Monday, 29 June 2009

Draw Parker!

Counting down to the retail release of Darwyn Cooke's take on Richard Stark's The Hunter, Almost Darwyn Cooke's Blog is running a Draw Parker contest. Below be my submission. Stark favoured a young Jack Palance, John Boorman cast Lee Marvin in his LA fever reeler Point Blank, and I'm getting a bit of a Burt Lancaster / Ralph Meeker vibe off what little of Cooke's version I've seen. We'll ignore Mel Gibson. I decided to skew a bit 60s pop Euro cinema for my draft: Lee Van Cleef squint and Belmondo riff-raffery.

Hope you dig. He'll do you harm!

Wow! Rapid turnaround at blog Darwyn. Thanks for posting!

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Sketch Sunday: Judge Dredd

77 vintage Dredd for me. Joe's never looked anything but wonderful in his decades spanning career, but for me there's an extra little bit of pizazz located in his formative outings - the zippy wire-man action of early Mike McMahon, and Carlos Ezquerra's pouting futuristic Bank Job prototype. It's all icy mechanical fascism, with a dash of racial ambiguity, and a fizz of bubble head future-pop.

I should learn some art packages. I look at this and think a dash of colour could really help my scratchy little line work. Recommends welcome.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Bionic Commando

Bionic Commando is a beguiling game. The ever present techno-vine arm promises a hurling super-freedom, enabling the player to bypass enemies and incident in a swinging bionic blur. Unfortunately this never quite materialises. Gameplay is distributed in bite-size chunks, heavily checkpointed and ruthlessly sectioned. Players are issued a succession of screens to clear, with areas partitioned off by progress barriers that require street-level combat, as well as lethal background radiation that prohibit off-path exploration. Although faithful to Bionic Commando's 8-Bit ancestor, it's a curious playground for a central skill-set that makes nose-bleed ascension and chasm leaping so accessible.

Still, it's a gorgeous path to tread - cityscapes bloated with watery ruin bleed into National Park superquarters, and fragile sky-cities. There's always something to grapple onto, and always enough meandering enemy staff to demonstrate your wealth of abilities on. Incremental challenges are issued throughout, calling attention to the variety of lethal interaction available, completion rewarded with console specific boast currency. Lead toy Nathan Spencer is an interesting sketch of a character too. Voiced by Faith No More's Mike Patton, Spencer's dialogue plays like a meta consumer's commentary, aggravated by game halt intrusion, and delighted when allowed to swing and pound.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Mr Harlan Ellison

Extract from Erik Nelson's Dreams with Sharp Teeth documentary. Harlan Ellison in full swing, captured on tape for the ages. Don't worry, the irony of the above video's placing is not lost on me. If you enjoyed that, might I direct you to Harlan Ellison's Watching? A wonderful in-scene account of Hollywood's clumsy anti-art machinations and genre film criticism, absolutely worth a punt just to chuckle through Ellison's artful demolition of Steven Spielberg's Executive Producer oeuvre. It gets read and re-read 'round here.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

In the first Transformers film director Michael Bay struggled with the Spielbergian conceit of a lonely boy and his alien pal - the fantastical grounded in a high school status predicament. Is my car cool enough to get girls? It's a premise I can't imagine the swaggering Bay has the least bit of interest in. Bay doesn't make films concerned with real people or their problems. Instead his films are about grotesque stereotypes outrunning explosions. If his films are any indication, Michael Bay is basically a sociopath or, at the very least, an adman.

The director has a hard-on for James Cameron and so likes to build three hour chase films full of violent, shapeless robots. People are essentially alien to Bay, they're either gorgeous possessions or ugly and funny. Nothing else has value. Bay is like one of the Scott brothers filtered through moneyed living, conservative politics, and aspirational music video ignorance. Just enough alienation to make him hate too. What Michael Bay can do though is photograph unthinking machinery in action. His films are always at their most engaging when the director is careening from rolling military briefings to explosive engagement. This is the material that Bay can best project himself onto - ruthless efficiency, informed by all the gadgets money can buy. Anything else, he flounders.

