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 March 2022

Wall of Fleas...


I've been sorting out - and rearranging - my pictures in the office and gamesroom this week, and in the process have created my "Wall of Fleas" (see above).

I now have, all in one place (the gamesroom), three very different interpretations of my signature superhero character, The Acrobatic Flea.

At the top (next to the picture of me as a cowboy) is the original illustration by Pete from the mid-1980s, back in the heyday of the Flea's original run in Steve's Second Edition Villains & Vigilantes campaign.

Below that are a couple of Star Wars pictures, that include cells from original prints of the first movie, and beneath those are, on the left, Jeff Dee's take on The Acrobatic Flea (as part of The Third Edition - Mighty Protectors - Villains & Vigilante Kickstarter) and my latest Acrobatic Flea, by my old university friend, Rosie.

The multi-talented Rosie has recently revealed a penchant for art, and so my best mate, Paul, commissioned her to do her version of The Acrobatic Flea as a surprise Christmas present for me.

In the great multiverse of Fleas, I've named this one The Astral Flea, as I see him as a kind of Kirbyesque cosmic entity, a supernatural iteration of the usually street-level superhero.

The Astral Flea

British Horror Uses Its Atmospheric Setting To Batter A Lone Shepherd's Sanity...

Eric Black is lost after the mysterious death of his adulterous wife.

Running from his past to a new job as a shepherd, he finds himself trapped alone on a majestic, weather-beaten island with an ominous secret.

One mans spiraling madness meets a vengeful supernatural force.

What starts as the perfect wind-swept escape becomes a race to save his sanity and his life.
.

The Brilliance That Is Farscape Rockets To The UK's Horror Channel Next Week...

The acclaimed science fiction series Farscape comes to Horror on April 4 showing as part of Horror's #SciFiZone.

Astronaut John Crichton, who is sent on an experimental space mission and accidentally hurled across the universe to the midst of an intergalactic conflict.

The Only Thing Better Than One Karen Gillan Is Dual Karen Gillans!

Upon receiving a terminal diagnosis, Sarah opts for a cloning procedure to ease her loss on her friends and family.

When she makes a sudden and miraculous recovery, her attempts to have her clone decommissioned fail and lead to a court-mandated duel to the death.

Now she has one year to train her body and mind for the fight of her life.

WHO LOVES: All The Doctors

"Wonderful chap. All of them."
- Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart , The Five Doctors

I'm not sure it needs to be said, but then again - looking at online fandom - perhaps it does, but there are no bad Doctors, only occasionally bad writers.

From William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker, Jo Martin's Fugitive Doctor to John Hurt's War Doctor, I love them all.

Sure, I have my favourites (Sylvester McCoy's Seventh, Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor, Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor), but every single actor who's portrayed any iteration of The Doctor (either on television or audio) has knocked it out the park.

If ever I have an issue with an individual story, it's almost certainly down to a fault in the writing (or maybe the direction or editing), never the performance of The Doctor.

That's why I'm excited - rather than apprehensive - about whoever is eventually named as The Fourteenth Doctor because I already know they are going to be superb.

It's simply the nature of the show.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Conspiracy Theory Film of The Week: Broadcast Signal Intrusion (2021)


Chicago, 1999. Video archivist James (Glee's Harry Shum Jr), haunted by the disappearance of his wife Hanna, stumbles across a surreal, nightmarish, clip of a "broadcast signal intrusion" - a mysterious pirate hack of a televised signal.

Fascinated, he starts to dig deeper, learning that these signal hacks are extremely rare and the authorities have managed to track down those responsible for all except for the one that initially triggered James's interest. 

He discovers that not only was this one of a pair of known intrusions, but there was possibly a third as well.

Mixed up with all this is the fact that a woman supposedly disappeared, probably kidnapped and maybe murdered, the night before each intrusion - and the last one was the night after his wife disappeared.

Instead of reporting her to the police, James teams up with Alice (Kelley Mack), a strange woman who follows him one night, for nebulous reasons.

