Wednesday 31 March 2010

Megan Fox: Hellbeast

I’ve only met Megan Fox the once, and frankly, that was enough.

Thanks to Bjorn and his +1 Burger Van of Temping, I found myself acting as her butler for the day. Yes, most butlers have to spend many years in training, and it’s a job that requires great skill. However, if you go to Bjorn for a butler, then frankly I’m the best you’re going to get. You don’t want to wind up with Humid William. Nobody wants to wind up with Humid William.

“You’ve buttled before, right?” asked Bjorn, as I sat down on a crate of holepunches.

“Aren’t you supposed to be my literary agent?”

He ignored my question. “You've buttled right? Didn’t you work for Natalie Portman once?”

“If by ‘buttled’ you mean ‘snuck into her room disguised as a bellboy’, then yes.”

Once again, there seems to be something of a blur between Bjorn offering me a job, and me arriving at my new place of work. I have often suspected that some form of hypnosis comes into play. That, or he just clubs me over the head with a length of pipe and bundles me into a taxi.

Rubbing the lump on the back of my skull, I looked over the large mansion in front of me.

I was only familiar with the work of Megan Fox through three films. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, which I had caught the last half of on TV, and almost forgotten she was in. Transformers, which I could hardly see at all through the tears of joy in my eyes. Not because it was a great movie, but because I was glad they’d chosen to rape Transformers, instead of Masters of the Universe. The last movie of hers I’d seen was Jennifer’s Body, and that was one of those films that was okay, but made me crosser and crosser the more I thought about it afterwards.

I also understood that she was supposedly the most beautiful woman in the world right now. Although, if you were to ask me to pick a word to describe Megan Fox, it wouldn’t be “beautiful”. Her cold, dead eyes and plastic, clammy looking skin would, if anything, push me towards the word “cenobitey”.

Arriving at the mansion, I found the door unlocked. Pinned to a cork noticeboard in the hallway was a care sheet for Megan Fox, including the temperature and humidity she was to be kept at, how often she required misting, and how many crickets to expect her to consume in an hour.

Letting myself into the dining room, I found Megan Fox perched on the rafters, applying more hideous tattoos to herself with a felt-tip pen. “Hello, Miss Fox?” I called out to her. “I’m Rutger. The butler.”

Megan Fox scuttled down the wall to join me. “Ah, yes. Bjorn said he would be sending someone in a Gamma Bomb t-shirt.”

“Gamma Ray.”

“Whatever. Have you held a similar position before?”

I studied the laminated care sheet in my hand. “Uh, yeah. I had a pet frog for a while, and you seem to be pretty similar.”

This seemed to meet her approval, and she climbed back up the wall again, whilst I went through to the hall to check the mail.

There were several job offers for her, including some from various comic and cartoon franchises, which I shredded. It appeared, after all, that this might prove to be the easiest job I had ever had. I put my feet up on the table, leaned back in my chair, and studied the decomposing butler crucified to the ceiling.

It was at this point that I realised something was up.

Leaping bravely from my chair with a heroic whimper I looked up at the corpse of Megan Fox’s previous employee. I tried softly whispering “Hello? Are you all right?”, but there came no response, save for the gentle shuffling of a cockroach in the ex-serf's right eye socket.

I peered cautiously back into the room where Megan Fox was entertaining herself. She was holding the phone to her head the wrong way round and making strange mewling noises that imitated speech. “Um...Miss Fox?” I called out. “I’m going to take my break now.”

The cenobital actress ignored me, and climbed back up to the rafters.

I went to my car and took out the implements I needed. Well, I didn’t have what I needed, actually. I needed a crucifix, holy water and a bible, but I don’t tend to carry those sort of things around with me. I made do with my “What Would Henry Rollins Do?” bracelet, a copy of Holy Diver on tape, and my home-made Storm Bolter.

A lot of people ask me about my home-made Storm Bolter, assuming that it’s going to be some sort of gag. Something like two toilet roll tubes sellotaped together, that fires ping-pong balls from elastic bands. People who ask stuff like that then usually laugh derisively. People like that don’t know me. People like that are usually surprised when I show them my cast-iron, fully functioning Storm Bolter that I made in my garage. They are usually even more surprised when I use it to explode a passing squirrel.

I also put on my Solomon Kane Hat, which I always carry for such purposes.

I kicked open the front door, ready to kick some bad-acting arse. The house seemed quiet at first, but then a spatter of lightly acidic drool splashed onto the brim of my Solomon Kane Hat. Looking up, I saw Megan Fox on the ceiling above me, looking how she would have looked in Jennifer’s Body, if they’d picked someone who could do monster make-up, and someone who could act.

“The power of Dio compels you!” I cried, throwing the dodgy copy of Holy Diver at her, which bounced off of her head with a hollow “clack” sound. I ran into the house before she could land on top of me and eat my soul with her hungry, zombified face. As I ran, I turned to see her chasing after me across the ceiling like the alien in Alien 3. I fired my home-made Storm Bolter, and the massive bullet tore a lump out of her shoulder. She spun round in the air and collapsed to the floor.

I stood over her, the Storm Bolter trained on her at all times. “Nice try, Fox, but this is one butler who you’re not going buttle. Off of this mortal coil. Face.”

It wasn’t the best triumphant one-liner I’d ever had, but it came somewhere in the middle. I was surprised when she smiled up at me. “Oh, Rutger. You saved me from the demon that was possessing me, I’m now free to live my life!”

I smiled back. “That’s great, Megan. What are you going to do with your new found freedom!”

She smiled enthusiastically, “Well, I’m going to play SuperGirl in the next Superman movie! I’m auditioning for the part of Cheetara in the new Thundercats movie! And then, most exciting of all, I’m going to commence shooting Transformers 3: Childhood Memory Raping of the Dinobots! Available in cinemas everywhere, next sum...”

The final gunshot was an exclamation mark to everything that had led to this point. I released my finger from the trigger. And then it was over.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Book Reviews

Thirteen Years Later
Jasper Kent
Bantam Press

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

Bonaparte is long dead and the threat of invasion is no more. For Colonel Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov, life is calm. The French have been defeated, as have the twelve monstrous creatures he once fought alongside, and then against, all those years before. His duty is still to his tsar, Aleksandr the First, but today the enemy is merely human.

However, the tsar himself knows he can never be at peace. He is well aware of the uprising fermenting within his own army, but his true fear is of something far more terrible - something that threatens to bring damnation upon him, his family and his country. Aleksandr cannot forget a promise: a promise sealed in blood...and broken a hundred years before.

Now the victim of the Romanovs' betrayal has returned to demand what is his. The knowledge chills Aleksandr's very soul. And for Aleksei, it seems the vile pestilence that once threatened all he held dear has returned, thirteen years later.
Twelve, the predecessor to Thirteen Years Later, was an awesome swashbuckling horror novel that I described to friends, and anyone else who would listen as “Sharpe Vs Vampires”. Thirteen Years Later has taken that angle, but also produced a completely different novel. Darker, more complex, and (disbelieving as I was at first) better.

