Saturday, 31 May 2014


Time travel can be awesome. Marty McFly did it in a frickin’ DeLorien, whilst some drunk American’s did it in a hot tub, of all things. What we have learned from time travel movies is that a) it’s fun, and b) it can get really confusing. Usually, A overcomes B, and as long as we’re having a good time we can overlook a little confusion, mainly because the whole thing is impossible anyway.

“X-Men: days Of Future Past” is inspired by/based on a two part comic story from the Eighties by Chris Claremont (who cameos as a senator here), often seen as one of the finest X-Men stories of all time, proving you don’t need fifty seven issue crossover bobbins with foil covers to get your point across. In the original, there’s a nasty future where mutants have been systematically wiped out by giant robot Sentinels, with the whole mess being traced to a single assassination of a senator in Magneto and his minions. Kitty Pryde (Shadowkat/Sprite/etc) has her mind sent back in time to her younger self so she can thwart Magneto’s plans and save the future. 

The new version is set some years after the events of “X Men: First Class”, with Vietnam a very pertinent part of the background. Xavier has not been at his best since Magneto crippled him, and with most of his students drafted he’s fallen into a bit of a blue funk. Meanwhile, genius and general mutant hater Bolivar Trask is trying to get congress to approve the funding for his mutant hunting Sentinel robots. Even more meanwhile, we see fifty years into the future, where the last few mutants are struggling to stop themselves being obliterated by, you guessed it, mutant hunting Sentinels. Holy time travel plot, Batman! 

The film takes this basic idea from the comics, expands on it, twists it several times and runs with it. Someone has to be sent back to try and change the pivotal point from the past, and only has a limited time to do it, but as to who (although I’m sure you already know) and what it is, I’ll remain spoiler free because I may be a bastard but I’m not a fucking bastard (name the film). 

There has been a few moans that this is a confusing time travel film, but I didn’t feel so, as long as you just go along with the rules as set out by the writers. Because there is no such thing as time travel, everyone has their own rules. What it is, is a strong, character driven film that is not afraid to have way more dialogue then action, although when the action comes it’s beautifully handled and often frenetic. There’s an expanded cast of future X-Men that will delight comic fans, whilst most of the alumni from “X-Men: First Class” are discarded in favour of a small group. Not surprisingly, Hugh Jackman stands out a mile as Wolverine. The performances are boosted by some incredibly good special effects and camerawork, with director Bryan Singer creating a well structured and well shot narrative throughout.

“X-Men: Days Of Future Past” is a definite success. The return to the franchise of Bryan Singer is a blessing, as he handles multiple character drama so well. Unlike the recent Woverine film there is a lot of respect given to the comics it is based on, even if they have been adapted to fit the cinematic universe, and the result is a smart, well made, interesting addition to the franchise. Like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” it’s essentially a period piece, and whilst I prefer the former this will certainly sit in the upper ecelons of any list detailing the best Superhero films to date. 



Thursday, 22 May 2014

GODZILLA (2014) Move Review

I remember watching, back in my youth, a cartoon Godzilla series. Amazingly, it had Godzilla on call to a bunch of scientists, and he would rise from the depths at the touch of a button to stomp on bad monsters. It also featured his “cousin”, a mini version called Godzooky, mainly there for comic effect and to be targeted by the bad monsters so Godzilla would have all the more reason to turn them into bad monster paste. At the time, this made perfect sense to me, and I was highly entertained. Believe me when I say that the Godzilla cartoon had a better plot than this horrendous movie.

I don’t generally like to spoiler much, but trust me when I say that there’s so little plot it’s kind of unavoidable, and in any case I won’t spoil anything that will alter your enjoyment of the movie. The whole thing starts off really well, with a neat title sequence and an opening piece set in a Japanese nuclear facility that is genuinely dramatic and moving. After that, though, everything goes shit shaped. Ken Watanabe is Captain Exposition, desperately trying to make us believe the absolutely fuckadoodly plot that makes no sense whatsoever.

Here’s the basics:  Because scientists are, apparently, stooped as cabbage soup, they grow a giant insect thing and are a bit surprised when everything goes tits up. When it goes on a rampage after nuclear stuff to chow down on (which takes it to America, surprise surprise), we learn that these might beasties walked the earth millions of years ago and fed on radioactivity. As the earth’s radioactivity reduced, the went to live deep in the ground/ocean/whogivesafuck to be closer to the radioactive core. When the one they hatch goes mental, Captain Exposition (who has known about Godzilla for years), says that he is the natural predator and as such will come and sort it all out. That’s like saying that if your town is attacked by an army of cats, and army of dogs will appear out of nowhere to save you! Anyway, that’s sort of it, really.

We also get, of course, the human element, as soldier Aaron Taylor Johnson blandly tries to get back to his bland family whilst trying not to get squished. Every time the movie threatens to get hot and heavy with monster on monster action it cuts to people doing people things, with the result that the I-Don’t-Care-Ometer goes into overdrive. 

