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Tuesday, 22 June 2010


So, Flashforward. Monotonous or Momentous? Intoxicating or Intolerable? Big pile of tripe or quite good after a while if you give it a chance and ignore Fiennes?

Flashforward was ABCs great hope for life after Lost and they spared no expense, either production wise or promotion wise but it never really took off the way they hoped. Some blame this on the slow pace of early episodes, others on the charisma black hole that is Joseph Fiennes but I believe it was down to impatience.

The show suffered from the comparison to Lost in a big way. I'd liken it to the way in which Harsh Realm and The Lone Gunmen suffered coming off the back of X-Files.

The X-Files, it's easy to forget in light of it's subsequent success, was a modest little show that got little in the way of press and wasn't exactly setting the ratings on fire in it's first season. Nor was it the convoluted twisty turny thriller that it would become. It built both of those aspects over the course of a number of years.

Along comes Chris Carters subsequent shows and the eyes of the world are on them. They are The New X-Files. Massive ratings are expected overnight by the network and the viewers demand slickly produced, tightly plotted dramas with a firm identity in place and their mythologies intact from day one. There was no bedding in process, no latitude given for experimentation and feet finding. Hence the shows floundered under the weight of heightened expectations, the plug was pulled and we never got to see what could have been.

Flashforward was The New Lost. It was promoted heavily as the natural successor to that show and even featured a couple of cast members from it's predescessor, one of whom (Dominic Monaghan) would go on to steal the show from Joseph Fiennes. And because it was The New Lost, everyone expected huge things from it. They wanted all the bangs and whistles that Lost provides.

Someone's missing. Also, Fiennes looks like a knob.

Here's the thing though. Watch season 1 of Lost now. As awesome as it was then, and while it still holds up as quality drama, it's fucking glacial compared to the pace of recent seasons. They took their time, they set up their mysteries, they established their characters and they built their world. Then, and only then, did they go batshit crazy and tear that world apart. Flashforward was not given the time to do that. And Flashforward was canceled. Now I'm not even blaming the network this time. It was the viewers. They tuned in in droves for the early episodes, complained for a few weeks that it was to slow, and stopped watching. Again, in droves. The writing was on the wall from quite early on.

All credit to the producers then for sticking to their guns. Yeah, they amped up the action slightly in the back half of the season but not in any massive way and certainly not enough to compromise the integrity of the shows plot. And they built to a finale that as well as being epic, exciting, and extremely fucking good also effectively answered a lot of the lingering questions of the season, tied in beautifully with the visions seen in the pilot. Then, in a move that could so easily be read as a massive "Fuck You" to the people, they showed, via a second flashforward, glimpses of what could have been, what should have been, and what looked absolutely brilliant.
World's worst actor?

I for one shall miss this show. I was hoping we'd get a 5 or 6 year epic, a la Lost, that we could look back on as one of the defining genre shows of this decade. Instead we got a damp squib and a lot of "what if's". A real shame.

Just for fun now I'm gonna quote my predictions for Flashforward Season 1 and beyond, that I posted on a forum I frequent. It was posted after I think 2 episodes had aired, maybe 3. I guess we'll never know how right (or wrong I suppose, though that seems unlikely) I would have been.

Season one will catch up to the flashforwards. Not really a spoiler cos producers have said as much. Seasons 2 through 5 will feature further flashforwards that the team need to fathom, in the vein of 24 with a new "case" each year. This would also allow different regulars to come and go as they are relevant to each case, with the core investigative team grounding the ensemble. These seasons will also drip feed information about who is causing the blackouts and why. Season 6 begins as just another case before the mid season discovery of the big answer followed by a breakneck pace to the cliffhanger and a showdown with the big man behind it all. He announces it has all been done to accelerate the discovery of certain mysteries that otherwise wouldn't have come to light because man (read Yank Gov.) needs the info to stop a big catastrophe. Cue season seven, stopping the big catastrophe.

