Thursday, 26 February 2015

"But That Dude From The Crow Was ESSENTIAL To The Franchise!"

Who will save our Godawful alien-human hybrid button-nosed monkeys
A few initial thoughts on the new Alien film, and people's reactions to it:

1) As always, I refuse to state whether or not the film will be any good before seeing the film.

2) I'm perfectly happy with the decision to ignore Alien3 and Alien Resurrection, but I understand why anyone who rates those films (and neither is as bad as they are sometimes painted) would be annoyed.

3) That said, it's by no means clear to me where we get the idea that retcons are obvious fan service, and insisting on adherence to established c.anon is somehow a pure motive which bravely ignores what other people want. There's something hilariously ironic in listening to fans of the series complaining that they aren't getting the film they want because the director is too fixated on giving fans of the series the film they want.

4) We're talking about an obvious milking of a cash cow. I'm perfectly fine with that, and it's demonstrably true that riding on the back of previous success can lead to awesome art. But let's not pretend a major motivation here is anything other than making money via persuading fans to part with their cash. Anyone who doesn't like that approach as a business model/motivation for creativity, fair play. But it's baked into the cake here, and was from the moment the words "new Alien film announced" floated into the interwebs.

5) For those snorting in disgust about the budget of the film: films that are liable to make money get big budgets these days. That's a given.  If you want to complain that this amount of money is an obscene amount to spend on generating entertainment when so many people in the world are homeless and/or sick and/or starving, then right on. Fight the power. But if you only start complaining about mega-budgets when people announce films you have a problem with (again, excepting genuinely offensive and problematic film concepts), you imply the massive amount of cash thrown at studios to create moving pictures to numb our brains for a few hours becomes a problem when you don't like their creative choices, rather than when you consider how many people's lives could be materially improved by spending that money elsewhere.

To say this is an ugly look would be colossal understatement.

6) Can I just point out once again how desperately fucking tired I am of geeks telling other geeks the things they want to see are bad? I mean, if they're bad because their bigoted or exploitative (and no, exploiting geeks by making them want stuff does NOT count), then obviously kill that stuff with rocks. But the WHOLE FUCKING POINT of being a geek is that we know damn well that there is stuff out there the general public looks down their nose at that is actually wonderful and affirming and gloriously strange. We're supposed to be all about realising that what's not remotely our cup of tea can be indescribably wonderful to someone else.  This kind of fan vs fanboy internal sniping is exactly what we're supposed to be desperately trying to avoid.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Dying Of The Shite

For those not in the know, this week The Walking Dead featured a gay kiss (as oppose to one of those lesbian kisses that people somehow seem more OK with), and predictably a certain subset of the Twitterati has lost their goddamn minds.

I have gay friends who are utterly furious about this outpouring of bigotry, and I have no intention of contradicting their feelings on this, but I must confess to having a different reaction. I looked up each of the people who appeared on Bleeding Cool's list, and of those that still exist on Twitter (two of them have deleted their accounts), the average number of followers these witless arseholes can lay claim to is a mere 742 people.

This is what the out-and-out homophobes have left. Nine thousand idiots led by twelve prime idiots desperately and pathetically hanging on to an incoherent ideology that has been intellectually dead for a generation. I'm not saying these people aren't hideous. I'm not saying the gay community is wrong to view their existence as evidence of how much further society still has to go. That, quite clearly, isn't my call to make.

All I'm saying is that we're winning. And we're not winning by a small margin.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Stormy Present

Days Of Future Past offered Bryan Singer both a nightmare brief and the easiest task imaginable. The latter was almost absurdly simple: spend two hundred million dollars telling people X-Men: The Last Stand never happened. In this he was entirely successful, but does raise the question of whether it would have been cheaper to send a leaflet to everyone who had to sit through that film assuring them it was all a dream.

So what else do we have here? Well, that's where the nightmare brief kicks in. DoFP features at least fifteen actors who have had what could fairly be called major roles in previous X-Men films, and then adds in Bolivar Trask, Quicksilver, Blink, Bishop, Warpath and Sunspot (the last of those not even having time to be identified the film). That's a simply ungodly amount of people running around the place, and as a result almost every cast member from before First Class and many from the aforementioned are pretty badly served. I'd be amazed if Halle Berry's lines in the film hit double figures, Anna Paquin gets remarkably high billing for a silent cameo, and several characters from First Class are unceremoniously shuffled off-screen with barely a mention.

Of course, in all this ruthless streamlining the script can hardly be accused of deviating from its source material. I once read a comment on the internet - I really wish I could remember where it was and who wrote it - that essentially said the X-Men were like a company in which management never retires, leaving no room for those that follow to ever advance. One might argue that's an overstatement, but if so, it's not much of one. Ever since the X-plosion in the late '80s, it's become steadily more and more self-evidently impossible to juggle every character fans have become attached to in a way that can satisfy them all. Even the movie's cheapest stunt, declaring Angel, Emma Frost and - *choke* - Banshee died off-screen in what sound like horrific circumstances, is simply part and parcel of standard X-Men policy.  Hell, I've seen characters who were well-loved major players in comics that ran for years brutally murdered off-panel a decade later by writers who didn't even get all the victims' names right. And whilst I'm entirely aware that "Chuck Austen did it as well" doesn't constitute the most impressive of defences, his is just an extreme case of common comic practice.

(Poor Maggott.)

