Tuesday 30 January 2024

Mr. Vampire III

Frying Tonight

Mr. Vampire III
aka Ling wan sin sang
aka Mr. Supernatural
Directed by Ricky Lau
Hong Kong 1987
Golden Harvest/Eureka
Blu Ray Zone B

Well this one is pretty great but, before I get on with giving you a short flavour of this movie, I have to first give you a word of caution about Mr. Vampire III. As the second film presented in a box set entitled Hopping Mad - The Mr. Vampire Sequels, you might expect to see some of the trademark hopping vampires in this movie. But you don’t... there’s not even a single vampire that enters the story at any point here, let alone a hopping one. A warning might have been conscientiously provided by Eureka on the Blu Ray box, one might have thought.

While the main actor from the previous two films, Ching-Ying Lam, returns as a character with the same name, who may or may not be the Taoist priest from the first movie (the action returns to ancient times for this movie, preceding the action of the second film, which was set in the 1980s), there is little to connect the two stories.

Having said all that, this movie starts off pretty strong with a comedy action packed opening sequence which then dovetails into... lots more of the same. In fact, one of the strengths of this movie over the other two is that it’s almost non-stop action with just the odd pause to explain to the audience what’s going on and to set up the next scene... but without lingering too much on the story mechanics and, thankfully, without taking itself too seriously in that department.

Okay, so no vampires but the film starts with a wandering Taoist priest, played by Richard Ng, who is conning a family by pretending to exorcise their very real ghosts for money. He uses his own ghosts, who collaborate with him to get the money and then are ‘exorcised’ safely in a taoist prison (in this case an umbrella he carries around from town to town) once the con has been performed. However, almost as soon as this comedy action sequence is complete, the real ghosts who have been bothering the homeowner arrive, a whole clan of them, who kick the priest and his ghosts out. So they flee to the next town where...

They are temporarily mistaken for horse thieves by a group of people protected by the wise Taoist monk played by Ching-Ying Lam. It’s not long before the real band of horse thieves attack the village and are revealed as black magic sorcerers and demons. From that point on and for the rest of the film, it’s a battle of wits... but mostly a battle of cleverly choreographed kung fu style moves, as the comedy and action sequences land one after another and, with this many going on, at least a few should be pretty entertaining. And I’d have to say that, yeah, it worked for me. Despite the absence of the titular hopping vampire, this one was a fast and energetic blend of similar elements to the first film but, done much better and this one didn’t drag in the slightest.

Lam and Ng are great as their respective Taoist monk characters and they make a great pairing here. Unfortunately the music is played for the comedy again, rather than supporting the comedy already inherent and, although there is a credited composer, Chin-Yung Shing, I also noticed in the credits that the use of an entity called the Cavendish Music Library was tapped so, I’m going to have to assume that some of this very broad comedy scoring was just needle dropped in (I hope).

And that’s really all I need to say about Mr. Vampire III, I think. The acting is not subtle (apart from Lam and Ng, I would say) and the basic story is not going to tax anyone or give them much they wouldn’t expect... except maybe the partially deep fried ghost who comes out of hot oil and attacks Ng, looking like a deep fried version of The Oily Maniac (reviewed here). But the film works in spite of all this and I had a good time with it. I’m quite looking forward to the next one now.

Monday 29 January 2024

My 2500th Blog Post


Where Are All
The Heroes?

2500th Blog

For my 2500th Blog Post I thought I’d have a look at the current cinematic battleground for two competing comic book companies, Marvel and DC... giving my views on just what is happening with these two behemoth’s in 2024. And I don’t mean specifically movies based on comic books (which can be a whole other thing)... I mean super hero movies, which are the dominant strand of that genre, to be sure.

So... is superhero fatigue really setting in?

I know it did for some people around about seven years ago, when regular Marvel/DC consuming friends and acquaintances I know just stopped going to see either company’s movies. I am, I guess, a hanger on but, I think it’s about to get really interesting sometime next year. So, musicals and westerns are two genres I can think of off-hand which were huge with cinema audiences at one stage but, though they’re still occasionally made, the box office for these things dropped considerably (some decades ago) and getting one greenlit in either category seems like the exception to the rule these days.

Now, here’s the thing... Marvel and DC haven’t got a lot going on this year. DC are busy turning their back on all the good work they’ve been doing for the last decade or so by rebooting the franchise completely (a foolish decision in my humble opinion), sometime for a 2025 Superman movie to kick it all off again. So that means the only film they have coming, in October of this year (at time of writing) is the stand alone, non DC universe sequel Joker - Folie à Deux. Marvel are kind of in a similar situation in that they have only one pure Marvel Cinematic Universe movie coming up this year, a sequel to two non-MCU movies... namely Deadpool 3. Now, there are also three of Sony’s sideways Marvel spin offs coming in 2024 but they’re all based on supporting characters from another character’s comics (all of them being Spider-Man, in this case) and so they’re a) not closely associated with the MCU brand of Marvel and b) not exactly top tier characters... so we have movies of Madame Web, Kraven The Hunter (why, for goodness sake, do this classic Spider-Man villain without Spider-Man?) and, what may possibly be the only successful one of the lot... Venom 3.

And none of those are guaranteed successes (even Deadpool 3, if they handle it badly). Now, the studios are making it known (probably with a degree of exaggeration) that the writer and actor strikes affected their plans badly but... I don’t think it’s as simple as that. I think what’s going on is bad box office. Off the top of my head, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 3 (reviewed here) was the only superhero movie that made any real money (enough to be considered a strong success to the company, at least). Other live action Marvel and DC movies of 2023 such as Shazam - Fury Of The Gods (reviewed here), Ant Man And The Wasp - Quantumania (reviewed here), The Flash (reviewed here), The Marvels (reviewed here), Blue Beetle (reviewed here) and Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom (reviewed here)... were all big failures from what I can make out.

But hold on a minute... I say big failures but I’m talking about money because, as far as I’m concerned, we got some of the most interesting superhero movies of the lot last year. I mean, okay, The Flash and Quantumania were pretty dire but, all of those other ones I mentioned, actually had a lot going for them (very surprisingly, in the case of Blue Beetle) but, it doesn’t matter because most of them got a hard, critical mauling (not from me) and did terrible business (again, relative to the greedy expectations of the companies bankrolling them, at least).

