Is This Just Me?

Is this just me, or does everybody secretly wish for an alien invasion? Or something of that ilk, the kind of situation where a person could credibly sacrifice himself against tremendous odds to save the world?

Where a man could carve a legend for himself simply by standing up to the powerful oppressors and saying no?

Where a population could rise up and unanimously tell the invaders "No more. I reject you. With a Molotov cocktail!"

No? Just me?

Yeah, I figured as much.

Saturday 16 March 2013

Avengers Academy Retrospective

Several months ago, Avengers Academy finally concluded. A comic best described as  "Teen Titans but with psychological damage" the series followed a group of brand new characters to the Marvel universe, all of whom had received their powers during the Dark Reign storyline, when Norman Osborne managed to get control of the government...somehow.

I warn you now, this retrospective will contain spoilers, so please, if you care about plot twists being revealed, stop reading now.

Norman then proceeded to take the main cast and brutally experiment on them, pushing their powers beyond their safe limits in the hopes of turning them into more deadly soldiers for his army. Thankfully for all involved, he was later deposed and locked away. Apparently, the Marvel Universe doesn't have a death penalty, because if it did, attempted genocide of the Asgardians would probably rate it. But that's not the point.

The point is that the Avengers now have a bunch of kids with superpowers they don't understand, and trauma on a massive scale. With their powers, they could be the next generation of Avengers.
Left unguided, in their current state, they could be the next Masters of Evil.

So with that in mind, I thought I'd take a look back over the course of the series and try and explain how I feel about some of it. Naturally, a series like this thrives on its characters, so that's what we'll be discussing here.


Madeline Berry, also known as Veil, first discovered her gas shifting powers after she was humiliated in front of her entire school, turning into gas to outrun the shame. Then, when Norman Osborne got hold of her, he extended her powers way further then they should have gone. Now, Madeline is slowly drifting apart, losing her cohesion. With time running out, she sees Avengers Academy as her only hope of being cured before it's too late. In many ways, Veil is the main character of the series. The series opens and closes on two images of Madeline walking through her high school, one where she gets humiliated, and one where she annihilates a bully using nothing but her fists, highlighting the subtle character development that she underwent over the course of the series. She is a polite, well meaning girl, only really losing control or becoming angry when she thinks she or someone around her is being threatened.

Humberto Lopez, known as Reptil, possesses a mystical artifact capable of transforming him or any part of him into that of a variety of prehistoric animals. First appearing in the Avengers: The Initiative run, Reptil was later captured by the US government where experiments were performed to broaden his control of his various powers. Strongly motivated to become a hero in the hopes of finding his long disappeared parents, Reptil jumped at the chance to join Avengers Academy, and later proved one of its more stable individuals. Despite, or perhaps due to, his lack of desire for authority, he was elected by the group as their leader, and much of his character development in the early run of the series dealt with him coming to terms with this, as well as functioning as the "Only Sane Man" of the group, often acting as an intermediary between members of the group who were fighting. Later as the series went on, he would enter into a relationship with Finesse, an incredibly well written romance sadly left hanging by the series.

Jeanne Foucault, Finesse, has a history largely shrouded in mystery. Her parents were trained by the supervillain Taskmaster, and like him, she possesses photographic reflexes and an eidetic memory, leading many, including herself to the suspicion that she is the daughter of Taskmaster. Jeanne began the series closest to the dark side, a willing participant in Osborne's experiment, and lacking much in the way of social graces, or even empathy or emotional connection to others. Through her experiences with the Academy however, she went on to become one of the more moral characters in the series, with a very well defined moral code that she was willing to stick to no matter the cost to her own conscience. Finesse's largest points of character development come from her relationships with others. The first, her relationship with Reptil, grew out her believing that Reptil was only interested in a physical relationship, being the only kind she understood. His insistence at wanting something more led to Finesse reevaluating a lot of her previous beliefs, and endeavouring to be less detached. The second was her relationship with Quicksilver. Finesse is unique among the cast of Avengers Academy in that she had a very strong relationship with one of the staff of the Academy, initially hoping to learn the things Quicksilver had been taught by Magneto, they quickly grew to respect each other, and several times during the series say Quicksilver coming to her aid, most notably against his own father. The final relationship is the unspoken relation between her and Taskmaster. Taskmaster's photographic reflexes have rendered him incapable of remembering anything but fights, skills or the people he fought, and Finesse feared she might end up the same, leading her to question the sense in getting close to people she might be forced to forget. A future storyline would show Finesse in the future, exhibiting symptoms incredibly similar, to the point where she could not even recognize her own daughter, causing immense strain on her marriage with Reptil. As a person with a relative with severe Alzheimers, I found this arc incredibly moving, not to mention well written.

