Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Year In Review: 2013

So 2013 rolls to a close and it seems traditional to do some sort of summation of the year. I'm always hesitant with these sorts of things, especially the largely artificial process of comparing X to Y to see which one "wins", so I've settled for a "In No Particular Order, Top Three" for entertainment which I have consumed this year. Its also traditional to point out things you are pleased about, so I'll do that too! 

A full list of everything I've been up to is here

Monday, December 30, 2013

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Well Christmas has passed and as usual it's been a blur of food, drink, presents and no small amount of films and TV, which I shall manfully try and catch up on in the next week or so. From a geek perspective, I guess the big ones are the Doctor Who Christmas Special and the new Hobbit Movie, and it is with the latter that I guess I will start. As with last year, we took Ewan (and this time, his cousin) to see it at the multiplex near my parents, and was with last year I was faced with an array of options to see it in, settling for good old-fashioned 2D, because that was bloody expensive enough, thanks. But anyway, to the review-mobile!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Games Review: Tomb Raider

OK, I'll start with a confession - I've never been a fan of the Tomb Raider series. In fact, in some ways I think I actively stayed away from it, wary of it after an uninspiring few sessions with one of the early games and the general presentation of Lara Croft - sexy gun-bunny in tight pants Lara - as some sort of example that games weren't all about male characters. I mean, Lara has always come across as a male wish fulfilment character, aimed and marketted at the "boobs and guns" market, she's hardly a sign of any sort of progression in gamings depictions of women. But, many people have spoken of the new Tomb Raider as something different - not just a dreaded reboot of the the series but a genuine new direction in lots of ways, so I picked it up in a Steam Sale to give it a whirl.

Monday, December 16, 2013

DVD of the Week: Monsters University

I can remember a time, not so long ago, when Computer Animation was bemoaned in many places as responsible for the "death" of the animators art, and the rise of the digital age would lead to a glut of senseless, soul-less kids animation. Because y'know, we never got those previously, right? And then can remember another age, when Pixar bestrode the world, and could do no wrong, unless, Icarus-like, they crashed to the earth with a run of merely decent movies with safer premises than say, a Robot Trash Compactor in Love, or an Old Man flying his house to South America to die. Which brings us rather neatly to Monsters University, a prequel to early Pixar triumph, Monsters Inc.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Movie Review: Catching Fire

There is a belief in some quarters that the pre-teen and teenage market for action-film and TV is skewed towards male heroes because the boys watch it want to see "themselves" up on the screen. But I don't buy this, for two main reason; firstly, it's reductive and dumb, and secondly, I live with a pre-teen boy who really, really wanted to see Catching Fire. And on it's box office results so far, so do a lot of other people, boys, girls, man and women. So maybe if you a make film with solid action and a compelling lead character, gender isn't that big of a factor?

Monday, December 9, 2013

DVD of the Week: Byzantium

Ah, Vampires. Now the Zombie is the go-to-guy for monsters who really mess you up, the Vampire has been pretty solidly cemented in it's role as the Horror Icon who is really just you, the mis-understood outsider. The Van Helsings of this world have become the oppressors, and the Draculas the heroes. Lonely, tortured, mopey, pretty heroes. I blame Anne Rice.  Or Francis Ford Coppola. Or Both. And of course the mopey teenage angst sort of Vampire Story is even more dominant with the recent success of Twilight, and it's interesting that this weeks film, Byzantium, seems to want to be like both Rice and Meyer in its two lead characters arcs.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Comics: Thoughtbubble Round Up!

It's been a couple of weeks since Leed's annual Thoughtbubble Convention, which is one the highlights of my year, not least because its in my Home City and I can spent lots of time there without having to worry about transport, hotels and the like. But it's also a fantastic atmosphere to be in, with a open, egalitarian spirit to the tables, panels and general con culture that makes it such a pleasure. And each year I go with a wodge of cash to spend with as little an idea on what I want as possible, just so I can pick up stuff that grabs my interest. So this year, these are the results:

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

DVD of the Week: Robot and Frank

Looking back over the last few weeks this has seemed in danger of turning into some sort of Doctor Who blog, and whilst that may be expected given the sheer volume of 50th anniversary stuff, it does throw into sharp relief that it's been over a month since we last sat down with a movie to watch in the comfort of our own home. And in many ways thats a good thing, because one of the risks of being a parent is that it's easy to spend all your time once the kids have gone to bed watching movies in the comfort of your own home. But in many ways I've missed it, and it was nice to get back to the habit, especially with a low-budget charmer like Robot and Frank

Monday, November 25, 2013

TV Review: Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor

Love it or hate it, you've not been able to escape Doctor Who the last week or so. And rightly, so, I think; sure, I'm a fan since being a kid, but even if I wasn't I'd hope that I could recognize what a cultural institution the how has been over the last 50 years and at least tolerate all the coverage it's had. At the centre piece of all of this has been the "special episode" that went out on the anniversary itself, a lengthened extraveganza that needs to celebrate the show as it has been, and as it is, and entertain long-standing fans and casual passers by wondering what the fuss is all about. It's a tall order, when you think about it. Wonder how they did?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Doctor Who: Eleven Companions, Eleven Stories

I had quite a lot of fun last week mentally rambling through favorite Doctor Who stories by Doctor, and have been toying with the idea of doing a "companions" list ever since. This runs into two problems - the fact that there are so many of them, and the fact that what defines a Who Companion is somewhat vexatious. Most attempts to define it within fandom end up being too narrow, too broad, or riddled with exceptions and caveats, so in the decided to pick just 11 of them. It seemed appropriate, and although there are some omissions I almost feel guilty about (Tegan and Jo Grant, for example) and as for if the Brig counts as a companion or not, well of course he bloody does. Presented in order of appearance, so as not to have to pick favorites.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Audio Review: The Light at the End

So, as mentioned a couple of months back, we've become slowly hooked on the range of Audios that Big Finish have been doing starring classic Doctors and Companions in new adventures. They're not flawless, but we've been listening to the earlier ones (because the're cheap, and because they're in order) and some of the issues tend to be inherent to Audio Drama anyway. By which I mean that sometimes the characters have a tendancy to over-describe their surroundings and situations, which you can't really get away from, even if it occasionally clunks. Anyway, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the show they've gathered together all the Doctors they can and made a giant crossover, which naturally we skipped straight to, as early as we could. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Movie Review: Gravity

Whats this? Another movie review? Yes, that means that we did get to the cinema twice in one day, for the first time in what is possibly decades and certainly since Ewan was born. Of course, Ewan did get to come with us to see Thor: The Dark World, one of the pleasures of him getting older is that we are able to share our cinema going habits with him. Another year or so and we'll be able to take Robert, albeit to the sort of dreadful kids movies that Ewan grown out of. Anyway, after Thor, we dropped fled the kids for the evening and went to take in Gravity, a very different sort of film-going experience. And, because we saw it in 3D, a fair more expensive one!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Movie Review: Thor: The Dark World

I commented on twitter the other day that whilst DC seem to be dithering around which of their stable of heroes is more problematic than others, Marvel have green-lit, made, and released, two smash-hit movies built around a character as daft as Thor. I mean, we've had the Nolan Bat-Trilogy, and a confused Green Lantern film, and a Superman movie that can't bring itself to say "Superman", and thats about it. Hell, they're so confident in the Superman property that made a ton of cash they're parachuting Batman into for the sequel, for reasons I really don't understand. As was pointed out to me, Marvel are dithering about a Black Panther movie (gasp! a Black lead actor!) or a Captain Marvel movie (shock! a woman!) but they are, broadly speaking, just picking properties and getting on with bringing them to the screen. And as "Phase 2" rolls onwards, this brings us to The Avengers Prettiest Hero, Thor.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Doctor Who: A Story for Every Doctor

