Unordered List

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Big Bang Press: Only a few hours left to pre-order books on Kickstarter!!

Sorry I've been kind of absent for the past few weeks -- I've been busy running the Kickstarter for Big Bang Press, a crowdfunding campaign to publish three awesome original novels by fanfic authors. We're mostly doing this through pre-sales, so basically backers just pre-order a book, and that pays for us to do all the publishing and publicity stuff! You can learn more about BBP on our Kickstarter page or website, but here's the lowdown on the three books themselves. Click on the titles for more info, and to read excerpts from each book.

Savage Creatures by Natalie Wilkinson (febricant), is a dark, twisted urban fantasy story taking place in a version of Europe not too far from our own. Shapeshifter Francis Harding is forced to hire a decidedly disreputable investigator to help track down his missing sister. Described by the author as “a book about terrible people being terrible to each other,” Savage Creatures is a grippingly weird psychological thriller.
Juniper Lane by Kady Morrison (gyzym), is a lyrical and clever literary fiction romance about two young women navigating life in suburban hell. In the words of our Editor-in-Chief, Morgan Leigh Davies, “Basically, this book is Jonathan Franzen if Jonathan Franzen were a queer woman with a heart and a sense of humor that hadn’t been corroded by decades of profound misery and bitterness about the world.”
A Hero at the End of the World by Erin Claiborne (eleveninches), is a hilarious satire on “chosen one” narratives in Young Adult fantasy fiction. You know the drill: a teen boy is prophecied to defeat the Dark Lord and save the world. The only problem is: he doesn’t. After a lifetime of being told he’s the Chosen One, Ewan Mao chickens out at the last minute, and his best friend Oliver ends up killing the Dark Lord instead. Five years later, Oliver is a celebrity while Ewan works in a coffee shop and still lives with his parents. That is, until a magical cult tracks Ewan down and offers him an intriguing way to earn back his hero status.

All three novels are by talented fanfic authors who want to make the leap into original fiction publishing, without abandoning their fandom roots. The cover art will be drawn by three fanartists: hydrae (A Hero at the End of the World), quaedam (Juniper Lane) and longerrpigs (Savage Creatures), along with extra interior illustrations as per our $45,000 stretch goal, which we've already reached! If we manage to hit $50,000 before the Kickstarter closes, we'll include signed bookplates in every physical book, as an exclusive upgrade for everyone who supported us on Kickstarter. :D

Why you should back Big Bang Press on Kickstarter
With just a few hours left before the end of our KS campaign, we’ve raised enough money from pre-orders to get all three books published and pay for extra interior illustrations. However! Pledging on Kickstarter isn’t just about funding these books. Every single reward level, from $1 to our top reward at $1000+, offers exclusive content that will NEVER be available to ordinary readers who buy the books in stores later on. Our most popular rewards include:
  • Behind-the-scenes commentary packs with exclusive story content from the authors, character sheets for each book, sketches from the illustrators, and letters from the publishing team.
  • Personalised postcard updates from the authors.
  • Up to 10,000 words of extra writing (ie, a short story) from each of the authors.
  • Art prints.
  • A MYSTERY BOX containing personal gifts from every individual at BBP.
And that’s just a handful of the rewards we’re offering! To learn more, check out our Kickstarter page. Over 1000 people have backed BBP so far, with the most popular reward being $25: all three ebooks, plus exclusive backer updates. We’ve seen a lot of support from the fandom community so far (our books have already inspired fanart!), along with some pretty flattering media attention from blogs and news sites like io9, HelloGiggles and Book Business magazine.

The Kickstarter campaign ends at 1.43am EST, Sunday Dec. 22. That means there’s still time to become a backer! And even if you can’t afford anything right now, you can still support these books by sharing links on social media and reblogging this post on Tumblr to spread the word.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Agents of SHIELD: It's actually good now!?

Previously on Agents of SHIELD.

Since there's no episode of Agents of SHIELD this week, I thought now would be to catch up with my reviews. Sorry I haven't posted in a while! I've been busy launching a publishing press that prints and publicises original novels by talented fanfic authors. You should check us out! There are book excerpts on our website (young adult satire! queer romance lit! urban fantasy noir!), alongside cover art and info about why a project like this is such a good idea for people in fandom.

If you don't watch AoS, or if you (understandably) lost interest after a few episodes, then you really need to reevaluate your decision because this show has improved A LOT. I have no idea what happened between episodes 5 and 6, but if you read any of my earlier reviews, you'll know that I was very critical of the first half of the season. Now I'm wondering just what the hell was going on, because a switch flipped during episode 6 and the show has been steadily improving ever since. Here's my rundown of the season so far:
  • Episode 1: Entertaining, for a pilot episode (and I usually hate pilots).
  • Episodes 2-5: Increasingly frustrating, both in terms of general quality (dialogue, characterisation, episodic storylines, etc) and as a sci-fi/genre show. Almost no worldbuilding, character development, or emotionally compelling scenes. There is no way I would've kept watching, if not for Clark Gregg + the Marvel connection.
  • Episode 6: Suddenly?? Actual emotions are happening?? Agent Ward almost does something interesting enough for me to stop hoping he'll drop dead, and FitzSimmons are brilliant.
  • Episode 7: Super fun. Simmons and Skye get to be hilarious together. SHIELD Agent Victoria Hand is introduced, and I greatly enjoy the fact that she is much taller than Coulson. We FINALLY get two of the main things I was hoping for: a real look at SHIELD's unethical behaviour as a quasi-governmental organisation, and some details of the inner workings of SHIELD HQ.
  • Episode 8: Directed by Jonathan Frakes (!?) AKA Commander Riker from Star Trek: TNG, and director of two Star Trek movies. Real, solid links to the Marvel movie universe, played out in an interesting and reasonably unpredictable way. Ward and May hook up, to my utter astonishment. More on that later.
Which brings us to the most recent episode, "Repairs," a ghost story that finally makes good on the expectations I had for Agents of SHIELD in the first place. I'm actually quite stunned by how quickly this show transformed from being almost unwatchable (unless you're a seriously involved Marvel fan or a small child) to being smart and entertaining. And that's down to a sudden change in not just one, but multiple aspects of the show.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Thor: The Dark World, Part 2: Female characters & representation.

Previously: Part 1, Heroes & Villains.

I was extremely careful not to read any spoilers before I saw this movie, which is just as well because it's VERY spoilery. The one thing I did see beforehand was part of a review that said Jane's role was mostly to "faint on cue", which made me rather apprehensive. There's probably going to be a lot of debate over this among fans, but I personally thought the depiction of women in Thor: TDW was very good. If Jane had been the only female character, I wouldn't have been pleased by the fact that she fainted a lot, but there are four women in this movie (one more than in The Avengers, which had a far larger ensemble cast), and each of them has an important role in their own right. On the simplest level, this is how representation works: the more women you have in your movie, the more leeway you have to let one of them be "weak" -- whatever that means.
Jane's characterisation is very solid thanks to the first movie, and I appreciate the number of publicity interviews Natalie Portman has done where she talks about strength of character vs. the concept of "strong female characters". Sif is a warrior. Frigga is an witch and a diplomat and a mother, who can fight if she has to. Jane is brave and curious and smart, but she's not a fighter. Darcy is independent and fun and "normal". All four of those characters are "emotional", but not in a way that's coded to make them seem hysterical/weepy/stupid, which is often how some people interpret "emotional" female characters. A female character who faints a lot sets off alarm bells because we associate it with swooning damsels in distress, but a female character who has no weaknesses is a more insidious problem. I suppose they probably could've done better than Jane being Maguffinised for half the movie, but I think it worked in the context of her being the mortal girlfriend of a near-indestructable alien, which I can only assume will be the primary conflict in the Thor/Jane romance storyline in any potential sequels.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Thor: The Dark World, Part 1: Heroes and Villains.

