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Genre features from 2011.

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This Means War (Frank's take)
01/03/2012. Love is a battlefield—at least according to director McG’s jittery spy romantic comedy This Means War, an annoyingly loud and lame action thriller that completely misses its subversive, impish mark. The gimmick involving two wayward CIA operatives matching wits, bullets and playful banter while lobbying for the affections of the same woman comes off as a paper-thin, callow caper.

Cosmic Voyage (1935): Mark's take
01/12/2011. A professor, a woman, and a Young Pioneer are the first to travel to the moon in a Soviet science fiction film rarely seen in the United States. The story is only mediocre, but some of the visual effects are just stunning. The film seems to be a Soviet response to Fritz Lang's Frau Im Mond and while it is not as effective, it provides its own rewards.

Most of the time, this world and its people are pretty alien to me
1/12/2011. Here’s something for you to ponder on: What do you say when something commonplace isn’t something you take for granted or even something you’ve experienced? Assuming neither of us have got amnesia or any other mental complaint, I’ve noticed that lately I’ve tended to remark, ‘That sounds pretty alien to me.’

Anne McCaffrey: The Grand Lady Of Pern
1/12/2011. It is very hard not to say ‘Anne McCaffrey’ and ‘The Dragonriders Of Pern’ in the same sentence. Most Science Fiction readers of my generation got hooked to her books through ‘Dragonflight’, the first in the ‘Pern Chronicles’ and read her other books waiting for the next book in the series.

Harbinger, Too
1/12/2011. a Psi-Kicks story by: GF Willmetts. Another Psi-Kicks where one of their number has amnesia and is hijacked to Somalia. Not helped by the fact that no one can say her name and she’s getting increasingly powerful.

The Last Circus (Balada Triste De Trompeta)
1/12/2011. This is a sensational surreal horror/comedy fairy tale co-written and directed by Basque auteur Álex de la Iglesia (The Oxford Murders). It has to be the weirdest and one of the funniest films I have seen in quite a while. As time goes on, everything in The Last Circus becomes more grotesque and dreamlike.

Doctor Who Season 33: an appraisal
01/11/2011. By: GF WIllmetts. The one thing that can be said about Steven Moffat’s tenure as producer and chief writer of ‘Doctor Who’, now into its second year, is that he does like playing with time and encourages his writing team likewise.

The problems of being immortal
01/11/2011. an examination by: GF Willmetts. With the recent announcement of the increased size of human population in the next decade in the UK let alone the world, this is compounded by how much longer people are living. In past centuries, it was often disease and wars that did the most for decreasing population but as we’ve become more peaceful (even recent wars haven’t caused general population reduction compared to the two world wars) and also resolved cures for major infections, the more likely more of us are going to live reasonably healthy to a greater age.

A Barber's Hairy Tales
01/11/2011. a hair-cut short story by: GF Willmetts. You know, there are some barbers who talk and some don’t. I’m one of those who talks. Did you know that some shrinks think it’s to do with distracting the upper brain while the hands get on with their work?

Sarah Jane Adventures season 5
01/11/2011. an appraisal by: GF Willmetts. In many respects, the fifth and final season of the ‘Sarah Jane Adventures’ was a build-up for another season what with the introduction of another child for Miss Smith to foster.

The importance of reading a book is you remember the text.
01/11/2011. But when you look up something on the Net, all you remember is where to look. It is frequently said that book reading is a dying art, which beggars the question that if that is the case why are so many of you, according to the media, out there investing in digital book reading equipment?

Contagion (Mark's take)
01/10/2011. Director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns give us a fast-paced and grim scenario of a nasty but all-too-possible avian flu was released and spread through the environment. There are about six strands of plot running through the scenario, each with a recognisable actor playing the main character. In spite of the presence of major stars Soderbergh gives us the confidence that he is not tweaking the film to exaggerate the drama or excitement. Even without the usual tropes of science fiction, this is - among other things - an excellent science fiction techno thriller.

Trollhunter (Mark's take)
01/10/2011. Trollhunter is a serious Norwegian horror film that is also a satire of The Blair Witch Project. University students making a documentary about a supposed bear poacher find the man is instead a government agent controlling and helping to keep secret the population of deadly trolls.

Touchwood: Miracle Day
1/10/2011. Appraisal day by: GF Willmetts. Forgive the multiple misspellings of Torchwood. Seems because of my weekly coverage of season four of Tombwood on the SFCrowsnest Forum, activated a certain removal virus rewrites whenever I put Touchewood. No matter, you know what I’m referring to. A cure for the removal of the T*****wood virus please by the end of this appraisal!

