Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Big Bang review

A review by kirkslashspock+++

Well finally, my Saturday nights are my own again. After finally getting employed at the radio station I started my career at (kind of), after a year of unemployment, I am once again laboring to "working for the weekend." Yes, that precious forty-eight hours of time-off is finally mine again... no weird scheduling, like some friends have, where there jobs of management require them to work odd hours (although, honestly, I would love to work second shift like I did in Portland, when they simply didn't have studio space for me until the morning show vacated around 2 p.m... there's plenty of studio space in the skeleton-crewed place I work now). No, I'm a Monday to Friday, eightish to fiveish regular Joe, one who for the first few Saturdays of being married to his new and underpaid ball-and-chain has been spending those Saturday nights glued to the bittorrent feeds waiting for the new Doctor Who ep to finish downloading.

The series started with a bang...

...whereupon the new Doctor, the very young Matt Smith, almost universally charmed the audience of old fogeys and newcomers like myself. I've only been really into The Doctor since David Tennant took the role. I watched Tom Baker when I could in the eighties, but far too often the bus driver taking us home from school would take the long way 'round to my place, and we would be stuck with just Addams Family reruns.

The season had been mostly hit and sometimes miss for me, with the return of River Song and the Weeping Angels two-parter being the highlight of the middle of it. I'm not sure why some Whovians felt such disdain towards the character... simply a fellow time traveller that knew the Doctor well, who just happened to be going the other way through time. What's the big deal? I thought the character was well thought out, and obviously writer (and now showrunner) Stephen Moffat knew exactly what he wanted from the character when he created her. I think perhaps it was even known back then that Russell Davies would be leaving and Moffat would be taking over... which is why they introduced such an important (to be, anyway) character in the fourth season, even if they did kill her off in a way.

The return of the Weeping Angels, however, was a thrill. They were how I got my little brother hooked on the show... I made him watch "Blink" with me and suddenly he was there when repeats were on, there to enjoy The End of Time and The Waters of Mars along with me. It's been a long time since we've shared a show together, so it kind of felt special to me. Then again we also watch Warren The Ape together, perhaps I shouldn't put so much empathy into that then.

And then there was the historical figure episode. Normally I do not look forward to these, and I did not look forward to Vincent Van Gogh warning of a deadly creature in a church a'la John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness, but the creature itself was barely a blip on the radar compared to the examination of the tortured Van Gogh (who I shall now always pronounce as "Van Goff" rather than the American "Van Go"). For one thing, it would appear that Van Gogh, in this imagining, has a bit of synesthesia... that is, one sensory perception, say how you look at color, can be represented by another, such as taste or smell. In the case of Van Gogh, he didn't just see a black night sky... in one amazing scene with The Doctor and Amy lying in a field with him, he helps them to see the sky as he sees it, awash with deep blues, pitch blacks, lighter shades of lavender, and the stars aren't merely bright pinpoints but swirling explosions of color and light... slowly the sky morphs into the Starry Night painting. Awesome scene.

But that wasn't even the best. So far Doctor Who's revitalization has made me almost cry twice. Once was in Blink, when Sally Sparrow, who keeps receiving messages from the past from people who used to be in her present, meets detective Billy Shipton. I can't recognize Billy's accent, it doesn't seem Jamaican but it definitely isn't English. But he is sweet on Sally, and when he tells her that she's not seeing the big question about her little mystery, she asks him what it is.

"Would you have a drink with me?" "What?" "You, me, drink?" It's a very sweet scene, where he tells her that he's knocked off of work and wants to ask her out because "Life is short and you are hot." Normal rambunctious hormones, yes? He gets a phone number for his troubles... not a promise, just a phone number, before she leaves and the Angels steal his potential time energy to feed upon, whipping him into the past, where he's found by the Doctor.

Although only minutes have passed for Sally, the next time she hears from Billy he is an old man. He had to take the long way through time to contact her again, living live from 1969 to present day 2007 the old fashioned-non-Tardis way. Like Sparrow's friend who was also zapped by the Angels, Shipton lived his life, married, and now at his old age is facing his final day of life, and he's using it to help Sally solve her mystery and help the Doctor. He takes her hand and says, "Life is long, and you are hot..." and dude, I almost lose it every time. Every single time. Sally just met this man that she was obviously a little taken with, and now he's going to die, old and broken. Billy has waited his entire life to have one final moment with a girl he never really knew. THAT IS THE SADDEST THING EVER. But it is also part of one of the best time-travel stories ever, and that's why I love it and love this show.

