Sunday, 28 February 2016

Banjo (2015)

This is all purely from the weathered regions of my ever flaky memory, but I'm sure I can recall an old Abbot and Costello sketch where the two of them are taking turns to watch out for something while the other sleeps. However, the dastardly Abbot cheats Costello by continually moving the clock forward so that the poor soul barely catches any zzz's and before he realises it, the night has passed by for him as he's been cheated out of his allotted time. I think I know how he feels because there seems to be some intrinsic link between my age and the sense of how quickly time now passes by. It seems that as I get older the faster time seems to go, in fact the years seem to be travelling by so fast I'm sure that some bastard somewhere is cheating me out of some personal time and rolling the clock ever faster forward when I'm not looking. It's the only logical answer.

Take this film for example. When I asked the films writer/director and Troma alumni, Liam Regan if I get get a look at his now completed movie, Banjo, well it seemed like only a few months since I had ran a piece on my blog about the crowdfunding campaign to get it made in the first place. As I trawled through my plethora of articles I found out with something of a startle that it was actually 2013 when it was written. Bloody hell, doesn't time fly when you're having, er, fun?! So if any of you out there know where the last couple of years have gone please be a pal and let me know where the hell they are hiding.

Having said that, the one correlation that I have noticed in my life is that as I get older my taste for the weird and exploitation seems to also steadily increase. Now before my legal team get all in a fluster let me quantify that last sentence, I'm talking about my taste in films, not my weekend activities. After all, those charges were never brought to a court of law.

So, back to the actual point of this article (yes, sometimes there actually is a point) the recently released Banjo. Let me gently slide in your general direction a tasty slice of synopsis.......

" We meet Peltzer Arbuckle, a meek and bullied office employee, humiliated by his megalomaniac boss, teasing colleagues and his cheating partner. Peltzer spends his days in misery, stuck in his own mundane, nightmarish reality. 

Once news about his embarrassing sexual accident makes it’s way around the workplace, Peltzer decides to put up with his humiliation no more, and conjures up his childhood imaginary friend Ronnie. Peltzer’s world is soon turned upside down, when Ronnie attempts to manipulate him to exact revenge on his tormenting co-workers in the most gruesome fashion.

As the body count stacks up, Peltzer must ultimately decide whether to runaway from his past or take control of his future, as he battles between sanity and madness, in this twisted tale of infidelity, revenge and snapped banjo strings."

Let me say from the outset that Banjo is a completely twisted over the top slice of dark exploitation interspersed with dollops of both gory yeuch and comedy factor - in other words total fun. I loved it!

If there's one thing that dismays me about contemporary film making it's the apparent lack of film makers out there prepared to take a bit of a chance with their creations. This may in part be due to the feeling these days that many people seem to be simply waiting in expectation for the latest thing to offend them them. I know that people such as John Waters and Lloyd Kaufman may polarise opinion in terms of the quality and sensibilities of their work (I happen to love them both). However, the one thing cannot be denied is their willingness not to play it safe and pander to the most common denominator when it came to audience expectations. Boundaries were continually challenged and edges frequently blurred by such filmmakers, while all the while never taking their audience for granted or insulting their intelligence. They were upfront in what they were producing and provided no excuses for what they did, while asking for none in return.

It is refreshing to see in this film producing focus group world that there are some who are still trying to maintain those creative sensibilities whilst adding touches of their own unique identity. Banjo is certainly a child of Troma, but with a distinct British flavour that will polarise people from the outset with it's quintessential independent Tromaesque values of not wanting to leave one bad taste stone unturned- you will love it or you will hate it, something that I'm sure will please Liam Regan no end.

The cast in general offer stout support to the theme of a meek man on a journey of retribution and inheriting the earth against those who may have tormented him. James Hamer-Morton as the mild mannered Peltzer Arbuckle is excellent as the individual who puts up with the constant humiliation from all and sundry - well at least for a while. The rest supporting cast on the whole are solidly dependable in providing a perverse counterpoint to the meekness of Pelter's character.

Yes, everything so far is excellent, from the relentless acerbic script to the obsessive attention to detail in order to make a fully authentic piece of genre filming. The jewel in the crown though has to be the tour-de-force performance of Damian Morter as Ronnie who completely steals every scene he appears in throughout the film. Whether it be the plethora of biting one-liners, the manic twinkle in the eyes or the physical presence with his array of frantic posturing, it simply contributes to a performance that quite simply astounded me. The frantic and at times unsettling energy that this creates in the relationship between Peltzer and this figment of his imagination is a sight to behold.

The cruel, witty and at times hilarious dialogue, combined with Morter's comedy timing makes what could have been a annoyingly one-dimensional character into a wise-cracking lovable rogue who surely should be the (not so secret) weapon of the whole film. If I had but one criticism of Ronnie it would be the feeling that his role was slightly underused throughout - you simply find yourself wanting more. Oh, hang on - maybe that was intentional from Mr Regan?........ sneaky bugger!

It's quite obvious that Liam Regan's intention was to show his cinematic inspirations for all to see so it's no surprise to see that Banjo also contains its fair share of in your face gross-out scenes. Once again, this may polarise the opinions of those who may have become overly sanitised by the bland offerings of some films that purport to be innovative and fresh. As usual, I don't want to be a spoiler whore so I will try and avoid any direct references to the events, but it's safe to say that Liam is was quite keen for the effects team to go all out with the selections of bodily fluids on offer throughout. It's safe to say that I won't think of used condoms in quite the same way again........erm, not that I often think of used condoms, obviously.......

The film rattles on at an ever frantic pace until the final act, which I felt rather nicely tied up some of the plots loose strands leaving me wit a distinct feeling of cinematic satisfaction. Credit should be given to the writer/director plus his cast and crew for providing a genuinely entertaining example of of exactly the sort of film that many people such as myself are crying out for. It may not provide much in the sense of philosophical and thought provoking contemplations, but that was clearly never Regan's intention to do so. He should be applauded for taking the risks that he has in producing an old school/new school movie relentless in its dark British quirkiness. It will have you grinning from ear to ear throughout while in between that you'll also be alternating between cringing and staring in disbelief. The person sat watching it next you may well hate it, but that's their problem.



To find out more about BANJO then check out the film's website at http://www.banjomovie.com





Friday, 26 February 2016

Operator - the Kickstarter campaign for the Scifi/horror stop-motion web series


www.5d-blog.com

I’ve had a lot or requests from people since I began this blog, and while it’s fair to say that most of the requests have been for me to shut up and stop (harsh, but probably fair) some of them have been in the form of asking me to help publicise their work or campaigns. Amongst the usual requests of movies/books and comics reviews (and all very welcome by the way, so don’t stop!) there occasionally comes my way a project that is quite simply so eye-catching different that I’m seduced (in a clean cut legal non restraining order sense of course) straight away. This week I was well and truly seduced. I was asked if I would help publicise a Kickstarter campaign that's coming very close to it's deadline date to raise the necessary funds for Operator, a sci-fi horror stop-motion web series about a corporation which unleashes a plague of bio-mechanical parasites on its workers.

Hold the front page!!! – You’re telling me that in this world of ever intricate computer generated 2D & 3D graphics which has almost completely consumed contemporary animation, there are people still pursuing the art of stop-motion?! Sweet!

Ever since I discovered the genius of individuals such as the mercurial Ray Harryhausen, when I was a mere mini-blogger, the world of stop-motion animation has been incredibly close to my heart. Jason and the Argonauts, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Sinbad and the eye of the Tiger, to name but a few, are amongst my personal treasure trove of all-time movies favourites and simply never ever get old. So to find out that there are some who are determined to continue this remarkable genre in the face of the computer revolution was music to my ears.

The Kickstarter campaign for this new web series is currently asking for backers for the follow up to the hugely successful Operator which was made two years ago. The link for the campaign can be found at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1152912515/operator

In the original story, the InfoCorp Corporation enslaves all of its workers with a biomechanical parasite. Operator is a stop motion animated web series about a corporation that unleashes a plague of bio-mechanical parasites to enslave its workers. In this episode, we find Bob fighting for his life and family against forces much greater than himself. The episode was met with a huge amount of acclaim and at the last time of looking (about 5 minutes ago) the YouTube clip has gained precisely 632,640 views – which I’m thinking is just a little bit on the bloody impressive side of things.


