Archive for February, 2009

Tiger Uppercut!

Posted in Video Games on February 25, 2009 by thebigsmoke

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Alright, so the Prodigy are still not as good as they used to be

Posted in Music on February 22, 2009 by thebigsmoke

The Prodigy have a new album out tomorrow and it’s really, really, um, not too bad. Yeah, so okay, that doesn’t sound very exciting, but an album that’s not too bad is a step in the right direction for Liam Howlett and Co. After all, Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned was so totally forgettable they had to release a greatest hits album (Their Law) just to remind people why they liked The Prodigy in the first place.

Their latest effort, Invaders Must Die, is a deliberate return to their roots and it’s about bloody time. Liam has notoriously turned his back on rave in the past, but now, whether he’s had an epiphany or whether he’s worried about falling records sales, he’s decided he’s not too good for rave music anymore.

There are some obvious nods to a bygone era in the album’s title track, Invaders Must Die, which heavily samples Outlander’s The Vamp.

Similarly, the brilliant Warrior’s Dance uses the vocal from The Pin-Up Girls’ Take Me Away. Warrior’s Dance is really an excellent track, which I’ll probably buy on vinyl if it ever gets a single release. The sax at the start is simply groovy.

So there you go, there are some highlights. Or at least one highlight. Overall, there’s still way too much shouty Keith. And you know, I love punk music, and I love techno, but I don’t think they go together very well. I don’t think it’s ever going to work, and I kind of wish Liam would stop trying to make it work.

Maybe for the next album, Liam could go one step further and start playing the piano again. A few reggae samples wouldn’t hurt either. Ho hum.

It’s Monday! Video time!

Posted in Music on February 19, 2009 by thebigsmoke

Or something.

This is not a particularly good song, but I think it deserves special recognition for the video, which slowly descends into surreal madness. It’s as if halfway through filming the director started experimenting with mind-altering drugs combined with pornography.

In this video, John Parr plays the part of a mechanic who is fed up of being told not to fondle cars. On a sidenote, I think a mulleted Hugh Dennis could play Parr convincingly in the unlikely event of somebody making a movie of his life. Anyway, Parr the mechanic quits his job because he is obviously a rebel. He then races off with his girlfriend, who is Selma Blair or Claudia Winkleman, depending on which angle you see her from. When she refuses to let him grope her in a slightly sinister fashion, he does what anyone would do in his situation. That is, he steals a car, finds a huge group of neon spandex-wearing sluts and organises an orgy in a cheap motel. I like to imagine he’s promised them roles in Flashdance 2 if they’ll perform a variety of sexual acts on him, but there’s no doubt another explanation.

So, what else? Watch out for the chorus as sung by the Kwik Fit team. And enjoy the ending, which was unashamedly stolen from Back to the Future or perhaps Repo Man.

Bat dance

Posted in Comics, Television on February 16, 2009 by thebigsmoke

Batman finds out too late the effects of too many sambuca shots. A lot of my Saturday nights have been much like this, even down to stealing John Travolta’s dance moves.

He uses some of the same moves in this one, but the star jump is a bit different. I’m going to have to try that one next time I go out.

Comic Book Round-Up

Posted in Comics on February 15, 2009 by thebigsmoke

I’ve read so many comics recently, and it’s been a while since I last did one of these. This could be my biggest round-up ever!

Final Crisis 6 (of 7)
By Grant Morrison, J. G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Marco Rudy, Christian Alamy and Jesus Merino

Personally, I take it as an indication a book isn’t getting enough attention when they have to bring in a bunch of guest artists just to get it out on time. Final Crisis is so completely removed from the rest of the DC universe, why not just give J. G. Jones the script, let him take the time he needs over the pencils, and put it out when it’s good and ready?

It would probably also help if somebody would go ahead and tell Morrison he’s not the avant garde genius he seems to think he is.

Final Crisis 7 (of 7)
By Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke

Wait, what?

If Morrison has finished climbing into his own arsehole, I guess I can go about my business now.

Supergirl 36
By Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle

Supergirl was actually the first movie I ever saw at the cinema, way back in 1984. I was just five and Helen Slater was responsible for a very confused kind of sexual awakening.

Anyway, this wasn’t too bad but I won’t keep picking it up after “New Krypton”.

Superman 683
By James Robinson, Renato Guedes and Jorge Correra Jr.

Supergirl flips out as the “New Krypton” storyline winds up.

Action Comics 873
By Geoff Johns and Pete Woods

I don’t get this “Faces of Evil” thing; it seems completely pointless to me. Isn’t it enough to be part of one multi-part event (“New Krypton”)without opting into “Faces of Evil” as well? And that black cover really picks up fingerprints.

This wasn’t the ending I was expecting, as there were a couple of surprises. The epilogues were interesting, too. It seems like Zod, Ursa and Non have been totally integrated into the DC universe now. If I were writing comics, I’d put them into their shiny black costumes, though.

Green Lantern 36
By Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis

In this issue, Hal visits Odym and is introduced to the Blue Lanterns and finds out he’s to be their leader. There are further revelations to come, as the book ends with the discovery that Sinestro has a daughter.

