Everything wrong with Cinema Sins…

The other night I re-watched the excellent 2016 horror film, The Witch. It really is a splendid film even if you have to keep forgetting that it features Finchy from The Office as the father in the film. It really is a good film so go search it out as from now on there’s spoilers ahead.

After watching it again I wanted to search out Mark Kermode’s review as Kermode is one of the best critics out there, and not just that, he understands genre films and gives them the respect they deserve if the film deserves it of course. It’s a great review.

On the recommendations was the Cinema Sins video for The Witch. I thought I’d watch it as the channel was often funny and in its humour often did some nice criticism. Here’s that video…

Sneery, condescending, arrogant, petty and needless were just some of the things passing through my brain while watching the Cinema Sins video. Unlike what they used to do there wasn’t any attempt to try to criticise the film while being funny which is what a site like Red Letter Media do superbly well. I watched a few more videos of recent films and they’re again, snide, sneery and nothing to do with making you laugh or criticising the film.

Basically if this nice bit of critique from Screen Smart is the top fillet of steak then Cinema Sins is a bowl of kidney soup.

I’m tired of this strand of criticism which is just trying to point and laugh at films for shits and giggles and although I get these people are trying to do Mystery Science Theatre 3000, there was a sense of joy there lacking from these cynical bits of clickbait pumped out by people with neither the talent or the skill to do what they think they’re doing so we end up with far too many wankers on YouTube being something they’re not.

Still, go see The Witch, it really is one of the best horror films of the century. Try not to watch anything from Cinema Sins, they can just fuck off…

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Closing the Fleece in Bristol is cultural vandalism

I wrote recently about how the Thekla, a live venue in Bristol, was under threat of closure. The same threats have been hanging round the neck of The Fleece and Firkin, one of the UK’s oldest live venues.

Private developers have been developing office blocks opposite the Fleece for some time, but let us cut through the legalese and say exactly what is happening here. This is cultural vandalism for the sake of profit that isn’t restricted to Bristol, but London, Glasgow, or indeed anywhere across the UK where these venues are either ‘eyesores’ for potentially Millennial yuppies buying their flats next to a pub and are pushed to closure, or pushed to close for future private development.

Cities are being stripped of what makes them special. They’re being turned into places where all character is being stripped only to be replaced by a shadow of what it was but made safe and attractive to be consumed. It’s vandalism that won’t be opposed by any major political party as they too care little or nothing about keeping cities exciting and vibrant, but instead look wide-eyed at the wads of money brought to them by private developers. Fight these developments all you can because what’s coming are cities neutered and emasculated as this is gentrification writ large.

What I thought of Doctor Who:Shada

The Tom Baker era of Doctor Who is for many of a certain age, their era of Doctor Who, and it was always a tragedy that the last Douglas Adams story, Shada, was never completed due to a strike. Various attempts over the years have attempted to recreate it as best as possible with varying levels of success but the new 2017 recreation/completion mixed with original unbroadcast footage is as probably as close as we’ll get.

This would have been Adams final story for Who as at this point the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was just taking off and it really is built round Adams writing a love letter to his time at university in Cambridge. In fact much of the action takes place in a professor’s room not to mention that the action is on the whole, far more intellectual than modern Who’s more action/adventure style. This isn’t perfect, and the script has holes in it that you’d think would have been picked up had their not been the strike but the joy of watching Tom Baker in his pomp, aided by a glorious Lalla Ward (who I hope provides Jodie Whitaker with inspiration) in an adventure together most of us haven’t seen is simply wonderful, not to mention nostalgic.

As for the plot, it is something that adds greatly to Time Lord lore (Shada is the Time Lords prison planet) but on the whole the story suffers from being planned as a 6-parter. It gets a bit flabby in places, and a clever pun gets overused. There’s also the issue of poor monster henchmen and the aforementioned holes in the plot leaves holes at crucial points.When it does work it simply is a thing of genius. Baker and Ward are clearly loving the dialogue which is clever without being smug, or totally outwith of most people’s ability to understand. Adams is having fun here, and the scene where Baker’s Doctor convinces a ship’s computer that he’s actually dead is just pure Adams. There’s also a running joke where poor K9 is frequently treated with contempt which mirrors much of what the production team thought at the time.

