Thursday, 31 January 2013

Are You Ready?: The Unauthorised History of DX Review

Written By Shawn Michaels, Triple H and Aaron Williams

Genre
Autobiography, Sport, Wrestling

Synopsis

D-Generation X, or DX as they came to be known, was headed by Triple H and Shawn Michaels, two of the biggest Superstars in wrestling history, and had a changing roster of rebels who did whatever they wanted, whenever, wherever -- regardless of the ultimate outcome.

First created in 1997 as a means for two friends to work together, the faction rapidly grew so popular with audiences and fans that other wrestlers were clamouring to join it.

Their anti-establishment, authority-busting attitude was key to their appeal and they were instrumental in the success of WWE over the rival WCW, occupying a special place in the hearts and minds of wrestling fans to this day.

Different incarnations of DX followed -- but always with Triple H and Shawn Michaels at their centre. DX were notorious for speaking their minds, no matter whom they provoked or how. Told by the men who created DX, this is their inside story.

Review

Triple H and Shawn Michaels, known collectively as DX or D-Generation X, have always been known to divide wrestling opinion. Some see them as integral to creating a more realistic form of wrestling and others seem them as immature jackasses.

I've always been quite a fan of watching their matches but not so much of their buffoonery that seemed to take over each episode of Raw and Smackdown that they appeared on.

Despite all of that, I really did enjoy this release for the most part. Written partly in character and partly in real life, it does come across as a little disjointed in places.

While I do understand that this book is basically just about the history of the wrestling stable, I still found it quite annoying that they really either glossed over or ignored completely major parts and some of the members. 


I accept that's due to just being about Shawn and Triple H's time in DX but they start to go in to detail about their solo careers and then their feud together before stopping suddenly.

This release really does do a very good job of bringing back some memories of really good matches and interviews and even helped me to remember a few moments I'd forgotten. The jokes between Triple H and Shawn Michaels border from being very funny to being really annoying.  I suppose that's part of the charm of the group itself.  The juvenile and, most of the time, funny jokes and put downs.

While the book itself is well written and entertaining in places, I'd just recommend this for the fans of DX themselves.


Presentation 3.5/5
Informative 4/5
Recommended 3.5/5
Overall 11/15

 

The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty Review

Written By Eudora Welty

Genre
Fairy Tale, Adventure

Synopsis

Eudora Welty reassembles the traditional, rich ingredients of a fairy tale in an American setting to make an original fantasy.

Rosamond lives in the woods of Mississippi with her father, Clement, and her chilly, jealous stepmother, Salome.

Instructed to clean the house from top to bottom, she is worn out and dishevelled when she meets dashing bandit Jamie for the first time. From then on, her fate is sealed.

Review

Published in 1942, The Robber Bridegroom is based on the tale of the same name by The Brothers Grimm.

Here Eudora Welty has created a gothic fairytale on a grand scale set in the deep South.

Managing to combine both real places and real people with creations from her vivid imagination, Welty has managed to bring a fast, vibrant and exciting tale that, while short, is a complete page turner. I for one couldn't wait to turn the next page to see what was next in store for the characters.

Talking of the characters, the line between real life people and fictional characters is so blurred in places that it's hard to see who existed and who didn't but believe me that's a good thing. They're so well rounded and expertly written that everybody just blends together to create a rich cast of memorable characters and situations.





I especially loved how Welty didn't make the bandit stereotypical.  He doesn't get everything right and he can be a complete a-hole at times yet you still end up rooting for him throughout the story.  That takes an author of massive talent to be able to do that and that's exactly what Eudora Welty was.

Amazingly this was her debut novel and she went on to write more but I've always had a major soft spot for this one and really rate it as her best novel by far. I honestly could read it then go straight back to the beginning and read it all over again.

 It is such a rich, well written and rip roaring story. There are so many nods to things such as 'Snow White' and 'Cinderella' and there are quite a few moments in the story that seem like they may have inspired such books as 'The Princess Bride'. which ironically is another one of my favorites.

This is most definitely how fairy tales should be done.  Absolutely essential and deserves to be much better known than it is.

Story 4/5
Characters 5/5
Recommended 5/5
Overall 14/15

Y: The Last Man - Book One (Deluxe Edition) Graphic Novel Review

Written By Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan Jr
Cover By J.G. Jones

Genre
Horror, Psychological

Synopsis

After a mysterious plague devastates the global male population, Yorick Brown is the last man left alive.

His mother is the President, his only friend a monkey called Ampersand and his survival in this hostile new world is constantly in question!

It's now a very different world, and amateur escape artist Yorick is far from one of the privileged. With society plunged into chaos, and his girlfriend Beth trapped on the far side of the world, he finds himself on the run from a coven of Amazons who want him dead...one of whom is his own sister!

Finally collected into a deluxe hardback edition, Brian K. Vaughan's thought-provoking, intelligent storytelling has taken the comics world by storm!

Review

When I read the storyline for this release, I thought that it would just be another one of those cliched style 'last man on Earth' stories that pop up every now and then.

I was completely wrong.

This a completely different style of story. Yes it's a 'last man on Earth' story but it's also so much more than that. It's very intelligently written and doesn't once fall in to the trap of cliche. The characters, even the villains and the bit part players, are fully fleshed out and have many layers to them. Yorick is great as the hero because he isn't an indestructible super hero that succeeds at every turn. Instead he is flawed, annoying in places and even prone to completely messing things up on a regular moments.

Another thing I liked was the fact that while there were many twists and turns, it didn't seem like they were being done for the sake of having a twist in the story. They all had a reason behind them.

