What I thought of The Cloverfield Paradox

A decade ago Cloverfield came out having had one of the best marketing campaigns for a film I’ve ever seen having built up an air of mystery about a film which was and is, something hard to achieve. I love the first film because it is the giant monster film I’ve had in my head since being a teenager, and although its sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane is patchy, it works as a claustrophobic thriller before the end gubbins. A third film has been coming which was originally promised last year, and was expected in the spring before suddenly dropping after the Superbowl on Netflix worldwide.

From here on in lies SPOILERS. You’ve been warned!

Directed by Julius Onah and starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw who has fully recovered from having Bonekickers on her C.V and here frankly holds the entire thing together which is good because at times The Cloverfield Paradox is a tedious mess of technobabble and stuff we’ve seen in the likes of Event Horizon.

Mbatha-Raw plays Ava, an astronaut on Cloverfield Station in orbit round an Earth dying through a lack of energy resources which amount in this film to some blackouts not to mention the world’s superpowers squaring off against each other. The station is the one last chance to solve Earth’s problems peacefully as the multinational crew use an experimental particle accelerator to create unlimited free energy for the planet. As you’d expect, something goes wrong and the crew find themselves stranded having lost Earth with increasingly strange happenings occurring on the station.

The plot is pretty routine but the script is appalling. Characters spout clichés, or when faced with horror make quips that sap the scene of any tension. There’s one scene especially with Chris O’Dowd’s character that could have been a highlight of creepy body horror but ends up played for giggles then there’s the climatic fight scene that is welded on badly to the end. This for me is the problem with The Cloverfield Paradox in that is doesn’t know what it’s trying to be and I’ll be blunt, Life trod this sort of ground pretty recently and better. It does manage to explain the events of the two previous films, and I assume future films as there’s at least one more Cloverfield film coming in the next year but take the Cloverfield name and the last 90 seconds off this film and it really is the sort of film you’d watch on Netflix if there was nothing left on your list. The last 60 seconds do lift the film and make it worthwhile though it teases the prospect of a sequel that should be made but probably won’t be.

What is interesting is how Netflix and Abrams decided to release this. It could have had a release in cinemas and made a decent amount of money, but releasing it this way without any notice on Netflix suggests this is an experiment. If this film is deemed successful (and it will be as the Cloverfield name, and the last 60 seconds guarantee it)  then we’re likely to see more films dropping with no notice and that would be a good thing. After all it means then that at least for a day or two we’ll be forced to make our own minds up but hopefully if this sort of thing is done again it’s done better than this.

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Most Creepypastas are rubbish

Creepypastas are a pretty common thing to trip upon online. You’ve probably come across something like Jeff the Killer or Slender Man who is by far the most interesting folk monster creation of the 21st Century.

These tend to be very 21st Century stories so they’ll be based round a video game, or a lost TV show or a film, or something from the real world or fairly recent history. There are some which are splendid such as the Russian Sleep Experiment.

A lot of these stories are clearly inspired by the likes of H.P Lovecraft, Clive Barker and mixed with elements of pop culture some can be massively effective. Some however are not. Most in fact are shite.

The problem is that a good Creepypasta can run around the internet and get you or your site lots and lots of lovely monetised clicks, but when you’ve read another story with an ending that ends ‘‘and then there was LOADS OF GORE AND BLOOD AS THE PAEDOPHILE MARIO RAPED EVERYONE TO DEATH!!! The End!”.  A lack of talent is often a sign of how much gore and shock value is thrown into a story.

So there’s a handy wee video outlining the worst clichés of something that can be fantastic but is often like wading through fields of crap to get to the few islands of scary joy…

A quick word of appreciation for Steve Rude

I’ve loved Steve Rude’s art since I saw an early issue of his and writer Steve Baron’s Nexus way back in the early 80’s and quickly decided that Rude was for a big chunk of the 80’s, my favourite comic artist.

Seeing his work develop in this time was a joy as his early Paul Gulacy inspired work adapted to take in influences ranging from Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko to Norman Rockwell. Rude was in mine, and many other people’s minds, an amazing artist albeit one that was sometimes erratic as issues would be missed and fans like myself would be treated to guest artists which starved us of our Steve Rude fix for that month.

Rude then managed to get work at the big superhero publishers with his World’s Finest series with Dave Gibbons being a joyous celebration of Superman and Batman. Marvel also brought Rude on for some splendid comics featuring Spider-Man and the X Men.

During the 2000’s, Rude appeared less in comics with the occasional Nexus series from the likes of Dark Horse, and his work for the Big Two reduced to being involved in the appalling Before Watchmen  fiasco. Stories and rumours circulated, and Rude would pop online telling people of the real issues he was having in life struggling with his bi-polar condition and trying to get work. I found it extraordinary the likes of Steve Rude couldn’t find work when Marvel and DC are littered with people who quite literally can’t draw, let alone understand how comics work.

Rude Dude, a documentary about Rude is now on YouTube. It is a sometimes tragic tale of a massive talent and his life. It is sometimes deeply depressing viewing but is essential to get an understanding of the man, his demons and his amazing talent.

Rude today seems to be better. Nexus is still ongoing and he’s working still but let’s not forget the utterly astonishing work Rude produces and how in an age where many of his techniques seem old fashioned, Rude keeps the faith and produces wonderful work.

How fans look like pricks part 2149: Marvel V DC

Marvel’s Black Panther film is coming out in a few weeks. It looks like it’ll manage to straddle the boundary between Marvel’s house style and something actually different for a superhero film.

Not content with just enjoying/ignoring the film, a group of DC fans are planning to ‘sabotage’ the film’s Rotten Tomatoes score. This raises a couple of points. Firstly using Rotten Tomatoes as a guide is pretty pointless as it rates critics who’ve an understanding and knowledge of film alongside Some Bloke who has a blog and is super-excited about the new Transformers film and likes all those old films from the 90’s.