Brandon Sharpe, Striker, possesses the power to generate and control electricity. His mother, a flash in the pan actress with her five minutes of fame firmly behind her pushed Brandon into child fame as soon as possible. In one of the series darker, more serious moments, it was revealed that the agent his mother had hired to manage him had repeatedly molested him throughout his youth, and when he attempted to tell his mother what was happening, she scolded him for "lies". Brandon's powers finally activated when his molester attempted to go farther then usual, with lightning incinerating the Agent and leaving Striker with a white streak in his hair and a scar on his face. Like Finesse, he joined Osborne willingly after being coerced with promises of wealth and fame, only to find it not to his taste. His character was very much that of a braggart, keen to play up his fame and success with the ladies, early on insisting he should be the leader, as well as continuously hitting on the female members of the team in a particularly obnoxious way. Despite this, Striker was a valuable member of the team, and easily one of its most competent fighters. His largest development would come mid way through the series when he revealed that he was gay, and only hit on women so often as to deflect suspicion, even expressing concern that his sexuality might have been influenced by the abuse he suffered as a child. Brandon more then anyone changed over the course of the series, becoming more relaxed and less worried about his image. One of his last actions in the series is to turn his back on the fame his mother wants for him, instead opting to avoid the limelight, something that he would never have been able to do at the start of the series.

Jennifer Takeda, or Hazmat, had an origin incredibly similar to that of the X-Man Rogue: while making out with her boyfriend in preparation for their first time having sex, he began to choke and feel incredibly ill. Her powers of emitting radiation and toxins of various kinds made her parents incredibly sick, killed her dog and her boyfriend was put in hospital. Then, taken and forcefully experimented on, her powers grew uncontrollably. Whereas before she could have learned to control her powers and use them responsibly, now her sweat, saliva, and even her breathe, her very presence were lethal in long exposure. Forced to remain inside a sealed hazardous materials suit for the rest of her life, Jennifer hoped that Dr Pym would find a cure for her. Hazmat was incredibly angry, her explosive personality resembling her powers, she had a strong sense of justice but it was often clouded by her anger into becoming more about vengeance, the most obvious examples being the times she lead a group of the Academy students into the Raft in order to punish Norman Osborne for what he had done to them. Additionally, upon finding out about her teacher, Tigra, at the hands of the criminal Hood, she and two others tracked him down and mercilessly beat him into the ground. Hazmat was by far the most powerful of the group, her future self being able to generate an antimatter blast large enough to trouble a physical god. After spending a day with the mutant Leech, who could suppress her powers, she declined seeing him again, as it left her vulnerable to attack the next day, her body having not recharged since. Her commitment to becoming a hero meant she assumed a second in command role, being close friends with Veil, due to their similar situations. Her relationship with Mettle grew out of their mutual desires to be normal, and the time spent comforting each other over their new bodies. An incredibly well written relationship which saw them dealing with the after effects of what had happened to her old boyfriend. Despite Mettle being immune to her powers, she was still terrified of sleeping with him, for fear that he would become ill as well. Mettle for his part, accepted her nervousness on the subject and backed off, but some strain was inevitable. Overall, Hazmat was probably the closest member of the group to truly going to the dark side, particularly in the early run. Her high emotions, fuelled by her own anguish at being trapped inside her containment suit left her unbalanced and headstrong, and her desire for vengeance would certainly have led her to ill had she not found a home in Avengers Academy.

Ken Mack, Mettle, discovered his powers while surfing. Losing control of his board, it smacked him in the face. On the beach, he was confused as to why people were recoiling in horror at the sight of his face. The skin covering it had come clean off, revealing a red metal skeleton beneath. Rushed to a "hospital" Norman Osborne proceeded to bring out his full powers by ripping all his skin off. Now, super strong, nearly invulnerable to harm and barely able to feel through his new metal skin, Ken was normally a gentle soul, laid back and relatively stable. But when confronted with those responsible for his condition, particularly Osborne, he came very close to murdering him out of revenge. Mettle didn't get as much individual development as the others beyond discussing his anger and frustration with not being able to do the things he used to, like being too heavy to surf now, but remained a solid, likeable character who felt very much like a real teenager just trying to make the best of a mixed up situation. His strongest characterization probably grew out his relationship with Hazmat, showing him as a kind, caring soul without making him into a saint.

