Episode 175: Hemlock Grove

August 30, 2013

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Hemlock Grove is perhaps the truest definition of a “Netflix Folly” in that it’s a “Netflix Original” series so any lack of quality is the sole fault of Netflix. I talked about the series briefly a few posts ago thinking I’d washed my hands of this dog’s breakfast of a teen horror soap. I wrote:

A Netflix original version of Twi-Blood-Diaries. We watched a whole four episodes before giving up. It wasn’t bad exactly but they were really dragging out the story at about a 2:1 episode to plot point ratio. Actually by episode three it felt like they’d told about one episode’s worth of story. One thing Mandi appreciated was finally there was some vampire enjoying menstrual cunnilingus action—a “sexy vampire” genre pet peeve of her’s is that they never indulge in this obvious opportunity. Anyway, sometimes I think about watching another episode and then… don’t bother.

It turns out I did end up bothering to return to Hemlock Grove a few days after posting the above having found myself in need of something to watch while I ate dinner when Mandi was away for a few days. So I watched another episode, cringed, watched another the next day, sneered, watched another… and so on.

When Mandi returned from her trip, she found herself in the unfortunate position of being forced to watch the remain three episodes with me, I’d passed the point of no return and needed to know how it ended. Welcome home, Mandi.

At this point I’d like to rescind a statement in my previous review: “It wasn’t bad exactly…”

Hemlock Grove really is exactly bad.

It’s partly because they took a book that was more suited to a six episode mini-series and stretched it out to a full 13 episode season. Yet they somehow still manage to rush the ending in the final two episodes. I’ll admit this is only a theory as I haven’t read the book, but I’ve placed a hold on it at the library in order to do a proper comparison—and to answer some lingering questions I have about the plot.

These pacing issues are a good deal of the problem with the series. Also that every second or third scene feels like a non sequitur as characters embark on courses of action for which writers seem to have forgotten to establish solid motivations. It’s unclear if this is a script problem, an issue with the actors’ performances, or if a bunch of interconnecting dialogue ended up on the cutting room floor (or never got shot) for whatever reason.

It doesn’t help the two male leads spend every scene they’re in together trying to out-James Dean each other. The palpable “too cool for school” disinterest in everything that surrounds them makes it difficult to buy their investment in their “quest” to find the rogue werewolf terrorizing the town. The  effect isn’t unique to them, all the characters seem to merely be drifting through life in a state of blasé detachment. Of course this is something that could have had a legitimate narrative or thematic purpose if done artfully.

But it wasn’t.


Episode 137 – Underworld: Awakening

January 25, 2012

Underworld Awakening podcast - click to listen

 


Underworld: Awakening  / Resident Evil: Afterlife comparison

The fourth installment in the franchise—and the proper sequel to the second film Underworld: Evolution—finds our heroine, Selene, awakening from twelve years in stasis to a world where humans have purged Vampires and Werewolves to the point of extinction. This is really the only place the franchise could be taken. This place being the Resident Evil films.

Co-directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein borrow more than a few pages from the Paul W.S. Anderson schlock-fests:

Page 1—We see a back-story of where a True Blood-style “Great Revelation” results in lycanthropy and vampirism being treated as like T-virus infections with paramilitary units going on search and destroy missions.

Page 2—Selene breaks out of a glass stasis tube, naked, in an Umbrella Corporation lab (here trading under the name AntiGen) and has to kill her way past endlessly respawning guards who luckily have a bad case of the Stormtroopers as far as their marksmanship goes.

Underworld Awakening / Resident Evil comparison

Page 3—Selene has to make sense of the world she’s awoken to while trying to complete a quest against insurmountable odds.

Page 4—Selene fights with rotten looking dogs in a dark, cramped space.

Page 5—Selene teams up with a preternaturally strong and intelligent child sidekick.

Page 6—A genetically enhanced werewolf bears a striking similarities to Nemesis, at least in concept.

Page 7—Selene shoots two guns at the same time. A lot.

Underworld Awakening  / Resident Evil comparison

But to be fair, Mårlind and Stein borrow pages from other sources as well. Twilight and True Blood get their due in the form of a love triangle between being set up for the unavoidable next film. An Edward-esque vampire named David seems poised to come between Selene and her missing werewold/vampire hybrid boyfriend Michael. Really, this film has everything.

Except zombies. I’m holding out hope for those later in the series. In fact, if the next film doesn’t see a vaccine for vampirism and lycanthropy going horribly awry and turning humans into the walking dead, I’ll be demanding my money back. And I’ll be swearing a lot while I do it.

