Archive for October, 2009

Update on the Move

Posted: October 27, 2009 in Musings

Just giving you a quick update on how things are going.

We’ve moved house but currently have no internet. We’re about a good week or so away from contact with the outside world and it’s genuinely scary how much we’ve all come to rely on the net in our everyday lives.

As I write this, I’m sat in a car park of the pub down the road from us, using my laptop on a pulic bench. Yes, really. We’ll be back, hopefully with quite a lot of new stuff, sometime in the next week or so. I’m working on new comics that are being made in a whole new way, so that should be interesting, and hopefully I’ll have some other things worth posting by then.

Providing, you know, we have a working shower.

404 – Hysterical Blindness

A comparatively busy episode by this season’s standards, one that flips between being smack-your-head-on-a-table middle of the road and genuinely interesting, though still lacking in the pizzazz we’ve come to expect from Heroes.

The most boring part of the episode is Claire’s ongoing romantic saga with Gretchen. As the two bond while living together, Claire is tempted into the world of irritatingly smiley sorority sisters, dragging Gretchen’s weirdly long face with her. As the story unfolds, Claire begins to doubt Gretchen and starts to believe that her new roommate murdered her old one, but all that gets blown away when Gretchen finally does what we all knew was coming from day one and kisses her.

Elsewhere, Peter Petrelli accidentally absorbs the ability of Emma, the deaf mute who sees sounds as colours and the two begin to get to know each other. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple and before you can say ‘murky past’, hints about Emma accidentally killing someone named Christopher six years ago are thrown up. It also turns out that, when Emma plays music angrily, the colours turn dangerous and lash out at bits of dry wall.

Linking the episode together is Samuel’s circus and his promise that, by the episode’s end, they will have a new member in their family. It’s just tantalising enough to keep you guessing – who is it, Sylar, Peter or Claire?

The best parts of the episode are completely owned by Sylar. No longer bound by the ridiculous conceit that he believes he’s Nathan, everyone’s favourite superpowered murderer is finally free… except he’s got no memory because his mind is busy dicking about with Matt Parkman. Zachary Quinto steals the show here with a phenomenal demonstration of a broken man, aided by some great editing and fairly decent side characters. While the idea that a psycho-analyst would be willing to help an escaped murderer is laughable, it’s all forgiven by the fact that the ball finally starts rolling on whatever Samuel is planning.

Yes, it is light on people being extraordinary or even getting that plot arc moving, but there is a genuine sense that now the pieces are in place and the answers are about to start coming. If it wasn’t for Zachary Quinto, this would be disastrous. As it stands, it’s a marked improvement. If only it would hurry the hell up and get to where it’s going, already.

3 stars.

Hold it… Little More…

Posted: October 14, 2009 in Musings
Tags: , ,

GUMO is going to be put on hold for at least two weeks. We’re moving house and all the stuff is getting packed away. We’ll return as soon as we, a) unpack, and b) have internet.

And, c) draw something.

