Saturday, 28 April 2012


I saw the Avengers movie, yesterday. This isn't a review (I shall wait for a release on disc before attempting a proper critical assessment), it's just a few general comments, and my initial reactions to a movie that I've waited decades to see…

Well, I liked it a lot! It's a great super-team adventure, but I'm not convinced (yet) that it is a real classic of genre cinema about comicbook heroes. I'd have to see it at least a couple of times more, to decide on whether it's an 8/10, or 9/10 (for effort), movie. Avengers Assemble managed to fulfil my expectations of it, but failed to surpass them. That said, Joss Whedon was faced with a quite impossible task - of pleasing fans of Marvel comics and followers of the franchise of recent movie productions, including Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America

The director and cast took it all seriously, but still made it good fun. Whedon's best movie to date is not in the same class as The Dark Knight, or Ang Lee's Hulk. Thankfully, however, the level of humour in Avengers Assemble is judged almost perfectly, throughout, with very few jokes at the expense of the characters, and no embarrassingly bad scenes that may have prompted me to cringe at slapstick or blatantly camp performances – of the sort we have seen before in The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-Men, and Iron Man movies.  

I don't much care for that poster, though, as I would prefer a proper artwork version, such as this one. I hope the movie is a huge success, and would like to see production planning for a sequel (or two), starting next year. I'd also really like to see an extended version of Avengers Assemble on blu-ray, perhaps before Xmas… Is that too much to ask?

Monday, 23 April 2012


Black Static #28 (from TTA Press) includes my latest column of DVD and blu-ray reviews. The line-up for this issue's 'Blood Spectrum' is as follows:

Mad Detective (8/10)
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (7/10)
Contagion (8/10)
Immortals (7/10)
A Horrible Way To Die (1/10)
Kill Keith (1/10)
The Thing - prequel (6/10)
The Yellow Sea (6/10)
Another Earth (5/10)
Hugo (6/10)
666: The Prophecy (6/10)
Crows Zero (5/10)
Shadow Of The Sword (5/10)
Texas Killing Fields (5/10)
The Divide (3/10)
Bad Lieutenant (5/10)
Dream House (4/10)
Demons + Demons 2 (5/10)
The Wicker Tree (3/10)
The Plague Of The Zombies (7/10)
The Reptile (4/10)

Slightly revised page layouts this time, due to a shortage of space for so much content.Which is good news for readers, I think.

Thanks to Pete (and editor Andy) for giving my forthcoming Hulk book a plug.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

TV choices

The last programme item that I went to at Olympus, was a panel about 'What do we want on TV?'

I'd prefer any genre anthology series - Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, etc. Want some originality and more diversity? That's what anthology TV does best. I'm sure we can all think of 100s of short stories that'd make good or even great TV episodes. Why viewers choose serialised storylines over standalone tales, I cannot figure out... Is the appeal of the familiar really that strong and comforting? Although the Twilight Zone revivals have been patchy in terms of quality, when it gets everything right - like Shatterday - it's brilliant entertainment.

Let's have the shock of the new with every episode, please. Bring back one or both of the big anthology shows! At the very least, they could be used as a proving ground for talented new scriptwriters, who can't sell their spec screenplays, but might be able to contribute something fresh and different to the on-going variety of such short-form TV productions.

Monday, 9 April 2012


Bloody Sunday started after Newbury feeding time with a panel on 'Biology of the zombie apocalypse, where I was joined (in the long-walk-away room 12) by "world experts in necrological studies" Dr Bob, Rob Haines, and Bill Sellers, moderated by Tom Womack. I was the lowly horror movie geek amongst the boffins, as we tried to figure out what makes the undead shamble about in search of human flesh. The hour went by quickly and the panel was certainly a lot of fun to do. Miraculously, nobody mentioned the taste of chicken.

Just before 11am, I was rushing to the Green Room for a drink, before meeting fellow panellists Dev Agarwal, Martin Easterbrook, and Graham Sleight, with moderator Lapswood (Chad Dixon), for my third and last programme item '20-odd years of CGI'. This was a particularly interesting topic as we tried to highlight various/ best examples of digital animation used in two decades of movies.

At noon, I went to hear Paul F. Cockburn, Paul McAuley, Martin Andersson, and James Treadwell talking about the current 'Sequelitis' affecting Hollywood, but had to leave early because I needed a drink and wanted to visit Ian Sales' launch party for the Rocket Science anthology he's edited for Mutation Press. After lunch, I went to the panel on 'Scientists and the media' in the Commonwealth main hall, where David L. Clements was moderator for Caroline Mullan, Paul Cornell, Jennifer Delaney, and Marek Kukula. It was a very worthwhile panel, as was the next discussion group for 'the science of Rocket Science', with the book's editor Ian Sales, and contributors Iain Cairns, Deborah Walker, and Martin McGrath.

