Monday, 13 April 2009

Of Red Dwarf: Back to Earth

It's been 10 years and finally Red Dwarf has come back to our screens, was it worth it? Well I for one think it was. Whilst the episodes we got definitely aren't as good as some of the highlights of the show through the years such as "Quarantine" and "Back to Reality", "Back to Earth" was a hell of a lot of fun with a only a few moments which felt a little flat.

Okay for starters a bit of set up. Red Dwarf is a BBC sitcom from the 80s about the last man in the universe and the situations he gets into through space. Along with him are a hologram of his old "friend" (if you watch the show you'll know why I put in quotation marks), a lifeform that evolved from his pet cat and a cleaning robot. The show is a complete classic with so many superb moments through the years. In fact if you haven't watched a single episode of the show I'm not sure this episode would be the right place to start off because there a lot of callbacks to old jokes which makes this episode that bit more fun. In fact I implore anyone reading this to track down the episode "The End" and watch from the beginning. If only to enjoy Chris Barrie's portrayal of quite possibly one of the funniest sitcom characters ever conceived.

So I'm going to go into the hypothetical here and assume that this episode takes place after the alternate ending to season 8 (would probably explain why Rimmer was once again a hologram and why there is no one else on board Red Dwarf). So we get a series of episodes which feels far more of a homage to the Red Dwarfs of old. We got callbacks to the Despair Squid, "I'm going to eat you little fishy" and Rimmer's inability to remember Space Corps directives. Plus we get the very self referential fact that Red Dwarf didn't actually have a Season 9 or 10 something which feels very similar to the way that Season 2 was prefaced with a scrolling text telling us what happened in an episode that was never filmed. But enough of that was the episode any good?

Yes it was, it wasn't brilliant but it was very, very good. Obviously the show being off the air for a decade means that it isn't going to launch straight back to classic status. But I enjoyed myself immensely. I'd missed the show so much that I found myself laughing out loud for the vast majority of all three episodes with only a few moments where a joke felt a little flat (mostly the largely slapstick part in the Creator's bedroom which drags on a little too long). But so many awesome jokes like the little Rimmer servants, the sci-fi cliche of being able to extract any information from a picture using computers, Carbug, Kryten's melodrama and of course the skutters make the episode bubble with near brilliance.

The whole story of everyone going back to Earth is obviously backed with so many moments great moments that happen when the show does take place in an Earth-like setting (see "Backward" and "Tikka to the Ride") and of course this episode had them as well, all up to that brilliant final twist. It might not be the classic that the episode this special clearly stems from is, but the the moments of comedy we get are more than enough to make up for it. The writing once more just bristles with this kind of banter which doesn't happen on any other comedy. The characters feel so well developed and it's almost as if they haven't been off the air for a decade. Lister and Rimmer still play off each other wonderfully, Cat is still an airhead and Kryten is still his wonderful over dramatic self.

Which leads me onto my largest praise, the cast. I don't think I have seen a better comedy cast ever (apart from possibly Blackadder). Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Robert Llewellyn and Danny John-Jules are SO immensely enjoyable that they more than made up for any moments which felt overly stupid. I've missed these guys so much as these characters that I literally cheered when I heard the theme music playing at the beginning and was singing along with a joy over the end credits. I don't know if it's a massive feeling of nostalgia but Lister, Rimmer, Cat and Kryten have been sorely missed from my television. The cast just works so well together and play off of each other beautifully. You just have to love the banter between all of them. I would start quoting but honestly there are so many great lines that it would take far too long (personal fave being the little dig at X-Factor).

But as I've said it wasn't perfect. There were those jokes that fell flat and whilst we got that classic Red Dwarf disregard for establish continuity, it just didn't feel the same. Mostly because of that bit more CGI that was used. Red Dwarf has always felt a little rushed and bad quality which made it so endearing. In fact it was a little like the Star Wars Prequels (although not in terms of quality), by way of having the Skutters being computer generated. The Skutters were always great when they were puppets and having them being like this lost a little bit of heart that they once had.

