Thursday, 30 May 2013

The She-Hulk Diaries By Marta Acosta Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Marta Acosta

Published By Hyperion

Genre
Superhero, Romance

Synopsis

JANUARY 1
CURRENT STATUS: No job, no boyfriend, no permanent place to live, no car, and most of my clothes are held together with staples and duct tape. Bank account almost wiped out. Many of my former associates have expressed a desire that I never darken their doorways again for legal and financial reasons.

She-Hulk got us got us kicked out of the Avengers Mansion. People keep posting videos online of her New Year's Eve shenanigans: twirling, flaming telephone poles in Times Square, climbing the Empire State Building while dangling Anderson Cooper, dancing wildly at parties, and commandeering a motorcycle cop's ride to do wheelies across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Saying there are two sides to Jennifer Walters's personality is an understatement. When she hasn't morphed into a 650-pound, crime-fighting, hard-partying superhero, she's a single lawyer trying to get her act together. Hilarious and action-packed, The She-Hulk Diaries tells her story, as she juggles looking for Mr. Right and climbing the corporate ladder by day with battling villains and saving the world by night. Maybe she'll finally take on a case that will define her career. Maybe she won't meet one Mr. Right, but two, and she'll have to choose. Maybe bad guys will stop trying to destroy the planet so she can read her Perez Hilton in peace.

Review

I have to be completely honest.  I have no idea what I was thinking I'd get when I started reading this.  Then again I have no idea what the people were thinking when they thought that writing this could be a good idea either.

That might sound a little harsh but it's most definitely true in this case.

I've never been that big a fan of the She-Hulk character itself if I'm being completely honest.  It's a character that  has a lot of promise if it was written right but at the moment is little more than 'Sex and the City' but with a green lady.

That's a pretty good way of looking at this book but I for one, was left wondering why Marvel thought this time up would be a good way of getting in to the female market.  The story is incredibly lame and as brutal as it sounds, badly written.

The story doesn't really seem to go anywhere and the fact that the underlying moral of the story seems to be that you need to be in love and have someone to be happy is incredibly badly chosen in a really cliched way.  That seems to be the general point of this book.  Be as cliched as possible.  If that was the point of the book then they succeeded tenfold.  If the point of the book was to write a good story that would hook in the female readers out there then they failed miserably.

Avoid like the plague.

Story 1.5/5
Characters 2/5
Recommended 1.5/5
Overall 5/15

'The She-Hulk Diaries' is available to buy from 18th June 2013

Worm By Tim Curran Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Tim Curran

Published By DarkFuse

Genre
Horror

Synopsis

On Pine Street, the houses begin to shake. The earth begins to move. The streets crack open and yards split asunder...and rising from subterranean depths far below, a viscid black muck bubbles up and floods the neighborhood.

In it are a ravenous army of gigantic worms seeking human flesh. They wash into houses, they come up through the sewers, through plumbing, filling toilets and tubs, seeking human prey.

Cut off from the rest of the town, the people of Pine Street must wage a war of survival or they'll never see morning. As bad as the worms are, there's something worse—and far larger—waiting to emerge.

Review

This is a book, well a novella, about giant human eating worms that come out of the toilets to terrorize a small town.  It's not going to be a world beater of a book is it?  So, why did I end up being disappointed by it?

Normally, I love things like this.  Creatures, zombies, aliens, anything like that normally makes me jump at the chance to read it or watch it but here, I just couldn't get in to it.

The short length of the story is both it's biggest strength and it's biggest weakness.  Well let's start with the positives.

The fast pace of the writing really moves the story along at an absolutely cracking pace, jumping from scene to scene with such abandon that it doesn't really give the reader a chance to stop and relax.

For me, that's pretty much it.

We don't really get a chance to get to know the characters.  While normally that wouldn't be too much of a problem in a story like this but the characters we do get to know are such assholes that you can't wait for them to die.  In fact, you can't wait to see the other characters die and that's part of the problem as well.

There's so much grossness going on at once that you become desensitized by the end of the story and that makes you feel a bit numb or even bored by the end of the story.  I find that weird considering the short length of the story that you can end up feeling bored by it but maybe with a little bit of extra pacing or even a little more character development that could have been avoided.

Some of the humor that runs through out the story really feels at odds with the rest of the writing.  Some of it is darkly comedic and that works pretty well in a 'Tremors' kind of way but the rest of the humor just falls really flat as if it was put in at the last minute.

All in all,  even with the short length, I wasn't all that impressed with the story.  It seemed repetitive in places and sometimes even boring.  Maybe we've just been spoiled with man eating worm goodness by the 'Tremors' movies or something but I just couldn't get in to this story at all and that's a real shame as it sounded definitely up my street.

Story 2.5/5
Characters 2/5
Recommended 2/5
Overall 6.5/15

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century - The Western Publishing Years: Volume 1 Graphic Novel Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Paul S. Newman
Art By Frank Bolle, Al McWilliams and Ray Bailey

Published By Hermes Press

Genre
Science Fiction, Action

Synopsis

The television tie-in comic books to the cult sci-fi classic Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, starring Gil Gerrard, Erin Gray, and Twiki return in a complete collection!

Relive these classic adventure tales with Buck, Wilma, Dr. Huer, and Princess Ardala.

Fans of the TV show will finally be able to re-read these adventures in a deluxe hardcover collection with
tons of extras including rare publicity photos, blue prints for the show's models and effects, movie posters, and much more. As a bonus, Gold Key issue #1, published in 1964, will also be included in this volume.

 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Western Publishing Years reprints issues #1 through #8 of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the movie/tv tie-in comic books, and the 1964 stand alone Gold Key issue, featuring artwork by Frank Bolle, Al McWilliams, and Ray Bailey.

Review

Nostalgia can be one of two things.  Your best friend or your worst enemy but which one is this?

Well to be honest, it's the second one.

This isn't an awful collection by any stretch of the imagination but it's not the great one that we were hoping for either.

The writing just doesn't seem to have the warm charm of the series, instead coming over as clunky and even boring in places.  That's a real shame because even now the series still holds my interest.  This collection however didn't.

I got to the halfway point and actually felt rather bored by the collection.  That's a real shame because I was really looking forward to seeing all  the familiar characters again.  Maybe it was the sense of nostalgia that hyped up my hopes for these stories but either way, it's not really a collection that I would go out of my way to read again.

It's the same with the art work.  At times it is hit and miss and others it comes across as workmanlike instead of looking futuristic or exciting.  There are a few panels that even come across as quite simplistic as well and that really hurts the story.

I know this is quite a short review compared to my others but I just really couldn't get in to the collection at all.  It's a real shame because as a fan of the series, I had really high hopes for this one.  Instead of getting this, I suggest waiting for the forthcoming series by Howard Chaykin instead.

Story 3/5
Art 2.5/5
Overall 5.5/10

'Buck Rogers in the 25th Century - The Western Publishing  Years: Volume 1' is Available to Buy 9th July 2013

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Ziggyology: A Brief History of Ziggy Stardust by Simon Goddard Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Simon Goddard

Published By Random House, Ebury Press

Genre
Biography, Music

Synopsis

It was the greatest invention in the history of pop music – the rock god who came from the stars – which struck a young David Bowie like a lightning bolt from the heavens.

When Ziggy the glam alien messiah fell to Earth, he transformed Bowie from a prodigy to a superstar who changed the face of music forever. But who was Ziggy Stardust? And where did he really come from?

In a work of supreme pop archaeology, Simon Goddard unearths every influence that brought Ziggy to life – from HG Wells to Holst, Kabuki to Kubrick, and Elvis to Iggy. Ziggyology documents the epic drama of the Starman’s short but eventful time on Planet Earth… and why Bowie eventually had to kill him.

Review

Simon Goddard, the author of the superb 'Songs That Saved Your Life: The Art of The Smiths', turns his hand to the creation of one of the biggest music rock superstars the world has ever known.  Ziggy Stardust.

In creating that persona David Bowie in turn created one of the most influential musicians of the musical world and here Goddard creates a really well written look at that moment.

I have to admit however that the first part of the book does feel a little clunky in places but for the most part, this book is really an interesting read.  In fact, for Bowie fans, this is a superb look at the creation of Stardust.  It really reads like a story that would make a pretty good movie actually.  There are some quite cinematic parts that really bring the story to life.

