November 29, 2013

Make Mine Music (1946)

In 1946 Walt Disney released its eighth full-length animated feature, the portanteau film (portmanteau meaning it's assembled from a group of short films rather than comprising a single narrative all of its own) Make Mine Music. It followed in the footsteps of Fantasia in that, for the most part, it comprises musical sequences with animation. In the case of Make Mine Music, however, the musical segments were contemporary in nature. A string of popular singers and performers contributed to the soundtrack, including Nelson Eddy, the Andrews Sisters, Benny Goodman and Dinah Shore.

These kinds of portmanteau pictures were very popular within the Walt Disney Company: many of the studio's best animators and artists were fighting in World War II, and to keep the business ticking over it was easy to task the remaining talent with creating several short pieces than having them collaborate on a single feature-length film. The last proper animated feature released had been Bambi in 1942. The studio had already received federal funding to produce Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, and Make Mine Music would be followed by Fun and Fancy Free, Melody Time and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad. It wouldn't be until 1950 that Disney would produce another full feature: Cinderella. Until then, portmanteau films was all audiences would get.

Make Mine Music has the odd distinction of being the only one out of 52 Walt Disney animated films to never receive a home video release in Australia. As a result, this is the first time I've seen the whole movie. I was very keen to find out what it was like.

November 28, 2013

Doctor Who: "The Dead Planet"

The TARDIS materialises in a massive petrified forest, where some cataclysmic event has turned all of the plants to stone. The Doctor and his companions also spot a deserted alien city in the difference: the Doctor wants to explore, but Ian and Barbara insist he returns with them to the TARDIS and take them back to 1963. The Doctor, however, is not beyond a bit of deception to get what he wants - a decision he may come to regret.

"The Dead Planet" is, of course, almost as famous an episode of Doctor Who as "An Unearthly Child", because it's the first episode of the first Dalek serial. Truth be told the only thing we see of the Daleks in this episode is a rubber plunger on a stick during the cliffhanger. This is still the beginning of Doctor Who's first great change though: the BBC's Head of Drama Sydney Newman was very specific when he devised the series that it wouldn't contain 'robots' or 'bug-eyed monsters'. The Daleks are, of course, a cross between the two: bug-eyed monsters hiding inside robots. Whatever series was supposed to be created, those plans pretty much got radically altered from here-on-in.

Babylon 5: "Dust to Dust"

Bester, everybody's favourite Psicop, returns to Babylon 5 to put a stop to the trade in "dust", a dangerous and illegal narcotic that boosts the latent telepathic powers of ordinary humans. Some of the dust has found its way into the hands of G'Kar, who uses it to enact revenge on Londo Mollari.

Alfred Bester, played by Star Trek veteran Walter Koenig, has made quite a few trips to Babylon 5 now. This episode features Koenig's best performance yet, and also I think the best material he's been given. He's funny, deliberately provocative and wonderfully entertaining. It would be easy to consider him a straight-up bad guy, but this episode demonstrates that he's not quite as clear-cut as that. It's not that he's evil, or amoral - he basically works along a different type of morality to the station's primary crew. So first and foremost I liked this episode because Bester was written and performed in such an entertaining fashion.

November 27, 2013

An Adventure in Space and Time (2013)

While the majority of Doctor Who fans eagerly awaited the broadcast of "The Day of the Doctor", some of us were actually anticipating a very different production. An Adventure in Space and Time, written by Mark Gatiss, recounts the origins of Doctor Who itself. It is a biopic, or a docudrama, whatever term you prefer I suppose, and tells the story of several disparate creatives coming together in 1963 to make a science fiction serial for the BBC.

I've always felt that the early days of Doctor Who would make great material for a film of some kind, mainly because the key players were such interesting people. You had Sydney Newman, an abrasive Canadian recently installed as Head of Drama for the BBC and upsetting the establishment with his brash North American ways (not to mention he'd just finished up at ITV - commercial television). Newman has a basic idea for a time-travelling science fiction series, and to bring it to fruition he hires his former production assistant Verity Lambert as producer. This act made Lambert the first female television producer in history, and she in turn hired Waris Hussein as director - the BBC's first Indian director - and character actor William Hartnell as the star.

