July 6, 2015
The film is a mockumentary following the small town heat of a popular beauty pageant. We follow the efforts of 17 year-old Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst), a tap dancer who works after school as a mortuary beautician and who has dreams of becoming America's next Diane Sawyer. In her way is Becky Leeman (Denise Richards), the too-perfect daughter of the richest man in town, whose mother Gladys (Kirstie Alley) is also in charge of running the pageant. The stakes are, let's be fair, extremely low - it's a beauty pageant - but they're treated by all involved as if they're ridiculous high, so much so that contestants start getting murdered to take them out of contention.
Captain Sheridan is missing, presumed dead, after travelling to Z'ha'dum and destroying the Shadows' largest city with two nuclear bombs. Commander Garibaldi is also missing, sending G'Kar on a mission to find him. With the Shadows temporarily in retreat, the assembled civilizations of the galaxy are abandoning Babylon 5 to shore up their own defences back home. Londo Mollari commences his new position in the court of the Centauri Emperor Cartagia - only to discover the situation is far worse than he could possibly have imagined.
The Season 3 finale of Babylon 5 threw a lot of game pieces up into the air. "The Hour of the Wolf" is, in effect, about that terrifying moment of suspension before they all fall crashing back onto the board. We don't learn what happened to Garibaldi. We don't learn what happened to Sheridan - although he does appear to be alive. The Shadow War appears to be momentarily on hold, with every party taking the chance to just breathe deeply and wait for the next round.
July 5, 2015
18 Days basically adapts the Mahabharata, re-imagining some of the details more in the vein of an epic Hollywood blockbuster. It's difficult to gauge precisely how successful it will be at that goal from the first issue, which essentially acts as a bit of a prologue: big panels, multiple splash pages, and lofty narration all combining to build interest but not really tell much of a story. Jeevan J. Kang's artwork is bold and simply drawn, allowing for the colours to really stand out. It's a rather pretty book, all things considered. I just wish there was a little more story.
It's also a remarkably cheap book. Graphic India are doing their best to entice new readers by pricing this issue at just US$1.00. It's a good ploy, and certainly got me sampling the issue. Will I be back for another issue in a month's time? To be honest I haven't yet made up my mind. It's an admirable thing they're trying to do, I'm just entirely convinced it's good enough to warrant buying it every month. One to keep an eye on, I suspect, just in case. (2/5)
Under the cut: reviews of Broken World, He-Man: The Eternity War, The Wicked + the Divine and The Woods.
July 4, 2015
The film focuses on a group of friends. Two decades ago they were a close-knit group of university students. Now they all have their separate lives and families, and by coming together in an isolated rural cottage old wounds and conflicts rapidly rise to the surface. One night there's a spectacular flash in the sky, and all power is cut. The telephone line is dead, their cars won't start, and their only option is to walk to the nearest town for help. On the way they begin to see ominous signs that something has gone terribly wrong: abandoned houses, crashed cars, and packs of hungry dogs running through empty camp sites. It is as if the entire human race has vanished, leaving only these friends alone in the world.
Ten years after their mission of exploration commenced, the crew of the Enterprise are on their way back to Earth for the signing of the Federation Charter - except they're not. We're actually in the late 24th century, where Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) struggles through a personal crisis by visiting holographic reproductions of the original 22nd century Enterprise using the USS Enterprise's holodeck.
This is indeed the final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. It's also the final episode of any Star Trek TV series to date. Between 1987 and 2005 Paramount produced 622 separate episodes across four separate series. Over-exposure and a lack of any real changes or shake-ups in the final few years pretty much guaranteed that a mainstream audience effectively abandoned the franchise. Enterprise's planned seven-year run was cut short at the four-year mark, and audiences didn't get any new Star Trek until J.J. Abrams rebooted it with an all-new film in 2009.
July 3, 2015
This is a Superman for the common citizen again. He's not saving the planet from aliens in a blue and red caped battle-suit. He's in jeans and a t-shirt, doing is best with vastly reduced powers to stop the police from crashing into a peaceful protest and send half of his neighbours to the hospital. The story feels more relevant and real as a result. The stakes feel as if they matter more. The nobility of Clark Kent - his simple honour and good nature, his resolute defiance in the face of injustice - is front and centre and fully believable.
I know this is only a temporary arc. I know that within a few months the status quo will inevitably return. For now, however, this feels like a Superman comic that matters again. (5/5)
DC Comics. Written by Greg Pak. Art by Aaron Kuder. Colours by Tomeu Moray and Hi-Fi Design.
Under the cut: reviews of Darth Vader, Detective Comics, The Omega Men and Ultimate End.
July 2, 2015
It's all a charming nonsense, but then charming nonsense is often the raison d'etre of the Godzilla movies. This was the 18th film in the series, and the third in the Heisei period following 1984's The Return of Godzilla and 1989's excellent Godzilla vs Biollante. After Biollante under-performed, the decision was made to abandon new giant monsters (or "kaiju") in favour of old favourites. As a result King Ghidorah, last seen in 1972's Godzilla vs Gigan, makes his return. The character was originally an alien, but for this film he is a mutant created by nuclear radiation on three genetically engineered pets from the 23rd century.
Trip, T'Pol and their cloned infant daughter are the prisoners of the Terra Prime terrorist group. A super-weapon is aimed at Starfleet Command from Paxton's Mars base, and Captain Archer can't get close without risking the Enterprise's destruction. The clock is ticking down on Paxton's demand: that all non-humans evacuate the planet Earth for good.
There's a general trend in Star Trek for the second half of a two-part story to be a bit of a letdown. The franchise has always been great at setting up critical situations and building to sensational cliffhangers, but never quite as effective at stepping down from those cliffhangers and providing sensible, entertaining conclusions. This is the final second-part episode of any Star Trek series, so it's actually a relief to see them pull off a pretty outstanding finale. It's not perfect, and has one or two very silly elements that get in its way, but all up it's a really solid hour of television.