Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Wrong Quarry Review


Review By Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Max Allan Collins

Published By
Hard Case Crime

Genre
Crime, Thriller

Synopsis

A hit.  And a miss.

Quarry doesn't kill just anybody these days.  He restricts himself to targeting other hitmen, availing his marked-for-death clients of two services; eliminating the killers sent after them, and finding out who hired them...and then removing that problem as well.

So far he's rid the world of nobody who would be missed.  But this time he finds himself zeroing in on the grieving family of a missing cheerleader.  Does the hitman's hitman have the wrong quarry in his sights?

Review

Max Allan Collins, the author of the incredible 'Road to Perdition', has long been a favorite author of mine.  His crime and action novels always seem to have strong characters, great locations and non stop action so I had really high hopes for this one?

While it doesn't reach the high standard of 'Road to Perdition', 'The Wrong Quarry' comes very close.  It has a classic feel to it.  A bit like a Raymond Chandler novel or a Humphrey Bogart movie.  Yet at the same time, Collins has crafted a well paced, intelligent and action packed thriller that had me gripped from the very first page and didn't let up until well after I'd finished the novel.

It's true that some of the characters seem a little bit old fashioned in a way but that's part of  the charm of the novel itself.  The story feels timeless and modern at the same time.  It's hard to juggle the two styles like that without the story feeling disjointed but there's no such problem here thanks to the exciting writing by Collins.

The pacing here is fantastic and really doesn't give the reader a chance to catch their breath or even remotely get bored.  In fact, I found the book nigh on impossible to put down because I just wanted to get to the next page to see what was going to happen next.

If you are a fan of the Hard Case Crime imprint from Titan Books then this one is definitely up with 'Joyland' by Stephen King as one of the best releases from them.  It's exciting, has an old school charm to the story and even comes over feeling like a classic movie that Humphrey Bogart wouldn't have looked out of place starring in.  Well worth picking up, I would even say that if you are a Max Allan Collins fan then this should be an essential purchase for you.

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

The Coming of the Avengers Review


Review By Patrick Scattergood

AKA Avengers: Volume 1 - Issue 1

Written By
Stan Lee

Art and Cover By
Jack  Kirby
Dick Ayers

Lettering By
S. Rosen

Published By
Marvel

Genre
Superhero, Action, Adventure

Synopsis

Loki hatches a plot against his hated stepbrother Thor, drawing Earth’s mightiest heroes into the fray!

Review

Jack Kirby.  Stan Lee.  Two names that need no introduction except for maybe the term legendary.

Here we have the first appearance of the legendary team 'The Avengers' and I was lucky enough to grab a chance to read the now classic story.

I absolutely love the story behind how the issue came in to being.  One of their other titles had been delayed, 'Daredevil' I believe, and as they had already paid for the printing time, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had to come up with an idea quickly.  That's when they thought that combining a villain and some superheroes that already existed would save time and be able to get to the printing presses in time and so a legend was born.

To new comers to the comic book world, the story may lack a little spark or even seem a bit quaint but to long time fans, this one is definitely one worth reading.  It's great to see how the beloved team came together and in fact, considering how little time Kirby and Lee had to create the story and art, it's actually extremely well done.  Then again, what else would you expect from them?

The story itself sees Loki trying to turn Hulk in to a bad guy so that a team of superheroes are distracted enough for him to get his revenge on Thor.  That may not seem like it would grip a recent fan but Lee's writing is exciting, fun and full of his trademark humor that I absolutely loved each and every page.

It's the same with Kirby's art.  There's a reason Kirby was known as 'The King' and it's stories  like this that really show off his skills superbly.  There was so little time for him to illustrate this story that it would have been understandable for his work to not be as good as his other titles but that's not the case here.  That's especially true on the action sequences, always one of Jack Kirby's strengths.

All in all, this story is important for so many reasons.  It's the first appearance of the team that would go on to become one of the most beloved super hero teams in history.  Also we get see just how good  Stan Lee and Jack Kirby work together.  It may seem quaint in today's standards but I honestly believe this is up there with some of Kirby and Lee's best work and one of the reasons why they both more than deserve their legendary reputations.

Story 10/10
Art 10/10
Cover 10/10
Recommended 10/10
Overall 40/40

Lust in the Dust DVD Review


Review By Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Philip John Taylor

Directed By
Paul Bartel

A Fox Run Productions Inc. Film

Genre
Comedy, Western

Cast

Tab Hunter as Abel Wood
Divine as Rosie Velez
Lainie Kazan as Marguerita Ventura
Cesar Romero as Father Garcia
Geoffery Lewis as Hard Case Williams
Henry Silva as Bernardo
Courtney Gains as Red Dick Barker

Certificate 15

Synopsis

The sun beats down hard on the town of Chili Verde, New Mexico - where temperatures flare and passions reach boiling in the midday heat. The locals spend their days downing Tequila and breaking bottles over heads... and that's just the womenfolk!

When Abel Wood, an enigmatic lone cowboy type, comes riding into town, the locals immediately suspect that he has come in search of the legendary buried gold. Quick on the draw and tall in the saddle he may be, but Abel faces stiff competition if he's to get his hands on the prized booty.

Lust in the Dust is a treat for both fans of Westerns and lovers of John Waters-type subversive humour, featuring the inimitable Divine (Hairspray, Pink Flamingos) in a typically larger-than-life performance; whilst Tab Hunter, in the role of Abel, delivers a sharp-shooting, gun-toting turn worthy of Clint himself.  

