The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘films’

Lit Lists

Posted by BigWords on September 8, 2012

This is the start of a semi-regular feature – every time I have nothing else urgently requiring my attention, I’ll put up a list of books seen in films and television shows. It is, of course, based on the Rory List which Abby featured on her blog. To open with I wanted to pick a film I really love, but I could probably have planned this better. For Fight Club, the list of books is staggeringly small – Anger Kills by Redford Williams, M.D. & Virginia Williams, PH.D. is the only book whose cover clearly seen, and there are a couple of quick flashes of a dictionary when the Narrator is having the skin on the back of his hand burned away. It isn’t a lost cause for magazines as the Fürni furniture catalog (which I’m pretty sure is fictitious) and Movieline (Jul 1995) are shown. Also, the Narrator reads from Annotated Reader (which I would Google to find out the deal behind it, but I was kinda disheartened by the lack of a juicy list to put together and didn’t bother. In addition, the line “You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world” is inspired by Also Sprach Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche, for those of you who need to know this kind of stuff. As I pointed out, I could have planned this better.

Console yourself with Chuck Palahniuk’s bibliography.

So… What about some other film? Children Of Men, perhaps… There are a lot of books used as background filler, though actually displaying them on-screen is rarer than it could have been. Man, everyone else seems to be either waaay better at this shit than I am, or they are picking the easy films and television shows to do this with. I couldn’t make out any of the titles in the damn film, even though Theo walks past stacks of books during the course of the film. Maybe “boy films” are the problem. Possibly looking at the books in comedies would throw up more examples of what I am looking for. C’mon, it can’t be that hard to find characters reading on film.

Miss Congeniality

The Invisible Intruder by Carolyn Keene (Harriet Stratmeyer Adams)
Essentials Of Russian Grammar by Nicholas Maltzoff.

Dear gods, Miss Congeniality has more books visible than Fight Club – am I in Bizarro World? Maybe I’ll have better luck with a television show…

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this.

Just because.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Plan 9 From Outer Space

Posted by BigWords on April 30, 2012

Thanks to Perry Block for reminding me of the Plan 9 From Outer Space explanation I had planned on posting for the longest time. This, as you may know, is one of the key films in my catalog of references – I have, over the years, got more mileage out of defending this than any other film. Why? Well, it is an important part of the crossover between the classic film era, the “middle period” (which led to all those classic sixties dramas as epitomized by Roger Corman) and the modern era which was ushered into existence with the release of Jaws. It’s not so important for its’ contents (or supposed lack of quality) but because of the script. Read the script, and take a moment or two to consider how much of the techniques have been borrowed from (and absorbed into) the language of cinema.

In case you need reminding, here is the film.

and here is the script.

Now, I know that no less an authority than Stephen King has claimed this to be a waste of your time, but it isn’t. Neither is Independence Day, Electric Boogaloo or Love, Actually. From lesser films, we can always learn. What do we learn from Plan 9 From Outer Space? Depends on what you want to learn, but we can take a few lessons from the script first and foremost – the use of non-fiction elements to sell fictional portions of a script has been used a number of times in a variety of ways, but the Criswell Predicts opening is, perhaps, the purest exploration of sliding people from a television format to a feature film. It is done in an incredibly cheesy way, but the very same thing can be seen any time you identify real newsreaders in a film.

There are other things which you can walk away from the film knowing. Award yourself a cookie every time you see something in Plan 9 which has been done in a blockbuster in recent years. There is, oft times, greatness in the crap we too readily step on.

Posted in Over The Line | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Scumbag Of The Week: Jason Peterson

Posted by BigWords on April 2, 2012

Just a quick heads-up for people who should be aware of things going on in the interwebs.

 

Posted in Over The Line | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Get Your Geek On – Day One

Posted by BigWords on September 12, 2011

This is in response to Monica Valentinelli’s post. I had intended to do a single post reflecting on what it means to be a self-identified geek, but I quickly realized that I fall into a special category which doesn’t truly represent my fellow geeks. For a start, the way I moved around so much as a kid means that I am not as attached to specific elements of geekdom which others may find strange – I never, for example, thought of myself in terms of being a Star Trek or Star Wars fan (you can like both, apparently, but not love them both equally), nor had a preference for DC or Marvel. As for the television shows which mark people as being a geek- Oh boy, this really is gonna take a whole week to get through… I’ll try to link to the more obscure stuff, but if I drop something in here which I don’t explain properly, feel free to ask – I love explaining weird old stuff, and showing how much better it is than people would expect.

It’s best that I start with the biggest (and most important) discoveries which cemented my obsession with the geekier things in life. While most people might be expecting the big nudge to have been superhero comics, or the original Star Wars trilogy, or Doctor Who, it was actually the stuff above my reading age which prompted me to go hunting for more of the same. I can clearly remember reading Tarzan Alive before I hit high school (which led to my obsession with the Wold Newton concept, a love of Anno Dracula, and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). Tarzan Alive prepared me for the concept of American comics, rather than the other way around. That alone is a massive leap for a lot of comic geeks to believe, but I was an quick study, I was a bookworm, and I was infinitely bored at school. I also read Den when I was… Ten? Eleven? That led to a long trip through the fantasy bookshelves, where I found all the classics of the genre. It was all about the artwork to begin with, which is why I have defended Frazetta posters against casual ignorance over the years, but I soon learned that the language was just as important.

Lord Dunsany was the gateway drug from the fantasy of old, to the wonders of Lovecraft, which, I suppose, got me ready for Sandman and Swamp Thing. Having pointed out a few times that my superhero exposure was limited, you might find it strange that I look so favorably on those Vertigo titles, being borne from the superhero comics of the eighties, but here – again – I bucked the trend. The first comic I can clearly remember reading is Valerian. It is often stated that it is for teens, but I think I would have been eight or nine when I found a few of the albums, and they still hold more attraction that a certain throwback to forties serials. It wasn’t just BD which kept me busy (though I still flick through Spirou et Fantasio from time to time), but the oft-overlooked British titles. Does anyone remember Oink! or Scream? I have clear memories of picking up the first issue of Scream when it came out, and running around with the white plastic vampire teeth. I can’t remember if they glowed in the dark or not, but I can remember biting my brother with them. Ah… Memories.

While others may take pleasure in imagining (and sometimes writing) their perfect DC or Marvel stories, I always found more meat in the British characters. For the longest time I thought about reviving a bunch of old characters which had been features in various Denis Gifford guides, but Grant Morrison – and then Paul Grist – went and made that notion redundant. The bastards… I still have my notes, and the material might come in handy at some point, but using anything which has been linked to either Zenith or Jack Staff seems parasitic and pointless. The two characters I associated with most, and who formed the pillars of my idea, were Zom of the Zodiac and Marsman, who represented the difference between magic and science. With the similarities and differences between their outlooks I placed mankind in the middle of their eternal war (and managed to work out a way to use Robert Lovett in a way which was respectful and yet unique). Maybe I’ll post some of the ideas in the future, but it’s still in comic-book script format. A lot of the influences which make their way into my writing are from those early introductions to fantasy, science fiction and horror, and a lot of the blame is down to me being left to my own devices for swathes of time. If I had more supervision I probably wouldn’t have discovered a lot of the things which have stayed with me all these years.

I haven’t covered Hammer, British television or anime yet, so I’ll get to that tomorrow.

Posted in comics, Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Important Numbers – 88

Posted by BigWords on August 12, 2011

This has come up a staggering number of times, so it is probably time to explain (in full) my take on significant numbers, because it seems that 88 is more than merely the infinity symbol doubled and placed on their side – it’s my personal arc number. It crops up in the oddest places, and when I’m least expecting it, and making note of the appearances makes the sightings more frequent. I’ve made mention of my fetish for the number four (and multiples thereof) numerous times, and the internet has made the appearances of the number more obvious to me.

