Sunday, December 31, 2017

Then and Now

Cover for VOLUME 2
It's 2018 and I'm delighted that the second volume of my review book series Then and Now is finally available.

It covers Doctor Who  from the start of the Matt Smith episodes to the end of the Peter Capaldi ones, culminating in the just-transmitted 'Twice Upon A Time'. This time around, many of the reviews are original and not from this blog simply because I didn't review them at the time!  So if you want to know what I thought of the show through this period, then this is the book for you!

To go with Volume 2, I have 'refreshed' Volume 1 slightly, adding some colour to the lettering on the cover, and also making some slight textual corrections ... nothing significant though.

I still have physical copies of the original edition of Volume 1 available if people would like signed copies. Please order them from me direct here:

Original edition of

Price Including Shipping


Price Incuding Shipping

In addition, the new editions of Volume 1 and Volume 2 are available to buy from Amazon at the following links ... Obviously these will be unsigned copies - but if you see me at any events etc, then I'm always more than happy to sign my own books at no cost!

New edition of VOLUME 1






And both books are now available for Kindle, Kobo and Nook, so please check them out for your device of choice :)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Review: Life (2017)

Life is described as Gravity meets Alien, and that's not actually a bad way of putting it. Astronauts on the International Space Station manage to 'germinate' a form of life found in some sand from Mars, and this thing grows into a sort of tentacled creature with wings which can survive in deep space, does not need gravity, and which sort of feeds on blood ...

So the astronauts find themselves locked in a battle with the creature as they realise that it must not reach Earth, but also that they must try and save themselves! As you might expect, things don't go all that well ...

It's a well made film, and the small cast make the most of their circumstances. The creature, dubbed Calvin by the crew, is suitably nasty looking and alien ... I felt it was almost cat-like in it's intelligence and persistence, and it's tenacious and horrific too - certainly more than a match for the astronauts who try everything they can think of to neutralise the alien.

Overall it's an enjoyable sci-fi horror, with a creature that benefits from being CGI rather than rubber.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Review: Nerve (2016)

Sometimes on Netflix we stumble across things which turn out to be pretty good overall!  And Nerve is one such gem.

Based on the novel by Jeanne Ryan, it's similar to The Circle or episodes of Black Mirror where we postulate where social media and technology might take us. Here we have a website/media 'game' called 'Nerve', where you can either participate or watch, and if you participate then you get cash rewards wired to your bank for each 'dare' you successfully complete.

Enter 'good girl' Vee, whose best pal Sydney is into the game and is doing well at it. So Vee decides to take part as she needs the money ... her first dare is to kiss a stranger for 5 seconds ... well she manages to do this, but it's been set up and the chap she chooses is Ian, who unknown to her (at first of course) is also playing the game ...

It escalates from here and Vee finds herself stealing a $4000 dress from a store and heading off with Ian for further adventures (riding his motorbike at 60mph while blindfolded!).  Watchers document their every move on their phones and stream it all direct for the world to watch, and Vee finds herself ascending in popularity, and getting more and more money as each dare escalates.

Ultimately it all comes to a climax in an arena where Vee and Ian (as the top players) have to battle Ty (another player) to the death - the people behind the game have now removed all Vee's money and compromised their families jobs and accounts and identities ... they are effectively prisoners to the unkownn people running the game!

Luckily, Sydney and her (and Vee's) friend Tommy, have made contact with a group of hackers who are intent on shutting 'Nerve' down for good.

It's a great, rollicking adventure of a movie, and based on technologies and behaviours which we all recognise in others and indeed in ourselves.  It posits what would happen if such a 'game' as 'Nerve' existed, and it all seems so plausible, that one starts to wonder if the game really does exist somewhere on the dark web ...  A scary thought!

Review: Cat o' Nine Tails (1971)

Cat o' Nine Tails is a curious beast ... coming in 1971 from Dario Argento, it is, like most of his earlier films, a straightforward crime thriller, but with many twists and turns along the way.

