Wednesday 30 September 2009

My Day Working as a Canteen Worker at Forks High School

As mentioned earlier, I’ve had a lot of strange jobs. One of my most memorable, however, is definitely my time spent as a canteen worker in Forks High School, Washington. Forks is a small town, and it rains all the time. Oh, yeah, and it contains the biggest collection of poetic Goths I’ve ever seen – even at a Gothic poetry convention.

Don’t ask why I’ve been to a Gothic poetry convention. Just accept that I have, and move on.

Anyway, I arrived at the school on the Monday morning, and was asked to leave the premises at approximately 2:30pm. For me, this is actually pretty good going.

I arrived at the school promptly at 8am, and was told that it was going to be my job to sort out the menu for the day, as I had the most experience out of the entire staff. My assistants were Javier, a bearded Spanish seventeen year-old who barely spoke three words of English; and Bertha, a seventy-eight year old woman whose principal purpose on the team was to shout at teenagers and spurt tufts of hair from various growths on her face. I went into the pantry to study the food available, lighting my cigar with a chef’s blowtorch.

The pickings were rather meagre. There was a sack of rice, the carcass of a cow, and a tub of Neopolitan ice-cream...from which someone had scooped out and presumably eaten all of the strawberry flavour. I turned to Javier, “Jav? Reckon we can knock a chilli out of this?”

“Mil manadas de elefantes se están colocando en mi pie.” replied my bearded companion.

I drew thoughtfully on my cigar. “A pie, huh? Yeah, why not? Bertha? Reckon you can knock up some pastry?”

Bertha replied by beating her forehead rhythmically against a saucepan.

I left Javier and Bertha to get to work on the dinner, whilst I prepped up the canteen. I sorted the vegetable dishes quickly enough, and only a minimal amount of cigar ash fell into the custard. When lunch rolled around, the canteen started to fill up relatively quickly. The first to arrive on the scene were some pale looking emo fucks, who sat in the corner looking “moody”. I glared at them whilst playing Turisas in my head. It’s the only way I can cope with douchebags like that.

“Javier? How’s that pie coming on?” I called back into the kitchen.

“La selva, vino vivo y acaba de tomalo!” he called back. I assumed that was a good thing.

The kids started to file in for their lunch then, all except the Emo Douches®, who simply sat at the back not doing much. With the MTV brigade looking rather hungry, I ducked back inside to see what Javier and Bertha were up to.

The pie was huge.

When I say huge, I mean it was roughly the size of a kid’s paddling pool. It could easily feed the school five times over. The only downside was that it was empty.

“You’re baked a completely hollow pie!” I screamed. “What the fuckery good is that?”

Bertha made a noise like a rusty gate being pushed open, and pushed an entire garlic press into her mouth.

“Dave's no aquí, hombre.” pleaded Javier, slapping his palms to his face in an unintentional parody of Macaulay Culkin.

I headed back out to the main canteen area. Some guy in a New England Patriots shirt was sneering at the pale emo fuckers. I had a feeling he and I would connect. “What’s with the pale emo fuckers?” I asked him.

“Them? Oh, that’s the Cullens. The one with the perfectly flat face is Edward. The rest of them have no real bearing on anything. I suspect they’re just there for atmosphere. It makes me angry.”

“What do you mean, "here for atmosphere"?” I asked.

“I don’t know. They don’t really do all that much, they just sit there, you know. I feel so confused by the whole thing, I just have to say out loud how I’m feeling. Word is that the Cullens are vampires...”

“Hmm...” I murmured. “This might be the second strangest school I’ve ever been in.”

I headed over to the pale douches. “Hey guys, grub’s want anything, or do you just want to sit here looking pale and interesting?”

Edward looked up. The effect of his bizarrely flat face being pointed directly at me was a little like being stared down by some deep sea fish. “No, thank you. We’re fine.”

“Okay, well if you lads aren’t going to buy anything, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

Edward smirks. “And what makes you think we’re going to comply?”

I took a draw of my cigar. “Well, you guys are obviously “vampires”, if I rescind my invitation, you have to leave. I saw it in True Blood once.”

“Uh, we do?” asked the large one.

“No, I don’t think so. That would be stupid.” said Edward.

“No, it’s true.” I said. “Vampire lore. If you’re vampires, you have to get out. Or eat my pie.”

“¿Señor Von Boltthrower? ¡Bertha ha subido en la empanada, y no puedo salirla!” called Javier from behind me.

“Vampires don’t need to do that.” muttered Edward, but he looked unconvinced.

“No, they totally do! It’s as basic as they have to drink human blood, and they explode in sunlight.”

“Uh...yeah...we do that.” muttered the Pan Faced Git.

“You guys aren’t really vampires are you?” I asked.

Edward bowed his head down. “ We just wanted to be thought of an interesting, so we could score with dorky girls. I’m sorry, Mr Von Boltthrower. We’ve seen the error of our ways”

“So, you’re going to eat some of my pie, right?”

Edward and his goth posse looked beaten. “What flavour is it?”

“Pastry. With a hint of hairy bat-shit insane woman.”

Edward turned his flat eyes up to me. “Can we pretend it tastes like blood?”

I playfully ruffled his hair. “Of course you can, scamp. Of course you can.”

Then, as if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared. “Hello, sir. It’s good to see you’ve shown these young teenagers the error of their ways. Only, I wonder if you wouldn’t mind helping me in the kitchen?”

When I stepped through into the kitchen, I found myself back in the changing room of the fancy dress shop on Festive Road. “What a strange adventure...” I muttered to myself, frowning as I discovered that the shopkeeper had once again shat in my trouser pocket.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

DVD Reviews

Crank 2: High Voltage
Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor
Lionsgate UK

Review by Rob Wade

Jason Statham is one of those actors who find themselves inevitably pigeon-holed into a genre of film, if not by directors and casting decisions then by cinema-goers and particularly film students and people of that ilk. Speaking from experience, the staff at the cinema I've worked at for years are certainly of the opinion that a Jason Statham action film will have a certain quality level. The level of quality, however, differs from person to person. Some, the purists among them, will tell you that Jason Statham doesn't really work as a figurehead, and that the films end up being crap as a result, aimed at the same chav types who enjoy The Fast and the Furious. However, it's equally likely when you ask someone that they'll say that the movies are great fun and that you just need to approach them from an enjoyment point of view.

I wasn't sure which side to fall on until I watched Crank 2. It should be mentioned, incidentally, that I hadn't seen Crank when I watched this, although I had heard that it was an enjoyable, if implausible, film with plenty of over the top moments to keep action fans happy. Thankfully, the director has factored in that some people will not have seen the first film, and includes quick flashbacks in order to keep people following the plot. Understandably, the film does sort of hope that you HAVE seen the film, but then that's to be expected really.

It's clear when watching this movie that the director played a lot of video games when he was younger, but in case you hadn't figured that out don't worry; he opens the film with a computerised old-school sprite diagram of the last few minutes of the first film. Thankfully, the film gives you plenty of indication that the director is a video game fan, as it becomes absolutely goddamned ridiculous before too long. Luckily it's in a good way.

