Saturday 31 July 2010

DVD Reviews

Clash of the Titans
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson, Sam Worthington
Director: Louis Leterrier
Warner Home Video

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

When the son of God Zeus, Perseus (Sam Worthington Terminator: Salvation and pretty much any other action film recently), is helpless to save his family from Hades, vengeful god of the underworld, he volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat Hades before he can seize power from Zeus (Liam Neeson - Fallout III, Darkman) and unleash hell on earth. However, with the odds stacked against Perseus and his warriors, will Perseus accept his power as a demi-god to defeat Hades?

Let's get one thing straight about Clash of the Titans: it is an action movie. This is not meant to be an Oscar winning performance about Greek Mythology; it is about spectacular special effects and lots of action and violence, and considering that is what it set out to do, Clash of The Titans delivers by the bucket full. From Giant Scorpions to flying demons to the evil Medusa itself, the film has some brilliant monsters, superbly brought to life with great special effects. These monsters also means the action never lets up too, and you are treated to lots of death and destruction, especially in the films climactic battle.

However, the film does have its weak points. I would have liked to have seen a bit more character development amongst the other warriors that Perseus is with, as I didn’t really have any feelings towards when they died, which led to a sort of “oh, he’s dead, ah well” mentality whilst watching the non-stop action. I can only assume that this was done to cram in some more action scenes. The film is also a case of style over substance in many cases, with the action taking priority over the plot, which normally means that the passage of time can advance quite quickly to the next battle with very little addition to the plot aside from a brief explanation.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Lots of high action set pieces, with some cool deaths, especially in the fight against the Medusa.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Mild profanity, but there is hardly any swearing at all. We obviously like our Greeks to be gentleman like in their bloodletting.
Summary: If you’re after a good brainless action movie to cover an evening, you can’t go wrong with Clash of The Titans. It set out to be a brainless action movie with good special effects, a lot like the original Harryhausen movie before it (even though it is even more brainless than the original), and like the original, it succeeds on what it set out to do. 8/10

Second Opinion: A spectacular, pulp-fantasy ride of a movie. Sure, it’s brainless, arcade fun, but that’s what it tried to be, and it has succeeded. 10/10 - Brad Harmer

Starring: Hitomi Hasebe, Aya Kiguchi, Takumi Saito
Director: Noboru Iguchi
Showbox Media Group

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD) & £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Blake Harmer

Robo-Geisha is - and I have seen quite of a lot Asian cinema - probably one of the weirdest films I have ever seen. From acidic breast milk to a giant castle robot walking up Mount Fuji with the intent of blowing up Japan with a bomb seventeen times more powerful than a nuclear weapon, you really don’t know what to expect next.

When Yoshie and her sister who is a Geisha is abducted by the Kageno Steel Corporation to be trained as a secret army of female Geisha assassins, the two sisters attempt to out do each other to be the best by having robotic implants put inside them. However, when Yoshie is double crossed, she sets out to destroy the Kageno Steel Corporation, who intends to take over the world through military armaments (hence the large atomic bomb), with the help of the parents and guardians of the other girls who have been abducted and turned into vicious killers.

It is the insane weapons that are the star of this film, from the swords that come out of Robo-Geisha’s armpits, mouth and buttocks to her wig which can open up and fire napalm at her attackers, you always find yourself surprised at what you're going to see next. It is this over the top feel that gives this tongue in cheek action film most of its laughs.

However, it is probably this over the top feel that also provides the films biggest flaws. The film’s poor special effects let it down in places, but at the same time makes you wonder if it is meant to be shonky to add to the humour, because I probably wouldn’t have laughed at some parts if the special effects were up to scratch. It is this doubt as to whether some of the humour is intentional or unintentional which leaves you to question whether the film takes itself seriously at all, which means that Robo-Geisha can be easily dismissed as a shonky curio rather than to be treated as a decent comedy.

Despite these crippling flaws however, Robo-Geisha knows it is mad and tongue in cheek, and as long as you go in expecting this from the movie, then you will not be disappointed.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Lots of mad, OTT violence where you don’t expect how the next death is going to occur, will they be killed by shuriken fired from an assassin’s buttocks, breast mini-gun, or from acidic milk being fired from their breasts? It really is that insane.
Sex/Nudity: None, to my recollection. It could well be that I was so bedazzled by the sheer madness of the film that I just simply didn’t notice any.
Swearing: Quite a fair amount of swearing, and it is normally said in an over the top amount of rage before the violence and gore continues.
Summary: This film is very hard to be described with sheer words, (hence why this review has been incredibly difficult to write). The film is heavily flawed with terrible special effects, a paper-thin plot, and some poor acting. However, the film is so over the top and tongue in cheek that you can almost forgive it for all it’s shortcomings and enjoy it for the madcap bloodbath that it is. Fans of Asian comedy and gore films should give this a try, I am certain though that this is definitely not for everyone’s taste though. 7/10

Slumber Party Massacre
Starring: Debra Deliso, Andre Honore
Director: Amy Holden Jones

Available Now - £5.99 (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

When an eighteen-year-old high school girl is left at home by her parents and she decides to have a slumber party, she invites her friends as well as the new girl at her school. However, when the girl overhears the other girls saying her distaste for her at school she decides to stay at home with her younger sister. Meanwhile, a murderer who likes to kill people with his power drill is on the loose, and eventually makes his way to the party. Will the girls survive, and will the new girl be able to save them (especially as she lives conveniently across the street from the party)?

As one can expect with a lot of Roger Corman movies, this film is downright shash. The murderer never explains why he is killing people, as it seems to be out of boredom. The murders can be downright stupid. For example, a man is found dead in his car after being decapitated. This is coming from a murderer who kills people with a twenty inch drill (for what purpose a twenty inch drill bit has, I am still yet to find out). I am still waiting to see how someone can be decapitated with a drill but sadly, because you do not see this murder take place, I never will find out. The acting is cheesy, the plot clichéd, even for a film that came out when slasher flicks were fresh and original, and the fact the killer carries a drill around which obviously doesn’t have a power pack leads to disbelief the moment you first witness a murder.

The film does have a few saving graces though, the deaths can be quite gory at times, and the characters are so hateful that you actually celebrate when each of them is slaughtered.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Lots of death scenes, some believable, some not so. Plenty of gore to be seen though which will keep E14 fans happy for a little while before realising the terrible movie they are watching.
Sex/Nudity: You get boobs several times throughout the movie, and even within the opening minute. Which is a bonus E14 point in my book.
Swearing: Lots of swearing as is traditional in these sorts of films. It doesn’t stop it from being a big steaming turd of a movie though.
Summary: With so many brilliant slasher movies out there, it is nigh on impossible for me to recommend this movie unless you have a relative who was involved with the movie, and even then it would it only be to make you feel ashamed of them. There are enjoyable things to be seen here, but seeing as other movies do the same thing only better, it’s probably best you avoid this. 4/10

WWE: Extreme Rules 2010
Starring: Batista, John Cena, Edge
Clear Vision

Available from Monday 2nd August - £17.99 (DVD)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

Extreme Rules is the pay-per-view that replaced Backlash, the traditional backstop after the extravaganza that was Wrestlemania. It is used to create new storylines for the year ahead and advance new talent. Well...It used to...

“Operation: Stick-Everyone-In-Front-Of-A-Camera” is go in the first match as The Miz and Big Show run a gauntlet comprising of R-Truth and John Morrison, MVP and Mark Henry, and The Hart Dynasty. What could have been a complete clusterfuck of a match actually turned out to be a well paced, fun contest.

CM Punk puts his hair on the line against Rey Mysterio in a highly athletic affair full of intricate high spots. Very entertaining.

Strap Matches are known to be predictable and boring, but JTG and Shad Gaspard try to change this stereotype. They fail.

An Extreme Rules match has some rules. Or none. I’m not sure. Either way, Randy Orton and Jack Swagger have one over the World Heavyweight Championship. Not a bad match, but not outstanding. On the plus side, Orton doesn’t wrestle at the speed of paint, and it’s an improvement.

Yup, Sheamus is still shite, even though Triple H tries incredibly hard to get him over.

The Women’s Championship is up for grabs as Michelle McCool defends against Beth Phoenix. Apparently its an Extreme Makeover match. I’m not sure what that is, either, but I think it translates to “Incredibly Violent Sexism”. The two girls go all out, cracking each other with buckets, brooms and ironing boards. It pays off, actually, and is really quite a good match.

A steel cage lowers into the arena as Edge and Chris Jericho are locked inside. What follows is an incredibly innovative cage match in which both men exploit the fact that they have a cage to experiment with. The match is, however, let down by Edge’s face. The guy is a natural heel, and his “sadistic good-guy” routine is so badly done, that it is totally unbelievable. Without the suspension of disbelief, it all just seems so...fake.

In the main event slot, Batista gets a shot at John Cena and his WWE Championship in a Last Man Standing Match. It’s a slow, but really quite epic contest. They pretty much throw everything at each other and keep getting up, and the crowd really start to get into it. Add on an ingenious finish, and you have an impressive match.

Recommended matches:
Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk
Batista vs. John Cena

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Apparently cages and weapons don’t make you bleed any more.
Sex/Nudity: Men in pants.
Swearing: “You idiot!” is about as bad as it gets.
Summary: Not a bad PPV, but you can tell that all the good ideas were used up at ‘Mania. Grab it in the sales. 7/10

More than a decade in the making, the world's favourite real-time strategy game - Starcraft 2 - is finally returning. The original is still played by millions but this sequel makes the whole experience accessible and relevant to a whole new generation of players.

Once again you can choose to play as one of three races - the Terrans, Protoss and Zerg - as you're given complete control of their armies and their wildly different attack units and buildings. A new non-linear storyline featuring the human Terrans (expansion packs will cover the other two races) teaches the ropes and adds to the series' mythos with stunning new cut scenes.

It is online that the game really comes alive though, with ranked matches that instantly connect you to a player of the same skill level. Whichever way you play though the game combines all the action and immediacy of an action game with the complex strategy that has made the previous game such a legend.

Thanks to our friends at Blizzard, we've got three copies of Starcraft 2 on PC/MAC to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to with your name and postal address before midday on Saturday 7th August (UK time). The first three names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