SPOILER WARNING: There are spoilers for Thor: The Dark World throughout this post!

I recommend watching this movie back-to-back with Thor, as it really emphasises the way the two stories shift from personal character journey to sweeping epic. I watch A LOT of superhero movies, but this was probably the best graduation from origin story to sequel that I've seen so far. Thor is purposefully the reverse of your typical superhero character arc because instead of struggling with superpowers and learning how to become a hero, he's learning how to be a fallible human and not have superpowers. Even the obligatory daddy issues are far more interesting than usual, because Odin is an actual character rather than a long-dead ghost or an avatar of lofty paternal expectations.
Thor's unusually well-drawn characterisation means that there's a solid base on which to make The Dark World a sci-fi/fantasy epic with an ensemble cast, instead of just another superhero movie where the central character hits Bad Guys until they give up. I was also pleasantly surprised by how complex it was -- not that I'm suggesting it's a particularly deep and meaningful cinematic work, but more that it was one of the most unpredictable (and rewatchable) superhero movies I've seen so far. If you look at the Thor-Loki arc over the course of their three movies together, Thor is about Loki running rings around everyone because they're all straight-shooting warrior types. The Avengers is about Loki finally meeting his match, in the form of Black Widow (intellectually) and the Avengers themselves (because Friendship and Teamwork triumph over Evil, obviously). Finally we reach Thor: TDW, in which Thor has learned from his mistakes and manages to fool Loki himself.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Captain America vs. Agents of SHIELD.


I love the new trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but I get the distinct impression that it's going to kick Agents of SHIELD in the balls. Without going into too much detail, AoS is suffering from a bizarre problem of portraying SHIELD agents as "the good guys" while having them do objectively terrible stuff like wiretapping, kidnapping and shooting civilians, and dumping American prisoners overseas with no money or ID. In most episodes so far, the antagonists have seemed more sympathetic (from a real-world standpoint) than the ostensibly likeable heroes, which is actually more confusing than the way SHIELD was depicted in The Avengers: ie, as an ethically ambiguous government agency, run by a decidedly shady individual. CA:TWS seems to be going the Avengers route with regards to SHIELD and Nick Fury, which is seriously going to screw with AoS's weirdly happy-go-lucky attitude towards acting like assholes in the name of homeland security.
This trailer is really promising on so many levels. Captain America has one of the few origin stories that I actually enjoy on its own merits, unlike Batman, Superman and Spider-Man, whose origin stories are all very overplayed. Cap appeals to me as a hero for the oppressed and downtrodden, in a way that I don't think is really covered by the other classic superheroes. A lot of his power is tied up in marketing and patriotism, which has the potential to be very subversive because he looks like this all-American cheerleader dude but Steve Rogers' own principles are a lot more liberal/socialist/anti-establishment than you might expect. There's a reason why there's a whole subgenre of fanfic dedicated to Steve Rogers in the 21st century, making public media statements in favour of LGBT rights and feminism, you know? So I'm really psyched to any possible hints of this in the trailer, including Cap walking past a giant banner of his own face. WHAT WAS THE PUBLIC REACTION TO AN AMERICAN ICON RETURNING FROM THE DEAD?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Only Lovers Left Alive: The one movie you MUST see next year.

Note: There are no plot spoilers in this post! I was going to hold off until the movie was on general release, but apparently that's not until Spring 2014 and I just couldn't wait.

I can't overemphasise how much I loved this movie. For sheer entertainment value it's tied with Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing for my favourite film of 2013, but it wins out in terms of sheer oddness and originality. The premise is already brilliant (Tilda Swinton! And Tom Hiddleston! As a pair of immortal vampire lovers!) but the plethora of promotional clips and images can't prepare you for what the film is actually like. Most notably, the fact that OLLA is genuinely -- and intentionally -- hilarious. I was lucky enough to see it at the BFI Festival in London this weekend, and the entire audience was laughing all the way through, often loud enough to drown out some of the dialogue. It's a delightful, sly kind of humour. Not remotely based on the kind of horror movie homage jokes you might expect from a movie that falls into the genre of "vampire romance".
Eve (Tilda Swinton) and Adam (Tom Hiddleston) in Tangier.
OLLA avoids almost all cinema tropes associated with vampires, which is pretty impressive when you consider that people have been making vampire movies since the birth of cinema. Obviously the film retains some essential aspects -- blood-drinking, avoidance of sunlight -- but they're treated quite casually. There's also a noticeable absence of the kind of sexual/romantic vampirism tropes we're used to seeing, with the main vampire characters acting less like voracious, eternally youthful predators, and more like lethargic intellectual shut-ins. The focus is on Adam and Eve's relationship, and how their lives are shaped by immortality.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Agents of SHIELD: Eye Spy.

Previously on Agents of SHIELD: The Asset.

This week's episode didn't really have enough... content... to deserve a full review. So! Have some bullet points.
  • Clark Gregg really was performing at maximum Cute Dad status in this one, wasn't he?
  • I can't tell if Skye's incredibly awkward ~emotional bonding~ dialogue is just bad writing, or if she's purposefully trying to get on Coulson's good side in order to better infiltrate SHIELD. Either way, this show still appears to think that it's OK for characters to literally narrate their character development directly to the audience??
  • If Skye is trying to infiltrate SHIELD by getting all friendly with Coulson, I assume that Coulson will see through it. Then, in the finale, there'll be a revelation scene where he's all, "I'm disappointed in you, Skye," and then she'll decide to side with SHIELD after all. Coulson always plays the long game.
  • Agent Ward was marginally less dull than usual. Partly because the glasses gave him a distinguishing feature so he could avoid looking like a walking mannequin.

  • I read some interview with the actor who plays Ward, where he said he'd been given advice by Nathan Fillion on how to navigate being a central actor in a Whedonverse TV show. As in, how to tackle being passionately loved by thousands of superfans. But seriously: this guy is NOT Nathan Fillion, and AoS is only barely a Whedonverse show. It's Whedon-adjacent, at best. And Agent Ward is the kind of square-jawed personality vaccuum that would only show up in shows like Buffy or Firefly so the main characters could make fun of them.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Fifth Estate: Don't. Just, don't.

It often feels kinda cheap to ~review a movie just to tear it apart, but OH MY GOD The Fifth Estate was so terrible that I need to do this for catharsis purposes. And also to warn you that unless you're a die-hard Cumberbatch fan, you need to avoid this movie like the plague. Even the graphics over the intro credits were bizarrely cheesy -- ironically enough, since there's actually a scene in the movie where Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl, doing his best with some bad material) makes fun of Julian Assange for using shitty graphics during an early Wikileaks presentation. The overall tone was that of an early-2000s TV movie with an inexplicably high budget for casting world-famous actors in meaningless supporting roles.
To give you an idea of what you're in for if you do masochistically decide to watch this movie: it includes an actual scene where ~hacker code~ is projected across Benedict Cumberbatch's face while he types. JUST LIKE A CYBERPUNK MOVIE FROM 15 YEARS AGO. For real. If you were to ask me, What's the worst possible cliche you could include in a supposedly-serious movie about hackers? I'd answer immediately: code being projected across someone's face while they type. For those of you who have managed to miss out on this classic ~cyber~ movie detail, it was used during the hacking scene in Jurassic Park. Which came out in 1993. Not only this, but there's also at least one scene where Assange and Daniel Berg communicate via chat, while on opposite sides of the same table, and you see the chat scrolling across the screen and spoken in a voiceover at the same time. Needless to say, the chat is full of perfect grammar and punctuation, which as we all know is exactly how people communicate on the internet.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Costume design TED Talk: From Clothing to Character. (Plus some notes on Sleepy Hollow.)

