Thursday, 17 December 2015


SPOILER FREE REVIEW (If you’ve seen the trailer, anyway)

It’s been a long wait for a Star Wars film worth the title. Anyone with any honesty within themseloves knows full well the prequel trilogy just wasn’t good enough, being soundly trounced by three films made with toilet rolls, glue and, most importantly, heart. Thank Bod, then, for Disney, who paid a lot of Micky Mouse money to wrest the franchise from George Lucas.

So tension and excitement have built, with the seemingly safe pair of hands that is JJ Abrams at the helm, not only a great director but a massive fan.  We were promised less CGI and more passion, more like the first film, and that, my friends, is exactly what we’ve got.

Watching ‘The Force Awakens’, it’s easy to see that Abrams and his cohorts realized that what they wanted was to make a similar impact on new viewers as the original did on us old farts in 1977. He’s cast relative unknowns in all the leads (aside from returning characters) and stripped the story back so we come full circle, with a young nobody, Rey (Daisey Ridley), getting mixed up in intergalactic war. The war this time is between the New Order and the Resistance, basically the Empire and the Rebels thirty years on. She is teamed up with a deserter Stormtrooper, Finn (John Boyega), which is a nice touch, and a robot called BB-8 which is basically a smaller, cuter, more mobile version of R2-D2. Rey and Finn get caught between the New Order’s new weapon (more a Death Planet than Death Star) and the Resistance, both of whom want information from the BB—8 droid. It’s a rather similar plot to ‘A New Hope’ in outline, and all it needs is a plucky Corellian smuggler to join in. Oh, wait...

When it gets things right, which is most of the time, the film delivers in spades. Tie fighters, star destroyers, X-wings, Lightsabres, Chewbacca actually using his Bowcaster, Han Solo being, well, Han Solo – it all works so well, bolstered immensely by the likable Daisy Ridly and, to a lesser extent, John Boyega. There’s an effective new bad guy, too, in wannabe dark side master Kylo Ren, and you can expect to see his nifty lightsabre in shops all over the place. I loved the fact that old characters returned, but are not allowed to overshadow the new ones, with Harrison Ford being given the meatiest part of any. 

So I suppose this is Star Wars for a new generation, whilst keeping the old generation happy as well. It looks fantastic (even the 3D version is great), with plenty of aliens wandering around and even a cantina-type scene complete with band. There’s no mention of midiclorians, and Jar Jar Binks is consigned to the dustbin where he belongs.  There’s several superb action set pieces, and the fighting is much more graphic and realistic than before, warranting a deserved 12A certificate.  My only niggle is the fact that the New Order’s big boss is never explored in any way, but I would hope this will come in a sequel. So is The Force strong in this one? Fuck, yeah!


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

'PIXELS' - Hey! It's Not A bad Film!

Wow... this film has attracted some particularly venomous internet comments, even for an Adam Sandler vehicle. Myself, I used to quite like Sandler when he made funny films, but nowadays he's rather hit and miss. I quite like the gentler stuff like 'Blended', but throw in 'Jack & Jill' or the abysmal 'Grown Ups 2' and you have more misses than hits. 'Pixels' is his last proper film before he leaves Sony (he's also doing 'Hotel Transylvania 2), and boy do people hate it.

So whilst I sat prepared for the worst, I was hoping to enjoy this one, as I'm a fan of old arcade games myself (old enough to remember them as new arcade games). In case you didn't know, 'Pixels' concerns an alien invasion which takes the form of 80s video game challenges, with earth having three lives to lose the planet for good. President Cooper (Kevin James, just get over it) calls in his old buddies from childhood to help out, as the invaders are using the same pattern template that they used to be so good at defeating in the arcade. That's the meat and two veg of it, with Sandler playing Brenner, a nerd who never really did anything with his life and all the usual zero to hero guff. Predictable? Well, yeah.

Whilst it's never going to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of 'Ghostbusters', 'Pixels' does it's job very well. The characters are pretty basic, although kudos to Peter Dinklage for making his video game bad boy/twat Eddie more than two dimensional (with a GREAT mullet). There's even the standard love interest, although Michelle Monaghan at least gets to give her some balls. So why isn't it shite?

