Sunday, May 29, 2011
"The Sweet Science" has a long and fantastic history. It has ingrained itself in the pop culture collective of the world. Whether you remember characters like Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson, George Foreman, more recent pugilists like Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar de la Hoya, or commentators like Larry Merchant and even the world's most recognizable promoter Don King, you remember it. Being a Puerto Rican through and through, I grew up watching boxing. I am not old enough to remember some of the biggest fighters of yore (only through film), but I still remember where I was when I saw Oscar de la Hoya lose to Tito Trinidad. What I'm trying to say before I begin my rant is that I like boxing. I enjoy the spectacle and most of all the 'science' behind it all. Or at least, I used to enjoy it.
Because to me, boxing is pretty much on its last leg.
Purists must be screaming at their monitors right now but if they calmed down a little bit and looked at the state of boxing in the world today, they would be hard pressed to say differently. So I will make a little list to enumerate the things that I think are causing boxing's slow and painful death.
-Too many IBFs and WBOs and whatever the hell they are with too many titles and too many weight divisions.
Who the hell can follow all of these governing bodies and all of these titles? It reminds me of the days of the pro wrestling regions. There are so many champions in the same divisions that it devalues the meaning of holding a title belt. You have a bunch of mediocre champions instead of a 'unified' champion that carries the weight of his (pardon the pun) weight division. The title fights are harder to follow since they happen all the time everywhere in the world with what seems to be no sense or reason. Also, the weight divisions... too many as well. Some of them only have 5 pounds between them... 5 pounds?? They can't make a 5 pound weight cut. Eliminate all the unnecessary weight divisions is what I say.
-Weak heavyweight division.
Gone are the days of Muhammed Ali, Joe Frazie, George Foreman and Sonny Liston. Even Mike Tyson's days are done and gone. So who is there to pick up the slack in the heavyweight division? The Klitschko's? I think not. While there have been amazing boxers in all weight divisions, there is one truism about boxing that really fits any combat sport. You are only as good as your heavyweight division. Sure, Oscar de la Hoya broke the mold in terms of PPV sales, but the truth is that it will never be as huge as a Mike Tyson... and talking about Tyson...
-Weak cards and early finishes.
You remember getting together with your friends and shelling out $10 each in order to be able to get the next Tyson fight. You get there late as you stop to get some pizza for the crew and a couple of brews. As you take the first bite, your bro tells you that the fight is about to start. You turn your back to the TV and then boom... the fight is over. That's ten bucks you'll never see again. This is something that happens all the time in boxing and its something that seriously affects all combat sports. Differently from most mainstream sports that have a strict time limit, a boxing fight can end in ten seconds. But you know what can be done to counteract that... a strong under-card. If you only have one main event and then a couple of up and comers, you have nothing to keep the person who payed $50 interested.
I don't want to see mediocre fighters who are thrust at me because they have a 30-0 record when they haven't beaten anyone with a record better than 75%. It's fine to get a few fights under the fighter's belt, but 30 fights? Seriously. This way we get less of the crappy one sided fights and more of the well rounded and interesting ones.
-Pay-per-view or HBO... either way we gotta pay.
Sure, ESPN and Fox Sports en Español have recently started to show boxing in free TV, but its never anything really interesting. If you want to see boxing you basically have to pay up. What drives away more young fans than old rock and roller's on Super Bowl halftimes? Having to pay for mainstream sports. Basketball, baseball and football don't have this problem but boxing seems to have become so elitist and corrupt that putting on good fights on free TV is just completely wrong. A nice and interesting fight between contenders ever month on free TV would do wonders to bring about a younger crowd to the dying sport.
Last but not least...
-The surging popularity of MMA as a suitable substitute to boxing.
I can already hear the purists pump out their chests and put on their boxing berets. But it is true. Teenagers and up are becoming bigger fans of MMA because its more accessible, a PPV will almost always be worth the money that is being shelled out and its a more complete test of a person's abilities. I always find it hilarious to hear boxing fans claim that MMA is so much more brutal than boxing. Just because they have bigger gloves and can't throw elbows, knees and kicks doesn't make it more violent. Actually, the total amount of punches a person takes in boxing is much much higher (because of the totality of the rounds and the fact that bigger gloves make it more difficult to knock down a person). Also, you could win a fight in MMA without ever even throwing a punch.
