Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Marvel grants us Annihilation

November 24, 2011 2 comments

One of the endearing things about the Marvel Comics Universe is its scale. Not only is everything stitched together so tightly if Captain America waggles his winged helmet somewhere in the Amazon then it’d probably cause a tsunami in Tokyo, but also because this sort of attention to detail applies not only to Earth, but to the entire universe.

One excellent example of this is Marvel’s epic Annihilation series. Various rows of dominos set-up in previous comic books1 get knocked down all at once, in what can be only described as epic space opera. No real knowledge of the Marvel comics are required to enjoy Annihilation, but it helps if you know who the likes of the Silver Surfer, Thanos2 and Galactus are. Don’t expect to see Marvel heroes such as The Hulk or Iron Man here, this gig is strictly for the characters who work in space, and can cope with planet sized disasters.

Annihilation is a war story on an inter-galactic scale, so the plot is anything but straight forward, but here goes: Alien bug monster Annhilus decides that his own domain, the so-called ‘Negative Universe’ could do with some expanding, and thus decides to invade normal reality, with a space fleet composing of billions of horrible bug-eyed monsters. At the same time, Thanos3, intergalactic badass, is aiming to misbehave again, and cause mayhem and devastation.

This giant purple planet eater is called Galactus. He ends worlds. And wears purple pants.

Caught up amidst this apocalyptic nightmare are entire world’s worth of innocent lives and a small band of unlikely heroes. What’s fun about Annihilation is that some of the main protagonists are out and out villains, whilst others are good men doing bad jobs, or well meaning types in way over their head. We get a real sense of depth here, and the vibe that the galaxy is indeed a big place full of people. It’s a war story, pretty much, and focuses mostly of the efforts of the heroic few against impossible odds. Like all good war stories do.

It’s worth noting that Annihilation is written by multiple authors, and comes in multiple books. Though none if it is below par, the parts I enjoyed the most tended to be written by either Keith Giffen or comic book duo Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Abnett and Lanning wrote the sequel to this series, Annihilation : Conquest, which in turn lead to a reboot of the Guardians of The Galaxy series, which is also worth a look, but is more a book about a team of super-heroes than massive spaceships crashing into other big things.

If you don’t mind having super-heroes in your comic books, and you like big space battles, keep an eye out for the Annihilation series. It’s a pretty big story, but a very well realised one.

1: They are tonnes of stories produced by Marvel, and the company proudly boasts to have produced the largest shared world in the world. This means that stories like this, that bring together decades of back story can be massive amounts of fun. The trick is to do this without alienating new readers, which the Annhilation series does incredibly well, without boring existing fans with stuff they already know. Marvel understands that most people will dive in and out of their books, and have become good at not bogging down stories in continuity, whilst at the same time keeping the world consistent and strong.

2: Now, I’d be the first to admit that I tend to favour Marvel over DC, but in this case, Marvel wins, no contest. The DC equivalent of Thanos is Darkseid. Whilst both look quite similar, and both are cosmic level bad asses. The thing is, Darkseid’s schtick is that he wishes to suppress all free will. Thanos, on the other hand, wants to end everything. The entire cosmos. And why? So he can court the personification of Death. That’s right, the dude is in love with Death itself (who rarely appears as a cute goth girl, just so you know).

3: Another thing I like about Thanos is the fact that he’s typically ran as an incredibly savvy villain who always has a back-up plan in case one of the plans fails. (A feature TV Tropes calls The Xanatos Gambit. ) He always wins in some way, and every plan he has to destroy all things always ends in the cosmos losing something vital (though they may go unnoticed.)

Categories: Comic Books, Reviews Tags:

Oooh, Shock Treatment…

November 21, 2011 1 comment

Did you know that The Rocky Horror Picture Show1 had a sequel? Are you now wondering why you’ve never seen or heard about it? Perhaps, you suspect, there’s a reason this movie has been buried? Well, curious chap that I am and buoyed by a healthy sense of curiousity, I set out to investigate Shock Treatment.

