Sunday, 17 April 2011

[459] Falling Skies Episode 1 Review

Here's the second (and final) part of my Kapow! Comic Con coverage. It's a TV review, of the first episode of Falling Skies, which was screened at the con. I don't watch much TV, so don't expect this to become a regular thing. (Although, judging by this episode, there's little chance anyway.)

One of the few exclusives on offer at the recent and surprisingly good Kapow! Comic Con (a round-up of which is currently featured in our Comics section) was the opening episode of Falling Skies, the new sci-fi television series, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, which will be heading to FX in July.

In what immediately casts the series in a very post-
Walking Dead light, Falling Skies deals with survival after apocalypse, only instead of the currently trendy zombies, we have the evergreen antagonist of alien invaders. Picking up several months after the near eradication of the human race, the remaining survivors are in hiding, maintaining a semblance of military-style order amongst ruined cities.

Noah Wyle leads as Tom Mason, a man who lost his wife and second son as part of the invasion. Now, he is second-in-command of a small survivor regiment, who are abandoning the city for a new, and hopefully safer, life in the countryside. His position of command comes with great responsibility, having to weigh up personal safety alongside that of his other two sons and the community as a whole.

While aiming for a collision of action-heavy science fiction, guerrilla grit and human drama,
Falling Skies confuses itself, pushing forward throughout this opening 42-minute salvo with a disregard for narrative pacing or stylistic coherence. By setting the action after the invasion, the viewer is thrust in medias res, but the stage is set awkwardly.

Read the full article here.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

[458] Cold Weather (2010) Review

My first 4-star review in almost two months! It's been a rather long dry spell. I imagine this is the sort of film that will fly far under the radars of most cinema-goers, so please - go and see it.

A sure-fire way to garner attention for your small budget indie hopeful is to mix things up a little, throw some ideas together, and create a genre mash-up. In the indie field, originality is key, because keen-eyed film buffs nitpick at any hint of familiarity.

This is a problem faced by
Cold Weather, the new film from writer-director, Aaron Katz, which collides lo-fi aesthetics with the narrative trappings of the detective thriller. When scrutinised on such a modular level, the film seems to be worryingly close to Brick, the 2005 neo-noir that transported hardboiled Raymond Chandler-isms to a suburban American high school. However, thankfully, Cold Weather has qualities wholly its own.

College dropout, Doug (Cris Lankenau), has boomeranged back to his hometown, moving in with his sister, Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn), and is trying to get his life back on track, while doing as little as possible. When not lounging around, reading paperbacks, or disrupting Gail's office job with frivolous plans for road trips to the coast, he works night shifts at the local ice factory.

With its gentle pacing and subtle, deadpan humour,
Cold Weather slowly builds up our relationship with its characters and their odd chemistry. It shows great confidence for Katz to frontload the film in such a way, but both Lankenau and Dunn are on point, crafting the siblings' life of idle distraction out of conversations that go nowhere, and dull, slightly awkward silences.

So, when the mystery plot does hit, it almost doesn't matter that it is underdeveloped, at least by genre standards, because the humour and the characters are so well judged and so well communicated that we are swept up in their fumbling enthusiasm.

Read the full article here.

Friday, 15 April 2011

[457] Location scouting with Jeff Tozai...

Behind The Bytes episode 2, shooting today.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

[456] Kapow Comic Con #1

I’ll admit it. I was pleasantly surprised by the inaugural Kapow! Comic Con.

Blame motor-mouthpiece Mark Millar for my caution. His unique brand of braggadocio is nothing but divisive, and his blatant disregard for the rather vibrant UK comics convention circuit while promoting his own con didn’t win him much favour. And to fill out the programme with predominantly male guests, with an exclusive focus on mainstream superhero comics and their various spin-offs, seemed to clash with his supposed sense of infectious, inclusive populism.

However, despite such a bias, simply strolling around Islington’s Business Design Centre’s convention floor was enough to inspire hope. Alongside the expected stacks of longboxes and nerd-friendly merchandise were a few surprises, namely stalls from publishers, comics shops and distributors whose tastes stretch wider than spandex. Thanks to the catholic catalogue of Turnaround, the gleeful gatekeepers of Gosh!, and the Europhilic specialists at Cinebook, you had the potential to be lured in by the large, intimidating Green Lantern display, but leave with an armful of diverse wonders.

Personally, I picked up Weathercraft, the latest book from American indie comix stalwart Jim Woodring, and the oh-so-French 1920s biographical comic Kiki De Montparnasse, recently published by SelfMadeHero. Plus, a DVD from Manga UK of the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. Not a bad haul for what seemed at first glance to be an affirmation of a sort of backward, boys’ club mentality.