Together they disappear down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, crossing paths with a selection of enigmatic and oddball characters, as James becomes increasingly paranoid on his dual quest to find out who created the "broadcast signal intrusion" and what happened to his wife.

Starting from a similar space as the far-superior Archive 81, Broadcast Signal Intrusion instead apes True Detective (poorly) using this elaborate, potential Creepypasta urban legend to obfuscate a very linear murder mystery.

I'll confess I was hoping for another Archive 81, Deadwax, or Cigarette Burns.

Being inspired by true events (there were actual signal intrusions of a similar nature in the mid-to-late '80s), I had high hopes as to what fantastical journey the movie would take its conspiracy theory-driven protagonist on.

However, of all the potential stories that could have sprung from this set-up, a poor man's Batman adventure - where the villain leaves a trail of breadcrumbs that only the protagonist can follow (despite years of investigations by various branches of the government and law enforcement) - was a major let-down.
 
There are films where you can recognise their greatness early on, but there are others - usually mystery stories - where everything hangs on the final reveal, which can make or break the audience's investment in the piece.

Sadly, as  became increasingly clear as the 104-minute movie dragged on, the climactic revelation of Broadcast Signal Intrusion, despite being dressed up in the trappings of James's dramatic dive into insanity, raised little more than a shrug and a underwhelmed "oh, was that it?" reaction.

For all the smoke-and-mirrors, James' unearthing of this great secret is mindbogglingly straight-forward, with the only real mysteries being the unexplained comings and goings of the small coterie of supporting characters.

Phil Drinkwater and Tim Woodall's script, directed by Jacob Gentry, was riddled with convenient coincidences,  inconstancies, and plot holes that you were probably expected to hand wave away with a "that's the nature of the beast" get-out-of-jail-free card.

But filmmakers have to earn that sort of trust from their audience and Broadcast Signal Intrusion falls well short.
  • Broadcast Signal Intrusion is available on DVD & Blu-Ray in the UK, as of this week.

Gothic Horror At Its Most Unsettling!!!

Jane, a writer and young mother, is prescribed a rest treatment by her physician husband John, who takes her to a remote country estate for the summer.

She becomes obsessed with the peculiar yellow wallpaper in the bedroom he has chosen for her.

In her isolation, she secretly writes about a woman trapped in the wallpaper — that she must free.

Weird Wednesday...

RTD's First Doctor Who Script: Now Available As A Big Finish Audioplay!

A long-lost Russell T. Davies Doctor Who story regenerates into highly-anticipated full-cast audio drama, out now from Big Finish Productions.

Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford star in this brand new (old) adventure for the Sixth Doctor and Mel, based on the recently rediscovered script, Mind of the Hodiac, by Russell T Davies.

The once and future Doctor Who showrunner has adapted his spec 1980s story for audio with director Scott Handcock (who has also scripted episode two based on the original notes).

The stellar ensemble cast, led by Laurie Kynaston (Derry Girls, How to Build a Girl) as the villainous Hodiac, also includes Annette Badland (Doctor Who, Ted Lasso), Alexander Vlahos (Outlander, Sanditon), T’Nia Miller (Years and Years, The Haunting of Bly Manor), Raj Ghatak (Ghosts, Ackley Bridge), Sutara Gayle (Magpie Murders, Silent Witness), and Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo (Devs, Wednesday).

In the depths of space, the mysterious Hodiac is manipulating the Galactic Stock Exchange to raise money. His aim? To hire mercenaries for a deadly quest across the stars.

Meanwhile, on Earth, an ordinary British family is plagued by a series of psychic events.

The one thing connecting these events is a magnificent patchwork coat –which just so happens to belong to the Doctor!

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

All Good Things Must Come To An End...

The final part of Remembrance of The Daleks aired today on Forces TV, marking the end of a 50+ episode run of Classic era Doctor Who on free-to-view television in the UK.

