Friday, 25 September 2015

Rio Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Carlos Saldanha
Earl Richey Jones
Todd Jones
Don Rhymer
Joshua Sternin
Jennifer Ventimilla
Sam Harper

Directed By
Carlos Saldanha

A Twentieth Century Fox Animation, Blue Sky Studios Film

Genre
Animation, Comedy, Adventure

Cast
Leslie Mann as Linda (Voice)
Jesse Eisenberg as Blu (Voice)
Wanda Sykes as Chloe (Voice)
Jane Lynch as Alice (Voice)
Jamie Foxx as Nico (Voice)
Will.i,am as Pedro (Voice)
Anne Hathaway as Jewel (Voice)
Jermaine Clement as Nigel (Voice)

Year Released
2011

Certificate
U

Synopsis

When Blu, a domesticated macaw from small-town Minnesota, meets the fiercely independent Jewel, he takes off on an adventure to Rio de Janeiro with the bird of his dreams.

Review

I have to admit that I have always had a bit of a soft spot for movies with talking and singing animals in ever since I was a child and now that I have a little one of my own, it's fabulous to see him taking such joy from those kinds of movies too.

He was recently bought Rio as a gift and I'd heard some very good things about the movie so we stuck it straight on to see if it would live up to those great reviews.

The first thing that struck me about Rio was the simple fact that it looked absolutely stunning in every frame.  The animation is clear, colourful and crisp and that really brings the vivid life of Rio and of the carnival season to live in a big and incredibly fun way.

It's the same with the characters themselves.  Their animation is a delight to watch.  The facial expressions, their movement, everything just looked gorgeous.

The story itself, while not exactly breaking new ground in the originality stakes, does come across as quite sweet yet exciting and fun.  That and the stunning looks of the movie really kept my little lad hooked to the entire movie and he loved rooting for the various characters.

My one problem with the movie is that while it was stunning to look at, the movie didn't have a whole load of character development to it and that led them to feeling a little bit stereotypical and a bit stale,  That's a shame because the rest of the movie itself is fun and feels so alive.

That said, this movie really does have a great cast, especially with Eisenberg as Blu.  He really did sound like he was having a lot of fun with the dialogue and really did put his own spin on the character but I just wish the writing had have given him a little more to work with.  It was the same with Hathaway as Jewel, she did a good job of making her the companion of Blu and the two voices worked really well together.  Personally, for me, the highlight was definitely Clement as the evil Nigel.  His performance had me in hysterics more than once.

All in all, this movie does suffer a little bit from being style over substance but with that said, it was still very entertaining, gorgeous to look at and kept my little lad entertained so you can't ask for more than that with an animated movie really.

Movie 7/10


Thursday, 24 September 2015

Slither Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written and Directed By
James Gunn

A Gold Circle Films, Strike Entertainment, Brightlight Pictures Film

Genre
Horror, Comedy, Science Fiction

Cast
Nathan Fillion as Bill Pardy
Elizabeth Banks as Starla Grant
Michael Rooker as Grant Grant
Haig Sutherland as Trevor
Gregg Henry as Jack MacReady
Don Thompson as Wally
Brenda James as Brenda Gutierrez

Year Released
2006

Certificate
15

Synopsis

What has got into you? An invasion of slithery slug-like parasites from outer space arriving via meteorite in the redneck town of Wheelsy, South Carolina, where they turn most of the local yokels into flesh-eating zombies... 

Having written for the jubilant trash-mongers at Troma Films before scripting 2004's well-received remake of Dawn Of The Dead, writer-director James Gunn crafted this hilarious splatter-fest as an homage to the comically violent horror films of the 1970s and 1980s, and he gets it just right with a low-budget look, perfect casting, grisly make-up effects and judicious use of CGI gore. 

With laughs and gross-outs aplenty, Slither is the best horror comedy since Shaun Of The Dead!

Review

As a massive fan of Nathan Fillion and of crazy, low budget horror movies, the idea of combining the two was too good to pass up on.  Add in the director of Super and of Guardians of the Galaxy and I went in to this one with a very high set of hopes.

The thing that struck  me the most was the feel of the movie.  Not only did it look like it could have easily have fitted in with the low budget movies of the 70's and 80's or feel like it has come from the Troma studio that brought us movies such as The Toxic Avenger.

Story wise, the movie does a great job of mixing comedy with gore and the pacing of the writing really means that the movie feels a lot shorter than it actually is.  A lot of that is down to the simple fact that Gunn really knows how to ramp up the tension while still slipping in a lot of dark humour.  

However good the story is, and here it is really good and gripping, it would be flat if the cast didn't make the characters come to life.  As always, Nathan Fillion brings a goofy yet endearing charm to the part of Bill Pardy and, for the most part, it is definitely his show.  I loved the simple fact that his hero wasn't the sort of hero that would get everything right.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  The things he did manage to get right, he got right by fluke or accident.  I loved that and it really added a great sense of comedy to the movie itself.