I thought some of you guys might be into this: A TED Talk about costume design! Kristin Burke is a pro costume designer and has a lot to say about the way costumes influence our perceptions of characters onscreen. Which, as you probably know, is my #1 favourite topic. It's an interesting talk, and the YouTube comments are still at the stage where no one is having a flamewar about Hitler, and someone has actually asked a pretty sensible question, ie: "HOW DID SHE GET OUT OF THE TRUCK?" (... Now you have to watch the video to find out how she got into the truck.)



I actually found out about this video because I follow Kristin Burke on Twitter (@frocktalk), so I've also noticed that she designs the costumes for the Sleepy Hollow TV series. A job which seems to involve being very patient with the hundreds of people who are obsessed with whether or not Ichabod Crane (an 18th century time traveler, more or less) is ever going to change his clothes.
So many Sleepy Hollow fans are fixating on this detail that I've even had a few messages about it myself, despite the fact that I haven't even watched past the pilot episode. I'm afraid I'm not gonna start recapping Sleepy Hollow, but I will repost my thoughts on Ichabod Crane's costume:

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Agents of SHIELD: The Asset.

PREVIOUSLY: Agents of SHIELD, 0-8-4.

This episode was super important because it guest-starred our first Harry Potter crossover actor, future supervillain Professor Quirrell. Definitely a step up from last week, because the science maguffin was way more central to the overall plot. Last week's gamma bomb was kind of embarrassing because they made it out to be this catastrophically big deal, but in the end Fitz just used it to blow a six-foot hole in the side of the plane. Sure, "Gravitonium" is a silly name, but the whole Big Whirring Gadget/evil Tony Stark-alike idea is a classic sci-fi plot, and this show works best when it's playing around with familiar genre cliches. "The Asset" managed a decent balance between sci-fi ridiculousness, heist shenanigans, and character development. Way better than last week's decidedly transparent excuse to get the team to bond during their first mission.
The only problem with the underground bunker/pseudoscience schtick is that I end up comparing Agents of SHIELD to The Middleman... and AoS does not measure up. Which is kind of a bummer, because Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen are good writers, and AoS has the whole weight of Marvel behind it. Meanwhile, The Middleman had about a fraction of the audience, no well-known actors in the main cast, and was still snappier, funnier, and more consciously genre-savvy -- while still being goofy and child-friendly. I'm still enjoying AoS, but the backstory development and worldbuilding is disappointingly slow-paced and lacking in detail. Plus, they need to dial back Ward's screentime by about 90% and replace him with more Melinda May, for real.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Agents of SHIELD: 0-8-4.

Previously: Marvel's Agents of O.M.G.

Ah, the second episode. The one where the shine begins to wear off the frenetic energy of the pilot’s introductory scenes, and we must get down to the dirty work of establishing a believable character dynamic. The one where they spent all their budget on Samuel L. Jackson, so 90% of the story has to take place inside the plane. The one where Clark Gregg wears a really nice suit.
I already suspect that Coulson's superpower is removing skeeviness from situations that I'd ordinarily find stupid or gross. In this episode it was the old ~seductive latina~ thing, merged with the ever-popular "evil ex-girlfriend" trope. The only reason they got away with this is because it made sense within the narrative, and the Camilla Reyes/Agent Coulson interactions were just... really good, basically. The hot ex-girlfriend is a staple of episodic TV, because it's an easy way to introduce a single-use love interest without the hassle of building up a new relationship. If she's attacked to a manly hero dude, then she's usually there to reinforce his hetero cred and inject some romance into his character arc. If she's the ex-girlfriend of an unappealing or socially maladjusted male character, then she's a hilarious punchline.

The only show that springs to mind as being good at this is Starsky & Hutch, because it was the 1970s and everyone was dating like five people at once. Bizarrely, I get way fewer douchebag vibes from Starsky & Hutch than most mainstream cop/adventure shows airing in the 21st century.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

RICK OWENS: awesome, awesome, awesome.

I didn't post about this (AMAZING) show on HelloTailor because I was writing about it elsewhere. So...
Finally, a Paris Fashion Week show that gives us something to cheer about.
Until this week, fashion designer Rick Owens was mostly known for creating gothic, grunge-inspired clothes that wouldn’t look out of place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. But thanks to his Spring 2014 show at Paris Fashion Week, he’s now famous for introducing one of the most diverse and rebellious runway shows in recent memory.

Even if you make every effort to ignore the mainstream fashion industry, you’ll still have a fairly accurate mental image of what “models” are supposed to look like: tall, thin, expressionless... and usually white. This Thursday, Rick Owens broke the mold by employing a mostly African American cast of college step-dancers (a combination of cheerleading and military drill) to “walk” his new collection down the runway.

Compared to the size zero, predominantly white models of most womenswear shows, it was a shocking display of diversity. Not to mention a lot livelier than your run-of-the-mill fashion show where models calmly walk in a line from one end of the room to the other. [READ MORE]

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Marvel's Agents of O.M.G.

As a Marvel movie nerd, a Joss Whedon fan, and a person with twelve life-size cardboard cutouts of Agent Coulson strategically placed around their house*, I was somewhat looking forward to this show. "Somewhat", in that I've watched the trailer 470 times and basically spent the entire episode making muffled screaming noises. I thought I should get this caveat out of the way before we started, because I am 100% gonna be reviewing Agents of SHIELD from the perspective of a fan. Is it a silly show? Is it a low-budget spinoff of a movie that pretty much defines the high-budget blockbuster genre? Is it almost certainly going to be more child-friendly and populist than Joss Whedon's previous work? Yes, yes, and yes. But do any of these details have any negative impact on my enjoyment of the show? Take a wild guess.

*if only.
Just to provide the illusion that this is a fair and balanced review, here are the things that I didn't like about this episode:
  • People kept using the word "tech" like it wasn't a filler word. "Quick, hand me the Unobtainium, Agent Nolastname!" Stop this.
  • Idiotic line about "sweaty cosplay girls". Joss Whedon should know better.
  • Uninteresting costume design. But I'm willing to excuse this because a) it's a pilot episode, and b) most of the characters are secret agents who have to look as boring as possible for work purposes. Clark Gregg looked amazing though, obviously. Although I doubt they've retained the Dolce & Gabbana product endorsement from the Avengers movies. 
Other than these three minor quibbles, Agents of SHIELD was extremely enjoyable and I look forward to making muffled screaming noises throughout many episodes to come. 

Monday, 23 September 2013

Spring 2014 Fashion Week: Victoria Beckham, Fausto Puglisi, Vivienne Westwood Red Label, and Chris Kane.

Previously on Spring 2014: Ralph Lauren, Theyskens' Theory, Duro Olowu and Tom Ford.

Fausto Puglisi
I love it when designers attempt to describe their new collection in one simple soundbite. It's Stonehenge meets The Hamptons! It's Hollywood meets Star Wars! It's Kraftwerk meets The Craft! Fausto Puglisi attempted to jazz up his first catwalk show by labeling it with the deliciously meaningless publicity soundbite of "Carolina Herrera meets Axl Rose". Thank you, thank you! These clothes are definitely just like a cross between an aging, unwashed douche-rocker, and a super-feminine couture gown designer. What a great description. (In that they are relatively normal-looking skirts and dresses, with a slight leatherwork element. NAILED IT.)
All images via Style.com.

You may be shocked to learn that Fausto Puglisi is a man. He also seems to be somewhat unfamiliar with the concept of breasts. Like for example, this "harness bra" (LOL) may have been manufactured by Tuscan saddlemakers, but that doesn't mean it's very well-designed as an item of boob-regalia. Don't get me wrong! It looks pretty cool, in a bondage/punk kinda way. But there are some things that are just so uncomfortable-looking that, even as a fashion nerd, I have to take a step back and say, "Steady on, pal." First of all, only a tiny fraction of the female population are flat-chested enough for this whole harness bra idea to be a remotely plausible life choice. Secondly, why would you put a tight leather buckle strap directly over your nipples? I guess it would be slightly better if worn over a shirt, but I'm pretty sure that would be the socks-and-sandles of the bra world, and therefore kind of a faux pas.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Spring 2014: Ralph Lauren, Theyskens' Theory, Duro Olowu and Tom Ford.

