Saturday, 20 August 2016

Ready Player One

For ages now Ready Player One has been appearing in my Recommendations on various online stores. When it comes to novels, I'm very cautious about trying out a new author so I'd ignored it.

I finally gave in this month and got myself a copy. It is always frustrating to find yourself coming late to an absolutely fantastic party, especially when it was just my stubbornness stopping me from attending earlier!

Ready Player One's only fault, just one, is it is extremely predictable. We all know how adventure stories end... with the protagonist winning. So we need a few surprises on the journey. Sadly I found myself always a few pages ahead of the story.

However if I put that little quibble to one side... this is a beguiling, beautifully realised tale of a dystopian near-future where everyone uses a shared virtual world called "The Oasis" to escape from their unpleasant existence. The creator of The Oasis, an eighties obsessed geek of the first order, dies but leaves an Easter Egg to end all Easter Eggs... whoever completes his quest will take control of The Oasis and all its income.

Our hero is Parzival who fights to win the prize before an evil mega-corporation manages to get its hands on it. On the way we're treated to a run-through of every geeky subject known to the 20th century... from Pac-Man through Wargames to Monty Python. For a nearly-80s kid (I was born in the 80s and grew up in a house of 80s teenagers) it was absolutely wonderful.

Think Willy Wonka set in Second Life with Black Tiger.

And, of course, being so far behind the times on this... there's a movie coming directed by Steven Spielberg! I can't wait.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Meg - Finally Coming To A Cinema Near Us Soon?

As with Jurassic Park IV (thank Thor that itch is now scratched), I've waited a hell of a long time for news about Meg. 

In 2006 I read Steve Alten's "Meg". It was a reasonably fun take on the idea that prehistoric marine animals (especially megalodons, giant sharks for the unaware) continue to survive deep within the Marinas Trench and on what happens if one finds its way to the surface. Even then there was talk of "Soon To Be A Major Movie". So I started looking forward to it. Well... it's been a long time in development hell (since 1997 in fact!!). In that time Alten has written several sequel novels. 

So it was with some scepticism that I first heard this year that production was now, finally, moving ahead with a release date set for 2018.

Starring Jason Statham and Jessica McNamee, it is being produced by Warner Bros. (it could be worse, it could be Sony!) and directed by Eli Roth (I actually like Cabin Fever and The Hostel so who knows how this'll turn out). 

It's time to start getting excited about ginormous sharks!! 

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Star Trek Legacies: Captain To Captain

The sadly late Majel Barrett had one of the longest and most involved roles in the Star Trek franchise outside of Gene Roddenberry and Rick Berman.

Her first on-screen role (of several!) was as Number One in the unaired pilot episode. A strong, logical character who sadly we didn't really get to know. Now on the 50th anniversary of the first Star Trek broadcast a new trilogy of books is being released and the first one is out already.

Captain to Captain tells the story of an Enterprise away mission gone awry under Number One's watch whilst serving under the first captain of the USS Enterprise Robert April. And it tells the story of how she tried to put it all right years later.... but she had to do it whilst on the run from Captain Kirk and his crew.

There are Klingons. There are Romulans. There's a mysterious new alien threat with a weapon that could change the balance of power in the galaxy. And there's Captain Una (Number One) who makes Kirk look like a stickler for rules and decorum as she fights to save her friends and shipmates who've been lost for decades...

And it ends on a cliffhanger too...

It is actually one of the best Star Trek novels I've ever read. Most have been poorly written and unimaginative (or too imaginative with crazy weird story moves that make little sense). This just kept the pace up, kept the story moving and had enough drama to draw you in. Don't read up on the next two instalments as the synopsis will give away one of the key twists of this tale! Sit back, relax and enjoy a good old fashion Star Trek story. There's not better tribute to the series than that!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Ukraine At #Eurovision: The Highlights

In Ukraine's 13 years of Eurovision history they have now won twice (and that includes that didn't even compete last year!). But that isn't even the whole story of their success as they've been in the top 10 an amazing 9 times!!! Ukraine IS Eurovision as far as I'm concerned.

I've got to admit I've had a soft spot for Ukraine since Ruslana won back in Turkey in 2004. Here's her epic "Wild Dances".

My commutes to my job in Vauxhall in 2006 (and onwards!) were done to the soundtrack of Tina Karol's Show Me Your Love, getting only a 7th place finish (ROBBED!)

Verka Serduchka represents everything that is delightful about the Eurovision Song Contest. She's funny, she's talented and by jove doesn't she know how to dress?! I'm still in shock that she came runner-up to Serbia in 2007 with this now CLASSIC Dancing Lasha Tumbai.

What's this? A third year in a row with an awesome tune? Yeap. 2008 Ukraine brought their top game to the table with Shady Lady by Ani Lorak. This has remained a staple MP3 on every device I've owned since!

No. It can't possibly be true. Ukraine didn't go for a fourth year of fantastic music, did they? Well I suppose this one is debatable but not if you ask me. Be My Valentine by Svetlana Loboda in 2009 was brilliantly staged, had sexy men and a fabulous singer. And what a tune it was!!!

2010 allowed Ukraine to show they could do heartfelt songs without glitzy staging and crazy gimmicks. Something they'd show again with 2016's winner! Alyosha and "Sweet People"

2011's Angel and 2012's Be My Guest are great songs too and 2013's Gravity scored massively but it was 2014's return to form that really got me back on the Ukraine bandwagon. Tick-Tock by Mariya Yaremchuk came with a man in a hamster spinning wheel...

