Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Liveblogging Across Borders

Now that the new fall season of television is rolling out the ads are all around us. On billboards, in newspapers, on the underground, but perhaps most noticeably on our timelines.

It's part of more and more actors, directors and writers' contracts these days, but also very much in their own interest, to advertise whatever their most relevant work at the moment is. Considering how hugely popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are it's no wonder they all flock their to gain their own direct link to their fans. The ones who are good at it use it more or less like any other person. Sharing their thoughts on news as they pass by, what they happen to be doing at the moment, things like that. Then we have the bad ones who treat it almost like a chore to be completed as abruptly as possible. You have a film out, you tweet about it once a day for a few days out in its release, and then you basically just abandon your profile. But one of the most annoying results of the use of social network as cheap advertising is live-blogging.

A long range of television actors, and some directors, have started using their live fanlines to directly discuss their latest work as it is airing. They are mostly nice enough to warn their unwanting fans of this beforehand, but few does anything more about it, leaving the fans who can't necessarily watch the shows as they air with few options. As a foreign viewer I never get to watch the big Americans shows live, even if I could theoretically stream them live somehow most of them air in the middle of the night for me. For some shows I'm lucky enough to get to watch them the next morning, so it's a matter of just staying off of social media for a few extra hours in the morning, but some others again take weeks and months to make their way to my territory. So what am I to do?

I like following the people I do, otherwise I wouldn't. But I'm not particularly fond of a "forced" hiatus from Twitter and/or Facebook every week at the whim of some actors. Because of this I find myself having to purge my various timelines every fall as to not get bombarded with spoilers and just overflowing timelines in general (following a few people from the same television show will do that). I don't want to do it, but if I want an enjoyable and streamlined timeline it's something that has to be done. The actors who are trying to connect more tightly with their audience are effectively alienating parts of it. I understand that foreign viewers rank pretty low on the list of reasons a show might be renewed at the end of a season, but it's still a matter of perception and likability. Not even within the US, the intended market for most of the shows that have live-blogging actors, are they safe. Some actors might liveblog in a timezone that's ahead of a good chunk of the country, meaning that even though they're in the targeted demographic they have to deal with their timelines being filled with spoilers and information that they might have best liked to receive at a later time.

I've never heard too much outrage at it, however. So maybe it's just me how really dislike liveblogging as a concept for anything that aren't live events (think sports, announcements, news, and similar). It doesn't add anything to the experience for me as a person who can't watch the shows live, and I fail to see how spending the entire episode reading your timeline can be any fun. It just takes up space and clutters my online experience.

Monday, 29 September 2014

The Simpsons Guy - Crossover of Despair

"The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" finally get their television crossover. Two of the biggest animated shows on TV put together in the same hour-long event, what could go wrong? A lot. A lot is what could go wrong.

For as long as "Family Guy" has been around people have been comparing it to "The Simpsons", mostly through the accusations of it being a blatant rip-off of the latter. It's still grown to have its own major audience, and in later years they've been more or less equal, with the new animated sitcoms like "Bob's Burgers" now being cast as the new rip-offs. But there's never been a major crossover between the two shows, although they've both lived through some of the biggest crossover eras in recent television history. That all changed this past weekend, when the Griffins finally visited Springfield in the season premiere of the 13th season premiere of "Family Guy".

The premise for the episode is simple enough. The Griffins are fleeing Quahog after Peter's latest job as a comic strip creator renders him the most hated man in town. When they stop at a semi-isolated gas station their car is stolen and they're left stranded on the outskirts of Springfield. The remainder of the hour-long special takes place all across town, making sure to feature as many "The Simpsons" characters and running gags as they possible can, all leading up to a show-off between all the similar characters from both shows.

The best, and arguably only good, part of this episode is the art. Despite "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" both having their own distinct art styles this episode manages to blend them convincingly. Making it actually seem like they're all part of the same world, and not just two different shows thrown in a blender. Of course there are some moments when the "Family Guy" aspect shines through more brightly than "The Simpsons", but considering it is actually an episode of "Family Guy" that is to be expected.

The narrative of the episode is however just mindless dribble. The empty-headed self-references get old fast, and when there's a whole forty six minutes of them you end up just waiting for it all to blow over. It is in the nature of crossover shows, of course, to compare the two shows and be nothing more than fan service, but that doesn't mean they're good. There's a reason most people don't like crossover shows, they end up feeling like neither show. Instead they're end up as a weird mix of ideas and characters that end up being remembered as nothing more than "that one time that guy from that one show was on that other show". It's a neat idea to want to see  your favourite characters together, but it's not a good one.

The last half hour or so of the show is probably some of the worst scenes in the history of either show. It's more or less just Homer and Peter fighting across Springfield, making sure to stop by any iconic set and get one-liners from the characters that have the time to say anything earlier on. Despite there being constant action you end up looking at the clock, wondering how much time there is left until the credits finally start to roll. It's just not fun anymore. It never was.

