Saturday, December 28, 2013

Merry Krampus (and a Grimm New Year)

You better watch out, you'll probably cry, and I have a good reason to tell you why. Krampus is coming, to town.

Well, I should have done this review before Christmas, but I am doing it now, and so it will be short. This Christmas special was absolutely creepy, and Krampus is probably my favourite paranormal creature on the show so far. Now I have read that NBC calls him a Wesen, and many people presume he is Wesen, but I disagree on several fronts. First, Silas Weir Mitchell in an interview said he is not Wesen, but his taxonomy is very confusing. Some people say that could have been before they found out he was Wesen. Another thing. If he is Wesen, why aren't there other Krampus' around? Or are there but they weren't mentioned? Some people say he is a special one of a kind Wesen, but I think there should be a boundary between what is and isn't Wesen. From what other people are saying, if something can Woge, it is Wesen. I don't think I agree. Remember, in Episode 3.6 "Stories We Tell Our Young", the boy was infected with a protozoan, otherwise known as the Grausen. He kind of woged, but he wasn't Wesen.

This has many similarities between El Cucuy and La Llorona. Many people presume that El Cucuy was Wesen, because she could woge. Not only that, but (and this goes for El Cucuy too), if Krampus is Wesen, then how come he has been in Wesen mythology for so long? Centuries back, naughty kids where beat up, put into his sack, hanged from the highest tree, and then eaten on the winter solstice. If he was Wesen, then how come there aren't more of him around? It has been mentioned that there is only one Krampus. That is the one question that I believe shows he is not Wesen. This isn't a recent phenomenon. An argument could be made that Krampus and El Cucuy are just very special one of a kind Wesen who live for an incredibly long time. As far as I know, Wesen can be killed, and they don't live for ever. If that is true, then Krampus and El Cucuy are likely not Wesen, and they will exist as long as humans do.
The only known two non-Wesen on the show have been La Llorona and Volcanalis. For La Llorona, she has existed for a very long time, and she doesn't really woge (or they never showed it, they did show her demonic form) and can travel from place to place in a blink of an eye, has hypnotic power with children, and always vanishes on Halloween.
Now lets take that with Krampus. He has existed for a very long time, he does kind of woge, and seems to just know who is naughty and who is nice, and always disappears after the winter solstice. Another thing, Krampus has a sack of coal, from the north pole. How does someone get that much coal from the north pole? I believe for that reason that Krampus is not Wesen.

Now, enought about the almost too confusing taxonomy of Krampus and the episode itself. I did get scared of Krampus, and I think they did a great job with him. I am glad I was a good boy this year, because I do not want to be whipped, put into a sac, hung from the tallest spot of the tallest tree, and then be eaten by a man dressed up as santa with a terrifying face, mountain goat horns, and an unexpected flaming red forked tongue that scared the living crap out of me!

It did have it's flaws, and the writers could have made Krampus clearly non-Wesen, but I did enjoy the episode. I should also add this is the first time in a very long time that Nick fought against someone who was able to overpower him in a fight. Krampus didn't just match Nick, he positively kicked his butt in the second half of the fight.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Walking with Dinosaurs Review

In 1997, a wonderful man came up with an idea for creating a new type of documentary on dinosaurs. Like you could go back in time and feel like you are actually watching these incredible animals live their lives. His name was Tim Haines. And so, he created one of the best ideas in television history. Not to view dinosaurs as dusty dirty old bones in the ground and in dingy museums, but to see them as real animals. 
It may be outdated and inaccurate, but Walking with Dinosaurs was to start a whole new generation of television making. Using animatronics and CGI to bring lost worlds to life. It was positively the spark that ignited the interest in dinosaurs for children, especially me. 

That being said, the recent movie adaption doesn't even give off an iota of light. Sadly, it is full of cliches, useless voice overs, and insults to the original series.

