Friday, 26 June 2015

A Woman of Many Faces - Cosplayer Becky Courtney Talks to COASM



COASM is joined here today by the cosplayer Becky Courtney, who has very kindly taken the time to pop in to talk to Patrick Scattergood about her cosplay projects and her inspirations.

PS: Thank you for taking the time to pop in to our little part of the internet.

BC: Hey, thank you so much for having me! I've been so excited about this!

PS: To someone that may not be familiar with your cosplay work, how would you best describe your cosplay style?

BC: Oh gosh, my cosplay style! I would say any character that can run around and be dorky and silly like Merida or Anna cause then I really don't have to act any different to myself, or just a complete badass like Tauriel or Daenerys!


I'd like think I stay quite close the the costume in general although I have done a different version of Harley Quinn for my panel at comic con, just because I wanted to do something different!

PS: You’ve cosplayed as a varied number of characters from both film and comic book but what would you say is your favourite character to be?

BC: I'd say my favourite character to cosplay is probably Merida as that's the character I'm most known for because she's my favourite princess so I literally threw everything into it, the accent, the way she walks, I got a proper long bow and quiver and things for her too! They're not completely screen accurate props as I use them for Tauriel too so I don't mind that they're not!

PS: On the flipside, what would you say has been the most difficult costume to create?

BC: Most difficult...um, well I don't make my costumes but the one I've had the most difficulty with was probably Anna from Frozen as the costume was from China and apparently people in china don't have boobs, so I had to get an entirely new shirt and had to modify the vest to get it to even fit me correctly other than that, they've all been pretty easy!

PS: How would you say it differs between going to the conventions as a fan and as a cosplayer?

BC: Completely different, I've been to only probably a handful as a fan in civi clothes and sometimes it's a nice change from constantly having to adjust your wig or like completely have to take a costume off if you wanna go to the toilet or something! 


Although I do find myself like helping out all the time, like with friends costumes and stuff so it never really goes away. I don't know If I prefer any cause when I'm in costume, I'll want to be in normal clothes and when I'm in normal clothes, I'll want to be in costume! It's a weird experience when like people want a photo with you then you'll get changed later and you'll see them and say hi, then they look at you like 'I literally have no idea who you are!'

PS: Who or what would you say has been your biggest influence on your cosplay work?

BC: Definitely the people around me like friends have been the biggest inspiration to me because I see their incredible costumes and hard work they put into it! My friend Robyn Alderson was the person to get me into cosplay because she just has these beautiful costumes and no matter who she is she just suits them so much like I think I saw her Poison Ivy first and was completely just in awe of her!

Another friend who completely inspires me is my friend Crispy, she cosplays Castiel from Supernatural and she made her own angel wings and owns I don't know how many coats for Cas and the amount of hours we've spent making her look either beaten up and bruised or like does in the leviathan episodes, the commitment she has to the character and the costume is definitely an inspiration! 

I did my first proper cosplay at Teesside Unleashed which is an event ran by Lee Hunter an just from there on I've just wanted to get better because he runs incredible events like Mini-con which we have a cast for and it's basically like a con for kids, being asked to be a part if it was amazing so that kinda put a spark under my butt to get better and inspired me to try more difficult costumes because I saw the standard of everyone else.

PS: Cosplay has been seen as quite a divisive side to the convention world. There are many fans of the scene and there are many detractors that say it takes away from the trade side of things. Why do you think the world of cosplay has that kind of reaction?

BC: Hmm, this is a difficult one, I know a lot of people who trade at events and obviously I know a lot of cosplayers too. I think that it's a really positive thing because you have these geeks who are so passionate about things they love and then traders who sell things made for these geeks and so what if they're in costume? 


People run events that are specifically for just traders and it's not a convention but when you do have conventions where people want to dress up and meet their idols and collect things to boost their love of things, I would have thought that would be a good thing for traders?

PS: After having been to a lot of conventions, what would you say has been the best costume or cosplayer you have seen?

BC: I've met soooooo many amazing cosplayers and seen some bloody incredible costumes but if I had to narrow it down to a few it would be Hull-Harley Quinn, she's such a gorgeous Cosplayer and she puts so much into her Harley Quinn costumes! Shes just done the new costume from Suicide Squad and it's such a stunning costume and Tarina is such an inspiration to me! 

Three I'm going to band together because I know them all, Ian Wardrobe as Death Stroke, Bethany Malloy as Roxy from Kingsman and Chris Kemp as Spike from Buffy the vampire slayer. All of these costumes just are...!! 

Just I never hardly see these costumes at events and when I think of these characters, I think of the people, and I just love the badass costumes they do. And one that I've just seen at an event was a guy came as Ed Sheeran, he drew on his arms for his tattoos and carried around a guitar, it was awesome!

PS: What costumes are currently on your radar for making next?

BC: I've got a few lined up that I wanna do! My next one is coming up is Demon/ normal version of Dean Winchester from Supernatural, it's my first male cosplay so I'm definitely excited for that, the 10th doctor is another male cosplay I'm planning too then I also want to have a go at some more Game Of Thrones cosplays!


PS: All in all, what would you say has been the best advice you have both been given upon entering the cosplay world and advice that you have given yourself?

BC: The best advice I've ever been given is that cosplay isn't for anyone else but you, do it because you love it, not because you have it! 

