Friday 31 July 2009

Shitty Box Art Round-Up

It's the return of E14's funniest one-man double act, Brad Harmer!

My Friends
Nintendo DS
You know what’s even sadder than being one of these people who collects 332 friends on FaceBook and 82 on MySpace? Being the guy playing this game. This is a friend simulator. That’s not to say that it’s a game like The Sims, where you basically create some people and play make-believe-soap-opera-dolls-houses with them. This is where you make up some people, and pretend to be friends with them. Five hundred years ago, you’d have been burned at the stake for partaking in acts such as these.

Now, with the aid of this “great” game, you can wander around in a daze, on your own, on your little hand-held console, pretending you’re interacting with people. Surely you could play exactly the same game (in 3D, no less), by just tilting your head upwards by 20° or so?

It’s got mini-games. There’s a surprise. One of the mini-games is called “Ball Rush”. I’d like to believe that’s based around playing Roshambo with a Canadian prog-rock band. - 5/10

Casper’s Scare School: Spooky Sports Day
Nintendo DS

Christ. This is an automatic 1/10 for me. When I was a kid, there were three things I hated above any other – Casper The Friendly Ghost, Nintendo consoles and Sports Days. Firstly, I hated Casper because he was just too fucking cutesy. Come on, I’d seen Poltergeist, and I knew what ghosts were capable of. For him to mope around all day like a whining little bitch and then get further with Christina Ricci than I was ever going to pissed me off even more.

I hated school sports days because, primarily they consisted on sitting out in the sun for seven hours, and watching (or sometimes doing) things that weren’t anything to do with sport. When I got to Secondary School and they actually had track and field events that lasted about two hours from start to finish – that wasn’t so bad. But when I was in junior school, and the day consisted of events like “Hopping One Way, Jumping The Other” and “Walking With A Bean Bag On Your Head” I couldn’t stand it. Come on, I’d seen Rollerball, and I knew what sport was capable of.

I was once tempted to become a PE Teacher, purely to see if I could get Rollerball added onto the syllabus. Unfortunately, I got turned down on application to study for my PGCE, because in the space where it said “Please state the reason for your interest in this course:”, I wrote “I want to get a bunch of kids to run around in a circle and pummel each other. Did I mention a couple of them are going to be on dirt-bikes? I think I did. If not, then Blood Fucking Bowl LARP, fairies!”.

I got turned down for a chance to study gynaecology for a similar reason with my answer, “I would make sure all my patients felt valued by re-assuring them with a heart-felt “Oh, yeah...You like that, don’t you, bitch?” half-way through each examination.”.

Royal Horticultural Society Gardening Guide – How To get Green Fingers
Nintendo Fucking DS

Christ, as if the Ready, Steady Cook game wasn’t proof enough that Nintendo’s seal of quality no longer meant “This is a quality game” and instead signified “This object exists.”. A game...about gardening. Ladies and Gentlemen, video games are something you do when you are young, and gardening is something that you do when you are old, and never the twain shall meet.

Seriously, who decided that this would make an interesting game? Gardening is a hobby (if, indeed it is a “hobby” and not a “chore”), that revolves around two key things – getting dirty, and waiting for things to happen. Bearing in mind that the fact it’s a virtual garden will eliminate the former, this is a game that is going to be about sitting around and waiting for your plants to grow. Or die. Whatever seems more likely depending upon your skill level.

Ha-ha! Check it out! The handy-helper character – Paul The Gardener – is billed on the blurb as your “garden angel”! Ha-ha! Oh, Jesus, I’d best retire from this comedy gig. There’s no way I’ll ever be able to compete with gags of this quality! Ha ha!

Seriously: cunt off, Nintendo. - 1/10

Section 8

This is a humorous point and click adventure that sees everyone’s favourite big-nosed transvestite, Corporal Klinger, desperately try and convince everyone in the 4077th, that he’s completely off of his little frock-wearing-rocker and needs to be sent back home to Toledo. You can interact with all the top characters like Hawkeye, BJ, Frank, Radar and the dude from Dragnet in your desperate bid to prove that you’re completely barmy.

At least, in a perfect world, that’s what this game would be. In actuality, it’s probably just another Fallbioshockout of War type-thing. Face it, though. You’d buy the shit out of my M*A*S*H game. - 9/10

Thursday 30 July 2009

DVD Reviews

Ben 10: Volume 4 - Grudge Match
Warner Home Video
Review by Brad Harmer

If you haven’t seen Ben 10 before, here’s the gist of it – It’s the best Saturday Morning Cartoon since Thundercats. Ben Tennyson is on summer vacation with his Grandpa Max and cousin Gwen, and he acquire The Omnitrix, which allows him to shape-shift into any of ten different aliens.

This latest compilation is a really good one. For a start, there’s the return of Kevin E. Levin, Ben’s nemesis, who is great in every episode he’s in, as well as the show’s sequel series Ben 10: Alien Force. So, not only does this set focus on the friction between Ben and Kevin, but it also focuses on the history between Ben’s Grandpa, Max, and the series main villain, Vilgax.

Ben 10 isn’t just your typical Villain-of-the-Week style of Saturday Morning Cartoon. In this compilation there are human bad guys, alien religious zealots, and convict gladiators forced to fight for the amusement of others. This is a kids series that doesn’t pander down to kids, and this is the reason for both its popularity, and its awesomeness.

In the episodes on this disc, several major things happen to push greater story of the series along. Firstly, as mentioned earlier, Kevin E. Levin returns, but with altered powers and a new monstrous appearance; and the traitorous Omnitrix alien-form Ghostfreak is replaced by the new mainstay, Cannonbolt.

My real criticism of this set was the bizarre non-canon episode, that rewound time and revealed what would have happened if Gwen had been the one who had become attached to the Omnitrix instead of Ben. Whilst an interesting premise, it was little more than filler material in practice. Unfortunately, aside from this episode, Gwen didn’t really serve to add anything, especially now that Grandpa Max is getting his hands dirty more often. Also, all too often the episodes all too often fizzle out too quickly, and there’s not the epic impact of the earlier episodes.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Compared to most cartoons of its ilk, Ben 10 features a fair amount of personal fighting and explosions.
Sex/Nudity: None. Although I’m fairly sure that someone reading this only found us because they were looking for Kevin/Gwen slash fiction. Get out.
Swearing: None
Overall: This is not just one of the best kids shows on TV right now, but this is also one of the best sci-fi shows on TV right now. As a compilation, this isn’t a good introduction, but essential for fans. – 8/10

Choose Death: Necro Butcher
Big Vision Entertainment
Review by Brad Harmer

The disc opens up with a rather formulaic, if interesting interview with Necro Butcher. Whilst he’s lucid and often engaging interviewee, at just over an hour, it’s way too long to just look at a talking head. Especially when he’s often not looking at the camera anyway. By the end, it feels like the interviewer and Necro Butcher are now just shooting the shit together, and not actually trying to engage with an audience, which is not very interesting. Several attempts are made by both Necro Butcher and the interviewer to actually make garbage/hard-core wrestling come across as more intelligent than it really is...and guys, this demeans both of us. We like it because it’s insane and basic, not a discourse on Jungian philosophy!

When the interview has finally finished over-staying its welcome, the DVD fades to a very badly attended and pretty damn terrible match. Virtually every move is botched, and Necro Butcher starts to do what he does best – really underselling all the barbed wire, glass, and fire; and really overselling slaps, hip-tosses and punches. I lost track of the number of times he’d be bonked on the head with a fluorescent light tube without any ill effect, and then sell his opponents punch, with a ridiculously over-the-top slack-jawed “Oooooh” noise. He’s Hardcore Hogan!!!

