Archive for July, 2009

GUMO #115 - For Truth and Justice

I was slightly rushed for time this week, so I chose to spend a little time learning these background things. I went back to black and white because I’m more comfortable with it. More effort next week, promise.

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The Cell

I wake on a cold hard stone floor.
Dripping in the distance.
Rats scurrying around me.
I am bound by my hands and feet.
There is a single barred window high up on one wall.
It is night outside.
I can’t see the door or the walls, but if I stretch out I can reach both ends of the room.
I let out a sigh.
I don’t know where I am.
They’ve won.
We are all doomed.
I black out.

The hands grab me, lift me up.
I’m moving.
I open my eyes.
The ceiling moves. It is bright.
I think I’m on a stretcher.
A white gloved hand presses down on my chest.
I follow the arm up.
The back of a head, white hospital headgear covering skin.
I groan.
The face turns around, obscured by the hospital mask.
It is pink, fleshy, normal.
I sigh with relief.
The bottom of the stretcher bangs open some double doors.
I glance around.
Some kind of emergency room.
The white gloved hand comes off my chest.
I try to stop it.
I am handcuffed to the stretcher.
I try and move my other hand.
Pain shoots up my arm.
I look at my hand.
It is purple and blue and black, bruised and swollen. The hand hangs limply off the shattered wrist.
‘You’ve been in quite the fight,’ comes a sickly-sweet voice.
A silhouette appears over my face.
I can see shocking pink hair.
‘We’ll have you patched up in no time,’ she says.
Two more silhouettes appear next to her.
‘I’m Nurse Joy,’ says the first shape, ‘and my assistants today are Mr Mime and Chansey.’
A white gloved hand reaches up and pulls the mask down from its face.
Now I can see them.
The smiling face of the nurse with the shocking pink hair.
The hideous grin and rosy pink cheeks of the clown Pokémon.
The empty, dead black eyes of the shorter, pink balloon Pokémon.
The white gloved hand comes towards my face.
I squirm.
The nurse holds me down.
The white gloved hand places a mask over my nose and mouth.
‘Just breathe deeply,’ says Nurse Joy. ‘Imagine you’re a pilot.’
The dead eyes of the Pokémon gaze down hatefully at my helpless body.

I wake again on the floor of the cell.
It is dark again.
I move my hand.
I can’t feel it.
The hand is in a crude wooden split to keep it straight.
Something wet on my leg.
I can’t see it.
I move my working hand down to it.
Something crawling, moving.
I snatch it up.
A purple bug.
A Wurmple.
I crush it in my hand.
Goddamn Pokémon.

Bruno Review

Posted: July 25, 2009 in Review
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Bruno Review

2006’s Borat was an undisputed comedy masterpiece, turning society’s prejudices on their heads and forcing us all to ask deep, dark questions of ourselves in between deep, hearty belly laughs. The question, then, is what can Sacha Baron Cohen’s final comic creation offer up?

As it turns out, a hell of a lot. Bruno, despite being the same film as Borat, manages to do, say and be an incredible amount of things all at once. A satire, fish-out-of-water, deeply disturbing look at intolerance, a thoughtful meditation on an unjust society, the film hits every key point with ease.

The film opens with Bruno filming a new series of ‘Funkyzeit’, the most important fashion show in any German-speaking language (apart from Germany). Following a disastrous accident on the catwalk, Bruno is dropped by the network and then his lover, setting off a chain of events that see the gayest man in Austria travelling to Los Angeles to make his name as a star.

The action is far more frenetic that the more considered Borat with the action skipping along at break-neck speed from one cringe-worthy encounter to another – part of the reason is because people are so quick to be offended and Cohen so eager to press their buttons. But Cohen never loses sight of what he aims to achieve – from getting a model to admit that walking is the hardest job in the world, to getting Paula Abdul to discuss her humanitarian work whilst sitting on the back of a Mexican to practising sex positions fully clothed with another giggling male, he once again manages to use his apparent lack of culture to penetrate people’s defences and reveal themselves for the monsters they truly are. Even if it means getting chased down the street in Israel by Orthodox Jews for ‘gaying up’ their outfit.

Bruno himself is a strange beast. The writers have clearly been working overtime on making him a likeable character – a far harder job than his misunderstood Kazakhstan counterpart – but they have managed to turn out a fairly decent bloke. Bruno manages to be simultaneously egotistical, vulnerable and always devastatingly deluded. The only real flaw with his character is that he is sometimes slightly too offensive and inappropriate – the simulated blowjob scene, for instance, would have been far funnier if it was performed in front of more people than just one slightly bemused psychic.