The change of style was a gamble that has paid off. Drawing for styles as diverse as pulp-horror, historical fiction and noir detective stories, it could have been a bit of a mess - devoid of any entity. Thankfully, this isn’t the case, and the elements all gel together to create something very different and unique.

It’s not a perfect novel – some sections drag their feet for a little too long, and Aleksandr (a major character) comes across as rather flat and lifeless, but it’s still worth the price of admission.

Fans of the original may be a little surprised at the direction it has taken, but by the end, they’ll be grateful for the excellent duology they now have.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Realistic depiction of period warfare. Stabbings, combat, murderising, biting, blood-drinking and staking.
Sex/Nudity: Some mild sex scenes. With boobs.
Swearing: Some strong language.
Summary: Takes the story in a much darker direction than its predecessor, which makes for a bumpy ride, but pays off in the long run. 8/10

The Fog
James Herbert
Pan MacMillan

Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

The peaceful life of a village in Wiltshire is suddenly shattered by a disaster which strikes without reason or explanation, leaving behind it a trail of misery and horror. A yawning, bottomless crack spreads through the earth, out of which creeps a fog that resembles no other. Whatever it is, it must be controlled; for wherever it goes it leaves behind a trail of disaster as hideous as the tragedy that marked its entry into the world.

The fog, quite simply, drives people insane.

The Fog is a scary, sex-laden, gore-dripping, skull-crushing horror novel. Or, that is to say, it was. The past thirty-five years since its original release have, rather unfortunately, not been kind to it. Its over reliance on scenes of graphic violence, once shocking, are now being delivered to a generation that sees similar kinds of conflict and depravity in video games. Deprived of its shock value, its rather more noticeable that this is basically a 1950s b-movie of a story.

With a scene in which someone is trampled to death by enraged cows.

The story itself is okay, and the sex and violence is still well presented and written, but it just hasn’t aged very well. Some scenes are scary, some will make you wince, but there’s just not enough substance to lift this above average.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several scenes of explicit violence, murder and gore.
Sex/Nudity: Two explicit sex scenes, some references to sexual deviancy.
Swearing: A realistic amount.
Summary: Once thought of as a horror classic, the years have not been kind to The Fog. It’s still a fun ride, but if you have fond memories, don’t revisit. It may not be as good as you remember. 6/10

The first volume of the much anticipated graphic novel adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight - this first in the four book global phenomenon The Twilight Saga - is out now!

The first of two volumes, Twilight - The Graphic Novel: Volume I contains selected text from Meyer's original novel with illustrations by Korean artist Young Kim. Stephenie Meyer consulted throughout the artistic process and had input on every panel.

Meyer said: "I've enjoyed working on this new interpretation of Twilight. Young has done an incredible job transforming the words that I have written into beautiful images. The characters and settings are very close to what I was imagining while writing the series."

Thanks to our friends at Atom, we've got three copies of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight - The Graphic Novel: Volume I to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to with your name and postal address before midday on Tuesday 6th April (UK time). The first three names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

Monday 29 March 2010

Apple Snobs Can Cock Off

Firstly, I feel I have to clarify. As with most of the rants I aim at a specific portion of the public, I need to clarify that this is not a rant at Apple users in general, nor is it a knock on Apple as a business. This rant is very specifically tailored to those people I call "Apple snobs", or those who believe that just because Apple make a product, that inevitably makes it better than anything anyone else can do.

I present to you Exhibit A:

The Facebook group "Anything your PC can do, my Mac can do better." This group represents exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about. This group professes the message mentioned in the group name. Now, I'm not going to mention games, simply because it's been mentioned to death. Macs don't play many games, this much we know. Having said that, with some of the crap that comes out nowadays, you'd be forgiven for thinking occasionally that Mac users might just be getting a half-decent deal, even if they pay over the odds for their games.

Anyway, you'd think that a group like this would be celebrating and championing the cause of Mac users and Apple products, and for the most part this is absolutely spot-on. However, you would THINK that a third of the discussion threads on the front page wouldn't be full of technical errors and problems people were having with Macs. I mean, you would THINK that if fifty-three thousand self-righteous twats saw fit to add themselves to such an obnoxious group, there wouldn't be any problems with Macs at all, right? I mean, for fuck's sake, I know three people who own a Mac, and two of those three had problems in the first THREE FUCKING MONTHS! That's a failure rate of 66% among the three people I know, almost as bad as my recent luck with Xbox 360s. A second error in the space of a week after a repair? Sort it the fuck out, Microsoft.

But I digress. The Mac superiority complex doesn't end there, either. When it comes to purchasing the damn thing in the first place, there's the Apple Store to contend with. I swear, if I get another conversation like this in an Apple Store, I'm going to kick a badger across the face:
"Can I help you with anything?"
"No, I'm just browsing thanks."
"Oh". *Saunters off disinterestedly*.

I mean, really? At least attempt the sale, I'm not just there to waste your time. Truth be told, I'd love a Mac, it'd make a few things significantly easier for me. However, I don't feel that convenience is worth forking out the extra £1000 necessary to enjoy the Mac experience to the standard I want.

I'll give you an example. The Apple iMac MB952B/A (there'll be a link in a minute, don't panic!) is somewhere in the region of the kind of specification I'd like. However, let's run this specification by the list that I ended up putting into my fabled "Rig O' Win".

MAC: 2.66GHz Dual-core Intel. ROW: Quad-core 2.41GHz AMD.
MAC: 512MB Graphics Card. ROW: 512MB Graphics Card.
And so the list goes on.

Now, you'll notice a trend here: For the most part, the Mac just edges out my ROW with a slight increase on a few bits, but for the most part the ROW holds its own. Now, how much price difference do you think there is between the two? Bearing in mind I built the ROW myself, with parts salvaged from a meteorite from Planet Win. Alright, fine, so that's all lies.

I bought it from Aria, and Planet Win is not a planet at all, but a site named E14. Fair enough, the screen's 27" on the Mac, which is pretty cool, but I have a 22" screen which does me fine, so I'm totally set for screen size. Besides which, since the tower for my rig is built separate, and the computer's not built into the monitor, it doesn't mean that the entire computer's fucked necessarily if something goes wrong.

Anyway, the price difference can be illustrated Here, where you find that the Mac retails for an RRP of £1869.99. My Rig O' Win? £578.22. Now, fine, my rig does crash occasionally, but for less than a third of the price it's well worth the price. Plus it runs Crysis. Good enough.

Another thing that caught my eye in this Facebook group was a topic about how awesome the iPad was going to be, and how everyone who didn't think so was an idiot. What made me laugh, first of all, about this discussion thread, was how the guy responded to someone who made some valid points about how it wouldn't be awesome. He was one of those people who says "Everything I say is true and absolute! Disagree? That's your opinion" and doesn't get the irony.

