Thursday, 11 November 2010

[407] MCM Expo, October 2010 Mega-Haul

I’m running a little late with this, but there’s no time like the present. The MCM Expo was as overwhelming and exhausting as ever, especially as I'd decided to cram in radio preparation, essay research and good, old-fashioned journalism into my usual rounds. This time, also, I made a point to save up the pennies beforehand, so I could actually buy some books from people.

Here’s my haul.

Dull Ache, a beautiful collection of odds and ends by Luke Pearson.

Man, this guy has discovered some ancient spell for magicking up consistently eye-pleasing artwork. His work for Solipsistic Pop, and the pieces on his blog (especially Jus’ Checkin’ and A Sound Agreement) are brilliant, and I’m eagerly anticipating his upcoming book from Nobrow Press, Hildafolk, which you can read about here.

The Bulletproof Coffin, by David Hine and Shaky Kane.

I plugged the gaps in my collection of this cheeky little series by Hine and Kane, which sees a repo man / comics collector get sucked into a primary colour world of Golden Age pulp adventure. Each issue brings with it a renewed sense of unfettered wonder, as the homages get broader and the plot gets even more twisted. Pure comics. The book-within-a-book playfulness reaches a laugh-out-loud peak in the latest issue, where the main character visits a nearby yard sale, and finds a ratty old copy of Strange Embrace, a book by... David Hine! Followed by a preview of the recently-released hardcover. Bonkers. You can read the first issue at Bleeding Cool.

Dragon Heir: Reborn, by Emma Vieceli.

I’m not one for high fantasy manga, to be honest, but I’ve heard such good things about erstwhile Comics Village organiser Vieceli’s work that I thought I’d give this collection of her webcomic a go. It’s certainly good-looking, and from what I’ve read so far, it manages to balance the character drama, comic relief, and EPIC MYTHOLOGY quite well. You can check out Dragon Heir on her site here.

Particle Fiction, by David Wynne.

Oh, David Wynne. I’ve talked about him enough on this blog, in one form or another, but he is improving all the time. This is the first collection of his monthly ‘eclecti-comic’ Particle Fiction, which tackles a different genre each month. It’s a real pleasure to see his work rendered as a tight, bright little volume, and the stories are jolly good fun, especially the energetic, witty adventures of Ideasman (an agent for the Interstitial Department of Eternal Affairs, whose motto is 'keeping the multiverse safe'), which are essentially excuses for Wynne to mould crazy concepts into action-packed micro-romps.

Bad Dog, by Gary Northfield.

A big newspaper chock-full of tittersome strips, starring a very naughty canine. Some of them make me blush.

Necessary Monsters, by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey and Sean Azzopardi.

I’ve been pestering Sean about the Necessary Monsters book for what seems like years, and it’s great to finally see it in the flesh. Speaking of flesh, plenty of it gets torn apart over the course of this gory story, where the end of the world is averted by a team of horror archetypes, consisting of a huge brute who wears a bondage mask and carries a machete, a kaidan-like ghost who haunts mirrors, and a vengeful newcomer who stalks her prey in their dreams. A deliciously depraved sort of spectacle.

One Hundred Moments From My Past, Present and Future, by Edward Ross.

Edward appeared on the WAW+P Radio show the day after MCM, and we talked about this book, his collection of daily strips for the 100 Days To Make Me A Better Person project, so I won’t repeat myself here. Although, really, you should check it out. Even though it is an autobiographical book, it really explores the form, relating everyday events and small occurrences in Ross’ life, but also widening the horizons to include personal problems, and hopes, anxieties and worries of the future.

I also picked up two DVDs - for research purposes, honestly - namely Hansel & Gretel and Death Tube. The latter seems to be a Japanese spin on the torture porn genre, and the distributor was selling his stock for £5 - and unsurprisingly sold all the discs by the end of the weekend. Hansel & Gretel was recommended as a Korean counterpoint to the likes of The Orphanage or Pan’s Labyrinth, so I’m expecting more from that one. However, I’ve not had the time to watch either of these DVDs yet - but I’ll make sure to keep you all informed.

And with that, my comics fund is damn near exhausted. Unsurprising, really. Maybe it’s a good job I’m not going to Thought Bubble, after all.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

[406] Can You Recall...?

The day after the MCM Expo last week, I was waiting for the bus to the London Fields Radio station. I found this in my pocket.

You know, I don't think I even remember what I did last summer. And looking at this blog isn't the greatest of help. ('Oh, I saw Inglourious Basterds, and interviewed Lawrence Bender!') It's just a long line of reviews, blogs and articles. Films upon films. It's getting hard to differentiate the days and pinpoint months in the backlog of memory.

