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!

Review: More Mr Men/Doctor Who titles and Paper Dolls

Sometimes this crazy programme that we love throws up some brilliant things. The most recent are the 'Mr Men/Doctor Who' Mash-Up books from Penguin.

Four were published earlier in the year, and now we have four more!  Covering Dr. Second, Dr. Seventh, Dr. Eighth and Dr. Ninth.

In Dr. Second, the Doctor teams with Jamie and Victoria to solve a problem of Yeti in a museum ... Dr. Seventh is with Ace battling the Cheetah people and the Master ... Dr Eighth solves a problem between the Sea Devils and Silurians, and Dr Ninth sees an alternative first meeting between the Doctor and Rose, with Autons and Captain Jack thrown in for good measure!

They are excellent little books, nicely drawn and observed, and for fans of Doctor Who, of course a must-buy.  I heard that there will be actual models of the Mr Men Doctors available soon ... what will they think of next!

The other book which arrived this week is something of a curio ... back in the day, perhaps the most tenuous book to be released tying in with Doctor Who was perhaps the Doctor Who Pattern Book or the Doctor Who Cook Book ... well now there is a new contender with Doctor Who Paper Dolls!

It's a simple idea ... cut out, stand-up figures of various characters from Doctor Who with clothing choices to also cut out and apply to the standees. On the plus side, the book is well constructed from stiff card (so stiff in fact that I wonder how easy actually cutting the figures out would be) but it's a shame they are not perforated to assist removal.

There are 26 characters represented here: all twelve Doctors; Jo Grant; Sarah Jane Smith; Romana; Ace; Rose Tyler; Donna Noble; Martha Jones; River Song; Amy Pond; Rory Williams; Clara Oswold; Petronella Osgood; Missy; and Bill Potts ... and the outfits range from a cleaning lady that the third Doctor dressed as in 'The Green Death' to Sarah Jane's Andy Pandy outfit.  I feel that some opportunities have been missed though: Bill Potts does not have a Mondasian Cyberman outfit, for example, and Clara's red dress from her debut in 'Asylum of the Daleks' is missing (though arguably you could say that that character was not Clara but Oswin ... but wasn't Oswin meant to be one of the Clara 'splinters'?).  Donna doesn't get her Roman outfit from 'Fires of Pompeii' and Romana, queen of the outfit changes, has just three represented. It's interesting that Rory stands out as the sole male entry in the book (aside from all the Doctors of course) ... what about all the other male companions from Ian to Steven, Jamie to Harry?

Alongside the artwork images by Ben Morris, there are brief notes by Simon Guerrier about the costume elements which pull in facts from behind the scenes on the show. Thus the first Doctor's hat is said to be a karakul ... I always thought it was an astrakhan hat (Googling suggests they may be the same thing) and that Jon Pertwee's green velvet jacket sold for £8400 at auction in 2009!  There's also a caption to the cleaning lady outfit suggesting it's a milkman, which was a different disguise that the Doctor used in 'The Green Death'.

There's also a rather nice piece all about cosplay from Christel Dee, who presents the BBC's 'fan show' on Doctor Who ... and while I can understand the connection between a book of characters from Doctor Who as dressing up dollies, and cosplay, it does seem a little misplaced ... maybe a book actually on cosplay would be a better idea ... showing fans dressed up and explaining how they created and cobbled together their outfits.

Overall, I'm afraid it's a book that I just can't see the point of. There might be an audience out there for it, but I really don't know what age group they are aiming it at. It's certainly not me!  Sorry people ...

Review: The Target Covers of Jeff Cummins

This is the third in a series of portfolios published by Andrew Skilleter and Matt Doe from Who Dares Publishing. I have to mention that I penned the introduction to this, so have a vested interest.

However, this is a smashing collectors item, and limited to 50 copies only!

There are superb reproductions of Jeff's Target paintings here, and a pre-painting sketch of the 'Horror of Fang Rock' cover art ...  brilliant stuff.

The printing quality is amazing, and the whole thing reeks quality, from the little booklet all about the paintings, to the inclusion of a Target badge ...

If you're a fan of the Target cover paintings, then you'll want this in your collection!

Available from: