Monday, June 3, 2013

Fade Out

After further thought and consideration, I've decided to close up shop.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still a big audiodrama fan. But reviewing is now taking up time I no longer have.

I'll leave the archive up so folks can still read past reviews.

However, I will no longer be updating the blog.

Many thanks to everyone who stopped by to read.

It's been fun but my Time and Energy are needed elsewhere.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Slight Pause...

Pardon the absence, Folks.

No. I'm not ending the reviews.

But at the moment, I've got a few other things on my plate that are requiring my attention. Apologies for not posting about it earlier.

Hang tight. I hope to ramp the blog back up in the next few weeks.

Stay tuned here or at the feed for updates.

Back soon.

Monday, March 25, 2013

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: Batman: Knightfall (BBC)

by Abner Senires

Synopsis: Batman has been crippled by his fiercest foe ever: Bane, a villain of superhuman strength, cunning and evil. Gotham City is reeling from the shocking news that Batman is confined to a wheelchair. Who will now protect the innocent from the dangerous inmates of Arkham Asylum, whom Bane has released? A new hero—Azrael—takes up the mantle of the Bat. But Azrael is a more brutal Batman than Bruce Wayne, and far more eager to punish the guilty than to protect the innocent. Will he destroy Gotham City in order to save it?

Once again a bravura production from Dirk Maggs and Company. I picked up this title shortly after listening to Superman Lives! (reviewed here) and, as with Superman, I was not disappointed.

I'm going to say this right off--Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill will forever be the voices of Batman and The Joker to my mind.

But Bob Sessions and Kerry Shale made me forget while listening to this production.

Sessions as Batman has that same commanding tone and vocal presence and made Bats all his own. Shale was fine as Jean-Paul Valley/Azrael, but as Joker, he shines with just the right level of insanity. It reminded me a little of William Dufris's Judge Cal from Judge Dredd: The Day The Law Died. Peter Marinker as Bane exuded a deliciously cold calculating menace in his delivery. And Daniel Marinker lent a nicely youthful sound as Robin/Tim Drake.

A nice touch, too, having Michael Gough reprise his role as Alfred. (Gough, as you know, played Alfred in the Burton and Schumacher Batman films). Wonderfully done.

The script (by Maggs) was nicely paced and the rapid cutaways between scenes helped moved the action along, all enhanced by Mark Russell's excellent musical score. Under Paul Deely's sound design, Gotham city comes alive first as a bustling metropolis that "never sleeps" and then, as Bane unravels his plans, a cauldron of urban chaos that threatens to--and does--boil over.

Having said all that, there were two things I didn't care too much for.

"What!?" you say. "Something was off in a Dirk Maggs production? Surely you jest! Surely you're high on drugs!"

It's true, Folks. There were two things. At one point, Batman's inner monologue gets a little too flowery and poetic; I didn't feel it fit the character. And when Bane "breaks the bat" I didn't quite get that gut-wrenching feeling I did in Superman Lives! when Supes and Doomsday go for the final blow.

But as I said earlier, I was not disappointed. These were just minor hiccups in an otherwise superb and enjoyable production.

If you're a Batman fan, a Dirk Maggs fan, or just a genre audio drama fan, I highly recommend this. Go and get your copy today.

*   *   *

Next time on OtherRealms, we take a look at the escapades of a young lady named Samantha Bloodmoon.

Who just happens to be an assassin-for-hire

And she's on the run.

Monday, March 18, 2013

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: Neverwhere - Episode 1 (BBC)

by Abner Senires

Synopsis: Beneath the streets of London there is another London. A subterranean labyrinth of sewers and abandoned tube stations. A somewhere that is Neverwhere.

An act of kindness sees Richard Mayhew catapulted from his ordinary life into a subterranean world under the streets of London. Stopping to help an injured girl on a London street, Richard is thrust from his workaday existence into the strange world of London Below.

Joining the mysterious girl named Door and her companions, the Marquis de Carabas and the bodyguard, Hunter, Richard embarks on an extraordinary quest to escape from the clutches of the fiendish assassins Croup and Vandemar and to discover who ordered them to murder her family. All the while trying to work out how to get back to his old life in London Above.

Dirk Maggs comes through once again with an exquisite and wonderful adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere featuring an all-star cast. This is exactly what I expected from a BBC audio drama and from a Dirk Maggs production.

James McAvoy is pitch-perfect as Richard Mayhew and instills his performance with just the right Everyman quality. And once he gets involved with the denizens of London Below, he pulls off the fish-out-of-water aspect extremely well. I love his reaction when he and de Carabas get up to Old Bailey's place.

Natalie Dormer portrays Door with a silent strength (despite her initial situation) and a kind of understated aristocracy. Right from the get-go, you want to help her. David Harewood as Marquis de Carabas is charming in that roguish Han Solo way, but you can hear a darker side that sits just below the surface. Sophie Okonedo's Hunter exudes a quality that reminds me of Xena--cool under pressure and deadly when necessary.

And Anthony Head as Mr. Croup is deliciously wonderful. I nearly didn't recognize Giles from Buffy in that performance. Nicely dark and guttural, and, I thought, slightly Sydney Greenstreet-esque.

I have to say this tops the other Maggs productions I've heard thus far.

And we're only at the first episode.

Combining a tightly written and well-paced script (a very Maggsian characteristic) with a sound design that wonderfully evoked London Below as one of cavernous spaces, dripping water, and darkened corners, Neverwhere is an audio drama tour-de-force.


Go listen to Episode One now


And prepare to have your mind blown away.

Episode Two airs at tonight at 6pm UK time on BBC Radio 4 Extra. Episodes Three through Six airs tomorrow through Friday, also at 6pm UK time on BBC Radio 4 Extra. The episodes page can be found here.

*   *   *

Next time on OtherRealms, we look at another Dirk Maggs production featuring the Dark Knight Detective.

Monday, March 11, 2013

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: Star Wars: Dark Empire

by Abner Senires

Synopsis: Six years after the Battle of Endor (from Return of the Jedi), the fight for freedom rages on. While Luke Skywalker delves deeper into the mysteries of the Force, Han Solo and Princess Leia, now married, struggle to protect their twin children from danger. Darth Vader is dead, but a reborn Empire—guided by a mysterious new leader—strikes back against the Rebel Alliance. But the Rebels discover that their greatest foe may be their closest friend: Luke Skywalker!

After listening to the original radio drama and Crimson Empire, I had high hopes for Dark Empire. After all, it was going to feature the main characters. Should be another slam-bang adventure, right?

Sort of.

I was rather underwhelmed.

I'll give the production points for sound design and music. Everything Star Wars-y is there, from the sound effects to the music.

Even the cast sounded like the original actors. John Cygan as Luke and Joe Hacker as Han had very similar vocal qualities to Hamill and Ford. Same goes for Andy Cowan as Ackbar and Nick Jameson as The Emperor. Jim Ward as Threepio and Ann Patricio as Leia were almost there, but not quite. Still, it sufficed.

Despite those similarities, I had issues.

Cygan's Luke lacked energy and vocal variety. Too "one-note" for me.

Hacker's Han and Patricio's Leia both hovered a few notches above "read-acting." There were several instances in which they both had the opportunity to really come alive but didn't and that was a tad disappointing.

Of the main characters, Billy Dee Williams as Lando and Nick Jameson as The Emperor were the only ones who really inhabited their characters. You can hear it in their performances. Kudos to them.

I also found it unfortunate that many of the secondary characters were more expressive and alive than our main heroes. Among these were Wedge Antilles, Shug Ninx, Salla, and Vima, not to mention the various pilots and troopers that made quick appearances. More kudos to them for making this production somewhat listenable.

Overall, though, Dark Empire was sorely lacking.

I found myself hitting the "fast forward" button trying to find good parts.

Check it out if you want, especially if you want to collect Star Wars memorabilia.

If you can find it at your local library or buy it off a clearance shelf, I recommend doing that instead.

*   *   *

Next time on OtherRealms, we'll take a look at the first episode of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, brought to you by the Audio God himself, Dirk Maggs.

Monday, February 25, 2013

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: Judge Dredd: I Love Judge Dredd (Big Finish Productions)

by Abner Senires

Synopsis: "I Love Judge Dredd--a bonanza celebration of Mega-City One’s premier lawman! Join your host, TV’s Tark Pastry as he accompanies Dredd on two eventful and action-packed days in the Big Meg. Gain an intimate, never-before-seen insight into the man behind the helmet. Discover what really makes Dredd tick.

"I Love Judge Dredd also features contributions from civil rights campaigner Pert Mitchell, former gameshow host Brucie Squires, mineral water magnate Frisco Lambada and hardened criminal mastermind Harry ‘The Hat’ McGuiness, plus special cameo appearances from pop sensations the Grim Utter Death and Radish Timberlake, leader of the revolutionary collective known only as the ‘Karma Vigilantes’.

"Plus, of course, our very special guest, ‘Ol’ Stony Face' himself! The one, the only...Judge Dredd!"

Just so y'all know my frame of reference: I'm coming into this audio drama after hearing The Day The Law Died (reviewed here).

And I'm a little underwhelmed.

Don't get me wrong. The performances are decent enough and the overall sound design is nice. But after hearing Day The Law Died and the two Who adventures (reviewed here and here), I was expecting...more.

Yes, I know Day wasn't Big Finish.

But the two Who adventures were.

I Love Judge Dredd seemed lacking in comparison

On the plus side, Toby Longworth as Dredd was cracklingly good. Like Gary Martin in Day, Longworth nicely channelled Eastwood and Snake Plissken. He's definitely got the character down.

Nicholas Briggs as host "Tark Pastry" exuded just the right bit of smarm, a combination of Jerry Springer and Geraldo Rivera. Nicely done.

And I enjoyed the concept, Judge Dredd meets Cops.

Now to pick nits...

First, script bloat. There were three instances where I felt the lines ran a bit too long and could have easily been shortened without losing their impact: the Robosexual protest scene, Radish Timberlake and the burger stand, and Radish Timberlake and the phone call.

Second, slow pace. Even if the story weren't all gun battles and explosions, I still expect it to move along. But this one seemed to go in fits and starts. Part of it was due to the script bloat that I just mentioned.

Another was due to some low energy performances I heard. They were well-above read-acting, of course, but at times they sounded bored. And that dropped the energy of the story. This was particularly noticeable in the commercials sprinkled at various points during the "show."

Finally, Tark Pastry. Yes, I said Briggs exuded smarm and was nicely Springer and Geraldo rolled up in one. But in the scenes outside the studio, when he's riding along with Dredd, there's really not much vocal variety. In addition, his energy level seemed to drop. Particularly during the Robosexual protest scene and the Grim Utter Death concert scene. I couldn't hear Pastry's reaction to the events unfolding around him. Not in delivery, energy level, or vocal variety.

Instead, Pastry sounded bored.

But--and here's the kicker--Pastry comes alive during the reveal at the end. Suddenly, Briggs hits it out of the ballpark and Pastry turns magnetic. I was drawn to the character right then and there.

Unfortunately, it's only in that last bit of the story.

Which makes me wonder: why couldn't Pastry have been so engaging earlier on?

I have to say--if it hadn't been for Longworth's energetic portrayal as Dredd, I would've turned this off long ago.

So: passable. Not quite "meh" but not quite "cool beans" either.

Somewhere in the middle.

If you're a Dredd fan, give it a go. You might see things differently than I did.

Grab your copy here.

I've got another Big Finish Judge Dredd audio drama on tap. I hope that one's better than this.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Gaiman's Neverwhere Coming To BBC Radio 4 On 16 March

And I'll be there to listen because Dirk Maggs is writing and co-directing.

The review will go up on Monday 18 March.

Here's the Radio Times article on the airdate.

And Neil Gaiman had a blog post from last November listing the full cast, which includes Sir Christopher Lee, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Anthony Head.

Mark your calendars and get ready to listen.

I'll be there with all-y'all.

(Yeah, the Radio Times article has the "first photo." But it's the primary cast and leaves out the Audio Drama God himself, Dirk Maggs. So I'm using the above photo from Gaiman's blog post. The Audio Drama God is in the back. With the mustache and goatee. And rockstar hair.)

(photo: from Neil Gaiman's blog post)