Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews from your very own Skip and Drew, as well as our guest bloggers.

Review – Ecko Rising

Danie Ware’s debut novel Ecko Rising is the tale of the cybernetically enhanced assassin Ecko, who joins a resistance group fighting against a world where people are medicated into servitude. While on reconnaissance to track down the pharmacist responsible for the drug, Dr Grey, Ecko barely survives the mission and finds himself in a virtual world. Whether created by his own unstable mind, the resistance group’s psychiatrist Eliza, or his adversary Dr Grey, Ecko has to play the game, save the world and at the same time, save himself.

Danie writes a rich world filled with large archetypal characters such a the healer, the prophet, the warrior, the thief and of course the evil alchemist. All the while making each one worth caring about – apart from the bad guy, you really want the anti-hero Ecko to kick his ass. Both worlds are blissfully unaware of the threat is it under, suffering the same sort of apathy as Ecko’s London; where chemists/alchemists plot to rule the world, with only a small group of people fighting against the evil. There’s quite a lot of violence and a smattering of sex, and yet it never feel gratuitous. It always fits the plot rather than having it for the sake of it. Danie writes in such a way as you can clearly visualise the worlds she is describing. You can feel the the rake of a monster’s claw; the knife or sword blade; the heat of sex and fire; and the pain of loss, either life or limb. There are also quite a few unexpected twists; scenes that are brilliantly set up, only to meet swift and cruel ends.

Ecko himself, to say he’s the most interesting character in the book does him little justice. He’s cynical, a cruel wit, rebellious, selfish and uncaring. The first half of Ecko Rising I found myself not liking him, yet funny; a pain and yet siding with him. As the book, and the program he’s stuck in plays itself out, Ecko begins to see that he can care for those around him, even the fantasy characters of Varchinde. I found him more and more likeable, even as he keeps up bad behaviour to those around him. An anti-hero, Ecko slowly becomes a champion.

What I founds truly brilliant was that the reader plays the role of Ecko, just as the author plays the role of the psychiatrist Eliza. Danie fucks with the reader’s head, never knowing if the world is based in Ecko’s mind or an actual alternate world. The book never plays from Ecko’s point of view alone. We’re introduced to people who may never meet Ecko, yet play large roles within the story. It weaves a number of threads together, only to pick them apart again as Ecko crosses paths with these people. So has Ecko been plugged into virtual world, or has he somehow really ended up a magical fantasy world? Right up to the end, it’s an answer that shifts from one to the other and back again.

An ambitious tale and brilliantly written, Ecko Rising ends by setting up the sequel; one that I am most definitely looking forward to.

Danie Ware is the publicist and event organiser for cult entertainment retailer Forbidden Planet. She has been immersed in the science-fiction and fantasy community for the past decade. An early adopter of blogging, social media and a familiar face at conventions, she appears on panels as an expert on genre marketing and retailing.

Danie Ware will be reading from and signing, Ecko Rising (Titan Books) at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore on Thursday 20th September from 6 – 7pm.

Ecko Rising by Danie Ware, available from 21st September, Titan Books, £7.99. You can pre-order your copy from Forbidden Planet.

Review – Doctor Who: Asylum Of The Daleks

Thanks to Jammy Dodgers And Jelly Babies blogger Daniel for allowing us to reproduce his spoiler free review for Doctor Who: Asylum Of The Daleks.

I totally passed him in complete ignorance yesterday (14th August 2012), I went back to try and get a look once my friend said he was there but I was ushered on by staff. How could I have missed Matt Smith?! I was at the premier of the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who, Asylum Of The Daleks, and I had missed Matt Smith. The shame!

However, despite letting myself down somewhat, the new episode of our hallowed show did not. In fact it was one of the single best viewing experiences of my entire life, not only because it was on the big screen at the BFI in the heart of London; not only because we were all surrounded by the cast and crew and writers from Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Stephen Moffat, not only because other people from the shows history also surrounded us such as Nicola Byrant (who played Peri back during Colin Baker’s stint as the doctor). But also because the episode was packed full of huge surprises, surprises that not even a room full of middle aged men who live their lives on the forums had guessed! Once again Stephen Moffat has turned around to fans and said “I bet you didn’t see that coming.” We sure hadn’t!

