Friday, 17 October 2014

I fought in Vietnam so you two could speak English

I promise I'm not really taking a whole week to finish a single page, even if it does have 16 panels on it - I just don't screengrab stuff that I do for other people and boot up stuff I tinker with in spare minutes to convince you I'm actually working away and aren't a hugely lazy get.  This does not stop my employers putting pictures on their Facebook, all the same, and said tinkering project seems to be nearing a point where it's finished, too, so God help me I might have to actually self-publish something again.  Is there a market for cavemen comics?  Here's hoping.

Blood and Chrome I enjoyed a great deal more than the series that originated it, as while I appreciated Battlestar Galactica's high production values, its pretentiousness seemed an ill fit with an embarrassing reliance on tropes like sex robots, a sub-Terminator backstory and "they look like us" plot dynamics that stopped being interesting somewhere around 1960 and didn't get fresh again just because characters didn't make jokes onscreen.  The use of made-up swearwords was also deeply, deeply irritating, as for all its po-faced space-politics, the overuse of the word "frac" as an analogue for "fuck" reduced dialogue to something on the level of twats in elf costumes shouting "SMEGHEAD" at each other in public and unable to grasp what they sound like.
This episodic mini-movie is pretty entertaining, though - while it still has the annoying made-up swears that only just sound acceptable in the 1978 original on account of it being a big load of cheesy shit, Blood and Chrome at least drops the sex robot nonsense and returns to its roots as a pulp romp, with some fantastic production work realising an ice planet, establishing shots that look like they jumped off a 1970s sci-fi paperback, and at least one great action setpiece in the form of a dogfight in and around the wreckage of a starship, no matter how hard the laughably overactive cinema verite camerawork tries to ruin the action scenes.  Some of the sets look a bit dodgy, but otherwise it's an eventful and undemanding 90 minutes.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

If people want to take off their clothes and chase one another, it certainly wouldn't hurt morale around here

Just like I watch NCIS: New Orleans because it stars Scott Bakula, I watch NCIS: Los Angeles because it stars Chris O'Donnell - yes, I love Batman and Robin that much - though I also like that the show can fall back upon LL Cool J's sellout status as a prominent black Republican who stars in a notoriously right-wing tv show and espouses the joys that wealth and privilege bring him should it ever run out of unfunny dialogue, intrusive background music that the makers of a Tom and Jerry short would consider too much, or ways to waste Linda Hunt and Miguel Ferrer's time with shit that is beneath them to attract viewers.  I don't know why I am so down on it, as it's really just a poor reflection on myself personally that I still watch it despite knowing what trash it is, but here we are.

Escape From Los Angeles is very entertaining, but the obvious model work that featured in the prequel had an organic charm that is sadly lacking in the similarly-obvious primitive CGI that covers the screen of Snake Pliskin's second cinematic outing even if the rest of the film is solid, especially Snake's expanded range of grunts, one-liners, and facial expressions.  I was hooting with laughter at the surf chase and basketball combat scenes, and while the "satire" of much of the film is unsubtle, it feels like a nice throwback to the punk aesthetic of the era of the original Escape From New York (which I watched yesterday), should you be willing to indulge the film and not dismiss it on its poor reputation.  Of course, I was similarly-inclined to indulge Ghosts Of Mars' bonkers b-movie approach and enjoyed that despite its reputation, so what do I know?  Some of it - like the hang-glider assault and fisticuffs with the main villain in the final stretch - seem less John Carpenter-ish than usual, suggesting he was going a bit more mainstream like he did with Big Trouble In Little China, and it's a shame that he didn't succeed in making more mainstream action movies aimed at a younger audience, because this kind of daffy high concept, over-the-top action film full of unsubtle digs at American excess wouldn't be unwelcome in cinemas right now when superheroes are joyless and sombre murderers, and Star Trek is populated with bad writing and a cast of obnoxious pricks.
It's not brain surgery - neither was the original - but it's good fun and makes a point or two about its originating culture.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

