Thursday, 29 September 2011
Watching: Family Guy in the gym, but I wasn't really paying attention to it so I missed the punchlines, apart from the one that was basically "look, a black person." That's narrowing it down for you, I imagine.
Terra Nova - one season, ends on a cliffhanger. May as well call that right now.
The latest from technobabble enthusiast Brannon "I fixed Trek, fixed it like a kipper" Braga, Terra Nova is basically a US take on 2000ad's Flesh, with time-travelers from Earth's poisoned future seeking refuge in its past. It's not great sci-fi because it quickly abandons the more interesting concepts and setting for fit people in a lush setting being very middle class and this did not work out well for the BBC with Outcasts - a television series so derivative and dumb that its season cliffhanger was the arrival of Thunderbird 2 - and works even less for American television because it already has all of the components seen here in various places already and I don't just mean in reruns of Earth 2 or aforementioned Outcasts, Dinotopia, etc, but in stuff like Lost, or any number of other tv shows full of pretty young people moping about not getting on well with daddy, which is not euphemism on my part but literally the second half of the episode. While this also marks the second time in the last couple of months I've seen a sci-fi slant on the Jew Hunter from Inglorious Basterds, Terra Nova's problem is less being derivative and more being predictable. There is nothing in the plot you don't see coming and the FX aren't quite up to scratch, but with the obligatory pilot out of the way, it might get better. Well... it can scarcely get that much worse, anyway.
Catching up with Doctor Who via the BBC iPlayer, I can see why it's fallen from favor in recent months: it's become less trashy.
I do not mean 'trashy' in any mean or derogatory sense, I simply suggest this as an appropriate label for something devoid of ambition and constructed merely to be consumed. I like trash. Trash makes up the vast majority of our entertainment and its existence and popularity allows our favorite forms of entertainment to continue because if people won't go see a piece of trash like Scary Movie when it's made just for them, what's the point of taking a chance on a new Scorcese or Mamet flick? Actually, that's misleading on my part - I don't accept that trash is something we must simply endure for the sake of art because I love trash and pretending I can be a snob the day after lamenting the passing of Drop Dead Diva would be a fool's errand. The highlight of my viewing week is probably Hawaii Five-0 and sitting here and writing as such I cannot summon to mind a single virtue in its favor beyond that I like it, but luckily that is all it needs. *
Anyway, trash... the RTD era of Doctor Who was trash, RTD said as much himself when he said that a mere 10 percent of the audience were tuning in every week and the rest were casual viewers and he was unashamed that he was making the telly equivalent of tomorrow's fishwrappers and more power to him, he seems to have done well by it and so has UK sci-fi television. The current era of Who, however, has decided to reward those who watch each week. Surprisingly, people don't seem to like this turn of events where they're assumed to have attention spans and are asked to employ them and have turned on the show like they've actually been personally affronted by basic storytelling practice.
I'm loving it so far, myself. For some reason I seem to have taken a time to say so, but that's pretty much it.
*Actually, tell a lie, it's devoid of misanthropy in a way it's peers like NCIS and Law And Order: Los Angeles are not.
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Oh colouring with a 'u', even though I don't know what the hell I'm doing you never fail to calm me down after a hard day of committed failure.
Watched the season finale for Drop Dead Diva and thoroughly enjoyed it. During this season I did have qualms about the moral tone of the episode where a student claims to have been raped and the denouement is not that her lawyer proves where her college is criminally liable for covering up evidence of this but when the student is awarded a large sum of money for her pain, but that aside it was the kind of stuff I like to watch in the gym, like Outsourced, which I liked and thus was probably doomed to cancellation for that reason alone. I guess that means Diva is probably cancelled, too.
