The Monday Meme: Co-Workers

life-on-mars-meme

 

Everyone has had that co-worker in the past that basically promotes themselves to supervisory level because they are a huge loudmouth. I’m so glad there isn’t much of that at my current job, VERY glad.

 

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We all Missed Buying Gene Hunt’s Audi Quattro :(

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Keen-eyed ebay watchers noticed an iconic classic car make its way onto the digital marketplace last week – Gene Hunt‘s 1983 Audi Quattro from the show Ashes to Ashes. Many a fan clamored to the site to bid on their dreams of saying “Fire up the Quattro” un-ironically every time they venture out to work, but it seems that someone now owns it and all of our nerd dreams are crushed. As the Telegraph points out, there were in fact two cars used in the show, and this was the second one: “The 1983 example of the legendary rally-derived four-wheel-drive coupe was used on the second and third series of the time-travelling police drama when it was driven by the engagingly politically incorrect lead character Gene Hunt.”

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You’ll notice some “battle damage” on various surfaces of the car because “The Quattro” was one of the most heart-wrenching casualties of the last moments of the show itself. Rather than restoring the car to it’s previous state, these holes were sealed and left to give it some character. The ebay listing itself gives some more details:

“In order to make it look like it was in the middle of a shoot out in the finale’ the front bumper, grille & badge were cut in half so they would fall off (now cobbled back on but still in 2 pieces), a piece of angle iron was welded to the underside of the bonnet to push it open, the o/s Headlight glass was broken (now replaced) various cowels and covers were removed under the bonnet to accommodate the wiring. Some of the switches on the dash, the dashboard to the left of the instrument cluster, the passenger headrest, passenger sun visor, and both front seats had “squibs” (small bullet hit effects) placed in them so were all damaged by either the installation or the implementation of these effects.

The windscreen, rear screen, drivers door glass and passenger quarter glass were all broken but I have replaced them to keep it watertight. The doors are missing a number of internal components, most annoyingly is the absence of the check links which means the door swing open much wider than they were designed to and could catch on the wings. The interior plastic door handles are missing so I have temporarily connected cable ties to the rods so that the doors can be opened from inside. The drivers electric window works but the passenger one doesn’t, I think there is part of the loom missing inside the door. The boot carpet, spare wheel & jack are also missing. Along with a few bits of trim around the n/s door and quarter glasses. The n/s rear lamp was damaged by the fake bullet hits along with the n/s front indicator and the o/s front fog lamp. (I have cobbled them back together but they would need replacing if you wanted to return it to the road) It has a dent just behind the petrol flap on the n/s quarter panel, this is where the SFX did a test with the bullet hole effect.

And of course there’s the bullet holes you can see in the photos, people often asked why I didn’t fill and repaint them, my reply has always been that if I did that then it’d just be another red Quattro.Of all the hundreds of people that have posed for photographs in front of this car 99% of them opt for the passenger side, cause that’s where the action is.”

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British Science Fiction VS American Science Fiction: Why All The Fuss?

Anyone stopping by this site might wonder why exactly I don’t just talk about ALL science fiction, I mean it’s not like I don’t watch stuff from my home country at all. Keeping in mind that I am a Star Trek fan, I’ve dabbled in Star Wars, and I love some old Buck Rogers, that doesn’t excuse the fact that I am shamelessly addicted to stuff from the “other side of the pond”. The question remains, is there really a difference to the two different styles, can one distinctly draw a line between the two sides and separate them? For me, the answer is yes.

I think the main difference can all be chalked up to the argument of mood vs spectacle with the British productions geared heavily towards atmosphere, mood, and concepts and most American helmed productions relying mostly on spectacle, visuals, and special effects. As one can imagine, most of this can be chalked up to budgetary constraints, as anyone with access to millions of dollars in production budget would love to make something as grand as Star Wars, but if you are given far less you may have to settle for Blakes 7. What this usually means is that the actual scripting for these British programs has to be scripted to concentrate on tension, horror, and relationships versus escapist imagery. This forces the writers to go for ballsy content that will grab viewers and hold them; while there are a few American scifi shows that have taken this route, many “wuss out”.

A prime example of this neutering of concept in favor of spectacle can be seen in the American version of Life on Mars, a remake of a UK show from a few years ago. At first glance, the shows seem similar, but anyone will immediately notice a stark difference between the two. First and foremost, we have the production values in place hammering away any subtlety in concept. Instead of filming in antiquated areas, and keeping things dingy, the American show goes for a smooth veneer of CGI effects on things to add in the twin towers and other relics to constantly remind us of another time.

Screw subtlety, here we have "shock and awe"

I was constantly baffled by the use of yellow lense filters to instill a weird vibe on the show, it made it look like portions were filmed on Venus or something. I know folks had a hideous concept of color back then, but wouldn’t it be better to actually use sets with yellow, green and brown things in them instead of just tossing a filter over everything? It’s not like the sky was yellow back then, though I was born in the 1980’s so maybe I missed that memo. This basically ruined the show for me right from the beginning because it makes it hazy and hard to see anything in any of the shots. Instead of thinking “man, Gene Hunt’s office has terrible décor”, I thought to myself “why is he at work at sundown in a foggy yellow-lit room?” While both shows do a fairly decent job of keeping the early 1970’s fashion and hairstyles in check, the American one looks a bit too “shiny” and somewhat gratuitous. The acting seems more “Hollywood” and fake, and everything looks too clean and sterilized. Even the classic cars seem to all be from car shows, no spec of dirt on any of them. The U.K. Life on Mars excels on “not trying too hard” and succeeds by keeping everything simple. The U.S. version tries far too hard, and as a result fails.

Another huge misstep is the overall casting of the show. In the original, Sam was a normal sized guy, athletic but not too large. This was at odds with Gene Hunt’s large size and physicality. We were to believe that if the two were to ever get in a fight, Hunt would decimate Sam with sheer size and brute strength. Instead we have a Sam that towers over Hunt, a sixty year old Hunt to be exact. I know Harvey Keitel is a well-liked actor, but how am I supposed to believe that he is a hardass, if it looks as if he could break a hip at any moment. Everyone else looks “too pretty” if you get my drift, nobody looks like a real person, and it seems like they cast the show from a modeling agency.

Dear God! Why is the sky yellow?

My final real problem is that the show has been whitewashed to be more politically correct. In the original Gene Hunt is not a nice man, he is a corrupt cop that uses his rank to bully everyone around him. Aside from that he is a chauvinist, he is racist, he is homophobic, and he has the manners of a drunken frat guy. While a bit of that stays in, things like racist views are taken largely out, as to not offend people. I can see why this happened, but the whole point of the character is to show an exact opposing view to Sam, someone that Sam tries so hard to avoid being. This way, when Gene starts to soften up, especially in the sequel show Ashes to Ashes, he is that much more endearing.

I could keep going, but I’d rather not nit-pick the entire show to death. Truth is, had I never seen the original version I still would have been annoyed by the show, and probably not finished it.

By doing this comparison, I am by no means belittling American science fiction as the inferior product, but it does show why one can almost never truly adapt a program from there to here, our sensibilities are so different. On the flip-side imagine a show like V (the new one) being created in the U.K., it would be an entirely different show. So yes, there is a difference in the two brands of sci-fi, and I prefer one over the other.

Doctor Who Random Thoughts – Day of the Moon (S6 E2)

We had some friends over tonight for a bit of a movie marathon containing The King’s Speech, which was amazing, and tonight’s episode of Doctor Who, which was once again a mind-screw.  I’ve kept away from giving too much of my opinion on the episode as I wanted to watch both halves to make a better decision on the matter, so here we go.

First thing of note in the episode was that BBC America decided to ditch the introductory preamble from last week and brought back the “time tunnel” commercial breaks.  I think this looks better especially in the commercial department as last week’s episode would seemingly cut out in the middle of scenes.  This was especially jarring considering it was sponsored with “limited commercial breaks” from BMW, a fact made more confusing by the butt-load of commercials.  In fact, this week had less commercials as far as I could tell.  I actually liked the little preamble thing, reminded me of Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes a bit, but oh well, I guess folks complained too much 😛

My only real quibble with this episode came from the resolution of the cliffhanger and the seemingly rushed opening moments at this point.  It was weird seeing the apparent “heel turn” of Canton Delaware only to find out that he has basically been tasked with a secret mission by Richard Nixon.  This was cool, but I really don’t think that it was handled as well as it could have been.  I generally like the whole “time jump” trope if it is used well in some shows, but it was almost tiresome in this episode.  It almost seemed as if the production staff wanted to use all of the great location footage from the desert that they had taken instead of keeping us in the loop with what was going on.

One thing I forgot to really mention last week was my opinion of this shows portrayal of Richard Nixon.  As historical figures go, this new series has definitely hit the nail on the head multiple times with the likes of Churchill, Dickens, Van Gough and now Nixon.  You can tell the actor had prosthetics and makeup on, but his version of everyone’s favorite fallen president was at least believable unlike versions I’ve seen such as the one in Watchmen.  It is funny that Nixon appears to be a companion of sorts as he traveled in the Tardis on two occasions (that we know of).  Maybe my dream of seeing the Doctor and a fist fighting Abe Lincoln will come to fruition at some point.

