Thursday 23 February 2012

Texas Killing Fields Giveaway!

Inspired by true events, Texas Killing Fields is an action crime thriller about two detectives in Texas City trying to solve several mysterious local murders.

Texas City, Texas. Homicide detectives fight a spate of recent murders battling each other and the draw of the haunted dumping ground known as The Killing Fields. Hard-nosed homicide Detective Mike Souder (Sam Worthington) and his New York transplant partner Detective Brian Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) are called to help in the case of a missing girl in a neighboring county. No leads, no body and the detectives just caught a homicide of their own in Texas City. But when a street kid Brian's taken under his wing, Little Anne (Chloe Moretz) goes missing, Brian can feel she's in the Fields and knows he's got to go in after her.

-Mike knows he's got to go in after Brian. What they don't know is if once they're in The Killing Fields, will any of them come out alive...

Thanks to our friends at Entertainment In Video, we've got five copies of Texas Killing Fields on Blu-ray to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Thursday 8th March, making sure to put "Texas Killing Fields" as the subject. The first five entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a copy of this awesome Blu-ray!

Don't forget to put "Texas Killing Fields" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Texas Killing Fields is available from Monday 9th April, courtesy of Entertainment In Video.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Book Reviews

The 13th Horseman
Barry Hutchison
Harper Collins
Available from 01/03/2012  - RRP £6.99 (Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

Drake is surprised to find three horsemen of the apocalypse playing snakes and ladders in his garden shed. He's even more surprised when they insist that he is one of them. They're missing a Horseman, having gone through several Deaths and they think that Drake is the boy for the job. At first he's reluctant to usher in Armageddon but does being in charge of Armageddon have to spell the end of the world?

It should come as no secret to regular readers that I’m a fan of Barry Hutchison’s work. From his work in the Invisible Fiends series, it’s clear that the style of writing which Hutchison employs, while primarily aimed at a teen fiction audience, has enough quality to keep any reader entertained. This novel represents a foray into a new realm for Hutchison, and it’s an interesting premise first and foremost. Blending classic mythology with modern day life, the story elements are interspersed with a level of accessibility which makes imagining the story setting very easy indeed. In fact, the story itself, much like previous works by Hutchison, has a certain style that would allow for very easy translation to other media such as TV or movies.

The story, too, is tremendously funny, and had me looking like a complete tit at the train station when I was laughing openly at some of the dialogue in the story. If a book can make a trip to Birmingham from Brighton at half 8 on a Friday night bearable, you know you’re onto a winner. The characters are set up well, with the Horsemen performing their roles in the story really well. Death, in particular, was a highlight for me, although the success of Hutchison’s blog dedicated to Pestilence demonstrates what a good blend the characters are in general. The imagery, in particular, is really strong when applied to the Horsemen.

With that being said, no endeavour is completely without fault, and despite the very easily translatable form, the story as a result can suffer from some predictable elements, particularly regarding the middle section of the story before the ending period, which suffers from slight clich├ęs. Having said that, the story is a really strong one on the whole, particularly as a first story in a new story arc. One to watch for the foreseeable future, without doubt.
The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Plenty of set pieces, much in the same way as previous works.
Sex/Nudity: Unsurprisingly, none.
Swearing: Little to none.
Summary: A strong debut for what will undoubtedly prove to be another hit series for Hutchison. 9/10

Warhammer 40000: Sisters of Battle - Red and Black
James Swallow
The Black Library
Available Now  - RRP £10.00 (Audiobook – Also available on MP3 download)
Review by Rob Wade

The Ecclesiarchy is the great church of the Imperium. Founded on the worship of the God-Emperor of Mankind, it guards the sanctity of the Imperial Creed and protects the celestial truth of the Emperor’s divinity. Its ideals are enforced by the bolters and flamers of the Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas – the Sisters of Battle. After two millennia, the warp storms raging around the Hollos star system have abated, allowing the isolated planet of Hollos to reconnect with the Imperium. When a mysterious messenger contacts the Orders Militant, Celestian Miriya must travel to Hollos and pass judgement on the world. Will she find a world embracing the Emperor’s truth or one in need of cleansing? Her decision will liberate or condemn an entire planet.

First of all, on a random note, why the fuck has it taken me this long to find out how well audiobooks can be done? Don’t get me wrong, I imagine there are some awful productions, much like with any adaptation, but when you get a good one you really do know it, huh? It probably helps to have a good story to tell, which lends itself well to audio format, with guns and “pew pew” and so forth, so in this instance that probably contributes, but given the nature of Warhammer 40000 being quite heavy on the “pew pew” as friends and colleagues of mine will attest, maybe it’s not that surprising that 40K audiobooks translate well.

What this book does well, it does really well. The story is strong, with a good level of exposition regarding the Sisters of Battle, and the characterisation is done extremely well, supported by some really good voice acting work from the actors involved in the production. The production values on a whole are really impressive, with plenty of good-quality sound effects and music playing through the background. The audio adds a fair bit to the drama, particularly during the fight scenes, which are well done in general.

