Monday, June 29, 2015

Book Review: Perfidia

There are a lot of fictional worlds out there that are engrossing, engaging and yet places you really wouldn't want to actually live. Anything after any sort of apocalypse, for instance. Or Westeros. But if you're in a world with Zombie, or Dragons, or even Zombie Dragons, there is the comfort of distance, a comfort that this isn't, and can't be this world. I think that in many ways that is one of the big selling points of SF/F fiction, the distance that lets you explore the potential horror of alternative lives knowing that it can't happen to you. The thrill of crime fiction is different, of course, because it's set in this world, where terrible things can, and do happen all the time, with hardly a Zombie Dragon in sight. And right at the dark, terrible end of Crime fiction is Noir, and my favorite Noir writer has to be James Ellroy. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

DVD of the Week: Fury

David Ayer has found himself high in the geek consciousness recently with the upcoming release of Suicide Squad, which will be the second of DCs roll-out (or third, I guess, if Man of Steel is the first) of their big shared universe. He's a good choice for the fine fellows of Task Force X, with a back catalogue as a writer and director of manly films about manly men bonding and doing manly violence. I really enjoyed End of Watch, for instance, focused on the relationship between two cops, and so it was with some anticipation we stuck on Fury, about a tank crew in the dying days of World War 2. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

TV Review: Community, Season 6

Community has is a show about underdogs that seemingly has always been an underdog. After 5 sporadic years of near-cancellation, including one year where its creator and showrunner was outsted only to return, it finally left NBC only to move to the internet under Yahoo. Except in the UK, where it's still buried on Sony Entertainment, but at least that meant my Sky+ box could pick it up easily and without network problems. Along the way it's lost nearly half it's original cast, and some of their replacements, with Season 5 newbies Jonathan Banks and John Oliver both having bigger gigs this year. But this year, this fabled sixth season of the fans battle cry "Six Seasons and a Movie" is one free of network meddling, and can it surely be the most Community series of all? 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

TV Review: Arrow (season 3) and Agents of SHIELD (season 2)

So to finish up my impromptu trilogy of "double header" reviews, I thought I'd turn to TV land, and mop up the last two Superhero shows of the outgoing season, Arrow, and Agents of SHIELD. On a third and second season respectively, both shows are much more of a known quantity than say, The Flash, and to an extent they are unlikely to massively change in their core outlooks, competencies and flaws. Both have existing fanbases and detractors, too, but whats most interesting - and makes them worthy of comparison - is how they're trying to address getting past the introductory series and the maturation of their characters. It's easy to put the gang together, but what do you do with them then? 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

DVD(s) of the Week: Frances Ha and Transcendence

I need to do a bit of catching up on some this review stuff, especially the movie of the week, so I thought I'd roll the last couple we've watched together, as they make an interesting comparison. On the one hand, we have Frances Ha, which on the face of I shouldn't like, and the other, Transcendence, which I should. Of course, the opposite turned out to be true, which goes to show you can never judge a film by it's synopsis or trailer. First up, the one I liked.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Holiday History Reading Roundup

One of the nice things about being on holiday is that I usually get chance to catch up on some big reading of big books, the sort of thing I often put off because I don't get that much reading time normally and I fear losing the flow of a longer work. So far this year I've been caught up in history again, filling in some gaps especially around the late 18th and early 19th Century. Whilst not a period I'm ignorant of, it is a period where my knowledge ebbs and flows a little, and the joined up linkage between events is a little sketchy, so getting a couple of good, solid books that ranged about a bit was really what I after. In the end, I got two books - the first on the French Revolution, and the second on the momentous year, 1848. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

TV Review: The Flash, Series 1

As we continue to plug through the final arc of Gotham, I was wondering out loud why, given the constant criticism that seemed to affect Agents of SHIELD last year, the generally patchier and weaker Not-Batman-Show doesn't seem to be attracting quite as much vocal derision. I mean, I appreciate that internet critics can be a little like Hyenas, deciding to pick on a target and then hounding it over and above any actual flaws it has, whilst mysteriously ignoring others, but I also wondered if a big factor is that this year there is far more choice, and much of it is pretty good. Last year you could watch Arrow or SHIELD for a superhero fix and that was it. This year you have those shows, Gotham, the short-lived Constantine, plus the two stand-outs, Daredevil, and The Flash

Monday, June 1, 2015

Games Review: Heroes of the Storm

I thought I was done with Blizzard after the vague disappointment of Starcraft 2, and the harder disappointment of Diablo 3. I mean, both were decent games, I don't regret buying them, but both felt played out a little - neither as good as their illustrious forebears and both failing to bring much new to the table than Blizzards usual high polish. Thats not something you should dismiss lightly, but at the same time I'd seen the fundamentals of both games done more interestingly elsewhere, and in Diablo 3's case, without punishing the player by breaking a core feature like itemization to service some Valve-esque auction house system. So with my poor World of Warcraft hunter gathering dust in Orgrimmar, I'm done, right? Well no, because the buggers mailed me a Closed Beta invite for Heroes of the Storm, as it officially launches tomorrow, here's what I think.