Monday, 21 December 2009

TV Snark - Merlin: The Last Dragonlord OR Merlin: The Last Recap OR Hey, What Happened To The Rest Of Series Recaps?

When I started this recap journey it was out of a sense of duty to report on the truly terrible shows so that you, gentle viewer/reader, didn't have to. So now here's the deal; Merlin isn't terrible anymore. It's mediocre. And mediocre ain't as much fun to watch and take the mickey out of. Series two has been an improvement on the first series but it's still a long way from the kind of show I'd watch and enjoy. Writing recaps for Merlin has been more of a chore this year so I guess this means Merlin has managed to promote itself out of recap worthiness.

I thought I'd better finish off the series for you and just pretend that I recapped the other episodes. I'm sure that in the last few eipsodes some important guest stars visited and were killed/sent back to magical guest star land, and I'm sure the dragon resolved the crisis of the week by giving Merlin a new spell or a piece of information. I'm sure nothing has changed the status quo...



What?

He freed the dragon? Really? And now it's levelling the castle with its CGI fire breath? Morgana has gone off somewhere after being poisoned? So now there's actually a reason not to write anything for her? Well, this could be interesting...

So apparently Merlin finally got around to releasing John Hurt Dragon from beneath Camelot and now the dragon's going on a kill crazy rampage. You would too if you'd spent two series stuck underneath a castle with only Merlin for occasional company. Even then, Merlin's not really visiting you out of friendship but out of necessity, "Oooh, help me Great Dragon, a nasty sorcerer is casting mean spells and I can't be bothered to get off my arse and learn how to defeat him. Do you have any spells lying around I could use so I don't have to think so hard?" Damn kid treating you like Patrick Moore in Gamesmaster. He even gets stroppy when you ask him to help you escape your confinement. And does he ever bring you any food? No, you have to live off fungus and mold that grows in the damp cavern you call home. Burning is too good for the likes of him.

Arthur runs around using his best shouty HERO VOICE. The red cloaked Camelot mooks follow him around and prepare to shoot the dragon down with flaming crossbow bolts. But the plan fails because it would be a short episode otherwise, and also because you can't kill a high level creature with a few level one NPCs armed with crossbows.



The CGI dragon is actually pretty well done in this episode but it's a shame they didn't get the eyes right. The eyes are glassy and lifeless giving the dragon a puppet-like visage which makes me think of these guys:



If you know what that is, you are a nerd and I love you. Bless you.

Merlin tries one of his spells but John Hurt is all, "Damn punk! I taught you everything you know, your petty magic cannot defeat me! You will have to find a deus ex machina solution WITHOUT my help this time!"

Everyone gathers in court while the dragon takes a breather. Then Gaius brings up the Dragonlords, "Hey Uther, remember those guys you hunted down and killed for being slightly magic? The dudes who can kill dragons? It sure would be nice to have one of those guys around. It's a pity you had them all killed isn't it? Looks like we're all going to die then. Oh no, wait a minute, I saved one of them. Yeah, me Gaius, the guy you always ignore the advice of. I don't know where he is but I'm pretty sure he's still alive after 18 years or so. He was last seen, 18 years ago, in the nation of HateUtherBekistan. I'm almost certain he's still there and hasn't moved on at all." Arthur volunteers to visit the nation that will kill him on sight to recover a guy who has probably changed address. This is probably because the odds of survival are better than staying in Camelot to be roasted alive by John Hurt. Gaius also mentions that Balinor the Dragonlord is Merlin's father. Merlin moans a lot. Sheesh kid, it's not like your dad's Darth Vader, he's a Dragonlord and that sounds pretty METAL to me.

Arthur and Merlin travel to HateUtherBekistan where, after a trip to the Prancing Pony, they find Balinor living in a cave. Balinor is Steve Carell wearing a wig and a beard.



Balinor does not trust Merlin and Arthur because Uther tricked and then tried to kill him years ago. Uther had Balinor use his magic Dragonlord powers to summon John Hurt Dragon and then Uther imprisoned the dragon for a laugh. This is against the Dragonlord code or something so Balinor is still upset. Also, Uther tried to kill him.

Merlin spends ages deciding whether to tell Balinor that he is his offspring. There are lots of close ups of Merlin's anguished face and teary eyes. Finally he puts us out of our misery and tells Balinor that he's his son. Probably. Balinor seems okay with this but can't show any feelings as Arthur is around and Merlin doesn't want him to know because God forbid that Arthur and Merlin should genuinely bond and share some secrets after two series (of course there is probably plenty of slash fic out there with Arthur and Merlin 'sharing'.)

Meanwhile some peasants in Camelot run around in slow motion whilst putting out fires - there is a lot of slow motion in this episode, either it under ran or slow motion and dreary music is shorthand for SAD :(. Gwen and Gaius mention Morgana in case you were wondering where she is. Gwen loves Arthur again now, despite dropping him as soon as she saw Lancelot showing off as a cage fighter, the fickle girl.

Now that Balinor knows Merlin's secret he's marked for death. Death comes in the form of some troops from HateUtherBekistan who engage in a slow motion swordfight. Yes, someone's been watching Fellowship of the Ring again as they try to recreate Sean Bean's death in that movie. Balinor is run through by a mook but manages to tell Merlin that he has inherited his magical Dragonlord power. Yes Merlin, the power was within you all along! Merlin cries a bit when he should be figuring out how his awesome new Dragonlord powers work.



Arthur gathers up the troops in Camelot for one last attack against John Hurt. Merlin comes along too despite not having spent any time trying to figure out his Dragonlord powers. I guess he's hoping that a deus ex machina ending will spring unbound from his lips. The dragon arrives and kills the Camelot red cloaks quickly with a blast of flame. So much for them. Arthur is taken out pretty quickly by a swipe from the dragon's claw, which leaves Merlin alone against the dragon.

Luckily for Merlin he suddenly discovers that he can command dragons by chanting nonsense. Brilliant, convenient and not an expensive special effect!



John Hurt bows before Merlin but pleads for his life, so Merlin allows him to live. The dragon then basically states, "Ahhhh, you passed the test! By not killing me you have passed the Not Killing The Awesome Dragon Who Always Used To Help You Test! That means you will become a mighty wizard and not a dragon killing jerk. I'm sure our paths will cross again when I need some easy money for some quick voiceover work."

Back at Camelot, everyone gets teary eyed and Gaius and Merlin walk off in slow motion.

THE END.

OR IS IT?

Well, no it isn't as a third series has been commissioned. I won't be covering it though unless Merlin goes back to its series one level of quality. For now it's a show that's not good enough to be praised and not poor enough to be mocked.

Now with that out of the way I can continue my other series such as My Favourite Episodes and Stupid Films That I Love. But don't worry about recaps, wherever there are bad shows I'll be there waiting, sharpening my... uh, keyboard in anticipation.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Christmas Tips (and Alistair)

This year I thought I'd help you, my dear internet consumers, to enhance your festive shopping with some tips for great presents and some discounts to go with them.

Here are a few items from Play.com that I think can recommend. Also, if you head over here http://www.vouchercodes.co.uk/play.com then you'll find some discount codes to save you a bit of cash (£5 off if you spend £50 can't be sniffed at) so you can buy presents for yourself. Not that I've done that...

