Saturday, May 15, 2010

Doctor Who: Series 5, Episode 1 - The Eleventh Hour (8 Pints)

My first TV review will be of one of my all-time favorite shows - Doctor Who. In the future I hope to go back and review all of the new series episodes, but for now I'm just tackling this year's episodes, starting with the series premiere, The Eleventh Hour.

Our adventure begins with a newly regenerated Doctor (Number 11, played by Matt Smith) crash-landing the TARDIS in a little village called Leadworth after nearly blowing it up in the process of regenerating. He's landed it on its side, on top of a shed in the back yard of a house where a young girl named Amelia Pond lives. Amelia assumes he's been sent to help her, answering her prayers that something be done about a rather sinister crack in her bedroom wall, and the Doctor being the Doctor, he obliges and gives it a look. Upon inspection, he discovers that the crack is actually in the universe, in reality, not the wall, and he forces it open to see where it goes. A giant eyeball comes to the now open tear and declares that 'Prisoner Zero has escaped', then the crack closes. Before the Doctor and Amelia can begin to look for Prisoner Zero, the TARDIS alarms go off, warning the Doctor that the engines are going to blow. He rushes back to the TARDIS to fix it, promising Amelia that he'll return in five minutes.

He returns, unwittingly, twelve years later.

Now he must convince the grown up Amy (once Amelia) that he's real, and that the world will end in twenty minutes unless he helps her. Then he actually has to, you know, save the world.

I found this episode to be beautifully shot and very fairytale-like in tone, which fits the story nicely. I think that the aliens in the episode - both Prisoner Zero and his captors - are a bit hit and miss, and really are only there as a device for the writer to introduce us to this new Doctor and his companion. Obviously that was the intent of the episode, I'm just saying that I found it a little too obvious as the actual plot is never really fleshed out much. Who is Prisoner Zero? What did they do? Who are the aliens (Atraxi) that are after it? All we ever get is the basics - Prisoner Zero escaped a prison somewhere, and the Atraxi will destroy the Earth before they let it get away.

The other thing that bothered me was how Prisoner Zero found the coma patients in the hospital. I get that Amy's boyfriend Rory is a nurse there, and that they must have hitched a ride on him, but it's never really explained. And - spoiler! - if Prisoner Zero needs comatose people to imitate, why doesn't it just knock anyone out that it likes, as it can clearly do near the end of the episode? Also, if Prisoner Zero has been using these coma patients as covers to go out in public for twelve years, why the hell can't it figure out which mouth to talk with? Surely it's had to talk at some point by now, even if only with an annoying passerby. Also, in a small village like Leadworth, why is Rory the only one that notices that these people shouldn't be out walking around? Everybody knows everybody, right?

These are just minor complaints, really. On the whole I found the episode to be rather good and it hides a lot of little Easter Eggs on repeated viewings. I'm sure there's even more stuff in there that will become obvious by the end of the series, as well.

I like this new Doctor. Matt Smith is a quirky, eccentric, alien Doctor and a welcome change from David Tennant's moist-eyed, quivering-lipped, fuck anything that moves Doctor. Seriously. The Madame de Pompadour, Queen Elizabeth, two years of Rose wooing... I'm not a Ten hater, and liked his Doctor a lot, but Smith is bringing the Doctor back to his awkward, asexual and alien roots. Ten felt very human at times. Eleven is definitely not.

Amy presents an interesting companion - a girl who grew up with an imaginary friend only to find out that he's real. It's clear, even without Prisoner Zero saying it, that she's still very much a child inside, that she never really grew up in many ways. She acts adult and has a moderately sexy job because she's playing at being an adult. She's doing what adults are supposed to do. We find out at the very end that it's all a show, and she really is still the little girl wanting to run away through time and space with her imaginary friend.

I'm looking forward to it.

Iron Man 2: 7 Pints

My first film review will be for Iron Man 2, directed by Jon Favreau, with Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell.

The movie is basically the story of Ivan Venko (Rourke), a Russian scientist and former spy whose father worked for Stark Industries and helped design the power core of the Iron Man suit many years ago. Dad dies, penniless and alone, and Ivan wants revenge. There to help him is Justin Hammer (Rockwell), a weapons maker and CEO of a Stark Industries rival. Amidst all of this, we discover that Tony Stark is dying because the power core is poisoning his blood. The more he uses the suit, the more sick he gets.

