Last night G and I went to a free gig by ex-Busted frontman Charlie Simpson. I bought his first solo album ‘Young Pilgrim’ some weeks ago and have loved every minute of it, but still wasn’t prepared for such a superb show – live in St Pancras of all places. Listen for yourself – it’s an assured blend of 70′s Americana, folk and a bit of rock, and he sang it pitch perfect, with the band you see here (who are really good), attitude (and monitor) free. I can’t help but believe he’s seriously going places – he wrote the songs himself and played all the instruments you hear apart from the drums. It was G’s and my first gig and it couldn’t have been cooler. Check the album out.
The answer is not very much, but that’s not to say there isn’t radicalism there. The point of the DC Comics reboot last month was purportedly to inject an entirely new approach to existing properties – largely by embracing greater diversity in order to woo audiences into comics who had thus far been alienated by the same old, often sexist, super human punch ups and endless events. In order to achieve that they needed to take some huge risks, and balance competing demands from licensing (which won’t stand for, say, Batman no longer looking like Batman), existing readerships (who were loyal although not growing), and a potential audience they knew was there, but of whom they knew very little. What got was this:
- DC’s more adult orientated characters and ethos are now at the heart of the superhero line. Swamp Thing by Scott Snyder doesn’t alienate long-term Moore and Veitch fans, and offers an extremely dark tone by the American Vampire writer, right alongside Superman, Batman et al. Animal Man, Justice League Dark, I, Vampire and other books are also taking a much more mature and far darker look at the DC Universe. So far this appears to have been a triumph, and an unexpected one – generating huge word of mouth online.
- Refreshed books. Batman, Flash and Aquaman are notable (very) high points in this strand. Their continuity may not be fully intact from before the relaunch (minor but significant changes), but Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis have distilled the essences of their characters into fantastic first issue reintroductions to them. All characters now have more potential than they have had in years, scribed by writers who clearly adore them, and depicted by artists raising their game to the very top flight.
- Unchanged books. Green Lantern most notably hasn’t discernibly changed at all. It probably made sense, given DC/Warners’ eagerness to exploit the property in films, but Green Lantern #1 continues right where #67 left off, with writing and art team intact. Given that this has recently been the company’s highest seller, why mess with it?
- Wildstorm properties are folded into the DCnU. Voodoo, Grifter and Stormwatch aren’t taking strident risks, but, as after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, they are examples of properties acquired by DC being brought into its shared line. No Captain Atom or Blue Beetle, rather co-publisher Jim Lee’s creations; they’re symbolic books, likely to have wildly differing sales and lifespans.
- Pandering to the crowd. Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws most notably aren’t offering anything new at all. Judd Winick and Scott Lobdell are, for the most part, delivering 90′s comics to a 90′s audience. There’s bound to be a hardcore who’ll buy it, but you have to wonder what the point of the reboot was if you’re going to continue, even in part, with a strategy which wasn’t delivering sales to rival Marvel’s. Both books represent retrograde steps for their principal characters (Selina and Koriand’r) who have previously worked terrifically well, with genuinely innovative takes by Ed Brubaker and Marv Wolfman.
- Ultimisation. Hardly a surprising tactic, given the way Marvel refreshed Spider-Man under Brian Michael Bendis in 2001, and DC have essentially tried the same with a number of their properties. Teen Titans is a case in point, offering little genuinely new, other than having a blank slate with which to define the characters as writer Scott Lobdell sees fit. None of them are doing anything different though, and it’s bizarre commissioning Lobdell to write it – it’s like asking Chris Claremont to reboot the X-Men now. Jim Lee and Geoff Johns’ Justice League is also a clear case of ultimisation, and will sell terribly well, but for how long after they leave? Most strangely Superman has also fallen under this strategy (at least in his self-titled book). George Pérez may be an all-time great in the industry, but has only offered meta textual musings about the media, and nothing whatsoever new about Clark in his first issue. Mark Waid didn’t need to invent Kryptonian armour to sell truckloads of books about Clark Kent in the 90′s – Kingdom Come sold because of superb writing and art.