Well, in simple terms it's just an enjoyable film. No one dies (not even Sean Bean!), there's no foul language and all the violence is literally video game violence. There's plenty of characters for fans to spot (The dog from 'Duck Shoot' anyone?), and the effects really are spot on when it comes to realizing these classic games in real life and dimensions. This was never going to be deep or meaningful, and it doesn't even try. It's a sit down, watch, have fun, leave movie, nothing more. I may watch it again in a few years when it's on TV, but I'm not likely to go around shouting it's virtues from the hilltops.

The honest truth is I enjoyed 'Pixels'. It's fun and user friendly. Maybe it's better for me because of the nostalgia factor, or maybe I just don't feel the need to hate on Sandler like so many others, merely to take each film as it comes. All I'm saying, is give 'Pixels' a chance.

Trailer #2

Thursday, 18 June 2015


Jurassic park, as a theme park, hasn’t exactly got a good track record. Whilst the idea of real, live dinosaurs is nine shades of awesome, shit always happens. As Ian Malcolm put it in the first film: “Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running and um, screaming”. It’s not exactly a spoiler to say that in this, the fourth instalment, there is plenty of running and screaming.

The science blokes, you see, have created a new dinosaur. After all, it’s been twenty years since the first ones were unveiled (and all the subsequent running and screaming) and the public is getting bored of dinosaurs. Basically, Jurassic World is all well and good but to the kids it’s just another zoo. So, they think, what we need is something bigger and nastier to bring the crowds, as everyone loves a good carnivore. They whip it up in the lab, chucking in DNA from all over the shop to help it stick together, then let it grow to full size for some reason before actually letting any experts take a look. This is a bit of a big plothole, to be honest, but who cares that much when you’re watching a daft fantasy adventure flick. 

So we have Indominus Rex (easy to pronounce is important, apparently), a massive murdering machine that would surely cause massive havoc if it ever got loose. Phew! Good job the people in the park would never let THAT happen. Cue running and, indeed, screaming. 

As far as characters are concerned, we mainly focus on Park bigwig Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), her nephews who naturally choose the worst week EVER to visit and hunky ex navy dinosaur whisperer Owen (Chris Pratt – the new Harrison Ford). Basically, shit hits the fan, kids wander off (like they do), so Claire and hunky monkey go off to find them before they are munched. Yeah, there’s more, including a nice turn from Vincent D’onofrio as an asshole who thinks we can weaponize dinosaurs, but essentially that’s the gist of it. 

Thing is, this is a big ass Summer blockbuster movie, and so it’s all about entertainment and not complex plots. I have to say that on that front ‘Jurassic World’ delivers pretty well. There’s more dinosaurs than you can shake a stick at, and the park set up is incredibly well realized. The new kid on the block is suitably terrifying, although my personal favourite is an enormous shark munching sea dino that is kept in a massive pool (warning: Front 100 rows will get wet). We even get a suitable return for Me T Rex and well structured nods to the original move that don’t seem forced. All in all, this does just about everything it sets out to do, with incredible effects, good performances and a solid story. Will there be another one? Well, there may not be another park, but you can bet the dinosaurs will pop up again somewhere.



Thursday, 11 June 2015

'REVENGE' - Graphic Novel review

Jonathan Ross is very well known in the UK as a radio and TV presenter, though not so well known as a massive comic fan and sometime author. His first effort, ‘Turf’ was a novel premise that mixed gangsters, vampires and aliens, but was too long winded for me. He hit pay dirt with his novel people with powers book ‘America’s Got Powers’, which read a lot like a book from his friend Mark Millar, aided be superb visuals from Bryan Hitch. For his latest, now collected in book form, he has gone in another direction – gross out violence

‘Revenge’ concerns aging action movie c-list star Griffin Franks, whose forty year old character ‘The Revenger’ gets a lucky relaunch and turns him into a star again. Convinced by his trophy wife to nip down to Mexico for an anti aging skin graft, he is betrayed and left with no face or fingertips, in constant agony. In the manner of his famous character, when he inevitably gets loose he and a dwarf with horns grafted to it’s head (don’t ask), pop back to the U.S.A for some bloody, violent revenge. As you would…

The scripting for ‘Revenge’ is decidedly wobbly and at times unconvincing, and it’s like Ross just wrote it whilst on the toilet over the course of a few days. It’s left up to artist Ian Churchill to breathe life into a twisted version of a standard premise, which he does so with gusto. This is a blood soaked tale, make no mistake, and thanks to the art it mostly succeeds in being readable and at times quite fun and entertaining. If it was a film, it would be straight to DVD, but there would be plenty of people enjoying it’s over the top bloodlust.

