Godzello Presents: Buzz at Pop-Culture Corner

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Updated: 1 hour 58 min ago

Movie Mutts Episode 1

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 08:41
Ooh, what's this? I have a new webseries with my fellow movie-snob compatriot? Check it!

On Thor: The Dark World

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 18:13

I hate this movie. I don't hate it because it's bad. It really wasn't all that terrible. It didn't even rub me the wrong way. 

I hate this movie because it had all the pieces to be really damn good ... and misstepped. 
It's sad to say, but any Marvel movie with Tom Hiddleston
is going to be successful 

Most Idiotic Review 

"It’s sad to say, but Thor: The Dark World marks Marvel’s first serious misfire." — Jack Giroux (Film School Rejects)

I don't know what context this is a serious misfire in, or at least, how this is Marvel's first. As far as I can see, it did far better than Thor at the Box Office, and between this and the two Iron Man sequels ... I'm going to stick to my guns and insist those were far shittier films. Robert Downey Jr.'s star power aside, Iron Man 2 and 3 were atrocious, as I've discussed before. Thor: The Dark World is merely disappointing. 
This scene is sadly an accurate depiction of the movie as a whole. 
Most Accurate Review

“Thor is back in another perfectly adequate Marvel movie that pleasantly killed a few hours of your time with enough cool visuals, action, and humor to keep you from wondering, 'Why does the elf man want to shoot magic Kool-Aid into the sky holes?'” — (Screen Junkies)

I feel like these guys hit the nail on the head pretty solidly. There were three parts of this film that just ... fell apart for me, Thor, the comic relief, and the bad-guy. Now that I've written those out they seem much more dire than I originally thought, but let me elaborate. Specifically, Thor's journey from ignorance to self-awareness (as my professors insist all great protagonists go on) ... isn't. It's there, certainly. We're told so, but we're never given an investment into this struggle. If anyone has a more relatable journey, it's, I hate to admit, Loki. 

The Comic Relief are far more annoying in this film, if you ask me, for the simple reason that their antics are cutaways. They're the peanut gallery, not adding to the story ... and when they are adding to the story, blessed-be, they're not that annoying. 

Lastly, the villains in this story were impossible to relate to: generic, unexplained, unsympathetic, and primarily speaking a foreign, made-up language. How exactly was the audience supposed to connect to these guys? And in a film already rocking fan-favorite, Loki, it really seems like these guys got seriously shortchanged. 

What I Say

Plot — Alright, let's see what we have. There is a mystical McGuffin of great and terrible power, a group that wants to control/dominate/destroy the universe with it, and a lone hero (and his ragtag friends) who are the only ones capable of stopping it. And speaking of the McGuffin, I really love how it's a liquid Infinity Stone. I'm not anal enough to let that bother me, I just find it rather funny. 

Sidenote, Sif deserves way more development and screentime
especially compared to Kat Dennings. 
Yep. It's a Marvel film, alright. The problem here isn't so much in the plot as the pacing. We open with a prologue with narration. I forgive this in films like Lord of the Rings, simply because there was so much damn exposition to fit into the films, it seemed a necessity. Also, one of the highly memorable quotes from a highly memorable trilogy was in the opening prologue, so I can also forgive them for doing it damn well (for those unsure, I'm referring to the, "history became legend legend became myth and that things that should not be forgotten are lost," line). Here, though, it just seems lazy, especially when the same information is delivered numerous times throughout the film. 

They keep hammering the notion of the 'Convergence' into our heads. I know they talk about the rule of threes. I know they talk about the rule of threes. I know they talk about the rule of threes. YOU SEE HOW ANNOYING IT IS? It's not really that foreign a concept. "Once every X millennia the Y realms align and their borders become Play-do." We didn't need that hammered into our heads via 2x4 injection to the cranium.

My other major complaint with the pacing is the film's inability to get serious. Bare with me on this one for a moment. SPOILER ALERT 

We have a really touching sacrifice of Thor's mother, Frigga, to save Jane Foster from Malaketh. We see quite a beautiful funeral scene. It's one of my favorite moments of the film, and right as it hooked me with what I considered pretty compelling drama, we cut to Erik Selvig spouting comedic exposition to a psychiatric ward that includes Stan Lee's goddamn cameo. It killed the mood entirely, and it struck me that almost every time the film reached out and did something moving, it skirted away from it, like it was terrified of scaring away their demographic. 

Character — Thor is the big one (no surprise) so I'll start there. It is hinted that this Norse god is struggling with his duty of becoming King of Asgard, and his love for Jane Foster on Earth. Maybe it's because I'm a dried up old cynic who buried the last remnants of my romanticism in the backyard ... but this is not a storyline that the audience can get invested in. This might be for several reasons. It's not written well, or it's just not that engaging in and of itself. I felt like the film stumbled onto an arc for Thor in that his conflict isn't with being with Jane vs Ruling Asgard, so much as, Thor is a guardian, a warrior, a protector, more than a sovereign ruler. His place, where he feels most comfortable, is wading into the fray, not watching from afar. I thought the film would play with this more ... but it doesn't. It threw it into a few lines and then let it sit. 

Jane Foster continues to be a bland character, although I'm of the opinion that Natalie Portman is doing what she can with what she has. She certainly has more chemistry with Hemsworth than she did with Hayden Christensen. I feel like Marvel, while having a ball, has a limited understanding of what strong female characters can be. It makes me miss the days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with Buffy, Willow, Cordelia, Tara, Anya etc (and I have to mention Fred from Angel). Whedon's strength isn't just in crafting female characters of notable strength, but they're all different. Marvel's female characters ... like their villains, are starting to become threadbare after so much media attention. 

Then again, I've been single for the past five years.
I might not know chemistry if it bit me in the ass.
Malekith is probably the worst villain Marvel has delivered. It's a real shame because, as usual, Marvel casts some really heavy-hitting talent. In this case, Doctor Who's Christopher Eccleston. As a character, this is what we know about the Dark Elves, of which Malekith is the most ruthless ruler. They come from before the universe. They want the universe to go back to the dark. Sure this flies in the face of 90% of layman physics I'm aware of, but we'll ignore that. So that's what we're given. That's it. There's also a McGuffin called the Aether that can turn any matter it touches into anti-matter. Sure we never actually see it do this, but that's what we're told (in voice-over narration, no less). 

Oh, and I guess I have to talk about Loki or I'd get shivved by the Tumblr Girls (they're out there ... watching, waiting). Loki is probably at his best in this film. In Thor he was weak and mildly whiny. In Avengers ... I honestly just felt sorry for him, since he was so clearly out of his own league. This film, he shined, and many people pointed out the relationship between Thor and Loki was far more engaging than the supposed romance (and slash fiction writers rejoiced). That said, I wished they had actually killed him off, just like I wish they're killed Nick Fury in Captain America: Winter Soldier. Like Moffat's seasons of Doctor Who, there's an impending vacuum of threat. The villains are consistently laughable and their heroes are unkillable. 

The Warriors Three and the Comic Relief return in this movie. One set has a distinct advantage over the other in terms of screentime, and I'll be honest, I was less than thrilled with the film's choice. I'm sorry, but the votes are in, and the comic relief in these films ... they're not funny. They're tonally out of place and obnoxious. Why? Every time they start doing their bit, the plot stops. Merry and Pippin might have been comic relief, but they moved the damn story along while they made jokes, or at least their jokes were interspersed enough not to feel like they were highhandedly dragging the movie into the pits of hell. 
Last I'll mention Odin. I love Anthony Hopkins ... I think. It's been a long while since I've seen him in any roll that struck me as anything other than tired. Maybe that's the idea behind Odin, but all I get from him is that this guy really wants to retire, and neither or his son's will oblige him the opportunity to spend the rest of his days on a beach in Cabo. 

Spectacle — The film is a little more rugged than the previous installment. Asgard feels less like a classic Shakespeare set as a lived-in world. It's pretty clear this is the influence Alan Taylor had in taking over the direction from Kenneth Branagh. Since it's built on the skeleton of the previous film's design, I do personally prefer this film's depiction, but it's just personal taste. I was more than a little annoyed by how easily invaded Asgard was though. For the most powerful race in the Nine Realms, the Dark Elves pretty solidly kicked their asses. I'm not even sure why they retreated at all, except for dramatic purposes. It was pretty well shown that the Asgardian forces posed about as much a threat as the Bulk and Skull from Power Rangers. 

The fight scenes are ... less visceral than you'd think a film about a god wielding a magic hammer would be. 

The final fight does have a fun concept and some colorful visuals, but I was so detached from the characters by that point, I just couldn't get invested. The action scenes were really impersonal, is what I'm getting at. They are well choreographed and stylish, but there's no heart to them. This might just be me, but the only moments in the film that warranted as legit ass-kicking, the deaths of two major characters, were greeted by more mundane and tradition venues of drama. That said, when you kill off two of the people closest to the God of Thunder, one might expect a more intense emotional outburst of wanton destruction. Butts should be liberally kicked. 

And what's my takeaway from all this? Well, as I said at the beginning of the review, it's just sad.

Sorry Guys

Wed, 09/03/2014 - 20:58
Screw it, I'm sick, I'm struggling to keep up with classes.

So here's Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin doing a skit.

Sorry Dedicated Readers

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 21:04
My cold has progressed and gotten worse. Coupled with still attending my classes (falling behind will hurt me more in the long run), I've run myself ragged. Suffice it to say, Terrible Tuesday has been postponed.

Sorry fellas.

~ Godzello

On Game of Thrones, Season 4

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 15:19

I'm behind the times on Game of Thrones, both the books and the shows, but having been laid low by a nasty-ass cold (seriously, hacking blood into a sink is a bit worrisome. I have no problem with the zombie apocalypse so long as I'm not patient zero), I decided it was an opportune time to try catching up on at least the show, since I just don't read fast enough to plow through the books in a weekend. 
So I'll be up front with you guys ... I'm not a huge fan of Game of Thrones, and that IS NOT because I think it's bad. I think it's great. I think George R.R. Martin's books are fantastic (the 152 pages I've read) and the show a moderately faithful but still kickass adaptations. So what's my problem?  I'm a cynic, and the show's sincere but perpetual portrayal of the human condition as nasty, deplorable, untrustworthy, and dishonorable just ... doesn't do it for me. 

My favorite fantasy author, Stephen R. Donaldson once said, "Fantasy [is] involved in affirming the value of the individual. Fantasy implies that there is some way in which human beings are greater than the sum of their parts by using magic as a metaphor to discuss what it means to be a human being. It implies some kind of transcendence in the notion of who we are as people, and so it affirms by necessity the value of who we are and the lives we are living."

You can see this a lot in the genre of fantasy, Tolkien especially. Where you won't see it though, is in Game of Thrones, which is intentional. You see him talk about it in interviews, like for Rolling Stone, "Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it's not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn't ask the question: What was Aragorn's tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren't gone – they're in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?"

