You all need to start watching Echo Rose

In this day and age free entertainment/media is becoming a scarcity. YouTube tends to be the last frontier for that, and even then actual quality entertainment is even rarer because the majority of original content on YouTube is shite. So for something new and original to come along and for it to be a rabbit hole of multimedia is a joy, as it is to catch it relatively early on in the process is a delight.

An ARG stands for ‘alternate reality game‘. It’s been around online for ages. The earliest example many people will know is the multimedia tie-ins to The Blair Witch Project, but recently Stranger Things 3 did one but chances are you’ve come across one but didn’t realise what it is. Which is the point. YouTube has a load of awful ARG’s but some great ones have been there in mainly the horror genre, and in fact, there’s a load of great horror out there like Marble Hornets, Petscop and Daisy Brown and its that latter one which stood out as a pretty stunning original work, which although cheap, had aspirations beyond the limited budget.

Echo Rose (or Nettlebrook) contains the same actress who played Daisy Brown, and she’s very, very good. Here she plays the 20 something drop out from New York who has moved to a small town to make a new life for reasons we’ve not been given yet. She starts a vlog, and it is pretty much what you’d expect in its inanity of day-to-day 20 something life. All of it is beautifully observed, and all of it is fake.

This was the first video, and from here it is truely a rabbit hole of YouTube channels, and social media as an increasing creeeping horror grows as it slowly becomes clear something else is going on in Nettlebrook.

I was alerted to Echo Rose thanks to this video below which also gives you a recap of where we are now, which is still early days in ARG terms, as most ARG’s run a year or more.

I won’t say much more apart from there’s a hard to find video which was deleted that’s pretty essential to the plot, which is below.

Everything else can be found via that first Echo Rose video so get on board now as this is a group of talented people turning out slow building horror and as said, this is early days so you should only be down the rabbit hole for a few hours. Good luck!

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Rutger Hauer RIP

utger Hauer has died at the age of 75 and it’s a damned pity. Hauer in another reality would be laden with Oscars, BAFTA’s and be lauded as one of the greatest actors, and leading men of his generation. Instead he forged a solid career but never got the acclaim, or often the roles, he deserved.

Like most people outwith of The Netherlands, I first saw Hauer in Blade Runner and was blown away by him and one scene in particular.

It was when I was older that I discovered his earlier work with Paul Verhoeven, with Turkish Delight

And the still extraordinary Soldier of Orange. Apart from Blade Runner this is the best film he ever made and contains this amazing scene of Nazi homoeroticism.

Then there’s the glorious joy of Ladyhawke

And the barking mad insanity of Flesh and Blood.

The ceeeping dread of The Hitcher. His opening scene is just fucking scary as anything.

The Legend of the Holy Drinker should have cemented his reputation as a true great of acting.

But instead genre fare came his way with the 1990’s being somewhat of a barren wasteland creatively, unless you count his mysterious Guinness ads from the time as a high, which compared to some of the crap he was in, they certainly were.

And yes, I’ll admit these ads shaped my dress sense for the late 80’s with lots of collarless shirts and long black coats.

In 2005 a couple of cameos in big Hollywood films came coming with Sin City and Batman Begins. These should have kick started a revival but sadly no, and Hauer stayed working constantly with his last role of real note being the title character of Hobo With A Shotgun.

Hauer leaves behind a huge CV. Most of it isn’t worth paying attention to but dear god, some of the highlights shine and there’s so many highlights. He’ll be missed for what he did and what he could have done as well.

The endless futile entitlement of fandom

This week saw pitiful cries of entitlement about Game of Thrones, and the casting of the new Batman. In the case of Game of Thrones, fans started a petition asking for ‘competent writers’ for a proposed remake of the last season. As of the moment I write this there’s over a million people who’ve signed it which is not a shock but these people basically want the programme to pan out as they want it to, so when they say ‘competent’ what they really mean is ‘someone I like writing something I like’.

The next bit of fan entitlement is the casting of Robert Pattinson as the new Batman. Shrill cries of outrage followed as fans cried a torrent of tears and anger that one of the star of the Twilight film should be cast. Some calmer voices pointed out that was a decade ago and he’s been carving a career as a pretty good actor since but no, outrage!

Back in 1988 when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman in the then forthcoming Tim Burton film fans were outraged and yes, a petition circulated round pre-digital fan circles.

There’s nothing new about fan entitlement. It is an old thing but it doesn’t stop people from complaining, or indeed, desperately doubling back once they’ve realised that Thing X isn’t actually as bad as it was or that complaining about Thing X makes them a bit of a cock.