I also reckon Fiennes will die in the finale after years of fan sniping about how he is the dullest bloke in the show so why all the focus on him? (see Losts Jack) His death will come after a big reunion with his estranged wife when it is revealed that her new fella and his kid, who will probably end up not really being his kid, are revealed to be part of the big conspiracy.

What do you think? I reckon I was bang on. Sorta.

Next : Ashes to Ashes and then I promise, pinky swear and everything, that I'll post some shorter bits of shit. With pictures of pretty ladies.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

The Prisoner

A few weeks back I decided to write a Quest entry comparing the finales of 3 shows that all finished for good around about the same time. Trouble was, I was trawling through all that horror channel stuff and then I went offline for a while and one thing leading to another I forgot all about it. So it now feels a hell of a lot less topical but fuck it, I'm gonna do it anyway.

The 3 shows in question are Ashes to Ashes, The Prisoner and Flashforward. All, coincidentally enough, shows that traded a great deal on ambiguity and mystery. And yes, I'm well aware that the ultimate in ambiguous storytelling, Lost, also ended at around that time but I'm a bit behind and have only just gotten around to watching the first few eps. of its final season.

To get on with it then, I'm gonna kick off with The Prisoner. Now, I have watched the original in its entirety but while I have fond memories of enjoying it, I have only the vaguest memories of what actually happened. A rewatch may be in order, if the complete set of tapes has remained intact on my travels. Point is though, I'm not someone who feels particularly territorial or protective of the original. It's not a sacred thing for me. For that reason I was able to go into this new version with much more of an open mind.

An open mind that was sorely tested. I hated the first episode before deciding that it wasn't that bad after all, quite liked the second episode and then spent episodes 3 through 6 moving through stages of confusion, irritation, anger and finally acceptance that yes, this really was pretentious wankery of the highest order and I was wasting my time trying to convince myself that it made any kind of dramatic sense. I mean, seriously, did anyone even read the scripts for this drivel before chucking money at it?

For a while I thought that it was just me. That I wasn't bright enough to fully comprehend the nuances and subtleties of it's intricately crafted world. Then I realised that it wasn't intricately crafted, it was just thrown together willy nilly in the hopes that an excess of weirdness would disguise the fact. I did 'get' what they were trying to do, with the whole 'giving the subconscious life in the village to help people in the real world' shtick, which isn't the most terrible idea ever but they got so caught up in trying to be clever, rather than just telling their story, that the whole thing just degenerates into a disjointed mess. I kind of wish that this series had been called something else because I can't help but feel that they felt compelled to live up to or surpass the ambiguity of the original and without that "it's The Prisoner so it has to be weird" mentality they could have been on to something quite special here.

No talk of this show would be complete of course without mention of the one thing that did entertain me throughout the run. I speak of course, of Ruth Wilsons mouth. I'm sorry, but the woman has a weird mouth, there's no getting away from it. The run of Luther on BBC1 overlapped with this show and she was in that as well so for a while there I had 2hrs a week of Ruth Wilsons mouth to cheer me up when I felt down. I'm not trying to be mean, and it's not weird in an ugly or unattractive way (quite the opposite, she's very bonny) but it is just ... It's the only thing I can look at when she's on screen, put it that way.

Shit, this one has dragged on again and if I do all three shows it'll be a fucking book so I'll sign off and do the others separately. If anyone is still reading this waffle I apologise, I'm still getting the hang of this blogging lark. This wasn't meant to be a series (nor was the horror channel stuff when I started writing it) but I just can't control my long windedness.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Firestarter Rekindled

This post should have gone up a while ago but I spent a little over a week without any 'net connection and things got lost in the shuffle when that elusive connection was re-established. Anyway...