I have to say that while I enjoyed the first half an hour or so of the film, after this it seems to drag interminably, as the characters sit and discuss what's happening, while the audience tries to guess who the killer might be!

Karl Malden plays a blind man, Franco, who likes puzzles and who used to be a journalist, who has a young girl as a companion and to act as his 'eyes' ... Franco accidentally overhears someone talking about blackmail, and gets involved in the crimes when he makes contact with another journalist, Carlo.

Doctor Calabresi has had items stolen from his office, and, acting suspiciously, meets a stranger at a train station, only to be pushed under the incoming train by him ... Franco realises from verbal descriptions that a photograph taken of the incident by a photographer has been cropped and shows the killer ... but the killer gets to the photographer first and despatches him.

And so the unknown killer works his/her way through the cast, poisoning milk cartons, killing with a cord ... there are red herrings along the way, misdirection as to who the killer might be ...

Franco's young ward is kidnapped, and in a final sequence, there is a chase across rooftops before the killer falls to their death through a skylight and down a liftshaft.

The film certainly has some moments, and the chase sequences are well done. The ending very much reminded me of the opening of the later film Suspiria where a girl falls through a large glass skylight window to her death, and the sequence in the cemetery is also very nicely done.

It's interesting watching Argento's early films as you can see a line of development through them in terms of the camerawork and inventive death sequences which ultimately lead to the superlative Suspiria ... unfortunately having hit a high with that film (in 1977), nothing before or since seems to touch it.


Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
New audio commentary by critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman
New interviews with co-writer/director Dario Argento, co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, actress Cinzia De Carolis and production manager Angelo Iacono
Script pages for the lost original ending, translated into English for the first time
Original Italian and international theatrical trailers
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp
Double-sided fold-out poster
4 lobby card reproductions
Limited edition booklet illustrated by Matt Griffin, featuring an essay on the film by Dario Argento, and new writing by Barry Forshaw, Troy Howarth and Howard Hughes

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Review: Titan's DOCTOR WHO Comics ranges - November/December 2017

Thanks to Titan for sending me another batch of their Doctor Who magazines to review ... this time it's a selection of  9th, 10th, 11th and 12th Doctor series magazines and a full run of the 8 issue The Lost Dimension story

First off though is part 4 of Ghost Stories for the 12th Doctor.  I mentioned in my review of the previous issues, that part 3 seemed to have more simplified artwork, well thankfully part 4 is back to Ivan Rodriguez with paintings full of detail, colour and life.  The Sycorax are back, and it's down to the Doctor and Grant to save the world.  This of course they manage, and the Doctor gets the final crystal he needs, but he still needs the Hazandrat - the crystal which gives Grant his powers. It transpires that the Doctor needs to open a rift to allow the dark matter accumulated in our universe to bleed off to another. All this is done, and Grant loses his powers ... but a week later, the Doctor returns and shows Grant that, in fact, he still has them - they had become part of his DNA. 

Overall this is a good end to a multi-comic story which covers all the bases.  To be honest it would make a pretty good TV story as well!  So well done to the writer George Mann on that one!

9th Doctor next, and issues 14 and 15.

Written by Cavan Scott, these continue the adventure... except it's all very fragmented.  Issue 13 was all about Jack ... and now we're suddenly with Rose who is having an alien baby ... except she's not ... it's a vision/memory from something called an experience sphere ... and Jack's memories are being sold ... But it's all a plot to capture the Doctor and sell his body/memories to the highest bidder ...

In issue 15 we're on Gallifrey with the War Doctor and battling the Great Vampires ... but it's a memory from the 9th Doctor ... and the whole thing is a trap by the Cybermen to obtain details of the Time War ...  It's fast paced and climactic and hard to see how it will all work out!  But of course it does.  What Scott does well is to include references to many other areas of Doctor Who  continuity so that it hovers just on the right side of readable ... very enjoyable.  With this issue too it looks like the story is ended ... for now ... 

For the 10th Doctor I have been sent issue 3.7, 3.8 and 3.10  (not sure why 3.9 was missed).

