Sunday 30 August 2009

Do Not Adjust Your Set

Right, first things first, this is not good-bye. This is a "Hold On Whilst We Sort This Shit Out".

For various reasons, all those involved are taking a step back from this site for a few days. To maintain a site of this quality requires all three of of us to dedicate several hours of our week, and we just need a quick breather so we can jiggle things around a bit. We love doing this shit, and we're very grateful to both every single one of our readers, and all the artists and companies we work with. We're all amazed at not only how successful E14 has become, but how quickly we've managed it.

Like I say, this isn't the end, this is just a quick interval. We'll be back no later than Tuesday 8th September...possibly even earlier. And when we do return, we'll be better than ever before.

Thanks again to all of you, and bear with us. We'll be back soon.

In the meantime, you can get occasional bursts of jolity at, or from our friend's site Films, Books & Rock N Roll.

Saturday 29 August 2009

DVD Reviews

Robot Chicken: Star Wars - Episode II
Seth Green
Revolver Entertainment

Review by Blake Harmer

Seth Green’s cult TV sketch show is back for more Star Wars themed gags after the success of the first compilation, and whilst the first compilation seemed to have merely taken the Star Wars sketches from the TV show and put them together in a half hour show. It seems they have given the second compilation some special treatment, and it shows.

For those who don’t know what Robot Chicken is, it is a series of 5-10 minute shorts that act as a sketch show but the events are being played out by action figures. Be it joke adverts for My Little Apocalypse Pony, Mr T fighting Fools with the Foo Fighters, or a piss take of seven using the Smurfs to retell the story. It’s insane surreal stuff that only a geeky genius like Seth Green would invent. But being a fan of the show’s biggest influence, which is cult comic strip Twisted Toyfare Theatre, I think it’s fantastic. This special half hour compilation is purely based around the Star Wars universe.

Being a huge fan of Star Wars, I was hugely entertained by this second compilation. The laughs come thick and fast, and there is hardly a single sketch that won’t raise a chuckle. In comparison to it’s competitor which is Family Guy’s Blue Harvest, I found it was a lot funnier and also chose to make sketches about the characters in different situations rather than just doing comedy versions of bits of the film (which Robot Chicken does do, and even funnier I might add). The DVD also contains a wealth of bonus features, including two bonus episodes from the TV series. I also loved the fact that they managed to get a lot of the original cast to do voices for the show, including Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa) and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian).

The only downside to such an entertaining program would be the fact that, at the end of the day, the program is only half an hour long, and seeing that the DVD is retailing at around the £12 mark is very expensive considering you can get a full TV series for just a few pounds more. But it is a question of quality over quantity.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Comical slicing and blowing up of characters, not overly gory seeing as they are just action figures. There is an awful lot of Ewok death in the compilation. But that just makes it more awesome.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Used infrequently but to great comic effect. Sadly all swearing is bleeped, but I think that is at the choice of the creators to make it sound more comical.
Summary: An excellent compilation especially aimed at the incredibly geeky Star Wars fans. Fans of Robot Chicken will enjoy it as well, although probably not as much if they are not into Star Wars, too. As mentioned before, it is incredibly short. But it is a question of quality over quantity, so I would recommend you wait for this to come down in price before purchasing it unless you can’t wait to sample this slice of comic awesomeness. 9/10

The Chaser (Chugyeogja)
Hong-Jin Na
In 2 Film

Review by Blake Harmer

Have you ever seen a film that has received so much critical praise that, when you finally watch the film, you cannot see why everyone thought it was so amazing? Normally when this happens to me it’s just some big summer blockbuster that everyone gets swept up by the hype of it only to be hugely disappointed when you finally see it (Brad regularly refers to this feeling as Phantom Menace Syndrome, which sadly shortens to PMS). However, when I was given The Chaser to review, I will admit that I hadn’t heard of it, but big reviewers such as Total Film and Jonathan Ross loved it, so I thought it was going to be awesome, especially with a premise like this:

The Chaser is modern day thriller revolves around an ex-Detective turned Pimp (I am not making this up) called Jung-Ho. Two of his girls have run out on him and he decides to send out one of his last girls, Mi Jin, on a last minute job to bring in some money. However, it is only after he’s sent Mi Jin to the place that he finds out that he had sent her to the last place the other two girls were sent to. Suspecting the girls had been sold he goes to track down the client. Unable to locate the house Mi Jin went to, Jung Ho almost gives up before he crashes into the car of the client. After beating the client and then them both being arrested, Jung-Ho finds out that the client had murdered the girls but Mi Jin could still be alive. But with no evidence, and very few clues, Jung Ho and the police only have 12 hours to find the home and Mi Jin before they have to release the killer.

First of all, I would like to say that I did enjoy this film, the acting is good, the film does take a slightly different direction to most other thrillers of its type, and the plot is engaging and interesting enough to keep you entertained all the way up to its conclusion. I also liked the fact that the violence in it was quite realistic and brutal, and sometimes in a sickening way. Such as the murderer killing his victims by hammering a chisel into their head.

However, at the end of the day, this film just didn’t blow me away. I thought the film was very linear and contained no real plot twist, which I have come to expect from the genre and I therefore found, from a certain point in the film, that I could predict everything that was going to happen. You could argue that the film was different enough from other thrillers to not require a plot twist. However, when you can see what is going to happen from about two thirds into the film, it makes any new and original elements of the film seem redundant, as you knew it was going to happen.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Dark, brutal and realistic violence, blood is plentiful when the killer is committing his deeds but, all in all, all violence and gore is spread out thinly throughout the film to make them all the more impressive when you do see them.
Sex/Nudity: You see some pictures of boobs at the beginning but that’s it.
Swearing: Very common but used in anger and anguish realistically, rather than just shouting "fuck" for the sake of it.
Summary: This is a good film, and for fans of both Asian cinema and of the thriller genre this is well worth a watch. However, it just didn’t amaze me like it obviously has with other big reviewers and I ended up feeling disappointed by it. 7/10,

Thursday 27 August 2009

DVD Reviews

Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Vol 1 - Collector’s Edition
Seiji Mizushima
Beez Entertainment

Review by Blake Harmer

Ever since I was really little, I was always been a big fan of robots kicking seven bells out of each other. From watching the ace Transformers as a kid to playing the Zone Of The Enders and Mechwarrior series of computer games and board games such as Battletech, to watching more grown up animes such as Patlabor, Appleseed and Macross Plus, they‘ve all involved large robots tearing each other apart. So when I was given this collector’s set of Gundam 00 to review, I was looking forward to it, and I am happy to say that I was not disappointed.

The series is set in 2307 AD and the Earth is now powered by 3 huge yet fragile orbital elevators with large scale solar power generators on each one. Because of this, the Earth has split into 3 superpowers who centre around these towers, and these superpowers still continue to fight for the sake of their own prestige and prosperity. In this world of constant fighting, a new privately armed force appears out of nowhere calling themselves “Celestial Being”, and their goal is the end of all war, and they will deploy their highly advanced “Gundam” Mobile Suits and intervene and stop all acts of war until all war is finally over.

Firstly, fans of the Gundam animes and mangas are in for a treat. This deluxe collectors set not only contains Volume 1 of the series (which features episodes 1-9), but you also get a Gundam Mobile Suit figurine with interchangeable weapons, a “Celestial Being” crest patch , a badge, and a key chain. Secondly, the series features lots of high flying speedy mech to mech combat with giant robots blowing each other up and cutting each other with big swords in all matters of cool ways. Finally the plot is complex but interesting enough and not too distracting from the main fun which is the combat. It’s deep but thoroughly entertaining.