Matt Smith was back to his brilliant self in this story which is probably the most original Dalek story since the show was brought back to our screens in 2005, and dare I say it, out of the entire classic series too! It is like nothing we have seen before; Stephen Moffat has really pulled this one out of the bag. I don’t even recall a classic series episode that quite attempted anything like this episode has. As promised, it features every single type of Dalek that has ever appeared into the show back from the 1960’s to present day; plus to the delight of fans, I can confirm there is a worth while explanation to the old-style Daleks showing up.

Not only is every Dalek ever in it, but the Moff-Meister has managed to do what many many writers have failed to do. He has brought the fear and tension back to the Daleks. Some moments are dark and vile, just a Dalek moment should be. It seems the show is starting to find the right balance with the Daleks, whereby the most dangerous warriors the universe has ever produced get defeated and apparently destroyed every time their show they pop up with a new sinister plan.

Matt Smith and Stephen Moffat

Some fan trivia for you now, Russel T Davies, former show runner and head writer’s Dalek which inhabits his hallway at his Manchester apartment, does actually appear in this episode as Stephen Moffat wanted it to become a canonized Dalek!

I urge all fans to avoid spoilers, and if you are unfortunate enough to encounter them, please do not share them with others. Some of the surprises concealed within this episode brilliantly highlight Moffat’s sheer genius and cunning. For your own enjoyments sake, do not spoil it for yourself!

It’s important to note just how far along Amy’s and Rory’s relationship has come from when we last saw them, without giving away too much as to how they’ve changed, I must say that both Karen’s and Arthur’s performances together were stunning and almost had me in tears. There are almost two separate stories within this episode, the one with the Daleks, and the one about the Pond’s relationship.

Writing a spoiler free preview is very hard, So a few teasers can’t hurt can they? One location will amaze you. One woman will leave you asking lots of questions, such as “where did you get the milk?”

Stephen Moffat gave away a few details about the up coming series (broken into two mini-seasons, of 5 episodes and 8 episodes a piece, including one at Christmas); so long to two partners, each week will be a brand new ‘blockbuster’ adventure, a weekly movie condensed into 45 minutes without the boring bits. Asylum of the Daleks definitely fulfilled this promise.

The whole episode is awash of brilliant humor, wit and tension with both shocking and humble moments. Alas, Stephen Moffat pleaded and has sworn us all to secrecy, so that is the most you’re getting out of me. Excited?! Well you should be, the episode will air on the 1st September on BBC One, and it will be an event not to be missed!

Oh, and remember: Rule 1, Stephen Moffat Lies!

Asylum Of The Daleks – Spoiler Free Preview via Jammy Dodgers And Jelly Babies

Review – Judas Kiss

Welcome to the magical Keystone Summit University, where washed-up filmmaker Zachary Wells (Charlie David) confronts hot young student Danny Reyes (Richard Harmon), and discovers the past may be the only place where he can truly find himself.

When failed filmmaker Zachary Wells’s best friend Topher Shadoe talks him into replacing Topher as a judge at a student film festival, he gets the chance to change his life for the better in the sci-fi movie Judas Kiss.

A former student at the Keystone Summit University where the film festival is taking place, Zachary Wells’s bad choices have left him shooting wedding videos, having blown the buzz his own film caused when he won the same festival 15 years ago. With his best friend Topher set to start filming a horror film in Spain, Zachary begrudgingly goes back to his former University. When he arrives he meets the Dean, Mrs Blossom, who remembers him and his competition entry – “Faces and films — I remember the good ones,” she says. Though she questions why he and Topher changed their names.

