Tag Archives: monsters

The Foxscars 2013

Never mind the Oscars. This year I’m launching my personal alternative to the Academy Awards – the FOXSCARS.

BEST UNSEEN JOURNEY: Doctor Who Magazine‘s The Watcher recently enthused about the great unseen journeys in Who but Bond and M’s desperate drive from Westminster to Scotland in Skyfall takes the biscuit. “It’s not very comfortable, is it?” says M, settling into the Aston Martin. “Are you going to complain the whole way?” counters Bond. And then the most extraordinary elision.

M Judi Dench Skyfall lodge scotland

Google Maps suggests just over 8 hours for a trip from London to Glencoe. That’s a long trip even if you knock off an hour or two for Bond’s reckless speeding, and M’s a septuagenarian who’s just spent hours cooped up in an inquiry. So this grim, relentless flight for their lives must have had at least one comfort break along the way. I picture M rushing into the service station toilets, cashmere coat tails all a-flap, calling out to James who’s in the queue at the shop “Get me a Twirl, Bond! Or if they haven’t got a Twirl, a Topic!”

BEST IRONIC SURNAME-BASED CASTING: Liz White IS The Woman In Black.

BEST GUYLINER: Lenny Kravitz’s gold lids in The Hunger Games. You would, wouldn’t you.

Kravitz as hot as anything

BEST MOUTH: If you make a film expecting your audience to spend almost the entire running time staring at your heroine’s half-lit face as she stumbles through horrors in the dark, it had better be a good one. And Silent House is a beautiful, beautiful film where extraordinary technical challenges behind the scenes [it is contrived to appear as a single 90-minute shot] are matched by Elizabeth Olsen’s brilliant expressive face. I spent ages scouring the disc to get the best screenshot of her mouth opening up in atavistic terror, and realised afterwards I’d landed on the same still as is used on all the promo materials. Well there you go.

Silent House

BEST LEGO: The telekinetic teenagers in Chronicle hone their skills with some truly awesome Lego action.

BEST BREATHING:  Kristen Stewart is already famous for acting out emotion purely through the medium of languid sighs and gasps, so it was a treat that in her first scene in Snow White And The Huntsman she immediately got to blow a candle out.

BEST MONSTER IN AN OTHERWISE TERRIBLE FILM: The spider-thing made out of mannequin parts in Silent Hill: Revelation

spider mannequin

BEST IMAGINARY MUSICAL VERSION: There’s a moment in the excellent My Brother The Devil when Fady Elsayed says to James Floyd “I’d rather have a brother that’s a bomber than a homo!” Every time I’ve seen it I’ve been willing him to say “bummer” instead of “homo”. Because then it would be the perfect opening lyric to the lead song of the musical version that’s in my head.

My Brother the Devil

BEST 3D: I didn’t think I liked 3D, but Life of Pi changed my mind, so well done everybody.

BEST OPTIMISM IN A POSTER PULL-QUOTE: Quartet

Quartet poster

BEST PUNCTUATION: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2

BEST FINGERS: Not to get all spoilery, but there’s a point in Prometheus where Noomi Rapace has just gone through some of the most intense physical and mental trauma that you can imagine. And how do the ship’s crew wake her up? Five sharp raps to the face with the back of the fingers. In marigolds. Makes me laugh every time.

Prometheus fingers

BEST GRATUITOUS NUDITY: Nick Sagar suddenly being forced to strip naked in the street in Ill Manors had absolutely no plot justification or character relevance at all. Plan B, we salute you.

Nick Sagar, as fit as a butcher's dog

BEST INTER-SPECIES NECROPHILIAC FRENCH KISS: Always a hotly-contested category, but this year Cabin in the Woods just edged it.

kissing in the cabin in the woods

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Monsters at Home: Shadow of the Colossus

What keeps the sixteen colossi of the Forbidden Land going in the long years they spend sitting around waiting to be killed?

club

Shadow of the Colossus is one of the first titles that’s likely to come up in any discussion of games as art. Its narrative, its design and its melancholy themes are tied closely and cleverly together for a slow-burning emotional impact. But as ever with artistic masterpieces, much of the nitty-gritty of daily routine is skirted over and left unexplained. Let’s have a look at the monsters’ secret home lives…

WHAT DO THEY EAT?

As a player wandering around the Forbidden Land the best you’ll manage to forage is the odd lizard tail. That’s about the size of a lentil from a colossus’s perspective so clearly it wouldn’t sustain one. These vast golems who collapse into natural rubble when defeated must have to chew up and shit out great chunks of the landscape itself to keep themselves nourished. The sods.

flying

How DO THEY socialise

If you’ve played Shadow of the Colossus (and a kiss for you, loyal reader, if you haven’t and you’re still reading this) you’ll know that much of the game is taken up with long contemplative treks through the lonely lands at the edge of the world as you search for your foes. In other words they live in total isolation, and as walking prisons for splintered segments of evil energy it’s probably best they don’t mingle all at once. But what’s to stop the big flying one heading up over the plains for a nice day out? Collecting the little boar-like ones for a gentle race over one of the bridges perhaps, or organising a bit of heavy-footed dressage for the larger quadrupeds. No-one should be alone with their sorrow.

wine

What do THEY drink?

When the colossi are defeated, the evil black force sealed within them oozes out to violate our protagonist, progressively debilitating his appearance with each “victory”. On the one hand this invites us to consider the consequences and morality of a traditional heroic narrative. On the other hand it suggests to me they’ve got carried away with the red wine.

What do THEY watch on telly?

These huge lumbering creatures of stone and moss are enjoying the recent revival of Fort Boyard on Saturday mornings, although they feel the Fort is something of an under-developed character.

rock garden

What DO THEY do for fun?

The big ones with their clubs as big as towers are clearly only hoping someone will turn up and bowl them a pagoda for a nice game of rounders. The aquatic ones with their constant electrical discharges are probably just trying to generate enough power to get a soundsystem going. In fact the twelfth colossus, blasting around in the water with that nice big flat rock garden on his head, could have a promising career as a party boat if it wanted.

shadow-of-the-colussus-stab

How DO THEY reproduce?

Any speculation about the sex lives of the colossi must inevitably turn to their secret, sensitive parts – the sigils that are the key to their defeat. These ticklish, glowing areas that act as seals to their enchantment are euphemisms of the first rank. Considering that you spend the entire game sifting through fearsome tufts and ridges to locate these erogenous zones and successfully penetrate each colossus with your weapon, it’s tempting to see the whole game as a glorified Joy of Sex manual. In which case, Shadow of the Colossus’s sex lessons can be summed up by saying – hold on for as long as you can and just keep poking.

Monsters at Home: Cthulhu

Cthulhu! The green, sticky spawn from the stars is HP Lovecraft’s most famous creation, a monstrous entity the mere awareness of whose existence can drive a man mad. Let’s have a look at what it gets up to in its spare time.

What does it eat?

‘A mountain walked or stumbled… a gelatinous green immensity’, writes Lovecraft. You don’t get to Cthulhu’s size on a fad diet. But how’s it been getting any food, shut away in slimy stone for untold epochs? Well the Great Old Ones aren’t composed purely of flesh and blood, we learn. Their shapes are ‘not made of matter’. So it could be absorbing all manner of other-dimensional sustenance down there in sunken R’lyeh. Preternatural French Fancies. Gibbous goujons. Daemoniac crispy pancakes.

How does it socialise

Cthulhu and its kin slumber in ‘great Cyclopean cities of Titan blocks and sky-flung monoliths, all dripping with green ooze and sinister with latent horror… They could only lie awake in the dark and think whilst uncounted millions of years rolled by. They knew all that was occurring in the universe, for Their mode of speech was transmitted thought. Even now They talked in Their tombs.’ The ability to slump immobile at home and yet still be updated second-by-second on everything that’s going on everywhere else has only reached humanity in the last few years with the advent of Twitter. It seems  the Great Old Ones invented it untold aeons of years early.

What does it drink?

‘There was a bursting as of an exploding bladder, a slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, a stench as of a thousand opened graves, and a sound that the chronicler could not put on paper. For an instant the ship was befouled by an acrid and blinding green cloud, and then there was only a venomous seething astern.’

I don’t know about you but that sounds a lot like me if I start on the Guinness with an empty stomach.

What does it watch on telly?

Cthulhu’s home, the dread sunken city of R’lyeh, is renowned for its impossible geometry – angles that don’t meet up as they should; perspective and the known physical laws defied, that sort of thing. For that reason it stays glued to Coronation Street – a street in which, in case you’ve never noticed, the Rovers Return toilets can only possibly exist if they’re in the same physical space as the Barlows’ living room.

What does it do for fun?

‘Mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom.’

Zumba, basically.

How does it reproduce?