There’s good stuff going on in all the Green Lantern titles at the moment, with “Blackest Night” looming on the horizon. The introduction of all these different coloured Lanterns means there’s plenty of story-telling to be done and no shortage of excitement.

You may be interested to know Graphitti Designs are currently offering a range of t-shirts based on the different coloured Lantern designs. I hate to admit it, but I’m finding the Black Lantern design is particularly tempting.

Green Lantern 37
By Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis

Just after they’ve built Laira’s character up, even putting her on the cover as part of the “Faces of Evil” promotion, she’s casually killed off by Sinestro. I suppose at the moment, in the Green Lantern books, that doesn’t mean anything. With “Blackest Night” they could bring back anyone, Laira included.

Green Lantern Corps 31
By Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

What the heck is going on with that cover? Don’t worry, it will all make sense when you begin reading. It’s actually just the view from within the mutated ribcage of a child-catching member of the Sinestro Corps, so nothing odd there.

Green Lantern Corps 32
By Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

I do enjoy the Corps title. It gets sidelined by the main Lantern book, but actually, in some ways, it’s a better title. There are more personalities involved, and it has a bit of a space opera feel to it which I particularly like.

Justice Society of America 22
By Geoff Johns, Alex Ross and Dale Eaglesham

“One World, Under Gog” concludes at last, after seven issues in the ongoing series and three dedicated one-shots. It wasn’t bad, but it took half a year to tell the story; they probably could have done it in half the time, half the number of pages.

What I will say is the scenes which take place on Earth-22, and are lovingly painted by Alex Ross, are incredible. In particular, the last four pages of the story kind of make the whole thing worth it.

I’m going to miss Kingdom Come Superman.

Dark Reign: New Nation
By Brian Michael Bendis, Jonathan Hickman, Jeff Parker, Greg Pak, Adam Felber, Jim McCann, Stefano Caselli, Carlo Pagulayan, Leonardo Manco, Paulo Siqueira

Being the unthinking fanboy I am, I pulled this off the shelves without looking at the interior. I might not have bothered with it if I’d noticed it’s just a preview of Marvel’s new titles coming out in the wake of “Secret Invasion” and under the “Dark Reign” banner.

The first preview, “Declaration”, is a Secret Warriors story in which Nick Fury gathers his troops. I enjoyed the Secret Warriors in “Secret Invasion”, so I’ll check out the ongoing title when it hits the shelves.

Next up is the Agents of Atlas in “The Heist”. It’s not outstanding, but the characters are intriguing enough to make me want to check it out. I just have to remember to look for it in the shops.

Greg Pak’s War Machine preview, “Crossing the Line” was underwhelming. The War Machine character has never been much of a winner, and from the looks of it, this latest offering isn’t going to change that.

“Breakfast in America” is what you’d expect from a Skull Kill Krew story: silly but quite good fun. I’ve never much time for the Skull Kill Krew, and I don’t think this is going to change anything.

Finally, and most disappointing of all, is “Suspicion”, a preview of New Avengers: The Reunion. Hawkeye and Mockingbird are two of my favourite characters, so a comic devoted entirely to their relationship sounds good to me. Unfortunately, the mediocrity of the writing means I’m going to pass.

The New Avengers 48
By Brian Michael Bendis and Billy Tan

“Dark Reign” gets underway as Luke Cage is forced to make a deal with Norman Osborn to find his missing child.

The New Avengers 49
By Brian Michael Bendis and Billy Tan

It’s fairly obvious to anyone reading The New Avengers on a regular basis that Bendis adores Luke Cage.

With his huge afro and disco-inspired open shirt, Power Man was resolutely stuck in the 1970s. Bendis has since reinvented him as a no frills hero-cum-family man.

It becomes increasingly hard not to share Bendis’ enthusiasm for the character when he writes strories like this one, in which Cage takes out Venom and Bullseye with the Wrecker’s crowbar.

The Mighty Avengers 20
By Brian Michael Bendis, Lee Weeks, Jim Cheung and Carlo Pagulayan

Hank Pym returns from wherever it was the Skrulls kept him in Bendis’ Mighty Avengers swan song.

The Mighty Avengers 21
By Dan Slott and Khoi Pham

Mighty Avengers always seemed to be of secondary importance, and I guess that’s confirmed now that Bendis has deserted it to concentrate on Dark Avengers.

Slott’s writing isn’t terrible, but straight away this isn’t as good as it used to be. I may stick with it a bit longer, but it looks likely I’m going to drop this title in the near future.

Dark Avengers 1
By Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato

Following on from “Secret Invasion” and essentially an extension of Warren Ellis’ now legendary run on Thunderbolts, Dark Avengers is probably one of the most exciting new titles of 2009.

What was fun about Thunderbolts was the team was so morally corrupt, yet it was perceived by the public as heroic. Dark Avengers takes that idea further when Norman Osborn forms a new Avengers team, employing rogues (some from his Thunderbolts) to masquerade as Avengers such as Hawkeye and Spider-Man.

