Thursday, 5 December 2019

In whatsoever place that I enter I will enter to help the sick and heal the injured, and I will do no harm

I occasionally lapse into talking about The Politics on this blog, and it says a great deal about me that this usually happens when I'm trying to talk about the plot of an episode of Magnum PI and not when there is an actual General Election in this increasingly awful country.
Can you blame me, though?  The politics of a Magnum PI episode at least won't send a sane person screaming from the room like they've just watched a tentacled thing unfurl itself from a lower dimension like an origami swan made of rotting meat but anyway the election's nearly over and I guess in a week or so we say goodbye to the NHS, as the Americans come to improve it like they improved Bolivia, Chile, Afghanistan, Iraq - you know, all the other places they went to and made better for the inhabitants.
The NHS has not just made life materially better for us all but also made altruism a part of the country's DNA rather than the racism, atrocities and enabling of American corporatism's never-ending war on the poor that's pretty much the only other thing that's a constant about our failed empire.  We are at heart not a good people, I am sad to say, because we are descended from conquerors and their servile playthings and nothing good can come of a nation that is proud of this rather than angry or ashamed - but for a time, we had the NHS.  People would come from around the world to learn in the halls of its hospitals how to care for the sick and the disabled, and they knew this was the only place they could learn it because all they would learn elsewhere was how to deliver the most cost-effective treatment rather than the best.  We sent forth from our shores the best doctors, the best nurses, and being a country that spawned this wonderful institution which contributed not just to the treatment of the sick of this country but the betterment of humankind allowed us to lie to ourselves that this terrible, hateful nation was not a thing that needed to be scoured from the Earth and its patriots mocked for the damaged children they were and driven into the sea to be eaten by crabs or bummed to death by the Innsmouth people, because we were the British Flipping Isles and the worst thing about us was that occasionally we would produce one of Richard Curtis' films.
And now we're just the country that invented concentration camps.
In Yarl's Wood we refined positive spin for concentration camps because we knew that when people thought of concentration camps they thought of open-air prisons full of skinny people and ringed with barbed wire, and not anonymous red-bricked warehouses in a random corner of a business park in Bedford.  Through the finest British ingenuity that gave us 11,000 dead Kenyans, we've not just rehabilitated the image of the unthinkable but made it a profitable business model to export.  We laugh at the Americans' clumsy caging of brown children and then just letting any old senator with a camera walk in and take pictures because we don't even let our elected representatives through the front gates of our concentration camps - we do it right and hide them like the shameful secret they should be.
We may be a small-minded, racist nation of bull-necked gammon that will not stop until we hear only English spoken on our high streets and only white people have our dreadful low-paying zero-hour jobs because we are the British Fucking Isles and we are going to Hell and we're taking you all with us, but for a time, we were a people that helped.

Oh and also the planet is on fire.

Monday, 25 November 2019

I salute your honesty, my dear - not necessarily a quality to be despised

Let's take a look at a list of the utter garbage I've been shoveling down my mental gullet with all the awareness and distinction of a pig at a trough this last week or so, shall we?

Bull - a US tv show about a rich guy who tries to get money from other rich people who aren't as nice as he is and give it to poor people, because rich people only care about money, and not the important things like family and... puppies.  This is a show with a confusing set of priorities and a smug lead character that often confuses being an arsehole with being clever and/or right, though that's pretty much every lead character in an American tv show, and has been for quite a while.

Some thing with Jimmy Smits whose title I can't be bothering Googling but which clearly did not make a lasting impression: see above.  A law thing where Jimmy "HOLY" Smits plays the dad of a lady lawyer but it was so ham-fisted I can't even remember if she was the idealistic one or if her dad was, or which one of them had to convince the other to use their law powers for good - well anyway it's another Jimmy Smits winner.
I don't know why I'm being sarcastic - I like Jimmy Smits.
Make me a Bail Organa tv show, Disney, you cowards.

Magnum PI and also

Hawaii Five-0 - these are essentially interchangeable shows set in Hawaii about ex-marines tackling violent crimes while surrounded by underwear models.  Occasionally they help a sad child with a problem that involves either parental involvement in crime, or sexual trauma, they have big muscles and salute the flag at least once an episode.  Now and then a gay person will appear and they will be totally cool with that person's sexual orientation - most likely they will even take time to lecture someone about loving gay folk unconditionally, and then possibly within the same episode or even the same scene someone will make a homophobic gag of some description, usually implying that a male character is in some way too effeminate.
There was a recent episode of... uhhh.... let's say it was Magnum, not that I or anyone else really knows the difference, and there were some Hawaiian protestors doing their protesting about Hawaiian things that I know nothing about but I will still lay good money it boils down to something white people did wrong - because if you follow the news in even a cursory fashion it always is - and a Hawaiian character makes an appeal to some police officers who are also Hawaiian to consider their heritage and not arrest all the peaceful protestors who are doing nothing but occupying private land meant for property development and the cops take all of a hot second to decide they have their orders, and no kidding, "only obeying orders" is not challenged or redeemed at any point because these are shows 120% in the tank for both the military and militarised policing.  The unambiguous message is that cops will absolutely mess you up if you challenge capital, but they will do it "with a heavy heart", which as anyone who's been following British politics lately will know as the rallying cry of bougoisie bastards like Brian Cox and Robert Webb who are off to vote Tory on December 12th.
Okay I think I might be letting my personal politics get in the way of enjoying perfectly good Western capitalist propaganda, but getting back to these shows, they really are interchangeable to the point that the Halloween episodes of both shows were about escaped lunatics, and someone in one of the shows actually says "what are the chances of there being two escaped lunatics on Halloween night?" even though this happens literally every year, and is an annual Hawaii Five-0 event.  Yes I am steeped in Hawaii Five-0 lore - I might be an irredeemable communist but I'm still addicted to bullshit tv shows.

Friday, 15 November 2019

You won't solve all of the world's problems with kindness, but none of the world's problems can be solved without it

This will come as something of a surprise to the (checks view counter) three people who read this unpopular and despised blog, but I tend to watch an awful lot of really bad television and films.
I don't mean "bad" in relation to their objective quality or production values, though a lot of them certainly aren't good when evaluated in those terms, I mean in their philosophies and in what they contribute to culture, and what they say about us as people.  Years ago, I stopped watching US medical shows for reasons I didn't fully understand as I hadn't explored my own political views in any meaningful way, though I assumed I was some kind of limp-wristed liberal because I liked Star Trek, but it's only recently as I've slipped to the dark side - the left - that I've come to understand that my objection to American medical dramas stem from an understanding of one of the fundamental principles of anarchist political theory: that all cops are bastards.
I will assume you are not aware of the underpinning philosophy and explain: not all cops are actually  bastards by dint of incomplete lineage or in the vernacular sense of being a troubled individual with histories of questionable morals and/or actions, but all cops, in being cops, are representatives of an oppressive mechanism of control that acts in the interests of capital rather than the interests of the populace, and are - through collective guilt - to blame for its failings which at worst manifest in the widely-publicised actions of "bastards", thus all cops, in their active support of this system and its bastards, are bastards themselves, hence "ALL cops are bastards."
I realised that I had stopped watching medical dramas made in the US because all American doctors are also bastards.  Interestingly, this is not purely because they support one of the worst healthcare systems in the world that is essentially a glorified kidnapping racket in which paramedics roam the streets abducting the vulnerable and pressganging them into a life of debt slavery, though obviously a good person would never condone this atrocious state of affairs let alone actively participate in it, no, I mean they are bastards because they act like it.
I don't think that real-life American doctors are as big a bunch of assholes as the doctors on tv, but to be fair, I am pretty much certain that this is not possible as it takes literally dozens of overpaid writers months of creative back and forth to make doctors in American medical dramas as utterly unlikable as they are, and some schlub just out of medical school hasn't got the time or energy to replicate that kind of effort on top of managing their work-life balance while staring down the barrel of their own lifetime of debt.  Anyway, the doctors on US tv are assholes obsessed with money, so that's why I stopped watching medical dramas, but there is also a case to be made that since they support and materially benefit from a system which preys on the poor, they are not just assholes personally, but collectively.
Ugh I am pretty sure I started out this post trying to figure out if I should stop watching American cop shows because they're just propaganda - is "copaganda" a word?  It should be - for a corrupt imperialist nation of warmongering capitalist psychopaths but this is the kind of thing that distracts me now, and I just made you read about it.  So who is the real asshole?  Impossible to say.

Friday, 8 November 2019

I don't wanna go to jail again - when I'm gay I want it to be on my terms

A rather rude journalist once asked Gabriel Byrne why he stars in so many terrible projects, and Byrne responded "no-one tries to make a bad movie", and if he was saying that he does his best that is fair enough but... man does he ever star in some absolute shite.
Why yes, I did watch the French War of the Worlds television miniseries, why do you ask?

I powered through this in two days because there's only 8 episodes and I knew I wouldn't come back to it if I didn't see it all in one go because it is painfully apparent very early in the show that this is not very good.  What it most reminds me of is those BBC efforts in the 1990s and 2000s to dip a toe in the waters of popular genres from elsewhere in the tv world, particularly those daffy attempts to outdo the Americans in recycling dated sci-fi ideas and getting mixed results like that toss Invasion thing with Fred Ward, or that banal Survivors remake (although I did enjoy the second series a bit more).
So what's wrong with this adaptation of HG Wells' War Of The Worlds, then?  Well for a start it doesn't seem to have very much to do with HG Wells' War Of The Worlds, though these days that doesn't seem to be a particularly big problem with adaptations, and some of the changes like the "Martians" not being from Mars and not being tripods aren't necessarily deal breakers, but when there's no large-scale destruction and just extras laying around the street, you're arguably putting enough distance between you and the source material that you'd best have some ideas beyond cruising on the tired old "human nature under crisis is ugly" grimdark nonsense that stuffs pretty much every sci-fi show now.
Anyway, this wasn't very good, but it was nice to get back to something other than horror after the dreadful washout that was spooktober, and say what I might about this show, but getting back to watching rubbish sci-fi is a nice way to cleanse the old media palette.

Friday, 1 November 2019

We have a nice middle class jury, their dislike for the insurance company is second only to their disdain for working class people

26th OCT - LEPRECHAUN 6: BACK 2 THA HOOD... To be fair, this is no worse than the last one, and if anything feels a little more focused.  I also recognised Trish from the Lethal Weapon tv series, so it's not like the movie is full of complete nobodies.
Originally to be about the Leprechaun visiting a tropical locale to terrorise politically-correct spring breakers while putting on a Jamaican accent which I am sure we would all have been happy to see, the producers didn't fancy paying for outside shooting so instead we get another poverty safari to the inner city that Hollywood only seems to take a passing interest in once in a blue moon despite it being literally a mile from their damn door, and for some reason it's only this time around that we get to see the role of the police in the oppression of the poor, leading to an enjoyable sequence in which the Leprechaun beats two cops to death.
Apart from that, it's not terribly interesting or insightful, and probably a good place to call it a day with these films, just like Warwick Davies did.  Maybe next year I'll get to Leprechaun: Origins, in which the villain is played by a professional wrestler - clearly the people who own this series have not heeded the fable of proud Icarus...

27th OCT - HALLOWEEN 2 which I have somehow not seen before, even though it picks up right where the first one left off.  No John Carpenter this time around, though he co-writes the script, and the movie veers more into the familiar slasher territory of OTT murder scenes than the relatively restrained original, though what's here seems pretty tame compared to the kind of stuff that would follow it not just in this franchise, but in the genre it helped create.
There's still the creepy first person view of events from the eyes of the killer, and tense tracking shots that follow him as he silently closes in on his latest victim, but this is overly-familiar territory to me, really, and while I appreciate the odd bit of craft here and there, I didn't get a lot out of it.

28th OCT - AN HOUR OF TERRIFYING SCI-FI over on the Youtube DUST channel, a content host for sci-fi short movies that to the untrained eye - ie: mine - look suspiciously like scenes from a larger work rather than complete stories in and of themselves, but apart from the sci-fi horror segment DEDALO, these six stories with a horror bent stand on their own pretty well.

29th OCT - INSIDIOUS more like InSHITious, amiright?
This is an odd fish, as it feels like a found footage movie that has instead been shot as a regular multi-camera film.  It's not the best horror ever, but for the first hour or so it's at least passable, even if the characters are remarkably thin even for this genre, but once it gets to the proper paranormal stuff it just becomes funny.
I criticised Halloween 2 for being overly-familiar, but it didn't feel like it was lapsing into parody of the genre in the way that this does as it ticks off the checklist of cliches from jump scares to gross dudes licking a lady's face.  The story is your basic demon possession stuff in which the non-supernatural believerer has to do a supernatural to save his son from Darth Maul and his new legs, who clearly don't have a lot going on in their lives if this and a cameo in SOLO were all they could manage.
It certainly looks like they spent a few bucks on it, but that just means it's expensive rubbish.  I did like that they went with dry ice and a bloke wandering around with a lantern at the end, as it gave it an unashamed sense of old-school melodrama only undone when actual spooks show up.

30th OCT - US is a great example of why Jordan Peele's Twilight Zone is so naff - he's kept all his A-material for projects like this and isn't wasting it on CBS' sad attempts to revive its roster of IP to pad out its ghost town of a streaming service.
US isn't actually that original or inventive, it's just well-made and does its job without lapsing into parody, which is why it's such a great antidote to crap like INSIDIOUS.  Tense, scary, and bursting with potential for allegorical readings of the material, I would recommend it to anyone.

31st OCT - BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY: SPACE VAMPIRE is the crown jewel of any horror marathon and I watch it every Halloween.

The comedy parts are irritating, the acting is hammy, the sets are clearly the same few plastic sheets spray-painted different colours, the fx are terrible, the action scenes are ludicrous, and the story is full of logic holes, but by golly is it entertaining tosh.  A riff on Dracula sets things off as the Starship Demeter crashes into the isolated space station where Buck and Wilma are planning on abandoning their (let's not kid ourselves) sex robot, Twiki, so they can go bone on a pleasure planet, so the station has to be locked down while everyone is checked for Space Fever!  Unknown to everyone but a particularly wooden Buck, a creature who is just like a vampire in every way is feeding on the hapless idiots that cross his path by doing the heavy metal devil horns sign on their necks, which either makes them temporarily dead, or temporarily super-sexy, depending on whether or not it's Wilma who gets the horns.
Do you want to watch Gil Gerard's stunt double fight a hoard of space zombies?  Of course you do, you are a fine and upstanding member of the science fiction horror understanderer's club and this is what we do.

I also watched AN ALIEN AFFAIR and ZOMBIE MASTER, two terror-themed episodes from the daffy CENTURIONS kids' sci-fi show from the mid-80s that has not become a gritty and underrated masterpiece with the passage of time, even with scripting talent like Gerry Conway and Michael Reeves, Jack Kirby and Gil Kane working on visual concepts, and the incomparable Udi Harpaz providing the soundtrack.  This show is capital-B Bad, but so much so that it swings all the way around on the dial and scoots past naffness to "enjoyable" again.

An Alien Affair is a longtime fave, but I gave Zombie Master a go, too, as I figured I could probably stand zombies for 21 minutes in the context of this particular show, and you know what?  Robot zombies I could live with.
But now I am done with zombies.

So what conclusions can I draw at the end of my month of almost exclusively horror-based media consumption?
That I hate horror, mainly.
I mean, I think I realised I didn't have a great deal of interest in sitting down to watch horror movies, but I put that down to most modern horror movies kind of sucking really bad rather than disdain for the genre, but... yep, I think I hate horror as a genre.  I guess the writing was on the wall when I realised how much I'd gone off zombies - which I put down to their omnipresence - and shaky footage of ghosts shot on someone's phone while they scream OH MI GOD.  I love stuff like Quatermass and the old Doctor Whos that have horror elements, but "pure" horror movies that I adore are few and far between - I could totally watch The Fog, Don't Look Now, Tremors or Night Of The Demon anytime, but these are exceptions rather than an indicator of my taste.
Bollocks to it anyway, I'm off to watch a bunch of CW superhero shows for a few hours to get back into my trash groove.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

If you need to disrobe, feel free - you're in a safe space, just mind the furniture

18th OCT - SUMMER OF '84 is a teen mystery thriller, except there's not really much in the way of mystery and things follow a pretty linear path.  I get what the makers are trying to cash in on, but this isn't a particularly good evocation of the era or its sensibilities - the serial killer, for instance, while a known quantity through the actions of real-life monsters, wasn't quite as embedded in early 1980s Americana as a cultural phenomenon as this leads you to believe.
There are dozens of text and video essays online explaining this fetishism of a terrible period in music and fashion much better than I'll ever manage in the paragraph or two on my screen grabs blog, and a good example is this one from the always-interesting Lindsey Ellis:

19th OCT - IT CAME FROM THE DESERT is based on an old arcade adventure game from the 8-bit era of home computer gaming, so as timely cash-ins go, this ain't one of those.  It's actually visually impressive here and there despite its obvious low budget, but the actors let the side down, leaning hard into the silliness, and not quite managing to find a balance between that and the po-facedness you need to really make a b-movie work, especially one so obviously looking to mine the silliness of atomic panic pictures like THEM! with its silly giant ant premise.
Still, if you can tolerate the "deliberately-bad" genre of horror movie, this is borderline-watchable.