Newsfalsh: The iPad isn't going to change the world. What it is, this iPad, is essentially a glorified iPod Touch with a much larger screen. You know how Nintendo have released the DSi XL, which is just a chunkier version of the DSi? It's the same premise. True, the iPad will benefit from a slightly improved processor and probably some larger storage memory, but you can't make phone calls on it, like the iPhone, and it doesn't come bundled with an Operating System, like a Tablet PC. Fine, eventually there'll probably be an app that'll do this stuff, but in the meantime you'll be paying for a largely useless slab of electronics. For example, for a similar price to the projected price of the iPad, you can pick up the Alienware M11X laptop. A sexy piece of kit, I'm sure you'll agree. Plus it'll run an OS and games.

And who the hell decided iTunes and iPods were the way forward? Don't get me wrong, again, I use iTunes and I have an iPod. In fact, I've had two in the space of five years. Not out of choice, by the way. My first iPod developed problems after two years, showing a sad little face with the look of death upon it. I took this as a bad sign, and a quick visit to the iPod home page confirmed my fears. Off I went, then, to purchase a new one. At £239 for an 80GB video iPod, the purchase was a good deal at the time. Of course, a month later they released an iPod at twice the size for the same price, but you know, musn't grumble.

Now, I like iTunes, but they've got some arse-backwards rules. For instance, I bought a shitload of music from iTunes before they took off the DRM after a massive backlash from fans like myself who wanted to be able to back up their legally purchased music without having limits imposed on it. Now, regardless of your feelings towards DRM (or Digital Rights Management for those who aren't acronym-savvy), it's doubtlessly apparent that stuff you purchase should be yours to do with as you please. Incidentally, this isn't just the fault of iTunes, as apparently it's technically illegal to rip music from CDs you own. Arse-backwards, thy name is piracy regulations.

Now, once they changed the DRM rules, everything you purchase on iTunes now comes with no DRM attached, leaving you free to make mp3 copies of everything you buy, with iTunes finally giving you the benefit of the doubt that you're not going to be Pirate McArsehole and distribute absolutely everything over file-sharing. Incidentally, a bit of trivia for you: Pirate McArsehole was among the character names rejected for Dickass DM.

So you would think, wouldn't you, that the new iTunes rules would apply to the stuff I purchased before the rule came into effect? Wrong, motherfucker. Apparently it'll cost me sixty-five pounds to update all the songs I've previously purchased. How crap is that? Admittedly, that's about three hundred quid's worth of music, and I'm sure other people have spent more, but that's three hundred quid I could've spent on other things that didn't require DRM faffing. Like a couple of spare 360s for the inevitable downfall of mine.

I know I keep on, but it still hurts, ok?

My name's Robert Wade, I'm a blogger, and I cut together everything you see here on the Rig O' Win.

Cock off, Apple snobs. Cock off.
In the summer of 1812, before the Oprichniki came to the help of Mother Russia in her fight against Napoleon, one of their number overheard a conversation between his master, Zmyeevich, and another. He learned of a feud, an unholy grievance between Zmyeevich and the rulers of Russia, that began a century earlier at the time of Peter the Great.

Aleksandr made a silent promise to the Lord. God would deliver him - would deliver Russia - and he would make Russia into the country that the Almighty wanted it to be. He would be delivered from the destruction that wasteth at noonday, and from the pestilence that walketh in darkness - the terror by night...1825.

Russia has been at peace for a decade.

Bonaparte is long dead and the threat of invasion is no more. For Colonel Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov, life is calm. The French have been defeated, as have the twelve monstrous creatures he once fought alongside, and then against, all those years before. His duty is still to his tsar, Aleksandr the First, but today the enemy is merely human.

However, the tsar himself knows he can never be at peace. He is well aware of the uprising fermenting within his own army, but his true fear is of something far more terrible - something that threatens to bring damnation upon him, his family and his country. Aleksandr cannot forget a promise: a promise sealed in blood...and broken a hundred years before.

Now the victim of the Romanovs' betrayal has returned to demand what is his. The knowledge chills Aleksandr's very soul. And for Aleksei, it seems the vile pestilence that once threatened all he held dear has returned, thirteen years later.

Thanks to our friends at Bantam Press, we've got three copies of Jasper Kent's Thirteen Years Later and the first installment, Twelve, to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to with your name and postal address before midday on Monday 5th April (UK time). The first three names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy of each!

Saturday 27 March 2010

DVD Reviews

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Starring: Christopher Plummer, Heath Ledger, Lily Cole
Director: Terry Gilliam
Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Available From 29th March - £19.99 (DVD) and £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

The immortal Dr Parnassus holds the key to the Imaginarium, a wonderful place hidden in a “pop up” travelling theatre, where people can explore the very depths of their imagination. The doctor, however, has more hidden depths that his friends in the theatre troupe are aware of and his immortality has come at a price – the soul of his daughter, Valentina.

Unless Parnassus and Tony, the mysterious amnesiac whom he befriends, can coax a few more souls to lose themselves in the Imaginarium, Valentina will become the prize in a deal that Parnassus has made with The Devil himself, Mr Nick.

Combining what is his always faultless sense for striking imagery and great casting with an excellent modern fantasy story, Terry Gilliam has produced possibly his best movie since Brazil. The cast are fantastic (besides a distractingly wooden performance from Lily Cole), and the storyline immersive and enjoyable.

The pacing feels rather slow for a movie – often feeling more like a novel in that sense – but it works for the story it’s telling. The mystery of Tony’s backstory is ingeniously woven throughout, and all of the characters feel believable and likable – yes, even Mr Nick.

Obviously, the production of this movie was marred by the tragic passing of Heath Ledger, and the parts of Tony are filled in at various points by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell. This is really not as distracting as you might think, as all three actors work their damnedest on a film that they saw as a tribute to their friend. The best thing? It works.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some fist fights/scuffling, and some scenes of hanging.
Sex/Nudity: One implied sex scene. Tony is played by four of the most attractive actors of this generation, and Lily Cole is rather top-heavy.
Swearing: Some minor uses.
Summary: A great, dark fairytale, with a stellar cast and fantastic cinematography. A little slow at times, but always engrossing. 9/10

Planet 51
Starring: Justin Long, Dwayne Johnson, Gary Oldman
Director: Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad and Marcos Martinez
Entertainment In Video

Available From 29th March - £19.99 (DVD) and £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

Captain Chuck Baker was on a mission to boldly go where no man had gone before - a remote celestial body dubbed Planet 51. The scientific community had surmised that Planet 51 was uninhabited, so when Captain Baker steps out of his spacecraft to discover a race of tiny green people living in quaint communities reminiscent of 1950s America, he can't quite believe his eyes. Unfortunately, the tiny extraterrestrials suffer from a universal fear that their Utopian community will one day be overrun by alien invaders...just like the extra-large astronaut who now stands before them.

As the paranoid aliens attempt to capture the peaceful visitor and make him the latest attraction at the Alien Invaders Space Museum, Captain Baker must count on his robot companion, 'Rover', and his new friend, Lem, in order to navigate this strange new world and find a way back home before it's too late.

