Geek Highlights of 2013 – Part One

Happy New Year!  I hope you’ve all had a blast and ready to settle back into normality (depressing, I know).  With 2014 now underway and numerous geek treats in store in the coming months I thought I’d take a look back at a personal selection of some of the highlights, controversies and reactions surrounding the various releases, announcements and fanboy/girl meltdowns of 2013.  Be warned, the below contains some minor spoilers…

MARVEL’S NEXT PHASE

Almost a year after assembling their Avengers, Marvel Studios unleashed their next salvo on film going audiences across the globe.  Iron Man Three burst onto screens, quickly passing the $1 billion mark in box office gross (and now established as the highest grossing film of 2013).

It’s a film I had issues with on theatrical release primarily due to the slapstick handling of the Mandarin (he’s just an actor?!).  Still, I bought the Blu-ray and despite the odd lingering quibble, I was glad to find on reflection that Iron Man Three is actually rollicking good fun.  As a fan of Iron Man comics for many years, it’s still not quite the more serious interpretation of the character that I would like to see but one I’ve certainly warmed to and there’s no doubting the talents of Robert Downey Jr.

We also saw the return of Marvel’s titular ‘God of Thunder’ with the release of Thor: The Dark World, a bigger and bolder sequel that, although perhaps lacking a stronger emotional core, proved every bit as entertaining as Kenneth Branagh’s Thor (and surpassing its takings at the box office) featuring a reliably fun performance from Chris Hemsworth and another star turn from the phenomenal Tim Hiddleston as the menacing Loki.

Not content with simply dominating the multiplex, Marvel commenced their attack on television screens with the highly anticipated Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Developed by Avengers Assemble maestro Joss Whedon, we saw the welcome return of Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) in Marvel’s companion piece (or promotion between films if I was wearing my cynical hat) to their cinematic universe which launched with a slick and promising pilot.  Now at mid-season the series certainly has its creative shortcomings, the family-friendly ‘case of the week’ already becoming a little tiresome but as the characters are being fleshed out I have hopes that with some growth in mythology it can improve so, we’ll see.

Of course there are still all those comic books hitting newsstands (both physical and virtual) week in, week out…

KHAAAAAN…?!

Before jumping aboard the Millennium Flacon and heading off to a galaxy, far, far away (Star Wars Episode VII inbound December 2015), director/producer J.J. Abrams successfully guided Star Trek Into Darkness onto cinema screens…but not without a healthy measure of fan controversy.

Opening to generally positive reviews from critics and film goers alike, the Trek fan base was well and truly shook up by the revelation of the film’s central villain and numerous nods to earlier cinematic voyages (most significantly Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).  Was the inclusion of Khan a sound decision?  It sat well with me – Benedict Cumberbatch turned in an enjoyably weighty performance and provided high stakes for the crew of the Enterprise and it’s certainly not the first time an established character has been reinterpreted for a modern audience.

I certainly consider myself a ‘hardcore’ fan (I love Star Trek more than any other geek franchise) and felt that Into Darkness was a breathtaking piece of blockbuster entertainment, featuring strong performances from Chris Pyne and Zachary Quinto, a pleasing secondary villain in Peter Weller’s Admiral Marcus and some neat homages that should be permitted so long as future instalments don’t rely on them.

With Abrams’ commitment to Star Wars, the director’s chair has been left vacant and as Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness screenwriter Roberto Orci teams up with fresh blood – Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne – to forge the next adventure for Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise, the search for Abrams’ successor goes on, Attack the Block’s Joe Cornish now all but ruled out.  As the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek approaches, a 2016 release date for Star Trek 3 (or 13 depending on how you look at it) is likely so we should certainly expect an announcement before the end of the year.

Look out for Part Two next week!

What are your thoughts on the above? Or do you have a favourite geek highlight of 2013? Leave a comment!

His name is...John Harrison, no wait, it's - KHAN! A solid reinterpretation of the iconic character by Benedict Cumberbatch.