November 26, 2013

Doctor Who: "The Day of the Doctor"

Underneath London's National Portrait Gallery the Doctor and Clara investigate a mystery by the invitation of Elizabeth I. More than 400 years ago another Doctor fights to defend the same Elizabeth I from an alien invasion. And on the final day of the Time War, yet another Doctor prepares to active the ultimate weapon and wipe out the Daleks and the Time Lords forever.

"The Day of the Doctor" is the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special. For the 10th anniversary (well, actually the ninth, but that's complicated) the production team produced "The Three Doctors", bringing back William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton alongside Jon Pertwee to fight Omega - an ancient Gallifreyan menace. For the 20th anniversary they produced "The Five Doctors", a special 90 minute special bringing back five Doctors (sort of - again, it's complicated) in an adventure against more evil Gallifreyans. The series was off the air for the 30th and 40th anniversaries, so "The Day of the Doctor" is the series' first proper anniversary special in 30 years. No pressure.

November 24, 2013

The Pull List: 20 November 2013

It's been the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who this week (more on that in the next few posts), and that makes it the perfect time for IDW to publish the final instalment of their 12-issue maxi-series Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time. It's time for celebrations, and as they've lost the license to produce Doctor Who comic books, it acts very much as the climax of their six-year run as well.


This issue, I swear - it's like a how-to manual on writing the most trite and unreadable Doctor Who 50th anniversary story you'll ever read. Squeezed into 20-odd pages are 11 Doctors, all of their companions, an army of Autons, the Anthony Ainley Master and a middle-aged Adam Mitchell from "Dalek" and "The Long Game". Quite why the Tiptons thought that Doctor Who needed to be celebrated by 11 character actors having a mass fistfight with some Autons is beyond me - all I know is that this is very possibly the worst single issue of a comic I've read this year. In case anyone from IDW is reading this: this sort of comic is why you're not allowed to publish Doctor Who any more. (0/5)
IDW. Written by Scott and David Tipton. Art by Kelly Yates.
Under the cut: reviews of Batman and Two-Face, Batwing, Daredevil, Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, The Wake, Wonder Woman, Worlds' Finest, X-Men Legacy and Young Avengers.

November 22, 2013

Doctor Who: "The Firemaker"

Things reach their violent conclusion in "The Firemaker" as the Doctor and his companions are returned to the Cave of Skulls to make fire, and Kal and Za have their final showdown for the leadership of the tribe.

To be honest it's all a little underwhelming. There's something very off about the pacing of this episode, and it's interfering with the dramatic tension. I think part of the problem is the tribe: for the first three episodes of the series the focus has entirely been on the experience of the four TARDIS travellers. Now that we're getting a resolution to Kal and Za's power games, it becomes suddenly apparent that Kal, Za and Hur are the only actual characters in the tribe; we did also have Old Mother, but she died last week. The rest of the tribe are extras, and to be honest they act like it: a lot of them look quite bored. Kal and Za have a well choreographed final battle (including the second on-screen death, if we're keeping count), but it's in the Cave of Skulls and the only witnesses are the Doctor and his companions - and bizarrely they just stand there and watch when it would have been a lot more sensible to just leg it and get back to the TARDIS.

November 21, 2013

Doctor Who: "The Forest of Fear"

In "The Forest of Fear", the Doctor and his companions are freed from the Cave of Skulls by Old Mother - who fears the violence that will result when the tribe rediscovers how to make fire. They are pursued into the nearby forest by Za and Hur, who hope to force the Doctor to reveal the secret of fire to them. Meanwhile Kal continues to harden his support within the tribe.

There's a greater sense of urgency about "The Forest of Fear" that pushes it beyond the level that "The Cave of Skulls" had reached. The TARDIS team all get the opportunity to show their characters a bit more broadly, and certainly this episode ups the conflict between them. The Doctor wants nothing more than to escape to his TARDIS, and when Za is badly wounded in the forest it's Barbara who acts as the team's moral centre and insists they abandon escape to administer first aid to him.

Babylon 5: "Voices of Authority"

Ivanova is dispatched on the White Star to make contact with one of the galaxy's oldest and most powerful species, in order to get their assistance before the Shadow War begins. The Earthforce government dispatches a new political officer to advise an unwilling Captain Sheridan. Security officer Zack Allen faces a crisis of loyalty when he's caught between his superior officers and the demands of the Night Watch.

