Friday 29 January 2016

The Crazy Train - Episode (11)38 - "The Cast Awakens!"

On Episode 38 of The Crazy Train:

Well, as requested via an email from James (with a lovely knob drawing in the subject line, in this episode of The Crazy Train we talk about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We talk about a few subjects, characters and such! Want to hear our thoughts on Rey? Ren? Finn? Han Solo? How about *that* bit? Hmm? How crazy was that, eh? Find out what we think of all these things and more on "The Cast Awakens"!

Starring: Rob Wade, Blake Harmer, Brad Harmer-Barnes, Sour Crouch.

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Wednesday 27 January 2016

E14 Blind Bag Battle - Episode 2!

Welcome to E14 Blind Bag Battle!

In a Blind Bag Battle, two members of Team E14 do battle as only members of Team E14 should: Little plastic models. In this particular instance, the idea is to make the unboxing of blind bagged miniatures a little more exciting, with a game themed on popular favourite Top Trumps.

This time round, our combatants are Rob Wade and Omer Ibrahim. They will be doing battle using the Heroclix Avengers: Age of Ultron Gravity Feed set, using a die roll to decide their chosen battle conditions. The options:

  1. Points
  2. Speed
  3. Attack
  4. Defense
  5. Damage
  6. Total Clix

Being as a standard Gravity Feed box contains 24 miniatures, this Blind Bag Battle is contested over 11 rounds (First to 6 wins!) with the victor able to open the remaining 2 bags in the finale.

After 1 round, the score is 1-0 to Omer. Can Rob turn the tide? One way to find out!

Friday 22 January 2016

Introducing - E14 Blind Bag Battle!

Today, E14 is proud to introduce a new Youtube venture, Blind Bag Battle.

In a Blind Bag Battle, two members of Team E14 do battle as only members of Team E14 should: Little plastic models. In this particular instance, the idea is to make the unboxing of blind bagged miniatures a little more exciting, with a game themed on popular favourite Top Trumps.

This time round, our combatants are Rob Wade and Omer Ibrahim. They will be doing battle using the Heroclix Avengers: Age of Ultron Gravity Feed set, using a die roll to decide their chosen battle conditions. The options:

  1. Points
  2. Speed
  3. Attack
  4. Defense
  5. Damage
  6. Total Clix

Being as a standard Gravity Feed box contains 24 miniatures, this Blind Bag Battle is contested over 11 rounds (First to 6 wins!) with the victor able to open the remaining 2 bags in the finale. Who will get slightly more airtime, and an extra plastic model to caress lovingly? You'll have to tune in to find out!

Monday 18 January 2016

The Terminator: Science Fiction Masterpiece or 80s Slasher Film?

A.J. Waters

Many a time in my years of being a film buff have I had to endure the friendly (though sometimes not so friendly) debate on what genre a film comes under. Though we live in an age where sub-genres are the new black and basics are somewhat old hat, we still seem keen to fit certain movies into a single genre. Is SAW a horror or a psychological thriller? Is Star Wars sci-fi or fantasy adventure? Is Melancholia a drama or just pretentious wank?

These debates, and hundreds just like them, continue to pop up in my life and I’ve decided that I want in! So I ask you, is The Terminator sci-fi, or just another 80s slasher? Now before we dive into it, I would just like to make it 100% clear that I am not trying to slag off this film by any means. No! I am a HUGE fan of The Terminator and I always will be, however…I present my point of view.

The Scream-Queen

Linda Hamilton plays the sweet and ditzy, down on her luck Sarah Connor. No husband, no kids, a job that she hates, and she lives with a lizard & her pet iguana. Also, like all of our favourite scream-queens, she shares a lot of their traits that make you wonder how they made it this far into the film: on the one hand she’s sweet and likeable, but she breathes way too loudly when she’s supposed to be hiding. What's more, she can’t run for shit, falls over all the time and of course, as the name suggests, she screams a lot.