Combining the vibe of 1950s pulp-sci-fi B-movies and early 21st century CG animation comedy may be a rather odd combination, but Planet 51 does a pretty good job of pulling it off. A large part of the success is down to an amazingly cute robot named Rover, and a puppy with a strong resemblance to Giger’s Alien. The animation is top notch, and the sci-fi in-jokes will have you rolling with laughter.

Unfortunately, there’s something lacking. Most of the gags come from the in-jokes and references – the script itself doesn’t offer much in the way of amusement. Couple that with the fact it takes a good thirty minutes for the “call to adventure” to arrive, and you’ll see how this is not without its flaws. The story is also so generic you can predict everything a good five to ten minutes before it happens. Kids will probably lap it up, but for the rest of us, there’s a sense we’ve been here before. Many, many times.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some ray guns are fired off.
Sex/Nudity: The Rock gets nekkid.
Swearing: One “ass”. Which doesn’t really count. Say “arse”, dammit.
Summary: A fun kid’s movie, that will keep adults entertained – although it will be forgotten about fairly quickly. Except for Rover and the Xenomorph puppy. They’re awesome. 7/10

Starring: No one you have ever heard of, or will ever hear of again.
Director: Pat Higgins
Brain Damage Films

Available From 29th March - £2.99 (DVD). Yes. Two fucking ninety-nine. They have so much faith in this movie, that it costs less for you to buy it, than it would for you to hire it.
Review by Brad Harmer

Lee Parker and Nicole Meadows are all set to be married. There are, however, one or two problems on the horizon. Nicole’s engagement ring is cursed. Once the property of a wronged bride who went on a killing spree, the ring has a history of bringing death to all who come in contact with it.

Not only that, but Nicole’s father has become involved in a fearsome dispute with a local mob boss, a situation that looks perilously closed to spiralling into bloody violence at any minute. Included in the mix are a massively unreliable best man, who yearns to reunite with his ex-girlfriend (who happens to be the bridesmaid) and an eccentric expert on the occult who has been hunting for the cursed ring for years.

We aim to make reviews on this site around 300-500 words long, as an average. I was just going to type “Fuck you, Brain Damage Films” one hundred times, but even that wouldn’t really show how I feel. Instead, I’d like to present to you, a direct transcript of my notes as I was watching it, so that you can feel my pain:

00:08:56 – This seems to have been shot on a camera phone. The actors appear to have been rounded up at the bus stop.

00:15:48 – The quality of the film stock is terrible. There is no way you should pay money for this. This is obviously a student project – a failing one, at that.

00:23:12 – There are some nice ideas, but they’ve all been botched. Really badly.

00:30:14 – Nothing of interest happening.

00:38:00 – This is really shit. This is really shit. This is really shit. A terrible abortion of a movie. That fact it’s been released at all is, frankly, laughable.

00:46:12 – Really bad stuff. Acting is terrible, and it’s not even trying to take itself seriously anymore.

00:53:58 – Some really, really boring scenes with no connection to anything. I could make a better movie that this right now. I mean, right now. On my couch. With a notepad. And no camera or actors.

01:01:02 – This is a large amount of balls.

01:18:41 – It’s realised that it sucks, and is now trying to pass itself of as an “intentionally bad” movie. Somehow, don’t ask me how, it’s even fucking that up.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
A rather moving scene in which I stop watching the film and opt, instead, to fire a staple gun into my own genitals.
Sex/Nudity: Some references.
Swearing: Some. All rubbish.
Summary: A movie that at first tries to be scary, and then tries to be a parody. It somehow manages to fail at both. 1/10

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Starring: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Christina Ricci
Director: Terry Gilliam
Universal Pictures

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

When a writing assignment lands journalist Raoul Duke and sidekick Dr. Gonzo in Las Vegas, they decide to make it the ultimate business trip. Before long, however, business is forgotten and “trip” has become the key word.

Fuelled by a suitcase of mind-bending pharmaceuticals, Duke and Gonzo set off on a fast and furious ride through non-stop neon, surreal surroundings and a crew of the craziest characters ever. But no matter where misadventure leads them, Duke and Gonzo discover that sometimes going too far is the only way to go.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a hard movie to review. I found myself entranced by it, but I couldn’t for the life tell you why. There’s no real destination, no real cohesion or any real storyline. It’s just "Hunter S. Thompson’s A Series of Spaced Out Events". I liked it, but I’m buggered if I can explain why. It’s stylishly shot, directed and acted – but what the buggery is it all about?

The transfer to Blu-ray is fantastic. The sound and picture are of remarkably high quality, with no sign of blurring, pixilation or jerkiness. If you’re a fan of the movie, then this is worth upgrading to.

Finally: Man, I wish more directors would cast even half as well as Terry Gilliam can. How the bloody hell does he do it?

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some scuffling and threatening behaviour.
Sex/Nudity: From IMDB: “A hallucination is seen involving a dinosaur orgy; various reptiles are seen in sexual positions, many covered in blood”.
Swearing: Near constant.
Summary: A fascinating ride that never really succeeds in engaging any of the characters at anything beyond surface level. A nice remastering job, though. 7/10

The Neverending Story
Starring: Barret Oliver, Noah Hathaway, Allan Oppenheimer
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Warner Home Video

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

Bastian, a lonely schoolboy alienated from his father and bullied by his classmates, retreats to an attic where he becomes engrossed in a book entitled The Neverending Story. It is the tale of a magical kingdom appropriately named Fantasia - a world born of human fantasies. However, as humanity loses faith in the power of imagination, the once-thriving Fantasia is being destroyed by great storms of Nothingness.

Dangerously ill herself, Fantasia's youthful empress sends the young warrior Atreyu on a quest to find a cure for the kingdom. After encountering flying dragons, swamp monsters and a vast assortment of other strange creatures, the young hero discovers that only a human boy can save Fantasia, at which point Bastian is drawn, literally, into the pages of the story.

The Neverending Story is a movie I remember from my childhood – albeit, it turned out, not particularly clearly. The cinematography is still pretty impressive, and it’s fusion of fairy tale fantasy with Terry Gilliam type fantasy is still clever. It’s just unfortunate that a couple of bits have dated rather badly.

The picture has not made the transition to high definition particularly well. The images are very sharp, but the motion is rather jerky, and it shows up the black lines around the blue-screen work (of which there is plenty) quite badly. The puppetry work has not aged well, and the attempts at lip-synching the puppets are laughable...if they bother at all.

For that, there’s a darkness to the story that will entertain older audiences, although it may be lost on younger people. The scene with Atreju and the Exposition Wolf is excellent, as is the final scene with the princess. It’s still a good fantasy movie, but there’s not a lot to recommended forking out for the Blu-ray version.

