Thursday, 28 July 2011


Scene of crime: Film

Defendants: Writers Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo

Case for the defence:

I give you Annie (Kristen Wiig), whose already depressing life sinks deeper when the bride's most recent 'best' friend, Helen (Rose Byrne) resents that a childhood friend should have the privilege of being maid-of-honour.

Annie takes her position as well as a broke and lovelorn girl can, but where her life seems pretty bad before, it gets worse – before long she's organising a meal that leads to explosive diarrhoea, sparking a panic (and air marshal) on a flight and destroying a bridal shower. Not only that, but she spurns the advances of a genuinely nice guy, Officer Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd) in yearning of use-them-and-lose-them Ted (Jon Hamm).

But when bride, Lillian, goes missing, it's not long before Annie steps in to save the day.

Witness statements:

"As Annie, Kristen Wiig, the film's co-author, is wonderfully good, able to behave quite crazily without being so exasperating that she loses our sympathy. It's her film and it's going to make her a star.

"Vomiting and diarrhoea jokes are not entirely new nor perhaps the apex of Western civilisation but the routine here, already famous, is destined to be a classic of its kind, the reference point. If you are going to do the uncontrollable emissions thing, having your sufferers, who have just ingested an "authentic" Brazilian meal, dolled up in bridal wear in a super-expensive all-white boutique, with just one loo, is a pretty good start - and they sure make the most of it." – David Sexton, the Evening Standard

"[T]here is something in Bridesmaids that is particularly interesting: how it offers a male, or male-seeming dimension that is not featured in all the other sugary girly-romcommy treatments of engagements, bridal showers, wedding ceremonies, etc: the world of status-envy and career-disappointment. It is the women's relationship with each other, and not with men, that is central.

"Obviously, Bridesmaids does resemble the Hangover template a little: one Bridesmaid, Megan (Melissa McCarthy) is in the Zach Galifianakis role. It's not exactly groundbreaking, but what's striking is how fresh and unusual the comedy looks." – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian


Chick flicks and Judges don't have a great history. Just check out the Sex & The City girls in the Black Museum at the Grand Hall of Justice. It's been known to make even some Cadet Judges turn pale.

The first half of the film is well-scripted, but during the second half I found my finger twitching on my lawgiver's trigger. The first half was relatively tight, but in the second characters were dropped and some scenes went on just a bit too long. Case in point, the 'freak out' scene at the bridal shower. Likewise, the drive-bys as she attempts to get love-interest Rhodes' attention, while funny, should have been kept tighter.

In addition, she dropped two characters, the newly-wed friend and the tired-mother friend, in the second half, making me wonder what she was doing having them if they went nowhere, particularly after some strong setting up for greater things in the first half.

Despite this, it's a well written film with a believable love-interest and moment of triumph that makes up for the other unbelievable parts.

Verdict & sentence:

Mumolo and Wigg, you sail pretty close to the wind in some parts, particularly in the second half. If you can cut this film from 2 hours 5 to 1hour 50 I will let you go without warning. Despite that, I think you have potential and that my judgment or your next film will be more positive.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Hour

Scene of crime: BBC Two

Defendants: Writer Abi Morgan & Producer Ruth Kenley-Letts
Case for the defence:

Your Honour, The Hour is a new serial set in the BBC of 1956, following the career of rising news star Bel Rowley (Romola Garai) as she is made producer for a new programme, also called The Hour. She is joined by an earnest Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) as a principled, indeed, rather too highly principled, reporter, although it takes a good few interviews and prods to get him in with them.

Fronting the programme is married ladies-man Hector Madden (Dominic West) who waste no time flirting with Bel, piquing Freddie. However, there's more to The Hour than office and sexual politics. An Egyptologist is murdered at a station and Freddie sniffs out something more than a simple stabbing and MI6's name is soon bandied about.

Freddie's unconventional ways of getting evidence are not just limited to bribing the police (not, I hasten to add Your Honour, an encouragement any should try to corrupt a Judge) and being friends with a debutante who seems to know more than a little something about the late Egyptologist. She too is found hanging by Freddie.