Looking back, the fact that my local DVD merchant thrust the movie into my hand for no charge, with a slightly haunted expression should have been a sign, I suppose. Shock Treatment is one of those ‘sort of sequels’. Some of the characters are meant to be the same, but really there’s little to link one movie to the other, the term sequel in this case really meaning ‘by the same people who brought that thing you enjoyed’.

The premise is fairly straight forward; Brad and Janet, the couple from Rocky Horror are having marital problems, and show in an effort to fix their relationship, end up mired in a bizarre reality TV show. Now, what this movie almost becomes is a precursor to films like the The Truman Show. There is so much potential for it to be fantastic commentary on the rise of reality TV, on the perils of fame and the self-help industry. What we get instead is a disjointed mess. Many of the individual elements of the production work fantastically well. For example the cast features some great talent2 such as Jessica Harper and a surprisingly sinister Rik Mayall. Sadly, it fails to be greater or even equal the sum of it’s parts.

As visually arresting as it's sibling, but fails to be as charming.

Like its older, much better known sibling, it has some ace songs. Little Black Dress and Bitchin’ in the Kitchen are just two amidst a great selection of fun tunes this movie has, but both suffer from not being terribly well presented. Shock Treatment feels rushed and bitty, and makes you suspect that the producers of The Rocky Horror Picture Show just got lucky the first time.

It’s a real shame because Shock Treatment could be something much better than it is. I’d love to see it re-imagined and re-made, with a slightly re-worked story and better produced tunes. As it is, it deserves its place in the bargain basement bin. If you plan on hosting a ‘terrible movie night’, give this one a go, as it’s wacky and odd enough to entertain a room full of heckling drunks. But apart from that, isn’t really worth your time.

1: Often, when geeks talked about Rocky Horror, someone quotes the TV series spaced, which describes Rocky as “boil in the bag perversion for sexually repressed accountants and 1st year drama students…”. I don’t entirely agree with this. Rocky Horror fandom is primordial cos-play, and we have moved on from dressing up like Riff-Raff to dressing up as anything from any movie. This is no bad thing, but is one of the reasons why the movie is ageing so badly. Dress-up is no longer as remarkable as it once was.

2: And also, sadly, Barry Humphries. AKA Dame Edna. Who has never been funny.

Categories: Movies, Reviews

Doctor Who, The Adventure Games

November 14, 2011 Leave a comment

The BBC has always been keen to embrace new technology and media. If you grew up in the 80’s, you may remember BBC Microcomputers, TV shows like Micro Live and hi-tech schemes like the Domesday Project. These days, the British Broadcasting Corporation continues to experiment, and the fruits of this work include things such as iPlayer. One of their recent projects is to investigate the notion of video games as a way of telling stories. After all, Auntie Beeb produces some world class stories intended for TV and Radio, why not tell stories using mouse and keyboard?1

The latest result of these explorations are the Doctor Who: The Adventure Games, now in its second series. The games are first person puzzlers, you take the role of The Doctor and Companions (mostly Amy, though we also get to play Rory in the most recent series), and go on a limited adventure through time and space, fighting the usual sort of villains and saving the world in the process. Anyone who has internet access in the UK can download them for free, and they’re designed to run on most PC’s, the spec being rather minimal.

Quality varies depending on each individual chapter, and also on how much of a fan you are of the show. In each case, the actual graphics and interface can be best be described as average and adequate; these games are intended to be played by anyone , so don’t expect fantastic quality graphics or a radical departure from the usual conventions of games control; this can be a little frustrating at times but it does mean that if you’re rubbish at games you should be able to have a much fun as a seasoned First Person Shooter Champion.

The first series featured four stories. City of the Daleks was the first game they ever produced, and it really is there to make the geeks make happy little sounds; it begins in London, 1963, but oh no, the Daleks have invaded.1 . So is London the titular City of the Daleks? Well, not really, and that’s part of the fun. For a first try, it’s a pretty strong opener.

(c) BBC

Voiced by the shows actors, the voice work clearly improves over time.