The Antagonist

An unstoppable killing machine (quite literally in this case) that fits the bill for slasher films old and new. Who is he? Where did he come from? What is his story? What the fuck is his problem? These questions and more are the sorts of things we ask ourselves when we watch him carry out his deadly pursuit, killing everything in his path to get to our aforementioned scream-queen. But it’s not just that that puts him in the running for slasher baddies - Oh no, sir! You can bet your bottom dollar on that, me ol’ mucker! Let’s take a closer look shall we?

He’s a supernatural being, much like our friends Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th, The Candyman in (shockingly) The Candyman, Chucky in Child’s Play and more! What else does he share? Well, he also wears a mask. While it's not the conventional kind sported by such classic film nasties as Leatherface, Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, it is a mask all the same in the sense that it covers his true identity (living tissue over a metal endoskeleton).

The Supporting Male Hero Figure

If there is one thing a scream-queen needs to survive, it’s a strong male figure to let her know that it’s all going to be okay (it was the 80s, alright? It was a different time back then). Child’s Play had Detective Mike Norris, A Nightmare on Elm Street had Glen Lantz, The Burning had Todd, and The Terminator has Kyle Reese. Granted, our Kyle is hella more badass than the former, but there he is, fulfilling his duty by travelling through time to hold the hand of our leading lady (n’aww). Kyle Reese puts life and limb on the line to make sure she’s okay, but for some reason keeps getting slowed down by her insistent need to fall over every fifteen seconds (sound familiar?) only to have the roles reversed when he cops a boo-boo.

Those idiot cops who just won’t believe our hero’s story

If there’s one thing a good slasher loves it’s a skeptical cop, and this bad boy has two of the bastards! Our heroine will turn on the waterworks and try her damnedest to convince our boys in blue that something is trying to kill them, whether that thing be a cyborg from the future, a serial killer reincarnated as a doll, a paedophile in a stripy jumper (though that last one isn’t too far-fetched), or if it really is just the Boogeyman. Don't forget of course that there’s that dreaded line that they all use: “You have to believe me.”

The “the bad guy is dead lol jk not really” routine

Slasher films *love* making us believe that our leading lady, despite her misery and turmoil, has finally prevailed and come out on top. She did it! She killed the bad guy and now she can live happily ever after! However, just as she begins to relax with heavy breathing and exhaustion, the antagonist jumps out of nowhere and shouts “surprise, cockfags!” and grabs her or emerges from the background or leaves some sort of hint that that shit ain’t over until it’s over, ya heard? The ‘false sense of security’ tactic is about as overused as the ‘per animal jump scare’, but hey, whatever works.

So there we have it folks. Stacked up side-by-side, we may have another horror contender in our midst and it was right under our noses this whole time. You may even find more similarities yourself! Of course, you are in no way inclined to agree with me, it’s just one fan’s interpretation of one of the greatest films of our generation. But it never hurts to have a fresh view on a classic that so many of us hold dear. What do you think?

Well, what do you think folks? Is The Terminator sci-fi, slasher or does it not matter as long as we're all having a good time? Let us know in the comments below! Don't forget, if you like the cut of Mr Waters' gib, you can find his works at the links below. E14 encourages you to give his stuff a go!

Amazon Author Page

Friday 15 January 2016

The Crazy Train! Episode 37 - "Rob's Renumie-numies!"

On Episode 37 of The Crazy Train:

  • We talk briefly about Christmas
  • Our conversation turns into a general conversation about gift-giving and vouchers
  • Rob shares a bit of fun about the last episode
  • We talk briefly about New Year
  • Rob tells a story about a recent incident with his dad
  • Brad tells a first-aid story
  • Rob asks a question of the cast (not from the mailbag, just out of interest)
  • Rob shares something he was doing to mess with Blake
  • From the mailbag: If you could choose any job from fiction, what would you be and why?
  • Blake reveals his life goal
  • It all devolves into silliness

Starring: Rob Wade, Blake Harmer, Brad Harmer-Barnes, Sour Crouch.

