Battlefield earth Review and Opinion

2019/06/18

Battlefield Earth: Take Back The Planet (1999)
Director: Roger Christian

review by Steven Hampton

"If man-animal prefers its rat uncooked then our job is that much easier." I think the harshest critics of Battlefield Earth may have misinterpreted the whole thing. True, it's seriously flawed, but Roger Christian's SF adventure is not a complete failure as entertainment. John Travolta's performance as the security leader of an occupying alien force is high camp space opera, especially during the amusing confrontations with his chief rival - played with scenery chewing relish by Forest Whitaker - among the legion of Psychlos, who look and act something like corporate Klingons.
   The plot of this new video version, a special re-cut supervised by the director, is straightforward enough: it's the year 3000, and mankind is reduced to slavery or savagery depending on whether they live inside the aliens' domed city or not. Against his race's own rules

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Bruce balfour interviewed at Review and Opinion

2019/06/17

Artificial Intelligence And Tilting At Windmills

Bruce balfour interviewed at Review and Opinion

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Beg Review and Opinion

2019/06/16

Beg! (1994)
Director: Robert Golden

review by Paul HigsonSpoiler alert!File under lost and found. Was it worth the wait? I'd say so. Starting life as a stage play co-written by Peta Lily and David Glass, we can assume the tale tried and tested and ready for transfer to script-form, with only a bit of extra keyboarding by Robert Golden, the director. It was heavily sold in publicity on it's horror content, a serial killer in a hospital who cuts victims open at the belly and sews into them a live pooch, and collected accolades at the Edinburgh Film Festival and Sundance, but then disappeared from view under rumours of debt trouble. Parkfield picked up not only this but a second Robert Golden title, The Lake, thinking primarily of both as television fodder, though that possibly preceded the DVD revolution and it is now available through Showcase and turning up ignominiously in supermarket bargain baskets

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Being john malkovich Review and Opinion

2019/06/15

Being John Malkovich (1999)
Director: Spike Jonze

review by Patrick Hudson

Frustrated puppeteer Craig Schwatz (John Cusack) gets a job doing freelance filing, because his fingers are so nimble they can file extra fast. While working on the seventh-and-a-half floor of his building, he discovers a tiny doorway that leads into the consciousness of John Malkovich. Go through that door, and you can spend ten minutes inside the actor's head before being ejected into a ditch beside the New Jersey turnpike. He and co-worker Maxine (Catherine Keener), who Schwartz lusts after, set up a little after-hours earner selling tickets to the show. Schwatz's wife Lotte (an unrecognisable Cameron Diaz) and Maxine begin a strange love affair where they can only consummate their love when Lotte is inside Malokvich. Eventually Malkovich finds out and ends up going through the door himself.
   This is not the end for this masterfully surreal film. First-time director Spike Jonze

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Beneath the ground Review and Opinion

2019/06/14

Beneath The Ground
edited by Joel Lane
Alchemy paperback £10.99

review by Debbie Moon

Man has always feared the dark places under the earth, in myth, they are the gates to other worlds, worlds of monsters and gods and the dead. In the modern world, they are curiosities, heritage sites, challenges, and the secret places of children or dangerous loners. Ranging across all these ideas, and more, this collection of 13 stories explores our shared fears of whatever is lurking down there in the dark.
   Unsurprisingly, there are a good number of simple, nameless horrors lurking in the shadows to devour the unwary. David Sutton's Tomb Of The Janissaries takes some reluctant tourists on a journey into the past at the site of an atrocity, Simon Bestwick's To Walk In Midnight's Realm finds its horrors lurking in a cave system in Wales. Where Once I Did My Love Beguile, by John Howard, sets a boy growing into adolescence on a collision course with

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Beowulf Review and Opinion

2019/06/13

Beowulf (1999)
Director: Graham Baker

review by Ian Shutter

A monstrous and violent thing stalks the dimly lit corridors of a besieged fortress while a vigilant army surrounding it executes anyone that tries to escape, and waits for the futuristic citadel to fall. Then, along comes Christopher Lambert in ultimate warrior guise (dressed and styled like Roy Batty from Blade Runner), just in time to save a scantily clad babe from being chopped up by the skull-faced killer. Later, Lambert's 'Beowulf' is inside the gloomy castle, offering his services to those huddling in fear of a ferocious beast (perhaps the least interesting vision of Grendel ever committed to film!) that's sending them all to hell, one at a time.
   Basically this is a Mortal Kombat meets Predator. It plays as if based on video game scenarios - with lots of plot-free action scenes, occasionally well-designed sets and lighting, but precious little else to commend it SF/

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Beyond re-animator Review and Opinion

