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Ian Williams "ianw" (Sunderland, UK)

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Monster! #3: 4
Monster! #3: 4
by Tim Paxton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £2.98

5.0 out of 5 stars My new favourite movie magazine, 19 April 2014
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This review is from: Monster! #3: 4 (Paperback)
Forget SFX. Forget Fangoria.

Monster! is a spin-off from its big brother the excellent magazine of exploitation movies, Weng's Chop. It is purely devoted to monster movies. That is MONSTERS pure and simple: monster movies. Got that? No slashers allowed. And this slim 60 page magazine could have been made for me. I loved monsters long before horror. I still remember, age around 9, seeing Ray Harryhausen's giant stop-motion octopus in It Came From Beneath The Sea at a cinema in Scarborough while on holiday. I remember exactly where I was when I saw King Kong (still my favourite all time movie ever) for the first time -in a Liverpool cinema on a double bill with, bizarrely, Don't Lose Your Head (before it gained the Carry On hyphen prefix).

Monster! (don't forget the exclamation mark) is a monster movie lovers dream.

Despite being a slim little cheaply produced (printed by Amazon, as is WC) paperback with lots of photos, there is also plenty of reading material to enjoy. The content ranges from in depth looks at cruddy black and white creature features from the 50's -this issue opens with Frankenstein's Daughter (1958). There's a special feature about Bigfoot movies. There are ongoing looks at Asian monster cinema with a particular focus on Hong Kong insane excesses -I ordered four reviewed in the previous issue. The reviews section itself ranges from Zaat (aka Blood waters of Dr Z (1971) to last year's kaiju fest Pacific Rim. And at the end it lists the availability or not of movies reviewed, though it isn't completely accurate. I was able to order the four HK movies from HK dealers via a certain well know auction website it would be tactless to name here. The writers are all highly knowledgable people who really do know their stuff and how to put it over.

There've been three issues so far this year, all excellent making this modestly priced little zine an absolute bargain.

Love monsters? You'll love Monster!

Remington MPT3800 Detail Trimmer
Remington MPT3800 Detail Trimmer
Offered by Ukdapper
Price: £16.84

4.0 out of 5 stars Takes a little getting used to, 17 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The last nose/ear hair trimmer I used was cheap but effective foil head from Lidl. This has the two trimmer blades exposed and using them I found required getting the knack to use them effectively. But once I did they were fine and I now prefer them to to the previously mentioned one. It also has the advantage. It also has the advantage that you can use them on eyebrows and other odd small bits of shortish or straggly hair.

Worth a try.

Continuum - Season 2 [DVD]
Continuum - Season 2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rachel Nichols
Price: £18.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best SF on TV, 14 April 2014
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This review is from: Continuum - Season 2 [DVD] (DVD)
I picked up Season 1 last year on a whim and enjoyed it a lot, so much so that I watched it again just before Season 2 arrived which I then watched (all 13 episodes) in a couple of days and enjoyed it at least as much.

The premise is superficially simple. A group of terrorists in 2077 are about to be executed but somehow escape to the present (2012) dragging along a Protector (cop) with them. Their intent is to change the past so that their future never materialises. The cop wants to stop them and get back to her own time and her husband and son.

The execution is far from simple. Our hero Kiera befriends Alec a teenage genius (who will become very powerful by her time), gets in with the local cops and partners up with good looking cop Carlos. Villains do villainous ruthless things except they think they're heroes and the problem is that they actually might be.

There's a flashforward at the beginning of each episode which gradually reveals more and more about Kiera's world which starts to look more and more like a dystopia run by and for the benefit of mega-corporations. It soon becomes apparent that Kiera was set up to go back in time, possibly by the old Alec.

The more the series goes on, the more devious it becomes. The bad guys turn on each other. Not everyone is what they seem. Not every thing is what it seems. Is Kiera there to stop the bad guys (Liber8) from preventing the future to happen as it did which does not seem to be a good thing? In which case she actually may be the villain. Or is everything pre-determined? And then, towards the end of Season 2, we get the appearance of a third party with a different agenda that suggests a different possibility.

