So the moment you have all been waiting for is almost here – Time Rep: Continuum, the sequel to Time Rep, is out tomorrow! To celebrate, the nice folks over at SFF World asked me to write a gust blog post for their site, which I did. It’s up there right now, and tackles a subject that comes up in the book – what would happen to us as a species if time travel really was invented, and we had the power to go back and change whatever we liked? To find out more, why not head over there by clicking on this unnecessarily long sentence which I’ve highlighted in blue so that it acts as a hyperlink to the site to save you the effort of having to type in the shortcut into your search bar which is really long and would probably result in most of you giving up and not reading the blog post at all?
Just a quick one: Time Rep: Continuum is now available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Google Play, and Kobo! Here’s the link: https://ganxy.com/i/111810
I know it’s a bit of a leap of faith to put your money down three months up front for a book that’s had no reviews yet whatsoever – after all, it could be a stinker. So let me assure you – Time Rep: Continuum is probably almost as good if not better than lots of average books out there that get pre-ordered all the time! So why not go for it?
Now, you might be thinking “I’m a fan of Time Rep, so I’m happy to put my money down now for this book to ensure I get a copy on launch day in case they all sell out”, but for the sake of transparency, I should probably point out that that’s very unlikely to happen, and that you’ll probably be able to pick up a copy at launch, no problem. I’m not a particularly well known author, and the Time Rep series is fairly obscure, so I’d say if you just saved your money now and bought a copy on the day of release, you’ll be fine. In fact, instead of pre-ordering my book, why not buy some sweets you can enjoy today instead, then buy the book later when it’s out, and some reviews have surfaced online from people who were sent it for free so you can make an informed decision?
There! Another successful marketing blog post to drive those sales!
…but those lovely people at Diversion Books have just sent me through the final cover artwork for Time Rep: Continuum! Now, I know what you’re thinking – I’ve already shown you the front cover, so what’s new? Well, this time you can now see the spine and the back! Isn’t that exciting?
No, I thought not. It’s just me that gets excited about this isn’t it?
Incidentally, for those of you who are a bit anal about your bookshelves I must apologise for one aspect of this design – the position of “Time Rep” on the spine does not match the position on the spine of the original Time Rep, so they won’t look uniform when you slot them next to each other. I know, I know – the feng shui will be all over the place! The visual sweep of your bookshelf will be ruined! Oh well. Had the designers of the original Time Rep cover known back in 2013 that there would be a sequel, they might have elected to move the title up on the spine so they’d match. If only I had a time machine so I could go back and tell them…
You’ll be able to see what I’m babbling about on the 24th May, because that’s when Time Rep: Continuum is coming out!
Warning – this review contains plot spoilers and is only intended to be read by people who have already seen the movie. You have been warned!
And just in case the first few lines of this review appear in people’s search engines as well, I’m going to write a small paragraph listing everything I got for Christmas, just to make extra-sure I don’t spoil the film for anyone. Ready? Here goes: A scarf. Zelda Monopoly. Star Trek DS9 series 1 – 7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens Soundtrack. Two grey identical jumpers (From my in-laws and my sister, but don’t worry if you’re reading this – I’m already amusing myself at the idea of wearing a different jumper each day and making people think I don’t do any washing), some Lego, Ant Man, £85 in cash, A bottle of Port, some novelty post-it notes, £20 of Steam vouchers and a ‘yoga cats’ 2016 calander.
Right, on with the review. First, let me say that I am a massive Star Wars fan, so this review is going to be written through the lens of someone with a huge amount of nostalgia for the series. Curiously though, my introduction to the franchise was not through the films, but through the computer games. It started with X-Wing on the PC, followed by Rebel Assault, then Dark Forces, and before long, I hunted down the films and watched them in completely the wrong order (Return of the Jedi first, then Star Wars, then Empire Strikes back, then Return of the Jedi again – what an idiot). Anyway, eventually I got the timeline straight in my head, and fell in love with the characters, the universe, the mythology, and the lore.
Then Episode I: The Phantom Menace happened, and gradually, as the prequel films came out, I felt as though pieces of my soul were slowly being eroded away with each viewing. These three films were so terrible; so lore-shatteringly bad (Midi-clorians, anyone?), that I’ve basically had to reconcile them in my mind by pretending none of it happened. I could go on for hours about why those films suck, but I don’t have to, because Mr Plinkett has done that for me. If you want closure on the prequel films and yearn for someone to break down exactly why they are terrible, check out his video reviews here. They are very long (and a bit strange in places), but well worth wacthing, and it says something that Lucasfilm has not ordered them to be taken down, given the amount of footage from the films he uses. To me, it says that they think he’s right. Which he is.