Anyways, I'm getting off point. The fact is that boxing is in a lull that not even Manny Pacquiao can save. I'm not saying all of this because I hate boxing. Not at all. I enjoy it the same way I enjoy MMA and kickboxing. I just can't handle those things I posted above...
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Past Games Revisited: Reviewing FFX-2 *Some spoilers, in case anyone still felt like playing through it*
Well, here's a game that's been almost unanimously panned by all fans of the Final Fantasy franchise that I have met, which is to say all of my friends and quite a few strangers on the web. Why, you may ask? Well, maybe it had to do with the radical change from its predecessor's highly praised Sphere Grid system and overall game elements like battle system, plot development and overall story and feel of the game. Where FFX was a gloomy and doomy story, which is not to say it was a bad one, X-2 was more peppy and upbeat, which was to be expected since it takes place two years into the Eternal Calm, the period of great prosperity brought about by the defeat of the previous game's big bad boss. I think what irked people the most was that it was a fanservice game, through and through. I won't deny it, from the Sailor Moon-esque transformation sequences, to the outfits and other assorted shenanigans, it was a way to milk more money out of a very successful game. However, I think it was a good game in its own right, all fanservice-y crap aside. And seriously, Yuna in short shorts is a very amusing sight, at the least.
First, game mechanics. X-2 had chose to go back to the traditional ATB Gauge of old Final Fantasy games, but with a noticeably speedier feel to it, which helped during long grinding sessions. Along with the return to this series staple, the leveling was done traditionally. That is to say, with actual levels instead of a sphere grid. Frankly, I'm glad they didn't use the sphere grid, because I feel it wouldn't have worked for this game in particular. Then, we have the return of the ability to change job classes, this time mid-battle, even! I thought that was pretty cool of them, even if I did have to suffer through the transformation sequences, which got old very quickly. Along with the job classes, we had individual abilities for each class which you had to learn the old-fashioned way: by earning AP(ability points). And lastly, there was the introduction of chained attacks, which rewarded you for making quick decisions in your attacks and having all three girls hit consecutively. Also, there's enough side quests to keep you busy for days.
Second, technical details. As you may have noticed, Squeenix decided to rehash its old battle systems with a then current-gen game. The graphics were pretty, which helped the battles feel more fluid, the soundtrack was very peppy and upbeat, which fit Yuna's new attitude very well, and the few heavy duty cutscenes were very well made, if not as enthralling as the now iconic Macalania Woods scene from the previous game. Frankly, knowing what I do now, I could say that the game was like a test run for some mechanics that would later be implemented in FFXIII.
Third, and final point, the story. Well, the storytelling, at any rate. Naturally, saving the world is a tired old plot, but that's not really the main focus of the story. What kicks off the whole game, and stays as the main plot point, is Yuna finding a video sphere of someone who looks like Tidus while treasure hunting. This prompts her to search for him throughout the world, eventually leading to the whole 'saving the world again' thing. Along the way there's many other side stories and subplots which diversify the game quite nicely and give some depth to the new characters, but ultimately the focus is on Yuna. What I liked was the narration. Agreed, her voice actress still sounds a bit stilted, but she's definitely gotten better at putting a little more emotion into it. And really, the game is about Yuna's personal growth after saving the world and becoming a living legend. I liked it because they portrayed her rather realistically in the sense that she was no longer the emotionless doll we saw in FFX. Sure, sometimes she behaved like a ditz, but for the most part we saw her face her problems maturely and responsibly. Which brings me to my personal reason as to why I liked this game. Naturally, I mainly play RPGs for the story, since it's really hard to innovate battle systems nowadays and when they try, most wind up being terrible, so I'm not to picky on that aspect. Throughout the whole game, we're presented with the possibility of finding our beloved(or hated) hero from the previous game again. And the way they handle the eventual 'reunion' ranges from terrible, in my opinion, to very nice.