When last we left Chev Chelios (which, by the way, is one of the stupidest action hero names in history), he was falling out of a helicopter towards the ground of Los Angeles. When he arrives at his destination, he is picked up by a mysterious van and taken to a secret location. His heart is removed by these strangers, and replaced with an electric heart. Here's the catch; while looking for his heart, he has to keep the electric heart juiced up, as it's one that's not designed to be used for long periods of time. Of course, Chelios' battery gets destroyed early on, so he looks for crazier and crazier ways to keep himself alive while he seeks out the guy carrying the small cooler around, as well as trying to figure out who has set him up and why.

Understandably, being a Crank movie, the emphasis is on Jason Statham as a central figure for both action and over the top thrills. Thankfully, Statham seems sufficiently self-aware to be able to carry this off in a pretty amusing way. While most action heroes would probably turn their noses up at a movie like Crank appearing on their acting resumé, Statham is happy to send up those sort of over the top action movies he probably grew up on.

Amy Smart, also, is back reprising the role of Chelios' main squeeze, and accordingly there is yet another ridiculous sex scene between the two of them in an overcrowded public place, which the series seems to have become famous for in its own way. Some other intriguing roles include cameos by Geri Halliwell of former Spice Girls fame, as well as David Carradine in a very strange role. Try and spot him, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: Absolutely loads of bloody, super violent action. Over the top to the extreme, as well as plenty of scenes of torture involving electricity.
Sex/Nudity: Lots of tits and the occasional naked girl. Some CGI balls and a horse penis. One sex scene on a racetrack.
Swearing: Absolutely buckets of bad language, running the complete spectrum of words from "shit" all the way to the ones we find most offensive.
Summary: This is possibly one of the most Emotionally Fourteen films ever made. It literally has everything; guns, tits, girls with their tits out shooting guns. Over the top in every way, and totally enjoyable trash cinema. I'd have felt bad for paying to see it at the cinema, but totally worth a rent if you've got a few friends coming over and fancy a laugh. 9/10

Jon Wright
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Review by Brad Harmer

The best days of your life become your worst nightmare in Tormented, a high school comedy with a very sinister twist. At the exclusive Fairview High Grammar School all is not what it seems, although you wouldn't tell from its seemingly normal veneer. With a budding romance between head girl Justine Fielding and popular hunk Alexis blossoming for the whole school to see, a sinister undercurrent begins to sweep through the halls.

Alexis is a part of a group of friends headed by Bradley; a clique who victimise the weaker kids for sadistic pleasure. One such victim was poor Darren Mullett bullied so badly during the previous summer, he took his own life in order to escape their diabolical onslaught. Now, with a newfound confidence and absolutely nothing left to lose, Darren is back from the dead to take his revenge in the most bloody and inventive ways.

Tormented sucks on so many levels. Its characters are stereotypes, and the actors portraying them are of questionable quality – mostly culled from Grange Hill, Dream Team and Skins. What’s more, it fails as a horror film, because it doesn’t take itself very seriously, and when it does it stumbles apparently unwittingly into clichés that have been around since Tales From The Crypt. But even worse than that, it fails as a comedy because it is very simply not funny.

Mullet is utilised well early in the film, appearing in flashes and glimpses, or even unseen by the protagonists, in a fashion similar to the ghosts of Japanese cinema, such as Ju-On: The Grudge. Unfortunately, by the half-way mark in the film, he’s now used as a ginger, obese, asthmatic Jason Voorhees; thereby ruining what’s cool about Jason Voorhees in three different ways, simultaneously.

There are, however, many things that Tormented does very well. Whilst its characters may be stereotypes (the bully, the toff, the Goth, the slut, the geek, etc.), they aren’t clichés – they’re fully formed and rounded characters. What’s more, they’re all inherently detestable. Whilst that makes for sometimes hard viewing, I can’t help but admire a movie that’s willing to buck tradition and intentionally make all its heroes villains. What’s more, the (slightly) limited budget is well utilised, and the gore work is pretty damn good.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several very gory death scenes of the Friday the 13th variety. Some schoolyard scuffles.
Sex/Nudity: Some titties, some softcore sex scenes.
Swearing: Lots, consistent with that of most Grammar school pupils.
Summary: An exceedingly average slasher movie, whose twists and turns aren’t as clever as it thinks. Would probably appeal to 18-21 year olds...and other people who don’t know any better. 6/10

Bring It On: Fight To The Finish
Billie Woodruff
Universal Pictures

Review by Brad Harmer

Los Angeles high school cheer squad captain Lina Cruz (Christina Milian – Def Jam Vendetta, Torque) and her best friends Gloria and Treyvonetta (???) with high hopes of winning the Spirit Championships with the team's fiery fusion of Latin and hip-hop moves.

Instead, Lina's world is turned upside down when her mother remarries and her family relocates to Malibu, where she is forced to adjust to a new home, a new stepsister and a new school with a terrible cheer squad.

Always ready for a challenge, Lina takes on the task on transforming her school cheer squad into a winning team, but she will have to get past the award-winning Jaguar cheer squad and their sassy captain, Avery. Lina's budding romance with Avery's brother Evan only intensifies the rivalry. With the stakes higher than ever before, Lina devises a bold plan that could blow the Jaguars right off the competition floor and lead her team to victory.

Can you think of anyone you know who would want to see this DVD? You do? Is it a fourteen year old girl? Yup, thought so. Only fourteen year old girls can possibly be interested enough in dancing, romance and Christina Milian to justify spending money on this piece of toss.

Throughout the movie is this all pervading sense of “not trying very hard”. It’s not a bad film – the direction, acting, editing and what-not is all well and good, but it’s only good enough. It’s a film made by jobbing actors and technicians, and none of them feel any need to make this movie shine in any way. Especially the writers of the dialogue – I have never before encountered dialogue that was so clunky I actually bruised myself on it.

Almost none of the characters are likable – they are all self-serving or slimy in some way or another. For a serious drama: fine, do that. It’s challenging viewing, but that’s the point. For a straight-to-video cash-in job, it’s ridiculous. And they are all clichés, but that’s expected in the High School Movie genre, to some extent.

As I mentioned earlier, this movie isn’t truly bad, but it is lazy, and with a couple of things that are so bad they break any suspension of disbelief you may have already been suffering from. For example, two girls do a showdown, scuffle type thing, but entirely through the medium of sloppy Latin dance moves! How great is that? Not at all? Correct!

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some scuffling, some of which is through the medium of dance.
Sex/Nudity: Some kissing, some trampy clothing.
Swearing: None. Maybe some of the Spanish “street” language is rude. I could not tell.
Summary: Another cheap cash in from a franchise that should have been put to bed two sequels ago. Whilst far from bad, it is lazily executed, and there are much better High School Movies to spend your money on. 3/10

Uwe Boll
In 2 Film

Review by Brad Harmer

Sam Seed, an insane mass murderer, is scheduled for execution at the hands of Warden Wright. After three attempts to electrocute, complete with boiling blood that steeps from his eyes, Seed is still alive. The executioner, Wright and the doctor collectively agree, that the breathing Seed be pronounced dead. He is bound and buried alive. After biting and clawing his way to the surface, Seed, the blood soaked, enraged madman, is now bent on vengeance.

Sounds awesome right? No, you’re right, it sounds like a saucepan full of monkey faeces, doesn’t it?

Let’s get the good points down first. Firstly, the pacing at the start is excellent. Seed has a noir-ish quality to it that creeps along inexorably towards the horror that waits. Of course, as the film progresses, you realise that this pacing is necessary, as if it progressed at a more realistic pace, it would only be forty-five minutes long. With that said, this movie is considerably better than all the other Uwe Boll films I have seen. Of course, that’s a rather like being the tallest man in Lilliput, as it is still a saucepan full of monkey faeces.

