Cinepub


TelePub: Zombieland Pilot by Jamie

The popularity of the Undead gained new unlife in 2004 with the double header of the ‘Dawn of the Dead’ remake and ‘Shaun of the Dead’. Yes, zombies as we know them had been shambling around since 1968 with the original ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and ‘28 Days Later’ had started the trend somewhat in 2002 but they weren’t even really zombies in that film so I’m not counting it. No, it was 2004 where zombies went viral and the world hasn’t really been the same since.

In 2009, already five years into this zombie resurrection, a little comedy film came out called ‘Zombieland’. Sure, it was no Shaun of the Dead but I for one enjoyed it and it had one of the best surprise cameos in all of film history.

It was a film that originally began life as a script for a pilot for a TV show about survivors of a Zombie Apocalypse seeking shelter in their devastated world. Well, it seems as though those small screen dreams are finally coming true as Amazon ordered a pilot, no doubt wanting to get into the scripted original content business like Netflix, and it’s now available to watch online completely free of charge. See, here’s the link for UK people who can watch it on Lovefilm even if you’re not subscribed to their service.

Of course, the question is, even if it is free your time is not. Should you spend that precious half hour watching a televisual internet adaptation of a movie that came out three years ago with a completely different cast playing characters from said movie. Well…

“It’s the tiniest bit funny.” This is a line spoken by Wichita (Maiara Walsh replacing Emma Stone) and I was tempted to use it to describe the show but honestly, that’s being a little bit too hard on it. I will say that the opening scene is one of the most god-awful attempts at comedy I have ever seen in my life. It involves two employees at an unspecified job discussing the bad morning one of them has had whilst the Zombie Apocalypse occurs through a window behind them. It’s awful and laced with profanity which, hey I’m all for, but you can tell when layering something with fucks is forced in an attempt to illicit humour and it just falls flat. It’s truly fucking abysmal.

Still things do pick up after this very, very lacklustre opening scene when we’re “reunited” with the characters from the first film. There the aforementioned Wichita, Little Rock (Izabela Vodovic replacing Abigail Breslin), Columbus (Tyler Ross replacing Jesse Eisenberg) and Tallahassee (Kirk Ward replacing Woody Harrelson). Kirk Ward probably comes off best here. Sure, he’s no Woody and no one ever will be, but Tallahassee is a fun character and though I disagree a little with the direction here, seeming to bring him to almost Homer Simpson levels of stupidity, I think that he’s probably be the easiest character to step into the shoes off and Ward is certainly likeable enough in the role. Perhaps the biggest loser in this is Tyler Ross who is doing something of a knock off of pre-‘Social Network’ Jesse Eisenberg which consequently makes him seem like a knock off of a knock off Michael Cera. It worked for Eisenberg because he’s at least good at that schtick. Tyler Ross, not so much.

Perhaps the biggest casualty of the shift to the small screen is the effects budget. In the opening sequence a plane crashes in the background and it looks like something someone might have made while pissing about with After Effects for the first time. And the zombies? Oooh, the zombies take a nasty leap down in quality from what we saw in the movie and from what we expect from television Zombies thanks to ‘The Walking Dead’. They just look like someone splashed a bit of fake blood on them and stuck a few plasticy scabs on. They are not good, is what I’m trying to say.

Still despite all there is bad to say about this, there could be something good in there. The humour in this pilot is certainly a little more slapstick than I remember the movie being but that’s not always bad. If it gets picked up, I’ll give the next episode a watch just to see since there’s also a chance that getting picked up could improve their budget a bit which would solve some criticisms. I will say that I’m annoyed that the show undoes the end of the film my having had Wichita and Columbus break up but I suppose you need some kind of conflict to keep the story going in a series and yeah, it makes sense. So this pilot, not so great but I can see the potential in it and would be willing to give it another chance if it made it to a full series. Two and a half out of five. Laterz.

Zombieland Cast



Zombie Month Repost: Dead Set by Jamie

I don’t know if I’ve made this clear in the past but I’m quite the fan of Zombie films. I’m not sure why. There’s just something mildly appealing about being one of the few last members of a doomed species surrounded by the undead who want nothing more than to consume your flesh. That may seem odd but who wouldn’t want to be one of those survivors, no more of the drudgery of everyday life, going to work and earning a wage but fighting back the shambling hordes just so you could say you survived. Yeah, for me the Zombie Apocalypse is escapism.

There’s also a fantastic sense of hopelessness in zombie films. In the best ones it seems as though once the infection has begun to spread then the fight is already over. The zombies have already won simply through sheer numbers. The infection often seems to be global and it seems as though it’s only a matter of time before the remaining survivors succumb to either a natural or unnatural end. This is why my favourite zombie films are the original Day and Dawn of the Dead. It’s made very clear in those films that the undead dominance is practically total. The same is also true of the absolutely fantastic piece of Zombie-related televisual entertainment I’ll be looking at today, Dead Set.

Now, let’s get one thing out of the way right at the outset. Dead Set’s zombies are the runners that are becoming more and more prominent throughout zombie fiction. Whilst still being a zombie purist and preferring the shambling, rotting kind who are no real threat on their own but amass in huge numbers causing survivors to become trapped and ideally turn on each other, I will admit that, when used correctly, the runners can be effective. This was perhaps best demonstrated recently in ‘Zombieland’. Running zombies were perfect for that film because the survivors didn’t spend most of their time trapped in one location. It was essentially a road movie and in that kind of film I can see why the runners would be more effective than the traditional Romero variety.

In Dead Set, the running zombies are effective but for different reasons that Charlie Brooker, the writer of this and all-around genius, has stated himself in response to friendly criticism he received from Simon Pegg, well known slow zombie advocate. Basically the runners are used due to budgetary constraints restricting the number of crowd shots, the need to differentiate itself from Pegg’s own ‘Shaun of the Dead’, and the fact that infection needed to spread quick enough to stop an evacuation of the studio being possible. That last one will make more sense once I get into the actual review which I seem to be having some difficulty in doing. Anyway, to sum up these are all fair enough reasons.

Right, to the synopsis then. ‘Dead Set’ starts off during an eviction night for the reality series Big Brother. Throughout the day there have been reports of massive riots or some such thing occurring throughout Britain but despite the possible ramifications of this, the producer decides to take Big Brother to air as normal. During the eviction, however, something horrific happens and before long the only people left alive are those inside the Big Brother house, unaware of what’s happening outside, a show runner, the producer and the evicted contestant. There are a couple of other survivors but the main focus is really on these and, later on, the show runners boyfriend who is trying to make his way to the Big Brother house.

The show runner, Kelly, soon finds out that the outside world is pretty much devoid of life and decides to make her way into the Big Brother house, what with it being possibly the safest place in the world right now. When she makes it inside the house mates think that she’s a new contestant, albeit a fairly crazy one. When a zombie manages to get in and bites one of them, however, they soon realise the situation they are in.

And that’s pretty much where I’m going to leave the synopsis. I’ll say right now that this really is a must watch. It’s available in all of it’s fantastic five part glory through Channel 4’s YouTube page here. My apologies to people outside the UK. I know how these things often work so I wouldn’t be surprised if you find some kind of content restriction message. You can always buy the region 2 DVD, which I would recommend for anyone if I’m honest. It’s always nicer to have a physical copy of something. There are of course other methods you could employ which I will no way endorse here.

So what makes Dead Set so pants-wettingly brilliant? Well, everything really. The very idea of taking Big Brother and putting a zombie apocalypse around it, is in itself a wonderfully simple idea and allows for all the satire and commentary that the best zombie films are known for. In this case it’s reality TV that’s on the chopping block, obviously, and the culture that surrounds it. All of the contestants are the kinds of twattish stereotypes that Big Brother and it’s generally twattish audience thrive on. From blonde bimbo to flamboyantly gay transvestite, all the archetypes are covered. There’s even that one who’s a little bit stupid but likeable enough that he’d probably never actually win. From what I’ve seen of Big Brother those are generally regarded as background characters who never get much screen time because they aren’t as twattish as their housemates. I need to stop using the word twattish.

What’s interesting is that most of the characters, whilst still retaining may of their stereotypical charactersitics, manage to undergo major developments. For example Veronica, the blonde bimbo character, upon finding out about the zombie apocalypse enquires “Does this mean we’re not on the telly anymore?” but by the end she’s able to come up with a plan in order to take down a zombie lose in the garden. It manages to take what should be a relatively unlikeable cast of people and make you care about them and what happens to them in a way that I imagine Big Brother itself would have trouble doing in two months of programming.

It’s also quite clear that a large portion of the zombies are drawn to the Big Brother house, something which makes sense because most of the people there probably where fans of the show who were turned on the night of the eviction and one of the contestants even muses that they the house was almost like a temple to them in life. This echoes Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ where it is theorised that the zombies come to the mall due to some fading half-memory of their former life in which they considered it to be an important place for them. In this case the people used to come here to feed on the micro-fame of the people inside the house and now they’re back to feed on them once more, only this time in a much more literal sense.

