Friday, 31 October 2008
Good luck to everyone else having a go at it too!
Wednesday, 29 October 2008
A great way to spend a budget-friendly Halloween this year would be to have a marathon of those perennial horror favourites, the Halloween series. What could be better for Halloween than watching Michael Myers hunt down victim after victim? Well, actually, this could be pretty damn rotten if you try to sit through all of the terrible sequels. Including the remake there are now nine films that carry the Halloween title, but just picking any of them would be a bad idea. You need to pick the best ones in order to have a decent movie experience and Halloween fun, but which to choose?
First up, DO NOT WATCH HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH. This was a sidestep from the Michael Myers chronicles and doesn't feature the infamous masked killer at all, or indeed have any links to the first two films aside from the title itself. Plus, it is generally a terrible film with little in the way of redeeming qualities. So, whichever you pick, make sure that turkey isn't among them. Actually, avoid Halloween: Resurrection too. Gah. That was awful.
The Halloween movies got off to a fantastic start with two films that are rightfully honoured as true classics of the horror genre. Naturally, the iconic first film introduced the world to Michael Myers, Dr Loomis and Laurie Strode, and brought the genre a new antihero, Myers, who was also nicknamed 'The Shape' due to his chilling masked visage. Utilizing sterling camera work, excellent direction and ingenious use oif lighting and music, the initial Halloween movie became the benchmark of horror for a generation, and spawned many lesser imitators.
That film has certainly stood the test of time and still works to this day. Its first sequel, cunningly entitled Halloween II, was superb in that it carried on exactly where the first film left off, and plays as an extension of that landmark production instead of just a sequel. The original cast returned and continued with the carnage. While the first film was directed by horror legend John Carpenter, Halloween II was directed by Rick Rosenthal, a relative unknown, who did a great job capturing the atmosphere and tension that Carpenter had achieved.
These two would be wholeheartedly recommended, but there needs to be a third to round off your evening. I'd say Halloween H20, the seventh in the series, which saw Jamie Lee Curtis return to the role of Laurie Strode after 20 years away from the franchise. This entry, directed by Steve Miner, is actually a very good, very strong piece of horror cinema. It is taut and constructed very well, and alongside the first two films it creates an excellent trilogy. It even has a satisfying end, which provides some closure to the series. Sadly this was destroyed with the terrible eighth film, but if you try to ignore that and put these three films together, you're in for a great Halloween night that won't break the bank. The Halloween movie franchise has spawned comic books, merchandise, Michael Myers action figures, statues and of course, a whole genre in itself. With these three fine examples of the series, you will be up all night. Not just watching movies, but checking that all your doors are locked. Was that a man in a mask outside your window?__________________________________
Andrew Hawnt is an expert on popular culture, movies, TV, comics, horror movie collectibles and more. He writes for the famous Starstore blogs and the popular movie collectibles site starstore.com as well as being a renowned music journalist and science fiction author. With boundless enthusiasm for pop culture, movie memorabilia, geek culture and the comic book industry, he is always ready to bring the latest news and views on the entertainment industry to you. For the latest news, free newsletters, podcasts and more, check out ===> http://www.starstoreblog.com
Monday, 20 October 2008
Mother of Tears is the long awaited final chapter in the ‘Three Mothers’ trilogy, the first two parts being horror buff staples Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980). This final film eventually arrived in 2007 (and only recently got a UK DVD release), and fans have been divided in opinion, which is easy to understand when watching the film.
I enjoyed it, but the film is at times very confusing. Not in regards to the plot, which is pretty straightforward, but the fact that there are times when you feel as though you are watching two films cut together. On one hand there is a rather enjoyable supernatural thriller with Dario’s famous daughter, Asia, in the lead, and on the other hand there is a poorly made gorefest with ‘spooky’ women being all ‘spooky’ at people. There are scenes in which the acting, direction, cinematography and the whole shebang work perfectly, and then you get scenes that are horrendously captured, dubbed and composed. This mainly refers to the group of cackling harpies that fill Rome once the demonic artefacts have been uncovered and the third Mother is unleashed.
