The Eighty-Ninth-Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

Is this something that a failed screenwriter tried to write into a movie, and then had had to resort to using it in a comic where the lack of actual tapping kept it from working as intended?


Alcatraz: The Pilot!

As per the dictates of a recent Avod poll, I watched the pilot of the new television show Alcatraz this week! While while I found it to be a pleasant and diverting enough experience, it was full enough with inconsistencies and bizarre premises to warrant having most of them called out here.

So now, in no particular order, here are the issues I had with the pilot episode of Alcatraz. Keep in mind, however, since this is merely a pilot, I'll be happy to find some of these bizarre choices explained away in subsequent episodes.

Sam Neill's American accent hasn't gotten any better over the years, has it? It's not so bad when he's playing a man of indeterminate national origin, but now he's playing in FBI/mysterious government agency official who was a fresh young guard at Alcatraz when all the prisoners disappeared fifty years ago. Which makes his mid-Atlantic growling just seem odd. He's also named Emerson Hauser, which is one of those distractingly strange television names that exists only to avoid being sued over the similarity to a real person's name. I was going to make some comment about it being preposterous that Sam Neill is playing a character in his mid-70s, but then I looked it up and turn he's sixty-five and just looks fantastic for his age.


On the subject of inattention to detail-

As I do my best to investigate exactly when and how the Simpsons stopped being the vision of perfection that it was between its third and fifth seasons. There's the subtraction of heart from the proceedings, an increasing cruelty to the humour, the way shortened runtimes prevent the episodes from developing rich B-stories - all of these are decent avenues worth exploring. Today I'll be focusing on a minor scene from the seventh season, one that demonstrates another key flaw: The lack of attention to detail, coupled with underestimating the audience's intelligence.

While attempting to injuring himself in the episode 'King-Size Homer', something odd happens. After sliding on a patch of oil he dumped on the floor, Homer moves through a series of rooms without incident.

Finally he slides past Smithers' desk-

Through a doorway featuring one of the most bizarre uses of perspective I've ever seen-


Criminal Minds 609: Into the Woods

There's a full moon in the opening shot of this week's episode, which can mean only one thing: They're taunting us with yet another case in which the killer isn't a werewolf. Come on guys, would it kill you to do a Halloween fantasy episode? Goth rockers and vampirists just aren't cutting it!

See what I did there?

Okay, moving right along, a family is out walking in the woods, being watched by a nefarious figure in the trees. Turns out the figure is a black bear, and they come very, very close to being its dinner. In a happy turn of events (that quickly turns gruesome) the bear wanders off. Why? Because it's already had its fill of human!
 Oh desiccated corpses. You never look great.

It seems the child was abducted while camping a year earlier, then dumped along the Appalachian trail some two states over! The team rushes out of the office just moments after hearing about the case (seriously, why aren't they doing this on the plane?), but they're too late - two children have already been targeted, watched from the brush as they happily caper about on their family's camping trip!

Don't worry too much, though - except for that one time in the episode Reid directed, this show has never killed off a child we actually met. And that time we really only heard him talking through a wall.

There's a weird costuming choice when we see the team on the plane. Although at the end of the briefing Greg announced that they'd be at the ranger station within the hour (including trips to and from the airports? How short a flight is this? Could you not just be driving?), when they're on the plane everyone has taken the time to obtain and dress in sweaters and fleeces:

I'm confused - did they stop at the FBI gift shop on the way out of the building? I know they keep 'go-bags' at the office, but don't those generally just have a change of clothes and sundry needables? Why would they have clothes for a variety of different weather conditions? How big are these bags?

When they get to the Ranger station they immediately visit with the father of the dead boy, played by Justified's Johnny Crowder, sans wheelchair! In a suspicious coincidence, it turns out that Johnny stopped desperately searching for his son right around the time the ME says that the boy must have died. Johnny's explanation for this? The psychic connection he had with his child was suddenly cut off, making him sure the boy was dead. That's seriously all the explanation offered, and Greg accepts it.