We're still in the 'Vortex Butterflies' tale written by Nick Abadzis, and in issue 3.7 the Doctor arrives on a space station while his companions are in an old house ... Sarah Jane Smith unexpectedly arrives and it all turns into an incredibly complex story involving Sutekh going on dates  and an alien talking bean thing that the Doctor gets to travel with him ... so I have no idea where all this was going. I have to say I found the story hard going, and the many characters, places and situations which all seemed unconnected, were hard to follow.

Issue 3.10 supposedly starts a new story, except it doesn't and apparently this is the end of the story (so what was in issue 3.9?)  Anyway, it all seems to have something to do with a companion called Gabby who travelled with the Doctor and evolved through exposure to the Time Vortex and Osiran medical nanobots ... mentioning block transfer abilities and chronon radiation along the way. So the Doctor has to try and undo this ... which he somehow manages ... except that when he arrives on Oloumous at an exhibition, he's seen by a Graske which reports back to a group of bubble-headed beings that they can annihilate the Doctor's entire timeline ... which I suppose is setting up for the next story.

Unlike Scott's work, this is way too full of random bits of Doctor Who continuity for me. The story is confusing and seemingly haphazard, and just doesn't work. What I admire though is Abadzis' imagination, and the scope of the story ... it's pretty breathtaking.

Next up is the 11th Doctor, and I have issues 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, 3.11 and 3.12 ... so no issue 3.10 this time.

We're in the middle of a story called 'Memory Feast' by George Mann (I wasn't sent 3.6 too which I assume contains the start of the story). The art is by I N J Culbard and I'm afraid I really don't like it.  Very blocky and almost childlike and basic in execution. Sorry.

The story follows the Doctor and his companions Alice and the Sapling as they encounter the Xerxes and have to try and escape from them by running through the Doctor's memories ... Inside the machine, they encounter an avatar of the Xerxes and the Doctor learns of their fate ... Meanwhile something called the Thrake are chasing them ... and they eat memories ... so the Doctor lets them ... and they die. Too much food! Not a bad story, but fairly basic.

We're then onto a one-issue story 'Fooled', also by Mann, but the art is much better, by Ivan Rodriguez once more.  The story sees the Doctor and his friends at a carnival, but everyone seems to be losing their memories ... it's up to the Doctor to work out what is happening and to stop it!  A great little one-shot story.

Issue 3.9 starts a new story, 'Strange Loops' by Alex Paknadel, and again illustrated by I N J Culbard. There seems to be a Silent on the TARDIS, and 48 hours earlier, the Doctor was using the Chameleon Arch to scan his memories to discover that some are missing - the Sapling seems to be able to take them from people ... The Doctor gets into difficulties and it all ends up seeming to be about the Time War and Gallifrey ...   I don't know what happens in 3.10, but 3.11 seems to have part two of this story in. There's a Time Lord called the Orphan who doesn't really exist but is part of a weapon ... ultimately the TARDIS is being destroyed and so the Doctor gets the Sapling to hold it all together ... but there's a Silent outside and it gets in ... Issue 3.12 continues the tale and the Doctor battles the Silent ... we get Axons referenced, the original control room, the Krotons and HADS, The Silent is called the Scream (referencing the Edvard Munch painting which inspired their look perhaps), and wants memories ... so the Doctor uses the HADS (Hostile Action Displacement System) to throw them all out of the ship into space ...where the Silent merges with the TARDIS itself ... and the Doctor finds himself on a planet made from his own memories!  It's all a bit random and mad to be honest. Just like the TV adventures!

Onto the 12th Doctor, and I have issues 3.6, 3.7 and 3.9 ... so again there's one missing.  Issue 3.6 continues the story 'The Wolves of Winter' by Richard Dinnick.  I really liked this story which mixes the Ice Warriors and the Flood together with the Haemovores and Fenric. It's well told and well developed.  Good stuff and shows how continuity should be used to enhance a story and not to overload it.

