Nostalgia and Newspapers, part 1

1982
The Wrath of Khan (1982)

I’m not much of a hoarder (except when it comes to books, obviously) and I’ve never kept a diary, but I have in my youth been known to compile obsessive episode lists for Star Trek:The Next Generation or detailed records of my Doctor Who collection.  And, during the 1980s, I went through a phase of keeping newspaper cuttings from my favourite obsessions. Which were, as ever, Doctor Who, Star Trek and a side order of Star Wars.

These are all from the local news rag, the Hull Daily Mail, but they may as well be from anywhere.

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Return of the Jedi (1983)

They’re also not in very good condition, having been callously Pritt Stick-ed into a scrapbook, and being yellowed and foxed by the passage of time. That I still have them at all is something of a minor miracle given my various spates of Chucking Things Out over the years.   For a long while nostalgia for my childhood was antipathy to me. I just didn’t have the urge to hang onto things.  (Fortunately my parents are not so callous).

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The Search for Spock (1984)

These days, more ‘mature’ and sentimental as I am, I’m happy to have a few reminders, and these mini-posters positively glow with nostalgia. I think the tattiness and discolouration only makes them more evocative.

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A Triple Trek (1984)

I’m particularly thrilled to find “A triple Trek to the Stars”, a marathon of the first three Star Trek movies to promote Star Trek III.  These movie marathons used to be a staple of my childhood. Do they still do things like this?  I never seem to see them advertised.  In my time I’ve not only done three Trek films in a row, I’ve also done five (count ’em) Star Trek Movies in a row.  Then there was the marathon of 3 Mad Max movies and two Alien movies.  Or was it Evil Dead?  I definitely saw three Evil Dead movies at one of these.  Movie marathons always seem like such a good idea going in, and then by film #4 your eyelids are drooping and only teeth-gritting stubbornness is keeping you going.  I particularly remember watching the three Trek movies in one sitting because the third one had the extra “Captain’s log” bit at the start where Kirk pointlessly recapped the movie we’d just finished watching.

1987-hull_daily_mail2
Aliens (1987)

Seeing Aliens at the cinema is another strong memory.  Along with Cronenberg’s The Fly this was one of the first two 18-rated films I watched at the cinema.  I remember an almost palpable sense of dread at what I might witness on that 18-rated movie screen.  (When I was much younger my friend had us over to his house to – transgressively – watch the original Alien which his family had video-taped the night before.  Sadly — or, perhaps, fortunately for my tender brain — the tape ran out halfway through so I never got to the really gruesome bits.  The age of video.  See, kids nowadays don’t know about this stuff…)

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The Final Frontier (1989)
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The Voyage Home (1987)

In contrast, I have no memory whatsoever of seeing Treks IV and V at the cinema, although the (in reality quite bland) poster art for The Final Frontier is hugely redolent of that time period for me.  I remember excitedly staying up late to watch an American programme called “Cinemattractions” on ITV where they would run down the US movie box office chart, and I could glimpse a clip from the upcoming movie.  (The silly Turbolift scene, as I recall.)

Next time… clippings from when Doctor Who went on an 18 month hiatus.  Unthinkable…

Cinemattractions

My latest film watching is here. Wonderfully we’ve been able to sneak out and see films at the cinema two weekends in a row.

Anna’s been fantastically well-behaved recently, and even slept for five hours straight last night. That’s five whole hours of sleep. I know. Also she’s just started smiling a little bit, which is a huge psychological breakthrough. She particularly loves it if you imitate her little chirrups and gurgles, which results in a delighted smile. Most of the time she sounds suspiciously like a mogwai, which is slightly worrying since we’ve been feeding her after midnight.

Mister Sherlock Holmes

We’ve been watching the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series from the start. We’ve just made it to ‘The Final Problem’, featuring Holmes’s apparent death and the final appearance of Watson #1, whom I think I marginally prefer to Watson #2 for his eagerness and fantastically deadpan bemusement. I’m not sure what more I can say about Brett’s merits as Holmes except that rewatching these episodes has reminded me just how very good he was in the role, particularly early on. Athletic, eccentric, rude, bursting with nervous energy, and the very image of what you want Holmes to be.

There’s also a realism that this Granada series derives from having been shot on location that puts it streets ahead of any amount of over-dressed ye olde england sets, plush smoking jackets and fake pea-souper fogs. When you’ve seen Matt Frewer as Holmes (and generally speaking I have nothing against Matt Frewer) you realise just how badly wrong Holmes can go when treated like a Disneyland attraction. Brett’s Holmes and the world he inhabits are perfectly real — despite being inhabited by a parade of Victorian grotesques.

Despite all this I remain inexplicably positive about the ludicrous Guy Ritchie romp starring Robert Downey Jr. I put this down to an ability to compartmentalise.

