Friday, 30 November 2012

Daybreakers: The Unseen Edition DVD Review

Written By The Spierig Brothers
Directed By The Spierig Brothers


Ethan Hawke as Edward Dalton
Willem Dafoe as Lionel 'Elvis' Cormac
Sam Neil as Charles Bromley

Science Fiction, Action, Horror

Certificate 18


In the year 2019 the world is overrun with vampires. Humans are an endangered, second class species - hunted to the brink of extinction and then farmed to feed the vampires' thirst for blood.
The remaining humans are in hiding and as blood supplies run low, the terrifying consequences of vampire starvation are becoming more apparent - the normally civilised vampire population will turn into feral blood sucking monsters if a blood substitute is not found.

Special Features
  • Audio Commentary by the Spierig Brothers and Steve Boyle
  • The Making of Daybreakers


There have been a rash of action/sci-fi movies with vampires in. Some have been good and some have been really disappointing.

This is one of the latter. The Spierig Brothers directed a funny albeit not great zombie comedy called 'Undead' a few years back and I enjoyed it so I had quite high hopes for this one.

When I actually sat down to watch this one, what I actually got was an disjointed movie with a couple of good bits fitted in. To be honest, the writing felt like they were gearing up for a sequel instead of just making an enjoyable movie. The ending therefore is obviously open ended but the lead up to it just seemed quite frustrating.

There are some good moments though. The main cast of Hawke, Neil and Dafoe do give pretty good performances but to be honest, they could only do so much with the material they were given.

There were also some really well shot scenes such as the major league feeding scene at the end of the movie. That was visually very impressive. However that wasn't enough to save me from being disappointed by the rest of the movie.

The special features are the same really. The commentary isn't that interesting and the making of featurette just came across as an exercise in them saying the normal 'on look at us, aren't we clever?' spiel.

If you like the Underworld movies then no doubt you'll like this one too but otherwise I'd give it a miss.
Movie 2
Picture 4
Sound 4
Special Features 2
Overall 12/20  

Slumdroid Volume 2: The Girl Who Took Off Her Skin Graphic Novel Review

Written By Benjamin Dickson
Art By Tony Suleri
Cover By Tony Suleri

Science Fiction, Drama, Thriller


Welcome to Beta Town where martial law is in effect and a tyrannical new Alpha Droid rules with an iron fist.  Sheriff and his mysterious companion must flee or risk public deletion.  But where will they go?


First things first guys.  I am a science fiction geek with some of my favorites being 'Blade Runner' and 'Minority Report' amongst others.

Here in the second volume of the 'Slumdroid' series, Benjamin Dickson has crafted a story that takes the level of quality and wonder that those movies gave me and put that down on the page.  In fact, I would honestly say that this graphic novel stands up to those movies quality wise with no problems what so ever.

With the characters being droids, you'd expect it to be a really tech heavy science fiction story in the mould of a writer such as Phillip K. Dick or someone of that status yet here Dickson has crafted a unique, exciting and yet very heartfelt story.

The relationship between Sheriff and his unique companion comes across as a kind of sibling relationship and that really helps with the fast pacing of the story without leaving anything behind.  The reader can really get behind their relationship and just will them on to freedom.

The other characters are superb.  The brutal and tyrannical Alpha droid that is sent to quell the uprising of the droids is a great part of the story.  It comes across as a character who will stop at nothing to destroy his targets.  With a human character there's always a chance of redemption being used as a last ditch effort by a writer to save the characters that they have created yet Dickson hasn't gone for  that old cliche here.  Instead he has created a character that you really feel with succeed in catching Sheriff.

35 Mechanic, a droid helping the escapees albeit a bit reluctantly, is a good character too and when the shocking ending hits you can't help but be worried for the character.

The artwork is absolutely gorgeous.  It wouldn't look out of place in a frame or on display somewhere.  This is the first time that I have seen Tony Suleri's work and on this note, I will definitely be on the look out to see some of his other work.  He is one of the most impressive talents that I have seen in the comic book world for a very long time and I, for one, want to see a lot more of his work.

Absolutely incredible.  Bring on volume three!

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

Falling Sky Graphic Novel Review

Written By Benjamin Dickson
Art By Benjamin Dickson
Cover By Benjamin Dickson

Apocalyptic Thriller


The world is soon to end, but not everybody knows this. What will those in power do to keep their secret?
Follow the pulse pounding story of two people trying to make sense of their lives while the world literally falls apart around them.


I have always loved stories about the end of the world.  It never mattered to me whether it was a novel, a comic book, film or anything else because when a story like that is done well then you have a nerve shredder on your hands.

This is one of those times.

'Falling Sky' is like nothing you have read or seen before.  In fact, I would even go as far to say that it  puts a rather unique spin on the whole 'end of the world' scenario.

The writing is incredibly strong and definitely some of the best that Benjamin Dickson has done in his career and that's saying something considering this is the guy that wrote 'Marraquai' and 'Slumdroid' amongst others.  Most writers would give their right eye to have one of those on their resume yet he has those and this release.

Characters wise, this story gives them a real sense of reality.  Nobody is a Bruce Willis style hero here.  Nobody magically indulges in superhuman feats of endurance or skill.  In fact, it's a bloody nice change to see characters that just act like someone off of the street.

On paper that may not seem all that exciting but with a writer with the level of skill that Dickson has, the characters really pop off the page and you can't wait to see what is going to happen to them next.  The relationship between the two main characters really grows as the story progresses.  It turns from kidnapper and hostage into friends and eventually lovers.

The ending is very heartbreaking as well.  If you are expecting a happy go lucky ending then you are out of luck.  I love how the ending is full of dread yet there is a strange sense of the characters coming to terms with all the things that have happened without a single bit of melodrama.

The artwork here is like nothing that I have ever seen.  It sounds like a cliche but it is totally unlike anything I have ever seen before.  It's stark, brutal but very beautiful.  How Dickson manages that is completely beyond me but I was continually surprised at the moments of simple beauty with each passing page.  The use of the 'little things' that really ramp up the quality of the artwork and that is true here.

All in all, this manages to be one of the most beautiful stories that I have read in the graphic novel world for a long time and yet the story itself is full of a sense of dread and sheer menace.  Highly recommended.

