Sunday, 28 May 2017

A Message for a Young Game Writer

Yesterday I was once again fortunate enough to be present at the Swansea Comics and Gaming Convention. It was a lovely, friendly event, and Simon, Adam and Ricky ran a supportive, active and helpful team. Well done, guys. As I had last year, I gave a panel (inasmuch as it counts as a panel when you're the only one doing it) about first principles of rpg design. It was well attended and full of people who wanted to engage and participate. Afterwards, I got to have a lot of conversations with people who had really exciting ideas and got to sell a bunch of books too, which was nice.

Some time afterwards, though, as the event wound down, a young man approached me and handed me a note. He explained that his friend was at my panel and had wanted to ask some questions, but lacked the confidence to ask me face to face, and he asked me if I would write some answers for his friend. It was a lovely note and the questions were thoughtful, so I briefly dashed off a reply, but of course you never answer the way you want to, and some of the questions my anonymous audience member asked deserved better, fuller answers. I was moved by the note I received, and if you read on, you might understand why.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Like a Rollercoaster, Not in a Good Way

Alien: Covenant (2017)

I had actually been quite looking forward to seeing this movie, although the best things I had heard about it were that it's "better than Prometheus" (a low bar) and that its relationship to Alien was akin to the relation of The Force Awakens to Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, in that it was a remix. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

It was one of the most miserable experiences I've had in a cinema for a while.

Spoilers and swears follow.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Contractual Obligation #1: King Arthur (2017)

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Damn right I had a VIP seat.

My (surprisingly still) friend KP sent me the money to see King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, because he thought I might have something to say about it. And I do. So this is my first Contractual Obligation post, where I have been gifted with the means to see a bad movie in the hopes that I will write about it. If you want to do the same, feel free, which is cheeky as hell, but I sat through this film so I get to say that.

This review contains swears and copious spoilers, but I wouldn't worry about them if I were you, because it's not like you're going to see it, right.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Written in Water #22: The Miracle of the Sparrows


All I have to show you is this bird
I made with fingers, spit and clay.
I breathed on it like Jesus had, I heard,
To make it come alive and fly away.


At the end of the Gospel of John, the evangelist writes,
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
John 21:25
I've always liked that as an ending. It feels like a recognition of the shortcomings of the story's form and an assertion of validity in a humble, eloquent way. There are other versions of Christ's story, the evangelist is saying, and they are no more or less valid than this one.

Friday, 19 May 2017

I Blame Society #4: The Dark Crystal (1982)

I was only ever taken to see two films by my mum as a kid, both at the Drake Cinema's Summer Club, where every Wednesday morning in the school hols they'd show recent films and charge 50p for kids. And one time it was Return of the Jedi, which for me as a kid of seven was the Undisputed! Highlight! of My Summer, Possibly My Life to Date. But while I don't rate Star Wars all that highly these days, the other film was The Dark Crystal and that had a lasting effect.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

We Don't Go Back #48: Sauna (AKA Evil Rising) (2008)

The cheapest film I've bought for a long time, this, for the princely sum of ten pence sterling on eBay. AJ Annila's Finnish historical horror Sauna deserved a whole lot better than being saddled with a UK title that has nothing to do with its content (Evil Rising), and a presentation so lazy that they haven't even bothered to replace the title cards, just literally cutting it off the front of the film without a replacement, so the film as it stands doesn't even have a name at all (which is why my usual practice of putting the title at the front of the post failed this time). The subtitles weren't checked by a first language English speaker.

Sauna deserves better.

Friday, 12 May 2017

We Do, In Fact, Go Back (in praise of Folk Horror Revival)

Today I received early copies of Wyrd Harvest Press's two new books: North, by Phil Breach and Tim Turnbull; and This Game of Strangers, by Bob Beagrie and Jane Burn. I have only really had the chance to dip in, so this isn't a review, but both collections, the former a mixture of poetry and prose, the latter poetry, have a powerful sense of place and time.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

I Blame Society #3: Excalibur (1981)

Last week, I was, for the very first time, paid to write a film review. I was sent the price of a cinema ticket to see Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and write about it.

I'm apprehensive.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

We Don't Go Back – Guest Post: The Borderlands (2013)

Another guest post today, this time from friend and critical sparring partner Jon Dear. Jon is still among the most knowledgeable people I know on the subject of TV and film, and has recently started up his own blog, Views From a Hill, where he's been rewatching Twin Peaks and offering illuminating insight into a bunch of old TV shows I haven't even heard of, let alone seen. Over to Jon.

This review will spoiler the hell out of the film. So if you’ve yet to see it and you want to, and have any intention of enjoying it, please watch the film before reading this review. I’ll wait...

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

I Blame Society #2: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1988)

(This is part of I Blame Society, a short series where I cast a critical eye over things I never stopped loving.)

Easily the most mainstream of the films I've looked at in the last six months or so, this. All the others have been in some way odd, or off kilter, which I suppose makes this an outlier, a feel-good comedy about two dumb guys who just need to get their high school diplomas.