Tag Archives: Sci-fi

The Doctor Who Cliffhanger

The current series of Doctor Who has been pretty variable in quality, often thanks to the very presence of Catherine Tate, who has had moments but, as a rule, I can’t stand – the announcement that she was a permanent fixture was almost enough to make me bail out completely – but last night’s penultimate episode of the series was something else. As if it wasn’t already apparent, there will be spoilers here after the break. Those who haven’t seen it and want to know what happens, there’s a good synopsis here.

The big crossover between the three previous series’ of Who and its two spin-offs, as well as the now-annual return of [insert major Who villain from the past here] (an awesome incarnation of Davros, in this case) was well-known and the major talking point beforehand, but OH MY GOD at that ending. Continue reading The Doctor Who Cliffhanger


CloverfieldThere’s little that I like more as a guilty pleasure than an invasion movie. For all its willful ridiculousness, Independence Day remains a film that I can watch on repeat and never tire of (my recent purchase of the Blu-ray means I’ve now seen it in the cinema – my first 12 rating! – and bought it three times on various formats), and I must admit to deriving a little bit of enjoyment out of the Hollywood interpretation of Godzilla. Stick on something from the 50’s with a bloke in an unconvincing rubber suit and I’m in heaven.

Alas, I never got around to seeing Cloverfield in the cinema, even as involved as I was with picking apart the untitled trailer – I subscribed to the hypothesis that it was a Cthulhu movie at first, which now is only topped by the rumour that it was Voltron (someone heard “it’s alive” from the trailer as “it’s a lion”, you see) in being wide of the mark – and viral campaign. Regardless, I’ve seen it now and want to weigh in with my impressions.

For all its flaws, which I’ll get onto in a bit, I thought it was one of the best, most original monster movies I’ve ever seen. Blair Witch did the shaky camera and discovered footage thing first – not to mention the teasing, Internet-led marketing – but that never struck a chord with me. Jaws taught us that the moments when you see the creature are most effective when they’re fleeting and don’t happen until the end, and Blair Witch’s conceit of showing nothing at all didn’t work for me. I’m not saying it was wrong, because it was their stylistic choice; just that I like to know what my on-screen companions are so shit-scared about. Shallow? Maybe, but it would piss me off if we never saw a monster here as well.

OK, so maybe Cloverfield wasn’t that original. We’ve established that it’s the result of a fling between Jaws and Godzilla and a tryst between their offspring and The Blair Witch Project. It has the spectacle of a Hollywood blockbuster married to the home-made aesthetic that we’ll be seeing a lot of in these years following the emergence of YouTube as a cultural force (see also: Diary of the Dead).

Special mention has to go to the visual effects in this film, though. How convincing everything looks is impressive enough – at no moment was I thinking about it as CGI – but to do it without a steadicam, often with the camera waving wildly? Some poor CG artists must have a few grey hairs after this one. Hopefully their sacrifices won’t be forgotten when awards season rolls around.

Credit should also be given to the film for not overstaying its welcome, being as it is a slender 85 minutes, but then again it does take rather a long time to get going. The party scenes weren’t half bad (I didn’t find the characters as annoying as some people have said), but the monster doesn’t even turn up until a good 25 minutes in, nearly a third of the film. Once we’re past that, though, it never lets up. Some cinemas had warnings for people who suffer from motion sickness that compared the effect to a rollercoaster, which is actually very apt.

The motion didn’t bother me, but what did was the same problem I have when watching someone else play an FPS: they never look where I want them to look. There’s one moment in particular when the monster is just there, and rather than filming it we get fleeting glimpses and a lingering shot of the soldiers shooting at it. Realistic? Yeah, I’d hide behind a car, too, but it’s a movie about a bloody great monster woken up by a falling satellite. Complaining about a bit of Hollywood drama in this is like complaining that an alien language in Star Wars has no appreciable sentence structure.

Although, to fall into my own trap, what kind of camera can fit 85 minutes of HD video onto an SD card? It’s not like they’re using a Mac to interface with an alien computer, but it seemed weird to me. Didn’t stop Cloverfield from being a must-see, but I’m just saying…

The Sarah Connor Chronicles is Rubbish

I’ve given it a chance, I really have, but I can’t keep living this lie.

The first two Terminator films are among my favourites ever and I don’t even find the third completely objectionable, but this new TV show is a blight on the series. A 9.1 user rating on TV.com? Nothing but proof that people do, in fact, have no taste. They’ll come to their senses eventually, once the novelty has worn off; it’s like when the Star Wars prequels went straight into the IMDb chart, before everyone came to their senses.

It’s not for any frivolous reason, like that Lena Headey looks distractingly not at all like Linda Hamilton (although couldn’t they have dyed her hair?). Or that Summer Glau is just playing River again. Or that the T-888 hides a pistol inside its leg, creating another plot hole to try to fill – why didn’t Arnie bring back a phased-plasma rifle in the forty watt range for any of his appearances? I can just about live with the fact that there are suddenly tons of Terminators sent back and a similar number of resistance fighters. Anything beyond Terminator 2 isn’t canon in my book, anyway. Just make it entertaining.

But this isn’t, which is the problem. Think of those little internal monologues from Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, when she was sitting and watching the terminator and John talking as she waxed philosophical about the nature of human existence – it happened maybe three times in two-and-a-half hours of film. It happens to a similar extent in every single episode of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and those are only about an hour. All she needs is black makeup and a MySpace account on which to write shitty poetry.

