Phantom Lady Doesn't Wear a Disguise of Any Kind

Clark Kent's glasses have always been the subject of merriment - could anyone really mistake Superman for a mild-mannered reporter with nothing more than a change of hairstyle, body language, voice, and eyewear?

Actually, you put all that together, and yeah, they probably could. I mean, really, just look at Christopher Reeve's portrayal-

But hey, I'm not here to talk about Superman, I'm here to discuss Phantom Lady, the superhero who put the least amount of effort into guarding her secret identity.

This is Phantom Lady! Her weapon? A flashlight that shines a cone of darkness! Yeah, there's a reason that you likely haven't heard of that particular facet of the character. You may have noticed that, even after stripping down to a scandalously-cut leotard and donning a cape, she wears no mask of any kind. She doesn't even put on a wig, Black Canary-style.


Be Careful When Framing Your Shots

This isn't advice that's incredibly useful any more - the primacy of widescreen televisions has largely eliminated the need for panning and scanning. Still, it's interesting to see examples of a time when people didn't think too long or hard about what was going to show up in the frame when the conversion was made from widescreen to fullscreen.

Let's use Jason Goes to Hell as an illustrative example, shall we?

This is Jason tossing a hero aside like so much refuse. Note the distance between Jason and that bush to his left. Moments after this occurs, a heroine uses the bush as a springboard to jump onto Jason's back.


Criminal Minds 507: The Performer

In Los Angeles, a goth rocker named Dante is performing to a packed auditorium. I mean, not really – he's obviously on a very small set, because it would be too much of a hassle to actually get thousands of extras in for the scene. But we get the point.

He starts singing a Joy division song, demonstrating that the producers were too cheap to hire someone to write an original tune in their style.  The singer then retires back to his dressing room where he stares at his reflection in a broken mirror, and obvious it visual metaphor for his profound emotional distress. But let's move on to the murder, shall we? Two girls, pictured here:

Leave the concert hall, still giddy over getting to see their idol. Before heading home together – they're not roommates, they just both live on the same block – they spurn the advances of Ed, the third member of the group, who apparently paid for the tickets. Blonde girl is home for just a moment when she hears a knock on the door. She opens it, and has a moment of pleased recognition:

Before she's brutally murdered by the visitor. At this point the show has, oddly for a theoretical mystery, narrowed the list of suspects down to two people: the singer, who the blonde girl thinks was making eye contact with her all through the show, and the black haired friend. We can eliminate Ed as a suspect because there's no reason the blonde girl would be happy to see him.

So who's the killer? Vampire rocker or black haired friend? I'm leaning towards black haired friend, if for no other reason than because the show enjoys twists, and a vampire themed musician murdering people would be the least surprising twist in the history of fiction.

Especially when it turns out that the bodies have been… Drained of blood!

The team immediately understands the significance of the signature, and I began to wonder if this was, when originally aired, the show's Halloween episode.


Stupid Things About Torchwood: Week 3

1 - You'd be surprised how little security some people have...

And by some people, I mean higher-ups at the CIA. Specifically Wayne Knight.

Say you're Wayne Knight, and you know that you're conspiring with evil forces in an especially convoluted bid to conquer/destroy the world. More on that later. You also know that there are four people out there - all members of various secret services, mind you - who are trying to stop the takeover, and you're the only person they know to a certainty is involved in the scheme. Possessing all of this knowledge, when you hear that a television downstairs has been mysteriously turned on in the middle of the night - what would you do?

Walk down and check it out on your own, completely unarmed? If that was your answer, you're a bad enough writer to be responsible for Torchwood: Miracle Day!

So, what was the clever method that Mekhi Pfeifer used to break into his house undetected? Oh, he didn't. He set off a house alarm, and only has a few minutes before the trained CIA killers get-

Oh, it's just a single cop car. Responding to a break in at a senior CIA officer's house. Where the house alarm lets the cops know someone is inside, but the actual people inside the house are left to twist in the wind.


TheAvod Is back with a vengeance!

After a few rough weeks of terrible films our bad streak breaks, theAvod finally watches a genuinely wonderful film! Sadly, you'll have to listen to it in order to discover just what movie that is!

Of course, it's not too difficult to do that, simply right-click here and download the thing, then listen to it and discover the movie that you should be watching! Oh, and our review of two others as well.


The Sixty-First-Greatest Panel in the History of Comics!

No, he's not hurrying to stop that lynching. Which is a completely cool thing to be making jokes about, BTW. Not like there were any of those going on in 1942... Oh, wait...


Tales From the Darkside 216: Printer's Devil

It's tough being a writer. Even tougher, I'd imagine, than trying to find a decent apartment in New York City. Which is why there have only been two episodes of Tales from the Dark Side covering that subject while this episode, which opens with Rick from Magnum PI toiling away on a novel called 'Into The Void', marks the third episode to broach the subject of struggling authorship. Based on the number of times he crumples up and discards his attempt at a first page, it's fair to assume that Rick's Muse isn't doing her job.

Rick's inspiration finally comes from a far darker place, an ad played on a rock 'n roll radio station promising that, with the help of a writer's agent, literally anyone can be turned into a literary success. Rick is skeptical naturally but when his latest freelance writing check fails to arrive in the mail, and the editor in charge of sending it proves intransigent, Rick has nothing but desperate options left.

Alex Kellaway, the agent in question, runs a strictly non-traditional workplace, with his punky secretary (pictured above), and hourly deliveries of obscene amounts of food to his office. The enormous man claims expertise in his field, however, and announces that so long as Rick can pass a simple test, a writing career is in the cards for him. The test, oddly, involves holding an electrified tin can while the agent takes readings on a machine in a teak box. The test is positive - according to the box he could make as much as $150,000 in his first year! So long as he's willing to agree to the agent's terms, which ominously involve the secretary spilling some liquor on his tie and taking it out of the room, no doubt so that it can be employed for voodoo later on.


