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Guest Post: Daniel Court on Wonder Woman.

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This review will contain minor spoilers.

Wonder Woman is the exception to the rule. It’s a female led superhero film (the first since Elektra and Catwoman, both films best forgotten), it has a female director (Patty Jenkins who was for a time going to direct Thor: The Dark World), it’s the first live action Wonder Woman movie ever (not to dismiss the sterling animated film with Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion) and finally it’s the first DCEU movie made since Geoff John’s became the head of DC Films.

And it’s exceptional. Triumphant. Wonderful. A film that can proudly stand alongside Richard Donner & Christopher Reeves’ original Superman in 1978, Christopher Nolan & Christian Bale’s Batman Begins in 2005, Sam Raimi & Tobey Maguire’s Spider-man in 2002 and Joe Johnson & Chris Evans’ Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011.

Patty Jenkins proves to be an inspired choice to direct this inspiring superhero film. Most origin stories have limitations in place – you need to first and foremost introduce the character, their background/abilities and universe that is going to be explored (hopefully) in future films.

One of the most obvious and clever changes is shifting the time period from World War II (which avoids a certain star-spangled Avenger’s origins time period) to World War I. World War II was morally a much easier sell than World War I. World War II has the Nazis and a clear evil that needs to be stopped. World War I was death and destruction like the world had never seen for no clear reason. Nations with treaties with nations going to war over the assassination of the Archduke of Austria-Hungary.

Jenkins uses the changed timeframe to reframe the usual allegory on heroism (and man’s inhumanity to man) found in superhero films (or war films for that matter) to great effect. As a result of this key change Jenkins is able to move the film along at a brisk pace without any awkward pacing one tends to find in origin stories while established the heroes journey. The pathos between the characters (helped by the genuine chemistry between the cast especially lead Gal Gadot and Chris Pine) grounds the movie that has genuine stakes and emotional beats that resonate.

No scene better exemplifies that the film is more than the sum of its impressive parts is the ‘No Man’s Land’ sequence as featured heavily in the marketing. When Diana chooses to take a stand, and emerge from the trenches and cross no man’s land is transcendent moment in the film and for the genre. This sequence is everything you want from a superhero film – a superbly staged, shot and edited action sequence that marks a key point in the evolution of Wonder Woman that resonates throughout the remainder of the film. This scene recalls the moment in the 1978 Superman film when Clark Kent changes into Superman for the first time and saves Lois from the helicopter crash.

Wonder Woman is a film with heart that is essentially a character focused film first and an action film second. The action beats, while superb, are all used to either progress the story or the characters.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman has made a debut on par with Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Reeves as Superman, Evans as Captain America or Robert Downey Jnr as Iron Man. She is wonderful in every sense of the world. Gadot’s Diana is brave, naïve, self-possessed and empathetic while possessing a physicality that is appropriate for the character. By placing Gadot’s Wonder Woman in World War I, one of the most utterly bloody and senseless conflicts in human history, Jenkin’s is able to put Diana’s morally pure and empathetic character in a war without sense and previously unimaginable horrors.

Chris Pine as Steve Trevor is more than capable support for Gadot without ever attempting to overshadow Wonder Woman in her own movie. Pine, a leading man in his own right, plays Steve without the brashness of his Captain James T Kirk and with a depth that was frankly surprising. Pine deliberately underplays many of his scenes presenting his Steve as a rogue who is none the less compelled to do what is morally right. The relationship between Diana and Steve is handled exceptionally well – the two actors have excellent chemistry while the film offers a mature and touching relationship between them.

Is the film perfect? No. The finale of the film is a CGI battle that, while well staged, feels somewhat disappointing by failing to live up to the high standards of the film that preceded it. That said the finale doesn’t feel out of place like the finale of The Wolverine (another film that faltered at the end) but more akin to Batman Begins with a conventional finale to an unconventional film. Wonder Woman’s finale is well put together and contains some truly exceptional moments for the film and the genre.

The villains unfortunately suffer from the usual genre failings that have hampered prior efforts for both DC and Marvel. The music is a standout with Rupert Gregson-William’s using Hans Zimmer’s terrific Wonder Woman riff from Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice to great effect that recalls Zimmer’s earlier work in Batman Begins. The cinematography by Matthew Jensen (Game of Thrones) is glorious to behold and stands above almost anything DC and Marvel have done previously.

