Daily Archives: 01/21/2012

“Chronicle” – A rave review hits

I would only use my powers for good. Obviously.

Over at Den of Geek, Ryan Lambie is super-excited about Josh Trank and Max Landis’ low-fi teen superhero fable, “Chronicle” and he’d love to tell you why…

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A Season of Vamps: “Underworld: Awakening” review

The Becks, as Death Dealing Vamp Selene, in "Underworld: Awakening".

Geek film critic Harry Knowles, of Ain’t It Cool News fame, has always been a proponent of giving his film reviews a wider context .  He wants to give you a sense of what the screening was like, how the audience behaved and a picture of how the surroundings of the film enhanced or detracted from his experience.

I would do that myself, but I’m not sure that you need to know how about my inhaler falling out of my pocket and getting stuck under the car in the cinema car park, or the van full of kids who were THIS EXCITED ABOUT GOING TO PLAY LASERTAG, LOLZ!

Instead, know this:

Mummy 3D Specs and her lovely offspring, Junior

Yep, that happened alright.

The normal-sized pair of 3D glasses is what I usually take with me when going to the cinema to see a 3D movie.   I forgot them when I set out to see “Underworld: Awakening” today and so ended up using the top, kids-sized pair of indoor, knock-off Raybans when it was handed to me – I’m 6 feet 3 tall and have unruly long hair – those glasses were lucky to stay perched on the bridge of my nose without exploding.

I’m assuming shenanigans on the part of the Emo-haired, apparently eleven year old cashier at Cineworld – however, his cunning (or inept) ruse did not prevent me from enjoying this latest salvo in the eternal war between vampires and werewolves, but did confirm that 3D doesn’t really add much to the experience.

SPOILERS, probably, from this point forward.

Kate Beckinsale’s eternal vampire warrior Selene – ‘death dealer’ in the ornate parlance of this franchise – has been frozen, experimented on and generally kept under lock and key for twelve years when we first meet her.   In flashback, we see that the wider world has finally gotten hip to the supernatural war being waged in the shadows – you would think that governmental types might have noticed ten feet tall werewolves running amok and be-winged ancient vampires attacking all and sundry as a minor blight on urban living – and instigated a cataclysmic purge.

Hence Selene’s on lock-down, her vamp/wolf hybrid love Michael is missing presumed dead and the supernaturals who swaggered through the previous films like they owned the joint have gone to ground.

To make matters worse, Selene’s having weird psychic flashes which link her to person(s) unknown and the Med-Tech group who were experimenting on her are quite keen on getting her up and flash-burning her into oblivion.  It’s not the best of days for anyone and it’s made a bit worse when Selene finds out that she now has a daughter, Eve (series newcomer India Eisley).

Bloody moody teenagers. What's wrong with classic Vampire black attire?

If you saw the picture of Eisley and thought to yourself, “Franchise spin-off, ahoy!”, then we’re on the same page.  It’s not hard to see that this iteration of  “Underworld” acting as something of a soft reboot for the series, with the likes of Eisley and Brit heart-throb-in-waiting Theo James filling a nice Beckinsale and Scott Speedman-sized space should the producers decide that they want to skew the series younger and attract some of the tweens and teens who’ve flocked to the “Twilight” films.

This said, all concerned may want to make some changes before that sort of plan is considered – I’m not remotely a champion of censoring films, but the level of violence in this sequel did make me wince a couple of times.  This is one film which absolutely earns its 18/R rating, so be fully warned if you’re not a fan of gore, blood and heads exploding.  It makes the last “Rambo” look like a Miley Cyrus vehicle.

As I’ve said, I did enjoy the film but had some reservations about some choices which were made.  The utterly convoluted but entertaining back story of the previous entries in the franchise is more or less forgotten in favour of covering events in the here and now.  Eve is the focus of this movie and the wholesale devastation of the Vampire and Were populace is dealt with in a quick-fire introductory sequence.

The cynic in me suggests that the introduction of new characters might be a studio’s favoured way of moving forward with the franchise and recasting younger, (subjectively) hotter and – most importantly – cheaper actors who aren’t married to the producer/writer/director.

Still, Eisley is actually quite good and Theo James acquits himself well, too, so the idea of seeing another “Underworld” sequel in two years with these two front and centre doesn’t fill me with the same level of horror that it might do for the mainstream critics (it looks like this film is going to have a pretty decent launch this weekend – number one at the US box office with $23-24 million and nobody has a good word to say about it.  Almost guarantees that there will be another film…).

To sum up – Kate’s great, the gore in this picture is mind-boggling, the 3D is okay, the climactic battle is a gonzo Battle Royale and it occurs to me that my favourite guilty pleasure horror action franchise is turning into a Vampire-centric “X-Men”/superhero clone  – and I’m absolutely okay with that.

Just don’t do a “Twilight”  number on the next one, eh, Screen Gems?

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New “Riddick” picture – Fun, Furyan and Fabulous!

What every stylish, messianic anti-hero is wearing this season...

If you want to know something about the next “Riddick” movie, there’s only one place that you need to be – Vin Diesel’s Facebook page.

I’m quite keen on this approach of sharing information, I have to confess – is it better to just send the picture out to the usual snarky film bloggers who are going to talk smack about a film that they have no interest in or to send it directly to the people who care about the latest updates and are, you know, eventually going to buy movie tickets and Blu Rays?

Makes sense to me.

Not much in the way of additional detail other than my supposition that this picture does seem to show His Dieselness in a variation of the Necromonger gear which he sported in “The Chronicles of Riddick”.

