Saturday, 30 November 2013

Steed and Mrs Peel: Volume 1 - A Very Civil Armageddon Graphic Novel Review


Review By Patrick Challis

Written By
Mark Waid ('Prologue' and Chapters 1-3)
Caleb Monroe (Script)

Art By
Steve Bryant ('Prologue')
Ron Riley ('Prologue' and Chapters 1-3)
Will Sliney (Chapters 1-3)

Lettering By
Steve Wands ('Prologue')
Ed Dukeshire (Chapters 1-3)

Cover By
Joseph Michael Linsner

Published By
Boom! Studios
Titan Comics

Genre
Thriller, Action

Synopsis

Saving the world in style!

The classic British TV series 'The Avengers', one of the longest-running and most popular shows in history, returns to comics with all-new adventures!

England's greatest spy duo faces their most dangerous opponents yet!

The Hellfire Club has reformed - no longer looking to the past but instead determined to bend the British Isles to their warped version of the 'future'.

Their first target is the heart of London - are John Steed and Emma Peel read for their unorthodox foes?

Eisner-award winning writer Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Daredevil, Irredeemable) leads the legendary team in to all-new adventures, with Caleb Monroe (Batman), and artists Steve Bryant (Athena Voltaire) and Will Sliney (Fearless Defenders).

Don't miss the return of the espionage icons!

Review

The famous spy duo from the 1960's have finally returned to embark on more adventures to say jolly ol' England from threats everywhere but will this new series from Boom! Studios successfully recreate their swinging 60's hey day or does it crash and burn?

Well, I have to admit that while not being the biggest fan of the television show, I absolutely loved this graphic novel collection.  The way they recreated the feel and atmosphere of the show itself is fantastic and that is down to the writers here.

Story wise, the adventures here wouldn't feel out of place in the television show itself.  The flow and pacing really make the story one that lends itself superbly to the term 'page turner' in that you can't help but want to read it in one sitting.  The action here really feels true to the source material and yet doesn't feel kitsch or cliched.

With the art, the panels look as if they have been lifted from the legendary show and they have really stayed true to the characters that we all know and love.  It's the same with the action sequences as well.  They really pop and fly off the page.  However, it's the facial expressions that impressed me the most because they really seem to show the looks and the mannerisms that we have come to know from the real life characters.

If you are a fan of the famous spy and thriller show then this is definitely a graphic novel for you to pick up.  They stay true to the show and the characters themselves while putting their own spin on them and I find that highly impressive.  Definitely one that's worth a look.

Story 8/10
Art 8/10
Cover 7/10
Recommended 7/10
Overall 30/40

The Magic Reindeer DVD Review


Review By Patrick Challis

AKA
'Niko 2: Little Brother, Big Trouble'
and
'Little Brother, Big Trouble: A Christmas Adventure'

Written By
Marteinn Thorissen
Hannu Tuomainen

Directed By
Kari Juusonen
Jorgen Lerdam

An A. Film, Anima Vitae, Animaker, Cinemaker Oy, Magma Films Ltd., Ulysses Film

Genre
Animated, Family, Adventure, Christmas

Cast

Matthew Boyle as Niko
Darragh Kelly as Julius
Ned Dennehy as Old Tobias
Callum Maloney as Jonni
Michael Sheehan as Lenni
Niamh Shaw as White Wolf
Susan Slott as Oona

Certificate U

Synopsis

Kari Juusonen and Jørgen Lerdam direct this children's animation following the adventures of a young reindeer in the run up to Christmas. Niko (voice of Matthew Boyle) has recently been adopted. 

As he still misses his absent father, the youthful reindeer struggles to accept his new family, but when his stepbrother is kidnapped Niko enlists his friend Julius (Darragh Kelly) to help him find the boy. 

Will the journey help him to bond with the rest of his step-family? 

Special Features
  • None

Review

When I saw the cover for this release from Metrodome, I have to admit I wasn't really expecting a great movie.  Instead, I just thought it would be a stereotypical animated Christmas movie that we have seen hundreds of times before but that wasn't the case.

Instead we ended up with a very well animated and well written animated movie that not only retains some of the Christmas magic of the first movie 'The Flight Before Christmas' but deals with some pretty big issues but in a way that is easy and gentle enough for the little ones to understand as well.

The animation itself is really well done.  It's animated really well in the computer generated style and looks absolutely stunning in places.  The characters themselves are animated in a really fun way.  Their facial expressions create some really touching and funny moments during the movie as well.  My little lad absolutely adored how they looked and was transfixed through the entire run time.

Story wise,  the movie isn't the most original animated Christmas adventure that I have ever seen but it's by far and away one of the better ones.  I loved how not only did the movie create a great Christmas feel to it but also also dealt with the heavy issue of someone joining a step-family.  The writers did a very good job of showing how difficult it is to fit in to a new family but did it in such a gentle way that it didn't beat you over the head with the message.

The only criticism I have about the movie was the fact that a couple of the plot points revolved about a couple of things that happened in the first movie so if you haven't seen 'The Flight Before Christmas' there may be a little bit of a delay between seeing one of the newer characters and working out how they fit in to the great scheme of things.  It's not a big thing but it does bug me a little when movies do that.

All in all, this movie was much better than I expected.  The animation isn't 'Toy Story' level of brilliance but it is a hell of a lot better than some of the other ones I've watched with my lad lately.  Also the story actually credits the viewer with intelligence by having a nice storyline about joining a step-family as well and I felt that was really well handled.  It's not going to be a legendary Christmas movie but this is definitely one that is well worth picking up.

Movie 7/10
Picture 8/10
Sound 8/10
Special Features N/A
Overall 23/30


"I like when the naughty boys have the good boys in a trap.  Good boys need to get out trap.  I likes that."