Tuesday, 27 September 2011
I am flummoxed by the new Charlie's Angels show. A quick perusal of my post history will reveal that I am not averse to trash television, but I think this one is going about 3 things all wrong:
1 - the characters suck. This kind of ephemeral television doesn't actually require much from its characters beyond that they deliver their soundbites in good time and aren't actively unlikeable - unless they are actually meant to be unlikeable bitches or jerks But With A Heart Of Gold so their redemption is something in which the viewer can invest - but CA has dirty cops and rich thieves as its protagonists and that's a tough starting point before you get to the only reason that they're 'good' now is because they are pretty by the standards of multi-ethnic televisual casting. Seriously - that's all you get. While I am inclined to not get het up about there being so many remakes and reboots as other people might, this is because I accept that rebooting or remaking an old show has certain advantages like brand recognition, but right away these aren't new takes on characters from the tv show or movies, they're new characters created for the show, so the branding is eroded almost immediately. Bosley is also now a buff hacker and pussy hound - more erosion. Eventually you have something that doesn't resemble what it's supposed to be remaking and while this might work with something like the third season of BattleStar Galactica where it all became about how women ruin everything even if they aren't killer sex robots, with the very first episode of a new series this is not a route you want to explore, you want your audience onside right away and you want them rooting for the main cast rather than hoping there's three car bombs in the immediate future and that Bosley is impaled by shrapnel from one of them. I found myself in the latter camp about three minutes in.
These people are dicks and I hate them - and that's coming from someone who watches CSI.
2 - Charlie's Angels assumes a male paradigm for 'toughness' as how you measure a woman's 'toughness', but this kind of tit-for-tat reasoning isn't a good idea because last I checked no dude has ever shit out a baby. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against kick-ass women as I lived and breathed Cynthia Rothrock and Michelle Khan movies in my mis-spent youth (which also gave me an appreciation of well-filmed action scenes, which Charlie's Angels does not have), but those were dedicated kung-fu films and the gender of their protagonist was irrelevant because men (or boys) were the primary audience, while Charlie's Angels is aimed at a wider audience, yet does nothing to show that its female characters have traits that women admire in the same way we men admire their ability to kick someone in the head or murder a child molester, such as ambition or a talent for nonviolent conflict resolution because these are pussy traits and real tuff grrls kick arse. GRRR. Then they get saved by Bosley (a computer programmer) because they can't take one random dude in a straight fight even though as we have already seen quite clearly this female character is a decorated police officer. The approach is wrong-headed in theory, but also uncommitted in practice. These women have no drive, no goals, no longer game, they pretty much just do what they're told, and the only one who goes against this policy, the entire pilot is dedicated to showing how she is wrong and must ultimately tow the line. These women are weak.
3 - it is made by the guys who made Smallville. For some reason, I just find this hilarious.
Thursday, 22 September 2011
I'm not a very good hypochondriac, it must be said. I tend to Google symptoms very easily and then dismiss them once I read a few web pages about what those symptoms might likely be rather than fretting over wost case scenarios, so the recent chest pains I put down to the excessive grumbling from my stomach and a spot of heartburn, but lo - apparently my cholesterol is through the roof. I'm losing weight, have a diet consisting of fruit, Wheetabix and soup, but... what? Cholesterol? Are you shitting me? How does that happen?
Then I remember how much I drink. Feh.
Watching: Damages, a pretty good legal drama with the always-watchable Glenn Close in fine form as manipulative litigator Patty Hewes. Don't know how this one slipped by me as there's been four years of it and it's cracking stuff if this first season is anything to go by even if the initial 'twists' in the early episodes are a bit signposted, though it soon gets past trying to be that kind of show and settles into being a straightforward drama with some strong characters to the point that when it tried to be all twisty-turny near the end with a gay reveal for one of the characters I just went "tch."
Also starring Damages' Ted Danson is CSI, which this season replaces Morpheus with Sam Malone and for the life of me I couldn't stop finding it utterly hilarious to behold. They seem to be trying to throw some dramatic wrangling between characters into the mix this time and it's largely unconvincing because SAM FLIPPIN' MALONE FROM CHEERS is right there in all these scenes. I did not know they'd ditched Larry Fishburne, though I guess his character had really gone as far as he needed to, but yeah, this was a fun season opener, if for the wrong reasons.