Overall, the episode whilst being a lot of fun doesn't quite reach classic status. I've always thought Red Dwarf was one of the most consistent sitcoms ever, with no serious qualms with any of the seasons (I know people who hate Season 7). This special fell right in line in my expectations. It was funny, enjoyable and paid tribute to so many classic moments that it was fun to giggle when they mentioned a particularly great moment. Whilst they missed great moments like Mr. Flibble, Ace Rimmer, Duane Dibley there are so many little callbacks including one of the greatest scenes ever involving Kryten and Lister in "Polymorph" playing on TV in the background in the Sci-fi Shop. It was brilliant seeing the cast all come back for this special and I hope sincerely that they do more (but I guess that all relies on the reception). 8/10

Lost Plagarism Issue

Okay this is something that has been pissing me off since I found out about it yesterday. Some twat on the internet has been caught stealing someones theories about Lost. Now whilst this doesn't seem to be a massive issue, the fact that "Seanie B" has been stealing complete lines and layout of multiple Lost theory bloggers. It just so happens that he's been found out, check out the following video:

So if you've taken the chance to watch that video then you have seen the proof that he has been stealing peoples words which puts him in violation of copyright law. This is an extremely serious matter. He is blatantly plagarising a hard working persons words and passing them off as his own. I enjoy reading the recaps which have so far been proven to have been plagarised from, and even once watched a video from "Seanie B" before realising it was 20 minutes of extreme boredom (plus I kept getting distracted by his Zelda shield in the background). So I have to say this is completely disgusting. The guy has some serious fucking nerve. In fact he goes on flame a premiere Lost blogger, DocArzt or "whatever the name is" as "Seanie B" so nicely calls him. Despite the fact that I've seen more stuff from DocArzt than I have EVER seen from that tool. In fact DocArzt owned and ran the very first Lost fansite and is still a prominent member within the fan community.

Now whilst some people might argue that this isn't a big deal but honestly it is. People get expelled for doing this kind of shit in school and now this guy is passing off theories which he has read on the internet as his own without credit. Plus the guy has a donate button on his website and has had his videos featured in TVGuide vodcasts. This has just gone too far to the fact that this guy might seriously be profiting from someone else's work. Whilst it arguably isn't much, there's still money coming in for what is essentially reading something off the internet and passing it off as his own.

Again some people say "Oh it's only fan theories" or "You can't copyright a theory". Thing is you can copyright the words, which is where all this has come from. Everything you write on a site such as this or many other blogs, belongs to you the writer. Whilst you're thoughts don't need to be original and can be taken on by anyone else as their own, they can't come to you're site rip massive amounts of text and then not credit YOU. You "own" the words you used to express you're thoughts and anyone else taking them IS stealing. Which is why this a big deal.

Honestly this could all be sorted if "Seanie B" apologised for what he has done and began to credit people for the theories he has stolen. However he hasn't below are a couple of blogs showing the evolution of this matter and how whilst he claims he hasn't done anything wrong he still keeps doing some really suspicious things. Like the fact that he's taking down videos, deleting NEGATIVE comments, banning people from his site and just being an all round douche. He's turned pretty much the entire Lost community against apart from a few of his fans who honestly don't see this as a massive problem.

I'm not going to link to this guys site as I don't want to give him anymore traffic than he deserves. However I've been going through the comments and it seems that some people on his site are clearly retarded. In fact that same can be said for the entire internet and as we all know those idiots are the ones that stand out like a sore thumb and get me quite riled. Going through and seeing people think that just because it's a piece of fiction and a theory about a show that hasn't finished yet makes it completely alright to steal someones writings about it. However just because it's a work of fiction that may or may not be correct doesn't make it right to steal, it's still stealing no matter the circumstances.

