Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative
Home Of Sonic Screwdrivers, Supernatural Scares, Star Stuff, Superheroes, Swords, Sorcery, Sci-fi, Smeg, and Silliness
Wednesday, 31 March 2010
This time Sigmatestudio.com is giving away a signed print and a collection of sketchbooks by featured artist Kirk Lindo - who has a penchant for drawing the lurvely ladies...
All you have to do is visit Sigmatestudio.com, where you will find a link to Kirk's eBay store. Once you've perused what is available return to the competition entry on Sigmatestudio and post a comment stating which is your favourite print and why.
A winner will then be chosen from the comments.
Anyone can enter, from anywhere in the world.
The deadline for entries is April 30 and you can only enter once!
The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), Leela (Louise Jameson) and K-9 take the TARDIS to the very edge of the known universe, where they are forced to materialise on a Minyan spacecraft, the R1C, to avoid being pulled into a nebula.
The R1C, and its continually regenerating crew, is nearing the end of a 100,000 year quest to retrieve the Minyan 'race banks' - a pair of data stores with the complete genetic make-up of their species - from a lost colony ship, the P7E.
The P7E is found at the heart of the nebula, where a newly-formed planet has grown-up around it.
The inhabitants of this new planet - who all live underground in a strict caste system - are the descendants of the Minyans and all pay homage to "the Oracle", which turns out to be the old ship's computer and guardian of the race bank.
There's an awful lot of tedious wandering around - broken up by some running around - and a tired plot of about a society ruled by an insane computer (a cliché even back then as it had been done to death in Star Trek and done better in earlier Doctor Who).
It's a tedious, linear script with no surprises and no convincing motivation for the forced conflict that unfolds between the crew of the R1C and the people of the underworld.
Matters aren't helped by painfully hammy acting from several members of the supporting cast and some wonky science in the script, but Underworld's biggest problem - heightened by the crisp quality of the DVD image - is the excessive use of shockingly bad Colour Separation Overlay (CSO).
Instead of shipping everyone off to Chislehurst Caves in Kent, new producer Graham Williams opted to cut costs by filming the cave sequences against a green (or blue) screen in a studio, so the 'underworld' could be superimposed.
The effect is so poor that it totally destroys any attempt by the viewer to suspend disbelief as parts of people's bodies fade in and out, or K-9's flank suddenly becomes transparent.
CSO was used quite frequently in this mid-period of Doctor Who, but usually with a bit more restraint (or, as in Warrior's Gate, to create a deliberately unreal-feeling environment). However, here, it is totally inexcusable and overshadows the story which, to be fair, has a couple of moments of interest.
These, too, though are sadly squandered.
It is revealed that an earlier encounter between the Time Lords of Gallifrey and the Minyans led to the creation of the Time Lord's policy of non-intervention; the Minyans regarded the Time Lords as 'gods' but then took the gifts the Gallifreyans gave them and used them to wage war on each other, but this sub-plot goes nowhere.
The caste structure of the underground world - which, naturally, leads to a slave revolt and the least inspiring rebellion seen on Doctor Who - includes a group called the Seers who, beneath their cowls, wear very retro sci-fi helmets with three eye-pieces. I thought these were going to be shown to be robots or some similar extension of the Oracle, but, again, this is never explored or revealed.
The story, by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, is full of unsubtle references to the Greek myths of Jason and The Argonauts - with many of the main characters sharing similar names with their mythical antecedents (ie. Captain Jackson = Jason; Herrick = Heracles; Minyans = Minoans; P7E = Persephone etc); a cheap trick that rarely works out well.
But just in case the audience didn't pick up on this, The Doctor 'accidentally' calls Captain Jackson (James Maxwell) 'Jason' and then has to explain to Leela the similarities (even though earlier she had seemed aware of who Ulysses was), suggesting that maybe old Earth myths are actually prophecies - a truly cringe-worthy piece of corny writing.
A tiresome and unengaging story to watch, Underworld is only really worth suffering through for Leela's skimpy costume, but that's small reward for 89-minutes of low-grade Doctor Who.
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Over at Speed Force, the site's newest contributor, Devin "The Flash" Johnson, explains what's going on: "I know there are a tons of fans out there who would love to have their own custom Flash memorabilia and now is the perfect chance to get a custom-designed, high-quality, ultra-detailed officially licensed Flash ring for free!
"The Ring Design can be hand-drawn, digitally produced or even a model. Be creative but stay within reason. Using the many ring designs available on ArrobaSilver.com as a base to build off of is a surefire way to guarantee entry."
The contest ends on Monday, April 26, 2010 at 11:59:59 a.m. Eastern Time.
Visit Speed Force for the full details, and rules, of the competition.
Hijinks and wackiness naturally ensues...
When I first learned of this film I was deeply uninterested, knowing only that it was based on a comic by Mark Millar - who at the time was making a pig's ear of my beloved Fantastic Four - and how awful the film adaptation of Wanted was compared to Millar's original work.
But then as I began to see more and more trailers and clips it dawned on me that this might actually be something I could get behind.
Scriptwriter Jane Goldman and director Matthew Vaughan had previously collaborated on Stardust, an adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novel, which also gave me confidence and by the time Rachel and I got a chance to see Kick-Ass this weekend I was fair bubbling with pent-up excitement for it.
Sadly, it's not quite the Fight Club-level of brilliance I was maybe hoping for, but it's still a very entertaining two hours of cinema that certainly held my attention for its duration - even though Rachel felt it "went on a bit".
Simply put, the film does exactly what it says on the tin - and when it isn't "kicking ass", it just rather potters along.
However, while by no means perfect Kick-Ass is close enough that it pretty much owns the 'low-level/DIY superhero' sub-genre for the foreseeable future. And its straight-forward, accessible plot means the movie has more instant rewatchability factor than last year's top superhero movie: Watchmen (as well as a generally better soundtrack).