Overall this just wasn't good. Although you'll get a few cheap laughs here and there at the expense of one show or the other, there's nothing more meaningful to it, nothing that really keeps you interested. This is a crossover that's been in people's heads for so long that is just can't live up to what they've already imagined. This is an idea that Fox should've killed the moment it showed its head, but instead we're left with an episode that will scar both shows for as long as they remain relevant.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Gone Girl - Disturbingly Dazzling

"Gone Girl" is David Fincher's latest adventure in film making. It's one of the films of 2014 I had the weakest vibe on beforehand, never really hearing too much about it except from the occasional film blog. And I'm glad I got to learn so little about it.

"Gone Girl" is a dramatic crime thriller starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Carrie Coon in the most prevalent roles. It tells the story of a husband, Ben Affleck, left lost after he comes home to find his home in shatters and his wife, Rosamund Pike, missing. Through a series of flashbacks and character-on-character interactions we stand witness to them doing their best to solve the case of the Gone Girl.

Pure visually this is one of the most beautiful films I've seen this year, which isn't all too surprising considering it's directed by David Fincher who's again brought with him cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth. Cronenweth has worked on such films as "Fight Club", "One Hour Photo", and "The Social Network". Every frame in "Gone Girl" seems to have a perfect place in the story, and there's a symbiosis between the cinematographer and editor that you rarely see. It's the kind of film any film lover should watch if only for the technical aspect of it. Even if you happen to not be entertained by the narrative, I believe you would be by the sheer effort that has been put into adapting it to the screen.

The acting can be a bit up and down, I'll admit. Some times it is very good, on the level where you wouldn't be too surprised by it being on the short list for awards, but at other times it's almost as if they're not trying at all. The acting falls short almost intentionally and uses the the narrative and visuals as a crutch to keep going. Don't get me wrong, the acting is not god awful, I'm not talking "Kraa! The Sea Monster" level here, it's just an occasional, but noticeable, dip in an otherwise very well put together film. Those are the moments where I start to see the film for the film, the moments where I lose touch with it as a whole, and it's a shame.

Luckily almost everything else makes it worth watching, and worth a lot of praise. Carrie Coon is one of the few who doesn't suffer from the occasional downfall in acting, and I would be more surprised if she didn't get some nod for supporting actress than if she did. It's also refreshing to see Tyler Perry in a role like this. He's a man who's mostly been associated with low-brow, low-hanging films that are designed just to please the masses and make a good profit. There's nothing wrong with that as a business model, but it's always nice to see those kind of people have a lot of talent and dare to show it off in work that's completely different from what they normally do.

Overall this film is very good. It's not quite in my top 10 of the year, but it's close. It's definitely one of the better "serious" films I've seen this year. I don't quite like to differentiate between "serious" and "non-serious" films, but there should be some distinction. I would feel bad to judge something like "47 Ronin" on the same grounds as "Dallas Buyers Club", or a film like "Ida" to a film like "Maleficent". It's just not fair, mostly to the serious films actually, as I tend to enjoy a film purely designed to entertain more often than a film designed to intrigue. There's a lot more that can go wrong with intrigue than can with joy.

Tremors 5 - Universal Interest

Michael Gross just won't stay quiet on Facebook despite his multiple comments about being sworn to secrecy. One thing is for sure, something Tremors related is happening right now.

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about Michael Gross, Burt Gummer in the "Tremors" franchise, stated he was going to South Africa for a project. The very same country Don Michael Paul said they were going to film the reboot of "Tremors" in. Not long after that post Michael posted he was was on his way abroad, but it wasn't until just earlier this week that he finally posted his "Day one on location" post. Where was he on location? South Africa.

The location isn't what's the most interesting, we already knew he was going there, what's more interesting is Michael's big engagement in the comment thread of that post. Particularly a few comments here and there that are definitely meant to tease people for something "Tremors" related. Of course there are a lot of fans posting things related to Tremors and Michael responding in jest, but sometimes he references the beloved franchise without necessarily having been nudged in that direction. At one point someone is trying to identify some animal droppings in the picture accompanying the post with the following comment: "The zebra and wildebeest are civilized... Which leaves..... ? [sic]" Michael simply responds with: "Hmm, something Precambrian?" For those who not in the know, the Precambrian is when the franchise's key monster, the graboid, is supposed to have originated, they found fossils from that period in the second film which where argued to be of a graboid's spikes. I'm not surprised Michael Gross has retained that kind of in-depth knowledge of the franchise, but him leaving that as a response to a comment which wasn't alluding to "Tremors" to begin with is indeed interesting.

Later on there's a lot more up-front references. In response to a fan's inquiry of pictures of the supposed Tremors sets Michael says:

An awful lot of information and linkage for something that he won't even say isn't happening. At this point I think it's more than fair to say that something related to "Tremors" is definitely happening. And considering Don Michael Paul said in his now-deleted blog post that it's supposed to be a reboot of Tremors, and Michael Gross saying at his Q&A appearance that it is supposed to be based on a script by S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock from right after "Tremors 4: The Legend Begins" it is more than reasonable to say that Universal is trying to reboot, or reignite, the "Tremors" franchise with a new sequel which already was supposed to be pretty stand-alone compared to the first two sequels.