On his first night, Zachary hooks up with college student Danny at a gay bar and the two end up sleeping with each other – well, that is, ahem, after a whole bunch of very tasteful shot but athletic man sex! It’s not porn and it’s not quite as fun as Samantha’s frolics in Sex in the City or as in your face as the opening scenes of I Love you Phillip Morris, but it just enough to get the blood running around your fuzzy area! The following day however, Zachary is shocked to find out that Danny Reyes is not only submitting a film to be judged by him, but that they both share the same name (Zachary’s real name being Danny Reyes), the same life and the same short film “Judas Kiss”. How can this be?

Turns out that Zachary is experiencing some sort of time paradox event where he and his past self are sharing the same time space continuum. The usual sci-fi enshrined rules are all thrown out of the window in this film. Zachary can interact with his younger self – re-read the above paragraph – yes he sleeps with himself, and he’s encouraged to effect his past to change his future. And who hasn’t wanted to do that? After all you know what you like to be done and you know what you like to do… Come on, think about it, that’s why they put it on the screen! Any ways, both the Dean and the security guard are aware of the time paradox that Zachary is experiencing and offer cryptic and not so cryptic clues. However it all points Zachary in the direction of having to destroy Danny’s chances in the competition to save the career and self-respect of his own future.

Meanwhile from the younger perspective of Danny, he thinks he’s blown his chances by sleeping with one of the judges, who is now giving him a hard time. Add to that his attraction to fellow student Chris Wachowsky (Sean Paul Lockhart) and the son of the University’s benefactors Shane Lyons (Timo Descamps). Danny’s father, enters stage left – being really mean, and is about to cut him off for entering “Judas Kiss” into the competition. So, should Danny follow his heart and be with Chris or move in with rich kid Shane who can support him?

Judas Kiss is an endearing movie about being given a second chance, not only for a better life, but becoming a better person and being with your true love. Quite apart from being able to put meaning in to the phrase Go Fuck Yourself! The plot, though sometimes a little difficult to follow, is genuinely compelling. Judas Kiss is primarily a sci-fi movie which just so happens to have lead characters that are gay. It doesn’t feel forced and the sex scenes aren’t put in for titillation purposes, they have a place in the narrative. Both Charlie David and Richard Harmon do a great job playing the older and younger Zachary Wells/Danny Reyes. Ignoring the strange having sex with himself bit, it’s about Zachary learning to feel better about himself, despite Danny’s arrogance and determination to win the scholarship, at the cost of his own self-worth.

There’s intrigue as to what makes Zachary’s/Danny’s film so special, which we’re shown dramatic snippets of and this technique takes you into the auditorium with the on screen audience. The subject matter is controversial and makes for unpleasant viewing.

There are some nice little sci-fi touches in the film. Danny Reyes changes his name to “Zachary Wells”, possibly alluding to H.G. Wells, author of The Time Machine and if you look closely at Zachary’s car plate, it’s 2Fut3r – to future. Richard Harmon and Genevieve Buechner (one of Shane’s friends) both starred in Syfy’s Caprica as Heracles/Tad Thorean and Tamara Adama respectively.

On the whole Judas Kiss is well paced and imaginative. Yes there are some flaws, the co-existing in the same timeline is never explained and some of the acting from the supporting cast isn’t great. Make no mistake Sean Paul Lockhart (also known as porn actor Brent Corrigan) is very believable and understated and a gamble on behalf of the producers given his cinematic history. Charlie David is good but Richard Harmon has the task of changing pace more than the other actors, which he achieves with ease. I did find myself enjoying the simplicity and honesty of the story, with a little gay bitchiness thrown in (really, his life is over at 38?). It also proves that you don’t need a big budget to make an engaging sci-fi movie. It is a movie that will stay with you – go and see it if you can, buy it if you can’t.

For more information and details of screenings taken place, check out the Judas Kiss website.

Judas Kiss is available on pre-order from Amazon.

Judas Kiss [DVD]

New From: £3.92 GBP In Stock

Review – Troll Hunter

Guest blogger Emeni Rice reviews filmmakers André Øvredal’s Troll Hunter.