Again, this is the same show that refuses to do a werewolf episode.


The Lost Simpsons Characters - Nelson's Dad

Now for another part in this semi-irregular series documenting the way The Simpsons has shrunken and devalued its world by casting off characters and plotlines.

We met Nelson's dad way back in season 4's 'Brother from the Same Planet'.

There he was the soccer coach who showed favoritism to his unpleasant son. You may also remember him from Season 6's 'Bart's Girlfriend', in which he reined Nelson in with a leash.

So, what happened to Nelson's dad? He disappeared. In later seasons Nelson would be assigned a generic 'neglected child' background, in which his father abandoned him years earlier, offering him an excuse for his behavior, as well as a reason to feel sorry for him. The show would then take it a step further, bringing Nelson's father back, explaining that he hadn't actually run off, but rather been kidnapped by a circus. Happy endings all around!

What was lost with the exclusion of Nelson's original father? Accuracy! I don't know how many people reading this have actually met a bully's parents, but Nelson's father being a smug jock who encourages his son's bullying is incredibly well-observed. Nelson's father may be one of the most true-to-life things the show ever offered, and he was removed so that the show could be more generic and cliched.

Thanks, Simpsons.


Dante's Inferno Craziness

I actually enjoyed the film adaptation of Dante's Inferno quite a bit, so I'm not going to pick it to death, but I thought I'd point out two things that I found humourously puzzling.

This is the man that Dante meets at the gates of hell. He announces that he lived in the time of the false gods, and Dante takes a random shot in the dark as to the man's identity - is he the epic poet Virgil? Amazingly, that's exactly who he is.

Somehow, neither man is surprised at how well that guessing went.

The second thing is an animation error that makes absolutely no sense to me.

Check out the man's shackles at fifty-seven minutes into the film. Now let's check in on them one second later.

Suddenly the chain is gone and his arms are overlapping the shackles. This one is just baffling to me. How do you even make a mistake like this? There barely any movement on the screen, and the chain was a simple overlay. This is Bakshi's Spider-man level of weird.

Other than that, however, perfectly fun film.

TheAvod gets Sequelitis!

That's right, it's time for three separate sequels to be covered on theAvod - here's the twist... two of them are the third entry in a series! Crazy, right? It would have been nice to get three threes in there, but sadly, it was not to be.

Anyhoo, download the episode by right-clicking here, and listen to DM and myself discuss the craziness that happens when series go on so long that they become good again!


The Eighty-Eighth-Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

"Like a ghost murder from fiction!"

It's my fondest dream to someday use that sentence in an appropriate context.


On the subject of Supernatural-

The producers of Supernatural do an excellent job of disguising their limited access to travel. Yes, from time to time it can seem like all of America is a giant pine forest, but for the most part the location scouts do an exceptional job.

There's one episode, though - season 6, number 17 (the Titanic Show!), which features a sequence set in what I can only describe - and anyone who's ever been there should be able to attest to this - as the most Vancouver location of all time.

I don't know if it's the planters, or the modern condos, the terraced steps with ostentatiously stylized railings, or the giant freaking mountain range in the background... when you put all of it in one place, it just screams southern B.C., to the point where claiming it's anywhere else seems patently ridiculous.


An important storytelling lesson learned by comparing Skyline to Thor

In Medias Res - perhaps the most overused dramatic device in modern fiction, it's impossible to throw a stone these days without hitting a movie that begins in the middle of the action. It's a daring move, or it would be, if most stories weren't using the weaker version of the device, in which, instead of starting in the middle of the story and trusting in the audience's ability to follow along, just teases the main action, then flashes back to explain how the characters arrived in the situation that starts the film.

While not completely inappropriate, this use of In Medias Res requires one thing - that the situation be unusual enough to require an explanation. If it doesn't, then all the film has done is wasted the audience's time. For examples of each type of flashback IMR, let's consider the films Thor and Skyline.

