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Showing posts from October, 2017

Tanis Through The Looking Glass [Podcast review: Tanis]

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I've worked my way through series one of Tanis, a podcast from the producers of Rabbits. The presenter, Nick Silver, is on the trail of a legend called Tanis. He's attracted to the mystery surrounding Tanis - he doesn't know what Tanis is, it could be a person, a place, an idea, a god, a magical force of some kind. He's assisted by fellow producers and interns, a hacker friend (sorry, Information Specialist) and various other characters who come forward during the investigation.

Although fictional, Nick's investigation involves many real-life characters, events, mysteries and legends. It's a meandering journey that begins with real-life British magician and cult leader Alastair Crowleigh and his American ally, rocket scientist and part-time alchemist Jack Parsons, and continues backwards and forwards through ancient and modern history, taking in numbers stations, famous historical serial killers, and the fairytales of Baba Yaga. Meanwhile a network of corporatio…

How Deep The Rabbit Hole Goes [Podcast review: Rabbits]

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Rabbits is a podcast presented by journalist Carly Parker, who is looking into the disappearance of her friend Yumiko. The trail leads Carly into contact with players of a mysterious and sinister Alternate Reality Game believed to date back to ancient times, and to a series of clues related to contradictions about her own past. What is Rabbits? Who are the Men in Grey? How many steps are there to the Lighthouse? And what is a Welshman's tiara?

Why tell this story as a podcast? Serial established the investigative format - enthusiastic, gutsy, female journalist recording her interviews and findings in a search for the truth, and this format has become popular as a result. In the case of Serial the format allowed the investigator to share her findings with her listeners and recruit them to help her solve a (real life) mystery. However for a sci-fi or fantasy investigative story it's the perfect format, a logical follow-on from The X-Files and a way of developing a slow-burn plot …

Take On Me [Review: Victoria]

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This German film tells the story of a few hours in the life of a young Spanish woman, Victoria (Laia Costa) , living in Berlin. While out clubbing she befriends a young man Sonne (Frederick Lau) and his dodgy Berliner friends, and is drawn into a robbery that doesn't go entirely to plan.

I'm trying hard to review this film without focussing too much on its most unusual feature. Victoria is a fascinating character - smart, brave, open-minded and generally bigger inside than out. Laia Costa is amazing to watch, and when you take into account how the film was made, this is an extraordinary performance. She appears happy-go-lucky, and in a way she is, but this persona is her escape from a background that turns out to be extremely sad, and by the end of the film you've seen her make some extraordinary choices, and go through an entire lifetime of emotion and experience. Similarly her new German friends appear to be happy car-stealing rascals but they also have a past, and perhap…

Shine On [Review: Crazy Diamond]

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Crazy Diamond, the fourth Electric Dream, takes us to a near-future of rising sea-levels, eco-homes perched on precarious, crumbling cliffs, and Jacks and Jills - synthetic humans grown from human and pig DNA and implanted with a QC - a quantum consciousness. Ed (Steve Buscemi) works in a facility that makes the QCs, but dreams of leaving his limited life behind and sailing away on a voyage of discovery, taking his wife Sally with him. He meets a Jill (Sidse Babett) who has a failing QC and a plan for something that could change both their lives, but is quite illegal.

Ed is the archetype PKD everyman - didn't I tell you to get used to this? - living day to day, holding down a job, dreaming of a voyage into the unknown but only half-believing that it's possible. He's capable of overlooking small illegalities such as the seeds home-grown by Sally (Julia Davis), but larger crimes as proposed by the Jill throw him into conflict between his dreams and his wish to do the right th…

The First Holographic Wives' Club [Addendum: Blade Runner 2049]

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Some more thoughts about Blade Runner 2049: in particular what's happened to all the women in 2049? While I loved many aspects of this film, it does appear to play fast and loose with the Bechdel Test, with no qualifying conversations between female characters, and a lot of submissive stereotypes in a world where the major corporations still appear to be run by men.

Warning: spoilers follow.

Sylvia Hoeks plays Luv, a high-end replicant who is a detective, hunter and fighter with enhanced strength and intelligence and a license to kill - who is chief exec Wallace's personal assistant. Ana de Armas plays Joi, K's holographic wife, a mass-produced consumer product, perhaps a future Alexa. Both are stunningly beautiful as their characters - that's a fact not a judgement - while also being efficient at their roles, in very different ways. This is clearly a world where women are seen as pretty things to look at while they work. Other female characters include several prostitut…

Do Androids Cry Over Electric Sheep [Review: Blade Runner 2049]

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What stands out about the world of Blade Runner 2049? Firstly that it's really, really FUBAR. The pollution smog is just the start of it - Los Angeles an expanded city surrounded by favelas and then giant dykes keeping out the rising sea level, another famous American city a radioactive wasteland, Wall-E style refuse dumps, children extracting metals from old circuitry in giant orphanages, the human population fed by millions of acres of protein-maggot farms. The Off World Colonies are a distant dream for a lucky few. And it doesn't appear to be a great time for women generally - more on that story later.

Secondly, give Gosling's character a helmet and this would be Judge Dredd. The LA setting is completely Mega City One (the cheap-n-cheerful plastic version from the 2000AD comics, not the boring Stallone movie version). Gosling might not have Dredd's stature but he's the same no-nonsense dispenser of justice, at least when it comes to running down old Nexus 8 repli…

The Frisco Kid 2049

After Indiana Jones, Star Wars and BladeRunner, which Harrison Ford movie really, really needs a sequel starring Harrison Ford? — Sci-Fi Gene (@scifigene) October 11, 2017

What's The Frequency, Kenneth? [Podcast Review: The Message]

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In this sci-fi podcast, linguist and podcaster Nicki Tomalin blags her way into joining a team of cryptographers as working on a recording that just might be the first ever received communication from an extraterrestrial source.

The Message is short and action-packed, with just eight episodes all under 15 minutes. The plot goes nuclear fast, with new developments, twists and levels of threat in each episode. I initially thought too much was given away in the second episode but I was wrong - there was plenty more material to come.

There's never a point where The Message could be confused with reality - it's too intense and melodramatic, but as a radio play it works well, with some decent writing - the cryptographers on the team have well thought out characters and backstories, the team dynamics are also interesting including the odd relationship between the two team leaders, and the voice acting is consistently good. The Macguffin at the heart of this story is only partly believ…

Last Train To Transcentral [Review: The Commuter]

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This review may contain some spoilers: please ensure your swibbles are fully functional.

The third Electric Dream is a slice of coffee-and-walnut flavoured insanity served with hot chocolate and marshmallows. Ed (Timothy Spall) is a station manager living and working in drab and dreary Woking. An encounter with a passenger (Tuppence Middleton) trying to buy a ticket to a station that doesn't exist leads Ed on a journey to a town unlike any other. Heaven? A quantum leap into an alternate reality, or back in time? An escapist fantasy?

I am enjoying the strong sense of location in these adaptations - not least the fact that of the first three, two have been set in the UK. Superficially Electric Dreams is an anthology of stand-alone stories. However three episodes in I'm starting to think about the connections and trends in this series.

Thoughts so far: There's a trend of increasing dreams and visions. The Hood Maker has Ross's vision of the river, The Impossible Planet has t…