Special Features
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Collector's Booklet
  • Reversible Cover
Review

I've always had a bit of a weird and slightly off kilter sense of humor and that has sometimes led me to watching some really weird comedy movies.  I love everything from the old school slapstick of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton right up to the weird comedy of John Waters.

While this isn't a John Waters movie, it's as close as someone can get without actually being the weird genius John Waters.

The best way to describe this movie would be as a John Waters western.  That may put some people off but that would be a shame if it did.  What we have here is a massively funny western with some really good performances all done with a bit of tongue in cheek and sometimes even un-PC humor.

You have a rather interesting and unique cast here that not only features legendary people such as Cesar Romero, yes the man who played The Joker in the 1960's Batman series, and even John Waters stalwart Divine as well.  I'm not going to sit here and say the performances are perfect because they're not but they are enjoyable to say the least.

If you like John Waters or comedy such as 'Blazing Saddles' then you are most definitely going to get a kick out of this little known 80's gem.  It's a bit sad that more people aren't aware of this movie but thanks to Arrow Films that will hopefully change that.

Movie 8/10
Picture 7/10
Sound 8/10
Special Features 5/10
Overall 28/40

Monday, 30 December 2013

Where My Wellies Take Me Review


Review By Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Michael Morpugo
Clare Morpugo

Designed and Illustrated By
Olivia Lomenech Gill

Published By
Templar Books

Genre
Children's, Poetry, Adventure

Synopsis

A lavish, keepsake collection of poetry, beautiful artwork, and unforgettable treasures from acclaimed children’s book author Michael Morpurgo, woven around a girl’s adventures on a countryside walk.

Pippa loves staying with her Aunty Peggy. She loves going for walks, whether it is sunny or cold — long, wandering walks where her wellies take her. Follow Pippa into the beautiful countryside as her day unfolds, and the wildlife, animals, and people she encounters are complemented by relevant poems from some of our greatest authors, personally chosen by Clare and Michael Morpurgo. Part poetry anthology, part children’s scrapbook, this is a truly lavish project designed to instill a love of language in young children.

Review

Michael Morpurgo has long been one of my favorite authors.  The man seems just as happy in any genre and because of that, his books are beloved by a wide range of families and their children.

Here he teams up not only with his sister, Clare, but also by a fantastic artist by the name of Olivia Lomenech Gill.

Together the trio have crafted one of the most beautiful children's books I've read in a very long time.  Part poetry collection, part scrapbook and part child like adventure, this story centers around a young girl who goes for a walk and all the thoughts that run through her head.  The story is beautifully simple yet done with such a deft slight of hand that it's incredibly touching and heartwarming.  The poetry that is dotted amongst the pages and during the story are very well chosen and massively effective.  They work supremely well with the story to create a lovely tale of child like innocence and imagination.

However strong the story is, it would have maybe struggled slightly with either the wrong kind of artist or someone who couldn't match the quality of the story.  That's not the case here.  Gill's illustrations, as well as her design work, come together in a perfect little parcel to make this book an absolute must have.  It's rare to find a children's book that works so well on so many levels but that is exactly what this book does.  There is loads for the parents to enjoy as well as for the children to enjoy.  The illustrations are some of the most gorgeous I've seen in a children's book.  They really match the story well and make this a book that both myself and my little son adore.

An essential purchase for both the little ones and the not so little ones..

Story 9/10
Characters 9/10
Cover 9/10
Recommended 10/10
Overall 37/40

Frozen (2013) Cinema Review


Review By Patrick Scattergood

Inspired By
'The Snow Queen' by Hans Christian Andersen

Written By
 Jennifer Lee
Chris Buck
Shane Morris

Directed By
Chris Buck
Jennifer Lee

A Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures Film

Genre
Animated, Adventure, Fantasy, Comedy

Cast

Kristen Bell as Anna
Idina Menzel as Elsa
Jonathan Groff as Kristoff
Josh Gad as Olaf
Santino Fontana as Hans
Alan Tudyk as Duke

Certificate PG

Synopsis

Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna's sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter. 

Review

Based on 'The Snow Queen' by Hans Christian Andersen, one of my favorite stories from my childhood, I had very high hopes for this movie.  Disney are known for taking traditional stories and recreating them in their image so to speak.  Sometimes that works and they come out with a great movie  like 'Tangled' and other times we get much poorer movies.

This one is definitely in the same vein as 'Tangled' and has a similar style to that movie yet at the same time, it's completely it's own movie and story.  One of the things that I really liked was the fact that it could have just been another Disney princess falls in love story but they've done much more than that.

Instead of just doing the stereotypical story mentioned above, we have a story that tells a couple of stories at the same time but they all converge fantastically well at the end.  You have the true love story running through the movie that the Disney studio are famous for and here, it's done very well.  It's got humor, romance and adventure in the love that grows between the characters and the intelligent writing really creates characters that you care about and get emotionally involved with.   That raises the true love story above some of the more recent Disney movies.

Another story that runs through the movie is the fact that Princess Elsa is terrified of the powers that she has.  She's scared of using them, of hurting anyone because of them and is even scared of anyone finding out about her powers.  They portray this beautifully and really show the hurt and fear in the character as well as the anger she feels when her power is discovered.  In any other movie, her act of creating a frozen land out of the kingdom she rules would normally make her a villain but here, the writing has made her such a sympathetic character that she's just as much of a victim as everyone else in the movie.