Also, behind the endless queues for superstar artists like John Romita Jr., Frank Quitely and Brian Bolland, there were smaller stalls, where indie hopefuls were touting their self-published works. There were fewer small press types than at rival cons, such as the huge, chaotic MCM Expo or the hipster favourite Thought Bubble, but surprises were still in store.

One such super-creator was the ever-dapper Geof Banyard, whose Fetishman, despite wearing a skin-tight suit, isn’t much of a superhero at all, and instead offers an acute, cheeky satire on taboos, moral outrage, and sexual prudery.

Likewise, the duo of Dan Willett and Daniel Lish, two creatives with backgrounds in toy and video game design, were promoting their comics debut, the rather stunning Cartigan. Sadly, this fantasy adventure tale is not currently set for publication in the UK - or even in English, for that matter. French publisher Akileos is releasing the book later this year, but that didn’t stop the two Dans from handing out quite lavish samples of the book. Hopefully we’ll see more from these two in the future.

Away from the floor, Kapow promised a line-up of scintillating panels and exclusive screenings. And while the results did not approach the scoop-mania or star wattage of the cons of San Diego or New York, the single panel I caught - for Millar’s Clint Magazine - was charmingly entertaining, with a welcome appearance from Stewart Lee. The screenings, on the other hand, were uninspiring. The first episode of Falling Skies, the new alien invasion television series executive produced by Steven Spielberg, didn’t elicit much excitement from the crowd, probably because of its cliche-ridden script and tepid attempts at both human drama and sci-fi action.

The top-secret exclusive screening, however, went down very well. Although, while it had been teased as a summer superhero blockbuster (which many hoped would be X-Men: First Class or Thor), the surprise offering was in fact indie gore-comedy Super, which stars Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page as twisted oddbods driven to taking down crime - or, in practice, anyone who contravenes their shaky moral code, such as queue-jumpers. Boasting a mix of quirky indie aesthetics and consistently provocative flashes of bad taste, Super casts off all other concerns - be they narrative, psychological or character-based - in favour of getting sufficient mileage out of its dark, gratuitous sense of humour. However, besides a notable turn from Page as the deranged sidekick, Boltie, Super has little to offer beyond knee-jerk reactions of laughter, shock or disgust. Think of it as Kick Ass without the style, wit, satire or heart.

Nevertheless, the crowd seemed to love it, confirming that, despite the slightly compromised execution, Kapow provided a satisfying, and promising, first outing. Perhaps the success of this year’s convention will attract bigger guests and exclusives next time around (Millar revealed that Ridley Scott was snooping around, scouting out the event for a Prometheus appearance in 2012). However, for the moment, Kapow is filling a comfortable spot in the UK convention schedule.

You win this time, Millar...

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

[455] How I will remember Kapow! Comic Con #1...

This image sums up Kapow! for me.

Monsieur David L. French: Nergasm quiz master, stacktastic Bane impersonator, and, now, reigning Kapow! cosplay champ. Photo courtesy of Dom at London Loves Comics.

Yes, I went. Yes, it was fun. Seeing a bountiful amount of wonderful people in one place. On a joyously sunny weekend. With comics! You can't complain, really. Well, you can. And, specifically, I can. My report from the con will be up on Den of Geek (and cross-posted here) very soon.

Friday, 8 April 2011

[454] How very surreal...

My face. On Kotaku.

Something of a milestone! Thanks for all the support with the Behind The Bytes pilot. We've been bowled over by the response so far. Youtube is still catching up with all the traffic, but it's safe to assume that it will be a rather... encouraging number.

Stay tuned for future developments!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

[453] Behind The Bytes #1 - Tails: Sonic's Shadow

The pilot episode for Behind The Bytes is now on Youtube. Watch it.

Somewhere in the middle of the production of 'Fish Tail', old chum Nick Moran got in touch, with his idea of adapting the 'Behind The Laughter' episode of The Simpsons for a video game context. I thought it was a great idea, and we got to work.

I think it came out very well, and I'm quite proud of it. Szekely's confidence as a filmmaker, technician and Final Cut wrangler (and his new equipment) really shows, and the superb Samantha Baines does a hell of a job as our port-soaked socialite, Clarissa Ankle. Me? Well, it's the first time I've acted since 2005. So be gentle.

We're hoping to do more of these, and have various plans for how to go about doing that, but would like to get as many pairs of eyes on this as possible, to gauge initial audience interest. So please, have a look, pass it around, follow us on Twitter, and give us your feedback.