This post has been delayed time and time again while I wrestled with the thorny subject of unsavory connections to the number, but I’m going to go ahead and completely ignore the little-minded bigots who have hijacked a perfectly good geek number. Any comments pointing out the omission, or attempting to bring the subject to the fore, will be deleted, and the individuals added to my list. Yes. I have a list.

I’m laying this out in the format of a TV Tropes page. No, I’m not going to apologize for that fact – if you’re dumb enough to spend the rest of the day on an archive binge, that’s entirely your fault…

Manga & Anime

The manga Area88 by Kaoru Shintani, which was then made into OAV’s, an anime series, and computer games.
The ‘Mausoleum of Eighty-Eight Emperors’ in Code Geass.
Kamikaze – Imprisoned for a thousand years, eighty-eight fabled beasts seek resurrection from their world so that they can unleash their wrath upon present-day Japan.

Comic Books

The Dick Tracy comic strip featured a character called 88 Keys, who was (quelle surprise) a piano player. He even hid a corpse in his piano at one point…
Marvel Comics’ supervillain Pandemic, who defeated Rogue’s X-Men squad and infected her with Strain 88, hoping to gain her powers.
The “Alternate 88” universe from Zenith, which is home to the supergroup Black Flag – Acid Android Archie, 93 Mantra, D.J.Chill, Domino and Smiley Sun.
A character named 88 turned up in Marvel Comics’ Nomad #23.

Film

The classic, pop-culture soaked, modern pulp film The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension has the number 88 showing up regularly. The band even sings Rocket 88 (see below) during a performance.
In the Back To The Future trilogy, the Doc’s tricked-out DeLorean is required to reach 88mph in order to travel through time.
The Dick Tracy feature film gave some screen time to the aforementioned 88 Keys (played by Mandy Patinkin).
In Kill Bill O-Ren Ishii’s army of katana-wielding, Kato-masked heavies is known as the Crazy 88.
88 is also the name of a gang in the remake of Gridiron Gang starring The Rock. Watch Kill Bill instead…
Assassin droid IG-88 from the The Empire Strikes Back, who also appears in an episode of the animated Droids TV series.
88 Keys To Heartbreak.
88 Minutes – a film (ironically, 108 minutes long) which feels much, much longer than eighty-eight minutes…

Live Action Television

Dialogue from the My Name Is Earl episode The Professor

Randy: Says we need a password. I’ll try carrot.
Earl: Why carrot?
Randy: Who would think of carrot?
Earl: You did.
Randy: You’re right. I’ll try carrot 88… no 89. Dammit! I can only think of things I can think of.

Literature

The number eight (and multiples thereof) are scattered throughout Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Roundworld, for example, has 88 constellations, while 88% is the passing grade score in a test Ponder Stibbons took. Additionally, an eighth son of an eighth son becomes a wizard, while a wizard’s eighth son (the eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son) becomes a Sourcerer, a very powerful wizard.
There is a novel called The House on East 88th Street by Bernard Waber.
88: The Narrow Road by Felix Dennis (a get rich quick title)

Music

Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, which is considered to be the first rock ‘n’ roll song.

The 1949 instrumental track Rocket 88 Boogie by Pete Johnson.
In addition to the song, there is also a band named Rocket 88, who play rock and roll standards.
Record producer and rapper 88-Keys.
Sonic Vs. Taste T, and Public Relation have both recorded songs called Eighty-Eight, while Tapesh recorded one called Bring Back 88.
The 88.
The number crops up in a lot of musical references thanks to the number of keys on a piano…
Dizzee Rascal’s video for Bonkers features a clock which reads 88:88.

Mythology

In Chinese culture 8 is very important.

Western Animation

The short-lived Back To The Future animated spin-off (see above).
Various Dick Tracy animated series over the years, with 88 Keys playing a greater or lesser role depending on the tastes of the writers.
Number 88 in American Dragon Jake Long. All the students are called by their numbers in the Huntsclan training Academy, but 88 is referred to by his number even when he is not in the academy.
Experiment 88, Decrisper, in Leroy & Stitch. He’s a yellow, kangaroo-like experiment designed to make Jumba’s burnt food less crispy.

Computer Games

Aside from IG-88, who appeared in the original film trilogy, there is a droid named 8T88 in Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II.
World of Warcraft guild “The Crazy Eighty Eight of Exodar”.

Web Original

In Arctos Comics‘ universe, The Royal Guard is made up of eighty-eight of the best of all the tir’a warriors.
Panel88, a comic-book company.

Real Life

There are 88 keys on the modern piano (thirty-six black and fifty-two white), and a piano is sometimes referred to as “eighty eight”.
General Motors’ Oldsmobile V8 is commonly known as the Rocket 88
Quavers. Eighty-eight calories of pure genius.
There are 88 constellations in the sky, as defined by the International Astronomical Union.
The traditional bingo call for the number 88 is two fat ladies (not to be confused with the television show)
88 means “bye bye” in Chinese-language chat, text, SMS and IM conversations. “88” is pronounced in Chinese (Mandarin) as “bā bā”, which mimics the English “bye bye”.
Similarly, 88 is used by ham radio operators meaning “hugs and kisses”.
Such is the lure of the number, there is actually a town called Eighty Eight in Kentucky.
The Prayer of Repentance by Reverently Prostrating to Eighty-Eight Buddhas.
Stephen F. Smalley is painting 88 portraits of Henry VIII for an exhibition.
The 88open Consortium was an industry standards group created in 1988 by Motorola to standardize Unix systems on Motorola 88000 RISC processor systems.
’88-level’ is a named condition in the COBOL programming language.
Dale Earnhart Jr’s NASCAR car number
The QBU-88 rifle (often called the ‘Type 88’ rifle) is a Chinese semi-automatic rifle which has appeared in numerous computer games including Battlefield 2, Battlefield: Bad Company, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, and Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising.
The eighty-eight facet diamond – and it is an eight sided diamond, no less.
The de Havilland DH.88 Comet – a twin-engined British aircraft. ‘Grosvenor House’ was the name of the model which won the 1934 MacRobertson Air Race (for which the plane was initially designed), setting numerous aviation records. The DH.88 became one of the pioneers of airmail.
The 88-Inch Cyclotron which is a K=140 sector-focused cyclotron with both light- and heavy-ion capabilities. Protons and other light-ions are available at high intensities (10-20 pµA) up to maximum energies of 55 MeV (protons), 65 MeV (deuterons), 170 MeV (3He) and 140 MeV (4He). Most heavy ions through uranium can be accelerated to maximum energies which vary with the mass and charge state. I’m sure they are being responsible though
Taco Bell’s television commercials, radio spots and print ads featuring franchisees and employees extolling its taco filling. In one of the ads, an employee says, “Our seasoned beef is 88% premium ground beef and 12% signature recipe. If you want to see that signature recipe, go to tacobell.com. It’s right there.”
The 88 is an ongoing project that will consist of 88 different works with a common background and each piece measuring 8″x 8″. “It is one work that will be made in 88 pieces which will be sold for $88 each. The intention is to bring the pieces together at the end of the project and party like it’s 1988 but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Why 88? I do what the voices in my head tell me to do. This gallery will feature the pieces from this series, check back and see how it all works out…”
The 88 Drive-in Theatre in Colorado
The 88 Butterfly (Diaethria species)
The 88 Plan, which is designed to assist NFL players under the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan and who are determined to have dementia.

Additions to the list are welcomed. 🙂

Posted in comics, Misc., Over The Line | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

A DVD Review, Actually

Posted by BigWords on January 10, 2011

This is out of the ordinary for this blog (though not entirely unexpected from me), but as I am constantly being urged to give Love, Actually a chance – by someone who should know better – I went and bought the damn film on DVD. This, as you can well imagine, drew a considerable amount of raised eyebrows. I probably buy too many films there, because at the checkout no less than three people asked me if I knew it was neither a horror film nor a weird French film. Yes. I know exactly what it is. It’s a comedy. And yes, in case you were thinking that I was merely going to state the fact that I had watched it, I AM going to review it.

