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Superheroes vs the Cleveland Pops

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Summer is almost over and this weekend here in my hometown of Elyria there was a free concert by Cleveland Pops.

And a bunch of Superheroes.

The city coordinated the Orchestra’s visit with a local volunteer group called Superheroes to Kids in Ohio who work with kids in hospitals and terminally ill patients. They introduced sets and worked the crowd as the orchestra played selections from superhero films such as Avengers, The Dark Knight and Spider-Man. There was even a Frozen set.

This was a good time, in the middle of the city, surrounded by superheros, with the orchestral score playing in the background and fireworks in the sky. It’s also EXACTLY the sort of thing Elyria needs more of.

Happy Labor Day.

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By the way, even though it’s Labor Day there IS still a new Violent Blue up today!

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essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

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Angel Lite commission

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An Angel Lite commission. From “the ballad” Two more Duncans

Bad Bob Duncan the toughest member of the gang. Also maybe the strongest

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Mad Mert Duncan former Marshall now turned Space Pirate and works for the Meddler and taught Luciano how to and helped turn him evil

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essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

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In Defense of Alien Resurrection

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1Wow. There sure are a lot of Sci-Fi films showing up here. I think I expected to be writing about more horror and superhero than sci-fi. interesting.

I really like Alien 4. There will never be another film as good as Alien or Aliens, but as far as sequals go, this is a good one. Perhaps part of the reason I like it so much is because it wipes the slate clean, it cleanses the pallet from the prior film. You see, I hate Alien 3.

I once heard someone say that if you really like a character in a horror movie – especially one who survives, then you shouldn’t ever watch the sequal, because something horrible will happen to them.  Alien 3 gives us this in spades, killing off EVERYBODY. It renders that rousing escape in Aliens practically pointless. Newt and Hicks don’t even get an on screen death. It’s horrible and it taints the entire movie for me. I hated the dog alien too. The rod puppet just didn’t work nearly as well for me as the puppets and suits Cameron used. I realize this is David Fincher’s directorial debut and there are a few good beats, but it’s riddled with stupid things like killing off beloved characters and getting Ripley laid because as the producers put it “It was about time she had a man.” 6

What really burns is that there were far better sequals avalible. Check out the novels (or graphic novel adaptions) of Earth Hive, Nightmare Asylum and earth War (or Female War). This is a far more satisfying follow up to Aliens and actually can fit in nicely between Aliens and Resurrection.

That’s one of the things I really liked about Resurrection. It wipes the slate clean. It’s a fresh start, without really trying to connect itself as firmly to the previous sequals as 3 did.

One of the big complaints I hear about this film is what they did to Ripley. She doesn’t act like Ripley, she doesn’t feel like Ripley.

2That’s the entire point. She isn’t.

This is a clone grown from Ellen Ripley’s DNA, with perhaps a race memory. A few actual seeming memories surface from time to time as well, the cloning process is strange and imperfect, but make no mistake; this is NOT supposed to be Ripley. The characters call her that, and she has Ripley’s face (to appease a studio that wasn’t certain you could make an Alien movie without Sigorney Weaver) but she has a radically different set of memories of growing up. She’s really not even quite a mature adult.  In fact….she’s not actually human. That Alien DNA infects her.

Sigorney Weaver did some amazing things as this clone character. She got it. She plays it with hesitation, confusion and an animal bubbling just under the surface. Her character is conflicted, confused and actually more aggressive than Ripley ever was. It’s best represented in the final line of the film where they descend to Earth and she says “I’m a stranger here myself.”

3Trust me, you’ll like this character a whole lot more if your remember this. She’s not Ripley. In fact, this was one of the things I was happiest about. I was tired of Ripley. I can deal with her running into these things once….hunting them down the second time, but Aliens isn’t ABOUT Ripley and I was ready to move on. I’m glad this did. In fact it brought a great new cast of characters for us to move on with.

This is another sore point with some people though. In a lot of ways, you can see the template for Firefly here. Joss Whedon has said as much, and he has complained that the direction was completely opposite to the tone of his script. There are a lot of people who think Whedon can do no wrong. They hate this 5move because he says to hate it.

I’m not one of those people. I Like his work, but find him completely capable of missteps. Moreover, I’m a fan of Alien. I want this to be an Alien film, not a Whedon film.  It doesn’t need his quirky sense of humor. It doesn’t really need his distinct touches, this has always been an industrial, slightly dystopian future. It’s scary. Not cute scary, but rather dirty scary. I like the story he came up with. I prefer Renaut’s directorial vision. If a Whedon movie is all you are after, then I understand your dismay at what has been described as a kind of bastardization of tone from Whedon’s vision. Then again, movies are always more about the directors vision as opposed to TV which is all about the writer’s ideas (remember that difference we talked about a couple of months ago in Star Trek 5!). To everyone else, I simply suggest going into this as an expanded universe Aliens film. 4

It really does have that almost comic book expanded universe feel to it. Winona Ryder’s character in particular feels that way to me. It’s a well done character wit ha back story I really enjoy. It fits well in the Aliens world ….and I’m not usually one of her fans. In a lot of ways, she tries to take the place of Ellen Ripley, though she comes off as a little too young (I know she’s not, but she sure feels that way) and impetuous. Ron Pearlman (who in fact, really CAN’T do wrong) is his usually excellent self and I love seeing Michael Wincott and Brad Dorff chew the scenery.

It holds up a little better these days due to the disdain the AVP films get. Check it out again with some fresh eyes, and while you’re at it, try and track down those novels to see how different the Aliens universe can be without Alien 3 and Ellen Ripley.