Wonder Woman is a film with genuine heart and real-life stakes that at times transcends the genre and manages to achieve the very rare feat of making a genuinely great superhero origin film. Between Logan and Wonder Woman it has already been a terrific year for the superhero genre.

To borrow a phrase from Man of Steel. Wonder Woman has given the people of DC an ideal to strive towards. They have stumbled, they have fallen. But in time Wonder Woman has helped them accomplish wonders.

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Guest Post: Daniel Court on Daredevil – Season 2.

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12794707_1719825021587067_5890561489880274871_oThis review is largely spoiler free and I have refrained from discussing in detail reveals or specific scenes from the series from the 2nd half of the season.

Comic book adaptations are difficult and on that front I think credit really has to be given to Marvel and Netflix for teaming up to adapt characters that either 1) wouldn’t get a movie, 2) have gotten movies and failed or 3) aren’t a good fit for network television.

Take for instance Jessica Jones – a brilliant series by Marvel that would have been stripped of substance and themes if it aired on the family network ABC (owned by Disney who owns Marvel and is family friendly. Contrast this to the CW who is owned by Warner Brothers who also own DC – it’s why Smallville, Arrow, The Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow are aimed at the key demographic for each network).

Instead Netflix gave their sophomore series to a female led series more about what makes a character tick (and endure) than punching people who need it.

Daredevil was a character in need of rehabilitation. After appearing in the 2003 Fox film back when comic book films were still fairly new and the approach taken by Fox could best be described as ‘cookie cutter’. Fox’s Daredevil existed around the time of Eric Bana’s Hulk, Nicolas Cage’s Ghostrider, Thomas Jane’s Punisher and of course Jennifer Garner’s Elektra.

It is safe to save that comic book adaptations have evolved since then. Not just Marvel Studios which was the first time a comic book company was making their own films that turned out successful adaptation after adaptation but auteurs such as Christopher Nolan reinvented the character of Batman with The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Which brings is to Netflix’s Daredevil. I think it’s safe to say that Season 1 rehabilitated the Daredevil character and removed any vestiges of the film adaptation from 12 years prior.

Season 2 had plans that were even more ambitious – to rehabilitate The Punisher and Elektra. The Punisher has had perhaps more versions and reboots than any other comic book character. Dolph Lundgren, Thomas Jane and Ray Stevensen have all played the character previously in three separate continuities. The Burton/Schumacher films all exist in the same continuity so the newest Batman in the DC Film Universe represents the 3rd continuity. Spider-man is about to get his 3rd continuity.

The Punisher in Daredevil represents the 4th version of that character. Elektra starred in her own appalling film (yes – it’s even worse than you remember).

So Daredevil Season 2 brings in two characters in serious need of a reboot. And the reboots are successful – how successful depends on your point of view.

A criticism of the The Amazing Spider-man series was that Spider-man was fairly peripheral in his own movie. Despite the subplots and the narrative of the season Daredevil remains centred on one character – The Man Without Fear himself.

I would argue that is the best way to present both The Punisher and Elektra – they are supporting characters in a Daredevil series. The Punisher was first introduced in The Amazing Spider-man series in 1974 and got his own series in 1986.

In the Netflix series The Punisher appears fully formed. The fleshing out of his backstory occurs as the season progressed. I would argue that it is the splintering of this plotline that undermines the character (somewhat – to my mind this is still the best version of the character so far).

The Punisher works best when he is used as a foil for Daredevil. An early episode based heavily on ‘The Choice’ features Daredevil and The Punisher essentially talking for an entire episode on a rooftop. It is episodes like this that show the strength of a Netflix series – designed as one long movie the scenes are allowed time to breathe. The Punisher is presented as a parallel to Daredevil and forces Matt Murdoch to question his believes and his crusade.

Season 2 is very much a deconstruction of both Matt Murdoch and Daredevil. Where does one end and the other begin. Can Murdoch truly have the happy life he wants while he is a masked vigilante? Can he do both?

For me Season 2 is about putting Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdoch through the ringer physically and emotionally as he struggles to maintain not just his dual identity but his own moral and ethical fortitude. The Punisher I would say is similar to The Joker in The Dark Knight – he emerges fully formed and is used as the catalyst for the season’s storyline and the antagonist for the season.

Jon Bernthal portrays Frank Castle/The Punisher and his performance is award worthy. From an unstoppable force against the criminal element, his conflict with Daredevil about the differences between them and whether Daredevil’s refusal to kill is an asset or a liability coupled with the moments when Castle’s motivations are laid bare are brilliantly portrayed by Bernthal.