As an aggregate of opinion it rates all opinion as equally valid when it isn’t. There lies the flaw so remember it when some arsehole quotes the site as some sort of empirical truth.

Secondly the ‘Marvel V DC’ thing got tired back in the 60’s. Truth is there’s always been a happy rivalry and remember, if DC hadn’t brought back its superheroes in the late 50’s to early 60’s then Marvel wouldn’t have thought of venturing away from western, romance and monster comics to do them themselves. Over the years creators have flitted from one company to the other all the time, plus there’s been cross-company collaborations on and off for the last 40 years.

I’m looking forward to Ryan Coogler’s film, but frankly reading of fans scheming to fix opinion is just another sad example of how fans can take their fanaticism too far to the point where they can’t enjoy things for what they are. Instead they have to ‘win’ and fight false wrongs.  It is a nonsense way to spend your existence on this planet but this won’t sadly be the last time a group of fans act like dicks because they don’t have anything better to do in life.

Make January history

Today is the 31st of January. The last day of a month that at moments seemed infinite in its dark, cold misery. The month that is a dark alley full of menace, threats and probably death comes crawling like a paraplegic snail to the last day and we look forward to this this daylight’ thing we’ve nearly forgotten about.

My drastic proposal in my personal utopia would be that January is a month we spend in places where there’s warmth and daylight that makes one feel less vampiric and more like a human being. February brings with it the teasing slip of the underwear of spring, unless of course you live in Scotland where the only tease we get is we might dial down the heating a notch near the end of the month.

Still, we are moving in the right direction & January’s demise takes us closer to Easter…

Scrapping the OBFA plays into the hands of sectarian bigots

The Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 (OBFA) was an act designed to deal with the very real problem of sectarianism in Scottish football. It has always been an act born out of knee-jerk politics and has been flawed since the start, but as the only piece of legislation that specifically targets sectarianism. It sent out a message that as a society, Scotland was done with supporting sectarianism or looking the other way to let things happen.

This week the first step to repeal the act in a private members bill from Labour MSP James Kelly was passed to repeal it. Now as said the act is flawed; it curtailed political expression as well as crack down on the offensive bigotry we see so often in Scottish football but nobody in favour of repeal has suggested an alternative. Actually, that isn’t true; the standard line is ‘education’ along with ‘use existing laws correctly’ but the problem with this is we know fine well this isn’t going to work because hate crimes need specific punitive legislation to deal with it.

Now the argument against it ranges from the hard left argument that it now gives the working class a voice which is astonishingly offensive as it assumes the working class are a mass of barely literate bigots who can only find release by chanting hate at each other. Then there’s the illiberal argument which is true but all hate crime legislation is illiberal so do we allow complete free speech which means anti-Semitism, racism, and all the stuff we don’t want in society to pass unchallenged. So do we single out hate speech or do we tell vulnerable minorities to deal with it as to crack down on it is illiberal? Then there’s the folk who are political opportunists and of course, the people who want the act gone so they can throw out vile bigotry at football matches unchallenged.

And this is the problem. When the act was passed an informed discussion never really happened, and now, on the verge of repeal, an informed discussion isn’t happening even though the majority of the public supports the act, and is clearly tired of sectarianism.

I’ll tell you what happens in the future. The act is repealed. An ‘incident’ will happen. Someone, or a few people, will be abused, hurt, even worse. Scotland’s politicians and media will demand ‘something’ must be done and nothing will end up getting done because Scotland’s politicians and media (on the whole) want to prolong the life of sectarianism, and don’t even expect the SFA or the clubs themselves to do anything serious because they don’t want to lose support. So we have a section of the left arguing themselves into a corner over this while a section of the left are drooling with the prospect of social division.

What would I do? I’m no expert but I’d engage an open debate on what sectarianism is. Define it. Engage with people and point out to them what they do causes offense and harm to people. Show them the effects of their bigotry. Give them support to change but if they don’t and carry on then have a punitive law to crack down on them. I’d give the SFA a kick up the arse so they work towards making Scotland better. I’d not glibly sit back and let things go unchallenged as Labour, Tories and a chunk of the establishment would like.

Most of all I find it repulsive that with everything going on right now, there’s a number of people who put as their number one priority fighting for the chance for people to chant about being up to their knees in ‘fenian blood’. When the worse does happen I don’t want to see these people demand ‘action’, I want to see them accepting responsibility for what they’ve done and maybe, just maybe, actually suggest a way to make things better.

A quick word about the brilliance of José Luis García-López

Over the decades the world of comics have produced superstar artists from Jack Kirby to Jim Steranko to Neal Adams, John Byrne, George Perez, Brian Bolland, Jim Lee and dozens more. You rarely find the name of José Luis García-López in these lists yet artists rate him enormously & you’ll have almost certainly seen an example of his art. In fact I guarantee you’d have seen it.

García-López is essentially the artist that defined how DC Comics superheroes looked from the late 70’s to fairly recently, and having drawn countless character sheets for artist references not to mention the endless items of DC’s merchandising it is likely you’re sitting not far from a García-López piece right now.

His characters aren’t muscle-bound or cursed with infeasibly large breasts, but although hyper-realised, still look like human beings albeit somewhat fantastic in their costumes.

I especially recommend the series he drew for DC called Twilight. Written by Howard Chaykin, the series is a glorious science fiction epic that allows García-López  to indulge himself, and the covers are simply wonderful.

So go search out his work. In the last 40 years there’s few artists who’ve drawn superheroes as well as he has, and with DC stuck in their current bland ‘house style’, García-López stands as a reminder of how it could, and even should be done.