The other problems in the film are few. There are a lot more scripted sequences than in Borat, with even some of the interviews at the start of the film feeling empty and even staged. As mentioned in the second paragraph, the film is the same as Borat, right down to the comic foil accomplice of Bruno’s (swap Azamat for Lutz and reprint the script), which is disappointing.

Having said that, though, Bruno is another solid-gold comedy film. Just as funny, if not more consistently so, twice as dark and a thousand times more profound and disturbing, Bruno is an utterly unmissable treat.

4 stars

GUMO #114 - The Merchant of Venice and the Idiot of Bristol

My faith in the banking system was shaken by this play.

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Handicap

The bike swayed uncomfortably beneath me. I felt the wind in my face. My vision blurred for a moment. Blackness crept around the edges of my sight.
I got off and sat by the side of the road.
I have to warn everyone here.
I think I have a fever.
Burning up, choking, sweating.
I vomited onto the grass.
The bushes rustled.
I turned to see–
Them.
The Pokémon.
A Machop, a Dustox and a Chingling.
Six dead eyes locked on mine.
I made a move for the bike.
Chingling rattled.
The bike bent in two, the psychic power of the Chingling crushing it.
The Dustox’s wings flapped. I could see the paralysing stun spores falling off as it lifted itself higher into the air.
Machop flexed its muscles and adopted a wrestling stance.
Dustox swooped for me.
I dived to one side, trying to avoid the spores.
My hand grabbed a rock. I rolled over and hurled it back up at the butterfly thing.
The rock connected with its face. It fell and landed on the grass.
I run for the downed beast, hoping to crush it with my boot.
The Machop kicked me in the gut.
I sprawled across the grass, unable to breathe. My throat burned. I vomited again.
The Machop picked me up. And held me out.
The Chingling ratted again.
Suddenly there was a fire burning in my head, burning, pulsing, echoing. All I could hear was pain.
I fell to my knees, screaming.
The Machop barked a short, harsh laugh.
It ripped the backpack off me, rummaged through it.
It pulled out the Pokédex and held it up in triumph.
I could feel blood in my ears, my nose.
I tackled the Machop. We both fell to the ground. The Chingling stopped making the dreadful noise, not wanting to hurt its comrade.
I punched the Machop in the face with all my strength. It took my blows.
As I leaned in for more, it grabbed my wrist.
A flick of its hand.
My wrist snapped.
I screamed in pain as the Machop kicked me off.
It stood up and walked towards me.
I crawled away on my one good arm and found the still-dazed Dustox lying face down in the grass.
The Machop leaned down to me.
I spun around, throwing the Dustox in its face. The paralysing spores covered its face. It backed off, hacking and wheezing, before falling to the ground and twitching.
The Chingling bounced towards me, preparing to rattle once more.
I grabbed it by the wings with one hand and slammed it into the ground.
Again and again.
Slam. Slam.
Again and again.
Finally the smooth golden shell of the beast began to crack. The familiar black ooze began to pour out of the rents and tears in its body.
With one final heave, the Chingling shattered into the ground, fragmenting into golden shards and black ooze.
I took a deep breath and walked over to the ruins of my bike.
One metal bar remained intact. I picked it up and hobbled back to the downed Machop.
It gurgled and wheezed beneath me as I lifted the bar above its head. I thrust it down, piercing its eye.
It finally stopped moving, save for the pouring of the black goo from the hole in its face.
The Dustox began to come round. I crushed its head beneath my heel, the ooze sticking to my boot.
I found my Pokédex in the grass, put it in my pocket.
I hobbled on to Eterna City.

They didn’t believe me!
I warned them!
I screamed at them all! The Pokémon are not our friends, they want us dead!
They wouldn’t listen! I showed them my broken wrist, the thick inky goo on my boot!
They locked me up!
I’ll never warn them if they lock me away!
How can I stop the demon creatures now?

Torchwood – Children of Earth Review

Day One:

The majority of Day One is spent setting up the plot for the rest of the week – every child across the world is stopping and screaming and carrying a dire warning at the same time – and it’s all timed around England. Meanwhile, the government are trying to cover their tracks and a new girl in the Downing Street offices sits down at a desk, staring at the computer.

Day One is off to a rocky start because of one small problem – Torchwood is still utterly rubbish. Everyone in Cardiff (the most glamorous location for a secret government base) still knows that this top secret, above the law, beyond the UN outfit exists and that they are based in the city. The Torchwood staff is still only three strong, having killed off the other two in the last series. Ianto is still crap, Gwen still spouts awful exposition and Captain Jack Harkness (creator Russell T Davis’ very own Mary Sue) keeps on dying and resurrecting.