Before I bash this movie repeatedly in the head with my words, I will talk about the positives. I was happy to see lesser known animals on the big screen, especially those who have never been depicted for the first time. Those include Hesperonychus, Alphadon, Chirostenotes, and Parksosaurus. 
The other cool part was about how accurate this film was. I have never been happier about an accurate depiction of dinosaurs than this. I enjoyed seeing feathered dinosaurs on screen, and they where correctly feathered. Primaries on the second finger, no noticeable shrink-wrapping, and no half-ass feathering. However, despite that there is one caveat that I will go into a little later in this post. 
I was also happy to see that none of the theropods had pronated hands. At least form what I saw. There where a few times when the hands kind of moved, but never full pronation. There could have been a few slip ups I didn't focus on, but for me it has past the accuracy test, not 100%, as paleontology always progresses, but I have never seen such an accurate depiction of dinosaurs anywhere.
I also loved the colours on the animals. The dull patterns on the Pachyrhinosaurus, Alphadon, and Quetzalcoatlus where not impressive, but the Hesperonychus was beautifully coloured after the golden pheasant, Alexornis resembled an ivory-billed woodpecker, the Gorgosaurus was a beautiful iridescent blue, and Troodon resembled a hoatzin. However, the best, best animal of the entire film, was Chirostenotes, which was by far, the most beautiful feathered dinosaur I have ever seen! Oh boy was I laughing like a second grade girl when I saw them move!
The movie itself was also beautifully filmed, and the shots of the Alaskan and New Zealand landscapes where breathtaking, especially that brief shot of the north pole in space. 
The animation and CGI felt right in all places, and the interaction of the CGI animals and the live backdrop was also spot on. I also got to see it in 3D, and the 3D was absolutely breathtaking, and when two azhdarchids are pecking at the main characters eye, your eye is being pecked out too!

Unfortunately, all those positives above are no match to the enormous amount of negative to follow. Head bashing words are about to flood.
This is an insult to the BBC series in everyway. It is marketed at one audience; children, and very young children at that. It is pretty evident in the annoyingly non-stop shitty voice-overs with terrible puns, shit and vomit jokes, and modern day uses.
The voice overs where pretty needless, and while the main characters are slightly anthropomorphized, the voice overs seemed out of place with the animal like behaviour of the characters, and it really took me out of the film more than once. During the Gorgosaurus attack sequence, the voice overs where so frequent, I didn't really feel like the Pachyrhinosaurus where in peril, and that they had nothing to fear. Way to go with immersing your audience, Fox! However, I will say that the very brief second on the beach with the male and female Pachyrhinosaurus, with no voice overs and the female making a dinosaur noise was at least fun. However, the best part of the film was the moment of silence as the two Pachyrhinosaurus brothers where just sizing each other up, and it was just animal noises, for about 30 seconds. I wish the whole movie was like that!
At times it felt like the movie was having trouble deciding which genre it is. First it is paleontologist uncle wants to show nephews dinosaur bones, with the teenage boy not interested in dinosaurs and wants to text to friends (like I've encountered a teenage boy who hates dinosaurs), and then turns into family adventure, but then turns into educational movie, which then turns back into family adventure, but then turns into an educational movie, and then turns back into a family adventure, and then turns into documentary (not a very serious one), and then turns back into family adventure, ect, ect. By educational, I mean, everytime a new dinosaur or animal is encountered the movie pauses for a brief second, and has text on screen showing the animal's name, its meaning, and diet, which is then read in, get this, a kids voice! It's totally appealing to a wider audience! I was also disappointed that they indentified Edmontonia simply as, ankylosaur, because they thought the audience would confuse it with Edmontosaurus which is sort of excusable. But then, in some translation of the film, they could be saying Ankylosaurus! However, they just identified the Quetzalcoatlus in the film as, pterosaur. Not even azhdarchid. If it is because they though the audience couldn't pronounce it, then that's a pretty freaking young audience!
They could have worked that identification better in the script than pausing, and then you're not even sure if what's on screen in trustworthy, which it is! 
The big problem is that the movie is trying to be something it isn't, and was never intended. A family film. From what I heard, it was originally designed as a silent film, with narration only coming in very briefly to provide continuity to the audience. That would have made it into the best dinosaur film of all time.... But oh, no! One freaking studio had to come in and stop the party, and say "Oh, shit! Kids will find this boring, lets add voice overs! And pop songs, and stop the movie so that people can hear a kid read out facts about a dinosaur- oh their not all dinosaurs? Whatever- and then say where reaching a wider audience!" That's basically what Fox did. Jeez, this is the film Dinosaur all over again, in more ways than one!
David Krentz was a character designer for both Dinosaur and Walking with Dinosaurs and both times the same thing happened. In the case of Dinosaur, it was meant to be a silent film, but then Disney decided that the animals should talk! That is excusable since it was Disney. In Walking with Dinosaurs, it was also meant to a silent (but more accurate) film, but literally at the last minute (the voice cast was casted in November 2013, that's how last minute it was) Fox (not BBC Earth) decided to add voice overs! At least this time the mouth doesn't actually move when they talk. Fox also made a very American decision. "The audience won't understand this, let's dumb it down!" I think that BBC Earth was just fine with no voice overs, and also, out of all the possible options to get a wider audience, voice overs? Really? They could have had just Morgan Freeman narrate it... or Kenneth Branagh. 
Also, the storyline of the film is just a copy and paste of Dinosaur. Migrating dinosaur, family gets separated, trying to win his love with a female but another male is in his path, but then he leads the herd and gets the female. 
The scene when the lead character runs from the dark forest and towards the herd reminded me of when Aladar was trotting to get to the herd and warn them not to go on the cliff and the follow him. 

