Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year's Night Of The Living Dead

We're seeing this year out and the new year in with a viewing of the original Night of the Living Dead. We couldn't make it out this year, and thus instead of battling through hordes of zombies on these city streets, we thought we'd watch a different horde of zombies lumbering towards a barricaded house. Almost poetic.

Thank you to every single visitor to Diary of a Genre Addict during 2010. I look forward to bringing you a great many more reviews, diary entries and much more in 2011.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, have a safe and happy new year. Oh, and look out for the armies of the undead. They'll soil your party threads.

Your humble Genre Addict,
Andrew

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Diary: An Evening With my girl... and Dawn Of The Dead

There are few things that myself and my lady can agree with when it comes to films. A few notable exceptions are The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Ghostbusters and Shaun of the Dead, but everything else may well get the foul language flowing at our place. Things she tends to prefer don't have enough spaceships, explosions or zombies in them for me, while the stuff I like, much of the time, has too much of the above for her tastes. Such is life.

George A. Romero's masterpiece of tension and blue-faced zombies is some perfect common ground, and our most recent viewing last night gave rise to a great conversation. The production values of Dawn of the Dead may well have dated, but the film is still a visceral and addictive experience.
It's not as gory as many people seem to think it is, and that's part of its strength, the film is much more of an exercise in tension than a splatter-fest, and where it differs from many lesser films is that you actually feel some affinity with the characters and you care when they're in danger.

As a bottle of cava was demolished and snacks were consumed, we became ever more slurred in our own little commentary, but valid points were still made. For one thing, anyone that has ever worked in a shopping centre, the film fulfils those fantasies about what you'd do if you had the place to yourself. I mean, why not? The world's gone to hell, you might as well run riot, gorge yourself and get some new threads before the zombies chew your guts out.

We also discussed the various subtexts, either implied or not, and generally spent ninety minutes having a damn fine time in a pleasantly drunken manner. So I guess the moral of the story is: Zombie movies are the key to domestic bliss.

Uncanny X-Men 531 (Marvel Comics)

The flagship X-Men title is a difficult read these days. The art, pencilled by Greg Land, is stunning in its detail and seemingly effortless beauty, but the script seems too weighed down by its own continuity.

The issue feels like it spends the first twelve pages or so catching up with itself. Even with the first page recap that is standard with Marvel titles now, it is a hard issue to get into. The Quarantine story just isn't engaging me as much as it should.

While the issue has been getting some great reviews elsewhere, for me as a reader it feels a bit too crowded. It's stuffed with story, yes, but possibly to the detriment of letting any of the plotlines have their moment.

Mind you, with my eyes wandering from the story so often it left me ample chance to really enjoy the visuals. The search for the cause and cure for the mutant flu that has floored everyone continues. Yeah, mutant flu. It has dampened everyone's powers who has gone down with it, leaving a weakened X-team to face dangerous matters without a bunch of key players. It moves the story on nicely, but aside from that breathtaking artwork, it's lacking some spark this month.

Power Girl 19 (DC Comics)

One DC title I've been hearing good things about lately is Power Girl. I'd given up on the character years ago as little more than a big pair of tits and a cape, but now I see how wrong I've been.

Currently written by Judd Winick and illustrated by Sami Basri, Power Girl appears to be a superb superhero book that has it all: Great characters, great writing and art, humour, action and its tongue planted firmly in its cheek.

On the strength of this issue I'm gonna check out the trades of the previous creative team (Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Amanda Conner)'s run that I keep hearing about. Power Girl and her array of lesser-known DC characters are being brainwashed, and their gradual realization of this is a great hook.

Told in both flashback and present-tense, it's a nicely structured comic that holds the attention until that spectacular last page. I guess I'll be buying those trades asap, as I want to catch up with what appears to be one of the finest straight-ahead superhero titles currently on the stands.

