Monday, 31 December 2012

Fireman Sam On Stage DVD Review

Written By Martin Waller
Directed By Steve Kemsley

Genre
Musical, Stage Show, Children's, Television Tie-In

Cast

David Sullivan as Fireman Sam
Andy Davis as Elvis Cridlington, Tom Thomas
Dinah Lees as Norman Price
Claire Finley as Mandy Flood
Adele Scott as Penny Morris, Dilys Price

Synopsis

Pontypandy is gearing up for a fun day held by the local firestation but when Sam and Elvis are called to a flood at Dilys' shop, things start to quickly go downhill.

Special Features
  • Fireman Sam Quiz
  • Two Episodes of the Fireman Sam Television Show
Review

My son is a massive fan of the three versions of the 'Fireman Sam' television series so when I found that there was a live stage show on DVD I got it for him.

What we ended up with was a bit of a cheesy stage show but with a good message for children about fire safety and who to call should anything go wrong.

The performances, while done wearing costumes and big heads, are actually pretty true to the characters in the animated show enjoyed by my son so he enjoyed the characters here.

One of the best things about this stage show is that it is incredibly interactive.  You can join in with the songs and there are even dances and actions that the little ones can get up and join in with.  While the songs are largely forgettable to someone like me, they're very catchy and grab the children's imagination pretty well. especially when combined with the interactive side of things.

The story itself is a mixture of a couple of episodes from the television show but it doesn't come across as disjointed.  Instead it seems like the story is all meant to be together.  There are some funny scenes of slapstick style comedy that had my little lad in stitches.

The special features are quite clever for the little ones.  There's a Fireman Sam quiz about the stage show that has three questions.  If you get the three questions right, you get to see two episodes from the television show.  While that may not sound like it has a lot of replay factor, it's a great way for the children watching to join in and feel like they have been rewarded with a little treat.

All in all, if you have a child that is a fan of 'Fireman Sam' then they will love the excitement of the stage show and the fact that they can join in with the actions and the songs from the musical.

Considering you can pick this up pretty cheap, it's well worth it to keep the little ones entertained for an hour or so.

Movie 4/5
Picture 3.5/5
Sound 4/5
Special Features 3.5/5
Overall 15/20

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Jesus Christ Superstar Live Arena Tour 2012 DVD Review

Written By Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
Directed By Laurence Connor

Genre
Religious, Musical, Stage Show

Cast

Ben Forster as Jesus Christ
Tim Minchin as Judas Escariot
Chris Moyles as King Herod
Melanie C as Mary Magdalene
Alex Hanson as Pontus Pilate

Certificate E

Synopsis

Celebrating 40 years since it first opened in London's West End, Andrew Lloyd Webber's new production of Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by Laurence Connor, promises to be the rock event of 2012.

The star-studded line-up includes award-winning musical comedian Tim Minchin for the role of 'Judas Iscariot'. Three million album selling pop icon and former Spice Girl Melanie C will take the only female lead as 'Mary Magdalene'. BBC Radio 1's Breakfast Show host Chris Moyles will make his major stage debut as 'King Herod' and Winner of the ITV primetime show 'Superstar' Ben Forster in the title role of 'Jesus' in the 21st century 'Rock Musical' re-invention of Jesus Christ Superstar.

An award-winning creative team have transformed this legendary rock musical into a unique state-of-the-art spectacular. Director Laurence Connor, known for his work on the 25th anniversary performances and concerts for Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera, will work alongside Mark Fisher, the acclaimed world-leading set designer responsible for the staging of the Diamond Jubilee music concert in front of Buckingham Palace. They will be joined by internationally renowned lighting designer Patrick Woodroffe, who worked on the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Both Mark and Patrick have worked on global arena and stadium tours for some of the world's biggest music acts including the Rolling Stones and U2.

Special Features
  • An Introduction By Andrew Lloyd Webber
  • Behind The Scenes

Review

I have always been a massive fan of the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber and 'Jesus Christ Superstar' has always been one of his best in my opinion.  When I heard that he was going to reimagine it, that had me worried.

How on Earth could you reimagine one of the most well known and iconic musicals without it falling flat on it's face?

Well, I shouldn't have been worried because this new staging is absolutely incredible and now I wish I had had the chance to see it live.

The new modern setting, along with massive video screens and massive fight scenes between police and gangs brings the musical bang up to date and really packs a gigantic impact.

The use of the video screens to show clips, 'adverts', protests and even a scene involving King Herod being reinvented as a talk show host is inspired.  They really had a hell of a lot to the story itself, especially during the brutal crucifixion scene.

Don't worry about the classic songs being changed.  They haven't been.  They are here in all their glory but backed with some of the best rock music that I have ever heard in a musical.  In fact, I would even go so far as to say that it surpasses the work that the band in 'We Will Rock You' do, it really is that good.

However good the setting and staging is, it would all be for nothing if the cast wasn't up to the task of making the characters believable but that's not a problem here.  One of the most surprising cast members is Chris Moyles.  I'm not a fan of his in the slightest so when they announced that he would be cast in the role of King Herod, I have to admit that I was worried.  I shouldn't have been because while his role may not be as long as the other leads, his performance makes it very memorable.

Melanie C, of 'Spice Girls' fame, is a superb choice for Mary Magdalene.  Her voice is remarkably strong and she makes the character very sympathetic.

Ben Forster, who plays Jesus, does a great job in the iconic role managing to make the character brave and memorable without falling in to any of the cliches that can sometimes befall other portrayals of the character.

However, there is one cast member that rules above them all by giving one of the best performances in a musical that I have ever had the pleasure of seeing.  Tim Minchin, known for his rock comedy songs, puts his strong rock voice to the test here and absolutely knocks the songs 'out of the park' as the saying goes.  Not only does he make the songs his own but his performance here makes Judas a multi-layered character being equal parts menacing / hateful and sympathetic.  There's a scene after he betrays Jesus that will really stay with you but I won't spoil that for you here.

The special features let the release down a little by only having an introduction by the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber and a behind the scenes featurette.  I would have liked to have seen more information on how they reimagined such an iconic musical or a deeper look at how they cast it etc but the things that are here are still good.  I just wish there were a little more.

There is one thing to warn you viewers about though.  While the release is classified as Exempt, there are some scenes that would be very distressing to children so I would recommend it for teens and up but maybe that's just me.

All in all, this is one of the best stagings of the iconic and legendary musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.  The cast is spot on and the songs are given a rock tint with massively successful results.  It's honestly worth seeing this just for the performances alone, especially that of Tim Minchin as Judas.

Essential for all musical fans and especially of Minchin fans.

Movie 4/5
Picture 4/5
Sound 5/5
Special Features 3/5
Overall 16/20

Stories For Children by Oscar Wilde

Written By Oscar Wilde
Illustrated By Jenny Thorne

Genre
Short Stories, Childrens

Synopsis

In this beautiful new edition, the rich colours of Jenny Thorne's sumptuous illustrations complement six poignant tales of love and loss, riches and poverty,  hope and happiness.

Review

Oscar Wilde is famous the world over for his wit, stories and the plays.

It's really evident here with his children's stories. While he does deal with some really heavy duty themes of loss, grief and many others, he does it with a wit and grace that makes the stories really sparkle with charm.

The stories themselves are superbly accompanied by some absolutely gorgeous illustrations by Jenny Thorne. The pictures really bring the stories to life and really make the characters jump off of the page.  There are some really beautiful pictures and characters in this collection that absolutely enthralled my little boy so major props to the artist.

My three year old son absolutely loves the stories and the pictures so considering that I got this book for next to nothing, I think that it was an absolute bargain.  I enjoyed the stories and my son enjoyed the stories so there's no reason to really not get this collection.

I really can't recommend it higher. To be perfectly honest, I think that this should be a essential purchase for everyone. It's great for children and for their parents.

Legend (A Drenai Novel) by David Gemmell

Written By David Gemmell

Genre
Fantasy, Adventure

Synopsis

Druss, Captain of the Axe: the stories of his life were told everywhere. Instead of the wealth and fame he could have claimed, he had chosen a mountain lair, high in the lonely country bordering on the clouds.
There the grizzled old warrior kept company with snow leopards and awaited his old enemy death.

The Fortress
Mighty Dros Delnoch, protected by six outer walls, the only route by which an army could pass through the mountains. It was the stronghold of the Drenai empire. And now it was the last battleground, for all else had fallen before the Nadir hordes.