Now, enough about the movie itself, and onto some not-really-negatives-but-controservial-stuff. The first is about the depiction of the feathered dinosaurs. Yes, accurate feathering, except when you get to the face. It's scaly! It's scaly! It. Is. Scaly!!!!! It is more likely that they had bird like faces, since they are more related to birds than they are to other reptiles. The same can be said of Gorgosaurus.
It's scaly! It's scaly! It's. So. Freaking. Scaly!!!!! What's so wrong about a scaly Gorgosaurus? Oh, yes, science happened! This is really not that bad compared to the scaly-faced feathered dinosaurs, but they did miss an opportunity to show a feathered tyrannosaur kick ass on screen! The models for the Gorgosaurus where made just before the announcement of the giant feathered tyrannosaur, Yutyrannus. However, I think they should have put feathers on it, because Gorgosaurus did live in a cold climate, and probably would need feathers. And despite the find of skin impressions found on the base of a Gorgosaurus tail, I could argue that it didn't preserve the feathers. But still, this is a small caveat, that actually got more controversy than I expected. They did give the antagonistic Gorgosaurus iridescent blue scales, but I'm okay with that. I also notice that the juvenile Gorgosaurus, or what I thought where juvenile Gorgosaurus, lacked feathers too!

So in the end, we have an Americanized version of an inspirational BBC series. Seriously. I used to watch it on a daily basis when I was young, and I still do if I want to know what it was like when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. All in all, no laughs are coming out of the mouths of the audience, only tears from the eyes, and negative thoughts.
A massively missed opportunity. 

For this movie, I was hesitant for this rating, and it has nothing to do with the visuals. My final score is: 3.5/10. 

Aurora borealis can't save it. Not even the golden pheasant Hesperonychus or the bright blue Chirostenotes can save it. A disappointment, and a waist of $85 million.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Rise of the Obscure Species, Part 2

Last time, I brought you many wonders of the obscurity world. Acrophoca, Arctotherium, Inostrancevia uralensis, Ichthyovenator, Lythronax, Dinofelis, Xenosmilus, and a few more. Now, I will continue with more obscure species that have yet to receive the light they deserve. This post, I will focus more on Mesozoic animals, mostly dinosaurs. Some have never been restored, others, have a unique restoration. All illustrations where kindly provided by Yutyrannus form the Dinosaur Toy Forum,who did them as soon as he could. Thanks!

