Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative
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Wednesday, 30 September 2015
|Issue Three of the new Archie comic is out today, written by Mark Waid, with art by Fiona Staples|
Even though the Welcome To Riverdale video show has gone on a short hiatus, don't forget you can still keep abreast of developments in the world of Archie Andrews via the weekly Riverdale Podcast (the official Archie Comics podcast).
A fresh pod drops every Saturday. In the half-hour show superfan Jonathan Merrifield looks at his book of the week, discusses Archie-verse news (from teen hijinks with Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead & co, and gritty crime-fighting from Black Hood to the all-out zombie horror of Afterlife with Archie or the Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, via Sonic The Hedgehog and Mega Man), previews upcoming and current releases, reviews an older comic and sometimes answers listeners' emails or voicemails.
This makes me all giddy with fanboy excitement, even if I lost faith with the original show when it meandered in later years.
In its prime The X-Files was the very definition of 'must see TV'.
Now, hopefully, lessons have been learned and we're getting a sequel to the show that we all imagined we had seen - rather than the one that was actually aired.
Thirteen years after the original series run, the next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES is a thrilling, six-episode event series from creator/executive producer Chris Carter, with stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson re-inhabiting their roles as iconic FBI Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Mitch Pileggi also returns as FBI assistant director Walter Skinner, Mulder and Scully’s boss, who walks a fine line between loyalty to these investigators and accountability to his superiors. This marks the momentous return of the Emmy- and Golden Globe Award-winning pop culture phenomenon, which remains one of the longest-running sci-fi series in network television history.
The X-Files debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, January 24, 2016 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT),and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, January 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). The upcoming event series will encompass a mixture of stand-alone episodes and those that further the original show’s seminal mythology.
In the opening episode, Mulder and Scully take on a case of a possible alien abductee. The all-new episodes will feature appearances by guest stars, including Joel McHale (Community), Robbie Amell (The Flash), Lauren Ambrose (Dig, Six Feet Under), Annabeth Gish (The Bridge), Annet Mahendru (The Americans), Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords), Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) and William B. Davis, who reprises his role as 'Cigarette Smoking Man'. Three of the episodes are written and directed by Chris Carter, with the remaining new episodes written and directed by original series veterans Glen Morgan, Darin Morgan and James Wong.
Tuesday, 29 September 2015
In my usual haphazard way I only 'discovered' Shane Meadows' multi-part magnum opus, This Is England, with the current (and final) mini-series that is airing on Channel 4, This Is England '90.
Having been so impressed with what we have seen (the feature-length, conclusion to the entire saga airs this Sunday), Rachel and I realised we really needed to see the earlier parts of the tale, to get a better handle on the characters and their arcs.
Last night, we cued up the film that kicked off the saga, Shane Meadows' semi-autobiographical 2006 drama, This Is England.
Set in a rundown Northern seaside town, at the same time as the Falklands War, this is the story of 12-year-old Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), who has just lost his father in the war.
Bullied at school, he is adopted by a local group of skinheads, fronted by good-natured Woody (Misfits' Joe Gilgun), becomes part of their gang and starts romancing a girl called Smell (Rosamund Hanson).
All seems to be going well until an old friend of Woody's - Combo (Stephen Graham aka Al Capone from Boardwalk Empire) - turns up. Combo has just been released from prison, along with his White Supremacist pal Banjo (George Newton), and drives a wedge into the gang with his racist and nationalist diatribe.
Swayed by Combo's charisma and his appeal to Shaun's memories of his father, Shaun sides with Combo and is gradually transformed from a carefree young kid to a little thug... until he gets to witness the violent reality of Combo's world for himself.
This is a movie about friendship and the power of belonging, as well as about a character using a distiorted belief system as an excuse to satisfy his own needs, such as raiding a newsagents to steal drink and cigarettes for his crew, or beating up a supposed friend because his heart has been broken by the woman he professes to love.
While the film boasts an extended ensemble cast, This Is England is Shaun's story through-and-through. This leaves a lot of the other characters with unresolved plot threads, which is why the film needs to be seen as the first episode of a larger story.
In the hands of a less committed creator, this deceptively untraditional narrative approach could have dissolved into a mess, but time and again in the film's 100-minute running time Meadows demonstrates an incredibly subtle mastery of the art of storytelling.
For the most part, while gritty and in-your-face, this is a positive story about growing up at a specific time in British history.
Although This Is England builds to a brutal climax, it presents a very different view of skinhead life than seen in such films as American History X or Romper Stomper, as it addresses the issue of what went in to creating this sub-culture.
Following on from the events of the movie, Shane Meadows and his incredible cast created a trilogy of television mini-series, This Is England '86, This Is England '88 and This Is England '90, charting the ups and downs of the characters' lives as they get older and adapt to changing political and social circumstances.
