Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Hulk nerd


The new Black Static (#31, Nov-Dec 2012) is out now, and Peter Tennant’s regular ‘Case Notes’ column contains a review of my book, and I’m pleased to read that he has many good things to say about it (see pages 85-6 in the mag) … 
Jennifer Connelly in-joke.



“Tony Lee abandons his usual acerbic style to produce a fanboy treatise on Ang Lee’s 2003 film HULK (Telos Publishing) … this isn't simply a critical assessment, but on occasion feels like an attempt at canonisation ...


Agree with him or not, Lee’s enthusiasm is infectious and his amiable prose makes his arguments all the more convincing. Taken on its own terms, the book is a powerful piece of polemic, and there is no doubting its value as a source book for those who wish to appreciate Ang Lee’s achievement ...

All things considered, this is a nicely packaged text that’s insightful and informative, and a pleasure to read regardless of how you feel about the source material.”

This issue of the British Fantasy Award winning magazine also features my latest ‘Blood Spectrum’ column of DVD/ blu-ray reviews. Here’s a listing of what’s covered – 38 titles including a couple of TV boxsets, sprawled over 15 pages - plus my ratings:

 
            Die & Die Again
Zombie Contagion (1/10)
Ultimate Zombie Feast (4/10)

            Halloween Pro
Blade II (6/10)
Basket Case (5/10)
Basket Case 2 (5/10)
Basket Case 3: The Progeny (5/10)
Cube (7/10)
The Devil Rides Out (7/10)
The Mummy's Shroud (3/10)
Rasputin: The Mad Monk (5/10)
The Curse Of Frankenstein (7/10)

            Wonky-Cam Blues
Closed Circuit Extreme (1/10)
Apartment 143 (2/10)
Chernobyl Diaries (3/10)
Lovely Molly (2/10)

Cabin In The Woods (7/10)
The Pact (5/10)
Snow White And The Huntsman (6/10)
Spartacus: Vengeance (4/10)
Rosewood Lane (4/10)
The Thompsons (5/10)
We Are The Night (8/10)
Grimm - season 1 (5/10)
Red Lights (4/10)
Storage 24 (4/10)

            Samhain Round-Up:
Silent House (4/10)
The Harsh Light Of Day (2/10)
Dead Man's Luck (3/10)
My Ex (1/10)
Inbred (0/10)
Some Guy Who Kills People (1/10)
Cockneys vs. Zombies (3/10)
Monstro! (4/10)
Killer Joe (3/10)
Excision (6/10)  


Interzone #243 (Nov-Dec 2012) has also just been published, with excellent use if colour throughout, and my usual ‘Laser Fodder’ column of DVD/ blu-ray coverage appears at the end of the mag. Here’s the line-up of reviews, with my ratings:    

            Alien Agenda

Fringe - season 4 (7/10)
Alcatraz - season 1 (3/10)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (5/10)
Demon Hunter – The Resurrection (6/10)
Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (1/10)
Supernatural - season 7 (4/10)

            Retro Spex
The Birds (8/10)
Short Circuit (5/10)
Flight Of The Navigator (3/10)
The Man In The White Suit (7/10)
 
 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Booklets

Just received copies of two magazine issues…

Black Static #30 (TTA Press) includes my ‘Blood Spectrum’ column of DVD & blu-ray reviews, this time sprawling over 12 pages due to the booklet style format. Here’s a listing of the movie coverage with rating scores:

            Phenomenal inactivity
Amityville Haunting (1/10)
Paranormal Incident (1/10)

            Dead reckonings 
Zombie 108 (1/10)
Remains (3/10)
Extinction: The G.M.O. Chronicles (3/10)
[REC] 3: Genesis (6/10)

            Snowy summer
Snow White: A Tale Of Terror (5/10)
Snow White: The Fairest Of Them All (4/10)
Sydney White (4/10)
Grimm’s Snow White (3/10)
Mirror, Mirror (8/10)

Blood Car (5/10)
Orlando (7/10)
The Reverend (2/10)
The Victim (3/10)
Elfie Hopkins (2/10)
Gone (4/10)
Livid (8/10)
The Aggression Scale (3/10)
Dark Mirror (3/10)
The Hunger Games (5/10)
Curse (2/10)

            Decay products: round-up
The Devil In Me (2/10)
Axed (1/10)
Creature (1/10)
The Fields (2/10)
Truth Or Dare (2/10)
Piranha 3DD (3/10)
The Raid (5/10)  

Latest news is that Black Static has won this year's BFS award for 'best magazine'.