Basically this is really good intelligent,well thought out TV science fiction. There's plenty of action, plenty of character beats, more mysteries than you can count, and it's really impossible to predict what's going to happen next as revelation piles on revelation. In at least one case -mild spoiler warning- a man who is accused of murdering millions, and actually has done that, but the situation is far from what the viewer has been led to believe.

How this series is going to end: the three possibilities.

The scenario which annoys me the most: the closed loop. Everything is self-contained. The future dictates the past which makes the future possible. See also: Dr.Who-Blink, Robert Heinlein's "All You Zombies". I absolutely hate closed loop stories because they depend on there not being a first cause which makes them logically impossible. It also makes the series totally pointless and if the series ends this way, fans will burn down the studio. I think it's the least likely option but I could be wrong.

The past is changed, therefore the future is changed. The fun with this scenario is how the future is (being) changed. It makes everything open-ended.

Changing the past does not change the future. It creates a new world with a different future; in other words, the alternate world shtick. This possibility is hinted at near the end of Season 2.

I think that whatever happens, whichever of these three happens, Kiera will end up being re-united with her son and, possibly, her husband.

I also happen to think that time travel is one of science fiction's most stupid tropes because on any logical level it doesn't make sense. Unless you accept that travelling to the past automatically creates a new alternate world. I'm not saying it doesn't make for entertaining and thought provoking stories because it most certainly does, as does the parallel/alternate world concept.

Anyway, Series 3 will be on Sky later this year and I'll be glued to it. Unless, of course, the past is changed and the show was never given the green light in the first place and you never read this review.

The Machine [Blu-ray]
The Machine [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Toby Stephens
Price: £15.00

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect but still well worth watching, 7 April 2014
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This review is from: The Machine [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This has been hailed as the best British Science Fiction film since Moon. Well, I thought, on reading that comment, it wouldn't take much as I thought Moon was very overrated, admittedly one of the few who had that reaction. So it's hardly going to be surprising when I tell you that The Machine is certainly a lot better than that film, though it's not exactly perfect either.

It's set a couple of decades in the future when the West's economy is on the skids as a result of a cold war with China. A secret government unit is trying to create cybernetically enhanced soldiers by experimenting on those severely injured in battle. If they don't work they're callously disposed of. Computer expert Caity Lotz is hired by cyberneticist Toby Stephens (who works for evil Denis Lawson) because she's created a computer which can pass the Turing Test -i.e. when talking to it from elsewhere it's impossible to tell if it's human or not. He uses an experimental machine he's created to map her brain (which he also uses on his young dying daughter) and when she's murdered by Chinese agents uses it to create a humanoid robot. What's interesting is not that Lotz's personality reappears in the machine, it doesn't, but the machine appears to have a consciousness and begins to the explore the world around it -not the physical world, but the world of moral choices which naturally brings it into conflict with Denis Lawson who wouldn't know a moral choice if it bit him on the fundament.

What's not so good about the film. The science for one thing. It's not bad science, I was just a bit confused about exactly what science they were doing. It's almost all set indoors/underground/at night which makes for a murky viewing, though it's tonally appropriate for the film. I was never really sure about a group of subjects as to whether they were humanoid robots with/without bits of brains in them or cybernetically/surgically enhanced humans. Maybe I should watch it again and pay more attention. Though it could be because there are no subtitles on a Blu-Ray disc which is inexcusable and annoying as hell when you're somewhat deaf like me!

Still, there's a lot good about it too.

The cast for one. You'd expect Stephens and Lawson to be good and they are. But it's Caity Lotz who is the revelation. She is good as the human scientist but her part as the machine is subtle and nuanced and riveting. Plus, as a trained gymnast, she also does most of her own stunts. Plus, she's gorgeous.

Despite the low budget and the murk, it looks good. And sometimes hideous. A character who appears early in the film has had part of his skull blown away and just covered with skin -I've seen this in real life, though here it's cgi, and to my shame I find it repulsive to look at.

And there's Caity Lotz. And a bitter-sweet sting in the tail.

