Sometimes the critical world generates a negative consensus around a show, or production company that can get quite annoying in it's unwarrented persistance. I'll probably rant about this a bit when I come to write up True Detective, but it also swirls around the idea of "peak Marvel", or the Doctor Who, or countless other examples. Another recent recipient of the old "oh it's lost the plot now!" cliches has been Pixar, who have been written for a while now. Sure, Cars 2 is a pretty weak sequal to the weakest of their original features, but there has been a generally downbeat reaction to everything after 2009s Up. And yes, Brave is flawed, and Monsters University is fun but forgettable, and even Toy Story 3 can be written off as "not as good as Toy Story 2" if you really want, but dropping from such an insanely high standard is hardly terminal decline. Even so, Inside Out has been billed by many critics as Pixars comeback picture, and boy is it a thundering broadside from a studio that still knows how to reduce grown adults to quivering emotional wrecks.
Monday, July 27, 2015
Thursday, July 23, 2015
I'm slightly wary of the ongoing fascination with the high Victorian era. Its a strange time - not yet modern but containing a lot of things that will lead into modernity, and social constructs - the clothes, the language, the locations - that are very familiar, but also different enough that we can be comfortable that it's horrors are safely in the past. There is chocolate box London that you see in so many adaptations, cloaked in snow and poverty, and the grinding mechanical technology so beloved of the Steampunk aesthetic. Its an era at the dawn of most of the modern fiction genres, which probably helps, and right there, mining out it's dark heart for the horror fans, is Penny Dreadful, now returning for a second season.
Monday, July 20, 2015
I can't shake the feeling that there is a body of opinion that is waiting for Marvel Studios to screw up. On the critics side, it seems to be the usual sort of critic that doesn't like big summer blockbuster season by it's very nature, and sees the MCU as a sort of poster-child for it. On the audience side, I think there is a relic of the DC-Marvel rivalry (the longest and stupidest fan-rivalry in comics, which is saying something) and also a wariness at seeing about 2 billion superhero flicks scheduled and feeling some odd obligation to see them all. Wherever it comes from, it seemed to circle Guardians of the Galaxy last year, before that turned out to be huge, and then focused on Ant-Man, after some high-profile behind-the-scenes changes and y'know, being about Ant-Man. Who is small, and commands the Ants.
Friday, July 17, 2015
Remember Portal? Portal (and it's sequel) felt unique; a first person puzzle game with simple mechanics leading to ingenous solutions, coupled with an interesting and engaging story. In fact, it pretty much was unique - puzzle games lean towards the abstract rather than the immersive, and even there the balance of challenge and frustration is tough to get right. After all, you want your players to beat the puzzles, don't you? Part of the joy of the game is the buzz you get from working it all out. Even so it's surprising that Portal didn't spawn a host of imitators, but whilst there has been a handful, none seem to have nailed the balance quite so brilliantly as The Talos Principle.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
It's DVD Round-Up time! Over the last few weeks we've watched more movies that I've easily found time to write up, so it's time that I come up to date with a quick summary. A couple of them have been kids films, and one not, so it's an eclectic mix. I'll start with the best this time, and move down, so, here we go.
Thursday, July 9, 2015
Back when I did a post about Arrow and Agents of SHIELD, I commented that I was trying to round up all the superhero themed shows that we'd been watching over that season, to try and draw some final curtain around them. Which meant that I'd sort of forgotten that we'd been watching Gotham. Part of me feels like that could just stand as a review in it's own right. But Gotham is a strange beast, born from a strange concept. If Arrow is the show you get when you want to make a Batman show, but aren't allowed to, Gotham is it's Dark Mirror, the show you get when you don't want to make a Batman show, but feel obliged to have him hang around in the background.
Monday, July 6, 2015
We have been under some pressure from the smallest member of the family to go and see Minions, since they started running adverts non-stop on pretty much every channel we watch at the moment. I think Robert sees them as somewhat of a kindred spirit, or perhaps a CGI Spirit Guide, as they're little, and bouncy and enthusiastic, and so a trip to the cinema started to feel inevitable. And besides, I've seen my single ration of 15+ rated movies this year, right? For anyone not aware, the Minions are the breakout characters from the two Despicable Me films, which are best described as "fun, but nothing outstanding". In those films, our evil-ish villian has an army of small, yellow gibberish-spouting helpers that work on his evil-ish plans for World Domination, and here they get their own film, a prequel of sorts, to test how tolerable they are in larger numbers.
Thursday, July 2, 2015
Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a dense, sprawling book that can defy categorization. It's part regency social drama, part classic English Mythology. It's two main characters can be difficult to engage with, it's story can take a while to get going, and I loved it. So naturally I was excited by the news that the BBC were making an adaptation, and then terrified when it was only 7 parts long. How is that going to work? Well, pretty well, actually.