From the dramatic arrival of The Third Doctor in Spearhead From Space through to today's apocalyptic (for the Daleks) conclusion of this superlative Seventh Doctor outing, my morning double-bill of Doctor Who has become a breakfast time ritual.

I loved the retro, old school, feel of the standard definition broadcast and slightly cheesy bumpers before each episode.

The addition of ad breaks was slightly alien to my previous experience with these old Doctor Who tales, but served to remind me I wasn't watching them on VHS or DVD but actually "live".

I don't know how the scheduling gods work at Forces TV, but I hope this run of Classic Doctor Who garnered enough viewers or online chatter to encourage another run of this vintage stories.

Forces TV may not offer a "catch-up" service, but I now have all these episodes saved on my Sky+ box, should I wish to revisit them in the near future.

Meanwhile, I'm not quite sure what I'll do now for my breakfast televisual routine.

Probably finish off my grand rewatch of Modern Who (I'm just on the first season of The Thirteenth Doctor) and then, once that's wrapped up, I'll switch to my DVDs and Blu-Rays of Classic Who and start again with the introduction of The First Doctor in An Unearthly Child.

The Dalek shuttle craft takes off from the playground of Coal Hill School

Open Zion's Archive, Learn The True History of The Machine War and The Matrix...

Boot up the Zion Archive and get the history of the Machine War as well as the origins of The Matrix and The One.

Jo Martin's Fugitive Doctor Continues Her Comic Book Adventures In July...


Although issue zero of this story about Jo Martin's Fugitive Doctor isn't out until Free Comic Book Day in May, with issue one now following in June, publisher Titan Comics is already promoting the variant covers for the second issue of Doctor Who: Origins, which is slated for publication in July.

Details on Jody Houser's story for this enigmatic incarnation of The Doctor, however, still remain cryptic.
Working for the mysterious Division on a dangerous assignment, the Doctor uncovers something insidious afoot.

Discover why this regeneration became known as the Fugitive!
Cover art by Abigail Harding
Cover art by Iolanda Zanfardino 

Monday, 28 March 2022

Gentleman Jack's Back Next Month...

Watch Gentleman Jack on iPlayer from 10 April (in the UK), and coming soon to HBO Max.

The Time Traveler's Wife's Teaser Trailer...


Former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat returns to the world of time travel with his six-part adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's debut novel The Time Traveler's Wife, coming to Sky Atlantic in May.

My big concern here is that while, in my experience, Rose Leslie is a superb actor, Theo James isn't.

But it wouldn't be the first time I've been proved wrong... and probably won't be the last.

Musical Monday: Fence (Son Lux & Moses Sumney)

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Documenting The Blurring Of The Lines Between Movie Magic and Urban Myth...

Cursed Films returns with a new five-episode season exploring the myths and legends behind some of Hollywood’s notoriously “cursed” horror film productions.

The Wizard of Oz, Rosemary's Baby, Stalker, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Cannibal Holocaust: Were these films really cursed, as many believe, or just the victims of bad luck and bizarre circumstances?

Premieres April 7 on Shudder.
How times change. When the first season of Cursed Films was announced I wasn't a Shudder subscriber and was adamant that I didn't need another streaming service. Now I can't imagine NOT having Shudder as part of my suite of streaming services.

As I said back then, even though I don't believe for one moment that any of these films are actually 'cursed', rather that they've become the subject of urban myths:
"...this is just the sort of thing that tickles my fancy, serving as the perfect fodder for my over-stimulated gamer brain that sees potential plot hooks round every corner."

B-Movie Of The Week: Unearthly Stranger (1963)


Several scientists around the world, including Britain's Professor Geoffrey Munro (Warren Mitchell), have died of mysterious, explosive, brain haemorrhages - just as they were about to make major breakthroughs.

All were working on trying to crack the scientific formula that would allow individuals to "project themselves through thought" to alien worlds... what we might call today "astral projection".

