Monday, 31 May 2010

E14 Salutes Dennis Hopper

As many E14ies out there will no doubt be aware, this week the world saw the death of actor, director and artist Dennis Hopper. Now, traditionally E14 deals in humour and satire of the highest order, but on such a sad occasion as this, I figured it was only right that we give Dennis a send-off worthy of his quality as an actor. I may stick a few jokes in, obviously, but I'll keep the cheap shots to a minimum where possible.

Hopper was born in 1936 in Dodge City, Kansas: That's right, Dennis Hopper survived the Second World War. +1 to E14 Factor. While Hitler was rampaging his way through Europe only to be pushed back by the strength of will of the British (and the Americans and Russians eventually, credit where it's due), Dennis Hopper carried on living. Granted, he was only 9 years old by the time the war ended, and would have had very little to do with the actual fight itself, but still a point worth mentioning I feel.

From a young age, he was a keen actor, even going so far as to become a veteran of the Actor's Studio. So there's another point in his E14 favour: Through his association with the Actor's Studio, he is also part of the annals of their ranks, which includes such greats as Christopher Walken, Kevin Spacey and Al Pacino, as well as being a figure of bollocking awesomeness himself.

He made his acting debut on television in 1955, at the tender age of 19, before his first big break in 1955 when he appeared alongside the imminently-expiring James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. I must confess, I've not seen this movie. I hear James Dean was a fine actor, but then I heard that Kurt Cobain was one of the greatest musicians who ever lived before I heard Nirvana, and I'm still not speaking to the person who told me that.

Regrettably, Hopper took the death of his co-star pretty hard, as they had worked together on two films by the time Dean died in that car accident, and Hopper had grown to admire him greatly. It was through this sequence of events, combined with a particularly demanding director, that Hopper became what showbiz types refer to in the trade as a "prick". Out of protest on one film, he ignored directorial instruction for eighty takes over the course of a few days. How ridiculous is that? If I ignored EIGHT instructions from my boss over the course of a week, I'd be in some serious shit.

One couldn't blame him either: society seems to be going the way of certain types of people thinking that employers owe them something for reducing themselves to working for the company, when actually they should consider themselves lucky to have jobs at all, particularly as so many of them are lazy, unambitious amoebas, and that's all I've got to say about that!

So he went for a few years with difficulties finding work, until John Wayne (or Marion Morrison to his mates) gave him advice and a part that allowed Hopper to find more work, and to demonstrate himself as a changed man, eventually leading to a part in True Grit. Incidentally, just to re-iterate this E14 Factor that seems so prevalent in Dennis' career, his celebrity friends included John Wayne, James Dean and, thanks to a 1950s social group, Elvis Presley. The King of Rock N' Roll himself (unless you're in France, in which case "Le roi de Rock N' Roll" is Johnny Hallyday, and nobody seems to know why Elvis is so popular - true story), was a friend of Dennis Hopper, the subject of our Obituary O'Awesome.

From there, Dennis Hopper's career took off when he directed his first film at the age of 33, with Easy Rider starring himself among a cast of top-drawer actors. Heralded as a visionary director for his innovative approach, Hopper went on to direct The Last Movie, a much less accessible follow-up movie that divided the critical community heavily upon its release. While this film was going through its processes, Hopper was engaged in bitter legal disputes with Jane Fonda (presumably because "why the fuck not?") and suffering from drug abuse and alcohol problems that would plague his career for many years.

These problems, in fact, would see him typecast in the maniacal role in many low-budget pictures until his appearance in Apocalypse Now brought him back to prominence. His directorial skills were lauded again in 1980 for Out Of The Blue, but by this point he was doing three grams of coke a day. Three grams may not sound like a lot, but I imagine it equates to about thirty-six litres of the other Coke, so it's pretty sizeable. After staging a "suicide attempt" involving dynamite and subsequently disappearing in the Mexican desert after a night on the lash, Hopper checked into rehab in 1983. Probably a good call, as when your night on the piss sees the conversation go along the lines of "Alright, level with me: which expansive body of sand did I get lost in THIS time?", it's probably time to knock the drugs on the head.

Hopper was not counted out by any means though, and returned in David Lynch's Blue Velvet to tremendous acclaim, and later that year was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in Hoosiers. I'll be honest: after a couple of years, his choice of roles gets a little ropey, and he's cast as Koopa in the utterly atrocious movie adaptation of Super Mario Bros. I'm really uncertain as to his motives in this case, but then he did once end up disappearing in the desert, so maybe not all of his decisions are supposed to make sense. Plus, he was about the only good thing about that utter train wreck.



At this point, one of the only up-sides to playing Koopa was yet another demonstration of Hopper's effectiveness as a villainous character, which saw him play an important role in Speed as well as...Waterworld. I've not seen that movie, and I'll be honest and say that I've not heard the best reviews about it. But then, I didn't hear good reviews about disliking Kurt Cobain, and...well, you know the rest.

Now, you may think that this salute to Dennis Hopper has taken a rather negative turn. Let's be fair, so far I've recounted his drug addiction and alcohol problems, as well as his choice in roles not being so good towards the end of his movie career. What you should also notice, though, which is more important, is his resilience. I know it gets thrown around a lot, that word (particularly during Shawn Michaels matches), but it's totally applicable in this case.

It's a testament to not only the strength of Hopper's character but also his quality as an actor that he was able to bounce back so many times and create work of such quality. Sure, he had his share of adversity, and doubtless he brought a large amount of it upon himself, but he had the strength of will to overcome the setbacks this adversity caused, and for that he should be lauded for the rest of time.

Rest easy, Dennis. Emotionally Fourteen salutes you, and you will be missed.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

DVD Reviews

Daybreakers
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill
Director: The Spierig Brothers
Lions Gate Home Entertainment

Available from 31st May - £19.99 (DVD) & £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

The year is 2019. A mysterious plague has swept over Earth, transforming the majority of the world’s population into vampires. Humans are now an endangered, second-class species – forced into hiding by the civilised vampires, they are hunted and farmed for consumption almost to the brink of extinction.

It’s all up to Edward Dalton, a vampire researcher who refuses to feed on human blood, to perfect a blood substitute that might sustain vampires and spare the few remaining humans. But time and hope are running out – until Ed meets Audrey, a human survivor who leads him to a startling medical breakthrough. Armed with knowledge that both humans and vampires will kill for, Ed must battle his own kind in a deadly struggle that will decide that fate of the human race.

A pretty unique take on the vampire legend, no? It’s always nice when people take something as established as the vampire myth and then try and make it their own. Hey, I even admire Twilight for that (good or bad, it was different). Loaded with solid characters, a strong twisty-turny plot and some of the best action sequences I’ve seen in a long time, Daybreakers is an absolute winner.

It’s surprisingly intelligent, and with very deep ethical theorising for a mainstream movie, but on top of all that it also manages to be highly entertaining. It’s pretty to look at. The action sequences (and there are a fair amount of them) are excellently choreographed, brilliantly shot and you can really feel the impact from them. Three of the world’s most underrated actors – Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill – also add oodles of credibility.

There are a couple of minor points that stop it from scoring a perfect ten. The CG is very dodgy most of the time. You know..the sort that makes you actually wince whilst you watch it. Secondly, the anit-capitalist subtext stops being a subtext and starts doing a full blown drum solo at the three-quarters mark. Maybe the makers thought we’d be so blown away by how awesome everything else was we’d miss what they were trying to say. No chance there, chaps. You really needn’t have worried.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Immolation, evisceration, impaling, bladed combat, decapitation, gunplay, biting and torture.
Sex/Nudity: Some partial nudity (you don’t see anything).
Swearing: Some uses of “fuck”, but surprisingly few.
Summary: An excellent horror/sci-fi movie that entertains and proves that horror can still be culturally relevant, when it’s not in the hands of doe-eyed school girls. A Great step forward, and a must-see. 9/10

The Sky Crawlers
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Manga Entertainment

Available from 31st May - £19.99 (DVD) & £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

From Mamoru Oshii, the visionary director of Ghost In The Shell and Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence, comes The Sky Crawlers, based on the first of acclaimed author Mori Hiroshi’s five-part series of bestselling novels set in an alternative historical period and chronicling the lives of a group of young aerial fighter pilots involved in a seemingly never-ending war.

A group of eternally young clone-like fighter pilots (known as Kildren) experience the sudden loss of innocence as they are forced to battle it out against their nation’s enemies in astonishing dogfights above the clouds. With his only childhood memory consisting of intense flight training, the fearless teenage pilot, Yuichi Kannami, struggles to discover the secret of his missing past.

When his beautiful, equally young female commander, Suito Kusanagi, is reluctant to discuss the fate of the pilot that Yuichi was brought in to replace - or to acknowledge the strangely perfect condition of that pilot's former aircraft - Yuichi's curiosity becomes ever more heightened and he soon finds himself questioning not only his purpose in life but also his very own existence.

Yeah, as you all know, I have a well documented vendetta against anime here – sometimes to the point of
declaring war on Japan. This is because for the most part, anime as a genre is uninspiring, derivative, frequently pervy and often poorly produced.

The Sky Crawlers is none of those things.

Simple, beautiful and understated – as well as being fucking gorgeous to look at – The Sky Crawlers is a wonderful take on a war movie, mixed in with some rather odd sci-fi elements that work together. The fusion of CG and cel animation looks great – especially in the dogfight sequences. The characters are all, if not likable, then at least interesting, and the plot actually intelligent and interesting.

You win this one, Japan.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Explosions, shooting, scuffles and dogfights. Not with actual dogs. With planes. Planefighting, I guess.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Some mild uses.
Summary: A brilliantly animated, well paced war story with some very solid storytelling. Well worth checking out. 9/10

Dragon Storm
Starring: Maxwell Caulfield, Woon Young Park, John Rhys-Davies
Director: Stephen Furst
Revolver Entertainment

Available Now - £14.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

In a fantasy, medieval realm, two kings are feuding. King Fastrad is continually plotting to invade the neighbouring kingdom of his nemesis, the noble King Wednesbury. It is not until King Farstrad’s castle is attacked by dragons that he must swallow his pride and beg King Wednesbury to come to his aid.