So in around 18 months many of these people signing petitions will be praising Robert Pattison and wishing there was another series as good as Game of Thrones.All of this will be forgotten as these people move onto their next target and the cycle carries on throughout the generations…

We need a Pike era Star Trek series

One of the best things about the vastly improved second season of Star Trek: Discovery has been the addition of the pre original series Enterprise crew of Captain Pike, Number One and a youthful Mr Spock. It’s helped transition the series into feeling more like Star Trek, and has also done some interesting stuff with a character who barring the original pilot episode and the 2009 film is pretty much a blank slate.

The final episode of Discovery can be seen to act in several ways. One is to give a complete reboot of the series, remove it from existing canon (keeping the uber-fanboys happy) and throwing it a millennium forward in the series timeline opening up a whole new set of possibilities. It also tidied up a few things regards the aforementioned canon and wrapped things up in a bow.

The other thing done is to have much of the last episode effectively act as a soft pilot for a Pike era Enterprise series. Anson Mount has been superb as Pike and this would make the logical prequel as the series builds up to the arrival of Kirk as captain and everything we know now.

In fact I think its impossible to look at the scene below and not think this is the plan.

But TV producers are fickle things so we’re as likely not to get this as we are to get it however it strikes me as missing a trick as fan reaction is overwhelmingly positive to the point where all the creepy wee MRA types  complaining have been shut up.

So, CBS, you have the power. You know it makes sense and it’d be fucking ace! Make it so!

What I thought of Daredevil season 3

I didn’t mid season 2 of Daredevil. Yes, it did die off after the first half of the season and ended in a terrible final episode designed more to set up The Defenders that provide good storytelling. Also the Marvel series on Netflix are overlong, with some episodes being glacially slow or just there to pad out the season. Daredevil season 3 is as good as the Marvel Netflix universe gets. It never feels padded out, there’s no filler episodes and the story moves to a satisfying ending that essentially would have set up future seasons had Netflix not cancelled the series,With Marvel/Disney being coy as to whether this cast returns.

Season 3 picks up after The Defenders with Matt Murdock (still played wonderfully by Charlie Cox) battered and broken being cared for by Sister Maggie (Joanne Whalley reminding us that she’s still a talent) while Foggy and Karen carry out their own fight against the Kingpin (a fantastic Vincent D’Onofrio). 

Season 3 also throws in Bullseye, though he’s never referred to as that name, it very definitely is that character and he gets a backstory too where he’s either a broken child or vicious bastard depending on your point of view. And this moral nuance is embedded throughout the season as characters aren’t black and white, but various shades of grey. Even the Kingpin isn’t a total bastard as there’s some humanity there but overall he’s still a monster, as well as Marvel’s best cinematic villain. Forget Thanos or Loki, Wilson Fisk is magnificent with how evil his corrupting influence is being the slow burn of his evil this season as Fisk uses one good man to his own needs.

That good man is Agent Nadeem played by Jay Ali. Nadeem is a good man working in the FBI trying to do what’s right, but desperate for money after paying for his sister-in-law’s cancer treatment so he pushes himself into a position that places him next to the Kingpin and Matt Murdock/Daredevil. This season Daredevil sheds his red costume for the plain black one he started out with, as Matt struggles with himself trying to work out who and what he is.

There’s a lot going on this season, which means there’s no padding, or filler episodes. Indeed one episode which could have been a filler (Karen) gives us essential background on Karen Page plus it allows Deborah Ann Wolf to show us what she can do. Overall all the main players get their moment, the introduction of Bullseye means we’ve got an equal in fighting ability to Matt which also means plenty of scenes where Daredevil takes a beating, in fact there’s a lot of fight scenes where various protagonists take a hellish beating.

Daredevil season 3 is the best thing Marvel’s done for Netflix. It’s an almost perfect crime/superhero drama that uses the potential for these characters while utilising the comics history of them to tell new stories. After the cludgy second seasons of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage (not seen the second season of Iron Fist & probably won’t) this shows how things are done just in time for it to get cancelled as Marvel/Disney pull as much of their intellectual property back in-house. Whether Disney/Marvel will have the creative bollocks to do something like this season of Daredevil in-house remains to be seen (and I’m wary they will) but this will stand as testament to what can be done when creators work together to do something good.

What I thought of Star Trek: Discovery season 2 episode 1

The first season of Star Trek: Discovery contrary to what some fans said, wasn’t actually bad as it tried to do something different with the Star Trek formula, though the season was let down by a staggeringly awful final episode which wrapped everything up so poorly that it undid much of the good work the season did though the last shot tease of the Enterprise was a nice touch.

