Guns and girls.

This is going to be a very nerdy post: Three reviews of things, the first of…

The Miserable, and the wretched.

Saw Les Misérables yesterday.

Honestly, a musical is not my cup of tea, but the movie was just fine. I have familiarity and appreciation for the story, and the musical, from my youth, so I was curious to see how it would be adapted, and like everyone else, I had heard good things about the performances of Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. I suspect they’ll both get Oscar nominations, but Anne Hathway is the one with the real shot here. She does a lot of heavy lifting with the relatively limited role of Fantine and even in her short time here no one hits the strides and the heights and depths that she can plumbs so easily. Jackman is good, but not as good as her. Plus, he’s got the unfortunate timing of potentially being nominated for Best Actor in the same award season as Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln.

I dreamed a dream.

Tom Hooper, however, is as boring in his direction as he was in The King’s Speech, and possibly less so. Somehow that film was both nominated and managed to win the big awards, but I don’t think that will be the case here. Especially not in a year that produced a Lincoln, a Zero Dark Thirty, and a Life Of Pi.

Anyway, minor flaws of the film that aren’t so minor: Way too fucking long and not interesting enough to sustain that length. The stuff towards the end with the June Rebellion was dreadfully boring, and anytime Jackman, Hathaway, or even Russell Crowe as Javert weren’t on screen, you found yourself checking your watch. I did enjoy Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter (she’s just doomed to always play the gothic clown now, isn’t she?) as the Thénardiers, and they did provide some much needed comic relief to the film, but their rendition of the film’s second most memorable song was pretty boring.

Anyway, my second review is of…

Mad hilarity, merciless action, dark cynicism, and incorruptible bravery.

Gun Machine, the new novel by Warren Ellis.

This is a fun, slightly nuts book, which is the usual from Ellis. His first novel, Crooked Little Vein, was a silly but interesting little pulp travelogue through America, and Gun Machine comes from a similar place, but it’s more of a harder crime novel. This is Warren Ellis sodomizing writers like James Patterson and Ed McBain with his ideas, sort of.

The premise is simple: A cop stumbles upon an apartment filled with guns, hundreds of them and nothing else, and each crime can be traced to a different unsolved crime. Somebody has been keeping these guns all this time as trophies.

I believe I read somewhere the book has already been optioned to be developed into a TV show, which is… exciting, I guess. Granted, they’ll take the premise, and they’ll tone it down. They’ll have to. This book is a little nuts, and filled with a lot of little minutiae that’s probably closer to the harsh reality of crime in a big insane urban cityscape, but not the kind of thing that the flyover states are ready to tune into from their local affiliate. The first scene of the book, for example, involves the main character’s partner getting half of his face blown off by a shotgun blast delivered by a ranting naked man.

Gun

That said, there are lots of little ideas and the basic premise that could easily translate into a very interesting serial procedural. That, and I would like to see the type of characters that Ellis writes on either the small screen or the big screen, as they’re usually broken, mouthy creatures who are incorruptibly brave (a nice way of putting it from the Wired review quoted as a blurb on the cover) and very good at what they do.

Half of this book is written in the parlance of the internet, almost as if Ellis got tired of scanning the internet landscape and fueled some of that excitement and anger into a writing frenzy. At the same time, as a fan of his comic books and ideas shared in various places online, I am excited to see him evolving in a new medium, but I can’t say that it feels like he’s challenging himself here. But I have to say that I would secretly like to see Ellis tackle one of his nonfiction books that have more than one foot inside music theory and hauntological futures (which he is working on, thankfully), or maybe some kind of insane sci fi novel – I would love to see Warren Ellis become the new Harlan Ellison – or really get into TV, writing for Doctor Who or resurrecting Quatermass, something like that.

The second review being of…

Victorian values.

“The Snowmen,” the recent Doctor Who Christmas special.

I miss talking about Doctor Who, here or anywhere else. I really need to develop a venue for that, but as far as this episode goes, in short: This was a merely so so episode with great characters in it. Matt Smith is always good and shining with the Doctor, and only improves as he continues to play the character, and Vastra, Jenny, and Strax are welcome ongoing returns to the series, and I can’t say enough nice things about Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Clara, who is mysterious and a serious breath of fresh air. If I’m being honest, I may be doing this post solely to post pictures of her.

That said, this episode was not great. The webisode prequels were more interesting than a good deal of the regular plot of the episode, and I thought it was brave that the threat that the characters were facing down was given an extreme back seat to the character moments.

More guns.

Steven Moffat’s writing is always great, but if I had one major criticism of his tenure on Doctor Who as the showrunner it would be that everything feels too rushed. I assume that the fickle nature of television and the constant need to up the ante is what causes that, but as much as I enjoyed season 5 as the shakedown cruise for a new Doctor, companion, and way of looking at the show, season 6 seemed very rushed, big on set up and small on payoff, possibly because the payoff had to be pushed forward, forward, forward. Part of me wonders if a lot of that was necessitated by the upcoming 50th anniversary special.

That special lead to a lot of new additions in the Christmas special, including the introduction of Smith’s face in the main credit sequence (which I’m positive they’ve been threatening since he took over the role) and a redesigned TARDIS console room that brought back a lot of the blandness of the poorly executed production design from the show’s earlier regenerations in video with rubber monsters back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Cosby sweaters and scripts

And I’m as curious as the next person about some of the big things to come, like the presumed payoff of the First Question, but eventually it could get tiring to constantly finding situations for characters to say, “Doctor… Who?”

Anyway. That said, I’m looking forward to the second half of the current season and the (re)introduction of Clara, Mark 3. I suspect that she’ll be everything that we had assumed and hoped that Amy Pond will be, and I’m really looking forward it. The show regenerates each time a new Doctor steps out of the ashes of the previous one, but as they keep rightfully so telling us, the show is about the companions and the view they provide, and it really feels like the show could come to life again with the addition of Clara. I’m excited.

Remember.

Tales told by an idiot…

So, yesterday I was thinking about the idea of “today” and today is yesterday’s tomorrow and you could really go on with that kind of talk forever. And it gets you thinking, every single yesterday and today and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…

And of course I’m talking about the soliloquy from Act 5, scene 5 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. You know, that thing they made you memorize back in high school. The scene itself is brilliant, starting with Macbeth learning of his wife’s death and followed by the news that his enemies are fast approaching and that the prophecy that will end him is unfolding before his eyes, but there in that brief moment, Macbeth has some time to himself alone in his own ruin, and he can wax on with resignation and anger about the dreaded continuation of life, the despair and the agony and the lack of choices we get, and the futility of it all. Death comes. It always comes. But it’s left up to debate if Macbeth is possibly choosing his own death right then and there.

In fact, that was the nice thing about how we have Shakespeare’s plays now, so lacking of most stage directions, leaving them open to a vast majority of interpretations. And when you’re thinking about tomorrow, whether you’re dreading it or eagerly looking forward into it’s complicated winds, the last thing you want is anything written in stone, right? Things should always be open, breezy, the path changing along with you…

Anyway, some videos. Above is Ian McKellen tackling the role in 1978 (with Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth) and the soliloquy and below is Jon Finch doing it in Roman Polanski’s 1971 adaptation (with Francesca Annis as a younger, softer, more determined Lady Macbeth [who did her sleepwalking soliloquy – “Out, damned spot!” – in the nude]). They’re obviously differently staged since Polanski’s is an actual film treatment of the play and McKellen is starring in a TV adaptation of Trevor Nunn’s run with the play, but McKellen’s just absolutely seething and nearly exploding with presence and Finch just looks like a guy doing a bit of acting after a few rough weeks or maybe a bender or two. To me, anyway. But while watching the video above, I got a little bit of a flashback to James Marster’s peformance as Spike on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I wonder if the works of young Ian McKellen informed Marster’s English impression/accent? Or maybe that’s just me too.

And, because I find it interesting, below I give you Sir Patrick Stewart (with something of a porn star mustache) giving you a little advice on how to perform the “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech just as it was given to him by McKellen. I think it’s interesting that they both stress that the word to be emphasized is and.

Be Seeing You.

The Smoke Monster from Lost totally deserves it’s own show, am I right?

I feel like I might have to start something called the Reboot Report here or something. In this week’s entry: They’re rebooting Highlander. I never saw the movies, well, except for the one with the two of them, but shit. Seriously, guys? Highlander? I mean, who gives a shit? Remember back in the 90s, back in the glory days of syndicated sci fi ridiculousness, and this show as ALWAYS FUCKING ON. If it was on at 10 PM on channel A, then it was on at 11 PM on channel B. And channel C? No worries, they were airing it at midnight.

I wonder who they’ll get to play Sean Connery’s character. I mean, I’m sure it’ll be someone who sucks, but still, I’m curious. Weren’t they aliens in the original movie, rather than just immortal Scottish sheepfuckers? Well, if Connery’s character was a mentor type, I’m sure they can get Liam Neeson to play it. If he’s not busy doing Taken 2, in which he hunts down the manufacturers of that chairlift and makes them pay.

Joss Whedon on the Buffy movie redo: “I hope it’s cool.”

I remember a few years ago reading something where Joss had been asked why he wasn’t directing X-Men 3 after Bryan Singer left (at the time, Joss was writing a truly amazing run of X-Men comics) and Joss, ever the taker of the high road, said something like, “You know, I really searched my feelings, searched my heart on the matter, and I realized… They never asked me to.”

I’m just like Jerry here, I totally hated that Michael on Melrose Place back in the day. Somehow he kept getting these amazing women, and then he’d try to kill him (which is kind of a really huge jerk move when it comes to break ups) and they’d still take him back. Sigh. Heather Locklear was ehhh, and of course, everyone remembers Marcia Cross’ gross scar reveal. But my favorite character was always Laura Leighton’s Sydney.

I’m not going to lie and say it was because of any depth of character or anything, it was mostly just because she was hot. Anyway, she’s in the Melrose Place restart (a la 90210) and she dies in the first few minutes. She’s the big murder mystery that will run through the first season. Pause for a moment to think about how shocking it is that there will be a first season to a redo of Melrose Place. Have we completely burnt out on 80s nostalgia that we’re shitmining the 90s for their magic and wonder?

Other nerdy TV news: Freddie Prinze Jr. is joining 24 (wha huh?), Famke Jansen’s transsexual character is coming back to Nip/Tuck, Claire is rejoining Lost for it’s long rumored zombie last season, Tom Swift has daddy issues, somehow they won’t fucking cancel Scrubs, no Gossip Girl spinoff set in the 80s, and maybe, just maybe, Summer Glau will show up on Dollhouse. Also, a query: Who the fuck actually watches Burn Notice?

Of big dorky relevance to me this past week was news about the opening title sequence to next proper season of Doctor Who, dropping on our heads somewhere in 2010. Here’s the title sequence to the first season of the restarted Doctor Who a few years back with Christopher Eccleston…

Simple, classic. I wasn’t a geek who had stuck with this show for 40 years so I have no problem with that opening at all. In fact, the nice thing about it, along with a show like The Venture Bros is that they keep the opening teaser very short, very tight, and then end it on a sharp note and then boom you right into the hard, driving title sequence (the theme was redone to be even more booming and driving in the last season with David Tennant). But, that’s that. The dorktastic news I was mentioning is that when the show changes Doctors and creative hands next season, they want to go for more of a nostalgia kick and work in the large, floaty superimposed head of the Doctor (in this case, the very scary looking Matt Smith as the next regeneration) somewhere in the credits. This kind of nostalgia, like I said, means nothing to me, and as an example of why this is bad, I give you the credits sequence of the last Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, who had it:

And he winks at you! That just makes it so much more cheesy and stupid. Ha ha! Ah, but if I could steal your attention away for a moment for cheesy but great TV show openings…

Fuck yeah MacGyver. Although the Magnum P.I. one is pretty great too. And if you don’t believe me, I will fight you to the death. Hawaii 5-0 is probably the greatest TV credits sequence ever, but I would live happily with a Magnum P.I. theme ring tone:

Star Trek XXX

…starring Sasha Grey. This works as a reboot, I think. I can’t wait for the sequel when they work the whales in.

The thing about Ian McKellen is that there’s always just a certain strength and class in just about everything he does. That said, I’m going to say ehhh not so much to this teaser for The Prisoner remake miniseries (up above there), cause there’s nothing here really to be for or against, but just that it was made at all. Ugh.

The Prisoner is probably one of my favorite shows of all time. Discovering this show back in junior high did something horribly wonderful to the way my brain worked and I’ve been grateful ever since. McGoohan actually died back in January, and the remake miniseries looks… not promising. Somehow the planned movie remake hasn’t been canceled yet, so who knows what’s going to happen. It may be a bit of a fiasco, which has Caviezel as it’s No. 6. That sounds… scary. And boring in a kind of unrivaled way.

But here you can catch a little behind the scenes teaser for the new miniseries.

AND the one thing that AMC did right here is that they put all the original episodes of the original show online free to view. That’s fucking brilliant. And until next time…