His name is…John Harrison, no wait, it’s – KHAN! A solid reinterpretation of the iconic character by Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’.

Have Yourselves a GEEKY Little Christmas…

Hey folks!  With Christmas well and truly upon us, I thought I would drop you all a (fairly) quick note wishing you the very best for Christmas, the New Year and beyond!

I’d also like to thank you all for your support over the last few months and for taking the time to check out this little blog of mine.  I’m humbled and forever grateful and must apologise for the lack of updates over the recent weeks, stay tuned for some fresh geekery in the New Year (I’ll also do some catching up with your wonderful blogs).

2014 looks set to be (at least potentially) a phenomenal year for geek fandom, with some tantalising treats in store.  Prepare to empty your wallets and purses, declare bankruptcy and form orderly queues for the likes of highly anticipated big screen releases including Robocop (please be good), Godzilla (have you seen that trailer?), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (CANNOT wait for that), The Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past (Stewart! McKellen! Jackman! McAvoy! Fassbender! Oh my!), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the first post-Bat offering from Christopher Nolan, Interstellar.

On the small screen we’ll have the continuation of current seasons of Arrow (and a pilot for the impending Flash series), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (hopefully we’ll see some improvement) and RevolutionSherlock will live again and the time-hopping (profanity lacking) adventures of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor shall commence in Doctor Who.  Hopefully it won’t be too long until the UK television premiere of the J.J. Abrams produced, Karl Urban starring Almost Human which I’m hearing good things about and the next season of Under the Dome will intrigue without ‘jumping the shark’ (that first season finale was a little worrying) and Falling Skies will continue to excite.

Plus there’ll be ongoing geekery in the world of comic books and gaming as Sony and Microsoft plough ahead with the new generation (I’ve waited long enough, just give me Metal Gear Solid V now) but I’ll leave it there, come up for air and just sign off by saying wherever you are and whatever you do (hopefully playing on your PS4’s and X-Box One’s in between bites of turkey, sips of wine and viewings of many a Christmas classic), eat, drink, be merry and most of all – be safe!

See you in 2014…

Hopefully you won't catch this guy in the act on Christmas Eve...

Hopefully you won’t catch this guy in the act on Christmas Eve…

The Versatile Blogger Award!

Award number 2!

Award number 2!

Not so long after receiving a Liebster Award nomination (you can read the acceptance piece for that here) I’m honoured and (damn lucky) to have received another award nomination courtesy of V over at top blog The Verbal Spew Review.

I humbly accept and once again would like to extend my thanks to V who had kindly also nominated GBUK for the LiebsterThe Verbal Spew Review is a fun, thought provoking and all-round good read presented with its own unique voice and style.  V is also very welcoming and supportive of fellow bloggers and will always take the time to respond to your comments and check out your very own blogs.  If you haven’t come across The Verbal Spew Review yet I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I’m still amazed that there are people out there reading and even enjoying my stuff (if this is your visit then a massive hello to you and thanks for stopping by!).  Admittedly I’ve been rather busy of late with a new job which has left me with less time and little attention for the blogsphere.  If I haven’t stopped by your blogs in a while please accept my apologies, it’s going to take me a little bit of time to catch up (I also need to log in to the Twitter account which I’ve been neglecting) and don’t worry I’m still aiming to produce at least one GBUK post every weekend so stick with me!

Anyway, I shall press on with this acceptance.  Firstly, the blogs I would like to nominate for the VBA (the rules of which can be viewed here):

I would like to stress that acceptance is purely at the discretion of the authors of those fantastic blogs and I won’t be offended if they don’t wish to participate (likewise if they do, I look forward to reading the responses) – it’s entirely up to you!

Now, on to the seven factoids.  As I’m not really all that interesting and wanting to maintain some relevance with this here geeky blog of mine you’ll find that they’re mainly statements of geekery (and perhaps they might invite debate?) with the odd personal fact thrown in for good measure – I am versatile after all:

  1. I was born in Prescot but have lived in Liverpool for the majority of my life (thus far).
  2. My favourite Star Trek series is the original.  Oh yes.
  3. I love Christmas but honestly loathe New Year.
  4. I have soft spots for Bond film Moonraker, the 1995 Sylvester Stallone Judge Dredd and the 1978 Battlestar Galactica: The Movie.
  5. I look approximately ten years younger than my actual age (my new co-workers are astonished).
  6. I’m still annoyed that Stargate Universe was cancelled.
  7. I prefer American Dad! to Family Guy.

 Well, that’s all for now – until next time, stay safe and keep watching the skies!

Liebster Award nomination!

Humbled and chuffed to be nominated...

Humbled and chuffed to be nominated…

Well, that was certainly unexpected – an award nomination for little old me?  Really?  Before I thank my Mum, my Dad etc I must extend my hearty thanks and appreciation to fellow blogger V.  V is blogmaster (blogmadam?) of The Verbal Spew Review, a review blog that’s well written, fun and just damn well entertaining.  I strongly advise that you check it out here (if you haven’t already).

Seriously though, I am genuinely humbled to receive this nomination and if you’re reading this then thanks for stopping by and I hope you’ll find something to enjoy on this little blog of mine…perhaps even subscribe/follow?  I’d also love to hear from you all so please feel free to add your thoughts by commenting on the various posts.

Anyway, on with the show…

Firstly, for anyone unfamiliar with the Liebster Award there are a few rules to follow should you find yourself attracting a nomination:

  1. Post the Liebster Award graphic on your site.
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated your blog.
  3. The nominee is asked to write 11 facts about themselves.
  4. Answer the 11 questions from the post of the person who nominated them.
  5. The nominee will nominate 9 other blogs.
  6. The nominee will then create 11 questions of their own for their nominated bloggers to answer in their Liebster post.

So there you have the rules, I’m not sure if the numbers 11 and 9 have some special significance but without further digression below are my nominations for this prestigious award:

The Verbal Spew Review  in addition to my above hearty thanks and appreciation I would like to return equal appreciation to V and hope whoever is reading this (yep, you AND you) will check out The Verbal Spew Review.

Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys) – Australia’s top film blogging duo.

Tim’s Film Reviews – entertaining film reviews and trailer discussion.

Some Films and Stuff – insightful film reviews.

Vinnieh – well written and thought provoking film opinion.

Hard Ticket to Home Video – a humorous take on the world of film.

Snippet Studios – a healthy mix of opinion on the realms of film, TV, video games and foodstuff.

Lucas Fothergill – aspiring journalist and writer Lucas offers up his thoughts on films and music.

The Cinema Monster – top film reviews, news and top tens.

Moving on, here are 11 facts about myself…

  1. I can’t stand gravy or coffee.
  2. I’m left handed.
  3. I passed my driving test ten years ago but haven’t driven since.
  4. I’m so clumsy and accident prone that I’ve earned the nickname ‘Frank’…as in Frank Spencer from the classic 70s BBC sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Em.  I am not currently involved with a lady named Betty.
  5. I recently won a copy of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale in a film quiz (our team coming third).  Shame I already have the Kindle book.
  6. I prefer The Dark Knight Rises to The Dark Knight.
  7. I was a massively fussy eater up to my late teens but will now eat all kinds of exotic and spicy foods (so long as no gravy or coffee is involved).  I even cook and understand my cooking is actually successful.
  8. I’ve met comedian Jimmy Carr three times.
  9. Despite my high level of geekiness, I’ve never been to a convention.  Does that mean my geek credentials shall now be revoked?
  10. I am not a fan of any sport (unless geeking out about stuff should be considered one?).
  11. I recently turned 31 and my hair is greying at the temples a la Mr. Fantastic!

