Reality is the playground of the unimaginative
Home Of Superheroes, Supernatural, and Star Stuff

Friday, 31 October 2014

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Heavy Is The Head


As much as I love the current crop of DC Comics-inspired TV shows (ie. The Flash, Arrow, Constantine and Gotham), nothing gives me quite the fanboy frisson as the sight of the Marvel logo over flickering comic book pages at the top of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Heavy Is The Head continued the story from the last episode, with Coulson's crew still chasing down Crusher Creel aka The Absorbing Man, while trying to evade Brigadier General Glenn Talbot.

However, now some new players have entered the game - in the form of last season's former Hydra associate Raina (Ruth Negga) and her apparent boss, a character known as The Doctor (Kyle Maclachlan) ... who may well be Skye's father!

The script, by Paul Zbyszewski, was generally tight, with Coulson remaining the master of the droll one-liner and poor, brain-damaged Fitz - an incredible performance by Iain De Caestecker - nearly bringing me to tears with his frustration while trying to help his colleagues and coming to terms (or not) with the disappearance of Simmons.

However, as far as I could tell, while the team (unsurprisingly) brought down Creel and were happy to have pulled this off, no great fuss was made of the fact that The Obelisk, the powerful alien MacGuffin, seemingly disappeared!

Nevertheless, this was still a great episode, with some striking special effects and canny plot twists to keep us on our toes, as well as dangling - what I presume is - the season's major plot hook: the mysterious code that Coulson is channelling (and Skye spotted on The Obelisk).

Next Time:

Night Wing: The Series (Episode Five)

Review Round-up: Star Wars: A New Dawn; Oculus; Maleficent

Star Wars: A New Dawn - The welcome shelving of Star Wars' convoluted Expanded Universe was a beacon for me to "restart" my Star Wars fandom, a return to my childhood when everything was fresh and exciting.

The first, new novel in this "everything is canon" universe was John Jackson Miller's rollicking good, swashbuckling adventure A New Dawn, which introduces us to the key characters in the animated series, Rebels, and explains how the "undercover" Jedi Kanan teamed-up with the hot shot Twilek pilot Hera.

An easy read, Miller really taps into the spirit of the Original Trilogy while the making the old Star Wars universe feel new again.

Kanan, in particular, especially when coupled with his actions in the animated series, is a brilliant character and I'm really excited to see what lies ahead for him.

Oculus (2013) - Imagine a young Clive Barker had been tasked with remaking The Amityville Horror and decided to add a modicum of HP Lovecraft to the mix and you'll get a sense of the wonderful horror on offer in Mike Flanagan's Oculus.

Karen Gillan stars as Kaylie Russell who manages to steal the storied, ancient mirror - The Lasser Glass - from the auction house where she works, with the aim of scientifically proving that it was responsible for driving her parents murderously insane 11 years earlier.

The film then unfolds in two timelines - with the historic events and current events gradually merging as the story progresses.

This isn't a film of jump scares, but rather intelligent, subversive creepiness as the haunted mirror messes with the characters' perception of reality.

I loved the fact that the central artifact had such an interesting backstory that Kaylie was able to research - and even then there were still holes in the story when the location - and owners - of the mirror were unknown.

I also really liked the methodical approach Kaylie adopted - at least at first - to test the powers of the mirror and prove that her father wasn't to blame for the murder of his wife and that Kaylie's brother, Tim (Brenton Thwaites),had not had a psychotic break when he then killed their father.

Maleficent (2014) - I can't honestly think of anything good to say about this major disappointment.

Without wanting to come across as a raving UKIP supporter it's a case of "political correctness gone mad".

For some reason, a suit at Disney decided that their finest "evil for the sake of evil" villainess - Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty - needed a ridiculous backstory where it turns out that she's actually just misunderstood, a victim of male oppression striking back for the sake of equality, and actually is a really a decent fairy who ultimately decides that Sleeping Beauty is a good egg and shouldn't be cursed... but then finds out it's too late to lift the curse!

There are just so many missteps in this film I'm amazed it could find its way to the cinema: for instance, Aurora aka Sleeping Beauty is only asleep for about five minutes and the cartoon's spectacular climax of the witch transforming into a dragon is undercut by Maleficent, instead, transforming her henchman, Diaval, into the dragon.

Such a pity. I had high hopes for this fantasy, but Disney managed to strip everything so iconic about the original Sleeping Beauty villainess and reduce her to a bland, cookie cutter "anti-hero".

Happy Halloween!



Tuck Me In is a one-minute horror short based on one of those creepy two-sentence horror stories that were doing the rounds earlier this year.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Nightwing: The Series (Episode Two)

The Geek Shall Inherit The Earth...