I loved how Goddard really linked the creation of Stardust to things such as Kubrick and others that may have proved influential in his creation.  I would love to pick Bowie's brain about his Ziggy Stardust period but seeing as that will never happen, this is as close as us fans will probably get.

This is a rather odd biography but Goddard's easy style of writing really suckers the reader in to the book and, even though I hate the term, makes it a complete page turner.  The wonderfully descriptive prose made the Ziggy Stardust come alive for me but it's slightly let down by a couple of clunky moments.

For Bowie fans, this is well worth picking up.  If you're not a Bowie fan then you may not like it as much but it's still worth at least taking a look at for it's odd yet  effective look at the creation of one of the biggest cult figures in rock music history.

Presentation 3.5/5
Informative 4/5
Recommended 4/5
Overall 11.5/15

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

An Interview With Paul Collicutt, Author and Artist of 'The Murder Mile'


Paul Collicutt, author and artist of 'The Murder Mile' has very kindly popped in to Curiosity of a Social Misfit to talk to Patrick Challis about his graphic novel and what inspired him to create it.

PC:  What inspired you to write 'The Murder Mile'?

PC:  In a nutshell it was just one image. The picture of Roger Bannister sweeping majestically past an heroic but tiring John Landy in the final 110 metres of The Mile final at the 1954 Empire Games was iconic. Landy had lead from the gun at World record pace but Bannister had stuck to his own guns and followed at a pace he knew he could hold. When he past Landy in the final stages Landy looked to the inside of the track and that moment was caught on camera. I thought what if Landy heard a gunshot…what if someone was trying to shoot him? From there I felt a story started off in my head. I knew I wanted to do a graphic novel that celebrated athletics, a sport I love dearly but I also wanted to paint images of big American cities and flashy cars….a 1950s technicolour story!

PC:  You combine a hard boiled detective story with the real life drama around the attempts to break the 4 minute mile.  Was it difficult to combine the two?

PC:  It did take a bit of thinking about but it wasn’t too hard. In 1954 the story in Athletics was not performance enhancing drugs but there was scandal around so called professionalism. It seems ridiculous today in the era of highly paid sports people that athletes could be banned for taking a hundred dollars in travel expenses and yet they were…Wes Santee was a victim of this stupid and petty policy.

PC:  I was struck by the authentic feel of the races and the historical atmosphere of era of sporting history that you have set the story in.  Did you have to do a lot of research?

PC:  Yes. I’m a track and field fan anyway and I love all the history of it so it wasn’t a hardship for me. Years and years ago I picked up roger Bannister’s autobiography in a second hand bookshop in Lewes, Sussex. I devoured his words and was inspired by his story and the way he told it.

When I  started off on the story I thought no problem I know all about athletics the research will be a doddle. However I then realized that if I didn’t get it right or as close as I could for all the races then I’d never be able to hold my head high in running circles ever again. I buried myself in research to try and find out what the stadiums looked like…what all the uniforms looked like etc. I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes but I can honestly hold my hand up and say I think I’ve got the races down pretty well.

PC:  Did your love of track and field influence the tone of the story?

PC:  Yes. The story reflects a number of things that I feel about athletics as a sport….mainly that it is full of positive individuals…so Dan Stone was never going to be your typical down on his luck PI with a drink problem. I thought it might actually be interesting to have him as a fully operating human being. The FBI agent in it is called Agent Ashenfelter. His name is a tip of the hat to Horace Ashenfelter who won the 1952 Olympic Games Steeplechase and was also a fully fledged FBI man.

PC:  The art work in the graphic novel is absolutely beautiful and does a great job of capturing the drama of the story, especially the race scenes and the war back story.  Do you think the art makes 'The Murder Mile' stand out from other graphic novels?

PC:  I think it’s different from many graphic novels but I have to say there are also a lot of varied graphic novels out there with absolutely outstanding and individual artwork in them. I love painting and I find it such fun that I was prepared to paint a full story.I worked on a number of different scales. At first I thought it was a brilliant idea to paint al the panels as individual bits of artwork….and yes it was great but after a while I knew it was going to kill me so I began to paint all the pages as pages ( much more sensible really ). I worked in acrylics and applied them like watercolours….and yes I did everything on a large scale.

PC:  Do you have a favourite runner out of all of those legendary athletes that ran the four minute mile?

PC:  All three of the athletes that had a chance at it were outstanding people….athletes and gentlemen I believe. I’d have to say I admire Wes Santee’s toughness in getting so close to a sub 4 mile by himself on a soaking wet track after a hailstorm, Roger Bannister’s fantasticly astute pace judgement and Land y being just such an all round tough athlete and true Gent.

PC:  Will there be another Daniel Stone story for us to sink our teeth in to?

PC:  I hope so as I think he still has stories to tell. I’d like to do another one with him that also covers running.

PC:  What's next for Paul Collicutt?

PC:  I’ve been working on a poster of the World record Holders for The Mile and I’m also working on ones for the Men’s and Women’s Marathon. I also work for Templar Publishing doing a series called Robot City. Here's the website ...http://www.robotcity.co.uk/

'The Murder Mile' is out now to buy!

From the Files of...Mike Hammer: The Complete Dailies and Sundays - Volume 1 Graphic Novel Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Mickey Spillane
Art By Ed Robbins
Cover By Ed Robbins

Published By Hermes Press

Genre
Crime, Thriller

Synopsis

America’s most well-known, hardboiled detective, Mike Hammer, returns with Hermes Press’ complete archival reprint of the entire continuity, From the Files of… Mike Hammer!

Reprinting all of the dailies and Sunday strips (in digitally reconstructed color) this book will be the final word on this pop culture icon. The strip, which was distributed to newspapers by the Phoenix Features Syndicate, ran for only one year (1953-1954) — but what a year it was!

The strip is pure Mickey Spillane and was crafted under his watchful eye with art by Ed Robbins.

The feature has everything fans of Mike Hammer would expect: Mike, Zelda, good girls, bad girls, gun-play, and lots of action! Accompanying the strips are two in-depth essays by noted mystery writer and Mickey Spillane expert Max Collins (Road to Perdition).

Review

As of late and after reading 'Complex 90' by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, I've been on a real Mike Hammer kick.  His stories are fast paced, exciting and gloriously un-pc and those are just a couple of the reasons why I like them so much.  In a world of the overly sanitized, they seem like a breath of fresh air.

Here is no different.  This are the classic dailies and Sunday comic strips that really helped to get Mike Hammer's name out there and the stories are each fantastic.  They really do move along at an absolutely cracking pace and are just as good as Spillane's novels.  In fact, in some places they are even better thanks to the classic style art work.

The stories themselves remind me a bit of the classic Marvel stories only with spies, murder and intrigue instead of superheroes but that's a good thing.  Those days truly were the golden age of comics and it's easy to see why with titles such as this one having been doing the rounds as the saying goes.

I've always liked the whole 'kick ass then ask questions' approach that Hammer takes in his stories and these are true private eye / pulp style stories in all their goodness.

This really is a collection that is well worth picking up.  The stories are brilliant, fast paced and well drawn.  Spillane's magic really shines on these stories and there are even some great insights lead by Max Allan Collins as well.  If anybody is going to know about these characters other than Spillane it's Collins.

Those essay by Collins make this collection even more of a must for the Hammer fans out there and why not?  Great stories, great art work and Max Allan Collins.  That to me is a great trio of reasons to buy a collection.

Story 4/5
Art 4/5
Overall 8/10

See No Evil (2006) DVD Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Dan Madigan
Directed By Gregory Dark

Genre
Horror

Cast

Glen Jacobs as Jacob Goodnight (billed as Kane)
Christina Vidal as Christine
Michael J. Pagan as Tye
Samantha Noble as Kira
Steven Vidler as Williams

Certificate 18

Synopsis

Eight Teens, One Weekend, One Serial Killer.

Seven feet tall. Four hundred pounds. A rusty steel plate screwed into his skull and razor sharp fingernails that pluck out his victims' eyes like grapes from a fruit bowl. Meet reclusive psychopath Jacob Goodnight (Kane, heavyweight WWE wrestling star) holed up in the dilapidated Blackwell Hotel with nothing but his nightmares for company. That is until eight delinquents arrive for community service duty, along with the cop that put a bullet through Goodnight's head four years before... and the game is on against this indestructible force of nature with a major grudge.