The characters were supported by an excellent secondary cast, but an exhaustive list of such an enormous cast would serve only to bore you. With this in mind, I leave you simply with my heartfelt recommendation that you seek out and read Avengers Academy. I promise you, you will not regret it.

Saturday 6 October 2012

Autumns cartoons to watch-it's all kicking off.

Well, the wait is finally over. After months, literally months of nothing, finally, awesome animated shows are back, and my god this year we've got some killer shows coming up. So, as a result, I'm gonna be listing some of my top picks of shows to watch out for that are back this month.

Young Justice

Hailed as this generations DCAU, Young Justice won the hearts of many throughout it's first season, with strongly built characters, with compelling villians, excellent action direction and snappy dialogue. While the voice acting is good all round, stealing the show are Nolan North as the anger management challenged Superboy, and Jason Spisak as Kid Flash. Despite not one but two hiatus's during the first season, I was hooked and eagerly awaited it's return when it went on hiatus again, 8 episodes into season 2.
Despite a slightly shaky start to the second series, with an unexpected time skip and seeming cast change, within a few episodes it had grown back into itself, expanding the shows fiendishly intriguing myth arc and taking both new and old characters to places we'd not seen before. It's return post hiatus this month is now two episodes in, and my god someone kicked this show in the pants and into high gear. Crispin Freeman's performance is incredible, including one scene which really must be seen to be believed, but easily ranks among my favourite scenes in the entirety of animation.

Green Lantern

I'll come out and say it. I'm not a fan of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern. So when I found out about an entire series devoted solely to Hal...I was nervous to say the least. But it did have Kilowog in it, so I was willing to give it a chance. And boy was I glad I did. It used a curious form of animation, blending the classic Timm style with CGI graphics, which while not visually stunning, has a certain stylistic charm. But far more interesting and impressive then that was the scale of the show. I've often expressed distaste for the concept of a hero as powerful as Green Lantern spending so long on Earth. After all, he is supposed to take care of a sector of space. And, to my delight, the majority of this series is space based, lending the show a very cosmic feel which ensured that the entirety of the show had a true feeling of risk, it truly felt like the universe was on the line. The interpersonal drama of the primary cast is excellent, and once again, Jason Spisak steals the show, this time as the rage fueled Red Lantern Razer. And oh boy, has this show kicked up in scope. Where before the villains were removed from our sector to a degree, the first episode of the latest arc takes place on Earth. There is a tragedy brewing, and it's in our homes. Green Lantern easily secures its place in this list.

Dragons, Riders of Berk

A sequel series to one of my favourite animated movies of all time, Dreamworks "How to Train your Dragon", Dragons, Riders of Berk is...interesting. The only brand new show on this list, I feel like this show is only just starting to grow into its own. The show goes a long way to answer some of the lingering issues and questions of the film, especially regarding the natural consequences of a society changing from killing dragons to training them, with older members of the tribe complaining of the loss of traditions past, those who previously depended on fighting dragons to make a living and even the true fact that in the cold light of day, not all dragons are friendly, and idealism will only get you so far. Episodes 5 and 6, "In Dragons we Trust" and "Alvin and the Outcasts" form the series first two parter and really hint at the potential of this series. I'm honestly confident that this series can, if allowed to grow and mature just a tad, truly become something marvellous, emotionally brilliant like the film from which it spawned.

Tron Uprising
Last but not least, returning on October 19th is Tron:Uprising, a midquel between Tron and its sequel Tron Legacy. I am a huge fan of the original Tron, yes it's cheesey, yeah the plot makes no sense and the script treats computers like magic, but who cares? The movie was groundbreaking for its use of special effects, with action setpieces that still set the standard for sheer cool in movies. The sequel was a visual marvel, which despite a...shaky script, drew me in with its brilliant soundtrack and truly breathtaking design and aesthetic. Uprising takes a more...subdued and dark view of the world presented in the movies, examining things from a perspective never before explored, with a cast consisting solely of the programs from the computer world of Tron. No human protagonists out of place, no plucky heroes to develop superpowers. This is their world, these horrors are their lives now. We see on screen executions, people being rounded up into camps and generally showing the terrors that were merely alluded to in movies. Genocide, for kids! But really, this show has been great so far, and I eagerly await its return.