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Thursday 14 January 2016

What Do You Mean You Hate Revenge Of The Sith?

At the beginning of January, I was featured indirectly on the excellent Talk Star Wars Podcast, where they read out one of my fan letters and posed my fan question to the cast, of whom I am a fan. With me so far? Fantastic. Sorry, last one, I promise. As a podcast host myself, I was pleased to see a group that engaged with their fans like that, especially being so kind about my question and giving it a good answer.

One thing they also did, to my amusement, was give me a good old-fashioned ribbing about my ranking of the Star Wars series, in particular the movie that occupies my second place position. For reference, my ordering goes thusly, from favourite to least favourite:

5, 3, 6, 4, 7, 1, 2.

So defensive was I about my enjoyment of Revenge of the Sith (your guess is as good as mine as to why I felt so defensive of my own preferences, but those are my issues to deal with) that I half-jokingly offered to break out the writing gear and pen a short piece explaining what it is I enjoy about the movie. However, the fine chaps at Talk Star Wars were kind enough to offer to host it once done, so I thought it would be a fun exercise in articulating my point of view on the movie. Obviously, being able to watch one of my favourites is always a plus as well (which goes for all the movies in the Star Wars series, by the way).

Let me start by saying that my objective here is not necessarily to change your point of view on Revenge of the Sith. If there's one thing I try to respect above all others, it's the right to hold differing opinions, as it's one of the things that makes life so interesting. Imagine the dreariness of a world where everyone agreed on everything all the time. The objective here is a simple one really: best case scenario, I hope to give you insight into what gives me joy when watching a movie, and demonstrate what it is about Revenge that elevates it in my mind. Worst case scenario, you'll read it, not agree with any, and nobody's the worse off for the experience. With that said, "this is where the fun begins".

Now, I'll happily admit that there are no perfect movies, and that even Empire has bits about it that I'm not wild about, though a much shorter list than Attack of the Clones. It's no surprise, then, that I am conscious of some of the complaints around the movie. What's more, even if I might not agree with them or dislike them to the same degree as others, I do see the arguments. For instance, I've heard it said that the CGI use overall in the prequels is excessive, and on that point I agree. Whether for cost reasons or the sake of ease, there are points in the prequel trilogy where the CGI feels unnecessary.

However, of the three prequels, my feeling is that Revenge does at least make use of it to deliver some stunning visuals, particularly the various planets visited over the course of the movie. From the extreme climate of Mustafar (putting it mildly!) to the stunning colour palettes of Felucia, there are some beautiful locations with immense scale in the movie. I get that if someone is violently opposed to the CGI, things like this could become lost in the mix, but this is certainly something I noticed on what I would call my "verification" watch while assembling this piece.

That said, I didn't take this opportunity purely to point out that the film has moments where it's awful purdy. My core reasoning behind my enjoyment of Revenge of the Sith is that it has some wonderful subtleties. Now, in some minds there, I can almost hear the squeal of the brakes on the mental train. "Subtlety?! From the movie that brought us 'Noooooooooooo'?!"

I get what you're saying. That line, while it sort of fits with Anakin's character over the prequels, doesn't really fit the ultimate badass Darth Vader we'd come to know and love, who doesn't laugh once in the entire original trilogy by the way. He makes a joke, but to the corpse of a bloke he's just killed with his mind. But I digress. The subtlety portrayed in the movie is what drives it for me. It's a movie about the struggles of Anakin Skywalker to reconcile what he has always come to believe (that the Jedi are just and pure), and what he is being told (that there is a way to save his wife which the Jedi will not teach him). Indeed, it should be pointed out that Anakin falls to the Dark Side out of desperation for the one he loves, not purely for the purposes of possessing power for power's sake. That's kind of cool, if you ask me, but mileage may vary.