“You put them down, the get back up, I put them down, they stay down! You’re nothing but a half measure”

The Punisher is a man of staunch principles and his own code of ethics and morals. The Punisher is a man who believes that once faith has been broken, once a line has been crossed, then that man needs to be removed for the protection of others. Daredevil is the opposite who believes that every man deserves a chance at redemption. Bernthal’s Punisher makes a good point – how many innocent people need to die because of your rehabilitation approach.

The character of Elektra also makes a welcome appearance and is played by the enthralling Elodie Yung. Yung’s Elektra is an interesting addition – she is someone who clearly has feelings for Matt and yet struggles with her own issues. Much like Daredevil himself, Elektra is torn between Matt and her mission (that I won’t spoil here). Yung’s take on Elektra reminds me of Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa from Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – never quite knowing what her intentions were or what decision she would make. A reveal later in the season about Elektra casts her actions and behaviour in a new light and adds to the complexity to the character.

Elektra has a tragic past similar to that of Black Widow but the characters are very different. Natasha Romanov is an Avenger to try and redeem herself (to reference 2012’s The Avengers – to balance her ledger). Elektra is driven by her past but that drive is one of someone who is confident and craves a lack of control while Romanov is always in control. Romanov can respond enter a situation and be in control, Elektra is unpredictable and thrives on chaos.

It has been suggested that Season 2 is dominated by both Elektra and The Punisher to the detriment of Daredevil. I would respectfully disagree and liken the storyline to ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’. The character arc for Steve Rogers in that film was that he did not compromise his principles despite the events occurring around him.

Daredevil in Season 2 is an established hero. The two series are similar to Capaldi’s time on Doctor Who. Series 8 of Doctor Who had as a central theme of ‘Am I a good man?’ while Series 9 was ‘What is a good man?’ Season 2 of Daredevil is about Daredevil being tested through the entirety of the season. Is his no killing rule an asset or a liability? Is he being selfish? How many died because of his principles. Is it better to work within a flawed system or outside of it?

The performances this year were universally strong despite some pacing issues. Charlie Cox continues to own the dual role of Matt Murdoch and Daredevil and put in a consistently strong performance despite some character issues. It is difficult to overlook that Daredevil imposing his ‘thou shalt not kill’ on other characters does lead to some compromising situations. In one instance it is Daredevil’s intervention to prevent the death of a faceless ninja assassin (is there any other kind?) that results in another character being grievously wounded.

Daredevil as a character falls into the same issue that the Green Arrow on Arrow does – a self-righteous hero who sprouts the virtues of not killing villains in long monologues. That said in Daredevil it is more reasonable to expect this from as a major arc of this season was The Punisher and Elektra pushing Daredevil to take more extreme steps and be more pragmatic in his crusade. The Punisher’s utter sense of conviction in his actions would make Daredevil seek to reaffirm his beliefs.

I appreciate that it seems like I am being critical or mixed on Daredevil’s second season. As it is I think that Marvel and Netflix are putting out the absolute best Superhero television series and that the flaws in Arrow are much more apparent compared to the strength of Daredevil.

Daredevil Season 2 marks a very strong return from the series after a strong first series. Your appreciation of The Punisher storyline will depend on whether you went in expecting The Punisher as the protagonist and supporting player to Daredevil (despite him having a very large role) or if you expected The Punisher to be a co-lead (which at times he threatens to become). Bernthal’s Punisher is for me the definitive take on the character and his monologue about his family is heart breaking and full credit to Bernthal for his understated and at times genuinely moving performance. A series built around this character and actor pairing would be very much appreciated.

Yung’s Elektra is a terrific compliment to Cox’s Daredevil and added a layer of intrigue and complexity to the season. The decisions made by Daredevil and Matt Murdoch more specifically were certainly more interesting due to this dynamic. Both Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page and Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson put in strong work however Page’s storyline I would argue came at the expense of Nelson’s. Henson’s work as Foggy Nelson continues to impress and while he has less scenes than the other members of Nelson and Murdoch his work demands a larger role in Season 3 (or Jessica Jones Season 2).

While the season was uneven at times and lacked the linear focus of the first season the second season is still a resounding (if not unqualified) success. The season serves as an introduction to not just The Punisher and Elektra but concepts that those characters represent to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. For all of the strengths of the season it is easy to accept the small missteps.

Highly recommended.

Guest Post: Daniel Court on Fantastic Four.

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My issues with Fantastic Four.

I’m a comic book fan. But that’s because I understand comics unlike Fox unless they have Bryan Singer telling them what to do – comic books are a format, not a genre.

Now in this instance I am putting the blame for Fantastic Four squarely at Fox’s door. Either they messed with Trank’s film (likely after seeing his brilliant Chronicle) or Trank had the wrong take (I accept he would have had a different take but not wrong per se).

Want to know what a FF film should look like? Pixar’s The Incredibles. Easily. I mean it’s just so comparable it’s not funny. Peyton Reid (Director of Marvel’s Ant-man earlier this year) was originally going to direct Fantastic Four before Fox commissioned the Tim Story films. Reid’s take was elegantly brilliant – make it a 1960’s period film. Because the Fantastic Four are inherently silly. They were created during a time when Adam West was The Dark Knight and comics were fun. It’s inherent to the material. Christian Bale saying in a growl “I’m Batman” works, Christian Bale saying in a growl “I’m Mr Fantastic” doesn’t quite work.

Nor should it – the tones are completely different. Marvel Studios is nailing comic book movies like nobody else at present and like nobody else in movie history. They get the tone right. Kenneth Branagh’s Thor has a different tone to Richard Donner’s Superman to Joss Whedon’s The Avenger’s. Consider last year’s comic book films. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was a fun loving, pop culture infused popcorn film about family with Andy Dwyer as the lead being back up by a raccoon and a tree. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a conspiracy thriller about fear versus security with the emotional arc for the lead characters about taking a stand and being there, till the end of the line. Sony’s The Amazing Spider-man was an attempt to take an inherently light character to a dark place while sacrificing storytelling and character development for world building.

Oh the three films above which films were the most successful financially and with audiences? Guardians of the Galaxy, followed by Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-man 2. The result? A new Captain America film next year, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 the year after that and Spider-man is being rebooted again.

Comic books are not a genre. They are a medium. Much like film or print. But while most comic books are superhero stories they are not all the same. Fox should know this – look at Marvel. Marvel is consistently putting out hit films. Ant-man is not anywhere near as popular as The Fantastic Four but his movie was loved while Fantastic Four bombed. Why? Consider the plots for the above and the subtext. Guardians was about family. Winter Soldier was about fear versus security and saving a friend. Fantastic Four was about….what?

The Fantastic Four have amazing powers. The story is not how they get them. Batman Begins is about how a man would become more than just a man, about how he would become a symbol. About his training and his drive. Fantastic Four is about an accident. Marvel’s Incredible Hulk covered the origin in the opening credits. Because it’s not important how Bruce Banner became the Hulk. He is the Hulk.

Fantastic Four isn’t a terrible film. It is however a terrible Fantastic Four film. If it was a story about how 4 astronauts go on a mission that goes bad then it’s not bad. In fact the first hour or so of the film is pretty good. It’s wasted time to be sure and should have been trimmed as it’s all setup but it’s none the less decent. But then they get their powers and the film becomes a train wreck.

I can only imagine the original film was taken off Josh Trank after they return to earth. Because at that point we have a distinct tonal shift to a dark and gritty film about – nothing. The Thing is sad and angry. Doom is lost. Johnny feels he should use his powers for good, an interesting idea and concept that literally gets one scene. Sue is absolutely wasted and when you have a strong female character like Sue Storm and Kate Mara playing her then this might just qualify as the worst of the sins of the film if not for Doom.

Doom. How hard is it to get Doom right? In the first half they nailed Doom. When you cast an actor like Toby Kebbell (off his brilliant performance in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as a compelling villain) and give him a complicated character then it works out well for all involved. Kebbell creates the only fleshed out character in the film. Then Doom – I cannot describe what happens. He get’s stuck behind, he then gets a weird mask and can harness powers for some dark scenes of making people’s heads explode. He then decided to defend his new planet and destroy Earth cause….some reason.

Doom is flawed. He is jealous of Reed Richards and is jealous that Reed got powers and he did not. Why in hell do these films consistently give Doom powers? Why do they feel the need to take a character defined by his intellect and drive and turn him into something else? Doom is a threat because he is brilliant. He has the drive of Magneto to do what he feels is right. But at the same time – he hates Reed. He hates his brilliance, he hates him for having Sue and most importantly he hates him for stealing his glory.

You cast an actor like Kebbell, let him lay the foundations of this character and then just ruined it.

Fox – give the rights back to Marvel Studios. Please. You made Daredevil light and happy when he should be dark and morose and then you made Fantastic Four dark and morose when it should be light and happy.

I am only a casual fan of the Fantastic Four (being a huge Batman fan) and I remember the heartbreak of Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. I feel for the FF fans out there – they are yet to get a decent adaptation.

The Fantastic Four is toneless. It is devoid of joy, hope, character development or logic. It exists purely to exist. There is no theme, no arc, the only time the FF actually interest like you would expect is the final scene. It’s almost like Fox spent the entire run time wasting opportunity after opportunity and then Trank was able to sneak in one snippet of the characters we know and wanted to see.

There’s a story about how the then Head of Fox, Tim Rothman, when told that the fans would be outraged by X-Men: The Last Stand said “Fuck the fans we already have their money”.

Rothman is now at Sony. It is disheartening to see that the mentality continues. I would suggest to Fox – give the rights back to Marvel, agree to share some characters and double whatever it is you are paying Bryan Singer because he seems to be the only one there who understands comic books.

Spartacus.

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I didn’t take any formal notes during the watching of this show, and I’ve since finished watching it a few weeks ago, I’ll have to simply throw out what ideas I have and see if they coalesce into something worth readying.

What to say first? The style of this show is obviously, and unashamedly stolen from 300, it’s trying to cash in on the cache of that movie, and it has pretty good cinematography for a TV show, particularly a relatively home grown one with production operating out of NZ. I originally watched the first episode a year or two ago, and because it did look like a cheap knock off of 300 I couldn’t get through it. In looking for more shows to consume I went on IMDB to see what rating it had (as I tend to determine my show watching by rating) and found to my surprise it received 8.7 (out of a possible 10). Upon giving it a fair viewing on its own merits it took me much of the first season to see what the big deal was – to me Whitfield was ok, Bennett was good, as was Courtney as Varro (in fact it was him who I was interested in mostly, particularly the relationship between him and Whitfield, it was obvious and apparent they were friends in real life). It wasn’t until the season progressed and as the writers took Spartacus through more and more grueling an experience, and how that manifested as a change in character in him that I began to see how gripping and well played the melodrama was. The dialogue is clever, not on par with Shakespeare but spoken much in the same vain, and I found that easy to understand and infinitely appealing. the sex and violence will be appealing to some and off-putting to others, I found both to be interesting, I generally tend to enjoy fight scenes more than sex scenes in film and TV, that’s for you to decide though. Needless to say, this show has both, in very graphic detail.

By the end of the first season I really was all behind Whitfield, he’d sold the character to me, as had the writers – his conflict with Crixus, his dominus,the scheming to overthrow such, the death of main characters etc. I guess the point is: I cared about what happened to these people, this made the show poignant to me, given my skepticism at the beginning. That made the terrible events that followed S1 all the worse, as Whitfield became ill with cancer the search began to find his replacement, in the interm the writers did a mini-series which went beck in time, prior to Spartacus’ involvement with house Batiatus, which focused on Crixus and Gannicus. Even this I was skeptical of, yet again – how could this show replace someone I’d come to feel was pivitol for the show? Gannicus and Crixus’ character development was taken seriously and the effects of this mini series would be felt throughout the show (I won’t spoil anything for anyone). Still  when coming back to the official season 2 and the replacement of Whitfield I was extremely trepidatious with the show, yet again, having to prove itself to me, with McIntyre taking up the role. It took me all of 5 minutes to fall in love with his characterization of Spartacus – apparently his audition was so strong they overlooked the fact that he was a scrawny little kid -he really does have an intense screen presence, that although was different to Whitfield was still incredibly captivating.

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The Walking Dead.

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Rating 4 stars.

Reviews

The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season– Glenn Heath Jr.

The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season- Glenn Heath Jr.

The Walking Dead: Season Three

I’ve been taking mental and verbal notes as I watch the show, and I’ve noticed some interesting variation on the current zombie motif (a la Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, and Boyle’s 28 Days Later)- (1) slow zombies, (2) no blood splattered or otherwise non-bite type infections (this isn’t the case within the zombie world of course, one can still become infected by blood splatter, but no-one does).  Why these changes? The trailer for World War Z shows (as do Boyle’s and Snyder’s films), that fast zombies, who are highly infectious create a world where survivors are rare, if non-existent, they only survive in cases that they do, because of movie convention; we don’t see these character for very long, their story arches are short. Whereas with The Walking Dead we have to follow these characters for months, maybe years – if they were getting infected every time they stabbed a zombie in the head, and got blood on themselves, nobody would be alive, similarly with swarming fast zombies, viz the World War Z trailer –  escape is impossible. Having said this though, these aren’t complaints, I like that the characters I love don’t die, and that they get to expel some of the frustrations they, and indeed I, have at the relentless tide of death, that is a zombie world. More over, and moving to my next point, it allows the show to play on another movie convention, that of “hero” characters, that is; characters that, by these later seasons, can take on a group of zombies, or an overrun facility of them (such as the prison in S3) and come out on top – these are the kinds of characters that level armies, on their own. I totally dig that development. It’s done, as far as I can see, for two reasons (1) movie convention, and (2) growth of the characters. (1) We want to see these character develop, to become something other than what they were, as with Buffy and such shows, these characters usually only evolve upwards (or they die), this gives the actors and the show room to grow.  (2): even within the context of the series the growth makes sense. Think of any war veteran currently living, any soldier who has fought – it’s hard to imagine anybody living now, has as much sheer combat time as the survivors in this show (when we think of combat time as “time spent in a combat zone”). These people may have started out as teachers, lawyers, slackers, but those who survive in this world, become killers, trained, lethal, efficient killers, who survive by their very skills, it’s not unreasonable to think of them as terminators.

This leads me to another interesting aspect of the show – its moral dilemmas. In a world gone to Hell, what makes the most difference – survival of the fittest? Or a strict moral code? Is there a common ground between those viewpoints? The main characters in the show adhere to their moral principles, either by chance or design – even if they are altered somewhat. But, we see this is their strength. Most people they come across attempt to kill them to take their resources, whereas these people negotiate, debate and respect decisions of those they come in contact with – this creates bargaining, and mutually beneficial relationships. Moreover, it creates a bond between the characters that means they become a cohesive attack unit when on the offensive, and indeed defensive. Each character cares for and feels responsible for the other, which sometimes leads to self-sacrifice to save the group, other times to save members when it may not be convenient to do so. Then things like childbirth, the re-population of the species becomes tenable, within this community – and this becomes even another strength. Having children, and a home to defend gives the group something to fight for: new life, and a new life. These are things scavengers who betray each other and everybody else cannot do. Moreover, as Rick’s son Carl demonstrates, a child can become a lethal killing machine by  a very early age – given that they have been on the run for a few years thus far, if they all had children, they could create a working support network of able-bodied killers within years, this is a long-term goal obviously, with its own risks, but again, something  community can do, that survival of the fittest mentalities cannot.

Season3 has been a real rip snorter – Season 2 was definitely more character driven, which might irritate some, but it was about them feeling like the farm was a new home – their naivete nearly cost them their lives, and we might see that as the point of that season, which they are correcting in S3. Now they are about fortifying their surroundings, protecting their members, adding to them, and surviving. Given the conflict with Woodbury, and the lethality of the main characters the series is becoming even better, as we see the drama of a close-nit group of killers.

 

Prometheus.

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Rating 2.5 stars.

Reviews

Prometheus– Rogert Ebert.

Prometheus -John Semely.

I, just like so many other nerd boys eagerly awaited Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel-but-not-quite-but-is. The man that started a new wave of thrillers has come back to the genre to redefine it for a new age of cinema, and as far as we look at the movie, without any investigation into it’s themes, it is a success. Technically brilliant, we haven’t seen a movie look like this from Scott in a long time (Blade Runner?, Black Hawk Down? Gladiator?),  I’ve felt as if he rushes his production somewhat, churning out a movie a year, or every second seems to hurt the veneer of his films (I felt Robin Hood missed a certain gloss on screen). Maybe that was the point. In Prometheus however we are transported to the kind of ideal we expect from Hollywood, roaming vistas,  an epic score, clean images, with detailed nuance; when we say a picture is worth a thousand words, we really mean it in this movie. The ship, the planet, even Earth are masterfully shot, the CG impeccable, we see Scott went the whole way with the visuals.

The script, is less impressive. Characterization is either non-existent or bizarre, characters act in ways in which their motives are hard to understand, for example David poisoning Charlie with the alien ‘goo’, was he prompted to do so by Weyland? If that is so, why did the writers put in the supposed conflict between Charlie and David? To somehow suggest David would be eager to perform this horrible task? Is it some call back to Ian Holm’s faulty android in Alien? When you have such a high budget and limited time to tell a story, one wonders why such seemingly incoherent, or at least, hard to grasp narration is put forth.

To me however, all that is less important as the metaphysical questions it tries to address. Some might suggest we need give Prometheus points for simply tackling origin of life stories, but why? I can sit in my room and ask why, that does not make me profound. Directed panspermia, and biogenesis might seem interesting to your average film viewer who has never taken a second to look at these issues, but once you have you see the movie falls short. So much of the film is spent looking for our creator/s, and of course we find them in the ‘engineers’. But here is when we start asking more questions than we get answers. Why do the engineers have the same appearance as us? Yes they started life on this planet, but we do not look the same as all creatures on this planet,  evolution has altered whatever the original molecules of life were, this appears to be simply a cinematic device at the sake of coherency. Only in a couple of scenes is the “who created the creator?” issue tackled, that if the engineers created us, who created them? And if we don’t get answers to this question we are left to wonder why the question was asked to begin with. Perhaps the writers have an anti-scientific agenda to push, after all their scientists in this movie plan to reject a couple of hundred years of confirmed Darwinism (as one of the other scientific characters points out), only with the thesis “I don’t know if it’s true, but I have faith it is.” What scientist would think like this? A creation one, maybe. Which brings me back to why this film erked me so much. With so much anti-science propaganda in the world today, why do we need top-level films expressing and perpetuating this? Yet another example of bizarre characterization.

Ultimately it’s a simple Hollywood science fiction movie, which tries to play around with themes it’s writers aren’t capable of doing well, which the film suffers for. But, having said that, it is pretty, and progresses the Alien mythos more, and that in and of itself will make for some fun discussion with your friends in your living room. Even if the rest of it makes you want to cut yourself.

Californication.

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In watching Californication a show I loved for its sexual abandon, I’m beginning to see the same moralisation we get from most TV, albeit more subtly dressed. Ultimately Hank’s sexual identity is still frowned upon, is still viewed as negative. Hank is taking his depression out on those around him. Perhaps it says more about me, and my state that I never saw it that way, true enough he gets himself into many a pickle, and even I sometimes think “c’mon Hank”. I think we could all agree where Hank lies, or cheats or manipulates his way into a girls panties, he is in the wrong, but unless you define sex by traditional, conservative notions, why is a sexually liberated man, having consensual sex with other liberated women, not a good thing?

Studio executives? Conservative audiences? Programming the ‘good’ life into people? I don’t want to be too conspiratorial here, it may be a mix of all of the above, it may be that my sexual and emotional compass is skewed, but I don’t watch Californication to be told that I should be in a relationship, and what a confused message dug so deep into that show to have.

Hank is in love with Karen, the show has always been about his hedonism messing that up, I often wonder how the character who drinks, smokes and whores his life away could possibly have the abs he does, but we’re watching TV aren’t we. I also think about Duchovny’s own troubles with so-called ‘sex addiction’ if a thing even exists and I don’t think it does. And we see that in the show – sex addiction is not a real thing, it is just what men, given the right man, and circumstances are. Hank is a good-looking guy, with  good dress sense, some money and a way with both the printed and spoken word, considering women are largely turned on by words, presence, power and a body to boot, it’s not hard to see why Hank sleeps with as many women as he does.

But is sex a bad thing? In season 5 they explore notions of what porn does to a man in Charlie, suggesting that if you watch a lot of porn, you will lose your inability to talk and act according to the rules of society with women. This, like so much TV is an exaggerated archetype of what the writers suppose is common experience, but I don’t think it rings true. You may be able to tell I’m liberal-minded, there may be a real discussion on porn and it’s effects on feminism (think of the dualistic whore/madonna issue), and the portrayal of women (see here for some discussion of mine on that), but as far as the effect porn has on a person, negatively? The position may be more nuanced than this, but there is none (see here for my analysis on this issue), not only that, as my article suggests there are even positives to watching porn. And that harks back to what I was discussing earlier, I guess a show needs to address all view points, particularly one such as Californication that is going to prima facie offend most religious and socially conservative people, by discussing some of their talking points. But this doesn’t feel like discussion, this feel like making a statement, although, I haven’t watched all of season 5 yet.

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