So there you have my 11 facts, now on to my answers to the 11 intriguing questions (I’ve edited some of them slightly for space):

  1. It’s Friday today, HUZZAH! What are you up to this weekend?  Whoops it’s now Saturday (sorry).  Well it’s actually a quiet weekend this week for me.  So, aside from this piece it’ll be a bit of Mass Effect 3, some TV and a couple of films with a beer.  I’ll also be cooking my speciality chorizo pasta this evening.
  2. Top tear-jerking moment in entertainment?  Easily the death of Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan which always chokes me up (and I’ve seen it about a million times).  Of course he’s back in the next film but it’s such a powerful scene complemented by Kirk’s heartfelt eulogy, who says William Shatner can’t act?
  3. If you could listen to only one album for the rest of your life, which album would you choose?  It would have to be U2’s The Best of 1980-1990.  So many great iconic songs.
  4. Have you a phobia?  I fear Shepherd’s Pie, the mere sight or smell of it makes me feel physically ill.
  5. What upcoming film and/or game are you most looking forward to, and why?  Film – Thor: The Dark World because it’s a Marvel film and looks pretty damn good.  Chris Hemsworth IS Thor and the superb Tom Hiddleston is an awesome Loki (should it stink, at the very least there’ll be Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings and Jaimie Alexander to enjoy).  Game:  Batman: Arkham Origins, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City were triumphant achievements in comic book video game making.  Well written stories, great gameplay, atmospheric and incredible environments – I love games that just draw you in and take you to another place.
  6. What is the best chat-up/pick-up line you’ve ever heard or used?  A friend of mine once recommended “did it hurt when you fell from heaven?”.  Ouch.
  7. What character, be they in film, TV, comic, literature or game, do you most relate to and why?  That’s a toughie, I’m not sure I can narrow it down to one.  At a push I would say Peter Parker aka Spider-Man, because like me he is the nerdy, well meaning underdog that just battles on with the trials and tribulations of everyday life…
  8. What do you sing in the shower?  I tend to hum tracks from film scores, lately it’s the theme from Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service…can’t beat a bit of John Barry!
  9. If you could go back to any place or period in time, where/when would you choose to go and why?  Probably the late 1960s, specifically 1969 to watch the Moon landing live.  Not just a technological and sociological triumph but a moment which, however brief, united people the world over – something that seems far away these days.  Gosh that was deep.
  10. You have a hot date and he/she is coming around to your place for dinner and maybe later some dessert.  What do you cook to suitably impress?  Probably one of my pasta dishes, followed by ice cream?
  11. What’s the best prank you’ve ever pulled on someone? Or have had pulled on you?  Years ago, the morning after a party I sat down for a fry up breakfast with some friends.  Nature called and when I returned to the table, there was a cup of tea waiting for me which I proceeded to gulp.  I quickly realised that it didn’t quite taste right and my friends confessed to lacing the brew with a few drops of Vodka, some Tabasco, a squeeze of ketchup and probably all kinds else they still haven’t told me about.

So now it’s time for the questions I’d like my chosen nominees to ponder (if you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with me so far, not long to go now – I promise!):

  1. Kirk or Picard and why?
  2. Is the glass half full or half empty and what liquid does it contain?
  3. What is your favourite film/TV quote and what significance does it hold for you?
  4. What’s your favourite film score?
  5. A man walks into a bar…
  6. Jack Daniels or Southern Comfort?
  7. Do you have a film/TV guilty pleasure (or pleasures)?
  8. Who is your idol and why?
  9. PS4 or X-Box One?
  10. What makes you laugh?
  11. What makes you cry?

So, over to my nominees – until next time, that’s all folks!

GBUK progress report

Thank you

Well I’ve been blogging for around a month now and seem to be finding my feet a little and picking up some followers (hopefully I’ll continue to add more) so a big thanks to all of you readers out there for taking the time to read the blog.

I’m generally pleased with the stats so far (I keep telling myself it’s still early days) and it’s been great discovering some of the other blogs via WordPress.

As it stands my aim is to publish at least two posts a week (more if time/creativity permits), I’m mindful that the bulk of the content so far is film related and I hope to balance it out a little with some more comic book and TV related articles.

It’d be great to hear from you all, so please don’t be shy and add your thoughts by commenting on the various posts and don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter, follow/like the blog and can also check out/like the Facebook page – see the right hand column (which I hope I haven’t cluttered too much!) for details.