Bel's problems, are of a more worldly nature and soon discovers that controlling Hector may take up a lot of her time.

Witness statements:

"A love triangle in the early BBC was not deemed sufficient attraction, however. So an extraneous thriller plot has been rudely inserted into the mix. A brilliant academic is nastily murdered by being stabbed in the throat. A blonde deb (Vanessa Kirby) who may have been the prof's lover comes to warn her old pal Freddie that there's a conspiracy afoot. Then he finds her hanging from the shower, while a sinister chap lurks on street corners doing the Standard crossword as a broad indication of occult intelligence. What can it all mean? That the producers didn't have the confidence to do it straight, without this melodramatic underpinning, I'd say.

"Nor for all the creditable suitings and sets, have they found a style other than that of the usual period costume drama, camping it up." - David Sexton, The Evening Standard

"It isn’t Freddie’s pomposity I mind, so much as the drama’s. At times it appears to be less a story than an exercise in upbraiding the past for failing to live up to the politically correct ideals of the 21st century.... I wouldn’t want to give up on The Hour too soon. Abi Morgan, its creator, wrote 2003’s Sex Traffic, which won eight Baftas.

"Maybe next week’s episode will jettison the waffle about broadcasting and prejudice, and turn into a gripping thriller focused on Freddie’s mysterious murdered man. I hope so, but I have a bad feeling we’re in for more 21st-century sermonising. 'You know, we really oughtn’t to be smoking all these cigarettes – we’re creating a cancer timebomb. Oh, and do stop patting my bottom, sir, or in 55 years period drama audiences will look upon you most unfavourably.'" - Michael Deacon, The Telegraph


Touted as a 'British Mad Men'? Well, it has suits and smoking, I give you, and period soundtrack – you can't miss that, it's so loud it and consistent it obscures most scenes. But in terms of characters and story? No, in fact, I'm giving Morgan and Kenley-Letts a year for false representation.

On with the findings. Well, to start with Freddie's continual calling Bel 'Moneypenny' for no real reason bordered on making viewers think that was her name, and the historical inaccuracies of missiles in 1956 Russia is sloppy. Add six months to your sentence, Morgan.

But the most infuriating finding is that Freddie is just not sympathetic. He's meant to be principled, but bribing an officer for information is not good at the moment, and his principles are pontificated and pompous, not sympathetic. He didn't even try to save his debutante friend's live after cutting her noose (from a shower head – 1950s Britain must have built them a damn sight stronger than anything since).

As for the plot... I think there was one but forensics are still examining it. There's a TV show starting, and a conspiracy by the end of the programme, but it takes a long time getting there. Unlike me and my sentencing.

Verdict & sentence:

What did I tell you? Justice is swift. The Hour was turgid and dragged, and obsessed with the USA – apparently BBC news in 1956 only focused on America. This just highlighted the many flaws in the programme, from unsympathetic protagonists to making something exciting dull, and just too little believability.

To sum up the programme: worthy and turgid. To sum up the sentences: life. Take them away.

Friday, 1 July 2011

How to be Good

Scene of crime: Literary

Defendant: Nick Hornby

Case for the defence:

How to Be Good, published in 2001, is by my client, Nick Hornby, your honour . His story is that of Katie Carr, MD, and her husband, David Grant, the self-styled "angriest man in Holloway". It starts with her affair and almost Freudian slip of a request for a divorce.

But instead of the expected arguments, David goes to a spiritual healer, DJ GoodNews, who removes his anger and replaces it with a naïve, muscular do-gooderism. GoodNews soon moves in and encourages David and by extension his family – Katie and their two kids, Tom and Molly – and then their neighbours to take in the homeless. While Molly sides with David, as she did before GoodNews' laid his healing hands on her and took away her 'sadness', Tom refuses and sides with his mum, seeing it all as crock.

