Thursday, 30 June 2011

"Greed, Violence, Moral Corruption"

According to Star Trek: Enterprise's T'Pol those are "the worst qualities of this era", said during a visit to 2004 in Carpenter Street. To put it in context she says of Loomis, a particularly slimy character played by Leland Orser: "In one individual we've managed to find the worst qualities of this era: greed, violence, moral corruption."

2004 was the year that the European Union expanded to include ten more countries, Facebook was founded and a colossal earthquake caused a massive tsunami to hit southeast Asia on Boxing Day.

Whilst in my last term at university I was in and wrote for The Miracles Of Marta Manole. After I finished Uni, I began working a bookshop and trying to work out how to get into acting.

These are a few of my favourite things from 2004:

Shaun Of The Dead
Posing the question: What would you do in Zombie apocalypse? The Pom Rom Zom Com from Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg is very funny with a great script, a great cast and a great soundtrack. Here's the trailer.

Goodbye Lenin!
A great film about how the reunification of Germany affected the day-to-day life of everyone in East Berlin, except one. Here's the trailer.

The Incredibles
A supervillain draws a couple of superheroes come out of retirement and discovers to his cost that its become a family business. Not a spoof, nor a parody but a tribute to a genre that is far more realistic and well observed than most of the big-budget live-action superhero adaptations combined. Here's the trailer.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
Bill Murray, Angelica Huston, Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldblum are all wonderful in a film that features eclectic aquatic animation, incredible cross section sets and Seu Jorge singing David Bowie songs in Portuguese. Here's the trailer.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry's tale about memory is constantly changing, visually astounding and has great performances across the board. Here's the trailer.

The Village
M. Night Shyamalan's fantasy thriller was widely misunderstood on cinematic release and has been unfairly overlooked ever since. There are great performances across the board with a special mention for Bryce Dallas Howard. I don't mind admitting that the twist had me completely fooled, but by the time it comes the viewer is well and truly thinking like a villager.

The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers
Geoffrey Rush is fantastic as the man in search of a character to call his own in this biopic that pulls no punches. Featuring flawless representations of films from throughout Sellers' career and leaves you wanting to watch them all. Here's the trailer.

Blake's Junction 7
Awkwardness abounds as the scourge of the Terran Federation Avon and company bump into Blake and Servalan during a stop off at Newport Pagnell motorway service station. Great fun if you know Blake's 7 and great fun if you don't. Here's a trailer.

Angel: Harm's Way; Soul Purpose; Damage; You're Welcome; Why We Fight; Smile Time; A Hole In The World; Shells; Underneath; Origin; Time Bomb; The Girl In Question; Power Play; Not Fade Away
Harm's Way begins with a hilarious Wolfram & Hart recruitment video, features a brilliant chopstick fight and it's about time Mercedes McNab got her dues. Soul Purpose is another great dream episode with Angel's hallucinations of his friends and Fred's autopsy and Spike single-handedly ending armageddon and turning the world into a beautiful, happily-ever-after-candy-mountain place where all our dreams come true are both wonderful. Tom Lenk fits in perfectly as Andrew in Damage and he's back to his storytelling best. The hundredth episode, You're Welcome, is a masterpiece. Charisma Carpenter returns and puts in another great performance as Cordelia comes out of her coma and it's a joy to have her back and hear her take on the new situation. The episode builds beautifully to a heartbreaking ending. The World War II flashbacks of Why We Fight are great and Eyal Podell gives Lawson a real intensity. Smile Time is hilarious and disturbing in equal measure, and features some great puppetry. A Hole In The World asks "Who would win in a fight: cavemen or astronauts?" It's another great ensemble piece as the troops rally to save Fred. Lorne's sudden act of violence is a surprise, the reveal of Gunn's unwitting involvement is a sucker punch. Jonathan M. Woodward and Alec Newman are great as Knox and Drogyn respectively, but the scenes between Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof are flawless in what is possibly the saddest piece of television ever. Shells picks up where the last episode left off and while Denisof and Woodward are as great as ever it's all eyes on Acker as Illyria. There is a lot of talk about layers in Underneath, Adam Baldwin's entrance as Marcus Hamilton is incredibly gory and yet belies why he's chasing Eve, Acker and Denisof continue to be wonderful and the reveal that Wolfram & Hart's hell dimension is a suburban ultra-right-wing version of The American Dream is very funny. Vincent Kartheiser returns in Origin as the Connor it would have been a joy to watch, Dennis Christopher is wonderful as Cyvus Vail, it's great to see Jack Conley back as Sahjhan, once again Denisof is fantastic as a man on the edge and Sparky's bulb proffering is hilarious. Illyria rescues Gunn and the reveal of Sparky's latest victim is great, however she is unable to control her powers and becomes a walking Time Bomb that could go off at any moment, the time skips her excess powers create are interesting and her despatching four regular characters in seconds is pretty shocking, meanwhile the Rosemary's Baby-esque plotline with the Fell Brethren has some hilarious parental dialogue. Angel and Spike visit Italy in The Girl In Question, the flashback of Spike and Dru in Italy in the 1950's is very funny, Carole Raphaelle Davis is hilarious as the gypsy-hating buxom CEO of Wolfram & Hart's Italian office and the elusiveness of The Immortal adds to his appeal, but this episode that gives us Angel and Spike as a comedy double act also features the return of Fred's parents and sees Illyria's bittersweet impersonation of their daughter and the effect it has on Wesley. The episode is stylishly shot to differentiate between the two plot strands. David Boreanaz really keeps you guessing as Angel's apparent acceptance of Wolfram & Hart's evil clients sinks to new depths in Power Play as he joins the Circle of the Black Thorn and convinces the rest of the gang that he's just as bad. The series finale, Not Fade Away is fantastic and filled with great moments: Angel signing away his claim on the Shanshu prophecy, Lorne's last day, Angel's last day, Spike's last day, Spike volunteering to betray Angel, Lorne's "I'm out" speech, Gunn killing the senator while she's still on the phone, the reveal of Illyria blocking the car, Lorne's exit and Lindsay's reaction to it, Illyria lying to Wesley, Angel picking out the operative word in Hamilton's speech about how his blood is filled with the ancient power of The Wolf, The Ram and The Hart, Illyria taking revenge on Cyvus Vail and the final scene. This series came to a premature end and doesn't have a happy ending, because it doesn't really have an ending at all and yet it doesn't finish on a cliffhanger either. This episode says the fight never ends, it says atonement never ends.