Maybe Count's First Nitpick

As a youth two of the earliest comics I ever owned were a pair of 100-page digest-sized Superman reprints detailing some of Superman's most absurd adventures. These were some of my earliest experiences with the character (I'm sure cartoons and commercials had first introduced him to me).

I recently rediscovered one of them, a themed book detailing some of the many other secret identities that Superman had been forced to use over the years. The collection is bookended by stories about Superman-as-other-superheroes, in the last story memory loss convinces Clark Kent that he's the flash, while Barry Allen becomes convinced that he's Superman. The first, charmingly, concerns Jor-El using a future-telling machine to help him decide which planet he should send his newborn son to.

The twist is that on each planet fate would conspire to transform him into a different member of the Justice League. On a planet of Giants he'd be Atom, on a Waterworld he'd be Aquaman (still weirdly able to control fish, for some reason), on a red-sun medieval Earth his gift for invention would turn him into Green Arrow, and on a red-sun planet identical to Earth, for no good reason, he would become the Flash, and then die by accidentally running off into space.

The most interesting one, however, was the red-sun near-future planet where he'd become Batman because he would be raised by a former lawman to be the ultimate crimefighter. Kind of like Batman Beyond, actually. The writer decided to make the planet as much like Gotham City as possible by announcing that it's always night there.

Let's set aside the environmental consequences of that for a second, and check the explanation for this bizarre phenomenon:

(click to bigify)

This is what got me as a child - why would someone build a satellite so large that it would cover a planet's view of the sun? It's only now, reading it again over twenty years later, that I realize what happened, and it's yet another example of the problem of writing, drawing, and publishing comics on such a tight schedule that there was essentially no oversight.

The writer, thinking that it would be a good idea to work in the 'voice' of Jor-El, a brilliant scientist, uses the accurate word for something orbiting the planet, "satellite", and then didn't bother to describe a 'moon' in the visual section of the script.

It's nice when the mysteries of childhood are solved, even if it's just one of the inconsequential ones.

Oh, and before you ask, no, the future machine couldn't have helped with the imminent destruction of Krypton, in fact, it accurately predicted that even if they used it to convince the science council of Jor-El's theories, there wasn't enough time left to build full-sized rockets to ferry people to safety.


Twelve Years Later, I Accuse Wild Wild West of Plagiarism

Remember Wild Wild West? I'll understand if you don't. It wasn't fantastic, and hasn't been well-recorded by history. While researching a project I came across something strange involving it - but first, a synopsis.

Wild Wild West revolved around a pair of government agents desperate to stop a science villain with a devious plan: Use a bizarre steampunk contraption to attack the joining ceremony of the First Transcontinental Railroad, and then head east, laying waste to the country before finally using it to occupy Washington DC and taking over the country!

There was more to the plot, of course, with magnetic death blades and flying bicycles, but those are the broad strokes, which I thought it important to lay out before moving onto the program I recently stumbled upon.

That show? Batman (the animated series)!


Criminal Minds 506: The Eyes Have It

As the episode begins, a creepy, shadowed man is putting ice in a cooler, then packing up some odd tools in his white van. Is this guy the week's serial killer, since there's literally nothing more the show could do to state that beyond putting a neon sign announcing it over his head - or is this a clever misdirect, and he'll be revealed to be the first victim of the night?

Of course it's not a misdirect. The audience doesn't care when the victim's not a pretty girl, don't you know? The killer watches them from a parking garage with binoculars, then slashes both of their throats!

Over in Washington, Derek is hanging out with the murder victim's sister from two weeks ago (should I learn her name? If she shows up for a third episode, I will.), talking about his recent promotion and her gradually getting over her brother's murder. Will they start dating? It seems like it! Especially after she hands over a cross that belonged to her brother - which is extra resonant because of Derek's own rocky relationship with his faith!

Derek maps out the team's plan to go and look into the opening murders to the 'chief', then goes out of his way to make it abundantly clear that he's only in charge of the unit until this whole 'Reaper' thing gets sorted out. Which is a great sentiment, and makes him look like a real square G.

Hey, remind me why they're not looking for the most wanted man in America right now? Shouldn't there be like a million dollar reward for information leading to this guy's capture? Wouldn't Nancy Grace be on top of this every single night?

Anyhoo, onto the actual case. Remember the dead teenagers? Yeah, their eyes were scooped out. That's what the weird tools were for. Ick. They were the second and third victim of the killer - and like all killers on the show, he's a spree killer: if they don't stop him immediately, he's going to kill again! And, of course, they won't stop him right away, since he'll need to take that mid-episode victim to raise the stakes.

Also, he keeps the eyes in his fridge. Which, according to the team, is strange for eye-gougers, who tend to leave the body parts in question at the scene. And, I know this is a little disgusting, but they didn't mention that some kind of a special tool was used to remove the eye. Given that the ones in that jar were pristine (at least as pristine as removed eyes can get), and that the faces of the victims were almost untouched-

It seems pretty obvious that some manner of specialized implement if being involved in the process. It's not like he just dug in there with a knife and sawed around until... you know what, that image is making me a little sick. Let's pick this up after the credits, shall we?

The story picks up on the plane, where the team continue to debate the importance of various points of the crime scene. All of the victims had different eye colors, and the first one's body was dumped, while the second two were left where they fell. Does this mean the killer was worried that he could be linked to the first victim? Is the killer suffering from religious mania, as is suggested because apparently all killers who gouge out people's eyes do it because they see "the devil" in them?

More importantly, though, since they always wind up having these long conversations about the murders while they're flying on the plane, why do they ever go over the case notes back at Quantico? It's not like the team ever turns down the case that JJ presents to them, after all. Isn't it a huge waste of time having a meeting about the case at the FBI building then driving to the airport (presumably in one SUV) and spending four hours on a plane together? Would be a much more efficient use of time to simply do the case presentation on the way? Or does the show need to amortize the cost of the fancy office set?

There's a bit of an awkward moment at the end of the scene when Derek parcels out the assignments in the standard way, but he's given pause when he hears that the families of the victims would like to see the team leader – he's clearly not prepared to be called that yet.

Reid and Greg had down to the police station and talk to the officer in charge of the case. They learn that there was a 22 mile distance between the killings which they find suspiciously odd: according to the characters serial killers tend to have a much smaller hunting ground. In case you weren't timing this - it's been less than 1 minute in the show between the characters wondering what the significance of the killer dumping the first body was, and Reid exclaiming that it's very unusual for a killer's victims to be taken such a wide distance apart. Can they really have forgotten that the team doesn't know where the first victim was killed? Do they expect us not to remember that when it was the key point of information we learned in the previous scene?

Wow. Halfwits.

After learning from Garcia that no eye gougers have been recently released from a mental institution, Reid drops some upsetting knowledge: occasionally eye thieves will devour the object of their obsessions. And if that were to disgusting enough idea, this show then immediately cuts to the killer eating a hard-boiled egg:

 We had a much better look at the killer this time and he turns out to be an unkempt freak with scraggly facial hair and long greasy locks. Not useful information for the team, but it will allow us to eliminate suspects as red herrings a little later on, I'm sure.

Derek and JJ go to visit the family of one of the teen girls, the Asian one as it turns out; whose race is immediately explained when it turns out the family are strict Buddhists who believe that she won't be able to rest unless her eyes are burned with her corpse. I say that her race needed to be explained not because I find it implausible that there are Asians living in Oklahoma City, of course there are, but I find it super unusual that there are Asians on the show criminal minds. For those keeping track, this is happened basically never in the show's almost 100 episodes up to this point. It's possible I'm exaggerating a little here, and the episodes of just run together in my head so I'm forgetting some obvious Asians who ought to jump to the forefront of my mind, but other than that one semi-famous character actor who was their LA liaison on the first season stalking case, I can't remember a single other Asian actor ever having been on the show. Which shouldn't really be a surprise, I guess after all I'm sure we're all familiar with the famous song "Nobody's Asian in the Movies".

There doesn't seem to have been anyone with a grudge against the first victim, but his position in the order of death along with the fact that his body was dropped in a remote location that the killer must've known still suggests a connection between the two of them. The ME calls with some important information: while the first eyes were torn out a little more roughly, the latest victims had their eyes almost surgically removed. This, along with the fact that the killer laid in wait for the victims at the parking garage, suggests that this guy is going to be incredibly hard to catch. Why? He simply doesn't demonstrate the kind of rash behavioral characteristics that are supposed to be so common with this type of killer.
They also make a big deal about his lack of a "cooling off period", although I'm not sure why, given that every single killer they've caught lacks one of those. I'm not even sure why the characters on this show know the term “cooling off period”, since that's a phenomenon that doesn't exist in the world of Criminal Minds.
We're 15 minutes into the show so it's obviously time for another victim. A woman gets separated from her jogging group when she pauses to take a drink, and when she starts up again the killer uses a tripwire to knock her down, then brutally murders her and steals her eyes. The whole thing lasts around 30 seconds and is one of the creepiest kill scenes the show has done. Which is kind of odd, actually. There's one thing this show loves, it's drawn out, super cruel kill scenes. I wonder what caused this one to be so restrained and effective? Different director this week perhaps?

While Reid and JJ are dead ending in their search for eye doctors turned bad, the rest of the team finds evidence of the tripwire out at the crime scene. Adding the trapping to throat slashing and lying in wait, the team comes to a reasonable conclusion: they must be dealing with a hunter! Actually, that would go a long way to explaining why his murder tools were sewn into a piece of leather that he unrolled, rather than some kind of a case with a zipper. Still no mention of the specialized tool he must be using to take the eyes out, though, which seems like a bit of an oversight on their part. Well, them and the ME, really.

In the next scene there's some blather about how unusual it is that the killer seems to be improving with each attack, while these types of killers normally collapse in on themselves. I would personally argue that the second attack was more impressive than the third, taking out two people without resorting to traps, but I don't even know why they're treating this guy as a normal eye stealer, since he already doesn't feature any of the criteria they announce one of them is supposed to have. What good are having these all-important profiles if they're not even going to use them to narrow down who they're looking for?

Oh hey, speaking of, guess who's responsible for that woman getting killed the night before? The team! Surprising, right? It turns out that they didn't announce to the press that there was a serial killer murdering people at random. Even though they knew they were dealing with a madman who killed three people in three nights and had every likelihood of keeping the streak going. If it was major news in Oklahoma City that there is a twisted serial killer tearing the eyes out of anyone who was caught on their own, do you really think that woman would've gotten separated from her group? Do you think she would've gone out jogging on an isolated a wooded path in the first place?

Dammit team, stop murdering people!

There's subplot stuff about whether Derek is doing enough to stay on top of his duties as manager of the team, specifically talking to the chief, but I'm kind of tuning all of this plotline out, since Greg is obviously going to be back in charge of the team by the end of the season, once they've dealt with that whole reaper thing.

The team gives their profile that afternoon, and then the show cuts to that night, where we've lost all connection to reality.