 A lot of the story working so well is down to the brilliant performances by the cast.  I can honestly say that there isn't a weak link amongst them.  It was great to see Alan Tudyk in another Disney movie as well after his fun performance in 'Wreck It Ralph'.  However the best performance by far is that of Idina Menzel.  Not only do her renditions of the songs, which are some of the best I've heard in a recent Disney movie, superbly performed but her overall performance is full of so many different layers that the character of Elsa is honestly one of the best characters that has been in a recent Disney movie.

The animation is absolutely stunning.  There were so many scenes that took my breath away but I don't want to spoil them here for you.  Let's just say that your eyes will be glued to the screen.

With a great spin on the true romance style that  Disney is famous for as well as some fantastic and memorable characters this movie is a great one to not only see yourself but to take your little ones too.  There are a couple of scenes that may scare the smaller children but I took my four year old and he was transfixed by the entire movie.  Plus the little ones will get a kick out of the funny snowman called Olaf.

Definitely one that is worth watching and if I'm honest, I wanted to watch it again after the end credits had finished.

Movie 8/10

Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Almighties: Origins Review


Review By Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Sam Johnson
Mike Gagnon

Art By
Pablo Zambrano
Eleonora Kortsarz
Ron Gravelle
Fran Jung
Jennifer Scott
Lisa Lamb
Giuseppe Pica

Lettering By
Kris Johnson
Jacob Bascle

Cover By
Juan Ramirez

Published By
Actuality Press

Genre
Superhero, Comedy, Action

Synopsis

The White House is getting it's very own superhero team...VERY off the record.

A former downtrodden housewife with anger issues, a mercenary with psychotic tendencies, a cocky British punk, an egomaniac, and a guy who runs a takeout.

This bunch of misfits may not sound like the ideal ingredients for a team, but The White House’s Joe Cyborg wants them!

Review

As a big fan of the hilarious 'The Almighties' issue 1, I had extremely high hopes for this addition to their mythology.  It acts as a prequel to the forthcoming issue 0 and hopes to shed a little light on a few of the characters involved.

If you are expecting a full on guts and glory superhero story told with a dead straight face then you are going to be a bit disappointed.

However, if you are a fan of the first issue then you know exactly what you are going to be in for.  A comedic story with some very funny characters and a story that tells you just enough to get you excited over the next installment.  On all those counts, this issue succeeds and more.  While the short length doesn't really give you a whole load of time to process the characters back stories, you don't really need to do that.  You get enough of a back story to flesh out the team members but that's all you really need.  I especially liked the 'A Team' reference.

What we do have here story wise is very well done and told in the same way as the original 'The Almighties' comic book so the funny and at times, cynical humor is definitely here in all it's glory.

The art here really suits the story and even, in places, has a early to mid 1990's feel to it.  The bright and flashy style here really helps to bring the story to life and the reader deep in to the action on the page.  The art work really sits nicely with the larger than life lettering as well.

All in all, this is definitely a release worth your time.  If you are a fan of 'The Almighties' already then you know what you're going to and that is a hell of a lot of fun.  Plus, it's free so what's stopping you?  And besides, how can you not love a super hero title that has a takeaway worker with a kebab as a weapon in it?

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

'The Almighties: Origins' is available for free from here!

Vicious Review


Review By Patrick Scattergood

Written By
V.E. Schwab

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Superhero, Thriller, Psychological

Synopsis

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in one another. A shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death-experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. They become EOs, ExtraOrdinaries, leaving a body in their wake and turning on each other.

Ten years later Victor has escaped from prison and is determined to get his revenge on the man who put him there, aided by a young girl with the ability to raise the dead. Eli has spent the years hunting down and killing every EO he can find, convinced that they are a crime against God, all except his sidekick, a woman whose power is persuasion and whom he cannot defy. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the arch-nemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

Review

I haven't read a good superhero novel in a very long time.  Each time I pick one up, I get excited on the way home, sit down to read it and then end up getting disappointed by stale story lines and flat characters.  It's a shame really because when done very well they can be some absolutely fantastic stories that can tackle very hard subjects.  When done badly, they can come across as a bit like bad fan fiction.  So where does this novel by V.E. Schwab stand?

This one is one of the good ones.  No, scratch that comment.  This one is one of the brilliant ones.

To class this as just another superhero story would be doing the tale a massive disservice and you would be missing so much of the plot that you really wouldn't get the full effect of the story.  That would be a massive mistake because there are so many layers to the novel that you could read it many times and notice new things  with every reading.

Summing the story up is a hard thing to do with a novel like this without giving away spoilers but here Schwab has crafted a great story of jealousy, revenge, hatred and even loneliness that is tied up in to a superhero bow yet has such a deft slight of hand that you can absolutely hate comic books or superheroes and still find so much here to enjoy..

The intelligent writing really makes the story sing out loud and doesn't once insult the readers intelligence by adding easy to see plot twists.  In fact, Schwab's tale had a few twists that completely took me by surprise.  However it's not the intelligence of the writing that is this books true strength, it's the characters.

A lot of the time in a book like this you get wafer thin characters with little to no personality.  It's completely the opposite in this release.  We have characters that aren't just the stereotypical good  and evil style people that we are used to seeing.  In fact, it's pretty much the case of the readers siding with the lesser of two evils in a couple of cases and I liked that.  Nothing in this book is black and white.  That made a nice change in that it gave proceedings a bit of a new spin on a genre over crowded with stories that fall flat.

All in all, I would recommend this, not only to superhero fans, but to anyone that wants to read a well crafted story with strong characters but is packed full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the final page.  I just wish it had have been a little bit longer because I was enjoying the story so much.