Three very different stories have come from Ross so far, each with their own pros and cons. ‘revenge’ is probably the weakest of them, substituting gore and tits for a solid script, but as I say it still has a charm that will please fans of over the top action, the ‘Crossed’ crowd especially. Worth checking out, but forewarned is forearmed.


I have to admit straight off the bat that I enjoy watching Melissa Mccarthy. At her best when allowed to insult people in creative ways, she is also a dab hand at injecting real pathos and soul into characters that otherwise could have been rather one dimensional. In ‘Spy’, she adds another string to her bow, perhaps an unlikely one – action star.

McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, who is the partner of super spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law). When I say partner… he goes out and does all the spy stuff and she sits in ‘The Bunker’ directing him and basically doing her best to keep him alive, something she does very well, and we are left in no doubt that Susan is a smart woman who secretly loves the pants off her distant partner. When he gets a bit dead, thanks to evil bitchbag Rayna (Rose Byrne), the agency are told in no uncertain terms that said bitchbag knows every one of their agents. The plan, then, is to send someone she could never know, and as Susan is actually a fully trained field agent (who has never been in the field) she should go on an important surveillance mission involving Rayna and a nuclear bomb. What could go wrong?

The best news about ‘Spy’ is that it’s written and directed by Paul Feig, who worked so well with McCathy in ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘The Heat’. Her character this time round is more mousy than the ones played in those movies, but fans will be glad to know that about two thirds of the way in she is allowed to let the inner demon out to play and boy does it like to play. Profanity and very creative insults sparkle across the screen, as McCarthy also kicks some serious ass in one particularly well directed kitchen fight scene.

Although two hours long, ‘Spy’ is continuously entertaining. Jude Law is convincing as a super spy, Allison Janney works well as the CIA Director, Miranda Hart makes a decent Hollywood break as (shock horror) a clutzy big posh girl, and Rose Byrne looks spookily like Madonna, which makes her character even easier to loathe. The standout supporting cast member, however, is Jason Statham ad Rick Ford, a spy who has plenty of ludicrous tall stories that get sillier and sillier (‘See this arm? It was ripped off then sewn back o by the other arm’). Statham gets to play comedy, but plays it totally straight (without having to use his awful American accent, thankfully) and provides plenty of laughs.

In a nutshell, ‘Spy’ is a fine addition to Fieig and McCarthy’s joint CV, and if you liked their previous films you’ll love this one. It’s smart, has an actual plot and is sooooo funny all the way through. I look forward to what they come up with next. 



Wednesday, 27 May 2015


Location: Bristol Hilton Doubletrees Hotel

Date: 25th June 2015 

Science fiction conventions have an odd reputation amongst non science fiction folk. The thing is, any hobby which involves dressing up in often expensive costumes will always encourage dickheads to draw their swords of sarcasm because in the end they just don’t get it. A friend of mine dresses up in Nazi regalia for historical re-enactments, and whilst some people say he’s sick I don’t see much difference between that and dressing up as Doctor Doom, or if you’re at Lawgiver make that Judge Cal, Judge Death or even the ultimate evil Rob Schneider.

Often these little shindigs take over a section of a hotel or warehouse for a weekend, but Lawgiver II took a step into left field by taking over part of a hotel on a bank holiday Monday, like you do. It’s a relatively small con (that’s short for ‘convention, noobs) that is, as evidenced by the name, only it it’s second year. This means that unlike the big bullies of the con world it attracts somewhere over a hundred fans, rather than several hundred or more. The good news is that this year was more successful than last year, so Lawgiver Mk III is pretty much a go.