The main trouble with the matches is that they’re all so bloody samey. Everything's a light-tube intensive Jackass-style stunt-fest, with the exception of one cage match from CZW – the only match (also, interestingly, the only one from a promotion of any note). Every other show on this compilation appears to be a in a run-down gym somewhere, and the audience in attendance ranges between ten and forty. I know popular and good rarely mean the same thing, but do you really want your first “Best of” compilation to show how woefully unpopular you are?

So here it hour of a static camera shot shoot interview, followed by two hours of the same bloke having fluorescent light tubes being broken over his head. A much better solution would have been to show excerpts of the interview inbetween the matches. This would have broken up the otherwise long-segments on both sides a little more, and probably made the whole thing much more bearable. I can’t lie though, that would still be an attempt to polish a turd. This is a compilation of a wrestler who is, at best, average, and at worst a sloppy stuntman.

The only reason for this disc’s existence would appear to be his role (little more than a glorified cameo) in the movie The Wrestler. Fans of Necro Butcher know that he’s had better matches than this, and fans of hardcore wrestling know that there are better wrestlers than Necro Butcher.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Shitloads. Shitloads. Shitloads. It’s a Necro Butcher death-match compilation!
Sex/Nudity: None. At all. That'd be a hell of a gimmick match, wouldn't it?
Swearing: A few fucks.
Overall: A shoddy compilation of a below average wrestler who owes more to jerk-offs like Jackass and Dirty Sanchez than Atsushi Onita and John Zandig. To be fair to the guy, I’ve seen some good matches with him in, and he’s much better than the outdated stuff on this DVD shows. – 2/10

Hellraiser (Blu-Ray)
Clive Barker
Anchor Bay Entertainment UK
Review by Blake Harmer

As far as horror franchises, the Hellraiser series has always been a weird one for me. A lot of great horror franchises were born in the 70s and 80s such as Halloween, Friday the 13th and the Nightmare on Elm Street films. However, Hellraiser is the only one of these films where the main monsters (the Cenobites in this case) were not seen as the main bad guys, but as more of a third party surrounding the key elements of the story.

For those people who haven’t seen the film, the story centres on Frank, an adulterer who buys an antique puzzle box from an old wise man and uses it to open a pathway to another dimension where the Cenobites are. He is then trapped in the other dimension and slowly has his body pulled apart by lots of hooks. However, Frank’s brother Larry and his wife Julia (who is also Frank’s lover) somehow bring him back into the world when Larry accidentally spills his blood on the floor where Frank entered the gateway to Hell. Frank is made of bones and muscle and needs more blood to restore himself. So Julia goes about trying to restore her lover to his former self by killing people and letting Frank use their blood to restore himself, all without her husband Larry and his daughter Kirsty knowing about Frank’s return to the house.

This film is great for several reasons, firstly, it is incredibly gory; people’s heads are smacked in with hammers, people are impaled and then torn apart by hooks, you are very lucky if you go through 5 minutes of this film without someone or something being covered in blood. Also, the special effects still hold up pretty well considering the film’s age, and the Cenobites are still pretty scary looking providing you find S&M demons with over the top piercings to be horrifying. The film’s transition to High Definition may have damaged some of these effects, but even so, you're too busy engrossed in the story line to care about these too much.

This Blu-Ray package does have some drawbacks though. I would have liked to have seen some more special features on the disc, especially considering that the film is over 20 years old and a horror classic. Another drawback is that the visuals, whilst better in HD, still felt liked they needed to be cleaned up a bit more. Although this may have been a problem with the fact that it’s an older film. Also, I found Claire Higgins’ acting to be quite wooden, especially as she is playing the role of Julia, which is one of the most important roles in the film.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Buckets of gore throughout, with bits of flesh and bone littering the Cenobite’s lair and a bad guy who is pretty much covered in blood for most of the film.
Sex Nudity: A few sex scenes but both Frank and Julia have their clothes on, there is little or no nudity throughout the entire, unless you count the fact that Frank is so naked, he has no skin for most of the film.
Swearing: A few swear words, which is quite surprising for a horror film, but nothing to get truly excited about.
Summary: A classic horror film that pushes all the right buttons: good story, check, scary looking monsters, check, tons of gore, check. However, I cannot recommend it to fans of the film to rebuy it if they already have it on DVD. Sure, it's a sharper picture quality, but there isn’t enough extras or improvements to the DVD version to warrant buying it again. Horror fans who don’t own this though, are in for a treat. - 7/10

Bodyguard: A New Beginning
Review by Rob Wade

Bodyguard tells the story of Leung, a bodyguard for a top Triad crime boss who is sent mysteriously to England by his boss to protect a woman. His boss, Wong, does not tell him why he is to protect this woman, only that she is important to him. Leung must then protect this woman, unaware that his boss is being tested by rival gangs and betrayal from within his own ranks.

Let me take you now into the meeting room, where the producers of the film Bodyguard (not that one) are strategising about the film’s focus.

“So guys, we’ve got the chance to do a movie from scratch. Let’s make it a martial arts movie; we’ve got quite a few martial artists we can contact for that.”
“Ooh, what about making it an East-meets-West story? We’ve got a couple of English-speaking actors we can use, and we can make the main female a girl as well.”
“Ok, that’s good. Steve, have you found anything in the Big Book of Action Film Clichés?”
“Boy, have I…”

Seriously, this film adheres to every single lame-arse cliché you can think of. Is the protagonist a quiet character with deadly skills? Check, plus he’s looking for a way out of the bodyguard business as well, as if all that wasn’t enough. The female character appears sceptical at first, but soon warms to Leung even despite their massive cultural differences.

However, this film does have some redeeming qualities, at least for this jaded E14 reviewer. I actually saw (though not directly) an assassin snap the neck of a small child. I mean what the hell? This assassin actually goes into a house, kills all the guards around the house and kills a guy’s daughter WHILE she’s busy playing with her DS. Where’s the fairness?

Besides that, there are some really cheesy set-pieces, and some predictable storyline points to go along with them. Eagle-eyed viewers will recognise two of the actors as being from Underground, the movie I reviewed recently, namely “The Homeless” (who still needs congratulating from time to time, don’t forget) and “The Ex-Convict”. They play a pair of…I’m not quite sure what they are. Are they hit men? They don’t kill people. Are they bodyguards? They go on the attack. Nobody’s quite sure, least of all why two hired goons HAVE to wear the same outfit down to the red tie.

There’s also an awful lot of shouting at inanimate objects in this film. From a guy shouting at a drain cover to a man shouting at his gun while curled up in the foetal position (it all makes sense in context, I swear), shouting seems to be a theme.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Unsurprisingly, a substantial amount. However, none of it ever seems particularly painful. Say what you like about Underground (and I did), but at least some of the violence looked like it could hurt.

Sex/Nudity: None whatsoever.

Swearing: A fair amount of swearing actually, but nothing that seems out of place in a Triad gangster movie.

Summary: Ultimately, this film falls short in the sense that despite what could be a promising idea, it is not delivered with any flair. The movie’s pacing isn’t very good, and the story ultimately ends up a little convoluted as a result. 3/10

Wednesday 29 July 2009

A Crash Course In Battle Metal

Battle Metal has been around for ages, but the thing is, no-one can still quite come to any agreement as to what it actually is. Many people even argue that there is no such genre as Battle Metal, as there can be two Battle Metal bands that share no musical similarity whatsoever. This then, is an attempt to clarify, and aims to provide exactly what the title says: A Crash Course In Battle Metal.

