Monday, 30 December 2013

PANELS TO FRAMES: SANDMAN, BATMAN VS SUPERMAN, MARVEL ENDS NEWSSTAND DISTRIBUTION - NOBODY NOTICES


(Note: Lost In The Multiplex is still undergoing maintenance, so my PANELS TO FRAMES column is running here for now)  

SANDMAN: DON'T MAKE IT 

So the news that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is finalizing a deal to produce and possibly direct AND act in a feature film adaptation of the Neil Gaiman comics phenomenon SANDMAN has caused some controversy recently. Then again, what comic book movie news doesn't cause some controversy? This is SANDMAN though - a comics property so beloved and so respected that it's pretty much a given that any film adaptation, no matter how good, will be ripped apart by critics and audiences.

As much as I love comic movies, I believe this is one which really should not be made. Ever. The Sandman comics are so surreal, nuanced, multilayered and densely written and rendered that any film adaptation will be heavily simplified, thus losing a lot of the qualities which made the title so popular in the first place.

If a screen version of the Sandman comics was ever to come into being, then a more sensible and fruitful avenue would be TV, however that would limit the scope and still limit the depth to which the source material could be adapted. The stories of Dream, Death and the rest of the Endless are one franchise that – if you think about it – should never hit the screen.

BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: WELL? 

Come on, where's the title already? Now that Gal Gadot has been confirmed to play Wonder Woman, isn't this basically TRINITY now? Oh yeah, cameos from Nightwing, The Flash and now Green Lantern as well? This is edging closer to being essentially a JUSTICE LEAGUE movie.

So, are DC/Warners pulling the wool over our eyes and making an entirely different movie to what we have been teased? Could it be that in this age of instant media gratification something is actually being kept under wraps for once? Now that would be impressive.

Whether the film is WORLD'S FINEST, TRINITY, JUSTICE LEAGUE or whatever, it's good to see DC characters starting to make it into cinemas with a bit more of a bang. And you never know, Ben Affleck might be the best Batman ever. 

MARVEL ENDS NEWSSTAND DISTRIBUTION

It's been revealed that Marvel will be shutting down newsstand distribution with Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million in the US. Oh, wait, they did it months ago, but it's only just being picked up on by the comics scene. Nice to know we're on the ball, eh?

Marvel do have a point though, as the vast majority of sales are from direct market comic shops, and newsstand distribution from them actually ended two years ago. See? They had a point – nobody even noticed! Hell, it could be worse, single non-reprint issues of US comics haven't been available from anywhere but comic shops in the UK for over a decade.

Monday, 16 December 2013

HEAD FULL OF TUNES : THE BEST ALBUMS OF MY 2013

It's that time again - the time when scornful music journalists like me cast a weary eye over the past year's musical antics and pick the best of the bunch. I can guarantee my list is different to most of the lists you'll see out there right now, but I've never tried to hide the act I have eclectic tastes in rock and metal. These albums represent my own personal favourites of the year, and I know yours will be different. That's the joy of music. Everyone has their own. This is mine.

This is limited to new albums - not live releases, DVDs, EPs etc.

This year aside from the hundreds of releases I've listened to for review for the mag, I have found myself revisiting a lot of albums from my youth as well as new releases, but the videos that follow demonstrate why these 2013 releases have rocked my world throughout the year.

10 - W.E.T. RISE UP



The second album from melodic rock scene supergroup W.E.T. is a delight from start to finish. I interviewed vocalist JEFF SCOTT SOTO in support of it, and had a great time with him. A superb rock album.
*

9 - PINICK GALES PRIDGEN (Self Titled)



This power trio's album is nothing short of phenomenal. Blues, rock, funk and more all smashed together into one of the most consistent and fluid albums of the year.
*

8 - POWERWOLF – PREACHERS OF THE NIGHT

The German Power Metal powerhouse returned this year with more gigantic metal anthems, fusing theatricality with razor-sharp riffs and some of the greatest metal choruses heard in a long time.
*

7 - BLACK SABBATH – 13

 
You can stop going on about it not having Bill Ward on it now. Black Sabbath's '13' brought Ozzy, Tony and Geezer back together at last, and the results are brilliant.
*

6 - GHOST BC - INFESTISSUMAM

 
Rock has always loved theatre. Modern rock really needs more theatre in its blood, and that's where Ghost BC come in. Their new one is splendid.
*

5 - HUNTRESS – STARBOUND BEAST

 
The second album from HUNTRESS slays. Simple as that. A huge step forward from their exemplary debut. Tripped-out sci-fi tinged occult metal, and quite brilliant.
*

4 - ANGELICA - THRIVE

 
Solo debut album from Angelica Rylin, vocalist of THE MURDER OF MY SWEET. A fantastic album of modern melodic rock with a slightly metallic edge. Packed with memorable tunes.

*

3 - DEGREED - WE DON'T BELONG

 
My review of the DEGREED album bagged the ALBUM OF THE MONTH spot in the magazine, and rightly so. A perfect example of how melodic rock can sound vital and fresh in the current musical climate. Sublime.
*

2 - SKARLETT RIOT – TEAR ME DOWN

 
The full-length debut album by the UK's best young band (seriously… see them live and try to tell me I'm wrong) perfectly captures their infectious energy and undeniable star quality. No weak songs, no weak performances. This is just the beginning for one of the scene's brightest hopes.
*

1 - REVAMP – WILD CARD

 
My album of the year! The second album from former AFTER FOREVER vocalist Floor Jansen (now the permanent lead vocalist in NIGHTWISH) is a truly stunning symphonic/progressive metal album which redefines a scene which can be so stagnant at times. 
Floor has pushed her incredible vocal talents even further on this album and tackles some of the most crushingly heavy songs of her career so far. The songs are complex and enthralling, and her performance is just astounding.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

ORPHAN BLACK: Why it matters so much


Orphan Black genuinely took me by surprise when I first started catching up with the first season a little while ago. I'd been struggling to find something that would both entertain and inspire me following the end of season 2 of the glorious CONTINUUM, and as Orphan Black had been getting so much good press, it seemed like something I should check out. For once, the hype was more than justified.

Orphan Black is one of the most beautifully plotted and paced shows I have witnessed in many years, a little science fiction, a little action and a lot of intrigue, all held together by the masterly multiple performance of Tatiana Maslany.


She plays the core set of characters, all clones, with such different voices, mannerisms and body language that it's very often hard to believe that they are all played by the same person. Of course, there is a lot of digital manipulation of shots with more than one of her in them, as well as a lot of simple but effective camera tricks, but it's her multifaceted and utterly believable portrayal of each clone's different character which makes the show so compelling.