So, those are my picks for the cartoons to watch this season. If you disagree, or you feel I missed something, leave em in the comments and let me know.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday 9 September 2012

Science Fiction Fans can go suck it. (Why Geeks can't have nice things)

Anyone following this blog (if there is anyone out there and I'm not just writing these things for the sake of it) will likely have noticed two things.

The first is that I really don't update this thing anywhere near as often as I really should.

The latter is that I am a huge, massive, irredeemable, unashamed nerd.

I grew up raised by a mother who introduced me to Star Wars from an early age, a father who to this day lends me Heinlein and Niven novels. One of my favourite memories as a child, way back when I was in primary school was watching Genesis of The Daleks with my father and being blown away by the spectacle and scope, the sheer joy of the genre. Later, I would find friends through my discussions of the latest episodes of shows like Farscape and Star Trek Deep Space 9, and upon coming to university, find my way into a group of friends who were both interesting and knowledgeable about areas of Science Fiction I'd not dreamed of. Sci-fi is, and always has been, an immensely personal affair, both in how it affects my relationships with my friends and family, and how it influences my very essence, my beliefs and emotions.

At the same time, we seem to be in a golden age of Comic Book movies, with 2012 hosting The Dark Knight Rises, Amazing Spider-Man and, the holy grail of Marvel Zombies Avengers movie. Truly, in some respects, it's a good time to be a nerd. Our hobbies are becoming mainstream. What was once the domain of the small minority is now becoming the mainstream, from Conventions becoming big budget affairs that attract thousands from all walks of life, to videogames becoming a truly massive industry.

And I, personally, welcome this. It's a general rule that 90% of everything is crud, but the remaining 10% is worth dying for. And yes, increasing the size of the whole means theres more crud, but more importantly, it means that 10% is correspondingly bigger and that means I get to enjoy more science fiction shows, more comic book movies, more videogames like Portal and Mass Effect.

But theres a dark side to it as well, and for once, we can't blame this on the jocks, or the greedy studio executives or any of the other groups. Oh, don't get me wrong, large swathes of blame can be laid over them, but this one...this one we do to ourselves.

We're a bunch of entitled, selfish, shortsighted and ultimately self destructive assholes.

Now, I've always known that nerds were assholes. We were the first to populate the internet after all. But it was only tonight that I had the revelation of why we do it to ourselves.

But first, some context. For reasons I...really can't explain, I was never exposed to the Stargate franchise growing up. I mean, I was aware it existed, but it was never on in my household, and by the time I was old enough to be in a position to watch it, well SG-1 was already finished, Atlantis was in something like it's fourth season and by that point...I like knowing what the hell is going on, and 4 seasons into a spinoff of a series continuation of a movie which itself has like two other movies that fitted somewhere...well, it just wasn't my thing. So Stargate, Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis slipped me by completely. By the time that I began university, Stargate Universe was just beginning, and...well, I didn't even know the show existed till I heard it was being cancelled.

However, recently my housemate convinced me to give it another go, and over the last few weeks, I've been working my way through the series, starting with the original movie. I'm 2 episodes from the end of season five, so don't you assholes dare spoil things, got it?

In any case, tonight, I spotted a link to someone discussing the possibilities of continuing Stargate Universe, either online, or in other media such as comics or tie in novels, possibly a movie. Now as a Firefly fan, I'll admit that such discussions appeal to me, since, well, they really show the passion and heart that make us nerds so cool. We honestly, truly believe in some things so much it hurts us.

It was my own fault. I should never have looked at the bloody comments section. I know I shouldn't be looking at comments sections, they always suck, but I can't help myself. And oh boy, this was no exception. Now, I was expecting people who didn't like it saying it sucked. I was expecting Stargate fans saying the didn't like it because they'd changed the format from previous versions, that doesn't surprise me in the least.

What I never expected was the sheer number of people who claimed to be Stargate fans saying that they would rather have no Stargate at all then this particular Stargate. That they were owed "proper Stargate" and that anything else was equivalent to being shot in the back.

And this is why geeks can't have nice things. Because any time, any time at all a studio takes a risk with a program, there comes the clarion call "They Changed it Now it SUCKS!"