Only time will tell exactly what is going on. But it is going on, right now, and like Michael Gross himself said. There seems to be Universal interest in the subject.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

DW: The Caretaker - A Necessary Evil

"Doctor Who" has been mostly been increasing in quality as the current season has passed by, unfortunately tonight's episode is a bump down on the same graph.

In this week's episode the Doctor goes deep undercover at Clara's school, Coal Hill, as the caretaker. He's learned there's an alien killer robot hiding somewhere close by and he needs the school to trap and get rid of it. The story itself is no doubt a "Doctor Who" story. It's wacky, it's sci-fi, it's got the world by a thread, and only the Doctor can save it. But it still falls short of being an actual good episode.

First of all, the alien robot suffers from some of the weakest effects the show has had since the early days of the relaunch in 2005. They decided to go for special effects as they tend to do with most robots and aliens on "Doctor Who", but they didn't get it right. The robot never looked like an actual robot, it looked like a toy, like someone's plaything, it was hard to find it as menacing as it was supposed to be. Even when it started shooting deadly plasma beams all over the place I found myself not even flinching at its sight. We know the special effects team on "Doctor Who" can do good stuff. Just look at the Silence for example. They're just humans with a big mask and long-fingered gloves, but they still manage to be scary. This time they dropped the ball big time, hopefully it's due to them saving their production budget for something grander.

Secondly the sub-plot is tiring. It's once again centered around Clara and Danny and their relationship, making it absolutely cemented that Danny is going to stick around for a while. This episode marks the half-way point in the current season and despite Danny's promised big role the character is still rather unfamiliar, almost a stranger still. That's where the best thing about this episode comes into play. We absolutely need this episode if Danny's story arc is to lead to anything significant, or just long-standing, at all. We get to know Danny a lot more than we did before. We get to look more into his relationship with Clara, and we get glimpses of what the Doctor thinks of him. Hopefully this will mean there can be less get-to-know-Danny episodes in the future, and we can instead focus on the things that seems to be the main arcs of the coming seasons. Mainly the one about Heaven.

1001 gram - Uferdig singeldrama

"1001 gram" er Noreg sitt bidrag til kategorien "Beste framandspråklege film" under dei 87. Academy Awards (Oscar-prisen, som den kanskje er betre kjent som) tidleg neste år. Men har den egenleg fortent det?

"1001 gram" er historia om kvinnen Marie Ernst som jobber for det norske justervesenet. Når hennes far ikkje kan dra til kiloseminaret i Paris for å diskutere redefinisjonen av kiloet og for å få det offesielle norske kiloet kontrollvege blir ho sendt i hans sted. Der møter ho ein hyggeleg franskmann, og lærer så vidt koss ein best brukar livet.

Når du ser vekk frå det relativt originale konsepet som historia dreiar seg rundt så er det diverre ikkje så veldig mykje spesielt med denne filmen. Det verkar som berre enda ein av dei norske filmane om kor kjipt det er å ikkje ha familie, og at alle alltid prøver å finne ut kva livet faktisk handler om. Det blir nokre friste pust når me får drar fram og tilbake mellom Marie sin kvardag i Noreg og hennes dagar i Paris, men ikkje nok til å heve nivået noko nevneverdig.

Skodespelet føler eg det blir vanskeleg å seia noko på. Til å byrja med verka dei fleste figurane ganske stive og falske, som om dei var skrevne figurar og ikkje faktiske folk, men etter kvart som filmen går blir det betre og betre. Spesielt nokon av dei mindre figurane er verdt å nevne. Dei utan namn, dei som er så vidt innom for ein replikk eller to, dei var ofte lettere å kjenne seg att i. Så i motsetning til mange andre filmar var dei meir eit positivt element enn ein distraksjon.

Alt i alt så hadde eg det gøy under filmen. Den klarte å vekke dei kjensalene som den prøvde, og den holdt meg underhaldt til siste minutt, men ikkje noko meir enn ein tilfeldig valt film på Netflix. Dessuten så verkar "1001 gram" litt uferdig, spesielt mot slutten, og eg satt att med kjensla at den var blitt broten av før den faktisk var ferdig. Den spelte klart litt på tropen om at når filmen sin historie slutter så byrjar ei ny, men det var ikkje riktig tidspunkt å køyre rulleteksten.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

DW: Time Heist - Good But Forgettable

The Doctor still hasn't stopped running, and is going full speed in this action-packed adventure where time is of the essence.

In "Time Heist" we follow the Doctor, Clara, and two others whilst they're trying to rob the most secure bank in the galaxy for reasons they can't even remember. It's going back to the same sort of episodic theme that we first saw the Capaldi Doctor experience in "Into the Dalek". The episode is set in the distant future on an alien world inhabited by mostly humans who are living in a society that's a coin toss between a utopia and dystopia.