Issue 3.9 contains a new story, again by Dinnick, 'The Great Shopping Bill'. This is another nice little tale of when the Doctor, Nardole and Bill go shopping for a new component for the Vault ... of course there are aliens and a few continuity references, but it's a fun little runabout interlude. 

Having gone through all the issues, and finally getting to The Lost Dimension editions, and I can immediately see that while some of them seem to be one-offs, others are the comics I noted above as being missing from those I was sent ...  how puzzling. So here we go with what seems to comprise this 8 comic story:

Part 1 is numbered issue 01 and called ALPHA
Part 2 is numbered issue 01 and called NINTH DOCTOR SPECIAL
Part 3 is numbered issue 3.9 of THE TENTH DOCTOR
Part 4 is numbered issue 3.10 of THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR
Part 5 is numbered issue 01 and called SPECIAL #1
Part 6 is numbered issue 3.8 of THE TWELFTH DOCTOR
Part 7 is numbered issue 02 and called SPECIAL #2
Part 8 is numbered issue 01 and called OMEGA

Well that's not at all confusing is it!

The Lost Dimension takes in adventures for the Doctor in several of his incarnations, all colliding with each other and taking in various elements of continuity along the way. We're reintroduced to Jenny, the Doctor's daughter, now a time-travelling super-heroine-type complete with flashy Gallifreyan outfit, there's Vastra and Jenny, Silurians, Pirates, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and Osgood, Captain Jack, Cybermen, Ogrons, Krotons and Quarks, ancient Gallifrey and embryonic TARDISes, Romana and Rose, River Song ... as you can see, it's a pretty all encompassing adventure through Space and Time which intersects and crosses itself ... Quite an achievement really!

All in all, the overall impression through all these comic adventures is of a healthy range of stories. It's sometimes hard to see why certain stories are given to certain Doctors ... there's not much to tell them apart to be honest.  Perhaps the 12th Doctor ones feel the most genuine to the TV adventures ... but the 11th Doctor ones retain the devil-may-care approach to plotting which means that quite literally anything can go!

I'm looking forward to seeing the next batch!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Review: Dalek - The Astounding Untold History of the Greatest Enemies of the Universe

2017's BIG Doctor Who book event was a large hardback all about the Daleks. It's similar in size and scope to last year's THE WHONIVERSE book, but this time we're just looking at the Daleks. The book has a sort of textured cover in that the Dalek 'bumps' are slightly raised, and comes with a hefty price tag of £35!  So it's really not for the faint-hearted.

The main text is by George Mann, Justin Richards and Cavan Scott, and original illustrations are by Alex Fort.  In common with THE WHONIVERSE, it presents a fictionalised account of the Daleks, illustrated with all manner of sketches and drawings illustrating the various campaigns and battles and situations that the text describes.

For me, as a seasoned Doctor Who aficionado, the main text is of the least interest, though it is well written and paints an effective history of the Pepperpots. I'm just not that 'in' to fictionalised retellings of Doctor Who stories and monsters, and while the art illustrating this element is all very nice, there is a side of me that prefers photographs and behind the scenes research.

Of far more interest are the little sections which pepper the book almost as an afterthought. These kick off with 'Ambush', an original comic strip by George Mann and illustrated by Mike Collins ... this is a lovely two page story where the Doctor and companion Petrella encounter the Daleks....

There's a nice 'inside the Dalek' schematic on pages 20 and 21, and on page 42 the first of many pieces taking tangental looks at the Daleks. The first is on how the Daleks were created for TV ... lovely stuff! And then we have an original story: 'Davros Genesis' by Terrance Dicks!  Superb!