2019/06/12

Beyond Re-Animator (2002)
Director: Brian Yuzna

review by Tom Matic

The Re-Animator sequence appears to be following the pattern of the Hammer Frankenstein films, with the coldly amoral antihero (Jeffrey Combs' Herbert West and Peter Cushing's Frankenstein) recruiting a naïve new acolyte to assist him in his experiments. With its graveyard humour, Terence Fisher's direction anatomised all those botched resurrections as coolly as Baron von Frankenstein dissected corpses. Black comedy and a preoccupation with body parts is also a constant feature of the Re-Animator movies, and this is no exception. But what gave Re-Animator its edgy gallows humour was a keen sense of the horror of preventable death motivating West's accomplice. In Beyond Re-Animator the sick gags are cheapened by the film's failure to do this.
   With his latest scheme to revive the dead once again descending

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Big fish Review and Opinion

2019/06/11

Big Fish (2004)
Director: Tim Burton

review by Debbie Moon

Edward Bloom is a big fish in a small pond. All his life, he's entertained his family with tales of his fantastical past: how he began his career in the circus, rescued a giant, battled for the woman of his dreams, and almost found paradise in a small Alabama town. Now he's dying, and his estranged son Will has returned home to try to make up with a man he considers feckless and selfish. But Will begins to suspect there's something more behind his father's fanciful stories - a shadow of reality that may help him to understand the man. Perhaps the only way to understand Ed Bloom is to try to finish his story for him...
   Big Fish is Tim Burton's best film in years. Combining the menacing imagination of Edward Scissorhands with the commercial instincts of the Batman movies, Burton has created his own take on It's A Wonderful

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Bill and ted's excellent adventure Review and Opinion

2019/06/10

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)
Director: Stephen Herek

review by Jeff Young

Possibly inspired by the likes of Time Bandits, Back To The Future, and Doctor Who, this SF comedy about two young American time travellers is inconsistent, but has several witty lines and amusing moments, and happily doesn't take itself seriously. Bill and Ted (Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves) are wannabe heavy metal heroes of 'Wyld Stallyns' breed, but thoroughbred losers until taken on a magical history tour by nattily dressed emissary from the future, Rufus (George Carlin). Visiting the wild west, ancient Greece, medieval England, Vienna and Mongolia, they collect a variety of historical figures including Napoleon, Billy the Kid (Dan Shor), Socrates, Freud, Beethoven, Joan of Arc, Genghis Kahn and Abe Lincoln - in order to help them complete their high school exams.
   The duo's time machine appears as

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Barefoot In The Head Review and Opinion

2019/06/09

Lining Up On The Precipice

Barefoot In The Head Review and Opinion

Comprar Barefoot In The Head Review and Opinion

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Blade 2 Review and Opinion

2019/06/08

Blade II (2002)
Director: Guillermo Del Toro

review by Christopher Geary

Stephen Norrington's Blade (1998) was an enjoyable slice of vampire slaying action with high levels of martial arts and splashy gore, and a scattering of digital illusions, based on a comic-book series. This overdue sequel marks the return of vengeful hero, Blade - alias half vampire half human 'Daywalker' (Wesley Snipes), and his mentor Whistler (a hairy Kris Kristofferson) - rescued from years of imprisonment during the film's opening.
   Back at Blade's hideout, the reunited old friends are unexpectedly invited into the fortress lair of their archenemies, for a meeting with Nosferatu-like vampire overlord Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann), who persuades the stony-faced Blade to lead his 'Bloodpack' (a squad of assassins trained to slay our hero!) against a mutual threat to both vampires and humans posed by a genetically modified breed of undead called 'reapers'. These reapers

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Blood feast Review and Opinion

2019/06/07

Blood Feast (1963)
Director: H.G. Lewis

review by Jeff Young

One of the great cult favourites rediscovered by horror fans during the 1980s video boom, this is generally praised (if that's the right word) for being the first proper gore movie, though its transgressions seem mild by today's standards.
   It has a curious plot, that of an exotic caterer, Fuad Ramses, hired to cook a pharaoh's dinner for a young girl's birthday party, who takes his preparation of authentic cuisine very seriously indeed. In being faithful to ancient Egyptian recipes for the festival of goddess Ishtar, the butcher sets about getting his vital ingredients from the still-living bodies of women - hacking off legs, scooping out brains, ripping out a heart, pulling out a tongue, and whipping one screaming prisoner insensible before draining her blood.
   In the end, of course, a local police detective tracks him down (putting the relevant facts together after attending a lecture

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Blowback Review and Opinion

2019/06/06

Blowback (1999)
Director: Mark L. Lester

review by Jeff Young

Mario Van Peebles plays a failed priest turned heroic cop in this action thriller that borrows from the screen scriptures of Stigmata and Se7en.
   In the guise of a CIA assassin, James Remar's science fictionally resurrected serial killer goes after the jury that convicted him, modifying his MO to include male as well as female victims, but still murdering them in the manner that various biblical saints were killed.
   As he proved with Hitman's Run, starring Eric Roberts (Julia's brother), action movie director Mark L. Lester (not to be confused with Mark Lester the actor) is no slouch in the car chase and shootout departments. But as a filmmaker he's not able to imbue this exploitation material with much in the way of those electrifying shots that have distinguished

