31 Dec 2014

New Year's Eve Is The Worst Holiday. Except For All The Others

Last Week Tonight returns with a new season on February 8th, but John Oliver and HBO have been tiding us over with occasional clips on YouTube, which was a brilliant bit of forethought on their part. He returns now, to explain the stupidest and most easily avoidable of holidays, Fireworks Night... I mean, New Year's Eve. And to prove that Oliver has the most adorable way to pronounce humus of anyone, ever.

Happy New Year, everyone. Unless you don't use the Gregorian calendar, or recognize that time is an artificial construct designed to give humans some comfort as they stare out into the unfathomable breach of time. Or, if you use my own personal calendar, which has thirteen months and cycles throughout the year over the course of centuries. In which case, happy 9th of Cherish, everyone.

30 Dec 2014

Things Aren't As Bad As They Seem

I think Neil deGrasse Tyson has been officially challenged as the great modern communicator for science, and the title of the the Face of Space may truly be in contention, thanks to the affable, calm and well spoken Canadian Astronaut and all around Good Guy, Chris Hadfield. This brief video, extolling the virtues and advancements of the modern world, made possible through innovation, research, and belief that the world can be a better place, is as decent and succinct as any we might want to end 2014 on.

Because with a race war brewing in the US, extremism on the rise (or at least, holding steady with better PR) in the Middle East, international politics interfering with the release of sub-par comedy films, and the Colbert Report ending, we need something to feel good about.

Via the Mary Sue.

Points Off For Groot Being Awesome

Cinema Sins is something I can usually get behind. When they pick up on those tired cliches that get worn out in film after film, that is a legit Sin. When a movie has glaring plot holes enough to fly aircraft carriers through, that is a Sin. When you start nagging on every single trope ever used, that isn't a Sin. And when you pick apart a scene or sequence that is obviously intended to be a literal joke, that isn't a Sin, that is buying into your own sense of self importance.

So, while their breakdown of Guardians of the Galaxy is occasionally accurate (the Star Wars/Serenity motifs, or the inability for anyone to kill anyone else), a lot of it is just being picky. In short, it isn't their best one ever. But it's Guardians, so what the hell.

Via Uproxx.

[Review] - The Imitation Game

Courtesy of Black Bear Pictures
Thank gods for Hitler.

Wait, wait, I didn't mean it that way. I meant, thank gods that we have so convenient a personification of evil as Hitler, that we have been able to spend most of a century (and will likely continue for some time) reliving with absolute satisfaction the act of defeating him. And because it is such a universal and easily acquired feeling, it does start to feel a bit cheap after a while. As though, because we know we're going to give Adolf what for at the end, the real work doesn't have to be put in up to that point.

The treatment of Alan Turing after the war is a national embarrassment, the product of a time that cannot be excused by simply saying "that was the way things happened back then." That an entire film has been dedicated to him is a great achievement, as now millions more people know who we was, what he did, and what road he set us on. However, given the choice between telling his whole story, his war story, or his post war story, The Imitation Game settled on kind of all three at once but not one in particular, with the usual liberties that are usually taken in both historical and biographical films. One than has to watch The Imitation Game, and gauge for themselves whether truth is more important than accuracy, as well as how much is actually true or accurate.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that don't know what jokes are.

29 Dec 2014

With Great Power Comes Great Terror

Penny Dreadful's sophomore season is still an indeterminate number of months away, but Showtime wants to keep reminding us of it's eventual arrival: I have no problem with this. Especially if it is in the form of trailers like this, which suggest that Eva Green will be embracing her inner darkness, and turn herself into a demonically possessed Victorian super heroine. I'm completely down with that. I'm also down with more of Timothy Dalton's excellence in beard and Rory Kinner straight up ripping people in half.

This show really gets me, you know?

Let's Try This Again, Shall We Lego?

From Lego Ideas, by Alatariel

Remember a while back, when Lego Ideas approved Ellen Kooijman's fantastic Lady Science sets (she called them Female Minifigures, and Lego sold them under Research Institute, but I like "Lady Science," which is really just "Science," because Science doesn't discriminate based on which chromosomes you have, only those with Y chromosomes do that) for sale? Well, they ran into a bit of a problem. At the same time, they approved and distributed an Exosuit set. The Exosuit was sold internationally, and looked like a big robot with a dude inside it. Research Institute had a limited production run and was sold only in the US, where it sold out in minutes. When I reached out to Lego for comment, they responded with the massive understatement, "It has proven to be very popular and we've had far more orders than we expected."