In this particular episode they stray away from the more heavy sci-fi tones that "Into the Dalek" delved into, and instead focuses on the people living in such a world. We're introduced to Psi and Saibra who in this episode are more or less as instrumental as the Doctor and Clara. They all have stakes in the robbery of the planet-wide bank, although they don't know for sure. At the beginning of the story they're greeted by a recording of themselves stating that they voluntarily wiped their own memories in order to go on the mission they had been handed. At the bank they face several obstacles, including a giant stalk-eyed alien who can remind you of the minotaur from "The God Complex". A big hulk of a creature walking slowly through hallways while showing you your deepest fears and secrets.

I thought this episode was rather fun. There were elements I'd wish it had gone more into, but in doing so they did manage to keep a concise and to-the-point story that kept me entertained and interested from start to finish. The new characters, Psi and Saibra, could have used some better writing or acting, they didn't feel as real as the other characters. They were there for their very specific purposes, and it seemed as if the writer didn't bother doing anything more with them. Because of this there were some troubles with their respective character endpoints, but I won't go too much in on that other than to say that they didn't feel quite satisfactory.

Overall I liked this episode. It's light, it's got action, and it's set in the future which is one of my favourite episode formats in "Doctor Who". Unfortunately it's a bit of a step down from last week's "Listen", but given just how great that episode was it would have been overly optimistic to expect anything as good or better. "Time Heist" is an episode that will keep you entertained when you watch it, but it's probably going to end up as that one episode you never think of when looking back at the series.

Mot naturen - Flau og fin

For det meste er eg ikkje særleg stor fan av norsk film. Mest fordi eg frå ung alder ble dratt mot det mystiske engelske språket som eit underhaldningsspråk, men óg fordi det er relativt få norske filmar eg faktisk har hatt sansen for. "Mot naturen" er dog veldig fin.

Ole Giæver har skrive, regissert, og spelt hovudrolla i "Mot naturen". Ein film om mannen Martin og alle tankane som driv gjennom hovudet hans når han er på helgetur åleine på fjellet. Dette er ein slik type film kor det som "faktisk skjer" ikkje er i fokus. Det er berre noko som hender i bakgrunnen mens me følgjer med på Martin sjølv og kva han tenker om alt som har skjedd i det siste, forskjellege måter han kunne handert ting på, ting han burde ha sagt, ting han burde ha gjort, generelt sett akkurat slike ting som me alle samen går rundt og tenker på når me er åleine med tankane våre.

Det er ikkje til å kome vekk frå at dette langt i frå er ein film for alle. Det er lang veg å gå frå dei actionprega storfilmane som pleier å prege den norske kinotoppen side om side med diverse barnefilmar. Med hovudfokus på det mentale over det fysiske så blir det ein heilt anna oppleving, det blir meir det eg ville kalla ein "snakkefilm". Ein film kor ordet står i sentrum, og absolutt ikkje er til å oversjå. Det er relativt få replikker som blir sagt ut høgt eller på "direktesending" i denne filmen. Det meste me høyrer er enten tilbakeblikk frå Martin sitt perspektiv, fiktive situasjoner i hovudet hans, og kva enn anna han kan kome til å tenke på. Sjølv når han faktisk møter nokre andre folk så er det knapt med orda som blir sagt, det er ikkje sjølve interaksjonane som er meininga med filmen, det er tankane rundt dei.

Alt i alt tykkjar eg "Mot naturen" er ein veldig flau og fin film. Me får verkeleg kjenne på kjenslane til Martin, han verker som han faktisk er ein verkeleg person. Verkeleg nok til at eg blir så flau av noko av det som skjer at eg rett og slett må ta ein pustepause og lukke auga, men filmen kan óg bli litt vel keisam til tider. Det er augenblikk kor eg ikkje kan hjelpe å dra litt ekstra på gjespemusklene og lure på kva klokka er, men det er nesten å forvente av ein slik type film. Det er mykje å ta inn over seg å vera inni ein anna person sitt hovud, óg viss dykk er ulike nok så blir det fort nokon ideer og tankar som berre ikkje interesserer. Det er dog alikvel eit veldig flott innblikk i Martin sin verd, og absolutt verdt å sjå viss du ikkje har noko i mot dei såkalla "snakkefilmane".

Friday, 19 September 2014

A Walk Among the Tombstones - Liam Neeson Kills Again

Like many others I'm a sucker for Liam Neeson films, especially the kind he's been in this half decade or so. "Taken", "Unknown", "The Grey", "Non-Stop", they're all entertaining as hell. Sure, they're built up around more or less the same concept. Some broody father figure who used to be some kind of law enforcement type character ends up in the middle of a crazy situation of which he's the only one who can solve. But it's amazing every time.

In this particular film Neeson plays a retired cop who's also a recovering alcoholic. He works nights as an unlicensed private detective, and gets involved in a big case involving the kidnapping and murder of a drug trafficker's wife. The plot itself isn't all that original or ground breaking, but it's enough of a premise to allow Neeson to do what he does best, and actually slightly above average this time.

From the get-go I basically dismissed this as "just another Liam Neeson film", I wanted to watch it, but I didn't except it to be anything I special. The film pleasantly surprised me. It's one of the better crime films I've seen to come out of the US in some time, Europe has been dominating that field for a while making it even more enjoyable that "A Walk Among the Tombstones" is as good as it is. Listen, I don't want to get your hopes up too much, this isn't that good, I'm not talking awards or even rewatches here. What I'm talking about is a film that will most likely surprise you in a good way, a film that keeps you entertained and intrigued throughout it's runtime. A film that's actually interesting.