First up is the entire run of The Wire. At just under £50 it works out at £10 per season. There's a lot of critical hype for this show so I won't add to it, other than to say that I thought it was pretty damn good.


Football Manager 2010
is only £17.99 right now. I love managing small men and making them run up and down whilst violently kicking a sphere, if that sounds like your kind of thing then check it out.

My favourite film of the year was Crank 2. Shut up. It was very, very silly and I loved it. It's now only £5.95. You'll believe a man can not only survive without a heart but will, in fact, prosper without one.

Borderlands is a game that crosses the compulsiveness of the RPG with the intense twitch play of the FPS. The resulting effect is a form of crack that can't be easily resisted by certain gamers. Only Dragon Age: Origins weened me off it. I've linked to the PC version (the gentleman's gaming format) but I believe the other formats are also reduced.

The Inbetweeners is a guilty pleasure of mine, it's crude and vile at times but it makes me laugh and I guess that's all that matters. It's only £10 for the first two series.

Hey look, it's the good Star Wars films. Before the dark times, before the prequels.

I once watched all of the extended Lord of the Rings movies back to back over the course of one day. I haven't watched those movies since. Still, before I overdosed on Tolkien I thought that Peter Jackson's adaptation improved on a series of books that I thought were pretty dull. Sean Bean gets a dramatic slow motion moment, Viggo Mortensen became a credible action hero and Elijah Wood found a role that suited him perfectly. It's £17.99 for about 6000 hours of DVD footage.

You know who will always be cool? Indiana Jones. Forever.

Marty McFly used to be cool when I was 8. His style may have dated but Back to the Future is still a fantastic movie and a great example of how to make time travel fun without being confusing. The trilogy can be had for £12.99.

Do you have to buy a present for someone you hate? Someone that you are forced to buy a present for and hand over to them with a smile painted on your face? Well may I direct you toward the Resident Evil boxed set? It's doubly evil as another movie is due soon so the boxset is not only terrible, it'll be out of date within 12 months. Mwahahahaha.

Zombies. Yawn. Played out. Here are the original Romero movies. Y'know, if you still like zombies despite geekdom's attempt to completely run them into the ground (ho ho).

I love Blade Runner. I love it so much that I bought this special edition which contains multiple versions of the same movie. Tons of extras and it comes in a tin which means it's extra special.

Bill Bailey is great. Here are all his stand up shows for those that love the long haired musician's surreal take on Kraftwerk and trouser presses.

30 Rock is brilliant and season one only costs £7.99. A sitcom about the writing team behind a sketch show. Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan give fantastic comedy performances but it's Alec Baldwin (yes, Alec Baldwin, I was suprised too) who steals the show. Season two is £9.99. You can buy them both as a boxset but that costs £29.99.

The Venture Brothers is an animated series that is consistently fantastic. It parodies the old Hanna Barbera action cartoons of the 60s while delivering scripts that are intelligent and very well voiced by the cast. It's only £7.99 and it's well worth a look. If you don't like it we can't be friends.

I'll leave it at that, I'm sure you all have your own ideas for presents but I hope my tips will save you some cash or prod you in the right direction.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

TV Snark - Merlin: The Witchfinder OR She Turned Me Into a Newt!

It's another recap. Another one! Twice in one week! I've decided to power through the backlog of episodes in an attempt to at least not be so many episodes behind the schedule. This episode spends all its money on Charles Dance and the Expensive-CGI-Dragon. Is it money well spent?



The episode begins with Merlin collecting wood in the forest. He soon becomes bored with this menial task and decides to sit and amuse himself by manipulating smoke from a nearby fire into a horse shape. Unfortunately Merlin has once again failed to check if anyone is nearby (like last episode when he failed to check if anyone was in a room before he started snooping around) and his horse cloud is spotted by a hysterical peasant. Luckily for Merlin she didn't see him casting the magic but the smoky cloud horse is enough to terrify her into running to Uther and declaring that a sorcerer is running amok. ARGH! It's a non-threatening cloud that looks like a horse! AIEEEE!

The peasant woman regales the court with her incredibly lame tale of petty magic and cites Merlin as a witness but he obviously, but not convincingly, plays dumb. Uther reacts with his usual calm and grace under pressure and summons a ruthless Withfinder. It should be Vincent Price but as he's quite dead we get Hollywood star Charles Dance instead. He has a duster and a hat just like in the movie Van Helsing.



Oh dear.

His name sounds like Rhydian.



Oh dear.

Arthur asks when he will begin his search for sorcery and I guess straight away what he's going to say and say it simultaneously, "I have already begun." After a triumphant air grab, I once again think, "Oh dear."

Charles Dance (Aredian is a stupid name, so I either call him Rhydian or use his real name) begins his investigation. He interviews Merlin first as he was at the scene of the crime and hasn't exactly smooth talked his way out of trouble so far. At this point I notice that Charles Dance is so evil, he uses a human skull as an inkwell.



That's pure evil. Also handy for completing tax returns.

Merlin manages to make a mess of things and incriminate himself further by not backing up the peasant's story or calling her a hallucinating mental. He tries to be Mr Nice Guy and ends up neither lying or telling the truth. Charles Dance is not impressed.

Charles Dance later brings forth more witnesses to witchcraft and sorcery and they give testimony before the king. Their tales of magic are chilling:

Peasant1: "I was drawing water from the well, sire when I saw them. Faces. In the water, sire. Terrible faces. Like people who were drowned. Screaming. Screaming. *sob*

So she saw her own reflection and had an anxiety attack when presented with her own sobbing, peasant face? Charles Dance is pleased with this unconvincing tale of TERRIFYING MAGIC and moves on to the next witness.

Charles Dance: "Tell them what you saw."
Peasant2: "A goblin. Dancing on the coles, it was dancing in the flames and it spoke, sire. My heart near stopped for fear of it!"

So she got drunk and sang Blackadder's goblin song?



Another witness is offered forth.

Peasant3: "There was a sorcerer, sire. In the square, there were creatures jumping right out of his mouth."
Charles Dance: "And what manner of creaturrrrre?" (He said creature in a very silly fashion)
Peasant3: "Oh toads, sire. Great, green, slimy things as big as your fist!"

Wait a minute, what? The picture that this evidence paints is of a sorcerer with the mental age of a 3 year old. He seems harmless enough, he just casts minor illusions and likes to lick toads for fun. Let him live, I say.

Uther finds the testimonies truly, truly, terrifying. Charles Dance finishes his presentation by accusing Merlin despite having no real evidence. Uther decides that the crappy peasant stories are enough to allow Charles Dance to search Gaius's chambers to look for actual evidence.

The Camelot guards trash Gaius Meldrew's quarters in an effort to find evidence of sorcery. Merlin is locked away in the cells while this happens. Charles Dance directs the ransacking, "You there, upend that stool!" That's my favourite dialogue from this show, ever. Eventually Charles Dance finds an ordinary amulet in a jar of dust. Apparently it's magic despite the fact that it doesn't do anything vaguely magicky throughout the entire episode. Gaius decides to take a bullet and says that the amulet is his. Merlin is freed from jail whilst Gaius is thrown into a new cell.

Uther remembers that Gaius always solves the monster of the week dilemma and is worried about his loyalty. Charles Dance suggests torture to determine the truth and Uther considers it for a couple of seconds before endorsing the Jack Bauer treatment. Why do people serve Uther?