It’s followed up by Blood of the Cybermen, which is set on an Arctic base where things have gone horribly wrong. Combining classic Cybermen stories with the sort of frozen paranoia you get in classic sci-fi horror stories, and also has some of my favourite (yet cutest) Who monsters.

Game number three, TARDIS, is the weakest of the series, which is a real shame as it’s written by James Moran3, who’s a favourite of mine. It promises a chance to sneak around the famous spaceship and really fails to deliver, mosyly because it’s too short and too small. I suspect it’s a victim of time and budget rather than anything else.

The first series ends with Shadows of the Vashta Nerada, which features horrible shadow monsters and giant sharks. Again, it could be much better, and it’s a little maze-like in places. It’s still fun, though the first two games stand out much more than the last two.

The first series also featured a series of collectable items, little Easter-Eggs that told you either a little about real world history or a little about Doctor Who. They’ve sort of been replaced in the new series, and I have to admit I totally missed them first time, and the reason why made me laugh and groan in equal measure.

The second series has begun strongly with The Gunpowder Plot; again, it features the sort of thing that will make fans of both the classic and new series do a little dance, and the voice-acting has gotten much stronger. There also seems to be a interesting division of labour in this one; The Doctor does all the thinking, Amy does a lot of talking to people and Rory does a fair bit of heavy lifting, which is works quite nicely. It also seems much more keen to talk to you about history, and I did wonder if they had a copy of National Curriculum to hand whilst writing it.4

The series in general suffers from being simplistic and the ‘puzzle’ aspect of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games can be a little literal in places. It’s also a little buggy, but nothing that would hurt your enjoyment. As a video game aimed squarely at a family audience who happen to be fans, it works and I am looking forward to seeing more.

1: BBC projects you may have missed include Ghosts of Albion and the The Torchwood Alternate Reality Game.
2: 1963 is the year the show first aired. They do like to do stuff like this, and I think it’s great that this sort of care and attention is obvious in the work.
3: The rest of the games have been written by Phil Ford, who did a lot of work for that other Doctor Who spin off Sarah Jane Adventures.
4: Hooray for engaging kids in education. And adults, for that matter.

Categories: Games, Reviews Tags:

The Avengers, assembled once again

November 10, 2011 1 comment

One of the fascinating things about Marvel Super Heroes is the way it constantly re-invents itself; for example, though the origin story of Spiderman has been told endlessly on the screen, stage and indeed in comic books, The House of Ideas1 likes to mix it up a lot, retelling the same ideas in different ways. In recent years, this has applied to Marvel’s foremost and best known superhero team, The Avengers2. Stories with teams in them are a bit of a bargain, you get to enjoy the adventures of multiple characters, rather than just the one, and if you’re promoting a brand3, it has the added advantage of exposing the audience to characters they may not have met yet.

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is a recent cartoon TV series, that yet again re-invents the classic Marvel Super Hero team. We can see elements of previous versions within its structure; Iron Man resembles his recent movie incarnation more than ever (he even looks like Robert Downey Junior), Captain America’s origin resembles both the version seen in The Ultimates comic book and the recent movie. Each episode has been plugged together with a great deal of love and care for the mythology surrounding these heroes, and each one has been re-imagined in a way that’s fresh but also familiar.

(c) Marvel

The main problem with the show is that, in parts, it’s a retelling too far. Every time Marvel redoes a story featuring the Avengers, it always starts the same way; the band gets formed in a way that generates a lot of tension and then they unwittingly face a conspiracy of mystically manipulated villains, almost falling apart in the process but ultimately becoming stronger because of it. If you’d never heard that story before, then I’m sure it would be fresh and exciting, but for me, I’ve already been there, many times.

Part of the reason for my fatigue is actually one of the strengths of the franchise, as this particular story is one of human frailty. It’s an examination of what happens when you thrust power and responsibility into the hands of flawed people.4. This is great, but I want to see the character development go beyond the first handful of stories. I want to see this aspect of the myth evolve in different media as well.