So I’m guessing the lesson learned by these two giant corporations is... time for a soft reboot (or in DC’s case, a hard reboot, it would seem) to try and get things back on track. After all, quality movies do not make for quality box office and, in the case of the 2023 slate of superhero movies... that certainly was true. So cinematically, 2024 is going to feel very strange and desolate. I’m guessing there will be a lot more bigger budget horror movies stepping up to fill that superhero void and I’m guessing that these will also start to receive mixed to negative reviews before long (horror movies definitely seem to have a cyclic nature in terms of their box office success from decade to decade... usually when the world governments are having some kind of crisis, which means their box office foothold has been particularly strong for a while now).

Are we, then, finally reaching the end of an era for the superhero genre? The fatigue that keeps getting predicted? Well, I hope not but then again, in the period between the 1930s to the mid 1960s, I bet people thought westerns and musicals would be popular forever. So who can say just how things will roll but, beware, things like physical media releases could be in jeopardy too if these superhero movies continue to fail and studio heads (as they often do) see this as a sign of certain revenue streams failing because of the quality of the product (as opposed to what is just a lack of interest in that product). Time will tell, I guess.

In the meantime, that marked my 2500th blog post so, whether you’ve read all of them or just this one, thanks so much for taking the time to peruse.

Sunday 28 January 2024

How To Lie With Maps

Co-ordinating Deceit

How To Lie With Maps
3rd Edition
by Mark Monmonier
The University Of Chicago Press
ISBN:  9780226435923

Just a quick shout out of a review to a pretty interesting and cool book I got given for Christmas by a very special friend. This is apparently the third edition of Mark Monmonier’s book How To Lie With Maps and it starts off with an introduction by the author as to why a revised edition is actually needed... which of course takes into account such things as digital/interactive maps and then, just for a little while, falls into what I like to call ‘the academic trap’, by setting out what the book intends to do. Personally, I could do without this element of telling before you show but, hey ho, academics!

It is, however, an excellent book and it certainly does what it says on the tin... or in this case what it shows on the front cover, which features a wonderful illustration of a map showing a big area coloured up to represent the silhouette of Pinocchio. Which is a nice touch.

The book is a handy summary of the ways in which people not only lie regularly with maps, such as exaggerating what is in an area or using scale to showcase what is required by the cartographer’s client... but also looks at the ways in which maps deceive when that isn’t necessarily the intention of the map maker. And it even makes a very good point from early on that the very nature of a map means it is absolutely imperative to lie to effectively, or even adequately, communicate what is being depicted... and I suspect it’s damn near impossible not to. So, for example, a church icon would not, in real life, be a huge and massive building that big... it’s exaggerated for the map to clearly show its presence.

And there are certainly a whole host of falsehoods thrown up, some of which I’d certainly never considered. For instance, just the idea of a flat map representing an area of a spherical world means there is going to be some shonkiness with the representation unless you can find a way around that. And even the nature of the lenses used when taking ariel photographs means some hefty distortion is certainly going to occur when you finally see it as a flat image.

And all kinds of devious deceit is deliberately thrown up in terms of things like army propaganda (and how to mislead an enemy with your maps). An interesting set of maps of a certain section of Russia from different decades in each specific atlas shows places that shift location, for example. It also looks at the ways map makers get their source materials and how various cartographers may try to copy that. I’ve always known about things called ‘trap streets’, for example... the practice of putting in a place that doesn’t exist so if a rival map seller uses your copyrighted map as their source, you can easily call them on it. I didn’t know the correct name of them though and I also didn’t realise, due to legal precedents, that this practice had stopped sometime in the 1990s (Yay, I can start nicking maps again!). And the book is well written in a fairly entertaining manner too, such as on this very subject where the author states “The euphemism for this type of compilation was ‘editing the competition’ but the legal term is copyright infringement...”, which I thought was very good.

What I didn’t expect to find was a specific printing phenomenon which I’ve known about and tried to compensate and steer clear of for years, being as I’m a graphic designer by trade, can also lead to accidental occurrences of deceit. Bearing in mind grey scales can be used as a tool to give a hierarchy of information on a map (as well as colour versions too, of course), then it does make sense that something which I’ve always called ‘dot gain’ in printing (and something which the author calls spread), where a colour or shade comes out darker than required because of the actual act of ink pressing against paper, means you have to be extra careful about trying to control that element when you are printing a map. Not to mention choosing tones and colours that are able to retain that hierarchical meaning when they are photocopied and given to someone.

And I think I’ll stop here but, I have to say that I found How To Lie With Maps to be an absolutely fascinating read and it certainly gave me something new to think about. It will be of especial interest to those who make their trade in the arts of course (because making a map is certainly an art form in itself) but I think it’s a fascinating read whether you are familiar with the kinds of decisions and specifics required to build a map or not. Definitely worth a look, this one.

Tuesday 23 January 2024

Mr. Vampire II

Top Of The Hops

Mr. Vampire II
Geung see ga zuk
Directed by Ricky Lau
Hong Kong 1986
Golden Harvest/Eureka
Blu Ray Zone B

Well then, those hopping vampires from Mr. Vampire (reviewed by me here) are back for what is, it has to be said, a far more enjoyable sequel. Also back for the imaginatively titled Mr. Vampire II is director Ricky Lau, along with some of the original cast playing different roles... such as Ching-Ying Lam, presumably playing an ancestor of the Van Helsing-like character he played in the first one and Moon Lee, again playing a different role. This is because the events in this one take place in contemporary times to when this sequel was made, hundreds of years after the setting of the first one.

The action starts when a bunch of amateur archeologists, played for extremely broad comedy (as are most of the roles in this slapstick packed movie, to be fair), dig up three vampire corpses with the magical scrolls that keep them out of action still sealed to their foreheads. They are obviously a family of vampires - mother, father and son - although the grave robbers obviously have no idea what they are and think they are just incredibly well preserved, ancient relics. Of course, when two of the team take the vampire kid to show an interested buyer, his scroll gets off and he escapes into the night, to make friends and have adventures with two of the local children. Meanwhile, the one left guarding the two other vampires also manages to accidentally remove their scrolls and more chaos ensures. When Lam’s character gets wind of what’s going on, more chaos ensues as the three different story strands come together, the majority of the film being entirely an excuse for comical stunt work as the various factions try to eradicate the vampires.

And... okay, after being more familiar with what to expect since watching the first film, around about the same time last year, thanks again to Eureka Master Of Cinema, I was a lot more happier switching my brain off for this one... not that there’s even much plot to speak of, much less than the first film even. This one is the first film in Eureka’s recently released slipcase edition Hopping Mad - The Mr. Vampire Sequels, which collects the four direct sequels to the first movie, although not any of the spin offs or remakes (which I’m hoping they’re saving for another set, maybe next year?).