So, until next time – take care!

All the best, Chris…your friendly neighbourhood Geek Blogger!

Chris 01

An interview with Alexander Williams of mcphoney.com

In my opening post for this blog (which you can read here) I mentioned my good friend Alexander Williams and his website mcphoney.com which showcases numerous excellent short films and series produced by Alex himself.  Myself and Alex have been friends for many years and I have proudly witnessed the evolution of Alex’s various projects, some of which I have been fortunate to be involved in (with some further collaborations planned).

So amongst my usual blogging I decided to put together this interview with Alex about mcphoney.com, past projects and plans for the future…

Chris:  So, Alex, cast your mind back to that summer of 2004 and the holiday in Suffolk which a group of us went on.  You had brought your Dad’s camcorder with you and I remember you approached me about making a short film for fun, specifically with the title of “The Man Who Knew Too Much” as a starting point (no relation to the Hitchcock films of course).  What were your thoughts at the time?

Alex:  Basically, I’ve always thought that if you have a camera, you should be productive with it.  Of course many people film weddings, birthdays etc. but I believe there should be more to it than that.  I remember reading about James Cameron (director of all-time classics such as “The Terminator” and “Aliens” – Chris) and his quote “just pick up a camera and do it!”.  With that in mind and being on holiday in the middle of nowhere with the extra bonus of having my good friend and fellow film enthusiast at my side, production was able to commence!  Ok yes it was just a bit of fun, but we both thoroughly enjoyed it and look how far we have come now.  It’s even better picking up a camera and having a go when you have someone just as enthusiastic about film and film making by your side!

Chris:  Exactly, most things are worth a try and you never know until you do.  So, how did mcphoney.com come about?  I remember you launching the site but can’t recall any prior discussion…

Alex:  I think it was almost by accident.  I remember thinking about the name “mcphoney” in Art class back in Secondary School when I was about 15.  It was more of a random thought: “imagine your name was mcphoney” but then it kind of just stuck and whilst trying to think of a name/place to publish my short films, it seemed the perfect choice.  Unique/bizarre and original!

When I first put the website up I think it was just a single page showing what you could watch…somehow because this was before the days of YouTube, and me not knowing much about the web in those days, all I could really do was promote the films verbally, not publish them!  As soon as video sharing sites came along however, it became the ideal opportunity to get the videos out there and released on the unsuspecting world!!!  Obviously now it has a bit of a cult following and with website design becoming easier every day I’ve been able to create an easy to navigate website as well as a store with some branded merchandise too (get buying)!

Chris:  Haha, nice plug sir!  Anyway, I enjoyed being part of what we’ve always referred to as The Men Who Knew Too Much trilogy and had fun with the retrospective mockumentary we put together but tell me about Two Many which you made during college…

Alex:  The funny thing about Two Many was that the idea actually came about whilst I was listening to the soundtrack for Alien 3 (an excellent atmospheric score by Elliot Goldenthal – Chris).  The music gave me this vision of a security camera showing someone’s true identity or secret.  So then I thought, how could I create a short story that ends with this twist?  This is how Two Many was born.  I myself however was not actually meant to be in the film.  On the day of filming unfortunately one of the cast had to drop out (they had good reasons too) and so I jumped in at the last minute (I’m actually reading the script off the floor!).  To be honest the original score for the Two Many was the entire soundtrack from Alien 3 but due to copyright this had to be changed to the music you hear in the finished production (I actually preferred the original version though).

Chris:  You re-launched mcphoney.com back in January.  What prompted you to re-launch the site?

Alex:  That’s right, mcphoney.com always seems to be changing but don’t worry, I’m sticking with this new look.  Having created the original ‘Earth’ logo (using Adobe After Effects) I thought it looked a bit cold, not very inviting so I scrapped it and began again and hence the new ‘clapperboard’ logo was created which I am very happy with.  The hard part was just learning everything because I had no idea how to build a site let alone create a logo and host videos etc. but after a LOT of researching I was slowly able to create the website I had envisioned after all these years, and that’s the site you see today!