The story itself – a group of clones attempting to find out the secret of their creation while staying out of the way of various villains – is so densely written and constructed with such attention to detail that it's seamless. There are no weak episodes, no plot points (that I can see) which are not given a full exploration, and the whole story plays out with an internal rhythm which never feels forced. The mind boggles when I think of the twists that are to come in series 2 in 2014.

While some may see Orphan Black as overly convoluted, I see it as a very important example of how genre television can cross over into mainstream TV whilst retaining its genre roots and motivations.

At its heart the show is a mystery, but the edge of science fiction, the complexity of an espionage thriller, the urgency of a crime drama and a very relatable examination of personal identity all add up to a series which is as engrossing as it is innovative. Entertainment which doesn't talk down to its audience? That's why stuff like Orphan Black matters so much, and I can't wait for series 2 to begin.

Friday, 6 December 2013

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE – THE START OF A SECOND MARVEL MOVIE UNIVERSE?

Note: As Lost In The Multiplex (the awesome site which is home to my Panels To Frames columns) is currently undergoing some important maintenance, I'll rant about comics movies here for a while until the site returns to action. Let's talk X-Men and stuff! 

The announcement that next year's X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURES PAST will be followed in 2016 by X-MEN: APOCALYPSE has kicked off some interesting speculation and rumours, namely that Fox will be using that film as the start of their own version of Marvel Studios' interlinked cinematic Marvel Universe. Fox will also be bringing the rebooted Fantastic Four franchise to the screen, as well as the Cable/Deadpool headlining X-FORCE, and it seems that the studio may be wanting to combine all of those franchises into its own version of the mega-popular Marvel Studios iteration which has proven to be so lucrative with the AVENGERS movie and related films.

A second Marvel cinematic universe could be a massive amount of fun, but it could also feel disjointed when looked at alongside the established Marvel movies and their sequels. The Fox X-MEN films have a very different feel to the in-house Marvel Studios movies, and thus two giant interlocked batches of films may saturate the market and also confuse casual viewers as to who will turn up in what.

This news has once again raised the war cry of a lot of fans, namely “GIVE MARVEL THE RIGHTS BACK FOR STUFF” (Remember, Marvel Studios don't make the X-Men and Spider-Man films, characters which are by far their most popular comics properties). I can understand (and agree with) a lot of those feelings, but it's not going to happen. At least not any time soon.

At least while Sony/Columbia are busy making Spider-man films which look like unfinished video games, Fox are busy making X-Men films which are respectful to the source material as well as offering something new for both long term fans and newcomers alike. Fantastic Four is being reborn from the ground up, and maybe it's time for the X-men to get the same treatment with a new cast and a new direction after DAYS OF FUTURES PAST. Maybe APOCALYPSE will be the end of one thing and the start of something enw and even more exciting.

Despite the onscreen action, most of the superhero movies from the non-Marvel studios haven't been all that epic in scale, but since Marvel upped their game with the arrival of Thanos in the Avengers and the fantasy elements of the THOR movies (as well as the large-scale sci-fi of the forthcoming GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY), it seems that Fox are wanting to create their own multi-film, multi-franchise behemoth.

Will they be able to match the success of Marvel Studios? I doubt it this late in the game, but it's certainly going to be a hell of a lot of fun finding out. Now, if we could just get all of these studios to play nice and bring us an MARVEL UNIVERSE film with the X-Men, Avengers, Spider-man, Fantastic Four and everyone else in it, I'd be a happy old geek. It might even stop me rocking back and forth while chanting “Yellow spandex... yellow spandex... yellow spandex...”

Thursday, 14 November 2013

DOCTOR WHO – THE NIGHT OF THE DOCTOR


I am stunned, absolutely stunned by what I've just watched (twice). As well as being an incredible taster for what is to come with the 50th anniversary story THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR, this mini episode feels like a gift to all of us old fans who weathered the wilderness years before Doctor Who came back to our screens in 2005. My friends, those were some dark times, when we clung onto our Doctor Who fandom while the world had left it for dead.

Seeing a certain someone back in the role of the Doctor is a fanboy dream come true, and I am thrilled that he was able to prove how glorious he is as The Doctor even for five minutes in a teaser for the next special.

As a story in its own right it works well, cramming basically an entire episode (and several years of exposition) into just a few minutes. It looks gorgeous (that vista was beautiful!), resembling a big budget feature film rather than a TV project, but that goes with the forthcoming special's massive importance to the franchise and indeed the BBC itself.

The nod to the Big Finish audios was a beautiful touch, but a small issue for me was the lack of a mention for Fitz or Anji, or even Sam or Compassion, which would have been a lovely nod to those of us who devotedly bought every single eighth Doctor BBC novel and loved pretty much all of them.

The Night of The Doctor is a brilliant entry in the Doctor Who mythos and a beautiful lead-in for the 50th anniversary spectacular. So yeah, this is one almost-lapsed fan who is very, very excited for what is to come. Check the episode out for yourself right now!

Watch DOCOR WHO: THE NIGHT OF THE DOCTOR over at the BBC iPlayer!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Why I Couldn't Cross Gaiman's Ocean

Note: This article was originally being considered by a couple of writing sites, but ultimately I figured as it was so personal, it belonged here. Thanks for stopping by. 

As a struggling writer and devoted reader, a dilemma has been eating at me of late, a most unique problem which applies solely to me and you, my fellow restless creative types. Recently I started to read The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, the highly acclaimed novel by Neil Gaiman, a personal hero of mine and arguably the most important writer of fantastical fiction of our age. It is a beautifully realised work of dreamlike fiction in every way, but as I hit the halfway point of the book I couldn't go on. I couldn't even look at it.

A realisation had struck me. I'd read the book before, and what's more, I had written it myself.

Well, not that book, but a story very, very much like it. In 2010 I sold a short story entitled Beneath An Orange Sky to an anthology called Explorers Beyond The Horizon (published by Positronic Creations in conjunction with the Dead Robots Society podcast), which eventually came out in print and ebook formats in the middle of 2012. That story's central premise, central character and several elements of it echoed in my head as I read Gaiman's exemplary book, which came out a good long while after my story had been published.

Of course, I would never entertain the thought that me of all people had been plagiarised by the greatest writer of the era. What bugged me was that his massively popular book had essentially made my story, which was released way before it, seem like a rip-off. This was difficult to deal with, as Beneath An Orange Sky was my first semi-professional fiction sale outside of my other writing, and as the copyright had reverted back to me I was hoping I could place it elsewhere and get a little more longevity out of it. Now, that is impossible as it would be seen as a Gaiman copy.

This created an odd dilemma - should I be upset that one of the biggest writers around had basically done the same thing and killed my story, or should I be pleased that I had written something that a giant of modern literature had also had a similar idea to?

