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MORTAL ENGINES (December 8, 2018)

Sunday, 9 December 2018

At The Fleapit: Mortal Engines (2018)


In this age of cookie cutter adventure movies, unnecessary prequels, and never-ending sequels, fans of blockbuster cinema entertainment should be falling over themselves to see the most original piece of cinematic storytelling in years: Mortal Engines.

Based on the novel of the same name by Philip Reeve, the tale is set a thousand years in the future, after a catastrophic nuclear conflict has wiped out most of humanity and many the survivors have relocated to mobile enclaves known as traction cities (or 'predator cities').

These communities survive and grow by hunting down and capturing smaller towns, stripping them of their resources and absorbing their populations ("Municipal Darwinism").

London is one such apex city, home to our hero Tom Natsworthy (Misfits' Robert Sheehan) who finds himself cast out when he steps in to prevent an assassination attempt on head archaeologist Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) by the very angry Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar).

Hunted by an unstoppable cyborg, Shrike (Stephen Lang),  and stranded in the wilderness, the mismatched duo of Hester and Tom eventually fall in with outlaw rebel Anna Fang (South Korean singer Jihae) and together they must find a way to thwart Valentine's insidious scheme to make London the most powerful city on Earth... at the cost of a great many lives.

It's no secret that I was predisposed to enjoy Mortal Engines the movie, not only have I raved about and evangelised on behalf of the original book series for longer than I've been writing this blog, but I also consider the author a friend.

However, I can honestly say, the film was spectacular.

And, yes, this middle-aged man may have shed a few tears of excitement the first time Anna and Hester shared the screen together - these are my two favourite modern literary characters after all, so this was a very special moment for me to see them in live-action.

Neither actor portrayed them exactly as I had pictured them in my head, from reading the novels all those years ago, but it turns out that didn't matter: for the duration of the movie they were the powerful and dynamic women I've long been obsessed by.

The script, by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens condenses and streamlines the source material, reducing a nuanced narrative to a non-stop series of action beats.

However, the stunning opening chase sequence - of London bearing down on a smaller town as they race across the desolate countryside - is unlike anything we've ever seen before and immediately lets you know this is a unique world we're going to be playing in for the next two hours.

Towards its climax the script errs into melodrama, and the action goes a bit Star Wars, but by then we have fallen in love with the characters and are so deeply embedded in the world of Mortal Engines that it carries us along for the ride.

As the feature film directorial debut of Christian Rivers, effects wizard and storyboard artist on many of Jackson's previous movies, the film is an in-your-face treat for the senses, full of intricately detailed shots that demand multiple viewings to catch all the minutiae.

If for nothing else, Rivers should be applauded for his incredible realisation of Philip Reeve's world, which manages to put an inspired new spin on post-apocalyptic tropes, filtering them through lenses akin to the works of Terry Gilliam or Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune.

Comparing it to previous Peter Jackson epics, I have to confess that I enjoyed Mortal Engines a hell of a lot more than my first viewing of Fellowship Of The Ring, which, for me, only fell into place when I saw the extended director's cut.

So I'm holding out hope for an extended iteration of Mortal Engines - when it's finally released to home video - that can only further heighten my enjoyment of this film

Happy Harley Holidays - Week Two...

Sarah Michelle Gellar

#DCTV The Highly-Anticipated Elseworlds Crossover Kicks Off Tonight (Stateside)



And on Thursday over here in the UK.

Hope it lives up to expectations!

And no spoilers!!!

The True Meaning Of Christmas...

Sunday Specials...

Saturday, 8 December 2018

The Artistry And Science That Has Gone Into Bringing Mortal Engines To Life...


Top Of The Pile: Shazam #1


The original Captain Marvel was one of the very first comics I remember reading as a wee nipper, so - even though his name has now changed to Shazam - I have a nostalgic attachment to the character and his family.

I was less than impressed by Geoff John's nu52 origin story back in 2013, but given how the current Rebirth era has breathed new life into much of the DC Universe, I didn't want to miss out on Shazam's return to the mainstream.

Of course, the fact that there's a Shazam film about to appear on the big screen has nothing to do with the timing of this new on-going title...

Shazam #1 is everything I could have wanted from a modern Captain Marvel title (pretty sure, despite a not-too-sly gag, he's not going to be called this): it's fun, exciting, beautifully illustrated by Dale Eaglesham, and surprisingly light in tone.

After a recap of Billy Batson's origin, we meet the rest of the Shazam Family (Billy's fellow foster family, also gifted superpowers) when a gang of thugs try to rob the museum they are visiting on a school trip.

This, of course, is purely incidental and just a plot device to show off the various members of the team in action (and parody the robbers from Spider-Man: Homecoming wearing 'Avengers' masks).

