MAY - DECEMBER 2011 NEWS ARCHIVE



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1st December 2010

BLU-RAY REVIEW

In spite of an excellent marketing campaign, and some very nice posters, I wasn't sufficiently motivated to catch Splice at the cinema. It seemed like a film more suited to viewing at home, and that, indeed, has turned out to be the case.

Splice is a Frankenstein story that's been given a contemporary update, with much talk of genetic manipulation, and creating "state-of-the-art animal organisms".

It stars, as luck would have it, two actors who look like they might have been the result of a genetic experiment gone slightly awry: Dawn of the Dead's Sarah Polley and The Village's Adrien Brody. They play, with some degree of credibility, a pair of brilliant young scientists who, at the beginning of the film, have successfully blended DNA from various creatures to create a pair of grotesque maggoty-looking blobs. (Incidentally, the scientists are named Clive and Elsa, presumably after Bride of Frankenstein stars Colin Clive and Elsa Lanchester).

Of course, there'd be no film if that was the sum of their achievements, so they take their work further, and give life to something more advanced. Something more human. If you've seen the trailer for the film (which spoils a lot of the often-excellent creature effects work), you'll know that their next creation grows rapidly, quickly adapting to it's environment, and coming to resent it's 'parents', like any bratty teenager.

It's a rather thin tale, very reminiscent of the sort of story that the 90s version of the anthology series The Outer Limits excelled at, and quite similar to the first film in the Species series. It also, no doubt, owes a good deal to Cronenberg films like The Fly and Dead Ringers. Not a bad pedigree.

CGI imagery has given the film much better effects than might have been possible a few years ago. It's often superbly realised, and there are times when you wonder just how much was done in the digital realm, and how much was prosthetic make-up effects (surprisingly, there was a lot more of the latter than I expected, judging by the behind the scenes material on the disc). There are some moments that are genuinely creepy (especially the scenes of the creature when it is the equivalent size of a young child). Equally, though, the creature's rapid growth and evolution are somewhat overplayed, and it soon requires quite a suspension of disbelief. The story embraces the more outré elements suggested by the premise, which probably raised a few nervous giggles, but eventually becomes rather routine. It ends with a scene that follows genre conventions so rigidly that it's actually disappointing that they chose to include it. I'm surprised they resisted the temptation to have it play out after the end credits.

The film was directed, with some panache, by Vincenzo Natali, whose work I've followed and enjoyed since he made Cube, in 1997. Splice also features Natali regular David Hewlett (now probably best known as Dr McKay in Stargate: Atlantis).

Op[timum's Splice Blu-ray offers a very nice-looking transfer, which nicely conveys the film's various settings, most notably the clinical blue hues of the laboratories. There is at least one on-screen caption in the film, and this is presented, as it should be, burnt-into the film, not as something generated by the player. The disc offers two sound mixes: a variable bitrate multi-channel DTS HD Master track, and a two-channel mix in LPCM (at 2304kbps). Both are impressive, but not outstanding.

The disc's bonus features are presented in HD, but seem to have been upscaled from standard definition sources (and probably transferred from NTSC masters, to boot). Picture quality is generally mediocre, but the content is worthwhile, offering more than an hour and a half of revealing behind-the-scenes footage and interviews. Since this was a French / Canadian production, some of the interviews are in French, with horrible burnt-in English subtitles. This isn't how HD - or even, as in this case, pseudo-HD - content should be presented. Optimum should have used a textless version, and added proper 1080i subtitles. A two-minute trailer is also offered, and this is in proper HD. The disc offers a 'Play All' option for the bonus materials. The disc menus are smart, and easily navigated.

To mark Splice's recent release on Blu-ray / DVD, I have added a 1998 interview with director Vincenzo Natali to the end of our review of the Cube DVDs, which you can find here.


26th November 2010

BOOK REVIEW

A new book about the work of the BBC's Visual Effects Department, VFX, nicely fills a sizeable gap in any collection of books about the special effects industry.

There are numerous heavyweight books on the work of Hollywood megaliths like ILM and Digital Domain, and an array of works detailing state-of-the-art digital extravaganzas, but very few books have looked at effects for television, where, traditionally, modest budgets have demanded more ingenuity.

The new book covers the period between 1954 (when the department emerged from within the Scenic Design division as a unit in its own right) and 2003 (when it finally wound down due to the ghastly "internal market" working practices introduced by John Birt during the nineties). It's a portfolio of the Department's finest work, for shows as diverse as Silent Witness and Rentaghost, or Doctor Who and Vanity Fair.

VFX - The Story of the BBC's Visual Effects Department (Aurum, ISBN: 978-1-84513-556-0) is a lavishly-illustrated 240-page coffee table book, written by two long-serving members of the Department's staff: 70s veteran Mat Irvine, and relative new boy Mike Tucker (who joined in 1985): both highly-respected craftsmen in their field.

The book begins with a very interesting thirty-odd page history of the Department, the people that worked there, and some of the common techniques which they helped pioneer. Here the text is quite dense, and some of the photo's are frustratingly small.

Rather than adopt a chronological approach, the rest of the book is divided into about fifty chapters, much lighter on text, with larger images, each focussing on a particular programme (or, in some cases, a particular type of programme - Christabel and Other War-Time Dramas, for example). Most chapters are two, four or six pages long, with some especially prestigious or noteworthy productions, like Edge of Darkness, given eight pages apiece.

Classic era Doctor Who (which, unsurprisingly, has already been the subject of a similar book, by one of VFX's authors), is allocated ten pages. Eight pages are devoted to the show's '2005' revival (concentrating on the new Daleks, resurrecting K9, and building Aliens of London's replica of 'Big Ben' [sic]). Blake's 7 and Red Dwarf, SF shows with a similarly loyal following, are also allocated eight pages each, which may not seem a lot, but this is well-trodden ground. Devotees of those particular shows are, frankly, unlikely to discover much that's new here.

This disciplined approach allows relatively obscure series like Rentaghost (and even very, very obscure productions like 1984 documentary The Comet is Coming) to have their moment in the spotlight. Science fiction fans are generally well-catered for, with chapters on ground-breaking series like Star Cops, Moonbase 3 and the Quatermass serials. Treasured literary adaptations like Nineteen Eighty-Four, Five Children and It, The Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy, The Day of the Triffids and The Chronicles of Narnia are also heavily featured (although not, oddly, The Box of Delights or Pinocchio). Some of these have been covered to some significant degree elsewhere (in the pages of TV Zone or Starburst, for example), but others, like the 1985 version of Alice in Wonderland, the 1982 adaptation Gulliver in Lilliput, and the superb 1984 serialisation of Wells' The Invisible Man - all produced by the late Barry Letts - have been sorely neglected, and their inclusion here offers little treasure troves of rare stills and production art.

Other genres are well-represented, too, with chapters on comedy series like Dave Allen at Large, Ripping Yarns and Dad's Army, and drama productions like Casualty and Eastenders.

The book doesn't contain a great deal of specific information on how particular effects were achieved, and it doesn't recount how the art of visual effects developed over the decades. In fact, if anything, it demonstrates how little things changed, as the Department stuck to the four areas that defined its trade: floor effects (explosions and weather effects), special props (objects that 'do' things), special sculpture and animatronics (making things), and models and miniatures (making small versions of big things).

One aspect of the book adds a slightly sour note. The chapters are presented alphabetically, but some nit-wit decided that all the productions with titles beginning with the definite article (The Goodies, The Borgias, etc) should all be grouped together under "T". Thankfully the book's format allows for such a nonsensical presentation, and, ease of reference aside, the book doesn't suffer because of it. The book's index, sensibly, includes entries for both.

Highlights of the book, for me, include two great photographs of Blake's 7's Liberator (arguably the Department's single greatest creation); work-in-progress photo's of the 2005 Daleks which reveal that at one point they had a 60s-style paint job; a spacesuit design for Moonbase 3; a gallery of shots that show how a Triumph Herald was turned into an impressive Adam West-style Batmobile for Rentaghost; and original design sketches for The Tripods.

VFX is, and is likely to remain, the definitive work about television special effects during its golden age of creativity and inventiveness. It's wholly accessible to those without an in-depth knowledge of the industry, and yet should also satisfy anyone who has a long-standing interest in the Corporation's rich heritage.

£30 is a lot to ask for any book, even one as sumptuous as VFX, but it's available at significant discount online, and at those sort of prices - half-price! - it's more than reasonable. Amazon, for example, currently has the book for £15.69, and Play.com has it for £22.99.


15th November 2010

EVENT NEWS

Author Nev Fountain and actress Nicola Bryant (Peri in Doctor Who) will be signing copies of Fountain's Mervyn Stone Mysteries novels Geek Tragedy, DVD Extras Include Murder and Cursed Among Sequels at the Forbidden Planet Megastore (179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR) on Tuesday the 25th of November between 1 and 2pm.


9th November 2010

BOOK REVIEW

It's not often a Doctor Who book is published that blows away decades of rumours, half-truths and downright lies, but Richard Molesworth's remarkable Wiped! - Doctor Who's Missing Episodes (Telos, ISBN 978-1-84583-037-3) does just that.

Frankly, an awful lot of cobblers has been written about how the BBC 'lost' (destroyed) hundreds of episodes of Doctor Who made during the show's first decade on the air, proving the old adage that in the absence of facts, disinformation reigns free.

The basic facts are well-known, even outside the archive TV / Doctor Who nerd communities. The BBC (and other broadcaster) routinely destroyed programmes a few years (sometimes only weeks) after they were made. Storage space was at a premium, and if a programme wasn't likely to be sold overseas, or quickly repeated, it would most probably be junked. When videotape began taking over from film as the storage medium du jour, it's re-usability meant that it remained a valuable commodity, regardless of what was recorded on it. Only the most prestigious productions were spared.

It may seem insane now, but there was a time when the prevailing attitude was that it wasn't worth keeping episodes of, say, Dad's Army, or Till Death Us Do Part. Drama fans may, understandably, regret losing early plays by groundbreaking playwrights like Dennis Potter and Dennis Frayn; music buffs are probably dismayed about the loss of the episode of Juke Box Jury featuring the Beatles; but nothing is as sorely missed as one-hundred-and-eight episodes of the BBC's most popular science fiction show.