Although the character interactions are nicely complex, the script's main fault stems from the moment Dave reveals his 'secret identity' to school hottie Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca), who has become his best friend during the course of the film because she thought he was gay; it then rather lapses into unconvincing adolescent wish-fulfillment.
Kick-Ass certainly never operates in the "real world" that you and I inhabit, but manages to maintain a delicately balanced verisimilitude between the existence the movie's audience experience every day of their lives and that experienced by comic book characters. Which is why the cliché of the hero getting the girl seems rather counter-intuitive to the point I thought the film was trying to get across.
Given that the character of Katie is pretty much redundant to the plot for the latter half of the movie (having zero impact on Dave's - or anyone else's - decisions) the ultimate pairing of her with the title character serves no purpose.
Conversely, the film's strengths lie in the moments where it steps away from story and concentrates on its stylishly choreographed, extended fight sequences - with the best of these being the ones that involve Big Daddy (Nic Cage) and/or Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz).
In truth the film belongs to these two characters and the foul-mouthed wunderkind Hit-Girl in particular. It's their darkly dead-pan relationship - and terrifying fighting prowess - that make Kick-Ass a bit special.
For an actress who just celebrated her 13th birthday in February, Chloë Grace Moretz is outstanding and has made this character her own with this single film.
Forget a Kick-Ass sequel, I'm campaigning for a Hit-Girl series of movies...
Monday, 29 March 2010
(1) 3D Buck: Resident Evil's Paul W.S. Anderson has signed on to direct a 3D Buck Rogers movie for Paradox, the company behind the approaching Conan movie.
(2) Website Regenerates: The official BBC website for Doctor Who has had a facelift in preparation for the new season of the show which takes off this weekend with The Eleventh Doctor.
(3) Comic Legend Giordano Passes Away: The multi-talented Dick Giordano died at the weekend. He was 77.
(4) The Wall Is In Place: Angela Bassett has been cast as Amanda Waller in the Green Lantern movie.
(5) From Fantastic Four To First Avenger: Former Johnny Storm Chris Evans has been cast as Steve Rogers in the Captain America movie.
(6) Scream, Scream And Scream Again: Scream 4 is a go, for an April 2011 release, reuniting the team of director Wes Craven, writer Kevin Williamson and stars Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox Arquette.
(7) Get Shakin': Steampunk masterpiece Boneshaker is now available as a downloadable audio book, read, in part, by Wil Wheaton.
(8) Another Browncoat In The Warehouse: A third Firefly alumni, Gina Torres, is to guest star in Warehouse 13, after Jewel Staite and Sean Maher.
(9) K-9 Returns With The Doctor: The same day the new season of Doctor Who launches in the UK, the rather poor Australian 'spin-off' K9 also debuts on Disney XD.
(10) Time's Up: Fox has canceled 24... although there is a chance Jack Bauer will be torturing prisoners on either another network or the big screen.
(11) Trailer Coming: A trailer is expected to go online for Albert Pyun's Tales Of An Ancient Empire on April 8.
(12) No Fooling With Crooked Dice: The website for exciting new British game and miniatures company Crooked Dice goes live on April 1.
(13) Possible New Human Species: A Siberian fossil may be the clue to a previously unknown branch of the human family.
Sunday, 28 March 2010
Saturday, 27 March 2010
For those who can't wait for the new Captain America movie, here's part one of the 1944 Captain America serial from Republic - based very loosely on the comic books...
However, late last weekend I saw a new icon had appeared quite a bit down the list, between Dan and Bubbashelby (who signed on back in late February). My interest piqued, I clicked on this new icon, only to discover the name of my new Follower was none other than:
* philipreeve of The Curious World Of Philip Reeve
Yes, indeed, it appears my favourite author is now following my inane ramblings...
I'd also like to welcome to the fold:
* zombies! zombies! ZOMBIES! of The Dead Walk?!
And, as always, I invite all my Followers - and other readers, of course - to comment on my silly little articles, film clips, random reviews etc and help foster a sense of community around these here parts.
Friday, 26 March 2010
Clare and Nick have already put in a bid to move in - but first I obviously need Dr. Horrible to invent a shrink-ray to bring them down to the requisite six inches height of their fellow occupants.
At the moment the house is rather bustling with guests as people from Rachel's other 'properties' - namely the 'Rachel's Return' pub and George & Millie's general store - have come to visit, as their homes, on the other side of the room, are still encased in bubble wrap until we sort them out.
Now the mansion is in working order though, I suspect it won't be long before the remainder of Rachel's property portfolio is unpacked and set up.
Hopefully by then we will have acquired a better camera, but in the meantime here below is a short film I shot giving a hurried, one-minute tour of the place. Otherwise more pictures can be found over on my Facebook page here:
But nothing demonstrates this state of affairs better than The Chase, the penultimate story of the show's second season, from back in 1965.
While tinkering with a 'space-time visualiser' The Doctor acquired from The Space Museum, their last adventure, the crew of the TARDIS learn that the daleks have perfected their own time travel device and are using it to track down The Doctor and his companions.
Still unable to actually control the TARDIS while it is in flight, the First Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki land on the desert planet Aridius - where they are menaced by octopoidal Mire Beasts and taken prisoner by the native Aridians (a former underwater race who now look like escapees from an old Flash Gordon serial) - and then flee to the top of the Empire State Building, for a very odd encounter with an American tourist called Morton Dill (played by Peter Purves).
Although this is actually a relatively short segment, there's plenty for the eagle-eyed viewer to enjoy - not least is the scene-stealing performance by a fat tourist who first pushes another performer out the way, then goes to stand right in front of the tour guide and has to be ushered out of shot!