Also switching to the new smaller format (which boasts a laminated cover, more pages, and a spine), Interzone #242 has my ‘Laser Fodder’ column of movie & TV reviews, and this issue’s line-up features –


            Nazi stomp
The 25th Reich (4/10)
Bloodstorm (2/10)
Outpost II: Black Sun (5/10)

            Animagic
Planzet (3/10)
Starship Troopers: Invasion (5/10)

Ao - The Last Hunter (3/10)
Battleship (5/10)
Lockout (4/10)
Alphas - series 1 (5/10)
Wrath Of The Titans (6/10)  


Both titles have the advert for my movie book about Ang Lee's HULK, available to buy from publisher Telos, here.  

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Last Pioneer


Neil Armstrong (1930 – 2012)  
Man on the Moon
It’s difficult for me to write anything coherent about Neil Armstrong’s death. I have a memory of watching the Apollo 11 landing on TV (it was shortly after my eighth birthday), but iconic images of the Moon flights have been broadcast so often that now it is difficult to separate my childhood experience of seeing ‘history being made’, from all the repeats of it in so many documentaries - of the sort I have always been fascinated by. For me, the astronaut’s death feels like a very sad ending to a once promising era of possibility. The Apollo programme was the grandest achievement in history. Will our species ever do anything that great again?   

I always liked Ray Bradbury’s poetic quote about a race standing tall “across the Void, across the Universe and all?” Lately, I wonder if that will ever be us. Armstrong’s own words: ‘one small step for man… one giant leap for mankind” became immortal, but since that all-too-brief age of the greatest optimism, I have become a pessimist. The rocket scientists launch robotic probes to Mars but no manned flights. Armstrong is dead, and there is no Moonbase. There may be a thousand reasons why NASA space programmes of exploration were cancelled or afflicted by cutbacks in funding, but as this new, so frequently science fictionalised, century goes on I can’t see why the lack of effort continues. Has the first person to walk on Mars been born yet?

Today, it’s easy for Hollywood to make space movies about exciting missions to the planets and other stars, but it’s become harder than ever to imagine anything like that actually happening. What are we all waiting for? Was ‘ordinary superman’ Armstrong really the last of his kind?

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Hulk reviews

Angry Man update -

20 years ago I was contributing SF reviews to Starburst (#168, August 1992, has my coverage of C.J. Cherryh's Heavy Time and Hellburner), for a 'Bookshelf' column edited by David Howe.

This month, my HULK book (from David and Steve's indie press Telos) is reviewed on the Starburst website...

"it's a fascinating film... one which Tony Lee dissects in admirable detail...
Hulk is very serious film criticism, with Lee tackling the film's symbology, literary references and subtext...
Lee's enthusiasm is infectious. Ardent haters of the film won't be argued with, but go in with an open mind and you may find yourself convinced by his writing. Admittedly, I was sympathetic to Lee's cause to begin with, but I found myself looking at certain scenes in a different light...
Hulk is a well-written, deftly researched, intelligent and thoughtful book on one of the most misunderstood and under-appreciated comicbook movies of our time."
8/10

Of course, I'm quite pleased with that one.

HULK is also reviewed on SF CrowsNest: "You will come out of this book better informed by the author’s enthusiasm", and Sci-Fi Bulletin: "an interesting defence of an often-derided movie... take the DVD off the shelf and give it a re-watch with fresh eyes" (7/10).


Sunday, 22 July 2012

Hulk out


Hulk is bigger than me but I can tackle him!
I'm very pleased to announce - ten days earlier than expected! - that my book about Ang Lee’s HULK is now in stock/ available to buy from Telos Publishing.



