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.

Trapped by Nostalgia: throw 3 to escape

There’s a decent little interview with Steven Moffat here about the fifth season of Doctor Who and how his writing style will change.

Meanwhile I recently came across something from my childhood that I just had to share.

You see, when I was young in the 1970s everyone liked Doctor Who and Davros was a scary villain. I know, obviously that’s impossible to imagine today.

This is one of the Doctor Who game cards you used to get in packets of Weetabix. The back of each cereal box had a game board, and when you had all four game boards you could also add them together to make one really huge game board with the Tardis console in the middle. The cards were slotted in around the board, and then it was just a case of rolling dice and moving around the board, randomly landing on hazards. Sadly I no longer have the boards, but there are pictures here: 1, 2, 3, 4. Total nostalgia rush.

I have loads more of the things. As I recall they were traded in the playground at School and rare ones had the approximate market value of gold bullion. Ah, them were the days.

Serieses

Joss Whedon is filming a new pilot for Dollhouse, with the original pilot now the second episode. He explains, in amusing fashion, why this is allegedly not the usual well-trodden road to cancellation here.

There’s a promo for the Battlestar Galactica spin-off/prequel/barely related cash-in here. It doesn’t look terrible. It confuses me becase it looks more like A.I. than Battlestar Galactica and seems, on the face of it, hard to reconcile with what little we know of Galactica’s backstory.

The last of the Babylon stations

Interesting post from jms about the future of Babylon 5 – or lack of it. Interesting because I think he’s now at a point that other people reached some time ago, the point where:

“B5 as a five year story stands beautifully on its own. If anything else is to be continued from that story, it should be something that adds to the legacy of B5, rather than subtracts from it.

As well intentioned as Rangers and TLT were, as enticing as it was to return to those familiar waters, in the end I think they did more to subtract from the legacy than add to it. I don’t regret having made them, because I needed to go through that to get to the point where I am now psychologically, but from where I sit now, I wouldn’t make them again.”

This is unusually honest and self-critical stuff from a tireless self-promoter like jms, and he’s clearly in a strong period in his film career right now so he’s only going to go back to the show if it’s genuinely warranted. My own review of The Lost Tales was somewhat mixed to say the least, and I tend to agree that this kind of half-hearted continuation detracts from the show’s reputation. Every attempt to continue the show past its final episode, from River of Souls onwards, has done just that. Even A Call to Arms and those parts of Crusade which are okay feel ultimately unnecessary.

I certainly won’t be upset if this is the last we ever see from the series, and from the sound of it neither will its creator. He goes on to say:

“The only thing I would be interested in doing regarding Babylon 5 from this point on is a full-featured, big-budget feature film.

It’s that or nothing.

And if it’s nothing, I’m totally cool with that because the original story stands on its own just fine.”

Culture

David Simon was interviewed about The Wire on tonight’s Culture Show. It was very much a primer for the show for UK types so there were no specific spoilers. Nothing he hasn’t said many times before, but it was still nice to see the show getting some exposure on UK television. This edition of The Culture Show is repeated at about 11.20 p.m. on Thursday on BBC2 if you’re interested.

They also premiered this highly amusing animated cat cartoon, from Simon Toefield, the man who brought you the equally amusing animated short of the cat trying to wake up its owner.

EDIT: ajr beat me to it.

EDIT EDIT: In fact, don’t wait, watch extra bits from the David Simon interview on the BBC website right now. So much extra stuff it must clock in about the same length as the actual interview.

EDIT EDIT EDIT: And here’s the aired interview to watch online too.

Bonekickers

Well that was completely, embarrassingly terrible from start to finish. And not even in a good way.

It has pilot-episode-by-numbers so deeply encoded into its DNA that it’s as if it was automatically generated by screenwriting software. On top of that it boasts an absolutely stupid premise, hilarious sub-CSI “sexy” archaeology, stultifying attempts at emotional depth and the least atmospheric riff on The Da Vinci Code meets The Last Crusade that it’s possible to imagine. The one-dimensional villain and his nil-dimensional henchmen are rivalled only by a cast of heroes written so thinly and played so unconvincingly that it’s nearly impossible to believe you’re not already watching the Dead Ringers spoof. I’m hard pressed to find a single redeeming feature. Shame on you Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah.

Babylon 5

My review of the Babylon 5 straight-to-DVD movie is up today at Strange Horizons.

If you’re thinking “Dude, didn’t that DVD come out, like, aeons ago?” you’d be right. You’d also be a geek but we can’t help that. I wrote this last year as a reflection on both the new movie and the original series, and (my feelings on Babylon 5 being somewhat conflicted) it wound up being longer, more personal and more retrospective than normal. It’s been waiting in the wings until now, but I’m quite fond of it.

Now get the hell off my space station. And, y’know, go and read it.

Generation Kill

Ed Burns and David Simon of The Wire have adapted the book Generation Kill into a seven part HBO mini-series. There’s a review on AICN here which is full of the usual typos, spelling and grammatical errors you’d expect from an AICN review but is generally very positive about it. The mini-series is a matter-of-fact account of the lives of an elite group of U.S. marines in the early days of the Iraq War. May or may not be interesting, but with Burns and Simon behind it and being based on true events at least it won’t be sensationalist.

Doctor Who

No Doctor Who tonight, of course, because we need to be reminded that, right across Europe, there are people with no ability to sing. However there’s a mid series trailer now online (UK only) for the remainder of the year’s episodes. I can’t say it blows me away or looks as excitingly incomprehensible as last year’s equivalent trail, and a large part of that is simply that the images in it – old enemies, old companions – are so familiar.

In related yet random musings, is it me or is the new showrunner Steven Moffat the only person in the world who actually sports Norman Osborn’s hairdo from the Spider-man comics?

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”.

Doctor Who – “Planet of the Ood”

I was far too busy last week to write anything about Doctor Who but I’m nothing if not a completist so here, out of sequence and entirely too late to be of any interest, are some brief thoughts. Assuming I can actually remember anything about the episode…

Spoilers for Doctor Who – Episode 3: Planet of the Ood

Doctor Who – “Partners in Crime”

Yes it’s snowing here too in big chaotic swirls of snowflakes. Sadly the flakes vanish into the tarmac as if continuing to fall unimpeded towards the centre of the globe. Even on the garden the snow is only able to cling on grimly for about half an hour before melting away into airy nothing. We’re still seeing the odd flurry, in between bouts of brilliant sunshine when the damp grass looks startlingly green.

Since I went out to, ahem, party hearty immediately after last night’s Doctor Who season premiere I haven’t really had a chance to comment very much, but it’s been thoroughly dissected here, here, here and here amongst other places.

Belated spoilers for Doctor Who – Episode 1: Partners in Crime

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.

Avalaaaaaanche!

Yay! Snow!

Fairly shabby snow it has to be said, but living right near the coast as we do that’s actually as much snow as we’ve seen all winter. I do pine for a nice bit of snow. I’ve been looking at everyone else’s snow pictures and feeling a bit short-changed. At least this stuff is lying.

We had a lovely visit from my parents on Easter Sunday in which I daringly cooked Sunday lunch. Not only did it all get mostly cooked, mostly at the same time, but it was ready exactly as they arrived. I couldn’t do that again if I tried. We then tried to convert my parents to the wonders of Wii bowling and Wii boxing, the latter of which is amazingly knackering.

Other than that we’ve had a strange weekend of occasional fine and sunny weather, occasional snow flurries that have melted as they touch the ground, and some amazing gales on Friday that actually blew one of our recycle bins off the patio and right down to the foot of the garden under the bench. I don’t know what’s been going on with the weather since December but we’ve had some really fierce gales on a regular basis.

We also managed to get a swift nest box and a sparrow nest box attached to the house (courtesy of yours truly, a very tall ladder and a hammer-action drill, a combination not recommended to settle your nerves), which feels very satisfying. Now if I only knew how to get birds to nest in them. Maybe a “Rooms To Let” sign near the bird table. We already have swifts nesting in the eaves above our bedroom window so I’m cautiously optimistic.

And lastly we’ve been watching the unexpectedly not-crap adaptation of The Colour of Magic. Okay, it wasn’t fine art, but it did at least make me laugh and the actors were better cast than I’d originally feared, particularly David Jason. From what I saw of Hogfather this one felt a lot less stilted.

EDIT: Oh and I, er, may have eaten some chocolate. A bit.

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.

Television

I’m not normally one for fan-made videos setting TV clips to music but this one of Firefly/Serenity to the music of Wicked has Joss Whedonian and Tim Minearian endorsement, so I went to look. It’s extremely well done.

< insert obligatory *sob* for Firefly here >

While I’m here, the 2007 in Review piece in Strange Horizons has a very small contribution by yours truly, in which I inexplicably can’t find anything better on TV last year than Doctor Who. Three times in a row. It’s just wrong. Fortunately everyone else is very erudite and reads books and stuff. Also pikelet is insane but you knew that.

Of course The Wire is far better than any SF-related TV currently airing but that doesn’t count for Strange Horizons. My Season 4 DVD arrived today, and Season 5 has just started in the US. It’s just so very satisfying, layered and intelligent and you should all be watching it but will you lot listen? *Will you*?

In lieu of any other good TV and with anyone who could potentially write some being on strike, we’ve resorted to DVDs. We’ve been hugely enjoying Cracker on DVD, a series we missed in its entirety when it was on TV. Robbie Coltrane is fantastic, and the writing is incredibly sharp, with a real interest in psychology and themes rather than just the surface process of investigation. This definitely puts it a notch above most other ostensibly ‘crime’ related television which seems more formulaic with each passing year. We’ve only the final one-off special and the more recent Cracker reunion TV movie to go.

We’ve also been bingeing on old Doctor Who. The Time Warrior is splendid, and gives me my fix of Sontarans in a way that The Sontaran Experiment just didn’t accomplish. The Claws of Axos is, sadly, complete rubbish despite featuring some iconic images that have stuck with me since childhood. In contrast, Tom Baker’s debut story Robot is great. Yes, even the rubbish FX are great. All of this has made me so nostalgic that I’ve rashly ordered the Beneath the Surface box set, despite it having the really terrible Warriors of the Deep in it.

Surreal news of the day

Torchwood Season 2. This is one of the more surreal press releases I’ve ever read. For example: “We’re delighted that Torchwood is joining BBC Two. We know from the success and popularity of Heroes that there’s a growing appetite for smart, high-quality, sci-fi drama on the channel so Torchwood is a perfect fit.”.

But the real gem is this actual, genuine, no-really-it’s-not-a-joke quote: “I’m also pleased to announce that, due to popular demand from families and younger viewers, we will be showing a special pre-watershed repeat so everyone can enjoy the new series.”

That’ll be a ten minute version then. The question is, will there be a special *post*-watershed repeat that’s been edited so that the rest of us can enjoy it?

Sparkly

Some sparkly things that have captured my ever-drifting attention:

Everbody’s favourite transporter chief1, Colm Meaney, says he’s filmed the pilot episode of David E Kelley’s U.S. version of Life on Mars. He’s in the Gene Hunt role. I’m extremely interested to see what it’s like. The original BBC show, especially the first series, was excellent but there’s room for a different take on the concept. Relocating it to LA could just be enough of a difference.

Ben Goldacre’s seminal explanation in The Guardian of why homeopathy doesn’t make sense (it’s really good–read it) has won high praise from James Randi. Which is nice.

Galactica showrunner (and Trek alumnus) Ronald D Moore has a shiny new blog replacing his moribund one on the Sci-Fi Channel site. At present there are musings about Galactica and the Writer’s Guild of America strike.

Speaking of the shiny, in the wake of the terrifying number of Trek fan series underway on the internet, there’s now a Firefly fan series named Into the Black in production. As with most things in modern fandom, the production values are surprisingly decent. The cast… not so much. At least, not if the YouTube trailer is anything to go by. Also the song is quite scary.

Lastly, for the woman who has everything except a talking Stephen Fry clock: a talking Stephen Fry clock. Cool, but not quite as cool as Lego Batman: The Videogame.


1 Unless you favour Mr Kyle but, really, how geeky would that be?

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.

Wire work

Speaking of The Wire: here’s Season 5!

The fifth and final season of HBO’s “The Wire” begins in January, this time focusing on layoffs at The Sun — where Simon once worked — and how newspapers fail to capture certain complex truths. Previous seasons of the acclaimed drama have featured drug dealers, struggling longshoremen, city politicians and inner-city students.

The drama is actually about “the decline of the American empire” and the failure of postmodern institutions, Simon said.

Meanwhile David Simon’s next HBO show will be about “musicians reconstituting their lives in New Orleans”, which sounds suitably unusual and interesting.

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.)

Comics

Some comics goodness that caught my attention:

There’s a well-written piece by Jonathan Ross in The Guardian about his “In Search of Steve Ditko” documentary for BBC4’s Comics Britannia strand.

They’re making Angel: After the Fall, the officially sanctioned continuation of Angel in comics form. Given how perfectly the series ended I can’t say I’m much interested in reading it, but this Tony Harris cover is a lovely image, even if the Spike likeness is a bit off. It looks suspiciously like a John Constantine Hellblazer cover.

I’m not reading the Buffy Season 8 comic either, although I may pick up the trade paperback since Joss is actually ‘executive producing’ and writing for it and the latest arc is by the ever-impressive Brian K Vaughan1. Jo Chen’s covers continue to impress with the latest two issues: Faith vs Buffy and Giles

1 Who pitched it to Joss, apparently, as “Faith the Slayer Slayer”.

Science: practical and theoretical.

Last night we laid on a rug outside and watched meteors. The rate was relatively low–at most one every five minutes with some longer lulls–but it was still great. Even the typically light-polluted city skies didn’t spoil the experience; indeed we probably saw as many stars last night as we’re ever likely to from this location, and the view was stunningly beautiful. The weather was absolutely clear for once. A really lovely prelude to my birthday.

Tonight we watched Richard Dawkins’s The Enemies of Reason on Channel 4. Despite agreeing with him in every way that counts I sometimes think that Dawkins is his own worst enemy, since he can come across as a strident, joyless naysayer. His recent polemic on religion fell a little foul of this. Here, although still preaching to the converted, he struck a good balance between singing the praises of reason (and, importantly, defining and demonstrating the beauty and relevance of science in everyday life) and analysing the failings of superstition and pseudoscience. Janet and I stopped the playback several times to debate the issues, but pleasingly there were very few things we raised that Dawkins didn’t himself address at some point in the episode. My only complaint is more of a wish: Derren Brown’s past contributions to debunking psychics and astrology have been so compelling that it would have been nice to see more of him than just a brief interview segment. My TV guide presented this documentary as something of an equal pairing between the two, and it intrigues me to think how much mileage could be gained from seeing Brown demonstrate before our eyes the ease with which apparently impossible phenomena can be faked. Even as it stands though I’m very interested to see part two next week.