Sci-Fi Weekender: Back to the Future

March is usually the time for Sci-Fi Weekender: a weekend long, stay-over-and-party Comic Con that’s full of entertainment. From special guests, interviews, signings, screenings, games and all manner of live entertainment, this event has always been a fantastic, full-on experience for all your geeky desires.

Sadly, the Covid pandemic exterminated the event this year. It should have been taking place this last weekend. It’s a real blow, as Sci-Fi Weekender offers just the kind of escapism that we need right now.

Have no fear, however: I’ve used my Indiana Jones-like archaeological skills to rediscover some long lost photos from the past.

Cosplay is always a big deal at SFW. All manner of glorious, gruesome, magnificent and marvellous costumes can be seen on display, worn by some of the coolest and most down-to-earth people you’ll be likely to meet this side of Tosche Station.

Thanks to my old pal Darf Dork (that’s Adam G, to you), I’m able to present some photos from the past that will bring back some fond memories. These pics are all Adam’s work – he’s been kind enough to thaw them out of carbonite for your enjoyment.

Hope in my Virtual Hot Tub Time Machine and let’s go back to SFW past. Hope you enjoy the photos. And keep dreaming: one day Sci-Fi Weekender will return…

MCM Comic Con Birmingham 2019 – Part 2

NEC Birmingham

16/17 November 2019

Right back atcha with some more fabulous photos from the recent MCM Comic Con at the NEC in Birmingahm.  Here’s Part 2, ‘cos one blog post just wasn’t enough.  So many photos, you see.

There’s not much else to report that I haven’t covered in previous editions of my MCM Comic Con blogs.  You know the drill, right?

So let’s just crack on and you can witness the awesome Cosplay photos of these amazing, talented people.

Here’s a bit of fun for you, though – can you spot my pal Darf Dork hanging around in one of these pics?  There might be a prize for someone who can…

Finally, another big THANK YOU to everyone who posed for a photo – the true stars of the day.  See you at the next Comic Con!

 

The Curse of Halloween Horror Fest 2019

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Hammer’s only venture into lycanthrope-based horror in the movies, The Curse of the Werewolf is a great example of the studio doing what they do best.  There’s no Pete or Chris, but we do get an early chance for Oliver Reed to demonstrate his talent.

Apparently the movie was based on a book called “The Werewolf of Paris”; the location shifted to Spain when a planned film about the Spanish Inquisition had to be abandoned – and the Spanish sets were forced onto this production.

Reed plays Leon, who the audience learns has had a troubled upbringing.  Born on Christmas Day and conceived from a rape, Leon is cursed to become a werewolf.  With love and comfort, his curse is kept under control.  He falls for his employers daughter, who is engaged to another man – and soon Leon’s hidden wolf is out of control.

The Curse of the Werewolf is something of a gem in Hammer’s crown.  The story has tension and drama courtesy of Director, Terence Fisher – and the special effects are adequate for the time.  Reed is engaging as Leon, inviting our sympathy though the audience realises he is doomed.

The result is a monster movie that’s both entertaining and moving, with a depth not often witnessed in a Hammer horror.

8/10

Misery (1990)

You can’t beat a bit of Stephen King, and Misery is one of his best – the book is great, the film is a masterful adaptation.

Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is a best selling novelist, who crashes his car on a snowy Colorado road.  He’s rescued and nursed by Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), who claims to be Paul’s number one fan.  But Wilkes discovers that Sheldon has killed off her beloved character, Misery, and his experience goes downhill faster than his car did.

Trapped in Annie’s house and confined to a wheelchair, how will Paul escape before Annie’s descent into murderous madness is complete?

Directed by Rob Reiner, Misery has tension and pace enough to keep anyone on the edge of their seat.  Caan is excellent; Bates is on Oscar winning form as the disturbed woman switching from kindly to evil in a heartbeat.

There’s nothing supernatural in Misery, but this story is certainly horrific.

