Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

Home Of Swords, Sorcery, Superheroes, Sonic Screwdrivers, Supernatural Scares, Star Stuff, Sci-fi, Smeg, and Silliness

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Documentary Of The Week: Superheroes - A Never-Ending Battle (2013)

Imagine my geekish delight when I learned of this PBS documentary! Three hours on the history of superheroes was my idea of heaven and Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle didn't disappoint.

Broken down into three chronological episodes, charting the growth of the superhero from a cheap piece of Depression-era escapism right through to the multi-billion movie franchises of today, it hits all the key moments of both social history and comic book history.

There are interviews with a galaxy of industry names from Joe Simon, through Grant Morrison to Todd McFarlane, with the expected hyper-enthusiastic input from Stan Lee to an unexpected appearance by Alan Moore as well as comments from iconic actors such as Lynda Carter and Adam West.

Comic book moments are tied to cultural events and shifts in comic book style are related back to certain inciting incidents.

It's always fascinating to hear how the industry adapted to fluctuating fortunes in the genre, with the decline of superheroes after the Second World War and the nonsense of the Seduction Of The Innocent fiasco, through the Comics Code Authority, dealing with the issues of drug abuse, the death of Gwen Stacy, superheroes with problems, keeping Superman relevant etc

Yes, much of this has been covered elsewhere, but barring some vintage interview footage of Jack Kirby and Christopher Reeve, this documentary features more than 50 new interviews.

The final chapter, bringing superheroes up-to-date, feels the most hurried as there is clearly so much to say, with heroes now appearing in so many mediums, and more people still around to talk about it that it sometimes feels as though the documentary is just skating over the surface.

A desire to hear more from the contributors is somewhat addressed on the Blu-Ray which features another 40+ minutes of interviews. There is also a 10-clip PBS playlist on YouTube of excerpts.

Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle is a brilliant overview and introduction to the subject of superheroes and the fact that although they have stepped out of the pages of comic books and into TV and movies they are still anchored to the ever-growing world that spawned them.

Creepy Calculations...

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Catching Up...

It's been a rough few weeks here at HeroPress Towers. Coming off the back of a sniffly couple of days of 'man-flu', I had the wind knocked out of my sails by some sort of random bug - which seems to be doing the rounds - that I'm only really just recovering from now.

Even Rachel was off work one day with this lurgy, whatever it was, which shows how virulent it was!

I was supposed to go and see my godson Alec, but instead found myself curled up in bed unable to move and, as I discovered on my last visit, I need all my energy (and all my reserves) to try and keep up with this toddling turbine of limitless power as he roars excitedly around like The Flash. Hopefully I'll be back to "visiting strength" in the next week or so.

During this time, I did manage to make it to London for the Roger Corman talk (I cheated a bit, bringing Rachel with me for moral - and physical - support. She didn't attend the lecture, but stayed in the BFI bar while Paul and I were listening to Mr Corman) and my old friend Lou popped over to visit one morning. I haven't seen her for over five years, but it felt like it was just yesterday as we easily slipped back into conversational mode and caught up on each other's lives.

Then, of course, last weekend "the great St Jude storm" was due to hit and so, at the last minute, Rachel and I went to Pets At Home to invest in a new indoor hutch for Barney, so we could move him inside, to keep him safe.

In the end I think the only damage we suffered was one of Rachel's novelty garden windmills lost a couple of plastic vanes.

As you can see from the pictures above and below, Barney got used to his new home very quickly and I really liked having him indoors (even though Rachel repeatedly reminded me he isn't an "indoors rabbit"). Eventually we moved him back to his usual hutch, in the garden, this morning.

Justice League - War...

Before there was the Justice League...there was The War - the new animated movie based on the graphic novel Justice League: Origin by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.

Justice League: War arrives February 4, 2014 on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital Download and features the epic battle between Darkseid and the members of the newly formed Justice League (including Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Cyborg and Shazam)


The Most Striking - But Ineffectual - Alien...