This was, to put it mildly, disappointing. A lot of attention has been drawn recently to how Lego is undervaluing both the female collectors of their product, and under-representing women within their product. Or worse, banking on horribly cliched and demeaning Princess sets to "balance" out their male-focused sets (to be clear: interlocking blocks should have no gender bias). I am happy to report that Lego, just in time to miss Christmas, appears to have gotten their act together, as I was bale to purchase Research Institute, in store, outside of the US, earlier this week (I bought two, as I expected I would). This is good. If Lego knows what's good for them, they won't make this mistake again.

And they might have an opportunity to make up for it, as Kooijman (AKA Alatariel) has posted a sequel set to Lego Ideas, this time called Science Adventures. While the original included an astronomer, paleontologist and chemist, this new set promises a archaeologist, biologist, geologist (and the biologist comes with a tiger!). And once again, all the minifigs are female. Which is wonderful. And again, I'd say that I'd buy two of these, if given the chance. The set has three quarters of the support it needs, and I say Lego should jut give her a job in project development right now: this would be her third approved and purchasable project, after Research and the forth coming Big Bang Theory set. So hop on over to Lego Ideas, and demonstrate to Lego that the popularity of a set cannot be prejudged on the gender of the figures involved, and that they should expect far more orders then they could hope for.

Via Lego Ideas.

[Review] - Doctor Who, 2014 Christmas Special, "Last Christmas"

Courtesy of the BBC.
When Steven Moffat is being clever, he's really clever. For instance, many science fiction shows feel quite free to rip off popular films or other pieces of cultural establishment with nary a hand wave in the obvious direction of influence. For instance, Alien is probably the most "homaged" scifi film ever. Dark corridors, predatory insect aliens and face hugging brain suckers are cliches of the genre thanks to that film. Even Doctor Who has not been immune in the past. So, when "inspiration" quite obviously abounded as Last Christmas got up and going, I assumed it was just more of the same. Then Moffat did something I wasn't expecting. He drew attention to it. A lot of attention. Then he spiraled the episode into a layer cake of emotional intrigue and unexpected plot turns (as opposed to twists, which make more of a thunking noise when they hit the ground).

And he managed to tell a very modern Santa Claus tale, in an incredibly realistic way. And that sentence really has no business being true, but it does. I'll admit I was nervous about Santa entering the Whoinverse, as there are somethings that stretch the suspension of disbelief beyond it's structural limits, and the existence of Santa is one of them. And yet, Moffat pulled it off in a way that I not only liked, but feel really very touched by.

Hit the jump for the review, which has trouble telling fantasy and spoilers apart: they're both ridiculous.

25 Dec 2014

[Video] - A Muppet Family Christmas

Christmas isn't my time of year. It's not meant for me. It's meant for people who like decorating their houses in annoying little lights and then taking them down again a week later, and standing in queues at packed shopping centres buying overpriced crap for people you barely enjoy spending time with the rest of the year, and what do you really get them, cause they wouldn't be decent and just give you a list, no you had to infer what they wanted from subtle messages Well screw, that if you want a waffle maker, JUST TELL ME YOU WANT A WAFFLE MAKER AND I'LL BLOODY WELL GET YOU ONE!

And there might be a religious aspect in there too, I don't know.

I only have two holiday traditions. First, every time Christmas Vacation is on the television, I watch it, commercials and poor editing and all. But I watch it every time. Some years I might see it once, others I might see it a dozen times. And I'm fine with that.

My second tradition is watching what is hands down the greatest expression of Jim Henson's creations (it was also the last complete Muppet film he made before his death). It's a Muppet Family Christmas. I have an original version on a VHS tape, from it's original broadcast in 1987, and yes the tape is in the condition you think it is (it's complete with commercials too. Like for the FTD Brass and Blooms bouquet: flowers, a candle and a brass planter). An early DVD release was heavily edited due to licensing issues, and a reissue is next to impossible because of Disney's purchase of the Muppets in the early millennium.

For those that haven't seen it before, this is the one time that the entire casts of the Muppet Show, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock (as well as one of two non-animated appearances by the Muppet Babies) all exist in the same place, and since they are all now owned by different companies, licensing issues are a nightmare. But the special is wonderful. From Oscar's impudent "I will not sing this song" in the middle of Deck The Halls, to the Fraggle sharing stone, to the tear inducing cameo (for me anyway) of Henson himself at the end. This special is such a part of my life, the phrase "cold enough to freeze your Winnebago off" is part of my regular winter time vernacular.

So enjoy, and watch out for the icy patch.

