Wild boys, Wild enough?

One day, I will be working in the screenwriting industry. No panty-waisting around here, I’m going to make it or break everything on my way there. I will preferably be writing on top of a giant mountain of cash, in a mountain lair, whilst robots made from solid gold scrub my back.

Don't lie, you've all had the same dream.

However, on my way to eventual success and armies of doom, I’ll need to put in the hard yards. I’ll need to work in the local industry, in the trenches. Hopefully I’ll work on shows like “Wild Boys,” the pilot episode of which aired on Sunday night at 7.30, on channel seven. It’s an Australian bushranger western. As if that doesn’t sound awesome.

These men just typed "wild boys" into google.

The show takes place in an 1860’s vision of bushland Australia, with the aptly named hamlet of Hopetoun providing a hub for the show’s events. The protagonist is Jack Keenan, a bushranger with a veritable heart of gold, played by Daniel McPhearson. He just wants to make an honest dishonest living, only taking from those who deserve their things taken from them. From what I saw in the pilot, this covers everyone in authority, from bankers to soldiers. He runs a small gang with two other members, one a larrikin type, Daniel Sinclair, played by Michael Dorman, the other slightly unstable and due for a bad end. Their happy bushranging world is shaken up and down when they rob the wrong coach. It’s carrying the new law in town. Francis Fuller, played by Jeremy Sims. He begins to clean up the town with an iron fist. Complicating Jacks’ life when faced with this development is his relationship with the sassy and tempestuous brothel/bar owner Mary Barret, played by Zoe Ventura. The comparison with Robin Hood can be drawn fairly easily, with Jack standing in for Robin, Mary as Maid Marian and Francis standing in for Nottingham. He even dresses completely in black.

Someone needs to get this man a white hat. It's scientifically proven to increase smile rate by 64%.

The performances, by and large, are servicable. Daniel and Francis are the standouts in my opinion. Daniel is infused with a larrikin charm and quiet confidence. He’s comic relief, but  never played for laughs. He is irreverant in the traditional “Australian” fashion. Francis is suitably venemous and veritably oozes around screen. Daniel McPhearson is charismatic in a corn-fed fashion. He tries to bring a sense of fun to the screen, but his character is a little too shiney, a hero but not enough of a person. However, the greatest disappointment was Mary Barret. Mary is apparently tough and resourceful, but this is never really shown. All she does is mouth around and brandish a shotgun. There’s no steel in her performance. The only other female character of note so far, Amelia, daughter of the mayor, is one-dimensional and dim. Hopefully Zoe can mine her character for a greater sense of integrity and pathos, because she appears to be an integral part of the show. Both the promotional posters and her position as Jack’s lover confirm this. Thankfully, the host of minor characters are interesting enough to fill Hopetoun with a host of interesting folk, they may not be wholly believable, but they are human enough to accept as part of the show’s conceit. However, for all of their differences, all of these characters suffer from one common flaw. The dialogue is often awful.

"Words are like bullets, they're cheap and designed to wound."

Indeed, this was the most disappointing aspect of the show. The language is often clunky and tiresomely expositional. Characters say what they mean, and there is little opportunity for subtext. Most scenes are perfectly servicable in terms of the action, but the dialogue really detracts from the characters and their interactions. It feels as though one or two more drafts may have been needed. Indeed, bad dialogue is what really kills Mary Barret as a character. Furthermore, there was little slang used and the language was a little too modern. This is a missed opportunity in my opinion, as slang can really bring colour to a show. This is true for this show especially, as a country like Australia at the time would have been in the throes of cutting itself free from England and developing it’s own style of English, missing an excellent way to bring verisimillitude to the world.

As if the birth of this weighty tome wouldn't be the best show ever.

Despite these issues, the show chugs along at a satisfying pace, the writers manage to include a number of homages to western movies but they don’t let them derail the plot. Don’t expect anything groundbreaking if you haven’t seen it yet. This show knows what it is and resolutely sticks to that. This does result in flaws, as certain plot elements are contrived, others may cross the fine line between homage and cliche. Futhermore, the story drives character on occasion rather than the reverse. Thankfully, the narrative isn’t so dire that you have to avoid the show on principle. The plot, like everything in this show, isn’t “Wild,” but it does enough romping about to get by.

Expect explosions, shoot-outs and hold-ups a-plenty, but no real violence or sex. Wild is as Wild does at 7.30 on a Sunday night. These boys might not be wild enough for you, but I’m sure your nan will love them. That’s the core of this show, it wants to be family-friendly action and it does that in spades. We can all lament the fact that it’s not an Australian Deadwood, but that may be asking too much of a 7.30 Sunday night commercial timeslot.