9/10

A Symphony of Halloween Horror Fest

King Kong (1933)

Halloween is, for me, all about monster movies.  You can keep the gore-fests, jumpy scares and cheep thrills – monsters are where it’s at.  And you don’t get a better creature feature than King Kong.

Released way back in 1933, this monochrome marvel is still pure excellence.

Daring filmmaker Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) leads a crew to a long lost island in the middle of nowhere.  There, leading lady Ann Darrow (the legendary Fay Wray) is kidnapped by locals as an offering to their god, Kong.  Kong turns out to be a giant ape, who goes gooey-eyed for the blonde bombshell and fights off numerous prehistoric rivals to keep her safe.

The crew attempt a rescue, but only Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) survives to rescue his sweetheart from her captor.  Denham decides that Kong should be central to his new venture; hatching a plan to capture the ape and take him back to civilisation as his star attraction.

It’s incredible that this film isn’t far off being a century old.  King Kong has a fantastic story and superb special effects that still hold up to this day.  It’s full on entertainment – and one of my favourite films of all time.

But is King Kong horror?  Well, Kong features in my old Horror Top Trumps set – so that qualifies as a definite YES.

10/10

Nosferatu (1922)

More black and white thrills next, with another magnificent movie that really should not be missed.  F W Murnau’s Nosferatu is a chilling piece of early horror cinema, even after all these years.

The film follows the plot of the book Dracula, with a few alterations to (unsuccessfully) avoid claims of plagiarism.  Our hero, Jonathan Harker (or whatever name is used in whichever version you see) is sent to deal with some real estate for the mysterious Count Orlok.  The Count, however, is a vampire – who traps the hero in his castle and makes his way back to Harker’s home town, bringing death with him.

In 1922, the art and language of cinema was still being developed, leading to some strange visuals this movie – such as a ghostly horse and carriage speeding along in a bizarre manner.  Yet the final film is filled with startling, shadowy imagery that maintains a sense of unease, thanks to some genuinely innovative work.

Murnau manages to create some masterful moments of suspense, and Max Schreck as Orlok – whether rising from his grave, or shadow rising eerily up the staircase (a true iconic moment) – is spellbinding.

An early classic of cinema, Nosferatu helped develop cinematic vampire folklore – and still delivers a sense of dread with its uncanny visuals.

10/10

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.

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

Sci Fi Weekender 2018 – Part 1

Sci Fi Weekender 23th – 24th March 2018

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

2017 saw my intrepid crew and I sucked into a black hole, from which we were very lucky to escape.  Following numerous trials and tribulations within the void, we emerged eventually into a bizarre parallel dimension.  This strange new plane was warped beyond any fathomable reason; the UK was no longer in Europe and Donald Trump was President.

I know – unbelievable, right?  I was expecting apes to be in charge maybe, but not Trump.

Utilising all the skill and resource we could muster, we managed to reverse thrusters and reset our course for Pwllheli, North Wales, for Sci Fi Weekender.  The crew had missed one event, but in 2018 we would return.

The engines groaned and strained, but we were back on track.  We arrived at our destination and set up camp in our static exploration cabin.

Scouts across the galaxy had informed us that this was the ninth cycle of Sci Fi Weekender.  SFW9 would be full of the usual entertainments: VIP signings; Q&A panels; cosplay; films; games; live music and other acts.

Throw in a few decidedly lethal Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and there would, indeed, be exceptional joviality.

Alas, many VIP guests had apparently missed their trasport shuttles to reach us.  Caught in the same black hole as we had been, perhaps?  This was a bit of a blow, as I was particularly looking forward to hearing from Hugh Quarshie of Highlander (and others) fame.

Never mind, “There can be only one” – and that guest was the deviilishly delectable Emily Booth, actress and Horror Channel star.  Ms Booth’s Q&A was the first event I witnessed of the weekend and she was great.  Although the interview amounted to just a run through of her IMDB credits, Emily came across very well as both a cult star and confirmed fan.  I even asked a question myself, which is a SFW first for me!