Of course, you could talk about the satire and social commentary in zombie films until the cows come home and I’m sure people will continue to do so until the inevitable real life Zombie Apocalypse. The most important thing is how is this invasion of the undead portrayed on screen and all I’ll say is that Dead Set does not disappoint. It is exquisitely gory, revelling in the dismemberment of people by the ravenous monsters. Seriously, for a TV mini-series it seems as though absolutely no punches were pulled. You get to see a zombie get it’s head smashed in with a fire extinguisher, a zombie being carved up for bait and British television ‘favourite’ Davina McCall getting her throat bitten out. The whole thing is enhanced by the fucking fantastic sound effects, each squelch and stab being presented in sickeningly, crisp detail. Awesome. Speaking of sounds, I should also say that setting the initial zombie outbreak to Mika’s ‘Grace Kelly’ was an ingenious idea.

Right, I think I’ve spoken enough about this now. If you haven’t watched it yet, find a way to do so and do it now! Five pints out of five. I‘ll be back tomorrow with either a new list, a review of ‘Antichrist’ or the remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ which I‘ve decided to rewatch after my softening on the whole running zombie thing. Laterz.



Review: The A-Team by Jamie

Pretty much spoiler free.

In the early 80s a TV show burst on to the screen with a hail of bullets (bullets that never hit anyone but you were fucked if you were a tyre.) That show was ‘The A-Team’ and everyone loved it. Literally everyone. Seriously, who the fuck doesn’t love The A-Team? If you answered “Me” then get out of here. I don’t need your type reading this blog… No, that’s mean. You can stay, I guess, but re-evaluate your life. Something has gone very, very wrong.

Why did we love the A-Team? Well, the opening intro and theme certainly had something to do with it. Let’s watch it now, won’t we?

See? You open a show like that and there’s no way in hell that the audience is going anywhere until that show’s final credits are rolling. There’s something about that theme tune that stirs the very souls of men. All men from all walks of life. If you begin humming the first few notes of that song, any man around you will join in. Then try getting that theme out of your head. It’s damn near impossible. In fact it’s a pretty sweet song to use if you’ve got something else stuck in your head. Go on, go listen to something guaranteed to get stuck in your head say ‘Africa’ by Toto or something and then listen to The A-Team theme. See, worked didn’t it?

So yes, we all have great love for the original series. So I personally met the first rumblings of a big screen version of an A-Team film with some trepidation and slight excitement. I remember first hearing about it years ago with people like Ice Cube and Jim Carrey attached at various points but then for a while it seemed as though everything had died down and the film was pretty much dead. Then came the announcements in 2009 that it was most definetly on, Liam Neeson was Hannibal, Bradley Cooper was Face, Sharlto Copley was Murdock and MMA fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was B.A. Baracus. That same mixture of trepidation and excitement found it’s back into my mind.

So does this film live up to our memories of that original series? Well, in a way. Let’s get things straight right of the bat. This isn’t ‘Inception’. This isn’t some massive, high-art experiment in film making. It’s a film based on The A-Team, a beloved but admittedly cheesy TV show from the 80s so it doesn’t need to be. All I went into this film hoping was that it would be fun and keep at least somewhat true to the feel of the series.

Well, it certainly succeeds on the fun part. I certainly felt as though I had been entertained by the time that the end credits rolled. There’s enough crazy action shit going on here to keep the average A-Team fan entertained. There’s a tank falling from a plane with the team using it’s massive gun to help them to land. There’s a great scene early on with the team executing a massive elaborate plan in order to recover some US treasury plates from a shady group of mercenaries called Black Forest (Yeah, it’s not the most subtle of films) and the whole final showdown, whilst not as fun as some of the earlier stuff, does have a bazooka blowing a whole in a massive freight ship. So that’s cool.Oh, there’s also a kick ass scene involving a 3D movie and the original theme but to say too much would be giving it away.

But what about staying true to the spirit of the show? Well, for the most part I thought it actually captured it pretty well. The characters are fun, fairly decent adaptations of the ones from the 80s. Their interactions are enjoyable and, especially in the case of BA and Murdock, fairly accurate to the way they interacted in the show. There are, however, a few problems. First off, they actually shoot and kill people. What the hell? That’s not the A-Team I know and love. Hell, BA even breaks a dudes back and kills him at some point. I can see why Mr T didn’t exactly enjoy the film and said it focused a little too much on the violence.

Still, I feel as though some of this can be forgiven because of the nature of the film. You see this is very much an origin story, beginning just before the team has actually formed. Murdock meets BA in a desert in Mexico in one of the most ridiculous coincidences put on screen since Kirk stumbled across future Spock on the ice planet in the recent Star Trek film. They then go and save Face before busting Murdock out of a mental institution. It then cuts to 8 years and 80 successful missions later and you actually get to see them getting convicted for he crime they didn’t commit before busting out of jail and trying to hunt down the bastards who framed them in order to clear there name. To sum up, these guys aren’t yet the soldiers of fortune hiding out in the Los Angeles underground. They aren’t going up against over-zealous land developers and corrupt law enforcement officers. They’re fighting military, mercenaries and agents of the CIA. It makes sense for them to be a little more violent at this stage in their lives. I just hope if they do make a sequel and they are taking jobs and going against smaller scale bad guys they don’t kill them. They’d better not accept any cash either.

So what of the acting? Did the new guys manage to bring the old characters to life as we remembered them? Well, Liam Neeson is pretty much doing what Liam Neeson does, playing kind of a more lighted version of his character from ‘Taken’ but it works quite well as John “Hannibal” Smith, the older, gruff guy who’s seen some shit in his time and has a plan worked out in his mind for every situation. A plan, by the way, he is always glad for the coming together of. Did they make sense? I don’t care. Speaking of plans though, there are certain goddamn times throughout the film where I swear every fifth or sixth word out of Hannibal‘s mouth is the word plan. It really started to grate on my nerves.

Bradley Cooper is pretty much the perfect choice for Templeton “Face” Peck. I never really liked Face in the original TV show and I can’t really put my finger on why. There was just something about his cocky, smarminess that never sat right with me but I really enjoyed the character here. He’s just as cocky and just as smarmy and it just works. Maybe it’s because he’s kind of the main character here so he gets more to do whereas in the original series he always seemed like the one who had the least to do and he just didn’t stand out as much compared to the other three. But yeah, Cooper really pulls Face of well. He‘s even got that same kind of smile that Dirk Bennedict used to flash in the show.

Now, what can I say about Sharlto Copley? The man is a fucking great actor. He was brilliant in my favourite film last year, District 9, and he is perfect in the role of H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock. He manages to capture that wackiness that Dwight Schultz used to bring to the character and is pretty damn funny throughout. They even managed to make him a little bit dangerously insane, at one point even going so far as to set Face on fire, apparently just for the fun of it which I enjoyed because to be fair, the character in the show never really seemed Howling Mad, he just seemed a bit eccentric.

The weakest link in the film by far is Quinton Jackson as Bosco “Bad Attitude” Baracus. There are times when he’s pretty much just imitating Mr. T and I suppose that if you playing B.A. Baracus in an A-Team film that’s kind of all you can do. In the original show the other actors seemed to actually be playing characters whereas Mr. T was just being Mr. T. Still, there are a lot of times when his line delivery just falls really flat. Still this is his first film role and I do think he’s got a lot of potential and good be quite a good actor if he works at it. I also really enjoyed his on screen chemistry with Sharlto Copley. They really seemed to capture the antagonistic relationship that the two had on the show. You also get to find out just why B.A. is afraid of flying which is a nice touch. Still, having Pity and Fool tattooed on his knuckles is a bit much.

There’s also the ‘fifth member’ of The A-Team, the van. All I’ll say is what happens to the van really, really pissed me off. Mother fuckers. It seems as though remakes nowadays always have to do something to destroy or mock something from the original. There’s Bubo the Owl in the Clash of the Titans remake, the ruining of the fly scene in The Karate Kid remake and what happens to the van here. I love that van and this is a damn outrage.

As for the rest of the cast well, let’s do a quick summary. Jessica Biel is really just there to move the plot along and be a love interest for Face which she does satisfactorily. Patrick Wilson is actually pretty fun as the C.I.A. Agent Lynch, being just slimy enough to be a fairly convincing villain and Brian Bloom is also pretty enjoyable as the slightly unhinged Brock Pike, a man who at one point seems to accept death as long as he isn’t shot by the incompetent C.I.A. agent who can’t even attach a silencer to a gun correctly.

So, what can I really say to sum up? Well, all in all the film is a fun, summer blockbuster that captures at least something of the spirit of the original show. Whilst I said that the actors did I pretty good job portraying the original characters, they still aren’t THE A-Team and they never will be but they are probably the best we could have hoped for. Well, maybe not Quinton Jackson but could they ever really find someone to fill Mr. T’s boots? Of course not and I still have faith that he will grow as an actor and be better if they do a sequel. And I really hope for a sequel. I really want to see the team become the soldiers of fortune they were in the show, helping out the little guy in small desert towns. Until then I’ll say that if you’re a fan of the show, you’ll enjoy this. It won’t be everything you’d hope it could have been but you’ll have a good time, especially considering some of the shit that’s come out this year. I rate The A-Team three and a half pints out of five. Laterz.

BONUS CONTENT!: Here’s a special message from the big man himself. I pity the fool who doesn’t take his advice.