Honestly this left me more than a little pissed. Mostly because there are people still leaping to his defense which is most mind boggling, that there are people that don't see that what he is doing IS WRONG. It's not a shade a grey, he is wrong 100%. He could make it right quite easily but as we've seen in two days he hasn't made a comment about what has exactly happened and his actions are painting him as being less than innocent in this whole matter. Whilst there might not be much going on legally here (which there is mind you) it would be nice to see someone who puts FOURTEEN HOURS work into a blog a week get the credit she deserves for having some complete smeg head (I'm watching Red Dwarf) nick the stuff she works so hard to create, even if he spends hours a week doing his own videos which are filled with blatant plagarism.

Couple of sites to do with the whole matter (not Seanie B's though):
LOST Video Recaps Exposed!
Seanie B. Update
Lastest Update from Erika, someone who's had their work stolen

Just needed to get this off my chest, check back later for a review of Red Dwarf: Back to Earth.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Of The Boat that Rocked

I have to tell the truth here, I wasn't planning on reviewing this. I was actually going to see Fast and Furious with a couple of mates on Friday, but because this movie only came out that day, it was Easter weekend and the movie is stunningly popular ($70 million dollars opening weekend in the US!!) we didn't get in. Not for lack of trying. We started in Camberley checked Bracknell before going to Woking where they were all completely sold out. By this point we were bored out of our minds and we could either go home or watch a film. We selected The Boat that Rocked, something I wasn't overly fussed to see (in actual fact I just wanted to watch Red Dwarf that evening and ended up missing the first showing on Dave because of it). I even swore when I saw the movie was 2 hours and 30 minutes long (I remember hearing it was long but Jesus, that's Dark Knight long). In the end I came out pleasantly surprised. It was good and here's why.

I do enjoy Richard Curtis films. He wrote Blackadder, Mr. Bean, Vicar of Dibley, Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral and I enjoyed all of them. I haven't seen Bridget Jones or Notting Hill but I have been told by a female friend that I need to see Bridget Jones, my mum has it on DVD so if I ever catch an incurable disease or you comment enough I will review much as it pains me. But yes Blackadder is definitely his peek. Whilst everything else has it's moments (the puddle in Vicar of Dibley and the American girls in Love Actually spring to mind) Blackadder is the most consistently funny (discounting the first series). As much as I would for more Blackadder, that show ended perfectly and I wouldn't want to sully something that has given me so many laughs (turnips, clucking bell and appleogies).

But the movie, The Boat that Rocked is what Richard Curtis does best, an ensemble British comedy movie, surprisingly not featuring Hugh Grant!! Instead we get pretty much the definitive whose who of British comedy with a few exceptions (Simon Pegg was doing Star Trek, but we got Nick Frost!) So we got pretty much every single good actor in Britain today in another ensemble piece from Richard Curtis. However I'm not sure which one I preferred, this or Love Actually. Love Actually told lots of little stories which crossed over in certain parts and everyone got their own little moments. But in this, everyone is part of an ongoing narrative and it isn't compartmentalised which means that some characters get a big part early on but then nothing for the rest of the movie (specifically that guy from the IT Crowd).

So in some respects it is quite muddled. Whilst the big players like Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, Bill Nighy and Philip Seymour Hoffman are consistent throughout but the lesser characters sort of get pushed to one side. I will say though that the mass of the ensemble meant that I didn't really feel the 2 hour run time (apart from the burning need to pee because we got there a few minutes late and I was stupid enough to buy a large coke). So I definitely enjoyed the movie for the full run time but it wasn't as hilarious as other recent British comedies such as Hot Fuzz. So whilst the core five performances were all great. The biggest props to Hoffman for perhaps my favourite role in the movie, Nick Frost who never fails to entertain, even when he does shit, and finally the relatively unknown Jason Sturridge who was immensely enjoyable.