At teatime, I was back in the main hall for a lively panel on 'The nature of heroism' with two guests-of-honour: Tricia Sullivan and George R.R. Martin, plus author Joe Abercrombie, blogger Genevieve Valentine, and moderator David Anthony Durham. Sullivan and Martin were both great, although in disagreement. After Jessica Yates talk about 'Superhero comics, graphic novels and the films they inspired', I went to the panel on 'Fantasy in our time' where Edward James, Andy Sawyer, and James Treadwell, were moderated by Graham Sleight, for a discussion about the influence of Tolkien and Howard.

The busy evening continued wiith the programme item 'Death of the author' as Ian Whates moderated for Ian Watson, Tanya Brown, Roz Kaveney, and Adam Christopher, in a discussion of shared-worlds in fiction. As expected, Watson was hilarious in a 10-minute talk about his contribution to Warhammer 40K. I wasn't keen on 'Multicultural steampunk', anyway, so I left that panel item after listening to a few minutes of authors talking, somewhat defensively, about diversification in a subgenre that seems like a lamentable dead-end in SF. The night's programme was obviously winding down by 10pm, as only a couple of the panellists for 'Worst and best movies of the year' bothered to turn up for the discussion, which started late and seemed haphazard, and was a bit disappointing for me.

Sunday, 8 April 2012


After breakfast for Olympians, in the Brasserie (where the service is better than in Newbury rooms), I went to 'Ethics of AI' as first panel (at 10 am). Simon Bradshaw, Paul Cornell, Louise Dennis, and Lilian Edwards talked about whether machine sentience should have human rights, and if it's switched off by its creator - does that amount to a death sentence. I spent the rest of the morning looking around the art show, and the dealers room - where Roy was selling Black Static and Interzone, and assorted books.

My first panel, 'Superheroes in the movies' started at 1pm, I was joined by John Coxon, David Anthony Durham, Ian Millsted, and Jesscia Yates for wide-ranging discussion of the best, the worst, and the failures in adapting comicbooks for the screen. Of course, I got in a plug for my forthcoming book about Ang Lee's Hulk. It went quite well, I thought, but John disagreed with my criticisms of Samuel Jackson (who's become a parody of himself, nowadays), and 'the Hoff' (a campy cartoon, not an actor!), as Marvel's boss of SHIELD, Nick Fury.

Drinking through distractions, it was soon 4pm, and time for 'the Fantastic Landscape', a panel where Paul McAuley, Jaine Fenn, and Nina Allan, discussed literary examples of metropolis and forest. I also kept missing interesting stuff on the programme (where does the time go?) until 8pm, when 'Private road to space' was a particularly informative panel with Dev Agarwal (best moderator I've seen so far at this con), in charge of author Geoffrey A. Landis, and tech industry experts like John Bray, and Gerry (no last name).

Returning from the bar for umpteenth time today, I went to see Gaspode (John Medany) lead a review of 'Worst and best TV of the past year', with commentators Paul Dormer, Genevieve Valentine, and Carolina. It was interesting to hear about lots of genre telly that I haven't seen on DVD yet.

Saturday, 7 April 2012


OLYMPUS - SF convention
Arrived at noon on Friday, and found my room on 4th floor was ready, so that's an improvement on last year when I had tpo wait until after 2pm.

First programme item I went to was 'Is Europe winning the space race?', where the likes of David L. Clemments and Geoffrey A. Landis (plus two that I'd never heard of before) discussed options and projects which suggest ESA is outdoing the failing NASA... I think the biggest problems are politics and capitalism. Back in the 1960s, when America viewed its future in space as a human federation in Star Trek, it seemed the galaxy was just waiting for explorers and adventurers to colonise it. Nowadays, with numerous astro-ambitions cancelled and small-minded focus on profit-making, it seems that American society is not going to develop into Starfleet, after all. They are more likely to become the Ferengi.

'Pushing the boundaries of genre' in the same room, was a more lively panel, with Gillian Redfearn as moderator for the line-up of Paul Cornell, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Robert V.S. Redick, and Sophia McDougall. As expected, they seemed to reach agreement that marketing and branding rule the genre divisions.

Since I started the Female Archers in Movies & TV page on Facebook, I thought Mike Shevdon's talk about 'Archery in fantasy film & TV' would be interesting, and indeed it was. Video-clips from various movies demonstrated how stunts using bows and arrows often get it very wrong.

The 'opening ceremony' was a short introduction to the guests of honour and committee members, and the organisers should be commended for finishing the presentation in about 20 minutes, so we could all rush off to the bar.

Cory Doctorow's interview by Patrick Nielsen Hayden offered many fascinating and very entertaining insights into the author and his dotcom works.

After teatime, I went to 'Beyond Red Mars' item, were author Paul McAuley moderated the panel of writers Geoffrey A. Landis, Ian Whates, Gareth L. Powell, and Mary A. Turzillo, thorough a discussion of exploring the Solar system.

Beer was followed by a visit to the top-floor Room 42 to see the late night horror: Jesus Christ - Vampire Hunter, which proved too low-budget and wholly predictable, so I gave up watching it around midnight.