Argento’s visual flair is still very much in evidence, and the film does play well alongside the earlier entries, but ultimately it buckles a little under the weight of expectation that fans have lavished on the project over the years. There is much in the way of fan pleasing going on here. As a whole though, the film is a fun watch if you try to not take it too seriously. Aside from some rather suspect CG, the production is slick, the cinematography is mostly beautiful and Asia adds some much needed star power to a film that is, aside from Asia herself and Udo Kier, lacking in familiar faces. There are some awkward moments where the dub is very noticeable, but for the most part it is presented with on-set or location sound, which helps.
There is gore, sadism, nudity, violence, blood, mad angles, the supernatural, lots of action and lots of atmosphere. This is very much an Argento film, and as the final part of the Three Mothers trilogy, it does actually deliver.
The possessed doll first hit the screens in the 1988 horror classic 'Child's Play'. Following that came four sequels, and with each one his appeal was diminished as each film became more and more of a spoof of what came before. Chucky is also to be getting the remake treatment, but in the new version he will still be played by veteran movie villain Brad Dourif.
Famously portrayed by Doug Bradley in eight feature films, Pinhead is one of the most striking images to have come to cinema. With his fetishistic outfit and hideous mutilated visage, he leads his Cenobite minions across realities to ensnare twisted individuals who crave the next big fix. The character is to come to the big screen again with the forthcoming remake of the first Hellraiser.
The mutated hick from Crystal Lake has terrorized audiences for decades, and to date has appeared in eleven feature films including the 9 Friday the 13th movies, Jason X and Freddy Vs Jason. A remake of Friday the 13th is soon to be released and kick off the series all over again. With his distinctive Hockey mask and bloodied machete, Jason is an unforgettable movie monster.
First shredding flesh in the 1987 movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Predator quickly became an iconic movie monster despite only starring in two films until the AVP franchise came along. With its distinctive features and abilities, the Predator grabbed ever more fans due to it being such a relentless adversary for the films' heroes. The Predator has gone on to become one of the most sought-after collectable items in history.
Surprisingly, the masked killers from the SCREAM trilogy always rank very highly with horror movie buffs. While not strictly monsters, the image of the masked, robed murderers is one that permeated all of the horror industry for a time in the lkate 90s, spawning a whole generation of lesser imitators who wanted to get in on the teen slasher reinvention bandwagon.
The legendary dream demon, Freddy Krueger, brought terror to our screens in seven movies of his own, as well as a short-lived TV series, countless books and comics, and the lacklustre Freddy Vs Jason feature film. Played by Robert Englund in all of the above, Freddy was (and is) an intense and memorable character. He worked best in the first and third films of his own franchise, when he was at his darkest. The first of his films, A Nightmare on Elm Street, is currently being remade, with Krueger now played by Billy Bob Thornton.
Originally designed by legendary artist HR Giger, the eponymous creature in the ALIEN films (and indeed AVP and AVP: Requiem) is an instantly recognizable movie monster. Its very form thrills and terrifies in equal measure, proven by its longevity as a driving force in the film industry. To this day the first two Alien films stand up as masterpieces of the genre and cinema as a whole, and while later films and the Alien Vs Predator spinoffs may have been lesser products, they did nothing to diminish the power of the creature's presence when glimpsed onscreen.
STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN
Mr Stay Puft only appeared in one film, namely the all-time classic first Ghostbusters movie from 1984, but that brief appearence was enough to cement the character in film fans' hearts and minds forever more thanks to his frankly insane visage. Who could forget the sight of a giant man made of sweets, standing 112.5 feet tall (according to Harold Ramis), attacking New York before being destroyed by four eccentric men in overalls and proton packs? He went on to become an icon in comics, cartoons and toys
Back in 1933, the world gasped in awe at the sight of the original King Kong movie and all of its legendary stop-motion animation. The ingenious technique brought to life one of the most incredible beasts ever known, and a genre was born. Spawning various spinoffs, sequels and remakes, including Peter Jackson's impressive 2005 effort, there are few other onscreen beasts that can lay claim to the crown of most influential movie monster of all time. Incredibly influential in every sense, the original film, and indeed the titular giant ape, have become synonymous with the creation of the monster movie genre. Nobody will ever forget that climactic and iconic battle atop the Empire State building.