One of the more interesting things about this film is how much it reads like a book. Not necessarily in a bad way, not in a way where you recognise tropes from novels that just doesn't translate well unto film. But in a way that gives you what seems like well-established and rounded characters that don't have to stay around for a while. Even the small characters feel real, feel grounded, the kind of realness that's hard to achieve in a single film, but somehow screenwriter and director Scott Frank manages to capture that from the novel it is based on. Yes, it's based on a novel, it's kind of cheating, but it's still rare to see film adaptations manage to bring to life characters in the way Frank does in "A Walk Among the Tombstones."

Overall, this is a very enjoyable film. It won't change your life, it won't alter your views on anything, but it will keep your attention for a short two hours, it will make sure you're well taken care of. If you however don't normally like crime films this won't be for you, you have to like crime films on at least some level to be able to appreciate it for what it is. But if you do, you'll have a lot of fun.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Michael Gross is Going to South Africa

Earlier this week I posted about Michael Gross warning fans of Tremors to "stay tuned", it seems that we might be learning more sooner rather than later.

In response to a woman asking Michael to attend a film festival Michael said: "[M]y only regret is that I will be in South Africa working on another project during [October 16-19]." Who else do we know is in South Africa at the moment? Don Michael Paul.

In his famous now-deleted blog post Don Michael Paul said that he was going to South Africa to start production on the reboot of Universal's Tremors franchise. This seems to be all but confirmed as being what's happening right now. Don Michael Paul has been in South Africa for over a month, but we had heard nothing more from the supposed star Michael Gross until now. It seems that shooting on Tremors 5 has been delayed about a month from Michael's guess in the Tremors Q&A, but that doesn't seem to matter much. It's all happening now, and if the schedule is still somewhat correct we could expect a release to be as early as the 25th anniversary itself, January 19th. It's not that uncommon for quick turnarounds in the straight-to-video market, but more likely it will turn up some time during the summer of 2015. Depending on how much money Universal is willing to throw at the production to speed it up. They do seem rather keen on getting it out there these days.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

DW: Listen - The Sound of Awe [Spoiler levels: Medium]

The Doctor is back again with an episode which's trailers send you down memory lane in search of the classic NuWho episode "Blink". But I think "Listen" just might be better.

I feel that for every new episode of eight series of Doctor Who I've written about how it's gotten better, how I like it a lot more now than last week, and this week is no different. I genuinely think "Listen" might be my new favourite episode of the show. At the very least the best in a few series. I realise how uninformed and easily won-over I sound, but to be fair that is true. I had no real idea of what to expect from the Capaldi Doctor, and it would almost be impressive if this early in his tenure the episodes started to get worst. Almost every time there's a new Doctor it takes a little time to get going. A few episodes to really kick in. They have to go through the different themes Doctor Who has added to its rolodex over the years. A funny one, a periodic one, a future one, a scary one.

This episode is a scary one. It is all about what's underneath your bed. About what it is that you glimpse in the corner of your eye. What's making the foot step you hear right behind you. What makes you talk to yourself late at night. It's back to what Tennant had done with the Angels and what Smith had with the Silence, but this time for Capaldi's run. I feel it's done a lot better this time in terms of scariness. We never really get to know what it is the Doctor is looking for. Is he looking for something at all? Is something really there? Or has the Doctor just gone off to the really deep end?

Integrated into the main plot is the plot of Danny Pink, Clara's new romantic interest. They're sent back and forth in his timeline because of a malfunction happening when Clara got to telepathically interface with the TARDIS, effectively rendering her in direct control of the TARDIS itself. We get to see the past of Danny Pink, and the future. We get to speculate on whether what the Doctor and Clara does is what made Danny the man he is in present day, and whether or not what Clara is doing in the present day is what's reflecting into the future. It's a very interesting way of handling the romantic aspect of the show. Instead of constantly having scenes that's just showing them being lubby dubby, we get to explore their relationship through other means.

What really gets me about this episode is the feel and theme. It's still not the super gritty and ultra serious feeling that I felt we were promised over the last year and a half or so, but I don't mind that anymore. The Capaldi Doctor has shown himself in several different episode types and theme aspects. He's starting to really become a fully fleshed character. You can start to understand why he's doing what he's doing, and you're not as surprised by how he handles things. I still think I was right when I said last week that "Robot of Sherwood" would be referenced to as a classic Capaldi episode, but "Listen" will be the one talked about the most. It will be the one people say really sold them on Capaldi as the Doctor. It's now that it got good. It's now that he's the Doctor.

Friday, 12 September 2014

The Maze Runner - Surprisingly Good

At least once a year there's some new fantasy and/or sci-fi film about a bunch of kids in a messed up world. It's almost always based on a "best-selling novel" that's "captured the imaginations of teens everywhere", and is set to have at least two sequels before the first film is even filmed. Last fall it was "The Mortal Instruments", this spring it was "Divergent", and now it's "The Maze Runner".

