Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Ho-Ho!

The Nerd Report wants to wish all of my readers a very Merry Xmas! Drink some eggnog (if you can), suck on a candy cane and enjoy some geekiness this holiday season. If you're faced with another dysfunctional holiday, here's some nerdy things you can do to pass the time!

  • Watch all three Lord of the Rings films

  • Read all three Lord of the Rings books

  • Go to HTML Comics, pick a series, read as many issues as humanly possible

  • Watch all three seasons of The Venture Bros. on dvd; you'll be glad you did.

  • Start a massive Settlers of Catan tournament. Don't know it? You'll soon be addicted

  • Grab some copies of Dark Horse Comics' excellent reprints of Marvel's old Black and White Magazine The Savage Sword of Conan. With art by many of comics top talents (John Buscema being the most identified with the character) and scripts mostly written by Roy Thomas, this is classic stuff.

So there's some things to do between presents and turkey! See you after Santa comes!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dances With Smurfs

This weekend I made the choice to go against my instincts and go see Avatar. From the minute I watched the first teaser I was not enthused, and my enthusiasm didn't grow with more exposure, that's for sure.

First off, it had Sam Worthington in it. I've got nothing against the man personally, but in Terminator he seemed to compete with Christian Bale to see who could give the most ridiculously macho performance. Bale won, but only because he employed his "big boy Batman" voice.....for NO apparent reason.

Second, I think we can all agree that the big blue aliens looked silly. Oh, don't even back off that one. I think Cameron did that to himself. He stayed away from movies for years, and had mentioned that he was waiting for technology to catch up to what he envisioned, and that's what we got? Nine foot tall crosses between cats, smurfs and the clan of the cave bear? It was disappointing.

But the reviews were amazing, and I didn't want to be petty, so I went.

And it is amazing. Mostly. Yes, the creatures still looked silly from a design point of view, but the execution was breathtaking. These are actual characters. They didn't quite reach the pinnacle of cg actors, which remains Gollum, but they were close. The world he created was just mind-blowing, all the way through. It truly did create a whole new benchmark. Like Titanic, the visual effects work was absolutely second-to-none.

However, it fell into the same trap of Titantic, too. Cameron kept the story simple and as a result, the film feels pretty basic. There's simply not a huge amount of story here, considering the length, and what does happen is nothing we haven't seen before. In fact, it's pretty much Dances With Wolves, with a kick ass action climax, fuzzy quasi-religion and some pretty ridiculous dialogue.

So, in the end, you are left completely awed by the technological achievement, but totally underwhelmed by the story itself.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Brittany Murphy and Our Need to Get Involved

I'm going to have to be delicate here, because I'm going to write about the late Brittany Murphy and her death, something that is obviously tragic and very, very sad. But an event like this also brings up one of the most infuriating and narcissistic qualities of modern human beings. Namely the way that we incorporate celebrity tragedy into our own lives when we really have absolutely no connection whatsoever.

Ms. Murphy's passing is a sad thing, no question. When I found out about it, I felt for her family and husband and her friends. I thought that, when I had seen her performances, particularly in 8 Mile and Sin City, she had an odd little spark that was interesting and showed some talent. It was, in the most serious sense of the word, a shame. And if her death was, as rumoured, caused by complications stemming from anorexia, that that is an issue that Hollywood as a whole needs to do something about.

But then I moved on. Why? Because I didn't know the woman. I saw her in some movies. I didn't know her, and it's completely crass of me to share my "feelings" about her death considering there are people out there right now who did know her and love her that must be going through hell. So why would I do it? Well, to make myself feel important, maybe. Or make myself feel like I'm somehow part of the scene. But I'm not not. And using the death of a stranger to do so makes me pathetic, doesn't it?

I know some of you may be thinking that I've written more than a few obits for the famous over the life of the Nerd Report, but I insist that there's a difference. What I hope I've done with my obits is write an actual obituary; they aren't about me or my feelings (with the exception of Paul Benedict, who I actually met once or twice) they are about the life and legacy of the artist.

Even other celebs are guilty of this. Eonline has this story about how some celebs are "tweeting" their feelings. First off, "tweeting" something like that has to be to most moronic and inappropriate way to voice a reaction that has yet to be invented. To use that method to detail your intimate feelings about the death of a friend is insane. Literally. But some celebs (I'm looking at you Kevin Smith) claim not to have known her at all and still have things to say. Look, I get you're trying to make a gesture about a colleague, but it's really got nothing to do with you.

We need, especially in moments like this, to actually muster up real feelings and real empathy and a real sense of others. Sometimes the best you can do is simply feel for their family and keep quiet.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Golden Globe Nominations - The Movies

Today's the the day that the awards ceremony with the inferiority complex (No, seriously, we're almost as prestigious as the Oscars! Seriously! Fuck it, we've got booze, okay?) announces their nominations. Let's take a look.

I'm going to make this a two-part post, and begin with a look at the movies before moving on to TV in part two.


I haven't seen every one of these films yet. In fact, shamefully I have only seen Up in the Air and Inglourious Basterds. I'd say that while the former certainly deserves its spot, I found the latter to be an almost great film, held up by its episodic unevenness. It was the boldest film I've seen this year, though.


Amazingly enough, I have yet to see any of these films, but I really want to see Precious. I suppose it's possible Sandra Bullock could deserve her nomination, but only in a Twilight Zone episode would she beat out Helen Mirren for anything other than a Blockbuster Video Award.



Jeff Bridges is due. It's that simple. I haven't seen the flick, but he's fucking awesome in everything. He is simply overdue.


Unless Nine is incredible, it should really go to (500) Days of Summer.


How is it possible Bullock is nominated twice? WTF. And Duplicity? I mean it was okay, and she was fun, but what about Zooey Deschanel?


Shit, Daniel Day-Lewis queers everything. I mean, he's a genius. A living legend. If he weren't around, I would strongly push Gordon-Levitt, who's close to being the next huge thing.


From what I hear, it's Mo'nique's to lose.


A tough one. This used to be a mortal lock for Christoph Walz, who stole that movie from Brad Pitt and Tarantino, but his heat has cooled a little. Plus, Christopher Plummmer may get the legendary vote.



Some big guns here. I think Bigelow may get it. While I'm psyched that a sci-fi flick is being touted so highly, I'm not sure Cameron will really pull off the upset he needs. Invictus has yet to get the rapturous response Eastwood usually gets. Up in the Air is a quietly affecting film, and may suffer some backlash. Basterds is simply too divisive. The Hurt Locker is the scrappy little underdog and that may allow her to take the prize.


Don't Call it a Comeback!

Hello, my fellow nerds and loyal readers. I'm sure you've all been the fuck happened to me, right?

The truth is that I was smacked upside the head with a month-long illness that can only be described as similar in intensity to the opening scene of Scanners, which is as pleasent as it sounds.