Most may not have known this, but the game actually had three different endings, and it was those endings that made this game for me. We have bad, good, and perfect endings. The perfect ending has Tidus revived by the Fayth(mystical beings who were the source of summons from the last game) and having a very calm, emotional reunion with Yuna at Zanarkand. Of the two good endings, I preferred this one because it was slightly more appropriate to Yuna's character and Tidus' maturity after the last game ended.
The 'good' ending sees Tidus revived at Besaid and him and Yuna reunited in front of the island's inhabitants, having a big celebration. I didn't like this one and to a lesser degree, the perfect one because they felt like wish fulfillment to me. The Fayth were gone, and with them Tidus. It made no sense to bring them back at the very end just for this. Which brings me to the bad ending, and the one I got the first time I played through, which made everything better for me.
In the bad and 'special' bad endings, we see Yuna at the Farplane(sort of afterlife-y place), hearing Tidus' whistle. If you do nothing at this point, nothing happens, and Yuna just sort of walks away, dealing with the fact that Tidus is gone and not coming back. If you did do something, we're treated to a brief cutscene with Tidus' specter reuniting with Yuna, and her coming to terms with his absence.
I found that unusually well done for a fantasy RPG. No wish fulfillment. Sure, you saved the world, but the dead are dead and there's no undoing that. Instead of disputing that, she just calmly accepts that fact and moves on with her life, keeping the memory of her friends with her, but moving on. So yeah, call me morbid, but I think that ending made most of the grating peppiness kinda worth it.
My final verdict: FFX-2 is, indeed a fanservice game, but if you can get past that fact and try not to take it seriously, it's actually quite fun and pretty well done.
My personal score: 8/10 Actual, 'fair' score: 6.8/10
|Seriously, man. Short shorts. Well, more like hot pants, really.|
Saturday, May 21, 2011
The next film on my Cannes Film Festival Spotlight is Pedro Almodóvar’s La piel que habito (The Skin I Live In). The film deals with a plastic surgeon played by Antonio Banderas whose wife dies in a car fire and he spends his days trying to create a skin that would have protected her from the fire. He eventually is able to create a skin impermeable against any kind of assault after twelve years.
I don’t know what happens next and I wouldn’t want to ruin my experience with the newest film from Almodóvar. This is one of those directors that everyone waits patiently for his next film because everyone knows that while someone might not like it, they are in for an interesting experience that you won’t find with many other directors right now. His last two feature films (Los abrazos rotos or Broken Embraces and Volvér) had some of the best female characters (two of them played by Penélope Cruz), so I’m wondering if this film will have a character like that or if the film will concentrate on the character of the doctor and his motivations. Either way, it is a must see film.
Also, am I the only one that sees the similarities between this character and Mr. Freeze? No? Damn…
I actually saw the trailer of this next film at the movie theater when I went to watch an Italian romantic comedy called Ex. Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is the story of a Midwestern family during the 1950s. It deals with the life of the eldest son Jack (Sean Penn) as we see him live his life through his childhood all the way to him all grown up.
To tell you the truth, I am not a big fan of Terrence Malick. His last movie was one of the biggest bore fests I have seen in a long time. The New World was just plain bad. It worries me that he is the director, but the cast is just too good to pass up. Brad Pitt and Sean Penn are proven actors and they alone could make this movie fantastic. Sure, it might also be just ok, but I have a feeling that its going to be pretty damn good.
Last movie for tonight is the incredibly interesting Melancholia by director Lars von Trier. Apparently, there’s a planet called Melancholia that is heading towards Earth. Two sisters played by Kristen Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg have their relationship tested by everything that is going on. Check out the trailer, because this movie is hard to explain…
Yes. The film is strange. Lars von Trier has been criticized before for movies like 2009’s Antichrist and maybe the criticism is warranted. I don’t believe so. I think he has a vision that is just that different from most people’s sensibilities. Antichrist isn’t an easy movie to watch, but it’s a movie that will elicit a response from you, whether good or bad. I’m not sure about Kristen Dunst… not a big fan of her, but Charlotte Gainsbourg is a fantastic actress and Dunst could really work with her. There’s a nice supporting cast as well with guys like Stellan Skarsgard and his son (of True Blood fame) Alexander, Kiefer Sutherland and John Hurt. I have big expectations for this weird sci-fi thriller.