Yup, even though people know that there's a twisted serial killer out there gouging the eyes out of people's heads after brutally slashing them to death, a killer on a timeline wherein he performs these heinous acts every single night, this couple has still gone out into a park for a date. I feel like these two might deserve to die. Especially after they see a creepy guy fiddling with a transformer box down the path from them and then all of the lights go out. They still take their time and nervously debate what they should do. As if "running in the opposite direction of the psycho" wasn't an option. It's not even that dark:

Certainly not dark enough to require that the villain wear night vision goggles, which he does. Frankly, it shouldn't be that difficult to get away from a guy who's got a carry a toolkit with him, and is only capable of seeing through a camera. While it's nice that the show was mixing it up by having more than the normal quota of victims, there's really no reason for the characters to be this stupid for the episode to work. You know, if someone had a near miss just once, it would still be scary. And it would also reflect the fact many, many, many serial killers have near-victims get away from them, in fact, most of the time, that's how they get caught.

When the team arrives at the local office they discover that's Derek spent all night there thinking over the case. He hasn't come up to any conclusions, which suggests that he should've just gone back to the hotel and slept. While discussing the ways in which the case doesn't make sense, something odd the comes up. Derek finds it hard to believe that they're looking for a doctor who is also a hunter as well as being a mental patient. Which makes me wonder: why do they still think he's a doctor? The entire doctor supposition was based around the fact that he had enough expertise with using a knife on a living creature to remove the eyeball in a careful fashion. The moment the team started assuming that he was a hunter, they should've recognized that was an alternative theory to the while 'doctor' thing, rather than merely an addendum to it. They should be working looking for one or the other, not necessarily both. That doesn't stop Joe from getting the dumbest line of the episode though:

The team find something on that the new crime scene; of the couple only the woman had her eyes harvested, the man, who had an eye injured in the fight with the attacker, was left unmutilated. The team immediately jumps from this information to the conclusion that the killer must be searching for perfect sets of eyeballs, and naturally, the only person he would need those would be a taxidermist! So, to follow up on Joe's prediction, here's the manner in which the profile made sense: It was wrong.

The taxidermist theory immediately pans out, when a quick search of the the first victim's records reveal that he had recent dealings with a local taxidermy shop. The proprietor of which, it turns out, had an unbelievably creepy son:

Hold on a second there – while looking into the background of the man who had his eyes removed by a brutal serial killer, they didn't notice that he'd written a check just six weeks ago to a taxidermist? A taxidermist whose son has been jailed for torturing animals to death? It occurs to me that the team and I have very different criteria for what constitutes a thorough background check.

Now that they know who the killer is it's simply a matter of tracking him down!

First we're offered a look into his motivation for the killings, though. It seems that the bank was planning on taking away the killer's taxidermy shop, which made him stressed, and then the first victim was so unimpressed by the killer's ability to do the eyes on a stuffed trophy properly, that the killer elected to smash his head in with an ashtray. This, naturally, led to his obsession with collecting human eyes, which he's no doubt using in the trophies that people are buying from him.

I know this is just going to reveal my own ignorance when it comes to taxidermy, but I'd always assumed that taxidermists just just bought glass eyes from some sort of a manufacturer, rather than making them themselves. Unless the victim was talking about the killer doing a terrible job of installing the eyes inside the trophy. A problem that I doubt using human eyes would fix. Again this might just be something I'm naïve about, maybe all taxidermists are also glass workers.

So how are they going to track the killer down? They rush to his place of work, but find he's already out on some deliveries – the team does discover what he's been doing with the eyes though:

Look, I know the point is that he's crazy, but no one would ever accept delivery of a Lynx with human eyes. Way too creepy.

By searching the killer's ledger they find a connection to all of the murder sites: they were all in areas where he delivered a finished product on the same day. Now it's simply a matter of catching him at his latest delivery. Of course they're moments too late and have to run through the neighborhood, desperately searching for the final victim, a woman who's stupid enough to be walking around on her own at night in a city where a mad slasher is killing literally anyone he comes across.

She's fine though, managing to spray the killer with mace, which delays him just long enough that Greg can run and and rescue her; sadly not by shooting the killer. The killer also does his part in delaying the death until Greg can get there - while in every other case he's immediately slit the victim's throat and then gone after their eyes, in this case he pins her to the ground and attaches a bizarre contraption to her face-

While she's still alive. Thanks for the help, madman!

There's a ridiculous beat where Derek critiques Greg for not awaiting backup before taking the killer down – I say it's ridiculous because Greg arrived literally one second before a knife was jammed into the woman's eye. What would waiting around have accomplished?


Except they wrap up the Buddhism storyline, with Derek turning the dead woman's eyes over her to her family: creepy and heartwarming!

1 - Was profiling in any way helpful in solving the crime?

Not especially. I'm looking for a way to attribute the 'taxidermy' thing to psychologic insight, but it was really more process of elimination.

2 - Could the crime have been solved just as easily using conventional police methods given the known facts of the case?

So the dead guy didn't mention to a single person he knew that on the day he died he was heading over to the taxidermist's to pick up his severed head? And the cops didn't look into his movements in the weeks before he died at all? How was this freak not already caught?

So, on a scale of 1 (Dirty Harry) to 10 (Tony Hill), How Useful Was Profiling in Solving the Crime?

1/10 - Yeah, weak work this weak, fellas. Also, it suddenly occurs to me that the contraption on the woman's eye in the picture above was supposed to be like that thing from Clockwork Orange, with her eyelids being pulled wide apart by the arms so he can go in and scoop the eye right out. Obviously there's no way they were ever actually going to put one of those onto a actress' face, so maybe they should have just left it out of the episode...


Stupid Things From Torchwood: Week 2

Wow, did it not get any better this week. Apart from the sloppy writing, the insulting overexplanations, and the general stupidity of the characters, there's the incredibly slow pace at which the whole thing is unfolding. It seems that if Russel Davies should never be allowed to tell a continuous story of longer than five parts. And even Children of Earth ran a little long towards the end.


Captain Jack spends this entire week on a plane. This is a swashbuckling hero who dances across space and time, and the American audiences being introduced to him over two weeks. In the first week, he did essentially nothing. This week, he did literally nothing, as he spent the whole time convulsing in the throes of Arsenic poisoning.


TheAvod (On Thurday!)

Yes, although this is technically a Wednesday post, that's only due to an error on my part. For literally no reason at all I neglected to post TheAvod until today - sorry about the delay, but quick, if you right-click here to download it right now, it'll almost be like you didn't miss a day at all!


The Sixtieth-Greatest Panel in the History of Comics!

This is here entirely because the scene it describes, sadly, was not featured in the story. Which is a profound oversight on the part of the writers/artists.


Tales From the Darkside 215: A New Lease on Life

It's a new day and a new condo for one yuppie, and you know it's going to go disastrously because the very first shot of the episode is of a menacing high-tech communications device that growls when it hears someone approaching. Yuppie doesn't hear it though, so the only sign he has that anything is wrong is the surliness of the two workmen who bring up his typewriter and microwave oven. He questions them about the suspiciously good deal he's getting on the rent - an apartment like this should be $1000 and he's paying just $200! One of the workmen responds to his curiosity by 'accidentally' dropping his microwave oven on the floor.

The yuppie's exceptionally annoyed because the microwave was left to him in his mother's will, and was something of a family heirloom. Which seems quite crazy to me, but apparently there was a time when microwaves were incredibly rare and expensive. Weird. Oh, and we find out what was going on with the growling when one of the workmen turns around and reveals the emblem on the back of his work jumpsuit:

They're also extremely against microwave ovens, announcing that the radiation is damaging to your health and that it can get stuck in the walls. I'm sure they're just worried that the Dragon who lives in the basement won't like it. Then we're introduced to the building manager, who outright confirms that the yuppie is soon to be Dragon food. How can we know this? Two reasons: first the building is called the St. George, who of course was only famous for slaying that one Dragon that time. Secondly the woman's name is Mrs. Angler, establishing her as the person who lures new fish in with the bait of a far too cheap apartment.

Angler also handles the yuppie a roll of tape, letting them know that it would be better if he used that to hang pictures rather than hammering nails into the walls. Nail holes, you see, are like wounds. Dum-dum-dum! Okay, I'm confused now – is there a dragon in the basement, or is the building the Dragon? The yuppie is supposed to put all of his compost down a special chute, suggested that Dragon is just in the basement, but all this talk about microwaves hurting walls and wounding skin suggest that he's living inside a Dragon. A Dragon shaped like an apartment building.


Two Other Nonsense Things About The Traveler

These didn't spoil the movie like the opening does, but they actually happen in the movie, and, as such, are worth mentioning.

This is the cat that the daughter is looking for when she gets murdered. Her child-voice is hard to understand, but I kept thinking that she was calling the cat “Shining”, which didn't make sense, so I rationalized it as being a bizarre mispronunciation of “Shiny”.

It wasn't. There was a cat in this movie named “Shining.” Which, you know, yikes.

At another point in the film, Val Kilmer has his mugshot taken, and the cop in charge of entering his information into the computer discovers something strange in the pictures:

Why is this a problem? Because the cop never tells anyone about the pictures. His first reaction to seeing them isn't “Dear Lord, everything I know about the world is crumbling around me, I'd better show these to other people to determine whether all my preconceptions about how the world works are incorrect, or whether I'm simply insane!”

Any reaction other than that completely removes my ability to believe that any of the characters in the film are actually people.


How to ruin your own movie: The Traveler Edition

Time and again I encounter movies where the filmmakers responsible don't seem to have any idea how their stories will be interpreted by the people watching them. Take, for instance, the story of The Traveler, in which Val Kilmer plays the ghost of a drifter that a bunch of cops viciously beat because they suspected he was responsible for the murder of a detective's daughter. Since the state police caught the real killer soon after this vicious torture, the film's main source of character conflict comes from the various ways that the cops have dealt with their guilt and feelings of responsibility in the aftermath of this abuse of power.

Except the conflict doesn't resonate at all with the audience. Why? Because we, the audience, know that Val is, in fact, the real killer, and the state police shot the wrong man. How do we know this? Because, as usual in films featured this way at Castle Vardulon, the filmmaker makes it impossible for us to be surprised by the late-film revelation.


Criminal Minds 505: Cradle to Grave

In a dark basement somewhere, a woman is giving birth. Her pleas to be brought to the hospital go unanswered, but in the end the delivery proceeds without incident.  It becomes clear, based on their matching blue shirts, as well as the fact that they're in a cage, that both the new mother and her female attendant are prisoners. Their warden, and the presumptive father of the child, comes to claim his progeny, and the mother is understandably distraught at the prospect of turning over her child.

The father, for his part, is disappointed to discover that the child is female, and takes the little girl away, after locking his two prisoners back in their cell. You know, there was just one of him, and neither of the women were restrained in any way. I can't help but think that this would've it been a good time to, oh I don't know, tear out his throat with their teeth?

They don't, though, so it's going to be up to the team to figure this one out. Before they get the case though, Greg finds the "chief" waiting in his office to give him some bad news – which we don't hear just yet. Wait, did he just call her chief? Is that a position they have in the FBI? Seems she's his boss, shouldn't she be something like an assistant director? Like Skinner on the X-Files? This seems like something I should check into.