Heart of Darkness

The rain comes down harsh and cold. It wakes me up, my tired eyes embracing the moisture as if it were a long-forgotten lover.
The scream comes again. Terrible, feminine, pained, far off.
My feet sink into the stinking swamp water. The thick, tar-like sludge fills my shoes and weighs my legs down, as though my feet were replaced by concrete blocks.
A rustling in the leaves above me. I stop and listen.
Hoot-hoot… Hoot-hoot…
An owl-like Pokémon is sitting right above me. I risk a look up. It looks around feverishly, like a sentry on guard.
I stay quiet, hidden.
I stick my hand into the cold, black mud of the swamp and drag the slime across my face. I need to get out of the tattered remains of the Mr Mime costume, but first…
I’m completely hidden from view by the undergrowth. I try to imitate the noise of the creature above me.
Hoot-hoot… Hoot-hoot…
I can hear it moving on the branch above, looking around to find its injured friend.
Hoot-hoot?
It takes off from the branch and flies low over the bushes.
Hoot-hoot?
It flies down lower, circling very nearly right above me.
Hoot-hoot?
I reach up and grab it firmly with both hands as it glides past me. I drag it into the bushes with me.
Hoot-hoot!
It starts screaming, loudly. I jam my fingers into its beak. It bites down. Hard.
Blood starts seeping through the stupid white gloves of the costume. I bite down on my lip to keep from screaming. With one hand in its beak and the other keeping it from flying away, I fall forwards, hoping to smash it on the floor.
Its wings flap everywhere, in my face, rustling leaves, making a huge noise. I can hear growling from deeper in the swamp.
We fall into the swamp water together, the disgusting water blinding us both. I manage to find my footing and stand up first, holding the little fucker under the muddy surface. Now it won’t let go of my fingers, trying as hard as it can to severe them completely.
I groan with the pain, desperately trying to keep as silent as possible. Over the thrashing water, I can hear bigger monsters approaching, trying to find the source of the noise.
The churning in the water subsides. The grip on my fingers relaxes. I lift my hand out of the water and take a look at the bite. It’s deep. The gore flows down my hand, soaking into the disgusting costume, mixing with the black water.
The owl lifts its head out of the water and screams into the night sky.
I grab it, both hands around its spindly little neck.
Snap.
It stops screaming.
I move, quickly. The approaching monsters are getting louder, closer, more angered by the noise.
I wade through the mud as fast as I can, finding another spot to hide in the undergrowth.
I wait a moment.
In the spot where I murdered the owl just seconds before, the hulking brown hide of a Kangaskhan appears, the baby sleeping inside its pouch. A Quagsire and a Skorupi accompany the beast, examining the remains of the dead creature. The Kangaskhan roars into the night sky. They move on, wanting blood.
I take a moment to collect myself and start removing the horrible costume of a Pokémon I killed and skinned an eternity ago in a police station cell. I rip some cloth away from it, a makeshift bandage for my hand. Christ, I hope my fingers don’t get infected in this water.
I remove all the costume I can get to. I leave the enormous shoes on in case I stand on anything in the water. Then I cover my torso in mud, making my skin as invisible as possible in the murkiness of the swamp.
I start moving again, slowly, making as little noise as I can.
I move towards where I think the centre is; where that terrible scream came from.
Up ahead I see a clearing. Movement in it. Shadows dart back and forth.
In the centre I see a few Pokémon gathered around and in the centre-
A human-
A woman-
Dawn!
She lies on the ground, not moving, barely breathing, a gash on her head.
The creatures are rooting through her bag, tearing it apart.
A Quagsire pulls away from the bag with a bark of triumph.
It holds aloft the Pokédex.
The creatures let out their harsh, braying laughs.
I pull a fallen branch away from a nearby tree, the severed end sharpened to a fine point.
They think they’ve won.
Not yet they haven’t.

Mirror’s Edge 2: Faith’s Redemption

EXT. ROOFTOP – NIGHT

FAITH and her sister KATE are still hugging, behind them the helicopter spinning out of control, heading for the streets below.

FAITH
I’m so glad I rescued you, my sister Kate.

KATE
Thank you Faith. You’ve shown me how evil and corrupt THE SYSTEM is. And together we can take it down.

Below them, the helicopter crashes into an orphanage.

FAITH
Look at their disregard for human life. They make me sick.

KATE
Will it even make the news?

FAITH
If you can hear it through all that EVIL ADVERTISING.

A COP runs up to them.

COP
Excuse me, was it you who caused that helicopter accident?

KATE
My God, did I used to sound so misguided?

COP
I’m going to have to arrest you, I’m afraid.

Faith attacks the Cop, beating him over the head with a bit of pipe repeatedly while he screams. The Cop’s wife and children watch, crying. Eventually the Cop stops moving.

FAITH
THE SYSTEM is corrupt and we have to stop it. Come on, Kate. I’ll teach you how to Run. Because only by Running can we uncover the evil secrets behind those EVIL CORPORATIONS.

KATE
Show me.

They leap off the building together, into the first level.