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Body Review and Opinion

2019/06/05

The Body (2000)
Director: Jonas McCord

review by Ian Shutter

This is a dramatic and intriguing, if ultimately spineless (excuse that awful pun), international conspiracy thriller about science versus religion. Dr Sharon Golban (Olivia Williams, from The Sixth Sense) is an archaeologist working at a dig in Jerusalem where she discovers a skeleton hidden in a tomb. The old bones have all the marks of crucifixion and date back to the first century, and Sharon thinks they are the actual remains of Jesus Christ. When the Vatican hears about this they launch their own private investigation, sending Father Matt Gutierrez (Antonio Banderas), a priest with combat experience, into the volatile situation where Arab terrorists and militant Jesuits are deeply entrenched in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Can the belief system of the orthodox Catholic Church withstand millennial proof that their saviour was not resurrected?
   From the novel by Richard

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Bold as love by gwyneth jones Review and Opinion

2019/06/04

Bold As Love
Gwyneth Jones
Gollancz paperback £5.99

review by Duncan Lawie

Bold As Love begins a trilogy and revolves around a central triangle - perhaps a love triangle - and eventually a triumvirate. Power, politics and music form a further, thematic triangle of the book. The central trio comprises Ax, a respected but not commercially successful guitarist, Sage, a millionaire rock star who gives away his money and lives in a van, and Fiorinda, a 16-year-old singer and guitarist with a lifetime of bitter experience already behind her. The setting is England in the year that an Act of Dissolution is about to bring the United Kingdom to an end. Fiorinda is the heart of the story and the book begins with her. As she escapes her disastrous childhood, she falls in with Sage and all three are caught up in the Home Secretary's 'rock and roll working party'. This appears to be an attempt by the government to appease and distract the counter-cultural movement

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Book Lists Review and Opinion

2019/06/03

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Bourne legacy Review and Opinion

2019/06/02

The Bourne Legacy
Eric Van Lustbader
Orion hardcover £17.99

review by Cristopher Hennessey-DeRose

There will always be a need from fans of Robert Ludlum's masterful thrillers for more, specifically with what is arguably his most popular and compelling character, Jason Bourne. Author Eric Van Lustbader, himself notable for several of his own thrillers, has been given the unenviable job of picking up where the late master left off, David Webb, alias Jason Bourne, picking up the pieces of his life, and trying to forge a new one.

The worst possible thing an author who is continuing a character with such a devoted and critical following can do is to change that character's world and to put so much of his own writing style into the work so as to be conspicuous. John Gardner proved that with another beloved character, Ian Fleming's James Bond, and was all but stoned in the streets. Lustbader avoids all

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Breed Review and Opinion

2019/06/01

The Breed (2001)
Director: Michael Oblowitz

review by Tony Lee

This is a sci-fi variation on the theme of vampires, filmed on location in Budapest by the director of This World, Then The Fireworks (1997). The Breed is set in the near future, where European government leaders plan to integrate vampires into human society. It stars Adrian Paul (from TV series Highlander) as gaunt, Hitler-moustached vampire Aaron Grey, who is teamed with FBI agent Steven Grant (played by memorably named black actor Bokeem Woodbine), to investigate a renegade bloodsucker's plot to shatter the peace between vampires and mankind. Bai Ling (of Wild Wild West) plays beautiful vampire Lucy (yes, Lucy Westenra!), who falls in love with potential victim Steven, even as Aaron suspects her of being involved with the bad guys...
   The first thing you will notice is how much the film's retro future

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Re-animator 2 Review and Opinion

2019/05/31

Bride Of Re-Animator (1990)
Director: Brian Yuzna

review by Ian Shutter

Bride Of Re-Animator (aka: Re-Animator 2) is a wickedly amusing sequel. Brian Yuzna, the producer of Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator, pulls double duty here producing and directing, and follows his successful Society with another gory tale about madness and distorted flesh.
   The surviving protagonists of the original, crazy scientist Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) and his not-so-crazy assistant Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott), return to Miskatonic University where the loony West happily resumes his persistent inquiries into immortality. Yes, folks, he's the very scourge of death itself. This time, however, medical experimenter West isn't satisfied with resurrecting corpses from the hospital, he moves into the derelict mortuary next door

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Bride with white hair Review and Opinion

