Saturday, 1 March 2014

Shades Volume 2 - coming this April!

Around four years ago, together with the fantastic art team of E.C. Nickel and Muamal Khairi, I put the finishing touches to my graphic novel Shades.

About a year after that, I released a print version of the first half of that story. It's been a long wait, but the second and concluding volume of Shades is finally to appear in print this April. So, if you bought Volume 1 and you've been wondering how the story ends ... the wait is almost over!

I'll post a more specific date as soon as I have one. In the meantime, if you haven't read the first volume yet, why not grab a copy now? That way you won't be scrabbling around, playing catch-up in April!

Shades Volume 1 is available now from IndyPlanet or from those nice people at Comicsy.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Top 10 Movies Most Likely to Disappoint in 2014

As Bruce Wayne might once have said: "Fanboys and fangrrls are a superstitious, cowardly lot"! Every time a major studio announces plans for a new SciFi, fantasy or superhero movie, the internet goes wild with fevered anticipation. Then, when the first details begin to leak out, we pour scorn on the choice of director, scoff at the casting choices and wince at the plot. Finally, as filming gets underway, we start to temper our scepticism and - by the time the film is actually released - we've already bought into the hype and convinced ourselves it's going to be the greatest event in the history of cinema.

Robocop 2014 remake
Known for its violent, set-piece action scenes, the original Robocop also boasted a
nice line in self-aware satire. The new one has a suit borrowed from Iron Man.
Is it any wonder that we so often feel let-down by films of our favourite comics and books? We build them up so high in advance that it becomes almost impossible for them to live up to our expectations. This year is no different. As has often been said, we're living in a golden age for SciFi and fantasy, with more genre films released every year than used to be released in a decade. So, when you look at the films scheduled for release in 2014, it's already inevitable that some are going to disappoint. Which ones? Here's a list of the top ten gleaned from a glimpse into BVC's crystal ball!

Heart-throb George Clooney (Gravity and Batman & Robin) with Matt Damon (The Bourne Identity)
Professor of Archaeology, expert on the occult, and obtainer
of rare antiquities. Fortune and glory, kid ... well, maybe!
10. Robocop

SciFi is big right now. Probably bigger than it's been at any time since the 1980s. So, what could be more natural than to take one of those gloriously camp, self-knowing, 1980s SciFi extravaganzas and remake it as a po-faced, grim and gritty film in keeping with the expectations of a Twenty-First Century audience? It can't fail, can it? Well, I can't claim to be blessed with Total Recall but, from what I do remember, I am experiencing a certain ... Dredd!

9. The Monuments Men

The production stills for this film make it look very Indiana Jones. There are men in khaki, ancient treasures and, everyone's favourite villains - Nazis! The cast is stellar (George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman and - wait for it - Bill Murray!) This one looks so good on paper, it has to work, doesn't it? Hmmm - I can't help wondering how far through the movie we'll get before we start missing that bullwhip and fedora ... cue music!

8. 300: Rise of an Empire

Remember 300, the Zack Snyder directed film of Frank Miller's graphic novel? Yes, it looked gorgeous and was a huge commercial success, but do you actually remember it? It was badly written, badly acted and historically farcical. So, naturally, it's getting a sequel. May the Gods forgive us all!

Russell Crowe (Gladiator) co-stars with sexy Jennifer Connelly (Labyrinth) and teen idol Emma Watson (Harry Potter's Hermione Grainger)
When the weather forecast says "mostly dry", that
means rain. No, really. The clue is in the "mostly"!
7. Noah

Ooh, Biblical epics are making a comeback! God knows why. No, seriously - no one else does, so I can only assume He must have visited someone in Hollywood and  done the burning bush thing in their pool.

This one stars Russell Crowe as the boat-building zoo-keeper because, you know, he's been in a historical epic before. The fact that his performance in Gladiator rivalled that of a plank of two-by-four and he's never been in anything worth watching since seems to have been conveniently forgotten. Ah well, at least it'll be a spectacle to take our minds off all this rain we're getting just now. Oh, wait ...!

