Friday, 18 November 2016

Commander In Chief: Fictional US Politics More Reassuring Than Reality

I admit it. I remain very, very bitter. It's been a long enough time to digest the result and I should've come to terms with it, I know. So why do I still feel the need to grab some picket signs and get my protest on?

No, no, no. I'm not talking about any post-Trump depression. I'm bitter because 10 years ago the glorious Commander in Chief was cancelled.

In case you missed this short but perfectly formed series, it was about a Vice-President, Mackenzie Allen, who found herself pushed into the Presidency by the death of a President (who, on his deathbed, asked her to resign). As an independent in a Republican administration she faces an uphill battle to govern the country, whilst Speaker Templeton (the late President's preferred choice) does everything he can to undermine her. At the same time she has a husband reluctant to take on the role of First Gentleman, a gorgeous son, a rebellious Republican daughter and a charming little girl.

I've started watching it again in this brave new era of Trump that we're entering to cheer myself up. Here's a President with morals, integrity and the sort of brutal ruthlessness in getting her way that is breathtaking to behold. While setting up her team she worries about candidates due to them lacking experience (no way they'd get near a Cabinet position she ponders) and even one with rumours swirling about a sexual assault (she's pretty clear the American people would never stand for that). Mistakes happen, events happen, but in this world the President is competent, the American military skilled and honourable and where President's sons look like this:

It's a very pleasant world with interesting characters. Templeton, played by Donald Sutherland, is a layered and interesting opposite to Geena Davis' Allen who is just as interested. The biggest let-down in this whole show is the First Gentleman who, upon seeing his wife take over the most stressful job in the world, spends most of the series moaning about how HE wants a better position, more influence, baseball, attention, yadder, yadder. His character is so utterly obnoxious I'm appalled Mackenzie Allen didn't send him to be the Ambassador to Benin.

Other than that though, it is delightful to watch. What an antidote to the poor show of candidates in the last US election.

However, there's good news. Netflix's new "Designated Survivor" series is a series about a Cabinet member who is asked to resign just before a President's death and unexpectedly finds himself and his family flung into the world of the White House as an independent. There's a tough, complicated Congresswoman who's loyalty is suspect. There's child drama. There's a far better First Spouse. And the main character is played by Donald Sutherland's son Kiefer. It is basically the spiritual successor to Commander in Chief and will, at the very least, manage 4 more episodes as it has received a full season 22 episode order!! Here we can watch an inexperienced by surprisingly competent President with barely anyone to guide him tackle the world's problems.

It may give us some hope for the next 4 years...

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Killer Klowns From Outer Space

There once was a young boy who spent many an evening in the video rental store his Mum worked in watching movies in a backroom. His Mum was a conscientious lady who would always check the video boxes to ensure he only watch appropriate content. Unfortunately she didn't check inside the boxes and that was how, smuggled inside a copy of The Jetsons Meet The Flinstones, the boy came to watch Killer Klowns From Outer Space.

I've never forgotten that movie. Though meant as a comedy I saw it only as a terrifying horror remembering for a long time the cotton candy corpse cocoons and the girl in the balloon. I watched it again on Youtube a few years ago and considered it a bit blah.

I watched it again last night in far better, legal, format. And I have to say, it has really held up well. The music is actually pretty good, the Klowns themselves look amazing considering the movie was made 30 years ago and the acting is vastly superior to almost every other b-movie made since (just look at how bad Hobgoblins was!).

And there's some genuine creepy stuff in this movie. The popcorn creatures (again holding up well), the cotton candy and the drinking straws, the ventriloquist act with the police officer and the Klown trying to entice the little girl out of the fast food restaurant.

Two things let it down:

1) the underpinning of the whole movie of having Killer Klowns from Outer Space. All they needed to do was imply, as done at points with Stephen King's IT, that they only saw the aliens as clowns because the puny human brain can't conceive of what they really are. When we see kill someone with acidic cream pies, we're just IMAGINING that as to conceive of what really happened was too horrific. That would've added a much-needed dimension of creepiness and believability.
2) the comedy is shit. I mean, REALLY shit. The Klown kapers are one thing, but the Terenzi brothers nearly ruin the movie. And they unbelievably survive. There's no justice in this movie.

But overall it really holds up. In the hands of the right people the proposed sequel or a reboot could actually be genuinely terrifying or even funny! This is one b-movie that only gets better with age.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Ready Player One

For ages now Ready Player One has been appearing in my Recommendations on various online stores. When it comes to novels, I'm very cautious about trying out a new author so I'd ignored it.

I finally gave in this month and got myself a copy. It is always frustrating to find yourself coming late to an absolutely fantastic party, especially when it was just my stubbornness stopping me from attending earlier!

Ready Player One's only fault, just one, is it is extremely predictable. We all know how adventure stories end... with the protagonist winning. So we need a few surprises on the journey. Sadly I found myself always a few pages ahead of the story.

However if I put that little quibble to one side... this is a beguiling, beautifully realised tale of a dystopian near-future where everyone uses a shared virtual world called "The Oasis" to escape from their unpleasant existence. The creator of The Oasis, an eighties obsessed geek of the first order, dies but leaves an Easter Egg to end all Easter Eggs... whoever completes his quest will take control of The Oasis and all its income.

Our hero is Parzival who fights to win the prize before an evil mega-corporation manages to get its hands on it. On the way we're treated to a run-through of every geeky subject known to the 20th century... from Pac-Man through Wargames to Monty Python. For a nearly-80s kid (I was born in the 80s and grew up in a house of 80s teenagers) it was absolutely wonderful.

Think Willy Wonka set in Second Life with Black Tiger.

And, of course, being so far behind the times on this... there's a movie coming directed by Steven Spielberg! I can't wait.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Meg - Finally Coming To A Cinema Near Us Soon?