That said, I'm pretty sure I didn't hit an old man while drunk driving, and dump his body in the sea. Who can be sure, though?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

[405] Black Ops Launch @ Battersea Power Station

Chalk this one up as a bit of whimsical bloggery. Last night, I attended the launch party for the new Call Of Duty video game, Black Ops.

As befits such a grand media event, the entertainment was large and overblown: cocktails and food reflecting the various locales of the game; a large 'war-room' style round table, fitted with consoles hooked up in a looped deathmatch game; footballers competing with European pseudo-celebs in an international free for all.

George Lamb was master of ceremonies - you know, that guy who makes you turn off the radio. He had one ongoing joke, that only guys play video games, and the venue was made up of mostly males. Well, he was half right. And, apparently, two chart-bothering musical artists capped off the night with a live performance. Sounds very much like last year's launch for Modern Warfare 2, in a way.

But there was one detail which made this stand out, and that was the location. Whereas last year was a mash-up of a Leicester Square 'film' premiere and a students' union dressed up as an underground bunker, last night's festivities took place at one of London's most beguiling, imposing and distinctive landmarks: Battersea Power Station.

This made my night. Even though it's not far from Westminster, Battersea Power Station is positioned awkwardly around a bend of the Thames, so you rarely get to see it, unless you're in the area. To get up close and personal, then, was a treat.

Inside, it is completely gutted, lacking a roof and in terrible condition. I don't envy those people planning for its future use. The event took place in what seemed to be a semi-permanent structure, but most of my time was spent gawping at the dizzying height of the brick walls, and those amazing chimneys. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, I salute you.

Unfortunately, I deleted Pink Floyd's Animals (which featured Battersea Power Station on its cover) from my phone a couple of months ago, and lost my ripped copy of the albums with the recent laptop death. So I'm making up for that today, while people the world over are no doubt getting acquainted with Black Ops.

Here's a video for 'Pigs on the Wing', with footage from the flying pig stunt at Battersea.

Call of Duty: Black Ops is released today, but you probably already knew that.

Monday, 8 November 2010

[404] Let Me In Interviews: Matt Reeves and Kodi Smit-McPhee

So I didn't like the film that much, but I did get to chat a little with Let Me In director Matt Reeves, and lead actor Kodi Smit-McPhee.

Let Me In, the British-American remake of the Swedish vampire drama Let The Right One In, finally receives its UK general release this week. We loved the earlier take on John Ajvide Lindqvist's tale of two children bonding in less than conventional circumstances, so we must admit we approached this new adaptation, directed by Cloverfield's Matt Reeves and produced by a revamped (ugh) Hammer Film Productions, with a little bit of caution.

Luckily, we had the chance to sit in on a roundtable interview with Reeves, and lead actor Kodi Smit-McPhee, who stars as Owen, the lonely boy who befriends the mysterious night walker Abby (Chloe Moretz). We talked about the production, Kodi's approach to the material and the process of adapting the property for an English-speaking audience, as well as the gruesome deleted scene that has appeared on the Internet, and what it is like carrying the torch for the resurrected (ugh) Hammer studio.

Read the full article here.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

[403] Let Me In (2010) Review

Here's another essay-ish review, this time for the Matt Reeves-helmed remake Let Me In. As Den of Geek had already sent their American reviewer Ron Hogan - who wasn't familiar with Let The Right One In - to see the film, I saw this as my chance to relax and take a close look at its approach to adaptation. Unsurprisingly, therefore, this isn't the best review for those who haven't seen the Swedish progenitor.

Before we start, let's get acquainted. Let Me In is the British-American remake of 2008's Swedish horror-drama film Let The Right One In. I reviewed it on this site, and it topped my Best of 2009 list. Ron Hogan, Den Of Geek's US correspondent, checked the film out on its Stateside release, coming to it completely cold, without seeing the original. (There are links to all of these at the bottom of this article.)

So here's an alternative take. Let's take a look at
Let Me In in context, and relate it to the film it is remaking for a new audience.

In the last decade, Hollywood backed remakes have been consistently eyed with much suspicion. They're often used as a yardstick for the declining imagination of mainstream American product, and of the callousness of producers sucking up the best ideas from abroad. So, it was no surprise that
Let The Right One In, the Swedish vampire horror-drama, was greenlit for the English language makeover.

Cue the consternation. Den Of Geek's resident World Cinema expert, Nick Horton, recently had the following to say about
Let The Right One In: " is the isolation of the Swedish backwaters which sets the oppressive tone from which the film takes its cues. The audience feel as abandoned on the edge of the world as the characters, and it is exactly the sort of place where the fantastical and creepy could coexist with the ordinary. To set it elsewhere is to rob the film of its hidden power."