I had never heard about this film until the teasers and posters started popping up here and there earlier this year. It both sounded and looked completely generic. Two kids in some kind of dystopian world, seemingly pre-destined to change it for the better. I didn't think anymore of it until just yesterday when I noticed it was having a pre-premiere the following day. There was nothing else of interest screening, so I just into it with the thought that I'd at least be somewhat entertained for a couple of hours. And I'm happy to say I was.

"The Maze Runner" is more or less all I look for in a film with a genre like this. It has a mysterious plot, a bunch of kids who don't really know anything, a main character who's unique from the rest, and a web of inter-personal politics and teenage emotions. It's not going to win any awards for directing, acting, or writing, but it's fun and entertaining from beginning to start. I was worried that there would be a lot of downtime, as other films of the genre often have. They stop the plot to focus on a romantic relationship, some unimportant squabble between self-declared leaders, or anything else that's not overly significant to the overall plot. "The Maze Runner" contains all these elements, but it does a very good job at controlling them in its own best interest. They don't take over the film, they don't stop it in its tracks to show off what they've got. They're just there, in the background, waiting for a slight lull in the action so that they can be noticed. The romantic relationship is perhaps the best handled, as in there isn't one. There is one girl/woman within the first few circles of characters, and there isn't a single line or look where some romantic intentions are implied. It's refreshing really. The only downside is that she's got very little to do compared to her apparent role in the overall plot, she doesn't even show up until halfway through the film. But it seems that she's going to be a lot more important in the upcoming films, so it's excusable. 

The core concept of the film itself is also very intriguing. A gang of kids are sent to the middle of a giant maze, left to fend for themselves. Every month a new kid is brought to "The Glade", as they call it, bringing with them fresh supplies of food and equipment. None of them remember anything except for their names, so they have no idea what they're doing there or who sent them. Surrounding them on all sides is a gigantic maze towering tens of metres into the air. Thick concrete walls shift every night, making the maze nearly impossible to navigate at any given time. This is where the titular "Maze Runner" comes in. A squad runs out in the maze every morning when the walls shifts to allow them entry, and stays out all day in the search of a route that will lead them to the other side. If they don't make it back by nightfall there's no getting back to The Glade all. No one has survived a night in the maze.

Overall I found much enjoyment in this film. It's not overly original or special, but it's fun and exciting from beginning to end. I cared about the characters, I wondered what was going to happen with them, and how they were going to react to what was happening around them. The almost two-hour runtime went by a lot quicker than I'd expected, and I was left wondering what was going to happen in the next installments. Not in such a way that I was frustrated, it felt like it had an actual ending, a place where you could be fine with there not being anymore films, but I was excited and happy by the prospect of getting to revisit the universe and tumble even further down the rabbit hole. 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Michael Gross: "Stay Tuned, Tremors Fans!"

The long silence about all the Tremors rumours has finally come to an end as Michael Gross tells fans of Tremors to "stay tuned".

Michael Gross first talked about the possibility of Tremors 5 going into production back in March. Then we got into a long lull until Don Michael Paul wrote his now-deleted blog post announcing his role as the director of a reboot of the Tremors franchise. Other than that we have had very little substantial news. Stampede has said that there's been talk at Universal about doing a new Tremors film, but there's been similar rumours almost since back when Tremors 4 was released. It's always been someone's intention to make a fifth installment in the Tremors film franchise. But now it seems we're getting a lot closer.

Last Friday, unbeknownst to many, Michael Gross wrote a short message on the official Tremors fanpage on Facebook (as seen above) simply reading "Stay tuned for some exciting news!" Of course in the midst of all the rumours this isn't too surprising, it's more of a relief. We've finally gotten something a bit more to grab onto. Some actual information from a person who's supposed to be involved. Today he even resorted to posting more information on his own fanpage.

Universal obviously wants him to gauge the interest amongst his fans. The people who actively follow the Tremors franchise, and who (hopefully) wants even more. If Universal is getting Michael Gross to post these statuses, there is something going on, and we'll probably learn more sooner rather than later. What it might be is up to anyone's guess, if it isn't a fifth Tremors film, it might just be something fun in celebration of the original film's 25th anniversary next year, but I'd honestly be surprised at this point if it turned out it wasn't a new film.

And just to add some more fuel to the fire for good old, speculative fun, the comment above was posted to Michael Gross' original post to the Tremors fanpage. "Tremors 5 with all the original cast?" It was liked by what appears to be Michael Gross' personal Facebook page. But it could, in truth, be anyone's page, anyone with a few personal looking photos of Michael Gross. It's still fun that he might have liked it, however. A film with all the original cast probably won't be happening, but with Kevin Bacon recently stating that he'd love to do a reboot/sequel it's not as far fetched as it might have been earlier this year.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Universal Cracks Down on Tremors Videos

In the past two days three of my previously untouched videos featuring footage from Tremors on YouTube has been flagged by NBC Universal. Two of the videos were over seven years old, and the third six and a half, they were hardly newly uploaded. Could Universal be securing its copyright ground in preparation for Tremors 5?