And then, after an understandable absence in 2015, another winner. Well done Ukraine, you are epic!!

Friday, 1 January 2016

Geeky Movies To Get Excited About In 2016!

Geeks have inherited the Earth... It is a veritable geekgasm at the cinema this year. I'm looking forward to quite a bit indeed... 

The 5th Wave

It's an early release in January but it is definitely my wildcard choice. I've heard very little about it but I'm interested to see how good this ends up being.


X-Men movies from Fox are slippery beasts often hitting quality highs minutes before scrapping the bottom of the cliche barrel. But Deadpool is a character I've come to really know only over the last few years thanks mainly to his stint in Uncanny X-Force. He is HILARIOUS. I'm tentatively excited for this one!

Star Trek Beyond 

The first trailer for the next Star Trek movie has been met with a less than favourable response. I'm a life-long Star Trek fan (spending most of my paper round money on Star Trek Fact Files and video Deep Space Nine VHSs) so I'm not yet ready to give up on this. I'm not a "Abrams-verse" hater, though I'm desperate for a continuation of the original universe, and I enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness (somewhat anyway). I'm prepared to make this my first "excitement milestone" for 2016. Not long to go!! 

X-Men is another life-long franchise love of mine. I've enjoyed the last couple of movies more than I was expecting and I'm liking the approach Singer is taking. And Apocalypse is one of those villains from the 80s one just has to love. I'm really, really looking forward to seeing him and the X-Men get busy with the "snikt"-ing. 


Star Wars. That is all. 

Also coming up... 

Captain America: Civil War
The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist
Suicide Squad 
Doctor Strange

Expected Disappointments... 

Jumanji - TOO SOON.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

My First Thoughts On #StarWarsTheForceAwakens. #HereBeSpoilers


So... just before midnight on Thursday my other half and I arrived at the Vue Cinema at Westwood Cross to find a crowd of Stormtropper onesie wearers and untrained lightsaber wielders. It was great to see such an enthusiastic crowd of over a 1000 fans in little old east Kent. 

As the Lucasfilm logo came up and the opening scroll began, I have to admit that not only did a little thrill of excitement run through my body but a small tear formed in my eye. We were finally here... a new Star Wars movie. 

My overall impression is positive. It was well-written, the acting was a major improvement over the prequels and there was plenty of action. I left the cinema feeling pleased that I'd seen a good movie. 

Despite seeing a lot of complaints about Rey's characterisation, I really liked Daisy Ridley's performance, and thought Rey was a really strong character. Sure her sudden mastery of force abilities seems a little much but this is space fantasy. When it comes to the fun stuff I'm willing to let a lot go. Loved her interactions with BB-8 early on and really loved the Jedi mind trick scene with Daniel Craig's Stormtrooper

Finn was not as annoying as I thought he'd be. He was actually quite a good addition to the series. 

BB-8 was just as excellent as we'd been led to expect. LOVED him/it. 

Han and Chewie. LOVED. 

So yeah, all good right? 

Well... no. This was not a perfect movie. It was not disappointing like Jurassic World was. But still... could do better. 

My major, major issue is how meaningless Han's death was. The Starkiller base was destroyed. The threat over. There should've been more mourning. The biggest thing for me is when the Falcon returns to the Resistance base and Chewie and Rey disembark. Chewie walks straight past Leia, and Leia only has eyes for Rey who she hugs. 

I'm sorry but... Chewie has just lost his best friend and Leia has just lost the love of her life. If Leia and Han were married then Leia and Chewie are basically family. Even if it has just been a quick embrace, I really cannot imagine Chewie or Leia NOT acknowledging each other at such a crucial moment. 

I know. I know. Such a fanboy nitpick but... I love Chewie and he needs some loving! 

R2-D2's coma was... meh. 

The whole plot was such a rehash of A New Hope that it was a little dull. 

Captain Phasma was the big disappointment in the movie for me. I wanted so much more. I hope we see her again and with a better story. 

But these are nitpicks. Overall it was an excellent movie, I look forward to seeing it again. And again. And again. 

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Lost Stars - This Is The Star Wars Book You've Been Looking For

A forbidden romance. No lightsaber battles. Nice Imperial officers. "What is this rubbish?" is possibly something a Star Wars fan might be forgiven for exclaiming.

But this young adult book is one of the best Star Wars books I've ever read. Focussing on a boy (Thane) and a girl (Ciena) from a backwater Outer Rim planet, this book tells the story of their friendship, their time in the Imperial Academy on Coruscant and their parting of the ways as they begin to see the Empire in different ways.

I won't spoil who stays with the Empire and who leaves. And I won't spoil some of the plot points as we follow Thane and Ciena on their separate journeys. But their paths cross not just with each other but with many important parts of the original trilogy... the opening scenes of A New Hope, the destruction of Alderaan and then Yavin, Hoth, Bespin and Endor.

That is part of the magic of the book. It will refresh your next original trilogy marathon. Now there are two stories... the one you see on screen and the one happening just off camera. This isn't the first time that this has been done for certain scenes but this threads its way through all three movies.

And the other part of the magic is just how believable the relationship between Thane and Ciena is. Perfectly formed and just plain brilliant. It could school the likes of Twilight and the Hunger Games (though I did enjoy the Hunger Games I must admit) on romance in a fantasy setting.

Pick it up today and indulge in the best new Star Wars canon book since the Expanded Universe was washed away.