As mentioned earlier, a key problem is that everything in this movie takes twice as long as it needs to. Take for example, the post-execution scene. If any normal movie was going to show this (and let’s face it, it wouldn’t need to), it would show the body in the coffin, and the lid being placed over it. In Seed, you see the doctor and undertaker signing papers, the lid pushed on...each individual nail hammered in, and then the coffin being wheeled away.

This is, of course, alongside all the usual motifs of a Uwe Boll films: paper thin characters, an over-reliance on truly terrible CG, a bizarre overconfidence that it’s “shocking” (you’ll see more shocking subject matter in CSI), and a retarded ending.

Just to show you what I mean, here’s the torture sequence from Seed. I will let it speak for itself.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots of killings, stabberings and electrocutions.
Sex /Nudity: None.
Swearing: A retardedly high amount.
Summary: A truly dire film. It was going to score a 3/10, until I reached the torture sequence. 1/10

Monday 28 September 2009

Music games can cock off

First, I'll get this out of the way now so I can't be accused of hypocrisy later: I own Guitar Hero 2 and Guitar Hero 3 on Xbox 360, as well as Rock Band for the Xbox 360. I play them every now and then, and I enjoy them when I play them. However, music games can STILL cock off.

Firstly, a little history. Guitar Hero started as a collaboration between Harmonix and Red Octane, distributed by Activision. The game, despite being released on a limited budget (most of which was undoubtedly the plastic guitars), the game sold by the absolute bucketload, spawning a series of sequels. Sorry, that was a misprint. I meant to say "a sufficient number of sequels in which to drown myself".

Seriously, if music games contained sugar, I'd be diabetic. Have you been into a games shop recently? The shelves are awash with music games of all varieties now, from the guitar-based ones to full band sets. How are you, out of interest, supposed to be able to store all these guitars in a living room, bearing in mind there are now three different band sets with drum kits. THREE. The Rock Revolution drums are particularly interesting; I don't know if I should be playing them or trying to force brightly coloured wooden blocks through them!

The games have all become exactly the same in terms of style now as well. Three bars along the bottom for the rhythm section, and a bar along the top for the vocal track. Every game comes with a similar selection of songs, and they generally turn out pretty well on the whole. However, each one comes with its pitfalls. I mean, I'm all for choice being available, but I really don't feel that a Jimmy Buffett pack fits well with the whole Rock Band ethos really. On the other hand, I'm grateful for the inclusion of the album "Dolittle" by The Pixies, as seeing the tracklist made me realise that their best album has a pretty much identical tracklist to the Greatest Hits compilation that I already own, so I don't need to expand my back catalogue, saving me money. I am a fan of this.

As if all that wasn't enough, there are so many different varieties of the existing franchises. I could understand the 80s edition of Guitar Hero to a certain extent, as there has been somewhat of a 1980s resurgence in recent years, as humanity tries in vain to battle with its own lack of originality by regurgitating the previous decades' musical sounds. Don't believe me? Here's a couple of clues. Firstly, these decade resurgences only seem to last three or four years, largely, I suspect, down to our really short attention span as a species. Secondly, have you noticed how many old bands are making comebacks? I noticed it first with Duran Duran, then it was The Cure, now Faith No More. I don't mind, as they seem to be the better live bands recently, but it seems a testament to the mediocrity of new music nowadays that we clamour for these bands of old.

And clamour we do, as the Guitar Hero and Rock Band developers have shown. As I said, I could sort of understand the idea of a 1980s themed music game appealing to the music game crowd. Then they announced the tracklist, and I died a little inside, as I realised that I only recognised about three songs off the list, and thus could hardly call myself a fan of 80s music, despite being brought up in the 1980s and listening to a lot of 1980s music. As it turns out, the music of The Smiths is not conducive to the Guitar Hero franchise.

The next one to be released was Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. This one made much more sense to me, as Aerosmith are much more of an upbeat rocking band, worthy of the Guitar Hero moniker. Then they announced that the game would not only feature Aerosmith songs. I found myself confused at this point, as surely it should have been called Aerosmith and Friends or something. This game ended up selling quite well, as the fans demonstrated that they'd pretty much buy anything with the name Guitar Hero on it, a fact that Harmonix and Activision are now only too happy to exploit for profit. Don't believe me? Read on...

Tune in next week to the exciting conclusion of Music games can cock off!

Saturday 26 September 2009

DVD Reviews

Robot Chicken: Season Two
Revolver Entertainment
Available from 28th September
Review by Brad Harmer

I’m not sure what more there is to say about a show like Robot Chicken. It’s quite possibly the most Emotionally Fourteen television show ever created, featuring a mish-mash of comic book, sci-fi and eighties movie characters having wacky and crazy adventures all over the shop. This compilation features The Care Bears engaging in an act of genocide; Lindsay Lohan in Highlander; The Foo Fighters teaming up with Mr. T so that they really can go and “fight some foo’”; and Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig in what may be the best 8 Mile parody yet.

Like all good sketch shows, the pieces come thick and fast, so when there is a dud one, it’s over and gone in a flash – forgotten about, and on to the next one. What’s more, I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud at a show so much.

Written by actor/comic Seth Green and former Twisted Toyfare Theatre writer Matthew Senreich, Robot Chicken became the most popular show on Adult Swim, and is the single best source for geek guffaws this side of

I don’t know how, but Robot Chicken also manages to get a celebrity cast that would make The Simpsons flush with envy. Regular cast members are Zac Efron, Scarlett Johansson, Ashton Kutcher, Seth McFarlane, Vince Vaughn, Christian Slater and Snoop Dog. And both Corey Feldman and Corey Haim star in a sketch featuring themselves as superheroes.

Oh, yeah, and this disc features Bruce Campbell saying “I’m Bruce Campbell, and I’ve got morning wood.”. Buy it.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots. Including Lindsay Lohan engaging Hilary Duff in a sword fight to the death because “there can be only one” teen idol.
Sex/Nudity: Occasionally a robot bumbles into shot and has sex with something. I don’t know what it means, but that doesn’t stop me from laughing like a complete moron.
Swearing: A fuckton.
Summary: An excellent compilation of some hilarious sketches that deserves pride of place in the DVD collection of any of the Emotionally Fourteen. 10/10

Thanks to our friends at Revolver Entertainment, we've got two copies of this DVD to give away to you! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to
with your name and postal address before midday on Wednesday 30th September (UK time). The first two names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy of this action-packed DVD.

The ROBOT CHICKEN Season 1-3 box set and ROBOT CHICKEN Season 2 are both out on DVD on Monday September 28.

You can order Season 2
here, or buy the Season 1-3 box set here.

Visit the Robot Chicken website at

I Love You, Man
John Hamburg
DreamWorks Live Action

Review by Blake Harmer

I admit that when I first heard about this film I wasn’t holding out much hope for it to be any good. The plot is pretty typical for a romantic comedy and it follows the same predictable story pattern that you will have come to expect, as well as the same twist ending we’ve seen in a hundred films like this. However, despite my initial assumption that this was going to be a large pile of bum, I was pleasantly surprised that this was enjoyable.

The plot revolves around Peter Klaven, a Real Estate Salesman who has just got engaged to Zooey. However, the problem is that Peter is such a ladies man and always concentrated on girlfriends that he never really made any male friends. So, without really knowing anyone to make his best man, Peter sets out on a quest to make new friends. However, it is only after some bad choices, Peter gives up and then meets and befriends Sydney, who he meets at a Real Estate Open day where he’s trying to sell Lou Ferrigno’s (TV’s The Incredible Hulk to anyone that doesn’t know) house. But will Peter’s new friendship with Sydney cause problems with Zooey, or will Sydney become Peter’s best man and they live happily ever after?

As you can tell, this comedy’s plot is so clichéd it’s unbelievable, even down to the typical cult celebrity cameo. However, the film does turn out to be really good. The comedy comes thick and fast with some excellent cringy moments. The acting is good and there are some good quotable one-liners in the film. To be honest though, the best part of the film has to be the appearance of Rush. And any cameo that shows the two leads becoming friendlier whilst jamming together and playing Tom Sawyer is a bonus point in my book.

There are downsides to this film though, and it’s not just the films unoriginality. I did feel that some elements of the plot were too long drawn out whilst others were resolved too quickly. However, see past these points and assume it is just part of the romantic comedy formula and what you have here is a thoroughly enjoyable film.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Only one slightly comical act of violence when Sydney tries to fight Lou Ferrigno. I’ll let you guess how it ends.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Fair amount of swearing and sexual references, but used in a comical fashion rather than just lots of swearing for the sake of it.
Summary: This is a fun romantic comedy and you could watch much worse films than this. Fans of the genre will enjoy it. This is probably a 7 out of 10 film...but then again, this film does have Rush in it. 8/10

Deathnote: Complete Series Box Set
Tetsuro Araki, Shusuke Kaneko
Manga Entertainment

Available from 28th September
Review by Blake Harmer

I am happy to report that this is probably one of the best Anime TV series I have ever seen, rivalling other greats such as Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex with its ingenious storytelling and characters without being as complex with as high a budget behind it.

Firstly the premise is original and creates an excellent supernatural crime thriller setting. Light Yagami is the son of the chief of police and is studying law. He is a top student with great prospects, but is bored out of his mind until one day he stumbles across a notebook called the "Death Note". The “Death Note” came from the realm of the Shinigami (or Gods of Death in English), and has the power to kill people in any way he desires by writing their name in it and how he wants them to die. With the Death Note in hand, and under the watchful eye of Ryuk, the Shinigami who dropped the “Death Note” in the Human world and who can only be seen by people who have touched the Deathnote, Light decides to create his perfect world, without crime or criminals. However, Once criminals start mysteriously dropping dead one by one, the authorities send the legendary detective L to track down the killer, and a battle of wits, deception and logic ensues...

As you can see, the plot adds a nice twist to most crime stories, especially in the way that the Death Note has a certain control over people's actions leading up to their death, so as long as Light stays one step ahead of L, he is able to avoid getting caught, and the series ends up being an incredibly tense game of cat and mouse, where you are waiting for one of them to make the first and fatal mistake.

If I could mention any problems with the series is that the animation isn’t as great as other series such as Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex or Appleseed: Ex Machina, but then again this is a series where the main emphasis is telling a hugely engaging story rather than looking overly pretty. The animation isn’t bad, it’s just average in comparison to other higher budget anime series.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Not heavily violent, but some of the death scenes are quite gory, but made to look realistic, rather than over the top. Most of the emphasis is in the clever way Light has arranged the death to occur rather than the death itself.
Sex/Nudity: None to my recollection, which is quite surprising for some anime.
Swearing: A fair amount.
Summary: An excellent anime series that is essential to anime lovers and fans of supernatural fiction in every way. It is deviously clever and entertaining from start to finish, and although it is retailed at £60, it is for 37 episodes, and a collector's art book, not to mention the fact that it is significantly cheaper than buying the individual DVD volumes. Buy it now! 10/10

Friday 25 September 2009

Dickass DM

A few weeks ago, Brad and Rob began an experiment that they referred to as The Dickass DM, in which Rob would attempt to play through the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Starship Traveller as if it were an actual table-top RPG.

Read Part One Here
Read Part Two Here

Previously on Dickass DM: Captain Braggart and the crew of the Starship Traveller have been sucked through a black hole known as The Seltsian Void, winding up in places unknown. They now find themselves on a strange planet. As they watch a vehicle drive towards them, they notice an insectoid looking creature beckoning them from a nearby building...

Brad: Do you want to follow your newfound insectoid friend, or wait for the approaching vehicle?
Rob: I'll follow him. This can't fail to end well.
Brad: You, Crips and Chemiserouge follow him into the building.
Rob: They follow me as well?
Brad: Yes.
Rob: Spineless wankers.

INSECTOID DUDE: Just in time! You don't want the PCs to find you in the street, do you?

Rob: There are other PCs in this game? I thought I was the only one!
Brad: It does seem a rather odd term to use, doesn't it?
Rob: Yeah, it's like saying you stop at a B&B in D&D. For some R&R. And S&M.
Brad: I like M&Ms.
Rob: Ooh, me too! Do you rate the crispy ones?
Brad: No.
Rob: Peanut then?
Brad: Preferably.

INSECTOID DUDE: You are on the planet Culematter. The PCs you have just escaped from are the Population Controllers. On this planet no-one dies, but as the population increases, it is necessary to exterminate some of us to make room for others.
CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Have we increased the total? If so, sorry about that. And another thing, you say nobody dies, but people are exterminated...
INSECTOID DUDE: The PCs have the authority to exterminate anyone they like, within certain quota limits, without reason. They would certainly have killed you had they caught you outside after quota hours.
CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Men, this planet is clearly dangerous. Set your phasers to 'kill' from 'pirouette'!

Brad: Suddenly the door crashes inwards, and three armoured creatures enter.

ARMOURED DOUCHE: I thought I saw them enter this building! Outside!"
INSECTOID DUDE: They are aliens here! They knew nothing of the curf...aaaaargh!
ARMOURED DOUCE: *points finger, and shoots a blue laser through Insectoid Dude*
CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Hmmm. I feel kind of bad that we raised the quota now...Choose one target each, and twat it!
OFFICER CRIPPS: Maybe if you offered to send some of the locals asteroid mining?

Rob: Is it too late to change the destination of my phaser? Shoot them!

ENSIGN CHEMISEROUGE: Captain, I suggest following them. They are obviously considerably harder than us.
CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Speak for yourse....all right, fine.
ARMOURED DOUCE: It is illegal to be outside after curfew. The penalty is extermination. Enter this vehicle.

Rob: This seems like an important plot hook moment. I'll get into the car.

CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Best do what they say...

Rob: I give Cripps and Chemiserouge a signal.
Brad: You walk up to the door as if to enter, then all three of you spring on them! Unfortunately, this appears rather fruitless, as all of the enemies are quite strong. They fling you to the ground, but in the struggle, you manage to grab the one of the douche's helmets.

CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Shoot him in the face!

Brad: The Armoured Douche stops dead in a very artificial pose as if someone had thrown a power switch. The leader replaces his helmet, and instantly he comes back to life. Overpowered, you obey the creatures...for the moment.