Monday, 16 July 2012

IZ&BS

The new issue of Interzone (#241, July-Aug.) has my latest 'Laser Fodder' column of DVD & blu-ray reviews. Here's the line-up with ratings:

    Wheelspin Reinvented:
Metropolis (5/10)
Things To Come (7/10)
Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie (1/10)
Iron Sky (6/10)

Humanity’s End (5/10)
Earth 2 (6/10)
Lesbian Vampire Warriors (4/10)
Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance (7/10)
Painted Skin (6/10)
Falling Skies – season 1 (4/10)
Hell (4/10)
John Carter (6/10)
Total Recall (8/10)

    Animetrics:
Roujin–Z (3/10)
Howl's Moving Castle (4/10)
Tales From Earthsea (3/10)

    Amicus realms:
The Land That Time Forgot (4/10)
At The Earth’s Core (6/10)
Warlords of Atlantis (4/10)
They Came From Beyond Space (4/10)

    Backlist:
The Astronaut Farmer (6/10)

- * -

With a change in format and publication schedule, Black Static #29 (also July-Aug.) has a more book-like feel, shedding its expensive full-colour magazine style in favour of b&w interiors that - in my honest opinion - weakens the visual impact of its artwork and presents only greyscale photos. Sadly, it seems to me like a step backward in production standards, but I'm certainly pleased to see the higher page-count allows space for my 'Blood Spectrum' column of movie reviews to cover 19 titles:

    Zombiplex
War Of The Dead (4/10)
Juan Of The Dead (4/10)
Exit Humanity (3/10)   

The Howling Reborn (3/10)
The Darkest Hour (6/10)
The Grey (4/10)
Piggy (3/10)
YatterMan (6/10)
Bleach: Memories Of Nobody (4/10)
Bleach: The DiamondDust Rebellion (3/10)
Bleach: Fade To Black (2/10)
Chronicle (4/10)
Island Of Lost Souls (6/10)
Jabberwock - Dragon Siege (1/10)
The House (1/10)
The Squad (2/10)
The Woman In Black (5/10)
The Innkeepers (5/10)
Absentia (5/10)
Crows Zero II (3/10)
Airborne (1/10)

Friday, 8 June 2012

Marvellous


Good news! Avengers Assemble is now available to order on blu-ray and DVD... released on 17th September.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

IZ240

Interzone #240 includes my latest 'Laser Fodder' column of DVD & blu-ray reviews, and this issue's line-up of movies & TV stuff looks like this (plus ratings, as below):

Resistance (3/10)
Six Million Dollar Man (6/10)
The Future (4/10)
Space: Above And Beyond (6/10)
Dark Shadows (3/10)
Clone (4/10)
Deadball (4/10)
Yakuza Weapon (5/10)
Haywire (6/10)
Underworld Awakening (6/10)    


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

SHIELD1


Since reading Bendis and Reed’s The New Avengers: Illuminati a couple or three years ago, I’ve been expecting a big epic historical conspiracy from Marvel, and here it is – SHIELD: Architects Of Forever by Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver.

“This is not how the world ends” but it’s a splendid sci-fi/ fantasy romp spanning centuries, from Egypt to China, from 1950s New York to a secret city under Rome. It features Da Vinci as the first astronaut, a cyborg Tesla, and Nostradamus in a dungeon for 500 years. With Imhotep and Isaac Newton, Galactus and Howard Stark, and magic in the age of reason, this blends Dan Brown with 'Men in Black' and delivers tons of clever twists and surprises from its plotline about Earth’s immortal protectors.

Next on the reading pile is Future Foundation, Hickman’s take on the Fantastic 4.          

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Assembly


I saw the Avengers movie, yesterday. This isn't a review (I shall wait for a release on disc before attempting a proper critical assessment), it's just a few general comments, and my initial reactions to a movie that I've waited decades to see…

Well, I liked it a lot! It's a great super-team adventure, but I'm not convinced (yet) that it is a real classic of genre cinema about comicbook heroes. I'd have to see it at least a couple of times more, to decide on whether it's an 8/10, or 9/10 (for effort), movie. Avengers Assemble managed to fulfil my expectations of it, but failed to surpass them. That said, Joss Whedon was faced with a quite impossible task - of pleasing fans of Marvel comics and followers of the franchise of recent movie productions, including Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America

The director and cast took it all seriously, but still made it good fun. Whedon's best movie to date is not in the same class as The Dark Knight, or Ang Lee's Hulk. Thankfully, however, the level of humour in Avengers Assemble is judged almost perfectly, throughout, with very few jokes at the expense of the characters, and no embarrassingly bad scenes that may have prompted me to cringe at slapstick or blatantly camp performances – of the sort we have seen before in The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-Men, and Iron Man movies.  


I don't much care for that poster, though, as I would prefer a proper artwork version, such as this one. I hope the movie is a huge success, and would like to see production planning for a sequel (or two), starting next year. I'd also really like to see an extended version of Avengers Assemble on blu-ray, perhaps before Xmas… Is that too much to ask?