You ain't over it 'till you over it

Madame Secretary is basically terrible, but if you watch it on a PS3, you can set the playback speed to "1.5" so you get through it quicker while still being able to understand dialogue.
There are lots of "tough ladies in a male environment" tv shows that are really good at what they do, but this isn't one of them,  though I continue watching because it occasionally makes me laugh when the lead character shows how tough she is by cradling a crying child or having conversations about absent men.  Were I more convinced that my online image as a recalcitrant gobshite throwback was known to be a facade crafted for the purpose of entertaining you, I would also fashion a sexist joke around this point about how the character still knows her place in the kitchen or something like that, to further underline how much this show is not about a strong female character who can exist outside stereotypical feminine idioms of the televisual medium, but I'm sadly not that secure, and also every episode I've seen thus far contains a scene where the character comes home from doing man-politics and immediately seeks the comfort of her kitchen.  It's not a motif I consider to be a good idea.
There's also some obvious padding going on, too, like the lead character getting a grown-ass daughter out of nowhere that even the characters in the fiction can't believe is something they are going to do now, asking why this grown-ass daughter was hidden from them only to be told that actually she "just wasn't mentioned, I don't know" and then she comes home and the parents are like "shit, there is literally no room for you, we'll have to clear a couch" which is all very meta as then the character drops out of college because the writers haven't decided what they're going to do with her, they only know that they were told to get a teenage/early 20s female in there somewhere.  This show is a bit of a mess, but possibly that's why I'm still watching.

NCIS New Orleans is unambiguously bad tv, but it performs a metatextual commentary upon the city in which it is set by not only having only a single black character in the main cast despite being a show that is set in New Orleans in the year 2014, but also banishing that character to the background despite her being played by the charismatic CCH Pounder.   This is, of course, par for the Big Easy, previously an island of sanity in the bible belt, NCIS:NO is an inadvertent paradigm of how white America has stolen the city and populated its councils and government with white faces - hell, it doesn't even try to disguise the fact that its three main characters are white, one of them is even a Texan.  This might sound like I'm hatin' but I'm really not as this is no worse than the other NCIS shows (although fair play this makes it pretty bad) and it really does provide an invaluable insight to right-wing American culture that a reactionary, conservative franchise like NCIS now feels at home there.
But it stars Scott Bakula, and fuck's sake, internet, I'm not made of stone.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Junkies arguing about mundane things is one of my favorite things about New York

Forever is basically Castle if the character of Castle from Castle was also the character The Highlander from The Highlander, and is about a guy who keeps dying and coming back to life, and the first time this happened is when he was transporting slaves hundreds of years ago, and no, that moral minefield is never mentioned again beyond this scene.  He dies and comes back to life and assumes that this incident was somehow the cause of his immortality rather than simply the first instance of his resurrection, but don't look too hard at this kind of reasoning because the show is rife with nonsensical and often contradictory deduction, like that bit where the doctor deduces that someone has tried to make a murder look like an overdose of heroin when he sees that the heroin has "pooled in the muscle" because it was injected postmortem and thus didn't enter the victim's bloodstream on account of his not having a bloodstream by this point, and then less than two minutes later, the doctor instructs his aide to catch a rat that chewed on the victim's face in order to obtain a sample of the heroin that wasn't in the man's system.  In a previous episode, a guy has his briefcase stolen by a mugger who runs off when the guy dies of a heart attack.  Later, the doctor opens the briefcase that was brought in with the older man's body to see what's in it, and don't even get me started on the heavy use of coincidence to bridge story elements, the biscuit possibly being taken by characters simply running into escaping suspects on the notoriously deserted NYC subway system.
Forever is not a good show if your attention span is 80 seconds or more, which is probably why they front-load each episode with pictures of the lead male with his shirt off instead of a blank screen with the words "ELEMENTARY IS ON A BREAK SO PLEASE WATCH THIS WHILE YOU WAIT FOR THE NEW SEASON" emblazoned across the tv, and the way they haven't made a single reference to Elementary or Castle a full five episodes in makes me think the people making Forever are being a bit precious about their piggybacking on the success of other, better NYC-based murder-mystery shows, because the goofy and light-hearted atmosphere of proceedings is screaming out for some conspicuously-absent lampshade-hanging or at least a bit of genre-awareness.
Forever is televisual landfill, a placeholder until you find something else to watch in its stead and the way it's written and the way it shirt-offs its lead at the drop of a hat (without ever asking why he isn't on a sex offender's registry for streaking public places every week) suggest that those making it at least know that much and have built their product accordingly.  It is not good, but it is amusing and passes the time, and I suppose that's the best they were hoping for even if we might have been holding out for something better with such a romantic high-concept premise at the heart of what is essentially an identikit mystery show you've seen many times before even in the current televisual season.  There's plenty of other shows coming up with an identical setting, too - iZombie is likely the one that springs immediately to mind as it's going for the teen viewership for some reason, but I'm not sure who Forever is aimed at.  I suppose that's just another one of life's mysteries.