Greg doesn't share the news with JJ, which leads me to believe something is happening with his with his wife, although she and the son are dead of course, the show wouldn't just drop news like that at the top of an episode. The next day Derek as enters the office he receives a text message from Greg. Oddly, he's the only member of the team that Greg has contacted about this new case – what's with the cloak and dagger? Derek asks what the e-mails were about when he sees Greg, and Greg tells him, even more suspiciously, that there nothing to worry about, and they should just get to work on the case of the dead runaway we saw give birth the beginning.

We learn that this latest runaway was just one of three victims who turned up over the past five years, women who have been forced to bear the children of a serial killing rapist. Yep, we're in for an unpleasant one this week. Although, I'm forced to question whether the woman who was helping the teaser victim was another prisoner are not; according to the records, all of the killer's victims have been blonde women, and she clearly had brown hair. Although, now that I look back on it, the mother had some pretty serious roots going on there. If she's been a captive for two years, has he been letting her dye her hair the whole time?

I guess we'll see how this all works out after the opening credits!


Stupid Things From Episode 1 of Torchwood: Miracle Day


This is a Child Molester/Murderer played by Bill Pullman. He's so reprehensibly evil that even anti-death penalty activists don't show up to protest his execution. After the execution fails because the laws of death no longer apply, he announces that he'd like to be let out of prison, since the sentence was carried out.

What's stupid about this? The governor lets him go. Yup. Lets him walk right out of the prison. Why on earth would that happen? Pullman threatens to sue for wrongful imprisonment!

Gasp! Can it be? Would someone actually sue the government over imprisonment? Well they'd better cave right away, for fear of being brought to American court!

Here's a fun fact that Russel Davies might not be aware of - at any given moment there are literally tens of thousands of pending lawsuits by prisoners protesting the conditions or fact of their imprisonment. Lawsuits aren't expensive to file, and people in prison have quite a bit of free time on their hands.

Does Pullman have a case? Maybe - but probably not. The Governor of a state has the unilateral privilege to convert anyone's death sentence to a sentence of life imprisonment. It's as simple as signing a single declaration. “Oh, so human beings can't die any more? Well, then I'm sentencing you to spend forever in prison.”

Naturally Pullman would have his lawyers sue (I've got to wonder how good a lawyer this character, who's essentially Freddy Kruger, could get, though), but getting a court date could take months or even years - also there's a worldwide crisis going on at the moment, which could put all court dates back indefinitely. Also, how sympathetic is a jury really going to be? Members of the potential jury pool gathered outside his prison to celebrate his impending death - are they going to jump at the chance to let him out?

This is a country where various states have laws limiting the amount of money that you can receive in a lawsuit if you were falsely convicted of a crime. Yup - the government puts you in jail for something you didn't do, and then one day, miraculously, you're proven completely innocent. According to your state, the maximum compensation you can receive for that horrifying ordeal? 25K a year.

That's someone who's factually innocent. What kind of a monetary award is a confessed child molester and brutal murderer going to get?


TheAvod' Place was Well-held this week!

I'm going to try to make this sound as little like gloating as possible, but on this week's Avod, which can be listened to through the simple technology of 'downloading' by right-clicking here, I come up with my first-ever bit of off-the-cuff wordplay! The actual bit of wordplay is featured in the episode title, but in order to understand the context, you'll have to listen to the show!

Also, we talk about The Ward, Dark Lurking, and I go on for way - too - long about how bad Transformers 3 was. Really, it's a stellar episode all around - and I should know, I was there!


The Fifty-Ninth-Greatest Panel in the History of Comics!

You see, they're Chinese, so you can't use the term gang. Only blacks, whites, and hispanics have gangs.


Tales From the Darkside 214: Dream Girl

The episode opens with a woman on the phone, demanding to know someone's whereabouts. We quickly assume, based on the fact that the woman is pacing in front of a painted backdrop and that there are directors chairs strewn about, that the missing man is an actor without whom the stage production cannot possibly go forward. It seems the actor isn't the first to disappear either, an electrician went missing earlier in the week as well! The woman, who we can now safely assume is the director of the play, takes out her frustration on the nearest warm body, a loafing janitor too busy reading magazines to bother cleaning up the stage.

The janitor is none too happy about this development, and takes a moment to glare menacingly at the camera while getting back to work. This can't possibly turn out well. A flash of light later and we've been transported into a garden scene, complete with green bench and fountain. The director is understandably confused, having been transformed from this:

To this:

Forced to take on the role of a Germanic serving wench, the director is horrified to find that while she has full consciousness of her actions she lacks all control over her body. Some malevolent force compels her to bring a tray of coffee to the janitor who, now in a wig and preposterous outfit, seems to be playing the part of a cruel millionaire. Sitting next to him is the pretty actress from the cover of the magazine he was reading. This seems to raise the question: are we watching the janitor's perverse fantasy from the point of view of one of the characters in it? That would be an interesting twist, although it's probably not the way they're going seeing is the next thing that happens is a man in a suit shows up to give a flower to the actress.

The man, naturally, is the actor who's gone missing, Sid. In the janitor's fantasy he's a doctor who has been reduced to getting a job as a maître d'. The director tries to catch his attention but is unable to do so. They're both controlled to completely by the janitor's powers. We get further insight into the janitor's mind as he forces Sid, now costumed as a peddler, to apologize time and again for saying that he wouldn't amount to anything. It's all so pathetic that even Sid eventually revolts, castigating the janitor for his poor choice of scenario and dialogue.