Well, after Friday 13th and Freddys Nightmares, I come to the third of the shows horror has graced me with these past couple of weeks. Namely, Firestarter:Rekindled, the belated sequel to the Drew Barrymore starring adaptation of Stephen Kings novel. Not the follow up to the novel you understand, the follow up to the adaptation. This is an important distinction to make because as we all know, King fans more than most, when it comes to page to screen transfers, the end result is oftentimes borderline unrecognisable. So this is billed as a sequel to the events as depicted on screen, not on the page.

How big is the difference in this case? I'm going to be honest here and say that I don't know. I read Firestarter well over a decade ago and have distinct memories of disappointment but little else, plotwise or otherwise. I don't think that I'm alone in this; it does seem to have the reputation of being some distance short of Kings best work. As far as the move goes I have to hold my hands up and say that I've never seen it. I suppose it could be a Shawshank/Stand By Me level classic but I'd be surprised.

All of which means that I'm coming to Rekindled at something of a disadvantage. I of course recognised the characters of Charlie and John Rainbird, and the whole concept of Lot 6 and its aftermath came back to me quite readily but beyond that I had nothing. Which, perhaps surprisingly, didn't matter in the slightest. The plot of the movie was quite succinctly summed up in a few nicely staged flashback sequences and the thrust of the new story was sufficiently different that it was well able to stand alone. I found that I had no problems at all grasping what was going on.

The basic idea is that an investigator for a law firm is tracking down the participants in a long ago Drug Trial (Lot 6) in order to furnish them with cheques for their share of a big class action compensation claim. He discovers that when he finds them they are in fact being killed and so he goes on the run with Charlie, whom he bumps into while she is running her own investigation of her origins, as the sinister blokes try to track them down to stop them causing any bother in the run up to the launch of their new project; a bunch of creepy kids with various powers, which they intend to market to the military.

Don't you just wanna slap him?
Of course it all ends with Charlie confronting Rainbird (badly burned after the book and presumably movie climax) and his psycho sprogs, preventing their big 'kill loads of people in a mad way' plan from coming to fruition and killing Rainbird once and for all. Surprisingly though, Rainbird does kill the investigator blokey, inevitably now Charlies lover. Even though he had just promised to visit his dying estranged father. No teary reconciliation for him, he gets a blade through the ear into the brain. Shocking, but somewhat cathartic for the viewer, due to the fact that he was played by the pathologically annoying Danny Nucci.

Laura San Giaco... Sorry, what?
Charlie herself is played by an actress called Marguerite Moreau. A woman I'd never heard of but who looks a hell of a lot like a slightly smaller chested Laura San Giacomo. The internet tells me that Moreau is fairly well known as an actress in her own right but I'm afraid I just got flashbacks to Just Shoot Me whenever she was onscreen. Not that she was in any way a bad actress, managing to hold her own in scenes opposite noted scene stealers Malcolm McDowell and Dennis Hopper. Slightly weirdly, Hopper showed up halfway through this, from out of the blue (I'd not noticed his name in the titles but it was there when I rewound the tape) not 5 minutes after I heard the news on the day of his death. Spooky.

Anyway, this is a miniseries which I've been wanting to see for a while now, ever since I managed to miss every single showing on the notoriously repeat friendly Sky network. I forget whether it was Sky One or Movies but I remember it seemed to always be on and life just insisted on getting in the way. I'm glad to finally be able to put it to rest and also that after such a long wait it didn't turn out to be a disappointment.

Next : ????

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Freddys Nightmares

I have never been a huge movie viewer. Sure, back when Sc-fi on TV was much more of a rarity I would watch whatever movies were available in order to feed the need but once the telefantasy boom really kicked off (early 90's) and I started having access to it (a bit later) I found that watching shows took precedence and when you watched as many shows as I did that didn't leave a lot of time for features.

Of course, I've seen the classics; Blade Runner, Star Wars, Alien, Planet of the Apes etc. and I have fond memories of some lesser movies that if I rewatched them now would probably disappoint, like Return of the Living Dead, Shockwave, Red Dawn, Last Starfighter and the like. On the whole though, I'm not a massive movie fan.