On a related note I’m not sure how I missed this news that Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are making a modern day version of Holmes starring the improbably named Benedict Cumberbatch. If it weren’t for the writers I’d dismiss this out of hand. With these writers, well, I’ll give it a chance.

Plus they’ve just found the Giant Rat of (Somewhere Near) Sumatra.

In a world…

Nothing new to report on the Bump front, so here’s some nice eye candy that distracted me last night.

Here’s a really impressive trailer for a film that was completely off my radar, Daybreakers. Stars Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe, and set in a world in which Vampires are the majority and humans the hunted underclass. Pushes all my buttons, really.

The surprisingly good, even mature looking (I know, I know), trailer for Torchwood’s Children of Earth mini-series (running in five parts Mon to Fri in a single week.)

I’m intrigued by the Johnny Depp / Christian Bale / Michael Mann gangster flick Public Enemies, even if the trailer is just an abridged version of the entire film as far as I can tell. Although he can be quirky and mannered as an actor, Depp is such a chameleon sometimes.

And BIG ‘SPLODY THINGS. Roland Emmerich destroying the world again in 2012. Unlike Transformers, the astonishing spectacle of this one may actually lure me to the cinema against my better judgement.

Finally, and on a slight tangent, I’m a complete nerd sometimes but this CGI image from a forthcoming Trek calendar is just stunningly beautiful. In a nerdy way. (From the blog of Doug Drexler, an FX guy from Trek / BSG.)

Talking pictures

A gracious open letter from creator Josh Friedman on the sad cancellation of Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles. When it was bad it was slightly meandering, but when it was good it was excellent. I’m pleased it got two series; I’d have been far more gutted had it died after its first year, whereas this way it had a chance to tell a more rounded story.

A trailer for Guy Ritchie’s new Sherlock Holmes film featuring a Holmes who is much more like Robert Downey Jr. than we’d previously imagined. The movie looks like a lot of fun on its own terms, but it bears so little resemblance to Sherlock Holmes that I’ll just have to pretend it’s something else. (Downloadable trailers in better quality here.)

Two clips of the surely superfluous new ‘V’ miniseries starring Morena Baccarin. It’s not like the original ‘V’ was any great shakes. The very first miniseries was a lot better than the second (The Final Battle), with its infamous rubber alien baby, and the second miniseries was itself like Shakespeare compared to the short-lived weekly series that ended up as Dynasty with Lizards. I’m willing to give the remake a shot since any remake brings with it the potential to improve on the source material, but how exactly will they make a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing alien invasion feel fresh and relevant these days? Oddly the clips remind me more of Earth: Final Conflict than ‘V’.

And finally, rejoice world for the superlatively quirky The Middleman is arriving on (region 1) DVD. It’s not the greatest thing ever, but it’s possibly the funnest thing ever.

Trailers

Unexpectedly, the latest trailers (Trailer 3 in both cases) for Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation are not just good but *so* good they’ve more or less sold me on the films. I wasn’t sure either of them would amount to more than superfluous cash-ins on their respective franchises, but the Star Trek one in particular reached me on a gut level in a way that previous promos for the film missed by a mile. Maybe it’s just been so long since Trek had some genuine spectacle, drama and energy on its side.

If streaming video doesn’t float your boat, both trailers can be downloaded directly here

Shiny, stompy

Janet is now the proud owner of a black 16GB iPod nano 4G. It’s shiny. It’s curvy. It’s tiny. It even has a motion sensor so you can play little marble-rolling games — for some reason. Considering that this is an upgrade from an old mp3 player that only had space for three albums, she’s very pleased.

We saw the Watchmen trailer at the cinema for the first time today, and it looks great. I also [via percyprune] really like this viral marketing for Watchmen in the form of a faux-historical news article on Dr Manhattan. Really nicely done.

And finally for snowking on the occasion of Hoggmas, hot on the heels of the Steampunk Cyberman comes a competition to design a Steampunk Cylon. STOMPY.

Round up

Not had time to post much recently what with working late, going to hospital appointments, shopping, attempting to decorate, going to leaving dos and trying to at least pretend to have a social life.

So far this week I’ve been impressed by President Obama, specifically his inauguration speech and immediate action to overturn any number of idiotic, bigoted or downright fascist Bush policies. Kudos to that man. I do remain suitably sceptical that this huge rush of political euphoria can last; no doubt there’s a New Labour style post-election crash due soon (although I’m by no means as cynical as Tom McRae on the subject). There are a few nay-sayers in our office who think he’s all cliches and speeches and, to quote Luke Skywalker, it’s all such a long way from here. Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel that this is an important moment in world politics. Obama is the right man at the right time telling the right story – and it is a story even if not in a pejorative sense – about regrouping, rebuilding and reaffirming fundamental values.

TV-wise, CSI: original flavour is back on C5 and as good as ever. I’ve been mildly spoiled for future cast changes, but otherwise it’s nice to watch a consistently high quality series do its stuff and not have a clue what’s coming next. We’re still catching up on various US imports including House (still great), Sarah Connor (mostly great) and Galactica (I just need closure). We also have the Dexter S1 box set to watch, and we found the entire Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes going cheap in HMV so we’ve started that too. Incredibly I don’t think I’d ever seen the first episode before (A Scandal in Bohemia).

We’re also trying to get back in the swing of going to the cinema. Today we saw Frost/Nixon which is both a predictable underdog story and an extremely solid, occasionally outstanding character study of two men. Both lead performances are exemplary, and the film settles out as a surprisingly melancholy portrait of Nixon in a way that reminded me very much of George Reeves in Hollywoodland.

Film 2008

Yes I’m still doing reviews of 2008. I only managed 28 films last year, as recorded on 52 Film Challenge. Barely over halfway!

1. I Am Legend – Misjudged CGI but darker and less linear than expected.
2. Charlie Wilson’s War – Political black comedy with Sorkin’s trademark wit.
3. No Country for Old Men – Quiet, deliberate and gripping. Great dialogue.
4. Sweeney Todd – Every inch a traditional musical, just a really macabre one.
5. 3:10 To Yuma – Interesting characters but the ending feels unearned.
6. Flags Of Our Fathers – Thoughtful but meandering.
7. Letters From Iwo Jima – Beautiful and powerful though not quite a classic.
8. The Lives of Others – Bleak yet life affirming.
9. Iron Man – Effortlessly propped up by Robert Downey Jr.
10. Michael Clayton – Numb but quietly satisfying thriller.
11. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull – Nostalgic but misjudged.
12. Cloverfield – More like a First-Person Shooter than a film.
13. Jumper – Even more under-developed than you’d expect.
14. Enemy of the State – Flips from conspiracy thriller to actioner much too abruptly.
15. The Wind That Shakes The Barley – Strong IRA tale with an awkward second half.
16. Hollywoodland – Noirish and melancholy. In a good way.
17. The Bourne Ultimatum – Consistently entertaining but never raises your heart rate.
18. The Dark Knight – Hardboiled organised crime flick with supervillains.
19. The Searchers – Stunning cinematography but dated and uneven.
20. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army – Fantastic art design, cartoonish characterisation.
21. Transformers – Moronic.
22. Them! – Admirably naturalistic, but very slow.
23. Pi – a deeply weird, stylistically beautiful movie.
24. Futurama: The Beast With A Billion Backs – hilarious in places, but runs out of steam.
25. Wanted – so hugely over-impressed with itself you just want to slap it.
26. Seraphim Falls – a sparse Western about vengeance and forgiveness.
27. The Day The Earth Stood Still (the remake) – preachy but still interesting.
28. Quantum of Solace – Decent Bond flick, but always in the shadow of Casino Royale.

We also caught up with a fair few rewatches. Over the Christmas period I ended up watching A Muppet Christmas Carol, Patrick Stewart’s A Christmas Carol, and Bill Murray’s Scrooged. That’s quite enough epiphanies for one year.

At the Movies

The second trailer for Watchmen is out. (There are some new posters too.) I know that movie trailers are filled with Lies, but impossibly it looks like they may actually have succeeded in adapting the graphic novel for the big screen. That’s a very nice trailer indeed. Director Zack Snyder’s 300 was so slick and hollow that I do worry whether this will turn out to be an exercise in obsessive visual style over substance, but some of the dialogue scenes in the trailer hint otherwise. The source material is far richer and more thematically complex than 300 (which is, when all’s said and done, a fairly trite, macho, sexist and homophobic work). What’s clearly intact in the Watchmen trailer is the deconstruction of what it means to have superhuman beings or vigilantes in a more flawed, realistic and political world.

I notice that the film is R rated, which is a bold move since that’ll severely restrict its potential audience. By comparison, The Dark Knight was a 12A (even though that nasty little pencil scene alone should have pushed it to a 15 for me). The fact that they’ve gone with such a box-office-denting rating shows at least some artistic integrity is involved. Also the official Watchmen site currently crashes my browser. Yes, that’s how hardcore this film is.

Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster will direct the movie version of World War Z from a script by J Michael “Tin Ear” Straczynski. Not 100% sure what to make of this but my wife loved the book and the script has at least one glowing review. jms is also scripting a remake of Forbidden Planet, an idea so wrongheaded that even he thinks he’s walking on hallowed ground.

Finally, an image has been released of the new Starship Enterprise from the semi-reboot Star Trek movie. Casual viewers would probably shrug and say this looks exactly like every other picture of the Enterprise they’ve seen. Devoted fans have unleashed the kind of lack-of-perspective hate-storm not seen since Daniel Craig’s hair was deemed to be the wrong colour for Bond. (Although at least that fan implosion focused on the main role, not just a bit of hardware.) I kinda like the new design myself, but I don’t love it. It’s growing on me. There’s also an image of an earlier generation of starship from the movie, as well as heaps of cast images. It’ll either be awesome, or an utter disaster.

Bleargh

The moment I started my holidays last Saturday I started coming down with the lurgy. Funny how often that happens. So even though I’m on holiday this week I’m also bunged up and feeling like the back of my throat has been sandpapered (or, occasionally, chiselled). Since I’m not up to much therefore, here are a few things that, in my delirium, I mentally logged as worth telling someone. You be the judge.

The saga of Tom McRae’s website continues. It’s now in Australia. No really.

This story about the MMR vaccine scare on Bad Science is actually an excerpt from Ben Goldacre’s new book. It’s also a fantastically rational account of how irrational the media can be in their quest to sensationalise a story.

Frost/Nixon is a movie that wasn’t on my radar. What were the chances that anyone, let alone Ron Howard, would make a Hollywood movie out of David Frost interviewing Richard Nixon? It’s hard to know what to make of it. The trailer paints the film as a mixture of political drama and David vs Goliath feel-good story, in the general neighbourhood of Charlie Wilson’s War. Michael Sheen looks great as Frost, and Frank Langella seems okayish as Nixon. Other eclectic cast members include Oliver Platt (White House Counsel Oliver Babish on The West Wing) and Matthew “Tom from Spooks” McFadyen. (Plus it has Kevin Bacon in it, so given how ubiquitous Michael Sheen is this should blow the Kevin Bacon game wide open.)

No Heroics is a new sitcom centred around off-duty UK Superheroes. The trailer looks surprisingly okay, albeit sex-obsessed, particularly given that this is airing on that great sitcom purgatory, ITV.

Lastly, what is up with those camera zooms that punctuate Evan Davis’s every sentence at the start of Dragon’s Den? It’s like the camera operator just ate an entire keg of Smarties and can’t calm down.

Snubs, stubs and subs

The Wire star hits out at Emmys. Sergeant Ellis Carver thinks the Emmys are ignoring his show, and rightly so. I still can’t believe that The Wire has never won an Emmy. It does at least have a single nomination this year: Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series for its final episode. Maybe that means it’ll get the ‘lifetime achievement’ sympathy vote.

Fresh from last month’s Ben Folds gig, we now have tickets to see Counting Crows supported by Ben Folds in December. This is good. Counting Crows‘ latest has some strong return-to-form stuff on it but has left me a bit cold overall. Nonetheless the combination of Crows and Folds is pretty much a slam-dunk. Folds has a new album Way to Normal out on 30th September which sounds a good deal more up tempo than anything he’s done since the first couple of Ben Folds Five albums.

Hot on the heels of The Dark Knight (spoilery review here) there are preview screenings of Hellboy 2: The Golden Army on 5th August, so we have tickets to see that too. This is double plus good. My Cineworld Unlimited membership is a process by which I willingly allow Cineworld cinemas to scam £12 from me every month in return for me not going to the cinema. To add insult to injury, even though I only found out about the screenings through their Unlimited newsletter, my membership doesn’t let me book advance tickets. So I’ve paid for the tickets. I really should cancel that membership…

The trailers for Hellboy 2 look a bit mediocre but I sense there’s a good film hiding behind the crappy marketing. Plus I like the comics and really enjoyed the first flick and Janet is a sucker for dark mythological faerie types, so really the film is pandering to us shamelessly.

Ooh

Not entirely sure about this poster as a design, but how perfect is Zachary Quinto as Spock?

That’s Eric Bana with the tatoos, although it’s pretty hard to tell. Plus Chris Pine as Kirk and Zoe Saldana as Uhura. TrekMovie.com has more details.


In unrelated news, today City Link delivered a parcel, to our door, while we were in. They knocked and rang the bell. I believe this means the apocalypse is nigh.

Trailers

Assorted movie trailers:

Watchmen. The trailer is a strange mix of extremely faithful images, overly stylised slow-mo and slightly unreal visual effects. I think I sorta like it. (EDIT: now working.)

Outlander. A spaceman crashes in an ancient norse village while hunting an alien creature. The Vikings do battle. The Vikings are led by John Hurt… …I *know*. I may have finally lost my grip on reality but this looks really entertaining, in a “Vikings vs. Predator by way of Chronicles of Riddick” way.

Terminator Salvation. This looks surprisingly promising for an unnecessary sequel, but really it’s just a mixture of Christian Bale and some images taken wildly out of context. A teaser trailer in other words.

Quantum of Solace. Hmm. Could be good. I loved Casino Royale, and it feels a bit strange saying this about one of the longest-running movie franchises in history, but it remains to be seen if they can catch lightning in a bottle a second time.

Oh and of course not forgetting:

Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen are making a spoof Sherlock Holmes movie (as Watson and Holmes, respectively). This is almost certainly a bad idea, but as usual they failed to run it past me before greenlighting the project.

Meanwhile Guy Ritchie is making a not-spoof Sherlock Holmes movie. Or not intentionally spoof, anyway, since this is the previously reported “sexed up” version emphasising Holmes’s bare-knuckle boxing skills. Insert “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Jackets” joke here. On the other hand Robert Downey Jr. is playing Holmes, which makes me all intrigued. And afraid. And intrigued. And afraid.

Meanwhile David Simon will be following the incomparable The Wire and the upcoming Generation Kill miniseries with Treme, an HBO pilot for a series set in post-Katrina New Orleans; details of which can be found in this excellent and detailed article about Simon in the New Yorker (which contains some spoilers for the fifth season of The Wire).

Joss Whedon has an online webisode supervillain-musical thing called “Dr Horrible’s Sing-along Blog” starring Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day. Trailer, article and review. It looks strangely awesome.

Miscellania

Tom McRae “guests” on the new single by Wills and the Willing, Lipstick. This seems to mean that he wrote and performed all his bits of the song –which are excellent– based on hearing the rap parts –which are terrible. You can hear the whole song on their myspace page. Tom is also performing on Jonathan Ross’s Radio 2 show tomorrow, which will presumably be available on the ‘listen again’ feature for the coming week. Finally, here is a very good summary and set of interviews with the Tom McRae / Hotel Cafe tour.

Meanwhile have some Star Wars Strictly Come Dancing. The best bit is Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers at the end.

And Harry Knowles has seen some scenes from J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek film. It’s not out for a year, but this is the first thing I’ve read to get me actually excited about it.

In which I become an IT bore

What the– Steve Martin has apparently made The Pink Panther 2. Sometimes the world is far a more surreal place than I generally allow myself to believe.

Anyway, the actual point of this post was not to watch Steve Martin’s career circling the drain but to drool shamelessly over my shiny new PC.

I bought a gorgeous LCD monitor last week, replacing my 19″ Samsung with a 22″ widescreen Samsung. It’s the same height, but wider. Soooo much wider. I have no actual need for a widescreen monitor, but it does help with spreadsheets and 16:9 video looks significantly bigger. But really: pure self-indulgence of the highest order. Mmmmm….

Then, while browsing the interwebs looking for upgrades to my creaky victorian motherboard, I belatedly realised that the best chip it could possibly take is now only available second-hand on Ebay. This started me thinking a) OMG I’ve been in a coma for ten years and no-one told me, b) I have lots of money saved up because I am crap at shopping, and c) these days you can buy a whole PC pretty cost-effectively compared to the good old days when computer fairs were the way to go and everyone still thought The X Files was a pretty neat idea. So I ordered a nice new PC off Dell, and it’s a pleasure to use. No more 10 minute startup times. No more waiting five minutes after my desktop appears before I’m actually able to do anything. No more HD movie trailers that look like slideshows. Yes, I’ve been catapulted into what SF authors call “teh present”.

For record, it cost a mere £384 (excluding the £220 monitor *cough*) which frankly is only about twice what my crappy upgrades would have cost. The specs are excellent, though not out of this world:

AMD® Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 5000+ (2.6 GHz)
4GB 667MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM
256MB ATI® Radeon™ HD 2600 XT graphics card
500GB (7200rpm) SATA Hard Drive
19-in-1 Media Card Reader
Windows Vista Home Premium
DVD+- RW / CD RW Drive
Integrated 7.1 Audio

I’m not entirely sold on the bloatware that is Windows Vista but having switched off most of the annoying visual effects I’ve more or less got to grips with it. Thanks to the miracle of home networking I’ve also transferred all my old documents, emails, pictures, settings, videos and mp3s. It’s all feeling comfortingly familiar, and yet still cool and new.

This has been pointless gadget porn. We now return you to your scheduled programming.

Outer Space, Cyborgs and Dragons

Things that share little in commmon except that I saw them recently:

The Phoenix has landed. The Mars probe, that is. That’s a bit of a relief. Watching the video of everything it had to do on its descent I was a little sceptical1.

Sadly this good fortune does not extend to the pair of 200 year old pistols allegedly forged from meteoric iron, whose extraterrestial heritage has been disproven. They still look pretty in their own right, though.

There’s some kind of slick link here to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull which looks to be having a good box office weekend despite a fairly mixed critical reception. We saw it yesterday, and I enjoyed it a lot while not really rating it as a great film. Certainly it was about as entertaining as Last Crusade, and nowhere near the level of godlike perfection that is Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Meanwhile Iron Man continues to rake in the cash (almost certainly fuelled by my review).

Terminator 4, which still seems to be called Terminator Salvation despite recent suggestions to the contrary, has an official website with a good-looking bit of pre-production art. Frankly the only announcement so far that has made me feel positive about this trilogy is Christian Bale’s involvement, but the concept of a post-apocalyptic trilogy is potentially a great one.

Peter Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro webchat about The Hobbit and The Hobbit 2. Following my poll to scientifically determine the title of the second film (“Back in the Hobbit” being the clear winner), Del Toro kindly tells us: “not ‘H2 Electric Boogaloo’, that has been discarded.” So that’s a relief. In a further display of good sense he comments: “Smaug should not be ‘the Dragon in the Hobbit movie’ as if it was just ‘another’ creature in a Bestiary. Smaug should be ‘The DRAGON’ for all movies past and present.” He also rates the dragon in Dragonslayer. If he were any more rightheaded he’d explode.


1 Obviously the evil Martians who shoot down our probes were too busy carving gigantic faces on the ground. Ahem.

Deprivation

Yesterday we had no internet access.

We arrived home to find that some random contractor had dug metre-deep holes into the grass verge at intervals all the way down our street. For no obvious reason.

We went inside and discovered that we had no internet connection. Also the phones didn’t work, but mainly we had no internet connection. Suspiciously, we went back outside and peered into the hole in front of our house. In the hole were several huge tree roots, a manky looking sewer pipe, and two frayed ends of telephone cable separated by a couple of centimetres.

Hmm.

Our neighbour had already reported the ‘fault’ to BT, so there was nothing more to do except curl up in a ball and wait for morning get on with our busy lives. Janet played Oblivion. I decided to use this opportunity to finally get around to watching my Transformers movie DVD.

During the following two hours and twenty minutes of hokey comedy, moronic plotting, tedious characterisation and gigantic robots repeatedly failing to kill Shia LaBeouf, I silently plotted the death of whoever dug that hole.

The Hobbit 2: The Revenge

Guillermo Del Toro will be filming not one but two Hobbit movies. The first to be based on a book by J.R.R.Tolkien called “The Hobbit”. The second… less so. He states:

‘The Hobbit’, the book, is really one self-contained film, so for the second movie we sat down and worked it out. When we did this we got really excited because this second film is not a ‘tag on’, it’s not ‘filler’, it’s an integral part of telling the story of those 50 years of history lost in the narrative. There will be certain things that we will see from the first movie but from a different point of view, but it will feel like a volume, in the 5 volumes of the entire story. It will not feel like a bridge, I’ve been hearing it called ‘a bridge film’, it’s not, it’s an integral chapter of the story, and I think we’re all on the same page.

Which brings up the burning question: what will the second film be called? And burning questions call for polls. snowking has already suggested a few additional names which I’ve shamelessly tacked on the end.

This has the added advantage that if they use any of our titles we’ll clearly be paid off with a fat settlement.

Randomness

The X-Files 2 is now titled “The X-Files: I Want to Believe”. Because that’s not crap at all.

Apparently the Torchwood Season 2 finale was most appreciated by Welsh females aged 16-34. You just can’t make it up.

There are some lovely new posters for The Dark Knight here. The Harvey Dent one is sublime.

Those are as nothing compared to this one which is both bold and breathtakingly risky given the 9/11 overtones.

Guillermo ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ ‘Hellboy’ Del Toro is officially signed on to direct The Hobbit (yay!) and The Hobbit 2: I Want To Believe. Del Toro says that Andy Serkis is on board, as is Sir Ian McKellen “all bureaucracy pending”.

Media things

A quite nice X Files 2 poster. Apparently they’re still haggling with the studio over what the film will be called. I don’t mind “The X Files 2” personally. It’s been so long since the first one they don’t really need a subtitle, and anything is better than “Fight the Future”.

The director of the fourth Terminator film, which is having title troubles of its own, seems to imply that they’ll be trying to keep its timeline straight with that of the very decent TV show The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Nice idea, although frankly since that series may or may not run for several years who knows where it might end up and how it may end up contradicting things? Despite the continuing absence of James Cameron (which arguably hamstrung T3), Christian Bale is on board for the film and there’s talk of making a Batman-style fresh start, which bodes well.

Incidentally the Sarah Connor series has some kind of tangential viral marketing site, EniTech labs, that seems to have little to do with the actual show but ties in strongly with the Teminator franchise as a whole. Frankly I couldn’t be bothered to plough through all the dodgily acted videos/webisodes but the last one does feature some cool Killer Robot Action.

Ronald D. Moore reckons they’ve taken the opportunity afforded by the writer’s strike hiatus to retool the second half of Galactica season 4 (spoilers in the link for those who haven’t seen the S3 finale). This either means that we’ll feel the benefit of forward planning that blessed the first half of Season 2 or, more likely on the evidence of recent storylines, that important threads will fizzle into nothing while major events and character arcs will suddenly erupt out of nowhere.

Battlestar Galactica’s Helo is one of the stars of famed misogynist (just kidding) Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse.

Meanwhile Moore and fellow Galactica producer David “Not the one who thinks the Queen is a lizard” Eick have been given the greenlight on their strangely dull-sounding Galactica prequel Caprica. I wish I could summon up any interest in this but I can’t.

Eick is also writing the pilot of a TV show based on Children of Men. Sounds like a terrible idea given how good the film was, but from the brief comments he makes it seems it will be based more on the book and the social aspects of having no future for mankind. So it may not suck.

And finally… J Michael Straczynski In Good Script Shock. Specifically his movie script for World War Z, apparently.

Too old for this sheet

I’ll admit to feeling strangely unexcited about the prospect of another Indiana Jones movie, but this poster is just about as perfect as it could be. By which I mean it looks just like every other Indiana Jones poster you’ve ever seen. Having said that, the artwork does seem to be downplaying Harrison Ford’s current level of grizzled-ness, which is slightly odd as the movie looks to be doing the reverse.

Watchmen

Official images of characters from the Watchmen movie.  Most of these look pretty good, particularly Rorschach whose ink-blot mask translates surprisingly well from the printed page (he’s also seen in this recent shot using what seems to be a flaming aerosol can).

For those not familiar with the comic (and it’s a good long while since I read it myself) it’s set in a parallel 1985 in which Richard Nixon is still President, airships rule the skies, and the Cold War is close to exploding.  The point of divergence for this alternate history is the existence of superheroes (comics are saturated by Pirates instead), who amongst other things turned the tide of the Vietnam War.  The story makes a genuine attempt to extrapolate the influence of such figures, both good and bad, on the real world.  The realism extends to its characters: washed up overweight superheroes, media celebrities or murderous vigilantes.  Typically Alan Moore invests the whole thing with quite astonishingly meticulous detail (it sticks in my mind that one chapter, ‘Fearful Symmetry’, features panel layouts that are perfectly mirrored down the centre page).  It’s the kind of work where you only realise quite how complex and rigorous it is when you read annotations.   According to wikipedia Moore set out to make something akin to a comic-book Moby Dick, and that gives a good impression of its ambition.  I’m very rusty on it now, and flicking back through it the art and in particular the colouring seem dated and off-putting, but I still remember the impact it made on me when I first read it.

Of course a lot of what made it great back in the 1980s, as with Citizen Kane, are things that are now commonplace and therefore invisible to a modern reader.  For example the absence of thought balloons, now standard, the gritty treatment of superheroes, now hackneyed, and the use of storytelling techniques drawn from cinema.  The metafictional commentary in the pirate story excerpts that run through the tale (every bit as interminable as the whaling excerpts in Moby Dick…)  All that will be invisible in a film version.  Is the basic story strong enough when you strip away those elements?  Particularly given that Heroes nicked portions of it wholesale.  We’ll just have to see.  I’m at least encouraged by the images I’ve seen so far.  It may not be the groundbreaking, layered work that the comic was, but it may at least turn out okay.

After all, V for Vendetta (my preferred Alan Moore opus) turned out to be a surprisingly decent film.

Videos

What’s great about this pirated convention footage of the trailer for The X Files 2 is not so much what’s in the trailer as the audience going apeshit every time Mulder or Scully appears on screen. Strangely amusing. Apparently the film has a standalone supernatural plot (good), which makes it slightly perplexing that the trailer manages to look like an alien conspiracy episode. And is that Billy Connolly?

Someone linked me to this recently: Flight of the Conchords’ Frodo, Don’t Wear the Ring. They are insane.

Things you didn’t know, or didn’t want to know

The Coen brothers are to film Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. It’s a novel I haven’t read (although I plan to) but this strikes me a A Good Thing.

Val Kilmer is to be the voice of KITT in the new Knight Rider pilot movie, replacing Will Arnett who had to pull out. Val, Val, Val. Where is your career going? I want you to think seriously about this.

Thanks to white-hart asking and example22 telling, this incredibly nifty bit of freeware lets you rearrange the programs on your Windows taskbar. How anal awesome is that? Best gizmo ever. Now everything can be in the right order. Yes, there is a right order.

The American Film Institute is to honour the ten best films in ten genres: Animated, Fantasy, Gangster, Sci-Fi, Western, Sports, Mystery, Romantic Comedy, Courtroom Drama and Epic. Interesting set of genres for a start. You have to register (for free) on their website to see the fifty nominees in each genre, but I’m nice so here’s the pdf. They won’t release the results until a US TV special, presumably hosted by Jimmy Carr with a fake american accent.

“AFI defines “science fiction” as a genre that marries a scientific or technological premise with imaginative speculation” they say, before including Independence Day in their nominations. There’s a good mix of eras, though, and any list that includes The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, A Clockwork Orange, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has to be considered eclectic at the very least. It all means nothing, but it’s interesting.

Film 2007

I’ve already posted the outcome of one of last year’s resolutions, which was to Read More Books! Nine whole books. Kinda pitiful, ain’t it? You can say it.

Movie-wise I managed a more respectable 31 films seen for the first time last year. Only 15 of these were at the cinema, which is not quite enough to justify paying Cineworld £10.99 a month for the privilege of sitting at home feeling too knackered to go out.

Films I saw

That strike again

I’m interested in the Writer’s Guild of America strike, not least because a high proportion of the filmed entertainment I enjoy comes out of the U.S.

On a personal level it’s likely that a good chunk of my entertainment is going to dry up soon as a result of the strike, particularly TV which has a much shorter lead time than film, and where the stockpile of existing scripts is diminishing on a weekly basis. I could therefore take the view that this is more than a little bit annoying. As a consumer, I’d be forgiven for feeling irritated that these whiny writers who do already get paid for writing in the first place also want to get paid for each copy of their work that gets sold.

On the other hand, since I do enjoy these things, and since (unlike the U.S. entertainment industry) I think that the person who, y’know, wrote a creative work is *at least*1 as fundamental to the finished product as the people who directed, produced or starred in it, I do see the writers’ point. The way that writers are rewarded in other fields, the world over, is not just a one off payment for e.g. the sale of a book, but also a percentage of the sales. TV and movie companies profit from their product not just once but every time it is sold. All the writers want is a tiny percentage of that profit. And I do mean tiny–next to nothing in relation to the overall profit made by the company or the money that goes to other people involved in the production.

There’s a very sensible article on the rationale behind the situation here. It’s hard to argue with anything in it.


1 And to be honest, probably more fundamental. No writer, no script. No script, nothing to direct or act or produce.

Arty glasses and fancy scarves

“A towering powdered wig upon David Fury’s head”. Joss Whedon on the Writer’s Guild strike.

“‘Reality’ television, which employs more writers than you can imagine”. Brian K Vaughan on the Writer’s Guild strike.

“You’re fighting over residu-wha?”. The United Hollywood blog.

And Penny Arcade too.

By the power of Ebay

We have now become the last people in the western hemisphere to own a Wii. This is thanks to my wife’s considerable perseverance and the power of Ebay, which is a little like the power of Greyskull but less melodramatic. Haven’t played much so far but the sheer novelty of the Wii remote infuses even the most mundane game with a mixture of fun and frustration. At some point this will seem natural, but right now it’s like gaming with my feet. In a good way.

Interfering with our Wii-ing has been a flurry of cinemagoing this weekend.

Ratatouille

Sigh

Apparently, Warner Brothers are no longer doing movies with women in the lead. No, really. This is such a gobsmackingly stupid statement that it’s difficult to know where to start. You’d think it must be a misquote taken out of context, but apparently not. You see, some films with female leads haven’t done so well at the box office recently, and… well, that’s about it. Apparently that’s what passes for sophisticated analysis in the multi-billion dollar film industry.

I’m sure there’ll be some sort of retraction along in a minute, but it does make you despair.

I caught some of BBC News 24’s coverage of the Stardust red carpet premiere the other night, and was a bit bemused when the entertainment reporter asked Ricky Gervais “How would you describe the film? Sci-Fi?” I’m left wondering whether the reporter had even the vaguest idea what film she was covering or just heard the word “Star” in the title. (Gervais made some cracks about Sci-Fi nerds just to help things along.)

Ups and downs

These classic Doctor Who aliens will be in Season 4. That’s good.

No more Deadwood. That’s bad.

David Tennant is likely to stay on for a fifth season of Doctor Who following the “gap year” of three TV movies. That’s good.

They’re remaking Near Dark, a film only released in 1987. The Horror remake bandwagon careens, driverless, through yet more innocent pedestrians. (That’s bad, by the way.)

Geekgasm

Several coolish movie things:

Hot on the heels of the probably-very-good casting of Zachary ‘Sylar’ Quinto as the young Spock comes this simple but pleasingly retro poster for the new Trek prequel film.

A slightly naff yet iconic poster for the new Indiana Jones film. But more interesting still is the news that Karen Allen will be reprising her role as Marian Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

A nice new image of the Joker from Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight plus a pretty nifty teaser trailer (more audio than video, but good nonetheless).

A stunningly visual trailer for the Neil Gaiman / Roger Avary penned Beowulf film with CGI that you’d be hard pressed to tell apart from real actors for most of its length. I still want to see the characters do some real face acting before I’m convinced.

Lastly some interesting casting for Watchmen.

Oh, and as a bonus I’m throwing this one in just because I can’t tell how crap it’ll be: a trailer for The Last Legion a film that seems to mix the end of the Roman Empire and the legend of King Arthur with such certainty you’d think it was actually telling real history. Could be just as bad as the recent King Arthur but you never know.