Monday, 8 December 2014


While the Marvel comicbook Guardians Of The Galaxy was a memorable combination of space opera and superhero action, James Gunn’s movie rejects the original comic’s ‘cosmic Avengers’ - a team of genetically adapted 31st century humans, in favour of a newer but dumber generation, in a line-up of supposedly media-friendly stereotypes. Although it’s good to see a blockbuster ‘space movie’ that is not just another pointless addition to the Star Trek franchise, or an undesirable continuance of the overworked Star Wars universe, it’s a shame that Disney fare has been crudely shoehorned into a Marvel venture, and I suspect that many fans of previous space operas, Farscape and Firefly (TV shows that were frightfully over-rated), might enjoy this GOTG movie far more than I did.

Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon are primary influences on this lone-Earthman-lost-in-space adventure, that’s hampered by its affectation for 1980s references (Kevin Bacon was a cultural hero in Footloose?) with a mix-tape batch of tiredly unimpressive (but, probably, easy to acquire the copyright clearances for?) pop songs that can hardly be considered ‘classic rock’ exemplars. They add no dramatic spirit or sense, or even faddish value, to the interstellar warfare scenario that desperately needed some social concern or political relevance in accessible, if metaphorical, terms.

As green Gamora, a weaponised slave ‘daughter’ of death deity Thanos (introduced in Avengers Assemble), Zoe Saldana can do nothing more than overact and strike blank-faced action poses. As blue Nebula, former Doctor Who starlet Karen Gillan so easily out-classes Saldana, especially in their scenes together, that it’s embarrassing to note the misjudged hierarchy of casting choices. Champion wrestler Dave Bautista makes a fist of vengeful Drax the Destroyer, but never manages to grant his intentionally stilted dialogue the right measure of tongue-in-cheek appeal. Glenn Close plays Nova Prime (leader of the star cops) as if she’s got bills to pay and is having a bad hair daze. Michael Rooker makes noble savage Yondu into a blue-skinned variant of The Walking Dead’s redneck Merle.

Apart from the welcome presence of Benicio del Toro, as the creepy Collector, there is very little here that is appropriately uncanny with eerie alien improbability. Cheap TV show Lexx boasted rather more genuinely imaginative and witty use of its sci-fi weird aspects, and even the Riddick movies had a greater dosage of astronomical and inter-planetary strangeness. Now if only they could hurry up and remake Blake’s 7 on such a widescreen scale as this, that might offer us a lot more chills, and real fun!   

Monday, 17 November 2014

Genre mags

New issues of TTA Press magazines were received today.

Interzone #255 includes my regular column, 'Laser Fodder', of DVD & blu-ray reviews.
Here's the line-up of titles with ratings:

Bones - season nine (7/10)
Space Station 76 (3/10)
Kite (6/10)
Red Shift (4/10)
Filmed In Supermarionation (7/10)
Godzilla (7/10)
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared (8/10)
Debug (6/10)
The Day The Earth Caught Fire (8/10)
Out Of The Unkown (7/10)

The cover artwork (by Wayne Haag) puts me in mind of a sci-fi variation of plane-crash movie Flight Of The Phoenix

Black Static #43 has 'Blood Spectrum' with lots more reviews of movies (and TV) on disc...

    Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk collection
Theatre Of Mr & Mrs Kabal (6/10)
Goto, Isle Of Love (4/10)
Blanche (5/10)
Immoral Tales (6/10)
The Beast (8/10)

The Walking Dead - season four (7/10)
Devil's Knot (4/10)
The Hour Of The Lynx (6/10)
Leprechaun Origins (3/10)
Dark Touch (8/10)
Found (5/10)
WolfCop (6/10)
Cold In July (7/10)
Grand Piano (6/10)
Oculus (5/10)
All Cheerleaders Die (6/10)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (9/10)
Graduation Day (2/10)
See No Evil 2 (5/10)

    More Bad Feelings: round-up 
Devil's Tower
Open Grave
Bad Milo!
Wrong Turn VI
Dark Tourist

Monday, 15 September 2014


For a great start to the week, and the middle of this month, here are the latest issues of TTA Press' magazines, just received in today's post...

Interzone #254 includes my 'Laser Fodder' column of DVD & blu-ray reviews, and this is the line-up: 

After The Dark (5/10)
The Zero Theorem (7/10)
The Double (7/10)
Divergent (5/10)
Last Days On Mars (6/10)
The Changes (5/10)
The Boy From Space (5/10)
Mindscape (5/10)
Transcendence (6/10)

    KippleZone: also received
Ashens And The Quest For The GameChild
RPG - Real Playing Game
HK: Forbidden Superhero 

Sister mag Black Static #42 covers horror stuff and has my 'Blood Spectrum' coverage of movie & TV reviews:

The Raid 2 (6/10)
Bound (8/10)
Faust (5/10)
Lizzie Borden Took An Axe (5/10)
A New York Winter's Tale (4/10)
Killers (5/10)
Painless (6/10)
Blue Ruin (5/10)
Wolf Creek 2 (5/10)
From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series (6/10)
Penny Dreadful (8/10)

    The Werner Herzog collection
Aguirre, Wrath Of God (6/10)
The Enigma Of Kaspar Hauser (5/10) 
Nosferatu, The Vampyre (9/10)
Fitzcarraldo (8/10)
Cobra Verde (7/10)
Burden Of Dreams (4/10)

    Negativextra: also received
Miss Violence 
The Battery
The Unleashed
Cheap Thrills
Almost Human
The Cabin
The Quiet Ones
Varsity Blood
The Captive
The Mirror
Attack On Titan
Werewolf Rising

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


For a (slight) change, instead of another post about collecting diecast model helicopters, here’s the latest on my growing collection of Harrier jump-jets. 

