Monday, October 29, 2012

The Two Faces of Tomorrow

I bought this cheap at the second-hand bookshop. Just bought it because it was cheap, hoping it would be good, and it's turned out to be one of my favourite things I've read recently. Based on a book by James P. Hogan, it was adapted into a manga by Yukinobu Hoshino, neither of these two names mean anything to me. I don't know if it was serialised in monthly issues, or if it was just published as this big one honking book, though I suspect it might've been.
Anyway, this is a straight-up hard sci-fi story, and a fascinating one. We're at the point in our future where a central program is running a huge amount everything pretty much, and an incident involving clearing some mountain on the moon brings to light some inherent danger in this situation. Also, the system is about to undergo an upgrade to a more intelligent system, but the worry is, what if the system rebels and tries to kill us? So much of everything is run by the system, flight, cars, water, etc, you know,pretty much all we depend on.
So an experiment is put into place to run a simulation. A huge space station is built and the upgraded system is left to run the place, and, the experiment begins. And things go a little crazy there. It's a really good story, and really well told. I thought it was totally believable. It almost seems a little dated, but it also still feels quite relevant.
The art is is a more mature style, not aimed at teenagers or young men, which what most of the manga we see is. I'll just show you a page from the book, since it's easier to show than try talk about it.

So fairly realistic backgrounds and technology, but that stylised or simplified character work, but without the larger eyes or geometric heads.
I'd like to keep talking about it, but I want you to read it yourself, so don't want to spoil it anymore than I have, but it's got real science, it's destruction, it's got subtle soap opera, it's got it all, go read it!

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I was scouring the internet to see if I could find an image of the CHOPPER graffiti I mentioned in my review of the new Dredd film, but I couldn't, but I did find this, which made me smile.

 Apparently it's not real (you can read the story here), but it is cool. Maybe not if you aren't familiar with the story or character, but I guess you owe it to yourself to get familiar.

 Also, just because I liked her, a picture of Judge Anderson (Oliva Thirlby).

Friday, October 19, 2012

DVD Review: TNT Jackson

I didn't really know anything about this, but based on the cover, I took the risk, and thankfully it paid off. While this film isn't going to set new standards for you, I found it entertaining, so I consider that a win.
Basic story is, TNT Jackson comes to Hong Kong to try find someone, the reasons for which she keeps to herself. It's probably that guy we saw get killed in the opening scene, so it's safe to assume she won't find him. She does meet some other people along the way though, a white girl being chauffeured in a Rolls named Elaine who offers her a ride, Joe, the owner of a club which is the last point of contact for the man TNT is looking for, and Charlie, another black American who takes a liking to TNT and seems to be working for some local gang. Oh yeah, we also saw him kill the guy TNT is looking for in the first scene, so no surprises where that's going to end up. And even though I'm suggesting the film is obvious, it does actually have a few turns in it that keeps it developing, and not just being a straight forward revenge tale.
The cast is good, in that it doesn't totally suck, but it's about what you'd expect from this kind of film. Jeanne Bell and Pat Anderson, who play the female characters in this film are both attractive, which doesn't hurt. Stan Shaw who plays Charlie might be recognisable if he wasn't so young, he's been working steadily since. He was in Rocky, but I recognise him more from Daylight. The other cast members are generic bad white guys who might be more familiar to connoisseurs of these films, but I don't know any of them, or the Filipino cast either.
So I guess the reason to watch this film is for the poor kung-fu. Jeanne does what she can, but it's obvious she has no real training. Smae with Pat Anderson, so it's great when they fight each other in a cemetery. Another great scene, though a bit more risque, is when some bad guys attack TNT in her room. She's just wearing a flimsy white nightgown, but she takes it off and turns the lights out to fight them, saying "You wanted black, you got black." The bad guys keep turning the light back on to try see her, but she keeps turning it off to beat them up. I thought it was a imaginative way for the usual exploitative nude shots to get in there, and like I said, it doesn't hurt. Another thing I enjoyed was the character of Joe, a very modest man who walks int the dark room, and gets embarrassed when he turns the light on to see TNT nude, then quickly turns the light off again. He has another double take when he walks into TNT in a bubble bath, but there's no nudity there, but he's always a gentleman. Another aspect I like, though it is smaller, and that is the moments of over the top violence, like when TNT breaks some guys arm in half, or the final battle when she dispatches Charlie. There's not a huge amount of bloodshed in it, but it sprinkled in there, like a seasoning in a good meal. It's certainly an enjoyable film, and not just to laugh at, though that is part of it, but I genuinely like the story and it's pretty competently directed, so I recommend it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

DVD Review: Who Can Kill A Child?