The interview did get a bit saucy at times, but the audience was well warned in advance what to expect.  To be honest, I’d love to see much more of Emily Booth’s talents.  By which I mean, of course, more of the various movies she has starred in.  Of course.

It was then time to lurk about and peruse the merchandise stalls.  There were many more this year than I’ve seen previously.  Excellent news for me, bad news for my galactic credit balance.  I did get some rad stuff though.

This was also a great time to start taking some photos.  Armed with three cameras this year (!), I took quite a few pictures but as always missed so many great cosplayers.  There were dozens that I glimpsed briefly but lost in the crowd, never to be seen again.

It was like when I watched the Cantina scene in Star Wars when I was a kid, before we had a VHS player (yes, I’m THAT old).  An amazing creation was spotted only briefly, to be replaced by yet another, and I had no rewind function.

As you can probably imagine, Friday evening was somewhat of a blur.  I do remember a couple of things that must be mentioned though.

Professor Elemental was an absolute joy to behold, as always.  The Prof dropped tongue twisting chap-hop rhymes over DJ Nick Maxwell’s funky beats.  He expertly rallied the troops and took us on a tea stained tour of the British Empire.  It was brilliantly engaging stuff, with the Professor uniting all the tribes of geekdom in a pulsating party of steampunk excitement.

Darth Elvis & the Imperials performed what I consider the best set I’ve seen them deliver, despite it being cut short.  There were favourites old and new, including “Burning Sith” and a raging cover of the Beastie Boys classic, “Sabotage” – reworked in honour of Kylo Ren.  I was down the front for a fair part of the set and I loved every second.

This band never get old.  May they live as long as Master Yoda and forever be as musically talented at Max Rebo.  Sheer fun from beginning to end!

The evening ended with some spectacular Cosplay Karaoke, which I would’ve loved to have a go of!  No idea who the winner was, all the entrants were winners in my eyes!

Day one at SFW9 was truly stellar.  My only complaint was too much Welsh bashing from several presenters over the course of events.  In this day and age that’s a bit poor.

However Sci Fi Weekender is a success because of the people.  The camaraderie amongst attendees is the true strength, regardless of what VIP interview guests are there or not.  It’s a real pleasure to catch up with old faces – and meet some new ones – in a friendly, welcoming environment like this.

That’ll do for Part One.  Beam me up!

In Part 2: we lose a red shirt, and more pics.  Stay tuned!

Wales Comic Con

Wales Comic Con

Saturday 2nd – Sunday 3rd December 2017

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

One more Comic Con for the year, to finish 2017 off in style.  It seems like I’ve done a lot of conventions recently!

I didn’t make it to Wrexham for Wales Comic Con back in April, but I’ve been there previously and it’s always a fun event.  Now expanded to run over two days, this winter edition of the Con was bigger than ever.

Most impressive was the calibre of the guests that appear here.  It’s a far more impressive line up than even the mighty NEC could muster recently.  Wrexham definitely punches above it’s weight in that category.

Being December, the weather was sometimes a challenge.  The Spring gathering has been lucky weather-wise, and the outside expanse has always been a fun place to hang out and take photos, meet people etc.  Cold and rain took more of a toll this time, but didn’t seem to dampen peoples spirits too much.

This event wasn’t without some criticism.  Although we had bought tickets prior, we had to queue (outside, in the rain) for about forty minutes after the doors opened to get in. 

When we did get in, we marched off to the Signing Zone to find the guests from The Walking Dead (our prime reason for being there).  After scouting around the entire area, it turned out that these particular guests were in a different Signing Zone!  Notification of this passed us by completely, if it was available at all.

Despite these organisational issues that we perceived at first, things settled down and this Comic Con turned out to be a great success.

The first hit of the day was the Q&A panel featuring Scott Wilson (Hershel) and Michael Cudlitz (Abraham) from The Walking Dead.  This was really interesting, with some quality questions from the audience.  Both Scott and Michael came across really well, with amusing anecdotes and genuine appreciation for the show and it’s fans.