This angers the janitor enough that he finally leaves, allowing Sid and the director a chance to chat. Oh, and Sid turns out to be the writer of the play, rather than an actor, as I'd assumed. Although, in my defense, I'm not sure why the show can't go on without the writer. After all, the play is already written... Sid has figured out that there trapped inside the janitor's fantasies, but that hasn't given him any insight as to how they might free themselves from them. Before they can make a move they're trapped in another scenario, in which the director is harassed by a randy workman and has to be rescued by the janitor. Randy workman is a new character, possibly the electrician mentioned earlier.

In the aftermath of the fight the janitor comes on to the director and is quickly rebuffed, which, for no good reason, leads to a catfight between the director and the actress. The actress eventually explains that she's a prisoner in the janitor's fantasies as well and has no choice but to take part in his sick games. You know, even with the comment about the missing people at the beginning, this is looking less and less like something supernatural, and more and more like a depiction of someone's diseased fantasy life.

The janitor returns, hoping to snatch away the actress for a more private encounter, but everyone teams up to pull her back. They're seemingly able to thwart him, however briefly, allowing them a moment of repose and conversation.

The second man is, in fact, Joe the electrician, who's been trapped in the janitor's mind for some time, it seems. He even has some backstory to offer about how he used to work on an ocean liner - it seems the janitor had asked him for a job recommendation, and he had laughed in the fellow's ugly face. The janitor wasn't manly enough, in Joe's estimation, to work the high seas. Which is a nice explanation for the janitor's fantasies of oppression and control. For my part I didn't know ocean lining was a particularly manly profession but then again hey, it was the 80s.

The director thinks that they're not trapped in a fantasy at all - but rather one of the janitor's dreams! This would explain why everything goes slow motion and feels like moving through molasses – the characters had mimed slow motion earlier, but I wasn't able to discern that that was what they were trying to get across. This leads them to two conclusions: first, that whenever he's just sleeping and not actually dreaming they're free to talk and do as they will, and secondly that they could snap him awake they'd be freed from the dream. Or, in my theory, they might cease to exist since they're only figments of his imagination.

Hopefully the first will turn out to be true.

Finding themselves backing costume, they know the dream is about to start – taking their opportunity they search the set until they find the napping janitor. The director shakes him awake, and finds herself back on the set, safe at last.

Or is she? Assuming that the metaphysical dream world is completely real, the director immediately downs a handful of sleeping pills and takes a nap, figuring, based on nothing but wishful thinking as far as I can tell, that she'll be able to have her own lucid power dream where she enslaves the janitor. Why this is a priority, I'm not entirely sure.

Sadly, things don't go entirely as planned, because Joe the electrician beat her in going back to sleep! As the episode ends the director is now trapped in his fantasy world, where he's the captain of a Cruise ship and the janitor is nothing but a waiter! It's chilling and all, except for the fact that she now knows the rules of the dream world and should be able to defeat Joe just as easily as she had the janitor.

But other than that, you know, scary.


Things I didn't notice about Jason Goes to Hell until just now!

As a matter of course I watch the same movies over and over again while writing, allowing them to act as soothing background noise while I work. One of those movies is Jason Goes to Hell which, until being added to my roster of 'work movies' was the original Jason film I'd seen the least. Perhaps it's my relative unfamiliarity with the film that caused me to fixate on it, while I've grown overly familiar with the rest of the franchise, but whatever the cause, I've been noticing weird little things about the movie in recent months, things that I'd missed during my dozen previous viewings.

Now, let's take a look!


On the subject of insufficient punishments-

The titular 'Gamer' of the film's title is this smug punk right here:

An amoral 17-year-old, this punk controls Kable (Gerard Butler) over the course of two dozen successful encounters against all the bloodthirsty thugs that the game has to offer. Then, in concert with a group of anti-technology terrorists, he helps set Kable free, allowing Butler to go on a murderous rampage, taking the lives of countless members of the villain's corporate security team.

The authorities are understandably aggrieved by this, and quickly arrest the punk. After being taken downtown, he's interrogated by Keith David-

Who, sadly, does not express any opinion about the relative plausibility of this voodoo bullshit.

Keith berates the punk, letting the teen know just how much trouble he's in, then sends him off to solitary confinement.

If this was the last we saw of the punk, that would be one thing - he's in jail, it wraps up the story nicely. It's not, however. He appears in three more scenes. First, despite being an accessory to mass murder, he's released from prison, then he returns home to discover that-

-he's not allowed to play games over the internet any more! The movie has the gall to act like this is a more severe punishment than prison. Then, in his final appearance, he's back on the internet with no trouble at all, watching Butler's final showdown with Dexter. That's the end of the title character's story. No comeuppance, no lesson learned, no resolution.

Thanks, Gamer!


Criminal Minds 504: Hopeless

A group of three rednecks are drinking beer and watching a video of the time they murdered a bunch of yuppies in their house. Unlike the 'Funny Games' people from season three, these guys don't dress neatly or have some scheme behind the killing. They just rush in and beat people to death.

The team hears about the case - it's a poor neighbourhood where there's been a lot of vandalism going on lately! And the victims were part of the gentrifying force changing the place for the better? What could the motive be? They point out that it's unusual for vandalism to escalate to four murders overnight - and spree killers (which all serial killers are, remember) rarely stop with just one house full of dead people!



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That is all.


TheAvod Special Feature 9: Nosferatu

Years ago, Germans unconcerned with copyright law adapted Dracula into the movie Nosferatu! Could they have imagined that some years later, D and the Count would record a commentary for it? Probably not. But still, I've got to imagine that they'd be in favor of it.

You can join in the fun by simply right-clicking here to download the episode, and then obtaining a copy of the movie! Which shouldn't be too hard, since it's in the public domain, and even available on archive.org, this site whose kindness is responsible for hosting TheAvod!