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

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Demons: The Complete Series DVD Review


Review By Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Johnny Capps
Julian Murphy
Peter Tabern
Lucy Watkins

Directed By
Tom Harper
Matthew Evans

Genre
Supernatural, Action

Cast

Philip Glenister as Rupert Galvin
Zoe Tapper as Mina Harker
Christian Cooke as Luke Van Helsing
Holliday Granger as Ruby
Mackenzie Crook as Gladiolus Thrip
Richard Wilson as Father Simeon

Certificate 12

Synopsis

Luke Rutherford is your average teenager - until his dead father's best friend, Rupert Galvin, turns up. 

Galvin has come to tell Luke his secret destiny: he's the real-life great-grandson of Abraham Van Helsing, the vampire hunter in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Special Features
  • None

Review

The ITV channel probably thought that they had a British version of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' on their hands when they announced a new series by the name of 'Demons'.

Intended as a continuation of the Van Helsing legend, while at the same time trying to be an edgy, urban show set in modern day London. They couldn't have gotten it more wrong if they tried.

The stories are absolutely by the numbers, cliched and come across as 'Angel' / 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' rip offs without any of the intelligence of either of those two series.  There were some enjoyable moments and some flashes of brilliance, especially that of the character of Gladiolus Thrip.  I wish they had have been given a bit more time to develop him the way it looked like they were going to but by then, most viewers had pretty much given up on the series.

The cast definitely just going through the motions here but by far the biggest culprit of this is Philip Glenister. Best known for his turn as Gene Hunt in both 'Life on Mars' and 'Ashes to Ashes', I have no idea what he was thinking with this piss poor performance. He seems to be working through his horror movie cliches book a bit at a time and even manages to look bored as hell during the battle scenes. Another thing that made me think was his atrocious accent. I'm not sure what kind of accent he was going for but it kept changing throughout the series. Hell, it was changing during the same scene a couple of times.  I'd go so far as to say this was definitely a case of here's a butt load of money so do whatever you want.

To say it's nearly all bad isn't an understatement. The only two bright spots are Zoe Trapper as Mina Harker, who somehow manages to breathe a bit of life in to a one dimensional character. The other high spot was the gloriously over the top performance by Mackenzie Crook as Gladiolus Thrip, a demon who tries to destroy the newly formed team.  Like I said earlier, that was the one character that I actually wanted to see more of because it really seemed like they were going somewhere with him.

Other than that, this series is absolutely awful. The only reason I gave it a 4 and not lower is the simple fact that the two performances I mentioned were enjoyable. It's such a shame that they were wasted on such a poorly set out and written show.

Show 4/10
Picture 8/10
Sound 7/10
Special Features N/A
Overall 19/30

Flash Gordon: The Complete Series DVD Review


Review By Patrick Scattergood

Series Developed By
Peter Hume

Based on Characters By
Alex Raymond

Genre
Science Fiction, Adventure, Action

Cast

Eric Johnson as Steven 'Flash' Gordon
Gina Holden as Dale Arden
Karen Cliche as Baylin
Jody Racicot as Dr. Hans Zarkov
John Ralston as Ming
Jonathan Walker as Rankol
Anna Van Hooft as Aura

Certificate 15

Synopsis

Steven "Flash" Gordon used to be just an average, all-American guy. That is until he fell through a rift in space and found himself on the planet Mongo.

Suddenly plunged into life-and-death interplanetary adventures, Flash is shocked to discover that his father, who mysteriously disappeared years earlier, may still be alive and in the hands of Ming, the evil ruler of Mongo.

Contains all 22 episodes from season One plus an alternative version of the pilot episode.

Special Features
  • Alternative Version of the Pilot Episode
 
Review
 
In this day all the sci-fi that is on our television seems to be going for a dark and gritty feel to it.

This is the complete opposite. It has a sense of fun and general wonder to some of the episodes. While some aren't as successful as others, I wouldn't say that this is as much of a failure as some of the reviews make it out to be. The idea of there being a wormhole from Earth to Mongo is a bit similar to the whole 'Sliders' idea but I kind of liked it. Most of the earlier episodes mainly took place on Earth, which was one of the complaints about the series, but the later ones started having more and more stories set on Mongo. The fact that they weren't all set in the same place helped to keep the stories more or less fresh but some of the writing let it down and let's be honest, there were a few groan worthy moments as well.

The cast really do their best the wafer thin characters and sometimes dire dialogue but with the first couple of episodes of the show being so awful it felt like they were just going through the motions in places.  In fact, it felt a little bit like they knew the episodes were badly written that they just didn't want to put too much effort in to their performances.  Once the momentum started to  pick up, the performances did as well but I was a bit let down by the series as a whole as there were so many stories that just never seemed to go anywhere.

From what I've read people actually went online to literally demand that this show get cancelled. I really don't see why because it really was an OK show once it got going.  It's just a shame that most people gave up after the first few episodes.  I can understand why they gave up however, the first few episodes were absolutely dire in places.  It seemed to be once it got to the middle of the series, it seemed to start to click but the damage was already done.

While not up to the level of the revived Battlestar Galactica or even the short lived Enterprise series, it's still relatively worth picking up because you can get it for next to nothing but don't go in to with high expectations because even with mine quite low, I was still quite disappointed with the show overall.

Show 6/10
Picture 8/10
Sound 8/10
Special Features 3/10
Overall 25/40

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born Graphic Novel Review


Review By Patrick Scattergood

Based on
'The Dark Tower' Series By Stephen King

Written By
Peter David (Script)
Robin Furth (Plotting and Consultation)

Art By
Jae Lee
Rchard Isanove

Lettering By
Chris Eliopoulos

Cover By
Jae Lee
Richard Isanove

Published By
Marvel

Genre
Western, Fantasy, Adventure

Synopsis

A man's quest begins with a boy's quest.

The world of Roland Deschain - the world of the Dark Tower - has been a thirty-year obsession for Stephen King.

And now, King carries his masterwork of fantasy to Marvel, bring stunning new textures to his epic story!

The Gunslinger Born seamlessly integrates the wonder of Mid-World and the story of its hard-bitten cast of characters into the finest Marvel Comics storytelling tradition.

Artist Jae Lee and color artist Richard Isanove's world is revelatory and writer Peter David's scripts, in collaboration with The Dark Tower: A Concordance author Robin Furth, present an authentic and vital account of Stephen King's creatives vision.

Witness the birth of a gunslinger and the epic sweep of a timeless adventure that has just begun to unfold!

Long days and pleasant nights, and may ya do well!

Review

As a massive Stephen King fan, I have obviously read the 'Dark Tower' series, which includes some of his best work writing wise.  The world building, the characters, they all come together to create a series that not only comes across as a classic adventure but also one that you just can't put down.

When I received this, the first volume of the adaptation of the series by Marvel Comics, I have to admit that I was a little hesitant in getting excited as I have read some adaptations of his work before and they have mostly fallen short.

That's when I saw that the great and very talented writer by the name of Peter David was involved and that's when I grabbed it and started to read it from cover to cover but would it live up to the high standard set by the master of terror himself, Stephen King?

For once, and this is a pleasant surprise, this is an adaptation and continuance of the series that not only does the original series by King justice but also adds a few layers as well.  Considering how thought out the original series is, to add yet more layers to an already well written world shows just how good a writer Peter David is.  He most definitely doesn't disappoint here either.  His writing shines through with the story and brings the characters right to the forefront of the tale itself.  However good the writing is, that's not the best strength of this graphic novel.

That is by far the stunningly beautiful art by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove.  There are some stunning scenes here and some of the best panel work that I have seen in a long time but amongst all of that are some brutal scenes as well.  That would normally look massively out of place yet they fix together seamlessly.  That's because the writing and the art really go hand in glove together.  The characters have really taken their cue from the original books by Stephen King and the artists have worked together brilliantly well in recreating those beloved characters.

Another thing that I couldn't help but notice was just how well Lee, David, Isanove and Furth all worked together to bring the world created by King to life.  There may be a couple of moments that have changed slightly but you can't keep everything the same and in all honesty, there will also be some fans that feel like too much has changed with a release like this.

All in all, I honestly believe that this is the best job that this team could possibly have done in adapting a Stephen King series.  I would even go so far as to say that it is one of the best versions of a work by King that I have ever had the pleasure of reading.  

If you are a fan of the 'Dark Tower' series of novels then I highly urge you to get a hold of this and see just how a Stephen King adaptation should be done.

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

Along Came Auntie (1926), Short Kilts (1924), Smithy (1924) DVD Review


Review By Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Carl Harbaugh (Along Came Auntie)
Stan Laurel (Along Came Auntie)
James Parrott (Along Came Auntie)
Jerome Storm (Along Came Auntie)
Beatrice Van (Along Came Auntie)
H.M. Walker (Along Came Auntie, Short Kilts, Smithy)
Frank Wilson (Along Came Auntie)
Hal Yates (Along Came Auntie)

Directed By
Fred Guiol (Along Came Auntie)
Richard Wallace (Along Came Auntie)
George Jeske (Short Kilts, Smithy)
Hal Roach

A Hal Roach Studios Film

Genre
Silent, Comedy

Cast

Glenn Tryon as Remington Chow (Along Came Auntie), Mr. Smith (Smithy)
Oliver Hardy as Mr. Vincent Belcher (Along Came Auntie)
Vivien Oakland as Mrs. Remington Chow (Along Came Auntie)
Tyler Brooke as The Under-Sheriff (Along Came Auntie)
Stan Laurel as McPherson's Son (Short Kilts), as Smithy (Smithy)
James Finlayson as McGregor's Son (Short Kilts), as Sergeant (Smithy)
Leo Willis as McGregor (Short Kilts)
Jack Gavin as McPherson (Short Kilts)
William Gillespie as The Boss (Smithy)

Certificate U

Synopsis

Along Came Auntie

A divorced woman is set to receive $100,000 and quarts of diamonds from her divorce-disapproving aunt. Having taken in her first husband as a lodger, due to financial difficulties, and now living with her second husband, she must act to convince her aunt, that she is still married to her first husband, which is not taken gracefully by her second husband.

 Short Kilts

As a way to make peace between two feuding Scottish clans, one invites the other over for supper, but things don't turn out quite as expected.

Smithy (AKA The Home Wrecker)

After being discharged from the 372nd infantry, on account of a bean shortage, smithy seeks employment. He finds employment at a construction site, where he helps to build a house, and soon causes havoc amongst other workers. The construction company owner leaves for a week, and tells his secretary to send a letter to Mr. Smith telling him to complete the construction of the house while he (the owner) is away. The letter is accidentally sent to Smithy who manages to complete the house. When the owner returns the house is complete, and Smithy is commended until the last support beam is removed...

