In this one, Mark and Sam talk about their favourite movie monster brawls, and talk and laugh about Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein
In this episode, Sam and Mark discuss Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and the best examples of Science gone wrong in the Movies and in Video Games.
Book Review: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Borroughs
Written by the man who would later go on to create Tarzan, this is the first book in the ‘Barsoom’ set of books (Barsoom being a name for the planet Mars) which chronicle the story of John Carter, an earth man from Virginia, USA who mysteriously finds himself on Mars.
John Carter first finds himself among a tribe of green 6-limbed Martians (two arms, two legs, and two in the middle that are multifunctional, but are usually used as an extra set of arms). These martians are at least double the size of humans and are fierce warroirs, but Carter finds himself having greater strength and speed than these people, owing to the lower gravity, and proves himself more than a match for any of them. Eventually Carter also encounters a member of the red Martian race, who are more like humans, who happens to be a Princess of a city/state called Helium… and through various shennanegins, fights, adventures, escapes and battles, he eventually wins her affections and helps unite various martian factions in peace. But the adventure doesn’t end there…
This is grand old pulp fiction, the sort of story that would find itself in comic books these days, and much in common with the more familiar Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers stories we saw in the 1930s film serials. It’s straightforward and unilayered, but the language is both charming and archaic, as John Carter is a civil war veteran, and is written to talk like a grand Southern gentleman.
How this wasn’t converted into a movie until very recently (coming out next year) I don’t know, as it reads much more like the novelisation of a movie than a novel – which I guess is the intention of this type of pulp fiction – to be easy reading, and stimulate the imagination with action and visually-oriented descriptions.
I quite liked it, but not sure how likely it is I’d go back and read more adventures.
Rating: Odd 6/10
Red Dwarf Series 4
A great outing for the crew of Red Dwarf, maintaining the feet they found in series 3, and containing some wonderful sci-fi ideas as well as excellent gags. It consists of 6 episodes: ‘Camille’, ’DNA’, ’Justice’, ‘White Hole’, ‘Dimension Jump’, and ‘Meltdown’. The episodes are consistently good and funny from start to end, and the best episode is probably Dimension Jump, the episode that introduces the cool, manly and confident version of the Dwarf’s weaselly, cowardly Rimmer, as ‘Ace’. However, there’s some spectacularly funny parts throughout: The Cat meeting his ideal partner (‘Get me a Brandy!’), Kryten becoming human and showing Lister double-polaroids of the genitals, Lister playing pool with planets, and Lister’s reaction when seeing Winnie The Pooh being led out to be executed.
I thoroughly recommend this series.
An Idiot Abroad – Series 1 and 2
This show is about the travels of Karl Pilkington, a long-time colleague of the comedy writers/performers Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Karl is rather close-minded, glum and always seems to find the cloud wherever there’s a silver lining. However, his outlook on life, and his many comments on various aspects of life, are frequently very funny, and sometimes truly hilarious. This show involves Gervais and Merchant sending Karl around the world accompanied by a camera crew, catching his reactions and thoughts on what’s going on.
Series 1 involves Karl visiting various world Wonders such as the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids. Series 2 involves Karl doing things he picks from a concensus of the world’s most frequent Bucket List ‘to do’s, such as swimming with Dolpins or staying on a desert island.
OVerall, the entertainment value and number of laughs in this show is very high, it’s funny to see Karl comment on things that would also perplex most Englishmen abroad (such as no doors on the toilets in China, or use ice to wipe your bottom in Alaska), and often we laugh at this as much as laughing at him for being close-minded. I can no longer think of the Great Wall of China after seeing this, only the Alright Wall of China…
The only fault I can find is that sometimes it does feel like you’re watching someone being bullied into things they really don’t want to do, and also you sometimes feel Karl is playing up to his persona rather than being completely natural, but overall the entertainment value of this show is very high.
Rating: Good, 8.5/10
Game of Thrones
This is an excellent 10-part drama about the intrigues, violence and everything else you’d expect in a clearly adult drama series set in fictional kingdoms that bear than more than a passing resemblance to Tolkein’s middle earth (but without the elves, dwarves, trolls, and orcs).
The story and drama is well-crafted and treated completely seriously, the set design and general direction is very good, and the cast and level of acting is excellent (other than the child actors, which are adequate). I also give it credit because at the midpoint of episode 8 I thought I understood completely how it would finish, but in fact it surprised me with at least 2 major shocks/twists – and in ways that were completely coherent to the logic of this universe.