Battle Metal can probably be traced as far back as Led Zeppelin if you fancy a good old argument, but the godfathers of modern battle metal are Swedish group Bathory, and American group Manowar. Manowar often used sword & sorcery/high-fantasy style artwork on their sleeves and themes in their lyrics; whereas Bathory, whilst originally utilising a style similar to the First Wave of Black Metal, introduced Viking themes into both their visual and musical output.

Battle Metal can primarily be divided into three different distinct styles – although as always there are some acts that cross over between two or more of them. Firstly, there is the type descended from Power Metal, using keyboard or orchestra segments, and primarily taking their influences from bands like Iron Maiden, Helloween and to a lesser extent Manowar.

Secondly, is the darker, more Death Metal based style, which draws its influence from Games Workshop’s pet-project Bolt Thrower, and presents either a more realistic modern warfare, or dark sci-fi style.

Finally, there is the Viking heavy style, often mixing in elements of Folk and Black Metal. This style sometimes contains rather heavy Nordic undertones, but this is counterbalanced by its pomposity or theatricality. Originally performed by bands such as Bathory, it has seen a revival in the hands of more recent bands such as Turisas, Tyr, Amon Amarth and Finntroll.

Battle Metal is, at its core, fun, upbeat, and very silly. Any genre that seems to require the artists to dress up in funny costumes (be it woad or plate-mail) is plainly more about the Spinal Tap theatricality than genuinely trying to make a statement. This is not to say that technical ability is lacking, however. Like most other sub-genres of heavy metal, many musicians are virtuosos –lighting fast guitar or keyboard solos are prevalent, and when the music features orchestral sections - as is the mainstay of bands such as Rhapsody (of Fire), Bal-Sagoth and Fairyland – the orchestral arrangements are not merely for the sake of atmosphere, and are comparable to the works of many famous composers.

However, for all the prog-rock pretentions, Battle Metal is pretty basic in its theme. Basically, if the music doesn’t make you want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of the women, then it should at least make you want to do this:

And why not? A central band to the genre, thematically if not musically, Bolt Thrower had the vast majority of their album artwork supplied by Games Workshop after a representative of the company heard their music played by legendary DJ John Peel. Here then is another staple of Battle Metal: Completely Dorking Out.

Whether its playing D&D across a five concept-album spanning saga or running around the woods in woad and pissing around with a fake battle-axe, Battle Metal is finally making metal something isn’t hasn’t been for years – fun.

For probably the last decade or so, metal has been about screaming at your parents because they sent you to your bedroom, wearing trousers that are way too baggy, self-mutilation (and not in a good Cannibal Corpse way), and enough angst to power a steam train. There were gestures towards fun, such as convincing people that you were, in all actuality, doing it for the nookie, but all in all it became about real people with real problems. Hey, guys, that’s nice and all, but we’ve got hardcore for that. Metal’s about cutting loose and having fun. Motorhead wrote a song about playing cards, Judas Priest held up a bank with guitars, GWAR made movies about the lead singer’s penis being put on trial...take off the NHS glasses, come downstairs, hang out with your friends, and DESTROY SOME ORCS!

That there is the Canadian band Three Inches of Blood. I included their promo video for several reasons. 1) They’re an example of a Battle Metal band who blend all three of the above styles I mentioned. 2) Their first single used artwork from the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Deathtrap Dungeon. 3) If you watch it, there’s one speccy guy in the band who doesn’t do anything apart from shout backing occasionally. I like to believe that the whole thing was originally a LARP that has gotten terribly out of hand, and as the DM, he doesn’t quite know how to stop it now.

Tuesday 28 July 2009

DVD Reviews

Secone To None: Best of TNA Tag Teams
TNA Entertainment
Review by Brad Harmer

First things first - Second To None: The Best of TNA Tag Teams – is huge. It clocks in at nearly seven hours, and even with a price tag of £24.99, that’s a serious bang for your buck – especially considering that all the leading on-line retailers are selling at less than £15. But is it all good stuff, or is it all filler?

One of the main strengths of TNA, as a promotion, is its Tag Team division. Tag Team wrestling has been sidelined since the late ninties/early 21st Century, but thankfully it’s now coming back to the fore, mainly thanks to TNA.

The disc covers the profiles of several top TNA Tag Teams including Team 3D, LAX, Beer Money and the Motor City Machine Guns, through a compilation of their matches, and a series of shoot interviews. Team 3D (copyright be hanged, they’ll always be The Dudley Boys to me), open things up, and their segment is definitely the strongest of the set. They are, after all a historically significant tag-team – having been involved in the rise of ECW, bring tag-team wrestling to the best it has ever been in the WWE, and helping TNA to become highly established.

The match selections, however, are questionable. An electric cage match against LAX? What the hell were TNA thinking? Electric cage matches are dumb at the best of times, as wrestlers can only either oversell or undersell an electrocution. This match could have been in “Classic Examples of Matches Where The Gimmick Has Only Served To Undermine Rather Than To Enhance the Overall Performance”, but in a Tag Team compilation? No way. Most of the other matches are good, but there is an awful lot of filler in here too. From the off, it’s obvious that this is a case of quantity over quality.

Across all the profiles featured, one thing is consistent – the shoot interviews are absolutely top-notch. Insightful, interesting, and well spaced out between the matches. It’s just a shame that the matches themselves, in the words of Fry from Futurama “average out to be quite good”.

A major point against this release, unfortunately, is that the picture quality is terrible. For the interviews, everything is fine, but there must have been some kind of error when transporting the footage from TV to DVD, as the picture often pixellates, which is doubly noticeable during fast moving sections, often rendering the wrestler as a messy blur. One does get used to it after a while, but this is a major oversight for a large wrestling promotion – I’ve seen pirates with higher quality than this.

Aside from the unforgivable picture quality issue, there’s much to recommend this disc. It features those who are undeniably the best tag-teams in TNA at present, and features truly great matches from all parties. Some not-so good bouts do knock down the overall quality – and this could have been a great one disc compilation, rather than an okay two-disc one, but as value for money it can’t be beaten.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Well, besides the usual affair associated with modern day pro-wrestling, the electrified cage match and a few chair shots is about as violent as it gets. This isn’t CZW, you know.
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: A few fucks and bastards, uncensored.
Summary: A good compilation, let down by the odd duff-match and the dodgy picture quality. A good compilation for pro-wrestling fans, but not good enough to label it essential. – 7/10

The Monster Squad
Fabulous Films
Available from 3rd August
Review by Brad Harmer

Monster Squad was a series from the mid-seventies that was basically a mish-mash of The Munsters and the Adam West Batman show. It was cute, entertaining summer holiday/tea-time fare. Walt, a criminology student works as a night watchman in a wax museum, and has built a prototype "Crime Computer" to pass the time. When he plugs in the computer, "oscillating vibrations" bring to life the wax statues of Count Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster.

The supposedly evil monsters want to make up for the misdeeds of their pasts, and become superhero crimefighters who use their abilities to defeat various supervillains. If this seems a little twee or childish – you’re right, it is...but that’s also the show’s charm. The jokes and slapstick comedy are nothing but pure pantomime, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was still entertaining to children today, as there’s a timeless quality to the antics and gags.

The budget isn’t exactly high, but the show knows that its own special effects are rubbish, and more importantly, it knows not to care. The Dracula changing into a bat sequence is a perfect example of this – Dracula snarls, a flashbang goes off, and then an obviously fake bat on a fishing line flies shakily out of view. It’s all crap, but it’s also all cute.