We hear in At The Mountains Of Madness about Cthulhu’s prehuman spawn, a race of cosmic octopi who filtered down from infinity and waged war with the starfish-headed people of the Antarctic. I was watching a nice documentary about octopi on Discovery the other night. Their little eggs were lovely. Cthulhu’s spawning would probably be on the grim side though – with Lovecraft everything’s Stygian, or unnameable, or noisome. So I draw a veil. Just don’t Google Image search ‘octopus sex’ as I just did. Really. Don’t.

Wenlock and Mandeville – MONSTERS at large

The official mascots of this year’s Games are, to be blunt, creatures of nightmare. I’ve done this post as a public service. Monsters belong in monster movies, not out and about scaring small children in our streets and stadia. Sleep well everyone.

Chicken & Lantern: Series 4

Over the last year I’ve been bringing the forgotten animated 80s series Chicken & Lantern to a wider audience with these episode guides (Series 1, 2 and 3). And now, as they say, the dramatic conclusion.

It was a year of endings. The fall of communism, the final episode of Doctor Who, and the last time that Sonia would ever straddle the top of the UK charts. But for a few, 1989’s most significant loss was the sad demise of Chicken & Lantern. Their antics had been deemed quaint and irrelevant and their fourth season of adventures was to be their last. The production team tried various controversial creative approaches in the final run of episodes, some wilder than others and not all of them successful, but then they had nothing to lose.

Prunella Scales returned as the voice of Chicken, and the role of Lantern was taken up by Geoffrey Palmer, who brought a certain gruff world-weariness to the time-travelling festival decoration.

SERIES 4 EPISODE GUIDE

6 x 10 minute episodes

Transmitted on BBC1, Wednesdays at 4.45pm, 22nd November – 27th December 1989

Episode 1: Bird Down

In a bravura opening sequence worthy of a James Bond film, Chicken and Lantern make their escape from a Nazi-infested zeppelin high above 1930s New York, plunging through the sky onto the Empire State Building where they battle their way down through Cthulhoid monsters oozing from the walls of the carpeted hallways, finally reaching street level only to get caught up in a dramatic shoot-out between rival organised crime gangs. They race into the sewers, where they outsmart a ravenous alligator, and finally slide down a giant shaft to reach the centre of the earth where we see that our heroes have established a safe HQ that they can safely visit in any time zone. There’s not a word of dialogue up until this point, which greatly alarmed Geoffrey Palmer on his first day of recording. Especially when all that he or Prunella Scales were required to do in the final seconds of the episode was to grunt or scream respectively as the large time scanner screen in their HQ fills with the terrifying face of an enormous fox.

Episode 2: Cooped Up

The bizarre and infamous ‘live action’ episode. Having established a base of operations for the intrepid duo, no time was wasted in setting an entire episode there, and during a power cut at that. Still a great deal of money was clearly saved on animation by having Prunella Scales sat in a chicken suit in a semi-darkened room (lit only by the dim red light of the molten core of the earth,  diffusing through the skylight), whispering to Geoffrey Palmer who’s gamely done up in a whalebone corset, red tissue paper and golden tassles as Lantern. Chicken believes that the fox they saw on the screen will be their undoing and their end, and confides in Lantern of the nameless creeping dread that’s haunted her days and her dreams. She fears and welcomes her oncoming death in equal measure, she confesses, finally breaking down into sobs. As a means of introducing existential anxiety to a young audience, it couldn’t be deemed a failure. But then that wasn’t exactly the show’s remit.

Episode 3: Pecking Order

A time travel romp allowing C&L to pay homage to the programme that inspired it, this episode saw Chicken (now back to her flat cartoon self) spliced into chicken-related footage from 70s Doctor Who episodes, as she becomes separated from Lantern, unstuck in time alone, and tries to track down a fellow time traveller to get her home. At first appearing aboard the SS Bernice where she fails to attract Jon Pertwee’s attention from within a crate, she’s then whooshed to Paris in 1979 where she’s hurtled along her own timeline to the point of old age and death, before Tom Baker reverses the polarity to save her. Finally she pops up in a village church where, just as the Master is about to sacrifice her to a Daemon, Lantern (accompanied for no easily justifiable reason by Crow from Saturday Superstore) swoops in over Jo Grant’s shoulder and they all escape to safety.