Special Features
  • None

Review

Along Came Auntie

'Along Came Auntie' is a bit of a curious one to review.  Part of that is due to it being a short with Oliver Hardy on his own but with his soon to be legendary partner Stan Laurel as one of the writers.

While Hardy's and Laurel's solo shorts are a little hit and miss yet I was very excited to get my hands on this DVD to see a couple here and find out which side of the hit and miss fence they fell on to.

With 'Along Came Auntie', the DVD starts with a little bit of a whimper.  It's not an awful short by any stretch of the imagination but for some reason it just doesn't seem to gel as much as I was hoping it would.  Some of that is down to Glenn Tryon.  He was the man that Hal Roach was trying to mould in to the next Harold Lloyd.  It didn't work.  Here, he comes across as rather annoying but not in a funny way.  That's most evident in the drag scene.  Seeing him do that really made me wish that Stan Laurel had have been cast in the role instead.  On the plus side, while not given all that much to do, Oliver Hardy does show some of the skills that would make his partnership so loved.

Short Kilts

This one is a short starring the incomparable Stan Laurel and is one of his better ones.  While it won't go down as one of his best, 'Short Kilts' is actually a really funny and quite worth your time, especially if you are a fan of Laurel and Hardy themselves.

For the long term fans of the famous duo, a regular compatriot in the shape of James Finlayson, is also in this one and for me, that makes it more than watchable thanks to his chemistry with Laurel himself.

Smithy (AKA The Home Wrecker)

Last but not least we come to a Stan Laurel short called 'Smithy' in which the hapless guy tries to build a house after a bit of a mix up with some instructions putting Laurel in charge with hilarious results.

Once again, Laurel and Finlayson clash in this short that reminded me a bit of the Buster Keaton short.  In both they have to try to built a house with disastrous results and while the Keaton one was better, Laurel definitely shows the viewer some of the skills that would make his partnership with Oliver Hardy so beloved by their fans.

Here there are some absolutely brilliant moments that had me howling with laughter and somehow, no matter how absurd some of the scenes become, the performances here make it all seem plausible.  Also Tryon, who wasn't all that memorable in 'Along Came Auntie', does a much better job here and actually comes across as having a lot more charisma.

All in all, I would most definitely say that this set of shorts is well worth getting for the Laurel and Hardy buff in your life as it shows some of the magic that would go on to make their partnership so legendary and beloved by movie goers.

They don't make them like this anymore do they?

Movie 7/10
Picture 7/10
Sound 7/10
Special Features N/A
Overall 21/30

Sunday, 22 December 2013

COASM's Year End Awards - 2013's Top Ten Books

Written By Patrick Scattergood

Welcome again to the second set of year end awards here at COASM.  This time, our little corner of the internet is about to be filled with our favorite ten books that we've reviewed this year.

Where will your favorite of the year end up?

10 


 The Newbury and Hobbs Casebook

Written By
George Mann

Published By
Titan Books

George Mann has been an incredibly prolific writer this and his books have been a popular series of reviews on the site.

This has a series of short stories featuring some of his most popular characters in the shapes of his popular detective duo.

The stories themselves have a great selection of past and present but they do brilliantly well at adding layers to not only Newbury and Hobbes themselves but also to some of the supporting characters.  We even get some stories with Newbury's past partner as well.

If you are a fan of detective stories in the vein of Sherlock Holmes but with a steam punk slant then you are well in luck with this collection.

9


Faceless: A Mystery 

Written By 
Dawn Kopman Whidden

Published By
Brighton Publishing

This crime thriller by Dawn  Kopman Whidden is absolutely gripping from start to finish.  If you are expecting a gory and blood filled crime novel then you would be completely out of luck.  However, if you are a fan of subtle and well paced crime novels with some well written and placed twists then this is most definitely the book for you.

I'm a little harsh in some of the crime reviews I do because, just recently, I've read so many of them that were so similar that they all kind of merged in to one.  That's not the case here.

This well paced story has definitely made me want to check out her other work.  If you are a fan of authors such as Patricia Cornwell then you are more than likely to find a lot to like here.

8


Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Written By
Brad Ricca

Published By
St Martin's Press

As a comic book fan, there is no escaping the impact the iconic Superman has had on fans and on the industry that spawned him.  However, there was a darker side to the tale of his creation and that's told in well written style here by Brad Ricca.

You can see just how much love Ricca has for the subject in how respectful he is with his writing.  That said, he doesn't pull any punches either or canonize his subjects at all.  Shuster and Siegel weren't perfect men and that's written here.

Ricca also tells the controversial story about how Shuster and Siegel struggled to get recognition for creating the character and to get the royalties and credits that they were owed, a story that has been told before but does so in such a way that he tells it from both sides without straying to far in to taking sides.

If you are a comic book fan or a Superman in particular then this is an essential purchase.  Well written, informative and full of tidbits of information that not even a long term fan such as myself knew, I really can't see a reason to not get this one in your collection.

7


Joyland 

Written By 
Stephen King

Published By
Hard Case Crime

Stephen King.  A man who needs no introduction.  In fact, a man that is truly a master of terror.  Here he turns to the Hard Case Crime imprint of Titan Books to publish an old fashioned crime thriller.

While he is most largely known for his horror novels, King has also done a few crime thrillers in his time.  Some have matched his level of quality and others have fallen a little short.  This one is definitely one of his very good ones.