I must admit that I had missed out on this scifi horror stop-motion phenomenon the first time and so decided to watch it for myself last night – Oh my, it’s quite unlike anything I’ve seen before…..  Inventive, philosophical, entertaining, unsettling, shocking…….. In other words, it’s bordering on genius – and believe me, that is not hyperbole in any sense of the word.

If you want to see what I mean, then see the complete episode for yourself RIGHT HERE.

The web series, providing the campaign generates the required funds, picks up where the short left off, following workers that escape the initial infection as they fight back against the company. Chaos grows as upper lever employees turn against the company, the mastermind of the biomechanical parasites seeks to take complete control of the company, and everyone deals with the fallout of the Rhizomect System.

So what inspired filmmaker, Sam Barnett. Writer Director of Operator to aim for the stars (sorry, I’ll get my coat) to take the monumental step of producing a web series? Well why don’t I let the man himself explain – and to those who might dare to suggest that this is just a method of me of avoiding to write an original piece of work, my lawyers will be in touch……..again. So go on Sam, say it again (I’ll definitely get my coat now).


In the original Operator the InfoCorp corporation enslaves all of its workers with a biomechanical parasite. The web series picks up where the short left off, following workers that escape the initial infection as they fight back against the company. 

After receiving an incredible response I immediately set about expanding it into a web series. I’ve spent the last two years writing a full season of 15 episodes with one overarching story. Developing new characters and fleshing out a much larger world.

I was inspired to make Operator by a few things: parasites like the cordyceps mushroom, which controls the brains of ants so it can use their bodies as food while it spreads its spores as far as possible. Also, what I like to call “parasitic ideas.” Our minds are made up of ideas that come from all over the place. And somehow once we accept an idea it feels like it’s part of who we are, even if that idea ends up being terrible for us.

The point is that we grow up with this idea that there is a clear barrier between ourselves and everything else. Operator is a story about a world in which that barrier is ripped to pieces and the boundary between what is and is not us becomes very unclear. It is told from the perspective of characters that have very little power, struggling against a massive corporation that is trying to destroy them. It is a story that I am passionately committed to.

We need your help to make Operator happen. Many of the rewards include putting your name in the credits because it really is you that is bringing this project to life.

There is no way around the fact that making great animation takes a lot of manpower. Everything in stop motion is individually crafted: each puppet has to be sculpted, each mouth and hand and prop and set piece is created. I want to make a web series that is gripping, fun, and terrifying.

With the ability to hire some other very talented artists I think we can make something that is truly excellent. I hope you are excited to see more OPERATOR and help me fund this project!”
The Kickstarter campaign provides backers with a tasty set of rewards with perhaps my favourite being for $55 you can get a 3 inch plaster bust of your choice of Mike, Carl or Laura plus all the previous rewards before that. If all that wasn’t enough you also get your name on the credits. If Sam wanted to send me Carl then it would be rude and remiss of me to say no, wouldn’t it?

The big news is that the team are VERY close to their initial target, but there are only now just over TWO days to go until the campaign ends – that’s right, just two days! So if you would like to back this incredible venture then please go along to the Kickstarter page and do that thing you do!


For further information then go to these following links;










Sunday, 14 February 2016

Trauma - the crowdfunding campaign for this Scifi short film

You know me, I'm not one to normally blow ones own trumpet when it comes to saying just how well my little blog is doing now since its humble (and not very well written) origins of just a few short years ago. Now, while the standard of writing (and along with it annoying little things like spelling and grammar) may not have especially improved, the diverse range of projects I've come across as a blogger from all around the world certainly have changed. In fact it has got to the point now that I occasionally have to set aside my insatiable need to hang on to the coat tails and reflective creative glory of others. 

In other words, purely in terms of the time available, I sometimes have to say no to some enquiries that come my way asking me to do whatever I can to help promote their projects. As a result I've had to resist overloading myself with some very, very interesting work going on in the world of books, music and film production.

However occasionally something comes along that catches my eye and means I choose to ignore the fact that I'm already 'juggling' any number of works in progress. This very thing happened just a few days ago. You should know me by now, I don't have much time for any sort of yucky optimistic utopian science fiction where everybody lives happily ever after  - Boring! Give me a grey dystopian story any day - after all, it fits well with my cynical glass-half-empty view of the world at the moment (I blame the winter months personally).

So a few evenings ago I was having a wander around the occasional madness of the Twitterverse when a particular crowdfunding campaign caught my beedy little eye. The Touscoprod campaign was aiming to raise funds towards an intriguing Scifi short film full of all sorts of Soviet Union inspired dystopian themes. Let me throw a brief little synopsis your way.....

"Set in a futuristic industrial dystopia with a 1950s soviet realist aesthetic, “Trauma” is the story of a boy brought to celebrate his birthday at the grounds of a factory that manufactures the must-have toy of the era. The boy has one of these toys, and is visibly attached to it. But the manager takes the toy away from him because he is now too old for such a thing. He fights to get his beloved toy back as a crowd of workers gathers in front of a ceremonial stage. The ensuing chase through the crowd leads him onto the stage where he himself becomes part of the spectacle, subjected to a brutal initiation ceremony that will see him finally “become a man”.


Trauma is the brainchild of Jethro Massey who intended the film's script and style to be directly inspired by the powerful propaganda imagery of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. We all know the imagery that he talks about, pictures of workers staring heroically into the distance as they toil for the greater good of the motherland. Sometimes they hold a symbol of all that is good for providing for the masses - tools, equipment or fists of grain. The Photography of Aleksandr Rodchenko, the films of Dziga Vertov and others were used as tools of inspiration and propaganda by the Soviet machine.  While this imagery was used to forward tyrannical regimes, the images themselves are, to Jethro's mind, amongst the most creative, striking and powerful ever made. Trauma will re-appropriate the style, the camera angles, the geometry of composition, the industrial landscapes, the poses and the wardrobe of the era in a modern-futurist science- fiction that questions our voluntary slavery to the contemporary digital technocracy.

Blimey - I told you that it sounds good!

But who is this Jethro Massey character? Yes, I heard you ask that. Well, in his own words;

"I work in video production with my team of talented professionals on studio and location shoots for commercials, web, corporate, documentary and music video in France and the UK. 

Having produced videos for some of the world’s leading brands in fashion (Givenchy), travel (Condé Nast), publishing (Random House), technology (Air Liquide), hospitality (Intercontinental Hotels) and music (LiveNation), and for TV channels in Europe, US & South America, and the Middle East, I craft films in a broad range of styles, from serious communications pieces to entertaining high energy videos."

Well he seems to know what he's talking about - which is always a good thing I suppose when you may be entrusting him with your hard earned money. So you have the synopsis, the concept and some bio about the director. The crowdfunding campaign has about two weeks to run and offers a range of excellent enticements and goodies that we've now come to expect. For example; 

Ten Euros will get you the Comrade award.... "Welcome to Trauma Industries comrade! Every woman and man who contributes to the cause will be be sent a link to view the film and its making-of online. You will also be rewarded with your name in the final credits..."

Fifty Euros will promote you to Distinguished labourer....  "Your face on a soviet poster. Send us a photo of yourself (or a friend) and we'll create a soviet style poster for the proud People's Labourer that you are. This poster for your personal online propaganda will be sent in digital format only. You will also be rewarded with your name in the final credits..."

For a tidy 1000 Euros you can become Hero of the Union.... "Receive a beautiful limited edition hard-back Trauma Industries photobook containing posters for the film, behind the scenes photographs and portraits of the cast and crew. You will also receive a vintage jacket or dress from the film, along with an invitation to the film's premiere (travel and accommodation not included), and the director himself will send you a Trauma Industries Postcard, from a surprise location, and have your name in the final credits..."

Now I'm not assuming in any way that Jethro for a moment will listen to my pleas - but the Distinguished labourer award (the poster) is something that would greatly appeal to me.......cough.....Jethro......cough........I can send a picture this week........cough!



WHAT WILL THE MONEY BE USED FOR?
FOR €3,000 OR MORE
+
We are on the right track, this will pay for the developing of the film and the transfers...

FOR €6,000 OR MORE
+
That's it ! We can make the film ! We've reached our minimum budget !

FOR €8,000 OR MORE
+
Fantastic ! Not only can we make the film, our sets are going to be even more impressive ! 

FOR €10,000 OR MORE
+
Wow ! Not only can we make the film exactly as we want to, this will pay for all the festival entries and prints we need to make sure the film is seen around the world...



So if you can, give this campaign your support and let's help make what could be a fabulous slice of science fiction dystopia.


Here are a few tasty links:

The crowdfund campaign page (with the intro video):

The facebook page:

Twitter:

And if you'd like to see some of Jethro Massey's previous work, you can take a look at his website:

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Wolf Country #5


Occasionally in my life certain things come together that provide a snugly warm blanket of coincidence and serendipity. Take this week for example - no, I'm serious, please take it because in the whole it has predominantly sucked big chunks and I'll be glad to see the back of it. Now, I know that it's unlike me to talk very much about myself in my blog articles. As a matter of fact I like to think that I'm nothing but a consummate professional who takes his vocation completely seriously - stop laughing there at the back!..... well OK maybe I do talk about myself occasionally........ Alright, alright, I do it all the time time! Blimey, I didn't expect the Spanish inquisition.

However, there has been the occasional brief oasis of bright spots in this desert of a stressful week. A few days ago I was contacted by comics writer and all round good egg, Jim Alexander, who told me that the award nominated and critically acclaimed Wolf Country returns for a fifth explosive issue. Hurrah! Some good news at last, I thought. But wait a moment, because before I go any further I need to mention the snugly warm blanket of coincidence that happened that very same day. 

A few weeks ago I ran a blog article extolling the virtues of another venture from Mr A, Good Cop Bad Cop, which funnily enough you can find RIGHT HERE. Well actually there's nothing funny about it in a ha ha sort of way, just my usual stuff and nonsense. Apart from the usual scribbles of blogging beauty the piece also contained the inaugural 5D. A Scifi, Fantasy & Horror blog competition, the prize being the first four issues of Wolf Country. If that wasn't enough each of the comics were signed by the man himself, the aforementioned good egg, Jim Alexander.

I'm not sure what exactly I was expecting in terms of entries, but thankfully some people did actually enter my website competition, though I'm not fooling myself into thinking that the number of interested parties was down to the popularity of my website, nope I know it was all Mr A. Anyhoo, it so happens that by coincidence that on the very day of receiving the news of Wolf Country issue 5 I was also in the process of informing the winner of the comp that the comics would soon be on their way to him. 

I'm sure that it will please Jim no end to know that his fandom stretches around the world when I tell him that the winner comes all the way from Split, in Croatia. I'm sure it will please the winner, Dalibor, even more to know that I've finally shook off my bout of sickness and managed to post the comics today. I'm also pretty sure that my local post office here in the distant North East will be suitably chuffed that I broke into my penny savings jar so that I could buy the postage stamps in order to get the package three quarters of the way through Europe. So congratulations to Dalibor!

The competition prize & yes, I did consider keeping them for myself!
For those fools, yes that's what I said, fools, who are not familiar with the narrative of the Wolf Country narrative;

"A vampire settlement is surrounded by hostile werewolf tribes.  The settlement is there for religious reasons, following the teachings of a vampire god.  The werewolves don’t want them. They consider a vampire presence on their land to be sacrilege. 

It is a frontier of fang and claw, with death and vengeance the common currency.  In Wolf Country, you need to watch your back and keep your loved ones close, because someone – or something – is always out to get you." 

So here we are with issue 5 as once again we find ourselves in Wolf Country where the vampires are still fighting against werewolves. The vampire Settlement in Wolf Country has repelled the latest wolf attack, but the nightmare refuses to end. Vampire soldiers interrogate and torture the Settler named Carmichael. The Settlers are starving, waiting for an airdrop of supplies that may never come. 

Jim Alexander first described Wolf Country to me as 'vampires v werewolves in a Wild West setting - and a whole lot more'. That particular description barely scratches the surface. Yes, we may have returned once more into the middle of the battle that is taking place between the two communities, but the story is so much more than that. There are complex scenarios afoot here with implicit textures of political, sociological and religious themes that underpin and enhance the story to the extent that the numerous directions that the narrative could potentially progress is truly Intriguing - It's enough to please any Shakespearean tragedy enthusiast. If all that wasn't enough there are set pieces of suitably exquisite violence to appeal to the bloodthirsty aficionados that we all truly are.

The artwork by Will Pickering is atmospheric and evocative as ever and Alexander's dialogue is as crisp and witty as I've now come to expect from him. All that is left for me to say for now is that that the series has genuinely become one of the most exciting and enjoyable stories that I've read in a very long time. However my dear cynically challenged reader, don't just take my word for it because I have it from the the horses mouth himself that there has been TV interest in the title.

"We’re at the ‘treatment/presentation plan’ stage.... Exciting times.... Watch this space." Jim said. Ooh, tell me more and let's pretend that I'm someone that you can confide in, I replied

"It's still in the early stages, but to get to a later stage I suppose you need to be at an early stage first! Sorry I can't give you any more info - at least at this stage" he replied. 

Bugger, talk about being a bit of a tease there as well as thinking that you're being funny, Jim....... It's not as if I'm jealously insecure and would have let anyone in on his secret....... Is it? Actually on reflection, he's probably being very wise.

Written by Jim Alexander (GoodCopBadCop, Metal Hurlant Chronicles, Star Trek Manga, Spider-Man/Captain Britain) and drawn by Will Pickering (Burke and Hare, Something Fast) with cover art by Luke Cooper (Hollow Girl, GoodCopBadCop) Wolf Country is epic both in it's scale and depiction. I'm only sad that I won't be at Dunfermline Comic Con on Saturday 5th of March to buy a real paper copy (the only proper format) and get it signed by the guys themselves.


Alternatively you can order the book online from the Planet Jimbot shop: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/266647799/wolf-country5

Wolf Country #1-4 are also available.  Also, you can order all 5 issues as a single order for a knock-down price.








Saturday, 6 February 2016

The return of The X-Files and The Walking Dead

This article can be found in the blog section of the 5D website at www.5d-blog.com. There you can also find a tasty selection of Scifi/fantasy and horror treats!

This February something of a double television whammy is getting this here blogger about as excited as one can legally get without incurring restraining orders or ridiculous accusations of stalking - And while I'm on that subject, apparently it isn't actually a valid defence in a court of law if one tries explaining to the judge that if I was to wake up to 50 emails EACH morning from the same person I would regard that as a compliment rather than a reason to call the police..... but hey-ho. Whoever said that the law was fair?

Anyhoo.........back to the February double whammy excitement. 

Firstly, In the dim and distant days of early 1994 life was akin to living in the dark ages. The Internet and the World Wide Web were still a year or two away from life changing transformation, there were no iPhones, no iPods and the usual way to make a friend request was to strike up a drunken conversation in the local pub. Blimey, just how did we exist?!

Another void in any self respecting geeks life back then was the veritable lack of quality scifi, fantasy & horror on television. Thesedays, with the advent of satellite TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime et al we seem to be experiencing a true golden age of TV with the soon to be discussed The Walking Dead, not to mention the likes of American Horror Story, Hannibal, Z Nation, Dark Matter and more tasty superhero series selections than you could shake Stan Lee at. In all honesty, it's getting to the point that I'm fast losing the time to fit them all into my increasingly hectic schedule...... But it's a dirty job and somebody has to do it. As you all know, I'm just the man for that job.

The smoking man's gonna getcha
In 1994 it all was very different. Yes, yes, yes - I know that the Star Trek franchises were in full swing and that there were no doubt some other delectable geeky crumbs out there, but it was still a comparative desert of good TV. However the early part of that year saw the arrival of perhaps the tastiest morsal of that or any other time, and in turn became a viewing habit that very quickly turned into an obsession. In other words, the greatest ever piece of television science fiction hit our screens.

From the very start of its first season it became apparent that the X-Files was a thing of unqualified beauty. For the benefit of the couple of people and their pet dog in the world who didn't manage to see this example of science fiction genius, here is a quick recap.........