Luckily for Gaius, Charles Dance's torture is family friendly and just seems to consist of using a bucket of cold water, asking questions in a montage, and refusing to give Gaius a glass of water when he claims he's thirsty.

Merlin decides to ask the John Hurt-CGI-Dragon for advice but the dragon has become as snarky as I have and basically insults Merlin and states that Gaius doesn't matter to him. The dragon offers no help because it would be a short episode if he gave Merlin a spell called, Dismiss Charges of Witchcraft (Greater). Maybe Merlin should actually do some investigative snooping instead of looking for a quick fix.

During questioning Gaius slightly incriminates Morgana when he talks of the treatment he's offered to the royal court. Charles Dance questions Morgana briefly, allowing her to have a few lines in the episode. Very gracious of the writers, that.

Charles Dance then convinces Gaius that he should confess to witchcraft to save Merlin and Morgana from being burned at the stake. Gaius is a gullible fool and makes a confession before the court and is sentenced to burn to death. Oh well, it shows Gaius is all lovable and noble and shit, yeah?

Charles Dance later rubs it in by saying that he's going to burn Merlin and Morgana soon anyway. MWAHAHAHA!

Gaius and Merlin meet in the cell and compare notes, it seems the amulet didn't belong to either of them. Shock. Now Merlin can finally get around to figuring out that Charles Dance is corrupt. Merlin enlists the aid of Gwen because, well she hasn't got anything else to do in this episode.

Here's a picture of the skull inkwell again. METAL.



Merlin breaks into Charles Dance's room and discovers a quantity of belladonna amongst his possessions. Merlin figures out that belladonna is used as make-up and can be used to cause hallucinations, which leads him and Gwen to the only cosmetic shop in Camelot. The make-up salesman folds under the intense whining of Merlin and Gwen and admits that Charles Dance gave him some belladonna eyedrops to sell to the peasant women.

Merlin thinks that he has enough evidence to incriminate Charles Dance and stop the Gaius burning but Gwen points out that they may need something a bit more compelling. Merlin doesn't have any other evidence so he sneaks into Charles Dance's room and uses magic to cheat, he casts a spell on a cupboard and on Charles Dance himself. Quincy never used magic to cheat. I miss Quincy.

Gwen manages to delay the burning of Gaius by totally guilt tripping Arthur about executing her innocent father last season (ooo - continuity, Merlin fans!). The court is hastily reconvened while Merlin presents the belladonna evidence. Uther decides to search Charles Dance's room to find any other signs of cheating and then things go a bit mad.

It seems that Merlin has used a duplication spell on the 'magic' amulet as when the guards open Charles Dance's cupboard, it's full of amulets. Charles Dance is mortified but as he tries to explain a toad comes out of his mouth. Charles Dance then takes Morgana hostage but Merlin somehow manages to cast a spell (without anyone noticing) and heat up Charles' knife, which causes him to stumble backwards out of a window to his doom.



Later on, Uther visits Gaius and basically says, "So, we cool now? About the torture and burning thing? No one got hurt so no harm, no foul, right?"
"Sir, we are NOT cool."

Don't worry though, Merlin and Gaius are still best friends and laugh over the frame job that Merlin put on Charles Dance. The morale of the story is, if someone is cheating you - outcheat them. Hahahaha.

NEXT EPISODE: Arthur's mum. Blah, blah. Someone tries to kill Uther. Again.

Monday, 23 November 2009

TV Snark - Merlin: Beauty and the Beast OR Uther Dates a Troll

You know how this works by now, the BBC air an episode of Merlin and I take about a month to actually recap it. This time I’m recapping two episodes in one post as this story was a two parter. Let’s get on with it shall we?



In a dank cave somewhere mysterious and er… dank, a pointed eared tramp is brewing a mysterious potion. The concoction complete, he hands it over to his mistress – an ugly troll. She drinks the potion and becomes a beautiful lady. Chris De Burgh would not approve:




The troll and her pointy eared servant make a beeline for Camelot where she claims to be the last surviving member of a lost noble family – Lady Catrina. Uther and Catrina were childhood friends and he is happy to see her seemingly alive and well. Merlin has a little crush on her but Gaius Meldrew is suspicious…

The troll maintains the charade for a while but soon returns to her newly appointed quarters to enjoy a meal of rotten fruit (which she creates by breathing magic green mist onto fresh fruit) and conspire with her servant Jonas. There’s some great comedy work from Sarah Parish as she gurns and shambles her way through the scene. It seems the troll’s plan is to marry Uther and then gain power and then err… profit?



Gaius informs Merlin about his suspicions and they decide to test ‘Lady Catrina’ by offering her medicine. Gaius knows that this medicine is essential for Catrina as he treated her as a child and knows that she has a painful bone condition in her leg parts. Gaius was tipped off because Catrina didn’t have a funny walk and neither did she ask him for any painkillers.

Merlin decides to investigate in his usual bumbling fashion as he decides to search Catrina's quarters without making sure that no one is already there. The room isn't that big but Merlin somehow manages to miss Jonas standing in a corner. Merlin makes a crap excuse and leaves but not before noticing that Jonas has a tail. It is never revealed why he has a tail or exactly what Jonas is. It's a mystery that will go unsolved.

I'm sure that, when confronted by Gaius's suspicions, Uther will take him seriously and investigate Lady Catrina's story closely. Hold on, no, he decides to ignore Gaius as usual and persists with romancing the troll woman. Uther ignores Gaius because he doesn't want to be impolite to the woman he's trying to get with. I also think it's because otherwise the episode would run very short if Uther actually listened to Gaius WHO IS ALWAYS RIGHT ABOUT MAGIC AND MONSTERS.

To be fair to Uther he does ask Catrina about her bone condition but she claims that her bones healed themselves via a miraculous recovery. Uther accepts this because he has the same IQ as a peanut.

Merlin then ventures into Arthur's chamber at night so that the ladies can get a shot of Arthur's naked chest. Merlin steals Arthur's mirror so he can peek into Catrina's room and he sees her in full troll form. Arthur catches Merlin standing in his room staring into a lady's bed chamber and naturally assumes that Merlin is a peeping tom. Arthur also decides to ignore Merlin's concerns because it's easier for the plot.

Merlin then wanders off and finds Catrina sleeping in the stables in troll form. There's a lot of farting. Kids love farting. Gaius explains that trolls love money and power so that's why this one is trying to woo Uther. Gaius makes one last attempt to talk sense into Uther and informs him that Catrina is a troll in disguise. Uther ignores Gaius because there's another twenty minutes to go in the episode. LISTEN TO GAIUS, HE IS A WALKING DUNGEON MASTER'S GUIDE.

Catrina Troll decides to take a shortcut in her wooing and crafts a magic mind controlling amulet to dominate Uther's brain. Under the influence of the magic amulet, Uther agrees to marry Catrina the next day. They kiss but it's gross because Catrina has a troll hand.



Gaius decides that Merlin needs to use magic to reveal Catrina's troll form to everyone. Merlin isn't keen because he'd have to use magic in front of everyone and he kind of likes not being burned alive. As usual Merlin reads through a ton of magical grimoires that Gaius has lying around his chambers and finds the spell he seeks. Merlin tries to use the spell while Uther is announcing his impending marriage to everyone but Merlin's spell doesn't work as Catrina fights off the effects. Unfortunately for Merlin, Jonas spotted him attempting to reveal Catrina's disguise and so he and Catrina plot to rid themselves of Merlin.