Monday, 23 April 2012

BS28

Black Static #28 (from TTA Press) includes my latest column of DVD and blu-ray reviews. The line-up for this issue's 'Blood Spectrum' is as follows:

Mad Detective (8/10)
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (7/10)
Contagion (8/10)
Immortals (7/10)
A Horrible Way To Die (1/10)
Kill Keith (1/10)
The Thing - prequel (6/10)
The Yellow Sea (6/10)
Another Earth (5/10)
Hugo (6/10)
666: The Prophecy (6/10)
Crows Zero (5/10)
Shadow Of The Sword (5/10)
Texas Killing Fields (5/10)
The Divide (3/10)
Bad Lieutenant (5/10)
Dream House (4/10)
Demons + Demons 2 (5/10)
The Wicker Tree (3/10)
The Plague Of The Zombies (7/10)
The Reptile (4/10)

Slightly revised page layouts this time, due to a shortage of space for so much content.Which is good news for readers, I think.

Thanks to Pete (and editor Andy) for giving my forthcoming Hulk book a plug.


Sunday, 15 April 2012

TV choices

The last programme item that I went to at Olympus, was a panel about 'What do we want on TV?'

I'd prefer any genre anthology series - Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, etc. Want some originality and more diversity? That's what anthology TV does best. I'm sure we can all think of 100s of short stories that'd make good or even great TV episodes. Why viewers choose serialised storylines over standalone tales, I cannot figure out... Is the appeal of the familiar really that strong and comforting? Although the Twilight Zone revivals have been patchy in terms of quality, when it gets everything right - like Shatterday - it's brilliant entertainment.


Let's have the shock of the new with every episode, please. Bring back one or both of the big anthology shows! At the very least, they could be used as a proving ground for talented new scriptwriters, who can't sell their spec screenplays, but might be able to contribute something fresh and different to the on-going variety of such short-form TV productions.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Sunday

Bloody Sunday started after Newbury feeding time with a panel on 'Biology of the zombie apocalypse, where I was joined (in the long-walk-away room 12) by "world experts in necrological studies" Dr Bob, Rob Haines, and Bill Sellers, moderated by Tom Womack. I was the lowly horror movie geek amongst the boffins, as we tried to figure out what makes the undead shamble about in search of human flesh. The hour went by quickly and the panel was certainly a lot of fun to do. Miraculously, nobody mentioned the taste of chicken.

Just before 11am, I was rushing to the Green Room for a drink, before meeting fellow panellists Dev Agarwal, Martin Easterbrook, and Graham Sleight, with moderator Lapswood (Chad Dixon), for my third and last programme item '20-odd years of CGI'. This was a particularly interesting topic as we tried to highlight various/ best examples of digital animation used in two decades of movies.

At noon, I went to hear Paul F. Cockburn, Paul McAuley, Martin Andersson, and James Treadwell talking about the current 'Sequelitis' affecting Hollywood, but had to leave early because I needed a drink and wanted to visit Ian Sales' launch party for the Rocket Science anthology he's edited for Mutation Press. After lunch, I went to the panel on 'Scientists and the media' in the Commonwealth main hall, where David L. Clements was moderator for Caroline Mullan, Paul Cornell, Jennifer Delaney, and Marek Kukula. It was a very worthwhile panel, as was the next discussion group for 'the science of Rocket Science', with the book's editor Ian Sales, and contributors Iain Cairns, Deborah Walker, and Martin McGrath.

At teatime, I was back in the main hall for a lively panel on 'The nature of heroism' with two guests-of-honour: Tricia Sullivan and George R.R. Martin, plus author Joe Abercrombie, blogger Genevieve Valentine, and moderator David Anthony Durham. Sullivan and Martin were both great, although in disagreement. After Jessica Yates talk about 'Superhero comics, graphic novels and the films they inspired', I went to the panel on 'Fantasy in our time' where Edward James, Andy Sawyer, and James Treadwell, were moderated by Graham Sleight, for a discussion about the influence of Tolkien and Howard.

