TERMINATOR 3

“She’ll be back.”

They said it couldn’t be done. They said it shouldn’t be done. But Hollywood can never really leave a franchise alone so they went ahead and did it anyway. They did a second sequel to James Cameron’s influential sci-fi cheapie THE TERMINATOR, twelve years after the legendary JUDGMENT DAY sequel. ‘King of the World’ Cameron wasn’t involved this time around and the nay-sayers predicted doom and gloom and creative disaster. Now they can all go to Hell. TERMINATOR 3 is not only the best action film of the year (and far and away the best of a rather tepid crop of summer blockbusters) it’s also very probably the best film in the TERMINATOR series. Honestly, it’s that good.

I’m a bit of an Arnie-come-lately as far as the TERMINATOR flicks are concerned. I only got around to watching those DV ]]>

THE LORD OF THE RINGS THE RETURN OF THE KING EXTENDED

Well, after three years, the journey is over. Peter Jackson has completed his opus, the cast have moved on, the unthinkable has been achieved- THE LORD OF THE RINGS, the most popular and ambitious fantasy work in history has been made into a spectacular trilogy. I as a viewer can now feel a true sense of closure- because when I saw RETURN OF THE KING in the cinema, I was aware of what was missing- so much so it ever so slightly sullied my enjoyment of the movie. I wanted to see Saruman’s demise, I wanted to see Frodo and Sam encounter the Orcs in Mordor, I wanted to see the Houses of Healing and the Mouth Of Sauron dammit! What was all the more frustrating was that I knew all this material had been filmed, I knew the film would be a better one for having the footage integrated back in. So when I sat and watched ROTK in the cinema, I secretly regarded it as a taster for the true finale that would come now, a year after the films theatrical bow. I was waiting for the Extended Cut.

So when my girlfriend again got me the collectors boxed set, with Minas Tirith polystone model and ‘Howard Shore: Creating the Lord Of The Rings Symphony’ she knew she was making me one very happy bunny (thank you Stacey!). The film in its extended format whips the behind of its predecessor in every single way. It gives us more of Tolkien’s world and language, most importantly of all. But it gives the film a new life that lifts it above the completely inferior theatrical cut. We do need to see Saruman die- it ends his character arc so much better than the one off comment made about him in the original. The film is richer, with more action, and more of the vital character moments- Eowyn and Faramir now get conclusions to their respective tales with a real sense of hope. Oh, and the Mouth Of Sauron rules. The only gripe I can make is that other filmed scenes- containing epilogues for Legolas and Gimli were not added in- something I would have liked, but, we cant have it all. Yet.

Overall THE RETURN OF THE KING is finally completed. This is an incredible movie, more epic than THE TWO TOWERS, more emotionally complex than FELLOWSHIP. This is a truly memorable series of films, one that Jackson and company can be truly proud of. LORD OF THE RINGS gave me and others in my generation their own STAR WARS experience, and that is something to treasure. Finally though, I can watch the true versions of the trilogy at home, and stick it on my shelf when I’m finished with them. Don’t even bother with the theatrical cuts- throw them out! These extended DVDs are the one, true RINGS.

THE EXTRAS: The Appendices, parts V and VI spread across two discs, contain roughly six hours worth of documentary material all together. There is an incredible wealth of information to bask in- however it never feels overcooked, there is not a moment of filler here- this is 100% gold. Filled with trivia and anecdotes, the docs expand our knowledge of the making of moments, showing everything from footage of the Sauron’s Emissary with a sideways mouth- trippy to be sure- to Viggo Mortensen kissing Billy Boyd full on the lips during Sam’s wedding. Oh, how I laughed. The package also comes with all sorts of bells and whistles, several hundred production sketches, pre-viz abandoned concept ideas and more. You can pick the lone four disc set up for around ?3 at the moment- go and buy it now- these are truly incredible extras, that highlight how much of a slog ROTK was to get ready into the cinemas. Trust me, those guys deserved all of their Oscars- every single one. Goodbye LOTR, hello KING KONG….

FIVE OUT OF FIVE

THE PIRATES

In this sixth Doctor adventure do we really want to see Bill Oddie as an evil pirate? The answer is YES! This may seem unbelievable it and was at first, but he actually is quite scary.

The Doctor and Evelyn drop in on her student Sally one evening and they proceed to tell her a story or pirates, violence and treasure hunting on the high seas.

Sally doesn’t really want to hear the story for reasons that will become evident later on, The Doctor persists and the story followszp>The TARDIS dematerialises on The Sea Eagle, a ship Captained by Captain Swan (Nicholas Pegg). Red Jasper (played by ex Goodie Bill Oddie) and his pirate crew then board the Sea Eagle. The Doctor and Evelyn, after a clash with Red Jasper decide to leave, but when Evelyn spots the TARDIS being loaded onto the pirate ship they both realise that it isn’t going to be that straight forward.