Growing up, reading comics, I never even entertained the thought that one day superheroes would not only rule the cinema but a time would come when there were FIVE live-action comic book serials on television in the same week.

The underrated Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Channel 4) and the ever-popular Arrow (Sky One) are already old friends. The second season S.H.I.E.L.D. kicked off last week and the third season of Arrow begins on Thursday.

Spinning out of Arrow we have The Flash (Sky One), which begins tonight. However, thanks to Sky's wonderful marketing ploy of releasing occasional pilots a week or so early - to generate word-of-mouth - I've already watched the first episode twice. This won't stop me from tuning in again though this evening.

While the Fantastic Four are my all-time favourite superhero team, I never wanted to "be" any particular member of Marvel's First Family, but ever since I saw my first issue of the Flash of the age of about seven or eight, I wanted to be him. There's a reason I have so many Flash T-shirts and a Flash hoodie!

The other day, Rachel was driving me into Tunbridge Wells and there was a giant poster advertising The Flash on the side of the town centre bus station and inside me there was an eight-year-old geek whose head was exploding.


Last night I also discovered that Constantine has been picked up by Amazon Prime Streaming and the first episode is already available.

There was no fanfare or big announcement though, I only found this out from a random TV blog I follow. Unfortunately - unlike Netflix - Amazon Prime has a really cack user interface and new arrivals like this aren't instantly obvious. I only found it by searching for it!

But it's there, folks. If you are in the UK and have the Amazon Prime streaming service, there are worse ways to spend 44 minutes than in the company of DC Comic's dishevelled occultist John Constantine. As a pilot episode it crams a helluva lot of character, story and action into its three-quarters of an hour, complemented by superb - and often creepy - special effects.

With Supernatural still (annoyingly) absent from our screens, Constantine glides perfectly into the contemporary urban horror hole that has been left - with the added bonus of comic book Easter Eggs. Even though it had already been leaked months ago, I still squeed at the sight of Dr Fate's helmet!


The final comic book show on at the moment (although more are being talked about all the time now, with Daredevil kicking off Netflix's slate of street-level Marvel shows early next year) is Gotham (Channel 5) on Monday nights, which, unfortunately, is the weakest of the bunch.

It is the story of young detective Jim Gordon, set against a tableau of police corruption and feuding mob bosses in pre-Batman Gotham City - and when it concentrates on that, it isn't half-bad.

But, while the first episode involved the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents (the inciting incident that would eventually drive him to become The Batman), the show keeps returning every episode to 10-year-old Bruce - even though he has no involvement in the main story.

I'll be honest, I couldn't care less about young Master Bruce at this stage. Unless Alfred is going to stitch him a child-sized Batman costume so he can fight crime I'd rather not see him again until he returns to the city in ten or so years as The Dark Knight. Time spent with Bruce and Alfred is wasted time that could been devoted to developing the week's main story and the characters of Gordon, Bullock and co.

The prospect of a gritty police procedural - with a grimy '70s New York City feel to it - dealing with early costumed criminals is quite enticing on paper, but Gotham seems unsure of its tone and has that hideous prequelitis symptom of the constant "oh, so clever" nods to its future mythology (the most grating being the couple of appearances by forensic scientist Edward Nygma - the future Riddler - who phrases all his revelations as contorted questions).

Then again, it took me a couple of attempts to 'get' Arrow - and I'm still not a fan of the flashbacks - so I won't be abandoning Gotham any time soon (it's still far better than Smallville, for all its faults).

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Spawn: The Recall...


Spawn: The Recall is a fan film by Michael Paris. It is the story of a former witch and her son, who try to live a normal life away from the darkness. While they're shopping in a supermarket, the child suddenly disappears. She starts looking for him, freaked out knowing evil forces are still lurking. A security guard comes to her help but while they are checking on the surveillance cameras, something happens. She can sense it, they are here...

Friday, 24 October 2014

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Shadows


Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has finally returned - for its second season - to UK television, but now has to fight for attention in a far more crowded marketplace.

As well as its old DC "arch-enemy" Arrow, which resumes next week, comic book superhero fans in the UK also have Gotham and The Flash to scratch that particular itch (and hopefully, one day, Constantine as well).

Off the back of the events of the superlative Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the end of the last season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Shadows picks up with S.H.I.E.L.D. in hiding while director Coulson tries to rebuild the organisation from the ground-up and Brigadier General Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar, now with a proper moustache) is hunting down the remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA.

