Monday, September 30, 2013

For Your Ears Only: Hordes of the Things

Thanks to the rise of nerd and gamer culture (and that can be a mixed blessing, believe you me), fantasy spoofs are pretty easy to find these days. They vary widely both in quality and in approaches to the material, but they all reflect the increasingly mainstream position the genre enjoys in pop culture. So it's interesting to uncover a relatively early attempt at lampooning high fantasy.

Hordes of the Things was broadcast in 1980, in a period of animated Tolkien adaptations, the early Dungeons & Dragons craze, Star Wars and its imitators, and perhaps most significantly, the highly popular, acclaimed science fiction comedy series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Hordes is by no means a retread of Douglas Adams' masterpiece, but it's hard to imagine that BBC Radio didn't have it in mind when commissioning this four-part adventure from Andrew Marshall and John Lloyd. (And both were produced by Geoffrey Perkins.) It's not nearly as groundbreaking, but it is a decent collection of jokes deflating the seriousness and pomposity of the millions of epic adventures adorning bookstore shelves then and now.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

For Your Ears Only: Doctor Who: Excelis Dawns

Excelis Dawns cover
Available for download at

The Doctor Who Big Finish audios most often aim to capture the feeling of the TV show, and that's just fine. In aping the episode structures and traditional story beats Who fans are familiar with, the audio dramas tend to explore the cinematic possibilities of the medium, seeking to convey action and thrills without visual aid, and they often succeed. But Excelis Dawns is a break from the cliffhanger approach. The first part of a three-story triptych covering the history of a planet over three eons and three different Doctors, this Fifth Doctor story takes a somewhat calmer approach, focusing on the audio debut of the previously book-only character Iris Wildthyme as well as the establishment of at least one character who will be key to the entire trilogy. (Hint: it's the familiar face in the armor.) It's not always successful but it does some interesting things with the format, and that's always worth paying attention to.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Random Movie Report: Things to Come

Things to Come Poster

As odd as it seems now, for most of the last century of filmmaking, science fiction was a subject the studios didn't give much attention to. When Alexander Korda produced Things to Come (recently released on DVD and Blu-Ray by Criterion after years of public domain dupes), it was a rare attempt at making an A-level motion picture with the future as its subject, something that had not been attempted since Metropolis ten years ago. As spectacle, Things to Come is just as impressive; however, saddled with the burden of adapting H. G. Wells' didactic future history, it runs into some dramatic shortcomings. But even at its preachiest and most nakedly political, the film is a rich visual symphony, a tour de force for director William Cameron Menzies, and an affirmation of a seemingly naive optimism that is often in too short a supply.

Friday, September 06, 2013

In Theaters: The World's End

World's End poster

It may have taken six years, but Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have finally finished the "Cornetto" trilogy. After red zombie horror/romance and a yellow giallo mystery, we reach blue, which is apparently the color of… well, that would be telling. Well I guess it is sort of melancholy, and The World's End is a film primarily about middle age and the fact that you can never go home again. Though more an ensemble piece than a buddy picture, the film is still dominated by Pegg and Nick Frost, giving performances that flip their normal dynamic, and the results are not only extremely funny but dramatically compelling. It's a film about the inevitability of change and how that can be the most terrifying thing of all.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Why There Were No Posts in August

I hope you will understand.

One thing that happened in the meantime was that my Amazon Associates program was abruptly terminated. There's some foo-fer-ah between Amazon and the state of Missouri, which is now charging sales tax on Amazon transactions, so they've suspended Missouri memberships. This is no great loss, as I only once or twice saw an actual payout. In the meantime I get to make the blog less cluttered. I may attempt some kind of monetization in the future but it's not a priority.