Previously on Spring 2014: The Row, J.W. Anderson, Prabal Gurung and Peter Pilotto.

Ralph Lauren
I have mixed feelings on the topic of Ralph Lauren, mostly because I used to work for them and therefore lived through several months of semi-successful corporate brainwashing. Without the brainwashing, my feelings would be decidedly un-mixed, because their designs are largely dull as balls. As it stands, I know way more about Ralph Lauren than any other designer, which forces me to think critically about the brand as a whole. Ugh.
All images via Style.com
Ralph Lauren's high-end work (ie, the stuff you see at Fashion Week) is occasionally interesting, but their lower-price labels are generally an exercise in non-fashion. The purpose of Ralph Lauren clothes is to maintain a supposedly timeless preppy/equestrian/American royalty look, which primarily means a lot of v-neck sweaters, beige, faux prep schoolwear, and touches of feminised "menswear-inspired" shirts and blazers. The ideal Ralph Lauren woman is rich and vaguely sporty, but not really interested in "fashion" so much as interested in looking... rich and vaguely sporty. While other major labels like Dior and Chanel do rely on a certain amount of recycling in order to retain a recognisable brand style, Ralph Lauren is basically in a constant state of self-consumption.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Spring 2014: The Row, J.W. Anderson, Prabal Gurung and Peter Pilotto.

It's been a while since I did any fashion writing, so for new readers... My unscientific method of reviewing Fashion Week is that I only pick the clothes I actually find interesting, whether it's because they seem genuinely innovative/attractive, or just because they're so goddamn ugly. Sadly the vast majority of Fashion Week shows are so dull that I can't muster the spiritual energy to write about them. So without further ado: Some of my favourite outfits from the start of the Spring 2014 season.

The Row
It was a smart decision for the Olsen Twins to name their label "The Row" rather than, you know, "Mary-Kate and Ashley". By now they've proven themselves when running a fashion empire -- not to mention being famed for their personal style (which was mostly shaped by real-life Cruella deVille and professional eating disorder enabler Rachel Zoe, but whatevs). Any lingering doubts over the Twins' ability to run a fashion label are probably because The Row has now evolved past what the Olsens wear in real life -- which doesn't necessarily mean The Row is not still "theirs".
All images via Style.com.
Designing for yourself is the easiest way to quickly hone a personal brand, which is why most celebrity designers (whether it's "real" designers like Victoria Beckham, or just glorified fashion endorsements from a Kardashian) tend to go that route, at least at first. The most successful celebrity fashion label is Jessica Simpson's, for the dual reasons that a) you always know what you're getting, and b) her label caters to plus-size women. While they are respected by critics, the clothes displayed by Victoria Beckham and The Row during fashion week are unlikely to reach Jessica Simpson's level of financial success because you have to be rich and thin in order to wear them. Luckily for her, nobody expects Victoria to cater to the commoners, while the Olsens have several lower-tier labels to fall back on.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Harry Potter, costume design, and wizarding fashion in 1920s New York. (Part 2)

Previously: Part 1.

Most wizarding robes in the Harry Potter movies are a combination of bell-sleeved faux medieval robes, and old-fashioned suits. Gilderoy Lockhart looks like a 19th century dandy, Cornelius Fudge wears a three-piece pinstripe suit and bowler hat, and Remus Lupin dresses like an impoverished mid-20th-century academic. There's a variety of quite disparate looks in the wizarding world, but they all have a few things in common: mixed patterns, heavy fabrics, and multiple layers of tailoring. So even though most of the costumes incorporate elements of Muggle styles, they still don't look like something you'd often see on your morning commute. However, as I previously pointed out, they regularly rely on a late-19th/early-20th century aesthetic, meaning that the costume designer for Fantastic Beasts would be wise to go in a different direction. Personally, my first decision would be to radically alter the silhouette and fabric used for wizarding fashions overall.

The first thing you need to know about 1920s fashion is that everything uses a very flowing silhouette. The masculine and feminine ideals are very different from what we see today, right down to things like placement of muscle tone and fat, and general proportions. This is slightly more the case for women than for men, but men's suits are still pretty different in shape and cut from the way they look today. Also, the modern concept of flappers is pretty much a total fiction, which is one of the reasons why I never reviewed the latest Great Gatsby movie, and why I'm eternally frustrated by the concept of "flapper parties" and faux-1920s fashion spreads.

Costume design, JK Rowling's new Harry Potter movie, and the wizarding fashions of 1920s New York.

JK Rowling announced yesterday that she's teaming up with Warner Brothers to make a new series of Harry Potter movies, instantly causing the the top of my head to flip open with excitement. The HP books shaped my childhood, and my love of the series was recently rekindled when I got to report at LeakyCon London Harry Potter convention last month. The prospect of an entirely new story set in the wizarding universe already has me grinding valium into my martini. STAY CHILL, SELF. IT WON'T BE OUT FOR ANOTHER TWO YEARS. We need to set up a Harry Potter-related group therapy session, stat.

The new movie(s) will focus on Newt Scamander, the author of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, the definitive textbook on magical creatures. He already seems to me like an ideal choice of protagonist, because he has a strong connection to the wizarding universe but no real link to the events of the Harry Potter series. I'd be very leery of a Harry Potter spinoff that seemed to act as a prequel or sequel to the series itself, but I feel like JKR is pretty unlikely to do that anytime soon. Most interestingly, the Fantastic Beasts movie will take place 70 years prior to Harry Potter (ie, the 1920s), and begins in New York. I'm already brimming with speculation over what this means in terms of worldbuilding and, of course, how the costumes are going to look.
The Harry Potter books are so utterly British (and JK Rowling is so amazing at writing about the British class system) that I'm already enthralled by the idea of a story about a former Hogwarts student in New York City. We learn virtually nothing about American magical culture in the books, which is probably on purpose because it's best not to think too hard about the concept of an international wizarding community. Like, why do other countries never intervene when a tiny racist cult is going around killing people and taking over the government in the UK? My personal assumption was that Britain is seen as so backward and eccentric compared to the rest of the wizarding world, that other countries have a total non-intervention policy. Considering Britain's disastrous muggle/wizarding conflicts, class system, and inexplicable decision to segregate all children by personality type at age eleven, it hardly feels like a place that's very in touch with the outside world. Well done, you put all the ruthlessly ambitious kids together in a school house that's known for producing dark wizards and racist fanatics. What could possibly go wrong? Without the "benefit" of the Hogwarts house system, who knows what wizarding society would be like.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Stargate: Watch it. Love it. Learn educational info about real "Egyptian" "archaeology".

Rewatching Stargate for the first time since I was 14, I suspected that it would turn out to be terrible. Partly because my 14-year-old self was not the most sophisticated of movie critics, and partly because I've gained a degree in Ancient History & Archaeology since then. That kind of thing tends to put a dampener on appreciating any media that attempts to be "historical" about "Egypt". Happily, Stargate is so far away from both history and Egypt that it's basically fanfiction for everyone's favourite aliens-built-the-pyramids conspiracy theory, Chariots of the Gods. It's kinda like how most paleontologists love Jurassic Park because FUCK YEAH DINOSAURS, even though the entire movie is like, "OK, we've decided to make Velociraptors 15 times their natural size, For Reasons."
The most surprising (and vaguely depressing) thing about Stargate is how well it holds up when compared to most family-friendly action blockbusters from the past ten years or so. Obviously cinema history is written by the victors and the good movies are generally the only ones to survive, but I still feel like Stargate represents a kind of 80s/90s blockbuster high point that no longer exists. Looking at things like Jurassic Park, The Goonies, The Mummy, Die Hard, etc, probably the only recent adventure movie that measures up is Pirates of the Caribbean. I realise this is cutting a ruthless swathe through a decade of Hollywood, and I'm not saying there haven't been any excellent blockbusters in that time. But compared to something like Stargate or Jurassic Park, recent box-office successes like Avatar or The Dark Knight Rises seem almost tragicomically bland and formulaic.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Dressing for the Apocalypse: How to build a believable dystopia.

This is actually the sequel to a post I made in 2011, way back when this blog was still a baby. My love for dystopian/post-apocalyptic movies never grows old. And so today we're gonna look at some dystopian sci-fi movies that somehow have even less believable premises than "dragons erupt from the London Underground". (Seriously: Reign of Fire. Watch it. Dragons.)
I'm talking about the Uncanny Valley of filmmaking. This term usually refers to robots, in that the closer a robot gets to looking "human", the more unsettling it becomes. Roombas are cute because we can anthropomorphise them into being sweet little cartoon pets, while mannequin-like humandroids are totally creepy because they're not quite human enough. And the same thing goes for sci-fi worldbuilding, kind of. Unless your worldbuilding is 100% on point, going into too much detail is a recipe for disaster. It just gives audiences more time the audience has to think about how much you're failing to explain.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The costumes of X-Men: First Class, Part 2: Menswear.

Part 1: Womenswear.

OK, let's be real here. 99% of this section is gonna be about Erik and Charles, firstly because 99% of the movie is about Erik and Charles, and secondly because most of the other dude costumes are pretty dull. I mean, Darwin's clothes were inspired by Muhammed Ali, but in the end he was just wearing a tight polo shirt and jacket. And Havok's All-American Boy ensemble could easily have been the actor's costume from that Taylor Swift video. (N.B. This is irrelevent info, but I was totally shocked to discover that Lucas Till, the actor who played Havoc, is only 22, and therefore was 18 when "You Belong With Me" was filmed. I sort of assumed he was one of those Hollywood "teenage" actors who is actually 27, like the cast of Teen Wolf.)
Like many big blockbuster movies, XMFC's strategy was to hire a really great cast to prop up some exceptionally clunky dialogue. Actually, that counts for all the X-Men movies, but XMFC wins the prize for that scene where Magneto uses his powers to kill some former Nazis. When they ask, terrified, "Who ARE you?" he replies, "Frankenstein's monster," instead of the OBVIOUS COMEBACK of, "I'm the Master Race." I'm so frustrated by this scene!!!! Like, four exclamation marks worth of frustrated! Frankenstein's monster doesn't even make sense in context, whereas Erik describing himself as the Master Race is both relevent to the situation and accurately illustrate's Erik's own view of himself and mutantkind. Aaarrgh.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Teen Wolf: Lunar Ellipse.

Previously on Teen Wolf: Alpha Pact.

I wasn't gonna write a review this week, but then Marie reminded me of the many stupid things in this episode that needed to be catalogued for posterity. Not that I didn't enjoy it, but that enjoyment was helped along by the fact that I was a) playing the Teen Wolf drinking game, and b) watching it with someone who had never seen the show before, thus rendering everything hysterically funny. (Try explaining three seasons of convoluted Teen Wolf soap-opera subplots in one minute or less. TRY IT.)
The Alpha Pack/darach storylines are more or less wrapped up, THANK GOD, hopefully leaving the show to do a better job with season 3B. And the episode ends with the satisfying combination of parental survival (duh, they weren't gonna kill them off, hello), Stiles/Scott friendship, and Derek and Cora shipping out to a group therapy retreat together. It's just too bad that there are a ton of problems lingering on from earlier points in the season.
Regarding the treatment of all the villains/antagonists in this episode, I can't help but feel that Teen Wolf is going in a distinctly Supernatural-esque direction. When I wrote the Teen Wolf drinking game yesterday, most of the rules were basically affectionate jokes about all the dumbass shit that happens in this show, but one was pretty serious: the rule about female or POC characters being killed off while the white men survive. The two permanent deaths of the episode were Jennifer and Kali. Deucalion's survival was mostly down to Derek and Scott's distaste for coldblooded murder, but from an audience perspective it was both unsatisfying and pointless to see him walk away unscathed. Not to mention frustrating when 75% of the main character deaths have been women, in a show where the main cast is already about 75% male overall.

Monday, 19 August 2013

The ultimate TEEN WOLF DRINKING GAME.

OK, the midseason finale is upon us. After tonight, there's no more Teen Wolf until January 2014. To help you deal with the pain, I've adapted this drinking game from a rather simpler version my brother & I invented when watching the first few episodes last year. I recommend playing it using something with a relatively low alcohol content, because I don't want anyone to end up hospitalised.
Disclaimer: I know that the episode was leaked last week, but I haven't watched it yet. These rules were created spoiler-free. (Oh, and you can reblog the drinking game from here.)

Take a sip if...
  • Anyone takes off his shirt.
  • Stiles’s eyes glisten with tragic, unshed tears.
  • Someone uses a totally pointless martial arts move like leaping against a wall, or backflipping over something they could’ve just walked around. 
  • Peter Hale acts like a Disney villain but someone trusts him anyway.
  • A student at Beacon Hills High is clearly a 24-year-old Abercrombie & Fitch model. 
  • Any scene inexplicably takes place in the boys’ locker room. (Double if it’s at night.)
  • Lydia is smarter than everyone else in the room.
  • The twins rip off their shirts and transform into the Werewolf Megazord. 
  • Obvious product placement onscreen.
  • Dr. Deaton gets some dialogue that isn’t frustratingly cryptic and/or an explanation of something we already knew.
  • Anything remotely good happens to Derek.
  • READ MORE

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Teen Wolf: "Alpha Pact".


This episode would've been really excellent if not for these three factors:
  1. The idea of Derek (or indeed anyone) trusting Peter about anything now stretches credibility to breaking point. I realise that Derek is desperate, emotionally vulnerable, and an idiot, but even these traits shouldn't be able to completely overrule his other distinguishing feature: his paranoia when it comes to trusting anyone. Why on earth listen to anything Peter says, when Peter is so obviously a Disney villain of the first degree? Whenever he gives anyone some "useful advice", the camera immediately pans round to show him rubbing his hands together in glee, and/or dropping arsenic into their wine glass. COME ON. No one is less deserving of a second chance than Peter.
  2. On a related topic, Peter and Lydia's bizarre, 10-second non-scene at Derek's apartment was atrocious. Not only has NOTHING been resolved with regards to their backstory as victim and abuser, but there was comedy music in the background of them just sort of blinking in embarrassment as if the last time they'd seen each other, Peter had done nothing worse than accidentally seeing her in her underwear or something. This is one of the worst continuity issues of the season, made even more unpleasant by the fact that Jeff Davis literally just forgot about it.
  3. The entire cast's inability to keep each other informed of what's going on. Teen Wolf sometimes manages to be pretty genre-savvy about using cellphones etc (ie, in the hospital scene where Allison and Isaac use video chat to see what's going on inside). However, there are also A LOT of problems that could be solved with very simple communication. Basically, everyone needs to learn to text everyone else AS SOON as they find out any information about the Darach/the Alpha Pack/evil relatives coming to town, and also everyone needs to start wearing GPS tracking chips in their shoes. Actually I'm sorta surprised the Argents don't already do that.
Source: Teen Wolf Tumblr.
There were a bunch of great things in this episode, though. The minor character appearances were back on form, featuring Morrell as a total badass (I almost find her interesting now), Shantal Rhodes being flawless as per usual (LUV HER), and Scott McCall's douchey deadbeat dad showing up and being instantaneously dislikeable. Honestly, introducing him via Stiles was an inspired idea, because if Stiles doesn't like someone? Then we don't like them either. DEADBEAT DAD MCCALL IS THE STEVE CARLSBURG OF TEEN WOLF.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Teen Wolf: "The Overlooked"

Previously on Teen Wolf: The Girl Who Knew Too Much.

