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Star Trek: Voyager – Virtuoso (Review)

Virtuoso is an interesting companion piece to Blink of an Eye.

Blink of an Eye was in many ways an exploration and reflection of Star Trek as a multimedia franchise, looking at the way in which the franchise has touched and shaped contemporary culture in the thirty-odd years since its inception. As part of this, the episode touched on fandom in a variety of ways, whether the abstract fandom of those individuals inspired by the series to accomplish great things or the more specific fandom including merchandise. Blink of an Eye was very much an episode about loving Star Trek.

Music to our ears.

As a result, Virtuoso feels like a very strange choice to directly follow Blink of an Eye. The two episodes are not connected by plot, outside of the basic idea that the EMH might spend an extended period of time on an alien planet without access to Voyager. After all, Star Trek: Voyager had committed itself to producing standalone episodic storytelling. However, Virtuoso is also something of a metaphor for Star Trek fandom, a look at what it is to love a piece of popular entertainment and to eagerly embrace it.

Unfortunately, the proximity to Blink of an Eye does no favours for Virtuoso, emphasising the script’s weaknesses and tone-deafness. Virtuoso is an episode that feels very pointed and cynical in its portrayal of fandom, very broad and very unpleasant. It is a clumsy and muddled piece of television, on that struggles to hit the right notes.

Small pleasures.

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Doctor Who: Paradise Towers (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Paradise Towers originally aired in 1987.

Oh, I see. It’s some sort of robotic cleaner with automotive bicurval scraping blades. Impressive workmanship.

You don’t understand.

No, I don’t, but I intend to.

– the Doctor and the Deputy Chief Caretaker

Paradise Towers is brilliant. It’s crazy, it’s overstated, it’s an hour too long and it suffers from the fact that nobody really knows what they’re doing, but there’s a sense of genius at work here. Script editor Andrew Cartmel took over at the start of the season, with no scripts. Time and the Rani came from John Nathan Turner’s reliable Pip and Jane Baker, so Paradise Towers is the first script where Cartmel has been allowed to make his mark.

And it’s precisely what the show needed. The execution is significantly flawed, the pacing is all wrong and there’s a sense that not everybody between the script and the camera realised what was going on, but it has a distinct energy to it. Time and the Rani was essentially Doctor Who struggling to keep its head above water. Paradise Towers sees the show diving right into the eighties.

"... where the grass is green and the girls are pretty..."

“… where the grass is green and the girls are pretty…”

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: Chris Cooper Raps (The Muppets)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #1

If you ever need proof of how delightfully absurd The Muppets was, the sight of Oscar-winner Chris Cooper dancing and rapping across his desk, only to unleash a storeroom full of chorus girls while Jason Segel looks on in confusion should do the trick. It’s a fantastic moment because it’s so ridiculously surreal. Cooper is rapping for about a minute of screen-time, meaning that it’s over before it has really begun – leaving both the characters and the audience wondering what the hell just happened.

In a great way.

themuppets10

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Non-Review Review: Ted

Ted is an impressive directorial debut from Seth McFarlane, the creator and star of Family Guy. Those familiar with McFarlane’s work will know what to expect from Ted. It’s loud, it’s crude, it’s full of retro pop culture references, but it’s also constructed with almost surreal innocence and earnestness. McFarlane can be brutal at times, and he does make a few cheap shots here or there over the course of Ted. (Take that, Justin Beiber! Take that, Brandon Routh!) However, for the most part, the film actually does a remarkable job of balancing its crass in-your-face offensiveness with a weird emotional warmth. At it’s heart, Ted is still the story of a boy and his teddy bear. It just so happens to be a really messed up teddy bear.

Bear with me…

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Non-Review Review: Return of the Living Dead

Return of the Living Dead is a fairly strange beast. Something of a black comedy spin-off from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the film is a ridiculously campy exploration of trashy low-rent horror… and yet somehow has been picked up and embraced by popular culture. After all, this is the movie that introduced the idea that zombies weren’t just satiated by consuming large quantities of meat (most often from humans) – this was the film which introduced the idea of zombies stumbling forward, repeatedly droning “braaaaains!” It’s a concept which has been so throughly incorporated into pop culture’s definition of zombie (although it’s rarely the case, we still expect it and recognise it), so it seems strange that it came from a spoof.

No bones about it...

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March (2011) In Review

That was a fun month.

I’m still, to be honest, entirely speechless. I picked up the Best Pop Culture Award at the Irish Blog Awards earlier this month, and I’m still delighted and humbled and honoured and all those things. I know I don’t blog to win awards, but I really feel motivated to try even harder to justify the huge vote of confidence that it represents.


Other than that, there was tonnes of stuff. I’m currently blogging along with Things That Don’t Suck‘s  “Raimi-fest”, which is a blast. Always a joy to be asked to take part. March also had some fairly decent films – with two brilliant films in Source Code and The Adjustment Bureau, along with a slew of quite good films to go along with it. So that was pretty fantastic. Although maybe I’m just a big softie.

I got to ramble (at length) about the upcoming Superman film, and revisit Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy (and just why he was so damn suited to it). I had my first honest-to-goodness interview, with the wonderful Grace Dyas.

I defended big budget blockbusters, wondered who killed The Mountains of Madness and got to discuss why this year’s Academy Awards felt like a great big group hug.

It was a fun month. Hopefully the trend will continue!

We’re an Irish Blog Awards Finalist!

We made the final of the Irish Blog Awards in the Best Pop Culture category. It’s an honour to be nominated again, and we’ll see you all for the final in Belfast next Saturday.

It’s an honour to make the final alongside such Irish blogging institutions as:

A huge congratulations to those who made the final list, and commiserations to those who didn’t.