And hope rested on the skills of that one old man...

Review

 David Gemmell is a remarkably prolific fantasy author, most of which have gone on to be best sellers.

This one was written 20 years or so and has re-released many times over in order to make new fans out of each new generation.

Even now, after all that time has passed, this novel still stands up to near constant re-reading. In fact, with each new reading a new facet to the story is found and you start to read the story in a new light. It's also the first of the many 'Drenai' saga novels and what a great debut for the saga.

The story is a relatively simple one. A legendary figure from the Drenai's past has retired from a life of constant battle and warfare and is enjoying a quiet existence. Suddenly a brutal race decides that the kingdom is ripe for the picking and set off to overwhelm the already outnumbered fortress that guards it. That's when Druss, the legendary figure stands up to attempt to redeem himself and face his old enemy, death.

While the story itself isn't exactly an original one in the fantasy world, it's still an absolutely rip roaring adventure written in such a way by the brilliant author David Gemmell, that there are many layers to the story. It's true that some of the characters are just there as a type of 'cannon fodder' for the battle but when the battles are written this well and with such a high level of detail that little fault doesn't really matter all that much. In fact, the battles are written in such a way that the reader really gets involved and can't wait to get through to the end to see who survives and who doesn't.

The character of Druss the Legend is a superbly written one. While the idea behind an old warrior looking to regain some form of honor is a bit of a fantasy novel cliche, that's not the only layer to this character. In fact, the way he is written means that he honestly be out of place in a book or two by Tolkien, the undisputed master of the fantasy genre.

To say much more about the characters or plot would give it away in all honesty but if you like authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, Mercedes Lackey etc, then you will absolutely love this novel.

Story 4/5
Characters 4/5
Recommended 5/5
Overall 14/15

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Written By Neil Gaiman

Genre
Crime, Supernatural, Thriller

Synopsis

After three years in prison, Shadow has done his time. But as the time until his release ticks away, he can feel a storm brewing.

Two days before he gets out, his wife Laura dies in a mysterious car crash, in adulterous circumstances. Dazed, Shadow travels home, only to encounter the bizarre Mr Wednesday claiming to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.

Together they embark on a very strange journey across the States, along the way solving the murders which have occurred every winter in one small American town. But the storm is about to break...

Disturbing, gripping and profoundly strange, Gaiman's epic new novel sees him on the road to the heart of America.

Review

Neil Gaiman has always been known for writing stories with a bit of a super natural tint that border halfway between disturbing and very strange.

His work on the 'Sandman' series of comics were absolutely superb and it's the same here.

'American Gods' starts off slowly and subtly but as the story slowly picks up steam all the little pieces of information slot together to make one gigantic picture.

There are many twists and turns along the way but instead of getting the reader muddled up in so many new characters, gangs, motives etc, they kind of surround the reader and get them more involved in the story itself.

The characters are very well written, although we shouldn't expect any less from the creator of the 'Sandman' characters. Each character in this novel, including the minor ones, all have their own personalities and motives, which really raise the quality of the story. You really get involved in Shadow's adventure and with his interactions with the spirit of his wife, who may or may not exist.

One of the things I liked the most about this book is no matter how fantastical the story started to get, Gaiman still managed to make it seem so believable that it felt like it could happen in the real world. That takes a lot of skill to be able to do that and he has that in buckets here.

I honestly can't recommend this book enough. I was gripped through out the entire novel and the story itself really stayed with me long after I had finished it.

An absolute modern classic.

Story 4/5
Characters 4/5
Recommended 5/5
Overall 13/15

Love Never Dies (2012) DVD Review

Written By Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ben Elton, Glenn Slater and Frederick Forsyth based on characters created by Gaston Leroux
Directed By Brett Sullivan with Stage Direction By Simon Phillips

Genre
Musical, Stage Show, Horror, Romance

Cast

Ben Lewis as The Phantom
Anna O'Byrne as Christine Daae
Maria Mercedes as Madame Giry
Simon Gleeson as Raoul
Sharon Millerchip as Meg Giry
Emma J. Hawkins as Fleck
Paul Tabone as Squelch
Dean Vince as Gangle
Jack Lyall as Gustave

Certificate E

Synopsis

Having relocated to a vivacious amusement resort in Coney Island, The Phantom of the Paris Opera House uses a pseudonym to invite renowned soprano Christine Daaé to perform. She and her husband Raoul have no idea what lies in store.

Special Features
  • The Making of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Love Never Dies'

Review

As a gigantic fan of the original 'Phantom of the Opera' as well as the many movie versions of the classic novel by Gaston Leroux, I was very excited to hear that musical legend Andrew Lloyd Webber was going to make a sequel to his own music version.

Is this one up to the high standard of the original Webber musical?  Not by a long shot.

Is this a good quality musical?  Hell yes.

While the songs aren't as memorable as the original songs, they still really match the settings of the story and the cast really do a fantastic job with them and with the dialogue itself.

Talking of the cast, this stage show filmed in Melbourne, is absolutely brilliant.  The Coney Island setting of the musical gives rise to a veritable treasure chest of circus performers and strange happenings.  There's a real Tim Burton feel to some of the scenes as well.

Talking of scenes, the stage settings are amazingly beautiful in a period and gothic way.  It's almost as if they use them as another character in the proceedings.

I loved the idea of the return of The Phantom, played here with aplomb by Ben Lewis, and the story really does execute the idea really well.  The suspense and menace that is bubbling just under the surface really ramps up the sense of forboding that the stories brings forth.

While the critics that slammed this production as being nowhere near as good as the original are right in some parts, I really feel that's an unfair criticism.  Nothing could ever match the sheer quality of the original 'Phantom of the Opera' stage production.  This is still a fantastic quality musical that Andrew Lloyd Webber fans will absolutely love and I really enjoyed it.  Well worth picking up to see the continuation of the sage of the 'Phantom of the Opera'.

Movie 4/5
Picture 4.5/5
Sound 5/5
Special Features 2.5/5
Overall 16/20

Dark Shadows (2012) DVD Review

Written By John August and Seth Grahame-Smith based on the television series created by Dan Curtis
Directed By Tim Burton

Genre
Comedy, Horror

Cast

Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins
Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
Helena Bonham Carter as Doctor Julia Hoffman
Eva Green as Angelique Bouchard
Jackie Earle Haley as Willie Loomis
Johnny Lee Miller as Roger Collins
Bella Heathcote as Victoria Winters, Josette DuPres
Chloe Grace Moretz as Carolyn Stoddard
Gulliver McGrath as David Collins
Christopher Lee as Clarney
Alice Cooper as Himself

Certificate 12

Synopsis

In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family.

Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet-or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy... until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive.

Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better, each harboring their own dark secrets. Matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) has called upon live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), to help with her family troubles.

Special Features
  •  Ultraviolet Version of the Movie
  • 'The Collinses: Every Family Has It's Demons'

Review

As a fan of the television series, both the original and the attempted revival, I had extremely high hopes for this.  I knew that while it wouldn't be the same, it would still be a good quality and well shot look at the life of an immortal being wrestling with his soul or lack thereof.

While on some parts we got that but in others we got something completely different.  Just recently Tim Burton movies have started to be a little hit and miss in places.  This one is no different and suffers from the same problem that 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' suffered from in that the movie would one moment be quite a dark look at the characters but then be an attempted comic look at the darker side of life.  Because of that, 'Dark Shadows' is quite a disjointed movie.

It seemed as though Tim Burton was have a bit of an identity crisis while making this movie.  On one hand, parts are serious and have a great nod to the series that it is based on.  In fact, those parts come across as a good quality horror / thriller and the characters are portrayed as such but then moments later, it's slapstick 'fish out of water' comedy and the two parts just don't gel.  That really is a shame because the cast is superb and do really well in their performances.

The stand outs for me were Johnny Depp as Barnabas, who seems to be the only one who can balance the comic and serious sides of the movie.  He really gives Collins a sympathetic tint as well as a menacing side and that works very well.

Another stand out for me was Chloe Grace Moretz, whom I have become a massive fan of after seeing her in 'Kickass', who really played the part of surly teenager with a secret in a memorable way.  It was just a shame that the twist in her part of the story came across as quite a cliche.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Jackie Earle Haley, who is famous for his role in 'Watchmen' and the remake of 'A Nightmare On Elm Street', and is completely unrecognisable here as Willie Loomis, part of the comic relief of the movie.