Then comes this first episode which in one fell swoop brushes away many of the criticisms of the first, so the overall tone isn’t as grim, supporting characters suddenly have names, and although it takes much of its tone from the 2009 J.J Abrams reboot though buried in what is a pretty action packed episode is something akin to Star Trek.in the what is the season’s overall arc which is finding out what the strange red bursts happening across the galaxy are..

Sonequa Martin-Green returns as Michael Burnham, while Anson Mount débuts as Captain Pike, the first captain of the Enterprise who plays it like the the film version of Pike rather than the original series. These two are clearly the main two protagonists but it feels slightly more of an ensemble piece that last year so all is good right? Not everything. It feels slight and there’s not enough in it to detract from the feeling it’d rather be about the action that anything else. As a whole though the series kicks off well; it’s fast paced action with a touch of fun missing from the first season that seems to be intent on taking us on an adventure rather than just tread the grounds of the first year.

So good start, let’s see where it goes from here.

What I thought of Doctor Who: Resolution

I’ve not minded the first series of Doctor Who with Jodie Whittaker. She has massive potential, and the soft reboot is a still a great idea as is changing things up with the music and a larger budget spent on episodes. The problems still lie in scripts and in the New Year’s Day special the problems started right away.

The story starts with a bunch of Vikings beating an impossible alien menace in the 9th century, and in victory cutting the creature into three parts to hide across the world with one of those parts ending up in Sheffield in 2019 as its uncovered as part of an archaeological dig. Brilliant start, great setup and we’re in for an hour of action and adventure as the new Doctor comes face to face with the Daleks for the first time.

And we get that. The pace and speed of the opening ten minutes or so are breathtaking then we get the introduction of Ryan’s dad and suddenly a B plot is introduced which manages to suck the life out of the episode stone dead. Literally all the momentum is drawn out as the story stops for a long scene where Ryan and his dad have a long conversation. Sure, the storyline picks up again but it’s fell to pieces by this point as we have no idea what the tone of the episode is meant to be? Is it family drama? Is it an action/adventure ride for a bank holiday? Is is a satire? The writer and showrunner Chris Chibnall decides on all of the above while trying to ram it into an hour of screentime which means things go missing including the plot-thread about the other two parts of the Dalek and what’s happening with them, and more importantly, the Doctor.

Now I like Jodie Whittaker a lot. She’s got huge potential and she can act. Just look at her at the start of the clip below. Its terrifying subtle stuff.

Resolution has the problem in it doesn’t know what to be. It doesn’t settle on a tone, and instead slaps around like a drunk on a speeding bus on Christmas Eve battering its way from scene to scene because Chibnall hasn’t decided what he actually wants the episode to be. Because of this the Doctor gets lost which means we get her coming into a scene, saying a few lines and then being drowned out by the large supporting cast and because Chibnall seems scared to actually explore the potential of a female Doctor mixed with often piss poor direction, Whittaker is massively wasted.

Doctor Who can be anything it wants each episode. The show has infinite potential and a minimal respect for continuity, and unless you’ve got the skill of a writer like Douglas Adams or Robert Holmes trying to mix and match as you’re going on ends up in a mess like Resolution. Yet it doesn’t need to be like this. Take Legends of Tomorrow, another time-travel based show which struggled with tone in its first season. It didn’t know what it was. Was it fun and games based superheroics that threw everything at the wall or was it grimdark stuff for the Edgelords? In the second year they decided to throw out the grimdark stuff and have fun. Sure, it sometimes gets serious but most of the time it adopts a tone where you can have scenes like this.

If something flits tone too sharpish, or worse, takes you out the story then it becomes harder to reinvest the time back into something, and if it keeps doing this then why bother?

But it can be fixed. Less companions. Better scripts. Pick a direction and stick with it but most importantly, let Jodie Whittaker develop because a series into her era I have no idea what her character is. I did with Capaldi, Smith, Tennant, Eccleston, McCoy, etc and hell, I even got the jist of Paul McGann’s Doctor who had an hour or so of screentime. Whittaker isn’t being allowed to explore the role except in tiny glimpses where something glorious is hinted at.

So the next season hasn’t started filming yet. I hope the production team listen to criticisms (not the ”ITS POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD” type as I’m glad the show is becoming political again after Moffat’s era)  and come back in the autumn with am improved show that allows Whittaker to show what she’s capable of.