A couple of flaws that I should mention with the set is that I felt that the series doesn’t give lots of character development to the cast and is too busy focusing on the combat or on everyone trying to deal with other superpowers or “Celestial Being”. Also, unless you are a big fan of the series, this special edition is just shy of £40 which makes it too steep for people with just a passing interest in the series, and not really worth purchasing if you’ve already bought the normal edition of the Volume 1 DVD.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots and explosions and flying swordplay in giant mechs. Not particularly gory but you’ll be too busy enjoying the pretty robot death to care.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None
Summary: This is an enjoyable series with lots of explosions to keep fans of the series entertained, especially with the generous extras given with the collector‘s edition. I recommend this series to people who are into robot fighting animes but I recommend you purchase the normal edition as it is a lot cheaper than this special edition. This set is a must for fans though. 8/10

Metrodome Entertainment
Review by Rob Wade

When I was told that this movie would come my way, I responded with a shudder; this is after all an Uwe Boll movie. Uwe Boll, for those who don't know, is world-renowned for taking video game franchises and violating them beyond their wildest imagination. Remember the movie version of Alone in the Dark ? Uwe Boll. Heard about the terrible sounding Far Cry movie? Uwe fucking Boll. Nevertheless, I vowed to give this movie my attention fairly in the spirit of the E14 review process.

Postal tells the story of a "Dude" living in Paradise, Arizona. He has nothing going for him; his obese wife is sleeping with other guys behind his back, he can't get a job and as if all that wasn't enough his dog keeps taking dumps in his garden (well, as close to a garden as you can get with a trailer, anyway). He finally decides he's had enough and vows to make some money to escape the town. With the help of his religious cult leader uncle Dave, he vows to steal the year's hottest new toy fad and sell them at a super-inflated price in order to make millions. Little do they know, however, that Al-Qaeda are hot on their heels, as they have their own twisted designs for the toys...

IF that plot made no sense to you, don't worry too much; the plot falls very quickly to the wayside. This film opens with a couple of terrorists flying a plane (Guess where it's heading!) and discussing their glorious martyrdom. This becomes second priority, however, when they realise that they've both been told that different numbers of virgins await them in eternal paradise. While on a cell phone call to Bin Laden, the terrorists decide that they will be going to the Bahamas instead. However, the passengers revolt, crashing the plane into...yep, you guessed it...the Twin Towers in the commotion.

It's obvious from early on in the film that this is not meant to be taken as a serious film. If that scene wasn't enough, the toy I mentioned earlier is named Krotchy, and is basically a soft penis voiced by Verne Troyer (remember him, kids? From the Austin Powers movies? Good times...). Uwe Boll actually makes an appearance in this movie as well, a tongue in cheek interview where he claims that his movie is made using Nazi gold, because in his words "something has to be done with the gold".

Fans of the Postal video game that this is VERY loosely based on will be pleased to know that some things do end up making an appearance; the cat used as a silencer, for example, a scene very reminiscient of Charlie Sheen shooting a chicken from a bow in Hot Shots: Part Deux .

Ultimately, I didn't hate this movie. I didn't particularly love it, but I definitely thought that the movie was much better than Boll's previous efforts, simply because it was done in a tongue-in-cheek style. In the long run, this decision helped the film immensely, as you find yourself unable to take any of the problems with the movie too seriously. That said, I found myself very unenthused by the movie as a whole, so as a result couldn't recommend it THAT highly.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : Absolutely bucketloads, over the top and realistic, including an amusement park scene where a LOT of kids get shot. I swear I'm not making this up.
Sex/Nudity : Several pairs of tits, and a couple of softcore oral sex scenes (as in you don't see anything) of both genders.
Swearing : A fuckton.
Summary: As hard as I tried to hate this movie, I just couldn't bring myself to completely hate it. Everything about this movie shouldn't work: the dialogue is pretty terrible and the content can at times be offensive and goddamned ridiculous. However, I found this movie to be absolutely watchable, and unbelieveably didn't feel like I'd wasted my time at the end, as the movie proved to be pretty amusing due to its over the top nature. You win this round, Boll... 5/10

The Ungodly
Thomas Dunn
Metrodome Distribution

Review by Brad Harmer

Sometimes a DVD lands on my review pile, and instantly I worry that it’s going to be pants. There’s a sixth sense you develop after a while that lets you know that what you have picked up is going to be complete and utter crud. This is why I was so pleasantly surprised by this movie. What I thought was going to be a terrible trash slash movie, is actually possibly the darkest and most psychologically challenging horror movie I have seen in a long, long time.

Struggling filmmaker, Mickey Gravatski (Wes Bentley - Ghost Rider), stumbles upon a diabolical serial killer carrying out another of his unspeakable crimes, he turns to blackmail, using footage of this madman in a disturbing new film project. What follows is a nerve-shredding psychological game of cat and mouse between the filmmaker and his dangerous new subject. To save himself, Mickey must confront the darkest side of not only the killer's nature, but his own.

What struck me most was the realism of the characters. The killer, James LeMac, is disturbingly real, showing real relationships with his family, babysitting a neighbour’s kid. Everything seemingly in direct contract to the acts he has both perpetrated and, in his childhood, been a victim of. As Mickey digs deeper and deeper into James’ childhood, the darker the film gets. Finally, James kidnaps Mickey’s mother, and starts to direct where the film goes. When Mickey is dragged to along to watch and document James commit another murder, I realised that this film was possibly the darkest I’d seen since Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. When the ending finally arrives, it keeps you guessing until the last as to what it actually going to happen. This is how you make a good horror movie.

It’s not a perfect film, by any stretch. The actual prosthetic and gore work is a little sloppy, especially for a horror film, and whilst the two protagonists may be realistic and rounded characters, they don’t necessarily act in a realistic manner all the time, and some of their behavior requires rather a large suspension of disbelief. Normally that would be par for the course in a horror movie, but for one that is otherwise chillingly dark and realistic, it seemed rather at odds with the rest of the tone.

All in all this is definitely a film that I’d recommend to lovers of both horror movies and crime fiction. It has the darkest edge to it that I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. It’s hard watching, but let’s face needs to be, sometimes. 8/10

Mel Damski
Optimum Home Entertainment

Review by Blake Harmer

Being a huge fan of the Monty Python films, as well as the works of Spike Milligan and Marty Feldman, you wouldn’t be surprised to find that I was really looking forward to seeing a comedy film featuring all of these great comics (well...just Eric Idle, Graham Chapman and John Cleese from the Pythons, anyway) as well as an all star cast of actors all round (James Mason, Peter Boyle and Madeline Kahn just to name a few). However, I was amazed to find that despite how many great comics you put in a film, it doesn‘t mean it‘s a guaranteed slice of comic gold.

The plot revolves around Yellowbeard (Chapman), the infamous pirate who murders men and rapes women. He has finally been captured and tortured for 20 years but still won’t reveal the location of his treasure. When Yellowbeard is due to be released, the British Admiralty decide to keep him incarcerated so that he will escape and go for his treasure, which he does. He visits his wife to recover his treasure map only to find that he now has a son, and that his wife had destroyed the map but had it copied onto His son’s head. So, with his son and some of his pirate friends, Yellowbeard sets off to get his treasure, and stop his old Pirate friend Moon who betrayed him and had him put in jail, the British Admiralty, and the local Spanish priests from getting to his treasure first.

This film does have a fair few problems. Firstly, the film never really tries to grab you with laugh after laugh of comedy awesomeness, and instead has it’s big laughs spaced few and far between whilst just being consistently silly throughout. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in some films, but when you have a roster of comedians who can really dish out big laughs constantly, it just leaves the film feeling disappointingly average. Secondly, despite the plot holding your interest throughout, I thought the ending was also very disappointing.

