Thursday, July 17, 2008

Spectacle In Search Of A Story

Down into London town (where developers seems intent on narrowing every pavement to half its normal size, leading to Bladerunner-style pedestrian jams) to see a preview of Hellboy II The Golden Army. Which, as long as you accept it for what it is, is a decent enough couple of hours entertainment. What it is, of course, is a comic book film with great art design, some decent acting, and an exiguous find-the-coupons plot. Or rather, plot coupon: namely the third portion of a crown that, when reassembled, enables the wearer to command an army of indestructible soldiers created on the order of an Elf king in the long ago, and which an Elf prince now wants to control so that he can get his revenge on the perfidious human race who’ve destroyed his forests. Or something along those lines. The supernatural equivalent of the FBI - the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense - gets wind of the prince’s plot when an auction house is overrun by ravenous tooth fairies when it puts one of the parts of the crown under the hammer, and Hellboy steps in to clean up the mess.

Ron Perlman is once again perfectly fine as an ordinary working schmoe who just happens to be the red-skinned spawn of the Devil with an indestructible stone fist, and is ably supported by pyrokinetic girlfriend (Selma Blair), newtboy with a brain the size of a planet (Doug Jones, replacing David Hyde-Pierce) and their hapless boss (the great Jeffrey Tambor, twitchily anxious to do right by his superiors). There's also Teutonic smoke-in-a-suit new guy Johann Krauss, basically a couple of actors taking turns in a steampunk diving suit, voiced by Seth McFarlane. Director Guillermo del Torro and his design team create a couple of zoos’ worth of weird creatures, notably in a densely populated Goblin Market. There’s also a very fine sequence right at the beginning that uses puppets to set up the plot, framed as a bedtime story read to a young Hellboy by John Hurt, briefly returning as his kindly mentor.

So far, so good. But between the noisy and nicely choreographed action sequences there’s not much story, and the narration proceeds by a series of awkward jerks. Since there’s only one plot coupon to be scooped up by the prince, the second act is padded out with a couple of romance sub-plots that don’t quite dovetail with the rest of the movie, there are an awful lot of plot holes and seen-it-coming-in-the-first-reel twists, the usual ordinary people don’t understand superheroes schtick, and the dreaded golden army don’t really get to show its stuff. But it does the business, there are touches of fin de siecle sadness that play nicely against Hellboy’s truculent, wisecracking noir hero, and it’s crammed with del Torro’s trademark weirdness. Now here’s a director who’d be a perfect fit to direct a film version of Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood. Now there's a story.

Tomorrow: The Dark Knight.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

True Names

I'm now pretty sure that the title of the ongoing project, which is kinda sorta a sequel to The Quiet War, is The Gardens of the Sun. Of course, my publishers may well disagree, for all kinds of appropriate reasons, but as far as I'm concerned that's its true name, just as the true name of Cowboy Angels is Look For America. Like most writers, I feel that names have secret powers.

Night of the Lepus

More animal bioterror. I wonder if the crazed rabbit was in contact with the kamikaze ducks...

Rabbit contaminated water supply
Pitsford reservoir
Water supplies were declared safe on 4 July

A rabbit has been named as the cause of a sickness bug which was found in water supplies in Northamptonshire.

Customers in 100,000 homes were told by Anglian Water to boil tap water for up to 10 days after the Cryptosporidium outbreak on 25 June.

The firm said a rabbit gaining access to the treatment process led to the bug at Pitsford Treatment works.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Happening World

Foul play or kamikaze attempt to create world's lamest metaphor?

Okay, I admit it: I've gone slightly stir crazy, stuck in front of a screen attempting to hack my way into the second draft of the ongoing and generally behaving like one of its characters, holed up in a refuge in a hostile environment. But I think I have the first part nailed, and the sun appears to be shining outside . . .
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