David works with GoodNews on a book, "How to be good", but while this fails to materialise, Katie's situation and take on family life are different by the end.

Witness statements

"Having established the promise of the scenario, however, it seems that Hornby does not quite know where to take it. The homelessness project fizzles out before it has really got started, David's faith in GoodNews wanes, and when Katie's self-examination threatens to be something darker, more destructive in the manner of, say, Hanif Kureishi's Intimacy, Hornby pulls the plug on seriousness and deflates her despair. Her story thus ends a little unsatisfactorily, drifting between social comedy and the mundane compromises she makes to preserve faith and love. You might say that, by the end, the questions this engaging book opens are too big for the lives it describes." – Tim Adams, The Guardian

"''How to Be Good'' is replete with Hornby's trademark wisecracks, aperçus and put-downs[...]But in the end, this oddly retro novel is hamstrung by the unequal contest between Katie and GoodNews, and by Katie's monotonous hand-wringing. ''High Fidelity'' and ''Fever Pitch'' grabbed the reader by the lapels because the narrators -- the record store owner and Hornby himself -- while slightly touched in the head, were true originals. Katie Carr, Hornby's marionette in ''How to Be Good,'' is a far less entertaining M.C. She is the kind of intelligent, practical woman who builds first-class societies but second-rate novels." – Joe Queenan, The New York Times


A Nick Hornby book set amongst North London Guardian readers. Hornby, you can get away with it once, twice, and just about three times, but this is too much. I'm itching to sentence you just for that. You should write about what you know, so I'm giving you 200 hours community service outside of Holloway so you can get to know other bits of BritCit. Don't worry, you'll be protected from most juve attacks. Hope you have your own body armour as we're all out at the moment.

You wrote this in 2001 but even by then it must have seemed dated with late-1990s references to 1-2-3-4 Get with the Wicked, 'crazyily down with it' lady vicars, and fretting about comprehensive kids who ought to be more loveable in principle then they really are.

But those aren't the worse sins. It's the lack of story, the picking up and dropping of themes, and generally ambling like a senior citizen in a motoped that infuriates me most. And I get infuriated easily. GoodNews is a poor pun on a a non-religious Gospel. Yet it never gets anywhere past one convert, David, and no real guidance. The How to be Good within How to be Good is never really shown and so it's never sent up or discussed. It's a plot device.

Unlike your other books Hornby, you rely too much on tell. And Katie does tell, mainly to us the readers and Judges, but also to her one-dimensional non-listening friend. As a Judge perps tell me a lot of things, but I need evidence and it's in desperately short supply here. As such, you fail miserably.

Verdict & sentence:

Automatic five years hard labour for reminding me of Richard Blackwood's existence. Add a further four in the isolation cubes for depending on telling over showing, and a further three for slipping for previous good form. You also used a very flimsy pun with GoodNews, so we'll round it up to 15 years.

But where do you think you're going Hornby? I'm not done with you yet – I've many other of your books to deal with. You're going back into the holding cells.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

X-Men: First Class

Scene of crime: Cinema

Defendants: Director Matthew Vaughn, storywriters Sheldon Turner and Bryan Singer

Case for the defence:

It's 1962 and the world is starting to become aware of the mutants in its midst. Charles Xavier, newly created professor (or just lecturer?) at Oxford University is drafted by the CIA to help investigate mutants. Abandoning his scholarly work, Prof X soon shows himself as a man of action and recruits other mutants, including holocaust survivor Erik Lensherr – Magneto.

With the US and USSR squaring off over the Cuban Missile crisis, it's all due to the machinations of former death camp doctor Shaw and his team of mutants, their plan to devastate the world to let mutants, under Shaw, prosper. The X-Men disagree.