I want to see other, more obscure, stories about The Avengers retold in different ways; the comic books are filled with amazing weirdness and fantastic ideas. I want disassembled robots, the scattered souls of twins, world conquering androids and alien war zones; some of this is hinted at in The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes but I’m greedy and impatient, and am never sure how long a show like this will run for before it gets cancelled.

I’m sure it’ll get a lot of attention in the run up to the forthcoming movie The Avengers, and if you’re in the mood for cartoon action, it’s worth a look.

1: Marvel Comics prides itself on the creativity, hence the self-styled ‘House of Idea’ sub-title. After all, you take away the amazing stories that Marvel has brought us over the years and you’d have nothing.
2: Not to be confused with the classic British TV series of the same name, which features super spies with vengeance in mind. That’s a wholly different kettle of fish, and I’ll talk about that some other day.
3: It isn’t soul-less to to think of superheroes as brands, provided you remember that the story should come first. This is storytelling as a business, and Marvel has proven time and again that thinking about the money makes a story no less valid. Disney bought Marvel for $4.24 billion. A business founded on comic books. Frankly, anyone who doubts the worth of storytelling through the comic medium is woefully misinformed.
4: The battle cry of The Avengers is ‘Avengers Assemble’. I often wonder if that’s because so many of the heroes are so interestingly broken.

Categories: Comic Books, Geek, Reviews, TV

Hive of the Dead

November 7, 2011 2 comments

Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson1 have a lot to answer for. Their Fighting Fantasy game books are a prime cause for me becoming the sort of geek I am today, and a significant portion of my childhood was spent flipping rapidly from page to page, as directed by the text. To this day, the phrase “Turn to Page 400” is nerd-code for victory.2

Jackson and Livingstone also founded UK games company, Games Workshop. So it may come as a surprise to some of you that there hasn’t been an adventure game book set in any of the worlds of Warhammer. That is, until recently; Hive of the Dead is set in the grim darkness of Warhammer 40,000 and puts you in the shoes of an Imperial Guardsman who has lost his memory and who happens to be trapped in a zombie-infested command centre. From the get-go, the story is tense and action-packed, and filled to the brim with references to the zombie genre.

(c) Black Library

Fighting zombies with lasguns = buckets of fun

Let us all be honest here, anyone who’s played these games know that, unofficially, they come with three modes; Easy, Normal and Nightmare. Nightmare mode requires you to redo the book from start after every failure, following the rules strictly, rolling the dice and making a record of every item lost and gained. Normal mode simply requires you to use the rules as written whilst keeping your fingers in various pages in case you make a mis-step and die. Mostly however, we all play them on Easy mode: we ignore the rules that disrupt the fun, and aren’t afraid to back track to find more juicy bits of the game to play with. Or to put it another way, everybody cheats with these things.

I began the game in Nightmare mode, and quickly devolved into Easy mode after several tries. Your brave guardsman is quite squishy, and some of the battles you get into are quite brutal (and without spoiling the story for you, heroically difficult). That said, some of the scenes made me get the dice out simply to see what happens. It’s filled with fun little set pieces and references, and has the sort of pacing you’d expect from an action-adventure story.
It does have some flaws; it’s print-on-demand so it isn’t cheap (but is excellent quality), and you will need to download the errata (which is handily on the ordering page, along with a spare character sheet) and the combat system requires a lot of dice rolling. However, author C Z Dunn has made good on the fun the book promises. I got a lot of joy out of it and went back quite a few times to see if I’d missed anything along the way, and I hope they produce more.

1: The British one, not the Texan. Both wrote Fighting Fantasy books, though the British guy sort of invented the idea. Also, both have owned interesting beards.
2: Typically, page 400 was the last page of the book, and described your hard won victory. For those of you who don’t know what ‘Fighting Fantasy’ books are, they’re novels that require the reader to make decisions as to how the story will play out. The reader is presented with a list of options, and chooses their path by turning to the page relevant to their choice. They mix the joy of reading fantasy novels with the fun of gaming, and were a delight to young geeks throughout the 80’s.

