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I've been interested in Science-Fiction since I was at primary school. The first book I remember reading was Kemlo and the Space Lanes, written in 1955. I just bought Kemlo and the Martian Ghosts in an Oxfam Charity shop in Putney.
I also found a site BRITISH 1950s SERIES, part of the Collecting Books and Magazines web site based in Australia, which not only has listings of all the Kemlo books, but also the Flame series, written by my old primary headmaster, Eric Leyland. He helped instill in me, my current love of books.
From these beginnings, I read about five books a week until I was about twenty-five, devouring any science-fiction I could get my hands on. I also read other non-SF series such as Arthur Ransome's Swallows & Amazons and Frank Richards' Billy Bunter. I wrote a Billy Bunter story in my primary school and was accused of plagiarism! Shame on you, Miss Gerrard! I've slowed down on my reading a little since then, but only because I don't get the time.top
In the days when you had to turn your television on five minutes before the beginning of the programme you wanted to see, Doctor Who was my favourite. In grainy black and white, I was fascinated and frightened by it in equal measure. I have been impressed by its return - the old shows did look very dated but this series was the measure of anything else currently being shown, and it was essential viewing. Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper made a good team. I look forward to the Christmas special and the next series with the new Doctor.
I also watched Fireball XL5 and Stingray, but the best 'puppeteer' series by a long way was the series that started "five, four, three, two, one". Yes of course, Thunderbirds were Go! Still entertaining children of all ages, the strings, wobbly sets and appalling special effects are part of its charm.
The Prisoner was cult viewing in my school (along with The Magic Roundabout). It's hard to believe there were only seventeen episodes. I always thought it was a shame the ending was so enigmatic - but a sensible, logical ending wouldn't have fitted the eclectic, anarchic feel of the series.
The X-Files were also an innovative series, but I found it palled in the end. The story didn't move along enough for my liking and I found the conspiracy stuff overlong and tedious (but maybe that what they wanted me to think).
The series that I found most interesting was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Humorous, fun and with a story and characters you can relate to, not to mention the superb musical scoring (did I mention I like music?). I started by dipping into various series, but then worked my way through. I watched series one on VCR and series two through four on DVD. I watched series five through seven on SKY and watched the last ever episode on 12th June 2004. Recommended sites are: www.buffyworld.com and www.buffyguide.com.top
My top 10 eclectic film recommendations would include (in no particular order):
I'm also interested in SF films. I still remember going to see 2001: A Space Odyssey with my father (the year before he died) in May 1968 when it first opened at the Casino Cinerama in Leicester Square. It was shot in Super Panavision 70 and projected on a deeply curved "louvred" screen which wrapped the image around us. It had an aspect ratio of 2.59:1 and the sound was 6 channel. The sense of awe as the spaceship slowly curved around us was unforgettable. Imagine the shot below wrapped around you and hum 'The Blue Danube'!
We've had a bumper crop of good films over the last year or so, whether you like computer animation (Toy Story 1 & 2, Antz, A Bug's Life, Shrek, Shrek 2, Shrek the Third and Monsters Inc. to name a few), other animation (Chicken Run, James and the Giant Peach and The Nightmare before Christmas), or of course live action. Recent favourites have included Groundhog Day, The Fifth Element, Men in Black, all the Harry Potter films, and of course, the Lord of the Rings films, which were superb, even though characterisation was not the original author's strong point.
I enjoyed Spider-Man. It was true to the comic-strip, with state of the art graphics. After being bitten by a radioactive spider, nerdy high school student Peter Parker's body chemistry is changed so he can scale walls and ceilings, with a "spider-sense" that warns him of danger.
I still get annoyed that he's such a loser in love though - I certainly wouldn't jilt Mary Jane! I thought Spider-Man 2 was even better, though eclipsed by his dark persona in Spider-Man 3.
I thought Minority Report was very good. I hated the eye transplant though as I'm a bit squeamish. I also had to look away during similar bits in Clockwork Orange and The Terminator! It had me on the edge of the seat (when I wasn't hiding behind it), but it took itself a bit too seriously. I'm more of a fan of light-hearted films like Groundhog Day or Men in Black ... which leads me to Men in Black 2, which I really enjoyed.