The Metaluna Mutant from This Island Earth is, without a doubt, one of the most striking and memorable alien designs in movie history.

But the creatures (or creature, as we only really see one) have to simulatenously also be the most ineffectual monsters.

All it does is flail around. Sure, it gets to grapple with good-natured alien Exeter (Jeff Morrow) but it is soon driven off by heroic earthling Dr Cal Meacham (the brilliantly named Rex Reason - surely a pulp hero name if ever there was one?).

In truth, watching the film again the other day, I realised how ineffectual all the main characters are. Cal hitting the mutant - to save Exeter - is really the only proactive thing he does (that actually achieves anything) during the whole movie.

The big-brained Metalunans employ Cal and his colleagues to discover new sources of energy, but before they actually do anything the Metalalunans are summoned home (and so destroy their base on Earth).

Cal and his screaming sweetheart Dr Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue) are whisked off to Metaluna where they are shown around, but then before they can be brainwashed the enemy Zagons bomb the planet and so Cal, Ruth and Exeter escape to the spaceship, face off against the mutant and head back to Earth.

So, even without the presence of the film's protagonists (ie Cal and Ruth), nothing would have changed - the Metalunans would still have been called home, their base on Earth destroyed and Metaluna would still have been bombed into oblivion.

Nevertheless, I love this film and could watch it on an endless loop for its glorious design, wacky tech and interesting aliens. Both the Metalunans themselves and their genetically-bred mutants are races I want to transpose into other arenas, such as gaming, just to play with them some more and see what else can be done with them.

Incredible Francesco Francavilla print, part of Mondo's on-going Universal Monsters range

Star Wars Blooper Reel...

Note: sound absent from some clips.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

DVD Of The Week: Dylan Dog - Dead Of Night (2010)

It feels like we've been waiting forever for this to hit the streets. I can't understand why it's taken three years to finally arrive on DVD because not only is it a pretty decent supernatural crime thriller but it screams "potential television series".

Set in a similar world to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Dresden Files, Grimm, Blade and other shows of this ilk, Dylan Dog - Dead Of Night is the tale of private investigator Dylan Dog (the underrated Brandon Routh - he certainly can't be blamed for the stinker that was Superman Returns) drawn back into the world of the supernatural when his partner, Marcus (Sam Huntington) is killed.

Based in New Orleans, Dylan was approached by Elizabeth (Anita Briem) to investiagte the murder of her father, an "importer" of rare artifacts, but Dylan wanted nothing to do with the case when he realised there was possible werewolf involved.

Before becoming a private eye, Dylan had worked as the official liaison between the human world and the secretive supernatural one - until his girlfriend was murdered by vampires and he wiped out the ruling elite of the blood-suckers.

Dead Of Night feels like a TV movie launching a serial - it introduces us to the world of vampires, werewolves and zombies, teases us with a broader mythology (it's actually based on a comic book) and clearly sees itself as a worthy successor to Buffy's crown with its mix of action, horror and comedy.

Marcus comes back to life as a zombie-in-denial and its he, and his bantering with Dylan, which provides much of the lighter elements of the story.

What starts out as a "straight-forward" murder mystery quickly evolves into a hunt for the legendary Heart Of Belial, a supernatural treasure with the power of a "nuclear bomb".

Throw in monster hunters and a giant supercharged zombie on top of a solid - if not particularly inspired story and setting (although I did approve of the zombie "body shop") - and you've got a decent 108 minute film that helps fill the gap left by the shows it resembles.

Could This Be The Greatest Superhero Movie Yet?

Next year Bryan Singer brings to life one of the greatest story arcs from the greatest era of X-Men comics, Days Of Future Past, uniting the cast from his original X-Men movies with the more recent First Class cast.

Wasps - What's The Point?

I get bees and even flies, but I just don't get the point of wasps...

Howard Overman Talks About His Favourite Misfits Moments...

Most definitely not safe for those listening at work (NSFW), or with small children around or for those with narrow minds who don't grasp the dark British sense of humour.

