Wednesday, June 28, 2006

FIVE THINGS

CURRENT SOUNDTRACK: DESPERADO OST, Los Lobos and Antonio Banderas, Cancion Del Mariachi

Getting a sever case of cabin fever the last few days after breaking my big toe on friday. Nothing like taking out all your frustration on an Ikea bookcase whilst simoultaneously ruining any chance to anything remotely physical in the next two weeks. Ah vell.

Forcing myself to do something constructive rather than put my foot through another three shelves, started doing character sketches of David Tennent for a Who pitch. Getting there, but keep getting distracted by watching the remaining two dozen episodes of Lost, 24 and West Wing in one sitting, leaving myself with nothing else to numb the pain. Until I came across this excercise on Jason's blog (www.jasoncobley.blogspot.com), and I thought I'd have a go at it myself (and add a couple of questions).

5 THINGS:

What were you doing ten years ago?
June 1996... was just finishing my foundation course as Liverpool City Community College; getting incredibly, mind alteringly drunk on vodka for the first time (and luckily forgetting most of that particular embarrasment), getting accepted into Preston's Fine Arts BA course and having doubts which I quickly got over.

Five years ago?
June 2001... Working at a insurance company, falling asleep at my desk and getting away with it for the most part, and started to get Fusion Zero printed. Still renting.

One year ago?
June 2005... had a viral infection which after a several months of 18-20 hour days started to have a major impact on my health and mental state, but still quite happy in a delirious way having seen all six STAR WARS films back to back in London the previous month for my birthday.

Five snacks you enjoy:
Coconut macaroons
Jaffa cakes
Rocket salad (strangely addictive)
Cashew nuts
Pepperami

Five songs you know by heart (other than Guns N Roses you mean?):
American Pie (both original and Star Wars version) by Don McLean
Four Seasons in One Day by Crowded House
Don't Dream Its Over by Crowded House
Tribute by Tenacious D
Possession by Sarah McLachlan

Five things you would do with a LOT of money:
(If we're talking lottery win?)
Pay off mortgage and sell house
Buy parents and sisters a house each
Build a massive farmhouse in the country for the missus
Set up a publishing company
Travel round the world the long way round on a BMW motorbike

5 Things you should never have worn:
Leather waistcoat
Green chinos
Cream jeans
Blue chinos
A daft velvet hat to a 70's night. All of these were in the early 90's and were passable.

5 (clean) Things you enjoy doing:
Sleeping
Drawing comics
Singing/playing air guitar very loudly
Playing with my neice and nephew
Catching up with mates I don't see often enough

5 Bad habits you have:
Irregular sleep patterns
Singing/playing air guitar very loudly
Biting nails
Smoking cigars at 3am
Ebay

5 Favourite TV shows (current):
24
Lost
Battlestar Galactica
West Wing
Smallville

5 Fictional Characters Which Reflect an Aspect of your Personality:
Chewbacca
Josh Lyman
Chandler Bing
Michael Moore
The thinner cartoon version of me I draw

5 people you would like to do this (and post their answers as comments):
The five people who actually read this blog. Okay, the three people who read this blog.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

X MEN 3 REVIEW (contains spoilers)

Current Soundtrack: Indie Spinner Rack #27

It was a sad day when Bryan Singer went off to do Superman Returns and the studios wouldn't wait for him to come back and do X Men 3. Because then we might have had a better film.

Brett Ratners take on it isn't bad, but its not good either. Whether because it so rushed, he inherited production problems or whatever (see http://imdb.com/title/tt0376994/trivia for various behind the scenes info), it lacks any real heart or emotion, instead using shock tactics of killing off major characters to propel the plot along to a flat ending.

Missing the opening spectacle of Nightcrawlers attack on the White House in X Men 2, we instead go back in time to when Charles could walk and Erik had a fondness for floppy hats as they track down a young angsty Jean Grey to offer her a way to control her growing teep and teek abilities. Fast forward ten years to a young Warren Worthington III (later known as Angel) trying to cut off his wings, then again forward to a 'not to distant future' and a continuty bending danger room exercise of a post apocalyptic Days of Future Past future devastated by Sentinels, which Logan takes out using the fan favourite Fastball Special with the help of Colossus (not as dirty as it sounds, honest).

The plot is a mishmash of the Dark Phoenix saga and the more recent Gifted storyline, where a 'cure' is found for the x factor gene which causes mutations. Cyclops hears his dead girlfriends voice in his head, drawing him back to the lake where she supposedly died, only to have her reappear in front of him. Obviously not everything is as it should, and as soon as they kiss Scott's face starts warping...

