The year in film.

This is a fun little montage:

from here and here.

Ordinary people going nowhere.

Last week it was all about fighting invisible chicken monsters from outer space and getting inside the lonely, tragic head of a challenged painter who didn’t realize how important he would be in the eyes of all those who looked upon his works…

…and this week on Doctor Who it’s about the lives of ordinary people, in a pretty simple lo fi episode as we gear up for next week’s two part season finale…

And that’s this weeks’ episode, “The Lodger,” written by Gareth Roberts and featuring James Corden, whom I don’t think many outside of England will know, and I don’t know much about him either, except that he was going to be in this episode and, of course, was recently a dick to Patrick Stewart:

A lot of times after viewing an episode and before I write one of these things, I’ll do a quick scan online to see where my feelings fit in with the rest of the online, er, “community,” and usually, it’s a match. Well, for the most part. This week, I have to say, I was quite shocked to find that most of the viewers loved this episode, and perhaps more than loved it. In the typical fashion of any television show reaching the conclusion of it’s season, there’s the slow down before the great big ramp up and exit, and many online compared to this to “Love And Monsters” and “Fear Her,” and how much better tonight’s episode was compared to those, though I didn’t dislike those episodes or look upon them negatively at all. At least not “Love And Monsters.” Though none of them will compared to “Utopia,” of course.

And don’t get me wrong, I certainly didn’t hate “The Lodger,” not at all. It was quite fine, actually, but I’m starting to notice perhaps the tiniest thread of disconnect between myself and other Doctor Who fans out there. Many, it seems, are quite eager to proclaim this new season the best yet (since the revival started, I imagine, and probably before as well), and I don’t know that I would go that far just yet.

That said, I really did like this episode, maybe not as much as others, but it was very good. The Eleventh Doctor, left behind by a manufacturing TARDIS, and having to spend a few days pretending to be a normal human as he figures out and tries to stop whatever it is that’s interfering with his time machine. Brilliant set up. I tend to like all forms of (good) sci fi, but especially that which pulls it out of space and tentacle rape and girls with three tits and brings it down to Earth in a normal setting, showing humans dealing with the fantastic. And this episode did that, even though it appeared to be more of a showcase for just how weird Matt Smith’s incarnation of the Doctor is.

That and, in case  you didn’t know, that Matt Smith was just this close to becoming a professional footballer (that’s soccer for those of us stateside), until an injury derailed that and set him down the path towards acting.

Even more interesting to me is that the initial story to this episode started off as a comic strip in the Doctor Who magazine, and I always love that this show will mine other sources for it’s stories and adapt them. For example, Moffat’s own “Blink” was initially a short story starring a much younger version of Sally Sparrow, and the lovely two parter “The Family Of Blood” and “Human Nature” were based on a previous Doctor Who novel. Those two episodes, in particular, make you wonder why the Doctor would choose to go by “The Doctor” in this episode rather than his go to nom de plume of “John Smith.”

From what I can surmise though, the initial comic strip featured a then new Tenth Doctor getting separated from Rose and the TARDIS and having to move in with Mickey Smith for a week. Interesting enough, the angle of the comic strip was apparently how normal and more human-like David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor was than his predecessor and how much of an irritant that was to Mickey Smith, how that split him from Rose even more. And I think that’s a more than valid point, especially since Tennant’s Doctor was so likable, and in such a human way, and was more prone to walk into any situation and master it within moments and get everyone on his side.

from here.

And I think it’s interesting how they flipped that with Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, almost making him the exact opposite of his predecessor, all bow ties and weird hair and an alien understanding of the normality of the humanity he seems so obsessed with. Whereas Tennant’s Doctor read the last Harry Potter book and cried or loves chips (french fries), Smith’s Doctor can’t tell how time progresses for normal humans or how to properly greet someone in a particular era. He has blithe, slightly telepathic conversations with cats and, thanks to slightly rushed feeling writing, head butts people in a rather slapstick fashion to pass along quick psychic infodumps.

from here.

And for a quirky, amusing story, I should add that the humor wasn’t unwelcome, but as I believe I said last week, I’m eagerly awaiting next week’s return of Moffat and the deadly seriousness he can bring. In my wildest dreams, Moffat would write like ten out of a given series’ 13 episodes. I know, I know, that’s insane. But just imagine it.

That said, again, liked the episode, but thought parts of it were a bit rushed feeling. The silhouetted villains at the top of the stairs and the flickering lights were brilliant, but let’s face it, kids are fucking terrifying. At least to me. I thought the notion of an alien ship trying to built itself a TARDIS left me more curious and intrigued than the episode probably meant to do and I liked the cameo of Van Gogh again (on the fridge)(and rumor has it that another Van Gogh appearance is slated for next week).

And despite all his quirks and brain being in a million different places other than right here and now, the Doctor seems a bit lazy and pedestrian (again, perhaps that’s merely the writing) in tackling the unseen menace upstairs. And in that infodump of the Doctor’s history, we get yet another roll call of previous Doctors. Makes you wonder if the show is still struggling to cement Matt Smith’s place in the history of these other incarnations or if it’s going somewhere next week, with the Doctor perhaps finding himself erased from history…

And if the episode had one major flaw, it’s something the last few episodes have shared: Not enough Amy Pond. She started off so strong this season and then was a bit wasted. But now’s found the engagement ring hidden there in the Doctor’s coat and perhaps she’s remembered Rory? Or perhaps it’s something else all together, but either way, part of me is glad this season is ending now. It’s been a fun ride and especially after tonight’s brief landing with a group of ordinary people who are fine going nowhere in their lives, I’m happy to follow the Doctor and Amy Pond and River Song as they zoom off into time and space and adventure…

Next time: Time and space and adventure! River Song returns and accompanies the Doctor and Amy to Stonehenge. The return of a whole slew of nasty monsters and villains. Rory the Roman! And perhaps, at last, the Pandorica opens…

The year in pictures, part one.

…but not for much longer.

Midnight In Dostoevsky” by Don DeLillo, who has a new novel in 2010!

Plotting the ruination of Radiohead?

Lady Gaga and the Queen.

This is easily the film I’m most looking forward to next year.

2009 was the year to set aside childish things. Namely, the last eight years.

Putin to retire soon? “Don’t hold your breath,” he says.

“Like taking candy from someone who seriously likes candy.”

There’s always time in time and space to stop and smell the flowers.

from here.

There’s water on the moon!

What this decade has been lacking thus far: Authenticity.

Who’s your favorite Beatle?

The end of love, part one.

Person of the year?

Is this what the culture’s come to?

You know what, don’t answer that.

Going where others have gone before.

Iran pisses on itself just a little more.

“You better be in fear.”

If you are neighbors with Sarah Palin, I guess that puts you within visual range of Russia?

New terror in the skies?

First rap is dead, then love (part two)?

Serious contender for best picture of the year, right?

Both Winston Churchill and Pynchon love inherent vices.



New Justice.

Hacker of the year?

Just think about all the sex you’ve had in the past year (or should have been having.)

MISS U, Batman (though not for much longer).

MISS/LUV U, Juliet.

Tiger Woods killed Brittany Murphy!

“Memes” and “Contraflow.”

I saw her again last night.”

Birds successfully begin phase one of their attack on humanity.

In the year full of recurring royalty and ending love affairs, of course the king of pop songs would die. Makes me want to scream.

Was 2009 the year of sci fi?

The end of love, part three.

To be continued!

A universe that doesn’t fall apart two days later.

So what does everyone think of the Avatar trailer?

It’s so weird to me to see it actually existing now, not that it’s particulary great or anything, but just because I think I first heard of this project what… ten years ago? It’s easily one of those Chinese Democracys of cinema.

And we all know how well Chinese Democracy turned out.

Maybe perhaps because of this trailer being released in the past week, or maybe just because certain strands and tendrils of the future are bending that way, I’ve been seeing lots of bits and pieces about augmented reality popping up in the various weird shit I read on the interwebs lately. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, right? There tends to be no more powerful thing that coincidences.

The really real world of augmented reality.

Maybe it’s just me, but I guess I expected more from the trailer for James Cameron’s long awaited film. I expected things that it obviously couldn’t really live up to, since it’s been talked about and speculated about so much in the past decade. What’ll be interesting is to see what it really is when it comes to life in this reality.

But one of the things that gets me is that the trailer really favors what looks like simple CGI effects work, not terribly dissimilar from things we’ve seen in the past 5 or so years. The Na’vi creatures, in trailer form, don’t strike me as spectacular creations at all. I’d much rather just look at Zoe Saldana in one of those outfits as she is. Actual look-wise, I get the same vibe from the tall, blue alien race/tribe that I got from seeing the Hulk in Ang Lee’s 2003 film (which, I don’t care what anyone says, is still a fine movie, especially if you chop off the last half an hour).

But then there’s a real story somewhere in Avatar, with real actors like Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez (is it me or is Ana Lucia the only character you haven’t heard about returning for Lost‘s final season?) and Giovanni Ribisi, which I’m not sure I’m all that interested in. If you know nothing of Avatar, I’ll spare you, but it’s essentially The Last Samurai or Dances With Wolves in outer space.

Also, apropos of nothing really, I find Giovanni Ribisi ridiculous. I don’t know why, but I just can’t help it. He’s good with comedic roles, but I can never take him seriously in dramatic roles. Maybe he’s just too good at what he does (which is shit like co-starring in the Gone In Sixty Seconds remake with Nic Cage and that episode of The X-Files, “D.P.O.“). Anyway, that picture below gives me a total Airplane! vibe.

Anticipation for Avatar is a mixed bag, certainly. On one hand, I like a lot of the projects that James Cameron has unleashed in the past, or been involved in, such as the career of his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow or producing Soderbergh’s Solaris remake. He hasn’t put his face out there in a while, but the man is a pillar of the cinema, and someone who actually cares about pushing the technology of moviemaking forward, augmenting the reality for creators (even if it does involve rising movie ticket prices). But I still get a negative vibe from him, you know, as a person.

What can I say? The guy seems like a dick. Right?

But then again, I don’t have to like him (and doesn’t he look like somebody’s uptight dad from an 80s teen flick?). I always enjoyed True Lies, but it took me years to see it as a parody of sexism and not just a fun spy parody that also happened to be sexist. I could be wrong though in my interpretation. James Cameron may have actually intended it to be sexist and that all women are “biscuits.”

Eh, Avatar, whatever. I want it to be good. I’m hoping that it plays out like a nice counterpart to something like Where The Wild Things Are, with Spike Jonze’s take on the Maurice Sendak book being something for the kid in all of us…

…And Avatar being something for the adult in all of us who’s worried about the environment and indigenous peoples and fucking weirdly hot alien girls.

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

-Phillip K. Dick, from “How To Build A Reality That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later.”

Nerd Prom is over.

Is it me or was there nothing really of super duper interest that came out news-wise from this past Comic-Con?

I mean, the Lost panel sounded interesting, but it always does. No real super huge news teased from the last Lost panel ever, more just silly videos and what have you, it seemed like. Probably to preserve the mystery about what direction the new/final season will take? Whatever direction it is, I like how they’re teasing us with the strong possibility that next year will start with the rebooted timeline created via Jack/Juliet blowing up Jughead. Hmmm.

Damon Lindelof: “The time travel season is over. The flash-forward season is over. We have something different planned.” Great. But you guys always do. Is it next January/February yet?

Speaking of flash forwards… that show Flash Forward sounds interesting, but with Charlie in it? Ehhh. I’m sure this means that the silly little hobbit will weasel his way into the new season of Lost.

Other things of note from the just concluded Comic-Con 2009:

Felicia Day.

Apparently this young lady is on fire. She was good in Dr. Horrible as the harmless decent sweet Mary Sue female lead, and while her online show, The Guild, is just not for me, it’s apparently quite popular. She’s in those commercials for whatever the hell appliance store it is and she’s in that as yet unaired episode of Dollhouse which will supposedly lead to more appearances in season 2. She’s on fire!

And having witnessed her in person earlier this year at Wondercon, I can’t begin to describe to you how lovely she is in person. She almost looks bad for your teeth.

Iron Man 2.

Well, no, not really. The first Iron Man movie was okay, not bad at all, and kind of refreshing in what a trainwreck it wasn’t. But it wasn’t spectacular and part of that, I think, has to do with how uninteresting the Iron Man character is. If I was writing an Iron Man comic/movie, you want to know how I’d do it? Exactly the same as the first movie, just minus the actual suit of metal and guys in suits of metal hitting each other and just all of that bullshit, really. And maybe add in a little more sex. But it’d be a lot of Tony Stark just traveling the world, getting drunk, and solving all the world’s problems with money. Trust me, it’d work.


Honestly, I could give a shit about this movie. In fact, it looks kind of stupid to me. But look at that picture up above. That’s hardcore, right?

The trailer for the new Tron movie, Tron 2.0, Tron: Legacy, Tr2n, whatever the hell it’s called:

The quality on that video is crap. Go here to see it in much better quality, minus the soundtrack score.

Granted, if it were up to me, I’d suggest they just remake Tron, because who’s honestly seen that movie recently? The last time I saw it, I was probably 4 and back, then I thought it was awesome, but back then cames like Pong were The Shit.

James Cameron’s Avatar.

I’ll admit, while I’m not on the edge of my seat with excitement, I‘ve got some curiosities.

Marvelman/Miracleman returns!

The only actual bit of comic book whatever news that I’ve heard out of SDCC that was remotely interesting, and believe me, this is. And a long time coming too. So much so that it’d be impossible to sum up quickly, but for now, let’s just say: Fuck Todd McFarlane.

The new season of Heroes!

No, I can’t back that up. Sorry. Not even close. August Bravo told me not long ago that he had to eventually drop this show and it sounds like he picked the perfect time. From what I can tell the next season will focus on some kind of weird carnival bullshit, Sylar looking creepy, and a very special episode where Claire the cheerleader gives lipstick lesbianism (with the lovely Madeline Zima) a on off try, probably right around Sweeps.

Doctor Who‘s new specials and the next iteration.

In short: Fuck the haters. And pity the confused. Sadly, the movies rumors were way off, but that’s probably for the best right now. The trailer for the next special in the UK, “The Waters Of Mars” is here:

That’s the new trailer, from the recent Comic-Con panel, and you can find the original teaser trailer here, and the preview scene here. I’ll spare you the teaser for “The End Of Time” because it’s just a kind of placeholder. If you know what I’m talking about, then you know.

And, of course, filming is underway on the new season already with the new Doctor and the new companion:

I’m digging half of this combo, and the jury’s still out on the other half. Avoid the rest of the filming pics for spoilers, which works as a lovely inside joke of it’s own.

Badass ladies and super empowerment.

The panel with Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Elizabeth Mitchelle, and Eliza Dushku (who is now dating Rick Fucking Fox) sounded interesting. Kind of fan service-y with no real depth, but interesting nonetheless.

Semi-unrelated, it’s been suggested to me that perhaps Counterforce should go to Comic-Con next year? That would be… something, wouldn’t it?

Also, apparently the San Diego Conference Center has been told that they need to seriously expand by 2011 or the Comic-Con folks are going to take Nerd Prom elsewhere.

Everything old is new again:

Players and slayers.

Two things:

1. We’re possibly in store for what is essentially a big screen reboot of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, primarily because it doesn’t feature the creative mastery that is Joss Whedon. Or, one presumes, TV’s Buffy, Sarah Michelle Gellar. Though that does make one wonder: Kristy Swanson, where the fuck have you been hiding? But to a much, much less extent, the same question applies to you, Luke Perry.

2. Archie finally proposes to one of those tremendous ladies in his life. Ah, but which one? Betty or Veronica? Betty or Veronica? Betty or Veronica?

As you can see above, it’s Veronica.

I know, I know. You’re like, “But, what, huh?”

(Side note: Seriously, ladies? You can do anything in the world that you want, be anything that you want, and especially be with anyone. And you choose and choose to be defined by this dork Archie? I mean, I can’t respect anyone dating a guy named Jughead, for about a billion reasons (though they all start with the fact that he’s named Jughead), but even he seems to have more going on than Archie. Look, Betty and Veronica, this is all I’m going to say and then I’m gonna forever hold my tongue: Archie’s a fucking stain on your life, all right?)

I find both of those developments fascinating. The Archie thing is kind of built upon so much history between these continuing characters and it’s quite frankly a development that no one probably gives a shit about. I mean, first of all, hardcore Archie fans: Who the fuck are you people? Secondly, if you had woke up the other day and this marriage thing had never shown up, you’d still be sucking like normal, right? Right.

And the Buffy thing is just weird and stupid. Granted, Joss Whedon is busy with Dollhouse and Cabin In The Woods, and the Buffy comic book (season 8), but still. We must’ve crossed the threshold from one generation to another in the last few years with the frequency in which we reboot/restart things.

I’m not going to lie you here, but you scare me to death, Generation Reboot. Because my life is in your hands. I feel like Spock (Prime) in J. J. Abram’s Star Trek restart. I’m time traveled back to now to save the motherfucking universe from impending doom and the pre-rebooted Hulk, but everything’s different. Everyone’s younger, different, and slightly less charismatic. And I’m supposed to be okay with it. I’m not, but I should be. I have to be.

The Final Frontier/Black holes and revelations.

Here’s a scenario for you: Each day you get up, you eat something, you check your favorite website, and you masturbate (maybe not to your favorite website, but no one would blame you for it). Then you go do whatever it is you do, you laugh, you cry, you live a life both anxious and boring. You probably masturbate again and check your favorite website again (I’ll leave the order of those two up to you) and you go to sleep, dreaming your dreams of a bright future.

And here’s a thought for you: Twenty years from now, or maybe less as the novelty wave winds down to zero, someone will come along and remake your life. Or reboot it. It will start again, only it’ll be better told, faster and sharper, more to the point and simpler to digest for the tastes of the particular audience it’s made for. And it’ll have a brand new cast, younger and sexier. Time to start thinking about who will someday inherit the role of you, right?

It’s a thought that occurred to me during a viewing of J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise on Friday afternoon, and I intend it only half as an editorial on the film itself, and half as a comment on the times we live in. It’s sad that people truly believe there’s “no more original stories left to be told.” To me, that notion is suicidal. Life is all one original story that’s as yet untold. Sure, sometimes history repeats, and sometimes things are built on and referenced back to, but new and different things happen all the time. It’s up to you to either shape them or be shaped by them.

But that’s a story for another time. The story at hand is the new Star Trek movie, directed by J. J. Abrams and written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

On one level, this is an incredibly fun movie. It’s fast paced and funny, sometimes very exciting, and looks absolutely gorgeous on the big screen. A perfect introduction to this brave new world for someone who’s never ventured there, which was certainly the film’s prime directive. There’s a ridiculously cool number of lens flares all over the picture, but it’s a treat of beauty, both in story, cast, and the majesty of special effects and high minded enthusiasm in exciting science fiction.

On another level, there’s a ridiculous story a la Superman Returns (why doesn’t Nero start off by going and destroying that fucking star pre-supernova somewhere in that quarter of a century that he’s got to himself, and mind you, that must be a really big supernova, but hey, whatever)(I’ll guess we’ll just classify this under the Whatever happened, happened category), and while the film succeeds in the fun and exciting-ness, it never really feels like any of the characters are in any real danger. And in the end, you’re left with the same feeling you had walking out of Batman Begins: “How, that was cool. Now I want to see an actual Star Trek film!”

In fact, there’s black holes all throughout this film, some in the story and some in the plot itself. Some interesting things come popping out of them, both in the story and plot, but some interesting things also get sucked right back into them.

On one hand it’s very clear that the filmmakers wanted to do a reboot without having to actually do a reboot. There’s a nice meta-moment as the characters discuss what’s going on in their lives and actual come to a realization that they’re in an “alternate reality,” which I found fascinating. The film kind of dabbles in homage (which is now an art form all of it’s own) to the nostalgia and tropes of the original incarnation of the franchise, but without quite inspiring some of it’s own or understanding it.

The want for adventure from the original version is definitely here, but not the desire for exploration (which is fine since they’re trying to get a new franchise off the ground) or the high minded adult science fiction loftiness. It matches the original’s space opera qualities so perfectly, but also matches it’s campiness uncannily. Just the mechanics of things involved would give you pause in a more serious setting and make you wonder how some of this bunch would inhabit the jobs and roles they have. For example: Chekhov, a 17 year old constantly being left in charge of this great big starship when the others go off to play? That’s very interesting.

The cast: Over all, not too bad. Zachary Quinto, of Heroes fame (is that show still on?), brings a certain sense of humanity to very important role of Spock here but loses a little of Leonard Nimoy’s authoritative stance, I feel. Chris Pine as Kirk is not so bad, essentially playing the Kirk here as what he’s written as: A farm boy shit kicker who throws himself into pyrrhic victories that are too big for him, and he often gets his ass handed to him or finds himself hanging off a ledge somewhere.

Anton Yelchin, who’s character is a ridiculously accented boy wonder, and Karl Urban are actually both pretty good at the homages they play to their predecessors while still doing something new and making their roles interesting. Zoe Saldana, looking gorgeous in her sexy military outfit that’s laughably military) gets to do more than her predecessor ever got to do with the role, even when she is basically left as the supportive girlfriend in the second half of the movie.

I mentioned his authoritative stance in the role, and Leonard Nimoy is a treat to have back on the screen, proving just what I mean. He’ll always be the character of Spock, here called “Spock Prime,” and Quinto will always be the second guy to play the role, no matter how comfortably his falls into it. But regardless of that, watching Nimoy’s scenes, you have to be grateful that they didn’t make the obvious mistake of bringing back Shatner.

Simon Pegg seems to have a ridiculous amount of fun in his role as Scotty, the miracle worker of an engineer, and John Cho is decent, not great nor terrible, as Sulu, the Japanese man here played by a Korean man who was always sadly meant merely as a stand in for all Asians in this space version of Wagon Train. And then there’s the cameos: Tyler Perry as the head of Starfleet, or at least Starfleet Academy (because I hope that Starfleet would have better things to worry about than some cheating cadet), Rachel Nichols as an Orion (slave) girl, Ben Cross as Sarek, Spock’s dad, and Winona Ryder, totally wasted as Spock’s human mother.

And then there’s Eric Bana, of course, as the underwritten yet slightly over the top villain with a grudge from the future, Nero. Good name but things don’t seem to really jibe with him. But really, he’s just the excuse to get things rolling, to get the ball in motion, as it were. And sadly, all Star Trek villains tend to be an afterthought.

I guess my hope coming out of this is for another Star Trek TV show, but a good one. A modern one that doesn’t always play it safe or by the same formula. Something with production values worthy of it and a certain seriousness attached. Not with these characters, mind you, but something new, and something where you can take the time to become friends with the characters since here, as with all Star Trek movies, you’re just getting a few key moments with the caricatures of characters you’ve always loved.

Either way, with the depths of unwatchability and lack of popularity this franchise has been sinking into in the past decade or so, this reboot was always inevitable. They tried a pretty similar “Academy years” type idea back in the early 90s and something similarly militaristic just a few years ago. But the best course of action possible was this one, handing the franchise to Abrams and his stable of writers, including the guys from Fringe and Damon Lindelof from Lost. Casual or non fans or not, these guys (Lindelof more so than Orci and Kurtzman, obviously) make smart fiction and don’t do anything lightly. And it’s nice that Abrams gets to redeem himself for a lot of the negative online comments thrown at him for his rough draft script for Superman: Flyby.

Long story short, this is a big dumb wonderful popcorn type flick and worth the viewing. It’s wonderful escapism and you should check it out and enjoy it. It will boldly take you where a lot of people have gone before, but it’ll do so in a fun way, showing you bright new things.