And I think the best advice I could give is people are always going have to have something to say whether it be bad or good, it's up to you what you do with it but as long as you're happy and proud of yourself then what does it matter if someone has a negative comment?  Just smile and say thank you!

BC: It's been an absolute honour to have been asked to do this interview so thank you so much!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Beneath London: A Tale of Langdon St. Ives Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
James P. Blaylock

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Mystery, Adventure

Synopsis


The collapse of the Victoria Embankment uncovers a passage to an unknown realm beneath the city.  Langdon St. Ives sets out to explore it, not knowing that a brilliant and wealthy psychopathic murderer is working to keep the underworld's secrets hidden for reasons of his own.

St. Ives and his stalwart friends investigate a string of ghastly crimes: the gruesome death of a witch, the kidnapping of a blind, psychic girl, and the grim horrors of a secret hospital where experiments in medical electricity and the development of human, vampiric fungi, serve the strange, murderous ends of perhaps St. Ives's most dangerous nemesis yet.


Review

As a very big fan of the Langdon St. Ives series of novels, I was very excited to see that there would be another book coming out from those lovely people at Titan Books.  That's when I started to get a little bit worried.  With the first three novels being so well written and positively gripping, would this new installment even come close to matching the heights that they set?

Well, after reading this one, I have to admit that it's done that and more.

As always, Blaylock has done a fantastic job of bringing his brilliant characters to life and that's even more apparent in this story,  You find yourself really gripped by just what are going on in their lives and wanting to get to the next page as quick as possible to see which twist Blaylock is going to throw at you next.

Talking of twists, there are a hell of a lot of them here and while in other hands that would have dulled their impact, Blaylock gives each and every twists equal importance and that makes the story really crack along at a great pace.

The stories of St. Ives have always felt like a rarity in the steampunk genre.  Within the genre, there always seem to be really paper thin stories and having a little bit of a mechanical slant to it.  That's not the case here.  His stories always come across as not only fully fleshed out but have a lot of surprises throughout the tale.

A detective is only as good as his nemesis and this novel has a great nemesis.  I can't really say much about the character without giving away any spoilers so I'll just leave it as it is definitely worth grabbing this book for the nemesis alone.

If you are a fan of the first three books or even just of the steampunk genre alone, this is the book for you.  The story is well paced, the characters multi-layered and there are so many twists that you will find yourself unable to put the book down.

Story 8.5/10
Characters 9/10
Cover 8.5/10
Recommended 9/10
Overall 35/40

Arrow: Season 3 Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Created By
Greg Berlanti
Marc Guggenheim
Andrew Kreisberg

Based on the Characters Created By
DC Comics

Genre
Crime, Action, Superhero

Cast

Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen / The Arrow
Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance
David Ramsey as John Diggle
Willa Holland as Thea Queen
Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak
John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn
Colton Haynes as Roy Harper
Caity Lotz as Sara Lance
Paul Blackthorne as Quentin Lance
Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer
Karl Yune as Maseo Yamashiro
Rila Fukushima as Tatsu Yamashiro
Katrina Law as Nyssa
Matt Nable as Ra's al Ghul

Certificate
15

Synopsis

In the aftermath of his victory, Season Three opens with The Arrow now a hero to the citizens of Starling. Crime is down, people feel safer, and Captain Lance even calls off the Anti-Vigilante Task Force. 

Basking in his success, Oliver believes he can finally have a private life and asks Felicity out on a date. But the second Oliver takes his eye off the ball, a deadly villain reappears in Starling, forcing Oliver to realize that he can never be Oliver Queen – not as long as the city needs The Arrow.

Review

After the heights of the first two seasons, season three of Arrow was going to have to be absolutely brilliant in order to match that but is that what the fans got?

Well no.

After watching this season one thing struck me the most.  The whole season seemed very uneven.  Just when there would be a couple of fantastic episodes in a row, you'd then get one that fell flat and that momentum would be lost.  That's the case in a few of the recent superhero shows that are coming out recently but most evident here.

Story wise, the season sounded brilliant on paper.  Ra's al Ghul turning up to make Queen's life hell sounded like it would be an absolutely gripping story with a massive scope for character growth for the characters involved yet here, we got a season where a lot of the characters seemed to do a complete 360 personality wise or would make decisions that would go completely against everything that had been set up in the first two seasons.

That fact is made even more sad by the simple fact that the season really started with a shock.  A tragedy came out of nowhere and left you wondering just where the characters could go from there.  As a fan that really had me on the edge of my seat but the episodes that followed didn't really seem to match that.  At best there were some brilliant additions to the cast and some familiar faces from the comics made some fantastic appearances.  I've always loved how some of the background characters and people that would get involved in Queen's life wouldn't always been the best known characters but it would then give them a chance to shine and that's always been one of the strengths of this series.  At worst, the series just seemed to resort to some shocks just for the sake of having a shock wedged in there.

All in all, the series wasn't terrible nor was it as bad as the critics have said.  It was a bit disappointing and I didn't really like the simple fact that the characters seemed to be going out of their way to be different from the first two series.  I think that the sense of danger that the first two series had was lost because it seemed so close under the whole 'will they or won't they' between Oliver and Felicity.  That's a bit of a shame because on paper, the series sounded like it should have gripped and excited the viewers.

This season is still worth checking out because the good episodes were very good but don't expect it to be as gripping as the first two seasons.  I'm kind of hoping that they try something a bit different with season four because the whole city wide threat has now been done three times in a row and has become a little bit expected now so fingers crossed.

