Friday 30 October 2015

Seems like a nice guy apart from the armed robberies and stuff

Blessed be!
I usually post an old supernatural-themed strip or two here on the blog around Halloween, but of late my older work is increasingly embarrassing to me so I have to churn out new material if I want to have a seasonal strip now and then, hence the above: The Next Life, a two-page script by my personal writing mule of ill omen, Lee Robson.  It's a year or two old, this one, being one of many things that once "in the bag" never seem to venture out of it ever again, usually because of some minor quirk that I find unbearable to look at - such as my fluffing the perspective on that very last panel.  Yes, I am that bloomin' precious - lord only knows how I ever released War Cars into the world.

There are no chicks with dicks, only guys with tits

More Twilight Zone episodes today:
Elegy - 200 years after Earth's atomic holocaust, a trio of astronauts land on an asteroid and find a perfect recreation of an American small town populated with unmoving humans, seemingly frozen in time.  It transpires the whole thing is an elaborate cemetery/taxidermy exercise for the rich, the existence of such a place being lost to the chaos that followed the war centuries earlier.  The caretaker of the cemetery poisons the three and preserves their bodies at the controls of their spacecraft, just as they foolishly mentioned in passing to be their preference.  I admit I am a sucker for a good cemetery planet story, but this one kind of mixes a few different TZ staples and comes up with a muddle of a plot where nothing quite sticks.  It's kind of like Die Another Day in that regard, as there's nothing wrong with the different stories at play, they just don't mesh into a coherent whole.  It also seems heavily influenced by Ray Bradbury's Mars Is Heaven/The Third Expedition.  As with most par/sub-par TZs, though, it's hard for it to outstay its welcome.
Mirror Image - waiting for a bus at a lonely depot, a woman becomes increasingly convinced that she's being stalked by a doppelganger determined to kill and replace her, and is eventually carted off to the booby hatch while her lookalike takes the woman's luggage and catches her bus.  Then a bloke chases his own alternate in vain down a street because Something Or Other.  If it had ended with the dark other catching the bus out of town, I think it might have pulled this off, but as it is, I like that the script hand-waves any attempt at hard science in favor of existential panic, but there's quite a lot of that building-to-hysteria stuff that populates a lot of Twilight Zone episodes, and I don't really see that as drama so much as I see it as shouting.  To me, drama isn't someone raising their voice, it's conflicts of interests between characters and how that conflict plays out over time.  An okay episode, but not great.
The Monsters are Due on Maple Street - a power outage leaves a street in a small town isolated and the residents begin to speculate causes such as terrorism, atomic war, and flying saucers - before the night is over, paranoia causes things to escalate.  On a nearby hillside, beneath their spacecraft two figures watch the riot unfold and sneer at how easily humans can be manipulated into destroying themselves.
More building-to-hysteria stuff here, but this time it's the whole point of the story, and it's actually pretty good, with Rod Serling's closing narration morosely opining of prejudices that "the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to... the Twilight Zone (DOODOO DOODOO, DOODOO DOODOO DANDANDANDAN)", although the reveal of aliens being behind it all was a bit goofy, as I think the idea of people destroying themselves is undermined a bit by their being pushed towards it by outside agents - but I suppose it might have been necessary to have that component to dilute the bleak premise of the plot, in case the broadcasters of the time didn't want to show it.  A dang good episode.
A World of Difference - A man planning a vacation with his wife suddenly finds himself on a movie stage where he is an actor playing the part of the man he thinks he is, and those around him are so convinced he's having a nervous breakdown that the film is cancelled.  Seeing the loveless and joyless life of the "actor", the man flees back to the set and rejoins his wife as they embark on their vacation, the movie people confused as to where their washed-up actor has gotten off to.  I don't know if I enjoyed this one or not, so horrible was the actor's "real world" wife that I found it impossible to objectively evaluate what I was watching, such was my overpowering compulsion to reach through the screen and throttle the life from the money-grubbing harridan.  The upshot was that when the guy escaped her forever by entering a world of fantasy, you feel really good for him.
Seriously, what.  A.  Bitch.