So, flawed but good and intelligent, which, when you see what abortions pass off as SF movies these days, is no mean achievement.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Triple Play [Blu-ray + DVD + UV Copy] [2013]
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Triple Play [Blu-ray + DVD + UV Copy] [2013]
Dvd ~ Jennifer Lawrence
Price: £12.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't disappoint, 31 Mar 2014
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It immediately ocurred to me to compare this to the Twilight films and to Ender's Game to the detriment of both. In the case of Ender's Game, it's based on a science fiction novel (albeit the middle part of a trilogy) but unlike that movie it doesn't water down its source material. And, really, there is no comparison to Twilight which is a cliche-ridden trite vampire romance. Catching Fire (and I also include its predecessor in this) is vastly superior to both.

This series is rich in substance, packed with subtext, drenched with genuine emotion, and feels completely believably real.

As the film opens, Katniss is back home in District 12, the most depressed, downtrodden and oppressed of the 12 districts, though most of the others aren't much better. She's become a symbol of hope to the masses though, as she admits to the President who wants to destroy her, all she wanted to do was survive. Despite that she's forced by events to be that symbol and, at first, even her phony boyfriend, previously a bit of a wimp, displays more moral strength than she does. As they go on nationwide tour to publicise their victory of the previous year and demonstrate how powerful the government is, discontent spreads. So, in order to first destroy her heroic image and then kill her, a new Hunger Games is announced consisting of previous winners which then takes up the second half of the film.

The second part of a trilogy (though the films have been extended to a quartet and may the inventor of the word quadrilogy burn in hell forever) is always the hardest to pull off but this works well building on the first film and intensifying certain aspects of it. It'll be interesting to see how the two films based on the third book do when there are no Hunger Games to focus on.

Jennifer Lawrence is, as I've said before, the best young (under 25) actress around and here she displays as thoughtful a nuanced performance as she does in more mainstream roles.

Two films in, this is the best blockbuster series around: exciting, intelligent, thoughtful.

Blue Is the Warmest Colour [Blu-ray]
Blue Is the Warmest Colour [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Adèle Exarchopoulos
Price: £10.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Luminous,, 29 Mar 2014
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Caution, some minor plot reveals.

1. First Impressions.

Yes, this really is a terrific film but there is one thing about it which makes it, at times, a problematic watch. There is no clear time scale or indication of how much time has passed. Now this may be because of cultural indicators; there may be signifiers which are clear to a French audience but not to non-French viewers, or it may be deliberate. The only one time when the age of one of the protagonists, Adele, is stated is when it's her 18th birthday; everything else is left for the viewer to work out for themselves. It's not helped by the blurb on the DVD box which states that the age of Adele at the beginning of the film is 15 when it seems clear, to me at least and it could be my misreading, that she is in the French equivalent of the UK's sixth form and she has to be 17. I then, naturally, assumed that only a few months passed between the opening of the film and her birthday. But this may not be the case. Shortly after that, she (seemingly) goes straight from school to teaching a reception class with no indication of college in between. She is also now living with Emma. If, for no other reason though there are many others, I'm going to have to give this a second viewing to see if it becomes clearer.

As the film opens Adele is in the full flush of confusing exploratory adolescence. She's in love with literature (which she's studying at school) and ideas and philosophy, and just beginning to explore her own nature, who she is becoming, though her girlfriends seem to be more interested in talking about sex. She finds a slightly older boyfriend at school and has sex with him but things don't seem to work out for reasons she's not sure of. It's around this time she sees a blue haired girl walking around hand in hand with another girl. When one of her girlfriends kisses her, Adele finds herself responding but, later, when she wants to take it further the girl says it was just a spur of the moment thing and didn't mean anything. After school, and after having had a fight with another girl who accuses her of being a lesbian which she denies, she goes to a gay bar with a male friend, wanders off as he's more interested in snogging a guy, and finds herself in a lesbian bar where she meets Emma who briefly looks after her. It isn't long (or is it? I'm not sure) before they meet up again and eventually fall in love.

