Wales Comic Con 2018

Wales Comic Con

Saturday 1st – Sunday 2nd December 2018

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

Another weekend, and another trip to a convention!  After my previous excursion to Birmingham, this one was a fair bit closer to home: just down the road in Wrexham.  Wales Comic Con takes place at Glyndwr University, and has steadily been building up a great reputation over the years.

The main attraction at Wales Comic Con has been the guests.  Held twice a year, and in a somewhat smaller area than other events, the con has consistently punched above it’s weight in terms of the sheer quality of guests that it has attracted.

It was for this reason that my family and I were attending again this year.  Mrs Platinum Al wanted to meet the actor Chris Sarandon, who as the voice of Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas (as well as playing evil Prince Humperdinck in The Princess Bride) was a definite must-meet for her.

Unfortunately, Chris dropped out just a day or two before, after we’d bought tickets and a photo op.  Not good news, but not the end of the world: these things happen.

The photo op money would be returned, and we decided to go to the con anyway to have a day out.  This was the right move as there was still plenty to experience, even though the weather was temperamental.

The cosplayers at WCC were fantastic, as always.  There were a large variety of characters from comics, film, tv, games and more.  The costumes were of the highest standard and the cosplayers were all friendly.  After the disaster at MCM Birmingham the week before, I had manged to remember my camera this time and got quite a few good shots.

My daughter has discovered Harry Potter not long ago, so she dressed as Hermione Granger.  She posed for some great photos, some of which are included here.  Plus she was really happy to meet Stanislav Ianevski, who played Viktor Krum – that made her day.

In the past, there hasn’t been a massive amount of merchandise available at WCC.  This has improved over the years though, and I was able to acquire a few nice action figures for Christmas.  Very happy!

So we all had a fun family day out at Wales Comic Con, and hope to return for the next event in the new year.  Hopefully Chris Sarandon will be there.  Third time lucky?

The Wales Comic Con website is here.

Battle of the century!

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2018 – Part 2

Avengers

NEC Birmingham

24/25 November 2018

And now we return to Birmingham NEC for Part 2 of my MCM Comic Con report…

Despite forgetting my camera, which is a new low even for me, my trusty phone was at hand to document everything.  So luckily, I managed to take plenty of photos during the day – and there are plenty of awesome cosplayers still to see.

Which is good, because I don’t have much else to write following the previous post.

But you’re not here for my ramblings, are you?  Enjoy the pics instead.

DC gang

I’ll leave you with one final image: the Stan Lee memorial.  This was a massive mural to commemorate the life of the recently departed genius – a nice touch.

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2018 – Part 1

NEC Birmingham

24/25 November 2018

Regular readers will know that a visit to the NEC in Birmingham for MCM Comic Con is on the cards at least once a year.  I missed the earlier event as the gang and I were at Sci Fi Weekender, however we were able to make the November Con.

My intrepid companions and I arrived at the massive site and after parking up, wandered down to the event hall.  Already there were dozens of cosplayers around, showing their awesome costumes.

After a chill in Wetherspoons, we made our way towards the hall.  Thankfully we didn’t have long to wait before we could enter.  This year we had regular tickets rather than early bird, so although this gave us later entry we had no problems.

Inside Comic Con, the aisles were busy and we formulated a plan of attack on how best to navigate our way around the stalls.  There were hundreds of people there, so not always easy to get to see some of the merchandise.  With a little patience and a bit of skill we were able to get a good look around.

The guests this time weren’t particularly inspiring – it seemed like all the best stars would be at Wales Comic Con the following week!  We were happy to spend the day viewing the displays and stalls to see what amazing paraphernalia we could afford.

Sadly, despite buying some fantastic items, there’s never enough money.  Oh, the damage I could do with a lottery win.  Seriously, there were dozens of action figures (for a start) that I could have give a home to.

Besides the joys of spending hard earned cash, there were of course the magnificent cosplayers out in full force.  A mind boggling array of characters, some well known and some more obscure, were to be seen.

Due to various organisational issues, I had forgotten to bring along my trusty Canon camera.  There’s always something, right?  Forgetting to bring the camera was a new low though!  Never mind, I was able to take photos with my phone – and the cosplay superstars were just as friendly and happy to pose as ever.

My thanks to all those who posed for a pic, much appreciated!  You were all great.

After hours on our feet wandering round, wishing for the cash to buy more stuff, the day was finally over.  After another Wetherspoons break, it was back in the car for the long drive home.  Another great day out – looking forward to the next one.

