Saturday, 25 July 2009

It Lives...

The air is filled with the fizzing and crackling of electricity. Beakers bubble and tubes burble as the driven man goes about his diabolically fiendish work. Interocitors are set to transmit, atomic batteries to power and turbines to speed. His eyes wild with a manic gleam, he sets the final electrodes to the blog-shaped object and throws The Switch. Sparks shower and smoke billows as the BlogThing rises to its dreadful mockery of life...

"It's alive! It's aaaaaliiiive!"

All of which is to say that you would be forgiven for thinking that this blog had died something of an ignoble death over the last month, spluttering and coughing its way to an early and unreported grave. Reports of its death, however, have been greatly exaggerated, although, if it were a beloved family pet, you may want to have the vet on standby just in case.

Yes, you will get blog posts from time to time over the next month or so but it will be a shambling zombie-like half-life of a blog until things get a little quieter. You know, the sort of blog that slowly shuffles up behind you moaning, "Braaiiinnns! Braaaiiiiiinnnns!.

Expect a full comic-book style "yes, it did appear that I plunged to my certain death but I miraculously escaped and won't bore you with the tedious details as to how" type of blog resurrection at an unspecified point in the future.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Ain't Too Proud To Beg

As it has taken three and a half years to get the point where that feature what I did make is being unveiled to the general public, I'm going to take every opportunity to drum up some potential business for the screening. Below is the general bumf about said screening; if you happen to be:- a) in London; b) available on Thursday, 3rd September from 18:00; and c) possessed of a spare five pound note cluttering up your pocket, then this is a night out for you, my friend...

"Yes, it's finally here! Three and half years in the making, the premiere of Incidental Weekend has arrived.

Incidental Weekend tells the story of four friends - Charlie, Will, TJ and Ben - who are meeting for a reunion, ten years after they left university. However, the night doesn't go as planned and the next morning they're left with questions. Why did TJ wake up bloody and bruised in the street? Who is the girl in the bed that Will seems desperate to sneak away from? Why is Charlie so sorry
that Ben has been arrested? And are those who don't learn from the past doomed to repeat it?

The screening will be taking place at the Curzon Soho on Shaftesbury Avenue in the heart of the West End on Thursday, 3rd September 2009. Doors open at 18:00 (but Rich and I will no doubt be lurking in the bar prior to that).

Tickets are now available from for those of you who wish to pay by credit card. The price is £5 per ticket and not only does this buy you entry but it also entitles you to a complimentary drink.

There are a limited number of tickets available so make sure you buy now to avoid disappointment! Tickets will be sent by post - there may be a slight wait before you receive your ticket so don't be alarmed if it doesn't turn up straight away!

Incidental Weekend. The screening. Come on, you know you want to..."

Never fear, though, for those what can't get to That There London to see it - there will eventually be news about how to procure a copy for you to peruse in the comfort of your very own home...

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Incidental Weekend - Arriving on 3rd September...

Yes, that film what we made about three and a half years is finally going to see the light of day! On Thursday, 3rd September, we shall be screening it at 18:00 at the Curzon Soho on Shaftesbury Avenue in good old London. In the next couple of days, we'll be putting out information about how you can purchase a ticket to this rather spiffing event (if you happen to be around and in the London area on 3rd September) but, in the meantime, here's a brand, spanking new trailer for you to enjoy (which has been inexplicably squeezed by YouTube even though it's definitely in widescreen).

Have some of that:-

P.S. Given that I have quite a bit to get done over the next few weeks, you may notice a distinct decline in the number of blog posts you get. I leave it to your own discretion as to whether this is a good or a bad thing.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Review - Torchwood: Children Of Earth

In a nutshell:- Doctor Who's underacheiving cousin re-invents itself as an actual drama.

The Basics:- Torchwood is a prime example of a show that's been struggling to live up to it's potential but has been getting closer as it goes along. The first series was mostly awful with the occasional glimmer of promise in there to bring you back*. The second series was vastly improved but still clung on to some of the clunkier moments that made you want to cringe and stop watching in the first place. The third series, by stripping it from a thirteen episode season with an ongoing story-arc down to a single storyline broadcast over the space of five consecutive nights, has taken a big leap forward; oddly, one it's performed by harking back to TV long past...

The Good:- At long last, after three years of promising an "adult" spin-off, Russell T Davies has managed to deliver. For the previous two series, "adult" has, for the most part, been confused with "adolescent"; that general writing consensus seeming to be that by having sex and swearing, it automatically makes it adult as opposed to Hollyoaks with aliens. This is a genuine drama serial, much in the same vein as drama serials of days gone by and has much of the feel of Nigel Kneale's Quatermass serials about it. The serial takes the opportunity to develop a nicely rounded set of supporting characters to complement the main cast and even wisely sidelines John Barrowman for pretty much a whole episode. Standout amongst the supporting cast are Peter Capaldi as Mr Frobisher and Paul Copley as Clement McDonald. There's a suitably creepy feel about the serial, as well - from the kids chanting in unison to the never-fully-revealed alien presence - which brings to mind other serials of the past such as Chocky and The Day Of The Triffids. It also doesn't cop out and go with a neat, tidy, happy-ever-after ending after the grim build-up.