So Game of Thrones has done nothing wrong save for going off and boldly exploring an area that just doesn't much interest me. 
Most Idiotic Review

"Game of Thrones has always been a slow-burning affair, which is worth more as a whole than the sum of its parts. But when a show pledges to give fans even more and then doesn’t deliver its leave of an empty feeling of mild disappointment."  — Neela Debnath (The Independent) 

Stuff like this annoys me. I think it's partially because it displays, what seems to me, to be something of a naive attitude toward storytelling structure. Case in point, show of hands, who here remembers Peter Jackson's King Kong? Okay, cool. How many of you remember the Brontosaurus chase sequence? Of course you do, it dominated a better portion of an already massive film and served little purpose in the context of the final film. In 2005 I was 13 years old, and guess what, I felt visually exhausted by the end of that scene, and there was still half of the movie left to go. 

"Who are you again?"
So what did Game of Thrones pledge to deliver? Well, I'm assuming it's pretty much the same stuff we've known the whole time. We have the Whitewalkers, Daenarys and her Dragons, and the frankly insane level of complication involved in who's stabbing who in the back down in Westeros. Admittadly, the season isn't as grand. It's more character focused, but it certainly is establishing the brickwork to deliver what one can only hope to be a hellova ride for the next few seasons. 

Most Accurate Review

"Game of Thrones a slog through constantly fluctuating politics and random instances of gore with only brief moments of true excitement when you know exactly who you're rooting for -- when you can distinguish good from evil. This is clearly a writer's choice and not one that should be criticized from a structural standpoint, only a moral one."  — Ben Travers (indieWIRE)

This is definitely more in line with my own personal viewpoint. Westeros is a miserable place. I'm a fan of Joss Whedon, Tolkien, and Neal Stephenson. My upbringing never prepared me for the sheer level of abuse these characters inflict on one another, whether it be sexual, verbal, physical, or psychological, it doesn't seem to matter to them. I'm used to being emotionally decimated by shows like Buffy, Supernatural, or Doctor Who. But Game of Thrones operates on a whole different level, and while it's truly well done, that just makes me more uncomfortable. Call me overly sensitive if you will, and naive for preferring heroic characters over Martin's arguably more realistic ones, but it is what it is. 

This constitutes a break.
What I Say

Plot — Well, I personally think Westeros needed a break after the Red Wedding and the Battle of Blackwater. Let's face it, the majority of primary characters were murdered in one, and the majority of opposing armies were murdered in the other. Everything is in shambles and the dust needs to settle a bit before the remaining forces make their move. 

This season is dominated (after the death of a certain little troll) by personal character studies, mostly. We get some pretty powerful character arcs in this season. That said, the plot section will be a bit shorter, so I can devote some more time to the characters. 

What is primarily happening in the wide world of Westeros? Daenerys and her dragons are finally bitten in the ass for her inability to understand economics and cultural diversity after freeing countless slaves who don't know how to live any other life than the one she finds morally abhorrent (I consider Daenerys to be one of the most frightening characters in the show). 

Jon Snow is forced to contend with the Wildling forces as well as growing threat of the Whitewalkers, who we still only see brief glimpses of. The petulant twerp Geoffrey is finally offed, via poison, and the blame is placed on Tyrion, who just can't catch a break on this show, and is put on trial for regicide.

Comparatively, yes, it is a simple season, dealing primarily with fallout from the last three, and prepping for serious ass-kickery yet to come.

Characters — Seeing as there seems to be a bazillion characters starring in this show, I'll try to focus my attention by a random set of conditions that I'll try and pass off as reasoned and well thought out.

Arya Stark is undoubtedly a badass. She kicks ass and takes names and survived longer than the majority of her family, even when her circumstances were far worse. Even so, she's a terrifying little girl. Not even girl, she'd be terrifying as a boy. She'd be terrifying as an adult. The sad thing is, it didn't even occur to me until after the fact. She was strong, but now she's broken, and I don't mean that as a failing. Whatever mercy, understanding, or forgiveness she might have once had seems to have been smothered by sheer cruelty. She is now and forever a product of the war.

Jon Snow maintains his dour stoicism though. For every curveball the North throws at the poor bastard (everyone else points it out, why can't I?) he simply glowers, gets up, dusts himself off, and keeps doing his duty. Driven by honor and chivalry, he seems to be one of the handful remaining respectable characters left in the show who displays any level of restraint, even if in certain circumstances, I wish he'd cut loose on some of his superiors. His relationship with Ygritte is brought to a close, prompting more brooding (I said he was respectable, I didn't say he was complicated). 

After a season dedicated to their growth, both Jaime and Brienne seem to drift at sea. It makes sense, seeing as where they are both physically and developmentally, as they're both trying to find their bearings. Tyrion too becomes very reactionary this season, having been blamed for Geoffrey's death, and is forced to sit inside his cell for the majority of the season. The relationship between the brothers and Cersei is expanded upon in the meantime, and we do see progression in this, further fueling Jaime's seeming redemption (that can't end well). Cersei continues to be crazy. 

I know there's way more to delve into, but unless I broke the season down episode by episode (I could do that you know) I think I've said enough here. As it is, I excitedly await 2015's Season 5.  

Update Me: Poets of the Fall, "Daze"

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 20:11

I'm actually a little behind on this one. I too have suffered at the hands of Facebook's habit of NOT SHOWING POSTS FROM PEOPLE I'D LIKE TO SEE THEM FROM.

Anywho. Poets of the Fall is probably my favorite band of all time. I could wax philosophical, but simply put, I friggin' love their shit. So, why am I telling you this? They released the first single from their upcoming album, entitled "Jealous Gods," (to be released September 19) which is a bitch-ass title. The song is called 'Daze,' and if you've never seen any of their music videos before, you're in for both a visual and musical treat. 


P.S. sorry about not posting a Throwback Thursday post (Thor 2: The Dark World was planned) but I had to attend the performing arts Major's Meeting tonight, and by the time that was finished, I didn't have the heart to watch a two-hour long movie. I promise all twenty of you who've been reading my blog this week, I WILL POST TOMORROW. 

On Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 22:15

Okay, so I'd never had any experience with Sin City until today. I never had much a reason, I just never got around to it. So I guess, at the end of the day, I'm not really a fan of either film. They're really stupid, but that's okay. They're chalk full of brutal violence, but that's okay. They're full of scantily clad women, but that's okay. 

My real problem has more to do with the source material. Not even the material, no ... just the source. Frank Miller is ... colorful to say the least. Or, one might say he's a misogynistic, homophobic fascist, and unfortunately, whatever qualities his works might have going for them, for me, personally, they're overshadowed by that. 

Suffice it to say, I find the man distasteful. And to put it bluntly, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For ... ugh. 

Most Idiotic Review

"I think it's almost as good as the first one. If you want to see a Sin City movie, that is exactly what you get." — Doug Walker 
Wow, Doug ... I'm sorry. I just ... I'm so sorry, but I disagree so hard ... oh well. So it goes. 

Most Accurate Review

"This is Rodriguez's second sequel in a row in which he turns sex, violence and exploitation into an occasional for dullness. For a film loaded with decapitations and gun-toting ladies in bondage gear, Sin City gets really tedious really quickly." — Alonso Duralde (The Wrap) 

This is one of the few times I checked the reviews before stepping into the movie. I really wasn't sure how it could be this bad, you know? I thought this might be a case where I and the critics really just didn't agree. That said ... well, I really agree. 

What I Say

The more of this movie I watched, the more I hated it. I actually haven't hated a movie like this ... wow, Turtles didn't piss me off this badly. That's how badly I reacted to this movie. Wow. Just wow. 

Plot — Well, we have two main stories. There's Joseph Gordon-Levitt who ... gah, I'm getting frustrated already. Okay, he's a lucky gambler who always wins and comes to Sin City to test his luck. And there's Josh Brolin who is playing as Clive Owen's character from the first film and they do a really shitty job establishing it's the same character. I didn't realize it until halfway through when Rosario Dawson reappears and recognizes him, cause I sure as hell didn't. Josh Brolin is caught up with Eva Green's character, a classic Femme Fatale, who ... wants power? I wasn't too clear on what exactly she wanted. 

The plots themselves aren't horrible, but the pacing in this movie is god-awful, and all those reviewers saying they were checking their watches? Seriously spent the majority of the time doing just that. Man. They tried to recreate the multiple storylines element from the previous movie, but except maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt's, none of them are that interesting, but his is horribly anticlimactic. 

Jessica Alba's storyline, on the other hand, pisses me off to no end. Apparently, without her man, Bruce Willis in her life, she descends into alcohol and eventually self-mutilation. I really hate this kind of storytelling. One could argue it's just in character, but I'll argue it stinks of sexism, and knowing Frank Miller's history? I'm pretty secure in making that argument. 

The individual stories climax on their own time, contributing to the flawed pacing. In the first film, each climax felt like it was building toward a grander finale, or at least a personal, character driven one. I think that's what they were going for here, but I feel like they sidestepped success on that one.

Character — Okay, so we have some returning faces. Jessica Alba is back ... for the last half hour mostly. Marv returns, but he's sidelined as random muscle for the majority of the film. Josh Brolin plays Clive Owen's part from the first movie (I'm noticing that outside Marv ... I really don't know any of these characters' names) and while his arc takes up most of the first half of the film, I found myself far less invested than I expected to be. All in all ... a hodgepodge mess.

Spectacle — I will give the film credit, it is a violent, stylized, noir-fest ... but I don't think it's good. There is a distinct lack of pop, however you want to interpret that. At the end of the day, I suppose the film just really failed to grab me (like the first one did) leaving me with a muddled story and undertones of Frank Miller's insanity. 

Terrible Tuesday: On Star Trek Into Darkness

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 19:01

Like with Inception, I'm stretching my definition of 'terrible' this Tuesday. However, that does not really make this movie good. It has a flawed structure, a dull villain (or two), and a nigh incomprehensible plot. I'm really getting sick of movies nowadays trying to spruce things up with complications over complexities. Just because you can hardly track what's going on doesn't make it complex, just confusing. In this case, I'm mainly referring to the villain's ultimate goal, which he goes about achieving in a woefully questionable way.

Most Idiotic Review

"Visually spectacular and suitably action packed, Star Trek Into Darkness is a rock-solid installment in the venerable sci-fi franchise ...." — Rotten Tomatoes site consensus

Most Accurate Review

"If only the script actually made sense ..." — Keith Decandido (Tor.com)

Yeah ... that. 
Who cares about the script making sense?
What I Say

Before I begin, I want just say, this review is coming out of me when I'm not at my best. My  new semester just started yesterday and I've already run myself a bit ragged trying to keep up with the schedule that I have only myself to blame for creating. Normally I'd rewatch the entire film before throwing down with it, but frankly, I didn't like this movie nearly enough to sit through it again, having seen it at least three times I can think of off the top of my head. 
I won't really delve into the film today, so much as what's stupid about it. Somewhere out there, I know I just made someone very happy. The villain, played by Peter Weller, has a pretty stupid plan as to start a war with the Klingons in order to ... prevent a war. Smooth. His mentality is that war is inevitable, but he wants it on his terms. 

The way he goes about this is so painful I don't even like thinking about it. He manipulates Kirk into going after Khan (they try and fail for a reveal of this, but there were few if no people who didn't see it coming), and tries to get him to fire Khan's crew (secretly housed in torpedoes) at the planet to kill Khan. Then he rigs the ship to stall. Then, when he finds out they didn't kill Khan, he shows up himself ... and tries to kill everyone. 