Together, they must work to protect their kingdoms from being ravaged by the deadly dragons, so a team of skilled warriors is assembled to kill the beasts.

I always want to like sword and sorcery movies. After all, The Lord of the Rings proved that it can be done well. Everytime I pop the disc in my player I hope and pray that I’ve found the next Outlander. Everytime, I am disappointed. Dragon Storm is another steaming pile of petrol station bargain bin fodder.

The CG and special effects are probably the best part of it. And it’d be generous to say that they’re okay. Considering the budgetary constraints.

After that, it’s that old familiar journey again. Terrible, lazy, “just sit back and let the bad wig do the work” acting. An irritating band of protagonists with terrible wigs. Plot developments you can see a mile off. Even the DVD mastering is a joke. Whenever some written English appears on screen, it’s accompanied by a French subtitle. This could be understandable as a mere error if there was a French audio track. But there isn’t. Which means it’s intentional. Which is terrifying.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some sword swinging, immolation and some bolt throwing. No, it really has a Bolt Thrower in it. That always warms my heart, just a little bit.
Sex/Nudity: You think she’s gonna get them out and then...Oh...No. Her hair lands perfectly in place. What are the odds?
Swearing: None.
Summary: A fantasy story that we’ve seen a hundred times before with dodgy acting and strange DVD mastering. The CG is okay, but if you want sword and sorcery, you’re still better off buying a book. 2/10

John Morrison: Rock Star
Clear Vision
Available Now - £17.99 (DVD)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

WWE’s latest “biographic” DVD focuses on “The Shaman of Sexy“ John Morrison. His flashy ring style and rock star persona have made him quite the success with wrestling fans of late, and, ever the opportunists, the WWE have slapped a few non-pay-per-view matches on a disc along with some “backstage” moments.

Any DVD that starts with the presenter strolling on a beach, then suddenly turning to camera and smoothly saying “Hello, WWE Universe” is not headed into the classic section. The “Guru of Greatness” stays within his over-the-top persona throughout the whole presentation, linking the matches together as if they were real contests.

The attempts at revealing Morrison’s training regime and hobbies seem tacked on and very repetitive. The Q&A Section is a great idea, but with questions as probing as “Is there chocolate in the Palace of Wisdom?”, it’s a wasted opportunity.

On the plus side, there’s a nice segment showcasing some of the “Dirt Sheet” skits that he did with The Miz, including the brilliant “Captain Highpants” sequence they filmed about the fact that Shawn Michaels is constantly adjusting his trousers. (Seriously, next HBK match you see, check how high up that waistband is! A couple more inches and he’d be a judge on The X-Factor.)

The DVD’s strengths, however, lie in the matches included. As they are all from Raw and ECW, it’s likely that WWE are saving his PPV matches for a future release. This works out well actually, because this DVD stands as a nice collection of very good matches that probably wont get put together again. Only the tag match with DX lets it down, and his scraps with Evan Bourne, Edge, Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho and two matches with CM Punk are fantastic. I think that this collection of bouts genuinely makes up for “Hello, WWE Universe”.

I really hadn’t seen too much of his work before, and thanks to these great contests, I suddenly get all of the fuss that fans and commentators make of him. His blend of high-flying athleticism and technical ability are a breath of fresh air in the often stale WWE environment.

Oh yeah, he has a springboard roundhouse kick called the Flying Chuck. Yes, it is named after Mr. Norris.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Backflips don’t really count as violence.
Sex/Nudity: Morrison gyrates a lot. It’s hypnotic…
Swearing: No swearing, but “Hello, WWE Universe” offends me more than any curses you could come up with.
Summary: More good stuff included here than bad. Fans of his will want to grab this straight away, casual fans should wait for a price drop. Made me want to see more of the star, which is what it should do. 8/10

TNA Wrestling - Best of 2009
TNA Wrestling
Available Now - £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

2009 wasn’t Total Nonstop Action’s best year, but it was the last one before the Hulk Hogan/Eric Bischoff takeover/fuck up. To commemorate this, TNA stuck some matches on a disc and got Scary TNA Voiceover Man to shout really loudly all over it (Seriously, he scares me more than Awesome Kong).

A Knockouts match first between Sarita and Alissa Flash. They have an athletic contest that the crowd enjoy. Very good, could have benefited from a few more minutes.

A J Styles and Kurt Angle enter a fantastic Tables Match...without trying.

Empty Arena Matches are a strange affair. Without fans to react to moves, the noise is left up to the workers. Sting and Kurt Angle, seem to have never watched an Empty Arena match. Pyro goes off, nobody cheers. Sting points at the crowd. It’s a bit weird, and was set up to enhance a storyline, at the cost of quality wrestling.

Angle time again with Jeff Jarrett. Try as he might, even Kurt can’t bring Double J above mid-carder. It’s a good match, but it’s all Angle.

“Hey Russo?”
“Yeah?”
“This Best of 2009 DVD? Should we put those little guys on here?”
“Who?”
“You remember, the guys that helped build TNA and actually made us different to everyone?”
“Oh, those guys. X-Men or something? I guess so. But we have heavyweights to push!”
“How about a match that features all of them at once?”

I can just imagine it when they stuck this Ultimate X match on the disc. It’s a thrilling contest, but Amazing Red, Homicide, Daniels, The Motor City Machine Guns and Suicide deserve so much more. Maybe not Suicide. He injures Sabin and damn near kills Daniels through his bad timing.

Headline match of the Bound for Glory PPV up next as AJ Styles defends his newly won TNA Championship against “The Icon” Sting. This match has definite big match feel to it, but it doesn’t really flow until the end. There’s a respect storyline here, but similarly to the Empty Arena match, it gets in the way of the wrestling.

Nothing gets in the way of the wrestling next. Kurt Angle and Desmond Wolfe enter a stunning display of technical skill as the former Nigel McGuiness pits his British style against Kurt’s machine-like submissions. This. Is. Wrestling.

The “Best Match of 2009” has a lot of hype behind it. In 2006 three men entered into a contest for the X-Division Championship that set a benchmark. Now one of these men is World Champion and the other two want it. AJ Styles, Daniels and Samoa Joe had a lot to live up to with this match. Did they pull it off?

Yes.

The match competes with the original, and they’ve all matured as performers.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
No more than normal.
Sex/Nudity: ’Fraid not!
Swearing: Angle says “Son of a bitch”.
Summary: A very entertaining way to get into TNA , or if you just want the crème. 8/10

Friday, 28 May 2010

Shitty Box Art Round-Up

Brad: Jesus...you might want to brace yourself before you see this first video game:
Rob: All right...Braced.

OK! Puzzle Stars

Rob: I...Wha...
Brad: Do you know what the first thing to strike me as "tragic" about this game is?
Rob: I'll be interested to hear what's first on the list.
Brad: The fact they couldn't get a celebrity to use on the cover, and had to use a generic model. The word celebrity is overused these days. To me "celebrity" means "famous". Not "was on a game show once".
Rob: Very much so
Brad: I've just read the blurb and it depressed me further. Would you buy this as a gift for a middle-aged middle-class woman?
Rob: I don't think I know any. Am I thus to take this question as hypothetical? I get the feeling this model is holding in a massive dump.
Brad: You're right. There's something in the forced smile and slightly narrowed eyes that gives it away. Of course, thinking about my previous statement, there is every chance that this woman is a supposed "celebrity" and we just don't have a clue who she is. Speaking of which, whatever happened to Jade Goody? You don't hear so much of her anymore.
Rob: Dude...
Brad: Yes?
Rob: I'm fairly sure she moved to India or something. Don't you read the news?
Brad: I'm aware of the news. As a concept.
Rob: Hmmm.
Brad: I don't bother keeping up with it all that much. I tried for a while, but I finally realised that it didn't actually matter to me in the slightest what happened. Election, earthquake, riot, stabbings, sex scandal, snow...I still had to get up and go to work. So I started paying attention to more important things.
Rob: You don't even keep up with sex scandals? What do you talk about at work?
Brad: I don't have any friends, dude. Score for this one?
Rob: I'll say a 4/10. Out of 100.
Brad: Uh, do we still give a cover extra points if we want to bang the cover model?
Rob: Generally, we do yeah
Brad: 8/10.

Transformers: War for Cybertron

Brad: Holy fucking shit!
Rob: You liking this one so far?
Brad: No, I stubbed my toe.
Rob: Oh.
Brad: There's not a lot to go on. It has "Transformers" written on it, but that's not the seal of quality it once was. And I think that might be Rodimus Prime. That'd be fail.
Rob: Why is Cloud city in the background?
Brad: Hunh. Maybe I will like this one, then. Were you into Transformers when you were a kid?
Rob: Totally, it was Transformers and Thundercats for me. And Thunderbirds. Lots of alliteration in my family.
Brad: I was always more into Masters of the Universe. Probably explains why I'm more into fantasy than sci-fi...They should do a Thundercats game that isn't shit.
Rob: I never played one, that's for sure.
Brad: I had one on the Amiga, but it was pretty lame. This was back before the days of instruction manuals, and you had to piece together what you were supposed to do yourself. As far as we could fathom it, Lion-O didn't want to live anymore and so was going to keep running desperately into a wall of spikes until he died, and nothing you could do would convince him otherwise.
Rob: Sounds more fun than Ecco, still.
Brad: And that's why they never made ThunderDolphins. Score?
Rob: 5/10. Robots are cooler than anonymous models.
Brad: 8/10. I'd still fuck that.
Rob: I was about to ask if that had any bearing.