- Some genuine risks are also being taken. Batwoman and Wonder Woman are good examples of something genuinely new at DC. JH Williams III & W Haden Blackman offer us an out lesbian superhero, with very non-traditional artwork and a world unlike any other female DC character’s, whilst Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang reboot Princess Diana into a horror-based pantheon of Gods and noir storytelling. These are prime examples of what I was expecting from the line-wide reboot – aiming existing and new characters at entirely new audiences.
So it’s a mixed bag. Stormwatch may be a good book, but Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch took dramatic risks with the book 10 years ago, the likes of which Paul Cornell is unlikely to match. Firestorm, Nightwing and Legion of Super-Heroes aren’t offering anything whatsoever new, whilst Batwing, Demon Knights, Men of War and OMAC are unlikely to develop sales high enough to keep them afloat for more than a year. The question also remains about how long writers like Snyder and Lemire can remain at DC without being poached by Marvel. I’m not thoroughly convinced the experiment will deliver the results they claim they were after, at least not long-term, and certainly not line-wide. Marvel properties tend to be inherently more popular than DC’s, and I don’t get the sense that they’re prepared to take real risks where it matters – Pérez for example is already off Superman, to be replaced by Dan Jurgens, the man who killed him in…the 90′s. I thought the reboot would be a case of all-or-nothing, but it’s clearly not. Bob Harras has clearly recruited a surprising number of his allies from his time as editor-in-chief at Marvel, but even sales successes like Heroes Reborn weren’t successful for more than a few months on his watch.
It’s great that they’ve brought an excitement long missing back to the comics industry, and there’s no denying it’s having a powerful effect on sales and the industry, but I don’t see much that will keep the long-missing new audience there. A new costume for Superman won’t impress new readers and will alienate the existing base. Having far too few women writing and drawing their books won’t bring women in, and there’s a real risk that Scott Lobdell is, without irony, going to write a stereotypical gay man into the Teen Titans. Marvel, itself taking very few risks right now with its mainstream books, most recently found sales success with 5 Ronin – books which offered vastly different takes on existing top flight characters. Wonder Woman and Batwoman desperately need to be accompanied by other titles by unexpected creators, offering something genuinely new. I acknowledge that Scott Snyder is innovating in Batman, offering a highly engaging experience to a more adult, cinema-aware audience and his existing Vertigo fan base alike, and Grant Morrison may be making waves with his take on the Superman origin in Action Comics, but the ‘new 52′ line as a whole though isn’t sharing this ethos equally, and unless it does, the excitement outside of this handful of notable exceptions is likely to fade.
So we’re done with another season, Moffat’s second as showrunner, and it looks like I got a fair bit right in my assessment last week.
The point of this year’s story was to cut the Doctor down to size. He’s now invisible to the Silence and his principal enemies, who now think him dead. His future incarnation knew who the Impossible Astronaut was, and so did River’s. And the ‘Doctor’ who ‘died’ was indeed not him, but it wasn’t a Ganger – instead it was a robot body provided by the Teselecta (although as I’ll get back to this creates more problems than it solves).
I have to say I loved the series but I’m no wiser to what’s going on now than I was at its outset. Series 6 pretty much answered its own self-contained questions, but the outstanding questions from series 5 were bafflingly left hanging. Why was the Tardis blown up and the universe rebooted? I’m no clearer to what the point of series 5 actually was – was it jus another assassination attempt or was there a deeper purpose? Worse, was it another ‘Bad Wolf’ moment – a great idea by the show runner, who never gets about to explaining it?
I’m enjoying the sophistication, but I’m getting worn down by subplots taking too long to resolve. Moffat may have budget problems with the BBc, but why do we still have multiple, poorer quality filler episodes, which could be used to tell his story? RTD’s series finales tended to be poorly written but at least he gave us a start, middle and end for each series!
High point for series six though were plentiful: Neil Gaiman’s episode, River Song every time she turned up (but especially in her origin episode), and the unexpected gems like ‘The Girl Who Waited’. Matt Smith sure raised his game, now fully comfortable in the role, but who though Karen Gillan would do the same? I’m now hoping she returns in 2012, which I couldn’t say this time last year. There were down sides too of course: Mark Gatiss’ episode (again), that godawful pirate story, and the whole ‘big reveal’ about Melody/River was handled kackhandedly, but these were mostly unimportant, and anyway RTD had more than his fair share of clunkers on his watch.
