Who, Series 8 Episode 6, "The Caretaker"

Courtesy of the BBC
I choose to view it as a positive that Steven Moffat is getting so many co-writing credits on episodes this season. I take that to mean that he has so many ideas, that the very idea of the Twelfth Doctor has excited those creative juices, that he is virtually incapable of allowing an episode to pass under his editorial nose without filling it with things for Capaldi to say. For, half way through this eighth series, and Capaldi should have dashed any thoughts from the audience of his abilities in the role. Moffat and Capaldi are on a role. He's brash and insulting and disconnected in a way that reminds of Six, if Six had been toned down just enough to remain sympathetic.

And, cheery-bang, the ideas all seem to work. I would put that credit on the door step of two things. First, the ideas are smaller. No space pumpkins or species-wide mind wipes. No timey-whimey and no interdimensional rifts and psychotic space priests mucking things up by being more complicated then they need to be. The episodes have been keeping things grounded and streamlined, and that has allowed more time for characters to guide the series rather than explosions and running about. And when I say characters, I mean Clara. Only last week's Time Heist could be said to have been lead by Capaldi.

The rest of the series, it's been the Clara show, and her steadfast companion the Time Lord. usually, I'm very much against this sort of thing. The companions should know their place in the grand scheme of things. They are, after all, the ones companioning. When Rose or Amy were pushed to the front of the queue, it was warning lights and missable bits. Clara, this season, with Moffat clearly zeroed in on what she actually means as a character rather a plot device, has had a cracker of a time showing her off. But here we come to the gravest test of all: the day-in-the-life episode.

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

Pelvic Thrust For Science!

I know that liking Nikola Tesla has become one of those internet hipster things, but I genuinely appreciate the man as a scientist and tragic historical figure. The fact that the internet is giving him the love and appreciation that he deserved in his own time, and that a certain percentage of that internet love isn't ironic makes me feel like, eventually, everyone is vindicated.

And that in the future, time travel will be invented for the soul purpose of going back and punching Thomas Edison in the throat. And that time travel will only be possible once ever year, but the destination can occur in concurrent seconds, enabling people to celebrate Time Travel day much the same as their birthday, but Thomas Edison will feel nothing but an endless succession of punches to the throat.

Err, *cough*... Anyway, The Oatmeal's Matthew Inman and Sarah Donner have come together to create what is easily the catchiest song about an under-appreciated 19th century inventor that also mentions marsupials. This thing is an ear-worm of the highest magnitude. And that's all that Tesla's legacy is asking for: to burrow into your head so deep that only clawing away at it in the dark will make it stop.

Via The Mary Sue.

[Review] - Calvary

Courtesy of Reprisal Films
The McDonagh household must be a font of ideas. Not just narratives, but of discussion. Between Martin (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) and John Michael (The Guard, Calvary), they've not just managed to elevate Irish cinema, but also the intelligence of the film community in general. These are men discussing serious ideas in occasionally humourous ways, and if there was any better description of Calvary, I can't think of it.

Less a comedy then his previous film, during which Calvary was conceived as something of a corollary, John Michael McDonagh has accomplished the rare feat of approaching a serious and socially relevant topic in a serious and socially relevant way. But, he manages to avoid the trap other film makers fall into, which is to take their serious and socially relevant topic too seriously. Perhaps its because those other film makers focus too much on the topic. The issue becomes the focus of the piece. McDonagh solves that by making his film entirely about his characters. By folding the issues into the community he has populated his film with, and allowed every facet of the conversation it's own voice, and it's own moment at the podium. In doing so, he has created a high water mark in terms of cinematic discussion.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that aren't less unfair.

26 Sep 2014

In Space, No One Can See You Fire Breaking Thrusters and Gradually Come To A Carefully Maneuvered Halt

Guardians of the Galaxy took a lot of completely fair influence from Star Wars, as has every science fiction movie, and most fantasy movies of the last forty years. the only time I felt that was a bad thing was during the extended Knowhere space battle sequence in the middle of the film. It felt far too derivative of the WWII dog-fight style space battles that George Lucas used to revolutionize his movies, and that no one has even attempted to think of a different idea for since.

PBS' Digital Studios series It's Okay To Be Smart takes on the subject of war in space, and all the various ways that a little creative invention on the part of one influential writer or director might create an entirely new paradigm in space fiction. Because personally, I'm sick and tired of the Lucas way of doing things. I want something new. I want three dimensional thinking.

Via the Mary Sue.

It's A Three Magic Shop Kind Of Town

In Colon, Michigan, an 80 year old annual gathering of magicians from around the world, called Abbott’s Magic Get Together, has given the town the right to call itself the "Magic Capital of the World." And now it has it's own documentary: Welcome to Colon, Magic Capital of the World, by John Lagomarsino and Ryan Manning. The fifteen minute documentary short is a brief look into a small town tradition, and hints on some much larger subjects that I'd love to see play out in a longer format.

The Verge has a companion article to accompany the above documentary, which again touches on issues that I feel could support their own investigation. Issues like the struggles of identity in small town American; the benefits and compromises of townie life when hosting a large scale event; the difference between cooperation and competition in the face of civic unity; magic as a broader concept in the modern world; and the wonder of small ignorances.

Via /Film.

Three Space Cowboys Walk Into A Bar

I said in my review of Guardians of the Galaxy that it had the potential to be for certain of the younger members of the audience what Star Wars was for folks back in '77. I also said that Guardians wore the influences of Star Wars and Firefly on it's sleeve. Like, right down by the cuff.

Clearly, the Brotherhood Workshop recognized that too, as they have, in Lego (as you do) brought together the three shoot-firstingness space cowboys - Han Solo, Mal Reynolds and Peter Quill - to sit about and have have a chat over a drink. Given James Gunn's peer circle, at least two thirds of this video have a chance of happening in real life (or at least, on Twitter).