In the vein of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, Troll Hunter is a Norwegian mockumentary pieced together from ‘found footage’ shot by a group of college student film makers investigating a recent spate of puzzling bear killings. Their enquiries lead them to Hans, a supposed rogue bear poacher who, after much persistence from the students, allows them to interview him and film his work as a member of the Troll Security Service. Because yes, trolls exist!

The TSS, a secret government division charged with keeping the existence of these trolls from the public, employ Hans as their troll hunter, not to necessarily kill but to contain and control Norway’s troll population. Discontent and jaded from the bureaucracy in a thankless job keeping unsociable hours, Hans takes his new acquaintances Thomas (reporter), Johanna (sound) and Kalle (cameraman) into the Norwegian countryside to seek out trolls that have caused havoc amongst local populations. He teaches them how to kill trolls with sunlight and warns them about their ability to sniff out the blood of a Christian.

Full of droll (troll?) humour, Troll Hunter could have been brilliant if it stuck to the funny but instead it seems confused as to whether to be a comedy or a horror, not quite successfully combining the two. I was certainly feeling edgy when I heard the trolls but once on screen the tension dissipated, perhaps because when have trolls ever been scary? (except in 1985 film Cat’s Eye with Drew Barrymore – shudder). Maybe my ignorance of Scandinavian troll folklore had me at a disadvantage.

The special effects were great however and the countryside quite beautiful, if very wet. Hans deadpan portrayal works wonderful in this style of film though our students lacked somewhat in personality (so it’s quite satisfying when one of them gets eaten, hee hee) and the film was sluggish in parts.

Overall, Troll Hunter is a confused film has some brilliant comedic moments but lacks the tension and terror to qualify it as a comedy-horror. If you’re after a dry, satirical, fee-fi-fo-fun monster movie, however Troll Hunter is the film for you.

Across the remotest mountains, deepest fjords and treacherous Arctic tundra of Norway, the most dangerous and secretive of occupations has gone unnoticed for hundreds of years. By the dark of the night, one brave, mysterious man protects the innocent from an ancient and deadly threat without reward or glory. He is the legendary TROLL HUNTER.

Investigating a spate of bear shootings, a group of students soon become suspicious of a mysterious loner in a beaten up Land Rover who has been spotted at every incident. When they decide to follow him across the country, they soon realise dead bears aren’t the worst of their problems, they’ve stumbled upon the last remaining TROLL HUNTER and he’s their only hope.

Troll Hunter (viewed at Moving Picture Co., Soho, 12.07.11)
Director: André Øvredal
Starring: Otto Jespersen, Robert Stoltenberg, Knut Nærum
Cert: 15
Running Time: 90 min

Review – Fright Night

Guest blogger Emeni Rice reviews Craig Gillespie’ remake of the classic 1980s movie Fright Night.

It’s always a struggle to review remakes of films that I love and have watched so many times that the words and images are ingrained in my brain; to view the re-creation as a stand-alone entity and not connect it to its source. The trouble, I think, is that the originals were just that – original, telling a story I’ve not heard before. Can a remake really bring anything new and fresh to an old audience?

This is my problem as I review Craig Gillespie’ Fright Night (original released 1985).

David Tennant as the bed-hopping lothario Peter Vincent

For those who haven’t seen the original (and who presumably live in caves?) Yelchin plays Charlie Brewster, a high school student with a new neighbour, Jerry Dandridge (Farrell); a vampire neighbour that is. Convinced of Dandridge’s daylight affliction, Brewster seeks the help of Peter Vincent (Tennant), magician and illusionist, to destroy the evil blood-sucker and protect his mum (a sadly under-used Colette) and girlfriend.

Without drawing too many comparisons between the two Fright Nights, Farrell is convincing as an evil vamp (which is a refreshing change from the recent spate of loved up fangers) but plays Dandridge as a low rent thug, very different to Chris Sarandon’s 1985 portrayal of Dandridge as sophisticated and charismatic, possessing an allure that made him powerfully dangerous.