The relationships between the main protagonists and also the people chasing them, had fully fleshed out reasons for their actions too. I'd like that to happen more often in graphic novels as it sometimes feels like things are happening just for the hell of it.

The subtle, quiet moments in the story managed to still pop off the page and make the reader want to read on. Not a lot of writers can do that but here, it was done with such a masterful hand.

The artwork is superb. The action scenes really pop and crackle with excitement and the use of shadows and light are sublime. Sometimes in a panel, at first glance hardly anything is happening yet if you take more time to just look and take in the beautiful artwork, then you notice just how detailed the work is.

Absolutely superb and well recommended. Bring on book 2!

Story 4.5/5
Art 4.5/5
Overall 9/10

The Uncanny X-Men: Dark Phoenix Graphic Novel Review

Written By Chris Claremont
Art By John Byrne
Cover By John Byrne

Genre
Superhero, Action, Adventure

Synopsis

For years the mighty X-Men have protected a world that hates and fears them.  Now they face their greatest challenge!

One of their own members, Jean Grey, has gained more power than she could ever have hoped for.  The downside is that it has corrupted her to her very soul.  Now the X-Men have to decide what's more important.  The lives of the  entire universe or the life of the woman they all cherish as one of their own!

Review

The Dark Phoenix saga is one of the most well known and well respected tales in the whole history of the mighty X-Men. Incredibly inspirational for a lot of writers and artists these days it's amazing that a story from the 1979-1980 stage of the X-Men's tales still resonates so well today.

This edition collects the issues 129-137 of the Uncanny X-Men comic series by the dream team of Chris Claremont and John Byrne. During their time together they created some very exciting and hard hitting stories through their tumultuous pairing. This is by far their opus, their masterpiece.

The story itself is well known through comic book fans. Jean Grey, once known as Marvel Girl is now known as Phoenix. Suddenly, and through manipulation, her powers explode and over take her, turning her in to the Dark Phoenix. The power absolutely corrupts her and she turns on those that have protected her with shocking events.

Throughout the story Claremont/Byrne do create many twists and turns. They also bring in to some new characters in to the X-Men universe, with varying degrees of success.

Dazzler, a mutant, is the weakest of these but still plays a good part in the storyline yet without leaving taking too much of the focus away.

Kitty Pryde, another mutant, is a very successful addition and is still in and out of the X-Men tales now. Her addition really speeds the story along brilliantly without making her into a stereotypical damsel in distress.

The major addition is The Hellfire Club. A legit club for the wealthy of the city, there's a mysterious inner circle comprised of some men with some dark secrets and schemes. They truly were the best addition to the story and for once, were villains that could match the X-Men power for power.

The ending is still as hard hitting now as it was in the 80's. While the beginning part of the tale doesn't live up to the ending, how could it with an ending like that?

The artwork is flawless and really makes the action and even the quiet scenes pop off of the page at the reader. The little details here and there really add to the general dark feel of the story and ramp up the tension until the nerve shredding ending.

The only complaint I have is that some of the scenes haven't aged very well although the tale itself is over thirty years old. The only other complaint is that there a couple of inconsistencies in the writing. For example Colossus at the beginning of this edition says that he was responsible for the death of Proteus. Yet later on in the story when he is facing off against the Dark Phoenix, he says that he has never killed someone. That's just a minor complaint however.

This, even though it's over 30 years old, is still an absolutely essential purchase for anyone that is an X-Men fan or even someone who just likes a good tale.

Story 4.5/5
Art 4.5/5
Overall 9/10

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Lorax (2012) DVD Review

Written By Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul based on the book by Dr Seuss
Directed By Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda

Genre
Animated, Comedy, Family

Cast

Zac Efron as Ted
Danny DeVito as The Lorax
Ed Helms as The Once-ler
Taylor Swift as Audrey
Betty White as Granny Norma
Rob Riggle as Mr O'Hare
Jenny Slate as Ted's Mother


Certificate U

Synopsis

A 12-year-old boy searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.

Special Features
  • Once-ler's Wagon (Interactive screens where user can select a variety of icons and then motion video plays) 
  • 'Seuss To Screen' Featurette
  • 'Seuss It Up' Featurette
  • Deleted Scenes

Review

Before I review this I have to admit one thing.  I've never read the Dr Seuss book all the way through so I have no idea how faithful this is to that so I'm not going to be judging it on that aspect.

After the movies 'The Grinch', 'The Cat in the Hat' and other such Dr Seuss adaptations hit big at the box office, there has been a steady stream of them coming at us movie goers.  Some of them have been great at capturing the spirit of the stories and others, not so much.

This one, while being a good movie, isn't one of the great ones.

What we do have here however is a funny movie with quite a sweet message about looking after the Earth because if we don't we could lose all the things we take for granted.  While that is a very admirable message, it's handled in quite a heavy handed way.  The best way to describe what I mean is to describe it as a 'iron hand in a velvet glove' as the saying goes.

That's not to say that this movie isn't enjoyable because it really is.  The vocal performances by the cast make the well created characters really come to life.  Zac Efron and Taylor Swift do a great job with the young lead characters but this is definitely Betty White's movie.  Her absolute fantastic performance as Granny Norma had me in hysterics more than once.  She gave what could have been a bit of a forgettable character in to one of the best in the movie.

That performance is very nearly matched by a cynical and grumpy performance by Danny DeVito as The Lorax, a creature who wants to protect the forest from getting cut down.  While it is true that not all of the gags work, Devito's performance makes the character really come alive.

One of the downfalls of this movie is the rather disappointing songs.  While they are very catchy, they tend to all merge in to one.  It's true that they are all different styles but for some reason they just don't come across as memorable.  They also suffer from the same problem as the movie in that they are really heavy handed in how they deliver their message to the viewers.