Very much not my usual cup of tea, Meadows manages to draw such compelling performances from his actors, most of whom had little or no experience when he began this tale, that gives its a very naturalistic feel.
Joe Gilgun, for instance, is now one of my favourite actors since I first saw him in Misfits. He has such a gift for timing, both dramatic and comedic, that his character's quips and one-liners feel like they're improvised as the camera rolls, gleefully reacting to unexpected developments. I can't wait to see him as the mouthy vampire Cassidy in next year's Preacher.
Continuing our impromptu series of period phrases that should be brought back into use by role-players (see here for selected Victorian slang and here for Beatnik slang and here for some general old-time exclamations), here's another collection of Victorian phrases for steampunkers and Space: 1889 gamers to slip into conversation.
Pour yourself a glass of absinthe, sit back and enjoy this catalogue of nineteenth century phrases.
Monday, 28 September 2015
We all remember our first time.
I've spoken before about when I discovered Philip Reeve's writing, by chance, in WH Smiths, picking up Mortal Engines and being hooked by the opening line ("It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.")
What hit me about Mr Reeve's latest book, Railhead (due out this week), is that for many this will probably be their first Philip Reeve novel and what an unexpected ride they are beginning.
If the Mortal Engines books can be seen as Philip Reeve's take on post-apocalyptic steampunk then Railhead is his cyberpunk, with shades of Neuromancer and Blade Runner interwoven with a cinematically-epic galaxy of exotic worlds.
Many centuries in the future, mankind has left Old Earth behind and populated the stars thanks to a network of rail tracks linking hundreds of planets via gates that fold space.
In this setting where mankind worships an ethereal collection of hyper-intelligent AIs - The Guardians - who are believed to have built The Great Network (the tracks and the gates); clones dinosaurs to raise as pets or for hunting; travels the stars in sentient, singing trains; and uses humanoid robots (called Motoriks) as cheap labour, Railhead focuses on someone who has slipped between the cracks.
Zen Starling, a petty thief from a backwater planet, is taken under the wing of a mysterious master criminal called Raven and tasked with the job of stealing a small box from the most powerful family in the galaxy. This box, it turns out, depending of who you believe, has the power to change or destroy everything.
The central characters in Railhead are wonderfully complex, with shades of light and dark in all. The only truly psychopathic character turns out to be one of the trains (imagine Thomas The Tank Engine infused with the personality of Hannibal Lecter) while the most innocent is Nova, Raven's Motorik assistant, sent along to help Zen.
While a joy to read, flowing with Reeve's trademark deft use of vivid, lyrical language, Railhead goes to some pretty dark places and asks some big questions: such as, in a galaxy of clones and androids, where personalities can be uploaded to new bodies and gender can be fluid, what makes a person a person?
Fast-paced and action-packed, as you'd expect, the book also boasts, I suspect, the highest body count in any of Reeve's books to date. While he hasn't yet reached Game Of Thrones' level, let's just say no-one escapes unscathed and not everyone we become attached to makes it out alive.
All this is set against a stunning backdrop of fully realised, original and inventive, alien worlds that should see Disney knocking on Mr Reeve's door asking him to consult on upcoming Star Wars projects.
The tight plotting means everything is important, a throwaway comment or observation at one point turns out to be a vital clue later on, keeping us on tenterhooks until the very last sentence.
Railhead is an absorbing read from a master world-builder at the top of his game. Philip Reeve has created a universe rich in detail and bursting with incredible ideas that I feel we've only touched the surface of.
This is only the first stop on a long and exciting journey for fans old and new.
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Yesterday's "Chin Scratcher" about separating the art from the artist generated some great discussion across Facebook, Google+, here on the blog and even on Twitter.
I'd raised the issue about supporting an artistic creation (e.g. a TV show, a movie, a book, a comic etc) that had been created by someone whose actions I couldn't condone (be it a heinous crime or simply different political views).
Over on G+, Eric Hope said: "I have similar qualms, and I use the following rationalization: I allow myself to enjoy the works, as long as I don't contribute financially. So checking things out from the library is fine (where the works existed independent of my interest), but purchasing them (therefore creating income for distasteful persons) is out."
Nicholas Yankovec pointed out: "I like Frank Miller's work, and John Byrne's. Charlton Heston is one of my favourite actors, and I enjoy Shwarzenegger's films. Yet I don't agree with any of them politically, and I think that's fine. With the exception of Miller's later work, I think their politics doesn't shine through in their creative output.
"But when it comes down to serious crime, like sexual assault on kids, it taints their work in a different way."
Part of the reason I'd raised the question in the first place was my discovery that the lead actor in one of my favourite shows - Stephen Collins in Tales Of The Gold Monkey - was an admitted sex offender, and this tainted my appreciation of the show and an idea that I had had of cosplaying his character, Jake Cutter.