We could have happily listened to these guys for much longer, but all good things come to an end and this had been unmissable.

It was then time to queue up (again!  Haha) to meet the actors from The Walking Dead.  We’re big fans in our house, in particular Mrs Platinum Al – and she was really keen to meet Michael Cudlitz.

The queue wasn’t too long or arduous, and we got to meet Mr Cudlitz and get a selfie and autographed photo.  He was very cool and gracious; he joked with fans and was very friendly.  Despite only having a short time to meet people, Michael did an excellent job of remembering names and making everyone feel very welcome.

Superb stuff, and Mrs Platinum Al’s Christmas present was now in the bag!

Talking about acquisitions, Wrexham has upped the ante with the amount of traders selling goodies.  In the past the number of dealers seemed limited (probably due to space), there were far more this time.  Good news in a wallet endangering way.

 

The Prop Knife

Remember those trick knives you used to find in joke shops?  Plastic, with a blade that retracted into the hilt when you “stabbed” something?  We took one as a prop for my daughter, who was dressed as Wednesday Addams.  Turned out to be a cool idea.  Michael Cudlitz, bless him, allowed Eloise to “stab” him in the head, walker killer style, to “stop him coming back”.  From the dead that is, not back to Wales.  Michael played along brilliantly – I didn’t get a photo though, curses!

The trick knife also came in handy for a cool zombie killer pic featuring Mrs Platinum Al (see below).

With tons of guests, Q&As, memorabilia to peruse and other activities, there was plenty to see and do.

Of course there were loads of great Cosplayers at Wales Comic Con too.  I took a few photos, but the usual issues of time and the weather meant I didn’t get too many.  I’ve shared the pics here.  Unfortunately some photos didn’t turn out (as always), hopefully these shots will provide a flavour of the event.

Thanks again to these amazing people, who have created fantastic costumes and let their creativity flow.  Thanks for allowing me to take pictures and more power to you!

If Wales Comic Con keeps developing as it has, then 2018 should be even bigger and better.  The fact that the organisers can entice such amazing guests is fantastic.  Let’s hope the success continues.

The Wales Comic Con website is here.

Halloween Horror Fest 2017

Here we go with another month of as many horror films as I can fit in, on the run up to Halloween.  Both myself and Mrs Platinum Al take turns top pick a spooky movie to entertain us; I then write these here mini movie reviews.

Sound OK to you?  Let’s crack on, then.

It (1990)

Recently Mrs Platinum Al and I went to see the new version of It in the cinema.  I was familiar with the story but wasn’t really expecting anything really exciting.  How wrong I was: the remake of It is superb fun from start to finish.

So it’s a bit of a no-brainer that the first film of this years Halloween Horror Fest would be the original 1990 version.  But how would it stack up compared to the revised film?

It is based on a Stephen king novel, in which a nondescript North American town is plagued by a series of child murders.  A gang of misfit kids, labelling themselves the Loser’s Club, find themselves terrorised by the evil entity that is responsible.  Preying on their deepest fears, It threatens to kill them all, until the Losers can unite and defeat the creature. 

Years later, the grown up gang are brought back together when it becomes obvious that It has returned.  This time they must destroy it once and for all…

The old film (actually a TV mini series, if you want to be picky) stands up surprisingly well against the new.  The new film is superb, and resplendent with the latest in special effects technology.  However the more primitive effects don’t harm the original at all, it still works thanks to great performances from all.  The 1990 movie succeeds because, like the later film, it brings the characters to the fore.  The Losers Club – whether kids or adults – are all interesting people that the audience can root for.

Of course the star of the show is the phenomenal Tim Curry, as Pennywise the clown.  Creepy and sinister one minute, Curry transforms into unhinged malevolence with startling ease.  Pennywise is evil incarnate and brilliantly portrayed here.

But who is the best?  Tim Curry or the new film’s Pennywise, played by Bill Skarsgard?  I’ll leave that for you to decide…

8/10