Witness statements:

"First Class embraces a few embarrassing clichés: the few non-Caucasian characters are all dead or evil by halfway through the film, and a handful of already-ridiculous lines get infused with operatic, laughable portent that clash with the movie’s otherwise more humanistic take on the superhero genre. But First Class largely does what it sets out to do, by turning out another crowd-pleasing comic-book film designed to bring in new fans while gratifying the old ones." – Tasha Robinson, The AV Club

"X-Men may not take your breath away - director Matthew Vaughn is a kinetic director but he lacks personality and still can't handle emotional beats - but it has enormous pulp watchability. It also wins bonus points for not bothering to shoot in 3D." - Siobhan Synnot, The Scotsman


X-Men 3 disappointed – 30 years in the cubes for the production team if I recall – but that's not to stop Hollywood since the discovery of the reboot. First Class is meant to be set in 1962 but bar a few tape-to-tape computers and Emma Frost's fembot dress sense, and Prof X paying for a beer with the equivalent of a £100 note, there's not much to suggest that this is then. Even the Cuban Missile Crisis and the USSR does little to make the atmosphere 1960s – the tweed and rollnecks are more retro than original. After studying the Ipcress File and Bond films in the archives, this just doesn't match up.

I dislike superhero films out of principle – every time one comes out, another bunch of juves square up to the Judges thinking that a costume makes them invincible. A nightstick to the head soon dispels that idea. This one goes at a good pace and overall lacks the cheesey dialogue of most films. The set pieces are well done and it avoided 3D, putting their money in script work it seems.

Verdict & sentence:

Comic book adaptations are more hit than miss. Or in terms of the Justice Department, more cubes than seats are dished out. First Class isn't up to the Oxford brilliance of Professor Xavier, but it has put in a steady effort. There's also a reprimand for obvious use of trope - black man dies first.

However, I'll issue notice Vaughn, Turner and Singer – you've been warned about the franchise collapsing. Do this and I'll make an example of you. You've been warned.

Friday, 8 April 2011

America's Most Hated Family in Crisis & My Brother the Islamist

Scene of crimes: BBC Two Louis Theroux & BBC Three My Brother the Islamist

Defendants: Louis Theroux & Robb Leech

Case for the defence:

Two programmes in the space of a few days deal with what to many is an alien phenomenon – people who, devote their lives to God (or Allah) and letting everyone who isn't with them just why they're going to hell.

Louis investigates the infamous Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) - nominally Christians, but going by most of their comments, not a Christianity anyone else would recognise. As one protestor asks in the video – "did you think Jesus died just for you?"

Louis had been there before, for the 2007 documentary The Most Hated Family in America and returned to find how the 'most hated family' had changed – including the casting out of daughters by fathers due to what most would see as minor transgressions. Louis played the bewildered outsider who would never understand the cult's teachings, and they didn't seem to keen to take him on (or even one potential convert).

Robb, by contrast, was bewildered but not an outsider as his subject, Salahuddin, formerly known as Rich, Robb's step-brother. Both grew up in Weymouth but one day Rich read about his brother as being one of the extremists following Anjem Choudary, the 'mad mullah' who wants sharia law in Britain. This was odd to Rich as just a year before he had gone on a holiday to the Med together, presumably for the usual sun, booze and birds.

Now he was protesting military funerals and calling for adulteresses to be punsihed. Like the WBC, if you aren't with them you are against them and they want nothing to do with you other than let you know just how utterly wrong you are. Like the WBC, it cut up families – by the end, Robb could not take that his step-brother would only shake with his 'unclean' left hand. Not all converts were this distant - 17-year-old Ben (Ahsan) and his relationship with his mother, although not broken, was a another aspect to the documentary.

Despite being about two different religions, the style of interviewing – very much background, and letting the subjects peak for themselves – and topics of religion and family (and sanctimony) showed more in common despite the surface differences.

Both focused on people who saw problems in their world and turned to men who gave easy, un-nuanced answers – Fred Phelps (WBC) and Anjem Choudary (Islam). Of course, I hasten to add, the Chief Judge and the Judge System in no way falls under this and it does answer all life's problems.