Geoff Johns captures the voices of the young protagonists, and their banter, without letting it runaway with him (cf. Brian Michael Bendis) and bog down the snappily-paced story.

Later on the young heroes are exploring The Rock Of Eternity, their base, and come across a previously unseen area with a cryptic map.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, foster parents Victor and Rosa Vasquez have an unexpected visitor.

Balancing light and dark, with a much more endearing spin on its main characters than Johns' original stab at reviving the character, if Shazam continues in this vein, I can see it becoming a definite favourite of mine.

Backing up the main story, Shazam And The Seven Magic Lands, is a shorter tale examining Mary's early life, and her first 'adventure' with Freddy.

As with the main story this is penned by Johns, but the amazingly cute art is provided by Sen (aka Mayo Naito), who I now want to see illustrating full-length Shazam stories.

Her smooth art perfectly captures the fun and innocence of old school Captain Marvel tales, but updated to 21st Century sensibilities.

This story - possibly even more than the lead - suggests that Johns is planning to lean heavily into the weirder and wackier elements of the Captain Marvel/Shazam mythology.

And I'm all in favour of that.

Eeeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe: Here's Negan To Ensure I Have A Smashing Birthday...


Part of my birthday present to myself arrived this week: the Here's Negan board game from Mantic, a self-contained spin-off from their Walking Dead: All Out War skirmish game.

As with all their output that I've seen, it's a thing of great beauty, but I'm wary - at the moment - of unpacking it too much, and popping out all the bits and bobs, as we are in the middle of packing everything up for an impending house sale/move.

This isn't what I was originally going to kindly give myself as a 52nd birthday present.

But upon seeing the imminent release of this board game, I rethought backing the Spectaculars Kickstarter as I knew, in my heart of hearts, that I didn't need another superhero roleplaying game system - no matter how gorgeous it looked - as it's already set in stone that Villains & Vigilantes is my jam, if I can ever get Knight City together in my head.

By pre-ordering direct from Mantic I got a bonus envelope of cards in the package, so I can use Negan and his lieutenants from the board game in my All Out War games as well.

The balance of my birthday gifts to myself were also from Mantic, by way of their enticing Black Friday sale, and hopefully those bits - for The Walking Dead: All Out War - will be with me soon.


All the lovely bits and bobs in my Here's Negan board game

Uncharted: Live Action Fan Film (2018)


Nathan Fillion is Nathan Drake in this live action Uncharted short film by Director Allan Ungar. Based on the video game series by Naughty Dog.

Friday, 7 December 2018

DVD Of The Week: The Darkest Minds (2018)


In the near future, an incurable contagion sweeps the globe, killing 90 per cent of the world's youngsters.

The remaining 10 per cent are swiftly rounded up and sent to treatment camps when they start manifesting a variety of mutant powers - ranging from heightened intelligence through to telekinesis.

A small percentage exhibit even more powerful abilities.

One of these is Ruby Daly (Amandla Stenberg), who manages to conceal her telepathic and mind-controlling powers from the camp wardens for six years before she is liberated by militant League.

She quickly slips their grasp as well and falls in with a group of fellow kids - telekinetic Liam Stewart (Harris Dickinson), supersmart Chubs (Skylan Brooks), and electricity-controller Zu (Miya Cech) - who are looking for a secret sanctuary run by the near-mythical Slip Kid (Patrick Gibson).

Having evaded the bounty hunter Lady Jane (Game of Thrones' Gwendoline Christie), the quartet of runaways find The Slip Kid's camp.

However, Chubs is immediately suspicious that something sinister is going on, while Liam grows jealous as Ruby is drawn to the Slip Kid by the similarities in their rare powers.

The Darkest Minds is a very linear story where this happens, then this happens, then this happens, with no time for breathers or sub-plots, right on up until the open ending, which is clearly paving the way for sequels that are never going to get made.

This also allows some actions - particularly those of the main antagonist - to escape their karmic justice, as that axe was clearly destined to fall in a later episode of the saga.

Based on the first book in Alexandra Bracken's young adult Darkest Minds series, the film plays out like a blend of The Hunger Games/Maze Runner post-apocalyptic aesthetic with The X-Men/The Gifted 'feared mutants on the run' themes.

While the climactic confrontation features big explosions and crashing helicopters, the whole movie feels very uncinematic, more a made-for-TV event than anything else.

To be honest, if I was sitting in a cinema watching this I'd have been very disappointed. As it is, on DVD, in my own home, I'm okay with its small scale derivativeness.