Gosh, the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary is hurtling towards us, isn't it? And with it, the attendant plague of "best of lists" from every website and blogger and around. Actually, its a pretty good idea, so I'm going to one too, because it's my damn blog, thats why. But rather than just trot out any old list I thought I'd go for one from each Doctor; not necessarily the best story but one that is a good representation of the era. This will probably have a lot of "old favorites" in it anyway, but there will be some hard choices, I think. So lets see how it goes. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

First Impressions: Marvels Agents of SHIELD

Here is the thought for today - how many shows were great straight out of the gate? I mean, I can name a few (Battlestar Galactica's "33" was one of its all-time greats, for instance) for every one I can think of a flood of shows with weak-to-terrible starts that went on to be something far better. I remember sitting in a convention screening room watching pilot the of Babylon 5 being laughed off the screen, and Encounter at Farpoint, which relaunched the Star Trek franchise on TV is just bloody embarrassingly bad. Fringe, the show that captured and then broke my heart (repeatedly), and went on to be my favorite show of the last decade, was so un-exceptional at first I simply stopped watching, and had to be persuaded back to it. So I find the current trend for snarky write-offs of Marvel's Agent of SHIELD a little premature.

Monday, October 28, 2013

DVD of the Week: Zero Dark Thirty

Its always hard when movies get into current affairs, as the truth can be a slippery thing, even decades after the event. Making a film that touches on the contemporary is fraught with peril, as so much information remains unknown, something complicated when you try and touch on the murky world of Intelligence Agencies. On top of this, you're often asked to pick sides on issues that still rattle around political discourse, touch on all sorts of sore spots, and make judgements on correlation or causations that aren't really that clear. Diving headlong into some of the touchiest of touchy subjects, is Kathryn Bigelow's film on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

(Not a) Games Review: The Last of Us

It's been remarked on before, but video games feel like they're in an odd place at the moment, torn between increasing mainstream popularity and new-kid-on-the-block insecurity as an entertainment form. For all Angry Man Crime Simulator VII and Call of WarBattle: Explosions! and their ilk turnover enough sales to stand alongside any major blockbuster movie, gaming also seems to struggle with legitimacy as an art form, both in terms of wider acceptance as such, and in it's own ambitions. The ongoing, rolling debate within gaming about the darker side of gaming culture, and how it approaches having it's bastions challenged, is a symptom or this, I think, as the form struggles towards more complex ways of using "gamification" to tell stories or explore complex themes. Which brings us neatly to The Last of Us.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Review: Saturn's Children, by Charles Stross

One of those authors that people keep recommending to me - in a "oohh what do you mean you haven't read..." sort of way - is Charles Stross. The reason I haven't read any of his books is pretty simple, and its to do with the fact despite being, at heart, an SF nerd, I largely burned out on the genre through the 2000s, when Stross really came to prominence. I was also very wary of Singularity-led fiction, so a writer who has a breakthrough work called "Singularity Sky" wasn't going to leap to the top of my book pile. That said he's always lurked on the edge of my consciousness, and given my re-ignited interest in the genre over the last couple of years, I finally got to one of his novels. Sorry it's taken so long, Charles.

Monday, October 14, 2013

DVD of the Week: Much Ado About Nothing

It seems that sooner or later, everyone wants to have a go at Shakespeare. Its to the mans credit that he holds such a sway over the creative imagination of Western Culture, so many years later, when the language has changed, the cultural idioms have changed, and much else has changed, that many of his plays continue to be produced and adapted. Sure, some are less accessible than others, but on the whole, they seem to stand almost eternal, as a body of work that just keeps giving. This week we got to one of the more recent adaptations, Joss Whedon's take on Much Ado About Nothing.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Box Set Blues; Person of Interest, Series 1

There is a weird transition you go through when you switch between watching US cable shows and US Network shows. They've got different rhythms, and different ways of presenting their stories, because they have different audiences with different needs. Contrast something Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad to a show like House, or Agents of SHIELD, and you'll see less serialization on the network shows, more character short-hand, more repetition of ideas, at least in part because they latter need bigger, broader audiences to justify their existence. The last network show to make a big success out of serialisation on a major network was Lost, and there are forsaken corners of the internet where people are still arguing about how that turned out. But that formula of accessible, digestible TV with serialised mystery elements is still pursued by Commissioning Alchemists, who have recently conjured up Person of Interest.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Movie Review: Rush