The Bad:- It suffers from one of the usual problems with Russell T Davies' writing - an insistence of emotion over plot logic. There are a couple of moments where it's obvious that they've decided to go for the bleak emotional choice and it does pack a punch but it doesn't necessarily feel like that was the only option available. There's also still that slightly casual disdain for the actual science part of it - the resolution to how to defeat the 456 seems to come a little bit out of nowhere and be set up just that little bit too easily. The whole thing feels just a little bit too long overall - it could have been four episodes or even five 45 minute episodes instead of five hour long episodes.

Closing Remarks:- It's an impressive achievement - turning a campy, adolescent sci-fi spin-off into a genuine gripping drama - and one that's been borne out by the high ratings the series received on BBC1; no mean feat for a country that's still fairly sci-fi phobic in the main when it comes to TV (Doctor Who is very much the exception rather than the rule). The question has been asked of where next for the show, given the seemingly final resolution. I'm one of those who would be quite happy for there not to be a next as, a few minor niggles aside, this is a high quality finale for the show to go out on. Anything following it runs the risk of being something of an anti-climax.

* I actually gave up on it after about four episodes only to give it another chance a bit later on.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Four Colour Glory - Batman Reborn

Towards the end of last year, much was made in the press about DC Comics killing off Bruce Wayne. In fact, this was all very misleading and one of those examples of a story being blown out of proportion in order to generate some sales and publicity. Yes, the man who was Batman is seen apparently being killed but it wasn't even in the issue that DC publicised and also, in the series that he does "die" in, it's made pretty clear at the end that he's not actually dead and he'll be back along to pick up the cape again at some point in the future and everything will just be all back to normal again. Even the writer of the storyline in question, Scotland's own Grant Morrison, stated in interviews that of course he'd be back. Death in the world of comics isn't necessarily that much of a handicap (Marvel Comics killed off Captain America a couple of years ago and the first issue of Captain America: Reborn hit the shops last week).

So, after a few months of trying to drum up some tension about who the new Batman is when we all knew it would be Dick Grayson (the first Robin) and weren't fooled by their attempts to pretend otherwise, we are now getting down to business in the brave new world they've created for the Batman family of comics. Now, I must admit, there was a certain weary sense of deja vu about all this for me. See, I started reading Batman comics about 16/17 years ago at which time the main storyline involved Bruce Wayne having his back broken and someone else taking over as Batman (Bruce got better, naturally). There was a sense that maybe I'd come full circle - this was where I got on the train in the first place; maybe it was time to get off? But I'm nothing if not a sucker when it comes to being a collector so I decided to give it all a go and see. And I'm glad I did.

First up is Grant Morrison's new title Batman And Robin which is trying to inject a little of the old school weirdness and fun back into Batman while still keeping it reasonably dark. And, so far, he's succeeding. It's like a breath of fresh air, putting a bit of new life into the old familiar characters. It's bright and vibrant but still has some chilling and horrific moments. (In fact, there's a slight hint of Morrison's run on New X-Men in there.) Next up is the flagship title of DC (after all, it initially gave the company its name) Detective Comics which now showcases Batwoman. The artwork and design is great but the storyline leaves a little to be desired; however, I'm curious to see where it goes. Over in Batman, we're getting some nice insight into Dick Grayson struggling to fill in for his adoptive and presumed deceased father which counterpoints the madness going on over in Batman And Robin.

Then we come to the new titles - Streets Of Gotham, Gotham City Sirens and Red Robin. Streets Of Gotham has a more than a hint of the sadly departed Gotham Central about it as it follows Gotham's police force on their day to day business. Gotham City Sirens is the best of the new titles, following the adventures of Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Catwoman. Being that it's written by Paul Dini, one of the main men behind the 90s Batman cartoon, it's no surprise that it has a lot of the feel of that show (and, seeing as he created her, no one quite writes Harley Quinn as well as he does). The weak link of the bunch is Red Robin but I feel it's going to be key as it centres on the effort to find Bruce Wayne (seeing as Batman And Robin and Red Robin are both due to run for 12 issues, I can think we can all guess when Bruce Wayne will be back...)

Is it worth it? For a long time Batman fan, absolutely. It feels like a much needed shot in the arm and, for the first time in a while, I'm actually looking forward to Batman titles again when they come out. Here's to a year or so without Bruce Wayne. Maybe he should die more often...