As mentioned earlier, fans of the 60s Batman TV show will find this all feels very familiar, and it should as Stanley Ralph Ross, one of the head writers of that show was also at the helm for Monster Squad. Slightly bungling but loveable superheroes, and the stereotypical villain of the week perpetrating his or her heist of the week. For all its fun though, there are several elements that let the show down. For one, virtually every episode is the same, and only the names and horrendous puns change. The Squad will be sent out by Walt to investigate some bizarre and gimmicky villain, the villain will foil the heroes' attempts to bust him, and Walt will have to come to their rescue. You’d figure that after the third episode he’d no longer switch on the Monster Squad and just solve the crime himself, cutting out the middle monsters, so to speak, but hey, maybe he’s not that bright either.

With Monster Squad, however, it's the journey and not the destination that’s the fun part. The plot's just a vehicle to carry the gags, which, whilst childish, aren’t half bad. The writing is actually surprisingly clever. It’s a fun kids show, and would probably hold the attention of Mum and Dad, if they happened to catch it.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Some slapstick comedic fighting. Some weapons are used, but they too are always silly.
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: None.
Summary: A good fun kids show, but likely only worth the purchase if you remember it from your childhood and fancy a stroll down memory lane. As nostalgia, it’s great – if it’s new to you, chances are you won’t get it. – 7/10

Monday 27 July 2009

Harry Potter can still fuck off

Another thing on the subject of Harry Potter, since I’ve already absolutely owned the books (and that’s true on several levels, I do own the books), why is it that the series with one of the largest followings in the history of literature has the biggest pussy on Earth as its villain? First of all, Voldemort is too close to Vol-au-vent for my liking. Call me a purist, but I can’t be scared or even grossed out by anyone whose name sounds like a finger food at a fancy buffet.
It’s such a shame as well, because as a villain Ralph Fiennes does a great job of making the ridiculous character of Voldemort terrifying. Well, at least he tries. It seems J.K Rowling must have understood that eventually Voldemort would be played by a Hollywood actor of some quality. As a result, she seems to have done her very best to limit his appearances. Now, fair enough, there is literary precedent of this. In Lord of the Rings (which I’m fairly sure J.K Rowling has read) Sauron doesn’t walk the plains of Middle-Earth. However, he has a tangible physical presence throughout the trilogy. Voldemort gets mentioned quite a bit, but much in the same way that you’d mention a friend of yours who’s a bit of a prick. Maybe he cheats on his taxes or doesn’t spend any time with his mum.

Anyway, he comes into the series at book 4, and just when you think business is about to pick up, he disappears into the ether for the whole of book 5, only coming back for the whole Crystal Dome fiasco at the end of the book. That’s around 700 pages that could have done with a bad-ass wizard appearing SOMEWHERE, rather than just having people still saying “he’s dangerous”. See, you can tell people you’re dead handy in a fight, but eventually they WILL call you on it and expect you to pit fight with a gorilla. What are mates for, after all?

I can accurately write the first 30 pages of a Harry Potter book, and I can equally effectively sum them up in a couple of sentences.

HARRY: Wow, it really sucks to be the only person in the world like me. I mean, I’m a wizard orphan with glasses, whose parents left him a small fortune. It’s small wonder I’m not balls-deep in witches every night.
RON: Well, I can cheer you up mate. Fancy spending another meaningless social occasion at my house?
HARRY: Well, I don’t know Ron, it might serve to remind me of how my natural parents are dead.
RON: True, but then it’ll equally make you realise that it could be worse; you could have ginger hair AND be poor.

Sick burn, Weasley.
HARRY: I guess that’s true enough, and that was a fun meaningless random social occasion. Well, time for school. Let’s faff about on the train for a few hours.


HERMIONE: Hello all, have you heard who the Defence against the Dark Arts teacher is this year?
RON: No, but I bet he’s mental.
*AUDIENCE: HAHA, hilarious. Ron talks like me. That makes him relatable.*
DUMBLEDORE: Watch out for the Voldemorts, I think the crab paste is off.
*AUDIENCE: Crabs come from the sea…*


Now, granted, I’m not as good at fiction as some, but I think that’s a fairly accurate description. Having said that, it’s not a patch on the fanfiction that everyone talks about when mentioning Harry Potter, “My Immortal”.

Bearing in mind it’s named after a song by Evanescence, you can safely gauge the emotional maturity of the author, particularly when said author seems to suffer from multiple personality disorder. Both personalities are morons, in case you hadn’t guessed.

It’s too lengthy really to go into any significant detail on (best saved for another time, perhaps). However, sufficed to say that the story is a pretty entertaining read, interspersed with author’s notes that state that the author will not write new chapters without positive reviews. Somehow, one of two things happened. Either the author received a few pity reviews from friends or genuinely curious people (the kind who rubber-neck past a car crash so that they have clearer memories to masturbate to later) or the author was a young girl who thought that the Internet gave a flying fuck about her character Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way (I swear I’m not making this up).

If there are any doubts about the emotional age of this author, put it this way: during the first romantic tryst between Malfoy and Ebony (which happens around Chapter 4), Ebony says “I even took off my bra” shortly before “he put his thingie into my you-know-what”. Fear not, though, the tryst is interrupted by a cry of “‘WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING YOU MOTHERFUKERS!’” Who, you may ask, would be so angry at seeing Draco Malfoy kissing a girl that he’d have to curse up a storm? That’s right…

Friday 24 July 2009

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 our very first (and possibly only) installment of Dickass DM!. Today, they will be playing through an RPG based on the classic Steve Jackson Fighting Fantasy gamebook Starship Traveller.

