Thursday, 22 October 2009

Tales of an Ancient Empire


Many years ago, hot on the heels of the Conan the Barbarian movie, there were a whole series of (mainly low budget) sword and sorcery movies released.
One of the better ones, and in my mind one that would have made a far better sequel to the Conan movie than the official sequel, was called The Sword and The Sorcerer (TSATS)! It featured a mainly B-list cast of TV actors and lesser supporting actors, but all the same the final result was a quality fantasy movie that should have received more recognition than it did.
Visually the film was stunning, with excellent set and costume design. Also the special effects were far above the quality of many of it’s competitors. In fact the only thing that let the whole film down was the titular Sword, with it’s triple blades which looked somewhat absurd, and became even more so, when it turned out two of the blades could actually be fired from the sword as some kind of spears!
Anyway, lets move on to the reason for my blog post. Almost 30 years since the release of The Sword and The Sorcerer, the original director Albert Pyun is in the middle of making a sequel, titled Tales of an Ancient Empire! Clearly this sequel will not feature many of the original cast (although Lee Horsley, who was the star of the first film is returning), but as Pyun is returning lets hope that the essence of TSATS can be instilled into the new film.
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The lead role in this film is taken by genre actor Kevin Sorbo, whose previous dabbling with Sword and Sorcery was the lamentable King Kull (and believe me, as a life long Robert E.Howard fan, that one hurt), so lets hope Tales of an Ancient Empire is far above that!

Tales of An Ancient Empire is due to be released sometime in 2010. The official website is already in place and can been seen here.
Thanks to Christopher Mills and his Atomic Pulp blog for alerting me to this film.
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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

My first attempt at a Panorama

 

I have not tried stitching photos together before so this is an experiment.

The image is basically just some trees. I used software called Hugin, which is open source, and it seemed to work really well. It was very simple to do and even I can’t see the joins.

There are actually 4 different photos joined for this shot.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Blake's 7:The Early Years

Point of No Return / Eye of the Machine

This is the second release from B7 Media in their Blake's 7 The Early Years series.
A double CD, it features two stories, Point of No Return featuring a young and more or less decent Federation officer called Travis, and Eye of the Machine revolving around Kerr Avon's relationship with Anna Grant and Professor Ensor.

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The first release in this series was When Vila Met Gan, which was somewhat disappointing. The story didn't add up to much more than an interlude in the characters lives and felt somewhat over-priced, which was a shame.

I am much happier with the second set. The value has risen, with the inclusion of the two separate stories and also the plots are more involved and have much more substance. I think it is worth pointing out that there is certainly not much here to interest anyone but the most die-hard of Blake's 7 fans. Both stories relate episodes from the early lives of central characters from the television series and apart from some minor action are mainly concerned with developing their personalities towards those later seen in the TV show.

Point of No Return features Travis as a young officer brought in to investigate a suspected terrorist. By the end of the story he has had to use some rather unsavory techniques to conclude his investigation, but it is not that apparent as to how this basically sympathetic character evolves into the hardened killer (and Servalan's sidekick) that we saw in the TV show.

Eye of the Machine is set around the period that Avon was at university, studying under Professor Ensor. Avon is ripped off by Ensor who steals his theories and generally abuses his position as a senior academic. While all that is happening Avon also falls in love with another student, Anna Grant, who is involved with a radical political movement determined to overthrow the corrupt Federation. Eventually, the different aspects of the story are drawn together and it rounds out the two disc set nicely.

The first release, When Vila Met Gan, did feature one of the original cast members, whereas this set has a wholly new cast, however the quality of acting is excellent and with the cast including, amongst others, Peter Guinness (Sleepy Hollow, Alien3), Keeley Hawes (Spooks aka MI-5, Ashes to Ashes) and Geoffrey Palmer (Tomorrow Never Dies, Fawlty Towers and too many others to mention), the quality cannot be faulted.  I thoroughly enjoyed both stories and would recommend it to any Blake's 7 fans.

I will have just recently bought the third release (Cally) and will review it shortly.

Below is a full list with a couple of forthcoming releases, including a boxed set of the first four releases containing episodes 1-5 (doesn’t add up I know, but the Travis/Avon set is considered 1.2 and 1.3):-

Product Details

1 / Blake's 7: The Early Years - When Vila Met Gan: 1 (Blake's 7: Early Years) by Ben Aaronovitch (Audio CD - 23 Jun 2008)

Product Details

2 / Blake's 7: The Early Years: Avon / Travis - Point of No Return & Eye of the Machine: 1 by Ben Aaronovitch and James Swallow (Audio CD - 1 Dec 2008)

Product Details 

3 / Blake's 7: Cally - The Early Years: 4 (Blake's 7: the Early Years) by Ben Aaronovitch and Marc Platt (Audio CD - 24 Aug 2009)

 

Product Details

4 / Blake's 7: Jenna - The Early Years: 5 (Blake's 7: the Early Years) by Simon Guerrier (Audio CD - 30 Nov 2009)

Product Details 

Blake's 7: The Early Years - Box Set Episodes 1-5 by Ben Aaronovitch, James Swallow, and Simon Guerrier (Audio CD - 7 Dec 2009)

Also listed on Amazon.co.uk:-

"Blake's 7": Zen - Escape Velocity 1.6: The Early Years (Blake's 7: the Early Years) by James Swallow (Audio CD - 31 Dec 2009)

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Sunday, 11 October 2009

Monday, 14 September 2009

Solomon Kane is finally coming home!

Solomon Kane

Image by /Sizemore/ via Flickr

 

OK that was a pretty weak headline, punning the Robert E. Howard poem, but I am really excited about this movie, the trailer is looking fantastic and I really hope it gets in to cinemas soon.

I am sure some REH purists will find plenty to moan about, but I tend to accept changes with the move from page to screen, and regardless of the REH connection this is looking like a damned good fantasy movie!

Here is a recent piece from the director Michael Bassett.

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Monday, 8 June 2009

A to Z of Obscure SF Movies Meme!

I saw this sometime ago over at SFSignal. I am mainly including it here as it features The Ultimate Warrior, an excellent Post Apocalyptic movie starring Yul Brynner and Max von Sydow!

  You know the drill. Copy the list and make titles for movies you've seen appear in bold.

  1. Alphaville [1965]
  2. Brainstorm [1983]
  3. Charly [1968]
  4. Destination Moon [1950]
  5. Enemy Mine [1985]
  6. Frau im Mond [1929]
  7. Gold [1934]
  8. Harrison Bergeron [1995]
  9. The Incredible Shrinking Man [1957]
  10. Just Imagine [1930]
  11. Krakatit [1947]
  12. Lifeforce [1985]
  13. The Man in the White Suit [1951]
  14. Night of the Comet [1984]
  15. On Your Mark [1995]
  16. Panic in Year Zero! [1962]
  17. Quatermass and the Pit [1968, a.k.a. Five Million Years to Earth]
  18. Robinson Crusoe on Mars [1964]
  19. Soylent Green [1973]
  20. Them! [1954]
  21. The Ultimate Warrior [1975]
  22. Village of the Damned [1960]
  23. The War Game [1965]
  24. X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes [1963]
  25. Yosei Gorasu [1962]
  26. Zardoz [1974]
[List found via Gravity Lens]

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Thursday, 4 June 2009

Most Loved Meme

Most Loved Meme

Here is a Meme I have just seen on Calvin’s Canadian Cave of Coolness, I just had to give it a go!

1. Most Loved Food – Chilli, homemade, can’t be beat!
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2. Most Loved Person (s) – OK, clearly this is gonna be my wife and 2 sons! She is always there for me and is far more reliable than I am, just a darling! My boys are generally good, although they do have there moments, but even when they are being terrors, I enjoy every minute.

3. Most Loved Job – Figure Sculpting, it gives me great pleasure and I really find it quite relaxing. My present job also offers some satisfaction, mixing my vocation (model making) with helping students with some interesting and complex problems!
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4. Most Loved City – I’m not a great one for loving cities! Never really found one that I have fallen in love with. I suppose my heart lies in Coventry, although I will readily admit it has many flaws!
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5. Most Loved Band – The Icicle Works, although there are many others bubbling just underneath, including The Rainmakers, The Men They Couldn’t Hang and The Atomic Swindlers. If it included solo artists there would be no contest David Bowie would win hands down!

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6. Most Loved Website – There was a time when I would have said The Miniatures Page, but I really don’t visit it as often as I used to, so I guess it would have to be Coming Attractions!
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7. Most Loved TV Program – Babylon 5 and Blake’s 7 both rank as number one! I love space opera and I am proud to admit it! Looking at current shows I suppose The Big Bang Theory and The Mighty Boosh rank fairly high!

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8. Most Loved Movie – Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s classic, hard Science Fiction with film noir style, beautifully photographed, well acted and with a stunning Vangelis soundtrack. One of the few films to really take Science Fiction seriously!

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9. Most Loved Artist – John William Waterhouse, I have always loved the Pre-Raphaelites, I suppose they appeal to my romantic side!

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10. Most Loved Book – Dune, it introduced my to hard science fiction, not long after I saw Star Wars in 1977. The sequels (and now prequels as well) are pretty flawed, but Dune itself is a masterpiece. I am not as fast a reader as I would like to be, but at the age of 12 I consumed this rather think book in 4 or 5 days!