Generation X – Part 3: Squeeze by Jamie

Generation X: Squeeze (Production No. 1×02)

Written By Glen Morgan & James Wong, Directed By Harry Longstreet.

BBC Air Date: 03/10/1994

Well we finally come to the first of the ‘Monster of the Week‘ episodes of the X-Files and what a monster it is. First, the synopsis. Scully is asked to help on mysterious murder case by an old friend Agent Colton (Donal Logue). The cases are mysterious due to the fact that there seems to be no obvious point of entry and the liver is torn from each victim with the killers bare-hands. Mulder joins the investigation with his own theories and immediately gets Colton‘s back up. They apprehend a subject and, when Mulder introduces some of his own questions during a lie detector test, Colton officialy gets him taken off the investigation and the suspect, Eugene Victor Tooms (Doug Hutchins), is set free . Mulder, believing Tooms to be a genetic mutant who needs livers in order to hibernate for decades at a time, continues anyway since the case has some similarities to one of his X-Files and Scully decides to side with him instead of Colson. In the end, of course, it turns out that Mulder was right and they finally capture Tooms again.

This episode was one of the first that gave us the sense that The X-Files was going to be something more than aliens and abductions all the time and thank fuck for that. I mean, seriously, the whole over-arching mythology is alright in small doses but there is no way in hell I‘d be able to take that for an entire series. Really, it‘s these Scooby Doo-esque episodes which make the series, especially later when the mythology just becomes bloated and convoluted.

So, allow us then to delve deeper into this episode. There are some awesome moments held within. Mulder in particular is in top form. There are some great character moments when he’s dealing with Agent Colton who basically seems to view Mulder as a fucking joke. One of the first questions Colton asks Mulder if he suspects little green men are responsible for the murders. Mulder responds completely straight faced that the little men are in fact grey, from Reticula and that they are notorious for the extraction of human livers due to an iron deficiency in the Reticulan galaxy. He then asks him if he knows what liver and onion goes for in the Reticulan galaxy before turning around and doing his fucking job like a real FBI agent. This episode also features on of Mulder‘s classic lines after realising he‘s just put his hand in human bile, “Is there anyway I can get it off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior?” Classic Mulder.

It‘s also nice to see Scully siding with Mulder in this episode, having had enough of Colton constantly bad mouthing him. It‘s clear that, though she may not agree with all of his ‘spooky‘ ideas, she does have a certain amount of respect for him and regards him as a partner who she is loyal to. You also get to see her kicking the ass of a killer mutant who has already killed several people showing that she‘s more than just an expert in medical science. She‘s also an expert in Ass-Kickery.

Finally onto Tooms himself. This really needed to be a strong episode in order to show that The X-Files could be more than that show about aliens and stuff and thankfully it was. This was mainly down to the character of Eugene Victor Tooms, a genetic mutant who is over one hundred years old, eats human livers in order to allow him to hibernate for periods of thirty years and also has the ability to stretch and squeeze into tiny places. That is a fucking awesome concept for a monster and it‘s the reason that Tooms remained one of the series favourite villains despite only appearing in two episodes.

I did always feel a little sorry for Tooms though. I got the impression that if he didn‘t get those livers and enter his hibernation, he‘d wither and die. Of course if he‘d just end up aging naturally at the same speed as everyone else or at a much faster rate is up for debate I suppose. You also do get the strong impression that Tooms does quite enjoy his little acts of murder.

Overall this is a thoroughly enjoyable episode that kicks of the whole ‘Monster of the Week‘ concept and kicks it off strong, deepens the characters of both Mulder and Scully and presents an awesome villain. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.



Generation X: Part 2 – Deep Throat by Jamie

Generation X: Deep Throat (Production No. 1×01)

Written By Chris Carter, Directed By Robert Mandel.
BBC Air Date: 19/09/1994

In this episode Mulder and Scully investigate the disappearance of an Air Force Colonel and a possible cover-up involving crashed UFO’s, hybrid experimental aircraft and a pseudo-Area 51. Mulder is warned to stay away from this case by a mysterious man in a bar bathroom, the titular Deep Throat, but decides to investigate anyway. He comes closer to the truth than he ever has before but also comes to experience first hand the kind of power that those behind the conspiracy wield.

There, I think I’ve got that little problem with my synopses going on forever sorted at last. Anyway, on with the review. This is the first full on episode of the X-Files complete with theme tune, opening credits sequence and is the introduction of Mark Snow as the series composer. I have to say that I really do love that theme. It just sums up the feel of the series, evoking the feeling of creepiness and mysteriousness that comes with dealing with the paranormal.

Now, this whole episode draws heavily from the myths surrounding the top secret US Air force base, Area 51 or Groom Lake even going so far as to have a parallel to the Little Ale’Inn, which is just down the road from Area 51, in the form of the Flying Saucer Restaurant. What I don’t understand is why they didn’t just go ahead and use the name Area 51? I mean, they use the real name in later episodes, including some brilliant ones that have Michael McKean making a special guest appearance. Anyway the point is that if you’re blatantly just going to use Area 51, just call it fucking Area 51.

This episode also has some great examples of some early 90s CGI in the form of a hovering triangle that has a few bright lights. Of course it’s easy to look at it now and comment about how shitty and cheesy it looks by today’s standard. We think we’re so fucking great with our ‘Avatars’ and our ‘Iron Mans’. We sicken me. Anyway, I’m sure that little nine year old me was suitably impressed watching it in the darkened living room of our house. I bet I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The most worrying thing is that it actually looks about as good as some of the CGI effects I’ve seen in the incredibly recent series ‘Spartacus: Blood And Sand’. Damn that show’s cheap looking.

As for what goes on in the episode, well, there are a few key scenes. The introduction of Deep Throat is a pretty big one and I’ll delve into that a little bit later. What you really get is an idea of the clashes between the personalities of the two agents but also how dedicated they are to ensuring each others safety. You also get an idea of just how dedicated Mulder is to trying to uncover the truth behind the conspiracy, going so far as to break into a top secret military facility and strolling onto the runway to get a better look. Honestly it’s pretty fucking stupid for someone who’s apparently a Cambridge educated FBI agent but what’re you gonna do? This is a series that kinda hinges on suspension of disbelief.

As far as being a ‘Mythology’ episode this one isn’t as bad as later ones would become. It doesn’t have the huge, convoluted history behind it so it’s still a bit light and generally an easy watch. Since it also has a separate mystery going on beside the mythology stuff, it manages to keep you interested whereas I think that some of the later ones that had Mulder and Scully investigating the conspiracy for the sake of investigating it lacked that aspect.

Finally I’ll just go back to the fact that this episode introduces us to the character of Deep Throat, obviously based on, and possibly intended to be, the Deep Throat who leaked information during the Watergate scandal. Deep Throat was the first of many informants that would approach Mulder and do what seemed as little as possible in order to aid him in the quest for the truth. His first scene is a little odd. He approaches Mulder in the bathroom of the bar and advises him not to investigate the case as the military won’t look to kindly on an FBI investigation. I don’t know about you but if an older gentleman ever approaches me in a bar bathroom and his name is Deep Throat then I’m getting the fuck out of there. Still, he’s an important character and does help in providing some information on the conspiracy without which we’d probably be as lost as Mulder. He also finishes the episode with a fantastic line. When Mulder ask him if ‘they‘ have really are here on Earth, he responds with “Mr. Mulder, they have been here for a long, long time.” Awesome.

Overall it’s a decent enough episode if not just a bit average. I’ll give it three pints out of five. Laterz.



Generation X: A Look Back At The X-Files: Part 1 – Pilot by Jamie

It’s hard to imagine now just how big The X-Files was back in the 90s. It permeated everything and as a result the 90s was also a time filled with bullshit about the paranormal and conspiracy theories. Every week it seemed as though there was some special documentary about the Roswell Incident or whether or not the moon landings were faked. Still, as much as the X-Files was responsible for a lot of belief in complete and utter bullshit I feel as though it’s also responsible for the Sceptical movement coming to such prominence over the past 10 years or so as people battle tirelessly to undo the damage the show has done.

The show started on September 10, 1993 in the US and came to the UK in 1994. I was but a young lad of 9 when it first started and I distinctly remember watching it from the beginning and, like so many others, I completely bought into the paranormal and believed in practically all aspects of it until really quite recently. I gobbled up those documentaries, read book after book and had quite an extensive collection of magazines that dealt with the subject. Still much in the same way that the X-Files is probably at least partially responsible for the growing sceptical movement, it’s probably also the reason that I am a sceptic now myself. Without it I probably would have never paid much attention to the paranormal and so wouldn’t care about ridiculous beliefs in it either way.

The X-Files influence on me doesn’t end there either. The X-Files is possibly responsible for my having a ridiculously large DVD collection. When the series began to be released on the new format I bought them as soon as each one was released. It pretty much gave me the collecting bug and from then I was pretty much fucked and doomed to have a collection far beyond the size of anything that I really should.

So keeping the massive effect the series has had on my life in mind and considering the fact that I haven’t really watched them for years, I’ve decided to go back, revisit the show and review every damn episode. Why? Well because an undertaking of this magnitude will probably cut into my movie viewing somewhat (not to say that this will completely overtake the blog, there will still be movie related things of course including some big video things that I’ve got planned) and it’s a good excuse to have a consistent stream of things to post. Let’s get underway.

