A whydunnit is like a “whodunnit“, but where we already know the culprit from the get-go — either because we see it happen at the beginning like in Columbo, or because it’s pretty obvious — but where the fun of the film is to see why, exactly, (s)he dunnit.
The ingredients of a Shyamalan movie … summed up in short-attention-span-friendly bullet points
Writing this review made me reflect on M. Knight Shyamalan, who I’m a big fan of, and the ebb and flow of his career. Is he an “auteur”? And what does that word mean other than that the user is a film student? There certainly is a distinctive Shyamalan style which flows through and connects all his work: Sixth Sense, The Village, Stuart Little. But what are the ingredients of a Shyamalan movie? Here I’ve summed it up in short-attention-span-friendly bullet points.
Religious / Spiritual motif or thread (The Devil, Signs)
Protagonist who is mentally damaged from a previous tragedy, usually the death of a loved one (Signs, Sixth Sense)
A character who explains stuff / walking expositor, often to do with the religious motif or mythology underpinning the film (Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, The Happening, The Last Airbender, The Visit, The Devil)
Some wooden or flabby dialogue (see previous bullet point)
Self-indulgent Hitchcockesque cameo from the man, the legend himself: Shyamalan (Lady in the Water, Old)
Super double twist ending, with cheese (Sixth Sense, The Village)
Big Concept (the wind, err, kills? The Happening; people age quickly: Old; you cannot be injured: Unbreakable)
Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Unbreakable, Glass)
Colour symbolism, especially red (The Village, Stuart Little (no, but seriously though))
Medical disorder or sickness (blindness in The Village, various in the Unbreakable trilogy)
Sci-fi or fantasy setting or element to a horror-thriller movie (Signs, The Happening)
Of course, there are visual touches, too. These include seeing stuff in a reflection and shots that linger. But this post is about his writing. That all being said, can you come up with the next Shyamalan flick, paint-by-numbers style?
Are you a Star Trek or a Star Wars fan? Me, I always say Trek. And it’s true. But actually, my favourite Star of all is, and I am kind of embarrassed to say it: Gate. Yes, Stargate is my favourite Sci-fi franchise.
What I crave, in these imagination-blanched days of reboots, is a STARGATE REBOOT!!!
The concept: the Stargate franchise as it is, is in the old, pre-Battlestar Galactica reboot days. Twenty plus episodes, many filler eps, no real driving episode-to-episode narrative. So let’s modernise it and make it fit current TV norms.
10 episodes a season.
One continuous narrative throughout.
Reboot in an alternative universe style, so we don’t even need the same characters (but we can keep them if we want).
Keep it to the original Egyptian + Sumerian/Babylonian (c.3000BC) mythologies. Forget all this Greek and Norse rubbish that they used to pad the shows out with.
Here are some season idea outlines. This may not make any sense to you if you’re not a fan of the TV shows or the film.
Season 1: mostly follows the original 1994 StargÅte film. They discover the gate, try to crack the code, travel to Abydos, hide out, get in trouble, they make Ra leave Abydos (not destroyed as in the film?), “Tealc”-type character introduced in this season which happens in Episode 1 of Stargate: SG1 the series. Basically, series one is the discovery of the gate and the struggle against and removal of Ra from Abydos.
Season 2: where SG1 starts but darker. Abydos in chaos as they can’t rule themselves, politically dark, Ra going to return, many people want him, Abydonians realise the gate can take them to other worlds and how to do it, earth starts to lose interest in Abydos, team kills Ra. In short: The Return of Ra.
Season 3: fall out on earth of destroying Ra and disobeying orders, politics, another system lord (but not “Apophis”) takes over Abydos, we hear invasion launched against earth, desperately search worlds for weapons and technology or allies to fight goa’uld, by end of season ships enter our solar system. In short: the Empire Strikes Back
Season 4: Not sure. But I reckon: we destroy Goa’uld ship, suspiciously easily; actually, Goa’uld ship was a ruse to distract as goa’uld symbiotes are landed on earth and a facility is set up on earth secretly so the goa’uld can take over several world leaders and government to act as a fifth column to pave way for actual invasion. Perhaps this becomes clear by last episode. In short: The First Wave.
Season 5: … you probably have given up reading this by now, so I’ll call this fangasm to an end.
A howdunnit is like a “whodunnit“, but where we already know the culprit from the get-go — either because we see it happen at the beginning like in Columbo, or because it’s pretty obvious — but where the fun of the film is to see how, exactly, (s)he dunnit.
We’re living in a golden age of TV series, especially for fantasy and science fiction adapted from works of literature.
We’re living in a golden age of TV series, especially for fantasy and science fiction adapted from works of literature. I’m thinking especially Game of Thrones and The Man in the High Castle. And I’m now keenly awaiting the upcoming BBC series based on Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. This gives me hope that maybe some other of my favourite books might get adapted — and adapted well! I previously foretold there would be a series of Lord of the Rings, and it’s actually now happening.
Earthsea. Classic Ursula Le Guinn fantasy series set on a world of islands. This phenomenal world of creative genius needs a wider audience.
Discworld. This could actually be multiple series, with each based on one set of characters. Each book more-or-less can be one season, all books could form the whole series. Focus on maybe wizards, city watch, death, nowt else. Or a series based on one of the set of characters, e.g., the City Watch, but with each book more-or-less being a season. In any case, there are loads of great characters and stories to come out of the fertile mind of the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett.
