Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rambling: Super-Diversity

Well, this feels like sticking my head into shark tank. There seems to be a running debate about the moment about diversity in superhero-land, and sometimes it feels dangerously insane. I'm not talking about the headbanging idiots that seem to think that their toys are being taken away, more that it feels increasingly less like a debate and more a complex series of battlelines designed to facilitate the throwing of insults between people who mostly agree. The latest outbreak seemed to be sparked by Marvel's announcement that the next Thor would be a woman, and the next Captain America would be a black guy, but San Diego Comic Con, and its array of white-guy leading roles let it all simmer along too. Like everyone else, it seems, I have opinions, although they're somewhat contradictory in places, which makes them ill-suited for 140 characters or less.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

DVD of the Week: Her

Joaquin Phoenix stares out of the movie poster for Her with a strangely bemused expression, a little like a puppy confronted with their own misdeeds but really not sure what its done wrong. Its an expression he wears for most of the film, that of someone truly lost, adrift one of those strange worlds that only seem to exist in movies where every has huge apartments and works in interestingly creative jobs. I think the film knows this though, and there is a level of artifice in the construction that rules throughout it, a strange, almost fairy-tale air that tries to talk about love, identity and belonging. Its all very, very, strange. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Games Review: Age of Wonders III

I've always been a fan of huge sprawling strategy games, dating back to a university-era addiction to Sid Meiers Civilisation. There is something about starting with your one villager, or landing pod, or whatever, and ending up with vast, empires that you created, crushing all before you. I actually own more than I've ever played, especially in the last few years, as getting the time to invest to bury myself in one of these games has become a lot harder to come by. Thankfully, whilst looking for a new co-op experience, we came across Age of Wonders 3, a huge, sprawling strategy game consisting of both a strategic and battlefield layer, that we could play together. Awesome.

Monday, July 21, 2014

DVD of the Week: Prometheus

Prometheus arrived in cinemas riding a wave of huge expectation, loudly proclaimed by expectant fans as heralding a great revival of the Alien franchise, which, a bit like fellow 80s SF favorite The Terminator, had long since fallen from it's Olympian heights. It arrived on DVD riding a wave of vocal derision; a film that wasn't actually reviewed all that badly, and performed pretty well at the box office, but also attracted a vocal "hatedom" who saw nothing good in it whatsoever. Such is the power of crushed dreams, I guess. A couple of years on, I've finally got around to seeing it, and I think the whiplash of expectation and disappointment is far enough away that I can get a fairly objective eye on it. And you know what? I rather liked it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

TV Review: Penny Dreadful

The long legacy of the Victoria era sometimes feels like it looms too large over the modern age, especially in Britain. After all, it was the time when it could reasonably be said we were the worlds's "Top Nation", and even over a century on it's burned into our national psyche. It's also a time when a lot of the culture we built in the twentieth century started to emerge, driven by an increasingly literate and empowered population in search of entertainment, driving a wave of creativity that still echoes forwards. The late Victorian era, especially - which probably most resembles what we think of as "Victorian" - brought us a boom in the "Penny Dreadful", often dark, gothic serials sold to the mass market as disposable entertainment. So if nothing else there is an amusing irony in the TV show Penny Dreadful being an expensive, classy production sold on an exclusive pay-for TV channel in the 21st Century.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2

We've had a bit of a debate in our house recently about what age to start taking Robert to the movies. After all, he's only 4 (and a bit!) and his attention span isn't brilliant at the best of times, but he's at the age when we started taking his brother and we only had to leave a couple of films before he got the hang of it. Going to the movies has always been a big part of our family life (from before we had a family!) so we'd been looking for an opportunity to really get everyone one - even bouncy little monkey-beasts - involved in cinema trips. Ewan's taste is pretty solidly 12A nowadays, but he did want to go see How to Train Your Dragon 2, and so we leapt on the opportunity for a family day out, albeit one where I was braced for having to leave after an hour or so. But I didn't, and so this review is brought to you courtesy of a very well behaved little boy who really enjoyed his first cinema trip.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

DVD of the Week: Robocop

It's often cited as a sign of Hollywood bankruptcy that we are are living in age of sequels and remakes, compared to perceived earlier ages when we didn't. Like most "ohhhh back in the day" arguments it does't really hold that much water, and largely comes along over the summer when the most visible things in the multiplex's are franchise fodder, and it's largely from people of my generation, who are seeing their youth remade and rebooted. I'm not totally sold on the idea of these sorts of films being safe bets anyway; nostalgia is a dangerous thing, and there is always the risk of a backlash before a film even starts shooting, especially once they start sliding down the ratings towards the PG-13 (12A) rating and perceived "watering down".

Monday, July 7, 2014

On Writing

Some time ago now I wrote up some words on how I felt about claiming to be a "writer", in an age when it may never have been easier to do so, whilst paradoxically perhaps increasingly hard to make a living at it, at least relatively speaking. The sort version of it was whilst I certain write, I'm light on objective validation of any sort of quality, and most of my "published" work is reviews and magazine articles, as opposed to the fiction that I want to write and so far have only accumulated some polite rejections. However, you keep plugging away, if only stop the ideas overwhelming you. The thing I've never thought to try my hand at was comics, but after a conversation on Dissecting Worlds one evening I got an idea that I couldn't shake. And as of this week, you can actually go out and buy it.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Book Review: London Falling

Sometimes your enjoyment of a thing is so wierdly subjective it's hard to parse. Usually, if I love a thing, or hate a thing, years of being opinionated spring into action and I can pretty well express what I liked, or what I didn't, even if its just a matter of being honest about having certain mental buttons pushed. Just today I've been feeling pretty snarky about the released pictures of next year's Batman v Superman movie, which is uncharacteristically mean-spirited of me, but at least I know why. (Its because I'm a little bored of grimdark re imaginings and the film - so far at least - sounds utterly joyless). But other times I struggle to put my finger on it, so a work can be both fascinating, and frustrating, for the wrong reasons.