Friday 30 July 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 a 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 Steve Jackson Fighting Fantasy gamebook Robot Commando.
Brad: So, what name are we giving your character?
Rob: Bragbot 5000.
Brad: So, you're telling me that Mr and Mrs 5000 named their little boy "Bragbot"? You're the pilot. Not the actual robot.
Rob: Oh...
Brad: It's still cool, dude.
Rob: Bragbot 3000.
Brad: Well, that makes much more sense. Fuck it.
Rob: Medi-packs in this only heal 1 Stamina?
Brad: Yes. Shit, aren't they? I'm assuming the reduction in healing power is to balance that this time you're in a Giant Fucking Battlemech.
Rob: When you put it like that...Yeah, fine.
Brad: You are a rancher in the land of Thalos.
Rob: Am I a jolly rancher?
Brad: You're jollier than most. Your people (and your enemies, the savage Karosseans) have built huge robots for many purposes. With a skilled operator at the controls, a robot can replace a hundred men - to mine ore, erect
Rob: Hehehe.
Brad: buildings, - move cargo, or just about anything else.
Rob: Hehehe, buildings...
Brad: The robots are also your best defence against the vicious dinosaurs of Thalos. Many years ago, the great lizards caused much destruction. I'm assuming the Dinosaurs and the Great Lizards merged at some point.
Rob: Probably. Or the Dinosaurs are Guns N' Roses, the Great Lizards are Velvet Revolver, that sort of thing. The Dinosaurs take an entire age to release an album, and there are none of the original Dinosaurs except the ginger one. Am I along the right lines?
Brad: But now, mankind has learned to tame the beasts,
Rob: Not to be confused with Cactus Jack.
Brad: and many of the folks of Thalos - like you - are dinosaur ranchers. I've got a feeling that the "hard sci-fi" of this isn't going to stand up very well. Fuck hard sci-fi. Give me Saturday Morning Cartoons any day.
Rob: If I have anything to do with it, nothing will stand up to scrutiny.
Brad: I mean, what would the point be in ranching dinosaurs? Apart from to spice up Pro Bull Riding on ESPN?
Rob: All the while, Scott Weiland gyrates around with an ex-dinosaur on guitar.
Brad: The ranchers use Mark 5A utility robots, known as "Cowboys", to herd the dinosaurs!
Rob: See? It's not just my guy with the numerical surname. This Mark 5A is a stupid name. What's wrong with "Mark Johnson"?
Brad: But wild dinosaurs are still dangerous, and all robots have guns to defend themselves.
Rob: What about my guns? What a crock. All I have is this glorious sword...
Brad: I'd have loved to have been on site for the production meeting of this.
"Dinosaurs, yes. Robots, yes. Swords, yes....but it's still missing something."
"How about cowboys?"
Early one morning, you are just finishing your breakfast when one of your assistants staggers into the kitchen.
Clank 200: So sleepy...
Brad: Clank sits down at the table, pillows his head on his arms and goes to sleep. You shake him, but you cannot rouse him. Alarmed, you go for help.
Rob: Shake him hard enough to make his ears bleed!
Brad: But everyone else you see is asleep. You Rush back inside and switch on a radio.
Rob: Ah, the Spirit of Radio...
Brad: But you can only get scraps of messages:
Radio: Everybody asleep...Korassean attack...
Bragbot 3000: Wait, who's broadcasting this message if everyone's asleep?
Radio: ...can't stay awake...
Brad: Soon there is nothing to be heard.
Bragbot 3000: Well, that answers my question.
Brad: You go outside again and pour cold water on several of your friends - but they just snore and mutter.
Bragbot 3000: Joke's on them, they'll wake up sodden.
Brad: Then, you hear a rumble overhead, like thunder out of the clear sky. You look up. Streaking overhead is the unmistakeable shape of a Karossean robojet.
Rob: Robojet? That's dire.
Brad: “Ah, the unmistakable shape of ...*crumple*”
You realise what must have happened. Somehow, the Karosseans have managed to put everyone in Thalos to sleep...everyone but you. Another thing you've failed at. Your parents must be so proud. For some reason, you are immune.
Bragbot 3000: Well, my parents would be proud, but they're probably asleep. assuming they survived that mine explosion.
Brad: Over the next few hours, you listen to the enemy communications and piece together the story.
Rob: How am I doing that? Do they do a podcast?
Brad: You're just...yeah. yeah, they do. In the past, the Karosseans had steered clear of Thalos; with its brave warriors and its many robots, your land was too tough to attack. But Minos, their leader, hit on a clever plan. His spies spread capsules of a virulent sleeping sickness - and before long - all Thalos was asleep. Soon you hear a broadcast from Minos himself, talking to his invading troops.
Rob: Interspersed with his favourite pop songs I presume...
Brad: An elite force of a thousand warriors, with hundreds of robots, has invaded Thalos. But this is only the beginning. With the population helpless, Minos plans to loot your...
***Lady Gaga break***
Brad: country. That's how smooth it is on shows, anyway. Its riches and its robots will be his; its people will be sold as slaves. And only you can stop it! You know what you have to do.
Bragbot 3000: Oh good, pressure.
Brad: You walk back inside and buckle your father's old sword to your waist. Unless you'd prefer it on your back, a la He-Man?
Rob: Back works
Brad: Shin? Anywhere except the chest, really.
Rob: Well, yeah, that'd be fiddly. Like having short pockets on a denim jacket.
Brad: Food will be no problem - you know supplies will be easy to find - but you pick up a supply of five medikits. Then you head for the robot parking-area.
Rob: Parking area?
Bragbot 3000: Ha! They whinged when I paved paradise to put this here... The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of robots.
Brad: Alone, you must defeat the Karossean invaders and free your land!
Rob: One sec. Gonna get a drink.
Brad: Way to kill the mood, Wadey boy...
Brad: What did you get?
Rob: Ice tea.
Brad: I have coke, because I can no longer function without caffeine. I'm like the Spacing Guild Navigators in the David Lynch version of Dune. In a big black canister full of the stuff.
Rob: I have decided to cut down on the coke today, I had some dentistry work done this morning.
Brad: Ah, I just don't go the dentist. I figure when I'm old, I'll just have an proboscis fitted.
At the robot parking area, you stop and look around.
Bragbot 3000: Where did I park my robot?
Brad: There are several robots there, but only two seem suitable for long-distance travel. You study they both.
Rob: Right. I doubt very much I'll miss out on a plot hook here, bearing in mind that they're both robots as opposed to one robot and one whisk.
Brad: You could take a standard "Cowboy" walking robot, which is not fast, but sturdy and adaptable, or you could take a light flyer, which is very speedy and manoeuvrable, but not really intended for combat
Rob: Cowboy!
Brad: Is that your answer or is your, frankly bizarre, type of Tourettes rearing its head again?
Rob: Mop-buckets!
Brad: We're going with A, because I don't have all night. Who the fuck am I kidding? Of course I do!
Rob: Cowboy, still, though.
Brad: This man-shaped robot is designed for dinosaur herding. It moves by walking. It has weapons for dealing with rogue dinosaurs, but they are not as powerful as those of a war robot.
Rob: I doubt very much that it'll be an issue. I anticipate no untoward combat will occur.
Brad: Yeah, what can possibly go wrong with this? We're just taking this through dinosaur infested wasteland to battle an invading alien army on our own. What's the plan?
Rob: What's the options?
Brad: You know that, although there are probably Karosseans everywhere, their base is at the Capital City.
Rob: Hmmm...Seems a little rash to go flying into the capital city...
Brad: But you can't just charge in there and attack them with your little robot!
Rob: Especially as my robot isn't a flying variety, and that would just be an expression...
Brad: You must prepare well before you make your move.
Rob: All right fine, let's build this well.
Brad: Fortunately, there are many cities in Thalos. You will be able to search the whole country for help, if need be, before you confront the invaders.
Rob: Sounds like a plan.
Brad: Two large cities are fairly close, The City of Knowledge, and The City of Industry.
Rob: Knowledge is for pussies, let's do Industry first. Capitalism FTW.
Brad: Indeed. You set a course for the City of Industry, a place of great factories and machinery. There, you reason, you might find a robot or invention that would give you an advantage over the invaders. After several hours of travel, you enter rocky terrain.
Rob: See, if there's fairness involved, I'll just find a lizard repellent. Considering how I was killed last time by, you know, local council inefficiency.
Brad: The path narrows, and you are forced to use both of your robot's hands just to climb. You wish you were in a vehicle that could just fly over all of this. Retard.
Suddenly, you hear a roar! Looking behind you, you see a huge Tyrannosaurus sprinting through the rocks at you! Jaws agape, it lunges towards you, and robot and dinosaur fall to the ground, grapping fiercely.
Rob: Robot vs Dinosaur fight!
Brad: This huge meat eater is the "King of the Dinosaurs", and attacks anything it sees to feed its savage appetite. You must fight it to the finish...

Thursday 29 July 2010

Book Reviews

Terra Incognita
Kevin J. Anderson
Little, Brown

Available Now - The Edge of the World (£7.99 (Paperback)) & The Map of All Things (£13.99 (Hardback))
Review by Kelly Prior

In The Edge of the World, we find ourselves smack bang in the middle of a religious war between two nations, Tierra and Uraba, the followers of Aiden and Urec, sons of the great “creator of all things” Ondun. When an honoured holy ground, Ishalem, is accidentally burnt to the ground, both nations believe the other to be the culprit. Amidst the chaos a ship is built to and chartered to travel further than any ship has ever sailed, beyond the horizon, to find the legendary Terra Incognita; the unknown lands, considered monster territory.