20th OCT - QUATERMASS 2 is another one from the "I'd watch this even if it wasn't Spooktober" pile of classic horror movies I have to hand, with Brian Donleavy as the world's most unconvincing rocket scientist, but still pretty charismatic and distinctive as the titular Quatermass as he struggles with the notion of malign intelligence from beyond our world, which he speaks about in terms that suggest he's explaining extra-terrestrials to someone who's never been exposed to the concept, reminding you that all of these cliches I sneer at like the post-millenial dog I am were new to audiences at some point.
I was briefly intrigued by the insistence of several characters that "we don't have any police around here", which really does show you how things have changed - no coppers enforcing capitalist hegemony and hunting down illegals?  INCONCEIVABLE.
As solid as b-movie shockers get, and always watchable.

21st OCT - LEPRECHAUN I have somehow managed to not see a single entry in this surprisingly lengthy slasher series - 8 movies and counting - so this is the year I finally see why anyone would want to make a horror franchise based on a borderline-offensive caricature of whimsy from the ludicrous theme park that is my home country.
"Wait, aren't you from Tyrone, which is in the North, and thus part of the UK?" I hear astute blog-watchers ask, to which I reply "oh yes, sorry, you are correct in that I'm not located in Ireland at the moment - I forgot it isn't 2020 yet."  AND YES THAT IS A BREXIT JOKE BECAUSE GOD FORBID WE SHOULD FORGET THAT'S HAPPENING.
Jennifer Aniston did apparently spend a lot of her career doing things other than starring in Adam Sandler movies, and that includes time in the b-reel mines eking out a meager living playing "The Girl" in absolute horseshit like this.  I do wonder if they went back and edited in some extra footage they had left over after Aniston got famous in FRIENDS, because there's some chase sequences late in the film and one or two are just lengthy tracking shots centered entirely on her backside and they do go on for a bit, but that kind of exploitation isn't unusual in this era of film, plus I don't really care enough to look it up, so it's hard to know either way.
The - ...well, we'll call it "the plot" for the sake of argument - revolves around a man who finds a pot of gold in Ireland and the Leprechaun that owns it follows him home to America trying to get it back but is shot and left for dead in an old house for 10 years before being revived by Jenny and her dad, cue bloodshed in some not very inventive ways.  It's hard to see why this was popular enough to spawn 7 sequels, to be honest, as it's not even a particularly good example of the type of exploitative trash that the slasher genre had devolved into thanks to the Reagan administration's destruction of the moral fibre of America, and I think the reason it probably did well was because of its audaciously stupid premise, as in the home rental era of movies, distributors would sell movies at trade conventions to retail and rental outlets in domestic and foreign territories, so a movie could - and often did - make back its production costs and even turn profit before it had even been released to the public, which is why you would see movie sequels churned out so quickly that they were obviously in production before the original was even available to rent or buy.  This movie sounds so stupid on paper that I think distributors at the time either assumed it was tongue-in-cheek, or self-aware in some way and thus much better than it sounded - or they thought it was so dumb that it stood a good chance of catching people's eye and getting rented.
That's my big insight into the VHS era market forces that made a successful franchise of this and many other terrible films.  I think we can agree it was well worth turning up to the blog to read it.
This movie sucked.

22nd OCT - LEPRECHAUN 2: LEPRECHAUN HARDER has a glaring continuity error right off the bat, with the character stating his age as 1000 years old whereas in the previous movie he said he was 600, and almost immediately I wondered what I'm doing with my life.
This is clearly a different Leprechaun altogether, so there are quite a lot of these little bastards knocking about and so it doesn't matter what the rules are for his powers and/or the limitations to how they work, I mean... having consistent rules would infer that there was going to be some point where characters outsmarted the villain with a clever plan based on established lore, but really they just find a certain object that can stab the unkillable baddie and make him for-reals dead and then the movie ends without even the usual "I'm not dead yet" jump scare.
This time the Leprechaun is after the descendant of someone the Leprechaun killed a thousand years ago because he wants to make Leprechaun babies... sigh.
This film also sucks.

23rd OCT - LEPRECHAUN 3: LAS VEGAS LEPRECHAUN and I know this is the third of a movie series based on something that is to a certain nationality what a gollywog is to a black person, but even so, this one is kind of sort of very racist, with the half-pint horror biting off an Asian gentleman's ear and announcing "I love Indian food!  It's so spicy!"  The same gentleman later lapses into Arabic caricature for some reason, so I don't know what to make of that.  We deal with yet another Leprechaun unrelated to the previous versions, this one having the ability to turn those victims he doesn't kill into were-leprechauns, so you get American actors doing Irish accents and there's a bit with a sex robot because it was the 1990s, I guess?  I don't know why I'm still trying to make sense of these things.
Does it even matter that this one is set in Las Vegas and that he meets Elvis?  It's a bit more knowingly silly than the first two, at least, but still far from good.

24th OCT - LEPRECHAUN 4: LEPRECHAUN IN SPACE welp here are.  I can stop watching bad movies now because after this there's little point.
To be fair, this goes all-out to be stupid, with the Leprechaun having a shootout with space marines and regenerating himself by climbing out of a man's penis before turning Godzilla-sized for the finale, so you can't say it isn't trying - which is probably why I'm a little disappointed they dropped the gimmick of the Leprechaun always talking in rhyme.  This is gloriously bad, and there are even some familiar faces among the cast like Lieutenant Gruber from 'Allo 'Allo as a mad scientist (complete with German accent), and the gunnery sergeant from Full Metal Jacket as the leader of a corps of marines -fun fact: he was slated to play the part that eventually went to R Lee Ermy.
There's some problematic elements to add to the racism from the previous movie, particularly the misogyny and "man in a dress" humor of the second half, but I actually quite enjoyed this because it finally delivers on the promise of the original that you're going to watch something ludicrously terrible rather than just plain bad.

25th OCT - LEPRECHAUN 5: LEPRECHAUN IN THE HOOD Boy oh boy, given the track record of this series with racial sensitivity I was not looking forward to this one, and sure enough, it has it all: racism, misogyny, transphobia, Ice T's acting - everything about this one is offensive, and it's hard not to see it as being by design.
Although occasionally amusing - such as when Ice T tries to shoot someone without realising his trigger finger was torn off a half hour earlier in the movie - there otherwise isn't much in the way of the inventive deaths that slasher movie fans have come to expect of the genre, with many of the deaths happening entirely offscreen, including a rape/murder sequence that is deeply troubling even without the transphobic element.  In a movie that transplants an Irish stereotype to a genre known for its exploitation of African Americans, I suppose it's kind of impressive that the film manages to drag some anti-Asian racism into proceedings too, but apart from this commendable dedication to keep the film focused on something dear to the maker's hearts (hate crime), this is just dreadful.
True, it does star the Third Worst Actor From Star Trek: Enterprise, but even that can't salvage it.

Friday, 18 October 2019

I'm the worst lesbian ever

The Horror Diary continues - no, not the op-ed section of the Guardian, I speak of course about my ill-advised attempt to watch horror movies and tv shows every day for the whole month of October.  Fun fact: I have realised that horror is literally my least favorite genre.
Still, like Brexit, I can't stop now, so...

8th OCT - THE COLLAPSED posits itself first as a post-apocalyptic thriller, but then edges towards horror territory as it progresses, my main takeaway being "oh dang, this is where Birdbox got the idea."
I kind of guessed the twist a bit too early for the film to have entirely worked, but on balance I would say, middling acting and micro budget aside, this was pretty good.
AFTERMATH is a more traditional post-apocalyptic thriller, hitting beats familiar to the genre and its fans, and while not particularly inventive, it's a competant entry in the PA canon.  The only reason I watched it was because it came from the Screamfest channel on That There Youtube, which is a good place to stop for horror movies between 3 and 50 minutes.

