Saturday 6 February 2010


Rating: 5 stars. 

From 1938 and the golden age of aviation comes -The Rocketeer. The Rocketeer is another wonderful example of the flowering of the graphic novel which began in the 1980's with Moore's Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta, and Watchmen, Frank Miller's Ronin and The Dark Knight Returns, Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez Love & Rockets, and Howard Chaykin's American Flagg, several of which I've reviewed for Amazon. As different from all of these as they are from each other, The Rocketeer is a pulp adventure romp which moves from the dry sunny skies of California to the dark underworld of New York and it's a delight from start to finish.

Firstly the art by Dave Stevens is delicate in line, detailed and accurate in its portrayal of the period, wryly humorous, almost unique its depiction of people who look real, and particularly gorgeous in its portrayal of beautiful woman. Betty, the heroine, is modelled on the legendary 1950's glamour and exotic pictures icon Bettie Page. I've no doubt that Stevens, who later became a friend of Page, did much to bring her back into the limelight again. But I digress, in the unlikely event that you aren't taken with the story, it's impossible that the art will fail to enchant you. It has also been recoloured, in accordance with Stevens' wishes (though tragically he died of leukemia before he could see it), by Laura Martin one of the very top colourists in the business and whose skills have enhanced many graphic stories. Also reprinted are the many covers of the various magazines in which this story appeared.

As for the story itself, stunt pilot Cliff Secord gets his hands on jet pack stolen by Nazis from its inventor who isn't, as one character thinks, Howard Hughes but a very famous character from the pulp magazines of the period. Lots of action ensues with Cliff distracted by his stunning girlfriend and her career as a glamour model. All doesn't end well and Secord chases her to New York to try and prevent her from going to Europe with her sleazy-sophisticate photographer mentor. There he is befriended by another pulp hero with a very sharp nose as dark secrets of Secord's life are brought into sharp threatening life.

I love this book. I love it for its beautiful art. I love it for its high adventure and thrills. I love it for its humour and I love it for its detail and for so many other reasons. And I love it because I have it in this definitive beautiful hardback edition. And I'm pretty sure you will love it too.

And here are a couple of other images, just because.
Is that goregous artwork or what?

Rating: 5 stars.

This is the fourth book from the new Angry Robot imprint which I've been sent for review. Two I didn't like much, one I did, and this... This stands head and shoulders above the one I did like and both, curiously, deal with alternate worlds.

The Bookman's setting is a Victorian Britain where Moriarty is the Poet-Prime Minister, Gilgamesh is an immortal down and out who lives under a bridge, a sentient automaton of Byron conspires, clowns verbally assault Oscar Wilde, America is known as Vespuccia, a Martian probe is about to be launched (though this is in fact a lie), The Bookman is a menace to society, and Queen Victoria is a lizard. And that is just the start.

Following the death of his beloved at the hands of The Bookman, our hero Orphan (he has no other name, though he gains one) is caught up in a maelstrom of conspiracy and strangeness as is the reader as we and Orphan begin to discover the strange and sinister secrets (and there are many as the tale twists and turns) of this unusual world. And all this is helped by marvellously evocative prose which creates this strange living world we find ourselves in, a style, readable yet ornate, which matches the content.

This is Tidhar's first novel, though he has written much short fiction, and he has set himself quite a standard to live up to. A sequel is in the offing and I can hardly wait. I could write much more but I want you to discover this novel's delights for yourself. Do I need to add that this is highly recommended? 
 Rating: 4 stars.

Good grief!

Just to the right of the 18 rating on the back of the box are the words: Contains frequent strong violence, gore, sex, and very strong language. This is not an overstatement and it doesn't mention the copious amounts of female nudity. If anything the text should much larger, in bold, and with a dozen exclamation marks following it. And to think that I thought its predecessor, the simply named Crank, was over the top when in fact it is almost restrained compared to its sequel. Good grief. It isn't so much over top as fits a rocket to its bottom and flies over the top at a thousand miles an hour. Just watching this is exhausting.

I loved it, of course. And it's also very funny if you get the joke, otherwise you'll run away screaming 'I repent! Bring back the censors!'

If you like 'frequent strong violence, gore, sex, and very strong language', then you'll love it too.

Jason Statham as Chev Chelios is a near unstoppable superhuman agent of chaos and mayhem as he maim, mutilates, kills, and destroys anything and anyone which gets in his way. His motivation is his search for his missing heart. The mcguffin is that he has to generate static electricity for his artificial heart by friction, and also any other means. He does this by rubbing up against other people to plugging himself directly into a power plant.

Plus there's the gorgeous Bai Ling as a totally manic hooker and the gorgeous Amy Smart as his girlfriend. And if that doesn't convince you to get this DVD, nothing will.

Good grief! 

Rating: 4 stars.
In which calling women 'maneaters' is not a metaphor

Director Jake West is noted for two previous micro-budget high-gore cultish horror movies. This time he ups his game with what actually looks like a decent budget, employing decent actors like Noel Clarke, has an interesting script, and moves rather creditably into Shaun of the Dead territory.

I'm not completely sure whether this is a celebration of male chauvinism or a cheerful mocking of it -probably the latter- as he has a bunch of mates escaping from shrewish wives or girlfriends or 'I'm sorry, I know we've been out twice, but what's your name?' for a weekend of male bonding and excessive alcohol intake at a dump of a village in the middle of nowhere where Noel Clark's character has an away granny with a cottage. They're not the brightest bunch you're likely to meet but they are pleasant and likeable enough, some of them with reasonably enlightened attitudes towards the opposite sex.

Sadly, and mild spoiler warning here, the government has just tested a biological weapon on the unwitting villagers of Moodley which causes severe brain damage to the women and induces a cannibalistic appetite for male flesh. Within a few minutes of their arrival they begin to notice that something is a little wrong. It might be the scattered body parts or the crazed woman in a bridal gown munching on some raw flesh. The rest of the film is devoted to the group's manic and funny attempts to escape.

And this is a very funny film, partly due to the dialogue (between the all male group, the women just growl) and partly situational (the incredibly obese woman diving from a rooftop onto her prey -you just going to have to trust me that this is funny, or watch the movie). While very gory, it is downplayed by the fact that it consists mainly of body parts laying around, the kills themselves are relatively tame (note: relatively), and the blood is coloured black not red which undercuts the horror somewhat. The women just stagger around growling and screaming and using whatever weapon is appropriate -the hairdresser's (an unrecognisable Emily Booth) twitching hands hold scissors, an old lady uses a shopping trolley, and if the place had been big enough for a library it would have had a librarian attacking with overdue letters and a date stamp.

All in all, a rather jolly affair and for once an ending which just stops rather than concludes seems quite appropriate. Warmly recommended.

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