I would sway though that Moffat needs to have a think about how he approaches series 7 in the coming months – if the only thing he has to say about Who is the River Song/Silence saga maybe he needs to leave the stage soon. He’s written the best stories I’ve seen in the current era, but has largely side stepped the needs of RTD-era fans for straightforward resolutions to grand plots. I wish I knew what the current plot is ultimately all about. The answer to the question ‘Doctor Who?’ surely doesn’t need three years to resolve. And for that matter can someone please tell me how th Teselecta robot managed to mimic a Time Lord’s regeneration?!
I’ve rarely enjoyed a film as much as I enjoyed ‘Drive’.
Is it down to Ryan Gosling’s beauty? Yes. Is it down to the taut writing, the 80′s stylings which magically fit perfectly well into the present day? Yes, yes. What got me above all though was just how perfect a noir thriller this was, fulfilling all the conventions with grace, attitude and dark humour. The scenes of ultra violence will without question offend some (I was genuinely shocked twice in this film, and I’m hard to shock), but I loved every minute of it; as far as I’m concerned it was note perfect.
Car mechanic Gosling works part-time as a film stunt driver, but at night he acts as getaway driver for criminals. It’s easy money for someone emotionally detached from the world around him, but his priorities change when he falls in love with his neighbour Carey Mulligan, single parenting while her husband is in jail, and the two of them enjoy a brief period of happy ‘family’ life. Enter her husband Oscar Isaac, free and contrite, but in hock to gangsters he owes protection money to for keeping him alive in jail. With Mulligan and son Kaden Leos under threat Gosling joins him on the heist he’s being blackmailed into holding, to ensure their safety. But it all goes horribly, violently wrong.
Rooted firmly in pulp noir territory the ending is never in doubt (and no that’s not a spoiler), but director Nicolas Winding Refn has you rooting for the stunt-driver-with-no-name (toothpic permanently in mouth and everything) to defeat villainous Ron Perlman (chewing every single scene he’s in right up) and Albert Brooks, who delivers such an accomplished performance as a villain you’re left wondering what he was doing wasting a career in comedy. Gosling may be a crook but is without doubt the hero, and the tension in this dichotomy gives the film its energy (and the actor has no difficulty at all balancing his character’s criminality and heroism). But every performance is sublime, from Mulligan’s bad boy magnet single mother, to Gosling’s likeable but desperate boss Bryan Cranston, through to Gosling himself, owning the screen with just a look more convincingly than anyone since Clint Eastwood; this really is a classic in the making.
Screenwriter Hossein Amini delivers a highly emotional and challenging film by steadfastly refusing to adhere to a single Hollywood convention – it’s an intelligent film, which presumes its audience has a brain and wants to use it. Unashamedly minimalist from start to finish, with only sparse bursts of dialogue, the moments of extreme violence (which those fazed by that sort of thing should consider before watching) carry disproportionate weight because Refn and Amini make them so unexpected. It’s proof that thoughtful, old fashioned storytelling still very much has a place in modern cinema; even the car chases which happen service the story rather than the other way around. In a fair world it would win a clutch of Oscars, but what it will (rightly) do is propel Gosling and Mulligan right to the top of the ‘A’ list. More like this please, a lot more.
New Labour is perfectly alive and well, whatever else they’d like you to think. Ed Miliband may preach the opposite, but his party is more authoritarian than ever. From Cory Doctorow:
The UK Labour party’s conference is underway in Liverpool, and party bigwigs are presenting their proposals for reinvigorating Labour after its crushing defeat in the last election. The stupidest of these proposals to date will be presented today, when Ivan Lewis, the shadow culture secretary, will propose a licensing scheme for journalists through a professional body that will have the power to forbid people who breach its code of conduct from doing journalism in the future.
Given that “journalism” presently encompasses “publishing accounts of things you’ve seen using the Internet” and “taking pictures of stuff and tweeting them” and “blogging” and “commenting on news stories,” this proposal is even more insane than the tradition “journalist licenses” practiced in totalitarian nations.
