Saturday, 10 September 2016

"Broken Bird" TV Screening: On The Verge

Ariel Undine's "Broken Bird" was featured on Latest TV's "On The Verge" music video show. The folks at Latest TV have kindly put this episode up on YouTube so you can see it here. Latest TV is a Brighton-area TV channel with lots of fresh art and music strands - you can watch them in Brighton on Freeview 7, or via their website here.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Sand And Deliver [Review: The Sand]

It begins with a a group of students. It's always a group of students. How are there any students still living anywhere? These students have a spring break beach party that they think was pretty wild, although the evidence suggests otherwise, and wake up to find the beach deserted and themselves surrounded by an existential threat - anything living that makes contact with the sand itself leads to a sticky end. There's a lot of screaming. Seagulls die. And those students have to justify their 2:1 degrees and use their brains to escape.

I've seen a fair number of low-budget horror movies over the course of my life. This has got to be one of the low-budgetiest I've ever come across. It's actually quite an achievement to come up with a threat that has so little visual impact, much of the time all you ever see are tiny disturbances whipping up from the sand. The actors have to do the hard work, mostly by gurning and screaming, and the screaming in this movie is good quality, reminiscent of those old-school Doctor Who days. Brooke Butler could well have made it as an old-school Doctor Who companion, although I think any of the new batch would have kicked her ass.

This movie fails when it tries anything ambitious - with a fairly low setting of ambitious. The gruesome death scenes are not great, and as soon as the nature of the creature even starts to become apparent, the quality of the effects drops off and the creature effects towards the end are fairly limited. If only they'd had more faith in their original concept. Early on there's a suggestion that the sand-thing might be intelligent - it's able to manipulate surfboards and other physical objects to try to tip the humans over into its zone of influence. That's an idea that could have been developed further and could actually have been more threatening. Similarly, there's a subplot - goodness, what did those naughty students actually do the night of the party? No. Don't care.

This movie was fun in places, with the occasional scene that works really well, and some decent performances making the most of a very basic script, but overall it felt like watching Tremors but without the graboids, the pole-vaulting or the Bacon.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Harry Potter And The Media Convergence Phenomenon [Spoiler-Free Review: Cursed Child]

This is a review of the script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, read as a novel. I haven't got tickets to see it on stage and I'd have to kill far too many people to even get to stand outside the theatre. I was going to use my Cloak of Invisibility to get in, but I've put it down somewhere...

This is also a SPOILER-FREE review. This means I'm not going to make the mistake of telling you what happens to Dobby this time.

So first of all, Cursed Child is a perfectly enjoyable read. It's accessible as a play script, in fact after the first few pages you can easily forget and think of it as a story written in idiosyncratic style. To be fair it's more of a novella than a novel, but will still keep you occupied for the duration of a short internal flight. Using some clever plot devices, the plot involves both familiar and new characters, there's a lot of fun, some surprises and, happily, some new discoveries about the characters and the Potterverse. The story arc is satisfying, the ending is a little less so.

Cursed Child also manages to retain that essential J.K. Rowlinguality, even though Rowling only co-wrote the story and did not write the script. Characters are sympathetic, do have more than one aspect to their personality, and do develop during the events of the play. Dialogue is two thirds genius to one third cornfield. I do miss the internal voices that run through all Rowling's actual novels - only used here in very limited ways.

CC does however suffer from being a play script, and in particular a play script that wants to be something else. It's a Media Identity Disorder if you like. CC owes its inspiration not so much to the original Harry Potter novels but to the films. It makes sense that the writers would know that their play will be compared to the films, or perhaps they have ambitions towards a film conversion. It's also true that media are converging - films, TV shows, plays, books, audiobooks, comics, games etc. are all becoming more or less the same thing, and in a world where you can buy Harry Potter wool, a play script that wants to be a film script, looks like a novel and reads like a short story isn't so far fetched.

Either way, CC features ultra-short scenes, with major location changes every few minutes, much action, and many magical effects. None of this needs to make it a bad play, but I suspect it may lose some of the intimacy that comes from the best-written theatrical plays. I would still be curious to see it, if I can find where I put my Cloak, and I'm willing to be proven wrong.

Monday, 8 February 2016

We're Putting The Band Back Together [The X-Files]

I'd rather be liberated
I find myself captivated
[Catatonia, "Mulder and Scully"]

Watching the first episode on Channel 5 - impressively, in this day and age, this is not a reboot, a re-make, a re-imagining, a spin-off or a prequel. It's just a new series of The X-Files. Mulder and Scully have developed, as both characters carry the weight of their past experiences, but this is essentially the same recipe as ever - show something unbelievable, make it appear beyond doubt, then create doubt.

As this is a new series, and some of today's hybrid aliens may have been cloned too recently to have been exposed to the original, there is a need to introduce the characters and set out the stall. Thus Mulder spells out his own optimist-skeptic philosophy ("I want to believe" rather than "I believe") before being ignited by the latest conspiracy theory while Scully checks, double checks and triple checks her facts but is prepared to trust the results. The opening pitch for the new series, meanwhile, is the revelation that conspiracy theories are themselves part of a conspiracy to cover up an even greater conspiracy - or possibly they're not. Nice one.

What really makes this show is the return of Anderson and Duchovny - both superb actors, easily good enough to take this show into orbit. The original series drew heavily on the electrifying chemistry between the two at every level, from the will-they-won't-they sexual tension to the sharp intellectual battles. Now, later in life, they've moved on from that relationship that was too intense to have lasted, but are still bound together - and it's still electrifying.

Can all this be maintained? The original series wrote the book on slow-burning story arcs. Let's give it some time.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Frame Shift Drive Charging [Elite Dangerous]

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, a blogger backed a Kickstarter campaign for a sequel to a classic space-opera themed computer game. Despite a rocky start, the campaign proved to be phenomenally successful - and in due course, the game was released to a warm welcome from its many fans. Feeling immensely satisfied, the blogger downloaded his free version of the game, installed it and hit the "play" button on the launcher...

...only to discover that his pre-Bronze Age PC was so low spec he had no chance of ever running it. And so the dream died and the blogger drowned his sorrows and continued with his life. When the pain wasn't too sharp he would continue to read about the game and the exploits of its pilots, and even watched in-game events streamed on YouTube.

The pre-Bronze Age PC struggled on for several few months, occasionally shaking or emitting smoke or sparks, until finally it could calculate no more and departed this earth for the greener pastures of the Cloud. It had served its master well and had had the digital equivalent of a good innings.

While the blogger mourned the loss of his faithful if pathetic companion, his heart was not entirely sad. In fact, while this may appear heartless to some, he realised that finally there was an excuse to buy a half-decent machine!
There was a moment of suspense as, once more, the "play" button depressed and the hard drive fired up - and a whole new world opened up.

The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight
I can't claim to be that far ahead of the curve on this occasion - thousands of people are already playing Elite Dangerous so there's a steep catch-up curve ahead of me. However I can report that my old BBC B docking skills have survived cryosleep and the new game isn't too difficult to pick up. I will write more about the game when I've had more of a chance to try it out.

Right On Commander