There are definitely a fair few very funny moments, the part where they all play "I never" is memorable, Nick Frost trying to get Young Carl to lose his virginity, Thick Kevin, Twatt and Mark, the sexist guy in the world. But there lies the problem. They're just moments that don't lend to a cohesive whole. It seems like it was just a bunch of funny moments in a writers room for a TV show. "Oh we could do this and then this" which whilst being very funny don't add to the plot, which is almost completely handled by Kenneth Brannagh (who again was excellent). It's here the movie seems to fall apart. Richard Curtis' background in television just screams through here, every twenty minutes the movie goes onto a new plot point just to sort say "gosh these guys got into all kinds of wacky situations, didn't they". So the movie seems to suffer from having too many characters and just a lack of cohesion in the story, it doesn't make it bad just a little bit schizophrenic. Especially by the ending which darts from tragedy to this almighty feel good ending (I admit I shed a tear, showing my messed up emotional state)

Overall the movie has some great moments, but that's all they are, moments. The narrative isn't consistent but then again the performances are all round superb. In fact I spent about 20 minutes trying to think where I recognised Elenore the American wife from until I realised she was Betty in Mad Men, showing either my incompetence or at least how much of a brilliant actress she is. Richard Curtis has a skill at writing these "sit back and relax movies" but he hasn't reached a plateau of brilliance since Mr. Bean almost 20 years ago. The movie is funny and enjoyable and I felt the run time fly past (although it'll probably feel different if you watch on DVD) it's just it felt more like Richard Curtis put together 4 episodes of a new TV show and stuck it on the big screen. 7/10

PS. I will say he does seem to have a thing for facts, that little bit at the beginning and end on pirate radio is almost exactly the same as what he did in Love Actually.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Of Doctor Who - Planet of the Dead

If that is the continued quality of Doctor Who this year, I am going to be very happy. It wasn't as amazing as the show can be, but really the show only is that good when Steven Moffat is writing, which he won't be until next year. But for a special episode, especially one penned by Russel T. Davies it was damn good.

So what worked? Well for starters there wasn't any crappy humour. Or at least nothing as insulting as the "spinning Daleks" from last year, that was just shit. I hasve to say the funniest moments were definitely Lee Evans', he completely owned it on the humour side, even making references to Quatermass. Lee Evans is definitely a very funny man and whilst this wasn't exactly what his stand-up is like but he's shown himself to be a funny actor in stuff like Fifth Element and was definitely a welcome element to the plot. Espcially with his overreacting to The Doctor, I chuckled quite a bit at all of his scenes.

However the best thing about the episode was the fact that it worked as an single episode but also set up the other specials. There wasn't anything really lining it up to the future episodes apart from a few lines near the end and there wasn't a deus ex machina ending. The episode completely delivered on everything it promised. It didn't rely on anything that wasn't introduced previously or was just lightly touched upon. In fact the main crux of the episode was getting what they needed to escape. It wasn't like the Season 2 finale where something he picks up briefly in the first part goes on to save the day.

I'm going to say it straight off, I enjoyed it immensely. It was probably the best special the show has done since the David Tennant regenerated. I want to say this was partly because Michelle Ryan was extremely enjoyable as Lady Christina. Whilst she wasn't quite the humourous part that was Lee Evans, but still in terms of companions she was a lot of fun. Especially because what was seen in the first scene in quite a big set piece came back in a big way. It was hinted at throughout the episode that was important and it was.

I can't stress it enough, this episode was plotted exceedingly well. There wasn't really a wasted moment. Everything was needed. Whilst there were some moments that were aimed at kids it wasn't that awful campy humour, it was genuinely fun stuff, like the flying bus. Plus there were some worrying moments. These specials normally come with more deaths, this one only had three but the guy who burned up to a skeleton was definitely shocking in that it was barely past seven and would definitely scare the little kiddies.

Overall the episode was great. It's what Doctor Who needs to be this year. We've only got three episodes till the end of David Tennant's run and this set them off in the right direction. I'm going to delve more into David Tennant's performance in the later specials, but suffice to say he was as excellent as he never fails to be. The story for this special was tight and Lee Evans and Michelle Ryan were very enjoyable companions for the episode and I'm genuinely excited to see where the show goes from here. The next episode is called "The Waters of Mars" which seems to be Sunshine but with water and not sunlight so colour me intrigued. But for now Planet of the Dead gets a very high 8/10

Of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Season 2

Ahhhh shit. It's season finale time. Bollocks. I'm getting increasingly busy but I'm aiming to keep on top of all these reviews. So whilst it's going to be fairly slow for a few weeks, in let's say 3-5 weeks I will be posting quite often. In fact today I'm aiming to do three reviews today (this is number one, followed by a film then Doctor Who). Plus then I have Red Dwarf to talk about (yay!). So here we go, whilst Pushing Daisies died last year I still haven't finished the Season, so this is the first proper season finale of the year that I will be reviewing (out of shows I'm not desperately trying to catch up on).

So Terminator. I ranked Terminator as my seventh favourite show of last year, and whilst it has definitely fumbled the ball over the second half of the season, it recovered greatly over the last six episodes. It won't be breaking into my top ten shows of 2009, unless Season 3 is made, which looking at the ratings is only going to happen if Fox DOESN'T want to make money (hahahaha). But on with the show.

Terminator is one of the better genre shows on television. Battlestar Galactica finished a few months ago meaning that Terminator was the only show on television wherein robots were a focal point, and it handled it pretty well. The show had some really, really strong episodes (in particular "Mr. Ferguson is Ill Today") however it also has some weak episodes. I'm not talking Heroes weak, but about half way through the season it becomes, quite frankly, boring. I reached a stage where I didn't give a crap and it became a bit like Heroes where I could miss an episode and not give a shit. Then in the last six episodes, the show comes back with a vengeance rocking it all the way to it's finale.

So why did it get boring? Well it was mostly a trilogy of episodes that occurred about midway through, all focusing on a single character. Now the show has an amazing number of awesome characters. John Connor, Cameron and Cromartie/John Henry (C/JH = Best BTW). However they focus on Sarah Connor, the title character and it just doesn't work. The show was weaker on both sides for a few episodes but it was these three where the show does fall apart. It's not because Lena Heady as Sarah Connor is a bad actress, it's just that the character isn't that interesting, at least not on the show. Plus she just generally works better in the background rather than up front. Which is a shame because the show is named after her so she does take the foreground quite often, but ahhh well the show recovered.

My favourite part of the show is definitely John Henry. John Henry was once a Terminator but is now hardwired into the internet and it is by far the most interesting the story that the show goes into. I wish that this story had taken up more screen time, but the characters that he interacts with aren't part of the core four characters which means that it's just a subplot in most episodes which builds to a semi-climax in the finale. I'm going to say Garret Dillahunt is one of the best actors working in television/film at the moment and I want to see him doing far more things (he was also No Country for Old Men showing a bit more of his pedigree).

Then there was the final 6 episodes death spree. They killed off FOUR main characters in five episodes. One had been building to that point for several episodes but it was still shocking. The second gets a two parter devoted to her character, gives a bit more depth and then leaves her fate open ended (I'm going to say dead). Another character comes back from an extended absence and dies and then there was Derek. It is quite possibly the ballsiest death I've ever seen outside of The Wire. He just dies, ten minutes into the episode. No mourning, no long drawn out potential he will die. It's over in a second but for the rest of the episode you expect it to be a fake out but it isn't (at least in most respects). I was stunned but I have to applaud the show for doing it.

Now the finale, I've literally only just seen it. I'm really quite happy with it. As a season finale goes it's really good. It leaves plenty of questions open for Season 3 and ends with an amazing twist that just left me smiling. The main problem is that there probably won't be an ending. We're not going to find out what happens unless a miracle happens and the show gets renewed. The other problem is that a movie can't be made because Terminator is already a movie and number four comes out in a few weeks. So unless the show wants to start becoming part of the main Terminator mythos it has to work pretty damn hard (although if a Sarah Connor Chronicles character shows up in T4 then there is more probability we'll get a third season. I really want a third season because the show ends with so many possibilities and sadly unlike Veronica Mars, Firefly, Arrested Development and Pushing Daisies we probably won't get any closure at all.