Story 4
Art 5
Overall 9/10

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

This Must Be The Place DVD Review

Written By Paolo Sorrentino and Umberto Contarello
Directed By Paolo Sorrentino


Sean Penn as Cheyenne
Frances McDormand as Jane
Judd Hirsch as Mordecai Midler
Eve Hewson as Mary
Harry Dean Stanton as Robert Plath
Kerry Condon as Rachel
David Byrne as Himself

Drama, Dark Comedy

Certificate 15


Cheyenne (Sean Penn) is a former rock star who still dresses like a Goth. Now 50, he relives the days of superstardom with young fan and best friend Mary. Living off his royalties he rattles around his grand Dublin mansion until the death of his estranged father calls him to New York. Reunited with his family, Cheyenne discovers a secret that will send him across America. On a journey through the Midwest, full of surreal encounters with an eclectic mix of characters from New York socialites to ethical gun-shop owners, Cheyenne is on the road trip of his life. 

Special  Features
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Cast Interviews
  • Exclusive Viral Clips
  • Extended David Byrne Music Sequence


 ‘This Must Be The Place’ marks the English language debut of Paolo Sorrentino and what a debut it is.

Sean Penn plays Cheyenne.  A 50, or so, year old Goth rock star who lives a boring and depressive life in his Dublin mansion.  When he gets a phone call to say that his father, who he hasn’t seen for 30 years, is dying it sets him on a journey that will bring up his families past and change his life.

The story of Cheyenne is told brilliantly by Paolo Sorrentino and takes a decidedly non linear approach to the storytelling but that’s one of the movies biggest strengths.  There are a few scenes here and there thrown in that at first make no sense but then become part of the larger story being told and that is a great way of showing just how fractured Cheyenne’s mind is.  When the movie takes a massive turn from being about how miserable Cheyenne’s life has become to being about him finding the Nazi who stole his fathers dignity, it is so well written that instead of feeling out of place it flowed along without a single bump in the road.

Sean Penn is most definitely the glue that holds this movie together but the cast all do a truly amazing and beautiful job.  Penn, as Cheyenne, gives a subtle yet childlike performance as the aging rock star.  The character comes across as a mix of Ozzy Osbourne and Robert Smith and with the gentle performance by Penn, you can’t help but stay glued to the screen when ever he’s there.  Not under estimate the rest of the cast however.  It’s jam packed full of strange and kooky characters yet they too are done in such a subtle way that it doesn’t overload the movie.

One of the most haunting scenes for me was when Cheyenne visited the grave of two young fans of his and then later in the movie meets up with David Byrne, from the legendary band Talking Heads, and unleashes all the hurt that episode has caused him.   For a normally quiet character the sheer angst and pain that flies from Penn is overwhelming and quite frankly brilliantly done.

Frances McDormand does a fabulous job as Cheyenne’s long suffering but very understanding wife.  Her ‘full of life’ approach to the world really works well as a contrast to Penn’s performance.  Eve Hewson, who played Mary, a young fan of Cheyenne and companion is definitely one to watch in the future.  She gives a stunningly beautiful yet pained performance as a young lady missing her brother who upped and left without a word.

The soundtrack here is spot on but I shouldn’t really be surprised as it’s done by David Byrne, whose band The Talking Heads also make an appearance, and Will Oldham.  The pair of them manage to get the tones for the different scenes absolutely perfectly.  One moment the music is giving a scene the punch it needs and other times the music is soft and quiet in the background.  I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing them score another movie if they’re going to be as good as this soundtrack.

The special features consist of deleted scenes, some very interesting interviews, the viral slips and an extended David Byrne music sequence.  The only part of the special features that I was disappointed with was the exclusion of any interview or even comment by Sean Penn.  Considering he’s one of the main reasons this movie works so well, that just felt kind of a downer.  That said, the interviews that are here are very insightful, interesting and even made me want to watch the movie all over again.  My favorite of the lot was the interview with David Byrne where he talks about being involved in the movie and how he scored it as well as the story being his bands performance.

All in all, I would really recommend this movie.  From the beginning of the movie where you see Cheyenne wallowing in despair and boredom right up to where he begins to look for the Nazi war criminal who took away his fathers dignity is a kooky, slightly off kilter ride yet with a beautiful, kind beating heart right at the middle of it.  Plus with a knockout performance by Sean Penn and a brilliantly chosen cast that really bring this story to life, this is a truly fantastic film that deserves to be seen by more people.

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

If I Die In A Combat Zone by Tim O'Brien Review

Written By Tim O'Brien

Autobiography, Vietnam War


Perhaps the best book to emerge from the Vietnam War, If I Die in a Combat Zone is a fascinating insight into the lives of the soldiers caught in the conflict.
First published in 1973, this intensely personal novel about one foot soldier's tour of duty in Vietnam established Tim O'Brien's reputation as the outstanding chronicler of the Vietnam experience for a generation of Americans. From basic training to the front line and back again, he takes the reader on an unforgettable journey - walking the minefields of My Lai, fighting the heat and the snipers in an alien land, crawling into the ghostly tunnels - as he explores the ambiguities of manhood and morality in a war no one believes in.


As everyone knows the Vietnam War was one of the bloodiest and most controversial wars in American history. Many books have been written on the subject, some good and some bad. This is one of the former. In fact it’s one of the best I have read.

Tim O’Brien was firmly entrenched in the brutal battles and saw many things that would stay with him for the rest of his life. He talks about all the things that he has seen with such clarity and honesty. He’s also not afraid to talk about the things he regrets about being involved in the war either. For a military autobiography that’s rare and thus very commendable.

Rather than write his tale chronologically, he takes the reader back to the very beginning of his time there from his training, his thoughts about desertion right up to when he got shipped out.

Once in Vietnam he talks with brutal honesty about the effect the many hidden mines have on the soldiers themselves and about the affect on the moral of the group. Neither does he shy away from describing the horrifying injuries that occur because of the mines and various attacks.

Originally published in 1973 to massive critical acclaim that was very deserved, this book has been republished many different times and under a couple of different titles. Sometimes published under its full title of ‘If I Die In A Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home’, it’s definitely worth finding. Highly recommended.