Still more to come soon! Stay tuned!
Thursday, May 19, 2011
The first movie I will spotlight is Takashi Miike’s Ichimei (or Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai).
Ichimei is Takeshi Miike’s remake of the samurai classic of the 60s, Masaki Kobayashi’s Hara-Kiri. The tale tells of a samurai looking to commit ritual murder (or hara-kiri) in the house of a local feudal lord. Once there, he is told the story of another samurai who had sought to die an honorable death as well and his sadistic fate. It turns out that this other samurai wasn’t just another samurai, which drives our main character to seek revenge against the feudal lord.
The reason I’m excited about this remake is that it is Takeshi Miike finally getting some recognition for his fantastic, oft times disturbing, and push-the-boundaries direction style. Miike has been incredibly prolific having directed 14 movies in the last 5 years. He has also directed some of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever seen… Visitor Q and Ichi the Killer. Although he has moved away from the low budget ultra violent stuff that gave him a cult following, he has become a more mature and interesting director as the years pass. Anyways, this is probably the first movie that caught my eye out of all the ones in competition. We’ll see what’s next and soon we’ll see who wins the Palme D’Or.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Kristen Wiig is not only funny, but pretty darn hot if you ask me. She plays Annie, a down on her luck woman who just lost her bakery, has some creepy ass roommates (played by the ever disturbing Matt Lucas and the now forever disturbing Rebel Wilson) and sleeps around with a guy that is a total douchehog (Jon Hamm from Madmen fame in full on dick mode). Annie finds out that her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married and has become her maid of honor. Of course, everything goes wrong for Annie and that is where hilarity ensues. I don't want to give too much away so I'll just tell you what I thought.
I didn't know much about the movie before going to see it. I had no idea Wiig (and Annie Mumolo) wrote it herself and that they wanted to take that Superbad and The Hangover style and translate it so that women could relate. Wiig is a witty writer, and I was quite impressed with the way I felt towards the characters. I think the characters and the witty dialogue were what made this movie a hilarious comedy in a year with so many sub-par comedy movies.
I also have to applaud the effort of making this movie into the female version of the movies I mention above. In a genre that has been male oriented forever, they managed to take the things that made those two movies above great and made it their own. Let me make this clear, this is not a subtle romantic comedy. If you go to the movies expecting that, you will be sorely disappointed. This is not the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. You see women doing the visual gags that we always see guys doing (throwing up and shitting in all the wrong places). The movie has its gross parts, that's for sure. This is not the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
The characters are what really endeared me to the film. There's the bride who is trapped between two worlds, the best friend who is broke and on the dumps, the hot and rich socialite, the MILF, the cute prude and the crass and slightly off her rocker fat girl. All of them play off of each other very well.
I was so pleasantly surprised by the movie that I went to check out what other stuff the director had done in his career and I was glad that I didn't know much about the movie because the last thing Paul Feig had done was Unaccompanied Minors, which quite frankly stunk.
The one thing that I was afraid of during the movie was the romance between Wiig's Annie and Chris O'Dowd's Rhodes. It seemed a little bit too forced at first, but then after they got a little bit more time together on screen, it sort of all worked. Give it a shot. If you don't find Annie incredibly endearing then I don't know what I could say to convince you.
In closing, this movie is hilarious and people should go out and watch it as much as they watched The Hangover. Forget that its all girls. This movie is the real deal. You won't be disappointed.
8 out of 10
So, with that said...
Let the nitpicking begin!
1- We needed more of:
Yes, there were couple of characters that needed more screen time, whether it be because they needed more of a build, or simply because they were just screen stealers.
The prime example here is obviously Loki. I'm not complaining about what he did, or how he was portrayed. We just needed more of him. Maybe an extra visit to Thor on Earth or something, just to drive the "I'm a dick" point home. This becomes an even bigger issue when you think that Loki is the rumored villain for the upcoming Avengers flick.
Then we have the case of Heimdall, who really just steals every scene he's in. A great blend of writing and performance (and an awesome giant fucking sword) kept you hoping he'd just show up again just for a second.
Honorable mention: That asian guy with the raspy voice. He was just fun to watch. And he sounded funny.
2- We needed less of:
Natalie Portman. That's right, the Jane Foster character is totally forgettable. This can be blamed on the Hollywood-ness of it all. To these people, the romance needs to be there almost as bad as the shirtless scene. In all honesty, all the character did was make googly eyes at Thor the whole movie. I would have much preferred to see more of Kat Dennings, at least she had some humor to her.
3- A better post-credits thingy:
I might be stingy with that one, just to keep it spoiler-less.
Marvel movies in recent years have become famous for making people sit through the credits. But on this occasion I was slightly disappointed. Not that it was bad. But it just wasn't up to the standards that recent Marvel flicks have set. Iron Man still sticks out as the best post-credits scene, and as much as a tie-in as this must be to the Avengers plot, this is still the weakest.
4- It needed one more song...
And here is where I get to rage... Because even if it was during the end credits, we got to hear Black Sabbath's Iron Man during Iron Man... And it was awesome. Everyone in the theater was rocking out as the credits started. It was just a great way to close off a great movie. I would have even thrown it in when he was wearing the suit for the first time, just for the hell of it.
Now we fast forward to Thor, and I'm thinking to myself... "What awesome song are we going to get to pump us up in the movie?" I said it jokingly, because I knew what I wanted. It had to be there, there's no way it isn't.
Halfway through it we get Walk by the Foo Fighters. And I will admit, it brought a smile to my face. You all know I love that band. But that's not what I was waiting for. I expected it during the end credits. And then, they gave me Walk again.
Now, I ask you, my readers... If Iron Man had Iron Man... Shouldn't Thor have God Of Thunder by Kiss?! Just listen to it...
We would have been pumped! I feel Marvel has done me an injustice. I might even say that I wrote this whole article just to get to that point. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley should feel robbed of their birthright.
Fine, I might be pushing it a bit (just a bit!). But it really would have been great. Maybe in the sequel.
One last thing... *pats self on back for not making one single Asgard joke*. Ok, I'm good.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
As someone who mara-viewed (TM) through five seasons, let me be the first to say that in it's time, 30 Rock hasn't changed at all. It follows it's formula to a tee, but why wouldn't they. Through numerous awards, year after year... They are the quintessential example of if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
As with any show, it has it's weaknesses, but it really knows how to to hide them. Lets be honest, there isn't one person in the world who hasn't wanted to smack Tracy Morgan at some point. But I'd say that was more during his SNL years. The writers for 30R know how to write for him, and keep the annoying to a minimum.
This season saw a number of landmarks for the show. The fourth episode in the season, titled Live Show, was (you guessed it!) taped live. But even then, they transcended with their trademark wit and made you feel like you were in on some huge inside joke.
The other big moment in the season is nearly at the end with an episode titled 100, which is (damn, you're good!) the 100th and 101st episode, marking the first time that she show has pulled a double.
All in all, another enjoyable season from one of the good ones on right now. With another season in the works, I can only hope for another live ep.
Also, we here at SiD would like to congratulate Ray for his small screen debut in the episode I Heart Conneticut as the episode stealing Slaughterface. I automatically knew it was him, we are all kinda peeved that he didn't tell us about this.
|There's no doubt about it. We have a star on our hands.|
Monday, May 16, 2011
In order for this to be a proper review, I have to admit that Thor is my favorite Marvel character. So, if you feel like I’m being too nice to it, then just know that I might be a little bit subjective. With that out of the way, I want to touch on one other thing which some might bring up. While the character Thor is obviously the based on the character of Nordic mythology, the movie is based on the comic books and not the actual mythology (still remembers people criticizing 300 for not being historically accurate). With that out of the way, here’s my review…
Thor deals with the title character’s war with himself and his “brother” Loki for the throne of Asgard. Odin, the all father (Anthony Hopkins), exiles Thor from Asgard and sends him into Midgard (Earth) in order to teach him a lesson. At first, we see that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is arrogant and foolish as he betrays his father’s trust and disobeys his orders, causing a war where peace had reigned for a long time. After Thor is banished, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) uses this chance as a way to capture the throne of Asgard from an old Odin.