As Thor opens, a mysterious man has fallen through a wormhole and crashed into the ground. Who is he? How did he get here? This is pretty far from an everyday occurrence, so the next half hour of the film is spent detailing the amazing series of events that resulted in this absurd situation.

The film Skyline opens with the beginning of an alien attack - light beams down from the sky, and anyone foolish enough to look into it is drawn up to the spaceships far above. A few people staying in an apartment notice the lights, and one of them is captured. The the film then flashes back, not to explain the spaceships, but rather to let the audience know how a group of people wound up sleeping in an apartment. Since sleeping in an apartment at night is basically the least surprising thing that can happen, all the time spent establishing the series of events that led the characters to that point are a complete waste.

Also, apropos of nothing, you can't introduce a new kind of monster in the last minute of the movie, and expect us to just accept that's what the brains were for, Skyline.


Criminal Minds 608: Reflection of Desire

The episode begins with Penelope reading pretentious dialogue while doing her makeup in front of a vanity! Is she getting ready for a play? We don't find out right away, since Robert Knepper is busy murdering a blonde woman while another woman watches from the shadows. He's dressed as if this is a flashback set in the 40s, and the fact that he's making his victim watch an ancient film on a projector only serves to complete the theme.

He makes the victim re-enact the scene, but she's too freaked out to get her lines right. An old woman who can only be Robert's mother jumps out and finishes the scene with him, but luckily they're interrupted before the kiss. Sadly for the victim, the interruption comes in the form of her begging for her life, which only serves to set Robert off. He drugs her with chloroform, drives her to an alley in his Mercedes, then patiently waits for her to wake up before killing her with a plastic bag held over her head.

Yes, it turns out Penelope was in a play, something about her being a rape victim who now murders a rapist/killer. The most fun thing about the scene?

The detail that when she fake shot the guy with her starter pistol, she cheated it off to the side so that it would look good for the audience without being potentially dangerous for her co-star. That's a great observation, and suggests that people working on the scene had a theatre background, or at least believed in research. I'm kidding, of course, this could only mean a theatre background. Of course, that theatre background should have led someone to prevent Garcia from whispering her last line to her victim at a level that no one in an audience could possibly hear.

Still, the audience loves it, and gives a mostly-standing ovation. I can't spot Xander in the crowd, though, which is strange, since he seems like he'd be super-supportive of this kind of thing. She also hasn't told the team about her involvement, but she tries to let them know in a passive-agressive attention grab 'accidentally' letting some playbills slip out of a while running down the victim's details.

Speaking of the victim, post-death the killer cut up her face, removing her lips, and he also sent a glamour shot of her to the papers, dressed up like a star from the Golden age of Hollywood. At least the guy's embracing his theme, right?


One Last Thing about Bart's Girlfriend

Seriously now, on what planet do children get up super-early on Sunday so they can get some elaborate games of Cowboys and Indians in before church?


TheAvod Baffled!

How else would you describe the condition we were left in after watching this year's episodes of Sherlock? How could one show be so great? It has wound up being a show whose greatness is almost impossible to quantify, not that we didn't spend an hour trying. Right-click here to download the episode and join in the fun!

We also discuss the finale of American Horror Story, a show that's much easier to describe: so stupid and insulting to its audience that it's hard to hate, leaving its crazy scrappiness as something of an admirable quality.


The Eighty-Seventh-Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

Picturesque? Isn't that the ultimate example of an adjective you're supposed to show rather than tell?


Kick Ass 2 continues to worsen.

In issue 5 of Kick-Ass, three things happen. Just three things. Each one of these three things is stupider than the last. Somehow they requires twenty-some pages and costs three dollars.

Thing 1: The villain is told by his relatives on the police force that he can't expect any protection now that he's a mass-murderer.

Why is this thing stupid? The scene doesn't reflect the reality that by now everyone on earth would know the villain's identity, and every law enforcement agency in North America would be all over him. Everyone who'd ever met the villain or his father would be under total surveillance, or even held as material witnesses until they provided information leading to his capture.


Haiku! Starring Butchered!