Show 6/10

Dave vs the Monsters: Ascendance Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
John Birmingham

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Horror, Action, Comedy

Synopsis

Hardworking monster-slayer, Dave Hooper, tries to not bring his work home with him, but nowadays it's hard to keep them separate.  Email, cellphones, empath daemons, they never let a guy rest.

The Horde has been raising hell and leveling cities from New York to Los Angeles, keeping Dave and his fellow monster-killer, Russian spy Karin Varatschevsky, very busy.

But when the legions of hell invade the small seaside town his boys call home, Dave has to make a call.  Save the world?  Or save his family?  Not as easy a choice as you'd think, since Dave's ex-wife expects to be saved too.  And there's no convincing her that the super sexy Russian spy isn't his girlfriend.  She's just his sidekick - and an assassin.

Review

With the first two books in this trilogy being best described as a hell of a lot of fun under lashings of gore and completely un-politically correct humour, you pretty much know where book three is going to take you.

Ascendance works very well as the final part of the trilogy but one thing bugged me.  Considering that is meant to be the ending of the trilogy, it felt a little bit unfinished.

That said, the story itself was very well paced, the gore that the fans of the series have come to expect is all here and accounted for and there are some brilliant moments of both cynical and morbidly dark humour. The characters here are the ones that you either loved or hated in the first two books and in this one, yes, Dave is still a complete and utter asshole.

The fight scenes here have a very visceral feel to them and you can really see them jumping off of the page in a big way.  The only problem with them is that the sheer amount of them had me feeling a little bit like there'd be a slight bit of overkill, pun intended.

One of the things that I liked the most about this third installment is the simple fact that there are some very good links to the first two novels.  One of these is just how Dave's actions in Resistance are going to affect his life in this book and it's very well handled.  The simple fact that there were consequences to his actions was a very welcome addition to the book because other books in this genre tend to just let their characters do what they want and have nothing happen in return.

I must admit that this book, much in the same way as the first two, will most definitely not be for everybody.  The humour, that ranges from the broad, almost slap stick style through to gallows style, is quite literally thrown at the reader, as are the action scenes.  I feel that this book will be one of those divisive books that you either love or absolutely hate.  For me, I fall in to the first camp.  It's not a perfect book but one that I definitely enjoyed.

Story 7.5/10
Characters 7.5/10
Cover 7.5/10
Recommended 7.5/10
Overall 30/40

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Doppelganger Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
David McCluskey

Art and Cover By
Lukasz Marko

Published By
Dammaged Comics

Genre
Horror, Psychological

Synopsis

Doppelganger tells the tale of Tom, who takes a fancy to a mirror he spots in an antique shop, but then things start to change as the mirror starts to take a fancy to him.

Review

David McCluskey, from Dammaged Comics, has a knack of writing stories that can really creep under your skin and stay with you long after you have closed the cover.  In fact, he manages to do so in a variety of different ways ranging from the rhyming stories in the Interesting Tymes series of stories right through to the supernatural horror of Wooden Heart.  That's the mark of a good writer and that is something that McCluskey definitely is but where would this new release slip in to the scheme of things?

One of the things that struck me the most about this release was the slightly unusual art work.  From the striking cover through to the interior art, Marko's art really keeps your eye on each and every panel no matter how horrific the scene is and for this title, that works extremely well and is one of the main reasons that the story really stabs its claws in to the reader and doesn't let you go.

All through the story, the art really does give the story a dark, disturbing edge and because of that I would have to say that this title wouldn't be for everyone out there.  Some of the things that happen in this title will shock you and really will stay with you after you have finished the story and some of that is down to the dark and almost grimy looking art.

With such powerful art, the story was going to have to be absolutely top notch and that's exactly what we have here.  The story itself is horrific in places and McCluskey really has outdone himself with this release.  I have to admit that after reading his other releases, the sheer brutality in some of the scenes here did take me a little by surprise.  That said, he really has a style that can best be described as short and to the point.  There's no beating around the bush here, as the saying goes, and because of that the story has a real punch to it.

I have to admit that this one is quite a hard title to rate.  On one hand, it's a very well written and very well drawn release and one that I would recommend for fans of horror with a supernatural slant to it.  On the other hand, it has quite a unique style so that may end up putting readers off but personally, I think it's an accomplished and interesting release.

Trigger Warning: Doppelganger contains scenes of sexual assault and violence

Story 7.5/10
Art 8.5/10
Cover 9/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 33/40

Saturday, 20 June 2015

From a High Tower: The Elemental Masters Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Mercedes Lackey

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Fantasy, Adventure

Synopsis

When a man is caught stealing from a walled garden owned by a strange woman, he bargains away his youngest daughter in return for food for his family.  The woman, rumoured to be a witch, takes the golden-haired child and locks her away in a high tower.

Sixteen years later, Giselle has lived an isolated life, trained in Air Magic by her adoptive - an Earth Master.  But when her mother dies suddenly and Giselle finds herself a fugitive, she must use her magic and markmanship to survive on her own.

Review

Mercedes Lackey appears to be very fond of fairy tales if her recent books have been anything to go by.  With this one a bit of a riff on the tale of Rapunzel, Lackey breathes new life in to it using her own unique style and lyrical flow of her writing.