Peter Capauldi (Spoilers. Just move on if you have to)

6487210-low_res-I’m just not sure what to think.  I wonder if that’s a bad thing?

It seems like I was just doing this, reviewing a new Doctor in a new season of Doctor Who. There’s not doubt, I bought it. I totally accept Capaldi as the new  Doctor. This is a good thing because it took a full year or so for me to accept Matt Smith in the role – and that was weird. Smith really always felt like he was a kid in a costume playing at the role until that big speech in “The Pandorica Opens”. It was there for the first time I could actually see the Doctor in him. It got better as time went on, particularly in the last year or so we could really see the ancient being in the young body. The old man with a youth’s face.

With Capaldi it’s instant. He feels like the Doctor. He’s confidant in the role, even as he tries to make us wonder what kind of person he is. This is a tactic that was already tried with both Colin Baker and Paul McGann, and it didn’t really work for me either time.10462933_779076368803455_7055546326964120705_n It almost seems like they are trying a little TOO hard to make you distrust Capaldi by making him abandon Clara. Twice.  Sorry, but there’s better ways to distinguish this incarnation from the others and better story devices to make him edgy. Nice pointing out how dynamic his eyebrows are though.

I’ve been optimistic in the year we’ve spent waiting for this. I mostly liked the costume, enjoying the similarities that his look has to my favorite Jon Pertwee. So much so, that I really kept watching for a similar persona. I saw a LOT of Pertwee influence in the Russell T Davies era, not quite as much in the Moffat era but enough that it’s still there and I’ve always loved it. Capaldi seemed to be heading that was as well from the buzz, but I actually don’t see it in the actual episode.

I kind of wish he had something on his neck too.

Honestly, I know, it seems like I’m never pleased and I’m overanalyzing – it’s Sci-Fi. That’s what we DO. But seriously, as much as Matt Smith’s bow ties bugged me (until he started wearing a vest. THAT costume, I loved), the buttoned up collar feels empty to me. I would have loved it back in 1992 when that was a common look, but not so much in 2014.  I hope it’s not going to be one of those little bothersome details that just drives me NUTS.  It’s made even more frustrating 974e2fbffa234f78cf5ef869db81c72ebecause of how GREAT Capaldi looked in that high necked collar and tie. Seriously, If I were a girl, I’d be swooning. I still might.

I hope the disguises become a part of this Doctor’s shtick. It was a great bit of business, and one of the things we really saw in this story was how well Capaldi does different modes of dress.

As for the story, first episodes are frequently a bit weak. I really like “Castrovalva” and “Robot”. I want to like “Spearhead from Space” and “Time and the Rani”. At least I can sit through  those. “The Twin Dilemma”, “The Christmas Invasion” and the movie are just plain hard to watch. This story was surprisingly average, surprising considering it has a Dionasuar bursting into flames and steampunk robots…then again, steampunk doesn’t really do anything for me.  The tenuious connection to the Madam De Pompadour felt a little to shoehorned in and would perhaps have been better served later in the season. I like the intrigue they are setting up, calling back to the Bells of St. John and connecting it to someone keeping Clara and the Doctor together.

The constant references to Madame Vastra and Jenny being married annoy me. It was like someone was determined to clobber you over the head with it. RTD was always very in-your-face with homosexuality, and 4fddac9a3e4f1ae01f68308936679d62always felt like he was driving an agenda. Moffet has generally been far more subtle. The subtext between Vastra and Jenny has always been there. You could revel in it if you so choose (much like my friend Don does) or you could just ignore it (much like I always did). Repeating “We’re MARRIED” four or five times over the course of one episode was unnecessary and if you consider it, a little insulting. Respect your audience and trust them to pick up on the subtext. There’s no need to be this dramatic.

The final thing that rather bothered me was Matt Smith’s appearance. I suppose I kind of get it; Moffat is appealing to the teeny boppers and fangirls who latched on to the show when they started casting pretty boys in the role of t he doctor instead of middle aged men with character in their faces.  I personally have been waiting for them to go older wit the Doctor again for  the longest time and if you truly GET the show, it’s a non-issue old or young.  It was an interesting way of speaking directly to that demographic. It also feels a little desperate. Like someone wasn’t confidant in the show continuing even as it moves closer to it’s roots.  I don’t like that, it sends the wrong message.

It’s a little more than that though as well. Dramatically, it’s….I don’t know…disingenuous? Stephen Moffat, through Matt Smith’s Doctor criticized David Tennants Doctor for being narcissistic and having issues referring to his half regeneration (keeping the face) and in a more meta sense, criticizing the lengthy and dramatic goodbye that Tennant had. But watching Matt Smith call Clara from Trensalore felt much like the Bvv6T_eIIAEpdKqsame kind of thing – a lingering goodbye. And extended swan song. It’s the second time we’ve bid him farewell, and it almost feels to me like he’s milking it. Yet at the same time, it’s a shocking scene. My jaw dropped and my heart plunged. The story EARNS that scene.

At the end of the day, I’m obviously going on and on about the trivial, and talking very little about Capaldi himself. Indeed, more than half the pictures in t his article are of other Doctors. It all comes back to my opening salvo; I just don’t know what to think.  I don’t instantly dislike Capaldi the way I did with Matt Smith. I don’t instantly love him the way I did with David Tennant. I’m hesitant, nervous. I’m still waiting to see where this is going to go.

For now, I’m going to hang on, and follow the eyebrows.

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