Archive for May, 2010

I Feel Re-Bourne…

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

In 2002, Team America retard Matt Damon* received a vehicle in the form of The Bourne Identity, a death and explosion packed film that served as an inspiration for the grittier direction in which James Bond has gone.

The trilogy (Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum) centres around an amnesiac killer (Jason Bourne, hence the ‘Identity’) trying to find out who he was and what he did in his former life. This ends up leading him on a road trip with Obligatory Love Interest #1.

The film left some questions unanswered (the most important of these is who he actually was) but the ‘tard gets the girl and he seems pretty satisfied with how the whole business concluded.

Then they made another movie. (awkward cough)

I feel that it was with the second movie that the franchise went from an interesting concept (how would a killer feel if he lost his memory and learn what he did) to a generic revenge plot action movie franchise. They killed off his girlfriend early in the second installment to make the audience feel sorry for him, a known killer. This was the problem with the whole trilogy though, not just the second film.

Another thing that bugs me about the second film is the scene at the end where the CIA woman does Bourne a favour and tells him his name, birthday and where he’s from. Thereby robbing the audience of any reason to see the third fucking movie!

The last movie (not that you’d know it from the dvds, I had to guess), The Bourne Ultimatum, depends yet again on our villain protagonist being targeted by the EVIL GOVERNMENT while he doesn’t want to hurt anybody and live a normal life. Well, tough. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I have no idea why execs expect audiences to sympathise with killers as protagonists!

While the Bourne movies were a reasonably entertaining way to spend an afternoon, they’re nothing special. Any of them beyond the first is just a generic action movie and the third one, as I’ve established, was entirely pointless. You would be better off (although not by much) watching Casino Royale or any of the preceding Bond movies (but not Quantum of Solace). Overall, if you have to watch any of them, the first one is the best way to go, don’t bother with the other two.

I’ve put The Bourne Identity in highlight-able text here: His real name is David Webb, no relation to Robert Webb. SPOILER ALERT!!



The Earth Is Hungry…OM NOM NOM!

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

The 8th episode of Series Fnarg, The Hungry Earth (which puts the image of a Sarlacc into my mind) features the return of the ever-popular space fish (okay, they’re space reptiles, but to me they look like green space fish), The Silurians. Actually, now I come to think of it, a lot of the ‘Monster Of The Week’ examples in Doctor Who seem to be some sort of Space Fish. Episode One had the weird Space Eel thing, Episode Two had the Space Whale, Episode Six had Vampire Space Fish and this one has Space Reptile Fish things. So, half of the episodes have space fish. Methinks I spot a theme here.

The setting is a Welsh Mining Village (no mention of ‘the only gay in the village’) in 2020, where an ambitious drilling project is going on. The Doctor, Amy and Rory land, expecting Rio. Surely if you were the Doctor, you’d consult the scanner before going outside and proclaiming “RIO!” like a nonce.

Rory goes to play Sherlock while Amy and The Doctor check out the aforementioned drilling project which has just penetrated more than 21 kilometres (more than 13 miles, measurement fans!) under the ground. Rory is almost staggeringly incompetent at this, and the only child in the village has to do the detective work for him, even quoting everybody’s favourite detective while he does so. This child explains that the bodies that have been going missing from graves have been clearly dug up from below and taken.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Woman Assistant #4 (discounting one shot companions and not counting the classic series, that number is actually correct) go to the drilling site (The Doctor should’ve used the time away from Rory for some drilling of his own, IYCMD*). Hilarity ensues when some holes in the ground open up and start eating Amy and some random fella who she tries to save (to her credit, she did save him). She ends up being eaten by the Earth (hence the title, presumably), but any savvy viewer will know that she’s not dead, due to it: A) Being the 8th episode and B) Being less than 25 minutes into the episode.

My complaints with the episode are as follows:

1) Nasreen (mining lady) never actually learns the Doctor’s name, much like Rufus in Bill & Ted (he never tells them his name at any point during the movie), yet is calling him The Doctor and singing his phrases. This one was pointed out to me in my screen-writing class by a friend as I didn’t notice it myself.