A fun 99-minute, fire-and-forget project, there's very little originality in The Darkest Minds, but director Jennifer Yuh Nelson - with her first live-action credit (she helmed Kung Fu Panda 2 & 3) - ensures there's no dawdling in Chad Hodge's script.

While the dramatic finale was pretty predictable, it was nevertheless quite heartbreaking and well-shot (in a very Infinity War manner), which piqued my interest in finding out how the filmmakers planned to undo what had been done to give our heroes the happy ending they deserved.

Yes, I know I could read the books, but I'd rather see this story told on the small screen.

Frankly, The Darkest Minds would have worked much better if it had been the pilot movie for an ongoing TV series, because there was just enough there to get me interested in seeing the affable main actors keep their characters alive and having further adventures.

Mortal Engines Is Almost Upon Us...


It's A Deadpool Christmas Miracle...



Once Upon A Deadpool is screening for one night only in the UK (December 11), whereas in the States it's on a limited run from December 12 to Christmas Eve.

Here's the American cut of this Fred Savage-centric trailer, courtesy of Ryan Reynolds:

Our Beloved Alyson Hannigan In A Horror-Comedy? You Can Count Me In...



As Sam (Fran Kranz) flees from a masked killer at camp, it slowly dawns on him that HE might be the killer. With the help of his film buff friend Chuck (Alyson Hannigan), Sam navigates through horror movie tropes to try and make it out of this plot alive.
This bizarre-looking, direct-to-streaming, 88-minute feature, from Brett Simmons, is another movie that has just popped up, out of nowhere, on my radar.

Given the number of serious Buffy fans in my social media circles, I can't believe that I've heard no chatter about this, despite the presence of Buffy's very own Alyson Hannigan and Dollhouse's Fran Kranz.

Podcasting: We've Made The Big Leagues!


As of today, the HeroPress podcast is now available via iTunes.

You can either click the link or search 'HeroPress' on iTunes.

This is so exciting for me!

If you listen through iTunes, please don't forget to "rate and review".

According to the alert I got from Anchor - my host platform - about HeroPress now being available through Apple Podcasts, you can now listen "on iPhone, HomePod, iPad, Apple CarPlay, and Desktop via iTunes. You can also hear your podcast using Siri. Just say, 'Hey Siri, Play the podcast HeroPress .'"


And if you're listening via Anchor please remember that you can send me voicemails (as Ivy and Tim did for my last show) for inclusion in an upcoming episode.

Just to let you all know, future episodes are in the planning stages, and have been discussed with Rachel, but I'm hoping to shake this cough before I really press on.

It's a right pain in the arse having to stop talking every 30 seconds or so for an extended coughing fit!

Avengers: End Game - First Teaser Trailer...


Here Be Dragons, And Beware Pit Traps...


It's a straight 15ft walk from our bedroom to the bathroom, and I've done it nightly (often more than once) in a state of semi-sleep, for the 10 plus years we've lived here.

The big 'danger' is the fact that right outside our bedroom door is a step down to the start, off to the right, of the staircase to the groundfloor. But I've trained myself to be automatically cautious when crossing that divide to the main corridor.

However, last night, around 3am, in my sleep-delirium, I somehow got turned around in the dark - I'm not even sure if I was going to or coming from the bathroom - and instead of stepping back up into our bedroom, I took a misstep, fell on my arse, and tobogganed noisily down the stairs into a heap!

Rachel and Alice found me babbling at the bottom of the stairs. I'd grazed my arm and bumped my coccyx, but because I'd slipped - rather than tumbled headfirst - I luckily escaped without serious injury!

I have no visual recollection of the event, just the the bump-bump-bump of my bum sliding down the stairs, which suggests to me I was more asleep than awake when this accident happened.

Ninety-nine per cent of my half-awake journeys to the bathroom in the night pass without incident, but earlier this year I went through a spell of 'waking nightmares' where our house wasn't our house and passages and stairways weren't where they ought to be, much to the consternation of my sleep-locked brain.

I guess it's almost like sleepwalking, but, until last night, even though I've previously gotten confused and "lost" (in a straight corridor!) because of walking in a dream-reality, this is the first time I've actually fallen down the stairs!

It's always been a great fear of Rachel and mine that this was a possibility, and it's certainly been a factor in our househunting.

For instance, one gorgeous property with an amazing garden I had to veto because I found the stairs too steep (even steeper than the ones in our current home... and they're quite steep!).

A house with an en-suite bathroom for the master bedroom is the ideal, so there are no more midnight adventures that involve tottering around stairwells.

No Show Footage But The Final Season Is Coming In Game Of Thrones Teaser...


Cor, Blimey, Mary Poppins, You're The Cream Of The Crop, The Tip Of The Top...


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MORTAL ENGINES (December 8)

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