I love villains who think they're the good guys, since I find them the most believable and the most interesting ... Admiral Marcus is not one of these villains. His plan is very solidly in mustache twirler area, and the attempts to change that really fail. He comes across less sympathetic than Khan, even when one considers Khan's acts of terrorism at the end of the film when he crashes a Starship into Starfleet headquarters. Khan is actually fairly sympathetic all in all, but I'll get to that later.

Outside the stupidity of the plot, we also have a few other things crammed down our throat. Kirk fires Scotty for reasons that at first seem really stupid, which are confirmed when it's revealed the writers just needed Scotty off the Enterprise so he could go do other things. 

They reverse the end of Wrath of Khan, putting Kirk in Spock's place, and reverse even their lines. It really doesn't work. Instead of hearkening to the original scene and then deviating to explore their own themes and their own character relationships (this Spock and Kirk do not have the same relationship as their Wrath of Khan counterparts), the identical dialogue just resonates wrong. It forces you to compare it to the original, which is unfair to Into Darkness. 

There's plenty else to complain about in terms of inconsistencies (I tend to blame Lindelof for the majority of these, since I almost always have a bone to pick with that guy), like 'needing' Khan's super-blood when you have the rest of his crew in stasis, or the tribble ... which is just a frankly odd and out of place conclusion. The relationship between Spock and Uhura is just uncharacteristic to me, and feels like Hollywood overstepping its bounds and trying to make Star Trek more hip for a younger audience. I don't think it adds to either character. Kirk is both similar and dissimilar to Shatner's portrayal. I don't think this would bother me if not for Zachary Quinto's damned impressive portrayal of Spock. I read that he purportedly based the majority of his performance on actually spending time with Leonard Nimoy, and I believe it. I still argue the best scene in the 2009 film is the scene with the two Spocks near the end. So my problem isn't that Chris Pine is doing a poor job, by any means. He's doing his version of the character, but with the other lead doing his version of the original's version, I simply find it jarring.

The film does have a lot of good moments, although I don't really care for how J.J. Abrams handles a camera. There is a lot of shaky cam overall, even in softer quieter scenes, and I found it very distracting. Also, the lens flares are back in force. Considering the audience reaction to the 2009 film's overuse of the damn things, there's a lingering sense of 'fuck you, got mine,' that I've mentioned about other filmmakers. 

Thankfully the movie has a star-studded cast and Benedict Cumberbatch steals the show. Someone pointed out on another review I read that it really is a testament to Martin Freeman's acting chops that he can so effortlessly play equal to Cumberbatch, who feels like he's walking over the rest of this cast. It's a surreal enough experience that it's almost reason alone to see Into Darkness. But, other than the aforementioned Abrams shaky-cam, the actions scenes are grand-scale epic, they're just difficult to discern what the hell is happening. It's a real shame that I've talked about before. 

If there's one thing I walked away from this with a sense of dread with Abram's upcoming Star Wars film ... something I wasn't excited for in the first place. 

On Doctor Who's Season 8 Premiere "Deep Breath"

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 16:39
Stolen from tardisplus' Deviantart:
The Doctor returns with a new face and a new attitude. What did I think? I was very nicely surprised. I'll kick off by saying, very shortly into the episode, I was checking if Moffat actually was credited as the writer. There was a predominance of characterization over complexity in this episode, which was sorely missed during the Doctor Trilogy, or dare-I-say, the 11th Doctor's entire run. 

Most Idiotic Review

" ... we spent over an hour on a half-baked plot with no proper climax or resolution, and the only main character who had any proper emotional journey was dreary Clara .... After this strangely recessive, unheroic, dull season opener, ... The audience at home were still waiting for their hero too." Neil Midgley (Forbes)

This is harsh and unfair. Honestly, this episode reminded me of many standalone adventures of the Russel T. Davies era. I would also argue that, while not concluded, the Doctor did go on an emotional one, or would anyone contend that he is identical to when he stepped out of the TARDIS at the very start of the episode? It's not the whizbang kind of resolution anymore, and personally, that's just more my style than the flash and panache of Matt Smith's Doctor. That's okay, though. I certainly didn't find it dull. If anything, I found it classic Who. It wasn't great, but it certainly appealed more than the Doctor Trilogy did.

Most Accurate Review

"We have a Doctor who is a manipulator, a Doctor who is mercurial, a Doctor who has secrets, a Doctor who is unpredictable, and a Doctor who is alien ... And just like that, Doctor Who is dangerous once more, and the show will be all the better for it .... Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea is getting cold. Come on, Doctor, you’ve got work to do." Ewan Spence (Forbes)

I think Forbes is playing both sides of the field on this one, the sneaky bastards. 

This was definitely the main focus of the episode. There was a subplot about dinosaurs and cyborgs and organ harvesting (all great stuff and all greatly underutilized), but the real story was Capaldi's Doctor's first outing. I always try to imagine the writing of the first episode of a new Doctor, because, in certain lines, I can still hear Matt Smith, or any of the other Doctors from years long past. It first occurred to me at the end of Time of the Doctor, immediately following the regeneration, and I could hear Matt Smith echoed in every line. So the episode is fun, if only to try and gauge who Capaldi is compared to Smith. It's actually been a while since a regeneration carried over a companion from one doctor to the next, not since Eccleston regenerated into Tennant, and watching Clara contend with the transformation is a wholly different experience than what Rose had (as it should be)

What I Say

I was really surprised by this episode? It's been a long time since I sat back and simply enjoyed Moffat's writing. It was pleasant and hearkened back to an earlier era of the show. I was initially leery with the opening involving the (criminally misused) dinosaur coughing up the TARDIS. I sat back and thought to myself, "Oh, no. It's one of those ...." but honestly, the remainder of the episode was very toned down.

Plot — Alright, so we have two major stories happening at once. On the surface, we have a mystery involving cyborgs harvesting human organs, a callback to a previous, pre-Smith episode. But the main focus really is Clara, the audience, and Capaldi himself learning who he is. Who is this Doctor. Is he the Doctor? 

Because this is the primary plotline, the majority of the episode is dominated by strict characterization, with the other storylines playing second-fiddle. It really does a lot to help the episode, I thought. Although I thought Clara's character was a bit fudged to make the episode work, her constant questioning of both the Doctor and his age really reflected some of the less refined 'fans' of the show's backlash to Capaldi's casting. I really wouldn't have bothered trying to appease anyone who considered Capaldi, 'too old' for the roll of the Doctor and politely suggest they stick their head in a toilet. 

The cyborg plot is resolved, but the exact nature of the resolution (and the Doctor himself) is left a mystery, for the time being, and hopefully Moffat feels fit to give us the reveal sooner rather than later (as he seems to have a preference for). 

*Spoiler Alert*

For anyone who missed out, there is a very touching scene (that probably should have appeared in Time of the Doctor) where Matt Smith cameos as the 11th Doctor, and calls Clara, just moments before she arrived to see his regeneration of Trenzalore. There is a lot of stress on the dissimilar sameness that is Capaldi's Doctor versus Smith's, and it really tries to give the audience a bit of padding through this regeneration.

I personally had a really hard time during the Eleventh Hour, not just because Matt Smith was so radically different, but the show felt radically different: new TARDIS, new Sonic Screwdriver, new companions. When Moffat took over, while I applaud him for hitting the ground running, left very little of Davies' era alive between Tennant and Smith. This time more care seems to be being taken, an allowance for the new Doctor to grow on the audience. 

It's impossible not to draw some comparisons to the Christmas Invasion, which was Tennant's first bout out, and for a better portion of his debut was spent with him in bed. It too took care allowing the existence of the 10th Doctor to sink in before he whirls off on another adventure. 

Characters — So, we get Yakko, Wakko, and Dot (I was tired of three stooges references) and while I'm not normally a huge fan of these characters, I liked them here. I'd want to see the episode again to confirm, but it strikes me after a single viewing that they actually do things here. Last time we saw them, they had a conference call, where they talked about the Doctor, then they get captured/killed and the Doctor saves them. Then the Doctor is incapacitated and it's Clara who steps up to save him. They really weren't there as anything more than a sounding board and expositional peanut gallery. 

Honestly, I feel like this time around, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot did more than River Song did in the majority of her entire run. Happily refute this claim in the comments below. Or tell me I'm a swell guy. I'll accept either.

This time they actually <gasp> do stuff. They investigate a dinosaur, they contain said dinosaur, contain the Doctor, who's kind of like a dinosaur, investigate (briefly) reports of spontaneous combustion, and then fight cyborgs. It's nice to see other characters other than the Doctor kick ass. That's part of what I loved about RTD's era. One of the best moments is during Journey's End when Sarah Jane, Mickey, Jack, and Jackie threaten Davros with a 'Warpstar' and Martha tunes in with the Osterhagen Key. While they might have been using methods the Doctor found abhorrent, they at least did something.

Clara has been given some new personality traits... which struck me as moderately out of place until I remembered she never really had a strongly developed character to begin with. Like I once said about Christopher Nolan and his characters, they are sometimes saved by actors stronger than the writing, who can transcend cardboard cutouts. Benedict Cumberbatch did this in Star Trek Into Darkness. So now Clara is a frustrated control-freak, a bit of an egomaniac, and shallow enough to be conflicted about the 12th Doctor's older appearance. I guess I can accept that the Doctor's new persona is just the right kind of new to bring out a side of her we haven't seen before, but I'm not wholly convinced. Still, Jenna Coleman is as charming as ever with a wispy air of Mary Poppins about her. 

The Doctor is the Doctor. Enough said, but if you wanted real analysis, I liked the idea that Capaldi's Doctor is more true to the Doctor, in a sense. It's pretty clear that most of the more recent Regenerations were results of some pretty large events in his life. 

John Hurt's War Doctor was literally a warrior who rejected his title, his promise, and the events of the Time War scarred him so much, Eccleston's 9th Doctor quite obviously suffered a combination of PTSD and survivor's guilt over his actions. Then he fell in love with Rose, and when he regenerated, he became Tennant's charming, roguish hero. Tennant, a lover more than a fighter, lost ... everything. They really made the 10th Doctor suffer over and over again, haunted by lost companions, and, unlike the others, an impending foreknowledge of his "song's ending." When he regenerated, he was alone. It makes a strong kind of sense that Matt Smith's Doctor is the man who forgets, who never stops running. Amy to a degree and Clara (although I would argue it was mostly his ability to absolve himself of his actions during the Time War) allowed the 11th Doctor to forgive himself a bit, and let the 'mask slip' so to speak. 

Capaldi's Doctor seems much more hesitant with his friends, but much more biting with his enemies, prone to outbursts of conflagration and reserved thoughtfulness. He's barely restrained razor-wire, but lacks the social confidence of his past few incarnations. He is a darker, more self-reflective, and almost ... sadder Doctor, who seems to question a lot about himself and who he is.

Overall, a fantastic start to a new season and a new Doctor. I might not be overly hopeful, but here's to Moffat smashing this one out of the park. 