I find myself somewhere between the two. Ideas are common, and much of the power of a story comes from its individual execution, but the thing that hurt deeply was the sheer number of similarities. Even certain phrases and places were similar. I doubt very, very much that Neil has even heard of my short story, so it's just irksome that they are coincidentally so similar in many ways.

What can I learn from this as a writer? My wife pointed out that if I have had fiction published which was like something Neil Gaiman would write, then I'm evidently doing something right. She has a point. I may not be able to place Beneath An Orange Sky in another publication due to its similarities to The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, at least I know I have tapped into a creative vein in which there is certainly public interest.

Disheartening as it may be to find out that a hugely successful writer has had the same idea as yourself, you owe it to yourself as a creative individual to take these things in your stride and move on to the next idea. Yes, it'd be nice for the story you wrote to gain some more recognition and help you to further your career, but try to see it as a good thing. Something to help to continue shaping you as a writer.

As all struggling writers must do, I must carry on and write the next story. And the next. And the next, and not stop until I can create something that people will love as much as a Gaiman book. That may never happen, but as writers, we must try. I might even finish his book sometime once I've had another sale, as I would rather like to cross Gaiman's ocean soon.

===
Andrew Hawnt is a rock magazine journalist and popular culture columnist as well as fiction author. He lives in Nottingham with his wife, his son and enough books to build a castle with.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Yeah, that kinda night.

This is our world right now. We exist simultaneously in the distant past and the far future. These days are the stories future historians will ponder and that our ancestors dared not even dream of. Our advances are both astounding and primeval, depending on the viewpoint. We are both barbaric yet civilised, ignorant and illuminated. As a people we are just children, no matter our knowledge or experience. It is our duty to learn, to grow, to educate and to leave behind something greater than what was here when we took our first breath. Create. Experience. Live. Be. Or be forgotten.

It's late. Can you tell?

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

WOLVERINE GETS ANOTHER MOVIE


So it seems that X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST won't be Hugh Jackman's last outing as the Snikt-happy Canuck after all. Hugh and THE WOLVERINE director James Mangold are reportedly teaming up once again for another Wolverine big screen outing, following on from that film surprising a lot of people (and boring the hell out of others) and raking in more cash than a lot of people expected it to.

So where next for Wolvie and his tortured existence? Another film would have to be very different from THE WOLVERINE and its schizophrenic predecessor, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, for a start.

Personally I would like to see a Wolverine/Jubilee teamup movie in the vein of the mid 1990s comics, a hugely underrated run of low-key stories which were a fantastic character showcase for both Logan and Jubes.

Wolverine is at his best when he has someone at his side with whom he can exchange some quality dialogue and snarky comments, and the dynamic between him and Jubilee has always been fantastic.

That is, until Marvel turned her into a vampire in the middle of the Big Two going completely insane over the past few years. Comics got weird, and not in a good way. That's why I've been checking out more indie books of late.

Anyway. That aside, a Wolverine movie featuring a proper Jubilee (not the glimpsed Jubilee from X-Men 2 and 3) and featuring a straightforward story, basically a superhero buddy movie, would inject some humour and energy into a subset of comic films which are thus far somewhat bleak.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

WITHIN TEMPTATION FEATURING TARJA TURUNEN - "PARADISE (WHAT ABOUT US?)"

I can't get enough of this track. As many people are aware, I'm a sucker for bands like Within Temptation, and was an obsessed Nightwish fan during the Tarja years (I am again now Floor Jansen is in the band, though). The idea of Sharon from WT and Tarja duetting is a dream come true, and this song is more than I could have hoped it to be. Brilliant.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

DIARY OF A GENRE ADDICT VOLUME TWO - FINAL COVER

Hot on the heels of the release of VHS ATE MY BRAIN next month will be DIARY OF A GENRE ADDICT VOLUME TWO, which completes the project and will be the final output from the DOAGA site for the foreseeable future. It includes all of the remaining reviews and diary entries plus additional diary entries and an original essay on the cult film lifestyle.


VHS ATE MY BRAIN - THE NEW COVER!

VHS ATE MY BRAIN, my 7th book, has a brand new cover design from the awesome Lunchmeat VHS fanzine. Check it out! The book will be out next month. More new soon!



Saturday, 14 September 2013

ROCK N' ROLL SINNERS VOLUME II by Neil Daniels - OUT NOW!

Ever wanted to get inside the head of music journalists like me and my demented kind? Check out the ROCK N' ROLL SINNERS books from acclaimed rock scribe Neil Daniels, packed with interviews with some of the best rock journalists in the world! Check out volume 2, out now, and get ready for volume 3, which contains an interview with me. These books are excellent. Check out the press release below.

ROCK N'ROLL SINNERS - VOLUME II
BY NEIL DANIELS 
PUBLISHED BY CREATESPACE 
OUT NOW! 

Rock Scribes On The Rock Press, Rock Music & Rock Stars... 

“In this book, Neil Daniels turns the tables and asks us some searching questions for once. Not because we are failed rock stars, but because we are successful rock journalists. So is the pen actually mightier than the guitar? Possibly not.” - Mick Wall from his foreword 

Rock 'N' Roll Sinners is the second chapter in a trilogy of books featuring insightful and highly entertaining interviews with some of the world's most successful and respected rock and metal scribes. Ever wondered what it takes to be a rock journalist? In this extensive collection of interviews, seasoned rock author Neil Daniels has interviewed 68 rock and metal journalists from around the world. 

With a foreword by the revered British author and journalist Mick Wall, Rock 'N' Roll Sinners – Volume II is a worthy historical document for the serious enthusiast and can be used as a handy reference guide for the aspiring rock and metal writer. This hefty collection, which was previously published as the critically acclaimed All Pens Blazing - Volume II, makes essential reading for rock and metal heads the world over. Volume II features interviews with Phil Alexander, Mick Wall, Dave Thompson, Jaan Uhelszki and Bernard Doe et al. 

Volume I features interviews with Dave Ling, Malcolme Dome, Dave Reynolds, Derek Oliver, Mark Day, Geoff Barton and Dave Dickson et al. This book is 632 pages and available from Amazon. Volume II will be the final book in the series and feature previously unpublished interviews thus completing the trilogy with almost 200 interviews in total. OUT NOW! 

Click here to buy your copy from Amazon!


Friday, 13 September 2013

Review: REVAMP - “WILD CARD”


REVAMP
“WILD CARD”
GENRE: METAL
NUCLEAR BLAST

Listeners who have come to the work of vocal icon Floor Jansen through her current tenure fronting the mighty NIGHTWISH are going to be very surprised by this album. Hell, long-term fans of Floor will also be surprised too, but in a very good way. To be quite frank, this album is nothing short of a masterpiece of modern melodic metal.