The book continues in this vein, with retellings of Dalek history and art, interspersed with fascinating little snippets and elements, including: 'Changing Dalek Designs'; a second comic strip by Mann called 'Safe Haven'; 'The Voice of the Daleks' by Nicholas Briggs;  a comic by Mark Wright 'Empire of the Daleks'; my own 'The Dalek Invasion of Toyshops' looking at the merchandise; a story by Paul Magrs 'Abduction'; 'Print of the Daleks' again by Wright looking at the comic strips; Cavan Scott's comic strip 'Cyber Crisis'; a look at Daleks in other media: stage and film; a story by Mike Tucker 'Infection of the Daleks'; 'Daleks in Other Media: Audio and Exhibitions'; a story by George Mann 'Lost Patrol'; and finally 'The Dalek Invasion of Pop Culture' and a story by Eric Saward 'War & Peace'.

One minor observation on the text ... just something I noticed as I went through ... in the piece about Arthur Terrall from Evil of the Daleks, it doesn't mention that Arthur seems to be magnetising the sword he's holding, suggesting that he is some sort of a robot or facsimile - perhaps in the same mold as Bracewell?

What's most impressive is the pulling together of all the televised Dalek adventures into a single timeline, and placing that within the context of the show itself ... thus the book ends with the death of the Doctor in the town of Christmas on Trenzalore.

What I like about these books is the scope - the ability to draw all the threads together into a single timeline and story, and I'm sure there are many out there who will really appreciate the narrative here, leading them to seek out the television stories which make it up ... and also to explore the wider worlds of Doctor Who through the audios, comic strips and everything else too.

As I say, for full disclosure, I have a small piece in here too ... and it's nice to be a part of such a huge undertaking, and to be able to explain a little about how important the merchandise has been over the years, albeit within the slightly arch context of it all being part of the Daleks' plans for the domination of Earth.

Review: Black Sabbath (1963)

I could have sworn that I'd viewed and reviewed Mario Bava's Black Sabbath before, but I can't find any review ... so here we go!

Arrow have released the film with various editions and extras, but I was only sent for review the Spanish with English subtitles version. It's a film with an interesting backstory, in which all the English versions were heavily cut and reordered ...

The film contains three stories, ostensibly by Tolstoy, Chekov and Maupassant, but as critic Alan Jones informs us in an introduction, none of these three writers had anything to do with the scripts ... It's all presented by Boris Karloff, who also stars in the middle segment as the father of a family cursed with becoming vampires ... But more of that later.

We open with a story called 'The Telephone' which is the simple tale of a woman, Rosy, who receives calls from an unknown caller, threatening to kill her ... the caller seems to know all about her and what she is doing, so she calls a friend, Mary, to come over and stay with her ... not realising that Mary is behind it all as she is in love with Rosy. Meanwhile Rosy's pimp, Frank, returns (she was a call girl), and he kills Mary thinking she is Rosy, before being stabbed to death by Rosy herself ...  No-one ends up very happy here.

The middle segment features Karloff as I mentioned, and is the story of a family beset by a curse. There's lots of mystery as the father is away hunting wurdalak - a vampire who feeds on families. A young man, Vladimir, wants Sdenka, the daughter, to come away with him, but before he can escape, the father returns, and all the family are vampirised ...

The final segment is called 'A Drop of Water' and is perhaps the best. A nurse, Helen, is called to the house of a woman (a spiritualist) she was nursing where the matriarch of the house has died and her corpse is sitting in bed, all eyes staring and teeth grinning. Helen prepares the body for the undertaker, but steals a ring from its finger, knocking over a glass of water in the process, which then drips to the floor.  Back at her own apartment, Helen hears dripping water and sees the corpse of the woman coming for her ... she is somehow forced to strangle herself and dies ... Her body is found by the concierge and the police are called, noting that a ring has been wrenched from her finger.  The concierge looks guilty, while Helen's corpse looks at her ...

Overall the trilogy is strong, with some excellent direction and good performances. The sets and settings are likewise superb, and each little story does not outstay its welcome. These are similar, but perhaps not as gory, as the later anthology films from Amicus, and rely on more cerebral scares than blood and guts.

Well worth a look if you've an interest in the development of horror film, and the works of Mario Bava ...