The special features here are quite disappointing too.  Only an ultraviolet version of the movie and short look at the making of.  You wouldn't really be missing all that much if you didn't watch them if I'm completely honest about it.

All in all, I had very high hopes for this movie.  Not only because it was based on a television show I liked but because it was another team up between Burton and Depp but what I got was a disjointed movie that couldn't decide what kind of movie it wanted to be.  Don't get me wrong, it's not an awful movie in the slightest, it's just quite disappointing in places.

Movie 3.5/5
Picture 4/5
Sound 5/5
Special Features 2.5/5
Overall 15/20

The Justice League of Prozac by William Hrdina Short Story Review

Written By William Hrdina

Genre
Superhero, Comedy, Short Story

Synopsis

It's not easy being a superhero, especially when you have to go to counselling sessions.

This short story, now available as an E-Book, delves in to the psychological side of being a superhero with comical results.

Review

When I downloaded this on to my Kobo E-Reader, the write up and reviews made me really excited to read this.  I thought I was going to find a clever and witty spoof of superheroes and their motives for being who they are.

What I found was a story that didn't really go anywhere and had mixed up characters, along with quite a few spelling mistakes.

While the spelling mistakes are unforgiveable, from both an authors point of view and an editors point of view, the writing wasn't atrocious.  It just didn't seem to live up to the promise of the synopsis on the website.

However one of the things that it did succeed at was making me wonder what the author would be like with a full length novel so I'll be checking that out at some point.

It is a bit of a shame, however that it didn't live up to the promise of the idea.  The character of the doctor was the best by far and I did enjoy the little twist at the end.  However, the well known characters, while a satire of their real selves, do tend to fall a little flat.

The other thing that annoyed me was the fact that some of the characters were barely used.  Take Wonder Woman and The Hulk for example.  I won't get in to the fact that some of the characters are from the DC universe and some are from the Marvel universe because, to be honest, that didn't really bother me that much.  It was actually the fact that the aforementioned characters were mentioned once and then not again.  That's always been an annoyance to me.  If you are not going to use a character then why include it in a story.  The Hulk is mentioned as having destroyed Manhattan and then mentioned about again when he struggles to open a little packet of milk for his coffee and that's it.  If there was any character that was ripe for a satirical yet psychological look then it was him.

That said, for a short story, it flows pretty well and the couple of parts that I did like were very well done so considering it's available for free as a digital download then give it a go.  You might like it.  Just ignore the couple of spelling mistakes in the story.

Story 2.5/5
Characters 2.5/5
Recommended 3/5
Overall 8/15


Saturday, 29 December 2012

Colin DVD Review

Written By Marc Price
Directed By Marc Price

Genre
Horror

Cast

Alastair Kirton as Colin
Daisy Aitkens as Linda
Kate Alderman as Fake Laura
Leanne Pammen as Laura
Tat Whalley as Marlen
Kerry Owen as Colin's Mother
Leigh Crocombe as Damian

Certificate 18

Synopsis

The £45 Zombie Movie!

Already a worldwide phenomenon with huge coverage of the film since it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, first time film-maker Marc Price has made a film like no other before it - told through the Zombie's (Colin) perspective.

Our hero Colin is bitten by a Zombie; he dies and returns from the dead. We follow him as he wanders through suburbia during the throes of a cadaverous apocalypse.

Shot at locations in both Wales and London, Colin has more than its fair share of gore, along with several ambitious set pieces including a broad daylight zombie vs. human street battle and an epic housebound siege. It is also an exploration of who Colin was when he was alive through the objects, places and people he becomes attached to.

Special Features
  • Cast and Crew Commentary
Review
 After reading so many positive things about this movie and how good a job the filmmakers did with only a £45 budget, I have to admit that I was excited about seeing a zombie movie for the first time in a long time.

I was definitely fooled by the hype machine.

What we have here is a poorly shot, poorly lit movie with really bad performances.

That's not to say the movies a complete loss, just close to it. The budget is clearly evident in the way the movie has been made but they do a couple of impressive things with it. There's a housebound siege as well as a zombie vs human street battle but the good is far out weighed by the bad.

The sound is absolutely atrocious and you can sometimes barely hear what is being said. Another thing that really put me off of watching the movie was the sheer shaky nature of the camera work. I know they filmed it in a way to make it seem claustrophobic in places but the constant movement of the camera made it really difficult to watch.

The performances were another thing that made the movie seem a hell of a lot longer than it actually is. Especially with the final half hour that felt like it was longer.

All in all, I was really disappointed with the movie. I knew that it wouldn't live up to all the hype because most movies don't but I didn't realise that it would fall so flat.

I've given the special features a 1 for the simple fact that there weren't any. The box said that there was a commentary track included on the release but there wasn't.

I'd avoid this one because to be honest, I liked the premise but the execution was just dull and lifeless. Pun intended by the way.
Movie 1.5/5
Picture 2/5
Sound 1.5/5
Special Features 0/5

Monster Brawl DVD Review

Written By Jesse T. Cook
Directed By Jesse T. Cook

Genre
Horror, Comedy

Cast

Lance Henriksen as The Narrator
Dave Foley as Buzz Chambers
Art Hindle as Sasquatch Sid Tucker
Robert Maillet as Frankenstein's Monster
Jimmy Hart as Himself
Herb Dean as Himself
Kevin Nash as Colonel Crookshanks
Jason David Brown as Cyril Haggard, Swamp Gut, Cyclops, Grisly Planet Narrator
RJ Skinner as The Mummy, Werewolf
Rico Montana as Zombie Man
Holly Letkeman as Witch Bitch
Kelly Couture as Lady Vampire
Certificate 18

Synopsis

Live from a cursed abandoned graveyard in America's Deep South, comes a grotesque and hilarious fight to the death starring eight of the world's most feared creatures.

Including the likes of The Werewolf, The Mummy and Frankenstein's Monster, who along with their colourful managers, compete in visceral bloody combat in the ring to answer the question once and for all: who is the most powerful monster of all time?!

Special Features
  • 'Monster Brawl - Beyond The Grave' Making of Featurette
  • 'Tales From The Hart' - Jimmy Hart Outtakes
  • Trailer
  • Character Playing Cards
Review
 
This movie is going to be a bit of a divider for most people. Some, like myself, will find it very enjoyable and funny and others will no doubt find it to be complete crap.

I have grown up a wrestling fan and even now enjoy the show and the fun of watching it and that's exactly what we have here. It's like watching wrestling but with classic monsters such as the Wolf Man, Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy etc.

The story is pretty non existent but the characters have got their back stories all set up in little vignettes before their matches and they even have their own promo interviews to hype up their matches.

Talking of the matches, they may be quick but they are funny as well and really entertaining. The commentary by Dave Foley and Art Hindle is done in such a way that it manages to be hokey but fit the matches perfectly.

The cast is actually really well chosen and do their rather cheesy parts quite well. None of them take their roles very seriously but that adds up to the comedy of the movie. The choice of Lance Henriksen to do 'Mortal Kombat' style commentary however was a fantastic choice and had me in hysterics on more than one moment.

The movie references and video game references come thick and fast. My favorite line of the movie however was after Jimmy Hart, the legendary wrestling manager, introduced Frankstein's monster to the ring but called him Frankenstein. Art Hingle then replied with "it's Frankenstein's Monster if you want to be a dick about it."

The special features are pretty good for a mid budget movie such as this and it looks like it was an absolute blast to make the film. The Jimmy Hart blooper reel is hilarious and had me crying with laughter.

While it will most definitely divide movie fans because of it's format and the sheer, unadulterated cheese factor but personally, I absolutely loved it and enjoyed every intentionally and unintentionally funny moment of it.
 
Movie 3.5/5
Picture 4.5/5
Sound 4.5/5
Special Features 3.5/5
Overall 16/20 

Southern Comfort DVD Review

Written By Walter Hill, Michael Kane and David Glier
Directed By Walter Hill

Genre
Thriller, Psychological

Cast

Keith Carradine as Spencer
Powers Boothe as Hardin
Fred Ward as Reece
Franklyn Seales as Simms
T.K. Carter as Cribbs
Lewis Smith as Stuckey
Les Lannom as Casper
Peter Coyote as Poole
Brion James as Trapper
Sonny Landam as Hunter

Certificate 15

Synopsis

A routine training exercise in the Louisiana bayou becomes an all too real war of attrition when a unit of brash National Guardsmen unwittingly upset a group of local Cajun hunters.

Lost in unknown territory and armed with little more than blank ammo, the weekend soldiers face a terrifying battle for survival against an unforgiving enemy hidden deep in the heart of the swampland.

Special Features
  • 'Will He Live Or Will He Die?' - A Newly Comissioned 45 Minute Interview With Walter Hill
 
Review
 
On a routine training exercise a National Guardsman plays a prank on some of the Cajun inhabitants by firing blanks at them. Suddenly the training exercise turns all too real when they start getting taken out one by one by the brutal and maniacal Cajun hunters that they fired at.

Walter Hill has written, produced and directed some classics during his career and it's no different here.

'Southern Comfort' is a dark, brutal and psychological thriller from a director that definitely knows how to make scenes stay in the mind long after the end credits have rolled.

Unfairly over shadowed by the, in my opinion, inferior 'Deliverence' when released, it would be wholly unfair to compare the two. While they do have similar settings and both use the idea of crazy inhabitants hunting down people, that's where the line ends. Walter Hill has created a movie with a fast pace, a great taste and a truly fantastic soundtrack by long time Hill collaborator Ry Cooder.

In fact, the soundtrack itself is used sparingly but when used the music seems perfect for the scene. Cooder and Hill seem to use the music as another character to ramp up the discomfort and dread felt by the characters and the viewers.

The special features here are counted as just the one interview with Walter Hill but it's a very good one. The only quite private director gives a 45 minute insight in to the movie, the story and pretty much everything in between. While it would have been nice to have seen more features, it is most definitely a case of quality over quantity here.

While it is true that the brutality of the movie may put some viewers off, I definitely recommend that people at the very least give this 1981 classic a try. You have a gripping storyline, a great soundtrack, a cast that gives uniformly great performances especially David Carradine and Powers Boothe and a director that really knows how to get the most out of his actors and settings.

It really is true what the old saying says. They really don't make them like this anymore and that is a damn shame.
 
Movie 4/5
Picture 4/5
Sound 4.5/5
Special Features 3.5/5
Overall 16/20 

Flick (2008) DVD Review

Written By David Howard
Directed By David Howard

Genre
Horror, Comedy

Cast

Hugh O'Connor as Johnny 'Flick' Taylor
Liz Smith as Ma
Faye Dunaway as Lt. McKenzie
Mark Benton as Sgt. Miller
Geoffrey Hughes as Tony Ray
Michelle Ryan as Sandra Martin
Terence Rigby as Creeper Martin
Richard Hawley as Bobby Blade

Certificate 15

Synopsis

Memphis cop Lieutenant McKenzie is called to England to investigate a series of strange deaths and weird sightings following the resurrection of a murderer from the 1950s.

He has been brought back to life in modern times and tries to find his teenage sweetheart who is now aged 62 and to seek revenge for his death.

Special Features
  • None
 
Review
 
'Flick' is one of those weird movies that is so bad that it's good yet that's an intentional choice by the people that make it.

Here they have made a horror comedy movie that both pays homage to the old 50's horror movies and also has fun with them.

There are loads of little nods to those such as the fun use of the old fashioned way of talking in modern times, the use of blue screen behind the cars when they are driving. There are loads of little things like that and it all adds up to the cheesy and fun nature of 'Flick'.

There are also nods to comic books as well and even moments in the movie where it tells parts of the story in comic book form. I thought that was a good touch and really adds a layer to it to make it look different to the other zombie movies out there.

The special effects in this movie are low budget but very nicely used. The blood splatter during the deaths is done in a cartoon style way and that makes the deaths have a bit of an otherworldly feel to them. Kind of like a comic book meeting real life.

The cast are obviously having a hell of a lot of fun during this movie. Especially Faye Dunaway, who plays a Memphis cop with one normal arm and one prosthetic arm. The prosthetic arm added a lot of humor to proceedings, albeit unintentionally, because there were scenes where it was blindingly obvious her real arm was tied to her side and scenes where that arm was massively longer than the real arm. The rest of the cast don't take the movie too seriously and that kind of adds a bit of the 'Bruce Campbell' syndrome to proceedings in that while it's not a great movie, it is a massive amount of fun to watch.

The lack of special features mean that the score for this movie is much lower than I would want it to be but then again, I can't really rate the special features if they are not there can I?

While not a good movie per se, this is one of the funnest and most hilarious movies that I have seen in a very long time so pick it up, turn off your brain and enjoy a movie that Bruce Campbell would be proud of.
 
Movie 4/5
Picture 3.5/5
Sound 4.5/5
Special Features 0/5
Overall 12.5/20

Sweet Justice: Selected Short Stories From The 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Annuals

Written By Peter Milligan, Alan Grant, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Alan Grant, Neil Gaiman, Mark Millar and Ian Rimmer

Genre
Science Fiction, Action

Synopsis

Featuring stories by New York Times best sellers Neil Gaiman and Dan Abnett, along with hit comics authors Mark Millar, Peter Milligan, Alan Grant and more, this amazing collection brings together nine thrilling and unusual short prose stories from the 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Annuals and Specials.

Never seen outside of those pages until now, this ebook presents these hard-to-find tales in one collection.

Features Judge Anderson, Judge Hershey, Judge Dredd and a roster of Mega-City One's unconventional characters.

Review

Normally short story collections are incredibly hit and miss.  Sometimes you will be very lucky and get some absolutely fantastic stories that really fire your imagination but there are always a couple of stories here and there that ruin the flow of the collection.

However that's not the case here at all.  There are some fantastic stories featuring the roster of varied characters from the pages of the 'Judge Dredd' and '2000 AD' annuals.  They really chosen the stories well and the book itself flows in a superb, easily read way.

None of the stories are really linked to one another, other than having a couple of characters appearing more than once, but that doesn't matter.  It's best to look at the stories as a snapshot of what is happening in their world at the time.

It is true however that because of the incredibly strong writing on some of the stories that there are a couple that aren't as good but that doesn't mean that they aren't enjoyable.  If you like the world created in the 2000 AD comic books then you will love this collection.  The only complaint I have about this set is the fact that Judge Dredd, easily their most famous character, is barely in the book at all save for a couple of little moments here and there.  That said however, it gives some of the other Judges such as Hershey and Anderson a chance to shine and be in the spotlight and for that reason it works.

The best stories in this set are easily 'Judge Anderson: The Scream' by Peter Milligan, 'Judge Hershey: Sweet Justice' by Neil Gaiman and 'Judge Anderson: Exorcise Duty' by Dan Abnett so if you do buy this set, which you can do at next to nothing, then you are in a real treat with just those stories alone.  Add in the others and you have a very well written and interesting collection of short stories.

If you are a fan of Mega City One characters from the 'Judge Dredd' and '2000 AD' comics and annuals then you are in for a real treat with this story.  Even if you're not a big fan of those, you'll still find stories that range from being a satirical look at how justice is dispensed and exciting stories full of action.

Story 4/5
Characters 4.5/5
Recommended 4.5/5
Overall 13/15

Casablanca: 2 Disc Special Edition DVD Review

Written By Julius J. Epstein, Phillip G. Epstein, Howard Koch and Casey Robinson based on 'Everybody Comes To Rick's' by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison
Directed By Michael Curtiz

Genre
War, Drama, Romance

Cast

Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine
Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo
Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Laszlo
Claude Raines as Captain Louis Renault
Conrad Veidt as Major Henrich Strassler
Sydney Greenstreet as Signor Ferrari
Peter  Lorre as Signor Ugarte
Dooley Wilson as Sam

Certificate PG

Synopsis

Casablanca: easy to enter, but much harder to leave, especially if your name is on the Nazis' most wanted list. Atop that list is Czech resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), whose only hope is Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a cynical American who sticks his neck out for no one, especially Victor's wife Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), the ex-lover who broke his heart. So when Ilsa offers herself in exchange for Laszlo's safe transport out of the country, the bitter Rick must decide what's more important - his own happiness or the countless lives that hang in the balance..