Also, the guy who does the voice of Falkor? He’s Skeletor.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some combat, one minor spontaneous human combustion.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A great kid’s movie that is not without its flaws, but still rather enjoyable. 8/10

Day of The Dead
Starring: Joseph Pilato, Terence Alexander and Lori Cardille
Director: George A. Romero
Arrow Video

Available From 5th April - £24.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Blake Harmer

Like the other movies before it, George Romero’s horror classic Day Of The Dead has finally come shambling into HD, and just in time for it’s 25th Anniversary, with the popularity of zombies almost at fever pitch. But, with the option of picking up the DVD fairly cheaply, is it worth new fans purchasing? Is it worth current Romero lovers upgrading?

For those of you who are unaware of this film, it is the third in George Romero’s Dead series and acts as the end of the original “trilogy”. With zombies having already taken over USA, one of the last pockets of human life left is a collection of the military and scientists in an underground research facility. However, with scientists doing experiments on zombies to find out more about them and come up with a cure, the military start to lose faith in them. But will they stay together in humanity’s darkest hour, or will the zombies take over for good?

In terms of the set, there are plenty of extras here to keep Romero fans happy. However, I think the film hasn’t made the transition to High Definition very well, and this is because of the cleaning up of the old film that needed to be done. The footage is still a bit grainy and the sound isn’t as crisp as it should be.

On the plus side though, the film has still held the test of time, with great looking zombies and some really gruesome death scenes to keep people happy. But when compared to the likes of Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, this is definitely the weakest in the series.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots of blood and gore that can only be expected with a zombie film, especially by the great George Romero.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Quite a bit of swearing, even more so than the other films in the series. You may be swearing at the fact you could have saved money by up-scaling the DVD though.
Summary: At the end of the day, Day of The Dead is still a good zombie film despite being the weakest film in the trilogy. However, with the Blu-ray only really offering plenty of extras rather than a superbly cleaned up HD zombie blood-fest, I find it hard to recommend it over the infinitely cheaper DVD version, and that new horror fans would be better off watching Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead over this. 6/10

WWE - Tagged Classics: King of the Ring 2001 & Invasion 2001
Silver Vision
Available Now - £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

King of the Ring 2001

It’s clear that the WWF was setting the scene for the WCW/ECW Invasion angle that was soon to explode with this Pay-Per-View. Surprisingly, this show isn’t filler, but mostly quality matches.

First match up is a KOTR Semi-final between Christian and Kurt Angle. Pretty standard, but not a bad match.

The second Semi-final is Edge vs Rhyno. Two friends clash in an impressive and hard hitting match, featuring the Spear vs Gore spot that fans wanted.

KOTR Finals up next, as Angle and Edge coast through a decent match that sets up Angle’s upcoming brawl

Jeff Hardy vs X-Pac happened. Girls went wild. I didn’t.

Then the Undertaker beats up Diamond Dallas Page. Fans went wild. I didn’t.

Angle effortlessly carries Shane through a stunner of a Street Fight, featuring suplexes through glass, broken tailbones, and a top-rope Angleslam. That this match at no point resembles a stunt-fest is testament to Angle’s abilities.

Main event, and Steve Austin defends his Championship against Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. They work an exciting match featuring spot-on timing. The finish is an anti-climax, but fits the storyline.

Rhyno vs Edge
Kurt Angle Vs Shane McMahon - Street Fight Match

Invasion 2001

The first PPV of the Invasion Era is a hit and miss card. Ten matches seems too many, and there are enough dud matches that there could have been a cull.

Lance Storm and Mike Awesome vs Edge and Christian is excellent. Thanks to this, the crowd are as hot as Wilma Flintstone.


Referee Nick Fucking Patrick vs Referee Earl Fucking Hebner? Fuck, fuck, fuck.

How do you follow such an athletic contest? APA vs Sean O’Haire and Chuck Palumbo? I wouldn’t. WWF would. Palumbo and O’Haire show promise here, but Bradshaw’s politics show when he and Farooq squash the youngsters with minimal effort.

Cruiserweights clash next as Billy Kidman and X-Pac trade flips. Could be better, but fun enough.

William Regal squares off with Raven. For the only time on the show, the crowd switch off. They probably spotted how sloppy Raven was tonight too.

Six-man tag action as Shawn Stasiak, Hugh Morrus and Kanyon are not given long enough with Big Show, Billy Gunn and Albert. Heated match spoilt by the fact that Shawn Spastik is just awful.

Tazz and Tajiri could have done with five more minutes, but still put on a great match, as expected.

RVD vs Jeff Hardy is a thrilling hardcore affair that features moonsaults in the crowd, concrete powerbombs, and metal things going into faces.

WWF booked a Bra and Panties match before the main event to add a drama gap. Lita and Trish Stratus vs Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler works well enough, but I didn’t get to see Lita in a thong. Fucksticks.

Main event time in the InauguralBrawl. ECW/WCW’s Dudleyz, DDP, Booker T and Rhyno meet WWF’s Undertaker, Kane, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and Steve Austin. Bodies fly all over the arena as ten talented workers fight it out in a tight, hard hitting matchup with a twist in the finish.

Lance Storm & Mike Awesome vs Edge & Christian
The Dudley Boyz, Diamond Dallas Page, Booker T and Rhyno vs The Undertaker, Kane, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: Blood, tables, ladders, chairs. Wrestling movez.
Sex/Nudity: Bras and panties.
Swearing: “Bullshit”.
Summary: A good set, if you’re into the AttitudeEra. KOTR is the better disc. 8/10

WWE - Tagged Classics: Unforgiven 2001 & No Mercy 2001
Silver Vision
Available Now - £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

Unforgiven 2001

One month has passed since the ECW/WCW hordes invaded, and the angle (and Kurt Angle) is in full swing. The gold medalist realises his true potential here, and hasn’t let up much since.

The show explodes with an elimination tag bout, featuring Hurricane and Lance Storm, the Hardyz, the Dudleyz, and Big Show with Spike Dudley. Every member is on form, and The Big Show looks incredible. If he could keep up this quality...

Perry Saturn fights for his girlfriend Moppy the Mop against Raven. Nothing match, sloppy finish.

“Brothers” Edge and Christian clash in a heated match that really exhibits the young men’s talents.

Let’s be clear; Kronic are piss-poor. They permanently look lost in the ring, couldn’t sell if bricks fell on them, and only ever looked good in that match in WCW where Goldberg accidentally knocked himself out. Undertaker and Kane try not to outclass them in this one, but can’t stop themselves.

Rob Van Dam and Chris Jericho’s match is like watching a wrestling seminar. As capable as RVD is, Y2J is simply better. Starting with a mat wrestling lecture, then summarising by showing Rob how to work hardcore without making it look like a pre-determined stunt-fest, and all without showing him as weak.

Next up, The Rock is in a handicap situation against Shane McMahon and Booker T. Rocky is fantastic when outnumbered, and his impeccable timing really shines in this enjoyable outing.

Rhyno and Tajiri are given a high card spot, and use it to put on a hard-hitting spectacle that could have been outstanding with five/ten more minutes.