24 Dec 2014

Good Tidings

Courtesy of the BBC
For those that might have forgotten, BBC Radio 4 is currently airing the Dirk Maggs adaptation of Good Omens, once a night, for the next week. The first three episodes are currently available, as will successive episodes as they air, for the next month. Though, with tonight being Christmas Eve and all, and with the Doctor Who special airing tomorrow night, perhaps an Eve or Boxing Day binge is called for, eh? Get snuggled in warm next to the fire, and let Gaiman and Pratchett whisk you into a world of hilarious apocalypse on these cold December nights.

I'll have a full series review up after it's done. Until then, a merry happy to you all, and may the end of the fiscal quarter produce many healthy dividends.

Via the BBC.

Puny Seasonal Mascot

Remember kids, when sitting on Santa's lap, always check to make certain that he's a kindly old elf and not a genocidal purple monster from beyond the moon's of Jupiter. You're more likely to get gifts from the former, and your own spleen wrapping in spinal fluid from the latter. Thanos has no time for your festival frivolity.

Via The Mary Sue.

[Review] - The Newsroom, Season 3 Episode 5 And The Series Finale Episode 6, "Oh Shenandoah" And "What Kind of Day Has It Been"

Courtesy of HBO
Let's get this over with, shall we?

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that were almost certainly killed by Sloan.

23 Dec 2014

[Review] - The Librarians, Season 1 Episodes 3 And 4, "And The Horns Of A Dilemma/And Santa's Midnight Run"

Courtesy of Electric Entertainment
The Librarians precursor, Leverage, was not shy about casting geek icons for each week's marks. Librarians appears to be keeping up that tradition (and five seasons of Leverage has awarded Devlin and Rogers a full rolodex of willing participants), nabbing two of geekdom's bigger names for guest spots in it's first two independent episodes. Look for this to be a trend that continues throughout the course of the show's run, and a highlight week to week (also, because they film in Oregon, the show is uniquely able to feature a blend of Canadian and American character actors, making it a film fan's Where's Waldo).

With the premiere behind it, Librarians now has the opportunity to stand on it's own, unrestricted by the players and parameters of the films that inspired it. It can be it's own thing, and in these two episodes we begin to see the shape of things to come. As I said in my review of the premiere, this is clearly not a show that takes itself serious, but these episodes really express how far outside the reservation the show is willing to live, in the name of having more than a little fun.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are art people live in.

Laika Has Us By The Strings

Laika is officially the new studio that can do no wrong. In my mind, they are the company making the most interesting and the most successful films right now. Not just animated films, but films. Animation is a medium, not a genre. And I'd place Boxtrolls above most live action films that were released this year. They've released three meticulously detailed films to date, and all three have been winners. And like all champs, they know not to rest on their laurels, but to move forward harder and faster than ever.

Meet Kubo and the Two Strings. The directorial debut of  Laika President, CEO and animator Travis Knight, the stop-frame animated film (as all their films have been to date) is a "gripping yarn woven from Japanese folktales and mythology, with lost civilizations, mystical origami, noble heroes, star-crossed lovers, and blood-curdling monsters" from a script by ParaNorman scribes Marc Haimes and Chris Butler.
"In the epic fantasy, scruffy, kindhearted Kubo ekes out a humble living while devotedly caring for his mother in their sleepy shoreside village. It is a quiet existence – until a spirit from the past catches up with him to enforce an age-old vendetta. Suddenly on the run from gods and monsters, Kubo’s chance for survival rests on finding the magical suit of armor once worn by his fallen father, the greatest samurai the world has ever known. Summoning courage, Kubo embarks on a thrilling odyssey as he faces his family’s history, navigates the elements, and bravely fights for the earth and the stars."
What I've respected most about Laika is that, while their films are far from star studded, they avoided the Disney trap of hiring name brand actors, and instead given voice acting jobs to actors who are recognizable second and ideally talented first. This has resulted in French and Saunders appearing in Coraline, John Goodman showing up in ParaNorman, and an utterly unrecognizable Ben Kingsley heading up Boxtrolls.

This suitability first, marketability second system reminds me of Pixar when they first started, and hired folks like Dave Foley or Albert Brooks to headline their films. Laika might be taking a step away from that with Kubo, as the announced cast is as currently popularist as you can get. Leading the film will be Game of Thrones' Rickon Stark Art Parkinson as the titular Kubo. Backing him up will be Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, and Brenda Vaccaro. However, I still have the utmost confidence in Laika, and expect great things when the film is released in their comfort zone of August in 2016.

Via Collider.