Much, MUCH heavier than the debut, “Wild Card” sees Floor bring out some astonishing vocal work the likes of which we've not heard from her before. Her incredible range of melodic and operatic styles are there, but now she has included growling to her arsenal of talents, and she does it damn well.

A lot of the time, growled vocals in female-fronted metal sound out of place, but here they work perfectly. I'm not sure if that's down to the fact that both the clean and harsh vocals come from the same throat or if it's more down to the insanely high quality of the songwriting, but I suspect it may be a mixture of both.


From the second the album starts with “Anatomy Of A Nervous Breakdown: On The Sideline” (the first in a trilogy of similarly titled songs), you know this is a different beast. Heavier. Darker. Faster. Harder. However, none of the refined elegance of the debut or indeed Floor's performance has been lost in the transition.

Following a turbulent time in her life, it's incredible to hear the catharsis she has laid down on this album, and the band really stepped up to the mark and delivered some truly brilliant modern melodic – and not so melodic – metal.

The title track itself is one of the greatest symphonic metal songs recoded since Nightwish brought us “Ghost Love Score” on “Once”. The album is luxurious in its depth and deeply impressive in just how ferociously heavy some of it becomes.

“Precibus”, “Nothing” and “I Can Become” are all highlights, but for me the most jaw-dropping piece is “Misery's No Crime”, which not only sums up the whole album perfectly, it pretty much reinvents the sub-genre. If Nightwish decide not to take Floor on as permanent vocalist, then she will always have a fanbase around the world to enjoy her own creations. And it's easy to hear just why that fanbase continues to grow, from the After Forever days to ReVamp, to Nightwish and beyond.

10/10
Andrew Hawnt

Review: HUNTRESS - “STARBOUND BEAST”


HUNTRESS
“STARBOUND BEAST”
GENRE: METAL
NAPALM RECORDS 

The second full length album from US-based occult metal sensations HUNTRESS has been out a little while now, and I finally got mine a few weeks ago directly from the band (with a signed card from powerhouse vocalist JILL JANUS – get yours from their store!). It's sunk in properly now and thus here's my review. I didn't get to cover this one for the magazine and wanted to offer my own take.

In a nutshell, while their debut album “SPELL EATER” was fantastic, “STARBOUND BEAST” absolutely blows it out of the water. A bit more of a classic hard rock edge has found its way into their traditional metal/thrash onslaught, along with some more stoner vibes.

The songwriting and musicianship have been taken to a new level of intensity, and Jill is using her voice in some new and interesting ways, including a more powerful mid-range and some harsh elements here and there too.

Highlights include the perfect metal anthems “Blood Sisters”, “Destroy Your Life” and “Zenith”, which is the basis of the album's first (and utterly demented) video. A special mention must go to the delightfully titled “I Want To Fuck You To Death”, which features lyrics by a certain Lemmy Kiliminster, which explains the title a bit.

A sci-fi/alien phenomena theme has found its way in amidst the occult shenanigans the band is known for, giving the album a different feel to the debut but very much in keeping with the Huntress sound. This album is raw, dirty and brilliant.

9/10
Andrew Hawnt

Saturday, 24 August 2013

VHS ATE MY BRAIN - TEASER TRAILER!

The teaser trailer for my 7th book is here! VHS ATE MY BRAIN will be available in Limited Edition paperback, standard paperback and ebook soon!

Monday, 19 August 2013

SIRENIA - "Seven Widows Deep" music video

Loving the sound the band has on this track. The video is excellent aside from some dodgy costumes. Really looking forward to picking this album up. That is, if anyone actually gets it in before I give up and buy it from Amazon.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Review: COSMIC ENGINEERS by CLIFFORD D. SIMAK

This had been on my shelf for a while and the time felt right to give it a try. I'm really glad I did, too. I've enjoyed Simak's work for years now, and this 159 page novel was a fantastic read, packing so many thrilling ideas into the mix that it feels far more epic than its scant length could possibly allow.

Yes, it's pulpy and has an absolutely frenetic pace, but I lapped up every page. Considering its origins lie in a serialised version that emerged in 1939 via Astounding Science Fiction, the ideas and execution remain fresh and wholly addictive. It has its moments of silliness and some hokey dialogue, but I enjoyed it massively.

A woman is awoken from a thousand years of suspended animation by some unsuspecting guys working in space in the far future, and together they must team up with the mysterious Engineers of the book's title in order to save this universe when another is about to collide with it.

Intent on the destruction of everything are the insanely violent Hellhounds, a race of war-obsessed beasts desperate to utilise the universal collision for their own ends, and they must be dealt with too.

The sheer scope of some of the ideas on display throughout Cosmic Engineers had me zipping through its pages in a flurry of relentless entertainment, and while it will certainly not be to the taste of some modern era fans, the book absolutely thrilled me from start to finish. One of Simak's best? Possibly not, but still a wonderful read for the classic science fiction fan.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

DOCTOR WHO: PETER CAPALDI IS THE 12TH DOCTOR

The BBC have announced via a live special that Peter Capaldi, star of The Thick Of It and numerous other high quality shows (as well as a lifelong DW fan) is to take over from Matt Smith as the 12th Doctor at the climax to this year's Christmas special!

This is absolutely wonderful news. It's time for a more mature Doctor, a new direction and some new adventures. Matt Smith has done a wonderful job in the role since taking over from David Tennant, but the time is right for a regeneration, and Peter Capaldi is the PERFECT choice for the new Doctor.

Peter has some serious acting chops and is able to run the gamut of drama, comedy, rage and sensitivity. Yes, he's been in Doctor Who before, but that never stopped Colin Baker or Freema Agyeman from getting starring roles, did it?

And it's wonderful that the 12th Doctor is being played by a more mature, very sophisticated actor who will hopefully echo the earliest Doctors, William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee.

The internet is already awash with opinions on his casting, and thus I'll add my on: Peter Capaldi is a brilliant actor and will be a brilliant Doctor. Hold back your fears. This is going to be incredible.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

MEL SMITH – Rest In Peace, You Glorious Bloke

Mel Smith, one of this country's greatest comedy minds of the 1980s and 1990s has died of a heart attack at the age of 60. It is nothing new to hear about celebrity deaths in the news, but this one hit home for me in a profound manner.

Not just because I loved Mel's comedy work, his perfect timing and his legendarily deadpan facial expressions. Not just because his work alongside the equally wonderful Griff Rhys Jones struck me as damn near perfect. Not just because of his skills with satire and impeccable timing. Not just because of his talents as a writer and director as well as a comedian.