Shada is an interesting experiment. The animation doesn’t quite work, but suspend your belief enough and it does the job in giving us an unfinished Douglas Adams work.The extras are a delight, and as for the new scene filmed with Baker? That’s a delight and nicely links forward/back to Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary special. Overall Shada is a joyful piece of nostalgia and a celebration of what made Tom Baker’s time as the Doctor so incredibly special.

The road to Brexit

By Monday we should know whether the UK has pulled its head out its arse, agreed on compromises with the EU and saved the prospect of the UK walking away from Brexit negotiations with a ‘no deal’; an outcome Brexiters like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg want as it delivers their free trade, unregulated dream. For the rest of us it’ll be a nightmare, and as we now know, the Tories have no plans to sail us through the biggest thing the UK has done in its history in peacetime which leaves us a bleak future.

The EU isn’t just about trade. It intertwines so much of what we do that if the UK walks it means we’d have to organise things like when planes fly, radioactive isotopes for cancer patients, the shipping of food and tens of thousands of other things overnight and like any disaster, the most vulnerable will be hurt the hardest and first.

Bizarrely both main UK political parties are hell-bent on Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn of Labour seems to think that we’re in for a socialist Year Zero upon leaving the EU, and yes, the idea of an ‘internationalist’ party choosing to take a protectionist route is not lost on people. But compared to the clusterfuck which is the Tories, Labour seem vaguely sane. Simply put the Tories are taking us into a recession mixed with a collapse in social decency as ethnic nationalism and imperialism mixed with a hard, rigid form on Unionism drives them towards dooming hundreds of thousands of people to a harder life than they have now.

Brexit makes no sense though. Not unless you think the UK ‘gave away’ itself to the EUSSR and those bloody Polish and Somalians on buses should go back where they came from. Essentially Brexit is based upon irrational madness and we’ve got 72 hours to save the country. Wish us luck, we’ll need it…

”Dad, have we taken back control back yet?”

Lets all play Whamageddon

This year’s Christmas thing is ”Whamageddon”.  Here’s the rules…

The Rules

The 1st Rule
The objective is to go as long as possible without hearing WHAM’s Christmas classic; “Last Christmas”.
The 2nd Rule
The game starts on December 1st, and ends at midnight on December 24th.
(Yes, we’re European heathens)
The 3rd Rule
Only the original version applies. Enjoy the fuck out of remixes and covers.
The 4th Rule
You’re out as soon as you recognise the song.
Bonus Rule
Post on social media with the #whamageddon hashtag when you get hit.

This is of course a fun way to try to avoid the audio festive spam that is Wham’s Christmas song.

So seeing as every year that Christmas song gets played everywhere from train stations, to supermarkets, to toilets, operating theatres, lifts, phone boxes, bus stops or anywhere here’s a chance to see how you do before it gets you.

Me? It’s the 5th of December and I’ve not heard it yet. I don’t expect this to last long though…

Urban weirdness

Inner city living comes with a variety of positives and negatives. You have to accept the negatives like a certain level of noise, etc, but there are lines to draw. One of those lines is the weird bloke staring at your window  as shown in the second clip in the video below.

I’ve had this happen a few times. Most of the times I wrote it off as someone casing out the place and they’re normally gone when you turn the lights on or open the window. Sometimes though they don’t. Sometimes they carry on staring at your window at 3am and don’t get put off by anything.

Once this happened in a flat I lived in when I was still in Bristol. Started at a weekend and carried on over a few weeks to the point the police were called and it was freaking out some of the other people in the flats. Latest was just yesterday when someone was staring at the flat window from the car park out back that caused me to call the police only to be told they couldn’t send anyone round as nobody is doing anything wrong. True, but hiding behind cars in the dark staring at windows doesn’t strike me as a wee bit suspicious if you ask me.