Special Features
  • Introduction by Lauren Bacall
  • Audio commentary from film critic Roger Ebert
  • Audio commentary from historian Rudy Behlmer, author of 'Inside Warner Bros.'
  • Theatrical trailer of 'Casablanca' and other landmark Warner Bros. films
  • Newly discovered deleted scenes and outtakes (10 mins)
  • 'You Must Remember This: The Making Of Casablanca' documentary hosted by Lauren Bacall
  • 'Bacall on Bogart': the acclaimed feature-length retrospective on the life and career of her legendary husband, presented by Lauren Bacall
  • 'The Children Remember' featurette: parental memories from Stephen Bogart and Ingrid Bergman's daughters, Pia Lindstrom and Isabella Rossellini
  • Premier episode from the 1955 'Casablanca' Warner Bros. TV series
  • 'Audio Treasures': a Screen Guild Players radio production with the movie's 3 stars, plus rare scoring session outtakes
  • The Looney Tunes gang in the cartoon homage 'Carrotblanca'
  • Production history gallery, photos, press materials, studio correspondence memorabilia and more!

Review

What can I say that hasn't already been said about this absolute landmark movie.  Instantly quoteable, most definitely memorable and full of amazing performances, it has a reputation as being one of the best movies ever made.  Does it deserve that reputation?

Yes it does and then some.  The cast here is absolutely perfect and plays their roles absolutely brilliantly.  They really all seem to inhabit their characters as if they were an extension of their own persons.  The best of these by far are the performances by Claude Raines, Peter Lorre and, of course, the legendary performance by Humphrey Bogart.

Claudes plays Renault with such a subtle nature that it's incredibly hard to see which side the character is on right until the end.  In fact, the performance is so strong that it absolutely grips you until the incredibly famous ending no matter how many times you have watched the movie itself.

Peter Lorre as Ugarte gives a wonderfully slimey portrayal and in places can really make the viewers skin crawl.  The interaction between his character and Rick, played by Bogart is superb and you really do think that Rick despises him without it falling in to meldrama.

Humphrey Bogart gives a heartfelt performance as Rick and really owns this movie.  In fact, he is so good that I honestly think this movie wouldn't be half as good if not for him.  The quality of his performance makes the character so multi-layered that, for once, it's not a cliched character in a war movie.  The intereaction between Rick and Ilsa just absolutely sizzles with a romance and sexuality rarely seen in movies of today yet alone movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  You spend the entire movie feeling the pain that Rick is in and it really moves the viewer.  It was also nice to see a character that was bitter and cynical about life without it being over acted.  I also loved the relationship between the character of Rick and that of Sam, played by Dooley Wilson.  Sam really comes across as, weirdly, a father figure to Rick and as someone who is just trying to protect him from getting hurt again.  There's loads of unspoken history between the two of them and it's brilliantly portrayed.

The other performances by the extremely beautiful Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid and Conrad Veidt really give the movie a strong backstrong from which to lure the viewer in to the world that has been directed with such a subtle hand by Michael Curtiz.

The special features here are some of the best that I have seen on any movie release let alone a classic movie release.  The introduction by Bogarts widow, Lauren Bacall, and then the accompanying documentary presented by her was very nicely done and really gave the special features a personal tint to them.  The newly found deleted scenes were great as well as it was brilliant to see just what they had taken out after reading so many things about scenes that hadn't made it in to the movie itself.  There are so many special features, some of which have some amazing surprises in, that I don't really want to spoil them for you.  Let's just say that these are some of the best special features that I have ever seen in a movie release.

All in all, this classic movie deserves all the plaudits and it's reputation as being one of the best movies ever made.  I can't honestly believe that it only won three Academy Awards, I feel it should have won many more than that.

In fact, I would even go so far as to say that it is one of the most perfectly cast, written and acted movies that I have ever seen and I can't recommend it high enough.

An absolutely essential release for anyone  that wants to see just how to make a movie.

Movie 5/5
Picture 4.5/5
Sound 4.5/5
Special Features 5/5
Overall 19/20

Friday, 28 December 2012

Doctor Who: The King's Demons DVD Review

Written By Terence Dudley
Directed By Tony Virgo

Genre
Science Fiction, Historical

Cast

Peter Davison as The Doctor
Isla Blair as Isabella
Janet Fielding as Tegan
Mark Strickson as Turlough
Anthony Ainley as The Master
Gerald Flood as King John
Frank Windsor as Ranulf
Christopher Villiers as Hugh
Michael J. Jackson as Sir Geoffery de Lacey
Peter Burroughs as Jester



Synopsis

England, March 1215. King John is visiting the castle of Sir Ranulph Fitzwilliam. The arrival of the TARDIS disturbs a medieval joust, but the Doctor and his companions are proclaimed to be friendly demons by the King, who seems strangely interested in their "blue engine." It soon becomes clear that neither King John or his Champion, Sir Gilles Estram, are who they pretend to be. One of the Doctor's oldest and deadliest enemies threatens the future of democracy on Earth, and he must be stopped!

Special Features
  • Commentary by Peter Davison (The Doctor), Isla Blair (Isabella) and Script Editor Eric Saward
  • Bonus Commentary For Part One by Tony Virgo
  • Kamelion: Metal Man - A Short History of the Doctor's Robotic Companion With Peter Davison (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Eric Saward and Co-Creator Chris Padmore
  • Magna Carta - Investigating the Magna Carta and its Relevance Through History To Our Lives Today
  • Isolated Score - The Option To Watch the Story With the Music Soundtrack Only
  • Radio Times Billings

Review

Peter Davison as The Doctor has always been a bit hit and miss for me.  He suffered from the same problem as the current incarnation of the Doctor, played by Matt Smith, suffers.  A good actor and portrayal of the character but the stories aren't really up to the normally high standard.

Here that isn't the case, although this two part story is a bit of a weird one.  Firstly, The Master's plan to sully the reputation of the king and thus preventing the creation of the Magna Carta.  On one hand, the plan isn't up to the normal universe threatening plan that the Master is normally known for but on the other hand, the prevention of the creation of the Magna Carta would still be a big thing due to it's creation being a catalyst for the formation of democracy in England.  The idea of the Master having a robot, named Kamelion, that can change in to anybody it wants to was a fascinating idea on paper yet it's execution didn't quite work but for this story, that addition added an extra layer to the story itself.

The cast do a great job with the dialogue here and really add an air of excitement to the story.  They also make good use of the historical settings and the culture clash between the people there and the Doctor along with his companions.

The special features, while not as numerous as other Doctor Who collections, are pretty interesting and really give a good quality inside look at the making of the two part story.  The best of these is a look at the robot used to create Kamelion.  I loved the fact that it wasn't a sugar coated look at the idea, instead it was an honest, sometimes brutally so, look at how an idea can look fantastic on paper but be found lacking in execution.

While not the best Doctor Who story of Davison's career as the Doctor, neither is it the worse.  It's a fun Doctor Who tale with a historical setting that is a good way to spend an hour.  Worth picking up for the fan's amongst us.

Story 3/5
Picture 4/5
Sound 4/5
Special Features 3/5
Overall 14/20

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Polar Express: 2 Disc Edition DVD Review

Written By Robert Zemeckis and William Boyles Jr. Based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg
Directed By Robert Zemeckis

Genre
Fantasy, Animated

Cast

Tom Hanks as Hero Boy, Father, Conductor, Hobo, Scrooge and Santa Claus
Leslie Zemeckis as Mother and Sister Sarah
Eddie Deezen as Know-It-All
Nona Gaye as Hero Girl
Peter Scolari as Lonely Boy
Steven Tyler as Elf Lieutenant and Elf Singer

Certificate U

Synopsis

Santa Claus does not exist. Or does he? For one doubting boy (voice of Daryl Sabara & Tom Hanks), an astonishing event occurs. Late on Christmas Eve night, he lies in bed hoping to hear the sound of reindeer bells from Santa's sleigh. When to his surprise, a steam engine's roar and whistle can be heard outside his window. The conductor (also voiced of Tom Hanks) invites him on board to take an extraordinary journey to the North Pole with many other pajama-clad children. There, he receives an extraordinary gift only those who still believe in Santa can experience.