Being a season opener, the episode pulled out the big guns - from an opening flashback to the Second World War featuring Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Howling Commandos 'Dum Dum' Dugan (Neal McDonough) and Jim Morita (Kenneth Choi) capturing the original 0-8-4, an alien MacGuffin known as The Obelisk to the appearance of a truly comic book villain: Carl 'Crusher' Creel (Brian Patrick Wade) aka The Absorbing Man.

Among the many lessons it would appear showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen have learned from fan feedback on the first season, it looks as though we might be getting a more serialised main throughline for the season (the continuing battle with HYDRA, which is far from defeated) as well as seeing some actual superpowered villains.

Crusher Creel is a good start, with a visually eye-catching power (although I wished he'd retained his 'absorbed' forms longer) and his story continues in next week's episode.

Lucy Lawless - the warrior princess herself - popped up as a kick-ass S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and I hope we see more of her in the future, while Talbot is shaping up to be a good political foil to Coulson (although I hope, eventually, S.H.I.E.L.D. regains its legal status and doesn't have to stay working in the shadows for too long).

Meanwhile there were a couple of great character sub-plots - Skye facing down Ward in his high-tech prison cell and the heart-breaking developments with Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), whose brain-damage induced asphasia struck close to home for me (it being one of the many frustrating conditions brought on by my own stroke).

It was great to see Shadows keeping up the momentum Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. developed in the latter half of its first season and I look forward to it now going from strength-to-strength.

Next Time:

What Splendid Company You Keep...


I realise HeroPress has been teetering on the brink of blogfade for several weeks (thanks to the perfect storm of serious computer issues coinciding with the arrival of our gorgeous puppy, Alice), but I still seem to be attracting new Followers (thank you so much for your faith that I will return to regular blogging) and have now been listed on the Links page of Mike Burns' Dark Fable Miniatures site.

At a time when my interest in the broader field of roleplaying games (and even miniatures wargames) is waning, I owe a lot to Dr Burns - it was he who put me on the path to Heroes & Other Worlds, singing its praises as a worthy successor to The Fantasy Trip.

So do me a favour, pop over to Mike's website, take a look at his Egyptian-themed miniatures (they also work for Tekumel and get a big thumbs up from Chirine ba Kal) and look out for his next crowdfunding campaign - via IndieGoGo - for a new wave of 12 sets of miniatures (which will include personalities, warriors, adventurers, beasts and creatures), that launches on November 2.

Tomb Robbers - Set One, from Mike's new campaign, sculpted by David Soderquist

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Labor Of Love...



A short documentary portrait of the adult film foley artist Grant Meyers (surprisingly SFW)

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

War Is Coming To Sleepy Hollow...



A welcome return!

[HOW] Chapter Nine: The Hunt For Margesh Blackblood, Part Three...

[Unfortunately, at the last moment, Simon couldn't make last night's meeting of The Tuesday Knights and so, as before, Peter controlled Simon's character - the halfling bard, Harry - as well as his own character]

A Glimpse Of Hell? Inside the metal coffin was a blackness blacker than this...

Continuing their exploration of the Vault Of Viktor Volkov, the party debated whether to open the door with the hellish engravings on or head through the plain door across the way from the secret corridor where they found the silver ingots.

They opted to bypass the engraved door for now, taking the clear symbolism as a major warning of a possible Hellgate!

Through the other door, and over another pit trap that Harry spotted, they came upon a room with an altar to Volkov's ancestors. While examining this room they could hear heavy crashing sounds from back in the main corridor - the living statues were trying to climb out of the pit they had been pushed into.

An examination of the pillars in the room revealed crowns that acted as switches and opened a panel in the top of the altar, revealing three copper tubes, sealed with iron plugs and wax. Kirchin pocked these, but left a small (two inch long) drinking horn they discovered hanging on the side of the altar.

Heading back to the main corridor, Imogen scouted ahead and narrowly avoided being grabbed by the animated statues that had made their way out of the pit trap and were blocking the doorway back into the main passage.

Imogen: She may look sweet - but she's a demon
with her paired daggers
A fight erupted in the narrow passage with Kirchin wielding Volkov's sword and Davian swinging his mace. Marigold was behind them, using her magical healing when one got hit by a stone golem. Once Kirchin reduced the first statue to dust, Imogen slipped round the side and started with her trademark double-dagger stabby-stabby routine.

Harry has tried to sing a rousing ditty to boost group morale, but had instead choked on the dust in the air and lost his voice for the duration of the battle.

With three attackers on it, the second statue soon crumbled as well.

Buoyed up by their triumph, they decided to check behind the "Hellgate door" and found a large pillared room with a metallic coffin at its centre, locked by half-dozen padlocks. Through a small side door they found a room with a magically locked chest that they were unable to open or move.

