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The Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014

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August not only brings the Book Festival to Edinburgh, it also brings the Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world, as the whole city becomes a stage for performance - theatre, dance, music, comedy, spoken word performances, exhibitions, events, children's shows, we have it all. With so much to see, it's easy to be paralysed - with the Fringe office on the High Street and the Half Price Hut on the Mound, both are magnets for performers, either flyering or mounting impromptu showcases of their work. The Fringe is also one of the few places where audiences can see genuine science fiction, fantasy and horror performed on stage, often in an innovative and exciting way, and there may also be some genre friendly names gracing the stage.

 

The Strain

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It’s five years since Guillermo del Toro, acclaimed producer and director of such films as El espinazo del diablo and El laberinto del fauno as well as more commercial projects such as Blade II and Hellboy teamed up with author Chuck Hogan to create a trilogy of modern vampire novels, The Strain, The Fall and The Night Eternal. Now adapted into a television show with a thirteen episode commitment from FX, home of American Horror Story, del Toro is serving as executive producer, a role he shares with Lost’s Carlton Cuse and Hogan, and has directed the opening episode Night Zero from a script written in collaboration with Hogan.

 

How to Train your Dragon 2

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Five years have passed since Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III befriended the injured Night Fury he named Toothless, and in that time the village of Berk has changed; with the new relationship between dragons and humans, both have thrived, Berk growing to a prosperous town where dragons are welcomed, stabled, ridden in tournaments. The only ones who are unhappy with the arrangement are the local sheep population, flung about the sky for hunting practice. The relationship between Hiccup and his father Stoick the Vast has also changed; previously almost disowned as the black sheep of the family, Hiccup has been embraced by his stern Viking warrior father who is preparing to name him as successor as chieftain of Berk.

 

Maleficent

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From prehistoric cave paintings through the Epic of Gilgamesh and on to Harry Potter, the history of humanity is the history of storytelling, allowing communication between generations, defining concepts of good and evil, passing our own experiences to our children and shaping their minds. But in truth we live in a world of shades of grey, where ambiguity is more common than the comforting black and white too often presented to children, and the increasing sophistication of modern audiences must reflect that complexity.

 

Glow - Ned Beauman

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Ever on the outside of society due to the rare medical condition he suffers from, non-24 hour sleep patterns, computer programmer Raf is already prepared to quit London, the city he has lived in all his life, his girlfriend having left him for a hot Berlin DJ. Exploiting his odd waking hours, his friends at the local pirate radio station Myth FM employ Raf to keep an unpredictably random watch on their relay transmitter, but that is not all that he sees, and his eyes are opened by two chance encounters, Cherish, the exotic girl at the after-hours party with whom he shares a hit of the new street drug glow before she vanishes into the night, and the glowing fox riding the night bus home.

 

Dominion

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Arriving a decade too late to cash in on millennium angst, the film Legion, directed by Scott Stewart from a script co-written with Peter Schink, was over-wrought and long winded, the tale of a desert diner laid siege by rampaging angels sent to purge the Earth after God has finally (and understandably) lost patience with mankind. Lacking the originality or weight required to carry itself as a serious drama, the one saving grace could have been to recognise the absurdity of the conceit and leaven it with a generous dose of, if not outright comedy, at least irony, yet the plagues of flies, possessed humans and demonic ice cream vendors of the archangel Gabriel’s army were presented with po-faced solemnity.

 

Dracula Untold trailer - reaction

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Count Dracula, created by Bram Stoker for his 1897 novel but based on the Voivode of Wallachia Vlad III Dracula, also known as Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler, is undeniably one of the most influential fictional characters of all time, having brought focus to the vampire in fiction and setting many of the rules which are still evident more than a century later in such shows as True Blood, while also having been adapted directly or indirectly for stage, radio, television, cinema, comics and games quite literally hundreds of times over. Few of these have been even relatively faithful to the text of Stoker's work, with most being sequels or spinoffs, and to seek a new approach to Dracula is to travel a well worn road to the land beyond the trees. Few, however, have looked beyond the novel to the circumstances which inspired it with only Francis Ford coppola's 1992 Bram Stoker's Dracula including a back story of love and war in the Carpathians, but this is what Dracula Untold hopes to do.

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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It's been three long years since the franchise re-booting Rise of the Planet of the Apes astonished sci-fi fans with a masterful new take on the classic franchise. In the first of a new prequel series, we were introduced to Caesar, a brilliant chimpanzee born of a lab-rat mother and spirited away by a kind-hearted scientist to be raised as his "child". Rise concluded with an epic confrontation between hundreds of escaped simians, all with heightened intelligence following exposure to an experimental Alzheimer's drug, warring with humans on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco before escaping into the dense woods north of the city.

 

Reach for Infinity - Jonathan Strahan, editor

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Comprising fourteen tales including contributions from some of the shining stars of the science fiction firmament, Reach for Infinity is Jonathan Strahan’s third Infinity collection following the success of 2011’s Engineering… and 2013’s Edge of… While the first collection featured only four women writers in the sixteen stories, the latest collection offers six women in the fourteen featured authors, a step forward which is unfortunately counterpointed by a move away from the hard science background originally evident which may in turn be linked with the diminishing quality of some of the inclusions.

 

Edinburgh International Book Festival 2014

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Having only just recovered from the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the floodgates of culture once again prepare to open upon the Athens of the North, with tickets already on sale for the recently announced roster of authors and events coming to the city in August. The largest draw is of course the widely publicised appearance of A Song of Fire and Ice author George R R Martin, enjoying his worldwide fame through the television adaptation as Game of Thrones, with tickets to both his appearances selling out the morningo they were released, but he is far from the only creative of interest to genre fans.

 

Extant

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Opening with a shot of a space shuttle, recently retired but through recent decades the symbol of America’s space programme and easily the only real spaceship recognisable to a modern generation, the first fully reusable launch and re-entry craft, the implication is that Extant is not to be set in some far distant future nor is it to be a space fantasy, that instead it is both grounded and relatively contemporary. Yet the shuttle is only a flying toy, piloted by young Ethan Woods, adopted son of astronaut Molly, recently returned to Earth after thirteen months on a solo mission aboard the Seraphim space station and her cyberneticist husband John.

 

Diary of a Geek Week at the Edinburgh Film Festival 2014

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Now in its 68th year, the Edinburgh International Film Festival is the longest continuously running film festival in the world, and has long been a champion of bold and innovative filmmaking, embracing work from new and established directors, this year showcasing the new thriller from Stake Land’s Jim Mickle with Cold in July and Cabin Fever’s Eli Roth celebrating the films which inspired him with The Green Inferno alongside new documentaries from The People vs. George Lucas’ Alexandre O Philippe, now examining the zombie phenomenon which is itself represented at the festival by Miss Zombie and Life After Beth, and a celebration of the life and work of the Dick Miller, the face of a hundred B-movies.

 
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