After several episodes of mystifying characterisation decisions and weird, floundering plotlines, Teen Wolf has gone back to doing what it does best: silly action/horror sequences taking place in municipal buildings in the middle of the night. The only problem was that this episode seemingly confirms the fact that Derek did kill Paige, meaning that her flashback storyline apparently isn't some kind of weird Peter Hale fakeout. In case you've forgotten, the whole Derek-killed-his-first-girlfriend is probably the worst thing that ever happened on this show.
Shortly after watching last week's episode, I realised that I'm approximately 1000x more invested in Jennifer and Derek's relationship now I know that she's a skinless druid serial killer. Sorry if this makes me a human nightmare, but I personally think it would be a laugh riot if Derek was just like, "WHATEVS, everyone makes mistakes! And at least she loves me for who I am!" I support this pairing because it's exactly the kind of preposterous storyline that Teen Wolf would be able to make totally entertaining, if not actually "plausible". I mean, is it really that much weirder than Buffy/Angel? Angel doesn't even have a pulse.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Teen Wolf: The Girl Who Knew Too Much.

Previously on Teen Wolf: "Visionary".

Before we move onto this week's review, I've gotta mention that immediately after posting last week's, I heard a theory that I reeeeally hope is true. That is, that the "Derek" we saw in last week's flashbacks is actually Peter Hale. I hope this is the case because otherwise Derek is a pretty terrible character, both writing-wise and as a person. However, if it does turn out to be Peter Hale then I'm still not going to be enormously impressed, because the clues/foreshadowing in the episode were kind of nonsensical. But I'll discuss that in more detail if/when we learn more in future episodes.
"The Girl Who Knew Too Much" was back on classic Teen Wolf form, featuring multiple scenes in the boy's locker room for no reason whatsoever. How many people have died there, now? Not to mention all the fight scenes. Murdering each other in the highschool boy's locker room in the middle of the night: the favourite hobby of Beacon Hills citizens. What I don't understand is why the lights weren't on at the beginning of the episode, because there were clearly a bunch of kids in the school for that music practice. My personal theory is that nobody switched them on because nobody in Beacon Hills has the natural mammalian survival instinct of being afraid of the dark. At last, an explanation for why so many of them wander off into the forest to die! It must be something in the water. Alternatively, they're all were-lemmings.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Why you need to watch Spanish Snow White movie "Blancanieves" AT ONCE.

Blancanieves came out in 2012, but I figured that if I'd managed to miss it first time round, some of you guys might too. And you should definitely be watching this movie, because it's fantastic. Last year saw two major Snow White blockbusters come and go, and neither of them were good. I was obsessed with the badass-looking Snow White and the Huntsman until I actually saw it, and the reviews for Mirror Mirror were so bad that I didn't even bother -- despite the fact that the costumes were by Eiko Ishioka, one of the most talented designers in cinema history. Blancanieves, however, is perfect.
I confess, this post isn't for purely altruistic reasons: I want everyone to go and see this movie so I can get someone to write fanfiction about it. Because seriously, it's a black-and-white silent film about matadors. This is not going to get a vast quantity of traction online, outside of the Yuletide festival for obscure fanfic. So I need you to a) watch Blancanieves, b) fall in love with Blancanieves like I did, and c) nominate it as a Yuletide fandom this Christmas, so we can all share the love. OK?
Blancanieves is far, far better than the vast majority of supposedly "fairytale" movies I've seen in recent years, keeping the basic elements of the Snow White story but changing the setting to 1920s Spain. Snow White's mother dies in childbirth, leaving her father, a paralysed former bullfighter, alone with a predatory nurse -- the inevitable Evil Stepmother. But rather than growing up to be a flamenco dancer like her mother and grandmother, Snow White becomes a bullfighter. A bullfighter.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Teen Wolf, "Visionary".

Previously on Teen Wolf: "Currents". 

This episode was so shitty that I considered not writing a review at all, because this is clearly not going to be a funny or entertaining post. But then I decided, hey! That would be a fitting commentary on the episode itself, which was not funny or entertaining either. As one of my friends put it on Twitter, "If this was a fanfic, I would've X-ed out ages ago."

Most of my problems with this episode boil down to two main issues: the fact that it was total nonsense, and the continuation of this season's ongoing effort to ruin Derek Hale for everyone. That second issue is pretty damn ironic, because the apparent aim of Derek's backstory is to make him seem more sympathetic and tragic, but instead he ended up looking like even more of an asshole than before. Which is, unfortunately, a microcosm of the failure of this season's "This Might Hurt" tagline.
At first, the whole "This Might Hurt" theme seemed like an excellent idea. Yes, I realise that the slogan was thought up by an MTV marketing team rather than the actual Teen Wolf writers, but it fits perfectly with Jeff Davis' love of torturing beloved characters. And we were looking forward to it! Teen Wolf thrives on angst and violence and doomed romance. HOWEVER. 90% of this season's angst, violence, and doomed romance has been focused on Derek, who does not need it. Like, his character has already MAXED OUT on trauma, what with his entire family being burned to death, and having been seduced by an evil hunter who presumably warped his view of sex and relationships for life. In TV Land, where every "dark" and "misunderstood" character has to be fueled by childhood trauma and dead-relative manpain, Derek Hale was already lightyears ahead of everyone else in Teen Wolf.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The costumes of X-Men: First Class, Part 1: Womenswear.

Sometimes I feel like superhero fandom is suffering from some kind of intricate mass delusion regarding X-Men: First Class. Specifically, that it's a good movie. Because it's not. It's just not. But I love it anyway! Half of it may be trash, but the other half is heartbreaking doomed romance and clumsy-yet-effective political allegory. And McAvoy and Fassbender are really excellent casting, which is just as well because it takes serious acting chops to make some of their dialogue sound plausible. NEVER FORGET that this is the movie that forced Kevin Bacon to utter the line, "Turn the nuclear reactor up to 100% and make sure I'm not disturbed."
The best way to appreciate XMFC is to remove your brain with an icecream scoop and concentrate fully on the agonising Romeo & Juliet-style romance between Magneto and Professor X. It is beautiful. It is timeless. They could have cut out every other character (except maybe Raven and Oliver Platt) and I would still have queued up to watch the Doomed Mutant Terrorist Soulmates show on opening night. Also, if you're focusing on the Charles/Magneto stuff then you're less likely to notice this movie's main flaw: the fact that it's intensely terrible when it comes to The Gurlz.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Teen Wolf: "Currents".

Previously on Teen Wolf: "Motel California".

Ordinarily I'd be giving this episode a very positive review. It was full of the kind of Teen Wolf nonsense that usually warms the cockles of my heart: boner jokes, half-assed plans plans like "flood your apartment and electrify the water", Isaac wearing cute knitwear, werewolves jumping 10 feet in the air like Spring-Heeled Jack, Lydia being awesome. However, Boyd's character arc has been so poorly handled that it ended up overshadowing my enjoyment of the rest of the episode.

