Friday, 29 May 2009

[190] Joby Otero Interview

This week, I was invited to a preview event for the upcoming movie tie-in game for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I was able to chat with Joby Otero, the Chief Creative Officer on the title. He seemed like a really nice, nerdy fellow, very passionate about working on a Transformers game, and was quite amused when I said I was writing up the event for Den of Geek (I believe his reaction was 'sounds like my kinda place!'). My full preview article of the game should go up next week, but here is the interview.




With the release of Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen on the horizon, it's no surprise that there will be a tie-in video game will be be released as well. However, we recently had the chance to sit and chat with Joby Otero, Chief Creative Officer at Luxoflux, the team behind such games as the True Crime and Vigilante 8 series, about how Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: The Game offers many surprises for sceptics and fanboys alike.


Read the full interview here.

[189] 20 Games For Laptops

Exciting news today. I have a feature published in this week's issue of Micro Mart, titled '20 Games For Laptops'.





I put a lot of work into this, and I'm glad to say it's my first piece of paid journalism. Milestone passed! I'll post more images in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, if you want to read more, Micro Mart should be available at your local newsagents or supermarket.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

[188] MCM Expo, London, 24/05/09

In the spirit of taking up opportunities and trying things offered by living in the country's capital, yesterday I went to the first day of the MCM Expo, which is held at the Excel complex - an exhibition and conference centre in the London Docklands area.

I'd read up on the Expo's site beforehand, so knew to expect all sorts of Movies, Video Games, Comics and Anime-based nonsense, as well as an attempt to break the world record for the most video game cosplayers in one location (which, it seems, they broke). Nevertheless, I was still surprised that even before I had boarded the tube at London Bridge, I had spotted a good dozen bright-eyed teens in Bleach/Naruto-affiliated costume. The density of costumed people grew as I travelled closer, walking through the hyperdeveloped dockside area in the late morning sunshine. Then I turned a corner, and rising over the slight incline, saw a forest of fanatics ahead of me.









I'd hazard to say that there were more people in costume than wearing civvies. When queuing for tickets (in an orderly, if erratic line housed in one of Excel's hangar-like halls), it seemed like a real symposium of super-geeks. While waiting, an anxious buzz went through the line, a vicious rumour - they'd sold out of Pocky already!





Cosplay is a weird and awesome hobby, with the sheer expression, craft and imagination going into some of the outfits being incredibly impressive (some of my favourites: Purple Tentacle, Earthworm Jim, Faith from Mirror's Edge, the Companion Cube from Portal). Less fun, however, is the uncomfortable, seedy edge provided by the younger and more revealing ends of the anime-fan spectrum (pre-teen under-cleavage is not a nice thing to witness), and also the culture that goes along with it. It seems the 'free hugs' sign movement has now hit the zeitgeist, and countless were on display (as well as off-shoots such as 'free glomps').

Fair enough, it's Utopian, it's free love, it's revelling in each other. But there were certainly some leering older men, often with beards and long hair (NOT ME), taking advantage, indulging in said hugs and snapping photographs. Bit creepy. It was a source of discomfort and bafflement for a lot of the like-minded, 'responsible' people I spoke to - squeezing through crowds of kids not knowing where to look, or where to put your hands. But who am I to spoil others' fun?








So I buried myself in Objective Journalism, taking photos of the venue and the attractions, and not so much the people. The MCM Expo is eclectic, and comes off as a real collision of geek cultures. Sure, there was a huge area of packed-out anime stalls, selling plushies, manga and DVDs, but the film, video games and comics areas were no less interesting. There were a few celebrity guests, such as Linda Hamilton, Tony Curtis and Craig Charles (attached to a stall from which you had to make a purchase in order to get an autograph) too. Some shops just seemed to have airlifted in their stock, with interesting turn-outs from Barringtons Swords and a corset sellers.








Other attractions included lots of gaming-related stalls, from developers and publishers like Capcom, Koei and Rising Star, but chief among these was a playable preview of the new and much anticipated Batman: Arkham Asylum game from Rocksteady/Eidos (recently pushed back to a Q3 release for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3). They also had plenty of arcade cabinets and game stations set up for competitions and free play, such as Dance Dance Revolution, Rock Band, Battle Fantasia and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. These areas were packed and popular.








By contrast, the film area was a little underwhelming, with a few big billboards and a small screening area showing a reel of trailers from summer movies, like The Land of the Lost, Bruno and Funny People.