 Witness statements:

"There was a mixture of bafflement and sadness in his voice as he tried to get his head around being told the young Muslims he’d encountered through Salahuddin, all perfectly welcoming, could never truly be his friends until he converted to Islam.

"That was never on the agenda and, by the end of his film, Robb and his stepbrother were as far apart as they were at the start." – My Brother the Islamist - Keith Watson, The Metro

"Despite their perverse attitude to proselytising, it is impossible not to conclude that the Phelpsites love publicity of any description. Theroux has given it to them in spades – many sects, convinced of their own invincible rectitude, can only dream of two hours of largely unchallenged primetime television. No wonder they welcome him. If there is a next time, he ought to take a theologian with him who might penetrate their carapace of biblical certainty and challenge them on their own ground." – America's Most Hated Family – Stephen Bates, The Guardian

"[Robb] Leach followed Salahuddin to east London, to find out what had turned him, within six months of converting to Islam, into a loudspeaker-toting fundamentalist. He didn't really reach a conclusion, but he did meet other converts preaching global jihad, including 17-year-old Ben, another white boy from Weymouth. That they reminded me strongly of daft Barry (Nigel Lindsay) in Chris Morris's sublime dark comedy Four Lions did not, alas, make them remotely funny." – My Brother the Islamist - Brian Viner, The Independent

"The "in Crisis" bit of the title turned out to be a bit wishful. Yes, a couple of members had managed to escape the lunacy and appear to have survived intact. But their departure had only stiffened the resolve of the faithful who – however close they'd been to the heretics – stuck to the party line that God knew exactly what he was doing and would take his revenge for eternity. The group also now have a weird line in bilious pop mash-ups, adding lyrics of venomous religious piety to chart-topping hits. One hopes that the younger members might still be saved but for the elders who continue to feed them poison the suggestion painted on an opposition poster seemed most appropriate: 'Drink the Kool-Aid already'." – America's Most Hated Family – Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent


At first I wondered why the Mega City Prosecution Service brought both of these cases together to be tried – one's about  Grud-and-man bothering Christians, one about Alluh-and-man bothering Muslims. True, it's an archaic case as religion's no longer allowed – we have enough crazies without adding Grud to the mix – but on close examination I can see why.

Both documentary makes are restrained and let the subjects speak on their own, even if it were me or another Judge they would have a very long list of questions to answer under interrogation. Both groups, both fundamentalists, were nice enough individually (subject to any crimes they may have committed, I haven't investigated them. Yet) but as a group hateful. Both protested against soldiers, and told others that hell is the coming price of their disbelief. Wish I was there, they'd see the cubes as their punishment soon enough.

Both groups of perps were doing their best to work the primitive 21st internet and media to their advantage and encourage others to hate in their own special way. Already there are so many crimes that this should be a summary case against them – they're easily looking at isolation for the rest of their lives, with the potential for cryogenics to ensure that they do not escape their just punishment with death.

There were differences between them of course. The WBC had women as active as the men, something the Muslims did not approve of (so add sex discrimination to the charge sheet). My Brother the Extremist also had some more nuanced members than the WBC group, even those who left. The Muslims too were keen on converts, while the WBC wallowed in smugness as their belief of being the elect. While they both seemed to be keen for the Apocalypse, the WBC came across as so shallow that it was almost all it wanted – one of the subjects herself said she 'hoped' it would be soon.

Of course the overall difference is that My Brother the Extremist was more personal that Theroux's investigation, and Theroux's ignorance and unchallenging tone was a pain, while Robb's could be seen as someone who wanted to remain with his brother.

Verdict & sentence:

As I said, the charges against the subjects are so obvious that there's no need for a defence for them, they're already being prepared for isolation.

Theroux, you have mitigating circumstances for wanting your subjects to speak out, but by descending to their level by giving your beliefs you then don't defend them or challenge theirs. This is bad practice, albeit not a custodial offence, so let this be a mark in your official government file.

