Whatever's cool with me...

Whatever's cool with me...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Blackadder: Greatest anti-hero/historical sitcom ever!

In the wake of my reviews on the 'talky movies' genre, my dear wife commented that I've explicitly missed to mention Blackadder as one of the most influential/greatest talky sitcom/TV series of our time. Of course, these were not considered as movies (though the one-off TV special did run for more than an hour, thus may qualify it as a made-for-TV-movie). But what exactly is Blackadder? It didn't quite exactly reach the mass audience here in Malaysia (didn't make it to prime time slot), tho' it did have ample screening time (albeit through late night slots) on our very own cable TV some time back.
I am very sure that on average, most of the audiences here prefer a straight-up/balls-out comedy sitcoms rather than talkative/implicit-read-'tween-the-lines-dialogue series. But for those few who seeked alternatives means of laughing our hearts out aka smart/intelligent dialogues layered with sarcastic tones, then this acclaimed gut-wrenching British TV series would be the perfect answer.
A little bit of introduction to the series. Blackadder encompasses four series of an acclaimed BBC One historical sitcom, along with several one-off instalments/TV-movies. The series starred Rowan Atkinson (which many would affectionately know as Mr Bean from the Mr Bean (duhhh..) TV series) as the eponymous/protagonistic anti-hero, Edmund Blackadder, and Tony Robinson as his sidekick/dogsbody, Baldrick.
The lives (series) of each of the Blackadders are also accompanied with their servants, all from the Baldrick family line (ALL played by Tony Robinson). Each generation acts as the dogsbody (man-servant/man-slave) to their respective Blackadder. They go through a massive deterioration in intelligence level (and also in personal hygiene standards) just as their masters' intellect increases as each series progresses . Each Blackadder and Baldrick are also 'blessed' with the company of a dim-witted aristocrat whose presence Blackadder must somehow tolerate and live with (unwillingly). This role was taken in the first two series by Lord Percy Percy (Tim McInnerny), in the third series by Prince George, Regent of Wales (Hugh Laurie), and in the fourth by Lieutenant George (also played by Hugh Laurie).

Each series was set in a different period of English history, beginning in 1485 and ending in 1917 (with a one-off 1999 special set in the then-present day) comprising six half-hour episodes within each time period.

Blackadder was voted the second best British sitcom of all time, only topped by Only Fools and Horses. Empire Magazine ranked Blackadder as the 20th Best TV Show of All Time. And God knows how many time the series has been voted TV's Best Sitcom in Britain alone throughout the years.

Uniqely, each series is set in a different time era, all follow the fortunes (or rather, misfortunes) of Edmund Blackadder (the main protagonist (Atkinson), who in each is a member of an English family dynasty that existed at many significant periods and places in British history. Although the character starts as being low in IQ and having minimal intelligence in the first series, he gradually becomes smarter and more perceptive through each passing generation (while decreasing in social status).

Each of the Blackadder is a cynical, cowardly opportunist concerned only with maintaining and increasing his own status and fortunes, regardless of his surroundings and how others will react to his behaviours. In each series, he is cynical and often takes advantage of the stupidity of those around him, and pokes fun at ludicrous and often ridiculous events in history (such as the medieval religious witch hunts and the petty whims and insanities of various members of the British monarchs to the horrific time in the trenches during World War I).

In my opinion (and my wife's), the great thing about watching the series is that one needs to concentrate hard (read between the lines) on the dialogues, sarcastic tones and gestures of the characters to capture the essence of the comedic elements. And of course, the level of English portrayed by the actors are superb. I've actually read somewhere that Oxford University actually uses clips from the series to teach English at their language faculty.
Another great thing about the series is that the script employs quick witted dark comedy and excellent use of dialogue and character. In my opinion, these are several (out of many more!) great & memorable quotes which fans shall remember from the series:

"I have a plan....a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel!"
"A man may fight for many things. His country, his friends, his principles, the glistening tear on the cheek of a golden child. But personally, I'd mud-wrestle my own mother for a ton of cash, an amusing
clock and a sack of French porn."

"Your services might be as useful as a barber’s shop on the steps of a guillotine!"

"To you Baldrick, the Renaissance was just something that happened to other people wasn't it."
"As cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University..."

"My dear life without you is like a broken pencil... pointless"
"I'm thick. I'm as thick as the big print version of the Complete Works of Charles Dickens."
"Socks are like sex - tons of it about, and i never seem to have any!"
"You're about as useful as a one-legged man at an arse kicking contest."

"No, sir. Making a copy is like fitting wheels to a tomato, time consuming and completely unnecessary."

"I feel like a pelican, where ever I turn, there is an enormous bill in front of me!"
(on actors): "You mean they actually rehearse? I thought they just got drunk, stuck on silly hats and trusted to luck."
And who could resist NOT laughing whenever Blackadder has a mental block/lack of ideas, Baldrick almost immediately offers his help by saying:
"Don't worry my lord.....I have a CUNNING plan!".....
Sheer genius....you don't get to see many comedy sitcoms like this nowadays!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hot Toys' 3rd Joker: Police Officer ver.

HOT TOYS has recently announced that their next (hopefully not the last coz I still want them to do a Jim Gordon!) 1:6 Scale Action Figure from The Dark Knight Batman movie series will be the JOKER POLICE OFFICER Version. What the h***....just when I thought they didn't want to continue the line after Two-Face.
Well, this cancels out the rumours that HT would be producing a 'Nurse Joker' next. I know the fact that most collectors are somewhat annoyed that a Hong Kong based toy company has been producing a knock-off Nurse costume to go with the Joker body. As usual, the accuracy and details by HT's sculptors should be completely insane and breathtaking! As for the interim, we have to settle with only a teaser image (as below) of this fine 3rd edition of Heath's on-screen Joker incarnation. Darn...I almost thought that this was a still capture from the movie, but its actually a prototype of the headsculpt itself!!
Bring on the figure!! What a way to capitalize on the recent Oscar win!!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

The great thing about "talky" movies....

It's been a while since my last posting....some of my "adoring fans" (ehm...ehm.....) even buzzed me up aka via e-mail asking me when would I crank up my fingers next to type new posts. Wow....didn't know that people actually keep tab of my inconsistent rants...heheh. The reason for my temporary hiatus (well, close to 3 weeks without any new posts sounds a bit sluggish to some I suppose!), was that I was quite tied-up with some pressing matters at the office....(not too say that I have abundance of free time now, but I do have some breathing space in the interim! Heh!).

Right....let's get it on!

Recently, I had been re-watching some of the movies which some would label as 'talky movies'....or dialogue-laden films. To some, these may sound boring, especially when you're expecting films full of explosions/action-packed chase scenes/shoot-em-up fiascos etc. For some unexplained reasons, I got hooked onto these silly talky movies even before the genre was given their name. But despite the so-called talkative nature of the movies, they do have those action-packed scenes, just that the emphasis of these movies relied heavily on the dialogues and monologues of the characters...

In my opinion, Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith (pictured above respectively) is the 2 most influential talky movie directors in the field right now. Coincidently, my first exposure to these movie genre was by watching Pulp Fiction & Mallrats (directed respectively by Tarantino and Smith) in the early 90s. I can't erase the images of Vincent and Jules from the moment they took that stroll in their car arguing about what people call a Big Mac in Amsterdam till they eradicated the threat in the diner aka last scene in Pulp Fiction. The same goes to Mallrats. Who would ever consider doing a movie about a bunch of slackers who do nothing but hang around at their local shopping mall all day....yet, these movies are uber-cool! They define a generation....and they still do for the generations which came next.