Sherlock Holmes: The Mystery of Osborne House

Brad: I love Sherlock Holmes.
Rob: I do too. I can already tell I'm going to hate this game.
Brad: Why?
Rob: Look at him, dude. He's animated.
Brad: I wasn't aware you were a racist.
Rob: Eh?
Brad: You can't discriminate against people just because they're animated. More to the point, it's not animated. It's a fucking still picture.
Rob: I mean he's a cartoon.
Brad: Again, I don't think you can discriminate on those grounds. The only Mystery of Osborne House is why no-one's stabbed Sharon in the face.
Rob: And why the kids are given any credence whatsoever.
Brad: To be fair, I'm not sure why the interest in Ozzy. Holmes looks smug. They've got that much right at least.
Rob: I suppose.
Brad: I am a little surprised. I was under the impression you were into Holmes games.
Rob: I was annoyed by the Mystery of the Mummy, because Holmes sounded like he was on Valium, not cocaine. And they re-released that one for DS over Silver Earring, which actually had a British-sounding Holmes, and was quality. I just have no faith in the DS side of it.
Brad: I have no faith in Nintendo in general. Haven't had since they decided what the world really wanted was Mortal Kombat with the blood removed. You know, this actually looks like the sort of game I'd buy. If it was the same price as a puzzle book.
Rob: I hope it's good. I really do. I just find it hard to believe.
Brad: Score?
Rob: 3/10
Brad: I'm gonna give it a 5/10.
Rob: Not such a fan of the Holmes in that way then...
Brad: It could be good, could be bad. The cover doesn't give enough to go on here. Hence: I rolled a d10.

Thrustmaster Disney Toy Story Mania Ray Gun

Rob: Have we switched to sex toys?
Brad: What gave you that impression? Was it the name "Thrustmaster"?
Rob: That and the look, I just wouldn't be surprised to find out it vibrates.
Brad: It also looks like it has at least two openings. Possibly soft and/or warm.
Rob: And there's that. I like the reviews: "If you've been on the MGM ride you know why you need this gun.". Was there a Public Service Announcement that just said "Please buy this."?
Brad: I have a formulae for this: Nintendo + Disney = Gay. Lots and lots of lovely gay...What does it do?
Rob: It's a shell. It doesn't do anything.
Brad: Shill, dude. Shill. So, it's a plastic cover that looks like a sex toy. That's it?
Rob: I suppose so. With a Toy Story license. How dark is that?
Brad: Could you use it to conceal an actual sex-toy?
Rob: I don't know the dimensions, but yeah, probably.
Brad: That's dark. Wow. Why?
Rob: Well, it's a sex toy looking thing with a Toy Story branding.
Brad: "Got Woody?"
Rob: "You've got a friend in...me..."
Brad: What does the trigger do? Make it push back?
Rob: Yeah, it's a resistance thing I guess.
Brad: See, this is another reason to loathe Nintendo. Their technology is so custom made for hardcore cybersex, but the company itself might be the most wholesome and strangely puritan thing since The Carter Family. Not to be confused with Carter: The Unstoppable Sex Machine.
Rob: Jimmy Carter had that nickname? I thought that was Kennedy.
Brad: Score for the sex toy thing?
Rob: 2/10
Brad: 0/10. No, wait. I guess that's a "10", right? Damn.



Featuring performances from an all-star cast including a reunion of logendary Oscar nominated actors Omar Sharif (Lawrence of Arabia) and Peter O'Toole (Lawrence of Arabia), Luke Goss (Not Lawrence of Arabia) and Jonathan Rhys-Davies (Sabretooth), Princess of Persia is out now on DVD.

Princess of Persia is an adaptation of the Old Testament story of Esther, a young Jewish orphan who against all odds becomes Queen of Persia and saves the Jewish race from annihilation.

King Xerxes is leading the Persians in a brutal war against the Greeks. After a troubled childhood, the beautiful Esther captures the heart of the King, and transformed from peasant to royalty, takes her place at his side.

As the battle places an ever greater strain on the Persian people, an unlikely chain of events forces an impossible ultimatum onto Esther; giving her the chance to save her people, but only by putting her own life in danger and defying the might and power of an empire.

Thanks to our friends at Revolver Entertainment, we've got a copy of Princess of Persia to give away! For your chance of winning it, send us an e-mail to princessofpersiagiveaway@yahoo.co.uk with your name and postal address before midday on Friday 4th June (UK time). The first name drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Book Reviews

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Seth Grahame-Smith
Constable

Available Now - £12.99 (Trade Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother s bedside. She has been stricken with something the old-timers call 'Milk Sickness'. 'My baby boy...' she whispers before dying. Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother's fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire. When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, 'henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose...'

Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an axe, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House. While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years.

This is one of those books that turns up, and the gut reaction is “Oh, Christ...really?”. Seth Grahame-Smith’s previous, rather hit-and-miss novel Pride & Prejudice & Zombies was humour of the lowest “LOL! ZOMBEEZ!” variety, so I wasn’t exactly holding out high hopes for this. I shouldn’t have worried. This is actually really very enjoyable. It’s not played for laughs at all, and is rather more along the lines of “Blade in the Nineteeth Century”.

The romantic sidelines are surprisingly moving, the vampires genuinely monstrous and the action very well detailed. It’s a fun light read that should please those of us who miss the days when vampires were...y’know...monsters.

There are a few things that hamper it from being truly great. The “cameos” by other notable historical figures are hardly integral to the plot, and sometimes to unnecessary as to be distracting. Also the artwork is pretty appalling, consisting of old photographs that have been Photoshopped to change a minor detail, such as giving fangs or dark glasses to someone who is supposed to be a vampire. It’s a nice idea and, when done well, looks great. Unfortunately here, the Photoshopping is pretty heavy handed, and it would have been better for them not to bother.

Lincoln’s rise to political power is pretty rushed, but to be honest, this is probably welcome. A break from the action for some political campaigning would have been pretty dull.

These minor problems aside, what’s left is a thoroughly enjoyable read. If you want some summer reading that’s a little different from the norm, you could do a lot worse than this.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Several murders, stakings, axe based mutilations, stabbings, shootings, scuffles, detailed injuries, blood and gore.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A thoroughly enjoyable, vampired-up historical fiction. Recommend for those looking for some light, but hyper-violent, entertainment. 8/10

The Owl Killers
Karen Maitland
Penguin

Available Now - £6.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

In the heart of the countryside lies an isolated village, where pagan Owl Masters rule through fear, superstition and murder. When a group of religious women ill-advisedly settles outside the village, they awaken dangerous jealousies. Why do their crops succeed? How do their cattle survive the plague? Are they concealing a holy relic which protects them from harm?

Maitland’s previous novel, Company of Liars, was always going to be a very hard act to follow. Here, in The Owl Killers, she displays several of the motifs and hallmarks that made Company of Liars so awesome. There’s the oppressive, dingy and drizzly atmosphere that permeates every single sentence. There’s the sense of mystery that lies behind every character. And, there’s that strange “half magic”, whereby the unknown is soon through the eyes of the characters, and you come out of it still not a hundred per cent sure whether or not what you have experienced is the supernatural or not.

Unfortunately, The Owl Killers has a couple of flaws that hinder it somewhat. Firstly, its slow. Nothing really happens of note until a third of the way in, and this could easily put off a lot of readers. Secondly, the book is narrated in the first person by several different characters. A nice idea, but when most of them are women, and three of them have the assumed name “Martha”, it can get pretty confusing trying to keep track of who you’re dealing with.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Several beatings, and some murders/executions.
Sex/Nudity: Some mild sex scenes.
Swearing: Some minor uses.
Summary: A good historial thriller with a nice, supernatural edge to it. Recommended for fans of historical fiction. 8/10

Star Trek - Alien Spotlight: Volume 2
Elena Casagrande, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Ian Edgington, Mark Hawthorne, Stuart Moore, Agustin Padilla, Wagner Reis, Andy Schmidt, Arne Schmidt, David Tipton, Scott Tipton, J.K. Woodward
Idea & Design Works

Available Now - £14.99 (Trade Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Cardassians, Klingons, Q, Romulans and...um...Tribbles. Five different and distinct alien races, all part of the Star Trek universe. Star Trek – Alien Spotlight: Volume 2 contains five stand-alone stories, each focusing on alien species that has come into contact – and often conflict – with the Federation of Planets.

This is rather a mixed bag of short stories. Cardassians and Romulans are both dodgy, Trek by numbers stories, with heavy references to their races culture and some rather vague artwork not exactly helping matters. Fortunately, both Klingons and Tribbles are pretty satisfactory reads. Tribbles is played slightly more for laughs, which is probably the only way of doing it, given the subject matter. It’s also nice to see “thought bubbles” for Tribbles. Pretty cute stuff.

Klingons is a nice chunk of Space Opera filled, as you would no doubt expect, with violence, weaponry and more “Qa’pla”s than you can shake a Bat’leth at. The artwork is fantastic, featuring a lot of pencil heavy work, which you don’t see so much anymore these days.

Q, however, is a great story. It manages to capture spot on mannerisms and dialogue for the Next Generation crew and the artwork is nice, too. It adds a nice dimension to Q, too, offering a touch of both motivation and humility to a character who is all too often used nothing more than an intergalactic Loki.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some bladed combat, and phaser firing. Some explosions.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A mixed bag of short stories raging from “dull” to “awesome”. Worth picking up if you’re a Trekkie, but more casual fans should pass on this one. 7/10

Aliens: More Than Human
John Arcudi, Zach Howard and Gabriel Andrade
Dark Horse

Available Now - £11.99 (Trade Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

A group of planetary propectors plant their flag on a distant new world, rich in land, resources and mystery. Within this seemingly uninhabited planet lies the greatest archaeological discovery in history, an ancient, abandoned complex of impossible proportions carved deep within the living rock, a mind-numbing labyrinth of passages, ramps, bridges, and galleries that seems to extend limitlessly. But as the exploration of the dead city proceeds deeper and deeper, the members of the team slowly begin to lose their grip on reality. But madness gives way to fear as the explorers being to disappear. Something else lives within the necropolis, a faceless horror as deadly and merciless as space itself, a lethal terror that has waited centuries to awake and destroy.