The film that's made the biggest impression on me recently was Run Lola Run. I have wanted to see it for a while, but if I'd realised how good it was I'd have made more of an effort. It's brilliant with a stonking sound track! It's out on DVD and I bought it. See it! 88%.
Casino Royale: I've not missed a Bond film yet! Much grittier than Die another Day, I quite enjoyed this but would have liked a little more escapism. OK, perhaps I'll never be satisfied... Die another Day was spectacular, but I must admit to being a little disappointed. It sounds stupid to say that a Bond film was far-fetched - that goes with the territory - but some of the set-pieces were completely over the top. The title song was dire, but in spite of all that, I still bought it! I'm still reading James Bond: The Legacy by John Cook and Bruce Scivally, and I recommend it. 69%.
I saw X-Men 3. A great finish to the series? I enjoyed this one, and bought it on DVD.
I enjoyed the Pirates Of The Caribbean series. The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) was the strongest, but I also liked Dead Man's Chest (2006), until the abrupt ending, which kept us hanging on for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, which was overlong and fell a little flat in the middle.
The Fantastic 4 sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer was an extremely enjoyable romp, and the length at 92 minutes was far less bum-numbing than At World's End, which was 168 minutes.
I saw Daredevil and enjoyed it immensely. 84%. Dogma, however, was dross of the first order. 39%
I enjoyed The Hulk, which I bought on DVD. You could tell it was directed by the same hand as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I enjoyed the (inevitable) ending. I still have another whole DVD of extras to watch. When will I get the time? 83%.
I watched Vanilla Sky and what a ride! Highly recommended. 86%. More recently, I saw Open your Eyes, the original Spanish film on which Vanilla Sky was based, also starring Penelope Cruz. I was surprised at how similar they were - but both were enjoyable and intriguing.
I also watched Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines on DVD, and was surprised by the ending - darker than I expected. The set pieces were as over-the-top as one would expect of the series. I though Arnie carried off the role very well, despite the passage of time since Terminator 2! 73%.
I missed Reign of Fire in the cinema. I was dragon my heels over this one! This got bad reviews, but I bought the DVD as I wanted to see it. I should have trusted the reviews. What a disappointment. 37%.
Signs: I missed this one on the big screen, but saw it on DVD. I have to admit to being very disappointed in this too. 42%. I've bought The Village but haven't yet seen it.
One pleasant surprise was Galaxy Quest. The premise of the film is that stars of a space opera (bearing an amazing similarity to Star Trek) are asked for help by aliens who have no concept of fiction. The characters are convincing and you care about them as they grow from bitching thespians to real heroes! 83%.
The Day after Tomorrow and I Robot were must-sees, both with superb special effects, but a recent surprise was Shawn of the Dead - dark comedy, and a departure from my usual fare, but well-worth watching.
The double bill of Kill Bill and Kill Bill 2 was an interesting and surreal experience.
I recently watched a few other martial arts films including Zaoitchi, House of Flying Daggers and Hero. Good films all, but I could do with a few more happy endings.
Van Helsing didn't get sparkling reviews but I thought it was quite entertaining, though I was surprised it got a 12 rating - the same as Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, which was nothing like as gruesome. I would have thought 15 more suitable.
The Butterfly Effect was not an easy film to watch, with scenes of child abuse and implied animal cruelty. I was surprised it got a 15 rating. Ultimately, though, the violence was justified in the context of the script, and I thought it a good, and thought-provoking film.
A.I., The Wild, Wild West and Evolution were disappointing but overall, it been a good few years cinematographically.
I was very impressed with Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, which was a huge improvement on the rather disappointing Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Writing it must have been hugely constraining for George Lucas, moving the plot on from Episode 1 and leading towards the original film Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, made back in 1977.
Even though I knew broadly what must happen, the plot was enthralling as it unfolded and Anakin Skywalker started to turn towards the dark side. The special effects were indeed special and I walked out of the Odeon Leicester Square with the same sense of awe that I had in 1977 as I finished watching the original (in the same cinema).