2) How stupid the aforementioned child, who is dyslexic, got in the last bit of the episode. Kid goes out to get some headphones from his house when there are unknown creatures about to get to the surface any minute. I would understand if it was a hearing aid or an inhaler but headphones seem counter-productive.

3) In fact, the stupidity in general on behalf of most of the characters bugged me. Drill (RedShirt) Guy #1 stuck his hand into a steaming hole in the ground, the previously mentioned child and headphones incident, and Rory not clocking where the dead bodies went from their graves…what a moron.

This episode was decidedly average. It’s the first of a two parter though, so hopefully the next one will be better. It’s worth watching, but not by much.

*If You Catch My Drift. I’m starting this up!

Know How Butterflies Are Normally Pretty*? This One Isn’t…

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

My stoner buddy recommended the time travelling epic, The Butterfly Effect, the other day so I borrowed it. And I am so glad I did.

This 2004 sci-fi film stars Ashton Kutcher, he who is not to be confused with Ash Ketchum. The premise of the film is showing how changes you make to the past can come back to haunt you in the future (present/whatever). And it is done really well, as most of the details mentioned early on are later relevant in some way. The main character suffers blackouts, and both the viewer and the character discover what happens during the blackouts together. In that way, it’s quite immersive and makes you want to find out what happened to him.

As anyone who knows me knows, I love the idea of time travel and this film shows exactly why we shouldn’t be allowed to have it. It shows the downsides and it is very harsh on Kutcher’s character, Evan Treborn. Seriously, extremely harsh to him. It’s weird to think that in an alternate timeline, I wouldn’t have seen this movie and you wouldn’t be reading this.

I recognise some of the other characters from other television programmes, like Callum Keith Rennie, (whom aficionados will know as Ray Kowalski from the excellent Canada-Em-Up Due South), Kutcher’s co-star, Amy Smart (Starsky and Hutch and Scrubs) and Almost-Marty-McFly, Eric Stoltz. It took an imdb search to find out where I recognised these people from (except for Rennie). I do like that in a film as it gets me thinking.

If I have one complaint, it’s that the sequence at the beginning seems out of place and unnecessary, even foolish, since it spoils you slightly to what’s going to happen at the end. And in a way, some of the flashbacks turn out to have obvious conclusions or repercussions, but that’s part of the fun; to be able to say “what an idiot.”

The Wikipedia entry (since I have not yet had time to watch all of the alternate endings) tells me that there are four endings to the film, and the Director’s Cut one (from the sounds of the others) is the one that I prefer by far. It fits the overall tone of the film and makes more sense within context. I wonder why they didn’t go with that ending in the cinema. There are also two sequels to this film which deviate from the plot and might as well be completely unrelated, much like the Highlander movies (I’m only counting Highlanders 3 and 4 here. Highlander 2: The Quickening isn’t worth mentioning).

The Director’s Cut ending, which I watched, might well be one of the most depressing things committed to film if you think about it, like It’s A Wonderful Life gone horribly wrong. And yet in spite of this (or perhaps because of it), the film works. It’s a powerful film that keeps you guessing what’s going to happen next and ramps up the tension. This one is definitely worth investing both your time and money in. Don’t let some stupid butterfly stop you from watching this fantastic movie.

*I did not say pretty! MANLY! MANLY BUTTERFLIES!!

“All Good Things Must Come To An End…”

Monday, May 24th, 2010

As I type this, I feel a strange sense of loss, which I can only account for by saying that Ashes To Ashes is no more. The Manc Lion, Gene Hunt himself, has been a constant companion throughout 2 series of Life On Mars and 3 of Ashes To Ashes. It’s not surprising that the nation has grown to love him so much. In the minds of millions of viewers, Gene Hunt is now firmly in place as the retroactive 80’s mascot.

To stop this post being an unrelenting fanboy blow-job, I will discuss the final episode. The epic twist is one that a few clever fans have seen coming, but that this reviewer didn’t predict. In hindsight, it should have been obvious, but as they say about hindsight, it’s 20/20. There is also a secondary revelation that ties into the main one and does it beautifully. That’s why I’m glad that I didn’t look around the internet properly before watching the show. I did, however, log onto Facebook. Even that was a mistake. From the very first status I saw, I learned that the Quattro dies a terrible, terrible death. (Well, I had to infer it from what was said, but it was close enough)

In my last Ashes To Ashes review, I wanted to see a finale that fully wrapped up the fates of all the characters and left no mysteries to the viewer. I know that in real life, not all the questions get answered, but this was a television show and not real life. Having said that, it’s nice to see that the show actually lived up to my expectations and gave us an action packed and revelation filled show to go out on. I’m looking forward to buying the big box-set so I can see how all the clues come together over a period of days rather than years. I did like the fact that you saw that the cycle could continue again if they so desired, but I hope they don’t do yet another show, as there is no compelling question, no reason to watch it now we know the whole story.

You know a television show has done its job well when it makes you care about the characters as you would care for your own mates, and Ashes To Ashes fully delivered on that count. You want to see the gang do well and you want to see Alex get home to her daughter. I found myself chuckling at some of the things that came out of the character’s mouths and saying (for example) “oh, that is so Chris!”.

As with all good things, there are some bad elements, but this finale didn’t have many faults. I must confess that I didn’t fully see the significance of all of the plot twists (and still don’t) but I expect that they’ll become clearer over time. And I didn’t really appreciate the little clip after the credits, as I felt it to be rather jarring after a sad show like this. It wasn’t jaunty, but it was kind of…unnecessary.

It’s only fitting that this review and tribute should end how the series ended: with a David Bowie song playing and a farewell to Gene Hunt. Farewell forever, you magnificent armed bastard.

You Are Surrounded By Armed Bastards For The Last Time!

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

The follow up to the brilliant Life On Mars, Ashes To Ashes has managed to outlive its predecessor while having roughly the same level of love for the time it is set in while still showing its bad points. They managed to do this by taking as long as they needed to clear the story up, which is evidently three seasons’ worth of story.

Tomorrow evening will be the end of an era. Yes, the day will finally come when we no longer see Gene Hunt’s brand of misogyny and light prejudice. However, as seen with the recent Labour and Tory posters, I feel that the viewers have somewhat missed the point of Gene Hunt’s character. When he started out, he was a character who was supposed to be respected begrudgingly, to show how policing styles of today contrast with the early 70’s. The public have somehow come to love him, as shown by his character growing progressively more awesome as the show moves on, with lots of bad-ass one liners and a large amount of tyre-squealing, gun wielding fun.

By the end of tomorrow’s episode, we should have found out exactly who Gene Hunt is, what Alex is doing with him and all the plot threads that are hanging at the moment should’ve been cleared up. All of this had better be cleared to the fan’s satisfaction, as they have one hour to do it in. The problem with this is that the trailer shown at the end of last Friday’s episode doesn’t seem to come close to clearing it all up. Mind you, I suppose they couldn’t show us a lot if the alternative would spoil the show for us.

For all that viewers may have missed the point of Hunt’s character, it’s not actually a bad show. Yes, the opening narration for the first two seasons verges on boring, but they’ve trimmed it down to shorter than Life On Mars’ narration for the final season, which is a blessing.

Conspiracy seems to be the order of the day, because where the arc question for Life On Mars is “How do I get home?”, the arc questions (for there are many) seem to be “What’s wrong with this world and how can I fix it?”. Whereas Sam Tyler’s motive was to get home, that is now an afterthought (in at least the third series) for Alex Drake, the protagonist for Ashes To Ashes. This is another example of how brilliant the shows are at portraying the differences in mindset between the two, as the shows take place in their respective minds and the details within are examples of how they think.

I do like how the characters were developed further in Ashes To Ashes, as they didn’t have much time to work on giving each character a day in the spotlight in Life On Mars; in a way all the characterisation has built to what is coming tomorrow.

