Friday 31 May 2013

Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome, reviewed by Jacob Edwards

Another streaming pile of BS. Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome, directed by Jonas Pate, released 9 November 2012 (online); 10 February 2013 (television).

War with the Cylons has been raging for ten years when gung-ho new pilot William Adama (Luke Pasqualino) is posted to the Battlestar Galactica. His first mission, alongside jaded co-pilot Coker Fasjovik (Ben Cotton), turns from placidity to peril when their “cargo”, Doctor Beka Kelly (Lili Bordán), redirects them to a top secret rendezvous and subsequent infiltration deep within Cylon territory. As sacrifices are made and motivations uncovered, the idealistic young Adama must come to terms with war’s gritty reality…

—or some such. Consider it an exercise in loose terminology.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

The Host, reviewed by Douglas J. Ogurek

Don’t expect another Twilight. In her hugely popular Twilight Saga, author Stephenie Meyer perfected a strategy that compelled people in droves to purchase her books (over 100 million copies sold worldwide) and then convince their partners to accompany them to the films. Meyer’s formula involves two young men vying for the heart of a female protagonist, while outside forces threaten that triangle.

The Host (directed by Andrew Niccol), the film inspired by Meyer’s first post-Twilight Saga novel, relies on a similar strategy. However, the characters, the threat and the action in The Host are diluted in comparison.

Friday 24 May 2013

Borderlands 2, reviewed by Howard Watts

It’s impossible to cover every complexity Borderlands 2 (2KGames, PS3) provides the player. Its scope is astonishing, its detail overwhelming both visually and from a character POV, even though the scenario is fairly basic. In short, there’s a bad guy called Handsome Jack in partial control of the planet Pandora, and the player or “Vault Hunter” is pitted against him, his minions and the indigenous lifeforms of the planet. Did I say player? You can choose from four characters (with a fifth, the mechromancer, available via DLC): an assassin, a siren, a soldier and an atypical heavyweight grunt. Each character enjoys their own unique special combat action skill, which is enhanced via levelling up. These characters also enjoy three skill trees, enhancing combat in a variety of ways.

Monday 20 May 2013

Señor 105 and the Elements of Danger, edited by Cody Quijano-Schell, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

“I am Señor 105 of Mexico. I fight for freedom, the defense of mankind and I am a friend to all children.” Iris Wildthyme’s superluchador chum, who has a mask for every element and (I think) a power for every mask, takes his place in the spotlight in Señor 105 and the Elements of Danger (Obverse Books, 106pp), edited by the character’s creator Cody Quijano-Schell, who also supplies the cover design (Paul Hanley being the artist) and a story, “Jackalope”, in which a pair of skinnydippers are attacked by horned bunny rabbits. That gives you a taste of what to expect here! If you go back far enough I think this book counts as a spin-off from Doctor Who, but the tone is more reminiscent of the quirky (and sadly short-lived) television series The Middleman, which also featured a luchador or two; its comedy comes from the seriousness with which a rather silly world is treated by its unfortunate (from our point of view) but happy-go-lucky inhabitants.

Friday 17 May 2013

Aliens: Colonial Marines, reviewed by Howard Watts

Aliens: Colonial Marines (Sega, PS3). It would be pointless for me to go into great detail regarding the backstory to this game: suffice to say, it follows straight on from the events of James Cameron’s rather excellent Aliens.

From the outset, it’s clear the developers have attempted to maintain a cinematic experience in this game. The titles and original music by James Horner create the perfect atmosphere, and we’re assured by this beautifully rendered intro that we’re in safe hands. From then on the backstory establishes the game’s scenario: explore the Sulaco

Monday 13 May 2013

A Game of Groans by George R.R. Washington, reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Comedy is an awfully subjective thing. Much as I adore Annie Hall, I reckon Dana Carvey’s The Master of Disguise runs it darn close as one of the funniest films of all time (“Sometimes the Master of Disguise he comes back, sometimes he don’t!”), an opinion likely to earn me the hatred of most right-thinking IMBD users. It just tickles me, as do The Animal, Jack and Jill and The Love Guru. So I understand how subjective comedy can be, and I’m not a comedy snob. I’ve watched every single episode of Two and a Half Men.

Having said that, I can now go on to discuss A Game of Groans by George R.R. Washington (chortle!) (Virgin, pb, 232pp), and, while acknowledging that you might well find this parody hilarious, explain why I thought it such a miserable, joyless experience. It just isn’t funny. I read the entire book stony-faced, never cracking a smile and laughing just once, on page 128, at the name “Lord Analwarts Candlestick”. Even that was a quick, thoughtless bark rather than a sign of true appreciation, mentioned here only to pay the book its due, small as it is. Most of this book’s jokes revolve around wind-breaking (chapter one begins “Allbran Barker broke wind”). Normally a fart joke is all I need to make me laugh (Brent Spiner’s inadvertent squeaking in The Master of Disguise was so funny our children came downstairs and asked us to laugh more quietly so that they could sleep) but these weaker emissions dissipated without provoking the slightest mirth.

Friday 10 May 2013

A Coming of Age by Timothy Zahn, reviewed by Jacob Edwards

Second life, not secondhand. A Coming of Age by Timothy Zahn (Open Road, 2012).

When people who were born in the twentieth century grow old and look back upon their lives, one topic they are sure to reminisce about – to the utter bafflement of those younger generations who dutifully will now send forth their avatars to visit – is that of the secondhand bookshop; a dying breed even today, but each with its own idiosyncrasies and charm, its unique layout and ever-changing stock, its worn carpets, creaking floorboards and double-stacked shelves (or occasionally just high-risen piles that have become structurally integral), its ensconced, often erudite owner and of course its ever-curious and -acquisitive, peripatetic clientele of book-loving nomads, who whenever they arrive somewhere new find themselves drawn inexorably to the tell-tale bargain bins out front, and then nosing forward and inside, lungs swelling contentedly at the heady inrush of old book smells.