Sunday, 2 June 2013

Fables: Legends in Exile

Written by: Bill Willingham, art by Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha and Craig Hamilton
Number of Pages: 145 pages
Genre:  Graphic novel, comics, fantasy, murder mystery,

Fables is a comic book series published by Vertigo Comics which started in 2002 and is still ongoing, having reached 129 issue so far.  Basically, all the characters and creatures from fairy tale and folklore, who call themselves "Fables", have been driven out of their various magical worlds by a powerful enemy known only as "The Adversary".  The only world safe from the Adversary is the mundane, or "mundy", world which is our world.  So the Fables escape to contemporary New York City where they form an uneasy community trying to keep their true magical nature hidden from the mundy world and also trying to retake their homelands from the Adversary.
This book collects the first five issues of the series.  It's basically a murder mystery story in which the Fables' sheriff, the reformed Big Bad Wolf who has taken human form and the name Bigby Wolf, tries to solve the mystery of the disappearance and possible brutal murder of Rose Red, who happens to be the estranged sister of Snow White, the Fables' deputy mayor.

It's a completely self-contained story although with sub-plots and references that spin off into a larger Fables     narrative and can be read and enjoyed on it's own merits without picking up any of the other volumes.  The series hits the ground running with an entertaining story and distinctive characters.  Even the minor characters are developed well with their own personalities and relationships.  The idea of fairy tale characters in the modern world is not a new one but Fables has always worked with it better than most.  The art is detailed and colorful.

The book also contains a short prose story by Bill Willingham about how the Big Bad Wolf came to join the Fables, and a short comic story which fist appeared in the 2009 book Peter and Max: A Fables Novel.

It is definitely worth checking out for fantasy fans.

A word of warning though, although it's about fairy tales and magical creatures it is definitely not for kids.  It contains some strong language, violence and sexual scenes.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Island of Lost Souls

Year:  1932
Director:  Erle C. Kenton
Screenplay:  Philip Wylie and Waldemar Young, based on the novel The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells
Starring:  Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Kathleen Burke, Bela Lugosi, Robert Kortman
Running Time:  67 minutes
Genre:  Science-fiction, horror

This classic and hugely influential film tells the story of shipwreck survivor Edward Walker (Arlen) who finds himself stranded on a mysterious island owned by sinister scientist Doctor Moreau (Laughton).  Walker soon learns that Moreau has been conducting grotesque experiments on animals and has created a race of part human/part animal hybrids. 

The film was the first, and is definitely the best known, of several screen adaptations of H.G. Wells' classic scienc-fiction novel.  It is very well made and atmospheric.  Laughton turns in a great performance as the silkily charismatic and ruthlessly amoral Moreau.  Bela Lugosi is also extremely impressive under heavy makeup as the "Sayer of the Law", the leader of Moreau's creations.  Kathleen Burke is seductive as the "Panther Woman", Lota.  The special make-up effects are very impressive with each of the creatures having a distinct look and personality.

With it's themes of genetic engineering and plastic surgery, the film is still relevant today.   

Monday, 13 May 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

Year:  2013
Director:  J. J. Abrams
Screenplay:  Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, based on Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry
Stars:  Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Peter Weller, Bruce Greenwood, John Cho, Anton Yelchin
Running Time:  133 minutes
Genre:  Science-fiction, action, adventure

This film is the twelfth to be based on the beloved science-fiction television series Star Trek (1966 - 1969) and is the sequel to Star Trek (2009).  After breaking several regulations in order to save the life of Mr. Spock (Quinto), Captain James Kirk (Pine) is demoted to First Officer.  However, Starfleet suddenly comes under attack from renegade Starfleet officer John Harrison (Cumberbatch), who kills Kirk's mentor Admiral Pike (Greenwood).  Harrison promptly flees to the planet Kronos, home of the warlike Klingons.  Consumed with vengeance, Kirk is temporarily reinstated in command of the USS Enterprise and ordered to pursue Harrison to Kronos and dispatch him with the aid of experimental photon torpedoes.  However, if Kirk carries his orders through, tensions between the Federation and the Klingons will inevitably erupt into all-out war.

The film features spectacular visual effects and plenty of exciting action.  Fans of the original series may enjoy the frequent references to characters and events, but will possibly be annoyed by the fact that the film, despite being set before the events of the television show, plays fast and loose with the series continuity and history (although this is sort of explained by the fact that this and the 2009 Star Trek are set in a parallel universe to that of the original show).  Chris Pine does the necessary heroics well, but lacks the roguish charisma of William Shatner's Kirk, Zachary Quinto makes for a great Spock, and Benedict Cumberbatch is a complex and memorable villain.  It's just a pity that Zoe Saldana and Simon Pegg are underused.

The film was made in a 2D IMAX format and was converted to 3D in post-production.  I saw it in 2D IMAX and it looked amazing in that format.  Whichever format you see it in this is an engaging and consistently entertaining space adventure.

Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine in Star Trek Into Darkness