That door should stay shut until I want to read what's behind it, shouldn't it?
1/10/2011. There was a newspaper story a couple months back declaring that people felt happier if they knew the story endings than reading blindly from the start. Apart from anything else, this tends to go away from our reviews policy where we try to avoid giving too many spoilers, especially those relating to the story’s ending, so as you can experience surprises for yourself.

You Are A Chair
1/10/2011. A surreal story of sorts by: GF Willmetts. Or, Uncle Geoff gets his Haiku on!

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (Mark's take)
01/09/2011. The final Harry Potter film has Harry and friends searching out the last of the Voldemort Horcruxes for his final confrontation with Voldemort. If you don't know what I just said I recommend you bail out right now. The last Harry Potter film is a very substantial fantasy film, perhaps even beyond the level of one of the Lord of the Rings films. With one major omission the series comes to a satisfying and frequently spectacular conclusion.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Mark's take)
01/09/2011. The new Apes film is not into intelligent or even credible social comment but rather the digital spectacle of a battle between humans and apes. Human dominance of apes turns into violent rebellion when ape intelligence becomes widespread.

A Third Interview With Robert J. Sawyer
1/09/2011. conducted by: GF Willmetts. In the past five years, I’ve interviewed Robert Sawyer a couple times, so this makes for the hat-trick. After the single season of ‘FlashForward’, his name is now known globally so there is a lot more to chat about. Rob describes my interviews as a pleasant torture, which also means he’s a glutton for punishment, so let’s adjust the rack I’ve tied him to and get down to some serious questioning.

An Interview With Eric Brown
1/09/2011. by Patrick Mahon. Eric Brown is a prolific, award-winning British author of character-driven Science Fiction. He has been a published author for nearly twenty-five years, having had his first short story published by ‘Interzone’ in 1987. He has written fifteen novels and has won the BSFA Award twice for his short fiction.

August used to be such a quiet month
1/09/2011. The rioting and looting in London and other cities in the UK in August is a sharp reminder of what a powder keg this world is becoming not to mention how easy it is for such situations to be exploited both by people and governments. It makes some SF realities look tame in comparison and a sharp reminder that there are rarely simple answers to such problems and probably why we rarely see stories about economics in our own genre.

Interview With David Conyers
1/09/2011. by Rod MacDonald. David Conyers is an Australian Science Fiction and horror author residing in Adelaide. With John Sunseri, he is the co-author of the Lovecraftian spy thriller collection ‘The Spiraling Worm’ and the author of the sequel novella ‘The Eye Of Infinity’. He is the editor of the anthology ‘Cthulhu’s Dark Cults’, with Brian M. Sammons the editor of ‘Cthulhu Unbound 3’ and a contributing editor for ‘Albedo One’, Ireland’s longest running magazine of speculative fiction.

John Barrowman's Miracle Day
01/08/2011. Captain Jack Harkness, aka John Barrowman, and Eve Myles (Gwen) tell us all about the new series of Torchwood that kicks off with Miracle Day. He's American, he's back in the homeland with the new series. Could he be happier?

Bill Pullman gets Torchwood
01/08/2011. Bill Pullman may have been in the odd scifi flick (Independence Day, anyone), but he has rarely played a less likeable character than the one he plays in the new series of Torchwood... a child-killing murderer who finds he can't die.

Test Pilot Pirx (Mark's take)
01/08/2011. Stanislaw Lem's space pilot Pirx is given a double task. He is to orbit two satellites in Saturn's rings and at the same time see if he can detect which of his crew is actually a humanoid robot.

Follow the instructions
01/08/2011. An editorial from Uncle Geoff on why instructions are important to a degree.

The Space Aged
01/08/2011. The Space Aged – a short story of the first people to land on Mars. Space is described as the final frontier. Perhaps the accent should be on ‘final’. It’s not really designed for the young.

The David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy: 2011
01/08/2011. A report from awards night by Pauline Morgan. Fantasy is a genre renowned for its magic users and wizards. How fitting is then that the venue for the presentation of this year’s Gemmell awards was the home of the Magic Circle in London?

X-Men: First Class (Mark's take)
01/07/2011. The fifth "X-Men" film is an origin story for the X-Men. It is a secret history of super-mutants becoming a powerful force from 1944 and the Holocaust to 1962 and the Cuban Missile Crisis. That crisis, we learn, was actually orchestrated by opposing forces of mutants.