Yelchin is likeable as Charlie Brewster, a boy torn between geeky friends of his past (enter the excellent Christopher Mintz-Plasse as ‘Evil’ Ed) and leaving that past behind to establish a ‘normal present’ with his hot girlfriend.
Refreshingly, Gillespie has made the women of the story, Brewster’s mum and girlfriend, more involved and hands-on with the action, rather than submissive and docile or downright oblivious.

The star of Fright Night is assuredly David Tennant, playing bed-hopping lothario Peter Vincent, and not solely because of those tight leather trousers (hubba, hubba!).

Revamped (sorry) to be a fast-paced and witty comedy-horror, with a cameo from one of the original cast members, Gillespie has made a fun romp of a movie which audiences new to Fright Night will enjoy, particularly its target teenage audience. My hope is it will generate enough interest for Fright Night 2 (the original, naturally) to be re-released on DVD so I won’t have to fork out £116 to buy it (current price on Amazon!).

But for us old fans, it lacks the dark, seductive atmosphere, the superb soundtrack and the 18 certificate of its predecessor. I want to say “you’re so cool Brewster, I can’t stand it,” but sadly, you’re just not cool enough.

Senior Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) finally has it all—he’s running with the popular crowd and dating the hottest girl in high school. In fact, he’s so cool he’s even dissing his best friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). But trouble arrives when an intriguing stranger Jerry (Colin Farrell) moves in next door. He seems like a great guy at first, but there’s something not quite right—and everyone, including Charlie’s mom (Toni Collette), doesn’t notice. After witnessing some very unusual activity, Charlie comes to an unmistakable conclusion: Jerry is a vampire preying on his neighborhood. Unable to convince anyone that he’s telling the truth, Charlie has to find a way to get rid of the monster himself in this Craig Gillespie-helmed revamp of the comedy-horror classic.

Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) is a high school senior who’s on top of the world—that is until Jerry (Colin Farrell) moves in next door and Charlie discovers that he is a vampire preying on the neighborhood.

Fright Night
Director: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Toni Colette and Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Cert: 15
Running Time: 106 mins

Review – The Silent House (La casa muda)

The Silent House (La casa muda) is apparently based on a true story that occurred in Uruguay during the 1940s. Filmed in one continuous take, the movie concerns Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father Wilson (Gustavo Alonso) who are about to stay the night at an isolated house. They are there to help restore the house for their friend Nestor (Abel Tripaldi), who wishes to sell it. Boarded up, the interior of the house is dark, dank and very creepy. Having been warned by Nestor not to go upstairs, Laura and Wilson settle down for night. Unable to sleep, Laura hears noises coming from the outside and then inside from the upper floor. Afraid, Laura wakes her father and while he goes to investigate, Wilson leaves his daughter downstairs. When she hears what sounds like the inevitable struggle between her father and an unseen assailant, Laura rushes upstairs to find Wilson bloodied and dead. Alone and terrified, Laura explores the confines of the claustrophobic house, while trying to hide from her father’s killer. Having finally fled the house, we’re taken back into it when Nestor arrives with some food for Laura and Wilson. Taking her back into the house to find Wilson, the two are separated and yet again, Laura is left alone.

The problem with The Silent House is that up until the final twist, Laura’s strange insistence on remaining within the house and grounds makes no sense. Surely someone who is being stalked after in a dark, creepy house would flee screaming for the hills? And boy does Laura scream, gratingly so, embodying the oft seen one dimensional pretty girl found in most slasher horror films, though The Silent House isn’t a straight forward slasher film. However as I was watching it, it felt like the writers were not sure what it was either. Ghost story? Psychological horror?  With glimpses of a long haired girl in white (aka The Ring‘s Samara/Sadako) and a flash of a mad man with a knife, it could’ve been any or all three. Even with the big reveal at the end of the film, I was left slightly confused as to the real story. Was it left ambiguous on purpose, or did the writers struggle to finish the story? As I can’t find any evidence of this being based on a true story either, I’d treat the marketing of The Silent House as the same as The Blair Witch Project. It sets the tone of story up as something tangibly real before viewing.