403 – Acceptance

What the hell is going on? Every time Heroes seems to be finding its feet and preparing to sprint again, the pace slows down so much you can almost feel the writers stumbling on their shoelaces.

This week: Hiro gets trapped in a comedy subplot time paradox thing that sees him repeatedly trying to stop a man committing suicide for being fired. It’s all a smoke and mirrors illusion though – the real point is for Hiro to finally admit to Kimiko that he’s dying. This, unfortunately, takes far too goddamn long to get through and the payoff is something we already know – time itself is making Hiro its bitch, instead of the other way round.

The other major storylines include Tracey getting her old job back working for a governor (last seen briefly at the start of Volume Three) but finds that it’s lacking – before she’s even spent a full day on the job, she starts questioning her life choices.

Elsewhere, Claire – presumably, with very little time actually dedicated to being on campus – pays old man Bennett a visit and tries to help him find a job. Mercifully, he’s not interested and starts looking into the compass plot device, motivated by Peter’s discovery of the tattoo on his arm.

The main thrust of the plot is dedicated to the mind-bogglingly boring journey of Nathan as he learns he’s done terrible things in his past – namely, an accidental killing that was hushed up and forgotten by all involved.

It’s a duff episode, devoid of superheroics, nail-biting decisions or even humour, easily one of the worst in the show’s entire run and that’s saying something. The only saving grace is that the cliffhanger suggests things might finally be about to kick into high gear. Here’s hoping they don’t trip on those laces.

1 star

GUMO #123 - Supervisors

Thank you, Alex. It’s been a good run remembering all the strange times trapped in the world of computers. Next week: something different.

ARCHIVES

Fame Review

Posted: October 4, 2009 in Review
Tags: , ,

Fame Review

Signs of the apocalypse come in many forms. Horsemen. Plagues. Michael Bay films. But this sign of the apocalypse comes in a whole new way – in the guise of an all-singing-all-dancing remake.

Make no mistake about it, Fame is awful. Beyond awful, beyond any number of diseases, plagues, epidemics and natural disasters – Fame manages to be a whole new kind of terrorist act.

From the off, the overstuffed cast – around ten characters – struggle to get across even their names, let alone their motivations and backstories and once the initial opening (where all the cast audition to be allowed into a respected performing arts school) is through, the film dissolves into a medley of sketches based around the characters, each one has a ridiculous problem that never gets explored or resolved in any reasonable way.

There’s a girl who can sing but her daddy wants her to play piano, a guy who wants to act but his mum doesn’t know/ care/ is too busy to notice, a guy who is a really good actor, a guy who can’t dance, a girl who can dance, a girl who can’t loosen up to enjoy acting, a girl who is a really good actor and their teachers – Will & Grace’s Megan Mullally and Frasier’s Kelsey Grammar whose careers must be on suicide watch after this.

The film’s laughably impossible decision to try and cover all four (or is it five?) years of the course with this many characters leaves huge swathes of the story untold – in one scene a character has a visible black eye, with no explanation.

In fact, this review is over. It’s too much to even try and remember it. Fame now belongs on the same list of blights against cinema as Watchmen, Death Proof and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

No stars

Time and Time Again

Remember GUN? No, of course you don’t, GUN was rubbish. It was a terrible attempt to cash in on the short-lived Deadwood craze of cowboys, violence and modern day swearing that fell flat on its face because it simply wasn’t very good. It was released on all three consoles (Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube) and met absolutely no acclaim. The cowboys were incredibly wooden characters with poor dialogue, the violence was so badly animated it might as well have been made using beef mince lobbed at a wall and the swearing was hilariously childish. Of course, there was the fact that you could blow up horses.

The reason that I mention GUN is because I suddenly got to thinking about it the other day. Since leaving uni I’ve had precious little time to actually sit down and play games through to their 100% marks. I tried playing Chrono Trigger but had to drop it like an unwanted child when the game made it very clear that I was going to need far more than the ten hours I’d already put in. I’ve long since given up on Okami after playing for over thirty hours and forgetting where I was, forcing me to realise that I just don’t care enough to keep throwing away vast chunks of my life just to help a white wolf with a magic paintbrush. Screw him – he’s a God, he’ll be fine. The last game that I actually put enough time in to try and see everything it had to show me was Resident Evil 5 and even that required a monumental amount of willpower to force my housemates off the 360 for a few hours. At one point I even took the Xbox out of the living room just so I could keep playing it.

