Thursday, 30 April 2009

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

In pre-Guiliani New York a walking knife is recruiting yuppie larvae, indoctrinating them into a life of ninja skills and petty larceny. Elsewhere, an ancient Rat struggles to raise his Turtle sons right, teaching them martial arts and astral plane introspection. This is 1990's live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a fairly agreeable big screen take on Eastman and Laird's merchandise monsters.

Ninja Turtles is at its best in the brief scenes between patriarch Splinter and his grumpy son Raphael, even going so far as to have the angry young turtle sobbing in his father's lap. Throughout the film, the Ninja Turtles are treated by their extended family as boisterous children, hopped up on sugar and e-numbers. The film is better for this, the close-knit mutants contrasting with the lethal all-human dysfunction of Shredder's lost boys. It's a pleasant counterpoint to the usual macho posturing.

Ninja Turtles remains a rather curious film, a licencing opportunity stuck somewhere between aiming for grimy source fidelity and cashing in on the emerging cartoon phenomenon. Incidents of violence hang in the air, lending proceedings a bipolar quality. For the most part the Turtles fight slapstick, pummelling faceless fall guys with comedy props, but there are a few snatches of brutality that hint at a gloomier direction.

Following an unsuccessful attempt on the Turtle's lives, Shredder's enforcer Master Tatsu flies into a rage assaulting his subordinates. One unfortunate pleads with Tatsu to leave a younger boy alone, receiving a flurry of blows for his troubles. The student lies very still indeed, unresponsive as his mask is peeled off. Sourceless ADR states he'll be okay, he's only unconscious. His lifeless staring eyes and Tatsu's glowering unease tell another story.

Many Disastrous Returns!

Hello. Disaster Year 20XX is one today. Thanks to all the readers!

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Death in Vegas

Chuck Greene! He's your everyday Joe! He likes sports, his family and daft cocktails. In that order. He even likes a sneaky fritter. That's why he's in an adult sized theme park! Capcom's latest trailer for Dead Rising 2 not only assures its ravishing public that post-apocalyptic shredder technology has gotten a little more imaginative, it also gives beard strokers allegory zings - they're continuing the consumer culture Hell heave!

Whereas first installment hero Frank was a bankrupt photo-journalist out for a sleazy scoop, Chuck is man without natural curiosity. He's not a staunch survivalist, he's a working stiff trapped on all sides, praying for a return to normalcy. Why not then have your in-game cast trying their extra super hardest to just ignore the undead? They want to continue living in convenience bubble America! With this in mind, hopefully, sub-missions will include attempting to stage a cook-out without rotting stumbler intervention, and trying to keep a lid on wifey and 2.4 children as the world shuffles off into the abyss.

Imagine it! Chuck returning triumphant from shop scavenge suicide-missions, only to be reminded that he forgot frivolous item X and everyone is going to sulk now. He needn't have bothered getting everything else! Why not expel your impotent man-rage on the ex-shoppers? Dead Rising 2 has the potential to be the ultimate male anxiety simulator! Can you please anyone?

Monday, 27 April 2009

The Gauntlet

The Gauntlet, a minor Clint action policer immediately notable for the dour slant it places on the lot of wild card detectives. Eastwood is Ben Shockley, a washed up beat cop, saddled with a cross country babysitting assignment. The mission is dressed up by his lizardy superiors with reams of complimentary double-talk. Shockley is flattered, told he is trusted and valued. Music to this burnout. Of course it's a crap shot. Sondra Locke plays the escortee, a mob witness and college grad hooker. Locke's initial disgust with Eastwood eventually matures into a beneficial codependency. She saves him as often as he saves her.

Action in Gauntlet is that of ever escalating demolition. Rather than grit-teethed firearms exchanges, we have protracted sequences of law armies riddling inert objects bloated with lead. The effect is dizzying. A central gambling conceit that underpins Locke and Eastwood's hapless adventure lends Gauntlet a future shocked vibe that reverberates throughout the film. Cities are rendered as empty, sun-bleached concrete landscapes, crawling with leathery insect cops. The briefly glimpsed countryside is lawless; notionally abandoned to hepcat bikers and their sex assault urges. Law seems to be pooling in the brutalist city castles, turning on their own as the lustful deviancies of the elites are uncovered.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Sketch Saturday: Boomer

Boomer! A waddling sick-up menace from Valve's peerless multi-panic video game Left 4 Dead. Boomers prance about the terrifying zombie heaved world of tomorrow searching for dim-witted survivors. Their mission: to barf all over them. Yuk. Failing that Fatty can pummel away with puny fat hands, or explode into a cascade of nuisance attracting lumpy bits.