Episode 4: Home To Roost

In an ill-remembered episode guest-directed by Peter Greenaway, Chicken and Lantern learn a complicated formal dance in an unnamed baroque citadel. These scenes are intercut with abstract, stylised scenes of a future metropolis filled with rotting foxes. The music was alright.

Episode 5: The Four Lanterns

A celebratory episode designed to clear up the confusion around Lantern’s backstory, which saw a return to the Shanghai setting of Season 1’s finale (where all of Lantern’s past and future incarnations live together as a family) and an ambitious attempt to bring all the actors who’d voiced him together. David Yip refused to participate and had to be represented by recycled sound clips from his earlier episodes. Bruce Willis had loved his time on the show so much that he gave his time for free, although as he was now a major star, and busy filming Die Hard 2, this amounted to a quick phone call with no script, during which he said a few phrases he thought his incarnation of Lantern might be likely to utter. So with two of the Lanterns speaking only in non-sequiturs – “No, dear Chicken! You’re doing it all wrong!”; “Suck my fiery wick, mothers!” – and so on, it was left to Burt Kwouk and Geoffrey Palmer to try to carry the complicated plot, which was some sort of absurdly hopeful epiphany in which Lantern reconciled all the contradictory aspects of his psyche.

Episode 6: Outfoxed

The ending was all that mattered. The story that led to it was almost incidental, save that in a metafictional twist that would only become apparent more than twenty years later when I was writing this today, the fox so intent on senselessly killing off our heroes turned out to be called Bertie.

But what sticks in the mind of everyone who sees it is the last few minutes and their terrible imagery. At least we didn’t have to see the worst of it happen onscreen. It was bad enough that Chicken should actually be savaged by the fox, and that Lantern should fall into a threshing machine while trying to save her. They were wise to cut away at the last moment and leave those fates suggested merely by sound effect with the occasional half-chewed wing or mangled shred of red paper flying across the screen. Although even that informed a generation’s trauma. A light-hearted soundtrack was added at producers’ insistence to alleviate the horror, but no-one would now agree that Spitting Image’s The Chicken Song did anything to make things better.

When the children had finished crying – if they ever finished crying – if they looked up at the screen again they would see their heroes, barely recognisable: Chicken just shreds and bits of bone, Lantern smashed and torn, his light sputtering. But that dying light signalled the start of one final juddering flight through time, and our heroes arrive on a sunny hillside by the opening of a cave in Ancient Greece, where a philosopher scoops up their remnants in his arms and carries them to their rest. The camera fixes and slowly zooms in on the firelit shadows on the wall of the cave, where we see that Chicken and Lantern are slowly becoming whole again as silhouettes. Plato (for it is he, voiced by John Gielgud) explains that through their adventures our heroes have become the best of every chicken, and of every lantern, and that they will live on forever, symbolically, as ideal forms. However much comfort THAT was supposed to be. The light in the cave slowly dies and the credits roll while that unforgettable theme tune plays out one last, sad time.

Monsters at Home: ICO’s Shadows

I’m playing ICO in HD. It was already the most beautiful and satisfying game of all time, maybe, and now they’ve remastered it for the PS3. Going back to the castle feels like coming home. Its oily, smoky, capering monsters look more wonderful than ever. Their eyes flash blue as they frolic in the courtyards and the more finely enhanced they are, the more they seem as fluid but substantial as the shapes you see inside your eyelids when you’ve been looking into the light too long. But what do they get up to when they’re not on screen?

WHAT DO THEY EAT We don’t know much about the monsters. We do know that their main aim is to drag Yorda into one of those inky Acme-style portals they ooze out of. So we have to assume they love a traditional Prinsesstårta. Sponge layers and cream covered in green marzipan! It tastes like a princess! OK I’ve eaten the cake but I haven’t eaten a princess. I’ve only got my own assumptions to go on. (The cake was good.)

HOW DO THEY SOCIALISE Of all the monsters I’ve written about on this blog, these are some of the most playful. I love they way they scamper about after Yorda, and their natural friskiness leads me to imagine they like nothing more than an innocent game of Kiss Chase (OK, Kiss Chase that leads to the KIDNAP and ABSORPTION of your soulmate and ENSUING HEARTBREAK, but whatevs).

WHAT DO THEY DRINK Castrol GTX.

WHAT DO THEY WATCH ON TELLY The monsters enjoy Grand Designs, Fort Boyard and Take Me Out.