Released: 18 December 2017

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of two versions of the film; I tre volti della paura the European version with score by Roberto Nicolosi & Black Sabbath the re-edited and re-dubbed AIP version with Les Baxter score
  • English SDH subtitles for English Audio and a new English subtitle translation of the Italian audio
  • Audio Commentary with Bava biographer and expert Tim Lucas
  • Twice the Fear, A comparison of the different versions of the film

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Review: Doctor Who: The Book of Whoniversal Records

This is more like it ... When I first heard about this book, my brain went into meltdown ... I couldn't quite understand why ... it seemed to be just another way to rehash a factual book about Doctor Who ... and indeed it is, but author Simon Guerrier has taken the challenge and made it into something fascinating and very dip-into-able ...

The Book of Whoniversal Records of course takes its inspiration from the Guinness Book of Records which records feats and achievements in the real world. Thus for this Who version, we do the same for the fictional Doctor Who world, but with half a foot in the real world. Thus we can talk about 'the most expensive special effect' and 'the first real person to appear in Doctor Who played by an actor' ... along with 'the largest army ever' and 'the greatest possible threat to Gallifrey'.  In fact what is most impressive is the sheer number of facts, figures and references which Guerrier crams into the book ...  It's something that I would have loved to have attempted! There are a million obscure references, one-liners, comments and happenings to weigh up in order to decide which are the biggest, smallest, most fearsome, most expensive and so on ... Great fun!

All of these 'records' are copiously illustrated with photographs and colour, and the whole book has a gloss and sheen which is indeed very reminiscent of the Guinness tomes. Some of the records would make superb quiz questions: like 'Who was the first real person to be named in the series and then appear in it' ... much head scratching later, and you would probably never guess that the answer is Sir Patrick Moore! (named in 'Aliens of London' and appeared in 'The Eleventh Hour')

But what about 'the quickest a story kills someone on-screen?' The answer here seems to be 'Death to the Daleks' when a man (played by stuntman Terry Walsh) is killed 28 seconds into the story ... but then there's 'the first person to die in Doctor Who' ... and 'the first person killed by the Doctor' ...

I found this book fascinating from start to finish. Endlessly entertaining and turning up all manner of facts which you just never think about normally! Good to see Frazer Hines' Jamie still there as the companion in the most episodes - 116 in total - which is also more than any other actor in the show barring those who played the first four Doctors!  Quite an achievement.

This is certainly a book to add to the shelves!

Review: Now We Are Six Hundred

Doctor Who sometimes throws up the most unlikely of books, and as the show is so popular, so some things end up getting published that just make you scratch your head!

Among them is a book of Doctor Who poetry by James Goss. Unfortunately I am not the worlds most poetic person, and while I love my Doctor Who merchandise, I'm probably not qualified to pontificate on the prose.

It's called Now We Are Six Hundred and I suppose if you're going to be inspired, it might as well be by one of the most famous poetry books: Now We Are Six, written by Winnie the Pooh creator A A Milne. Indeed, many of the poems in the Doctor Who book are 'after' ones from the Milne book, by which it means that they follow the same rhythm and ideas, but with Doctor Who references included. There are some apparently original verses too - I say apparently, but on some, I'm vaguely aware of there being older verses which follow the same patterns. So 'The Galactic Council' takes as its inspiration the old folk song: 'One Man Went to Mow' ... and 'Yeti Song' is inspired by 'Sing Ho for the Life of a Bear' by Carly Simon from Piglet's Big Movie!

The book is immaculately presented. The little illustrations by Russell T Davies (yes, the same guy who Exec Produced Doctor Who) are amusing and well done and add immensely to the tome's charm. I also like how the cover is printed as though the book is very old, and the whole thing has a great sense of fun about it.

The poems cover all areas of Doctor Who and take in Doctors and Companions and Monsters galore ... there's probably something in here for everyone! And for £9.99 for the hardback, it's not that expensive either.