The movie seeds this really early on, with Anakin's struggles to reconcile what he should do with what he must. He feels he *should* go back and save the Clone ships from Buzz droids, but he can't because he *must* reach the ship and rescue the Chancellor. What's great about the opening bit is that we start to see certain things bleeding through. Palpatine lets just the slightest hint of Sidious creep in when telling Anakin to kill Count Dooku to help end the war, which is audible in his voice when he growls "Do it!" Anakin obeys but backpedals on reflection because he knows that what he has just done isn't what he *should* do. There's a lot to like about the scene in general really, as the lightsaber battle between Anakin and Dooku is short and sweet, and shows just the slightest hint of anger and Dark Side energy working its way into Anakin's style as Dooku taunts him.

This subtle manipulation of Anakin by Darth Sidious is a key point throughout, and this movie does a wonderful job of showing just what a devious and indeed insidious (clever how they did that, eh?) Palpatine/Sidious is capable of being, with him constantly working in secrecy to unsettle Anakin's faith in the Jedi Order. He'll only speak of Darth Plagueis when they're alone. He'll only talk of offering Dark Side teachings when they're alone. What's more, he only reveals all the cards when he knows that Anakin has nowhere else to turn, and when he can strike. The smile alone makes the scene, but the dialogue, with the way he softly-softly implores Anakin to use his teachings and save his wife is superb.

Besides, it's not difficult to see why he is capable of succeeding, either, as in this prequel trilogy we see another side to the Jedi than the pure heroism of the original trilogy. We see a more dogmatic, rigid, stricter code of ethics to the Jedi. Yoda flat-out tells Anakin that the solution to his troubling visions of someone close to him dying is to learn not to fear loss. So much perfectly reasonable human reaction is a path to the Dark Side, and one could argue that if you have to start training them that young, you might be indoctrinating them. When you have one side offering that as a solution, it's not hard to see why "I can probably sort it, if you're willing to learn" became such an attractive prospect!

The movie, though, does a great job of showing Anakin being pulled from pillar to post by everyone from the Jedi, to Sidious, to even his loving wife. Here's another thing, and this might be the most contested thing you read in this piece, so consider yourself warned. Although Hayden Christensen's acting is often derided over the course of the prequels, I think it's fair to say that a lot of the issues center around the dialogue. A lot of the facial expressions are sufficiently well done to convey emotion, but then accompanied by a clunky line they can lose a certain lustre. However much easier it is to believe that a crappy line in a movie is down to poor delivery, often the line itself can be equally restrictive for an actor. Name one actor who could make lines about his distaste for the texture of sand a non-stop thrill ride. Maybe Di Caprio at a push, but he made his decision and we have to respect that.

And in the end, the longest lightsaber battle in the history of Star Wars is, in many ways, one of the most important (second, in my eyes, only to the second Luke/Vader battle on board the second Death Star). Throughout this movie, Lucas gives us plenty of evidence that Obi-Wan and Anakin have become accustomed to working together as a team when out on missions for the Jedi Council. From the earliest entrance of the characters in the film, flying in tandem to the capital ship followed by their tag-team destruction of several battle droids with minimal effort, the clear indication is that the pair is an effective team. What's more, some of Anakin's angst is caused by wanting to support Obi-Wan on his campaign to flush out and destroy General Grievous (who I'll concede, much like Boba Fett and Captain Phasma, is a cool-looking character that doesn't really get a lot of use).

One of the great things about the lightsaber battle is that there are a number of occasions where you can see the two engage in similar, if not identical, move patterns. To me, this battle feels like a fight between two powerful warriors, both of whom know each other inside out. As a result, they both look for openings in the other's patterns only to find that aside from environmental factors, there are none. However, the best part for me is the climax of the battle. Obi-Wan's experience gives him the upper hand in the duel, but Anakin's impetuous arrogance results in him coming off significantly worse than he would've had he just licked his wounds and come back stronger next time. At this point, it seems like all the adrenaline drains from Obi-Wan and he is faced with the reality of what has happened. He then delivers his wonderfully emotive speech, a speech full of despair and anguish at the fate of the galaxy. If only someone could've told him it'd work out in the end, eh? Well, not for him, but he strikes me as a "greater good" kind of chap.