Here’s a little bit of free advice: You have only yourselves to blame if you tell me watch a film I have no intention of watching. Posts such as these are likely to be the outcome…

There’s probably cause for concern when a comedy opens at an airport. Films which have early scenes set in airports tend to have Very Bad Things happen to the characters – Airport, Die Hard 2, The Terminal (an aptly named film if ever there was one), Snakes On A Plane – but I know, even as the credits flash across the bottom of the screen, that I am in for the kind of torture even Prometheus would balk at suffering. The first line of the film (via narration) sets my mood for the next half hour:

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport.

Already I’m wondering what kind of sick bastard would invoke airports in an attempt to induce heartwarming feelings in the audience – and it’s raising my spirits to think that, at some point in the film, Hugh Grant might deliver something as legendary as “It rubs the lotion on its’ skin” to cement the initial impression of his character. If that wasn’t enough, we get “treated” to a reminder of 9/11. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be so preoccupied with the opening narration of a film – truth be told, if I come across such things I tend to fast forward until there is less telling and more showing – but this fascinates me. I immediately Google film reviews of Love Actually to see what the popular opinion seems to be, and everyone else has apparently managed to block this out.

As a counterpoint to Hugh’s divine opening narration, I have to point out that airports make me feel nauseous. I have the nagging suspicion that this feeling will remain for the duration of the film…

The film begins properly, with Rab C. Nesbit taking the piss out of Rufus Scrimgeour’s singing abilities, and the outlook for an interesting viewing experience raises somewhat. My fidgeting ceases when the deathly line “This is shit, isn’t it?” is uttered, and I can’t help but think that Richard Curtis included it for the sole purpose of acknowledging the quality of the script. I agree wholeheartedly with the rather meta joke. Then… Well, things get very, very strange. Emma Thompson reveals to the audience that Liam Neeson’s wife has just died, in what must go down in history as the single worst telephone conversation ever. The only way she could have made it worse would have been to suggest he go on a skiing vacation to Quebec to take his mind off things.

And we get treated to clips, all of them having zero sense of context for the viewer, though the sight of a teenage boy wearing a wedding dress does manage to make me smile. British films… So quick to resort to cross-dressing as comedy. Matters don’t improve with Hugh Grant’s first appearance on-screen, in which his perverse lust for airports is explained – he’s the Prime Minister. Which explains so very much. Better yet, we have a glimpse into the reason Martine McCutcheon’s Hollywood career crashed, burned, and got swallowed by a black hole. She is neither funny nor interesting as a “new girl” in No. 10’s household staff, and it takes me all my strength to resist skipping to the next chapter. As it happens, the scene immediately following this train wreck moment is rather good.

The sight of The Operative marrying the teenage boy in drag is one of the funniest things I have seen in a long time. A musical number breaks out, and I hope desperately against hope that someone will liven things up… It’s maybe not as laugh-out-loud hilarious as the moment where a we get to see Arthur Dent dry-humping a topless blond, but it’s bloody close. Martin Freeman (not related to Gordon, sadly) must rank in the top ten most unlikely sex symbols on the planet, and having Ali G Indahouse on his résumé doesn’t help matters any. It’s a wonder the actress he is performing with can keep a straight face.

A scene which looks as if it was cut from Four Weddings And A Funeral manages to be even more draining than expected – and I nearly lapse into a coma before it cuts to the aftermath of the wedding. Unfortunately Richard Curtis’ directorial style is that of an eight year old boy with ADD, and we cut to yet another scene before the expected hi-jinks can occur – we never get to see relatives of the happy couple dancing on tables, any drunken fighting, or the slutty bridesmaid (there’s always one) disappearing with the priest. I almost throw the DVD remote control across the room. The sight of Alan Rickman eases my annoyance immediately, and – in the space of a few lines of dialogue – raises the bar for the quality of acting so high that I am amazed by what comes next.

Bill. Fucking. Nighy. Even in films like this, where his talents aren’t exactly stretched, he still manages to steal every single scene he is in. On the scale of cool he lurks just below Samuel L. Jackson, such is his awesomeness. He’s so brilliant that he doesn’t even need lines – with a glance, he can say more than other actors manage with a ream of dialogue.

I’ve said before how much I like watching him, but he really shows why he’s bulletproof in the radio interview scene. He may be gesticulating wildly and hamming it up, yet he’s more restrained than the twitching, rabid possibly-serial-killer-biscuit-fetishist PM as played by Hugh Grant. In the midst of a meeting of the cabinet, he can’t help imagining the things he would do to Martine McCutcheon – and as long as she is prevented from releasing another album, I’m with him all the way. I almost feel sorry for her, then I remember Perfect Moment…


“It rubs the lotion on its’ skin.”

It feels like the DVD is stuck on random chapter select, as it skips back to Martin Freeman and a topless Joanna Page. Not that I’m complaining. The scenes featuring the disrobed miss Page seem to be aiming at a slightly different crowd than the rest of the movie, and it occurs to me that someone more familiar with the sight of naked flesh – Barry Sonnenfeld, perhaps – might have made more of possible plot developments which hanging around half-naked could give the film. At least it’s a nice long scene of her tople- Hey, what the hell? I don’t want to see Liam Neeson moping around… How much longer does this film have to go anyway? It feels as if it has been running forever, and there is no end in sight to the film. I would willingly swap places with Prometheus if it meant I didn’t have to sit through any more of the film.

When I check the OSD, I see that it has only been running for half an hour.

The despair is about to be magnified with yet more scenes between the psychopath PM and his next victim. I think there’s something really familiar about his performance, but I can’t quite put my finger on it…

As if everything that preceded this point wasn’t enough to induce mild brain damage, I am faced with the sight of Ant and Dec. Suicide becomes more appealing with every passing moment of their charmless, inane presence. If it wasn’t for Bill Nighy’s excellent line at the end of the scene, I would have opened up my veins by now. I hit half-watching the screen, hoping that there will be something even mildly amusing to see me through til the next Nighy scene, then the film shifts gears unexpectedly on me. Hank Grotowski turns up as the US president (though it seems he has dumped Leticia in the interim), and Hugh gives him a string of blatant lies – claiming that he’s never been able to tie a girl down, we get a glimpse into the way he has been able to carry out his murderous fantasies in the face of public scrutiny. This is a PM with balls bigger than most kaiju.

The press conference which escalates the mad PM’s weirdness nearly succeeds in revealing just how far around the bend he has gone, but he stops short of drooling and masturbating in front of the cameras, thus giving him a little more time to lure his assistant away to her demise unchecked. I nearly vomit when he has some sort of a fit, shaking and shuddering with wild-eyed mayhem in his eyes.

It’s only when the manuscript flies into the lake that I realize I am watching a strange alternate-history fantasy rather than a film set in the real world. Who types out a manuscript on a typewriter anyway? Have you ever tried to write more than a few dozen pages on a typewriter? I have, and I can guarantee you that it is it is the most agonizing thing ever. Really. It’s right up there with listening to Martine McCutcheon sing. Worryingly, the message the film seems to be making – with at least three of the stories thus far – is that it is not only acceptable to sleep with the people you employ, it is expected. This is emphasized repeatedly, so it seems that it is more than a coincidental theme running across the stories.

The film gets even stranger (unbelievably, given how fucked up it is so far) when the groom from the earlier wedding scene admits his love for the boy, who has come in search of the wedding video. The theme tune to Roswell gives the game away – they’re aliens. They’re all aliens. It explains so, so much.

I especially like the way the PM gets to deliver his serial killer line – “Redistribute her.” Yeah, and why don’t you do it yourself, you lazy bastard? Having gone this far into the realms of madness, is he getting squeamish about having more blood on his hands? It’s doubtful. There are so many disturbing aspects to his character that it’s most likely an attempt to groom a partner for his murderous rampages. Having sat through the better part of an hour, I turn the audio off and start making up my own dialogue for the characters, which mostly consists of them bitching about being stuck in this godawful film.