One thing that many might not know is that in order for a video featuring footage or audio to be taken down on YouTube the owner has to upload their own version of it (unless they for some reason decide to do it manually). YouTube then goes through the video and whenever it recognises bits or pieces of it elsewhere they either notify the original owner, or goes through with a pre-determined action defined by the owner. Normally, these days, that action is merely seizing the ad revenue, and otherwise leaving the video alone. Sometimes they might also block the footage in certain territories where rights and laws might differ from others. That makes it even more interesting what Universal decided to do.

They decided to completely block the videos globally. They cannot be viewed at all, not even by me, the uploader. This makes me think that they have plans beyond just making sure no one else profits from their videos (my videos did not run ads to begin with, however). They might just be sending a message they won't allow copyright violations on their property, but it's the timing of it all that's the most interesting. If you go through my blog you will see that there are substantial rumours going around that production on a fifth Tremors film is just about to begin. They could be trying to regain control of their franchise in a time when they're trying to relaunch it. They want to make sure there isn't anything iffy out there containing their footage. Something at all that might potentially risk their soon-revived franchise.

Now, I know this is really grasping at straws, but I find it interesting nonetheless. YouTube videos that's been up for over seven years tend not to be blocked all of a sudden unless the owners has renewed interest in the material. I'm choosing to believe this might be related to the whole sequel ordeal. If not, there's still bound to be some revamping behind the scenes, maybe something that's leading up to the 25th anniversary next year. One of the videos blocked featured footage from the original film (the two others were the intro and end credits of Tremors: The Series respectively). So it specifically something Universal has uploaded. Only time will tell if I'm crazy or not.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

DW: Robot of Sherwood - Doctoring History

As I made clear in my posts about the two previous episodes starring the Capaldi Doctor, I wasn't overly keen on him. He didn't feel quite right, he fell between a few cracks that made him seem not quite like the Doctor. This episode changes that for the better.

"Robot of Sherwood" will go down as the episode that really cemented Capaldi's Doctor. There's no dillydallying about past episodes or events, they just get on with it, much like in last week's "Into the Dalek". However, unlike "Into the Dalek" this episode didn't feel like it was written for a different Doctor. This felt completely like a normal Doctor Who episode tailored to this new man we got to meet last year.

The most interesting this about this episode is perhaps the relationship between Robin Hood and the Doctor himself. Robin Hood acts much like Smith's Doctor in this rendition of the character. He always laughs in the face of danger, believing it much more wise to live life in enjoyment rather than bitterness. But he also knows how to deal with seriousness and drama, feeling like the same character despite the contrasting emotions. This episode feels very much like Capaldi's Doctor squaring off against Smith's Doctor. From the get-go Clara is excited about Robin Hood, much in the same way as she was about Smith's Doctor. She looks at him like a hero, and loves how he stands for what he does, and how he acts to defend it. Capaldi's Doctor sees this as a kind of unwelcome memory. He knows he's not quite the same as when he first met Clara, but he is the same. It hurts to see her act with someone else like she used to do with him. He starts trying to impress her, show that he can still be the person that he used to be, but in the end he doesn't have to.

The episode itself is very fun and an interesting turn on the regular period pieces Doctor Who does. The Doctor is adamant in his belief that Robin Hood is just a fictional character, and spends the episode trying to figure out what exactly he is, and where he comes from. The way the Doctor hypothesises aliens, robots, amusement parks, and all kind of weird scenarios make the episode feel a lot more science fictiony than your typical period piece (yes, even the ones containing cyborgs and dinosaurs), which in my book is a big bonus. I really love the episodes when the Doctor go full sci-fi, travelling far into the future or to distant alien worlds.

Overall I really enjoyed this episode, a lot more than I thought I would. It's satisfying to finally see Capaldi's Doctor settle in as his own character, and have him face off against someone so much like himself. I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up being one of the episodes remembered as a classic Capaldi episode.

Into the Storm - Found-Footage Still Not Fun

"Found" footage films have been around for quite a while now, but the big ones are still rather rare and far between. There's never been a huge surge of the genre, it's been more about individual examples of the genre sparking some interest regardless of the filming style. But still, they won't go away, so we get "Into the Storm".

There's been some found footage films that I absolutely love, I have to say. The Norwegian "Trolljegeren" (Trollhunter) is one of my all-time favourite films period, "Project X" was a cut above the rest, and "Chronicle" managed to do the gimmick in a much better and visually pleasant way. "Into the Storm" is unfortunately just another film to add to the genre for no particular reason. It could've just as easily been made as a standard blockbuster action thriller, but they decided to throw a bunch of handheld cameras into the mixture.

"Into the Storm" has close to zero story and character development. It's to the point where I struggled to remember some more fine details just a few minutes after leaving the theatre. The only impression that I was left with was that of all the destruction and decent CGI. The characters are as wiped from my memory, I have to think hard to remember what the actual quest or point of the story was, and that's just not good enough.