The ideal Michael Bay film would be a forty-five minute long, silent action sequence in which an unfeeling thing breaks lesser versions of itself. Everything else the director produces is as phoney as Buffalo Bill's broken arm. With that in mind, the first adrenalised stretch of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen holds. The adult Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, are working in tandem with a Coalition of the Willing wet work team, tracking deep-cover Decepticon cells. Unlike the first film, in which Prime and pals were portrayed as slapstick action figures, here they are a tight, soldiering, unit. The Decepticons are also afforded a little more dramatic wriggle room, enduring a cosmic hierarchy inherited from The Empire Strikes Back. Even Sam's witless college excursion is enlivened by a fuck and kill sex-bot that Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was too unambitious to pursue.

This first section is a fast forward rumination on biological jealousy and automated hatred. The live action re-design of the transformers, that stresses a flayed, mechanical musculature, couples with Bay's endemic crudities to congeal into a workable thesis. How can a sexless metal titan relate to a fragile mass of tissue and organs? The impotent Megatron, father to countless stillborn atrocities, dispatches agents to seduce and penetrate Sam. When Megatron finally has the human in his possession, he expounds on a desire to tear the teenager apart to see what makes him work. The Decepticons are a nightmare - might monsters who gleefully cannibalise inferior comrades to resurrect their junked high-command. A terrible unit of alien vivisectionists, vomiting up ever shrinking subordinates to invade every level of human experience.

Transformers in Fallen are rootless alien super beings, stranded on a rock manned by wheezing biological germs. They seethe hatred. Never more so than when the two factions clash. They claw at each other, grasping at exposed pistons and joints. This mechanical battling is vicious in a way rarely explored in mainstream pugilism. A lack of recognisable biology helps to keep things ratings board friendly too. There's a palpable sense of loathing between the combatants as they systematically dismantle each other. Binary hatred being explored by whizz-kid ILM animators, their heads full of childhood toy smashing and anime blocking. The forest fight sequence that tops the first half is a crescendo of pivoting, total, violence. Fallen never comes close to repeating this success, bogging itself down with a witless McGuffin race complete with racist comic relief, relentless misogyny, and a flatulent stealth codger. All of the 2007 model's disastrous faults return for this distended, concluding run. Attention plummets as Fallen locks into a mugging, minstrel act for cackle-minded simpletons. I began to doubt it ever held my interest at all.

Bone China Batman

Tim Burton's blockbusting Batman turns twenty today. I'm about to cue up a viewing. Reviewed elsewhere, so instead please find enclosed a pre-release trailer of uncommon pause. Hyperactive attention grabbing sits uneasy with Burton's nouveau stately staging doesn't it? The edit needed out on the first punchline, but stayed for the second. Of special note, when viewed out of context, are the first twenty or so seconds, in which it appears that Batman's Gothic justice stamp extends to wiping out frothing midnight parades. Bat-Mission: zipping around his rib like Castle in a toybox Bat-Fighter, unloading millions and millions of dollars worth of military explosives on a battered public whilst triumphant music blares. Now there's a movie! Did they really have to ruin the illusion by revealing Joker?

Friday, 19 June 2009

A Fistful of Context

When preparing A Fistful of Dollars for its first television screening in the late 1970s, the ABC Network discerned that something was lacking from Leone's grubby little masterpiece: moral context. "Why, that no-good Eastwood stranger just wandered into town and had himself some murder. Why did he do it? He's too unkempt for altruism!" perhaps crossed their minds. This pop New Wave western amorality was simply too vague for mainstream televising sensibilities, so the network had Two-Lane Blacktop director Monte Hellman shoot a piecemeal introduction sequence. Presented below, this dreadful little addition recasts Eastwood's most iconic character as a collaborating fink, prepared to work for Harry Dean Stanton's shady government lawman to save his neck.

Designed to answer a question no-one was asking, this prologue raises an even more mind-bending predicament: who in hell caught The Man With No Name?