Thursday 29 October 2015

All the broken glass is like a puzzle for the kids - you give 'em a tube of glue and you watch 'em go

I Shot an Arrow into the Air is the "our rocketship got lost in space and we crashed on some planet or asteroid that has a suspiciously breathable atmosphere" story and it has just the twist you'd expect it to have, but as ever the tale is in the telling rather than gimmicks, and the story wisely concentrates on being about a cowardly, murderous crewman picking off his crewmates in order to make supplies last longer on this suspiciously Earth-like planetoid on which they find themselves marooned without hope of rescue.
The Hitch-Hiker - the tale of a woman driving alone who keeps seeing the same lonely figure trying to hitch a ride, no matter where or how far she drives.  It meanders a little, but the twist is solid, as there's some doubt where it might be going as you probably think it's a more obvious twist than the one they go for.
The Fever - too comical to be convincing, this, for me, is probably the first outright turkey of TZ's premiere season.  The story of an uptight skinflint who accompanies his wife to Las Vegas on a free flight and who succumbs to the gambling bug and blows all the couple's cash on a one-armed bandit that begins to follow him around, eventually causing him to fall out a window to his death.  Not great.
The Last Flight - a WW1 pilot lands his plane in the 1950s after passing through a mysterious cloud while deserting a comrade in the midst of an air battle.  When the people of the future tell him his comrade made it out alive, the pilot can't believe it was possible to survive such odds - at least, not without help...  A solid take on the predestination paradox plot, as usual TZ buries the quirky sci-fi in a more accessible allegory, in this case the story of the cowardly pilot's redemption.
The Purple Testament - a soldier sees the mark of death on the faces of those of his comrades who are about to die and starts to lose his marbles.  Eventually seeing the mark on his own face, he glumly accepts his fate and boards a jeep driving towards a road rumored to be littered with mines.  I didn't really get along with this one, as it didn't seem to be going anywhere in the end, and the main character just accepting his coming death seems kind of daft, especially as it means taking someone else with him when he goes.  An okay episode, I guess, but this is the TZ equivalent of landfill.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

I knew a little girl looked enough like you it makes my memory water

Back to my Twilight Zone watching, if you don't want the endings to episodes of a 56 year-old tv show ruined for you, best read no further, but if you're one of my fellow small pressers and you're stumped for a short story idea, you can do worse than read my shite:
Perchance To Dream - a man visits a psychiatrist and insists that if he falls asleep, he'll dream that he dies and will thus die in the real world FOR REAL.  Driven paranoid by lack of sleep, he throws himself to his death through a window after a couple of minor coincidences, and it is revealed that he was dreaming his entire session in the psychiatrist's office, having fallen asleep the moment he lay down on the couch.  This was a twist that came across as a bit comical in practice, but the episode was entertaining enough.
Judgment Night - a guy with no memory of how he got aboard but who has a German name and a German submarine officer's uniform is on a British freighter during WW2 that's being stalked by a submarine.  Yes, the twist you're thinking of is the twist that happens, but it's played very well right up until its natural end point where the sub's first officer announces "I worry there's a special kind of Hell for men like us" but keeps going for about two minutes anyway, really hammering the thing home to the point it risks becoming parody.  A decent episode, but nothing special.
And When The Sky Was Opened sees an astronaut trying to convince his best friend and co-pilot that there was a third man on their manned space flight.  It's a typical "people are forgetting I exist" plot, that ends with the expected twist of the main character disappearing as well.  I am not sure the science holds up, and the drama is of the hysterical type where the actor(s) work their character into a lather until they're screaming, which I find gets old quickly.
What You Need is one of those episodes that centers on an unlikely series of events putting someone in the exact place at the exact time to meet their maker, but it's not as well-constructed a series of events to get them there as it could be, essentially rambling in the second and third acts as it puts a panto villain center-stage to get his contrived and unconvincing comeuppance because of, I dunno, hubris probably.  Not great.
The Four of Us Are Dying is another episode that centers on an unlikely series of events putting someone in the exact place at the exact time to meet their maker, only this time it adds a central character who has the ability to change their face to resemble anyone they've seen in a photograph, right down to changing their voice to perfectly match the person in the photograph, apparently.  Also not great.
In Third From The Sun, some blokes escape a nuclear war on a rocketship and head for a new planet that's called Earth.  That's it.  A warhorse of a plot/twist this one, I have a suspicion that this might be the sci-fi writers' equivalent of The Aristocrats, as it's in the telling rather than the twist itself that we find our entertainment, and as tellings go, this one plays a decent shell game by concentrating on the intrigue of getting everyone on the rocketship in time.  A pretty good episode, although right at the end when they're talking about it being Earth, they don't seem terribly enthused about selling it as a twist, making me think that it was a warhorse even in the 1950s.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