Presentation 4/5
Informative 5/5
Recommended 5/5
Overall 14/15

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Conspiracy by S.D. Perry Review

Written By S.D. Perry

Horror, Action, Video Game Tie In


Raccoon City: a remote mountain community suddenly besieged by a rash of grisly murders. At the epicenter, a dark secluded mansion belonging to the mysterious Umbrella Corporation.
Deployed to investigate the strange goings-on is the Special Tactics and Rescue Squad (S.T.A.R.S.) but what unfolds as the team penetrate the mansion's long-locked doors is terror beyond their worst nightmares.


I've always been quite a big fan of the 'Resident Evil' games and of the movies so I was really looking forward to reading the novel.

'The Umbrella Conspiracy' is the first of a series of novels based on the actual games by Capcom and not the movies. Weirdly, that manages to be one of it's strengths and one of it's weaknesses.

The story itself stays very faithful to the story of the first 'Resident Evil' game and that's where one of the problems appears. In places it just seems a little bit like a walk through guide for the game itself instead of a novel but there were quite a few nods to the games themselves that were pretty well done. My favorite being the mention of a typewriter with a blank bit of paper in it being a strange ornament for a mansion, a nice touch considering that's how you would save your progress in the game.

The characters are a little bit cliched but they have been pretty much lifted lock, stock and barrel from the game itself. That said however, they're not badly written and S.D. Perry has added a couple of extra layers to them regardless of how important the character was. I thought that was a nice touch because it did improve the characters a little bit. I did like the little digs by Chris about the whole situation being like a bad zombie movie.

S.D. Perry is famous for her novels based in the world of 'Star Trek: Deep Space 9' and was a pretty good fit as the writer here. The way she references the source of the story and stays faithful to the theme and the characters is very well done. She does add a non game character in the shape of a mysterious person called Trent so I'm quite looking forward to seeing where she takes him story wise.

While not perfect I would definitely recommend to fans of the 'Resident Evil' games because it does do the general theme and atmosphere of the games themselves. I'm quite eager to give the next novels in the series a try as well so it's well worth picking up for the fans.

Story 3/5
Characters 4/5
Recommended 3/5
Overall 10/15

Doctor Who: The Dalek War DVD Review

Written By Malcolm Hulke and Terry Nation
Directed By Paul Bernard and David Maloney

Science Fiction, Adventure

Jon Pertwee as The Doctor
Roger Delgado as The Master
Katy Manning as Jo Grant, The Companion
Vera Fusek as The President
Michael Hawkins as General Williams

Certificate PG


'Frontier in Space' - The Doctor and Jo Grant are caught up in the tensions between Earth and the Draconians.  With war looming on the horizion, is there someone pulling the strings?

'Planet of the Daleks' - After being gravely wounded The Doctor lands the  TARDIS on the planet Spiridon, home to a race of warmongering Daleks.

Special Features

'Frontier in Space'
  • Commentary by Katy Manning, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks
  • Perfect Scenario: Lost Frontier - In the far future, Zed, a young scenariosmith,  turns to the world of Doctor Who to help him connect to the audience.  Includes interviews with Vera Fusek and Michael Hawkins
  • The Space War: Cast and crew look back at the making of the story
  • Roger Delgado: The Master - A biography of the actor Roger Delgado featuring unseen photographs, rare excerpts from his TV appearances and interviews with those who knew and loved him
  • Stripped For Action: The Third Doctor - The series looking at the Doctor's comic book adventures reaches the third Doctor
  • Production Design Drawings, Radio Times listings and BBC Enterprises sales literature

'Planet of the Daleks'
  • Commentary by Katy Manning, Prentis Hancock, Tim Preece, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks
  • Perfect Scenario: The End of Dreams - Continuing his search for inspiration, Zed resumes his studies of Doctor Who.  Includes interviews with Jane How, Janet Fielding and Bernard Horsfall
  • The Rumble in the Jungle: Cast and crew look back at the making of the story
  • Multi-Colourisation: A documentary about the colour restoration of the third episode
  • Stripped For Action: The Daleks - The ongoing series looking at the Doctor's comic book adventures focuses on his deadliest foes
  • Blue Peter: Two items from the long running children's programme featuring an appeal for information on the theft of two Daleks from the BBC
  • Radio Times Billings
  • Photo Gallery


Jon Pertwee, for me, has always been and will always be my favorite incarnation.  While the likes of David Tennant and Tom Baker may come close, it will always be the cynical yet fun portrayal by Pertwee that will be my favorite.

Here he has to try to save the universe from some of his deadliest foes in this box set containing two six part stories from 1973.

The stories themselves are really well done, although 'Planet of the Daleks' is a little underwhelming.  I really liked how they pushed the political intrigue and back  stabbing that was so apparent in 'Frontier in  Space' to the forefront, which in turn gave the story a 'Cold War' feel.  That's pretty apt as the Cold War was at it's height when these episodes were filmed and then shown.

'Planet of the Daleks' is a retread of an earlier story but in a nice bit of continuity by the writers, the events in that story are actually mentioned.  I really like it when long running shows such as this one sneak little moments like that in.

The cast do a fantastic job.  Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado have always have a great chemistry and that really raised the bar for the characters, however here Delgado, in his last appearance as The Master, absolutely acts Pertwee off of the screen.  That's not an easy feat.

Sadly Delgado passed away due to a car accident shortly after finishing this story so perhaps it's a fitting tribute that his best performance is his last.

The special effects may be a bit dated now but it's the sheer strength of the writing that has always endeared the classic stories to me and here's no different.

Special features wise, this is a superb selection of goodies for us Doctor Who fans.  In fact, we have been positively spoiled.  The best of these by far is the documentary about the late, great Roger Delgado.  It was a very nicely put together and touching tribute to a  criminally under rated actor.

All in all, I would say that this is a very highly recommended set for fans old and new alike.

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

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Guts Graphic Novel Review

Written By Dave Neal
Art By Dave Neal
Cover By Dave Neal

Science Fiction, Horror


An  elite team of future cops are despatched to investigate a grizzly massacre at a stately home.  They think they know what to expect...but boy are they wrong!

Originally published as two 'floppy' comic books and then as a digital comic, 'Guts' has finally moved in to the realm of being a printed graphic novel and it's a welcome addition to the genre.