Practical and serious career minded gorgeous FBI agent Dana Scully is told to keep her eye on strange and troubled not-so-career-minded FBI agent Fox Mulder........Scully likes science and  being serious.......Mulder likes paranormal alien conspiracies and cracking funnies........they work together.......Scully doesn't believe........Mulder wants to believe.....common respect ensues........Sexual tension follows big time........Scully starts to believe.......Lone Gunman......Smoking man.......Syndicate.........Mulder abducted.......Alien Invasion.......fugitives on the run. I think that just about sums things up nicely.

The first season for me is my personal favourite, not because the subsequent seasons were of a lesser standard, because they weren't (well, possibly for the exception of season 9 that is). However season 1 is where the huge standards were initially set with cinematic attention to production detail, excellent special effects, clever writing plus an intoxicating mix of character and plot driven storylines.

Oh yes, not forgetting a relationship that was positively dripping with sexual tension (though not literally, however interesting that would've been). What sets the season apart from what followed was the fact that the vast majority of the episodes were all singular stories on their own, paying very little notice to the paranormal conspiracy that forms the arc of the X-File narrative. Now, while I like a good conspiracy narrative as much as the next man, some of these self contained episodes were near perfection in terms of writing and pacing........ And chills, don't forget the chills!

This first season gave us a number of classic episodes frequently cited in top 10 fan favourites;

* Squeeze - A mutant who murders his victims with the intention of removing their livers so it can live longer....oh & it can also squeeze through seemingly impossibly tight spaces. My personal X-Files favourite.

* Beyond the sea - The sceptic/believer roles are reversed when Dana 'delicious' Scully exhibiting the leap of faith in a death row inmate's claim that he has psychic abilities. Mulder thinks the inmate is full of it. Great stuff.

Sadly, it has to be said that the X-Files suffered from the one series too many syndrome as the ideas and freshness seemed to slowly disappear - in fact it could be argued that the last two series were less than satisfactory. So too were the two movies that came after the demise of the series as it seemed the writers were stuck between providing wanting to provide a continuation of the X-Files mythology and trying to provide a stand alone narrative for the two people and their dog who had no knowledge of the TV series. What cannot be denied though is that the series did what only a few have succeeded in doing, namely transporting itself from being merely a TV programme and instead into the wider public consciousness. The X-Files found itself a pop culture phenomenon with even those foolish few who had never seen an episode were fully aware about Messrs Mulder, Scully & the smoking man. Ahhh, good times. 

The truly gorgeous Gillian & some other guy.
So when the rumours that had been around from the moment the series ended in 2002 finally became true, that the army of X-Files fans would actually see a 10th series, I was thrilled beyond belief for two reasons; The first reason is pretty obvious, for the most part this was arguably the finest example of television science fiction ever...... that's a fact which I will challenge anyone who disagrees with me to a wrestling match in a pool of custard.

The second reason is far more shallow and superficial - because while Gillian Anderson may have been on the right side of gorgeous back in the 1990's, well, let's just say that the sands of time have been very, very, very kind to her, God she looks so very good these days! 

The six episode season 10 has already began to air in the States and so far I've been able to avoid any spoilers. What I do know is that the reviews have been a little mixed. Seriously, I don't care. I simply can't wait until I see that first episode in a couple of days. 



The Walking Dead returns on 15th February here in the UK from its mid-season break. Now, many of my circle know of my obsession for the series - in fact some time ago I scribbled a few paragraphs on the subject, some of which I'm including here again.......

I discovered the Graphic novels a couple of years after they first appeared back in the dim and distant days of 2003. Yes, yes I know......once again I was quite ineptly behind the times. It certainly wasn't the first or last time. To be precise it was the summer of 2006 in which I first discovered the stunning artwork and storytelling that depicted a world where an unknown apocalyptic event has transformed the majority of the human population into slobbering, rotting flesh-eating zombies. As luck would have it at that time, I had landed a new & reasonably well paid job which not only meant that bills could finally be paid, plus I could buy good quality red wine, but it also allowed me to buy up every copy to date (and ever since) of that wonderful series. I was in regular zombie heaven.

Just part of my little collection.
A few years later (2010 to be once again precise) I learnt that the story was going to be adapted for TV, much to the suspicion and jealousy of some of my fellow Walking Dead graphic novel aficionados. I must admit that for a time I too shared their disquiet, though maybe not quite for the same reasons. I had read for months before the show aired many comments of fans worried in regard to such things as the authenticity of the story being lost and the potential of a glossy and insipid watering down of the gore for TV. There were indeed a plethora of other Graphic novel fan concerns. 