Author Charles Rutledge wrote on Facebook: "The director of the Jeepers Creepers films is a convicted child molester. No way would I ever give money to anything he was involved in. You're talking about a fictional character, not the actor who played him, but if I saw you in the outfit, I would immediately think of the actor."
Long-term virtual friend Percy Hodge, also on Facebook, said: "But keep in mind that everyone else associated with the production is innocent of wrong-doing, including the writer(s) who actually created the character [of Jake Cutter]. If someone else had been cast, you wouldn't even be asking yourself this question."
Jim Fogarty chimed in with: "I agree it matters on what they did. I like Tom Cruise as an actor and can separate that from his nutty religious beliefs. I'd have a much harder time doing that with Stephen Collins."
Back on G+, Gary F said: "I think if someone creates something special - something cutting edge or transcendent, then I think it can be important to study and even enjoy the art. But if it is merely good art where there are 100 other people doing things just as good (looking at folks like Orson Scott Card here...) then I think I'd pass on having anything to do with the art, myself. Of course one person's transcendence is another person's trash..."
And Brent Newhall summed up his take on the discussion with the statement that: "[s]eparating the artist from the art is a sign of a strong mind."
Let me know what you think in the comments section below...
Daughter Of My Sins is the latest track released from multi-talented astronaut Chris Hadfield's debut album, Space Sessions: Songs From A Tin Can, which hits stores on October 9.
Sunday, 27 September 2015
Tales Of The Gold Monkey has always been a favourite show of mine; just the other day I was even talking about the possibility of cosplaying as Jake Cutter.
However, my unbridled fan-admiration for the character of Jake Cutter is now tainted by the knowledge of actor Stephen Collins admitted sexual abuse of three underage girls.
Of course, this has nothing to do with fictitious Jake Cutter (or the world of Tales Of The Gold Monkey), but I find it difficult to totally separate the two... because Jake has Stephen Collins' face!
Then, recently, I discovered a small press publisher, whose books I enjoy, is a right-wing, climate change-denier and anti-abortionist.
I doubt I would ever have learned of his politics if I hadn't friended him on Facebook, as it certainly doesn't come across in any of the the books I've read that he's put out.
But should I still support his products if his professed political views are so antithetical to my own?
Or doesn't it matter?
Where do you stand on this issue?
I'm not addressing the specific beliefs (be they religious, political etc) that artists hold, or the abhorrent crimes they may have committed, just the fact that they have done, or believe in, something you - the consumer - don't condone.
What do you believe to be the social mores of appreciating a creation when you dislike, or disapprove of, the creator?
How do you handle this scenario when it crops up in your geeky fandom?
Saturday, 26 September 2015
Really it should be a no-brainer. The new iteration of Space: 1889 is a perfect storm of so many of my passions - the Space: 1889 setting; all things Martian; and the Ubiquity rules system.
But I'm still umming and erring, vacillating between this highly detailed setting and my idea for a homegrown, Tales Of The Gold Monkey-inspired Hollow Earth Expedition campaign.
It's a toss-up between 1930's pulp and Victorian scientific romance; both being fantastic backdrops for potentially thrilling adventures.
As I said last month, my plan is that my 50th birthday (next November) would be a good point to end our current Heroes & Other Worlds campaign (the Chronicles Of Cidri) and launch another, very different, one.
We'll have to see where my reading and musing takes me...
The Curse Of Yig is an award-winning short film adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's story of the same title, produced by Killing Joke Films.
In 1925, a young academic visits the Guthrie Asylum in Oklahoma to explore the native tribal belief in the snake god, Yig. There she is confronted by a bizarre creature, the sole living survivor of the nightmarish Halloween of 1889. As she learns the tragic tale of Walker and Audrey Davis - early residents of the Oklahoma Territory - she too begins to fall under the spell of an unrelenting fear that time cannot diminish.
In 1928, Zealia Bishop enlisted Lovecraft’s help in writing an original short story about pioneers in the American Southwest who encounter strange tales of a malevolent spirit, the Father of Serpents. The Curse of Yig, the blood-chilling result of Bishop and Lovecraft’s collaboration, was first published in Weird Tales (Volume 14, Number 5) in November of 1929.
Friday, 25 September 2015
No genre quite embraces the revenge story like westerns.
Danish immigrant Jon Jensen (Mads 'Hannibal' Mikkelsen) has worked for seven years preparing his farm and raising the funds to ship his wife and child over from the motherland.
Unfortunately, on the day they arrive, and the family is traveling to Jon's home - that he shares with his laid-back brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), just outside the town of Black Creek - they end up sharing a stage coach with a couple of ne'er-do-wells with tragic consequences.
Jon, an ex-solider like his brother, quickly exacts revenge, but that's only the beginning of his troubles.