I heard a rumour recently that Isaac would be killed off in this episode, and my immediate reaction was "NO!!!" because a) Isaac has endured constant torment for two solid seasons now, and b) why kill him? It would be cold hard proof that Jeff Davis is indeed Voldemort. However, I wouldn't necessarily have been annoyed with it as a writing decision, because it would've been in keeping with Teen Wolf's overall tone as a show where bad things happen to good people, and everything is tragic and dismal all the time. However, killing off Boyd struck me as total bullshit.
Since the introduction of the three new betas, Boyd has always been the one with the smallest amount of useful screentime. Until last week he had almost no backstory, and overall he's been given fewer lines and less agency than almost anyone else in the cast. This season he's had maybe three good moments, including this episode's electrocution plan and last week's revelation about his sister. And in the light of his death, this now makes it seem as if he was written to be a disposable character. Which surprises me, because Teen Wolf's M.O. is to torture its audience by torturing its characters, and it's kind of difficult for the audience to get attached to a character when he's rarely given anything to say.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Mako Mori and the Hero's Journey.

(Crossposted from Tumblr, because it was so goddamn long.)

So, it’s come to my attention that there are a bunch of people who think Mako Mori is a “weak" female character, because of course. In fact a good friend of mine (who is a woman and professional film reviewer) thought Mako was too “emotional" , which a) made me go "!!????!!" in blank incomprehension, and b) brought it to my attention that people who aren’t random internet misogynists do indeed have this opinion. Still, it’s a wrong opinion, and here’s why:

First of all, let’s talk about cliche. Pacific Rim is positively roiling in cliches. On purpose. This isn’t a blockbuster movie where some faceless production company focus-grouped a selection of generic Hollywood movie cliches and combined them to create the new Avatar or Transformers. No. This is a movie where Guillermo del Toro, an acclaimed filmmaker and all-round nerd, sat down and thought, “what cliches are awesome?"

Which is how we ended up with a movie about people in giant mecha suits fighting giant Kaiju monsters in an epic battle to save Planet Earth from a Lovecraftian apocalypse.
image
Guillermo del Toro took a bunch of classic action/adventure movie tropes and gleefully combined them in a cheesy yet incredibly effective way. Also, he conveniently ignored all the shitty action/adventure tropes that regularly make Hollywood blockbusters into a pile of offensive trash. For example, shitty tropes like America Saving The World. Or female characters being relegated to the role of love-interest, helpless damsel, or ass-kicking sex fantasy.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The costumes of Pacific Rim.

N.B. If you're here via Bleeding Cool, here is the masterlist of my costume design posts. I know a lot of my recent posts are about Teen Wolf, but I promise that most of the time, this is a costume design blog. ;) 
Dress For Success – An Analysis Of The Pacific Rim Costume Designs, for BleedingCool.com.


Pacific Rim may come across as a live-action anime, but the costumes are relatively down-to-earth. Set a little over a decade in the future, Guillermo del Toro ignored futuristic styles in favour of a mid-20th century aesthetic.

As an outspoken pacifist, del Toro was keen to remove any militaristic overtones from the movie. Hence the Jaeger crews all having ranks like “Marshall” and “Ranger”, and the general lack of a military aesthetic. The overall look of the movie is more wartime than warlike, with people bustling around either in civilian clothing or the grubby overalls of an airport hangar. Any uniforms we see are generally more like those worn by the crew of the Nostromo in Alien, rather than a military uniform with obvious ranks and a dress code. [READ MORE]

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Teen Wolf: "Motel California".

Previously on Teen Wolf: "Frayed".

If there was an award for "most arbitrary reason for a shirtless scene", Teen Wolf would be a shoo-in. This was a genuinely good episode, but I couldn't help but LOL at all the ab-cameos. While there were a couple of relatively legitimate shirt-removals (ie, for sex), some were... less so. Like for example, when Boyd tried to drown himself in the bathtub, but stripped his shirt off first. (But not his pants.) Even in the flashback to Uncle Moustache's 1970s suicide, we got an ab shot. WELL DONE, TEEN WOLF. Well done.
Anyhow, this was a really great episode of Supernatural. Luv cursed motels. Luv cameo appearances from Stephen King's creepy old aunt. Luv totally arbritrary reasons for every character in a TV show to be in a new location. "Athletics meet"?? Since when is Lydia an athlete? Is everyone an athlete? Why do they have to take an overnight trip, and why does Chris Argent barely seem to know where his daughter is, and why? Oh, it doesn't matter. For Reasons, everyone had to stay overnight at the Scooby Doo Haunted Motel, chaperoned by the world's worst authority figure, Coach Finstock. "No sex, kids! But if I hear screaming during the night, I won't notice or do anything about it, because that would interfere with the plot!" Repeat after me: Just Go With it.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Teen Wolf: "Frayed".

Previously on Teen Wolf: "Unleashed".

The title refers to the frayed nature of the shirts worn by most of the main cast. Scott, Boyd, Derek and Ennis all suffered a severe clawing, while Ethan and Aiden avoided the issue by showing up to the fight shirtless and then twinsforming into the werewolf megazord again. In case you're still curious about what happens to their pants when they stick themselves together with magical morphing werewolf glue, Jeff Davis has given us an answer. Kind of.
This episode featured what felt like decades of flashback footage of yet another werewolf showdown. As usual, everyone ran at each other while yelling -- a prime martial arts technique, if you are three years old. Happily, this scene catered to my neverending fascination with Beacon Hills' urban planning, because it took place in a heretofore unmentioned post-apocalyptic abandoned shopping mall. Which Scott and Isaac rode into on Scott's new motor scooter. (It's unclear whether this was at ground level or not, because Derek and Ennis fell at least three storeys down from there. WHATEVS.)

Sadly, most of those flashback scenes were kinda pointless, because we already knew what was going to happen. And @snazdoll pointed out on Twitter, all that slow-motion glowering gave us ample time to consider the bafflingly confused character continuity.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Behind the quest to build a full-scale Millennium Falcon.

[I don't usually crosspost my other writing to this blog, but this interview was too interesting not to share.]
Behind the quest to build a full-scale Millennium Falcon.
Here’s one to cheer up your inner 8-year-old: In the next few years, you may be able to visit a real-life Millennium Falcon.

Since 2005, Chris Lee’s Full Scale Falcon project has been one of those Internet curiosities that seems so epically ambitious that you can’t quite believe it’s actually real. Well, it is. All 114 feet of it, currently waiting to be assembled in a field just outside of Nashville, Tenn.

Although when we say “a field”, what we actually mean is, “This guy bought 88 acres of land for the express purpose of building a full-scale replica of the most iconic ship in Star Wars.” [READ MORE]

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Teen Wolf: "Unleashed".

Previously on Teen Wolf: "Fireflies".

This was a great episode for Teen Realism. First, we open with a 27-year-old high school senior wandering down a dark alley --  always a good idea in Beacon Hills. The positive outcome of his brutal murder is that we now know the druidic serial killer is small enough to hide under a dumpster. I'm thinking were-puppy? Later, we move on to a truly beautiful combination of actual Teen Realism (ie, the sense of complete impotence one feels when teachers and adults have complete control over your life), and high school scenes written from the perspective of someone who may not have ever been in an actual real-life high school.
Yes, Murder Suspect Derek Hale was wandering around on school property again. Yes, someone was able to drive a motorcycle through the hallway during school hours without anyone noticing. Yes, two guys ripped off their shirts and turned into a 7-foot-tall Alpha Twin Megazord at like 5pm on a school day -- leaving their shirts and schoolbags behind when they left. No, nobody bothered to keep the crowd of kids away from the corpse on the running track until the Sheriff showed up, an absolute minimum of fifteen minutes later. Shhhhh. As always: Just go with it.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Teen Wolf: "Fireflies".

Previously on Teen Wolf: Chaos Rising.

This episode was mostly about people running around and doing unnecessary backflips, but was still highly enjoyable because Morgan Leigh and I were briefly in the same country, meaning I got to watch it with her! True Internet Friendship is when you're happy to meet someone from Twitter at the house of a complete stranger in order to watch a show about teen werewolves at 9.30am on a Tuesday.
Anyhow, in lieu of a "real" "review", you're going to get an itemized list of all the things that were super-awesome about this week's Teen Wolf. Because let's face it: at least 50% of this episode was slow-motion shots of people snarling at each through pointy dentures. (The other 50% was Isaac Lahey's snood.)