An Open Air Insane Asylum

Kill Me Three Times isn't a film that was on my radar until today. I'd seen the promotional image of Simon Pegg in mustache and slim black suit, but I hadn't bothered digging into what exactly this film was going to be. Now, thanks to this trailer, it has shot pretty immediately towards the top of my most anticipated films of 2015 list. Because it looks fantastic.

I'm a sucker for films with convoluted, back-and-forth plan-gone-awry plots, and ensemble capers with strong comedic backbones, and this seems to satisfy all those demands. Now we just have to wait until April to see if it manages to hold up to those expectations (as much as I love him, and think he's a talented guy, Simon Pegg's last few offering have been disappointing).

22 Dec 2014

This Is The Week That Was

I was unexpectedly gone last week, and I missed a few things that I wish I hadn't. Like being able to properly say goodbye to both The Colbert Report, and The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, the only two reasons I ever stayed up past midnight. I'll miss them both more than I can properly illustrate; the world will be significantly less fun on a daily basis from here on out.

I missed all that nonsense about The Interview being cancelled, though I'd never have seen it even if it had been released, on account of the fact that I'm not a fan of Seth Rogan and James Franco and their brand of "comedy."

I missed Birdman, Whiplash and Boyhood (which I've all seen and utterly failed to review, but in short, they are all brilliant films) getting just every bit of recognition from various award groups. And hopefully that will be followed through with some much deserved wins.

I missed the announcement that Hot Toys is selling a 1/6th scale model of the dancing Baby Groot, sadly not animatronic, but looking better than any of the other official merchandise, as though we'd expect anything less from Hot Toys (there is a chance that, if you're like me and ordered the Hot Toys Groot and Rocket duo pack, you might be getting this Baby Groot for free. Sideshow has yet to confirm this with me).

And I missed the release of the season three trailer for Orphan Black, a show I'm embarrassed to say I haven't reviewed for this site, and hope to change this upcoming season (of course, with my track record of late, maybe it's better I don't start anything new. Man, I still haven't reviewed the last two episodes of the Newsroom...). This teaser looks to be establishing a tone for this year, implying that it'll be dark and that the clones may go to war. With themselves, with each other, with those responsible; that isn't clear What remains clear is that Tatiana Maslany needs to win some kind of award for her performances as the entire cast of the show. She, by herself, could fill an entire SAG ensemble cast category.

Tis The Season That A Fat Man Watches You To See If You're Being Naughty

There is no end, every year, of updates and alterations to Twas The Night Before Christmas. But, like so many things in life, I think I like Nick Offerman's the most. Short, sweet, to the point, and cutting out all that poetical bullshit. Just like Jesus wanted.

I assume. I don't actually know what Jesus wants. He seems like he was a pretty demanding guy. Probably would have been really high maintenance in a relationship. But in that weird, friendly sort of way, that makes it seem like you're the one who is being unreasonable, you know? Like everyone else is going around saying, "I don't know why ____ is always being so catty, Jesus just wants what's best for them." And you have to explain, sometimes I don't want to turn the other cheek, sometimes I want to be bitchy and hold a judge. That doesn't make me a monster, IT MAKES ME HUMAN SUSAN... uh, I mean, Jesus. Yeah. Jesus.

Via Uproxx.

[Review] - The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies

Courtesy of New Line Cinema
What a horrible way to leave Middle-Earth behind. Until now, I've held out a hope that, in ten years time, we might get a trilogy of Silmarillion films, to fill in more of the deep mythology of the universe. But if the diminishing returns so obviously apparent in this final chapter continue, it is my great hope that the Tolkien estate wrap their Gollum-like fingers around those adaptation rights and hold on to them for dear life. Certainly, they should make certain that Peter Jackson, who once was exactly the man for the job, gets no where near them. This film's twitter campaign has been focused on the hashtag "One Last Time." If this is the result, that's fine by me.

An Unexpected Journey is a deeply flawed, but enjoyable, film. Desolation of Smaug is an entertaining and well constructed, if overly long and overly indulgent, film that hearkens to the original trilogy more than any other (though it does commit the unforgivable sin of having a cliffhanger ending). The terribly (and inaccurately) named Battle of the Five Armies is a failure of story telling, structure, pleasure and nostalgia. It is a plodding second act, and seems content not to have either a beginning or an ending. Lampoon Return of the King for it's eighteen false finishes, but it least it had some to spare. Five Armies can't even be bothered with that, preferring, after rushing through all of it's plot points, to just peter out, and assume that would be fine with everyone. It isn't.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that really want a war pig. Just, you know, in case.

