Friday, April 27, 2012

The Avengers

 'If we can't protect the Earth, you can be damn sure we'll avenge it!'

Let’s face it, The Avengers just had to be good. Because if it didn’t live up to the expectations placed on it, the entire geekdom may just let out a collective sigh of disappointment so massive I’m not sure the universe could take it. 

Okay, I’m exaggerating. Slightly. But we, the geeks, wanted this to kick some serious ass very very badly. We wanted it to swagger into cinemas with the arrogance of Iron Man and obliterate all other comic book flicks with a power akin to a Thor hammer swing or a Hulk smash. We wanted it to…be…really good…like…Captain America? I’m sorry, I don’t have any Cap puns. We wanted to come before our Demigod and Unofficial Elected President of the United Nations of Nerd Sir Joss of Whedon©, get on our scrawny little knees and say ‘You did it. Well done, sir. Well done.’ Quite simply, we wanted this superhero movie, a culmination of several other superhero movies, to be so super-ly super that even the most super-ly elitist Marvel fanboys could put down their comics, venture out of their secret lairs, watch it and say ‘Cross my heart and swear on Stan Lee, that was fucking super.’

Well, let out a sigh, comrades…a sigh of relief, because The Avengers would have to be the super-est mothertrucking superhero film of all time. Of all time! It is a complete triumph for writer/director Whedon, Marvel Studios and the comic book film genre. It’s got your set pieces, your eye-popping effects, your lots of shit blowing up, and everything you want in your big dumb action flicks without being, well, dumb. It’s got your classic good vs. evil, minus the cheese, add additional modern pop culture references (how very Whedon-esque…) It’s got fantastic one-liners and numerous moments of ridiculously good comedic timing, it oozes cool and it is fun, fun, FUN. It’s got everything you want from a superhero movie, all delivered with levels of panache and bravado that make all lesser efforts of the genre look like a daggy Mini, ready to be crushed by this big, brash tricked-out Hummer.

Aside from all the bells and whistles, and supersuits, and submarines, Whedon’s script packs a punch in itself. The plot is basic (as an action plot should be) but well executed and full of wit. Loki has assembled an ugly, intergalactic army to wage war on Earth, and only the uniting of SHIELD’s finest (Black Widow and Hawkeye), a few special, shall we say, ‘independent contractors’ (Iron Man, Cap, and Hulk) and another Asgardian on the side of the good guys (Thor) has any chance of stopping him. Whedon has done a fantastic job to write each character well, staying true to their iconic traits and idiosyncrasies, while also remembering that this is a film about the assembly of a group, and a group of strong personalities and clashing egos at that. These guys are not about to instantly sit down to tea and crumpets together, and many of the film’s best fight scenes (of which there are many, all hard-hitting and wonderfully choreographed) are actually Avenger vs. Avenger. Once the group does band together, all the character setup of the prequel films as well as the first half of this one pays off, as every character has an important role, and the failings of one hero can be balanced out by the strengths of another (Iron Man’s arrogance being tempered by Cap’s practicality and military mindset, Hulk and Thor’s brute strength and rage contrasted by Hawkeye’s clinical calmness).

Having already had a film (or in some cases two) each to get into character, the cast all deliver comfortable and entertaining performances. Two who have grown into their roles particularly well are Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man, who has now set the bar for all smartarse-y wisecracking heroes to come, and Tom Hiddleston as Loki, who is equally adept at mischievous and malevolent, and also put in some fine comedic work and facial expressions as the punchline (or sometimes punching bag) for the heroes. New to the role of Bruce Banner/The Hulk is Mark Ruffalo, who provides the best film incarnation of the character yet, rejuvenating the Hulk from a brooding dullard and a CGI’d joke back to a funny and thouroughly kickass Marvel favourite, who in my cinema got the biggest laughs and the biggest cheers. By the time the film gets to the climactic final battle on the streets of New York City, every character has a special place in the audience’s heart. And what a battle it is. Taking everything big, bold and explosive and amplifying it even more, it is (pardon the use of the ‘S’ word again) a super-sequence of action excellence; a visually jaw-dropping, pulse-quickening thrill ride that gives the film the ending it deserves.

Sequel, please.


Monday, November 7, 2011

True Blood casting news-We'll see Eric's sister in Season 5

It may be over half a year until the fifth season of True Blood hits screens, but production has already recently begun, and with that comes the yearly barrage of new characters and cast members. Causing much excitement and intrigue last week was the news that British actress Lucy Griffiths (also seen in the BBC's television series version of Robin Hood) has been cast as the vampire sibling to...Eric Northman! And by sibling we mean that like Eric, she is a progeny of the sadly departed Godric, and not a sister from his human life. 

In addition to being stunning, the character of Nora is reported as being intelligent and gifted in the art of deceit, which I guess would come in handy if you're a double agent in the Authority, which is apparently what she is. Whether or not that turns out to be true come all the way next June we'll have to see, but the idea of Eric having a sister is a very entertaining prospect, the character sounds interesting and I look forward to seeing Lucy on the show!

Monday, October 31, 2011

American Horror Story begins tomorrow on Eleven

Here's something to tune into tomorrow night if you're in the mood for something different. And by different, I mean unsettling, slightly perverse, scary as shit and completely cuckoo bananas. Truth be told, I have fallen behind on my viewing of AHS (it's four episodes in now) but I did watch the pilot episode and it certainly was all those things and more, and from reviews I've read it's continuing to become even more disturbing and bizarre. 

 So not for the weak of stomach or those seeking a bit of light entertainment! But it's got a cracking cast with dramatic (Nip/Tuck's Dylan McDermott, Friday Night Lights's Connie Britton and Jessica Lange as the seriously evil Constance) and genre cred (True Blood alums Denis O'Hare and Alexandra Breckenridge), and a couple of talented young actors (Taissa Farmiga and Evan Peters). It's also created by the same dudes behind the not-at-all-similar-seriously-are-you serious Glee

Intrigued? The Story begins tomorrow night (Tuesday 11/1) at 9:30 on digital channel Eleven.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Courtney Ford guest stars on Big Bang

You're all already watching The Big Bang Theory, right? a) Because it' a great show and you have excellent taste and were already watching it, or b) I'm such fantastic writer that my inaugural review of last weeks episode converted you into an instant fan. But in case you weren't, I'm gonna give you a little more incentive to in the form of some glorious crossover goodness. Courtney Ford, who has previously been seen as Christine Hill in Dexter and Portia Bellefleur in True Blood (when I said 'crossover goodness' I meant 'has appreared in my other fave shows') is going to be guest starring in this weeks ep as a hot comic book artist and potential romance for Leonard. Comics, Courtney, comedy. Whats not to look forward to?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Supernaturals to scrubs for Alan Ball

HBO hearts Alan Ball. The creator of Six Feet Under and True Blood has been named as the executive producer of the new medical drama series Wichita, based on the life of Dr. George Tiller, a Wichita, Kansas, doctor who was one of the few physicians who provided late-term abortions. Tiller was shot and killed by an anti-abortion activist in 2009. 

Ball inked a multiyear deal with HBO in July and told The Hollywood Reporter at the Television Critics' Association's summer press tour that he had a "couple pilots" in development.
So Alan's going to be a busy beaver for some years to come. Wonder if he'll now hand over the showrunning duties of True Blood to one of the executive producer/writers? Will the show suffer as he divides his attentions, or will a sheriff rise to be King or Queen and shake things up in a good way?

Lou Reed and Metallica collaborate...epic musical fail results

I think everybody needs to have at least a little listen to these snippets of tracks from the upcoming Lou Reed and Metallica collaboration album Lulu (with a title like that was it doomed to be horrendous?), if only to hear just how hilariously bad it is. Can you say musical car crash?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

'Christian Quarterly gave it their highest rating, five thorny crowns.' The Big Bang Theory 5.06

If you haven’t been watching Season Five of The Big Bang Theory (it’s one of the few shows that is fast tracked to Australian commercial television, think it’s only a couple of weeks behind) then do start, because every episode so far has been marvellous.
This week’s ep, the sixth of the season titled ‘The Rhinitis Revelation’ was centred around the visit of Sheldon’s bible-bashing, ultra-conservative, politically incorrect, stereotypically Texas mother. She’s the type of woman who goes on Christian cruises to shoot clay pigeons with sins written on them, calls Asians ‘ching chongs’ and spends her sightseeing time in Hollywood dragging her son’s friends, including a Jew and a Hindu, into various churches. The fact that her character is based on people who really are that closed minded and just don’t realise it’s ass-backwards makes her both deeply cringe-worthy and completely hilarious, especially when you add her super-awkward interactions with the gang and her relationship with Sheldon, who still wants and needs to be coddled by his mommy despite being an arrogant genius. 

 All the episodes that have featured one of the gang’s parents (see Keith Carradine as Penny’s Midwestern man’s man dad in Season Four and any appearance by Leonard’s amazingly blunt psychiatrist mother) have been great, mostly for the same reason. The parent, usually wildly different in opinions and lifestyle to the child, visits Pasadena and spends the whole time humiliating their poor baby with harsh truths about everything from their love life to their infantile obsession with their own genitalia (I’m looking at you, Leonard’s mom) while also making their friends hideously uncomfortable.

The art of sitcoms is taking situations that in the real world would be very unpleasant or even tragic, and somehow making them funny, and Big Bang excels at this. We shouldn’t be laughing at this stuff, but we are. This week Raj has yet another bout of self-pity and borderline alcoholism brought on by chronic loneliness, Sheldon’s mom is so un-PC it hurts, she basically calls Penny a slut, and Sheldon is forced to compete with his friends for his mother’s attention, is robbed of his fried chicken and is forced to endure the absolute of horror of, wait for it: getting around like a common man. A common man! And it’s all comedy gold. Even if the laughing is sometimes a bit painful because it’s done through a cringe at Sheldon’s mom.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Scream Awards 2011

I adore the Scream Awards. This yearly freakfest, put on by American cable TV network Spike TV, is right up my geeky alley with awards dedicated only to sci-fi, horror, fantasy and superheros. And it seems to be getting bigger every year, with this years ceremony (that word really seems far too formal for an event like this) featuring an amazing set made to look like a carnival in the depths of hell, appearances by honorary heroes (and even one bonafide god) of geekdom, and as usual, a few yummy exclusive trailers for upcoming films.

Here are a few of my favourite moments from this years awards.

Robert Downey Jr receives Lifetime Hero Award, gets his own entrance music, and generally has the most awesome award acceptance ever.

RDJ has built some serious geek cred over the last few years with his impeccable portrayal of Sherlock Holmes and of course as Tony Stark, the man in the iron suit. The man is, indeed, a hero. So it's only fitting that he receive the Spike trophy for Lifetime Hero, accept said award by making a rockstar entrance down a massive walkway while fire shoots all over the place, and be sung into the building by evil druids belting out 'I Need A Hero.' I fucking dare somebody to accept an award like this at next years Oscars.

Darth Vader wins Lifetime Villain Award, cracks jokes, is treated like a naughty child by George Lucas

Only one man could be more badass than Lord Vader and put him in his place. Poor Darth. He just wants his trophy.

Peter Dinklage wins Best Supporting Actor, his giant head rises out of water

Unfortunately the only Youtube vid I could find of this is shite quality and has no sound, but the moment is there. When Peter won and was not in attendance I just expected the usual 'We accept this award on his behalf' but this was infinitely better. A giant version of his head on a video screen rose out of the lake that was part of the set, which was just a bit weird at first but then was just all awesome. Technology continues to astound me, that screen actually looks head shaped! Congrats to Game of Thrones for also taking Best TV Show, stiff competition but deserved win. Best show I've watched this year!

Harry Potter wins Ultimate Scream, D-Rad accepts, needs SEPARATE VENUE

No surprise that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 won the Ultimate Scream Award, which is basically the bestest, most rad, most beloved piece of genre entertainment
for the year. But this win, and the the ending of the HP franchise in general, was so huge that Spike gave it it's very own ceremony in New York, where the franchise was honoured in a farewell tribute, SAMUEL L JACKSON presented Daniel Radcliffe with the Spike trophy and thousands of fanatical nerds dressed in Hogwarts robes, Harry specs and one amazing Hagrid costume screamed 'HAVE MY BABIES, DAN.' Tear. May the magic of Harry Potter live forever. They also showed the trailer for Dan's new movie The Woman In Black, which looks delightfully spooky. And he looks so handsome and grown-up!

The Dark Knight Rises wins Most Anticipated Movie, cast appears

So there was no new footage or trailer, which would have made this Batnerd explode with joy into a million fruity pebbles, but still, HOW EFFING EXCITED ARE WE FOR THIS??!! Gary F'n Oldman was there, along with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (incase you haven't yet heard, half the freakin' cast of
Inception is going to be in DKR) and Anne Hathaway. Bring. It. On. Runner up must definitely go to The Avengers whose trailer has been released and looks mighty fine indeed, and an honorable mention to The Hunger Games, something I am also looking forward to very much as the books are excellent.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WWE Raw-17/10/11

-Viva la Mexico! This week’s show is bought to us from Mexico City, which means a hot crowd, Spanish chants, and great signs with phrases that just make sense but also don’t. Question: why no Sin Cara? Either of them?
-Announcers feuding yet again! This time Cole with JR. Yay! Amazing! The last time two announcers feuded with each other was a spectacular success! It was not a waste of television time at all and was a very worthwhile addition to the Wrestlemania card! Oh, and if you think I was being serious just then you’re clearly on crack. End this now, please.
-6-man tag: Orton/Sheamus/JoMo v Henry/Christian/Rhodes. Pre-match Irish folk tale? Not this week. Boo, hiss. I love those stories about goats and green testicles and arses. This would be the first Mark Henry match I haven’t fast-forwarded through in months, and that’s only because there’s so many other people in this match to distract from him. Basically Henry crushes JoMo for an eternity in his usual gorilla style, and wins with the WSS from a mid-air catch.
-Mr John Laurinaitis, Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and Interim General Manager of Monday Night Raw and Official Guinness World Record Holder For The Longest Title Ever must have recently spent some time at the Vincent Kennedy McMahon School of how to be a dirty old ladies man as he lets the Bella Twins hang all over him. Which is totally not another reason to hate him, no, definitely not. D-bag.
-CM Punk v The Miz. Awesome Truth do their ‘You Suck’ musical number as Punk punks (Don’t know what punking is? GTFO of my house) in the ring with this amazing ‘ARE YOU TWO FOR REALS?’ expression on his face. Pucking. Priceless. Trips comes out to watch his partners back. I love saying that. Yeah, you heard me, I love them as a team. Got a problem with that? Mid-match he gets carted out of the arena by immigration officials as Johnny Ace garbles some bullsquirt about paperwork or shit. Then starts texting. DUDE IS ALWAYS TEXTING. Suss or what? An even, attention holding mid-show match, Punk with the win via rollup.

-Vickie G: Didn’t look half bad in that senorita dress! Ziggler: You are a pop culture reference machine and I’m loving your promo work. Swagger: Your singing is even worse then Jillian’s. Remember her? Ryder: Another win for the internet champ, Long Island Iced Z! WWWYKI! Ryder with the win over Swagger in a lickety split via Ruff Ryder.
-Mason Ryan v Ziggler. Good news: Ryan no longer reminds me of Batista. Bad news: He now reminds me of the Whomping Willow from Harry Potter. For those who aren’t Potter-nerds, that’s a giant tree that whacks people. He’s a tree in a Batista costume with a Welsh accent, and he loses via DQ after refusing to stop whomping at the five count.
-JR and Cena in the locker room. No BBQ sauce required on that trash talk from JR, it’s zingy enough as is. Michael Cole is a snivelling…rodent like…SUMBITCH.
-You forgot to add ‘Looks criminally silly in amateur wrestling attire.’ Cena/JR V Del Rio/Cole, winner picks stip for Vengeance. Double dose of stupidity really, with the aforementioned pointlessness of announcers fighting and the fact that they basically gave away the PPV main event for free. But I’m cheap, I’ll take it. Reaction to Cena in Mexico much like reaction to Cena everywhere else: chicks and kids are cheering, dudes and booing. Except judging by volume, pitch and copious signs with love hearts, Mexican chicks have an especially large girl-boner for Cena. They want to have, like, ten thousand of his babies. Horror of horrors, this match is all Cena and ADR. And it’s thoroughly decent stuff. Cena and Good ‘Ol JR get the win via AA on Cole and JR pin.
-Aftermath: THWACK! Would be the sound of steel steps crashing into ADR’S noggin, ONE TWO THREE ETC (Uno, Dos, Tres, what comes next, dammit?) is the sound of Cena counting to ten and LAST MAN STANDING is the stip for the match at Vengeance. Not excited for it.
Next week: Night after Vengeance!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dead Space-The Walking Dead 2.01 'What Lies Ahead'

The pressure was on for The Walking Dead in its second season. Not only is it following a brief (6 episodes) but intense debut run that was both highly acclaimed and successful, but it comes after an ugly battle between showrunner Frank Darabont and the AMC network ended spectacularly with Darabont being fired from the very show he adapted for television. Even in Hollywood, with it’s reputation for fickleness, a creator being booted is kind of a big deal, and there was much anxious speculation from cast, critics and viewers alike on what kind of an impact Darabont’s departure would have on the series.

But it appears, in the eyes of this fan anyway, that the show is safe in the hands of promoted producer Glen Mazzara, as the season premiere, ‘What Lies Ahead’, delivered everything that made Season One’s best bits so good: terror, suspense, drama and of course buckets of gore; and also seemed to really grow into the slow-burn-followed-by-an-explosion pace style that sometimes missed the mark last year. Actually, perhaps the slow-burn parts are working too well, because after the obligatory catch up and setting the scene, things move along quite slowly indeed as the group move out of Atlanta towards Fort Benning. But it turns this was all just to lull us into a false sense of security (which I should have realised) as just as I was about to say to myself ‘Maybe I got a little bit too excited for this’, the undead bodies hit the fan and shit gets serious.

The episode revolved around the search for Sophia (Carol’s young daughter, who was chased from the group and lost) with a couple of hold-your-breath suspenseful near misses with the unfriendly neighbourhood zombies to fill out the action. The first appearance of a large group of Walkers is the first of these moments, as what becomes known as a ‘herd’ (c’mon, everybody knows the collective noun for zombies is a ‘shuffle’) close in on the group. Everybody scuttles under the cars for safety, except T-Dog, who is bleeding all over the place after cutting his arm, and Andrea, who is cleaning her gun inside the caravan and it is totally oblivious to what’s going on inside. Y’know how in Zombieland they always had those rules for survival popping up? Well, right then would have been a good time for ‘Rule 27: It’s never a good time to clean your gun’ to pop up. The whole sequence is edgy, scary as shit and really awesome. Daryl saves T-Dog with his trusty crossbow and covers them with dead bodies to avoid detection (a much less disgusting version of the stomach-churning guts bit from last season), Andrea saves herself with a screwdriver slipped to her by Dale, and all the under-car dwellers think the coast is clear, which it is until Sophia gets chased away by a couple of extra slow zombies at the tail end of the herd. Lull = officially over. Andrea actually wanted to die back in the CDC when it was blown up anyway and now resents Dale for taking away her choice to do that, so now we have Andrea and Dale conflict in addition to the Lori and Shane conflict. Oh, and Shane wants to leave, and now Andrea wants to leave with him.

Events along the way in the hunt for the missing child range from the icky (cutting open the body of a Walker and sifting through the innards to find out what it’s last meal was) to funny in a creepy way (a bunch of zombs in church, still sitting on the pews, all turning around in unison as the group enter.) And about that church: is absolutely every show right now doing some sort of storyline with religious overtones? Sure seems that way to me. Rick gives a guilty glance at JC on the cross as he’s braining a Walker, and both he and Carol get big prayer monologues. I’ll accept it, since it is Georgia and there probably would realistically be a Southern Baptist Church anywhere you wander.

The ep has an extremely shocking ending SPOILER ALERT as Carl (he’s Rick and Lori’s young son) is shot as he’s approaching a deer in the forest. How’s that for a massive ending to a premiere! After a teaser for what’s to come (which looks incredible), it’s all over, leaving me stunned but excited for future episodes of zombie drama (zombrama?) goodness.

Kill of the Week:
Rick caving in a face with a big-ass rock.