Thursday 24 December 2015

I wanted to get you a bazooka but apparantly there are laws

A bit of seasonal cheer from myself and Lee Robson in the shape of a strip we ran up what you can read, like...

It's aptly a space-y thing because Christmas for me is defined by memories of one of the Star Warses being repeated for the umpteenth time, which I mention as a seamless intro into reviewing the latest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, as it is a law that internet reviews of TFA start with an anecdote about the franchise's personal connection with the reviewer.
I did not think The Force Awakens was very good.
I couldn't get the feel that this was actually Star Wars, it just felt like someone doing a homage to the Star Wars I remember but not quite getting it right because they aren't really emulating the old stuff, they're just using the trappings like the ship designs, the laser noises, and the names of characters - fanfiction, basically, and if you've ever seen one of the half-decent Star Wars fanfics available, you'll know what I mean when I say it's nice to look at, but the tiny things here and there undermine the proposition that you're watching something official.
I fully appreciate that this is a minority opinion, all the same, as the vast majority of people seem to be over the moon about The Force Awakens, or at the very least they're over the moon that it isn't the prequels, as every review seems to be born of some variation of the same basic conceit that this one wasn't made by George Lucas so it is automatically good, and never mind the slapdash art design, the rehashing of the Death Star plot yet again, a McGuffin that makes literally no sense whatsoever, massive coincidences stringing together the various scenes rather than actual plot connective tissue, and a villain whose entire deal is that he will never be as good as Darth Vader from the original trilogy, which is awful to behold onscreen and yet at the same time a brass-balls level of self-awareness of a kind the rest of the script might have benefited from experiencing.  Ironically, The Force Awakens' biggest problems are the exact same problems that plagued the prequels (such as the impression that it is a remarkably small galaxy in terms of characters crossing each others' paths), and yet this time audiences and reviewers are happy to hand-wave away such concerns, where before they were baying for the blood of George Lucas.
Mind you, the prequels grew on me over time, so perhaps The Force Awakens will do the same, as it seems to rely entirely on nostalgia as its one selling-point, and that takes time and distance to develop.

Friday 11 December 2015

What will we do without a shower - where am I supposed to cry?

It would certainly have made the uneven and cliched Jessica Jones a lot more enjoyable if I'd got that memo everyone else did telling me I was supposed to be enjoying rape backstories for tough female characters now, rather than finding them tiresome and lazy storytelling, but here we are again with Into The Badlands.  A post-apocalyptic martial arts series based on Journey To The West - the only Chinese story that has ever been written apparently - it's not always misogynistic trash, it's just that those elements tend to stick out more amongst the mish-mash of other things appropriated from elsewhere.  The kung-fu is often inventive and fun, and carries the rest of the show well, though mostly it's just a nice-looking power struggle in a setting that looks like a conflation of a stereotypical Asian culture and Depression-era America.  It's not rocket science, but it's engaging enough to hold the attention so far, coming off as a well-made late-80s/early-90s straight-to-video post-apocalyptic action film - and lord knows, I do like me some of them.
Of the aforementioned Jessica Jones, I can only say that while by no means a poorly-made show, for me it is likely the weakest of the Marvel offerings so far, reliant as it is upon well-worn storytelling tropes and the dubious novelty of a female lead in an age where roughly 90 percent of television has a female lead.  To make their female lead more distinctive in a crowded field, they make her unlikeable and give her many character flaws - yes, you can already see where I'm going with this, can't you?  There is nothing new to be seen in Jessica Jones, though its attempts to second-guess its audience's tolerance for spandex-clad adventurers might be noteworthy, as it has spectacularly bet on the wrong horse in a tv season notable for having quite a few successful and highly visible superhero shows in contrast to JJ taking the well-worn "it's a superhero show but we don't do superheroes in it" beloved of Smallville and Heroes, now possibly as much an embarrassing anachronism in itself as adventurers in primary-coloured unitards once were.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Atlas Shrugged - and so did most of its readers

Well, there's nothing like a well-maintained blog, and this is nothing like etc etc
Why did no-one tell me about Blood And Oil?  A tale of rich white trash and their literal/figurative catfights, starring Don "I survived the eighties but you can't tell by looking" Johnson and various b-listers I recognise from television shows I presumably watched during a period where I was questioning my sexuality such as "him from Greek", "her from Jane By Design", and a whole bunch of "that one from that thing that was crap but I watched all the way through anyway", it's just the kind of awful I can't resist.  Obviously, this likely means it's been cancelled already, but I am enjoying playing catch-up so far, even if watching episodes without the stopgap of a week in between does tend to highlight how quickly it loses its most interesting elements, especially the setting of the opening episode, where the locale is painted as a kind of gold-rush era frontier town never more than a hair's breadth away from lawlessness (a fictional oil find in Dakota replacing the factual gold of old California), which falls by the wayside along with the broke-as-heck young couple who land in town with only the clothes on their backs and yet can manage to take out a hundred thousand dollar loan before the end of the pilot and are buying a half-million dollar house by the second episode, thus further robbing USTV of money-poor characters - but this is about a fantasy version of America, not the daily experience of 95 percent of its population, so all is forgiven, Blood and Oil.