I've just seen Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, and it bowled me over. Although it was a little leaden at times, the way it filled all the gaps and led seamlessly to Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope was incredible. The special effects did not disappoint, and the fall of Anakin was not only believable, but led me to re-examine the entire series. I watched the previous five films a couple of days before this, and had to put on Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope all over again. If I'm not careful here, I could go into a loop. Groundhog Day, here I come!
I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This film focuses on the tri-wizard tournament and the rise of Voldemort. I thought my five-year-old son might be a little scared, but he was just enthralled - though it must be admitted, also a little confused about some of the plot.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was another great film. Darker still than the second, and, I must admit, a bit long, it tried to squeeze in the entire book. On the whole, it succeeded and it's one I'm pleased to have in my DVD collection.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: I thoroughly enjoyed this one with my family. Slightly darker than the first film, it's a pretty faithful adaptation of the book.
I enjoyed The Matrix: Reloaded. It oozed style, albeit perhaps a little self-consciously at times. One of Morpheus' quotes was very similar to a comment I made recently on my Laurie Anderson concert review, 'Even technology as simple as a knife can save lives, or end them'. At another stage in the film, a character in the matrix was drinking a glass of red wine. I daydreamed that if I was in a virtual world, and could choose any wine, I'd have a white Haut Brion. Then the wine was revealed as ... Haut Brion (see my memorable wines)! The part of Bane was played by Ian Bliss, but wasn't Bane a baddy? Some mistake, surely! It was poignant to think that Gloria Foster would never see herself playing the Oracle as she died from complications of diabetes before it was screened. The sudden end of the film was the only jarring note. Keep watching until the end of the credits for a trailer for The Matrix: Revolution.
The Wachowski Brothers excelled themselves in The Matrix: Reloaded and I've just seen the final part of the trilogy (or should it be trinity?), The Matrix: Revolution. It's been slated by the critics, but the box-office takings have been impressive. What did I think of it? Admittedly, the first two were a hard act to follow, and I had some reservations about the film as a whole, but overall, it brought the series to a rounded end. A couple of character's death scenes were risible, and we did burst into laughter a couple of times when we shouldn't. The action was relentless and the special-effects as awesome as we would expect, given the earlier films. My scores for the films would be 92%, 88% and 76% respectively, giving a still-respectable 85% overall and a place in my all-time top ten for the trilogy.
The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers I bought the quadruple-DVD Director's extended extravaganza. I watched it the day before Return of the King and enjoyed it immensely, especially with the extra forty minutes or so of material in the DVD version. It will be a hard act to follow.
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King I saw this on 17 December 2003. It was everything we hoped it would be, and it will be a long time before there is anything to rival this trilogy. We laughed and cried in all the right places. At 200 minutes, it is also an epic-length phenomenon. I also have the DVD (40 minutes longer), and I put aside a weekend with my children in February 2005 for the full Lord of the Rings experience. The only downside - my son now thinks he's an orc!
You must see it...
It's funny; I dreamed that I'd written 'Lord of the Rings' last night, but when I woke up, I realised I'd just been Tolkien in my sleep!
I'm looking forward to seeing:
The Village, V for Vendetta and Serenity, all of which I own on DVD. When will I get time to see them all?
I've heard that Alfred Bester's novel, The Demolished Man, is being made into a film. I'll look forwards to this one. The Demolished Man is about a man trying to commit the perfect murder in a world where telepaths and pre-cogs make are supposed to make this impossible.
I'd also love them to make Tiger, Tiger, another Bester and one of my favourite books of all time. This novel is about teleportation and covers the effects this ability has on humanity in general, and particularly on one man, Gully Foyle, one of the most distinctive, enigmatic yet charismatic characters in print. I think it would make a superb film.
I've created a list of the films I own (or are planning to) on DVD and my VHS videos (in PAL format).
I've moved the film search feature to its own page to speed up the site. search my films
I currently have catalogued 2147 books from 728 authors in my collection (mostly paperbacks) of which 1791 are SF.
I've catalogued all my SF, but still have some more reference books to input...