For a play with the Doctor declaring himself the Gallifreyan buccaneer and several bouts sea shanty style singing, there is, as with all good Doctor Who, a serious, dark edge that weighs against the fun and humour.

I feel sure that Colin Bakers fans and even those Who fans that aren’t particularly fond of Colin are going to love this. As well as his usual flamboyance and arrogance we get to see a, rare, softer side to Colin Bakers Doctor.

Personally being new to Evelyn as a character I wasn’t sure what I would think of the her. I thought, however, that actress Maggie Stables did a fantastic job of conveying Evelyn as a wholly believable character.

The character of Captain Swan was played extremely well, so much so that I could quite cheerfully have made the bugger walk the plank myself.

My one criticism is that songs are, despite being a good and inspired idea, were a bit on the long side.

You can always tell when a script is well written as you can picture yourself there almost as a silent observer. I can still picture it now. I have always loved pirate stories ever since my mother first read me Peter Pan as a child. But then why take my word, I loved ‘Cutthroat Island’. But seriously you will enjoy this on every level.

My advice is to go and buy it.

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WANTED DREDD OR ALIVE

Cadet Amy Steel hoped for a routine assessment, when she learnt she was to be assessed by one Judge Joe Dredd the rookie knew that it wasn’t going to be routine.

This is the first of Big Finish’s 2000AD audios and they have chosen the most recognisable character to head their series of audio ‘Progs’.
In this story of psychotic lawmen and crime syndicates there is still the thread of humour expected form 2000AD, the main injection of which comes from the News Casts from Enigma Smith, which seem to creep in a little too often although to an extent they help push the view of this world to listeners new to Mega City One.

The cast all give excellent performances, Toby Longworth is fantastic, giving a moody but not boring Judge Dredd, a character that could be lost in monotone misery.
Claire Buckfield gives the central performance of the piece as the Rookie Judge Steel. If her voice is recognisable it is because she played the (second) Daughter in ‘Two Point Four Children’ the BBC sitcom. It is such past associations that a listener has to an actress or actor that could mar even the most wonderful of productions, as a mental picture of an old character distorts the picture of what is going on in that production. Fortunately the listener is able to escape this due to the fact that she is extremely well suited to the part, I think that next time I see ‘Two Point Four Children’ on UK gold I will have problems not expecting Dredd to turn up. The character of Amy Steel gives the novice listener an insight into this new world. I hope, Amy Steel will not become like a lame Dr Who companion (“Doctor I have fallen to give a bad cliff-hanger”, or “What is going on, I don’t understand this”) existing merely for the narrative, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ has escaped this thus far.

I expected episode breaks in the story, they are not there, this is a good move away from the Dr Who audios, Dr Who was built on cliff-hangers but Dredd works as a mini movie (a Movella?)

David Bishop, writer, has done a very good job that keeps new listeners interested at the same time as introducing this new world. I think there is enough in there for 2000AD readers. With this I believe a tricky task has been accomplished well and with style. I look forward to the next instalment. ]]>

THE HULK

“You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

I have a general rule when it comes to films. They’re either good or they’re bad. It’s not rocket science but it’s a principle that’s stood me in good stead over the years. I either enjoy a movie or I don’t. There’s no halfway house. But then there’s HULK, Ang Lee’s artsy-fartsy adaptation of one of Marvel Comics’ less compulsive superheroesond I really don’t know what’s what any more. Is it a good film? Is it a bad film? Is it exciting? Is it boring? The truth is probably somewhere in the middle of all these extremes.

Of course the Hulk ?you know the score?loke gets zapped by gamma rays, turns green when angry, trousers don’t rip, bounces around roaring and smashing things and communicates in monosyllables depending on who’s writing the comic at the time ?was never one of Stan Lee’s better creations. Even in my ‘Make Mine Marvel’ salad days I didn’t much care for ]]>

NEIL GAIMAN’S 1602

Neil Gaiman’s 1602
Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert (Illustrator)
Paperback 216 pages (September 2, 2004)
Publisher: Panini Publishing Ltd
ISBN: 1904159435

This collection of a key Marvel release belongs on the shelf of any fan of the genre, be they into mainstream superhero or independent comics. It? also getting a rare UK Marvel trade paperback release, so be sure to snap it up.

The storyline, which I won? spoil, is based around a great concept, that of the Marvel universe and its characters transposed onto Europe in 1602. So Nick Fury becomes a Marlow-esque Spy for Queen Elizabeth, Captain America an Indian Brave protecting pilgrims and Dr Strange a court physician suspected of witchcraft. The story concerns the awakening of this breed of hero?, and the machinations of the villainous European Count Viktor Von Doom.