The busy evening continued wiith the programme item 'Death of the author' as Ian Whates moderated for Ian Watson, Tanya Brown, Roz Kaveney, and Adam Christopher, in a discussion of shared-worlds in fiction. As expected, Watson was hilarious in a 10-minute talk about his contribution to Warhammer 40K. I wasn't keen on 'Multicultural steampunk', anyway, so I left that panel item after listening to a few minutes of authors talking, somewhat defensively, about diversification in a subgenre that seems like a lamentable dead-end in SF. The night's programme was obviously winding down by 10pm, as only a couple of the panellists for 'Worst and best movies of the year' bothered to turn up for the discussion, which started late and seemed haphazard, and was a bit disappointing for me.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Saturday

After breakfast for Olympians, in the Brasserie (where the service is better than in Newbury rooms), I went to 'Ethics of AI' as first panel (at 10 am). Simon Bradshaw, Paul Cornell, Louise Dennis, and Lilian Edwards talked about whether machine sentience should have human rights, and if it's switched off by its creator - does that amount to a death sentence. I spent the rest of the morning looking around the art show, and the dealers room - where Roy was selling Black Static and Interzone, and assorted books.

My first panel, 'Superheroes in the movies' started at 1pm, I was joined by John Coxon, David Anthony Durham, Ian Millsted, and Jesscia Yates for wide-ranging discussion of the best, the worst, and the failures in adapting comicbooks for the screen. Of course, I got in a plug for my forthcoming book about Ang Lee's Hulk. It went quite well, I thought, but John disagreed with my criticisms of Samuel Jackson (who's become a parody of himself, nowadays), and 'the Hoff' (a campy cartoon, not an actor!), as Marvel's boss of SHIELD, Nick Fury.

Drinking through distractions, it was soon 4pm, and time for 'the Fantastic Landscape', a panel where Paul McAuley, Jaine Fenn, and Nina Allan, discussed literary examples of metropolis and forest. I also kept missing interesting stuff on the programme (where does the time go?) until 8pm, when 'Private road to space' was a particularly informative panel with Dev Agarwal (best moderator I've seen so far at this con), in charge of author Geoffrey A. Landis, and tech industry experts like John Bray, and Gerry (no last name).

Returning from the bar for umpteenth time today, I went to see Gaspode (John Medany) lead a review of 'Worst and best TV of the past year', with commentators Paul Dormer, Genevieve Valentine, and Carolina. It was interesting to hear about lots of genre telly that I haven't seen on DVD yet.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Olympus

OLYMPUS - SF convention
Arrived at noon on Friday, and found my room on 4th floor was ready, so that's an improvement on last year when I had tpo wait until after 2pm.

First programme item I went to was 'Is Europe winning the space race?', where the likes of David L. Clemments and Geoffrey A. Landis (plus two that I'd never heard of before) discussed options and projects which suggest ESA is outdoing the failing NASA... I think the biggest problems are politics and capitalism. Back in the 1960s, when America viewed its future in space as a human federation in Star Trek, it seemed the galaxy was just waiting for explorers and adventurers to colonise it. Nowadays, with numerous astro-ambitions cancelled and small-minded focus on profit-making, it seems that American society is not going to develop into Starfleet, after all. They are more likely to become the Ferengi.

'Pushing the boundaries of genre' in the same room, was a more lively panel, with Gillian Redfearn as moderator for the line-up of Paul Cornell, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Robert V.S. Redick, and Sophia McDougall. As expected, they seemed to reach agreement that marketing and branding rule the genre divisions.

Since I started the Female Archers in Movies & TV page on Facebook, I thought Mike Shevdon's talk about 'Archery in fantasy film & TV' would be interesting, and indeed it was. Video-clips from various movies demonstrated how stunts using bows and arrows often get it very wrong.

The 'opening ceremony' was a short introduction to the guests of honour and committee members, and the organisers should be commended for finishing the presentation in about 20 minutes, so we could all rush off to the bar.

Cory Doctorow's interview by Patrick Nielsen Hayden offered many fascinating and very entertaining insights into the author and his dotcom works.

After teatime, I went to 'Beyond Red Mars' item, were author Paul McAuley moderated the panel of writers Geoffrey A. Landis, Ian Whates, Gareth L. Powell, and Mary A. Turzillo, thorough a discussion of exploring the Solar system.

Beer was followed by a visit to the top-floor Room 42 to see the late night horror: Jesus Christ - Vampire Hunter, which proved too low-budget and wholly predictable, so I gave up watching it around midnight.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

IZ239

The latest issue of Interzone (#239, March-April) includes my 'Laser Fodder' column of DVD & blu-ray reviews.

