Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Box Set Blues: Arrow, Series 1

I blame Smallville for missing out on Arrow as it launched. I mean, Smallville was fine, as these things go, but I stopped watching it about it's third series, already worn out on teen-aged superheroics that seemed terrified of moving towards the end point that the series inevitably set for itself. Arrow looked far too much like going back to that sort of setup, coupled with being about Green Arrow, a character I've never liked much and one who has always struggled against the impression of being a sort of budget Batman rip-off. So we just gave it a miss, although it did pick up a decent reputation over its first season run and eventually we got around to renting the DVDs, on the basis that at least Ewan would enjoy it. But it turns out, Arrow is a bit of a Batman knock-off, and wears it pretty well.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review: The Heroes

Ah fantasy, my old nemesis, we meet again. I know I'm reading more fantasy than any other genre at the moment but I still can't bring myself to identify as a fantasy fan, and whenever someone recommends me a book I still open half-expecting to find a story with elf-mages riding dragons to the mystical land of cliche. I wonder if this is why I prefer a writer like Joe Abercrombie, who writes fantasy for sure, but doesn't feel like he belongs there, like he wants to be writing something else entirely, just set in a world other than our own. I mean, his books are all set in the same world for instance, and have some character overlap, but don't feel like a series with numbers on the spine marching off to infinity, any more than a book series set in our world would. Anyway, following up on operatic revenge tale Best Served Cold, Abercrombie turns his talents to a good old-fashioned war story, with The Heroes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

DVD(s) of the Week: Long-Weekend Roundup!

Well, it's been a busy couple of weeks on the movies front thanks to the Easter break, and not only in the "actually getting out to a cinema" sense but also in a "home viewing" sense. At least in part this is due to Ewan's increased interest in watching what we are watching, which means that most 12 rated and below movies go on earlier in the evening so we can all watch them. So, a bit of a catch up is in order, from the mixed bag that is the last couple of weeks viewing. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Movie Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson is one of those filmmakers who appears to exist in a bubble, seemingly free from the rest of the cinematic world. His films always feel like their own unique thing, rarely imitated and always unmistakable. I can think of other directors that exist with that commercially successful indie auteur space - the Coens, say, or Sodeburgh - but none that are so indelibly welded to a certain feel of a movie. And for some reason, I really like Anderson's films, despite all the little tics and mannerisms that should drive me crazy, and so it was with some anticipation we went to see The Grand Budapest Hotel, possibly the most Wes Anderson film yet.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

DVD of the Week: Frozen

Frozen has become quite the thing, hasn't it? A few years ago, it seemed that Disney's in-house animation studio was on the way out for good, unable to compete with the Pixars and Dreamworks Animations of this world, and would be left to producing inferior straight-to-DVD sequels to past glories forever. The Disney Princess herself, consigned to history where it belongs. Right? Right? Well of course not. The Disney Princess, for all its problems, has had a grip on the collective imagination since the 1930s and that is feeding on something far older. They just needed a way into the modern world, and with Frozen they've seem to really hit a nerve.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Sometimes I can't decide if the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe "thing" is one of the most audaciously ambitious projects in movie history, or one of the safest. On the one hand, they're attempt to stitch together a coherent, multi-picture grand narrative out of blockbuster movies, holding faith in an audience to keep up with who is who and how it all hangs together. They're doing this by taking all sorts of risks with directors and actors, whilst missing many of the biggest names of the Marvel Universe. On the other hand, they're producing a succession of unchallenging tentpole movies geared towards the largest "four quadrant" audiences headlining with a bunch of white dudes doing the sort of actioneering we've all seen before. I mean, Captain America, right? He's a safe white dude who wears the American Flag, how safe can you get? Well, you get The Winter Solider, a movie that really does want to have it both ways. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Con Report: Sci-Fi Weekender 5

This weekend was our first Con of the year, a weekend away in North Wales at the Sci-Fi Weekender 5. Its our third time at the event formally known as the SFX Weekender, the second since SFX pulled out, which meant that year the con was both in a new location, and in a state of behind-the-scenes flux. Whilst I enjoyed SFW4, there as the sense that this was despite its problems, rather than because of it's strengths, and with several regular con-freinds not attending this year I think there was a slight air of anxiety before we went. It did mean that I was determined to do more "con stuff" to fill the gap; more panels, that sort of thing, and Z had decided that now was the time to try her hand at cosplay. So it was all to play for.