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...”