Super 8 (Mark's take)
01/07/2011. J. J. Abrams, as homage to the early Steven Spielberg, writes and directs a pastiche of Spielberg's early juvenile films. A group of friends making an amateur zombie film one night witness a train derailment that involved more than meets the eye. They are soon caught up in a situation of global proportions. This would have been a fun drive-in sort of film, not the deepest film, but fun aimed at young teen level. On those terms it is acceptable family fare. Spielberg is one of the producers, by the way. Warning: Very minor spoilers. I have tried to spoil much less than most other reviews I have seen, but this review is probably not spoiler-free.

I'm never stuck for an answer
1/07/2011. ...even if I’m not always aware of it at the time. With Science Fiction, that’s a rather crucial element that divides it from fantasy. After all, for those who are new and those who forgot, my definition of SF is defining a rule structure, staying within it and not cheating the reader of a solution that they might work out for themselves.

'Til Hell Freezes Over
1/07/2011. a short story by: GF Willmetts. I never meant for it to happen. Come to think of it, I didn’t know I could do it. Then how many find that kind of inner strength? I was in the middle of the road with a lorry bearing down on me and I froze.

Thor (Mark's take)
01/06/2011. Thor, discovers Mark, is a comic-book film that gives us a different sort of superhero, the Norse god banished from Asgard and exiled to Earth and struggling to retrieve/earn his hammer of power. If I were to picture the gods in Asgard, what we see of them in this film is not what they would look like in my mind. Some veteran actors like Anthony Hopkins seem overqualified to play opposite Chris Hemsworth in the title role.

Hanna (Mark's take)
01/06/2011. Hanna has been raised and trained by her father to be a perfect assassin, preparing for the battle he will have with his former employer, the CIA. Director Joe Wright takes a somewhat simple story and makes it complex in the editing and camera work. The action, says Mark, is strong and well filmed, but there really is not much in new ideas or ideas at all. Complex puzzle pieces fit together to make an overly simple and familiar picture. It only seems complex because Wright does not play fairly with the viewer.

Believing is seeing
01/06/2011. I was directed to look at a website recently that had some digital mock-ups made of particular space vehicles from various SF TV and films as tourist attractions. Not real. Well, except maybe the Spindrift from ‘Land Of The Giants’ which the story of it being taken from the studio lot prior to it being destroyed has an element of realism about it.

Private Enough
01/06/2011. A very short story about absolute super-duper-injunctions, although don’t ask how Uncle Geoff got all the people of the world into prison.

Feel the anarchy... Anarchy Books
01/06/2011. My name's Andy Remic, author of various SFF/thriller novels, and SF Crowsnest has kindly allowed me to hijack the site to bring you news of my new publishing venture, Anarchy Books. Anarchy Books is a radical new publishing company aiming to publish books, albums, films and video games, many of which share the same concept or story. Most books will be published in electronic formats, but there will be limited edition paperback runs as well.

Nobody Here But Us Here...
01/05/2011. a short by: GF Willmetts. It’s not the same. It really isn’t. Holographic technology has done a lot to sustain shows long after the original cast has died.

Elisabeth Sladen (1948 -2011)
01/05/2011. A remembrance by: GF Willmetts. I’m sure like everyone else who was familiar with ‘Doctor Who’ was surprised to hear of Elisabeth Sladen’s death from cancer in April.

The world is not made of sugar glass
01/05/2011. It’s amazing how we conceive anything is created by what we receive from our media far more than anything factual these days. Maybe it’s because we expect writers to have done the research and gotten their homework right. Some do. Some don’t.

Paul (Mark's take)
01/05/2011. Where Paul falls short of Simon Pegg's previous two films is that they knew where they were going, and where they were going was a big part of the humour. Paul has a perfunctory plot on which was hung a bunch of nearly independent gags intended to be funny. Almost all of the humour is added on rather than being part of the structure of the story.

Source Code (Mark's take)
01/05/2011. Army Capt. Colter Stevens must relive the same eight minutes over and over to find and stop a terrorist bomber intent on destroying Chicago. From director Duncan Jones who wrote and directed Moon comes a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that keeps the viewer too busy to realise where the ideas just do not work. Spoiler Warning: there is a discussion of the ideas of the film following the main body of this review.

Insidious (Frank's take)
01/05/2011. Saw filmmaker James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell have proven their notoriously sordid stripes when routinely concocting a bloodthirsty showcase meant to elevate the shock value out of one’s nauseous nerves.