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Man-Child of Steel.

This isn't gonna be a review so much as a written depiction of my gradual descent into a nervous breakdown while watching Man of Steel -- an experience I shared with the two five-year-olds sitting in the row in front of me. Definitely introduce your children to Superman via this movie, because it contains all sorts of child-friendly features! Such as a childbirth scene, Superman snapping a dude's neck in the middle of the vaporized ruins of Metropolis, and a complete lack of humour or a sense of fun. (HAHAHA NO SPOILERS THOUGH LOL no.)
Everyone spends the entire time stating the obvious. I'm not joking. 80% of the dialogue in this movie is like a masterclass in how to break the first law of writing: "Show, Don't Tell". Before anyone does anything, they tell everyone what they're about to do. And once they've done it, someone else explains what just happened. Sample scene:
"I'm very strong, and have no morals!" growled Zod. "I don't care about anything except Krypton!"

"But I will stop you," Superman replied. "Because I grew up on Earth. I'm going to defeat you!"

Superman punched Zod. Zod punched Superman. "Oh my god!" screamed a nameless extra. "They just punched each other! They are both aliens!" 
"I hate both of them," said another extra. "Because aliens are a new and confusing thing, and we humans are afraid of things we don't understand."
Then a building fell and crushed all the extras, killing them and everyone they knew. Sadly, Superman did not know or care about this, because he was busy listening to someone explain why Zod was a very dangerous man who needed to be stopped.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Teen Wolf: Chaos Rising.

Previously on Teen Wolf: Tattoo.

Character 1: I just had a really terrible idea.
Character 2: Great! Let's do it!
-- Teen Wolf
On the bright side, this episode showed us that most of Teen Wolf's main characters are learning from past mistakes. I say "bright side" because as always, everything in Beacon Hills is terrible.
The main thing Allison has learned is how to be genre-savvy about living in a horror movie. Like for example, if the bruise on your arm looks like a mysterious symbol? Chances are it's a mysterious symbol. Lydia is doubtful, but that's mainly because she's a very rational person, and isn't used to the kind of gut feelings that Allison, Stiles and Scott have honed after two seasons of exposure to weird supernatural bullshit. Too bad Derek doesn't listen to Allison -- he's the one character who NEVER LEARNS, both in this episode and in general. Which is probably because he's a 50/50 split between "traumatised teenage boy" and "30-year-old hardened criminal": he never got a chance to, you know, learn how to think things through and make sensible decisions like a real adult. More on that later.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Teen Wolf: Tattoo.

Previously: Teen Wolf 101: An introduction to the eighth wonder of our world.

Welcome to Teen Wolf! The show where the shirts are off, and the pants don't matter. Last year's season finale saw about 9000 things happen, including one character stripping naked and turning into a lizard, and Evil Grandpa Argent roaring "MOUNTAIN ASSHHHH!!" in one of the most magnificent line-deliveries in TV history. What a masterpiece. (Teen Wolf showrunner recently described this episode as a "clusterfuck", but let's not dwell on the past.) I could recap all that stuff for you, but it'd require too much googling, so let's just watch that MOUNTAIN ASHHH clip again, shall we? OK. You're ready.
Season 3 opens with a subject close to all our hearts: curly-haired cuteboy waif Isaac clutching onto someone dear life. This time round, it's a badass lady with a motorcycle and a dubiously plausible lightning taser gun. "Into every generation, a slayer is born," she explains, back-flipping off a burning building onto her motorcycle. "She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness." OK, I kid, but seriously. She's awesome. Plus, she shares a gloriously ridiculous new plot point: Some alphas can steal your memories just by touching you, because what Teen Wolf really needs is a magical amnesia subplot. But apparently that isn't enough, because she immediately moves on to introduce the latest male models to join Teen Wolf's cast of top-tier ab-actors (abtors?). These guys were cast via an open call from (I kid you not) TeenWolfTwins.com, and they rip their shirts off within five minutes of appearing onscreen.

Friday, 31 May 2013

The costumes of Stoker: A vampire movie without the vampires.

I've been watching a lot of Hannibal recently, and I've come to realise that Stoker could be the origin story for a female analogue to Hannibal Lecter. While there are plenty of psychotic male antiheroes out there, India Stoker is a rare breed: an ambiguously amoral female character who isn't depicted as a bitch, a slut, or a straight-up villain. Like Hannibal, Stoker is a vampire story without the vampires.
Stoker GIFs from here.
Stoker begins with the kind of premise that I generally find depressing: a mother/daughter love triangle, with the mother envying her daughter's youth. In this case it's Evelyn Stoker competing with her daughter India, who in true cliche spirit is "on the cusp of womanhood". Following the death of India's father Richard, long-lost uncle Charlie shows up at the funeral. Exploiting Evelyn's loneliness and India's sulky passivity, he moves into the Stokers' huge country house where he begins seduce both mother and daughter -- in very different ways.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness: Too many dicks on the Enterprise.

[From my Star Trek Into Darkness article at The Daily Dot.]

In 2009’s Star Trek, JJ Abrams successfully made the effort to appeal to new viewers as well as dyed-in-the-wool Trekkies. This time round, he seems to be going further afield— and alienating the original fanbase entirely.

The publicity for Into Darkness has been solidly high school: Don’t worry—it may be Star Trek, but it’s not for nerds anymore! In an interview with Jon Stewart this week, Abrams made it very clear that he’d never liked the show as a kid, because it was “too philosophical.” “I stopped listening when you said you didn’t like Star Trek,” Stewart joked. “I saw your mouth moving, so I assume you apologized.”
It’s not actually necessary for a director to be a lifelong fan if they want to make a successful adaptation. In fact, JJ Abrams’ first Star Trek movie was proof of that. But it’s another thing for an adaption to leave most of the original show’s values in the dust, which is what Into Darkness seems to be doing. The dialogue is snappy, the action sequences are fun, and the characters seem real enough, but the heart and the brain are now gone.

In 1966, Star Trek broke new ground with its international crew of hopeful explorers, scientists, and adventurers. True, the show was full of heavy-handed Cold War metaphors and casual 1960s misogyny, but its central messages were obvious: Racism is bad. Give peace a chance. That kind of thing. Men and women, Russians and Americans, aliens and humans: all could work together on a more-or-less equal footing. For many viewers, Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) was the first woman of color they’d seen playing anything other than a maid. Star Trek was pushing the envelope.

In 2013, not so much. [READ MORE]

Monday, 20 May 2013

Interview with Michael Kaplan, costume designer of "Star Trek" (2009) and "Star Trek Into Darkness".

I interviewed the Star Trek Into Darkness costume designer for Wired.com! You can read it here.

Since Star Trek first made its way to the big screen, its costume design has veered away from the classic color-coded uniforms in favor of experiments with red double-breasted uniforms and unfortunate flesh-colored jumpsuits. But for the 2009 J.J Abrams Star Trek reboot and its recently released sequel, Into Darkness, costume designer Michael Kaplan helped move the sartorial stylings of the Enterprise crew forwards by looking backwards–at the trusty old red, blue, and gold. It’s a comfortingly familiar detail amongst Abrams’ trademark lens flare and glowing spaceship interiors: a conscious chromatic nod to the vintage style of the original costumes.
“I wanted the film based in the ‘60s,” Kaplan told Wired. “Not literally the ‘60s, but I wanted my thinking to be grounded in the concept of the original Star Trek, almost like an homage…. I had a lot of books in my library that I’d consult: [AndrĂ©] Courrèges [inventor of the mini-skirt], designers like that. To keep things rooted in that, even if when you look at the movie, you don’t say, ‘Hey, this is the early 1960s.’" [READ MORE]