Unless they utterly destroy the character of Hunt in the last episode, I suspect that he’ll be back with a spin-off along the lines of Starsky and Hutch. One Man And His Quattro? Could that work? If they don’t bring him back (and the actor has said that this is his last time as Gene Hunt) then on the part of this blogger at least, he will be missed.

A Writing Experiment…

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Permit me if you will, readers, to conduct a little experiment. I’m going to show how it’s possible to review something that you don’t think is all that great (still worth watching though) and still make it sound good. I will remain non-specific throughout, the challenge is to see if you can guess what I’m reviewing. If you guess what it is before I reveal it in the text below, I owe you a Coke.

Oh, and no spoilers for those who haven’t read it yet please.

This epic drama follows the life of one man as he finds out how connected (the character interconnectivity is on a par with Heroes) he is to a web of deceit and lies that stretches very far back but also comes full circle back to him. It’s hilariously funny as well as being a moving piece on how easy it is for people to come to violence, how quick they are to spring to anger.

We are introduced to a number of glamorous and sexy women, as well as several tough men who are going about their normal lives when the drama kicks off.

And there is a lot of drama. The action is split across several episodes, each of which ramps up the tension to unbelievable climaxes. And no, I’m not referring to the sex that you get to see every once in a while (although sex is related a few of the cliffhangers, I won’t say how) to show how awesome and attractive the main character is.

This main character is a well known star who has achieved some notoriety but hasn’t let that affect his work, which shows as he takes this project completely seriously. I suspect he sees himself as a model to youngsters, which is evidenced in the aspiration factor of this series. For example, he never goes anywhere without his cool suit on.

Bottom line: this is worth watching if you have some free time and could do with a laugh (and most people can). It’s a cautionary tale to show how one mistake can lead to a whole lot of trouble for you and the people you love. By making this, he has effectively said “don’t make these mistakes and be careful how you handle your life. Don’t let it get out of hand.” It’s certainly worth the investment on dvd if you can find it.

Have you guessed what it is yet? Highlight to find out: It was R Kelly’s Hip-Hopera (seriously, that’s the term he uses), Trapped In The Closet. The great thing is that pretty much everything I’ve said in here applies to it when you think about it.

Death By Boredom Lies In Wait For The Doctor And Co…(spoilers)

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

“Nothing ever happens here,” is Rory’s description for where The Doctor and the gang end up this time around. It’s five years after Amy and Rory travelled in the TARDIS and they have settled into the mind-numbingly dull (and fictional) village of Upper Leadworth. Amy is approximately the size of a dwarf star due to pregnancy and Rory has acquired (since I refuse to believe that he grew it) a strange mullet and ponytail combination.

Then the truth emerges that they are flipping between dreams and reality, and they have to decide which is which before the TARDIS crashes into a star…

This episode had a number of different effects on me, one of which was to put me off ever living in a nice and quiet village like that shown in the programme (a desire that I’ve had since Hot Fuzz, funnily enough). I thought I wanted a nice and simple life but that one was as boring as hearing about how cider is made.

Another was that it made me laugh many a time at how the team were working together, with lots of banter while still being serious and working towards a good conclusion. It featured the usual struggles for Amy’s affections between Rory and the Doctor (although in the Doctor’s case it’s more a struggle to get rid of them) and it added to the overall atmosphere and the inconvenience of the whole thing.

Say what you will about this show, but there is something inherently funny when you see who the gang have to face this week and how they treat them. Specifically the old people, I’m not referring to the Dream Lord, who is the main villain of the episode, seeing as he puts them into that situation in the first place.

This illustrates well how the show can treat various real world stereotypes in a fantasy setting. Because the old people are an alien menace, it’s okay to beat them in the face with a large plank of wood. That sounds like an excellent (read: shit) defence for one of these old people beaters you read about in the paper “But your honour, she opened her mouth and some lethal breath came out!”

Doctor Who specialises in fantastic mundaneness, I’d say, and it really shows in this episode.

Like most murder mysteries, it is obvious in hindsight why it turned out the way it did. You can see hints to this effect and I suspect you’ll kick yourself for not getting it sooner.