Set in a summer during a young man working in a theme park, this murder mystery moves along at a quick pace yet there are some marvelously calm and quiet moments too to get the reader to care about the characters.  It was great to see a non horror novel by King that didn't feel like it had to fit in with what the fans wanted from him as a writer.

This crime thriller has a bit of an old fashioned charm to it and that really endeared it to me as a reader as I love reading the older 1950's style crime novels.  This one is a recent King novel that is well worth picking up.

6


Park Avenue

Written by 
Christopher Smith

Published By
Fifth Avenue Productions, Inc

Christopher Smith has a reputation amongst his fans for writing fast paced, exciting and witty novels with really well fleshed out characters.  As a fan of his work, I was very eager to get my hands on this, his newest novel, to see if it would reach the high standards of his other novels.

This one most definitely reaches those standards and even surpasses some of them as well.  The pacing that Smith is famous more is evident here and the sheer amount of twists really keep the reader guessing what is going to happen next.  Don't let the amount of twists put you off though, Smith has a great knack of choosing exactly the right moment to drop one in to the story to completely throw the reader off track.

The witty dialogue in this one reminded me a bit of the superb television series 'Castle' that stars Nathan Fillion yet at the same time, retains his rather unique voice.  On the strength of this and his other novels, I would actually like to see him pen an episode or two of the series.

If you want a quality thriller with twists galore, witty dialogue and some great action that will make you want to keep reading until the very final page then you should definitely pick this one up.

5


Ocean at the End of the Lane 

Written By 
Neil Gaiman

Published By
Headline

Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors of all time and has been responsible for some truly brilliant writing.  The man that was  responsible for books such as 'Coraline', 'American Gods', 'The Sandman' and much more always has a massive amount of hype around him whenever he releases a new book and that was no different with this one.  Just how would he reach the quality of his other novels?

Well, as a fan, I shouldn't have worried.  Gaiman crafted a superbly written and heartfelt novel that has so many layers to it each reader will take away a different feeling from it.  Personally I felt a sense of child like wonder at some of the story and it both left me with a lovely, warm feeling but was also quite heart breaking in places.

If you're a Neil Gaiman fan then chances are you have already added this one to your collection but if not, why not?  If you've not read any of his books before, grab this one.  It's utterly superb.

4


Light of Darkness: Day of Reckoning 

Written By
Victor Wright

Published By
Geeky Books

As a fan of his comic book work, I was really eager to read this novel to see if Victor Wright's skill at weaving a story in that medium would translate  well to a novel and it does.  If anything, it works even better because there's more room for  the story to breathe and more scope to give what happens a cinematic feel.  That's exactly what you get here.

If you are in to your supernatural horror stories but without the cliched 'shock for shocks sake' style writing that seems so popular these days then you really need to get this novel.  The deliberate pacing will really hook you in from the first to the last page and leave you wanting more.  To be honest, as a reader, what  more could you want from a book?

3


The Executioner's Heart 

Written By 
George Mann

Published By
Titan Books

One of George Mann's strengths has always been his incredibly strong and well rounded characters.  The best of these in this installment of the series is by far the villain.  Evil, brutal and cold blooded, the villain of the story is not only evil to the extreme, leading to some truly shocking moments, there is also a truly tragic back story to the character.  That, for me, made the character in to a villain that absolutely gripped my attention with an iron grip.

There were so many points in the story where you didn't know just whom was on who's side.  That's where George Mann's brilliant grasp of pacing really  came in to it's own.  Some mystery writers  tend to dump all the twists and revelations in one or two goes but that's not the case here.  Mann seems to always be able to choose just the right moment to let fly.

Even if you're not a fan of steampunk novels, this is definitely one that is more than worth picking up.  Fast paced, loads of character development and tons of shocking twists and turns, there's plenty of excitement here to grip even the most ardent of readers.

2


The Liger Plague

Written By
Joseph Souza

Published By
 Cactus Tree Publishers

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?

1


Wrestling With the Devil

Written By 
Tonya Russo Hamilton
Antonio Russo

Published By
Gemelli Press

This book manages to be a look at the social history of the era, a look at how the family unit works together, a wrestling autobiography as well as a look at the immigrant experience but told from an intensely personal point of view.
The hardships that Russo went through to become who he is today are absolutely heart breaking.  I'm not ashamed to say that reading about those and about the personal demons he had to fight with had me in tears more than once yet even after all of that, this is a story of hope and hard work.
All in all this is a very good autobiography.  In fact, I would even go so far as to say that it is one of the best that I've ever read and by that, I mean one of the best books I've read not just autobiography.  This mans life would make an amazing movie if I'm completely honest.
Once in a while however a book comes along that absolutely touches you.  This is one of those books.  As soon as I finished it, I flicked it back to the start and read it over again.  It really is that good

Well, that's the best  books we've reviewed this year and you know what?  We've enjoyed each and everyone of them.

Where did your favourite turn up?

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Escape Artist (2013) DVD Review


Review By Patrick Scattergood

Written By
David Wolstencroft

Directed By
Brian Welsh

Genre
Thriller

Cast

David Tennant as Will Burton
Toby Kebbell as Liam Foyle
Gus Barry as Jamie Burton
Ashley Jensen as Kate Burton
Sophie Okonedo as Maggie Gardner
Roxanne Gregory as Sandra Mullins

Certificate 15

Synopsis

Will Burton (David Tennant), a talented junior barrister of peerless intellect and winning charm, specialises in spiriting people out of tight legal corners, hence his nickname - The Escape Artist.

Much to the aggravation of his courtroom rival, Maggie Gardner (Sophie Okonedo), Will is in high demand, as he has never lost a case.