Stargate. I want a total reboot, remake, reimagining of the Stargate and SG1 franchise. Get back to the basics of the Von Däniken “Chariots of the Gods” theory that the very most ancient gods were actually extraterrestrials, keep it with the Egyptian and Babylonian gods. Stargate SG1 had a very Star Trek: The Next Generation vibe of intergalactical banterous romp; I would want a reboot to have a darker, “edgy” DS9 type vibe.
In this post, I wanna share how I became a dedicated Star Trek fan.
NOTE: this article originally came out in 2017
Ever since I heard that a new Star Trek series (Star Trek: Discovery) was definitely for real actually happening, to be released this year, I’ve been super hyped and also a bit scared — what if it doesn’t live up to my hopes?
As you can tell, I’m a massive Trekkie… Or Trekker… whatever, I don’t care, but that’s for another post. In this post, I wanna share how I became a dedicated Star Trek fan.
I was born in 1984. When I was a kid, back in the dark days when the UK only had four channels and we heard mythical stories about how in America they had FORTY, the replays of the original Trekwere always on the telly at weekends. But I never paid attention. It was just another rubbishy show from the ’60s. It barely registered in my consciousness. I much preferred Land of the Giants(!)
Fast forward to age nine-ish. Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Trek reboot, had been running for several years and still I didn’t notice. And then one day, a season five episode came on: Cause and Effect. It involves the Starship Enterprise being stuck in a timeloop; the same catastrophe-tainted day keeps repeating itself. Think sci-fi horror version of Groundhog Day, or the film Triangle, but in space, and with dodgier make-up and production values. I was sold.
I won’t ruin the episode for you. Check it out on Netflix! But it marks the sort of intelligent, mind-bending stories that were par for the course in Trek. Every time a new mindbender or time-travel flick comes out, like Looper, I love it. But I always refer people to Trek.
If you’re new to Star Trek, here’s a few more episodes you might want to take a look at (all currently available on Netflix):
The Visitor (Deep Space Nine, series 4 episode 2): another great time-travel episode.
Hard Time (Deep Space Nine, series 4 episode 18): the psychology of guilt and suffering.
In The Pale Moonlight (Deep Space Nine, series 6 episode 19): the hardship of keeping your principles in war.
Trials and Tribble-ations (Deep Space Nine, series 5 episode 6): a good example of the lighter-hearted side of Trek, which pays homage to the original series with some neat special effects.
Sadly, no matter how I wax lyrical about the virtues of Trek, nobody’s buying it. The rubber ears, the dodgy acting, the huge number of episodes where, yes, nothing really happens. Sadly, TV has moved on. There is no Trek that fits modern conventions. For example, series are now limited to around ten episodes a season, there are no “one-off” episodes, and it’s all about moving the plot forward. The closest Trek came to this, and arguably it was instrumental in pre-empting the current trend, was the Dominion War story arc from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (my favourite incarnation of Trek, for what it’s worth).
But now with Star Trek: Discovery, I hope a new Trek for a new televisual era will be born, a Trek that captures the imagination of the young as much as the new Star Wars films have, as much as that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation captured mine some twenty plus years ago.
I don’t remember now; I was tanked up on Goulash at the time.
This is quite possibly the most pointless thing I will ever write. So… Enjoy!
When I go abroad, I love to watch foreign telly. Even though I have very little idea what they’re talking about, I enjoy seeing the differences between our superior British TV and their inferior outlander television. Think hetheth etheth etheth from The Fast Show. But more than that, I’m a language-lover, and so I just enjoy hearing authentic foreignese.
I recently went to Budapest. One night, I sat up till the wee hours (that’s Scotch for “small”; I was in Scotland recently, too) watching a film. I enjoyed it. Even though it was complete bollocks. But I have no idea what it was called and therefore I cannot do my obligatory post-film ritual of looking up every little thing about it on IMDB.com. This is now driving me to despair.
If I explain the film to you, Dear Reader, will you please psychically intuit its name and let me know? I will reward you handsomely. Behold! 100 Hungarian florints!
No, seriously: I will send you this coin if you tell me the name of the film (I’m not joking). A wholehundred! I swear it by the old Gods* and the new.**
So, the film then…
It was evidently a German film dubbed into Hungarian. It was like a crap German rip off of Hot Shots!. Yes, when you thought the spoof genre couldn’t get any worse: ladies and gentlemen, the German spoof.
The lead character: white guy, long dark hair, slightly chubby, glasses. He mostly had a Rambo-style headband, but earlier in the film he was wearing a leather jacket.
In the same office but ?a different scene (I don’t remember now; I was tanked up on Goulash at the time), random people from nowhere start pouring into the office and laughing at the protagonist. One guy dies from laughter and his ghost carries on this cruel spasmodic audible thoracic diaphragmatic contraction-based mockery.
There’s an oriental-looking bad guy with a dodgy ‘tache.
A Predator is hunting them and at one point invisibly slays the protagonist’s foes so that everyone, including the protagonist himself, thinks the protagonist is possessed of some psychic mage-like powers. This Predator eventually takes off its suit to reveal himself as __PLOT SPOILERZ__ a sexy female Vulcan.
In one scene the bad guy is speaking down the phone to a guy who is copying the words down. Reveal: the guy on the other end of the line is SAT NEXT TO HIM. Like, lulz.
After the protagonist (getting tired of typing this word already; how about “pr’ag”?) succeeds in his mission, they pour a trophy full of medals over his head. And he gets the girl. Wahey.
And that’s about all I remember. Good bye.
*YHWH, Allah, Zeus.
**Britney Spears, Jordan, Tom Hardy.
NOTE: It’s been six years since I saw this film, and I still can’t get it out of my head. Can someone PLEASE tell me its name??