What the film doesn’t have, besides zombies, are engaging performances by any of the actors—including a sleep-walking Stephen Rea. For a film that is trying so hard to be Resident Evil, they seem to have forgotten Milla Jovovich is interesting to watch even if she’s just eating dry toast. Kate Beckinsale is about as interesting as watching dry toast. The first Underworld film became a cult favourite due mostly to the Adam West-meets-William Shatner camp of Shane Brolly and Bill Nighy‘s terrible (awesome) performances. No one here seems willing to make a fool of themselves and that’s the film’s great loss.

What the film does do well is bulk up on the gore. Finally the violence in Underworld is as dark and visceral as as war between vampires and werewolves should be. Unfortunately you have to endure some terrible 3D at the same time.

Apparently this was one of the first features filmed with the Red Epic cameras being used in The Hobbit. Since Awakening features some of the worst cardboard cut-out 3D I’ve seen since the rebirth of 3D, things don’t bode well for Middle Earth. In several scenes it’s exactly like you’re looking at a diorama with layered planes of paper dolls instead of experiencing an immersive world.

In a lot of ways Awakening is a better film than the previous Underworld films. But that actually makes it a less enjoyable film. And if you’re just going to see Beckinsale’s ass wrapped in vinyl, find a picture on the Internet—it’ll last longer.

Bitches Please. Matrix was first.

Fotoshop by Adobé


Search Terms, August 2011: worse than fanfics

September 1, 2011

They say April is the cruellest month. They’ve clearly never been to Ontario is bloody August. Must be the same everywhere though as people clearly went crazy with the heat.

“john de lancie” “stephen harper”: This is perhaps the most baffling combination of personages I have ever been forced to consider. I really hope it doesn’t mean Q is going to play Harper in a bio-pic or a mini-series. Or that Stephen Harper is trying to figure out how to literally become an all-powerful entity. Most likely someone was looking for this forum thread.

gifs, nerdy: Not particularily nerdy, but these GIFs are pretty amazing. Calling them “cinemagraphs” is actually pretty nerdy. Or douchie.

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Episode 83 – Battlestar GalacTALKa Series Finale / True Blood

October 5, 2010


Those who’ve listened to the episode already know that we didn’t GalacTALKa about the finale very much. Perhaps not as promised, but pretty much as expected. It wasn’t our fault though. For one thing True Blood is a lot more interesting to talk about. Those are some characters you can sink your teeth into.

Fear not, further talk on the BSG finale, Daybreak, will probably jump its way into future episodes. Perhaps if we ever do a Diana Gabaldon special. Because I will have even less to say about Outlander than Mandi did about the BSG finale. Or exactly the same amount: “It’s fine.” Except that would be a complete lie. I had to put it down at page 76 feeling that it is the antithesis of “fine.”

But in case we never get around to a real breakdown of Daybreak on the podcast, here’s a few thoughts we had.

1) Question: Why didn’t the fans like the finale? I’m not exactly sure I understand what upset people so much. It was, as Mandi said with a slight sigh of resignation, “Fine.”  I didn’t pay a lot of attention to their comments at the time it aired, trying to stay spoiler-free, but now I’m wishing I did.

Because for anyone who actually enjoyed the series for what it was, Daybreak had to be pretty much the perfect finale. Which means it was only “just fine” but still, what did people expect? Did anyone really think the show would suddenly stop being an overly melodramatic soap opera with massive continuity flaws and hackneyed, plot-driven writing?

Perhaps they objected to the completely pointless flashbacks to before the war that slowed the pace down to a near standstill. Those scenes could all have been removed to the betterment of the episode(s). They only served to be pretentious wankery and did little to shed any new light on the characters.

So Apollo and Starbuck almost made-out when Zack was still alive? Is that supposed to be a character revelation that suddenly puts their relationship in perspective? If so, it fails miserably. It doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know about them.

Nor do Roslin’s ill-fated cougar episodes tell us anything more about her lonely, isolated personal life on Caprica. We got all that in the series, the way we should have—from her character development and in the subtext within Mary McDonnell’s portrayal.

Like any prequel, the flashbacks only served to weaken what was already there, not add a new layer of depth. Which is why they were probably so boring to watch. Perhaps, if you’d never experienced a single minute of BSG, they’d have been interesting interludes introducing you to those characters that added context for what was going on in the present. But if so, why the hell were you watching the series finale and not the debut miniseries?