What’s painful is that the whole hour feels like padding. Jack visits his daughter and nothing happens. Ianto visits his sister and nothing happens. New Girl looks at computer screen (really? You can do that in Downing Street all day and nothing bad will happen to you?) and, most offensively, Peter Capaldi has absolutely nothing to do – for Christ’s sake, this man was Malcolm Tucker, the best fake politician in British television history!

It’s also completely predictable, from the old guy who was abducted before, to the hospital doctor trying to break into Torchwood before being gunned down – seriously, how was he planning on getting inside when the meeting was pure chance?

Predictions for the week: if the New Girl can stop staring at her screen long enough, she’ll either die or become a new cast member, Peter Capaldi’s character will die, Jack will be given the chance to kill the evil SAS woman and turn it down, only for her to die some other way and Gwen will either not have her baby or be written out of the show for a season.

Crushingly disappointing.

1 star

Day Two

Day Two gets off to a bizarre start as Gwen suddenly has the ability to do unarmed combat with black ops troops (who can’t withstand vague torture threats) and Ianto gains the ability to outrun sniper bullets. Elsewhere, Jack grows a new body, having been blown to pieces by a bomb planted in his chest (?) and spends the episode not really in it much. Meanwhile New Girl Lois manages to get access to, and betray, the government’s inner most secrets to Torchwood’s survivors on only her second day in the job and Gwen’s stupid fat annoying ‘comedy’ husband Rhys makes a variety of animal grunts.

The main time of this episode is given to Gwen and Ianto trying to track down Jack, who turns out to have been imprisoned in concrete in the most sexual Carbonite rip-off ever, with the bulk of the rest of the episode going to the government, represented by self-confessed middle-man John (Capaldi) trying to figure out what the glass chamber filled with gas is that they’ve been instructed to build.

The episode is filler, nothing more, nothing less. It was said on Day One that the aliens would be here on Day Three, so this is just meandering padding to get to the good stuff – assuming there is some kind of quality control on Torchwood. The very idea that black ops could be foiled by two Welsh morons posing as undertakers and accidentally let the very people they’re after into their base is completely insulting.

More to the point – how the hell do Gwen and co manage to escape? They drive a JCB crane slowly down a country path and set a truck on fire behind them. With the tens of jeeps to hand and the acres of open space, it’s not like the SAS wouldn’t catch and murder them all in a heartbeat.

And what’s going on with the blatantly evil scientist? Did nobody watch him breathe on the glass in a sinister way, or catch any of his many dark looks to middle distance?

Another point of contention – are there actually lorries that drive from Cardiff to London carrying nothing but potatoes and straw bales? The answer is, no, it’s just badly researched and written.

All in all, the most absurd, stupid and pointless episode of the series so far – let’s hope that the next three hours have some pace to them.

0 stars

Day Three

So the pace comes in to play as the aliens finally turn up in the top floor of the Mi5 building in London. John manages to convince the aliens to keep quiet about their previous visit as Torchwood resurrect their old 1990’s base in London and manage to furnish it with only fifteen pounds. Elsewhere, Lois sits in on an alien diplomatic meeting on her third day at work and nobody bats an eyelid.

The entire point of Day Three is the conversation with the alien, which is fairly decent, despite the fact that it runs like this:

JOHN: I am here to represent the planet earth. Is this okay?
(Unbearably long pause.)
ALIEN: Yes.

The entire conversation takes up the second half of the episode – thirty minutes of uncomfortable pauses and monosyllabic replies from the Independence Day rip-off obscured-by-gas-behind-glass alien.

Stuck for ways for Torchwood to get inside the meeting, Russell T has invented the most bizarre technology in the show’s history – contact lenses that not only send a live feed to a computer, but can read the lips of everyone it sees and also receives text messages.

This technology is revealed straight after Torchwood head to their new base – an old warehouse in London without any kind of furnishings. Naturally, the team decide that the most sensible thing to do is to go all Hustle and steal absolutely everything they would ever need, including laptops, sports cars, sofas and ovens.

Most ridiculous moment in the episode goes to Gwen’s ability to walk around the CCTV-covered city of London without getting stopped, up to and including walking into a police station to retrieve the man who was abducted forty years ago. It feels like the writers weren’t writing with any kind of speed or pacing – when fugitives go underground to fight the government, surely it should be thrilling? Instead we have here a fat Welshman cooking beans while Ianto and Jack consider bunking off from their duties to have a quick shag.

The climax is a mild improvement from the last two, with the aliens revealing that they are here for ten percent of all the kids and the abduction survivor confirms that Jack let the aliens abduct the children in the sixties.

It is marginally better than the first episode, if only for the mental image of Jack nicking an oven and running down the street with it.