That clarion call isn't coming from the majority, it's not coming from the lowest common denominator or from any other groups. It's coming from us. Nerds as a group have spent the last 20 years becoming more and more reactionary, divisive and abrasive with every year. We're so busy arguing with each other and hating everything that we end up cutting our noses off to spite our faces.

I mentioned that I grew up watching both Star Wars and Star Trek as a kid. Well as I grew up, that changed, as I found more and more there was this us vs them mentality. I ended up in the Star Wars camp, and for a time, was vocally against Star Trek because it was expected of me. And thats just the tip of the iceberg. We've grown to the point where everything has become this pitiful string of X vs Y with both sides hating each other more then either has a right to.

And we're so divided now that we're impossible to make a show for, because yes, nerds are a large group. But getting a large enough group of nerds to put aside the tiny differences for more then a moment and accomplishing something is impossible. We're like the cat people from Red Dwarf, holding religious wars over which colour hats should be worn.

So here it is, I'm laying out an agenda. Today, reading this, lets start a nerd revolution. Marvel fans and DC fans. Just be comic fans, Star Wars and Star Trek, lets follow Takei's advice, and form the Star Alliance, Bronies, Whovians, Otaku, Avatar fans (both elemental and blue cat people) roleplayers, potterheads, all of you people, lets stop the mudslinging. A truce, a truce I say, as we show the world that we're here, we're a force to be reckoned with and we're not gonna be silent anymore. If a show you don't watch or even don't like gets cancelled, then don't celebrate, don't laugh or congratulate the network for dropping it, offer sympathy and demand studios do better so the next show is something we can all get behind.

Do I think we're gonna do it? Well, only 6 people including me will probably ever read this thing anyway, so I doubt it. But I can dream.

Monday 18 June 2012

A discussion of western animation and my top picks

As a self professed geek, I watch a lot of cartoons, and have done since I was a small kid. Whether it was the barrage of superhero cartoons from my childhood to the animated skits of the Looney Toons, I was hooked.

Recently, I went on a binge of rewatching a lot of shows that I had seen as a child, drinking them all in, comparing them to everything I had ever seen on the small screen. And sure enough, certain gems shone out at me, not just memories of things I enjoyed as a kid, but shows that even now, I find myself in awe at the sheer levels of wonder they evoke in me. In many ways, a lot of these cartoons are more powerful now I can appreciate the subtleties that the writers and directors took in creating the series that as a kid, I never noticed. (Not to mention the dirty jokes. My GOD, the dirty jokes...)

I took to thinking...what precisely was it that made these shows so great, that made me, make me care so much.

So, to discuss this, I'd like to take a moment to discuss just a few of my favourite animated series, and discuss what precisely about them made them work so well, what I feel made them as good as they really were.

First up on my list is a show that sometimes I'm amazed was ever made. Batman Beyond, a show set in the far future of the DC Universe. Despite this show airing years before I ever got into comic books, I was of course familiar with Batman, the masked powerless vigilante who fought to keep Gotham safe out of the memory of his dead parents. But none of that prepares a kid for the brilliance that is Batman Beyond. Everything about this show is good. The animation is superb, the writing is top notch, the voice acting is fantastic, with the lead actor Will Friedle bringing the character of Terry McGinnis to life in such a way that his character seemed to almost ooze out of every sentence he spoke, while Kevin Conroy returned to his old role of Bruce Wayne...yet managing to convey the age and experiences, defining him so distinctly from his youthful counterpart from Batman:TAS that I actually had to check to see if it was actually him. But none of that stuff is what made the show into the marvel that I find it to be. No, that rests with the world of Neo-Gotham, created from essentially whole cloth, this decaying, dingy urban centre easily conveyed the poverty, the crime, the loss of hope that made Batman neccesary. This series, more then any other, created a world that made me think that a superhero was needed for more then just beating up bad guys. When the Chris Nolan Batman films talk about Batman as a symbol, as being more then just a man in a mask, I honestly think of this show, and how even without ever directly stating it, they managed to plant that mentality into my mind. This show was Batman+Blade Runner. If that's not enough of a motivation to check it out, I don't know what is.

