APOLLO 18-DVD REVIEW

This science fiction movie came out a few months earlier in 2012, and I have just watched the DVD in the last few days. Now, what kind of movie did I think it might be? It was sci-fi yes, but just what kind? I could see the poster artwork, which depicts a terrorised astronaut on the surface of the Moon, seeming to have been attacked or  beaten by someone or something.

It did not present itself as a highly serious or philosophical film along the lines of Solaris or 2001:A Space Odyssey. This was a much simpler, energetic hyped up, though tense movie. It was possibly one of the very first obviously ‘found footage’ sub-genre films to be science fiction. Usually, these ‘found footage’ fake documentary movies have most notably been more successful in the horror movie genre, probably due to the more manageable lower budgets of horror.

For a fairly basic and simple sci-fi premise of astronauts go to the Moon, but then encounter some mysterious danger there, it does actually do this with more than expected realistic authenticity. The early scenes introduced us to the main astronauts, through candid hand-held camera footage, and the scenes do look convincingly set in the sixties at the era suggested.

While I was surprisingly impressed with how genuine the retro earth footage looked, it seemed to stagger along slowly before the men eventually set off into space. After that, the film moved into a much more interesting and then gradually tense level.

Of course it could not at all avoid resembling the all-time classic of science fiction films, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001;  and this was possibly too much of a challenge for it to meet. This film does though have a much different plot to go through to that one. Not before too long, something happens that was very unexpected and the men up there confront an unknown and shocking terror in space.

When the movie opens out to meet the space horror, then it of course quickly recalls the other sci-fi/horror classic ALIEN. We all know that one so well, and this movie is not too far from the events seen there, the saving difference that holds your attention is due to the ‘found footage’ gimmick.

Now, while it continues on as an interesting movie, with engaging camera angles, dramatic scenes between the characters, soon enough much of it sadly feels easily just too derivative of other movies. This is a sad thing, as this does begin well, and seems fresh and promises a new angle in science fiction fear.

I am not saying avoid this movie, as though it slows and recalls other movies regularly, it does hold some very creepy and disturbing visuals on the Moon. I might have simply been too unimpressed and judgmental having seen this a few months after seeing Prometheus, one of the most special and outstanding sci-fi films in years.

It did seem that the tale held back from providing us with what could have been more of a mind-blowing final act, although it does still shock with blood and nasty creatures wriggling around as the astronauts try to escape.

Apollo 18 may not offer many great surprises or originality for sci-fi fans, but is worth seeing as one of the more chilling space movies to have come along in a long while.

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After festivities, the year ends…

Hello all out there. How then, did you cope with what can seem one of the most challenging or terrifying times of the year?

After making past the much feared or mostly very mocked Mayan end of the world date a few days back, we then came toward the merriest few days of our year. Well, merry to some, difficult or unpleasant to others. Not here, as it does seem to go fairly smoothly at my home, with a small gathering of family and friends.

Now, I am gradually planning a couple of new short science fiction tales to be written in what will be 2013. Two new one off horror short are prepared, and in a few months the publishing of my first novel-the science fiction story Orbital Kin-should happen. So some very big first-time events, and then continued effort with some of the usual genre writing but in new places, publications, magazines etc. And the continued writing of the unusual third novel-the sort of political, satirical, mixed up novel. That will just go at it’s own pace, but I am sure complete before the end of next year.

I very much hope all of you will be rested and ready to move forward in 2013 with your own work, jobs, family and other things. Be seeing you…

Royal Mail celebrates Who’s 50th with new stamps

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Eccleston stampMatt stampMcGann stampPertwee stampTo mark the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who in 2013, the Royal Mail has announced that it is releasing a series of first class stamps depicting the Doctors in March to “pay tribute to the brilliant actors that have played the Doctor over the years,
as well as the adversaries that helped make the show so popular”.

All eleven incarnations of the Time Lord will receive their own stamp with Troughton to McCoy represented by images from their title sequences.

170x120minisheetThe monsters aren’t being forgotten: four second-class stamps will depict Daleks, Cybermen, Ood and the Weeping Angels. A special miniature sheet will include these and a first class stamp featuring the TARDIS.

For more details go to the Royal Mail’s special Doctor Who page here.

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LUKE, BEWARE THE DISNEY SIDE-STAR WARS REBORN SOON

Well, I guess almost everyone reading this must be very much aware of some of the biggest and possibly to some people, most controversial news in science fiction for quite some time. The last biggest announcement similar to this was probably the linking of Disney with Marvel studios which put the fear seriously well into many globally but then-so far- seems to have actually not been so much of a very bad thing at all; judging by world reaction to the IRON MAN films, and Joss Whedon’s THE AVENGERS.