Overall the show is really good. The first eight episodes are some of the best genre television you'll probably ever see. Sadly after that the show takes a small decline (probably due to Cromartie's death) culminating in the Sarah's trilogy of episodes in episode 16. Then the final six episodes come back and redeem the show astonishingly well. There are so many great episodes, the four I recommended in my end of year wrap up and the last six make ten frankly amazing episodes. Sadly the three boring episodes drag it down a little and the other nine are only decent, not outstanding but make the show one of the strongest shows airing at the moment. Plus it's far better than the godawful T3. So it's 8.5/10 for the second season of Terminator, and probably it's last.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

First Impressions - Cupid

Cupid is yet another new show from the creator of Veronica Mars. Whilst neither Party Down or Cupid are as superb as Veronica Mars, they are both somewhat decent. Cupid is definitely far lighter in tone with the emphasis being on love and finding ones true love. This leads to some sweet and enjoyable story telling.

I didn't watch original show but I've heard the plot is exactly the same, it's just been modernised a bit. Overall the show is fun and quirky which is definitely different to a lot of what I watch (Breaking Bad for example). It's just a plain fun show and whilst it doesn't quite hit Chuck or How I Met Your Mother levels of awesomeness, Cupid is still extremely watchable. Obviously I would kill Cupid anyday to have Veronica Mars back but I doubt I'll get that option.

Overall the cast has a lot of chemistry but it doesn't match the quirky brilliance of other shows where romance is a main plot point such as Pushing Daisies nor Rob Thomas' other shows. But if you want something light hearted with a lot of fun moments give it a go. If you're looking for something "cooler", I'd definitely steer you away.

BTW HOLY SHIT at Derek's death in Terminator!!! He just got shot in the head BEFORE THE OPENING CREDITS WERE OVER!!!! I had to ask myself whether it was all a fake out. But nope they buried him by the end of the episode. One of the main characters of the show being killed in a way worse than guest stars get treated? That's just cold hearted brilliance, I'm the glad the shows recovered from that little lag earlier on in the season

Thursday, 2 April 2009

New Pollz

Okay technically it's only one poll but ahh well. The question is, due to my recent addiction to comics, I want to go back and read one of two classic series, X-Men or Spiderman? Both are marvel and both have 500+ issues. I'm going to try and avoid crossovers but that does mean I'll be missing some of the story but comics are profoundly fucked and the only way I'm going to stay on top is if I just plow through. So it's down to you now, next month my internet will literally be in your hands.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

April 2009/Birthday/100th Post

Okay the title is true on at least two of the three counts. It is now officially April, today is my birthday but this isn't post 100. It is actually post 104. So I'm lying a little and to be honest I don't know what to do. Post 100 should equate to some sort of top 100? But honestly I don't have the time. It's effort to do a top 10 but I do aim to do one soon.

Birthday bit next. Yes I know I was born on April Fools Day. Fun for me, normally get some very cruel pranks pulled including a few earlier on today such as Lost being canceled (there was swearing). However overall I've had a fairly good day, been shopping and finally got a new iPod Touch (2G, 32GB) as well as a shit ton of books (mostly graphic novels) as well as a few Neil Gaiman books (Sandman 3-5, Fragile Things and The Graveyard Book) so I'm going to have fun reading all soon as revision and exams are over. Bugger.

Stuff Coming Soon
I have a feeling that the blog will go on hiatus until after exams. Keep checking back for twitter and maybe some movie reviews, but don't expect much.

Currently Listening to: The Fountain OST - Clint Mansell
Currently Watching (Movies): Raising Arizona
Currently Reading: Sandman: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman

Oh and remember Charlie Brooker's Newswipe tonight at 10:30