I really don't know what to make of "Voices of Authority". Bits of the episode work very well. Other bits work very badly. It certainly has some cringe-inducing attempts at comedy that are well out of date - even for a series that's 20 years old. In the end it feels like an episode that I simply found annoying, but which I somehow wanted to enjoy.

November 20, 2013

Doctor Who: "The Cave of Skulls"

The TARDIS has materialised in prehistoric Earth. While Ian and Barbara struggle to come to terms with the journey they have undertaken, the Doctor heads off on his own to take rock samples and measure the surrounding radioactivity. He is soon kidnapped by the caveman Kal, who aims to force the Doctor to create fire and grant him supremacy over his tribal leader Za.

In retrospect it seems an odd choice to make the first adventure of Doctor Who about cavemen trying to make fire, when it could easily have been an adventure on another planet or a fight with the Daleks or somesuch. To think this, however, is to forget that this is not Doctor Who as we know it yet. The rules are still being made up as the series goes along. Instead we get something much starker and more adult. Ian and Barbara don't take TARDIS travel in their stride: they are overwhelmed, confused and visibly terrified. When the Doctor is kidnapped and threatened by a tribe of cavemen, he doesn't fob them off with a trick or a witty line of dialogue: instead he's a terrified old man who visibly believes he's about to get murdered by a screaming pack of savages wielding stone axes. When Susan realises the Doctor has gone missing she goes into a full-blown screaming panic. This is early Doctor Who. There are no rules, and we - and the Doctor - must slowly find the series together.

Dredd (2012)

In Gareth Huw Evans' 2011 action film The Raid, a rookie SWAT officer joins a police team on a dawn raid on a decrepit Jakarta apartment block. The entire block is controlled by a drug kingpin and filled with his mercenaries, dealers and criminal associates. A few stories up and the SWAT team is rumbled, leading to an action-packed journey to the top of the building, to eliminate the crime boss and get out alive.

Now in Pete Travis' 2012 science fiction film Dredd, a rookie "Judge" (basically a police officer who also sentences criminals at their point of arrest) joins the legendary Judge Dredd in investigating a triple homicide in a decrepit Megacity One apartment block. The entire block is controlled by a drug kingpin and filled with her mercenaries, dealers and criminal associates. A few stories up and the Judges are rumbled, leading to an action-packed journey to the top of the building, to eliminate the crime boss and get out alive.

Pete Travis and DNA films must have been horrified when they saw or heard about The Raid. Both films were developed independently, each without knowledge of the other, and shot at opposite ends of the planet (The Raid in Indonesia, Dredd in South Africa). Of course Dredd had the higher budget, and some pretty extensive visual effects work required, so The Raid managed to sneak in, get all the attention and critical acclaim, and leave Dredd looking like a slightly less edgy, slightly less interesting version of the same story.

November 19, 2013

Doctor Who: "An Unearthly Child"

I spend about half my time on this blog reviewing individual episodes of science fiction TV, and this week it's the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, so I figured it might be appropriate to review the very first Doctor Who serial ever made. Internal BBC documents from 1963 suggest the serial was titled "100,000 BC", but pretty much everybody refers to it by the title of its first episode: "An Unearthly Child".

In an inner city London school, two teachers - science teacher Ian Chesterton and history teacher Barbara Wright - are concerned about one of their pupils, the mysterious Susan Foreman. She appears to be a mathematical genius, but then struggles with the simplest of problems. Her understanding of history appears to be skewed and bizarre. When they follow her home, they stumble into what seems to be an ordinary police box. Inside it turns out to be a massive alien time-space vehicle, owned and operated by Susan's equally mysterious grandfather: the Doctor.

November 18, 2013

Star Trek Enterprise: "Exile"

T'Pol works out that there is another alien sphere nearby, contributing to further spacial distortions in the expanse. While the Enterprise amends its course to investigate the new sphere, Hoshi begins to receive psychic messages from a mysterious intelligence on a nearby planet. The alien claims that he can help the Enterprise find the Xindi - but the information will come at a price.