Lackey has always been known for the sheer amount of detail she puts in to the worlds that she creates and that is no different here.  The world really feels like it could exist and because of that you are drawn in to their world and eagerly wanting to know just what is going to happen next.

As big a fan of Lackey's as I am, I have to admit that the characters have been a little bit hit and miss in some of her most recent work.  When compared to some of the other characters in her older work, there just seemed to be something missing but where on that line would this new book land?  Well, I have to admit that the main character of Giselle does come across as a bit predictable in places and because of that, I found it hard to root for her in certain parts of the book.  That said, next to Giselle, the character of Captain Cody, does feel a lot more interesting.  Yes he is a bit of a cad, someone who goes through women like hot breakfasts yet that's not all he is.  His character starts to grow as the book progresses and you find yourself really caring for him and wanting to know more about him.

The story itself is well written, well paced and an interesting take on a well known fairy tale.  One of the things that I like about Lackey is that no matter how many times an idea has been used, she always finds a way to make it feel completely new and unique.

All in all, this is a good addition to her ever growing library of work and one that is well worth picking up, especially if you are a fan of Mercedes Lackey.

Story 7.5/10
Characters 7.5/10
Cover 7.5/10
Recommended 7.5/10
Overall 30/40

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Annie (2014) Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Will Gluck
Aline Brosh McKenna

Based on the Musical By
Thomas Meehan

Based on the Comic Strip By
Harold Gray

Directed By
Will Gluck

A Marcy Media, Olive Bridge Entertainment, Overbrook Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Village Roadshow Pictures Film

Genre
Musical, Drama, Comedy

Cast


Jamie Foxx as Will Stacks

Quvenzhane Wallis as Annie
Rose Byrne as Grace
Bobby Cannavale as Guy
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Nash
David Zayas as Lou
Cameron Diaz as Hannigan

Year Released
2014

Certificate
PG

Synopsis

Academy Award® nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) stars as Annie, a young, happy foster kid who's also tough enough to make her way on the streets of New York in 2014. Originally left by her parents as a baby with the promise that they'd be back for her someday, it's been a hard knock life ever since with her mean foster mom Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz). But everything's about to change when the hard-nosed tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) - advised by his brilliant VP, Grace (Rose Byrne) and his shrewd and scheming campaign advisor, Guy (Bobby Cannavale) - makes a thinly-veiled campaign move and takes her in. 

Stacks believes he's her guardian angel, but Annie's self-assured nature and bright, sun-will-come-out-tomorrow outlook on life just might mean it's the other way around.

Review

I honestly don't know where to start with this movie.  Not in a bad way, just after some of the vitriol thrown towards the movie, you would honestly think that it was the worst movie ever created.  One of the things that struck me the most was  the simple fact that a lot of the criticisms that were thrown at movie were due to the race of the characters shows a really sad state of the world we live in really.

I sat down to watch this with my little lad Cyrus, who chose this movie over both Strange Magic and Cinderella, but went in to it with quite low expectations because of just how much I love the version starring the legendary Tim Curry.

After watching this one I realised that this movie is actually very entertaining.  I'm the sort of movie watcher that doesn't mind if they change the sex or race of a character.  I go in to it thinking that if the actor or actress can do a good job of a character then those things have nothing to do with if the movie will be good or not and that's the case with this one.

The cast do an absolutely top notch job of making the characters both believable and entertaining.  There's also a very sweet, emotional core at the heart of the movie that really makes it one of those sorts of movies that warms your heart but without it feeling too sickly sweet.

A lot of that boils down to the chemistry between Jamie Foxx and the young Quvenzhané Wallis.  Their performances are so assured that you can see the relationship between them grow as the movie progresses and it's really sweet and charming to see.  Yes there are some cliched moments but their roles really made the characters rise above what might have otherwise been a shadow of a copy of the originals.

The only cast member that didn't really impress me was that of Cameron Diaz.  I'll admit that I've never been her biggest fan in the world but I found her very irritating in this movie.  I know her role is that of someone that is meant to be hated but will then find redemption, which is a well worn road in this type of film but her performance came across unable to decide whether to be understated or over the top.

As a musical rests on it's songs, I was pleased to see some of the originals included in the movie itself.  I know there was a bit of an outrage about a couple of line changes but they worked well within the confines of the world they created for the movie.  The new songs here do work well in the movie as well so I feel there was a nice mix of the old and new included.

All in all, this was never going to be that much of an original movie.  They went down some very worn paths and there were a few parts that felt quite cliched.  That said, the performances by the cast, especially that by the adorable Quvenzhané Wallis absolutely owned the movie and for that alone, I would recommend it.

The only downside is that my son has gone to bed singing 'Hard Knock Life' but hey, it's taken over from 'Let it Go' at least.

Movie 7.5/10


Saturday, 13 June 2015

Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Kyle Menke
John Mathot
Mike Bell
Mike Diederich
Michael B. Singleton
Edward Rivera
Patrick O'Connor
J.G. Orrantia
Eddie Pittman
Dani Vetere
Jim Bernstein
Martin Olson
Scott D. Peterson

Based on Characters Created By
George Lucas
Jim 'Swampy' Marsh
Dan Povenmire

Directed By
Robert F. Hughes
Sue Perrotto

Genre
Animated, Science Fiction, Adventure, Comedy

Cast

Vincent Martella as Phineas Flynn
Ashley Tisdale as Candace Flynn
Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Ferb
Caroline Rhea as Linda Flynn-Fletcher
Richard O'Brien as Lawrence Fletcher
Dan Povenmire as Darthenshmirtz
Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh as Major Hologram
Dee Bradley Baker as Perry, Chewbacca
Maulik Pancholy as Baljeet
Bobby Gaylor as Buford Von Stromm
Alyson Stoner as Isabella Shapiro-Garcia
Olivia Olson as Vanessa

Year Released
2014

Certificate
U

Synopsis

A couple of summers ago in a galaxy far, far away, Phineas and Ferb are happily basking in the glow of Tatooine's twin suns - until plans for the Death Star accidentally fall into their hands, thrusting them (and Agent P) into a galactic rebellion and an epic struggle of good versus evil in Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars.

Will Phineas and Ferb be able to resist the Dark Side?  Will Stormtrooper Candace finally bust a Rebel?  Can Agent P stop Darthenshmirtz from using his force-powered 'Sith-Inator'?

May the Ferb be with you...always.

Review


When Disney bought the rights and everything to do with Star Wars, I have to admit that I was a little worried about what kind of lame tie-in's and spin off shows and movies we would be getting.

After seeing the team up with the Marvel superheroes and the team from Phineas and Ferb, I was wondering how they could do the same but with the characters from Star Wars but without it being just another in a long line of spoofs.

That's why when I sat down to watch this one with my little lad, I wasn't expecting too much from it.  I remember seeing the Family Guy version of the Star Wars trilogy, the original ones, and being entertained by them so I was hoping to at least raise a smile while watching this.

I have to admit that this one is definitely one of the best spin-off's and cross overs that I have seen in a long time.  I'll even admit that I actually enjoyed it more than the Family Guy ones too.  For a Disney release, there were quite a few jokes for the adults out there too.  My favourites were the little jokes and digs at the changes that were made in the special editions of the original trilogy.  That said, there were some absolutely fantastic gags in there for the little ones too, a lot of them had my little lad in absolute stitches too.

Animation wise, it's the same as in the television series so that will no doubt please the fans of the television show as well, it's the same with the cast as well.  They do some brilliant work that stays true to the things that make the show so popular yet also put a nice spin on some Star Wars related lines as well.  To me, I felt it was the perfect mix.

The thing that struck me was the simple fact that in most cross over episodes or spin off's, you get the characters from the show taking the parts of those in the movies but here, they're still the same characters that you know and love but their actions have an effect on what the actual Star Wars characters get up to.  The original characters such as Luke, Han, Chewbacca and more all turn up in small parts but they're very funny.

Considering you can get this one on DVD quite cheaply, and it has an additional five episodes from the television show included too, then this is definitely one well worth picking up.  If you are a Phineas and Ferb fan or a Star Wars fan, there is a lot here to get your giggle on.


Movie 8/10


Friday, 12 June 2015

The King in Yellow Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written and Illustrated By
I.N.J. Culbard

Based on the Novel By
Robert William Chambers

Published By
Self Made Hero

Genre
Supernatural

Synopsis

"Strange is the night where black stars rise, and strange moons circle through the skies..."

The King in Yellow: a play that brings madness to all who read it.

Irresistible and insidious, it lures the reader with its innocence and dooms them with its corruption.

In a series of interlinked stories, Robert W. Chambers' classic work of weird fiction shows the creeping spread of the play's macabre touch.  I.N.J. Culbard's deft and unsettling adaptation breathes new life into Chambers' influential masterpiece, expertly revealing the malice and mayhem that await those unlucky enough to turn the wrong page.

"...But stranger still is Lost Carcosa."

Review

Self Made Hero are one of those sorts of publishers that always seems to choose the right works to adapt and with their long list of adaptations that include work by people such as H.P. Lovecraft and others, I'm always eager to see just what will be coming up next from them.

The King in Yellow has a massive reputation behind it.  The original story by Robert W. Chambers has long been considered a masterpiece, almost even a master class in story telling and suspense building.  When it was announced that it would be joining the ranks of adaptations by Self Made Hero, I have to admit that I was a little bit worried that they might have bitten off more than they could chew with this one.

Well, that fear was most definitely unfounded.

The things that made the original by Chambers so effective and shocking are all here and accounted for but with Culbard's subtle skill at storytelling, they have really put a new spin on the story but done so without losing any of the originals effectiveness.  Culbard's adaptation of Chambers' writing is not only masterful in it's own right but manages to stay true to Chambers' style but does so with a touch of class and a bit of class as well.  Culbard's highly effective style gives the characters a whole new life and really sucks the reader in to the various connected tales here.

A lot of the success of this adaptation is not only down to the writing by Culbard but the art work too.  In equal parts stunningly beautiful and full of dread, the art not only does the story justice but also gives it new layers that it uses to sink its claws in to the reader.

One of my favourite parts of this graphic novel is quite simply that the art has an almost other worldly feel to it.  Kind of like you are watching it unfold in front of your very eyes but you still feel slightly disconnected from it as well.  That leads to the stories feeling unsettling and creepy in equal measure.

I have to admit that while the original wouldn't be to the tastes of every reader out there, I urge you to search it out and find it.  Then you need to grab this adaptation.  It's masterful, effective and quite frankly, Culbard's best work, which considering the sheer quality of the work he has done before should tell you just how good this one truly is.

Story 8.5/10
Art 9/10
Cover 9/10
Recommended 9/10
Overall 35.5/40

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Live-In Fear Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written and Directed By
Brandon Scullion

An Iodine Sky Productions, Monsterworks66 Film

Genre
Horror

Cast

Sarah Greyson as Becca
Arielle Brachfield as Mallory
David Lautman as Seth
Chris Dorman as Eric
Myles Cranford as Ferry
Geoffrey Gould as Patrick
Maria Olsen as Sue

Year Released
2014 / 2015

Synopsis

In the snowy Utah mountains, an ancient being terrorizes four friends as they try to survive.

Review

As a fan of indie horror in general, I've noticed that just recently there seems to be a second glut of found footage or vampire movies taking over the genre again.  That led me to starting to get slowly but surely bored of the genre.

That's when Live-In Fear turned up on my 'to review' list thanks to the wonderful people involved in the movie.  The first thing I noticed was the simple fact that it wasn't yet another found footage movie.  Now don't get me wrong, when done right then that kind of thing can be very creepy and interesting but there have been so many awful ones that I shudder the minute I hear those two words mentioned.  Well, I've digressed so back to this movie.

With micro-budget horror, there's always a 'come on you can do it' feel to the movies.  They don't have the big budgets to CGI the hell out of everything and that leaves them to find better, more practical ways to create the effects on the screen and that's exactly what we get here.  There are some impressive kills and gore effects here and while not all are successful, they were well done and a lot better than some I've seen in other movies.

The story itself is a bit of a weird one to pin down.  The one way I can think of describing it is that it kind of comes across as a bit of a weird, screwed nightmare and that's the best way to view the movie.  I have to admit that there were a couple of scenes that had me scratching my head and wondering just what was going on but with a little bit of closer editing, that would be solved easily.

The rest of the movie is very well done and comes across as really interesting and quite unique.  A lot of that is down to the writing and the good use of pacing and practical effects but there cast assembled here are really well chosen.  Obviously, with a big horror name like Maria Olsen involved, she was always going to rule the roost so to speak and that's true here.  Her powerful performance really adds like the linchpin of the movie and is a great foundation for the movie to build upon and they do.  For me as a fan, my favourite performance was by far that of both Arielle Brachfield as Mallory and Sarah Greyson as Becca.  I would have loved to have had a little more character development for their characters but they do extremely well with what they have here.

Another thing that I like about the movie was that it had a real retro feel to it.  In fact, it felt like it would have been right at home with the late 70's and early 80's horror movies that I love so much.

If you are a fan of the lower budget and indie horror movies then this one will be up your street.  There are some really interesting moments and some great performances to really get under your skin so this one is one that is well worth picking up.

Movie 7/10


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Glass Thorns: Window Wall Review


Review By
Sian Evans

Written By
Melanie Rawn

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Fantasy, Adventure

Synopsis


The fourth installement of the Glass Thorns series following Touchstone, a theatre troupe living and performing in a world where magic exists.

As political tensions build in their world, personal tensions build alongside. With Cayden denying his Elsewhens, his younger brother Derien coming into his magic and Meika apparently having a midlife crisis in his twenties, will Touchstone still be as strong as ever?

Review

Well what can I say, Ms Rawn has done it again!

The plot has taken a slightly more tense twist, this time focusing even more around the tension between Cayden and Meika, the flow of writing is still as fluid as ever, enabling the reader to really get absorbed into the conversations and situations.

The themes of inequality and prejudices as voiced by the young prince who hates all magic, and the plays by Black Lightning gave pause for thought about the differences between people in our own world, which was a nice bit of extra food for thought.

All in all there is not much about this book I haven't said before about the first three, stunning pieces of writing, strong characters and situations, and yet again a frustratingly good cliff hanger!

Story 10/10
Characters 10/10
Cover 9/10
Recommended 10/10
Overall 39/40

The Watch (2012) Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Jared Stern
Seth Rogen
Evan Goldberg

Directed By
Akiva Schaffer

A 21 Laps, Dune Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film

Genre
Science Fiction, Comedy, Action

Cast

Ben Stiller as Evan
Vince Vaughn as Bob
Jonah Hill as Franklin
Richard Ayoade as Jamarcus
Rosemarie DeWitt as Abby
Mel Forte as Sgt. Bressman
Mel Rodriguez as Chucho
Doug Jones as Hero Alien
R. Lee Emery as Manfred
Erin Moriarty as Chelsea

Year Released
2012

Certificate
15

Synopsis

Comedy starring Ben Stiller Vince Vaughn Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade as a group of friends who form a neighbourhood watch group in order to win time away from their responsibilities only to discover a plot to destroy the world. 
While Evan Trautwig (Stiller), a newcomer to the suburban neighbourhood, may have a legitimate reason for forming a crime watch group following the recent murder of a friend it is clear that for most of the men ulterior motives are at work. 

Indeed Bob Finnerty (Vaughn) seems to spend a lot more time examining the dating habits of his daughter Chelsea (Erin Moriarty) than he does looking for threats. 

However when the men stumble across what appears to be an alien plan to destroy humankind they understand where their responsibilities lie and set out to counter the threat.

Review

There have been a great many movies that have tried to mix comedy, action and science fiction, some to successful and others not so much.  Where would this one end up in the grand scheme of things on that front?

I have to admit that Ben Stiller being in this one didn't really fill me with much confidence but considering that it had the fantastic Richard Ayoade, from television's The I.T. Crowd, I was eager to watch this after picking it up for next to nothing in a sale.

Some of the reviews weren't very promising for the movie but I've never been one for taking them for gospel so I sat down to watch this one with a very open mind.  In fact I look at movies in a simple way.  Am I entertained by the movie I'm watching regardless of budget or cast?  If the answer is yes then it gets a good score.

The Watch isn't a movie that is going to break any awards for originality but that's where the fun nature of it comes in.  This is a movie that really made me think of the comedies from the 80's and 90's that just didn't care what jokes they went for as long as they got a laugh.  This movie handles that approach in such a way that with the thick and fast delivery of the jokes, the viewer doesn't get a chance to get bored or put off by any jokes that don't tickle their funny bone.

To write this one off as just a gross out comedy but with added aliens would be a real mistake.  I liked the simple fact that there were some really good moments of character development and Stiller, not normally someone I enjoy in a movie, really gave a great performance as Evan.  He created a slightly neurotic but fun character yet he acts like the emotional linchpin of the movie itself.

There were a couple of moments where the movie felt a little disjointed but for the most part, the movie is absolutely hilarious, heart warming and definitely well worth picking up.  Ignore the really bad reviews that some of the sites gave this movie because it really is a fun way to spend a couple of hours.

Movie 7/10


The Dark Arts of Blood Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Freda Warrington

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Horror

Synopsis

1927: In the turmoil and glamour of 1920s Europe, vampires Karl, Charlotte and Violette face threats to their very existence. Fiery, handsome dancer Emil achieves his dream to partner the legendary ballerina Violette Lenoir – until his forbidden desire for her becomes an obsession. Rejected, spiralling towards madness, he seeks solace with a mysterious beauty, Leyla. But she too is a vampire, with a hidden agenda…


Is Leyla more dangerous than the sinister activist, Goderich Mann? When Karl and Charlotte undertake an exotic, perilous journey to rescue Emil, they unearth secrets that threaten disaster for vampire-kind.



The Dark Arts of Blood is the long-awaited brand-new fourth novel in the Blood books series.


Review

Freda Warrington is a name that is very well known in the horror genre thanks to her massively popular series of novels that deal with the lives of her vampire characters.

I must admit that while I'm not the biggest fan of the vampire genre as a whole, Warrington's books are always well read, well researched and interesting with some well rounded characters.  With this being the fourth installment in the Blood series of books, I was thinking that maybe there would be a sense of "been there, done that" to this one.

After reading it, I have to admit that wasn't the case.  The story itself is well paced and has some really interesting moments of character development for those involved in the story.  Emil's descent in to madness is extremely well handled and, for me, easily the best part of the story by far.  I do wish there could have been more of it but, on the other hand, that may have taken some of the impact away from the strength of that story line.

The rest of the novel is well written, well paced and the characters are just as interesting as they were in the other novels.  That said, this book did come across as a bit of a weird one in that it had all the ingredients to be an absolutely fantastic novel yet for some reason, while written extremely well, it just felt like it had something missing.  It's kind of like when you go in to a fancy cafe, order the best looking cake but then it just doesn't taste as nice as you imagined.

That said, The Dark Arts of Blood, is one that will really impress the readers that have been eagerly awaiting a new novel.  They will definitely grab this one and absolutely devour it and rightfully so.  For the most part I did really enjoy this one, which considering that the genre isn't one that normally grabs my interest that's a really good show of just how good a writer Warrington is.  I think my one complaint with this novel would be quite simply that it felt like it really wanted to be let off of the lease and run free yet that didn't happen for some reason.

Story 7/10
Characters 8/10
Cover 7/10
Recommended 7.5/10
Overall 29.5/40

Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier - Leviathan Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Jack Campbell

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Science Fiction, Military, Action

Synopsis


Two Syndicate World star systems have fallen prey to a mysterious fleet of warships—a fleet controlled entirely by artificial intelligence—that is now targeting Alliance space. The warships are no mystery to Geary. They were developed by his government to ensure security, but malfunctioned. If the Syndics learn the truth, the war with the Alliance will resume with a vengeance. 

As the government attempts to conceal the existence of the A.I. warships—and its role in their creation—Geary pursues them, treading a fine line between mutiny and obedience. But it soon becomes clear that his fleet is no match for the firepower of the machine-piloted armada.

With the help of the Dancer species of aliens, Geary has tracked the A.I. ships to their secret base in the supposedly mythical Unity Alternate star system where his fleet, the last hope of the Alliance’s future, will end the conflict at any cost.


Review

One of the things that has always bugged me about Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet series is that while there is a great and action packed story under it all that really can hook the reader in at times, there always seemed to be a bit of humanity lacking about the characters.  At times they felt flat and at others you really started to care for them.

In this installment, Campbell has improved on the characters a bit and that has helped massively in making them people that you can get behind and can really begin to care about but there were still some moments that let the cast of characters down somewhat.  It almost seemed like as the characters were growing with the subtle development that was flowing along the story but that would then get cut off before they became too human, so to speak.

The main selling point of the series has always been the action packed sequences that had an almost cinematic quality to them and that is more than evident here.  There are moments that really had me on the edge of my seat and really gave me an almost Star Wars feel to them but there was a couple of parts where it almost became overkill.  It didn't quite reach that moment and Campbell seemed to pull back with enough time to make the reader want more instead of overdoing it.