This is a family movie but I have never been a big fan of having stories dumbed down because, as a father myself, I know children are much more intelligent than we maybe give them credit for.

The special features could have been a little better but there are a couple of little gems here such as the deleted scenes.  I won't spoil them for you here but they were really good to see.

All in all, while not the best Seuss adaptation that's been put out there, it's still an enjoyable and funny family movie with some great performances and an important message, even if it is delivered in a rather heavy handed manner.

Movie 3.5/5
Picture 4/5
Sound 4/5
Special Features 3.5/5
Overall 15/20

Fantastic Four: The Animated Series - Season 1 Volume 1 DVD Review

1994-1996 Version

Genre
Animated, Superhero, Science Fiction, Action

Cast

Beau Weaver as Mister Fantastic / Reed Richards, Trapster, Admiral Koh, T'Chaka
Lori Alan as Invisible Woman, Susan Storm Richards
Chuck McCann as The Thing, Ben Grimm
Brian Austin Green as The Human Torch, Johnny Storm
John Vernon as Doctor Doom (1st Voice)
Neil Ross as Doctor Doom (2nd Voice), Puppet Master, Warlord Krang, Super Skrull
Simon Templeman as Doctor Doom (3rd Voice)
Pauline Arthur Lomas as Alicia Masters

Certificate PG

Synopsis

From the awesome partnership of Marvel's Stan Lee and Jack Kirby comes an extraordinary team of super heroes with real-life personalities: the Fantastic Four!

First seen by comic fans in 1961, this DVD features the first seven episodes of the 1994 animated series.

It's clobberin' time for Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Susan Storm and Johnny Storm, as the story of their origin is told. Then their battle to save the Earth arouses a horde of acclaimed Marvel characters including hero-villain Sub-Mariner, the godlike Galactus and his herald the Silver Surfer.

Special Features
  • Restoration Comparison
Review
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four in 1961 and the team have appeared in many different guises since then.

This series, first aired in 1994 is one of those guises and while at the time the first season was given a bit of a mixed to negative reaction, I feel that was quite unfair. Except for the god awful theme tune. It seriously has to be the worst television theme tune I have honestly ever heard.

This series stays incredibly faithful to some of the early comic book stories and while it's true that there is a campy feel toit there was also a quite campy feel to the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby stories.

There were also a massive number of guest appearances from some major comic book characters from the Marvel universe such as Terrax and Firelord from the Guardians of the Galaxy, Galactus, The Silver Surfer, Super Skrull and even a random as hell but very funny cameo from the legend Stan Lee himself!

While I was really disappointed that there were no special features, I wasn't really that surprised either as some of the older Marvel cartoons such as this one, the X-Men and the Original Spider-Man cartoon didn't have any either.  There is a restoration comparison but that's the same as on the X-Men series so that doesn't really count.

While the complaint that this series is quite campy is definitely true I thought that it was a hell of a lot of fun. Plus the fact that it was really faithful to some of the earlier comics was a great plus for me, as a fan, as well. Definitely worth picking up considering how cheap it is although I will warn you about one thing.

That theme tune is freaking awful!  Seriously!  What the hell were they thinking?
Movie 3/5
Picture 4/5
Sound 4.5/5
Special Features 0/5
Overall 11.5/20

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Roswell: The Complete Collection DVD Review

Contains Seasons 1-3

Created By Jonathon Dukes

Genre
Science Fiction, Drama

Cast

Shiri Appleby as Liz Parker
Jason Behr as Max Evans
Katherine Heigl as Isabel Evans
Brendan Fehr as Michael Guerin
Majandra Delfino as Maria DeLuca
Colin Hanks as Alex Whitman
William Sadler as Sheriff Jim Valenti
Nick Wechsler as Kyle Valenti
Emilie de Ravin as Tess Harding

Certificate 12

Synopsis

"I'm Liz Parker and Five Days Ago I Died.  After That, Things Got Really Weird."

Having grown up quietly in New Mexico, three teenagers suddenly have their deeply hidden secret jeopardized after a rash decision by Max.  Now the three of them must open their lives to their new friends while fighting an enemy within.

At stake are their lives and the lives of their entire race.  Tough decisions have to follow along with tragic circumstances.

Special Features
  •  Audio Commentaries on Selected Episodes
  • Behind The Scenes of Roswell
  • Roswell High: The Making of Roswell
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Audition Clips
  • 'Save Yourself' by Sense Field Music Video
  • Here With Me: The Making of Roswell Season 2
  • A Little Something Extra For The Fans
  • The Art of Composing Roswell
  • The Shiri and Majandra Show
  • Storyboards
  • The Class of 2002 featurette
Review
 One of the best television shows of the late 90's and early 2000's is collected here in it's entirety.

The first season does a great job of establishing the characters, their motives, their enemies and the overall tone of the show.  By the end of the series you really have gotten involved in the lives of the characters.  You sit on the edge of your seat watching their lives unfold in front of your eyes.

The second season treads a slightly darker path when a tragedy befalls one of the group. The episodes that lead up to that and then the aftermath are brilliantly written and brilliantly acted as is the shocking end of the season.  In fact, the ending made me want to start watching the third, and sadly final, season straight away.

The third season really blows up and leaves a trail of destruction and devastation in the midst of the betrayal at the end of the second season. Tough decisions are made and while a couple of loose ends are left, I think it was a great way to end the show.  It was a real shame that the show had to end but they did it well.

The picture and the show are superb and only slightly struggle every now and then but not enough to be distracting, hence the high mark.