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

Brad: Something has gone disastrously wrong! You look at the HUD on the bridge. Engineering is reporting a malfunction. The warp engines are locked at a 10% velocity gain. The ship is heading towards an overload. You try and comm through to Engineering. Engineering Officer Clank is trying to fix the problem, but it looks like it'll take at least another thirteen minutes.
Rob: That's really specific.
Brad: The Starship Traveller, only one day from retirement, is heading towards the Seltsian Void - a notorious Black Hole. Science Officer McSpindle has a suggestion, however.
Rob(Captain Braggart): Let's hear it.
Brad (Science Officer McSpindle): "Captain, if we try and swing the ship through the gravitational pull of the Black Hole, it may slow our velocity to manageable levels. The Navigation will have to be precise however..." (s)he says.
Rob: Sounds like a plot hook if ever I heard one.
Rob (Captain Braggart): "Sounds like a plan where nothing could possibly go wrong - let's do it!"
Brad: You rock the ship round to starboard. Pulling into the graviational field, it seems to be working! The gain comes down...10%...5%...0%...-5%......the crew cheers as you are the hero of the day. But you keep your eyes on the velocity indicator. -15%...-25%...The ship is being sucked off...
Rob: Lucky ship!
Brad: ...into the Seltsian Void!
Rob: Oh.
Brad: Someone hits the red alert button and the Star Trekky siren starts to go off. The ship shakes and whines like a heroin addict as you fall into the black hole!
Rob: "It's not my's society" that sort of thing?
Brad: There's a massive explosion, and you lose conciousness. Well, that's that. I'll roll you up some new characters.
Rob: You're kidding?
Brad: Yeah. I'm pulling a Silent Hill.
Rob: Making three awesome games followed by one that doesn't fit? Good luck with that, dude.
Brad: You slowly regain conciousness and look around the bridge of the Enterp...Starship Traveller, and see your crew coming to their feet.
Rob: Ouch, their feet blew off and they had to crawl to get them?
Brad: Yeah, Shoggoth attacks do that. Engineering calls in with a damage report. The warp drives are dead, so you're currently drifting in space, but they should be back online in twenty to thirty minutes.
Rob: Ooh, just enough time for an episode of a sitcom! What's everyone in the mood for?
Brad: Navigation Officer Crimsonshirt looks confused, The computer can't pinpoint where you are...the area appears to be uncharted. Science Officer McSpindle runs an analysis, and theoriese that you have travelled through a dimensional warp, and are now in a parralel universe. An episode of Married With Children later, and your warp drives are back online. The scanners indicate three potential systems to investigate. You can go onwards (life-bearing), port (life-bearing) or starboard (barren)
Rob: Starboard
Brad (Ensign Claretblouse): "What made you choose that, Captain?"
Rob: I flipped a three-sided coin. They exist in this reality, right?
Brad: Yeah, why not? You speed off to the new destination..boldly going where no copyrighted Paramount franchises have gone before! A red light comes on on your console.
Rob: If it's only one, it means the cable's not in properly. I switch it off and on again.
Brad: Engineering Officer Clank is on the line!
Brad (Engineering Officer Clank): "Cap'n! We need to reduce speed! The engine was more damaged that I thought! I cannae give her anymore cap'n!"
Brad: The sad thing is that he's from Rekyavik.
Brad (Engineering Officer Clank): "It's the Dilithi,,,Dilibrium Crystals, Cap'n!"
Rob: Not the Digimon crystals! I just installed those to upgrade from the Pokemon chamber we were using.
Brad: Dilibrium is a naturally occuring mineral. The material can easily be mined, and you have a processor on board to convert the mineral to fuel. You'll have to find some of the mineral quickly. You could continue heading towards the barren system, or investigate a nearby asteriod cluster.
Rob: Nearby asteroid cluster, then.
Brad (Ensign Claretblouse): "Aye-aye, Captain."
Brad: The man at the sensors (Lt. Scarlet-Garment) runs the sensors over the asteroids. There is some dilibrium in the centre of the cluster, but at this range it's hard to determine exactly which asteriod contains the mineral. You could send someone out with a jet-pack, but that would be risky. Do you want to send one of your friends out alone into a morass of spinning, high-speed rocks, or do you want to continue on to the barren system?
Rob (Captain Braggart): "We need that Dirigible crystal, any volunteers?"
Brad: Jesus, we could more accurately title this Cunty Captain. No-one volunteers, and everyone looks around nervously. Who do you want to send?
Rob: Lt Scarlet-Garment.
Brad: Captain Braggart...he's a hero...gonna murder his crew down to zero!
Rob (Captain Braggart): "If I put the crew asunder, I don't have to divide up the plunder!"
Brad: You roughly shove Lt. Scarlet-Garment into a space suit, and then shove him, blubbering, into the airlock. The going appears easy at first...the asteroids are slower moving on the outskirts. Lt. Scarlet-Garment, still whimpering a little, avoids a few asteroids. Using a hand held scanner, he finds four asteroids all containing Dilibrium. Which one of the four do you want him to look at?
Rob: The second one...
Brad (Lt. Scarlet-Garment): "Yes, Captain. Tell my wife I love her very much, she knows..."
Rob (Captain Braggart): Very well. I'll tell her I love her very much.
Brad (Lt. Scarlet-Garment): "No...that's not you wish, Captain."
Brad: Lt. Scarlet-Garment begins work at the asteriod with hand-held excavating tool. He manages to get several kgs of the ore into his backpack. How he can tell that it's several kilos in zero gravity is anyone's guess...
Rob: Presumably visually. Experience counts a lot in deep-space ore gathering
Brad: He leaps off of the asteroid and back towards the ship. A small asteriod enters your vision travelling at high speed. You hit the communicator to warn Lt. Scarletgarment. He doesn't notice and the asteroid smashes him, to a splat, dispersing gore and gases across a small blast area.
Rob (Captain Braggart): Bollocks.
Brad: Your stunt double drops to his knees with a cry of "SCAAAARLEEEETGAAAARMEEEENT!"
Rob: Is the backpack any closer to the ship? i can always send someone else
Brad: You can send someone else out to retrieve the ore now orbiting Scarletgarment's liver, or you can continue on to the barren system.
Rob: How urgent is the digitalis situation?
Brad: I think that not attempting to retrieve the ore may just look like a convoluted, yet successful, attempt to murder Lt. Scarletgarment. I'll give it to you, as murders go, death by asteroid is a good one.
Rob: Sounds like a good point
Rob (Captain Braggart): "Redshirt #1, out you go"
Brad: (Science Officer McSpindle): "Do you have to refer to them as "Redshirts"?"
Rob (Captain Braggart): "Go back to your chemistry set and invent a replacement for Digiversum that we can make on-board using human waste...and don't fucking backchat me, cockface."
Brad (Science Officer McSpindle): "Aye-aye, sir."
Brad: Redshirt #1 jets out into the asteroid field. A few minutes later, you hear him shouting excitedly through the com. He's found a richer source of ore, just outside the central cluster. He jets across and begins mining. Unfortunately, it appears the quantity is iinsufficient, and he has to journey deeper into the cluster.
Rob: What happened to the backpack? where's the backpack?
Brad: I dunno.
Rob: That was my backpack!

To be continued...

Thursday 23 July 2009

DVD Reviews

Meatball Machine
Yudai Yamaguchi and Jun'ichi Yamamoto
4Digital Asia

Review by Blake Harmer

Have you ever come up with an idea for something, be it a video game, a movie or just some crazy scheme or invention, but you haven’t been able to think of a good name for it, or actually been able to find the money to make that said dream a reality? Well it hasn’t stopped the creators of Meatball Machine, a film so fantastic, that they don’t get round to the plot until about half way through the film, and throw up a very clumsy excuse to call it Meatball Machine in the last two minutes of the film.

The plot begins very confusingly as almost two different films, the first follows the main protagonist Yoji, a lonely virgin who sits on his own during his lunch break at his job in the factory and watches the girl next door the factory, another young lonely virgin called Sachiko, and then goes home and masturbates about her. Whilst this is going on another man, who appears to have some futuristic looking laser sword on a pole goes around fighting monsters and feeding bits of their bodies to his daughter in order to keep her alive as it later transpires that she was almost turned into a monster once and this is her only way of staying alive.

The plot does get coherent later on, saying that the monsters are humans who are taken over by parasites who wish to fight each other and eat each other’s parasite as part as some sort of sport, and once the protagonists finally meet properly, Sachiko is attacked by a parasite and Yoji must find a way to kill her, but by then you are past caring. The acting is terrible, with most of the characters showing hardly any emotion during the film. The monsters, whilst being covered in gore and looking quite menacing, do look like bad guys from a Power Rangers episode, and the fighting is even worse than that.

The only good things I can say is that the gore in it is good and plentiful, although not gruesome enough to make you squirm. That and the main protagonist gets kicked in by a lady boy, which whilst random, was shitting hilarious to watch.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some very gory scenes, especially the parasite taking over by drilling holes into the host’s eyes. Fighting is pretty poor though.
Swearing: Realistic amount of swearing for a horror film, nothing to really get excited about.
Sex/Nudity: None to really comment about, you do see an obviously fake boob on the monster version of Sachiko but that’s about it.
Summary: A truly terrible J-horror film, that doesn’t know whether it wants to be a Guyver style monster action film or a true splatter horror fest. It really fails on all levels, but hey, what do you expect from a film that felt like it came up with the title at the last minute. 3/10

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Guest Columnist: The Mekon

We can’t all be super-celebrities, you know. For every Galactus or Ming The Merciless, there are a hundred jobbing threats to humanity like me. We’re not in it for the glory, or because it’s part of some gigantic master plan. Sure, those things can be satisfying when you get them, but generally we’re like the average man on the street. We consider it a good month if we don’t die, and the pay-check gets into the bank on time.