Immediately the film starts going wrong from this point, when Cyclops, one of the core characters of the X Men, is killed off screen and within 10 minutes of the film starting, killed with no rythme or reason by the Phoenix identity now controlling Jean. However instead of the roving cosmic entity from the beginning of creation comic book origin, Jean's maleovent psychic outbursts instead are caused by breakdowns in her mind of blocks placed by Xavier in an effort to control her ever growing powers. And you know, that makes more sense. But...

When both Magneto and Xavier go back to try to talk to Jean, and the inevitable brawl ensues outside, Xavier tries to reach Jean through the Phoenix in a technically very well done and shocking scene, and is incinerated for his trouble.

Yes, that's right. Incinerated. Two down.

Now, i applaud any film that takes major risks like killing off two main characters before the midpoint of a film, but it needs to be done for the right reasons. And here it just felt like it was done for pure shock value, like there was nothing else they could come up with.

The centre for the controversial cure on Alcatraz island is attacked by Magneto and his new enlarged Brotherhood of Mutants after some major (and pointless) alterations to San Francisco's skyline, and as the big players are neutralised and fall on either side, it once again comes down to Jean/Phoenix and Logan. By this time Phoenix has wiped out a few hundred people, mutants and sapiens alike, and its only thanks to Logan's rapidly regenerating healing power is he able to get close enough to Jean to profess his love for her, before snikt, he kills her.

Yes, thats right. Snikt. The worlds most powerful psychic, able to warp reality around her and raise from the dead, killed by two adamantium claws. As you do.

The ending is equally abrupt, with a long pull out shot of gravestones and Logan back at the School for Gifted Youngsters, before going to a neutered Erik Lensherr, alone in a park, at a chessboard, reaching out with his fingers... before the metal chess piece moves, ever so slightly, on its own. And for those wise enough to stay after the end credits, you'll also see the reemergence of Xavier in another body.

So not the best of the three, a few missed opportunities, but worth watching for Xaviers death scene alone.

Monday, June 05, 2006

DA VINCI CODE REVIEW

Current soundtrack: Apollo 13, James Horner, 'All systems go- The launch'

I've seen a few films recently but not had time to get thoughts on blog, as it were.

It's pure coincidence that I'm listening to Horners fantastic score to a fantastic Ron Howard film starring Tom Hanks, when I'm going to be reviewing a painfully dull Ron Howard film starring Tom Hanks.

It seems that no matter what channel you're watching or what website you visit these days, you can't go ten minutes without someone mentioning the sodding Da Vinci Code. Resisting the peer pressure I've still not read the book, but everything I've seen and read about it just seems incredibly old hat. Oh, Jesus didn't die on the cross, he married Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail is his bloodline and all of histories greatest thinkers were in on it and it's in Da Vinci's Last Supper and its all real honest and winged monkeys fly out of my arse.

Not a single element of the film was original, nor was done any better than anything i'd seen or read in similar subjects before. Not a single one of the great actors in the film had anything to work with. I've seen more character development in a CNN news broadcast than in this poor excuse of a thriller. And the worst thing is, it was so, so amateur. They couldn't make plot points any more obvious by having a massive neon sign over each scene.

For the ideas that the story touches upon, that the Bible has been cut and twisted and rewritten through the years, deserves to be saved from the big book of cliches and basic factual inaccuracies that is this film.

Did I mention its incredibly dull?

BRISTOL 2006 REPORT... UNCUT

BRISTOL Teasers%2021

Current soundtrack: Beth Orton, Trailer Park, 'Tangent'

Righty. A few people have noticed, quite rightly, that my last post about BRistol was cut mid rant. Which it was. The computer died on me and I had to reboot, losing the post. I was so annoyed I couldn't be bothered going back to fix it. So several days later and in a better frame of mind to start again. With pictures.