My favourite airplane since childhood, I remember reading magazine articles about the original Hawker Siddeley aircraft, way back in the early 1970s. At the time, it seemed to me this was a sci-fi innovation, an S/VTOL jet fighter that could fly like something from one of Gerry Anderson’s genre TV shows.

The first seven planes I bought are in various scales. The all-blue version is a BAe Sea Harrier FRS mk.1 (circa 1982), an inexpensive but highly detailed Amercom model at 1:72 scale. My set of three Matchbox editions have (left to right) US Marines, RAF, and Royal Navy markings/ colours, but - of course - these are big-wheeled toys and not especially accurate models of the aircraft.

The silver-coloured Harrier II is another RAF variant, and the model is produced by Del Prado at approx 1:100 scale. The plane tagged as ‘NASA 719’ (on its tail-fin) is a Harrier AV-8C, one of two such aircraft used for testing and training purposes at the Ames Research Centre. This model was made in 2005 by Corgi, approx 1:100 scale, as part of their ‘100 years of flight’ range. There’s also a 1:72 scale edition of this, but (at £40 boxed!) I simply can’t afford to buy one. 

Finally, I have a large version of the AV-8 Harrier (built by McDonald Douglas for the USMC) at 1:40 scale. This model is 14 inches from nose to tail, with a wingspan of nine inches. Bought unboxed/ second-hand, the model has clearly had a bit of shelf wear, but it’s only been on display, not played with, so its condition is still very good. 

There are no manufacturer’s details on the model, but I found out that it’s made by Toy Zone, as part of their Air Power range - military replica series.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

LonCon 3

This year’s Worldcon in London was a significant improvement on the already-great experience of Glasgow’s event in 2005, with so many interesting media and literature panels that I ended up missing lots of things. There was simply too much good stuff going on, over this SF convention’s five-day run (of panel talks, movies, and shows), to choose from.

Thursday's programme featured Melinda Snodgrass moderating a 'History of Blockbusters' (which I thought neglected Irwin Allen as godfather of that cinema format); and the irreverent/ silly fun of a stageplay about TV puppet-hero 'Captain Tartan', marred by a ridiculous half-hour queue to get seats. Throughout the long weekend, the screening programme by Sci-Fi London presented an impressive variety of TV and movie items, launching with steampunk feature, War Of The Worlds: Goliath, a Malaysian produced anime sequel to Wells’ story, with a voice-cast that included Adrian Paul.
Friday began with a discussion about ambiguity in fiction, and an entertaining media-related panel on 'Godzilla at 60'. Janie Fenn moderated the 'Space on Screen' panel that included Paul McAuley and Alastair Reynolds, and Gravity and Elysium were moving targets for criticism. The philharmonic orchestra assembled for LonCon 3 was clearly the highlight of the convention’s music programme, and I thought the interpretation of Doctor Who’s theme was stunning. If the BBC ever allows another big-screen production, something very like this would be a perfect score. 

I enjoyed the 'Politics of Utopia' panel on Saturday morning, where Kim Stanley Robinson and Maureen Kincaid Speller talked a lot good sense about a complex topic, and threads of that discussion were picked up by the following panel on what the SF term 'Banksian' means. On a tiny stage, two-hander 'Terminal Zone' was a play (by Andrew J. Wilson, circa 1993) about Rod Serling facing up to cancellation of Twilight Zone on TV. After the talk by artist Chris Achilleos, the late movie was a baffling sci-fi mystery, Cycle, which borrowed heavily from the imagery of Tron and 2001: A Space Odyssey, but lacked enough hints of narrative coherence to be fully entertaining, even as experimental art-house SF.

On Sunday, the media panel about spy-fi was amusing, and honest about cross-genre campiness. After that, I saw a TV screening of one episode from a BBC documentary about apocalyptic SF The Martians & Us: The End Of The World As We Know It, with contributions from the usual British genre suspects and thoughtful narration by Peter Capaldi. The science panel about 'Speculative Design' had some fascinating comments, but failed to focus on its topic beyond discussing the contrast between commerce and creativity, and industry versus art. Retro TV screening The Other Man (a 'lost' episode from the ITV-play series), was alternative history that starred Michael Caine and John Thaw. It was incomplete, and shown here mainly for its curiosity value, but this might be a worthwhile TV movie if a full restoration project ever becomes possible. 'War on Science' was a divisive topic, and the panel of working scientists discussing it neglected religion, in favour of profit, as the primary motivation for damage caused to research and studies. Scandinavian black comedy LFO: The Movie was a witty, and occasionally hilarious, low-budget SF drama about a mind-control system, and the ultimate effect upon its haunted inventor.

The last day started with an excellent panel on the 'Image as Idea' in genre cinema, Nick Lowe and Adam Roberts dominated the entertaining discussion, which ranged between intellectualism and artistry. Prof. David Southwood’s inspired talk, 'Science Fact and Science Fiction', proved to be a nostalgic reverie from the heart of a retired space engineer. I enjoyed every minute of his commentary on genre history. An 'Interview with Jim Burns' covered his 40-year career as a major SF/ fantasy artist. The final TV screening was the episode Fifteen Million Merits, from anthology series Black Mirror, created by Charlie Brooker. 15MM is a dystopian satire about consumerism and trash-TV. I can’t say that it’s tempted me to buy the DVD set, but I suspect the rest of this British series is worth seeing.

My suggestion for another British event is 'HALcon' 2018 (worth a WorldCon bid?), to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kubrick and Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Wouldn't that SF con be something to look forward to?