Robb Leech, by contrast, your lack of challenging of the subjects appeared to allow you to gather more evidence against them and as such is excused. I want to see further evidence of your work, however, just to be certain.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Unsettling Case File of the Reimagined Detective

Scene of crime: BBC One

Defendants: Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss

Case for the defence:

Sherlock re-imagines Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Victorian 'consulting detective' in modern London, complete with Baker Street address and Afghan war veteran Dr Watson as his sidekick.

While how Dr Watson and Holmes meet, and displays of Sherlock's observational powers, stay true to the original version, things soon take a turn to the modern in these cases. However, murder and crime – as well as his nemesis, Morairty – are, unfortunately, timeless.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Dr Watson and in the first episode, A Study in Pink, an update on A Study in Scarlet and its poison pills.

Witness statements:

"Sherlock worked because it was having fun. It also let down the po-faced pretence that the suffocating abundance of TV detective shows often labour under: that the detective actually cares about the victims. This Holmes revelled in horror: “Four serial suicides and now a note. It’s Christmas!” How have Barnaby, Taggart, Marple et al hidden their own jubilation for so long?

"The new Sherlock is quite clearly a sociopath: we were told that he is incapable of friendship, has no interest in sex, and takes drugs. Quite gone are the hints, obfuscations and unsaids in Rathbone and Brett’s films that meant we were never quite sure if Holmes was a total nut job or a jolly decent bloke. Here we have only a nut job – albeit a brilliantly portrayed one – and that, I think, is a bit of a shame." – Serena Davies, The Daily Telegraph

"I like Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. He has the right edge and energy, the razor-sharp mind, but also the lack of social skills and impatience that appears to border on cruelty...Less successful is the story of this opener, called A Study in Pink. A disgruntled cabbie with a terminal condition forces random people into playing Russian roulette with deadly pills. They all lose.

"I had a nagging sense of recognition throughout. There's something about the pace of it, and the comedy; even the youthful hero with the cheek and the cheekbones and the geeky chic - charming, attractive, but asexual . . . what is it reminding me of? And then it came to me! It's no surprise I suppose, given who's behind it, but I think Steven Moffat has created Sherlock Whoms." - Sam Wollaston, The Guardian


Modernising classics can be dangerous, and as such I've locked away in secure isolation several writers who have tried to do so. They don't mind, they're so wrapped up in their own brilliance that they fail to notice where they are.

Moffat has good form – he updated Doctor Who and brought it to a wider audience without succumbing to question-mark bedecked tailoring. And gains judicial approval here is Cumberbatch, who manages to keep Holmes' solitude and idiosyncrasies and make them believable, he's lost some of the superman qualities of the original. In addition, Mrs Hudson now has some character to her.

Character, in general, I approve. Script, I don't.

Starting with a press conference – or as it's known to the Judges, an exposition plant – and lazy, heavy, references to blogs and texts doesn't make a great start. Nor is making us believe that army doctors are sent out to fight.

It also repeats itself many times – saying out loud the CGI text, which analysis suggests is 'Holmesvision', although it is more TV for the learning impaired – or characters repeating what has just been said. But I repeat myself. Unnecessary and awful. It also has Dr Watson as a voice but not an actor – he says things are "fantastic" but fails to act or react that way.

As for tropes, you're already guilty of the press conference. You then descend to contrived coincidences and the atmospheric, abandoned warehouse. There is also a lot of stupidity proportional to the density of the plot, where Holmes is brilliant enough to notice tiny mud but not that he didn't order a cab despite the cabbie's persistence.

All in all, Holmes himself is brilliant, but he's surrounded by lesser beings. Shame that includes the scriptwriters.

Verdict & sentence:

First, counsel for the defence - 12-weeks in isolation for expressing doubt on the ability of the Judges to remove crime. I always knew you were on the side of the perps, now you are one.

Moffat and Gatiss, in your defence Holmes is rounded, and believable, and an improvement on the original. However, you sacrificed the other characters, particularly Dr Watson. For this you get a mere decade in isolation, and in recognition of your past talents, you will be eligible for parole after nine years.