Over the years, the show's missing episodes - and the often-Herculean efforts made to find them - have been a subject of intense interest to Doctor Who enthusiasts. Virtually every scrap of information that's entered the public domain has been endlessly picked over, exaggerated, and, eventually mythologized. Now, we discover, much of it wasn't even true in the first place!

Numerous hoary old stories are laid to rest in Molesworth's book, which is the first fully-researched work on the subject.

The book's focus is on Doctor Who, but it also tells a broader story, which is just as applicable to the hundreds - thousands - of other programmes that the BBC scrapped. Recovered Doctor Who finds are the most eagerly-sought: their return guarantees that they will be commercially exploited with on DVD, or even broadcast. This is a situation envied by archive TV enthusiasts. Recovered material from other shows is often unheralded, and the programmes quietly return to the vaults, often never to see the light of day again.

Molesworth's book offers a dispassionate perspective on the processes that have deprived us of so many delights, and wisely so. Fans have often singled out individuals to shoulder the blame, but, as the author points out, this was cultural vandalism on a corporate scale: there are no easy scapegoats. At the time, creaky old TV shows, usually in black-and-white, and made virtually unrepeatable by union restrictions, were deemed to be of little more value than the undisturbed, ten year-old contents of an office filing cabinet.

The book describes in great detail the working practices of the corporation and its archives during the sixties and seventies. The book's about programme sales; about how copies of the episodes were made, and distributed all over the globe; and, crucially, about what happened to them when they were no longer required. It's memos, and tables, and technical processes, and lists - lots of lists. This isn't a book for anyone who's just vaguely-interested. It's nearly five-hundred pages long, and, aside from the rather striking cover still, there are no pictures. There's no escaping the fact that the minutiae is the story.

Although it's tone is neutral, the book is likely to stir the emotions. For some it will be fury at the BBC's short-sightedness. For others it will be sadness, for the gems have been lost to the ether. Some will find within its pages stories of hope of optimism. For many fans there'll be sadness, as it slowly dawns how unlikely it is that any more Doctor Who episodes will surface (the last one to turn up was seven years ago, the one before that was in 1999 - as time creeps on, the chances of recovering another dwindle).

All fans of the series classic era must get hold of a copy of this book, if only so they can dip into it to check the odd fact. For many fans, it will be in almost constant use, so it's a shame that a more robust edition isn't available. Perhaps when the inevitable tweaks and tiny corrections are made to this edition - or, wonder of wonders, something new turns up - Telos will reconsider, and publish a hardback version.

Wiped! has blown away the cobwebs of time, and shines light into dark corners. Simply put, it's re-written Doctor Who history.


4th November 2010

EVENT NEWS

Here are details of Kaleidoscope's Christmas archive TV event...

We are pleased to announce details of our Christmas event and Grand
Charity Auction, in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Saturday 27th November 2010, 12:00 - 7:00 pm

Function Suite, The Talbot Hotel, High Street, Stourbridge, West Midlands DY8 1DW, UK

Free Admission

* 12:00 pm Southern Television start-up - the station opener for New
Year's Eve 1981.

* 12:05 pm Family Fortunes - "Give Us a Clue v It Ain't Half Hot Mum".
Festive celebrity edition of the long running gameshow hosted by Bob
Monkhouse, featuring Michael Aspel, Lionel Blair, Una Stubbs, Roy
Kinnear, Anna Dawson, Windsor Davies, Melvyn Hayes, Donald Hewlett, John Clegg and Michael Knowles (TX: 26/12/1981).

* 12:45 pm The Two Wise Virgins of Hove - A vintage Anglia play
especially for Christmas starring Margaret Rutherford as a woman who has
a vision which sends her on a journey of discovery that changes her life
forever (405-line conversion, TX: 22/12/1960).

* 1:35 pm Jackanory - "The Studio Ghost". The much loved storytelling
series for children brightened many a Christmas in years gone by. Here,
Christopher Biggins tells the story and William Rushton features at the
Ghost.

* 2:00 pm Break

* 2:15 pm Kaleidoscope Grand Charity Auction 2010 - a selection of
items donated by our guests, supporters and attendees throughout the
year are up for grabs in our annual charity auction, with all proceeds
going to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Please note we will be
accepting bids in person only.

* 3:15 pm Break

* 3:55 pm Christmas Oneupmanship - adapted by Barry Took from a series
of spoof self-help books by Stephen Potter, Richard Briers, Peter Jones
and Frederick Jaeger star in this comedy from Christmas 1974 (TX:
19/12/1974).

* 4:25 pm In Memoriam 2010. Kaleidoscope's own special tribute to
those from the television industry who have passed away during 2010.

* 4:35 pm Cinderella - The Shoe Must Go On - Christmas wouldn't be
Christmas without the fun of a pantomime and here the story of
Cinderella is brought to life by an exceptional all-star cast including
Danny La Rue, Brian Murphy, Faith Brown, Cheryl Baker, Basil Brush, Roy
Hudd, Mike Reid, Roy Kinnear, Les Dennis, Caroline Munro, William
Rushton, Bob Carolgees, Shaw Taylor and Jim Bowen! Written by Barry
Cryer and Dick Vosburgh (TX: 25/12/1986).

* 6:10 pm Top of the Pops - The edition from Christmas Eve 1981
featuring Wizzard - "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday", Adam & The
Ants - "Ant Rap", Elvis Costello - "Sweet Dreams", Bucks Fizz - "The
Land Of Make Believe", Kool & The Gang - "Get Down On It", ABBA - "One
Of Us", Altered Images - "I Could Be Happy", Dollar - "Mirror Mirror"
and The Human League - "Don't You Want Me" (TX: 24/12/1981).

* 6:45 pm The Wombles play us out as usual (TX: 24/12/1974), followed
by Closedown - a BBC1 end of evening animation from from Christmas Day 1985.

KALEIDOSCOPE GRAND CHARITY AUCTION 2010

In Support of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Details To Be Announced

All material at Kaleidoscope events is screened with the permission of
the copyright holders. Programmes and timings may be subject to change
before the day.

In 2010, Kaleidoscope is supporting the Royal National Lifeboat
Institution once again.

The Talbot Hotel is offering a special room rate for anyone coming to
Kaleidoscope events, so if you wish to stay the night before or after
the event, please mention Kaleidoscope when booking.

Tel: 01384 394350

www.thetalbot-hotel.co.uk

Full details of this event and Kaleidoscope's other activities can
always be found on our web site: www.kaleidoscope.org.uk


2nd November 2010

EVENTS NEWS

Two forthcoming signings at London's Vintage Magazine Shop (in Brewer Street) to report:

Shane Rimmer is promoting his autobiography, From Thunderbirds to Pterodactyls, with a signing on November the 6th, from noon until 2pm.

Hammer and Bond stars Caroline Munro and Martine Beswick will be signing on November the 27th, from noon until 2pm.


1st November 2010

ZETA MINOR NEWS

We have a new competition starting today, offering the chance to win a two-disc set containing one of the most fondly-remembered children's series of the 1970s, Here Come The Double Deckers, courtesy of Second Sight. Click on the image - above - to go to the competition page!

BOOK REVIEW

Titan have recently published a couple of books celebrating the art of the cinema poster.

One celebrates the work of a particular artist, Drew Struzan (who has designed many of the most memorable posters of the last couple of decades). The other is, somewhat misleadingly, called The Art of Hammer, and it celebrates the output of the famous British studio. It covers the studio's entire history, from Exclusive's The Dark Light, in 1951, to their atypical swansong, The Lady Vanishes, in 1979.

Marcus Hearn's book makes no claims to be definitive, but most films, especially the gothic horror films the studio built its reputation on, are represented by more than one poster (not simple variations: usually each poster is radically different to any other). Preference, the Introduction explains, has been given to UK designs, on the basis that this was the country of origin, and this is apparently an important factor for some collectors.

I've been a Hammer fan for more than thirty years, since stealing illicit glances at top-shelf publications like Monster Mag and World of Horror, and trading Topps' delightfully gruesome Shock Theater bubble-gum cards in the playground. I own a few Hammer posters, but I've never really been very impressed with their domestic output, many of which, with their crude artwork, were seemingly knocked out cheaply and quickly (in his heyday Hammer's leading poster artist, the great Tom Chantrell, was churning out three posters a week). Hammer's domestic posters were often printed on very poor quality paper, and were sometimes drab, two-colour designs (even if the original artwork was in colour).

The book, perhaps wisely, rarely comments on the artistic merits of any of the featured posters. On one occasion it wryly notes that a particular poster (the familiar one for The Curse of Frankenstein) is valued more for its cultural significance, rather than for its aesthetic appeal.

Having said that, The Art of Hammer contains a wealth of great artwork, both domestic and foreign. Hearn evidently knows his market: within twenty pages we're in familiar territory, with the first of the studio's Quatermass films, The Quatermass Xperiment (with it's intriguing 'X', picked out in red). From then on it's pretty solidly horror and fantasy movies, with the odd psychological thriller, war film or comedy added for seasoning.

After the Introduction, the book is light on text. All of the posters are identified by their country of origin, and physical size, and, where known (which is, unfortunately, not terribly often), the name of the artist. Occasionally there's a paragraph or two of text, if the poster has an interesting story (like the banned one for The Camp on Blood Island, or the censored one for The Satanic Rites of Dracula); or if the poster contains an error (perhaps a mis-spelt credit). Sometimes the annotations are simple trivia (noting that only one Hammer poster features the name of regular supporting actor Michael Ripper, for example: the one for The Steel Bayonet). Key films (or films with an especially-interesting array of designs) have several pages devoted to them.

The quality of the reproduction is very good (the book is printed on good paper, and is well bound). Presumably a fair bit of skilful digital restoration has been applied, since none of the posters exhibit signs of wear and tear (the book's designer, Doctor Who Magazine veteran Peri Godbold, gets the credit). Godbold's sympathetic layout is excellent, giving space where it's needed, and leaving breathing room so that each poster can be appreciated. The book is a tad taller and wider than Titan's recent books Hammer Glamour and The Hammer Story.

Many of the featured posters will be familiar to long-term fans. Others are rare, or, at least, obscure (an alternate version of The Lady Vanishes, for example). Few have been reproduced in this sort of quality, though.

Incidentally, beneath the book's beautifully stark dust jacket (showcasing artwork for Dracula: AD '72 by acclaimed Italian artist Renato Casaro) is a different cover (with a much more sombre black spine), featuring art from Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell and The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll.

I have only one complaint about the book (other than it being a shame that there aren't twice as many pages), and that is that it only includes artwork for films that Hammer completed. As many fans know (thanks in part to the groundbreaking 1973 book The House of Horror - The Complete Story of Hammer Films) the studio often commissioned poster-style artwork for films before they were produced - or, in many cases, not produced. Thus there are posters for many non-existent films like Zeppelin vs Pterodactyls and Payment in Fear), which are, sadly, not included here. (A pair of books on the unfilmed Hammer, Last Bus To Bray, have recently been announced, and these should include these speculative posters?)

There are better books about movie posters (I thoroughly recommend The Art of the Modern Movie Poster), and there are better books if you want a potted history of Hammer, but, as a book that combines both, The Art of Hammer is peerless, and, thankfully, quite excellent.

The 192-page hardcover book has an RRP of £24.99, and is available from booksellers everywhere, including Play.com (£18.99) and Amazon.co.uk (£14.74).

Oh, by the way, a new issue of the Hammer magazine Little Shop of Horrors, focussed on the cult favourite Blood on Satan's Claw has recently been published.


26th October 2010

ZETA MINOR NEWS

To mark the end of Mark Gatiss' excellent BBC Four documentary series A History of Horror I've added a 1997-vintage interview with George A. Romero, director of the influential 1968 film Night of the Living Dead, to the site. It was primarily about the then-just released Director's Cut version of Dawn of the Dead, but it broadly covers other aspects of his career. To bring things a bit more up to date, I've also included the press notes for his recent film Diary of the Dead. You can find the interview here.


20th October 2010

CULT TV NEWS

The great Scottish character actor Graham Crowden has died.

A short biography of the actor is included in my guide to the first Father Brown DVD, here. He had an incredible list of credits, including Catweazle, Callan and Public Eye - all personal favourites. His defining role, for me, though, was as the sozzled, wise Doctor Jock McCannon, in Andrew Davies' A Very Peculiar Practice. Crowden seemed equally comfortable playing period drama (Bleak House, Vanity Fair) and broad comedy (Dr Terrible's House of Horrible, The Comic Strip Presents). He even presented Jackanory.

Crowden turned down the lead role in Doctor Who when Jon Pertwee left the series, in 1974, telling producer Barry Letts that he didn't want to be tied into a long contract. One can only wonder what might have happened if he'd said "yes"!  Crowden appeared alongside Tom Baker, who took on the role after Crowden had turned it down, in the 1979 Doctor Who adventure The Horns of Nimon (recently released on DVD as part of the Myths and Legends box set).

For many viewers, he'll be most familiar as Tom Ballard in the BBC comedy series Waiting For God.


18th October 2010

EVENTS NEWS

The BFI IMAX is running a special Halloween event on October the 30th. Here are the details...

This Halloween weekend, BFI IMAX offers the biggest thrills, chills and spills experience with the first ever Scary 3D Halloween All-Nighter on the giant screen, on Saturday 30 October at 11.30pm.

Five fantastic frighteners will be lined up to hammer your heart-rate for nearly eight hours. Coming at you in spine-tinglingly immersive 3D with surround-sound are: Joe Dante’s all-consuming darkness in The Hole 3D (2010); this summer’s fish-fest Piranha 3D (Alexandre Aja, 2010); the science-fiction action-horror flick Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D (Paul W.S Anderson, 2010); the slasher movie that uses 3D technology in startling style – My Bloody Valentine 3D (Patrick Lussier, 2009) and finally The Final Destination 3D (2009) directed by David R. Ellis.

You can catch your breath during short breaks between the films when there will be prize giveaways and there’s free tea and coffee just in case anyone dares to fall asleep. This event is a Digital Cinema Presentation, not IMAX and is Cert 18.

Tickets are on sale now: Standard seats – Adults £27.50, Concessions £19.00, Students £17.00; Premium seats – Adults £29.50, Concessions £22.00, Students £22.

The BFI IMAX is at South Bank, London SE1. Nearest tube is Waterloo. Tickets can be bought in advance from the ticket desk in person, by telephone on 020 7199 6000 or online at www.bfi.org.uk/imax.


17th October 2010

SOUNDTRACK REVIEWS

Some belated Film Score Monthly soundtrack reviews. These titles have been available for a while, but they were misplaced in my recent move, so I've only just got around to listening to them!

John Williams' music for John Frankenheimer's tense 1977 thriller Black Sunday (about a terrorist plot to kill thousands of people from a hijacked blimp flying above the Superbowl) was becoming the most elusive of the scores written during his prime years. Certainly it had the highest profile of the absentees. Its release neatly fills a gap between perennial favourites Jaws and Star Wars (joining Williams' work on Battle of Midway, Arthur Penn's The Missouri Breaks and Hitchcock's swansong, Family Plot). Incredibly, when this disc was released, it was the most recent John Williams score never to have been made commercially available: a testament to the composer's popularity among film music enthusiasts.

While there are hints in the score's action sequences of Star Wars, much of Black Sunday is closer to Williams' work on films like JFK and, more pertinently, Munich. The dominant theme is reminiscent of Jurassic Park's memorable stealth cue Dennis Steals The Embryo.

The main programme on FSM's disc runs to nearly an hour, and offers the score in chronological order. A handful of alternate versions and source cues are also offered, adding another ten minutes or so. The disc has been created from the film's original sixteen-track two-inch masters, and sounds wonderful.

The disc comes with a well-researched twenty-four page booklet that charts the development of the film. Half the booklet is taken up by the detailed track notes. The booklet text is credited to Scott Bettancourt, (disc producer) Mike Matessino, Jeff Eldridge and Alexander Kaplan.

Black Sunday is technically a limited edition release, but the producers have negotiated a special deal to license ten thousand copies, many more than most limited edition releases. I hope their faith in John Williams is well-founded!

If cheesy 70s disco vibes are your bag, baby, then the FSM's CHiPs - Season Four (1980-81) CD should be on your shopping list!

This is the third CHiPs disc FSM has released, all featuring the work of composer Alan Silvestri (the show ran for six series, so there's potentially more to come!)

This particular season was victim to a couple of strikes, including one which had a large impact on the show's music. Since the show had a very distinctive musical style, the producers were forced to track about half the season with cues from earlier seasons. That's the point when the strike ended, allowing Silvestri to resume work on the rest of the season, (including a 'backdoor pilot' episode, Mitchell and Woods, where he was granted a much larger orchestra than usual).

Although Silvestri scored fewer episodes than usual for season four, FSM's disc contains just as much music as the earlier sets. The individual tracks are longer this time, allowing for suites to be formed from several cues. The tone is, as before, almost relentlessly cheerful. Is it my imagination, or is there a playful hint of Mission: Impossible woven into Taking a Nap, and a soupçon of Silvestri's Back To The Future fanfare in He's Here?

FSM's disc comes with a booklet, examining the background to the series, written by label boss Lukas Kendall, and breaking down each track on the disc into it's component cues. The disc was mastered, in stereo, from the studio's original 1/2" three track tapes.

Hunters are for Killing is a 1970 CBS TV movie made just before its charismatic lead actor, Burt Reynolds, became one of the world's most bankable movie stars. Reynolds plays recently-released convict, returning to his home town.

Composer Jerry Fielding's career was well-established by 1970. In the fifties he'd originally worked as a jazz band leader and arranger, even hosting his own TV series, before falling foul of the HUAC investigation, and becoming blacklisted.

McCarthy's grip eventually loosened, and Fielding gradually worked his way back into regular employment after securing a foothold with Otto Preminger's acclaimed 1962 political drama Advise & Consent. A slew of TV work followed, most memorably two atypical scores for episodes of Star Trek (the beloved The Trouble With Tribbles, and the considerably less well-liked Spectre of the Gun).

Hunters Are For Killing is a project well-suited to Fielding's famously muscular style. The score is frequently dark, and brooding. Fielding later developed the Main Title as the theme to the pilot for Matt Helm, and would later re-use it again for the 1978 remake of The Big Sleep.

Fielding's score - my favourite of the half dozen or so Fielding discs released in the last few years - runs for forty-five minutes, and is full of interesting sections, veering from quiet and insular to ballsy Las Vegas-style splashes of urban colour. There's a further eleven minutes of funky source cues (mostly jukebox tracks playing at the local diner) and more exotic alternates. The disc was mastered from mono archive elements, but the sound quality is generally very good. The booklet, by Lukas Kendall, contains background information and track-by-track analysis.

I've read that the film elements for George Pal's grand Cinerama fantasy epic The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm are in very poor shape, and require major restoration work (the film hasn't, as far as I'm aware, had a legitimate DVD release anywhere). Thankfully the same can't be said for Leigh Harline's flamboyant score, and the film's songs, by Bob Merrill (writer of How Much is That Doggie in the Window? and the musical Funny Girl).

Brothers Grimm was a truly epic, lavishly-funded production, one of only two narrative films to have been shot in the complex Cinerama process (the other is How The West Was Won). This is reflected in the film's lush score, and, therefore, naturally, in FSM's terrific two-disc CD set.

The score was originally recorded with the intention of being integrated into Cinerama's unique seven-channel sound mix, so was prepared on special high-quality equipment. As is often the case in situations like this, this equipment quickly became obsolete, which has made subsequent use of the original recordings impractical.

Although there were two previous LP releases, neither featured the original recordings, which have only recently been painstakingly re-transferred, onto modern formats, by Warner Bros and Chace Audio. As a bonus, one of these LPs, David Rose and His Orchestra Play Music From The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and Other Motion Picture Favourites, is offered on the FSM set in its entirety (including the disc's B-side, which contained syrupy easy listening instrumental versions of songs and material from Around The World in Eighty Days, Sweet Bird of Youth, GigiSpellbound, Exodus and The Music Man), re-mastered from the studio's original stereo masters.

Music from the original score recordings fills the first disc, in pristine stereo. The second disc features the Rose LP, half an hour of alternate takes and tracks pre-recorded for on-set use, and a short score, in stereo, also by Harline, for the frothy 1961 romantic comedy The Honeymoon Machine (which featured an ill-suited Steve McQueen in a role originally offered to Cary Grant).

The booklet with this disc is unusual, in that it could not contain the extensive background and track notes that FSM wanted to include, so the text is available in full online and in this PDF file. It does, however, include some wonderful fairytale production art, which would surely grace a larege-format book about the film. Let's hope that Warner Bros (who acquired Brothers Grimm from MGM) are able to bring the film back into circulation.

The music from John Frankenheimer's lamentable 1979 mutant-on-the-loose / eco-horror hybrid Prophecy was provided by well-established New Yorker Leonard Rosenman, a composer whose work I've enjoyed for more than thirty years. I've thrilled to his scores for Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes; become swept up in his enchantingly twee melodies for Ralph Bakshi's animated Lord of the Rings movie; and been puzzled by his very odd score for Star Trek: The Voyage Home ("the one with the whales"). I even liked his score for Robocop 2, right up until the jaw-dropping end credits...

I doubt that the critically-mauled Prophecy featured highly on Frankenheimer or Rosenman's CV's. Rosenman didn't stint, though, and comes through with a spirited, intense, brassy score, featuring many of his idiosyncratic atonal flourishes (there are certainly hints of Star Trek IV here!) Trek fans might also be thrilled by the score's use of the mighty electronic Blaster Beam (which Goldsmith used to great effect in Star Trek The Motion Picture's Klingon Battle), here representing the freakiness of the mutant creature. This is a disc best enjoyed when the neighbours are out!

FSM's Prophecy CD was created from an existing stereo mix-down on the film's original 1" eight-track masters, and it sounds terrific. The score is complete, and, at forty-two minutes, is just about the perfect length. The sixteen-page booklet is nicely illustrated (including a few rarely-seen photo's of Tom Burman's critter). It features track notes and some very interesting background info by Scott Bettencourt and Alexander Kaplan.

All five discs are limited edition pressings: Black Sunday (10,000), CHiPs (3000), Hunters are For Killing (2000), The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (2000) and Prophecy (3000).

FSM CDs can be ordered from specialist soundtrack etailers, including the label's distribution partner, Screen Archives Entertainment.


11th October 2010

DVD NEWS

MediumRare Entertainment has issued a revised list of bonus features for the Dark Skies DVD set, which is due to be released next week. The set will now feature the 90m pilot episode (directed by Tobe Hooper), a stills gallery and an A-Z (a text database). The behind-the-scenes interviews, a commentary track (with Bryce Zabel and Eric Close) and concept art gallery have all been dropped. The set will now be spread across five discs, not six.

2 Entertain have released a revised version of the sleeve artwork for their forthcoming release of the classic 70s drama series Colditz. Here it is!

 

 

28th September 2010

DVD FOCUS

I'm going to try to include more capsule DVD reviews on the site, via the News page, offering more detail about selected releases. I'm often offered the chance to review new releases, but some of the in-depth reviews I've written have taken many, many hours (a couple of days, in some cases), and I just don't have the time - or, frankly, the enthusiasm - to do them any more. I would like, when I can, to offer useful information about selected titles that's not included in the studio press release, or available from the etailers. These reviews certainly aren't meant to be definitive, just filling out some of the details, and offering a smidgeon of opinion. So, without further ado, here's the first one...

Flashforward - The Complete Series (ABC Studios, £39.99) features all twenty-two episodes of the series about a mysterious global "blackout" that gives everyone a two-minute and seventeen second premonition of what will happen to them in six months' time.

The set is housed in a space-conscious standard-width reinforced Amary-style case, containing six discs.

Discs one to five feature four episodes each, in anamorphic 16:9 format, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (at 384kbps), and optional English subtitles (there are also audio tracks in Italian and Spanish, and subtitles are available in English HoH, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Portuguese and Dutch). The episodes and bonus features are subtitled. One of the episodes I checked, Countdown, had burnt-in (not player-generated) English captions and subtitles, for a scene with Japanese character Keiko Arahida.

The last disc contains the final two episodes, and the bonus materials, which are:

• Commentary tracks on the episodes Revelation Zero Part 1 and Revelation Zero Part 2 (with actor Dominic Monaghan and Executive Producer Jessika Borsicsky)

• Bloopers Reel [3'05"]

• Deleted Scenes [ten scenes, with a 'Play All' option - total approx 10m] As is often the case with deleted scenes, there's no indication as to where these were supposed to go, so you'll have to be pretty familiar with the series to gain

Flashforward On Set – An inside look on the set of FlashForward [interviews and B-roll, split into five parts, with a 'Play All' option - total approx 17m]

Architects of Destiny – Taking audiences through the production of the entire season [19'18"]

Meet Yûko – Follow Yûko Takeuchi as she travels to LA to star in FlashForward [5'35"]

Kangaroo? – A humorous piece about the Kangaroo [seen in the opening episode - 1'53"]

Interviews from the Mosaic Collective – Interviews from across the world [interviews with four people about their flashforward experiences, with a 'Play All' option - total approx 7m]

Creating a Catastrophe: The Effects of a Global Blackout – A behind the scenes look at the freeway disaster [6'49"]

Easter Eggs [dotted around the Bonus Features menu are several hidden menu options, leading to more Stories From the Mosaic - 2'43, 2'05", 2'49", 2'28", 2'36", 2'19", 2'15" (perhaps more!)] Personally, I found these fairly pointless, and would gladly have sacrificed them for more behind-the-scenes footage, or an extra commentary or two.

The series had an intriguing premise, with enormous potential. What if you discovered that you weren't with your current partner six months from now, or found yourself on the brink of suicide, or unexpectedly living on a different continent? What if your premonition was completely mundane: would it inspire you to make drastic life changes? What if you saw yourself six months pregnant? What if you discovered that someone you loved was dead, but you didn't know how it was going to happen? What if you didn't see anything, suggesting that you weren't going to be around in six months?

The series explores many of these fascinating scenarios, set against the operation of a special FBI-like team set up to investigate the phenomena. It starts well, slowly building the mystery, but gets a bit bogged-down in the middle with too much Alias-like spy shenanigans. The series occasionally drifts, most agreeably, into exotic Millennium and X-Files-like end-of-the-world storylines. These genre elements quickly dominate the show, to the extent that the human stories, which made the show so compelling, are sometimes forgotten, or, at best, sidelined.

The new DVD set is missing two obvious bonus features. The first is a five-minute A Look Ahead promo that previewed the upcoming episode Revelation Zero (it's included on the US version of the Complete Series and Season 1 Part 1 sets). The second is the catch-up episode, What Did You See?, which recapped the events of the series first ten episodes (there was a three month break between the tenth and eleventh episodes in the US).   Neither is worth losing much sleep over: the former is basically a slightly different extract from the version of the episode that's included in the set; and the latter is a basic clips show.

The series was shot in high definition, at 24fps, but a Blu-ray version, listed by some etailers, hasn't materialised. There's no Blu-ray version in the US, either.

CULT DVD NEWS

I know that some of you are going to be delighted that the popular series T-Bag is finally going to be released on DVD (I've been asked about it a lot over the years). The Series 1 disc, being released on November the 15th, will feature "commentaries from the lead cast members". Incoming link.

EVENTS NEWS

Guillermo Del Toro will be signing copies of his novel The Fall at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, between 6 and 7pm on October the 6th.

Shane Rimmer will be signing copies of My Autobiography - From Thunderbirds to Pterodactyls at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, between 1 and 2pm on October the 30th.

Michael Moorcock will be signing copies of Doctor Who - The Coming of the Terraphiles at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, between 6 and 7pm on October the 21st.


18th September 2010

INCOMING

I've added three editions of Predators to the database: the DVD (two discs, including Digital Copy), a Triple-Play Blu-ray version (with DVD and Digital Copy), and Play.com's exclusive Steelbook Blu-ray.

Other recent additions include the Flashforward DVD box set; and the long-overdue Here Come The Double Deckers DVD set.


14th September 2010

INCOMING

The official press release for Series 5 of The Avengers has been added to Incoming. Looks like a great set, but the continuing silence on their plans - or otherwise - for The Avengers on Blu-ray does Optimum no credit.

INCOMING

I've added a slew of press release announcements to Incoming today, including the twisty British kidnap thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed (on DVD and Blu-ray); the fourth series of BBC drama Waterloo Road; a collection of episodes of Taggart from the last couple of years; the Smurfs and the Magic Flute movie (on DVD and Blu-ray); the sequel to atmospheric vampire movie 30 Days of Night, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days (on Blu-ray and DVD); the third series of US legal drama Damages (on DVD only, apparently), and a box set collecting the show's first three series; the giant crocodile movie Lake Placid 3 (which features Eureka's Colin Ferguson and, somewhat bizarrely, Monarch of the Glen's Kirsty Mitchell, Grange Hill's Kacey Barnfield, and a very naked Roxanne Pallett, from Emmerdale); the CGI animation hit Monster House in 3D (on Blu-ray only); medieval supernatural thriller Black Death (which stars Sean Bean and David Warner, on DVD and Blu-ray); French swashbucklers D'Artagnan's Daughter (making its UK DVD debut) and Le Bossu (both on DVD only); two rarely-seen live-action French Tintin films from the 60s, Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece and Tintin and the Blue Oranges, which are being released by the BFI; and a feature-packed edition of the recent theatrically-released documentary about comedian Bill Hicks, American (on DVD and Blu-ray - HMV are offering exclusive bonus art-cards with their version, if you're willing to pay a little extra, compared to the other etailers).

Sony are releasing Sam Raimi's 1981 masterpiece The Evil Dead on Blu-ray next month. If I interpret the press release correctly, it will include bonus features in high definition that are only available in standard definition on Anchor Bay's recent US disc. It certainly includes a Picture-in-Picture feature that's not on the US disc (or, of course, on Sony's forthcoming DVD edition), Join Us! The Undying Legacy of The Evil Dead.

Today's entries to Incoming include the 15000th title that's been added to the database, so this seems like a good time to thank Ceri, Ben and Graves for their contributions over the last few of years.

CULT TV

Colin Cutler has updated his comprehensive guide to the clips that survive from missing episodes of the BBC's science fiction anthology series Out of the Unknown, with new information about an extract from the fourth season episode The Last Witness. The Introduction to the Clips Guide can be found here, or you can jump straight to the fourth season entry here.

EVENTS NEWS

New York's Posteritati Gallery is running an exhibition of posters from heist movies during October.