2019/05/30

The Bride With White Hair (1993)
Director: Ronny Yu

The Bride With White Hair 2 (1993)
Director: David Wu

reviews by Jeff Young

Made in 1993, this stunning fantasy romance takes us back to the generic style of A Chinese Ghost Story and Zu Warriors... where supernatural entities, like the glamorous wolf-girl who becomes the title character, lend their invincible fighting skills to combat gangs of murderous bandits bringing terror to humble villagers and cloistered monks alike.
   The romance is irredeemably coy, but the varied martial arts sequences are magnificent and elaborate, and visually witty. The flying heroine slices up her numerous foes with a whip, commending her abilities to the viewer by knowing exactly how many pieces the corpse will end up in. The chief villains though are a memorable pair of opposite sex Siamese twins, whom

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Brief history of science Review and Opinion

2019/05/29

A Brief History Of Science:
As Seen Through the Development of Scientific Instruments
Thomas Crump
Constable hardcover £20

review by Christopher Geary

In the preface, Thomas Crump notes the sad lack of useful scientifically-inclined history books, today, and he asks why, if authors still write general histories of other subjects has science been so neglected? The answer, he explains, is that the last 200 years has simply bought us too much science - hence the subtitle of this text, which narrows the focus of the author's surveying gaze, while not ignoring scientific progress in theoretical fields.
   Starting, appropriately, with fire, Crump still finds it necessary to skim whole eras of the ancient world, only spotlighting great discoveries, major breakthroughs and revolutionary yet primitive technologies, to advance rapidly through concepts like measurement, and the vital practice of writing - for keeping of accurate scientific records, to the

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Broken angels Review and Opinion

2019/05/28

Broken Angels
Richard Morgan
Gollancz hardcover £17.99

review by Debbie Moon

Takeshi Kovacs, disgraced former Envoy and reluctant mercenary in a dirty war on a backwater planet, is recovering from his wounds when a pilot offers him the opportunity of a lifetime. Many planets are scattered with the remains of 'Martian' civilisation - buildings, carvings, even some useable technology - but the artefact uncovered here is unlike anything mankind has ever seen. It's a gate leading into deep space - and it offers access to a complete, functional, mysteriously deserted 'Martian' starship.
   But a prize like that is going to attract predators. Soon, Kovacs is putting his Envoy mind-control training to good use, playing off sponsors against competitors, outside enemies against traitors in his team. As violence and greed rips fragile alliances apart, Kovacs begins to wonder whether his field commander is right - mankind just isn't ready for the stars...
   SF

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Broken sword by poul anderson Review and Opinion

2019/05/27

The Broken Sword
Poul Anderson
Gollancz paperback £6.99

review by Patrick Hudson

The Broken Sword is a tale of vengeance and doom in Dark Age Britain, encompassing the human and fairy realms, a great war between elves and trolls and the mysterious plans of the gods themselves.
   When Orm, a Viking raider, murders an English lord and his family and takes over their land, the surviving old mother swears revenge. She makes a deal with a mysterious stranger who helps her convince the elf-lord Imric to kidnap Orm's baby son and replace him with a changeling. While the human Skafloc grows up among the elves, Orm believes he is a Viking raider like his father, and raises the half-troll Valgard. From this point, the novel is the story of Skafloc and Valgard, their destiny and tragedies inextricably intertwined.
   Poul Anderson was one of the leading lights of the silver age of science fiction, the period between the end of WWII and the rise of the

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Brotherhood of the wolf Review and Opinion

2019/05/26

Brotherhood Of The Wolf (2001)
Director: Christophe Gans

review by Debbie Moon

Okay, Brotherhood Of The Wolf (aka: Le Pact des Loups) is a swashbuckling costume drama, martial arts, Hammer-style horror movie with satanists, superstitious peasants, a werewolf, a Native American warrior, and lots of cleavage. It's based on a true story (!) oh, and it's in French. Who said movies are all formulaic these days?
   It's the 18th Century, and the rationalist, forward-thinking Chevalier de Fronsac is despatched to the countryside to investigate a series of deaths. Over a hundred people have been slaughtered by the Beast of the Gevaudan - but what is this terrible, unseen monster? Someone around here must know. But whom? The hostile priest, the decadent aristos? The courtesan with her eye on our hero, or perhaps the delicate upper-class girl he has his eye on..? As the carnage mounts and superstition turns to hysteria, Chevalier and his sidekick, noble warrior

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Naked brunch, fourth hand Review and Opinion

2019/05/25

Naked Brunch
Sparkle Hayter
No Exit paperback £14.99

The Fourth Hand
John Irving
Black Swan paperback £6.99

reviews by Ellen Cheshire

At first glance it would seem that these two authors would have little to unite them in a joint review. Sparkle Hayter is a brash Canadian gal, whose five 'Robin Hudson' mystery novels are great fun and highly recommended but have hardly rocked the publishing world, and John Irving is a well-established figure in contemporary American literature with a list of successful novels and their screen adaptations to his credití his own recent adaptation of 1985's novel The Cider House Rules having garnered him an Oscar.
   Regardless of these dissimilarities both these books touch on similar themes despite being of very different genres: the werewolf novel and the fantastical. Both are set in contemporary America and focus on America's preoccupation with celebrity and the mee-ja (aka: media).
   Sparkle