This episode did have two incredibly huge WTF moments found within.  The first of which occurred when Amy was traveling around the abandoned orphanage looking for evidence of the little girl, or the silence.  We are treated to an eerie scene where a “window” suddenly opens on the surface of a metal door and we see a VERY futuristic metallic eye patch lady say something similar to “I think she’s dreaming” and slide the window shut.  This scene was at complete odds with what was going on in the rest of the scene and was made that much more disturbing in this way.  Obviously this is some sort of foreshadowing for a future episode, but what could it mean?  Was Amy asleep at the time, and maybe this person was helping the silence, or is there some sort of Ashes to Ashes shenanigans afoot?  Time will tell?

WTF!

The ending…..yeah…..HOLY CRAP!

Region-Free is The Way to Go!

As many science fiction fans may have noticed – shows licensed from the BBC such as Doctor Who cost about twice or even three times more than most U.S. television shows.  This can be particularly bad if you are on a budget and don’t want to break the bank.  Yes, a few of these shows are available on Netflix (e.g. Red Dwarf, Doctor Who, and Day of the Triffids) but some shows that I plan on eventually getting such as the Tripods or Blakes 7 will probably never come out here or be released on a streaming device.  You can obviously download things and burn them or watch programs on your computer, but if you are like me, this choice is never as good as watching a good quality image whilst sitting in a comfy chair.  This is where region-free DVD players some in.

 

My recommendation to anyone that may decide to watch some harder to find UK shows is to do one of the following two things:

 

1) Cheap Method: It’s a little known secret that most, if not all cheap Chinese DVD players are actually region-free, and have their region locked installed via software within the factory.  In the past I used to get DVD players from Digix or Coby for around 20-30 dollars.  These players were pretty crappy for the most part, and honestly aren’t worth it unless you can’t swing what I will post on option 2.  I remember having this one particular model of Coby DVD player that would work fine until around the six month mark, *boom* – broken.  The trick to using one of these is to do a little research.  Websites like DVD Help have listings of DVD players and whether they can be region hacked or not.  Most of these are simple to hack, as a numerical code on the DVD remote usually does the trick.

2) Best Method – depending on how much one wants to spend, visiting a site like Region Free DVD is the best option.  Tired of dealing with cheap players, I plunked down 100 dollars for a Toshiba regionless HDMI up-scaling DVD player, and will never look back.  Not only is the picture better in just about every way, but the player itself is tailored for wide screen TVs and widescreen media, like most UK TV.

 

The reason I recommend getting one of these players is pretty self explanatory with the numbers.  Here are the prices and availability of one show Life on Mars, and its spin-off/sequel Ashes to Ashes.

Amazon.com

LOM Season 1: $49.99

LOM Season 2: $49.99

A2A S1: Not released

A2A S2: Not released

A2A S3:Nor released

Total $100.00 for 2 seasons, Ashes to Ashes not even announced for release

 

Amazon.co.uk

(as of today’s exchange rates)

 

LOM Season 1: $15.00

LOM Season 2: $15.00

A2A S1: $15.00

A2A S2: $15.00

A2A S3: $20.00

 

Total $80.00 for 5 seasons, all episodes complete

 

And now you can see why I do this, and shipping isn’t bad either – maybe 8 bucks for most DVD orders to reach the U.S.

BBC Commissions New Scifi Drama

This sounds like it may be good.  Great to see the hole left by the end of Ashes to Ashes being filled.  From a Press release:

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Following on from the innovative and era-defining hits Spooks, Hustle and Life On Mars, Kudos Film & TV is moving into another new world. BBC One has commissioned a new eight-part drama series, Outcasts.

Created by Ben Richards (Spooks, The Fixer, Party Animals), Outcasts is set on a recently-discovered planet and tells of the dilemmas, loves and lives of a group of people setting up a new world.

This life-sustaining planet is now home to the surviving population from Earth. Here there is a chance to start again, to bring the lessons learnt from Earth and to put them into action on a new planet.

Set in 2040, Outcasts begins on the day the last known transporter from Earth arrives, prompting great excitement on the new planet: Who is on board? Friends and loved ones? Important supplies and news from Earth? But also many questions: Will the new people bring the problems of Earth with them? Will the mistakes that destroyed Earth be repeated? Will the arrival of a new, would-be leader, rock the fragile and precarious equilibrium of our fresh, unified and courageous new world?

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Sounds a bit like Survivors, but I’ll definitely try to check it out.

 

Ashes to Ashes Season 2 to appear on BBCA

From a press release:

Ashes to Ashes, the critically acclaimed sequel to UK hit Life on Mars, continues by fast forwarding a year to 1982, where leg warmers are cool and fluorescent is the color of choice. While Thatcher is in her element at No. 10 Downing St, bullish Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister, Cranford, Life on Mars) is back, policing the streets in his politically incorrect and loud mouthed style. Ashes to Ashes Season Two premieres Tuesday, May 11, 10:00p.m. ET/PT

After the bait and switch that occurred last year, where season 2 was announced to show up at the same time as the UK then canceled with no word from the company, this is welcome news to me.