Here's the line-up, with ratings:

The Shrine (3/10)
We Need To Talk About Kevin (5/10)
Straw Dogs - remake (4/10)
Take Shelter (6/10)
ID:A (5/10)
The Revenant (7/10)
Mardock Scramble: The First Compression (7/10)

Monday, 19 March 2012

HULK

My book-length critical study about Ang Lee's movie HULK (2003), is due to be published this July by Telos.

Here's a blurb:


From its 1962 comicbook origins in The Incredible Hulk by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, director Ang Lee’s classic movie Hulk (2003), updates and re-invents the story of how scientist Bruce Banner is transformed into a giant rage monster, and becomes a new antihero for the 21st century. This book reviews the movie’s narrative complexity and its varied genre elements, which include science fiction, tragic drama, action thriller, doomed romance, and a modern fairytale with mythological references, energised by an artistically innovative editing style, and realised by groundbreaking visual effects. 

As a neurotic ‘puny human’ changes into the unstoppable ‘Angry Man’, Hulk offers a study of dysfunctional family relationships, and monster-movie rampages with tank-busting, helicopter-crashing mayhem in ‘hulkgasm’ adventures, that results in a final confrontation of cosmic proportions. A unique aesthetic spectacle, and extraordinary makeover for Hollywood blockbuster cinema, Hulk is the greatest screen adaptation of a comicbook and it rediscovers the enduring legacy of a green-skinned ‘superhero’ without a costume.


Ordering details here: Telos Publishing - Hulk.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Fresh blood

Issue #27 of Black Static magazine includes my 'Blood Spectrum' column of DVD & blu-ray reviews.
Here's the line-up:

Dark Star (8/10)
Shark Night (2/10)
Beyond (3/10)
Four Flies On Grey Velvet (5/10)
Tyrannosaur (1/10)
Perfect Sense (6/10)
Rolling Thunder (6/10)
Gantz 2 – Perfect Answer (6/10)
Tekken: Blood Vengeance (4/10)
Fright Night (5/10)
Real Steel (2/10)
Vanishing On 7th Street (4/10)
Dellamorte Dellamore (5/10)
Paranormal Activity 3 (1/10)
Dracula: Prince Of Darkness (7/10)
Urban Explorers (2/10)
Evidence (1/10)
The Awakening (6/10)

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Anytime movies

A spectacularly successful time for genre cinema, the 1980s began with the likes of Altered States, Flash Gordon, and Scanners. The decade gave us three classic genre movies in 1982: Blade Runner, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and Videodrome - all of which, for me, rank highly in a list of the very best pictures of all time. But there were many other favourites made in the 1980s: offbeat movies that are always watchable, and are well worth repeat viewings. They provide seemingly endless fun and I simply never get bored of seeing them again and again. They are ‘anytime movies’. They are problem solving choices when I cannot decide what else to watch.

They are resistant to easy pigeonholing or any strict categorisation. They are usually combinations of adventure, comedy, romance, and music, with plenty of action. They cannot easily be defined as one particular genre because they mix together sci-fi and fantasy or horror elements, blending themes and tropes without becoming bland. As they are made with plenty of good humour, all of these movies have memorable and quotable dialogue, which is part of what ensures their cult status.      

Each of these anytime movies is uniquely entertaining, and manages the clever trick of creating its own little universe for the screen. A great many other genre works also create unique worlds that are instantly engrossing, but anytime movies deliver some wonderful amusement and they never fail to be enjoyable viewing, no matter what sort of mood I am in at the time. They may not always be groundbreaking in their originality, and often draw upon an impressive variety of sources for inspiration, but they are all rule-breakers, shattering typical cinematic conventions and storytelling traditions with a subversive edginess or satirical intentions. Here’s a listing of my top five anytime movies…  

The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai: Across The Eighth Dimension (1984)
Director: W.D. Richter
A comic-book pop culture masterpiece that’s partly inspired by Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze (1975), and Invaders From Mars (1953), this stars Peter Weller as scientist and hero Buckaroo, whose fantastic ‘Team Banzai’ (played by Jeff Goldblum, Clancy Brown, and Lewis Smith) are fighting against a race of weird aliens, Lectroids from Planet 10, led by Dr Lizardo (John Lithgow). It’s fast-moving and wildly imaginative, and set in a world of half-reality where “Nothing is ever what it seems, but everything is exactly what it is.”     