With Misfits coming to an end, writer Howard Overman talks about his favourite moments and gives hints at what is still to come.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Remembering My Mum...

My mum died in January and to commemorate her today - on what would have been her 78th birthday - the residential home where she spent the last years of her life held a special tea party in her honour.

Rachel, her parents and I were invited to the party, which also served to unveil the pair of tea trolleys, glass cake tray and vintage crockery that the home had purchased with money Rachel and I donated as a massive thank you for the amazing love and care they showed my mum during her time with them.

It was a truly wonderful occasion and while I may have got a bit moist-eyed at times it was very uplifting to hear residents and staff saying such kind things about my dear departed mother.

Me Cutting The Cake To Declare The Trolley Officially "Open For Business"
Plenty Of New Faces Since Mum's Time, But Still Many Who Remembered Her Fondly
Sign Made By 99-Year-Old Resident (100 This Weekend) Who Has Become A Mini-Media Sensation
After Taking Up Drumming As Her New Pastime

[GUEST POST] Welcome To The New Frontier...

Author Jeremy Lee introduces us to his latest novel, New Frontier, which is due out next month...

Even if it gets rough, I’ll take life, we only get the one. 
- New Frontier

Diving headfirst into its swerving story, New Frontier opens with a space ship crippled, the air rushing out into the vacuum of space, and the crew holding on for dear life as emergency hatches slam down.

Then the story takes off, careening down different avenues, shifting in time, and spinning threads which slowly weave together in the explosive ending.

This vision of the future, sprinkled with lessons from the past, and repeat mistakes as well, explores a wilderness so like others humans have set out to tame: a land of rampant capitalist opportunism, religious fanaticism, hardworking settlers, geniuses of invention, corrupt politicians, sensationalist media, and a new world where this panorama of humanity arrives together, hopelessly entangled with each other.

As a new era dawns for humanity - finally breaking the bonds which tied us to the Solar System -  the moment which unites all the disparate parts of the world and supposedly brings us into an era of peace and discovery is almost instantly marred by greed erupting into violence.

The Argos, the ship sent out on this historic mission, is left adrift and crippled far from home.

Survivors of this mysterious attack struggle to hold their ship together and come to the rescue of homesteaders and compatriots relying on them to not only survive but retaliate.

Several rival corporations, monopolies delving into every industry imaginable, have all but supplanted nation-states, keeping governments around only as a necessary fiction to pacify populations. The realm of business now reaches into politics, military, religion, and all other aspects of human life.

The frontier regions of space are a place filled with new homesteaders, miners, merchants, bandits, and scientific minds barely able to keep from slipping into total anarchy, a frontier region where people can disappear from their lives and head off into the unknown.

New Frontier is an adventure which stretches from the furthest reaches of space, to slums in backwater cities, to the lunar capitol, and ultimately onto the wreckage of the great ship.

The gallant and the selfish alike are forced to face the best and worst of human civilization far from home and decide what they truly believe in.

At the center of the story characters like Captain Davi Cardoso, a Brazilian billionaire who bought his seat on the Argos just to make history after a lifetime of cavorting and playing, Commander Shannon Drake, a British woman who went into the service for the education and ended up falling in love with the sense of duty, Suresh Singh, an Indian physicist who escaped the loss of his wife and child by adopting science as a religion worthy of fanatical pursuit, and Hector de Anza, a Mexican runaway who embraces the service as his escape.

These people swirl together in a fast-paced tableau of humanity standing on the brink of its greatest success... or maybe its furthest fall.

  • Jeremy Lee is the author of several novels including New Frontier and Kings of New York and the former head writer of the comic series Diamondback.
  • For more information on the book, and to read an extract, visit Jeremy's publisher Neverland Publishing.

Musical Monday: jIyIntaHvIS not qajegh

Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up - sung in Klingon!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Atlantis: White Lies

White Lies was the strongest episode of Atlantis to date because it finally gave us some decent backstory that we could sink our teeth into - even if it did feel like a rehash of the Merlin formula.

Stolos (Daniel Adegboyega), a messenger, broke into the palace to let Ariadne (Aiysha Hart) know that her supposedly traitorous - and supposedly dead - brother Therus (Darwin Shaw) was outside the city and would like to meet with her.

Unfortunately, Stolos was captured and tortured by Queen Pasiphae to reveal the purpose of his presence in the palace - nice to see her using her blood magic there (even if her whole character is very reminiscent of Morgana's from Merlin).

Ariadne then got Jason and his friends to escort one of her maids through dangerous bandit country to meet Therus - however, at the same time troops from the city were also converging on the ruined temple where he is hiding.

Meanwhile, Therus was also working on his own, well intentioned, plan to protect Ariadne from the evil queen.

While it has already been established that Pasiphae is the show's Big Bad (albeit in a very pantomime way), White Lies made her motivations clearer and also reassured us that King Minos was an innocent dupe in all her schemings.

It's just a pity that the majority of characters are generally so bland in Atlantis that really we don't care that much about them. And I'm still at a loss as to what Pythagoras adds to the core dynamic of Jason and Hercules. He just seems to be there simply as a character for the others to talk to, to avoid scenes of characters talking to themselves. 

The episode also had a great sub-plot involving Hercules and his beloved pet racing beetle, once again showing - as if we needed any confirmation - that Mark Addy's Hercules is the most rounded and interesting character in the show.

Despite all the political machinations and wrangling going on in the episode, the most memorable moments of White Lies involved Hercules and a dung beetle!

Next Time:

George Lucas Talks About The Casting Of Carrie Fisher...

In this special featurette from the Lucasfilm vault, George Lucas talks about how he came to cast Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Wars

Slave Leia Sunday...

The Wrapping Is Better, For Starters...

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Behind The Scenes Of Thor: The Dark World...

And here's a new, rather Star Wars-y clip from the movie:

Corman In Conversation...

It's not even November and I've already had my first birthday present: Paul got tickets for the two of us to attend a talk at the British Film Institute on Friday evening: Roger Corman In Conversation.

The legendary B-movie director/producer was interviewed by renowned film critic Kim Newman in front of a packed audience of fans - and Paul had snagged us tickets just three rows back from the stage.

For an 87-year-old Corman was spritely and full of anecdotes, well-spoken and erudite, interesting and engaging - with nary a bad word to say about anybody.

It was an hour-and-three-quarter presentation, broken up with a few of trailers and clips from Corman's early movies, rounded off with the last quarter of an hour (or so) being open to questions from the floor.

As it was a flagship event in the BFI's current Gothic season, the conversation between Newman and Corman concentrated largely on his Poe films (Lovecraft even got a mention, but Corman was adamant that he was a Poe fan ahead of HPL), but touched on his later works, his involvement with the American counter-culture movement and the output of some of his more famous protégés (such as Jack Nicholson and James Cameron).

As often happens after listening to such a fascinating character, I came away with a mental check list of Corman pictures I needed to add to my "viewing wish list" while ones that were already of the list got a bump up now I knew some of the behind-the-scenes stories about their making.

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Girl In The Flower Dress

I have a feeling that Girl In The Flower Dress will turn out to be a pivotal episode in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. as not only did it, apparently, tie up the question of where Skye's loyalties lie and open up a whole new sub-plot for her but it also established - broadly speaking - the extent of "superpowers" in this version of the Marvel Universe.

On the strength of this episode it doesn't look as though we're going to see anything we haven't seen before in shows like Alphas and Heroes - I think costumes are definitely off the agenda!

A small-time pyrokinetic in Hong Kong, Chan Ho Yin (Louis Changchien) - that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been keeping tabs on - is abducted after a Rising Tide hacker gets into the S.H.I.E.L.D. system (again!) and passes on his details to a shady research group.

Coulson and his crew track down the hacker, Miles Lydon (Austin Nichols), who turns out to be Skye's boyfriend and the person she texted back in the Pilot.

In fact this episode has strong connections to the Pilot as the kidnappers - fronted by the titular Girl In The Flower Dress Raina (Ruth Negga) - turn out to be the same shadowy organisation experimenting with Extremis as we saw in that first story.

Rather oddly, we now appear to be referring to this group as "Centipede". Not exactly a name to strike fear into the hearts of millions!

There's plenty to like in this episode, which nicely balances action with character moments, and it'll be interesting to see where things go with Skye after this clear betrayal. I'm also hoping that, as we didn't see a body (and this is a comic book world, after all) we haven't seen the end of Scorch the supervillain.

I hope the show also sticks with its international theme as Coulson and his team of troubleshooters jet around the globe tackling problems other branches of
S.H.I.E.L.D. seem unable to - although perhaps it needs to spelt out that they aren't airborne all the time and just waiting for missions.

On the other hand, I'm still waiting for that "break-out" episode that once and for all demonstrates what makes Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. different from No Ordinary Family, Heroes, Alphas etc beyond frequent name-dropping of members of The Avengers.

Don't Check It Out, Don't Split Up...

Friday, 25 October 2013

Fleamarket Friday: Eldritch Witchery...

The long-awaited second sourcebook for Spellcraft & Swordplay, entitled Eldritch Witchery, by the gaming community's go-to guy for all things witchy, Tim Brannan, is now available for purchase as an ebook.

According to publishers Elf Lair Games, Eldritch Witchery takes you back to the roots of fantasy role playing, back to a time when witches cast mighty spells and demons were new to the lands. Inside this book you will find:
  • Two new elite paths, the Witch and the Warlock
  • Hundreds of new spells
  • New monsters, such as the vile Hags
  • Demons, including the vile Calabim, the rageful Shedim, the seductive Lilim, and the Baalseraph, the rulers of the Nine Hells, amongst others.
  • New magic items and treasure
  • Complete guidelines for running witch-centric adventures or incorporating these spellcasters into your existing game
  • And more!
Everything you need to add witches, warlocks, and demons to your Spellcraft & Swordplay game is here…

The publishers add this caveat: "Due to the nature and content of this book, as well as to some of the artwork involved, we are marking it as an adult product. User discretion is advised."

The ebook is available from all the usual outlets and a print edition is due to hit shortly.

Fleamarket Friday: The Haynes Guide To Surviving The Zompocalypse...

Haynes, the company synonymous with producing car maintenance guides, has - in recent years - branched out into the fantastic with their range of Star Wars and Star Trek guides but their latest book goes in a totally unexpected - yet welcome - direction: Zombie Survival.

I wholeheartedly approve of companies such as Haynes and Osprey bringing their expertise to areas of the fantastique like this and Osprey's Myths and Legends line.

Tonight On Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (In The UK)

Review Round-Up: Shazam - Volume One; Superhero Movie; Quatermass And The Pit

Shazam, Volume One - The collected origin story of Shazam (previously known as Captain Marvel) in DC's New 52, from the back-up feature that ran in issues of Justice League.

While visually appealing (thanks to Gary Frank), I didn't find Geoff Johns reworking of the origin of this character to be particularly engaging. Making young Billy Batson a juvenile delinquent destroyed much of the charm of the original character and, if anything, made him more like any other superstrong DC character rather than more individual.

Also, by changing the character's name to Shazam makes me wonder what names the other members of the character's "family" will adopt. Is Mary Marvel now Mary Shazam, for instance?

The whole effort just felt like a bit of a make-it-up-as-we-go-along hodge-podge of ideas in an attempt to make the character more "gritty" and more "now". Which it simply didn't need.

The magical aspects of the story are the most interesting - as this is what differentiates Shazam from Superman - and, as is often the case in Geoff Johns' work, it's the villains who benefit from the more interesting treatment (even if the Seven Deadly Sins were rather rubbish, disposable characters).

Superhero Movie (2008) - Imagine a barrel. Now imagine scraping the bottom of that barrel. Now imagine what's underneath that barrel. And imagine scraping that because that's where you'll find the awful "---- Movie" franchise (think Date Movie, Disaster Movie etc).