Continuing the theme of Comic book Superhero cartoons, we have something from an entirely opposite end of the spectrum. Justice League, and its sequel Justice League Unlimited. Where Batman Beyond was dark and gritty, these shows managed to shine a light so bright, some episodes can put a smile on my face just thinking about them. Justice League was among the only Superhero team shows that ever seemed to get the balance of focus right, allowing all the characters time to shine throughout the season. At the same time, the writers weren't afraid to leave a character out of an episode if the story wouldn't be helped by their presence. They balanced an ensemble cast excellently. At the same time, despite the show having a much more comedic and four-colour heroics style then Batman Beyond, it was never afraid to tackle mature storylines, and it didn't feel the need to treat its audience like children. Villains attempted to nuke the entire earth. Not some other planet, and not destroy it with some never again mentioned doomsday device, but literally destroy the entire planet with radioactive fire. Not only that, the show featured a literal on screen lobotomy, with the characters reacting to the this in a realistic and believeable fashion. Details like that made the stakes of the episode feel  real and, combined with top choregraphy for its many, excellent fight scenes and its consistent, logical character development that continued to the very end of the show, this cartoon is one that I will happily watch any episode of any day of the week.

Next up, and one of the few cartoons on my list that doesn't involve superheroes, is Godzilla: The Animated Series. This cartoon grew out of the loathed Roland Emmerich Godzilla movie that was made during the 90s, and to my mind, the existence of this show is almost good enough to make that movie worthwhile.


In any case, set after the film, it followed the adventures of the films main protagonist, plus a few other humans as they seek to fight other enormous kaiju, not to mention aliens, evil industrialists, etcetera. And how do they accomplish this, you ask? They raise the resultant offspring from the egg shown at the very end of the Godzilla movie to work with them. That's right, they had an entire two season cartoon of Godzilla beating the everloving crap out of a different monster each episode. At the same time, the human cast got plenty of development and charaterisation, with some very human interactions. If you're a fan of the original japanese Godzilla movies, I couldn't recommend this show more, not only does it have superb animation on the monster fights (which are fantastic) it's even acknowledged as exceptional by the original creator of Godzilla. And you can't say fairer then that.
Zorro Generation Z, the next show I'm gonna talk about is...well, objectively this show is not the greatest, and I'll admit it's easily the weakest on this list. However, even so, it does demonstrate some features that are near unique in the shows of its day. An bizarre mix of Zorro updated to align better with the superhero cartoons of the time, Zorro Generation Z was an incredibly fun show that went out of its way to make a show about a rich teenage descendant of Zorro fighting crime with a laser sword/whip/blaster/whatever the plot needed be as real as possible. It avoided people healing at ridiculous speeds, it often showed the severe effects of some of the more evil schemes happening and it. On the other hand...they did have cops with Tanks. Not Armed Guard or whatever, actual cops. That one was always a bit weird. But where this show really excelled was its characters. The protagonists were exception, from Zorro, who in both his identities was incredibly well voice acted and developed, to my favourite character: Bernard. Bernard was the best friend of Zorro, and the brains behind most of his advanced technology, as well as acting as a form of mission control. What set him apart from other shows "geeky best friend of the hero" was that he was mute. And this wasn't treated like some kind of quirk or amusing fact to be mentioned once and played for laughs a few times. It was a surprisingly accurate representation of mutism in media, one which I have not the like of since.

The final show I'm going to talk about, and my absolute favourite cartoon to this day is the Canadian Class of The Titans. This show remains to this day the singular best example of an ensemble cast I have ever seen, focusing on not just its seven core cast but also giving plenty of screentime to its wealthy cast of secondary characters. The show  followed the emergence of CRONUS, GOD OF TIME! into our world, after having been imprisoned by the Greek Gods in Tartarus for several millenia. And boy is he annoyed. With the gods powers waning after all this time, the oracle, (disguised as a newspaper vendor) reveals a prophecy that Cronus can only be defeated by seven teenagers, each the descendant of great Greek Heroes, embodying their powers. The show kept the focus equally divided over its 52 episodes between all of the characters ensuring that no matter who your favourite was, you'd get to see plenty of them. Each episode was a nice blend of action, comedy and interpersonal drama, and the show excelled in all of them. The action scenes were well written, well animated and by and large varied substantially each episode. As a fan of Power Rangers for most of my life, seeing a show like this have an incredible action scene each episode (almost always more then one) this was a dream come true for me. The comedy was probably the weakest element of the three, but by no means subpar, as a lot of the humour came from the personality clash of the cast. In my personal opinion, however, the shows real strong point was the writing of each of the cast. Often in shows like this, certain characters would be overshadowed to the point where all you could remember about others would be the barest idea of a personality. In this show, each character got several episodes focusing on them, and would almost always have something to do in episodes that weren't about them. Often, a characters best done development would be in episodes that had little to nothing do with them in terms of focus. The real masterstroke of this show was that it showed seven different, yet incredibly believeable reactions to being thrown into a world of monsters and gods and superpowers, then show those reactions change. Not to mention, this show was dark. The main villain wasn't looking to defeat the protagonists, he was trying to murder them. He wanted vengeance, and was willing to do whatever it took to get it. So that was Class of the Titans: come for the awesome fights, stay for the superlative characters.