I have to admit that sports movies are a genre that pass me by. I'm sure there are some good ones out there, but as someone who has never really been into any sport more than a passing amount, its never going to be something that I see on a trailer and think "gosh! I must see that!". Formula One is also something I've never had more than a passing interest in. My Grandad was a big fan - he taped them all on VHS for rewatching and if one was on when there was visiting we were invisible to him, as I recall - so I picked up some interest there in the late 80s, and I've seen a few modern Grand Prix if they've been on, but really...not my thing. So, a movie set in F1's 1976 season, centered on a rivalry between two men whose names are only vaguely familiar? Of course that would end up being one of the best films I've seen this year.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book Review: This Book is Full of Spiders

Or to give it the full title, This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It.

So, my name is Matt, and I am an Arachnophobic.  Spiders really freak me out, in a way that pretty much nothing else does; just watching them move makes me recoil in horror. Z had to hold my hand through parts of The Return of the King, for instance, and vanquishing even the smallest crawling horror in the bathroom can feel like a major, storming-the-beachheads triumph. Whatever my rational self things, a large part of primitive monkey-man me views them as freaky aliens that have no right to live on this planet. So, reading a book who's plot involves parasitic aliens spiders that turn nest in your head and turn you into a monster may not have been the smartest thing rational me ever did.

Monday, September 23, 2013

DVD of the Week: Flight

I'm growing quite fond of my "aca-scuse me?" tag, which i'm using to denote films that turn out to be better than they have any right to be on paper. Its an odd phenomenon, where a big sack of cinematic cliches can be elevated by cast, or script, or direction, into something much better, just as it's opposite ("Wolfpunching") can take a potentially great sounding idea and render it something much less fun than it should be. The latest example of this is, of course, this weeks DVD of the Week, Flight, or the Best Damn TV Movie You'll Ever See.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Box Set Blues: New Girl, Series One

On of the biggest changes in my viewing habits of the last year or so has been my rekindled love of US sitcoms; a form of comedy that we seem to have forgotten in the UK for now. Sure, they can be pretty formulaic, but they also tend to be consistent, character driven and above all, actually funny, so I'm always on the look for new series with decent reputations to pickup. We're still missing a few but one of the big break-out hits in the US of the last year or so has been Zooey Deschanel vehicle New Girl, which we picked up the first series of recently on DVD.

Monday, September 16, 2013

DVD of the Week: Dark Shadows

Anyone remember when Tim Burton was an interesting filmmaker? Anyone? I mean, what was the last really stand out movie he made, one that because a must see, something you'd watch over and over? These days it seems like it's just another excuse for Johnny Depp to don a silly costume and mug his way through two-hours of gothic-inflected pantomine. So the lastest movie on the Burton/Depp oeuvre is Dark Shadows, based on a 1970s TV show that I don't think was ever very big over here, but, in fairness, seems perfect territory for them. And in fairness, there are some glimmers of that old magic here and there.

Monday, September 9, 2013

DVD of (Last) Week: The Dark Knight Returns; Part 1

Since the end of Justice League: Unlimited, the animated division of Warner Bros seem be putting more of their effort into letting us see their top-flight characters in the guise of adaptations of already-successful stories. Certainly the big boys were sidelined through most of Young Justice's run, and The Brave and the Bold seemed pitched at a very different demographic, and the run of DVD-movie adaptations feels like a way of selling to the converted with stories that are already written and known. Not that thats a bad thing, of course, because there are already stories that have survived some contact with the readership, and a chance to revisit some classics.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Games Review: Sanctum 2