The thing is, I don't tend myself to get that precious about how the written word will fare under TV or film adaptation. There are some within the Scifi, horror & fantasy community who feel a strong degree of 'ownership' of literary material that to a unknowing third party would seem that it was actually them who had written it in the first place. For me, different mediums are entitled to treat the source material in any way they want. Reading a book is an entirely different experience from watching the same thing on screen, which is as it should be. I could never understand the controversy amongst fans (and I am a big time fan) about the adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and Game of Thrones, to name but three. 

If you love the books then simply don't give a flying fig about an adaptation that deviates from the source material. Honestly, who cares? The original source material will always be there to be cherished. And do you know something else? (I'm saying this quietly now), but sometimes those changes can work.......cough....Haldir's Elves at The Battle of Helms Deep....cough!.......really works in the movie...........cough!

I did try to dislike the TV series, I really did. Even when I heard that the mercurial Frank Darabont was going to be initially at the helm I had decided beforehand that I simply didn't want to be part of of what I saw as the inevitable watering down in the mainstreaming and mass-popularity that would take place. I can remember on that night in 2010 when I sat in front of my television to watch the 1st episode, arms crossed and a fixed facial expression that signified that I wasn't going to enjoy myself, no matter what.

Well a number of seasons later, that has somewhat changed, Actually, if truth be told it changed about 3 or 4 minutes into that first episode. Yes, the show deviated almost immediately from the comic source material, and in probably in far too many ways that irked many fellow comic fans. In fact there are far too many examples of how the show has changed the original concept and storyline to mention them all here - but I'll state a couple.

1) The fabulous characterisation of Daryll by Norman Reedus has become for many the cornerstone of the series, galvanising a whole industry of 'If Daryll dies, we walk" T-shirts whenever proceedings look as if Mr Dixon might finally succumb to the Zombie bite. However, the character simply didnt exist in the original comic series and was invented purely for the TV series. However, it works.

2) The character of Shane stayed around far longer on TV than in the novels, but again this worked. The portrayal by Jon Bernthal of a man slipping ever deeper into dark insanity was a masterstroke.

3) Many of the characters seem to have become polar opposites of their comic book creations; for example Carol never really loses her meakness and self doubt in the books, yet in the TV show she has become the epitome of female power with a character ark of incredible maturity and intensity. In addition, the much maligned Andrea (who it's safe to say, was never much of a fan favourite) who on screen simply went from naivety, on to insessent complaining and finished on just plain stupid was far different from the strong purposeful Andrea who is also the lover and confidante of Rick (and still very much alive) in the comic book.

I know that these and many other examples have been a constant source of controversy amongst Walking Dead fans. However for me they not only mostly work but it means that the two can be enjoyed entirely seperately on their own merits. It would be a brave person who denies that when it comes to pivotal and powerful scenes, nothing does it better than a TV show at its best.  

The Walking Dead series boasts perhaps more than most. I won't try to include all of my favourites as I'm sure I'll certainly be kicking myself over after forgetting to include them. However I'll mention just a small number of my personal TV moments off the top of my head.

* Shane shooting Otis as they try to evade the shuffling hords.....I can still hear the screams.

* Carol's lost daughter emerging from Herschel's barn and Rick stepping forward to deliver the killing shot.

* Darryl & Merle saving  Rick et al when they return to the prison

* Hershel's demise at the hands of the Governor.

* Carol saving the group from being hung on meat racks & the subsequent breakout at Terminus. (Still my favourite ever episode)

* Beth's death - Still shaken over that!

* Carol's genuinely frightening 'Stepford Wife' baking Psychopath in Alexandria

* The whole Glenn 'is he dead or isn't he ?' affair.


The simple fact is that the series has provided some of the more genuinely jaw-dropping televisual experiences that I have ever had. 

Once again Monday nights here in the UK may finally have some meaning when The Walking Dead returns after its mid-season break to feature the introduction of everybody's favourite sociopath from the novels. The casting of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan is truly inspired. I can hardly wait.