Throwback Thursday: On An Adventure in Time and Space

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 15:37

I lied. I couldn't stay away from the TARDIS all the way till Monday. This docu-drama is downright touching, which is the first ... and possibly only word I can use to describe it. I was vaguely aware of the history of William Hartnell's tenure on Doctor Who, and aside from artistic licence, it's quite moving.

Most Idiotic Review

"... if there's a problem with An Adventure In Space And Time it's that it's written with the view that the future of television itself is at stake . This is patently untrue and everything I've read on the origins of the show indicates no one had any inkling of the genie they'd released from the bottle and thought of it as a disposable children's television show that probably wouldn't last . That said the programme begins with a disclaimer - though be it in a pretentious manner - that some artistic licence has been taken by the storytelling." — Theo Robertson (IMDB Reviews)

I wasn't surprised that I had difficulty finding a truly idiotic review for this film. Appealing to a fairly limited and already dedicated audience, my thoughts are that most people who went into this weren't going to be overly critical or ... well trolls. I read some complaints of it being unfocused, and the majority of ire is directed at a single, short cameo, but that aside, it seems this was a resounding smash hit.

Most Accurate Review

"As much as the film celebrates the beginning of the little show that could, it also bittersweetly eulogizes the man who was the definite article. Amid all the winking nods to fan-known futures or characters espousing things said in episodes not yet made, the movie focuses on a man’s realization that he’ll never again be what he once was and the fame he’ll no longer have. It’s very moving, and the special cameo during the filming of the first regeneration only served to bring more of a glisten to the eye. It’s a show we all love, but no one loved it more first than its original star." — Kyle Anderson (Nerdist) 

Slipping between the stories of primarily actor William Hartnell and producer Verity Lambert, we are shown the first beginnings of the show which, at the time this aired, was celebrating its 50th Anniversary. Personally, I could have done without the whole of the Doctor Trilogy and stuck with this and been a happier Whovian. David Bradley captures quite the spirit of Hartnell, although he is arguably a bit more gruff in his portrayal, it is still an undeniably moving performance, and the rest of the cast is fantastically picked ... although, all things considered, I was unsure about the actor cast to play Patrick Troughton, the 2nd Doctor. He seemed to have the energy down, but not quite the age, which is a small complaint, I know. 

What I Say

What can I say? It's always harder to talk about something that really moved you. It either comes across as stilted or gushy. So, on the stilted side of things, I think they did a wonderful job bringing to the screen something so well beloved by so many. On the gushy side, I did well up, more than once, in fact. David Bradley delivers such a candid performance that I, at least, shed a tear and Mark Gaitiss' writing is an obvious love letter to the history of the series and my understanding is he's been trying to get this made since 2003.

I won't go into the plot and character or spectacle here. I feel like this is a less-is-more topic, and that most fans who're walking into see this, will already have a vague notion of the history of the show, and those with no foreknowledge of these events, I'll be damned if I could explain it to you. Doctor Who truly is a 'see it to believe it' situation.

Doctor Who truly is an example of Black Swan theory. Never, ever could it have been predicted. 

You know, the more I think about it, Mark Gatiss should just take over from Steven Moffat. Yes, that's obviously what must be done. 

The Doctor Trilogy Week: The Time of the Doctor

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 21:32

Before we get started, here is another shameless plug for MOVIE MUTTS, my upcoming Webseries! Watch the promo!

So here it is, the climactic entry into the Doctor Trilogy. I'll start off by saying I thought this was seriously the weakest of the three, stories, and if you've turned in for my reviews of The Name of the Doctor and The Day of the Doctor, you know that's saying a lot. 

Pictured: the best way for the Eleventh Doctor to end his
Most Idiotic Review

"... I can’t think of a better way for the Eleventh Doctor to end his tenure .... There were lots of loose ends for writer Steven Moffat to tie up, but somehow he did it." — Kyle Anderson (Nerdist)

I can think of many better ways for the 11th Doctor to end his tenure and I don't think Moffat tied up his loose ends effectively at all. I thought the episode was bloated and the exposition was rushed.

Most Accurate Review

"Every time the Gordian plot-knot gets sonic-screwdrivered into submission for the 60-minute limit, the writers just tap the remnants into Later. What's the deal with the creepy brain-wiping creatures known as The Silence? Later. The name of the Doctor? Later, and then we get The Time of the Doctor, where every second line seems to offer a footnote to some arcane Wikipedia entry on Whovian lore." — Tim Martin (The Telegraph)

In Monday's review, I quoted George R.R. Martin. If you missed it, here it is again. “It's always the question, when do you reveal something, how long do you draw it out? The books are full of little puzzles and enigmas and reversals, and how do you place those? You don't want to give it away too soon, but if you stretch it out too long everybody's going to guess it anyway, so at what point is that? I kind of like having the puzzles and you need to keep at least some of the puzzles till the end, but then again you can't keep them all till the end otherwise or you end with this final chapter that's just one guy endlessly talking about, 'Well there's this and then there's this and the explanation for this is this,' and it's a very boring and not very good chapter."

Now look at this exchange of dialogue 

TASHA: Why did you ever come to Trenzalore?
DOCTOR: Well, I did come to Trenzalore, and nothing can change that now. Didn't stop you trying though, did it?
TASHA: Not me. The Kovarian Chapter broke away. They traveled back along your timeline and tried to prevent you ever reaching Trenzalore.
DOCTOR: So that's who blew up my TARDIS. I thought I'd left the bath running.
TASHA: They blew up your time capsule, created the very cracks in the universe through which the Time Lords are now calling.
DOCTOR: The destiny trap. You can't change history if you're part of it.
TASHA: They engineered a psychopath to kill you.
DOCTOR: Totally married her. I'd never have made it here alive without River Song.
We literally just got four years of reveals in an eight line exchange. That is not good storytelling. 

"The actual plot of The Time of The Doctor itself doesn't really quite hold up to the rest of the storytelling-sewing going on in the background. The carnival of Monsters never feels quite justified, outside of a 'wouldn't it be cool *if*' moment, and the laboured, repeated use of voice over montages to pass time reflects the relatively cramped nature of the script and its ideas battling against the time frame - especially when it comes to the manner of The Doctor's renewed regenerative cycle (which I must admit, as a gift from Gallifrey for having saved him, was rather touching, ending this 'trilogy' of Name, Day and Time as a singular arc) delivered in a bit of a deus ex machina moment. These issues persist throughout, and bring the episode very close to falling flat on its face at points." — Ursus-Veritas (io9)

As I keep saying, Moffat is good at two things, concepts & dialogue. The in-between stuff (structure, characterization, and theme) really seem to fail him. He always seems hung up on 'what looks cool' or my, "Moffat's being subtle again," moments. The episode survives on the basis of the skill of its actors and the altogether atmosphere created by its disparate elements ... although a wooden Cyberman still strikes me as an incredibly stupid leap of logic. 

What I Say

Can we get a new head-writer please? 

Plot — The episode actually really had me hooked with good ol' classic Who vibes for the first 25 minutes. We had small cameos of the Silence, the Weeping Angels, a great big mystery, and some clever humor. Then we got to the planet. We got to the Truth Field in the town called Christmas ... and then the f***ing montages began, complete with whimsical fairy-tale voice-overs. I don't inherently dislike voice-overs like certain prominent names (George R.R. Martin is one), when they're there to add to the story, like spices that add flavoring. However, when major key plotpoints are told via voice-over and montage, that's just unforgivably lazy writing that serves no purpose. If you seriously think a montage/voice-over is the only way to go about telling your story effectively, you're either not trying, or not very talented. There are always better, more effective storytelling methods at your disposal if you just use them. 

So the Doctor finds himself in a standoff between the Time Lords (resurrected narratively by the events of The Day of the Doctor) and all the baddies in the Who universe. It's a nice concept to see the 11th Doctor tied down, but then the oddness starts ... the old-age makeup. This serves little to no purpose in the grand scheme of things. There's no reason to it, other than to suggest that he's been tied down for an extra long time. The way they justify this is by having Clara tricked into leaving twice. The first time, I didn't mind; the second time, I started getting insulted on behalf of Clara, especially considering how she throws it all away once she's reunited with the Doctor. Sure he ditched her, but how can she stay mad at those puppy dog eyes?

I'm also really interested in why the Town of Christmas doesn't technologically progress in three-hundred plus years. It strikes me as damned odd. I know it's going for the whimsical fairy tale, but if it bothered me in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (my favorite series of all time) why can't it bother me here? 

So through one of the Cracks in space/time that've been haunting the 11th Doctor since his first outing, the Time Lords give him a new regeneration (since he didn't have anymore), and old-age makeup Matt Smith returns to form (albeit with a wig) and then turns into Capaldi. They wanted him to be old, except for when they didn't. Astounding writing chops there guys. 

Characters — Handles should obviously be the new star of the show. I don't care if he malfunctioned. He's the best companion the Doctor's had in years. 

Matt Smith, as always, does a great job, turning in every possible direction. He really does shine in the episode, which, if that's the point, is, I must admit a resounding success. But I'm too much of a stickler to allow for that. I didn't like the repeated mistreatment of his companions. When Eccleston sent Rose away, it was devastating, for both of them, and for the audience. With Smith ... eh. Less so, especially the second time. 

Clara, as a character, finally unfettered from the Impossible Girl story-arc really begins to shine. I say begins, because after the second time the Doctor tricks her away, she starts to seem overly gullible. She's also been downgraded to crying. A lot. I didn't realize until this week, watching the Doctor Trilogy in succession how many times she cries. It's ... distracting.

Tasha is an interesting addition, torn between flirting incessantly with the Doctor and spouting some of the clunkiest expository dialogue. I wish she'd been introduced earlier and behaved more as a character than a plot point. 

I also want to take a moment to point out Clara's parents ... who I have no investment in seeing again. I feel like Moffat's falling back on his sitcom days with this lot. There's an overabundance of mean-spirited ... humor from the mother and saccharine speeches from the Gran I really couldn't wait for them to get off screen (Gran and Dad don't even get real names in the script). 

Spectacle — At one point the Doctor says, "We saw this planet in the future, remember? All those graves, one of them mine."

All those graves ... and all those mountains
Wait, where the hell did those come from? 
The only thing I could think was, "This isn't what I was expecting." I understand it's a television show and I don't expect something on the Scale of Marvel's series of films or Lord of the Rings, but ... considering the hype that's built up around this event, the Fall of the Eleventh? This was a serious letdown. A single village that never changed in over three hundred years. It's every conservative politician's wet-dream. 

Even if I never liked Amy's character, I would never deny
Karen Gillian's talent as an actress, or her chemistry with
Matt Smith
Matt Smith's regeneration though, almost made up for the fifty minutes prior. It's tender, sweet, and a lovingly crafted specifically to say goodbye to a brilliant actor. When Moffat lets his characters just talk for an entire scene, he can still work magic. 

So. There it is. The Doctor Trilogy. I've been waiting a year to review these three episodes, and there. It's done! It's finished! I can take a break! Until next week when the next episode airs! Looks like I'll be back here in the TARDIS next Monday (and we're still building toward a special new addition. MOVIE MUTTS PROMO).

Here's to new kidneys and new adventures.

The Doctor Trilogy Week: The Day of the Doctor

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 18:48

Before diving in, I have awesome news! Big things are coming to Ginger Mutt Corner in the near future. Would you like to know more? Movie Mutt Promo 1

So, this was it. This was the big one. The 50th Anniversary. The big wazzoo. The really good weed in your pipe.

Did it deliver?

... Eeeeeeeh?Most Idiotic Review
"... it’s Moffat’s confidence in his ability as a storyteller which stands out and makes this complex adventure work, as his attention to detail and passion for the franchise shines throughout, wholeheartedly earning its use of such weighty elements from the series’ fast and ever-growing mythology." — Anthony Ocasio (Screen Rant)

I have never gotten the vibe that Moffat was a confident writer. He stays in very safe areas and dances around his bag of tricks to make the story 'complicated' (not complex, you want complex go watch David Lynch, Cronenberg, or even Gilliam). When we said Farewell to the Ponds, it involved a walking Statute of Liberty. When we said farewell to Rose, it involved a beach and David Tennant turned down to 50% opacity. Ill let you be the one to decide which was more emotionally devastating. 

Moffat, much like his incarnation of the Doctor is more excited by doodads and whistles than his predecessors. The 50th is no exception. Yes, there is passion, and while I might not think of Moffat as a very confident writer, he makes up for it with ego, since I always get a sense of 'F*** you, got mine." 

Most Accurate Review

" ... a clever, chaotic, infuriating combination of nifty, knowing tiny detail and big, hollow, pompous bluster." — Jim Shelley (The Daily Mail)

I don't know if this was meant as nasty as I took it, but the words Big, Hollow, and Bluster certainly do come to mind thinking about this episode. I'll talk about it more indepth below, but Moffat managed to radically change the Doctor Who history, while leaving it completely inconsequential. If anything, the events of the 50th don't resonate even into the next friggin episode. Again, the word I'm going to use is 'safe.' I see no risk factor in anything Moffat has done since the Big Bang, which was so grandiose in its emptiness and inability to make impact. He moves so fast from one emotionally devoid set-piece to the other but covers the seams with pithy witticisms.

What I Say

I wanted to like it? 

Plot — I was almost instantly turned off to this (after a clever opening hearkening way back to Classic Who) by Clara's ability to close the TARDIS door by snapping. What started as a big reveal by for the Doctor, has now expanded to his companion (a companion the TARDIS didn't like just a few episodes ago, mind you), but seeing as the whimsical music plays over this moment, I guess I have to forgive it.

So the TARDIS is picked up and brought to London, even though Kate Stewart reportedly didn't know he was inside the damn thing. So why did she pick it up? She purportedly wanted the Doctor's presence. Assuming he wasn't in the f***ing TARDIS you just successfully stranded him in the middle of bumf*** nowhere. So what's the real reason? 

Moffat's being subtle again.
The 11th Doctor is dropped into a mess involving a 3D painting depicting the last day of the Time War. The 3D is nice and it's a good concept, even if it's usage later on is a bit ... questionable. Anyway, this leads to the other two concurrent storylines. John Hurt plays as the War Doctor, a secret incarnation of the Doctor who fought in the Time War, who's acts of brutality were so heinous the Doctor blocked his existence from his memory, calling him the "one who broke the promise."

This of course has not stopped the Doctor from talking about his actions in the Time War in the first person  in the past. Like when Tennant said, "I was the only one who could end it." Or when Smith tells House, "Fear me. I killed all of them." Still, I'll let it slide. I thought it was a nice addition to the mythos, and John Hurt is fantastic as always.

After leaving a message for the War Council of Gallifrey, "No More," the War Doctor has stolen 'The Moment' a sentient weapon capable of ending the Time War between the Daleks and the Time Lords. It manifests as his future companion Rose Tyler. She grants him the ability to see what becomes of him if he goes through with his plan.

The third, and weakest storyline in the 50th is definitely the 10th Doctor's adventures with Queen Elizabeth I and the monsters the Zygons. Granted I didn't grow up with Classic Who, and my efforts to get into the show have been hampered ... mainly by disinterest. The first few serials weren't all that engaging, but I did enjoy the Three Doctors. That said ... I didn't care for the Zygons. But what can you do? 

The main issue I have with the Zygon storyline is one of weight. They were trying to give all the weight to the Time War storyline, but there is an imbalance, where the Zygon story starts to feel like fluff. As a standalone episode, this would have been pretty weak for the 10th Doctor, all things considered. 

Still it afforded a lovely scene between the Three Doctors while they're locked away in the Tower of London. One of my favorite lines from Matt Smith's Doctor is almost delivered as a throwaway line (I just love those), "It just occurred to me this is what I'm like when I'm alone."

So, without spoiling too much (like I might have done yesterday) the three disparate Doctors and the three disparate storylines continue to build to the Day of the Doctor, the day the War Doctor ended the war. It climaxes with archive footage of all previous Doctors in a, "Here comes the Calvary!" moments, including a brief cameo.

Capaldi Intensifies

Characters — Since everything outside the Time War story-arc feels a bit lackluster, let's look at the characters, which is undoubtedly where the 50th shines. The interactions between the cast is brilliant. David Tennant and Matt Smith are obviously having a ball, and there's plenty of playful joshing (I'm assuming in front of and behind the camera) that you stop seeing them so much as past and future selves but as twin brothers. There's so much fun dialogue, and there are moments, surprisingly to me, where Moffat allows some genuine, open introspection. The Doctor can't hide from himself. Matt Smith is called the one who forgets, and Tennant is the one who remembers. It says a lot about both their incarnations of the Doctor.

Clara is not a bad companion. She's companion-light. There are resounding moments where I love her characters, interspersed among a lot of moments where she's just kind of there. It's the reverse of Amy, who was just kind of there, except for when she's pop off with some dialogue that made me want to strangle her (Karen Gillian though, is a wonderful actress and I'm happy to see her doing well post-Who). Clara is given some tender moments, especially with the War Doctor, and later near the climax with all three of them together. My only question is this. Where the hell did Clara go during the climax? She must be brewing the tea they're drinking in the next scene. 

"Oh, hullo. Where've you been?"
The Moment takes on the form of Rose Tyler, which ... actually I liked more than I expected to. Billie Piper is so much fun to watch on screen, and she plays this wonderful middle-ground between playful and mischievous, grieving and morose, stern and threatening, and calm and understanding. Like the actors playing the Doctor, she's given the opportunity to turn in nearly every direction she can. 

Spectacle — There are some pretty awesome moments in this episode ... granted most of them have to do with just having the actors on screen together, so there's that. The imagery of the Time War was very well done, although ... it's sad, seeing the rich history of the Daleks, that I just don't find them threatening anymore. I could try and make the argument to blame Moffat for that but ... eh, they might just be played out. Thankfully this episode did have some powerful moments, always generated by an undeniably all-star cast. 

"What we do today, is not out of fear or hatred. It is done because there is no other way."

Oh, and my lesbian unicorn pointed out, "... he actually marries Elizabeth II and ten said that he left before the wedding (super nit picky I know), TEN'S HAIR. okay that's not important."

Lastly, I'd be super remiss if I did not mention Tom Baker's lovely cameo as the Museum Curator. He and Matt Smith are obviously having a ball with each other, and it was very well done. 

The Doctor Trilogy Week: The Name of the Doctor & BIG CHANGES (in caps)

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 13:36

Hey, guys, I've been wanting to do this for months now. I, unlike most of my compatriots in the 22 age range, was not introduced to Doctor Who through the revival, nor the original, nor the tv movie, nor any of the expanded universe of books, comics, or radio shows. 

No, I was introduced to the innocuous Blue Telephone Box by a rather random source. 

What the f*** is that? 
During the original Fallout the Time Lord's infamous TARDIS made a special appearance, and as a thirteen year old, I had no idea what the hell it was. It was a serious case of ask and ye shall receive twenty-five years of syndicated television and one shitty TV movie.

Now, I'm not a hipster, but seeing as this was my introduction, I'm obviously better than you. 

Or at least the scum that've made the show famous under a certain Stephen Moffat's watch. Y'see, the show is coming back on the twenty third, and in order to properly rip it a new one, I'm working to set up a totally cool, cool-cool-cool weekly addition (Would you like to know more?).

But till then, I decided to refresh my memory by watching "The Name of the Doctor," "The Day of the Doctor," and, "The Time of the Doctor." You can tell Moffat's straining on these titles. Obviously he poured all his quality writing into the episodes. Or so you'd think. But Moffat is one of those mixed bag writers. There's something we talk about as young actors in class, the 'bag of tricks'. A moderate actor gets by on these-- maybe they're inherently charming, or funny, but they're diversions. Moffat is like that. He's witty and clever (but by no means genius, and moreoften than not, the wittiness and the cleverness just seems like a misdirection from looking to critically at the stories). 

So, for months now I've been saving myself to write an editorial on this. Something with a click-baitey title. If you have any ideas, leave them in the comments below. So to kick off Doctor Who weeks (I can hear some of my fans running for the hills from here in this dingy basement I whole up in.)

Most Idiotic Review

" ... we were barrelled into the main course: a dizzying adventure, packed full of satisfyingly clever – but crucially for head writer Steven Moffat, who tends to over-complicate, not too clever – ideas ....  This climactic episode was ... momentous, moving and thrilling, yet somehow still found time to be very funny in flashes (mainly thanks to the highly quotable Strax)." — Michael Hogan (The Telegraph)

I'll get my main complaint out of the way on this one. There's no real plot in this episode. They contrive a way to drag the doctor to Trenzalore, they contrive a way into his tomb, they contrive a way into his timestream, and they contrive a way for Clara, the Impossible Girl, to rescue him. Conceptually I like the episode. On paper, it should work, but ... Moffat has a tendency to do this. He pushes off reveals for so long, that when it comes time to explain them, you get an entire episode interspersed with witticisms and  rushed exposition. 

For a series known for doing needless two-part episodes (let's face it, some of the two-parters in Doctor Who are kind of padded), it's frustrating when the climactic episodes feel like a series of 'oh gotta explain that'.

Most Accurate Review

“'The Name of the Doctor' is not a good episode of television, but it is a fascinating episode of Doctor Who ... (Great tip for spec script writers: If you have to open your script with an explanatory voice-over then end it by literally writing out the important stuff on the screen, you need to rework your script. Also what is wrong with you?!?)” Chris Lough (Tor.com) 

This has been one of my major beefs with Moffat for sometime. He's conceptually clever. He's good with dialogue. He is not good at the stuff that comes in between. Structurally he's a mess, and while he's got a firm grasp of dialogue, his mastery of characterization swings wildly from lacking to insulting ... like being Ding-Dong Ditched by your girlfriend. Sure you wanna see her but not like that!

What I Say

I hate Moffat, and I'll try to unpack my opinions on the subject more thoroughly than that. There just might be a lot of profanity involved. 