The film does have some strengths though, Graham Chapman and John Cleese’s characters no doubt have the best lines in the film and are on top film. Also, when the film does decide to be funny, it really is brilliant, but as I said these are just too few and far between.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Comical Slapstick humour, typical piratey fight scenes. This film is more for laughs than violence though.
Sex/Nudity: You get some boob shots but nothing else. But hey that‘s already better than most films. Yellowbeard does “rape” a lot of people but normally this is just shown with him picking u a woman and carrying her off and you might see some clothes flying out of the window/bush that he goes into. A bit like a slightly grown up Carry On Film then. Which is disappointing coming from some of the Pythons.
Swearing: A few swear words, but nothing overly strong.
Summary: This is a disappointingly average film and contains nothing distinctly brilliant about it to make me recommend it to anyone. Fans of any of the fine comics in this film would be better off sticking to the great films and TV shows that made them famous. 5/10

Lockdown: 2009
TNA Entertainment
Review by Brad Harmer

Gimmick matches on a wrestling card work because they are gimmicks. A cage, ladder or hardcore match is supposed to be something a little different that makes the match stand out from the others, hence the use of the word gimmick. Here at Lockdown (Recoded at the Liacourous Center, Philadelphia, PA – 19th April 2009), every single match booked takes place within a six-sided steel cage. If you’re thinking that that could get repetitive and kind-of dull, serving only to undermine an otherwise fine gimmick match, then yes, you’re right. It does start to wear down a little after a while.

Things get off to a rolling start when the commentators get a couple of wrestler names wrong.

The whole thing smells of overbooking. The opening match is five-man cage escape match for the X-Division titles between Sheik Abdul Bashir, Consequences Creed, Kiyoshi, Jay Lethal and Suicide (Champion). The performances from the participants are good, but the spots come a little too thick and fast, and I can’t help but wonder if the running time of the match was reduced at the last minute.

What can go next? Well, how about a four-way match? Sojourner Bolt, Daffney, ODB and Madison Rayne perform in an acceptable match, but much like its predecessor, there is nothing to elevate it anywhere above the average.

The tag-title match between LAX, The Motor City Machine Guns (Champions) and No Limit was surprisingly average, considering the level of the talent involved. I’ve mentioned it before, and this is the perfect example of the gimmick of a match hindering, rather than enhancing, the overall quality of the show.

Things took a turn for the hardcore in a vicious brawl between Matt Morgan and Abyss. I was surprised at the amount of weapons and blood on display or what is a (relatively) mainstream wrestling promotion. Even here, however, there were a couple of factor that let it down. Firstly, Abyss is a significantly superior wrestler to Matt Morgan, and it really shows here. Secondly, there was a fairly dumb run-in towards the end that hampered what was an otherwise exciting match.

In a card that features even Team 3D and Beer Money Inc. only able to pull together an average, sub-ECW quality brawl, you know that something isn’t firing on all cylinders. The apparently overbooked Team Jarrett (Christopher Daniels, Jeff Jarrett, Samoa Joe and A.J. Styles) vs Team Angle (Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash, Scott Steiner and Booker T) is the only real highlight of the show, featuring a very tense segment on the top of the cage, which culminates in a most unexpected manner. Again, there’s a rather unnecessary run-in, which taints an otherwise great match, but this one bout was top-notch stuff!

And, of course, the World title match between Sting and Mick Foley is as great as you would expect from two utter legends.

It wouldn’t be fair to say that this is a bad pay-per-view – there aren’t any bad matches on it, per se. There are however, a lot of average or just-below average quality ones, which should make you think twice before parting with your money.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Loads. Especially in the Abyss vs Matt Morgan match, which surprised me with its brutality.
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: None
Summary: A load of great wrestlers not performing at their best. Whilst far from bad, the overall quality makes this worth a rental, but maybe not a purchase. 6/10

Wednesday 26 August 2009

West of Arkham the Hills Rise Wild

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

There have been three constant loves in my love – three things that, no matter what else was happening, I always held dear, cherished and had time for. These three are zombie movies, Star Wars, and H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Of these three, the last is the one that raises the most eyebrows. At best, it confuses most people as they’ve never heard of it; and at worst it makes them avoid me because it sounds like I’m into Diabolism. So here’s my Beginner’s Guide to The Cthulhu Mythos.

Lovecraft's major inspiration and invention was “cosmic horror”, the idea that the universe is incomprehensible to human minds and fundamentally alien. Those who genuinely reason, like his protagonists, and see the truth for themselves, frequently lose their marbles as their brain shatters at the incomprehensibility of it all. Lovecraft has developed a cult following for his Cthulhu Mythos, a series of loosely interconnected fiction featuring many diverse entities and deities, as well as the Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire of magical rites and forbidden lore. His works challenged the values of the enlightenment, Romanticism, and Christianity.

I have been a fan of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos since the age of fourteen, when I was recommended a compilation of his short stories by the terrible old man who ran the second-hand bookshop in my home town. And so, for the past twelve or so years, I have played Mythos games, collected Mythos comics and artwork, own a cuddly Cthulhu and (naturally) spent years tracking down and reading the works related to the Cthulhu Cycle of myth.

At length, feeling a fatigue which had nothing of drowsiness in it, I bolted the newly outfitted hall door, turned off the light, and threw myself down on the hard, uneven bed - coat, collar, shoes, and all. In the darkness every faint noise of the night seemed magnified, and a flood of doubly unpleasant thoughts swept over me. I was sorry I had put out the light, yet was too tired to rise and turn it on again. Then, after a long, dreary interval, and prefaced by a fresh creaking of stairs and corridor, there came that soft, damnably unmistakable sound which seemed like a malign fulfillment of all my apprehensions. Without the least shadow of a doubt, the lock of my door was being tried - cautiously, furtively, tentatively - with a key.

The Cthulhu Mythos is a cycle of stories centring on various gods, entities, and deities that exist outside of our dimension, and their attempts to break through. The Cthulhu Cycle was begun by H.P. Lovecraft in the 1930s, and his circle of friends contributed by using his creations in their stories, or by adding to them. Lovecraft, in turn, would do the same with their creations, and the Cthulhu Mythos was born. The whole thing was spawned almost like a role-playing game. Lovecraft would write a story, Robert E. Howard would write a story containing a piece of that (such as a deity, location or book), and then Robert Bloch would do the same, and so on.

Over time, this “literary parlour game” has continued, and even big-name modern horror writers such as Stephen King, Brian Lumley, Neil Gaiman and Robert M. Price have made massive contributions to the on-going story.

One of the things I have always loved about being into the Cthulhu Mythos, is the way that the interest (hobby, obsession, whatever you want to call it) becomes almost a full-time LARP. The best Mythos stories (especially the ones from Lovecraft’s own hand) are written like factual accounts, which makes them much more realistic than most form of narration. Then, the next thing you know is that you’re perusing dusty old tomes in second-hand book shops and flea-markets – looking for stories about strange people perusing dusty old tomes...

So how do you start?

Well, I would always argue that the best book to start with first, would be The Call of Cthulhu. It’s not his best one, by any stretch, but it is central to the entire Cthulhu Mythos. For all its faults, it does serve as a pretty good introduction to the rest of the mileu. It’s written in a documentary style (three independent investigations are pieced together by the reader to reveal the whole truth). The meaning of the story comes full circle with its opening line: "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity; and it was not meant that we should voyage far.".

It is a fact that the wind had brought dreadful havoc. Whether all could have lived through it, even without the other thing, is gravely open to doubt. The storm, with its fury of madly driven ice particles, must have been beyond anything our expedition had encountered before. One aeroplane shelter-wall, it seems, had been left in a far too flimsy and inadequate state—was nearly pulverized—and the derrick at the distant boring was entirely shaken to pieces. The exposed metal of the grounded planes and drilling machinery was bruised into a high polish, and two of the small tents were flattened despite their snow banking. Wooden surfaces left out in the blast were pitted and denuded of paint, and all signs of tracks in the snow were completely obliterated. It is also true that we found none of the Archaean biological objects in a condition to take outside as a whole. We did gather some minerals from a vast, tumbled pile, including several of the greenish soapstone fragments whose odd five-pointed rounding and faint patterns of grouped dots caused so many doubtful comparisons; and some fossil bones, among which were the most typical of the curiously injured specimens.

The Call of Cthulhu is followed by its spiritual successor, The Dunwich Horror. This builds on all that The Call of Cthulhu established and transfers the cosmic, philosophical horror it began, and turns it into a more tangible, yet still mind-bogglingly inconceivable monster. The full-length novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward presents a similar adventure.

To tell you where to go from there proves a little harder. If you’re into sci-fi, I’d tell you The Colour Out of Space...but that deviates a little from the “Mythos Proper”, if you will. At The Mountains of Madness, The Shadow Over Innsmouth and the aforementioned The Case of Charles Dexter Ward are certainly favourites of mine, although their length may put off some readers.

You know what? I’m going to go with The Whisperer In Darkness next. At the age of fourteen, this was the first story I ever read that properly shat me up. It centres around strange alien visitations in the hills around Arkham, and has a twist ending that I don’t know that anyone ever sees coming.

By now, you should have a basic grasp of the Mythos. Part of the fun, though, comes from digging in and finding stuff out off of your own back.

Like I say, it’s a little enthusiasm of mine that has given me much fun over the years. I hope it does you, too.

Let's end with the most Lovecraftian music video ever made:

Something terrible came to the hills and valleys on that meteor, and something terrible — though I know not in what proportion — still remains.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Book Reviews

Blood Line
Mark Billingham
Review by Rob Wade

Blood Line is the latest novel in the Tom Thorne series, and sees Thorne visiting a murder scene. All seems standard until he gathers what turns out to be a fragment of X-ray from the victim's hand. From then, the twisted game the killer is playing becomes more and more apparent, and Thorne must use every tool at his disposal in order to solve the mystery, all the while doing his best to recover from a significant personal tragedy.

Right away, I started enjoying this book. It may sound strange, but one of the most important things in a book that's grounded in some sort of reality, in this case the realistic setting of modern day England, the characters have to be believable in that situation and environment. This is something, clearly, that Billingham has given a lot of thought to when writing his characters.

Tom Thorne is a compelling protagonist for the simple reason that he isn't perfect. If you think of all the classic detectives, from Sherlock Holmes all the way to Scooby and the gang, the one common theme that links them is that each character has some sort of flaw or a dark side. Scooby and Shaggy are gluttons who inadvertently stumble across the monster while escaping or involved in an act of tomfoolery, and Holmes is a cocaine fiend. Which of those is the bigger vice is ultimately up to you, but you can't argue that both are drawbacks that in their own way give the characters personality.

Thorne, in the same way, is written very cleverly. Despite the fact that this is not the first book in the series, you find out enough about Thorne and the people around him to be able to piece together plenty of his backstory and personality. There's also, intriguingly, hints that there is more to come and more that has been kept from the reader until this point, teasing future volumes.

Of course, no detective would be complete without the criminal they are chasing, and this is another area where the book comes off very well. The killer is written very well, bringing in just the right amount of information at just the right times in order to keep the story going without leaving the reader well ahead of the action and getting bored waiting for the storyline reveal they just know is coming.

The characters around Thorne are also well written, and it's not hard to see which of those people are a positive influence on his life and which grind on him. As stated above, he's recovering from a major personal setback at the beginning of the novel, and through a well-structured narrative, we see how people react to his curmudgeonly side as well as how other people connected to him deal with the same tragedy in their own ways.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : A quite significant amount, hardly surprising as it's a murder mystery novel about a serial murderer.
Sex/Nudity : Mentions of sex and sexual acts, mostly from a hooker character. No specific mention of any such scenes though.
Swearing : A realistic London, England amount without becoming a Guy Ritchie level of bad language.
Summary: This book is a really good read, I found it very difficult to put down. Tom Thorne is a completely compelling protagonist, mainly because he's written very realistically. The story is well-written and paced, and reads very much like an episode of a great crime drama on TV or at the cinema. The twists are significant, unpredictable and so well written that it won't dawn on you what's happening until just the right moment. 9/10

You Suck
Christopher Moore

Available from 27th August
Review by Brad Harmer

Being undead sucks. Literally.

Just ask C. Thomas Flood. Waking up after a fantastic night unlike anything he’s ever experienced, he discovers that his girlfriend, Jody, is a vampire. And surprise! Now he’s one, too. For some couples, the whole biting-and-blood thing would have been a deal breaker. But Tommy and Jody are in love, and they vow to work through their issues.

But word has it that the vampire who initially turned Jody wasn’t supposed to be recruiting. Even worse, Tommy’s erstwhile pals are out to get him, at the urging of a blue-dyed Las Vegas call girl named (unsurprisingly) Blue. And this really sucks.

Comedy always strikes me as hard to do in a novel. There are comedy writers out there, but they mostly exist on the Internet, either doing satirical pieces, PhotoShop comedy, or bizarre pieces of meandering fiction involving their time spent teaching at Hogwarts. Comedy can be funny in prose, but in the context of a novel, that gets harder to maintain, because you have other things, like plot and characters and emotions to worry about. So, first things first: You Suck is really, really funny. Not just “ha and smirk” funny, but laugh out loud and embarrass yourself on the train funny.

There are a couple of dodgy points. The plot loses it occasionally, when Moore does falter, and making jokes becomes more important than telling the story. Also, whilst for the most part his book does work as a stand-alone novel, I couldn’t help but feel I was missing out on quite a lot, having not read the original. A minor point, perhaps, but it depends on your outlook. I think that unless a book is specifically marked as being a sequel or part of a series, then to assume your reader has read the previous instalments is quite arrogant. There is nothing on the cover or blurb to indicate it was a sequel.

With that in balance though, as a comedy, this book really succeeds. It’s also the first vampire story I’ve ever read that involved some desperate and inexperienced vampires first shaving a cat to drink its blood without getting hairballs, and then to feel bad for it, and give it a sweater. If that sounds like the sort of thing you would find hilarious (like me), then pick this book up. It’s a light, but highly enjoyable, read.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several scuffles and vampire feeding sequences. Some gunplay.
Sex/Nudity: Lots of strongly implied stuff, but nothing explicit.
Swearing: A realistic amount.
Summary: A good, fun vampire romance/comedy that manages to get in a few belly laughs. Certainly worth checking out if you’re a fan of comedy novels, and worth buying for that douche you know who takes Twilight way too seriously. – 8/10

The Dwarves
Markus Heitz
Little, Brown Book Group

Review by Brad Harmer

Abandoned as a child, Tungdil the dwarf blacksmith labours contentedly in the land of Ionandar - the only dwarf in a kingdom of men. Although he does not want for friends, Tungdil is very much aware that he is alone – he has not so much as set eyes on another dwarf.

However, the traditional dark forces are moving through Girdlegard and the borders of the Perished Land are moving ever closer. Sent out into the world to deliver a message and reacquaint himself with his people, Tungdil soon finds himself caught up in a battle for which he is unprepared and untrained. Now not only his own safety, but the lives of every man, woman and child in Girdlegard depend upon his ability to embrace his heritage. Although he has many unanswered questions, Tungdil is certain of one thing: no matter where he was raised, he is a true dwarf. And no-one has ever questioned the courage of the dwarves.

The Dwarves is an excellent, pulpy, Robert E. Howard, Warhammer style fantasy, with all the good and bad attributes that entails. Combat is fast and furious, characters are fun and lively, but unfortunately this comes with a distinct lack of depth to all the other aspects of the story. The very nature of its fish-out-of-water quest consistently reminded me of The Hobbit. When so much bad fantasy writing is essentially Middle-Earth fan fiction, this may sound like a criticism. However, I don’t mean it to be here – the comparison is intended as an endorsement.

Unfortunately the novel is not without its weaknesses. Several of the supporting cast dwarves are very difficult to tell apart, and even several human or dark-elf characters end up running into each other in a big fantasy shaped blur. Also, unlike Tolkien, the descriptive sections are very vague, and you don’t get the sense of epic scale and age like you do with other examples of the genre. As a result of which, I found myself re-reading passages so that I could regain my sense of what was actually happening, something that I don’t tend to do very often.

If you’re a fan of pulp fantasy, then you could certain do a lot worse than check this out. If, however, your idea of a good fantasy saga is more along the A Song of Fire and Ice and The Wheel of Time than Conan The Barbarian or The Sword of Truth; then there’s probably not much here for you.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several sword and axe centric battles against orcs and dark-elves. Standard fare for the genre, but pretty gory at times.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Some mild swear-words. Nothing too coarse. Strange for dwarves, to be honest.
Summary: Fun pulp, sword and sorcery action. Held back at times by the writing style, but if you can see through that, then the action comes thick and fast. Enjoyable. 7/10

Monday 24 August 2009

Wrestling is Awesome

Wrestling is awesome. It's something that frankly doesn't get said enough. I'm twenty-five years old this year, and yet I can't help but exclaim how much wrestling rules. By all accounts, it's something that I should have grown out of quite a long time ago, but I just can't seem to get away from my appreciation for the sport. Yes, it's a sport, get over it.

Wrestling has been a part of my entertainment fix since I was about 9. I started watching wrestling on a regular basis when we got Sky Sports installed in our house as part of our cable package. As soon as I could work our video player, I started to record the Pay Per Views (however, I was cheap at the age of 11, and would simply have one video that I'd have to watch before the next PPV in order to be able to justify recording over it once the next one rolled around). At the age of about 12 (in 1996, the very beginning of Shawn Michaels as a main-eventer), I stopped watching for a reason that is unknown to me now. I got back into it in 1998, during the Austin 3:16 era (probably largely down to the fact that Stone Cold Steve Austin was absolutely awesome as an entertainer).

I forget when I stopped watching again, but I remember why I got back into it. Pay Per Views became social occasions at a friend's house, and many was the time we'd all congregate at his house, first stopping off at the local all-night garage in order to stock up on caffeine and sugar. Half the time, the fun was the conversations we'd have on the way to the garage (one particular one that sticks in my head was the time we played "What would happen if the wrestlers got injured and had to sell real estate for a living?" - we were laughing so hard that night just for the terrible Hulk Hogan impressions we managed to get going).

Love the multi-coloured gloves, Hulk. Terrifying.

See, even now I'm thinking I should be watching wrestling. I've been months without watching it, and can go months or even years without watching any pro wrestling whatsoever. However, as soon as a friend says "Oh, Wrestlemania's on soon", I'm making plans and arrangements to be free for that evening, usually involving swapping shifts and helping relatives and close friends understand why it's so important that I see the Hardy Boys jump off various tall items.

I have never in my life heard a convincing argument as to why people shouldn't watch and enjoy professional wrestling on a regular basis, either. I've heard the arguments, sure, but I've never heard a convincing one. The main one I seem to hear quite a bit is "oh, you know it's all fake, why do you watch it?" I take issue with this for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the nerdy reason: Yes, wrestling is scripted, in the sense that they go out to the ring knowing who will win the match. They generally also know if there's a particular thing that's going to happen that will have an outcome in the match (someone running out, that sort of thing). However, they don't know which moves they will do and when they will do them. That's all improvised as they go along, which is pretty bloody impressive when you think about it. Most entertainers will happily admit that they don't improvise a large amount of the things they do live.

Also, the risks they take are pretty genuine. Are you familiar with a piledriver? If you're not, let me explain. Taken from Eric Moreau's The Squared Circle sourcebook, the expansion of which we have reviewed in the past on E14, the piledriver is as follows:

The attacker applies a standing head scissors on the victim and grabs around their midsection. The attacker lifts the victim up so the are upside down. The attacker then drops the victim head first to the mat, either by sitting down or dropping to their knees.

Even READING that makes me ache. Secondly, the argument that "it's all fake and thus shouldn't be watched" doesn't really work with any television, as without shows that aren't real, there'd be pretty much nothing to watch. You'd be restricted to wildlife documentaries and shows about food and history (awesome though they are). What sort of television schedule is complete without something overblown and fantastical like CSI , Heroes or Friday Night with Jonathan Ross ?

What bugs me the most about the "it's fake" argument is summed up by an anecdote from a stand-up show I performed a few years ago. I told the audience I liked wrestling, and asked if anyone in the audience was a fan. A few people chuckled, murmured soft agreements, but one guy had a resounding "God NO!" I was intrigued and pressed further. I then asked him "What do you watch on TV then mate?" to which he replied "Football, and the wife watches soap operas". My reply was simple; "And you mean to tell me you think pro wrestling is fucking fake?"

As far as football is concerned, I'm a fan in some small capacity, but I admit fully that the sport is damned ridiculous at times. The transfer fees have become so large that it's pretty much like using Monopoly money as currency. The players take one little knock to the shin and go down like they've taken a 12-gauge in the chest. And don't even get me started on why soap operas suck more than wrestling. Face it, you'd watch religiously if Coronation Street had people settling their differences in an Inferno match, or if Eastenders' Peggy Mitchell solved her problems by jumping off the odd ladder.

However, if you could take Dot Cotton in Lycra, you're a better man than I.

Saturday 22 August 2009

E14 Giveaway - Go Joe!

G.I. Joe (AKA Action Force) is the codename for one of the world’s most highly trained special mission forces. Its purpose: to defend world freedom against Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organisation determined to rule the world!

To coincide with the nationwide theatrical release of the live action movie G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, E14 has teamed up with our buddies at Metrodome to bring you this awesome giveaway: the original animated feature, G.I. Joe – The Movie!

In this movie a 40,000-year-old race of snake people resurface and with the help of Serpentor, Desto, Baroness, and Dr. Mindbender, plan to eliminate all of mankind and rebuild Cobrala. Once rulers of Earth, the snake people were driven underground by ice-age temperatures. While in exile, they developed a plant whose spores turn ordinary men into mindless, weak animals. The key to their plan is G.I. JOE’S secret project – the Broadcast Energy Emitter. Only this device can generate enough heat so that the spores can mature. Humankind’s very existence depends on G.I. JOE, but are they strong enough, smart enough or cunning enough to fight a warrior race with 40,000 years of experience?

For your chance of winning, just send an e-mail to, with your name, and postal address before midday on Wednesday 26th August (UK time). The first five names drawn out of the electronic hat will win free copy of this awesome animated movie.

The offer is only open to postal addresses within the UK and Ireland.

Friday 21 August 2009

Dickass DM

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

Previously on Dickass DM: Captain Braggart and the crew of the Starship Traveller have been sucked through a black hole known as The Seltsian Void, winding up in places unknown. Their engine has run low on Dilibrium crystal ore and needs replinishing. They find an likely source of ore in a nearby asteroid field, and Lt. Scarlet-Garment is killed during a mining mishap. Captain Braggart sends his trusty Ensign Redshirt #1 to reclaim the ore...