And that's pretty much the first half of the film. In the second half Adele and Emma are living together. Emma's painting seriously, having completed her degree in Fine Art and Adele is her muse. Adele is teaching full time.

That's all you need to know about the key events and the film's structure, at least without me spoiling it for you. Now I can talk about it.

And we all know why the film is so controversial so let's get to it. There are two very explicit scenes of lesbian lovemaking separated by a short gap. But if anyone is tempted to watch this film specifically for those scenes then they're wasting their money. Everyone knows you can download for free off the Net videos of girls kissing, and both softcore and hardcore lesbian porn. So, are these scenes justified?

The simple answer to that is that there's no simple answer because it partly depends on how you view the film. If you are calling it a film about a lesbian romance then, I suppose, yes it is. However, that isn't what the film is about. The focus is always Adele, not Emma. It's Adele's story, the story of an intelligent working class girl trying to discover who she is and about how her experiences affect her and how she changes. Even though her long love affair with Emma forms the central core of the film it's a long way from being the whole of it. That said, it is the centrepiece and the love scenes reveal the intensity of their feelings for each other and their intense desire for each other and form a strong contrast with one scene of Adele's sex with her boyfriend. So, yes, the scenes were justified. Whether or not they were justified in being so long is another question and one I'm not going to answer.

However, there is so much more to the film than that. It's a film of many nuances in which important things can be revealed by the hint of a gesture. Sensationalistic (if that's what they are) sex scenes aside, this is a low key film and actress Adele Exarchopoulos is absolutely stunning as Adele (which came first, I wonder, was the character named after the actress or was it just a coincidence?). Her performance is so convincing and naturalistic that she takes your breath away. Also, mostly makeup free throughout, she is very beautiful but again in a naturalistic way. In contrast and as a personal reaction, I didn't find Lea Seydoux (excellent though she is) as Emma anywhere near as appealing; there was just something about her face and her teeth which put me off. But, though the film covers many topics such as class, politics, sex roles, etc, it's never overt, never hammering home any message, though they may be there subtly embedded. Instead it unfolds gradually, easily over its three hour length and it never feels like three hours.

Is this a classic film, deserving of all its awards? Maybe. Brilliant directing, superb acting, riveting to watch, etc. One thing I do know is that it's one which will repay repeated viewings as things I missed the first time, though they were always there in plain sight, reveal themselves and I intend to watch it again soon.

2. From Graphic Novel to Film, a second look.

Okay, I bought the graphic novel by Julie Maroh mainly because I was so fascinated by the film and also frustrated by the film's confusing timeline that I thought the graphic novel might help with this and clarify my thoughts on the film. Which it did.

The graphic novel begins with Emma visiting the parents of Clementine (Adele in the film) after Clementine's death. The rest is a flashback with the only narrative coming in the form of extracts from Clementine's diary (often referred to in the film but never quoted from). Other than that (plot differences aside) the structure of both is similar.

The graphic novel, however, is focussed on the relationship between the two young women and is very much a work of lesbian fiction. It also provides a clearer timeline than the film, for which I was grateful, as it made it easier to understand a significant aspect of how the story developed in the film as stages were signified and the span of the story covers Clementine/Adele's life from 15 to 30. It's delicately done and I've no doubt that, as a graphic novel, it makes a substantial contribution to the genre of gay fiction,

But, and I'm not underestimating its importance to that, that's all it does. Director Kechiche's film, while substantially adhering to the GN's text, turns it into a transformative experience by broadening the substance of the text into something which transcends its genre roots. It is still a film about an enduring affair between two young women but it is so much more than.

The film is focussed on Clementine (now Adele) and her life beyond her problematic relationship with Emma. The demonstration she attends in the book is supporting a railway strike, in the film it is significantly a protest against cuts to education. Adele's sexuality is never really specifically defined as lesbian and she has sex with boys/men. Her inner life is explored as well as the inadequacy she feels when surrounded by Emma's arty friends and the significant contrast between her working class parents whom she keeps ignorant of her true relationship with Emma while Emma's parents happily accept her as their daughter's lover.