Two forthcoming signings at the Vintage Magazine Shop, Brewer Street, London:

Ian Ogilvy (Return of the Saint, Witchfinder General, The Sorcerers, etc) - 9th October, 12-2pm

Jeremy Bulloch (Return of the Jedi, Doctor Who, Robin of Sherwood, etc) - 16tg October, 12-2pm

Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal conceptual designer Brian Froud will be signing copies of his book Faeries at the Forbidden Planet Megastore, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, between 1 and 2pm on October the 2nd.

BOOK NEWS

Titan has announced the release of a book dedicated to the non-Marvel and DC work of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Here's the full press release:

Exploding with action and excitement, The Simon & Kirby Superheroes collects all of the stories the creators of Captain America produced in this genre independent of Marvel and DC! [Titan Books, £35.00, 29th September 2010]

The only compendium authorized by both Joe Simon and the estate of Jack Kirby, this over-sized, full-colour hardcover features adventures brilliantly restored to their original glory, including some tales that have never been released before now, and others that have been reproduced from original artwork for the first time in decades.

This volume introduces some of the dream team’s most exciting characters: Fighting American, their cold-war patriotic hero, The Fly, with origins in an unknown Spider-Man prototype, Lancelot Strong, the man with the double life, and the Hollywood swashbuckler known as Stuntman.

In addition to unreleased alternate covers and rare double-page spreads, Simon & Kirby Superheroes offers three never-before-seen stories: Stuntman Crowns a Jungle Lord, Trapped on Wax, and Fighting American in The Mad Inker.

Beginning with the Black Owl in December, 1940, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby set the standard for costumed heroes. Their creation Captain America (soon to be featured in a major motion picture by Marvel Studios) remains one of the most famous characters in comic book history, and their work for Timely and DC Comics raised the bar for the medium.

Featuring a new introduction by Neil Gaiman!

The book is available to pre-order at Amazon.co.uk (£29.97) and Play.com (£26.49).


6th September 2010

INCOMING

I've added details and etailer links for the three different editions of Christopher Nolan's Inception due for release on December the 6th (that is, a limited edition Blu-ray version in a metal suitcase, with various gubbins, a triple-play Blu-ray (Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy), and the regular DVD). Note that bonus features are, at this point, still TBC.

Also recently added: the recent remake of 80s cult favourite Night of the Demons (on DVD and Blu-ray); Frozen, an endurance thriller about a group of people stranded mid-air on a chairlift (on DVD and Blu-ray); the twelfth season of Midsomer Murders; a box set of BBC sitcom Dear John (previously an HMV exclusive);  action-comedy hit The Losers (on DVD and Blu-ray); and four Heroes box sets (Season 4 on DVD and Blu-ray, and the Complete Seasons 1-4 set on DVD and Blu-ray).

Universal's indi VISION imprint is releasing a 'new' Director's Cut edition of The Lawnmower Man on October the 18th, as a two-disc set that also includes the film's sequel. As far as I can ascertain this 'new' Director's Cut version is the same as the one previously released on VHS and laserdisc (and on DVD, but only elsewhere in Europe).

Incidentally, I once spent a fascinating couple of hours studying studio documents relating to The Lawnmower Man, specifically the incredibly detailed legal paperwork generated when Stephen King, unhappy about the tenuous connection between the film and his short story, which it was purportedly based on, sued to have his name removed from the film (and, more pertinently, from any advertising materials).

101 Films is releasing an Ultimate Collector's Edition of notorious revenge thriller I Spit on Your Grave (one of the films on the DPP's list of so-called Video Nasties) on September the 20th. The set promises "new uncut material previously unseen in the UK", but the film itself has, unsurprisingly,  not escaped the BBFC's scissors. Their notes for the film say "The BBFC required 43 seconds of cuts to this film. The distributor made all the cuts, but in some instances substituted new material for the removed footage. This has resulted in a running time difference of 21 seconds between the original submission and the classified version".

The Incoming listing, with the breakdown of the bonus features, is here.


17th August 2010

ZETA MINOR NEWS

I've added an interesting Q&A transcript of a press conference for The Expendables, which features Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and other cast members.

You can find it here.

The film opens in UK cinemas tomorrow.


11th August 2010

INCOMING

I've added press release details for a number of significant releases to our forthcoming releases database today, including: Dennis Potter's memorable period drama series Lipstick on Your Collar; Ewan McGregor (again) and Pierce Brosnan's critically-acclaimed political thriller The Ghost (on Blu-ray and DVD); a fiftieth anniversary Blu-ray edition of John Sturges' landmark Western The Magnificent Seven; British film festival favourite Running in Traffic; the recent supernatural comedy from the team behind Bend it Like Beckham, It's a Wonderful Afterlife (which, despite what some etailers are claiming, is not being released on Blu-ray); Star Wars-inspired comedy Fanboys (on DVD and Blu-ray); and a long-overdue DVD release for cult classic Dougal and the Blue Cat.


9th August 2010

INCOMING

August sees the release of several dual format Blu-ray / DVD sets, including the film that Sandra Bullock won her Best Actress Oscar for, The Blind Side and a film that features one of the most astonishing performances in fiilm history: that of Christian Bale in The Machinist, from Palisades Tartan.

Park Circus have James Mason and Ava Gardner in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman; Ian McKellen and Clive Owen in the award-winning love story Bent; as well as two Charlie Chaplin films The Gold Rush and Modern Times. The BFI is releasing Tony Scott's Loving Memory (which set also includes two short films by Tony and Ridley Scott).

Also from the BFI in August are Blu-ray only releases of Michael Powell's bewitching The Edge of the World, Peter Greenaway's deliciously barmy A Zed & Two Noughts and Jack Clayton's superb ghost story, The Innocents. These titles have already been released on DVD.

Eureka! Entertainment are releasing the 1944 fantasy epic Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and two Masters of Cinema entries: The Burmese Harp and Shijie (The World).

From 2 entertain come high definition releases of the first series of BBC Three hit comedy Mongrels and the recent BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit.

Warner are issuing a five-film Clint Eastwood: The Director's Collection (including Gran Torino, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, Mystic River and Unforgiven), while Fox are following suit with a four-film Clint Eastwood Collection (which mostly duplicates their earlier Spaghetti Western Collection).

The 50th Anniversary edition of Hitchcock's Psycho is available in
both Steelbook and normal editions, while Optimum's 30th Anniversary edition of Flash Gordon includes the soundtrack on CD (frustratingly, it will apparently omit the Brian Blessed commentary on one of the same label's DVD editions).

Also coming in next few weeks are John Carpenter's Elvis TV movie (starring
Kurt Russell); Sylvester Stallone's prison romp Lock Up; 80s throwback comedy The Hot Tub Time Machine; Drew Barrymore's directorial debut Whip It! (which stars Inception's Ellen Page); Dolph Lundgren's The Killing Machine; an acclaimed new documentary about The Doors, When You're Strange; and the all-star adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Going Postal.

Additional information has been posted for the following titles: the BFI's two Famous Five DVDs (Five on a Treasure Island and Five Gave A Mystery to Solve); Optimum's DVD of Harry Kümel's stylish version of the Elizabeth Bathory-as-vampire legend, Daughters of Darkness; and horror flicks Splintered and what GoreZone magazine called "probably the most graphic gore film ever released in the UK", Meat Grinder.

We've also added a Tom Baker Doctor Who story, The Seeds of Doom, which is scheduled for release in October, and an entry for the UK DVD premiere for Andrzej Zulawski's horrific 'Video Nasty' Possession (which, although it lacks the commentary track on Anchor Bay's OOP US disc, will apparently feature a Making of... documentary about the film, The Other Side of The Wall).

IMAX NEWS

Tickets for the extended version of Avatar are now on sale. Here's the official blurb...

From 27 August at BFI IMAX, Avatar fans can return to Pandora and experience James Cameron's groundbreaking epic, now with more than eight minutes of extra, never-before-seen footage, in spectacular IMAX 3D.

The Oscar and Golden Globe winning epic, distributed by 20th Century Fox, is the highest grossing film of all time, taking in over $2.7 billion in worldwide box office. It is also the top-selling Blu-ray disc of all time. Director James Cameron takes audiences to a spectacular world beyond imagination, where a reluctant hero embarks on a journey of redemption and discovery as he leads a heroic battle to save a civilization. Avatar delivers a fully immersive cinematic experience of a new kind, where the revolutionary technology invented to make the film disappears into the emotion of the characters and the epic nature of the story.

In December 2009, the BFI IMAX sold more advance tickets for Avatar than any other cinema in the world – over 46,000. Once the film opened, public demand kept it playing to packed houses for many months. To date, over 160,000 people have been to see Avatar at the BFI’s giant screen on the South Bank.

Dennis Laws, Technical and General Manager, BFI IMAX, says: "We’re certain that many of our customers who were blown away by Avatar the first time around will be coming back again to experience the incredible IMAX 3D version. The new footage will add yet another dimension and from the enquiries we’ve had already, it looks like hundreds of fans want to be among the first to see Avatar: Special Edition."

The BFI IMAX is at South Bank, London SE1. Tickets for Avatar: Special Edition are now on sale today and are available from the ticket desk Tel: 020 7199 6000 or online at www.bfi.org.uk/imax


6th August 2010

COMICS NEWS

I don't really feel qualified to bring you news about the world of comic strips and graphic novels, because I personally only dabble around the more mainstream end of the market, but I thought this press release from Titan Magazines was worth reproducing...

Jonathan Ross and Frankie Boyle comic strips feature in CLiNT, a new monthly magazine from Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar

Comics by two of the UK’s most outspoken TV personalities and burgeoning writing talents – Jonathan Ross and stand-up comedian Frankie Boyle – will feature in CLiNT Magazine, an exciting new joint venture between Kick Ass creator Mark Millar and Titan Magazines. Millar’s sequel to his cult comic and smash hit movie will also feature in the monthly title to form a stunning line-up of stories.

“This is The Eagle for the 21st Century,” declares Millar, whose genre-busting Kick-Ass scooped the number one movie spot in America and whose previous work includes Wanted, starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman. “I’ve worked on everything from Spider-Man comics to the Iron Man movie for Marvel in New York, but what really excites me is the gap I see in the UK market at the moment. There are absolutely no comic-books aimed at 16-30 year old guys and I think CLiNT has potential to make an enormous impact, bringing a new type of magazine to a new generation.