Star Trek: Enterprise: Proving Ground; Countdown; Zero Hour; Storm Front; Home; Borderland, Cold Station 12 & The Augments; The Forge, Awakenings & Kir'Shara
The search for the Xindi superweapon is a bit of an oddity with few episodes standing out. Proving Ground however sees it in a wider political context and features another fantastic performance from Jeffrey Combs. Countdown and Zero Hour are a suitably impressive climax to the season and end on a great cliffhanger. Storm Front mixes the temporal cold war with the second world war and sees aliens changing history and assisting the Nazis in an occupation of the USA. The newsreel footage of Hitler's visit to New York in Part II is a very nice touch. When Enterprise finally returns Home and the crew disperse, three plot strands explore the repercussions separately of each other. The three-parter Borderland, Cold Station 12 and The Augments is crammed with action and yet finds time for Brent Spiner to be very charismatic as Arik Soong. This is precisely what the Xindi epic needed. After three years without them The Forge, Awakenings and Kir'Shara finally sees the creation of the Vulcans that we know and love from the Star Trek series set after the prequel and thankfully it's a great story that gets them there.

Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars
The mini-series picks up where season four's finale left off and must have alienated newcomers in their droves. It shamelessly takes no prisoners in utilising several of the plot strands of the series that preceded it. This two-parter gives the series a sense of closure that Bad Timing did not and contains one of television's best death scenes.

Nighty Night
Julia Davis is great as Jill, a widow whose husband is uncooperatively still alive. The rehabilitation of Angus Deayton began here. Somehow each episode manages to be more extreme than the last.

Star Wars: Clone Wars Chapters Eleven to Twenty
More animated tales of clone attacks from Genndy Tartakovsky. Highlights include Mace Windu's singlehanded defeating an entire droid army and the fight Anakin and Asaaj Ventress through the trees and the rain.

Bombs, Beavers and Biscuits are among the subjects under discussion for Stephen Fry's Quite Interesting panel game.

Black Books: Manny Come Home; Elephants And Hens; Moo-Ma And Moo-Pa; A Little Flutter; Party
The show that elevated slovenliness to an art form is back. Manny has begun working next door at monolithic Goliath Books with Simon Pegg as the boss that walks a fine line between corporate and congenial, meanwhile in his absence Bernard has let his misanthropy reach new lows, Manny Come Home gets everybody back on the same page. Elephants And Hens is made up of two distinct and hilarious plots: Bernard and Manny attempt to write the children's book to end all children's books (it's about an elephant and a balloon) via some wonderful flights of fancy, while Fran spectacularly ruins a hen night. Manny's Moo-Ma And Moo-Pa pay him a visit and The Shining-style bar-under-table scenes are great. Bernard has A Little Flutter and the letter he writes to the woman working in the bookies is hilarious. Manny almost uses the word Party as a verb, and the trio share a few cutting home truths in the final episode.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy: Fits The Thirteenth to Eighteenth
Twenty-Three years after the last series, five years of living on prehistoric Earth for Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect come to an end as they are catapulted back into galactic politics, reunited with Slartibartfast, take on the Krikkitmen and meet Agrajag. This radio adaptation of Douglas Adams' novel Life, The Universe And Everything is closer to the novel than its successors.