Chubs got a purpose! If anything, I didn't draw him fat enough.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Apprentice 5: Dead Man's Chest

Cereal! Who doesn't love cereal? No-one. Kids love it! The unemployed love it! Other less recognisable groups also probably quite like it! King Alan's giant IMAX head especially likes cereal. "MARKET ME SOME BHLADDY CEREAL!" it screams. Imagine being in the contestants shoes: dragged out of bed at the crack of dawn, dragged across town during London morning traffic, only to be seated in front of a three storey high image of King Alan's grumpy head. Pre-caffeine head fuzz and swamp-vision Orwell heads are not ideal stablemates. Yikes. Couldn't he just fax something over?

Lambasted by the squinting building-face, the contestants drifted off into the world to make their mark on breakfast milk treats. What sort of cereal had King Alan lined up for them? Well, it was a sort of shitty leftovers pile-up. Rice Krispies jossling with branny flake bits, and muesli lumps. Maybe even some raisins too. It looked like a crafty Mum's attempt to polish off all the stale box dregs before the weekly shop. "Look kids! I got this well great new treat! Yes! It's supposed to taste like that! No Tristan, you can put it in the bin."

Kimberly's team dragged their feet before Phillip vomited up some guff about Pants-Man, no doubt his bedtime sex-identity. Pants-Man. Pants-Man. Pants-Man. On and on he banged, throwing little hissy fits if anyone interrupted or made eye contact. I think he was after the lucrative Dick and Dom market. I hadn't minded Phillip up until now. Now, I'd be glad if someone brained him muddled. Quite apart from the relentless tantrums, he seems to have completely missed the fact that what children actually like is irrelevant, it's parents you have to sell to. They've got the money! Parents don't like farts, they prefer cheeky cartoon characters that don't threaten anybody. Boring Lorraine chipped in with some well chosen yawns of negativity. She rightly attempted to steer them away from Phillip's guffing narrative, but made the crucial error of suggesting something even shitter. Polly Apple Minx or some such nonsense. Anthropomorphic dead-eye fruit shills are well worse than Mr Shit-Whippy haired superclods right? Everyone got that Big Business memo. For the ad reel, Kimberly put her Cali direct hat on and demanded sunshine smiles out of her central casting mannequin adults. "Oh no! You're wearing pants!" The children rolled their eyes into the ground.

All Saints reserve Kate seemed to be doing quite well. Her team darted about under the radar for the most part. They had hit upon a Pirate themed morning munch, with a cackling parrot for a mascot. It looked almost good enough to front a supermarket own brand. The biggest falling out was over whether or not a kiddy girl voice should ring out over the ad. It shouldn't. Burly Ben Dickface was roped into gruffing up and rolling some scurvy sea-dogging out his piehole, as well as costuming up as Parrot Beard. He pranced around pally-pally with the nut-allergy kid in a piece that stunk of dead-air. "Ooh! A Pirate Parrot!" BIG PAUSE "Aaaah! Lets have us some cereal! Aaaah!" MASSIVE PAUSE. "Yum! I well like that Cap'n!" INTERMINABLE PAUSE. At half the length it would have been serviceable tat.

Kate's team did so well, Miss Disaster and me were convinced we'd missed some barely detectable misstep that would spell downfall. The Apprentice edit is never this straightforward! We needn't have worried. The big execs at Big Business Cereals thought the Pants idea was pure bottom burps. Kimberly dragged back Phillip and Lorraine for body-shields. A bizarre choice since she spent a significant portion of her groping beg-time screaming in Lorraine's face about how much she respected her. Phillip did the "I can't believe I'm here!" pout and shout, with a side order of working-class-hero blather. King Alan didn't look impressed. Kimberly ended up getting shoed in. She reminded King Alan of the Wizard of Oz. Quite.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Do Not Want! James Marsden vs Sam Peckinaph

Lilly-white hunk-lunk James Marsden and the creator of Geena Davies' politico stinker Commander in Chief are angling to put the remake on Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs. Ugh. No thanks fellas. I'd prefer it if you didn't. The deal has been minted at Sony subsidiary Screen Gems, the offal outfit responsible for water treading genre bilge like Resident Evil, Underworld, and You Got Served. I shouldn't think Peckinpah's fraught misogynist revenge sieger could be easily panel-beaten into a tepid PG-13 thrillah. I'm sure these cats have the chops though. That's ambition for you folks!

Check this vintage Aussie schlock trailer for a taste of what you won't be seeing some late summer evening in 2010.


Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are 25 years old. Yikes. Who was your favourite? Mine was whizz-kid stick-kicker Donatello.