Until last week I didn't even know they'd churned out a Superhero Movie. Somehow this masterpiece had escaped my attention.

Primarily it is a parody of the Spider-Man movies, with some other superhero movie tropes thrown in for good measure.

To be fair there are a handful of decent laughs (some of which are lifted from Airplane and Naked Gun, anyway) in the film, but every time you mistakenly think it might be a half-decent superhero comedy it sinks to new depths of puerile, lowest-common-denominator, fart gags and cheap, uncomfortable mockery.

There really is nothing clever or satirical about this film (although the villain of the piece, The Hourglass, not being a straight send-up of any particular character is actually an okay supervillain) and the numerous cameos by semi-famous names are obviously there for purely financial reasons. I can't imagine anyone proudly promoting this on their CV.

Quatermass And The Pit (1967) - Although this is my favourite Quatermas story it struck me the other day, when I saw the Hammer version was being shown on the Horror Channel, that I'd never actually seen this particular take on the tale.

Work to extend the London Underground at Hobb's End Station uncovers fossils of a previously-unknown species of humanoid, but then what is believed to be an old German rocket from the war turns out to be something far more sinister.

Of course, the effects - very similar to Doctor Who episodes from this era - are incredibly dated (bordering on laughable), but this isn't shock-and-gore horror, this is intelligent horror that unnerves with its ideas and scientific suggestions.

When Quatermass (Andrew Keir) is suggesting the insectoid Martians may have tampered with early man's development you can follow his reasoning and it sends a very Lovecraftian shiver down the spine.

The Quatermass canon is surely deserved of a 21st Century resurrection. Think how terrifying this story could be in the hands of a smart and talented modern director with access to cutting-edge special effects?

We Few, We Happy Few, We Band Of Brothers...

St. Crispin's Day Speech
- William Shakespeare, 1599

Enter the KING

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here but one ten thousand of those men in England that do no work to-day!

KING. What's he that wishes so? My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin; if we are mark'd to die, we are enow to do our country loss; and if to live, the fewer men, the greater share of honour. God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

By Jove, I am not covetous for gold, nor care I who doth feed upon my cost; it yearns me not if men my garments wear; such outward things dwell not in my desires.

But if it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive. No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England. God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour as one man more methinks would share from me for the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host, that he which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart; his passport shall be made, and crowns for convoy put into his purse; we would not die in that man's company that fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is call'd the feast of Crispian. He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd, and rouse him at the name of Crispian. He that shall live this day, and see old age, will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, and say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.' Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, and say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, but he'll remember, with advantages, what feats he did that day. Then shall our names, familiar in his mouth as household words - Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester - be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.

This story shall the good man teach his son; and Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered - we few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition; and gentlemen in England now-a-bed shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Trailer...

Mars Attacks Interview!

Anyone still undecided about Mantic's phenomenal Mars Attacks - The Miniatures Game Kickstarter should check out this interview with Mantic CEO Ronnie Renton over at Tabletop Gaming News.

It's also worth visiting the campaign's Kickstarter page as new stretch goals, add-ons and pledge levels are revealed at a lightning rate.

I'm Grouchy Smurf...

If you want to find out which Smurf you most resemble then take this quiz!

Should you require further evidence of the test's scientific accuracy here's a picture of me as I took the test...

Teaser Trailer For Revenge Of The Jedi...

Yes, you read that right: Revenge Of The Jedi. This original teaser is from a time before George decided that Jedi don't seek revenge.

Torn From The Headlines: Flying Cars!

One of the little "tricks" I used to employ when running the HeroPress play-by-mail superhero RPG back in the '80s was swiping futuristic ideas, such as concept cars and pioneering inventions, and slipping them into the world of HeroPress as established technology (I didn't say it was a particularly clever trick, just one that was easy to employ).

A perfect example of this would be the Aeromobil Roadable Aircraft - literally a flying car that every supervillain or millionaire, philanthropist, playboy superhero should have in his garage.

