Is This Just Me?

Is this just me, or does everybody secretly wish for an alien invasion? Or something of that ilk, the kind of situation where a person could credibly sacrifice himself against tremendous odds to save the world?

Where a man could carve a legend for himself simply by standing up to the powerful oppressors and saying no?

Where a population could rise up and unanimously tell the invaders "No more. I reject you. With a Molotov cocktail!"

No? Just me?

Yeah, I figured as much.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Autumns cartoons to watch-it's all kicking off.

Well, the wait is finally over. After months, literally months of nothing, finally, awesome animated shows are back, and my god this year we've got some killer shows coming up. So, as a result, I'm gonna be listing some of my top picks of shows to watch out for that are back this month.

Young Justice

Hailed as this generations DCAU, Young Justice won the hearts of many throughout it's first season, with strongly built characters, with compelling villians, excellent action direction and snappy dialogue. While the voice acting is good all round, stealing the show are Nolan North as the anger management challenged Superboy, and Jason Spisak as Kid Flash. Despite not one but two hiatus's during the first season, I was hooked and eagerly awaited it's return when it went on hiatus again, 8 episodes into season 2.
Despite a slightly shaky start to the second series, with an unexpected time skip and seeming cast change, within a few episodes it had grown back into itself, expanding the shows fiendishly intriguing myth arc and taking both new and old characters to places we'd not seen before. It's return post hiatus this month is now two episodes in, and my god someone kicked this show in the pants and into high gear. Crispin Freeman's performance is incredible, including one scene which really must be seen to be believed, but easily ranks among my favourite scenes in the entirety of animation.

Green Lantern

I'll come out and say it. I'm not a fan of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern. So when I found out about an entire series devoted solely to Hal...I was nervous to say the least. But it did have Kilowog in it, so I was willing to give it a chance. And boy was I glad I did. It used a curious form of animation, blending the classic Timm style with CGI graphics, which while not visually stunning, has a certain stylistic charm. But far more interesting and impressive then that was the scale of the show. I've often expressed distaste for the concept of a hero as powerful as Green Lantern spending so long on Earth. After all, he is supposed to take care of a sector of space. And, to my delight, the majority of this series is space based, lending the show a very cosmic feel which ensured that the entirety of the show had a true feeling of risk, it truly felt like the universe was on the line. The interpersonal drama of the primary cast is excellent, and once again, Jason Spisak steals the show, this time as the rage fueled Red Lantern Razer. And oh boy, has this show kicked up in scope. Where before the villains were removed from our sector to a degree, the first episode of the latest arc takes place on Earth. There is a tragedy brewing, and it's in our homes. Green Lantern easily secures its place in this list.

Dragons, Riders of Berk

A sequel series to one of my favourite animated movies of all time, Dreamworks "How to Train your Dragon", Dragons, Riders of Berk is...interesting. The only brand new show on this list, I feel like this show is only just starting to grow into its own. The show goes a long way to answer some of the lingering issues and questions of the film, especially regarding the natural consequences of a society changing from killing dragons to training them, with older members of the tribe complaining of the loss of traditions past, those who previously depended on fighting dragons to make a living and even the true fact that in the cold light of day, not all dragons are friendly, and idealism will only get you so far. Episodes 5 and 6, "In Dragons we Trust" and "Alvin and the Outcasts" form the series first two parter and really hint at the potential of this series. I'm honestly confident that this series can, if allowed to grow and mature just a tad, truly become something marvellous, emotionally brilliant like the film from which it spawned.

Tron Uprising
Last but not least, returning on October 19th is Tron:Uprising, a midquel between Tron and its sequel Tron Legacy. I am a huge fan of the original Tron, yes it's cheesey, yeah the plot makes no sense and the script treats computers like magic, but who cares? The movie was groundbreaking for its use of special effects, with action setpieces that still set the standard for sheer cool in movies. The sequel was a visual marvel, which despite a...shaky script, drew me in with its brilliant soundtrack and truly breathtaking design and aesthetic. Uprising takes a more...subdued and dark view of the world presented in the movies, examining things from a perspective never before explored, with a cast consisting solely of the programs from the computer world of Tron. No human protagonists out of place, no plucky heroes to develop superpowers. This is their world, these horrors are their lives now. We see on screen executions, people being rounded up into camps and generally showing the terrors that were merely alluded to in movies. Genocide, for kids! But really, this show has been great so far, and I eagerly await its return.