Anyway, I’ve been leader of the Treens for over fifty years now. Back in the glory days, it was all fine. We had all of Venus, and let me tell you, we actually had a budget back then. These days all the money’s dried up. They actually tried to take my Little Floating Saucer™ away, claiming that the power costs were extortionate. I had to get out my proof of disability paperwork and everything. They couldn’t see why having a giant deformed head prevented me from walking. I told them that I couldn’t see why they thought that being dicks prevented me from throwing them into the cold, unforgiving vacuum of space. Score one for me.

You know Dare and Digby are a gay couple, right? Come on, read between the lines.

Anyway, a typical day for me is to get into the office around about 9:00, although if the Venusian Monorail is a late, it doesn’t really matter. Things tend to run to my schedule around here. I’ll get Lackey #46 to stick a pot of coffee on, and we’ll call an update meeting shortly afterwards. The meetings are relatively simple, and are usually just brainstorming sessions about what sort of Dan-Dare-Proof super-weapon we can use this time.

Once I suggested that maybe we should just gather all our forces into one massive army and storm Earth in one huge tank strike. This lead to much shaking of heads around the table, and mutterings of phrases like “Leave Mekonta undefended?” and “Has he never played Risk?”. I tried to brush it off, but the batteries in my Little Floating Saucer™ chose that moment to die, and I crashed to the floor, severely bruising my coccyx.

Anyway, after the agenda for the day is sorted we’ll get on with whatever needs doing. If we’re really busy there can be some late night, but we’re on Flexi-Time, so it’s not all bad. And if it’s really quiet, then I usually entertain myself by practicing my evil glower atop my Little Floating Saucer™.

For lunch we have a canteen, but I can’t lie, the quality of the food isn’t great. That’s because due to the Credit Crunch we seriously had to restrict the budget, and now all the catering staff are Theron slaves. They don’t like us much, so I strongly suspect that there’s a lot of bodily fluids in the lasagne. That’s why I always buy the pre-packaged sandwiches.

We’ll plan a major invasion or attack plan for roughly every six weeks or so, but we’re fairly flexible. You have to be with so many different factors that can be called into play. One time we were planning on opening a black hole right next to Your Feeble Planet Earth, and everything was just about ready to start and...guess what? Sodding power-cut. All of Venus was totally blacked out. That was what led to “Blaming Everything on Dan Dare and Digby” being added to the swear-box list.

The Christmas Party is always a big hit. Last year, I went dressed as Digby, that insufferable fool Dare’s sidekick. I had a big white pompadour hairdo, and said things with a stupid Lancashire accent, like “oooh....Dare...happen we’re in t’trouble wit’ t’Mekon”. Just so that everyone got the message, I also wore a big sparkly dress and high heels, with a sash that read “I am gay for Dan Dare”. I got a few funny looks on the monorail on the way to the office, but I knew it was going to be worth it. When I got there I found out that it wasn’t a fancy dress party after all, but everyone had a good laugh about it.

When I get back home from the office, I just like to kick back and hang out like a regular guy. I like movies, and I’m quite the World of Warcraft fan. I don’t have a girlfriend at the moment, as being Ruler of the Treens of Northern Venus tends to be the main thing in your life, and girls don’t really understand that. I do have a ferret though. His name’s Gil-Galad.

Like I say, I’m just one of a thousand threats to your homes and welfare. We’re the hard working ones that you don’t hear about so often, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not out there.

I can’t lie, though. Every now and again, just a little bit of recognition would be nice. I mean, I am relatively well-know, right? I mean, I’m no Skeletor but I’m more famous than Cy-Kill or Master Control Program. Just once it’d be nice if someone in the street stopped me and asked me for an autograph. I work hard at this stuff, you know. One time I was in the queue at the Post Office, and I heard an old-lady say, “Excuse me, but aren’t you...”, so I turned, ready to give her the full “Foolish Human!” jazz...and it turns out that she’s talking to Patsy Palmer. I know she’s a more successful TV actor than me, but let’s be fair – she’s a ginger actress in her thirties, I’m a gigantic headed green guy sitting on a Little Floating Saucer™. Who would you notice?

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Book Reviews

Handling The Undead
John Ajvide Lindqvist

Review by Brad Harmer

Something peculiar is happening all across Stockholm, Sweden. Not only is there a heatwave, but for some bizarre reason electrical appliances cannot be switched off, and everyone has a blinding headache. Then the news breaks – in the city morgue, the dead are waking. Many people are touched by these events – one of whom is stand-up comedian David Zetterberg. He had always known that his wife was too good for him. But he never knew how lost he’d be without her until she dies in a car accident. When he goes to identify her body, however, she begins to move. It’s terrifying, but it gives David a strange kind of hope.

Across the city, grieving families find themselves able to see their loved-ones one last time. But are these creatures really them? How long can this last? And what does it all mean?

Following on from his very successful novel Let The Right One In, Lindqvist has moved his attention away from reworking vampires, to reworking the walking dead. The end result is mixed.

The novel starts out very strongly, making a sci-fi heavy, but still very unique take on the zombie creation. The characters are all strong, from the journalist obsessed with nursing his recently undead grandson back to health; the aforementioned David Zetterberg; to Flora, a teenage, Marilyn Manson obsessed psychic. Much like his previous novel, Let The Right One In, all of the characters actually have very little to do with each other, only crossing paths at very significant moments.

The zombies themselves are also pretty unique. They don’t stumble around moaning for “brains”. The majority just sit and stare – zombified, if you will – and some can even talk, or are capable of some degree of rational thought. We’re big supporters of zombies here at the E14 Camp, and it’s always nice to see a new take on an old favourite.

Whilst the introduction and the main events are excellent set pieces, moving at the right pace – action-packed when needed and slow when required – it’s in the last third of the novel that things begin to unravel a little. What should have been an interesting mass-set-piece involving all of the major characters just fizzles out into nothing. Even the undead problem itself just seems to solve itself, leaving all the characters staring around wondering what the hell the point of all that was.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Several scenes of realistic violence, some animal torture/murder. Heavy gore.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A realistic amount.
Summary: A great zombie story let down by a rather lacklustre conclusion. Worth a look if you’re into the genre, but not going to bring anyone around. – 7/10

The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime
Edited by Michael Sims
Review by Rob Wade

Every now and then, I get given something to review that by all accounts I should like. In many cases, I do try REALLY hard to like something if I feel like I should. I’ve always been keen on Gaslight-era crime. I’m both a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and, thanks to a comedy show, a somewhat credible Ripperologist as well. When I heard, therefore, that this book contained stories from that era, but with the focus heavily on fictional criminals of that era instead, I was intrigued.

Sometimes trying really hard to really like something is just not enough to take away from the fact that it’s…well…frankly not very interesting.

The issue, however, is not with the stories themselves as such, more the presentation of the package as a whole. Because the editor has chosen to collect together several stories from various different authors depicting various criminals from around the world, there’s no flow to the narrative. Now, while this is somewhat understandable in a short story compilation, the fact of the matter is that it does make it difficult to get invested in the book.