Crank: High Voltage

As much as Crank: High Voltage hates minorities, women, and homosexuals, you can be sure it hates leading man Chev Chelios that little bit more. Jason Statham returns as the track-suited impulse puppet, once again coerced into acting like a rampaging video game character. As usual, it's his ticker, or lack thereof, that is to blame. The adrenaline pumped stallion heart that saw him through the first film has become a hot commodity with ailing Triad bosses, leaving Chelios organ farmed and lumbered with a bum artificial replacement. Fucks sake! If Chelios doesn't keep his new mecha-heart juiced with ever intensifying electric shocks, it's game over.

High Voltage ditches the meth house glam of the previous film. For the sequel, characters are caked in a sweaty, shimmering, seventies sheen. Everything is lurid and grimy. If Grand Theft Auto piss-abouts were the original Crank's inspiration, then High Voltage is knee-deep in Japanese trash cinema. As the film rolls on, Statham's sprinting feats become explicitly superhuman, the frenetic edit collapsing into the kind of lumbering stop motion that recalls Shinya Tsukamoto's cyberpunk classic Tetsuo. There's a meat-headed man-in-suit power-up that brings to mind War of the Gargantuas via Electric Dragon 80.000Vyou even get a sprinkle of Takashi Miike in how the last act prioritises some head-punting irreverence. High Voltage eventually winds down having covered a lot of the same ground is its predecessor. Can the bad taste superman survive sequel fatigue? Statham closes the flick as an abused action figure, all singed hair and indistinct features, but raring to go. What he really needs now is a rival.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Hard Corps

Behold! An imperfect run-through of Konami's third-act Mega Drive classic Contra: Hard Corps. We're dealing with the Japanese version here, which rather kindly gifted the players a lifebar. Everywhere else it was one-hit chance-downs. Ouch! Mega Drive Contra is especially notable for unceasing explosions: Semis belch open. Robots have colour-clash seizure panics. Buildings topple. Everything detonates.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Apprentice 5: Lost in New York

"Do you want to see my balls?" screamed Kimberly. "I will show you all of my balls!"

Week 4 in Apprentice Land. King Alan's had himself a think. People don't 'alf like to smell nice. How about the contestants invent themselves a soap? Noorul's team wandered off to make a chunk of honey-shit. It looked very much like a cheapy supermarket ice lolly that heat and wasps had been at. Syrupy orange was leaking everywhere. Yuk! "It'll harden up after the first wash!" they bleated at prospective buyers. Amazingly, people believed them. Behind scenes, beanpole Complain-Man Philip was doing a common sense panic. Interest sink Noorul was having trouble making decisions. That make Philip get head-mad! Kimberly wasn't impressed. Balls unimpressed actually. I felt sorry for the cowering design-chap caught in the crossfire. He didn't want to see anyone's balls.

Paula's team cooked themselves up a genuinely impressive product, surely an Apprentice first? Their jade soap lump had a touch of Victorian decadence to it, it looked like the sort of thing a Parisian drunk would rough his arty armpits with. This suddy-sot look was topped off with an oversized Alice in Wonderland bow and label. It looked like something you wouldn't be ashamed to buy. Too bad Paula and Yasmina got their essential oils to cock. A point King Alan's right hand, Nick The Lurk, savoured. He broke the news to Team Paula seconds before they were whisked off to trade. They'd only gone and dumped a barrel of Goldy McPlatinum's Very Best Stink Oil for Poshos into the mix. Zoot alores! "I'll leave it with you." sniggered Nick. The cad!

Who was going to lose? Would it be honest mistake Paula? Other than this admittedly grave slight, Paula conducted her lead tenure with cool can-do charm. Surely nice-guy justice can exist in this Big Stink snake-pit? Or would it be Noorul? A man so overwhelmingly inept the Apprentice production staff all but keyed up silent film prat-fall piano larking everytime he summoned up the resolve the speak. What do you think! Of course Paula went! Fuck all that good product shite, she made a loss. Take a loss to King Alan, and you might as well hand him a head-pound half-brick too. Toss yourself in the pig-pen while you're at it. Bacon needs its eats.

Thursday, 16 April 2009


Feedback is crucial. Since MadWorld is a score attack, it's imperative you know you're performing to standard. Enemies replenish infinitely, Boss encounters only available when a specific score is posted, so it's up to the production to inform. And inform it does. Cataclysm rends cause joy buzz burps to spew out the Wii Remote mini-speaker, unending blood thunders out of traumatised foes, and the constant chatter of the commentators gets ever more agitated and scatological. That's how you know you're achieving.

Even MadWorld's loading screens illuminate mechanic, simplistic anti-safety vignettes that warn the user that escalation is everything if they want to rack up crucial points. Lancing ornamental light fixtures through a dizzy opponents neck isn't cutting it, you need to trash-can him too, before lugging the skewered monstrosity over to some wall-mounted spikes for further indignity. Even then that's rated as Routine Violence by the in-game combo counter. You have to be inventive, aware of every use folded into your surroundings, and how best to exploit them. Can I smash that antique painting over their heads? What if I shake up this champagne bottle and drive it into their face? In this sense, MadWorld is reminiscent of Capcom's mostly overlooked 2005 gladiatorial gem Shadow of Rome. Like MadWorld, Shadow of Rome wasn't especially concerned with elimination by quantity, but rather quality. Your goal wasn't to satisfy a quota, it was to satisfy your audience. They wanted carnage. Methodically dispatch your foes, and they'd get bored and indifferent. Actively torture and humiliate everything you face and there would be standing ovations.

MadWorld is the first release from Platinum Games, an independent company made up of ex-Clover staff, with a Sega publishing deal. It is a bold opening statement, most immediately in terms of visual grammar. MadWorld isn't just black and white, it has a slightly yellowed brown wash over everything, presumably to better pattern itself after the low quality paper of the cult clash comics it venerates. Much has been made of the game's resemblance to Frank Miller's Sin City series, the stark monochrome hyper-violence with blood-red accents especially, there's more though. Player character Jack has the silhouette of Dark Horse stable-mate Hellboy; goggles instead of filed down hell-horns, and a mechanical motor-doom hand. Jack and the post-apocalyptic landscape he inhabits recalls Go Nagai's punishment parable Violence Jack, both heroes ultimately empty lug-men who crave hideous slaughter. Most especially though there's Takajo and Tetsuya's Riki-Oh, in which a psychotic blank-man of indeterminate origin lays waste to an avalanche of pulp archetypes. Ninjas. Reich Dictators. Robots. Oh my!

As a piece of reconstituted pop culture, MadWorld is immensely satisfying. As a game though, it falters occasionally: there's a massive shelf-bait difficulty spike in the middle portion that'll have players scratching their heads. Equally baffling is the decision to limit lives and remove continues. If you scrape through the challenge section but fluff the boss, you're dumped back at the map screen, progress ignored. Given MadWorld's brevity, it's a logical decision on the gamemaker's part to eke out some artificial length, but it's not much fun to have to repeat a lengthy score-rush only to face a titanic boss you still haven't worked out a strategy for. Motion lunges are also occasionally fuzzy, with appropriate hand-slashes sometimes deemed inadequate. They're the exception though, for the most part the Wii Remote swipes and jabs littered throughout Boss matches are wittily implemented, inspiring near hysterical exertion. It's a layer of immersive interactivity that simply does not exist on any other platform. Tapping a button to make your on-screen action figure in Resident Evil 5 outpace a monster simply isn't as satisfying as physically mimicking flailing arm pumps. When MadWorld was first revealed there was real skepticism that a satisfying third person action game could be achieved on the Wii. We needn't have worried.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

"That is power!"

How do you commemorate the passage of Easter? By getting tanked and/or eating lots, I'll wager. If you're Cadbury however, you mark Jesus of Nazareth's calender resurrection with an advert depicting a chocolate egg suicide cult. More power to them!

If you're Disaster Year 20XX, you observe it by posting said video, and putting a Conan the Barbarian quote in the title box. That's just how we do.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009


Set in a future so brutalised that speed skating homicide barely registers, Norman Jewison's Rollerball tells the tale of a rootless sportsman muscling through Mega-Corp rule to become a vague symbol for individuality. In this world nations have long been abolished, as has war and any formal currency. All that exists is the gladiatorial Rollerball matches, and the privileges long-time practitioners can hope to amass. The titular sport is portrayed as a loosely structured meat-grinder, rules constantly evolving and constricting to better suit the agendas of the shady businessmen who run the show.

Team members have the lifespan of World War II fighter pilots - a constant stream of new players are drafted in after matches before disappearing amongst the following game's casualties. James Caan's Jonathan E is the anomaly. He has survived. Despite Rollerball being designed as unwinnable entertainment for the prole class, Jonathan has adapted and maintained. This presents a problem for the corrupt ruling class. They don't want the citizens getting a whiff of self-determination, so an extermination plot is devised for the season finale. Rollerball rules are to be focused on sustained lethality until the E problem goes away.

What makes Rollerball so interesting is that Jonathan's triumph involves very little self-actualisation. Caan breezes through much of the film as a hopped up thug, his outlook the product of ingrained anti-education. His victories are not intended to strike a blow for his own personal philosophy, he simply does not want to lose. He's found something he excels at, and won't allow it to be taken away from him. This presents something of a problem for Rollerball as a popcorn narrative, Jonathan puzzles through the corporate conspiracy at snail's pace, with only the barest of comprehension. Overarching deceit is viewed only in relation to Jonathan's career. Why won't they let him participate? The audience does find out the deeper complexities at work, and Jonathan contextualises the situation only in how he is allowed to compete. There is no underground resistance at work, desperately pleading with Jonathan to strike an anti-authoritarian blow, instead there is just a violent, wonderfully simple man-child refusing to be beaten.

In No-one's Shadow

One and a half minutes, a red blank-space, and a young Jackie Chan hungrily working through his animal style repertoire: the opening credit sequence to Yuen Woo Ping's traditional kung fu clash classic Snake in the Eagle's Shadow. This is pure spectacle cinema. There are no distractions, or even distance, between Chan and the viewer. It has the immediacy of a personal sideshow, Chan directly confronting the viewer with a furrowed brow and stabbing snake motions. The composition empty except for Chan's movements and the text he is apparently manipulating. His contorting body fills the entirety of the 2.35:1 frame, Jackie Chan is the special effect.

Music by French electro combo Space. The track is called Magic Fly.

Snake in the Eagle's Shadow was the movie that began to define the first Jackie Chan film persona: the talented bumpkin; prior to this Chan was mired in Lo Wei's money grabbing attempts to emulate the recently departed Bruce Lee. Stoic one-man-army did not suite Chan, as evidenced by awful hate-crime Lee sequel New Fist of Fury. Chan and Yuen followed up Snake with Drunken Master, Chan starring as Chinese folk hero Wong Fei Hung. The film was an enormous success, firmly establishing Chan as star, and sparking off a drunken fist film cash-in craze.

Yes Please! Bayonetta!

Reasons to be cheerful: Hideki Kamiya's Bayonetta is angling for a worldwide Fall 2009 release. Kamiya previously piloted Disaster Favourites Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe and Resident Evil 2. He's a pretty big wheel at our cracker factory. Bayonetta promises a porno chic secretary, with guns for feet and shape-shift slime for clothes, engaged in a cataclysm fight with Heaven mob. Seriously. War with The Above is a bit of a recurring theme in Kamiya's work, Resident Evil 2 worked an urban judgment day angle; and Devil May Cry closed with a space-battle between snarky devil-hero Dante and a marbled Jeudo-Christian God the Father.

Anyway, here's a rather old Bayonetta trailer:

Kamiya's a dab hand at delivering initially impenetrable fight mechanics that reward system learning, rather than rote taps. Both Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe showcased mighty steep learning curves, players were punished if they weren't taking full advantage of the available skill set. Fingers crossed for more of the same.


New trailer.

Hideki Kamiya blog post over at the Platinum Games website.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

"In brightest day.."

The trailer for the newest direct-to-video animated offering from Warner Bros. Animation, Green Lantern: First Flight, is out. With rumours circulating that Warner Brothers are looking to Green Lantern as a rival super-franchise to Marvel's unfolding Iron Man series, it'd be easy to see this as product interest toe dipping. Thankfully, there's enough talent in this that it'll likely end up making a live-action take irrelevant: Lauren Montgomery follows up her directing stint on the lively Wonder Woman and Superman: Doomsday, with Bruce Timm producing, and Alan Burnett on writes. First Flight focuses on Silver Age space-cop Hal Jordan, his induction into the Green Lantern Corp, and burgeoning rivalry with assigned mentor Sinestro. Although barely clocking in over a minute, the First Flight trailer is full of promise: Star Wars Cantina brawls, inventive blunt trauma will objects, and determination Chakra Z-rays. See for yourself. First Flight is out July.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Apprentice 5: Pig in the City

Another easy task on last night's Apprentice then. Doesn't ask much King Alan does he? The two teams only had to outdo a billion pound industry laser targeted at swindling chubby people out of their cash.

"Design an original piece of sports equipment! Do it now! Why haven't you done it yet?


Piece of piss.

Credit to one of teams, they actually vomited up a plausible bit of sub-gym tat. Debra's Ignite! team (exclamation mark my own, it doesn't look right without one) eventually settled on a Wii Fit board with a wonky sphere bum. Body Rocka! You sort of sat on it and didn't discriminate against minorities, yeah? Debra was a terrifying presence, a wearying control freak who'd prefer it if the other contestants just did exactly as they were told. No ideas or input please. I've got this one sown up. I hadn't noticed quite how enormous Debra was until last night. She's positively gigantic! She does wear needle-perch stiletto alikes, but even without them I'm sure she could pulverise any of the other contestants with mechanical beanpole ease.

That other team though. What the flippen heck was that box monstrosity? James' team came up with a fold-out mini-gym lunk. It looked like teenage despair rendered in sobbing fitness form. It was titanically inadequate, the kind of thing a handy psychotic Uncle might bang up for a child's birthday. "Look! It's just like your Daddy's gym set!" Everyone at the party would nod, phony thank-you grimaces plastered all over their faces. The second Uncle Nuts departs, it'd go straight in the loft to gather insect droppings.

Naturally, everyone on team bollocks thought it was a total fucken winner. 80s lizard-man Ben sprayed on a plastic vest-thingy and spent the entire episode thrusting himself about, like a giant calamitous erection. Pitching to potential clients, he couldn't keep his hands off himself, smacking his arse red raw. Maybe that's why he wears braces? So he can dip into his nether-regions with quick-draw ease? SMACK MY BUM!

Of course the shit-box lost it for James. Was it ever in doubt? James flapped and brought back Ben and Majid. It looked like curtains for James and his just-keep-talking stratagem, but! Turns out Margaret thinks he did okay thanks. Majid was too laid-back, didn't want it, blah blah. Majid went.

Bye Maj! Phillip will miss you. Kiss. Kiss.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009


Frenetic opening sequence from 1987's otherwise undistinguished kiddy cash-in flick GI Joe: The Movie. It's like that dubious opening sequence from Sam Hamm's Watchmen script filtered through anime action sensibilities, and an eye for 80s playset product placement. The balloon shower invasion, and the bubbling fire-lick Cobra jet explosion are particularly notable as anti-logic spectacle. There's also lots of perspective-shift snaking shots, and bodies being blown towards the viewer. What more could a sugar-high child want? Hand animation treats! It's the perfect advertisement: whole lines of product interacting in a bewilderingly exciting three minute chaos short. Shark Plane beats Snake Boat!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Lost at Sea

Wheezy seaside strings dance hall shanty melancholy! A quite superb song from the Season 2 closer episode of Flight of the Conchords. I haven't been able to get this out of my head. It simultaneously tickles my ocean woe funny bone, and gets my pulpy weaponised will-man gland pumping. Poisoning yourself to undo callous cannibals is pure rugged. Oi vay! Come back soon gents. I shall miss you otherwise.

Dragon Ball Kai Episode 1

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Dragon Ball Z TV series, as well as the release of a dreadfully mishandled live action adaptation, Fuji TV and Toei Animation have gone back to the original 80s shows for a tinker. Not content to simply spruce up the show's AV presentation for HD re-broadcast, the duo have instead undertaken a substantial reorganising of the series to better depict author Akira Toriyama's manga. Exciting! This new studio cut has been dubbed Dragon Ball Kai - Kai meaning updated, or altered.

Dragon Ball Z has always been rather poorly represented by its animated offspring. The demands of stretching thirteen pages of weekly serial into twenty odd minutes of televised motion meant substantial embellishments had to be made along the way. New situations and continuity were invented to stretch out the programming. Indeed, whole arcs were specifically dreamt up to allow Toriyama time to drive his paper series further forward, without the animators breathing down his neck. Unfortunately, most of the new material rather diluted the spectacle.

A substantial amount of the original manga is super-fighting. Leone-esque pose downs by way of Chinese martial arts, and 80s nuclear-man calamity. A typical mid-fight instalment of Toriyama's manga would be a rash of squinting posturing, with a few bursts of splash-page world ending. Great on paper, but blown up for television you get mind-numbing minutes of frowning and staring, occasionally enlivened with prat-fall interludes. The extinction fight on Namek between series hero Son Goku, and intergalactic despot Freeza, becomes an almost abstract exercise in anti-fight minimalism. The two encircle each other continuously, tiny peaks of action amidst endless minutes of straining and flexing. Any sense of pace and time is completely and utterly jettisoned. The dying minutes of the planet Namek are stretched out to literally hours of television. All tease, with very little actual content. It was bad enough watching the fight unfold all in one go, captured on VHS by a cable subscribed friend of mine, never mind the pain Japanese fans experienced waiting week-to-week during the original broadcast. They must have been a state of perpetual hysteria. Was anything going to happen this week?

This anti-fun was further compounded when Dragon Ball Z took a journey to the West. The companies who licensed Z decided they wouldn't even attempt to translate the knowing formal irony that creeps into Toriyama's series. Instead they kept the characters as one-note action figures. The genius of Toriyama's manga is he knows the series is completely absurd. He knows the characters are verging on monstrous. He knows the fate of the universe is in the hands of a gang of mega-powered idiots. The failing of the US adaptations is they never allow those ideas to come through; instead everything is presented at face value. No wonder the series has such an atrocious reputation. Read the original manga and you'll see a creator baffled by the attention his creation is receiving. Confusion later leading to exasperated undercutting, and eventually a kind of revulsion. The last arc of the series, in which the heroes fight a demented God killing Genie is over-run with last minute gambits and tonal volte-face. Major characters are transformed into candy and eaten, everyone on Earth is murdered, a Pro Wrestler takes credit for all our heroes achievements, pretty love interests are beaten into comas by Satanists, and the big bad vomits up an even eviler version of himself when he learns his pet dog has been killed. It's designed to be farcical.