2) It wasn’t nearly as religious as we’d been lead to believe. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it wasn’t religious at all. Instead it was purely mythological, a rehash of a thousand creation myths rolled into one. Based, again, on the outrage of fans at the time, I was expecting a heavy-handed Christian message tacked-on at the end or something.

But no, it was about as sci-fi as anything I’ve read or seen but with a lot less heavy-handed Christ imagery than something like Narnia, The Matrix or even Fifth Element.

Yes, religious beliefs do play a large role in the story for the characters. But religious beliefs play a major role for Bajorans, Vulcans, Klingons, Jedis, and Elves. There is clearly a “God” and “Angels” in BSG, but I expect it’s just some alien race like The Q.

But then, I’m an athiest and if I were confronted with a real life miracle, I’d probably think the same thing.

3) The opera house dream arc makes no sense at all. Well, it makes sense, but it doesn’t come anywhere close to working.

The strength of BSG is supposed to be the plot arc that sweeps over all four seasons. Which would be a great thing if it wasn’t painfully clear that they had no idea where they were headed from the start. The opera house/dream storyline highlights this best.

There is absolutely no point to Roslin’s or Gaius and Caprica Six’s connection to Hera. They don’t really save her. They don’t end up raising her, Athena and Helo are still alive. And beyond that, there ultimately isn’t even any point to Hera’s existence at all. She isn’t the one to point them to Earth, Kara does. Hera doesn’t convince Cavil and Adama to end the war, they more or less work that out on their own. If she doesn’t get eaten by a lion, Hera will probably just grow up to mate with a Neanderthal. Okay, great… So what? So is everyone else. After all the drama surrounding Hera, she ends up having no real significance? If there’s one thing the fans should have been upset about it’s that.

Of course, the writers and producers set themselves up to fail by, at one point or another,  alluding to almost every single character as being a possible Saviour figure. From Kara to Sam to Roslin to Gaius to Hera to Leoben to [insert character name here], they couldn’t all be the one who saves Humanity and Cylonity(?) from extinction.

Unfortunately, the writers didn’t tie the story up well enough so that they all played an equal part. Most of them were dead weight, dragging the plot down, by the time they finally reach Earth.

There’s no small amount of minutiae I could get into, but picking apart BSG’s minutiae is like shooting ducks in a barrel with Galactica’s cannons (which never really seemed to hit much, considering the continuous barrage of death they spewed). The above were the main points I noticed while watching the finale and, really, about all the consideration I wish to ever give the show again.

Perhaps in the future some nit-picking will emerge as we tangent off topic on another show, but for now we’re watching True Blood (which is like a really good Twilight fanfic).


Episode 031: Three Weddings and a Funeral School Drop-out (Special Edition)

September 18, 2009

Exactly one month away from our first anniversary as a couple, Mandi and I bring you an episode about weddings. In  Nerd Hurdles #31 we discuss the hurdles and pitfalls of what is perhapsthe third most universal of all life rituals (birth and death are, of course, the only two truly universal events shared by all people on Earth regardless of class, creed or sexual orientation).

Xtinas nerdy-ass zombie wedding.

Xtina’s nerdy-ass zombie wedding.

From cupcakes to diamonds to dog cremains, we cover it all. What’s wrong (or right) with Star Trek weddings? What’s right (or wrong) with dance weddings? Are flying monkeys considered “little people”? What did Hermione wear? You’re right (or wrong) to ask these questions, we don’t guarantee insightful answers.

Thanks to our unwitting research assistant, Camille, for scouring the interwebs for the material used in this episode.

Engagement rings are evil! Boycott diamonds!


Episode 001: Twilight (Special Edition)

December 18, 2008

We took on a big hurdle for our inaugural episode, Twilight, and in the process set (seemingly in stone) two Nerd Hurdles motifs which we’d return to again and again for years.

1) Going to see a movie and recording about it directly afterwards before we’d had time to reflect on the film and develop balanced, thoughtful critiques or even real opinions. 

2) A bounty of derision and snark regarding the episode’s topic.

A NOTE ON THE SPECIAL EDITIONS: Before we joined the Simply Syndicated network, the first 31 episodes of Nerd Hurdles were hosted on Podbean. Technically, they still are. But since letting our pro-account lapse there’s been a bandwidth problem were the files are only available for the first half of the month before they hit the Podbean ceiling. While SimSyn’s hosting was on Libsyn, we started releasing these episodes as “Special Editions” with newly recorded introductions. When SimSyn moved our hosting to Soundcloud, those files were again lost (and we’d only managed to upload the first 10 anyway). So, here they are once more; uploaded to a 3rd audio service and hopefully the last.


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