6. Exodus

Look! You wait fifty years for a Biblical epic and then two come along at once! Directed by Ridley Scott, this one stars Christian Bale, so it's got to be good, right? So said everyone who remembers him in Batman BeginsAmerican Psycho or The Fighter. Although those of us who haven't forgotten Reign of Fire and Terminator: Salvation are not so sure! Christian Bale as Moses? Really? Some film directors just want to watch the world burn!

Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker and Spider-Man) co-stars with the hot Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy) and Jamie Foxx (Electro)
Maybe you're not supposed to be Spider-Man, climbing those
walls. That's why you keep falling. And making dodgy sequels
5. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Every one loves Spider-Man. Well, except those poor guys who've been injured in the Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark stage musical, obviously. The trouble with this one is that ... well, the franchise just ain't what it used to be! Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man films succeeded largely because of Tobey Maguire's superbly convincing performance as the socially inept science-geek Peter Parker.

By the same token, however, one of the reasons why the reboot failed to engage us in the same way was because the attempt to capture the jokey arachnid's penchant for corny one-liners just made Parker seem like... well, a bit of a jerk. A bully, even. They do say some spiders are lucky, but this film will need a whole swarm if our new found arachnophobia isn't to become a permanent condition!

4. Maleficent

The story of Sleeping Beauty, starring Angelina Jolie as the evil witch who curses the Princess Aurora at her christening. What could possibly go wrong? Well, casting Angelina Jolie for a start. Like Natalie Portman, she's one of those actresses who shines in smaller, indie films and yet somehow never manages to produce the goods in big budget blockbusters. Then there's the track record of live action adaptations of fairy tales. Mirror MirrorJack the Giant SlayerSnow White and the Huntsman? Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters? Damn, the only magical thing about this film is likely to be how they persuaded anyone to finance it in the first place!

Godzilla stars Bryan Cranston (cult hero Walter White from Breaking Bad)
Godzilla. You won't like him when he's angry.
Or in this film. Probably.
3. Godzilla

Ah, Godzilla. The big, green dino-machine for which the term "big in Japan" might well have been invented. He's been represented on screen by stop-motion puppetry, men in baggy lizard suits and CGI. But, in each and every one of those incarnations, his movies have one thing in common: damn, but they suck!

Okay, if I'm being totally honest, I kind of enjoyed the first hour or so of the Matthew Broderick Godzilla movie. But I'm in a (very small!) minority, and even I found it went downhill rapidly once the giant lizard actually began to take centre stage. So, why are we looking forward to this one? Who knows? Like a giant lizard's tail, it seems a fanboy's hope just keeps growing back!


2. Pompeii

When all the fantasy epics worth filming are taken and someone else has beaten you to all the good Biblical epics, hey, there's still that untapped vein of historical drama to mine, right? And the story of Pompeii, the Roman city destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, is just bound to appeal to fans of the fantasy genre. Isn't it? I mean, we know how the movie's going to end, obviously, but that didn't stop Titanic becoming the highest grossing film ever. Throw in a corny love story to ensure the ending has the tears flowing as freely as the molten lava, and this one's bound to set the screen alight. Unless, of course, Kit Harington (Jon Snow of Game of Thrones fame) can't actually speak in anything other than an inaudible mumble, in which case it's just as likely to disappear under several feet of volcanic ash.

Hot Zoe Saldana (Uhura in Star Trek Into Darkness) stars with a bald Karen Gillan (Doctor Who companion Amy Pond) and Bradley Cooper (The Hangover)
It's time to put on make-up; it's time to dress up right.
It's time to meet the Guardians of the Galaxy tonight!
1. Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel's track record at turning its comic titles into multi-million dollar movie franchises has been phenomenal. There have been some wrong turns along the way. Daredevil was sadly under-rated due, in part, to Ben Affleck's star being in decline at the time, the Fantastic Four movies were less than warmly received, and it's generally agreed that spin-offs like XMO: Wolverine and Elektra are probably best forgotten. What we remember, however, are the successes like X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers.

Is it any surprise, then, that we're all expecting success for the next Marvel title to be given the movie treatment? Well, it wouldn't be, except that the next such title is going to be Guardians of the Galaxy - a team which includes a dryad-like tree-man, a green-skinned beauty, and a gun-totin' raccoon. Let's be honest with ourselves here: that's a line-up better suited to a Muppet movie than a superhero team!