So now, 13 years after the last film (Revenge of the Sith) was released and 32 years after 1983’s Return of the Jedi was set, Star Wars is back. And it’s great. Not perfect – but great, and an outstanding effort from JJ Abrams, given the pressure he must have been under to deliver a film with so much fan expectation, and so much hope that this film would represent a return to form again.
The first thing to remark on this film is just how bloody awesome it looks. One of the biggest complaints about the prequel films was how they were shot – virtually every scene was done with actors filmed against a green screen, and it really showed – everyone looked like they were struggling to make a connection with their surroundings (because there were no surroundings), everything had an awful plastic feel to it (as opposed to the gritty realism of the original trilogy), and the limitation of the indoor sets filtered through to how characters behaved (most notably where, during a critical moment where Anakin walks hastily from point A to point B instead of running, because the set wasn’t big enough to allow him to sprint). The Force Awakens feels real, and that’s because it is real, filmed in real locations using real sets. The effects too, are fantastic, with some of the X-wing combat scenes being particularly exhilarating. The only let-down for me from a presentation perspective was the music. It was great that John Williams returned to score the film, but I didn’t find myself latching on to any new themes in this film. It felt as though the music was deliberately given a backseat to the visuals both in its composition and the mix, however for me, part of the Star Wars experience is about those bombastic sweeping marches punctuating the action, and it would have been nice for Williams to have been let off the leash a bit more. Say what you will about The Phantom Menace, but that soundtrack is something else. There was no ‘Dual of the Fates’ here, and it was a shame, as though a certain dimension was missing.
Next, the characters. Now, I’ve seen quite a few reviews complain about Daisy Ridley’s performance, saying she is the weakest thing about this film. I couldn’t disagree more. I personally thought she was great, and actually the standout. In terms of her character, I found myself leaving the cinema suitably teased about her background, and desperate to know what we might find out about her in Episode VIII. I also thought the range of emotions she went through (from the hopelessness she was experiencing at the beginning of the film, to the moment of realisation at her inner-strength, to the sheer anger on display at the end as she beats the crap out of Kylo Ren) very believable, and a good character arc – she was a different person at the end of the film than she was at the beginning, unlike Anakin in the prequel films, who was basically a smug shitbag the whole time. And above all, Rey is a strong, independent female character, driving the plot forwards herself, and not needing help from anyone (though I did think this point was laboured a bit too much at the beginning when she keeps complaining about Finn taking her hand, almost as if JJ was apologising to us all for that scene in Star Trek: Into Darkness where Alice Eve gets her kit off for no reason whatsoever, other than to allow a few million nerds to fantasize about her tits for a moment)
John Boyega also needs a mention, as the film rests on his shoulders too. I thought Finn was a really interesting character, conflicted about what he is fighting for. His arc was also really well-handled, and it was great to watch him change over the course of the film from someone who just wanted to run away from it all, to someone who wanted to stay and fight. And he’s certainly nailed that ‘I’m knackered from walking through this bloody desert’ look.
As for everyone else, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren was great – menacing, but also strangely charismatic – I loved the scene where he is informed that the droid has escaped, and then beats the shit out of the console in front of him with his lightsabre before saying “anything else?”. There’s a petulance here; an immaturity, and it’s little touches like this that really gave his character a depth that was lacking in the likes of Darth Maul.
Then there’s the old guard. Harrison Ford returns as Han Solo, Peter Mayhew is back as Chewie, and Carrie Fisher returns as General Leia. Oh, and Mark Hammil stands on an island for a few seconds at the end. So how did I feel about seeing these characters return? Well, if I’m honest, as much as I LOVE Han Solo, I felt he was perhaps a bit over-used in the film, and could have benefitted from about 15 minutes less screen time. He’s no action hero anymore, and I just felt that it would have been more interesting to see this once-charming, resilient rogue having to adjust to being older, less agile, and less able to rely on his looks and charm than before. Instead, we got the same Han Solo, rather than an evolution of his character. Leia was great though – smart as ever, and definitely all the better in her role as a general. And when we finally meet Luke, he looks exactly as he should.
Something else I want to touch on about The Force Awakens is its tone. There’s no doubt about it – this film just oozed that classic Star Wars feel the whole way through. Sure, this was certainly helped by the fact that it looked the part and was crammed was imaginative aliens, spaceships, and locations (not to mention a healthy dose of fanservice), but for me, it achieved that feel the most by capturing what made the original movies so endearing: though all the tech mumbo jumbo and mysticism, it was all grounded by a sense of humanity that shone through. We have a boy that wants to impress a girl. A mother and father wanting to bring back their son. And it was damn funny too – BB8 stole the show on a number of occasions, and the scene where he colludes with Finn to keep up the pretense to Rey that he works for the Resistance was hilarious.