Smith's offerings started with Clerks in 1994, though I was only pre-empted to watch that after I saw Mallrats. To my surprise, it was even geekier with topics ranging from the Death Star in Star Wars (see my previous post) to love and life's complicated journeys. After that, I guess the floodgate just opened for me, as I began to watch every movie that Smith put out which contained his Silent Bob moniker...Dogma, Jay & Silent Bob Strikes Back, Chasing Amy etc. just to name a few.
What about Tarantino? He gained recognition in the early 90s as an independent filmmaker whose films used non-linear storylines and has a knack of violence. His films include Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2 and Death Proof. His films have earned him numerous awards and he has even been nominated for Emmy and Grammy Awards. He is currently editing Inglorious Basterds; a WW2 movie planned to be released in May 2009.
One has to grasp the messages that exists between the dialogues and not merely concentrate on the action solely to enjoy the sheer genius of these 2 directors. They are not just great directors....they are also great scriptwriters. I was (and still do) intriqued by the way certain issues were metaphorized by the characters in these movies. Although I do not recommend that these movies be shown to children (for obvious reasons....violence, harsh language and all etc.) but for us mature audiences, capturing the true meanings behind every dialogue lines could prove to be a daunting task indeed.
Sure, some of the dialogues are harsh, rage-laden and full of profanities.....but use these at the right context, you might find yourself sounding very cool indeed among the nerdy/geeky kinds...hahahahah! But seriously, these are the movies which are NOT bound by the norms imposed on normal stereotyped movies. Both directors have a passion for B-movies which by our definition, are supposed to be really crappy movies (aka low budget, sloppy acting, terrible effects etc). Tarantino, especially, incorporated the elements of 70s B-movies into his offerings and the results are staggeringly incredible! Crude fight scenes with squirting blood (just to name a few) are the trademark of these cheap-production movies...but for some unexplained reasons, these work well in his movies.
The same goes for Smith. His approach to love, relationship and life is subtley expressed in his movies. Though not in very conventional ways (like the instance when a character in Chasing Amy metaphorizes how Star Wars was actually a post-Nazi propaganda....mannn, that was hillarious!) but we get the idea of the messages that he intended to convey to his audiences. The other thing is, Smith seemed to have cultivated all of his pop-culture interests in each of his movies, most evidently on comics and Star Wars; where constant references have been made to "the Force" and the Empire. Talk about being geeky on-screen (subconsciously at that!)...
I can't say much on how cool these movies are. It may prove boring to some....again for the obvious 'talky' reasons. But if anyone should ever come across any chance to start watching any movies from these 2 great directors, then these 3 (from each) should be watched first (with no order of preferences!)....Nuff' said! :

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Geeky nerd talk #1: How much does it cost to build one Death Star?

This is one (or rather two I should say!!) superstructure that most of us Star Wars fanboys and geeks/nerds adore ever so much. Yeah, all of us enjoyed those delicate moments when the photon torpedo was accurately blasted down the 'chimney' aka thermal exhaust port by Mr. Skywalker on the first Death Star or when Mr. Calrissian and co. gleefully destroyed the 2nd Death Star from the inside (and proceeded to bail-out via an impossible escape scene thereafter!!). Sweet memories....

But wait! Does anybody ever imagined or wondered how much exactly does it cost the Empire to build one of these artificial planets? Apparently some guy took all the trouble to calculate (theoretically) and determine the cost involved to do so....right down to the last cent!!!!! According to him, it costs approximately USD15 septillion (that's a staggering 24 'zeros' after the number '15'!!!!) to build one. Errr, wait...is there even such a thing as 'septillion'? I'm no mathmatician....and I have no knowledge of what comes after the obvious trillion, 'gajillion' or 'bazillion'....hahahah!

No wonder Palpatine was super-pissed when the Rebels destroyed the 1st Death Star!!! Left him with minimal budget to build the 2nd one!

You can read the full hillarious (yet so mind-boggling and intriguingly explained!) article here!

And just for further laughs, this is an excerpt from one of my favourite movie from Kevin Smith, Clerks....a geeky conversation between the two storeclerks, with one arguing on the fact that 'innocent people' died on the 2nd Death Star......
RANDAL: Well, the thing is, the first Death Star was manned by the Imperial army-storm troopers, dignitaries- the only people onboard were Imperials.

DANTE: Basically.

RANDAL: So when they blew it up, no prob. Evil is punished.

DANTE: And the second time around...?

RANDAL: The second time around, it wasn't even finished yet. They were still under construction.


RANDAL: A construction job of that magnitude would require a helluva lot more manpower than the Imperial army had to offer. I'll bet there were independent contractors working on that thing: plumbers, aluminum siders, roofers.

DANTE: Not just Imperials, is what you're getting at.

RANDAL: Exactly. In order to get it built quickly and quietly they'd hire anybody who could do the job. Do you think the average storm trooper knows how to install a toilet main? All they know is killing and white uniforms.

DANTE: All right, so even if independent contractors are working on the Death Star, why are you uneasy with its destruction?

RANDAL: All those innocent contractors hired to do a job were killed- casualties of a war they had nothing to do with.

Conclusion: You know, any contractor willing to work on that Death Star knew the risks. If they were killed, it was their own fault.....:p