Last week Enterprise adapted a zombie movie to science fiction; this week it adapts Beauty and the Beast, stranding Hoshi on a desolate planet with an alien desperate to make her his permanent companion. They don't try to mask the influence: the alien is visually grotesque, and he lives in an honest-to-god castle. It's a very old-fashioned kind of Star Trek episode. It wouldn't feel out of place if it was The Next Generation's Deanna Troi in the castle. Hell, it wouldn't feel out of place if it was Kirk and Spock down there.

November 16, 2013

The Pull List: 13 November 2013

Marvel have released their solicitations for February 2014, and it reveals a bunch of surprising relaunches. They're not surprising in the sense of "series X is ending?", more a surprise that "series X is ending already?". The month sees the publication of Wolverine #1 (the previous volume, ending in January, ran for only 13 issues), Fantastic Four #1 (last volume? 16 issues), The Punisher #1 (it previously ran for 16 issues), X-Force (17 issues), She-Hulk #1 (38 issues, but to be fair that was back in 2009) plus a miniseries for The Winter Soldier (last monthly series ended in August after 19 issues), and fresh launches of New Warriors, Ms Marvel and Loki: Agent of Asgard.

It used to be that the longevity of a comic series was a badge of honour, and a sign of a long-running and healthy title. In today's comics market it's a significant drag, as books launch huge and then haemorrhage readers for the next 12-24 months. Five years ago the three highest-numbered titles were Action Comics #871, Detective Comics #850 and Superman #268. By October 2013, the three highest-numbered issues were Archie #649, Betty and Veronica #268 and Sonic the Hedgehog #254. Marvel and DC have abandoned long runs in favour of short-term gains.

Considering the gains, it's difficult to fault them for this decision: it does lead me to one conclusion, though. Is there actually a market for ongoing titles any more? What we're probably looking at in the next few years is less regular series and more miniseries masquerading as monthlies. There's no reason in the current context for a superhero book to run more than 12 issues before it gets relaunched and renumbered. We might miss the high numbers on some of our favourite books, but I'm not sure there's a compelling reason for them to ever come back.

Under the cut: a big week, with reviews of All-New X-Men, Batgirl, Batman, Cataclysm: Ultimate Spider-Man, Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time, FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics, Katana, Manhattan Projects, Manifest Destiny, Star Wars, Three and Umbral. I still don't have copies of Worlds' Finest, Thor: God of Thunder or last week's Batwing, but will endeavour to review them at some point soon.

November 15, 2013

Quick (2011)

Former bike gang leader Han Ki-Su (Lee Min-ki) works as a motorcycle courier. One day, when unwillingly hired to escort his ex-girlfriend Chun-shim (Kang Ye-won) to a pop concert in which she is performing, he finds himself the unwilling accomplice of a mysterious figure who forces Ki-Su to deliver one bomb after another with the police in hot pursuit.

Quick was a smash hit in South Korea back in 2011, and thanks to Madman Entertainment it is now available on DVD in Australia. It's a very silly film: high on melodrama, over-the-top explosions and exaggerated performances. How much you enjoy the film likely depends on how you enjoy this sort of South Korean entertainment. It's a film culture that's very distinct, and often difficult for uninitiated viewers to digest.

For my part the film doesn't succeed. This is largely because it's just a bit too silly for me to take seriously, it's more than a little unfocused, and it has some fairly dubious gender politics at work.

November 14, 2013

Babylon 5: "Passing Through Gethsemane"

In "Passing Through Gethsemane", Lyta Alexander returns from Vorlon space to work for Ambassador Kosh, sparking suspicions among the station staff. Meanwhile one of Brother Theo's monks struggles with hallucinations and forgotten memories, leading him to discover a shocking secret about his life before the brotherhood.

J. Michael Straczynski has referred to this episode as his "Twilight Zone" script, and it's not difficult to see why: like a good episode of The Twilight Zone, "Passing Through Gethsemane" presents us with a simple but effective core concept and a very neat little kicker at the end. The episode is also notable for its relatively high profile guest star (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest's Brad Dourif), and for reintroducing Lyta Alexander (Patricia Tallman) to the series. This is an episode with good elements and bad, so let's talk about one and then the other.

November 13, 2013

Star Trek Enterprise: "Impulse"

While the Enterprise continues to search the Delphic Expanse for the Xindi, the crew receive an automated distress call from a lost Vulcan science ship. Archer leads an away mission into a hazardous asteroid belt to search for survivors - only to find himself trapped on the decaying Vulcan ship and on the run from it's insane and murderous crew. Time is running out, because whatever is affected the Vulcans has started to affect T'Pol as well.

At last a half-decent episode. "Impulse" is a zombie thriller masquerading as an episode of Star Trek, with the requisite small band of survivors fighting their way out of a lurching mob of rotting, mindlessly angry enemies. Of course in this case the survivors are Captain Archer and his away team, and the zombies are the insane crew of a Vulcan exploratory vessel, but basically the same tropes work regardless.

Silent Hill: Revelations (2012)

Silent Hill was an inventive and engaging horror videogame released for the Sony PlayStation in 1999. It was a commercial hit, and led to eight sequels (to date). It also led to Silent Hill, a 2006 feature film helmed by French director Cristophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf). The film did a fantastic job of replicating the game's iconic creepy visuals, but struggled somewhat in terms of its screenplay. It worked, but only partially, and wound up suggesting a great movie rather than actually being one.

Silent Hill the film was not a massive hit in cinemas, so it was quite surprising to see a sequel turn up last year: Silent Hill: Revelations. It included some of the cast of the first film, including Sean Bean, but had a new writer/director named Michael J. Bassett. I quite liked some of Bassett's earlier work, including the low-budget horror Deathwatch (2002) and his underrated Robert E. Howard adaptation Solomon Kane (2009). He seemed a reasonable fit for the material, and I found myself quite eager to check the film out whenever I got the chance.

November 12, 2013

Star Trek Enterprise: "Rajin"

Captain Archer heads to an alien marketplace in an attempt to uncover more knowledge about the elusive Xindi. There he rescues a runaway slave girl - only to discover that she may be more of a danger to his crew than he thought.

I honestly don't know what happened in the three month break between Enterprise's second and third seasons. For the first two seasons I was quite surprised at how entertaining the series was, and was reevaluating my harsh criticisms of it when it first aired on television. Now I'm up to Season 3, and its year-long story arc of hunting down the Xindi before they destroy the Earth, and the script quality has gone out of the window. The heart is gone, and it's really becoming a chore to watch.

Warm Bodies (2013)

R hangs out at the airport. He doesn't do too much, and just wanders around the terminal each day. He does have a friend, but they don't talk much. He doesn't wash, he doesn't really change his clothes, and his hair is a mess. He can't even remember his own name. This is because R is a zombie, and he's the star of a fairly unexpected teenage romance.

Warm Bodies is the latest addition to one of cinema's more unusual genres, the zombie comedy. Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland were both fantastic films, depicting romantic comedy within the framework of a zombie-infested apocalypse. Warm Bodies takes the idea one step further by making one of the two romantic partners a zombie. It's one of those ideas that sounds like it's either going to be really, really stupid, or really, really gross. Instead it winds up being only moderately stupid, but also incredibly funny, and it manages to be mildly gross, but also incredibly funny. I really enjoyed this film. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but what I got entertained the hell out of me.

November 11, 2013

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

I absolutely loved Thor, Kenneth Branagh's 2011 fantasy adventure film that introduced the Marvel Universe's heroic God of Thunder to the big screen. While the film wasn't to everybody's tastes, I adored the rich theatrical tone, the larger-than-life characters and the wonderful seam of humour laced through it. The film was also a crucial step in developing Marvel's massive 2012 hit The Avengers, since it also introduced that film's immensely popular villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

This sequel, directed by Game of Thrones' Alan Taylor and reuniting Hiddleston's Loki with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Jane (Natalie Portman) and Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), is a slightly different take on the franchise, but it's still over-the-top, rich in colour and enthusiasm and retains that essential element of fun that made the original work for me so well.

The Dark World sees the Dark Elves, led by the villainous Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston), lay siege to Asgard as a conjunction of the 'nine realms' allows them to enact a plan to destroy the universe and replace it with their own. Nothing like aiming big for your sequels. Thor saw the titular god fighting to save Asgard. The Avengers had him help save the Earth. Now he's tasked with saving the universe. No pressure.

The Pull List: 6 November 2013

This month a number of DC titles are tying into the Batman "Zero Year" arc, showing what their title characters were doing when the Riddler shut down Gotham's power on the eve of a massive hurricane hitting the Eastern Seaboard. It's an odd choice of crossover, I think mainly because we're only 14 months past all of the zero issues where this sort of thing was already done. It's also odd because, on the basis of this week's issues, they're doing a much better job of it this time around.

This issue sees a young, brash Superman trying to use his powers to stop the hurricane, and learning a valuable lesson in humility in the process. I love the t-shirt-wearing young Superman developed by Grant Morrison and quite frankly I'd read an entire monthly series out of his adventures. Greg Pak has written a sensational script here (he's the new regular writer), and after dropping this book for the past few months I think it's safe to say I'm firmly on board again. (5/5)

DC Comics. Written by Greg Pak. Art by Aaron Kuder and Scott McDaniel.

Under the cut: reviews of Daredevil: Dark Nights, Detective Comics, Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time, Drumhellar, Forever Evil, The Movement, Stormwatch, Trillium and X-Men Legacy.

November 7, 2013

Babylon 5: "A Day in the Strife"

In the third episode of Babylon 5's third season: an alien probe threatens to destroy the station, G'Kar struggles to control the Narn community when his Centauri-appointed replacement arrives, Londo finds Vir a new role to perform, and Garibaldi challenges Dr Franklin about his growing stim addiction. Before anything else, it's important to mention that this episode has a horrible pun in its title.

It's easy to notice a general trend in Babylon 5: the storylines based around the humans are generally trite and unconvincing, while the storylines based around the non-humans are generally intriguing and dramatic. I'm trying to work out why that is. Are the actors (Mira Furlan, Peter Jurasik, Andreas Katsulas, et al) simply better performers? Does Straczynski simply write them more effectively? Or is it something so simple as the weird alien makeup making simplistic characterisation and stereotypical plots seem fresher and more interesting? I'm not certain of the reason, but what I do know is that in this episode - as in many others - the episode drags when it's focused on the humans and it sings when it's focused on the alien ambassadors.

The Last Exorcism: Part II (2013)

I should probably admit from the outset that I am an absolute sucker for movies about demonic possession and exorcists. Whether it's The Exorcist, or The Exorcist of Emily Rose, or indeed The Last Exorcism, there's something about the blend of drama, horror and Christian theology that is very addictive. It seems to generate atmosphere, tension and drama.

I really enjoyed The Last Exorcism, a faux documentary-come-found footage thriller in which a disillusioned Catholic priest brings a camera crew along to expose the rites of exorcism as fake - only to find himself having to conduct a real one. Some of the film didn't work, particularly in its conclusion, but overall it was a nicely entertaining and regularly scary little horror movie. It was also a pretty healthy box office hit, leading inevitably to a sequel: The Last Exorcism: Part II.

Of course that's a hilariously stupid title, but then it probably sits quite well in a genre where Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was the fourth of ten films. As for the film itself? It's probably not a surprise to say that it's nowhere near as good as The Last Exorcism. I'm not sure it's even as good as Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.

November 6, 2013

The Pull List: 30 October 2013

American comic books work to a four-week schedule. This means that any month that has five Wednesdays will inevitably wind up without the usual pile of regular superhero comics flooding the shelves. The highest-profile release this was almost certainly Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III's The Sandman Overture, the first of six issues telling the back story that leads up to The Sandman's debut issue way back in January 1989.

I didn't wind up buying The Sandman Overture: a combination of a higher cover price (US$4.99) and an unconvincing quick flick through scared me away. It certainly looks gorgeous, but it also looks uncharacteristically wordy - as if Gaiman has forgotten how to writer comic books and instead delivered a sort of illustrated novel with occasional bits of dialogue. I also dislike prequels on principle. I read The Sandman's original storyline, and never once felt a burning need to know what happened to its titular immortal to place him the unfortunate position in which we first meet him. Some stories are better left unknown: a fact Star Wars fans learned to their despair in 1999.

Even with the reduced number of books, there were still quite a few things I found to purchase. Under the cut: reviews of Saga, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Thor: Crown of Fools, True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, Wild Blue Yonder and X-Men: Battle of the Atom. Apologies for the delay in posting this edition of the Pull List: a statewide delay saw all of Melbourne's comics arrive two days later than expected.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Five American college students drive out to an isolated forest cabin for the weekend - only to find themselves hunted down by the undead family that lived in the cabin a century earlier. As they run for their lives, they begin to realise something more disturbing is at work: the entire situation has been artificially stage-managed by a team of technicians from an underground facility beneath them.

The Cabin in the Woods was, by their own admission, written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard in three days. It shows. It's a film with a fairly neat central concept, and a bug-eyed over-the-top climax, but which flounders for more than an hour before reaching the fun bits. It's a dreadful case of a nice idea being ruined by a sloppy execution. Elements that should be jaw-dropping twists are openly revealed much too early, and weak characterisation makes key plot developments murky and ineffective. The writers are clearly more in love with some of the characters than they are with a tight narrative, which is pretty much the kiss of death for a horror movie.

November 4, 2013

AKB0048 #4: "Your Efforts Aren't in Vain"

It's been quite a while since my last review of this anime, so let's briefly recap: AKB0048 is a Japanese animated series based on the hugely popular and massive commercial pop outfit AKB48. I watched the first episode anticipated (indeed somewhat desiring) an enormous train wreck, and instead discovering a ridiculously silly and charming science fiction drama about pop music, interplanetary rebellions, alien creatures, ancient prophecies, lightsabers, robot suits and dance. Episode #4, "Your Efforts Aren't in Vain", settles down a lot from the crazier first three episodes, but it's still unexpectedly enjoyable stuff.

Now that they have arrived on the planet Akibastar, the new AKB0048 recruits settle into their new accommodation and begin training as singers and dancers. For young Sonata it's a chance to reunite with her older sister Kanata, although her joy at seeing her is not reciprocated.

Star Trek Voyager: "The 37s"

When the Voyager investigates an automatic distress beacon, they discover an early 20th century truck floating in space - and a nearby planet where a group of abducted humans have been cryogenically frozen for several hundred years. For Captain Janeway it's an opportunity to meet one of her idols face-to-face, but for these abducted and displaced humans there's a bigger problem. Do they stay in the Delta Quadrant or join the Voyager on its journey back to Earth?

I've been reviewing episodes of Enterprise and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and the other night - pretty much on a whim - I watched an episode of the series that came between them: Star Trek: Voyager. I'm actually pretty fond of Voyager. It's probably the most superficial and breezy Star Trek series, but it's amiable fun and when it works well it's pretty entertaining stuff. "The 37s", the first episode of Voyager's second season, does not work well. It does not work well at all.

November 1, 2013

Popular Posts: October 2013

Illness along with interstate travel saw the number of new posts on The Angriest decline a bit in October, so it's no surprise that three of the five most popular posts this month were from earlier times. It's also not a surprise, given the impending anniversary, that three of the five most popular posts were about Doctor Who.
  • Fun with Stats: Who's the longest-running Doctor? (link)
  • Fun with Stats: Doctor Who viewing figures (link)
  • The Lone Ranger (2013) (link)
  • Animated women: Frozen in context (link)
  • Who50 #3: "The Curse of Fenric" (link)
As for the most popular posts published in October, the top five are:
  • The Lone Ranger (2013) (link)
  • Who50 #3: "The Curse of Fenric" (link)
  • The Pull List: 16 October 2013 (link)
  • Who50 #4: "The Aztecs" (link)
  • Game of Thrones: "The Ghost of Harrenhal" (link)

Ghostbusters (1984)

For a while now I've been toying with the idea of the "perfect" film. There are films that I like, but which I will also openly admit are not actually very good on a semi-objective level. There are other films that I really like, but which are critically flawed and suffer problems that the better aspects manage to overcome. Then I've been thinking about the "perfect" films: they are structurally and technically flawless, and run across the screen like a well-oiled machine. An example of the first kind of film might be, say, Masters of the Universe, which I've loved since childhood but which is a messy live-action adaptation of a toy-based cartoon. An example of the second kind of film might be Alien 3, which is a glorious and mournful masterpiece almost crippled by studio interference. A good example of the third kind, the "perfect" kind, is Ghostbusters.

This comedy horror film, released in 1984 to great commercial success, simply doesn't put a foot wrong. The funny bits are funny. Every character is distinctive and entertaining. The horror elements provide a good number of high-quality scares. Most importantly the narrative is whip-smart and cleanly structured. There may be better films in existence, but I have no problem describing Ghostbusters as perfect: perfect in construction, and perfect in execution.