In the second instalment, The Map of All Things, the Uraban leader Soldan-Shah Omra and the Tierran Princess Anjine prepare strategies for war against each other. Meanwhile, Omra’s adopted son Saan sails to the uncharted Middlesea on a quest to find the Key to Creation, while Captain Criston Vora, a Tierran, builds a ship and undertakes a perilous mission to find the mysterious land of Terravitae. Criston lost his wife, Adrea, years ago, but what he doesn’t know is that his wife is still alive and well, and married to the enemy, raising their son under Uraban law...

The Edge of the World is difficult to get into, with a very slow and frustrating start. It is difficult to invest in characters singularly and it’s hard to grasp every detail of the complicated politics. The book has a remarkable amount of sub plots, which provides variety, but also causes frustration and confusion. Some of the plots are infectious and really tantalising, while others are slow and achingly dull. The cover art and the book’s title suggest that we are about to read a book full of exciting sea adventures and numerous encounters with conflict in the ocean. While there is the occasional sea serpent, and a great deal of time spent at sea, all the most memorable and important events seem to happen on land.

The Map of All Things begins with a really helpful summary of the first book, which is convenient if you have just read my review of the first book and decided to skip it. Do not fret, however, as The Map of All Things is a far more satisfying read. With a more exciting narrative and much faster plot development on offer, this book makes up for the disappointment of the first one. The Edge of the World is like The Fellowship of the Ring; it’s pretty much only there to establish the characters and setting. This book, as the second instalment, is where the real fun happens. The in-depth, complicated plot is much easier to grasp in this book, and much more entertaining. We are also given a great deal more sea-faring adventure in this novel, which includes under water cities and mer-people.

Anderson has an excellent way of making sure we feel impartial in the war at all times; we are bystanders, onlookers, not cheering either side, merely observing the war and revelling in the violence. The sieges and battles are very intense, and the war crimes and retaliations are truly harrowing. Anderson creates his cultures based on our real ones, for example the “Eye of Urec” and the quest to find the “Key to Creation”, allowing us to remain in familiar and comfortable territory and therefore empathise with the characters.

The commentary on religion is very poignant and can be easily related to any number of significant events in history, whether it’s warring nations or clashing religions. There is also a significant amount of romance in both novels, which helps readers to invest in the more emotional sub plots of the novels. Quite impressively, we are told in the Author’s Note that there are concept rock albums available online to accompany the stories, just in case reading in silence wasn’t epic enough! I checked out some of the songs, and, you know what? They are actually awesome!

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Battles, fighting, some gruesome descriptions.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: Download the music and read the books the way they are intended to be read. The first book is frustrating and unsatisfying, and you really can get away with not reading it, but the second book is actually so good that overall Terra Incognita gets 8/10

Solomon's Thieves: Book One
Jordan Mechner
First Second

Available Now - £9.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Solomon’s Thieves is a swashbuckling adventure set in medieval France, based on the historical events of the fall of the Knights Templar. It’s the story of a group of outlawed knights who band together, Ocean’s Eleven-style, to pull off the greatest heist of the 14th century.

If Solomon’s Thieves was a movie, if would be directed by Stephen Sommers, and be really, really good. The story grabs you really early, thanks to a staggeringly cinematic introduction, detailing a massive battle during the crusades, only to rapidly move forward to our three main protagonists.

The combination of high paced action sequences, light-hearted and endearing comedy scenes and hard historical fiction leads to a very interesting feel. The political machinations in the background add a layer of depth that you don’t expect during the first third of the book mostly given over to farts and fights. The artwork is excellent, with all of the characters bursting with life, and reflecting the mood of the scene brilliantly.

If you can find a copy, pick it up. It’s a great, fun read – and it will leave you busting for part two.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots of grappling, punching, shoving and sword waving. Some “off camera” torture. Sime huge battle scenes.
Sex/Nudity: Partial male nudity.
Swearing: Mild and infrequent.
Summary: An immensely fun, historical, pulp adventure, with artwork bursting with life and character. Hopefully we’ll see more of this. 8/10

Wednesday 28 July 2010

All Your Face Are Belong To Us

I feel like video gaming changed whilst I wasn’t looking. I am not, and never have been, especially into video games – but I appreciate that they’re fun, and I understand how people can get into them. I just feel like I blinked for two seconds, and then I was ridiculously out of touch. I switched off my Mega-Drive and before I’d pulled the cartridge out, everyone was running PS3s, Xbox 360s, and Wiis.

I get that large part of the video game industry these days comprise games that aren’t actually “games” in the conventional sense of the word. There are virtual cookery books, supposed “brain training”, cyberpets, and all other sorts of gadgets and doo-hickeys that people can do with their (let’s face it, mostly Nintendo) consoles. It’s still playing, people are still having fun...all is happy in video game world.

But I feel the urge to speak with something approaching authority. This is because I received news of an actual “game” in actual progress created by an actual company for an actual console. That “game”, ladies and gentlemen, is being made by Nintendo, for release on 24th September on their DSi and DSi XL consoles and it is called...

Face Training: Facial Exercises to Strengthen and Relax From Fumiko Inudo

The most healthy reaction (in case you were wondering) is a world weary “Fuck...”.

Are you looking a little stressed out lately? Then get ready to strengthen and relax up to six different areas of your face through simple, daily exercises with Face Training: Facial Exercises to Strengthen and Relax from Fumiko Inudo.

Before I received this e-mail, I didn’t know that there was even such a thing as “Face Training”. How do you train a face? What’s wrong with my face that needs training? Who is so upset with their face that they think a DSi game is going to hold the answer to all of their problems? Who at Nintendo thought this was a good idea? What were the ideas they rejected?

Why so serious?

Apparently, in much the same way that you “helped” “train” your “brain” with the Brain Training series of games, Face Training contains a series of simple exercises (presumably marketed as mini-games) to target specific areas of your face. Nintendo re-assures us that the exercises have all been “created in cooperation with Japanese Beautician & Specialist in the Muscles of Facial Expression, Fumiko Inudo”. It is reassuring then, that this game has been created under the expert guidance of someone we’ve never heard of, who’s a specialist in a field we were never aware existed.

But of course, it could be fun, with all sort of “Sorry, Mario, but the Princess is suffering from TMJ in another castle” style adventures and excitement. Check this out:

“Target the Ocular Muscle with an eye exercise that can help to ease tension around the eyes. Or try focusing on some different types of facial and neck muscles such as your Zygomaticus Major (cheek area), Orbicularis Oris (mouth area) or Trapezius (neck muscle) to name a few, which could all help you in your task to facial wellness.”.

Okay, that sounds fucking shit. Who is this aimed at, for cock’s sake? Let’s try spicing that up a little, and seeing if can’t capture the younger, hardcore gamer market.

“The Oculmar Mulcse Empire is attacking! Only you can target them with a series of eye exercises. Or focusing your forces on some different types of areas! Take off every Zygomaticus Major! Look to find the shard of the Orbicularis Oris to help rescue Princess Faical Lewslenn..”

The way the “game” works is simple, claims Nintendo. You simply put your Nintendo DSi or Nintendo DSi XL on the included stand (Presumably that’ll bump the cost up. Hooray.) and the inner camera will show a mirror-like image of you as you perform the exercises. Great. I’m going to be paying over the odds for a mirror, which I then have to mug at hilariously.

Things like this are why I hate video games. There will never, ever be a tabletop game based around exercising your face. Not until Wizards of the Coast figure out a way of making it collectible, anyway.

Of course, Face Training isn’t just content with being sanity burningly pointless. Face Training also wants to irritate your tortured soul to death. To that point, Nintendo have given life to Miles – the host of the game - who can be styled individually to your taste. Not to my taste, presumably. If I know video game “hosts”, the only way I want to see him is being brutally anally raped by Eddie from Iron Maiden.

As your virtual trainer, Miles will show the exercises on the left screen accompanied by a vocal explanation. You simply choose from a series of facial exercises and training sessions that focus on six different facial areas – eyes, cheeks, nose, mouth, jaw and neck – to find the ideal training for you. That’s the game. That’s your forty quid.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Nintendo game if it didn’t rely on some form of control gimmick. True to form the camera in the DSi detects your movements during the exercises. As a special feature you can take a photo and Miles will provide advice on that exercise. Give me a feature that’ll make him scream in terror as I point the camera at my own anus and you may have a deal.

So, how deep is this game? “more than 15 different guided exercises”. That’s less than you’d get in a fucking book.

But let’s wrap this up with a very simple question, to underline the pointlessness of this release – if such underlining is truly necessary.

Have you ever found yourself thinking “My face is really out of shape. I really wish I could train it.”?

No. Didn’t think so.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

The A-Team

The A-Team
Starring: Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson
Director: Joe Carnahan
20th Century Fox

In Cinemas From Friday
Review by Charlotte Barnes

Latest in a line of Hollywood blockbuster adaptations of classic television series, The A-Team follows the daring exploits of a colourful team of former Special Forces soldiers who were set up for a crime they did not commit. Going ‘rogue’ they utilise their unique talents to try and clear their names and find the true culprit.

John "Hannibal" Smith (Liam Neeson – Darkman, Excalibur) is held captive in Mexico by two corrupt officers working for the renegade General Tuco. Hannibal escapes and sets out to rescue Templeton "Face" Peck, who is held captive at Tuco's ranch. Hannibal saves Face after enlisting disgraced Ranger Bosco B.A. Baracus, driving to the rescue in B.A.'s modified – and still pretty iconic - van. Still running from Tuco, they manage to stop off at a nearby Army hospital to recruit the services of eccentric pilot H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock. They manage to escape through a series of hair-raising adventures, and much excitement!

"Eight years and eighty successful missions later", the team is a highly-regarded elite combat unit stationed in Iraq. Hannibal is contacted by CIA Agent Lynch (Nite Owl), who reveals that Iraqi insurgents possess U.S. treasury plates being used to manufacture counterfeit currency. Lynch wants Hannibal and his team to steal the plates and over one billion dollars in counterfeit cash that is due to be moved out of Baghdad.

Based on the original ‘80s American television series, The A-Team is well cast. It has a surprising mix of *splutter* decent actors! Bradley Cooper is an excellent choice as The Face, Quinton Jackson as B.A. Baracus, Sharlto Copley as Murdock (who was brilliant in District Nine, and gives a stellar performance in this role); it would seem that Liam Neeson as Hannibal is the only weakest link. Why is it that Neeson refuses to perform with any other accent than his strong Irish one? In this film he plays a hugely patriotic elite American soldier and yet he still can’t be arsed to learn another accent? I know he is a great and highly regarded actor, but come on being Qui-Gon Jinn will only allow you so many free passes!

What I think is so great about this film is the script. It pays homage to the original TV series without being too cheesy. Don’t get me wrong there are some serious tongue and cheek moments and you do have to take a leap of faith with the action sequences, but you will not be disappointed with this film. Comedy timing plays an important role, along with the diverse characters excellently portrayed by its varied cast working in conjunction with excellent special effects you are really on to a winner.

I went in expecting this film to be crass, over the top, hideous and, well, formulaic... It turns out that it IS all of those things, but this isn’t a negative thing. This is an action film that is just plain fun, it doesn’t take itself seriously and it manages to raise more than a few laughs. It is definitely worth a watch.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Plenty of violence, bullets, sweat and fire!
Sex/Nudity: Some nudity, but I wish there was more (clearly Bradley Cooper has been doing lots of sit ups to be in this film).
Swearing: Probably, but none of note.
Summary: This is a fun action film that I believe everyone will enjoy, and you do not have to have watched the original TV series in order to see the appeal of this film. Go to the cinema with a large bucket of popcorn and enjoy. 8/10


Starring Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman, this explosive and action-packed story of heroism and courage under fire follows American and Russian troops as they join forces in a desperate mission that could change the course of World War II.

The key to victory lies in the genius mind of one man – Nicky Raus, a Jewish scientist who is on the brink of developing a weapon of tremendous destructive power. When Nazi agents succeed in a daring operation to kidnap him, US Special Forces’ Frank Hossom is dispatched to bring the scientist back – dead or alive.

With the odds stacked against him and time running out, Frank teams up with Russian agents and mounts a desperate rescue mission to save the scientist from the clutches of the Nazis and their malevolent leader, General von Binding (Ron Perlman - Alien Resurrection, Blade II).

While the war rages on, the fight for ultimate victory starts here...

The Second Front is out on DVD from Monday, priced £15.99.

Thanks to our friends at Metrodome, we've got three copies of The Second Front on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to with your name and postal address before midday on Tuesday 3rd August (UK time). The first three names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

Monday 26 July 2010

My Top 5 Favourite Superhero Movies

Superheroes. What is it we love about them so much? Is it the fact that they get to perform things that we could scarcely dream of accomplishing? Is it the fact that often they come from humble beginnings, making us believe that anything is possible? Is it simply the fact that they wear their underwear outside their trousers, and many of us simply admire their forthrightness? Whatever it is, we all have our favourites and opinions, particularly on the subject of the movie conversions of our costumed favourites. Here then, in no particular order, are my Top 5 Superhero Movies.