9th OCT - DOOM: ANNIHILATION is the second live-action adaptation of the game that isn't the first or best FPS (First Person Shooter), but it is almost certainly the daddy.  Some scientists find ancient tablets inscribed with satanic runes and decide to jump up and down on them to see what happens.  SPOILERS: nothing good.
Actually, "nothing good" is a pretty apt review summary for this.  It's like one of those micro-budget Asylum movies about zombies fighting mercenaries, only the sets are nicer: some not-great actors deliver some not-great exposition, then one of them goes "sheeeeeeeeyit!" and does some shooting, the zombies rush at the characters and get shot for a bit, then someone goes "WTF is happening here?" and some more exposition happens, tensions in the group, they try to withdraw to safety but are thwarted, then have to pursue a McGuffin, there's a big fight and maybe a twist about one of the characters being secretly bad, an explosion, then a character goes ARGH at the camera and the credits roll as a rock track goes DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN.  If that sounds like a movie you think you'd enjoy watching for the 16th time, this is for you.  If not, you might find this a bit poo like I did.
The original Doom live-action movie at least had a visceral and gory charm to it, but this is just rote shooting and zombies going RARG, and despite the demon FX being practical, the director does that thing you see in CGI movies where nothing seems to hurt the CGI monsters, until something does because the script calls for the action sequence to be over.  Here, that takes the form of millions of bullets being shot at the zombies and demons and having no effect until the monsters just suddenly keel over, which, the more I think about it, is pretty much how the damage mechanics in the original Doom game actually worked, because obviously the limited graphical capability of PCs and consoles of the era used primitive bitmaps that didn't register any visible damage no matter how much you shot at them, you just kept shooting at them until the death animation finally triggered.  However, this is clearly based on the 2016 reboot of the DOOM videogame franchise in which visible damage was a prominent feature, so I guess that kills dead any notion I had of thinking of this as a deliberate homage to the original.  It makes me think of that movie Spectral which I have never watched and don't intend to because I saw some clips in which soldiers were shooting at ghosts and I just thought "a whole movie of guys not realising bullets don't work but they keep shooting anyway?  Fuck that."

10th OCT - CTHULHU, which can be watched in its entirety on the old internets thanks to its director putting the entire thing online:

It's a work about Lovecraft's cosmic mythos in the same way that those Lovecraft videogames are, IE not very, it just takes some names and ideas and welds them to an original story in much the same way Castle Rock did with the Stephen King mythos, only Cthulhu is nowhere near as smug, unoriginal and irritating as Castle Rock was.  At nearly two hours and lacking any special effects shots to speak of, it might not strike many as much of a horror, but luckily Youtube's Hbomberguy - better known as the Donkey Kong-playing and Mermaids-funding arch-nemesis of sitcom-writing transphobic bigot Graham Linehan - has gone and produced a very good video exploring how the film, despite its low budget and lack of name actors and being set in an entirely different century to the source material, nonetheless explores the themes of Lovecraft's work, only swapping out Lovecraft's next-level IRL racism and replacing it with fictional homophobia.

11th OCT - SHERLOCK HOLMES vs DRACULA - available to listen to in its entirety here on that there Youtube, which is clearly doing a bang-up job of stopping copyright infringement.

It's a fun romp about Dr John Watson's outrage at both being sniped by an Irishman in getting a certain tale into print, and at being written out of the account entirely, prompting him to set the record straight on how the prince of vampires met his end thanks to the efforts of the world's greatest detective.
Worth a listen if you want something to distract you from the soul-crushing task assigned to you by your employers, which was how my brother came across it while processing appeals lodged with the DWP against the benefits sanctions imposed by the criminally-incompetent third party contractors imposed on the DWP by our parasitic government, and I'm glad he sought solace in audio dramas while he worked, because I thought Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula was quite the whizzer yarn.  Fun story: the third party contractors at the DWP are not just negligent and criminally incompetent - their actions often result in verifiable deaths - but they're also criminally criminal, too, creating fake benefits claims so they can funnel money into their own accounts.  It was reported in the local papers over here in Norn Iron recently - particularly the notoriously shit-stirring Sunday World - and rather than deny it, the people in charge of the DWP offices in Belfast launched a witch hunt for the whistleblower and gave the entire building a bollocking about talking to the press, then swept the whole thing under the rug as best they could and moved the guilty parties on quietly because the company they worked for had tendered new contracts with the government and they didn't want to risk them losing out with a minor scandal involving the theft of hundreds of thousands of pounds from sick and disabled people who would later - fun fact - go on to kill themselves and send notes to the DWP staff in Belfast blaming them for the act, further contributing to the air of depression already permeating the building.
Yes, that was leftfield, but you know, it's October and the whole point is horror, and if you can't be horrified at a bunch of dead poors or the criminality that put them in their graves, then how's about this: the Sunday World sells a half million copies every Sunday and its stories are freely available to the mainland press, which means that the BBC and the Guardian etc have deliberately buried this story.  Never trust a liberal.
I particularly liked that Van Hellsing rebuffs Sherlock Holmes' aid because he thinks Holmes is an attention whore, and then Holmes and Watson flounce off with a "GOOD DAY, SIR!"  lol wat a qween etc.  ANyway, it's a fun yarn, give it a listen.

12th - THE HOWLING REBORN is... well, I'm stuck to describe it, as I am pretty sure "this is one of the worst films I have ever seen" has been thoroughly devalued as a critical appraisal through overuse, thanks to the ready availability of streaming services only too happy to put any old garbage up for viewing as long as it pads out the library of available content, but this really is one of the worst films I have ever seen.
I shan't be drawn upon the particulars because that would mean reliving it, but suffice it to say my main qualms stem from unlikable characters, a dumb plot, dreadful dialogue, and a general feeling of a missed opportunity.  I can usually get behind even terrible films if I feel the makers tried, but this has all the telltale signs of a quick, soulless cash-in that has devalued an already-devalued brand, and even though a couple of the actors seem to be making a fist of the material, there's nothing they can do.  I will say the lead character's transformation into a werewolf is identical to the transformation sequences from the Glen A Larson television series MANIMAL, though.  Make of that what you will.
Speaking of getting behind terrible films, PARASITE is a 1982 dystopian sci-fi body horror creature feature featuring an 18 year-old Demi Moore and some sort of toothy turd-like leech monster thing.  I am obviously going for ths soft sell here, but this was actually a pretty fun z-movie from the VHS era, featuring some welcome genre subversion like the punks terrorising a small town turning out to have sympathetic backstories, and the almost Lovecraftian offscreen horror of a post-collapse America now run by corporate gangsters - LOL moviemakers in the 1980s were way off on what the future was going to be like, amiright?

Made by Charles Band, who runs a cottage industry producing and directing good bad movies like this, Metalstorm and the Puppet Master and Dollman series, I have no problem telling you I found this enjoyable even if the snob in me still feels compelled to levy the caveat that "enjoyable" and "good" are not synonyms.  Pure trash.

MANIAC COP - tagline:  "ACAB - BUT SOME MORE THAN OTHERS!" - is also a good bad film, from master of exploitation b-movies Larry Cohen, who for some reason critics got it in their heads was in on the gag more than his contemporaries and so they treated his output as if it was satirical in intent rather than just blackly comic.  Cohen is a writer who just takes a concept and runs with it, even if that means the protagonist of the movie takes a dive (in this case literally) around the start of the third act, and the rest of the movie is led by someone who was until now little more than a glorified cameo.  I do love Bruce Campbell, but he is not a leading man for this kind of story.  Obviously there is a rich vein of commentary to be dug into the premise in which a cop is killing innocent citizens and the actual police force - abetted by the judiciary and city hall - try to deny this is even happening, but really, it's just a trashy and fun movie.  I watched this by mistake as I was actually looking for MANIC COP, the story of a depressed policeman with anxiety issues okay this is not true but you try ending as many reviews as this without drying up sooner or later.