That's the basic premise.

Now, I was honestly surprised when the first Iron Man movie did so well. Let's face it, Iron Man isn't exactly one of the more commonly known superheroes, like Batman, Superman or Spider Man. Iron Man's more B-list, and I've always thought of him as Marvel's answer to Batman - a normal (but wealthy and brilliant) guy in a suit with gadgets. The first movie did so well because it had a solid script, solid direction, and the perfect star playing the perfect role. Robert Downey Jr. as a wild, egocentric but lovable alcoholic?

Unpossible!

I like RDJ, and I always have. I was bummed when he got busted again and went to jail, and I'm happy to see him doing so well now, both professionally and personally. Tony Stark is a great role for him. Perfect, really. I also think that Iron Man 2 has more of a plot and a stronger, more interesting villain than the first film, and that it's a more coherent movie. So why did I enjoy it less?

First of all, I think, because it was more of a superhero movie than the first. The first was about a guy who became a hero despite himself. It didn't have a typical hero/villain setup until near the end, and largely was the story of a guy utterly unfit to be a hero becoming just that.

This movie sets up the good guys and bad guys right away and gets to work. I personally would have liked more scenes exploring the divide among the public over Iron Man - hero or danger? All we really get of this is Gary Shandling as a blowhard Senator (an interesting stretch), and Bill O'Reilly as a blowhard pundit (hardly a stretch). Everything else is pro-Iron Man, or ignores it all together. It's too bad, because it misses out on a lot of what I think made the first film work so well - playing with the contradictions that are Tony Stark/Iron Man. Instead we get 'Tony is dying' and some blatant advanced marketing for the upcoming Avengers movie. I've never seen a trailer for a movie actually in another movie, before. Here, it was a full-blown plot.

Scarlett Johansson was good, as were her assets (why Happy acts like her wrapping her thighs around his head is a bad thing is a mystery to me!), but ultimately unnecessary, as was Sam Jackson. The whole Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. thing could have been left out, Tony could have discovered his Dad's message on his own, and more time could have been spent on Tony Stark's struggle to stay heroic. Or they could have given the very good but underused Mickey Rourke more to do than toy with Rockwell's character and play on a computer for half the film.

Rockwell, himself, had too much screen time, and I say that as a fan. In Galaxy Quest the guy basically stole the fucking movie from Tim Allen, Alan Rickman and Tony Shaloub. That takes skill. In Moon, he showed that he can do serious drama, as well. Here, however, the character they gave him is a bit of a one trick wonder, and we get too much of him and not enough of the far more interesting and enigmatic character Rourke plays.

In the end, it's still a pretty good popcorn movie and a good superhero flick. I just think that they went too formula and tried too hard to set up the Avengers franchise instead of building on the first movie. Most casual moviegoers know fuckall about Nick Fury and all of that, so why bog the film down with it? Putting the Avengers stuff as an Easter Egg to fanboys after the credits worked well in the first movie. It should have continued that way.


Just When You Thought It Was Safe!

So I'm reviving this blog, but I'm going to start reviewing pretty much anything and everything that I want to. Movies, TV, comic books, games, novels... You name it, I'll probably review it at some point. I'll entertain requests - if there's something you really think I should review, drop me a note and I might consider it. No promises, though.

As in the past, non-professional ventures like webcomics will only be reviewed at the creator's request - I'm not here to piss on people unless they make a lot of money doing what they do, or they ask for it. If it's a professionally published work, however, it's fair game.

Keep an eye out for things to come. It's about to get messy around here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Gilbert and the Grim Rabbit (6 Pints)

Gilbert and the Grim Rabbit
by Wendy W
www.gilbertandgrim.com/

Fuck, shit, cocksucker, motherfucking Barbara Streisand!

I feel better, now.

After reading Gilbert and the Grim Rabbit, I felt the uncontrollable, Tourettes-like need to say a bunch of offensive words and stare at porn while slathering myself in bloody, raw meat and smoking cigarettes rolled in dried, dead baby skin. It was that fucking cute. It may have actually raised my purity score and I'm almost certain I'm a diabetic, now.

Wendy's art isn't exactly polished, or even terribly consistent, at times, but it's more colorful than a Gay Pride Parade and more adorable than a baby kitten. You want to hug it. You want to buy plushies modeled from it. It is, quite simply, almost too cute to be allowed to exist. But thankfully, it does.