“I want this to be edgy and irreverent, the kind of thing guys will be passing around lunch-halls and common rooms, and there’s nobody I’d rather have creating new characters for CLiNT than Jonathan and Frankie. They’re both brilliant writers and will surprise a lot of people with this stuff. The last thing you’d expect from Jonathan, for example, is a vampire strip, but he pulls it off amazingly. People are going to love this.”

Millar is also launching his sequel to the hit Kick-Ass movie in the first issue of the comic. Kick-Ass 2: Balls To The Wall has been scheduled for production in 2011 for a 2012 cinema release, but fans of the first movie can find out what happens two years in advance by picking up CLiNT.

The 100-page magazine will be packed with interviews and features from movies, games and television as well as four serialized comic-strips. The biggest names in entertainment will be featured every month and some will even be sticking around to write sci-fi, humour or horror stories after they’ve been interviewed and quizzed.

“We can’t say who else is involved at this stage,” says Millar. “Jonathan, Frankie and I will have our stories serialized over the first six months, but we have the most insane line-up of creators ready to come in and join us. You’d be amazed how many people who work in film and television want to be comic-book writers. It’s very exciting and we think we’re creating something potentially enormous here.”

Further information on who is involved can be found at twitter.com/clintmag, where future developments will be revealed on a regular basis.

CLiNT #1 will go on sale on September 2nd in the UK from all good retailers and specialist comic stores. It will be available in the US by subscription.


3rd August 2010

INCOMING

Recent additions and amendments to the database include the film based on the comic strip Largo Winch (some etailers have it priced at less than half its £15.99 RRP, suggesting a mis-price); the sixth series of popular genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are?; Jacques Demy's captivating Lola; the Blu-ray and DVD versions of Neil Marshall's bloodthirsty Roman thriller Centurion; the third series of Welsh detective series A Mind To Kill; the Jet Li martial arts movie The Legend of Fong Sai Yuk; a Japanese horror film with hints of Saw, Death Tube (aka Satsujin Douga Site); a box set featuring two crime series produced by Verity Lambert, Widows and She's Out, The Lynda La Plante Collection; an award-winning slasher movie featuring Buffy The Vampire Slayer's Mercedes McNab and American Gothic's Nick Searcy, which is listed as XII on IMDb, but is being promoted as Twelve; various incarnations of fantasy movie The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Blu-ray  / DVD combo, Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy combo, and just the DVD); complete series box sets for BBC sitcoms Are You Being Served? and In Sickness and In Health; a new batch of Blu-ray titles from Optimum and Studio Canal, including Delicatessen, David Lynch's Mulholland Drive and The Third Man; an extended Director's Cut version of Ridley Scott's Robin Hood (on limited edition Blu-ray Steelbook, Blu-ray and DVD); a new BFI Flipside title from 1968, Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush; and a British thriller about a stand-up comedian, Crying With Laughter.

CINEMA NEWS

There's lots of activity to report about the recently reconstructed and restored version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, which is being screened at various venues during August and September. Here's the information, from the distributor's press release...

Eureka Entertainment are pleased to announce a series of special event screenings to celebrate the release of one of the biggest of all film finds – Fritz Lang's 1927 science fiction masterwork, Metropolis, newly reconstructed and restored, featuring 25 minutes of footage previously thought lost to the world.

To mark the end of the BFI Southbank’s Future Human season, they are delighted to present a very special UK premiere of Metropolis on 26 August 2010. Lang's 'captivating symphony of movement' can finally be seen, for the first time in the UK in 83 years, as its director originally intended. This event is now fully booked.

On 29 August 2010 there will be an open-air sunset screening of Metropolis in the idyllic setting of Grantchester Meadows as a prelude to the Cambridge Film Festival. Cinema goers can arrive by a chauffeured punt with a glass of bubbly in hand, warm blankets and the promise of a memorable and magical event.

Once a month the Curzon Midnight Movies team bring us the best in cult classics, trash beauties and art house jaw droppers alongside exclusive previews. On 3 September 2010, Midnight Movies presents Metropolis at the stunning Curzon Mayfair venue featuring a Metropolis themed burlesque-style dance performance from Suri Sumatra on stage and a 1920's factory themed bar creating some very special cocktails.  The Midnight Movies team will also take Metropolis to a special screening in the Little White Lies-curated Cinedrome at the End of the Road Festival on 10 September 2010, alongside other Masters of Cinema titles La Planete Sauvage [aka Fantastic Planet] and House [aka Hausu]

The Irish premiere of the restored original version of Metropolis, takes place on 4 September 2010 at the National Concert Hall in Dublin featuring a newly adapted music score for a salon Orchestra closely based on the original Huppertz score from 1927, under the direction of conductor Helmut Imig. This event will be part of an accompanying Fritz Lang season being held at the Irish Film Institute.

On 11 September 2010, Metropolis will be the penultimate film screened in a derelict petrol station on Clerkenwell road which will be transformed into a cinema, designed to celebrate the extravagance and ceremony of the picture palace. Primarily constructed using donated and found materials; The Cineroleum will be an improvisation of the decadent interiors that greeted audiences during cinema’s golden age. Popcorn, paper tickets, elaborate signage and flip-down seats will collectively recreate the familiar excitement of cinema-going. Enclosed by an ornate curtain strung from the forecourt roof, The Cineroleum will host screenings from sundown four nights a week. Just as the drive-ins of 1950’s America brought cinema out from its enclosures and into suburbia, The Cineroleum will be a street-side cinema that is truly exposed to the city. For more info about the screening please see www.cineroleum.co.uk

The Roundhouse in London is home to an exciting programme of live music, theatre, dance, circus, installations and new media. Included in this programme on Sun 10 October 2010 there will be a live orchestral screening of Metropolis accompanied by the London Contemporary Orchestra. The LCO bring together London’s brightest young talent, with an aim to stimulate and enlighten through their fresh approach and dynamic performances. For more info about the event please see www.roundhouse.org.uk

Eureka will also be working with the charitable organisation Film Education with special screenings for schools in early September to tie-in with the film’s release and the a bespoke resource for schools. Later in the year, Metropolis will also feature as part of the National Schools Film Week.

Other special preview events include a special screening as part of the Barbican’s Silent Film & Music Series on 3 September 2010 and a couple of screenings at the Chichester International Film Festival on the 3rd and 4th September 2010.

Metropolis opens theatrically in over sixty cinemas nationwide on the 10th of September 2010 in towns and cities throughout the UK and Ireland.  Full details of these screenings and the event screenings can be found here http://www.metropolis1927.com/#screenings


19th July 2010

INCOMING

Several forthcoming titles have been added to the Incoming database in the last couple of days, including the DVD and Blu-ray versions of Michael Winterbottom's controversial serial killer movie The Killer Inside Me, which stars Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson; the complete FlashForward TV series (on DVD only, sadly); and - finally! - Joseph Losey's culty, campy 60s spy classic Modesty Blaise (but, again, only on DVD, for some inexplicable reason).

I know I speak for many Zeta Minor visitors (and members of Roobarb's Forum), when I say that I'm done buying movies (and TV series made in HD) on DVD!

Releasing a title like Modesty Blaise on DVD only at this point seems, at best, short-sighted, and, at worst, a cynical move to wring every last penny out of DVD, before announcing a double-dip on Blu-ray.

It's been a year of huge growth for HD TV set sales (the World Cup - hello!) and prices of Blu-ray players have been tumbling: things are definitely moving in the new format's favour. There seems to be some resistance to reducing the cost of the discs, particularly catalogue titles, which is preventing adoption, but even those are being eroded. Some decent three-for-£20 deals wouldn't go amiss!

Thanks to Graves for the updates this week (and, indeed, every week!)


15th July 2010

BLU-RAY NEWS

Twentieth Century Fox has announced the details of their forthcoming Alien Anthology Blu-ray box set, which will contain hours of new material, including an apparently-unedited version of the controversial documentary charting the behind-the-scenes conflict that occurred on Alien³, between the studio and director David Fincher. Full details can be found in the set's Incoming record.

Other recent Incoming additions include the BFI's Blu-ray edition of Jack Clayton's masterful 1961 ghost story The Innocents, and the DVD and Blu-ray versions of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

IMAX NEWS

 

 

On Monday night I was lucky enough to attend a screening of Inception, the highly-anticipated new film from Memento's Christopher Nolan, at the BFI Imax theatre at Waterloo.

Inception is a film probably best experienced before you know too much about the plot, or it's stunning set-pieces (at least two of which are being given away by advertising posters and TV clips).

The film is based on a relatively straightforward concept, but it's been given layers of depth and Rubik's Cube-like complexity, and demands close attention from the viewer. It's a film that almost casually blends reality with dreams, and very little of what you see is "real", so you have to keep on your toes. I saw the film at the end of a long working day, and, by the end of the film, was somewhat fatigued, but felt that it all made sense. Sort of. More or less.

The film features a team of people who have discovered a way to infiltrate the dreams of others. Quite how they achieve this isn't explicitly explained, but all the rules and tech paraphernalia give it enough verisimilitude that you're quickly and effectively sold on the idea. Led by Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), the team has been using this ability to sell protection to wealthy, powerful clients with murky secrets. One such potential client (The Last Samurai's Ken Watanabe) hires Cobb to plant an idea in the mind of a business rival. This is a job requiring a delicate touch, because the victim must not suspect that the idea is not his own.

Cobb re-assembles his team, including wingman Arthur ((500) Days of Summer's Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who will be barely recognisable to those of you who have only seen him as Tommy in 3rd Rock From The Sun), and a new "architect", the appropriately-named Ariadne (played by Juno's Ellen Page), to create the operation's labyrinthine - but, by necessity, highly plausible - dream landscape. The team is also joined by a shady mind-manipulator, Eames, compelling portrayed - as usual - by the mesmerising Tom Hardy (Bronson). Platoon's Tom Berenger, an actor who has deserved much more than the straight-to-video dreck he's been mired down by for the last couple of decades, also makes a memorable appearance. Hopefully this will mark a turning point in his career.

A strong skein of emotional drama weaves through the film, spinning from Cobb's guilt about the death of his wife, played beautifully by La Vie en Rose's Marion Cotillard. Her relationship with Cobb is at the very heart of the film, and prevents the film from becoming just another slick, hi-tech, testosterone-fuelled Summer Blockbuster.

After much explanation and demonstration about what it is that the team are aiming to do, the film steps up several gears: from then on it's pure action. The film spans an array of exotic locations (including a lengthy sequence that seems to pay direct homage to Blofeld's lair in On Her Majesty's Secret Service), and offers a string of highly-impressive special effects set-pieces.

Inception is a film that defies easy pigeonholing: its science fiction and fantasy trappings are set dressing in a film that's equally comfortable being an Ocean's Eleven-style heist movie and a Mission: Impossible-style spy thriller. Nolan's fondness for James Bond movies is certainly evident.

The film is certainly impressive, and, refreshingly, doesn't pander to the audience's lowest common denominator. True, it's not terribly original (there are strong echoes of Dark City, the recent Japanese anime Paprika, and 1984's Dreamscape, to name but three), but none of these had the benefit of Nolan's sheer panache, or his $200m budget.

I have to say that I was a bit disappointed with certain aspects of the film's presentation at the IMAX. The cinematography (cropped from it's Panavision 2.35:1 original) is frequently quite ugly, with many scenes exhibiting a grim oiliness (perhaps that's exactly the look Nolan wanted, of course). Flesh tones are sometimes unpleasantly ruddy, and no-one, not even DiCaprio or Cotillard, looks at their best. No-one should go into the film expecting the clarity and sharpness of the IMAX scenes in The Dark Knight.

I've seen many films at the IMAX, but this is the first one with a soundtrack that the IMAX's mighty audio setup didn't seem to be able to handle effortlessly. Inception had moments where it seemed to be really struggling (especially with some of the rib-rattling ultra-low bass). Hans Zimmer's percussive score propels and services the film adequately, but it isn't especially memorable.

Those caveats shouldn't dissuade you from seeing the film on a big screen (or, at the IMAX, the biggest!) That's assuming you can get a ticket at the IMAX - they're heavily pre-booked, and precious screen time is being limited by Toy Story 3, which is running during the day, and by other forthcoming commitments, like Tron: Legacy.

The BFI IMAX is at South Bank, London SE1. Tickets are on sale now and can be bought in advance from the ticket desk in person, by telephone on 020 7199 6000 or online at www.bfi.org.uk/imax.


7th July 2010

DVD NEWS

Our friends over at the Mausoleum Club Forum have spotted a couple of significant problems with the newly released The Avengers - Series 4 DVD box set, released on Monday.

The first is a video glitch about 43'20" into The Gravediggers, which knocks the audio way out of sync for the remainder of the episode.

The second is what looks like a nasty tape playback fault, in The Strange Case of the Missing Corpse bonus feature. It manifests itself in a couple of seconds of audio and video disruption, just before the end captions.

Both faults would seem serious enough to warrant re-authoring, and a disc replacement scheme, like the one that Optimum arranged for the first season set.

 

 


6th July 2010

INCOMING

Recently added and augmented titles include: Charlie's Angels (Blu-ray); a slew of stand-up comedy titles due in November (Chris Addison, Russell Howard, Al Murray, Russell Brand and Dylan Moran); a Complete Collection box set of Foyle's War (which has a much lower RRP than the etailers seem to think); the Jane Seymour mini-series East of Eden; the second series of Ralph Bates' sitcom Dear John; Atom Egoyan's Chloe on Blu-ray and DVD; a box set featuring Dennis Potter's final works, Karaoke and Cold Lazarus (they'll also be available separately, although I can't imagine many people would want one without the other; battling angels fantasy Legion (on DVD and Blu-ray); and Ricky Gervais' family drama Cemetery Junction (on DVD and Blu-ray).


1st July 2010

EVENT NEWS

Belated congratulations to Special Effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, who celebrated his 90th birthday earlier this week.

Ray's been one of my heroes for more than thirty years, and films like Jason and the Argonauts (being released on Region Free Blu-ray in the US next week) and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad are enduring favourites.

Ray's career is being celebrated with a season of his films at BFI Southbank. On Saturday BAFTA played tribute to Ray by presenting him with a special award "for a unique and outstanding contribution to cinema". The event was attended by a number of colleagues and admirers, including Rick Baker, Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett, John Landis, Ken Ralston, Randall William Cook, Peter Jackson, Caroline Munro and Nick Park, with special video messages from James Cameron, Tim Burton, Ray Bradbury, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Guillermo Del Toro, and Aardman animations.

Here are some photo's from the event, courtesy of BAFTA and the BFI.

 

 
     
 

 
     
 

 
     
 

 

Ray has also been honoured by Sony Pictures Digital Productions in California, where they have named one of their screening theatres after him!

Here's the report from the PR Newswire (which I've Anglicised, for the sake of readability)...

CULVER CITY, Calif., June 28 /PRNewswire/

On the eve of his 90th birthday, Sony Pictures Digital Productions is excited to announce the renaming of its 119-seat screening theatre after visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen. The honour comes just days after the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) paid tribute to the creative legend in London with a special award feting his contributions to film.

The Ray Harryhausen Theatre will be formally dedicated on Monday, July 12, 2010, with the unveiling of a sign displaying the theatre's new name, a reception, and the screening of one of Harryhausen's seminal hit films, Jason and the Argonauts. The 1963 classic, originally produced and released by Columbia Pictures (now part of Sony Pictures Entertainment), has been lovingly restored to its original splendour by Sony Pictures. The film makes its debut on Blu-ray Disc on July the 6th - the fifth Harryhausen Blu-ray title from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, the most of any filmmaker from the label. The disc features new commentaries by Harryhausen himself, as well as Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson, along with film historian Tony Dalton and visual effects expert Randall William Cook, and a new interview with Harryhausen with filmmaker John Landis.

"It's an incredible honour to have this theatre named at the studio I called home," says Harryhausen. "It means as much to me as my Academy Award and the BAFTA honour I just received, especially knowing that it is a working theatre where visual effects artists and animators work every day."

The theatre, located on the Culver City, Ca. campus of Sony Pictures Digital Productions, is the screening theatre of Sony Pictures Imageworks, Sony Pictures Animation and Sony Imageworks Interactive. Used on a daily basis in the creation of modern visual effects and animated features, the theatre represents the living legacy of Harryhausen's lifelong career, as Sony's artists continue to develop and practice new animation techniques for bringing fantasy to life, much as the facility's namesake did throughout his career.

After being inspired by the work of Willis H. O'Brien, the stop-motion photography pioneer of 1933's King Kong, Harryhausen eventually found himself working alongside his mentor for 1949's Mighty Joe Young. In the mid-1950s, he moved on to Columbia Pictures, where he created mind-boggling special effects for such films as 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), and, later, for M-G-M, the original Clash of the Titans (1981). His ingenious skill at seamlessly blending stop-motion puppetry with live action footage - of, for example, an unbelievable seven articulated skeletons battling Jason in the 1963 film - continues to inspire visual effects artists to this day.

In keeping with the innovation Harryhausen continually introduced throughout his career, the Harryhausen Theatre has undergone a significant state-of-the-art technical upgrade, with capabilities for projecting digital 3D stereoscopic content via Sony's industry-leading 4K CineAlta projector system and RealD cinema technology, 2D digital content and analogue (filmed) content, along with a modernization of the THX-rated theatre's audio reproduction system for 7.1 Surround sound. In addition, the projection system is tied directly to the animation and visual effects computer production infrastructure, enabling direct access to the artists' work in progress at any time.

But it is the Harryhausen name which will no doubt continue to inspire Sony's artists as they see the name which has instilled a sense of excitement for the visual effects and animation crafts for over 60 years – not the least of which is Sony Pictures Imageworks' own Creative Head, five-time Academy Award-winner Ken Ralston. Long before working on such films as the original STAR WARS trilogy and as Visual Effects Supervisor for Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and, more recently, Beowulf and Alice in Wonderland, Ralston found himself face-to-face with Harryhausen at the age of 14. "I was invited to the house of Forrest J. Ackerman, who did a magazine called Famous Monsters of Filmland," he recalls. "I was dumbfounded." His relationship with his mentor is now entering its fifth decade.

After seeing The 7th Voyage of Sinbad at a young age at a local theatre in Los Angeles, the budding visual effects wiz was mesmerized. "Ray's films took me to these fantastic worlds, with these incredible creatures and characters, in a way I had never experienced before. I'd never seen anything like it, and it really stuck to me."

Ralston and his friends attempted to recreate the magic in their garages with small puppets and 8 mm cameras, and, over the years, discovered the most important aspect of Harryhausen's success. "It was his work ethic – how hard he disciplined himself to do that work. Those films are all Ray. He was all of it. For the most part, that was one person doing all of the effects work we see in his films. That's something that's almost impossible for younger people to understand, where today, it is an army of individuals creating a single shot."

"What's amazing – and unique – about his work is that he often brought a sympathetic quality to the creatures, especially during their demise," notes Grover Crisp, Sony Pictures' Sr. VP, Asset Management, Film Restoration and Digital Mastering. "It's never just a shock-and-awe thing – he gave them some feeling and humanity." One of the most respected film archivists and restoration specialists in the world, it was Crisp and his team who undertook the meticulous restoration of Jason and the Argonauts.

Upon entering the newly named theatre and seeing Harryhausen's name, Ralston hopes for one thing for those who use the facility. "As they walk in, just seeing his name and contemplating for a minute the inspiration he's been to so many – not just effects people, but filmmakers in general. Ray Harryhausen has had a global influence. And we're glad he has a home with us."

Ray also attended the official opening of an exhibition of some of the creature models from his films, which is running at the London Film Museum.


23rd June 2010

BOOK NEWS

Titan are releasing a novel based on the Elder Scrolls game series. Here's the press release:

Based on Bethesda Game Studios’ award-winning Elder Scrolls series, Titan Books presents The Infernal City [Titan Books, 25 June 2010, £6.99].

Written by New York Times bestselling fantasy writer Greg Keyes, this is the first of two exhilarating novels that continue the story from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, named 2006 Game of the Year by numerous outsets including the Golden Joystick Awards and the Associated Press.

Four decades after the Oblivion Crisis, Tamriel is threatened anew by an ancient and all-consuming evil: Umbriel, a floating city, casts a terrifying shadow - for wherever it falls, people die and rise again.

Inside Umbriel’s shadow, a great adventure begins - and a group of unlikely heroes meet. A legendary prince with a deep secret. A daring spy on the trail of a vast conspiracy. A mage obsessed with his desire for revenge. And Annaïg, a young girl in whose hands the fate of Tamriel may rest...

The book is available at Amazon.co.uk and Play.com for £4.99.