So there you have it. Those are my reasons, and for these reasons I consider Episode III to be a stronger film than others might think. If reading any of these points that have changed your mind on the film, or made you want to watch it again to see if you see what I enjoy from the movie, then that's awesome. If not...Well then, you are lost! Nah, just kidding. Each to their own and all that. Thanks for reading.

Saturday 2 January 2016

Blake Harmer's Best Of 2015

Hi everyone, time for my favourite and least favourite experiences from 2015. Please note that these are things that I personally experienced in 2015 not necessarily things that were released in 2015 although most of them were.

Game of the Year 2015 - Bloodborne

Yes I know, for anyone who knows me playing this game at the time there will be surprise that I am giving this GOTY. Despite my initial hatred caused mainly by my ineptitude playing the game, because of its crushing difficulty which almost led me to give up on it completely, everything about this game is practically flawless. The combat is amazing and the storyline, while mostly gleaned from books found around the game and hinted at through cutscenes, is a slice of cosmic horror brilliance that feels like a massive homage to the works of HP Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos without being truly part of it. Every mistake you make is brutally punished like the Dark Souls and Demons Souls games before it. However, persevere, and this is one of the most rewarding games you will experience this year. Essential if you own a PS4.

Honourable Mention - MGS V: The Phanom Pain

MGS could have easily taken the gong on gameplay alone. However, the unfinished storyline along with parts that felt rushed despite its scale stopped this from besting Bloodborne in the end. Had Kojima taken a “less is more" approach and ended the game after “part one” then as a self-contained slice of genius this would have been a different story and the rest of the game could have been finished in a later instalment of MGS. Alas this is now never to be.

Honourable Mention - Fallout 4

Now, those who know me know I love Fallout 4. Sure, it doesn’t do a huge amount of new stuff in terms of gameplay over Fallout 3and New Vegas, but what it does it does well, with the new crafting and settlement building very welcome additions to the series. However, no other game franchise aside from Bethesda’s other big franchise can make me lost in a gaming world as much as a Fallout title. I become engrossed in simple exploration, little side quests and visiting and exploring new towns with their new stories to tell.

I could have very easily given this GOTY based on these facts alone, along with the several hours I have already put into the game. However, I have chosen to reserve final judgment of the game purely as I have yet to finish the game at time of writing. However, don’t be too shocked if this ends up in my GOTY writings in 2016. Even with tough contenders such as Uncharted 4, X-Com 2 and No Mans Sky vying for my attention next year, and games such as Witcher 3, Halo 5, Star Wars: Battlefront, Rise of The Tomb Raider and Assassins Creed: Syndicate as big games of this year that I have yet to experience.

Worst Game of the Year 2015 - Entwined

As mentioned earlier, this is only based on games I’ve actually played, and whilst I’m sure there are games that have been released this year that are far more deserving of this award, Entwined is just the weakest I’ve played this year. Unlike the God-awful Doki Doki Universe which won this award last year, Entwined isn’t truly an awful game. It's more of a disappointment based on what I believe it was trying to achieve. The game is trying for that indie artfulness that, when done right, gives the gamer an emotional attachment and a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Examples that spring to mind include The Unfinished Swan or Flower. However, while Entwined has some lovely visuals, it just never truly grabbed me emotionally. Unfortunately, when the game is very repetitive and not all that difficult, there just isn’t a lot here to recommend extended playtime or replayability once the credits roll. The ultimate feeling I was left with was a resounding "Meh" about this game, and sometimes that can be worse than playing a bad game.