Check out this fully illustrated article over on io9, complete with all the vehicle's stats if you're looking to translate it into game terms, and then start thinking about where you'd go once you get yours.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Book Closed On Hitchhiker's Live!

Totally gutted this week to learn that the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Live! Tour - that Rachel and I were going to see last night - has been closed down due to financial problems.

While it is heartbreaking that I'm not going to get to see this pivotal element of my childhood brought to life before my eyes by the people who made the radio show back in the day, it's doubly disappointing that the show we were going to see (at The Hawth Theatre in Crawley) was the first to be cancelled.

As Rachel pointed out they had done a show on Sunday, so something drastic must have happened in the following 24 hours.

I feel really sorry for all the people involved in the show, which was getting rave reviews.

The website for Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Live! has been replaced with the following message:
The Radio Theatre Company deeply regret to announce the immediate cancellation of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show 2013 Tour. Tonight's performance at The Hawth, Crawley and tomorrow's at the Watford Colosseum will not take place, nor will any of the remaining scheduled shows in October and November.  Ticket holders are being contacted and should contact venues for refunds.

Although a well-loved show, Hitchhiker's Live has been subject to the same extreme economic pressures as many productions touring the UK this autumn. Ticket sales across the board have been lower than average and we have not escaped this trend. A difficult financial environment for such a large and technical show means that covering operating costs has become impossible. As a result in the last 24 hours we have had no option but make the extremely hard and painful decision to stop the tour.

We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and share the extreme disappointment and frustration felt by many who were looking forward to seeing the show. we sincerely hope that it can be brought back in the future.

Fright Night 2: New Blood (2013)

It would be very easy to jump to the conclusion that a film called Fright Night 2 was going to be a sequel to 2011's underwhelming remake of the original 1985 Fright Night.

However, you would quickly realise you are mistaken... because Fright Night 2 is actually a remake of the 2011 film (or the 1985 film, depending of how you look at it) but with the action relocated to Romania.

The main characters all have the same names as their earlier incarnations but have no connection to them whatsoever and the main vampire, because she is now the female of the species, is called Gerri rather than Jerry!

And to be brutally honest, the only reason I could see anyone really wanting to watch this straight-to-dvd schlockfest is for the central performance of the unstoppable Jaime Murray (star of Warehouse 13, Spartacus, Dexter and Defiance) as Gerri Dandridge (who turns out to be 'infamous' vampire Elizabeth Bathory).

Long-time fans - expecting a reprise of her full-on performances in Spartacus and Dexter - though might be slightly disappointed that any nudity in the film is instead restricted to random supporting actresses in non-speaking roles.

Charley Brewster (Will Payne), 'Evil' Ed Bates (Chris Waller) and and Charley's ex, Amy (Sacha Parkinson) have travelled with their class  to attend university in Romania as exchange students - where their guest lecturer is Gerri Danridge.

Although Gerri is never really portrayed as anything but an American, she still appears to live in Romania and has a town house across the road from Charley's hotel room - so he can see her getting up to all sorts of sexy vampire things.

Not, of course, that anyone believes him... because this is - essentially - the same story as the previous versions of this film.

There even happens to be an American film crew in the area making the Fright Night monster-hunting show with Sean Power as Peter Vincent. I'm so sorry, Sean, but you're no David Tennant or Roddy McDowall!

In a desperate effort to prevent this being a carbon copy of the earlier films (just with the sex of the main vampire switched along with the location) seemingly random choices and changes are made to the plot in the later parts of the movie that make no sense whatsoever.

Trying to follow the logic of the final act will just lead to headaches. I could try and deconstruct it, but Fright Night 2 just doesn't warrant the expenditure of brain power.

Like making Gerri a "name" vampire (ie. Countess Bathory), these ill thought-out changes serve only to detract from the plot and complicate a straight-forward idea (boy sees vampire next door, nobody believes him, he turns to reality TV 'vampire hunter' for assistance) unnecessarily.