Today I'll be utterly misusing a Japanese art to review the film:

At seventy mins,
Somehow it's the most padded
Film I've ever seen.


I can’t believe a movie this stupid exists: Skinwalkers

I'm going to put you in a hypothetical situation, one analogous to something from the movie Skinwalkers, and I'd like you to tell me how you'd respond.

Alright, say that everyone had a switch on their body that could be flipped, turning you from just an average person into someone who loves nothing but murder. The problem with these switches? Once they've been flipped you can't turn them back, and there are no outward visible signs that it's been done - but internally, you've transformed into a switchflipper, with loyalty to nothing but other switchflippers.

Okay, now let's further assume that you're part of a group of regular people on the run from a group of switchflippers. One of your number is kidnapped by the switchflippers, then released a day later, completely unharmed - but, of course, she could have had her switch flipped, and there's no way you could tell until she betrayed you and started killing people. How would you treat her? Would you welcome her back into the group, taking no precautions of any kind?

Let's take it one step further, and say that precautions wouldn't even be hard to take, since you're fleeing from the switchflippers in a vehicle specifically designed to contain people safely, one filled with straps and chains and the like. Also, this whole 'containment' thing wouldn't be an ongoing situation because, when you're forced to make the decision, you're literally less than 24 hours from gaining the ability to cure all switchflippers, everywhere.

So, in that situation, would you let the member of your group have free rein, or would you take the precautions I mentioned, the ones that are readily available to you?

If you would, then you're smarter than all the heroes of the movie 'Skinwalkers'.


Criminal Minds 607: Middle Man

The episode opens with what I thought for a moment was a flashback to the time a crazed Minuteman was chasing immigrants through the desert on an ATV, but it just turns out to be a group of killers chasing a woman through a corn field with a 4WD. Can't imagine how I got those mixed up... Anyhow, they catch her, and that's that.

I seriously hope these guys own this cornfield, or they're straight-up leaving tons of evidence about their type of truck and where they came from literally everywhere. What are the odds that some guy's livelihood being trampled by thugs never really comes up are?

Back at the office, Garcia gives everyone tablet PCs to receive their briefings from - will product placement be the order of the day on Criminal Minds from now on? Let's stay turned to find out! Also, Reid balks at the idea of going computer, and Garcia hands him a stack of papers. Which raises a question - is it easier to speed read from a piece of paper or a computer screen? That's worth looking into. In this case I'd imagine it would be faster with the paper, since turning a page is generally more efficient than faffing about with touchscreen controls, and a piece of paper is considerably larger and holds more information than a tablet screen. Still, this is a topic where I'd like to hear from an actual speed reader.

The facts of the case are simple - strippers are being kidnapped on Friday nights, tortured for a weekend, and then murdered on Sunday nights! It's happened three times so far, and the latest woman was just kidnapped, meaning they've got one heck of a ticking clock to work against! In this case Derek actually underestimates the deadline, as he claims they have 'less than two days' to save this woman (which they presumably will, since in cases where a victim can be psychologically tortured the show often goes off the 'teaser kill - mid-show kill - rescued' model), but that's underplaying the desperation of this victim's plight. We know this is Saturday because she was kidnapped the night before, and since her file has already reached the FBI, we can assume that this isn't super-early in the morning at Quantico. By the time they actually fly out to Indiana and start working the case it's already going to be mid-afternoon, leaving them with 30 hours tops to deal with the situation. Which is roughly as implausible as it gets.

Hopefully some plot development will contrive to keep this woman around for an extra couple of days. Either that or, contrary to my predictions, she'll get killed, and they'll rescue the next one.

Oh, and they did bring up the fields that the women were found in. Each one belonged to a different farmer, and was torn up by the killers'  activities, with a dead body left in the middle of it. So we're expected to believe that on three separate occasions no one noticed a giant 4x4 zipping around their fields in the middle of the night, giant floodlights flashing every which way. Got some sound sleepers down there in Indiana, don't they?