The main event sees Steve Austin defend his Heavyweight Strap against Kurt Angle in a slow moving affair that builds to a dramatic and emotional finish.

Y2J vs. RVD
Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle

No Mercy 2001

Tensions in the WCW/ECW Alliance are the backbone of No Mercy, as the top two members clash with WWF’s hero.

Hurricane and Lance Storm tag to face the Hardyz in a fast paced and enjoyable opener.

Test vs. Kane is a standard match, that may be Test’s pinnacle. Not amazing, though.

Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler have a lingerie match that is devoid of wrestling. It is saved by SEX PIN!

Edge and Christian’s ladder match is a stunt fest, but plays well on their previous match.

Dem Dudleyz tangle with Tajiri and Big Show. ECW originals plus The Big Show on form is a pretty good formula for wrestling. This is well worked with nice sequences.

Undertaker leads Booker T through what he thinks is a technical wrestling match. Nicely set out, but long and forced.

Chris Jericho and The Rock, on the other hand, breeze through a real technical wrestling marvel that showcases two men in their prime.

RVD is outclassed by Steve Austin and Kurt Angle in the main event. They cover him well, but his lack of main event presence shows through as the only weakness in this rewarding match.

Dudleyz vs. Big Show and Tajiri
Y2J vs. Rock

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: WRESTLING!
Sex/Nudity: SEX PIN!
Swearing: Austin hilariously says “Oh, shit!” when Angle catches him for an Anglelock.
Summary: Good set, pull the good matches from both, and you have a fantastic PPV. 8/10

Friday 26 March 2010

Dickass DM

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

Satan wasn't available, so Brad will be GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic Keith Martin Fighting Fantasy gamebook Vault of the Vampire.

Brad is the GM, and Rob plays his character, Abraham Van Bragging.

Previously on Dickass DM: Whilst travelling through the village of Mortvania, the fearless adventurer Abraham Van Bragging learnt of a supposedly vampire infested castle, and the hot yet relatively trampy babe the evil Reiner Heydrich had recently captured. Journeying deeper into the crypt, he has encountered the ghost of Siegfried, a legendary vampire hunter of yore...

Read Part One
Read Part Two
Read Part Three
Read Part Four

Siegfried: You already possess what is needed to destroy Reiner in his coffin. He rests to the south of here; you know where to find him. But we have more work here. Pick up that globe and concentrate upon it. If you are of sufficient faith, it will serve you well.

Rob: OK...
Brad: You feel a surge of well-being from the blessed item. Don't you hate it when a video game gives you a load of power ups? They might as well just have a sign saying "Raperaperaperaperape".

Siegfried: You possess all that is needed to destroy Reiner in his coffin, but can you fight him?
Van Bragging: Probably?
Siegfried: You have the Book of Swords. My sword is imprisoned within it. Reiner's magic used blood to put it there, and blood is needed to free it again.

Brad: Siegfried points to an ornate silver chalice on the table.

Siegfried: You must give up blood to release Nightstar. It will cost you stamina, but the weapon is a peerless one.

Rob: Do it.
Brad: Trembling you open a vein and allow blood to run into the chalice. As the scarlet liquid drips into the bowl, red runes glow before your eyes and seem to dance round it's rim. RED RUNE...RED RUNE...You snap into alertness as a cold hand touches your shoulder.

Van Bragging: Frosty...?
Siegfried: You nearly fainted. But the magic is woven. Behold!

Brad: He points to a matchless longsword, glowing with bluish white light lying on the table before you. Nightstar is a magical sword of considerable power.

**Van Bragging has Acquired Nightstar**
**+2 Against Vampires**
**+1 Against All Other Creatures**
**+1 To Faith**
**+2 To Luck**

Brad: Don't you hate it when a video game gives you a load of power ups? They might as well just have a sign saying "Raperaperaperaperape".
Rob: Uh-huh.
Brad: You ascend back into the coffin and leave the Undertomb; the ghost fades as you depart. You climb the stairs back to the T-junction.
Rob: Let's go east.
Brad: You descend the stairs eastwards until you are standing before a black door with a silver plaque which reads, simply: "Adolf". My predictable gag sense is tingling.
Rob: Hmmmmm....I'd best arm myself with my trusty Pocket-Stalin.
Brad: ...
Rob: ...
Brad: I can honestly say I didn't see that coming. Opening the door, you step into a small chamber; in it is a stone sarcophagus on top of which is s sculpted stone warrior holding a longsword. Around the walls of this chamber are a number of weapons - swords and bows - and a pair of shields with faded heraldic designs.
Rob: Faded, eh?....Interesting...No,wait...that other thing. Dull.
Brad: They are rusted and no use in combat.
Rob: Fine, I have my Turbo-Churchill as well. He never surrenders...really fast? Let's get that sarcophagus open!
Brad: You prise open the heavy stone lid just far enough to be aware of the glimmer of soft light inside.

Van Bragging: Is someone reading in here?

Brad: The skeleton within, clad in rusted chainmail, has a glowing longsword in his hands. Gently, you remove it. You put it back as it's not as good as Nightstar.
Rob: I've got sword refusal powers, Epic Win.
Brad: Yeah, we all know what Charlie would do...
Rob: By "we all", do you mean me, you, Blake and Paul?
Brad: So that's, what...just John McL and Omer we'll need to explain the gag to?
Rob: Sounds about right.
Brad: You leave and descend the Southerly stairs. You open the door with your keys and enter a bare stone antechamber, decorated with wall-carvings of rats, bats and wolves. Opposite you is a door and, from a narrow slit along its base, baleful red light spills out from a chamber beyond.

Van Bragging: Hmm, the vampire seems to have started a sex shop...

Brad: As you cross the room, one of the stone wolf-heads snarls at you and seems about to rear from the wall to strike at you, but you evade the magical guardian and get to the opposite door safely.

Van Bragging: Ah, better put away my Pocket-Stalin, it seems to have the wolves wound up.

Brad: You step into a palatial chamber, lit by glowing oil-lanterns with red crystal lenses. Black, crimson and silver wall-hangings obscure the walls...well, what else would wall hangings obscure?
Rob: Yeah....
Brad: ...and you can see no other exits.

Van Bragging: Well, fire safety was clearly never a concern...

Brad: The room is magnificently furnished with teak and walnut, and silverware and marble gleam in the soft light. Some twenty feet away is a raised balcony at the top of marbled stairs with gilded bannisters, and there stands a dark-haired man with blazing eyes, wrapped in a cloak of the deepest black and crimson. The Count!
Rob: AH-Ah-ah!
Brad: Behind him you can see a chained girl, her long auburn tresses tumbling over her bare shoulders, struggling without hope to free herself.
Rob: She hot?
Brad: Yes, she's hot.
Rob: Sweet. Not a wasted trip then.
Brad: Her lovely fair face turns to you and she cries out for help. But your eyes are fixed on the terrible, dark, charismatic Count; his green eyes are afire as he gazes at you and parts his lips in anticipation.

Van Bragging: Hey bitchbag, I don't think there's an item in my bag that won't kill you!