Thor (now without his powers) is sent to Earth where he meets astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). On Earth, he has to deal with not having any powers, S.H.I.E.L.D., and eventually a big fire-breathing robot. I thought the romance part was pretty weak but that’s not really what matters in the movie.
Now, I always thought that making a movie based on Thor would be too hard an undertaking to tackle. Thor is not your typical super hero. He talks in a Shakespearian way and it doesn’t seem like he is interesting enough to be able to handle a whole movie by himself. Thankfully, Marvel understood this and gave him a plethora of characters for him to be able work. Not only many characters, but these characters are played by pretty good actors. Portman, Skarsgard, and Hopkins are proven top quality actors that can hold their own and be able to work with someone like Chris Hemsworth who is pretty much a newcomer to Hollywood. Thor’s friends are not much interesting except for Siff (who actually is the wife of Thor in Nordic mythology). Also, I would watch a movie based solely on Heimdall but only if its played by Idris Elba.
But the thing that made me think that this actually had the chance of being a good movie was the director that Marvel chose. Kenneth Branagh might not be the most known director to the casual crowd of movie goers, but for anyone that knows, he is the Shakespearean director bar none (his 4 hour version of Hamlet is pretty damn awesome). And it works.
The biggest flaw in the film is the villains. When people think of awesome superhero movies, they think of villains like the Joker. Although he has some cool powers, Loki is just too weak to actually go against Thor believably. Loki’s powers and skills just don’t show well on the screen. He is too subtle. The Destroyer was mostly a joke as well. So while the villains in the movie aren’t very strong, its all about Thor’s journey as he battles himself in order to eventually become the king of Asgard.
Even though I may be talking about all the bad things that this movie has, I enjoyed the film. I thought the movie as a complete package works well. Not only that, but it does a good job in working as a trampoline for the Avengers movie that will rock the world very soon.
6.5 out of 10
Smallville to me will always be that one show that could have been something spectacular, but it just shot itself in the foot with it's over the top melodrama and cliches.
I will always see it as a melting pot of wasted opportunities to make something truly spectacular for an audience who would have truly appreciated it; and we would have appreciated it all the way up to the end, that's why we gave it chance after chance after chance. We lived for that one comic book reference that the normal fan wouldn't get. We would browse Wikipedia just to check if we missed anything, just so we would feel like we were on the inside with those writers. But most of all, we waited for those big moments where our characters would put aside the soap opera for a minute and truly move on to something great. It usually does happen, and it lasts about thirty seconds, that's why I'm disappointed.
This season was far from the best they've done (to me, that would be season 5). Season 9 was far stronger, in every possible way, and I really do believe it should have stopped there. From the moment I heard Darkseid was coming, I already knew it was a bad idea. We are talking about the single most bad ass villain in the DC Universe. He doesn't belong on the world of the trivial, he doesn't belong on Smallville (neither did Doomsday for that matter).
|Save the world? Nah, I'm good, let him have it.|
Not only does Darkseid show up, but he's defeated in the most ridiculous manner possible, totally destroying his character for millions of new fans in the process. I really hate not being able to spoil this, but we here at SiD work by a moral code, so that's as far as I'm going to go.
The finale itself showed promise (like always with SV) but failed to deliver in most. We knew a wedding would happen, we knew Lex would be returning. I was really pumped for the latter of those two, unfortunately I got stuck with around an hour and a half of reconciliation and drawn out out of nowhere daddy issues, followed by a drawn out wedding where most of the buildup from the season gets swatted in about three minutes.
The Lex scene is by far the high point of the season. It does feel gratifying to have that confrontation. But he's just there, he really doesn't do anything because, he's not the villain yet.
All in all, Smallville went out the same way it came in: flat and boring. Was it all worth it? Probably not, but we don't care. We will rewatch Justice over and over just to make ourselves feel better. And on top of that, I still probably liked it better than Superman Returns.
Since then, I’ve devoured ‘American Gods,’ delighted in the Douglas Adams-inspired madness he created with Terry Pratchett in ‘Good Omens,’ giggled my way through the pages of ‘Anansi Boys,’ fell in love with a falling star named Yvaine in ‘Stardust’ (twice), bid a fond farewell to my Batman in ‘Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?’ and sat through ‘Beowulf’ solely on the basis of his name being attached to that project.
I even became a fan of The Dresden Dolls because of his romantic attachment to lead-singer Amanda Palmer led to some hilarious tweets being exchanged between the two of them back in the day when Twitter still wasn’t Twitter.
So, yes, I believe saying I’m a fan of the man’s work would be a fair assessment.
Which is all the more reason why this particular episode of Doctor Who has been incredibly high on my list of expectations for a good long while now.
Originally intended to be filmed as part of last year’s series (i.e. “season” in real English), Gaiman’s ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ finally aired last Saturday: a “love letter” of sorts for a show and a character that have become such an iconic and indelible figure in British popular culture since their debut way, way back in 1963.
Now, I can’t claim to have known and loved the exploits of The Doctor and his continually interchangeable slew of Companions during my childhood as much as I’d love to, seeing how a great deal of those older, classic stories are truly FANTASTIC, but since coming into the show during Matt Smith’s initial outing last year as the latest incarnation of The Doctor in ‘The Eleventh Hour,’ I’ve completely immersed myself into the vast mythology of this utter gem of a show.
In the span of a year, I’ve consumed classic story after classic story after classic story, audio plays, movies and every single episode and special of the series since its revival in 2005, starring Christopher Eccleston (from '28 Days Later' and 'G.I. Joe') as the Ninth Doctor.
Yet, no matter how great those stories were or how brilliant were each and every one of the previous ten interpretations of the character, it’s still Matt Smith’s wide-eyed, whimsically mercurial take on the 909 year-old Time Lord that stands out for me the most.
A great deal has to do with his incredible skill as an actor but, mostly, and it shouldn’t really be much of a surprise to anyone that’s a fan of the show, it has to do with the fact that no matter how objective you try to be, you always love your first Doctor a bit more than the others, simply because he was your first. And Matt Smith, thankfully, just happens to be that Doctor for me.
So, when I found out that Neil Gaiman was going to be writing an episode this series, my head went from wibbly-wobbly to explodey-wodey in the span of a second.
And my stars and garters, what an episode it was!
Not since 2006’s ‘The Girl in the Fireplace,’ written by current Head Writer and show-runner, Steven Moffat, has there been a more beautiful, funny, emotional, frightening, mildly disturbing, sad and loving story on the show. Nor a stand-alone episode that’s as perfect a jumping-on point for new viewers as this one.
In 45 minutes, Neil Gaiman, aided by Richard Clark’s darkly wonderful and moody direction, encapsulates everything that makes Doctor Who such a brilliant show.
The episode features a number of tropes from the show’s monumental history, while still making it accessible. It has sentient asteroids (played to great effect by Michael Sheen of ‘Frost/Nixon’ and those ‘Twilight’ movies), patchwork people, Time Lords, running up and down corridors in true Classic Who fashion, Companions in mortal danger, monsters and a love story at the center of it all.
Coming from Gaiman, one can’t be too surprised to notice how much like a fairy tale this story really is yet it’s unequivocally Doctor Who-ish at its very core. It’s written by a fan for the fans, all the while remaining simple and straightforward enough for anyone not versed in the show and its mythos to come in and discover the many wonders it offers.
The story of Idris, played by the lovely and fantastic Suranne Jones to perfection (which, once you consider the part in its complete context, you’ll realize just how fast it could’ve gone South in the hands of a lesser performer), is sure to melt the heart of even the most cynical and jaded viewer. You simply can’t help but fall in love with her and smile at every word that comes out of her mouth.
Matt Smith, as per usual, brings his absolute best to the role he’s inhabited so perfectly since those first five minutes of ‘The Eleventh Hour,’ adding even more layers of nuance to his performance. Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill as Amy and Rory Pond, the Doctor’s current Companions, also continue to shine, albeit briefly, as they’re relegated to the role of hostages for a great part of the story. Even so, their chemistry together with that of Matt is always a joy to watch onscreen and it carries through on this story.
All in all, this was an absolute joy of an episode; one that has already garnered several repeat viewings, with one happening in the background right now as I write this quote/unquote review.
Neil has said on several occasions that he’s an avowed Whovian, with Patrick Troughton (the Second Doctor) being his Doctor, and judging from his script, it shows. His love for The Doctor and everything about this wonderfully madcap alien shows in every single scene.
Even if he never writes another episode for the show, I’ll be forever grateful for this one.
Truly magical television!
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
I jokingly call this album the playlist breaker, because whenever I'm making a playlist I just skip over this because I might just throw the whole thing in there.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are a rare type of band. Loved by many, hated by few. No matter what you're into, you like or know at least one RHCP song.
My first Peppers album was in sixth grade when Californication came out, and I loved it. It's without a doubt one of their best and most revered albums. From then on in I looked backwards at them, picking albums like One Hot Minute, and the consensus favorite, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Each one brought something different to the table, whether it be a new sound or vibe, they kept it fresh.
By the time By The Way came out in 2002 I was more than ready for a new album. And once again it was very different. It was a bit mellow by RHCP standards. Don't get me wrong, it's a great album but it just feels light in comparison, it's not an album you rock out to, and on first listen it seemed like a downer. They seemed to be missing that heavy funk that made them excel and they settled into a slower pace. Coming off an album like Californication into this new sound seemed like a step down I really felt like they slumped.
When the hype machine started reving up for Stadium Arcadium I was in my senior year of high school, and at first I didn't buy in. I hadn't bought an album in a while (sound familiar?) and I was kinda unplugged from the music scene. Then, the video for Dani California came out, and it blew my mind. It was a totally new sound for them. Frusciante's guitar work seemed much more intense, and it gave the song really big feel to it. I immediately thought it was the strongest first single I'd heard from a Peppers album.
I already knew it was a double album before it came out, and that info just fueled my fire... I was pumped. Stadium Arcadium dropped on May 5, around three weeks before my graduation. I was actually the only person in my class who was really pumped about it.
I showed up the next day with my headphones on, ignoring the universe. I still hadn't gone through both discs... A product of the repeat button on most of the songs. I was hooked. It was almost like I was selling the album to people at lunch. SA was just the perfect Peppers album to me. It was like listening to a greatest hits album of all new material. They just took every single style they had played in and revisited it in they're new found musical maturity, and it showed; it was brilliant.
The double album feature also worked in their advantage. They planned the perfect order for the tracks to keep us interested, the split the disks evenly in style and sound making two similar but different disks that would stand alone (Unlike what the Foo Fighters did with In Your Honor).
To this day, I have a hard time skipping songs from that album. It's great in the sense that it's hard to memorize 28 songs; there's always that one that you forget is on there, and it's a pleasant surprise when you hear it. I actually have a friend who has never heard the whole second disk because he's never gotten tired of the first.
Personally, I don't know some of the singles from the record. I wasn't paying enough attention to MTV at the time. I just know there were at least five. Also, I don't want to know. I'd probably be angry that some song was never a single (The title track comes to mind).
As the next Red Hot Chili Peppers album shows it's head on the horizon later this year, I can't help but expect great things. They have a lot to live up to. New guitarist and all, I expect them to try and top themselves. And to me, it's a big role to fill.
I know that to most it's hard to imagine an album that's any better than Blood Sugar, or Californication; but Stadium Arcadium to me seems like the perfection of those albums and what they meant. The Peppers took what they'd done and made it perfect, in one album... One really long enjoyable album. And honestly... No matter what you say... It's a classic to me dammit!