Hey, I wonder if they used the 4X4 to abduct their victims? It seems like they would, and since the cops definitely know what kind of vehicle they're looking for, checking the parking lot and ATM cameras at the various strip clubs, looking for the same vehicle seems like a good avenue of investigation. Maybe they'll even do that after the opening credits!


More from the Bart's Girlfriend episode!

While the idea of Skinner setting Bart up to misbehave is a funny one, I've got to ask something about Scotchtoberfest.

How can Bart misbehaving at an event off-campus on a Sunday be grounds for detention? You might as well give the kid detention for jumping over other kids with his skateboard back in Season 2.

Also, and this is one of the many reasons early Simpsons impresses me so thoroughly, check out the crowd for Scotchtoberfest.

The crowd has been given tams, capes, and bottles of whiskey. Now that's some excellent work, both by Skinner setting up the sting, and by the animators including little details to give the scene verisimilitude.


TheAvod Gets Narcissistic!

I know you're psyched to hear what Merman and myself had to say about the movie Transformers 3, but I've got a splitting headache at the moment, so I can't say. Luckily, we also recorded our thoughts some five months ago, enabling you to right-click to download and listen to them!


The Eighty-Sixth-Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

Puns, the intimation of something perverse to come, and a decent helping of cheesecake and beefcake all at once. It's possible congress may have had a point...


Tips for low-budget filmmakers: Edison Death Machine Edition

When making a low-budget movie locations are at a premium. People call in favors, beg for access, and find the cheapest possible places to film. This is how one winds up rewriting a script so that Captain Kidd's grave is located in the parking lot of a motor lodge.

Of course, sometimes a script can't be rewritten - sometimes you need absolutely need a location because the entire premise of the film depends on it. Such is the nature of the museum in Edison Death Machine. Simply put, there's no movie without a museum. Unfortunately, despite the assurances of the following placard-

This is clearly not a museum. They tend not to have low foam ceilings, glaring fluorescent light, or institutionally-tiled floors.

The chairs aren't especially believable, either. So, let's say you find yourself in a situation where you have access to a retirement home or medical clinic, but need it to double for something else, like a museum or school. Here's a fun trick...


Remove the ugly chairs, put the odd art aside, and throw some tarps over the questionable flooring and toss up a few stepladders. Then just put up some signs announcing that the location is being repainted in anticipation of the big event that's important to the script - suddenly you've doubled the believability of your location!

Can't really suggest much to help with the low ceilings and ugly flourescent lighting... maybe use the stepladders and shoot from high angles? That could hide it nicely!

Anyhoo, until next time, this has been Count Vardulon's Tips for Low-Budget Filmmakers! TM and R, 2012.


How to Ruin Your Own Movie: Evil Things Edition

The film opens with the resolution, as is so popular in the found-footage genre-

So everybody dies at the end. Don't bother getting attached to any of them, folks! Not that you could - this is not a story about the world's most likeable college students. Lots of bickering, lots of people telling the main filmmaker to 'stop pointing the camera at me', as if that will somehow make it seem more realistic. Here's a tip for future 'found footage' flimmakers - in real life, people mind being filmed, or they don't. And if they mind, their friends turn off the cameras, because if they don't they seem like complete and utter tools.

So unless you want utter tools and lots of bitching from characters, make it so the people in your movie don't mind being filmed all the time. Trust me, all that people will notice is that the movie is pissing them off less than most 'found footage' films.

Another good thing to avoid is long sequences stolen directly from other 'found footage' movies. In this case, there's an extended (10 minute!) sequence where the characters get lost in the woods. It's not like this is even justified by the plot - they're not looking for anything or seemingly going anywhere. A group of five people apparently just think to themselves 'hey - let's go off wandering into the scraggly woods without compasses, maps, marked trails, or any idea of the geography of the area!'

Meaning that the characters are also too stupid to continue to live.