A couple of years back I played a fair bit of the curious FPS/Tower Defense game Sanctum, which had the novel mechanic that you built your maze and towers in one phase of the game, and then got to run around with a variety of weaponry in a phase when the monsters actually spawned. It was a cool idea, nicely implemented, but had an oddly clinical, characterless air to it that left it feeling slightly samey after a while, and I don't recall ever finishing it. That said it got a sequel, Sanctum 2, and I finished that, last night.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Review: The Devil in the White City

One of the problems I seem to have is that keep losing track of books that I want to read. I already have a pile (both physical and on my Kindle) of books I want to read, and a wishlist, and then a nebulous cloud of intent for other books that I've come across and put down with the thought of "Oh, I'll come back to that!". Many books sit in this cloud for years, popping in and out of my memory until something spurs me to yank it down and into a current reading project. One of these is The Devil in the White City, the intertwined tale of he Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and H H Holmes, one of the earliest documented American Serial Killers. After picking it up in Waterstones a couple of times before setting it down again, it was (of all things) an article in which it was cited as a large influence (right down to the name) on the setting of Bioshock Infinite that made me finally read it. So don't let be said that Video Games can't broaden the mind! 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book Review; Best Served Cold

I having to face the sober realisation that I may read more Fantasy Novels this year than any other genre, and if I'm not careful, more than half overall. OK, this isn't exactly a bad thing, but it's not how I naturally see my reading habits. That said, there isn't much of the Fantastic in Fantasy these days, seemingly, with the seeping Grimdark waters lapping up through the foundations and turning all the formerly sparkly and heroic carpets icky and soiled. Often held up as one of those surfing this rising tide, Joe Abercrombie is certainly a dark and gritty writer, and whilst I'm a little behind with his books, I have just finished Best Served Cold, a stand-alone novel set after the events of the First Law Trilogy.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review: Big Finish Doctor Who Bonanza!

So, we've been on holiday, and much of that holiday has involved being on the road, driving from place to place with adult and child geeks alike to entertain. So it was recommended to me that we give some of Big Finish's Doctor Who range a try, which seemed like great advice right until I actually looked at the number of options available. I mean, there's hundreds of the damn things, featuring every Doctor who isn't dead, plus some "elseworlds" style stories, plus companion stories for TV-era companions and ones spun off the audio line. It's clearly a "thing". So, after some advice from folks on twitter, I bought some, and had a listen.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

DVD of the Week: Pitch Perfect

I like being surprised by films. Well, in a good way at least; I've used the tag "wolfpunching" to describe movies where was surprised in a bad way by films that over promise, but I'm thinking of implementing a tag for the opposite case too. In honour of this weeks DVD, I'm thinking of calling it "Aca-scuse me?" This can be reserved for movies that are much better than, on paper, they have any right to be.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Book Review: The Hydrogen Sonata

I think its fair to say that Iain (M) Banks has been my favorite science fiction author since I picked up Consider Phlebas many, many years back when I was first at university. I've a suspicion I picked it up at least in part because it was published in a slightly larger format, and so stood out on the shelf, and had a really cool reflective space-craft on the cover. But even if that was the reason, I fell for Banks as a writer, and fell for him hard. Even when my reading wandered away from the genre, I would still pick up the new Banks as they came out, filing them in my own personal ranking of "best" to "not as best as the others". And after Bank's death earlier this year, it meant that reading The Hydrogen Sonata in the knowledge that it is the last, not merely the latest Culture Novel, was a strangely somber experience.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

DVD(s) of the Week: GI Joe: Retaliation and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Well, this is quite the eclectic double bill, isn't it? Extended Toy-advert GI Joe: Retaliation followed by gentle getting old comedy-drama Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, all on the same night is bound to cause some sort of tonal whiplash, and its possibly I ended up feeling warmer towards to the latter just because it was a lot smarter than the former. Although it did have less explosions....

Monday, August 5, 2013

On Doctors...