Well, rest easy, everyone, I'm back up to my fighting weight and ready to don my magnificent Nerdlinger costume and continue illuminating the blogosphere with pithy commentary, as you can see from the photo below:

I'm back, and I'm going to resume posting regularly. So, thanks for being patient, and let's get this show on the road.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dollhouse Gets Demolished

My good buddy Newman dropped me a line the other day to inform me of the recent cancellation of Joss Whedon's latest TV show, Dollhouse. No doubt there are many, many Whedonites out there that are utterly grief-stricken at this decision, and I do understand their devotion. I share it, to some degree. I was frankly obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and to only a slightly lesser extent, Angel. Firefly was fantastic and was treated absolutely abysmally by Fox, which resulted in it being cancelled long before its time. I was then stunned that they successfully brought such a failed series to the big screen, and I thought the result was great.

Having said all that, I hated Dollhouse. Look, to succeed a TV series needs at least one of three qualities. It either needs viewers or it needs someone at the network with faith in the show. I think it's fair to say that Dollhouse never had enough viewers to support it, but it did have load of network support. Fox didn't want to be wrong on Whedon twice. So, what was missing? Well, it needed the ever elusive third quality; it had to be good.

From the first second I began watching it, I could never really get behind the ridiculous concept at the show's heart. The idea of brainwashed operatives made sense, but the injection of the prostitution angle fucked it all up. First off, all these clients are gazillionaires, right? Getting laid would not be difficult, nor would paying a woman to do whatever kinky-ass shit you're into. Yeah, yeah, I get that it's a luxury service, but I just thought that wouldn't it be cheaper and less risky to use an actual hooker rather than some brainwashed girl that has apparently been sold into slavery?

Remember the episode where a rich client's kid gets kidnapped? And he has them load up Echo to be the best hostage negotiator in the world? This guy, as shady as he is, is rich, right? Couldn't he HIRE the best negotiator, rather than letting a shady criminal enterprise turn a hooker into one? There was another ep where she was loaded up as a master thief to help rob a bank. So, let's get this straight: a group of thieves evidently paid a massive fee to obtain their own master thief Completely illogical. By the time she was solving crime as a backup singer to a diva I was convinced that the show was actually trying to make me fed up.

Then there was the lead. Look, I get why Dushku is a fan fave. She played a cool supporting character on a much better show. But, let's be honest, the role of Echo was a challenging role. I can say she surprised me in that she wasn't unwatchable, but a stronger actor should have made that into an incredible showcase, and Dushku was quite often the least interesting performer on the show. Not good.

So, Dollhouse goes the way of the dodo, and I have to say that it's no bad thing. It frees Whedon up to create something that really deserves the devotion he's earned.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Comic Observations: A Sgt. Rock and a Hard place (HA-HA!......pun)

For about as long as I can remember, there has been talk of a movie adaptation of the Sgt. Rock comic book. It's odd, because, aside from the justly legendary artwork by seminal Rock artist and comic book god Joe Kubert, I cannot recall a single solitary story detail from the series.

It's one of those series that everyone has a ton of nostalgia for, and has a great central character, but almost no one can recall any great story lines or really any sort of definitive take on the character. Sure, Kubert's art was incredible, and it was popular enough to debut in 1959, and continue regular appearances and his own series until 1989.

But, for some reason, he's always been a hot property in Hollywood. They've never been able to crack that particular nut, though, even with countless writers, producers and stars like Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger attached (back in the day when a freakishly muscled Austrian could realistically be expected to play an average American Joe in WWII - don't know if you recall, but the US Army wasn't exactly wild for Austrians during that time period).

Well, now they think they've solved it; take the whole thing into the future! Yep, apparently the one thing missing from their previous attempts were lasers (pew-pew)! Only Hollywood would attempt to adapt a popular property from another medium by changing almost everything that made it popular in the first place. Case in point:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Halloween Treat - Zombie vs. Shark

Halloween is upon us, and I for one recommend spending it with a good scary movie!!!

If you like creepy-crawly gross outs, I recommend The Thing (the John Carpenter version). If it's high-art scares you like, may I recommend The Shining or The Exorcist? And if you like low-budget under the radar spookiness I have always been a big fan of a little flick called Session 9.

But if Zombies are your thing and you haven't seen Fulci's Zombi 2 (or under it's one of many other titles) then you are missing one of the greatest scenes ever:

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sci-Fi Tech that Will Kill Us All (9) : Petman

God damn you, Boston Dynamics. As you may recall, I called this robotics company out as my nemesis not too long ago, and they have responded to my taunts with a whole new level of escalation. Take a look at the Petman:

Oh, you bastards, you're halfway to a Terminator. Here's what this seemingly "innocent" company has to say about the Petman:

PETMAN is an anthropomorphic robot for testing chemical protection clothing used by the US Army. Unlike previous suit testers, which had to be supported mechanically and had a limited repertoire of motion, PETMAN will balance itself and move freely; walking, crawling and doing a variety of suit-stressing calisthenics during exposure to chemical warfare agents. PETMAN will also simulate human physiology within the protective suit by controlling temperature, humidity and sweating when necessary, all to provide realistic test conditions.

Natural, agile movement is essential for PETMAN to simulate how a soldier stresses protective clothing under realistic conditions. The robot will have the shape and size of a standard human, making it the first anthropomorphic robot that moves dynamically like a real person.

I love how they refuse to admit that it's this realistic movement that utterly creeps the hell out of people. And please, for the love of god, stop kicking these things! Machines don't forget!

But, I've been assured by the president of Boston Dynamics that there is no sinister intent in their robotic designs, and that my fears are simple, treatable, neuroses.

Boston Dynamics President Lex Luthor

Monday, October 26, 2009

This Is A Man

There is a man in Portland, Oregon who stands tall and mighty as a shining example of true badass manliness. He is a man who, unlike the Marlboro Man or James Bond or Batman, is not fictional. He is a man of mystery, and I can only assume he has either been sent to our time from some post-apocalyptic future in an effort to save the human race, or he is waging a war on crime throughout the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

I am speaking of the legend known only as the Samurai Biker.

No one seems to know exactly who the Samurai Biker is, aside from some vague comments about him possibly being involved in medieval reenactments, but I maintain this is simply a cover story for his true, ball-bursting manly activities.

He is real, I assure you, and not some figment of your most fevered imaginations of what the ultimate Mad Max style superhero would be. Here's some links to some news stories about the Biker, and he has also been included in article on Cracked, that stand tribute to how he is filled to the helm with pure awesome.

I salute you, Samurai Biker, for you are making the world a more kick-ass place to be.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Take Your Protein Pills and Put Your Helmet On

So, big news in the space exploration scene in the last week or so. The Ad Astra Rocket Company of Houston, Texas has announced that it has successfully tested VASIMR, a new engine that utilizes ion propulsion.

Why is that such a big deal? Well, here's a phrase for you: manned mission to Mars. Below you'll find a sciencey explanation of what ion propulsion is.

Ion propulsion is a technology that involves ionizing a gas to propel a craft. Instead of a spacecraft being propelled with standard chemicals, the gas xenon (which is like neon or helium, but heavier) is given an electrical charge, or ionized. It is then electrically accelerated to a speed of about 30 km/second. When xenon ions are emitted at such high speed as exhaust from a spacecraft, they push the spacecraft in the opposite direction.

See with our conventional rockets, the trip to Mars would take so long that we could only attempt it when Earth and Mars are closest together, which happens every two years. so, yeah, the astronauts would travel there (which would take about six months), get out and do their thing (which based on moon missions would involve driving a bitching set of wheels, stuffing rocks in their pockets, and playing golf), and then wait a year for the orbit to get close enough for them to attempt a return trip. One. Year.

But, with ion propulsion, the trip would get cut down to just 39 days, meaning that they could make the trip pretty much any time in Mars' orbit. So, yeah, it's a big deal for space-type people. Here's what Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield had to say to CTV:

If you can cut that voyage down to just a matter of seven or eight weeks then of course you can carry way less stuff. And if you don't have to carry so much fuel to slow down when you get there or to bring you back, it just scopes the whole thing down to where it becomes maybe a practical problem to solve rather than an almost an impossibility.

On the national pride side, a Halifax company makes the power generators for the engine, which is pretty cool. While the engine's been successfully ground tested, it hasn't been tested in space, so that's one hurdle. The other is that NASA has yet to come up with an effective suit for astronauts to wear on Mars that can handle its punishing conditions (a -60 degree average temperature, for instance).

Some might complain that we have more pressing problems here on Earth that take priority, such as homelessness and poverty and crime and education and health care. To which I respond, it's fucking Mars, lighten up. Seriously, humanity has always been on a timeline of exploration ever since a caveman left his cave, looked over the hill and thought, "I wonder if I go over there I'll find someone who'll bang me? Because I'm getting no love from these Cro-Magnon chicks."

My bet? They'll be setting off for Mars by 2019, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing.

Monday, October 19, 2009

These pretzels are making me thirsty.

And now, for your viewing pleasure (it is slightly hypnotic) someone with far too much time on their hands has compiled every Kramer entrance from Seinfeld. God, I love that show.

At no point does he accuse anyone of being an N-word. But you can feel that he might want to.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My "Flashforward" Ends; "Heroes" Reborn....Sort of

So the other night, my wife and I were watching the latest episode of Flashforward. We had both read the novel, and we had both enjoyed it. We were excited about the prospect of a series based on the book, even if we couldn't quite fathom how they'd get a continuing series out of the concept.

And three episodes in, my wife looks at me and says, "I'm done with this show, how about you?" I agreed, and we deleted the episode from our PVR and erased the series from our schedule. We watched the latest episode of Glee instead. That's right, I, a committed sci-fi nerd, opted to watch a musical comedy over a genre show.

With news that ABC has picked up Flashforward for a full season order, I briefly questioned my decision. After all, the central mystery of why everyone on Earth blacked out and had visions of the future is certainly a compelling one. It's well-produced, and the cast has plenty of solid actors. So, why was I so bored?

I believe there were a few reasons for my lack of involvement. Firstly, while the actors were good, I found the characters they were all playing to be pretty dull. After a few episodes, I don't care about any of them enough to really be invested in what they're doing in their flash forwards or how they get there. No one really has any quirkiness or personality; they're all just slaves to a puzzle, and it's the puzzle that's really the star here, not the people. That's all well and good for a finite story like a movie or a novel, but we're talking about potentially investing 25 hours of my life, here, so give me interesting people to watch at least. I suspect the imminent arrival of Dominic Monaghan, an actor incapable of being uninteresting, may liven things up, but it's too little too late for me.

Also, why exactly is the FBI investigating this thing? The novel followed scientists, and while I recognize that FBI agents are sexier, you don't think that there should be one science guy involved in this? I mean, at this point, they have no proof that this wasn't some sort of natural phenomenon, aside from one guy's vision of a bulletin board. and while we're on that topic, has it not occurred to anyone that nothing on that bulletin board is in fact connected? That his seeing it in his flash forward led to its creation so that it's there in his flash forward? It occurred to me within five minutes.

On the other side of the spectrum, I've actually been pleasantly surprised by the last couple episodes of Heroes. While they haven't been superb or anything, they haven't made me want to throw my remote at the TV. I like that everyone seems to be living an at least close approximation of actual life. I like the way they've kept examining Sylar and the whole nature vs. nurture element of his sociopathy. I reallllllly like that they seemed to have killed off Nathan at long last, who was fast approaching Claire's status as the most directionless and boring character on the show. I like Matt Parkman's struggle with phantom Sylar, and how they've externalized his inner struggle with the addictive possibilities of his powers. They've returned Peter to his less relentlessly depressing roots by bringing him back to his basic motivation of helping people.

Hiro and Ando, however, are still stuck in neutral, even with Hiro's possibly terminal illness. And while it's fun to see Noah finally realize that he's been living a thankless and totally skeevy life, it does leave him kind of rudderless. As for Claire.......she just wants a normal life. Still. As she has for as long as I can remember. Well, having a pointless but ratings-bait lesbian fling with your college roommate is pretty normal.....for some girls. I hear. Sigh.

And Suresh is nowhere to be seen. Thank. God.

I even like the new additions. Emma is a strikingly different character that allows Peter to slip into the mentor role. The Carnival characters would be much more annoying if they weren't so well-portrayed. All in all, I'm actually interested again. Well played, Heroes, well played.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

NBC Continues Suicidal Decisions, Cancels "Southland"

If you follow the show biz industry news, you'll no doubt have heard about a truly bizarre decision that came down from NBC over the weekend in which they cancelled their cop drama Southland just before their second season was due to air, after renewing it only a few weeks before.

The move has a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering if NBC has gone....well.......bugfuck nuts. The official reason that the network has given is that the show is too "dark and gritty" for NBC, and therefore, they aren't going to air it. This despite the fact that the series garnered significant critical acclaim upon its release. The show debuted strongly last mid-season, as it was touted as the replacement for ER, even though the two shows could not have been more different. The ratings did take a downturn during its run, but NBC announced in May that they would be renewing the series for second season.

Then, the trouble started. First, NBC pushed the second season debut from September 25th to Oct. 23rd, claiming it was done to avoid having the series compete with other season premieres. This also meant the show was moved from Thursday at 10pm to Friday at 9pm. Not the world's greatest time slot, historically. Then, on October 7th came the news that they were cancelling the show altogether and not going to air the six episodes that they've already shot.

Now, I watched the first season, and it was good. It had some problems, for sure. The main problem was a cast and a focus that was way too large to really hold our attention. Some aspects, such as Ben McKenzie's rookie paired up with Michael Cudlitz's closeted tough veteran, and Regina King's brilliant portrayal of a totally believable homicide cop, shone bright. Other aspects fell quite flat, like Tom Everett Scott's barely present portrayal of a cop looking to branch out as a writer. The result was a show that meandered too much. Still, the good stuff, including the dark and gritty tone, really felt exciting and different and exceptional. It certainly deserved a little longer to find its feet, and based on the fact that I've heard the second season focuses far more on McKenzie and King's story lines, it seems the producers knew this too.

Some people want to blame Jay Leno. I can't wholly disagree. You see, when Leno got his deal for a five night a week spot at 10 pm, it meant that the 10 pm slot was no longer available for any scripted dramas, and it also meant that the later slot that allowed riskier more adult fare to be shown, was now gone. I hate Leno's style of comedy as much as the next guy, and the decision to put him on five nights a week was beyond idiotic, really. It pretty much signalled that the network was completely abandoning filling that slot with anything of any real innovation.

However, if the network had any real faith in Southland, it would still be on. Based on the numbers that some of its 9pm shows (like Heroes, Mercy, Trauma) are pulling down, it's not like they couldn't soon find a place for it. Simply put, NBC doesn't have the balls or the patience to air a show or nurture it for any length of time. And as a result, it is now a fourth place network. Even Fox is beating it. Pretty soon, don't be surprised if you see the CW kicking its ass.

Think on this; you know what shows NBC has produced that ran at 10 pm? Here's a list: ER, Law & Order, Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Hunter, Quincy, M.E., Homicide: Life on the Street, Law & Order SVU. People will argue that times change, but some of those shows were hits in their 10pm slots, like six months ago!

Southland star Michael Cudlitz was so angry that, when interviewed, he unleashed a can of whup-ass on NBC that hilariously ensures he'll never work for them again:

We were two weeks away from airing and (the cancellation news) has created more press for the show than NBC has put into it on its own. They ran the first (Southland) ad — a 30-second spot — last Friday, and that’s the only one that they ran. That’s not a relaunch. When you have a network that nobody’s watching, it doesn’t benefit you to only advertise on your network....We were given the same statement that everyone got. (NBC) said they watched the first (four) episodes and determined that they were too dark. I don’t even know where to go with that. They were the scripts that (NBC) approved for a show that they picked up — a show they themselves advertised as an authentic, raw and gritty look at the Los Angeles Police Department. So I don’t know what they thought they were getting…

Basically this was a sleazy move, completely screwing over the show's producers, cast and crew who thought their hard work was at least going to be seen. And as TNT is now expressing interest in taking over the series, it's also another indicator that network television is in really danger of complete irrelevancy through its over-reliance in reality shows, cutting corners and a complete lack of faith in the shows they make.

RIP - Barry Letts

Some sad news over the weekend, with the news that former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts has passed away at the age of 84. Letts shepherded the series through a period of great success from 1970-1974, overseeing numerous milestones for the program and acting as a sort of elder statesman for the series, including involvement as a consultant on the show in the early 1980s.

Barry Letts was born in 1925, and following service in the Royal Navy during the second World War, he became a successful actor working mainly in repertory theatre. He would gain some minor fame with supporting roles in films, notably in Ealing Studios 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic. In the 1950s and 60s he turned to television, appearing in such shows as The Avengers before turning to writing teleplays and enrolling in the BBC's director program.

After directing several projects, he was hired to direct a serial for Doctor Who in 1967 called Enemy of the World. In 1969, he took over as producer for the series during a period of great change for the show. The show had just become a colour program, and the format had changed from having the Doctor wander through time and space to having the Doctor exiled on modern-day Earth.

With Jon Pertwee cast as the new Doctor, and an entirely new supporting cast built around the UNIT organization, Letts made great changes to show's tone, making it less of a children's science fiction series and more of a sophisticated action-adventure series with sci-fi overtones. As such, the show's popularity soared during his time on the series.

Among the long-standing contributions to the series made during his tenure were the introduction of The Master, a focus on ecological concerns, and the inclusion of more overt political and philosophical overtones. In one of his final (and arguably most important) acts as producer, he cast Pertwee's replacement; a largely unknown actor named Tom Baker. Baker would take on the role for seven years during the height of the show's popularity.

After leaving the series, he directed and produced numerous shows for the BBC, including an eight year stint producing Sunday Classics, a series serializing great works of literature. In 1980, he returned to the series as a consultant to help new producer John Nathan Turner transition into the role, with Letts credited as Executive Producer.

Letts had also directed several serials for Doctor Who, both during his time as producer and after he left, in addition to contributing scripts (although, during his producer tenure, these scripts were attributed to a pseudonym). He would also adapt Doctor Who stories for novelisation, as well as writing two Doctor Who radio plays and their subsequent novelisations.

In his later years, he directed the soap opera EastEnders, as well as teaching direction for the BBC. His wife passed away earlier this year, but he is survived by his two sons, both of whom are actors, and his daughter.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Doctor Who Logo Unveiled

The BBC yesterday unveiled the new logo for the venerable sci-fi series, and I for one like its simplicity. The logo is accompanied for the first time by an insignia, which will appear on marketing materials such as books and toys and whatnot.

you can see, the logo is more of a return to the classic, 1960s logo. But the insignia is totally new, with the "DW" initials fashioned to resemble the TARDIS.

me it's a perfect way to freshen things up for the arrival of the eleventh Doctor, and his new show runner, Steven Moffatt, who had this to say:

eleventh logo for the eleventh Doctor - those grand old words, Doctor Who, suddenly looking newer than ever. And look at that, something really new - an insignia! DW in Tardis form!

Simple and beautiful, and most important of all, a completely irresistible doodle.

I apologise to school notebooks everywhere, because in 2010 that's what they're going to be wearing

I do think it's an improvement over the logo that they've used (with minor revisions) since the relaunch in 2005:

It's a little too......I don't know, sunny? Maybe it's the fact that they background seems to be more interesting than the title? Well, here's some logos of Doctors past:

The 1996 TV Movie:

It's okay. It is pretty much a direct recreation of an earlier logo, except it is more glitzy.

The Seventh Doctor Logo (1987-1989):

Wow, that's awful.

The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Doctors (with minor revisions) 1980 - 1986:

It looks pretty godawful and 1980s now, but it worked for the time.

The Third and Fourth Doctor (1973-1980):

That's the iconic logo, also known as the "diamond logo". It's the logo, until the relaunch, that most people associated with the show. It's a little cartoony and cheesy now, but it still has a punch, especially when included in the "time tunnel" effect as see above.

The Third Doctor (1970 - 1972):

Cool, retro but timeless. This might be the most effective logo, which is why it is obviously the inspiration for the new one.

The Second Doctor (1967-1969):

Boring, really, but not objectionable. But it doesn't really have any personality at all.

The First and Second Doctors (1963 - 1966):

For it's time, this was rather cool. It had a modern, sci-fi sort of look without going over the top. It's clean and simple but still somehow conveys a space-age, mysterious feel.

So, what do you think of the new logo? Good, bad, or indifferent?

Monday, October 5, 2009

We Now Resume Transmission with an Image Search!

So, yeah, took a little break there. Sorry about that. The Nerdlinger household moved from one part of town to another. We are now fully ensconced in suburbia in our first full-fledged home. That's right, some lender was fool enough to give us a mortgage! Suckers.

, I return to this blogging thing with another edition of the random image search feature, where I plug a phrase into an image search engine and show you the best (or oddest) results. Today, we're going with "hilarious comic book panel". Enjoy!

I'm going to suggest that any guy who spends over fifty years unable to choose between two women and most likely remaining a virgin while doing so probably enjoys beating off guys anyway. Seriously, he's deeper in the closet than Kevin Spacey.

Okay, so maybe Fredric Wertham had a point.

Look at the costume he's picked for you, Dick, his heart's definitely into it. Seriously, they wore that sort of thing at Studio 54.

Christ. What was going on over at DC during the 1940s and 50s?

You know, somehow, this kind of behavior doesn't surprise me coming from Lois Lane. It's also nice to see that not all strange comic book panels come from Batman comics...

Spoke too soon, didn't I?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

If you lose your disc or fail to follow commands, you will be subject to immediate de-resolution. That will be all.

Below you'll find a little clip of Daft Punk's main theme for the upcoming film Tron Legacy. Or, as I like to call it, the sequel to muthafuckin' Tron, bitches!

Anyway, it's appropirately technological and driving and all that. I actually really like it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm Bracing Myself

So, it's the season premiere of Heroes tonight, and I'm bracing myself for a possible suckfest of craptacular proportions.

I've written before of my dismay about how absolutely shitty the show has become since the heights of its genuinely excellent first season. I'm not going to re-rant and re-rave about what is wrong with the show now except to say that the problems of Season 2 were somehow only compounded with Season 3. Instead, I'm going to be more positive in that I'm going to offer a few specific, constructive ideas on how to make the show better.

1 - Get Your Feet Back on the Ground - One of the things that was great about the central concept in the first season is that everyone was basically a real person with a real life. Parkman was a cop. Hiro and Ando lived in Japan as cubicle dwellers. Peter was a nurse with an actual job. Nathan had a wife and kids. Claire went to school. The touches of reality grounded the show, keeping it from becoming a full-fledged comic book. Since season 1, what exactly do any of these people do for money? When was the last time anyone saw or heard mention of Nathan's family? And speaking of Nathan, he has got to be the most absentee Senator ever! When the fuck does he, you know, go to the Senate?! If they don't have some sort of a normal life to protect or retreat to, they are far less interesting and far more unbelievable.

2 - Real People Can Be Heroes Too - Ando and Suresh used to provide an important element to the show. As non-powered, relatively average non-spy, main characters they had an outlook on things that gave some much-needed perspective. Now, they're just freaks like everyone else on the show, and since they weren't designed to be powered originally, they really don't seem special and therefore are kind of uninteresting. Bring in a few non-powered people to pal around with our Heroes. How about a partner for Parkman who appreciates his powers in helping them catch crooks? How about rescuing Peter's Irish sweetheart from Season 2 who Peter abandoned in a nightmarish future New York (dick).

3 - Characters Can Grow - I'm looking at your Hiro and Ando. And Noah. And Claire. And Mrs. Petrelli. And Peter. And Nathan. Fuck, at EVERYBODY. Look, in Season 1, Hiro and Ando's naivete and earnestness was hilarious and made them the scrappy underdogs with hearts of gold. After two more seasons of them not apparently not gaining any sort of knowledge from their adventures, it's now more like they're mentally retarded. Hiro now runs a multi-national company doesn't he? So, he's pretty much Bruce Wayne. Let him be Bruce Wayne!

And stop trying to make me doubt Noah's motives. He's a good guy. That's the fucking deal. I don't want to see, nor will I buy, any more trust issues between him and Claire. After almost losing his family, what, eight times? You'd think he'd wise up and start telling the truth. How cool would it be to have the Heroes ably assisted by an ass-kicking, super knowledgeable former spook?

The only character who's gotten more interesting is Sylar, but that's only because Zachary Quinto totally owns that guy. He's certainly not written any better than he was in Season 1.

4 - Anything You've Done Before is Off-Limits - The repetitive nature of the show is the most brutal detriment it has. How many times has it shown us a hellish future? How many times has there been mention of a disaster? How many times has Isaac's paniting power been used? And he's been dead since Season 1! How many times have they had a "big bad" mystery threat waiting in the wings. And no more Company stuff. Ever. It's done. It's over. turn the Company into something completely different.

5 - Dump What Isn't Working - Suresh? That character hasn't worked since the first Season. Either radically change his direction or dump him. And Heroes makes baffling choices in this regard all the time. They killed off DL Hawkins for no apparent reason, and he was a great character. Then they killed off Niki, and okay, I guess, but she was nowhere near as dead-ended as Suresh. It's not like the character they replaced her with was any better. Niki's son Micah had a cool power, and was well played, and they shucked him aside, as well as his cousin with the cool physical super-power who barely got explored.

And what about Claire? Well, having an invulnerable character does tend to invalidate any jeopardy you may feel. But, killing her off? Man, that would be the incredibly bold. It would energize the Petrelli's in a huge way, not to mention Noah. It would show that literally anything could happen. Let's face it, is she doing anything of interest? Has she trained to kick ass so her power makes her more than simply a punching bag that can't get hurt? Is the actress capable of injecting her with more than one dimension? Sadly no, no, and hell no.

Harsh? Agree? Disagree? All I know is that if Heroes does the same old tired, boring, nonsensical stupidity of the last couple seasons, then they will have killed the golden goose in a major way.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I have found my Nemeses?

So, remember back when I warned the rest of mankind about the existence of the Big Dog robot? Since then, I have heard from a number of people about how damn creepy that thing is, so I'm glad I'm not the only one.

Well, it turns out that I can now give a name to the main instigators of my robo-phobia, and that name is Boston Dynamics. They're the company that makes the Big Dog, and it turns out, they also make a wide variety of deeply unsettling robots that seem to have only creepy and/or military applications.

a selection of some of their insectoid marauders. First, let's start with the Little Dog, which is just like it's bigger brother, except it's nearly silent, smaller and doesn't even have the cover story of acting as a "pack mule":

we have the RiSE. Now, I'll admit, this one is not the most terrifying specimen, but it does look like a fucking spider, and spiders are universally despised and feared, so, good design call:

comes the RHex, which is, to me, second only to the Big Dog for sheer creepiness. This thing can survive seemingly any impact, and it absolutely will not stop. Add, "until you are dead" to that last sentence and you've pretty much got Reese's speech to Sarah Connor in The Terminator. By the way, the most terrifying part comes when the thing goes into the water.......and fucking swims:

, and finally we've got a little thing called the SquishBot. This is the thing they're working on right now, so while it sounds like the most horrifying thing in the history of robotics, you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that it only theory. Here's how Boston Dynamics describes the little fella:

SquishBot is a program to develop a new class of soft, shape-changing robot. The goal is to design systems that can transform themselves from hard to soft and from soft to hard, upon command. Another goal is to create systems that change their critical dimensions by large amounts, as much as 10x. Such robots will be like soft animals that can squeeze themselves through small openings and into tight places.

Tight places. Tight places. That is one fucking ominous turn of phrase. Picture this thing squeezing itself into your small openings and...tight places. Here's what it looks like:

All right, first off, that looks like the kind of robot that would pop up in a David Cronenberg movie. And not his later ones, like A History of Violence. Nope, I'm talking his Videodrome, Long Live the New Flesh period.

I would not be surprises if the next thing these guys come out with is a M.O.D.O.K.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

RIP - Patrick Swayze

After a 20 month battle with pancreatic cancer, actor Patrick Swayze died yesterday at the age of 57.

The actor was most famous for his roles in Dirty Dancing and Ghost, and was a sex symbol the world over for his combination of good looks and physical grace.

He was born and raised in Texas, but moved to New York to study dance after completing high school. He made his Broadway debut in 1975, and the same year he married Lisa Niemi, with whom he would spend the rest of his life.

Although he made his film debut in 1979's teenybopper comedy Shaketown, USA opposite Scott Baio, he would hold off on following Baio down the teen star route. In 1983, he broke out as one of the stars of Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of SE Hinton's classic novel The Outsiders. Starring opposite young unknowns like Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell, Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio and Matt Dillon, he seemed to be lost in the shuffle of wild star power on display.

Following the success of The Outsiders, he would become a bankable star with leading roles in films like Red Dawn, and a starring role in the classic Civil War TV miniseries North and South.

But in 1987, he finally broke through into the top tier of stars with Dirty Dancing, in which he played tough but romantic Johnny Castle, a resort floor show dancer that sweeps a guest off her feet. The film cemented Swayze as a major leading man. It was an effective performance in what would become one of the iconic films of the decade.

A success like Dirty Dancing would be hard to top, but in 1990 Swayze did so when he starred in Ghost, a hybrid of thriller, horror, action, comedy, and above all, romance. As Sam, a murdered architect whose spirit cannot move on until he feels the love of his life is safe, Swayze had the role that largely defined his career. He excelled at playing the tough but decent man with a romantic bent. Ghost was a massive hit, earning five Oscar nominations and becoming one of the most successful romance films of all time.

In the 1990s, Swayze's star fell, although there were films that have since become cult favourites, such as Road House and Point Break. In 1995, he surprised many with his excellent performances as a drag queen in To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar. In recent years, appearances in good films were few and far between, a notable exception being his strange performance in Donnie Darko.

He was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. Even though pancreatic cancer is considered to be one of the hardest forms of the disease to conquer, Swayze fought hard. Given only six months to live when originally diagnosed, he beat that prognosis and even returned to work, starring in the dark A&E series The Beast, and winning solid reviews for his portrayal as a shady FBI agent.

Rob Lowe, who appeared in two films with Swayze, had this to say:

He was an expert dancer, he wrote hit songs, he starred in hit movies, he was an amazing horseman. But the thing I will remember him most for was his amazing love affair with his wife, Lisa. He played my brother twice, in The Outsiders when I was 17, and then in Youngblood. Tonight I lost a brother.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Love/Hate Relationship with Michael Moore

Like any self-respecting liberal in North America, I must confess some love for Michael Moore. The reason for the slightly guilty tone you may detect in the preceding sentence is that Moore can simultaneously be the most inspiring and infuriating media personality around.

When he first made his mark, with the brilliant Roger & Me, it was a very different time. You see, up until the very early 1980s, the working class in the U.S. were resolutely liberal. The working class were the backbone of the Democratic party. Then came Jimmy Carter. Now, Carter has long been deified by the left, but he was, frankly, an indecisive mess as a president. He tried to rewrite the wheel so much that he came off as a detail obsessed kook who wanted to put solar panels in the Rose Garden. And then came Ronald Reagan, a man who appealed so much to white, blue collar voters it was simply unreal.

So, Democrats lost the white working class, and they've never really gotten them back. The odd thing is that the 1980s were pretty depressing for the white working class. Jobs were being shipped overseas, labour unions were beginning to die a slow, agonizing death, and the government had embraced the rah-rah capitalism of the times and were using it as a machete, whacking great sections of the working middle class into the lower working class. Whole towns dried up. Towns like Moore's Flint, Michigan, which was dependent on the GM plant to survive.

So, Moore, who even at this point seemed more of a propaganda machine than a documentarian, made Roger & Me, a funny, ironic and searing examination of the effect of GM's plant closures on his hometown of Flint. It touched a nerve with people because they needed a voice, a guy who would stand up to the corporate and government interests that effectively controlled every single aspect of their lives.

I'm not going to go through the rest of his resume, because we all know it, don't we? If you don't, Google the guy and find out. Suffice to say, he has become a polarizing figure. while I usually have nothing but support for the premises of his films, I always get embarrassed by how far he goes to support his point. Bowling for Columbine was by far his most even keeled film, and even that one could only be characterized as an attack on the values of the right.

So, when someone recently asked him about the state of newspapers in the US, in his customary way, he started off sounding totally reasonable and logical, and ended up sounding like a crazy person.

Here's the beginning:

I interviewed David Simon, he used to work at the Baltimore Sun, and of course did The Wire and other projects, and he was talking about way back in the early 90s, when he left, when he was bought out, when they were trying to downsize the Baltimore Sun, they got rid of the courts beat, they got rid of the crime beat, they got rid of the labour beat, they got rid of the poverty beat reporter. I don't know if you've ever been to Baltimore, but poverty? Courts? Labour? If you stop reporting on the things that the people in the town are really concerned about, they may stop reading your newspaper. But the bottom-line bean counters who've come, the corporations who've bought out these newspapers, they come in and they say, 'How can we get more news for less money, less employees?

Makes sense. He's decrying the profit oriented concerns that have overwhelmed creating the best possible product, right? Now, here's a little later:

How did we create so many illiterate and ignorant people? It's because we have made education such a low priority in the United States. And what party has led the way? The Republican Party. Every convention they have a thing in their platform about dismantling the Department of Education. Americans, right, they want to get rid of the Department of Education. They hate the teacher's union. They give it as little money as possible.

Now, look, I'm not saying that he isn't right a little bit. There's absolutely no question that the American school system is in serious trouble. But to lay ALL the blame at the Republicans is the type of over-simplification and propaganda that makes a lot of liberals embarrassed for Moore. There's Democrats out there who have done just as much damage to the school system. And there's some Republicans that have propped that system up with both hands, doing everything they can to help.

Well, here's a review of his new film, Capitalism: A Love Story, a film that apparently calls for the socio-economic systems's complete eradication. I'm not sure he's wrong, but I am sure that he's going to be hit with the same complaints he always gets hit with; that he's too one sided, that's he's liberally biased, that he's more of a rabblerouser than a serious documentarian.

Well, here's his reponse:

You asked me back there, 'You're biased. You have only one side.' Well, yeah, I have a bias. I have a bias on behalf of the little guy who doesn't have a say. I'm lucky enough to be able to have this bully pulpit, to be able to say the things I say, on behalf of the people who don't have a voice. The pharmaceutical companies and corporate America, they've got their voice. They own the networks and they can say whatever they want, all the time, and they do. So can we just have two hours for this side to have their say? I hope so, I think so. That's what I'm trying to do.

So, yeah, sometimes he makes me cringe as he goes waaaay too far. But at least it's too far in the right direction, right?

RIP - Jim Carroll

Poet, Punk Rocker and Outlaw Enfant Terrible Jim Carroll died on Friday in his Manhattan home. He was just 60 years old.

He was a teenage basketball star for the elite Manhattan private school Trinity when he first became addicted to both heroin and poetry. The combination of all three aspects made his 1978 memoir of those years, The Basketball Diaries, a cult classic.

While still a teen he fell under the spell of words, spending any time not on the court at St. Mark's Poetry Project in the East Village. In 1967, he self-published a pamphlet called Organic Trains, which won him a small following. His 1970 follow up, 4 Ups and 1 Down was even more successful, and his fame was compounded when The Paris Review published excerpts from his journals.

Now acclaimed by such lights as Patti Smith and Allen Ginsberg as the most original poet of his generation, he began a frenetic period, briefly attending Columbia and falling in with Andy Warhol's factory scene. He lived for a time with Smith and artist Robert Mapplethorpe.

After Living at the Movies, his first poetic work with a mainstream publisher, was released in 1973 to great acclaim, he fled New York for California. While there he cleaned up, got married and got divorced. He also published, in 1978, The Basketball Diaries, beginning his series of publications of his journals. The memoir was widely acclaimed and became one of the seminal wild youth cult books.

Around this time, with some encouragement by Patti Smith, he formed The Jim Carroll Band and released his first album, Catholic Boy. With its classic single People Who Died, the album has been hailed as the last great American punk album of its time. Carroll was seen as the heir apparent to fellow rock n' roll poet Lou Reed. Though their follow up albums weren't as successful, Carroll kept his hand in music, writing for other artists and recording as late as 2000.

He also continued to release books of poetry. His last collection, Void Of Course, was published in 1998.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Comic Observations: Warner Bros. Hugs DC Tighter......Tighter!!

In a move that seems like a counter-punch to the Disney/Marvel merger, Warner Bros. has just announced the formation of DC Entertainment. The new division encompasses what used to be DC Comics, once a separate subsidiary of Time Warner Inc, and now a division of Warner Bros.

The move more closely aligns DC with Warner's to maximize DC's line of characters across film, television, animation and video games mediums. The new president of DC Entertainment will be Diane Nelson, who previously has been overseeing Warner Premiere and the Harry Potter franchise for Warner Bros.

Current DC Comics President and Publisher Paul Levitz, who has held that role since 2002, will, according to a press release, will now become a Writer, Contributing Editor and Overall Consultant to DC Entertainment. Previously, Levitz had reported directly to WB chairman Alan Horn, so it's pretty hard to see this move as anything but a demotion for Levitz.

So, much like the Marvel move, this doesn't seem to be too negative in terms of its impact on comics, except in one way. Like the Disney/Marvel merger, it suggests that the evolving relationship between film and comics is growing ever more intertwined. Are comics becoming nothing more than development engines for new movie franchises? It certainly seems that way. But as long as the creators of comics continue to direct their own stories, and not have their subject matter dictated to them by corporate execs with their eyes on box office, there are only benefits for the comic industry.

As for Paul Levitz, well, the man's a legend. In the early 1970s, while still a teenager, he went from writing a fan-zine to becoming a freelancer for DC, writing letter pages and creating DC's in-house fan-zine Amazing World of DC Comics. By the age of 20 (20!), he was the editor of Adventure Comics, the title then starring The Legion of Super-Heroes. It was during this time he began writing comic scripts.

Over the next few years, Levitz became one of DC's star writers. He took over All-Star Comics, but it was as the writer for The Legion of Super-Heroes that he really made his mark, culminating in his masterpiece, The Great Darkness Saga.

As he moved up in the company, he was responsible for some major innovations and talent discoveries, helping to bring luminaries such as Alan Moore, Marv Wolfman and John Byrne to DC. He was a mentor to assistant editor Karen Berger, who would jump start the British invasion of comic book talent through her hiring of Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison and Peter Milligan, as well as her creation of DC's hugely successful Vertigo line of books.

But it is his impact in the relam of creators' rights that Levitz is revered in the industry. He helped created DC's standard of compensation for creators, which includes royalties for freelancers, reprint payments, art returns (which artists generally sell for additional funding), as well as having creator credits on the covers of books.

Here's how writer Len Wein describes his impact:

As I said, the difference between the two companies; DC and Marvel, is I see money off of all of my characters at DC in any incarnation. If they do paperback books, if they do movies… I also created Lucius Fox, the character Morgan Freeman plays in the current run of Batman films, and I do absurdly well off of him being in those films, financially. Because Paul Levitz made sure I signed creator equity contracts whenever I create a character. Even on something potentially so unimportant…as I said to Paul when I argued with him about signing a Lucius contract, “It’s a middle-aged guy in a suit.” He said, “Sign a contract. You never know.” He was right.

Quite a mark to make. Here's hoping he enjoys his new role as elder statesman and occasional writer.

Sci-Fi Tech That Will Kill Us All (8)

Okay, I realize that this feature has basically devolved into a showcase for my raging robophobia, but I feel it's important to warn the world about the imminent robotic takeover.


Whoo. Okay.

So, over at a site called BotJunkie (shudder), they're reporting on a new development in swarm robotics, which is a horrifying philosophy that says robots should be made simpler and smaller and cooperate to complete tasks.

Here's how they describe what are basically robotic ants crawling all over your house:

These tiny (4 millimeters on a side) robots are members of the I-SWARM project, which stands for Intelligent Small-World Autonomous Robots for Micro-manipulation. Each robot is simple, with three legs and a little poker to manipulate stuff with. They’re designed to work in large, cheap, mass producible, replaceable groups doing things that insects would be good at… Surveillance, obviously, but they could also do things like clean your house by taking care of one bit of dust each.

Imagine these little bastards climbing up your pants leg and using their little poker to manipulate your "little poker". Gahhh! That'll keep me up nights.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hollywood Isn't Even Trying Anymore

So, The Vancouver Sun just put out a story stating that UFC fighter Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is in town to prep for his role of B.A. Baracus in the upcoming feature film adaptation of the the 1980s TV show The A-Team.

Okay, this leads me to ask of Hollywood, have you just given up on original ideas? I mean, is this it? Look, I have as fond memories of The A-Team as the next guy (I even think the last couple of seasons with Frankie Santana and Gen. Hunt Stockwell were the coolest the show ever did) but since re-watching a number of famous and beloved TV shows of the era I've come to a rather shocking conclusion.

All the 80s TV shows we want to remake sucked balls. There are some great TV shows that debuted in the 1980s, and yet these are the ones we don't want to revisit. I'll admit no one's clamoring to see new versions of St. Elsewhere or Hill Street Blues or China Beach or thirtysomething.

But what about other shows that lend themselves to more easily to big-screen or small screen revisitations? How come we haven't seen a new version of Cagney & Lacey? Or L.A. Law? They've been trying to make a Magnum P.I. movie for years and can't seem to crack that particular nut. Ironically, the only good 80s show that did become a feature was Miami Vice, and it was nowhere near as effective as its source, even though the same exact people were responsible.

But the shows that do get snapped up and green lit; Knight Rider, The A-Team, The Dukes of Hazzard, Transformers, G.I. Joe. You go back and watch these shows and they appear to be written by and for the functionally retarded. I know, I know, they were primarily kids shows, but the live-action shows were big hits with adults. Fuck, how does that even happen?

You know what I heard not long ago? They were considering a big-screen version of The Fall Guy. The. Fucking. Fall. Guy.

Hey, if you're going to remake stuff, Hollywood, please start with something good (Wiseguy would fucking rock as an HBO series).

I mean, who knows, an A-Team movie directed by Joe Carnahan and starring Liam Neeson as Hannibal could be incredible, but man, consider the source.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Comic Observations: The Avengers vs. Chip & Dale's Rescue Rangers

In what I'm calling the "Holy Shit!" move of the day, The Walt Disney Company has announced that it has sealed a deal to buy Marvel Entertainment, Inc for $4 billion.

Although Marvel shareholders will have to approve the deal, I'm going to hazard that with them getting paid $30 a share for their stock and getting .745 Disney shares for every Marvel share they own, it's going to go through. It also has to pass an investigation to see if it violates anti-trust laws, but that seems to be a formality more than anything else.

This means that Disney now owns the rights to Marvel's library of over 5,000 characters, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America. Currently, Marvel has three divisions; an licensing arm, a publishing arm and a film production unit. It's unknown what, if any, changes Disney plans to make.

While it may seem as if Disney is gobbling up a smaller company, the Mouse may need Spidey more than you'd think. According to a NY Times article, Disney has been struggling of late, with its profits dropping 26% in the third quarter. Disney's net income in the last year fell from $1.28 billion to $954 million, and revenue dropped 7%.

Marvel, on the other hand, has been in its strongest position in decades, especially considering the company had been mired in bankruptcy, lawsuits and hostile takeovers in the beginning of this decade.

For comics fans, the real concern is what impact this merger will have on the books themselves and any future content. and on that front, opinion is divided. Comic book site Newsarama has run an article with a wide range of opinions from Comic industry insiders, all of who seem to be optimistic, if cautiously so:

"Hard to say how this will shake out, but it could be good for Marvel," said Tony Bedard, who has worked as both an editor and writer in the industry. "Hopefully, Disney recognizes that the current editorial team at Marvel knows what they're doing. With Time/Warner's deep pockets to back it up, DC can develop and nurture lower-selling titles like R.E.B.E.L.S. or Jonah Hex, whereas Marvel has had to watch their bottom line and cut titles a bit more ruthlessly. Perhaps Marvel will now be able to give more projects a fighting chance to find and grow their audience. I'm cautiously optimistic about this.

Comic book writer and teacher Andy Schmidt had this to say:

My first question as a story editor and writer is how will this affect content. And honestly, I doubt it will affect the comics very much at all, which is good. Marvel already has a strict work-for-higher [sic] contract so Disney's treatment of freelancers and their rights can only get better for creators--meaning we may see even better creators working for Marvel in the future. Disney is also well known for letting creative people do their work in a good working environment. Now that I think about it, I really don't see a downside--not that there isn't one, but if Disney's reputation holds true, we're probably gearing up to see some fresh ideas, new creative teams and wider exposure for Marvel's characters in the near future. I hold that change is good and exciting. It forces more creativity in the industry and I hope this will only encourage and challenge all creators and publishers to get out there with fresher and better content.

So, will Mickey Mouse pop up in the X-Men? Will Goofy team up with Spider-Man? Probably not, but I'm estimating we'll see a lot more Marvel rides at Disneyland, and a whole bunch more cartoons. If Disney is smart (and let's face it, they are) they'll largely leave Marvel alone and let them continue to do what they're doing.

But, please give Pixar Fantatic Four. How cool would that be?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

10 Sequels Better Than The Originals (Part 2)

And now, here's the top five of my list of the ten sequels that are better than the originals:

5 – The Road Warrior Mad Max was a very good movie; a brutal, rough and ready action film that broke rules and introduced the world to an Aussie star named Mel Gibson. The first film mainly dealt with the breakdown of a society choking on crime and environmental decay, embodied by the plight and brutal revenge of a cop and family man forced to become more a force of nature in the face of anarchy. The Road Warrior is about the end of the world, where things become completely simplified to focus on pure survival and how, in such circumstances, community becomes precious. With its darker viewpoint and plot and characters stripped down to their absolute, archetypal essences, what you get is perhaps one of the purest action films ever made.

4- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a ponderous and glacial mess, rushed into release before fully completed. It tried to be 2001 in a post Star Wars era. Still, it made a lot of money, somehow. But with the second instalment, they realized that a long episode of the TV show wasn’t going to do. Underrated writer/director Nicolas Meyer worked with producer Harve Bennett to craft an amazingly tight, laser beam focused tale of revenge, obsession, aging and death. The plot, although it’s really only about one man trying to kill another, is expanded upon to reach almost epic dimensions. It’s propelled by the best acting Star Trek ever saw, notably by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Ricardo Montalban. Without this film, which is still the pinnacle of the franchise, the mighty Star Trek empire wouldn’t exist.

3 – The Empire Strikes Back A lot of people will disagree with me on my choice, but I stand by it; Empire is a better movie than Star Wars. You see, Star Wars gets the accolades because it’s the one that changed movies forever. As a phenomenon, it’s second to no other film save perhaps Gone With the Wind. But looking at it as a film, Empire has the superior story, direction and in many cases, effects. It’s just better. The darker atmosphere and more sophisticated script help to generate a very adult feel to the series, one that it would never have ever again. The story opens with the Hoth sequence, which is unbelievably well done, and then splits into two plots, basically. The Luke Skywalker plot, telling the tale of his maturation from naïve farm boy into heroic but neurotic Jedi is wholly engrossing, but the other plot, following the crew aboard the Millennium Falcon and their eventual downfall, is filled with as many great moments, anchored by the romance of Han Solo and Leia. The performances were never better, the scripts were never better, the thrills were never more visceral and complete. It’s the best.

2 – The Dark Knight Batman Begins was a much needed and exceptionally executed reboot of the Batman franchise, but at the end of the day, it was a great super-hero movie. It did have a thematic anchor exploring the nature of fear and how we deal with it, which elevated it slightly, but still, it was basically a great comic book film. The Dark Knight is great film, period. It’s a social commentary on how we, in the modern world, deal with forces of anarchy and points of view that are completely and utterly alien and in opposition to a civilized society. It looks at how we are tempted to abandon all of our better ideals for the illusion of safety and the restoration of normalcy. It looks at what we ask of the people who are called on to deal with the wolves at the gate, and how, too often, we don’t care how they get rid of them. And it does so all within the framework of an adventure story about a vigilante in a bat costume beating up a homicidal clown. Heath Ledger deserved his Oscar, posthumous or not, for a performance that is scary in its brilliance, and the rest of the cast also turn in memorable work. But it’s director Christopher Nolan and his team of writers who pull off the real magic.

1 – The Godfather Part 2 This is another one that people may argue with me about, but give me the story of Michael Corleone’s moral dissolution over the story his absorption into the family business any day. Listen, The Godfather is the more legendary film because it was the first, but Part 2 is the more ambitious and ultimately the richer film in the saga. Pacino is simply stunning as he portrays a man who loses his soul completely in exchange for his twisted desire to keep his family “safe”. This is the film that truly raises The Godfather saga from drama to a Shakespearean commentary on the pursuit of the American dream and the corrosive qualities of ambition and immorality. It’s filled with so many great directorial moments, genius writing and superb performances that suffice to say, it’s one of the best American films ever made.

Hope you all enjoyed it. See here for Part 1.