Pilot (Production No. 1X79)

Written By Chris Carter, Directed By Robert Mandel.
BBC Air Date: 19/09/1994

So then, this is it where it all begins with the imaginatively titled pilot episode, ‘Pilot’. It’s our first introduction to many a character including the Cigarette Smoking Man, their boss who isn’t Skinner at this point and, of course, Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. It’s pretty obvious that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson pretty much had the characters down from the beginning. Mulder is the sarcastic, witty and all around charming guy and Scully is the sceptical, scientific and slightly serious character that they would pretty much remain throughout the entirety of the series. The only major difference is that in this episode Scully seems a little more open to Mulder’s point of view and a little quicker to accept his paranormal explanation then she would in later episodes.

There are a few things which mark this out as a pilot. For example the iconic theme music is no where to be found at all in this episode. There’s not even an opening credit sequence, instead just a black screen filled with large white letters exclaiming that ‘The following story is inspired by actual documented accounts.’ Of course they are.

Still, other then that there’s not really that much to distinguish this from and average episode. We hear how Mulder discovered the X-Files and the story of how he saw his sister Amanda being abducted by aliens for the first time but it doesn’t really seem like the big thing that it would become later in the series, more like an event that just led to his interest in these kind of cases.

Now the story of the first episode is essentially that a small town has had a rash of unexplainable deaths, each one involving the graduating class of the local high school. Mulder and Scully go off to investigate after Scully is assigned to work with Mulder, essentially being instructed to keep an eye on exactly what he‘s up to. Mulder seems to believe that extra-terrestrials are somehow involved in the case. As they are driving towards the town the radio and clock in their car go a bit haywire and Mulder pulls over, marking the spot with a big red X.

They begin to investigate the deaths much to the chagrin of the local sheriff and medical examiner who both seem to know more then they’re letting on, arousing Scully’s suspicions. They visit two of the graduating classes remaining survivors in a hospital finding one in a wheelchair and the other in a vegetative state due to a vehicular accident that both were involved in. Mulder notices that both have strange marks on their body and decides to exhume the body of one of the former victims in order to see if it has similar marks upon it.

What they discover in the coffin is a little bit of a shock as it doesn’t appear to be the body of a human but rather that of a desiccated orang-utan. They take some X-Rays of the thing which reveals a small, metallic implant in it’s naval cavity. Mulder decides to go and check out the woods were all these incidents have been occurring… Fuck, I wanted this to be a concise synopsis. Right, on the way back from the woods the two agents experience a blinding flash of white light and seem to have lost nine minutes, a phenomenon generally reported by those who believe that they have been abducted by aliens.

Upon returning to their hotel they find out they receive a mysterious phone call telling them that the girl from the hospital is dead. Whilst investigating this new death, their hotel catches fire, destroying all the evidence they have gathered up to this point which really pisses Mulder off. They meet the person who had phoned them, the medical examiners daughter who it turns out was also part of the graduating class and Mulder begins to suspect that the boy in the vegetative state is involved in the murders. A visit to the hospital reveals he has dirty feet and Scully begins to turn around to Mulder’s way of thinking.

Since the soil samples that they had taken in the woods before had been destroyed in the fire they decide to the woods to gather more, only to find that the sheriff is here. It turns out that he has been tracking his son who is up and about again, having seemingly kidnapped the medical examiner’s daughter. Mulder and the sheriff witness a blinding white light surround the two youngsters whilst Scully is distracted elsewhere. When the light dissipates the two are standing there, the boy apparently aware of his surroundings once more and the mysterious marks having disappeared.

Mulder and Scully return to Washington and she presents her report on Mulder’s activities to her bosses, seemingly taking his side on the case which pisses them off to no end. The episode ends with the Cigarette smoking man putting a metallic implant, the one piece of physical evidence into a box in a massive warehouse filled with boxes probably containing masses of evidence pertaining to the supernatural in a clear homage to Indiana Jones.

So there you go. That’s the first episode of the X-Files and the beginning of, in my personal opinion, one of the greatest on-screen partnerships in all of television history. There are a few things which happen in this episode which I don’t think are ever really mentioned or explained in later episodes primarily whether or not Mulder and Scully where actually abducted. I know they are both abducted at later points in the series but I’m not sure if this experience is ever brought up again. I’m sure I’ll found out as we go along.

Still overall it’s a pretty good episode and is much better than many of the ones that would deal with aliens later on, the so called ‘Mythology’ episodes that dealt with the over-arching conspiracy. This one plays off much more like the preferred ‘Monster-Of-The-Week’ episodes even though their isn’t really a monster. Of particular note is David Duchovny who is fucking hilarious throughout this episode. Almost every other line is some witty or sarcastic remark particularly during the pairs first meeting. It’s good stuff and one of the reason I loved this show.

So there you go. That’s the first part of this ongoing X-periment. Hahaha. Did you see what I did there? I crack me up. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll get the hang of this as I go along and try and tighten up those synopses. Next up is the first of the proper Mythology episodes, ‘Deep Throat’. Until then, laterz.



Depress-A-Thon: Threads Double Repost by Jamie

Well, unfortunately there was just too much to get on with at work last night for me to find a spare moment to finish writing the list of my favourite Sci-fi villains. I did manage to get half of it done and plan to have it up tomorrow. Instead it’s time for another repost in the Depress-A-Thon, this time dedicated to the film which truly scarred my soul, ‘Threads’. I’ve decided to stick the two occasions which I’ve written about ‘Threads’ together since the original review was a little shorter than I remembered.

So included below is the part the bit I wrote about Threads for my top 10 Post-Apocalyptic Films List (Which can be found here: Part 1, Part 2) and, after the video, the original review entitled “Threads: The Single Most Depressing Thing Man Kind Has Ever Put To Film.” Enjoy.

1. Threads

Cause Of Apocalypse: Nuclear War.

Yes, for number one I’m going a little obscure. It’s a made for TV British film that I’ve reviewed before and it’s truly fucking chilling. The acting is corny, it’s incredibly 80s, scratch that, it’s incredibly Northern England 80s and it’s a little slow to start but fuck, after the bombs drop, it’s just… Wow.

This film portrays what life would have been like if the US and Russia had decided to launch nukes at each other and what would have happened had England been completely ravaged by nuclear bombs. I’m sure that a few of the things that are described aren’t considered exactly scientifically accurate these days but I’m also sure that it’s still as close as I’ll ever see a film get to the truth.

This film essentially put me into a sort of mini-depression after watching it. It made me feel doomed, as though at any moment the world could come crashing to a halt if a small group of people wished it so. Keep in mind that the Cold War had been over for some time at this point. Seriously though, there doesn’t need to be a cold war for it to happen anyway. All it takes is a few buttons being pushed and then Boom. Life as we know it will be over. The lucky ones will die in the initial attacks. Oh, god. It’s happening again. Just thinking about this fucking film is bringing it all back. What the fuck is the point?

Still, if you feel that happiness is a commodity that you just don’t need in your life anymore, I heartily recommend ‘Threads‘. It’s incredible and horrifying. Oh god, why? Why?

Threads: The Single Most Depressing Thing Man Kind Has Ever Put To Film.

I love post-apocalyptic films and games. Despite the harsh existence that the people living in the post nuclear war landscape have to eke out, they always seem fun, especially something like Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome or Fallout 3. So I decided to buy and watch the DVD of the BBC’s 1984 nuclear war drama, Threads. Spoilers ahead.

The synopsis promised a realistic look at what would happen if Britain were suddenly struck by nuclear weapons launched by then biggest threat to the Western World, the Soviet Union. I know what the effects of a massive nuclear launch would be, so I wasn’t expecting to be shocked by anything on screen. How wrong I was.

Let me start off by saying never ever watch Threads. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a brilliantly made drama, especially for the time it was made but if you ever want the possibility of happiness to be present in your life ever again, then you really should watch a Mad Max movie instead. Seriously, I think I may have killed joy by viewing this.

The story follows two families in Sheffield, one working class and one middle class. The two families are linked by the fact that the son of the working class family has gotten the daughter of the middle class family pregnant and they have become engaged to be wed. The first forty-five minutes follows their everyday lives whilst highlighting the fact that tension between the US and the Soviet Union are growing due to military movements by both sides in the Middle East.

The film is also interspersed with narration and text that highlights the fact that Sheffield would be a prime target for nuclear strike due to it’s economic value as a producer of steel and chemicals and it’s proximity to a US Air Force base. These little pieces of information continue to mount the tension as relations between the US and the Soviet Union continue to become increasingly strained.

Then the main event occurs. Britain is essentially nuke raped by the Commies. Sheffield itself is devastated, with buildings being flattened and bodies turned to ash in seconds and the pregnant girl‘s fiancée is killed. There are some who have built shelters but the film makes it perfectly clear that the radiation will destroy those peoples futures. Hooray!

The film then follows what happens to the survivors during the years following the nuclear strike. Nuclear winter sets in meaning that during the day illumination remains at twilight levels. This, compounded by massive radiation contamination of the earth, makes the growth of crops increasingly difficult. The ozone layer is massively depleted allowing increased ultra-violet exposure resulting in more instances of skin cancer, premature aging and cataracts and the population of Britain dwindles to medieval levels.