Monday, 13 October 2014

I'm done with American chicks, man, they're all boring and they've all told each other about me online

Thank God that writing is such a lazy and unimaginative profession - it means I don't even have to write individual reviews for shows and movies anymore, I just have to write one review and then group the relevant shows together with it.
For instance: "I think it's awesome that the lead character is an asshole because it makes you want to emotionally invest in their predicament and root for their success."
See?  Now I don't have to write individual reviews for shows like Selfie, Scorpion and Blackish, although if I was a professional type writer-ing person of things, I would probably have to pad the different reviews for each with relevant specifics even though I was essentially saying the exact same thing about them overall, which doesn't seem at all fair when people specifically get into writing to avoid work, but I'd likely mention the "know your place" message of Blackish that is totally not racism because a black guy is doing it, and we know he's only a total eedjit so it's even more okay even if the keen observer will note that the actual notions of racial segregation that he espouses are not ridiculed but taken as a given, it's still okay because it's a black guy doing it, and if you try to point it out that actually makes you the racist, or possibly - even worse - a Social Justice Warrior who values fairness and equality, and no-one wants to be one of those.
With Selfie, I would probably point out that it is yet another example of a female-led tv show that doesn't seem to like women very much even while profiting from displaying them prominently as sexual objects, but hey, Bitten is getting a second season so what the Hell.  Do your thing, Selfie, just stay the fuck away from my tv.
Scorpion is basically Mind Games, only dumber.  Well done Hollywood.
Personally, I expected something a bit more intelligent from a show produced by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci etc,etc, but it's the usual nerds-act-like-jocks to solve problems involving driving cars very fast and/or defusing bombs bullshit, and I imagine if you are 12 this show is pretty great, but there are far too many shows right now that pursue an aggressive anti-intellectual agenda while using big words to disguise this agenda, and I'm getting along just fine with Hawaii Five-0 so I'm not sure how many other dumb-as-fuck things I need going on at the same time on my tv.

Friday, 10 October 2014

I just smoked a big fattie and the Cartoon Network's entire lineup makes sense to me again