But whilst the script reflects the comics in many ways. it also outstrips it in one important regard. In the original "Days of Future Past" storyline, the nightmare future witnessed by Shadowcat (who travelled back herself in the comics, rather than sending Wolverine back by... actually I've now idea how she did that) was decades ahead of anything we'd seen in previous stories; one possible future brought about by many years of change.  Watching characters we loved getting massacred wasn't exactly fun, but there was a distance there - seeing their ends decades on from the time we knew them in meant their deaths could be processed at something of a remove. No such distance exists here. It might have been eight years earlier that we last saw our heroes (Wolverine aside) in Last Stand - though actually I've never seen it - but they are still recognisably the people we saw back then. In part this is the smaller time difference, and in part the advantage an actor has over a drawing. In "Days of Future Past" we learn one day a middle-aged man calling himself Colossus will die. In Days of Future Past we watch a woman who was a mainstay of the early series get stabbed to death. That is not a small difference.

Which brings me on to the future-variant Sentinels, which are just fucking horrifying, one part T-1000 to two parts the Fury, the superhero-killer from Alan Moore's Captain Britain run. I assume the link must be deliberate, and it's a damn smart choice. The brief scenes in which the Fury slaughters its way through the capes of the alternate universe whence it came still give me the shudders. This, if anything, by involving characters I know and actors I can watch emote, is even worse. The final scenes of the X-Men's actual last stand are almost certainly the most horrific and upsetting the Marvel cinematic universe has manage, going some way to making up for the fact that the original cast's role here is essentially to exposit, look sad, and die. It also allows for a smart use of a double finale, which is useful when you consider that the end moments of the '70s story - does Magneto use the weapons he's stolen from those who would kill mutants to kill those same people - which is rather reminiscent of the ending of First Class, albeit with some absolutely gorgeous Sentinels and Peter Dinklage, both of which are welcome additions.

Indeed, that's very much what the '70s scenes in the film end up feeling like, a fairly minor reshuffling of the previous film with some additional flourishes. Which in fairness, given the additional complexities of the time-travel hijinks and the second timeline, might have been a reasonable choice. Certainly the slightly reheated feel wasn't obvious to me whilst I was watching the movie, which is about all you can hope for from a blockbuster like this.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Friday Talisman: Magic Potion Sold Separately

Upgrading my phone to some baffling slab of buzzing OHP nightmare has at least allowed me to start taking pictures again.  Here's the first miniature I finished painting after moving to the new house.

I probably missed a trick not painting him as Getafix, but oh well.  At least his base is kinda cool; I stole an idea from a White Dwarf from a while and sprinkled mixed herbs on his base to represent autumn leaves.  It doesn't look too bad, I don't think, and it smells quite nice as well.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

You Cannot Buy Off Measles

A lot of people are linking Republican politicians flirting with anti-vaccination rhetoric with their previous idiotic stances on global warming and foetal development.  Which is understandable, since all three involve deliberately ignoring scientific realities in order to hold on to power, and all three are positions that would quite literally get people killed if those in power who claimed to hold them actually put their legislative agenda where their mouths are.

But there's a major difference here.  Pretending global warming isn't happening will kill people too poor to flee from coastal regions of encroaching deserts. Pretending people have no constitutional right to an abortion will kill women too poor to obtain terminations privately, who instead die on a cold table in some illegal back-alley surgery.

Pushing the anti-vax lunacy will kill their own kids. Or at least, it will kill the children of their own tribe. Not at the same rate as it will kill children not lucky enough to live in vast country houses miles from major population centres.  But sooner or later the virus will find its way to your door. It always does.  The surge of refusing vaccinations will end up biting the rich on the arse, and it'll do it sooner than rising sea levels can. Soon it might not even be enough to say "vaccines are good but should be voluntary", because there's little in recent American political history we've observed more clearly than the fact that nothing is ever good enough for the anti-science brigade but ultimate capitulation. The Republican Party has set itself down the path of endangering its own children, and it's done so based on craven political calculation.

So no, the right analogy isn't climate change denialism or the war on women.  It's this:

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

A Tale Of Cocktails #50

Lemon Raspberry Fizz


8 oz champagne
2 oz limoncello

Taste: 7
Look: 7
Cost: 7
Name: 5
Prep: 7
Alcohol: 5
Overall: 6.6

Preparation: Place three crushed ice cubes in a champagne glass along with the raspberries. Mix the champagne with limoncello from  the freezer and pour into the glass.

General Comments: This is the most dangerous type of cocktail, one that reminds you of a drink from childhood. Well, not a drink, exactly; one of those lemonade ice lollies I used to tear through on the days we'd run out of Mars Bar ice-creams. But then, they were always best when they were on the verge of melting, so it was never far from being a drink, not if you timed it right. As wonderful as they were, though, I always had the sneaking suspicion they could be fairly cheaply replicated at home, thereby freeing me forever from the terrifying thought that this time I'd be too late and the electronic "Greensleeves" remix would recede whilst I was still busy wheedling a fifty pence piece from my harassed mother.

And lookit! Turns out you can, indeed, generate this stuff domestically (sorry it took 28 years to work that out, mum).  With alcohol, no less. There's even raspberries in there for a nice snack once the cocktail is done, though the champagne and limoncello make the fruit rather bitter.  Nothing wrong with that in moderation, obviously, and whilst the vagaries of fate led to me trying this in the depths of winter, it's not hard to imagine this being a smart choice when the sun decides to kick off its next brief tour of the country.