This came in the mail yesterday, I watched it last night, and I'm recommending it to you today. Who Can Kill A Child? is a Spanish horror film from 1976, directed by Narciso Ibañez Serrador, and starring Lewis Flander and Prunella Ransome; none of whom I have ever heard of before. Which is a pity, since this is definitely a film worth knowing about, and so I would hope that the names associated it would also be known, but alas no. But that is a mistake we're rectifying now, isn't it?
I'd heard mention of this film, so I was peripherally aware of it, so when a new DVD was being released I thought I'd give it a shot, since it was meant to be somewhat of a classic. It's always a risk doing this, you're never sure what you're going to get, as some people's classic is another man's Transformers (also known as the worst film ever made).
I guess this is a fairly simple film, in terms of plot. A holidaying couple, married and expecting their third child, are traveling in Spain without their children. The husband wants to take his wife to an island where he had visited 12 years ago, an isolated bit of paradise. They hire a boat and travel the 4 hours to get there, where they are greeted at the docks by smiling kids. They go off in search of the boarding house, only to discover something is amiss. I don't want to say too much more, but I think you can get a sense of what might be happening by the poster art.
The film was really effective at building the tension, it's a genuinely creepy film. There isn't much blood or violence in the film, but what there is shocking due to the context and escalating dread the film creates. If you read other reviews of this film, a lot is made of how the majority of this film is shot in daylight, the opposite a typical horror film. That's true, it is beautifully shot, the village looks like a Mediterranean idyll, and you can imagine wanting to visit there, which is why it's so unsettling. Such an innocent setting for a horror film, and such an innocent horror as well. As one of the island inhabitants says as he's explaining what's happened, who can kill a child?
I thought the casting was pretty good. The couple look like a couple, like real people, not models turned actors. I loved Prunella's freckles, they made her more real, not covered up by make-up. The kids all seem to give natural performances, though they're not really called upon to do too much. Basically have fun. I'm not sure I'll look at a piñata the same way after watching this film.
The film opens not with the movie, but a collection of archival footage from various wars, inter-cut with the credits.  The footage shows us the innocent children who suffer when adults go to war, with accompanying text giving the statistics of those who died in the conflicts, with the number of children often representing half the number. It was an interesting way to start the film, framing it in this way. It kind of dampens the mood when you're just after a bit of a fun night in front of the TV with some exploitation cinema, but it does give a context for what's happening in the film. In the extras on the disc, there is a small interview with the director, and he says he wishes he had ended the film with the sequence rather than opening with it, and I agree with him, but I guess it's too late now. But apart from the odd way for the film to open, it doesn't really make any other missteps. There's nothing that really stands out as bad or weak, it was all pretty good, with the standouts being the way it's shot and made, it's an incredibly well-crafted film, I think, and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Best Cover: Life With Archie #23

So I didn't see this one in the catalouge, otherwise I might've tried to order it, another classic cover by Francessco Francavilla. (You can see the one I did get here). I don't think this has anything to do with the inside of the comic, just a nice parody cover, but boy, what a nice cover. The proper title of the comic is "Life With Archie", but "Afterlife With Archie" sounds more like the kind of comic I'd want to read.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

DVD Review: Batman The Dark Knight Returns Part 1

So I just watched the new DC Original Animated film, based on Frank Miller's classic Batman tale, and I got to say, it's pretty good. I think the biggest problem is that these films just aren't given the budget I think they deserve, so sometimes the animation just looks like a animated kids show, a bit stark and not very atmospheric, but mostly, it does the job, and does it pretty well.
It's a pretty faithful adaption, they were smart to split it into two films. It would've been a lot to cut out to try squeeze it into one film. As it is, I miss some of the smaller character moments, or even secondary and tertiary characters, like Merkel, who was always in the background with Gordon, but is missing from the film.
It's pretty cool to see some of the iconic images from the comic translated tot he screen, it gives you a buzz. Batman looks cool. They've done a good job of bringing Miller's design into the animated world. Miller has a bit of a shaky line, a bit loose maybe. That doesn't work in animation, as far as production goes anyway, so the design is not as sketchy, but he's bulky, angular, definitely reminiscent of the comic. So are the rest of characters, from the TV reporters and vox pox constantly popping up, to Gordon and Robin, they all look like an animated version of The Dark Knight Returns should.
One other thing I'm not sure is working for me is Peter Weller's performance. The problem is we're pretty familiar with the comic, and the way we've been reading it in out heads all this time a certain way, so when he doesn't give a line reading like you've imagined it, you feel it. For me, it's a little too understated, and there was once where I was reminded of Robocop, which I don't think is the right feel. Batman is human, driven by passion, I think that needs to come across.
Also, there was a little interesting thing that they did, which is kind of dickish move. In one scene where a convenience store is being robbed, there are some comics on display. They are clearly seen, and they are all early Alan Moore comics, published by DC. Considering DC and Alan's relationship, it seems like a kind of childish move to show them, unless it's a metaphor for Alan getting robbed, but somehow I doubt it. Maybe it was just the creators wanting to give props to some classic comics, but whatever it is, it's a bit hard to see it any other way than rubbing his face in it.
So while it's not the greatest thing in the world, it's still pretty fun for fans of the comic. I'm curious if the average person would enjoy it as much, but I wonder if the limits of the animation might just make them think it was just a kids show thing, when it's clearly not. Oh well, I'm looking forward to part 2, and think this is the best of the ones I've seen from DC Animation.