Stake Land (Frank's take)
01/05/2011. Well, the love affair with vampires and zombies continue to make a cinematic mark on the big screen. Furthermore, teen protagonists are a steady diet for this current ghoulish genre in writer-director Jim Mickle’s pulsating post-apocalyptic vampire vehicle Stake Land.

Scream 4 (Frank's take)
01/05/2011. So let’s see…horror-meister Wes Craven is returning to the Scream franchise after an 11-year hiatus, huh? After all, Scream 3 was released back in 2000. In fact, the original Scream hit our movie radar back in 1996 when it surprisingly gave a touch of ingenuity and distinction to the teen scene in fright cinema.

Paul (Frank's take)
01/05/2011. Screenwriters/stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost bring their latest comic collaboration to full force in the wacky-minded and off-kilter sci-fi farce Paul. Pegg and Frost, known to audiences previously for their uproarious pairing in fruitful fare such as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, bring their bouncy British satire to West Coast USA from England to scathe the conventions of sci-fi “alien”-ation in the pithy fantasy fable Paul.

Your Highness (Frank's take)
01/05/2011. Oscar-winner Natalie Portman (“Black Swan”) and Oscar nominee and co-host James Franco (“127 Hours”) had already starred in an overblown costume clunker this year known as the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony back in late February 2011. Now skip a couple of months later and the noted performers are involved in another costume clunker of a different kind—in the witless medieval mishap Your Highness.

Battle: Los Angeles (Frank's take)
01/05/2011. Trying to wear many hats is a rather tedious task for director Jonathan Liebasman’s hectic apocalyptic invasion flick Battle: LA. Just what does Liebasman’s heavy-handed actioner want to be viewed as regarding its revolving identity?

Hanna (Frank's take)
01/05/2011. Well, give British director Joe Wright some credit as he bravely abandons the serious period pieces that were his reliable bread and butter for more action-packed contemporary fare. Wright (“Atonement”, “Pride and Prejudice”) ventures into new territory with the teen killer thriller Hanna starring his Atonement Academy Award-nominated young leading lass Shannah_thumb.jpgaoirse Ronan as the gun-toting galpal on a deadly grown-up mission.

Sucker Punch (Frank's take)
01/05/2011. Writer-director Zack Snyder (“300”, “Watchmen”) assembles an incoherent and sluggish fetish fable about the sleazy goings-on within an insane asylum bursting at the seams with periled hot busty chicks, wild fantasies, graphic violence, gothic CGI punctuation and solitary confinement that invites a claustrophobic meltdown.

Beastly
01/04/2011. The classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast is updated for the tweener masses, says Frank, in the lame youth-oriented sci-fi romancer Beastly. Writer-director Daniel Barnz oversees a drab and cheesy movie version to the revered literary fable by instilling a Gossip Girl vibe to the movie’s contemporary shadings.

The Adjustment Bureau (Mark's take)
01/04/2011. The agents of Fate, says Mark, battle the force of Chance in this odd romantic fantasy loosely based on a Philip K. Dick story. Angels or aliens have agents on Earth to make sure that what Fate says will happen really does. Two people who are fated not to meet do meet by chance and fall in love. If they want to stay together they must defeat the little men in suits and fedoras who are the agents of fate.

Rango (Mark's take)
01/04/2011. A pet chameleon falls from a truck in the middle of the Nevada desert. He soon finds his way to the dying Western town of Dirt where his bragging and his lucky defeat of a predatory hawk make him the town's new sheriff. Sadly, the town is drying up for shortage of water.

An Interview with Jeff VanderMeer
1/04/2011. Conducted by: Patrick Mahon. Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning American writer of speculative fiction. His last novel, ‘Finch’, set in the fungus-infested fantastical city of Ambergris, was shortlisted for a Nebula Award in 2010. ‘Booklife’ provides writers with advice on how to survive and flourish in the brave new world of twenty-first century publishing, whilst finding a balance between on-line public persona and private creativity.

The Devil In The Tail
1/04/2011. a very quick story by: GF Willmetts. The Devil In The Tail - a tiny tail by me. Grand Prix racing was never like this.

Science fiction: The forgotten genre
1/04/2011. Cynically by: GF Willmetts. One of the reasons why I tend to avoid programmes such as the recent Saturday BBC book night programme is largely because Science Fiction and its grey sisters, fantasy and horror, don’t even get a look in. Indeed, despite the massive sales by J.R. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ and its obvious popularity, it is though it might never have existed.