Categories: Books, Reviews Tags:

One man versus unspeakable terrors

November 3, 2011 2 comments

If you’re a geek (or at least claim to be one) chances are that you’ll have read (or have claimed to have read) the HP Lovecraft short story The Call of Cthullhu. It’s a tale that defined an entire sub-genre of creepy, existential horror, and has inspired a great many creative types to come up with music, poetry, comic books and games.

What you rarely see is the story brought to stage or screen. After all, a tale about madness and lurking horror isn’t easy to pull off, and all too often, theatre and stage productions settle for a miserable compromise that is ‘inspired by the works of HP Lovecraft’ rather than getting on with the tricky task of telling the classic yarn in such a way that you get the same tingle of fear the original prose evokes.

Poor, doomed Inspector Legrasse

So it was with a no small amount of excitement1 that I went to see Michael Sabbaton’s one man production of The Call of Cthullhu at the Lowry this Halloween. Sabbaton has taken the simplest of approaches to the story; it’s him, a chair, a trunk and a box, and as fans of horror stories know, one should never open the box.

With the clever use of sound, smoke and lighting, the viewer is transported to Lovecraft Country, a place filled with madness, dread and fear. Sabbaton plays a variety of characters from the story, each one evoking the feeling of creeping darkness and inevitable insanity that one demands from a play named The Call of Cthullhu. The performance is remarkable and extremely well done, and it’s always interesting to hear someone pronounce “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn”1 without irony or geeky self-referencing (and instead, makes it sound like the ravings of the damned).

Part of the reason it works so well is because it’s simply one man, with many faces. A more complicated production would have detracted from the simple horror required to tell the story, and instead what we get is strong lesson in story telling.

The show is also quite short, it’s 50 minutes long, and well worth your time. The website for the show, promises further tour dates, so it’s worth a look to see if it’ll be near you sometime soon.

1: I was also with some marvellous company, of course.
2: Part of a fictional language called Aklo, invented by welsh writer Arthur Machen, who happened to be one of Lovecraft’s inspirations. As it happens, Penguin is releasing a collected book of Machen’s works in time for Christmas.

Categories: Reviews, Theatre

Robo-Skeletons Versus Epic Heroes

October 31, 2011 4 comments

Well, it’s the season to be spooky, so I’d thought I’d finally get round to a book that surprised me and that I enjoyed quite a bit; The Fall of Damnos 1 by Nick Kyme.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting a lot from the book; it’s a novel set in the 40K2 universe, and features the near-perfect warriors of humanity, The Ultramarines3 bashing the hell out of spooky robotic skeleton monsters, the Necrons4. The plot is quite straight forward; ancient mechanical horror rises from the depths of the densely populated mining world Damnos, and Space Marines turn up to punch said antediluvian menace in the face. I was expecting an action packed diversion, a rip roaring tale of adventure starring lantern jawed heroes smacking villainous villains, peppered with gritty darkness .

By the way; In this story, Damnos falls Just so you know.

And I got all that. What I wasn’t expecting was to walk away feeling sympathy for all of the characters, including the Necrons. The trick to a good action story is to make the reader/viewer/listener care about characters involved, and The Fall of Damnos does this by giving us an insight into the daily routine of the main characters, we see Ultramarines politicking in a ‘Greco-Romans in Space’ sort of way, we see the inhabitants of the doomed planet getting on with the daily routine and most interesting of all, we see the Necrons politicking and vying for favour and power within their own ranks. Given that Necrons are basically gothic cyborgs, this is a bit of a treat. It’s nice to see the evil robot monsters get a chance to actually be villains, rather than yet another faceless threat.