And so finally, we come to the story. Now, on this front I felt a bit conflicted – the opening act on Jakku I thought was superb, full of amazing action, great character introductions, and a suitable MacGuffin in the form of the map to Luke Skywalker (though why only now this map made an appearance, and why it even exists in the first place did puzzle me). But then we start to learn of the First Order’s Starkiller Base – a planet terraformed into a big, round, ultimate weapon, capable of destroying planets, a bit like another big, round, planet-destroying weapon we’re all somewhat familiar with. Now, at first I was a bit disappointed that the writers couldn’t have come up with something more original. With a weak spot that needs to be exploited, a shield generator that needed to be disabled, and parallel action taking place on the surface and in the skies above, the third act felt like a complete re-tread of Return of The Jedi. However, on reflection, I can’t help but feel that this is exactly what the film needed. We’ve been through the boredom of political conspiracies in the prequel trilogy, and in having the Starkiller base, The Force Awakens shamelessly goes back to basics, and is all the better for it too. There’s nothing too complicated to worry about here – the audience knows that the Resistance are going to go to that massive thing in space, and blow it up.
One thing I did find complicated though, and which I felt could have benefited from some more explanation, was the intergalactic geography of everything. Maybe I was being stupid, but I didn’t really understand what was in relation to where, and the implications this had on destroying the Starkiller base. In the original Star Wars, we understood everything we needed to know about the Death Star – it was a massive ship, which moved from system to system blowing up planets. The finale was about the Rebels blowing it up before it had orbited Yavin to a position where the moon was in its line of sight. The logistics surrounding the Starkiller base however were a bit more complicated. Firstly, it looked as though the base was a terraformed planet. Was it orbiting a sun or had it been modified to travel by itself? Once it drained a Sun, did it move on elsewhere? And where exactly was it in relation to everything else? We never see it travel anywhere or enter hyperspace, or even move to orientate its weapon. Is this even how it works? Also, when it blows up the Republic’s capital (which again, needed a bit more exposition to distinguish the planet from the architecturally-similar Coruscant – the city planet in the first three films), the shots appear to be fired from another system, which can be seen in the sky from planet Takodana. How fast are these shots travelling? And where are they travelling from? It’s a minor niggle, but I just felt this all could have done with a bit more explanation, just to allow the audience to appreciate the ‘landscape’ of the battlefield.
But that really was my only complaint about the plot, and it’s not so much a complaint, more a suggestion as to what could have been improved. Ultimately, the film’s pacing probably benefited from leaving this information on the cutting-room floor, so overall it was probably the right call not to bog things down too much in the details.
So that’s all I have to say really. If you haven’t seen Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, I strongly recommend you go and see it, whether you’re a fan of the original films, or a newcomer to the series. The film rekindles that Star Wars magic, does a great job of passing the baton on to our younger heroes, and most of off, it begins the healing process after the disappointment of the prequel trilogy, offering great promise for what’s to come.
Roll on Episode VIII!
Those of you who check in on this blog every so often will know that I’ve had a new book in the works for some time now. Well today I am pleased to reveal that the new book is Time Rep: Continuum – the sequel to Time Rep!
Time Rep: Continuum will be released on May 24th 2016, which is quite a long way off, so if you have a time machine at your disposal, I suggest you use it to jump forward to next year and grab yourselves a copy right away! For those of you without your own time machine, I’m afraid you’re just going to have to wait. In the meantime however, I can tell you that Time Rep: Continuum is set two years after the original Time Rep, and sees Geoffrey Stamp whisked off on a brand new adventure through time and space.
Here’s the cover:
And here’s the description that will appear on the back of the book:
Imagine you’ve just discovered you’re the most significant person who’s ever lived.
You saved the world from an alien invasion. If it wasn’t for you, everyone would be dead.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
That’s exactly what happens to Geoffrey Stamp, but there’s just one problem – he can’t tell anyone. You see, Geoffrey is a Time Rep – a tour guide for the 21st Century, meeting people from the future who travel back in time for their vacation. Everything he does needs to be kept a secret from the people in his own time, otherwise he risks changing the course of history.
And that caused enough trouble in the last book.
But now a new company called Continuum is offering holidays to the past, and they allow people to go back and change whatever they like. For Geoffrey, this sounds like a dream come true, until a future version of himself appears out of nowhere with no memory, a bullet in his back, and a Continuum business card in his pocket. Geoffrey soon finds himself in a race to solve his own attempted murder, but begins to wonder if his investigation is the very thing that nearly got him killed.