What has any of this got to do with Dragon Ball Kai? Well, part of the remix remit is the junking of non-manga sequences. So far, so good. Unsubstantiated rumours have it that the original run of 291 episodes has been dwindled down to just 100. That should account for a great deal of filler. The opening episode does stray in its first few minutes though, bogging itself down by reorganising the unfolding story into a much later learned context of intergalactic warfare. Illustrative footage borrowed from a 1990 TV special focusing on Goku's father Bardock, who appeared for a single panel in the manga. Turns out Goku isn't just a re-imagining of The Monkey King, he is instead one of the last of the alien Saiyajin race. The Saiyajin were space-brigands in the employ of the intergalactic imperialist Freeza. When the Saiyajin started to get a little too big for their boots, Freeza single-handedly destroyed their home world. An infant Goku escaping the dying planet in a space-pod.

Upfront, as info-dump context, the Superman homage looks a little cheap. It is much better learned as a colourful aside that Goku refuses to acknowledge. It's an impression of an origin, rather than strict event. This disconnect is exasperated by the need for another montage of previous events to explain away the storylines of Dragon Ball, the prequel series, in which Goku battles God's evil half Piccolo. It's a hard lump to swallow upfront. Better to limit yourself to one recap surely? Another remit-defying sequence of non-text creeps in immediately after this, explaining the hidden potential of Goku's timid son Gohan. He can only use his considerable strength when placed under severe emotional stress. This is illustrated by a misadventure with a waterfall. It's your typically neat Hollywood narrative foreshadow. By way of contrast, Gohan's powers are explained rolling in the manga; another ridiculous bet-you-didn't-see-that-coming! incident in a doggedly absurd series. I do hope this doesn't become habit for this Kai rejuvenation. The Dragon Ball saga shouldn't make a lick of sense. It's not supposed to. Instead it's about wild escalation.

More aliens! More fights! More Earth-shaking hyper hair!

Hunter? Prey?

Teaser trailer for Sandy Collora's upcoming feature debut Hunter Prey. Collora was the brains behind the monster mash-up Batman: Dead End short that did the Internet rounds a few years back. This new piece has the same genre fragment pile-up vibe. There's a strong 70s sci-fantasy vibe hanging over this shill, the CG matte skyline is straight out of a painted spaceships artbook, and the wandering action figure characters recall an expanded George Lucas universe. Perhaps something to pad out those Mandolorians? It's a lo-fi impression though, much more pre-tinker New Hope than CG heave Prequel - that alchemy of combining complimentary practical and special effects to create lived-in worlds. It's a knack Lucas quickly lost.

Watching the trailer I began to wonder why no-one had ever really attempted to brazenly cannibalise Star Wars' visual signifiers for their own nefarious ends, before realising that everyone tried, and very little of it made any lasting impression. Hunter Prey, in this truncated form, has the mood of a quicky Euro-comic rushed out while the artists head is still ringing with visions of Tatooine. It's Genndy Tartakovsky's Clone Wars shorts writ real. Most of all though, it feels like an out-of-time low budget cash-in for an audience clamouring for Star Wars II. I hear that Boba Fett guy from the Holiday Special has a bigger part in this one!

Sunday, 5 April 2009


Vintage ad for the galaxy's greatest comic. How swish is that spaceship landing animation? They must've blown some coin on that. Maybe that's why Tharg looks so stiffly rotoscoped? And since when was 2000 AD's editor yellow? Maybe that was before a shedding. How exciting does Massimo Bellardinelli's gaudy space-splash look? Casts the surrounding motion action in an alarmingly drab light, that's for sure.

Makes sense they'd lead with Dan Dare shilling when you consider the moral outcry over IPC'S previous Boys rag Action. Dare'll fool the parents with Eagle nostalgia, while Tharg drip-feeds Britain's youth sci-fry. Everybody's a winner! I wonder how much attention Dan Dare commanded in the late 70s? He's a UK comic staple, and he'd certainly lend the emerging title some exposure, but would kids be particularly interested? I suppose you do have to consider the buying power of browsing parents, and that children aren't going to be well versed in 60s Lion mergers. He'd be a brand new space-man to them. Han Solo, with added grubbiness.

Can't help feeling it's a missed opportunity though. Imagine how lurid it could have been:
blood-thirsty dinosaurs, anti-gravity scrums, guerrilla warfare, and a Mecha-Bond who can karate chop a chap's head clean off. All dancing around a space-office in a 70s gasp micro-ad.


Sketch Sunday: Satanus

Born of pre-Atomic War genetic meddling, devil dinosaur Satanus survived the apocalypse to become a God figure to a community of pit-fight hicks. When not hurtling subordinates into volcanoes, Satanus could be found indulging in the plentiful human sacrifice generated by his Appalachian cult. Debuting during Judge Dredd's first mega-epic The Cursed Earth, Satanus, and his offspring, have continued to be a recurring hassle for Ol' Stoney Face, and a couple of other UK sci-fi perennials. Satanus is the son of Old One Eye, a hag Rex antagonist from 2000 AD's earlier strip Flesh. Swaggering Tyrannosaur arrogance in full-swing, he attempted to succeed his terrible mother. He was not successful. Reborn millions of years hence to naive futuristic scientists, Satanus was finally able to realise his pack-lead ambitions.

Created by Pat Mills, and given alarming, slathering life by artist Mike McMahon, Satanus is my favourite 70s Dredd villain.

Saturday, 4 April 2009


Just wolfed down my very first McDonald's McGangBang sandwich. What's one of them? It's an industrious little treat, dreamt up by penny pinch patrons of a Daytona Beach outlet of that fine sweety shitty meat restaurant. Sir requests that McStaff split a Double Cheeseburger at the first patty, placing a McChicken sandwich in the middle, before bringing it all back together as bun-heavy supersnack. Sir wouldn't mind some fries too, yes.

Apparently the McGangBang can actually be ordered, by name, in a select few chains in the US. How's that for customer service? I should imagine if you order this side of the pond, you'll an unhelpful slack-jawed stare. I shouldn't think explanations would help much either. Since I'm ever-so-politely English, not to mention lazily sending someone else out for this item, I ordered the parts in the singular for later self-assembly. A colleague dubbed this an 'Ikea'. I'm stealing that for Urban Dictionary. I've told him. He doesn't mind.

Although not much of a culinary revelation, the McGangBang did remind me of childhood encounters with Big Macs: struggling to angle the thing into a biteable position, unable to make a total chomp that includes every layer of taste, and desperately munching sliding meat-plates to divert a total collapse. The top bun was a stress fracture mess. It was an adventure. So if you want to feel like a tiny, straining child again, you know what to order.

First read about here, on Byron Crawford's most excellent blog.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Apprentice 5: Back in the Habit

Week 2 and it's already difficult to foresee a line that could possibly top James McQuillan's exasperated groan about being stuck looking at King Alan's ugly mug when the girls are off fannying about with horses. I'm paraphrasing very little here. The Boys bungled the task. A loss was made. A loss. Not even a little bit of profit. King Alan was seething. Seething! McQuillan was back in the boardroom along with PE teacher narrow miss Rocky Andrews, and Whatever Happened to the Inbetweeners? reject Howard Ebison. McQuillan argued up and down the boardroom tense-off, his tactic one of carpet bomb boredom. He miscalculated though, everything he said was, in fact, awesome.

These to be read in the awkwardly strained quote voice of a high-flying barrister reading garbled colloquialisms in court:

"Im sorry. It's just, more the hurt that this has caused me."

"I'm telling it how it is. That's what I'm doing."

"If, if a company's most valuable assets are its employees, then, then, you know, that I'm your kind of prized possession."

"I'm passionate about this."

"I think you should fire the pair of them."

His team seemed to have him pegged as a bit of an easy target, although carefully chosen reaction shots painted the beginning of another King Alan / Big Gob Braggart romance. King Alan fackin' loves 'em. Syed Ahmed. Tre Azam. Get yourself an accent, a little bit of charm, and some unflappable "I'm great" swagger, and you can expect to place reasonable. Not win though. That's for the well spoken lads.

Rocky ended up going. Unkind attention was drawn to the premature end of his promising footballing career. King Alan reminded him of the most awful moment of his life whilst in the midst of another contender. Thanks King Alan! As Miss Disaster pointed out, Adrian Chiles rubbed his fucking nose in it over on BBC2 follow-up show You're Fired! by handing him a signed shirt from his former peers. These are people he probably still has acquaintance contact with, let's not forget. How would you feel getting a signed shirt of your friends? It's a blow isn't it? He's an autograph hunter now though. Another outsider gazing in. Move along.

More You're Fired!: Wasn't Shappi Khorsandi hilarious? Quick as whips. Which are quick! Her satellite line to seconds-delay brayer Greg Wallace had me rolling.