Following Munro's sudden demise, newly-married theoretical physicist, Dr Mark Davidson (John Neville, probably best known for his portrayal of Hieronymus Karl Frederick Baron von Munchausen in Terry Gilliam's 1988 The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) is promoted to take his place in the project.

However, state security - in the form of the secret service's wonderfully mannered Major Clarke (Patrick Newell, who would go on to play 'Mother' in The Avengers, from 1965 to 1969) - is suspicious of Davidson's whirlwind holiday romance and his new Swiss bride, Julie (Gabriella Licudi), about whom no records can be found.

There's also the fact that Julie sleeps with her eyes open, never blinks, has no pulse, cries acidic tears, is immune to extremes of heat, and scares children.

The clues are there that there's "something" about Julie, but love-struck Mark refuses to accept it, despite proclamations from both Major Clarke and Mark's colleague, Prof. John Lancaster (Philip Stone).

Nevertheless, regardless of his blind spot in regards to his new bride, Mark does reach the conclusion that if scientists on Earth are trying to reach other planets psychically, perhaps alien races have already come to Earth using the same method.

And perhaps they want to stop Earthlings gaining this ability to travel the cosmos.

But it's not Julie, right?

A tight, low-budget, black-and-white sci-fi thriller, 1963's Unearthly Stranger shares themes and ideas with both Invasion of The Body Snatchers and HP Lovecraft's story The Shadow Out Of Time.

Events kick off in media res, as a sweaty Mark races back to his office to document all he has learned via a reel-to-reel recorder.

This then allows the film to flashback to the main story - which, itself, contains a secondary flashback to Mark's first encounter with Julie (which bears many of the hallmarks of a classic UFO encounter).

The whole shindig is so compact that it feels like a 76-minute Twilight Zone episode rather than a movie, unburdened by spurious sub-plots and the need to slowly establish character and motivation.

This brevity is something often lacking in modern filmmaking.

Tomorrow Calling (1993)

Bill is shooting architectural photographs of "futuristic" buildings of the 30's for a coffee table book commissioned by Dialta.

But as he frames up a deco bingo hall, a vast airship looms over him.

Is it a dream? His friend Mervyn tells him it is a manifestation of the mass unconscious, a "semiotic ghost".

Bill next sees people dressed like extras from Things to Come, the futuristic fantasy. Mervyn advises Bill that there is no future, only a futuristic dream invented in the present, and that the cure is a large dose of pornography.

Bill goes straight to the video shop and its top shelf.

Tim Leandro's first short film, Tomorrow Calling, is based on William Gibson's short story The Gernsback Continuum.

Friday, 25 March 2022

The Doctor May Have Been Called Dr. Who, But A Dalek Is Always A Dalek...


Due out on September 6, Dr. Who and the Daleks: The Official Story of the Films, by filmmaker, author, and trustee of The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, John Walsh is "the definitive guide to the making of Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D."

Published by Titan Books, with Studiocanal UK, the book contains:
"...a treasure trove of archive material, interviews and stunning artwork, and takes us through the whole process of translating the metal monsters from small screen to big.

In-depth information on the production, design, casting and special effects is accompanied by full-colour illustrations, including props, posters, and behind-the-scenes photography – making it the perfect gift for fans of the films.
"
The pair of Peter Cushing-led 1960s movies, pitting a very human "Dr. Who" against his arch foes Daleks, at the height of "Dalekmania", remain the only big-screen, cinematic, adaptations of the 60-year-old BBC sci-fi show.

Long has their "canonicity" been debated by fans (with the very subject of Doctor Who's 'canon' being a contentious and thorny subject in itself), but there's no escaping the fact that these movies are a lot of fun. 

It's also worth noting that, rather unexpectedly and brilliantly, Steven Moffat addressed the issue of the relationship between these movies and the "main" Doctor Who continuity head-on in his novelisation of The Day Of The Doctor.

The Aviary Asks 'Can You Escape An Enemy That Lives Inside Your Head?'