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Battlestar galactica Review and Opinion

2019/05/24

BattleStar Galactica (2003)
Director: Michael Rymer

review by Steven Hampton

In the distant future, after 40 years of peace, open warfare between mankind and former robotic servants the Cylons breaks out again. Humanity's 12 colonies of Kobol are all destroyed in a surprise attack by upgraded Cylons, leaving only the BattleStar Galactica (a sort of aircraft carrier in space) to lead the survivors' ragtag fleet of FTL starships to safety...
   Ever since the fearsome Borg appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation, hostile robot aliens in screen drama took on a new aspect, and the threat of artificial intelligence could no longer be presented as a monolithic computer, as in The Forbin Project (1970). The Borg took their cue from the likes of Demon Seed (1977), and literally got under the skin of their human victims (injecting nanotech designed to assimilate them in the Borg's hive mind). This TV miniseries remake of

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Bruce sterling profile at Review and Opinion

2019/05/23

Genre Greats:

Bruce sterling profile at Review and Opinion

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Bourne supremacy Review and Opinion

2019/05/22

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
Director: Paul Greengrass

review by Debbie Moon

Jason Bourne has escaped his former life as a brainwashed CIA assassin, and is living quietly with girlfriend Marie. But the headaches and the nightmares won't leave him alone - and neither will the ruthless killer who keeps tracking him down. Meanwhile, a botched operation in Berlin leads senior CIA officer Pamela Landy to start digging into the abandoned Treadstone project, uncovering a conspiracy to frame Jason that dates back years and implicates her own staff. As the killer gets lethally close to Jason, he's forced to carry out his final threat on leaving Treadstone - if you ever come after me, I will turn around and come after you...

The Bourne Supremacy is a much more conventional spy thriller than its predecessor, the paranoid and passionate Bourne Identity. Early on, it even

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Bubba ho-tep Review and Opinion

2019/05/21

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
Director: Don Coscarelli

review by Eric Turowski

Elvis meets the mummy? How did I never hear of this film? Bruce Campbell stars as Elvis Presley, who had long ago traded places with an Elvis impersonator (who subsequently died), Sebastian Haff. Now, due to a tragic barbeque accident and an ironic pelvis fracture infection that sent Presley into a coma, Elvis now resides at a convalescent home in East Texas.
   After getting attacked by huge scarabs, Elvis teams up with ex-president John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis), who has been dyed black by a secret government agency to better hide the fact that he still lives. The part of Kennedy's brain that was lost in Dallas due to the assassination attempt, Kennedy says, has been replaced with sand. The former king and president discover that an Egyptian mummy now stalks the rest home, stealing the small souls of the dying residents by sucking the soul from the victim's arseholes.
   The mummy, stolen

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Buffy the vampire slayer, the book of fours Review and Opinion

2019/05/20

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Book Of Fours
Nancy Holder
Pocket paperback £5.99

review by Cristopher Hennessey-DeRose

Nancy Holder's latest foray into the world of Buffy The Vampire Slayer concerns extreme events the characters experienced during the TV show's third season. In the story, Sunnydale is being assaulted by extreme forces of nature such as flood, fire, and earthquake whilst four paranormal entities wielding strange axes geared to killing specific Slayers manifest themselves in town. They are the Wanderers, who have been ordered by a powerful sorceress who plans to feed the essences of the Slayers to the being she serves, the Gatherer who will then unleash unholy forces upon the world. It is up to vampire slayers Buffy and Faith, and their friends, to find a way to stop this from coming to pass.
   It is necessary for the Slayers to call upon the spirits of two dead Slayers, Kendra

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Buffy the vampire slayer Review and Opinion

2019/05/19

Life, the Buffyverse, and Everything

Buffy the vampire slayer Review and Opinion

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Cabin fever Review and Opinion

2019/05/18

Cabin Fever (2002)
Director: Eli Roth

review by Eric Turowski

I was very excited to see this film, as the hype promised a gore-filled return to horror flicks of the 1970s and 1980s, a la George Romero, Sam Raimi, Wes Craven, et al. Five college students venture into a secluded woodland cabin to party. Sounds familiar, already, right?
   Bert (James DeBello) gets drunk and goes out shooting squirrels. Recklessly, he plugs a transient guy wandering in the woods. He says nothing of it, but that night the transient returns to steal the students' truck. The kids bludgeon, stab, and set the thief on fire. Unfortunately, an extremely virulent flesh-eating virus has infected the transient, and he ends up in the local water supply. Water is apparently the vector for this disease. Karen (Jordan Ladd) is the first to drink the tainted brew (couldn't she see all those weird chunks in it?). She is soon quarantined in a shed behind the cabin, and her face rots off.
   