Who'd have guessed that picking out a new lead actor for a TV show would turn out to be such a depressing experience? I mean, I'm quite sad that Matt Smith is leaving, because the Eleventh Doctor has really grown on me, and even with some of the weaker stories it's been a fantastically watchable performance, but the general state of community around the show at the moment is starting to fill me with fear. I mean, I hesitate to use the word "Fandom" any more; if you read around the web (and I've stopped doing this now, apart from occasional lapses) you'd get the impression that a substantive amount of the shows viewers only watch it to refuel their hate-batteries for the show, it's writers, its actors, and all for which it stands, yet still self-identify as "Doctor Who Fans".

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Comics Round Up!

I can be quite weak-willed when it comes to new things. Always have been. Its one of the reasons I stopped buying "floppy" comics, because that weekly trip to the comic story inevitably lead to purchases over and above whatever I was subscribed to at the time. I just couldn't walk into a shop full of geek catnip and then walk out empty handed. That was a few years back, and my range of collected editions has expanded happily, mostly bought safely over the internet where the smarter bits of my brain get time to kick in and stop me spending money I don't really have. However, recently that changed, because I signed up to Comixology, and now I have subscriptions again. Here's a quick run down of what I've subscribed to.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Movie Review: The Worlds End

I thought it a little odd much the team behind The Worlds End - director Edgar Wright, and stars Nick Frost and Simon Pegg - made of this being the final part of the "Cornetto Trilogy", a movie to cap off Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Aside from anything else, there isn't a lot to link the first two films, other than some vague thematic touchstones and the odd repeated gag. Touting this as something that will tie up those themes and cap them all off adds a weight of expectation to the movie on top of just "track record so far" and also, I think, sets a bar it needs to cross by it's own advertising. And I think that's a mistake, because The Worlds End is a decent movie, and a good send-off, but still the weakest of this "trilogy".

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

DVD of the Week: Life of Pi

Before we start on this weeks DVD, Life of Pi, I should mention that last week we also managed to watch Hansel and Gretel: Witchunters. I don't really want to waste any time on it, save only for this observation: of the two, apparently co-billed leads, the male one gets to generally kick-ass, screw the hot chick, and make quippy one-liners (or what passed for them in a generally weak script), whereas the female get repeatedly beaten down, almost raped, and repeatedly rescued from such peril by a male character. In movie whose basic plot is about killing women. So yeah, there's that. Onto happier things, eh?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Box Set Blues: Breaking Bad, Series 1

For Fathers Day this year, I got Breaking Bad, a story about a middle-aged family man who, when faced with a life-changing crisis, takes to criminal ways. Hmmm. Anyhow, its a show that comes hugely lauded, one of the TV shows of the age, it seems, and something I've meant to start on for a long time, so I can't really question it as a great choice of present. Sadly, it's only 7 episodes long, so just as it really gets going, we ran of out of episodes. But what episodes!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

The big movie news this week seems to be that more Americans went to see Adam Sandlers latest cinematic hate-crime, Grown Ups 2, than Guillermo Del Toro's Robots punching Aliens epic, Pacific Rim. By any metric I'm far more disposed towards the latter than the former, but it does highlight that perhaps we are over-served in the big, loud, blockbuster area this year, with about six weeks (and six big releases at least) left to go, and reinforce the fear that franchise thinking is taking over. In a summer where sequels and remakes have coined it in, but original (for a given value of "original", obviously) movies have struggled, it's hard to look ahead and see some bleakly repetitive summers ahead. But I come to praise Pacific Rim, not to bury it.

Monday, July 8, 2013

DVD of the Week: Django Unchained

I've always liked Quentin Tarantino films, but I always seem to fall short of loving them. Its hard to explain, but I tend to see the trailers with hardly a quiver of excitement as shudders of anticipation fly around the movie-loving blogosphere and beyond. And then I watch them, and really, really enjoy them, but for some reason they're not films I want to go back to and pore over, despite the fact that Tarantino makes films that are ideal for repeat viewing and nerdy analysis. And so it was with Django Unchained, his attempt to do for Westerns what Inglorious Basterds did for war movies, a big-budget, star-packed homage to the which ever other movies and directors Tarantino was obsessing about next.