If ever there was a vampire movie that should be held up as the archetypal definition of the genre, this is it. Are you listening, Twilight Saga folks? A scary vampire does not sparkle, it pulls out a length of sword and chops shit up on a regular basis. If it then pulls out guns and starts pasting them that way as well, so much the fucking better. I pay enough for cinema tickets nowadays that I should be able to demand that from vampire movies. In fact, I'd categorically state that I would see the next Twilight movie on first day of release if Pattinson went slash-happy with a folded steel blade.

Seriously, you'll thank me if the producers of the saga are Googling the films (which I suspect they are constantly) and come across this.

The film features a great cast of characters, with Wesley Snipes as the protagonist, a half-vampire all-black arse-kicking machine with a taste for chopping up vampire nads. Stephen Dorff is also awesome in this movie as the villain of the piece, Deacon Frost (who, cheesy name aside, is an awesome villain). Other performances of note include Kris Kristofferson, the country singer, as Whistler, Blade's friend and aide, and Udo Kier, who eagle-eyed viewers will spot in a shitload of films, including 2008's Far Cry.

What makes this film for me is a theme that will recur throughout this list: I like films where otherwise unstoppable characters are made vulnerable through their humanity, particularly if that character has any non-human qualities. This movie is a great example of this type of storytelling, with Blade restricted in his quest to pursue Frost a number of times during the film by his emotions, from saving a little girl that Frost throws into the middle of a busy road to discovering that someone he thought dead is actually alive in vampire form.

Plus, when the sun comes up, vampires crumble into fucking dust. That, my friends and E14ies, is how it should be done.

The Incredibles

Interestingly enough, this is the movie that inspired me to write this. Created by Pixar in 2004, The Incredibles is possibly one of my favourite cartoon movies ever, as well as being a really touching film about getting older and treating people with respect. Seriously, if that sounds implausible, watch the movie: you'll see what I mean.

What's great about this movie is that although it's a family movie, and some would argue that 'family-friendly = made for babies', the movie's really well done and is entertaining for all ages. If you've ever seen a superhero movie, an action film or even James Bond movies, then you'll find plenty to keep you entertained. Besides, the plot is a really clever one: A superhero keen to re-live his former glories is invited to do some secret work for an agency who are not what they seem, and he is forced to face the repercussions of his actions.

What's great at the same time is that the family is showing signs of conflict from trying to stifle the greatness in their kids. It does a really good message of showing that if you've got a talent, you shouldn't try to stifle it. It's a nice thing to be telling kids, because all too often they're enticed by this celebrity culture we've become that celebrates and rewards mediocrity through reality shows and 'talent' contests.

Wow, that was a little grim for talking about an animated film...As an added plus, the film features Samuel L. Jackson on vocal talents, as well as massively under-rated comic actor Jason Lee (or at least he was until My Name Is Earl), a worthy cast list for any animated feature.

Iron Man

This is the most recent movie on my list, and sees Robert Downey Jr. take up the reins as Tony Stark, an alcoholic playboy billionaire. Without being in the heads of the casting department, I can't imagine what their inspiration was for choosing Rob, but we have to respect their decision, as he is the absolute bollocks in this movie.

The film's paced really well, with the opening of the film dealing with Stark's shift from billionaire playboy with no conscience to billionaire playboy with a concept of how much his weapons fuck shit up. All it took was some shrapnel in the chest, and he was a changed man. Makes you think, doesn't it?...

Anyway, this film is in my list for a simple reason: It's bollocking awesome. The action is well done, and at no point does it look too CG-heavy. I've talked before about my dislike for CG and its overuse in movies, and Iron Man, although it does contain CG, never feels completely overdone in its use of computer effects.

Although this movie contains quite a few traditional cinematic cliché moments (protagonist realises the consequences of his until-now selfish actions, one guy who frowns through the first hour turns out to be a villain etc), Iron Man is done so well that you don't care. Plus Samuel L. Jackson is in it for all of two minutes, and it doesn't feel like he's been under-used simply because of the potential that his appearance opens up.

Batman Begins

Christopher Nolan is in the news all too often this week, as Inception receives rave reviews the world over. I've not seen it, but all the reviews I have seen of this movie lead me to believe that it's awesome sauce. However, so much of Nolan's work is overshadowed by his subsequent film of amazing successes that often we forget some of his great works. Some of you may be surprised not to see The Dark Knight in my top five, and I certainly like that film a heck of a lot. However, it's probably a close number six in my all-time pantheon of greatness, simply because (Heath Ledger aside) it's not an absolutely amazing film. Plus I didn't think they used Two-Face enough. His character's amazing.

The reason that this film occupies a higher place in my estimation than its successor is two-fold. Firstly, I think that as an origin story, it's one of the best I've ever seen. Credit to a certain extent must go to Frank Miller for his work on the inspirational comics, but Nolan does a great job of re-introducing Batman as a character that I should care about. The second one is that he had to simultaneously introduce Batman to a newer generation while at the same time renew his lifespan in the eyes of the fans who lost faith in the films after Joel Schumacher took over the reins. He successfully did both, and the movie was phenomenally successful.

Also, what the hell is so bad about Christian Bale's Batman voice? Everyone whines about how it sounds ridiculous, but the whole point of it is so that someone he knows as Bruce Wayne doesn't just go "Hey, that sounds like Bruce Wayne, the guy with countless billions who still has more sense than to buy an iPad." The sad thing is that in the next film, there probably will be some Apple technology in his building, as the yuppie machine gains momentum.


Everyone has a favourite movie in this franchise. This is my particular favourite. Generally, I tend to favour the origin stories when it comes to superheroes. As much as people hated The Punisher in 2004 (not the one in 1989 where Frank Castle flirted with homosexuality), I loved that movie because it did exactly what it set out to do, which was to establish the character and leave itself open for a sequel. As it is, they didn't take Thomas Jane across to the next movie with them, which I thought was a bizarre choice, but I enjoyed the second movie all the same for different reasons.

Spider-Man sees the origin of Peter Parker re-created as faithfully as can be expected from a Hollywood movie, and what follows is a blockbuster movie worthy of its success. One of the best things about the franchise is that the storyline has been one of the few in superhero series where the pacing has been bang-on, mainly when it comes to the storyline involving Peter Parker and Harry Osborn. Although I sometimes feel like too many people know he's Spider-Man by the time the third film comes around (which incidentally is why the other two don't make it into the list), the pacing for the rest of the movies is absolutely top-class. A great cast, with a particularly bollocking awesome performance from Willem Defoe as Norman Osborn, a cameo by Bruce Campbell and a scene involving wrestling. What more can you ask for in a movie?