Dave Neal has managed to craft a stark story full of dread and menace with each passing page.  It plays out like a mix of 'Judge Dredd', 'Scanners' and 'The Shining', the latter being the most obvious influence and moves along at an incredibly quick pace.

The characters here wouldn't be out of place in a 2000AD comic book and that's what I love about them.  While they don't have complex back stories or motives to be doing what they are doing, they really don't need it for this release.  The story speaks for itself and it says volumes.  One of the major strengths of this book is that Neal doesn't need tons of dialogue or flashbacks to tell his story, instead he uses facial expressions, shadows and subtle hints to put the story across.

I was really impressed with the artwork too.  It really suited the story.  The best way I can think of describe it is that the stark black and white nature of the artwork makes it look like a classic black and white movie from the Universal horror years.  That really makes the impact of the strange goings on in the house more full on and shocking.  Like I said earlier, Dave Neal's use of shadows and facial expressions gives the story quite a cinematic look as well.

All in all, I would very highly recommend this because it is a real 'page turner' as they say.  I just couldn't wait for the next page to see what was going to happen next and you can't really ask for more than that from a graphic novel can you?

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

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) DVD Review

Written By Christine Kenne based on the children's book by Dr Seuss
Directed By Chuck Jones

Animation, Family

Boris Karloff voices The Narrator / The Grinch

Uncredited Cast
June Foray
Thurl Ravenscroft
Dal McKennon
Hal Smith

Certificate U


Based on the children's book of the same name by the best selling Dr Seuss, narrated by Boris Karloff and animated b cartoon legend, Chuck Jones, this is an award-winning classic.

The Grinch is the crankiest, grumpiest, meanest creature since Mr. Scrooge! He lives in a cave on the side of a mountain, overlooking the town of Who-ville. Christmas is fast approaching and the noisy holiday preparations and infernal singing of the happy town-folk annoy the Grinch no end. He decides this merriment must stop!

However his cunning plan to wipe out Christmas in Who-ville by stealing all the presents, backfires and the miserable old Grinch actually discovers that "Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more".

Special Features

  • Horton Hears A Who! Cartoon
  • Audio Commentary by June Foray and P.Roman
  • Pencil Tests
  • TNT's 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas'
  • Song Selection
  • Songs in the Key of Grinch


Boris Karloff leads a fabulous cast in this animated television special from 1966, directed by the legendary Chuck Jones.

Instead of the manic mugging that Jim Carrey went for in the 2000 movie version, directed by Ron Howard, we have a subtle yet very fun cartoon with some fantastic voice over work.

Boris Karloff was a superb choice as the Grinch, his regal voice with a slight touch of menace really adds a mean nature to the Christmas wrecking character.

The animation itself brings to mind the animation style of the Looney Tunes but that should be no surprise as Chuck  Jones directed a lot of the most famous of those shorts.  There's a charming nature to the animation itself, the bright colors and simple characters really keep the Dr. Seuss style alive on the screen and gives the special a level of quality not seen in the inferior 2000 movie.

The special features are fantastic for this release and really make this DVD massive value for money.  The commentary in particular is definitely one of my favorites out of the set, especially considering they got June Foray to come in to participate.

The picture and sound transfer are crystal clear and in all honesty, better than quite a few more recent cartoons that have been released.  Warner Brothers really did do a brilliant job there.

All in all, this is a fantastic purchase for young and old.  The parents will love the old fashioned charm of the special itself and the kids amongst us will love the fun and chaos filled story that has a really heart felt ending.  The special features are great for us nerds too.

Highly recommended.

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

Romeo Spikes: Lo'Life Book One by Joanne Reay Review

Written By Joanne Reay

Supernatural, Thriller


The Tormentas are a brand new enemy in the fantasy genre. They look like regular humans, but in order to survive, they tempt, lure and drive their victims to suicide. Just as their victim commits suicide, the Tormenta comsumes their remaining ''span'' and moves on to the next victim.
Coming in all forms (the beautiful seductress, the tyrannical boss, the charismatic pop star and the unpleasant playground bully), their victims come from all walks of life the lonely old man, the angst-ridden teenager, the star-crossed lover. Nobody is safe.

But there is an age-old secret sect committed to protecting humans from the grasp of the Tormentas. As the power of the Tormentas grow, the two female leader characters in the trilogy - Lola and Bianca - must race against time, and a deadly enemy, to save humanity.

Tapping into the real-world fears that so many people face in life today, and giving form to the temptations and desperations that drive many to take their own lives, Romeo Spikes is both an exciting adventure and a serious comment on the fears which plague mankind.


The Tormentor. A race of supernatural beings that thrive on driving people to suicide and stealing their lost life force. Suddenly their world begins to change and their legend of a being coming in to being and taking over the world starts to become true but what does that mean for the rest of us humans?

Romeo Spikes is the first book of the Lo’Life trilogy and the author Joanne Reay, successful producer and screenwriter, has crafted a debut novel so full of scope that it feels like you can picture everything that happens as a movie. Not surprising considering her day job.

The story moves along at a cracking pace and absolutely gripped me from the very first page. There are many characters to keep track of but Reay has managed to do that with the skill of an experienced author. While yes there are a lot of characters to get used to, not once does the story feel crowded. Despite the fast pace, you are given the time to really get in to the characters heads.

One of the things I liked about that approach was the simple fact that you get so in to the characters that when something does happen to them, and believe me some shocking things do happen, it really does take your breath away.

I honestly can’t wait for the second book. It’s not out until 2013 but even if it’s half as exciting as this one, it’s going to be fantastic.

Highly recommended.

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

An Interview With Joanne Reay, Author of 'Romeo Spikes'

Joanne Reay, accomplished screenwriter and producer has very kindly taken time from her busy schedule to talk with Pat Challis about her debut novel ‘Romeo Spikes’ and about the transition from screen writer to novelist.

PC: Hi Joanne, what made you decide to jump from the world of the screen play in to the novel world?

JR: I wouldn’t say that I jumped. That has a ring of determined purpose to it. I’d call it more of a tumble, as if into a ditch.

PC: Were there any books that influenced you when you were younger and did they have an affect on you becoming a writer?