13th OCT - MANIAC COP 2 - tagline: "HE'S THE WRONG ARM OF THE LAW!" - because part one was good and I guess there must be a horror fan somewhere in my home town who doesn't lock his house when junkies are on the prowl for some quick cash to score them a hit of that sweet sweet spice melange, because the local CEX had the second Maniac Cop on dvd for the low low price of 50 pence and who am I to say no to a deal like that?  The only salve I can place upon my guilt at rewarding crime by shopping in CEX is that theft is merely capitalism in a more pure form and thus I am encouraging... erm... critique?  Probably.  50 pence!  Robert Zdar returns as the butcher with a badge and makes quick work of the survivors of the first movie before going on to make friends with a serial killer, murder a police station, and break into a prison before being set on fire and head-butting a bus until it explodes.  So uhhhhhh more of the same, just on a marginally larger scale with some impressive action setpieces involving a cop shop shootout and a couple of car chases, but the real highlight is surely one of the greatest proprietary theme tunes committed to posterity.

14th OCT - MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE mixes voodoo into proceedings, but otherwise doesn't depart from the formula I'd come to expect based on the last two movies, including an off-the-rails third act.
By the third entry in a series, diminishing returns have usually set in, but this franchise isn't exactly what you'd call high art to begin with, added to which the same writer/director team (Larry Cohen and William Lustig) have been at the helm of all three films, so even when it gets a little slower here and there or heads into more blatantly slasher territory, it's still mostly consistent with previous films apart from a gunfight in a hospital that reminds you that John Woo's influence really was a thing back in 1992.
I argued for Maniac Cop 1 that it wasn't quite as political as people might want you to believe, but now there's three of 'em and in-universe everyone knows there's an unkillable cop walking around murdering at will, so the political reading is pretty unavoidable now.  All in all, I really enjoyed this trilogy, and it's a shame Robert Zdar never got to reprise his starring role for a fourth outing, though I fully expect a remake any day now.

15th OCT - NIGHT VISIONS is an early 2000s Twilight Zone knock-off that apparently had a commitment from Gary Oldman to serve as the show's host, but the producers insisted on Henry Rollins, who is shot from the thighs up so you can see his flexed muscles, and you know he's flexing for the camera on account of you can see he's balling his fists like he's ready to fight someone up, which you know that he won't do because it's a pretty open secret that Rollins is a humongous pussy in real life and often spends a lot of the running time of his spoken word beat poetry performances talking about - actually, I probably don't need to go any further than that, do I? Gosh but that reads a bit judgmental.
There's a great old Twilight Zone episode called "He's Alive!" about a racist meathead played by Dennis Hopper who starts taking tips on oration from Hitler's ghost and instead of ending with the words "in the Twilight Zone" as usual, the closing monologue was something like "remember when you hear a name called or a minority attacked that He is alive because through these things we keep him alive"  and I thought boy it sure is quite the journey from that to Henry Rollins standing around in tank tops looking like an action figure saying lines like  "when you spend all your time being a bastard, sooner or later you'll piss off the wrong asshole."  O brave new world.
Anyway, this show kind of sucks.  It's not good in the conventional sense, but it does boost some recognisable guest stars, and while a lot of the twists are pretty shoddy, it usually does a good job of creating a spooky atmosphere while getting to that point, often playing with the viewers' expectations of what comes next by second-guessing the conventions of act-based teleplays, like the episode set in a darkened radio station where you genuinely have no idea who the killer stalking the main character might be because the show has just made a point of killing everyone who had a speaking part, or the plane crash episode where you kind of know what the twist is, but the show just keeps throwing other twists at you to wrong-foot you and it gets to the point that episodes paint themselves into a corner and so they just... end really quickly.  The twist isn't as important as shitting you up, and I guess that at least differentiates it from Twilight Zone.
Not a great show, but I suppose I did enjoy it while it lasted, and I would argue that dated and naff as it is, it's still better than the recent Twilight Zone reboot.

16th OCT - BODY BAGS, a triple bill anthology featuring directorial input from Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter, the latter of whom doubles as the film's host, which I was not expecting.  He does a good job as a sleazy coroner introducing various tales about the body parts which wash up in the morgue, examples of "our national pastime - violent death!".  The tales are, frankly, not much cop at all, though I did like the straightforwardness of the gas station segment.  Mark Hamill... oh man, Mark Hamill just could not pick a good script to save his life, and in interview he is open about his doubts about going into voicover acting, the career path which led him to create the definitive version of The Joker.  Still, he has at least got to do those Star Wars sequels lately - which proves he still picks lousy scripts, but at least he's making some bank.
Also checked out the pilot of the new CREEPSHOW tv series currently airing on the Shudder channel, and it is most certainly a television series called Creepshow.  Yep.
No idea what to say beyond "it kinda sucks real bad."  A lot of effort clearly went into it, but it isn't good.  I had high hopes when I saw the host was a crude animatronic, but then it dawned on me that tv maybe doesn't need yet another horror anthology.  Or maybe I don't need to see another horror anthology right now.
I did like the practical werewolf effects in the second episode, and the willful embracing of garishness and harsh lighting, but the silent host really throws things off, as it draws attention to the fact that the makers looked at the old show and saw the giggling ebullience and glee of the host and decided that this wouldn't fit in with modern sensibilities, but rather than depart from the branding they just took out his monologues - though you can still see the script for them in the introductory panels in the fake comic book that serves as the show's framing gimmick.  A show that's slightly ashamed of itself is a sad thing to see.

17th OCT - NANCY DREW is the latest attempt at bringing the teenage sleuth to live-action land, but don't get your hopes up as it's a CW show, so 2019's Nancy Drew is more or less guaranteed to be about a diverse gang of 20-something actors playing teenagers who solve a murder while having underage sex, an evaluation of which I am so certain, I am writing this introduction before viewing the actual pilot of the show.
(No, really, I wrote this and then went and watched the show)
Yep, called it.
Anyhoo, what made me take a look was the promise of there being possible supernatural goings-on in the series, and I'll just pull the band aid off this one, the writers and producers have just straight-up lifted the Grand Theft Auto 5 ghost thing and plonked it into their identikit teen show, but it's okay because this is the CW, a network run by middle aged people making television for thirsty teenagers and shame has no place here.
What it most reminds me of is Scooby Doo Mystery Inc, a really slapping kids' show from several years back, in that the general tone and atmosphere is almost identical, though obviously Mystery Inc does not have a very diverse cast unless we want to start a conversation about whether Scooby is black or not.
I often hold that Star Trek Into Darkness is one of the worst films ever made, but that it's quite hard to tell because it's so well put-together - as films costing a quarter of a billion dollars tend to be - and likewise, Nancy Drew 2019 is pretty bad, it's just that it's hard to tell because everything is put together with such studied competence that all you're left to criticise is how corny and unambitious it is, and good luck with selling that as a criticism in a world where easily over 50% of media is remakes or adaptations.  I did like that they waited almost four whole minutes before Nancy has her first sex scene of the episode, which on a CW show these days practically makes her a nun.  I guess it might be interesting to see how a CW show handles a prudish lead character for a change, but beyond that I don't see what makes this stand out.
 HUNTRESS: RUNE OF THE DEAD is a Swedish Western but with vikings instead of cowboys and zombies instead of Native Americans.  It is not very good.  It takes roughly 120 minutes of a 145 minute run time to get to the zombies, there isn't any clear protagonist, no central arc or theme for characters... I am not really sure what the point was.  I managed to get this far without watching anything with zombies in it and to be honest, I should have kept that rule going.

Monday, 7 October 2019

A dear friend has started drinking in moderation and all hell is breaking loose

I shall be spending the month of October watching horror and supernatural-themed movies and television on top of my usual diet of utter garbage, and I will be keeping a rough diary here on the blog to keep me honest and prevent any blogging slippages for at least a bit.

1st OCT - OCTOPUS is a cheapo horror flick made in 2000, apparantly, and I say "apparantly" because it's been sitting on my PS3 hard drive since 2013 and I figure it's time I watched it, if only before my beloved corporate hardware finally dies and I'm left using machines with vastly inferior media players - not that I'm mentioning any names like the piece of trash PS4 or anything.
The movie is about a young CIA honkey analyst who can't shoot a gun at people but who still ends up escorting an English terrorist-for-hire via a nuclear submarine captained by a lone wolf who doesn't play by the rules but always gets the job done etc and the sub gets attacked by a giant octopus created by the toxic monster juices transported to Fidel Castro in 1962 by the Soviet Union, and there's also a cruise ship on the surface that's being hijacked by terrorists as well, so the octopus attacks that, too.  It is a bit silly and not very good, the cgi octopus effects being about as impressive as you might expect for a low-budget creature feature made in 2000, but it is eventful, which I like, it's just a shame that the material wasn't in more capable hands.
OCTOPUS?  More like erm... PLOPtopus!  HA HA YEAH that's right, I went there.  I'm like the blogosphere's own Oscar flipping Wilde over here.