Now anyone who knows me knows how much I like Firefly – I own three copies of Serenity across two formats, and fully intend to buy the Blu-ray as well – but I just don’t like Summer Glau in this. Like I said before, she’s playing the same emotionally distant killing machine, struggling to relearn about human emotions. Expect her to either (metaphorically) descend into the smelter by the end of the series, since I don’t expect the writers to be creative enough to anything else with it. They couldn’t better the thumbs up from T2 as an emotional coda, anyway.

To be fair, I have enjoyed some moments. Despite making little real sense (a bath full of blood that attaches to him in a humanoid shape? Really?), Cromartie’s quest for some artificial flesh was reasonably effective, and given the television budget I liked his paintball mask and trench coat combo as a means to avoid showing CGI endoskeletons in every scene, in that it didn’t make me roll my eyes. Although I’ve come to love it as a plot device now, the same can’t be said for the humanoid Cylons in the new Battlestar Galactica.

But despite these flaws, I can say with absolute certainty that this will be better than the new series of Doctor Who, simply for not having any Catherine Tate. It’s undeniable.

Transformers Binge

The movie could be wank, despite how great the latest trailer looks (remember The Phantom Menace?), but I’m sure even those Transformers fans who have fallen farthest from the tree can’t fail to be excited by the potential for big screen spectacle and a new generation of toys. I won’t mention the Bay if you don’t.

Like any good fanboy I’ve been buying the new stuff, encouraged by the current BOGOHP deal on Transformers in Toys R Us. And this isn’t counting the three versions of the original movie that I now own (original DVD, 20th anniversary DVD, ultimate tin), my old toy collection, Dreamwave G1 comics, and the splendid 20th anniversary Optimus Prime that I nabbed from eBay.

Movie Leader Optimus Prime

Movie Leader Optimus Prime

I think this guy looks better than the actual movie iteration, even if he’s no G1 Prime. Similar size to my 20th anniversary Prime and with flashing lights and sounds so that you know that he’s from the 21st century.

Continue reading Transformers Binge

New Halo Books

Since it’s another slow news week and I haven’t had a lot to talk about, how about something a bit different? I ordered a couple of Halo books – one new, one a few months old now – a little while back and finally got the chance to read through them recently.

Halo: Ghosts of Onyx

Halo: Ghosts of Onyx

The fourth Halo novel and the third by Eric Nylund, Ghosts of Onyx is an attempt to fill in some of the blanks (some would say plot holes after Halo 2) left by the previous books and, hopefully, set up certain events for Halo 3. Chronologically, it’s set partly before the original game, but mainly runs concurrently with the latter stages of Halo 2.

Overall I felt much the same way about it as I did about the previous novels. Ghosts of Onyx is fairly entertaining enough and a good read for fans of the game looking for a quick story fix, but ultimately a bit of a typical trashy sci-fi novel. Everyone speaks in technobabble (it’s not a rocket launcher; it’s an M19 SSR SPNKr rocket launcher) to the point where talking about technology often becomes a monologue, and the characters can seem like one-dimensional military stereotypes. That might be intentional due to the nature of the Spartans (read The Fall of Reach or the ever-reliable Wikipedia entry) but when most of them have never even been referenced in the games and do little other than fight – sometimes with a SRS99C-S2 AM sniper rifle, naturally – it can be difficult to empathise.

And yet, despite these flaws, I found it hard to put down until I’d finished it. It’s not a bad book; just, like I said, a bit trashy sometimes. Nylund is clearly very good at writing action, and coupled with a universe as interesting as Bungie’s it’s certainly a fun read for fans. Just don’t expect a work of great literature, OK? It’s just an extra helping of Halo.

Halo Graphic Novel

Halo Graphic Novel

Much was made of this when it came out as Bungie partnered with Marvel and a selection of prominent artists to bring their universe into yet another media. It was popular, too: we asked about it in a big Australian comic shop back in August and they said that they were selling out even their largest shipments in hours.

It’s definitely an attractive book – hardback, with a lovely painting of the Master Chief spread across the two covers – and while the artwork ranges considerably in style it’s all definitely Halo. Recognisable characters and enemies all make appearances, never deviating far in their look from what the games have shown us. And in addition to the four stories here, there’s a gallery section with some wonderful paintings of scenes from the series, from both Bungie and Marvel’s artists.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think too much of the stories themselves in the HGN. Most of them aren’t as fleshed out as they could be and, in particular, one of them seems to contradict what has been said in the novels, making one (or indeed both) of them non-canonical. It’s a really geeky criticism, I know, but a lack of continuity in stuff like this is a bugbear of mine. Then again, Bungie is supposed to have overseen the stories for both, so maybe they can be reconciled. We’ll see later this year.

Whether the stories are particularly strong or not, the HGN is still a worthwhile book for fans. I’m happy I got it for some of the gorgeous artwork alone and, in my case at least, that’s the main reason to read a graphic novel.

A Toe in the HD-Pond

Look what I got in the post yesterday!

My First HD DVDs

Yes, there’s a few weeks before the Xbox 360’s HD DVD drive comes out to say hello but I wanted to get these purchases out of the way before I’m buried under a deluge of new games. Serenity is an obvious choice and when I first saw HD DVD I was blown away by the video quality in The Last Samurai. Batman Begins is on the way across the Atlantic as we speak (can’t wait to see those beautiful glaciers in HD), and when you add in King Kong I’ve got a nice early library.

I won’t comment on the mental health implications of buying discs that I currently have no way of playing. Surely I’m not the only one who’s done it? In any case there’s a format war to be won this time and I’ve done my part to ensure victory for the HD DVD format. Take that, Blu-Ray!