But when Will's talents acquit Liam Foyle (Toby Kebbell), who is standing trial for an horrific and high-profile murder, that courtroom brilliance comes back to bite him.

Foyle walks free, but he is a serial killer and surely it is only a matter of time until he kills again.

Also starring Ashley Jensen, this is thrilling action drama at its best.

Special Features
  • Interviews with Cast and Crew
  • B-Roll Footage
  • Photo Gallery

Review

As a massive David Tennant fan, I will pretty much watch anything the man is in.  Comedies, drama, everything he is in seems to have an air of quality to it.  The man seems to give us multi-layered charcters but with an emotional edge to them that makes viewers care about what happens to them.  It doesn't matter whether he is playing The Doctor or, in this case, a barrister, he puts his all in the character.

With this psychological thriller, I had very high hopes for the story itself.  The idea behind it sounds so scarily realistic that it hooked me in for the most part.  The idea that a lawyer could get someone off for a crime they committed only for them to carry on is quite a scary one if I'm honest and even got me thinking about if that has ever happened to this degree.

However, there were a few moments for me that veered in to melodrama to such a degree that it was almost a parody.  Those moments took me out of the drama of it all a couple of times and that hurt the story but despite that, the performances more than made up for the shortfalls.

Of course, you have Tennant himself.  The change his character goes through in this mini-series, while not an original one, is still incredibly well acted out by Tennant.  Even in the more melodramatic moments, Tennant just adds a level of quality to proceedings.

However, the chilling performance by Kebbell is one that really got under the viewers skin.  It was part evil psycho and part calm 'Hannibal Lecter' style murderer.  His portrayal of the character could have gone off in to being completely over the top, and in the final third that comes close to happening,

As always, Sophie Okonedo, was absolutely brilliant.  She gets the balance of her character spot on and there's a wonderful scene between her and the Foyle character that is then reprised later on in the story that while simple, it's so well played that it comes across as wonderfully creepy.

The only part that didn't really feel as good as the others was Ashley Jensen as Kate Burton.  Her performance was very well done but the character herself seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity and the writing for her felt like it was going through the motions.

All in all, this mini-series, while full of great performances is a little let down by the writing that sometimes comes across as a little lazy and sometimes over melodramatic.  That's a bit of a shame and is the most evident in the final half hour or so where the writing and the actions of the characters seem to come out of left field and feel really out of place with the rest of the story.

That said, the performances by Kebbell, Tennant and Okenedo make it well worth picking up.

Show 7/10
Picture 8/10
Sound 8/10
Special Features 6/10
Overall 29/40

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Esmee Issue 1 Review



Review By Patrick Scattergood

Written and Created By
Victor Wright

Art By
Arief Muslian
Chis Arieswendha
Chimere Cavil

Lettering By
Brant Fowler

Cover By
Ros Kovac

Published By
Geeky Kid Comics

Genre
Horror, Thriller

Synopsis

Conman Jack Bollard, finds his way into the arms of wealthy, French, Annabelle Cristof.  Only to murder her within six months of marriage.  His plans are thwarted, when he realises her riches are still out reach until his new step daughter comes of age.  

Furious, Jack plots to murder the girl - but it all goes wrong when he brings her home to London and turns her into a woman of the night and Esmee meets a thousand year old vampire.

Review

At this rate, Victor Wright is going to have his own section on this site with the sheer amount of releases he manages to put out.

With the amount of comic books Wright writes, you would think there would be a dip in quality at some point but thus far there hasn't been.  He always manages to keep the writing at a good quality for all of his titles.

But that begs one simple question.  Where does this vampire tale from the mind that gave us 'Exposed', 'The Lawless Ones' and many more, fit in?  As we all know, the vampire genre is incredibly crowed, especially in the comic book world.  There have been some good titles, some great ones and sadly, some absolutely awful ones so  I have to admit.  I was a bit hesitant with this one.  I knew that the writing would be good as would the pacing but just how many more ways can comic book writers make the now diluted blood suckers interesting again.

I need not have worried at all.  Wright has crafted an exciting story yet one that has a deliberate pace.  It kind of reads like a comic book with old fashioned sensibilities yet with an eye to today's comics.  The best comparison would be with the recent 'Sherlock Holmes' comics that Dynamite have been putting out recently.  They're set in the past yet are written with such an eye to the comics of today that they really hook in the reader.  Victor Wright has done exactly that here.

Instead of falling for many of the old cliches that a lot of vampire writers stumble over, Wright does a superb job of putting a new spin on it.  Due to the pacing, the characters are given room to breath and that really helps the story grow on the reader.

With the intelligent writing, you needed to have art that would have the subtle touch that Wright brings yet be done in such a way to keep the eyes glued to the page.  That's what we have here in spades.  I was honestly surprised at just how good the art was in that it's some of the best I've seen in this genre for a long time.  It suits the story brilliantly well and has some great touches like the use of shadows and subtle facial expressions really give the story a cinematic feel to it.  Your eyes are drawn to every detail on the page and that really brings the quality of the story to the forefront.  I have to admit that I wasn't massively aware of the artists involved in this title.  I'd heard their names but never gotten around to seeing the titles they've worked on yet after seeing the work here, I'll definitely be checking them out.

If you are tired of the weak as hell vampires that we seem to be stuck with in the media these days that seem to do more sparkling than blood sucking then you should definitely check this one out.  It may just prove to you that the vampire genre still has fangs.

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