I have been waiting for Dark Horse to start showing the Aliens franchise some love for so long now that I had almost given up hope of it ever happening. Hence, I was overjoyed when this came out. On reading, though, if this is the best we can expect from the franchise in future, I half wish they hadn’t bothered.

This is another Aliens story featuring a strange supposedly barren planet with one notable feature on it. The Aliens are there without explanation. There’s a vague attempt to fit it in with previously established comic continuity (does anyone care about that?). There are colonists looking for land rights, with mention of a shady corporation...Androids...People get burned by acid spatter. Jesus, is this really the best anyone can do with the Aliens franchise? Shamelessly remake the same story again and again?

Come on guys. You, the fans – and the Aliens themselves – deserve better than this.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Lots of gore, chemical burns, gunfire, explosions, biting, evisceration and...more gunfire.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A couple of uses, all #@~!’d out.
Summary: A pretty disappointing return for the Aliens franchise. A lacklustre, poorly explained story and average artwork. Still, it’s nice that Dark Horse are at least giving their Aliens licence some attention again. 4/10

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

What Do You Mean You've Never Read...Starship Troopers

If you’ve ever enjoyed any piece of what is commonly referred to as “military science-fiction”, be it Hammer’s Slammers, Ender’s Game, John Ringo and David Weber – or even more “mainstream” examples, such as the Star Wars: The Clone Wars series of novels, Black Library’s Warhammer 40,000 output or James Cameron’s movie Aliens – then you have one novel to thank, and that’s Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. As usual, someone will argue that it didn’t “start” the genre, but its influence is undeniable.

Heinlein’s desire to write Starship Troopers was sparked by the publication of a newspaper advertisement placed by the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy in 1958, which called for a suspension of nuclear weapon testing by the U.S. In response, Heinlein and his wife created the "Patrick Henry League" in an attempt to garner support for the U.S. nuclear testing program. During the campaign, Heinlein found himself under attack both from within and outside the science fiction community for his views. Heinlein ceased work on the novel that would become later Stranger in a Strange Land (another one that you should have read, kids) and wrote Starship Troopers - in an attempt to attempt to both clarify and defend his military and political views.

And he did that as only the best of us can - with monsters and guns.

Starship Troopers takes place in the midst of an interstellar war between the Terran Federation of Earth and the Arachnids (or "Bugs") of Klendathu. Narrated as a series of flashbacks by Juan Rico, the novel opens with Rico about to set out on a raid against the planet of the "Skinnies" - allies of the Arachnids. Rico is a Cap’ Trooper in the Terran Federation's Mobile Infantry.

Mobile Infantry troops are attached to spacecraft, which then deliver Cap’ Troopers to planetary target zones, by dropping them onto the planet surface from orbit via individual re-entry “capsules” (hence "cap’ troopers"). The Mobile Infantry specialise in a variety of tasks including smash-and-burn raids, surgical strikes, conventional infantry warfare, and holding beachheads.

Starship Troopers was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1959 as a serial titled Starship Soldier. Although originally written as a children's novel, it was rejected...so Heinlein ramped up the violence and sold it to people who would understand. Children wouldn’t have gotten it anyway. Children are stupid.

It is possible to read all manner of social, political, racial and philosophical meanings into a novel like Starship Troopers. Its stance is deliberately confrontational, frequently breaking into out-and-out lectures (literally – several of the flashbacks are of lectures and classes), but it also manages to maintain an air of excellent, sci-fi space-opera guns, monsters and explosions awesomeness.

Setting the tone for the bulk of military fiction to follow, the weapons, tactics, training, and many other aspects of the Mobile Infantry are carefully detailed: from the function of the armored suits themselves, through multiple variants of powered armor, to the training of personnel is presented in great detail, which adds greatly to the sense of immersion in the fictional universe.

Starship Troopers popularised a number of military concepts and innovations, some of which have had a direct influence not only upon other works of science-fiction, but also on real life military research. The most notable of these being the powered armor exoskeletons used by the Mobile Infantry. Controlled by the wearer's own movements, the Powered Armor augments a soldier's strength, speed, provides rocket boosts and comes with a HUD featuring night vision, radar, and sophisticated communications equipment. Sure, this is something that we’ve seen in movies and video games the world over, right? But how is this impacting the real world?

Put simply, the United States military has attempted to develop technology that would give the abilities of the MI's powered armor to its soldiers. Many of the aspects of Powered Armor such as night vision, infrared, and GPS are now standard issue military equipment. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the US Department of Defense has also spent some $50 million in an attempt to develop a powered exoskeleton in its Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation program. There’s yet to be anything seen on the battlefield from this program, but it’s being worked on somewhere.

Starship Troopers has influenced not only most science fiction – but all of the military science fiction sub-genre – and spawned movies and a TV show, as well as video games and unplugged games of all varieties.

What’s more, it’s not even going to take up all that much of your time to check it out. It’s barely 85,000 words long. Also (according to Amazon) it averages 1.5 syllables per word and, according to both the Fog and Flesch Indexes, it’s easier to read that at least 80% of the books in the world. I can only assume this means that reading this book is actually easier than watching the film adaptation.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

DVD Reviews

Geisha Assassin
Starring: Minami Tsukui, Shigeru Kanai, Nao Nagasawa
Director: Gô Ohara
JollyRoger Inc.

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Rob Wade

Geisha Assassin’s plot reads much like a typical revenge story. A geisha has her sights set on a ninja, who brought about the death of her father. However, in order to get to him, she has to make her way through his band of highly-trained ninja cronies, engaging in fights that will test her to her absolute limits, while at the same time finding out stuff she didn’t know. Sounds pretty familiar without being able to pinpoint it to one film, right?

Anyway, the general plot of the film centres on the semi-hot female protagonist, Kotono, tracking the ninja responsible for her father’s death, and dispatching his goons in order to get ever-closer. Understandably, the film’s main focus is a series of sword fighting scenes between Kotono and a number of impressive-looking ninjas (including a female one who is an absolute corker). With a film such as this, much like the Kill Bill duology, the importance for the director is to make the fight scenes as good quality as possible, particularly as films of this time generally have some particularly ropey plot development and non-combat scenes.

Regrettably, Geisha Assassin is no exception when it comes to the cheesy dialogue and ropey scenes between the fighting. Having said that, there’s one scene where a character turns out to be less benevolent than they appear to be, which is done well, if a little contrived. Oh, and the reason for the character’s change of heart is never explained, which I thought was disappointing.

There are some downsides to this film, which I’ll get to first. The video quality is pretty ropey, looking like a home movie (or low-budget porn) at the best of times, and there seem to be some sound and visual consistency errors at times as well. With some more swiftly-moving sword fights, the sound seems to fall out of sync, possibly due to the number of sword blows being dealt by each party. Visually, the blood spatter falls out of line with traditional genre definition, such as the throat being a source of gushing blood. In this film, the blood from a cut throat (of which there are a fair few) seems to trickle, like a leaky tile.

The combat in this film, as I say, needs to be done well in order for the film to really stand out. The combat, then, you might be interested to know, is...well, decent. That’s all really. Apart from a couple of fights, the combat is merely decent. There’s one fight between the two aforementioned female ninjas of varying hotness with a decent level of ferocity (Think The Phantom Menace), but for every good-quality fight there’s a ropey one, including one involving hallucinations and demons which is just ri-goddamn-diculous. In terms of quality of combat, it’s fortunate that she’s armed with a sword, as her melée repertoire is on a par with John Cena (and I’m a fan, but you can’t deny he doesn’t have a massive list). Combat-wise, this film’s consistency pales in comparison to films like Ip Man and even Bangkok Adrenaline.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: Understandably, a fair bit of swordy-swordy action, with the standout scene being between the hot-ish protagonist and another gorgeous female ninja. For the wrestling fans, this film also contains a German Suplex.
Sex/Nudity: You see a bit of pantie action when she jumps around occasionally, but that’s about it.
Swearing: A few uses of words like “bitch”, but they’re in Japanese, so it sounds lovely.
Summary: An enjoyable enough film, but unfortunately the combat is just too patchy to be a ninja movie of any standing, and the scenes in between are as ropey as you generally expect from this type of film. Worth a rental. 6/10
The Great Dictator
Starring: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie
Director: Charles Chaplin
Park Circus

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD) & £19.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

During the last days of the First World War, a clumsy soldier saves the life of devoted military pilot Schultz. Unfortunately, their flight from the advancing enemy ends in a severe crash with unnamed and clumsy soldier suffering a bout of amnesia.

After quite some years in the hospital, the soldier is released, and reopens his old barber shop in the Jewish ghetto. But times have changed in the country of Tomania: Dictator Adenoid Hynkel, who accidentally looks very similar to the barber, has laid his merciless grip on the country, and the Jewish people are discriminated against. One day, the barber gets in trouble and is brought before a commanding officer, who turns out to be his old comrade Schultz...

I love this. This is back from a time when comedy actually had something to say, when jokes were aimed to kill and the bad things in the world had to be laughed at to highlight how fucking stupid they were; rather than today, where “comedy” just means another paper thin rom-com.

History may have made this movie powerful, but even in isolation, this is one of Chaplin’s best (if not the best), full of his impeccably timed slapstick and those little beats of silence and reaction that he did so well. He is assisted in the second half of the movie by the amazing Jack Oakie as Benzino Napaloni; and the two work wonderfully together.