The passing of Mel Smith hit home because he came across as someone it was very easy to know. I cannot remember anyone having a cross word to say about Mel. His off-screen life was never at the forefront of the public consciousness, and that is to be commended. He will be remembered for the things that people love so dearly from throughout his career, from the things that everybody remembers (Not The Nine O' Clock News, Smith & Jones, Bean etc), to the things people of a certain age remember (Wilt) and things that only obsessive obscure film geeks like me remember (Morons From Outer Space), and that's how it should be.

My thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues. A genuinely saddening, shocking loss. The world is less rich now. As a viewer, a fan and an admirer from afar - not to mention a fellow bloke who went bald far too early - all I can say is “Thank you, Mel.”

Here is a favourite moment of mine from his lengthy and varied career. The interplay between him and Mr. Jones was sublime.


Monday, 8 July 2013

CURSE OF CHUCKY TRAILER - Sigh.

I can't stand the Chucky movies. I liked the first one, CHILD'S PLAY, but the sequels were useless, and when the franchise took a different turn with BRIDE OF CHUCKY and then SEED OF CHUCKY, a once-promising horror franchise had finally given in and gone the same way as entries 4,5 and 6 in the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series. That is to say, replaced anything remotely compelling with bad jokes and a total lack of atmosphere.

This new one, CURSE OF CHUCKY, seems to be a low-budget retread of the original film in some ways (a lack of Tiffany and Glen/Glenda for one thing, which is a plus), but it also looks like a pretty desperate attempt to hold onto the rights. What is this, people? HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS? Check out the trailer below. You may love it. I don't. Make your own mind up.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Review: QUEENSRYCHE - "QUEENSRYCHE" (2013)

Queensryche 
“Queensryche” 
Genre: Progressive Metal/Hard Rock 
Century Media 

Note: The magazine already ran two great reviews of this album this month, 
but I really wanted to add my own take too. Here you go! 

Consider my jaw well and truly dropped. I am a huge Queensryche fan and have been so for twenty years, which is why it had been so heartbreaking to see their star fade to much in recent years thanks to a shift ever further away from the sound that garnered them their legendary status.

Internal turmoil amidst the band came to a head finally with the firing of vocalist Geoff Tate, a split which has resulted in two bands existing with the Queensryche name (this one and a new one fronted by Tate with a new backing band). This album is by the regular Queensryche musicians with their stunning new vocalist, Todd La Torre.

Some would call this version of the band the 'real' Queensryche, and on the strength of this frankly brilliant album, it's pretty hard to argue otherwise. Geoff Tate may have been the recognisable voice of the band, but now La Torre is at the microphone, it is clear that the band has always been about more than just Tate's voice. The music sounds 100% like classic Queensryche while Todd's voice fluctuates between sounding very much like Tate in his heyday and Todd's own style. It's an approach which works absolutely perfectly.


The songs are the best to bear the Queensryche name since the iconic “Operation: Mindcrime” and “Empire” albums. “Where Dreams Go To Die” is an instant classic from the revitalised band, while “Spore”, “In This Light” and “Redemption” carry all of the hallmarks of the band's trademark sound while adding a new and very uplifting dimension.

They genuinely sound like they have been given a new lease of life with the exit of Tate and the addition of La Torre, whose voice is nothing short of stunning. This eponymous album feels like a new beginning, but it also sounds very much like a direct follow-up to “Empire” with a contemporary twist.

Tracks like “A World Without” demonstrate just how much the band is capable of, its dark and dramatic chorus a perfect example of the music of Queensryche both then and now. The theatrical element that has always been a part of their sound is there in spades throughout the first half and latter songs “Don't Look Back” and “Fallout”. The album ends with the epic grandeur of “Open Road”, and while it' a grand song, it comes far too soon.

At just 35 minutes long the album feels too short. Not rushed, just not enough of it. That's the only quibble I have. One edition of the album comes with bonus live tracks, which would help, but it feels like the studio album itself needs one more song to make it truly a masterpiece. That said, even with the short running time, the album is absolutely, utterly essential. A magnificent return to form.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Free fiction: LIFE THROUGH A LENS

I wrote a short story for the newsletter at my day job, and thought you may like to check it out as well. A little bit of fantasy and a little bit of life.



Life Through A Lens 
by Andrew Hawnt 

“So can I ask what the trouble is you’ve been having, sir?” Jane asked, looking at the little old man over her slim specs. In the subdued light of the optician’s examination room he looked serene. It made a nice change from the shouty bloke she’d just had in when he’d been complaining that the price of the test had been too high.

Mr Charlie Graham grinned and his heavily-lined face lit up like an aged sunrise. “I wouldn’t really call it a problem my dear,” he said gently. “More of a wonder.” His smile took on a mischievous edge when he slipped his glasses out of the velvet sleeve he produced from the inside pocket of his smart suit jacket. “What do you make of these?”

Jane took the glasses from her customer and resisted the temptation to rub her eyes. Only three more to go and she could head out into rush hour traffic to shout at other motorists for an hour. There was a bottle of red and a giant bath waiting for her at home, which made the day easier to deal with.

The glasses looked normal enough, clean, well cared for. Much like Mr. Graham himself. “Nice glasses, good condition. What would you like to know?”

“Have a look through them.” Jane hoped he didn’t have some weird fetish for seeing opticians wearing his glasses. She raised the lenses towards her eyes and-

Gasped.

She pulled them away immediately and examined them again. Mr. Graham was grinning. “I- what? I’m not sure what I just saw. Is it a trick?”

“Look again, my dear. You’ll see something different.”

Jane hesitated. When she had looked through the thin pieces of glass, she had seen a glimpse of a beach. A faraway beach. A beach from her childhood. A memory, perfectly captured beyond the lenses of an old man’s glasses. An impossible thing.

She looked again. Light swamped her field of vision, visible only through the glasses the old man had brought in. Normal glasses that were – she could not deny for one second – were showing her images from her past.

“That... that’s the house I grew up in! I haven’t seen that place in forty years. It doesn’t look any different! Even the tree in the garden.That’s... that’s my old bike in the garden...”

She pulled the glasses away from her face, her head spinning, her breath sharp and quick. She handed the glasses back to Mr. Graham. “How is this possible?”

“I don’t know,” said Mr. Graham with his smile still beaming. “But I wanted you to have them. You gave me the prescription for them, and somehow they started doing this a few months ago. I had to get another pair to see the present through. I wanted to give them to you as a gift, as they have given me so much pleasure.”

He handed them back to her, and she let her fingers curl around their cool form. “They let me watch myself as a young man," he went on. "Meeting my late wife, living the beautiful days, the best times of my life. The people around me thought I was day-dreaming, but I was travelling back in time and watching my children grow up again. I saw every good moment of my life through those glasses and was able to feel alive again. I have a terminal illness and won’t be around much longer, so I wanted these glasses to go to someone who deserved them.”

“This is impossible. They’re impossible. I don’t... but... thank you. Why me?”

“Because I saw you through them one day. I was nearby and I saw you as a child. I knew it was you as I looked again and saw you as a young adult, coming here to start your job in the opticians. When I saw you as a child I saw you with your mum, getting into the lead car of a funeral procession.”

Jane struggled to speak. “My dad. That was my dad’s funeral. I was six.” 

“The glasses will let you see him again,” Mr. Graham pointed to the glasses and gestured for her to put them on. “You deserve the chance. And after all, impossible things can be beautiful, even though they shouldn’t exist. Impossible things keep the magic in life, and those glasses will let you experience all the magic you’ve known before, all over again, as though it was happening right now.”

Jane did put them on, and saw the house again, this time seeing herself as a toddler, playing in crunchy autumn leaves with a man in his forties, smiling and laughing with her as she stomped and tumbled into piles of brown and orange leaves. Her father held her aloft, and they laughed together as more leaves fell from the ancient tree outside their old house. She watched herself play and giggle and cry when she fell and scraped her knees. She watched her father soothe her tears and carry her back into the house on his shoulders. She could have sworn she heard his distant voice, singing to her as it still did in dreams and memories.

When she pulled the glasses away, she realised Mr. Graham had made his exit. She slipped the glasses into her bag and tried to calm herself for the next appointment. She had a few minutes to spare.

She picked up the phone from her desk and dialled for an outside line.

“Mum? It’s me. Are you busy tonight? There’s something you need to see...”

 (c)Andrew Hawnt 2013

Thursday, 13 June 2013

METAL ESSENTIALS: JUDAS PRIEST - "PAINKILLER" (1990)


Judas Priest's 1990s got off to a phenomenal start with this album, which still stands up today as one of the greatest Heavy Metal albums ever recorded. It is also one of the most 'Metal' albums ever created, with literally every single aspect of every song pushed to the absolute limit. The songwriting is stunning, but it is the performances of each individual band member which are the most astonishing thing about the album.

It had never been in doubt that Rob Halford was a great vocalist, or that the twin guitar assault of Glen Tipton and KK Downing was formidable, but when this album landed, jaws dropped. Introducing drummer Scott Travis (formerly of Racer X) into the fold, "Painkiller" explodes with the first seconds of the title track and doesn't let up until the final note of the album fades into nothing.

Produced by the legendary Chris Tsangarides, every aspect was mixed and honed to be as metal as possible, and the results are stunning. "Hell Patrol", "Metal Meltdown", "One Shot At Glory", "Touch of Evil" and the rest are glorious additions to the Judas Priest pantheon, every song filled with ultra-precise shredding and pounding drums. Rob Halford really lets rip throughout the album, pushing his voice to insane extremes.

In fact, I think Halford set the bar too high with this album to a certain extent, as it has been increasingly difficult for him to hit the same deranged high notes in recent years, although the passion still burns bright. From the artwork to the lyrics and the gigantic singalong choruses, "Painkiller" is a relentless exercise in precise and ferocious traditional Heavy Metal.

It was to be Halford's last album with the band for many years, as he left soon after its release to form the short-lived Pantera clone Fight and then embark on various other different projects while Priest replaced him with Tim "Ripper" Owens for two studio albums and one live disc. Halford would eventually return, but the band's recent output is yet to match the flat-out brilliance of this defining album. "Painkiller" is Judas Priest at their fastest, angriest and arguably their best.




Sunday, 19 May 2013

Time for a sizeable update... BOOKS, LIFE AND STUFF!

Okay. Stuff is going on and I'm doing all that I can to keep up. It's time for an update on what's going on at Castle Hawnt and what you can expect from me in the coming months. On a personal level I have been rather unwell of late, and will be arranging a hospital visit very soon in order to investigate some stuff. Nothing serious (hopefully) – just annoying and uncomfortable. For those of you that don't know, I got married in February to the mother of my beautiful son at long last. Married life is fantastic so far, and fatherhood continues to be exhausting but incredibly rewarding. So. Onto my current projects to update you on.

VHS ATE MY BRAIN 


I was really hoping to have this out by now. The book is largely written and ready to go, but is lacking a couple of interviews I am yet to carry out and transcribe. As soon as those interviews (with eminent collectors and VHS scene people far cooler than myself) are done, then the book will be ready to roll. A limited initial signed and numbered paperback run will be released alongside the Kindle book, and then once that run is gone a regular version will be made available in paperback too. I am currently considering a launch night event to support it. I'll let you know.

TO BANISH THE DARK 


And so, unless those interviews can be scheduled in the near future, the next book from me to see release will be TO BANISH THE DARK. A return to science fiction for me, the novella is an action-packed tale full of tension and a very surprising guest character. This book will be the first of my 'Doubles' releases, i.e. books containing a novella and backed up with an additional novelette. TO BANISH THE DARK will be backed up with the bonus science fiction story FALLING HEAVEN. Again, this will be out in paperback and ebook formats. 

BAGGED AND BOARDED 

My most popular book so far continues to sell in both formats, for which I am hugely grateful. I am now actively seeking a publisher who would like to take this book to more places than I myself can take it right now. 

It has a lot of potential, and feedback this past year has been massively positive. I am so very proud of that book. And yes, there will be a sequel. 

POWERPLAY ROCK AND METAL MAGAZINE 

After my recent cover feature with the GOO GOO DOLLS, my next interviews to see print are with SOUND OF CONTACT and LACRIMAS PROFUNDERE, which are both great interviews I'm very pleased with.

Next to be done is a chat with SKARLETT RIOT, who in my professional opinion are the very best young band in the UK right now. They deserve every bit of success they get. It is so rare to see a young band get so much stuff so right. The music, the look, the attitude, the live show and the social media presence is all perfectly carried out, and all four members are absolutely lovely people. Check them out:



MORE NEW BOOKS

The second collection of my DIARY OF A GENRE ADDICT pieces will be out soon too, and a new collection of short fiction is in the works, collecting short stories published since my previous collection, ACROSS THE SEAS OF MIND came out along with a new novelette and two new short stories. A full-length novel is being pitched soon as well as a non-fiction book I've wanted to do for years. So. Maybe I should get back to it and get this stuff done. Thanks so much for buying my books. I hope you enjoy the next ones!

AND... COMICS?

I want to write a comic book story. Three issues would be ideal. I've always wanted to do this. If anyone would like a chat about a prospective comic project for an established or new title, please do get in touch @andrewhawnt on Twitter, via Facebook at my author page or by email - hello@andrewhawnt.com

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

James Herbert tribute up at HORRORNEWS.NET

I wanted to write something special following the recent death of genre fiction icon james Herbert, but it took a little while to figure out how to approach it. The resulting piece, JAMES HERBERT - A LOST MASTER has now been published over at Horrornews.net and I am most proud of the results. Please do check it out, and feel free to leave comments in the section following the article. I hope you enjoy it.