Malin Akerman and Chris Messina star in the twisted journey of two women's desperate flee to escape the clutches of Skylight, an insidious cult.

Lured in by the promise of "freedom" in the isolated desert campus called "The Aviary", Jillian (Akerman) and Blair (Lorenzo Izzo) join forces to escape in hopes of real freedom.

Consumed by fear and paranoia, they can't shake the feeling that they are being followed by the cult's leader, Seth (Messina), a man as seductive as he is controlling.

The more distance the pair gains from the cult, the more Seth holds control of their minds.

With supplies dwindling and their senses failing, Jillian and Blair are faced with a horrifying question: how do you run from an enemy who lives inside your head?

Crossing My Favourite Fandoms: The Podcast Doctor's Guide to Tatooine...


Best-known (to me, anyway) for portraying The Doctor in the highly addictive Doctor Who RPG podcast The Game of Rassilon, Riley Silverman has authored an official guide to Luke Skywalker's homeworld of Tattooine for Star Wars fans of all ages.

Star Wars: Exploring Tatooine is due out in late August, and will be
"...fully illustrated in a large-scale format by Studio MUTI, the hardcover release features the Lars homestead, Mos Espa’s podracing Grand Arena, the krayt dragon’s nest, and much more, as well as characters from across the saga.".
You can read more about the book at the official Star Wars website, including comments from actress, writer, and comedian Riley Silverman and Studio MUTI's creative director Clinton Campbell.

Thursday, 24 March 2022

It Turns Out That, Like Superman (and Plants), I Am Powered By The Sun...


Our region's fickle weather has taken a turn for the warmer as we approach the start of British Summer Time this weekend, meaning Rachel has cleaned down the garden furniture and put out the cushions so we can enjoy our little sun-trap of a garden.

Even as an avowed lover of winter, snow, and rain, I was looking forward to this moment since I discovered last year that our garden is also an ideal place for reading.

And, boy, did this week prove it.

On the first day I took to reading in the garden, in just a few hours, I read more of my book (the Target novelisation of Steven Moffat's Doctor Who: The Day of The Doctor) than I had in the weeks (months?) of struggling to read it indoors, in a combination of light filtered through blinds and the artificial light of daylight bulbs.

I finished the book that afternoon (it's excellent and I can highly recommend it to Whovians) and subsequently this afternoon read the entirety of David Baddiel's best-selling and highly lauded book about antisemitism and identity politics, Jews Don't Count.

Next I'm moving on to my recently-purchased second-hand copy of John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos

I've even been inspired to draw up a (very) shortlist of books I plan to follow this with this Spring/Summer, a mix of fiction and non-fiction.

More titles will be added once I've proven to myself that I can stick to this resumption of my old reading habits (I really should try and tackle my ever-increasing mountain of unread comic books as well).

Currently the "to be read" list has only these three titles on it (although I realise I've made a rod for my own back by sharing this as I don't tend to be great at sticking to such lists):

  • Campaign: An Adventure in Time and Space by Jim Mortimore
  • Build Your Own Time Machine: The Real Science of Time Travel by Brian Clegg
  • Lungbarrow by Marc Platt
Lungbarrow: I've wanted to read this for years and shouldn't keep putting it off

In case anyone should think I've been frittering my money away again, the two ultra-rare Doctor Who novels - Campaign and Lungbarrow - were both made available as legal PDF downloads (the former by the author, the latter by the BBC) and so I've printed them off for ease of reading.

I also plan to give the Doctor Who Roleplaying Game core rules a thorough dissection and examination, being the main focus of my gaming aspirations at the moment.

Even though I think I know the ending, the ride sounds totally wild
I love to challenge my stroke-addled brain with occasional books of scientific non-fiction
I need to feel comfortable with the mechanics before I'm confident enough to run it

Well, Men Looks Wonderfully Bonkers - As We've Come To Expect From A24's Films...