Of course, the most bizarre aspect of this scene only really comes to fruition in the final episodes of the six-part story, when Peter Purves returns, not as Morton Dill this time but as an entirely new character, Steven Taylor (a future companion for The Doctor and Vicki).
Surely the BBC couldn't have been that hard up for actors that the part of Morton Dill would have to be played by the same person as Steven Taylor - a totally unrelated character?
After leaving the Empire State Building, with the dalek time machine in hot pursuit and closing, the TARDIS materialises on the Mary Celeste (giving an entertaining explanation to that particular mystery) before turning up in a "haunted mansion" - which the Doctor arrogantly claims is a construct of human nightmares, despite Ian's protestations that it's probably something far simpler (which it is, although The Doctor never learns this).
Vicki gets separated from her traveling companions and left behind, and has to smuggle herself onboard the dalek ship - which, like the TARDIS, is bigger on the inside than outside. There she unearths a scheme to create a robot duplicate of The Doctor to infiltrate the TARDIS crew and eliminate them.
It's an oddly complicated plot, made all the more humorous by the fact that, for most of the shots it is in, the robot Doctor is played by an actor (Edmund Warwick) who looks nothing like William Hartnell and when he speaks Hartnell's voice is badly lip-synched over the footage.
The TARDIS' final stop is the jungle planet of Mechanus, home to a species of mobile fungus-trees that look like jellyfish on sticks, where - having dispatched the robot Doctor and been reunited with Vicki, our heroes are captured by the Mechanoids - a race of robots from Earth, who were sent there 50 years earlier as a vanguard for future colonists who never arrived.
The Mechanoids place the TARDIS crew in a zoo with the only other human on the planet - crashed space pilot Steven Taylor.
There are times in The Chase where you get the impression, particularly from the music, that the story is meant to be a comedy, but it is totally devoid of comedic moments (having one dalek talk with a 'funny' voice doesn't count as humour) and the pacing is severely lacking for any sort of tension of a real chase - let alone a high-speed Benny Hill-type scenario.
Given that most of the suggested tension comes from The Doctor telling his crew that the dalek machine is closing on them, it doesn't help that most of the scenes in the TARDIS are just of people standing around talking.
Outside of The Doctor's pig-headed attitude to the "haunted house", the story's one genuine moment of fine character work comes in its closing moments when Barbara and Ian realise they can use the dalek time machine to return home (I'm not sure why they couldn't have just got off at the Empire State Building and found a way back then) and The Doctor gets wound up and annoyed that they are risking death in the device, have only a fifty percent chance of survival etc - it's all just bluster though, and a cover for the fact that he is going to miss his old companions.
Ian and Barbara do get back safe and sound, and we're treated to a Beatlesesque montage of images of the pair of them larking around in London. A satisfying end to their particular story, but sadly the strongest moment of another very bitty script from Terry Nation.
As with his vastly inferior Keys Of Marinus, there are some good ideas tucked away in Nation's The Chase - such as the Mechanoids - but nothing is given enough screen time to be fully developed, instead simply crashing on to the next unconnected scenario.
Thursday, 25 March 2010
No one had told me it was a gorgeous pocketable, digest-sized book like the Savage Worlds' Explorers' Edition (actually smaller!!!)! Nice touch!
I realise the Tuesday Knights are still deeply invested in Pete's ongoing Top Secret S.I. campaign, but I'm always thinking about the future and what I'm going to run next.
As you might have guessed from my current reading matter - volume one of Oriental Stories (a reprint of the 1930 pulp magazine) and a Doc Savage trade paperback - my head is in a very pulpy place at the moment.
It's a genre (yes, I know 'pulp' isn't strictly a genre, it's a medium, but bear with me) I'm constantly being drawn to as the perfect vehicle for the style of stories I'd like to tell through roleplaying games.
Having pretty much accepted that Pulp Cthulhu isn't likely to see the light of day this century, I've long wanted to run (a) a 'mystery man'/Doc Savage kind of campaign and (b) a game of Savage Worlds, so this seems a perfect opportunity to combine the two ambitions.
From all I've read of Savage Worlds it's the best game system for recreating a true pulp feel, and is the right balance of crunch and rules-lite for our group.
Then we can throw in the following for a bit of Lovecraftian spin (and, more likely, an Indiana Jones take) on proceedings:
Of course, anything could happen between now and when I actually next get to sit behind the Gamesmaster's screen, so we'll have to wait and see what unfolds...
The film featured the immortal pairing of Mork & Mindy's lovely Pam Dawber with 8 Simple Rules' John Ritter and was about a couple 'sucked inside' a demonic television set and forced to survive a gauntlet of twisted versions of regular TV shows.
While the film had its moments, it had nothing on Supernatural's spin on a similar idea: Changing Channels.
Drawn to a mysterious murder of a violent husband by what his wife claims looked like "Lou Ferrigno's Incredible Hulk", the brothers soon realise their old adversary, The Trickster (Richard Speight Jr.), last seen in Season Three's Mystery Spot, is at work.
However, this doesn't stop them being lured to an abandoned warehouse, by an obvious fraudulent police message, where they are drawn into a "TV Land"-reality of never-ending programmes.
After enduring a medical drama (Dr Sexy MD), and a bizarre Japanese gameshow (Nutcracker) - which even Castiel can't rescue them from - the brothers deduce they have to "play their roles" to survive the ordeal - be it in an advert for anti-herpes cream, a sitcom (complete with laughter track), a police procedural show or a very entertaining Knight Rider clone (where Dean's Impala is KITT and one of the brothers is the voice).
Along the way, The Trickster explains that he is wearing them down so they will accept the roles that destiny has chosen for them - Sam as Lucifer's Vessel and Dean as Micheal's - in the impending Armageddon.
In typical Supernatural style, this story manages to be both hysterically funny at times and still segue comfortably into the Apocalyptic overarching storyline of the season.