JR: I was addicted to the Nancy Drew mystery stories. They must have had an affect because whatever I write, there is always a mystery at the core – some dark puzzle that must be solved. I also adored Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide…” series, but as I read those in my twenties, I don’t think I can count that as growing up.

PC: Some of your movies, such as Gallowalker starring Wesley Snipes, have quite a supernatural theme and you have followed that on here in your debut novel.  Have you always had a passion for the supernatural and if so, have you ever had a supernatural experience?

JR: I’ve always been drawn to the idea of alternate worlds, but I’ve never thought of them as supernatural – just different. As for supernatural experiences, I’ve not had any non-human encounters (apart from dealing with some traffic wardens). However, it often happens that I will imagine an event or some random piece of conversation and very soon after, it will actually occur – just as I imagined it. So there is hope yet that I am a witch.

PC: ‘Romeo Spikes’ started as a screenplay didn’t it?  What made you decide to turn it in to a novel and was it an easy transition?

JR: The screenplay fell into the hands of the publisher and they approached me with the idea of turning it into a novel. I remember thinking ‘Yeah, why not. I write screenplays all the time. How hard can it be to write a novel?” The answer, for those interested, is bloody hard.

PC: Did you need to do a lot of research to create your story?

JR: I’d like to call it research but it was more a trippy drift across the web. I’d start looking into a topic to check some facts and then my attention would be caught by some strange foot-note and before I knew it, hours had passed and I was deep into the works of Tristmegistmus or some other obscure writings. But what was weird was how often these apparently random rides would end up delivering crucial plot points.

PC: While reading the story I was struck by your writing style that made me think of a mixture of Anne Rice and Neil Gaiman.  Has there been any authors that have  influenced you during your life?

JR: It might sound like a cliché, but I have to say Lewis Carroll. If anyone can teach a child that words have a power quite detached from meaning – it is Carroll. As an adult, Martin Amis can make me swear with envy. He’s like some kind of verbal Ninja, knowing just where to place a word to knock you out.

PC: The villains in your dark and fantastical tale, so to speak, called the Tormentor are an absolutely fantastic creation in that while they feel super natural you have written them in such a way that it feels like they could really exist.  What, if anything, influenced you to writing such a character?  Also did you have a favorite character at all?

JR: Have you ever been introduced to someone, shaken their hand and felt a chill run through you? There is nothing more unsettling than sensing the presence of evil, when the person before you looks, sounds and acts as normal. This was the appeal of creating the Tormentors. I wanted people to lose themselves in the story and then suddenly think, Hell – I bet my old boss was a Tormentor. Or my ex-wife. Or my high-school games teacher…As for favourite characters, I love Dali. Such a dandy demon. Trying to be a good guy but that dark streak in him just won’t lay down…

PC: At the moment the world has had a plethora of books with a supernatural back bone to them.  What would you say makes yours stand out the most from the pack?

JR: The Lo’Life series enters the supernatural side of suicide. It has a pulse of reality to it that brings it closer to home.

PC: Without giving anything away, what can we look forward to from the second book in this trilogy?

JR: In Romeo Spikes, Detective Bianco is taken deep into the supernatural world of Lola. In the next book, the roles are reversed and Lola becomes locked into the search for a bizarre and brutal serial killer. As the two worlds of humans and Tormenta once again collide, the investigation takes an unexpected twist into the realm of quantum theory.

'Romeo Spikes' by Joanne Reay is out now from all good book stockists.

Batman: Under The Red Hood DVD Review

Written By Judd Winick based on the comic books 'A Death in the Family' and 'Under The Red Hood'
Directed By Brandon Vietti


Bruce Greenwood voices Batman / Bruce Wayne
Jensen Ackles voices The Red Hood
John DiMaggio voices The Joker
Neil Patrick Harris voices Dick Grayson / Nightwing
Jason Isaacs voices Ra's al Ghul
Wade Williams voices The Black Mask
Gary Cole voices Bobo
Jim Piddock voices Alfred Pennyworth

Superhero, Action, Animated
Certificate 12


Batman faces his ultimate challenge as the mysterious Red Hood takes Gotham City by firestorm. One part vigilante, one part criminal kingpin, Red Hood begins cleaning up Gotham with the efficiency of Batman, but without following the same ethical code. Killing is an option. And when the Joker falls in the balance between the two, hard truths are revealed and old wounds are reopened.

Special Features

  • First Look: Superman/Batman Apocalypse
  • Explore 3 Other DC Universe Original Animated Movies


For a long time, 'Mask of the Phantasm' has been my favorite Batman movie of all time.  It may be an animated movie but I still rated it above all others.  Until now.

What we have here is a superbly written adventure that really delves in to Batman's psyche and also his past.  Based on two classic comic book story lines, 'A Death in the Family' and 'Under the Red Hood', the writers have managed to blend the two stories brilliantly.

This follows the same sort of tone as the Christopher Nolan movies in that it is very dark and has massive flashes of violence yet that's where the comparisons end because this is most definitely it's own movie.

The cast is, quite frankly, perfect for this movie. One of the cast choices surprised  me in all honesty.  I waas really unsure when I saw that they had cast Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing because I really wasn't convinced that he could pull off the character but his cocky and brash nature really gelled with Bruce Greenwood's tortured and hurt portrayal of Batman.  Greenwood really brought his A game here and put across the fact that Batman is haunted by his past failings.  It was a nice change to see him portrayed as human and as someone that could make mistakes instead of someone that would win no matter what as thrown at him.

The two standouts for me however were John DiMaggio as The Joker and Jensen Ackles, from television's 'Supernatural' as The Red Hood.  Both played their characters fantastically well, especially DiMaggio as The Joker.  I'm firmly in the camp that thinks the Mark Hammill voiced Joker is the best out of all the portrayals but here, DiMaggio really makes the character his own and portrays him as a criminal mastermind that is a genius under all the jokes and insanity.

Ackles as The Red Hood is absolutely superb, especially after it is shockingly revealed who the Hood's alter ego really is.  He plays the part aggressively yet with such hurt and bitterness at everything that has happened to him that you can't help but feel some sympathy for the character.  Considering all the chaos that he causes throughout the movie, that's not an easy thing to do.