Special Features
  • Do You See the Sin? - The Making of See No Evil  
  • Interviews with the Cast and Crew 
  • 'Dog Food' Scene: Storyboard to Film Comparison  
  • Kane: Journey into Darkness

Review

I love slasher movies.  Anything from the 'Nightmare on Elm Street' series through to the 'Friday the 13th' series and beyond.  There have been some really good ones and there have been some downright awful ones but where does this one fit in.

Well, while it's not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, it's still head and shoulders above some of the other slasher movies out there.  And I'm not just talking about the sheer size of Glen Jacobs (aka Kane) that stars here.

One of the thing I liked the most about this movie was the dark, grimy 80's feel of it from the sets to the deaths even down to the killer himself.  I especially loved how dirty and horrid the hotel looked that they get trapped in.  They do over 'dirty' the set in places but it's still a hell of a lot better than the cookie cutter sets that appear in a lot of recent horror movies.

However that's not the main strength of the movie.  That's the performance of Glen Jacobs as Jacob Goodnight.  Ironically his name is never mentioned in the movie itself but I digress.  Jacobs is best known to wrestling fans as Kane and he exudes the menace of that character here while mixing it with a liberal does of the Kane Hodder version of Jason Vorhees.  While Jacobs has next to no lines here, it's the physical nature of his performance and his 'evil mime' like facial expressions that tell the story.  I would have liked to have seen more of the character itself in the movie but his back story is told well in a series of black and white flashbacks.

Cast wise, a lot of them are just cannon fodder so to  speak for the Jacob Goodnight character but one of them stood out by a mile for me.  Samantha Noble, who played Kira, delivered a performance that really raised a cookie cutter style character to much higher quality than it could have been.

All in all, this is the sort of movie that won't win any awards.  It's not all that original but it is enjoyable for a horror movie fan such as myself.  Jacob's performance really reminded me of Kane Hodder, the best Jason Vorhees in my opinion, and as such the character was really memorable.  I would have liked this movie to turn in to a series like the 'Friday the 13th' movies but alas, that doesn't look very likely.  That's a real shame because if you are a slasher movie fan then you could do a hell of a lot worse than 'See No Evil'.

Movie 3.5/5
Picture 4/5
Sound 4.5/5
Special Features 3.5/5
Overall 15.5/20

Come Out and Play (2012) Pre-Release Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Makinov Based on the Novel By Juan Jose Plan
Directed By Makinov

Genre
Horror

Cast

Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Francis
Vinessa Shaw as Beth

Certificate 18

Synopsis

An American couple head to a remote Mexican island for a relaxing vacation only to suffer a nightmare ordeal at the hands of out of control children. Beth (Vinessa Shaw) and Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) have recently married and are expecting a child. Deciding to spoil themselves with one last holiday before the demands of caring for a baby take over their lives, they head to a beautiful sun-bathed island. On arrival they are surprised to discover swarms of children but a distinct absence of adults and authority figures. Their puzzlement gradually turns to terror as they realise the extent of the danger they are in...

Review

I am a massive horror movie nut and will pretty much watch all kinds of them from the deeply psychological to the by the numbers stalk and slashers.  I had really high hopes for this one as the trailer looked brilliantly spooky and have heard a hell of a lot of good things about Makinov.

Did this one live up to that?

Well, even with my quite low standards I have to admit that I came away feeling quite disappointed as well as wondering what all the fuss about Makinov is.

There were some interesting ideas behind the movie but Makinov seemed quite content to ignore them in order to try to do little more than slowly walk up to the actors with his camera.

That's a real shame because some of the scenes worked really well thanks to how incredibly creepy the children in the movie are but those are so few and far between that the movie itself felt a hell of a lot longer than it actually is.

I would even go so far as to say that there were even parts of the movie where I was actually quite bored and wondering where the plot was going to go and if there was a point to some of the actions that the characters were doing.  Don't even get me started on the massive plot holes either.  It was almost as if Makinov had started to write the screenplay, forgot to finish it and then realised he had to film it and therefore just throw anything he could think of out there.

The acting for the most part is average to good but with the incredibly bad directing, although not the worst I've seen by a long shot, and the mundane dialogue blow that as well as any level of creepiness or dread.

It's a real shame about how much of a disappointment this movie was as I really wanted to enjoy it.  It looked really full of dread and scares in the trailer but for the most part, this was just dull.

Avoid

Movie 2/5

'Come Out and Play' is out now to buy on DVD

Monday, 27 May 2013

Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers DVD Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Ella O'Neill, George Plympton, Basil Dickey and Frederick Stephani based on the comic strip By Alex Raymond
Directed By Frederick Stephani and Ray Taylor (uncredited)

Genre
Science Fiction, Serial, Adventure

Cast

Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon
Jean Rogers as Dale Arden
Charles Middleton as Ming the Merciless
Priscilla Lawson as Princess Aura
Frank Shannon as Dr. Alexis Zarkov
Richard Alexander as Prince Barin
Jack 'Tiny' Lipson as King Vultan

Certificate PG

Synopsis

Buster Crabbe stars as Flash Gordon in this classic 1930s serial presented for the first time on DVD.

Humanity is doomed to destruction! A distant planet has broken its orbit and is headed straight toward the Earth. While Dr. Hans Zarkov works feverishly to finish a rocket ship of his own design, internationally renowned polo player and Yale graduate Flash Gordon is a passenger on a small plane where he meets fellow passenger Dale Arden. When a meteor storm destroys their aircraft, Flash and Dale bail out and land near Zarkov's ship. The great scientist enlists them to join him on his quest to save Earth, and the heroic trio blasts off into space to rendezvous with the runaway planet Mongo.

Featuring all 13 episodes of the exciting serial series.

Special Features
  • None


Review

Buster Crabbe was known as the 'King of the Serials' and for very good reason. Not only is he very well known for being the one of the best portrayals of the legendary 'Tarzan' but he also played the equally legendary 'Flash Gordon' is a series of classic Sci-Fi serials.

This was the first in that series. Sometimes just called 'Flash Gordon' and other times 'Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers', this is a fabulously fun and campy slice of science fiction fun.

Buster Crabbe gives a delightful performance as Flash Gordon. Here he is a champion polo player on his way to studying at Yale, instead of being a famous American Football player, he accidentally stumbles in to a plan to save the Earth from the impending doom of the planet Mongo hurtling towards them.

A lot of the scenes have a very classic charm to them. While it is very cheesy in places, that is part of the fun of proceedings.

The cast itself includes some absolutely brilliant and legendary stars from the 'Golden Age of Hollywood'.

Not only do you have Buster Crabbe but you also have Jean Rogers (from the brilliant 'My Man Godfrey') and Charles B. Middleton.

While the picture transfer isn't brilliant and nor is the sound, that's quite understandable when you consider that it was released in 1936.

Considering that you can get this for next to nothing, which for a three disc set is a bargain, I would definitely recommend this to fans of the good and old fashioned science fiction. I especially think that fans of the classic 'Doctor Who' serials will adore this too.

Movie 4/5
Picture 3/5
Sound 4/5
Special Features N/A
Overall 11/15

Ultimate Avengers: The Movie DVD Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Greg Johnson, Boyd Kirkland and Craig Kyle
Directed By Curt Geda, Steven E. Gordon and Bob Richardson

Genre
Superhero, Animated, Adventure

Cast

Justin Gross as Captain America / Steve Rogers
Marc Worden as Iron Man / Tony Stark
David Boat as Thor
Olivia d'Abo as Black Widow / Natasha Romanov
Fred Tatasciore as The Hulk
Michael Massee as Dr. Bruce Banner
Nolan North as Giant Man / Hank Pym
Grey DeLisle as Wasp / Janet Van Dyne-Pym
Andre Ware as Nick Fury

Certificate PG

Synopsis

Earth, 1945. Humanity was on the brink of annihilation. Sinister forces pushed to seize control of the free world, and only one man rose up to stop them. A man who sacrificed his life to save us all. History remembers him as our one and only Super-Soldier... We know him as Captain America.
When a nuclear missile was fired at Washington in 1945, Captain America managed to detonate it in the upper atmosphere. But then he fell miles into the icy depths of the North Atlantic, where he remained lost for over sixty years. But now, with the world facing the very same evil, Captain America must rise again as our last hope of survival, and lead a strong-willed team of today's superheroes:

Iron Man, the billionaire bachelor used to doing things his own way.

The Hulk, the destructive force Bruce Banner hopes to turn into a useful member of the team.

Thor, a hero who has responsibilities to both the world of man and the world of gods.

Wasp, a petite powerhouse who sees the team as a fresh start for her and her husband, otherwise known as...