In conclusion, I was pleasantly surprised by the package. Far from being the dire product I was expecting, “Wild boys” was fun and digestible, if not too meaningful. A fluffy Robin Hood meets Ned Kelly, if you will. With that kind of pedigree they can’t go too far wrong. There may be life in the industry yet.

3 out of 5 ten-gallon hats.

30 gallons, to be fair.

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Conan the Barbarian: A review.

Conan the barbarian..

It’s not the most unnasuming name, in fact, it does what it says on the box. His name is Conan, and he’s… a barbarian. Strangely enough, this is also the title of a film. It becomes less strange  when you realise that the film isn’t a mad arthouse piece about reindeer farming and their lonely master. It’s actually a film about Conan the Barbarian. Icon of pop culture, hero to many, crusher of many a  piece of jewel encrusted furniture and breaker of my heart.

I don't need a heart, my pectorals move blood for me.

 

Conan the Barbarian, without putting too much of a spin on it, is terrible. However, it is terrible in a special way. Sure, it’s a bad film. It has little plot, basing it’s entire premise around Conan searching for the man who killed his father. Aforesaid villian, Khalar Zim, is attempting to revive his dead wife via a magical hat, whilst also gaining the powers of some sort of eldritch God. There’s traditional fantasy conflict there, but this is wasted by the one-note nature of the characters and the continual bludgeoning of the audience with blood-soaked action sequences between tiny, perfunctory pieces of plot and story. This script has been bouncing around from writer to writer for a few years now, and it shows.

There’s also a continual feeling that this film is striving to be epic. The sweeping soundtrack and vast landscapes, the myriad locations and the world in conflict all contribute to this feeling. They even have Morgan Freeman narrating the first couple of scenes before he disappears, you get the feeling they spent too much on gritty eyeliner for the entire cast and couldn’t afford any more Morgan.

If you could turn this man into an eyeliner that narrated lives in his mellifluous voice, you would be rich.

 

However, the film forgets something vital. You need a story for ANYTHING to be epic. You can’t just throw tropes at the screen and hope they’ll stick. A sense of contrast between the character struggles and the world in chaos is essential. This film has none of that. Each character is trite and shallow and undercuts any scope the film achieves. The only actor to come out of this with his reputation slightly intact is Ron Pearlman, he plays Conan’s gruff yet tenderhearted father.  Jason Momoa is our eponymous hero, and squanders any opportunity to bring depth to a beloved fantasy character. Conan’s line, “I live, I love, I slay, I am content,” sums up his character perfectly, and there is nary a hint of anything beyond this.  I was also shocked to hear not a single lamentation from any of Conan’s women. The antagonist, Zim, portrayed by Stephen Lang, is similarly hollow. A lust for power and a dead wife would surely lend to a character with pathos, however, this is nowhere to be found. Furthermore, his ridiculously shiny teeth were a monumental distraction in what is supposed to be a grimy feudal world.

LOOK AT THEM!

 

The art and scenery are points in the films favour, some of the locations look spectacular, and you get a real sense of Hyboria as a whole. A sad beaten land, with little hope of a decent future. An unfortunate mirror of the film itself. This brings me to why Conan broke my heart. Sure I could dissect each character and story beat, but you’ve already got my general opinion of the film. The real tragedy is not the movie itself, but the squandered opportunity.

It could have been this!

 

It’s not often that a fantasy concept gets a decent budget and promotion, a slew of story, history and imagination to draw upon, a tone already established in literature, and a character so recognisable in pop-culture that with a little extra effort in writing and performance, he could become something incredible. Conan was ripe for cinematic expression, yet, it is only in brief snippets do you see what could have been. There’s a giant boat pulled across land by slaves, and it rides on the backs of elephants! However, it goes nowhere and never hits the sea. There’s many beautiful locations and cities, each with their own history and personality, but we see none of the inhabitants nor do we see the streets. There’s pirates, priests and warlords!…Each one of them one-note and of little consequence. There’s the connections to the Cthulu Mythos and the concept of Elder Gods!… But there’s no real sense of unearthly forces, just Stephen Lang in a funny hat. Lastly, it’s Conan the godamned Barbarian! One of the most manly and recognisable heroes in the history of fantasy!…but he does nothing except glower and leer at the screen, his lady-friend and his next victim.

Cower before the expression of my every emotion!