Changing Channels not only revealed The Trickster's true identity - which I certainly didn't see coming - but also explained why Sam and Dean have their specific roles to play in the angels versus demons conflict, and as such is essential viewing for those who want to see the Winchesters' edging ever closer to the season's grand finale.
As with many of this season's episodes, Changing Channels also positions another potentially powerful player for the ultimate smack-down, now that we appreciate The Trickster's personal interest in the Apocalypse.
I really hope all these lose threads are brought into play by the end of this season - or at least next season, depending on how the balance between Seasons Five and Six is decided.
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
I blame Jon 'The Vicar' Stallard, of Geek Radio Daily, for getting me hooked on this wonderful show - to be honest without his frequent proclamations of passion for Glee I might not even of heard of it and I certainly wouldn't have been so eager to Sky+ the 'sneak peak' episode that E4 screened some weeks before the actual show began on British television.
Even so, I didn't really know what to expect, suspecting a version of High School Musical for grown-ups at best, and was therefore taken totally by surprise by the dark humour and cutting one-liners of Glee's pilot episode.
Of course, there's drama as well and the songs - oh, the songs are so powerful - but it's certainly the humour that holds the whole package together and makes the show its own. Yes, it's a little bit HSM and even more Fame, but ultimately it's its own unique entity.
It manages to be positive, non-judgmental and uplifting, while at the same time ensuring none of the characters are mawkish goody two-shoes, nor - at the other extreme - caricatures of 'High School evil', to quote Jennifer's Body... except maybe Will's deceitful wife, Terri!
In fact, the core Glee kids (i.e. Rachel, Artie, Kurt, Tina, Mercedes, and Finn), for all their faults, are all people I'd have gladly hung around with when I was at school.
Lea Michele's Rachel may be the star of the school's Glee club - and have one of the most gorgeous singing voices I've ever heard - but the comedy star of the show is Jane Lynch's cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, a comedy monster to rival John Cleese's Basil Fawlty or Ricky Gervais' David Brent.
The show is almost worth watching for her performance alone.
On a personal note, I adore the show because it's the first I've encountered for a long time where I can just switch off my geek radar and enjoy it for what it is.
Since I discovered the all-encompassing delights of Dungeons & Dragons in the late '70s - and then other roleplaying games - I have had this slight affliction that I see every television show, film, book, comic etc as potential source material for gaming.
I can't get through a regular TV show without, at least once (and usually several times), mentally logging something as a potential seed for a gaming idea or trying to work out how a particular scene would play out in a game.
But with Glee I can just chill out, relax and let the show wash over me - and thus I actually find myself more invested in its events at times because I don't have my geek radar disconnecting me from the programme's verisimilitude.
Here in the UK we're only a few weeks away from the mid-season break, while in the US the show is returning soon for the second half of its first season. I don't know if we'll be subjected to the agony of a prolonged break or whether E4 will pick up the show simply days after it's been broadcast in the States (as Sky1 does with Lost, for instance), but for the moment we have daily repeats - at 4pm every weekday - as well as the Monday night premiers of new episodes to enjoy.
Given the almost universal critical acclaim that the show has garnered, coupled with live musical tours by the cast and chart-topping albums, it comes as no surprise to learn that a second season has already been commissioned by Fox.
Clearly the novelty of the show can only be maintained while its cast at least appear to be of school age, so it isn't going to last forever, but it's already carved itself a unique niche in the televisual landscape and - in HeroPress Towers, at least - made household names of its stars and its music an almost permanent fixture on our iPods and stereo systems.
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
I'd visited Ightham Mote back in my days at the Sevenoaks Chronicle, writing a piece on the ongoing restoration of the medieval manor house, while Rachel and her mum had been to a Richard Digance performance in the gardens.
However, even though the house turned out to only be a 12-minute drive from our front door, we hadn't been there together before - despite frequent suggestions that we really should go.
The moated manor house is one of the oldest surviving in the country and features, in its inner courtyard, Britain's only Grade 1 Listed dog kennel!
As well as a Great Hall, a crypt, several bedrooms and servants' quarters, there's also a twisty staircase in the main house up to an isolated tower - now devoted to an exhibition about the restoration work (I found a Sevenoaks Chronicle cutting prominent in one of the books on display, which I think featured one of my headlines if no my byline).
I believe the house was occupied until comparatively recently as the billiards' room not only featured a three-ton billiard table - which looked stunning - but early 20th Century newspapers.
As with all these old properties, it's not totally disabled friendly, but every room has a chair to sit down in if you get tired and the attendant at the entrance assured us that if the slope down to the house was too much for me to walk back up, Rachel would be allowed to bring the car down to fetch me.
As it turned out the 1:5 incline was more of an invigorating challenge than a major hurdle and we managed a good walk around the 14th Century house and the nearer sections of its 14-acre gardens.
The National Trust's free offer had clearly attracted many people, as I don't think I've ever seen quite so many families at a stately home at any one time, so hopefully it has done the charity some good.
It certainly did Rachel and I a lot of good on Sunday, as it blew away the cobwebs of a very lazy Saturday; Rachel had spent the day recovering from a long, boozy night out with her office compadres on Friday and I was recovering from a recurrence of my insomnia.
I've posted a few of my pictures up on Facebook, which anyone can see here.
However, Tim Burton's recent Alice In Wonderland is not an adaptation of that immortal tale (or even Carroll's sequel, Alice Through The Looking Glass, which I have never been able to generate the same enthusiasm for) but a misguided sequel that reduces the fantasy of Wonderland - or 'Underland' as it is called here, for no readily apparent reason - to a mere backdrop for a cliché-ridden, Hollywood action adventure.