I spent by far the most time in the 'Comics Village', which had a really nice turn out of various artists, writers and creators. Because of the diversified nature of the Expo, it meant that most of these people (who had been at previews events, like the Webcomix Thing), weren't being mobbed by fans, which meant I was able to have chats with a few of them. Name-dropping time. It was great to finally talk to Marc Ellerby, and the lovely Sarah McIntyre (who has posted up her own pictures of the Expo here, here and here), and to see Howard Hardiman, Jamie McKelvie and Rich Johnston again.





The 'big name' in the comics village was Warren Ellis, in an apparently rare appearance. There was a huge queue, but I went towards the end when it had died down. He was maybe a little grumpy, but that was understandable - he was certainly happy to see the queue was almost gone. I'm not one for signings, I don't feel comfortable in the contrived, regimented atmosphere, but I got a tiny bit of conversation in there along with an autograph for my first volume of Transmetropolitan, so I was happy (some weren't so happy, though).

In the Ellis queue, I bumped into Mr. David Wynne, writer/artist of Damnation and Mindhack, and he proved a jolly companion, as he confronted his comic idols and bought original art from them. Also, Dave and Barry from Comic Syndicate seem to be getting more and more swish every time I see them - they had a stall and a press pass, so were covering everything they could.

It was a thoroughly overwhelming, but wholly enjoyable time. I came back exhausted, but smiling, and armed with a small collection of comics.





- Ellerbisms Volumes 1 and 2, by Marc Ellerby
- Nice Cup of Tea and a Deadline, by Sarah McIntyre
- Damnation, by David Wynne (read my review of the book here)
- A beautiful, one-page piece called True Story, by Howard Hardiman
- The Flying Friar, by Rich Johnston, Thomas Nachlik, Thomas Mauer and Ian Sharman

Lovely stuff. I'm effectively righting some of the wrongs imposed by my meagre budget. I'm slowly catching up with artists that I've spotted at previous events, but not had the money to check out. Still more to go though, as evidenced by my weak protestations in response to Adam Cadwell's half-joking hard-sell tactics. Luckily, there'll be a next time.


You can see my full set of photos here.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

[187] Dumbland DVD Review

David Lynch is one of my favourite directors, and I would say that almost all of his feature films have moved or inspired me in some way (apart from Dune, no one can seriously like that). I'm a major fan of Twin Peaks, too, but after watching Dumbland, I was disappointed to find such a wholeheartedly Lynchian piece of work that I didn't like. The resulting review, probably because of my respect for the creator, is more sedate and thoughtful than an out-and-out rantfest. Check it out.


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Originally released back in 2002 on the Internet, and compiled for Region 1 territories on DVD in 2005, David Lynch's 'absurd animated comedy' series Dumbland has now made its way across the Atlantic. Dumbland consists of 8 short episodes (totalling around 35 minutes); it is devised, written, voiced and crudely animated by Lynch himself, and contains little more than grotesque, exaggerated snapshots of the daily life of the main character, a gaping-mouthed, protuding-browed, wife beater-wearing troglodyte reportedly called Randy.

Each episode is focused on one aspect of the minutiae of Randy's existence, from an over-the-fence conversation with a neighbour, to being tasked with minding an old relative. Such boring, everyday subject matter becomes twisted and malformed in Lynch's hands. Randy's family are dysfunctional and caricatured, with his shrieking, grimacing wife and squeaky, wide-eyed child getting in the way of his eruptions of anger. Taking inspiration from real life, and filtering situations and relationships through a surrealist lens is one of the cornerstones of David Lynch's style, and his films typically have these moments of off-kilter, quirky tension - such as the most horrific meet-the-parents dinner scene committed to film in Eraserhead, his first feature, or the particularly uncomfortable scene in Mulholland Drive featuring composer Angelo Badalamenti and a cup of espresso.

However, the vignettes that make up Dumbland are for the most part purposefully artless. The black and white, Flash-based animation is just plain ugly, yet it achieves a raw, rough form of expressionism. Its comedy is based around the absurd extremity of the situations: Randy is all-swearing, all-dangerous and all-stupid, like a lobotomised version of Mr Eddy from Lost Highway, or Dennis Hopper's Frank in Blue Velvet.


Read the full article here.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

[186] Youtube Cannes Young Lions 48 Hour Ad Contest

The Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival is taking place next month, and one of the competitions that has been organised in anticipation of it is the Youtube Young Lions 48 Hour Ad Contest. The contest tasks aspiring filmmakers and advertising creatives to come up with a one-minute advert for Oxfam on the topic of climate change. The topic and charity were announced on Friday, and the videos had to be created and uploaded to Youtube by the end of Sunday.