 

Don’t get me wrong, Jason Momoa was great in Game of Thrones, but there’s just nothing here for him to work with. Every opportunity for spectacle was passed by in favour of another fight scene. This film could have been truly amazing. A Lord of the Rings with extra gore, naked ladies, and a real sense of fun. It could have been an ADVENTURE, unabashed in it’s pulp origins. Fantasy is currently enjoying a fair amount of the spotlight, and this film could have seized it. However, it doesn’t. There’s no fun, no imagination and no real heroics. Just grimy mooks getting slaughtered in slow motion, which is how the cinema crowds will feel after seeing this. Mooks to the slaughter, with the producers sitting on a mountain made from skulls and ticket stubs.

Conan the Barbarian is in cinemas now. 1 out of 5 skulls.

Predator? More like Preda-won’t.

Here we go, my first real rant, and I’m attacking a monumental figure of sci-fi pop culture. Starting out small then. (Just for the record, I’m not discussing the A.V.P. films, because they’re made of arse.)

I would like you to meet the Predator, a creature so bad-ass, he doesn’t need a name. All he needs is a function; namely to predate all over your face and then pull out your skull to use as a conversation piece in his delightful lounge suite.

THESE CURTAINS ARE NOT THE RIGHT SHADE OF SALMON!

 

To be honest, before I started this, I was slightly worried that word of this article might get to that race of dreadlocked, knife-wielding slasher beasts and they’d then kidnap me and stick me on their goddamned murder-planet for the giggles. But you know what? I’m okay with that. Because, like most hunters of our own species, or any other species we’ll meet in the future, they’re pussies.

you will never get to the choppa.

 

To begin with, a basic physical comparison is in order. The predators are huge, and one of their so-called favourite items of prey, to wit, us, are not. The average male human hits around 5 ‘ 9 or so. The average predator tops 8 feet. To put this into context; Brown bears on average hit 7 feet when standing and weigh 250 kg.

They are also extremely cuddly.

 

The predator is a foot taller and made of two things: pure muscle and the screams of his victims.

Furthermore, as I am sure you’re aware, they are damnably hard to kill. Schwarzenegger needed luck and a lot of mud after it had disposed of his ENTIRE team of crack soldiers, Danny Glover needed a cute plot device and some shoddy writing after the Predator had killed every single person in Los Angeles. Adrien Brody needed Topher Grace being Topher Grace and a sassy heroine to save his bacon.

he only has one face, and it's not right.

 

In fact, the body count for the Predator movies stands at this.

Predator deaths: 6

Human Deaths: A small African country, possibly Mozambique.

 

It is at this moment that I can hear you crying “But Tom! Surely this means that they ARE efficient hunters, having disposed of many a hooman whilst only suffering minor losses.” And to this I say, “Yes, person who can’t pronounce your own species name, I agree, any military force would be happy after seeing those results.”

But that’s the kicker. Military force. Predators are cheap. Monumentally so, and this is why their vaunted honour is worth squat.

I am now going to list their weaponry. Which they use to hunt us.

  • A mask with the ability to detect sound, heat, ectoplasmic and any other damned thing that it needs to. It also uses those distinctive triangular laser blips to track a foe, and then fires HOMING plasma bolts. We might as well roll over right now.
  • Body armour with healing gel.
  • Voice translator in case they want to go freak out and/or chat up the natives before they summarily execute them.
  • THAT DAMNED CLOAKING DEVICE!
  • A wrist computer with the ability to render any unknown area into a 3D model.
  • Absurdly advanced spaceships and energy-based weaponry.
  • Any number of ridiculously sharp objects that even a Klingon wouldn’t touch.

I defended the Enterprise with a goddamned TASER. What have you done this week?

 

Seriously though, with all this tech, the Predators are like a gang of redneck Americans who decide to go up into the forests one weekend to shoot raccoons with rocket launchers. Whilst using  jetpacks.

This isn’t fair, and regardless of how cool shooting raccoons with jetpacks sounds, it isn’t sporting. Indeed, for every racoon who gets lucky and manages to set fire to the one drunk American who can’t get out of his tent, hundreds of his poor racoon brothers die in a furry, fiery and completely frivolous holocaust.

To rub one last insult into our already bleeding wounds. The Predators have their own murder planet. Now, to begin with, Predators going places and having a good ol’ hunt was a fine idea in principle. Sure, superior technology, weight and a bad-ass set of dreadlocks do skew the odds in their favour. BUT, they were doing the honourable thing by going to their prey’s home turf and having a good old duke.

You could do worse than hunt this man.