Read Part One here

Brad: Redshirt #1 journeys deeper into the cluster of asteroids. Using a portable scanner, he finds four likely sources of Dengarbudion. Which do you want to go for? A, B, C or D?
Rob: Let's go for...B. I'm assuming they have more technical names in the original text?
Brad: Yes. "First", "Second", "Third" and "Fourth".
Rob: Right. The second one.
Brad: You are aware that’s the exactly the same asteroid you chose last time?
Rob: Yep.
Brad: Science Officer Mc Spindle raises his hand.
Brad (McSpindle): "Sir, is playing the Law of Averages really our best option?"
Rob: "What would you prefer we do, McSpindle? Eeny meeny miney mo?! I'm the captain of this damn vessel, and I say Meeny!"
Brad (McSpindle): "Aye, aye, Captain."
Brad: With a small tool, Redshirt #1 begins excavating the ore from the massive spinning rock. He packs several kilos into his backpack and leaps out back to the ship.
Rob: Oh, they've found his backpack, mysteriously no luck with mine, though.
Brad: A small asteriod enters your vision travelling at high speed. You hit the communicator to warn Redshirt #1. He doesn't notice and the asteroid smashes him, to a splat, dispersing gore and gases across a small blast area. Sound familiar?
Rob: Increasingly.
Brad: McSpindle drops to his knees with a cry of "REEEDSHIIIIRT NUUUUMBEEEER OOOONEEEE!"
Rob: He really seems to get close to the crew. For a science officer.
Brad: Do you want to try and murder some more of the crew, or head off to a new system?
Rob: Let’s go to a new system.
Brad: Doesn't jetting off towards a new system just undermine the futility of these men's deaths?
Rob: Right, make your fucking mind up. You won't let us harvest Digimurmur, or rather, causality seems to have an issue with it...
Brad: You could try a different asteriod! Rather than just sending all your men towards that spiky, skull-shaped one covered with bits of space suit!
Rob: All right, fine. Let's go with Miney.
Rob (Captain Braggart): "Security Officer Cripps!"
Brad: The Security Officer staggers over, pretending not to be drunk.
Brad (Cripps): "Ses, yer?"
Rob (Captain Braggart): “Where did you get alchohol?”
Brad (Cripps): "What?"
Rob (Captain Braggart): "Never mind, you're going out."
Brad: Cripps jets out, swaying from side to side in the asteroid field. He crash lands on a nearby asteroid, excavates the ore and dives back without a hitch.
Rob: You have to be kidding me... I lost two redshirts, when all I have to do is send Oliver Reed?
Brad: Say what you like, this is a pretty realistic Star Trek simulator. An hour later, Engineering Officer Clank buzzes up to say he has enough ore to get the ship under way.
Rob (Captain Braggart): "Any sign of my backpack?"
Brad: Security Officer Cripps hands you a small satchel with Lt. Scarletgarment's screaming face stuck to it.
Brad (Cripps): "Is this yours, sir?"
Rob (Captian Braggart): "That's yours, that one there is mine"
Rob: I grab his backpack.
Brad: It clinks.
Rob: I'll live with it. So now what?
Brad: You park the ship in orbit around a blue-green planet. You run a scan for life signs, but find nothing. An all-frequency radio message is similarly fruitless.
Rob: Right... I can't help but feel somewhat disturbed. I mean, the ore gathering mission SEEMED harmless...
Brad: Suddenly the scanners pick up a signal. What appears to be a small ship is travelling towards you from the other side of the planet. Extremely quickly.
Rob (Captain Braggart): "Take evasive action!"
Brad: Switching to visual, you see a missile shaped object heading towards you. The Star Trekky siren goes off, and Cripps raises the shields. A blast rocks the ship.
Rob: "What happened to my evasive action?!"
Brad: You lose a shield. Do you want to try to contact the object as it closes, or go to battle stations?
Rob: "Battle Stations!". Assuming they actually listen and don't start furniture shopping instead
Brad: Another blast narrowly misses the ship and you prepare to retaliate. Your glancing shot weakens their shields, but not by much.
Rob: This is a pretty wank vessel really, isn't it?
Brad: Your evasive manoeuvre takes them by surprise and their shot misses by miles. Space miles!
Rob: Are they further or something?
Brad: Nah, just sound cooler. Your shot pierces their shields and sends sparks flying from their vessel. Your ship rumbles with impact as they return fire. You fire again. The shot penetrates the shields and the enemy vehicle explodes.
Rob: Hooray!
Brad: Resuming your orbital position, you scan the planet again. Readings are still odd, but you can find no *definite* signs of life. Do you want to beam down and have a nose around, or head off?
Rob: Beam down.
Brad: You land on a cliff overlooking a ravine. The land itself is rocky, barren and windswept. You can't see that much from where you are, so you decide to descend into the ravine - as shelter from the wind, if nothing else.
Rob: Right.
Brad: Using your portable scanner you detect what appears to be a stream running through the valley. Your scanner says it's water, but there's something funny about the reading. Which of your crew would you say is the biggest dick? Besides yourself, obviously.
Rob: I would say the Science Officer, plus it's a good fit for him to drink strange water. he's a man of science.
Brad: McSpindle feels a little dry, and bends down to take a sip of the water.
Rob: Hmmm. My Bodes Ill sense is tingling. This bodes ill...
Brad: On the bank, you notice a natural looking deposit of a yellow powder. Your scanner is unable to identify it. Do you want to take some to take back to the ship for further analysis?
Rob: Yes. It might be saffron; that will improve our culinary options no end.
Brad: The planet appears to be barren. Do you want to continue investigating, or return to the ship?
Rob: Continue investigating. Maybe there's Tarragon too!
Brad: The ravine continues into more rocky ground. The scanner reports nothing unusual. With no more spices readily apparent, and signs of a dust storm on the horizon, you decide to beam back to the ship.
Rob: “Dust storm” or “All the Cumin I Can Carry”?
Brad: Back on board, you make your Captain's Log...
Rob: Satisfying. It had been a while since last I went.
Brad: Man, they lie. The old ones are the worst... Scanners indicate two likely systems ahead: one with a purple star, and one with a double star. "Which does your Highness think we should head for?" asks an increasingly mutinous McSpindle.
Rob (Captain Braggart): "...he seems different since we got back from that planet"
Rob: Anyway... the purple star one
Brad: You enter hyperwarpspeedspace, and head towards the system. Once underway, the intercom buzzes. There's a disturbance in the canteen, and you're asked to investigate.
Rob: We're out of cumin! I knew it!
Brad: Once you reach the canteen, crew members come running to you. Apparently, McSpindle has been acting madly, throwing trays of food around and fighting with crew members. He's being held by three Security when you arrive. He raves and strains against his captors. Seeing you, he calms a little. Do you want to a) have him released, and try to talk to him, b) Get the medics to sedate him, or c) Ask for a report on the planet and the samples you brought back!
Rob: Let's go for the report. I like bureaucracy, that's why I became a Captain!
Brad (Mc Spindle): "He's going to kill us all! With big spinning rocks!"
Rob (Captain Braggart): "Stand down, you crazy bitch!"
Rob: Would slapping him help?
Brad: You run through the data, but can find nothing that would explain the Madness. The yellow powder is organic, but not known to any of the chemical analysts. You could make McSpindle take some, or call in the Medical team.
Rob: Call in the medical team. I don't want to waste saffron on someone that won't appreciate its subtle nuance.
Brad: The medical team arrives and prepares a sedative. As they approach, McSpindle lashes out and cracks one of the Redshirts across the forehead, knocking him down.
Rob: "Quick Redshirt, give him a kick, that was well out of order!"
Brad: Finally they manage to administer the drug, and he falls unconcious. A good kicking in later...
Rob (Captain Braggart): "That might have been a bit far. I'm fairly sure he had all his teeth before you started."
Brad: McSpindle is taken to Medical Officer Wheezy for tests.
Rob (Captain Braggart): "Make sure to replace his front teeth"
Brad (EMT): "I'll have to extract them from your boot first, My Liege."
Rob (Captain Braggart): “I didn't kick him, it was Redshirt!”
Brad: You know what I really like?
Rob: Go on.
Brad: The way the book has assumed you'd still have Redshirts knocking around, blissfully unaware of just how much asteroid douchebaggery you were planning.
Rob: Well, i don't like to brag...
Brad: Wheezy discovers a strange micro-organism in McSpindle's blood. He manages to mix up an antibody. Sometime later, McSpindle wakes up with a terrible headache, but otherwise cured. He still thinks you're going to doom them all, though.
Rob: There's no cure for that besides another kicking.
Brad: You want to head for the purple star, or change course and head to the Tatooine system? (Not a gag - look it up.)
Rob: Purple star... purple star. That was meant to be a Prince reference.
Brad: Doesn't work written down, does it?
Rob: Not really, no.
Brad: Approaching the system, your scanners report that the second planet has the idea atmosphere to support life. You drop into orbit and scan the surface. There are strong indications of intelligent activity. Indeed, they may even be more advanced our own civilisation. Do you want to beam down, or press onwards?
Rob: Beam down. Ooh, should we take some spices? Does this ship come with Gaydar?
Brad: You try an all-frequencies broadcast a few times, but with no luck. Pick an officer to beam down with you.
Rob: Security Officer Cripps.
Rob (Captain Braggart): "Clank, see if you can make any repairs while we're gone."
Brad: Okay, the landing party will be yourself, Security Officer Cripps, and Ensign Chemiserouge. You materialise in a deserted street. One one side the buildings are very tall, and on the other side, they are much shorter. Perhaps the large ones are business and the small ones are private dwellings?
Rob: Are you a DM or a Real Estate developer now?
Brad: The architecture is alien, but there are no signs of anyone living. You hear a whirring noise, and can see a hover car in the distance, heading towards you. As you try to get a better look, you hear a noise over your universal translator: "Over here! Quick!". You see a man-sized, vaguley insectoid looking creature beckoning you into one of the smaller buildings.

