Nov. 10th, 2013 05:46 pm
alexsarll: (bill)
Didn't quite do anything proper for Hallowe'en or November 5th this year, though there was some dressing up and you can hardly fail to see some fireworks over what's now more like Guy Fawkes' Fortnight (Guy Fawtesnight?) - that's the problem with festival creep, where you can't even quite fix on one of the adjacent weekends as the consensus alternative. Dear world, please stop getting festivals wrong, ta.

Accidentally let my Netflix subscription run over after Breaking Bad was done, but regardless of how the US version has a lot more stuff* there was still plenty I'd been vaguely meaning to watch on the UK site. The Friends of Eddie Coyle, for instance, with Robert Mitchum exuding the shabby grandeur of a moth-eaten lion, or the gloriously absurd and none-more-eighties Lifeforce, in which a mission to Halley's Comet unwittingly unleashes a zombie plague (complete with Prefab Sprout posters visible in the background as they devastate London). The most notable casting is probably Patrick Stewart, who (SPOILERS) gets possessed by the sexy naked lady space vampire and so proceeds to do some gaying up (although it's shot in a way which would probably disappoing anyone going into the film just for that). Seven Psychopaths is the thoroughly meta and possibly even better follow-up to the delightful In Bruges, and more meta still is A Film With Me In It, which manages a surprising amount of bloodshed for something starring Dylan Moran. The Cabin In The Woods, on the other hand, I'd dismissed as a slasher movie with a twist (and Whedon dialogue), until I heard one recommendation too many to ignore. First surprise: the twist isn't, it's there from the start. And what that enables, and what lies behind it - that's utterly ingenious. Add me to the list of recommendations. Which is not something I can really say about Don Johnson in Harlan Ellison adaptation A Boy and his Dog; post-apocalyptic black comedy it may be, but I found the whole thing just a little too queasy, and not always in a manner that seemed intentional.

Watched elsewere:
Ian Hislop's dramatisation of the story of trench samizdat The Wipers Times. As with Blackadder, the horror of the Great War always hits hardest for me when it's presented with the gallows humour of the Tommies intact.
Doctor Who: The Web of Fear - a story which, this time last year, I would never have expected to see in my lifetime. And it stands up a lot better than most classic Who that runs past four episodes, helped by the claustrophobic, iconic location - running down a corridor feels so much more satisfying when that corridor is part of an identifiable tube station. Victoria is still a dreadful companion, mind.
Idiotic horror White Noise: The Light, which [ profile] xandratheblue and I watched on the simple grounds that Katee Sackhoff and Nathan Fillion would be suitable casting to play us in any film of our incredibly exciting lives. Sadly, it turned out to be a bad Final Destination riff - but with more dodgy theology! And nonsensical numerology! And lots of RUNNING REALLY FAST.
Repo Man, which remains as profoundly peculiar and entertaining as ever (and I can't believe it never gets mentioned as an influence on Lebowski). The Blu-ray extras are deeply rum, and include Harry Dean Stanton talking about life for 15 minutes before singing 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat', and Alex Cox showing the deleted scenes to the real-life inventor of the neutron bomb.

And on the big screen - Thor: The Dark World. Certainly not the best of the Marvel films, but I find it oddly reassuring that they can stumble now without falling flat on their faces, and still produce a fairly entertaining picture which will fill up a cinema with casual viewers (you can tell them from the geek hardcore so easily, because they're the ones who don't even stay for the first credits scene, let alone the very end). Also, pleasing show of public right-mindedness in the way that everyone in the auditorium, regardless of class or race, agreed that the family with a screaming baby should take it the fuck out of the cinema - and rather than grumbling passive-aggressively, fetched ushers to enforce that verdict. See! Superhero films encourage viewers to take more responsibility for making the world a better place.

*Such as Bob's Burgers, which I saw round the house of a friend who's hacked the relevant bits of science to watch the US menu. Like its fellow H Jon Benjamin animation Archer, this is allegedly on Freeview channels, but gets thrown away in graveyard slots. Baffling, given how funny both are at their best. NB: do not look for H Jon Benjamin's face online; you'd expect him to be less attractive than Sterling Archer, but I think he may even be less attractive than Bob.
alexsarll: (Default)
Does that massive new tower at Elephant & Castle have a name yet? I got my first proper look at it vaguely finished over the weekend and assumed it must be the Cheese Grater what with the wind turbine holes and slope making the top of it look exactly like a cheese grater, but no, apparently that's the one at Leadenhall. It certainly deserves a name, I rather like it.

I love music, but I've never felt I had much to contribute by making it. I'm very happy to write effusive posts on here about bands, or appear in their videos (another of which has just gone up), but they told me at school that I wasn't musical and I know this story is meant to be about horrid teachers failing to spot one's astonishing potential but no, in my case they had a point. Since coming to London, I have been in one band (for a given value of the word) for one night - The17, with Bill Drummond. I thought I'd best leave it there, because how do you top being one degree from the KLF?
By being on the next Indelicates album, apparently. [ profile] augstone passed on an invite so I headed up to Walthamstow with him, his fellow Soft Close-Up David (who was also in the same The17 performance as me, as it happens), [ profile] keith_totp and [ profile] thedavidx, to all of whom a recording studio is pretty much a second home. I just tried my best not to a) break anything or b) lose my cool, even when I realised that Denim had recorded there. And Baxendale! And The Long Blondes! And that we were singing along as a sort of backing choir for Philip bloody Jeays (not physically present)! It's not as if I'm going to be individually audible or anything, but nonetheless, I'm on the next Indelicates album. Bloody Hell.