 

However, kidnapping creatures and placing them within your own private game reserve is like John Hammond cloning dinosaurs 1/8th of their original size, releasing them within a park made entirely from lego and then giving prospective hunters large hammers and growth mushrooms. It just isn’t fair. A real hunter, or indeed, predator, confronts his prey on their own turf. It’s the honourable thing to do, and for a species seemingly all ABOUT honour and the thrill of the hunt, they sure aren’t doing a good job.

They studied with this guy.

 

To call oneself a true hunter, one has to be on the level with your prey. You have to understand the environment and start from exactly the same circumstances, then triumph over your adversary in a tooth and nail struggle. A Predator calling himself a true hunter is like a moron turning a rubix cube one place out of sync, solving it and then promptly applying for mensa.

Twenty-four seconds! *air-punch*

Just so you all know, I am aware of the fact that in the Predator films, sub-textually and narratively, the protagonist becomes the predator through his or their struggle against a superior and more powerful foe. THEY fight tooth and nail and become the hunter. I understand this. This is not about that. This is about dear old “pussy face” himself. More particularly, his claim to fame as the most “elite” hunter in the whole goddamned galaxy. This is a bare-faced lie. He is a pussy; I don’t care if he kidnaps me and takes me to their murder planet. I’ll take them on, I’ve got my wind-up mouse. Bunch of pussies.

because we all deserve to have our voices heard.

Or really, we don’t. I certainly don’t deserve a blog, and I’m not sure about you either.

But hell…

The internet is  a noisy democracy, therefore, one man, one voice, one blog. QED.

Facebook, twitter, blogging...we're all just the digital equivalent of this guy.

 

Following both this logic and my pretensions toward literary aptitude; my aim is to fill every domain and synapse of the internet with useless noisy words chiselled from the stone of Times New Roman. Failing that, I will fill your screen.

It’s not quite as good, but everyone’s got to start somewhere.

Actually, to digress… I hope this is Times New Roman.  Too many fonts look the same these days. It’s rather vexing. This might be “Andalus” or “Baskerville old face,” and now I look a right tit in front of the entire internet.

or…

The INTIRENET!

Of such portmanteaux are religions made.

To be honest, I rather like Times New Roman, but I’d change it for variety’s sake. However, my incapacity to use html means we’re both stuck with it for the forseeable future.

I can sense your excitement.

This is his awesome face.

Hopefully that distracted you.

I know it distracted me.

(…I just realised that my page displays my Times New Roman in some sort of Arial font.  I AM a right tit.)

 

Before I’m attacked by another dinosaur impulse. I should probably tell you what this is really all about. My aim, my grand plan, if you will.

I’d like you to come back, after all.

So, onwards my brave companions, to the POINTY END!

Pretty damn well pointy.

 

At this juncture, I’ll admit that I wish I had circus fanfare and a little rotund circus ringmaster dancing around the bottom of my page. It would add a certain festival cachet that I feel this announcement is lacking. Khal Drogo doesn’t really scream “fun for the kids” as he does “I’m going to sleep with your sister and then pour molten gold all over your face.”

Man, I was shattered when he died.

……

To this end, I’d like you to imagine the fanfare and ringmaster. You can also imagine a monkey with cymbals, if you’d like.

not this one.

 

(Fanfare playing? Got your monkeys and ringmasters ready?)

…LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!!

This blog will be the bloggiest of blogs you ever did blog. It will include…

  • REVIEWS OF MUSIC, FILM, BOOKS AND MORE… THE LIKE OF WHICH THE WORLD HAS NEVER READ OR HEARD BEFORE.
  • RANTS OF SUCH DIVINE INSPIRATION THAT YOU WILL DOUBT THE VERY FOUNDATIONS OF YOUR BELIEF/POLITICAL/COMPUTER SYSTEM!
  • THERE WILL BE INTERNET MEMES, ANIMALS, MUTANTS, ROBOTS,  DINOSAURS! (Already coming through on that promise. To politics!)
  • THERE WILL BE EXCERPTS OF MY VERY OWN FICTION! (Not the good stuff, because WordPress would then own it and I’d be forced to pull out my laptop cord in frustration and then sue a pencil company.)
  • BULLET POINTS!
  • SHOES, SHIPS, CEILING WAX!
  1. NUMBERED LISTS!

…and a great many other things.

The internet is a great adventure. Unfortunately, I haven’t packed and I’ve forgotten my compass. I’m assuming there will be blood. Buckets of blood…or maybe corn syrup. Probably blood.

looks like corn syrup to me!

Regardless, you get to watch.

        Astounding!