On the other hand, it did finish with barely any single plot threads resolved, taking cliff-hanging in TV series to a new level, in my opinion.
This is thoroughly recommended – but be aware that whilst it has some of the trappings of Lord of the Rings, it is completely and thoroughly adult in tone and content
Rating: Good, 9/10
The Grinch (2000)
Made in 2000 and directed by Ron Howard but mostly dismissed somewhat by critics and held up in many circles to be a bit of a Christmas turkey, this is, in my opinion, a most excellent and rewatchable Christmas movie, served well by some excellent design, makeup and visual flair from Howard, and even better served by Carrey’s remarkable performance as the Grinch. This film is consistently funny and entertaining throughout, with the occasional maudlin section that, thankfully, never lasts too long.
I’m amazed it only scored 5.7/10 on IMDB, and wonder what people were expecting? Are they comparing it to the original 60s cartoon Grinch with narration by Boris Karloff, and the song by Howard Keel? (the Keel version is incomparable, admittedly). In checking some of the IMDB reviews, it seems that they are. Some people are also incensed their shortish Grinch story was expanded up to make a feature length movie.
Well, they’re wrong, this is excellent Christmas fare for children maybe 8 and above (it can be intense in places), and adults will similarly enjoy.
Rating: Odd 8/10
I am Spock by Leonard Nimoy
This is a memoir by Nimoy which zooms through his involvement with the TV series (but gives enough to be interesting) and then more exhaustively covers his involvement with the 6 star trek movies involving the original cast (he also talks about the 7th and his reasons for not being involved with it). It also mentions his involvement with the Star Trek: Next Generation double-episode ‘Unification’ (this is a great pair of episodes, by the way). He also discusses ideas about a prequel Star Fleet Academy movie that was bandied around – which sounds an awful lot like the most recent reboot movie…
Nimoy writes in a straightforward, non-flowery style, and starts each chapter with some dialogue between Nimoy and Spock, discussing the issues covered in the coming chapter. He also sometimes intersperses these chats within the text. It’s interesting to start, but gets a little odd/pointless. His stories about Star Trek are interesting, but rather dry. Shatner’s books ‘Star Trek Memories’ and ‘Star Trek Movie Memories’ are much more entertaining, and detailed – and a pair of books I thoroughly recommend. If I had to pick one word for Nimoy, it’s ‘earnest’.
The book is also an interesting insight to his inner conflict with Spock and how it dominates his acting career (in this book, he strongly asserts he’s very happy with Spock now compared to earlier in his career – his book previous to this was called ‘I am not Spock’!). And whilst he says he’s happy, reading between the lines indicated Spock still haunted him somewhat back in 1995.
I really think anyone could read and enjoy this book, but really, only Star Trek fans (myself included) will be the ones to read it. And it has a great last line.
Rating: Good 6/10
In this podcast, Sam and Max talk James Bond when they cover The Man with the Golden Gun, and talk about their favourite moments in the movies involving weapons.
An interesting work by Miller predating his more famous works (such as The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City and 300), and hailed by some as his first masterpiece, I was definitely engaged for the first half of book one (one of six) concerning a struggle between a masterless unnamed Samurai (a ronin) and a demon-king, but then the story took a drastic swing into a future dystopia where the story we’d just had appeared to be the dream of a limbless boy that controls a giant computer that runs a city….
Whilst imaginative and having some striking visuals, this was nowhere near as engaging as the Miller stories I mention above, and I did struggle to follow exactly what was going on for sections – which made it hard for me to keep interested.
Overall, I recommend the other Miller works mentioned above far ahead of this, but it was visually striking in places and overall worth reading once.
Rating: Odd 6/10
Rather over-extended story (spanning 7 episodes) about Marco Polo encountering the Tardis crew and taking their ‘flying caravan’ as a gift for the Kublai Khan. This was a really-drawn-out, wordy story, that meandered about for much of its running time, with repeating sections where Marco Polo is writing his journal, as we hear voice-over that sounds like it was lifted from a basic school history primer on Marco Polo. This also wasn’t helped by the fact that the video for these episodes has been lost, and only the audio remains – but was helped by the fact the version I saw had colour photos of the action (or photos that near enough gave an idea of which character was talking etc), and it was fun to see these characters in colour for a change. Not much fun, as it tries to be worthy and historic, but comes off as stuffy and boring for long stretches. It is interesting to hear some 1960s phrases/expressions/ways of talking though.