What was it about GUN that suddenly made me remember such a bland, forgettable and ultimately unworthy game in such positive light? It’s got nothing to do with rose-tinted glasses or a wish to return to a simpler time – hell, even when I was playing it I knew it was utter crap. No, it has more to do with that fact that I managed to see everything the game had to offer in less than the time it takes to prepare, eat and wash up a roast dinner.

The game was entertaining in the same way as watching old people fall over, a haphazard cross breed of GTA-style freeform roaming sandbox play and actual storyline. You get a pretty large, mostly featureless map to wander about in, visiting the handful of brown, dusty featureless towns that consist of a few cardboard buildings and two people you can interact with. These people will then charge you with pretty much the same quest as the actual story missions themselves – race to another town, murder a lot of Indians, move some cattle to another town, murder some Indians with a big gun or just plain ol’ killing loads of people quickly.

It was incredibly repetitive and very, very easy. But the reason I’m remembering such a unremarkable game in such a positive light now is simply because I no longer have the time to play games in the way I used to. Once upon a time, I could take a massive, sixty hour game and see everything it had to show me within a week. Nowadays I have to give up on a game if it runs over ten hours.

It’s not that I don’t want to play games – hell, I love them, they’re my entire life – it’s just that so many games today demand so much time and attention that I simply can’t give them. Call of Duty 4 was the perfect length. It took me three sittings over a couple of weeks and I loved every second, but I’m damned if I’m going to play it again on a harder difficulty – there are other games out there. Dead Space was magnificent, but I could only play one chapter a week, and by the end I was playing it more to finish it and move on than because I was gripped by the story. Mirror’s Edge was just right, a healthy six hours.

The problem is in the diversity of the games I’m offered. The ones I want to play are the huge, seventy hour games, but I know I’ll never get around to playing them. The alternative is that I play a selection of mini games designed to entertain dysfunctional families that last around an hour before I see through their lies and realise that I’ve just spent forty quid on the same two games repackaged over and over and over and again and again and again. However, if the game lets me blow up horses, I’m all in.

So it turns out that last week’s opener was one long episode, not two as originally thought. I done fixed it.

402 – Ink

Chapter two brings four smaller storylines into sharper focus, in a notably Hiro-free episode. The main bulk focuses on Samuel getting to know Peter, apparently making sure he’s up to whatever task the circus folk have in mind for the rest of the arc – the previously-glimpsed tattoos of Sylar, Peter and Claire are the only hints we currently have. It’s interesting and well staged, with Robert Knepper’s Samuel slowly becoming an insidious force who corrupts whatever he comes into contact with.

Less interesting is the Claire-Gretchen romance arc, which seems to be taking forever to go in a direction that’s immediately obvious from the off. Claire seems to have gotten over the suicide of her roommate with remarkable speed and spends her time onscreen eating curries with Bennett and wearing skimpy shorts.

Excitingly, there’s also the introduction of a new character, Emma, a deaf woman who seems sound waves as beautiful bursts of colour. It’s had to see how this will tie in with anything and precisely what use it is that she can play a cello and see lovely CGI notes taking to the air. Whatever – she’s an addition to an already overstuffed cast, so perhaps some older characters are about to be shuffled off?

The best scenes this episode are, in sharp contrast to last time, the battle of wills taking place between Matt and Sylar as Parkman tries to find evidence of drug smuggling in a man’s house. Zachary Quinto’s casual delivery pretty much saves the entire episode from slipping into the realms of sub-par, and the set-up seems to suggest that we will have an ‘evil Parkman’ story before the run is out.

A fairly clunky episode reliant on character development over superheroics. Not great, the cliffhanger is a duff one, but a brave episode nonetheless.

3 stars