The only good to come out of this sorry mess is that the clip further aligns the Dollars hero with that other stalwart of 60s pulp punishment: James Bond. Both are in-pocket G-Man murderers with cruel streaks a mile wide.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

TMNT 1989 Classic Arcade

Dreary scroll-slog, dressed up with shameless menu eye-grabs from Imagi's 2007 feature film. TMNT 1989 Classic Arcade (previously known as the much simpler Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) is a mystifying well regarded coin-op effort by Konami. Specially prepared for Xbox Live Arcade by Digital Eclipse, TMNT only really excels as gaudy nostalgia artifact. Motivation: Turtle pal April O'Neil has been kidnapped by the dastardly Shredder. Players select a colour code reptile, and battle their way across several mundane urban landscapes. Movement is limited to brisk strolling and default thumps. There's barely any report when you strike your enemies, and foes barely evolving beyond palette swap robo-shinobi. A crime considering the franchise's richly grotesque supporting cast kept children in action figures for nearly a decade.

TMNT displays a chronic lack of imagination compared to other licenced Konami side-scrollers of the period. TMNT is the poor cousin to the totem-twist bestiary of 1990's gonzo Aliens or the exhaustively manned The Simpsons: The Arcade Game. All effort has been focused on making the limited amount of figure sprites move as fluidly as possible, a reasonable brief for what essentially amounts to another marketing campaign adjunct. Doesn't mean it's fun to play though. Still, there's a simultaneous four player mode to ease the pain. Proof that enabling external camaraderie to paper over glaring interactive short-comings wasn't invented this generation.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Tuesday, 16 June 2009


Much like its animated forebears, Michael Bay's Transformers functions as an extended advert for action figures. Since Bay is such an accomplished hyper-tasker, the film finds time to promote the ailing fortunes of the floundering General Motors while also serving as a hot-blooded recruitment drive for the various arms of the American military industrial complex. Tutored at the heel of 80s cocaine guzzlers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, Bay's response to the underdeveloped blockbuster writing beget by all this advertising is to insert on-the-fly snicker prompts.

It's as if the director anticipates a disengaged, grumbling audience. Zone out during that exposition? Here's a dick gag to keep you blinking. Acting is likewise affected, the mood stays manic and indulgent throughout. Bay's idea of character development is a Saturday Night Live aside that has already ran on two minutes too long. Shia LaBeouf's calamitous, mugging entrance has Megan Fox rolling her eyes into the ground. Yes. That's your leading man.

Marrying an 80s boy's toy franchise to a Terminator 2: Judgment Day style chase adds up, but the anxiety and threat required to meet that potential is undermined by the incessant non-sequitur and the prolonged absence of any peril generating robots. Presented as an interchangeable mass of evil, the Decepticons lack distinct personalities - each individual's acts build, anonymously, into a wider sense of antagonism, but no real characteristics emerge. We never settle on one memorable player. They're all just gun metal titans firing blindly.

Arch-foe Megatron, the crux of all transformer conflict, is relegated to a marginal amount of screen-time in the third act. Freshly thawed from an icy slumber, he contents himself zipping about as an alien jet screaming his name at the bemused humans. Unfortunately these transformers are little more than a series of indistinguishable ILM tech-demos. Special effects sequences rather than clashing, mobbing dispositions. That said, the Decepticons do provide Transformers' most indelible moments - street-level glimpses of flight-bots Starscream and Blackout rapidly reconfiguring then peeling away, towards the horizon, are brief joys in this vapid whole.

Monday, 15 June 2009


With the demise of Bruce Timm's DC animated serials, I gave up any hope of seeing a motion take on Jack Kirby's Fifth World survivor Kamandi. What were the chances of any subsequent team being as infatuated with the lesser known DC ensemble? I needn't have worried. Guest star extravaganza Batman: The Brave and the Bold to the rescue!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Real American World Police

Stephen Sommer's GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Due August. Looks like someone felt a live action remake of Team America: World Police was what the people needed. They're taking irony free blockbusting back! Target 1: The Eiffel Tower! Word is, it's testing on the chart. Ouch.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Transformers: Misogyny

The older I get, the less inclined I am to laugh off the word 'bitch' as anything but loaded. There's an aggressive, possessive element to the remark that earmarks it as chattel language. It's an ugly word masquerading as minor curse. Cunt for kids. It's also a pretty boring word, lacking in any florid poetry. It's just a barbed click, usually spat at a perceived inferior. With that in mind: does it have any place in a children's film?