During this second phase, the teams have 2 weeks to generate as many views and votes for their video as they can. The two winning teams will be given the chance to visit the festival, taking place in Cannes between 21st and 27th of June. There, they will compete in the Young Lions Film Competition, which runs along the same 48 hour guidelines, only this time against teams from 37 other countries.

A good friend of mine, Alaka, has entered the competition, working as part of a team with her friends Tom Stimson and Rob Keevil; you can see their video below.





For more information, check out the contest's official Youtube channel, where you can see all of the entrants, and vote.

Monday, 18 May 2009

[185] Film and Festivals Magazine, Issue 13 (May)

The latest issue of Film and Festivals Magazine is now available to view on their website.





This issue is concerned with the topic of the current wave of British Cinema. There is some great content in there, including a couple of pieces by Leigh Singer about the Microwave funding scheme, where young filmmakers are given a tight budget of £100,000 to make their debut feature. The second film to come out of the scheme, Shifty, is currently out at the cinemas, and is a confident, strong film from promising writer-director Eran Creevey.

I contributed a long feature about British cinema, and how its innovation and independence is allowed due to the unique support structures that have been erected in the last 20-30 years, such as the UK Film Council. I'll post up the feature here in the near future, for portfolio purposes.

To read the issue, click over to the Film and Festivals website, here.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

[184] Shortwave Cinema Opens in Southwark

I came across this in the Southwark Weekender last week, as I was sitting with the Finnish Girl waiting for a Frankie and Benny's pizza in Surrey Quays.




The Shortwave Cinema is a new, independent cinema based in Bermondsey (on Bermondsey Square, just off Tower Bridge Road, to be exact). It has one screen, which only seats fifty, as well as a cafe-bar, and will be showing arty and other left-of-centre films, along with local interest pictures and classic features.

It certainly looks like a nice place, and the tickets are £6 - which is a very good thing. The programme is promising - they kicked off with a weekend screening of the Red Riding Trilogy, and are screening Basil Deardon's Victim today. Will have to check it out and report back.

For more info, go to their site, http://www.shortwavefilms.co.uk/.

Friday, 15 May 2009

[183] Claire Jennings Interview

The last interview from the Coraline junket; I had the chance to chat with Claire Jennings, current President of Entertainment at LAIKA, who was producer of Coraline, and Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit.


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Claire Jennings, recently appointed Head of Entertainment at LAIKA Studios, has developed quite an impressive resume for herself. Before producing Coraline, LAIKA's first feature film, she also produced Aardman Animation's Oscar-winning film Wallace & Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit. We recently had the chance to sit down with her during the press junket for Coraline, and chat with her about the art of stop-motion animation, the production aspects of Coraline, and what's up next for LAIKA.


Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

[182] Lisztomania (1975) DVD Review

I'm quite proud of this one. I don't think I'm particularly good at that more subjective, expressive style of writing - I think I'm better at the boring aspects, such as straightforward analysis - but Lisztomania is the kind of film which inspires mad style. I think it came out quite well, and quite zinger-y.


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Mad genius Ken Russell's Lisztomania has been long out of print, and is now released by Digital Classics as a bare-bones DVD. The result is no lost classic, but it bursts with ambiguous inspiration and undeniable, indulgent excess.

Lisztomania is ostensibly a biographical picture of the notable 19th century composer and pianist, Franz Liszt (here played by erstwhile Who vocalist Roger Daltry). It follows his superstardom as a concert maestro, his numerous affairs, his desire to compose serious work, and his friendship with fellow radical Richard Wagner. However, Russell uses this tangible historical basis as an ever-diminishing basis for his expressionistic flourishes and barmy flights of fancy.

To rate this film in concordance with the current mode of film-reviewing method - acting, scripting, narrative coherence - would be a pointless endeavour. For the most part, Lisztomania fails as a traditional movie experience.


Read the full article here.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

[181] Lode Runner XBLA Review

Latest review up at Den of Geek, a piece looking at the latest XBLA remake/revamp from Southend/Tozai: Lode Runner. Check it out.


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Xbox Live Arcade's Days of Arcade promotion has come to an end with the release of Tozai and Southend's remake of Lode Runner, the classic action-puzzle game. Originally appearing back in 1983, Lode Runner was developed by an architecture student for a variety of home computer and console platforms, such as the Apple II and the Commodore 64. It was a huge hit back then, and has been ported over to pretty much every platform since.