Is Science Fiction about science or applied technology?
1/04/2011. Can Science Fiction be called anything else? Uncle Geoff goes through the various options and the problems some abbreviations that might cause.

Is Science Fiction still a way of life...
01/03/2011. ... or is social networking getting in the way? One of the most common factors that used to make Science Fiction fans stand out from the crowd is that we were the ones with the weirdo interest and there weren’t many of us per town. Therefore, the focus was on our interest first and people second simply cos we had less in common with other people.

Crash victim
01/03/2011. a story by: GF Willmetts. Humans plus motorised transport and a crash and nothing comes out the same. All the safety devices in the world doesn’t stop serious damage as something bigger will always trash your four wheels and the driver, of course.

Nicholas Courtney - The Brigadier
01/03/2011. an appreciation by: Sue Davies. The Brig is part of me, in the same way that Jon Pertwee is the Doctor who first drew my complete attention. I was old enough to really appreciate the Doctor in the early 1970s and those two were a team.

Do I put What in the UK Census Form?
01/03/2011. Making a case for what to put in the religious box by: GF Willmetts. By the next time SFC is updated, we in the UK will have filled in the 2011 census form with all kinds of material, including religion which had some interesting results in that 0.7% of the population stuck for an answer put ‘Jedi’.

The Green Hornet: Frank's take
01/02/2011. Sure, the obvious sentiment from countless critics and moviegoers alike about yet another glossy superhero flick on the rise was…”yeah, that’s nice…let’s see what this particular entry brings forth” in the wake of the kinetically-charged arrival of The Green Hornet.

Gulliver's Travels: Frank's take
01/02/2011. Director Rob Letterman’s feeble fantasy Gulliver’s Travels is nothing more than a witless wasteland for Jack Black’s usual over-the-top oafish shtick where one may have permission to insert wherever the empty-headed chuckles apply.

Season of the Witch: Frank's take
01/02/2011. Remember the good old days when the resiliently talented Academy Award-winning Nicholas Cage starred in movies that were actually halfway decent in content, conviction and creativity? Well, the last few years have not been very kind to Mr. Cage based on the numbing and nonsensical escapist fare he has been methodically cranking out.

Tron Legacy: Frank's take
01/02/2011. The original release of Steven Lisberger’s 1982’s Tron wasn’t exactly what one could call memorable sci-fi excellence some 28 years ago. In all fairness, the nostalgia of revisiting this early 80’s special effects-driven caper about a computer programmer’s descent into the complex digestion of cyberspace was an ambitious concept given the wakening age of Reagan-era technology starting to feel its provocative innovation.

Outcasts
01/02/2011. A group of pioneers get the chance to build a new and better future on another planet, as BBC One's new sci-fi series Outcasts, created by Ben Richards (of Spooks fame), begins. We bring you interviews with the cast, including actor Eric 'Ugly Betty' Mabius, and Spooks' own Hermione Norris.

Is that a metaphor I see before me?
01/02/2011. One thing that Science Fiction can do well that any genres can’t is play the metaphor game, mostly because they don’t have an upper layer or story to disguise it under. What other genre can disguise topics and even make political statements when it could cause problems in foreign countries even by the people who live there simply because the majority of the population doesn’t read SF?

A Product in need of a Slogan
01/02/2011. A Product In Need Of A Slogan – a short story showing the problems of over-advertising and how to sell an old product. Flash fiction by GF Willmetts.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole
1/1/2011. Spectacularly animated, this US-Australian coproduction has a lot to offer visually, but it goes decidedly off the tracks in telling its story of an apocalyptic battle between good and evil owls. It makes an attempt at mystical magic, but it never overcomes the obstacles that the film sets for itself.

Let the Right One In (Mark's take)
01/01/2011. Being bullied in school is warping Owen's personality, but he makes a new friend in an apparently female vampire his own age. The two people - each troubled but for very different reasons - form a close bond. Matt Reeves, director of Cloverfield, directs a remake of Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In (2008) for the newly resurrected Hammer Films. The film leaves the fans very ambivalent.

The mind is the key to creativity
01/01/2011. Uncle Geoff has marooned you in a well-stocked cabin with only a notepad and pen. Are you going to stare at it or just become a little creative?

A World in a Cage
01/01/2011. A story by: GF Willmetts. A World In A Cage – just who is watching who in this zoo?

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