The Liger Plague Review


Review By Patrick Challis

Written By
Joseph Souza

Published By
Cactus Tree Publishers

Genre
Horror, Action

Synopsis

Colonel Tag Winters receives a mysterious call while on vacation—a deranged terrorist playing a game of cat-and-mouse has released a novel virus on Cooke’s Island, Maine on the busiest day of the summer. Now his family has gone missing and all evidence points to him as the perpetrator of this biological event. Winters soon realizes that he must prevent the unsuspecting population from leaving Cooke’s Island or else risk this insidious plague from spreading to the mainland.

His fierce will to survive, as well as clear his good name, fuels his determination to discover the true perpetrator of this terrorist attack. As Cooke’s Island descends into unspeakable violence and mayhem, Winters must find his family and whisk them off it before they too fall victim. In the tradition of horror writers Stephen King and Dean Koontz, The Liger Plague is a blistering apocalyptic thriller that's impossible to put down.

Review

For a book to be written by the 2013 winner of the Maine Literary Award for Speculative Fiction to come out, it creates a sense of hype around it and gives the reader a massive set of expectations when reading it.  Does this new book by Joseph Souza match that hype and those expectations?

I can answer that with a resounding yes.

In fact, I can do better than that.  This book manages to blow Souza's first two novels out of the water but lets not get ahead of ourselves here.

In 'The Liger Plague' Souza not only manages to create an action packed page turner of a story but at the same time, he manages to create sympathy amongst all the deaths and flesh eating. If the infected victims in '28 Days Later' can be classed as zombies then the victims of the 'Liger Plague' here are most definitely included too.  They are absolutely brutal in their attacks and some of the scenes will stay with you long after you have finished the book.  But that's not the only thing here, Souza manages to make the plague victims sympathetic by allowing them to keep their ability to communicate, it makes their brutal actions all the more tragic.

One of the things that I really liked about the book is that the zombies, if you want to class them as such, are intelligent and not just the shuffling, slow style flesh eaters that we are used to.  They can hunt in packs and yet due to the mysterious way that Souza has written about the virus, I highly doubt that we have seen it all in this book.  In fact, I would bet money on there being more revelations about it's transformation in the next books.

This blood soaked tale by Joseph Souza really gives feelings of Stephen King and Dean Koontz while retaining his own, unique voice.  Not only is this Souza's best book, it is also one of the best horror novels that  I have read this year.  The brutal nature of some of the killings may sound like they would put you off but if you let it do that then you would be missing out on a really good book.

My one complaint would be the character named Versa.  A massively unlikeable character to such an extent that I would have probably thrown her to the infected.  That's just me though.  I did like the fact that not all the characters are perfect.  Some make mistakes, some go too far.  That makes the story have a more realistic feel and in turn, makes it more affecting to the reader.

Definitely one worth picking up, especially if you are a King or a Koontz fan.  This is a massively impressive book but then again, what else can you expect from the winner of the 2013 Maine Literary Award for Speculative Fiction winner?

Story 8/10
Characters 8/10
Cover 8/10
Recommended 9/10
Overall 33/40

Oz: The Great and Powerful Blu-Ray Review


Review By Patrick Challis

Written By
Mitchell Kapner
David Lindsay-Abaire

Based On
The 'Oz' Novels By L. Frank Baum

Directed By
Sam Raimi

 Genre
Adventure, Fantasy

Cast

James Franco as Oz
Mila Kunis as Theodora
Rachel Weisz as Evanora
Michelle Williams as Annie / Glinda
Zach Braff as Frank / Finley
Bill Cobbs as Master Tinker
Joey King as Girl in Wheelchair / China Girl
Tony Cox as Knuck

Certificate PG

Synopsis

Disney's fantastical adventure Oz The Great and Powerful, directed by Sam Raimi, imagines the origins of L. Frank Baum's beloved wizard character.

When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he's hit the jackpot-fame and fortune are his for the taking-that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone's been expecting.

Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity-and even a bit of wizardry-Oscar transforms himself not only into the great wizard but into a better man as well.

Special Features
  • Walt Disney and the Road to Oz
  • 'My Journey in Oz' by James Franco
  • China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief
  • Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz
  • Mila's Metamorphosis
  • Mr. Elfman's Musical Concoctions
  • Bloopers

Review

As a massive fan of the original 'Wizard of Oz' movie starring the legendary Judy Garland, I was excited to see just what Sam Raimi's vision of the tale would be.  I was well aware that it would never live up to the quality of the original but this prequel had a good cast and a director that is known for bringing out some action packed and exciting movies.

So, my question is, what went wrong?

For some reason, the movie just doesn't gel.  It looks absolutely gorgeous, there is no argument on that front and the special effects are some of the best I have seen in a Raimi film.  However, it just seemed to be mostly window dressing.

The movie itself is a well paced fantasy movie with some truly magical moments but the dialogue really lets the excitement level of what should essentially be a good starting point for the 'Oz' mythos.  Some of the dialogue comes across as so banal that even the actors look bored and soul less delivering them.

Talking of the actors and actresses, there are some really strange choices here.  Rachel Weisz is absolutely spot on in her role as Evanora.  She just exudes menacing and delivers her lines with such a level of evil in her glee that she was positively mesmerizing.  However, alongside her, Mila Kunis really falls short as Theodora.  When she turns in to the trademark 'Wicked Witch', she doesn't come across as evil at all.  Instead she comes across as a petulant teenager who didn't get her own way and is having a tantrum because of it.  It's the same with James Franco.  Instead of coming across as someone trying to find redemption and make himself a better man, he is instead incredibly unlikeable.  Even when he does the right thing, he still feels a bit like an a-hole in places.

The special features here are most definitely the best part of the release.  There are some great behind the scenes bits and bobs here and while I wouldn't say that they're worth getting the Blu-ray for, they are still very interesting in seeing how they brought this movie to the big screen.

All in all, I didn't find this movie to be half as awful as some other critics made it out to be but at the same time, I did come away from it feeling quite disappointed.  I knew it wouldn't reach the massively high standard set by the Judy Garland original but at the same time, I honestly believed that Sam Raimi would be the man to bring us an exciting and well made movie that would entertain fans of the stories yet it just felt flat.  It looks amazing, I won't lie about that and the special effects are superbly used.  There are even some set pieces that really had the 'wow' factor but overall, it should have been much better than it is.  Shame really.

Movie 6/10
Picture 9/10
Sound 8/10
Special Features 8/10
Overall 31/40

Thursday, 28 November 2013

You Can Rely on Platypi: Book One Review


Review By Patrick Challis

Written By
Brian W. Parker

Art and Cover By
Brian  W. Parker

Published By
Big Idea Comics

Genre
Action, Comedy

Synopsis

Leaving Platsylvania, Iggy finds his way to Anchor Town to start into his life of independence. After meeting a new friend and getting a job, things are looking a little boring for our hero, when suddenly he is thrust into an high speed chase through the city, carrying a very peculiar package to an unexpected destination.

Iggy P. Platinus is your typical young guy, determined to make his way in the world on his own terms. Little does he know that soon he’ll be caught up in a mystery that will take him across the globe in search of ancient artifacts, pursue by masked men, mummies, and creatures of legend.

Review

With a title like 'You Can Rely on Platypi', you would expect something that would be completely off the wall, funny as hell and maybe even a bit silly.  Yet here that's not that case at all.

In book one of this series,  Brian W. Parker creates a story that manages many things at the same time.  You have, in parts, an adventure that brings forth thoughts of an 'Indiana Jones' style action.  You also have some really funny and sometimes satirical comedy.  You also have some fantastic character work as well that really makes you feel like you are getting to know the characters themselves.

Parker's writing really has an easy flow to it and that gives the book a great pace as well as the twists and turns that make the story itself so fun to read.

Artwise, the black and white art that is also by Parker, gives a stylized look to proceedings and works superbly well with the writing.  That appears to be one of Parker's strengths as both a writer and an artist.  He would obviously understand the characters better than anyone and it shows here in spades.  It's true that the art won't set the world on fire or anything of that sort but it doesn't need to.  Sometimes the art will just fit the story so well that you couldn't imagine any one else doing the art and nor would you want to.

If you are looking for something a little different with a great sense of adventure then this is definitely a title that is well worth picking up.

Story 7/10
Art 8/10
Cover 7/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 30/40

Buck Alice and the Actor-Robot Review



Review By Patrick Challlis

Written By
Walter Koenig 

Published By
Permuted Press

Genre
Science Fiction, Comedy

Synopsis

From the mind of Walter Koenig (Star Trek: The Original Series, Babylon 5) comes Buck Alice and the Actor-Robot - a science-fiction comedy unlike anything you've ever heard before! When an alien invasion annihilates most of humanity, it's up to a small pocket of survivors to restart civilization. There's just one problem: they're all losers.


From an Irish pub to the Florida Everglades, from the outermost reaches of space to the innermost regions of the mind, join a rag-tag group of humans and aliens as they face the end of one way of life and the beginning of another.

Packed with absurdity, pathos, wry observations about human nature, and a story that will keep you on your toes until the final word, Buck Alice is an emotional journey you'll want to take again and again. 

Review

Both before and after I read 'Buck Alice', I have to admit that I didn't know what to expect and still don't really know even after I've read it.

I decided to give it a go for a couple of reasons actually.  One, I'm a bit Walter Koenig fan from his 'Star Trek' and 'Babylon 5' days and was really interested in just what kind of writing style he would have when writing fiction.

His autobiography flows nicely and shows some great insights into his career so I was really eager to get my hands on this as well.  Well, what we have here is one of the weirdest books that I have read in a long time.  In fact, I would say that it almost feels as though you are tripping out on something while reading this.

The story itself is well written for the most part.  Koenig has done a good job of putting a brand new spin on to the whole idea of people surviving at the end of the world.  One of the most interesting things about the book is that Koenig's characters aren't gung ho style action heroes.  Instead it's the oddballs, the social outcasts that survive and this is their story.  For the most part, this works and gives us some absolutely hilarious moments.  They feel utterly unique and so human in their imperfections that it raises the quality of the story.

Talking of humor, some of it here is completely off the wall and because of that, it just doesn't work 100% of the time.

On the downside, the story is quite guilty of jumping all over the place so there were a couple of moments where I was a little bit lost as to what was actually going on and that took me out of the story a little bit.  It's not in a majorly bad way but it's enough to get a little bit confusing in places.

All in all, this isn't an awful book by any stretch of the imagination.  The story  itself really brought forward memories of reading books by people such as the legendary Douglas Adams but with a slight touch of Terry Pratchett.  It's just a shame that the couple of bad moments take you out of the story enough to be distracting and that costs it a couple of points.

That said, it's still well worth picking up but is one that is a bit like a book version of Marmite.  You either love it or you will hate it.

Story 6/10
Characters 8/10
Cover 7/10
Recommended 6/10
Overall 27/40

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Frack Yeah! - Tony Lee Talks to Patrick Challis


Tony Lee, author of ‘Battlestar Galactica: Starbuck’ and many more, has kindly popped in to the little slice of the Internet populated by Curiosity of a Social Misfit to talk to Patrick Challis about the new ‘Battlestar Galactica’ mini series exploring Starbucks life and much more.

PC:  Firstly, thank you Mr Lee for taking the time to talk to us here today.

TL:  Not a problem guys.

PC:  How would you best describe your writing style to the readers of the site who may not be familiar with your work?

TL:  Eclectic and varied with a hint of desperation and fear? Seriously though I don’t know if I have a ‘style’, I write what I would read, and hopefully my tastes are the same as many other out there. I’ve written spandex heroes, Victorian teenage sleuths, Time Lords, pulp heroes and American icons in my time, so I’ve never really stayed on one particular path. But I’d say my style is whatever the genre requires of it that day...

PC:  You’ve recently written the mini series ‘Battlestar Galactica: Starbuck’ for Dynamite Entertainment, a mini series that goes on to show Starbucks past and how he became the character so beloved to science fiction fans.   How did the collaboration come about?

TL:  I’ve known Nick Barrucci and Joe Rybandt of Dynamite for several years now and have worked with them on a couple of projects. When we were looking at other things to work on Nick mentioned that he was looking for something to enhance the Battlestar Galactica revival that Abnett and Lanning are doing and, as I’ve always been a massive fan of Dirk Benedict’s Starbuck, I suggested doing a ‘Year One’ style story, something that, in its process would show us some of the major characters from the show in their younger years, leading up to some kind of adventure that would tie into the first ever episode. What, for example, if Baltar was on the Council of Twelve because of something Adama did? Who was the person that got Starbuck onto a path of gambling and smoking when his best friend Apollo was so clean cut? All these questions were just begging to be answered in my mind, and Nick was happy to see my take on this.

PC:  Did you have to do a lot of research to get the characters right or are you allowed a lot of freedom to put your own spin on them?

TL:  Nick and Joe have given me a lot of freedom, but I personally believe that a lot of that was because they know I’m such a fan of the original series that I’d self edit to a higher degree than usual. Also, with this being set before the show, there’s a lot of continuity issues that go out of the window as we don’t have to set it within a particular period, or between certain episodes. That said, I love research, it’s a vital part of the process, and character research, if only to get the voice right is paramount.

PC:  Our site called the first issue of ‘Battlestar Galactica: Starbuck’ as a good slice of vintage style science fiction.  How would you describe it?

TL:  A labour of love, a ‘Year One’ for Battlestar Galactica, a literal ‘L’il Starbuck’ story!

PC:  You’re known for writing stories for well known franchises such as Doctor Who, Star Trek, Starship Troopers and now, Battlestar Galactica.  Do you find the fans expectations for your stories daunting at all?

TL:  Always. But that’s a good thing. The fear of letting them down means that I’ll do my best to keep my game raised. You can’t phone in a script for something like this, you’ll let down too many people. You have to ensure that only your best is used on the book, but then to be honest that’s a mantra you should use on everything you do anyway!

PC:  With the 50th anniversary coming up, what has been your favorite moment working on the Doctor Who comics?

TL:  Ah, there are too many to count! On a personal level, it’s the fact that I was a fan of Doctor Who and now I’m part of that world. Thanks to the conventions I’ve been invited to because of it, I’ve met people who, as a child I idolized. As for the stories, I’ve had an immense amount of freedom. I’ve had the Doctor and Santa save Christmas, the Doctor’s fought Jack The Ripper, he’s played football with Vikings... But I think the two favourite moments are firstly being able to create a twenty foot high Cybernetic Dinosaur companion called Kevin, and more importantly being able to do stories like THE FORGOTTEN and the current DEAD MANS HAND where I have all the Doctors together.

IDW have been very good to me, and people like Denton Tipton (the editor) and Chris Ryall (IDW head honcho) have been nothing but supportive.

PC:  You’re an amazingly prolific writer in the comic book and graphic novel world.  What would you say has been your best work?

TL:  There’s a few stories in Doctor Who that I’ve enjoyed, my Robin Hood and King Arthur GNs are stories that I’ve held for years, and I’d say both the Baker Street Irregulars series and the Harker GN are my two favourite works. Both are based on books that shaped me as a child – Harker’s also the only graphic novel sequel to Dracula ever to gain endorsement from a member of the Stoker family, which makes me very happy.

PC:  Who or what would you say has been the biggest influence to your career as a writer?

TL:  Again, too many to give out. When I started I had a lot of help from Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, Pat Mills, but before that I was a journalist and had editors that gave me advice. I think it was probably two people, a children’s book writer that came to my school when I was about 10 who made me want to write, and Terrance Dicks, who was the first author I actively hunted, thanks to his Doctor Who Target novelisations.


PC:  If you could give any advice to up and coming writers advice, what would you say to them?

TL:  It’s not an overnight situation, and if you haven’t got a spare five years to learn the craft and get nowhere while you’re waiting for your break, then may I suggest a different career. Too many people seem to think that they can decide to be a writer in January, have the DC gig by March and the movie out by December. It’s not like that. It’s nothing like that, really. It’s long, and hard, and you’re always writing but at the same time it’s the best thing in the world.

PC:  Where can your fans see your work next?

TL:  I have two GNs coming out in 2014 from Walker Books / Candlewick – the first is the third in my ‘Heroes and Heroines’ series, Messenger: The Legend Of Joan Of Arc, and the other is the second in my Anthony Horowitz ‘Ravens Gate’ adaptations, Evil Star. Apart from that, you’ll have to just wait and see!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Journey to the Christmas Star DVD Review


Review By Patrick Challis

Written By
Kamilla Krogsveen

Directed By
Nils Gaup

Genre
Fantasy, Adventure, Christmas

Cast

Vilde Zeiner as Sonja
Anders Baasmo Christiansen as Kongen
Agnes Kittelsen as Heksa
Stig Werner Moe as Greven
Eilif Hellum Noraker as Mose
Kristin Zachariassen as Mose's Mor
Andreas Cappelen as Mose's Far

Certificate PG

Synopsis

A courageous girl sets out on an epic journey to find the Christmas Star, free the kingdom from a curse and bring back a long lost princess.

With an evil witch attempting to stop her completing her journey, the little girl must overcome great adversity.

A Christmas adventure for the whole family set in a magnificent winter wonderland.

Special Features
  • None

Review

When I looked up the trailer for this movie, I have to admit that I was a little guilty of dismissing it as a bit of a 'The Golden Compass' copycat albeit with a Christmas slant on it but when I actually sat down to watch it, that was most definitely not the case.

What we have here is a fantasy movie but with a Nordic style to it and that really gives it a more magical feeling to proceedings.  That helped to not only hook my little lad in for the entire movie but also made sure that I wasn't bored out of my skull while watching it with him too.

The performances are pretty good all through the cast but that's a little bit undone by the incredibly hit and miss dubbing of the voices.   Some of them are done very well and you wouldn't know the difference but then there are other moments that are 1970's Kung Fu movie level of bad.  It's almost as if they worked really hard on the good ones that they had forgotten the others and just winged it in the hopes that nobody would notice.  On the plus side, it did give me a few unintentional laughs though.

Special effects wise, they are very well used.  They won't give you the wow factor but the director really knew when to use them and when to hold back and that seems like a rare skill these days.  J.J. Abrams and Michael Bay I am looking in your direction there guys.

There is one thing that really did impress me and that was how the movie looked.  The scenes were really shot and lit beautifully, which really lent itself well to having the overall magic Christmas feel that everybody wants  in a movie like this.  I also really liked the music on the soundtrack too, it had a lovely calming feel to it but also worked well on the more exciting scenes too.

All in all, this movie was much better than I expected it to be but that said, the over all rating is let down a fair bit because of the bad dubbing in some places.  It did take me out of the movie a few times and is a real shame.  It's still worth picking up though to share a little bit of Christmas magic for the children in your family.

Movie 6/10
Picture 8/10
Sounded 9/10
Special Features N/A
Recommended 7/10
Overall 30/40


"I likes this film.  It have magic and Santa in it.  I like Santa.  He my friend and  I loves him."

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Bronze Gods (Apparatus Infernum Book 1) Review



Review By Patrick Challis

Written By
A.A. Aguirre

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Steam Punk, Thriller, Fantasy

Synopsis

Book one of an exciting new cross-genre series.

Across the water lay the land of Hy Breasil, inhabited by the immortal Ferishers. Though they were few, they were divided, and when the mortal conquerors came they did not stand together. They had magic but the invaders were many, and after a bitter war, peace was only made through marriage. And thus the ten great houses grew, and the city of Dorstaad rose, and the Ferisher bloodlines grew thin. But there were some who still wielded the ancient magic…

Janus Mikani and Celeste Ritsuko work all hours in the Criminal Investigation Division, keeping the citizens of Dorstaad safe. He’s a charming rogue with an uncanny sixth sense; she’s all logic—and the first female inspector. Between his instincts and her brains, they collar more criminals than any other partnership in the CID.

Then they’re assigned a potentially volatile case where one misstep could end their careers. At first, the search for the daughter of one of the great houses seems straightforward, but when the girl is found murdered—her body charred to cinders by an intricate and deadly device—Mikani and Ritsuko will be challenged as never before. A ruthless killer is stalking the gaslit streets, weaving blood and magic in a lethal ritual that could mean the end of everything they hold dear…

Review

I could easily sit here and write line after line about how much you will love this novel but to be honest, I don't really need to.  The novel itself is so strong that it be more than able to speak for itself so I'll keep it quick and simple.

The writing style is so free flowing that it almost feels lyrical in places.  It flows from scene to scene with such skill  that you can't help but get drawn in to the world that the author has created and end up just losing yourself in the story.  It's a cliched term to use but this really is a page turner of the highest order.  When I was reading it in order to review it for the site, it was a case of 'just one more page' and before I knew it, the book was over.  That hasn't happened to be for a very long time.

The world that the characters inhabit is so well thought out and fleshed out that it's almost as if the world itself is completely real.  Fantasy mixes with urban settings with such success that it feels like it's happening in front of your very eyes.  The scenes were playing out in my head as if the story was a movie and it's that cinematic feel that raises this high above the plethora of steam punk books that seem to be being released every day.

One of my favorite mystery / crime writers that combines twists and turns in a steam punk style setting is George Mann and here, that style of twists and turns are pushed to the forefront with aplomb.  Aguirre, a husband and wife team writing together under one name, really fill the story with a hell of a lot of twists and turns to such a degree that I couldn't wait to see what was going to be revealed next.

The thing that I liked the most is that the ending more than lived up to the brilliant work of the rest of the story.  It managed to do two fantastic things that a lot of steam punk books seem to fall down on.  It gave closure to the story in this novel yet at the same time dangled the hope in front of the reader that there was going to be another book in the series.

Personally, I really am hoping that there will be another book in this series as I thought it was absolutely superb.  While it doesn't take George Mann's crown of being the master of steam punk style mysteries, it comes very close and that's not an easy thing to do.

Story 9/10
Characters 8/10
Cover 8/10
Recommended 9/10
Overall 34/40

Friday, 22 November 2013

Sherlock Holmes: The Will of the Dead Review


Review By Patrick Challis

Written By
George Mann

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Thriller, Crime

Synopsis

A young man named Peter Maugram appears at the front door of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson’s Baker Street lodgings. Maugram’s uncle is dead and his will has disappeared, leaving the man afraid that he will be left penniless. Holmes agrees to take the case and he and Watson dig deep into the murky past of this complex family.

A brand-new Sherlock Holmes novel from the acclaimed author of the Newbury & Hobbes series.

Review

With the amount of George Mann books that have appeared on this site since we opened in November, I'm torn between thinking the man is a massively prolific writer or my site has grown sentient and fallen in love with his books.  It's going to be one of the two.  If it's the second one then site fans, if you see the words Skynet anywhere then I suggest you run like hell.

After the hit and miss nature of the James Lovegrove addition to Titan Books 'Sherlock Holmes' canon, I was hoping that George Mann could bring his unique style of writing to the forefront and regain some of the lost momentum.

Does he do that?  He most definitely does.

George Mann is an author that is well known for creating fully fleshed characters and stories that are jam packed full of twists and turns.  He keeps that reputation up here brilliantly.  Even with a pair of characters as established as Dr Watson and the eccentric Sherlock Holmes, Mann manages to put his own spin on proceedings as well as bringing in a well known face from his 'Newbury and Hobbes' stories.

The fact that he set this tale in the same universe as his other series was a brave move and one that could have backfired but here, he has written it so well that you could nearly think that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself had combined the two.

On paper, a story about a missing will may not seem like the most exciting story in the world yet with a writer like George Mann, the story itself would never be that cut and dry.  Instead there are twists and turns, cases running alongside the main one and loads of surprises along the way.

If you are a fan of 'Sherlock Holmes' or of 'Newbury and Hobbes' then  you really should grab this book, kick back, relax and let yourself be taken for a more than elementary ride.

Story 8/10
Characters 8/10
Cover 7/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 31/40

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Beautiful Land Review


Review By Patrick Challis

Written By
Alan Averill

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Science Fiction, Drama, Romance

Synopsis

Takahiro O’Leary has a very special job working for the Axon Corporation as an explorer of parallel timelines—as many and as varied as anyone could imagine. A great gig—until information he brought back gave Axon the means to maximize profits by changing the past, present, and future of this world.

If Axon succeeds, Tak will lose Samira Moheb, the woman he has loved since high school—because her future will cease to exist. A veteran of the Iraq War suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Samira can barely function in her everyday life, much less deal with Tak’s ravings of multiple realities. The only way to save her is for Tak to use the time travel device he “borrowed” to transport them both to an alternate timeline.

But what neither Tak nor Axon knows is that the actual inventor of the device is searching for a timeline called the Beautiful Land—and he intends to destroy every other possible present and future to find it.

The switch is thrown, and reality begins to warp—horribly. And Tak realizes that to save Sam, he must save the entire world.

Review


I'd been looking forward to reading Alan Averill's debut novel for a long time and even though it has sat on my shelf for a month or so, real life sadly got in the way and I've only just gotten around to reading it.  Now that begs the question, was it worth the wait?

Well yes and no.

With one of the weirdest yet most effective opening lines that I have read in a long time, this book is incredibly well written by Averill.  The flow of his prose really drags you in to the story and the lives of the characters themselves.  The easy flowing nature of the writing also will mean you will lose quite a lot of time to this book because of the fact that you'll be halfway through the book in no time.  With short chapters and great pacing, Averill has created a book that you won't want to put down.

However, there was one problem with the book and that's the fact that there were a few plot points and twists that were way too convenient and that took me out of the story a couple of times.  That said, it didn't ruin the story for me in the slightest but it did prove to be a little distracting when it happened.

The characters were, for the most part, well rounded and interesting yet there were a few characters here and there that just seemed to be there to make up the numbers.  That wasn't the case with the two main characters however,  in fact quite the opposite.  They were fully fleshed out and really had me willing them on to make everything right between them and it's been a long time since a character in a book has had me doing that.

For a debut novel, this is a very good attempt at entering the novel world.  Averill really has a way with words and that shows with this time traveling story.  That said it's more traveling to parallel universes than time traveling  but I'm picking hairs there.  This fast paced and well written 'time traveling romance' really hooked me in and had me wanting to find out what was going to happen next.

Definitely a novel that is well worth picking up for the science fiction fans out there and also for the fans of a good but darkly humorous romance.


Story 8/10
Characters 7/10
Cover 7/10
Recommended 7/10
Overall 29/40

As The Crow Flies: Antoine Dode Talks To Patrick Challis

 
The artist Antoine Dode has kindly popped in to Curiosity of a Social Misfit’s slice of the Internet to talk to Patrick Challis about his career and his work on the new ‘The Crow: Curare’ comic book written by the legendary James O’Barr.

PC:  Firstly, thank you for popping in to talk to us here at Curiosity of a Social Misfit.For some of our readers that may not be familiar with your work, how would you describe your rather unique art style?

AD:  I would say this is a mix between different influences. I love Hayao Myazaki , Taiyo Matsumoto, Hugo Pratt, Nirvana, Joy division...

PC:  You recently worked on the art for the new series by the renowned writer James O’Barr.  How did the collaboration come about?

AD:  Well, I've always been a huge fan of James O'Barr's work, 'The Crow' movie came out in France before the comic book was released though . But since then I was obsessed with that character. And there is something strange here because my first book was influenced  by 'The Crow', the story was about a sad little girl who befriended a huge black crow and James didn't know about my first book when he asked me to work on 'The Crow: Curare' story. 

At first I was kind of worried that I might have to redraw the same kind of characters I was drew 10 years ago for my graphic novel, but the James's script was so great and different from what I was used to and at yet at the same time it was kind of familiar . It became an amazing experience. And on top of that  James is a very very nice guy.

PC:  Were you at all intimidated to work with someone with such a big reputation?

AD:  Of course! I could not believe it.  I saw James O'Barr once in real life it was at the tcaff ( a comic convention in Toronto) few years ago . I saw him but I didn't dare go and talk to him, he was not even busy . But I was too shy! 