It’s fairly fun and it pretty much just more of the same from the first film, relocated to a contemporary setting and, perhaps wisely, without the complicated ‘ghost girl’ sub plot of the original. There’s nothing too clever about the shot design but the choreography of the comedy fight sequences is great and, I have to say, this particular 2K scan from what must have been a quite good source looks, well, possibly the best I’ve seen a Chinese movie looking on Blu Ray, for sure. It’s crystal clear and the colours don’t quite seem as blown out and wishy washy as I was expecting them to be.

Everyone does a fine job here and, although the comedy is a bit too obvious for me, it played fine and I was fairly entertained. There’s even a metatextual joke involving producer Sammo Hung in the movie which, I would probably have found funnier if I had seen some of the films he stars in but at least I, you know, ‘got it’. The music could have maybe been a little less lighter and ‘obviously comic’ but that’s just me, I’m sure nobody else is going to complain about that element. 

 And that’s me done with Mr. Vampire II, I think. A short review, perhaps, but it was a lot more fun than I had any right to expect from it and it’s probably a good thing too... there are three more sequels in this set to sit through. I’ll be sure and let you know how that goes, right here.

Monday 22 January 2024

Whispers Underground

Sub Stack

Whispers Underground
by Ben Aaronovitch
ISBN: 9780575097667

Whispers Underground, by Ben Aaronivitch, is the third of this writer’s Rivers Of London series and, I have to say, I really do like this set of novels (and thankfully, there are a fair few of them still to explore, since I caught up with these late in the game and, as far as I can tell, he’s still writing them). A quick summation for those who are not familiar with the series... these novels deal with the exploits of a British copper called Peter Grant with various other supporting characters and are kinda like Harry Potter for adults... if Harry Potter worked in a small, barely tolerated magical division of the British police.

The first novel (reviewed here) found Peter and his unfortunate partner Lesley, stumbling into this section of the force due to various things which happen to him and he is taken under the wing of a centuries old (the age is doubtful and not revealed as yet in the books I’ve read) teacher called Nightingale. I say that Lesley is unfortunate because, during that first adventure, her face fell off and no amount of plastic surgery, to date, has been able to fix this (at least by the third book). However, in the second novel, Moon Over Soho (reviewed here), she demonstrates a similar gift for magic as Peter by the end of that one and so is back in this one as a full fledged apprentice, staying at The Folly with Peter, Nightingale and sinister housekeeper Molly.

This one is more of the same but it also, again, has a slightly different flavour to it, starting off with the murder, on a tube train track, of the son of an American ambassador and leading to somewhere I really wasn’t expecting... but which is a great ‘take’ on the title of the novel by the time you get there. While the previous one had more of an emphasis on action than the first, this one dials some off that back again but it’s never less than entertaining. The ambassador’s son was stabbed to death with the shard of a broken pot and, because Peter is becoming sensitive to the remnants of magic, he realises that magic had been used to fashion the particular pot that is identified as the murder weapon. So things go from there as he joins the homicide squad but also separately investigates the magical stuff while the investigation is ongoing.

He’s hampered and helped in this by a wealth of new characters, some of whom I’m guessing may return in later books, like a female FBI agent who inevitably learns of the existence of magic, in no uncertain terms, while she’s tagging along and following Peter and Lesley in their investigations. And there are some really nice sequences to this, set underground in both the tube system in London and the sewer system... and even deeper than that when Peter is left for dead in a collapsed tunnel made by an ‘earthbender’ who can burrow through solid ground at speed.

The time is a lot more compressed than I thought it would be in relation to the previous stories. It’s clear that while this is the third novel, the events of the first book only took place about a year before. The book is structured over the space of one week on the approach to Christmas day, with section headings taking on the name of the day and chapter headings created from the areas of London in which Peter finds himself at any given time (the book is told completely from first person narrative stance by the main protagonist). Also, although the main plot is nothing to do with the previous novel, which left things dangling in the air in terms of the villain of the piece for that one, there are certainly lingering encounters at two points with that particular menace... the writer dangling these scenes because he obviously doesn’t want the reader to forget that villain, who is obviously going to be a kind of ‘arch nemesis’ for Peter, Lesley and Nightingale at some future date.

And, as the others in the series, there’s a fair few bits of pop culture reference thrown into the mix. For example, the elvish language as created by J. R. R. Tolkien turns up on one of the pots... and being as it’s not the ‘real elvish’ language of the world of these books, it’s only Peter who recognises it enough to get it translated. There’s also a nice reference to the British horror movie Death Line, which is also set in the London Underground system and which I still, amazingly, haven’t got around to watching. And I was also pleased, bearing in mind when this book was written (before the Chibnal era) that Peter and his family all gather and watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special each year.

And I think I’ve revealed as much of Whispers Underground as I want to other than to say that, in the last chapter, there's a nice hook when one of Peter’s new ‘colleagues’ tells him about a ‘talking fox’ she has been communicating with. So I’m guessing that’s a nice little set up for something coming in a later novel, for sure. I absolutely loved Whispers Underground and will definitely continue on to the next one at some point soon... hopefully this year if time permits.

Sunday 21 January 2024

The Beekeeper

Going Apiary

The Beekeeper
Directed by David Ayer
2024 Miramax
UK Cinema Print

Not to be confused with the many, many movies which have had the same title over the years (why do Hollywood keep doing this?), The Beekeeper is the latest Jason Statham action movie and, it’s one of his better ones, I’d have to say.

The plot is simple, Statham, who has retired and is an apiarist, rents a barn for his bees from a benevolent lady who is the only person who has ever shown him kindness. Then she gets scammed out of all her money by an online fraudster, part of a huge team of them working in group premises dotted around America, including the 2 million dollars she was managing for a charity. So she shoots herself. 

Enter her daughter, played by Emmy Raver-Lampman, an FBI agent who is trying to crack the gang and follow back the chain but, she’s having no luck. However, Statham is no ordinary retiree... he used to be a ‘beekeeper’... a shady organisation working above the law (most of the FBI and CIA don’t even know these people exist) who are there to ‘protect the hive’ and redress the balance when injustice is done. So, he goes on a rampage, killing and destroying his way to the top of the chain, pursued by the criminals themselves (for a while, they are mostly just trying to stay alive), the various law enforcement agencies, one of the active beekeepers and even his friend’s daughter, as he follows the chain right to the top.