Having said all that, what I really enjoyed about The Silent House was the sense of dread that built up as the story progressed. The notion of “real fear in real time”, actually worked, as The Silent House focuses on the last seventy eight minutes of the story.  I doubt that the directors and actors actually filmed this in one continuous take, however the notion and execution of this technique worked in the story’s favour. There’s quite a few obvious places where the editor could have spliced footage together given the house’s dark and unlit rooms. The lighting itself was only a few halogen lamps and a bunch of candles, which further adds to the sense of dread as we’re taken around the house with Laura.

Filmed on a shoestring budget, The Silent House is to be commended for its fresh take within the horror genre. The technical execution of the “continuous” filming is to be praised.  While the story’s ending and Florencia Colucci’s acting lets it down to some degree, the film has some truly scary scenes. So despite its flaws, the sense of anxiety that it invokes and builds upon, sets The Silent House above your average horror flick.

The Silent House is out on DVD and Blu-ray 1st August 2011.

Buy it now from Amazon UK on DVD or Blu-ray

Review – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Guest blogger Emeni Rice reviews the last installment of the Harry Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

The end is nigh! The end is nigh!

We all knew it was coming and most fans will know exactly what ‘it’ entails either from reading the book or looking it up on Wikipedia . David Yates’ responsibility was immense, falling under the scrutiny of millions of adoring fans and this final instalment delivers as a thrilling, fantastical and a fitting farewell to these much beloved characters.

For those not in the know, we re-join Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and co, having just buried Dobby (oh Dobby! *sob*) on their search for the remaining Horcruxes. Picking up the pace considerably after rambling across England in Part 1, Harry has to forge an alliance with a treacherous Goblin, contend with a fire-breathing dragon in the vaults of Gringotts and return to his home of Hogwarts, the final battle ground between the boy who lived and vile Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes).

The film is very much the slick production we have come to expect from Yates. The special effects, particularly during the battle scenes at Hogwarts, are fantastic and the music of the last two films in particular seem to have matured with the characters, flourishing from its original whimsical lullaby into something much more haunting and melancholy.

Radcliffe steps more comfortably into his heroic role though remains as ever slightly on the stiff side; Rupert Grint is still ‘bloody brilliant’ as steadfast Ron Weasley and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger is undoubtedly the most talented of the three. Their on screen chemistry can’t be denied and it’s been quite sweet to watch them all grow up on screen together.

A special mention has to be made of the superb Alan Rickman, who always seemed rather under-used playing the ambiguous Severus Snape in previous films. Understanding the depth of his love for Lily Potter and why Dumbledore trusted him so wholly is really very touching and heart-breaking. (Oh no, I’m welling up again…).

Click to see larger photo

The real revelation of the film however has got to be Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom. Not only has the acting improved immensely but so have his looks! Since completing work on the Deathly Hallows Part 2 it seems Lewis has had his teeth fixed (could he not have magically fixed them for the film?) and is looking rather handsome. Judge for yourselves, boys and girls….

Overall, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2 has a great sense of homecoming about it. Present are all the characters, albeit it briefly, from previous instalments – Professors’ Trelawney, Flitwick, Sprout and McGonagall (who kicks ass) et al; all of the Weasley’s (save Percy who seems to have been written out a couple of films ago); members of the Order of the Phoenix; loyal and brave classmates and the indomitable Hagrid, banding together to fight the good fight to end Voldemort and the Death Eater’s tyranny and establish peace in the wizarding world. We lose a few old friends along the way and shed a few tears, revel in brief moments of romance (Ron and Hermione finally snog – hurrah!) and rest easy knowing that the future for our heroes and heroines is contented, peaceful and well-deserved.

The down-side? Only that it’s all over!

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Cert 12A
Running Time 130 mins
Director: David Yates
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Helen Bonham-Carter