But it still leaves the biggest question unanswered: who thought it was a good idea to remake a reasonably successful horror film just two years after it was released?

George Lucas On Getting The Right Voices For C-3PO And Darth Vader...

Monday, 21 October 2013

World War Z (2013)

I admire a film that doesn't hang about and gets to the meat of its story as soon as possible, but the speed with which American society collapses in the first act of World War Z is almost laughable.

At the drop of a proverbial hat, seeminly civilized civilians are stealing cars, killing each other and looting supermarkets - before they even know what the bigger problem is.

And that's a lot of the problem with this film: things happen "because it's a zombie movie" and not because it's the logical thing that people would do in such a situation.

In fact, returning to the film's unintentional comedic aspects, every time someone (often in a suit) says the word "zombie" with a straight face it just feels really awkward.

The truly great zombie movies are always quite intimate affairs, where you get to feel the claustrophobia and helplessness of your outnumbered protagonists. But World War Z, bravely, turns that on its head and really does show the rise of the undead as a global problem. Unfortunately though that reduces our POV character, Brad Pitt's United Nations investigator Gerry Lane to the role of observer and we often feel that we're watching him, watching the zombie carnage.

Sure, Gerry gets involved in action scenes - this is a big budget action movie (rather than a horror movie) after all - but we never get to really know him so, to be honest, we don't care.

He has a family - but they're safe on a UN ship at sea - and, to be frank, they're incredibly two-dimensional and uninteresting.

I'm quite convinced that they could have been excised from the film completely and it wouldn't have played out any different.

If the lead character has a family in a zombie film they have to be put in constant jeopardy to deserve any screen time, but once Gerry's brood were out of the city and on the boat they brought nothing further to the story.

World War Z is supposedly based on Max Brooks' brilliant book, but the only real connection is the title, the fact that the film has zombies in and that its set pieces take place at different points around the globe. It certainly doesn't do its source material any justice.

If Hollywood wanted to turn the survival horror zombie into a summer blockbuster it should have concentrated on the large-scale battles in the book, maybe have Gerry embedded with different military units fighting the zombies, but just having him jumping around the globe following a ridiculous series of leads made for very unengaging viewing.

Musical Monday: Manic Street Preachers - Show Me The Wonder, On Later... with Jools Holland

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Atlantis: Twist Of Fate

It's Three Men And A Baby in Atlantis time this week with this episode Twist Of Fate.

Jason, Hercules and Pythagoras stumble across an abandoned baby while out hunting and while the others insist it is the child's fate to be left, Jason is determined to take it home.

With Medusa's aid they manage to care for the child for a while, but then the streets of Atlantis start to fill with soldiers serving the visiting King Laius (Tristan Gemmill) and our heroes realise the child is the son of the king.

They also discover that the child has been prophesied to kill his father...

One of the major problems with Atlantis is the show has no real sense of place or identity. Being a random grab-bag of Greek myths there is a no coherence to the overall setting or plots which leads to strange occurrences such as in this tale where the young baby ultimately isn't named by its mother but by the trio of "strangers" who hand him into care at the end of the episode.

Things just happen, and ominous quotes are shoe-horned in, because they make the story rather than being driven convincingly by the characters.

Twist Of Fate, while better than last week's tedium, also suffered (as Merlin did on occasion) with a penchant for fart and poo humour - which became increasingly laboured as that well was repeatedly visited.

Essentially, this was a very simple story, which certainly helped, with the strong characters, once more, being Hercules and Jason, while Pythagoras again just made up the numbers and added nothing to the story.

An impressive supporting performance by Game Of Thrones' Donald Sumpter as Tiresias, advisor to King Laius, demonstrated this show's ability to attract quality actors, it's just a pity it - so far - seems unable to attract scripts that warrant such actors.

And this I blame squarely on the show's identity crisis - Atlantis simply doesn't know what it is and thus has no solid core to build decent stories on.

Next Time:

Thor: Love & Thunder (2022) + Dr Who (2022)


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