We should try Australia - I hear they speak English there

Blindspot isn't taking any chances with its star Jaime Alexander, as it starts off getting her naked and then crafts a premise from there that allows for numerous instances of enforced nudity such as people having to "scan" or "consult" the mysterious tattoos on her body that contain clues as to her amnesiac character's true identity and/or violent crimes that are about to happen, combining the Bourne Identity with Memento I don't know.   There's a bit where it probably said in the script "and then she like takes off her clothes and checks herself out in the mirror, just totally looking at her boobs and stuff" and by that point I am pretty sure that the fictional version of Patrick Stewart from Extras is writing this show.  There's a plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty and all Asians are martial arts experts - you now have enough information to decide if this show is for you or not.
Limitless is based on the film of the same name, which is based on a book of a different name, but that name was changed to "Limitless" in later printings to cash in on the film with which it has only passing elements in common, and yes, I did bring up the book so that I could use the phrase "cash in on the film with which it has only passing elements in common" because I thought that would be clever of me, even though I haven't actually seen the film so I cannot speak as to how accurate this phrase may be in this context, making my opinion/insight on the matter utterly unreliable, but hey, I'm still not as big a windbag as that Guardian writer who, on the day Terry Pratchett's final book was released, dismissed Pratchett as a mediocre writer in the same paragraph he let slip that he'd never read anything by Terry Pratchett (and whose name I have hilariously/aptly forgotten) because at least I don't expect to get paid for shovelling my horseshit opinions through the monitor at those unfortunate enough to come to my blog during a perfectly innocent Google search for - I dunno - inter-racial dwarf pornography thanks to my random use of tags to attract pageviews like flies to shit.  Limitless is, however, not going to be much like the film, I can at least reasonably speculate, because Limitless the film is a high-budget allegorical drama with an A-list cast, while Limitless the tv show is a low-to-medium budget odd-couple buddy cop drama starring Dexter's skinny sister because of course it is.  It's not terrible by any stretch, though it does often display an expedience in jogging through its plot beats that is as admirable as it is an admittance of its own unoriginality: we, the audience, know that the dedicated cop will be teaming up with the slightly unlikeable junkie guy to solve crimes because The Series Premise That's Why, but you know, the show could at least pretend there's a chance it might not happen, for like, tension reasons or something.
I'm not crazy about the superdrug McGuffin, either, as I am pretty sure the reason no-one does that whole "this drug will let you use one hundred percent of your brain instead of the five percent that normal humans use!" plot thing anymore is because it was thoroughly debunked many, many years ago, firstly on the basis that people pointed out that you didn't use 100 percent of your brain because you don't actually need to do so on account of you have bits of your brain that does different stuff at different times, like dreaming, reading, pooping, swimming, masturbating, running, martial arts, urinating, erm... origami?  And secondly because some doctors and boffin types hooked up someone's brain and watched it for a bit before deciding that, yep, that was how a brain worked: one problem at a time.  I suppose you could do all those things at once, and admittedly it would most likely be spectacular to watch, but not in the way that Limitless seems to think would be the case - though it's certainly lively enough on its own terms, interspersed with action beats for the main characters to negotiate in inventive fashion because someone opening up their brain's full potential also seems to make them a super athlete because of course it d-- you know what?  Fuck it.  I'm no scientist, that is probably how body science works for all I know.

Saturday 24 October 2015

I'm going out tonight to find a hot chick or two uggos

Ghosts of Mars was originally written as a Snake Pliskin outing, but the studio didn't want another Pliskin movie after Escape From Los Angeles bombed, so Pliskin was changed to "Desolation Jones" and the studio cast Ice Cube in the role because they wanted "an A list actor" to draw the crowds.  Crazy times...  The actress playing the main character in the film wasn't even considered for the part until the original actress who was cast in the role (the fifth choice for the part) injured herself and one of the male cast mentioned his girlfriend was free, so yes, you can go ahead and call this one as an utter car crash of a project, I nonetheless love it to bits.  It's just such a wonderfully trashy b-movie, although reminiscent of other John Carpenter outings like The Fog and Assault On precinct 13.  I'm actually on a bit of a Mars kick at the minute, and this seems like it's a huge homage to Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles canon, though the influence of Nigel Kneale can be felt on the edges, too.

Friday 23 October 2015

The thought of seeing your unwaxed lady parts gave me superhuman strength

From the original novel, the latest film adaptation of Z For Zachariah changes the setting, the age of the protagonists, the personalities and relationship between characters (and thus the story), adds another character, discards the ending - I imagine there's a good chance at this point you're thinking "in which case why adapt the book at all?  Why not make your own entirely unrelated film?" and I have no answers for you there, beyond perhaps the observation that director Jake Paltrow already made this movie a couple of years back and putting the name of a property that predates that movie on this one helps avoid uncomfortable questions.
The whole thing goes absolutely nowhere, seeming to set up multiple strands of narrative that remain both unexplored and unresolved.  It reminds me most of all of one of those admirably competent fan movies based upon Hunger Games or the like that have no resolution, they merely depict some events occurring within the fictional world and then end.  That, I think, adequately sums up the experience of watching Z For Zachariah.  The acting is a bit over the place, with Chris Pine's Caleb - yes, there is a character called Caleb in Z For Zachariah now - eliciting actual laughter from me on two occasions, and I suppose it's nice to see Margot Robbie in something before she becomes overexposed as the sexed-up version of Harley Quinn in the Suicide Squad movie and I can never look at her in anything else ever again without my teeth grinding together.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

I'm very sorry but I just caught two of my friends doing drugs off this picture of your parents

I suppose I do have an opinion on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, seeing as I have - like many - been waiting the better part of three decades to see it, and it certainly looks like a JJ Abrams entry in an existing sci-fi franchise going by the trailer alone, as what can be gleaned from it simply by looking seems to include a youngish person on a desert planet joining up with an old man from the previous trilogy to go on an adventure in the Millenium Falcon before running afoul of white-armored  stormtroopers who can't hit a barn door led by a black-clad evil Jedi, then some general stuff like X-wings in a battle with TIE Fighters against a backdrop of some kind of huge trench, the youngish person crying over what looks like one of the older characters taking a nap in the dirt in the same locale as we see them encounter the evil Jedi character - I mean, it's all very grandiose-sounding, and as you would hope of something that cost 200 million dollars to make it looks very nice, but is also very familiar and self-referential in the same way JJA's work on the Star Trek reboot was, and we know how that ended up.  Say what you will about the prequel trilogy, but they went their own way for as long as they could before everything had to connect back into the original films.
I am sure it will be just fine and dandy, mind.  I'm sure this will be at least as good as JJ Abrams' Star Trek, and not in any way as terrible as JJ Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

A small-headed man of limited means who lost a fight with a chicken

Continuing the Halloween horror marathon, been watching:
The Pack - initially promising b-movie monster flick about a pack of wolves menacing a family - who are also a pack, so it's got levels - that lost me when it descended into predictable jump-scare cliche and the only unexpected moments came when characters or the script did things that were monumentally stupid and illogical even in the context of a slasher flick.  Shot in Rivendell and Parth Galen, it certainly looks nice, but in this day and age this means little in and of itself and the script fails to do anything interesting in the long run.
Lake Placid vs Anaconda - a mash-up of two different monster movie franchises, both of which started out as trashy-but-fun cinema-releases with bankable stars but which of late have been SyFy-funded, becoming increasingly tedious and aggressively poorer viewing experiences the longer they endure.  There are a great many attractive young women in this, in various states of undress, but any enjoyment you might hope to glean from this element is somewhat undermined by their being bumped-off in gruesome but not very inventive ways, making this a continuation of the popular trend of horror fantasy that doesn't seem to like women very much despite plastering their forms everywhere.  There's a bit where two characters sit around talking about teenage girls and laughing at how they like to get tattoos of butterflies on their ankles and pierce their navels and then they laugh at how vacuous such people are, and all I could think of was those teenage girls who cut themselves when their favorite boy bands break up and Twitterati laugh at them for doing so, responding to the confused pain of other human beings with a misplaced sense of superiority.  This is a paradigm for Lake Placid vs Anaconda's problems, in that it likes to pretend that its making fun of the shallow, characterless, unimaginative filmic and televisual landfill that comprises SyFy's output, but it would be a step up if it could only be as bad as that.  This is poorly-made, cheap, and lacking in even a single moment of wit, the equivalent of a sneering yob arguing with you by repeating your words back at you but garbling them a bit when they do so before announcing that they are doing this "because you're retarded."
I'm not saying Lake Placid vs Anaconda is shit, I'm saying if shit could shit, Lake Placid vs Anaconda wouldn't even be as good as that.
Live and Let Die - WHEN YOU WERE YOUUUUNG AND YOUR HEARRRRRT WAS AN OPENNNN BUWUK... an always-enjoyable warhorse of a 007 outing this one, despite featuring the best Bond YES YOU HEARD ME caps lock sticking a lot today it's often derided for the decision for the franchise to appropriate blaxploitation much as it had other genres, the wisdom being that if you have blaxpolitation with a white lead, you basically have racism.  Particularly in its excesses and casual sexism, blaxploitation as a genre actually shares a great deal with the Bond movies - just watch something like Black Samurai or Black Belt Jones to see what I mean - and so it's actually a more natural fit than many would like to admit.  Eight year old me took it deadly seriously even if viewing it as an anachronistic cartoon was probably the only sensible approach for the eight year old me who watched it earlier today.  Great fun, and I suspect as of this viewing that it may have contributed to my enduring love of wacky chase setpieces, too.