So, those are my picks for the cartoons to watch this season. If you disagree, or you feel I missed something, leave em in the comments and let me know.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Science Fiction Fans can go suck it. (Why Geeks can't have nice things)

Anyone following this blog (if there is anyone out there and I'm not just writing these things for the sake of it) will likely have noticed two things.

The first is that I really don't update this thing anywhere near as often as I really should.

The latter is that I am a huge, massive, irredeemable, unashamed nerd.

I grew up raised by a mother who introduced me to Star Wars from an early age, a father who to this day lends me Heinlein and Niven novels. One of my favourite memories as a child, way back when I was in primary school was watching Genesis of The Daleks with my father and being blown away by the spectacle and scope, the sheer joy of the genre. Later, I would find friends through my discussions of the latest episodes of shows like Farscape and Star Trek Deep Space 9, and upon coming to university, find my way into a group of friends who were both interesting and knowledgeable about areas of Science Fiction I'd not dreamed of. Sci-fi is, and always has been, an immensely personal affair, both in how it affects my relationships with my friends and family, and how it influences my very essence, my beliefs and emotions.

At the same time, we seem to be in a golden age of Comic Book movies, with 2012 hosting The Dark Knight Rises, Amazing Spider-Man and, the holy grail of Marvel Zombies Avengers movie. Truly, in some respects, it's a good time to be a nerd. Our hobbies are becoming mainstream. What was once the domain of the small minority is now becoming the mainstream, from Conventions becoming big budget affairs that attract thousands from all walks of life, to videogames becoming a truly massive industry.

And I, personally, welcome this. It's a general rule that 90% of everything is crud, but the remaining 10% is worth dying for. And yes, increasing the size of the whole means theres more crud, but more importantly, it means that 10% is correspondingly bigger and that means I get to enjoy more science fiction shows, more comic book movies, more videogames like Portal and Mass Effect.

But theres a dark side to it as well, and for once, we can't blame this on the jocks, or the greedy studio executives or any of the other groups. Oh, don't get me wrong, large swathes of blame can be laid over them, but this one...this one we do to ourselves.

We're a bunch of entitled, selfish, shortsighted and ultimately self destructive assholes.

Now, I've always known that nerds were assholes. We were the first to populate the internet after all. But it was only tonight that I had the revelation of why we do it to ourselves.

But first, some context. For reasons I...really can't explain, I was never exposed to the Stargate franchise growing up. I mean, I was aware it existed, but it was never on in my household, and by the time I was old enough to be in a position to watch it, well SG-1 was already finished, Atlantis was in something like it's fourth season and by that point...I like knowing what the hell is going on, and 4 seasons into a spinoff of a series continuation of a movie which itself has like two other movies that fitted somewhere...well, it just wasn't my thing. So Stargate, Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis slipped me by completely. By the time that I began university, Stargate Universe was just beginning, and...well, I didn't even know the show existed till I heard it was being cancelled.

However, recently my housemate convinced me to give it another go, and over the last few weeks, I've been working my way through the series, starting with the original movie. I'm 2 episodes from the end of season five, so don't you assholes dare spoil things, got it?

In any case, tonight, I spotted a link to someone discussing the possibilities of continuing Stargate Universe, either online, or in other media such as comics or tie in novels, possibly a movie. Now as a Firefly fan, I'll admit that such discussions appeal to me, since, well, they really show the passion and heart that make us nerds so cool. We honestly, truly believe in some things so much it hurts us.

It was my own fault. I should never have looked at the bloody comments section. I know I shouldn't be looking at comments sections, they always suck, but I can't help myself. And oh boy, this was no exception. Now, I was expecting people who didn't like it saying it sucked. I was expecting Stargate fans saying the didn't like it because they'd changed the format from previous versions, that doesn't surprise me in the least.