Fans of Chaplin and old-comedy in general must own this movie. Newcomers may find it hard to laugh, knowing what was actually happening in Germany at the time, but this is still the most powerful comedy movie ever made.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Some frying pans to the head, some shooting, some explosions.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: One of the most powerful comedy films ever made, and one that shows exactly what comedy can be capable of. 10/10
Deathsport
Starring: David Carradine, Claudia Jennings, Richard Lynch
Director: Roger Corman
In2Film
Available Now - £5.99 (DVD)
Review by Rob Wade

Deathsport is the sequel to Death Race 2000, and sees Carradine play Kas Oshay, one of the mounted ‘Ranger Guides’ who are fighting the motorcycled ‘Statesmen’. The ‘Statesmen’ try to capture ‘Guides’ and force them to take part in sadistic gladiatorial contests, while both camps do their utmost to avoid mutant cannibals who thirst for human flesh. Yes, you read that right. Firstly, they made a sequel to Death Race 2000 without putting in any races, and more importantly David Carradine of Kill Bill fame is in it. The ‘Deathsport’ in this case is the gladiatorial contests pitted between the competitor captives. A bit like Gladiator, but nowhere near as awesome.

David, David, David...what did happen to you in the 1970s eh? Was money particularly tight during the filming of this movie, or did you just decide that running around in your pants looking like one of the Bee Gees would be good for your career? The very least I would have suggested to him, if I had been one of his mates, would be to fire his agent, or at least take a deeper look at the scripts. I feel the greatest of pity for him if this is what flashed before his eyes as he shuffled off this mortal coil; it can’t be a good way to go.

What can I say about this film? The music and sound effects sound like they’ve been produced on a Commodore 64 or chosen incorrectly; I swear I heard both a jet engine and a motorboat for one of the bikes, and considering that they’re a main plot point, you’d think they’d make the effort. Worse still, some of the special effects, far from being MS Paint quality, look like they were done in Minesweeper. A particularly terrible one sees Carradine electrocuted, and to illustrate this on the screen the screen flickers between Carradine’s floored body and a blue filter. It’s a great shame as well, as some of the special effects actually aren’t bad at all. There’s definitely some inconsistency here, particularly when a fair amount of the torture scenes seem to consist of just flicking the lights on and off and throwing in some irritating sound effects. Worse still, the acting is absolutely shocking at times, on a par with Hawk the Slayer in terms of cheese and the wooden delivery of lines. I mean, really Corman, who put your script together? Ikea?

The costumes are good fun as well, with the mutant cannibals looking like bastardised Tusken Raiders with oversized novelty eyes, the ‘Ranger Guides’ dressed in white pants and/or white Luke Skywalker Episode IV suits wrapped in shawls, and the ‘Statesmen’ in Anakin Skywalker style black suits. Incidentally, the two factions seem to have degraded into oppressive Imperial-type scumbags versus some rebel hippy wasters. If I was to find out that the Deathsport writers had stolen designs from George Lucas’ notes, I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s fortunate, incidentally, that the ‘Statesmen’ have an element of the Imperials about them, because the door noise is the same as Darth Vader’s breathing.

One of the most bizarre subplots in this movie is to do with the President of the ‘Statesmen’ suffering from a progressive form of dementia, and that is woven into the plot with almost little or no impact. The logic of these ‘Statesmen’ is also questionable at times, as not only do they arm the ‘Guides’ for the Deathsport, they also arm them with the crystal swords that they’re familiar and trained with. Oh, and the objective of the film for the characters is not at any point to bring down this dictatorship, all they aim to do is rescue a solitary child from the mutant savages. A little underwhelming, it has to be said.

One final thought, in the form of a question. In terms of plot consistency, this gives you an idea of what I saw. Why would mutant cannibals be afraid of fire to the point of retreating, when their cave contains...a fire?

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: A few people get disintegrated, and obviously there’s that whole ‘Deathsport’ thing going on for a large portion of the film.
Sex/Nudity: One instance of full nudity with a peripheral female character, but because of the crap lighting, you see very little. For the most part, they pretty much just find excuses to get the main female naked throughout the film, including one scene where she’s nude amongst a series of novelty light bulbs. I wish I was making this up.
Swearing: ‘Bastards’. Not the people who made the movie, I mean it’s used in the movie.
Summary: A shockingly poor cheese-fest of a movie, and not the kind of thing that you’d want to remember Carradine for (or indeed that Carradine would want to be remembered for). By all means rent it or buy it cheap if you collect crap films, but under no circumstances would I recommend buying this for anything less than a bargain basement price. Maybe even lower than that; maybe a bargain Fritzl-hidden-basement price. 2/10
An Audience with Ken Dodd
Starring:
Ken Dodd
ITV DVD

Available Now - £12.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Critically acclaimed (at the time) as a comedy masterpiece, An Audience With Ken Dodd was first shown by LWT and allegedly confirmed Dodd’s status as “Britain's funniest comedian”.

An Audience With... was Ken Dodd’s first ever home video release. Now available on DVD (again - contrary to what they'd want you to believe) - and running 40 minutes longer than the original show – can it still entertain as much it did all those years ago?

In a word, no. No, it cannot. Ken Dodd is a comedy genius, and a performer that I look up to, but this is far from one of his shining moments. It’s safe, middle-of-the-road comedy...but it’s not even funny, safe, middle-of-the-road comedy.

The DVD issue from ITV DVD is pitifully lazy. There hasn’t even been so much as a gesture towards cleaning it up for modern DVD issue, and so the resultant mess appears to have been ripped straight from the original tape – flaws, hiss, trapped hairs and all. Hardly the level of production you’d expect from a high profile label, with a high profile release.

Dodd’s set here has aged rather badly, and it’s not a very good showcase of his abilities. The style has dated very badly, and his gags mocking much funnier alternative comedians seemed like nothing but the whitterings of a grumpy old man.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
None.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A legendary comedian feebly punching below his weight, given a lazy DVD issue. Avoid. 3/10

Monday, 24 May 2010

TV Remakes I'd like to see

First, a quick plug. This week's article was brought to you thanks to the Internet Radio stylings of Mr James Black and Miss Sarah Perkin over at Black N' Beard Radio on Sunlight. Listen here every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

Remakes are everywhere at the moment, with a TV remake of The Prisoner starring Ian McKellen (or Magneto/Gandalf) and V, the super-shonky alien invasion TV series from the 1980s that starred a much younger Michael Ironside (Rasczak from Starship Troopers/Sam Fisher from Splinter Cell). It's clear that remakes are quite the order of the day currently. This week, I'll be making a list of TV series that I'd quite like to see remade for the new generation, along with a suggestion of who I think would be an effective host for the show.

The Crystal Maze

The Crystal Maze was first released in 1990, and ran for five years. The series is set in "The Crystal Maze", which is set within four different "zones" set in various periods of time and space. A team of six contestants take part in a selection of challenges in order to win "time crystals". Each crystal gives the team five seconds of time inside "The Crystal Dome", the heart of the maze where the contestants take part in their final challenge.

The Crystal Maze was a great series from back in the early 1990s where people were actually challenged in order to win their prizes. Nowadays, we're forced to sit through Justin Lee Collins flipping coins for cash prizes, because apparently despite the recession we're just aching to give TV show prize money to the mediocre.

On another ranting note, I got sent an invite on Facebook today for Geek/Nerd Pride Day 2010. However surprising this may be, I will NOT be attending. Why, you may ask? Simple: I'm proud to be a geek every fucking day of my life. If I wasn't, I'd be hard pushed to convincingly make a case for the return of The Crystal Maze.

What made this series great was the original host, Richard O'Brien. He was charismatic, he was funny and he played the harmonica. As awesome TV hosts go, you really didn't get much better. How, then, do you match greatness like Richard O'Brien's? The main points are simple: The new host has to be enthusiastic, especially as O'Brien was always zipping about the place with a gusto like no other. He also has to look comfortable in a trenchcoat, as we can negate the harmonica playing simply as few people really play it nowadays anyway, let alone TV personalities. I've chosen to go with actor and seemingly awesome guy David Tennant.

Think about it. He's got West End acting experience, just like O'Brien. We've seen how he looks in a trenchcoat, and frankly it's dashing (not quite enough to 'turn' me, but I can appreciate a dapper chap without feeling gay). He's got that enthusiasm, as his performance as the Doctor indicated pretty clearly. As if that wasn't enough, and you need convincing on the E14 Factor, he's appeared at Comic-Con thanks to Doctor Who!

GamesMaster

Gamesmaster was a show that ran from 1992 to 1998, and essentially represented in many ways the absolute limit to celebrity that gamers should hope for in a fair and just world. Sadly, though I'm much against it, so-called 'professional' gamers seem to be able to garner celebrity, with one particular example, Fatal1ty, the figurehead for it. How delusional are these people? Well, he got given a Lifetime Achievement by the eSports Award after four years. I know the lifespan of a 'professional' gamer would be significantly reduced based on their seeming reluctance to do proper sports, but a Lifetime Achievement award after four years? Maybe for a Fence Lizard, but not for a person, surely!

The reasons to bring this one back should be obvious. Aside from the fact that modern CG wouldn't make the Gamesmaster look like a low-budget burns victim, video gaming has never been at both its most popular and its most multiplayer-accessible, with many party games now available. What with all the musical instrument games, as well as the more party based games like the karaoke games and movie quizzes, there's plenty of scope for multiplayer games in that sort of vein as well as the Call of Duty games and the Halos. With games available for all palates, there's even the possibility of separate divisions for different types of player.

As for the hosting duties, this one has to be two-fold, as the show technically had two hosts for the show. There was the main show host, which switched between Dominic Diamond and Dexter Fletcher and then back to Diamond, and there was the Gamesmaster himself, originally played by Patrick Moore.