The other time it's nearly made me cry was when the Doctor, knowing that even with the grande adventure they've had with Van Gogh, he was still going to commit suicide, decides to give him one final hurrah... he takes him to a Paris museum, this drunk of a man who couldn't sell a painting in his lifetime, and lets him stand among his works as dozens of admirers coo and gasp at his artwork. Then he has the curator say some of the most awesome things about Van Gogh, just within earshot of the artist, and to watch this man who was never appreciated in his lifetime come to realize the lives he'd eventually touch with his art, the one thing he could cling to and know was real to him when nobody else cared... it was one of the sweetest moments in TV for me for a long time.

Certainly better than that damn glowing fairy pond in LOST anyway.

The season finale was a doozy. In any other show, indeed even Doctor Who past, I would cry foul at the use of time travel in the manner that it's presented here, but it's obvious they've been setting us up for this the entire time. The useage of the Vortex Manipulator to hop through time and enter previous episodes to set up sequences would be a cheat if they had not actually set those sequences up. The talk with Amy in the forest, especially, was something fans had figured out way before the finale popped up. And I didn't quite get it, at first, but after my second viewing, I don't see how Amy remembering the TARDIS for her wedding (old, new, borrowed, blue) was at all a cheat. The entire episode hinged on her memories. It was perfect. Best season finale so far for the show. And such a happy one... Rory and Amy married, going off with the Doctor for more adventures. These are new times we live in, and I am glad Doctor Who is turning out to be such a crowd pleaser.

Now if we can just figure out what role River Song is to play... is she a good witch, or does her bank account go up by thirty pieces of silver next season? We get to find out for sure, according to Moffat...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Big Bang... Doctor Who finale

For once in my life, I don't want to read any spoilers at all. I will be glued next to the computer refreshing the screen until the bittorrent is posted. This promo from BBC doesn't have anything we didn't see in part one.

The Dalek's entry in the Hitchhiker's Guide

Talk about a well done slab of fried gold... this mashup between two sci-fi universes continues to make me giggle.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Iron Man 2: Demon in a Bottle

I gotta say, I loved Iron Man 2.

I'm glad Marvel kept Favreau as the director. Unlike Michael Bay, who tries to emulate the "actors talking over each others' lines because that is how people talk in real life" style of acting, Favreau does it right and it doesn't seem too fake. It only seems fake in that nobody is that witty that much of the time. It's not as bad as a Kevin Smith movie, I mean.

The sequel avoids the pitfalls of some super-hero genre, wherein there are simply too many villains. In fact, I think there's a perfect proportion of villains... the Whiplash Drones and Whiplash himself. I guess Justin Hammer can also be considered a villain, buthe's not suited up, so he doesn't really count.

They did, however, go kind of overboard with the heroes. Iron Man, War Machine, Black Widow, Sgt. Fury... the thing they did well to balance this is avoid having to really explain the characters. Even if you didn't see the first Iron Man, Nick Fury's character explains himself through his actions. Black Widow does as well... in fact, I don't think they ever really use her code name, do they? You don't need to know her comic book history to know she's a fucking badass chick who will eff your ess up if you're in her way.

But what I loved most about IM2 was, in fact, it's portrayal of Tony Stark's alcoholism. It was so hysterical.

I should perhaps at this point say that Stark didn't seem like an alcoholic so much as a drunk, to me. And there is a big difference. I should know, because I wanted to get treated for alcoholism at one time, convinced I was one, until they started questioning me. it was pretty funny. I was in the hospital to have my gall bladder taken out, when I was asked if I had any other problems they should know about. I said immediately, alcoholism and depression.

Well, first they started asking me about my depression. How often do I hear voices talking to me? Telling me to do things I know are wrong? Uh, none. What? And then things like, do you ever harm yourself on purpose, like cutting yourself with a razor? --Really? No. I don't do that. I pick at scabs but that's as bad as I try to hurt myself, and I'm really not trying to hurt myself there, they just fucking itch. Anyway, all the depression questions went along this line, making me realize that people with depression are fucking crazy, God bless them and all and I hope they get the help they need. I wasn't one of them.

Then came the alcoholic portion of my treatment. They told the nurses to be prepared for when I get "the shakes." The what? Shakes. You start to shake uncontrollably from withdrawing from alcohol. I do? Yes, when did you last drink? Uh, a week ago, before this gall bladder shit started up. You've not drank in a week and you're not having withdrawal? I guess not. Do you want a drink now? Not especially.

So I came to realize that I wasn't an alcoholic, and that I was just stupid and didn't know when I'd had enough to drink. That's a drunk. And I feel now that you really should pity alcoholics. True alcoholics really can't go without a drink... believe me, if the way they described the symptoms, I'd keep a bottle on hand for emergencies too. They're not getting a real choice to drink. Drunks, however, always choose to drink. They know they might have a hangover, or puke, or something the next day. They choose to do that.

Anyway, this is all backstory to talk about how I love how they displayed Tony Stark's drinking problem. I say this because I think drunks are a more widespread problem than alcoholism. I only know like one real alcoholic. He literally can't function without drinking, or at least, he used to not be able to. Now drunks? I know drunks. I grew up in Kentucky, after all.

Tony Stark had a battle with the bottle, and they laid the groundwork for that in this film with the scene with DJ/AM. In the above shot, you can see a clearly disheveled Tony Stark with the DT's, sweating like he's in Hotlanta during sweat season, unshaven, and worried about something. Is this an alcoholic, as they're trying to portray with the whiskey bottle next to his left hand? No, it is not. If he was alcoholic, that bottle wouldn't be nearly as full. And he wouldn't be worried about whether his multinational is going to collapse from his drunken neglect (after all, he does still have Pepper Potts to run the thing). No, he's a drunk, realizing that he's really fucking his life up getting so drunk all the time. Big difference.

Anyway, I've always wanted to see the scene that regular people see with the drunks in their lives, regarding Iron Man, which they showed as Stark doing all sorts of repulsor stuff while intoxicated. That was awesome... that's exactly how it would be. An alcoholic? God, Stark would kill himself after one week in the armor. But a drunk? Yeah he'll be repulsoring expensive champagne thrown into the air by chesty babes, trying to dance to DJ/AM's phat beats, etc. This is what he was... Stark was a drunk, NOT an alcoholic. An alcoholic would only look that way if the whiskey bottle was nearly empty and the stores were all closed.

But it could get a lot more realistic than that... like, he shows up to a fight with Kang The Conqueror, the time travel terrorist, he's LATE and besides that flying erratic with only one boot jet working because he's still too drunk from the night before to lace the other one up properly. And everybody on the Avengers team just GROANS knowing that he's three sheets.

"Oh, Gods," Thor would say, praying to the one-father Odin for an intervention. Captain America would simply shake his head in disapproval, being the epitome of a Boy Scout. The Wasp would make some quip, "Really, Tony, again?" And Kang would be all tough and shit. "Drunken sow! You complete my ultimate plan! Now I will use you for my foil to undo the" blah blah blah, whatever Kang, you always lose.

Or... Stark showing up in the Iron Man armor on top of the Golden Gate Bridge's arches, repulsoring pigeons and peeing on the cars below.

Or Stark standing down The Mandarin and his ten rings, only to puke in his own helmet uncontrollably as Mandy gets away. "Just... glug... just give me a minute... oh gawd..."

Anyway, the movie was awesome, you should go see it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What Lost Did Tonight

So just imagine you're hanging out in Hollywood or something, celebrity-spotting, when up walks your favorite, LOST. "Oh, hi LOST, I love your show, I can't wait to see how it ends!"

LOST smiles at you and nods and is very nice in general. "What are you looking forward to the most?" he asks.

"Oh, I just can't wait until you explain the mysteries. I know you're not going to explain everything, but I just can't wait to find out the backstory on Jacob or Smokey or the island..."

And LOST says, "Hey that's great." He shuffles a little closer and whispers, "Would you like a preview of it?"

"WOULD I? OMG I have to tweet this," you say, and in your hurry to Tweet "Met MiB in Pinkberry's, getting dish on next ep now," you fail to notice that he's leading you into the bathroom. "Lay down on the floor please," he says, holding a medical chair that looks suspiciously like something an infant would toilet-train with, only adult sized.


"Come on, don't be a spoil sport. Just lie in the floor." Not being a fool, you are able to put some puzzle pieces together and you say:

"I don't think you're going to explain anything. I think you're just trying to shit on my face."

LOST looks at you, aghast. "Shit on your face? Pishtosh, nothing of the sort. Now come on, lie on the floor." And so, you lie on the floor, because you REALLY want to know about the number sequence and what about the sideways universe anyway. And when you're lying on the floor, he puts the toilet trainer right over your face.

"Wait a minute! You're trying to shit on my face!"

LOST's face comes into view of the toilet seat, saying "Nothing of the sort! Don't be silly. Now close your eyes." You close your eyes and you hear the curious sound of a belt buckle being undone and pants being unzipped.