Giant Man, sixty feet tall with an equally large chip on his shoulder.

And Captain America, a star-spangled idealist resurrected from a 60 year deep-freeze because this team needs a super-soldier to lead them.

Special Features
  •  'First Look At Ultimate Avengers II' featurette
  • 'Assembling The Avengers' featurette
  • 'The Ultimate Voice Talent Search' featurette
  • 'Which Avenger Are You?' DVD-Rom game
Review
'The Ultimates' by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch seemingly kick started comic book fanatic's love affair with the legendary super hero team 'The Avengers' and the Joss Whedon movie just reaffirmed that.

Here we have an animated take based on that graphic novel and they really do it justice.

The entire team is here and like in Joss Whedon's live action movie, the team doesn't automatically gel together. I've always thought that was much more of a realistic thing than when heroes team up and get on together straight away.

The story here concerns the alien race called The Chitauri, a sub species of the Skrulls, wanting to take over the world. After proving to be a massive threat, the decision is made to assemble the greatest team of super heroes ever brought together in order to fight back the threat.

The takes on the characters here are surprisingly faithful to the graphic novel version, especially their portrayal of Thor. While not all the characters get enough of their time in the spotlight, they are given enough time on screen to leave you hungry for a second movie.

My personal favorite of the team is how they portrayed Bruce Banner / The Hulk, in that they really showed the inner battle that Banner faces to keep the beast from running wild and destroying everything.

The only thing I didn't like was the simple fact that while this movie is aimed at the younger fans of the Avengers team, it does seem a little too violent for their age but that could just be little ol' me being a bit too old fashioned.

That said however, this is a superb take on the formation of the Avengers and could even be watched as a companion to the live action Joss Whedon movie 'Avengers Assemble', which if you are a fan of then you will definitely like this one.
Movie 4/5
Picture 4/5
Sound 4/5
Special Features 3/5
Overall 15/20
 

Doctor Who: The Complete Specials DVD Review

Review By Dean Calcutt

Written By Russell T. Davies, Gareth Roberts, Phil Ford and Steven Moffat
Directed By Andy Goddard, James Strong, Graeme Harper and Euros Lyn

Genre
Science Fiction, Adventure

Cast

David Tennant as The Doctor
Matt Smith as The Doctor
David Morrissey as Jackson Lake
Dervla Kirwan as Miss Hartigan
Michelle Ryan as Lady Christine de Souza
Lee Evans as Malcolm Taylor
Lindsay Duncan as Adelaide Brooke
Bernard Cribbins as Wilfred Mott
John Simm as The Master
Timothy Dalton as The Narrator / Lord President Rassilon
Catherine Tate as Donna Noble
Billie Piper as Rose Tyler
Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones
Noel Clarke as Mickey Smith
John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness
Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith
Jessica Hynes as Verity Newman
Russell Tovey as Midshipman Alonso Frame
June Whitfield as Minnie Hooper

Certificate 12

Synopsis

Littered with exclusive extras, this irresistible box set contains all five 2009 Doctor Who specials. With 5 discs of monster fighting, all-action adventure, The Complete Specials is a fitting finale to David Tennant's triumphant reign as television's most entertaining Doctor.

Includes all the Doctor Who Specials from 2009!

Episodes Comprise:

The Next Doctor: It's Christmas Eve in 1851 in The Next Doctor and Cybermen stalk the snow of Victorian London. When the Doctor arrives and starts to investigate a spate of mysterious deaths, he's surprised to meet another Doctor (David Morrissey), and soon the two must combine forces to defeat the ruthless Miss Hartigan (Dervla Kirwan). But are two Doctors enough to stop the rise of the CyberKing?

Planet of the Dead: Starring Michelle Ryan and Lee Evans, Planet Of The Dead was the first of this year's specials. When a London bus takes a detour to an alien world, the Doctor must join forces with the extraordinary Lady Christina. But the mysterious planet holds terrifying secrets, hidden in the sand. And time is running out, as the deadly Swarm gets closer...

The Waters of Mars: The Waters of Mars welcomes Lindsay Duncan as the Doctor's cleverest and most strong-minded companion. The Waters of Mars is a dark, scary thriller that sees the Doctor land on the planet Mars, at a base in peril. A creeping infection beneath the Martian surface threatens not only the human race, but also the Doctor's most fundamental beliefs. Together with Adelaide Brooke - the base's commander - the Doctor must stop a seemingly unstoppable menace before it can reach Earth, and wipe out mankind.

The End of Time: Part One: Join the Tenth Doctor for his final journey in The End of Time Parts One and Two, when his psychotic nemesis the Master has been reborn, on Christmas Eve. With both determined to cheat death, the battle ranges from the wastelands of London to the mysterious Immortality Gate, while the alien Ood warn of an even greater danger approaching, as a terrible shadow falls across the entire Universe.

The End of Time: Part Two: The Doctor faces the end of his life as the Master's plans hurtle out of control. With the sound of drums growing louder, and an ancient trap closing around the Earth, the Doctor and Wilf must fight alone. But sacrifices must be made, and the deadly prophecy warns: "He will knock four times."

Special Features
  • The Next Doctor
  • Doctor Who at the proms
  • The next Doctor confidential
  • New special moving menus
  • Planet of the Dead
  • Planet of the Dead Confidential
  • New special moving menus
  • The Waters of Mars
  • Waters of Mars confidential
  • The End of Time: Part One
  • Xmas confidential
  • David Tennant video diary - the final days
  • BBC idents
  • Audio commentary on feature 
  • The End of Time: Part Two
  • New Year confidential
  • Russell T Davies intro to deleted scenes & deleted scenes
  • Doctor Who at comic-con 2009
  • Audio commentary on feature

Review

At the end of series 4 it was announced that instead of series 5 we were going to get 4 specials in the next year which would culminate with the leaving of RTD and David Tennant, so were they any good?

Yes and no is the answer, DT tries hard and turns in an excellent performance as always but you can sense RTD is tired of the show now and the excitement of series one is long gone, tbh it's probably best that he decided to go, and if you've have read the book A Writers Tale which is set behind the scenes of his final episodes you get the sense he didn't really want to do these.  I recommend getting this book,  it's a great read.

Ok onto the episodes themselves.

The Next Doctor.

Oh dear, in previews this looked so promising but the finished episode is a bit of a mess, at the time it was known that DT was leaving the show and a big deal was made out of whether or not this would this be his last episode.  Of course not, the story is actually about a chap called Jackson Lake who believes he is the doctor, and along with the real doctor fights against Mercy Hartigan and some Cybermen. Kids will love this especially the Cyber King but tbh it's a bit of a mess and I doubt anyone would watch it twice.

Film 2/5
Picture 5/5
Sound 5/5
Extras 4/5

Planet of the Dead

I am in a quandary here, I love Dr Who and don't want to be negative but how do you write a positive review about an episode that is made up almost entirely of filler?  Honestly nothing happens, it's not a bad story just boring, cardboard cut out characters, a convenient psychic to tell us again that DT IS LEAVING and that's about it, no wait a minute there is a positive.  Lee Evans brilliant performance as UNITS scientific advisor Malcolm, it's worth watching this story just for him, why he hasn't returned beats me.

Film 2/5
Picture 5/5
Sound 5/5
Extras 4/5

The Waters of  Mars

Now this is more like it, an excellent story a cast you care about, a shock ending this one ticks all the boxes.

One type of story  Who does well is a people trapped in a base story and this ones a doozy, I don't want to spoil it for anyone but highlights are

The acting DT in particular is brilliant.
The monster, an actual scary menace.
The Timelord Triumphant (a mind blowing idea).
That shock ending.

How this can be so good after the last 2 efforts bemuses me, but don't miss it

Film 5/5
Picture 5/5
Sound5/5
Extras 5/5

Perfect Who

The End of Time pts 1&2

So we come to DT's last two episodes and I really want to love them, but they are bitty, some bits are excellent.
 

For example anything featuring Bernard Cribbens, but especially the cafe scene and the speech on the spaceship, oh and his final look at the doctor will bring a lump to your throat.

The cactus peoples rescue of the doctor is hilarious
 

Donnas back(always good to see Catherine Tate)
 

The doctors final journey and regeneration. This will make you cry

Bad points

Super powers Master? Really?  That was considered a good idea?
The story is really weak

These two are worth watching but prove that occasionally someone needs to say to RTD, that script is terrible don't make it.