Instead of forking over hard-earned cash to my grim, local multiplex (an exercise that would have cost me almost as much as buying the soon-to-be-released DVD, but with none of the benefits of being able to watch the film in the comfort of my own home), I opted to read the novelisation of the movie by T.T. Sutherland (based on the screenplay by Linda Woolverton for Tim Burton's movie - note Lewis Carroll doesn't get a look-in on the book credits!).
Somewhere along the way, this clearly became 'just another job' for someone, as all the whimsy of Carroll's work has been sucked dry, quotes from the original are regurgitated as 'random', supposedly witty, non sequiturs and Wonderland's innate magical realism is reduced to cheap party tricks and excuses for visual tom-foolery.
Stripped of the movie's no-doubt spectacular CGI gimmickry, the plot of Burton's Alice In Wonderland is a soulless affair, one step away from having Alice 'tooled up' with a sub-machine gun, chewing a cigar and dropping f-bombs left, right and centre. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me to discover there was an early version of the script along those lines somewhere.
Now I can begin to appreciate how fans of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy felt almost violated by the video-game make-over their beloved piece of literature received at the hands of EA Video Games earlier this year.
The story starts off in a possibly interesting way, with 19-year-old Alice Kingsleigh being dragged to a garden party by her mother, in an effort to engineer her into a convenient marriage with a dull, but wealthy suitor. Since childhood Alice has been dreaming of 'Wonderland', and while her late father entertained these flights of fantasy, her mother is much more grounded.
Confronted with the proposal of marriage in front of the assembled party guests, Alice flees, having seen The White Rabbit from her dreams, and falls down the Rabbit Hole into Wonderland.
At first, the creatures of Wonderland cannot agree if she is "the real Alice" or not, and while this is an interesting thread, too much play is given to Alice's conviction that all the events unfolding around her are actually a dream. It would have been far more challenging if the central debate had hinged not around whether it was a dream or not - which it clearly isn't - but whether she is the Alice or just an Alice.
I was also initially intrigued by the concept of giving many of the character's "real names", and even families, but eventually it dawned on me that by giving these people backstories it was simply making them more mundane and ordinary.
Admit it, when have you once ever thought: "does the Mad Hatter have a family?" or "are the Red Queen - a playing card - and the White Queen - a chess piece - related in some way?"
In the flow of a movie these are whistles and bells that could easily just wash over you, especially in the massive feast of eye candy that I suspect the film is, but in the book, these are just further examples of the obvious fact that the film makers don't 'get' Wonderland on anything but a surface level.
There's even a slightly creepy romantic undercurrent in the relationship between Alice and The Mad Hatter, and it isn't until almost the end of the book that you realise this is intended not as a romantic sub-plot, but actually as Alice finding a replacement father figure in the Hatter.
Of course, without knowing that the Hatter is being portrayed by the over-the-credits' big name of Johnny Depp, this emotional bond is totally random and counter to everything you might have read in the original text.
And that pretty much crystallizes the faults in this book, Wonderland has been twisted to fit the tropes and structure of the Hollywood blockbuster, rather than the book bending to the whim of Carroll's creation.
This ghastly neutering of an enduring classic of British eccentricity may have been able to bamboozle and distract cinema audiences with its illusory ledgerdemain, but in the stark black and white of the written page, where this adventure began back in the 19th Century, its all too clear that there is no Wonder to be found here.
Monday, 22 March 2010
This will be followed in October by the game's first supplement, The Smallville High School Yearbook and in December by Smallville: The Watchtower Report.
Utilising its popular Cortex rules system - as seen in the Serenity, Battlestar Galactica and Supernatural roleplaying games, this is another mighty licensed product in MWP's arsenal.
Having grown fond of the Cortex system of late, after reading through some of the Serenity material again, I'll be interested to see how this system handles superpowers.
For a company that appeared to disappear off the radar last year - for a worryingly long time - MWP has come out fighting; but this, I reckon, could be the feather in their cap as Smallville - and by extension DC Comics - is a major mainstream property with a lot of crossover potential.
More Adèle Blanc-Sec: Another stunning trailer for for Luc Besson's Victorian Sci-Fi The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc Sec (albeit in French).
(2) Now You See Me, Now You Don't: Scientists create an object to render things invisible in three-dimensions, paving the way, ultimately, for the creation of invisibility body suits!
(3) Horror Reimaginings: The revived Hammer Films has plans for 21st Century makeovers for three of its classics (including two of my favourites) - Kronos, Quatermass and Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde. Would a modern Quatermass work - surely he was very much a product of his time?
(4) Kenson on ICONS: Mutants & Masterminds guru Steve Kenson answers questions on his new superhero game, ICONS.
(5) Deadlands Reloaded Reloaded: The Savage Worlds iteration of Pinnacle's western horror game system Deadlands is being rereleased this summer as two books - one for players and one for gamesmasters.
(6) Old School Savages: Reality Blurs has launched a new line of 'old school' fantasy adventures for Savage Worlds, called Old School Fantasy.
(7) Flash Back: In August, Dark Horse will be publishing an archival collection of Flash Gordon comics from the late 40s to early 50s.
(8) X-Prequel: Bryan Singer talks to the LA Times about his X-Men movie prequel First Class.
(9) Looking For Cardstock: Combon Pazza offers over 220 pages of free cardstock figures from a variety of genres, for use with roleplaying games.
(10) Doctor Tops: Readers of SFX magazine voted Doctor Who their all-time favourite sci-fi show, with Buffy coming in second and Firefly third.
(11) Biblical Terror Leads To Comic Book Censorship: A BBC documentary, next week, looks at a Scottish urban myth, which possibly grew out of a Bible story, that led to a crackdown on American horror comics in the 1950s.
(1) I Want To Buy My Ticket Now: Quiet Earth has the exclusive news that Pandorum's director Christian Alvart is bringing epic pulp space opera Captain Future to the silver screen.