Merlin decides to let Arthur in on the secret but, because this is a two part story, Arthur refuses to believe him and acts like a jerk. Merlin then bumps into Jonas who pretends to be an abused slave in thrall to the troll. Jonas then makes a mistake by informing Merlin about the potion that Catrina the troll must take to maintain her appearance (I'm sure this won't come back to bite him in the tail). Jonas tells Merlin that the potion is kept in a chamber beneath Camelot so Merlin wanders off to investigate without telling anyone. Unsurprisingly it's a trap and Catrina appears to seal Merlin underground with a ceiling collapsing spell. Maybe that'll teach Merlin to trust floppy eared strangers with troll mistresses.

Merlin eventually manages to escape by shouting his magic words and using his telekinesis. Well, that was a disappointing and obvious escape method. Merlin tries to stop the wedding which is now in progress. He is cut off by Jonas on the way and they indulge in a bout of unconvincing combat. Merlin finally stops repeatedly running at Jonas and uses his telekinesis to knock him out.

Unfortunately Merlin has taken too long and he appears at the wedding ceremony just in time to see it completed. Noooooo! Hilariously Gaius sat through the entire ceremony without saying or doing anything. Presumably because there's another episode to fill.

EPISODE TWO



Urgh, the marathon continues. This episode becomes a Children's BBC classic, there's more farting, gurning and hot king on troll sexytime.

Oh yeah, remember Morgana and Gwen? Well it seems the writers didn't. Morgana had about two lines last episode and Gwen gets to say something in this one. Watch out for her two scenes!

Catrina has had enough of Merlin's ineffectual attempts to spoil her plans and she decides to frame Merlin for theft. Uther responds with his usual subtlety by having every single member of his army search for Merlin. Luckily for Merlin, Arthur has decided to stop being a jerk and warns Merlin so he can escape from the guards. Uther and his new wife are mean to Arthur because he let Merlin escape. It's all part of the troll's grand scheme to discredit Arthur and replace him as heir. Then Catrina wanders off to eat some horse dung in private.

Merlin loses Uther's army by setting up a fake trail in the forest. Gwen then appears and speaks two lines to Gaius as she worries about Merlin. Gaius, just like the writers, brushes her off and leaves her to worry. Merlin has in fact doubled back to the castle and hidden himself in Gaius's room.

To fill some time, Uther and Catrina declare that there is a new SHERIFF OF NOTTINGHAM STYLE EVIL TAX designed to piss off everyone in Camelot. Arthur is entrusted with enforcing this new tax despite his protests.

Later that night, Merlin sneaks into Jonas's room and steals the potion that Catrina uses to maintain her disguise. Merlin actually has a good idea and asks Gaius to make a dummy potion that tastes the same so he can switch the potions.

Meanwhile Catrina uses her magic troll breath to knock out Uther so she doesn't have to sleep with him. At first I thought this was a way of annulling the marriage as it won't be consummated. Unfortunately the episode decides to go down a more disgusting route later on...

The next day the guards of Camelot start enforcing the EVIL TAX but Arthur puts a stop to it. Uther and Arthur argue about the nature and responsibilities of monarchistic rule in an enligthening fashion and then come to an amicable agreement. Nah, just kidding, Uther snarls at Arthur and insists that the tax be enforced. After Arthur has left Catrina offers to help Uther with the burden of rule and Uther eventually decides to declare her as heir later that day. Money making schemes are so much easier when you have a mind controlling amulet. Uther then tries to kiss his wife but she uses her magic troll breath on him again.



Gwen gets another scene as she visits Arthur to congratulate him on sticking up for the peasants. Arthur seems to have forgotten being dropped for Lancelot and doesn't act awkward or sulky around her. Gwen's grand total of dialogue is approximately four lines. Thanks for visiting the show, Gwen!

Gaius completes the fake potion and Merlin makes the switch. Uther summons everyone to announce that Arthur is now disinherited and Catrina will take his place as heir. Fortunately for Uther, Arhtur doesn't immediately lead a rebellion of loyal men to take Camelot from his obviously insane father.

At the heir naming ceremony Catrina is revealed as a troll to the entire court as her disguise potion expires. Uther is still enchanted by the mind controlling amulet so he doesn't mind, despite everybody's revolted reaction and the obvious evidence that she's a supernatural creature. Morgana gets two lines in this scene so yay for her.

Uther comforts his troll wife and then well, I don't know how to say this but I'm pretty sure he goes ahead and bangs a troll.



Gaius once again attempts to reason with Uther but this obviously doesn't work because:

A) Uther is enchanted
B) Uther never listens to Gaius anyway

Uther threatens to execute anyone who insults Catrina by calling her a troll. So that went as well as it usually does when Uther is involved.

Merlin visits the expensive CGI dragon who presumably fills his time between episodes by completing crosswords. The dragon finds the current situation hilarious but reluctantly agrees to help Merlin because Uther's marriage will prevent Arthur from becoming king. The dragon informs Merlin that the only way to break the mind control is for Uther to weep tears of remorse. Then the dragon reminds Merlin that he still hasn't freed him from his underground prison after one and a half seasons. Merlin ignores the meta plot and leaves.

Merlin brings Arthur into his confidence and tells him that he needs to fake Arthur's death in order to save Uther. Gaius concocts a poison that will shut down Arthur's body but it requires the administration of an antidore within 30 minutes of being ingested. Arthur doesn't fancy his chances but plays along with the crazy scheme in order to liberate Camelot.

Gaius tells Uther about Arthur's sudden and suspicious death while Merlin gets knocked out by Jonas and drops Arthur's poison antidote. I have no idea why Gaius couldn't administer the antidote seeing as he's the court physician. Anyway, Uther cries over Arthur's body and the spell is broken. Then Uther realises that he's slept with a troll and makes this face:



Merlin arrives as the troll fights off various red shirt Camelot guards, he managed to mop up the antidote with a rag and squeezes out a drop into Arthur's mouth. Conveniently the poison can be cured by one tiny drop of antidote. Arthur eventually kills Jonas and the troll with his rudimentary sword play. Hurrah. The threat is over.

The episode ends as Arthur points out once again that Uther has totally knocked boots with a troll. This will probably never be mentioned again so I can see why Arthur would want to get the most out of it. I just wish I could erase the image from my mind...

NEXT EPISODE - Charles Dance - Witch Hunter!

Saturday, 31 October 2009

It's Halloween - Here's A Scary Video

Okay, this isn't actually scary but it is zombie themed. Yeah, I know you're thinking, "But Aaron, or A-Dog if you prefer, zombies are totally played out. I don't want to watch another thing with their stupid, shambling/running faces." And I would agree with you normally, but this is a video starring Nick Frost AND Simon Pegg. Yes, it's Danger! 50,000 Zombies. Watch and learn as Nick and Simon tell you everything you need to know to survive the apocalypse.





Friday, 30 October 2009

TV Snark - Merlin: Lancelot and Guinevere OR Arthur Gets Dumped For a Guest Star

First off I'd like to plug something. I was recently interviewed on Rev/Views so head on over there and take a look if you're interested in what I have to say about television. Rev/Views is also a great place for regular content (unlike my slack posting schedule) as Rev devours DVDs and TV series at an ungodly rate.