Thanks to Adam for driving and Greeny and Kurt for the company.

There are numerous pics of cosplayers here, feel free to let me know your favourites,  Or if you know the people in the [pics, please let them know.

Finally, i any one in the pics would rather they didn’t appear here, just let me know.

That’s all for Part 1 – stay tuned for Part 2.

The Viking Halloween Horror Fest

Well Halloween 2018 is over, sadly.  But there are a few other movies I’ve watched in October as part of my Horror Fest, so here’s a quick overview of them.  I promise to keep this short and sweet…

The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966)

Is this even a horror movie?  I consulted the oracle of all things frightful, my old Horror Top Trumps, and YES – Fu Manchu is in there.  If he’s in that card pack then this counts as horror, as far as I’m concerned. 

Having said that, The Brides of Fu Manchu is more Indiana Jones style adventure than scary movie, despite some gruesome elements.

Fu Manchu is played by Christopher Lee (in make-up, the sort of Hollywood white washing that would quite rightly cause uproar nowadays).  The evil criminal mastermind is kidnapping the daughters of prominent scientists, to bribe them into helping him create a death ray.  It’s up to Scotland Yard’s Nayland Smith (Douglas Wilmer) to stop him.

The Brides of Fu Manchu is terribly dated.  But if we can all agree to be adults and appreciate that this film was made in another age, reflecting views of an even older age, then it’s quite a rip-roaring yarn.  Take it with a pinch of salt and watch it with a wary eye.

7/10

The Viking Queen (1967)

It’s Hammer, but it’s not really horror!  The Viking Queen is (very) loosely based on the story of Boudica in Roman Britain. 

Here we have the tale of British Queen Salina (played by Carita) and nice Roman leader Justinian (Don Murray) who plan on creating a fair land for all.  And they fall in love.  Predictably, there are grumps on both Briton and Roman sides that conspire to make a right old mess of things for the romantic couple.

On first viewing, I found the historical inaccuracies too much to swallow.  Further viewings have allowed my expectations to be lowered and I’ve begun to enjoy it more.  Not for the history buffs, but The Viking Queen is an enjoyable tale (with some nasty gory bits to remind us it is Hammer, after all).

7/10

Arachnophobia (1990)

It’s Jaws with Spiders!  New doctor in town Jeff Daniels is an arachnophobe, who just happens to move his family to a new town that’s about to become deadly spider central. 

I saw this film in the cinema and don’t think I’ve ever watched it again since.  So I was surprised that it was actually still quite good fun, with the sort of scares that force the viewer to move away from any possible spider hiding places in the living room.

Good fun and quite gruesome in places, it’s too scary for young children (as I found out), although completely obvious plot-wise.  Disconnect brain and enjoy.

8/10

Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)

Much more suitable for your younger monsters, this animated feature from Dreamworks manages to entertain and pay homage to classic B-movie monsters from the past. 

Susan Murphy (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) is hit by a meteorite that mutates her into a giant, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman character.  She’s whisked off to a top secret military installation and holed up with some other monstrous types.  Eventually the creatures are brought out of confinement to defend earth from an alien invasion.

Monsters vs. Aliens features a great voice cast including Hugh Laurie (a mad scientist/The Fly-like Dr Cockroach), Seth Rogen (as The Blob-like B.O.B.), Will Arnett (as the Missing Link, a Creature from the Black Lagoon specimen) and Kiefer Sutherland as the General in charge.  Rogen in particular is hilarious.

Lots of fun, great animation and a nice message if that’s your thing.  Monster vs. Aliens is a winner.

8/10

Halloween Horror Fest Land

Zombieland (2009)

I can’t believe this film is nearly ten years old.  It seems like only yesterday I saw Zombieland in the cinema.  This movie is a horror comedy, set in a post apocalyptic America over-run with zombies.  And it’s brilliant.

We begin with shy, nerdy student Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), who is trying to make his way home to Columbus, Ohio to see if his parents are still alive.  He has developed a series of rules to stay alive such as “Beware of bathrooms” – thus far, these guides have proven solid. 

On his journey, Columbus meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a zombie killing machine who’s looking for the last Twinkie.

These two then meet up with two sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who are on their way to a California amusement park which is supposedly zombie free.

On the way there are several adventures, not least a surprise encounter with a legendary Hollywood star.  And zombies, of course.  Lots of zombies.