Friday, July 5, 2013

TV Review: Adventure Time

There is some strange stuff on kids TV. This has probably always been the case - certainly I have fond memories of trippy nonsense from the 70s - but in the last few years I've become more aware of it, thanks to Ewan's gradual evolution of tastes as he gets older. As good, geeky parents, we've always pointed him at the super-hero shows, which remain a hit, and have infected his younger brother with a fine knowledge of DC and Marvel characters, but now he's starting to get into the wierder, more "out there" stuff aimed at preteens, teenagers and, in many cased, adult geeks who should know better. Which brings me to Adventure Time.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

DVD(s) of the Week: Frankenweenie and Fast Five

Cripes, a double header of movies this weekend! This largely due to absolutely nothing being on the TV that isn't Tennis, apparently, and needing to fill that gap between tea and putting the kids to bed so we could start on watching Breaking Bad. So, we had Frankenweenie via lovefilm-in-the-post and, because Ewan had expressed interest in wanting see Fast Six, we streamed Fast Five over lovefilm-over-the-internet for him. First, Tim Burtons latest.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

DVD of the Week: Les Miserables

If I have a shameful movie-going secret, it's that I am a crier. There is a substantial list of movies that make me cry - not just the ones that get anyone with a soul, like the opening of Up, but even blatantly manipulative stuff like Titanic can leave me all wet-faced and sniffly. Some of it is to do with music, I think, which just makes the problem worse. So it was with some glee that I was lent Les Miserables in the firm knowledge that music + pointless tradgedy = me turning into a puddle. I think I made it about half-an-hour before choking up and it was all downhill from there.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Movie Review: Man of Steel

Ah, Superman, how comic-books seem to struggle with you. You've been around for so long, and have become such an archetype, a god-like, morally upstanding symbol of what everyone thinks of when they think "superhero". Latecomers seem modeled on you, or consciously reacting against you, and whilst the cool kids all want to be Batman, to the wider world there is you, standing in the spotlight, being difficult to write new stories about. Because how do you make such a paragon interesting? Well the latest attempt is here, and I took Ewan to see Man of Steel on Saturday.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Book Review: The City of Dreaming Books

Sometimes there are books that are hard to categorise, that sort of sit in a genre, but aren't really part of that genre in terms of what springs to mind when you mention it. So when I say that the Zamonia series by Walter Moers is fantasy, it certainly is, but at the same time modern fantasy feels defined by grim-dark blood'n'guts epics, not otherworldly, multi-species'd metaphors running off with their own skewed sense of reality. It's Fantastic Fantasy, something that seems a little of fashion at the moment, at least in Anglophone Fantasy circles, which is a shame, because Zamonia is a fun place to hang out. The fourth in the series (although they all stand alone) is The City of Dreaming Books, and somewhat unsurprisingly, it's all about the power of stories and the pains of writing them. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

DVD of the Week: Cockneys vs Zombies

The current wave of Zombie fiction (or should that be Horde?) has got to burn itself out soon, right? I mean, nearly every computer game seems to have some sort of zombie level in it now, TV shows regularly do some sort of "zombie homage" episode, the pop-culture-black-hole of the mash-up genre seems to be reduced to "....and zombies". Zombies. Zombies. Zombies. I've never been a huge fan of the sub-genre - with some notable exceptions - but i recognise the fun that can be had with it, and am certainly happy to paddle in the shallow end of "zombie comedy", rather than the more nihilistic "proper horror" deep end. Which brings us to Cockneys vs Zombies, a zombie comedy that appears to be happening just around the corner from Shaun of the Dead.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Book Review: Red Seas under Red Skies

Sometimes I think that there is nothing worse you can do for a piece of media - be it games, books, films, television, whatever - than to thrust it upon someone with a wild look in your eye and the exhortation "oh you must read this! You'll love it!". And so it was with Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, which when I set out to read my way though the Fantasy Genre a couple of years back, was held up by several people as "the one" that would sell me on the genre forever. As it was, I thought it was OK, but a little flawed, and went and fell for Joe Abercrombie and Adrian Tchaikovsky instead. I did lend it to Z though, who liked it more than I did, certainly enough to buy the sequel, Red Seas under Red Skies. which was passed down to me when she finished with it.