What I never expected was the sheer number of people who claimed to be Stargate fans saying that they would rather have no Stargate at all then this particular Stargate. That they were owed "proper Stargate" and that anything else was equivalent to being shot in the back.

And this is why geeks can't have nice things. Because any time, any time at all a studio takes a risk with a program, there comes the clarion call "They Changed it Now it SUCKS!"

That clarion call isn't coming from the majority, it's not coming from the lowest common denominator or from any other groups. It's coming from us. Nerds as a group have spent the last 20 years becoming more and more reactionary, divisive and abrasive with every year. We're so busy arguing with each other and hating everything that we end up cutting our noses off to spite our faces.

I mentioned that I grew up watching both Star Wars and Star Trek as a kid. Well as I grew up, that changed, as I found more and more there was this us vs them mentality. I ended up in the Star Wars camp, and for a time, was vocally against Star Trek because it was expected of me. And thats just the tip of the iceberg. We've grown to the point where everything has become this pitiful string of X vs Y with both sides hating each other more then either has a right to.

And we're so divided now that we're impossible to make a show for, because yes, nerds are a large group. But getting a large enough group of nerds to put aside the tiny differences for more then a moment and accomplishing something is impossible. We're like the cat people from Red Dwarf, holding religious wars over which colour hats should be worn.

So here it is, I'm laying out an agenda. Today, reading this, lets start a nerd revolution. Marvel fans and DC fans. Just be comic fans, Star Wars and Star Trek, lets follow Takei's advice, and form the Star Alliance, Bronies, Whovians, Otaku, Avatar fans (both elemental and blue cat people) roleplayers, potterheads, all of you people, lets stop the mudslinging. A truce, a truce I say, as we show the world that we're here, we're a force to be reckoned with and we're not gonna be silent anymore. If a show you don't watch or even don't like gets cancelled, then don't celebrate, don't laugh or congratulate the network for dropping it, offer sympathy and demand studios do better so the next show is something we can all get behind.

Do I think we're gonna do it? Well, only 6 people including me will probably ever read this thing anyway, so I doubt it. But I can dream.

Monday, 18 June 2012

A discussion of western animation and my top picks

As a self professed geek, I watch a lot of cartoons, and have done since I was a small kid. Whether it was the barrage of superhero cartoons from my childhood to the animated skits of the Looney Toons, I was hooked.

Recently, I went on a binge of rewatching a lot of shows that I had seen as a child, drinking them all in, comparing them to everything I had ever seen on the small screen. And sure enough, certain gems shone out at me, not just memories of things I enjoyed as a kid, but shows that even now, I find myself in awe at the sheer levels of wonder they evoke in me. In many ways, a lot of these cartoons are more powerful now I can appreciate the subtleties that the writers and directors took in creating the series that as a kid, I never noticed. (Not to mention the dirty jokes. My GOD, the dirty jokes...)

I took to thinking...what precisely was it that made these shows so great, that made me, make me care so much.

So, to discuss this, I'd like to take a moment to discuss just a few of my favourite animated series, and discuss what precisely about them made them work so well, what I feel made them as good as they really were.

First up on my list is a show that sometimes I'm amazed was ever made. Batman Beyond, a show set in the far future of the DC Universe. Despite this show airing years before I ever got into comic books, I was of course familiar with Batman, the masked powerless vigilante who fought to keep Gotham safe out of the memory of his dead parents. But none of that prepares a kid for the brilliance that is Batman Beyond. Everything about this show is good. The animation is superb, the writing is top notch, the voice acting is fantastic, with the lead actor Will Friedle bringing the character of Terry McGinnis to life in such a way that his character seemed to almost ooze out of every sentence he spoke, while Kevin Conroy returned to his old role of Bruce Wayne...yet managing to convey the age and experiences, defining him so distinctly from his youthful counterpart from Batman:TAS that I actually had to check to see if it was actually him. But none of that stuff is what made the show into the marvel that I find it to be. No, that rests with the world of Neo-Gotham, created from essentially whole cloth, this decaying, dingy urban centre easily conveyed the poverty, the crime, the loss of hope that made Batman neccesary. This series, more then any other, created a world that made me think that a superhero was needed for more then just beating up bad guys. When the Chris Nolan Batman films talk about Batman as a symbol, as being more then just a man in a mask, I honestly think of this show, and how even without ever directly stating it, they managed to plant that mentality into my mind. This show was Batman+Blade Runner. If that's not enough of a motivation to check it out, I don't know what is.

Continuing the theme of Comic book Superhero cartoons, we have something from an entirely opposite end of the spectrum. Justice League, and its sequel Justice League Unlimited. Where Batman Beyond was dark and gritty, these shows managed to shine a light so bright, some episodes can put a smile on my face just thinking about them. Justice League was among the only Superhero team shows that ever seemed to get the balance of focus right, allowing all the characters time to shine throughout the season. At the same time, the writers weren't afraid to leave a character out of an episode if the story wouldn't be helped by their presence. They balanced an ensemble cast excellently. At the same time, despite the show having a much more comedic and four-colour heroics style then Batman Beyond, it was never afraid to tackle mature storylines, and it didn't feel the need to treat its audience like children. Villains attempted to nuke the entire earth. Not some other planet, and not destroy it with some never again mentioned doomsday device, but literally destroy the entire planet with radioactive fire. Not only that, the show featured a literal on screen lobotomy, with the characters reacting to the this in a realistic and believeable fashion. Details like that made the stakes of the episode feel  real and, combined with top choregraphy for its many, excellent fight scenes and its consistent, logical character development that continued to the very end of the show, this cartoon is one that I will happily watch any episode of any day of the week.

Next up, and one of the few cartoons on my list that doesn't involve superheroes, is Godzilla: The Animated Series. This cartoon grew out of the loathed Roland Emmerich Godzilla movie that was made during the 90s, and to my mind, the existence of this show is almost good enough to make that movie worthwhile.


In any case, set after the film, it followed the adventures of the films main protagonist, plus a few other humans as they seek to fight other enormous kaiju, not to mention aliens, evil industrialists, etcetera. And how do they accomplish this, you ask? They raise the resultant offspring from the egg shown at the very end of the Godzilla movie to work with them. That's right, they had an entire two season cartoon of Godzilla beating the everloving crap out of a different monster each episode. At the same time, the human cast got plenty of development and charaterisation, with some very human interactions. If you're a fan of the original japanese Godzilla movies, I couldn't recommend this show more, not only does it have superb animation on the monster fights (which are fantastic) it's even acknowledged as exceptional by the original creator of Godzilla. And you can't say fairer then that.
Zorro Generation Z, the next show I'm gonna talk about is...well, objectively this show is not the greatest, and I'll admit it's easily the weakest on this list. However, even so, it does demonstrate some features that are near unique in the shows of its day. An bizarre mix of Zorro updated to align better with the superhero cartoons of the time, Zorro Generation Z was an incredibly fun show that went out of its way to make a show about a rich teenage descendant of Zorro fighting crime with a laser sword/whip/blaster/whatever the plot needed be as real as possible. It avoided people healing at ridiculous speeds, it often showed the severe effects of some of the more evil schemes happening and it. On the other hand...they did have cops with Tanks. Not Armed Guard or whatever, actual cops. That one was always a bit weird. But where this show really excelled was its characters. The protagonists were exception, from Zorro, who in both his identities was incredibly well voice acted and developed, to my favourite character: Bernard. Bernard was the best friend of Zorro, and the brains behind most of his advanced technology, as well as acting as a form of mission control. What set him apart from other shows "geeky best friend of the hero" was that he was mute. And this wasn't treated like some kind of quirk or amusing fact to be mentioned once and played for laughs a few times. It was a surprisingly accurate representation of mutism in media, one which I have not the like of since.

The final show I'm going to talk about, and my absolute favourite cartoon to this day is the Canadian Class of The Titans. This show remains to this day the singular best example of an ensemble cast I have ever seen, focusing on not just its seven core cast but also giving plenty of screentime to its wealthy cast of secondary characters. The show  followed the emergence of CRONUS, GOD OF TIME! into our world, after having been imprisoned by the Greek Gods in Tartarus for several millenia. And boy is he annoyed. With the gods powers waning after all this time, the oracle, (disguised as a newspaper vendor) reveals a prophecy that Cronus can only be defeated by seven teenagers, each the descendant of great Greek Heroes, embodying their powers. The show kept the focus equally divided over its 52 episodes between all of the characters ensuring that no matter who your favourite was, you'd get to see plenty of them. Each episode was a nice blend of action, comedy and interpersonal drama, and the show excelled in all of them. The action scenes were well written, well animated and by and large varied substantially each episode. As a fan of Power Rangers for most of my life, seeing a show like this have an incredible action scene each episode (almost always more then one) this was a dream come true for me. The comedy was probably the weakest element of the three, but by no means subpar, as a lot of the humour came from the personality clash of the cast. In my personal opinion, however, the shows real strong point was the writing of each of the cast. Often in shows like this, certain characters would be overshadowed to the point where all you could remember about others would be the barest idea of a personality. In this show, each character got several episodes focusing on them, and would almost always have something to do in episodes that weren't about them. Often, a characters best done development would be in episodes that had little to nothing do with them in terms of focus. The real masterstroke of this show was that it showed seven different, yet incredibly believeable reactions to being thrown into a world of monsters and gods and superpowers, then show those reactions change. Not to mention, this show was dark. The main villain wasn't looking to defeat the protagonists, he was trying to murder them. He wanted vengeance, and was willing to do whatever it took to get it. So that was Class of the Titans: come for the awesome fights, stay for the superlative characters.

Any way, those are my five top picks of shows I recommend people check out if you ever get the chance. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go watch some cartoons. Till next time.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Years Musings

So that was 2011, huh? I gotta say, as far as years go, that one was certainly one.

I joke of course, 2011 has been a damn fine year for me, even if it didn't seem like it at the time, but enough looking back, it's time to move forward: lets see what 2012 brings us, right?

One thing myself and many others are excited for this year is that 2012 is gonna be a geeks year, in cinema. We've got Amazing Spider-Man, which seems to be learning a lot from the Sam Raimi films by following the comics a lot closer, we've got the Superman reboot, Man of Steel...which, well, I don't care if it's 90 minutes of Superman getting wedgied by Darkseid, it'd still be a better representation of the character then some of the Superman films, theres Dark Knight Rises, which looks pretty damn good, with Bane played by Tom Hardy, a solid choice for a character who hasn't had the best of luck in previous adaptations. Finally, theres The Avengers.

Now, my thoughts on The Avengers as movie are probably synonymous with a lot of comic fans: "Sounds good, now try not to fuck it up, 'kay Marvel?" So far, everything I've seen about this movie has given me hope, we've got Skrulls being rumoured, we've got Thor, Cap and Iron Man, (all of whom are well cast, and the same actors as their own feature films) the teaser trailer was absolutely gorgeous, and we've got Joss Whedon directing, which strikes me as a very good choice, Whedon can balance Ensemble casts very well, just look at Serenity.

Of course, DC fans everywhere cry out in hope for a Justice League movie, but frankly, I don't see it happening any time soon. With The Flash and Wonder Woman movies stuck in development hell, the Green Lantern movie being...well, a fluorescent piece of shining embarassment, and Nolan's Batman series being brilliant but dark as all hell, well, I just can't see it on the horizon.

Frankly, one of the reasons I think the Marvel films have done so damn well is because of the Avengers movie on the horizon: Marvel have tied all their golden eggs into one basket and damn if they're not guarding it with their lives. Whereas Green Lantern was an isolated disaster for DC films, if Thor or Captain America had been that bad, there would have been major repurcussions for the rest of the franchise.

And frankly, if thats what it takes to get good comic book movies, then I'm all for it.

Happy New Year to the, what, 5 of you who read this. I hope it's a good un.