For me, though, the change in setting is the least of this remake's problems. Exoticist assumptions about the undertones of Swedish society aside,
Let Me In's murky small town New Mexico, coated with snow and populated by dreary architecture, is just as effective a backwater as suburban Stockholm. It is suitably mundane, quiet and eerie, and a fine context for the set-up, as lonely kid Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who spends his time hanging out in his apartment building's empty playground, develops a friendship with a mysterious girl, Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), who only comes out at night and seems undaunted by the cold weather.

Read the full article here.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

[402] MCM Expo: Eagle Awards Report

I still need to write a general post (with a swag shot) about the MCM Expo. It was, as usual, pretty fun. Likewise, it was hectic and tiring. In the meantime, here's my report on the Eagle Awards for Den of Geek - which was quite a mixed-up affair.

The MCM Expo seems to get bigger every time, somehow finding more cosplay-obsessed teens to stuff into the Excel Centre in London's Docklands (now approaching 47,000 attendees). This time around, the Expo certainly beefed up its videogame representation, in partnership with the London Games Festival, and a number of tantalising gameplay demos of the likes of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood.

However, the comics village, always our favourite area of the Expo, also landed a symbolic coup in becoming the new home of the Eagles,an annual, fan selected series of awards that, despite being quite a big deal in its heyday, had fallen by the wayside in recent years.

And although the new surroundings, and new logo, suggested that the Eagles would be stepping up to fulfill its position as the British answer to the Eisner and Harvey Awards, this first ceremony was not without its awkward mishaps.

The most immediate problem? The event was almost empty. Apart from the guests, there was barely more than a dozen punters in the audience. The MCM main stage area becomes mightily cavernous without bodies in the room and the sound of 50-odd people applauding starts to undercut the importance of it all after a while.

Considering the attendance numbers the Expo attracts over the weekend, this is a little discouraging, even if the manga, anime and cosplay types won't know their 2000AD from their BPRD. The scheduling of the ceremony for the Friday night could be a problem. It was slotted at the end of this first day of play, which was only open to weekend pass holders.

Another big issue presented itself as the evening unfolded, powered by plates of Pringles, Doritos and Pocky (and, if you could get your hands on them, bottles of beer). Many of the award winners weren't there. By our count, only two or three were present to pick up their stylish little glass trophies. Sure, many of those nominated were American, but a fair proportion are UK-based.

If the Eagles is trying to position itself as an ongoing concern, it isn't much of a vote of confidence that those nominated won't make the trip down. Some, it seems, were unable to attend due to illness, so hopefully this will be less of a problem in the future.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

[401] WAW+P Radio #5: DIY With Edward Ross

It's a new month, so here's a new episode of We Are Words + Pictures radio! This time, my guest is the lovely Edward Ross, creator of Filmish, who was down in London for the biannual MCM Expo. Unlike all other episodes thus-far, we recorded this on Monday afternoon, in a slightly sleepy haze after the convention-shaped madness of the weekend. Nevertheless, we still managed to cover a lot, and listened to some endearingly folky Scottish music as well.

Photograph taken by comics paparazzo Sean Azzopardi

You can listen to the show below, or over at the London Fields Radio Mixcloud profile. Shownotes are also published there, but here's an extract:

Edinburgh-based comics writer/artist Edward Ross was recently in town for the biannual MCM Expo, so We Are Words + Pictures host Michael Leader dragged him into the LFR studio to talk about film theory, autobiography, and doing-it-yourself. They also reflect on the MCM, a massive convention, visited by just shy of 50,000 fans of manga, anime and video games, which also happened to be Ross' first public appearance as a stall-holder - as well as picking through a number of recommendations, news items, and upcoming events from the world of comics.

Our highlighted books this week are Everything Dies by Box Brown, and The Lengths by Howard Hardiman. The latter in particular is one of my favourite recent reads, so I was glad we took some time to pick that apart.

And here's the playlist:

Jimmy Squirrel & Co. - Alexandre Desplat
My Descent Into Madness - Eels
Missionary - King Creosote
Sex Is Boring (Acoustic) - Ballboy
Drive Too Fast - Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern
The Derby Ram - Benjamin Wetherill
The Modern Leper - Frightened Rabbit
Blade Runner (End Titles) - Vangelis

As always, comments, criticism and advice are more than welcome. I'm hoping to fit in 2 or 3 more episodes before the year is out, ending with something a little different. In the meantime, have a listen; I hope you enjoy it.