Birds of Prey 7 (DC Comics)

Hmm. For someone who claims to be such a Marvel fanboy, I seem to be reading a lot of DC titles lately. I wonder why that is. Possibly something to do with DC publishing some truly outstanding comics lately.

This latest issue of the rejuvenated Birds of Prey series sees the 'Death of Oracle' story building and building. The inclusion of Batman is sure to shift a few more copies, and the exchange between him and Oracle is pitch-perfect, but it's the strength of Gail Simone's script and some sterling artwork that keep the pages turning rather than any hype.

The scenes involving the team in a strip club are hilarious, but this is an issue for character drama more than anything. The final action scene may feel a little bit tacked-on, but it does help to set all of the pieces for the remaining three parts of the story into place. I really am eagerly awaiting the next issue.

Wonder Woman 605 (DC Comics)

'Runaway Fate' sees the Wonder Woman title going from strength to strength. After the thrilling events of issue 604, it was never going to be easy to keep the momentum up, but this issue is every bit as good, albeit different.

Here we get to see a little more of the new Wonder Woman's personality, and are reminded she's pretty much just a kid via dialogue and her own motivations.

The action of the issue comes from the revelation of who the Morrigan are, and the search for them adds some real drama to the issue. A decidedly quieter issue than recent months, but it ends on one hell of a cliffhanger. The last two pages are worth the cover price alone.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Transmorphers (2007)

I love the audacity of The Asylum, and to this day I don't know how they get away with making this stuff without being torn apart by Hollywood lawyers. If you're not familiar with them, they're a movie company who specialise in 'Mockbusters'; films that rip-off big budget feature films and which are released straight to DVD around the same time that the real things are arriving in cinemas.

There have been loads of these knock-off flicks, including cheeky cash-ins on Iron Man, Alien Vs Predator, War of the Worlds and even High School Musical. All of them are marketed to look very much like the films they are pastiching, and pretty much all of them are terrible.

Transmorphers, let's not beat about the bush here, is crap. That said, it's entertaining crap. With its dire cast and its hilariously cheap CGI, it should be an absolute car crash, but it's actually kinda fun in its own way. Rather than ripping off the Transformers movies, it rips off a bunch of other big Sci-Fi blockbusters including The Matrix, Blade Runner, Aliens and The Terminator, amongst others. This makes it fun to pick out where different bits have been lifted from, but it also means that it makes for some entertaining background noise full of explosions and robots.

The film is shot in a style that is quite blatantly intended to look like the Battlestar Galactica remake, and as such looks much nicer than many other Asylum projects (and features some impressive sets), but it's still tosh. Robots have taken over the earth, and after 400 years, man is finally fighting back. A rag-tag group of resistance fighters bicker underground for much of the flick, but once it gets a bit Aliens and guns start a-blazing, you're treated to fun involving z-grade 'actors' blasting away at marvellously cheap video-game style CG robots.

The script, tacky as it is, is still above the skills of the cast, who all look above fifteen years too young for their roles, and whom can barely manage the lines they are given. Such is the level of cheese that I'm reminded of the short lived Captain Power TV series, but at least even that had some innovation to it. Transmorphers is a big, fat rip-off, but it's also one of the most audacious cheapo movies made in recent history. It even spawned a prequel, Transmorphers: Fall of Man, and even though these films are terrible, they still walk all over Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol (2010 Christmas Special)

The first Doctor Who Christmas special to feature Matt Smith in the role of the legendary Time Lord is here, and it's certainly festive enough. Amy and Rory are trapped on a ship along with 4,000 other people, and it's heading for disaster, caught in disruptive clouds surrounding a curiously steampunky planet. The Doctor heads down to the planet before the ship can crash in order to try to get the man who controls the clouds to help out, thus saving the ship and its passengers. Of course, that man is a dead ringer for Scrooge, and refuses to help at all. The Doctor cooks up a plan to re-enact Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and try to change Sardick (played by Michael Gambon)'s mind.

Along the way we meet the angelically-voiced opera singer Katherine Jenkins, who plays the equally sweet-voiced Abigail. From there it gets a bit complicated, and I'd imagine a fair few TVs around the country were shouted at. The special itself is absolutely beautiful to look at, with a sumptuous production and truly gorgeous effects, but it's easy to lose the plot a bit and just concentrate on the exemplary visuals at points.

I think part of the trouble is that you can already guess the ending to the story from about five minutes in, if that. Amy and Rory are barely even in the special, even though they're in mortal peril, and this is a shame as they'd just found their feet as characters by the end of series 5. The Doctor spends much of the episode going through the required motions of the classic Dickens tale with a whimsical SF/fantasy spin on it, and while Matt Smith is once again wonderful as the Doctor, this special just felt a bit lacking in the excitement department.

Where it excelled was the performance and character of Michael Gambon's Sardick, who must go through a very odd transformation as the episode unfolds. His portrayal of this difficult character is lovely to watch, and he really brings Katherine Jenkins' limited acting skills to your attention. As guest stars go, she does okay, and gets to sing a fair bit, but she's not the best actor in the world. She's not the worst, but her delivery does occasionally remind you she's first and foremost a vocalist and not a character actor.

There are some great ideas in the episode (the fish and all that came with them), but it's all a bit too surreal. However, it's perfectly festive and ideal Christmas viewing, even with its problems. Next year I hope that we can get back to specials on a par with The Christmas Invasion.

PS: I thought the inclusion of the 4th Doctor's scarf was great!!!

The series 6 trailer followed the credits, and we're given a glimpse of... Doctor Who in America. It just looks out of place. Good to see River Song back, and who does that other TARDIS belong to? Theory? River is the Rani. Anyway, it looks a bit too X-Files for me. I know there's a big Doctor Who audience in the US, but can't we just keep this *one* show as it is, and not turn it American? Please? The Doctor is as British as tea and scones.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Primeval Series 1 (2007)

I'm a latecomer to the world of Primeval. As a die-hard Doctor Who fan (since I was ten years old), I was always a little cynical of anything that was put out as a commercial counterpart to the BBC's legendary adventures in time and space. I finally relented recently when it dawned on me that something about inter-dimensional anomalies and rampaging monsters is actually right up my street. Thus series 1 was purchased.

I was more than pleasantly surprised with what played out before me- I was seriously impressed. It's hugely ambitious, well executed, well written and largely well acted, and an absolute blast to watch. The cast is excellent for the most part, with the most instantly likeable characters being moody genius Nick Cutter (Douglas Henshall) and enthusiastic tomboy zoo keeper Abby Maitland (Hannah Spearitt). The others are decent, but there are moments that are either weakly scripted or weakly acted that take you out of it a bit.

Strange (and very pretty) anomalies are popping up around the country, allowing all manner of beasties from other eras to run amok in our time, and plenty of thrills are to be had once they do so. The character interplay is interesting and adds some drama between monster attacks. The points with this first series that feel a little laboured mostly centre around Cutter's wife, presumed dead but instead missing in time. Once that storyline is resolved, it's difficult to suspend disbelief that she's been where she says she's been due to the basic practicalities of it, but that's a small issue.

Once the team is gathered and the point of the series is established, it makes for gripping and entertaining TV. The digitally realized beasts are amazing, the story grows and evolves, and it ends on a whopping cliffhanger. In conclusion it's a heck of an opening series, and I hope that series 2 and 3 (and the imminent series 4) build on it. I'll find out soon. Why didn't I watch this ages ago and join in the fun? Serves me right for being a slave to the Doctor.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Wonder Woman 604 (DC Comics)

The fourth part of the 'Odyssey' story picks up the pace a huge amount, and any issues I'd been having with the rejuvenated Wonder Woman title have gone away. This is a damn fine comic book. The creative team, lead by J. Michael Straczynski, have created an epic climax to the current storyline, which leads very nicely into the next.

I'd not enjoyed other recent issues as much as I could have done, due to the aforementioned slow pace, but this one really makes up for it. The new Wonder Woman's trial by fire (literally) is handled nicely, with a surprising and satisfying cameo that helps to cement this iteration of the character as the (new) real thing.

Incidentally, I think the new, more flattering costume is great, and fits perfectly with both the character herself and the current move to more believable and practical superhero comics. A job very well done all round.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Code 46 (2003)

Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton are absolutely electrifying in this beautiful, lyrical and unforgettable science fiction drama. The film is subtle in its portrayal of the near future, and the allusions to higher technology and thinking that are evident throughout it are integrated in such a manner as to be almost seamless.

A tale of identity theft and loss, it can sometimes feel a little too bleak and washed out, but this only serves to make it seem all the more real. There is a haunting quality to the visuals, the script, the acting and the pacing of the piece that is hypnotic, drawing you into the melancholic world that it portrays.

Tim Robbins plays William, a detective on the trail of a woman suspected of identity fraud, played by the sublime Samantha Morton. When William falls in love with the suspect, he must face the dilemma of carrying out his duty or being with her.

The character interplay is complex, with real flashes of brilliance in the way people react to the strange situations they find themselves in. The film takes place mostly in a futuristic Shanghai, mixing slums with grandeur, and the dialogue used throughout utilizes elements of many languages.

It is a far cry from the general consensus of science fiction films being about robots, spaceships and endless action, which is probably why it was far from being a hit. That's not to say that it is sub-par. It isn't. It is one of the very best science fiction films of the past decade, beautifully directed by Michael Winterbottom and played with a great deal of realism by a remarkable cast. Code 46 is a wonderfully haunting experience for any lover of dystopian science fiction with an emphasis on character and plot. A genuinely beautiful film.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Bionicle: Mask of Light (2003)

Toy tie-in films are rarely much good. This was the first movie based on the Lego spinoff range known as Bionicle, a stylized science fiction take on the classic building blocks toys. Completely computer generated, it offers some impressive visuals that keep you watching despite the painfully complicated and bizarrely uninvolving story.

The CG visuals have dated quite a bit, and there are moments when it looks a bit too much like the much-missed TV series Reboot, but on the whole it remains watchable if you're in the mood for some light entertainment and are happy to watch a kids' film. The characters, due to their very nature, are hard to relate to, as is their world and the stuff that happens in it.

There's some Star Wars, some folklore, some Lord of the Rings and elements of countless other sources, wrapped up in a strangely tribal aesthetic. I love animated films, and am very able to find enjoyment in material aimed at children, but this just didn't work for me. When the action is flowing thick and fast, the film is at its best, but between those scenes, you're wishing it would hurry up and get on with it. This is an interesting look into the continuing development of digital animation more than a film to savour. A shame, really, as I'd heard this was pretty good.

Return Of The Evil Dead (aka Return Of The Blind Dead) (1973)



Return Of The Evil Dead, despite its rather questionably ripped off title, is a pretty solid sequel to the highly regarded Italian horror classic Tombs Of The Blind Dead. It is also known under the title of Return of the Blind Dead, which annoys me less. It's a baroque, gothic horror romp with some delightfully cheesy characters and some delightfully nasty gore. Basically, it's everything you would expect from the European horror scene at the time.

The back story of the Blind Dead (horse-riding zombies in Ringwraith-style cloaks) is covered in some detail by way of a flashback to the 13th century, and then we're brought into the 1970s and all of the fashion horrors that you can stomach. If the clothes and the hair of the time weren't enough to turn your stomach, then maybe some of the rather well-staged violence will. On the anniversary of the Blind Deads' deaths, the mayhem gets underway with the dead riding upon the town at the height of a festival.



Originally, the town's local idiot sacrificed a girl to incite the return of the dead, but this is sadly the trimmed version of the film, which lacks all of the brutality of the original Italian version. Still, it's entertaining and unsettling. Once the dead are back, chaos and blood ensue. The authorities ignore the mayor's pleas for help, assuming him to be off his face on booze, and thus it's up to the townsfolk to defend themselves against the ancient marauding undead!

While this cut of the film is missing the full extent of the nastiness that took place in the movie, it remains a fascinating film for fans of classic horror cinema. The designs of the Blind Dead themselves are fantastic, and the film's main strength. They genuinely look like nightmares given form. Eyeless, skeletal and wrapped in filthy rags, they embody evil in great style. As a film, it's uneven, as the scenes with the living cast are ropey at best, but once the action gets underway, it's gripping. An entertaining curio, but it won't make you crave the other films in the series. To get hooked, check out the 1971 original.



Friday, 10 December 2010

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Willow Polystone Statue (Sideshow Collectibles)

Willow Statue

The preview image for this awesome Buffy The Vampire Slayer Willow statue has hit the web from Sideshow Collectibles, and I'm really rather impressed. It's rare that a facial sculpt on a pop culture collectible hits the mark quite as close as this. It really is the closest to the real Alyson Hannigan that I've ever seen. Nice one, Sideshow! Click on the image to visit the Sideshow site and check out more of their awesome collectibles.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

TRANSFORMERS #13 (IDW)

This is the first new Transformers comic I've bought in aaaaaaages. I found a while back that the Transformers comics had vanished up their metallic backsides, and thus I stopped reading them. I picked this up in passing due to the fun cover of Rodimus and a flick through the book. It's a superbly entertaining issue, showcasing some nicely stylized artwork from Nick Roche and a snappy script by Mike Costa.

Rodimus (or Hot Rod, as us old timers tend to remember the little git) is as cocky as he always was, and I'm gonna have to track down the issues before this to find out just what happened to lead up to the point where he's setting off on a suicide mission against a Decepticon base in an attempt to rescue the Autobot leadership matrix.

Despite the high octane action, there's some nifty character work on display, which elevates this issue far above what I'd been expecting. I thought I was just in for some awesome art, but instead I got one of the best things to carry the Transformers name in years. Has the whole series been this good?

Oracle - One Shot (DC Comics)

I picked up some titles I'd missed previously this week. The 'Bruce Wayne: The Road Home' story arc continues across the DC Comics Batman range with this decent one shot starring the former Batgirl and Birds of Prey head honcho Barbara Gordon. Multi title crossovers are never a pleasant thing to try and keep up with, and I've not been paying any attention to the current story, so I was more than a bit lost with this one-shot. In addition, it barely features Oracle at all, despite having a huge image of her on the cover and her name for the title. The majority of the issue is a big, loud fight between a bunch of C-list DC characters and some of R'as Al Ghul's badasses. Marc Andreyko's script and Agustin Padilla's art are both impressive and imaginative, but the lack of the title character for most pages in the issue is a bit of a drawback. As it is, it feels like an afterthought. Right, I'm off to read some old Birds of Prey issues and remind myself how awesome the character can be.

Diary: In The Mood For Jedi

Sometimes, nothing but a Star Wars movie will do. Tonight, after a load of travelling and a very stressful week, myself and my lady decided to stick Return of The Jedi on to relax to. You see, the Star Wars movies are brilliant mood pieces for however you're feeling. You see, if you're feeling optimistic and cheerful, there's A New Hope. Pissed off and needing to let off steam? Watch The Empire Strikes Back (good advice whatever you feel like).

Wanting something that isn't very taxing and is comfortable and fun? Return of the Jedi. Need background noise and twenty minutes of perfection? The Phantom Menace. Masochistic? Attack of the Clones. I'm not so sure about Revenge of the Sith, though. Of the prequels, it's the best film, but it also feels the least like a Star wars movie (the most 'Star Wars' feeling flick was TPM). I guess that one should be reserved for when you want to sit for two hours and wait for The Good Bit to arrive, only to finish up going 'That "Nooooooo" was rubbish'.

General- Star Wars Dioramas