Special Features
  • Trailer
  • 'You Look Familiar' Tom Hanks Comments On His Five Unique Roles
  • 'A Genuine Ticket To Ride' A Focus On Capturing Performances, The Music and The Movies Creation
  • 'True Aspirations - An Author's Adventure': Chris Van Allsburg discusses his artistic background and how he conceived the idea for The Polar Express book
  • Music video of Josh Groban performing 'Believe'
  • Behind the scenes footage of 'Believe'
  • 'Meet The Snow Angles': cast and crew members share their favourite holiday memories
  • 'Polar Express Challenge' interactive game
  • DVD-Rom features: Trailer, one level of the Polar Express video game

Review

I have always been a fan of movies that can convey the sheer magical nature of Christmas without falling in to the overly sweet and cheesy kind of movie that could give you toothache.

Recently, the output of Christmas movies have been lacking the subtle side of things and as a result have all been overly similar and all rather boring.

However that changes here with this animated adventure made by the director Robert Zemeckis and based on the beautiful novel by Chris Van Allsburg.

Normally I'm not a massive fan of computer animated movies but here, the animation is absolutely amazing and life like.  The sheer amount of detail is astounding.  Flakes of snow, beads of sweat, even single hairs on characters faces.  All of it is done with such an eye for detail that the movie itself is incredibly beautiful.

The writing itself is spot on with it's portrayal of the magical nature of Christmas, of Santa Claus and of how children see the holiday season from the ones that doubt the magic and the ones that believe with all their heart.

Watching this movie with my son really got me excited for Christmas Day and he was completely enthralled for the entire movie.  There were so many times when he said 'wow' or got excited about certain scenes.

The voice cast is incredible but the star of the show is in no doubt.  Tom Hanks completely owns this movie with five completely separate characters.  His voice work is even better than the work he does in the 'Toy Story' trilogy.  Each character is performed so differently that you wouldn't honestly believe that the same person does the voices.  My hat is definitely off and tipped in Hanks' direction for the sheer quality in his performance.

Special features wise, this release is incredible.  Every aspect of the movie making process and adaptation of the book is accounted for in a massive amount of detail without once feeling like you are getting over loaded.  After watching the movie, I watched the special features and that led me to want to watch the movie all over again.

All in all, I would honestly class this as a definite holiday classic for all the family that, for once, doesn't overload the viewer with schmaltzy ideas that have been done a hundred times or more.

Highly original, full of magic and wonder, this movie is fantastic and a must have for the children and the children that is all of us.

Movie 4.5/5
Picture 5/5
Sound 5/5
Special Features 4.5/5
Overall 19/20

Monday, 24 December 2012

Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg Review

Written By Simon Pegg

Genre
Autobiography, Acting, Comedy

Synopsis

Zombies in North London, death cults in the West Country, the engineering deck of the Enterprise: Simon Pegg has been ploughing some bizarre furrows in recent times.

Having blasted onto the small screens with his now legendary sitcom "Spaced", his rise to nation's favourite son status has been mercurial, meteoric, megatronnic, but mostly just plain great. From his childhood (and subsequently adult) obsession with Star Wars, his often passionate friendship with Nick Frost, and his forays into stand-up which began with his regular Monday morning slot in front of his 12-year-old classmates, this is a joyous tale of a homegrown superstar and a local boy made good.

Review

I became a massive fan of Pegg’s when Channel 4 started showing a new, or at least it was then, comedy show called ‘Spaced’. Full of quirky jokes, geeky one liners and brilliantly written characters, it quickly became one of my favorite television shows. Then following on from his brilliant performances in ‘Run Fatboy Run’ and ‘Star Trek’, he decided to write his autobiography.

I started to read this with a slight sense of trepidation. Autobiographies can go one of two ways. Either be very well observed or be incredibly narcissistic. I shouldn’t have been worried about this one though. It’s written in such a way that the stories read as if you’re sat with Pegg himself having a chat.

The stories about his childhood leave you with such a poignant sense of pride that he obviously has for his parents that you can’t help but warm to him and wish all his hopes come true. Obviously they have done, otherwise I wouldn’t be reading his autobiography, yet his written comes forward with such a sense of hope and wonder that you can’t wait to see what happens next.

The stories about his early forays in to comedy and acting have such a nerdy charm to him that it’s like you’re reading about someone you have known for years. He is just so passionate about his love for science-fiction, for comedy, for acting and writing that you just get completely sucked in to the book.

The best part in my opinion is when he recounts how he met his long-time best friend, Nick Frost. It reads like a fully formed romance in some ways. You can really read how much affection and pride he has for his best friend and in this day and age, that’s a very rare thing indeed.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. If you’re a fan of Pegg, you will absolutely adore it for the simple fact that his writing here is exactly like his comedy writing. If you’re not a fan of him, I’d still recommend it due to the simple fact that it’s written so well.

Presentation 4.5/5
Informative 4.5/5
Recommended 4/5
Overall 13/15

Doctor Who: The Nth Doctor by Jean-Marc Lofficier Review

Written By Jean-Marc Lofficier

Genre
Television Tie-In, Television History

Synopsis

Since 1977, when Tom Baker and his co-star Ian Marter tried to produce a film to be entitled "Scratchman", several different companies have held options to produce a Doctor Who film....

....including Green Light Productions, Lumiere Films, Amblin Entertainment and BBC Enterprises. These projects have always obsessed Doctor Who fans, partly because they were and remain shrouded in secrecy. The show's absence from our screens for seven years only served to heighten the importance of these projects, as fans were starved of new Doctor Who.

This volume contains a detailed plot summary of each script, an account of the circumstances of its creation and the reasons why it was never made, as well as interviews with the various writers. The book also explores the roles and input of the big names associated with each project - men such as Steven Spielberg, Leonard Nimoy and Johnny Byrne.

Review

When this book was published in 1997, the Doctor had been gone from our screens for many years. Many studios and individuals had tried to create scripts for movies that would herald his return to the screens with no luck or success whatsoever.

These various movie projects have always interested me due to the simple fact that not a lot was known about them at the time. Like the review of this book said they were ‘shrouded in secrecy’ from the plotlines, to the stars that would be involved and even down to the crew members that would make each movie.

This book goes a bit of the way to dispel some of the rumors and whispers to create an in-depth look at the scripts and stories themselves that actually existed.

It really goes in to detail by using interviews, explores the roles of some the big names attached to each project and even goes in to detail about why the movies were never made. For a ‘Doctor Who’ fan such as myself, I found this side of the book very interesting although sometimes the writing seemed to lack a little bit of emotional investment in the subjects, which is a shame considering how passionate the people were that tried to get the movies themselves made.

All in all an interesting read for fans of the show and relatively easy to pick up considering the age of the book. Even though the Doctor is back on our screens, it’s still interesting to see the different ideas various people had for the character because the shows most recent and successful revamp in this rather interestingly aged book.  Worth picking up even if you aren't a fan of the show itself.

Presentation 3/5
Informative 4.5/5
Recommended 4.5/5
Overall 12/15

Exposure: The Unusual Life and Violent Death of Bob Carlos Clarke by Simon Garfield Review

Written By Simon Garfield

Genre
Biography, Art, Photography

Synopsis

A biography of one of the world's most controversial and revered photographers.

The New York Times Best Selling Author Simon Garfield, brings to us the biography of one of the greatest yet most tragic photographers of our generation. Known for his sexually charged photographs and for his rock and roll lifestyle, he quickly became revered for his iconic work.

But at the height of his fame, depression and paranoia lead him down the path of self destruction and he sadly took his own life at the age of 55.

Review

What a complete disappointment this book was. Bob Carlos Clarke was one of the most colorful and interesting photographers of his generation. Full of life and eager to shake up the status quo of the then stale photographic world.

Yet the author here has written this book as if scribbling in a notepad. There are quotes and snippets from the people that knew of and knew Clarke yet it just doesn't flow. It's like trying to listen to five conversations at once.

Another major and quite frankly unforgivable sin that this writer has committed is that for the first half of the book, Clarke is barely mentioned and when he is, it's in passing in a 'he knew such and such a person' way. Considering it is Bob Carlos Clarke that is the subject of the book, that's a major error on the authors part.

The only reason that this biography is getting as high a mark as it is, is the simple fact that the parts that actually do bother to be all about Clarke are incredibly interesting and don't whitewash any of his flaws.

I'm really not sure how they managed to take such an enigmatic and interesting person such as Clarke and made the story of his life and career in to such a bland biography but they managed it.

 All in all, I'd avoid this biography and just buy one of Clarke's Autobiographies such as 'Shooting For Sex' instead.