There, plugging over. We now return you to our regular feature, Merlin. What happened? Read on to find out...



The episode begins with Morgana and Guinevere heading off to visit Morgana's father's grave. Arthur sends a few red shirt knights to escort them through the forest and once out of sight of Camelot, they're immediately set upon and killed by bandits. Gwen and Morgana are captured by a bandit with a speaking role; he informs them that he is going to ransom Morgana on behalf of his boss Hengist. Morgana soon hatches an escape plan and demands to be allowed to bathe. Unsurprisingly the bandits think this is an awesome idea and there are plenty of volunteers to guard her while she bathes. Morgana distracts the guards with a very slow strip tease whilst Gwen liberates a sword from a guard and throws it to Morgana.

Morgana proceeds to slice and dice her way through the guards (as she went to the same noble lady finishing school as Maid Marian and as such is an amazing swordswoman). Morgana's escape plan is scuppered slightly by Gwen falling foul of a cliche last seen in a 1969 episode of Doctor Who - she sprains her ankle. Morgana leaves Gwen behind at her request and flees into the forest. Gwen stays behind to be recaptured.

Morgana bumps into Arthur's rescue party and is taken back to Camelot. Uther refuses to allow anyone to rescue Gwen because she is peasant scum and he would have to use a small army. Morgana should have told Uther that the bandits are slightly magic, he would use his entire army to kill them then. Arthur pretends to agree with Uther but then later slips off with Merlin to rescue Gwen.



The bandits decide to disguise Gwen as Morgana as Hengist has never seen Morgana in the flesh. The bandits treat their honoured hostage to some cage fighting as Gwen watches two men sword fight for money. She's shocked when one of the men is Lancelot. You may remember him as the peasant who decided he wanted to be a knight, killed a griffin, and then wandered off into guest star land. Lancelot defeats his foe (who looks like he wandered off the set of Mad Max 2 or that rubbish Escape From New York/Mad Max 2 rip off set in Scotland; Doomsday) and is shocked to see Gwen. He manages to avoid giving her away as they stare dreamily at each other across the cage.



Lancelot refuses to kill his foe so Hengist uses a Mole Rat from the Fallout games to kill the unfortunate Mad Max refugee. A bit later, Lancelot visits Gwen in her cell and she tells him how she got there. Lancelot explains that he's now a bitter, disillusioned man who fights for money. That would be because you are a peasant Lancelot. What he should do is watch A Knight's Tale and use his skills to win proper tournaments rather than cage fighting. But competing nobly in tournaments wouldn't project the bad boy image that Gwen obviously likes.



Arthur and Merlin travel through the forest of undetermined size and danger and reach the Tunnels of Arrrrgggghhhhh (or Andor, whatever). Within the caves are more Mole Rats, conveniently. Arthur decides that they should use the tunnels as a short cut to save a day's travel. Merlin doesn't like this plan at all and wants to go the long way round but Arthur finds some conveniently placed scent masking berries and rubs the juice on. Merlin and Arthur look like they're wearing jam.



The convenient berry juice masks their scent as the show recreates the T-Rex scene from Jurassic Park.



Fortunately for Merlin the man eating Mole Rats don't want to eat human shaped berries (they're blind, of course!) and leave.

Lancelot visits Gwen again and tells her he has nothing to live for but Gwen reassures him and seems to fall in love with him as he promises to liberate her from her prison.

Meanwhile, Arthur and Merlin escape the Tunnels of Arrrrgggghhhhh and Arthur admits to Merlin that he loves Gwen but fears that his father will never allow anything to happen. Merlin points out that Arthur can do anything when he's king but Arthur doesn't expect her to wait for that to happen. How right he is...

Eventually Hengist figures out that Gwen isn't Morgana as there have been no replies to his constant ransom demands. Hengist decides to pay Speaking Role Bandit for his treachery by placing him in the cage to be devoured by a Mole Rat. Lancelot decides to spring Gwen during this incident but Hengist soon discovers she's missing and sends his minions after them. Lancelot does the heroic slo-mo thing as he tries to fight off the horde of mooks as Gwen runs away on her now seemingly healed ankle.

Lancelot cocks it all up though. Not only does he get captured but he also fails to buy enough time for Gwen to escape. They're both recaptured and placed in the cage in order to be fed to the Mole Rat.

Arthur and Merlin reach the castle full of bandits and scale the walls using the patented Adam West school of climbing.



Arthur and Merlin eventually knock out a couple of guards and disguise themselves in order to reach the cage of Mole Rats. Arthur and Merlin aid Lancelot in his fight against the Mole Rat and they flee into the tunnels beneath the castle. Merlin locks Hengist in the cage with the Mole Rat with his telekinesis, sorry, magic. Lancelot reminds the audience that he knows about Merlin's magic and then they all escape.

While sitting round the campfire Gwen reveals that she thinks Lancelot is dreamy by looking at him, dreamily. Arthur is quite obviously upset at this and decides to brush off his rescue by saying that he only did it because Morgana begged him to. Lancelot talks to Melin and realises that he's cock blocking Arthur so he decides to run off into guest star land again. Gwen blubs about it for a bit. She's upset because she'll probably go back to having nothing to do next episode.

Arthur reunites Gwen and Morgana and there's hugging and crying. Yay. Roll credits.

NEXT EPISODE - Uther dates a troll. Really. And it's a two-parter!

Friday, 23 October 2009

TV Snark - Merlin: The Nightmare Begins OR Merlin Gets Everyone Killed

Hey remember that episode of Merlin that was on a few weeks ago? No? Well don't worry because here's my recap.



Morgana gets more screen time than the last two episodes combined when we watch her sleep for two minutes. Gwen brings in some linen to heighten the excitement and just as I'm beginning to drift off, Morgana wakes up and sets fire to her room WITH HER MIND. Yay, fire! Fire makes everything better.

The next morning Uther immediately jumps to the conclusion that it was an assassination attempt by magic people. Glad to see he's completely batshit loopy in this series too. Arthur is the voice of reason but Uther frowns him down.

Morgana talks to Gaius Meldrew about her dreams but Meldrew decides to cover up her burgeoning magic powers by doping her up. Merlin figures out that Morgana used magic and wants to tell her that she's a magic user like him. Gaius wants to keep her in the dark about her abilities due to the whole Crazy Uther thing. Merlin conveniently remembers and mentions the druids from last series and proposes that they help, but Gaius doesn't want to get involved.

Merlin visits Morgana with some flowers which Arthur spots so he can jump to the conclusion that Merlin is in love with Morgana. Well, it's a little late to set up the love rectangle when two of the corners (Arthur and Gwen) have practically paired up. Later on Morgana goes to bed and starts to uncontrollably use her cheap, telekinesis based powers. Morgana tries to find Gaius but runs into Merlin; she confesses to him that she thinks she's developing magic powers, but Merlin plays dumb so as not to give himself away. There are a lot of teary eyes in this scene - man, being a fantasy medieval teenage wizard is like living in Dawson's Creek now.