As with Jurassic Park IV (thank Thor that itch is now scratched), I've waited a hell of a long time for news about Meg. 

In 2006 I read Steve Alten's "Meg". It was a reasonably fun take on the idea that prehistoric marine animals (especially megalodons, giant sharks for the unaware) continue to survive deep within the Marinas Trench and on what happens if one finds its way to the surface. Even then there was talk of "Soon To Be A Major Movie". So I started looking forward to it. Well... it's been a long time in development hell (since 1997 in fact!!). In that time Alten has written several sequel novels. 

So it was with some scepticism that I first heard this year that production was now, finally, moving ahead with a release date set for 2018.

Starring Jason Statham and Jessica McNamee, it is being produced by Warner Bros. (it could be worse, it could be Sony!) and directed by Eli Roth (I actually like Cabin Fever and The Hostel so who knows how this'll turn out). 

It's time to start getting excited about ginormous sharks!! 

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Star Trek Legacies: Captain To Captain

The sadly late Majel Barrett had one of the longest and most involved roles in the Star Trek franchise outside of Gene Roddenberry and Rick Berman.

Her first on-screen role (of several!) was as Number One in the unaired pilot episode. A strong, logical character who sadly we didn't really get to know. Now on the 50th anniversary of the first Star Trek broadcast a new trilogy of books is being released and the first one is out already.

Captain to Captain tells the story of an Enterprise away mission gone awry under Number One's watch whilst serving under the first captain of the USS Enterprise Robert April. And it tells the story of how she tried to put it all right years later.... but she had to do it whilst on the run from Captain Kirk and his crew.

There are Klingons. There are Romulans. There's a mysterious new alien threat with a weapon that could change the balance of power in the galaxy. And there's Captain Una (Number One) who makes Kirk look like a stickler for rules and decorum as she fights to save her friends and shipmates who've been lost for decades...

And it ends on a cliffhanger too...

It is actually one of the best Star Trek novels I've ever read. Most have been poorly written and unimaginative (or too imaginative with crazy weird story moves that make little sense). This just kept the pace up, kept the story moving and had enough drama to draw you in. Don't read up on the next two instalments as the synopsis will give away one of the key twists of this tale! Sit back, relax and enjoy a good old fashion Star Trek story. There's not better tribute to the series than that!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Ukraine At #Eurovision: The Highlights

In Ukraine's 13 years of Eurovision history they have now won twice (and that includes that didn't even compete last year!). But that isn't even the whole story of their success as they've been in the top 10 an amazing 9 times!!! Ukraine IS Eurovision as far as I'm concerned.

I've got to admit I've had a soft spot for Ukraine since Ruslana won back in Turkey in 2004. Here's her epic "Wild Dances".

My commutes to my job in Vauxhall in 2006 (and onwards!) were done to the soundtrack of Tina Karol's Show Me Your Love, getting only a 7th place finish (ROBBED!)

Verka Serduchka represents everything that is delightful about the Eurovision Song Contest. She's funny, she's talented and by jove doesn't she know how to dress?! I'm still in shock that she came runner-up to Serbia in 2007 with this now CLASSIC Dancing Lasha Tumbai.

What's this? A third year in a row with an awesome tune? Yeap. 2008 Ukraine brought their top game to the table with Shady Lady by Ani Lorak. This has remained a staple MP3 on every device I've owned since!

No. It can't possibly be true. Ukraine didn't go for a fourth year of fantastic music, did they? Well I suppose this one is debatable but not if you ask me. Be My Valentine by Svetlana Loboda in 2009 was brilliantly staged, had sexy men and a fabulous singer. And what a tune it was!!!

2010 allowed Ukraine to show they could do heartfelt songs without glitzy staging and crazy gimmicks. Something they'd show again with 2016's winner! Alyosha and "Sweet People"

2011's Angel and 2012's Be My Guest are great songs too and 2013's Gravity scored massively but it was 2014's return to form that really got me back on the Ukraine bandwagon. Tick-Tock by Mariya Yaremchuk came with a man in a hamster spinning wheel...

And then, after an understandable absence in 2015, another winner. Well done Ukraine, you are epic!!

Friday, 1 January 2016

Geeky Movies To Get Excited About In 2016!

Geeks have inherited the Earth... It is a veritable geekgasm at the cinema this year. I'm looking forward to quite a bit indeed... 

The 5th Wave

It's an early release in January but it is definitely my wildcard choice. I've heard very little about it but I'm interested to see how good this ends up being.


X-Men movies from Fox are slippery beasts often hitting quality highs minutes before scrapping the bottom of the cliche barrel. But Deadpool is a character I've come to really know only over the last few years thanks mainly to his stint in Uncanny X-Force. He is HILARIOUS. I'm tentatively excited for this one!

Star Trek Beyond 

The first trailer for the next Star Trek movie has been met with a less than favourable response. I'm a life-long Star Trek fan (spending most of my paper round money on Star Trek Fact Files and video Deep Space Nine VHSs) so I'm not yet ready to give up on this. I'm not a "Abrams-verse" hater, though I'm desperate for a continuation of the original universe, and I enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness (somewhat anyway). I'm prepared to make this my first "excitement milestone" for 2016. Not long to go!! 

X-Men is another life-long franchise love of mine. I've enjoyed the last couple of movies more than I was expecting and I'm liking the approach Singer is taking. And Apocalypse is one of those villains from the 80s one just has to love. I'm really, really looking forward to seeing him and the X-Men get busy with the "snikt"-ing. 


Star Wars. That is all. 

Also coming up... 

Captain America: Civil War
The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist
Suicide Squad 
Doctor Strange

Expected Disappointments... 

Jumanji - TOO SOON.