2 stars

Day Four

With the alien having issued the threat that it wants ten percent of Earth’s children, the important task at hand is not to fight it or send the kids underground, but to discuss the issue at length around a table. Meanwhile, Torchwood finally get their arses in gear and plan to confront the alien and have a go at it.

Once the many flashbacks of Jack sending children to the aliens is over, the episode manages to get some resemblance of pace, largely thanks to the fact that the story is reaching its climactic stages.

The best part of this episode – though admittedly far too long – come when the government discuss the best way to give the aliens the children. Female Minister #1 gives a cracking speech that far exceeds anything to have happened so far in the series. Not only does it manage to convey character, but it’s also completely logical, well thought out and engaging, something that happens far too infrequently in Torchwood.

Another actually quite decent part of the episode comes when it is made perfectly clear by a camera inside the gas chamber that we shall never see the alien in its entirety. This can only be a good thing, although the shot of the still-alive 1960’s child hooked into it is a bit daft as it reveals too much about the beast.

Once the nitty-gritty of the government’s plan to give up without a fight is out of the way, Jack and the rest of Torchwood finally decide to take some action. This involves calling on the help of their stooge on the inside, Lois, who is still wearing the most advanced piece of eyewear to ever be invented.

Unfortunately, Jack’s plan is total crap. It involves getting into the building and telling the alien to push off without any idea what might happen next. What actually happens next is brilliant – the alien somehow gains control of the Mi5 building and gasses everyone inside, including the workers, Jack and even Ianto, who finally bites the big one, as does the previous abduction survivor – loud noise and old people do not mix.

It’s moments like this that almost convince you that there is some kind of quality control Torchwood. The fact that it is so obvious that Ianto is a useless character has not gone unnoticed and now he has finally gone the way of Owen and Asian Stereotype.

While it is a mystery as to how the alien got hold of the air supply for the building, it is an even bigger one as to how the blatantly evil old guy survived being in the gas for as long as everyone else before he put on the radiation suit.

Is it supposed to be dramatic that Mi5 all died? There are other things worth caring more about, like the fact that Mi5 were involved in July 7th.

Easily the best of the series – although that’s like saying that prostrate cancer is better than eye cancer.

3 stars

Day Five

So this is it. After four hours of incredibly ropey and unnecessarily over-padded build up, this is where Children of Earth comes to its glorious end…

And it’s nowhere near satisfying. Frankly, after all the teasing, all the waiting, all the poor writing and plot holes, this is nothing short of a disastrous let-down.

Jack spends most of the episode in a prison cell doing nothing of purpose (because otherwise he might figure it all out too soon), while Lois sits opposite and waits for judgement day – she features in one scene and a flashback. Pointless.

Meanwhile, Gwen and Rhys are taken back to Wales to spend the episode hiding in a barn with a load of Chav estate kids and John makes the ultimate sacrifice – just kidding, it’s not noble at all.

The PM’s dastardly plan to give the aliens exactly what they want without a struggle has a small kink in it when he informs John that his kids are going to be taken – apparently it will make the government look like victims too. His response, instead of going into hiding, blowing the whole thing wide open, killing the PM or any of the other options available, is to withdraw the government issue pistol and do his whole family in. Makes sense.

The biggest problem with the episode – nay, the series – is that it has Russell T Davis’ grubby fingerprints all over it. All the plot elements that have taken four tedious hours to build up are completely forgotten, presumably because, as with all his scripts, the episode was written just hours before deadline and is a first draft.

The alien – singular because we have no evidence of there ever having been more than one – is killed by reversing the wavelength that killed the old man. It’s the sort of twist that sat well in the original Star Trek, not something you’d expect to see as the payoff to a million-pound primetime show like this.

Hilariously, Jack’s own grandchild is used as the beacon to send the death message, resulting in his death. This would be affecting if we cared one jot about an annoying child with three lines of dialogue in four episodes, but it just isn’t.

There are plot holes all over the place – why does everybody just know, instinctively, that the aliens are gone and that the kids chanting in unison – just like they used to when they were under hostile control – is a good thing this time? Why can the army be taken down by a few yobs from Wales? Where is the pace? The suspense? The thrills?

The bottom line is, the whole series has been a colossal waste of time. It could have been done in fewer episodes, with more energy and action, but instead the writers chose to rip off Charlie Brooker’s far superior Dead Set and the result is this punishment to humanity.

By the end of it, nothing is resolved. All we can hope for is that Jack’s beaming aboard a space craft is the beginning of a much better show, the show that Torchwood should have been all along – The Adventures of Captain Jack Harkness in Time and Space. Like a gay Doctor Who with more adult drama. Give us that, please, and no more of this trash.

1 star

GUMO #113 - Must Be Sonar

The play was actually very good, thank you for asking. It was The Merchant of Venice. Libby was phenomenal.

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