It’s not without its flaws; Kyme spices up the Ultramarines by giving them a bit more of political bent, and this isn’t explored strongly enough to be compelling. As fun as a 40K version of HBO’s Rome would be, Fall of Damnos really doesn’t have the space to cram it in, this is a book about big men with big guns shooting horrific monsters. The Ultramarines felt fairly interchangeable to me, and though this paralleled nicely with the robotic hordes, this element didn’t engage me strongly enough to work. Personally, I found the characters that happened to be ordinary people the most interesting; dragged into a war between titans, the human characters, from the plucky resistance fighters to the despair driven commander moved the story forward for me.

If you like the 40K setting, and like well written space marine battles, this is for you.

1: I deliberated a lot about writing book reviews; I’m a writer myself, and I’m especially interested in so called tie-in novels because I do love playing in other peoples creative sand-pits.
2: The fun thing about “tie-in” fiction is that the author can add depth to an existing world, yet they only have to explain aspects of the world that are relevant to the current story. That means the writer can litter the book with references for the fans, without alienating new readers. Its nifty, and I like it, though critics of “tie-in” fiction misunderstand this element entirely.
3: In the past, I’ve described the Ultramarines as “The Manchester United of the Astartes”. By which I mean they’re so popular and ubiquitous that people fall over themselves to find reasons to dislike them, because fans always like to whinge about the team at the top. The football metaphor doesn’t really work for other space marines, so I am unable to work out which chapter recently defeated the Ultramarine 6-1 in an Inter-Astartes Soccer Match. Probably the Imperial Fists.
4: Necrons are a peculiar mix of Undead monsters, cybernetics-gone-wrong and horror-from-beyond-time. They fit the classic sci-fi cliché of Cybermen and Borg, but also have an occult twist to them that reminds me of the darker sort of Cthullhu Mythos story.

Categories: Books, Reviews Tags:

Rocky with Robots

October 24, 2011 1 comment

A recent trend in movies is to take a successful toy range and turn it into a movie. Battleships is coming out soon, and we’ve already had films based on popular Eighties toys like G.I. Joe and Transformers1. Real Steel seems to follow in this tradition by being based on Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots2. For those of you not familiar with the toy, it features a two robots in a boxing ring, and you pound buttons until one of the robots gets hit in the jaw and pops.

The movie follows pretty much in the same vein. It’s a boxing movie with giant robots in it. It’s set in world where people have grown bored of watching two adults pound the hell out of each with their limbs and instead pay to watch two robots being guided by adults pound the hell out of each other instead.

Man I used to pound the hell out of those things

The plot of the movie is pretty straight forward. Hugh Jackman plays down-on-his luck ex-boxer who lacks the patience and outlook to do well at the new hi-tech sport, making his way with the scraps he can find. Along comes his estranged, 11-year-old son, played by Dakota Goyo3, and together, after more than a little heartache, a lot of Father/Son bonding/arguments and buckets they team up to bring us buckets of robot on robot action.

Is it cheesy? Hell yes. Is it schmaltzy? Again, yes. Is it fun? You betcha. The baddies are nicely bad, the heroes are flawed yet sympathetic and you really find yourself rooting for the heroes at the end. They’ve blended every ‘kid does good’ and ‘Boxer on the come back tour’ movie together, and added giant robots, and it works. The robots look great, the acting does the job it’s supposed to and again, and it made my inner-eleven-year-old make little happy sound.

Now where’s my Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots…

1: I do wonder if they’ll do Visionaries. It’d probably be in 3D, but hey, Visionaries…
2: A toy, that wikipedia tells me, came out in the 60’s. It must have been still around in the 80’s, because I had a ‘made in Hong Kong’ version and it was one of favourite toys when I growing up. (And I know it’s not actually based on the toy, but it’s funnier this way.)
3: last seen as young Thor, in Thor. And surprisingly not saccharine for mop-topped blonde kid.

Categories: Reviews Tags:

Inner City Versus Outer Space

October 17, 2011 2 comments

Riffs on the idea of an alien invasion have been redone countless times. Marauding creatures from beyond the stars have been defeated by everything from cowboys to Santa Claus in the past. But Aliens versus South London Hoodies? There’s a novel idea. What happens when you take a tedious British movie about urban decay and how tough it is to be a youth on the streets and drop alien monsters into the mix?