There are some characters however that, no matter how unfamiliar you may be with the actual movies, are iconic. Characters that have invaded the public psyche to such a degree that you are actually surprised when you confront yourself with the fact that you've never actually seen their movie. One such character is Freddy Kruger.

I've seen precisely 2 Nightmare on Elm Street movies. The original, many years ago as a child and New Nightmare, shortly after it's release on VHS. This one was actually a rare case of me seeking out a movie, intrigued as I was by it's "oh, look at me, I'm so clever" premise. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be something of a masterpiece. The point though is that I've seen 2 movies in a series of - looks it up, finds out it's 8, not counting the remake - and those years ago, and yet I feel like I know the character of Freddy Krueger as well as I know the dudes in a show I've watched every week for years. Why? God knows, but I suppose we must praise Wes Craven and Robert Englund for creating so memorable a villain.

Watching Freddys Nightmares on horror then is something of a strange experience, given that I went into it with quite a lot of preconceptions about the character that I now realise may not actually be correct. Those who read my Twitter feed (not many, I have only 20 followers and half of those are spammers) have had the dubious privilege of reading my thoughts on this series but it's only now that I do a little research for this post that I realise I could well have been talking shit. For one thing, I have been operating on the assumption that Freddy was a paedophile. Apparently this is not true, he just killed kids, with any reference to paedophilia having been excised from the script early on. So why was I convinced that he was? And if I've gotten that wrong, what else am I missing or misconstruing?

Even putting aside the fact that many of my ideas about the character of Freddy may be flawed, and therefore my complaints on that score unfounded, I still cannot bring myself to call this a good show. I wanted it to be. When I sat down to watch the pilot, "No More Mr. Nice Guy", I was genuinely excited about what I was about to see. The odd dodgy performance aside I wasn't disappointed but after that the series goes downhill fast. Freddy himself barely appears in most episodes, merely popping up to top and tail with a really poor pun in a kind of anthology host type of way.

Which would be fine if the show was presented as an anthology, but it isn't. Watching only the first 9 episodes, it's easy to spot any number of things that go against the anthology format. All of the stories are set in Springwood, the 'local legend' of Freddy Krueger is mentioned often, even if it's not a factor in the episode, locations such as the Beefy Boy fast food restaurant reoccur (with staff members mentioning events that occurred there in previous episodes) and one set of characters have returned for a 'sequel' to their initial appearance.

So, a confused format that keeps the star attraction off screen for a goodly portion of the run time. Is that the only problem the show has? Not really. The individual episodes don't really work either. Each episode is split into 2 chunks. Th first section features someone being tormented in some fashion, and ends with them either dead or insane. The second section takes a minor character from the first half, makes them the focus, torments them in some fashion and ends with them either dead or insane. It's so obvious that they wanted to be making a Twilight Zone hour with 2 distinct stories because the sections are often linked in only the most tenuous of ways and could easily be separate stories entirely.

Some of the episodes also suffer from the fact that they don't really have any kind of internal logical consistency. It's like the writers have taken the excuse of the dream concept to tell willfully bizarre stories that make no attempt to make sense. Weirdness for weirdness sake does not an interesting story tell. I should say that I have no problem with surrealism but some of these stories smack of laziness. "This script doesn't make sense, should we give it a polish?" "Nah, balls to it, it's all a dream isn't it?".

So, horror are showing this series, weeknights at 8:00. The show ran for 2 seasons but this channel does have a habit of repeating one season half a dozen times before moving on so I doubt I'll see season 2 anytime soon. Maybe that's a blessing. Maybe after this season ends I'll make the effort to track down a few of the movies, try to educate myself in a little Freddy lore before progressing. That way I can feel justified in slagging it off when they inevitably piss all over it.

Next : A made for TV sequel to a big screen adaptation of a sub par Stephen King novel.