Rating: Bad, 3.5/10
Suitable for all ages
Beneath the Planet of the Apes
Okay, this starts with 5 minutes from the end of the first movie, after which we see Charlton Heston as Taylor disappear into a landscape, leaving his non-talking companion Nova alone on a horse in a barren wasteland. It then quickly moves to a ‘rescue mission’ after Taylor (the other astronauts with him seem to be forgotten about by the rescue team) which quickly whittles down to one man, Brent, who encounters Nova on a horse. then goes through discovering Ape city and then escaping into the Forbidden Zone after various shennanegins – to encounter a group of human mutant telepaths that worship an atomic bomb as a god. These find themselves about to be attacked by an oncoming ape army (who don’t know they’re there…), and prepare to launch the bomb at Ape City – not knowing the bomb is designed to blow up the whole world (yep, like someone would build that).
There’s some real whackiness here, and whilst the ideas are interesting and fun, and some parts of the execution of the ideas are quite good (the time of worshipping, like a religious service – the use of notes on the soundtrack to denote telepathic messages being sent), it’s not really that much fun to watch. There’s also some really silly scenes – like the apes in a steamroom – looking like guys in excellent ape masks wearing shaggy carpets…
Not as much fun as the ideas suggest, but not bad.
Rating: Odd, 6/10
Mark and Sam discuss V For Vendetta because of Guy Fawkes’ Night just past, and their favourite movie masks, as well as talking about old Universal horror movies, and the XBox game Deus Ex
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
This is the third book by Pratchett about Discworld, and involves no characters from the previous books – and as such the reader can read this one as a standalone without being disadvantaged.
It involves a small girl who happens to inherit and otherwise possess magic of a wizardly kind, and starts on a path of learning witchery before her mentor, Granny Weatherwax decides she really needs to be trained as a wizard. The story then becomes about the girl, Esk, getting to the Unseen University and by a convoluted path, eventually becoming the first female wizard trainee.
It’s a fun, light read, with enough invention and twists to not be entirely predictable, and some nicely drawn characters – most centrally Granny and Esk. There’s also some fun and surprisingly through-provoking content about the nature of feminine and masculine magic, and how they differ.
The 40 year-old virgin
The film wasn’t that funny or particularly engaging for the first 10 or so minutes, the characters seemed flat, and there weren’t many laughs. It warmed up a bit during a poker game, where a little Indian guy got peeved off and started cussing, and pretty much developed well after that. It turned into a pretty good comedy about helping some poor sap, played by Steve Carell, to lose his virginity. The characters turn from flat to being reasonably rounded and sympathetic ones, and we all have a bit of each of these guys in us.
There are some incredibly funny scenes here, and this is definitely a good date or go-with-buddies movie. Plus this movie does for ‘Age of Aquarius’ what Anchorman did for ‘Sky Rockets’, but up by a magnitude.
The secondary characters, such as an elderly black couple, a mouthy little jewish kid with a ‘jewfro’ haircut, and a pair of angry Indian salesmen that trashtalked pretty much everyone were also quite amusing and kept up the pace.
Overall, I laughed my head off in places, and was pretty happy watching the rest. Good ending too!
Batman: Year One
This 2011 animated movie is adapted quite directly from a graphic novel of the same name. It’s a rather good origin story, plotting the course of two men arriving in Gotham – Bruce Wayne after years of travelling and training, and Jim Gordon, an honest policeman who the other cops shun as he’s…well, honest.
We see Bruce try and figure out how to make a difference after getting stabbed in a seedy area of Gotham after picking a fight with a lowlife, and trying to figure out how to make himself much more imposing and scary, but also begging his father for a sign as he slowly bleeds to death…to have a bat smash through his study window.
Meanwhile Gordon settles in and takes the rough with the rougher. But he’s tough and brave, and makes his mark, taking down corrupt policemen (including the commissioner of police) and him and batman form a working relationship.
We also get some other significant characters present – specifically Harvey Dent and Catwoman, as well as a mention of The Joker.
There’s also a good short in the Bluray edition, a 15 story focussing on Catwoman tangling with gangsters that’s pretty good.
Rating: GOOD 7/10, suitable for older teens upwards.
In this episode, Sam and Mark discuss Star Trek’s arguably finest movie The Wrath of Khan, discuss the x-box games Arkham City and Rage, and go over their favourite movie sequels