So go there, grab it, and join in!


The Fifty-Eighth-Greatest Panel in the History of Comics!

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Wasn't it nice when we were able to get together as a group and enjoy the cartoonish mass-murder of the race our national was at war with?


Tales From the Darkside 213: Comet Watch

Hey, look! It's Anthony Heald, star of the film 8MM! And he's alone in an attic, praising what's clearly a photo of Sir Edmond Halley (1656-1742).

Yikes, they didn't try to make that thing look like a painting at all, did they? Anthony is excitedly awaiting the return of Halley's comet, which he plans to watch through an elaborate telescope.

There's just one thing standing in his way:

His monstrously shrewish wife! Yes, she's actually wearing curlers and a hairnet, and eating chocolates - just in case you didn't know what role she was supposed to be serving. She announces that the local bankers' association is having a meeting that night, and Anthony's supposed to be there! After all, his father-in-law owns the biggest bank in town, and Anthony isn't making a very good go at being a banking executive! Shrew thinks it's because he's so obsessed with astronomy, and she's going to fix that problem by destroying the telescope with a tiny hammer!

Would that even work?


Where is the line between homage and theft?

Because I think Being Human may have leapt over it.

Over the course of the third season, the king of London's vampires has been stuck in the main characters' attic, left in a daze, not able to remember who he was. There was a general agreement that he deserved to die, but between Mitchell needing to know the secret of vampire resurrection and Nina's unflagging belief in second chances, he was left alive.

This was the result:


Man, this annoyed me...

While searching for reference to something on Reddit, I happened across an article with an interesting title: Jason Aaron's "The year I stopped caring about Alan Moore". If you don't feel like reading it, I'll offer a synopsis: Alan Moore hurt Jason Aaron's feelings, so Jason Aaron wants to lash out at Alan Moore in response.

The thorn in Aaron's side is an interview where Alan Moore discussed DC's brainstorming about the possibility of publishing prequels and sequels to Watchmen. According to Moore he was so unimpressed by the concept that he wouldn't even consider it, despite the remuneration possibly including getting the rights to Watchmen returned to him. His main objection, the part that so irked Jason Aaron? His assertion that there were no writers (and possibly artists) working in comics today with the talent necessary to write anything as good as Watchmen. His offer of proof? To paraphrase Aaron Sorkin, if they were talented enough to write something as good as Watchmen, they would have written something as good as Watchmen.

This is what so offended Jason Aaron. Alan Moore announcing that all of mainstream comics is made up of no-talent hacks who aren't fit to shine his shoes. Harsh and overstated - sure. Justified by the facts in evidence? I would say yes. This is the part where I stop explaining the situation, and begin angrily editorializing, so let me just crack my knuckles...


Criminal Minds 503: Reckoner

A woman, arriving home with groceries, is yelling at someone over the phone, while also talking to her husband in the next room. When the husband doesn't answer, she looks more closely and notices strange flashes coming from the room. The woman goes to investigate, and is knocked to the ground!

Awaking in a daze, she sees a murderer in a plastic outfit (careful fella, huh?) sawing off her dead husband's hands! Which, you know, ick. The guy was dead at the time, though, shot behind the ear, which marks this as the work of a professional murderer, rather than just the amateur hobbyists that generally show up on this program. Although I'm not sure why a professional murderer is mutilating a corpse and taking photos. That's a little odd... then again, the Iceman was a scumbag, as was the ficitonalized version of him depicted on the show!

Back at the FBI, Greg is watching video of his son playing in a yard. This, sadly, is as close as he's allowed to get to them. And D.B. Sweeny is back, assuring Greg that his family is still safe, even though Greg's Wife called her mother a few times! Oh, D.B. Sweeny, you're going to be soooo dead when that serial killer comes looking for Greg's family.

Joe visits Greg in his office - the new case is in his hometown, and he doesn't want to go! It seems Joe comes from circumstances, it seems, and he has no interest in giving his past a chance to come back and bite him. Greg thinks the case is going to require his insight, although we're not immediately told why. In the briefing scene, we discover that the wife from the opening is missing, and that the 'signature' of people being shot in the brain and heart with a .22 matches a couple of other murders from the area in the past year. Then Emily drops what might be the stupidest line I've ever heard come out of her mouth-

This is why there's an award for stupidity named after you, Emily. Wait, what's that, Reid wants to compete this week?

Christ, Reid, the word is 'restrained'. What is wrong with you people? Is the show just making fun of me at this point? I can't imagine that this is a CSI: Miami situation, where everybody but the actors know they're making a comedy - are they deliberately testing the actors by getting them to say the stupidest possible things and seeing if anyone calls them on it?

One of the victims was starved before murder, another had his genitals removed, and the third - which we just saw, had his hands taken. The team is puzzled because while this seems like the work of a sadistic killer, the mutilations were done post-mortem, so it couldn't have been about torture! What does all this mean?

Well, Reid won't be able to help - because of his injured knee, he's not free to travel! It seems last week he lied about being healthy enough to fly!

The show then does a zoom-in to the crime scene photo, and for a second I thought they were going to do that thing where they push into a picture and cut to the team being there - but while that was a super-popular device for the first few years, it's been almost completely phased out of the show at this point. Now they just zoom in to the crime scene photos that were taken by the killer, being looked at by a mysterious figure!

Is that the killer, or the man who hired him? All we know at this point is that he wears glasses!

Oh, and that he has a murder list. You know, if this show follows its standard format, we just saw Ben killed, Dan's next, and then they'll rescue Boyd at the last possible second!

Is this show that formulaic? Let's find out after the opening credits!