If you are into films with a lot of destruction and some half-funny or half-touching moments then you'll probably make it through this one without too much ache, but be warned that the CGI is far from as impressive or thematic as what you get to see in the promotional imagery. It's not bad, but it's not great either. It gets the job done, and that's it.

Also, what's up with the "into X" trope that's been going on lately? "Star Trek Into Darkness", "Into the Dalek", "Into the Storm", "Into the Woods", "Into the White". It's not that great of a title template. It's really more of a slogan.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie - It's Okay I Guess [Spoiler Levels: Moderate]

Angry Video Game Nerd was one of the first webseries I ever watched regularly. It's been around since before YouTube, having the first two episodes be produced in 2004, but it wasn't until YouTube came around that it really hit it big. It's been the go-to series for fictionalised game reviewers to take inspiration from, and it's not all that certain that shows devoted to retro games would be as prevalent today had it not been for James Rolfe. And now, finally, he's gotten to make it into a feature length film. It was released on VimeoOnDemand earlier today after a short tour of the US at small theatres, and I like many others quickly paid up and sat down. Sadly, I was left disappointed.

I don't know exactly what I expected from this film. The concept of an angry man playing video games while talking to a camera isn't the most adaptable concept in the world. James Rolfe early said that it wouldn't be anything like the show, rather it would be about the Nerd himself on a quest to find a video game to review, and that is exactly what it is about in the end.

For anyone who has followed James Rolfe, the creator of AVGN, as much as the AVGN series itself knows that he's long been interested in films. His website, Cinemassacre.com, is filled with films and webseries. Even going as far as making a film called "Cinemassacre 200" all about the 200 short films he's made over the years. Taking this into account, I was quite excited about the prospect of an AVGN film. Not only was the beloved Nerd getting a feature length story to develop himself, but it was going to let James Rolfe make a larger budget feature film, something that was interesting just in itself. World quickly spread that he had worked on a script for a film for a few years, trying to make it as good as possible. Fine tuning it and bringing on others to help him finding out what it should be. It all sounded good at the time, but it just lead to the film being more disappointing than it had to be.

First things first, James Rolfe has stated several times that he enjoys films that are so bad that they are good, he's also a big fan of mid-20th century monster films. Several aspects from these loves has appeared in the Angry Video Game Nerd series before, so it wasn't entirely out of the question that they would again for the film. I just wish they had been executed better. One of the biggest problems the film has is the inconsistency in its special and visual effects. It doesn't just stay to one kind of visual style, instead there are some sequences that are entirely made out of miniature models, and some that are just actors on poorly keyed green screens. I can appreciate the miniature models. They're charming, they're old-school, and they get the point across that you don't necessarily have budget for big visual effects. But bad green screens says just one thing, you didn't have good enough equipment. There's no real charm in seeing slight bleed on a green screen shot. There's nothing old-school about noticing the differences in lighting between the actors and the backdrop. It just takes you out of the experience, making you lose your place until it happens again. You especially notice it in some parts when there's green screen shots for locations they'd previously actually shot at. They needed pick-up shots but hadn't the money to travel back, so they just shot them in a studio. It doesn't look too good.

More importantly, though, is the narrative. I get why Rolfe did a lot of the things he did, but I wish he'd done it better. For starters, there's two new "main" (ish) characters in this film. Cooper and Mandi. A film with just a lonely video game nerd can become boring, difficult, or uninteresting, so I understand the need to add more elements. But it should have been more thought through. Cooper was fine enough for what he was, comic relief, a sidekick. He got some laughs when he needed to, and he helped push the Nerd to do what he needed to throughout the picture. But Mandi didn't really do anything. The only thing she was responsible was an opportunity that lead to the Nerd going on his quest. An opportunity that could've been easily replaced with something else, or they could've just limited her character to exactly that, but instead they made her a bigger part of the film. She ends up having so little to do, that a few ways through the film they literally just get rid of her. They let the bad guys take her, and the Nerd and Cooper don't even try to get her back. Mandi contributed nothing to the film, and it's a shame since she's one of few female parts in a male dominated film. The other big female part, Sergeant McButter, was a tad better. She was funny when needed to, and she stayed out of the way enough for her not to feel forced. Sure, it would've been nice to see her in a bigger part, but at least she didn't drag the film down by being out of place.

They managed to get the feeling more right for the ending segments, however. I won't talk too much about them, but they really got to grips with the balance between special and visual effects, and the balance between seriousness and absurdity in the story. If the entire film had had the same type of feeling and theme as the last half hour or so it would've been a much better film. One that I would watch over and over again. If only to re-experience how crazy it was.

Overall the film was completely okay, as someone who enjoys the webseries. If you haven't watched the webseries I highly doubt you'll find anything of any real entertainment from the film, other than the borderline campfactor. It's not quite bad-good enough to warrant a watch solely for that, and it's not quite good-good enough to warrant a watch based on that. The only thing of real entertainment was the cameos from other online reviewers, and the ending segments. Nothing more. If you really want to watch a feature length film based on an online show revolving around reviewing old junk you're better of watching "Ashens and the Quest for the GameChild" from 2013. Manages the balance a lot better.