22nd June 2010

INCOMING

Titles recently added to our forthcoming DVD and Blu-ray database include the Channel 4 drama series A Dance to the Music of Time; various versions of superhero action hit Kick-Ass (a lavish limited edition Blu-ray Collector's Box Set, a steelbook DVD/Blu-ray combi pack, regular Blu-ray and DVD versions, Play.com's Blu-ray and DVD exclusives (with interchangeable art cards), and HMV's exclusive Blu-ray edition, which comes with an illustrated screenplay); Afterwards, a thriller starring John Malkovich and Lost's Evangeline Lilly; the second film featuring Emma Thompson's creation Nanny McPhee, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (on DVD and Blu-ray); the first series of crime series White Collar; and recent BBC cop show Luther, which stars The Wire's Idris Elba (sadly, only available on DVD, it seems).


12th June 2010

CULT TV

I've updated our look at Anglia Television's 1985 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, with a scan from a 1999 book about the company. The text from the book reveals little - that Giselle Andrews (Alice) was thirteen when the series was made, and that she was a pupil at a school in Norfolk - but it does feature a couple of nice promotional photo's of Giselle with the court puppets, and four of the voice actors.


7th June 2010

BOOK NEWS

Titan Books has released a novel based on the best-selling video game series God of War. Here's the press release...

God of War (4th June, Titan Books, £6.99) is the first official tie-in novel to the hugely successful God of War series of video games!

God of War I, II and III have been amongst the most successful games of all time: the first two instalments of the adventure have sold over five million copies and God of War II was named by IGN as “the best action game ever made”. Since its release on the PS3 system in March, God of War III has become the 3rd best-selling game of 2010.

Co-written by Matt Stover, the New York Times Bestselling writer of many Star Wars adventures, and science-fiction author Robert E.Vardeman, this novelization of God of War sheds a brutal new light on the legend of Kratos.

A brutal warrior, Kratos is a slave to the gods of Olympus. Plagued by the nightmares of his past and yearning for freedom, the Ghost of Sparta would do anything to be free of his debt to the gods. He is on the verge of losing all hope when the gods give him one last task to end his servitude.

He must destroy Ares, the god of war.

But what chance does a mere mortal have against a god? Armed with the deadly chained Blades of Chaos, guided by the goddess Athena, and driven by his own insatiable thirst for vengeance, Kratos seeks the only relic powerful enough to slay Ares . . . a quest that will take him deep into the mysterious temple borne by the Titan Cronos!

Matthew Stover is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars New Jedi Order:Traitor, Star Wars: Shatterpoint, and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, as well as The Blade of Tyshalle, Heroes Die and Jericho Moon.

Robert E. Vardeman writes science fiction, fantasy, mysteries and high-tech thrillers and has published more than 100 books, including several Star Trek novels.

The book has an RRP of £6.99, but you can order it from Amazon.co.uk or from Play.com for £5.49.


2nd June 2010

INCOMING

More titles and press releases have been added to our forthcoming releases database, Incoming, including: a new film from the producers of Ong Bak, Force of Five (on DVD and Blu-ray); the first season of the new version of alien invasion TV series V; the second season of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse (and a box set of both seasons); one half of Dennis Potter's swansong, Karaoke, from Acorn; Joe D'Amato's shocker Love Goddess of the Cannibals; a new edition of Enzo Castellari's Eagles Over London from Optimum (apparently replacing the one announced by Severin earlier this year, but sadly apparently missing the promised commentary track, and not available on Blu-ray, as the Severin one would have been); a "digitally restored" new DVD edition of Jorge Grau's The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie); a restored version of Fulci's Lizard in a Woman's Skin, overseen by Marc Morris; an extended version of Jude Law's body organ-trading science fiction movie Repo Men (on DVD and Blu-ray); a National Geographic documentary looking at the science behind films like Twilight and TV series like True Blood, Vampire Forensics; Blu-ray editions of The Karate Kid and The Karate Kid II; the Jennifer Aniston / Gerard Butler comedy The Bounty Hunter (on DVD and Blu-ray); a feature-packed 15tth anniversary Blu-ray edition of Apollo 13; the Village People's camp classic Don't Stop The Music; the seventh seasons of Larry David's comedy of errors, Curb Your Enthusiasm and CSI Miami; Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated drama A Single Man (on DVD and Blu-ray); and "arousing comedy" Holy Water (which features and odd cast including Linda Hamilton and John and Susan Lynch).


31st May 2010

INCOMING

I've added press release details to many of the titles in our forthcoming releases database, Incoming this week, including: budget releases for three war movies - Roger Corman's Ski Troop Attack (1960), Sergio Martino's Casablanca Express (1989) and Michael Curtiz' Dive Bomber (1941) - and King Vidor's epic Western adventure Northwest Passage; two volumes and a box set of Britain's Greatest Machines, the National Geographic series presented by Red Dwarf's Chris Barrie (series 1, series 2 and the box set); Alexander Mackendrick's 1963 coming of age drama Sammy Going South;  hippie romantic drama Hideous Kinky (there's an official press release, but the etailers don't seem to be listing it yet); the recent movie adaptation of Robert E. Howard's stories about demon hunter Solomon Kane (on DVD and Blu-ray); the Robert De Niro family drama Everybody's Fine; the film that gave Jeff Bridges his long-overdue Oscar, Crazy Heart (on DVD and Blu-ray); acclaimed French dramas The First Day of the Rest of Your Life and Seraphine; an Extended Director's Cut edition of the Jason Statham fantasy film In The Name of the King (which adds more than half an hour to the film's running time); the first season of Lenny Henry's sitcom The Fosters, and the spin-off series from Bill Maynard's Oh No, It's Selwyn Froggitt, Selwyn; the 1976 ATV adaptation of Arnold Benett's sweeping epic Clayhanger; Todd Solondz's award-winning black comedy Life During Wartime; the well-reviewed 2002 supernatural film Demon Under Glass (under the bandwagon-jumping title Vampire); Oscar-nominated Tolstoy biopic The Last Station (on DVD and Blu-ray); Cantonese revenge thriller Vengeance (on DVD and Blu-ray) and yet another release for George Romero's vampire movie Martin, which comes with alternate sleeves, postcards and a poster (below).

New Blu-ray releases include: a 15th anniversary edition of Apollo 13; and a two-disc Ultimate Edition of Donnie Darko (which includes the original and Director's Cut versions of the film);

 

 

 

HAMMER DVD and BLU-RAY NEWS

It looks like Eureka will be the first company to issue a Hammer movie on Blu-ray, when they release Freddie Francis' psychological thriller Paranoiac!, which stars Oliver Reed, on July the 26th. Full details have been added to Incoming (DVD and Blu-ray).

IMAX NEWS

The South Bank IMAX is now taking bookings for the new Shrek movie, Shrek Forever After. Here's the press release...

On the 2nd of July, moviegoers and ogres alike will prepare to journey to Far Far Away when DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc.’s Shrek Forever After opens at BFI IMAX. Audiences of all ages can experience the highly anticipated final chapter of the Shrek story in IMAX 3D – the world’s most immersive movie experience. Digitally re-mastered into the unparalleled image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience through IMAX DMR technology, Shrek Forever After: An IMAX 3D Experience will open alongside the worldwide theatrical release. With crystal clear images, laser-aligned digital sound and maximised field of view, IMAX puts you IN the movie.

“In addition to making the ultimate final chapter of the series, we also enjoyed the challenges and rewards of producing Shrek Forever After in 3D, which adds an awesome level of visual immersion that has never before been applied to a Shrek film,” said Mike Mitchell, Director of Shrek Forever After. “Aside from the thrilling roller-coaster ride aspect, like the scene in which Shrek is being chased by a band of evil witches on broomsticks, we also used 3D as a powerful storytelling device to convey the characters’ deepest emotions... and nowhere are these kinds of experiences more engaging and exciting than on huge, IMAX 3D screens.”

After challenging an evil dragon, rescuing a beautiful princess and saving your in-laws’ kingdom, what’s an ogre to do? Well, if you’re Shrek, you suddenly wind up a domesticated family man. Instead of scaring villagers away like he used to, a reluctant Shrek now agrees to autograph pitch forks. What’s happened to this ogre’s roar? Longing for the days when he felt like a “real ogre,” Shrek is duped into signing a pact with the smooth-talking dealmaker, Rumpelstiltskin. Shrek suddenly finds himself in a twisted, alternate version of Far Far Away, where ogres are hunted, Rumpelstiltskin is king and Shrek and Fiona have never met. Now, it’s up to Shrek to undo all he’s done in the hopes of saving his friends, restoring his world and reclaiming his one True Love.

DreamWorks Animation presents Shrek Forever After starring Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas. The film is directed by Mike Mitchell and produced by Gina Shay and Teresa Cheng. Executive producers are Andrew Adamson, Aron Warner and John Williams. The screenplay was written by Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke.

Shrek Forever After will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

The BFI IMAX is at South Bank, London SE1. Advance tickets are on sale now, in person from the ticket desk in person, or by telephone on 020 7199 6000 or online at www.bfi.org.uk/imax.

BOOK NEWS

Titan Books has a new paperback Tank Girl collection due on June the 28th: Tank Girl: Skidmarks. Here's the press release...

TANK GIRL: SKIDMARKS

Alan Martin & Rufus Dayglo

ISBN: 9781848566811

Australia, the near, murky future: in this post-apocalyptic wasteland, the outlaw known only as Tank Girl spends her days drinking, fighting, farting, and engaging in all manner of unspeakable acts and mischief.

When her best friend Barney ends up in a coma following a freaky skateboarding accident, Tank Girl juices up her tank and comes to her aid. Only a twenty billion dollar operation can save Barney’s life - and it just so happens that the Watermelon Run, an illegal cross-continental race, has a first prize of that exact amount!

Now all Tank Girl needs to do is drive thousands of miles across the burning Outback, while avoiding the homicidal attentions of the other competitors… oh, and hopefully stop her kangaroo-boyfriend Booga from getting off with a shape-changing gnome called Chunky Tumbler...

This collected edition also includes two extra stories and a hamper of bonus material!

The RRP is £10.99, but Amazon.co.uk have it for £8.24, and Play.com have it for £8.49.


Jan - May 2010's Zeta Minor News can be viewed here.

Previous Zeta Minor News entries can viewed here.



   

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