The real, Godzilla sized problem with this movie is that it’s incredibly boring. The two hours drag by like watching someone trying to count the grains of sand on a beach. Even when the monster on monster stuff happens it’s terribly slow and dull, with Fatzilla waddling around like Eric Pickles after a heavy lunch, smacking the other lazily designed creature about for a while before suddenly realizing he has a electro zap type attack that is never explained nor acknowledged. The army and navy are portrayed as being led by retards throughout, constantly throwing logic out of the window like it’s a pile of flaming shit. Ordinary people don’t come off much better, as apparently they, too, haven’t got the sense they were born with and, quite frankly, deserve to be squished. 

I so wanted to just leave before the end, but sat there so you don’t have to. Do not see this film, as it’s shit. It makes the 1998 version look like Shakespeare, and falls so short of the bar set by Pacific Rim it can’t even see it. Go watch the cartoon instead. 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The 2000AD SCI-Fi SPECIAL 2014

Available in the shops from 28th May

“It was one of the staples of hazy childhood summers, an extra dose of Thrill-power for the holidays. But now the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special is back and with a new mission - to unveil a new generation of comics creators!” So goes the promotional hoo-haa that came with my copy of this blast from my past, a bleedin’ Summer Special, no less. 

I have great memories of being a wee man and my mother buying a few Summer Special’s and saving them for us to read in the car on the way to some wretched caravan park or other. As a kid, it was nice to have an oversize comic, although as an adult you notice more the large panels designed to pad out the likes of The Beano and Dandy specials. 2000AD was, predictably, different. Not necessarily in a good way for, like the annuals of the time, the Summer Special was stuffed with rejected scripts, reprints and shoddy articles.

It’s 2014 now, and Tharg knows his readers are mostly grown men and woman who will not accept rejected scripts and reprints, so in a bold move the Sci Fi Special has been rejigged as a platform for new writers and artists, handling classic 2000AD characters. What a great idea… in theory.

A Summer Special, like any comic, is only as good as it’s contents, and this is where the 2014 version falls down like Oscar Pistorius’ defence. First up we have a Judge Dredd tale, “Jinxed”, which just happens to be from the first female Dredd writer, namely Emma Beeby. Let's be honest, though, this fact is pretty immaterial. Emma has written the lovely “Survival Geeks” 3riller with Gordon Rennie, which I really enjoyed, but “Jinxed” is just not very good. Basically it’s almost a carbon copy of the old Strontium Dog story “A Sorry Case”, but it’s Dredd having a ton of bad luck. The saving grace is the very nice, clear art by Eion Coveney. 

Next up we have Alec Worley, best known for “Age Of The Wolf” (which I thoroughly enjoyed) with a Robo-Hunter tale illustrated by newcomer to 2000AD Mark Simmons. Set in Sam Slade’s earlier days it has a pop at the likes of Ikea and design snobs to little effect. Basically, it’s quite a dull story with a few good lines and competent art. There’s really not much else to say, except I wanted better from Sam’s return.

It wouldn’t be a Sci Fi Special without a Future Shock, this time by Jody LeHeup, better known for his editing work with Marvel than as a writer. Also from the Marvel stable is Artist Jefte Palo, who has illustrated plenty of superhero stuff. His unusual, modernist style works very well with the story, which is a bit of a tried and tested tale that blows it’s “surprise” ending to anyone who has ever read this sort of thing before. Nonetheless, it’s well written and quirky enough to remain in the mind after the reading, making it the best one so far.

Fan favourite Durham Red (A vampiric bounty hunter) returns next, with a cute one off tale by relatively new scripter Robert Murphy. He’s aided and abetted by another new boy Duane Redhead, a very appropriate name for a Durham Red artist. The story itself is basic and pretty entertaining, with Red doing exactly what regular readers would expect her to, and Redhead’s art fits the story well, clear and nicely laid out. It will certainly be interesting to see what these two can contribute in the future.

There’s a nice little treat up next as veteran Future Shock scripter (amongst other things) Arthur Wyatt gives us a blast from the past with “Orlok, Agent Of East Meg 1”, which is set during Dredd’s time as moon marshall for those that like to know their continuity. Jake Lynch provides rough but effective black and white art that gives an appropriately gritty feel to a tale of espionage and betrayal in Brit Cit. A good, solid story as expected from Wyatt, and a good introduction to a new artist.

Finally, it’s time for Rogue Trooper, currently shining in his own U.S title from IDW. It’s written by Guy Adams, who entertained recently with the hilarious if overlong “Ulysses Sweet”, and for his Rogue debut he’s settled for a neat one off that provides plenty of action and jumping about whilst ensuring new readers aren’t too confused about who this blue bloke is and why is he talking to his gun. Art comes from newcomer Darren Douglas, who has done cover work before but not, I think, an internal story. In fairness he’s a great find, and his style is similar to that of Boo Cook, full of colour and action. Again, the story is a simple one, but it works well as a quick read.

Overall, then, this is an okay release. Although it starts off pretty poorly it certainly gets better, and if a few of the scripts are found wanting there’s certainly a great deal of great art to get your teeth into. Not quite a thrill power overload.