For the role of the show host, I've chosen the great Nick Frost of Spaced and Hot Fuzz fame. I'm sure there's another film he's known for...It escapes me at the moment. Anyway, he'd be a perfect fit, especially as he strikes me as the kind of guy who plays games in his free time. One of the things I always find difficult to watch is a television show host who has no idea or no interest in what he's presenting on, and regrettably this was also true of the Gamesmaster himself, Patrick Moore. It was fairly clear that he didn't have any interest in games whatsoever. The host, therefore, that I've chosen for this next one deserves an introduction worthy of professional wrestling, so here goes.

Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you at the present time the host of E14 sponsored Gamesmaster programming. He is a successful movie star, as well as a keen gamer. His games of choice include World of Warcraft, and he has been a D&D gamer for 20 years, and even contributed to the game's 30th anniversary book (if that doesn't win him the E14 Factor I don't know what does). Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you....The Man...The Legend...VIIINNNNNNNNN DIIIIEEEEEEEEESSSEEEEELLLLL!!
You KNOW it makes sense.

Knightmare

Most E14ies will not need to be introduced to the concept of Knightmare, but for those who are not in the know, I will do my best to describe the plot without just gushing about how fucking awesome it was. The game consisted of a team of four kids trying to navigate their way through a particularly shonky looking dungeon with the help of the immortal awesomeness figure that is Tregard, or Hugo Myatt as he is known outside of the series. Incidentally, my respect for TV show presenters Dick and Dom has gone up immeasurably since I found out that they had Hugo Myatt on as a special guest on their show. Legendary.

The main draw of Knightmare was the hilariously cheesy action from episode to episode, as well as watching kids develop what my co-writer Brad Harmer refers to as "left-right dyslexia", where they temporarily mix up which direction is which. Not quite Indiana Jones, these kids. I can only imagine how that film franchise might be different if Dr. Jones had suffered from the same affliction. The intro sequence would have been shorter, as I guess the franchise itself would have been as well.

Who, then, would be appropriate to play the titular roles of Tregard and the villain, Lord Fear? Presumably you'd want two people familiar with the experience of role-playing games. You'd also probably want them to be used to trying to outdo each other at every opportunity. Better yet, you'd want two people who are experienced at hating each other's faces. Where are you going to find two people like that, I wonder?

Easy. Brad Harmer and Robert Wade of Emotionally Fourteen.


I cannot emphasise enough how serious I am about this. Brad and I would be awesome hosts for a new version of Knightmare. Let's skip the obvious fact that it would give us that leg-up into the public domain that this site so sorely deserves. I mean, we've got so many awesome segments it makes my face bleed! Not literally, you understand, but almost - it trickles occasionally. The main reason I can say with such certainty that we'd be good at hosting a funny and entertaining role-playing experience is simple:

It's called Dickass DM. We do it every other Friday. It is, to quote a famous philosopher, "the tits".
DRAGON STORM OUT NOW

An ancient land is bombarded by a terrifying meteor storm. As the fireballs wreak havoc, no one can foresee this is just the beginning of a horrendous nightmare, with an invasion of demonic dragons about to be unleashed upon the world.

In a desperate battle to survive, two warring kingdoms must put aside their bitter rivalry and combine forces. King Fastrad (John Rhys-Davies) calls on the deadliest hunters to face their fears and take on the greatest prey ever seen.

In the ultimate battle for humanity, can the dragon slayers save their people from annihilation?

Thanks to our friends at Revolver Entertainment, we've got a copy of Dragon Storm to give away! For your chance of winning it, send us an e-mail to dragonstormgiveaway@yahoo.co.uk with your name and postal address before midday on Monday 31st May (UK time). The first name drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

DVD Reviews

Where The Wild Things Are
Starring: James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Max Records
Director: Spike Jonze
Warner Home Video

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD)& £22.99 (Blu-ray + DVD Combi)
Review by Brad Harmer

Nine-year-old Max runs away from home and sails across the sea to become king of the land where the Wild Things are. King Max rules a wondrous realm of gigantic fuzzy monsters - but quickly learns that being king may not be as carefree as it looks.

I’ve never read the book. I doubt I’m ever going to. So this is purely the film on its own merits.

The main hurdle I had to desperately try and overcome with Where the Wilds Things Are is how unlikable the main character is. Max is grumpy, antisocial, and has a violent temper. His behaviour throughout is repugnant and obnoxious, and that makes him terribly hard to identify this. This isn’t a criticism of the actor playing him, you understand (the dubiously named Max Records...sounds liked somebody The KLF would have been signed by in the 90s). Records acts the part well – it’s the the character is unlikable.

Secondly, the transfer to DVD is very dark. I had to adjust the settings on my TV to make some parts visible. Not exactly great for a major studio release.

There are some parts that work, Max Records and James Gandolfini are both fantastic, and the set design is great. The desert/woods/hills are very attractive in a strange, desolate way. The final scenes of the movie are genuinely moving.

Unfortunately, it’s just not all that fun to watch. It boils down to being a very slow moving and heavy handed morality tale. This is obviously supposed to be a kids movie for grown-up-kids (and I think I fit that demographic)...but I wasn’t enchanted. I was just bored.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Building smashing, some biting, mutilation.
Sex/Nudity: All of the Wild Things are nude.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A rather stilted and dull morality tale, that will doubtless please most critics, bore most adults and confuse most children. A wasted opportunity. 5/10

Ninja Assassin
Starring: Naomi Harris, Rain, Rick Yune
Director: James McTeigue
Warner Home Video

Available Now - £19.99 (DVD) & £26.99 (Blu-ray & DVD Combi)
Review by Brad Harmer

Raizo is one of the deadliest assassins in the world. Taken from the streets as a child, he was transformed into a trained killer by the Ozunu Clan, a secret society whose very existence is considered a myth. But haunted by the merciless execution of his friend by the Clan, Raizo breaks free from them...and vanishes. Now he waits, preparing to exact his revenge.

In Berlin, Europol agent Mika Coretti has stumbled upon a money trail linking several political murders to an underground network of untraceable assassins from the Far East. Defying the orders of her superior, Ryan Maslow, Mika digs into top secret agency files to learn the truth behind the murders. Her investigation makes her a target, and the Ozunu Clan sends a team of killers, led by the lethal Takeshi, to silence her forever.

If Robert E. Howard had ever written a story about ninjas, it would be Ninja Assassin.

Packed to the rafters with absolutely amazing kung-fu sequences and over-the-top gore, this is a fun blast of a Kung-Fu Movie. Watching it, I felt like I was back in the 80s, in all the best ways possible. This is how you make an action movie!

The plot itself is nothing that we haven’t seen a hundred times over – most likely during our teenage years when we were renting any old piece of crap that had an explosion or someone wearing a bandana on the cover – but that doesn’t matter too much. If anything, it actually adds to the warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia you get from being able to see a non-stop brainless action movie again.

It has no ulterior motive, it has no political agenda, philosophy or point to make. Ninja Assassin sets out to be a fun, kung-fu movie. And it succeeds.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Constant, fast and bloody.
Sex/Nudity: Rain is topless most of the time.
Swearing: Some, but not a lot.
Summary: A highly enjoyable, gory blasy of retro kung-fu action. Great brainless fun with some fantastic sequences. 8/10


Second Opinion: An enjoyable gore fest that it’s let down by poor special effects and a paper-thin plot. At the end of the day, the reason I ended up liking this film less and less was that I actually thought about it. If you take your brain out before going to see this film and focus on the endless killing then you will love this film. If you think about how stupid the plot is or how crap the special effects are then you will end up hating it. Just focus on the Hot Ninja Death Rampage and then you’ll probably think that this is the most Emotionally Fourteen film you have seen since Commando. It is because of this E14 factor, that this average film gets a couple of bonus points. 7/10 - Blake Harmer


Attack of the Crab Monsters
Starring: Pamela Duncan, Richard Garland, Russell Johnson
Director: Roger Corman
In2Film

Available Now - £4.99 (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

To study the effects of nuclear weapons tests, a group of scientists travel to a remote island, only to get stranded when their airplane is destroyed. However, the team soon discover that the plane is the least of their worries when they find out that the island has been taken over by crabs that have mutated into enormous, intelligent monsters, able to communicate telepathically via metal objects. Not only that, but the island is also slowly sinking into the ocean. Will the scientists survive the crabs and the sinking island and make it home safely?

Sadly, this question isn’t truly answered by this film, as it possibly has the most abrupt ending to a film ever; ending after the big finale with the plot resolution lasting about 5 seconds. The film has other flaws as well, such as its questionable storytelling and scriptwriting. A perfect example of this happens only minutes into the film, when a character is found with his head cut off in the water. However apart from a brief mention of the catastrophe, no investigation into the death is carried out, as they would have realised it was a giant crab if they just looked into the water.

However, despite these annoying plot devices and the feel that had to keep the film to an hour long as they couldn’t afford any film. This 50s B-Movie monster movie holds all the usual fun-if-a-little-far-fetched feel. The crabs look good for their time although obviously horribly dated by today’s standards, the acting is cheesy, and there’s the usual science is the cause of this abomination style storyline.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
very little death or violence is shown as it is mostly done from off screen with a scream when a character dies, as is quite usual with B-movies of the era.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None - the worst you get are people calling each other cowards...in a word...lame.
Summary: Your typical B-movie with all the storyline, giant monsters and explosions that you can expect. However, when compared to other films of its type, Attack of the Crab Monsters has nothing new to offer. So unless you’re a big fan of Roger Corman movies, or like the idea of giant crabs but don’t want it to take too much time out of your day to watch, then I can’t really recommend it to you unless you want to witness one of the most abrupt endings in cinema history. 5/10

Friday, 21 May 2010

Dickass DM

Remember good, old-fashioned gamebooks? They promised all the fun of a role-playing game, with none of the social interaction - what more could an teenage boy desire? The thing is, that while the gamebook became a great gaming experience in its own right, the only RPG it could possibly have simulated was one being GM'd by Satan himself. 90% of decisions led to certain death, and combat was often fatal.

Satan wasn't available, so Brad will be GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic Ian Livingstone Fighting Fantasy gamebook Armies of Death.