The latest episode in Moffat’s Doctor Who run was an interesting one, a mystery that the viewer is trying to solve along with the characters and that you’ll have a fun time trying to solve. I think that the answer will surprise you in the end and that this episode is well worth the 45 minutes it takes to watch it. I think this episode is one of the best yet and that it is an instrumental one for character development.

Time To Open Pandora’s Box…

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Being a cutting edge amateur critic, I didn’t watch the highest grossing film of all time when it first came out in the cinema. No, I had to wait until Dad bought it on dvd yesterday. I have to be honest here and say I don’t appreciate what the fuss is about. For all the hype, you’d think James Cameron had personally resurrected Jesus and convinced him to create really pretty graphics for Avatar.

Apparently, this film was amazing in IMAX cinemas and watching it in 3D. If so, then you’d think they would release it in 3D with the silly glasses, wouldn’t you? But they didn’t. What they did was release a dvd that had nothing but the film, subtitles and the menu. Not only is the film 2D (causing it to lose one of its major selling points), it has no featurettes on the making of the film and no director commentaries.

I will not limit my reviewer-hate to the quality of the dvd release, however.

When I watched the film, I couldn’t help but notice how much it all just felt like CGI. I realise that is exactly what it is, but after so much time and hearing people gush about how pretty it looks, it seems like a letdown to me. I was expecting to have my mind blown by the pretty graphics, but I didn’t even notice the difference between the quality of Cameron’s graphics and (for example) those of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy.

The plot revolves the Navi (not that annoying fairy from Legend of Zelda), a race native to the planet Pandora. The antagonists come in the form of an army of douchebag Americans who threaten to tear down the Navi’s beloved forests and landscapes to mine some precious metal (called Unobtanium). A crippled marine goes undercover as one of the Navi to find a way to get them to relocate before America wages another pointless war. Among other things, I noticed a distinct similarity in plot to the PS3 game Haze and even heard the in-game words (specifically, ‘Get Some!’) repeated a few times. Things are complicated when he falls in love with the princess of the tribe, and living as one of them would mean that he could get the use of his legs back.

The morals in this movie are so heavy handed that you will end up as a Looney Tunes-style stain upon your chair. I agree with the messages brought forth in the movie, in that man should be more in touch with nature but after a certain point it becomes grating. It’s such an obvious allegory that it’s pointless to even mention that it’s fusing a message about the pointlessness of war with a message about being in touch with nature.

Good thing I didn’t mention that then.

Visually, there is a lot to see here. There is always something colourful jostling for your attention, and it certainly looks nice. But therein lies the problem. It doesn’t look particularly outstanding, just slightly better than average.

The actual interaction with the Smurf stand-ins was pretty clever to see, merging live action and CGI as it did but it doesn’t stand out as anything revolutionary. I’m not going to spoil anything for you here, but G.I. Cripple and Smurfette have sex. And I don’t know about you, but if I wanted to watch blue people having sex, I would watch Smurfette Does Smurftown1.

Anyone who wants to buy this would be better off waiting for the bulkier re-release and opting for a 3D version if they release one.

1 I hope I’ve just made that up but it’s more than likely that I haven’t.

Doing A Little Irish Gig Over Here…

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

For you, my dear readers, I go above and beyond the call of duty. With that in mind, I went to my first1 gig this week.

First off, I was not as uncomfortable with this new thing as I thought I would be. Makes me think I should try more of this.

The gig took place in a darkened social club and featured the cream of Slough’s local bands2. While I didn’t entirely agree with what they chose to play, I appreciate that the gig wasn’t thrown for my benefit3, and I’ll go as far as to say that the music wasn’t the din that I expected it to be. It was almost agreeable. And I did receive a pleasant surprise when the DJ put on Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart.

The evening was accompanied by the usual bout of up-chucking among drunkards (one of whom is my friend who won’t kill me for mentioning her in here, God willing) and loud music, as can be expected at a gig. There was fighting on the dance floor and crazy sons of bitches running around like kids who haven’t taken their Ritalin.