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
swaggers with a teen rating, and late-twenties nostalgia, but really its primary purpose is kiddy thrill. Fallen presents a tiny spy-bot called Wheelie as a notional child identifier. I stress notional, I'm sure children will gravitate towards the implacable boy-might of someone like Optimus Prime instead, the intent stands though. Wheelie is small, feeble, smart mouthed, but brave. Key components for Hollywood's idea of cool-kid reflections. He also transforms into a child's toy: a remote control car. Below is what I assume will be Wheelie's introductory sequence. The robot ambling about Megan Fox's garage, prat-falling and swearing before eventually being discovered. A brief battle ensues that ends with Wheelie being imprisoned, but not before he's called Fox a "crazy bitch".

Is that cool? Is it really necessary? Is that an idea that should be exported into fledgling minds? Also, isn't Fox's character marginalised quite enough as a slow-mo fantasy figure? Michael Bay wants little boys to hate women. I'm only half joking.

Altered Beast

Best regarded as a thesis in super-states, Altered Beast casts the player as a puny human resurrected by Zeus to rescue his daughter from sour-faced magicians. Fresh from the grave, your punch man is tiny and ineffective. He can barely raise his arm quick enough to battle his mythical enemies. The evil beasts he faces must be well within his reach to even consider taking damage.

Naturally these same baddies have significantly longer range and greater speed, all the better to ruthlessly zone you. In-between retreating, players are required to scour the levels for white demon-dogs - for every canine vanquished the puny human bulks up, expanding from athletically muscled to Schwarzenegger. Nab three of these power ups and you transform into a level specific were-monster. Naturally the white wolves that conceal these collectibles roam in packs with worthless brown dogs that chip away at your life bar.

The transformations in Altered Beast are both a treat and a requirement. In this super-state troublesome foes are easily beaten, wilting under a variety of static shock and fireball attacks. If you dither, Bosses will sneer and depart, extending the stage. You're only able to face them when you've fully powered up. Good thing really - you wouldn't stand a chance otherwise.

Altered Beast is dreadfully unfair, repeatedly lifting its dress to reveal arcade avarice. In default muscle mode the player is frequently encircled and killed, demanding more expenditure. Similarly, power-up dogs spend a great deal of the unfolding levels charging away from the player, denying ascension. This measly design does have the effect of making the eventual mutations all the more exciting though. Unless you're especially clod-thumbed you'll be screen clearing with ease.

Hopeless inadequate as anything other than a curiosity, Altered Beast nevertheless enjoys a genial reputation. Sega punished customers with weakness and inadequate controls, eventually gifting them something resembling a cheat-mode. A clear demonstration that players will never tire of overwhelming power.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Club

The complete antithesis of a title like Gears of War. Rather than spin out a lumbering space marine yarn, The Club focuses on adrenalised dash-play. Dispensing with anything but the barest context frame, The Club casts players into a Sega-sky manhunt, were quick defeats are encouraged. Players must navigate a variety of abandoned industrial spaces, stringing head-shot combos together whilst puzzling out ever changing course routes. No respite. No formula remix. All superplay speed-runs. Idealised play a brief gasp of fraught sprint shoots. Paced like a time trial race sim, with a gunplay model not dissimilar to Resident Evil 4's Mercenaries mode, The Club is best experienced in crafty snatches. Extended play eliciting Epinephrine funk fatigue. Unfairly sidelined on release, Bizarre Creations' ode to arcade self-improvement can now be had for less than £10.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Apprentice 5: Rise of the Machines

The curtain falls on Series 5. We should be due another next year, as well as a Junior edition, if King Alan can convince the Tories that his appointment as Gordon Brown's Enterprise Tsar isn't in conflict with the BBC's impartiality editorial policy. Yikes! Here was me thinking we'd just have to soldier on without show mainstay Margaret Mountford, but by the sounds of it we could be down the whole shebang. Dark days.

