Shiny Shelf

2005 – Before we forget…

By Shiny Shelf on 01 January 2006

As 2006 begins, now is the last chance we’ll have to round-up all those things that Shiny Shelf should have reviewed in 2005 but, due to the constraints of time and competence, didn’t get around to.

In terms of Comics, honourable mentions should go to ‘Thor: Blood Oath’, Michael Avon Oeming’s latest attempt to rehabilitate the unfashionable Norse hero, Boom Studios’ consistently good ‘Zombie Tales’ anthology series, and ‘Klarion the Witch Boy’, very possibly the best of Grant Morrison’s very good ‘Seven Soldiers’ project, with amazing art from Frazer Irving. David Lapham’s run on ‘Detective Comics’ probably deserved a nod – although it never quite caught fire, this was an intelligent interpretation of Batman.

As for TV, a number of long running series hit fallow patches. In the USA, the fourth season of ‘24’ reached new depths of racial stereotyping and uber-patriotism with roughly one instance of heavy-handed and dubiously effective torture / gross transgression of civil rights every two episodes. It also showed signs of being cobbled together on the trot rarely seen outside of British soap opera with non-sequiters and loose ends galore challenging any attempt to read the series as a whole – a victim of its own high concept. Thankfully ‘Alias’ hit its fourth with considerably better grace, with a return to form that peaked with a final two-parter that matched anything from the series’ lauded first two years.

Back in the UK, a similar hubris to ‘24’ could be seen in the third series of ‘Little Britain’ which coupled demonstration of the law of diminishing returns (Dafyd ended his final appearance with the statement, “I’m the only one in the village.” If a *character* is tired of his own catchphrase…) with some spectacularly unfunny sketches (the man who protested at the heat of his curry via a string of unrelated advertising jingles and catchphrases was, for me, the comic nadir of the year). More than just backlash, this was the sort of self-destructive boredom that makes one glad for those writers who kill off series at the peak of popularity.

Also apparently at the end of its run was ‘Peep Show’ – it’s difficult to imagine another after the devastatingly bleak finish to the third series a few weeks ago. Overall this was less agonising to watch than the previous series – which meant Shiny Shelf’s correspondent could actually stomach watching it – though no less funny. It will be good to see David Mitchell and Robert Webb’s sketch show next year.
‘Space Cadets’ was not so much disappointment as anti-climax. Initially the whole East-Anglia-as-Russian-spacebase scenario was compelling viewing but as soon as the final few mouth-breathers were ‘launched’ into ’space’ it all became a bit flat. The denunciation of the show as cruel never rang true. People who apply to reality TV shows deserve pretty much everything they get, especially in an age where an increasing number of grimy ‘talent’ agencies exist purely for reality TV applicants. I was mainly upset that Space Cadets never really pushed the envelope. Where was the alien attack? A bargain basement recreation of John Hurt’s death scene from ‘Alien’ – now that’s good telly.

Also of note on TV was ‘The Rotter’s Club’, a fantastic recreation of the memory of the 1970s, all orange and brown wallpaper and school uniforms, clearly aimed at current thirtysomethings. Despite the nostalgic element to it, it avoids the obvious signifiers like space-hoppers in favour of strikes at British Leyland and IRA bombs in pubs as well as teen love and adult affairs. Great casting and music too.

Our DVD section omitted to cover the ‘Doctor Who: The Complete First Series’ box set that came out towards the end of the year, but considering the level of coverage we gave the episodes on broadcast this probably isn’t a major lapse. Suffice to say if you loved the show, and can’t wait thirty seconds until the next BBC3/UK Gold repeat, you’ll want these DVDs, complete with commentaries, behind the scenes video diaries and minimal input from the departing Christopher Eccleston.

Other DVDs of note we really should have mentioned were the Special Editions of the first four ‘Batman’ films. These movies have been poorly served by previous DVDs, so its great to see them in decent transfers at last, with a level of care and attention pushing towards the lavish treatment of the ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Alien’ series DVDs, although whether the vile ‘Batman and Robin’ deserves such honour is a matter for… well, no real debate at all, it doesn’t. Still, ‘Batman’ and ‘Batman Returns’ are always worth having, and there may even be some curiosity value to a new edit of the mediocre ‘Batman Forever’. Good to see Warner Brothers getting their act together in time for ‘Batman Begins’. Whoever decided to get the stars of ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ to do voiceovers for the storyboards deserves a medal.

Finally, at the cinema quite a few Films slipped through the review net. Shockingly, there was no review ‘Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’, a brilliant film complete with a ‘King Kong’ spoof, which really does work equally well for very young kids and adults. Other good kids movies were Tim Burton’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, which went some way to stamping out the memory of Gene Wilder with an army of Deep Roys, and Miyazaki’s ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, which didn’t quite match the brilliance of ‘Spirited Away’ but got remarkably close.

On a more adult note, the combination of David Cronenburg directing an adaptation of a book by John Wagner with ‘A History of Violence’ proved every bit as violent and disturbing as you would expect, with a great central performance from Viggo Mortenson and a truly daft one from William Hurt. Most grievous of all omissions, however, was that we never reviewed ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’, Wes Anderson’s brilliant nostalgic, melancholic story of a famous oceanographer, his dead friend and long lost son. A wonderful eccentric script, a great cast and delightful stop motion animation make for a unique film which stands out as one of the movies of the year. Consider that a belated recommendation.

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By Shiny Shelf

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