Film of the year 2015

This is a really tough decision, as there have been some truly outstanding films this year, including Birdman, The Martian, Kingsman and Jurassic World to name but a few as honourable mentions. However, here are 3 films that I love for different reasons that I have seen in 2015, so much so that it would be unfair to rate one over the other because of this (Yes I know this is a bit of a copout but hey, I’m writing this article):

Best Comedy 2015 - What We Do In The Shadows

This is quite possibly the best mockumentary I have seen since the almighty This is Spinal Tap, What We Do In The Shadows is a hilarious comedy showing a household of vampires and what they do in their spare time on the build up to their yearly celebration: “The Unholy Masquerade”. From clubbing to enticing victims, all while dealing with their nemeses the werewolves, this comedy is practically flawless from start to finish.

Best Action Movie 2015 - Mad Max: Fury Road

This film is no-nonsense, doing exactly what it says on the tin and delivering exactly what you want from a Mad Max movie: vehicular carnage, non-stop action and a simple yet well-explained plot that holds it all together. By God, is it amazing. The film also deserves special mention for bringing new fans to the franchise while also staying true to its roots by sticking to real stunts and prosthetics whilst only using CG to enhance lighting and explosions where needed.

Best Movie containing the word "Star Wars" thus trumping any other movie - Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Joking aside, this is an outstanding movie. It recaptures the feel of the original trilogy, uniting you with old friends while introducing you to new ones. It tells a good story that has the feel of A New Hope in a lot of aspects while still remaining sufficiently original in its own right. The film is a fanboy's dream, and as a huge Star Wars fan myself there was no doubt this film would enter my all-time top films of 2015. However, it earns its right to be here for being the emotional action-packed rollercoaster ride that it is. Harrison Ford’s reprisal as Han Solo is amazing, whilst new characters Finn, Rey & BB-8 are also strong characters as well.

If you are one of the few people who hate Star Wars, then there will be nothing here for you (and less on this entire website – so stick a spoon up your arse!), but if you are a fan like most sensible people, then this film is truly essential and I implore you to go see it as soon as you possibly can if you haven’t already.

Album of the Year 2015 - "Coma Ecliptic" by Between the Buried & Me

While still mad and an exercise in technical genius, "Coma Ecliptic" is probably the most accessible BTBAM album I have heard and is also practically flawless. In my opinion this is my favourite album of theirs since Colours. If you are a fan of Progressive Metal then I highly recommend this!

Most Disappointing Album 2015 – "The Colour Before The Sun" by Coheed & Cambria

To me this was a big let-down, especially as this follows the last 2 Afterman albums which are some of C&C’s best work. The album has good songs on it but the overall content feels ultimately uninspiring and forgettable. Granted this is the first album C&C have made that isn’t a concept album, but knowing they are a band that are capable of so much more than what is offered in this album is ultimately disappointing.

Friday 1 January 2016

Sour Crouch's Best of 2015

At time of publication, Sour Crouch was on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday to Florida, so understandably didn't have time to flesh out a full Best of in the more traditional E14 format. However, he was kind enough to send us through a list of things he enjoyed over the last 12 months, and we decided that fans might like to see it as-is.

  • Favourite Movies - Tomorrowland, Mad Max: Fury Road, Jurassic World, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Star Wars: The Force Awakens (He hadn't seen this at time of writing, but judging by his social media reaction I can justify sticking this in there - Rob)
  • Favourite TV series - Daredevil, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Game Of Thrones, Constantine
  • Favourite Games - Bloodborne, The Witcher 3, Game Of Thrones (The Telltale ones)
  • Favourite Books - The Last Wish, Heir to the Jedi
  • Favourite moments of 2015 - Starting University, The first proper Star Wars Trailer, Winning the Apocalypse Heroclix in a game, going to Amsterdam (here we'll take an opportunity to plug Crouch's animation blog, which he has started since his course began)
  • Favourite Albums - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' "Push the sky away", Drake's "If you're reading this it's too late", Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' "The Lyre of Orpheus"
  • Favourite Comic - Darth Vader
  • Favourite Comic event - Spider-Verse
  • Favourite Anime - Space Dandy, One Punch Man
  • Favourite boardgames/wargames - Frostgrave