2nd OCT - THEM!  The b-movie classic.  Not one for twists and turns, this is the definition of meat and potatoes schlock, not hanging about before throwing giant ants at you.  Hard to know what to say about this that others haven't said already, but I know some people have made a fist at associating the film with atomic panic and while I would say that is a fair enough reading, it's only in the sense that all creative works are informed in some way by the sensibilities of their age.  It's really just a goofy monster feature played with a straight face and if by some miracle you haven't seen it, I would reccomend you do so.

3rd OCT - TRILOGY OF TERROR is a made for tv anthology from 1975 that is fondly remembered by many of a certain generation, but it's hard to see why apart from its pretty good final shot.  The stories are not very good, and I'm not saying you will guess the twist in the story about twins immediately upon watching, I am saying you can probably guess what it is just from me saying the word "twins".
Karen Black looking - if you will forgive my momentary lapse into the contemporary juvenile parlance - "Fine AF" plays the leads in all three tales, all of which are from stories written by the prolific Richard Matheson, and bar the lack of a host or any connective gimmick to tie the tales together, it feels a lot like his work on the Twilight Zone from a decade earlier: a mix of goofy and serious, with the final screwball chase sequence featuring a murderous idol coming across as very Tom and Jerry-eque.
Coincidentally, I am also partaking of THE NIGHT GALLERY, Rod Serling's copyright-bothering follow-up to Twilight Zone.  A contemporary of Trilogy of Terror, it's a clone of Serling's earlier anthology series to the point it isn't funny, right down to his turn as the unnamed host.  The tone is considerably more uneven than in Twilight Zone, with some painfully unfunny skits stinking the place up between the more intense stories, but it does also have Leslie Nielsen cosplaying as Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid 4, and Henry Silva in a turban, either of which are worth the price of admission, but here you actually get BOTH.

I'm only about halfway through so far, and the standouts have been Pickman's Model, a very loose adaptation of the HP Lovecraft story of the same name which also incorporates elements of The Shadow Over Innsmouth to create something very close to what I imagine an adaptation of Lovecraft would have been like if it had been undertaken by Hammer Studios - though it does so without Hammer's gore and busty wenches - and Brenda, based on a short story by Margaret St Clair, about a mean-spirited young girl who encounters a shambling creature in the woods around her isolated island home.

4th OCT - SHARK EXORCIST is not one of the more highbrow horrors I have seen in my time.
Recounting the plot is a bit hard, as I try to remember it and it sort of blurs and evades my attempts to pin down specifics, but I have generally avoided the cynical subgenre of horror that this kind of movie occupies and which is normally well-served by the output of shark-fixated production company The Asylum, in which the films are so bad that this becomes the attraction in and of itself, but whereas The Asylum does actually try to produce the best product it can and with a straight face - the decidedly self-awareness of the company's Sharknado series is far from indicitive of the rest of their output - Shark Exorcist is deliberately bad, and as a result is often just embarrassing to watch, and occasionally troubling, as in the scenes featuring an actress either playing a small child or someone with developmental problems, and the character is the target of prurient sapphic overtones meant to tittilate, so... yeah, there's that.
It's one of those films that you should by all means own and have in your collection so that you say to people HA HA HA LOOK AT THIS I HAVE A MOVIE CALLED JESUS CHRIST VAMPIRE HUNTER IN MY DVD COLLECTION but under no circumstances should you or anyone else actually watch the film and collapse the waveform, and instead just leave the possibility dangling in the mind about what such a film might be like.
There's an interview somewhere with the head honchos of The Asylum and they're pretty frank about their rationale and process, but basically it boils down to "streaming companies want to be able to say they have a movie called Attack Of The Shark Nazis so they pay us to go and make it in like two weeks and they don't care what the end product is like as long as the tone is serious and not self-effacing" and while I appreciate that means a stream of duff movies is guaranteed to flood the market, I also appreciate that this model - or at least the closest approximation of it that Roger Corman managed to practice from the 1960s onwards - is what led to the careers of people like James Cameron and Jack Nicholson.  So I guess the next auteur might conceivably come from these quarters, I just wish he'd hurry up and arrive so these companies can stop doing this.

5th OCT - DREAMCATCHER , which is a title foisted upon director Lawrence Kasdan by the studio, as they felt that "Attack Of The Bum Worms From Space" was not going to fly with the famously high standards of the American filmgoer.
True story: I was once getting on quite well with a lady in the bar and she told me that she worked as an usher in the local cinema and had to see the movies over and over again and the only one she enjoyed every time was Deuce Bigelow: European Gigalo and lord knows I am not a judgmental man but this was the precise moment I knew this was not going to work out but anyway, has there ever been a more devalued and meaningless phrase in the English language than "Based On A Story By Stephen King"?  Nonetheless, any film that features an eight foot alien monster clawing its way out of Damien Lewis' ass onscreen can't be all bad - not that Dreamcatcher doesn't try.  Actually, that cheap and obvious gag is a little unfair, as I thought this was okay - not a classic, not even something I would watch again, to be honest, but I did enjoy it, and it had some tense moments once it got past kneecapping any attempt at a consistent tone with all the fart gags.
The flashbacks to when the cast were kids gives it a similar air to the recent IT, and while not a big Stephen King reader myself, a mate who is far more versed in such things once explained how there was a lot of overlap in King's work, both in the plot elements (psychic powers, small towns, racial tensions, etc) but also in how a lot of his work takes place in Maine/Derry and features malevolent evil beings that may or may not be aspects of the monster from IT - apparantly IT appeared in that JFK time travel thing based on a King novel, and some fans posit that Mr Grey from Dreamcatchers is also IT, though he clearly isn't in this movie.  Anyway, it's over now, and so is this review.

6th OCT - GHOSTS OF MARS, which is me cheating on the horror watching because I don't need spooktober as a pretext to watch this, as it is one of my favorite John Carpenter films.  It just looks so dang cheap even though you know they spent plenty on it, with dozens of actors and huge sets and oh yeah they dyed the desert red so they could pretend it was Mars.  This thing was not cheap, so Johnny C done went and made it look cheaper than it was in some crazy asthetic choice and the result is something that still looks and sounds unique, featuring some bizarre performances from the cast, including a mouth-breathing turn from Jason Statham and Ice Cube being just remarkably terrible to the point you know it's deliberate.  It makes me think of what a huge-budget Doctor Who might have been like before the BBC discovered CGI effects, with its anachronistic technology and  setup of a mining town digging up a cursed tomb and unleashing savage body-snatchers on an unsuspecting Mars - the premise arguably continuing Carpenter's love of Nigel Kneale.  The guitar rock score is pretty cheesey, and some of the visual tics are weird, but I love the way the film compounds anachronism upon anachronism to create something distinctive.

7th OCT - SILVER BULLET is another cheat, because I don't need an excuse to watch this.  It's just a great little werewolf flick Based On A Story By Stephen King which transplants the beast's reign of terror upon the occupants of a small town from the traditional setting of a European village full of yokels to a small American town in the South circa 1976 full of yokels with guns who mob up not at the start of act 3 but at the end of act 1, so they're slaughtered and the smart survivors get the Hell out of Dodge in the middle of the second act.
I noticed the names Terry O'Quinn and Bill Smitrovich in the credits because they also appeared in the credits of Chris Carter's MILLENNIUM, of which I am doing a rewatch because what the heck, 'tis the season.  It really wanted to be then-popular serial killer movie Se7en, but it's dated quite a bit and some of the dialogue has not matured like a fine wine.  I do recall the law of diminishing returns as the seasons of the show progressed, with some disastrous misunderstanding of the common criticism that the show's universe seemed devoid of light or human compassion leading to some - admittedly good - comedy episodes rather than a more balanced tone or human characters you could warm to, but even now the pilot is impressively bleak.