Any way, those are my five top picks of shows I recommend people check out if you ever get the chance. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go watch some cartoons. Till next time.

Sunday 1 January 2012

New Years Musings

So that was 2011, huh? I gotta say, as far as years go, that one was certainly one.

I joke of course, 2011 has been a damn fine year for me, even if it didn't seem like it at the time, but enough looking back, it's time to move forward: lets see what 2012 brings us, right?

One thing myself and many others are excited for this year is that 2012 is gonna be a geeks year, in cinema. We've got Amazing Spider-Man, which seems to be learning a lot from the Sam Raimi films by following the comics a lot closer, we've got the Superman reboot, Man of Steel...which, well, I don't care if it's 90 minutes of Superman getting wedgied by Darkseid, it'd still be a better representation of the character then some of the Superman films, theres Dark Knight Rises, which looks pretty damn good, with Bane played by Tom Hardy, a solid choice for a character who hasn't had the best of luck in previous adaptations. Finally, theres The Avengers.

Now, my thoughts on The Avengers as movie are probably synonymous with a lot of comic fans: "Sounds good, now try not to fuck it up, 'kay Marvel?" So far, everything I've seen about this movie has given me hope, we've got Skrulls being rumoured, we've got Thor, Cap and Iron Man, (all of whom are well cast, and the same actors as their own feature films) the teaser trailer was absolutely gorgeous, and we've got Joss Whedon directing, which strikes me as a very good choice, Whedon can balance Ensemble casts very well, just look at Serenity.

Of course, DC fans everywhere cry out in hope for a Justice League movie, but frankly, I don't see it happening any time soon. With The Flash and Wonder Woman movies stuck in development hell, the Green Lantern movie being...well, a fluorescent piece of shining embarassment, and Nolan's Batman series being brilliant but dark as all hell, well, I just can't see it on the horizon.

Frankly, one of the reasons I think the Marvel films have done so damn well is because of the Avengers movie on the horizon: Marvel have tied all their golden eggs into one basket and damn if they're not guarding it with their lives. Whereas Green Lantern was an isolated disaster for DC films, if Thor or Captain America had been that bad, there would have been major repurcussions for the rest of the franchise.

And frankly, if thats what it takes to get good comic book movies, then I'm all for it.

Happy New Year to the, what, 5 of you who read this. I hope it's a good un.

Thursday 24 November 2011

The curiousities of Film Taste (Alternatively: Yes I like Indie Romcoms, they're awesome)

In between Labwork, and Computing, and Presentations, and Problem Sheets (those bleeping problem sheets...) I quite often like to relax with a film. Now my tastes do run pretty broad, I'll watch most forms of sci-fi or horror or fantasy at least once, I'll watch documentary's or comedies, from Shakespeare adaptations all the way to Comic Book movies.

But there is one genre, just one, that transcends them all for me, one genre where I can watch it and feel nothing but happy afterwards.

I speak of course, of the Indie Romcom.

Now, I've never quite been able to pin down what it is about Indie romcoms that makes me love them so, that keeps me hooked in a state of near addiction to them. Part of it is definitely the soundtrack: a decent indie rock soundtrack can make all the difference in a romcom. Take Garden State, for example. The writing is good, the acting is above par and the storyline is beyond touching...but it's the soundtrack, packed with things like Let Go by Frou Frou, that really sells it, that makes it resonate so deeply with me.

Another thing is the fact that quite often, Indie Romcoms don't have to have the couple staying together to have a happy ending: just look at 500 Days of Summer, a film that I would characterise as one of the most positive ending films I know...and yet, right from the start, it's firmly established the lead couple are wrong for each other, and end up staying apart... the message is that love exists, but that doesn't mean you're neccesarily in it. In a world where corporations and mass media want to push this idea of a perfect, brilliant relationship, there are these films managing to put the radical idea out there that relationships are hard, that you can give a relationship everything you have and more, only to see it all come to nothing.

Ultimately, the more I write this, the thing that occurs to me is that all of these films manage to balance the romance and the comedy well by one important factor: the romances really are just that, romantic. They feature human characters showing their vulnerabilites and growing as characters. Big budget romcoms starring the likes of Reynolds or, god forbid, McConaughey, lack this, trading character for overly made up cutouts acting the motions of "girl and guy meet, fall in 'love' and the go through wacky hijinks."

The other thing that really defines Indie romcoms compared to other romcoms is the way storylines are treated. Without meaning to keep harping on about it, while Garden State focuses on the romance of the lead characters, it never loses sight of the story, it never forgets even for a moment the journey Braff's character is on outside of the romance. Starter for Ten makes the University Challenge competition the true focus of the film, where other films would have used it as little more then a framing device for the love story, Starter manages to integrate the romance into the plot, rather then conforming the plot to the romance.

Now I know not everyone has the same taste as I do, I get that. But I know, from the bottom of my heart, I'd rather watch Michael Cera and Kat Dennings bonding over night of music and coming to terms with their own faults then watch idiotic blonde female protagonist be won over by idiotic jerk male protagonist's poorly written lines or cheesy pseudoromantic gestures. I don't want an endless stream of sex jokes or stereotypes, I want to see two humans interacting in a romantic fashion.

And goddamnit, I want to listen to decent music while it happens.

Signing off,


Sunday 9 January 2011

Gullivers Travels

So, I went to see Gullivers Travels the other day. I wasn't really sure what to expect, since every Jack Black film I've seen since School of Rock has disappointed me on some level or other.

I'm happy to say that as of Gullivers Travels, that record was broken.

It's hard to say what it is that makes the film work so well, but I'm gonna give it a go. First off, the casting is excellent. Jack Black's performance is top notch, easily equal to anything else he's ever done, but in my opnion it's Jason Segel's performance as the love struck Horatio, desperately trying to win the heart of a princess his society forbids him to court, that really steals the show. Maybe I'm biased on this one, it's a fact that I'm a fan of Segel, and I can see how a lot of people might be...annoyed by his fake accent in this one, but for me, it just works. Emily Blunt makes for a very compelling, if ultimately unexplored romantic interest and Bill Bailey makes a hilarious king. What we see of Catherine Tate as the Queen is good, but unfortunately, this is a lot less lines then I'd like to see from her.Chris O'Dowds villian is actually very plausible, (or at least as plausible as this film gets) but ultimately, he's chiefly just there to move the plot along and contrast the protagonists.

The aesthetic of the film is...stunning. Whether it's the theatre reenacting Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back and Titanic as Gullivers life, or Jack Black being forced to dress up as a doll by a giant baby, it's very rare that theres something in the scene that doesn't make you at least chuckle. The effects are...well, I really enjoyed them. I've said in the past that 3-D often isn't worth the effort, but it REALLY works here, being used almost exclusively to give the film depth, rather then relying on cheap oohs and aahs by making stuff pop out of the screen. This combined with the fact that unlike Tron Legacy, which I mention in my last post, Gullivers Travels is a very well lit film, so it really works. Effects like Jack Blacks stream of pee are...questionable, but work.

As for the script, well this ones a personal opinion. I found it hilarious, right down to little touches and flourishes in the jokes, but honestly I do think this is one where it comes down to personal taste. If you enjoy the sheer awesomeness of Jack Black stopping a generations old war by performing "War" (Huh? What is it good for?) by Edwin Starr, then you'll like it.

It's not a perfect film, I'll admit, the relationship between Gulliver and Darcy seems tacked on and hurried, with very little development and frankly, I think the film could have used a few more scenes showing that. At times the pacing seems to be dragging a little: while watching Jack Black play guitar heroes with a bunch of lilliputians acting as the console is utterly hilarious, it does slow the middle of the film down.

It's worth noting, it really is a case of Gulliver in name only, anyone hoping for the satire and insight of the original text will be sorely disappointed, but if you go into it separating it in your mind from the book, then it comes across very well.

So, in summary, I would advise you to go and watch Gullivers travels, it's not perfect, but it is very good, and a very good way to fill a lazy afternoon.

Thanks for reading folks!