Hawaii Five-0 returns and it's one really fucking dumb show. I love it.
I watched my first ever episode of Two and a Half Men after it returned from the sacking of its main draw out of curiosity to see how producer/writer Chuck Lorre manages to be the better man and wins that race to the moral high ground with violent drug addict and wife beater Charlie Sheen - but daaaaamn if that is some spectacular snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory on Lorre's part with some mean-spirited and unfunny swipes at Sheen's being sacked from the show after a public fallout with Lorre that in the words Seth McFarlane (a man not unfamiliar with mean-spirited and unfunny comedy) "tells you all you need to know about Hollywood - you can abuse drugs, you can abuse your spouse, you can trash hotel rooms, you can solicit prostitutes, but don't you ever, ever, call a Jewish guy by his actual Jewish name." Seriously, how do you come second in a competition with Charlie Sheen to not look like a dick? The guy's lost his kids, beaten his wives and girlfriends, drove cars off his face, assaulted hookers, and yet all I can think is "does this show always suck this much?"
Getting near to the halfway mark for the last chapter on the book and all I can think is that it would be great to be faster. And better, obviously.
Apart from that, it's just great to (attempt to) get back into some sort of regular routine after one of the stomach bugs doing the rounds mugged me for a few days. Cramps, wind, weak as a kitten - the only consolation is that somehow I managed to lose 12-odd pounds, though I put this down to my typical luck seeing as one of my New Year's Resolution was to gain weight. This New Year's, I am absolutely making a resolution to get less sex and lose money.
Thursday, 15 September 2011
Watching: Strike Back, which was a pleasantly thick-headed series once, before they went and revamped it as a juvenile misogynist fantasy. Love the Irish accents, though!
Star Trek - because somehow I have never seen the entirety of Spock's Brain, widely regarded as one of the worst episodes of sci-fi television ever made and yet clearly nothing of the sort.
Don't get me wrong, it is not good, but then again it's not that episode of Voyager where Tom Paris drives his space car really fast and then turns into a manatee, either - which is literally what happens in the episode, prompting the actor who played Paris to go on record as saying "When I first read that script, I couldn't believe they were going to shoot it." and this was coming from a guy who starred in the Masters of the Universe movie and regrets nothing. Nor is it that episode of Deep Space Nine where they do the traditional (and slightly creepy) sci-fi story about a young female character being artificially aged into a buxon type, and instead of thinking up a technobabble reason for such a thing to happen the writers just have her fall into a magic tree. Nor is it that episode of Flash Gordon where... well, it's not an episode of Flash Gordon. Anyhoo, I enjoyed it, especially the remote controlled Spock and the kinky caveman "they bring pain... AND DELIGHT."
Watching: Wild Boys, an Aussie western series about outlaws on the run from a corrupt copper. Pretty good season opener, hopefully it'll keep the momentum going, but the setting is intriguing if nothing else.
Homeland, which is fixing to be the new 24 by the looks of things. A bit predictable and the sex scenes are almost laughably unpretentious in their gratuitousness, but still watchable stuff about a CIA agent keeping her mental problems under wraps from her bosses while trying to prove her theory that a recently rescued POW was turned by Al Qaeda super-brainwashing.
Death Valley is the latest MTV reality tv show, following the cops of the small town of Valley CA as they go about their night shift one year after a sudden influx of zombies, werewolves and vampires. The cast don't really have the chemistry to make the material work and some of it is painfully unfunny, but I think I'm on the record as saying that I will watch anything with werewolves in it, so it might be good for the briefer visits to the gym.
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Watching: my way through the CSI franchise from day one and got as far as CSI Miami season two and CSI season four, and once I finish the former I have CSI New York to get stuck into as well. They're a reliable old workhorse of adolescent cynicism masquerading as mature storytelling for the most part, but it's around this point in the franchise that they started to become overt parodies of themselves without actually lapsing into self-awareness, and the legacy is felt to this day in tv cop shows such as
Against The Wall, which is largely dreadful, but did a remarkable pull back and reveal at the end of the latest episode when the guy who is clearly who you'd pick as the true criminal going by standard tv form is revealed to be just a decent guy, making an open mockery of the CSI legacy of tv shows whose big 'reveal' is that the victim is the real guilty party and no-one is innocent and the world is cruel and wah-wah-wah.
Cynical in a different way is Combat Hospital, which is admittedly still funnier than the final season of MASH, but also a thick-headed and clunky series that doesn't try harder because it knows its audience and we just aren't worth that effort. It's a near-criminal waste of the always watchable Elias Koteas, who can make even the worst of his dialogue sound good, but with this show I suppose he gets plenty of practice.
Another character actor largely ignored but always reliable is Miguel Ferrer, utterly wasted in The Protector, a vehicle for the bafflingly successful Ally Walker, here cast as an unfunny Mary-Sue smartass cop doing cop show stuff and generally making people want to punch her in the face, which crucially they do not do. It's not great.
Royal Pains I was enjoying while it had the Fonz in it, but now it doesn't, so I don't so much. The Fonz' last appearance had Ed Asner as his dad, so there was that, but otherwise the show remains oddly fixated on super-competent and super-dull Hank as he saves the day a lot with fast music playing over his MacGuyvered medical exploits and never once does he display a hint of character. I can see menopausal single women liking this show, as hank is not very exciting and I can see them wanting to have someone as un-threatening as he is as their partner/son/whatever it is menopausal single women want in their lives apart from chocolate and more open affection from their cats.
Drop Dead Diva I am still watching, as for some reason it's my preferred hour-long show for when I'm in the gym and not in the mood for something as short as cartoons. I keep thinking they'll pull some of the mystical stuff back out of the hat and the main character will have to defend someone in a supernatural court where Satan/God is the plaintiff, like maybe Satan will call foul on all the disproportionate good she's done as a lawyer since returning from the dead, but if it doesn't and it just spins its wheels with the love triangle stuff I'm probably okay with that, too. Guess I should just book me my vagina attachment surgery now.
Can't recall what I was doing when 911 happened as I didn't think it was that big a deal at the time, but Dennis Leary obviously disagrees as Rescue Me - the closest thing he's had to a tv show that hasn't been cancelled - has been cancelled with a finale timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of 911, and by 'timed to coincide', I mean they stopped showing the last season halfway through and waited a year to cash in on the timing. Eh, it was reliable telly, I guess, if you can tolerate the deification of the main character by the rest of the cast, so noticeable in the last couple of seasons that it prompted my brother to coin the term "Leary Sue". Not great, but it had the occasional moment.
Monday, 12 September 2011
Watching: The Glades, which seems to depart from the traditional 'dick cop with a heart of gold' show by having actual clues to the weekly mystery of who dun what (usually a murder) sprinkled across the episode. Not a great cop show, but the mystery element is occasionally well done.
Suits - legal drama about professional exam cheat turned drug dealer Mike Ross, who ducks into a job interview with a suitcase full of Columbia's Finest to avoid cops and ends up so impressing smug super-lawyer Harvey Spector with his tale that he promptly gets hired at one of the country's top law firms, where he does the usual love triangle stuff while jumping through hoops to keep his past a secret from his colleagues. Some nice dialogue throwbacks to 1980s movies alongside the usual stare-offs make for an entertaining forty minutes.
Rookie Blue - which I watch because I like utter trash as much as the next man.
Thursday, 8 September 2011
Wednesday, 7 September 2011
Okay proportion - you don't like me and I clearly don't like you, but let's just get these last couple dozen pages in the bag and we'll go our separate ways, okay? I'll go learn to draw in an anime style or something, something cartoony and not even vaguely acquainted with human anatomy and go chase me a job on a Marvel teen book, and you and perspective and tone can go fuck yourselves cause we ain't gettin' along, son.