I would be very remiss if I didn't mention the fantastic soundtrack by Christopher Drake.   I would even go so far as saying the music choices are masterful in that they seem to fit the scenes perfectly and really punctuate the action.  Even on the more reflective scenes Drake's music really brings home everything that is happening without you even being aware of how much the music is influencing you.

All in all, this is the best of the recent animated Batman movies that DC have produced and with an added Cameo by Bruce Timm, creator of the classic 1990's Batman cartoon and a cover by artist Alex Ross, this is most definitely a can't miss choice for all comic book fans.

Movie 5/5
Picture 5/5
Sound 4/5
Special Features 3/5
Overall 17/20

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Marraquai: The Forest and the City Comic Review

Written By Benjamin Dickson
Art By James McKay
Cover By James McKay


Drake is a member of an unnamed tribe who lives in a forest and worships Marraquai, the lord of the forest. When the creature destroys a machine sent to cut down the trees, a woman is badly injured yet rescued by Drake and brought to the tribe. This is the day that Drake's life changes forever but will it change for the better or for the worse?


Once in a while a comic book comes along that just amazes me and really stays with me long after I have read it.

'Marraquai: The Forest and the City' is one of those such books.

First published in May 2005, this is the only 'floppy' comic by James McKay and Benjamin Dickson but what a comic!

The story by Benjamin Dickson is a relatively simple one on paper but with writing of this quality, it's an absolutely stunning one.

The story is very hard hitting and Drake's story is riveting right up to the very end of the story. I would have loved to see more of his story but alas, this was a one shot story.

The artwork here is, simply put, amazing. James McKay has really created art of such quality that it really brings the story and characters to life. I will definitely be checking out more of his work.

All in all, I highly recommend that everybody goes and grabs a copy of this as soon as they can. It really is that good!

Story  4/5
Art 5/5
Overall 9/10

Friday, 23 November 2012

Deck Z: The Titanic by Chris Pauls and Matt Solomon Book Review

Written By Chris Pauls and Matt Solomon

Horror, Historical 


Imagine being trapped aboard the doomed Titanic on an icy Atlantic. . . with the walking dead. This fast-paced thriller reimagines the historical events of the fateful Titanic voyage through the lens of zombie mayhem. Captain Edward Smith and his inner circle desperately try to contain a weaponized zombie virus smuggled on board with the 2,200 passengers sailing to New York. Faced with an exploding population of lumbering, flesh-hungry undead, Smith's team is forced into bloody hand-to-hand combat down the narrow halls of the huge steamer. In its few short days at sea, the majestic Titanic turns into a Victorian bloodbath, steaming at top speed toward a cold, blue iceberg. A creepy, tense page-turner, Deck Z will thrill zombie fans and Titanic buffs alike.


'Deck Z' is the debut novel of a pairing of authors named Chris Pauls and Matt Solomon and that manages to do something very rare.

The novel takes two very well worn ideas, in this case zombies and the tragic voyage of the Titanic, and manages to create something completely new.

The story itself combines the story of a scientist named Weiss, who after finding out that the Nazi's want his viral of 'The Toxic' to use as a weapon, decides to embark on a journey to America on the Titanic to escape.

After starting off in methodical fashion, the pace really picks up but the authors manage to combine having a cracking and exciting pace with having fully realized characters. A lot of the characters are based on real people that actually were on the Titanic itself but Pauls and Solomon really do these people justice and have written them with a massive amount of respect. The best of this, by far, being the Captain himself. Sometimes people seem to portray him as the bad guy of the tragedy and some portray as a all conquering hero yet here he's written as a normal guy with a past yet has a sense of pride and duty.

The character of Weiss himself is written with multiple layers, which is a very pleasant surprise for a zombie story. At times he is played as an immoral scientist who will stop at nothing and at others he is portrayed as a hero. As someone who wants nothing more than to find the cure for the horrible virus that has been released.

Another thing that absolutely amazed me was the sheer amount of research that must have done in to this novel. Every little detail about the Titanic itself and the liners history is used and that really adds an air of realism to proceedings.

Even though everybody knows the tragic end of the Titanic, here the authors have made the reader so involved in the story that when the inevitable collision happens, it's heart breaking reading about the struggles to get people in to the lifeboats etc. I found myself welling up more than once.

All in all, what we have here is an story that either shouldn't work or should come across as hokey works fantastically well and ends up being really affecting.

I really can't wait to see what these guys are going to come up with next. Highly recommended.

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

Contact Me On @PatChallis82

An Interview With Chris Pauls and Matt Solomon, Authors of the Novel 'Deck Z'

'Deck Z' is a new novel by Chris Pauls and Matt Solomon placing the classic creature the zombie aboard the tragic liner the Titanic.  When a plague is released and the passengers start to turn one by one, only a select few can stop the plague getting to America but who will survive? 
Now Chris Pauls and Matt Solomon have very kindly taken the time to join us here today to talk about their debut novel entitled 'Deck Z', which is available from all good book stockists now.
PC: 'Deck Z' is your debut novel, which must have been daunting for both of you. What made you decide to jump in the novel world? 
CP: I had written a thriller previously that still is sitting in the broiler waiting for a rewrite so I already had a toe in the water, so to speak.
MS: Both of us have lots of experience in other forms of creative writing, including screenwriting and comedy writing.  That probably made the experience a little easier than if we'd gone in with no professional experience at all.
PC: Did you have any quirks or habits during the writing to psych yourself up for the long writing process? 
CP: I listen to a lot of heavy instrumental rock as a habit and fear my house getting foreclosed upon as a motivation.
MS: Green tea and 70s funk.
PC: Setting a zombie tale aboard the Titanic is a new and unique addition to the genre. How did the idea for the novel come about? 
CP: Our editor, Sarah Malarkey, came up with the idea.
MS: From there, it was fun to flesh it out and see what new wrinkles we could bring to the genre.
PC: The thing that strikes the reader when reading the novel is the sheer amount of detail about the liner and the characters themselves. How long did you spend researching the tale? 
CP: Months, probably, if you take all the time in aggregate. Just figuring out where to set the story aboard the ship was a series of misfires for sure.
MS: Because we're dealing with lots of real people, we felt an obligation to do right by them.  Lots of research was the price of admission.
PC: Did either of you have a favorite character while you were writing 'Deck Z'? 
CP: For me it's the Agent. He's a very morally ambiguous character, but that didn't come about in a vacuum.
MS:  Lou was my favorite.  I've got a daughter about the same age, so she was fun to write.
PC: Without giving anything away to the readers, is there a scene that you are most proud of? 
CP: I'm a big fan of the prologue, which occurs on the Titanic wreck site.
MS: There were a lot of dogs on Titanic - I enjoyed the scene where we found a way to let them have their moment in the zombie-fighting spotlight.
PC: Were there any authors that influenced either of you during your lives? 
CP: Over here it's a lot of John Steinbeck, Raymond Chandler, Alan Moore, and Hunter S. Thompson.
MS:  I'm not sure you'd see it in my writing, but I'll echo Chandler and throw in Haruki Murakami and Neil Gaiman.
PC: How would you describe your novel to a newcomer? 
CP: It's a fast-paced, historically influenced story where characters on the Titanic must decide how to best confront a monumental threat.
MS:  I'll go with one of Chris's original pitches:  Alien on a boat.  
PC: If either of you could collaborate with any author living or dead, is there anyone specific you would choose? 
CP: Honestly, I really like where Matt and I are going as a team. 
MS:  I'd take Gaiman, but only if Chris was traveling.
PC: After setting zombies loose on the legendary Titanic, what's next? 
CP: We're writing a novel (planned trilogy) about a Frank Lloyd Wright building that houses something extraordinary.
PC: Thank you to both of you for taking the time to talk to me. 
CP: Anytime!
MS: Our pleasure.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Foundation: The Collegium Chronicles Book 1 by Mercedes Lackey Book Review

