Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In Which I Remind Myself...

I. Write. Escapist. Fiction.

I'm reminding myself because I think I've been forgetting.

Doing so then reminded me of this post I wrote last year, about this very thing.

Plus, doing so also seems to be fixing a few things in my head. For example, Kat and Mouse kicked me in the head last Friday. Or was it Thursday? Some time late last week. Before the weekend.

Anyway, the kicked must've jump-started something because that stalled story is now moving.

So once more, with feeling--

I. Write. Escapist. Fiction.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: Elvenquest (BBC)

(Originally posted at OTHERREALMS AUDIO)

So far we've reviewed sci-fi audio dramas. Now, let's take a look at fantasy with...

Synopsis: Sam is a fantasy novelist who is whisked off to a Tolkien-style parallel universe by a noble elf, a sexy warrior princess, and a feisty dwarf called Dean. Why? Because Sam’s dog is the Chosen One who is destined to save "Lower Earth" from the evil Lord Darkness.

Three words: Fun. Fun. Fun.

A smartly written script and a great cast make for a wonderfully hilarious send-up of the fantasy quest story and of fantasy novels in general.

Writers Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto hit all the right notes: the Chosen One, a prophecy, elves, dwarves, warrior maidens, demons, goblins, trolls, unicorns, deadly traps and puzzles, and colonic irrigations, to name a few. Imagine Lord of the Rings as written by Douglas Adams, Mel Brooks, and the Monty Python troupe and you get the picture.

Most importantly--the cast. The cast, I think, really nails the script with excellent performances and crackerjack comic timing.

Stephen Mangan as Sam Porter seems to be, at times, channeling Simon Jones as Arthur Dent and it works. Sam, like Arthur, is out of his depth in Lower Earth and is simply trying to fit in.

Alistair McGowan plays Lord Darkness like a mixture of Alan Rickman's Sheriff from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves and Rowan Atkinson's Edmund Blackadder. He's even got a Blackadder-like delivery and intonation.

Vidar the Elf Lord isn't the brightest crayon in the box but makes up for it by being gung-ho and bombastic and Darren Boyd captures that beautifully. He sounds like he's having too much fun declaiming and waxing rhapsodic.

Dave Lamb, as Amis the Dog/the Chosen One, is canine exuberance personified. Sophie Winkleman is superb as Penthiselea the Warrior Princess, lending the right touch of kick-ass chick with a sword, as well as being the voice of grounded reason for the others and, in many cases, the straight man--er, woman.

As Dean the Dwarf and Kreech the evil sidekick, Kevin Eldon manages to portray seemingly polar opposite characters who happen to share a "love" for violence. Dean wants to dash into battle at every opportunity while Kreech wants to unleash the goblin hordes on the questers.

The one thing that irked me while listening was the laugh track. I didn't think it needed to be there and, at first, was distracting. But I got used to it enough that it "faded" into the background.

According to this site, the show was recorded in front of a live audience. Explains the track.

But I still think it's unnecessary.

Other than that, this is a top-of-the-line production and I highly recommend it. Especially if you love comedy and fantasy. And comedic fantasy.

Get your copy here at AudioGO
.

Monday, August 6, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: "Jane Grey, Action Mathematician" (Action Science Theatre)

(Originally posted at OTHERREALMS AUDIO)

I stumbled across this show thanks to this tweet by @ThListeningPost at the beginning of last month:

After taking a preview listen, I thought, "Hey! Let's review this puppy!" It's not quite science fiction, but there's math jokes involved so...semi-geeky humor. Close enough.

So here we go...

Action Science Theatre LogoSynopsis: Join Jane Grey, and her erstwhile sidekick, Jasper, as they try to ensure Jane submits her PhD whilst being pursued by murderous cultists!

Well done, Action Science Theatre. Well done.

A well-written audio drama with solid dialogue, brainy humor, and fairly decent performances by the cast.

I especially enjoyed Dan Bond as Jasper. Upbeat and bubbly, with good comic timing for most of the episode.

Sreya Rao made a great Jane Grey although, when the episode first started off, she sounded a little stiff. I wondered if I was going to make it through even the first minute or so of the opening. Luckily, Rao pulled through and Jane came wonderfully alive. Good catch there, ma'am.

But several seconds later, she dropped back in intensity for no reason that I could see. And she kept see-sawing between high and low energy in her performance throughout the episode.

Rhona Wells as the mysterious Leader of the baddies was both imperious and oddly restrained. When Jane unleashes her coup de grĂ¢ce, the Leader's "How dare you...!" sounds sadly held back.

And I have to say that, as Dodgson, Matt Kirk seemed to be channeling Terry Jones of Monty Python, which came off wonderfully.

Now the nits to be picked...

Dialogue timing was a concern here, particularly in the patter between Jane and Jasper. I felt there was far too much pausing between lines and the illusion of a "real conversation"--rather than two people reading lines--is lost. Yes, it's hard to talk on top of another actor's line when you're recording remotely, which I'm assuming was the case here. (If I'm wrong, please let me know). But that should be something easily fixed during post-production.

There were also a number of spots that could've have better sound effects cues and additional writing for clarity. For instance, in the opening scene, Jane and Jasper are in mid-conversation when there's a knock at the door. It opens and a man speaks a line. Then the man hands Jane a piece of paper. And then we learn there's actually two others with him.

But at no point do we hear footsteps of the man entering the room. He needs to in order to hand the paper to Jane who, according to earlier in the scene, is in the room. We also do not hear the footsteps of the other men. And when Jane leaves through the door, we hear the door open and close, but not her footsteps leaving.

It might be a tiny detail, but it's those tiny details that paint a sound picture for the listener and without them, the listener can get a little confused and be kicked out of the story.

In the scene immediately following, Jane goes to trade angry words with Dodgson. That scene begins with footsteps then a door knock. Dodgson says "Come in." The door opens and Dodgson greets Jane with "Ah, Miss Grey. I'm very busy. I can't really--" At which point Jane interrupts him with "What the hell...?" and the line continues.

Problem.

If Jane is angry and wants answers, why aren't the footsteps hurried? And why is the knock on the door not very urgent? Then when she enters and Dodgson greets her, why does she wait before demanding answers? Her line "What the hell...?" should've come in right as she opened the door.

And once again, there are no footsteps to indicate she entered Dodgson's office.

There was also a lack of ambient sounds to establish scene and paint a picture of place. In one scene, Jane knocks on someone's front door. We "see" the scene from inside the house but when the door opens, we don't hear the noise of the city outside. In another scene, Jasper meets up with Jane at a library. But there's no sound of shuffling feet from browsing patrons or the faint thud of a book being closed prior to dialogue.

Now now--all these are minor and can be easily fixed in post-production.

That said, I am happily impressed by this freshman effort and expect even better work with their next outing.

Go check out Jane Grey here and stay tuned for more from Action Science Theatre.

I know I'll be keeping an eye on them.

Because hey--science humor.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

AUDIO DRAMA REVIEW: Superman Lives!

(Originally posted at OTHERREALMS AUDIO)

Synopsis: Daily Planet loves birds Clark Kent and Lois Lane finally get engaged. Lex Luthor dies in a plane crash, and Metropolis is thriving with prosperity and happiness under the infinite protection of Superman.

Or so it seems...

Follow the story of Lex Luthor's true fate, and the fate of the new woman in his life...Supergirl. Listen to the heart-pounding fight to the death between Superman and a monster called Doomsday. Discover the truth about four new mysterious Superman.

And take a journey into the heart, minds, and unpredictable future of the Man of SteelTM everybody can count on...

...until one day, when he's gone.

As with Star Wars, this is another of my "gold standard" shows against which other audio dramas are weighed. I mentioned it before in the standards post.

Helmed by the incomparable Dirk Maggs, Superman Lives! (known across The Pond as Superman: Doomsday and Beyond) features a stellar cast who give stunning life to some of the classic characters in the DC pantheon.

This is what Kingdom Come should've aspired to be.

From the opening funeral procession to the stirring fight to save Coast City at the end, we are treating to a veritable feast for the ears. Within just a few seconds of beginning, you know instantly that you're in the hands of a master audio drama craftsman. When I first heard this back in the mid-90s, I was hooked right from the start.

I guarantee you will be, too.

The cast is simply fabulous and the acting is top-notch. As Clark Kent and Superman, Stuart Milligan initially evokes Christopher Reeve's portrayal of the character (slightly bumbling Everyman Kent vs. commanding and authoritative Supes) through vocal quality then immediately makes it his own. Lorelei King gives Lois Lane a kind of quiet strength--part Margot Kidder from the original film, part Katherine Hepburn from The African Queen. William Hootkins as Lex Luthor is simply delicious in the role. I got an Alan Rickman-Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves vibe from his performance.

Superman's titanic fight with Doomsday is the highlight of this production. In my view, at least. Music, sound design, and acting all come together in a breathtaking sequence that still, even after multiple listenings, make me wince, cringe, shudder, and leave me with a lump in my throat. I have to applaud Stuart and Lorelei for their performances in this section.

Bravo.

Overall, fantastic. Simply fantastic.

If you don't own this yet, I highly suggest you get it now from Amazon or Audible.