The first thing that smacks you in the face at any con is the people in costume. Being a Judge Dredd themed con (sorry, was that not clear?) there’s quite a few people decked in judge’s uniform, many based on the excellent film released in 2012. We also got some Dark Judges, chaps that want to kill everyone in the world because they have worked out that only the living commit crime. Just think of the Tories but with cooler outfits. One of the standout costumes was the only one not actually Dredd Related, as serial perp Joanne Alexander dressed as a disturbingly sexy Marsahall Law, another baton wielding fascist, this one created by 2000AD mainstay Pat Mills. All of those in costume were happy to show off and pose for photos, with a bunch of them descending on Bristol City Centre to confuse and terrify the locals. Perhaps the most innovative costume came from Darren Smith, who came as a 2000AD cover featuring The Dead Man (a memory loss form of Dredd).

Apart from costumes, the second most important ingredient to a good con is guests. As this was a small con it didn’t exactly have a plethora of the buggers, but there was some superb talen from the world of 2000AD and comics in general. For a fee that varied from artist to artist, attendees could have a sketch of a 200AD character (or whatever they wanted, really) done by actual artists who get paid to do this shit. 2000AD legends Jock, David Roach, Patrick Goddard, Dylan Teague, John Higgins, Dave Taylor and Nick Percival were all there, as was Ryan Brown, more known for some stunning poster art than strip work. Also there was scripter Rob Williams, who talked me into buying a copy of his excellent ‘Ordinary’ trade, and already legendary Dredd scribe (amongst others) Mike Carroll. They all had various stuff for sale, and all were, in my experience, a pleasure to chat with. David Roach brought with him a pile of other people’s original art that he has collected for years, and it was a guilty pleasure ruffling through it, trying desperately to treat each loose piece with care and not leave marmite marks all over it. The highlight for me was Patrick Goddard, a man who sketches like no one else for a measly few quid and whose black and white art is being almost criminally coloured in for a forthcoming Dredd story.

The next thing that cons are known for is panels. This is when a few guests sit at the head of a room (preferably with alcohol if they’re Scottish) and chat about a pre-selected topic. Of course, all the topics were Judge Dredd related, from the architecture of his world to anything the guests would stick into Room 101 from the history (Walter the Wobot being a unanimous vote winner). When the hosts questions are exhausted the attendees get to ask whatever is on their own minds. It’s a tried and tested formula, but I found that topics would drift as the artists conversations took their own routes. This meant that they would accidentally discuss topics that were set for a later panel, but it was still all good fun. The problem with just having artists on a panel was that they would naturally answer everything from an artist’s point of view, such as Dave Taylor wanting to ditch Dredd’s Lawmaster bike purely because he can’t draw it! Perhaps the most heart breaking revelation of the day was Jock basically telling us what the sequel to Dredd would have been about if the first had made enough money, and it was frakking perfect.

An interesting part of the con was what was effectively a village fete section, where you could play daft games to win Tomobla tickets (you know the drill – ending in a one or a five for a prize). On the surface this may seem a little silly, and under the surface it was definitely a little silly, but we were all there to have fun, not scowl at everyone, and by the end of the day all the prizes had been claimed. Much silly fun had been had as people pinned the badge on the Judge, whacked a perp (instead of a rat) or fired nerf projectiles at lawbreaker cut outs. A rather ingenious way to raise funds.

In the end, Lawmaster Mk II can only be considered a success, a case of onwards and upwards as it gains a reputation and, through that, more attendees. Dressing up is totally optional, and I didn’t meet a single person who wasn’t up for a chat, and by that I mean attendees not famous bods. It’s all about the community of people that have a strange love for the Judge that is Dredd and his insane world. I loved it, and although there will ALWAYS be ways to improve something this was a very smoothly run day of lawful fun for everyone. Keep your eyes open for next years, as it will be the most fun you can have with a nightstick and double whammy.

Sunday, 12 April 2015


It’s worrying that I’ve turned into the sort of old person I took the piss out of when I was a kid. I am of the time that discovered video games through the likes of the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum (Speccy rules!), who was amazed when my dad bought our first video recorder, and who remembers the first day that Britain went from three TV channels to four.