And can you believe I haven't see him in real life since then? We are just chatting online, using the keyboards to talk, we are planning to meet next time he comes to a European convention.

PC:  Working on a ‘Crow’ series must have been difficult thanks to the passion that the fans have for the title.  How do you think they have received your take on the mythos?

AD:  I'm not sure, I haven't met the fans yet but James told me they loved it though . I tried my best, I was really into the story and I was really sad when I had to draw the last two pages . I think I cried a little haha! For real!

PC:  You are very passionate about your work.  What made you  want to become an artist?

AD:  I love stories, I love comic books, I love to draw comic books, since forever!!  I'm just stubborn and I didn't quit.

PC:  With such a unique art style, how do you choose the projects that would be best to show that to it’s full extent?

AD:  Working on 'The Crow: Curare' was my first time drawing the script of someone else. As you know I'm a huge fan of the crow .  But what I try to do is to put my art at the service of the story.  I try to tell the story the best way I can.

PC:  Who or what would you say has been the biggest influence on your career?

AD:  My mom, she's been so supportive.

PC:  If you could work with any in the comic world, who would you choose and why?

AD:  I would turn crazy if I could write a story for Richard Corben, he is not only a crazy amazing artist  he is one of my favorite storytellers, perhaps my favorite . And the first writer that came in mind is Neil Gaiman . I 'm crazy about his stories. But actually, I can't wait to work with James O'Barr again.

PC:  Do you have any advice to some of the readers out there that may want to become involved in the comic book world?

AD:  Well it's a simple advice : do comics again and again and show them.

PC:  Where can your fans see your work next?

AD:  I'm working on a graphic novel, a big book of 340 pages, called “Pierrot Lunaire “ it will be out next year .  Also with James, we are planning to work again very soon, something that won't be 'The Crow'.

PC:  Thank you very much Mr Dode for taking the time to take to us here at Curiosity of a Social Misfit.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Saving Mr. Banks Cinema Review


Review By Patrick Challis

Written By
Kelly Marcel
Sue Smith

Directed By
John Lee Hancock

A Ruby Films, Essential Media and Entertainment, BBC Films, Hopscotch Features, Walt Disney Pictures Film

Genre
Biography, Drama, Comedy

Cast

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney
Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers
Colin Farrell as Robert Goff Travers
Ruth Wilson as Margaret Goff
Paul Giamatti as Ralph
Jason Schwartzman as Richard Sherman
Bradley Whitford as Don DaGradi

Certificate PG

Synopsis

When Walt Disney's daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers' Mary Poppins, he made them a promise - one that he didn't realize would take 20 years to keep.

In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine.

But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney's plans for the adaptation.

Review

I was lucky enough to get a ticket to a preview showing of 'Saving Mr. Banks' at the last minute so off I went with my girlfriend to the cinema to see it.

Now I have to admit that I hadn't heard a whole lot about the film itself.  All I knew was that it starred Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson and to be honest, that was more than enough reason to go and see it.

I'm very glad I did because what I ended up watching was a heartfelt, moving and hilariously funny movie that tells the little known story of how Walt Disney himself procured the rights to the 'Mary Poppins' novel to create what has since become one of the most beloved movies in the Disney canon.

This sort of movie would live and die by the performances of the cast and here, that challenge is more than met.  We have the double Academy Award winning Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers, a grumpy and rude lady who really has no intention of selling the rights to her famous creation due to feeling that the Disney machine would chew it up and spit it out. 

Then you have the also double Academy Award winning Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.  While some critics may have been surprised by the casting of Hanks as the legendary Disney, I thought that he not only did the legacy of the man justice but also created a performance that you just couldn't take your eyes off of for the entire movie.  His chemistry with Emma Thompson was utterly superb.

Another one of the heroes of the movie is the criminally under rated Paul Giamatti as Ralph, the man who is tasked with driving Travers around during her visit.  The growing relationship between the two characters was an absolute joy to watch.

With a story as strong as this and a superb ensemble cast, I'm really hoping that this movie is remembered come awards season.  Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in particular are more than deserving for not only bringing the characters to life on the screen but for also staying so true to their real life personalities.

Definitely one to watch and well worth a trip to the cinema.

Movie 9/10

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Plague Forge Review


Review By Patrick Challis

Written By Jason M. Hough

Published By Titan Books

Genre
Science Fiction, Action

Synopsis

The elevators connected Earth to the stars.
The towers suppressed the deadly plague.
As the final Builder event approaches, five keys will unlock their secret.

After discovering the first key in the wreckage of a crashed Builder ship, Skyler Luiken and his crew follow the migrating aura towers in search of the four remaining relics. But time is running out: the survivors learn that the next Builder event will be the last, and one of the objects has already fallen into dangerous hands...

As the alien Key Ship looms above Earth, and the surface below is ravaged by corrupt councils, fanatical cults and infected subhumans, the team race to retrieve the missing artefacts.

Will they finally reveal the Builders’ plan?

Review

The second book of this trilogy, 'The Exodus Towers', ended with a real tense and slow ending that had me pretty much chomping at the bit to get the third and final part to see just where Hough was going to take the characters.

The three main characters in the shape of Skyler, Tania and Samantha all share the spotlight in this, the third book of the trilogy.  All three are on their own, separate missions to find the remaining three artifacts to try to discover what the 'Builders' have in store for the world.

One of the main strengths of this approach is that you're not given a chance to breath or rest on your laurels.  Some of the moments that sprung from their adventures give the story a bit of sense of dread and fear running through it, almost as if they were fighting against the inevitable.  On this front of things, I've always liked how Hough had the characters of the Jacobites as a threat but one that was running through the story just under the surface.  Here, they come right to the forefront with a bang.  So much  so that because of how they had been written in the first two books, it took me quite by surprise.

While I liked Hough's characters for the most part, especially that of Blackfield, grew as the stories took shape but the newer additions to Luiken's crew in the shapes of Pablo and Vanessa, just seemed like the weak links of the story and didn't seem all that fleshed out or even important no matter how many times Hough had Luiken talk about them being so.

Talking of his characters, Hough wasn't afraid to kill them off during the writing of this trilogy.  One of the things that I liked the most was the fact that none of the characters died needlessly and none of them died just for the sake of creating a shock for the reader.  In fact, for the reader, it created a filling that nobody was safe.

The ending of  the novel is best described as shocking.  One of the things that worried me was that I was a little fearful that the trilogy would fall at the last hurdle and have a happy ever after style ending.  In fact, it was a rather downbeat ending and yet still felt like there was a glimmer of hope left.  I would personally like to see some more stories set in that world or see some more of the characters that were left alive.

All in all, this was a really well written and great ending of the trilogy that seemed to just get better and better as it went on.  Well worth getting for fans of action packed science fiction but with a slow burning feel.

Story 8/10
Characters 7/10
Cover 7/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 30/40

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Great Santa Rescue Pre-Release DVD Review


Review By Patrick Challis

AKA 'A Country Christmas'

Written By
Eric Brooks
Dustin Rikert
William Shockley

Directed By 
Dustin Rikert

A Team 2 Entertainment Film

Genre
Fantasy, Drama, Christmas

Cast

Joey Lauren Adams as Renae Logan
Illeana Douglas as Susan Satcher
Kevin Pollak as Max Schmucker
Caitlin Carmichael as Miley Logan
Abraham Benrubi as Santa Claus

Certificate U

Synopsis

When grumpy politician, Max Schmucker, tries to destroy the myth of Santa Claus, the world stops believing in the miracle of Christmas, causing Santa to lose his magical powers. 

When Santa’s sleigh crash lands on a small farm, it is down to brother and sister, Miley and Zach, to rescue Christmas by saving Santa!

Review

As a fan of Christmas movies and of Christmas itself, it's kind of hard to review the movie themselves.  A lot of the time they are cliched, cheesy and full of kitsch moments yet they work because when they are done well they are fantastic at showing the magical nature of that time of the season.

There have been some absolutely amazing Christmas movies and there have been some downright stinkers but where does this one fall?

Well, if I'm honest, it falls somewhere in the middle.

The movie itself isn't awful but neither is it particularly memorable either.  That said, there are some really familiar faces throughout the cast as well.  You have people such as Joey Lauren Adams, who to Kevin Smith fans will be familiar from the movie 'Chasing Amy'.  You also have Abraham Benrubi from the 'E.R.' television series, Kevin Pollak and even Illeana Douglas.

The performances throughout the movie range from being really heart felt, in the shape of the adorable Caitlin Carmichael and even Benrubi as Santa, up to the functional.  

It's the same with the writing.  The movie does fall in to a lot of the cliched traps that plague Christmas movies but you kind of expect that when you sit down to watch a movie like this.  Yet it gripped my little lad until the end of the movie and you can't want much more than that.

For the most part, the story has some good scenes of magic that had my little lad smiling and some actually funny moments that even had me smiling too.

All in all, not a classic Christmas movie by any stretch of the imagination, 'The Great Santa Rescue' is still worth picking up because it will no doubt entertain the little ones during this festive season.

Movie 6/10


"I likes it when the Elf uses his Christmas magic to help Santa.  I no like the naughty man that make Santa sad."

'The Great Santa Rescue' is available to buy from November 18th

Friday, 15 November 2013

Battlestar Galactica: Starbuck Issue 1 Review


Review By Patrick Challis

Written By
Tony Lee

Art By
Eman Casallos
Davi Correia

Lettering By
Joshua Cozine

Cover By
Sean Chen
Adriano Lucas

Published By
Dynamite Entertainment

Genre
Science Fiction, Television Tie In, Action

Synopsis

Finally, the origin of Lt. Starbuck is told by #1 New York Times best-selling author Tony Lee! 

See how Starbuck became a Viper pilot, his first meeting with Apollo and why Adama treats him like a son - as he pieces together what really happened the night he was orphaned, and the name of the traitor who ordered it...

Review

 As a fan of the original 'Battlestar Galactica' and the revamped version, I was quite eager to read this four issue mini-series showing the back story of the original Starbuck.  Dynamite Entertainment have always had a great knack for tie in titles that keep the feel and atmosphere of the show or film while still putting their own stamp on to things.

This one is no different.

The writing really hooks in the reader to see just how Starbuck became the hero he became in the show itself.  From the events that led to Adama helping him grow up right up to when he joined them in the fight against the Cylon's, there were so many possibilities for stories.

Here they take a look at his early years and how he met Adama.  There are some great moments that leave a lot of questions for the next issues to answer.  What happened on the night he became an orphan?  Was there someone in their midst that sold them out?  The questions were done in such a way that it left me wanting to get to issue two quicker so that I could see where the story was going to go.

Art wise, I loved the way the artist captured the look of the show.  In fact, the art in the comic has a bit of a vintage feel to it, which is a great way to feel like it really is part of the television series that we all know and love.  The action scenes involving the space fights and especially the Cylon's themselves look superb.

Talking of art, I really liked the cover to this issue.  It has the great vintage look of the issue itself as well as doing a fantastic job of showing the Starbuck of the show as the ladies man that the fans remember him being.

All in all, if you are a fan of the original 'Battlestar Galactica' then this, the first issue of a four issue run, is a fantastic purchase as it will fill in the blanks of Starbuck's past.  If you're not a fan then I would honestly still give it a read because it stands alone as a good slice of vintage style science fiction.

Story 7/10
Art 8/10
Cover 8/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 31/40