And it’s great. Firstly, this is a solid Statham action thriller but it’s a heck of a lot grimmer and relentless (and wildly entertaining) compared to a fair amount of his other films. And the tone extends right back into Statham’s character, Adam Clay, who is not a typical anti-hero for this actor and couldn’t, for a moment, be mistaken for a bunch of his other, almost interchangeable action roles. This is one of those movies that shows that Statham really is as good an actor as he is a likeable personality (and star), his social skills being dialled back down almost to zero (even with people he likes) as he plays a somewhat unstoppable killing machine.

And that’s the other thing about this character... he doesn’t come out of any scrap in this badly, apart from taking some damage in a big fight with a truly tough guy played by Taylor James near the end of the film. He’s one of those invincible people who can walk into a room filled to the brim with trained FBI killers and wipe them all out within a matter of minutes, using only his bare hands and whatever he can pick up off the floor (and with whatever weapon he can steal from an opponent). Honestly, taking this back to schoolboy mentality for a second, I have no idea who would win in a fight between Adam Clay and John Wick, to be honest.

So, yeah, remember those brilliant Lone Wolf and Cub films of the 1970s... or the Zatoichi films of the 1960s/70s etc? Where the lone figure would take on hundreds of trained warriors and kill them all with barely a scratch? Same thing here. The writers have gone back to the roots of heroic adventure stories and given us one of those invincible characters who can cut through anything, in this case in quite a cynical and grim manner. Now, the trap with this kind of writing is that you can write yourself into a corner when you have nothing to really threaten a protagonist with, which was always the real Kryptonite for those early Superman comics. Here, though, just like Lester Dent did in his original Doc Savage pulps, the writers manage to get away with it and it just works marvellously well.

And, of course, the acting is credible and equally entertaining. And I just loved that it took me a while to realise the president of the United States was played by Jemma Redgrave (who I and, probably many readers, would best recognise as playing Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stuart’s daughter Kate, who took over UNIT in the modern version of Doctor Who). And Jeremy Irons adds a good presence to the movie too, playing a somewhat three dimensional character with an interesting history. And all of this is packaged together with an incredibly good score co-composed by Jared Michael Fry and David Sardy, which includes an outstanding opening title piece where the various facts about bees on the visuals are matched with various strings to musically represent their buzzing. I wish they’d release this thing into the wild, preferably on a nice physical CD so I can have a listen.

And that’s me done with The Beekeeper, I think. I enjoyed this one a lot and, if this is the first of a franchise (which doesn’t have to feature Statham as the lead each time but, it would sure be better if it did), then I am all for it and would love to see some more of this kind of action writing in modern cinema.

Tuesday 16 January 2024


Screen Hole

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich

USA 1968
BFI Blu Ray Zone B

Warning: Minor spoilers.

I’ve been wanting to catch up to Targets for a great many years and then, bizarrely, two turn up on Blu Ray in the same year. I’ve plumped for the one put out by the British Film Institute (which a friend gave to me for Christmas) over the Criterion edition because I understand it’s a slightly better version than its US counterpart.

Targets is the great director Peter Bogdanovich’s debut feature, which he wrote with his then wife Polly Platt and also, uncredited, the late, great Sam Fuller. Bogdanovich was very much a protege of the ‘Roger Corman school of film-making’ and Corman let him make this one if he included 20 minutes of footage of Karloff from his own film, The Terror, 20 minutes of new Karloff footage and the rest of new non-Karloff footage. Karloff, riddled by ill health but working quite a bit at the end of his career, only had one more year to live himself, but he liked the script for this so much that he did three extra days unpaid, which allowed for him to be in the film's finale too (he was originally going to be killed off half way through the story). It’s often cited by many, not least by Karloff, as his last film but he did make another five before he died (although some of the Mexican ones that he did were not released until 1971).

You can see why Karloff liked this one. Not only is it a well written piece that has an atmosphere probably unlike a lot of what was being produced back in 1969, but he also gets to play a role somewhat similar to himself (although not in attitude, as Karloff loved making movies and was never out of work). He plays a version of himself here, though, Byron Orlok, who is very much a down on his heels, ageing horror icon who has had enough of the movies he’s been making (such as The Terror) and, after the film’s opening where he’s watching it in the screening room with the director (an extended role for Bogdanovich himself, who does really great as an actor in this, it has to be said), he announces his retirement and, indeed, a lot of the film concerns people trying to get him to not do that. He eventually gets persuaded into going to give a talk (where he’ll announce his retirement) at the drive-in premiere of the film on the following night.

Meanwhile, Tim O'Kelly plays a perfectly normal looking guy but... he’s a gun nutter. The old ‘right to bear arms’ rubbish which is still, unbelievably, in the American constitution enables this person to suddenly go off the deep end, in his own muffled way... he kills his wife, his mother and then goes on a killing spree. Ending up at the drive-in screening at which Orlock is going to talk to the crowd, picking off people in their cars by shooting through a hole in the screen. The two strands of the film slightly overlap at the start, where this character has Orlock in his sights when he is testing out a rifle he buys in a gun shop across the road from the film company... but the two strands go their separate ways, cross cutting until they come together at the end in a really wonderful scene where Karloff confronts the gunman near the end of the picture. I have to say, the ending didn’t go at all like I expected it to and... wow.

It’s a great film and a wonderful debut from the legendary director. Because of various similar shooting instances and massacres, not to mention assassinations, around the time of the film’s release, Paramount only released eight prints out into the wild and so it did very little box office at the time. All I can say is, I’m glad it’s being properly re-evaluated now because, well I’m a bit hit and miss with Bogdanovich myself but this one is definitely a solid hit for me.

I loved the slow pacing and the ‘unnecessary to the story’ details and footage, really reminding the audience nowadays of the sheer artistry of the American films back then, before directors in the US became obsessive about making every shot count towards a story beat. I also loved the muted colour palette in some scenes, juxtaposed to other settings of brighter tones when the two stories rub up against one another. For instance, a shot inside the sniper’s muted urban house with his family is suddenly cut against Karloff and his PA (played by the lovely Nancy Hsueh) in a restaurant where all the walls are brightly lit on jarring green and yellow, vertical stripes. The sound design is great too, doing that thing of dialling back or bleeding out and in when needed to highlight certain things, almost an expressionistic approach to the audio element.