However, you will report to me in a month's time for there is something I must deliberate on. The original Holmes was not just a detective, he changed the shape of policing and was an inspiration to forensic detection, something to which I and my fellow Judges are greatly indebted. Your current version of Holmes is a variant on the current crop of TV detectives, not the unique one of the original. What I need to decide is whether producers of your calibre are capable of such brilliance or if you are guilty of nothing more than being yourself. It is also your sentence.

Case dismissed, don't let me see you here again on this charge.

Friday, 21 January 2011

The Walking Dead

Scene of crime: FX UK

Defendants: Executive Producer Frank Darabont & Gale Anne Hurd

Case for the defence:

The dead walk! The Walking Dead began life as a comic book before being signed up to a limited run of six episodes to see if their was appetite for seeing the undead eat the living. There is, and there'll be 13 more episodes hitting our screens in October. This first series has introduced us to sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes first as he awakes from a coma to discover that the undead have mostly conquered the world and then on his quest to Atlanta, Georgia, US as he hopes to find his family.

The short (by US standards) series means that he's reunited by the third episode, much to the disquiet of friend and colleague Shane Callies, who had taken Rick's place as man of the family in more ways than one. The survivors include a range of mostly working-class to lower-middle class survivors based on a hill on the outskirts of the city. With minorities forced to live with racists, and the living desperate to survive, momentum comes from the human drama rather than any zombie-slaying.

By the end we discover that these are Type P & Type F zombies due to an infection of unknown origin that turns all who are infected into the undead in hours. With no city safe due to the sheer mass of zombies, the survivors are determined to find somewhere they can live in peace.

Witness statements:

"Finally! We’ve waited so long – far too long – for a zombie TV series to arrive, and the quality of Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s ongoing comic is such that it’s been well worth the wait... Our only disappointment is that the series’ initial order is just six episodes. IT’S NOT ENOUGH!

"Our only complaint is that six episodes simply ISN'T ENOUGH!

"The way the scriptwriters handle the character of Shane continues to fascinate." – Edited statements from Ian Berriman, SFX

"The more I think about it, the more I believe that the way the big writing shake-up of The Walking Dead staff is going to make or break the show. Although I might be overestimating the importance of the event, the exact nature of which is still elusive, it definitely looks like Frank Darabont wants to take a more auteur-driven approach to the show, working hands-on with all the scripts and only farming out stories to freelancers when absolutely necessary.

"I don't think we'll really be able to judge this show fairly until it gets the time to stretch in its 13-episode second season." - Leonard Pierce, The AV Club


Case for the defence is commended for using Comic, not Graphic Novel. Take away the pictures and you rarely have the kind of sound dialogue and character development that makes a good novel (and one year for Public Lechery for those who just complained that they'd miss the most common superpower).

This is demonstrated in episode Vatos by the comic's author, Robert Kirkman, which is by far the weakest episode. The series as a whole has weak dialogue and broadly painted characters, most of whom are barely seen and their names forgettable, but Vatos is the nadir. I'm expected to believe that hardened perps are really just nurses and porters looking after the aged, and that a simple couple of lines of dialogue can change everyone.

In terms of characters, honest Rick Grimes is only interesting because he's compared with his pallid wife. Instead, and like Mad Men, it's the morally confusing characters who are of most interest – former partner (and unaware cuckold) Shane and racist-but-practical Daryl are the two who are the most human and most interesting. Other times when we are introduced to characters it's jaw-grindingly clear who will die, as is the case with two girls fishing and bonding and reminiscing about their father. It's not just a zombie bite that can induce vomiting.

Despite this the series as a whole moved at a good pace – while Vatos had one character rescued in the same episode, another rescue was drawn over two episodes (or perhaps even series). The scientist and the Centre for Disease Control was rather clunkily done, and with a heavy dose of Exposition Computer.