As for the extras, each one may be a might short but they're incredibly informative. The commentaries are incredibly detailed and fun at the same time.  I loved the little behind the scenes moments where they showed just how close knit the cast had actually become.

Some people unfairly described this show as Dawson's Creek with Aliens but I feel that is incredibly unfair. It's much better than that and really doesn't pander to the notion that programs like this have to be dumbed down. All in all an intelligent and exciting addition to any science-fiction fans collection.

In a bit of trivia for all you sci-fi fans out there, Jonathan Frakes, Riker from 'Star Trek: TNG' produced and directed some of the episodes of this show.
Movie 4/5
Picture 4/5
Sound 4.5/5
Special Features 4.5/5
Overall 17/20

X-Men: The Animated Series - Season 1 Volume 1 DVD Review

1992-1997 Version

Genre
Animated, Superhero, Action, Adventure

Cast

George Buza as Beast / Dr. Henry 'Hank' McCoy
Alyson Court as Jubilee
Catherine Disher as Jean Grey
Cathal J. Dodd as Wolverine
Iona Morris as Storm
Chris Potter as Gambit
Cedric Smith as Professor X
Norm Spencer as Cyclops / Scott Summers
Lenore Zann as Rogue

Certificate PG


Synopsis

Born into a world that hates and fears them the X-Men are mutants, genetically gifted human beings with superpowers - The next link in human evolution and the world's newest and most persecuted minority.

The X-Men are an elite team comprised of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Rogue, Gambit, Jubilee, Storm and Wolverine - Sworn to fight for mutant rights against hostile Government agencies, whilst at the same time protecting mankind from mutant supremacist Magneto who seeks to destroy the human race in return for the atrocities committed against mutant kind.

Released for the first time in chronological order, this release is the starting point to building the first ever complete X-Men series on DVD.

This DVD contains the first seven episodes from Season One of the unstoppable X-Men, making it an essential purchase for any cartoon or comic book fan.

Special Features
  • Restoration Comparison
Review
The animated X-Men cartoon from the 90's was always a favorite of mine growing up so when it was released on DVD, I couldn't wait to see if it lived up to my nostalgic memories.

The simple answer is yes, it does.

The only things that I didn't like when I watched this again for the first time were some of the voices just seemed a little off with the characters but that's a minor flaw really.

The first seven episodes are included here and they serve as a very good introduction to the series. All the well known X-Men are present and accounted for, including my two favorites Gambit and Rogue.

The series starts with a major shocker. In the first episodes, a two part story with consequences that are no doubt going to be felt for the rest of the series, one of the X-Men is shockingly killed in action. That really sets the darker tone for this cartoon.

In many ways, the darker and more adult like themes of the stories kind of reminded me of the old Batman cartoons from the 1990's as well. Not in style, they are both different in many ways in that aspect, just the stories.

Also included is the back story of some of the main characters, especially Magneto. His origin is slightly different to the ones I remember but that happens a lot with comic books. Each character has many different origins and it's really up to the fan as to which one he or she likes best.

We also have the first appearances of Magneto, The Sentinels, Sabretooth and a conspiracy by the human military to wipe out the mutant races.

Best of all however, we not only have a glimpse in to how Sabretooth and Wolverine's past we also have the first major fight between the two and it's a knock down, drag out battle. Hopefully there will be a lot more of those to come.

We also get to see in to the love triangle between Wolverine, Jean Grey and Cyclops but only a little bit to wet the appetite so to speak. I do like how they are taking certain moments and stories from the comic books themselves and incorporating them in to the cartoon.

Sadly the special features only amount to a short comparison between the restored and unrestored versions of a double of scenes. While interesting, I felt they could have done more.

All in all, while not the best episodes in the 5 series run, those would come in series 3, these are still a very good introduction to a well loved cartoon.
Movie 3.5/5
Picture 4/5
Sound 4/5
Special Features 2.5/5
Overall 14/20
 

Arthur and the Invisibles DVD Review

(AKA Arthur et les Minimoys)

Written By Celine Garcia and Luc Beeson based on the novel by Luc Beeson
Directed By Luc Beeson

Genre
Fantasy, Adventure, Family

Cast

Freddie Highmore as Arthur
Mia Farrow as Granny
Ron Crawford as Archibald
Penny Balfour as Arthur's Mother
Doug Rand as Arthur's Father
Adam LeFevre as Davido
Madonna as Princess Selenia
Snoop Dogg as Max
David Bowie as Maltazard
David Suchet as The Narrator
Jimmy Fallon as Betameche
Emilio Estevez as Ferryman
Robert Di Niro as King
Harvey Keitel as Miro
Anthony Anderson as Koolomassai
Jason Bateman as Darkos

Certificate U

Synopsis

Adventure waits in your own backyard!

From the creative mind of talented filmmaker, comes a larger-than-life, family adventure about a boy who, after his grandfather disappears, sets out to save his family home from emerging real estate developers. Arthur learns that he must follow his grandfather's ancient clues to a vast treasure - and unlock the passageway to a spectacular new world filled with mysterious little people, so tiny they are considered invisible, and enlist their help. But once in the magical land, Arthur must join swords with a beautiful princess and a reckless army of defenders to save the land from the evil wizard. It seems like an impossible task, but as he discovers along the way, sometimes the smallest heroes can make the biggest difference.

Using a dazzling new combination of live-action and ground-breaking CGI technology, Arthur and the Invisibles is the story about the true meaning of courage and the endless power of imagination.