The new name for an old friend. 

We all remember him. Acheroraptor was the name recently given to the Hell Creek dromaeosaurid. At first, there was no evidence droameosaurids lived with Tyrannosaurus, but now there is irrefutable evidence. I have nothing to say except that the illustrator based the colours off of the Guam Rail, a very cool bird. It is flightless and as of now extinct in the wild.


Jurassic Antarctica has been the new frontier in paleontology for me. It was populated by some pretty awesome dinosaurs, one of which, Cryolophosaurus, is one of the most complete Antarctic dinosaurs yet found. Another group of dinosaurs that lived there where the sauropods. You may be familiar to the primitive bipedal sauropod, Glacialisaurus, but there is also another, quite large sauropod from there. It has no formal name, and so the name I identify it as, is not the actual name. For now, I call it, Antarctotitan. Antarctotitan is not new to paleontology. It has been known from almost  decade, but I haven't seen a restoration of it. Since there is no published skeletal of the dinosaur available, we have to look at relatives. In this case, the artist used Malawisaurus as a reference. Even though it is a Cretaceous titanosaur, I think of it as a good reference. I especially like the red head. I'm sure sauropods where not all dull coloured. 

Australian spinosaur

I have another obscure animal from the South Pole, only it's from the Cretaceous and from Australia. For namesake, I'll call it Australospinas. It has no formal name yet, but we'll call it that. Australospinas has been known for a few years, and only from vertebrae and a few other bones. It is mostly based on Baryonyx, but here it is featured as iridescent, even though it isn't seen in the picture. This is the second restoration of Australospinas I have seen, and I am surprised I haven't seen more. 


Alverazsaurs are cool. They have the most interesting hands of any theropod. A very short arm, almost the mini-tyrannosaurs, except not as ferocious, but it only has one functional finger and claw. It has since been speculated that they hunted colonial insects, such as termites, or ants. Above is one of the rare alverazsaurs that only people like me and paleontologists know about. You may remember in the 2011 BBC documentary, Planet Dinosaur, depicted Bradycneme has a troodontid. However, it was recently classified as an alverazsaur. It should be noted that Bradycneme is known from very fragmentary remains, so it could be a troodontid. The one thing I like about this restoration is that it isn't shrink wrapped, with long feathers all over its body, and the hoatzin like head. 


One thing I am surprised to see is dinosaurs that have speculative soft-tissue that doesn't really fossilize, as I am sure that just like birds, they have bizarre fleshy structures used for mating that you wouldn't expect for it to have by looking at the skeletons. This seldom seen dinosaur above, Melanorosaurus, has a small red dewlap, used for attracting mates. It is unsure wether or not it had it, but I wouldn't be surprised if it had it. Relatives like Diplodocus get more attention, because they are larger than their early ancestors, but relatives like this are also very cool. 


For all of this post, we have been talking about dinosaurs, but we will end with a very cute and tiny Mesozoic mammal, Zalambdalestes. They were like the elephant shrews of the Cretaceous. They may have lived in underground burrows, and ate small insects. Overall, it was a perfect example of the typical Mesozoic mammal, and you would be seeing a lot of mammals looking like Zalambdalestes, although not all mammals where small and shrew-like. The Zalambdalestes in the picture above, is also albino, something so rare, I wish it was depicted more often. The only other piece I've seen features an albino Microraptor. 

Overall, these animals are considerably more obscure than my first obscure species post, two of them don't even have formal names. This is not the last post on Obscure Species. I will have many more, and soon, an entire army of Obscurities will dominate this blog. 