Plot — Lady Vastra (after learning "The Doctor has a secret he will take to his grave. It has been discovered," from a guy we don’t know and will never see again) wrangles together the rest of the Three Stooges, and Clara and River Song who have some romantic tension over who the Doctor likes more. Knowing Moffat's regards for his female characters? The Three stooges are captured by the not-so-threatening Whisper Men, and the Great Intelligence, a curmudgeonly British guy with a stiff-upper lip (I might give Marvel a hard time for sidelining their villains, but this guy is ridiculous) tells them the Doctor has to go to Trenzalore.

After, Clara and the Doctor share a nice scene. It's very sincere, and Matt Smith displays a masterful level of restraint in his acting. To alter Asimov’s quote, "It pays to be subtle, especially if you have a reputation for being obvious," just as the exact opposite. We also get some clever concepts here. "When you are a time traveler there is one place you must never go. One place in all of space and time you must never, ever find yourself .... Trenzalore is where I'm buried." I personally got very excited for the show to go to such a dark place as the protagonist's future grave.

We learn that Trenzalore is a massive battlefield graveyard, and the vivid image of the Tardis having grown to monumental size in the aftermath of the destruction. The Doctor say, "When a TARDIS is dying, sometimes the dimension dams start breaking down. They used to call it a size leak. All the bigger-on-the-inside starts leaking to the outside. It grows. When I say that's the TARDIS I don't mean it looks like the TARDIS, I mean it actually is the TARDIS. My TARDIS from the future. What else would they bury me in?"

This is a great line. Until you think about it. Then you might remember way back when, during "The Parting of the Ways" when Christopher Eccleston's 9th Doctor said, "So this is what you should do: let the TARDIS die. Just let this old box gather dust. No one can open it, no one will even notice it. Let it become a strange little thing standing on a street corner. And over the years, the world will move on, and the box will be buried."

Right ....
 "... no one will even notice it."
Amidst all of this the writers finally decide to confront the Impossible Girl arc, which was on hold for most of the 7th series. Just yesterday, on Talks at Google I watched George R.R. Martin say, “It's always the question, when do you reveal something, how long do you draw it out? The books are full of little puzzles and enigmas and reversals, and how do you place those? You don't want to give it away too soon, but if you stretch it out too long everybody's going to guess it anyway, so at what point is that? I kind of like having the puzzles and you need to keep at least some of the puzzles till the end, but then again you can't keep them all till the end otherwise or you end with this final chapter that's just one guy endlessly talking about, 'Well there's this and then there's this and the explanation for this is this,' and it's a very boring and not very good chapter." Moffat could stand to learn a bit from Martin. Considering how reserved he is with information, one might start to think the 11th Doctor doesn’t respect his companions.

Inside the tomb, we get the next bit of odd Doctor Who lore. Apparently when a Time Lord dies, they release a energy field that is a personal 'Time Tunnel.' So death on Gallifrey? ... take some LSD, throw on Dark Side of the Moon, and hit the graveyard. Why didn’t the Master unleash an energy field when he died in the 10th Doctor's arms? Why isn’t Gallifrey littered with them during “The Day of the Doctor”? Because Moffat isn't as good at this as he might think. Sure you’re in a dying time machine that could achieve the same narrative ends, but what do I know?

So the Great Intelligence enters the time tunnel and scatters himself all across the Doctor's timeline, turning every victory into defeat. But fortunately Clara makes the noble sacrifice that has dominated her characterization for ... ten episodes (had to go check), and leaps in to right the wrongs (sure, the Three Stooges who "cared for [him] during the dark times" just stand there and watch). So the Doctor is restored. and shares one of the episode's other nice, effective moments with River Song, and says goodbye. It is a dignified sendoff considering the best he could come up with to save her was locking her consciousness in a virtual reality computer system. The Doctor is now the equivalent of the machines in the Matrix.

So the Doctor leaps in after and we get at least one more nice scene. Clara is trapped in the Doctor's time-stream, which is collapsing. She sees all of the Doctor's other incarnations, including, John Hurt, who is introduced as, the Doctor. 

The ending I'll give credit where due, is effective, and got me seriously hyped for the 50th. My problems  stemmed from rewatching the episode and realizing, for as much riffing as I could do ... there wasn't much of a plot ... which characterizes the majority of The Doctor Trilogy.

Characters — I'll be brief here, since my last section is longer than some of my blogs. It took me a long time to warm up to the 11th Doctor. Loved Matt Smith. Hated the 11th Doctor. Thought he was written eccentric for eccentricity's sake. Wasn't until Neil Gaiman's episode I felt like I started understanding who Matt Smith's Doctor was. This is one of the 11th's more candid episodes, and on that note it works. In the 50th, we see more of that. In the Time of the Doctor ... not so much, but I'll get to that. 

Clara is ... a tool. Not like a bro douchebag tool. Just a tool for the writers to use. She's not quite as bad as Amy in my opinion, and she has some, again, candid moments that I truly enjoyed. I like that, at best, the romantic aspect of her relationship with the Doctor is conjecture, as it always struck me as just very friendly. I have had those relationships with the opposite sex before after all. They are possible. One of my big gripes, and just a personal one, is having Clara appear to William Hartnell's Doctor and say, "Steal this one. The navigation system’s knackered but you’ll have much more fun." What does that mean for the line, "I wanted to see the universe, so I stole a Time Lord and I ran away. And you were the only one mad enough," from 'The Doctor's Wife'?

The rest? Eh. I was never a fan of River Song, but it was nice to see her get a nice curtain call, so to speak. The Three Stooges are at least consistently written, even if they don't interest me. 

Spectacle — Not much to say here either. It was cool to see even glimpses of the previous Doctors. We get a few nice shots of Trenzalore, but that's about it on the Spectacle. The Time-Steam is not dissimilar to a lightning effect I did in 2008 on a Trial copy of Adobe Aftereffects. The concepts are pretty spectacular. A Time Traveler must confront his future grave, but I still feel like the execution fell far short of the possibilities. 

 Aforementioned Big Changes

I'm starting a webseries. Yay! Would you like to know more? Movie Mutts Promo 1

Throwback Thursday: Remembering Robin Williams 'Dead Poets Society'

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 23:03

I hate admitting, seeing as I'm a Creative Writing minor and a Acting major that I've never seen this film before today. Obviously it was fantastic, and seeing as the kind of week its been, I'm pretty far from an unbiased judge, but there's a little bit in here for everyone. It's spirited and high energy and all the boys are really colorful characters. The writing is sincere about what it means to be a teenager, and that comes with the ups and downs and all the passion that a bunch of cooped up non-conforming teens can muster.

Most Idiotic Review

"Peter Weir's film makes much noise about poetry, and there are brief quotations from Tennyson, Herrick, Whitman and even Vachel Lindsay, as well as a brave excursion into prose that takes us as far as Thoreau's Walden. None of these writers are studied, however, in a spirit that would lend respect to their language; they're simply plundered for slogans to exort the students toward more personal freedom. At the end of a great teacher's course in poetry, the students would love poetry; at the end of this teacher's semester, all they really love is the teacher." ~ Roger Ebert

I'mma lose a lot of my fans. All like ... ten of you over this one, but I've rarely agreed with Roger Ebert over the years. I was a bit young for him when his show was on TV ... or my Grandparents just never put it on. Could go either way. All I remember for certain are the lyrics to the theme songs for Gilligan's Island and Mr. Ed. 

So, renowned as he is, well, I never really agreed with him. Frankly, a film about education is one thing, a film about a teacher's effect is another. I mean, the simple fact that a group of students are getting together outside of class to read poetry in a cave seems to signify to me that they're appreciating the language. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they're putting forth the effort and risking the repercussions just to imitate the teacher Ebert is implying they love more than the poetry, but hell, they were doing more than any of the kids I went to school with. It wasn't until college that I got invited to a cave in the desert to read poetry by firelight. And none of them stood on desks as far as I know. 

Most Accurate Review

"Before you run off expecting "Robin Williams Live": He not only turns in an acting performance (and a nicely restrained one at that), but he's not on screen half the time. "Poets" is about his influence, or teacher John Keating's influence, on a crop of impressionable young lads at Vermont's "Welton Academy" (actually Delaware's St. Andrew's), where learning is something you take twice daily, so you can wake up a doctor in the morning ... "Poets" peals a bell for intellectual freedom, creativity and, if nothing else, more Robin Williams movies."

The film made me pull all my books on writing off the shelf. On Writing by Stephen King, Ray Bradbury's Zen and the Art of Writing ... even Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. I guess that means I'm an impressionable young lad then! Me, and I've noticed, a lot of other people who were touched by this movie. As sad as it is to finally see this film after Robin William's passing, it's fortunate that I didn't see it before High School. I'd have been even more difficult to rear in by my teachers, most of whom respected me more as a person than a student already. 

What I Say

Plot & Characters — So what do we have? As previously stated, for I am lord redundant, we have a bunch of impressionable young lads who's minds are expanded by the unorthodox teachings of John Keating's, played wonderfully by Robin Williams. This film has become a rallying cry for so many people, and I can definitely see why. It's not often that one can relate to the majority of an ensemble cast so well. I think we all have a little bit of each character to one degree or another, and depending on who we're with, that changes. 

Sometimes I'm the wild one. Sometimes I'm the brave one. Sometimes I'm the scared one, and the film cycles through these rampant hormonal states with grace and charm. The poetry scenes draw you in, and Keating's speeches are delivered with the kind of power few actors outside Williams could muster ... although I understand at one point Dustin Hoffman was set to play the part. Not that I think he'd have done better, but as talented as Hoffman is, I'd love to have seen his interpretation. 

A Personal Tangent — 

So I want to share something here though that I ... well, I try to keep this blog light on the personal details. I never set out to write a personal blog, and usual find them overly self indulgent. My life is interesting. My daily life is fairly dull. So if you're not interested in personal gobblety-gook, click away now.

When I was just-turned sixteen, I was not an exemplary student. I was oftentimes in danger of failing and usually only passing by the skin of my teeth. I graduated highschool by writing 3 extra papers during the time allotted for the final, raising my English grade from 17% to a B. One of said papers was a research paper (five sources) on a book I hadn't read. No one can accuse me of buckling under academic pressure. 

So just-turned sixteen Godzello is nearly failing his classes, but he has a leading part in the school's Tribute To Broadway Showcase. His father tells him that because of his grades he will have to drop out. The week before we opened the show. 

I was horrified, devastated, and, as many sixteen year olds find themselves, enraged.

So while watching Dead Poets Society, I couldn't help to relate to Robert Sean Leonard's character Neil Perry. I started feeling emotions that I hadn't felt in years. I wish that I'd had a teacher like John Keating at the time (I had some who came pretty close). So, major spoiler upcoming.


When Neil killed himself, it rocked me. I don't know how else to describe it other than the road not traveled. I could have been there. I could have chosen to make that decision. In a weird way, the movie made me realize how close I was. At the time all I was thinking about was the play.

So, in my personal version of the events, after a very heated debate (and when I say heated, I'm abusing understatement) I walked out, at sixteen, creating a domino effect (involving me going back and getting kicked out again) that climaxed in me being informally adopted by my lesbian-ex-girlfriend's family, where I lived for six more years, before transferring to University to study theatre. 

To reel this back in, I can see why this film resonates with so many, and reaffirms my sadness at the loss of Robin Williams to the world. Bangarang, my captain, bangarang.

On Lucy

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 21:10

Wow I did not want to watch this movie. I remember when the first trailer appeared and the only--ONLY thought that went through my head was, "That's not real science. 10% brain usage is an urban myth." Now, admittedly, I forgave Limitless for using the same damned myth, but ... well a few things went into that. I completely missed it the first time I saw Limitless. I just rewatched it to make sure I didn't jam my foot in my mouth while reviewing Lucy. So there's that. It's glossed over instead of being front and center, and very much not the focus of the movie. Bradley Cooper's character Eddie remains relatable even as the story progresses. Lucy purposefully does not. Lucy also keep touting the 10% brain usage myth like a newspaper barker yelling a shitty headline. 

Most Idiotic Review

"[Lucy] smartly goes in a wildly different direction than the amusingly amoral Limitless, in which Bradley Cooper's character abused a similar drug, but used it to gain success, money and power. He was selfish. Lucy is selfless."

Uh-huh. Does anyone else remember that scene near the beginning when she shoots a dozen or more people? And Bradley Cooper kills ... a handful of henchmen? And considering the distinction in capabilities between Cooper's character and Johansson's ... well, you see where I'm going. 

Most Accurate Review

"[Besson] seems more interested in engaging, playfully yet seriously, with the various biological, philosophical and metaphysical riddles that [the film] raises," the story is lacking as an action film and is not "much of a thriller – it's virtually an anti-thriller, devoid of suspense or any real sense of danger due to the fact that its heroine is more or less invincible," and that "at times it's hard to shake the sense that a smarter, more unbridled picture might have found a way to slip the bonds of genre altogether." — Chang 

This is one of my bigger complaints about the film. The ultimate conflict of the story is for Lucy to pass on her newfound knowledge. There is a distinct sense of message (delivered via 2x4 method of insertion) ... less sense of plot. Seeing as Lucy becomes devoid of her humanity (much like Doctor Manhattan did in the Watchmen, and we now know how dull a fill about Alan Moore's God-like character as protagonist might have been.)

What I Say

Boy I'll do my best to refrain from swearing too much, although it's hard. The Telegraph said that the themes of this film derive from Kantian models of transcendental idealism. Great. As one of my oldest friends said, "Kant, one of Rand's boogey-men." I shoulda known that between this and Besson's history (The Fifth Element) that I was in for a treatment as kind as a chemical bath for my ballsack. 

Plot — After being duped by a trick that I don't even think would have worked on a Looney Toon by her boyfriend of two weeks, Lucy ends up a drug runner for a mysterious new drug that enhances a person's measly ten percent brain capacity to superhuman levels, allowing for telekinesis, telepathy, physiological manipulation (including the dead cells in your hair in case you need a makeover), time travel, etc. 

Basically she gets some drug leaked on her and becomes God, and longtime fans of my blog might notice I don't normally capitalize that word, but I'm capitalizing it here. Why? I think this character could wipe the floor with most of Marvel's lineup of Planet-Killers. F*** Thanos and Apocalypse. This drug is more powerful than them all.

Also, curious to note, I don't recall any other examples of people using the drug in the film. Like ... I assume someone must have tried to OD on the damn thing before. Also I can't find much evidence that CPH4 operates at all the way the movie describes it.

So, as I said, Lucy is on her way to transfer her vast new intellect (including the taste of her mother's breastmilk) to the world. She also kills a bunch of dudes. Luckily, the other drug runners (who run surprisingly well for guys with drugs surgically inserted into their 'lower tummys') are all heading to France, so local police captain Pierre Del Rio can apprehend the remaining CPH4 and Lucy can be in the same city as Morgan Freeman's highly misinformed scientist, who keeps blathering on about the 10% myth.

I know I'm overreacting to this, but I'll unashamedly say this pissed me off more than Ninja Turtles, which while stupid, wasn't trying to ram some pseudo-philosophical bull down our throats.

Characters — So we have Lucy, who becomes less and less human as her mental capacities increase. Seeing as this metamorphosis starts fairly early in the film (closing at a surprising 89 minutes) ... we don't have a good sense of who Lucy is prior to the transformation. She has some nice dialogue and Scarlett Johansson is really bringing it, but we don't see her make any choices. Before the change, she's purely reactionary, and that bugged me. Later in the movie she's operating on a level with Neo and Doc Manhattan as who can have the most disinterested poker-face. Since it's intentional I can't say they did it poorly, but it personally didn't interest me. 

I'll admit when the movie does well but just doesn't click with me, as in this case. It's just the, frankly, butchered science and weird pacing that gets to me. 

The rest of the cast is ... kinda forgettable. None of them really have much to do. Morgan Freeman is once again Lord Expositor, King of Exposition, declaring things that, I'll be damned if I know how he knows. I had more than a few moments where he'd say something and I'd respond, "HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT!" I think he and Ken Watanabe's character from Godzilla studied at the same school of exposition. Declare your conclusion without anything to back it up, but do it with authority and everyone will just assume you know what you're talking about. I think that's how religion got started. 

Spectacle — The movie looks nice. It's filmed nice, and while I think it could have breathed a bit without entering padding territory, it doesn't feel rushed, just more brisk than a fan of 2001: A Space Odyssey or A Place Beyond the Pines like me might like. So yes, it looks really nice and the effects execution of Lucy's continually developing powers is very sleek. It was just built on a foundation that instantly turned me off to the movie as a whole. Shame. I thought Scarlett Johansson did a remarkable job. I really hope at least that whatever success comes from this film, she gets the credit and respect she deserves. 

And will people stop producing Besson's movies!

Update Me: Silent Hills with Hideo Kojima, Guillermo del Toro, and Norman Reedus.

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 10:40

Update Me is a new segment I'm going to do when big news breaks in the Pop Culture World. I still intend to post a review later today, (I'm seeing Lucy, and let me tell you, they're lucky I like Scarlett Johansson, because based on the trailer, this looked like some Junior Higher's idea of Sci-Fi).

So yesterday, in the wake of the tragedy of Robin William's passing (yes, his death actually hit me fairly hard), we received this news. Boy, let me tell you, I was conflicted. Silent Hill is up there as one of my all-time favorite ... eh, not the franchise so much. 1-3 were fantastic. 4 ... well, 4 was a different game, and since then, the series has, at best, struggled to inject itself with new life. So what did get? Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy), and starring The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus.

The initial reaction was akin to, "Mahominahomina." This is big news, especially seeing how ... hmmm, rusted and dilapidated the streets of Silent Hill have become in recent games. I'm not usually one to hope in these situations, but frankly, I haven't been this excited since Joss Whedon was announced as writer/director of the Avengers. Hell, they even brought back Akira Yamaoka's soundtrack!

Terrible Tuesday: On Oblivion

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 10:07

After yesterday's news, I was torn between sticking to my schedule or breaking away and doing some reviews of my favorite Robin William's films. I decided I'd stick it out, but I'd been planning on doing some of my top movies in subsequent Throwback Thursdays over the next month (after next weeks Doctor Who return). 

So Terrible Tuesday is still rearing its ugly head, and how you might ask if you haven't looked at the title of this article? As a bloated hodgpodge of better, more iconic, and more memorable Sci-Fi films from previous decades. Oh and it stars Tom Cruise, who I neither greatly love or greatly hate. I think I prefer him playing less than Mission Impossible roles, but I've certainly seen less convincing actors don the action hero mantle.

Most Idiotic Review

"While the premise and some factors of the movie may seem underwhelming going in, Oblivion not only delivers, but makes for an enjoyable and smart sci-fi movie well worth the price of admission." — Greenmember (Metacritic)

I had a hard time finding a review for this one short of dredging into internet comments from butthurt fanboys. So I'm starting to realize I might not have much new to say on the topic of this movie. Will that stop me? [insert southern colloquialism combining habits of chickens, greased-weasels, and/or rain]

So what did I do? I found a fanboy amidst the internet comments. Let me just clear something up, Greenmember, the only delivery of smart sci-fi in this whole film comes in the regurgitated remains of better classics. I get homage. I love homage. I even enjoy the little (blatant) nods in the Expendables films. 

This? This is the sci-fi equivalent of Disturbia, but at least it had the good graces to feel ashamed that it was ripping off Rear Window. 

Most Accurate Review

"Oblivion is not the most exciting or the smartest science fiction experience to ever hit theaters; action fans may be underwhelmed by a limited amount of gunplay, and viewers looking for an especially deep sci-fi world might find too many familiar tropes. Melodrama and predictable reveals keep the film from being the mind-bending creation that Kosinski may have envisioned, but the director still presents a captivating future with rich visuals and an intriguing protagonist." — Ben Kendrick (Screenrant)

I might have taken more ire with this film than most. Somewhere around the, "The Moon was destroyed," I tried turning it off, but my date insisted we finish watching the flick. I wasn't even allowed my usual MST3K behavior. Alas a second date was not in the making. Oh well. Movies are more important.

I think the majority of my reaction is coupled with not just this movie. 

A few months back an article entitled, "EDGE OF TOMORROW Deserves Redemption, For All Our Sakes" was making the rounds, and for several reasons, it burned my ass. It got me loaded up enough on frustration that I threw down with Edge of Tomorrow for a review. 

The bit I took issue with was, "Here was a really terrific SF film, and if it passes unnoticed, if it flops, it might be a while before another one comes by."

Now, I saw the film. It wasn't bad, per se, but it wasn't 'really terrific'. It was really meh. I could go on, but I'll refrain. He goes on to say, "There have, of course, been a number of films very similar to EDGE OF TOMORROW in the last few years, SF movies, all doing similar sorts of business; OBLIVION; ELYSIUM; JOHN CARTER; WATCHMEN – PACIFIC RIM ..."

And personally, I found few of these films at all engaging. I'm totally a snob, I get it. I was raised on Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke, and I'll refrain from whipping out the Nostalgia Tinted Goggles and talking about how much better sci-fi was in the days of yore. But these movies he's listing are ... well, I thought most of them were deserving of an underwhelming reaction. District 9 had a spectacular response, and I found that movie particularly unengaging. Hmn, mayhap I'll do an editorial post in direct response to the article later this week. I seem to be finding I have a lot to say about it. TUNE IN NEXT TIME!

What I Say

Oblivion was a visual extravaganza of well done images showing us ... a lot of shit we've seen before. Spoilers ahead, me'hearties!

Plot — Aliens show up, clone Tom Cruise to make an army with which to take over the world so they can harvest water. Then they use the clones with false memories to hunt down the remaining humans, who disguise themselves just enough to try and fail to convince the audience that they're aliens. Tom Cruise 49 learns the truth and sets about destroying the alien vagina cube. Oh, and his wife is in there somewhere. She doesn't actually have that much to do.

Character — While I disagree with elements of the Ignatiy Vishnevetsky's review, I was pretty amused by his remarks, "Harper [Tom Cruise] is an idealized man; he's good with a gun, good with his hands, good in bed, loves football and rides a motorcycle. Though most of the movie's characters are women, not one of them is able to do anything without Harper's help — not even the mother triangle that lives in the space uterus."