Rest in Peace, sir.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

GOO GOO DOLLS COVER FEATURE - OUT NOW!


My recent interview with Johnny from the GOO GOO DOLLS has been selected as this month's cover feature for the new issue of POWERPLAY ROCK AND METAL MAGAZINE, and is OUT NOW across the country! We chat about the band's new album, "Magnetic" and a career which has seen them become household names around the world. Please do check it out!


Saturday, 20 April 2013

TO BANISH THE DARK: A RETURN TO SCI-FI


My latest pop culture book, VHS ATE MY BRAIN, is yet to be completed as I am still trying to get the last interviews finalised with people, but it'll arrive eventually! In the meantime I am turning my attention back to science fiction with the novella TO BANISH THE DARK. I've wanted to use that title for years and finally the story that fits it is coming.

This will be one of a series of 'Doubles' from me this year, and will thus be backed up by a novelette entitled FALLING HEAVEN. These stories are my first real dive into large-scale science fiction and are proving to be a ton of fun. Expect spaceships, action, danger and perhaps a familiar face...

More on this soon!

Friday, 12 April 2013

What the hell happened to Yahoo?

Has it really come to this? Has Yahoo really stooped so low as to become little more than a place that posts news stories about breasts? I've been a Yahoo user since 1998 and have seen the site go from being pretty much THE place to use to the sorry mess it's in today. Headlines like 'Kelly Brook Dons a Gold Bikini' and endless 'stories' about how Kim Kardashian is trying to hide her pregnancy bump have reduced a once great service to the depths of gutter journalism.

By contrast, their actual news stories are presented with nowhere near as much gusto as the stories about people going out without much on. Plus, the level of editorial quality is depressing, with typos and poor punctuation (not to mention truly awful writing) making the whole experience seem amateurish.

If the Yahoo email service hadn't served me so well over the years, I would have quit long ago. However, now that Google seems to be getting things right more often than they get them wrong (mind you, I'm a person who really likes Google+ - despite so many people forgetting about it), I think it's probably time to leave Yahoo behind.

It irks me, as I have always seen the site as pretty useful. The search engine itself was left in the dust years ago, but the email service has always served me well with my freelancing and personal admin. Yeah, I could just not go to the main page, and I do have a direct shortcut to the web mail page, but I'm fed up of it being associated with a stream of lowest-common-denominator tripe the likes of which would even make the E! Channel cringe.

If I wanted crap like that, I'd buy Nuts or Zoo. What I want is a service which offers some news and weather info along with a mixture of local and international material. Yeah, I like movie news and suchlike, but I can't help but feel Yahoo are dumbing down too far.

It's not been an easy few years for Yahoo, with Google basically leaving them far behind in every sense (I'll not mention Bing, as it makes me feel dirty), but that's no reason to let everything slip in terms of the content offered to the people who do still use it. It looks like, after 15 years, it's time for me to give in to the idea that Yahoo's best years are long gone. It's a shame, as Yahoo mail has been home to me ever since I got online.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

James Herbert: Rest In Peace

Now this was a shock. James Herbert, the legendary genre author known for novels such as The Fog, The Rats, The secret of Crickley Hall, The Ghosts Of Sleath, Once and many more, died today at the age of 69. His books are absolutely dripping with a style which is at once supremely English and easily accessible by readers worldwide.

Erring usually more towards chills rather than all-out carnage, his writing remains pumped full of atmosphere and tension where many other horror writers' work has lost some of its power. Not Herbert's. His luxurious prose and slow-burning plots ensure that each of his books felt like visiting a stately home of the imagination; beautiful and inspiring.

Herbert is survived by his wife and three daughters, and I think I can safely say that millions of readers like me around the world would like to pass on our sincere condolences. A giant has fallen, but his legacy will ensure his drive and talent lives on for a very long time to come.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

PROJECT UPDATE: VHS ATE MY BRAIN

Hey all! Here's a quick update on what's going on with my 7th book, VHS ATE MY BRAIN. It's been a little while since I said much about my projects here and I thought it was time I started giving you regular info on where I'm at with stuff.

VHS ATE MY BRAIN is very nearly complete. The book is written but is missing some interviews from the latter half, which I want to include before it becomes available. At first the book was just going to be about my own experiences as a VHS fan and collector, but the interviews I've done so far for the book have turned out to be fascinating and have given the book a new angle.

I want to offer you all the best book I can, and as such I'm holding off releasing it until it's properly completed. I can't post a release date yet until the final interviews have been placed into the manuscript. Rest assured, I'll post it here as soon as I can.

I'm extremely proud of what VHS ATE MY BRAIN has become. It's a very different book to my previous one, BAGGED AND BOARDED: LIFE ON PLANET GEEK, but it's just as heartfelt and possibly even more geeky. I hope that you like it once it's out. The book will be out in paperback and on the Kindle, and there will be a limited run of 100 signed and numbered paperbacks too.

More project updates on this and other cool stuff soon. Keep in touch!

@andrewhawnt

Thursday, 7 March 2013

REVENGE OF THE HACK

So. It's been a tough few months here. With fatherhood, marriage, a looming new dayjob and all kinds of other stuff going on around me, it's not left me much time to write a great deal. The time that I have had available to write has been going on my magazine work, my column and occasional reviews for other places. I just couldn't fit much else in, and I was wondering why that was.

I figured out that it wasn't that I was using my time badly, I'd just got it arranged badly. Does that make sense? Writers starting out often ask people how they find the time to write, and writers often point out there's always time that can be refocussed to your writing, but what if you've already cut away things like a social life or hobbies in order to put words into sentences for fun and profit?

What if, like me, you've already reached the point where you're getting plenty written but still feel like not a great deal is getting done?

The key, I am finding, is to look at how your schedule can be reworked and rearranged in order to make the time you do have available to write the best possible time to do so. If short bursts are your thing, then look at where you can find short periods of time in which to get something done.

I've found my commute to be a productive time thanks to the joys of tablet computing, but a notepad and pen works just as well, and won't distract you with games or checking Facebook. Think of it as a game of Tetris - everything has a place, you just need to turn the blocks around a few times to make it all work. I guess what I'm saying is, I'm back, and I'm back on track.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Life gets in the way

Hey. Apologies for the lack of action here of late. I've had the most monumental 12 months of my entire life, and it's been tough fitting in blogging on top of my dayjob and my freelancing and book work. In the past year I've become a homeowner, a father and now a husband. Life is very tiring and not always very easy to deal with, but it has also never been better. Once I am feeling a little less exhausted, I shall return with geekery galore. I haven't forgotten about you, blogosphere, and I miss you.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

STAR WARS EPISODE VII: Predictions for the Abrams Continutaion


So now It's been officially confirmed that JJ Abrams will be helming the new Star wars movie, the internet can properly get underway with making ill-judged predictions and get carried away with massive amounts of fannish dreaming until we find out any genuine details about the project. This stuff is what the internet was made for, aside from cats and porn.