Okay, so that's the top ten according to BVC's crystal ball, but this is only a "most likely" list. Some of the above blockbusters may yet turn out to be the classics we all want them to be. It's just that, as passionate fanboys and fangrrls, we do have a tendency to expect more from our beloved genres than most films can possibly deliver. And, even if they do all flounder miserably, the outlook for 2014 isn't all bad.

We still have Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Hobbit: There and Back Again to look forward to. I mean, they couldn't possibly disappoint. Could they?

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Tomorrow People - best left in the past?

Hollywood just loves taking old films and trying to remake them. Increasingly frequently, it also seems to like taking old TV shows and making films out of those too. Recently it's even begun to take old TV shows and make them into new TV shows. As far I'm aware, however, it has never taken a 40-year old TV show from the UK made for children and tried to remake it for adults.

Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell) with Russell Kwon (Aaron Yoo) Cara Coburn (Peyton List) and John Young (Luke Mitchell)
Homo superior. 40 years on and still driving their mamas and papas insane.
Well, there's a first time for everything and the new US show The Tomorrow People is exactly that. Episode 3 airs in the UK this week, so what did I think of the first? Is it stuck in the past or can it look forward to a bright future?

Find out by reading my full review at Fanboys Anonymous!

Monday, 6 January 2014

Top 5 Things To do With a PS4 Until the Games Arrive

Now that Christmas is over, the frenzied campaigning for and trolling against both Sony's PS4 and Microsoft's XBox One has finally died down. Whether based on hyped-up expectations or long-held prejudices, gamers have made their choices and, by now, it's estimated that Santa has probably filled around four million gamers' stockings with a launch edition of the next gen console of their choice.

images ps4 vs xbox one console pictures
Picture of the PS4 complete with upright stand. Incomplete without one. You know, just like the actual ones you can buy.
It's something of a truism to say that a console's long-term viability is dependent upon its games, but with any new console the number of AAA-rated games available at launch is pretty limited and - with several of this generation's top titles having been delayed until next year - there's one question that can't be answered by simply comparing sales figures: was it really worth placing a pre-order back in June, just to be sure a shiny new games machine would be nestling under the Christmas tree?

Well, I opted for Sony's stylish little number and, even without those AAA titles, I've fallen in love with it already. Why?

Read the rest of this article and all five of my favourite things about the PS4 over at Fanboys Anonymous!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - review

I can trace my love of all things fantasy directly back to the first time I read The Hobbit at the age of around nine and, as such, it's always had a special place in my affections. Maybe that's why, despite his success at adapting The Lord of the Rings for the big screen, I had doubts about Peter Jackson's ability to do the same for my childhood favourite. The Hobbit is, after all, a children's book at heart and the decision to turn it into an epic trilogy has ruffled more than a few giant eagle feathers.


The second film in that trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug, is in cinemas now, so just how well is Jackson's return to Middle Earth faring? Does it languish under the gloom of Mirkwood, or sparkle with the lustre of the Arkenstone?

Read my comprehensive and yet still surprisingly spoiler-free review at Fanboys Anonymous!


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Tom Hanks to play Harley Quinn?

Considering the versatility that Tom Hanks has demonstrated in his many roles over the past three decades, it is perhaps surprising that he hasn't yet donned a mask and tights and graced the big screen as a superhero, especially given the plethora of Marvel and DC films which have been jostling for our attention in recent years.

Tom Hanks wants a film that pits him against the Bat.
Dare we suggest A [Justice] League of Their Own?
With his impressive pedigree, you could be forgiven for thinking that the reason might be that Hanks considers a role in a big budget, costumed, popcorn extravaganza as beneath him. Not so, apparently. The real reason he's not been seen leaping buildings in a single-bound is, as he disclosed in a recent interview with The Showbiz 411, is that he's never been asked. In fact, he so much wants to be cast in a super-powered blockbuster, he'd even consider playing the villain!

Want to know which villains he could have been in the running for? Read the full, shocking details here!