Also, the film has no score, the only music being diegetic and the only actual ‘film score’ being heard in the sequences where The Terror is being screened... which is great because, in the fraught and suspenseful final act, when Karloff goes to confront O’Kelly, the score of that movie emphasises the on screen action of Targets nicely. A beautiful juxtaposition where the diegetic source stands in for the non-diegetic element which is missing.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about Targets other than, Karloff is absolutely sensational in this and it’s no wonder that, in a memorable monologue half way through the film, which he did in one take, the cast and crew started applauding him as soon as the director called “cut”. This is a film I will definitely be coming back to and the new BFI release has plenty of good looking extras for me to explore when I do. A sensational picture, not to be missed.

Monday 15 January 2024

Atlas of Imagined Places

The Uncharted

Atlas of Imagined Places -
From Liliput to Gotham City

by Matt Brown and Rhys B. Davies
Illustrated by Mike Hall
Batsford ISBN:  9781849946414

Ever wondered exactly where the island from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is, or just where it is in proximity to the passage to the centre of the Earth? How about the location of the wrecked stealth ship from Tomorrow Never Dies and how close that is to Tin Min from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum?

Look no further then because the excellent coffee table book Atlas Of Imagined Places - From Liliput To Gotham City, written by Matt Brown and Rhys B. Davies, with fantastic illustrations by Mike Hall, will tell you all this and more. The book pretty much does what it says on the tin and presents the reader with a selection of 18 sets of maps presented as an atlas, which detail literally thousands of fictitious places which the authors, quite cleverly in some instances, have managed to pin point as an area in the real world.

The book starts off with a section which details just what kinds of places you wont find, by breaking things down into a number different fictional place categories, many of which are included but some of which are not. These range from fictional places (not used in the book because they don’t occur in correlation with our world), fictional places on Earth and fictional surrogates etc. The chapter titles are labelled thusly: 1. The USA - Altered States, 2. 2. Canada and The Arctic - Green Gables and Gold Nuggets, 3. Central America and the Caribbean - The Old New World, 4. South America - Cities of Gold and Banana Republics, 5. Western Europe - The Old Countries, 6. Eastern Europe - Science and Sorcery, Shtetls and Soviets, 7. The Nordic Countries - Here Be Dragons (and Trolls), 8. UK and Ireland - Fake Britain and Sham Rock, 9. The Middle East and Central Asia - Beyond The Silk Road, 10. South Asia - From Peshawar to the Peninsula, 11. Africa - Things Come Together, 12. Southeast Asia - Wilds, Waves, Worlds and Wars, 13. Japan - The Land Of The Rising Gundam, 14. China and North-East Asia - Journey To The East, 15. Australia and New Zealand - The Original Land Of Oz, 16. Antarctica - The Nightmare Continent, 17. The Pacific Ocean - Island Hopping and 18. The Atlantic Ocean - Lost Worlds Of The Western Sea.

Each chapter is broken down with a two to four page introduction, written like a travelogue but with a lot of in-jokes for various fictional locations (some of which I got and, due to the sheer range of literary invention looked at for this tome, some of which I didn’t). This is followed by the map itself over another double page spread and then another section which gives another couple of pages talking about a number of the places you will find on that particular map and, in some cases, how hard to pin down they were and what process led to the authors identifying them where they have. So lots of places like Westworld, Springfield (The Simpsons version), Bedrock, Asterix’s village and Blofeld’s volcano retreat from You Only Live Twice are all flagged but, other things you will need to scour the maps for on your own or check out in the vast index in the second half of the book to find them in situ. For instance, I had to look up places like Midwich (from The Midwich Cuckoos), Antonio Bay (from The Fog) and Tilling (from E. F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books) myself to cross reference them on the maps.

But the book is a sheer delight. The UK (where I’m from), for example, has a wealth of places including Summerisle (from The Wicker Man), The Village (from the prisoner), Brigadoon and Walmington-On-Sea (from Dad’s Army). The remit is fantastic and takes on not just books and movies but also TV, video games and even real life hoaxes. I now know where the Antarctic base from John Carpenter’s The Thing is in proximity to the Snowcap Tracking Station where the Cybermen were up to no good in the last of William Hartnell’s Doctor Who stories, The Tenth Planet, for example. I also know how far Castle Frankenstein is from Castle Wolfenstein and even how far the mountain that gave birth to The Monkey King is from the Severnaya Satellite control in Goldeneye. Not to mention the Swiss Spaghetti Farm from the famous, 1950s Panorama April Fools Day broadcast.

Now, as the writers admit themselves, there’s always going to be some stuff which seems like it’s missing in action for some people and I do have one big problem with one of the locations in the maps. That being the inclusion of Superman’s Fortress Of Solitude. All well and good but, there’s no mention of Doc Savage’s similar Fortress Of Solitude in the tome and, frankly, this is a big exclusion because it was, along with a fair few things about ‘Clark’ Savage Jr’s adventures, what the version in Superman was obviously based on (stolen from)... Superman debuted in 1938 and Doc made his debut in 1933. It’s a bit of an oversight in my opinion but, hey ho, can’t have everything, I guess.

Ultimately, though, I really enjoyed having a peruse through the various locations of the Atlas of Imagined Places - From Liliput to Gotham City and it was a real treat. I especially liked that the last map in the series shows the location of Pepperland, from the Yellow Submarine movie... not to mention the various seas glimpsed on that particular fictional adventure. It’s all good stuff.

Sunday 14 January 2024

Annual Cryptic Movie Quiz 2023 Answers

Annual Cryptic
Movie Quiz 2023
The Answers

Thanks once again to all who braved my annual cryptic movie quiz over the Christmas and New Year period... I hope you got a lot of fun out of it. This year’s winner is, embarrassingly for the third year running, Steve Braham in Australia, who got all 14 answers correct.

The answers are pictured above in the grid and this is how you break them down to solve them.

1. Somebody visually recorded Italy’s capital city.
When someone visually records someone these days we usually say ‘videod’. Italy’s capital city is Rome. So... Cronenberg classic Videodrome.

2. 16th Century firearm demonstrating one more organ of auditory processing than the average human.
The firearm is a musket. An organ of auditory processing is an ear, of which humans have two... so one more ear would make three. So... The Three Musketeers.

3. The monster maker swore at his creation.
Swearing is sometimes called cursing so... Hammer classic The Curse Of Frankenstein.

4. Using oars to steer the author of Delta Of Venus towards the shore.
Using oars to stear is when you Row something. The author of Delta Of Venus was Anaïs Nin. So... Row Nin... Ronin.

5. It got kinda scrambled by the hello.
Hello with By scrambled into it gives you... Hellboy.

6. If the four lettered town in Switzerland started and ended with the same two letters.
The town I’m thinking of is Chur. So put the first two letters at the end again and you get church so... Italian horror movie The Church.

7. Enthusiastically expelled breath on a device manufactured to give out light.
Enthusiastically expel breath is blow. Past tense, expelled, changes it to Blew. A device manufactured to give out light could be lamp. So... Blew Lamp... The Blue Lamp.

8. Auditory organ sandwiched in a backwards, long playing record album.
And ear again. A long playing record was always referred to as an LP. LP backwards is PL... put EAR between the two letters and you get last year’s slasher prequel Pearl.

9. The cannibal ate his girlfriend. He was...
A classic Ridley Scott film. The cannibal ate his girlfriend. He was “glad he ate her” so... Gladiator.

10. What you get if a Pokémon goes down with a nasty skin condition... from a certain point of view.
Well it could get a rash. Combine it with a famous tale about contradictory viewpoints and you get Kurosawa’s Rashomon.

11. Family tribe of the light coloured James Bond car in The Spy Who Loved Me.
A family tribe is a clan. The car James Bond drives in The Spy Who Loved Me is, famously, a white Lotus Esprit so, put that all together and you get Shaw Brothers classic The Clan Of The White Lotus.

12. “Oh, Mr. Neeson!” called John Thaw’s Detective Inspector.
Morse is the Inspector. Liam is the Neeson. Calling him as above is Oh, Liam. So, Morse Oh Liam... 80s horror movie Mausoleum.

13. Daniel goes for a walk next to The Bridge On The River.
The famous River Kwai, of course. Dan is short for Daniel so the answer is... Kwaidan.

14. This version of the International Space Station is powered entirely by the sun.
Something powered by the sun uses Solar power. The International Space Station is ISS. So it must be... Solaris.

And, of course, give yourself an extra point if you figured out the background to the grid was from Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. Thanks to all who played... I hope you had fun.

Tuesday 9 January 2024

Doctor Who - The Space Museum

Whoseum Piece

Doctor Who -
The Space Museum

Airdate: 24th April - 15th May 1965
BBC 1 - Region B Blu Ray
Four Episodes

Okay then. The Doctor Who story The Space Museum is a little odd but, of course, that makes it all the more interesting and, despite it not being held in very high regard by the show’s still growing fan base, I certainly thought this one was quite enthralling.

Following on from being frozen/paralysed in the TARDIS at the end of the last episode of The Crusades (reviewed here), in footage which is repeated, the crew of the TARDIS... William Hartnell as The Doctor, Maureen O Brien as Vicki, William Russel as Ian and Jaqueline Hill as Barbara... find themselves in a space museum. And the planet housing the museum is a pretty badly shot environment, it has to be said... when the actors manage to cast shadows on the backdrop of the sky and rocks in the distance, it’s a pretty big giveaway that it's a small studio. But odd things happen like, after beings frozen they somehow find that they are no longer in their crusades costumes. And when Vicki accidentally drops a glass of water, it reassembles itself and jumps back into her hand (in one of the very few pieces of early recording on film stock for a ‘non-location screen’ in a show, in order for the film to be reversed).

And when they go out onto the planet they are walking around in thick dust but... leaving no footprints (which I suspect is a discovery with more of an eye on explaining why they weren’t leaving footprints on the studio set, to be honest). Then, they go inside a structure and find themselves in a space museum, but out of time phase with everything else. It must have been a great tease for viewers at the time when they come face to face with a Dalek, only to find out it’s an exhibit. Although, personally, I would have questioned why, in all of the museum, that was the only exhibit which was labelled up. It’s more of a shock for the regular companions when they come face to face with frozen and embalmed corpses of themselves in four display cabinets, which is when The Doctor realises they are somehow out of phase with time and are actually exploring the planet before they’ve actually arrived (which in the fourth episode is explained away as a malfunctioning component in the TARDIS). He says that, when they do arrive (and this happens early on in the second episode when the encased versions of themselves dissappear), they will be in great danger and will have to make sure that this possible future event doesn’t actually occur. The rest of the story, which once again splits the four companions, is about evading the military presence who run the space museum and teaming up with a ‘rebel faction’ whose planet it was in the first place.

And it’s odd because the whole ‘out of phase’ stuff from the first episode, as intriguing as it is, is not really explained to a satisfactory degree and, frankly, it would still certainly not explain why the travellers are in their crusades clothes one minute and then in their regular attire the next. Furthermore, certain plot details made apparent seem to be dropped in without any pay off later in the serial, such as when The Doctor makes a big thing out of Ian having a button on his jacket missing. You could surely be forgiven for assuming that this will come up later in the story as a way of telling one time phase from another but, no, it’s not mentioned again other than in the second episode of this four episode arc.

But it is enjoyable and has moments such as William Hartnell hiding in a Dalek and, when the coast is clear, putting on a Dalek voice and popping out of the top in a comical manner. Also, newby companion Vicki really shines in this episode, as she stirs up the rebels into a full scale revolution single handedly, by taking apart and rewiring the computer defending entry into the military armoury and enabling the rebels to retake their planet from the, really very small, occupying force.

Okay, so it’s pretty entertaining despite its many flaws and I really thought it was quite good. Also, though, it has a decidedly odd ending to the fourth and final episode. Viewers at this point were more than familiar with the practice of dovetailing the story into the next arc but this one does it more like a teaser trailer by showcasing the Daleks (who really have nothing much to do with this story at all, other than an older, differently designed model being on display in the museum). It’s really the Daleks tracking The Doctor in their own time machine (don’t know how they got one yet) and letting viewers know, at the beginning of the whole Dalekmania period of fandom, that they will be back in it for the next story, entitled The Chase. Which is the next one in this set and which I look forward to watching. That being said, I can only hope the BBC have paid all thier licences as footage of The Beatles was included on a screen in the TARDIS in the original broadcast of that serial and, I know from a recent viewing of The Evil Of The Daleks (review coming soonish), that they certainly didn’t include The Beatles song from the original broadcast in the new edition of that story. Time will certainly tell, I guess.*

Meanwhile, as far as I’m concerned, The Space Museum is another winner of a story and, what it maybe lacks in dynamic punch for some viewers, it certainly makes up for in it’s odd, off kilter qualities, I reckon. I certainly enjoyed my visit with it. It’s a shame the BBC didnt include a Behind The Sofa extra for this one... although there is a charming but short documentary on the collectibles/merchandising of the 1963-65 period of Doctor Who which is worth a look, it has to be said. 

*Since writing this review, time has indeed told and, let's just say if you purchased a UK edition of the Blu Ray like me, you got lucky where many didn't.

Monday 8 January 2024

Unnatural Death


Unnatural Death
by Patricia Cornwell
Little Brown
ISBN: 9781408728697

Warning: Some very slight spoilers.

And once again it’s already time for my annual ritual, starting the new Patricia Cornwell book I’m inevitably gifted on Christmas Day. This year’s novel, Unnatural Death, sees her return to the exploits of her most popular literary character, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta, plus various of the other much loved regular characters who make up the rich background tapestry of the Scarpetta novels... including Lucy, Benton, Marino and even Kay’s sister Dorothy, who you remember is now married to Marino.

Like many of her recent novels (well, I say recent, she’s been doing this kind of thing for at least a decade and I’m sure if I went and revisited her early works, it’s something I’d be more aware of now), this one is set in a very small time frame. The majority of the novel takes place over a 24 hour period... with an epilogue chapter taking place eight days later. Indeed, it takes Cornwell well over a hundred pages to get her central characters to the ‘scene of the crime’ in this one but, as you would expect of a writer of Cornwell’s high calibre, none of this journey is wasted and it helps set up a truly uneasy air about why this particular double homicide... the Unnatural Death of the title... is unusually disturbing. Not least of which is the general environment where the bodies need to be recovered from... which is both hard to get a helicopter to without crashing it and, similarly hazardous due to all manner of reasons I won’t detail here.

As almost a distraction... but I know how well Cornwell researches her books... we also have evidence uncovered that a Bigfoot (aka Sasquatch) is in the area of the scene of the crime and, normally I would act the sceptic here as that being a fantastical element of the story but, well, I trust this woman’s research and if she says there really are such things... I’m going to take her word for it. There is apparently more evidence to suggest yay rather than nay these days, it would seem. And while the evidence of the presence of this species near the murder site is ruled out straight away as being something which the Sasquatch would have had a hand in regarding the double murder, there are also some nice, unexplained things which also happen when Scarpetta and her colleagues are recovering the bodies, which are nicely speculated on by the end of the novel. Let’s just put it this way, there is a suggestion that Big Foot doesn’t always have to be hostile and can, perhaps, even be helpful.

Let me also say that the fight comes to Scarpetta’s door, in small and disturbing ways, long before the scene of the crime is left and the bodies recovered. And then things get even grimmer when Kay suddenly finds herself performing an autopsy in front of a virtual audience in a special unit erected for such a procedure, as she and another character are pulled into a certain ‘confidence’ that neither of them has welcomed into their lives.

Talking of which, I don’t want to say too much about this set of scenes and the chills they may invoke in some readers but I will say that they will probably affect and be present as a caution in Scarpetta’s life for at least another novel or two and, furthermore, those readers who have been with the character throughout her long fictional history will certainly appreciate where things are heading... once a certain set of previously ‘false information’ has ben revealed.

All of which leads ot a couple of nasty incidents based on high tech threats and the usual mix of piece by piece, clue by clue deductions that inevitably lead Scarpetta and her husband Benton to inadvertently put themselves in harms way at certain points in the narrative. There are also a few younger characters which, I think may have been seeded into the text a book or two ago, to also live on as future regulars in the series... or be cannon fodder, who knows because, with the level of future threat now uncovered for Scarpetta and her loved ones, the resolution of that particular problem may well seem a little light and miraculous if at least some characters the readers care about don’t die as part of that solution.

And there you have it... I don’t want to say much of anything else about Unnatural Death other than to assure lovers of the writer and her characters that this is yet another, top notch, addictive Scarpetta novel by one of the greatest living thriller writers. I absolutely loved this one.

Sunday 7 January 2024

A Haunting In Venice

Venice This

A Haunting In Venice
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
US/UK/Italy 2023
20th Century Fox
Blu Ray Zone B

Warning: Slight, implied spoilers.

Okay, so I put off watching A Haunting In Venice at the cinema back in September because I knew it would make a good Christmas or birthday present for my mum and so I saved it to watch with the family. Glad I did because, although it’s okay, it’s perhaps not as good as Kenneth Branagh’s previous two Poirot movies and I’m glad I only have to watch it the once, to be honest.

Unlike the last couple, this film is not loaded with famous celebrities this time around... at least not ones I’d seen or heard of... other than, of course, the inclusion of the great actress Michelle Yeoh, who does a good job with her, sadly short, role... yeah, I saw that one coming. They do manage to at least give her some bang for her buck, though,  in the scenes she is in... going head to head with Poirot as she plays a medium, whom Poirot has been ‘invited’ to show up as a fake. This is actually something he does quite quickly, although the film seems to take the stance, depending on whose witness testimony you believe, on whether this is just partial fakery to lend credence to real supernatural phenomena... or completely a sham.

And it’s this ‘certain point of view’ strand which runs throughout the course of the film.

Branagh is, of course, excellent as Poirot or, rather, excellent as a detective character (my understanding is that Agatha Christie purists rightly take umbrage with his interpretation of Christie’s popular literary detective) and he, aided by some quite good actors, carries the weight of the film as the script follows that ‘double POV’ style uncertainty by very much trying to both eat and retain the fancy pastry at the same time (or have it’s cake and eat it, as they say).

So, there are some great and spooky jump scares in this as various supernatural manifestations are unleashed at the great detective, while he tries to solve various murders which take place (either at the start of the story or as part of its back story). There are sadly no real surprises in terms of ‘whodunnit’ and why (apart from, perhaps, a tiny bit of unwelcome chicanery from his former friend Ariadne Oliver, played by Tina Fey), you’ll figure out various parts of the underlying solution (including the real identity of a blackmailer) long before they are revealed on screen. The supernatural shenanigans are where a lot of the entertainment value comes from on this one. A constantly underlying subtext which is both explained away as the effect of a specific poison made by the honey of certain bees while simultaneously showing the audience itself that... this may not be all of the story (in other words and, especially following the final character death near the end of the movie... make up your own mind if ghostly spirits leant a helping hand here).

So all this good acting and not a terrible script, coupled with some absolutely sunning sets and some nice visual compositions (and I loved the blues used in the opening set of extended establishing shots which turn out to be part of a dream that Poirot is having) makes for an entertaining film, surprising or not. Unfortunately, Branagh’s regular composer Patrick Doyle was not available to collaborate on this project with him but Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score for A Haunting In Venice does a pretty good job, especially at underlying the spooky, supernatural shenanigans presented in the film. A nice enough addition to Branagh’s Poirot canon and I hope he does another one soon.