Chris:  It’s a great looking site with an easy to follow layout and professional looking design.   Featuring heavily as part of the re-launch was the opening episode of your hit YouTube series What Happens Next?  You’ve made seven parts so far and the plan is to finish the series with the tenth.  Looking back at Part 1, did you always have an overall plan for the series or has each part shaped the course of it all?

Alex:  The first one was actually meant to be a one off, maybe with a comedy ending revealed in the second episode or even just leaving it at that.  However, since it was such a simple thing to film I thought…why not continue?  This could lead to something good, thus the series was born!  It was only after the second episode that I started putting “some” thought into it, the hits on YouTube really started to gather and of course I didn’t want to disappoint!  The big finale (Parts 8-10) will hopefully rap up all the loose ends and I’m hoping for an end of 2013 release – be prepared as everything will not be as it seems!

Chris:  I like the way that each part cranks up the tension leading to a killer cliff-hanger which really does leave you wanting more.  Parts 6 and 7 kicked things up a notch with a more urgent and action-orientated pace.  Will this carry through to the grand finale?

Alex:  Hopefully yes…but at this point it’s hard to say.  I liked the tension/suspense of the earlier parts but everyone loves a good action scene!  I know what will happen in my head but it will depend on whether it’ll work or not, watch this space!

Chris:  I know you can’t divulge much about Parts 8-10 but could you perhaps give me a word or two as a hint at what to expect?

Alex:  Erm…I suppose…there will be a lot more to take in than just myself on screen…again it all depends on what works and what doesn’t – I’m positive however that you will all be satisfied!

Chris:  Moving on to your other YouTube hit, Cooking with Uncle Joe – how do you feel that’s progressed and are there further instalments in the works?

Alex:  The trouble with Cooking with Uncle Jo is that it takes such a long time to film.  Even the “Pancake Special” took over 6 hours and then there’s the editing on top of that as well.  The reason why there has been a shortage of them recently is that I’m trying to revamp the series, give it more of a niche.  The other problem is that I’m also currently very busy with other productions that are due to go ahead.  Don’t worry though, Uncle Jo is not dead – all in all I’m planning to keep it going as I have the material to do so!

Chris:  Well we’ve both recently developed something together (under our ‘C+A Productions’ banner via mcphoney.com), a short titled A Fateful End” which we’ll be filming soon…shall we give a little teaser?

Alex:  Why not, basically it’s a kind of short thriller…or is it? [Laughs]

Chris:  Indeed, we obviously don’t want to give too much away as it will rely heavily on suspense!

Many thanks to Alex for agreeing to this interview.  Be sure to check out his website at www.mcphoney.com where you will find all of the short films mentioned in this piece together with links to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Alexander Williams: short film-maker and web master of 'mcphoney.com'.

Alexander Williams: short film-maker and web master of ‘mcphoney.com’.

Commence blogging…

Hello out there!

Well after a lengthy period of procrastination and many chin strokes, head scratches and general pondering I’ve finally done it.  I finally decided to launch a blog and here it is, the world may not necessarily be better or worse for it and blogs like this are a dime a dozen but hopefully one or two people might actually read it (and maybe, just maybe…enjoy it?).

So what is this blog all about I hear you cry as you yearn for me to get to the point (not always my strongest attribute I admit).  Well, firstly my name is Chris (hello) and I love movies, TV, comic books, video games and…well that’s a vast area so I’ll just leave it there and start writing some stuff!

It’s all a work in progress and I’m new to the blogging thing, but like all ventures this is a journey so stick with me as I find my feet, follow me on Twitter (@CaptChris82) for general Geek ramblings and updates on this blog.

Oh and as a final word I would just like to extend a special thanks to my good friend Alexander Williams who encouraged me to pursue this idea – thanks mate, you’re a true one!

Alex produces some rather excellent and highly enjoyable short films (and YouTube hits) – be sure to check out his website at www.mcphoney.com!

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