Monday, 30 September 2019

From the bottom of my heart I have to tell you your problems are stupid

Oddly, it hasn't been laziness or playing videogames - the only two reasons off the top of my head I can think of for abandoning regular posts on a blog no-one reads - but it was, in fact, doing other things that kept me at a distance from you, my imaginary audience, as I was out doing The Work, which is currently appearing in David "I wonder if he gets Alan Moore's cut of the money but I don't want to ask in case it offends" Lloyd's ACES WEEKLY, the other UK weekly anthology about sci-fi and fantasy, but with creator-owned properties instead of house characters, so it makes even less money.
I am both fortunate and honored to be one of the drains on the limited compensation David receives for the headache of putting the title out every week, and to be honest if I'd done something that got picked up and turned into a film like David did, I'd retire, convinced I had paid my dues, and I would spend my time hating comics and sniping at newer, younger creators on the internet rather than tirelessly promoting them and giving them a platform, but I suppose that's what makes me and David different people.  Well, that and the talent and success.
ANYHOO the comic I have contributed alongside my barely-housetrained writing monkey Lee Robson is Velicity Jones, a female-led spy romp  NO WAIT COME BACK set in a version of the 1960s that will be familiar to viewers of the output of ITC and Lew Grade, so all PG13 stuff, though lord knows what that means these days - I watched some of that Dark Crystal show for children on Netflix and someone had their eye bitten out in the first five minutes.  Any wonder the world is full of psychos these days.
Non-psychos will find much to admire in Velicity Jones, I am sure, and it can be viewed via Borg distribution nodes everywhere for the laughably low subscription price of £6.99 per volume, $9.99 in dollars, or €7.99 if you want to be awkward.

I have, of course, deliberately omitted any mention of Bolt-01, our letterer on this and the previous two volumes of Velicity Jones, because like all comics creators, I marginalize and dismiss the work of letterers, the people without whom making comics would be literally impossible, so yah absolutely let's bung the colourist's name on the front covers of books there.  Couldn't tell a story without lettering and monochrome comics are commonplace in the market, but okay.  Bolt-01 (aka Dave Evans) doesn't seem to have a presence on the old social media, but the official blog of FutureQuake Press - a fine publishing venture in which the lad is balls deep - can be found HERE.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Maybe in my dreams I'll be skinny

"When you vote you are exercising political authority, you are using force and force, my friends, is violence - the supreme authority from which all other authority is derived."
Of course, when Michael Ironside spoke those words, he likely didn't know he was taking the piss out of fascism, as he'd been in so many dreadful films with questionable politics at that stage that he probably just assumed Hollywood was finally back at the uncritical-fawning-over-Nazis phase and was trying to cash as many paychecks as he could to pay for his bunker in the hills where he and his family could wait out the race war.  He probably didn't think too much about the fetishism of fascism in the script for Starship Troopers and took it at face value as being generally in favor of it much as reviewers at the time did, and much as Robert Heinlein did when he wrote the original novel, if we're being honest.
For years, though, it wasn't the impressive CGI swarms or the lunk-headed "teens" lurching around the screen delivering hammy dialogue that I took away from the movie, it was the line spoken above, clearly satirical, during a scene in which Michael Ironside's character explains how the failure of democracy led to global society becoming homogenised under authoritarian populists and OMG THATS JUST LIKE THE NOW TIMES! it's only now that I realise that I lacked the nawoose... the nuews,  the noose, the nuose... that I lacked the brain learning to understand that democracy is a largely coercive construct comprised of various branches of government who enjoy a monopoly on the use of violence or the legal power to impel compliance.  What Michael Ironside's highly memorable character whose name I have never bothered to learn because why would I? was saying is that the use of a vote is a form of coercion, the transfer of the will of a faction of the collective onto the whole.  It's a tremendous responsibility that probably shouldn't be squandered on voting for a bloke in a furry costume or dressed like Darth Vader, because there are knock-on consequences to protest voting just as much as there are for not voting at all.
 Anyway, at the heart of Starship Troopers is a meditation on who has the right to exercise violence and why, and it says a great deal about me that my attempts to mentally wrangle with the current political quagmire in the UK brought about by the failed neoliberal experiment and the worrying possibility of violence breaking out brings me not to some book about Bolshevism by a dead commie who lived through all of this before, but to the Robocop Man's big stupid film about the space army, but hey - we're all just trying to figure this stuff out in our own way and this is my process, I guess.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

I don't want to be rude but you sad losers should go suck somewhere else

We toil away in the social media mines to produce content for corporations to monetise, and we do it for free like the complete suckers we are.  Sometimes that content is a meme, sometimes it's a drawing or a photograph or a video, but if you don't have the skills or creative drive to produce any of those, you can still produce the outrage and attention that can be directed at the latest sacrifice - you can still contribute to the successful implementation of the Dead Cat Strategy meant to distract us from ever holding power to account through any practical means.  We've known for years that Britain operates for-profit concentration camps where guards strip-search young girls and procure sexual favors from rape survivors - but look at what Bojo the clown has done today and Corbyn has only gone and sat on the floor of a train oh my goodness it's like the end of the world!

Friday, 19 July 2019

There's something sweet in there, but it ain't cake

So I watched Million Dollar Baby because it was recommended by the Netflix algorithm after the credits rolled on the by-the-numbers Rocky spin-off Creed 2, the second film in a franchise about a man "forging his own legacy" by becoming famous for doing the same thing his dad did, and while I usually think the Netflix recommendations algorithm might be broken because it rarely recommends films explaining how white people are being replaced with Jews and Muslims like the Youtube algorithm does, with Million Dollar Baby coming hot on the heels of a movie about a black man attaining success and legitimacy, Netflix might finally be catching up with YT in normalising reactionary right-wing responses to minorities.
Don't get me wrong, I was actually quite enjoying Million Dollar Baby... until the comedy hillbillies showed up, grasping for benefits and sneering at the idea of getting a job, but after this it became a bit hard not to attempt a read of the film's politics, especially when not long after that it abandoned its cliched rags-to-riches boxing fable plot arc to become a film with deeply odd opinions about disability and then resolved its hillbilly arc with a scene in which the sneering rednecks fresh from a visit to the sights of Las Vegas attempt to rob a quadriplegic as they lay in their hospital bed.
Leaving its highly conservative class politics aside, instead of a counterpoint to Creed 2, Million Dollar Baby felt a lot like a continuation, as both are predictable movies traveling well-worn paths, it's just that Million Dollar Baby swerves to become a different kind of predictable movie plot in its final third that lets the cast and crew make a grab for some Oscar glory, but up until then it is indistinguishable from countless low-budget "learning to fight and learning to grow" pupil/sensei dramas from the 80s and 90s.  And now I have a hankering to watch American Shaolin again.

Friday, 12 July 2019

I don't kiss, honey, but for another fifty you can spank me

As someone who grew up in a Spurs household, I naturally despise football and all it stands for, so I was delighted to have dedicated a portion of the paltry span of increasingly-cursed days I have left upon this venom-drenched hell-sphere to playing a footy vidyagame for "research", so here I am like a total chump playing FIFA 17, an experience which is slightly - but not predominantly - an affirmation that I wasn't entirely wrong to keep away from sporting games.
Let me briefly sidetrack - don't worry, I'm going somewhere with it - to explain how "trophies" work on a Playstation: within modern games, there are token rewards granted to the player for reaching milestones in the game like driving a total of 5000 miles or shooting 100 enemies with a particular gun or collecting 20 of a particular kind of gem or coin - that kind of thing.  These token rewards are called Trophies on the Playstation family of consoles (and "achievements" on the Xbox series of machines) and they have no actual value, being virtual tokens or medals that grant nothing but bragging rights to prove you've done something in a game (the trophies are displayed on your gaming profile/account and so can be seen by anyone online).  On the list of trophies for each game, right next to each trophy is a little number giving you the percentage of how many of the game's players across the entire globe have won that trophy, and the three rarest trophies in FIFA 17, obtained by less than one percent of the estimated 24 million FIFA 17 players* on the entire planet are gained by "playing a match as a woman's team", "finishing a match as a woman's team", and "playing a tournament as a woman's team", so even before your old buddy Mr B started to play this game, he was getting some serious confirmation bias vibes about the sensibilities of its target audience.
I find this virtual world sexism germane because what interested me about this game is the inclusion of a secondary play mode called "Journey",  which is a story-driven add-on which presents a recreation of the world of a professional footballer in which women are notable only by their absence.  The idea of a story you played through in a game whose only play mechanics are a replication of a sport was intriguing to me, as... well, what exactly is this story going to be about?**  Using your football skills to fight terrorists?  A detective story in which you uncover corruption in monolithic sporting organisations?  Or will it be you playing as a young lad who wants to do football in Wembley Stadium so has to play loads of football games and training minigames and then does football in Wembley?
Go on, have a guess which it turned out to be.