Grimm, Season 3, Episode 7; Cold Blooded Review

Sometimes, Nick encounters a Wesen that is just so freaking powerful, you wonder if he can take them down. Then again, Nick is just badass enough to take on anyone. This episode is an example of just how far Nick really has come in terms of his fighting skills. Back in episode 1, when he tried to help Aunt Marie while they were attacked by a Reaper, Nick just didn't have good reaction time, didn't know what type of maneuvers to do to counteract the attacks his enemy threw at him (sometimes literally).

This episode, it seemed like he has unleashed his fighting skills in a tremendous way. If you remember episode 2 of season 3, "PTZD", Nick, as a zombie, took on Renard, Monroe, and Hank and was able to overpower all three without any problem. They are all very strong men. In this episode, Nick had to save Hank, who was kidnapped by alligator like Wesen called Gelumcaedus. Nick was forced to bring the two Gelumcaedus brothers their brother, who was arrested, or Hank dies. Nick gets there, and begins to free Hank, but suddenly, he is surrounded by three Gelumcaedus, all woged, all intent on killing him. To keep in mind, at the beginning of the episode, we saw one easily pick up a young man by biting his arm and lifting him up,  and then shaking him around viciously and ripping his arm clean out of his socket. It is virtually impossible to escape this Wesens nasty bite. Luckily, Nick has an arm shield with a hidden blade to keep his arm safe.

So, Nick is able to hold onto his own against three of the most powerful Wesen introduced this season, and they just have no idea who skilled he is. Nick has killed two Reapers, a Mauvais Dentes, a Nuckelavee, and four Hundjager. He's made a lot of heads roll onto the floor. So, yes, Nick just basically used almost no effort in taking on these monster Wesen. He is badass after all.

Along with the fight scene, the episode itself was wonderful, the scenes in the sewers where very dark (sometimes too dark) and made you feel as if something is going to leap out at any minute. I really though Wu was going to be attacked. He is just found a severed leg instead.

My only complaint was that the scenes, even in day time, were still way too dark. I am unsure why the lighting is so dark, but it is something I haven't noticed before, just this season. I hope they fix it sooner or later. Or it's my TV.

I also like that we learned just a few more bits of mythology. So, Gelumcaedus are some of the oldest known Wesen, and Grimm's go by other names in other cultures, such as Decapitare, which Nick apparently likes, as that's basically all his ancestors did.

I am going to review the Christmas special next featuring Krampus. And two hours of Grimm was really worth it, for what I call fantasy night. First I see the new Hobbit movie, and then two hours of Grimm. Awesome!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Grimm Season 3, Episode 6 Review; Stories We Tell Our Young

The Grausen. And the kid wasn't possessed by a demon...

The first episode of season 3 was one of the few times I was upset about this show. It seemed like Season 3 was shaping up with some average episodes. However, that all changed with the latest episode, "Stories We Tell Our Young", which is so far the best episode of season 3. First off, I love that another non-Wesen has been portrayed, this time a protozoan, not a demon, ghost, or anything like that.   At first, the episode was about figuring out what happened to the boy, and how to cure him. However, then, upon the Wesen council's arrival, things took an unexpected twist. The council entered the boys room and took him, but lost him and chased him into the woods. The possible highlight of the episode was the entire scene. He enters the room, woges into a snow leopard-like Wesen, and tries to take the boy who runs into the woods, and the leopard Wesen follows him, but Nick tackles him down and they fight. I did not see any of that coming.

The council member comes to take the boy.

This is also the second episode that we see Nick writing an entry about a creature, caring on the tradition of profiling these creatures, just like his ancestors did. I also liked that Renard is now out of town, and then getting attacked by the Verrat in the "safehouse", was unexpected and made things so much more complicated. Either way, it is setting up for something good.

The next two episodes airing next week look awesome. First we have alligator Wesen in the sewers, and then a very special Christmas episode, with Krampus!

My scoring for this episode is a 9/10. Best episode this season, and a great episode for their 50th episode milestone.