I don’t honestly know how people feel they can vote for this party anymore. The state does not have all the answers to everything, and a lack of obedience to the state wasn’t the problem at the heart of the #hackgate scandal; the NUJ code of conduct is already a perfectly appropriate means of holding professional journalism to account. Let me remind you News International is a union busting organisation, entirely disinterested in ‘leftie’ good practice, and they were entirely supported in this by Tories and New Labour alike. Lewis’ moronic proposal comes across as an attempt to avoid his party’s share of the blame and recast all journalists as the enemy. In or out of office, he mustn’t be allowed to succeed.
Personally I’m going to go with ‘no’, but it’ll be interesting to see how we’re going to get there. My theories (in addition to what we know) are:
- The object of Moffat’s run so far has been to cut the godlike RTD figure down – his ‘death’ will be sleight of hand;
- The Doctor knew in episode 1 that the Impossible Astronaut was River Song, and so did her ‘present’ incarnation;
- The Doctor and River Song both lie – just because we’re still being led to think that it’s the Doctor who’s shot by River Song, it doesn’t mean it’s not a Ganger.
My questions however remain:
- What was the point of rebooting the universe? Was that actually River blowing up the Tardis?
- ‘Silence Will Fall’, eh? So the whole thing has been about killing The Doctor? A simple yet dastardly plot? Is the assassination in America just a second attempt by the Silence movement?
- Who the hell is Madame Kovarian?
Comments and theories welcome!
G is for GASP!!! I love it. I may use it. You can tell I’m not feeling serious about anything this morning.
I have huge reservations, but Fincher is on form right now. Will Rooney Mara be able to escape the shadow of Noomi Rapace though? We’ll find out in December it seems.
Far and away the funniest and most enjoyable film of the year, bar none. I haven’t laughed like that in years, and it’s down to two things: writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s vicious, yet well-observed script, and lead Brendan Gleeson’s towering performance. The film at times veers pretty close to Father Ted territory – almost surreal characters mixed with humour so un-politically correct even the EDL would shriek – but as a whole it’s an awful lot more shrewd (and the humour blacker) than it seems at the start. Guarda cop Gleeson investigates a murder on the sleepy west coast of Ireland, which turns out to be connected to a drug smuggling operation led by Liam Cunningham & henchman Mark Strong. But it’s when FBI man Don Cheadle arrives to lead the larger investigation that Gleeson’s ascerbic nature has consequences – his rampant racism for starters. But is Gerry Boyle really the one-note character he initially seems?
The bad guys lose, the good guys win (notably after a totally ridiculous Western shoot-out), but not as you might expect, and it’s to McDonagh’s credit that your expectations are screwed with from start to (literally) finish. Gleeson’s Boyle is a whore loving, drug taking, racist slob, who’d rather bark complaints about his coffee and steal drugs from dead joyriders than follow orders. Yet his sense of integrity and natural justice is far more solid and true than any of his colleagues – bend and break the rules he may (particularly in his friendship with an IRA gunrunner), but he does know how to get the job done. It’s difficult to do the subtle humour justice, nor the way in which it succeeds in transforming a bog standard buddy movie into something very special indeed.
I haven’t really mentioned Don Cheadle yet, largely because he’s little more than a device for Boyle’s character development. Trotting around the sleepy Irish community in which he finds himself, he too (but unintentionally) causes the same offence we call Boyle out so easily on, with equally amusing results. But he’s not alone in brilliant support – Mark (what film isn’t he the baddy in?) Strong’s turn as a philosophising drug smuggler has to be seen to be believed. Taken together they comprise a complex film masquerading as slapstick comedy – by far the most intelligent comedy I’ve seen in years. But at the end of the day it’s Brendan Gleeson’s show – he doesn’t just chew up the scenery, he devours the entire set. Admirably executive produced by Cheadle, it’s the sort of film you could never get out of the US. Gleeson should get award after award for this, whilst McDonagh has no doubt an even brighter future.
It’s looking increasingly like it’s back on the 27th of this month. Are you excited? Particularly after the word of mouth about ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ (s6 ep 08) I certainly am!
Steve Rogers is the heart of the Marvel Universe, so Chris Evans didn’t just have to look the part (he does), he had to portray Rogers’ effortless morality, steadfastness, determination, compassion and natural leadership (in the books he even ran for president once). The good news is he pulls it off.
And it’s a good thing too, because as the final film leading into next summer’s Avengers blockbuster, it needed to be the best Marvel film of them all. If Cap is to have any resonance for cinema-goers when he leads the Avengers, they need to be thoroughly convinced right here, right now. I certainly was, both as the ‘kid from Brooklyn’ (the CGI is unreal) and as the hyper-buff superhero he becomes. Every necessary ‘i’ is dotted and ‘t’ crossed, from the friendship with Bucky (Sebastian Stan) to the relationship with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), but there’s additional fun thrown in too. Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Phillips has perhaps his best turn since ‘The Fugitive’, chewing every scene he’s in right up, whilst Hugo Weaving somehow figures out how to play a Red Skull who’s both dastardly and entirely believable on film. And Stanley Tucci’s role as Dr Erskine helps ingeniously to rework the origin and to hammer the importance of Rogers’ moral centre home; Simon and Kirby would have been proud.
Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely even offer cheeky nods to the comic book character, putting Steve through his paces in his four-colour counterpart’s costume, giving great story justification why it would be so ridiculous to wear in the ‘real’ world. Of course this world doesn’t even try to be ‘real’ – we have cosmic cubes, hints of the Norse mythology which eventually crosses paths with the Marvel Universe in ‘Thor’, not to mention men with perfect skull-like faces, having been changed by a super soldier serum and ‘vita rays’, and it’s to director Joe Johnston’s credit that he takes it all in his stride. Like Spielberg and Raiders of the Lost Ark, he plays Cap’s origin as a largely pulpy affair, but never neglects to add the espionage flavour which has made Ed Brubaker’s current run on the book so enormously popular. It’s a fully realised Second World War Marvel Universe, and with vibranium and Dr Phineas Horton directly referenced, can the Black Panther or a rebooted Fantastic Four be very far behind?
The ending is never in doubt – Cap had to be encased in ice for generations, but the modern twist is neatly executed and his first meeting with Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury provides the neat, formal lead-in to the Avengers. It’s not a perfect film by any means – some of the CGI is ropey and loses perspective sometimes, but the tone is so perfect, the humour so dark, and is overall so true to the best the character has been in his own book, that it really doesn’t matter. Delight in Hugo Weaving almost outdoing his own Agent Smith turn from the Matrix as the Red Skull (with a nifty German accent to boot), laugh as Hayley Atwell steals almost every scene she’s in as Peggy Carter (more than can be said for the other cinematic Marvel leading ladies), and relish the fact that, unlike DC/Warner, Marvel has yet again put a truly heroic and likeable character on screen, and given us reasons to like him. Unlike ‘Thor’ before it, The First Avenger never tries to rush Rogers’ backstory, and for this reason I’m highly tempted to say this is the best Marvel Studios film yet released.
Run, don’t walk, even if you don’t like comics.
Will is back with new single (and delightfully homoerotic video) ‘Jealousy’. It’s out on August 21st, and new album ‘Echoes’ is out the following day. It’s been a long wait…
With a cast like this how can anyone not be really really excited? And check out who the director is…
I’m quite surprised by the tone of this. The surprise reboot seems to have ever more surprises up its sleeve. So strange to think we have another year to wait!
Jonnie Marbles, shaving foam pie-thrower extraordinaire summed up yesterday afternoon’s events pretty well:
I was filled with hope as Tom Watson questioned Murdoch Sr relentlessly with the passion and vigour we might expect to be the norm when our elected representatives face down the perpetrators of a modern Watergate. For a few bright moments I thought I might see justice done, keep the pie in my bag and spare myself a night in jail. Those moments were short lived: as committee member after committee member feebly prodded around the issues and Murdoch Jr began to dominate, I knew I was going to have to make a massive tit of myself.
I’m not quite as despirited as him though. While it was only Watson who really gave them a run for their money (and who succeeded in putting James Murdoch in his place), that wasn’t all that was going on; this was an example of the select committee system – the legislature in action – showing it still had teeth. And we now have a remarkable situation where the media, executive, legislature and police are all jockeying for supremacy, after years of being corrupted or sidestepped by the police state tendencies of New Labour. Where this will end up is anyone’s guess, but these steps are long overdue: police corruption is being investigated, MPs like Watson and Keith Vaz are flexing their muscles, News International’s unquestionable dominance is dead in the water, and David Cameron is getting very very nervous…