Posted tagged ‘spotlight’

Spotlight on Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost

August 16, 2008

It took years, but Spaced, the greatest sitcom ever, has finally been released in the US.  This masterpiece from the trio +1 of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) and Jessica Stevenson (now Hynes) is probably the most geek friendly show of all time.  Imagine what Friends would be like if the characters played Resident Evil and Paintball instead of hanging around a coffee shop all the time, and if all the direction referenced some other piece of pop culture history.

The show lasted two seasons on the BBC before Wright, Pegg and Frost moved on to produce two of the greatest comedic films since Monty Python split up.  Shaun of the Dead is their tribute to zombie films, and contains one of the best punchlines ever to appear in a horror film (namely that the presence of zombies doesn’t change anything).

This was followed with their skewed take on cop movies, Hot Fuzz, which I rank as the best comedy of the decade, I truly cannot remember a time I’ve laughed harder than during my first viewing of this, and it’s one of the few comedys that doesn’t diminish in the slightest upon repeated viewings.

As of now the group has split up temporarily to work on other projects, with Pegg appearing in a few American films (including the upcoming Star Trek revival) , Frost working on the BBC show Hyperdrive, and Wright working on a couple comic adaptations (Ant-Man, Scott Pilgrim).  But I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of this collaboration, especially since Pegg and Frost are currently working on a screenplay together.

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Spotlight On: Charles Stross

July 12, 2008

The last few years have been a particularly good time to be a fan of hard s.f.  The latest crop of writers have been the strongest to hit the scene since the Golden Age, and the most prolific of these writers by far is Charles Stross.

Stross’ early works put him at the forefront of Singularity (the rapture of the geeks) stories and set him apart as a writer of incredible ambition.  Accelerando in particular was a novel with some lofty goals, which was doomed to failure.  The story is a generational saga that begins in a future that is at the outer reaches of human comprehension and then leaps forward from there, making it nearly impossible to read although worth the effort of trying.

His more recent novels have been far more controlled, and all the better for it.  Glasshouse, which was up for the Hugo last year but lost to Rainbow’s End, was one of the most enjoyable and imaginative reads I’ve encountered in years, combining the Singularity with Desperate Housewives and game theory.

In addition, Stross is also notable in that his stories tend to be focused largely on the economic aspects of the worlds he creates.  He’s not unique in this regard (Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom springs to mind), but he may be the first major s.f. writer to make it such a reoccuring theme of nearly all his novels.  Besides the economics 2.0 of Accelerando he’s also written of a bank heist in a virtual world (Halting State) and an entire series on Mercantilism (The Merchant Princes), all of which are well worth reading.

Stross has become a key part of any modern s.f. collection, and he’s only getting better.

Spotlight On Futurama

June 28, 2008

In honor of the new dvd release this past week, the Beast With a Billion Backs, this weeks spotlight is on the most geek friendly show of all time, Futurama (an indespensible part of any dvd collection).  The show is of course Matt Groening’s failed follow-up to the Simpsons.  Failed because it never found much of an audience when it was on Fox (which might have had something to do with their erratic scheduling for it).  However, it has since gone on to huge cult status, revivals on both the Cartoon Network and Comedy Central, and now a series of straight-to-dvd films.

Now the reason Futurama is worth mentioning here is that it has what is perhaps the most highly educated writing staff for a show in television history.  Amongst the writers are:

David X. Cohen who studied physics at Harvard and computer science at Berkley.

Ken Keeler who has a PhD in applied mathematics from Harvard University and who spent time at Bell Labs.

Jeff Westbrook a former professor of computer science at Yale.

Kristin Gore, novelist and the daughter of the former Vice-President.

The end result is one of the best pieces of science-fiction television has ever seen.  The show pokes almost equal fun at society and advanced physics.  The previous dvd release even had a math lecture as a special feature!  This is a show that just understands all the unexplainable aspects of geekdom (like our love of fight pits, killer robots, and penguins with shotguns).  It’s also perhaps the most environmentally conscious show ever, with regular environmental themed episodes (often featuring guest appearances by Al Gore) and carbon-neutral dvd packaging.