I did like the humorously meta "we knew this day would come" line delivered by Chakotay when faced with the prospect of Borg storylines at the introduction of season 4 of Star Trek: Voyager, but it's hardly the only metacommentary to be found around this time, especially in the episode "Worst Case Scenario", when characters argue about the internal logic of stories and the importance of consistent characterisation, which is just hilarious in the context of an episode of Voyager, doubly so knowing what's coming in the next couple of seasons of the show when it would often become lcd trash in pursuit of viewers, losing the warm and emotionally mature character of Kes in favor of something more friendly to the halfturbating fanboys that were presumed to be the only people watching televised sci-fi at the time.
The much-vaunted Year Of Hell two-parter is a lot flabbier than I remember, and doesn't line up with the show's canon, which wouldn't normally be much of a problem except it's a storyline that's a year-in-the-making thanks to an unusual and welcome amount of inter-episode continuity for a Trek Show not called Deep Space Nine, specifically a (pretty decent) time-traveling Kes adventure back in season 3, and on top of that, Chakotay removed from Voyager  to the midst of the enemy timeship and trying to solve a problem with science sounds more like a Janeway resolution to conflict, Paris using engineering trickery to help him sounds more like a Torres story, and we've found out from the earlier time-travel episode that it's Janeway and Torres who are absent from Voyager during this storyline, so there's the suspicion that rewrites went a lot further than the obvious substitution of Seven of Nine for the departed Kes that we can discern from such scenes as the "chroniton torpedo" bit where it's supposed to be Kes, not Seven, that has a close encounter with a time-weapon (the earlier time-travel episode cannot have happened without this encounter occurring).
Continuity quibbles aside - in time-travel stories all questions about why story specifics are bullshit can be hand-waved as being the result of "timey-wimey stuff" - the average episode is - no pun intended - top-heavy with Seven Of Nine appearances after her introduction.  It's not that Jeri Ryan is awful as an actress, as she clearly has charisma enough to sell the idea she's an imposing presence rather than someone who wandered in from an underwear photo shoot next door (a common problem where I live), but the earliest scenes on Voyager with the Seven of Nine character when the actor is trying to do something onscreen have considerably more depth and nuance than later, when ironically the character is supposed to have more depth and nuance.  In the beginning, the writers, the actor, and the show are all clearly trying to do something and find their feet with a new dynamic created by the emotional vacuum of the departure of series regular Jennifer Lien's elfin androgene Kes, but this experimental period quickly comes to an end and instead the last character through the door dominates the show from this point onwards.
While watching CSI MIami in its entirety - an endeavor which I admit stalled around season 3 - the lead performance of David Caruso clearly evolved in response to what his character was given to do, requiring emotional depth only in the opening episodes when he was given sad children to riff with, but Caruso quickly nails down the minimal requirements of his role and then refines them to create a consistent center around which the rest of the show could revolve and I would be remiss if I did not mention this as a possible rationale for Jeri Ryan's eventually-minimal and cold performance, though it does rather hinge on the idea of this being Star Trek: The Seven Of Nine Show rather than the fourth season of an ensemble piece that already had at least one Mary Sue (Janeway) and one egotistical socially-awkward robot type (the Doctor) in the core cast.  It makes no sense that so much of the episodes would be devoted to her, with episodes centering upon other characters moving along nicely and then suddenly someone says they have a problem that usually they could solve on their own while standing behind their space-desk, but for some reason from this point onwards they just look sideways at whoever they're talking to and say "you know who might be able to help me with this?"  There's often some fumbling attempts to hide this shoehorning by the lines being something like "hey, you know we could ask Seven of Nine to take a look at this" or some other supposedly offhand way of making it look like an afterthought on the part of the character rather than a directive from the producers to involve her somehow in stories where she has no place, almost like they're aware of the shadow cast over proceedings by the character and want to downplay it.  If I didn't know any better, I'd call it embarrassment.
To Voyager's credit, in fetishising 7, they don't actually have an episode that revolves around a visit to a mudwrestling planet, but on more than one occasion IT IS A VERY CLOSE THING, and yes I am looking at you, episode starring the Rock...

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Curiosity is my sweet tooth. Knowledge is my candy.

My rewatch of Star Trek: Voyager rattled along nicely, though it became apparent that the problems of the show are not something we can retroactively lay at the feet of certain producers just because they went on to make Star Trek: Enterprise, but because there is clearly a struggle between two different Trek universes going on behind the scenes and it was clear that the producer who eventually got kicked off the show they had created (Jeri Taylor) was the one pushing for expanding Trek beyond the rut it had been dug into with later TNG seasons, with episodes like The Thaw and Mortal Coil attempting new approaches to stale material in a way that would later become the norm for sci-fi in shows like the remade Battlestar Galactica, while Coda (written by Taylor) even goes so far outside the Trek wheelhouse as to establish that Captain Janeway's unseen arch-nemesis is the actual effing Grim Reaper, who follows her around eating the souls of those who die in her wake and who is 100 percent for-reals-canon waiting for her like a slavering wolf at the end of her days.
There was hope that maybe I'd misremembered a lot of the show's problems or at least exaggerated them because it wasn't Shakespeare, but nope - what potential there was - and there's a lot of it in the beginning - is not so much eroded over time as it is hammered from very early in proceedings into a more banal shape than it should be, such as the showdown between a 16 wheel truck and a spaceship piloted by a time-traveling archeologist - who's just escaped a compound of gun-toting survivalists under armed siege by the FBI - that involves a laser battle that ends with people jumping away from explosions and this sequence of events is somehow one of the most boring and unexciting things you will ever lay eyes upon.  You can still see the cracks where brilliance tries and fails to shine through the brick wall of middle-of-the-road mediocrity that defined the show - Nemesis, Living Witness - but by and large the struggle to make this a classic-style Trek show about people in extraordinary circumstances rising to present the best in themselves rather than the worst is instead about a bunch of unexceptionally exceptional individuals - all equally flawless and without character - encountering minor inconveniences on their drive home.
And then Seven of Nine's big stupid boobs arrive and it somehow manages to go even more to shit.

(TBC)