Brad: The Count has tried to cast his vampiric charm upon you, but he has failed to control your mind and now you can fight freely!

Van Bragging: Ha, I've developed an immunity to Rohypnol!

Rob: Time for Holy Water...
Brad: You throw your Holy Water at the vampire.

**Holy Water caused 2 Stamina Damage to the Vampire**

Brad: The vampire is maddened; its skin seems to be on fire. Football!
Rob: Not that kind of "Maddened", I imagine. I leap in to attack with my sword.


Rob: I am using Nightstar right? That seems stupid if I'm not.
Brad: Yeah, you are.

Reiner Heydrich pokes you in the eye
You stab Reiner in the balls.

Rob: No sparkly vampire babies for you, you bitch!

You call his mother fat.
You chase him with a dog-poo on a stick.
You compare him to Edward Cullen.
You give his 360 the RLOD
He spills coffee on your tax return.
He hates your face.

Rob: I hate his face. Stupid face.

You lazily proof his essay.
He puts forward his theories on why the original series was better than Next Generation.
You caricature his Nan.
He gets bored of this malarky and punches you in the face.
And treads on your neck.
You kick him in the bollocks.
Before you can finish it off, the hateful undead thing transforms itself into a gas could and floats away.

Van Bragging: Cocks, I didn't bring my Dyson.

Brad: Do you want to cast Forcewall?
Rob: Ooooh...fuck, yeah!
Brad: The Count's escape route is blocked by Forcewall hemming him in! He returns to human form, snarling with fury, and races to return to the attack.

You punch him in the throat.
You come up with a witty Arnold Schwarzennegger style one-liner.
Whenever you're ready.

Rob: I hit an all-time personal best on sales yesterday - Pressure seems to be what puts me off...
Brad: That's the worst Schwarzenegger one liner ever.
Rob: Second-worst. "You're Luggage" to the crocodile in Eraser wins.
Brad: You drive home what you know is a killing blow. With an inhuman shriek the Count's body crumples and is slowly transformed into a cloud of gas.

Van Bragging: I'm not falling for that one...Shake N' Vac, bitch!

Brad: The gas cloud seeps slowly behind a wall-hanging, and you reveal a secret door there. Opening it, you uncover the last of Reiner Heydrich's coffins; throwing back its lid, you find the slowly re-forming body of the Vampire.
Rob: How slowly? Slow enough that I can put my dick where his mouth will be?
Brad: Aw, you so would, wouldn't you?
Rob: Totally! At least until his teeth formed.
Brad: Yeah, if you pulled out at the gums, he'd at least taste it a little. And then you could just flop your balls on his forehead. And Twitpic that motherfucker. With the symbol of the cross on the crucifix, you drive the point of Nightstar through the evil heart of Count Reiner Heydrich. Spots of black blood spalsh onto the white silk lining of the coffin and on your hands, but you don't relax your grip. An unholy shriek comes from his mouth and the clawed hands of the expiring Vampire grip the coffin rim, then slowly go limp. The body gradually crumbles to dust.

**+2 Faith**

Brad: Slumped over the remains of the Count, you are awakened from your exhausted reverie by the voice of Nastassia calling to you. You unchain her.

Van Bragging: So exactly how grateful are you for being saved?

Brad: Her deep blue eyes look into yours, and then she throws her arms round you, calling down blessings on you or saving her from a terrible fate.

Van Bragging: Saving you from one terrible fate...

Brad: By a stroke of good fortune she is a healer, and she attends to your wounds expertly. You tell her how glad you are that you have freed her from the evil Vampire Count; but Nastassia's eyes grow wide and she cries out:

Van Bragging: Not there?
Nastassia: Oh no, it wasn't he who was going to kill me!
Van Bragging: I'll shift my hand lower, how about here?
Nastassia: It was his sister!

Brad: You have a sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach.
Rob: That'll be those provisions, they're quite stodgy
Brad: And then she is here, standing in the room before you, gazing stright into your eyes!

Van Bragging: Where are those other bozos when you need them?

Brad: The woman who stands before you is tall and slim, with flowing black hair and mysterious, emerald green eyes. Doesn't she sing for Evanescence?
Rob: I think she does.
Brad: She is stunningly lovely, but very pale.

Van Bragging: It's called "foundation". Heard of it?

Brad: The ivory pigment of her skin is emphasised by the jet-black dress she wears. Cold silver and glinting emerald jewellery adorn her. This is Katarina Heydrich, the Count's sister, who is gazing deep into your eyes! You resist the hateful woman's attempt to control you and strike out with your sword. Katarina holds a needle sharp dagger in her left hand - and she is exceptionally skilled in its use!
Rob: I use the Silver Mirror.
Brad: ...Your logic being?
Rob: It must be used for something...
Brad: Katarina laughs, brushing aside the useless object, and slashes at you with her dagger. Fail.
Rob: Balls. Fine, let's slash this bitch up.

**Running Combat**

You question her taste in music.
She laughs at your shoes.

Van Bragging: They're red Converse All-Stars, what's so funny about them?!

You cunt-punt her.
You set fire to her horse.
You tell her she's adopted.

Rob: No way she'd fall for that one.

The lifeless body of the would-be ruler of Castle Heydrich falls to the floor.

Rob: My mistake.
Brad: There is no hideous shriek, like the soul-rending cry of the Count dispatched to hell, but simply the choking sigh of an evil woman meeting her just end. As she falls, her appearance changes. The illusion of her youth disappears, and a wizened old crone lies at your feet. Nastassia gasps in horror and looks away, burying her face in your chest.

Van Bragging: Lower...

Brad: You put an arm round her and lead her slowly up the stairs, away from this evil place. Turning as you leave the crypt, you see the shade of Siegfried standing behind you, waving a last farewell.

Van Bragging: Bye, then.
Sigfried: At last I can rest in peace.
Van Bragging: Best of luck with that, I'm selling the castle to a traveller family.

Rob: I completed another one?
Brad: I can honestly say I was not expecting that.

Join us again on 9th April when Trent Foster AKA The Silver Braggart learns that with great power there must also come great dickassery!!

Just Cause 2 Out Now!

Rico Rodriguez is looking to start another revolution and he's not using the usual diplomatic channels. This time it's the fictional South Pacific island of Panau that needs liberating, both from the dictator Baby Panay and Rico's ex-boss Tom Sheldon.

A mix of Grand Theft Auto and Mercenaries, once you're parachuted onto Panau it's up to you how you complete your mission or whether you just set off exploring. However you play your most important piece of equipment is the new dual-grappling hook, which lets you latch onto enemies and vehicles and then attach them to something else.

Watching a soldier shoot into the air when you snag him onto a plane or pulling the wheels off a car when you tether it to the ground is just the start, as you learn to use your refolding parachute to slingshot yourself around the island. Political change has never been this much fun.