The Zutons: Who Killed…
The Zutons' sound is distinctive and yet varied and the band's debut album is a confident, assured, thoughtful, inventive and above all fresh outing.
Stand Out Tracks: 'Zuton Fever'; 'Pressure Point '; ''You Will You Won't'; ' 'Confusion'; 'Railroad'; 'Not A Lot To Do'; 'Remember Me'; ' Don't Ever Think (Too Much)'

The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss
The first adventure of Lucifer Box, the noted portrait artist, resident of Number 9 Downing Street and agent for His Majesty's Secret Service. This book is bold, wonderful and constantly surprising.

Ex Machina: The Pilot; State Of Emergency
This story of a superhero in politics by Brian K. Vaughn and Tony Harris is an intriguing mix between the day-to-day grind of Mitchell Hundred's mayoral position and his 'destiny' as The Great Machine. First strip The Pilot has the bravest shock ending I can think of in comics, but don't just take my word for it you can download Issue #1 for free. Its follow up, State Of Emergency, is a fascinating commentary on the awkward relationship between politics and art.

2000 AD: There's Something About Mary
A prequel of sorts to the movie Shaun Of The Dead (above), this strip shows how Mary become a zombie and has a nice twist regarding her dead companion in the film. I love 2000 AD and I feel a bit bad that I'm shortchanging it in these posts because I can never remember when I read what and in which prog. I'm going to try and improve on that, but until I do this strip looks beautiful and has got just the right amount of red on it.

Y: The Last Man: Comedy & Tragedy 2, Safeword, Widow's Path; Tongues Of Flame; Hero's Journey; Ring Of Truth 1-2
The second part of Comedy & Tragedy concerns the staging of a play about the last man on Earth and Yorick's reaction to it. Yorick is forced to confront his survivor guilt in Safeword in terrifying fashion. Blood is spilt as Yorick, 355, Dr. Mann & Ampersand attempt to cross the Widow's Path blockade. Tongues Of Flame examines what remains of faith after the Gendercide and presents another flasshback to the moment it happened 15,000 feet above ground. We follow Hero's Journey from childhood to Amazon to searching for her brother. The first two parts of Ring Of Truth see the trio (and their monkey) in San Francisco and it looks like whatever killed all the men has finally caught up with Yorick.

Tales Of The Vampires: Tales Of The Vampires 2-6; Spot The Vampire; Jack; Father; Antique; Dust Bowl; Taking Care Of Business
Exploring the wider Buffyverse, Joss Whedon's Tales Of The Vampires framing story is a rewarding tale in its own right. Jane Espenson invites you to Spot The Vampire in the style of a children's puzzle with a nice twist ending. The hunt is on for Jack the Ripper in a beautifully illustrated strip reveals why we'll never find him. Father is a lovely story of a Vampire who carries some responsabilities beyond the grave. Antique is Drew Goddard's sequel to TV episode Buffy Vs Dracula and features a great Buffy Vs Dracula fight, but also an interesting emotional attachment to Xander from his master. Dust Bowl is about a farmer turned Vampire who doesn't know that he's a Vampire and is forced to learn the rules the hard way. A Vampire who believes he is Taking Care Of Business for God meets someone who believes they are God in Ben Edlund's satifying little tale.

Doctor Who: Bad Blood; Sins Of The Fathers; The Flood 1-6
The Eighth Doctor gets in the midst of Bad Blood between Sitting Bull's Lakota Indians and Custer's US Cavalry, which is complicated by the return of Jodafra and Destrii. Scott Gray's script and Martin Geraghty's art are great and the ending is shocking. Sins Of The Fathers catch up with the Doctor and Destrii and her heroism earns her a place in the TARDIS. The first six parts of The Flood are fantastic: the look of Camden, Destrii's cultural misunderstandings, the new look of the Cybermen are all great, but after 38 years their motivation is the most believable yet. It's also incredibly prescient as the most Russell T. Davies-style strip with an epic storyline, newsreaders, a fannish scientific advisor, etc...

Recommendations welcome.

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