Children are being born more frequently with physical and mental mutations and even those who are born normal have no education and speak broken English. Their parents generally die before the children are able to take care of themselves and are many of them scamper through the ruined cities, trying to scavenge for food and clothing whilst avoiding the gunshots of people who shoot looters on sight.

I’ve pretty much avoided any major plot points of the story because, despite what I said earlier, I think it’s worth a watch. For a made for TV British production it’s all pretty good. The acting and special effects are a little dated but bearable. In fact the only things that don’t really hold up are the fashions and the haircuts. So yes, I’d highly recommend it. But if you do watch it, be warned. Once you watch something, you can’t unwatch it. I spent the day after viewing this film wandering around in a kind of daze, not entirely sure what the point in doing anything was.



Review: Dead Set by Jamie

I don’t know if I’ve made this clear in the past but I’m quite the fan of Zombie films. I’m not sure why. There’s just something mildly appealing about being one of the few last members of a doomed species surrounded by the undead who want nothing more than to consume your flesh. That may seem odd but who wouldn’t want to be one of those survivors, no more of the drudgery of everyday life, going to work and earning a wage but fighting back the shambling hordes just so you could say you survived. Yeah, for me the Zombie Apocalypse is escapism.

There’s also a fantastic sense of hopelessness in zombie films. In the best ones it seems as though once the infection has begun to spread then the fight is already over. The zombies have already won simply through sheer numbers. The infection often seems to be global and it seems as though it’s only a matter of time before the remaining survivors succumb to either a natural or unnatural end. This is why my favourite zombie films are the original Day and Dawn of the Dead. It’s made very clear in those films that the undead dominance is practically total. The same is also true of the absolutely fantastic piece of Zombie-related televisual entertainment I’ll be looking at today, Dead Set.

Now, let’s get one thing out of the way right at the outset. Dead Set’s zombies are the runners that are becoming more and more prominent throughout zombie fiction. Whilst still being a zombie purist and preferring the shambling, rotting kind who are no real threat on their own but amass in huge numbers causing survivors to become trapped and ideally turn on each other, I will admit that, when used correctly, the runners can be effective. This was perhaps best demonstrated recently in ‘Zombieland’. Running zombies were perfect for that film because the survivors didn’t spend most of their time trapped in one location. It was essentially a road movie and in that kind of film I can see why the runners would be more effective than the traditional Romero variety.

In Dead Set, the running zombies are effective but for different reasons that Charlie Brooker, the writer of this and all-around genius, has stated himself in response to friendly criticism he received from Simon Pegg, well known slow zombie advocate. Basically the runners are used due to budgetary constraints restricting the number of crowd shots, the need to differentiate itself from Pegg’s own ‘Shaun of the Dead’, and the fact that infection needed to spread quick enough to stop an evacuation of the studio being possible. That last one will make more sense once I get into the actual review which I seem to be having some difficulty in doing. Anyway, to sum up these are all fair enough reasons.

Right, to the synopsis then. ‘Dead Set’ starts off during an eviction night for the reality series Big Brother. Throughout the day there have been reports of massive riots or some such thing occurring throughout Britain but despite the possible ramifications of this, the producer decides to take Big Brother to air as normal. During the eviction, however, something horrific happens and before long the only people left alive are those inside the Big Brother house, unaware of what’s happening outside, a show runner, the producer and the evicted contestant. There are a couple of other survivors but the main focus is really on these and, later on, the show runners boyfriend who is trying to make his way to the Big Brother house.

The show runner, Kelly, soon finds out that the outside world is pretty much devoid of life and decides to make her way into the Big Brother house, what with it being possibly the safest place in the world right now. When she makes it inside the house mates think that she’s a new contestant, albeit a fairly crazy one. When a zombie manages to get in and bites one of them, however, they soon realise the situation they are in.

And that’s pretty much where I’m going to leave the synopsis. I’ll say right now that this really is a must watch. It’s available in all of it’s fantastic five part glory through Channel 4’s YouTube page here. My apologies to people outside the UK. I know how these things often work so I wouldn’t be surprised if you find some kind of content restriction message. You can always buy the region 2 DVD, which I would recommend for anyone if I’m honest. It’s always nicer to have a physical copy of something. There are of course other methods you could employ which I will no way endorse here.

So what makes Dead Set so pants-wettingly brilliant? Well, everything really. The very idea of taking Big Brother and putting a zombie apocalypse around it, is in itself a wonderfully simple idea and allows for all the satire and commentary that the best zombie films are known for. In this case it’s reality TV that’s on the chopping block, obviously, and the culture that surrounds it. All of the contestants are the kinds of twattish stereotypes that Big Brother and it’s generally twattish audience thrive on. From blonde bimbo to flamboyantly gay transvestite, all the archetypes are covered. There’s even that one who’s a little bit stupid but likeable enough that he’d probably never actually win. From what I’ve seen of Big Brother those are generally regarded as background characters who never get much screen time because they aren’t as twattish as their housemates. I need to stop using the word twattish.

What’s interesting is that most of the characters, whilst still retaining may of their stereotypical charactersitics, manage to undergo major developments. For example Veronica, the blonde bimbo character, upon finding out about the zombie apocalypse enquires “Does this mean we’re not on the telly anymore?” but by the end she’s able to come up with a plan in order to take down a zombie lose in the garden. It manages to take what should be a relatively unlikeable cast of people and make you care about them and what happens to them in a way that I imagine Big Brother itself would have trouble doing in two months of programming.

It’s also quite clear that a large portion of the zombies are drawn to the Big Brother house, something which makes sense because most of the people there probably where fans of the show who were turned on the night of the eviction and one of the contestants even muses that they the house was almost like a temple to them in life. This echoes Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ where it is theorised that the zombies come to the mall due to some fading half-memory of their former life in which they considered it to be an important place for them. In this case the people used to come here to feed on the micro-fame of the people inside the house and now they’re back to feed on them once more, only this time in a much more literal sense.

Of course, you could talk about the satire and social commentary in zombie films until the cows come home and I’m sure people will continue to do so until the inevitable real life Zombie Apocalypse. The most important thing is how is this invasion of the undead portrayed on screen and all I’ll say is that Dead Set does not disappoint. It is exquisitely gory, revelling in the dismemberment of people by the ravenous monsters. Seriously, for a TV mini-series it seems as though absolutely no punches were pulled. You get to see a zombie get it’s head smashed in with a fire extinguisher, a zombie being carved up for bait and British television ‘favourite’ Davina McCall getting her throat bitten out. The whole thing is enhanced by the fucking fantastic sound effects, each squelch and stab being presented in sickeningly, crisp detail. Awesome. Speaking of sounds, I should also say that setting the initial zombie outbreak to Mika’s ‘Grace Kelly’ was an ingenious idea.

Right, I think I’ve spoken enough about this now. If you haven’t watched it yet, find a way to do so and do it now! Five pints out of five. I‘ll be back tomorrow with either a new list, a review of ‘Antichrist’ or the remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ which I‘ve decided to rewatch after my softening on the whole running zombie thing. Laterz.



Top Ten TV Characters: Part 2 by Jamie
I’ve tried to avoid spoilers but in some cases it was pretty… well, unavoidable. In particular I’d skip number 3 if you haven’t seen the show. That’s a character that is very hard to describe without giving much away and I tried but I kinda failed. Right, let’s just get on with it, won’t we?

5: Dexter Morgan – Dexter

Dexter is a blood splatter analyst working for the Miami Police. He spends his day studying crime scenes in order to help find murderers. He spends his nights hunting those killers who happen to slip through the clutches of the law. Dexter has a ‘dark passenger’. Dexter is a serial killer.

His ‘dark passenger’ was born as a child when he was locked for hours with the dead body of his mother, the blood literally pooling around him. He was adopted by Harry, the first officer on the scene who soon recognised Dexter’s growing urge to kill. Harry knew that this compulsion would never go away so he decided to train Dexter, to imprint a code upon him. He would allow his adopted son to satiate his ‘dark passenger’ but only with those who truly deserved to die and couldn’t be brought to justice by any other means.

I’ve always been fascinated by serial killers… That came out wrong. Perhaps I should say that I’ve always been fascinated by the psychology of serial killers. Why do they do the terrible things that they do? Is it a case of nature? Are serial killers born? Is there something wrong with their brain from birth? Or are serial killers created? Is it some traumatic event in their childhood, some accident that causes brain damage or just a general shitty childhood in general? Wow, that’s a lot of questions.

What Dexter does well is portray that psychology. Admittedly it just gives one event in his life as the complete answer for his condition which I feel is often not the case in real life but as for the way Dexter describes his thought process, the compulsion to kill, it all seems fairly accurate. Dexter often displays some typical characteristics that are reported as being present in real life serial killers. He can be arrogant, selfish, cocky and often feels as though he has to act out emotion rather than having actual emotion. What keeps Dexter likeable is the code that Harry instilled in him and the fact that he does genuinely care about those that he chooses to get close to in real life. It also makes him somewhat redeemable despite his horrific actions.

When it comes down to it I find Dexter fascinating as a character especially the way he is portrayed by Michael C. Hall. I tried reading the first book that the series is based on but found the writers writing style very unappealing so I decided to just stick to the TV show. I heartily recommend it to everyone… Well, maybe not everyone.

4: Gabriel ‘Sylar’ Gray – Heroes

From the ‘good’ serial killer to very much the opposite. Gabriel Grey was a simple watch makers son who one day discovered he had an incredible gift. He had the ability to figure out complex problems but with it came a hunger. When Gabriel learned that he wasn’t the only one with special abilities, his hunger found its food source. He found that by killing other super powered humans and studying their brains he could gain their ability. With each kill a part of Gabriel died and he took on a new persona, the sociopath known as Sylar.

In the first season of Heroes there was no pretence with Sylar. If you had what he wanted, he knew that you had it then he as going to do everything in his power to take that from you. He’d have to kill you to take it but Sylar didn’t care. In fact, by the time he makes his first on screen appearance in Heroes it’s pretty clear that he has come to relish the act of killing, that he got great pleasure from not only taking a person’s ability but in making the powerful feel powerless. There’s also a dark wit and charm about Sylar’s character which keeps him from being too much of a monster.

Over the course of the show, Sylar’s character has developed in a few different ways. He had a spell of being powerless during the shows lacklustre second season but still maintained his murderous intent. In the third season he tried being good for a while with mixed results but it is when Sylar is at his most villainous that he’s a truly stand out character. When his need to gain more power, to become the most special person in the entire world is what’s driving him it’s what separates him from other on screen villains and makes him on that I’ll always enjoy.

3: Gaius Baltar – Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica is easily my favourite TV show of recent times. I came into it late, which turned out to be a blessing because I had three seasons to watch and finally caught up with everyone else just in time for the final episode. Choosing a favourite character should have been difficult. The show is populated with so many well written and well acted personas but clearly it was blatantly obvious who my favourite was right from the beginning.

Gaius Baltar is a lot like another character who will appear later in the list. He’s incredibly intelligent, charming and has an incredible aptitude for self preservation. He wilfully manipulates the people around him in order to get what he wants which for the most part seems to be security and keeping his part in the near extinction of humanity completely hidden. There are times when it seems as though he has absolutely no remorse for his part in the attack on the colonies, especially early on in the series but as the situation around him escalates it becomes clear that his actions then and since way heavily on his soul, particularly in the fourth season. Sure, he still acts mostly in his own best interest but there are times when he acts apparently selflessly or at least as selflessly as someone like Baltar can act.

It’s in the latter part of the last season that it seems as though Baltar is most earnestly seeking some form of redemption for his past and in the last episode in particular that I think he finally finds it. Ah, the last episode of Battlestar. It had some problems like too heavy a reliance on flashbacks but I really enjoyed it. It truly moved me and I think I can honestly say it’s the only time I’ve ever been choked up at the mention of farming.

2:  Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter – Only Fools and Horses

I’m not sure if Only Fools and Horses has ever been shown much anywhere outside the UK. I’ve certainly never heard it mentioned when people of foreign nations talk about our comedies but here in Britain it’s an institution like the Royal Family… except that everyone likes Only Fools and Horses. A slow starter, the show picked up momentum as it went on until it was probably the most watched sitcom at the time. I could check and see if that’s true but I’ve got a feeling it’s probably true so why bother.

The central lynch pin of this cultural juggernaut is Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter. That’s probably not fair actually. The true lynch pin are the relationships between the characters, in particular Del Boy, brother Rodney and their Granddad/Uncle Albert but I think it’s fair to say that Del Boy is probably the most beloved character from the show.

Derek is a cockney wheeler and dealer. He runs a market stall in Peckham and has no qualms about selling shoddy merchandise or the occasional batch of stock that “fell off the back of a truck”. He always has a plan for getting rich and was oft heard to say ‘This time next year, we’ll be millionaires’ to his long suffering brother. Long suffering because Del’s schemes would often land Rodney in some ridiculous situation which would infuriate or humiliate him to no end.

Del often showed a great deal of vanity, often going out of his way to show off and try to give the impression that he was in a higher position in life than his actual social class. He would dress in suits, bedeck himself in gold and drink extravagant looking cocktails. He also seemed to be under the impression that he could speak French fluently despite believing ‘menage a trois’ is an exclamation of surprise and ‘Pot Pourri’ is the French for I don’t believe it.

Despite all of his flaws, at heart Del Boy is a good man who truly loves and cares for his family, his brother in particular. Del will sometimes implement one of his crazy schemes for the express purpose of helping out Rodney, only to have the whole situation backfire. If someone is taking advantage of Rodney then Del will always try and help out. Most importantly Del is always there for Rodney, even if it may seem to Rodney that Del is only out for himself at first.

Finally David Jason, the actor who plays Del, gave us one of the finest pieces of physical comedy ever seen in these British Isles. Enjoy.

1: Edmund Blackadder – Blackadder

The Blackadder clan are, generally speaking, a bunch of bastards. Throughout every period of British history there has been an Edmund Blackadder, be they princes, noblemen, butlers or officers during World War 1. Now for the sake of this little write up, I’ll largely be ignoring Prince Edmund from the first series of Blackadder because he’s not really the character that most people would think of when they hear the name. I’ll just say that he was a snivelling coward without much intelligence who’s main importance is beginning the Blackadder dynasty. Also Brian Blessed played his father. Brian Blessed is awesome.

In the second season, the Prince’s bastard descendant was now Lord Blackadder, a favourite around the court of Queen Elizabeth the First. This character would set the standard for the descendants to follow. This Blackadder had a charm, a wit though was still essentially a coward just a far more dashing coward than his ancestor. Sarcasm drips from Edmund’s pores particularly when dealing with his two constant companions, the dim witted Percy (or George) and the disgusting dogsbody Baldrick. In fact it’s normally the people who surround Blackadder that force him into the unlucky situations that he finds himself in. More often than not Blackadder is the most competent person and it is those incompetents who are in higher positions of power that put Edmund in some sort of danger. Not to say that he doesn’t manage to get himself in to danger, normally through his boastful nature. It is then only his quick wit and intelligence coupled with his extreme sense of self-preservation that help him survive.

What Blackadder does best is poke fun at Britain’s history. It puts a kind of modern spin on the ludicrous nature of some of the biggest events in our past. From the superstition of the Dark Ages, the hero worship and falling out of favour of Walter Raleigh, the obsessive nature of Samuel Johnson right up to the madness of trench warfare in World War 1, Blackadder take a sideways, humorous and sometimes poignant look at them all. Speaking of which…