I've moved the book search feature to its own page to speed up the site. search my books
The page used to take a few seconds to load as I have books from 728 authors, but is very fast since I moved my site. If you search for all authors and all genres, it takes about 5-10 seconds to load (perhaps a little longer if you don't have a broadband connection).top
A year or so ago, I read the Watershed trilogy, by Douglas Niles. Breach in the Watershed started the series off well, with three different cultures (basically human, Faery and evil) coming together when the Watershed is breached, contaminating the essential fluids (water, aura and darkwater). The three cultures are believable and the characters are real enough to care about - which is more than I found with The Hobbit. Darkenheight maintained the standard of the first book and I enjoyed War of Three Waters too. I thought the end a little rushed though as all the loose ends were tidied up in record time!
I thought that it was ironic that I was reading this series when I found that I was diabetic. The fluids in the book resonated with fluids in real life - the water that I was consuming in vast quantities before I was diagnosed, the glucose that was thickening my blood and affecting my sight and the wine that causes the glucose levels to rocket!
Another book I read isn't SF at all. Written by the late John Diamond; it's called C and subtitled because cowards get cancer too... It was interesting, both in its own right, and because it impinges on various of my interests. John lived in Woodford in his youth, as did I. He watched Groundhog Day, one of my favourite films, but from a rather different perspective, as he watched it on the day he found out he had a carcinoma. He had a real downer on alternative health, or complementary medicine, as I'd call it. Whilst debunking all complementary medicine on the basis of flimsy evidence, he didn't mention the number of patients that suffer as much from side-effects of conventional medicines as from the original disease. I disagree with a lot he said, but it is thought-provoking, fascinating and moving. I would have liked to have had a spirited discussion on various aspects of conventional and complementary medicine, but unfortunately that's obviously not going to happen. I'm planning to read Snake Oil soon.
Another book I found thought-provoking was How to be Good, by Nick Hornby. I'm still not sure whether there's an SF element in it, but the book is intriguing. The main protagonist is Katie, who is profoundly unhappy with her marriage. Some of the dialogue rings very true.
To give you the flavour of the book, here's a paragraph:
This is what it feels like: you walk into a room and the door locks behind you and you spend a little while panicking, looking around for a key or a window or something, and then when you realize that there is no way out, you start to make the best of what you've got. You try out the chair, and you realize that it's actually not uncomfortable, and there's a TV, and a couple of books, and there's a fridge stocked with food. You know, how bad can it be? And me asking for a divorce was the panic, but very soon I get to this stage of looking around at what I've got. And what I've got turns out to be two lovely kids, a nice house, a good job, a husband who doesn't beat me and presses all the right buttons on the lift...
I can do this, I think. I can live this life.
A recent read was Dead Famous by Ben Elton, based on the Big Brother series, it is very funny even if the mystery is a little predictable. Ben has a fine grasp of words, even if he has sold out to the establishment! The excerpts below particularly appealed to me:
Nowadays, of course, technology was so complex that nobody knew how anything worked at all except Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking.
Coleridge wondered if he was the only person in the world who felt so completely culturally disenfranchised. Or were there others like him? Living secret lives, skulking in the shadows, scared to open their mouths for fear of exposure. People who no longer understood the adverts, let alone the programmes.
I've bought the new Ben Elton, High Society, and am looking forward to reading it.
Who goes Here? by Bob Shaw is a book I find screamingly funny every time I read it. It's in the same league as Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals and yes, I know that's not SF! It's just a book that everyone should read at least once.top
I used to go to science-fiction conventions (con for short). It's nice to be in a peer-group where science-fiction is regarded as normal - mind you, some of the other attendees at these events can remind you that the parameters of normality have to be stretched wide to accommodate everyone!
Eastercon is the event I attended most frequently. In 2005, it was held at Hanover International Hotel, Hinckley, Leicestershire, UK from 25 - 28 March. It was the 56th British National Science Fiction Convention. See their website, PARAGON2.
Eastercon 2004 was held in Blackpool Winter Gardens from 9th-12th April. See the Eastercon website, Eastercon.
Don't make the mistake I made once, when I thought I was going to a science-fiction convention. It turned out to be a Trekkie con instead, with half the people wearing pointy ears and the others saying "Beam me up, Scottie" into their handsets, sometimes in Klingon. The only trouble was that this was in the era before mobile phones, so these fans had either availed themselves of time travel, or more likely, were real saddoes talking into pieces of cardboard or plastic!top
: : © Mike Bliss 2011