With a series such as The Lost Fleet, it's almost impossible to review each part of the series without mentioning the other parts and that's true here.  Steadfast, the installment before this one really fell flat for me as a fan so I was a little worried that this installment would suffer the same fate.  Luckily Campbell really upped his game for this one and really created a much better story with a much improved flow.

Like I said earlier, the depictions of the battle scenes have always been the high point of the series and they really do shine here.  There is a great deal of tension throughout these scenes and that leads the reader to really begin to wonder just how the battles would end.  I do have to admit that sometimes they did feel a little bit busy but at the same time, the cinematic and authentic feel of the scenes really did feel like you were involved.

I have to admit that while this isn't the best book that Campbell has put out in to the science fiction genre, this really does get the Lost Fleet series back on track in a big way and really has made me excited to see where the next one is going to go.

Story 7.5/10
Characters 7/10
Cover 7.5/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 30/40

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Dave vs The Monsters: Emergence / Dave vs The Monsters: Resistance Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
John Birmingham

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Supernatural, Action, Comedy, Horror

Synopsis

Emergence


Dave Hooper has a hangover from hell, a horrible ex-wife, and the fangs of the IRS deep in his ass. The last thing he needs is an explosion at work. A real explosion. On his off-shore oil rig.

But this is no accident, and despite the news reports, Dave knows that terrorists aren’t to blame. He knows because he killed one of the things responsible.

When he wakes up in a hospital bed guarded by Navy SEALs, he realizes this is more than just a bad acid trip. Yeah, Dave’s had a few. This trip is way weirder.

Killing a seven-foot-tall, tattooed demon has transformed the overweight, balding safety manager into something else entirely. An honest-to-goddamned monster slayer.


Resistance

When a dragon brings down the Vice President's plane and fresh demons emerge across the United States, monster slayer Dave Hooper realises that the battle of New Orleans was just the beginning.

Holed up in a swanky Las Vegas hotel, Dave is enjoying the perks of his new found celebrity.  But deep in the Under Realms, the monsters are regrouping, and it isn't long before Dave and his splitting maul are hauled in to action once more.

While his agent fields offers for movies and merchandise, Dave is tasked with ending a demon siege in Omaha, protecting the skies from a dragon horde and deciphering the UnderRealms' plans to take over the Earth.

As an ancient and legion evil threatens to destroy mankind, Dave may not be the hero humanity deserves. but he's the only one we've got.

Review

Emergence

With a name like Dave vs The Monsters, you should know exactly what you are going to get with a pair of books like this.  You want a wise cracking smart arse killing demons left, right and centre?  Well, that is exactly what you have got here.

The thing that struck me the most with the first installment, Emergence, is that this book is definitely one of those kinds of stories that you can just pick up and read without it being too taxing.  It has the feeling of a summer blockbuster at the cinema, the sort of movie that you go in to just wanting to be entertained and that's exactly what this book does.

Once Emergence gets the momentum going, it doesn't let up for one second.  The fast pacing really works well for a story like this and the fact that it doesn't take itself all that seriously really links in well with that pacing.  The thing that I really liked is that Dave isn't a stereotypical hero.  Instead he is quite frankly an ass hole and not afraid to show it.  Dave is the sort of person that doesn't know when to shut up, that doesn't give a damn who he offends and is a heavy drinking womaniser that definitely is all out for himself.  It's true that it can make him unlikeable but for me, it was a breath of fresh air.

I have to admit that this book isn't going to be for everyone but it is a hell of a lot of fun and hilarious in a "should I really be laughing at that" kind of way.

Story 7.5/10
Characters 7.5/10
Cover 7.5/10
Recommended 7.5/10
Overall 30/40

Resistance



After the all out craziness of the first book in the series, Resistance had a lot to live up to.  Or apologise for depending on your opinion of the book itself.

With Dave having enough redeemable qualities in the first book to make him a little bit likeable instead of just being an ass.  Here, his new found fame has definitely gone to his head.  Birmingham has taken the character and turned him up to 11 in a big way.

The sheer increase in his ego really made him quite annoying at times but at the same time, that works in the construct of the story,  He's not meant to be the goody two shoes.  He's not meant to be the all singing, all dancing good guy that we are used to seeing in these sorts of stories.  Like in the first novel, he is pretty much out for himself.  He wants the fame and the fortune that comes with having saved the day in the first novel and if he saves the world again doing so then that is a happy accident.

With the fast pacing being one of the main strengths of the first book, the pacing here is much the same.  The fast pacing really brings the action to the forefront yet there is time for quite a bit of character development.  I quite liked the fact that he didn't turn in to an all out 'jolly good chap' and kept the things that made him an ass but his character grew as the story progressed.  He started to wonder just what his selfish nature was doing to both himself and the people around him but Birmingham managed to put that across without it derailing the character that had been build up in the first installment.

The only thing that bugged me about this novel was quite simply that there was a cliffhanger ending.  I know that's a hard thing to escape in the second book of a trilogy but it left me wanting it to have been a little bit longer just so I could have found out a little bit more so it did it's job well there.

In much the same way as the first book was, this follow up won't be for everyone.  It will definitely offend some people but personally, I enjoyed it and was a good bit of cynical, gore filled fun.

Story 8/10
Characters 7.5/10
Cover 7.5/10
Recommended 7.5/10
Overall 30.5/40