Just an observation – don’t shoot the (geeky) messenger.

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A Season of Vamps: “Soulless” by Gail Carriger

Book one of the 'Parasol Protectorate' series.

I believe that, back in the dim and ill-storied  pre-history of this blog, I promised a forthcoming review of this very novel.  My somewhat eccentric grasp of the word ‘forthcoming’ notwithstanding, here is that very review.  Not before time, but why unduly rush a good thing?

Gail Carriger‘s first novel in her “Parasol Protectorate” series of Steampunk/Paranormal Romance/Historical tales concerns the adventures of Victorian spinster Alexia Tarabotti, the unfashionably free-thinking and vaguely tolerated eldest daughter of a well-to-do family who has secrets.

Preternatural, ‘I don’t actually have a soul’-type secrets.  The sort that can really put a crimp in one’s social standing and must be kept under wraps at all costs.  Putting aside the notion that the soul is kind of a nebulous, hard-to-grasp concept that you might not really believe in, making Alexia devoid of a soul does serve a neat, plot-friendly purpose in this novel, as it’s her most effective weapon against the other supernatural creatures walking openly through Carriger’s subtly be-Steampunked Victorian London.

Queen Victoria - she knew the score when it came to the Supernatural Classes.

You see, Vampires and Werewolves are out of the closet in this series and don’t skulk in the shadows as they would in other fantasy novels – they’re tolerated, if not entirely accepted, and quite the fashionable inclusion at society parties, albeit under certain strictures and with the eye of civil service-like organisations always on them.

Alexia’s path towards ignoble and anonymous spinsterdom is interrupted rudely by a vampire attack at a social occasion, a state of affairs made much worse by the unfortunate fact that the vampire in question is a rove (or unregistered) creature of the night.  It’s just not the done thing to have a vampire roaming the streets of London who doesn’t belong to a hive and who isn’t under the strict command of a queen – so the question on Alexia’s lips (after she accidentally stakes the creature with her trusty parasol) is ‘where did he come from?’.

And that’s the jumping off point for the book – somebody in London is very interested in creating supernatural creatures and nobody – not annoyingly sexy Scottish Alpha Werewolf  Conall Maccon, nor socially connected, camp-as-Christmas Vampire Lord Akeldama – knows what’s going on and the local Vampire Hive is acting as only Vampire societies in genre fiction can do (by being uptight, nose-in-the-air ancient elitists who want to handle their own murky business and don’t mind if that means that blameless folk die whilst they get to the bottom of things).

Stating upfront that I genuinely enjoyed the novel – I’ve got the next two books in the series in my bedside reading pile, all ready to go – I do have some minor reservations to address about the book.

A minor thing for me – the male characters are a little too archetypal at times.  Lord Akeldama, Alexia’s vampire confidante, is the camp, fashion-fixated Creature of the Night who is equal parts Perez Hilton-esque, networking gossip monger and scheming supernatural king-maker and is accordingly politely ostracised by the society he finds himself in – too supernatural for the night-time world, not proper enough for the daytime establishment.  If your Character Generator bingo card has Akeldama firmly in the ‘Fabulous, Fierce and Fanged’ category, be sure to tick it off now.

Maccon the werewolf is a rough-around-the-edges Scotsman whose habit for speaking his mind puts him on the outs with the genteel social circles which he finds himself moving in.  He’s a sketch rather than a character, but he does become more likeable as the book draws on – and I enjoyed the way that Alexia’s preternatural talent (she can stop vampires in their tracks by touching them, likewise reversing lycanthropic effects in one so cursed by being in physical contact) prevented him from fulfilling the ‘lusty Celtic rogue’ template which he could otherwise have fallen into.

I had to keep reminding myself that a large aspect of the book is its treatment of romance and relationships in a time where no easy roadmap for such territory existed and perhaps my misgivings are drawn from the fact that I don’t usually read fiction where love and sex (or the confusions which arise thereafter) figure greatly.

One thing which irked me, which isn’t due to my gender or previous reading habits, is some of the language used by characters.   A defensive fan might cite the fact that this novel has a sense of anachronism about it by virtue of having Steampunk elements in play and so some relaxation of concern for the speech patterns and idioms of the characters is fair.

Nice try, but no – as it were – cigar.

Even in this period of time, no British person of my acquaintance would use the word ‘figure’ in the context of discovering or mentally juggling with a complex issue.  We don’t ‘figure things out’ – we work things out or solve a problem.  It’s a minor point but it jumps out at a British reader, particularly as the world being drawn is so particular to our history and sense of ourselves.  I know that Alexia is partly of Italian parentage but we’re never told that she’s had any particular contact with America, Americans or American vernacular so it just seems jarring to have her (and other characters) use linguistic forms which probably hadn’t been devised yet.

I know that this is nit-picking of the most mundane variety but it did distract me and it may do the same for you, too.

That minor issue done and dusted with, I have to say that I really enjoyed and recommend the book to you if you like your adventures fast-paced, romantic and witty.  It’s a very well-paced and energetic novel which has to undertake some world-building  initially but does so in a really fairly subtle, quick way which doesn’t burden the reader with retaining lots of information Which Will Become More Important Later On.

Gail Carriger. A fan of tea. As well she should be.

I’ve jumped into the next book in the series, “Changeless”, and in the 10 to 15 pages that I’ve read so far Ms Carriger has addressed some of the issues that I’ve had with the language and tone of the characters – it reads as the work of somebody who is more comfortable with her characters, with the idioms she’s choosing to work with and knows that she has a readership who is going to follow Alexia Tarrabotti’s adventures wherever they might lead.

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