That said, the rest of the cast aren't exactly just eye candy either.  Michael Rooker looks like he's having the time of his life hamming it up as Grant Grant alongside Elizabeth Banks as his young wife Starla.

Gore and effects wise, the movie really does make absolutely superb use of its budget and looks positively brilliant, especially with the creature designs as Grant Grant is transforming.

For all you movie buffs out there, there are loads of little nods and 'Easter eggs' to find that give sly and knowing winks to other movies.  There is also a cameo from Gunn himself as well as the legend that is known as Lloyd Kaufman so keep an eye out for that!

All in all, this is one of the funniest horror / comedy mash up's that I have seen in a very long time.  It's true that it doesn't match the quality of Shaun of the Dead but I would be loathe to compare the two as they take vastly different approaches to their respective stories.  Definitely one well worth picking up, especially if you are a Nathan Fillion fan as he is in top form for this one.

Movie 8/10


Sunday, 13 September 2015

The Mage Storms (Omnibus) Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Omnibus Contains
Storm Warning
Storm Rising
Storm Breaking

Written By
Mercedes Lackey

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Fantasy, Adventure

Synopsis

Karse and Valdemar have long been enemy kingdoms- their peoples filled with mutal prejudice and mistrust. Only the vile deeds perpetrated on both kingdoms by Ancar of Hardorn, and the subsequent emergence of the armies of Eastern Empire in the wake of his defeat, have forced these two so-different lands into an uneasy alliance.

For the Eastern Empire, which has long been isolated and shrouded in mystery, is ruled by a monarch whose magical tactics may be beyond any sorcery known to the Western kingdoms.

Forced to combat this dire foe, not only must traditional enemies unite, but the Companions may, at last, have to reveal secrets which they have kept hidden for centuries... even from their beloved Heralds.

Review

I've been a fan of the novels by Mercedes Lackey for a long time and her world building skills in her stories are second to none.  That skills is the most true for series of books set in the world of Valdemar.

The novels  that have been set in that world have been thrilling and exciting for fans of well paced and well written fantasy adventures.  With Titan Books releasing the best selling novels Storm Warning, Storm Rising and Storm Breaking as part of this omnibus, I was excited to revisit that world.  So let's take a look at the three novels shall we?

Storm Warning

The one thing that struck me straight away about this first entry in to the trilogy is that the pacing for this one seemed a little off.  I normally love the slow build that Lackey is famous for because there seems to always been a very good pay off that makes that slow build worth sticking with.  Here, that didn't seem the case if I'm completely honest.

The story itself took a long time to get going but when it found it's second gear, it seemed to almost be in a rush to get to the end of the first installment.  I found that a bit disappointing in that the characters seemed to be slowly growing in to their adventure and then it seemed to be largely forgotten and they became less interesting.

Story wise, it was fine and there were some good moments that kept me interested and even made me want to read on to the second installment but largely, I think this was one of the weaker installments for the Valdemar series.

Story 6/10
Characters 6/10
Recommended 6/10

Storm Rising

The second book in the trilogy started off a little better that the previous Storm Warning story but then promptly fell in to the trap of having largely uninteresting characters.  It seemed like the pacing was a little off as well because of the fact that as soon as anything would happen that would spark my interest, they went in to the whole introspective side of the characters.  I don't mind this happening every now and then as it normally leads to some good character development in Lackey's stories but here it not only seemed to derail the momentum that the story had built up but also didn't seem to have all that much of an effect on the  characters themselves.

Story wise, it was a little better than Storm Warning and there were some great moments of excitement but they seemed to be few and far between and that's a real shame because it nearly put me off of reading the third and final part of the trilogy and I've never had that with Lackey's work before.

Story 6.5/10
Characters 5/10
Recommended 6/10

Storm Breaking

Well, here we are at the conclusion of the trilogy.  The first two installments have been a bit disappointing but here, Lackey kicks it up a gear.

The story itself seems to have been really found a good pace for the final installment and a lot of the pieces seem to have come together nicely for this finale.  A lot of the focus is taken away from the main characters in the first two novels and that brings forward some new characters as well as some old favourites.  That really felt like a good move because it gave the story a lot more depth than in the other two installments.  However, that did lead to a couple of parts feeling a little bit over crowded and busy.

With this book, Lackey does tie up some of the loose ends very well and even concludes a lot of her longer running story arcs in a manner that will please a lot of her fans.  That said, there were a couple of conclusions that felt a little out of place and that they were just put in there so that she hadn't missed any but for the most part, this was a much improved book in the series.

The one thing that I think hurt the book was the hurting.  It seemed altogether too sudden and like there should have been a lot more to the ending than there was and that's a shame because I enjoyed this one a lot more than Storm Warning and Storm Rising.

Story 7.5/10
Characters 6.5/10
Recommended 7/10

Overall this trilogy had some really well thought out moments and some rather disappointing ones but with someone as prolific as Lackey, that's to be expected.  It's a bit of a shame that this one was so disappointing because I'm a big fan of the world that she has created here and the conclusions for a couple of the characters seemed a little rushed.  That said, if you are a fan then this is still worth picking up despite there being better installments in the series itself.

Overall Scores for the Omnibus
Story 20/30
Characters 17.5/30
Recommended 19/30
Cover 7/10
Overall 63.5/90

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Demons of the Hellmouth - A Guide for Slayers Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
'Rupert Giles'
Nancy Holder

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Fantasy, Horror, Television Tie In

Synopsis

After the fall of the Watcher's Council, and the defeat of The First, Rupert Giles was determined to use experiences from his seven years in Sunnydale to educate the New Slayers.

He pulled together various notes and papers, including excerpts from his Watcher's Diary, to form a new handbook and field guide: Demons of the Hellmouth.

This is Giles's original copy and contains pages annotated by Buffy, Faith, Willow and Xander.  It has passed through many hands since the Battle of the Hellmouth.  And now, Slayer, you hold it in yours.  Are you ready to be strong?

With a foreword by actor Anthony Stewart Head, and written by award-winning Buffy expert Nancy Holder, Demons of the Hellmouth is the definitive in-world guide to the vampires, demons, and Big Bads from the cult TV series.

Review

As a fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, although I will readily admit that I was always a little bit more of an Angel fan, I have read a great number of some really impressive tie in books for the show.  A lot of them really capture the feel of the characters, the settings of the show and even the feel of the stories that we have all seen and loved.

With this, a handy guide written by Giles himself, I was wondering where they would be able to cover new ground without telling the fans a myriad of things that they have already been told countless times before.

Well, the first thing that I noticed about this edition is that is absolutely beautiful.  It really does look like a book that would have been in the Sunnydale library itself.  That is massively helped by the layout of the book itself,  I loved how the different sections all flowed nicely and really came across as having truly been from the mind of the popular character from the show itself.

This book kind of had a bit of a weird feeling for me.  I was correct in my feelings of whether or not they would manage to cover any new ground for the fans.  They didn't at all yet that also manages to be one of the strongest parts of the book.  It almost felt like putting on an old pair of slippers and just letting the comfort wash over you.

One of the things that I liked the most about this book, as a fan, were some of the in jokes and little comments that were dotted throughout the book.  Not all of the them were 100% successful, in fact a couple felt a little out of character for the people that were meant to have written them, but they really did give this fan a nice sense of nostalgia for a very popular television show.

The fact that it does so much for the fans out there could be one of it's weaknesses too.  If you're not a fan of the show then this isn't really the book for you.  You won't find a lot of stuff in here to grip you or make you want to begin to watch the show itself.  However, if you are a fan then you will love just how familiar this book is and is a great way to revisit those old, familiar and well loved characters.

Story 7/10
Characters 8/10
Cover 10/10
Recommended 7/10
Overall 32/40

The Autobiography of James T. Kirk Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
'James T. Kirk'

Edited By
David A. Goodman

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Science Fiction, Television Tie In

Synopsis

The Autobiography of James T. Kirk chronicles the greatest Starfleet captain's life (2233-2293), in his own words.

From his boyhood on an Iowa farm, his youth spent on Tarsus IV, his time in Starfleet Academy, his meteoric rise through the ranks of Starfleet, and his illustrious career at the helm of the U.S.S. Enterprise, this in-world memoir uncovers Captain Kirk in a way Star Trek fans have never seen.

Kirk's singular voice rings throughout the text, giving insight into his convictions, his bravery, his commitment to life - in all forms - throughout this Galaxy and beyond.

The Autobiography of James T. Kirk serves as a profile of courage and a celebration of a beloved Starfleet hero,

Review

When I see that a memoir is being released of a fictional character, I always wonder just where on the side of quality it will fall.  A lot of the ones that I have read have been really awful to mediocre at best.  In fact, it's rare for a writer to really nail just what makes a character so popular while giving it a unique voice in this sort of book.

The Autobiography of James T. Kirk is one of those books that breaks that run of poorly written character memoirs.  In fact, reading through this one, you can almost forget that he is a fictional character because you spend so much of the book being sucked in to his world.  His life and the worlds that he inhabits are so well written that, despite being entrenched firmly in the science fiction world, they come across as believable and realistic.

The creators of this book do a truly fantastic job of recreating Kirk's unique voice and personality here but they manage to do something really impressive.  The writing actually gives the character a lot of extra layers and you really see some new sides to the legendary and incredibly popular character.

There are some really memorable moments described in this memoir.  They tackle the Khan / Spock story line in such a way that it not only evokes the feelings that the movie gave the fans but also tells it from a different point of view,  That leads it in to the reader being able to see just what a massive effect it had on all the characters.

All in all, this book is a fantastic addition to the growing library of Star Trek books and novels and even makes the already memorable character and somehow manages to make him feel more human without losing any of the mystique that came with him.

An essential purchase for any Star Trek fans out there.

Story 9/10
Characters 8/10
Cover 8/10
Recommended 8.5/10
Overall 33.5/40