Brad is the GM, and Rob plays his character, General Braggart.


Brad: Fame and fortune are two things which most adventurers crave and, having survived Baron Sukumvit's infamous Deathtrap Dungeon, you now have both. It was thought impossible for anybody to battle their way successfully through the deadly dungeon in Fang, which was protected by the baron's cunning Trialmasters. Yet, somehow you survived and claimed the purse of 20,000 Gold Pieces in the Trial of Champions. Now, wherever you walk in Fang, you are cheered, and in the taverns where you drink, people ask you about your perilous journey through the dungeon.

General Braggart: It was a piece of piss, I don't even remember doing it!
Adoring Fan #1: Was there a Bone Devil in the dungeon?
Adoring Fan #2: Did you see the beautiful Siren?
Adoring Fan #3: How did you overcome the Liche Queen?
General Braggart: Slow down, are any of you planning to buy me a pint?
Adoring Fan #4: What does a Coldclaw look like?
General Braggart: Thirst!
Adoring Fan #5: What is the colour of Mutant Orc's blood?
Adoring Fan #6: What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
General Braggart: African or European?
Adoring Fan #6: What? I don't know that! Aaaaaaggghhh!
Adoring Fan #5: What did you stab him for?

Brad: Everybody is in awe of you and wants to know all about the evil dungeon.
Rob: Seems it.
Brad: But the constant attention soon becomes tiring and you resolve to set off on another quest as soon as possible.

General Braggart: Bye. Hate you all. I'd rather risk death and injury than continue listening to your mouths flap. Fuck off. The lot of you. I hope I die.


Brad: Besides, there is a new threat to Allansia which is gathering strength in the East.
Rob: Allansia sounds like a building society
Brad: It was originally called "Notmiddleearth". Before you set off, you decide to spend some of your hard-earned prize money. You commission a small castle to be built for you on the south bank of the River Kok while you are away; with the remaining 6,000 Gold Pieces you decide to hire soldiers to make an army!
Rob: Result!
Brad: Yeah, they finally did it, huh? A gamebook for PowerGamers.
"What do I start with?"
"A castle and an army."
Recently there have been sightings of a large number of Orcs and Goblins in the Forest of Fiends.
Rob: And alliteration fans!
Brad: True. Let’s alliterate wherever possible. There is a rumour that their leader is Agglax the Shadow Demon.
Rob: Hunh.
Brad: Yeah, that's a bit of a let-down. Does Shagglax the Shadow Demon work better for you?
Rob: Shagglax the Shadow SDemon
Brad: Sounds likes something from a JRPG. I'm game. A Shadow SDemon, as everybody knows, is a servant of the Demon Princes and a commander of the Legions of the Ldamned. Since their banishment to the Void after the First Battle of Titan, however, the Demon Princes were thought to have been defeated forever.
Rob: Ha, bitches.
Brad: And yet one of their servants is now reported to have been seen. This tale comes from an old scavenger calling himself Drek who discovered a ruined temple near Zengis.
Rob: How many of these names am I supposed to be memorising?
Brad: I dunno. You're taking notes right?
Rob: Dude, it's me. Rob.
Brad: Ugh.
Rob: I'll go back and take a few notes... Right, so... Forest of Friends...that sounds nice... River Kok...hehehe... Demon Prince... Purple Rain! Pu--urple Rain!
Brad: Scratching around in the dirt in search of anything he might be able to sell, Drek found a black clay pot, corked and sealed with black wax. His curiosity proved too much for him and he broke the pot on a stone, hoping that it might contain gold or jewels.
Rob: Tit.
Brad: But his excitement soon turned to terror at the sight of what happened next. As soon as the black pot broke apart, Drek was deafened by the most hideous and evil cry that he had ever heard in his life. Slowly a mist started to form, growing ever larger and darker, until it coaelesced in the shape of a black robe wrapped around a body that was invisible save only for two pulsating, blood-red eyes. Drek screamed in total fear, but the Shadow SDemon he had released simply turned and disappeared. The chaos-spawn was to grow again on Titan.
Rob: Ahhh, so it was him was it?
Brad: The emo band?
Rob: Yeah, that's the one.
Brad: On the strength of Drek's story, you post recruitment notices all over Fang. The honour of fighting alongside someone of your renown - with the added bonus of payment in Gold - draws a long line of hopeful warriors outside the tavern where you intend to hire your soldiers.
I think it's probably more the gold, though.
Rob: How much am I paying per person?
Brad: What am I? Your accountant?
Rob: I'm just making sure I'm displaying good business sense.
Brad: Many are alone, other come in groups, but all are eager to sign up.
Rob: I never come in groups. It's just awkward.
Brad: You haven't lived...
Some tell of old adventures, others of monsters slain. But you recognise the qualities you seek and before nightfall your troops are chosen. Not knowing what dangers you will face, you decide not to hire all the warriors who have come, so as to have some gold left for the journey.
This is a bit like The X Factor, really, isn't it?
Rob: Yeah... or The F Factor, in accordance with our alliteration guidelines.
Brad: Ah, yeah. You count the commission sheets and find that you have hired a hundred warriors, fifty Dwarfs, fifty Elven Archers and twenty knights. Nice, convient round numbers.
Rob: That is handy...
Brad: In the morning you buy food, provisions and baggage mules. Starting an army ain't cheap, bro. Hidden costs...
Rob: This is how they get you.
Brad: When everything is paid for, you are left with 700 Gold Pieces which you put in a wooden chest and strap to one of the mules. What shall we name the mule?
Rob: Clank.
Brad: You make your way to the town square where your small army is assembled. Each unit leader is handed a yellow banner with the symbol of a blazing sword emblazoned across it.


General Braggart: That's how I want to be remembered: on fire.

Rob: That's preferable compared to House of Hell.
Brad: You say that, but I know you're so up for giving that another bash this Hallowe'en. To the cheers of the citizens of Fang, you lead your army out through the East Gate towards an unknown and deadly foe. You have marched no more than two hundred yards when a fat, bearded man, huffing and puffing, runs up alongside you. He is dressed as a sea captain, although his uniform is dirty and crumpled, and his grubby hat is dented.

General Braggart: Ahoy, matey.
Captain: Begging your pardon, but would you listen to my offer? I have just docked my ship in Fang and found everybody full of excitement. It seems that you are the cause of it. They tell me that you are travelling East to fight some SDemon or something.
General Braggart: Slow down beardy, I never actually said I'd listen...
Captain: Well, I don't know about any Sdemons, but I'm willing to take you and your men on my ship as far as Zengis - for a small consideration, of course. Just think of all those miles you won't have to walk. Sail up the River Kok in Captain Barnock's good ship Flying Toucan!

Rob: Hehe...River kok...

Captain Barnock: And only fifty gold pieces am I asking for this luxury passage.

Brad: Hehe...luxury passage.

Captain Barnock: Now, that's a bargain is it not?

Rob: I’ll sail on the Flying Toucan. Although that's possibly the lamest name for a boat I've ever heard.
Brad: I'd never really noticed before, but you're right. The Flying Toucan is like calling something The Swimming Fish, or The Walking Person. Still, she'll do point eight past light speed. Following Captain Barnock, your lead your men down to the docks where the Flying Toucan is moored. It is an old ship and, like the captain, is in very poor condition.

Captain Barnock: Well, that was unnecessary.

Brad: But this hardly comes as a surprise to you, as nothing much of worth ever comes out of Port Blacksand.
Rob: That's why they call it "The Crap Port.". Among other reasons.
Brad: You tell your men to go aboard and pay Captain Barnock his fifty gold pieces. The captain shouts the order to set sail, and you watch the motley crew from the bridge as they haul on the ropes, climb the rigging and unfurl the sails. Within twenty minutes, Fang has faded from view as your river journey gets under way. Everybody is in high spirits and even the Dwarfs and Elves forget their differences and chat together, united in their desire to rid Allansia of the Shadow SDemon. At the bow you see a group of warriors leaning over the side of the ship, staring at the river. Suddenly, one of them points upriver and shouts:



Warrior: Look!
General Braggart: Okay!
Warrior: A barrel, floating towards us.
General Braggart: That's fucking anticlimactic!



Brad: Could have been worse. “Look! Water!”. You look over the side and see the large, sealed barrel bobbing in the waves.



General Braggart: Look! A seal...on the barrel. Let's get into a habit of mooching stuff, grab that barrel! Donkey Kong is close...



Brad: A bare-chested warrior dives ino the river and swims to the barrel. A rope is thrown to him, and he ties this round the barrel before being hauled up by the deckhands.



Warrior: Ow! My deckhands!
General Braggart: You've got two more! Stop whining!



Brad: With a buzz of excitement, the lid is prised off the barrel. But the contents are disappointing - the barrel is half filled with apples.
Rob: Only half?! Damn! Toss them overboard, they're probably poisoned or something.



Sir McSpindle: It's a good decision, sire. No good ever came of Vitamic C on a boat, anyway.



Brad: The barrel lands in the water with a splash and soon floats away and out of sight.



General Braggart: Hopefully that'll mean it'll be out of mind before too long as well.