Saturday 24 July 2010

DVD Reviews

Doctor Who: The Dominators
Starring: Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Patrick Troughton
Director: Morris Barry

Available Now - £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

The Dominators, self-acclaimed masters of the ten galaxies, and their robot servants, the Quarks, arrive on the planet Dulkis with evil intentions as the Doctor and his friends touch down for a peaceful holiday. Life is about to change dramatically for the pacifist Dulcians who, with no weapons on their planet, soon become enslaved to the Dominators.

The Dulcian Councillors, refuse to retaliate, however Cully, the rebellious son of their leader Senex, has already joined forces with the time travellers. The fight is on! The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe join a handful of determined Dulcians bent on outwitting the Quarks and struggling to escape the violent brutality of the Dominators.

But the whole planet is doomed to become a mass of radioactive material - fuel for the enemy's invasion fleet whose war mission will even spread to Earth unless the Doctor can devise an infallible plan...

I like Troughton. He’s tough but friendly, as the Doctor should be. Unfortunately, when the very first paragraph of the liner notes points out that this story is a little bit of a mess, and really not that good, you know that you’re in for a bumpy ride. And it’s true.

By the time the third episode has rolled around, there’s so much heavy dialogue going on that it’s hard to stay awake. There are developments, but after a while you don’t really know who’s were doing what, and you don’t really care all that much either. As Doctor Who stories go, this is pretty poor and one for completists only. And the liner notes agree with me.

The picture has been cleaned up a little for this DVD issue, but it’s a token gesture. There’s no real work gone into it, and it shows.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
The usual amount of Doctor Who style scuffling, lasering and so forth...
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A disappointing story arc that never really takes off. Of all the Doctor Who stories out there, it’s unclear why anyone would want to blow the dust off of this mess. 4/10

Boogie Nights
Starring: Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Mark Wahlberg
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Warner Home Video

Available Now - £6.99 (DVD) & £17.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

It's Los Angeles, 1977, and adult film director Jack Horner meets Eddie Adams, a well-endowed dishwasher in a nightclub. Jack recruits Eddie to be his newest star and Eddie, hungry for fame, quickly agrees, changing his name to Dirk Diggler. Soon Dirk is the hottest star in the porn industry, alongside Rollergirl, a high school dropout who never removes her roller skates, and Amber Waves, the veteran star who pines for the son she's not allowed to visit. On the fringes, Little Bill fumes while his wife cheats on him in public, and Buck Swope tries to escape the stigma of being a porn actor.

The good times roll, but before long Dirk falls victim to the pressures of stardom and a drug habit that ruins his career while Jack struggles with porn's conversion from film to cheaper videotapes.

I honestly didn’t much care for Boogie Nights when I first saw it back in ’98 or ’99. Whilst I didn’t think it was bad, it just left me cold – and I couldn’t see what the fuss was about. Viewing it now for a second time, I really enjoyed it. The humour is beautifully understated, and the acting is simply superb across the board; especially from Burt Reynolds whose turn as ambitious movie director Jack Horner is amazing. Boogie Nights is a fun, engaging movie, and well worth checking out.

This Blu-ray edition isn’t perfect, however. Whilst the image is sharp and the sound clear, there is still some motion jerk, which is especially noticeable in long panning scenes...and there are a lot of them in this movie. The extras however are excellent, and this is a pretty good package, all things considered.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several fights, beat-downs, shootings and blood. One epic shoot-out between The Punisher and Doctor Octopus.
Sex/Nudity: Near constant.
Swearing: 171 uses of the word “fuck” (or a variation thereof). That’s just over one minute.
Summary: A great movie, full of interesting characters, laughs, drama and Burt Reynolds being awesome. Don’t bother upgrading to the Blu-ray from your DVD, but it's worth picking up if you haven’t already. 9/10

Assault of Darkness
Starring: Jason Barry, Vinnie Jones, Nora-Jane Noone
Director: Brendon Foley
In 2 Film

Available Now - £5.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

The awakening of a two-thousand year-old mummified murder victim strikes terror in the hearts of a group of strangers who unknowingly share a dark secret. Somewhere in the swamps of Ireland, a construction crew has unearthed a petrified corpse. But this isn't your typical archaeological discovery; it's about to come back to life, and it's not friendly. Now, deep in the wilderness, a tough-as-nails hunter does battle with the undead "bog body" as it embarks on a supernatural mission of vengeance.

I even hate the title of this. Is it a simile? Can darkness assault something? Is something assaulting the darkness? How? With a torch?

The direction is so lazy that I’m not even convinced a director was involved, as the jobbing actors dribble out their dialogue lazily, leaving it feeling like a stodgy comic book. The low budget is painfully obvious, with characters often forced to describe things just out of shot because the special effects department didn’t really know how to do them. Or people are killed off screen because it’s easier.

The plot accelerates forward diagonally – never sure whether it wants to be a spoof or straight horror movie, and ends up staggeringly blindly and humourlessly into every cliché in the book. Avoid.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some scuffling, bludgeoning, shooting and blood.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Normal for the genre.
Summary: A messy, inconclusive zombie botch job that raises more questions that it answers. The few laughs on offer don’t raise it up high enough to be worth bothering with. 2/10


Kaiji Ito (Tatsuya Fujiwara - Death Note/Battle Royale)moves to Japan after graduating from high school. Unable to find a job and frustrated with society at large, Kaiji spends his days gambling, vandalising cars, and drinking. Two years later and his life is no better. A debt collector named Endo arrives to collect payment.

She them offers two choices to Kaiji: spend ten years paying off his loan or board a gambling boat for one night to repay his debt and possibly make a whole lot more. Meanwhile, the unscrupulous Endo is actually conning Kaiji, believing he won't come back from his voyage. Kaiji is then up for the night of his life...

Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler is out on DVD from Monday, priced £15.99.

Thanks to our friends at 4Digital Media, we've got two copies of Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to with your name and postal address before midday on Saturday 31st July (UK time). The first two names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

Friday 23 July 2010

The E14 Guide to Shakespeare

Everyone remembers being forced to study Shakespeare for their GCSEs. Back then it was boring, stupid, and impossible to understand. You either covered love, or (if you got really lucky) you covered racism. It’s when you get to university that everything changes. Suddenly this boring, romantic playwright becomes a complete and utter lunatic.

Seriously, the man created some really disturbing and compelling plots and characters. It’s a good thing the Lord Chamberlain’s Men wanted him in their company, because without the opportunity to vent all this crazy into his plays, Shakespeare would have probably been a murderer. Of course, we’d still be studying him in GCSE...Just in History class, instead.