Criminal Minds 606: Devil's Night

We open on a montage of images from Detroit, MI - boarded and shuttered businesses and homes. Letting us know that, contrary to common belief, Detroit is not an economic Shangri-La of full employment where dreams come true and everyone, regardless of race, creed, or colour, goes to bed with a full stomach. Anyway, enough social commentary - let's hit the show!

A man in a hoodie drags someone out of the cage he keeps in the back of his van. He drags the unconscious man by way of chains to a makeshift pyre he's created out of old wooden pallets. Then, as the man screams for mercy, the villain pours gasoline everywhere and lights the place on fire!

He then stands around to watch the victim burn, which seems super-dangerous, as things like pallets are often made from pressure-treated wood, and might well contain a variety of hazardous chemicals that can escape in the smoke when they're set on fire. Of course, the fact that he's raising his arms like a supervillian on the cover of a Spider Man comic and worshipping the flames suggests that this isn't a man overly concerned with long-term ramifications of his actions.

Then we head over to Greg's house, where he's getting his son ready for Halloween! Which is apparently tomorrow night. His son doesn't want to dress as spider man (weird coincidence, right?), but this can't be important, so let's move on. To the briefing! Where we discover that this killer has been murdering people annually in the three days leading up to Halloween, which Reid calls 'Devil's Night'. Isn't that just October 30th, though? Or have they expanded their arson activities a few days because of the overcommercialization of the holiday? Also, why has it taken the police three years to notice this pattern? You'd think during the first year, when one body turned up on each of the days leading up to Halloween, killed the exact same way, they'd be a little suspicious. Then, when a person was burned to death on October 28th the next year their suspicion would be confirmed, and the FBI would be called in! Why has it taken until the third year - did the show just want to jack  up the body count for no good reason?

There's a little discussion about the fact that - as usual - this isn't about an arsonist (since those can't be caught), but rather a serial killer who burns people, and then we get the Prentiss Award-Winning line of the night, when Reid explains the MO of arsonists:

That's just not true at all. Arsonists will burn anything they think they can get away with burning - which is why they tend to focus so much on abandoned buildings. If arsonists tended to burn dwellings with people in them, which would often result in deaths, then the police would pay way more attention xto them than they actually do. It's a dangerous crime, but unless it causes a death or was obviously used for insurance fraud or as part of an extortion scheme, there's a reason it's not really a high priotity to investigate.

Still, the team wants to look into it, so off to Detroit they go! After the credits of course - although this week's round-table scene ends on the weirdest note, as Emily poses what the show seems to think is a brain-teaser designed to confound the team - how his he getting his victims across town and into buildings without being noticed?

Seriously, show? How is that worth cutting to the credits on? He has a vehicle, obviously. Just like every other serial killer you've ever tracked. When was the last time you chased someone who didn't have a vehicle with a large trunk or a van to stuff a body in? Half-wit.


Another Simpsons Question!

When Bart got a girlfriend in Season 6, it went terribly for him. So, in hopes of breaking the hold she had over him, he decided to just avoid her entirely.

Naturally, the joke is that he hasn't really thought this whole 'avoiding' thing through, and though he'd like to keep away from her for three months, it doesn't occur to him that they both attend the same school and church. In fact, a moment after he's revealed the joke of the scene by circling the first day he'll avoid her, Marge walks in and announces that it's time to go to church!

Funny scene and all, but I've got a question - why are they going to church on Monday?

Is it a prank on Bart (and all the children of the town) because it's also April first? Inquiring minds want to know, Simpsons!


TheAvod Specializes in Features!

That's right, with the new year dawning, it's time for a brand new special feature, this one concerning popular Canadian horror flick 'Bikini Girls on Ice!' So go out and grab yourself a copy, pop a bag of your preferred snack, and download our episode by right-clicking here!

Then wait a minute while it downloads before starting the movie. Oh, and also listen to the instructions at the beginning of the podcast so that you'll sync up the movie properly!

Now go and enjoy!


The Eighty-Fifth-Greatest Panel in the History of Comics

I think I can take a pass on commenting this week. Just happy to have found this.