Big Trouble In Little China (1986)
Director: John Carpenter 

Heathers (1989)
Director: Michael Lehmann
Slick black comedy about a couple of teenagers on a killing spree, this is a witty spoof attacking everything wrong with modern American society and culture. Although it’s centred on a doomed high school, the murderous misadventures of new girl Veronica (Winona Ryder), and the psycho antics of her eager accomplice J.D. (Christian Slater in a career-defining performance) make this a darkly amusing treat. Although school movies by John Hughes, such as The Breakfast Club (1985), and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), have lost their charm over the last 25 years, Lehmann’s more acerbic flick-knife satire has kept its edge.      

RepoMan (1984)
Director: Alex Cox

Streets Of Fire (1984)  
Director: Walter Hill
Billed as ‘a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy’, this remixes 1950s biker movies and ‘cowboy cliché’ dialogue with glossy pop video aesthetics for an urban rescue thriller. Ultra–stylised, visually impressive, and full of musical energy, with songs by Jim Steinman and Dan Hartman in an eclectic Ry Cooder score, this features Diane Lane as the kidnapped rock singer, Michael Paré as the laconic hero, and Willem Dafoe as the chief bad guy.

   

Monday, 23 January 2012

Interzone 2012

The latest issue of Interzone magazine (from TTA Press) is #238 and it has my 'Laser Fodder' column of DVD & blu-ray reviews. Here's the line-up of titles reviewed:

Brazil (9/10)
Captain America – The First Avenger (6/10)
Apollo 18 (1/10)
Camp Hell (2/10)
First Squad (3/10)
Legend Of The Millennium Dragon (3/10)
The Skin I Live In (7/10)
Arena (1/10)
Faces In The Crowd (4/10)
Melancholia (7/10)
Tomie: Unlimited (6/10)
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (5/10)
Repo Man (9/10)
    Backlist:
The Science Of Sleep (7/10)

This issue also includes my book review of Peter F. Hamilton's collection Manhattan In Reverse.


Friday, 6 January 2012

E-books


A few thoughts about e-books, collated from my various forum posts

Meta-novels are, I expect, an inevitable product of a digital age. Every text will have info pop-ups & hyperlinks built-in. The next generation of readers will demand such things, no matter what ‘book lovers’ say. I think age is the key factor in this debate. Like some of you, I’m also of the last generation who grew up reading (and learning!) solely from books, but the Internet has changed all of that, whether we like it or not. We might cling to our cherished reading habits and wallow in a love for the printed books (page-turning is an important part of the pleasure of reading), but, eventually, technological progress catches up with publishing. Kids of today are growing up with interactive texts, downloadable content, and multi-player everything else. I just can’t imagine buying or using any type or model of e-reader device but, in the related tech of being able to get online anywhere, I still enjoy the convenience that wi-fi hotspot connectivity offers.  

I remember LPs of vinyl, 78s of shellac, and Betamax videos - but I have got an MP3 player, a blu-ray and a hi-def TV. I write monthly columns for niche markets like the printed magazines Interzone and Black Static, but I realise that the whole publishing industry is drifting from print to online, and there are valid ‘green’ and/ or economic reasons for doing so. Should we quickly abandon reading and collecting books? No! I have become a hardcover snob, and I no longer buy or read paperbacks (unless they are non-fiction or comic-books). And yet, it seems to me, our book-loving culture cannot last for much longer. As public libraries close, I suspect that ‘book museums’ will be a major growth industry for this century! 

Just as office tech of the 1980s gave us desktop publishing, re-launching the ‘fanzine’ phenomena, and gave us ‘semi-pro zines’, now the Internet distribution of e-books is presenting us with another publishing revolution; one that’s already underway. With the new century’s growth in self-publishing, and the process now being made simpler by e-book formats, it’s becoming very clear that we really need critics more than ever. As what used to be essential filtering functions of editorial gatekeepers in traditional publishing houses are more frequently avoided (although without the actual need for skilled editors being made obsolete!) by many writers, there will still be a vital place for critics to occupy in the buffering zone between writers and readers. 

As the supply of newly self-published work as e-books increases, somebody needs to identify (if not actually ‘police’) what’s good and bad, and find the best stories and/ or non-fiction to help inexperienced and new readers choose from the ‘slush pile’ - because that’s the big risk of e-books and it’s what seems most likely to happen. The slush piles of trad publishers will all get self-published by their writers, and the route from desktop or laptop to downloadable ebook is unlikely to have any editorial oversight whatsoever.