Amazing Tales In Ukrainian...


The family-friendly roleplaying game Amazing Tales, by Martin Lloyd (which birthed my favourite superhero roleplaying system Amazing Heroes), has been translated into Ukrainian and made available as a free PDF.

Martin explains:
"The translation includes the quickstart, and the 21 adventures that make up the Amazing Tales charity bundle. I've reworked the rules so all you need is a single D6. 
"With ten million people having been displaced by the war, and 1.5 million children made into refugees I'm hoping that this will help keep some families entertained and distracted during difficult times."
He adds:
"I appreciate that most of you aren't Ukrainian. But you might know someone who is, or someone who works with refugee organisations. If you do, please point them to this free download at https://amazing-tales.net/2022/03/21/amazing-tales-ukrainian/"

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Torn From The Headlines: "You Can't Rewrite History, Not One Line!"

The Montparnasse derailment, Paris, October 22, 1895
"You can't rewrite history. Not one line!"
- The First Doctor, The Aztecs
"There are fixed points through time where things must always stay the way they are. This is not one of them. This is an opportunity. A temporal tipping point."
- The Eleventh Doctor, Cold Blood

This week's selection of potential story hooks are links primarily focussed on established historical events that your time-travelling player-characters can either have no effect on (without, possibly, significantly altering the timeline) or (as in the Tenth Doctor episode The Fire of Pompeii) while unable to avert the major catastrophe may be able to do some good on a smaller scale.

THE MONTPARNASSE DERAILMENT: At 4pm on October 22, 1895, a train entered the Gare Montparnasse terminus in Paris too fast and the driver applied the brakes too late, causing the train to smash through the buffer stop, jump across the concourse, crash through the wall, and fall into the Place de Rennes below (see picture above). Although no passengers died, Marie-Augustine Aguilard, standing in for her husband, a newspaper vendor who had gone to collect the evening papers, was crushed by falling masonry in the street.

THE PESHTIGO FIRE: The deadliest wildfire in recorded history occurred on October 8, 1871, in north-eastern Wisconsin, USA (the same day as The Great Chicago Fire), with an estimated death toll of at least 2,500. The worst hit area was the lumber town of Peshtigo. There is speculation that this fire, and the one in Chicago, were caused by impact fragments from a disintegrating comet.

EDWARD THE MARTYR: Just three years into his reign, on March 18, 978, Edward, King of The English, was murdered under mysterious circumstances at Corfe Castle in Dorset. He was later dubbed 'The Martyr' and a cult grew up venerating him as a saint.

EMILY DAVISON AT THE EPSOM DERBY:



After walking onto the racecourse, suffragette Emily Davison was trampled by the King's horse during the Epsom Derby on June 4, 1913. She died of her injuries on June 8, having never regained consciousness. This was a turning point in the militant suffragette movement.

THE IDES OF MARCH: On March 15, 44BC, Julius Caesar was stabbed to death on the floor of Rome's senate before he could embark on his next great military campaign against the Parthian Empire, triggering a civil war that would result in the rise to power of Caesar's adopted heir Octavian (later known as Augustus).

DEATH AT WICINA:


In 571 BC, tattooed and horse-riding Scythian raiders razed a thriving community in Wicina, Poland, killing all the females and kidnapping the males to sell as slaves. The fortified village was completely wiped off the map.

CHERNOBYL NUCLEAR DISASTER: From the morning of April 26, 1986, Ukrainian photographer Igor Kostin was one of the first people to capture the aftermath of the the Chernobyl incident on site. His pictures in the following days and months can serve as a powerful source of ideas for anyone thinking of setting a scenario around this infamous disaster.

THREE MILE ISLAND MELTDOWN:

Three Mile Island is a nuclear power plant located in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, on the eastern side of the state. It was the site of the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown, which occurred on the morning of May 28, 1979. Although no one outside of the plant was harmed, the workers inside were exposed to high levels of radiation, and the public became worried that nuclear power was unsafe.