I’m used to waiting a week to see the next episode of whatever I’m into, and have always been happy to have it that way. This isn’t always the case, like when I only discovered ‘Breaking Bad’ some years after everyone else. I binge watched the hell out of it, catching up with the rest of the human race half way through the final series, at which point I joined them in waiting for each episode to arrive. Even though I’d watched the rest at a faster pace, the sudden slow down didn’t worry me – I actually enjoyed the suspense of the wait. 

Similarly, I have been on tenterhooks during each of the three seasons of the excellent ‘Banshee’, through the entirety of ‘Spartacus’ and am ready once more for the next season of ‘Game Of Thrones’. The thing is, the first four episodes of GOT have been leaked online, and the temptation to watch is horrible. Last year I caved when several episodes of the new season of ‘Doctor Who’ were leaked, and I eagerly devoured the black and white pre production episodes, loving the fact that in black and white it seemed like I was watching in the sixties. It didn’t spoil my enjoyment when I rewatched them on broadcast night in colour, so why am I debating the merits of Netflix releasing all thirteen episodes of their new ‘Daredevil’ series in one infodump?

At this point, I’ve watched three of those episodes, and am enjoying the series immensely. If I watch a couple a day for five more days I’ll have finished the entire series in one week instead of the usual thirteen, and that’s not accounting for U.S TVs silly breaks in transmission. Part of me likes the fact that I can choose my own pace, but a bigger part is annoyed that I will never have the discipline to watch one episode a week, as has already been demonstrated. 

It’s like Halloween sweets, where sensible parents will take the haul and allow the kids certain amounts at a time, thereby making the treats last and avoiding puking children. There’s a reason they call it ‘binge watching’ you know. We are slowly turning into gluttons who want everything NOW, and will sulk if we don’t get it. If Netflix had rationed out the series one week at a time I would not enjoy it any less, and I genuinely think the wait would make me appreciate the previous episodes more, having had more time to digest whatever had happened in them. Now, though, I can (should I want) stay up all night and watch the lot, feeling sick instead of satisfied, feeling more ‘oh, is that it’ than ‘that was brilliant, can’t wait for the next series’.

Some feel this is a sign of the future, but I have to disagree, and not because I am a grumpy old fart who thinks Channel 4 was going a bit too far. I like the fact that comics come out at intervals, rather than just dumping the story on you in one go, and I love the fact that TV does the same. It encourages kids (and adults) to appreciate a routine, to appreciate that waiting for something can help you get more out of it. Whatever your own view, please savour any anticipation you currently get from anything at all, because in the future it might not exist.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

2000AD 1924 & 1925 - New Readers Start Here!

2000AD has defied the odds. In 1977 the date it was named after seemed so far away it was never imagined that the title would still be in circulation on that fateful date, let alone fifteen years after. Myself, I have read every single issue since the first, and remember throwing my free 'Space Spinner' and putting bionic stickers on my arm to be like John probe, also known as M.A.C.H 1 (don't ask).

Every so often, an anthology comic like 2000AD likes to have an issue that contains the first episodes of stories, so that a new or lapsed reader can pick it up without being thrown in at a confusing half way point. Well, theoretically. Issue (or 'prog') 1924, on sale now at all good earth newsagents is the latest jumping on issue, with five stories presenting their first episode. Also contained are introductory pages to the characters which will hopefully explain to brand new readers what the hootin' heck is going on. The only potential problem is that all the stories contain characters who have been about in the magazine for quite a while, with the most recent being 'Grey Area', which debuted three years ago.

So this is more suited to lapsed rather than new readers, but this is always going to be the case with characters that have been in and out of the mag for over thirty years, as all the other strips have. Pride of place at the beginning of each issue is fan fave Judge Dredd, with a story that harks back to a revolt on the penal colony of Titan (where the bad Judges are sent), and a mysterious ship that arrives in mega City airspace. Whilst issue 1924 sets up the story, 1925 deepens the mystery and provides more questions than answers. Although co-creator and God on earth John Wagner has taken a writing break the strip is well served by Rob Williams, with Henry Flint providing his usual gritty and effective art.

Strip 2 is 'Orlock: Agent Of East Meg 1', an occasional character who arrived back in the Seventies and refuses to be killed. In this, a quick follow up to his last solo story, Arthur Wyatt send the assassin down under for a story that screams 'retro', helped by the very old school art of Jake Lynch. Unfortunately it's not very exciting at all, and Lynch's sometimes muddy art doesn't elicit any of the thrills 2000AD is known for.

Earth Mother loving barbarian Slaine has been knocking around for donkeys years, with creator Pat Mills bouncing him through time to basically kick shit out of various magical knobheads. His latest jaunt is Book 2 of 'The Brutania Chronicles', and teh first two episodes are basically him having a scrap with a magical knobhead, both parties talking bollocks throughout. Although Simon Davies art is always welcome, reading Mills can sometimes be like wading through mental treacle, and this is one of those times, UWhilct I enjoyed his recent 'Savage' story, and many of the Slaine chronicles of the past, this is a yawn a minute and only worth a look for the exciting visuals.

Next strip 'Grey Area' (that's 'Gray Area' if you're American) has always been a treat to read, with a good mix of humour and action, set in Earth's quarantine zone for alien refugees. In a clever twist, some of earth's Grey Area personnel have been bounced through a dimensional portal and landed in a parallel alien Grey Area. It's an idea with legs, involving planet eating monstrosities and silly alien names (Resting Bitch Face, anyone?), but I hope that things will return to normal soon. Artist Mark Harrison has always been a bit of a Marmite man, but he certainly does a good job here, being both clear and creative.

Finally, it's another return for 'Strontium Dog' a mutant bounty hunter who is second only to Dredd in popularity (probably). Titular character Johnny Alpha has been battered, bruised and even killed, but this strip sees John Wagner bring in a semblance of old school storytelling, using the strip to mock North Korea in the most unsubtle way and give Alpha what looks like a traditional get the bad guys and save the hostage type of story. Veteran artist Carlos Ezquerra is possibly the most infallible doodler the magazine has ever had, and as ever he doesn't put a foot wrong with colourful visuals full of movement.

With an anthology, it's impossible to please all of the people all of the time, and 2000AD knows this. There's no doubting the talent of all the people involved, and I know that even as I am unthrilled by Orlok and Slaine, there will be plenty of others out there who devour their exploits like a Klegg who has been on hunger strike. As ever, though, it's a testimony to the enduring appetite for thrill power of the fans who have stuck with it for so many years, plus all the noobs that have joined the party after 1977. If you stopped reading a while back, even years back, do yourself a favour and pick it up again. If you've never tried it, you really do have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Official Website

'GET HARD' - Film Review

Now here's a movie title that will have you Googling in trepidation, and boy do the film makers know it. There's a scene in this buddy movie that makes full use of the schoolboy humour inherent in the two words of the title, and perhaps the best compliment is that it's actually funny instead of cringe inducing.

Will Ferrell is James, a successful stock trader who has everything - the job, the cash, the sexy girlfriend and the boss who just happens to be the girlfriend's dad. Everything is perfect until he's framed for fraud and is facing a long stint at San Quentin, deferred for 30 days by his lawyer and the need for a plot device. Cue Kevin Hart as Darnell, owner of the valeting service that James uses. As statistics prove that Darnell has been to prison (he hasn't), James pays him to prepare him for prison life, with the now inevitable hilarious consequences.

That, my friends, is basically it. James is an uptight but basically likeable doofus, whilst Darnell is a family man just trying to get some cash to get his little daughter into a school where she is less likely to be murdered. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much, but was very pleasantly surprised by a film that contains plenty of belly laughs and fish-out-of-water absurdity. The two leads play off each other beautifully, with Ferrell nailing the part and Hart showing the chops that will see his star rise higher. The script is tight, without any dull lapses, and a tight rein is kept on Ferrell, although the one time he has obviously been allowed to improvise (inventing insults for jail) is excellent.

'Get Hard' is no masterpiece, but like 'Dumb & Dumber To' before it, it aims at a certain audience and hits the target repeatedly. Ferrell haters will not have their minds changed, but his fans should lap it up, whilst those who aren't bothered should have a fun time. Definitely not for kids, this is a silly romp from which most audience members should emerge smiling, and that's all you need sometimes.