Zombieland is really well put together, and gets better with repeated viewings.  There’s  a lot of subtle humour that might not be obvious at first.  There are plenty of big obvious laughs too, of course, amongst nice pop culture references.

There are some jumpy scares, and a fair dose of tension, but this film is mainly all about the laughs, with some charming moments too.  If you like Shaun of the Dead, you’ll probably like Zombie land too.  But for my money, I prefer Zombieland.

Plus, Emma Stone is a total babe.  Thank you.

9/10

The Uncanny Halloween Horror Fest

The Uncanny (1977)

Horror anthology time again now – and though this isn’t Amicus, that company’s Milton Subostky is co-producer.  In The Uncanny, a writer (Peter Cushing) is discussing his new book with his publisher (Ray Milland).  This latest work promotes the concept that cats – ordinary household moggies – are in fact evil.

The writer elaborates on three of his examples.  In the first, an elderly widow leaves all of her wealth to her cats in her will.  She’s killed by her maid, who’s trying to scupper this plan.  The cats then exact a nasty revenge… 

In the second segment, an orphan girl goes to live with her mean relatives, her cat being her only companion.  The girl and her pet receive some pretty bad treatment, until she uses a book of witchcraft to settle the score.

Finally, Donald Pleasence pops up as a dodgy actor in 1930s Hollywood, who bumps off his wife to install his young mistress in her place.  Of course, the cat of the dead ex decides to avenge her death.

All in all, very silly.  Household felines being exposed as malicious masterminds, intent on revenge and controlling the human world?  Utterly ridiculous, of course.  But the film managed to entertain me, despite the dubious premise – largely due to the presence of some fine actors.  The Uncanny is worth exploring if this kind of portmanteau tale intrigues you.

Now – must dash, got to feed the cat.

7/10

Scream and Scream Halloween Horror Fest

Scream and Scream Again (1970)

Now this is a strange little film.  Another Amicus production, though not an anthology this time, Scream and Scream Again is a baffling amalgam of sci-fi, horror, and at least three plots that seem totally unrelated at first.  So in a way, it almost is like a portmanteau horror, bizarrely.

Here we have a vampire killer in London, draining his victims of blood.  There’s also another thread relating to a dictatorship in an obscure European country.  Plus, someone is removing limbs – one by one – from hospital patients.  All very odd and with no connection at all, the audience may assume at first. 

The plot strands eventually come together by the end, but most viewers will be confused beyond caring if they get that far.

Scream and Scream Again proudly proclaims that it stars Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee all in the same film.  However, Cushing is only in one scene (with neither of the other two stars).  Lee and Price both pop up in cameo roles, having only one scene together.

The film does have it’s moments, however.  There’s an extended chase scene as the police pursue the serial killer which is actually quite exciting, despite being dragged out.  And Alfred Marks as the detective in charge puts in an admirable effort.

So yes, a strange little film, and not one with much to recommend it.  Unless, like me, you’re fairly obsessed with British horror films from this time – in which case Scream and Scream Again is worth ticking off your list.

6/10

The Halloween Horror Fest Zone

The Dead Zone (1983)

More Stephen King for our latest helping of Halloween Horror Fest movie madness.  The Dead Zone, directed by David Cronenberg, is based on the King novel of the same name.

In this film, we meet Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken), a down to earth school teacher who falls into a five year coma following a horrendous car accident.  When he comes to in hospital, Johnny finds that he has gained psychic powers.

Johnny’s new-found abilities lead him to intervene in some potential disasters, and help the police in their search for a serial killer. 

But an encounter with dodgy politician Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen) leaves Johnny with a vision of Stillson becoming the US President and causing mass destruction.  Smith has no choice but to ensure that this never happens…

Walken is superb in the lead role, always believable despite the fantastic premise.  The audience can’t fail to empathise with the character- Johnny has lost everything following his accident – and Walken’s performance is spot on.  Johnny Smith isn’t a hero, he’s just a normal guy who has found himself thrust into bizarre circumstances.

Sheen is chilling as the unhinged senatorial candidate.  Brooke Adams, as Johnny’s lost love Sarah, is very moving and Tom Skerrit is note perfect as the beleaguered Sheriff.

Cronenberg gets the best out of his cast and manages to distil the novel into an authentic and highly entertaining thriller.  The Dead Zone is not the scariest Halloween movie, but it is immensely watchable.

King’s original novel is also highly recommended.  For a book nearly 40 years old, it’s unnervingly relevant in showing how a political outsider manages to gain mass appeal.  Almost like the writer had psychic powers…

8/10 

Halloween Horror Fest’s Lot

Salem’s Lot (1979)

Next up for Halloween Horror Fest 2018, an absolute horror classic!  Based on the book by horror master Stephen King, directed by the great Tobe Hooper, Salem’s Lot really is a fantastic piece of spine chilling story telling.

Originally a TV mini series, Salem’s Lot manages to cram in a great deal of the detail from King’s exceptional novel.  Although it’s been released as an edited version, it was the full 3 hour plus version that I indulged in. 

Ben Mears (David Soul), a slightly successful writer, returns to his home town of Salem’s Lot.  There he intends to write his next work, inspired by the local haunted house.  That particular building has recently been bought by newcomers to Salem’s Lot, antique dealing duo Mr Barlow and Mr Straker (James Mason).

Before long, the town is plagued by disappearances and then deaths, as the populace become victims of a tide of – vampirism!   Can Ben and his cohorts destroy the menace before it’s too late?

Salem’s Lot is a definite favourite of mine.  I first saw a short segment when I was a kid, only to have my mum switch the TV off in shock when confronted by a particularly startling moment!  I don’t think I slept for several nights afterwards. Years later I managed to make it all the way through, though Salem’s Lot still has an almost uncanny power to chill.

Seeing the entire movie, I was also inspired to read King’s novel – it became the first volume of his that I’d read.  It’s still my favourite.

Both James Mason and David Soul are excellent in their roles.  Mason you know will be top class; watching Soul the viewer realise how good an actor he really is.  Both are ably supported by a talented cast who create some of the huge tapestry of small town life that’s integral to both book and film.

Tobe Hooper weaves all this together with incredible skill, resulting in a film which although made for TV, still has plenty of chills.  Hooper can’t rely on gore or any shocks that would have been allowed in the cinema.  He’s forced to use other tricks to create an air of suspense – or outright horror – and Salem’s Lot is all the better for it.

All these years later, Salem’s Lot is still spectacularly entertaining – and very, very frightening.  I still don’t sleep with the curtains open.  Do you?

10/10

Halloween Horror Fest 2018

Yes, it’s that time of year again!  The nights are getting shorter, the wind is howling and strange things are afoot.  Halloween is almost upon us – so what better than watching a load of old scary movies to creep you out of an evening?  Yes, it’s time for another Halloween Horror Fest!

I’m starting a bit late this year, but once again I’ll be watching some fantastic (or not so fantastic) horror movies and writing bite-sized reviews.

Let’s start with…

Tales from the Crypt (1972)

Classic British horror of the seventies, but from Amicus Productions, not Hammer – this film stars many a great actor in another anthology movie.  The concept is basically a film version of some of the stories featured in the old EC horror comics of the same name (though only a couple are actually from that title).

Five strangers encounter The Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson), deep in the catacombs of a tourist attraction.  The Crypt Keeper then reveals a story for each of the protagonists.   

The first segment features a very lovely Joan Collins, as a housewife who murders her husband on Christmas Eve.  However a homicidal maniac is on the loose, which complicates Joanie’s plan to dispose of her deadly doings.  Despite the festive setting, this is a good start to proceedings.  I may dig this one out again to watch with the family at Christmas – it’ll make a change from Home Alone.

Up next is what I considered the weakest of the stories, though I can imagine it working better in comic book form.  Ian Hendry leaves his wife and family to take off with his bit on the side.  A dream premonition and nasty car crash result in a change of plans.

Peter Cushing pops up in the third tale, putting in a brilliant performance as a kindly old widower.  His snobbish neighbours decide to grind the old gent down so they can get rid of him – but revenge is on the cards.  Although Cushing’s casting is no surprise at all, he does a superb job in this role.

The fourth story is a chilling warning to be careful what you wish for; a ruthless business man (Richard Greene) comes a cropper in what is the most gruesome tale of the five.

Finally, a repugnant ex-army Major gets his comeuppance, after mistreating the inhabitants of the hoe for the blind that he’s supposed to be in charge of.  His fate is grim but well deserved!

Tales from the Crypt offers only mild innovation from the usual Amicus product, but is remarkably well done.  Freddie Francis directs and puts together a highly entertaining film that has spine chilling horror and genuinely repulsive moments.  Although a little dated, there’s still plenty to recommend this movie.

8/10