SINKING OF THE TITANIC: The fate of the 'unsinkable' RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912, is well known (The Ninth Doctor may even have been on board... but we know The Doctor lies. Other Doctors and time travellers are also known to visited it), but that doesn't mean your own time-travellers can't venture there as well. The pictures of the real ship's interior - at the link - will really help set the scene for the players, better than any Hollywood movie.

THE MANDELA EFFECT: Did Nelson Mandela die in prison in the 1980s or enjoying his freedom in 2013? Are the children's book characters the Berenstein Bears or the Berenstain Bears? Was there a 1990's movie called Shazaam featuring the American comedian Sinbad as a genie? All these 'recognised' occurrences of the so-called Mandela Effect, while examples of false memory in our world, can serve as clues to player-characters that they might be operating in an alternate reality.

It Came From The Horror Channel For A Classic Science-Fiction B-Movie Weekend...


The UK's Horror Channel is hosting another weekend of Classic Sci-Fi in April.

Starting on April 16 at 1pm, the channel will be celebrating "strange creatures, alien invaders and weird science" through the medium of B-movies.

Over that weekend the channel will be screening: It Came From Outer Space, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, Tarantula, It Came From Beneath The Sea, The Giant Claw, The Mole People, 20 Millions Miles To Earth, The Deadly Mantis, The Monolith Monsters, and The Blob (1958).

DVD Of The Week: The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a middle-aged computer game design maven, renowned for the creation of the hyper-realistic trilogy of best-selling Matrix games.

Having suffered a breakdown, because of problems differentiating between his game world and the real world, Thomas is now under the care of a therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) and still has flashbacks to his imagined life as Neo, some kind of superpowered saviour.

Part of this manifests itself in his attraction to Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss), a woman he sees often in his local coffee shop, who reminds him of Trinity, the woman he loved in this other life.

Then one day, one of the characters from his game - Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) - turns up in his office washroom... and we're off down the rabbit hole again.

In a nutshell, The Matrix Resurrections is a phenomenal film, and definitely the strongest entry in the franchise since the original movie.

Writer-director Lana Wachowski - with co-writers David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon - has woven a smart, self-aware, sequel that builds on elements from all three of the earlier Matrix movies and then expands them in interesting directions.

The fact that The Matrix Resurrections echoes and repeats elements from these previous films (particularly the first) isn't cheap fanservice, but is part of the fabric of the story.

There are some unexpected call-backs to Reloaded and Revolutions as well blink-and-you-miss-them cameos from Christina Ricci (who I kept expecting to reappear) and Freema Agyeman (who I totally failed to spot).

Obviously, Resurrections isn't a standalone piece as intimate knowledge of the franchise is essential to fully appreciate the complexities (and meta in-jokes) of the narrative.

For me, as someone who was there at the beginning, watching the first movie on the big screen in 1999, the scenes that occur within "the Matrix" have always been more interesting than those in the "real world", and that remains true here.

Thus. as shallow as it may be, I was delighted that the machine-generated simulation of reality dominates the two-and-a-half hour duration of The Matrix Resurrections.

The Neo-Trinity romance remains the beating heart of the film, as the motivating force behind all of Thomas Anderson's decisions, but the various layers of the story mean any serious attempt to thoroughly analyse it would spoil the all-important mystery and surprise revelations.

It currently doesn't sound as though any more Matrix movies are planned, let alone a whole new trilogy, but given the looping nature of the overarching storyline and how Resurrections mirrors the original movie, I'm still not ruling it out.

In the meantime, just enjoy The Matrix Resurrections as a challenging, yet satisfying, coda to this game-changing and mind-expanding franchise. 

  • The Matrix Resurrections is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK

Saturday, 19 March 2022

From Planet X To Talking Pictures TV...

So That's What The Real World's Like These Days? I'm Not Impressed...

The weather's really nice today, the best it's probably been so far in 2022.

And so Rachel, Alice, and I went to Tonbridge High Street: my first "in-person" shopping trip in two years.

Restricting myself to second-hand stores, I was hoping for a cornucopia of affordable geeky goodness (particularly Doctor Who books and DVDs). 

But I was sadly disappointed by the paucity of what I desired and the prices that were being asked for what was there.

I suspect during lockdown charity and second-hand shops had taken to using eBay as a price guide because what they were asking, particularly for comics and DVDs seemed a bit on the steep side to me.

In the end, all I came away with - from our independent book store - was an ex-library edition of John Wnydham's The Midwich Cuckoos.

Although I have read his Day of The Triffids multiple times and seen all the movies based on The Midwich Cuckoos, I'm pretty certain I've never actually read the book.

Normally I'm a bit of a snob about "tie-in" editions, but this 1972 hardback was using imagery on its cover from one of my all-time favourite sci-fi/horror movies, so it got a pass.

And how could I say no to (asking Rachel to buy me) a £2 second-hand novel I want to actually read (rather than simply display on my shelves)?

In the meantime, I guess this means I'll be sticking to eBay, Amazon, and other online sites for my shopping "needs".

Blink (2022)

After being violently pushed from a window, Mary wakes up in the hospital, almost completely paralyzed.

Trapped inside the prison of her own body, Mary’s only way to communicate is by blinking her eyes.

She tries to warn the nurse that a sinister, inhuman force is trying to kill her. But when strange things begin happening around her, she realizes it may be too late to stop it.

Blink is the first short film to come out of Screen Gems (Sony Pictures’ genre label) and Ground Control’s horror film lab Scream Gems.

Scream Gems focuses on the development and production of horror genre proof-of-concepts and aims to collaborate with up-and-coming filmmakers to produce horror shorts with the primary goal of developing new, original content into feature films.

Friday, 18 March 2022

Top of The Pile: Hawk The Slayer #3


The Garth Ennis penned sequel to 1980's cult sword-and-sorcery classic Hawk The Slayer continues this week with the comic's third issue, bagged with Judge Dredd Megazine #442.

Hawk and his band of heroes start the issue surrounding by tentacled supernatural forces in the mystical Forest of Weir, held at bay by the magical light of Hawk's Mindsword... but for how long?

Henry Flint's art in this issue really hammers home the Lovecraftian weirdness of the forest's monstrous denizens, and later the brutality of the resurrected Voltan's inhuman troops as they slaughter the patrons of a roadside inn, just to leave a message.

Voltan, himself, with his face of maggots, is an enduringly horrific image that will burn itself into many a reader's soul, while his masters, The Black Wizards, have an air of Judge Dredd's Dark Judges about them that has me hoping that we see more of them after this five-issue mini-series wraps.

With this third issue, Ennis is really starting to show us how he's building on the world created by Terry Marcel and Harry Robertson in the original movie.

Instead of building the world outwards, adding in foreign lands and distant cities, Ennis is layering the established reality with more depth.

His grasp on the characters remains firm and you can certainly imagine the Hawk The Slayer actors speaking the lines he gives them.

The new additions to Hawk's adventuring party - Bella, the daughter of Ranulf, and the cowardly bard Wain - both bring something new to the group dynamics, while Hawk, Gort, and Crow continue to shine.

Staying true to the essence of the established mythology, Ennis is digging into those foundations for answers to questions that have titillated fandom for over 40 years, such as "what's the origin story of the elfin stone and the Mindsword?" 

Mirroring the plot structure of the movie, the dramatic cliffhanger at the end of this issue feels like it could lead straight into the finale, but we've still got two whole issues to go. 

I'll be honest: I don't want this to end. As well as being a visual and visceral treat, the comic has been a joyous thrill ride that takes me back to the countless times I've lost myself in the world of Hawk The Slayer, the definitive, old school, Dungeons & Dragons movie.

Doctor Who (2022) + Wakanda Forever (2022) + Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves (2023)

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