Thanks to our friends at Square Enix, we've got two Special Edition Passport to Panau copies of Just Cause 2 to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to with your name and postal address before midday on Friday 2nd April (UK time). The first two names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

IMPORTANT!!! Please specify on your entry whether you would prefer your copy in PS3 or Xbox 360 format!!!

Thursday 25 March 2010

Book Reviews

Star Wars: Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
Matthew Stover
Arrow Books

Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader are dead. The Empire has been toppled by the triumphant Rebel Alliance, and the New Republic is rising. But the struggle against the dark side is far from over. Before long, the heroes of the New Republic are called to defend the newly liberated galaxy from powerful remnants of the vanquished Empire – the most deadly of these being a legion of black-armoured stormtroopers sent by the newly risen warlord, Shadowspawn.

Mobilising the ace fighters of Rogue Squadron, Luke, Han and Leia set out to take the battle to the enemy. Little do they know, however, that the imminent attack on Mindor is a trap and they will be playing straight into the hands of their cunning new adversary.

Matthew Stover (Traitor, Shatterpoint) is so underused by the Expanded Universe that it’s not even funny. Like his other works for Star Wars, he manages to achieve a perfect mix of pulp-action-blasting and modern cultural satire. With lightsabers.

All of the characters are spot on interpretations. Han’s dry sense of humour is here. Threepio’s wittering, Lando’s gambling and Leia’s kickassery are all present and correct. Luke, as the principal character, is pretty damn good too. The way we see him here isn’t as the simple farmboy of A New Hope, or the Jedi Master of the far future – but a young man who’s still haunted by the truth of who his father was, and builds up excellently towards the character we see in Dark Empire.

For all that foreshadowing, if you’ve never read a Star Wars Expanded Universe novel before, then this one would make a really good jump on point. Chronologically it’s not that long after Return of the Jedi, so you won’t need to know about any of the major events since then – and it terms of quality...well, you’re in good hands there. If you want the blasty fun of the movies, combined with what the darker tones of the post-Chewie-Moon-Splat EU, then this is an excellent example.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some unarmed combat, blasting, space battles, explosions, lightsaber combat and more explosions.
Sex/Nudity: Chewie is naked for the entire book.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A pretty excellent blend of pulpy Star Wars fun, darker philosophy and a wry satire on the cult of celebrity. 9/10

The Price
Alexandra Sokoloff
Piatkus Books
Available Now - £6.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Boston District Attorney Will Sullivan dreams of becoming the next governor of Massachusets. With his beautiful wife, Joanna, and adorable daughter, Sydney, Will seems destined for greatness, until Sydney becomes seriously ill. Now, both parents resolve to do anything they can to save their daughter’s life.

But in the twilight world of the Briarwood Medical Centre, nothing is as it seems. Patients on the brink of death are not only surviving but thriving, while others wither away – and the recoveries all revolve around the ministering of a mysterious counsellor, who takes an unsettling interest in Joanna. When Sydney’s health miraculously improves, Will suspects that Joanna made a terrible bargain to save their child. Now Will must face a powerful, unknown evil before he loses...everything.

The Price feels retro. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but it reminded me of those books that were a penny a dozen in the eighties. Ah, the eighties. Best decade for horror literature, in terms of popularity at least. If, like me, you grew up reading James Herbert, Ramsey Campbell and Christopher Pike, then The Price is going to feel very much like coming home.

Be warned through, The Price is pretty slow going. That’s not to say that it drags – it moves at the speed required for the story – it’s just that the speed of the story is a slow one! Fortunately, it’s amazingly well written, with fully rounded, realistic and likable characters across the board. It’s a slow journey, but it’s a pretty awesome one.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some scuffling.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Realistic frequency and intensity.
Summary: Rather slow to get going, but riveting nonetheless. Well worth a read if you’re into horror. 8/10

The Mythic Warrior's Handbook
Chiron the Centaur
Adams Media

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

Back when lightning-throwing gods and multi-headed monsters ruled a world in constant chaos, there was one man who stood on four hooves against it all. He was Chiron the Centaur, the wise (-cracking) teacher to amateur heroes. The Mr. Miyagi of ancient Greece, he turned these cowardly boys into powerful warriors, helping them achieve greatness and overcome their Daddy issues - seriously, how many kids back then were waiting for Zeus to come by and play catch?

Now, thousands of years later, Chiron's ancient textbook has been unearthed, his advice translated, and knowledge dropped for the modern audience. With the smarts of a mythic sage and wit of a jackass, this half-man/half-horse instructs readers on how to be the baddest mother in sandals since Perseus. From kicking Gorgon ass to appeasing Apollo to scoring the golden fleece, "Chiron" breaks down the game plan for getting in good with the gods.

The Mythic Warrior’s Handbook reminds me very much of the popular kids books Horrible Histories, probably the only example of one of those “educates and entertains!” deals that managed to do both in equal measure. The Mythic Warrior's Handbook skips along at a similar pace, with some nuggets and knowledge and dozy jokes along the way.

Unfortunately, The Mythic Warrior’s Handbook never really seems to find its own feet. It skims along its subjects way too quickly to provide any depth to them at all. All I found was happening was that I was being reminded of various Ray Harryhausen movies I’d seen. I didn’t find myself actually learning anything, although it would be unfair to say it’s devoid of any educational value. I just found myself thinking, “Oh, yeah. The Gorgon. I know what that is.”.

The main problem this title faces is that from the start it was never really sure of who its target audience was supposed to be. It contains virtually nothing of substance or deep educational merit to be of value to anyone who does know some Greek mythology, but it also contains far too many in-jokes and references to be of interest to a complete noob. It’s a shame, really, as it was a nice idea – it just needed a little more planning from the off.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Stabbing, decapitation, torture, curses, lightning bolts and battles.
Sex/Nudity: Some references to intercourse. Sometimes involving swans.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A fun, light-hearted trip through Greek mythology. It’s entertaining enough for a quick read, but unfortunately too insubstantial to be truly satisfying. 6/10

We are snooped on, hectored and hounded by state nannies, in a state of interference from cradle to grave. We also have to put up with the unjustified and disproportionate use of fines and charges, bloody-minded parking restrictions and preposterous European directives.

Philip Johnston exposes the Bad Laws - those irritating regulations and Whitehall idiocies that have made life in Britain a day-to-day nightmare and threaten to change the nature of this country. So, what s so bad?

A snooper's charter that lets an army of council jobsworths look at your phone and email details. More CCTV cameras than anywhere in the world - yet they fail to deter criminals. The world's biggest DNS crime database that contains the profiles of over a million innocent people. The threat of a visit from the police for having politically incorrect opinions. A ban on smoking so inflexible that it threatens the future of a great British institution - the pub.

This is a great country with proud traditions - so why have we lost touch with the commonsense attitudes that once defined us?

Thanks to our friends at Constable and Robinson, we've got five copies of Philip Johnston's Bad Laws: From Dangerous Dogs to Horse Passports - How the British Lost Their Common Sense to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to with your name and postal address before midday on Thursday 1st April (UK time). The first five names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!