It's a tight, fast-paced game at heart, seeing the player enclosed in a small multi-platformed area, tasked with collecting a set amount of gold in each level. Making matters difficult is a handful of baddies, who are in hot pursuit - the Runner (our dude after all the bullion) has to rely on his wits and a blaster, which can shoot out the ground diagonally to his right or left in order to trap the enemies, to get through each stage.

This central gameplay is time-tested, and akin to other arcade-style classics like
Pac-Man and Donkey Kong in its immediate pick-up-and-play simplicity. This translates well onto the 360, with a pleasant, yet not exactly awesome high definition makeover, crucially, the game's strengths.


Read the full article here.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

[180] Henry Selick Interview

On Wednesday, I also had the chance to interview Coraline director Henry Selick. Even though, if I'm being honest, I was more excited to talk to Neil Gaiman, I am just as much a fan of Selick's work. Especially The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is one of my all-time favourite films. Selick is a great talent, and makes wonderful, if few, films. I'm glad I had the chance to meet him.


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Director Henry Selick's latest picture, Coraline, has been a long time in the making. I got the chance to sit down with the man, and chat about his influences, his work methods, and adapting Neil Gaiman's Coraline novel in stop-motion 3D. We also spoke about the place of the macabre and the creepy in children's film, something which all of Selick's films exhibit, from 1993's The Nightmare Before Christmas to 1997's James And The Giant Peach (DoG Towers' contender for the most under-appreciated children's film of the 1990s).


Read the full article here.

[179] Neil Gaiman Interview

When I filled out the dwpub Journalert Freelance Focus questionnaire a couple of months ago, there was a question about who I would most like to interview. One of the people I put down was Neil Gaiman. He's one of my favourite authors, whose shadow is cast across a surprising amount of my taste in comics, books, films, even music. I got the chance to see him at a Reading/Q&A/Signing back in October, and I was content. So imagine my surprise, excitement and nerves when I landed the opportunity to interview him for Den of Geek, as part of the press junket for Coraline.

I think it went really, really well. I managed to have my nerd-gasm before we even started recording, as he invited me onto the hotel room's sofa (thankfully, we didn't sit in the imposing video interview set-up), and said he enjoyed reading Den of Geek - especially the review of Coraline. So after that, I completely relaxed, and we had a wonderful little chat - for 13 minutes!

Anyway, I'm very please with this, and thrilled that I had the chance to do this interview. Check it out.


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When thinking of modern-day geek culture superstars, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone as wide-ranging, lauded and downright successful as Neil Gaiman. Whether it's in comics, novels (for adults or all-ages), film or music, Gaiman has delighted audiences the world over - he even wrote an episode of Babylon 5, for Valen's sake. Currently enjoying the fallout of releasing The Graveyard Book late last year, which won the author the prestigious Newberry Medal, Gaiman was in London as part of the press circus for Henry Selick's adaptation of his 2002 novel Coraline. I had the opportunity to talk with him about his hectic year, the experience of seeing Coraline adapted to both stage and screen, and, of course, Twitter.


Read the full article here.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

[178] Tiny Mix Tapes Vol. 1: Darfur

Just a quick one. Now available for purchase is the first properly collected, mastered and produced compilation by the American indie-ish music website Tiny Mix Tapes.





I suggest you check it out; I got my copy a few weeks ago, and it's full of exclusive content from a handful of interesting artists. The artwork, designed by erstwhile Delorean section editor Keith Kawaii, is superb. All of the profits go to the International Rescue Committee, for the purposes of providing aid to Sudanese refugees.

Here's the tracklist:

01. Jim O’Rourke - "Seven Stars"
02. Balroynigress - "Dress the Ship in Black"
03. WHY? - "Eskimo Snow (sock hop version)"
04. Frog Eyes - "Bushels (acoustic version)"
05. Burning Star Core - "Incurable Beauty of the Master’s Demise"
06. Xiu Xiu - "Farther On (Traditional)"
07. Mount Eerie - "Calf In Pasture"
08. Wooden Wand - "No Stranger"
09. The Flying Luttenbachers with Henry Kaiser - "Trapped in Ice"
10. nmperign - "Remote Sensing"
11. Dan Deacon - "I Have So Much to Donald"

Some great tracks on there, and it is a real watershed moment for the site, which is still mostly written by voluntary workers and enthusiasts. I'd count myself among them, but I think I'm (rightfully) in the dog-house at the moment for spending over 3 months on a review of The Cure's Wish.

Anyway, this is all for a good cause, and TMT deserve your support. For more information, check their site here.