Deodato did great work on Thunderbolts and his art in Dark Avengers is as good as it ever was (Norman Osborn still looks uncannily like Tommy Lee Jones). Warren Ellis is a tough act to follow, but I guess Bendis was a big fan of Thunderbolts, as he seems to be having fun with the already developed characters.

Avengers/Invaders 7 (of 12)
By Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, Steve Sadowski and Patrick Berkenkotter

How does Alex Ross find the time to paint so many covers?

Fantastic Four 562
By Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch

In this issue, Susan Storm attends her own funeral.

Fantastic Four 563
By Mark Millar and Brian Hitch

Millar’s first arc on Fantastic Four was brilliant, his second was even better. This third one is about Doom’s Masters, the men who made Doctor Doom the force of evil he is, and is shaping up to be another incredible story.

I don’t want Millar and Hitch to ever stop doing Fantastic Four. It’s clever, funny and touching. Currently, it’s easily my favourite monthly title.

If you read comics and you don’t read Fantastic Four, don’t say I didn’t give you the heads up.

Thor 12
By J. Michael Straczyski and Oliver Coipel

This was the best issue I’ve read so far, as Loki travels back in time to become the master of his own destiny.

Who would have thought I’d come to be so enthusiastic about Thor? It helps the artwork is absolutely beautiful, but this isn’t just about the art. Thor is reminiscent of the best of Conan, but full of intrigue and suspense. It might not be to everybody’s taste, but I’ll stick with this title for as long as the current creative team do.

Black Panther 1
By Reginald Hudlin and Ken Lashley

I was intrigued enough by the promotion of this relaunch to pick up the first issue, but immediately had reservations when I began reading. Once I find out who the new female Black Panther is, I expect I’ll lose interest.

I always liked Black Panther, but it’s rare the character is given the right kind of treatment. I liked his marriage to Storm and his brief stint in the Fantastic Four, but it’s not often I find myself reading a good Black Panther story.

The Uncanny X-Men
By Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson

I fear my rekindled interest in the X-Men may have well and truly come to an end.

Spider-Man Noir 1 (of 4)
By David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky and Carmine Di Gandomenico

There are Noir X-Men and Daredevil titles as well, but I suppose Spider-Man Noir stood out from the crowd.

I’m not convinced this should really be considered “noir”, but it’s a neat reimagining.

Spider-Man Noir 2 (of 4)
By David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky and Carmine Di Gandomenico

You know, if I were going to put a noir twist on a superhero, I’d choose to get rid of superpowers or just pick a superhero without superpowers. From the options Marvel has available, I’d probably go with Punisher.

Kick-Ass
By Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.

Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass continues to be an ultra fun read. In this issue, Kick-Ass teams up with Red Mist, gets high in the Mistmobile and saves a cat from a burning building. What more could you ask for from a comic book?

1985

Posted in Comics on February 11, 2009 by thebigsmoke

I picked up the 1985 trade paperback on a whim, mostly because it’s written by Mark Millar and I’ve reached a point where I will pretty much read anything the man writes.

1985 is a love letter to the Marvel Universe viewed through a haze of 80s nostalgia. Sounds good, huh? Well, it is. The story is heavily reminiscent of movies like Labyrinth, Flight of the Navigator or Gremlins. You know, those movies where a kid discovers something incredible and otherworldly, then falls into the role of secret hero because adults just don’t want to believe in magic or aliens or whatever. There’s usually a bit at the end, after the kid is returned to normality, where he finds he still has the magic amulet so it wasn’t just a dream (or something along those lines). Not that he misses all that craziness, because he’s all happy just to be part of a normal family again, and wow, doesn’t it make you feel so good inside? You know what I’m talking about, right? That’s what this comic book is like. If the last few pages don’t put a huge dumb grin on your face, there’s no hope for you.

Snow

Posted in Stuff on February 3, 2009 by thebigsmoke

This is the view from the office window this afternoon, shortly before I was sent home by our dynamic-sounding Crisis Leadership Team. Pretty, isn’t it?

Watching the BBC’s news coverage of Britain’s snowfalls, you might be excused for thinking Western civilisation is experiencing an apocalyptic decline bearing a striking similarity to the early scenes of The Day After Tomorrow but which seems to have been edited to include large portions of a snow-themed episode of You’ve Been Framed. Watching them flip flop between their message of neverending doom and clips of pets in the snow stirred such a turmoil of emotions, I thought for a moment I was having a stroke.

BBC reporters seem to have a policy of finding the most outraged man on the street and giving him as much air time as possible. One man said it was disgraceful flights at Heathrow had been cancelled and that in this day and age you’d expect them to be able to deal with the problem. I suppose he’s right, like the way I expected scientists to have found a way to reverse aging by now or cure the common cold. And there are still no hover cars or matter transporter devices. It’s obviously absolutely shocking that pilots can’t take off on an icy runway and fly in blizzard conditions. Why aren’t aeroplanes fitted with skis and a giant thermal ray gun to blast the snow out of their path? It’s ridiculous.

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