(2) Will Three Inches Be Enough? America's SyFy channel has commissioned a pilot for Three Inches, the tale of some frankly useless superheroes. Sounds like Mystery Men to me.
(3) Size Matters Not - Warwick Davies, of Star Wars, Willow and Harry Potter fame, will be signing copies of his biography, Size Matters Not, at London's Forbidden Planet Megastore on April 15.
(4) Star Wars Gets Juvenile: George Lucas is supposedly working on a new animated Star Wars series for pre-schoolers, based on the Star Wars: Galactic Heroes toys.
(5) Talk Like A Dalek: Saturday, April 3 (the debut of the new season of Doctor Who) has been declared 'Talk Like A Dalek' day, in memory of the late Peter Hawkins (the first voice of the daleks).
(6) Red Button Prev-Who: From Wednesday, digital viewers in the UK will be able to get a cheeky peak at the first minute of The Eleventh Hour, the first episode of the new Doctor Who season.
(7) Smith's Seconds: A second season of Matt Smith's Doctor Who has been confirmed even before his first season has started airing.
(8) Too Awesome To Live: An interesting article on why Firefly was possibly too well-crafted for its own good.
(9) Spillin' The Beans: Dark Horse Comics' Scott Allie talks about the upcoming Firefly comics focusing on Wash and Shepherd Book.
(10) Own Avatar Next Month: James Cameron's Avatar hits DVD a month from today - for those who couldn't be bothered to see it at the cinema (myself included).
(11) Vampirella's Big Bang: Horror icon Vampirella - and her publisher, Harris - has been acquired by Dynamite Entertainment.
(12) McGowan Charms Conan: Former Charmed star Rose McGowan is playing "an evil half-human/half-witch" in the upcoming Conan movie, which is currently in production.
(13) Opening The Warehouse: The stars of Warehouse 13 talk about the new season.
(14) Baker's Big Finish: The Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, is said to be in talks to work with Big Finish, producers of the Doctor Who audio plays.
(15) Happy Hobbits: The two-part Lord Of The Rings' prequel, The Hobbit, starts filming in New Zealand in June.
(16) Monster Movies: SyFy has a whole herd of Saturday night monster movies on its slate... including a new Sinbad movie!
(17) Xander Tasered: Former Buffy star Nicholas 'Xander Harris' Brendon had an unfortunate run-in with Californian police on Wednesday and ended up on the wrong end of a taser and charged with felony vandalism.
(18) Make A Date With Sookie: Season Three of True Blood debuts in the States on June 13.
(19) Match Made In Goth Heaven: Tim Burton is to make a stop-motion animated movie of The Addams Family.
(20) The Visitors Are Coming: The reimagined V debuts in the UK on April 13 at 10pm.
(21) The Most Dangerous Game: The first trailer for Predators has been released.
Sunday, 21 March 2010
Not exactly feeling at my best this weekend, so - to tide you over - here's an interesting update from Travis Gordon about his excellent Spellfury online serial - with some insight into behind-the-scenes production processes.
As well as simply an indication of the amount of work that goes into each episode, Travis drops some spoilers/teasers about a couple of new characters that will be appearing in future shows.
Saturday, 20 March 2010
While I don't wish to turn HeroPress into a video-dominated blog, I had to share this 10-minute short film adaptation of HP Lovecraft's The Silver Key with you as this week's Saturday Morning Matinee.
I ran a short clip/trailer of it back in January (which the owner has now removed from YouTube) and the full movie has now been released.
Directed and produced by Conor Timmis and Gary Fierro, the silent feature tells the updated story of a lonely Randolph Carter(Conor Timmis), having regained the key to the gate of dreams, leaving be the waking world forever and crossing into the realm of dreams.
I also present, below, an earlier work by this talented pair, a community college student film version of Lovecraft's Pickman's Model.
* Limpey of Aldeboran
Friday, 19 March 2010
As much as I've generally enjoyed Tony Lee's writing - and his excellent capturing of David Tennant's manic take on the Tenth Doctor - I felt the last story arc kind of fizzled out.
Issue Seven opened up promisingly enough, with the prospect of a story taking part - mainly - within the confines of the TARDIS (something I've been hoping for ages the television show will do).
Time Smash, the first part of the two-part Tesseract storyline, took its time familiarising readers with The Doctor's two new companions from the 1920s - Emily Winter and Matthew Finnegan.
But then as the tale unfolded - the TARDIS gets absorbed into an alien craft and The Doctor and his companions are in a race against time to restore their ship before it explodes - I couldn't help slipping into a state of "been done, seen that before" as our heroes did a lot of running about and, not very successful, dodging of the alien invaders.
Oh-ho, I thought, looks like I won't be renewing my subscription.
Then Emily stepped through a strange portal in a TARDIS corridor and found herself floating in "fifth-dimensional space" with the truly bizarre Tef'Aree... and I knew my subscription was safe. As I've said before, in my write-ups about Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy, I really eat up this weird cosmic stuff. Suddenly I had to know what happened next.
Al Davison's artwork also grew on me through the issue as well. The opening page of The Doctor modeling a selection of his previous incarnation's outfits was shockingly poor - The Doctor looking more like a camp Gary Lineker than David Tennant - but certainly picked up as the story moved along and The Doctor's extreme facial contortions became increasingly Tennant-like.
Of course with Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor materialising on British television in a few weeks, I wonder just how long The Tenth Doctor and his new companions have in this series. While Matthew hasn't really had a chance to establish much of a personality yet, Emily has a definite spunky Charley Pollard quality about her, and it seems a shame if they have to be ditched after only a couple of issues.
Although clearly they can't still be hanging around when the Eleventh Doctor shows up...
Thursday, 18 March 2010
Pull out your +4 Plasma Blaster and Fight On!
Issue 8, dedicated to cover artist Erol Otus, is ready to rock your game with new races, classes, spells, tables, gods, monsters, traps, reviews, a 'desert sandbox' minicampaign, two longer adventures, eight minidungeons, and lots of other goodies to help you take it to the next level – or stop the PCs from getting there!
With art and articles by Erol Otus, Kevin Mayle, Mark Allen, Lee Barber, Peter Jensen, Steve Robertson, Samuel Kisko, Patrick Farley, Kelvin Green, Anthony Stiller, Robert Lionheart, Ramsey Dow, Jeff Rients, Gabor Lux, Age of Fable, Baz Blatt, Zachary Houghton, Erin "Taichara" Bisson, Del L. Beaudry, Geoffrey O. Dale, Michael Curtis, Tavis Allison, James Maliszewski, Tony Dowler, and many, many more, this issue is jam-packed with the old-school action adventure you crave.
Don't miss out – grab it today!
Fight On! #8 is available in print and PDF. You can buy the print edition here:
and the PDF here:
Table of Contents:
Mercenaries A to Z (Simon Bull)………..……………….3
Arendt's Old Peculiar (Antti Hulkkonen)………………..6
Experience for Exploration (Jeff Rients)………………...8
Supersize Me! (Daniel R. Collins)…………..…………...10
Insectaurs and Masterminds (Tim "Sniderman" Snider)..11
The Soothsayer (Ragnorakk)…………………………....13
I Thirst (Gabor Lux)…………………………………....15
Knights & Knaves (Steve Robertson & Alfred J. Dalziel)20
Creepies & Crawlies (Geoff McKinney & Sam Kisko).....23
Grognard's Grimoire (Calithena)……………………….25
Red Heart Fortress (Alex Schröder)……………………26
Tables for Fables (Age of Fable)………………………..27
Hidden Traits (Zak S.)………………………………….28
Let's Scrounge Up Some Wheels (Tim Snider)…………30
Post-Apocalyptic Stormfront Table ("Sniderman")...…...31
The Howling Emptiness (Ramsey Dow)……………….34
Education of a Magic User (Douglas Cox)……………..44
Mooning Ixtandraz (Peter Schmidt Jensen)…………….45
Smallweed's Ride (Baz Blatt)…………………….……...46
The Village of Pindle (Zachary Houghton)……….…….48
Welcome to the Microdungeon (Tony Dowler)….…..…49
The Understudy (Erin "Taichara" Bisson)……...….…....50
Badlands of the Bandit Kings (Robert Lionheart)……....51
Oceanian Legends: The Gods of Eá (Del L. Beaudry)….59
Random's Assortment (Random, Big Jack Brass, Ciryl)...66
Dungeon Modules (Geoffrey O. Dale)…………………68
Sites to Seek (Michael Curtis)…………………………..72
The Darkness Beneath (Calithena)……………………...74
Interview with Erol Otus (Erol Otus & Jeff Rients)……77
Random Events Make You Say Yes (Tavis Allison)…….80
Merlyn's Mystical Mirror (various)……………………...82
Artifacts, Adjuncts, & Oddments (Dalziel & Dow)…….88
Jeff explains the idea behind the book: "It is a parody of those old 'choose-your-own-adventure' books but with all the hardcore violence that you wished was in them when you were fourteen."
The backcover blurb reads: "Aliens are invading the Earth and their ray guns turn people into violent punk rockers.
"At the same time, the city is being overtaken by giant monsters tougher than Godzilla and Mothra combined.
"You can choose to be a lone scientist trapped in a secret government lab on a remote island swarming with monstrous killer insects, a badass punk rock chick with a green mohawk caught in a bar room brawl as the city goes up in flames around her, or a desk jockey forced to endure tedious office duties while his building is being attacked by a gargantuan centipede with claws the size of sports utility vehicles.
"Which character will you become?"
Fully illustrated by Portland artist Chrissy Horchheimer, old school gamers will find a serious Encounter Critical! vibe in Super Giant Monster Time!
The three characters you get to choose from for this Apocalyptic fun are:
Si - A super cool punk rock chick with a massive mohawk. Fueled by alcohol and violence, she’s not going to take no motherf***ing-invasion-from-beyond lying down. (Turn to page 11).
John Smithe – a boring office worker. He is afraid of: his boss, showing up late, and being the focus of attention. His favorite color is tan. (Turn to page 77).
Gary Freedman – a scientist at the mysterious Complex 23 research facility. Trapped in what was a normal super secret government facility that has now become a true Hell on Earth. (Turn to page 149).
Embrace your destiny and expect bad language and ultraviolence from the get-go.
The 188-page book hit shelves last week and is currently available from Amazon for $11.95
Investigating the death by old age of a 25-year-old, the brothers discover a poker game where the years of a player's life are the currency, rather than hard cash.
The game is run by a charming Irish grifter called Patrick (Hal Ozsan), who happens to be a 900-year-old male witch.
Bobby Singer has been none-too-happy of late about his new wheelchair-bound status and so gets in on a poker game with Patrick... and promptly loses 25 years!
Ever the cardshark Dean tries to win Bobby's years back - which he does - and then loses 50 years of his own and comes away as an 80-year-old man (Chad Everett), leaving Sam to try and save the day, with a bit of help from the witch's companion, Lia (Pascale Hutton).
Now the thing is, as the boys realise, Patrick isn't actually a bad person - beyond being a bit of a hustler; he never forces anyone to play cards with him and he usually never takes more years than a person can afford to give (I'm taking the death of the 25-year-old as a bit of an aberration in his track record, as it certainly didn't appear to be intentional from what we learn of Patrick's personality later on in the story).
So this means the normal Supernatural formula of "discover monster-confront monster-slay monster" doesn't fit here as Patrick, as well as being a wizard of Harry Dresden-like abilities - doesn't deserve to be killed. He certainly isn't the usual monster or demon the brothers confront... or in possession of a cursed artifact... or any of the other typical scenarios they encounter on a weekly basis.