Friday 16 October 2015

Can't a man eat a giant cheese wheel in peace?

Watching The Twilight Zone, I must say that I quite miss short stories that don't end with a punchline that's a black joke upon the lead player.  Whatever was so terrible about happy endings or lessons being learned that they became so rare, I wonder?  Almost every short story I draw seems to be one of those OH NO THE MONSTER IS ME type things - not that this is a criticism of any scripts I have worked upon in case you're reading this, depressingly long list of writers with whom I have collaborated over the years.
At the sketching/concept art stage of several projects before they all kick off in the near future, probably next week, so back to more waffling about the atterly shackin volume of television I watch in the average week and more bafflingly obtuse screen grabs of which you most likely never see anything of the end product.  Oh lordy I do so need to make a plan...

Monday 5 October 2015

...when your Elvis dies, so does the private lie that someday you will be young once again, and feel at capricious intervals the weightlessness of a joy that is unchecked by the injuries of experience and failure

And with today's entry, I clock up my 1000th post on the blog!
I have wasted my life.

Watching: because it's Halloween at the end of the month...
Extreme Ghostbusters Back In The Saddle parts 1 and 2 - I don't think I've ever seen any of Extreme Ghostbusters until this point, but the episodes where they team up with the original characters from the 1980s cartoon-of-the-film seemed to be the ones to check out.  Seems a bit anemic compared to other 1990s cartoons like Batman, Superman, Gargoyles, Invasion America, or even the shallow but eventful Spider-Man and X-Men offerings, with the characters rather thin and the plots a bit messy.  I think it relies on familiarity with storytelling tropes alongside stereotypical characters so the audience can fill in the odd blank in the script from their own viewing experience, and the overall effect is quite charmless.  The visual design also lacks consistency, not helped by cheap animation.
The Snow Creature - a 1954 b-movie picture about some blokes finding an abominable snowman and trying to cash in by returning it to civilization - things go downhill from there.  You can find this on Youtube if you fancy, but it's not really worth it, lacking any nuance or charm and being a cheapo riff on the basic plot of King Kong.
Dark Moon Rising - "I am Dance.  We have literature together."  A film about werewolves with superpowers, including one who shouts out the name of every kung fu move he's about to bust on someone's ass, the most ridiculous thing about it nevertheless remains to be that that it stars Eric Roberts and I still thought it might be good.  When Roberts' character has a Vietnam War flashback in which he is attacked by werewolves, I decided that this may very well be one of the most amazing(ly terrible) films I have ever seen, elevating creative incompetence to levels I would not have thought possible when I awoke this morning.

Thursday 1 October 2015

A 2AM dance-off? There are no winners.

I'm blogging again, which is a mixed blessing because it means that the paying/indie press work has dried up - kind of like that parable in the Bible about how when you masturbate it makes Jesus so angry he strangles a kitten?  It's give and take is what I am saying.  Possibly I should just have said that instead of the masturbating Jesus kitten strangling metaphor.  I don't know.
Watching: Falling Skies WHY AM I STILL WATCHING THIS?  Jesus kittystrangling Christ, it is just terrible - every time I try to review it, I just end up citing tropes it has recycled from decades-old sci-fi shows, and it makes me sad that all I can bring to the table is negativity, because this is still a significant creative undertaking for which a lot of talented people have made a considerable effort to construct sets, assemble the cast and film the story, and yet it is all for naught because so little has been invested in terms of effort or respect for the audience when it comes to the stinking, lowbrowed mess of a script, and rather than commend those that realised this edifice of popular culture for their efforts, all I can say is that I think that all involved deserve to be pissed upon and then set alight.
Graceland - a moronic, infantile show that I have never watched sober, I fear Graceland - a tale of hot undercover twentysomethings infiltrating the glossy world of organised Los Angeles crime - may not be an entirely accurate portrayal of law enforcement, but its dedication to glossiness and thin, easy-to-comprehend characters and motivations does at least have the advantage of distracting me from thinking about death.
Scorpion is a show about an elite team of crimesolving geniuses led by the incredibly unlikeable Walter O'Brien, a fictionalised version of a real-world (self-proclaimed) genius, and while the premise oozes a retro charm tying it to many televised forebears, the modern presentation and reliance on cynicism without self-awareness tends to make me think that (1) the makers are not quite as confident about their television product as they would have us believe and a significant portion of what we are viewing is rote act-mandated plotting resulting in it rarely - if ever - peeking above the parapets of competence, and (2) that we are but a conflation of the preserved thoughts of others, housed within a temporary material frame.