The 1998 American remake may well have been a critical and commercial failure but it couldn't change the fact that the famous Japanese monster, Godzilla, is the most recognizable and revered of all monsters that have appeared on film. Notching up over 50 film appearances, he has fought off all manner of weird attackers, spawned cartoon shows, spin-off franchises and a massive merchandising industry. The image and idea of Godzilla has proven to be remarkably enduring, and even though the character was supposed to be laid to rest with the incredible Godzilla: Final Wars a few years ago, the legend continues with yet more giant monster projects. I swear, Tokyo must have been rebuilt more times than I've seen Star Wars. No, really. The giant monster action may well have been a bunch of guys in big rubber suits, but it has nevertheless thrilled audiences ever since the 1950s. Long may Godzilla reign as the king of all beasts.
So there you have ten of the greatest movie monsters of all time. But what of the merchandising industry they spawned?
There has long since been an insatiable appetite for licensed movie monster memorabilia from fans the world over. Thankfully, there are some fantastic companies out there who are creating some truly incredible work in this area, and fans are eager to get their hands on the latest items. Let's take a look at some of the big names currently proving the world with high quality licensed merchandise.
In the past decade, the licensed collectibles market has been dominated by a select few companies, who have earned their status as the best in the world through years of dedication and the quality of their work. The leaders in the field of official movie merchandise are companies such as Mcfarlane, NECA, Sideshow Collectibles and Gentle Giant. Mcfarlane cornered the market in action figure versions of the most famous movie monsters at the end of the 90s with their legendary Movie maniacs range, bringing quality articulated figures of such characters as Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, Jason Voorhees and suchlike into the realms of affordable merchandise. Their box sets, such as the much missed Alien Queen set or their equally popular Jaws set, were of such a high standard that they remained hot sellers for half a decade. Mcfarlane's attention to detail and giving the fans what they wanted was noticed by several other companies who tried to get in on the bandwagon, but Mcfarlane are yet to be bettered.
Other collectibles companies looked to different avenues of licensed items to make their mark. NECA were hot on the heels of Mcfarlane and brought fans some of the best large scale figures and music based action figures the world market had ever seen, whereas creators such as Sideshow and Gentle Giant directed their energies towards making extremely high quality items. In the case of the amazing Sideshow Collectibles, many of these items are deemed to be of museum quality, such is the craftsmanship that goes into each of their stunning pieces. Where some would be content to create simple articulated figures, Sideshow go for the grand, the huge, the massive pieces, and employ the finest artists and sculptors in order to bring legendary creatures and characters to life as collectible statues, dioramas, replicas and figures. The appetite for movie monster merchandise has seen the growth of an international industry. As long as monsters tear up cities and terrorise whole worlds, there will be fans who want one of their own.
Really though, the appetite for monsters, creatures, demons, beasts, aliensa dn all those other fantastic creations shows no signs of fading away. While the popularity of the films may have waned a little, and the genre begins to be reinvented (Cloverfield, for example), we stand on the brink of a whole new breed of terrors ready to smash and destroy in the name of cinematic chaos. Long may they reign.
Andrew writes for the memorabilia and collectibles site Starstore and their many famous entertainment and collectibles blogs. He is also a renowned rock and metal journalist and science fiction author.
Thursday, 9 October 2008
Crunch Pod Records
South Yorkshire’s Uberbyte have made a name for themselves on the UK scene by relentless gigging and basic hard work, and after a string of riotous shows comes this, the debut full length effort. Things get off to a very bouncy start with ‘Stand up for Uberbyte’, which has all the hallmarks of a stomping show opener. From the off it is rather clear that the music of Uberbyte is designed for the stage and the dancefloor, as it does make you want to stomp.
While the stage incarnation of Uberbyte features about a million people, the album is created by the band’s leader, Uberman (aka Rikky, one time Killing Miranda frontman). This gives the piece a string sense of direction. Before long the infamous ‘Total War’ comes along and lays waste to your subwoofer with a structure and beat that Grendel and Combichrist would kill for (The opening sample does sound like it namechecks neckless Doctor Who oddballs the Sontarans though). On CD the song has lost none of the power that makes it such a cool dancefloor/live number.