What is the truth behind Continuum, and after saving the planet, why would anyone want him dead?
Anyway, that’s my announcement. I hope you’re excited to see Geoffrey back in action!
So I was driving home from the supermarket the other day and saw a billboard advertising the upcoming film Pan. (I assume this film is something to do with Peter Pan, rather than an anthropomorphic biopic set in a kitchen where all the pots and pans come to life, and there’s one pan that everyone picks on (let’s call him, I don’t know… Pan?). Pan would be really down on his luck – Teflon would be peeling off his griddles, there would be bits of burnt bacon stuck to his edges, and he feels totally worthless. He also really fancies the sexy Cafetiere that lives in the cupboard with the glass door above the kettle, but doesn’t think he has a chance with her because he’s all rusty and smells a bit. He’s also constantly bullied by a rolling pin called King Pin. However, one day a contrived set of dire circumstances manifest themselves in such a way that puts everyone at risk, and only Pan can save the day! He does so by using all his characteristics that were previously thought of as flaws to overcome the odds, and in the end the Cafetiere falls for him and the owner of the kitchen throws out King Pin because she gives up on baking.)
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes – the poster for Pan. It looks like this:
Looks fairly innocent, right? Well look again. What does it say at the top?
“From the studio that brought you HARRY POTTER”
Now, call me cynical, but I think this link between Pan and Harry Potter is a little bit tenuous. What’s happened here is that Warner Brother’s PR team all sat in a room and had a conversation that went something like this. (Incidentally, to help you picture the scene, I’ve called my two PRs ‘Bliss’ and “Trev” :
Bliss: “Harry Potter was really successful. If we convince the people that saw that film to see Pan, it would be super-super-amazing!”
Trev: “Yes, but how do we do that?”
Bliss: “We need to think about what these films have in common, then point it out to people!”
Trev: “But what do they have in common?”
Bliss: “Well, they’re both fantasies, they both feature a boy with special abilities as the main character, they’re both fish-out-of-water stories…”
Trev: “They both have P’s in their title…”
Bliss: “Yes yes… but what else? What else?”
Trev: “Wait a minute! Why don’t we say something like “from the director of HARRY POTTER”?
Bliss: “We can’t, because the director of Pan didn’t direct Harry Potter.”
Trev: “Oh, I see. Well, are any of the cast the same?”
Trev: “What about Rat Pac Entertainment and Berlanti – you know, the production companies? Were they involved in Harry Potter?”
Trev: “Okay then, what about the writers? The producers?”
Bliss: “Well, the Exec Producer Tim Lewis was involved in the last four Harry Potters…”
Trev: “What’s an Exec producer?”
Bliss: “Exactly. We can’t say “from the exec producer of some of the Harry Potter films” – that sounds ridiculous. But I tell you what – Warner Brothers made all the Harry Potters, right? And they’re also the studio making this!”
Trev: “Yes, but… Warner Brothers make thousands of different films. Is that really a connection?”
Bliss: “Shut up. I’ve got it – We say “From the studio that brought you HARRY POTTER”!
Trev: “Do you really think people will fall for that?”
Bliss: “I do! I really do! Waiter – can we have a third bottle of wine for the table please? All this creativity has really sapped me!”
Okay, so Warner Brothers were the studio that brought us Harry Potter, but to infer that Pan has any creative similarities to Harry Potter just because Warner Brothers is behind it is a little bit disingenuous in my opinion. So what if they made Harry Potter? They also made such classics as Battlefield Earth (shudder), Catwoman (whoops), The Adventures of Pluto Nash (remember that classic?), Carpool (oh dear), and the god-awful remake of Arthur with Russel Brand.
Now, I’m not saying that Pan is a bad film – I haven’t seen it, so I’m not here to comment on that. I guess my point is that Warner Brothers is such a huge organisation and has such a broad reach over so many films, their involvement as the over-arching studio of both Pan and Harry Potter doesn’t really mean anything, particularly when the films only have a solitary exec producer as the common denominator. So it shouldn’t be touted as a selling point. To put this in context, It would be like me trying to convince Douglas Adams fans to read Time Rep by saying “from the species that brought you The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…”
I also like the tag-line at the bottom: “Every legend has a beginning.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but every whatever has a beginning, doesn’t it? Given everything has to start somewhere, the word “legend” is interchangeable, which could be potentially amusing. So to finish, Here are some suggestions for other films about something or other, using the “Every [insert the thing that has a beginning here] has a beginning” formula:
Every walk to the post office has a beginning
Every haircut has a beginning
Every beginning has a beginning
Every argument about who’s turn it is to buy the milk has a beginning
Every book about shopping in Tunbridge Wells has a beginning
Okay, I’m done. Until next time.