Written By Mercedes Lackey

Fantasy, Adventure


In this chronicle of the early history of Valdemar, a thirteen-year old orphan named Magpie escapes a life of slavery in the gem mines when he is chosen by one of the magical companion horses of Valdemar to be trained as a herald. Thrust into the centre of a legend in the making, Magpie discovers talents he never knew he had, and witnesses the founding of the great Heralds Collegium.

Mercedes Lackey is most definitely one of the most prolific authors in the fantasy genre.  After 20 plus years and over 100 books, her novels appear to have no intention of stopping or of slowing down.

You would honestly think that after writing that many books that the writing would inevitably suffer or some of the stories would be sub par but that isn’t the case here.

In fact, I would honestly go so far as to say that this  is one of her best ones for a very long time.  While it’s true that it is set in her usual world of Valdemar, you need not have read any of her other novels to be able to enjoy this one.  ‘Foundation’ has been written in such a way that even though the characters are new and the storyline is new, it has an air of familiarity about it.  It’s the book equivalent of putting on your favorite pair of slippers.

The characters themselves are fantastic and the reader really can’t help but get emotionally involved in their journey.  This is especially true of the young main character Mags, who after being rescued from a deadly mine starts his journey in to becoming the person he was born to become.  The way the Mags character has been written is beautiful in his simplicity and honestly feels like you are hearing the words and world view of someone his age.

I also liked the way that while the story doesn’t have major show downs or bloody battles, as are the norm for this genre, the gentle pacing gives the story and characters room to grow and breathe.  The way Mags and his friends grow personality wise during the novel and then the way they  deal with the exciting conclusion is evidence of Lackey’s skill at creating characters you learn to really care about.

This is a great start to the new series of novels by Mercedes Lackey and I honestly can’t wait to get my hands on the second one.  Highly recommended.

Story 4/5
Characters 4/5
Recommended 4/5
Overall 12/15

Contact Me On @PatChallis82

Wishbaby DVD Review

Written By Stephen W. Parsons
Directed By Stephen W. Parsons

Tiana Benjamin as Maxine
Doc Brown as Colin
Ann Faulkner as Mum


Certificate 18

Wishbaby is a savage fairytale set in a contemporary urban landscape. A troubled young black teenager Maxine rescues an eccentric old lady Eve from an unhappy slap by a mixed-race gang of teens and is rewarded for her act of kindness with the gift of a terrible secret: how to make and operate a Wishbaby. With Eve's help Maxine gives life to a magic doll and sets out to solve her current problems, inadvertently releasing Eve's dead Governess from her astral prison and unleashing a storm of supernatural activity. Her older brother Colin is gradually drawn into the dangerous situation created by the 'Little King' and must finally face his own mother in a brutal fight to the death.

Special Features
  • Trailer
  • Director's Commentary
  • Rough Magik: A 40 minute short film of a story by H.P Lovecraft, directed by Stephen Parsons
  • Karma Magnet: A 17 minute short film, directed by Martin Kemp, starring Gary Kemp

This low budget British horror movie tells the story of a young girl living in a part of town full of drug users, pimps and muggers.  When she saves a strange old lady from a gang beating she is offered the chance to make a ‘wish baby’ that will hopefully change her life.  After taking her up on the offer strange things start to happen and slowly but surely, when the woman’s dead governess reappears, it’s obvious that this is one tale that won’t end well.

Don’t be put off by the storyline.  It’s nowhere near as cheesy and weird as it sounds.

Instead the director, Stephen W. Parsons, has created a spooky and atmospheric movie that really harks back to the old days of the classic, supernatural horror movies.  In fact, it takes the same path as another British horror movie called ‘Urban Ghost Story’ in that it really uses it’s gritty and grimy settings to it’s advantage.

The young and mostly unknown cast do an absolutely amazing job.  The best of these being the rapper Doc Brown, who plays the Meth addicted brother of the main character, Maxine.  What could have been quite a clichéd character in someone else hands, Brown handles the character with a subtle slight of hand and really makes him feel believable and realistic.

Tiana Benjamin, who was in Eastenders, plays Maxine with quite a sympathetic air to the character yet by the end of the movie she is such a broken character that you would expect her to fall in to melodrama but that never happens.

In a bit of trivia for all those movie fans out there, the director himself, campaigned for the rating for his movie to be increased to an 18 certificate because he thought that the scenes in the movie would be copied by people watching.

In another bit of trivia, albeit of the tragic kind, this movie was brought some dark publicity thanks to the private life of one of the stars.  Ann Faulkner was arrested after making this movie for the murder of her younger boyfriend after he was ran over but was later acquitted in a court of law.