exciting view of the hall

So... The saga begins. Friday daytime, everything seemingly going to plan. Arrive at the train station after a heartening talk with the taxi driver about how he can't find any comics for his 7 year old lad to read (directed him to the nearest Travelling Man of course). Walking in to meet Leon, with a portfolio, cardboard tube, weekend bag and backpack, before realising something was wrong with this picture. It just felt.. too easy. Then I realised I left the sodding box of comics in the house. So another taxi ride and train ticket later, we're finally on our way down to Bristol (with actual SEATS!!) without further incident. Pop into the convention hall to drop stuff off, spent the next hour chatting away to those people that we only ever get a real chance of catching up with at conventions, Gary Spencer Millidge (http://www.millidge.com/), Shane Chebsey (http://www.smallzone.co.uk/), and The Malcolm Magic boys (http://www.studioblinktwice.com/) who had beer on hand as they painstakingly pieced together the latest massive display. Signed in and headed into town, before being stopped by a Greenpeace donations recruiter type girl, trying to get us to donate money to that fine organisation. She suggested a small amount like £5 a month, sacrificing a pint every month to help save the environment, and anyway, she said, beer contains estrogen and makes men infertile so I could just be, as she eloquently put it, "shooting blanks". Which was nice of her to say, since i have no intention of having kids. Good to know. Pint a day from now on. Well done. On the way back finally managed to get into a comic shop in Bristol for the first time, and what a lovely shop it was as well. Travelling Man in Bristol (http://www.travellingman.co.uk/) had some of those elusive indie books I've been after for ages, yet, being on a very tight budget for the weekend, had to resist temptation. It looks tiny from the outside but its cunning use of transcendental physics means it snakes back into the building. A entire raft of indie books which was good to see, an a counch in the back to sit back and relax at all these titles that really should be on my shelf at home. One thing that was strangely absent though, with Bristol being the premier comics event in the UK, was no advertising for it at all. No posters, no banners, no flyers, nothing. Nothing in the shop, outside the shop, on the way to the venue, nothing. The Trav Man staff said they were given some flyers and that was it. Shocking opportunity of snaring local passing trade completely missed there.

Headed back to the hotel and to the Weatherspoons round the corner from the hall, meeting up with Shane for some tea and a strange conversation about Slaine Mac Roths descendents and his warp spasm. Very very funny but really not something I can repeat here unfortunately.

Its around this time its gets a bit fuzzy... but I think we went back to the Ramada and stayed in the bar for a few hours... till about closing time at 2 or 3am. Something like that anyway.

The highlight of the saturday was finally meeting people who I'd only talked to by email, including klong standing Engine artist Ant Mercer, now organising a small press festival in Lancashire later this year, and Norris Burroughs, creator of Voodoo Macbeth, who had took the weekend off to fly all the way from California to sit at the Engine table and sign copies. I admit to feeling incredibly bitter on the day that the man had come all this way and had to put up with just a wall of unresponsive people in front of the table, instead of meeting the public, so I probably came across as being very negative that saturday, which i regret. The posters looked good though:

norrisandbaz2

Anyway the saturday night was a good laugh, as Norris joined Leon, Joel Meadows, Andy Winters, David Baillie and myself at the traditional small press curry. Having found the curry house full (a better example of proof of the growing UK small press contingent you won't find) we headed into the busy town centre and ended up at a very nice back street chinese:

baillie looking guilty

(Contrary to the photos we did have a good time).

After Norris headed off back to the hotel, the rest of us headed back to the Ramada bar, but not before I was entranced by a streetlight:

bristolnight9

bristolnight8

bristolnight6

...Eventually I was dragged back to the hotel where all the action was, until, last men standing, the bar finally closed around 4ish, but not before doing a number of possibly lewd sketches.

Sunday was mellower and I finally had the chance to introduce Norris to the leading lights of UK comics, including Sean Michael Wilson and special guest Sakura Mizuki, artist on the hit manga adaptation of THE RING: SPIRAL, based on the novel by Koji Suzuki, who were strangely joined by the bloke from Nickleback in this photo:

sean sakura and the bloke from nickleback

Sean and Sakura had come over especially from Japan to promote the new book, Japanese Drawing Room (www.boychildproductions.co.uk), which looks like a lovely peice of work. And guess what, they weren't charging for sketches.

One of my main regrets is not getting more photos from that weekend, of the mad early morning sketching competition, cartoonists on a electric guitar at the Ramada bar, sunday night tagging along with Charlie Adlard, Sean Phillips, and Tommy Lee Edwards, Haroons' gleeful face as he showed me his cache of sketches from artists, the look of glee on my face when i got my hands on D'Israeli's War of the Worlds collection, Shane in his suit after the Eagle Awards ceremony...

Oh no, wait. I have got one of that:

shane after successful court appearance

Too good not to show.

So post Bristol, disappointing financially but the social side certaintly made up for it.

And yes, still last men standing on sunday night as well. We're comic book people after all.