Monday, June 10, 2013

DVD(s) of the Week: More Catching Up!

Time of another catch up the DVDs we've watched over the last few weeks. A bit of an eclectic mix, but thats the benefit (?) of random lists, I guess. Also, whilst a few of the bigger films of the Oscar-bait period are now starting to come out on DVD, annoyingly a lot of them are being held from rental for an extra couple of months, which I don't really understand. After all, whilst I'd like to see, say, Les Miserables, I'm not going to rush out and spend £15 buying it, I'm just going to wait, whilst vaguely resenting the studios distribution policy.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

TV Review: Doctor Who: Series 7b

So, as I write the news has broken that Matt Smith is standing down as the Eleventh Doctor at Christmas, so we can all look forward to a regeneration story, a new Doctor, and weeks, if not months, or people on the internet pontification on what the next Doctor MUST be like, else disaster. I may even join in at some point. But for now, the second half of Season 7 has just ended, so before we look forward, we should look back. A new companion, a new mystery arc, and a big anniversary to build up to; how will the Doctor face these challenges?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Games Review: Borderlands 2

Gearbox Software have a bit of an odd track record. Their most recent release was the widely derided Aliens Colonial Marines, they picked up, dusted off, and pushed out Duke Nuken Forever, and I can't say that any of the many, many, Brother in Arms titles ever piqued my interest. Mainly, I think I associated them with the fun Opposing Forces and Blue Shift expansions for Half-Life, and thats a long time ago now. And then there was Borderlands. Nothing in these other titles prepares you for Borderlands, a mix of loot-and-level grinding and first-person shooter, played with a high octane ultra-violent feel. It had a lot of problems; class balance was hairy, the difficulty curve was all over the place and its scattergun attitude towards design left it a loveable but patchy experience. But now we have Borderlands 2, which I've been playing on-and-off for the last few months.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Two movie trips in a month? Unheard of in recent times, but true. Saturday we got to to drop Robert (3) off with my parents and me, Z and Ewan (11) headed off to see the new Star Trek movie, Star Trek Into Darkness, which included some discussion of what bloody number it should be. We settled on "god knows", which is probably the sensible approach. Anyway, given the massive plot secrecy that surrounded this project, it makes it hard to discuss without actually alluding to those spoilers, so for once i'm going to give up and just write this up in a spoilery way. You Have Been Warned!

Monday, May 13, 2013

DVD(s) of the Week: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

What with actually getting out to the cinema last week, and wanting to write up some other stuff, I missed writing up last weeks DVD watching, and so I'm rolling it together with this weeks viewing excitement. Which is handy, as whilst very, very different in many ways, both films are solidly "B-list" in our expectations, films we rented to pass a happy couple of hours, but not ultimately be heavily anticipated when they dropped through the postbox. In their own ways, they're both more interesting than I expected, but not always in a good way.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Comics Roundup!

I've been caught saying that I don't really buy comics anymore, having sold or given away my old long-boxes a few years back, but all thats really meant is that I now have half a large bookcase full of graphic novels and collected editions. Currently I seem to be buying a two or three a month, so apart from being easier to store the only real difference is that I'm 6 months or so behind on any given storyline. On the plus side, I tend to be able to work on recommendations, so at least I'm buying less rubbish. 

Anyway, some thoughts on my recent reading....

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Movie Review: Iron Man 3

So, how do you follow a film like (Marvels) Avengers (Assemble). Apart from giving geeks the world over quivering cinematic orgasms, it packed in audiences from the wider public, and made enough money to float a Helicarrier. As a film its own right, it was massively successful, and taken in the wider context of Marvel's ambitious "Phase 1" series its a triumph. Even if you hated it and all its works, it sets a bar for future superhero movies that is a pretty vertiginous leap. With that in mind, it was probably a smart move to start off "Phase 2" with another solo Iron Man outing - probably the break out star character of Phase 1, as well as the one with two films already under his belt.