Special Features
  • The Voices of Arthur and the Invisibles Featurette
  • 'Quest For Love' Music Video, Performed By Jewel
  • In The Recording Studio With Jewel
  • 'Beautiful Day' Video, Performed By Ellijah
  • Theatrical Trailer

Review

I have to be totally honest.  When my son was bought this as a gift, I had completely no idea what it was about because I'd never heard of it.  After looking it up online and seeing that it was directed by Luc Beeson, director of 'Leon', I had very high hopes for it.

For once, those hopes were spot on.

What we got here was a well crafted and exciting fantasy adventure that gripped not only my little boy til the end but also myself as well.

The story itself isn't the most original in the world.  It's part 'Honey, I Shrunk The Kids' meets 'The Borrowers' via a bit of 'Dark Crystal' but it is still well written and based on Luc Beeson's children's book.  While I can't tell you if it's true to the book or not, what I can tell you is that this story has a lot of exciting moments, romance and some great characters.

The cast for this, the English speaking version, is eclectic to say the least.  You have people such as Madonna and Snoop Dogg rubbing shoulders with legends such as Harvey Keitel and Robert Di Niro.  The best of the casting by far is Freddie Highmore, who gives a wonderfully sympathetic performance as Arthur, even bettering his good performance in the 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' movie and another legend.

Someone who is known to all us fantasy geeks out there for his wonderfully menacing but fun performance in the 'Labyrinth' movie.

That's right folks.  David 'freaking' Bowie is cast here as Malthazard and gives a menacing yet cynical vocal performance.  His voice over work here was spot on and really made the character incredibly memorable.

I'd be a bit of a rubbish reviewer if I didn't mention the legend that is Mia Farrow as well.  She plays Arthurs grandmother and gives a real touch of class and dignity to a character that while she doesn't say that much, compared to the other characters, she's definitely memorable as always.

The only part that I didn't like were the characters voiced by Snoop Dogg and Anthony Anderson.  While I'm not of the view that the characters were racist, I just didn't think they were all that good or well written.

The special features here are pretty good with my personal favourite being a beautiful song performed by the criminally under rated singer, Jewel.  I would have liked to have seen a little more in the way of a 'Making of' but that's a small gripe.

All in all, while not a perfect family movie by any stretch of the imagination, it was still a massively entertaining and exciting fantasy movie that more than kept my sons attention.  That's all I really ask for in a family movie and that's what I got.

Apparently there were two sequels made as well so I will definitely be on the look out for those.

Check it out, especially considering that it's so cheap and easily available.

Movie 3.5/5
Picture 4/5
Sound 4/5
Special Features 3.5/5
Overall 15/20

Monday, 28 January 2013

Life of Pi Cinema Review

Written By David Magee based on the novel by Yann Martel
Directed By Ang Lee

Genre
Drama, Adventure

Cast

Suraj Sharma as Pi Patel
Irrfan Khan as Adult Pi Patel
Ayush Tandon as 11/12 Year Old Pi Patel
Gautam Belur as 7 Year Old Pi Patel
Adil Hussain as Santosh Patel
Tabu as Gita Patel
Rafe Spall as Writer
Gerard Depardieu as Cook

Certificate PG


Synopsis

Based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, is a magical adventure story centering on Pi Patel, the precocious son of a zoo keeper. Dwellers in Pondicherry, India, the family decides to move to Canada, hitching a ride on a huge freighter. After a shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a 26-foot lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, all fighting for survival.

Review

Ang Lee has always been a brilliant director, although he sometimes has a bit of a habit of going for style over substance.  His movies have always looked amazing and that can over ride the story every now and  then.  Like in 'The Hulk' for example.

This movie is completely different.  Not only does it look absolutely amazing, it's got a very strong, heart wrenching story as well as an amazing cast that really make you care about the characters.

I'n not really sure how I can talk about this movie while doing it justice if I'm completely honest.  Storywise it's a film of two very well made halves. 

The first is showing Pi growing up, living with his parents and watching him find various religions.  This is superbly done and written with a bit of a quirky sense of humor that really gives the character substance.  Along with the scenes between the writer and the now adult Pi, you really are drawn in to his life.

Then the second part hits you like a fist.  After a shipwreck, Pi is stranded alone on a boat with some other animals and the begins the adventure of his life.  Using every inch of will and his spiritual nature, Pi has to find some way to survive until he can get to dry land.

While normally, two halves that are poles apart like this, would make the movie massively disjointed  that's not the case here.  If fact, the two halves merge perfectly.  Watching the first part and watching Pi grow up really has an effect on later moments in the movie because of the simple fact that you are emotionally linked to him.  You care about what happens.  You will him to survive.  In fact, it's so well written that you get involved in the movie to such a degree that it's like being on an emotional rollercoaster.  I was moved to tears during many scenes.

The fact that the movie is so well written and quite frankly, is one of the most visually beautiful movies I've ever seen is secondary.  The movie is in fact, owned by the cast.

Pi is played by a variety of people to such a great degree that it's honestly just like we have watched him grow up before our very eyes.  They all have similar personalities and mannerisms.  The best of these by far is Irran Khan, who I recognised from 'The Amazing Spider-Man,  as the adult Pi and Suraj Sharma as the Pi that is stranded.  They give such powerful performances that I couldn't take my eyes off of them whenever they were on the screen.

I would also be amiss if I didn't mention the legendary French actor Gerard Depardieu, who has a very small part in the movie but it proves to be a very important one.  He plays it so well and uses the few lines he does have in such a way that the character sticks in your mind long after the movie has ended.

I honestly don't think I have done this movie justice in how I have written about it.  It's one of the most beautifully written and made movies I have ever seen and the entire cast give a set of performances that had me gripped for the entire movie.

Go see it and see it now.  I saw it in 3D, which added another layer to proceedings but I strongly believe that this movie is so good that it honestly doesn't need the 3D to be memorable.

Get to the cinema and watch this movie.  You won't be sorry you did.  Just be prepared to be moved to tears.

Movie 4.5/5

Captain America: Volume 5 - The Winter Soldier Graphic Novel Review

Written By Ed Brubaker
Art By Steve Epting and Michael Lark
Cover By Steve Epting

Genre
Superhero, Psychological, Action

Synopsis

The questions plaguing Captain America's dreams have been answered in the most brutal way possible!

In the wake of this brutality, General Lukin makes his first all-out assault.

Using someone from Captain America's past  to tear open new wounds and threatening to make new scars that may never heal!

(Collects Captain America Volume 5 #8-9 and #11-14)

Review

After the effects of September 11th, the patriotic superhero Captain America kind of faded in the background for a while.  The stories tried to be respectful and relevant but they just didn't work without sounding jingoistic.

Then along the team of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting to revive the characters in a shocking way.

When it was announced that they would be bringing back a long dead character, Captain America fans weren't afraid to voice their opinions about the decision. This characters death was a pivotal moment in the evolution of the Captain America character.

They needn't have worried so much. While some of the story does fall in to melodrama in places, it is an exciting and well paced tale with some absolutely shocking moments that will excite fans old and new.

The return was well written although for the first part of the story, the character seemed a little one dimensional. However as the story went progressed, the character seemed to gain new layers slowly but surely.

I also like how even though that was the main story arc, there were other story arcs going on alongside it.  Not once did they make the graphic novel seem cluttered or disjointed.

The artwork here is absolutely spot on and some of the best I've seen in a Captain America release. Steve Epting is definitely improving with each of his releases that come our way.  I, for one, will definitely be checking out more of his work.

The only complaint I had, hence the mark of 3 instead of 4 for the writing, was the tendency to fall in to melodrama in places although the last third of the story more than made up for that.

Story 3/5
Art 4/5
Overall 7/10

Dean Spanley: A Novel by Lord Dunsany Review

(aka 'My Talks With Dean Spanley')

Written By Lord Dunsany
Includes the Movie Screenplay By Alan Sharp

Genre
Comedy, Satire, Drama, Screenplay

Synopsis

The classic humorous novella about an alcohol-loving clergyman who thinks he is the reincarnation of a dog.

Complete with the screenplay and photos from the film starring Peter O'Toole and Sam Neill.

My Talks With Dean Spanley, first published in 1936, is certainly Lord Dunsany's funniest book and, in its unique way, a remarkable tour de force.

This special edition includes Lord Dunsany's witty and inventive original novel, as well as Alan Sharp's hilarious screenplay, which faithfully adapts and also expands upon the events in the book. Complete with colour photos and interviews with the principal film-makers, this whimsical, wintry tale about dogs, reincarnation and the effects of alcohol makes perfect reading for lovers of classic humorous storytelling.

Review

When I heard about this book with the introduction that it was a novel written about a man who thought he used to be a dog in a past life, I just dismissed it as a nonsense book and thought no more about it.

I was very wrong.

When I eventually picked this up to read I was confronted with something completely different to the book I had in my mind.

Published in 1939, Lord Dunsany originally thought of this as a parody of the then massive fad of believing in reincarnation or spiritual migration. Written with a very sharp and humorous eye, this also reads as an incredibly heartwarming tale that really touched my heart to such a degree that as soon as I had finished it, I wanted to read it again.

Another part I liked was the sheer amount of intelligence that is shown in the writing. This is definitely Lord Dunsany's best work by far.  The satire is biting at times but the characters are handled with a kind, sensitivity that really makes them memorable.

Also in this collection is a wealth of extra information and work. The screenplay for the movie adaptation is there to show the difference between the novel itself and the film but that's not all that is included in this superb set. There are also numerous interviews about how they brought the story itself to screen and how they set about adapting and casting it. An absolute treat for the reader.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes a heart warming story written with intelligence and humor because this novella has all of those in abundance. Enjoy.

I have to say one thing however.  This book will cost you money.

Why?

Because as soon as I've read the novella and then the screenplay, I went straight out and bought the movie.

Buy this, enjoy it and just let the story wash over you.

Story 4/5
Characters 5/5
Recommended 5/5
Overall 14/15

The Heart and The Bottle By Oliver Jeffers Review

Written and Illustrated By Oliver Jeffers

Genre
Childrens, Grief, Love

Synopsis

Award-winning picture book star Oliver Jeffers explores themes of love and loss in this life-affirming, uplifting tale.

Once there was a girl whose life was filled with wonder at the world around her…

Then one day something happened that made the girl take her heart and put it in a safe place.

However, after that it seemed that the world was emptier than before. But would she know how to get her heart back?

In this deeply moving story, Oliver Jeffers deals with the weighty themes of love and loss with an extraordinary lightness of touch and shows us, ultimately, that there is always hope.

Review

Oliver Jeffers is a multi-award winning author of children's books and is one of the best writer of children's picture books in recent years.

Famous for stories such as 'Lost and Found' and 'Up and Down' that feature an absolutely adorable little boy and his friend who is a penguin and many more.

This book deals with the massively heavy themes of loss, grief and family bonds but does so with a deft hand. A subtle and gentle story, Jeffers creates a beautiful story of a young girl who sadly looses her Grandad. During her grief at the loss, she puts her heart in a bottle around her neck and goes through her life without her now loss of wonder at the world around her.

I won't spoil the ending here for anyone but it's absolutely stunning. Hell, it moved me to tears in all honesty. The simplicity of the story telling is such a strength and that's the beauty of Oliver Jeffers work. His tales are simple in their prose and the sheer lyricism helps the tales to resound for the reader.

Another major thing in Oliver Jeffers books is the gorgeous artwork and it's no different here. Once again he's managed to mix the mediums of his work to really bring the heart of the story to the forefront. The pictures here of the relationship between the girl and her grandfather and then the aftermath of the grief is so well portrayed that it truly will bring a tear to your eye.

I would highly recommend this to both young and old. It's a beautiful, subtle and poetic take on grief that completely held my three year olds attention all the way through.

What more could anyone ask for from a children's book?

Story 4/5
Characters 5/5
Recommended 5/5
Overall 14/15

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Win A Copy of 'The Aylesford Skull' by James P. Blaylock!

This competition is now closed.  Well done to the winner!

To win a copy of the first full length steampunk novel by James P. Blaylock in twenty years simply answer this simple question.

James P. Blaylock has written two other full length adventures featuring Langdon St. Ives.  One was named 'Homunculus' but what was the other one?

Send your answers to patrickstevenchallis@gmail.com with the subject heading 'Aylesford Skull' and the winner shall be picked at random.

This competition is open to UK residents and the closing date for all entries is Friday 1st of February 2013.

Good luck Steampunk fans!


James P. Blaylock
The Aylesford Skull

James P. Blaylock’s first full-length steampunk novel in twenty years!

"Blaylock is a magician!"  — Michael Swanwick, author of Stations of the Tide

“Blaylock’s prose is so rich it literally sings” — Charles de Lint, author of Moonheart

"A writer of great vigour, charm, and perception"  — Bruce Sterling, author of Bicycle Repairman

“The master of the offbeat and absurd” — Washington Post

One of the founding fathers of modern steampunk, James P. Blaylock is the winner of a Philip K. Dick Award and two World Fantasy Awards.  Befriended and mentored by Philip K. Dick, James P. Blaylock pioneered the steampunk genre along with his contemporaries, Tim Powers and K.W. Jeter. He is distinguished by his unique, humorous style, enthralling characters and vivid real world settings.
The Aylesford Skull is Blaylock’s first full-length steampunk novel in twenty years and a brand-new gripping adventure for Blaylock’s best-known character Professor Langdon St. Ives [Titan Books, Jan 2013, paperback original,  £7.99].

In this long-awaited new adventure, brilliant but eccentric scientist and explorer Professor Langdon St. Ives is plunged into the dangerous underworld of 19th Century London’s when a grave in Aylesford is exhumed and its contents stolen by the infamous Dr. Ignacio Narbondo. Blaylock writes: “St. Ives’s quest leads him from a darkly strange commune of spiritualists and clairvoyants in rural Kent, through the foggy depths of the Cliffe Marshes and the lairs of smugglers and pirates, and into the sewers, lost rivers, and sorcerous underworld of London.”

To celebrate this major literary event, a limited run of 750 copies of The Aylesford Skull is available in a jacketed, signed hardcover with a unique jacket design. The special edition boasts a Foreword by K.W. Jeter and an Introduction by Tim Powers as well as a tip-in sheet signed by all three founding fathers of modern steampunk.

This article was posted as part of the Aylesford Skull Swashbuckling Blog Tour celebrating the release of James P. Blaylock's first full-length steampunk novel in twenty years [The Aylesford Skull, Titan Books, £7.99].  For the opportunity to win a limited edition of The Aylesford Skull in a jacketed, signed hardcover with a unique cover design, just tweet "I would like a limited edition of The Aylesfor Skull @TitanBooks #Blaylock".

The Aylesford Skull by James P. Blaylock Review

Written By James P. Blaylock

Genre
Crime, Supernatural, Mystery

Synopsis

Langdon St Ives comes face to face with his arch enemy Ignacio Narbondo.

It is the summer of 1883 and Professor Langdon St Ives, the brilliant but eccentric scientist and explorer, is at home in Aylesford with his family.

However a few miles to the North a steam launch has been taken by pirates above Egypt bay, the crew murdered and pitched overboard.

In Aylesford itself, a grave is opened and possibly robbed of it's skull.  The suspected grave robber is none other than the infamous Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, an old enemy of St Ives.

When Narbondo reappears to kidnap St Ives four year old son, Eddie, St Ives has to race against time with his factotum, Hasbro, to get to London and stop Narbondo before it's too late.

Review

'The Aylesford Skull' is James P. Blaylock's first foray in the steampunk world for other 20 years but was it worth the wait?

The short answer is a massively resounding yes!

The return of Langdon St Ives is a very welcome one.  Take equal parts Sherlock Holmes and mix in inventions and a bit of a mad scientist personality and you have the perfect picture of St Ives.

In 'The Aylesford Skull' there are many stories all running together to make one brilliantly layered tale that absolutely gripped me from the very beginning of the story right up to the shocking ending.  The battle between Narbondo and Langdon is superb.  All through the novel, the battle of wits between the two characters really reminds me of the classic mental battles between Holmes and Moriarty yet with Blaylock's own unique take on things.

Blaylock's masterful use of the settings to create a dark and forboding spectre over proceedings really add a completely different dimension to the novel.  It's almost as if you are actually there watching the story unfold, watching the characters going about their business and even, at points, feeling so involved in the story that you feel like you are actually a part of it.

The characters are fully realised and even after 20 years, coming back to these characters is like slipping in to a comfy pair of slippers.  It's honestly like the characters haven't been away at all.

They're all fully realised and even the bit part players all have their separate personalities and quirks, which really adds to the quality of the story. The reader really does care about all the characters and all the things that happen to them through out the adventure.

Blaylock's way of describing the various gadgets and inventions is positively gleeful.  It's as if he takes delight in using some of the most magical inventions from the time period that he possibly.  However, unlike certain other writers in the genre, he chooses the exact right time to use each one without overloading the reader.

Personally I think this is already a contender for one of the best books of 2013.  Exciting, action packed and full of memorable characters, this is most definitely a welcome return by one of the most famous and legendary figures in the genre.

Story 4.5/5
Characters 4/5
Recommended 4.5/5
Overall 13/15



This article was posted as part of the Aylesford Skull Swashbuckling Blog Tour celebrating the release of James P. Blaylock's first full-length Steam Punk novel in twenty years [The Aylesford Skull, Titan Books, £7.99].  For the opportunity to win a limited edition of The Aylesford Skull in a jacketed, signed hardcover with a unique jacket design, just tweet "I would like a limited edition of The Aylesford Skull @TitanBooks #Blaylock".

Details about The Limited Edition (available Feb 2013)

750 Signed and Numbered Editions:

Jacketed, cloth bound hardcover with ribbon
Signed by James P. Blaylock
Exclusive foreword by K.W. Jeter and introduction by Tim Powers

26 Signed and Lettered Editions:

As aboved encased in a custom made traycase

Be the first to find out when The Aylesford Skull (limited edition) is available, by signing up to our mailing list here www.titanbooks/signup

An Interview With Sharon Stevenson, Author of 'Blood Bound' and 'Demon Divided'



Sharon Stevenson, author of the supernatural fantasy novels 'Blood Bound' and 'Demon Divided' has taken time out from her busy vampire hunting ways to talk to Patrick Challis about her inspirations and her writing.

PC: Firstly thank you for taking the time to talk to us here at Curiosity of a Social Misfit.  It's a rather cliched question I know but who or what inspired you in to becoming a writer?

SS: I suffer from an overactive imagination!  Reading books from a young age probably fuelled this.  It's impossible to pinpoint when I was inspired to become a writer, as I've loved making stuff up and writing it down since I was in primary school.  It's just something I've always done.

PC: 'Blood Bound' was your debut novel wasn't it?  Was it a daunting prospect considering you were joining a genre already populated by amazing writers such as Neil Gaiman and Anne Rice?

SS: All I really thought about was writing the novel I wanted to read, in the hope that other people might want to read it too.  Every genre has its legends and there's a lot to be learnt from these great writers but I don't try to compare myself to them, I just write the story I want to tell in the best way that I can.

PC: You then followed that up with 'Demon Divided', which continued your characters quest.  Did you find it easier or harder to write the follow up?

SS: It came a lot easier as I'd already worked out the characters.  I spent a fair bit of time creating them and their back stories before I started 'Blood Bound'.  I knew roughly how I was going to continue the story before I even started the first book; I had an outline for the first three books.

PC: The twins, Shaun and Sarah Gallows, are a great addition to the genre.  How did you come up with two characters that no matter how fantastical the world around them becomes, they still feel completely realistic?

SS: I put a lot of thought in to who they were and what their backgrounds and motivations would be, as well as giving them human flaws and habits that suited their characters.  When it comes to a series like this great characters are the reason I will, as a reader, keep picking up books so it was important to me to get them right.


PC: How would you describe your novels and writing style to a new fan?

SS: I would probably say they are action packed and character driven.  I've got a sense of humour and I think that shows in my writing too.

PC: Do you have any quirks or rituals while writing or after you have finished a book?

SS: I need to be alone with my laptop to get any writing done.  I usually listen to music as it seems to help keep me writing away!  I had Twin Atlantic CD's playing on repeat for the vast majority of the time spent writing these books.

PC: Are there any up and coming authors, or maybe ones that aren't as well known as they should be, that we should keep an eye on?

SS: There are lots!  But if I'm narrowing it down I'd say Devan Sagliani, Michelle Browne, Robert Bevan and Maya Pruett.

PC: Also, who are your favourite authors or books at the minute?

SS: Simon Green, Jim Butcher and Kim Harrison are my favourite authors and have been for a good few years.  I'm quickly finding lots on the indie scene though!  A few of the best books I've read lately are: Devan Sagliani's 'Zombie Attack! Rise of the Horde', which is excellent YA zombie horror, Michelle Browne's 'The Stolen: Two Short Stories' is Sci-Fi featuring feisty female narrators, Robert Bevan's 'Critical Failures' is geeky hilarious fantasy and Maya Pruett's 'The Cat Food Chronicles' is a book narrated by a psychic cat, and is very quirky and fun.


PC: You're known for being very open and approachable to your fans.  Has this led to any strange moments?

SS: Not really.  I live in nervous anticipation of those moments!  I'm a bit weird and geeky anyway so I might not even notice if someone was being strange.

PC: Talking of moments, your books are wonderfully descriptive with a supernatural tint to them.  Have you had any supernatural occurances or anything spooky happen to you?

SS: I wish!  I've long daydreamed of being sucked in to another dimension where these things exist.  It's probably the lack of otherworldliness in real life that keeps me interested in writing about it.  I'm an escapist.

PC: What's next for Sharon Stevenson and the Gallows Twins?

SS: The third Gallows novel will be out in a couple of months, along with a short story from Elle's POV.  I've got lots planned for the twins.  There will be a new book a year for the forseeable future.

As for me, I've for a head full of crazy ideas waiting to be unleashed!  I've got a novella length Urban Fantasy Horror / Comedy book I'm working on called 'Raised' and I'm hoping to release this in the Summer.

PC: Once again, thank you so much for taking time out your busy schedule to talk to us.  It was an absolute pleasure.

SS: Thanks for asking, it's been fun!

'Blood Bound' and 'Demon Divided' are both out to buy now!