Friday, 8 November 2013

Thor: The Dark World - full movie review

So, the wait is over. Thor: the Dark World opens in the US today but, for some reason, it hit our screens here in the UK a week ago. So what can our US cousins expect? Does this second instalment of the thunder god's adventures bring the lightning, or does it just rain on everyone's parade?
Release date for Thor: the Dark World US
I will not write 'it's hammer time'; I will not write ... oh, what
the hey. It is hammer time!
Find out by reading the full (largely spoiler free!) review of the movie here!


Friday, 1 November 2013

American Horror Story: Coven - review

Not being a huge fan of the horror genre, I'd never watched either the original American Horror Story or the follow up season, American Horror Story: Asylum. However, maybe because Sleepy Hollow has been so successful or maybe just because the first episode was being aired here in the UK on the day before Hallowe'en, I decided to give the third series, American Horror Story: Coven, a try.
Fiona Goode (the Supreme) presides over Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies.
In retrospect, choosing Vlad the Impaler as her interior
decorator may have been a mistake.
Witches, it seems are the new vampires. Or, at least, someone in TV production land would like them to be. Not since the Halliwell sisters in Charmed and Buffy's Willow, have witches featured so prominently in mainstream TV shows. The Witches of Eastwick, Witches of East End, Once Upon a Time's Regina, The Secret Circle, and even Sleepy Hollow's good witches vs bad witches dynamic all seem convinced that there's an audience out there just waiting to have its interest in magic-wielding femmes fatales pricked, like so many thumbs. American Horror Story: Coven is the latest show to try to tap into this demand. But does it hubble and bubble, or is it just a steaming cauldron of toil and trouble?

Read the rest of this review at Fanboys Anonymous.


Saturday, 26 October 2013

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show (Live): Review

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy started life as a BBC radio show way back in 1978. It quickly became a cult hit in the UK, made a successful transition to TV, spawned a series of books and has since been released and re-released on vinyl record, audio tape, VHS cassette and DVD. In 2005 it finally made its way onto the big screen but, sadly, without the original cast and due in no small part to its reliance on special effects to carry some poor casting decisions and some unwise changes to Douglas Adams's drily ironic scripts, the movie version failed to capture the spirit and wit of the original.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, written by Douglas Adams (also known for Doctor Who), later made into a film starring fan sweetheart Zooey Deschanel (New Girl, Tin Man, Elf - with Will Ferrell), Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, The Office), John Malkovich, the often naked Helen Mirren (Caligula with Malcolm McDowell and Sir John Gielgud, Red with Bruce Willis, Karl Urban and Morgan Freeman, Prime Suspect), Bill Nighy, Alan Rickman,
It's on stage, but it's a radio show. Except it's not on the
radio. So you can't tune in to another station.
The latest incarnation of this peculiarly British SciFi phenomenon is a stage adaptation, a self-styled live version of the radio show. It's a touring production with almost 50 scheduled dates around the UK and, last Sunday, I went to see it at the Rose Theatre in Kingston-upon-Thames. So, how was it? As mind-blowing as a pan-galactic gargle blaster, or as frighteningly awful as the ravenous bugblatter beast of Traal?

You can find out by reading my full review at Fanboys Anonymous!


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

10 things I hate about Mass Effect

The Mass Effect trilogy of games is huge. The hero (or heroine) Commander Shepard, his (or her) state-of-the-art space ship the SSV Normandy and his (or her) battle against the galactic menace that is the Reapers have already passed into gaming legend. The supporting characters are interesting, funny and likeable, and - for the most part - the gameplay is a sublime mix of meaningful decision-making and frantic action. Mass Effect may well be my favourite game series of all time.

Shepard with Garrus Vakarian (turian sniper) and Ashley Williams (gunnery chief and sexy soldier)
Shepard with Garrus and Ashley. Look behind yoooou!
But, despite what some games journalists would have us believe, no game is a ten out of ten. I've lost count of just how many times I've played each of these games, but I recently played all three of them again. In succession. Twice. (I really do love these games!) And, as I did so, I was not only reminded of all the many reasons why Mass Effect is so enjoyable, I was also reminded of the ha'porths of tar which spoil this otherwise perfect ship. Here, then, are the ten things I absolutely hate about Mass Effect.

Read the rest of this article at Fanboys Anonymous.