After much discussion, Imogen picked the six locks and the coffin was cautiously opened. When Kirchin looked in he saw only a pool of impossible blackness and before anything else could happen, the party slammed the coffin back shut and relocked the padlocks.They were (rightly?) terrified of whatever the coffin contained and had no desire to hang around and find out what it was...

Taking a silver ingot each from their earlier treasure find, and four to load on Charlie the mule, who was patiently waiting for them outside the dungeon, chewing on his bag of carrots, the adventurers headed back to Horst.

At the village they were greeted by Jerron, lieutenant of the infamous bandit-prince Margesh Blackblood. Kirchin handed over the map of the vault he had made, along with the four silver ingots and a "detailed" description of what they had found - including a dire warning of an "otherworldly portal to Hell".

Jerron: The party
don't trust him...
Jerron was pleased with the information and gave Kirchin directions to a ruined tower on the banks of The Bright River where he should be able to meet up with Margesh Blackblood. He gave Kirchin some words of introduction and a password: Magpie.

Our heroes immediately set off - feeling quite paranoid about staying in Horst - and made camp on the way to the Bright River. They were convinced that Jerron was setting them up and they were heading into some kind of ambush.

However, after a lengthy discussion at their camp site they agreed they were pursuing Margesh out of civil duty - rather than for any financial reward (as they had already found treasure far exceeding the bounty being offered by Sir Browyrd, The Sheriff Of Dranning).

The next day they party continued on and as they approached the ruined tower saw the corpse of a mauled horse and heard the sounds of battle emerging from the stairwell leading beneath the tower.

Cautiously surveying the brutal signs of a bloody battle they came upon a pair of ogres - thankfully one at a time - and felled them reasonably swiftly.

There were a lot of dead bandits here and signs that one of the ogres had been pounding on a wall for some reason.

To be continued...

CAST:
  • Kirchin (Pete)
  • Davian (Kevin)
  • Harry (Pete - in Simon's absence)
  • Imogen (Meredith)
  • Marigold (Clare)

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Toni Darling

Friday, 3 October 2014

Fleamarket Friday: Two Great Movies For Your Investment Consideration...



Both Lovecraft: Fear Of The Unknown and The Minister Of Chance movie already have proven track records.

The Lovecraft documentary first came out in 2008 (read my glowing review here) and is now being expanded for a new Blu-Ray release with 70 minutes of additional interview footage, while The Minister Of Chance was originally a podcast and then a short film that creator Dan Freeman plans to turn into a full movie.

The Minister Of Chance has a spectacular cast, including Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Jenny Agutter, to name but three while Lovecraft: Fear Of Unknown includes interviews with such luminaries as Neil Gaiman, John Carpenter, Guilllermo del Toro, Peter Straub, Stuart Gordon and Ramsey Campbell.

Both films are seeking funding through Kickstarter and their campaigns end later this month.

To find out more about Lovecraft: Fear Of The Unknown, and the rewards on offer to those who chip in, visit its Kickstarter page here.

To find out more about The Minister Of Chance movie, and the investor incentives on offer, visit its Kickstarter page here.

Do We Want More Olivia Cooke? Oui! Ja!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Sci-Fi Is The Future...

Gotham: We Have A Date And Time...


Now, I just need to find out when The Flash starts on Sky One and when Arrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. return. It'd also be nice to hear something - anything, please - on where, and when, Constantine is going to pop up on UK TV...

I'm Sure This Won't Be As Good As I Want It To Be...


... but I'm still delighted to see Dominion is finally coming to the UK's SyFy Channel.
Twenty-five years ago, God disappeared. In his absence, the Archangel Gabriel, who despised man, led an army of lower angels in a war of possession against mankind. Acting alone, the Archangel Michael sided with man against Gabriel, helping humanity fight back against the angels. Out of the ashes of war, the survivors gathered into fortified cities. Vega is the greatest among them.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Your Right Of Reply...


I'm afraid I've had to do something I swore I never would: I've turned on the "word verification" and "comment moderation" for HeroPress.

This follows an incident yesterday where a miserable spammer hit about 25 articles in succession (in the space of 20 minutes) promoting his dreary business.

As HeroPress is in a bit of a death spiral/doldrums at the moment, the comment-led conversations haven't exactly been flying anyway, but for any of my regular visitors who want to express their opinions, please bear with me.

Once things things get back on track with the blog, and it finds its focus again, I'll take the limitations off the comments and allow free speech to flow once more...

Gotham: Bruce & Alfred...


You can't really go wrong with Sean Pertwee...

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Miss October: Julie Benz



Julie Benz (from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Defiance, No Ordinary Family & Dexter)

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