Brad: As she rounds a bend in the river, the Flying Toucan suddenly comes under attack. A large fireball flies through the air towards you, hurled from a wooden catapult that is stationed on the south bank.
Rob: OMGWTFBBQ?!
Brad: Under the covering fire, twenty River Raiders jump into their log canoes and paddle quickly over to the Flying Toucan. The fireball whistles by between the masts, and lands harmlessly in the river. Before the River Raiders close with your ship, another fireball is flung from the catapult.
Rob: Jesus, this game book reads more like my life than any of the others.
“You are attacked by unemployment.”
“Okay, I look for a job.”
“Kidney Infection! Fuck you!”
Brad: The fireball lands with a splash in the river, well short of the Flying Toucan.
Sir McSpindle: It's a good thing you're such a brave and intelligent leader.
General Braggart: Shut up, you're just a brain in a jar in my bag!
Sir McSpindle: Sire? I'm right here.
General Braggart: Not for long.
Brad: The River Raiders (Not to be confused with the Oakland Raiders) are obviously unaware of the number of soldiers on board your ship, otherwise they would not have attacked with only twenty men.
Rob: I wouldn't have any fear if it was the Oakland Raiders.
Brad: As they draw closer, no more fireballs are released by the catapult and you must decide what to do.
Rob: Let them come aboard...
Sir McSpindle: You have a plan?
General Braggart: These decks need a good swab with Raider blood! Let's show them how we, the New Allansian Patriots, do it!
Brad: McSpindle daubs an epic "12" on his breastplate.
General Braggart: Right, so you're the Quarterback. Let me slice off 75% of your spinal column.
Sir McSpindle: Did I offend you in some past, or future life?
General Braggart: What? It'll work. Madden says so.

Brad: You order your men to stand back from the sides of the boat so as not to scare off the River Raiders. There's that alliteration again. Grappling-hooks are thrown up from the canoes, and the Raiders begin to climb up the ropes, yelling and screaming. As they climb on deck, they are greeted by twenty Elvish archers with their arrows trained on them.
Sir McSpindle: Do those work as melee weapons?
General Braggart: Greetings, simpletons!

Brad: Ten are captured without a fight before the others realise what is happening and dive into the water to scramble back aboard their canoes. You offer the ten cut-throats the chance to serve in your army or face slavery under Captain Barnock. They have little choice and accept your offer immediately.
General Braggart: Thought you might.
Brad: You relieve their leader of a particularly fine shield and place it on your arm.
Rob: +1 Shield of Win!
**General Braggart has acquired +1 Shield of Win**
Brad: So, with some unexpected additions to your army, you instruct Captain Barnock to sail on. You sail on without incident for another hour when somebody spots a log floating downriver with a man lying across it, face down and motionless, his limbs trailing in the water.
Elf Chief Wheezy: Look, sir! Gollum!
General Braggart: Poor Mario...
Brad: Do you want to rescue the man, or sail on, blanking the log, and never speaking of it ever again?
Rob: Rescue the man!
Brad: A Warrior dives into the water and swims over to the log.
Cripps The Barbarian: He's dead. And there's an Orc knife sticking out of his stomach.
Sir McSpindle: Any sign of what killed him?
Cripps The Barbarian: There's also a gold key hanging from his neck on a piece of string. Shall I take it?
General Braggart: Yes. Take the key.
Brad: Cripps the Barbarian takes the key from around the dead man's neck before letting him drift on downriver to the sea and a watery grave.
Sir McSpindle: Nice.
Brad: Cripps the Barbarian them swims back to the ship and hands you the key.
Rob: Good man. Moochy Moochy.
Brad: Inscribed on the barrel you see the number "222". Making a mental note of the number, you slip the key inside your pocket and order Captain Barnock to sail on.
General Braggart: Airport locker. Gotta be.
Brad: A few miles further upriver, you come across a bearded man with ragged hair, standing on the north bank. He is dressed in animal furs and is waving his arms at you, gesturing for you to stop. Doesn't he review our wrestling DVDs?
Rob: I think he does. Hang on, I'll check.
General Braggart: Omer? Is that you?

Rob: Let’s sail over to him.
Brad: You sail to the north bank to find out what the ragged man wants. As you draw close, nine other men emerge from the bushes but do not raise their weapon.
Sir McSpindle: Clever girl...
General Braggar: Clever girl? You gay or something?
Brad: The one who waved to you drops his arms and shouts...
Rob: "Don't panic, I'm Islamic?"
Omer: Greetings, stranger. I and my fellow Northmen have heard of your noble quest and wish to join your army.
General Braggart: Will you accept payment in Heavyweight Title compilation DVDs?
Omer: For ten gold pieces a man, we will fight by your side to the death if duty calls.
Rob: How many of them are there?
Brad: Ten. That's a hundred gold coins, if you can't do the math.
Rob: Cheers. Let’s Hire them.
Brad: You pay Omer 100 gold pieces and give the order for him and his men to climb on board ship.
General Braggart: Wooo!
Brad: As you set sail once more, Omer walks over to you.
Omer: Would you allow me to bestow a gift upon you?"
Sir McSpindle: Oooooh! I'll get the thumbtacks.
General Braggart: Yeah, go on then.
Brad: Omer reaches inside his furs and pulls out a long, curved tooth, attached to a leather thong.
Omer: This is the tooth of a Yeti.
General Braggart: And...the thong?
Omer: If you wear it, you will never be attacked by Werewolves or any other Lycanthropes.
General Braggart: Fuck, are there nasty things in this place we're going?
Omer: It is my wish that you should have it, as you are prepared to die to save Allansia.
Brad: You let Omer place the tooth round your neck and them tell him as much as you know about the Shadow SDemon as you sail on Upriver.
**General Braggart acquired Sex Toy of Were-Warding**
Brad: Some time later, Captain Barnock walks over to you and says:
Captain Barnock: We'll soon be dropping anchor for the night.
Cripps the Barbarian: You mean this has been one day?
Captain Barnock: Would you and your men like to sleep here on the deck of my ship or would you prefer to find somewhere more comfortable on land?
General Braggart: Deck is fine.

Brad: Not long after midnight, something disturbs your sleep and you wake to see a bright moonlit sky. Barely moving your head, you look left and right and see a shadow moving near some barrels tied amidships. On the bridge there is no sign of the lookout and you immediately sense danger. Grabbing your sword, you tip-toe towards the barrels, crouched down. Something that glints in the moonlight is suddenly hurled at you without warning. A silver trident flies over your head and thuds into a mast behind you. A nimble figure then runs out from behind the barrels and dives over the side of the ship into the water, making the quietest of splashes. You look over the side, but see no head rise to the surface. Whoever or whatever attacked you must be an excellent underwater swimmer. You walk over to the barrels and see watery webbed prints on the deck. Perhaps those made by a fish man.
Rob: Fish fman.
Brad: By now many of your men are awake; none of them appears to have come to any harm, apart from the lookout who is nursing a sore head, having been attacked from behind by the midnight raider.
Sir McSpindle: I've never heard it called that before.
Brad: An extra man is put on watch whilst everybody else settles down to sleep again. Not long after dawn, Captain Barnock gives the order to set sail upriver. Two hours later, the tranquility of the river trip is suddenly disturbed by a shout from the crow's nest.
General Braggart: Crow!
Sailor: River Pirates! River Pirates!
General Braggart: Sharpen your shishkebabs boys!
Rob: Sorry, we're nautical aren't we?
General Braggart: Sharpen your shishkebabs, buoys!
Brad: Captain Barnock reaches for his telescopy and fumes and curses as he focuses on the ship coming downriver at full speed.
Rob: Telescopy? is that his nickname for it? Because if it is, it's a shit one.
Brad: It was a typo, but it was such an awesome one, I'm making it canon.
Rob: Good call.
Brad: He hands you the telescopy and you see the reason for his concern.
General Braggart: The lens cap is on, simpleton!
Brad: The pirate ship is of the type built by Northmen, exceptionally sturdy and with a huge iron ramming-spike protuding from the bow.

Omer: Yeah, you want to watch out for that.
General Braggart: Bollocks.
Brad: Double rows of oars extend from each side of the ship, giving added speed; the Flying Toucan is obviously no match for the pirate ship, which steers a ramming course. Captain Barnock starts to fluster, not knowing what to do.
Captain Barnock: G’yar. I be incompetent.
General Braggart: Oh good. Turn towards the northern bank! Let's hope they've not gone bust.
Sir McSpindle: What?
General Braggart: Never mind.
Brad: Captain Barnock has the Flying Toucan moored to the riverbank long before the pirate ship is upon it, and you order your men to jump ashore. Quickly you line up the Elven Archers along the bank and order them to be ready to fire on the command. When the pirate ship is close enough, you shout across to its captain, telling him not to ram the Flying Toucan as there is no treasure on board. If he wants treasure, he will have to come ashore and fight for it.
Sir McSpindle: I'm a hundred per cent positive I did not agree to this plan.
TO BE CONTINUED...


THE A-TEAM CHARACTER PROFILE: FACEMAN

The A-Team follows the exciting and daring exploits of Hannibal Smith and his colorful team of former Special Forces soldiers who were set up for a crime they did not commit. Going ‘rogue,’ they utilize their unique talents – and eccentricities – to try and clear their names and find the true culprit.

video



HIDEO KOJIMA COMES TO LONDON

Konami Digital Entertainment has announced details of the UK leg of Hideo Kojima & Yoji Shinkawa’s promotional tour for the upcoming Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker title for PSP.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker picks up where Metal Gear Solid III: Snake Eater for the PS2 leaves off, as players take control of the famed Naked Snake. Taking place in 1974, it features original game design, story and scenario by Kojima. Scheduled to launch June 18th 2010 in the UK, the game takes the series in an exciting new direction with its incredible visuals and its unique new game system designed specifically with the PSP system in mind.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is on both UMD and download formats, and Hideo Kojima & art director Mr. Shinkawa will be attending two very special signing events to celebrate its launch. On launch day itself, they will be signing exclusive inlays at HMV’s flagship store 360 Oxford Street, London W1 in. They will be signing from 4pm to 6pm.

On June 19th, Mr. Kojima & Yoji Shinkawa will be hosting a second signing at the UNIQLO store at 331 Oxford Street, London W1 from 11am to 1pm. He will joined by his long-term Art Director Yoji Shinkawa, and they will be signing copies of the game or a limited edition postcard, in honour of UNIQLO’s brand new, exclusive range of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker inspired T-shirts. UNIQLO will have the shirts on sale at the event, and each shirt comes with a code that, when entered into the new game, will unlock the item within Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.