Merlin visits the John Hurt dragon with his worst question yet, "Do you know where the druids are?" The dragon is quite rightly suspicious and insists on only referring to Morgana as a witch and also refuses to help Merlin. Merlin is all, 'Fine! I'll find out myself then! Which I should've done in the first place rather than use my mystic dragon mentor as a source of directions.' The dragon looks disgruntled at being treated like Patrick Moore in Gamesmaster.



Arthur begins to round up all of the suspected magic users in Camelot as Uther has decided to arrest them all. Merlin manages to sneak a look at the list of suspects and tips one of them off before she's arrested. She gives him the directions in return for helping her escape Uther's crazy magic purge.

Merlin visits Morgana and gives her the directions to Druid Town. She vanishes in the night which causes Uther to completely lose it the next morning. He assumes she's been kidnapped and threatens to execute everyone he arrested yesterday unless she's released. Gaius tells Merlin he told him so. Merlin realises that Gaius was right as usual and decides to set off and bring Morgana back.

Morgana ventures alone into the forest of druids and is immediately set upon by a gang of giant scorpions. I wonder if the writers take their inspiration for creatures from MMORPGs? Whenever anyone enters the forest, it's always populated by boars, lizards and giant insects.



Morgana arms herself with a stick but it's no match against a mob of scorpions. Fortunately she sends out a 'LFG' message in the general chat channel and Colin Salmon arrives. He does his best Ben Kenobi impressions and scares the scorpions off. Morgana blacks out as she's already been stung by a scorpion. Guess she failed the 'Kill 10 Scorpions' mission then.

Morgana awakens in Druid Town to see Colin Salmon tending to her. Hey, remember when there was a rumour that he was going to be the next James Bond? How do you go from being linked with one of the most iconic roles in film to guesting for about five minutes of screen time in an episode of Merlin? It's such a waste of the man's talents.



Mordred is there too. Remember him from last year? He's all psychic now, he can do telepathy and everything. He offers to repay Morgana for her earlier kindness towards him by taking care of her. He still looks like Damien from The Omen. SLIGHTLY SPOOKY CHILD.

Uther unleashes Arthur and the hounds (which should totally be the name of Arthur's band) to find Morgana and destroy any magic people along the way. They begin to follow Merlin's trail; I'm sure this will end well. Also Arthur and his men run through the forest in broad daylight carrying flaming torches. For warmth?

Morgana learns that the druids are all nice and peaceful. They even give her a set of cultist robes to wear so she can join their cult - sorry, tribe. Morgana asks Colin Salmon about her magic powers but he doesn't really offer any concrete answers to anything, choosing instead to behave like Ben Kenobi and speak in wise sayings and vagueries.

Merlin finds Druid Town and eavesdrops on Morgana's conversation with Salmon. Unfortunately Merlin didn't notice an army running along behind him on his way to Druid Town. Merlin tries to retrieve Morgana but she won't leave her new friends. Arthur turns up to settle the argument by killing all of the druids. This doesn't seem to be the behaviour of a man who will become a wise and noble king. Arthur acts like a henchman here as he just blindly follows orders and assaults Druid Town rather than attempt to negotiate with the obviously unarmed and peaceful families in the settlement. What a hero.

Morgana, Merlin, Colin Salmon and Mordred attempt to flee Arthur's purge. Merlin casts the spell from the beginning of Excalibur - the dragon's breath (fog to layment). Some of the guards are lost in the fog and others chase Merlin but he soon shakes them off. The fog totally fails to help the others escape though and Salmon is soon shot and killed. Some guards try to grab Mordred but he uses a sonic cry to scatter them away from him and he flees further into the forest. Hopefully this will be a catalyst for an evil Mordred as Merlin and Arthur are responsible for the death of his adopted family. Of course that would be a level of complex storytelling and motivation unheard of in this show.

Morgana is retrieved by Arthur and company and taken back to Camelot. Merlin visits Morgana later and she doesn't once call him an idiot, which is a great show of forgiveness as her druid friends were killed because of his stupidity. Arthur sees Merlin visit Morgana and warns him against continuining a romance with someone of a different social class. Merlin is relieved as Arthur hasn't guessed that Merlin and Morgana are actually sharing Morgana's magic secret. That Arthur, he's so stupid and blind to what's really happening. Wait, why is he going to become an awesome king again?

NEXT EPISODE - Gwen 4 Lancelot 4eva! Arthur >:(

Friday, 2 October 2009

TV Snark - Merlin: Once and Future Queen OR I Preferred This Story When It Was Called "A Knight’s Tale"

The second episode of Merlin’s sophomore series has come and gone. Did it improve on the weak opening episode or did the quality, *gulp*, decline? Let’s take a look at the events of the episode shall we?

The episode opens with a brooding kingly type (King Odin) hiring an assassin called Myror to find and kill Prince Arthur for murdering his son. The assassin is played by Adrian Lester, one of the ‘stars’ of Bonekickers. I watched every damned minute of that ridiculous show so seeing Lester in the episode did not fill me with hope, especially as he was playing the part of a deadly assassin. Lester uses some stuntman kung fu to impress the Not-Uther-King and so he’s hired! Arthur is surely doomed. Look at Lester’s fighting technique in Bonekickers:



I apologise for exposing you to Bonekickers.

Back in Camelot Arthur practices his jousting for the upcoming tournament but he becomes angry when he finds out that his employees aren’t keen on hitting him in the face with a jousting lance. The lackeys, quite rightly, don’t want to endanger the prince’s life, even in training. This makes Arthur stroppy as he suspects that he’s only won tournaments in the past because his men have deliberately lost to him. Arthur then concocts a scheme to enter the tournament anonymously (I quite liked this development as it’s a standard trope of the medieval tournament/jousting genre and showed that maybe the writers had done a bit of homework, or at the very least had watched “A Knight’s Tale”).

Arthur approaches Uther with a tale of some vague magical monster threat somewhere far off so that he can pretend to leave town for a few days during the tournament. Uther’s psychotic hatred of anything slightly magical blinds him to Arthur’s lies so he allows him to ride off. Arthur sends his men off to God-knows-where and doubles back to Camelot wearing a giant disguise cloak that people in BBC fantasy shows where when they want to remain incognito. Merlin arranges for Arthur to stay at Gwen’s house so he can remain in hiding. Merlin then finds a farmer to pose as the public face of Prince Arthur during the tournament. The farmer has been made up to look like the epitome of the word ‘bumpkin’ as he has wild hair and a scruffy beard and a slightly mad look in his eyes. Arthur doesn’t seem to mind though and after a brief training sequence they manage to get the farmer walking and talking like a human being rather than a mental.



Arthur then commits a faux pas as he takes Gwen’s bed and indirectly forces her to sleep on a few sacks of vegetables and grain instead. Gwen is upset but she doesn’t say anything because Arthur’s the prince and he’s kind of a dick anyway.

Later on, Adrian Lester waits in a tree with a crossbow modified with a sniper scope in order to assassinate Arthur. Arthur isn’t with the fake monster hunting expedition into the wilds though and so he leaves for Camelot so he can find out where the prince is. Once Lester reaches Camelot he wastes little time in killing a guard so he can show off how badass and evil he is and then talks to his man on the inside. The traitor redshirt fed Lester the information about Arthur’s expedition but doesn’t know where the prince is now. Lester is temporarily foiled so he decides to hang around and follow Arthur’s servant Merlin in the hope he’ll reveal where Arthur is.