The result is Attack the Block. Director Joe Cornish1 has taken UK Film Council money and made a B-movie reminiscent of the sort of fun films Hollywood used to make in the 80’s, such as Critters, Gremlins and CHUD. It’s refreshing to see a British movie that’s fun for the sake of being fun, and a B-movie that isn’t trying to be anything else. That’s not say it’s not got subtext and clever social parody; of course it has, it’s been partially funded by Film4 so we expect that, it’s just that’s also has big monsters eating people.
The story is tight, the characters fun and interesting. Humour is injected throughout the movie, but so is a constant feeling of danger and terror. One flows naturally into the other, neither is particularly forced.

(c) Film4

I wonder what would have happened had the aliens landed in Glasgow...

I would say that the first five minutes of the movie are the least promising; it really does start out as yet another British movie about how crap Britain is, even though those opening scenes are done suberbly. Maybe it’s the strength of the opening scene or the raw talent of actor John Boyega’s performance, but I utterly fail to have any sympathy for the lead character, Moses. Whereas the rest of the hapless hoodies all seem to be kids way out of their depth, Boyega’s “Good kid in a bad place, doing the best he can” fails to elicit any empathy; I suspect I’m supposed to feel for him, but I don’t. Boyega is simply too convincing as a thug. In a way this is a good thing as it lends a heavy dose of pathos2 to movie.

If you have a spare couple of hours and like monster movies of this ilk, you could do a lot worse than check this out. I hope to see more from Joe Cornish in years to come. It would be awesome if the UK could continue to produce this sort of scary fun.

1: Jo from Channel Four comedy programme Adam and Joe. Sad to say, no toy pastiche action in this movie. I’m sure someone will do one.
2: Pathos is like salt; you may not notice it’s missing when you first tuck into your meal, but once it’s added, it can improve things immensely.

Categories: Geek, Movies, Reviews Tags: ,

He looked out and said to me “run for your life!”

October 15, 2011 2 comments

These days, it seems you can’t be a fictional hero without having your own tourist attraction. Batman and Spiderman have their own roller coaster rides, Harry Potter has an entire theme park.

So what about The Doctor from the titular show, Doctor Who? Well, in a sort of way, he does. Crash of the Elysium is a Doctor Who themed theatrical production in which the audience play the starring role. Half ghost-train and half stage-play, you come face to face with one of the show’s most terrifying monsters, all the while running for your life. The overall experience is very evocative of everything we love about the show; thrills, chills, scary monsters and friendly time travelling space-wizards. The production is a theme-park ride with class and style, which is what you’d expect for such a venerable TV-show.

(c) BBC

The acting is superb and engaging

Crash of the Elysium is of course, brought to you by Punchdrunk a theatrical company who specialise in this sort of thing. The show begins gently (like all good theme park rides) and then picks up very quickly, one moment you’re browsing some dry looking museum exhibits and the next moment,you are in an environmental encounter suit, face to face with mild peril. I won’t say much more about the plot, but if you do get to see the show, I defy anyone to attend and not get completely sucked in.

The production is also firmly part of the current Doctor Who series. Co-written by show supremo Steven Moffat, it features nods and winks to the ongoing series all the way through. This is no ‘tribute’ to the show, this is another episode of the current incarnation of The Doctor presented in a unique way.

Crash of the Elysium is one of many show’s that premiered earlier this year at The Manchester International Festival, and you will be able to catch it as part of the London 2012 Olympic cultural celebrations. If you can, do bring along a small child, or borrow a friend’s small child if you don’t have one of your own. I attended the ‘Over 13’s’ show and it was mostly adults, despite the show being written for children, as some of the plot points are aimed squarely at the young. That said, everyone attending immediately turned into delighted (and well-behaved) children, utterly enchanted by the production, the plot and the acting. My only criticism is that it only an hour long, and that I’m going to have to wait till next year to go on this ride again.

Categories: Reviews, Theatre Tags: