Review: Black Panther

 

Well, it’s already smashing records so it doesn’t really matter  what I say about it, not that that’s going to stop me…

Black Panther is possibly the most hyped super-hero flick of all time, and remembering the circus that travelled with Wonder Woman, that’s really taken some doing. That level of exposure risks disappointment, especially amongst fans of the Black Panther comic, as well as drawing the ire from those who may be less than comfortable with the ideas it represents (a hidden African nation that resisted slavery and exploitation, and so prospers to become the most socially and technologically advanced civilisation on Earth) It’s never going to please everyone, so Ryan Coogler did what all good directors do: he read the story, understood what it was about, and then went on to deliver something that was as true to original as he could manage.

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Sure it was missing a few bits (there was little mention of T’Challa’s intelligence, which is as least as important as his physical prowess), but the story was tight and the action was evenly paced. The dialogue was nothing to write home about, but it did have those nice humourous touches that Disney/Marvel do so well. The special effects were top notch and the setting were amazing; a lot of work has gone into imagining a world that blends African tradition with hi-tech wizardry, and they pulled it off beautifully.

Performances were creditable all round, though I don’t think anyone stood out in particular for me, which is probably not a bad thing when I think about it.  The African accents were … passable, but the occasional ‘Americanism’ crept in here and there, which sort of took you out of the moment. Annoying, but infrequent enough that they aren’t really going to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the movie.

Most super-hero films avoid making any sort of political comment; Black Panther dives straight in, and for that reason I’m expecting it to see a lot of flack in a few weeks when the hype’s died down. DC tried to go political with the somewhat hastily prepared Black Lightning, exploring the plight of black people in city ghettos, but avoiding any exploration of the underlying causes.  Black Panther doesn’t shy away, and that’s commendable. I’m not sure it represents a bold new direction for the genre, but it’s certainly the most entertaining and memorable super hero flick to date.

I’m going to give it ten out ten.

Predator’s Gold by Philip Reeve

I don’t usually crack straight on with a sequel straight after reading Book 1, but the whole Mortal Engines thing intrigued me. The whole setup was so well-done, so painstakingly executed that I wanted to see, from a purely technical viewpoint, if the author could maintain that level of commitment through to the sequel. In many cases, a second book comes across as a little bit tired – not so here. If anything, Predator’s Gold was even better than Mortal Engines.

61DiWWb-hRL.jpgThe writing was a lot more confident, and the characterisation, I felt, was  much deeper. Tom (our main protagonist) hadn’t really changed that much in the two years since we’d seen him, while Hester, his partner, has hardened (and I didn’t think that was possible) further into the kind of selfish and embittered survivor he needs to keep him alive. That’s the thing about Tom: he’s an almost passive observer to things going on around him, so  he sometimes seems to fade into the background, especially if he’s in a room with far more interesting people. Th rest of the characters are gloriously over the top: they’re either shockingly evil, in a Christmas pantomine sort of a way (YA fiction, remember?) or laugh-out-loud comical.

Like Mortal Engines, there are two really stand-out points with this novel. First off, the settings. The whole idea is magnificient. This notion that towns have evolved into almost living things that prey across the landscape of a ruined planet, lying in wait to devour smaller, unsuspecting towns is simply brilliant.

And secondly, we have the quality of the prose: tight, easy-flowing, not a single word goes to waste. Reeve has actually done something that is enormously tricky to pull off; he’s written the book in an omniscient viewpoint, dipping out of the characters heads, sometimes within the same paragraph. He’s made it work, and I can’t say I’ve read many authors that have managed to get that right.

Ten out of ten.

Playing with Scrivener 3

So the word’s out: Scrivener 3 hit the interweb on the 20th of November. Oceans will boil, grown men will weep, children will speak in tongues…
No seriously, that’s what’s going to happen.
It’s been a long time coming for most of the user base, but a lucky few of us have been given the opportunity(!) to beta test the latest version of what is arguably the greatest writing tool known to man.

I’ve been Scrivener fan since version 1.0 (a little before that actually) and so I like to think I shaped its evolution in some very small way – even if it was just to have some of my feature requests flatly refused. Keith Blount, the app’s main developer, has always maintained that Scrivener is primarily a composition tool: you write your stuff pretty much stripped of formatting, compile it into a finished document and then drop it into word for the final polish. It’s main selling point was organisation: you could write your piece as a hierarchy of folders and documents, move them about, chop and change them as much as you want, and then when the world was ready for your masterpiece, churn out a first draft.
Scrivener 2 built on this, reorganising the user interface and simplifying the compilation process so it was less daunting for beginners … but once again it fell short of the end-to-end solution. Still, as far as I was concerned, it was still the best way to get your first draft done.

And now, many seasons and four novels later, we arrive at Scrivener3, and this is definitely not your mama’s upgrade. To begin with, a lot of the internals have been rewritten to support the latest Apple technologies, and the UI has been completely revamped. It looks a lot better, a lot less distracting to the eye. The biggest change though, really represents a change in philosophy. Keith seems to have relaxed his “we’re a composition tool only” stance and has reimagined Scrivener as your complete long form development kit.

Now before we go any further, let’s be clear on two things:

  1. Scrivener will always be missing 30% of MS Word’s functionality
  2. No one actually uses that 30%

Okay, so what’s changed? Well let’s start with the biggie:

Continue reading “Playing with Scrivener 3”