[SIC] is not a subtle album, and that is kind of the point. This is music to dance to, and dance HARD. It offers up a selection of hard EBM, industrial and harsh dancefloor electronics very much I keeping with these post-EBM times. Hocico with more bounce. The synth lines are memorable and punchy in an almost singalong fashion, adding some much needed melody to the crunch of the songs.
This is a great debut from a British act who are really making waves on the rejuvenated UK industrial underground, and on the strength of this offering and their notorious live shows, the future looks very [SIC] indeed.
Order from Crunchpod
Love No Longer Lives Here
The third full length album from Autoclav1.1 maestro Tony Young (not counting the exemplary remix album ‘Broken Beats For Broken Hearts), ‘Love No Longer Lives Here’ is an even more cinematic musical journey than his previous works. There are less jagged beats this time out, and more attention paid to the layers of melody that build and build on one another to create a dense and moving soundscape.
Beats are still very much in evidence on this album, but they seem a little less fractured and more straightforward while retaining some of the glitchy rhythms of the previous albums. In fact, a couple of the tracks on offer (‘All Long Black Spirals’ for example) are harder and more driving. This is a record that has definitely been composed instead of assembled. The album works extremely well as a whole entity; a soundtrack to loss and emotional evolution.
‘Tiny Matters’ is a gorgeous piece in the middle of the album, reflective and solemn, followed by the more recognizably Autoclav1.1 ‘Its Indifference’ that sees the return of some of the rougher rhythms of the first two albums mixed with the newfound subtlety.
It is as the album goes on that the pieces start to really fall together, culminating in the heartbreaking and equally uplifting ‘Six Minutes to Live’, which is an extremely good note to end the album on, leaving you with the feeling you have experienced something special. Like Howard Shore and Robert Miles crossed with Vangelis, flavoured with the crisp rhythms of the Industrial movement. Something special indeed.
Order from Tympanik Audio
Love and other Disasters
Nuclear Blast Records
Album number two from Swedish six-piece Sonic Syndicate sees the band shed some of the pop hooks of their debut and go straight for the jugular with a set of adrenaline-fuelled metalcore anthems. Their melodic side is still very much in evidence, but the huge layered choruses are now mixed in with an even more furious thrash metal approach that on the whole works very well.
‘Encaged’ and ‘Hellgate: Worcester’ show off their harder approach to blistering effect, while third track (and first video track) ‘Jack of Diamonds’ comes across as a new version of ‘Denied’ from the debut album, albeit much heavier. The use of two vocalists, while not something I’m particularly fond of in metal, works perfectly here, with Roland and Richard working off each other perfectly, alternating harsh and melodic vocals adding another layer that many current metal acts are lacking.
The music is harder than before, but there does seem to be a little too much borrowed from Soilwork on several songs, especially in some of the synth washes the band use. ‘Love and Other Disasters’ is a great album that will hopefully help the band shed a little of the ‘Thrash Linkin Park’ tag they earned from just having two vocalists.
With shades of balladry later in the album and some solid songwriting on show, this is more than just another flavour-of-the-week band. Granted, they got their deal following a competition, but they are not just a gimmick. This is the sound of a band coming into their own, and while not as immediate as the debut, it is an extremely good modern metal album.
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Some great news- my new story, 'The Last Mage' will be published in the first issue of the new gothic/fantasy/alternative fiction zine ETHEREAL TALES. I'm very pleased the story was picked up by the zine's editor, Raven, and I hope you all enjoy it once the first issue is out. You can find out more about Ethereal Tales at the zine's website. I had a great time writing the story, for which I have had the idea for a while, but never had the right opportunity to do it justice. Inspiration struck at the perfect moment and the whole thing was written in one sitting and delivered to Ethereal Tales, who were kind enough to take it. Look out for the first isue soon!
There's more to come though...
Work continues on CITIZEN, THE FOREVER GUARDIAN, TO BANISH THE DARK and more, as well as my continued work for the acclaimed POWERPLAY ROCK AND METAL MAGAZINE, for whom I just interviewed guitar legend AXEL RUDI PELL. That interview will be published in the next issue, available in newsagents all over the country (and indeed the world) around the end of the month. You can also keep up to date with my geek culture writing every day at the famous Starstore Blog.