CRIPPS: Well fought, sir. I liked that bit where you repeatedly hit him in the knee with your face.
CAPTAIN BRAGGART: You went down like a punk too, you little bitch. At least I grabbed some helme...I'm going to stop talking.
CHEMISEROUGE: For what it's worth, this all started going downhill when the Captain decided the best thing to do was to pilot us into a black hole.
CAPTAIN BRAGGART: I should have sent you out mining.

Brad: The car travels back the way it came for about half an hour, finally stopping outside a round building. You are taken inside and put into a cell of some kind with four other aliens. They seem rather unemotional, and accepting of their impending death.
Rob: Yeah, well they're not armed, are they? Of course they're accepting!
Brad: One of the Armoured Douches calls for your will need to act quickly.
Rob: Right. Fuck, there's our ship in orbit! I'll try and contact them!

CRIPPS: Hah...they'll soon witness the might of this armed and fully operational battle station!
CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Wrong franchise.
CRIPPS: Franchise?

Brad: You can rouse only static on the communicator. Strangely, however, all the aliens you can see freeze. When you turn off the communicator, all the aliens come back to life.

CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Try and hail them again, I like where this is heading...

Brad: Following the guard, you're led down to a large open room. Various Armoured Douches are directing civillians through a large open doorway through which a faint glow is visible. You are directed to the end of the line.
Rob: I turn on the communicator.
Brad: Again you can get nothing but static, but the aliens freeze. This could be an opportune moment to leave the room.
Rob: We'll leave the room.

CRIPPS: I prefer a straight fight to all this sneaking around..
CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Unbelievable...he's still in the wrong franchise.

Brad: You head through the complex, dodging the creature, but something is still blocking the signal to the ship.
Rob: Hmmm, curious.
Brad: You pass a room in which all the walls are covered in elecrical equipment. Perhaps this room is the cause of the jamming? Two aliens sit there, but your communicator has paralysed them.

CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Shoot the walls!
CRIPPS: Boring conversation anyway...
CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Oh, for fuck's sake...

Brad: Finally, you manage to get through to the ship. You give the order to beam up as soon as is possible. Whilst you wait Cripps examines the inside of one of the aliens' helmets.

CAPTAIN BRAGGART: I knew you were gay.

Brad: The creature's head is a mass of circuits! They must have been androids! You take the helmet for later examination, and the ship beams you up.

CHEMISEROUGE: I like the way we left everyone there to die.
CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Beam a communicator back down.

Brad: Leaving orbit, you operate the long range scanners. There's a planet a mere 3.6 lightyears away that could support life.

CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Let's head there.

Brad: The lab reports that the helmet you brought back was indeed an advanced piece of work. With a few adjustment, you can wear it and add 1 to your Skill. Which is nice.
Rob: Sweet. +1 Skill Helmet FTW. There's a T-shirt design there somewhere.
Brad: You approach a medium sized blue/green planet, and park in an orbit position. What is "medium sized" when it comes to a planet, anyway?
Rob: between Jupiter and...a hard plaice?

McSPINDLE: Scanners reveal several clusters of intelligent life, but radio hails are bring up nothing, sir.

Rob: How can the scanners pick up intelligent life? Surely they just pick up life signs?

McSPINDLE:'s Space Magic, sir.
CAPTAIN BRAGGART: I didn't say anything...Anyway, beam down.
CAPTAIN BRAGGART: *whispers to others* Keep an eye on McSpindle, he was talking to himself a minute ago.

Brad: You can pick three crew members to beam down with you.
Rob: Engineering Officer Clank, Security Officer Cripps and Redshirt #4.
Brad: You land on the planet and look around. It's the middle of the thunderstorm, and you're instantly soaked in rain. You're on some rocky ground about 100 yards from what appears to be a small village.
Rob: Head for that village, I need to show off my Skill Helmet!
Brad: Three aliens, presumably villagers, are halfway to the village, and turn to face you. They are strange, podgy creatures with long necks and stumpy legs. One of the aliens runs off to the village, at what must be some sort of run. The other two advance towards you with long pointed sticks held like weapons.

CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Phasers to "Pirouette".

Rob: We walk towards them.

CAPTAIN BRAGGART: *whispers* Drop back and let Redshirt #4 take point.

Brad: They hold their ground and ready their weapons. They shout, and (through your translator) you hear they're telling you to wait where you are. Do you want to listen, or contine advancing?

CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Halt, boys. Get your weapons out but keep back. Not that weapon, Clank.
Brad: After some discussion, the aliens are obviously suspicious of you, but agree to take you to talk with their Elder.


Brad: As you enter the village, several creatures shuffle around, trying to get a better look at you. You are marched to a large hut in a clearing to chat with the Elder. In the hut, sits a rather large and wrinkled alien.

CRIPPS: And I thought they smelled bad on the outside...

Rob: I ask him about the planet.
Brad: The alien is quite chatty, and apparently the planet you are on is named Chilba. There are many similar vilage scattered across the planet. The cultural development appears similar to the Middle Ages on Earth. They are an agricultural race - but bad weather has ruined their crops for the past few seasons.

CAPTAIN BRAGGART: What the hell are you growing that doesn't like water?

Brad: Salt, presumably. The weather is controlled by someone they refer to as The Rain Lord who lives in a fortified castle, two hours away. They believe this Rain Lord is punishing them with bad weather. As the crops fail, famine and disease strikes.
Rob: I ask them about local astronomy.
Brad: Their knowledge is virtually non-existent.

CAPTAIN BRAGGART: Perhaps we could talk to this "Rain Lord" for you?

Rob: I'll be pissed if this is Michael Flatley in another one of his hair-brained schemes...


Thursday 24 September 2009

Far Cry Giveaway

Uwe Boll, German film director and amateur boxer extraordinaire, tries his hand once again at a videogame adaptation, tackling a much loved mutant monsters/military mash-up. Combining thrilling action with savage man-beasts, Boll might just have crafted his finest* entry yet!

Cult director Uwe Boll (Alone In The Dark, Bloodrayne) tries his hand at another videogame franchise - long-awaited adaptation of the hugely popular first-person shooter, Far Cry.

Jack Carver is a retired Special Forces Officer working as a contracter for hire. Set on an island in the Pacific Northwest populated by strangely mutated creatures, Far Cry sees Carver transport a top reporter to the lair of a private and secret science research facility, guarded by brutal mercenaries.

Thanks to our friends at High Fliers Video Distribution, we've got five copies of this DVD to give away to you! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to with your name and postal address before midday on Sunday 27th September (UK time). The first five names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy of this action-packed DVD.

* We reserve the right to use an unconventional definition of the word "finest".

Wednesday 23 September 2009

The Guyver: The Forgotten Superhero

Shō Fukamachi was an ordinary pupil at an ordinary school. He wasn’t fit enough to be on the basketball team or brainy enough to be in the high classes; but he wasn’t remedial in any way, either. He was your average Teen Everyman. He hung out with his best friend Tetsurō, and had a crush on Tetsurō’s sister, Mizuki. Until one strange evening in the local park.

There, Shō discovers a strange artefact, known only as “Unit 1”. Accidentally activating it, the symbiotic creature inside merges with him, creating The Guyver – a biological weapon. A suit of living armour that grants its wearer incredible protection, weaponry, and speed.

However, with great power, there must also come great peril. The Chronos Corporation, supposed “owners” of the Guyver Unit, want it back, and will stop at nothing to obtain it. Masters of DNA manipulation, all of the corporation's foot-soldiers can morph into horrendous monsters, known as Zoanoids. What’s more, the corporation has a Guyver unit of its own, merged with a fully trained soldier.

And the third unit cannot be found...

I collected the original anime of The Guyver back in 1994, when it was issued on twelve VHS tapes – one half hour episode to a tape (you used to accept that kind of thing with anime, back in the day). To an eleven year old kid, it was awesome – fulfilling all of the criteria you sought in your entertainment. Child/teenager protagonist? Check. Monsters? Check. Superheroes? Check, and check. Oodles of blood spurting hyper-violent combat? Check, check, and “Holy shit, you don’t get this with Dan Dare”!

One of the superpowers/weapons was referred to simply as “The Mega Smasher”? Yeah, you see why this would appeal to an eleven year old kid, right? That and the emotionally fourteen twenty-six year old he has become. Okay, nearly twenty-seven.

That, and the bad guys are good-old fashioned evil for the sake of evil. You don’t get that anymore. An evil corporation with an army of monsters working for it? Colour me intrigued!

The whole thing was like a Saturday Morning Cartoon for adults – it had all the clean cut morality, teen protagonist, etc. But the violence, storylines and gore work was definitely for adults – and that’s why we liked it as kids. Kids don’t like to be condescended to: they’re just short adults, and like to be treated as such.

I remember my Dad bringing home the first instalment on VHS (my Dad was into anime back before it was cool. If there is an icon for the emotionally fourteen, it’s probably my Dad); and my brother (E14 writer Blake Harmer) and I being totally blown away by it. It was the ultimate superhero cartoon – and the buckets of blood being spurted at the camera didn’t hurt any either.

I negotiated with my parents to ditch The Eagle as my comic, and get The Guyver videos as they came out instead; which amazingly worked...although looking back on it, I wonder how much of it was because my Dad wanted to see them anyway.

Yeah, there were a couple of dodgy live-action movies made (Mutronics & Guyver: Dark Hero), but they were too Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for my liking. They never managed to really nail what The Guyver was about. It wasn’t about rolling around in the dust whilst doing some vaguely Mortal Kombat-esque poses. It was about KILLING FUCKING MONSTERS WITH SUPERWEAPONS.

It’s easy to forget in this schoolgirl-tentacle-emo-Love-Hina-Sailor-Moon-Sgt-Frog loopy world, that once upon a time, being into Japanese animation didn’t mean you were a weirdo. It meant you liked guns, explosions, violence, blood, monsters and THE GUYVER.

The thing about The Guyver was that it didn’t do all that much that was new – it just did it all incredibly awesomely. To me and the group of friends who bombed round my house to watch the latest video when it came in, The Guyver was where it was at. It was destined never to be a major success, obviously – no parent would actually want their child to watch it (except mine, but, as mentioned earlier...), but for kids, we just thought it was the most awesome thing we’d seen in a long time. Hey, it was this, or Bucky O’Hare.

A re-make of the original series, The Guyver: Bio-Boosted Armour, is available now as a DVD box-set from Manga Video (RRP £59.99).

Tuesday 22 September 2009

DVD Reviews

Angels & Demons
Ron Howard
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Review by Brad Harmer

Based on the bestselling novel by Dan Brown, Angels & Demons follows Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks – Mazes and Monsters, Joe Versus the Volcano) as he uncovers the perilous secrets of the Illuminati. Caught in a conflict between science and religion that threatens the Vatican City, Robert races to find the clues to lead him to the hidden weapon he seeks.

A new Pope needs to be chosen, and there are four candidates. The Illuminati, however, want to make the decision themselves. As the prospective candidates are killed off one by one, the killer lets it be known that he is from the Illuminati, but what do they want?

Angels and Demons is well produced and packaged, but for all that, it’s rather hollow. There’s never any real substance or “bite” to the whole thing, which is a real shame, as it’s pretty and well presented nothingness. The main problem lies with its storyline, which sits in a literary no-man’s land: too fantastical to be realistic, and too realistic to be fantastical.

The author uses real subjects, possibly because they happened to be buzz words at the time – Illuminati, antimatter, Large Hadron Collider – but shows no knowledge at all of who they are, what it is, or what they or it do. If you’re going to make stuff up about an underground cult, why not just make an entirely fictional cult, so that you don’t end up looking stupid? Oh, because that wouldn’t be as sensationalist and sell as many books/cinema tickets? Good. Glad we’ve got that cleaned up.

Besides the rather overlong (by at least thirty minutes) story, there is a ridiculously stupid ending. A truly great twist ending, like Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, should leave the audience kicking themselves, because in retrospect the answer is so obvious. A truly bad twist ending, like Angels & Demons, leaves the audience wanting to kick Ron Howard and Dan Brown, because it’s so ridiculous and convoluted it’s obviously a twist ending for the sake of a twist ending.

To say that Angels & Demons is a bad film would be wrong (especially relatively speaking, considering some of the crap we have to watch), but it is astonishingly average. Whilst it’s well shot, well-produced, and very pretty to look at; it lacks any truly engaging elements in the story. Langdon runs around like a very dull Indiana Jones/James Bond hybrid, but never really makes us identify with him as a character.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several torture scenes, some gunfights, usually with all the participants hurting themselves in a stupidly clumsy manner.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Almost none.
Summary: Angels and Demons would be a great way to pass a couple of hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but there’s not much to see here. Stick with Indiana Jones for your excitement. 5/10

LA Ink: Series 2
Revelation Films
Review by Brad Harmer

LA Ink is a documentary series that follows the staff and customers of High Voltage Tattoo in Los Angeles, focusing mainly on the store owner and lead artist, Kat Von D. A spin off of the original series, Miami Ink, it’s a fairly shallow imitation, but that doesn’t mean that the show is completely without merit. For starters, the artists and artwork is of just as high a quality, and this is what the show is all about. At least it should be, right? It would suck if it constantly diverted into MTV style pseudo reality TV all the time, right?

When LA Ink focuses on being a documentary, it’s very good. Not only is the artwork on display absolutely top-notch, but often the stories behind why the shop’s clients are getting tattoos are genuinely interesting – be they humorous, or heart breaking. There’s an insight into laser removal of tattoos - something that people don’t talk about all that often, so that was definitely interesting to see.

Kat Von D’s attempt to get into the Guinness Book of World Records by tattooing four hundred people in twenty-four hours was also highly entertaining, and certainly the highlight of the series. Whilst the show was typically devoid of any real dramatic tension, the question of whether or not Kat will actually break the record was in suspense from the start of the episode.

However, the show all too often falls into staged melodrama. The artists at the shop, talented though they may be in other areas, aren’t actors; and they fumble their way through re-shoots and set pieces in a manner that is both intrusive and rather pathetic. What’s more, some of the pacing seems a little off. Kat Von D decides to quit drinking in an early episode, but asides from one vague mention in the following episode, the angle is all but dropped. Similarly, Von D’s cancer scare is handled badly. A genuinely scary time for both her and the cast of the show, it’s unfortunate that the editing and production of the episode sucks any dramatic tension there may have been.

The show suffers from a rather poor sense of pacing across thirteen episodes. There’s often a good chunk of an episode given over to nothing happening, only to be followed by a sudden flurry of activity in the last ten minutes.

It’s a real shame that the presentation of the show is somewhat marred by these flaws, as the real subject of the show – the artists and their artwork – is stellar. If the producers turn down the MTV, and turn up the Discovery, then they could have a real winner on their hands.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
No direct conflict, but there’s a slagging match between the receptionist and one of the artists, which involves physical threats.
Sex/Nudity: Some skin is revealed for artwork, but nothing explicit. Corey Miller does some work on a porn-star (not like that), which involves a discussion of her work.
Swearing: Some, but mostly blipped out.
Summary: A great show, especially if you’re into tattooing or tattoo artwork, but casual viewers may find the overproduced veneer a little irritating. Recommended for fans of either LA Ink or Miami Ink. 7/10

The Dragon Chronicles - Fire and Ice
Metrodome Distribution

Review by Brad Harmer

Ruled by the mighty King Augustin, Carpia is a peaceful kingdom in a fantasy world inhabited by dragons, knights and magical forces. All is great and well until the land’s serenity is unexpectedly shattered by a Fire Dragon rising from a distant land. The evil beast’s rampage spreads almighty fear and death amongst the kingdom’s innocent people.

In order to save her subjects from terror, the daring Princess Luisa asks Gabriel, the son of a legendary dragon slayer, for help. Together, they must free the Ice Dragon, the only creature who can defeat the monster that brings destruction upon their kingdom. But soon their saviour will become their worst enemy.

Good fantasy movies are surprisingly hard to come by. That’s why I’m pleased to report that this is one of them. Sure, it’s low budget, but that doesn’t hold back an otherwise excellent film. First and foremost, all of the characters are solid, well defined and realistic – something that a lot of fantasy falls down one, happy to take a stroll in the realm of cliché with its characters.

One of the first things to strike me was the dragons. They don’t look like the typical mental image of a dragon (either Western or Eastern), but rather resemble a hybrid of a bat and stingray. It’s the little touches of inspired originality like this that lift what could have been a dodgy B-movie head and shoulders above the competition. The CG isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s adequate – at no point do you “see the strings” as such.

Of course, it’s not all perfect. The action frequently stops to provide some rather clunky exposition breaks – but most of the faults are tragically on a technical level. The editing seems off at times, which can have a jarring effect during action or fight sequences; and the dialogue often winds up a little low in the sound mix, buried behind sound effects and music. Niggling points, perhaps, but they do mar what could have been a much better film had they been addressed.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several sequences of swordplay and/or fantasy combat. Two dragons tear chunks out of each other whilst pinwheeling across the sky.
Sex/Nudity: None – the romantic sub-plot is very understated.
Swearing: None.
Summary: An above average fantasy movie that’s great Sunday afternoon fun, especially for younger viewers. The limited budget doesn’t hamper its presentation, although some silly technical errors are noticeable. 7/10

Creature (Not final box art)
William Malone
Video International

Review by Brad Harmer

A crew of scientists arrives on a far, cold planet to examine archaic artefacts of unknown origin. They discover that the German enemies have already a ship there. When they seek their help after a failed landing, they only find the German's bodies, obviously slaughtered by one of the archaic creatures, awoken to new life. Now the alien is after them.

Well, that’s the plot that the DVD case claims. In actuality, this is a shameless knock off of the Ridley Scott movie Alien, in virtually every way. Except that instead of the budget of a Hollywood movie, it has the budget of an episode of Blake’s Seven.

Well, that is something of an understatement: it’s actually a shameless knock of everything. It’s like it was penned by a twelve year old, stealing everything he could from his favourite TV shows, books and movies (I’m looking at you, Christoper Paolini). This hits home doubly hard when the laser blast noise is sampled directly from Star Wars. You can picture the conversation in the editing booth.

“Aw, man, we need a laser sound.”
“No problem. Just rip it from something else.”
“Won’t that be kind of obvious?”
“Not if you use some sci-fi movie no-one’s ever seen.”
Star Wars?”
“Sounds good.”

Yes, Klaus Kinski is in this movie, but he’s basically playing a bad Rutger Hauer. When you consider they could have gotten Rutger Hauer for a fraction of the price, you realise how truly dumb that is.

Oh, and seriously, could the special effects director of this movie please write an official letter of apology to H.R. Giger? His foam rubber Xenomorph is both a) hilarious and b) an embarrassment.

There are some positive aspects of this movie, but they’re pretty grim pickings. The foam rubber alien aside, the gore and model work is really good (even if the gore is a little Friday The 13th over the top at times). That and Creature definitely falls under the heading of “So Bad It’s Good”. If you’re looking for a bad movie to get together with a few friends and take the piss out of, then I wholeheartedly endorse this movie. You’ll have a blast.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several fight scenes, several extremely gory deaths.
Sex/Nudity: I can’t remember any, but I can’t deny that this movie was so bad that it did cause me to black out on a couple of occasions. There may have been some hardcore sex in those gaps, or there may not have been. I’m not watching it again to find out.
Swearing: A slightly more than realistic amount.
Summary: An awful knock-off that’s so bad, that as a fan of the Alien franchise, I was personally offended. Yup. It’s even worse that Alien Versus Predator: Requiem 1/10

Monday 21 September 2009

Newsfalsh! - September 2009

Welcome once again to Newsfalsh!, where we look at some of the news stories you may have missed the first time around.

Microsoft in web photo racism row

This made me laugh so hard when I read the first blurb. Microsoft, one of the biggest multi-national corporations in the world or indeed history, can still become affected by something as silly as casual racism. I would dearly love to be involved in the meeting where that decision was made (I don't speak Polish, but I'm paraphrasing and translating as best I can):

"Looks like the ad's about ready, want to take a look at it?"
"Wait, what's that in the photo?"
"It's a black person."
"I've never seen one of those before."
"Well, this has been sent over from the US arm of the business."
"Yeah, but have we EVER had a black person in one of OUR meetings?"
"I guess you're right, I'll get that changed."

Suggestions according to the article are that the Polish culture is predominantly white people, and thus they decided to change the face of the black man in order to do that. Now, I'm not the cultural attaché to Poland, but I'm sure they have at least SEEN black people in their lives, and thus the idea of a black person in existence shouldn't be that earth-shattering. I'm sure the Polish spirit can cope with the idea that black people are involved in meetings in many other countries. Besides, surely if they wanted to satisfy the largely white Polish community, they'd have done well to photoshop out the Asian gentleman behind him as well.

Ok, and say for argument's sake I supported the idea of removing the black guy from the photo completely. I don't, largely for the reasons stated above, coupled with a liberal dose of common sense. I do, however, believe that if you want to go about removing any sort of ethnicity from a person you should do it completely and NOT LEAVE THEIR FUCKING HANDS BLACK. I mean seriously, that shows a lack of attention to detail akin to the temp who signed for the wooden horse on behalf of Troy.

As if all that wasn't enough, it's not even a good photoshop job. Would YOU want a photo of this sort of photoshop quality on your website, especially if you were working for Microsoft, one of the most important corporations in the world? Surely they must have SOMEONE at Microsoft who can photoshop better than the guy they surely paid to do it. Well, in the spirit of shit photoshops, I thought I'd weigh in with my own. I did this for free as well, bear in mind.

Fake Dutch 'moon rock' revealed

I love stories like this for a very simple reason; Sometimes, in the span of human history there's a certain level of innocence to the actions of mankind. From the aforementioned Trojan Temp, all the way to Jim Henson deciding he'd be alright with just a Lemsip and an early night, humanity sometimes allows its sense of what's easiest to overshadow what's more logical.