And it reminded me how very much I'd like some Firefly Lego.

Via The Mary Sue.

24 Sep 2014

Wishing Doesn''t Make It So

Image by Mathias Pedersen.
Last week, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics held a debate on Pluto's dwarf planet designation, which is a bit like having a debate about climate change: it wrongly suggests that there is an apposing side. In this instance, the bug in people's shorts is semantics: what constitutes a planet? Well, luckily for us, we have science and the International Astronomical Union to turn to to provide us that answer. Their criteria for planethood is: a planet is a celestial body which:

  1. is in orbit around the Sun,
  2. has sufficient mass to assume hydrostatic equilibrium (a nearly round shape), and
  3. has "cleared the neighbourhood" around its orbit.

This definition was clarified in 2006, in response to the Pluto debate. The term "dwarf planet" was created to refer to those objects which only fulfill the first two criteria, and frankly I feel that the term "dwarf planet" is being overly generous. The simple truth is that Pluto should never have been called a planet in the first place, that in comparison to the other larger bodies in the Solar System, and to the other smaller bodies known at the time, Pluto is at best an especially stable comet and at worst an overly eccentric rogue moon. But in 1930, there was such a mean on to discover the fabled Planet X, that as soon as Pluto was spotted, it was all media attention and rushed judgement (everyone knows science functions best when done both quickly and at the behest of an impatient populace). It certainly should have been downgraded long before 2006. The 1978 discover of Charon should have been more of a force for admission of error than it ultimately was.

At this debate last week, a non scientific poll was taken of the audience, who voted overwhelmingly that Pluto is still a planet. This conformed to debate participate Harvard science historian Owen Gingerich's position that as a term, "planet is more culturally defined than scientifically." I would agree in principle to this, but that does not mean that popular opinion gets to start dictating scientific direction. A reasonable comparison would be the Brontosaurs. Just because people keep using that word doesn't mean the creature ever existed, and doesn't make them any less wrong. The danger with popularism is that just that: it's based on what's popular. And I'm sorry, but the only decisions that should be made based on popular opinion should be who wins American Idol and who gets voted into political office. You know, insignificant stuff.

For everything else, we have method and reasonable deduction, and educated experience, AKA science. And even science can admit that it got things wrong, once it has the data to adequately refute a previously held claim. And every piece of information we've gathered form our long nights looking up into the dark sky since Pluto was discovered has told us that it isn't a planet, not on the same level as Earth, or Jupiter, or even Mercury. We're not giving those guys a pass just because they are grandfathered in. There is no heritage immunity in science. Those are heavy hitters, they earned their designation. From what we've learned about the sizes of planets in other Solar Systems, one day we might have to re-designate anything smaller than Jupiter a true dwarf planet. And where will that leave Pluto? Same as it is today: an ice cube with really good PR.

Via The Mary Sue.

The One Where It's Been A Long Time

Friends turned twenty the other day (which, by the way, I feel old), and to signify that moment, Comedy Central UK has produced a pretty smooth and succinct summery of the series, giving one second for every episode of the series, giving us a three and a half minute long reminder of the running gags and catch phrases of the six characters that did a damned good job defining the nineties.

I admit to being a fan of the show when it was on, something that practically everyone else alive during the show's ten year run must admit to. Between it's eventual dominance over NBC's schedule and creative direction, to the relentless syndication of the series, it was hard to avoid. This best of reel showcases why it lasted so long, and why it was so popular: it sold hard on the repetitive and the easily consumable, like all American sitcoms in the nineties, and most to this day. It is also telling that a great many of the 236 seconds of this video are devoted to clips from The One Where No One Is Ready and The One With The Embryos, probably the two best episodes the show produced, and two that skewed heavily from the standard formula of the series (and No One Is Ready is easily one of the best bottle episodes any show has ever produced).

Anyway, it's been a long time since I've seen an episode whole, Friends having been replaced in the syndication rotation by Two and Half Men and Modern Family. This was a nice, brief bit of nostalgia. And a reminder that I have no desire to sit through these 236 episodes ever again.

Via Uproxx.

[Review] - Agents Of SHIELD, Season 2 Episode 1, "Shadows"

Courtesy of Marvel Television Productions
Why yes, I am a glutton for punishment. Why do you ask?

When coming off what could generously be called a "divisive" and realistically called a "flawed" first season, it is equally wise and unwise to start your second with cameos from more popular and engaging characters, from a better film and a more heavily anticipated series (which, let me get this out of the way right now - on the heels of recent casting announcements for Agent Carter, if Neal McDonough doesn't have at least a recurring role as Dum Dum, I'm out). It also does not bode well for what turned out to have to be a season of rebuilding that that first scene was the best of the episode. A scene that was mostly just shooting, exposition and nostalgia. Agents of SHIELD, looks like you're in for a long battle up a steep hill. In the winter. Both ways.

That metaphor started better than it finished.

Hit the jump for the review, which contain spoilers that grew their bangs out over the "winter."

22 Sep 2014

[Review] - Doctor Who, Series 8 Episode 5, "Time Heist"

Courtesy of the BBC.
I feel so bad for Stephen Thompson. When anyone mentions Sherlock, they make mention of Moffat and Gatiss in the same breath, but rarely does Thompson get his due. This despite having been responsible for a full third of the output of the acclaimed adaptation since the beginning, including writing the series two finale which saw Sherlock plummet to his apparent doom.

His work here got a co-credit from Moffat, whose contribution was likely the Clara stuff that bookended the episode. Beyond that though, the episode is ambitious, and starts wonderfully, but never quite lives up to it's own potential. Maybe it's just that we've been spoiled with four fairly strong episodes before this (especially last week). Or maybe it's suffering from the same issues as his first Sherlock episode, The Blind Banker. It is promising, and has wonderful moments, but if too full of half realized ideas and never really becomes anything in it's own right. And then suffers from the quality surrounding it.

Hit the jump for the review, which includes spoilers that may have accidentally ended up at "magician."

Justified Saved The Best Cowboy For Last

Justified is currently moving into production on it's sixth and final season, which is a decision I applauded. As much as I love the series, I which more creators would take the kind of ownership over the value of their work like Graham Yost has, and decide that their work will have an end point, rather than just letting it go. Knowing when something will end allows a greater creative freedom than letting the future be a mystery. At the very least, it means you don't spend half you time tripping over your own feet, setting things up and never knowing when you can knock things down.

This season, Yost will be knocking things down, and he's using the big guns to do it:
"Sam Elliott will portray "Markham," a legendary Kentucky gangster who returns from exile with a private army and bags of cash (earned growing legal weed in Colorado), hell-bent on winning back his empire and the lost love of his life, Katherine Hale (Mary Steenburgen). He’ll find himself butting heads with Raylan and Boyd and even with Katherine herself, who secretly believes that Markham is the rat who brought down her husband.
Garret Dillahunt will play "Walker", a spec ops veteran who’s spent much of the last decade deployed in combat zones, first as a soldier and most recently as a private contractor. He now handles security for a quasi-legal businessman, a job to which he brings all of the skills (as well as the demons) he acquired during his military career. Walker hides his simmering rage behind an exterior of cold professionalism — until the combined irritants of Raylan and Boyd wear away his veneer and bring the monster to the surface."
Dillahunt played two separate roles on Deadwood, a show that Yost and star Timothy Olyphant have often turned to when casting guests on Justified. And Sam Elliott is as cowboy as you can get. Both will fit in perfectly to the Leonardian universe Yost has masterfully created. I looking for big things from this last year of Justified, and this a hell of a good start.

Via Uproxx.

[Review] - The Trip To Italy

Courtesy of BBC Films

I've done this one in the opposite order. Last time, when BBC unveiled The Trip, a unique series which followed Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they journeyed through the Lakes dristict of England under the guise of writing reviews of local restaurants, I saw first the series and then the film. Because, to fit the unique concept of a nearly wholly improvised series of conversations between two fictionalized versions of themselves, the BBC chose a wholly unique way of getting the product to market. As a series in the homeland, following the two recognizable personalities across six episodes, and as a film of those edited together for distribution internationally, where Coogan and Brydon are less household names and more foreign eccentricities.

They've done it now again, and I've done it backwards, having seen the film before the series. This time, Coogan and Brydon, off the success of their previous adventure, set out to the kingdom of food, Italy, and quickly settle into retracing the journey of English poets Shelley and Byron. The result, under the returning directorship of Michael Winterbottom, is a warm dish of comfort, occasionally delicious and occasionally awkwardly crunchy, but ultimately filling.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers as preserved as Pompeii.

19 Sep 2014

There Are Still Reasons To Look Forward To DC News

With all the malarkey inherent to DC Comics' cinematic efforts, I've long endorsed that they should focus their efforts on TV, where DC has always had considerably more success than Marvel. Considering that they've already got Arrow, The Flash, Constantine, and Gotham, with Supergirl, Lucifer, and Teen Titans potentially on the way, I thought perhaps they were already moving in that direction. It's regrettable that the core Justice Leaguers must suffer on the big screen under David S. Goyer's influence, but it's also regrettable that Agents of SHIELD sucked toenails last season, so I guess we take what we can get.

My point is, the reason for my belief that TV is a better fit is that it already was. Bruce Timm proved for over a decade working in the DC Animated Universe that a focused, streamlined approach to both character and storytelling had the potential to create near-definitive versions of classic characters. Since Justice League Unlimited ended, Timm has stepped back to a less hands on position overseeing the DC Animated films, which I've grown progressively less interested in as they've essentially become a constant stream of Batman and New 52 adaptations. He has occasionally stepped back into the core creative chair, with amazing results. Which means that the news that he is returning both to long form storytelling, and to a DC animated universe is something to get very excited about.

Timm, along with fellow Batman: The Animated Series alum Alan Burnett, are developing Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles, a three-episode animated series to stream Machinima and lead to a movie of the same name. Machinima, known for it's original series Mortal Kombat: Legacy, and Battlestar Galactica Blood & Chrome, is looking to hook viewers with a more seriously toned but still entertaining (often mutually exclusive) version of the DC characters. DC, meanwhile, is looking to make use of their newly formed digital content production unit, who are interested in "delivering DC Entertainment’s extensive line-up of world-class characters and stories to audiences across all platforms and formats."

What's important here is that Bruce Timm has a chance to play with a somewhat on-going version of characters he knows very well, in an entirely different way than he has been able to do in the past. Gods and Monsters Chronicles is expected to air in early 2015.

Via Uproxx.

Still No Smurf Cats, Thankfully

I'm not the biggest fan of James Cameron, but when art inspires science and science inspires art, I rarely have any complaints. In this instance, it's the former. Yesterday, Chinese paleontologists led by Xiaolin Wang of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, announced a newly discovered pterosaur, which they've named in honour of Cameron's 2009 film, Avatar.

The 120 million year old creature - which, I will once again clarify was not a dinosaur - has been called Ikrandraco avatar, meaning "Ikran dragon from Avatar." The name was suggested due to the similarities in cranial structure between the pelican-like fresh water predator, and the blue dragon creatures ridden by the films Na'vi. Unlike most pterosaurs, which have a pronounced crest on the top of their heads (an aerodynamic evolutionary advantage), the Ikran had a hook-like growth under the jaw, which Wang's team believe indicates the presence of a pouch, as well as boasting an 8 foot wing span. The discovery, based off studies of two separate specimens, were uncovered in China's Liaoning province.

Via Reuters.

United They Remain

Yesterday, in a vote of historic turnout, Scotland voted whether to remain a part of the United Kingdom, or to become a truly independent nation. The "No" vote has succeed, meaning that the United Kingdom will remain a family of four nations.

I haven't mentioned the Scot vote until now because I honestly didn't have a horse in the race. My heritage lies entirely below Hadrian's Wall, but that betrayed no loyalty in me. I understood both perspectives, and emotionally would have been fine with either outcome. From a logistical point of view, I leaned towards the No side, if only because of the massive fiscal and physical upheaval that would have thrown both countries (as well as wales and Northern Ireland, by association) into uncertainty for years afterwards had independence been agreed upon. The numbers stand at 55% for No, against 45% for Yes, with a roughly 85% turnout of the record setting 97% registered voters (Glasgow, who caused the biggest dip against the No vote, had the smallest turnout at 75%). In these numbers, I can draw a comparison, as a comparison has been drawn throughout this entire process: the Quebec referendum of 1995.

Quebec, like Scotland, has had a waxing and waning demand for independence pretty much since they joined Canada in 1867. It reached a critical mass in the 1970's, when the movement inspired so much passion it turned to actual terrorism. In 1980, a referendum was held to determine whether steps would be taken to redefine Quebec's role and relationship with the rest of Canada, which was defeated 59.56% to 40.44%. This defeat did nothing to quell the thirst for independence, though it did temper the extremes of the movement. Another referendum, comparable to Scotland's, was held in 1995 and is largely regarded as the definitive word on Quebec Independence. Somewhat ironically, considering that the outcome was 49.42% voting to go and 50.58% voting to stay.

Since then, the independence movement in Quebec has changed. In the last Federal election, the Federal wing of the separatist party was all but decimated, completing a transition from official opposition in the 1990's to a back-benching minority. The provincial wing is currently the opposition, a position it has traded with the Liberals in the last three elections. While there is still, and will always be, an independence movement in Quebec, the focus has shifted from breaking free from Canada to redefining what Quebec's relationship in Canada is. This is the task that now faces the Scottish people. Many promises were made by Cameron and the English side of the parliament regarding devolution. A successful No vote does not mean business as usual, not does it guarantee calm waters ahead. At the very least, it means that the UK won't have to spend millions of pounds redoing all of their signs.

Via the BBC.

17 Sep 2014

Looks Like They're Dragging This One Out

I like and have a lot of respect for Aaron Sorkin, but sometimes it's a lot harder to like him as an artist rather than just an admirer of his art. Like when, after all the complaints about the Newsroom trying too hard to be poignent, he kept deflecting that it is just a romantic comedy series, and not meant to be taken so seriously. Then they ome out with something so incredibly pretentious as the season two teaser trailer, which doesn't sell that notion at all.

Likewise, the series hasn't been universally acclaimed. It has it's critics and it's supporters. Looking back on it, it is an interesting and occasionally brilliant series that is deeply flawed. And HBO is rolling out the truncated third season like it's the last broadcast of Cronkite. Like every single moment of the production of these episodes was a build up to the single most important event in television.

Personally, I'll just be happy if Thomas Sadoski falls over a few more times before it's over.

Exit Off The I-495, Straight Onto Network TV

If you'd told me that there would be not one, but two Chevy Chase related stories this week, I'd have said you were either a crazy person, or Chevy Chase's agent, desperate that keeping the difficult actor as a client all these years would finally pay off. And since I don't know Chevy Chase's agent, whom I'm sure is a wonderful human being, I'd have went with crazy. And now I'm writing about it, so I guess I'm crazy too.

First off, the National Lampoon's Vacation sequel/reboot has apparently started filming. The movie will star Ed Helms as Rusty Griswold and Christina Applegate as his beleaguered wife. Joining them will be Leslie Mann as the adult Audrey, and Chris Hemsworth as "Stone Crandall, an up-and-coming anchorman." Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo will reprise their roles as the elder Griswolds, reaffirming their presence as the only actors to play the same characters in all the Vacation films.

Chase and D’Angelo have also apparently signed a deal with ABC to star in a sitcom developed by Aaron Kaplan and with Brad Copeland expected to write the pilot. The plot figures on "a married couple whose golden years are interrupted after circumstances beyond their control force them to raise their grandchildren." Considering how Chase's last foray into television went, ABC certainly is taking a gamble signing him. Notoriously difficult to work with, anyone entering into a long term agreement would have to do so with their eyes wide open. That being said, when given the opportunity and the right material, Chase is a very funny actor. Here's hoping he has the chance to do so again.

Via /Film.

16 Sep 2014

One Last Kick At The Overly Long Can

I haven't been overwhelmed by the promotional work on the Hobbit movies. The trailers have been alright (the latest is pretty fantastic), but the print material have left much to be desired. An exception have been these "saga banners" that essentially spoiler the entire film. It backfired on them spectacularly with the first film, when they released the banner image about a week before they decided the film would be three films instead of two, thus revealing some images that wouldn't be seen on film for another year.

It's an interesting way to sell your film, basically making a poster of every action beat. I suppose they guess since the book is nearly a century old, many folk know how things go anyway. And it's an excuse to put together some heavily photoshopped extra posters from the film's bigger moments, cause they certainly won't have the chance to do so afterwards.

Via Collider.

15 Sep 2014

[Review] - Doctor Who, Series 8 Episode 4, "Listen"

Courtesy of the BBC
When a show runs for as long as Doctor Who has, it runs the risk of occasionally producing an episode that reminds the audience of how rubbish other episodes have been in the past. This was entirely the feeling I had while watching Listen, the fourth in what is turning out to be a remarkably strong series for the programme. It ended up being a lot of things, atmospheric and brilliant among them, but what I kept coming back to was the notion of how much better the last two series might have been if this sort of episode had been a part of them. This was an episode that showed Steven Moffat might have learned his lesson.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that know it's OK to be afraid.

Everything IS Better With A Little Chumbawamba

This compilation of all the times Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) fell over on Buffy is both funny, and illustrative of a running gag on the show. A gag that seems to have originally been accidental, and afterwards became the source of much lampshade hanging. But it also serves as a reminder of how often Giles was seen to be drinking in the company of teenager. And not just beer, but hard brown liquors and grain alcohols. No wonder they needed to do that PSA episode about the downside of drinking: Giles was a lush.

Via Uproxx.

[Review] - Lewis Black: The Rant Is Due

For a man who has structured his on-stage persona as being the last angry man, the modern world is a treasure trove of material for a comedian like Lewis Black. With the world falling apart, political stupidity at an all time high, and willful ignorance an apparent virtue, a learned and vocal opponent has a lot to shake his finger at.

And shake his finger he does. In fact, at one point during the show, when he was getting right fired up, Lewis Black managed to tell an entire joke with little more than just his index finger extended out towards the world, and an all telling scowl on his face. If you are familiar with his Daily Show segments, then you've seen in microcosm what Lewis does when he's on the road: standing on a stage, in a full suit an under the lights, yelling at what needs being yelled at, or about. It's intellectual, and cussy. It's obvious, but enlightening. It's decades of "observational" comedy taken to a personal breaking point. He's mad as hell, and hilarious because of it.

Hit the jump for the brief review.  

12 Sep 2014

Just Go With It

And now, Nick Offerman offers advice to college freshmen, regarding an issue of an intimate nature. Listen, just do what he says. Either it'll work in your favour, or it won't, and either way you're likely to get a story out of it.

Via Uproxx.

Dr. Lecter In Love

Last year, a potentially amazing storyline in Hannibal had to be cut short because Gillian Anderson was the lead in two entirely different series, filmed in two entirely different countries on two entirely different sides of the Atlantic ocean. That she managed to be involved in the season in any way was remarkable, and they even managed to pull off a fantastic twist.

The fortunes of Anderson's NBC series (who I can only barely remember as being a thing) were not all sunshine and roses, but ultimately it has worked out in our favour. Bryan Fuller has announced that Anderson has joined the third season of Hannibal as a full and regular cast member, and described the season premiere as a "a pilot for a new series starring Mads Mikkelsen and Gillian Anderson." Which, frankly, sounds amazing.

Now, if they could get David Bowie on board, season three might well be the best season yet.

Via the Mary Sue.

A Tune 65 Million Years In the Humming

I'm sure there is a grad student out there somewhere with a thesis paper that explains why human beings are unable to hear a repeated tune without putting words to it. Like the Jabba the Hutt version of the Parks and Rec theme. I'm not complaining. I'm just curious as to what shared malfunction our species all has in our brains that we must apply words, even meaningless ramblings, to every appealing tune that stumbles into our range of hearing.

That Jeff Goldblum has created words for the Jurassic Park theme is adorably human of him, and I feel that that they need to be incorporated into Jurassic World. It feels like an appropriate escalation.

Via Gamma Squad.

10 Sep 2014

If The Internet Doesn't Scar Memories Of Your Childhood At Least Once A Day, It's Not Doing It's Job

Some quick backstory: Disney bought the rights to Gary K. Wolf's Who Censored Roger Rabbit in the earlier 1980s, shortly after publication. They spent the next seven years developing the project until it was eventually released in 1988 as the Who Framed Roger Rabbit that we all know and love (and we all know and love it *shakes fist threateningly and aimlessly*). The journey it took to get there was a winding one. At the very least, the movement of the plot from a "modern day" setting to the forties, the transformation of Roger from villain to hero, and the use of popular animated cartoon characters instead of comic strip cahracters certainly shows the tracks the story took while going from a weird, satirical novel to an incredibly entertaining and technically marvelous satirical film.

Footage from one of these transitional periods has appeared online, courtesy of video archivist/restorationist Garrett Gilchrist at the Thief Archive, taken from a 1983 show called Disney Studio Showcase - basically, a show where Disney showed off what it was currently working on (1983 would have been during that period where the Disney corporation was basically being held together by their parks, a period that ended with the release of Roger Rabbit in 1988). The footage contained in this video shows concept work on the film, and it's amazing how close the film was that early on to what eventually ended up in cinemas. The time frame had already been shifted, Roger had already underwent his personality conversion, and his design was basically there, though it would be further refined. Still, there is some stuff that changed along the way. The gruff Captain Cleaver character never made it into the film, and Jessica remained closer to the novel's version of the character than the devoted wife she eventually became.

These early composite tests feature Peter Renaday and Mike Gabriel as Eddie Valiant, Russi Taylor voicing Jessica Rabbit, and a pre-PeeWee Herman Paul Reubens voicing Roger Rabbit. It also serves as a reminder that, without computers, how arduous and technically significant an accomplishment making the film was, as animation director Darrell Van Citters demonstrates how the animators had to blow up every frame of the film to hand animate in every frame worth of action from the toons. And using those techniques, as well as Robert Zumeckis' own on set techniques for making seamless integration, the result was a movie that remains far superior than most of the CG infested films of today.

All that being said, I really like the movie poster that is on the back of that office door.

Via /Film.

This Could Be The Continuation Of A Beautiful Friendship

After Veronica Mars went and made a big deal about Kickstarting, it was suggested that Ryan Hansen might be getting his own spinoff. That turned out to be entirely true, as evidence by this first teaser trailer for Play It Again, Dick.

The mockumentary comedy series, created by Rob Thomas, will follow a fictionalized version of Hansen as he attempts to create the Dick Casablancas spin-off that only he is begging for. Pretty much the entire cast of the original series will appear as augmented versions of themselves during the course of the first season, which will premiere on CWSeed on Sept 16th.

Via /Film.

Penny Dreadful To Get Even Pennier. Wait...

Despite not bringing in remarkable numbers across all eight of it's season one episodes, Penny Dreadful's critical reception was enough for Showtime to give it a go-ahead for a second series, which begins filming this month in Ireland. In advance of that, Showtime has made some casting announcements. The core season one cast will return, anchored by the fantastic performances given by Timothy Dalton and Eva Green.

Joining the various Victorian gentlefolk as series regulars will be Helen McCrory and Simon Russell Beale, reprising their season roles as Medium Evelyn "Madame Kali" Poole and Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle. McCrory's medium, whose appearance in episode 2 had all the markings of a one off guest spot until she popped up rather sinisterly in the finale, will serve as the Big Bad for our heroes this year. No doubt Lyle will be dragged along on her coattails as her ut-upon underling, considering his established relationship with her.

Joining the series in recurring roles this year will be Douglas Hodge as Bartholomew Rusk, a Scotland Yard officer investigating the animalistic murders plaguing London (about time someone took notice of that); Sarah Green as Madame Kali's daughter Hecate; Patti LuPone as someone who figures with "great importance" to Vanessa; and Jonny Beauchamp, whose character is only being described as "a young man with a singular past."

Hodge will portray Bartholomew Rusk, a Scotland Yard investigator who’s determined to catch the individual responsible for the brutal murders in London.  Greene will probably be joining the bad guys because she’s playing Hecate, Madame Kali’s powerful daughter.  (It’s going to take a while to get used to calling Kali by her real name, Evelyn Poole.)  And lastly, Beauchamp’s character is simply described as “a young man with a singular past.”

I am tickled that Dreadful is expanding it's universe, and tickled all the more by the fact that these are, as far as I can tell, original characters (certainly none are familiar to me). They may draw inspiration from Victorian archetypes, as the series as done so thus far, but John Logan seems content to create his own characters to play with, while delighting himself with those in the public domain. It might also be important to point out that Kali is a Hindu goddess of  time and change, and can also mean death. 

Additionally, Hecate began as a pre-Greek moon goddess, but thanks to Christian influences evolved into a thrice-witch, most notably used in Macbeth as the "leader" of the Weird Sisters. That both of these names has goddess connotations, and both have become somewhat synonymous with death and defeat, that might suggest the direction this season is headed in. It should also be reminded that Dreadful's version of Dracula is apparently some kind of ancient Egyptian deity, meaning that Egypt, Hindu and Greek mythologies have all been quite literally named-checked. I'm sure that's no accident.

Via Collider.

8 Sep 2014

[Review] - Doctor Who, Series 8 Episode 3, "Robots of Sherwood"

Courtesy of the BBC
Robin Hood is always a risk, because it has been done well and it has been done poorly, and tends to lend itself towards extreme seriousness or extreme parody. Robots of Sherwood plays it closer to the latter, but Mark Gatiss' lone series 8 script manages to find the funny without dipping too deeply into the camp. There is a Grand Idea presented here, touched on - no, grazed - briefly at the end, but not given in depth examination.

In fact, the entire episode is like that. Indeed, this series seems to be an improvement over it's more recent predecessors by insisting on focusing on the characters rather than the situations they find themselves in. The result? Deeper, more fully realized interactions, and less needlessly complex plots and corner-painted technobabble.

It's just a shame that it had such a terrible ending.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that is totally against bantering.

Good Things To Come

Despite some very minor issues, one of the highlights of last year was the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. And it was a whopping success, setting a record for Radio 4's website and logging 1.5 million iPlayer requests. In light of this, Gaiman and the Beeb have had the good sense to give it another go, this time with one of Gaiman's other beloved novels, one that, despite past attempts to adapt it to film and television, remains firmly in the realm of literature: Good Omens, which was co-written with the incomparable Terry Pratchett.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch was Gaiman's first proper novel, and is my personal favourite of any of his works. It is also my favourite of Prachett's works, and one of those rare collaborations where the line between the authors is completely invisible on the page. There is no indication left by style or predilection of whose ideas are whose. For those unfamiliar with the novel, I suggest you make thee to your nearest book repository and correct this oversight forthwith. Those familiar with the clever tome know it to concern the Apocalypse as prophesied by a witch, and determined to be prevented by the unlikely friendship of an angel and a demon who have decided that they really rather enjoy the Earth and the humans who live on it. The radio series, to be broadcast one episode a night across a week of this coming December, will be written and directed by Dirk Maggs, who rocketed Neverwhere to success, and previously completed the Hitchhiker's Trilogy for radio.

The cast, while less "star studded" than the previous dramatization, is no slouch in the talent department. Mark Heap (Spaced) and Peter Serafinowicz (Guardians Of The Galaxy) will perform as the angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley, receptively. Joining them will be Josie Lawrence (Skins) as Agnes Nutter, Paterson Joseph (the original televised Neverwhere) as horseman of the Apocalypse Famine, and Colin Morgan (Merlin) as the witchfinder-in-training Newton Pulsifer. Additional roles will be played by Clive Russell (Game Of Thrones), Julia Deakin (Spaced), Louise Brealey (Sherlock), Simon Jones (radio and televised versions of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy), Arsher Ali (Four Lions), Phil Davis (Being Human) and Mark Benton (Waterloo Road). The authors themselves will also appear, with Gaiman also lending a hand with the adapting.

And now I've got something to look forward to.

Via the BBC.

Is Violence Less Violent If It's Bloodless?

This weekend, as I saw Guardians of the Galaxy for the third time, I suddenly noticed how much cussing there is in it. During interviews before hand, many asked director James Gunn if working outside of the hard R rating that his film's usually are given, due to their violence and creative swearing, was difficult. He claimed no, and I believed him because on the first two goes, I didn't really notice the lack of swearing. This time, I realized it was because there was no lack of swearing. Just the lack of one word in particular. Or, I guess, a class of words that exist above a certain tolerably. We'll call this the Carlin Line. But that does not make Guardians, a PG-13 rated film, clean in the language department. There are several "bastards," "bitches," "whores," "ass holes," "jackasses" and one beautifully positioned "turd-blossom" used through the film. A film that children are absolutely being taken to see, and considering that it has once again come in first place in the box office, and is on track to beat the original Iron Man's box office take, are being taken to see it again and again.

The first time I recall hearing what had previously been considered a "hard" swear word on the family side of the watershed was in That 70's Show. And it was "bitch," as in "son of a." Don't get me wrong, I'm not a prude. I'm the opposite of that. I'm a... plump? Point is, like everyone, I swear, in direct proportion to audience and situation. If I stub my toe at work or in the presence of children, you would be likely to hear me spray a litany of the very best bowdlerized curse words from popular science fiction. Have a polite conversation among friends, and you might think me a dock hand from Victorian Cardiff. But even I have a hard time believing that the sliding rule of cultural acceptability has progressed to the point where "bastard" and "bitch" have fallen into the pre-school vernacular.

All of this was rather timely, as I found this recently posted video essay on the history of the PG-13 rating system, focusing on it's former and current use as a marketing tool. If you've got twenty minutes to spare, I suggest you give it a watch, because it's a solid reminder that ratings have very little to do with real content, and everything to do with how companies want to sell very specific kinds of content. And with the weird post-9/11 pseudo-puritan shift that American culture has underwent, it's an excellent reminder that when you over compensate hard and fast, you end up missing the point of the swerve entirely.

Via /Film.

5 Sep 2014

Let's Get A Glue Stick And Lock This Down

The last trailer for Horrible Bosses 2 didn't inspire much confidence in me, that it wouldn't ultimately be just a retread of all the jokes that worked so well in the first one. This second trailer at least goes to the trouble of differentiating the plot. This time, it'll apparently be a Elmore Leonardian labyrinth of blackmail, with Chris Pine joining the core group of incompetent schmucks (and to be fair, he looks like he fits in quite well).

But I still have reservations about this becoming essentially this year's The Hangover 2, which I do know I saw, but retain no specific memories about. The lead trio of Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis have too much chemistry to waste on pointless repetition. I really hope this sequel has more going for it then what we've seen thus far.

If You Have A Name Like Dreadnought, You'd Better Live Up To It

Ready folks, because it's time to break out the superlatives. With a rush of adjectives such as "colossal", "supermassive" and "kind of big, I guess," researchers from Drexel University in Philadelphia, lead by Kenneth Lacorvara, have announced the discovery of the largest land animal to ever live, which makes it like the fourth or fifth one of those (and current pack leader). The beast in question: the 60 tonnes and 26 metre long sauropod Dreadnoughtus schrani. It belongs to the Titanosaur family, which also includes the similarly sized and geographically discovered Argentinosaurus. Dreadnoughtus, which means "fear nothing," was discovered in 2005, and over four years of excavating resulted in 45% of a complete skeleton, which by paleontological standards is a hell of a lot.

The animal was discovered in modern Patagonia, making it only the latest discovery of gigantism in species native to the ancient Argentinian landscape known as Gondwanaland. Clearly, something was happening on an evolutionary and likely environmentally level that was causing the animals in this area to grow to sizes that literally strain the limits of what terrestrial animals are capable of. What was causing this spurt of growth 80 million years ago is unknown, but it sure made for some damned fascinating animals.

Via The Guardian.

Now I Miss Leslie Again

This is a promotional commercial for Wisconsin tourism. Starring Robert Hays and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. From Airplane! Riffing on Airplane! One of a series of such ads.

Sometimes, the universe just hands you something and walks away, leaving you staring at your hand, wondering if you're meant to keep it or if the universe will be coming back for whatever the hell it just left you with.

Via FilmDrunk.

3 Sep 2014

You Can't Sit On Hair. That's Ridiculous

I'm trying to figure out if this Sesame Street segment, featuring John Oliver and Cookie Monsters as news reporters, and also featuring Al Rocker and Nick Offerman, while also referencing Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan's adorable friendship AND the Gif pronunciation debate lacks anything. And I've come to the conclusion that it isn't. More that that, that it is in fact perfect. That there is literally nothing that could make this a better five minutes.

Unless it somehow also tasted like a cookie. I believe that might do it.

Via Uproxx.

How To Eventually Continue To Train Your Dragon

Success shouldn't be as subjective a word as it is. You murder an evil Nazi zombie space ape, you succeed. It consumes your flesh, forcing you to become part of it's undead extraterrestrial fascist simian army, you fail. Sadly, in the modern world, definitions are not as clear cut at that rather obvious and cliched example. Take, for instance, the movie business. Sometimes, success and failure is obvious. Making $1.5 billion off a $220 million budget is a success. Making slightly more than $10 million in two weekends off a budget of $70 million is a failure (though not as spectacular as movies can fail).

Then you have movies like How To Train Your Dragon 2. I liked it. I didn't fall as in love with it as I did the original, but there is plenty in the long awaited follow-up to make it a worthy successor. After four years of development, a $145 million budget and critical acclaim, the film made a sliver less than $600 million total during it's theatrical run (the November DVD release will no doubt add to that total), which is $100 million more than the original. Now, if you use math to determine success or failure, that would seem like a success, both financially and for the franchise, and we all know how much Dreamworks loves driving their franchises into the ground. But, this is funky Hollywood math-logic. Because the film made $40 million less on it's opening weekend in the US (it was competing against 22 Jump Street), Dreamworks panicked and began to back off of the series a little.

That trend continued yesterday when it was announced that How To Train Your Dragon 3 has had it's release date pushed back from summer 2016 to summer 2017, putting three years between it and this year's release, and a total of seven between the bookends of the franchise. It also calls into doubt the potential of a fourth film, which Dreamworks was teasing pretty heavily before the sequel's release earlier this year, and shut right the hell up about after that opening weekend. Dreamworks is hiding behind the fact that HtTyD3 is now no longer competing directly against Pixar's Finding Dory, almost certain to be a box office juggernaut. It's current placement puts it square in the middle of The Lego Movie 2 and another unknown Pixar film, which while making for a fantastic potential weekend, will likely see some additional shifting by one studio or another before 2017 rolls around.

Series writer/director Dean DeBlois has repeated said that he always envisioned the series as a trilogy, and at least Dreamworks will allow him to achieve that much of his dream. And, an additional year for production shouldn't hurt the film, as the extended break between the first two proved only to be beneficial in terms of quality. Certainly, rushing a film through production is rarely a boon. What worries me is Dreamworks' attitude in doing this. HtTyD3 has been in concurrent production with HtTyD2, meaning that a lot of the leg work is likely done. I have no doubt that DeBlois could have had a polished product ready to deliver for 2016. I worry that Dreamworks is buying far too much into the jaded and self destructive notions of "success" and "failure" that dictate a lot (too much) of the decision making in Hollywood. And that a solid, rich, and properly good series is being pushed to the edge of the corporate eyeline in favour of something new and dynamic and potentially billion dollar earning.

And that makes me sad.

Via Collider.

Amazon Looks To The Wild Blue Yonder

Occasionally, there are actors who fulfill roles to such perfection, that it is inconceivable that anyone else could possibly play the character. Patrick Warburton as the Tick was one such actor in one such role. FOX's 2002 live action Tick series was my introduction to the character, and since then I've seen the animated series, and read Ben Edlund's comics, but Warburton's performance dwarfed my conception of the character. I'm currently experiencing the same thing with Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter.

The Tick was marvelous. Like The Middleman, it was leagues beyond whatelse was on TV at the time, and was apparently before its time, because it was cancelled after a scant but brilliant nine episodes (this was during FOX's "dozen episodes or less" period). And it was anchored by Warburton's lead performance, which was everything it needed to be and more. And it was entirely physical. Colleen Atwood's costumes were amazing, achieving more than a decade ago what most series - hell, most movies - wouldn't attempt today. They'd go with mo-cap or something.

And finally, someone might have recognized the lightning that was in that particular bottle. According to reports, Amazon Studios has signed Patrick Warburton to reprise his role as the City's brave but clueless defender on a revival of the series, to be produced and written by originator Edlund (who has since become known for writing some of the darker and more hilarious episodes of Supernatural and Angel). No word on the size of the revival Amazon is considering, or if offers of return have been extended to fellow castmates David Burke, Liz Vassey, and Nestor Carbonell.

Honestly, I hope this isn't just one of those things that get teased and leads nowhere. I dearly hope this leads to at least another series of the bubbling adventures of the Big Blue Bug of Justice. Because my DVD set is getting worn out.

Via People.

1 Sep 2014

[Review] - Doctor Who, Series 8 Episode 2, "Into The Dalek"

Courtesy of the BBC
So, second episode into a new series, and we're over introductions now. Well, mostly. Point is, we can get beyond the "ooh ooh isn't it all new and wonderful" sort of stuff that always limits regeneration episodes, and get back to the meat and potatoes of the show: science fiction human drama, with a touch of philosophical examination.

And it was a cracker. Setting aside the very episode specific aspects, this was a Dalek story for the ages. I mean that. I feel that Into The Dalek will rank among the best of the genocidal teapot stories. It did all the things that a Dalek story should, without being all of the things that a Dalek story usually is. Add to that the fact that the Doctor faced a real challenge, and that his companion served a functioning role, and this could also prove to be one of the highlights of the series (we'll see about that when it's all said and done).

Hit the jump for the review, which includes spoilers that care so I don't have to.

Looks Like That Was A Summer Well Spent

The first trailer for Jon Stewart's Rosewater has arrived. Set for a November release, first it'll see a release at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, so we won't have to wait long to find out if the film manages to keep things emotional and effective without becoming overly dependent on sentimentality or obvious "messaging" as this trailer occasionally suggests. This first look does suggest great promise though, and Stewart might finally have a film under his belt that he wont be able to use as a punch line.

[Review] - Life Itself

Courtesy of Kartemquin Films
Documentaries are hard things to review, for me at least. Unlike a traditional film, documentaries set out to tell a real story, and in the case of biographic documentaries, are less likely to follow the standard act structure or to follow any of the general rules of story telling that a reviewer can use as a guide post. So, it comes down to two things: did the film capture it's subject, and did it do so objectively? Is there an obvious bias? Is this as complete a story as could be told on this subject?

Life Itself is as complete a biography as a documentary could be, and it was so entirely by accident. Based on film critic Roger Ebert's published biography, it covers the usual ground of a biography, detailing his early life and rise up through his profession, detailing the personal struggles and successes that lead to his beings so heavily revered and respected. But director Steve James was able, thanks to a quirk of timing, to capture much more than that. While one strand of the film tells of Ebert's life, another captures his final months and weeks. And so Ebert's past is told in flashback, and his final reel is caught in action, resulting in as honest and complete retelling of an entire life as I have ever seen on film. It does not shy from the difficult or the undesirable, and is at times difficult to watch. And it is done in Ebert's own voice.

Hit the jump for the brief review.
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