I'm done with Bond movies so now I have to move onto some other marathon re-watch and the obvious candidate is Godzilla movies, though that'll take time to arrange given the rarity of some of those, so it looks like I'll be doing a Star Wars marathon of the six SW flicks, the two Ewoks outings, the CGI Clone Wars and the Samurai Jack dude's original CW movie/series in the meantime, and oddly what I'm looking forward to most is the Ewok movies. Funny how life goes.
Tuesday, 6 September 2011
Much as I enjoyed Casino Royale, it's not the reinvention of the Bond franchise many have claimed as much as it is an extension of concepts and ideas already present in the series - particularly Timothy Dalton's short-lived run in the role - but then recycling is nothing new to the Bond movies anyway. I'd argue that 24 is a greater influence on this one than the more obvious Jason Bourne movies, but apart from that I have few actual complaints. They move the goalposts whenever a new actor takes the role and with Craig the intention seems to be to make Bond less verbose and more of a focused hooligan character in keeping with Craig's looks - not saying he's ugly or owt, but he's no oil painting - although there's the odd moment where Bond does come across as more of the old-school character, particularly in the exchanges with Eva Green's Vesper.
I also enjoyed Quantum of Solace a great deal more than I expected given it once again rakes over the coals of the Bond Seeks Revenge plot, but its biggest problems are more the confusing mess several of the action sequences are reduced to, though maybe I'm alone in thinking that when you're watching an action movie the action sequences should be what you look forward to rather than something you endure until the plot kicks back in again. Whatever the case, the car chase at the start, the end of the free-running chase where Bond scraps with another agent in a greenhouse (or whatever it was), and intermittent sections of the plane attack and boating chases are just visual noise rather than visual narratives and they really got my goat. Luckily the story is pretty good, with Olga Whatserface being one of the better Bond girls by dint of having something going on apart from looking grumpy and playing hard to get until the end of the second act.
Bloodstone I played out of a sense that videogame stories have come a long way and it'd be worth a look to see some more of Danial Craig's take, but the script was shockingly poor and I'm more or less certain that it was held over from whoever was making the Pierce Brosnan games, as stuff like M's open adulation of Bond is out of place in the Craig era, as is the groan-inducing addition of Joss Stone as a supercriminal mastermind, which is hard to swallow for anyone who's ever heard her give an interview, though my biggest gripe would be that the story revolves around a secret organisation trying to fund the development of weaponized Anthrax as I'm pretty sure that they have that already. Away from the awful script, the gameplay is pretty linear and unimaginative third-person stuff where you can at least gleefully replicate the feeling of being Craig's Saxon murder machine by sprinting around the levels and hammering the square button to instant-kill anyone in your path, but the driving sections... man, the driving sections, they are just horrendous like you wouldn't believe. The physics alone are appalling, but it's liike the makers never played another racing game in their lives - maybe I've been spoiled by the fantastic Split/Second's bizarre approach to videogame racers in that it dispences with the idea of realism in favor of being enjoyable to play, but Bloodstone's racing levels are the very definition of awful, and in one particular level you can't tell the difference between ice (which you can drive on) and water (which kills you instantly), reducing something which should be entertaining to a confusing and unrewarding barrage of noise and visual chaff that instills only feelings of frustration and confusion - it's basically like playing the action scenes from Quantum of Solace. A good indicator of what a mess it is would probably be the baffling name, as the story has nothing to do with conflict diamonds or precious stones of any sort, making me think the high visibility of diamonds in the opening credits and the title are a throwback to an earlier script or game draft - again, hinting that it's a holdover from a different Bond project whose space-age levels are ill-fitting with the current tone of the films.
It's a game I played through in less than four hours, but I only paid a fiver for it so I don't feel I've been cheated terribly, though someone paid near fifty quid for this once upon a time and that can't be right.