Thursday, June 30, 2011

Smiling Pink Elephants

It seems that one of my dogs has taken it upon herself to get me used to getting up early again; perhaps she knows something about my future that I don't? Every morning this week Lexy has decided to bark her weird yodelling-styled noise between 7.15 and 7.30am and trust me, once you've been awoken from slumber by her alien sound it's difficult to get back to sleep - normally because it sets at least one other dog off and I don't know about you, but after bellowing at something at the top of my voice, I find it difficult to get back to sleep.

I'm not a particularly late sleeper anyhow; but, it seems, she's decided that I need to get up at least an hour earlier than normal. The double irony for me is that I've been running out of things to occupy my time. You can only write so many blogs before they get even more dull and boring; I don't play games on the PC, so I can't even waste my time doing that. My chores take me about an hour a day - if I do them at a leisurely pace; so essentially she's giving me an extra hour to potentially get bored. She's a thoughtful dog...

I do, however, have a garden project to undertake today. Re-turfing parts that never recovered from last December. It's all fucking rock n roll in my life at the moment!

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The fourth series of True Blood started in the USA on Sunday and naturally I downloaded it to watch on Monday night. I tend to forget during the 39 weeks that the series isn't on just how ambivalent I am about it now. The first series was quite remarkable and I couldn't quite believe such a brazen, violent and bizarre programme could prove to be so popular. The second series, quite remarkably, could have been 6 episodes shorter and it still would have been a load of twaddle. It seemed to try and do too much all superficially.

Season three started excellently and I really felt it was back on form; the problem was it was still all over the place and something had crept into the series, it sort of didn't know whether to take itself seriously or not. For every dramatic moment there was a comedy vampire moment and that, sadly, appears to be how season 4 kicks off.

I won't give any spoilers, but everything is so different they're either trying to reboot it, have jumped the shark or series writer Alan Ball has lost it big time. I think it should forthwith be called Carry On True Blood and will be accompanied by a Sid James snigger...

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Big summer spectacular TV series, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, aliens, destruction, special effects and ER heart throb Noah Wyley. What's not to like?

How about the script? The overall story? Or the hammy acting?

Falling Skies is V without the gloss, but more than enough cheese. It is essentially The Walking Dead with aliens instead of zombies. Now that should be a good thing. No TV show in the last year conveyed the feeling of dread that The Walking Egg did and that is exactly what Falling Skies lacks from the moment it starts.

Let's start at the beginning and yes there probably will be spoilers here so don't read it if you want to be disappointed.

It's six months after aliens have decimated Earth, killed off millions of people and enslaved the world's teenagers to collect scrap metal. This story focuses on an army controlled group of conscripts and civilians, about 300 in total, who are fighting for survival amidst a world full of 'skitters' - big six-legged insectoid creatures and 'Mechs' two-legged robot things, a little like updated versions of that armoured robot in the first Robocop film. Both creations look like they've been grafted onto the screen - the special effects, what there are of them, are pretty crappy.

A military historian, now part of the army, played by the aforementioned Wylie is the rugged go get 'em scholar turned Arnie clone out to rescue his middle son, who has been enslaved by the aliens (to collect scrap metal). This is essentially his story and a pretty dull one it appears to be. His wife died and he has three boys to bring up and he's lost one of them already.

The series is full of grieving humans, growling soldiers, tension between both in the face of a threat that actually doesn't seem to be aware there are 300+ people wandering across Massachusetts. It gave you the impression that the aliens only came out at night - which begged the question why were they going on a food recon when it was dark, when all through the pilot they wandered around during the day like there was nothing to be concerned about?

The start is pretty unimpressive with a burst of cheap special effects that were barely seen again throughout the entire episode. The entire thing feels like an amateur dramatics version of Rambo vs Aliens. Yet it does have a couple of interesting things that have meant I'll give it a few more weeks before I dump it. The main one is if you like to analyse things like this you will be thinking a number of things don't make a lot of sense, especially about the aliens; but instead of you asking the questions, cast members do. At least three times in the first three episodes, a character will make ask a question about the aliens - why have Skitters got six legs and the Mechs two? Why do they need adolescents as slaves? Why are they using them to collect scrap metal? How come they overran the planet so easily when a well placed bullet or some dynamite deals with them effectively? It's like the cast are picking holes in the scriptwriters ideas, on screen! Which leads me to think that this could either be something post modern or there's something else going on that is considerably cleverer than it first appears. Or it might just be that Spielberg has lent his name to another SF stinker?

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I'm going to do something I've never done before over the next few weeks. I've only ever watched two television series twice - Buffy the Vampire Slayer and having just downloaded the entire series, with films and extras, I'm about to embark on Babylon 5 for a third time - all 46gigabytes of it!


I can't get the wife interested. Roger can't get his missus interested. My brother-in-law can't get his girlfriend interested. None of them seem to be able to understand that for at least three seasons it was the best told story on television - EVER. Yes it has some cheesy acting, sets, special effects and dialogue - but the story!!! The STORY!!!!

2 comments:

  1. I wonder if Falling Skies is some half-arse remake of Tripods? Those aliens were strangely interested in teenagers too.

    I've thought about rewatching Babylon 5 myself, but I fear it may not live up to my memories; I know The X-Files didn't.

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  2. Good point, K, especially as the aliens in FS are building huge constructs in the middle of major cities. I think the biggest problem I have with it is in The Walking Dead everybody left alive has that look of unreality in their eyes; as if they're dreaming and this nightmare is going to stop. In FS is just too earnest and Will Patton, the head of the 'army' which Wylie and co serve is an arsehole and you'd trust the guy acting as the token villain (and chef) more. No one is believable in this series...
    As for B5, well my big problem is always going to be most of season 1 and 4 and season 5. The Shadow War is one of greatest story arcs ever to appear anywhere, but once that ends everything becomes a terrible anticlimax and season 5 with those badly acted telepaths and what seems like hours of padding has little or no impact until the final episode - which of course was made at the end of season 4 because they didn't know if they were being renewed.
    Rumour has it that JMS has been approached to resurrect his 'Memories of Shadows' idea - but with most of the cast either dead or too old, it would probably have to be a reboot or something. That would be nice :)

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