Having said that, the book is only 65 minutes in length. Maybe it’s the cynical consumer inside me talking, but considering that major audiobook websites offer audiobooks ten times longer at only twice the price of this volume, it feels like the story is a little thin in terms of value for money. It’s not like there’s nowhere to bulk the story out, either, as some scenes feel quite light on description and detail. However, what is there is a really strong story, which gives a great insight into the mentalities of the Sisters of Battle, and signals an interesting story arc in the 40k universe as a whole.
The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Plenty of gunfights, in accordance with 40k standards.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Little-none.
Summary: An excellent production and a good story. Wish it was a little longer though. 8/10

Thursday 9 February 2012

Movie Reviews: Star Wars - Episode 1: The Phantom Menace 3D

Star Wars - Episode One: The Phantom Menace (3D)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson
Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox

In Cinemas Now
Review by Rob Wade

For the select few who are taking this opportunity to immerse themselves in the most important franchise in cinema history for the first time, I'll give you a brief run down of the story. The Phantom Menace deals with the story of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, two Jedi sent to resolve a trade dispute on a ship orbiting the planet Naboo. They are involved in a scuffle with some robots shortly thereafter, and uncover a dastardly plan by the Trade Federation to occupy the planet forcibly in order to force through a new trade treaty. Taking the ruler of Naboo to safety, our heroes make a forced stop on the planet Tatooine, where they meet Anakin Skywalker, a boy whose destiny will forever change the course of the galaxy...

Pretty good, eh? I should totally write those blurbs on the back of DVDs. Anyway, 95% of you (give or take, 97% at a push) aren't looking to get the plot summarised for them (albeit masterfully). What most of you want to know is simple: Is the 3D conversion a good one, and is it worth seeing at the cinema, despite being an oft-maligned film in the Saga? I've got my feelings on 3D in cinema, and ultimately it boils down to the fact that films made since the advent of 3D play up to it, and deliberately shoot certain scenes in certain ways knowing that they will play out in a different way in 3D. The prospect, therefore, of seeing something that wasn't created specifically with a 3D showing in mind, was an intriguing one, and along with fellow E14er Omer, I vowed to check it the fuck out.

In short, I got one of those flutters that people talk about when speaking about classic movie moments. Usually it's actors making moving acceptance speeches when accepting things like Academy Awards and so on, but cinema does have that ability to give chills when done well. It's the feeling I got seeing The Phantom Menace for the first time in 1999, and it's the feeling I got at points in the 3D version.

First of all, if you've never had a chance to see a Star Wars film at the cinema on the big screen, you should most definitely take it. The picture looks incredible at the best of times, the sound is outstanding (and despite home cinema systems being of really high quality nowadays, it's still not the same) and the atmosphere in general is something pretty special. Ok, maybe it helps to have Anthony Daniels introduce the film like our showing, but nonetheless it's still an awesome experience.

Now, as it pertains to the 3D, it's much like many 3D conversions in that it's not 100% successful in every single scene. It has to be said that unlike Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the movie didn't suffer from tremendous amounts of motion blur during fast-moving scenes, and this was particularly noticeable during the lightsaber battles, with even the most acrobatic action-packed scenes being displayed clearly. Maybe it has to do with laser swords rather than cutlasses. Who knows?

With regards to which scenes work really well, frequent viewers of the movie may not be surprised to know that the pod racing sequences look incredible in 3D motion, especially during crashes and pod racers passing each other. The space battles also look really good, although at times the 3D doesn't really do much. What was surprising was how good other random scenes looked. All the scenes involving the Gungans, particularly those which occur underwater, looked absolutely breathtaking, and the bongo sequence underwater looked great in motion.

Probably the best thing about this conversion is that it doesn't make any scene worse at all, but there are scenes which have little niggles as a result of either the 3D or necessary digital conversion. A lot of the forest scenes give the viewer the distinct impression that the scenes were filmed against a green screen, maybe due to the edges being just a little too defined. It's minor gripes only, however, as overall the film is not only great to see on the big screen again, but probably the first 3D conversion I've known of that feels organic.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Lightsaber battles, space battles and Ray Park getting cut in half.
Sex/Nudity: Not on screen. I had a Portman/Knightley thing going on in my head, but...nothing on screen, no.
Swearing: None.
Summary: An excellent 3D conversion, and a fantastic opportunity to get that 'movie magic' feeling. 9/10

Second Opinion: Omer Ibrahim: Overall, I really enjoyed it. The picture was nice and crisp, not dark, but it didn't take my breath away like some 3D-designed movies. The addition of CG Yoda was a nice touch, and the extended podrace sequence was really good. That said, the 3D could have really added to the big lightsaber fight, and I didn't feel like it did so much. I'm going to go with 8/10.