“Is it over yet?”
“Hell no. I haven’t injected heroin into my eyeball yet.”
“Better hurry up. Martine might start singing any moment now.”

I play a hand of solitaire, and when I glance at the screen I see Alan Rickman is shopping. This isn’t a British street he is on, because there are no homeless people on the street, nor drunken people staggering from pubs. Hell, there aren’t even any hoodies stalking the streets. It looks like a street, but knowing the film is set in a parallel universe where psychotics don’t steal people’s mobile ‘phones when they’re talking on them explains some of the incongruities in the shot. Alan Rickman’s luck doesn’t hold out, because he soon finds himself being served in a shop by Mr. Bean, who only narrowly avoids tying his finger to a present he is wrapping.

The eighty minute mark manages to up the ante for the fantasy argument, with a dorky loser striking the jackpot with three women, though we have no run-on scene to indicate if this is actually the case or if it is the set-up for something else. I like to imagine that it is Americans getting their revenge for the events of the Hostel movies, and the poor bastard is soon going to find himself being dismembered in a dank warehouse somewhere. Really, he only has himself to blame for not checking if they had bulldog tattoos or not.

I suddenly realize I’ve been watching this for an hour and a half, and panic. Films shouldn’t feel this long. The repeated use of the word “actually” in the script is, actually, really fucking annoying. Actually. On the basis of this one film, I’m ready to actually skip any future films actually written or actually directed by Richard Curtis. When the groom-guy steals the sign-as-speech schtick from Bob Dylan, I decide that the boy is actually kinda good-looking, and the fact so many men fancy him begins to make sense somewhat. It’s still a far-fetched idea he could have so many admirers, but as this is a fantasy film I’ll let the matter slip.

There’s a special kind of pain when Hugh channels Dwight from Sin City, and the ending… Gathering all the characters in one room and hoping that it qualifies as a resolution to the storylines is ridiculous. There is a few strands left – neverending, awful stories which keep dragging on. The film, I am certain, is merely torturing me at this point. When the kid breaks into a run past airport security I hope that the film will finally come full circle, and we’ll get a twist on the ending of Twelve Monkeys, but the precocious little bastard gets away with it. In this world, where serial killers don’t get made prime minister, he would have been shot in the head long before meeting up with his squeeze…

Past the two hour mark and I am exhausted. Trying to keep interested in these idiots for the sake of this post is the most exhausting thing I’ve done so far this year, and even the joyful sight of the end credits is not enough to make me crack a smile. Despite all that, Love Actually managed to be more entertaining than the American Pie series of films. True, a colonic with a rusty pipe cleaner is more entertaining than those films, but any comparison with reasonably good films is a waste of energy. It’s better than Bean, though not as funny as Hotel Paradiso, and even in a straight fight with Dumb And Dumber it wouldn’t come off well. I still can’t believe I shelled out eight quid for it, but at least this puts an end to people urging me to watch it.

I can’t write off the shopping trip to pick up the DVD as a complete waste of time, as I did pick up an Eleventh Doctor Sonic Screwdriver as well. It’s the small mercies which make the time spent watching the DVD worthwhile…

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

The List Of Fours

Posted by BigWords on December 21, 2010

Nothing to do with the Book Of Fours (though a Buffy reference making a long-overdue appearance here would probably be welcomed) nor Rule Of Four (or Rule 34, for that matter), The List Of Fours is, in fact, a meme. Is it being altogether too clever to stick a link here to Hypnerotomachia Poliphili? Probably, though I guess only you can answer that… Don’t sigh, this won’t take long and I’ll try to make it as painless as I possibly can. And I know – memes are lame, but I don’t have any option other than to comply with the social obligation of doing this, seeing as how a very evil individual tagged me. Go comment on her blog about how this contravenes the very clear protestations I have made against such things, here and elsewhere… Whilst it isn’t necessarily stated that I have to expand on the reasons for inclusion of each item here, I will do so to place some sort of context to the madness – something which is probably required given how rapidly I can jump from subject to subject.

Anyways, this list was really hard to put together. Really hard. I wanted to make it better than my usual attempts at memes because it’s not an altogether bad one. It’s not brilliant, but it doesn’t make me want to gouge out my own eyes (something which can’t be said for some memes), nor does it force me to take refuge in the tropes I embody best… Seeing as how these things tend to get rather more personal here than others would go, there is cause for a mild content warning. Seriously though, if you have seen some of my other posts, the TMI level today is mild in comparison with what I have been known to post. As always, discretion goes out the window when I get to the keyboard…

1. Four shows that you watch:

  • Firefly. You could probably tell that this was going to be on the list no matter what – though there was a bit of indecision here. Is it better than Dollhouse? It’s different enough from everything else Joss has done to make it worth noting as an exemplar of television which goes outside the box, looks at the box, and finds the box lacking… It redefines SF on its’ own terms and shows (with admirable audacity) that even the hokiest ideas can be made riveting. Cowboys in space? That’s as old as the hills. Hell, Galaxy Rangers and Bravestarr were doing that shtick back in the 80s. But Firefly is special – and not special in the bad way
  • The Wire. More than The Shield or any variant of C.S.I., The Wire represents the largest evolution of serialized crime drama in fifty years – even such groundbreaking shows like Hill Street Blues (and later NYPD Blue) didn’t move the goalposts so far. Watching (and re-watching) The Wire is like taking a masterclass in pacing and character development, as strands are placed in position, moved, taken apart, and put back together again. I fucking LOVE this show.
  • Doctor Who. Something of a guilty pleasure (especially since Karen Gillan was added to the cast), but one of the strongest UK shows currently running. That statement, in and of itself, is a damning indictment against British television entertainment, as it has long been a show mocked for poor FX, cardboard sets, and pantomime acting. I was going to use Babylon 5 for my third choice, but the over-arcing plot culminating in The Doctor restarting the universe is much more audacious a stunt than anything JMS pulled. Not necessarily the best reasons for listing it, but repeating “Amy’s legs” a dozen times would be redundant…
  • Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. As the number of really intelligent cartoons has increased, a few rise above even the best live-action shows – not many, but a few. GITS is one which refuses to simplify anything as it barrels along from a Catcher In The Rye influenced digital terrorism case, through some of the most moving scenes ever filmed (a little girl looking for her lost cat? Yeah. Sure. How traumatic can that episode be?), and onto heavy philosophical questions of what it means to be human. I can’t recommend this show enough, and urge everyone to at least give it a shot.

2. Four things you are passionate about:

  • Lists… If the concept of lists wasn’t readily available, I would have had to create the notion. There are few better ways to display information concisely and with the maximum of information. I have had a thing about lists for some time, and it has only increased.
  • Books. That’s something which should be blatantly obvious by now, though there are probably areas I should explain. I like all books, for different reasons. There are folks who dislike the novelizations of films (and when Issac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke have both written novelizations, there is no reason to dismiss the form), or look down on reference guides to television shows… Whatever prejudices are brought up, I have one comment – books are there to enrich your mind, so quit bellyaching and start looking at the wider picture. First person to dismiss self-pubbed books in the comments will be lectured. You have fair warning.
  • Art. From antique woodblock prints to fifties comics, and from the neo-realist to Dada, I love art. The more interesting it is, and the less it panders to the majority, the more I tend to get obsessed with it. I have attempted to bring people to the notion that art doesn’t have to be an elitist pastime. It isn’t entirely true that true art is incomprehensible, as there are plenty of great experimental images (The Great Bear comes to mind) which combines functional style with wild imagination.
  • Monkeys. Yes, you read that right. Because everything is better with monkeys. You can blame the Timesplitters computer games for this mild obsession…

3. Four phrases words you say a lot:

  • “Groovy.” Because Ash is awesome, and there can’t be enough Evil Dead love on this blog.
  • “Dude…” If I have to explain this, then you really haven’t been paying attention… Any questions, and I will post a bunch of sixties music videos in the comments section.
  • “Fuck.” One of the most useful words in the English language, serving as a noun, verb, comma, full stop… Pretty much the essential word for any Brit.
  • “Oops.” This post is a self-demonstrating example of the use of this word. It wasn’t meant to be a massive post, but things tend too happen and I get excited. Very excited. Then there are a bunch of words on the screen, it’s hours later, and people are wondering what the hell I think I am doing. So yeah.

4. Four things you’ve learned from the past:

  • “What does not kill you only makes you stronger” isn’t necessarily true. In fact, it’s pretty much the diametric opposite. Think about it for a second – if you break a leg, does it suddenly regenerate, allowing you to run faster and longer than ever? No. Whoever came up with that idiotic saying should have had every bone in their body broken to prove that they would not become capable of kicking Steve Austin’s ass afterwards.
  • Checking for blue spots on bread is always a good idea BEFORE you eat it. Having learned the hard way, there’s little chance of me making that mistake again…
  • Money doesn’t matter when there are other things at stake. It took me quite a while (probably longer than it really should have) to work out that money wasn’t the most important thing on Earth. I’m trying to shed the bullshit that society deems we earn as much as we can when we can, as it obscures things which are much more important. The days of me working for a whole week without rest on code are long gone, but the instinct to take every job I am offered is harder to break away from. It’s not a trait I particularly like, but I’m working on it.
  • Worst case scenarios are NEVER the worst case scenario. There is always an idiot who can, by skill or endurance, manage to make things even worse. These individuals should be avoided at all costs. Or tarred and feathered. Are we allowed to do that any more? Okay, so I’m not sure on that point, but you get the idea.

5. Four places you would like to go:

I was going to do the standard holiday locations for this, but it doesn’t feel right somehow. Honesty, remember? If I am to be honest, then the places I want to go should reflect me – stop shuddering at that thought – and the list is surprisingly short. There may be some debate as to how unique each location is in regards to each other, but I couldn’t list one and ignore the rest. The scary thing about his list? I actually have plans to visit each of these places…

  • AngoulêmeFestival International de la Bande Dessinee. One of the most important comic-book events in Europe, and one which has a remarkable attendance record from the legends of both European and US comics. Just to spend a couple of days in the presence of the masters would be worth going to France again. Damn. I didn’t mean to diss the French. Sorry. But, y’know – there’s a reason people mock their waiters. Just saying…
  • San Diego Comic Con. It’s not as if it is the easiest place to get to from the UK – especially with me currently trapped residing in Scotland. It’s one of the few places I would be allowed to talk about all the geeky stuff I love without people looking at me as if I am mildly mentally deficient. I could even get away with dressing up as Princess Leia. Wait. That ain’t right. I meant… Ah. Um. Moving swiftly on…
  • E3. All those computer games, just waiting to be drooled over. It’s paradise for someone who considers gaming to be an art form alongside television, film and music. I’m not completely sold on the current trend for 3D games, nor the motion-controlled variety – it seems gimmicky and prone to decreasing returns – but the number of traditional 3rd Person Adventure and FPS titles in development are worth the travel time to get to E3. YMMV on whether it is safe to let me loose in such an environment unchecked…
  • Anime Expo. Are you sensing the theme yet? C’mon, at least I didn’t say I wanted to go to FurryCon or anything. I like anime, and being surrounded by all the toys, DVDs and games would be beyond any level of excitement heretofore experienced. I may even need adult diapers if I were to attend…

6. Four things you did yesterday:

As it is now Tuesday (and this week can’t go fast enough), I’m using Monday’s activities as the material here, even though I started writing this on Sunday. Yes, this has gotten rather wordy, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to rush through the rest of the meme simply to keep you from getting swamp-ass while reading it. This is as therapeutically beneficial for me as it is meant to be entertaining for you, and if you’re getting annoyed at the length the post has managed to get then I suggest you make your complaints known to the individual responsible for such an outpouring of words. You can even find her on Twitter if you’ve already complained on her blog.

  • I nearly froze to death. There should be some kind of rule in place that states a workplace should be evacuated for the pub (or home) when the power goes off in winter. It’s bad enough that I was watching my body temperature slip below any safe or reasonable level, but adding in the morons who come into the shop with the barest understanding of computers… Yeah. That’s a recipe for disaster right there. If the power goes out again, you can expect to find me in the nearest bar, complaining loudly about Scottish winters.
  • I bought the first two seasons of Heroes on DVD. I know there are people who complain about the show being hokey, badly plotted and filled with moments that are not only dumb but are willfully stupid: “Why did Peter not fly away at the end of season one?” – *yawn* Any arguments fail to take into account that it has some of the funniest uses of superpowers since Marvel’s comedic masterpiece which was Civil War. I’m not sure if I’ll bother getting the rest of it, but those two seasons are enough to satisfy me at the moment.
  • I edited the start of The Ghost BureauAgain. I have the feeling that I’ll be reworking the story until It hits a million words through the various drafts. It figures that the most important of my WIPs would be the most complex story imaginable, requiring in-depth knowledge of the EU constitution… One of the most unimaginably boring documents ever committed to paper. The one thing which I have decided on, absolutely and without difficulty, is to set it back in the 90s instead of trying to force it into a modern perspective – it is all about the run-up to the millennium, and by trying to make it current it loses a lot of the impact.
  • I started my New Year’s resolutions list. I did mention up at the top of this increasingly long post that lists dominate the things I do, and the start of a new year is the perfect opportunity to indulge in creating lists for no other reason than their own existence. It may be the purest form of list-making in the world. Or something.

7. Four things you are looking forward to:

  • The moment when I finally get an agent. Of course, I would need to find one who is not easily frightened by the increasingly irrational tweets, the mess this blog has descended into, and who – if it is is at all possible – doesn’t mind me jumping genres. In the midst of all the strangeness (which is somehow appropriate for me) there may be a hint of the works which are bubbling under the surface – a romantic novel perhaps, or a hard-boiled detective thing… Hell, I’ve even considered re-writing an old play I wrote back in the mid-90s as a comedy film. The fact that it features a murder at an airport only adds to the comedic value. *thinks* I probably need to work on a sense of good taste, but if I land an agent I’ll get right on that…
  • A bigger and better purpose for Book Re:View. The fact that there isn’t much there at the moment shouldn’t make people think I’m ignoring it. I’m not. The problem of what to put there has been weighing on my mind, and the solution I came to wasn’t entirely one which I could do easily or quickly. I’ll be adding more lists (a lot more lists) and placing some other things in there as well. I’m intending to have a massive database there for those who need book facts, but first I need to gather and check the data. This could be considered the first salvo in my war of mockery against Wikipedia.
  • Reading all the books I see people writing. This year has sucked ass when it comes to reading. Every time I start a book, I get caught up in other things which need my immediate and unconditional attention. I’m going to make a concerted effort to catch up on all the books I really want to read, and go through some of my favorites again. I haven’t read a couple of the last Stephen King books because time has been so short, yet I would have normally gone through them in a day if things weren’t so chaotic. Oh, and for everyone writing – keep at it, I’ll really try to pick up everything.
  • Captain America. The film won’t suckThe film won’t suckThe film won’t suck… I just have to keep repeating that as much as possible until it gets released, and hope my houdou is working. Gods, I want it to kick major-league ass, but on the strength of the last Hulk piss-take, and a really ill-advised Man-Thing DVD, I am less optimistic by the day. BTW Marvel Comics… WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING? Did anyone bother to read the script? Did the title alone not give the game away? Man-Thing? *sigh*

8. Four things you love about winter:

A question which I’m trying not to answer with sarcasm, as tempting as that may be…

  • Snow. I like the patterns it makes when it lands on the bare trees. I don’t really care for walking through the damn stuff, but I like looking at it. The chiaroscuro makes the world look like a Frank Miller comic, which is just about the most awesome thing regarding winter. The snow also means I get to wear my big Silent Bob coat…
  • Watching old films on television. There always seemed to be weird films on through the night at Christmas when I was a kid, and the strange programming decisions doesn’t seem to have been diluted in the slightest. Having these oddities appear unexpectedly is one of the few things that makes up for the cold and the long night. Actually, nothing really makes up for the long nights – I miss daylight. I really miss daylight.
  • Warm Christmassy alcohol goodness. It wouldn’t be Christmas without the ever-present allure of hot toddies – there when we need an extra pick-me-up that no amount of mistletoe can deal with. And no, mistletoe doesn’t get on the list here, despite the few perks it gives, because I always end up with the creepy chick who tries to follow me around days later.
  • A WEEK OFF WORK. Hell and yes. By far the best thing about the season of goodwill is the fact that I get a whole week where I don’t have to answer stupid questions. There are so many reasons why I need the week off this year that I may actually break into song at the thought of a holiday. Not that me breaking into song could, in any reality, be a good thing…

9. Four bloggers who should share their list of fours:

Ah. The fun part, where I get to subject others to this awful meme. Y’know, after three thousand words of babbling, I should have some idea of who I want to torture continue this, but there are so many people who would make good use of the meme. And I really don’t care, having spent hours (literally) trying to answer everything properly. I have a great idea though – if you have made it this far, or leave a comment, then consider yourself tagged.

Posted in comics, Misc., Over The Line | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

The Zombiethon Round-Up – Part Two

Posted by BigWords on October 31, 2010

If the first post was “The Good,” then this is The Bad. The films I have avoided mentioning thus far are, without being too mean, worse than eating dogshit whilst having a red hot poker thrust up your anus, as a Hanson album plays on an eternal loop. These are the films even as distinguished a film geek as Quentin Tarantino would be unlikely to admit to watching. I’m possibly overstating just how god-awful they are, but not by  much. I know they are meant to be horror films, but I’m sure inducing horror in viewers at the prospect of watching them again wasn’t exactly the idea. You can go hunt them down if you are sufficiently mentally ill or have a broad and deep masochistic streak, but it would honestly be cheaper paying someone to punch you in the face repeatedly.

The first film to make me question my sanity in a week of zombie films was the comic-book adaptation Trailer Park Of Terror, which sounds like the perfect mix of everything I like, yet managed to disappoint on nearly every level. It’s not that the story is bad (there’s a nice clean line through the film), it’s just awful to look at. If I had watched it in isolation, I would probably have been more favorable to it, yet hot on the heels of some of the classics of the zombie genre it pales into insignificance.There are some nice extras with the main feature, but no matter how much supporting material could be added, it’s just another in a long list of disappointments which would sully those first few hours of flesh-tearing bliss.

The worst offender is – without the shadow of a doubt – Zombies, Zombies, Zombies, a film which any sane film producer would have bought in a heartbeat when they heard the high concept. It’s a twist on the Dawn Of The Dead conceit of hiding somewhere safe, in this instance a strip club. The survivors are, naturally, strippers themselves, yet despite having one of the best-sounding premises, it manages to destroy the idea resoundingly. I wanted to like this for so many reasons… Um. Okay, mainly for the strippers, but the film deserves no time whatsoever spent thinking about it. That I have already typed this much out is a testament to how much it irritates me, and I would rather puke blood than continue. Therefore…

That 48 Weeks Later manages to make those two films look decent by a substantial magnitude beggars belief. It’s so bad that it could feasibly be used as an implement of torture should the US military wish to get quick answers from those detained at Gitmo – trust me, even the most hardened terrorist will beg for a quick death after sitting through the first half hour, and it goes downhill from there. It would have gotten on this page for piggybacking on the success of 28 Days Later alone, but it’s unimaginable badness means it gets a special level of Hell all to itself. The amateurish acting borders on hilarious, so if you want to laugh at production values, awful acting and the kind of direction not seen since The Star Wars Holiday Special then this should suit you perfectly.

While not quite as bad as the above, Apocalypse Of The Dead is so packed full of clichés that it struggles to retain any of the vague interest which the admittedly cool cover art raises. It neither strikes an individual tone nor conforms to any of the established ideas which zombie films should strike for, varying wildly in tone from broad comedy to (allegedly) tense drama in the space of a few scenes. The brief moment late in the film where it seems to take a cue from Stephen King’s Cell is an opening which is never capitalized on, yet the “leader zombie” is probably the most interesting character in the entire film. That doesn’t say much for the leads, but they are as wooden as the stake through Dracula’s chest. If I make it sound disjointed and an awkward addition to the genre, then I am being kind.

It may seem a tad unfair to lump The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue (or whichever of the hundred odd alternate titles it shows under) with that lot, though I found it to have none of the charm or style which the best of the zombie films display. There are a few exceptional scenes which border on classic, though aside from the bandaged zombie I don’t foresee myself wishing to revisit this any time soon. I’m only being nicer to AAH! Zombies!! as it has a funny idea and a quirky style, but it rapidly outstays it welcome once shifting from its’ early premise into something that is not entirely unlike Stubbs The Zombie. Instead of being mean, I’ll just point out how hot Betsy Beutler is, and quickly change subject.

Beyond Re-Animator is the one film I’m mentioning here which I truly wish wasn’t made, not because of how bad it is, but because it diminishes the first two films in the series. The prison setting is still fresh enough that it holds some interest, yet manages to fumble some excellent set-ups with poorly thought out scares and crappy editing. I really like Jeffrey Combs, and the only reason I can think of him doing this film is that he was trapped into a contract even Harry Houdini couldn’t have gotten out of.

Those were the highlights of the worst. You may want to refrain from thinking too long on what films were so bad as to make me repress the memory of having watched them, but bearing in mind the level of quality here I’ve spent more time wondering how these films get made. The Bill Hicks joke about production meetings (which hangs pretty much on the phrase “Will there be titty?”) doesn’t seem so far fetched after all…

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, zombies | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Zombiethon Round-Up – Part One

Posted by BigWords on October 31, 2010

Eternal cruise, I feel the fires of madness
Burning holes into my wounds
This Hell on Earth, I feel the power of sadness
No way out I’m marooned.

Lonely this Hell on Earth
Demons screaming in my mind
Wading through debris of life
A thousand souls their graves to find.

Marooned by Running Wild

My grand plan for Halloween wasn’t without some, ah… interesting time management issues, and I am especially proud of the ingenious idea of watching DVD’s on the laptop during my lunch break to keep from falling behind. You’ve probably guessed from the title of the blog post that it has something to do with the undead, but it is much, much madder than anyone could possibly think of, at least without already lining themselves up for a padded room in a nice facility where the jackets are done up from behind.

The plan was to watch fifty zombie films in a week, so I started with the DVDs I knew I would like (not the last mistake I would make during this insane challenge), namely Dawn Of The Dead, Shaun Of The Dead, I Walked With A Zombie and Zombie Flesh Eaters. Calculating the odds of getting through the entire fifty meant that some cheating was in order, so I pulled out the box set of old zombie flicks and watched King Of The Zombies, Revolt Of The Zombies and White Zombie to fulfill my classic quota and to get some shorter features in before the time constraints really began to bite. The picture quality on the newer films was fine, but those older films are really starting to show their age, even on HD-upscaled DVDs.

A minor interlude is called for here, as it seems to me that the DVD quality of White Zombie especially is actually worse than the old video sell-through release. The tonal quality of the footage lightens and darkens mid-scene throughout, and the number of scratches is unbelievable. It wasn’t this bad on video (or, for that matter, on the 16mm version I saw whilst it was circulating in the late-80s), so I can only assume that this isn’t from the same master copy. The film itself has some wonderful moments, and one scene in particular stands out – Karloff’s Legendre is overseeing the removal of Madeleine’s coffin, and it is so much like a shot Kubrick would have engineered that I had to rewind a few moments to see it again. So beautiful…

Tick tock, tick tock… The clock is tight enough as it is, and I’m fucking around by rewinding. The night was filled with the original Night of The Living Dead, then the remake of Day Of The Dead. That is one film, I gotta say, that doesn’t deserve to be connected to George A. Romero in any way. Mena Suvari is so hopelessly miscast as a hard-ass military stock character that the rest of the film can’t help but look ridiculous around her. There are good effects in there, but rather blunted by the fact that she doesn’t get horrifically mutilated within the first half hour by the undead. With dawn closing in on me, and the week about to begin in earnest, I settled on 28 Days Later. Yeah, I know… “It’s not a zombie film.” Well, fuck Danny Boyle and the horse he rode in on. It’s a schlocky zombie flick. End of story.

I’m splitting this into three, so I can cover as much as I can be bothered saying about each of the films I watched. This, unsurprisingly being the first, is where I get to lavish affection on the good stuff, as there really isn’t enough said about the better zombie films. The other two posts will mostly be mockery and insults, so enjoy the relatively good mood on display here:

My opinions on NOTLD, Dawn and (to a lesser degree) Day haven’t changed over the years. Romero, more than any other director, really gets the concept of zombies – or, as he uses in NOTLD , “ghouls,” which is a much better word for his creatures. I love his style and his voice, but even I am not insane enough to class Diary Of The Dead in the same category as his earlier work. It’s a neat idea, but it’s also one which has been driven into the ground since The Last Broadcast – a classic of the POV style. The immediate follow-up to this, Survival Of The Dead is even less notable, save for an amazing final shot – almost worth sitting through the rest of the film for alone. It also breaks a cardinal rule by having identical twins as a major plot point, which indicates the slow deterioration of the “Dead” series as much as the dilution of the danger has.

If you are wondering, I’ll state right now that I skipped the lamentable Land Of The Dead. It’s not that it adds nothing to the mythos – the attraction to fireworks, and an increase in zombie intelligence which will eventually pay off in Survival – are fine, but any explanation as to how the sealed-off city fits in with the other films would require too much back-story. It’s the ugly step-sister of the franchise, desperately trying to look hip and cool while waddling along with too much padding. That’s probably heresy, but I’m beyond caring. I also managed to skip the comedy-horror Return of The Evil Dead, though that was more from luck than anything else – I forgot about it until it was too late to hunt down my copy. It’s probably nestled between Plan 9 From Outer Space and Twilight, along with a host of other B-movies…

Due to a couple of recommendations (here and here), I picked up the Norwegian film Dead Snow, and… Okay, I liked this, but the barrage of Frank Miller references in the credits threw me off slightly, and the shout-out to 300 only compounded the feeling that I was watching a low-budget fan-film. The effects are awesome, and it has a great storyline, yet there are moments where it feels as if it is trying too hard to throw in references to other films for the sake of it. I especially found the stark chiaroscuro of the trees against the snow at the beginning, though the harsher black and white element is lost rapidly as the film moves into a more traditional horror style. The zombies themselves are a major departure, being able to not only run, but also fight the “heroes” – med students, including a comedy character whose inclusion is obvious from the first reference to his phobia.

Another outstanding example of non-traditional zombies comes in the form of The Horde, a French zombie film in the mold of the Dawn Of The Dead remake, though infused with a stylistic angle as expected from a pair of French directors. It’s billed as “Die Hard with zombies,” but it has a lot more in common with computer games than any films which come immediately to mind. The sequence in Max Payne 2 where the building is burning around him is captured in mood, only the danger is zombies running around trying to eat people rather than flames licking at the heroes heels. The fat guy with the fire-axe may be a reference to Resident Evil, though it becomes an indispensable character trait for the unlikely savior of the beleaguered survivors. I’m going to watch this again, it’s that good…

That, sadly, is most of the best stuff. Sturgeon’s Law is fully in effect when it comes to zombie films – perhaps more than in other horror sub-genres – so I’ll leave off this post here without spoiling the mood.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, zombies | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A New Star Trek Continuity (By Wold Newton Means)

Posted by BigWords on September 5, 2010

Star Trek. One of the most successful science fiction properties of all time, and one of the universes which gets a disproportional representation within the SF community, has always had problems. I’m not referring to the twisted around ideas which led to stardates (there is a certain logic to the notion that relative time can be kept, then squared against a central database), nor the mess made of warp drive numbering (that is covered by Science Marches On in-universe), but more esoteric aspects of the timeline which cannot be easily reconciled without heavy editing of the facts as they are presented to us. Having never been the most obsessive nor reasonable fan of televised SF, I’ve often looked outside of canon for explanations to the things which bug me, but this time I think I may have crossed a line in my attempt to rationalize some of the things which don’t make sense, or which need greater expansion.

This has taken me a while to work out (and there are still bits and pieces that I’m adding, changing, tweaking and blatantly ignoring), but I think I know most of the reasons that Star Trek doesn’t work for me. This is, of course, pushing my interpretation of Star Trek farther from the one which most viewers will be familiar with, but if it makes sense to me, then I can live with any irritation I raise in others. First and foremost amongst my problems with the universe is the timeline, which has been so completely screwed over by multiple re-tellings, contradictions, reset button-pushing and blatant lies, that it no longer resembles a stable progression of events as much as it does a hodge-podge of ideas thrown together by various disparate groups within the controlling group of writers, making a mockery of how people appreciate the events which led to the creation of an interstellar society able to function independently of Earth.

Lets see if I can shed some light on how I perceive the world of Picard, Sisko, and Captain ‘Crazy Janeway’ as filtered through a Wold Newton-inspired interpretation of things which might make up for the problems in the accepted history. It’s going to annoy the hell out of purists, but it is the only way that I can watch the show and not feel the need to to scream profanities at the screen. I’ve ignored some elements considered canon by both the show and the fans, and introduced things which are possibly heretical but which are very, very cool. This may turn the bright, happy future envisioned by Gene Rodenberry into a Crapsack Universe, but it is one in which I would much rather spend time. The dates are rough, though I’m sure someone with a tad more patience could make it all hang together if they consider the events I have decided to include – some of which actually make sense of the logic which Enterprise and the recent film reboot have thrown out of the window, fetched back inside, crapped all over, then thrown out of the window again.

Before anyone decides that the following is entirely too dumb, spend five minutes flicking through the reviews of DS9 and Enterprise episodes on The Cynic’s Corner, and try to reconcile the multiple given histories of the Federation. Try it. You’ll go insane in the attempt. Better to start afresh, and use all the basic story points as a way to fold in some of the better ideas from outside of Star Trek canon, because the franchise is in desperate need of a shot of adrenaline. It’s more apparent when you watch episodes back to back, but even a casual viewer there are problems. Consider this along the same lines as Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, where things are similar to the original stories, but told afresh and with a more coherent ethic – well, at least as Ultimate was in the beginning. The Ultimate Universe managed to contradict itself mightily as it went on.

The Pre-History Of Space Travel

1969 – 2025

In the two-part Voyager episode Future’s End it is shown that Henry Starling has had access to 29th century technology from as far back as the 1960s, which he has been using to push Earth’s software and hardware knowledge far in advance of where such knowledge should be. This, more than any other aspect of Star Trek‘s timeline, is the crucial point at which we ought to separate from our own history – the “real” history of Earth. Voyager‘s only notable contribution to either entertainment or logic was this one story, as Starling’s existence suddenly makes a lot of other things fall into place neatly. It is with his mangled understanding of 29th century technology which allows both the creation of the experimental S.A.I.N.T. robots [1] (which eventually leads to the T-1 [2]), and – eventually – the technology necessary for the integration of mechanical elements into Officer Murphy [3]. The robots were nuclear powered at this point, as the advanced power cells had not been completely understood.