But then all out of nowhere, suddenly the ever crafty old sneaky devil Lucas made the announcement that he had made a phenomenally lucrative deal with Disney, which then also informed us that the infamous House of Mouse were then planning to go ahead with at least a new trilogy of Star Wars movies.

The biggest and very ominous difference between this new announcement and latest Disney connection, is of course that there have been a good years since the last three films, and George Lucas has always usually been very careful about the direction of the franchise; but this is one of the most well known, well loved movies series in film history.

So alright, many of us have a strong opinion about Disney, how they make films, how they distort pop culture, and simply just want to make as much cash as they can but let us just stop and think about what Star Wars as a brand and franchise has been for a long, long time…

I am in my thirties, which is the age that a very large portion of the modern die-hard Star Wars fans might be at now, with their full-time careers, mortgages, young kids who might have see the most recent trilogy a few years back-while the parents were unimpressed, overjoyed or sickened at the results there around a decade ago now.

But what could really be a big problem with the joining of Lucas/Star Wars and Disney? Star Wars as science fiction is just so mainstream, populist and was created and crafted that way by Lucas from the very start right? Before the very first movie, he made his art-thouse sci-fi film THX-1138, which allowed him to challenge himself but did very little financially.

We have all lived through the prequel trilogy which greeted international cinema screens over the last ten years or more, with some people disgusted with Jar-Jar Binks, Ewan McGregor’s acting, Hayden Christensen in general…so the point I am getting at now is-could any new films be any worse than any of those last three?

I do not wish to tempt fate, as well, I sense that even as bad as parts of Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones were at many times, I do still think there is plenty of room for much worse in the Star Wars world. I am not on the attack here either, as I am certainly a fan of all of the Star Wars movies honestly to some degree.

We do certainly view Star Wars with great loyal fanboy/girl affection and treasured nostalgia, as many people experienced the movies at a very young age, which sparked their imaginations and took them away to another exciting place. Now, Disney may have been getting it all wrong with their own movies for a long while now, until very recently only just making a few successful steps back up with their animated output; but then with their connection to the Marvel comics films they have kept their distance and helped them to become extremely rewarding international super-hit movies.

Surely then, Disney will act in the same way forward with their plans for the legendary Star Wars series. Or will they? And significantly-how much does George Lucas even care about the next set of films personally?

I am sure that he does care about how the franchise evolves now that he has passed it on, but this also sees it become some kind of very interesting cultural long-living legend in motion. Much like the DC characters Batman and Superman, Marvel’s Spider Man, Hulk, Captain America; these characters have existed for many, many decades now, almost nearing a century. Like them- we have Luke, Han Solo, Leia, Darth Vader, Yoda Obi-Wan and all the others from Star Wars, globally known characters. These are modern myths, epic tales, which may over many more decades and longer become known as our own legends or tales which we lived by.

Already names of very well known and respected directors and screenwriters have been mentioned which may be connected to the first new Star Wars movie which looks due for 2015. Time will show us just how will happen in the continuing world and story that is Star Wars…

FUTURE FICTION FROM 2012…SO FAR…

I’ve been today nostalgically looking back over the last-almost-twelve months that have been 2012 and considering the kind of science fiction we have had offered to us and what has produced such efforts and the quality of it all.

We certainly have had a few of the big hitting living legends of the genre reappear again thankfully, producing what seems to have been some very respectable quality work once more as hoped for.

Most notably, we have had Iain M Banks return to his famous Culture world again, in his Hydrogen Sonata novel. Then another big epic SF author, Peter F Hamilton has given us The Great North Road, which incidentally reminds me of places up north of England where I come from-thought that, I believe has little connect to the narrative. Then the other huge selling fine author Alastair Reynolds cam back with Blue Remembered Earth, which seems to be the start of another new direction.

After those huge and masterful writers, all very well known and respected continually, there have been books from some lesser known but still very much interesting and relevant authors in the sci-fi genre.

Some other very talented writers who many readers should make to effort to read include Richard Philips, Dan Worth, John Paul Cleary, David Brin, Neal Asher, John Meaney, Gary Gibson, Hannu Rajaniemi, Edmond Barrett, Richard Morgan.

Finally there have been a few other established and always distinctively individual and unique SF authors return who I very much admire for various reasons whom include-Dan Simmons who is always pushing himself and the limits, as does Charles Stross, Lauren Beukes, Neal Stephenson, Kim Stanley Robinson, and the mighty pairing of Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter with their joint effort. It may not immediately have seemed so, but it has eventually I believe been a rich and rewarding year for the genre known as science fiction. And that year is not yet over…