I see these days as a moment when the old school nerds amongst the now-culturally-essential-web can reclaim some of our basement-dwelling glory and get back to flaming each other about old sci-fi. Well, will everything old being new again, I guess this thirty-plus year old franchise is new again, so here are a few (not entirely serious) predictions for this brand new Star Wars adventure from Disney/Lucasfilm/JJ Abrams.


 -Lens flares shaped like Mickey Mouse within five seconds of the opening text crawl ending. 

-Background cameos from the Cloverfield monster, LOST characters and the USS Enterprise.

 -No politics (oh please, please PLEASE no politics).

-Absolutely no material from the Expanded Universe, essentially invalidating thirty years of people spending money on what was basically a dead film franchise.

-villains far more compelling than Sidious/Dooku/Grievous/Maul.

-space battles edited as though the camera has a painfully short attention span.

-shaky cam. However, IF ABRAMS USES SHAKY CAM DURING ANY SCENES INVOLVING LIGHTSABERS, I SHALL NOT BE PLEASED AND MAY BE FORCED TO BLOG ABOUT IT.

-gorgeous, lingering panning shots of spacecraft (Mmmmm).

-a ludicrously attractive cast, even for roles which should be kinda gnarly.

-Zoe Saldana (isn't she in his contracts or something? Heh)

-a lady Sith lord. Probably Zoe Saldana.

-Gungans being tortured. Possibly even crucified (that may just be wishful thinking).

Above all, what I'm expecting is a really good film, which is all we can really hope for after so many people were disappointed with the prequels. To be honest, I was really hoping Joss Whedon would get the gig, as his skills with ensemble casts would have made for a much more gung-ho Star Wars than the prequels (think about it – that Serenity/Avengers/Buffy ensemble feel in the Star wars universe with a rag-tag band of heroes – that would be perfect). Well, really what I wanted to see was Mal and the crew of the Serenity kicking the Sith's ass, but thats the fanboy in me getting carried away. Here's to the future of Star Wars – I'm pleased it's got one now!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

PINNICK GALES PRIDGEN - So good it hurts

I'm currently deep into writing my share of reviews for the next issue of POWERPLAY and came across this album, which is out next month. Sometimes you get to hear an album where everything just falls into place. This is one of those. Fans of JOE BONAMASSA, JIMI HENDRIX, CREAM, CHICKENFOOT, STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN, LIVING COLOUR and suchlike are absolutely going to love this.


Saturday, 12 January 2013

CITV: The 'Old Skool' weekend left us wanting more!

So, last weekend CITV ran two days of classic shows from their past, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of CITV as an ongoing concern. Thus we were treated to two days of spectacularly entertaining stuff from the 1980s and 1990s, which varied in quality but never failed to entertain.

Seeing stuff like Knightmare, Spatz, The Raggy Dolls, Count Duckula, Fun House, Press Gang, Children's Ward and the like made my lady and I crave more. Checking online, it was clear that a hell of a lot of people felt the same way.

This got me thinking, how about a classic CITV channel in its own right? There is a massive wealth of material out there which can still be enjoyed by children and adults alike, and while there would surely be rights issues, I'm sure there are ways around that here and now. I mean, these shows are hardly going to be a major concern any more, so any new revenue generated by them would surely be in the favour of the rights holders. In addition, I'd imagine that revenue would be more than what they may gather with the limited DVD sales available to classic shows.

A dedicated channel of CITV classics would appeal to both children and a large number of adults, including parents who would love to share this stuff with their children how it should be seen – on the TV, not on YouTube.

Some early Knightmare (not the later stuff we saw at the weekend – stuff with Pickle! Pickle being camp and sinister) along with lots of Funhouse (which has aged surprisingly well, even taking into consideration the many tragic hairstyles of Pat Sharpe) would be a good start, but things like Press Gang would be a really important thing to show.

Press Gang in particular was a landmark in TV for kids, as it didn't talk down to them (at the time “us”) and offered some proper drama (like trying to deal with Dexter Fletcher's dodgy American accent). The same goes for Children's Ward, which I wasn't a big fan of but recognize how much it was enjoyed by other kids at the time. Stuff like that, interspersed with cartoons, classic links, perhaps the occasional full rerun of a Saturday morning show (or at least clips), classic interviews and so on would be superb.

I mean, if Challenge can get away with showing terrible old gameshows, then surely there would be a decent audience for some more Old Skool TV fun? At least that way, we adults who grew from the original CITV audiences would then be able to say to our kids: “Look, I TOLD YOU it was better in my day!”



Thursday, 10 January 2013

Review: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE MULTIPLEX by Mark Kermode

What's wrong with modern movies? Asks the cover to the latest Mark Kermode book, and a damn good question it is. I have had a growing apathy towards big studio films of late, with only Avengers Assemble (or whatever it was called in your territory) really blowing me away in recent years.

Something seems to be wrong with multiplex films, something I couldn't quite put my finger on. I did wonder whether it was my march through to the middle of my thirties doing it to me, but no, as this rather splendid book lays out very clearly, it's the films that are getting worse, and through lowered expectations, audiences are accepting that as the norm.

As with his previous (and just as great) book, It's Only A Movie, I disagree with Kermode on a number of points regarding various flicks and points, but that's a matter of taste more than him being wrong in any way.

The arguments he puts forward throughout these highly entertaining 313 pages are all very valid, and I implore any serious fan of film, and indeed anyone who suffers the obscene prices and substandard films at multiplexes, to buy a copy and rage alongside him.

His well-thought-out rants against the overuse of 3D, tosh like Sex And The City 2 and the fact that no so-called flop actually loses money for studios are engrossing, entertaining and above all, absolutely spot on. Laid out with an epic amount of humour from the moment the lights go down until the credits roll, this is a fantastic book for anyone who is passionate about film and wants more than just diluted Hollywood fare in their cinematic diet. Excellent.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

CRIMSON GLORY - "LONELY"

Happy new year! Ladies and gents, here's 2013 and I have so much to tell you about, but I wanted to get the year's blogging underway in simple and beautiful style with one of the greatest prog metal songs of all time. The artist is CRIMSON GLORY, and it;s from their legendary album "Transcendence".

I am posting it here without the accompanying music video, as the video was very much of its time and I believe it detracts from the majesty of this song. I do love the video, but the song is a masterpiece which I have held dear for many years, and I want more people to hear it without judging it on the video alone.