Review: The Untamed (2016)

The Untamed is a new film on the Arrow Academy label from director Amat Escalante, and it's a strange beast indeed. In Spanish and with subtitles it tells the story of Veronica who, at the start of the film, is escaping from an isolated cabin in the woods ... She finds help with Alejandra and her husband Angel, but they are having marital difficulties ... So Veronica convinces Alejandra that in the cabin is something which might be the answer to their problems ...

Except that what is in the cabin is some sort of Lovecraftian tentacled sex monster - the sort of thing that writer Sam Stone would include in her ickier Lovecraftian short stories - which is everso addictive to those who participate with it.

The film is slow ... ponderously so in places ... but it's setting things up with all the characters and their social unease and problems, so that the solution of going to do the dirty with the sex monster (which is also addictive) becomes the focus of various characters as the film progresses.  The problem is that sometimes the creatures kills the humans ... other times it doesn't ... I guess it depends ...

The effects are pretty good and, from the making of feature included, we can see they are a mixture of live action practical effects and CGI ... they're also seldom used which again adds to the overall impression of depression which is part of what the film is trying to tackle.

Certainly worth a look if you're a fan of Lovecraftian horror ... or tentacle porn too I suppose!

Released: October 2017.

  • High Definition digital transfer
  • 5.1 surround sound audio
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original international art and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil

Monday, December 18, 2017

Review: Doctor Who Fluxx

Not being a gamer, I'd never heard of the game Fluxx, which seems incredibly popular and which has expanded to cover all sorts of licensed properties ...  Well that was sorted out when the company behind it, the well named Looney Labs, kindly sent me a review copy of the new Doctor Who version of the game ... and we had a pre-Christmas go at it!

First of all, the game itself.  It's a simple set of 100 cards ... there are different sorts of cards contained in the pack:

NEW RULE - which change the rules of the game as you play
ACTIONS - things that you have to do when you play the card
CREEPERS - a bit hard to explain, but these stop you winning
KEEPERS - these are character cards, and to win you have to have in front of you (ie have to have played) the cards which are stated on the ...
GOAL - the circumstances by which you win

The game involves players taking turns to play the cards in their hands, according to the rules currently in force, to try and reach the goal which is currently in force... and the Rules and Goal change as players change them, add to them, remove them ... and generally do what the cards tell them to.

Got that?

The shorthand version is that you start with the initial Rule: Take One Card. Play One Card ... and you go on from there by simply following what is said on the cards as they are played.

So we set up a game with myself, my wife Sam, and my sons James and Andrew ...  While it starts simply enough, after a few rounds, the Rules changed to Take Three Cards. Play Four Cards ... so you run out quickly ... then Actions came into play like: Discard all  your hand and Draw them again ... or Swap your hand with another player of your choice ... and so on ...

It got confusing very quickly, but the basic litany of 'read what it says on the cards' was what was needed to make it all work!

There's also a degree of strategy in remembering what other players have (some Actions mean that you get to know what cards others have in their hands) and also remembering what is in the Discard pile (as some Actions allow you to choose cards from there to play yourself).  You can block other players by giving them Creeper Cards, and other Actions allow you to take other players' cards, Discard them, or keep them yourself, or even to give them to other players ...

It soon gets hideously fun as you need to work out what Keepers you need to have, against a possible Goal card you have ... so that on your turn, you can play them in the right order to win!! You can't rely on the Goal card on the table as it might change!

BUT be warned there are Reverse The Last Turn Action cards which will stop you ... So it's really not that easy.

What I liked was the simple gameplay - once you get the hang of reading cards, then it's fairly straightforward - and it doesn't take hours and hours for a game ... maybe 15-20 minutes ... Obviously the more people are playing, the longer it might take ... but also the harder it gets to follow what is happening as some Action cards can reverse the order of play, allow players to interrupt and take over play ... and generally to mess everything about ...

At £14.99 for the little pack of cards, it seems quite expensive as there are no other elements - no board and no playing pieces or dice. Maybe this is the going rate for card games these days ...