Add to this that the characters, without any sort of context in other stories, seem flat and two-dimensional against a character like Sherlock Holmes. For example, even the most inexperienced of those who have heard the name Sherlock Holmes would be able to tell you certain things about him; deerstalker hat, violin and cocaine addiction. I can tell you honestly nothing about these criminals, simply because I didn’t care enough about them while reading to want to know.

Besides which, the plots of these short stories aren’t much better than the characters at drawing me in. From the first story, I found myself becoming slightly bored by the prospect of the criminals’ nefarious plots and how they would progress, and some stories don’t even seem to go into too much detail at that!

It was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself who, while quick to commend the works of E.W. Hornung (one of the authors printed in this book), stated that one “must not make the criminal a hero”. It seems that this effect does speak volumes for the series, as I found it difficult to care one way or the other about the success of the criminals in these stories.

Despite all these comments, I would say that it’s highly likely that if you already have an interest in crime fiction and are a fan of this genre or any of the authors printed herein individually, it may be an idea to pick this volume up, as you probably will find it may help you to discover other writers you may have missed.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: None to speak of as such. Vague allusions but little more.
Sex/Nudity: None whatsoever.
Swearing: None whatsoever.
Summary: See, the sad thing is that this is probably a really good compilation if you have any interest at all in crime fiction from the Gaslight era already, as it collects several of what the editor believes to be the best examples of the genre. However, for someone with no real experience or interest in the genre, maybe worth getting out of a library but I wouldn’t imagine you’d enjoy spending money to own it. 5/10

Arthur: The Legend
David Chauvel and Jérôme Lereculey
Dalen Books

Review by Brad Harmer

Arthur: The Legend returns to the roots of the story of King Arthur, the warrior hero born to return the Island of Britain to glory. Before the Romances of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chrétien de Troyes, Malory and Tennyson (and, well, Disney and Sam Neill, I guess....and Excalibur, that’s an awesome movie) the historical sources of Celtic Britain, the Historia Brittonum, the Annales Cambriae and the Mabinogion, reveal a mighty leader protecting the Britons from inter-tribal warfare and invading hordes in the Dark Ages.

The main characters: Arthur, Merlin, Taliesin and Morgen are all handled well, and are excellently portrayed – but the minor characters (ie. everyone else in the book) are pretty unmemorable. Several characters are introduced in a quick flurry, and it’s impossible to remember all of them.

Oh, and it’s really hard to like Merlin, as he comes across as something of a smug git.

A great narrative device in this book is the utilisation of folk-tales the characters tell each other. They are good stories in their own right, and also break up the narrative well, yet often also reflect the main story. It reminded me very much of Watership Down, as I’m not educated enough to have read The Canterbury Tales.

The artwork is not great, but not bad either. The perspective sometimes looks a little flat, and often the panels are far too busy, distracting from the dialogue; but for the most part if does the job of effortlessly telling the story. The massed battle panels are pretty impressive, though, and some of the dream or folk-tale segments are indicated by a change of style which is a really nice touch – often moving into a Bayeaux Tapestry like illustration.

The last third of the book unfortunately often drifts into battles for the sake of battles – and none of them are particularly interesting. There are splash pages of armies charging at each other, but as there’s never really any fear that any of the four main characters are in any danger, it’s very hard to care about them. The end of the book suffers from a similar flaw, just fizzling out into nothingness. I know there are another three volumes in production, but it would have been nice to have ended this first instalment on rather more of a bang.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots. If you’re into drawings of sword-fights, murders, and what-not, then you’ll get an emotionally fourteen thrill from this.
Sex/Nudity: Some mild suggestion.
Swearing: None
Summary: A good fun pulp adventure, but the lack of depth, dramatic tension and characterisation prevents this from being much better than average. – 6/10

Monday 20 July 2009

Harry Potter can fuck off

There, I said it. I feel much better for saying it. Maybe I’ve worked in a cinema too long, but I’ve had enough.

Don’t get me wrong, ok? I have read all the books, and I’ve seen all the films at least once. I can tell you everything that happens in the series. The problem is that the entire plot of the story can be summed up in the words “Sweet fuck-all”. Seriously, NOTHING whatsoever happens in these books. Let’s sum up, shall we?

SPOILER ALERT (Although, let’s face it, if you haven’t read them by now…)

Philosopher’s Stone: Harry gets told that he’s magic by a large bearded man who takes FAR too much interest in the personal development of an 11-year-old boy. He then travels to a magic school in Scotland, where he finds out that the most evil bastard in the wizarding universe hates his fucking guts, and what does he do with this information? Plays chess for a fucking academic year, and melts a guy’s face.

Chamber of Secrets: Harry comes back to Hogwarts (which by the way is the stupidest name for a made up school about witchcraft and wizardry) for a second year, armed with a fresh knowledge that the bad-arse evil wizard is still out there and has ways of fucking with his day. Knowing this, he decides that the best course of action is to get his best friend’s sister kidnapped and then stab a snake in the face. A snake. Samuel L. Jackson, for all his faults, took out several snakes without breaking a sweat.
Prisoner of Azkaban: Harry finds out that Sirius Black, the guy who supposedly betrayed his parents to the bad-ass wizard, has escaped from the maximum-security wizards prison. Apparently, incidentally, from the title of the film the prison only held him, and is now probably being used as a scouts’ hall. Anyway, he finds out that actually it was someone else who betrayed his parents, and suddenly he can trust Sirius Black completely without any sort of internal conflict. Believing he didn’t betray Harry’s parents? Yeah, I’ll swing with that. Being willing to move in with him immediately afterwards? Not a chance, it’d take time after spending the whole year wanting to kill the prick.

Goblet of Fire: See, once this book came out, it seemed like things might pick up. Ignoring the fact that J.K Rowling seems to insist on naming these books with some sort of dramatic name that makes people go “oooh, what’s the Goblet of Fire? Is it a goblet made of fire?” and other such enlightened guesswork. What an anti-climax when the Goblet of Fire turns out to be a glorified Sorting Hat, eh? Anyway, the bad-ass wizard comes back and kills a character that only really became important in this book. Apparently we’re meant to feel sad. Awwww. That good enough? Ponces.

Order of the Phoenix: The longest book by a country mile, so I’ll make it the shortest description. Harry FAFFS. A lot. Oh, and you find out that the bad-ass wizard was scared of a little crystal ball, the kind Richard O’Brien used to give out on a weekly basis to a team of gullible muppets for our entertainment.

Half-Blood Prince: Harry convinces a fuckwit professor to come out of retirement. Quite WHY he’s a fuckwit, you don’t discover until later on in the book. Harry finds a book belonging to someone called the Half-Blood Prince, and starts using the spells to fuck up people left right and centre. At this point, my interest was piqued, until I discovered that they wouldn’t just let Malfoy bleed to death. Snape kills Dumbledore, an act we have since found out was a homophobic hate crime.

Deathly Hallows: Harry manages to convince his two best friends to go on a suicide mission in order to take out the bad-ass evil wizard, along the way sacrificing a creepy old paraplegic teacher with one good eye. It fast becomes clear that rather than any sort of Deus Ex Machina ending where certain characters need to die in order to advance the story, J.K Rowling is just weeding out the characters she doesn’t want to write spin-offs for. Anyway, Harry kills the bad-ass evil wizard by doing ABSOLUTELY nothing, as most of the events that kill the evil bad-ass wizard have all been put into motion BEFORE HARRY WAS EVEN BORN!

Feel cheated? You fucking should.

Saturday 18 July 2009

DVD Reviews: Mecha

Transformers Season One, Season Two Part One, Season Two Part Two, and Seasons Three and Four
Metrodome Group
Review by Brad Harmer

What can I possibly say about a release such as this? Transformers has been through many incarnations over the last twenty odd years, gradually getting worse in each incarnation, before become little more than summer blockbuster poodoo. This however is the original series – the one you remember from your childhood.

Together with its rival Master of the Universe, Transformers formed the basis for the entire Saturday Morning Cartoon genre. Optimus Prime and the Autobots battled against the Decepticons, and you know what? It was bloody brilliant stuff at the time and its bloody brilliant stuff now.

Any major criticisms that could be levelled at Transformers would have to be inconsiderate of the Saturday Morning Cartoons genre. “The animation isn’t great!” “Yeah, so what?”, “The morality is too black and white!” “Yeah, so what?”, “The whole thing is just a twenty-two minute toy advert!” “Originally, yeah, but you’re missing the main point which is that it’s awesome. Shut the hell up, and sell me a Dirge while you’re at it.”

The DVD presentation itself, however, is a little bumpy. These three to four disc sets have a recommended retail price of £12.99 (with Internet retailers obviously selling much cheaper, as always), and that gives you plenty of “bang for your buck” – with each running in at at least six hours (and the longest at just over 12 hours – although those ones are Rodimus Prime heavy).

However, in at least one instance the episodes on the DVD are out of sequence; and whilst the picture looks good, the sound is a little off. Frequently the sound will drop off in the right channel, which can be a little distracting. These are niggling errors, but they’re such simple mistakes that someone should have picked up on them before release.

That said, the material itself is still fantastic, and I’d recommend it to fans of animation, Saturday Morning Cartoons, comics, sci-fi, mecha, giant-robots-fighting and anyone who thought that the live-action movies were shit. In other words, everyone reading this site.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
For a Saturday Morning Cartoon, there is a surprising amount of direct conflict, involving both projective weapons and brawling. That and the main antagonist turns into a gun. That’s pretty cool.

Sex/Nudity: None. You’ll have to Google “Cliffjumper Ravage xxx slash pissing” for that.

Swearing: Jesus, the thought has just occurred that someday soon someone is genuinely going to Google that, and find this site. If you’re reading this, you’re sick, and I know what you did with that Merman action figure.

Summary: A genuine piece of both Saturday Morning Cartoon and science fiction history at a bargain price. The presentation is a little sloppy at times, but not enough to ruin your enjoyment – 9/10

ADV Films

If you've ever seen an anime that featured a giant fighting robot with a bloke in it before, then you can skip this review. There's absolutely nothing new to see here.

Anyway, here we go...The oh-so-in-desperate-need-of-a-PR-makeover "Dr. Hell" has resurrected an ancient army of mechanical monsters to conquer the world. Ancient...mechanical? If they pre-date John Logie Baird, I think I can take them on. With a spanner.

First he has to destroy the "photon power lab" (three random words thrown together if ever I saw it) and the one thing standing in his way: Mazinger (pronounced Mah-zing-er)! But it's going to take more than defeating Mazinger for Dr. Hell and his evil henchman Baron Ashura to clear their way for world domination...because there's a new kid in town-Mazinkaiser (Mah-zin-kai-ser) he packs quite a punch. Can the young Kouji Kabuto (the pilot of Mazinkaiser) deal out the punishment faster than Dr. Hell's army can take it? Will you still give a shit after the first half an hour?

There's not an awful lot to recommend this rather drab and at times downright irritating series. The bad guy acts like a transsexual Harvey Dent, and the supporting good guys are so irritating I was actually praying for their destruction within the first ten minutes. The animation, to be fair, is actually pretty good, and the opening sequence of the bad guys glimpsed as marching silhouettes against a backdrop of explosions was amazing. It's just a shame that it went in the space of seconds from "awesome robot fight fest" to "that manga series you were chucked out of Waterstones for spitting on".

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
A lot of mecha-to-mecha combat, involving the obligatory overpowered weapons.

Sex/Nudity: Not a lot that I can remember.

Swearing: A very mild amount.

Summary: If you like giant robots and anime you would probably get some enjoyment from this. Everyone else should pass and spend their money on the Transformers sets instead. Bad timing, boys - 4/10

Friday 17 July 2009

The Worst Games Brad Ever Played #1

Rob's off on holiday from E14 this week, which leaves you in my capable hands for Friday's article! I've racked my brains trying to think of a really shitty video game from my past - so here it is: Night Trap!

In the immortal words of Wikipedia: "This article is about video game. For the film aka Mardi Gras for the Devil, see Night Trap (film)"

Being the screaming Sega fan-boy that I was at the time, as well as the screaming horror fan that I still am now (I am also openly gay for Star Wars, but that's not relevant in this instance) - I played this game to death when I got it. It's only with the benefit of hindsight and years of wisdom that I'm able to look back and realise what a crock of bollocks it really was.

The plot goes thusly: a group of young college girls* are staying at the incredibly creepy Mr. and Mrs. Martin's for the night. Oh, and by creepy, I don't mean scary - I mean obviously-old-gay-guy-and-his-beard creepy. The Martin family appear to be an ordinary American family to everyone except the player. However, odd things have been occurring at this house. The five girls who previously stayed at the place had disappeared, like you do, so the "Sega Control Attack Team" is called upon to protect the new guests and find out what happened. Fans of acronyms will have just discovered the level of this article.

* the correct collective term is "a liketotally of college girls".

As the new wave of girls arrive for a slumber party (one of which is undercover SCAT agent Kelly, played by Dana Plato - the most expensive actor video games could afford at the time), and the vampiric "Auger" begin to invade the house. The player then triggers several bizarre traps scattered across the house. These traps throw up a cage, or open up a floor or whatever, and the vampires get zapped with a combination of dry ice and bad miming. As the game progresses, it turns out the old gay guy and his beard are vampires too. Shocked? You shouldn't be.

It's only now, looking back, that it becomes painfully obvious that the premise requires a massive leap of faith. So, there's this vampire family who make the Cullens look dangerous, and they keep inviting gaggles of cliched high school girls to crash out at their house, presumably with the intention of feeding them to the Augers. Their house is then fitted out with an array of hidden traps with the intention of kidnapping and destroying the Augers - so are they friends with them or not? In addition, this trap system can a) be hacked by just any-old-body and b) with a Mega-Drive controller.

The game consisted of a view of your command console. Down the bottom there were a choice of eight different rooms where the cameras were situated. You flicked between the cameras, either picking up on the plot developments taking place, or waiting for some Augers to come bumbling along, at which point you'd press the B button, and you'd be treated to footage of them stumbling (ie. definitely not intentionally walking) into your trap!

The main flaw with the game was that you either had the choice of a) watching the girls, and understanding whatever it was the writer thought he was doing when he threw this together, or b) hanging around, watching static shots of corridors and parked cars in case some Augers came along. You may think that this means that the plot was mere window-dressing, and that you could concentrate on going Snipes on some vampire-arse. Unfortunately, not. Every now and again the characters would "change the access codes". This meant that the password to control the traps was changed. If you didn't hear when they changed the code, then you were screwed, and could only stand by with, if not despair, then at least schadenfreude, as the vampires acted badly around some twenty something girls.

This had the side effect of the only true way of winning the game was through trial and error. You would have to make a list of all the places you had to be and at what time in order to progress through the game. We may not expect to be able to beat a computer game at our first go on it, but we'd like to believe that there is at least a slight possibility.

Of course, if you reached so far into the game, the biggest challenge came in surviving this scene. I always died around the 1:16 section:

Well, I say "died". What I actually mean is that by this point, I had usually slammed the power switch on the Mega-Drive to "Off", and booted this up instead.