My Boring-Ass Life by Kevin Smith

Written By Kevin Smith

Genre
Autobiography, Diary

Synopsis

The Uncomfortably Candid Diary Of Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith, director, writer and lover of comic books, brings us on a journey in to every aspect of his life.  From the film making process, to movie premieres and even the ups and downs of helping his best friend beat drug addiction, Smith doesn't hold any punches.

Review

I have been a fan of Kevin Smith for a long time so was very excited to find he'd written an autobiography. For once, I wasn't disappointed.

Another great thing about this book is that even the most mundane moments in his life seem interesting when told through his eyes.  Smith has such an easy style of writing that you really can just imagine that you are sat down with him having a chat.  It's a nice easy yet personal style of writing that really hooks the reader in with tales told with such warmth, humor and enthusiasm.

The most touching part of the book are the tales of Jason Mewes fight against addiction. Through it all, Smith doesn't once leave his side and the love the two friends feel for one another is apparent. It's an absolutely beautiful piece of writing and moved me to tears more than once.  It also doesn't fall in to melodramatic cliches or go the route of 'I'm so great for helping' that some autobiographies go for when they talk about lifes dramas unfolding.

All in all, highly recommended for both fans and non fans alike.  Smith comes across as such a nice guy with a genuine passion for everything he does from the incredible to the mundane that you can't help but want to go from page to page to see what he is going to get up to next.  What more could you possibly want from a book?

Presentation 4/5
Informative 4/5
Recommended 5/5
Overall 13/15

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Batman / Judge Dredd: Judgement on Gotham Graphic Novel Review

Written By Alan Grant and John Wagner
Art By Simon Bisley
Cover By Simon Bisley

Genre
Superhero, Science-Fiction, Action

Synopsis

Judge Dredd, the ultimate lawman in 22nd-century Mega-City One, comes head-to-head with Batman, the Dark Knight Detective from Gotham City.

While the war rages, the alien superfiend, Judge Death, takes advantage of the situation.

Review

I've always found cross overs a bit hit and miss. For every good one there always seems to be a really awful one.

However this one is definitely one of the good ones, although there are some faults here and there that stop it from reaching five stars.

Judge Dredd doesn't interact that much with Batman as I would like but that may just be down to the length of the story. However when they do, it's very well written and exciting.

Judge Anderson seems to interact more than Dredd with Batman but that's fine as I've always thought of Anderson as one of the most well rounded characters in the 2000AD world.

The enemies that they end up having to work together to bring to justice work well as a team. You have Judge Death, The Scarecrow and Mean Machine all working together at certain parts of the story and the fact that the writing makes it feel like they have always inhabited the same universe.

The only other thing that bugged me was that the story itself was a bit short. That's not to say it's a bad story because it's not. It just seemed to be getting really exciting and then it ended. That's a minor complaint though.

The artwork by Simon Bisley is superb as always. I especially loved the little touches he added to Batman himself such as the grey hair when he's unmasked etc. It made the character seem tired and more human and that definitely added a new layer to it. I really enjoyed how he made The Scarecrow look like complete and pure evil as I have always thought of Scarecrow as one of the more under rated characters in the Batman universe.

All in all, an absolutely fantastic graphic novel and I, for one, will definitely be on the look out for the other Dredd and Batman cross overs.

Story 4.5/5
Art 4.5/5
Overall 9/10

Don Quixote: Volume One Graphic Novel Review

Written By Rob Davis based on the novel by Miguel de Cervantes
Art By Rob Davis
Cover By Rob Davis

Genre
Romance, Comedy, Adventure

Synopsis

In a sleepy village in medieval Spain, a retired country gentleman spends his waking hours consuming tales of chivalry.
Seeing no impediments, such as logic, propriety or sanity, to fulfilling his dreams, this would-be hero reinvents himself as the Knight-Errat, Don Quixote. He sets out across the arid open country in search of adventures accompanied only by his faithful steed, Rocinante, and his dim-witted squire and sidekick, Sancho Panza. Don Quixote Volume 1 perfectly captures the spirit of this classic novel in graphic novel format.

Review

Don Quixote has always been been a personal favorite for me out of all the classics of literature and has been adapted in to so many mediums. Terry Gilliam even attempted to film it with Johnny Depp starring. Alas that didn't come to fruition yet here is an absolutely fabulous adaptation by the writer/artist Rob Davis.

Famous for his work on some of the Dr Who serials and for his work on Judge Dredd, this is by far one of his best bits of work I have seen.

Davis has managed to take the classic story by Cervantes and created a flowing and adapting story where you can't help but want to turn the next page. In fact, I read it in one sitting, went and got a drink and promptly started reading it again. One of the things I really like is that the more times you read it, the more things you notice in the story. Even the background seems to come alive during the story.

The characters are drawn beautifully and Davis shows just how masterful an artist he is by making the characters come to life and their personalities just explode off of the pages. The amazing use of shadows in key scenes really make this unforgettable.

The writing is fantastic and while Davis keeps the language of the original tale, he manages to still make it sound relevant and up to date without completely changing the feel of the story itself.

All in all an absolutely masterful adaptation of a classic book.

Story 5/5
Art 4/5
Overall 9/10

Gremlins DVD Review

Written By Chris Columbus
Directed By Joe Dante

Genre
Comedy, Horror

Cast

Zach Galligan as Billy Peltzer
Phoebe Cates as Kate Beringer
Corey Feldman as Pete Fontaine
Judge Reinhold as Gerald Hopkins
Hoyt Axton as Randall Peltzer

Certificate 15

Synopsis

Minature green monsters tear through the small town of Kingston Falls. Hijinks ensue as a mild-mannered bank teller releases these hideous loonies after gaining a new pet and violating two of three simple rules: No water (violated), no food after midnight (violated), and no bright light. Hilarious mayhem and destruction in a town straight out of Norman Rockwell. So, when your washing machine blows up or your TV goes on the fritz, before you call the repair man, turn on all the lights and look under all the beds. 'Cause you never can tell, there just might be a gremlin in your house.

Special Features
  • None

Review

The 1980's has recently been an absolute goldmine for nostalgia nuts.  Some of the movies being rewatched deserve their statuses as cult, 80's classics and others not so much.

This one however is most definitely one of the few that is truly deserving of it's status and then some.

Produced by the legendary Steven Spielberg, 'Gremlins' has always been a personal favorite of mine due to the sheer brilliance of how the movie combines both the horror aspects and comedy aspects so well that it's instantly enjoyable.  There are scenes that are most definitely keeping with Dante's pitch black humor that he is so known for, especially in his earlier movie 'The Howling'.  The violence really clashes with the dark humor but not in a bad way.  While combining horror with comedy wasn't a new thing when this was made, this is one of the more unique additions to the genre and that is down to the writing and directing partnership of Columbus and Dante.

The cast do an absolute spot on job with the quick witted  dialogue but it's not them that steal the show by any stretch of the imagination.  It's the Mogwai.  Created by Chris Walas, the Gremlins / Mogwai were and still are massively memorable, especially that of the heroic Gizmo and the evil Stripe.

With so much information about this movie online and so many interviews floating around with the cast and crew talking about this classic 1980's movie, it's a real shame that there aren't any special features at all in this release.  I would have loved to have seen a making of or even a couple a couple of interviews but alas, it obviously wasn't meant to be.

The picture and sound transfer here is really good for a movie from 1984, the sound especially being very clear.  If you listen to it carefully then you can even hear the small sounds here and there of the world going about it's business as the carnage goes on around them.

All in all, this is an absolute classic slice of 1980's cinema and of the horror/comedy hybrid that was so popular.  Well worth picking up, especially if you are a fan of Joe Dante's work.  His trademark dark humor is there as are some great performances.  Just ignore the quite low score because that is simply down to the fact that there are no special features.

Movie 4/5
Picture 4/5
Sound 4/5
Special Features 0/5
Overall 12/20

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Stake Land: 2 Disc Edition DVD Review

Written By Nick Damici and Jim Mickle
Directed By Jim Mickle

Genre
Horror, Action

Cast

Connor Paolo as Martin
Nick Damici as Mister
Kelly McGillis as Sister
Michael Cerveris as Jebediah Loven
Danielle Harris as Belle
Sean Nelson as Willie

Certificate 15

Synopsis

In the highly acclaimed Stake Land, hailed by some critics as "the American horror film of the year", the US has become a lost nation.

When an epidemic of vampirism strikes, humans find themselves on the run. Cities are tombs and survivors cling together in rural pockets, fearful of nightfall. When his family is slaughtered, young Martin (Connor Paolo) is taken under the wing of a grizzled, wayward hunter whose new prey are the undead. Simply known as Mister (Nick Damici), he takes Martin under his wing on a journey through the locked-down towns of America's heartland, battling against not only feral vampires but also the fanatical savagery of the right wing religious cult known as The Brotherhood, in search of the fabled safe haven, New Eden.

Special Features
  • Commentary with Jim Mickle, Nick Damici, Connor Paolo. Larry Fessenden and Brent Kunkle
  • Commentary with Jim Mickle, Adam Folk, Ryan Samul, Graham Reznick, Peter Phok and Jeff Grace
  • The Making of Stake Land - A Special Hour Long Documentary
  • Directors Diary - Jim Mickle's Pre-Production Plans Revealed
  • VFX Featurette - A Breakdown of Some of the Blood Curdling Visual Effects
  • Webisodes - Set Before the Fall, These Six Prologues Tell the Story Behind the Story; Mister, Martin, The Day I Told My Boyfriend, Jebediah, Sister and Willie

Review

Let's get one thing straight from the start.  In 'Stake Land', vampires do NOT sparkle.  In fact, they will rip off your face as soon as look at you.

Don't dismiss this as a normal, bog standard vampire movie however.  It's a bleak, dark dystopian future where the virus isn't the only thing that has destroyed the world from the inside out.  It's the people themselves.

While battling vampires of all shapes and sizes, a lot of the fear comes from the humans that there left.  In fact, a lot of them are even more barbaric then the vampires and in a way, even less human than their fanged counterparts.

The best, if that's the right word to use here, of these are the religious zealots called 'The Brotherhood' led by the gloriously menacing and evil Jebediah Loven.

Loven, played here by Michael Cerveris, is a character without a single good bone in his body and that lack of conscience is what makes the character so menacing and evil without once falling in to  cliche.  In fact, during the movie he unleashes some of the most evil acts and not the vampires and that's one of the things that makes this movie effective.  The casting of Kelly McGillis, yes the lady from 'Top Gun', was absolute genius.  She plays the part of Sister with such a grace and poise that she is the perfect ying to the yang of Damici's portrayal of Mister, a quiet vampire hunter who takes the newly orphaned Martin under his wing to ensure his survival.

Talking of effective, the characters are incredibly well written by Mickle and Damici.  So well writen in fact that you honestly care about everything that happens to them no matter how big or small.  My heart was in my mouth whenever they were in danger and that hasn't happened to me with a movie for a very long time.  The relationship between Mister and Martin is the core of the movie and rightfully so.  This is more a movie about their bonding and protecting of each other.  The vampires / religious zealots are a side line.

The special effects are done in all their bloody glory and really stay in your mind long after the movie has ended.  The effects are incredibly visceral, which along with the superb cinematography, really make you winch each time.

The special features here are fantastic for this set and really set the tone for the movie itself.  I would watch them before the movie, obviously, but they go in an absolute ton of information and background stuff.  My personal favorites being the look they give you at the special effects and the two totally different commentaries.

All in all, this is an absolutely superb and well written vampire movie with a real heart at the middle of it that makes you really care about the characters.  Their plight moved me to tears on more than one time and at the same time, even made me jump with shock as well.

One of the best vampire movies I have ever seen,

Movie 4/5
Picture 4/5
Sound 5/5
Special Features 4/5
Overall 17/20


The World of Flashpoint Featuring Green Lantern Graphic Novel Review

Written By Adam Schlagman, Jeff Lemire and Pornsak Pichetshote
Art By Felipe Massafera, Robson Rocha, Joe Prado, Ibraim Roberson, Alex Massacci, Andy Smith, Keith Champagne, Ig Guara, Marco Castiello, Ruy Jose, Vincenzo Acunzo,Cliff Richards and Ben Oliver
Cover By Felipe Massafera

Genre
Superhero, Action, Science Fiction

Synopsis

A series of stories set in the world of the 'Flashpoint' saga featuring the Green Lantern!

Ranging from Abin Sur being alive right up to a story involving a platoon of monsters and beyound.



Review

The ‘Flashpoint’ storyline in the DC universe was always a bit hit and miss. A great idea on how to change everything up in a big way on paper turned in to something quite convoluted and disappointing in my eyes.

That’s not to say that there weren’t some great moments because there really were some absolutely great moments.

In this collection of stories from that massive storyline, the same problems are still here. It’s still a bit of a hit and miss collection but let’s look at these individually.

‘Abin Sur: The Green Lantern’ is one of the guiltiest of being hit and miss. The story itself is interesting with some very good moments. I really liked the idea of seeing more of the Abin Sur character and there were some cool developments here but it was the artwork that was disappointing. In places it looked really clear and well drawn but in others it came across as a cluttered mess.

‘Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown’ however is one of the better stories in the collection. In fact, I would really like to see more of their adventures. Jeff Lemire does a really good job of making this tale exciting and fast paced but with well rounded characters. The art is much better than what I saw in the ‘Abin Sur’ story so that was a improvement.

‘Green Arrow Industries’ was a disappointment however. In an attempt to make the Green Arrow in to a normal person, the story came across as a cheap knock off of the Tony Stark character in Marvel’s ‘Iron Man’ stories. The apparent twist at the end was poorly written and a massive cliché as well. The art is well drawn but isn’t enough to raise the quality enough of the story.

Finally ‘Hal Jordan’ tells the interesting story of what would happen had Jordan himself not been given a Green Lantern Corps ring and I have to admit it’s definitely the best of the bunch. Told entirely from Jordan’s perspective, the tale shows a cocksure young man suffering from the tragic loss of his father and taking unnecessary risks because of it. Ultimately this leads to an attempt at redemption that is incredibly well written. Put that with the subtle artwork then you really do have a great story.

All in all, I’d say that this is definitely one for the massive fans in our midst that want every part of a story arc. If it hadn’t have been for the stories ‘Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown’ and ‘Hal Jordan’ then this collection would have been a 2 rating but thanks to those I’d say it’s a mild recommendation for an ultimately underwhelming collection.

Story 3/5
Art 2/5
Overall 5/10

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Scott Pilgrim: Volume One - Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life Graphic Novel Review

Written By Bryan Lee O'Malley
Art By Bryan Lee O'Malley
Cover By Bryan Lee O'Malley

Genre
Action, Romance, Comedy

Synopsis

Scott Pilgrim's life is totally sweet.

He's 23 years old, he's in a rock band, he's "between jobs," and he's dating a cute high school girl.   Nothing could possibly go wrong, unless a seriously mind-blowing, dangerously fashionable, rollerblading delivery girl named Ramona Flowers starts cruising through his dreams and sailing by him at parties.

Will Scott's awesome life get turned upside-down? Will he have to face Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends in battle?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is Scott Pilgrim, Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life.

Review


Bryan Lee O'Malley has created a six volume series marking the life of a 23 year old slacker by the name of Scott Pilgrim.

Well, that's not very interesting I hear you say.

You'd be wrong.

Scott Pilgrim is in a band, between jobs and dating a high school girl. When an incredibly beautiful girl by the name of Ramona Flowers starts appearing in his dreams that's when things start to get really interesting.

However, finding and falling in love with Ramona isn't going to be all wine and roses or champagne and dinner. Oh no, there is the matter of the seven evil ex-boyfriends to deal with and all have special powers.

O'Malley has created here such down to Earth and believable characters that even though these fantastical things are happening to them, it all seems completely believable. Some of the characters really come across as people that you would speak to in the street or even people that you may no.

The humor here ranges from slapstick right up to quiet sarcasm and yet it doesn't come across as disjointed. Somehow the different types of humor work and both off each other really well.

In midst of it all, there's a romantic heart beating at the middle of it and you can't help but root for the couple to get together and I honestly think that is the mark of a very good writer.

The artwork, also by O'Malley, is absolutely spot done. Drawn in black and white, the whole illustrations and art of the story really has a stark beauty to it all and really enhances the already good story.

As Scott Pilgrim himself would say, this volume is 'totally sweet' and I highly recommend this to anyone.

Story 4/5
Art 4/5
Overall 8/10