While many of the elements of the future technology were able to be reverse engineered by in-house scientists, some of the advancements were so esoteric as to preclude direct understanding of the way they operated. A significant amount of the research into matter transportation was given to Seth Brundle through a dummy corporation named Bartok Industries [4]. His interpretation of the software would result in his untimely death, and his research would not be continued until Dr. Emory Erickson (in the Enterprise episode Daedalus) perfected the means by which to transport living tissue.

That doesn’t mean that there weren’t subsequent accidents, though. One of the most notable situations erupted on a Mars “mining” station, when a transporter opened a portal to another dimension, which led to the deaths of a number of researchers continuing their exploration of future technology [5]. At some point in the early 1980’s, an Antarctic research team is attacked by an unknown alien which has been extricated from its’ ship [6]. It was whilst searching for the remains of this vessel that a group of researchers would later encounter the frozen remains of Borg.

During the 90’s, a salvage operation mounted on a Russian naval vessel resulted in the crew of the tug being attacked by a disembodied alien presence which used human parts and machinery to create a physical presence for itself on Earth [7]. Later investigation would associate this entity closely with the Borg hive-mind, though notable differences would be recorded for further study.

After 2000, with advances far outstripping ‘real’ history, the US government, seeing the valuable technological advancements being made by Starling’s Chronowerx Industries, requests assistance in coming up with solutions to some of the problems it is facing. Researchers who have studied the advanced database use their knowledge to create a stable wormhole which allows for a limited  glimpse into the future [8], and an AI to interpret massive data input now being collected by the military branches of the US intelligence community [9]. It is the spectacular failure of the AI which leads to further advances in AI being halted until more is understood about the technology, though one last-ditch attempt to integrate AI leads to the creation of a satellite defense program dubbed Skynet, which is one of the primary reasons for future problems [10].

The medical database from the future also provides for the creation of a breathable liquid, which plays an important part in one of humanity’s early extra-terrestrial encounters [11]. Spurred on by the existence of beings living on other planets, more of the future technology is plundered to create the ground-work which will lead to the genetically-engineered Khan and his followers. This is also around the time that things start to go seriously wrong with society. The slip into anarchy begins with a few minor problems, but left unchecked the mysterious Quitters, Inc [12] and Consumer Recreation Services [13] soon lead to rampant anarchy in the streets as people release tension created by the existence of genetically superior individuals being created. It is from these dark days that the Eugenics War erupts into full-blown war.

The Deep Space Nine episode Past Tense shows what has happened to the US by 2024, with large sections of cities cordoned off to provide housing for ‘undesirables’ – a technique replicated in France, among other countries [14]. Some cities, such as Detroit, prefer to deal with their social unrest by handing over their policing to corporations, which results in the creation of the RoboCop program [3]. Other locations fall into complete unrest as “entertainment” such as The Running Man [15], Death Race [16], and other shows allow the population to be kept entertained and (largely) kept under control. The foundation for these openly-violent shows being broadcast is the underground snuff shows which were broadcast (and circulated) by Lionel Starkweather [17]. It was during this time that Scotland was walled off from the rest of the country so that the inhabitants could die off due to a plague that was threatening the UK [18].

The Fallout From The Eugenics Wars

2025 – 2200

(note: I’m pushing the Eugenics Wars to the 2020s to preserve some sort of cohesion in the timeline)

Taking refuge in the stars was not the sole preserve of the genetically engineered super-soldiers, as others decided to abandon Earth. As Picard pointed out in the TNG episode The Neutral Zone, cryogenic stasis had long since been abandoned as a means of interstellar travel, but in the early days of space travel it had been employed routinely. One of the mining vessels which was operating in deep space encountered an alien life form which killed the entire crew save for its’ Warrant Officer [19]. Another cryogenic vessel was considered lost, with its’ occupants awakening after hundreds of years, submerged under the ocean of an alien planet [20]. Yet another ship was considered lost, though later turned up having traveled into a region of space that had sent its’ occupants mad [21]. Occupants of other ships were not so lucky [22]. These disasters resulted in tighter controls being made on the design of astronavigation systems.

Zefram Cochrane’s warp flight brings the attention of the Vulcans, but also alerts a race of predatory aliens that the mildly interesting hunting grounds on Earth had become immensely more interesting. Taking to the still-devastated city of Los Angeles, the alien manages to evade both police and a secret agency under the directive of Section 31 [23]. It is also around this time that the full horror of what Skynet has become is made clear, and with the assistance of Vulcan technology the rise of the robots is prevented [10]. From this point on, all research into advanced robots is banned in an international treaty. (And you wondered why there were so few instances of cool robots in Star Trek, didn’t you?)

At some point before 2100 the world is pushed into a fully-blown war due to the unbalanced resources available on Earth, ending only when nuclear weapons are deployed. In the utter devastation which follows, mankind is slow to rebuild, though a few individuals take it upon themselves to give hope to the communities which have gradually coalesced. One such person dons the uniform of a postman [24], whilst another, shattered by his experience at the hands of a biker gang, decides to take revenge on the evils plaguing society [25]. Yet another wandering force for good makes use of his extraordinary martial arts abilities to destroy a gang which has overrun a formerly-peaceful region [26]. The Vulcans once again step in to take care of mankind, before we untimely destroy ourselves.

The NX-01 is launched, though the dedication ceremony is marred by some truly awful music…

———————————————————————————————-

Additional notes:

With the technology required to pass themselves off as aliens, I would also fold in the IMF to the WN Star Trek timeline, as their lifelike masks seem to possess all the requirements needed for covert operations on alien planets. Backtracking to a point where they could conceivably be placed in a position to take part, I would suggest them being the groundwork for Section 31, renamed as of a point somewhere before the year 2025. (Mission: Impossible)

The increased time travel related episodes of Star Trek, where the Starfleet Time Police, or Temporal Investigations (or whoever Gary Seven and Daniels were working for), seems to suggest that they began as a much simpler organization. It makes a sort of sense that the events of Timecop could be the shaky beginnings from which the Federation would spin out its’ time protection force. Not sure where that would place events of the film, though sometime after the stable wormhole was created [8] seems about right.

It seems likely that there is room to fit Barb Wire in somewhere around the 2020s, though I didn’t think about it until I had already written most of this up. It’s such a minor film that I can’t be bothered re-numbering everything, so just pretend I added it.

———————————————————————————————-

The Pre-History Of Space Travel

[1] Short Circuit (1986) dir: John Badham
[2] Terminator: Salvation (2009) dir: McG
[3] RoboCop (1987) dir: Paul Verhoeven
[4] The Fly (1986) dir: David Cronenberg
[5] Doom 3 (2004) id Software / Activision

[6] The Thing (1982) dir: John Carpenter
[7] Virus (2002) dir: John Bruno

[8] Déjà Vu (2006) dir: Tony Scott
[9] Eagle Eye (2008) dir: D.J. Caruso
[10] Terminator (1984) dir: James Cameron

[11] The Abyss (1989) dir: James Cameron
[12] Quitters, Inc. by Stephen King (1978, Doubleday)
[13] The Game (1997) dir: David Fincher

[14] District 13 (2004) dir: Pierre Morel
[15] The Running Man by Richard Bachman (Stephen King) (1982, Signet)
[16] Death Race (2008) dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
[17] Manhunt (2003) Rockstar North, Rockstar Games
[18] Doomsday (2008) dir: Neil Marshall

The Fallout From The Eugenics Wars

[19] Alien (1979) dir: Ridley Scott
[20] Pandorum (2009) dir: Christian Alvart
[21] Event Horizon (1997) dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
[22] Dark City (1998) dir: Alex Proyas
[23] Predator 2 (1990) dir: Stephen Hopkins

[24] The Postman (1997) dir:Kevin Costner
[25] Mad Max (1979) dir: George Miller
[26] Fist Of The North Star (1995) dir:Tony Randel

Posted in Misc., Over The Line | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »