Dollhouse has been renewed for a second season. Warner Bros are making a big budget movie of Primeval. And Star Trek is a smash box office hit. It’s like the world’s been turned on its head.
Still, this plus Niall’s admittedly lukewarm defence of the show may finally prompt me to give Dollhouse a try.
EDIT: And as if that isn’t enough craziness, they’ve greenlit a remake of alien-lizard invasion series V which stars Alan Tudyk (Wash) as a human and Morena Baccarin (Inara) as an alien. There’s a spoilery review of the pilot, which I haven’t read, here.
EDIT to the EDIT: Comment from Joss Whedon confirming the Dollhouse renewal.
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.
What? Seriously, what?
A number of local councils in Britain have banned their staff from using Latin words, because they say they might confuse people. Several local authorities have ruled that phrases like “vice versa”, “pro rata”, and even “via” should not be used, in speech or in writing…Other local councils have banned “QED” and “ad hoc”…
Assuming this is real and not a Daily Mail scare story dressed up as journalism (which it manifestly sounds like, except that it’s on the BBC website) this is crazy. Surely no-one seriously believes that “vice versa” is an obscure latin phrase. It’s an English phrase; who cares about its etymology? Next someone will suggest banning “cul de sac” because it’ll confuse non-French speakers. Or “margarine”. Half our language is appropriated from elsewhere, and it seems meaningless to tag a few key phrases and mutter darkly “those are foreign”.
Even leaving aside their derivation, are these phrases really obscure and elitist? I don’t speak a word of latin, but I know perfectly well what all these examples mean, yet according to the Plain English Campaign “the ban might stop people confusing the Latin abbreviation e.g. with the word ‘egg’.” Because, you know, that one always confuses people. Why not just go the whole hog and ban words of more than two syllables?
I find this all very surreal because this kind of “PC gone mad” story is normally anathema to me. Usually the journalist has ridiculously mischaracterised a fairly sensible decision, and it’s the press facing my ire not the bewildered subject of the story. In this case the councils are not imposing an outright ban, merely “discouragement”, but on the face of it I still can’t understand what they could be thinking.
Okay, I’m taking a few deep breaths and disengaging rant mode. On a tangentially related note, the godlike Stephen Fry talks lengthily, wisely and poetically about the beauty of language and the insanity of trying to freeze it in place on his new improved blog. An oasis of common sense.
It’s been another bring-work-home-in-the-evening kind of week for both of us, and Janet is working on Saturday too, so we were very glad to have Friday off. We decided to head down to my native Yorkshire and visit the Harrogate Flower Show so that Janet could spend her hard-earned cash buying Even More Plants to squeeze into the garden.
How to tell you’re in the North of England: On the way past York we found ourselves behind a Lorry transporting Mushy Pea Fritters (from Lockwoods, “the Mushy Peas Specialists”). No really. Take a look at that photo and tell me you don’t want to throw up just a little.
At the show we picked up a ‘wooden man carved into a tree trunk’ sculpture, which is currently looking for a home among the tree ferns at the foot of our garden. I think it’s possible to overdo this kind of garden ornamentation, but I have to say it looks pretty cool.
We were very lucky with the weather which miraculously held off from its scheduled pissing-it-down until we were safely back in the car and heading home.
I seem to have acquired a headache at some point during the day, but that’s probably because our cat Pixie decided to try to find us at 7 a.m. this morning by deploying the feline equivalent of sonar – this involves sitting in the hall downstairs and miaowing loudly until you hear a response, then (and only then) trotting happily upstairs and jumping onto your owner’s head.
1,800-year-old Roman stone sarcophagi found in Newcastle. That’s not far from us! I learn from this story that they’re apparently building a Great North Museum in Newcastle including antiquities, a planetarium, an interactive model of Hadrian’s Wall, a life-size T-Rex dinosaur skeleton, and special exhibitions from London. This could be very nice for us as it’s not always convenient for us to get down to the British Museum. I’m only amazed that my wife’s normally excellent Archaeology Radar hasn’t tipped us off to this sooner. The website banner appears to feature Egyptians on chariots hunting Dinosaurs, but I’ll assume there’s some artistic licence involved…
Of course if that recent bonkers think tank report was listened to there’d be no point in doing any of this because everyone in the North should just give up on their cities, which are beyond all hope of revival, and move south. This is so patently absurd that it probably isn’t worth getting upset about, but Exhibit A would surely be the fact that any number of Northern cities have already succeeded in transforming themselves and their fortunes into thriving centres of business and culture. Like Newcastle & Gateshead, for example. Sunderland is one of those named by the think tank as “beyond revival” yet — although it’s hardly the largest or most cosmopolitan of cities — in the relatively short time I’ve known it Sunderland has transformed itself from a shipbuilding town to one with a beautiful riverside and coastal area and a strong service industry base (including the University), not to mention the famous Nissan plant. The fact that anyone could seriously suggest otherwise reflects blinkered attitudes to the ‘North’ of England (i.e. anywhere north of the M25) that are quite surreal. It’s the equivalent of saying that the London Dockland area was beyond revival prior to Canary Wharf being built.
A sensible, evidence-based story about the British Summer. Will wonders never cease.
Scrabulous suspended on Facebook.
Only suspended in America and Canada so far, so I’m okay. For now.
*wipes nervous sweat from brow*
I sympathise with Hasbro because Scrabulous does nick their game. Legally it seems pretty open-and-shut. On the other hand there’s no profit being made and it would clearly never have occurred to Hasbro to do their own Facebook app without the success of Scrabulous.
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.
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.
Today is the day on which the fact-free conspiracy theory that Prince Phillip had Diana assassinated (for a plethora of reasons that only exist in Mohamed Al Fayed’s head) finally went up in smoke once and for all. Not that it will stop the conspiracyheads of course, but then conspiracy theories don’t thrive on rigorous public examination anyway. They thrive on half-truths and insinuations that often make a seductive amount of sense until you take a single step backward and remember all the other facts that make them impossible. So, although it will make no difference and I stopped caring about Princess Diana’s death approximately ten years ago, I do think it right to pause briefly and genuflect at the altar of rightheadedness.
In that vein, Charlie Brooker writes hilariously about the so called ‘Brain Gym’ for school-children [via badscience.net].
Following on from the Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot (BEAR) (aka Johnny Five) the US military are developing yet another robot to do helpful things on the battlefield like
run amok and kill everyone carry the soldiers’ kit. It’s called ‘BigDog’, presumably because ‘K-9’ was already taken.
This video is amazing. The way that it keeps its footing when it’s pushed or when it slips is quite uncanny. It’s also strangely creepy in the alive-but-not-alive signals it sends. The sinister buzzing noise is not helping.
Time for a poll, then.
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?
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.)
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.)
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.
David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, Boston Legal) is making a US version of Life on Mars, and the pilot episode will be directed by Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing, Studio 60). My instinctive reaction to this idea is to grab a couple of candlesticks and hide behind Peter Cushing, but actually the chances are that a US version of the show would be different enough to be worthwhile. US cop history is more than rich enough to provide a subtly different seam of influences, and the nostalgic imagery would be very different. It depends on whether they’re adapting the UK scripts or taking the premise and spinning it into new stories. The latter would be a much better idea.
I’ve been meaning to mention this for ages, so by now most people have probably seen this really disturbing promo image of Heath Ledger as the Joker from the upcoming Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight. It’s an impressively pared down interpretation and one that bodes well for how gritty and risk-taking the movie version could be compared to the rather camp Jack Nicholson performance. If anything it’s almost too far gone, but there’s another low quality image here that gives more of an overview of how the character will look, showing that the green hair and purple jacket are intact after a fashion. I like this look for the character overall. My wife is much less convinced. I think she’s still hoping that they’ll cast Mark Hamill.
Courtesy of www.badscience.net: I knew C4’s recent “polemic” The Great Global Warming Swindle had been roundly criticised for scientific inaccuracies, but I’m still flabbergasted by the extent to which the film-maker distorted the evidence – take a look at these graphs.
Of course, some scientists are now warning that some claims about the impact of Global Warming exceed what can be purely justified by the evidence. This is perfectly reasonable and indeed the basis on which the scientific community ought to operate, and the online story is fine. However it’s a bit of a shame that BBC News 24’s soundbite approach to the story left the impression that they were casting doubt on global warming itself, not merely the extent of it. (In fact one of the scientists explicitly says in the online version: “I’ve no doubt that global warming is occurring”.) So a story in which scientists warn against confusing the public ends up being itself a cause of confusion. Typical.
Fans of Sherlock Holmes be afraid. It’s not that a big screen adaptation casting Holmes as a more “edgy” action-oriented hero is doomed to crassness but… well, quite. The quote about “playing up his skills as a bare-knuckle boxer and expert swordsman as he goes about solving crimes” does not fill me with confidence. Then again, the world has already witnessed the astonishingly poor yet strangely entertaining Young Sherlock Holmes.
Further weirdness: how does the inestimable Cate Blanchett in the fourth Indiana Jones movie sound? In other casting news for that film, has anyone ever seen Shia LaBeouf and immortalradical at the same time?
Meanwhile Stephen Fry is writing a script for Peter Jackson. The world has gone mad, I tell you. Sadly it seems Mr Fry didn’t have the time to write his promised episode of Doctor Who. Sniff. (The trailer for the new series of Doctor Who is now up at the official site and looks much more promising than the last one, once you get past the painfully hokey intro.)
Oh dear god. Joel Schumacher is allegedly considering doing a Sandman movie. Is it possible to take out a restraining order against a Director?
Thankfully he seems to be interested in a non-specific “one day” kind of way, but imagining Schumacher’s unashamedly brash sensibility applied to The Sandman just makes the blood run cold.
(EDIT: Neil Gaiman seems sanguine about the likelihood of this particular rumour ever becoming reality.)
Got up early this morning. We sat and drank coffee and watched the end of the Jon Pertwee Doctor Who story “Carnival of Monsters” on UK Gold+1. Very creaky production values but quite entertaining, and a very civilised way to start the day.
Then we flicked over to the Heaven and Earth Show on BBC1, which was staging a small ‘debate’ between a Creationist, a Christian, and Geneticist Steve Jones. *bangs head on desk* It may take me several hours to stop ranting.
It was your typical example of the Creationist planting a few choice seeds of doubt over evolution which, while absolutely unscientific, are impossible to refute in an interview sound-bite. And since the Creationist only has to create specious doubt while the scientist has to summarise and prove the entire theory of evolution in one sentence, it’s really a no-win situation. Thankfully the CofE representative agreed that Creationism doesn’t belong in the science classroom, and Steve Jones chose to step back and argue that belief in divinity and the soul are not inherently incompatible with evolution.
Nonetheless, the Creationist was allowed to get away with all the usual tricks: saying that science is just another “competing” theory equal to any other, that “science” is interpreted through the context of our culture and so is not objective fact, that evolution is science’s version of a “Just So” story (oh the irony!), and this recent favourite – which I still don’t understand – that the mechanism for evolution by genetic mutation is apparently unupported by any evidence (!) and that evolution requires the spontaneous creation of genetic complexity out of nowhere. Apparently. Indeed, although the creationist admitted to not knowing much about genetics, well-informed people had told him that antibiotic-resistant viruses actually have less genetic complexity and therefore don’t prove evolution! I’m no expert myself, but I’m staggered that anyone can fundamentally (or wilfully) not understand the process of natural selection and mutation to this extent. Am I missing something that makes this whole ‘genetic complexity’ argument even remotely logical?
What really annoys me is that Creationists are always pitched against geneticists, yet Creationism by definition refutes not just evolution but also most other branches of science. After all, to say that the Earth and human life are only thousands of years old is contradicted by the evidence of plate tectonics, geology and erosion, radioactive decay and carbon dating, the stratification of fossils and other biological material in a geological context, cosmology and microwave background radiation from the big bang etc. etc. You can’t just cherry-pick evolution as being false without invalidating more or less every other branch of science.
Sigh. Why do I even get sucked in by these things?