Goodbyeee….
Top Ten TV Characters: Part 2
I’ve tried to avoid spoilers but in some cases it was pretty… well, unavoidable. In particular I’d skip number 3 if you haven’t seen the show. That’s a character that is very hard to describe without given much away and I tried but I kinda failed. Right, let’s just get on with it, won’t we?
5: Dexter Morgan – Dexter
Dexter is a blood splatter analyst working for the Miami Police. He spends his day studying crime scenes in order to help find murderers. He spends his nights hunting those killers who happen to slip through the clutches of the law. Dexter has a ‘dark passenger’. Dexter is a serial killer.
His ‘dark passenger’ was born as a child when he was locked for hours with the dead body of his mother, the blood literally pooling around him. He was adopted by Harry, the first officer on the scene who soon recognised Dexter’s growing urge to kill. Harry knew that this compulsion would never go away so he decided to train Dexter, to imprint a code upon him. He would allow his adopted son to satiate his ‘dark passenger’ but only with those who truly deserved to die and couldn’t be brought to justice by any other means.
I’ve always been fascinated by serial killers… That came out wrong. Perhaps I should say that I’ve always been fascinated by the psychology of serial killers. Why do they do the terrible things that they do? Is it a case of nature? Are serial killers born? Is there something wrong with their brain from birth? Or are serial killers created? Is it some traumatic event in their childhood, some accident that causes brain damage or just a general shitty childhood in general? Wow, that’s a lot of questions.
What Dexter does well is portray that psychology. Admittedly it just gives one event in his life as the complete answer for his condition which I feel is often not the case in real life but as for the way Dexter describes his thought process, the compulsion to kill, it all seems fairly accurate. Dexter often displays some typical characteristics that are reported as being present in real life serial killers. He can be arrogant, selfish, cocky and often feels as though he has to act out emotion rather than having actual emotion. What keeps Dexter likeable is the code that Harry instilled in him and the fact that he does genuinely care about those that he chooses to get close to in real life. It also makes him somewhat redeemable despite his horrific actions.
When it comes down to it I find Dexter fascinating as a character especially the way he is portrayed by Michael C. Hall. I tried reading the first book that the series is based on but found the writers writing style very unappealing so I decided to just stick to the TV show. I heartily recommend it to everyone.
4: Gabriel ‘Sylar’ Gray – Heroes
From the ‘good’ serial killer to very much the opposite. Gabriel Grey was a simple watch makers son who one day discovered he had an incredible gift. He had the ability to figure out complex problems but with it came a hunger. When Gabriel learned that he wasn’t the only one with special abilities, his hunger found its food source. He found that by killing other super powered humans and studying their brains he could gain their ability. With each kill a part of Gabriel died and he took on a new persona, the sociopath known as Sylar.
In the first season of Heroes there was no pretence with Sylar. If you had what he wanted, he knew that you had it then he as going to do everything in his power to take that from you. He’d have to kill you to take it but Sylar didn’t care. In fact, by the time he makes his first on screen appearance in Heroes it’s pretty clear that he has come to relish the act of killing, that he got great pleasure from not only taking a person’s ability but in making the powerful feel powerless. There’s also a dark wit and charm about Sylar’s character which keeps him from being too much of a monster.
Over the course of the show, Sylar’s character has developed in a few different ways. He had a spell of being powerless during the shows lacklustre second season but still maintained his murderous intent. In the third season he tried being good for a while with mixed results but it is when Sylar is at his most villainous that he’s a truly stand out character. When his need to gain more power, to become the most special person in the entire world is what’s driving him it’s what separates him from other on screen villains and makes him on that I’ll always enjoy.
4: Gaius Baltar – Battlestar Galactica
Battlestar Galactica is easily my favourite TV show of recent times. I came into it late, which turned out to be a blessing because I had three seasons to watch and finally caught up with everyone else just in time for the final episode. Choosing a favourite character should have been difficult. The show is populated with so many well written and well acted personas but clearly it was blatantly obvious who my favourite was right from the beginning.
Gaius Baltar is a lot like another character who will appear later in the list. He’s incredibly intelligent, charming and has an incredible aptitude for self preservation. He wilfully manipulates the people around him in order to get what he wants which for the most part seems to be security and keeping his part in the near extinction of humanity completely hidden. There are times when it seems as though he has absolutely no remorse for his part in the attack on the colonies, especially early on in the series but as the situation around him escalates it becomes clear that his actions then and since way heavily on his soul, particularly in the fourth season. Sure, he still acts mostly in his own best interest but there are times when he acts apparently selflessly or at least as selflessly as someone like Baltar can act.
It’s in the latter part of the last season that it seems as though Baltar is most earnestly seeking some form of redemption for his past and in the last episode in particular that I think he finally finds it. Ah, the last episode of Battlestar. It had some problems like too heavy a reliance on flashbacks but I really enjoyed it. It truly moved me and I think I can honestly say it’s the only time I’ve ever been choked up at the mention of farming.
2:  Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter – Only Fools and Horses
I’m not sure if Only Fools and Horses has ever been shown much anywhere outside the UK. I’ve certainly never heard it mentioned when people of foreign nations talk about our comedies but here in Britain it’s an institution like the Royal Family… except that everyone likes Only Fools and Horses. A slow starter, the show picked up momentum as it went on until it was probably the most watched sitcom at the time. I could check and see if that’s true but I’ve got a feeling it’s probably true so why bother.
The central lynch pin of this cultural juggernaut is Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter. That’s probably not fair actually. The true lynch pin are the relationships between the characters, in particular Del Boy, brother Rodney and their Granddad/Uncle Albert but I think it’s fair to say that Del Boy is probably the most beloved character from the show.
Derek is a cockney wheeler and dealer. He runs a market stall in Peckham and has no qualms about selling shoddy merchandise or the occasional batch of stock that “fell off the back of a truck”. He always has a plan for getting rich and was oft heard to say ‘This time next year, we’ll be millionaires’ to his long suffering brother. Long suffering because Del’s schemes would often land Rodney in some ridiculous situation which would infuriate or humiliate him to no end.
Del often showed a great deal of vanity, often going out of his way to show off and try to give the impression that he was in a higher position in life than his actual social class. He would dress in suits, bedeck himself in gold and drink extravagant looking cocktails. He also seemed to be under the impression that he could speak French fluently despite believing ‘menage a trois’ is an exclamation of surprise and ‘Pot Pourri’ is the French for I don’t believe it.
Despite all of his flaws, at heart Del Boy is a good man who truly loves and cares for his family, his brother in particular. Del will sometimes implement one of his crazy schemes for the express purpose of helping out Rodney, only to have the whole situation backfire. If someone is taking advantage of Rodney then Del will always try and help out. Most importantly Del is always there for Rodney, even if it may seem to Rodney that Del is only out for himself at first.
Finally David Jason, the actor who plays Del, gave us one of the finest pieces of physical comedy ever seen in these British Isles. Enjoy.
1: Edmund Blackadder – Blackadder
The Blackadder clan are, generally speaking, a bunch of bastards. Throughout every period of British history there has been an Edmund Blackadder, be they princes, noblemen, butlers or officers during World War 1. Now for the sake of this little write up, I’ll largely be ignoring Prince Edmund from the first series of Blackadder because he’s not really the character that most people would think of when they hear the name. I’ll just say that he was a snivelling coward without much intelligence who’s main importance is beginning the Blackadder dynasty. Also Brian Blessed played his father. Brian Blessed is awesome.
In the second season, the Prince’s bastard descendant was now Lord Blackadder, a favourite around the court of Queen Elizabeth the First. This character would set the standard for the descendants to follow. This Blackadder had a charm, a wit though was still essentially a coward just a far more dashing coward than his ancestor. Sarcasm drips from Edmund’s pores particularly when dealing with his two constant companions, the dim witted Percy (or George) and the disgusting dogsbody Baldrick. In fact it’s normally the people who surround Blackadder that force him into the unlucky situations that he finds himself in. More often than not Blackadder is the most competent person and it is those incompetents who are in higher positions of power that put Edmund in some sort of danger. Not to say that he doesn’t manage to get himself in to danger, normally through his boastful nature. It is then only his quick wit and intelligence coupled with his extreme sense of self-preservation that help him survive.
What Blackadder does best is poke fun at Britain’s history. It puts a kind of modern spin on the ludicrous nature of some of the biggest events in our past. From the superstition of the Dark Ages, the hero worship and falling out of favour of Walter Raleigh, the obsessive nature of Samuel Pepys right up to the madness of trench warfare in World War 1, Blackadder take a sideways, humorous and sometimes poignant look at them all. Speaking of which…
Goodbyeee


Top Ten TV Characters: Part 1 by Jamie
Top 10 Television Characters
Yes it’s time once again to delve into the world of cinema’s little brother, the greatest tool of communication know to mankind, until their youngest brother the internet was born, television. TV, as the kids call it, has been there for our species for some time now. It’s helped us to view man walking on the moon, the fall of the Berlin wall and an endless stream of outrageous acts carried out by morons on thousands upon thousands of reality TV shows.
TV has also delivered some of the greatest characters from fiction in modern times. The very nature of television means that we can become incredibly attached to those heroes and villains that inhabit  the flickering box, more so than movie characters simply because we spend so much time and, in some cases, so much of our lives with them.
Now for a rule that I decided to impose on myself. I’ve decided that I’m only allowed to choose one character from each series. If I didn’t then this list would probably be made up by far few shows than I should and that would be stupid. Also no animated characters. They’ll get their own list. So with that out of the way, let’s get onto the list.
10: Mike Nelson – Mystery Science Theater 3000
Mystery Science Theater 3000 is still a very little know show in the UK which I think is a damn shame. Too often in this country we accuse the Americans of having no sense of wit, that their comedies are often boorish and low brow, though the tide has definitely been changing. Still this could all have been avoided if we’d only had MST3K since it’s beginning. The story is a classic one: A working class guy gets blasted into space on the Satellite of Love as part of an experiment by an evil genius to force him to watch bad movies. He builds a few robot companions in order to stave off space insanity and help him endure the cinematic shit fest that he is forced to watch.
The role of the human aboard the Satellite of Love was originally played by Joel Hodgson who managed to escape about halfway through the shows run. His place was taken by Mike Nelson, a hapless temp who the evil Dr. Forrester and his assistant TV’s Frank decide to send to the satellite as a replacement.
Now, my choice of Mike as my favourite character may be controversial among some long time MST3K fans but there seems to be a general consensus that your favourite host is generally the first one that you see and we in the UK only got the shows after Joel’s departure. Now I’ve seen many Joel episodes since thanks to the DVDs but Mike was my first host and will always be my favourite.
There’s something undeniably likeable about Mike. He’s a likeable, if sometimes dim-witted and naive fellow, without the technical expertise of Joel. There’s no doubt that he certainly wouldn’t have been able to build the ‘bots had he been the first one sent up. He’s just more of a regular Joe who suddenly finds himself in this ridiculous situation and he just tries to go along with it. And that’s great.
9: Dave Lister – Red Dwarf
From one working class schmuck stuck in space to another. Curry and lager loving Liverpudlian Dave Lister finds himself as the universes sole surviving human being after a radiation leak on the mining ship Red Dwarf causes him to be kept in stasis for 3 million years. His companions are a hologram of his former bunkmate, the insufferable Arnold Judas Rimmer, an evolved cat known simply as The Cat, a mildly senile super computer named Holly and, eventually, a neurotic service droid by the name of Kryten. (And eventually Kristine Kochanski as well but for the purpose of this piece I’m gonna kinda overlook those episodes.)
Lister is interesting as a character mainly because he’s lazy, slobby and a bit of a dick but in general eminently likeable. You can’t help but feel sorry for him because he finds himself in a universe where all of his best friends are dead, the love of his life is dead and the only company he has are a cast of misfits who all have as deeply flawed personalities as himself. Despite this Lister tries to make the best of a bad situation, possibly the worst situation one can find themselves in, and he seems to remain cheerful and optimistic even when things look there worse. And I can’t finish this section without mentioning that Lister was part of one of the funniest conversations ever committed to film:
8: Victor Meldrew – One Foot In The Grave
Victor Meldrew was the voice of anyone who ever got annoyed at anything. The grumpiest man in Britain, Victor’s annoyance at the smallest of inconveniences only seemed to worsen the situation to such a degree that it would often spiral off into the superbly surreal which would, of course, merely make Victor angrier and angrier much to the chagrin of his long suffering wife Margaret.
Victor’s lot in life wasn’t helped by the people who surrounded him such as Margaret’s friend, the mildly insane Jean Warboys and the insufferably cheerful neighbour Nick Swainey. And so it was that Victor Meldrew could have been just another nasty, old bitter git.
But he wasn’t. What made Victor a truly great character was that people could emphasise with him. He generally tried to do the right thing only to have the situation rapidly decline on him. He genuinely cared for his wife Margaret and would seem quite upset whenever she lost her temper with him. In fact I think it says something about the two characters that Victor would always become frustrated with the situation but rarely his wife whereas Margaret would often become frustrated with her husband when she couldn’t take anymore of his complaining. And I think people did feel sorry for Victor whenever Margaret got pissed off with him. After all, it wasn’t his fault that he was that way, it just seemed as though the world transpired against him. Besides it’s not many TV characters that had flowers left for them at the location of the scene where they were killed. That certainly says something about the impact Victor had on the British public.
7:

Yes it’s time once again to delve into the world of cinema’s little brother, the greatest tool of communication known to mankind, until their youngest brother the internet was born, television. TV, as the kids call it, has been there for our species for some time now. It’s helped us to view man walking on the moon, the fall of the Berlin wall and an endless stream of outrageous acts carried out by morons on thousands upon thousands of reality TV shows.

TV has also delivered some of the greatest characters from fiction in modern times. The very nature of television means that we can become incredibly attached to those heroes and villains that inhabit  the flickering box, more so than movie characters simply because we spend so much time and, in some cases, so much of our lives with them.

Now for a rule that I decided to impose on myself. I’ve decided that I’m only allowed to choose one character from each series. If I didn’t then this list would probably be made up by far few shows than I should and that would be stupid. Also no animated characters. They’ll get their own list. So with that out of the way, let’s get onto the list.

10: Mike Nelson – Mystery Science Theater 3000

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is still a very little know show in the UK which I think is a damn shame. Too often in this country we accuse the Americans of having no sense of wit, that their comedies are often boorish and low brow, though the tide has definitely been changing. Still this could all have been avoided if we’d only had MST3K since it’s beginning. The story is a classic one: A working class guy gets blasted into space on the Satellite of Love as part of an experiment by an evil genius to force him to watch bad movies. He builds a few robot companions in order to stave off space insanity and help him endure the cinematic shit fest that he is forced to watch.

The role of the human aboard the Satellite of Love was originally played by Joel Hodgson who managed to escape about halfway through the shows run. His place was taken by Mike Nelson, a hapless temp who the evil Dr. Forrester and his assistant TV’s Frank decide to send to the satellite as a replacement.

Now, my choice of Mike as my favourite character may be controversial among some long time MST3K fans but there seems to be a general consensus that your favourite host is generally the first one that you see and we in the UK only got the shows after Joel’s departure. Now I’ve seen many Joel episodes since thanks to the DVDs but Mike was my first host and will always be my favourite.

There’s something undeniably likeable about Mike. He’s a likeable, if sometimes dim-witted and naive fellow, without the technical expertise of Joel. There’s no doubt that he certainly wouldn’t have been able to build the ‘bots had he been the first one sent up. He’s just more of a regular Joe who suddenly finds himself in this ridiculous situation and he just tries to go along with it. And that’s great.

9: Dave Lister – Red Dwarf

From one working class schmuck stuck in space to another. Curry and lager loving Liverpudlian Dave Lister finds himself as the universes sole surviving human being after a radiation leak on the mining ship Red Dwarf causes him to be kept in stasis for 3 million years. His companions are a hologram of his former bunkmate, the insufferable Arnold Judas Rimmer, an evolved cat known simply as The Cat, a mildly senile super computer named Holly and, eventually, a neurotic service droid by the name of Kryten. (And eventually Kristine Kochanski as well but for the purpose of this piece I’m gonna kinda overlook those episodes.)

Lister is interesting as a character mainly because he’s lazy, slobby and a bit of a dick but in general eminently likeable. You can’t help but feel sorry for him because he finds himself in a universe where all of his best friends are dead, the love of his life is dead and the only company he has are a cast of misfits who all have as deeply flawed personalities as himself. Despite this Lister tries to make the best of a bad situation, possibly the worst situation one can find themselves in, and he seems to remain cheerful and optimistic even when things look there worse. And I can’t finish this section without mentioning that Lister was part of one of the funniest conversations ever committed to film:

8: Victor Meldrew – One Foot In The Grave

Victor Meldrew was the voice of anyone who ever got annoyed at anything. The grumpiest man in Britain, Victor’s annoyance at the smallest of inconveniences only seemed to worsen the situation to such a degree that it would often spiral off into the superbly surreal which would, of course, merely make Victor angrier and angrier much to the chagrin of his long suffering wife Margaret.

Victor’s lot in life wasn’t helped by the people who surrounded him such as Margaret’s friend, the mildly insane Jean Warboys and the insufferably cheerful neighbour Nick Swainey. And so it was that Victor Meldrew could have been just another nasty, old bitter git.

But he wasn’t. What made Victor a truly great character was that people could emphasise with him. He generally tried to do the right thing only to have the situation rapidly decline on him. He genuinely cared for his wife Margaret and would seem quite upset whenever she lost her temper with him. In fact I think it says something about the two characters that Victor would always become frustrated with the situation but rarely his wife whereas Margaret would often become frustrated with her husband when she couldn’t take anymore of his complaining. And I think people did feel sorry for Victor whenever Margaret got pissed off with him. After all, it wasn’t his fault that he was that way, it just seemed as though the world transpired against him. Besides it’s not many TV characters that had flowers left for them at the location of the scene where they were killed. That certainly says something about the impact Victor had on the British public.

7: Father Ted Crilly – Father Ted

On the remote wasteland known as Craggy Island there live three Catholic priests and a tea obsessed housemaid. The oldest priest is Father Jack Hackett, a foul mouthed, violent alcoholic who rarely leaves his fetid chair. The youngest priest is Father Dougal McGuire, a man-child who professes to having no belief in the afterlife and claims to believe in Darth Vader more than he does in God. The third is Father Ted Crilly. Ted is a man who’s plans for fame and fortune are ruined by those around him and ultimately by himself.

Ted came to live on Craggy Island as punishment for some event in the past, something about some charity money that was ‘just resting in his account.’ Ted’s ultimate goal is to leave Craggy Island the troglodytes who inhabit far behind him and set up a parish somewhere like Las Vegas or Los Angeles. This never comes to pass, however, in part due to the immense disdain his immediate superior, Bishop Brennan has for him. Also, much like Victor Meldrew, Ted’s problems often start as something small and mundane but as the episode progresses these things tend to spin out of control until it all comes to an crescendo, generally leaving Ted worse of than he was when the episode started.

Like many on this list, Ted is likeable despite having a seriously flawed personality. He’s greedy, cynical, pessimistic and sometimes takes just a little too much delight in getting back at others, particularly when he wins a Golden Cleric resulting in a speech which last for hours and is full of distain for all those who have ‘fecked him over’ in the past. Ted’s likeability is probably increased by the fact that in the strange and surreal world of Craggy Island, he’s probably the most normal person there is, making him something of a reality anchor for the viewers.

6: Bernard Black – Black Books

Bernard Black is the epitome of characters who we like despite massive personal failings. He’s an alcoholic, pessimistic, argumentative misanthrope who isn’t happy unless he’s drinking wine or insulting someone. For some reason he owns a book shop despite his apparent loathing of everything to do with owning a shop. The only thing Bernard really likes about his shop is his books and the fact that, as his own boss, he can drink whenever he wants.

He’s abusive towards his assistant Manny Bianco, who’s biggest crime seems to be having  a cheery outlook on life, something Bernard apparently abhors. There’s also the fact that Manny tries to help Bernard around the shop, once selling every book which infuriated Bernard as it meant he had to deal with the distributor and order more books. Despite this it is shown that on the occasions Manny left Bernard to his own devices, either by quitting or running away, Bernard was reduced to even more of a mess than normal, barely able to function on a human level. The only other person in Bernard’s life is his best (and possibly only) friend, Fran Katzenjammer. The two share a number of similar characteristics which aids them in getting along, namely smoking and drinking.

Like all of the great arsehole characters in television, Bernard has a softer side which occasionally shines through. He has shown that he shy and awkward around women, he develops a certain jealousy and possessiveness whenever Manny finds other friends to hang out with, he’s certainly intelligent, though he generally seems to do nothing with his intelligence, and obviously loves reading and he genuinely seems to be scared or confused by the outside world, choosing instead to hide from it in a drunken haze inside his shop. It is also revealed that his general outlook on life may have been caused by an incident involving an old fiancée.

Well that’s it for now. Come back for more tomorrow. Laterz.




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