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.