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Four Colour Glory - Wednesday Comics

Over the last three years or so, DC Comics have been experimenting with weekly comics to a mixed degree of success. It all kicked off with 52 which was set a fairly high standard and showcased some of the more minor characters of the DC Universe who don't always get a look in; the concept being being that each issue covered a week in a year during which Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman were absent. While it sometimes struggled with juggling the five or six main storylines, it was always compelling and came to a satisfying conclusion. Sadly, they chose to follow this up with the ultimately pointless Countdown, a year-long lead-in to a series which it ended up directly contradicting and having no influence on due to some unfortunate editorial bungling (which is a shame as it started in a promising fashion). The follow-up Trinity was somewhere inbetween - at least what I read of it; I gave it up about two-thirds of the way in in an effort to save a little cash.

Which leads us to the latest weekly comic that DC have launched this week - Wednesday Comics, as comics come out on a Wednesday in the States. Do you see what they did there? Unfortunately, that title becomes slightly meaningless over here as we don't get them til a Thursday but still... They've gone down a different road this time. Instead of the usual format comic with a complete storyline, they've gone for a broadsheet-sized affair of just 16 pages and each story lasting for only one page (and being continued in subsequent issues). The idea being that want to hark back to the time of oversized comics with the Sunday papers with individual strips which ran from half a page to a page a time.

The first thing to say is that it looks gorgeous. The design and feel of a broadsheet-sized comic is definitely very appealing and the artists they've shosen (for the most part) deserve to have their work shown off in this fashion. They've also lined up a nice array of creators and characters. Sure, you've got the expected outings for Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman but, alongside them, you've got a lot of the older niche characters like The Metal Men, Metamorpho and Adam Strange. The whole thing definitely has an old-school feel about it; a combination of that newspaper sensibility they're emulating combined the anthology feel of earlier DC titles.

Is it any good? Well, as with any anthology, it's a mixed bag. Some of the tales seem to lend themselves nicely to being doled out a page at a time, others less so. The most intriguing ones for me are Batamn, Kamandi, Metamorpho, Strange Adventures and Metal Man. The clunkers so far are Teen Titans, Hawkman and a slightly confusing page of Wonder Woman. However, it is only week one and I'm still intrigued to see how it all develops over time.

Is it worth buying? Well, if you have a passing interest in comics, then yes, I'd say so, if only to see DC trying something both retro and slightly experimental at the same time. It remains to be seen whether it will manage to sustain my interest over the twelve week run but, for now, I'm intrigued enough to stay signed up for my Thursday dose of Wednesday Comics.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Whither Baldy?

Your Nick has been slack
On this he is clear
A Nack Attack lack
Well, never you fear

He's bound to be back
To his usual guff
When he finds that old knack
To write about stuff

For geeks and for nerds
Could be young, could be old
For blokes and for birds
Could be shy, could be bold

It's just a little rest
Recharge the grey cells
But like a stubborn pest
Or the clingiest of smells

You'll find once again
That he won't go away
And you'll have a yen
For that odd quiet day

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Ring Ring Ring

Now usually I'm fond
Of that technical guff
But when it comes to phones
I just don't need stuff

That will find me a place
With strange food to eat
Or let me play games
While I'm out on the street

That will work out the bill
When it's split between eight
But two had no dessert
'Cause they turned up late

Full of gadgets and gizmos
And many apps to spare
TV, music and pictures
I really don't care

Just give me a phone
That makes texts and calls
You can keep all the rest
As it's mostly all balls

I just wanna make some calls and maybe send the odd text
Is that so strange?

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Heat 1, Baldy 0

As a concept, it's great. Blue skies, sun beating down, not a cloud in sight. Glorious. And, if you can sit by a pool in just your shorts reading a book and sipping a beer, it most certainly is. However, when the practicality of temperature in the early thirties involves un-air-conditioned trains and having to wear trousers because no-one in the office wants to see your knees, then it stops being conceptually lovely. Add to this a biological make-up that means that the amount of sweat you produce at the barest hint of heat makes you look like you're permanently standing under a shower and it becomes a less than pleasant time of year.

I know what you're thinking. "Typical bloody Englishman, whinges about the cold weather and then whinges about the heat." Well, you're wrong, my friend. I like the winter and I stood up for it a while back. When it's cold outside and you can come in warm yourself up, that's a splendid feeling. When everywhere you turn is hot and there's no way to cool yourself down to stop the constant flow of sweat, that is a less welcome feeling.

So, until the weather cools down a bit, a pox on it, I say. Fie on this damnable heat and yah boo sucks to boot. The one saving grace at the moment? Some wondrous genius invented the air conditioner and someone equally marvellous saw fit to install it in our office. Of course, when I find that magical career that allows me to lounge in the heat in my pants and drink beer by the pool then bring it on! Until then, I'll be pressing myself up against the fridge and licking the ice cubes.

P.S. Much like a computer, at higher temperatures, my brain has a tendency to overheat and cease functioning. Hence a couple of days of bloggy quietude. This intermittent service may well continue until it cools the fuck down.