Otherwise, it's been a relatively quiet week and weekend - albeit also very pleasant, with Friday in the Ewok village and Sunday's barbeque managing a decent amount of cooking before the downpour, plus Prom Night on Saturday, the first time I've had a solid reason to wear a bow tie out after watching Matt Smith rock one in Doctor Who (and remember how ahead of time we thought "Geronimo!" was going to be his catchphrase and that it would soon get irritating? By my reckoning he's now said "Bow ties are cool" just as often as "Geronimo!"). Good little episode on Saturday - yes, it essentially stitched together three Buffy episodes ('Normal Again' for the basic premise, 'The Gift''s "What makes you think the other world is any better?" "It has to be" and the demonic ringmaster performance from 'Once More With Feeling'), then borrowed evil geriatrics from Hot Fuzz with a zombie film twist, but the seams didn't show, and even if they never used the name, the villain was the ruddy Valeyard! And still, those wonderful central performances - for the second week in a row my favourite bit in among so very many choices was a little, gestural thing, when the Doctor thinks the baby is due and adopts that panicked wicket-keeper stance. And because the BBC is utterly marvellous, it also gave us a penultimate Ashes to Ashes which has left me with no clue how they're going to resolve this, but a burning need to find out. I think I'm going to be a bit late to Nuisance tomorrow night.
alexsarll: (death bears)
This one's going to get geeky, so let's start by establishing that yes, I do sometimes engage in more socially well-adjusted activities. Well, if you can count going to the V&A (they have so much pretty stuff, but what is it *for* when lots of that stuff would be equally at home in the British Museum?), or attending a Britpop night in a Geneva t-shirt, or hanging out with [ profile] fugitivemotel and at one stage uttering the phrase "Oz Season 7, starring Wizbit". And OK, at the party I attended on Saturday I did have a conversation about the Sisters of Mercy's much-better-than-other-bands-called-Sisters cover of 'Comfortably Numb'. So yes, it would seem I am in fact a hopeless case. Oh well.

It was September when I last posted a general State of the Comics Union moan. Since when, not much has changed. I've dropped an increasing number of series which, even if I vaguely want to read, I know I'll never want to reread. More are coming - when Astonishing X-Men and Ultimate Avengers reach the end of the current stories, they're out, because they're not bad little superhero romps but nor are they worth more than a quick read courtesy of the library and, if I've mis-guessed what the library will get in, I'll live. Buffy was in line for the same treatment after the sheer galling idiocy both of the identity of the season's Big Bad, and of the manner in which said identity was revealed (online via fake leak, not in the comic itself) - but Joss Whedon wrote the most recent issue himself and reminded me that it was seldom the big stories which made Buffy so much as the little moments, and this was they. Of course, the next arc is by Brad Meltzer and is going to have a Mature Readers warning, between which and his previous work we can doubtless expect some gratuitously rapey mess which gets me right back to quitsville.
But there's just so much coasting going on - and miserable coasting at that. Both DC and Marvel claim that a bright new direction is coming once the grim'n'gritty carnage of current events is done, but I've heard it all before (and I'm barely been reading anything from DC in ages, they're in such a joyless tangle). At Marvel what seemed like a brilliant idea for a while (businessman Norman Osborn aka the Green Goblin talked himself out of responsibility for his crimes and ended up effectively running the country, as the very rich always seem to manage - ring any bells, bankers?) has just been plodding on and on and remorselessly on. And now it has finally reached its endgame - Osborn and his forces attacking Asgard, home of Thor and his fellow gods, which J Michael Straczynski's run on Thor had relocated to Oklahoma. But the comic telling this story, Siege, feels from its first issue more like it's going through the motions of amending the status quo than like the epic story it should be. Brian Bendis, the writer, has previously had problems with the pacing in the middle acts of his big event comics, and this one was shorter so should have been better, but it's as if he's cut not the padded kidriff, but the kick-ass opening.
There's still good stuff, of course; of the titles I praised in September, Ultimate Spider-Man and The Boys are still delivering. The Walking Dead gets better and better, and I don't even much like zombie stories. Vertigo, previously responsible for Sandman, Preacher and The Invisibles among others, has become relevant again with Mike Carey's The Unwritten and Peter Milligan's Greek Street, two very different examinations of the unexpected legacy legends and fictions can have in the modern world. But, will either of them last? The economics of comics are so horribly marginal, it can never be guaranteed; both writers have a string of prematurely-cancelled titles behind them. Word of another casualty has just come in; Phonogram's Kieron Gillen has been doing some lovely work on a space-based screwball comedy X-Men spin-off called S.W.O.R.D., but weak sales mean it ends with the fifth issue. Meanwhile, he's trying his best on Thor but the aforementioned Straczysnki run left him with having to pick up from such a moronic start point (Latveria Is So Bracing!)* that he's really swimming against the current.
Another writer I usually think of as reliably great, Grant Morrison, is in more position to be master of his fate and work, but isn't really putting it to best use. His Batman & Robin hasn't maintained its strong start, getting bogged down in themes he's already done better elsewhere; I feel a real lack of anticipation for the imminent Joe the Barbarian; and as for his Authority...well, OK, it's not really his anymore. It's Keith Giffen scripting Morrison's plots, because Grant stormed off in a huff. And Giffen's a competent enough writer, usually, but it turns out that he can't write British. So Morrison's most thoroughly, heartbreakingly British lead since Greg Feely in The Filth now talks about leaving things in his other 'pants', and his first 'apartment'. The issue of The Boys set amidst the baguette-jousting inhabitants of the village of Franglais had a better ear for dialect than this.

And as if that little diatribe weren't bad enough, today the main thing lifting me out of the sense of 'meh' which comes with this horrible sinus-y cold is the storming victory my new-look Tyranid army managed in last night's game of Warhammer 40,000.

*I love Babylon 5 - mostly - but JMS' comics career has been one frustration after another. Either he loses the plot, or he falls out with the publisher and storms off, or in extreme cases, both. People told me his Thor was excellent but having been burned before, I waited. And I finally read the first two collections recently and lo and behold, this was one of the cases of 'both'. There's a lot to love: instead of talking in cod-Shakespearean English as previous writers so clumsily attempted, his Asgardians speak formally but coherently; it's the themes which echo Shakespeare now, with the prince uneasy on his father's throne, the adviser who whispers poison in a good but naive ear. And the abiding question: what do gods do when their legend is over? If they survived Ragnarok, what now? Yes, in a sense it would have been a better theme back in those days when we were told we'd seen the End of History, but it's still a fascinating one.
However. There are scenes in post-Katrina New Orleans and war-torn Africa which demonstrate that Straczynski hasn't learned a damn thing since his legendarily bad Amazing Spider-Man issue where Doctor Doom stood in the wreckage of the World Trade Centre and wept. And, though I've yet to read the third volume which fully explains how he got to where he left the series, I've seen enough to know that yes, what looked like a stupid idea which Gillen was obliged to pick up, was also a stupid idea approached from the other end.
alexsarll: (Default)
There are plenty of films with two actors playing the same character - usually an older or a younger version of the star. But I can't think of many with four plus actors in the same part. This week, I saw two, and in both cases one of the actors sharing was Heath Ledger.
I was interested in I'm Not There even before I eventually fell for Bob Dylan as a performer rather than just a songwriter. Because biopics bore me so easily - always the same few variations on the old arc - and because this was Todd Haynes, who already did the oblique approach so well with Bowie and Iggy and the rest in Velvet Goldmine. And the two films share more than a little: the transfer of power between different avatars of Dylan reminds me of the green jewel in the earlier film; there's a journalist out to unveil origins, though here it's not the backbone of the plot; above all, there's the question of whether music can change the world, and what happens to the musician if it can't. But the big difference is that Haynes clearly never felt betrayed by Dylan like he did by Bowie. He loves all his Dylans equally - even if, like most people, I was left a little cold by the Richard Gere outlaw Dylan. The others, though...I loved having Batman and the Joker both play the same part (see, Alan? 'The Killing Joke' did have some external resonance after all), then sharing it with the Virgin Queen. And did they know when they cast this, or Bright Star, that Ben Whishaw would be playing both Dylan and Keats, that old lit-crit cliche given (rather handsome) life. So much truer than the standard biopic, and probably not even that much less factual. Though I say that as someone who knows very little about Dylan's life - just enough to wince when he buys a motorcycle.
I'm Not There was planned that way. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was not, but you'd never guess it. I have no idea what was changed in the script, but one can almost suspect that Terry Gilliam, so used to being shafted by whatever cosmic entity it is that likes messing with him, was filming in such an order that he could work around the loss of Ledger. Which would normally mean that instead Christopher Plummer would have died, or maybe Tom Waits, or the lad from Red Riding would have been eaten by foxes or something, but just this once the stupid obstacle in Gilliam's way was one that he could work around. There aren't half some queasy moments, scenes with Ledger's character that gain a whole new resonance - but always in such a way that it strengthens the film. spoilers ) among its many other flights of fancy. And such flights of fancy they are! I can't remember the last film I saw which was so visually rich, whether in its worlds of the imagination, or in its London. And it does have to take place in London, doesn't it? The grandest, most fabled city in the world - but also one with grabbing thugs spilling out of crappy pubs, and Homebases insisting you spend spend spend, and its perpetual building sites.
Ashes to Ashes fans should be aware that Shaz gets a small role, but the real revelation is Lily Cole. I knew she was pretty, but I'd never seen her move, or speak, and so I'd never realised she was beautiful, let alone that she could act. Which given that face, and that she's just gone up to Cambridge, seems terribly unfair, but then like the film is so intent on reminding us, the world is full of wonders.

I also saw Crank this week. There's not so much to say about that one; like Shoot 'Em Up it's the action movie distilled to its purest form and injected into your eyeball with a syringe made of guns - smarter than it lets on, while also being the best sort of big dumb fun. During its ITV transmission, there was also an ad for the ITV4 debut of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse - two hours earlier. Well done, ITV. Said trailer didn't do anything useful like inform me of a repeat, but I tracked one down and...well, when I first heard about Dollhouse I thought, hang on, isn't that basically Joe 90 - The Sexy Years? The first episode didn't convince me otherwise but, because it's Whedon, I'm persevering. Even though I realised a while back that if Buffy started now, I don't think I'd make it through the first season.
alexsarll: (manny)
It's a week since I updated - well, except to have an IT spasm* - and I'm not entirely sure why, because it's not like I've been short of things to report. I've seen my first of the new generation of 3D films, Coraline, and been impressed with how well the technology works, and how it doesn't just feel like a gimmick - whichever industry suit it was who said that if it wasn't quite the new sound, it was maybe the new colour, was for once not talking hype crap. I've finally been in a boat on Finsbury Park lake, and am glad to know that I can still just about row. I've found an opportunity to take direct action against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while en route to Richmond of all places, where I then received an eye-opening tour of the local attractions. I've played Necrons. I went to a revivalist goth club where my trousers melted - not that I was wearing them at the time - and it became clear that apparently all female goth vocals of the Batcave period either were, or sounded like, Siouxsie. I've discovered a splendid little venue within walking distance which seems to have a full programme of rockabilly-type stuff, because the Deptford Beach Babes were doing their surftastic thing there. And I've started the new Glen David Gold, which is thus far every bit as thrilling and beautiful and capacious as Carter Beats The Devil, itself one of the very few books I'm happy to recommend to pretty much anyone.

Further to recent discussions of SF writer Alfred Bester, I was surprised to learn while looking up something totally different that not only had he written for comics back in the 'Golden Age', but he created immortal supervillain Vandal Savage, something of a role model of mine. And the only other comics note which springs to mind is that while I don't think Garth Ennis' Boys spin-off Herogasm merits quite the appalled reception it got at yesterday's picnic, it does put one of my reservations about the parent series at centre stage. This is a world where superheroes are, almost without exception, utter bastards behind closed doors - degnerates, pawns of corporate interests, murderers, the lot. Our protagonists are the shady squad who keep them in check. Well, that's a good premise. But these heroes never seem to do anything useful - there are no real threats against which they serve. All we've seen so far is a rather cackhanded attempt to intervene on September 11th 2001. And I think that goes a little too far, and detracts from the strength of the story. If all the alien invasions and such are wholly fraud, spin and cover-up, it becomes rather one-note. I'd be more interested in the story of superpowered individuals who really are Earth's last line of defence, and also complete bastards. More dramatic tension than if they're solely and entirely tossers.

*Speaking of which, I was watching some early Buffy yesterday, for the first time in ages (and don't they all look so young?), and there was a terribly sad bit where Buffy asks Giles whether life gets easier, and he asks if she wants the truth and she replies, as per the episode title, '"Lie to me". And we were discussing this and I concluded that it doesn't get easier per se, but it's a bit like getting used to a horribly buggy piece of software - you gradually learn more of the tricks and workarounds, and get more adept, but of course this just makes it even more jarring when some new glitch arises.
alexsarll: (crest)
Off to Devon by way of Watford shortly, and currently waiting for a rather jittery iPlayer to download Mark Gatiss' first Crooked House, and it seems as good a time as any to wish those of you who won't be online for the inevitable Next Doctor post-mortem a very merry Christmas. I just wish that the Buffy Christmas episode was recognised as the festive classic it is and given the annual repeat treatment, but hey, we watched it at [ profile] hoshuteki's party so I'm good for this year. That was before I mistakenly attempted to go Straight Through, an experience from which if nothing else I have learned that Sprite is on the Proscribed Drinks list for this stimulant-dodger. Speaking of proscription - the story "Pope puts stress on 'gay threat' is even more flabbergastingly infuriating than you'd expect from the title, which is saying something, so let's hope there's something extra big and hard in Santa's sack for Pope Sidious this year.
Right, Crooked House is ready to go. Have a good one, kids.
alexsarll: (bernard)
...which is probably for the best given the state of the Victoria line. I know they've stopped early closing, and thought they were supposed to have pretty much finished the 'upgrade', so why on two nights of three this week has the Northbound had a seizure?

I am worryingly certain that that bit on Screenwipe where Charlie Brooker threatens to fvck Anthony Head will have been found arousing by some people I know.
(Didn't Head look weird in those Gold Blend ads, though? Sort of undead, but not in a good way. If ever there was a man who aged into his looks...)

I've no idea whether the Survivors remake is actually any good, but watching it while wobbly slightly hallucinatory with a freak super-flu a bit of a cold certainly inclined me to take it seriously. And it's doing the idea of Paterson Joseph as the Doctor no harm at all, not with him playing a well-prepared loner reluctant to get emotionally involved*. That second episode, though - spoilers )
Coincidentally, the last Who book I read was Lance Parkin's forthcoming The Eyeless, in which the Doctor, alone, encounters the few self-sufficient survivors of a global cataclysm amidst the crumbling relics of a depopulated world. Not that I've read that many of the new series books, but as one would expect from Parkin, this is by far the best - it has that sense of mattering which they've tended to lack, perhaps because it can be set between seasons and story arcs, perhaps because it implicitly ties in to the Time War stuff which seems destined never to be addressed head on.
And by way of John Simm's stint as the Master, and Peter Capaldi as Caecilius, I reckon I can just about allow a segue from that to The Devil's Whore, the first part of which didn't quite convince me. It felt too much like a dramatisation for the benefit of history lessons, as against a genuine drama - even if the budget was somewhat higher, and a schools project might have omitted the Satanic tongue-waggling. I've not yet seen Our Friends In The North, so I don't know whether Peter Flannery's projects are always quite this polemical; rumour has it that this was meant to be 12 episodes long but funds only stretched to four, which would certainly explain some of the infelicities, because thus far we seem to be getting rather clumsy Cromwellian propaganda, and I'm not buying that even with Dominic West as Cromwell. Tell me, why is it that aside from playing wonderful Jimmy McNulty, he so often seems to get lumbered with History's Biggest Gits? If he's not selling out Sparta to the Persians in 300, he's this warty hypocrite war criminal...

Those of you who expressed an interest in Self Non Self last time I mentioned it, be aware that it returns tomorrow. I intend to be there, drinking away any remains of my cold.

*Although he never shared the screen with Rose's dad, or Martha. Possibly for the best.
alexsarll: (Default)
I still don't know quite what to say after the H Bird show. Obviously I knew it was going to be a night of top pop entertainment, and as bittersweet as a farewell show's always going to be, but I honestly wasn't expecting to get a song dedicated to me just for hectoring them all into playing a gig, much less a cover of my favourite Lifestyle song. Thank you, H Bird. You will be missed.
(There's always the possibility of a reunion show, of course. This was one, in a sense, but it felt like more of one; watching them on stage, they no longer seemed quite so in-the-same-band as they used to, and suddenly I had fully formed in my head the pop star biographies of what they've been up to in the meantime, biographies which were blithely heedless of my knowing mere facts to the contrary. [ profile] augstone has seen a million faces and rocked them all, possibly in a stadium version of Rock Stone; [ profile] ksta's soundtrack work led to her marrying a big Hollywood mogul type, I think a director; and [ profile] hospitalsoup became a sort of Laurie Anderson experimental music figure)
Also a surprise: Mr Solo's support slot was not in fact solo, he performed as a double act with Eddie Argos! Which meant mixing a bit of Glam Chops material in there too, plus Art Brut's 'Moving to LA' for [ profile] ksta. This made me very glad; since they cancelled their cancellation for tomorrow's SB, I was upset to be missing them on account of White Mischief (which reminds me - who else is going?). On top of which we got a Bowie/Ronson moment with a pink toy guitar, and a further guest on drums - John Moore (whose Bo Diddley tribute, incidentally, is the best one I've seen). Which I guess made them Glam Chops Recorder.

What else have I been up to lately? A pub quiz, with mixed results, after which I accidentally intimidated a hoodie. At Clockwork I was impressed by one comedian's Seal of Rassilon tattoo* and another's Harold Shipman impression. On the screen, I was unimpressed by the original Deneuve Belle de Jour and vampire superhero sequel Blade: Trinity. Which may seem like very different films, but have strangely similar flaws - a lead who's restrained to the point of near absence, and hideous editing. It could also be noted that I liked both of the Daywalker's previous films; similarly, I liked the writing of Belle's namesake.

After a promising start, Marvel's Secret Invasion seems to be getting very bogged down; this week's issue had one lovely scene on the helicarrier, but was otherwise far too obvious for an event which initially seemed to be all about cutting the ground from under our feet. Ultimate Origins, on the other's clearly the original creators of the Ultimate U showing all the clever stuff they had hidden before Jeph Loeb comes in and craps all over the place with Ultimatum, but none the worse for that. A little too decompressed, perhaps, but that was the fashion at the time. Covering surprisingly similar ground, the new issue of Garth Ennis' The Boys is one of the strongest since the DC issues; he seems to have got the pee po belly bum drawers bit out of his system and got back to the really nasty stuff: business.
Single best comic of the week, though: the final part of Drew Goddard's Buffy story. Just like the best episodes of the TV show, there's not a page allowed past without doing something either hilarious, awesome or heartbreaking. Sometimes more than one of the above.

Anyone else been getting Scientologist spam lately? Way to win people over, cretins.

*The one tat there was ever any remote chance of me getting; having been beaten to it reduces the chance from slim to none.
alexsarll: (howl)
I never wanted an MP3 player - I worried about being cut off from the world by it, losing my radar and becoming one of the bovine obstacle people. But offered one free, I could hardly refuse, and I'm finding it slots into my life pretty well. I still don't wear it all the time - not if I'm reading something complicated on the Tube, not if I'm somewhere especially crowded, not if I'm somewhere with its own music, whether accidental (a park) or deliberate (a bar). I keep it low enough to hear the world (and it would hurt to have it loud enough to drown out the Victoria Line), but that's still high enough to soundtrack me. Which means I have to be careful what I put on it, because not every soundtrack is the hero's; Robyn Hitchcock on Upper Street at night made me feel like the first victim in an oblique slasher flick. Nor have I quite adapted to hearing people I know singing quite so intimately. But if nothing else, it was the perfect accompaniment when I went along for a spot of disaster tourism the day after the Great Fire of Camden; I'd still yet to work out how to choose tracks properly, but what should come on as I considered the smoking shell of the Hawley Arms but 'This Is How You Spell "Hahaha We Destroyed The Hopes And Dreams Of A Generation Of Faux-Romantics"'.

I finished this weekend with a nagging sense of underachievment, which is foolish really; if I lazed around a lot, that was largely down to ruin resulting from two grand nights out, and I still managed to get the last 200 pages of Gravity's Rainbow read. I'm glad I read it, though I'm not sure if I could intelligently say much about it yet; perhaps my back brain will have finished processing the torrent of information in a month, or a year, or three. Or not. The problem with which this leaves me is, what to read next? I like a change, but GR covers so many bases, what does that leave from my To Read pile? The Glass Books Of The Dream-Eaters is another kinky trans-European conspiracy romp. John M Ford's The Dragon Waiting is another unreal epic of European war, while The Unfree French will take me right back to the moral destructiveness of the Second World War. Even Tim Moore's fluffy Do Not Pass Go is a psychogeography of London, like Gravity's first section - albeit by way of Monopoly rather than V2 impacts.
So far I seem to be attempting to read them all. I'm not sure that's wise.

Next time somone complains about BBC3, set Being Human on them. Reviews mostly seem to be comparing it (unfavourably) to Buffy, but I suspect that's because it has supernatural creatures in a modern setting without quite being horror, and most reviewers are lazy. Impressively, for such a crowded field as the modern vampire story, it managed within an hour to establish a tone that was all its own, but if I had to reference it I'd say it's more Ultraviolet meets Spaced. The conclusion was rather naff, but that was the only mis-step; I loved the balance between the domestic comedy and the menace (the latter especially coming out in that description of the afterlife).
Note also that it's picked up a star and a writer from Doctor Who, already shaping up as the Kevin Bacon of 21st century British TV.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Went with some chums to a young persons' rock club this week. It was meant to be an anti-Valentine's masked ball, but most of the young persons seemed to take theirs off as soon as they got in, and the burlesque, being aimed at an audience composed largely of young males, was perhaps not at the more finessed end of the spectrum. But, they were all very friendly and what impressed me most of all was, how catholic their tastes were. In amongst the Offspring and Metallica and Green Day, they were playing dance tracks. The Prodigy, sure - even in the nineties you'd get away with that at an indie club. But also drum'n'bass and dubstep - stuff which sounded right at home between metal and ska, but which ten years ago you really wouldn't have expected rock kids to *admit* sounded right at home there. Good work, rock kids.

If Ashes to Ashes weren't doing so well (I am incredibly glad about the period title sequence, one of the more glaring omissions in Life on Mars) then I could be worried about systemic flaws in BBC drama. This week's (terrestrial) Torchwood and the Phoo Action pilot both had the same very obvious problem - they were rush jobs. Yes, Torchwood's plot had been done before in Buffy, but ruling out plots Buffy has used would leave genre TV looking pretty starved. It's a good plot; you can do it as a stand-alone (Mike Carey and Jock's Faker), or in an ongoing series it's a good way of doing a character piece without being very dull and obvious about being The Character-Driven Episode. And yet, for all that potential, for all that it had some stunning moments (especially from Ianto) and the first real indication that Ryan Gorman can act, it didn't quite hang together. Bits were missing, bits were here that shouldn't have been, other stuff didn't quite link up right. Another draft of the script, a little longer on the shoot, and you'd have had something really rather good. As is...a misfire. And ditto Phoo Action. I've never knowingly read the strip on which it's based, but knowing Jamie Hewlett's work, I could infer how it was meant to go. I couldn't see it on screen, though. Imagine if Sin City had been done on a budget of about a tenner, with a director who was OK but no Rodriguez, and no time for rehearsals or extra takes. You'd have ended up with something this peculiarly leaden, this almost-fun-but-hamstrung. And it would be a real shame, as this was.

So what if "more quango members live in four London boroughs than the whole of the North of England"? I imagine those four London boroughs probably contribute more tax revenue to the Exchequer than the whole North as well, so it's only fair they have a greater say in how it's spent. And speaking of revenue, consider the neo-puritans' next anti-smoking proposal. Charming as ever, I'm sure you'll agree; the alcohol license will doubtless follow in about 20 years.

If you only know Howard the Duck via his film incarnation, then you don't know Howard the Duck. Like the Judge Dredd and Tank Girl films, if it's not quite as bad as its reputation suggests, it nonetheless missed the point of the exercise pretty thoroughly, and even having Grant Morrison's Invisibles Archons in can't fully excuse that. The point being, Howard's creator died this week. His name was Steve Gerber, and in amongst the usual interchangeable obituaries was one which said some stuff worth reading about him, and about comics in general.
alexsarll: (crest)
Just returned from the Bankside 12th Night celebrations - unfortunate that the thing which best gets me in the relevant festive mood is the one marking season's end. It's vastly more popular than last time I went (I think I missed last year), but I still managed half-decent views of the Green Man's arrival and the wassailing, and was in a pretty good position for the mummers' play. There's a nagging sense in my mind of a half-formed connection between this and Popular last night - the Number One single as a British folk tradition, perhaps? - but I don't want to force it. Suffice to say, both were great fun. Highlight of Popular: 'Welcome To The Black Parade' into 'Boom! Shake The Room' (it may have a 100% strict concept, 'God Save The Queen' controversy aside, but how many nights can honestly equal that variety?). Highlight of 12th Night: the blithering arses next to me as the Green Man sails in justify their yapping by noting what I would otherwise have missed - there's a fragment of rainbow in the sky above us, and it's on a curved cloud. In other words - the sky smiled.
Post-mumming, took a look at the Tate's crack. I've seen better. Still, rather that than Catherine Tate's crack.

Don't know why I never got round to seeing Die Hard With A Vengeance sooner, given I love the first two, but the delay has made parts of it queasily prescient. Shots of the twin towers looming as New York is attacked I could have expected, but the real know the plan Jeremy Irons and his accents are supposed to be undertaking, to beggar the USA? Dubya's pretty much managed that, hasn't he? And done it all while speaking in almost as silly a voice. Still, with Barack Obama's campaign regaining momentum, for now there's still hope. And in the Andes, two of the USA's hyper-rich are helping to fund an eye on the sky which will not only increase the sum (and accessibility) of human knowledge, but could well save us all from apocalyptic meteor impact. Isn't it odd how the merely super-rich seem content with vulgarity like diamond-studded mobiles and £35,000 cocktails, but the hyper-rich seem to rediscover altruism and vision? See also Warren Buffett.

A pretty quiet week for comics, but there were excellent new issues of Buffy (the first slow, character-centred episode of Whedon's Season Eight, but worth the wait) and Moon Knight. I still don't know what part of writing Entourage has equipped Mark Benson with a knack for brutal vigilante thrillers, but between his Punisher annual and this, I'm impressed. Just a shame about the art. Otherwise, it's Warren Ellis' week; Ultimate Human may not be the obvious title for a series marketing would probably rather have had as Ultimate Hulk Vs Iron Man, but fits the story Ellis has started telling, one of the happier vehicles for his recurrent fascination with the nature of posthumanity. Thunderbolts, on the other hand, is leaving the smart politics aside for the moment and concentrating on insanity, treachery and Venom eating people. Which also works.
alexsarll: (crest)
Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures really hasn't been adequately plugged to the non-child demographic, which is unfair given what a push Torchwood got (bus-side ads, for instance), and unfortunate given it's mostly very good. Yes, starting the series proper with Slitheen was unfortunate, and we've all seen the Laserquest-as-alien-troop-recruitment story a hundred times before, but the gorgon tale was quite effectively chilling and moving, and 'Whatever Happened To Sarah Jane?'...[ profile] myfirstkitchen plugged the first part a couple of weeks ago, and sure it was good, but this week's closer was even better. The villain was basically the Black Guardian done right, the moral was 'hey kids, your best friend? They'll screw you over if the price is right, you know', and even the slightly bolted-on parents of SJ's kid sidekick got to do something vaguely interesting for once. And all this in a kids' show whose budget looks to be more like oldskool Who's than the new series'!

In other geek TV news: is everyone aware of the forthcoming Joss Whedon/Eliza Dusku reunion? On a show whose concept sounds distinctly Grant Morrison? Of course, it'll have to wait until the US writers' strike is done. Now, I've been thinking about this strike. There's already been discussion on the comics sites of whether it will lead to more film and TV writers adding a comics string to their bow (consensus: probably not). But given the dollar's current status as the nancy boy of international currencies, wouldn't it make more sense for the writers to get work overseas? Right now, doing one Pot Noodle ad would probably make you a dollar millionaire. So get an episode on a big British TV show, and you're laughing. Now, consider how many British TV shows are run by people who've come up in the shadow of USTV - and it's an understandable attitude, even if I don't always agree with their choice of shows to idolise. They'd feel they were getting bargains, wouldn't they?
I'm ambivalent about whether this would be a good thing - it could be a real kick in the face for a lot of British writers who are just getting a foot in the door, like the better Who contributors. But is there any particular reason for it not to happen?
(Of course, I'm also ambivalent about the whole dollar situation. Yes, obviously there are many major ways in which it is a bad thing that an appalling president and an uncontrolled corporate class have beggared the US and according to the IMF, left bloody China as the main stabilizing force in international economics, thus ending the centuries in which economic power and social liberty have tended to advance hand in hand. But, on the other hand - cheap stuff! The exchange rate makes the new Jason Webley album a bargain. And when I found that Gosh can't get League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier after all (as a result of DC political p1ssing contests of which Alan Moore himself said "it could be an almost unbelievable pettiness and malice that was behind this, or it could be an equally unbelievable incompetence. Or it could be some heady and dizzying blend of the two") - well, it turns out that even with shipping it's cheaper to go via US Amazon anyway, so I can't be too irate.
alexsarll: (pangolin)
[ profile] publicansdecoy reckoned that by walking the streets of Greenwich on a Sunday afternoon, dressed as Noel Coward and swigging milk, I had crossed the line into actually looking like a crazy person. Or at least I think he did, but maybe he was just my imaginary friend and I was actually talking to myself.
(The Coward outfit isn't something I was wearing specifically to lose at Scrabble in; I'd been at a party in Lee the night before. That being Lee the slightly scuzzy district of South London, not a young gentleman, though I can see how my being dressed as a noted homosexualist might be construed as misleading. Not a bad party, either; you can probably get some measure of it just from the phrase "Swingballs of Fire". Plus, two people asked if I was older or younger than my sister, which given she got ID'd earlier in the week is really saying something)

There are aspects I don't buy in the set-up of bleak infertility thriller Children of Men. If the human race has been sterile since 2009, surely immigration would be less of an issue, not more? Isn't breeding one of the main engines both for immigration (people wanting a better life for their children) and for the fear of immigration (the indigenous population terrified of being outbred and overwhelmed by the fecund Other)? And for all the terror attacks and prison camps, I found the elegiac vision of humanity winding down to be strangely soothing - especially since there was no sign of sterility affecting the animals. It's a marvellously directed piece, though - everyone talks about the impressive extended shots, and they are good, but what grabbed me was the determination never to let it get too glamorous or Hollywood, even down to having someone as impeccably cool as Clive Owen get stuck in flip-flops for half the film, just to bring him down to Earth a bit. Also, Michael Caine in one of the roles where he actually acts, which is always pleasant; I'm glad he seems to be getting back to that a bit more.

And I suppose we can segue from there via the far darker infertility thriller Y: the Last Man to Brian K Vaughan's first issue of Buffy. His cardinal sin has always been a tendency to over-research and then drop in undigested gobbets of that - here, this manifests as a Buffy in which every piece of dialogue goes for the show's verbal pyrotechnics, forgetting that it never attempted to keep that pace of patter going *all* the time. Still, it has minor spoilers ) and of course lovely, lovely Faith. He'll do.
(In other comics news, Dan Slott's final issue of She-Hulk comes up with an explanation for continuity errors which is approximately 100 times better than DC's Superboy punches, and at least 1,000 times more fun. And why do hauls of Mike Carey comics always seem to turn up at the same time as Murcof albums?)

For all the Guardian's sins, I love the Guide - the single best listings source available, it's a masterpiece of formatting. It is pretty much why the Saturday edition is the only paper I still buy. Except this week, it has on the cover Ian Brown, plugging an article inside in which he expounds in his usual fvckwitted fashion on the good ideas the Taliban had, &c. Now, even were it not for the contents of that piece, I wouldn't want his ghastly mug staring out at me all week, would I? People say he looks like a monkey but I have never seen a monkey which looked so hateful, so churlish, so unutterably stupid, so plain ugly. Normally, under these circumstances, I'd tear off the cover. Except the back page of the mag inside is an interview with perhaps the only man in Britain more purely loathsome than Brown - George bloody Galloway.

Fiddy Cent, not content with losing horribly in his chart battle with Kanye, makes an even bigger tit of himself by insisting Kanye must have cheated. That's right, Fiddy, just keep digging - this pathetic wheedling is just the sort of thing to destroy your misbegotten cred even with the sort of knuckleheads who think that getting shot makes you cool. Although he has just announced the 'postponement' of his European tour, so maybe he's not wholly without honour. Either way, he loses, and music wins.
alexsarll: (bernard)
I very much doubt I'm going anywhere tonight; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and I can't remember my last night off. A shame (I've still not seen B Movie at its new home), but definitely for the best.

I think of myself as knowing Oxford better than I do; I may have spent a fair bit of time there, but it was never really one of my cities; this leaves me surprisingly surprised by something new each visit. Many of them are pleasant, such as St Giles House, whose reception room is much the sort of thing I envisage having myself one day, and the peculiar Nuffield spire. Others are less so. I'd always vaguely envied Oxford the whole academic dress business (whilst recognising that my own defective thermostat would have seen me likely lose a grade if Cambridge followed suit), so was a little disappointed yesterday to see the look spoiled on several students by flour or foam. And then increasingly unimpressed as I saw the streets also awash with spaghetti hoops and a bucket of what looked very much like vomit. Even speaking as someone who ended up toppling into the Cam after my last exam - that is no way to celebrate a friend's finals.

Has anyone else read the most recent issue of Buffy yet? Because to be quite honest, I'm a bit confused. The art seemed a little unclear in general compared to prior issues, but what I really don't get is how come spoilers, clearly )
Still, liked the overall thrust of it, and most of the rest of the details. Also good this week: the first (noughth?) issue of Warren Ellis Black Summer, in which the USA's foremost superhero decides that, the President being a criminal, there's only one honourable thing he can do. This idea is barely even controversial anymore, but it's still a great deal of fun to see it acted out.

The main problem with 'United 300' is that it deviates from its material to no benefit by having the hijackers being German, when both of its sources saw Westerners seeing off threats to liberty from the Middle East.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Have finally seen the film Nick Cave scripted, The Proposition. As I had been led to expect, Australia's wilderness had been filmed impeccably, forming a perfect setting for a typically Biblical Cave story (as in one of the bits of the Bible whose story is primal and powerful more than it conveys anything which even the loopiest fundamentalist could take as a moral lession). However, like every film I have ever seen to feature Ray Winstone, it would be significantly improved by the removal of Ray Winstone.
Some other actors who would have given a better performance as Captain Stanley:
Lance Henriksen
Michael Chiklis
Pierce Brosnan
Jack Davenport*
Nick Cave himself
Edward James Olmos
Michael Caine
Damn near anyone except Ray cocking Winstone.

Which makes it rather a shame that the one piece of casting already done for the next Hillcoat/Cave film, Death of a Ladies' Man, is...Ray sodding Winstone.

Taking the evidence of the new Mitchell & Webb radio sitcom pilot, 'Daydream Believers', in conjunction with the patchy current series of Peep Show, they've finally stretched themselves too thin. I suppose most everyone does in the end.
(Speaking of Peep Show - that ad shown during Friday's episode, in which a fairly attractive girl is in the bar with her own drunker self, and the tagline "Make sure you like what you see"? It's intended as an alcohol awareness thing, but I kept expecting it to turn into a variant on the Buffy episode where Evil Willow's after the normal, not-yet-gay one)

In one of yesterday's bowling matches I was, in third place, the highest-ranking male. Which I'm sure must say something vital and current about the obsolescence of gender stereotypes, though its wider applicability is perhaps doubtful.

*This option also playing up the Pirates of the Caribbean resonance the story already possesses.
alexsarll: (Default)
The presence of Kenickie's Marie and Emmy Kate on the decks finally got me along to Cherry Bomb, Bob Stanley's girl pop night. And it's lovely. A really good mix of music, obviously - but also a very friendly atmosphere, with (presumable) regulars who looked awesome but weren't pulling any scenester attitude on those who'd come straight from work. And just the right amount of people to make upstairs at the Betsey feel vibrant, without tipping over into too full. It's moving to Fridays now, and though I can't make May's (it clashes with Soul Mole), June 15th is already in my diary.

Having been infuriated by This Film Is Not Yet Rated's revelations on American film certificates, I was cheered to learn today that one of its villains, Jack Valenti, has died. Which joy was, alas, soon eclipsed by the news that the man who gave us the Monster Mash has also checked out. Ah well, if there was ever someone who was going to have a fair chance of rising from the grave...
(Speaking of the undead, for all that I'm enjoying Buffy Season 8, the idea of Joss Whedon returning to Angel in comics seems like a bad one. For starters, he's co-writing, which seems like the worst of both worlds - canonicity without guaranteed script quality. But even beyond that - the end of TV's Angel was pretty much perfect, even redeeming the distinctly shoddy season it closed. Messing with that, whether motivated by money or a simple inability to let it lie...unwise. Which is not to say I won't at least give it a go)

Not content with already having their claws in the other BBC radio stations, the monotheists make a play for Radio 1.

Contrary to my suspicions that its 'renovation' would be an excuse to better enforce its slave name, I was pleased to see on my Tube home from the pub last night that Gillespie Road station has shiny new tiles up, proudly proclaiming its true identity.
alexsarll: (captain)
I move that, if London does get its own satellite, it should be christened Zone 8.

Buffy's 'Season 8' has started reasonably well; hopefully now Joss Whedon is back on home turf he'll be better able to avoid the pacing problems that have turned his X-Men into such a slog. I like that he seems deliberately to be using effects and plots which fit with the world established on TV, but would have been prohibitively expensive to film; playing to the medium sounds obvious but a lot of transfer writers forget it. Speaking of such, for all that I love Babylon 5 it's becoming increasingly hard to defend Straczynski's comics work - taking charge for the middle stretch of Ultimate Power he gets about half an issue of comedy out of Thor's archaic speech patterns, not allowing himself to be obstructed by any piddling little details like Ultimate Thor not actually talking like that.

Even if you've never heard of Danger: Diabolik you may well have felt its influence, whether through the Beastie Boys' 'Body Movin'' video or Grant Morrison's Fantomex. But neither of them can quite prepare you for the oddity of the original. Filmed in Italy and clearly attempting to cash in on the swinging superspy trends of the period, it's set in a strangely nebulous country where the currency is dollars, the ambience continental (including a Morricone score) and the Minister of Finance played by Terry-Thomas. The action and violence oscillates between the genuinely dark and the knockabout A-Team style, and Diabolik himself is played in a strangely inexpressive manner, perhaps more through the limitations of lead actor John Phillip Law than any conscious decision. It comes across more as a rushed rip-off than a deliberate artistic strike for strangeness - and yet somehow that works. A fascinating curio.

Is anybody actually going to the Billy Mackenzie tribute show on Wednesday? It does look good, but won't be Billy, will it?
alexsarll: (captain)
Came online with every intention of musing on the joy of having friends where, even when you've not seen them for a couple of years, you can pick up from where you left off as though it had been, at most, a week. Time slips away, and I like that. But I was greeted by the news that the inventor of the remote control and Sheridan Morley have both gone and died, and now I don't feel quite so heartwarmed.

Joss Whedon on the imminent Buffy Season 8 comic; no major spoilers, but anyone getting too excited should bear in mind that whereas he's a master when it comes to TV, in comics he alternates moments of brilliance with severe defects in his storytelling craftsmanship.

There seems to be general delight that the best film ever is to be adapted for the London stage, but I find myself unable to share it. The trend for stage versions of screen hits has always seemed fairly pointless to me; as with the band-based musicals, it's more about bums on seats than art. And even beyond that, while some films can easily be imagined as plays, from its colour/monochrome switches to the immensity of its Heaven, A Matter of Life and Death is not one of them. Add to this that the CV of this 'Tristan Sturrock' hardly reads like that of a man who can fill David Niven's shoes, and I shan't be rushing for tickets.

Possibly the best summary I have ever seen of the classic fantasy races:
Orcs: "English football fans; blokes who come out a football match and like to fight people"
Dwarves: "The northern working class... very proud of their holes in the ground. A proud people whose power has passed and faded"
Elves: "English posh people... lots of times to practise lah-de-dah magic and fighting... think they owe a debt to the great unclean"
Dark Elves: "English posh people who have taken drugs. Lord Byron. English posh people who realise they're above the law and cannot be stopped"
Yes, I've always been rather a fan of dark elves, why do you ask?

January 2016



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