One word on the cards themselves, and I really liked that they all have little drawings of the characters on them rather than standard BBC Photographs. This makes them stand out from the rest and become something unique. The images are by an artist called Derek Ring, and include all 12 Doctors and most of the Companions from the new series.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

I'd been aware of the original Manga and Anime for this film, but never seen them ... and so this 2017 live action version, starring Scarlett Johansson came as new to me.

It's a story that is very reminiscent of Robocop (1987) (Wiki says that Ghost in the Shell first appeared in 1989), and so one has to wonder if this was originally a Japanese response to that American film. The basic idea is that a woman is created as a cyborg to help the police with their work. The problem is that she retains some of her original memories and personality and these start to bleed through and drive her mad. So she sets out to find out what the truth is.

Along the way we get some superb action sequences, and the CGI is faultless in this 2017 edition. One element of note is that our heroine, Mira, has what is described as a Thermoptic suit, which allows her to become invisible. It also renders her as practically nude, it's so tight, and indeed she is wearing it on the cover of the DVD/Blu-Ray releases and in the trailer, and in much of the film's action set pieces.

I enjoyed the film a lot, but I think the familiarity with Robocop is very strong, and this robs the screenplay of some of its mystery - we know where this is all going. The effects are great, and the acting is also good. One complaint though with regards to Ms Johansson, as with Lucy she seems to be walking through the role in an emotionless fugue. I totally understand that both roles (Lucy and Mira) are intentionally 'blanks' and divorced from reality, so maybe this is what she's being asked to play by the director, but I feel that some actual emotion somewhere in the mix would raise the performance immensely.

It's also interesting, that Googling for photos from the film, there are next to none which don't feature Johansson ... seems that the studios are relying on her and her alone for the film to work!

Review: Don't Torture A Duckling (1972)

Way back in the dim and distant past, some of the masters of Italian Giallo were cutting their teeth on crime dramas, which, while having something in common with the horror fare we might be used to seeing from them, comes from a somewhat different angle.

Years before he rose to notoriety with Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979), Lucio Fulci made Don't Torture a Duckling, a crime/giallo film which has one or two touches of his future horror fare included. In many ways, it's quite a straightforward film: three boys in an Italian village are messing about, as boys do, making trouble and tormenting the locals. One of them goes missing, and amid the press interest, one journalist (Tomas Millian) tries to help the police out.

The boy's body is discovered, and in a welter of red herrings and characters, we get numerous possible suspects for the murder. Was it the strange gypsy witch who has been making dolls of the boys and sticking pins in them? Is it Milan socialite Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet) who is acting very suspiciously? Is it the local priest (Marc Poreli) or his mother (Irene Papas)? There are no end of suspicious activities until we find out at the end ...  and I'm not going to spoil it for you!

Overall, it's a pretty accomplished film, and sets out to do what it does very well. There's touches of horror in the deaths, and one very brutal and protracted and hard to watch killing by the villagers, which, if you replace said villagers with zombies, is almost a template for later films ...

The title is, I suppose, a play on duckling=children ... but there is some relevance to a mute girl who has a headless doll, and later a headless duck, as a toy ...

The Arrow release is beautifully mastered, with good colours and a clear picture. We watched the film in Italian with subtitles, not realising there was an English soundtrack as well!

And the extras are, again as usual, excellent.


• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
• English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
Giallo a la Campagna, a new video discussion with Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film
• Hell is Already in Us, a new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger
• Interviews with co-writer/director Lucio Fulci, actor Florinda Bolkan, cinematographer Sergio D’Offizi, assistant editor Bruno Micheli and assistant makeup artist Maurizio Trani
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Timothy Pittides

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw and Howard Hughes

Sunday, September 03, 2017

New from Warlord Games

Fans of metal miniature figures will be delighted to hear that several new three-packs have been released by Warlord Miniatures in recent months ... their range is building really nicely, and there's promise of all sorts of goodies to come!

Meanwhile, here's pics of the recent issues:

Finally, there's a free FISHER KING figure for anyone who spends more than £75 at their online shop - ... so check them out!