To be continued...

Thursday 20 August 2009

DVD Reviews

The Haunting in Connecticut
Peter Cornwell
Entertainment In Video

Review by Blake Harmer

The Haunting in Connecticut revolves around the Campbell family, who decide to move to a new house in Connecticut when their son Matt is diagnosed with cancer and they are having to make long car journeys to take him to the hospital there. However, they later discover that the house has a very bad history and that used to be a Funeral Home and also a place where a boy named Jonah, who is a very powerful Medium also held numerous séances there. Matt starts seeing things in the house, but is it his new medication, or are there dark forces in the house?

If you said there are dark forces in the house, you’d be right (even if you couldn‘t have guessed it from the film‘s title). Despite this film being based on a true story, throughout the film, you will constantly be thinking that you’ve seen this sort of film before. The plot is too similar to every other ghost based horror film you may have seen, from the jumpy “echoes” in 1408 to the predictable plot twist at the end of the film which shows that there is still more to come like in Poltergeist. I also thought that the initial ghosts you see at the beginning of the film were more laughable than scary as well.

However, there are good things to say about the film. The later ghosts are genuinely spooky and there are some good jumpy bits to enjoy. I also liked the use of Matt’s connection with the dead being due to his illness and him being close to death. It was one of the few nice bit’s in the film that didn’t feel starved of ideas. Some of the ghosts also reminded me of the zombies from Lordi videos, and anything that involves Lordi is made of win in my book

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Fairly gory, but not hugely in comparison to other horror films. Focus is more on scary and grotesque looking corpses an jumpy bits than actual gore.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Very mild, in fact as far as horror movies go, The Haunting in Connecticut is very disappointing on the sex, nudity and swearing fronts.
Summary: This is a fairly average film with nothing for me to suggest you to watch it over all the truly amazing ghost story films out there. True, there are some good jumpy bits, and the plot will keep you entertained throughout, but in a world full of horror movies, I couldn’t recommend it. You should probably consider giving it a rental if you’re in the mood for a ghost story, but apart from the plentiful documentaries the DVD package offers as extras, I cannot see a huge reason for parting with your cash for this. 6/10

The Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon
Daniel Lee
Icon Home Entertainment

Review by Blake Harmer

Normally when it comes to reviewing kung fu movies, I normally completely ignore the plot, which is normally a shoddy revenge plot loosely explained so that there is some pretence for a load of fight scenes to happen, and just focus on how good the kung-fu is. Take Jackie Chan’s City Hunter for example, the plot is so stupid it’s laughable. However, as it’s an early Jackie Chan film, the kung fu is really good with some truly great set pieces (not including the Street Fighter II scene, which is just silly). However, with the Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon, I was surprised to find that the plot was great and worth even more attention than the kung fu.

The film is based on the novel Romance in the Three Kingdoms and is set during the period of the three kingdoms which is the period where three armies fought to unify China and focuses on Zhao Zilong’s life fighting for Liu Bei’s army and his rise to power as one of the five tiger generals. The plot also follows a fellow officer who comes from the same town as Zhou Zilong and the relationship between them. However, unlike his counterpart, he has very little success and always remains a mere cog in the war machine.

I enjoyed the film on several levels. Firstly, the combat was good with some good use of wire-fu, but mostly keeping things simple with good swordplay on horseback. The kung-fu has no real mind blowing set pieces but is good enough to keep you entertained throughout. There is also plenty of gore during the battles, and although only a realistic amount is used, the deaths are still impressive enough to make you wince a few times. Secondly, the acting of Andy Lau as Zhao Zilong is fantastic and he adds some great emotion to the storyline, especially at the film’s climax. Thirdly, the plot is very engaging and keeps you feeling for the characters throughout, especially with a couple of good plot twists.

The film does suffer from a major gripe though, which is that I feel that it is too short. The film is just over 100 minutes long, but in that time tries to tell a story that happens over almost 40 years. It feels as if the large parts of the plot are described to you rather than actually shown. There is also a scene where we see Zhao Zilong’s wife, but then she is never shown again and the plot never mentions her again either which sort of made me feel that there was either a lot of plot left on the cutting room floor, or it was just a redundant scene which they could’ve used the time to expand upon the main plot. Finally, for a two-disc special edition, the DVD doesn’t seem to have a lot of extras so it seems like a bit of wasteful investment if you would like to see more on the making of the film.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Lots of large, bloody battles, good solid kung-fu, but nothing truly mind blowing that other films like House of Flying Daggers or Ong-Bak would offer.
Sex/Nudity: None, they were too busying having large battles to worry about anything else.
Swearing: Few uses of swearing, didn’t really grab my attention though.
Summary: This is a thoroughly enjoyable film with a good storyline and some solid set pieces in terms of kung fu. However, seeing that John Woo’s recent epic Red Cliff is based on the same book and is a whopping 5 hours long, you can see that the film feels rushed and there was more to the plot. Definitely worth a watch for kung-fu fans who want to see a kung-fu film with an actual decent plot though. 7/10

Diagnosis: Death
Jason Stutter
Revolver Entertainment

Slimeball teacher Andre Chang (bribery, letchery, the whole shebang) is horrifed to learn that he has inoperable bowel cancer. In an effort to prolong his life any way he can, he agrees to an experimental drug trial. Once he gets there, he meets a young literature student, Juliet, with whom he forms a friendship. Their happiness, however, is short-lived, as before long strange goings-on start to happen at the hospital, making them call into question whether all is as it seems on the ward...

From the outset, one thing is apparent with this film; the people involved WANT you to know that it's from the makers of Flight of the Conchords . If you doubt that one bit at any point, it's as easy as looking at the DVD box to see why, as several of the characters on the box only appear in the film for about five minutes. However, as they're actors from the famous TV show I just mentioned, they get a look in on the DVD cover.

Smart move, in hindsight, as Rhys Darby for me is the funniest character in the movie. One particular scene involving his character (Chang's doctor) giving the prognosis was funny in a kind of Ricky Gervais-esque awkward way, a kind of humour I have a lot of time for personally. However, throughout the whole film the only real attempts at comedy moments are all of this variety, and frankly the characters involved don't really have the comedic ability of Darby to pull it off.