Uther finds out that the assassin is in town when the dead guard is found and one of King Odin's knights turns up and explains the assassination plot to Uther. This doesn't really change anything as Uther merely frowns and stomps about a bit.

There's some lancing action as Arthur rides in the tournament disguised as 'Sir William' and manages to defeat his opponents. At this point I notice that Arthur's armour is the same as the lead character William's is in "A Knight's Tale". Is this homage or rip off? I really can't tell. The jousts are well performed and shot although there isn't really an explanation of the rules or what prize is at stake. I guess that's detail they didn't need for the episode though. Still, would've been nice. Arthur can't wait to win the tournament and reveal himself as the true 'Sir William'. The farmer looks a bit disappointed but then he should be thankful he's getting to pretend to be nobility and not covered in mud in the middle of a field.



Gwen and Arthur have a romantic subplot as Gwen eventually takes Arthur to task on his rudeness and arrogance. She doesn't like his attitude and Arthur doesn't like living as a peasant but he eventually offers to cook her a meal to make up for his behaviour. He then promptly cheats and orders take-out from the palace kitchens. Gwen enjoys the meal but doesn't like the lazy gesture, there's some more lecturing and banter from the two until eventually they kiss. Finally, this show has actually introduced some romance rather than awkward flirting between Merlin and Gwen. I don't know where this leaves Morgana though. Speaking of which where is she? Oh, that's right she's sat in the background during the jousting like a freakin' extra! Seriously, she does nothing this week other than look pretty in the background. Nothing at all. What a waste.

Eventually Adrian Lester uses his common sense to follow Merlin around until he sees Merlin in a tent helping Arthur with his armour. Lester decides to murder another knight and take his armour so he can joust in the final with Arthur. Lester plans to use a lance THAT IS EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE ONE RUFUS SEWELL USES AT THE END OF "A KNIGHT'S TALE." It's even the same design, a fist with a blade beneath, although the one in "A Knight's Tale" was more feasible as the fist was designed to break on impact, allowing the spike to drive into the opponent. Lester's lance is a switchblade device which is all well and good but he's knackered if he breaks it in the first tilt. And another thing, where did he get that lance from? Was he carrying it around in his murder bag just for this special occasion? Or was the original knight planning to cheat anyway? It's a mystery.



Arthur and Adrian Lester go at it and Arthur is wounded during the first tilt (or round, or attempt to smash each other in the face with a long wooden pole; whatever you wish to call it, I will use tilt). Merlin spots that Lester's lance is designed for murder and during the second tilt Merlin uses his powers *telekinesisagain* to break Lester's saddle and win Arthur the tournament. Arthur decides not to celebrate and allows the farmer to take the credit. I assume the farmer is later ridiculed and embarrassed at the feast held in his honour as he can't dance or speak without sounding like a weirdo.

Arthur concocts a story, to satisfy Uther, of how he met the assassin on the road to Camelot and killed him. Arthur then explains to Gwen that they may never be together as his father would never allow it as she's a scruffy peasant. Gwen hopes that will change once Uther's kicked the bucket.

Meanwhile, the dragon sits under Camelot wondering why Merlin hasn't visited him this episode. The director then shows him the extortionate per episode cost of including him in a story so he gently sighs and goes back to his crossword.

Monday, 28 September 2009

TV Snark - Merlin: The Curse of Cornelius Sigan OR Mackenzie Crook Should Really Say No To Saturday Evening Television



It’s the return of Merlin and the return of my late, snarky, and slightly crappy recaps! Will the show improve on its first series? The pieces are in place: decent performers, good costumes, adequate CGI monsters. It just needs good scripts to make the show tolerable.

Does the second season opener offer a good script to go with guest star Mackenzie Crook?

No.

Oh well. Let’s take a look at what happened then.

Uther has commanded his peasants to dig beneath his castle to find buried treasure left behind by previous rulers. I can only assume that Uther is a bit strapped for cash having spent all of his money on building enormous funeral pyres for witches and sorcerers. The peasants hack at the tunnels beneath Camelot until they find a hidden chamber covered in treasure. Unfortunately the peasants fail their Spot Trap check and one of them is killed by a poison dart. The rest flee like superstitious native in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Gaius Meldrew later ventures into the chamber and sets off the same trap but Merlin reminds the audience that he is MAGIC and uses telekinesis (again) to save Gaius. After a bit of research Gaius realizes that the chamber is the burial site of an ancient wizard who promised to return from the dead to destroy Camelot and so warns Uther against looting the dead. Uther doesn’t believe in this curse because he erm… he hates magic. There’s no logic to this, Uther just decides for the sake of the plot to ignore Gaius’ advice and take all the treasure, despite the fact that Gaius IS ALWAYS RIGHT ABOUT MAGICAL ENEMIES EVERY DAMN EPISODE.



Meanwhile, Mackenzie Crook plays a… crook (this is a vast improvement on Demons where he played Galdiolus Thrip, the teddy boy vampire/demon with a beak). He wants to get his hands on the treasure beneath the castle and soon learns from a very Welsh builder that the treasure is kept locked away. Apparently only Prince Arthur has the key to the chamber and so Mackenzie hatches a plan to become Arthur’s new servant at the expense of Merlin. Mackenzie sabotages Merlin by loosening the saddle on Arthur’s horse, taking credit when Merlin saves Arthur’s life with magic when Arthur is attacked by a boar (Arthur is such a n00b, he should totally have enough levels to deal with a boar by now), serving a sumptuous breakfast to Arthur, and finally making Merlin fall asleep in horse dung via knock out gas. Arthur promptly dumps Merlin as servant (again) as the show seems to have ignored the character development between the two from the end of last season.



Look! He's fallen in the poo! Hahahahahaha!

With Merlin out of the way Mackenzie can now steal the key to the treasure chamber of come-uppance, and steal it he does. Mackenzie starts to loot the chamber but then spots a large heart shaped sapphire on top of the evil mage’s sarcophagus and decides to lift that instead. Mackenzie is instantly possessed by the old mage and becomes Sigan.



Mackenzie/Sigan enacts his plan of revenge by summoning gargoyles from the battlements of Camelot itself. The gargoyles are unstoppable killing machines as they stumble around menacing screaming peasants in that charming cheap CGI way where they don’t physically interact with any of the actors. Arthur and his red shirt knights (remember, they wear red cloaks to display their disposability) fall back under the assault of one gargoyle and all seems lost. Merlin wants to help but Gaius is being very pessimistic this week and he states that the only thing that can stop Sigan is the magical power of something older and more powerful – John Hurt’s CGI dragon! Yes, the dragon that Merlin said he’d never speak to ever again in the season one finale. Time for the relationship reset button.




The reconciliation isn’t played out for long; it’s almost resolved with the speed of two kids who fell out in a playground. The dragon forces Merlin to promise to free him in the future in exchange for a new powerful spell which will probably only ever be used once. Merlin reluctantly agrees and the dragon breathes magic on him. Yeah. This scene is very short and is almost a white washing of last season’s finale when the dragon actually tried to kill Merlin with his fire breath. FORGET LAST YEAR. IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. LOOK AWAY FROM THE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.