One of the men he kills (Once Upon A Time's Michael Raymond-James) happens to be the brother of the irredeemably loathsome land baron Colonel Henry Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, of Watchmen and Supernatural fame), an unbalanced ex-Indian killer, with ambitions to take over Black Creek.
Delarue, a gonzo pantomime villain of an antagonist, wants to buy up the town because of the oil beneath it that his paymasters have their beady eyes on.
He also lusts after his brother's mute wife, Madelaine (Penny Dreadful's Eva Green), and very quickly takes advantage of her loss.
Venting his anger on the townsfolk of Black Creek - which includes undertaker-mayor Nathan Keane (Jonathan Pryce) and sheriff-priest Mallick (Primeval's Douglas Henshall) - Delarue demands the capture of his brother's killer and it isn't long before the cowed inhabitants point the finger at Jon.
Despite aspiring to be the new Unforgiven, The Salvation is more spaghetti western in its execution (just check out the number of quirky, gimmicky deaths in the third act, for instance) with a script - from director Kristian Levring and co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen - that's not afraid to corral a few clichés along the way.
Eva Green's character, in particular, gets the short end of the stick, being little more than a trophy to be 'won' and whose development revolves around successive brutalisation until she is finally driven to fight back.
Given that Jon would have only known her as Delarue's sister-in-law and accountant, there's no real logic for why Jon saves her, mid-battle, from Delarue's lieutenant, The Corsican (ex-footballer Eric Cantona), except for the fact that she's Eva Green!
Shot in South Africa, The Salvation looks gorgeous, has great pacing and an ice cool central performance from Mads Mikklelsen - who really can do no wrong.
Plot wobbles and misogyny aside, The Salvation stands as a stylish, old school, western revenge movie.
Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) lends a helping hand in a clip from the Season 3 premiere of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., airing Tuesday, September 29 at 9pm ETHistorically, the UK's Channel 4 has treated fans of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. very poorly; airing episodes weeks and months after they've been shown in the States.
This means that, invariably, any surprises and plot twists in the show have been well-and-truly spoiled via unavoidable Internet revelations and Twitter chatter.
So many import shows are now shown within days of their Stateside debut (or in some cases simultaneously, for things like Game Of Thrones) that there's really no excuse.
Knowing when they're onto a winner, Marvel has already announced the release of a soundtrack compilation from its Guardians Of The Galaxy animation, even before the cartoon airs.
The pithily-titled Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Mix Vol. 1 (Music from the Animated Television Series) will be available from October 16.
Track listing for the collection:
- Hooked On a Feeling – Blue Swede
- Funk No. 49 – The James Gang
- Drift Away – Dobie Gray
- Walk Away – The James Gang
- Boys Are Back in Town – Thin Lizzy
- Shake Your Groove Thing – Peaches and Herb
- Funk Funk – Cameo
- Joy to the World – Three Dog Night
- I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
- Rocky Mountain Way – Joe Walsh
- So You Are a Star – Hudson Brothers
- Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen
If you happen to live in the States, the CD is already available for pre-order from Amazon.
Thursday, 24 September 2015
Former Tuesday Knight Meredith nominated me on Facebook to fill out one of those "tell us about yourself" memes, with the twist that each question related to a letter of the alphabet.
So here I go...
A - Age: 48
B - Biggest Fear: Too many to list
C - Current Time: 6pm (18:00)
D - Drink You Last Had: Pepsi Max
E - Easiest Person To Talk To: Paul Crowney
F - Favorite Song: Just A Song About Ping Pong by Operator Please
G - Ghosts, Are They Real?: No.
H - Hometown: Pembury (a village, not a town)
I - In Love With: Rachel
J - Jealous Of: Nobody really. I admire people who've achieved things I haven't but I certainly wouldn't call it jealousy.
K - Killed Someone? Hundreds... in roleplaying game adventures.
L - Last Time You Cried? Coverage of the refugee crisis
M - Middle Name... : Edward
N - Number Of Siblings: Zero.
O - One Wish... : Get off my lazy arse and write a novel, or run an epic roleplaying game campaign, or be able to concentrate on one thing at a time.
P - Person Who You Last Called: Rachel
Q - Question You're Always Asked: How are you feeling?
R - Reason To Smile: Alice
S - Song Last Sang: Just A Song About Ping Pong (because of answering question 'f' above)
T - Time You Woke Up: 9am
U - Underwear Colour: Red, blue, black, yellow and white (Superman).
V - Vacation Destination: Mars*
|*By 'Mars', I mean, of course, Barsoom...|
W - Worst Habit: Again, too many to list
X - X-Rays You've Had: Most of my body probably by now
Y - Your Favorite Food: Curry
Z - Zodiac Sign: Scorpio
Shangi-Chi (2021) + Venom 2 (2021) + Eternals (2021) + The Batman (2022)
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