I believe that gigs are things better done with a group of friends by your side, just like clubbing, socialising and dogging.

The bands ranged from good to bad, one of which possessed a lead singer who looked like Rik Mayall4. I ended up missing the band that I was dragged there to see, due to being square enough to have a temporary curfew imposed for that night (parents had to get up in the morning).

In conclusion, I had a good time. There were good people, good food and relatively okay music. I won’t say good drinks, because I don’t drink alcoholic drinks and the only drink I had was a pathetically small Coca Cola for £1.10. Everything you want from a good gig, really.

1 Well, second, but we’re not counting Busted here.

2 I have absolutely no frame of reference for this.

3 Unlike Live Aid.

4 That’ll tell Thatcher!

Time Is Breaking…As The Cullens Have Travelled Back In Time!

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

This is a given by now, but this review contains spoilers.

As you may know, the title of this week’s Doctor Who is Vampires Of Venice. Not really a subtle title there, but mercifully they don’t run into Cullen and the Gang (not least because it’d be incredibly anachronistic)1. Or so you’d think…turns out they’re not actually vampires at all. They are space vampire fish (ye gods, I never thought I’d say that). That’s Doctor Who for you though, always going beyond the mundane2 and subverting your expectations.

This episode introduces Amy’s beloved (no, not the Doctor) as a companion, where he turns out to have a few moral speeches to serve the Doctor with. Reminds me a bit of Season Two, where they were foreshadowing that someone would have to pay for the Doctor’s actions sooner or later. Got two words for you, Rory:  Time. Machine.

It was refreshing to have a male companion in the TARDIS again, because as a perverted individual, I’m always anticipating that the Doctor and Hot Totty #2 will traumatise millions of children by getting it on within the TARDIS. Having a male companion dissipates the sexual tension. Or increases it, I’m not sure with.

I found the bit at the beginning highly amusing, because of all the ways for Rory to find that his fiancée tried to kiss a Time Lord, said Time Lord telling him was certainly not expected. The tension between the Doctor and Rory was done very well and it was certainly believable. Same again with Amy and Rory.

The action scenes were fairly exciting, even if it was quite obviously set up what was coming and the best bits were spoiled by last week’s trailer. There were some funny moments in the action as well, which is always worth seeing.

Now, onto the Cullen-lites themselves…they’re space vampire fish. That’s all you need to know really.

No, seriously. Doctor Who has difficulty doing monsters of myth and I have no idea why.

In the 44 years of televised Doctor Who, we have had six ‘vampire stories’ and maybe one or two legitimate vampires. A brief rundown of encounters follows: (legitimacy means honest-to-God Hammer Horror3, Bram Stoker style vampires)

1) Dracula kills some Daleks in the First Doctor serial, The Chase…he’s a funfair robot. Non-legitimate.

2) Space Vampire called Axos tries to pull a Galactus during the Third Doctor’s tenure. Non-legitimate.

3) Giant Vampires from Space try and kill the Doctor (or something). King Vampire receives the Ming the Merciless treatment. Space dweller indicates non-legitimacy.

4) Sea dwelling vampiric creatures which can be killed by a stake to the heart and are averse to symbols of belief. So, in effect, they are space fish (like this week’s episode). Similar enough to warrant legitimacy due to the stakes and belief things.

5) A space vampire, called a Plasmavore, which sucks blood to survive. Similar in that respect, no other. Non legitimate.

6) This week’s creations were set up to be a lot more menacing than they actually were. Rather bizarrely, they are less legitimate than number four, which is almost the same concept. Non legitimate

In summary, this episode has a lot in common with previous Who tales, and it’s quite weird that they still haven’t done a confrontation with a Hammer Horror style vampire or something. Good episode though, certainly one to watch.

1I’m worried about the anachronistic possibilities should the Cullens appear in Doctor Who? Good lord, I need to sort out my priorities.

2Because vampires are so mundane.

31930’s production house which churned out horror movies such as Dracula and The Mummy.