As you are probably aware from my post last week, I went to see The Martian recently, and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, if there was one thing that spoiled the experience slightly for me, it was the sound of people all around me eating and munching and chewing and slurping and rustling and gulping and crunching and chewing and eating and eating. Now, aside from the fact that any sensory stimulation whatsoever coming from the people within the cinema completely breaks the immersion (asides from emotional reactions to the film, such as laughing or screaming, which I’ll accept), this is a film about a guy having to ration potatoes and bread to stay alive, so having the sound of the guy two rows behind me munching through his Doritos wasn’t the most appropriate of things to be hearing in this film!
I’ve come to the conclusion that many people just don’t understand that when they go to the cinema, they are not sitting in their own private living room, and therefore they cannot behave however they please. They are sharing a space with other paying viewers, and have a duty to display a degree of self-awareness and behave appropriately. Now, Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo from Wittertainment already have a very good code of conduct here that details very specifically how one should behave in a cinema to ensures everyone enjoys the film. However, I would like to add my own thoughts to this, specifically around eating. Here are my rules:
- Really, really think about not eating or drinking anything in the first place
This sounds radical I know. I mean, the cinema is all about eating a box of popcorn as big as yourself, right? It’s all about paying an insane amount of money for a Coke, isn’t it? Well, maybe for some people, but for me it’s about going to see a film. Is it really so unbearable not to eat or drink during the film? Is it really that hard to have something to eat beforehand so that you’re not munching during the film? Or heaven forbid, just waiting until the film is over before stuffing your face? I don’t think so.
To be honest, if I was ruler of the world and took a particular interest in the food policy of cinemas, that would be the only rule: No eating. However, I do appreciate this is a little heavy-handed, so for those people who absolutely have to eat something during a film, here are some additional guidelines:
- Don’t bring your food into the cinema in a plastic bag…
Rustle rustle rustle. Rustle rustle. Rustle rustle rustle rustle rustle. Rustle. Russelrusslerusslerusslerusslerussle. This is the sound of someone hunting around for their Maltesers underneath the tins of beans, the loaf of bread, any everything else they’ve bought for later. If you need to carry your food into the cinema in a bag, make sure that bag is silent, like a nice Jute bag or something.
- …and the same goes for packaging…
News Flash people – a bag of crisps is noisy. A chocolate wrapper is noisy. The foil you need to peel off of your tube of Fruit Pastilles is noisy. I know this sounds obvious, but it if was, then why do so many people fail to realise this?
- …and the food itself
Here’s another thing that seems to be a surprise to some people – when you put something in your mouth that makes a noise when you bite into it (let’s say, a crisp), that noise does not stay within the confines of your mouth. Your mouth is not soundproof. You are not the only person able to hear the crunch of the crisp because you are hearing the sound coming from within your own head. Sound travels. Everyone else can hear it. So think about the food you are bringing into the cinema. Preferably, it should be silent food (like jelly babies, decanted into makeshift pouch constructed out of kitchen roll), but if it isn’t – if you really need to eat those salt and vinegar crisps – eat them quietly! Put one crisp at a time into your mouth, and suck on them until they silently disintegrate onto your tongue! Crisps taste better and last longer that way anyway, right?
- Time your eating with events in the film to disguise the sounds you might make
Are you watching a crazy car chase with the sounds of screeching tires, car horns and explosions blasting in your ears? Then now is a great time to rip open that bag of Skittles as noisily as you like, stuff as many of those sugary pearls in your mouth as you can, and chew like crazy. At the same time, when you’re watching a quiet, tender moment between two characters, don’t take that as a green light to rummage through your Sainsbury’s bag for the Minstrels. Michael Bay films are perfect for the conscientious noisy eater, since on average there’s usually a large explosion every 45 seconds, so they can munch and rustle and chew as much as they like.
- No-one wants to smell your food
Don’t you just love the smell of that pungent, artificial cheese they pour over the nachos you can buy in the cinema? Well, neither does anyone else, so don’t bring them in with you!
- Think about people with allergies
Yummy, peanuts! Oh wait – the person with a nut allergy two rows down has had to leave the cinema because their skins gets unbearably itchy, even if they are exposed to the scent of nuts in the air. Oh well, never mind – at least you got to eat those peanuts! I mean, you couldn’t have possibly watched the film without those nuts, could you? They make the whole experience!
Anyway, that’s it! Do you think I’ve missed anything in terms of guidance for eating in cinemas? Let me know in the comments section!