The writing is also fairly hit and miss, with a few pages that are close to genius and other pages that seem almost pointless other than the cuteness factor. I think Wendy can be a good writer, if she keeps working at it and focuses more, but it feels like sometimes she's just phoning it in. When the writing can match the charm of the art and characters, she will truly have a winner on her hands.

To be honest, I've laughed more and laughed harder at comics I've rated far worse, but what those comics lack that this comic has in spades is charm. It jumps off the screen and demands that you love it, and you find yourself powerless to resist. It's original, it's adorable and it's unapologetic in its existence. Even a jaded, snarky cynic like myself is unable to resist it.

The Borg have nothing on Gilbert and the Grim Rabbit.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Abandon: First Vampire (3 Pints)

Abandon: First Vampire
Wriiten by Greg Carter
Drawn by Elliot Dombo
www.abandoncomic.com

Abandon has a decent following, so nothing I say is really going to hurt it - or help it. That makes it kind of like a sacred cow, untouchable. But just as McDonalds opened restaurants in India and is now serving up God on a bun, a McDeity with Cheese, if you will, I am not above taking shots at sacred cows, either. So allow me now to take a bite out of Abandon's soft, romantic, lesbian-happy flesh.

The story is basically about a vampire - the first vampire, no less, cursed for all of time to be immortal and remember her One True Love(TM), who is cursed to be reborn forever and never remember her.

And many emo boys wept.

Said vampire is, as all hot female vampires should be, a total slut and jumps in bed with a human girl before we are even ten pages in. A human girl that has a human girlfriend that hates said vampire. Which she just fucked. And then she lies to her girlfriend and fucks her while said girlfriend's brother goes missing with said vampire, who both want to fuck each other, and said brother may just be the aforementioned long lost love cursed to reincarnation for all of time, yeah verily.

If that was disjointed or confusing to read, so was the back history provided that is supposed to explain the whole universe and the gods.

The dialogue is so-so, with moments of cringe-worthy lines, like when the ancient slutty vampire chick calls someone a doofus. Shit, I haven't said doofus since Lost Boys came out. There are occasional clever bits of writing, mostly involving segues between scenes, like a line about landing on his feet followed by the brother tumbling to the ground, but these are easy to forget amidst all the emo romance, gratuitous lesbian action (never actually shown, mind you) and head loppings. And seriously, if the writer has a hard-on for lesbians - we've seen all of five female characters, and four are at least bisexual - why play coy with the hot lesbian sex? We're not quite two issues in and there have been two completely gratuitous and unnecessary sex scenes minus the sex. Why waste pages with them if there's no real story point and you're not going to show the rug munchers actually munching rugs? Fan service? Please, you don't need post-coital scenes to give panty shots or show girls in bras. I'm actually one of those rare males not into girl-on-girl action, but even I think the comic is a cock tease. Put out or stick to the emo romance and head loppings. I'm supposed to believe some chick, worried about her missing brother after disappearing with the vampire she despises, is going to go, 'Hey! Before we go look for my brother, I wanna eat some pussy! OMNOMNOMNOM!'

No.

As for the art, it's pretty hit and miss. Close-ups work best, but when characters are seen from a distance or in full-body, they suddenly become Hobbits and their proportions go all out of whack. Also, profiles: please learn to draw them. Thank you.

I can't tell if this comic is trying to take itself seriously or not. If not, then go balls out. Let it rip. If it is trying to be serious and tell a moving, interesting story... As I've said before, good luck with that.

It has an audience, though. Any comic with sexy slutty vampire lesbian sex and heads flying all over will. It's kind of like the yaoi genre - there's an audience for it. That doesn't mean every single title is actually good.

67th Avenue (3 Pints)

67th Avenue
by Jamie Sawatsky
67thavenue.nfshost.com/

They often say Seinfeld was the longest running TV show about nothing. If that's true, then 67th Avenue is the Seinfeld of webcomics.

But only in that respect.

As far as I can tell from the archives - and this comic goes back years - it's basically the ongoing story of a character named Jamie and his daily struggles and exploits. But the comic rarely has much of a story, or at least much beyond a simple thread of a story. This can work in gag-a-day comics, where jokes trump story, but the problem is that 67th Avenue can't seem to decide if it's a story comic or a gag-a-day comic, and as a result it does neither very well. There are often several strips in a row with little to no gag or joke, yet they don't exactly move the plot in any interesting way, either. Take the current arc - the Aqua Ranch Kit.

Jamie sees an ad in the back of a comic book for one of those sea-monkey deals, and decides that he has to have one. Problem is, he has no money. We're 5 strips in - that's 5 updates, or basically a month's worth of strips - and the only thing that's happened is that Jamie opened his piggy bank for money. The strip where he breaks said piggy bank is done in a funny manner, but really - 1 in every 5 strips is not a good number. The rest are filler.

Before this arc, there was an arc that lasted 35 strips - a year's worth of time. It's basically the same thing, but on a far more staggering scale. An entire year of mostly pointless mediocrity with a few funny moments mixed in.

A fucking year!

It could have been epic. It could have been a highlight of the strip's history. Instead, it's just more of the same.

The art is decent when it involves characters, but too often backgrounds and action get muddled up, making it hard to follow at times. Jamie does show a serious amount of growth over the years, but background problems still nag at the strip. Even fantastic art, however, couldn't change the fact that the writing needs tons of work. Jamie seems to be having fun, which is great if that's all that matters. If you have fun creating something, that alone is reason enough to do it. But Jamie is asking for a review, an outsider's opinion, and outsiders aren't impressed by self-indulgence and don't care if the creator is having fun. They want to have fun.

Basically, it's my belief that a gag-a-day comic needs to be relentlessly funny - which is one reason I don't like most of them, as few can pull this off. A story comic needs to be interesting and compelling, otherwise the reader won't care enough to come back. 67th Avenue is, alas, rarely funny or interesting, and hardly ever both at once. This comic really needs to decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monster Lover (0 Pints)

Monster Lover
by Eric Flores
monsterlover.comicgenesis.com

In my few, limited interactions with Eric, he seems like an okay guy. Which makes me feel a bit bad about the fact that I'm about to spank him like a middle-aged fat man streaming Japanese schoolgirl bukkake at 3AM on a work night. But just as Jesus lets kittens die and babies drown because he has to, some things simply must be done.

Monster Lover isn't so much a comic as it is wank-fulfillment. Like all the leading men in his comics, Adam has a massive cock. We're talking torso-length, Freaks of Cock (no, I'm not linking to them, Google if you're wanting to lose sanity points) shit, here. And of course, all the chicks want it. He can't help it - he's a sex God. Life is hard, sometimes. Adam's hard all the time, like Chinese arithmetic. Oh, and there's some arbitrary story about him training monsters to fight monsters, but it mostly serves as an excuse to rescue new creatures and girls for Adam to fuck. That is, afterall, the real point of the comic: four-breasted cat sex and female minotaur milking. I'm not fucking kidding. He milks her every morning in the most personal of ways.

Adam is everything a guy wants to be - manly, hung like a sperm whale and deadly with a weapon. Women - of the human and non-human varieties - are all easy, sex-crazed sluts just waiting to get naked and see what it feels like to be fucked by a telephone pole. Every. Single. Fucking. One. Of. Them. Dude, when the guy who has a webcomic depicting young, scantily clad college girls with melon-shaped breasts running around getting slaughtered by crazy serial killers says your depiction of women just might be misogynistic? There might be a problem.

The art - the only thing that can save a comic like this, if you're doing porn comics (which is fine, if you do it well) the art needs to at least be sexy - is something I'd expect to see on a pro-life protester's sign. In clearer terms, it's an abortion. Not only is it not sexy, it's downright frightening sometimes. When characters are talking, we get to see molars and shit. Are they talking or trying to swallow my head? It's almost enough to give me nightmares. He seems to have some grasp on anatomy and proportion, but his lines are messy, his colors are ugly, his shading is haphazard and he doesn't bother to clean any of it up. There are spots, blurs and smudges on many pages that he could at least touch up in post-production. But he doesn't.

By all statistics, he should be great at drawing by now. The law of averages suggests that the more you draw, the better you get, and this guy is fucking prolific in the number of pages he churns out. And yet, there is little improvement. It's an impressive feat.

Look, there's nothing wrong with porn. The internets wouldn't exist without it. There's also nothing wrong with porn webcomics. There is, however, something wrong with bad porn webcomics, and bad webcomics of any kind. And this may be one of the biggest examples of why.

Now excuse my while I go wash my eyes out with bleach.