Merlin, now armed with a new spell, wanders into the courtyard to find Sigan/Mackenzie posing amidst the destruction. Sigan decides to tempt Merlin with the whole, “together we will rule the galaxy as father and son” speech from The Empire Strikes Back but changes it a bit so that George Lucas won’t sue. Merlin refuses so Sigan decides to possess Merlin instead and this leads to some gurning from Merlin as he fights off the possession and saves the day. Yay for magic dragon spells that conveniently save the day!



Dare you face Mackenzie Goth?

In the aftermath, Uther decides to block up the treasure chamber despite the fact that the evil sorcerer has been defeated and now no longer poses a threat to his looting. Idiot. No wonder his economy needs to be supported by dungeoneering.

Oh yeah, Morgana and Gwen were in this episode but Morgana appeared for all of a minute while she had a bad dream and Gwen flirted a bit with Arthur. Nice to see the ladies have expanded roles this year.

For an alternative view, please head on over Richard Cobbett's site for his own unique take on this episode.

If you want to watch the episode then you can visit here. Unless you're a foreign type, in which case the BBC doesn't want you to see it yet.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Stupid Films That I Love - Demolition Man



The next film in the stupid but great collection is Stallone’s 1993 opus, Demolition Man. It stars Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, Denis Leary, Rob Schneider, and erm, Nigel Hawthorne. Bit of backstory here, I actually won a local newspaper competition to see this movie when I was 15. I won a pair of tickets and a Demolition Man beret. Yes, a beret. I never did summon up the courage to wear the beret in public as I was too busy wearing my military deerstalker (with Judge Dredd badge stuck on one side, fashion fans!). So there is some nostalgic value to this film, not a great deal, it’s not like I placed the beret in a special display cabinet or dedicated 1993 as the year of the Demolition Man beret and Simon Phoenix haircut.

Talk of berets aside, Demolition Man is the story of supercop John Spartan and his feud with criminal Simon Phoenix (got to love the over the top character names, they’ve been a big influence when choosing names for my own fictional creations). The movie starts in the near future (now the recent past to us) as Los Angeles has become a war zone due to gang warfare. Simon Phoenix (played by Wesley Snipes) is a super criminal whose amazing plan seems to be kidnapping school buses and ransoming them off. Having watched The Wire, I’m not convinced that Phoenix’s business model is sustainable in the long term, I mean stealing a school bus is something you could only pull off a couple of times surely? John Spartan doesn’t approve of kidnapping school kids so he decides to singlehandedly infiltrate Phoenix ’s lair and bring him to justice.

Spartan’s plan doesn’t go well and it ends with both him and Phoenix sentenced to several decades of cryogenic jail time. Decades later Phoenix and Spartan are thawed out to continue their feud in a more civilised and sterilised future age. Wacky hi-jinks ensue as the two men from the past use brutal methods unseen by the peaceful future inhabitants of San Angeles.

This is a culture shock movie with lashings of comedy violence, it’s actually quite dark in places but you’re never shown anything explicitly nasty directly on screen. The film has a pretty decent cast for a mainstream comedy action movie, Wesley Snipes is great fun as Phoenix as he clearly delights in his crimes. Stallone as Spartan is pretty much playing the clich├ęd maverick cop who DOESN’T HAVE TIME FOR RULES DAMMIT but uses his charisma to make it work. Sandra Bullock appears in one of her early main character roles in a big budget movie and she does her usual job of being the sexy girl/future cop next door. Rob Schneider is well, Rob Schneider. I assume his performance in this movie is why he was cast as comedy sidekick Fergie in the Judge Dredd film a couple of years later. Oh yeah, Jesse Ventura is in it too!



Demolition Man is an inoffensive movie with a simple message about corruption in paradise and a warning about over reliance on technology. One of my favourite ongoing jokes is the constant fines levied by a faceless but omnipresent computer whenever John Spartan swears. It’s not ground breaking but it is a lot of fun, the action sequences are well done and quite imaginative in places and the future world is well realised, if pretty silly. This is a stupid but endearing action movie that obviously won’t tax the brain but will leave you entertained.

Here's the trailer:

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Stupid Films That I Love – Crank

This is a new feature and much like My Favourite Episodes it will focus on something I like, namely films that are stupid but that I love all the same. It will probably appear once in a blue moon just like My Favourite Episodes. I am nothing if not unpredictable.

The first movie up is from the Jason Statham brand – Crank.



Crank is very, very, stupid and silly. Do not begin watching this movie expecting a work of art, a discussion of the human spirit, or a story of the triumph of the human soul. Expect violence, bad language, car chases, gun play and Amy Smart in a summer dress. It’s best to regard this film as a live action version of Grand Theft Auto with better dialogue.

Jason Statham is the improbably named Chev Chelios, he is a cockney assassin living in Los Angeles (this is never explained but I guess it’s because Jason Statham’s American accent is awful and his natural cockney accent is funny when heard in conjunction with American antagonists). Chev has made enemies amongst the Latino gangs and they have poisoned him with some “Chinese shit,” a toxin which will eventually slow his heart down to a complete stop and kill him. Chev discovers that if he keeps his adrenaline pumping his heart won’t stop and he won’t die, so he embarks on a heart pumping rampage across the city – will he find a cure, gain revenge on his enemies, and finally confess to his girlfriend that he’s not really a computer game programmer?

Now you’ve just read the synopsis and you’re probably thinking to yourself, “that sounds like absolute crap” and that’s exactly what I thought before I watched Crank. I was wrong. Dead wrong. Crank has a wicked sense of humour running throughout the movie and a tongue so far in cheek that it’s burst through the skin and is waggling around manically. The film starts with the movie title rendered in lurid 8 bit graphics, giving a large hint at what is to come – fun, violent, fun.

It’s clear that everyone is having a great time in this film, Statham maintains a manic cockney menace throughout, Amy Smart is a ditzy stoner chick oblivious to events around her, and every bit part player is a memorable character from the Haitian cab driver that constantly talks about drugs made from “plant shit” while berating Chev and calling him a crackhead, to the male nurse forced at gunpoint to shock Chev with a defibrillator paddle.

The story itself isn't particularly complex as it's standard revenge fare. What is interesting is Chev's rampage throughout L.A and his effect on everyone he meets. At one point Chev even takes a break from the plot to ride a stolen police motorbike through the streets while he comes down from a massive adrenalie shot that he took earlier. To use the old saying, it's not the destination - it's the journey.



Crank is great entertainment. I'm not advocating it as the greatest film ever made, heck, it's not even the greatest action movie ever made but it is one of the most enjoyable. Next time you're feeling a little down, give Crank a watch and it'll cheer you right up.

Here's the trailer but be warned that for some reason they decided to remove almost all traces of humour from it. Fortunately they rectified this mistake for Crank 2...

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Shut It, You



Yeah, yeah, been quite on here recently. Look at that panel, it's from Satan (again) by Alan Grant and Arthur Ranson.

Next week Merlin series two begins and so does the snark, along with some kind of respectable posting schedule. Expect the snark filled recap a couple of days after transmission.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Deadpool Plays Street Fighter



(click to embiggen as usual)

Deadpool breaks out the deadliest uppercut of all in Deadpool #27 - words by Joe Kelly, pencils by Walter McDaniel.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Anatomy of a Chainsword



Don't buy one of these for a Dalek at Christmas, it'll be awkward.