Tuesday 2 January 2024

Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom

Ocean’s Razor

Aquaman And
The Lost Kingdom

Directed by James Wan
2023 Warner Bros
UK Cinema Print

Okay, so I was kinda putting off seeing this one but I’ve finally got around to looking at Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom and, it plays much as the first one with me. I'd originally put off seeing the first film because the depiction of Aquaman looked closer to the modern day comics version of the character (although not really... I’ll pick up on that later) and it turned out to be a very entertaining, pulpy adventure movie. Bad word of mouth had put me off seeing this second one for a bit (the film was released over a week ago) but. once again, it turns out that the better a modern superhero movie is, the less the audience seems to like it. This year has been full of decent superhero movies (with the one dud being The Flash but, even that had some nice things about it, reviewed here) but none of them have really been making the kind of box office they should have been making. Heck, a few of them even ended up on my year’s best list and, while Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom doesn’t quite make the grade as far as that’s concerned, it’s a pretty fun romp of an entertainment.

Granted, there are a few jokes which might be looked on as in fairly bad taste, especially to someone of my generation but, ultimately a combination of fine performances from Jason Momoa as the title character and Wan regular Patrick Wilson as former villain Orm, now sprung from jail and forced to team up with his brother to save the world from the threat of Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), coupled with a story which is a good fit for the inevitable action sequences (although it gets kinda confusing by the end of the picture) gives this movie a good old fashioned theatrical serial kinda feel and, indeed, one of the director’s admitted influences was the 1980s Flash Gordon movie,which is itself informed from the original 1930s comic strip and the movie serial versions.

There is one other influence which I spotted as ‘a thing’ but didn’t honestly expect it to be anything more than a coincidence, until I looked up the IMDB trivia and found that the director is citing it as such. That’s the black, military style uniforms and helmets worn by Manta’s underwater army, which are very reminiscent of the costumes worn by the main protagonists of Mario Bava’s Planet Of The Vampires (itself an influential film, of course, to a certain other late 1970s movie which I’ll not delve into again here).

So, it’s a fast moving action piece and both Amber Heard and Nicole Kidman are back as Aquaman’s wife and mother, respectively. Now, after all the fuss in real life Hollywoodland with Amber Heard, I was expecting the film makers to jettison her character quickly into the running time and, indeed, there’s certainly an early sequence which keeps her hospitalised for a good deal of the movie... but she’s back in the heat of the action by the end of the film and I’m glad to say she’s not just treated as a throwaway character here. Dolph Lundgren and Temuera Morrison also do good stuff with their returning characters in this and so the film has a really good feel to it (although Willem Dafoe’s character seems to have died between movies, it has to be said).

And although this version of Aquaman is trying to be the modern iteration of the hero, I’m delighted to say that this is in appearance only. The ideas and creations of the world rendered in this underwater universe are pretty much clever and witty (for the most part), H2O fuelled versions of their ‘surface dweller’ counterparts, rather than giving us something totally alien in its nature... so, yeah, it’s really not a million miles from the golden and silver age stories of Aquaman from many decades ago that I used to read, for sure.

Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score to the movie is also pretty good, reminding me a lot of Lorne Balfe’s outstanding score for Black Adam at times but, alas, there is no proper CD release of this at time of writing. C’mon people, get this score out on the only format worth publishing it on!

Okay, so a short review but bottom line is that I had another, surprisingly, good time with Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom and... there is a mid-end credits scene which is a nice punchline to a gag earlier in the movie. But with that, this is also a heads up reminder that, due to the stupidity of those in charge of the DC movies at present, this will be the last of the DC Cinematic Universe films in this iteration... instead, all those beautifully connecting linking devices from various end credits have been jettisoned, along with the great actors involved, while a famous director has an experimental tinker and reboots everything. Probably the silliest thing you could do at the moment and, if there really is any rivalry between comic book companies DC and Marvel, one wonders if the person in question is really working covertly for Marvel because, with this braniac move, Marvel have ‘won’ for sure. It’s a shame the DCCU didn’t have the stamina of their nearest competitors but, there you go, these things happen I guess.

Monday 1 January 2024

Happy New Year 2024


New Years Day 2024

Well, it’s that time of year when we are all supposed to be looking to the future to see what new opportunities await us in the current year. As I write these words though, it’s actually a couple of days before New Years Eve and my mindset is in that terrible time between Christmas And New Years Eve when we are all surviving on Turkey and are filled with too much Tunis Cake and excess (if you are lucky enough to be able to get your hands on a Tunis Cake these days... why the heck don’t McVities make those things anymore?).

The time of year when people like me are dreading going back to the office and increasingly questioning the reasons why we do this... or perhaps, why we all allow a truly terrible government that can’t pull itself together and realise the work environment has changed in many people’s minds (for the better, during the pandemic, when we were all saving time and money and were a lot fitter for all those walks) and that we’re fed up with the powers that be trying to con us in this and so many other ways. I've actually been more miserable the last few days than I have in a very long time which, honestly, should not be happening when I'm on holiday. But anyway...

It’s also the time of year when I tell you some of the things I hope to be reviewing on the blog for the next 52 weeks (assuming I am still in good enough shape to type) and, that’s tricky actually because, it sometimes takes me a good few years after I’ve declared that... to get the films watched, the books read and so on... before I can get it up on the site. But, let’s not be cynical and I’ll try my best to predict once again. In terms of books there will be, hopefully, all of Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula books, some more of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers Of London books and maybe I’ll get to revisit some Michael Moorcock too. In terms of movies, aside from the obvious tent pole cinema releases coming (although... they kinda look dire this year so, maybe not so obvious), there are all kinds of movies and boxed sets coming up which I hope to get up on the blog. So, at the very least, I hope to finish off the Basil Rathbone series of Sherlock Holmes reviews, get a bunch of Hammer Dracula movies up and, alongside a bunch of Shaw Brothers classics, I also have to finish off the All The Haunts Be Ours folk horror set, finish watching The Sensual World Of Black Emanuelle set and watch the Bruce Lee at Golden Harvest set. Not to mention a healthy dose of genre movies from around the world including Mexican, Italian and Bollywood horror movies.

So yeah, lots to come and some of the stuff mentioned above is already written and awaiting publication here. So, I’d better get on with it all and just take this opportunity to wish everyone, possibly against all odds, a very Happy New Year. Thanks for reading the blog and... oh yeah... there are now only eight days left if you want to join in with this year’s Annual Cryptic Movie Quiz, right here