Sunday's final saw a chocolate flavoured face off between Kate and Yasmina. King Alan demanded the finalists bang him up a box of chocolates and an attendant campaign / hook. 80s economy, 80s product. If the next series gets made, I expect a task in which contestants have to devise a puzzle-cube thingy. They're all the rage now. A selection of ex-candidates were rolled out for pick-play. Kate didn't dare make eye contact with Phillip. It was excruciating. Kate instead lumbered herself with Ben, whose agitated sex head seemed to infect the whole process. Initial choc-box designs had a whiff of feminine hygiene about them, and the campaign ad veered into pooh-play. Not a pretty sight.

Yasmina's team initially toyed with male-accented bites, before that idea was focus grouped into oblivion. Rather than plow on with a stinker, Yasmina changed tact, focusing on shock-value treats, with flavours such as Arsenic and Toilet. Or there abouts. Cannily recalling how she won the catering task (cheap tat sold less cheap), Yasmina stuck to her model and dished out an eight quid eye-catch to Kate's north of ten culinary treats. Rather than make the classic Apprentice mistake of focusing on the end product, Yasmina concentrated on expanding her bottom line well into profitability. The day was hers.

A great end to a series that started off as a central cast stinker, and matured into a tight business-off. Who'd have thought Debra would have placed? I had her pegged as a Week 4 harridan, ready to explode some bully over the closest waif to hand. This was also the first series since one that gave any sense of fraternity between the contestants. Shown scowling venom was at a minimum, thankfully. There's a clip on the BBC website that shows Phillip bashfully telling Lorraine that despite their past differences, he's really missed her since he's been off the show. Lorraine slips into Irish and agrees she's a grower. What a coda.

Seven Force!

From Mega Drive masterpiece Gunstar Heroes, released today on Xbox Live Arcade.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Fuck's Sake

A big thank you to all the bigots and trendy 'punk' voters out there. Thanks to your racism / hilarious sky-larking we know have two ex-National Front, Holocaust denying scumbags winging their way towards Europe to represent us. As an aside, another round of appreciation should be extended for once again reinforcing the rest of the country's idea that their Northern neighbours are backward reactionaries. Rest assured your near-sighted bile has betrayed us all.

Friday, 5 June 2009

David Carradine

Apprentice 5: Judgment Day

The dying weeks are my favourite part of The Apprentice. For the majority of the show's twelve week runtime we are treated to brief impressions of each of the cast. Contestants are reduced to one note caricatures: there's a loud one, a boring one, a funny one. The list goes on. There also seems to be an editorial policy in place that favours idiocy in the moment-to-moment rolling recap. Since the majority of the show is illustration and context for the eventual boardroom showdown, this makes a sense. What has been lost though is any notion that any real candidates exist for King Alan's job. They're all fools. This is what makes the last few weeks so enjoyable, they ditch the pretence and instead begin to focus on why the producers actually did cast this rabble.

During Wednesday's interview special, we started to see some real contenders emerge. Just in the nick of time eh? Thanks to a last minute push mandate, Kate finally emerged as Michelle Dewberry 2, a collected smile-face that has long since ditched emotions as surplus to requirement. Boring she may be, but her droning robo-thing speaks to methodical achievement. Just keep her away from Phillip. He's a bad influence. We finally got explanation word that Yasmina is already deep in business with a restaurant, King Alan lapping up her entrepreneurial instincts, a quality sadly lacking in the other candidates. Those two are heading off to Sunday's rescheduled final. I was sorry to see Debra bow out, her bellowing impertinence was a treat quite frankly. She was always deeply in game-mode. Willing to argue over everything. She's not colleague material, but certainly an entertaining watch.

It also became apparent rather early on that James and Lorraine were to be the fluffy comedy stuffing that keeps this show on an entertainment even keel. Achievements be damned! James had written an attention seeking CV, exactly the sort of bolshy big bollocks that gets you cast, but ends up getting you laughed out of real contention. His exit was actually rather touching, a personable exclamation rather than a boring reconsider jab. Lorraine suffered the same Mad Aunt angle Lucinda failed to weather last year. Her intuition dressed up as tea-leaf reading nonsense. Out they went. Hopping over to BBC 2 for a well earned make-over.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Terminator: Salvation

Churn out a few pleasant trailers and even the most hackneyed product can start to resemble something worthwhile. Terminator: Salvation's ad avalanche promised a wasteland flick heavily indebted to George Miller's white-line nightmares - the well from which much of James Cameron's kinetic original sprang. Salvation's teases posited a relentless chase narrative, full of cobble-armour juggernauts and the zip-machines that hunt them. On the night, we are instead presented with a sanitised apocalypse, manned by herd friendly heroics and incompetent ILM cast-offs.

This time John Connor's ranting mission statement is time-loop self-preservation. Skynet has the kid who will become Connor's father, so naturally he must be rescued. In order to get the rest of the resistance on-side Connor cannily shifts the dilemma off his imperilled parentage and onto a humanist rhetoric about collateral damage. If only this duplicity was acknowledged, then you'd have a strong, distinct take on a man obsessed with his own importance.

Instead the contradiction hangs there, casting a cowardly stink over Connor's efforts. This is a bit of a trend in T4, nothing really adds up. Why does Skynet churn out machines with such obvious design flaws? Why does the hyper computer package hulking metal goliaths in rubber Halloween masks? Where is the industry that feeds the exhaustively manned human war machine? If McG et al really did have to junk Cameron's nightmarish neo-Stalingrad, they could have at least attempted to create something a little bit more interesting than a Michael Bay military recruitment vehicle transposed onto disaster year 2018.

Despite the surplus of excitement this film stands to mine from its two most significant prequels, T4 seems more interested in chasing 2007's Transformers. Futuristic antagonists blink and tinker like misguided comic relief, each blaring the unknowable machine language that made Bay's film vaguely tolerable. A wandering cyclops burps up morphing minions like cassette-bot Soundwave, and all machine dimensions seem calibrated for a chunky action figure range.

How else do you explain the anti-stealth monstrosity that passes for an LA infiltration unit? Clodding breeze-block feet, a bobbing carnival head, and a Gatling gun accessory permanently stitched to his arm. He's fooling no-one. These enemies are disposable, peril non-existent. Rather than rend and tear at their despised ex-masters, these machines would prefer to toss them about a bit, all the better to manoeuvre the stars near a handy machine-gun emplacement. Terminator: Salvation is so relentlessly wrong-headed, it's barely worth listing the flaws. Rest assured they are near total.

Amongst the dross there is one brief moment of interest. Deep into the third act a 1984 vintage Arnold Schwarzenegger makes an appearance. Achieved through a CG alchemy that makes use of an ancient Schwarzenegger head-cast, and Arnold's officially sanctioned body double Roland Kickinger, this Frankenstein's Monster literalises the star as a walking special effect. This presents a dilemma for this viewer. I was never particularly taken with the idea that the Terminator series couldn't function without Schwarzenegger. It speaks to a lack of imagination, and simultaneously stretches credibility to breaking point. Why is the timeless mecha-man always played by a decrepit ex-bodybuilder?

It's not so much that Terminator: Salvation needs Schwarzenegger, rather it needs something like Schwarzenegger - an indefatigable presence to build its narrative around. By unevenly splitting the action between Sam Worthington's prototype assassin, and Bale's grumbly John Connor, T4 becomes a sort of collage, requiring acres of heavy-handed exposition to plug the leaks. It's a limping, toothless beast that only briefly springs to life when a nostalgia totem is trotted out.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Superman Redeemed

Popularised by Star Wars prequel tinkering that sought to minimise Jar Jar Binks capers, the fan edit has become a legitimate form of post-modern ownership. Given the amount of retroactively abused childhoods floating around, and the easy availability of professional level editing software, it was only natural that a fan community would take a more direct role in film presentation. Superman Redeemed is one of the more famous examples of this audience level participation. Devised by user ADigitalman, the Redeemed project seeks to salvage a worthwhile sequel to Richard Donner's film(s) using sequences and plot devices from lacklustre entries Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. III has been gutted, jettisoning Richard Pryor's toothless comedy contribution and Robert Vaughn's sub-Luthor slick dicking, leaving the bare frame of Clark's return to Smallville. Director Richard Lester's gag opportunism has also been pruned, although not entirely eliminated. Quest for Peace survives as a Cold War overlord parable, and a series of overlit Luthor intrigue scenes culminating in the birth and direction of evil super-doppelganger Nuclear Man. Connecting tissue is provided by Superman II outtakes, and John Williams' score for Superman: The Movie.

It's an ambitious project; ADigitalman has to contend with wildly different film stocks, shooting styles, and special effects budgets, whilst maintaining a narrative consistency. For the most part, he succeeds. Although Superman Redeemed lacks the polish and rugged continuity of a singular production, the doubling effect created by amalgamating two distinct separates creates a carnival atmosphere that harks back to Superman's daffy Silver Age adventures. Redeemed juggles twin commitments to Lana Lang and Lois Lane. Since each relationship derives from an elsewhere, each is favoured without concession. The super-bachelor playing his two favourite girls off against each other. The battles with Nuclear Man are supplemented with the corrupt Superman sequence from III. Nuclear Man's touch is so caustic it causes Superman to undergo a red Kryptonite separation adventure. After battling a gang of evil Kryptonians in the previous movie, it's rather pleasing that this sequel further plays with the idea that a hero's worst enemies are simply mischief minded echoes. Internal images here, after II's external manifestations. For Redeemed's climax Superman must run a gauntlet of shade copies. This reflection termination peril also lends the absurd Nuclear Man a palpable sense of menace, a necessary inclusion since he still looks like a baked hairdresser playing Legion of Superheroes.

A shame that little more could be done with a forced disarmament subplot that sees Superman stray from benevolent protector into Krypto-fascist messiah. Although, on consideration, what little ADigitalman adds does speak volumes. The pro-change introspection Superman suffers after receiving a 'please help!' letter from Cold War kid Jeremy is beefed up with a hotline soundbite from Marlon Brando. This minor loop addition reveals some interesting predicaments for Superman. Is his God-Father advocating a more direct role in human evolution? Does that put the mission at odds with the son's own observations and readings? Superman plays the dutiful offspring, dogmatically realising his father's word, before reconsidering the position and deciding to play hands off. Whether intended or not, this scrap of barely acknowledged character turmoil leads rather well into the isolationist hero of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns.

Not even close to being an official Warner Bros sanctioned product, Superman Redeemed can be found through the usual channels of online distribution.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Apprentice Reloaded

Week 10. The QVC (or cheapest near equivalent) task! In order to accurately judge each of the candidates big-business acumen, King Alan tosses them onto live television, their task? To mumble and fumble in front of an audience of literally tens of people. Watching this Ideal Home faff, it struck me: doesn't some enterprising sort keep a beady eye on home shopping schedules for signs of quiz show contestants? Couldn't these fading weeks candidates have been plastered all over the internets ages ago? Why doesn't anyone care enough to do that?

This column is so late, I shan't even keep up a pretence of unfolding action. Kate strummed. James and Yasmina formed a squabble-comedy duo. Lorraine offended. Debra sold. Howard went. We all know. I'm rather happy with the result, not because I hold any sort of peculiar grudge against Howard, but because all my extra special favs have made it to the interviews round! It's just the best task. Weeks and week of frothing boast bullshit neatly poleaxed by a gaggle of grumpy management men. I'm giddy. Ideally, the final throw down would be between James, Yasmina and Debra.

James spent the early weeks as an ego stroke ire target. James had made the fatal error of not acting like a total lizard. Instead, he cracked a few jokes and had a few brain-fuzz outbursts. The other males thus marked him as subnormal. Thankfully, James has buried the lot. Yasmina had the good grace to cut through all the pally-pally nonsense, stating as much minutes after she sunk her new bestest friend Paula in the boardroom. Also! Her general demeanour is that of a no-nonsense equaliser. Mess with her and she'll chuck you in a canal. Finally, Debra, a whip-thin howitzer of bellowing belligerence. She'll lead every week. She wants to do everything. You're just fucking it up for her.