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11. Most Loved Shop – Plan 9, the comic and genre shop in Aberdeen. This would have gone to Andromeda the Science Fiction bookshop in Birmingham, UK, but unfortunately it closed down in 2002!

I spent many many hours scanning the shelves in Andromeda, met several authors there, including David Gemmell, Brian Lumley(who talked me into buying a rather expensive collectors edition of one of his books) and Terry Pratchett.

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12. Most Loved Organization – The World Wide Fund For Nature, I’ve been a member for years. I don’t really do much for them other than cough up my fees, but I think they are well worth supporting as they do a very important and necessary job!
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13. Most Loved Historical Event – Tricky one this! I suppose I would have to go for Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon! There are so many other worth events, but this one just sticks in my head!
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14. Most Loved Sport – Sport has never played a great part in my life, I can’t say I actually watch any sports at all. I used to do some archery and competed in a few regional competitions (never actually won anything though). That’s me, second from the left, at my old archery clubs (Hinckley Archers) field shoot, many years ago!

Hinkley Archers circa 1990


15. Most Loved Piece of Technology – iRiver H320 multi-codec music jukebox. My first high-end MP3 player. I still love my H320, although I tend to not use it so often now. This thing would play video a year before Apple brought out their video iPod. Nowadays it seems like a bit of a brick, but quality-wise it still can’t be beat!

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16. Most Loved annual event – Bonfire Night (Guy Fawkes Night, November 5th). I really enjoy taking the boys to see the firework displays. Also it is good to instil a sense of history into them.

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Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of* no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd (or by God's mercy*)
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring. (Holla*)
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!


17. Most Loved Daily Task – Daily tasks don’t usually fit the “loved” category, simply by there nature of being tasks! I suppose my morning shower, is probably the most loved daily task. It is great to slowly wake up in the shower and come out feeling invigorated ready for the day!


18. Most Loved Comedian – Bill Bailey – Funny, a talented musician and really quite geeky!

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Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Trailer for The Whisperer in Darkness from The HP Lovecraft Historical Society

I saw this trailer sometime last year and have just found it again.

It looks amazing, and if it is half as good as The Call of Cthulhu it will be well worth the wait…

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Genre Audio Dramas and Audiobooks

As a fan of many science fiction and fantasy tales, whether they be movies, TV, books or occasionally comics, it is always great to find a new way to feed my SciFi addiction.

Now, when I say “a new way”, what I suppose I mean is when I find a new source of quality entertainment.

I have listened to audiobooks on and off for many years, I find them great for commuting, as well as being very useful to put on in the background when I am figure sculpting or indeed painting some wargames figures.

Over the past 4 years I have moved from audiobooks to primarily listening to podcasts, of which the diversity is amazing and the fact that they are available as free downloads also makes them attractive.

Some of the podcasts have more or less been a new format for receiving audiobooks (Scott Sigler’s Earthcore was the first I listened to) and many of these can be found at Podiobooks.com.

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In my searching for new sources of podcast fiction I stumbled across Darker Projects and also BrokenSea Audio (there are several others, but these are the main two I listen to). Both produce genre audio plays based on well know SciFi franchises. Darker Projects producing Star Trek, Space 1999 and Batman shows, BokenSea doing Battlestar Galactica, Dr Who and Logan’s Run amongst others.

Under copyright laws, it  seems that the franchise owners don’t mind these productions going ahead as long as they don’t attempt to make any money! Although after saying that, BrokenSea has just had to pull a series they were producing based on Robert E. Howard’s Conan, as the copyright holders (CPI) objected. This was a diffificult and complex issue as the REH stories are in the public domain now, but as BrokenSea are purely amateur they could not afford to contest CPI’s request to remove the production from their website.

Anyway, to get back on track. As well as producing fan based shows like Dr Who, both Darker Projects and BrokenSea have also been creating some original shows of their own. Darker Projects shows that I have really enjoyed include The Byron Chronicles and Tales from the Museum. The Byron Chronicles seems to fall somewhere between Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Constantine. Tales from the Museum mixes pulpy adventure with a little of The X Files. I also enjoyed a 6 part series called Autumn which took an unusual look at a zombie tale!

BrokenSea have on their part produced Jake Sampson: Monster Hunter and Maudelayne. Jake Sampson: Monster Hunter is a fantastic show that is pure pulp and a must listen on my part! Maudelayne is also excellent combining a 1920’s Oxford University setting with supernatural goings on from various mythologies and with a dose of humour thrown in for good measure.

Note: Ok, now I must own up and say that this is not exactly an unbiased review of (some of) these shows! As a podcaster myself I thought it would help my voice development if I tried out for some parts in a few of these audio dramas. As such I have had occasional small roles in several shows including a recurring role in Maudelayne (as the College President George Gordon), several appearances in Dr Who (including a recent show where I was the villain and actually got the better of the Doctor). I will also have a fairly important role in a forthcoming episode of the Byron Chronicles (which I recorded sometime ago, but has not been released yet).