I’m sure you are thinking “Why on earth are E14 doing a segment on Shakespeare?”. I promise you, we are about to open your eyes to the real Shakespeare, the guy you don’t get to meet until your educators think you are mentally stable enough to deal with him. Shakespeare was popular; writing for the masses. His role as a playwright was to entertain, not to teach. He always gave the audience what they wanted and there is no reason that has to be any different today. The stuff we want and crave is still in there, you just have to know where to find it. That’s where we come in. Here is your E14-Friendly guide to Shakespeare.


If you love a supernatural read or you are a fan of fantasy then you really can’t go wrong with Shakespeare. Check out A Midsummer Night’s Dream where Oberon, the King of the Fairies, and a notorious trickster named Puck create a magical potion to torment the characters of the play. Lovers are hypnotised, hearts are broken, and someone even gets turned into a donkey!

In The Tempest, Prospero is a magician who has taken control of an island and its inhabitants. He has captured a creature, Caliban, who is half man, half monster, and the son of an evil witch. Also helping Prospero on the island is Ariel, presumed to be a spirit or tree nymph, with magical powers including the ability to control the weather, influence the minds of weary travellers and perform illusions (X-Men anyone?).

In Macbeth (the play’s name harbouring superstition even in our modern world) is a play all about prophecies, set out by three witches throughout the play. This one is also famous for the scene where a ghost comes to torment Macbeth at dinner. Lady Macbeth evokes the spirit of manhood and going insane, and Macbeth is haunted by ghostly dagger, presumed to be a symbol of his guilt after murdering the king.

Hamlet has similar ghostly occurrences as the recently deceased King unveils his murderer to his son.


Yes, Shakespeare could not get enough of this. He even wrote The Rape of Lucrece, a poem which literally does what it says on the tin. In Titus Andronicus, Titus’ daughter Lavinia is raped by the Sons of Tamora, Queen of the Goths. As if the poor girl hasn’t suffered enough, they then cut out her tongue and cut off her hands. In The Tempest we learn that the reason Caliban is Prospero’s slave is because he tried to rape Miranda, Prospero’s daughter.

Shakespeare really liked rape.

In The Taming of the Shrew, the rebellious Katherina is firmly put in her place and “tamed”. Petruchio pretty much mind fucks her by starving her and refusing her clothes or company, until she becomes a totally obedient and submissive wife. Of course, the feminists out there like to believe that Katherina is faking.

Fornication is banned in Measure for Measure, which leads to a hell of a lot of fornicating, including pregnancy out of wedlock, trying it on with a nun, and using sex as currency. In Henry VIII Anne Bullen pushes Queen Katherine out of the spot light. King Henry divorces Katherine in favour of the younger model, and treats Katherine rather unfairly. And this stuff is based on real life, so it seems even more scandalous. In Henry V, after defeating the French at the Battle of Agincourt, Henry decides he might as well have the French princess, Katherine, as his prize.

Different Henry, different Katherine. I know these history plays are confusing, but bear with them.


In Titus Andronicus, Tamora’s sons are murdered and fed to her in a pie!!! Even without taking this traumatising scene into consideration, Titus Andronicus is still full of gruesome acts of violence and murder.

Othello is a murder/death extravaganza. What starts off as paranoid spousal abuse eventually leads to Othello suffocating his innocent wife. A number of people are murdered in the final scenes of the play, and the whole thing culminates with Othello topping himself. Shakespeare must have had a really unhealthy fascination with suicide and death, or he just really hated a lot of the characters he created. It is really remarkable how many characters in Shakespeare’s plays kill themselves or otherwise meet their maker.

Romeo and Juliet needs no introduction, and is possibly one of the best known plays for its teen-angst, “emo” lovers and their unnecessary suicide. But they are not the only Shakespearean character’s to take the “easy” way out. Ophelia chucks herself into a lake in Anthony and Cleopatra the lovers drive each other to suicide, and Goneril ends it all in King Lear.


Shakespeare’s plays are full of murder plots, tricksters and selfish acts of treachery. Iago manipulates Othello by pretending to be his friend and confidant, while really just trying to climb the ranks of society and stopping at nothing to do it.

In King Lear, siblings plot to ruin each other out of selfishness and jealousy. Goneril and Regan, two of Lear’s daughters, are not satisfied with owning half a kingdom each, and try to ruin the other at every turn. Edmund becomes so jealous of his brother Edgar that he not only seeks to ruin him, but to turn their father against him and eventually hopes to kill Edgar. Measure for Measure is notoriously known as a play which depends entirely upon deception. The Duke of Vienna wears a disguise throughout the play and spies on his people. Two of Shakespeare’s most well known deception plots, The Bed Trick and The Head Trick, come from this play.

Mental Instability:

King Lear is driven bat-shit insane by his conniving daughters and spends the majority of the play wondering around the marshes in the middle of storms. Ophelia is driven mad when Hamlet kills her father. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth go stark raving mad. Macbeth has hallucinations and episodes of paranoia, while Lady Macbeth wanders the corridors in her sleep spouting molten crazy on everyone. Othello is driven mad by Iago and the characters of Twelfth Night work hard to convince Malvolio he is mad.

Epic Battles/War:

The History plays, basically!

Awesome Bad Guys to Look Out For:

Angelo (Measure for Measure), Iago (Othello), Lady Macbeth (Macbeth), Shylock (The Merchant of Venice) and Tybalt (Romeo and Juliet).

It’s never too late to get into Shakespeare. Don’t think of him as someone to be studied. Just think of him as an entertainer. In fact, start with the movies. Begin your journey into Shakespeare with a few of the modern remakes like Tim Blake Nelson’s modern envisioning of Othello, simply called O, or Baz Luhrmann’s well known Romeo and Juliet.

Alternatively, for a really easy introduction, try some American teen-flicks like She’s The Man, 10 Things I Hate About You and Get Over It, based on Twelfth Night, Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Next, try getting hold of some of the Kenneth Branagh versions of the plays. Branagh understands the true meaning of Shakespeare and concentrates a great deal on concepts of insanity, treachery and the importance of sub-plot. By the time you get to the really old and boring stuff (Laurence Olivier, anyone?) it shouldn’t seem so boring.

There’s nothing wrong with stopping there, with the movies. After all, Shakespeare was writing plays, not novels. But if you really want to experience Shakespeare with its full impact, read the plays. That way, you won’t miss out on any grizzly details! Don’t let the memories of GCSE put you off a good read. You may not have understood a lot of it when you were a kid, but try again now. It really is just the English language. It’s not double Dutch, and it’s not some sort of elitist code. It’s just words. You will be surprised to find you can probably read it easily, and if not, most editions of the plays come with translations and foot notes anyway! So, there you go; no excuses.

You know what? I have never had a Shakespeare teacher who wasn’t mad. I wonder if they were normal before they delved into the world of Shakespeare. It wouldn’t surprise me.

Words: Kelly Prior