There's been a lot of fuss over the explicit sex in the film but really, apart from the scissoring, it's not much different in terms of the amount shown in the book. The difference is, and I know this is obvious, the former consists of still images and realistic but still stylised drawn images on paper. In the film it is two real young women making love. The graphic novel consists of frozen moments, panels, in other words selected extracts of the act itself. The film depicts movement with one act flowing into another. In the graphic novel the reader accepts and appreciates the aesthetic style of what is shown. In the film there is no such distancing effect.

I'm making it obvious that, as a work of art and irrespective of format, I prefer the film. Would I have preferred it had I read the graphic novel first? I like to think so, though I can hardly make a definitive statement on that, as preconceptions always colour an opinion. I can certainly understand why a gay audience would prefer the book because it is aimed directly at depicting their experience whereas the film opens it out, transcending its origins so that it speaks more directly to a wider audience. But I still think that, as an adaptation, the director has done the author proud and many people will be guided to the source material as a result.

Ender's Game [Blu-ray]
Ender's Game [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Asa Butterfield
Price: £13.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars About as good as it could be, 24 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Ender's Game [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Well, it's as decent an adaptation as you could expect given an enormous budget which dictated a rating that meant it had to be suitable for kids. Despite that though it was always going to be a simplification of the novel. For all that, it did make an attempt to keep the spirit of it despite being watered down.

The cast is good and Asa Butterfield as Ender is excellent. Harrison Ford is fine as does his grumpy win at all costs commander. The supporting cast, young and old, do what is necessary. And the special effects are terrific.

While I quite liked it and never found it dull there just seems to be something missing. By that I don't mean the reduction of Ender's brother to a cameo role and the complete omission of the political text in the form of Demosthenes which would have been too intellectual for a film that had to appeal to a younger audience. Also omitted are the effects of time dilation. Perhaps it just lacks the intensity of the book and might have been more effective as a TV miniseries where there would have been more room to explore both ideas and characters.

The Little Book of Mindfulness
The Little Book of Mindfulness
by Tiddy Rowan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £4.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice little introduction, 20 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Mindfulness is in essence a very simple concept but it requires training your mind to be constantly aware. Despite being composed of many brief sections with numerous quotes from various writers and philosophers, it isn't a book to be dipped into. Rather it's a carefully structured introduction to the topic and as such it works quite well.

For anything considering looking into the subject -and believe me, you should- this is as good a place to start as any.

Odd Thomas [DVD]
Odd Thomas [DVD]
Dvd ~ Anton Yelchin
Price: £7.00

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Trust me, you'll like it, 4 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Odd Thomas [DVD] (DVD)
From director Stephen Sommers (of the megablockbuster Mummy trilogy fame, and also director of the earlier and excellent giant sea monster flick Deep Rising) comes this low budget direct to video adaptation of a good Dean Koontz novel.

And, surprise surprise, it's his best movie since DR and the first Mummy. Our hero is likeably played by Anton Yelchin (who clearly deserves more lead roles) and well supported by a good cast most of whom also play likeable characters. Even Willem Dafoe who plays a local police chief who is happy to work with our psychic Odd. Most of the time the psychic has to convince the authorities that something's up.

Yelchin's Odd is not just likeable but, while brave and tough when needs be, also vulnerable and fallible and often scared witless which makes him more appealing than a smart-@r$e tough guy. The story is cleverer than you first think -I was sure who was the real bad guy from early on and got it completely wrong.

Overall this is a very enjoyable supernatural thriller which I highly recommend and, like other reviewers, hope this is either the first of a series or acts as a pilot for a tv series.

Remington R95 Travel Shaver
Remington R95 Travel Shaver
Price: £14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Very basic, 3 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Which is not a criticism. This is a cheap stripped down lightweight compact shaver. It's so small that it can be slipped into a pocket and you'd hardly notice it was there. For someone who regularly, or irregularly, stops out or for a weekend away it's ideal. I imagine it would also be a good first shaver for a teenager.

It gives a decent close shave but without the trimmings of a trimmer and suchlike.

So, what's not to like?

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