11 Dec 2014

[Review] - Agents of SHIELD, Season 2 Episode 10, "What They Become"

Courtesy of Marvel Television Studios
When ABC gave SHIELD a second season, I was shocked. Frankly, I didn't think they deserved it based on the uneven and lackluster output of season one. When season two began, it seemed to be more of the same. But then, a few weeks ago, something started to shift. It was as if the show had become possessed with something magical: intent. Suddenly, rather than filler, procedural go-no-where episodes, or padded and painfully dragged out "mysteries," SHIELD started to move towards something. We weren't sure what they were moving towards, but it was clear that they were acting under a motivation.

I think perhaps that it was the realization that they had to prove their worth. If the show is to exist, both as a story telling avenue for the MCU, and as a show taking up an hour of prime-time real estate, they had to definitively demonstrate that they had a reason to exist. That they could add something that the films can't. That they are more than just a Coulson fan-fic. And I believe that they have done that. They managed in the last six episodes or so to prove that they can be engaging, and interesting, and that they aren't just a reactive echo of the stuff that "really matters." And in this final episode, they proved not that the tail can wag the dog, but that the dog and the tail can wag as one if they really want to.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers which aren't saying this is a good plan.

Next Summer, Pixar Puts The Foot Down

Disney has released a second teaser trailer for their next film, Inside Out, which explores the origins of human emotions inside the human mind, through the perspectives of an adolescent girl named Riley, and her parents (announced to being played by Diana Lane and Kyle MacLachlan). And I like this trailer, because it isn't a trailer as we expect. It isn't a collection of out-of-context scenes strung together with a pop song and baritone voice overs, giving away too many of the best jokes for the sake of putting butts in the seats. No doubt we'll see a few of those between now and next summer. But this trailer is jut a single, uninterrupted sequence form the film that encapsulates what the film is about. It's like a short film being used to sell the bigger picture. And that is a trend I could get behind, if others started doing it too.

[Review] - The Librarians, Season 1 Episodes 1 And 2, "And The Crown Of King Arthur/And The Sword In The Stone"

Courtesy of Electric Entertainment
The Librarian films, on which this series is based, are not good films. They aren't particularly well written, the acting is variable, and the effects are atrocious. They aren't blockbusters, or society changing stories of great and lasting cultural value. But, they aren't meant to be. And they know that. They are very much aware that they are made-for-cable popcorn, light entertainment. And so too is The Librarians: a low calorie snack with a pulp-serial feel. The history is suspect, the plot devices stretched to the very extent of credulity. Yet, it isn't a bad series. At least, two episodes in, it isn't bad. And the reason it doesn't fall over the line of being terrible has everything to do with it's attitude. It owns its nature. It knows that it's cheesy. It knows that it's campy. It knows that nothing it is saying and doing makes any sense. And it does it all with good humour and the occasional nudge and wink at the audience. This is the very definition of "all in good fun."

And I have no problem with that.

Hit the jump for the review, which contain spoilers that always come in pairs.

9 Dec 2014

Zemeckis Walks the Walk

I have a conflicting relationship with the career of Robert Zemeckis. Back to the Future and Roger Rabbit are both modern classics and among my highest ranked favourites. Death Becomes Her, Cast Away, What Lies Beneath and Contact are all wonderful films in their own right. That being said, his obsession with technology, while laudable, turned Polar Express, Beowulf and a completely necessary Christmas Carol practically unwatchable. Flight was a return to a focus on human drama rather than technical experimentation, and I thought it was a solid effort if not entirely successful.

His newest film, The Walk, is a based-on-a-true-story film about Philippe Petit, who tightrope-walked between the Twin Towers in 1974; in the film, he'll be played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It certainly seems to fall more in line with his tales of human perseverance, while utilizing the digital technologies that he is so enamored with. It's slightly less than a year until the film comes out, so we'll have to wait a time longer to find out if this is all style/no substance, or if it actually has dome depth.

[Review] - Constantine, Season 1 Episode 7, "Blessed Are the Damned"

Courtesy of Warner Bros Television
Before we get into the particulars of this episode, I want to take a moment to give the appropriate kudos to the show for handling something very deftly and very creatively. Before the show began, one of the many worrisome announcements that was made was the NBC would not allow Constantine to smoke on the show. Smoking is an integral part of the character, not simply a stylistic choice or frivolous bit of anti-social behaviour. Smoking is a morality lesson, a physical manifestation of the character's self destructive aspects. And when it gets the better of him, a metaphor for the demons that reach and gnaw at him. Removing the smoking, while not debilitating, suggested a neutered approach.

Since then, the show has expertly framed his habit so as never to show him actually taking a drag off any cigarette. Like testing how much nudity is acceptable in prime time, they have showed literally every other part of the procedure of smoking a cigarette, without inhaling. The Standards and Practices folks clearly have a measure of degrees, and the show is riding those degrees with finesse. a few episode back ended with John lighting up. This episode started with him flicking away the smoldering ruins of a butt. I don't advocate the glamorization of smoking, and they certainly haven't done that. And I applaud the skills they've demonstrated in finding a way to include something they clearly agree is an integral part of the character, while still following the specific letter of instruction passed down by the Powers That Be. But I also have to wonder how effective a ban is when they can show everything except a minor bit of action in the middle.

Hit the jump for the brief review, which contains spoilers that, at this point, feel like TV characters should stay away from snake-handling.

Continuum Is Continu-Done

After months of waiting for official word, Showcase in Canada and Syfy in the US have announced that Continuum will return for a fourth season. That's the good news. The bad is that this will be the final season of the exhilarating and unabashedly intelligent time travel drama. The worse is that this final season, seemingly in line with Syfy's own method of burning off shows, will only consist of 6 episodes, a cut of more than half compared to the last two seasons.

I have not been subtle about my love of this show. It is a refreshingly complex series that never tries to dumb things down, but expects the audience to rise to the level of the materials presented. And it does all that while never seeming pretentious or overvaluing itself. In fact, it remains quite humble; it's very Canadian in that respect. Considering the absolutely insane final seconds of last season, arguably the strongest season they've produced, I'm glad that Simon Barry will be given the chance to wrap things up. To bring Kiera's story to a proper conclusion is respectful and welcome. It at least gives us a month of programming to look forward to at an as-of-yet undecided date in 2015.

Via Deadline.

4 Dec 2014

[Review] - Agents of SHIELD, Season 2 Episode 9, "...Ye Who Enter Here"

Courtesy of Marvel Television Studios
And the confirmation of information keeps on coming. After a couple weeks of mystery after mystery being resolved and revealed, this week we 100% learned the identity of the mysterious blue corpse, and got a horrifying sneak peak at what waits for Hydra and SHIELD in the ruins of the lost city, and saw the return of Patton Oswalt. Add to that a May-style action sequence for Skye and the laying out of a mission statement for the new SHIELD leadership, all while on location in sunny Puerto Rico (and slightly overcast Vancouver).

That seems like a lot, but it actually wasn't. For the most part, this was a well balanced episode, that covered the ground it needed to while also advancing the major character arcs. It had espionage, action and horror, all with some genuine comedy to keep it from getting too heavy. Now, if only someone could explain to the writers how to structure a scene to include exposition without it seeming so forced or repetitive. And finding someone who can write less tin-eared dialogue would be a boon as well.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers which, if they die in Canada, they die in real life.

James Bond Will Return In...

Earlier today at Pinewood Studios, which has been the home of 007 since Dr. No (and in fact has it's own named stage at the facility), director Sam Mendes unveiled the cast and title of the 24th James Bond film, now to be known officially as Spectre. Fans of the series will recognize that name as that of the terrorist organization in the novels and Sean Connery films, which has not reappeared since the rise of the Soviet Union during the Roger Moore era, and a long standing legal dispute surrounding the rights to the novel Thunderball. When Daniel Craig took over the role, the filmmakers introduced a similar shady organization known as Quantum as a stand-in for SPECTRE. Last year, the legal issues were resolved, paving the way for SPECTRE's return.

Returning to the franchise will be Daniel Craig in the title role, along with Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q, Rory Kinnear as Tanner, and Ralph Fiennes as the new M. Joining them for this edition will be Sherlock's Moriarty Andrew Scott as MI6 officer Denbigh, Guardian's David Bautista will henchman Mr. Hinx, Monica Bellucci and Lea Seydoux as "Bond Girls" Lucia Sciarra and Madeleine Swann respectively. And heading the villains will be Christoph Waltz. While the internet has theorized that he'd be playing classic baddie Blofeld. This morning's announcement identified him as Oberhauser.

The film, which begins filming on Monday, will be overseen as usual by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, and directed by Skyfall helmer Sam Mendes, off a script by Skyfall writers John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Those last two had "retired" from the Bond series after having written every film since 1999′s The World Is Not Enough, but were brought back into the fold to pump up Logan draft.

Also announced was the Bond vehicle, as much a centerpiece element as the villains or the women. This time, he'll be driving an Aston Martin DB10, a car that Aston has made specifically for the film, with input from the filmmakers. Said Aston CEO Andy Palmer, "In the same year that we celebrate our 50-year relationship with 007, its seems doubly fitting that today we unveiled this wonderful new sports car created especially for James Bond." The car will not be available for purchase by the general public.

The film is currently set for a 6th of November release next year, giving them slightly less than a year to put this thing together and get it out. If this creative team manages to match their Skyfall effort, then I think we'll be in good hands.

Via /Film.

[Analysis] - Jumping The Gun On Jurassic World: Part 2, The Lego Sets

As designed by senteosan
The announcement a few weeks ago that Lego had achieved the license for Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World was met, by me at least, with excitement, because it meant that we Lego collectors would be getting more, and possibly new Lego dinosaurs. The release of the trailer for the film last week doubled that excitement, because from those context-less two minutes of footage, I could see the potential in those unannounced Lego sets.

But before I get to there, I want to first draw attention to something I've been meaning to for some time, and this is a serendipitous opportunity. Over on Lego Ideas, the creator senteosan has a design for a fantastic Jurassic Park set, seen above. At the time of this writing, it is less than 500 supporters away from the 10,000 marker that is needed for Lego to officially consider the project, which puts it well within reach of the goal. The set includes Grant, Ellie and Malcolm minifigures and the iconic Explorer from the guided tour. It also includes the Main Gate, and an assembled T-rex whose detail is amazing. I recommend you go over and take a look at the project, and if you have the time, lend your support. Success now would allow Lego to fold release of this project into their Jurassic World schedule (which I would imagine would be a early summer release), and have it benefit everyone. So, please support this project, and not just because I very much want an Ian Malcolm minifig.

After the jump, I'll take a look at the first trailer for Jurassic World again, this time with an eye as to what teased sequences might make for good Lego sets.

3 Dec 2014

Holy Crap, The Internet Got One Right?

When I did my analysis of DC's slate of live action films, I considered Suicide Squad an outlier. In fact, I went so far as to guess that it, like Shazam, that it wouldn't be included in the shared universe that Warner Bros is insistent on creating, to compete with Marvel. While that hasn't been directly contradicted, the official announcement of the cast of the Suicide Squad film does suggest that it will share a history with the Justice Leaguers. Perhaps even more remarkably, the internet's rumours for the cast were almost perfect, suggesting either that we as a collective are getting better at guessing how a studio will behave, that the studio is looking more to fan-casting for ideas, or Warner Bros had a serious leak on these discussions. I'm betting it was that last one.

The ensemble piece, to be directed by Fury's David Ayer, will feature former Bane Tom Hardy as team leader Rick Flag, Will Smith as assassin Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, native Australian Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang, model Cara Delevinge as the magical Enchantress, and Jared Leto as only the fourth live action actor to take on the role of the Joker. It is the inclusion of Harley Quinn and the Joker that suggests to me that this film will follow whatever continuity is set up by Batman Vs Superfly: From Dusk to Dawn, as Zack Synder (who will be producing Suicide Squad) has said that Ben Affleck's Batman will be "well established," and a well established Batman would need a Joker in his past. I have to say, I'm a little impressed that Warners and DC are letting Joker in a film without a Bat in the title or cast. Though maybe they're banking on that character's notoriety to sell a film filled with unknowns.

The cast is not yet complete, as there remain several roles uncast, including more potential team members, and team organizer Amanda Waller, whom Warners is hoping to land an established and venerated actress to play (think Glenn Close in Guardians). I would also note that, Harley and the Joker aside, the team is very reminiscent of the original 1987 lineup of the Squad, helped by the presence of the Enchantress, a character that would seem far more at home on Constantine or in Guillermo Del Toro's Justice League Dark. Harley's affiliation with the team is a product of the New 52 era, and the Joker will undoubtedly be included to help explain Harley to audiences, who will be completely unfamiliar with her in a live action setting. Personally, I can't help but draw comparisons between this cast and the plot of the DC animated film Batman: Assault on Arkham. Which also makes me wonder if, considering this will be the first film of the DC slew to be released after Batman vs Superman: Friendship Is Magic, if the Joker's presence isn't setting up a Batfleck cameo.

Via Collider.

Mr. President...

Netflix has confirmed the release of the third season of House of Cards, which will premiere in its entirety on the 27th of February. I thought that the second season, while still better than most everything on the networks, was a step down in terms of the quality of storytelling compared to the startlingly strong season once (the acting remained, of course, top notch). Hopefully season three sees a creative rebound, and considering the classical structure the series has adopted, if this ends up being the final season, that it ends on as high a note as it can muster.

[Review] - The Newsroom, Season 3 Episode 4, "Contempt"

Courtesy of HBO
I love this season of The Newsroom, I just don't like this episode. While it had a few choice and magical moments (all of which involved Sam Waterston), the episode was sadly a return to a season one mentality. The overt and frankly cheesy romanticism, the straw-man debates, and the return of the worst-period-ever-period-storyline-period in the show's history. This was a contemptible episode, guilty of so many of the complaints leveled against Aaron Sorkin over the first two seasons of the show. This was such a step backwards that I honestly don't know how to explain it. I'm left hoping that the previous three episodes weren't a fluke, and that we'll spend the final hours of the series sliding back down the same hill of shit all over again.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers which don't pretend they sell medicine.

2 Dec 2014

The Bricks Awaken

Last week saw the release of a trailer for a movie coming out next year that got my cockles in a tizzy. It called upon some very basic, very child-like inspirations of excitement and wonder, and used musical cues to pluck at the most nostalgic of my heart strings. There was also a trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Despite the fact that it is likely you initially found this site because of my reworking of the abandoned Revenge of the Jedi, it might surprise you to know that I'm not that big a fan of Star Wars. I certainly enjoy the original trilogy, I respect the original for its importance to the history of film, and think that Empire is an impressive piece of storytelling. But I've never felt moved by the series in the way that so many have been. I'm just not as into space-wizards as others, I guess.

That Star Wars is, and has been for a long time, an excuse to print money rather than driven by the story really can't be argued. The best that can be hoped for now is that the writers and directors of these utterly unnecessary sequels put as much effort into making them as good as possible. Something that George Lucas hadn't been capable of since the early eighties. This year-early teaser was effective in demonstrating that all the most basic elements of Star Wars are present, and that Disney knows how to cut a trailer for maximum effectiveness. What it lacked was Lego, which the internet fixed barely a day after the trailer's release.

[Review] - Constantine, Season 1 Episode 6, "Rage of Caliban"

Courtesy of Warner Bros Television
Constantine continued it's creative upswing with an episode that wasn't very good this week. Wait... Sorry, that should have read "with an episode whose dialogue wasn't very good." Because the episode itself, structure and plotting wise, was another step forward. Unfortunately, the dialogue was clunky and exposition-heavy and generally terrible. It is odd how this series and Agents of SHIELD are least well served when their showrunners are writing specific episodes. This week was written by Daniel Cerone, and while the episode was focused on the action of the day it was a highly effective horror episode. When it startled looking at the longer game plan, or when characters had to interact with one another, that's where the troubles crept in.

My notes also tell me that Chas was in this episode. I retain no memories of this.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that often go wrong when kids are involved.

I Have Cried Twice In My Life: Once When I Was Seven And I Was Hit By A School Bus, And Then Again When I Heard That Parks And Rec Was Ending

After months of uncertainty (NBC: let's wing it!), an official airdate for Parks and Recreation's final season has been announced. The last 13 episodes will begin airing on Tuesday, the 13th of January, and conclude the 24th of February. That is a month and a half, during which time they will burn off the final season an hour at a time, between 8 and 9. Those are also Tuesday nights, which is a change from the Thursday night it has inhabited for its entire run (NBC: consistency?). I certainly won't complain about 7 weeks of hour long Parks' episodes, as there is something very British about that schedule, which I appreciate.

NBC has never enjoyed having the show on the schedule, a hold over from that period where shows like 30 Rock had the gall to be both funny and clever rather than just inane. As the writers would tell you, having to structure each season finale as though it were the series finale because NBC would hem and haw over renewal, and ultimately give it another season in the summer because they had nothing else to fill in the gaps. Despite the series bringing to prominence Rashida Jones (who is currently writing the fourth Toy Story film for Pixar, as well as returning to Parks with Rob Lowe for at least one appearance this season) the glory that is Nick Offerman, and current (and future) box office golden boy Chris Pratt, NBC appears aggressively apathetic towards feedings off any of that auxiliary success (NBC: who needs to be popular when you're massively unsuccessful).

Yes, this is the seventh season of a show that probably shouldn't have ever gotten to three, and by sheer guile, wit and luck has managed to survive this long, and they should be happy for whatever they get. But, it is also the seventh season of a show that NBC should be treating with more respect than a freshman series they are contractually obligated to air in a rush in the blind spot of the television season.

To the cast and crew of Parks and Rec, I wish all the best. And NBC, I have a message for you after the jump.
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