Tuesday, 20 November 2012


No one would have believed, that in 1978 a musical version of H.G Wells’ classic sci-fi novel ‘War Of The Worlds’ would actually be a critical and commercial success. A million to one, they said, but it was a success anyway. Beautiful, dazzling and emotional, it has endured for over 30 years now, but who would ever think that a new version was needed, let alone wanted?

The release of this new version is a bit of a head scratcher for purists. Sure, this ‘The New Generation’ and all that guff, but can you improve on perfection? The short answer is ‘no’, because this isn’t better than the original, but the long answer is ‘no, but it’s brilliant anyway, because it’s War Of The Worlds’.

So first we have the personnel changes. Top of the list is Liam Neeson, whose deep, passionate voice is an able replacement for the departed Richard Burton, and if you see the new live show his hologram will wander about and interact, by all accounts. David Essex’s Artilleryman is now brought to life surprisingly effectively by Kaiser Chief’s frontman Ricky Wilson, who puts in a very Essex-like performance that he will replicate for the tour. There’s also great casting in Joss Stone as Beth, with Maverick Sabre as her husband, the Parson, Nathaniel. Good stuff, all of them, and they keep the drama alive with passion to spare.

The only downside to this new version is Gary Barlow, who cannot hold a candle to Justin Hayward on the deeply emotional ‘Forever Autumn’. He just hasn’t got the vocal chops to carry such a song, and although competent is not good enough for this project. Aside from him, however, it is genuinely hard to find fault with the new performers.

Musically, there isn’t a great deal of difference, other than a more modern production that works very well in headphones when you whack the volume up. There’s a touch too much with some new keyboard layers at times, but it’s a small niggle.

The question of which is best is rather a moot one. If it wasn’t for Barlow’s vocals then it would probably be a dead heat, and I can see the new star names bringing this superb musical dramatisation to a new generation of fans, which is never a bad thing. If you have never hear this before, I would say stick to the original, with it’s fantastic presentation and Justin Hayward vocals, as well as David Essex and Phil Lynott. That said, the new version still has the power to move anyone who hears it, and as long as you get one of them, you’ll enjoy the hell out of it.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Wreck It Ralph - Film Review

Okay, so this is a nice surprise from the non Pixar arm of the House Of Mouse, a computer generated animated movie that is aimed at video game players and pretty much no one else. Luckily, there’s a hell of a lot of video gameers out there, old and young, and the good news is that Wreck It Ralph can be appreciated by all of them, whether you’re an old school die hard who remembers when Space Invaders first came out (me), or a member of the Mario kart and Halo brigade, wondering how anyone ever had fun before Hi-Def graphics.

The story revolves around, unsurprisingly, Wreck It Ralph, the bad guy in a 30 year old arcade game called Fix-It-Felix-Jr, sort of a mix of Rampage and Donkey Kong, and he’s a little fed up of being the villain, and even goes to a support group that is filled with iconic evil doers all bemoaning their fate. This leads to him going to other games in the arcade, because when it’s closed all the characters can mingle, although if they don’t get back to their own games come the morning there is a danger they will be turned off as faulty - the worst fate imaginable.

First off, there’s a real sense that this was made by people who have a genuine affection for all sorts of video games, with older characters moving more jerkily than the new, high resolution ones, with a special mention for poor Q*Bert, who is homeless after having his cabinet turned off. The original characters have been created perfectly, with real personalities showing through the generic facades. Vocally, everything works well, too, with Ralph brought nicely to life by John C Reilly, and the hero of his game, do gooder Fix It Felix Jr, a spot on performance from 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer.

Wreck It Ralph will certainly confuse non gamers, although the story has a heart and humour that may still keep non gamer parents amused if bemused. Although some of the classic game references will go over kids heads, the bulk of the story revolves around more modern game ideas, with the retro touches there to amuse the old folks like me. Hopefully this won’t be tarnished with a rushed, rubbish actual game tie in, because Wreck It Ralph is a class IP all by itself. Funny, cute and original, this is another modern animated movie that hits all the right spots. Game on…