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Monday, 2 March 2009

The Death of Grass

Just a quick note to say that BBC Radio 4 is running a 5 part dramatisation of The Death of Grass, which is the book that the film No Blade of Grass is based on!
I mentioned No Blade of Grass a while back (Survivors review) and I have just watched an old VHS copy of the movie, that I will be reviewing shortly. So I am really pleased to be able to hear this adaption that starts tonight!
BBC Radio 4 10:45 (The Woman’s Hour Drama) and repeated at 19:45!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Lethargy, a lack of posts and a little more focus!

First off, this is the second time I have written this post, as Windows Live Writer managed to delete it the first time, while I was checking some facts, aarrgghh I am so annoyed!
I have been very pre-occupied since the new year and have been finding particularly difficult to get around to writing any blog posts (or working on Dial P For Pulp! if it comes to it).
Anyway, in an effort to get down to it, I am going to lay out some aims for the this blog in the coming year!
  1. I am going to try to make at least 3 postings a week (relevant ones, not just pointless posts).
  2. This one won't be too obvious to readers, I am going to try to start writing posts at home in the evenings as well as in my lunch hour, which has been the norm up to now.
  3. I am going to introduce some more thematic and regular posts (more on this below).
  4. Posts will be longer, better thought out and explained!
OK, most of those are fairly obvious but no.3 needs more information.
Basically, even though this is a personal blog, and in effect my personal diary, reflecting whatever interests flick across my goldfish like attention span, I feel that I should give it a little more direction and focus!
So firstly I am going to try to review at least one book a month. This is not as simple as it sounds, as I am already reading between 2 and 3 books at a time to review for the podcast and I really don't want to simply rehash the same review in 2 places. So it is basically adding my reading list. The books reviewed will likely have a strong leaning towards SF, but I imagine there will also be some historical military fiction and probably some non-fiction as well. Basically I will review anything that I read that is not suitable for review on Dial P For Pulp! (i.e. any non-pulp/noir themed books).
Also I am going to introduce an annual theme for movie reviews, I will review at least one themed movie every month for the duration of the year. This theme may spill over into book reviews and other areas if it really catches my imagination.
This years theme is going to be Post Apocalyptic Movies. This is inspired by my rekindled interested in the genre after watching the rebooted BBC series Survivors which turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. So expect to see reviews for films like No Blade of Grass, A Boy and His Dog, and the Mad Max trilogy. I will trawl up as many others as I can find (I may even sit through a couple of Kevin Costner movies that spring to mind). In related areas, there are a couple of books I have been meaning to read, and this will give me the impetus to dig them out of the pile!
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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior

This was one of my "New Year Sales" purchases, and I was not expecting too much from this straight to DVD release.
scorpion king 2
After the minimal CGI work and virtually non-existent fantasy element in the first Scorpion King movie I wasn't expecting a Sword and Sorcery epic with this one.
I have had a soft spot for sword and sorcery movies for many years, and I will happily admit that virtually all of them are hardly even worth their straight to Video/DVD status. Some I can watch over and over again (The Sword and the Sorcerer, Conan The Barbarian and Excalibur for example) but overs are more of an "it's so bad it's good" kind of a thing.
Scorpion King certainly fits into the later category. The acting is, at best, weak and at worst, so wooden it creaks. The CGI is weak although not as bad as some I have seen.
The plot is shallow and at times ridiculous, ludicrously playing fast and loose with mythology like "King Minos and the Minotaur". It seems to draw on many of it's predecessors for plot elements, the most obvious being the when the characters have to travel through an evil swamp to reach their goal (let me see, who has used that before.... Lord of the Rings, Ridley Scott's Legend, or the one that this film's scene reminded me of most closely Krull, I am sure there are more).
OK so it will never win awards, but are there any good points? Yes! Actually I enjoyed it quite a bit, it reminded me in many ways of the glory days of 1980's straight to video Sword and Sorcery movies (The Beastmaster, Hearts and Armour, dare I say it Barbarian Queen). The ropey creature costume/CGI work is fairly discreetly handled (the Minotaur is mainly seen in very quick and shadowy shots, and the scorpion at the end is mainly invisible). The film certainly has a much higher fantasy element than the first Scorpion King movie, which was more a straight adventure film than true Sword and Sorcery. Finally, the leading lady in the film, Karen David, is also very easy on the eye!
This film has quite a strong feel of the fantasy role-playing games about it. It features a group of adventurers on a quest, various (almost) random encounters, and a showdown with a superhuman wizard/king/monster at the end.
A lot of nonsense really but both my wife and I enjoyed it (and she is not a great fantasy fan either).
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