The  special features here are really good for a low budget Brit horror movie.  You have the trailer for the movie itself but then you have two short movies as well.

The first ‘Rough Magik‘ is a 40 minute short film of a story by H.P Lovecraft, directed by Stephen Parsons that really gets a lot of quality in to it’s short run time.  I won’t give any of the story away here but needless to say, I really liked it.

The second ‘Karma Magnet’ is a 17 minute short film directed by Martin Kemp and starring his brother Gary, that shows that not all actors should be allowed behind the camera.  There are a few good ideas in the story but the execution of them is shoddy, hence why I bumped the special features score down to a 3 instead of a 4.
While it is true that this movie won’t be to everybody’s taste, it’s well worth picking up and having a watch.  If you liked the movie ‘Urban Ghost Story’, then you will most definitely love this one.  Ignore how cheesy the storyline may sound, kick back and enjoy a spooky and rather old fashioned tale that can serve as a good warning that you have to be careful what you wish for.

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

Contact Me On Twitter PatChallis82

Avengers Academy: Volume One - Permanent Record

Written By Christos Gage
Art By Mike McKone and Jorge Molina
Cover Art By Mike McKone

Superhero, Action, Adventure

Determined to keep the tradition alive, founding Avenger Hank Pym leads a core team of veteran heroes in creating a place where the next generation of Earth's Mightiest can be trained by the greatest of those who preceded them. An institution where everyone who has ever been an Avenger can share their skill, knowledge and experience. The future is in their hands...and in the hands of the six young super-humans chosen to make up the inaugural class. But who are they?

Just recently we have been absolutely bombarded with so many new ‘Avengers’ titles that they have all begun to merge in to one so when I heard they were going to do a ‘X-Men First Class’ style storyline with an eye to creating yet more Avengers, I was highly dubious that it would be able to stand on it’s own as a title.

I couldn’t have been more wrong because what we have here is a rather interesting take on the whole idea of new heroes being trained up.  There are some really good and  well rounded new characters, only one of which has been seen before in the shape of ‘Reptil’, and loads of stories all running together yet without feeling cluttered.

The  characters here are very well written and you can really get behind the characters.  Each one of them has their back story revealed one issue at a time. My favorite of these being the story behind the character of Striker, although the other stories are just as rewarding.  Alongside these introductions there are stories concerning Norman Osborn and the aftermath of his experiments and the reasons behind why these particular people were chosen for the training scheme,  Both of these throw up some interesting twists and turns.

The artwork here is absolutely great.  The panels really pop off the page, especially during the battle and training scenes.  Another great thing about the artwork here was the sheer amount of detail.  Even on the ‘quieter’ scenes, the art really brought the characters here to life and they looked great next to the more established characters in the story.

Overall I would highly recommend this release.  I had started to get quite jaded with the amount of reboots  and new team ups that the Avengers were getting in to but here, I really enjoyed seeing a new team being trained.  Both the writing and the art worked very well together and I personally can’t wait for the 2nd volume of issues.

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

Contact Me On Twitter @PatChallis82

Hobo With A Shotgun DVD Review

Written By John Davies
Directed By Jason Eisener

Rutger Hauer as The Hobo
Molly Dunsworth as Abbey the Prostitute
Brian Downey as The Drake


Certificate 18

Delivering justice one shell at a time

In a journey to earn his way out of poverty, a homeless man pulls into a city of urban chaos, where crime prevails and the city's crime boss reigns with violent and bloody malice.

Seeing this urban landscape filled with armed robbers, corrupt cops and abused prostitutes, the Hobo soon abandons his plans and turns vigilante in order to deliver justice to this city of filth the only way he knows how - with a 20-gauge shotgun. Mayhem ensues as he tries to clean up the streets and make the city a better place for future generations. However with the city's evil crime boss Drake standing in his way, will the Hobo's own brand of street justice prevail? 

Special Features
  • Audio Commentaries
  • The Making Of Hobo With A Shotgun
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Alternative Ending
Hobo With A Shotgun.  Aside from the awesome title, what can we expect from a movie like this?

Gore.  Lots and lots of gore.

The movie started life as one of the fake trailers shown during the Quentin Tarantino / Robert Rodriguez duo of movies collectively known as ‘Grindhouse’ and proved so popular that it was turned in to this, a feature length verson.

While it’s not the most subtle or intelligent of movies there is one thing that it is above all else and that is fun.

If you are a gore hound then this is most definitely the movie for you.  The deaths are extremely brutal and at the  same time inventive with the visceral style of the movie really making the violence and gore quite literally fly off the screen.

The acting is wilding over the top, much the same way that the acting in ‘Drive Angry’ was but when you have a movie named ‘Hobo With A Shotgun’, you shouldn’t go in to this expecting an Academy Award winning team of performances.

Rutger Hauer is superb as the nameless hobo of the title.  Rather surprisingly, Hauer gives the hobo a wisecracking Bruce Campbell style persona and that really ramps up the comedy of some of the scenes.  Even when the violence is exploding all around him, the hobo absolutely owns the screen.  It’s the same with Molly Dunsworth as Abby.  The chemistry between the two characters really does give this OTT movie a heart.  In fact, the relationship comes across as a father/daughter style coupling.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Brian Downey as The Drake, a character that comes across as the love child of a crazy Nick Cage and Jack Nicholson love connection.  He positively chews the scenery each time he appears.  The best of these are when he confronts the hobo played by Rutger Hauer.

Also keep an eye out for the pair of characters called The Plague.  I am seriously hoping for a spin off for them.

The direction and the filming style really brings back the nostalgic feel of the 1970’s and 80’s exploitation movies, in particular the filming style of the movie ‘Maniac Cop’ starring the master of the OTT, Bruce Campbell.

Special features wise, there are some great additions.  Not only do you have not one but two entertaining commentaries, you have the trailer, a making of documentary, deleted scenes and a very interesting alternate ending!

All in all, while most definitely not to everybody’s taste, I found this to be a really fun gore filled movie full of hilarious one liners and some very over the top performances.

If you liked movies like ‘Drive Angry’ or ‘Planet Terror’ then you will enjoy the hell out of this movie.

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