Thus the story has to focus more on the personalities involved, and with Sera Gamble on scriptwriting duties we're guaranteed a strong yarn. The most powerful of the sub-plots looks at Bobby's despair at his situation and his suicidal thoughts brought on by the belief that he "is no longer a hunter". His exchanges with Dean are a particular high point of this episode.
What isn't made quite so clear is why Lia chose this particular moment to 'turn' on her lover; I assume it's because she realised the Winchesters were au fait with this magical world, but that's never really even hinted at.
While the denouement of Lia and Patrick's story didn't involve the Winchesters, Patrick is another great Supernatural supporting character that has the potential to exist and grow outside of this one story. Surely a 'he-witch' of this power would be a useful ally in the final throw-down with Lucifer?
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
This new 'reality show' (for want of a better phrase) follows the Dungeons & Dragonsy antics of Zak Sabbath, author of the legendary Playing D&D With Porn Stars blog and his mostly female gaming group.
The 'porn stars' are obviously the hook to get us into the show but if it pans out like Zak's blog, this is going to be some serious old school gaming goodness.
The man is one of the many erudite, creative gamers currently blogging about my favourite hobby - but has the added advantage of working with a bevvy of gorgeous women... many of whom seem to share his love of Dungeons & Dragons.
If nothing else this should - once and for all - break any stereotypes about fat, socially-inept gamers playing games in their mom's basement. It might also break some stereotypes people have about those who work in the adult entertainment industry.
But I'm pretty sure I Hit It With My Axe will do a lot more than challenge viewer's preconceived prejudices.
Zak's notes on the first episode, which he admits is his least favourite of those shot so far, can be found here.
Aetheric Mechanics is a whole different ball of wax. A self-contained graphic novella in a 'mere' 48 pages, everything is wrapped up superbly (except possibly the actual motive for the murders - but perhaps that was just me being dense) in a way that finally revealed to me why Ellis is generally held in such high esteem by the comic book community.
I also couldn't get over how gorgeous Gianluca Pagliarani's black and white art is here, compared to his erratic work on Ignition City. His depiction of a steampunk London, with various flying craft and motorised land vehicles, draws you into this finely detailed world.
It's the early 20th Century and Doctor Richard Watcham returns from the front lines of Britain's war with Ruritania to his friend Sax Raker, the world's greatest amateur detective, who is pursuing a mysterious murder case involving an attacker who is seen to "phase in and out" of existence.
Even that little introduction contains (perhaps too many) hints of the fantastic revelations that Ellis is preparing for his unsuspecting reader.
The victims of the attacks are scientists involved in 'aetheric mechanics', the relatively new science that explains the technological leaps that put this world ahead of our own.
The story is scripted so tightly that to explain - or even hint at - much more will possibly spoil it for anyone who has yet to read it, but I can say the ending is simultaneously surprising and totally convincing.
Aetheric Mechanics is everything I'd hoped for in Ignition City but found lacking, taking the reader off in a totally unexpected direction by the end of its compact tale, yet consistently maintaining a feeling of internal integrity. Nothing here is what it seems and yet, perversely, it is also exactly what it seems.
I've said too much... just go and read it!
Survival Of The Dead follows the group of soldiers who appeared - albeit briefly - in 2007's Diary Of The Dead, when they hijacked the students' RV.
After that, and still less than two months into the zompocalypse, the AWOL soldiers learn of a supposedly secure island - Plum Island - off the coast of Delaware and head there, only to discover it's home to two feuding families of Irish immigrants, as well as the usual crop of zombies.
One family is headed by Patrick O'Flynn (Kenneth Welsh) who is all gung-ho for killing every zombie, regardless of who they were before they were infected, while the other is led by deluded religious fanatic Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick) who is trying to corral the walking dead and 'teach' them to eat meat other than human flesh.
Into the middle of all this swans Sarge (Alan Van Sprang) and his handful of surviving grunts looking for a place to escape the madness of the outside world. Having no fondness for the undead, he throws his lot in with the O'Flynns and the war between the families escalates.
While Survival Of The Dead certainly isn't Romero's finest hour - there's clunky dialogue and less than stellar performances from several members of the cast and the film doesn't really add much to the slowly accumulating zombie mythology - it's still an entertaining adventure tale.
Certainly the charisma of Action Man-lookalike Van Sprang helps carry the bulk of the movie (you might remember him as the one-eyed rake Sir Francis Bryan in The Tudors), as the small scale plot draws heavily from familiar Western tropes as well as, of course, feeding on the ground rules for the zombie genre that Romero himself set out back in the late '60s.
Several bits of humour fall flat and the twist with O'Flynn's daughter pushes credibility a bit, as does the sight of a zombie riding a horse, but there's enough gunplay and zombie-related gore to keep most genre fans entertained, even if they're not blown away.
To some eyes, Survival Of The Dead will seem like a tired retreading over familiar ground, but the truth is it's a solid, if not inspired, Romero zombie flick which is still a million times better than the bulk of low-budget, direct-to-DVD zombie films you can find polluting most bargain bins.
Naturally, I'd like to see George take the genre that he invented in new directions, and maybe, if he chooses to pick up on key story threads in the closing scenes of Survival for his next zombie outing, we might see something a bit different in a few years time.
I'm assuming that this new cycle of zombie films - that started with the coverage of the zombie uprising in Diary Of The Dead - runs parallel with his original quartet (up to Land Of The Dead) - and maybe he plans to dovetail revelations about the possibility of zombie-domestication from this movie with those hinted at back in 1985's Day Of The Dead.
If that's the case, there's obvious Planet Of The Apes-style parallels possible, although I'd hope George would navigate his own unique path and take the story to less predictable places.