Anyhow, all this urban weirdness has got my mind bubbling and I’ll be going more into it in future blogs.

What comics should Doomsday Clock blame for making superhero comics‘dark or grim’

DC’s Doomsday Clock is pushing the idea that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen is the root of all evil by essentially turning superhero comics into dark, grim and gritty comics. In a sense Geoff Johns (the writer and architect of Doomsday Clock) is sort of right as without Watchmen there’d have been less ‘grim’ superhero comics but only because the superhero comics industry follows a trend.

But this version of history is ignoring the fact that ‘grim and gritty’ was by the time of Watchmen’s publication in 1986, very firmly established. Before I explain it’s best to explain what ‘grim and gritty’ actually is. TV Tropes establishes it as…

A Tone Shift that seeks to make a work of fiction more serious, cynical or gritty.

Superhero comics have always had those elements in them from the early days of Superman beating up slum landlords to the JSA hanging around with kids in the 40’s New York ghetto but for most of the time superhero comics were just escapism, especially in the 50s when after the introduction of the Comics Code anything ‘edgy’ in superhero comics were neutered for years. Yet tonal shifts started happening at DC in the 60’s when in response to Marvel’s more neurotic heroes some of their heroes became ‘darker’. Best known of all these is Batman who went from this…

To this..

In the course of the 1960’s.

The idea of making a character ‘darker’ was a simple, sometimes lazy, shorthand for making superheroes more ‘realistic’ and was such a trope in the world of superhero comics that Moore and Gibbons actually satirise it in Watchmen.There’s even a few lines of dialogue from the older characters in the book mentioning about how the younger heroes are more violent, darker, than they were. Problem is that if you only read Watchmen on a single level this will pass you, so if you read it purely as a simple superhero story you won’t notice the different levels. This appears to be the problem with Johns in that he’s not read it, or gets how superhero comics would get ‘gritty’ when they needed to.

The wave of grim and gritty Watchmen was really talking about was the post Frank Miller Daredevil phase.

The impact Frank Miller’s work on Daredevil is somewhat lost today but he took a character who’d artistically soared when the likes of Wally Wood or Gene Colan had drawn the book, but was at best a second rate character clinging onto his own book by their fingernails. Marvel’s then Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter threw an incredibly young Frank Miller onto the title first as artist, then as writer/artist giving Marvel their first real auteur of the 1980’s.

The problem wasn’t Miller’s work which was superb, it was the stuff that tried to be Miller that was on the whole, poor and problematic, as was the work which initially followed Alan Moore’s early American work. Heroes start becoming ‘darker’ in stories where all the creators have taken from the work of Miller and Moore is the violence, and on the whole the work is awful. One exception is Steven Grant and Mike Zeck’s Punisher miniseries which at least tried to do more than just have senseless violence.

And here’s where we get to the point. Johns should be protesting and complaining about but that would mean dissecting his own work, which includes Blackest Night; a story featuring zombie heroes coming back from the dead to do what zombies do.

DC Comics should also turn in on themselves to study their part in creating their own problems with works such as Identity Crisis or the entire failed revamp which was The New 52.The issue with degrading art or going for the lowest possible option often doesn’t lie with the originators but with the copycats who aren’t talented enough or willing, to create something new from inspiring works. Instead they’ll mine certain elements and everyone digs violence and rape right?

DC dug themselves a hole. Doomsday Clock is an attempt to dig themselves out that hole while throwing shite at Moore and Gibbons for having the audacity to create something great that gave DC plaudits and cash, but because DC allowed creators lesser than Moore and Gibbons to turn out lesser material in an attempt to make people think they’re buying something like Watchmen because there’s a hero beating someone’s face off in graphic detail. So when you read Doomsday Clock realise that it’s the act of a company trying desperately to absolve itself of blame and making you excited about it.