Verdict & sentence:

My judgment is appropriate to a series on the undead – it's not a full reprieve, nor a full punishment. On the whole, the characters are pale, disposable and it's heavily signed when they are of importance. However, some such as Shane and Daryl stand out and will continue to generate interest. Likewise, the focus on the human drama over zombie slaying has stopped this from rotting in the schedules.

Yet some episodes have been clumsily done and the usual zombie clichés – relatives who won't slay their loved ones, people unprepared to fight – are there. That they have chosen to site themselves in Camp Sitting Duck with no defence nor weapons or training is a dissolution of their civic service. Judges know how to cope with zombies –start shooting and don't stop till the undead are dead.

Overall, I look forward to judging the second series. Case adjourned.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Case File 007Wii: GoldenEye 007

Scene of crime: Wii

Defendant: Eurocom, developer

Case for the defence:

GoldenEye 077 is a first-person shooter reimagining, not a remake, of the 1997 N64 classic of the same name. With Daniel Craig replacing Pierce Brosnan as Bond the game has been given a darker feel to reflect how the latest Bond films.

Likewise the original story has been reimagined, mostly following a modernised version of the GoldenEye film and new versions of the original characters appear, including Alec Trevelyan and Xenia Onatopp.

Released only on the Wii, players can use the Wiimote, the Wii Zapper, Gamecube or Classic controllers to play the game, giving the welcome option to play the 'traditional' way with controllers, or point at the screen and shoot with the Wiimote. The game engine is based on Dead Space so has a developed and smooth Wiimote use, although aiming is still rather shaky.

The dark tone is clearly aimed at the Call of Duty market, where grey and moody (or, if in the desert, sandy and moody) are the prevailing tones. In addition, the free online multiplayer option means that Nintendo's rather sparse online community has a new title to play with.

Witness statements:

"Playing updated versions of the original Dam and Facility levels in the single-player campaign is a fun experience at first, but the game as a whole suffers from generic level design, awful quick-time events, and a terrible final boss fight...

"GoldenEye 007 doesn’t feel like the retro dream it’s meant to be. This Bond game is lost in limbo somewhere between last generation and modern day shooters. Only diehard Bond or FPS fans with nothing but a Wii should bother picking this one up." – Tim Turi, GameInformer

"Despite some painfully dumb enemy AI, the campaign is worth your time, especially since it won’t take long, and the multiplayer split-screen is a blast — both in the actual gameplay and the nostalgic feelings it will illicit.

Overall, GoldenEye 007 does the name proud. A good reboot of a classic game, and a must have for the FPS starved fans on the Wii." – Ryan Fleming, Digital Trends


Reimaging is the same as a remake, just as every time a perp engages in a "trivial matter" he soon finds out that he's actually carried out a major infraction of the law. And that's just what this is, a big crime that's trying to get away with it.

Gameplay is grey. The original game, which I booted up on the N64 in the Hall of Records, is Bond through-and-through, from the mock BBCFC classification (impersonating a government department, ten years to the development team on that one) to the 'dossier' save files and Bond music. The Wii version starts with a long, flat copyright notice and fades to grey and generic music that could be found in any shooter.

I like having options and stuck with the Wii Zapper as it reminded me of my own Lawgiver, but that the training mission consists of assassinating government staff is not condoned.

Verdict & sentence:

The last time I sentenced someone for Remake Perpetuated as a Reimagining I had to go up against Charles Bronson. I won.

Nothing tells me that this is Bond, the atmosphere is lacking and it's replace with Daniel Craig and voice acting that has so many flat lines I've declared the script legally dead. I think that's for the best for even the afterlife is beyond my jurisdiction, for now.

The gamemakers have taken Call of Duty and simply added Daniel Craig's features and a vague reference to the 1995 film. Then they added shaky controls and a pedestrian gameplay, other than Bond can now happy slap and upload the contents to YouTube with his mobile phone.

Verdict: Execution. I would consider using a PP7 to carry this out but not being Bond fans you wouldn't recognise the reference. On your knees and face the wall.