Sadly it's true, and sadly, I got very little off of the rest of the cast. Morgan Freeman is there ... because of course he is. We have the competing affections of two women, both played well by Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough respectively, but their characters leave much to be desired. My reactions were underwhelmed to the n'th degree. 

Spectacle — The movie is visually brilliant (Director Joseph Kosinski, as usual, delivers on that front), but if you're looking to be visual stunned by imagery built on a foundation of character and plot ... you know, the story elements, go elsewhere. If you're on shrooms and just don't care? This is the movie for you. The design is meticulous and in many cases awe inspiring. If I could have stopped gnawing at the other failings of the film, it might have been one of my favorites. As it is? I was too frustrated with calling out every plot twist along the way. Clones, humans are the survivors, memorywipes, wives, switcheroos with Morgan Freeman, all wrapped in previously existing (albeit fantastically done) imagery. 

Tentative Reactions to Robin William's Death

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 16:35

 I'm joining legions of fans hit by the news of Robin William's death.

The decision to write this blog came within ten minutes of reading the first news article, and then another, and another, and another. I just couldn't believe it. Much like  Phillip Seymour Hoffman's death earlier this year it hits particularly hard. Hits is the only word that keeps coming to mind, in fact. I, like people in my generation and beyond were raised on Robin William's work. He starred in my favorite movie of all time, What Dreams May Come, a film that helped me through my Step-Father's death and being homeless at sixteen. Robin Williams kept me laughing. 

It's unfair to project my loss when I know he had family and friends who are suffering more than I ever could. The fact that his death is suspected a suicide makes this all the harder. I never want to be in a position to understand the depths of depression that could push a person to make a decision like this. It's a struggle I can't imagine, and while I actually feel physically sick to realize what he was going through ... it's worse to realize how many he left behind. 

I guess there'll never be any real answer to these situations. No one wins. I don't think there's anyone to blame. It's just a shame. I wish there was more we as a culture could do to promote mental healthcare in this culture (I can say that as a fairly emotionally unstable individual). For someone who made so many lives brighter, I wish ... well, I wish things hadn't come to this. 

On Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 13:00

I wanted to hate this movie. 

I certainly didn't like it ... I didn't hate it. The weirdest thing happened. Within two hours of seeing it ... I had literally forgotten I'd seen it. I was telling my (aforementioned lesbian) friend about the newest stuff Channel Awesome had posted and it suddenly hit me, "Two hours ago I watched Ninja Turtles for my blog. Oh right." And then, as I sat there trying to remember funny lines that weren't already in the trailers ... all I could remember were lines out of Turtles Forever, the 1990 movie, and the first episode of the 1987 cartoon, "Hero in a Helf Shell" (my roommate and I had a Turtles Day). 
Unlike a lot of movies ... this one had next to no impact on me, but I'm here, so let's dive in.

Most Idiotic Review

"Not much of an effort is made to differentiate the personalities of the turtles, who all frankly look as grotesque as a Terry Gilliam cartoon." — Peter Howell (Toronto Star)

I wholly disagree here. One, the Turtles' personalities are intact ... kinda. It feels like they did at least watch the '87 intro before setting out to write the script. Leonardo leads, Donatello is swathed in tech gadgetry. Raphael is cool but through, and Michelangelo is a party dude. This is intact. 


And there's a rather big but in the room. 

They're oddly mean-spirited. I'd have to see the movie again to really analyze what I mean by that, so understand that's more of a gut intuition reaction. I could be wrong, but that was certainly my take. I'm no fan of teenagers, nor have I ever been (even when I was one, and that wasn't at all long ago), so that might be the source of my discontentment.

The other problem I have with what Peter Howell has to say is this. I love Terry Gillaim's cartoons! And while, yes, the Turtles and Splinter are grotesque, and frankly un-fun to look at for more than a few seconds at a time, I find it an abhorrent comparison (jeeze, look at me whipping out the big words. I don't know where that's coming from). 

Most Accurate Review

"Neither entertaining enough to recommend nor remarkably awful, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may bear the distinction of being the dullest movie ever made about talking bipedal reptiles." — Rotten Tomatoes Site Consensus

Yeah. That. What they said. I'm not normally so damn in line with Rotten Tomatoes, but this time, I feel like they nailed it. I find it so weird how ineffective this movie going experience was. I've talked about 'Paint-By-Numbers Storytelling' but this is f***ing ridiculous. Other than the things they changed, like April being the daughter of the scientist who created the mutagen that transformed the turtles and she ... actually I don't know if she supposedly named them, or just recognized the names. I was half asleep at that point (and I'm not joking ... I really was half asleep for several parts of the film). But other than the things they changed, it just seemed like ... well, the phrase 'designed by committee' certainly comes to mind. They distilled all the elements that made the Turtles recognizable, and then fit them into a distinctly Michael Bay shaped puzzle, and said, "Huzzah! We have pizza and the phrase Cowabunga. Must be a faithful adaptation. Benjamins all around!"

What I Say

Normally I'm a little concerned with spoilers, but today, I really am not invested enough to care. If you're actually concerned that knowing the plot (dare-I-say) twists for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ahead of time will ruin this movie, you're very naive about what kind of movie this is, and I humbly ask you to leave my blog and never return. 

Plot — Rich-Man baddie Sachs (played by William Fichtner) teams up with baddie Shredder, who has been turned into an odd combo of Batman and Iron Man. He's an angry ninja with a raspy voice and Power Armor (covered in blades). He is every 13 year old boy's idea of badass badguy. He's actually less characterized than the Super-Shredder from the end of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze. They're plan is unleash a toxin into the air of New York, killing all the people, and using the mutagen in the Turtle's blood to make an antidote, thus allowing them to ... take over New York because they have the antidote, and make lots of money in the process. 

Makes ... perfect ... sense? 

I think Michael Bay is giving Christopher Nolan a run for his money for silliest supervillain plot after what Nolan did with Bane in Dark Knight Rises. 

So the turtles (aaaand Splinter (who, despite walking and talking does not have the proper mutagen that the turtles have in their blood), voiced by a very not Asian Tony Shalhoub ) were supposedly lost in a fire (from which they were saved from by a young April O'Neil ... because ... she was there ... for ... some reason. Her father lit the place on fire ... with his daughter in the immediate area so she could save turtles. He sounds like Father of the Year). 

So Splinter finds a book on ninjitsu and ... learns ninjitsu, from the book ... so he can teach ... the turtles. 

Okay, that's it, I'm done, moving on. 

Characters — I feel like I should go through each character, but, again, the Turtles personalities have all been distilled to their basest elements ... the '87 theme song. They have nothing beyond that. They're ... garish, and generally unlikable. They have few moments of genuine heart or charisma (the elevator scene is a lot of fun, although still felt rushed ... much like the rest of the film). For the most part they came across as obnoxious. 

April is a gung-ho reporter who's going out there to get her story and, for all her whining about not being taken seriously ... there is something fundamentally wrong with her. No one in their right mind walks in and starts spouting off about 6 ft talking ninja turtles with a single, shitty photo of them in the distance, and then acts wronged when everyone thinks she's crazy. I had already seen the Turtles, hell I grew up with the turtles ... and I was on Whoopi Goldberg's side. In the words of the Honorable Sensie, "Throw de bum out!"

Will Arnett was the only person who I actually liked in the movie, and the only one who grasped the real reason Megan Fox was playing April O'Neil. She has dat ass. And I'm not even unhappy with her acting, or her character. I thought she did very well considering her character was written as something akin to a blundering joke (with nice bewbs). 

Spectacle — Meh? CGI action really doesn't do much to rev my engine. As everyone's been saying, the scene on the snow-capped mountain in the highlight of the film, partially because it's just fun, but also, I'd argue, because it's one of the few times in the movie where the turtles really feel like an ensemble? Like they're working together, like family? Which the movie keeps touting as it's theme, but only in the most contrived, shallow instances. 

I know it's a popcorn movie, so I'm not as angry that the script didn't allow for it. I know not all movies are going to be American Beauty, so I forgive the shallowness, but I still can't shake the feeling of soul-crushing corporate heartlessness and lack of sincere enjoyment.

Also, 21st century action scenes need to die. That's a decree. You want to see a great action scene, an impressive action scene? Watch this scene from Ong-Bak. I think even the camera operator had to be an Olympic athlete to pull this shot off.

At the end of the day, I guess the only words I can use to describe this flick are unpleasant and forgettable. It's not the worst that an adaptation can be, but considering the rich history of the characters, it's filler at best. Maybe the announced sequel can do better. As is, this movie is the equivalent of a Jose Canseco Bat.

On Gone Home

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 15:09

I am not a gamer. I suppose I fit the model more back during Junior High, but during High School, I never got into it. I never owned a console, hell, still don't own a TV. I enjoyed the classic RPGs and I've slipped in here and there for games with really good stories. I want to become a published author at some point and I'm studying acting at University, so games like Skyrim hold next to no appeal to me. I'm not much of a roleplayer, I'm here to get my story on, which is why Ken Levine and Chris Avellone are personal heroes of mine (that said, I'm still looking to get my hands on The Forest, which is a little lacking in narrative structure, but still looks like terrifying, challenging fun). 

So when Gone Home was released, I was pretty hyped to play another interactive story, like To the Moon, which I reviewed a while back here

Most Idiotic Review

I can't find one ... Short of going into forums and comments which mostly are just people unhappy that the game isn't like other games.The biggest complaint I heard that I could sympathize with was the short game-play time compared to the price. As a student, I can really sympathize.

Most Accurate Review

"... realistic, engrossing story that’s beautifully told through environmental clues and audio narration ... many people read books for the opportunity to see life through someone else’s eyes, but it’s rare for a game to do it as well as this one does." — Emily Morganti (Adventure Gamers)

There were quite a few reviews to choose from on this one, but I liked this one. As a writer, one has to spend a lot of time thinking about setting details, even if they don't ultimately make it into the finished manuscript. In Design Analysis class we spent a lot of time talking about how to use Line, Shape, Mass, Value, Color, Light, and Texture. 

Gone Home is a perfect example of having a conscious approach to these elements of design. And yes, I realize what a total dweeb I am for making that connection of all possible connections. Never mind the fact that my sister is gay. No, that flew right over my head. 

What I Think

It's a damn good story. It's not really much of a game. That doesn't bother me. 

Okay, admittedly it's been a little while since I played the game so I'm running on some fumes as far as character and plot are concerned, so I'll keep this brief. You take control of Kaitlin who's just gotten home after a year of traveling to find the house empty. As you explore the house, you uncover clues as to where your family, specifically your little sister Samantha, has disappeared to.

That's pretty much it. There's some puzzling out for you to do, but most of the story involves finding notes and listening to recordings. It's like BioShock without the Splicers and only the Audiologs and the environment ... which still sounds entertaining to me. 

I know some people weren't thrilled by the ending, or underwhelmed would be the better word, but personally, I connected with it. I didn't come from the most average of households. We certainly weren't the Cleavers, so I connected a lot with the story of the little sister as it unfolded. I found it powerful in how understated it was. 

Definitely want to keep my eyes open for more games out there like Gone Home.