Journey is basically a moron-proof ultra-lite RPG made by someone who played Mass Effect and thought "you know what, this is a bit complicated", and being part of an officially-licensed product with a mandate not to portray the organisation or sport in a bad light, it has little in the way of dramatic bite or gritty realism - for instance there's no struggling with drugs or navigating your character through a Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney-style minigame in a courtroom fending off allegations of sexually assaulting a minor - and instead we get an indulgent football legacy storyline with your fictional character chasing fame while trying to stay true to his fam.  It's very much invested in the romantic notion of football as every young lad's fantasy career and a route for them out of poverty, not that the game goes much into the depiction of poverty.  You accrue followers on social media the better you do in matches, but a nice touch is that you get far more followers if you act like a complete and utter prick, which was of course exactly how I was playing the role, going so far as to choose to play for Chelsea.  At some point I realised, though, that not all footballers are pricks and I was in fact confusing them with Formula 1 drivers, so I started playing the character a little more level-headed to stop the manager riding my ass and keeping me on the benches because I'm acting like a boor - presumably this is a game feature because FIFA is very concerned about the conduct of those of its members in the public eye and want to make sure the game's image is always presented as beyond reproach and spotless and I don't follow football so you'll have to insert your own joke here about whatever a Sepp Blatter is - and for the trouble of winding my neck in got banished to Newcastle.
I mean, I got a choice of clubs to transfer to, but I'd actually heard of Newcastle - the city - and I remain unconvinced that "Norwich" is a real thing.  Anyway
I like how you can change the game camera to something closer to the pitch/players so you can actually line up a tackle (though mostly I just try to hack the legs off opposing players***), and it gets pretty exciting when the camera closes in like it's chasing you when you make a run for the goal, though finding the actual ball on the pitch seems to be an arbitrary experience.  I have some vague recollection of playing soccer games Back In The Day and am used to the whole player-switching thing where you always control the player on your team in possession of the ball, so I was pleasantly surprised to see there's an option to play the entire match as a single player, and while this was good fun and reminiscent of having a kickabout with your mates, rather a lot of it seemed to be a man on the side of the pitch waving a flag at me because I had broken football law.
I'd like it if there was an option to better highlight the ball and your current player more prominently as the current visual cues are pretty weedy and lead to constant confusion as to who I'm currently controlling or where the ball is, but I suppose after two decades of making these things, Electronic Arts know the wants of their audience a bit better than I do.
I have been playing this a lot, so as research projects go it's been pretty enjoyable even with the nagging to sign up for an online account so that EA can nag you into micro-transactions, but I think I can get along just fine without either, thanks.

Good game.  Good game.

* FYI, I - like a fair few other people I imagine - bought this game second hand for the princely sum of one UK pound, so I imagine the actual number of players when you include second hand sales and borrowed copies is far higher than the number of units sold would suggest.

** The fact that there is not an
Escape To Victory videogame is a crime.

*** SURPRISINGLY DIFFICULT to foul other players, at least in the story mode.  I played a woman's match and those bitches are vicious because I got red-carded within five minutes.

Monday, 8 July 2019

When I'm online, I'm looking at sloths

The Star Trek reboot movies engaged in performative stupidity - that is, they pretended to be dumber than they were in order not to frighten anyone away who might have got the impression that Star Trek was a thing that brain scientists watched - but Blood and Treasure is the other kind of stupidity: the kind that's real.  It covers the same ground as a video game series called Uncharted in which a square-jawed white dude travels the world looking  for treasure while things explode and then he has a fight with a rich guy who is also a terrorist who plans to use an ancient McGuffin as a weapon of mass destruction and long story short, this is the setup for Blood and Treasure, only not as well written as a video game whose script is nothing more than a contextualisation for your gunning down literally hundreds of pirates and bandits.
Blood and Treasure - AKA Nathan Drake and Chloe Frazer: The Series - is offensively stupid is what I am saying.
It introduces its main female character by showing her trying to seduce a man in order to rob him, its lead male is a square-jawed white boy fighting Arab terrorists, there's flashbacks to the Nazis, secret conspiracies - you know what, fuck this stupid show, just go on Youtube and watch a movie collection of the story scenes from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, as at least you'll only have to sit through an hour or two of that.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Normally I don't drink in the afternoon, but it's still morning

Saw Disney's live-action remake of Aladdin, which is terrible because they haven't changed it enough from the original, and Disney's live-action remake of Dumbo which is terrible because they've changed it from the original.
Actually both of these remakes were fine and I don't know what people are complaining about.  I did think that I would have got much more out of Dumbo if I was about 8 years old, though, especially the plot about his mum and the utterly bizarre anti-elephant racist character who just seems really out of place to these adult eyes - how is he even in that circus family?  Danny DeVito at one point says everyone has to wear many hats in the circus to keep it running - the strongman also does the accounts and manages inventory, etc - but elephant racist just hangs about sneering at the elephants and cracking a whip, which somehow seem to be the only two things his job entails.
Aladdin was also fine apart from the bits they changed from the original film, which the fanboys are right about for once, just not for the reasons they claim, as the extra bits don't gel with the rest of the film for reasons other than the fact that they aren't in the original cartoon, ie: Will Smith playing a framing character much as Robin Williams did in the original, but they've changed him from a peddler of wares who just happens to be voiced by the same actor who does the Genie to a new character who is definitely the Genie as a human, and there's an arc in there about how he ends up where he is that isn't hard to follow, but it never pays off.  Likewise the new songs are dreadful - no tunes or hooks, they're just some people saying what they're thinking out loud while being autotuned, the songs about how it's tough to be a girl in a man's world being especially groan-worthy.
Its musical numbers/dance routines are also filmed at a distance that encompass the entire set on which the musical number is being shot, and the effect is like someone has recorded the daily renditions of popular songs from Disney movies that workers perform daily at a theme park - for the life of me, I just can't shake the idea that the intent is to manage expectations of visitors to DisneyWorld, especially when you clap eyes on Will Smith's Genie and the not-very-animated way he "walks" that amounts to just putting a CGI cloud where his legs are.  This is - I note - an effect that could rather easily be replicated by a minimum wage employee wearing a glittery skirt.
Anyway, the interesting thing - to me and absolutely no-one else - is seeing the common flaws in both films: added stuff that wasn't in the original movie that stands out because it doesn't gel with the rest of the remake for various reasons.  There's a lot of this kind of thing going on in Dumbo, and it's hard not to see most of it centering around Eve Green's character being shoehorned into a relationship with Colin Farrel's character which pushes all other character arcs to the side, particularly that of Farrel's kids.
It's often pretty glaring that the kid characters have nothing to do and exercise no agency, so instead there's a sort of "girls do science because that is an empowering thing in this oppressive patriarchal age" arc for the daughter which ignores that female scientists had already been making contributions for hundreds of years, and that the film is set post-war - there is literally an entire subplot about Colin Farrel's PTSD - and there was a perfect opportunity to examine how women had already tasted empowerment in the workplace, and oh yeah she literally lives in a circus where women have responsibilities beyond what might have been expected of the gender apartheid of the time.  The daughter seems to have been shortchanged somewhere in the script revisions and you can still see the shape of an arc about her building a relationship with her father after his absence in the war/the death of her mother, and her reticence to become involved in the circus which means so much to her father and which still seems to culminate in a moment where she mounts Dumbo and rides him around the Big Top as the main event, much as her father had once performed as a rodeo act but now cannot because of his war injuries (he returns from the war as an amputee).
I am probably thinking too much about these films for children, because they are films for children.  There's no reason they can't have depth and content to appeal beyond that demographic, of course, but they kind of don't, so their worth is more as an insight into the thought processes involved in adaptation from one form (animation) to another (live action), and from what I can see the process seems to involve a lot of script revisions until themes and arcs get discarded from one draft to another, but artifacts of earlier drafts somehow still remain in the final shooting scripts.  The makers seem to want to add another 30-40 minutes of material from the original animation's running time but can't quite nail down what should be there so the movies end up with a lot of flab.  Another common element seems to be the casting of actors who can't quite sing to be in musical films - why they don't just get someone else to do the singing bits for the actor I'm not quite sure.
But they were fine and perfectly entertaining films.  Do you think you could sit still for 120 minutes?  If yes, then these movies will not change or enrich you, but they are a competently-made and acceptable waste of two hours of your life.