Take, for instance, this news story. Rather than question the validity of a moon rock given to them by the Apollo 11 astronauts just under fourty years ago, or indeed even TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT THE MOON ROCK, the Dutch former Prime Minister was fine to just sit there and stare longingly, mouth agape, at what turned out to be a nice sturdy lump of wood.

Who was it who noticed? Was someone passing one day with another bit of wood, and noticed the similarities? Was there a visit of some local lumberjacks who'd never seen the 'moon rock' before? Was it as simple as someone being short of a doorstop and getting the rock out of the case for the first time?

See, more than anything, I'm intrigued by the technical and clearly very scientific tests that they must have done on this rock in order to ascertain that it was actually a piece of wood, so much so that I googled "How to tell a rock apart from a piece of wood"

Unfortunately, the search yielded no results of that variety. However, I do now know the best way to make a wooden bike. As well as the lyrics to "Piece of Wood and Steel" by David Allan Coe.

Named: The UK's Deadliest Biscuit.

Finally, a Facebook group I can get behind. Imagine it: Rob Wade becomes a fan of "NAME AND SHAME THE UK'S DEADLIEST BISCUITS!" Frankly, they've been getting away with it for too long, and it's got to stop. I'm amazed that there's not been one of those preachy television pledges, telling us that "Biscuit eaters need a voice, but they're choking on crumbs so give us money for a drink so they don't choke and stuff. Eight pounds a month should do it."

What troubles me about this article is that the makers of the Rocky biscuit have CALLED for this survey to be taken of biscuits. Why the hell would they want to do that? Were they sick of being told that Rocky was the most dangerous of all biscuits, causing more fatalities and injuries per capita than any other biscuit brand? You can see the logic to a degree.

"Your biscuit causes more deaths than any other."
"You're wrong...and I'll PROVE it!"

Reading some of these injuries makes for depressing reading, especially when you consider that the repeated injuries caused in this category led to the establishment of something called the Biscuit Injury Threat Evaluation (ahh, it abbreviates to BITE, how clever...). Ultimately, such injuries as "People poking themselves in the eye", "Falling off a chair while reaching for the biscuit tin" and "Suffering burns after dunking a biscuit in hot tea" can all be reclassified under the E14 Arsehole Stupidity Evolutionary Ladder, or EASEL.

Oh, and incidentally, Rocky bar didn't even place on the top ten riskiest biscuits. Probably because no fucker buys them at all.

Saturday 19 September 2009

Video Game Reviews

GI Joe: Rise Of Cobra
(PS2, PSP, WII, DS, Xbox 360 & PS3 (Version Tested))

Review by Blake Harmer

I believe that there are certain stages of anger that people can experience. However, I will admit that when I played GI Joe: Rise of Cobra that I rose to the lofty heights of becoming so enraged as to make up my own swear words. Who did I swear at? My fiancée’s dog, who to be honest was only indulging in his favourite game of barking loudly when no one was at the door when I least expect it so I jump out of my skin. So I called him a “Chocolate Fuck Alarm”. Now, the dog doesn’t normally enrage me enough to make insults that make no sense, the special X-factor could only have come from playing this game.

The premise of the game is simple, you play as a team of two members of the GI Joe squad (you get to unlock more members but apart from the different sprite and a slightly different special ability they are all essentially the same) and you take on the forces of Cobra by just walking around and firing madly at anything that moves and dodging any thing that fires back at you. This does mean you just hold down the fire button for the entirety of the game, but that is actually not the reason this game is so bad.

So where do I begin to explain why this game angered me so? How about the fact that the game designers have been so lazy that they have obviously taken the code of the PS2 version and just chucked it on the PS3 with very little noticeable graphical enhancements? If you don’t believe me, check out the trailer and bear in mind this is the PS3 and Xbox 360’s graphics:

Another reason could be that the level design is so awful that in one section I had to snap to cover and then choose to leap over the said cover just to progress through the level, why I couldn’t just walk around the cover is beyond me. I think the thing the that annoys me most however, must be the simple ideas that just seem to be botched. For example the camera, is zoomed so far out in some parts of the game that I couldn’t see what random thing I was shooting at, and the cover system is so appalling it feels as though the awesome cover mechanic used in games such as Gears of War and Uncharted has been taken out and smashed over the head with a sledgehammer repeatedly until it stops working.

If there is anything nice to say about this game it would be two things, firstly: the supersuit powerup which makes you do more damage and are faster, so in a sense it speeds the game up which is definitely a good thing in this case. That and it plays the movies main theme soundtrack incredibly loud and it feels incredibly over the top for what is essentially about 15 seconds of blasting. Secondly: whilst I didn’t get a chance to test it, I can imagine that the game could be pretty fun in two player. Not because the game would be any better, but it would be more fun to mock the awfulness of the game like people would with a bad movie, especially as some of the in game dialogue is also pretty bad. Also, you could play the “who can make the most random insult whilst playing this tripe” game, and that would be infinitely more fun.

So to summarise, like most video game tie-ins of movies, this feels cheap and rushed and it will do nothing but leave a bad taste in your mouth. It is more Noooo Joe than Yo Joe. 3/10

Tropico: Reloaded
Review by Rob Wade

Tropico is one of those games that's easy to explain and easy to place. Falling into the real-time strategy/"God" game genre, Tropico puts you in the role of a communist dictator (and you get to choose from several!) and allows you to create your very own island paradise.

Tropico allows full customisation of the island that you play on, all factors affecting the game difficulty in some way or other, either by reducing or increasing the game difficulty. The amount of options are quite staggering in this regard, with all sorts of combinations for whatever difficulty the player wants. Choice is a big proponent of strategy games in my opinion, and Tropico doesn't disappoint in this regard.

Once you get into the game, you'll find plenty of options there as well. Part of the appeal of this type of game on PC is choice as I mentioned, and Tropico allows for absolutely tons of information to browse through at your heart's content. Another popular feature, however, is that you can easily perform in the game without assimilating ALL this information, allowing the player to get as in-depth as they like without them feeling like they're missing out in any way.

However, this is not all you get in this package either, as the game comes with Tropico 2: Pirate's Cove in the box as well.

The sequel retains many of the familiar charms of the original game, but overlays it with a fresh coat of paint and a new gameplay mechanic. Unsurprisingly from the game's title, the sequel is pirate-themed. However, you'll be pleased to know that this game is just as good as the predecessor, in a different way of course. Tropico 2 retains all the appeal of the first game, with all the same information available, but reskins it effectively with a pirate theme.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics : Simple and colourful graphics. Everything's nice and clear and easy to see, which helps. Let's be fair: it's not trying to compete with the technological powerhouse games.
Sound/Music : Some pleasant calypso music, and an advisor who speaks to you letting you know what's going on, themed with accents and vocal styles appropriately.
Gameplay : Enjoyable RTS/God game gameplay, with the suitable themes that allow you to get immersed as much as you like.
Lasting Appeal : Plenty of customisation options and this DOES contain two games and an expansion, after all.
Summary : Tropico Reloaded is an absolute steal if you enjoy your RTS/God games, with two top games in a pack along with all the expansions released with them. You really can't go wrong here if you want a fresh twist on the strategy genre, as Tropico Reloaded provides absolutely tons of gameplay for a reasonable price. 8/10