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Cantata-140 Review and Opinion

2019/05/17

Cantata-140
Philip K. Dick
Gollancz paperback £6.99

review by Mike Philbin

Looking over the list of Dick novels on the inside cover, I see that Cantata-140 was written the year of my birth, 1966. I realise also that I have actually read (and enjoyed) a lot of this prolific author's output - but I am always left with a slightly sour taste in my mouth. I suspected it was the strange names Dick insists on using for his main characters that gives the whole book a surreal, otherworldly quality, a pseudo-culture-shock if you will...
   But tonight I discovered the true cause of this distaste - dialogue.
   Remember that Stanley Kubrick film about the rebellious ape, 2001? Well, reading Cantata-140, I can hear that slightly metallic voice of HAL 9000 carved through every creaking line of Dick dialogue, "I don't think you want to do that, Dave..." it says in comforting but naive tones. The dialogue in Dick books reads like it would if multiple

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Cape wrath by paul finch Review and Opinion

2019/05/16

Cape Wrath
Paul Finch
Telos paperback £8

review by Paul Higson

Prior to the turning of his attentions to feature-length fiction Paul Finch had careers in real policing and in the phoney constabulary, latterly as a regular contributor of scripts to television's The Bill, and the depiction of violence in this his debut novella, does nothing further to reassure me as to the methodology and mindset of the modern bobby. The television past leads the reader into a false expectation of this simple tale simply told, by trick of that pet hate of a chapter opening, that which is heavy on dialogue and banter, many people going as they do by the outset of a novel, Finch plays us like the suckers we are. Interaction and dull first names (David, Barry, Linda, Craig) bode badly for the reader overly expectant and hopeful as ever for something life-altering in their buy. It doesn't matter that the dialogue, drawing

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Better Poker Buddies For ABC's Castle Review and Opinion

2019/05/15

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Cats &, dogs Review and Opinion

2019/05/14

Cats & Dogs (2001)
Director: Lawrence Gutterman

review by Emma French

Funny and diverting, Cats & Dogs never quite lives up to the excellence of its high concept. Two species secretly battling for world supremacy via an ultra-sophisticated underground espionage network is a terrific pitch, and though there is plenty done with it, flaws in both the execution and the animation detract from its achievement. Very much a film of two halves, the first half's somewhat plodding exposition, over-emphasis on the dull human characters and moments of cloying 'a boy and his dog' sentimentality feels lazy and underwritten. Fortunately the closing scenes' enhanced pace, commandeering of screen time by the real stars, the animals, and laugh out loud comic moments are surprisingly redemptive, and ensure that the film ends on a high note.
   The human subplot provides 'the science part' of the story, as the obsessive research of Professor Brody (Jeff Goldblum) into

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The cell Review and Opinion

2019/05/13

The Cell (2000)
Director: Tarsem Singh

review by Jeff Young

Serial killer Carl Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio) was raised and still lives in a world totally without love of any kind. We enter his subconscious via the familiar SF devices of virtual reality and brain-reading machinery to discover there's a timid young boy lost in the torture chambers and hellish halls of his twisted psyche. Jennifer Lopez plays the psychic scientist with a talent for reaching troubled personalities, who descends into Stargher's explicitly self-deifying scenarios on a mission to learn the whereabouts of his latest imprisoned, endangered captive - necessary because doll-maker Stargher (who is so detached from humanity he doesn't even want to be present when his victims die) has suffered a schizoid blackout. Can she beat the clock? Is there a way to overcome the ritualistic obsessions of the villain's sick mind?
   Debutant director Tarsem Singh's superbly confident artistic vision

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Charlie's angels 2 Review and Opinion

2019/05/12

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003)
Director: McG

review by Rob Marshall

A rogue agent is out to steal a pair of rings (a token Tolkien mcguffin), which provide the key to a secret Federal database of new identities created under the US witness protection programme. A top government official (well, Robert Forster on a big TV screen, at least) hires the lovely ladies of Charles Townsend's detective parlour - to find said rings and return them to the Department of Justice. This mission involves our heroines in chasing villains, catching or killing the mastermind behind a plot to auction classified info to underworld villains, fighting muscle-bound thugs, and undercover work as surfers, scientists, scramblers, strippers, and schoolgirls. Thankfully, Natalie, Dylan and Alex have unlimited wardrobe allowances, and no office dress code to worry about, so they can change their clothes every five minutes...
    So here we go again with Charlie's Angels 2

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Changing planes by ursula le guin Review and Opinion

2019/05/11

Changing Planes
Ursula Le Guin
Gollancz hardcover £8.99

review by Peter Schilling

So there you are, stuck at the airport. Your flight is delayed, the arrivals and departures boards read like Klingon to your migraine blurred eyesight, the incomprehensibly accented reverb-static PA system assaults your ears, the available fast-food simply is not fit to puke over, and now you're crushed by air passenger lounge boredom and wracked with pre-flight anxieties, while other people's unruly kids are screaming all around you.
   "Stop the world, I want to get off," you grumble, miserably.
   Okay, escapism fan - here's how...
   Ursula Le Guin's latest collection is a volume of cosily experimental writing, an adroitly constructed format that's part alternative worlds' handbook, part speculative xeno-biology reportage, part otherworldly travel journal, part sociological thought experiment, and wholly enjoyable

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Charmed Review and Opinion

2019/05/10

Charmed (1999)
created by Constance M. Burge

review by Phil Emery

Once upon a time there were three little girls... Aaron Spelling's latest TV offering, Charmed, stirs up yet again the urge to go all structuralist and point out the female trinities that thread through almost all Spelling's concepts. (Even The Love Boat, with its three couples episode formula - hence three females again.) Let's see, it fits Beverley Hills 90210, Dynasty at a push (well, structuralism was never above the occasional shoehorning nudge). Sunset Beach (TV's only late lamented truly post-modern soap) even had a two-tier trinity with an older and younger trio of female protagonists. And of course the template most obviously fits Charlie's Angels.
   So here we go again, Mr Spelling - once upon a time there were three little witches. Prue, Piper and Phoebe Palliwell - sorry, Halliwell - discover they come from a family with a history of witchcraft

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Chasm city by alastair reynolds Review and Opinion

2019/05/09

Chasm City
Alastair Reynolds
Gollancz paperback £6.99

review by Patrick Hudson

Tanner Mirabel is a mercenary from the war-torn planet of Sky's Edge on a mission of vengeance to make up for the death of the employer he failed. He follows aristocrat Argent Revich to Yellow Stone, a desolate planet with a single, decadent city that clings to the walls of a geothermal cavern - the 'Chasm City' of the title. Chasm City has been devastated by the melding plague that afflicted the captain of the star ship 'Nostalgia for Infinity' (in Reynolds' previous novel Revelation Space), and here, it has wrought havoc with the myriad tiny machines that make life in the ultra hi-tech Chasm City possible, from the microscopic implants and nano-machines in the people's blood to the buildings and infrastructure.
   Tanner arrives on Yellow Stone from Sky's Edge, a journey that takes 17 years in reefer sleep as there

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Children of the corn Review and Opinion

2019/05/08

Children Of The Corn (1984)
Director: Fritz Kiersch

review by Jeff Young

As with Wes Craven's earnest Deadly Blessing (1981), this horror thriller - based on a short story by Stephen King - features murder and terrorism by a maniacal religious sect, with elemental supernatural mayhem in a rural setting. Unlike that earlier film, this one steals from The Exorcist and The Omen series by casting its youngest actors as the villains.
   "There's something very strange about this town." Isaac (John Franklin) is the little prophet from hell who commands the resentful adolescents of god-fearing Gatlin, Nebraska to slaughter their parents. Three years on, a doctor named Burt and his girlfriend Vicky (Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) drive into the now deserted small town, and are attacked in pagan style rituals by the bad kids that worship 'He Who Walks Behind The Rows'. Most disagreeable among these teenage killers is red-haired Malachai (Courtney

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Childhood's end Review and Opinion

2019/05/07

Childhood's End
Arthur C. Clarke
Gollancz hardcover £14.99

review by Tony Lee

First published in 1953, this is rated by many as Clarke's finest work, and one of the very best SF novels ever. It certainly does explore many eternally popular genre themes - from humanity's first contact with extraterrestrials, to directed evolution, and the time-dilation effect in interstellar travel, while marking one of this - usually strictly rational - author's most intriguing connections with the paranormal, and psychic powers.
   The aliens arrive in giant ships that fill the skies over major cities of the world - as Clarke notes in his foreword, written in 1989, this scene was visualised in the TV series V (and, of course, more recently in the overblown Independence Day). Although these Overlords remain hidden, they quietly bring about a utopian age for mankind. Then, following half a century of influence and observation of human affairs, the aliens reveal

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Children of dune Review and Opinion

2019/05/06

Frank Herbert's Children Of Dune (2003)
Director: Greg Yaitanes

review by Michael Lohr

The Sci-Fi Channel got something right. With all the recent controversy and hub-bub over the Battlestar Galactica miniseries, people may forget that Children Of Dune was also released this year. This sequel to Frank Herbert's Dune, is a gripping, conspiracy-filled, Machiavellian affair. Both apocalyptic and exhilarating, it far outclassed the new Battlestar Galactica series that left viewers with a feeling non-satisfaction. No such emptiness or dangling plotlines with Children Of Dune. Furthermore, Children of Dune perfectly transfers from the Herbert novel Dune Messiah onto the small screen. Directorial duties fell into the capable hands of Greg Yaitanes, a 31-year-old TV director and self-professed Dune neophyte. This episodic film would have done well with a widescreen

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Chimera Review and Opinion

2019/05/05

Chimera (1991)
Director: Lawrence Gordon Clark

review by Tony LeeSpoiler alert!While working in a busy NHS hospital, nurse Tracy Pickford gets a better job in a private fertility clinic. Travelling up from London to North Yorkshire, she's leaving behind boyfriend Peter Carson, a journalist heavily into film trivia (an article on Douglas Fairbanks' fencing tutor anyone?). He's not too happy about Tracy's move, especially as the first he hears about it is when he's disturbed by the noise of her going-away party. From the ensuing row, we learn that their relationship was not working - but their final parting isn't really bitter and they promise to keep in touch.
   The Jenner Clinic is out in the country, very quiet and far away from the bustle of a city casualty department. All seems normal, but for the off-limits section where they keep test animals, and the unchallenging nightshift Tracy is assigned to

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Chronicle Review and Opinion

2019/05/04

The Chronicle (2001-2)
Created by Silvio Horta

review by Michael Lohr

The Sci-Fi Channel's original series, The Chronicle (aka: News From The Edge), was a promising addition to their line-up with a talented cast, creative scripts and a unique spin on the tabloid world. Given the proper time to develop it might have proved to be solid show for the channel.
   The Chronicle played to the cutting edge and bizarre. The show began when a scandal involving a Pulitzer Prize winning story written by journalism graduate Tucker Burns (Chad Willett), gets him fired from his prestigious job and ruins his reputation. The only journalism job he can find is at the only paper that will have him, The World Chronicle, a supermarket tabloid that prints stories about alien abductions, Elvis sightings, supernatural being and such. The World Chronicle had a rather odd staff too, a psychic receptionist who likes to make crank calls to Miss Cleo, Sal the Pig Boy (

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Chronicles of riddick Review and Opinion

2019/05/03

The Chronicles Of Riddick (2004)
Writer and director: David Twohy

review by Amy Harlib

When emerging genre director/scripter David Twohy, maker of The Arrival (1996) and Below (2001), unleashed his SF-horror film Pitch Black, the modestly-budgeted, taut, science fiction tale of spaceship-wrecked passengers on an isolated planet depending on antihero, convicted felon Riddick (Vin Diesel) for survival against indigenous, ferocious, carnivorous, nocturnal creatures, became a surprise hit and cult sensation. Now, in 2004, Twohy and star Vin Diesel pooled resources to create the first of what will hopefully become a trilogy of sequels, and with major studio backing, produced The Chronicles Of Riddick.

When Pitch Black concluded, only three survivors managed to repair their vessel and escape from the deadly darkness of the monster-infested planet: Riddick, a wise, Moslem

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Church Review and Opinion

2019/05/02

The Church (1988)
Director: Michele Soavi

review by Octavio Ramos Jr

Having worked as an actor with the likes of Lucio Fulci (Gates Of Hell) and as a second-assistant then first-assistant director with Dario Argento (Tenebrae as the former, Creepers as the latter), Milan-born Michele Soavi made his directorial début on the documentary Dario Argento's World of Horror. In 1987, Soavi released his first full-length effort, Stagefright, which could be seen as an alternate rendering of Argento's Opera (aka: Terror At The Opera).
   Soavi's second feature had its beginnings with Lamberto Bava (son of the great Mario Bava, and a fine filmmaker in his own right), who had developed a story treatment and then lost interest. Bava junior had directed Demons (original title, Demoni) and Demons 2 (aka: Demoni 2: L'Incubo Ritorna), with Argento taking a writing credit for the first film and a producer credit for the

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City hunter Review and Opinion

2019/05/01

City Hunter (1992)
Director: Wong Jing

review by Steven Hampton

Hired to find a runaway heiress (Goto Kumiko, a former Miss Japan beauty) for a wealthy tabloid newspaper owner, private eye Ryu (Jackie Chan) traces the girl to a pleasure cruise ship, and is forced to stowaway in order to keep track of her...
   City Hunter is based on a popular manga. It deftly parodies the superhero and detective genres with a clowning hero involved in slapstick cartoon action with bells and whistles, glamorous daydreams in primary colours, and screwball romantic comedy sequences in Chan's inimitably camp Hong Kong style. There's skateboarding through traffic, an impromptu musical number in the seagoing dance club, and fantasy kung fu duels that cleverly mimic the antics of videogame characters. A gang of villains (led by Australian martial artist Richard Norton) hijack the ship, planning to rob millionaire passengers. Among the heroes is a professional gambler who

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Klingon cladogenesis Review and Opinion

2019/04/30

Making Sense of Wonder

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