One of the main critiques I have of this movie is that it seems to be an attempt to combine the appeal of Shaun of the Dead with the fanbase of Flight of the Conchords , but suffers from ultimately not being as well-written and funny a film. As a result, it feels like a pale imitation simply because it comes off as a film that can't decide what it wants to be; comedy or horror.

The horror elements, also, aren't especially good. At no point during the film did I find myself particularly terrified, largely due to some weak CG work and over use of the traditional clichéd "jump-out" moments and tension building to find that...nothing happens. The main villain, as well, isn't particularly terrifying at any point, even during the storyline's big reveal.

That said, I had no feeling while watching this movie that I was wasting my time, and there were some things that I enjoyed about it. I already mentioned Rhys Darby's brief appearance, but there were really not many bad acting jobs in this movie at all. The protagonists are sufficiently likeable and convincing in their portrayal of the characters involved. Even the main villain, though the character is not a particularly well-written one, is still sufficiently well-acted to be enjoyable.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : The odd gruesome bit, but all looks quite over the top and so not particularly jarring.
Sex/Nudity : Very little involving corporeal form (you'll see what I mean if you watch it).
Swearing : A few uses of "fuck" and "shit", nothing particularly exciting.
Summary: This is a difficult one to score, as the film ultimately cannot decide if it's trying to be a comedy or a horror film. In both genres, it succeeds to a certain degree, but not in any particular amount one way or the other. However, an entertaining enough film that's well worth a watch. 6/10

Wednesday 19 August 2009

E14 Conquers Japan

Have you ever seen the movie Brazil? It’s a great piece of cyberpunk dysoptian yadda-yadda, you know how this goes. Anyway, the main storyline of Brazil kicks off when a dead fly drops into a printer, causing a man’s name to be misspelt on an arrest form. As a result, an innocent man is sent off for interrogation, and a chain of events unfolds. I mention this because I can think of no other logical explanation as to why I should currently be on a jet-plane travelling back from Hokkaido having just participated in a Sumo wrestling tournament.

Two days ago, my agent telephoned to tell me that I had been booked for a show in Hokkaido, Japan. Now, Bjorn is a little quirky at times, and prone to bouts of forgetfulness, so I phoned him up with a gentle reminder that I don’t actually speak Japanese. “No, it’s okay,” he promised me, “you won’t have to do much talking. Just think of it as a promotional thing for E14. You turn up, do some waving, a few autographs, meet the Mayor, push some fat guys out of a circle drawn on the ground in salt, take the first pitch of a baseball game...”

“Wait, do what?”

“Baseball. It’s kind of like cricket, only square instead of in a straight line.”

“No, the one before that.”

“Meet the Mayor.”

“No, forward one.”

“Push some fat guys out of a circle drawn on the ground in salt?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

“It’s one of those charity events they have out there. It’s sort of like a Japanese Children in Need, only instead of having a TV fundraiser, they have a knock-out combat sport tournament; and instead of the money going to charity, it goes to the winner of the tournament. With twelve per cent going to his agent.”

Landing at the airport, I was taken in to the hotel. Assuming that this was so I could, you know, unpack my bags and stuff, I was rather taken aback when I was told that this was for the weigh-in. I weighed in at about fourteen stone. My opponent, who I shall refer to for humorous reasons as “E. Honda”, clocked in at just over twenty. I decided that it was time for some match promotion – Brad Harmer style. Grabbing the microphone from the compere, I yelled across “Hey, Honda. Yo’ mamma so fat, she...nearly as fat as you.”

Honda looked at me, obviously not familiar with English. A small fellow leaned into his ear, muttered what was presumably a translation, and Honda delivered his reply, which was similarly relayed to me. “He says he will crush you like Godzilla crushed Tokyo.” whispered the translator.

“Oh, yeah? Well you tell him that I’ll float like Mothra and sting like...erm...Varan!”

I discovered that my bout was due to take place the following evening. This left me a mere twenty hours to fully comprehend all of the rules of Sumo wrestling, get into shape, ready myself for the match and make a note to get a new agent.

I decided that probably the best thing I could do would be to at least TRY and look the part of a sumo-wrestler. I went to my room and fashioned myself a nappy out of my beach-towel. Unfortunately, I don’t go to the beach very often, so beach towels don’t get a lot of wear with me. So, this happened to be the same beach towel I had owned since I was eight. As a result, by the time I had finished, my crotch was decorated with the snarling face of Megatron.

I then moved onto the only other thing that I knew about Sumo wrestlers: their weight. I slapped my stomach experimentally. I’m not overly fat – but I’ve got that “used to be skinny but is now getting a bit too old to be eating and drinking crap anymore” look. As far as I could see it, I had a few hours in which to put on as much weight as possible. And this called for just one thing – McDonalds – Sumo Style!

I headed down into the car, ignoring the looks that my Decepticon Crotch drew. They were just jealous. I did, however, later discover that by an amazing fluke Ravage was covering my backside. This probably drew an equal number of stares.

In all seriousness, it’s an easy country to make fun of, but I absolutely love Japan. It’s probably the only country in the world I could go to where I could walk into a McDonald’s dressed only in a 1980s beach towel, and only be the third weirdest looking person there. I made my way up to the counter, and via the age old method of speaking English loudly and clearly, whilst pointing emphatically, I managed to make myself understood.

Twelve Big Macs later, I was feeling rather run down. And bloated. Yup, definitely bloated. I made my way back to the hotel, and tried to avoid doing any exercise, hoping that this would encourage the calories to turn into fat, or however the hell it works. I never paid much attention in Home Economics. Or Biology. Whichever.

The day of the fight, I made my way to the stadium to get an eyeful of the set up there. I’d caught Sumo wrestling on the TV a few times, but I could usually only watch about ten minutes before getting bored and switching over to virtually any other sport in the world (except curling). I understood there were two fat semi-naked guys shoving each other around, but that was pretty much the limit of my knowledge.

After a while, the camera crews and what-not started turning up and I began to give them some devil-horns, shouting “E14 for the win!” and what-not. They seemed to nickname me “Robotto Ochinchin”, which worked fine for me. Sounded pretty cool anyway. Then E. Honda turns up, and it’s all business from here on in, boys.

There’s the usual pre-match waffling from the commentator. Honda throws a handful of salt at me, so I throw some at him. Bjorn had warned me about this part of it, so it wasn’t so bad. When the match started, though, I realised that this whole thing was a bad idea. You can laugh and joke all you want, but when a 20 stone man dressed only in a big nappy runs at you, it’s nearly enough to make you shit your Ravage.

I did, however, have the edge when it came to speed. I must have run around that ring for a good twenty minutes before Honda began to show any signs of flagging. With one last burst of energy, I threw myself at him, and straight into his bearhug.

If you’ve never been bear-hugged by a sumo wrestler, it’s really warm. Oh, yeah, and you can’t breathe. That’s a bit of a shitter. I struggled valiantly against him, but to no avail. Finally, I did the only thing I could think of: I chundered up twelve Big Macs into his armpit. E. Honda seemed (perhaps unsurprisingly) repulsed, and staggered back a little. Then, there was an almighty clanging sound, and his eyes rolled back up into his head.

I stood aghast as E. Honda collapsed to the floor, only to see standing in the ring holding a steel chair emblazoned with the E14 logo: Rutger Hauer! “Bjorn said you might need a hand promoting this thing over here...looks like I turned up just in the nick of time!”. He smiled as a bunch of pyros went off, and Lordi abseiled down into the ring, kicking off the show with “Hard Rock Hallelujah”, laughing and jeering at the fallen E. Honda. The crowd went wild, and we partied all night long. E14 successfully promoted overseas, and mission accomplished.

Or I might have choked on my own vomit in the armpit of a morbidly obese nude guy and had to be resuscitated. I forget which.