"HEY! You're about to shit on my face!" "Nothing of the sort! I'm just getting comfy. Why are you so jumpy?" "Because you want to shit on my face, you do!" "Nonsense, I've put on weight and just need to adjust my pants is all." And then LOST sits on the toilet-trainer seat, his naked, hairy and smelly ass mere inches from your face.

"You ARE trying to shit on my face! I can smell your ass!"

"My goodness, you simply have no patience do you! Does little baby want his bottle?" LOST continues to tease you until you're embarrassed into silence, reminding you that all your LOST friends are going to ridicule you when they find out you met LOST in Pinkberry's and you could have learned all the important secrets but you couldn't keep quiet. You acquiesce, and lay in wait for the knowledge to flow.


As LOST leaves the bathroom you yell at him, "Hey, no fair! You said you weren't going to shit on my face! Well what do you call that?"

And LOST replies, "The Aristocrats!" *snaps fingers*

That's what LOST did tonight.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Doctor Who Two

Woo hoo! "Common / People" is a finalist for the CJA's! I feel a little down that the Body/Buffy mashup didn't make it, but okay. It's an honor to be nominated, I guess...

...except that, if this musical Dr. Who video is any indication of the rest of the entrants, I don't think I have a chance...

I especially love the Weeping Angels/Madonna bit at the end. I mean, I like my little animated slashfilm, but damn, THAT was a lot of work. Somebody's got a TB drive to rip stuff to.

But I digress, this post was really just an excuse to not strut about with my chest puffed out like a rooster showing off his feathers, but to talk about how deliriously much I love the new take on Doctor Who by Stephen Moffat.

See that promo? It's kind of crap. It didn't really inspire me to think we'd be seeing anything worth paying attention to, not after David Tennant's incredible run as the tenth Doctor. But after just one episode, I was won over.

Of course, I immediately had to download it as soon as it was available, like many here in the States. The thought of waiting two weeks to see how absolutely horribly they'd screwed up the Doctor was like a death sentence. No, we needed to know NOW how bad it was. And then the reviews came out.

"Pretty good" and "Fantastic" and "Totally won me over" were common phrases, with a few die-hards moaning about the theme music ("They've ruined a classic," please, it's not like they got Lady Gaga to remix it or something... hmmm now there's a thought) or just spoil-sports all around about how things just haven't been the same since Pertwee or Baker or whoever your favorite Doctor was.

I expect every time they change actors, you have to deal with this, but when the original Doctor Who's run stopped you had to actually listen to these people in person at the comic book shop or at the science fiction convention you were attending and what not. Now it's all-pervasive... you can't log on to one of your sci-fi interest sites without a deafening din of outraged or delighted fanboys/girls demanding justice and/or squeeing messily about how great/awful the new thing you used to like is.

So I admit, Matt Smith, in promo pics, wasn't doing it for me. He looked too strange. Out of a lineup of possible Doctors, I doubt I would have picked him. But the first episode, "The Eleventh Hour," hooked me from the very beginning of the show, and never let go.

I won't recap it, because if you care you've seen it and already dismissed or lauded it as a failure/success. I loved it. Sure, the next couple of episodes were kind of light... Starship UK was kind of a so-so mediocore DW ep, and the new Daleks were obviously just a setup for something further down the road. But then "Time of the Angels" aired, and anything I might have been holding back, dreading, were all let go.

I make no apologies that my favorite episodes of the new run of Doctor Who are the more silly ones, totally deus ex machina at the end and such. But my favorite episode so far? "Blink," with the Weeping Angels, a new and terrifying enemy who, by their nature, will probably always lend themselves to thrilling episodes, as long as they're not overused (I'm looking at you, Daleks).

"Blink" was not only one of the best Doctor Who episodes, but it was one of the best time travel stories I've ever watched. While Time Travel is at the core of the Doctor Who mythology, it's not really used all that much except to set up each story, but in this one it was woven into the story perfectly. The Doctor and Martha, trapped in the past without their Tardis, must set up a series of events to give a message to a person in the future that will ensure that the person not only escapes a nasty fate, but provides them with information about the very event they're warning her about somewhere in their past timeline. Genius.

Anyway, the two parter reintroducing the Weeping Angels to DW was simply phenomenal, although I think Brits liked part two a little more than I did. In a very weird turn, I think part two needed more obvious explanation about how things happened, but it was great. And I take back what I said about Matt Smith before; he may be weird looking, but he is an awesome Doctor Who.

Although I still think he has awful hair.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Creative Junkyard Awards

Hoping that one of my two mashups will win something in an online competition...

Of course there's the Common People one...

And then there's the Buffy/Sheryl Crow mashup...