Film 2.5/5
Picture 5/5
Sound 5/5
Extras 5/5

So that was the end of the RTD & DT era and to be fair there was more good than bad, but now we have Steven Mofatt and Matt Smith, and some of the best Who ever is about to come.


Powers Bureau Issue 4 Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written Brian Michael Bendis
Art By Michael Avon Oeming
Cover By Michael Avon Oeming

Published By Icon

Genre
Superhero, Action

Synopsis

The Eisner Award-winning creator-owned series that shows cops and capes like you've never seen them before!

With all superpowered cases now federal cases, Walker and Deana are up to their necks in the most dangerous chase of their careers. Also, Deena is pregnant! So there's that.

Plus: another look behind the scenes at the POWERS TV show!

Review

After the shocking ending of issue three, this one had a hell of a lot to live up to and the team of Bendis / Oeming have most definitely not disappointed.

So far 'Powers Bureau' has been a really good evolution of the Powers series created by Bendis and Oeming.  It came time for the series to grow and change and they have handled it really well.  The storyline for this one, someone is making 'powers' babies and there's also what looks to be a cover up, has been rolling along nicely and some of the pieces are slowly but surely fitting together.

One of the things I have liked the most about the new series is that while a lot of the action focused on Pilgrim there has been a real mysterious tint to Walker and the time he spent away from Pilgrim.  Now he's been pushed to the forefront of the story, even going undercover but that's as much of the story I want to tell you as it would be a real shame to spoil the twists and turns.

Bendis' writing is once again up to his incredibly high standard.  He's one of the most reliable writers in the comic book world and that's evident here as well.  The 'Powers' stories have always been good, a lot of the time even great.  That's no different here.  The twists are really well done and the characters are definitely the strong point of the series.  They always have been.  While the characters are fully fleshed out, there always seems to be an air of mystery to them like there's always something new to find out.  I've always liked that about Bendis' writing and he really seems to bring his 'a' game when writing 'Powers'.

Once again, the high quality of art set by Oeming in the other issues continues it's momentum big time in to this fourth issue.  The action in this issue really pops off the page and really hooks the reader in to what is happening.  That's definitely shown in the action scenes and most specifically the ending page.  Where the ending of issue 3 left me wanting to get to issue 4 as soon as possible, this one does exactly the same.  When I got to the last page, I really wanted to jump in and get in to the next issue straight away.  Oh well, hopefully the next issue will be out soon.

All in all, this is definitely a series that is worth keeping an eye on.  It honestly just seems to get better with each issue.  This one has been my favourite so far of the four issues so it really sets a high standard for the next issue but I have a hell of a lot of faith in the team of Bendis and Oeming to pull it off.

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

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth - Exorcism Issue 1 Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Mike Mignola and Cameron Stewart
Art By Cameron Stewart
Cover By Viktor Kalvachev

Published By Dark Horse Comics

Genre
Horror, Action

Synopsis

Field agent Ashley Strode, last seen in B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs, is deployed to a Mexican village after a demon commands her to release one of its brethren, or lose the soul of a small child.

Review

I have to admit that due to all the relaunches, reboots and spin off comics that have been coming out in the last 18 months or so, I hadn't even given this title a thought.  In fact, I just thought it was just another spin off and that was all.

Instead what I got was a series that is every inch as good as the Hellboy series and even surpasses it in places.  This two part story was my introduction to the series and I have to admit, what an introduction it was.

The story is superbly written with some great character development as well as some brilliant nods to future moments without giving anything away or telegraphing any of the twists.  Even though I hadn't read any of the other issues before, I wasn't actually lost.  You got a little bit of background information and then were thrown right in to the action.  The fact that this issue takes past in both the past and the present doesn't make it disjointed at all, in fact it gels really well.  Mike Mignola and Cameron Stewart really do work together fantastically well as a team and that really shows with this story.

Art wise, it's by the Eisner Award winning Cameron Stewart so what can you expect other than some brilliant art?  While it's lacking slightly in the gore and horror department art wise, the art works almost as if it's a character itself.  Stewart really brings the story to life with his art and it's easy to see why he is held in such high regard in the comic book world.  If this is an indication of how good the art is going to be in other issues then sign me up!

All in all, ignoring this title because I thought it would be just another spin off was a massive mistake on my part.  After reading this issue, I'm going to go back and try to go back to grab as many of the other stories as possible.  If they're half as good as this one then I'll be in for a treat.

This one is definitely one that's well worth picking up.

Story 4/5
Art 4.5/5
Overall 8.5/10

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Doctor Who: Complete Series 4 DVD Review

Review By Dean Calcutt

Produced By Russell T. Davies

Genre
Science Fiction, Action, Adventure

Cast

David Tennant as The Doctor
Catherine Tate as Donna Noble
Billie Piper as Rose Tyler
Noel Clarke as Mickey Smith
Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones
Bernard Cribbins as Wilfred Mott
Kylie Minogue as Astrid Peth
Alex Kingston as River Song

Certificate 12

Synopsis

David Tennant is back in his role as the Doctor in the fourth series of the hit sci-fi show! Award-winning comedienne Catherine Tate returns as the Doctor's new companion, reviving her role as Donna Noble. Also on hand to help the Doctor are some familiar faces as he has the New Dalek Empire to stop!

Special Features
  • Audio commentary on 13 episodes
  • Voyage of the Damned commentary
  • Children in Need special, Timecrash
  • Confidential cut downs
  • Deleted scenes
  • David Tennant video diaries
  • 30 minute series 1-4 retrospective

Review

First up is the Xmas special Voyage of the Damned. A 60 min episode set on the star cruiser RMS TITANIC (you'd book up on that wouldn't you?) which the Doc lands on and decides to have a mooch about, where he meets Astrid Peth (Kylie Minogue) who is working as a waitress on board. Astrid instantly likes the Doc and when disaster strikes they team up to try to save the day.

What follows is a Xmas themed disaster movie, that just doesn't work very well and contain lots of plot holes

I don't know why but the Xmas specials just don't seem to gel for me, and even Kylie Minogue can't lift this from mediocre status. In the first Xmas special (the Christmas Invasion) RTD got it spot on, the second one (the Runaway Bride) was also quite good, but this one is broken big time.  Cardboard cutout characters that you just don't care about, in fact when two of them bought it I actually cheered, a less than subtle plug for gay rights, and a gun shot wound that get less serious as time goes on are a few things wrong with this one, don't get me wrong, even bad who is worth watching but I really expect better from RTD.

But onto series 4 proper and some good news, we get a new companion in the form of Donna  Noble played by the divine Catherine Tate (in case you haven't worked it out I'm a big fan ). As a result of this even the bad episodes are worth watching as CT really brings her A game and I promise you her fate will bring even the hardest heart close to tears.  Once again there is a story arc going through the whole season and keep your eyes peeled for glimpses of Rose (Billie Piper who is back for a couple of episodes.)

This season is much better than series 3 with mainly excellent stories and even the bad ones aren't that bad really.

Stand out episodes

Hard to pick good ones as most are excellent this season but truly stand out episodes are

Partners in Crime

This is in my opinion a comedy episode that only exists to reintroduce Donna, and it is great.  I watch this episode when I need a boost and it never fails, some lovely camera work when The Doc and Donna keep missing each other and one of the funniest scenes ever when they spot each other through windows is brilliant, a great start to series 4.

Silence  in the Library / Forest of the Dead

This 2 parter is by Steven Moffatt so you expect great things, and he always delivers.

This is a creepy tale set on a library planet where in response to a message sent from a professor River Song (!) as the travellers get menaced by the Vashta  Narada, I don't want to spoil this episode but future seasons will show how important this story is.

Midnight

A Donna light episode but it is so well done you won't miss her, set on a space shuttle that has broken down this is a claustrophobic character piece that is generally unnerving, a lot of fans slate this episode as stupid with large plot holes but they are wrong. It is great with some excellent acting throughout.

Turn Left

My personal favourite episode of the season and it doesn't have the doctor in it.

It asks the question "what if Donna had never met the doctor" and then delivers a fantastic 45 mins of breathtaking storyline that takes in several story's from seasons 3 & 4 and shows what would happen if the Doc wasn't around so you don't want to miss this one!


The stolen earth/ Journeys end

This one is a bit of a mixed bag really, it brings back the Daleks but also brings their creator Davros ( a character I can't stand) plus virtually everyone who has travelled with the Doc since season 1 shows up and then has nothing to do.  I can't say this is a great episode as it is a bit too much like fan fiction and has some glaring plot holes,( and I mean massive great ones) but it is a bit of fun and worth watching to see everyone in the console room together, Donna.badly flirting with Captain Jack and Jackies reaction when told she can't pilot the Tardis, but the ending will break your heart, guaranteed.

May I recommend you obtain a copy of RTD 's excellent book, A writers tale to read whie you watch this series, as it follows the hole series behind the scenes and is very readable indeed

Film 4/5
Picture 5/5
Sound 5/5
Extras 5/5
Overall 19/20

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Doctor Who: Complete Series 3 DVD Review

Review By Dean Calcutt

Produced By Russell T. Davies

Genre
Science Fiction, Action, Adventure

Cast

David Tennant as The Doctor
Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones
John Simm as The Master / John Saxon
John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness

Certificate PG

Synopsis

The third installment of Doctor Who is full of new thrills, new laughs, new heartbreak and some terrifying new monsters. From the moment the Doctor walks into the life of medical student Martha Jones he changes it forever. In Elizabethan London, they meet William Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre while back in present day London, 76-year-old Professor Lazarus recaptures his youth with consequences that threaten Martha's entire family. And, the Doctor's sworn enemies, the Daleks, who have been hiding in 1930's New York, return with a terrifying plan for humanity.

Special Features
  • David's Video Diary
  • Network Teaser Trailers
  • Freema's Tour of the Studio
  • Series 3 Out-takes and Deleted Scenes
  • David's Weakest Link Diary
  • Doctor Who Confidential

Review

Ok, on to series 3, this time no Billie Piper so we need a new companion, doing what was going to be a one shot is Catherine Tate as Donna Noble in The Runaway Bride, a Xmas special. I rather like it and her, after all the lovey doveyness of Rose its great to see someone give the doc what for (al la classic series Tegan).   It's a quite fun episode that leaves you wanting more Donna, and shows you just how dark the Doctor can be. The time flies when you watch this which I always take as a good sign ( trust me some series 3 episodes drag). Overall a good Xmas day episode with a top cast

Series 3 proper starts with Smith and Jones, which introduces new companion Martha Jones, played admirably by Freema Agyeman, who does a lot with a dreadfully underwritten part.  It shows how good an actress she is.

This series has 8 stand out episodes 3 as some of te best who ever written and 5 as some of the worst, this is a real mixed bag

But good episodes first

Human Nature/Family of blood

What can I say but WOW!!! What a story, adapted from the Dr Who book Human Nature , (which featured 7th doctor) this story starts in the middle and show the doc as a teacher in a boys school circa 1914 but this doctor is a human, and he has no idea who the doctor is, I won't spoil it but these two episode feature great aliens, true love and truly creepy scarecrows plus I defy you to watch the ending and not get a lump in your throat

Blink

One of Dr Who's strengths is that it can be anything and this Doctor lite episodes show it can be very scary indeed.  It is mainly the story of Sally Sparrow (she so should have been a companion) who is up against the Weeping Angels, a bunch of aliens that look like stone statues and can only move when unobserved, they kill you by sending you back in time and they live on the temporal energy this produces and Sally has to save the Doctor armed with nothing but a DVD. This episode is another by Steven Mofatt so was always going to be good.

And now the bad episodes (and trust me they are really bad)

Daleks in Manhatten/ Evolution of the Daleks

When RTD said he was giving newcomer Helen Raynor a two parter I remember fans couldn't wait to see it but oh dear did no one read this before shooting started?

It's a bit like  a 'Carry On' version of Doctor Who, with pig men, OTT Brooklyn accents, useless Daleks that can't even make a lightning conductor (really? This is the race that went to war with the Time Lords) and worse of all the Dalek human hybrid (or Squiddy as his friends call him).  It's even got a song and dance number!

Utopia/The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords

Oh dear, when RTD turned these scripts in did no one think to say to him, Nice try Russ but it looks like you need a vacation old son.

I hate spoiling episodes for people but heres a few things that are wrong.

Captain Jacks back, but why? He does nothing

Y A N A not as clever as RTD thinks

Old Doctor is a good idea if he has to work around being old to solve problems but to make him old to shut him in a wheelchair whilst the Master dances to Scissor Sisters, it is lost on me.  RTD, take more water with it my friend

Dobby/Gollum doctor, oh dear oh dear oh dear.  NO!

The whole ending of this episode makes no sense, Dr Who does Jesus I think, I don't want to give too much away because you really should watch this to see how bad it is

All in all a split season but the good episodes out weigh the bad

Film 2/5 (sorry but the bad stories are terrible)
Picture 5/5
Sound 5/5
Extras 5/5
Overall 17/20

Iron Man: The Coming of the Melter Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written by Christos Gage (The Coming of the Melter) and Mike Friedrich (Stan Lee Presents: The Invincible Iron Man)
Art By Ron Lim (The Coming of the Melter) and George Tuska (Stan Lee Presents: The Invincible Iron Man)
Cover By Ron Lim and Chris Sotomayor

Genre
Superhero, Action

Synopsis

Iron Man meets his match with the Malevolent Melter!With technology similar to Iron Man’s, will the Melter bring the downfall of Stark Industries?

It’s a battle of wits and might with Iron Man and War Machine leading the charge!

Relive an old battle between Iron Man and the Melter in the classic reprinting of Iron Man #72!

Review

To be honest, other than a attempt to cash in on the release of the 'Iron Man 3', I'm not really sure why they bothered to release this one shot story by Christos Gage.

 The story itself just seemed really off and, if I'm honest, a bit of a let down considering how good the rest of Gage's work has been in the past.  Normally his work manages to be both quite character driven and exciting at the same time yet that was sorely missing here.  Other than the banter between Rhodey and Stark about who would shine whose armor depending on who ends up finding the 'Melter' was fun but the rest seemed quite forced.  A lot of the issue consisted of them telling each other all the ways that they had tried that hadn't found their nemesis.

The Melter character is the one that suffers the most from the poor writing.  An interesting character who makes a great entrance in this issue ends up just being a bit of a distraction for Iron Man and War Machine instead of feeling like a real threat to either one of them.  That's a real shame because so much more could have been done with the character.

Art wise, the issue is fine but it's got the same flaws as the story in that while it's good and functional, that's all it is.  The action doesn't pop off the page like it normally does and the battles don't even seem all that exciting.  The battles are normally a massive strong point of the Iron Man comics but here, it just seems off.

A nice touch is the addition of an early Iron Man story featuring the Melter.  It's a much better story with much more excitement in the story than the main one by Gage.  While it's not a perfect story by any means, it's still a much better story.  That said however, it's not really enough to rescue this issue from being disappointing and that's a shame because I had really high hopes for this one.

Story 2.5/5
Art 3/5
Overall 5.5/10

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close By Jonathan Safran Foer

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Jonathan Safran Foer

Published By Penguin

Genre
Drama

Synopsis

2 years after the death of his father in the 9/11  tragedy, a young boy finds a key in the bottom of a vase while looking through his fathers things.  This begins young Oskar's adventure when he embarks on a quest to find out as much about the key as possible and find out who it belongs to.

Review

Jonathan Safran Foer, the author of 'Everything is Illuminated', returns with his second book and boy is it a good one.

After the tragedy of 9/11, there were an absolute flood of fiction books that came out.  Some were really well written and some just came across as crass and having been written just to try to make money.  I really hated those books as it didn't seem right to do that but this isn't a review about morals, it's a review about a very well written book.

The character of Oskar is absolutely superb.  While it's not mentioned at all, he comes across as a child with autism and therefore his mind works in a very different way to the rest of the characters.  That's one of the main strengths of the book because Oskar is a very unique character.  His voice is the main one through out the book and it's a strong one.  You can't help but get behind the character and his quest to discover what the key is actually for.

Weirdly, the writing is so easy to get hooked in to and flows at such a good yet subtle pace that by the end of the book, the key becomes almost unimportant because you're so drawn in to the life of this little boy and of his family members.

There's also the story his his grandfather and grandmother running alongside the main story and that's just as strong as the main story.  In fact, that aspect of the story moved me to tears more than once and the writing of it was utterly unique.  It  really sounded like a completely different person writing that part of the story.  It emotionally hooks you in and doesn't let go until the very end.

After watching the movie version of 'Everything is Illuminated', I was very eager to read one of the book versions of Foer's work and I wasn't disappointed.  Apparently this book wasn't as popular as his first but I honestly can't understand why.  It's a positively fascinating look at how a family deals with the grief caused by one of the most infamous attacks in world history.

A beautiful, heartbreaking and yet positive book that I can't recommend highly enough.  Well worth picking up.

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

Friday, 24 May 2013

Broadchurch DVD Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Chris Chibnall
Directed By James Strong and Euros Lynn

Genre
Drama, Crime

Cast

David Tennant as DI Alec Hardy
Olivia Colman as DS Ellie Miller
Jodie Whittaker as Beth Latimer
Andrew Buchan as Mark Latimer
Adam Wilson as Tom Miller
Arthur Darvill as Rev. Paul Coates
Pauline Quirke as Susan Wright
Charlotte Beaumont as Chloe Latimer
Jonathan Bailey as Olly Stevens
Matthew Gravelle as Joe Miller
Carolyn Pickles as Maggie Radcliffe

Certificate 15

Synopsis

A hot morning in July and the Dorset town of Broadchurch is bracing itself for the tourist season when Danny Latimer, an 11 year old schoolboy, goes missing.

His mother, Beth, frantically starts to search for him while her best friend, Ellie Miller, a local police officer, arrives at work to discover that the promotion she thought was hers has gone to D.I. Alec Hardy an outsider with a reputation for failure.

When Danny's body is found beneath the picturesque cliffs that dominate the town opposites collide. Both Miller and Hardy are determined to solve the mystery of Danny's murder, Ellie perhaps too sensitive to the people in her community; Alec as effi cient as he is blunt. When news of the crime spreads through the town, a chain reaction begins which will put Broadchurch under a national spotlight, pulling the town, its residents and its secrets, apart.

Special Features
  •  Broadchurch: Behind the Scenes
  • Filmographies
  • Picture Gallery

Review

After a flurry of hype after it's successful showing on television, 'Broadchurch' bursts on to DVD but does the show still stand up to repeated viewing?

The answer to that is a most definite yes.

The story itself is powerfully written and while it's a police drama about a brutal and horrific crime, it's not just that.  It's a superbly written drama about the grief, the pain and the anger that surrounds both the crime and then the shocking reveal of the murderer.

The intelligence of the writing really makes it rise head and shoulders above the other British police dramas that are doing the rounds.  That's not the main strength of the series either, regardless of just how well written it is.

That's the performances of the cast.  Each of the characters, no matter how major or minor the part is, have been performed so well that each one is memorable.

There are so many good to great performances that it really is hard to pick any to highlight.  One of the best of the best is Pauline Quirks performance.  I'm used to seeing her in either comedies or in quite light hearted  fare but here she plays her part in a very strong but subtle way, even going so far as to be one of the most memorable performances of the cast.

David Tennant is positively superb as DI Alec Hardy, a policeman with a past record of failure but with something to prove.  Tennant's performance really forms the backbone of the series.  The failure of a past case really haunts him and makes him determined to solve this one yet Tennant plays the characters fear and anxiety in a massively addictive way.  In fact, I would even go so far as to say that I honestly couldn't take my eyes off of his performance any time he was on the screen.

One of the performances that surprised me the most was Olivia Colman.  I'd never been that much of a fan of hers before but after seeing this one, I'm going to rewatch her other performances with a fresh eye.  She is absolutely superb.

Special features wise, while I would have liked to have seen a little more included here, I was massively surprised with how good the behind the scenes parts were.  There were so many tidbits of information about the series and about the cast that it really added layers to the series itself.

If you are a fan of crime drama or  even just a fan of  intelligent television shows then I honestly couldn't rate this one high enough for you.  It's intelligent writing, strong performances and hard hitting scenes really makke this one of the best things I have seen on television in a very long time.

Show 4.5/5
Picture 4.5/5
Sound 4/5
Special Features 3.5/5
Overall 16.5/20

Big Miracle DVD Review

Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Jack Amiel and Michael Begler based on the book 'Freeing the Whales' by Thomas Rose
Directed By Ken Kwapis

Genre
Drama, Family

Cast

Drew Barrymore as Rachel Kramer
John Krasinski as Adam Carlson
Ted Danson as J.W. McGraw
Ahmaogak Sweeney as Nathan
Stephen Root as Governor Haskell
Tim Blake Nelson as Pat Lafaytette
Kristen Bell as Jill Jerard
John Pingayak as Malik

Certificate PG

Synopsis

Based on the inspiring true story that captured the hearts of people across the world, the rescue adventure Big Miracle tells the amazing tale of a small town news reporter (John Krasinski) and a Greenpeace volunteer (Drew Barrymore) who are joined by rival world superpowers to save a family of majestic gray whales trapped by rapidly forming ice in the Arctic Circle.

Local newsman Adam Carlson (Krasinski) can't wait to escape the northern tip of Alaska for a bigger market. But just when the story of his career breaks, the world comes chasing it, too. With an oil tycoon, heads of state and hungry journalists descending upon the frigid outpost, the one who worries Adam the most is Rachel Kramer (Barrymore). Not only is she an outspoken environmentalist, she's also his ex-girlfriend.

With time running out, Rachel and Adam must rally an unlikely coalition of Inuit natives, oil companies and Russian and American military to set aside their differences and free the whales. As the world's attention turns to the top of the globe, saving these endangered animals becomes a shared cause for nations entrenched against one another and leads to a momentary thaw in the Cold War.

Special Features
  • None

Review

'Big Miracle' came and went at the cinema with little to no fanfare and that's a real shame actually.  This quiet and unassuming movie is full of heart and really leaves the viewer with a smile on their face.

The story isn't the most original that I have ever seen but one of the things that makes this movie such a joy to watch is the simple knowledge that it is based on a true story.  I know that some of the parts would have obviously been dramatised but for the most part it stays really true to what really happened.

That's not the main strength here though, that honor would have to go to the cast.  They do an absolutely brilliant job of making the characters likeable and easy to relate to.  It is true that some of them aren't fully fleshed out as much as they should be but the performances really raise the quality up a lot higher than it would have been in a different casts hands.

John Krasinski isn't an actor that I am all that familiar with but here, he really impressed me.  His quiet and unassuming performance made the character of Adam really believeable and easy for the viewer to get behind without falling in to the trap of melodrama that sometimes plagues movies such as these.  His character really plays off against Drew Barrymore's character of the Greenpeace member, Rachel Kramer.  Where his character was quiet, hers is loud and full of life.  The two contrasted each other brilliantly well and I especially loved the chemistry between the two.  It really did feel like the two of them had a past and that they knew each other really well.

Ted Danson was superb as J.W. McGraw and really played up the smarmy nature of the character superbly at the beginning of the movie.  He really did come across as the 'evil villain' of the movie  yet without over acting or falling in to being a stereotype.

While the movie at times did feel a little unfocused at times, it really did have a unashamed feeling of hope and love to it without sounding too preachy.  The sheer affection that the characters have for the whales really rubs off on the viewer and you really find yourself rooting for the trio as the quest to free them gets underway.

Personally I loved this movie.  Is it corny?  Very much so in places but it is very well acted and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking.  I watched this with my four year old son and he, like I, was gripped through the entire movie.  There are some genuinely emotional moments in the movie too and while it does give the real life story a more conclusive ending, that didn't hurt the movie at all.

Very highly recommended.

Movie 3.5/5
Picture 4.5/5
Sound 4/5
Special Features N/A
Overall 12/15

Thursday, 23 May 2013

An Interview With Musician and Comedian Andrew 'Skatz' Scattergood

We here at Curiosity of a Social Misfit are happy to welcome Andrew 'Skatz' Scattergood in to our midst to talk to Patrick Challis about his various careers and his new one man show 'Father Used To Say'.

PC:  You've worn many hats in your entertaining career.  Singer, songwriter, comedian and many more.  What would you say has been your favourite thus far?

AS:  They’ve all been loads of fun and very challenging. Stand up comedy taught me so much about timing, thinking on my feet and how to judge different audiences. Being a singer and a musician both in the studio and onstage is a creative thrill where there’s nothing much better than arriving ‘in the zone’ and playing a blinder. Playing lots of different instruments and recording/mixing them has helped me to appreciate how sound is like a 3D picture with different tones, pitches and textures as the colours.

Everything good that I have done in my career has been to do with music, even the stand up comedy act was all about songs. I couldn’t imagine being without music. So I don’t see a divide between the different hats, they’re all musical. The universe is one vibrating instrument in which we’re all a series of notes, some ordered, some chaotic, all flowing in and out and around each other in a cosmic symphony of sound and light, matter and dark matter, quarks, strings, electrons and magnetic, kinetic and quantum energies. My favourite hat contains that. Cosmic man!

PC:  Who would you say has been your biggest inspiration during your varied career?

AS:  I could name quite a lot of individuals, singers, musicians and performers who have been influential or inspirational in my life, from Music teachers and English teachers to the director of the amateur theatre company who chose me to play a decent sized role in my first musical and encouraged me for the few years I knew him; there was also my mum who always encouraged me to sing; there was Elvis Presley whose music when I was quite young really rocked my world along with the other 50’s rock’n’rollers; there were the comedy acts I grew up with - Morecambe & Wise and The Two Ronnies; there were bands in my teen years like Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd who created huge symphonic tracks with complex timings and when playing live had amazing light shows; there were the bands who lived on pure energy and shouted their message like they really meant it (too many to name but they were punk and rock and grunge); there was, of course, Bob Dylan who showed us all how you could say anything in a song, Neil Young who showed us how to do things our own way and not listen to what record companies demanded, Nick Drake who opened me up to all kinds of new guitar tunings and picking styles, Bjork who opened me up to a whole new soundscape, Peter Gabriel who brought us music from all over the world, Paul Simon, Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills & Nash and many more who have all inspired me.

However, my biggest inspiration overall has been my wife Liz. She has helped me in so many ways to be a better person and that has made a big difference to my career. Before I met her I didn’t know why or who or what I was. I knew that music defined me but I think I was still hoping it would make me money or a certain amount of notoriety. Since meeting her and realising she was my soul mate, she has filled the gap in my life I was trying to fill with fame and success, thus leaving me free to express myself and create music for other reasons. I work with children now who have the most profound and challenging learning difficulties, I write songs about what moves me, I write plays containing songs which have no limits of style and structure and content based on other’s preconceptions. The last few years have been the richest musically, I’ve written and achieved so much more.

PC:  Your new show is a one man show.  Do you find that more daunting to perform?

AS:  Yes, I won’t have my former comedy partner beside me, I won’t have a band with me, and I won’t even have an instrument to hide behind for most of it. I’m laying myself bare and yes that’s very daunting. It certainly making my heart pound when I think about it. There’s nothing quite like being alone on stage for relaxing your bowels!

The show is called 'Father Used To Say' and is about a man with a magic notebook and a pocketful of songs.  How did that project come about and what can we expect from the show?

It all started a decade ago when I started writing songs about local characters and events with Steve Cartwright, another Leicester musician/folk singer. We toured as Scattergood & Cartwright, with a bunch of songs we called ‘Daniel Lambert’s Trousers’ which we intended to turn into a play. To cut a very long story short, eventually I wrote the play and applied for Arts Council funding to put it on, won the funding after several attempts and lots of hard graft of organising a tour, then injured myself during a charity sponsored walk which left me incapable of putting on the show so I cancelled the funding.

While I was convalescing from my injuries, I decided that negativity (people only seem to be in the history books when they do something really bad or strange) wasn’t what I wanted to be writing about any more, so I came up with the idea of collecting stories about those who have inspired the people who live in Leicester today. Immediately, I was inspired by the idea. It gave me the opportunity to gather real history from real people, and meet members of communities I wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to meet, like Gypsies, the Jewish community, different Asian groups and individuals, as well as the many and varied communities in the housing estates surrounding the city, refugees, people old and young, those with mental health issues, the blind and the deaf. Everyone I could get hold of who would agree to let me visit them and ask them questions about the people who meant the most to them.

I spent two whole months doing just that with the show’s director, Dawn Bowden, and heard many great stories. At the same time, Liz and I decided to grab an opportunity to change our lives dramatically and plan to move abroad after the show was over, which threw my mind into the notion of ‘moving on’ and fighting the demons that hold us back in life. So the show became a mixture of inspirational stories and a battle to get over lack of self-confidence and other issues. A real melting pot of a show into which I’ve thrown all of the things I’ve learned over the years and which will be my swansong to everyone I’ve known and worked with and met over my 30 years here. A very emotional one too.

So you can expect funny and heartwarming songs and characters in a show which also celebrates how the right words at the right time can be inspirational and send us laughing into the future. You can expect the songs to be catchy and challenging and the best I’ve ever written. You can expect some tears because it’s about leaving things behind. You can expect some laughs and some surprises. And you can expect a prize raffle, because that’s always been a feature of my shows.

There will also be a CD of all of the songs written over the course of the project, which will be selling at the shows for only £5.

The show will be on at lots of community venues for the people from whom I’ve gathered stories, and also I’m putting it on for the public at 2 other venues, Embrace Arts (on Lancasted Road, near the Fire Station and University) on 3rd July (1-3pm) and 4th/5th July (7.30-9.30pm), and Cafe Impressions at The Atkins Building in Hinckley on Fri 21st June (7.30-9.30pm). Tickets are available from www.skiddle.com or from Father Used To Say’s Facebook page, which I’d like everyone to ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ please so I can get the word out. Let’s go viral people!

PC:  Your songwriting is very varied ranging from wistful Nick Drake style songs to raucous comedy.  How would you describe your style to a newcomer to your work?

AS:  It’s music with no limits of style. I write whatever is right for the song, so in this show alone you will hear reggae, ska, folk, blues, rock, punk, calypso and something like a ballad from a musical! Different styles suit different emotions and vice versa. In all of my music there’s a bit of a mixture, it’s more about the story of the song than sticking to one style. That would limit my range of expression. What you do get from me is emotion, fun, gutsyness and above all, reality. It’s not made by a company hoping to grab a demographic in the marketplace. It’s not done to create fame and wealth. It would never be on The Voice, X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. But it does grab you by the unmentionables and swing you round its head. In a nice way.

PC:  You're also touring a farewell concert on the 31st of May.  What can your fans expect from that?

AS:  Lots of emotion. It’ll be the last time we’ll play with most of these musicians, the last concerts of Bryter Layter, Woodstock and The Liz Scattergood Band. And the last chance to see the comedy act Rob & Skatz too. I’ll be doing a set of my own which will feature songs from my 23 year back catalogue, including one from my old band The Looking Glass that I haven’t played for 20 years. For Liz and I, there’s a good chance one or both of us will be struggling to keep it together! It’ll be heart wrenching to say goodbye to those really close friends. It’ll be like This Is Your Life, only with much better music!

Lots of memories then, there will be plenty of musicians there because I’ve worked with quite a few in my time. The music will vary from our own varied styles to Nick Drake, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Joni Mitchell and the very wrong songs of Rob & Skatz. It will be unmissable.

PC:  Do you have a favourite song to perform?

AS:  ‘Whichever one I’m singing at the time’ is the easiest answer to that one. I do like singing the songs that have a good story to them, like Elephant Man and Swift Nick (both from Daniel Lambert’s Trousers) and Koshti Bok (from Father Used To Say). Also, My Head Is Bowed, that’s in the show too. Very emotional, lots of big dramatic pauses and long high notes. Then there’s Gwendoline Rumbles and Farewell To Jesus (from my first solo album) and Albion (from my latest solo album). I think that’s more or less my solo set list for the farewell gig. Actually, that’s a good guide to what I like singing best, look at my most recent setlists.

PC:  What's next for Skatz?

AS:  The big move abroad. Liz, son Oscar and I are moving to the south west coast of Ireland in the summer. We had our honeymoon there and went back last year, both times having the idea to live there. It’s a very beautiful place with such a welcoming people and a slower pace of life. It will be a challenge and a struggle to make a living. We’re planning to start a charity, and as part of that we will be helping people who need it the most, Liz with her Aromatherapy and me with my music. I will be performing the show over there too, and starting an acoustic music club to encourage songwriters to perform through good PA systems in front of listening audiences.

Of course I will be playing as much as possible. There’s a wealth of music and culture there. In fact, I think it’s true to say that Irish culture is quite unique in the way it’s spread around the world and retained it’s uniqueness. I intend to merge what I do with the local music and create a new hybrid.

I’ve heard from other people who’ve made a momentous move like this, and they all say that you never end up doing exactly what you planned, so my plan is not to plan too much, to stay open to the possibilities, and work with the community as much as possible to become a part of it while still hanging on to my English eccentricities.