WHAT DO THEY DO FOR FUN It may be sacrilege, and of course you never see it in the game, but I like to think they creep out when Ico and Yorda have moved on to the next area, in order to sprawl on one of those Sofas Of Reasonable Comfort that you use as save points. Although the comfort level of a wrought iron sofa remains to be proved.

HOW DO THEY REPRODUCE I’ve spent a lot of time watching these monsters (OK, beating them with sticks). It’s hard to say which are my favourites. I like the spidery ones, I like the way one of them tries to pretend-vanish into walls like a retreating stain. But I think my favourite is Turkey Lurkey with his grabby wings. And if ‘grabby wings’ doesn’t fire your own sexual imagination then I can’t help you.

Favourite albums of 2011

20. Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam

19. Lupe Fiasco – Lasers

18. Lady Gaga – Born This Way

17. Rihanna – Talk That Talk

16. Theophilus London – Timez Are Weird These Days

15. Drake – Take Care

14. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi

13. Jamie Woon – Mirrorwriting

12. Lil B – I’m Gay (I’m Happy)

11. Selena Gomez & The Scene – When The Sun Goes Down

10. CocknBullKid – Adulthood

9. araabMUZIK – Electronic Dream

8. Cher Lloyd – Sticks + Stones

7. Riz MC – MICroscope

6. Beyoncé – 4

5. The Sound of Arrows – Voyage

4. Toddla T – Watch Me Dance

3. Britney Spears – Femme Fatale

Britney’s people have told her that every song on her album Femme Fatale is inspired by a different femme fatale from history, myth or fiction. Poor Britney just can’t work it out though! Can YOU match the lyrics from the album to the  foxy ladies in question? Answers below.

2. The Weeknd – House of Balloons

Poor Abel Tesfaye has just got the artwork for his epically miserable comedown album back from the designers, but it looks like they’ve strayed from his original vision! Can YOU spot the five subtle differences hidden in the new cover?

If you are having trouble spotting all five differences here are some hints!

  • I wonder who else was at those debauched parties he sings about?
  • There’s a subtle theme running through the album but we’ve “inflated” it
  • “Well doesn’t that put the cherry on top”
  • Track titles ‘MAY’ not ‘ALWAYS’ be correct!
  • A dog’s face

1. Katy B – On A Mission

Here are Katy’s missions explained track-by-track:

POWER ON ME

Attributes: Slowly unfolding; sweeping musical vista; quite long. Mission: 1986 film THE MISSION. (From the IMDB plot synopsis: “Initially, the Guarani warriors prepare to kill him, but after Gabriel plays an unforgettable solo on his oboe, they allow him to live”. And we’ve all had days like that.)

KATY ON A MISSION

Attributes: Bold, purposeful, brill. Mission: KATY’S MISSION STATEMENT

WHY YOU ALWAYS HERE

Attributes: Elegant; structured; accomplished. Mission: MISSION REVIVAL ARCHITECTURE.

WITCHES BREW

Attributes: Startling; Bleepy; Full of twists and turns that leave you feeling dislocated. Mission: Doctor Who‘s 1965 MISSION TO THE UNKNOWN episode with its imagination-gone-mad monsters and lack of regular cast.

MOVEMENT

Attributes: Propulsive; No nonsense; Designed to make you move. Mission: A SEARCH AND DESTROY MISSION.

GO AWAY

Attributes: Dignified; Luxurious; Satisfying. Mission: The DIPLOMATIC MISSION where the Ferrero Rocher-stuffed Ambassador’s Receptions are held.

DISAPPEAR

Attributes: Solid; A bit old-fashioned; Cheery. Mission: THE GLAD TIDINGS MISSION FROM 60s CORONATION STREET, over which Ena Sharples presided; a handy refuge in case of a gas leak on the Street.

BROKEN RECORD

Attributes: Bright; Bouncy; Pretty. Mission: MISSION BELL (the flower, stupid.)

LIGHTS ON (FEAT. MS. DYNAMITE)

Attributes: Passing the torch from one generation of singer to the next; Shiny; Confident. Mission: THE CONTINUING MISSION of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Enterprise-D.

EASY PLEASE ME

Attributes: Fun; In your face; Sassy with the fanfares. Mission: The original series of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE.

PERFECT STRANGER (WITH MAGNETIC MAN)

Attributes: Romantic; Irresistible; Destined to help Magnetic Man be warmly remembered even though most people shrugged at their album proper. Mission: A RESCUE MISSION.

HARD TO GET

Attributes: Charming; Laidback; Basking in the glow of all that’s come before. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.