Gaiman draws upon the reader? knowledge of the Marvel-verse, and the rich background of the historical setting. The ?itch-breed?of mutants are being hunted by the Spanish Inquisition, whilst the new scientific breakthroughs from Reed Richards are framed in the light if a post-renaissance world. It? full of great touches for the fan-boy and historian alike.

Kubert? eclectic style suits the whole thing admirably, somewhere between Hammer Horror and Jack Kirby. Richard Isanove is responsible for the special colouring, turning Kubert? pencils into a cross between a mid-60? comic book panel and a 17th century engraving. It? a great visual aid to Gaiman? masterful dialogue. Cracking stuff. The only small problem I had was in the layout of some panels, but I? really just quibbling.

A masterpiece of the genre. ]]>

DEATH TRAP

Death Trap starts with the commemoration of the end of the NECROPOLIS. The historian Dr Nigella Gaiman is interviewed along with Jake Black as opposing sides of what actually happened. Judge Dredd goes to check on the only inmate of ISO Block 99, that inmate is Judge Death. Meanwhile Sylvia Plath Block is the scene of many psychic occurrences, much to the dismay of landlady Mrs Gundersen and her ‘under probation’ house ‘wobot’ Walter

In the second of Big Finish’s 2000AD audios the greatest device in drawing customers has been used, bring back the most famous bad guy. In this case Judge Death.
As a forty eight year old mother of three and grandmother of one I suppose I never expected to be reviewing an audio play like this until I was asked by scifind.com to listen to Judge Dredd in Death Trap.

Judge Dredd was just how I imagined himin the comic books all those years ago, completely macho but with a caring side, seen here fleetingly. The character of Enigma Smith as an over the top type of Sky News reader was brilliant. The star of the show was Judge Death (played by ‘The League of Gentlemen?’ Mark Gattiss) was very menacing and completely uncompromising, here there are parallels to Hitler and Stalin. Gattiss, now a big cult name, wanted the part and it could have been easy for this part to be given out to him just for the fact he is a big name. But it is great that he actually lends a very good interpretation of a character that could have been, incorrectly, portrayed comically and the integrity of the play destroyed by populist casting.

All the storylines ran together wonderfully and ‘Walter the house Wobot’ stole the show with some of the best lines. I won? give away the ending but I will just go to qualify it with one word, masterpiece

All my respect goes to all involved, especially the writer (David Bishop) and director (Nicholas Briggs) this is a tricky time, the scene is still being constructed for the listener. I hope that the next play moves things along though.

Again production quality is very good. The, first class, sound design, makes you believe that you are in the Big Meg. The music, while you probably wouldn’t want to buy this on CD, does suit the futuristic environment.
David Bishop (writer) has seeded the play with nods to various people, including sci-fi authors and serial killers (the in jokes can be quite dark). It is always good to have the ‘spot the reference’ game as long as it doesn’t distract the audience from what is actually going on, I feel that the balance has been preserved here.
I look forward to the next Dredd CD, and to see how the series will develop’. It will be interesting to see how the introduction of Johnny Alpha differs in the first ‘Strontium Dog’ play that is the next to be released. After this I hope to return to a refreshed Dredd

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THE VILLAGE

Its an interesting point to make that while M. Night Shyamalan’s films have all been big hitters at the box office (THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKABLE, SIGNS) they are neither promoted as blockbusters nor feel like them. SIGNS had its fair share of excitement but that came from slow building tension and sudden explosions of terror. Shyamalan has more than proven himself to be able to play in the summer movie season and make money. Each new film the man brings out gains critical kudos and is always the kind of film you’ll leave the multiplex wanting to talk about and evaluate with your friends. Happily, THE VILLAGE contains more than enough of this talented auteurs hallmarks to make it another success- four in a row, not bad at all. The basic premise deceptively simple- its 1897- the setting a small isolated town set deep in a valley surrounded by ]]>

THUNDERBIRDS

This was always going to be one of the most difficult reviews I?e ever written for scifind. I mean this is THUNDERBIRDS. This is the (apparently) long-awaited big screen version of one of the great iconic shows of the 1960s, a series which, as much as DOCTOR WHO and THE AVENGERS, typified the spirit of imagination and excitement which pervades so much TV of its era, an era in which television was finding its feet and its teeth and beginning to discover exactly what it could achieve. They were pioneering days, thrilling days, times when anything seemed possible and when it usually ended up on TV. The spirit of THUNDERBIRDS and its kin runs through my veins like blood. So how can a bright and brash 21st century reimagining fare against such powerful and important memories? Not too well, sadly?

It? a question of perspective, really. It all depends ]]>