Thursday, 31 December 2009

And All Was Quiet (Fiction)

Hey all. I posted this story on my Livejournal and on facebook for close friends at Christmas, and now I thought I'd share it with everyone. I hope you all had a great Christmas, and certainly one that got off to a better start than young Timmy's...

And All Was Quiet by Andrew Hawnt

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Rage Against The Machine Are This Year's Christmas Number One: Up yours, X-Factor

Rage Against the Machine's 'Killing in the Name' is officially this year's Christmas number one. I've stopped laughing and cheering long enough to write this. Yes, Rage are on a subsidiary of Sony, yes, Cowell and his troupe of garishly makeup-encrusted mannequins will no doubt benefit from the whole furore, but I can't say I care. What I care about is that a stack of cash has been made for the charity Shelter, the heads of countless brainwashed masses of X-factor addicts are exploding up and down the country, and I have an excuse to love a great song all over again. It's a fantastic wake up call for people bogged down with apathy that people can actually make a difference to the way things turn out, and that is something people would do well to apply to things other than pop music.

It's been a brilliant rallying cry to make ourselves heard and our opinions felt, and now hopefully people will be more into the idea of doing something to make a real difference. The money raised by this campaign is going to help a heck of a lot of people, and that's a perfect sentiment for a Christmas number one, no matter what it is.

The icing on the cake is that Rage Against the Machine reportedly outsold the preening, Disney-fuelled X-factor track by nigh on 50 thousand copies. Cowell was going on about the campaign ruining the boy's Christmas number one chances. How about the rest of the country that are SICK TO DEATH OF THE WHOLE DAMNED THING?

If a slew of people are going to be able to eat something and sleep somewhere, then quite frankly the X-factor fans and their demonic overlords can, to quote my online brethren, STFU. To everyone else that supported the campaign, bought mp3s and added to the money going to charity, then I'd like to say thanks for a great Christmas present, and a Christmas number 1 that is sure to be remembered for a long time to come.

Mind you, I can't imagine it will turn up on too many 'Christmas favourites' albums in years to come. Although, that would be marvellous. Right between the Mr Blobby song and the Spice Girls. So I will join in with a huge chunk of the rest of the country and sing along the glorious Christmas refrain: Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me. Merry Christmas!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Rage Against The Machine For Christmas Number 1 - Why I'm backing the Campaign

No, I won't do what you tell me. Whether Rage Against The Machine's legendary 'Killing in the name' hits the number 1 spot for Christmas or not isn't the main thing with this notorious campaign for me. The reason I'm backing it is twofold- first up, the campaign is raising money for charity, and second, it's a glorious two fingers raised to the brainwashed masses who mistake televised karaoke for entertainment.

A lot of people are bringing up the fact that Rage are on Sony, which is thus lining Simon Cowell's enormous pockets still further, but I don't care about that. What I care about is the endless stream of watered down slush masquerading as music that is being force fed to us. Also what I care about is the rest of us, us X-Factor hating, chart-despising people having a chance to make ourselves heard for once. The X-factor is an overblown monstrosity that has sapped what little life was left in pop music and turned expression into a bloody game show.

It's depressing that there's A KARAOKE COVER OF A MILEY CYRUS SONG being touted to us as something good. it isn't. It's trash, pure and simple, and while yes, there is something of a herd mentality to the campaign to get rage Against the Machine to number one, it's because there's a herd of us that are sick to the back teeth with having this crap rammed down our throats across every possible media outlet.

Even if the sea of people supporting the campaign lose out to the offensively idiotic sugar-coated X-Factor entry, we've still made a point. Not all of us can be fooled into thinking that soulless, inane, heavy handed attempts to tell us what to like. Not all of us spend our lives screaming over Jedward and their ilk. Not all of us want to have this crap splattered all over our screens, newspapers, radios and internet feeds 24/7. What we want is for you to accept that the public still has a voice beyond the mindless drones that the X-factor has amassed, probably through subliminal advertising like in 'They Live'. A good number of us would rather listen to a 17 year old song about genuine issues. Yeah, 17 years old and the song is still way ahead of anything the X-factor has offered us.

Everyone- get the mp3, and let's have a Christmas to remember. Whether it hits #1 or not, you've still won. Plus, it would frankly be hilarious.


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

In defence of liking Lady GaGa

I shouldn't really have to justify liking anything, but now and again I feel I must do so. I've never been one to follow trends, ever, and when Lady GaGa first came onto the international scene I despised her. I found her tunes repetitive and bland, and her image forced and vulgar. Then it all clicked into place for me and suddenly I found myself addicted to what she does. Now, I'm a metal fan and a rock mag journalist, so I'm not supposed to like stuff like this, but I can't help it.

There's something gloriously anarchic to Lady GaGa that has sorely been missing from pop music for far too long. I think it was her attitude more than anything that turned me from hating her to liking her. That defiance and steadfast determination she exhudes is very appealing, and yes, the music is made completely of earworms, impossible to get out of your head once you've heard it. Need proof? Go and listen to 'Bad Romance' and see how long it takes you to start humming it after it's ended.

While there are still real characters in the rock and indie scenes, pop music has become incredibly predictable, safe and dull. This is why Lady GaGa is such a breath of fresh air. I would liken the current stage of her career to that of Madonna circa 'True Blue', that era where an artist has become established and is laying the groundwork for a long career ahead.

With her outlandish outfits, risque lyrics and infectious tunes, Lady GaGa is every bit the defining pop icon out there right now. Where many female artists are flaunting flesh galore in order to stay on the front covers, GaGa has stayed there by sheer force of will, her hugely entertaining performances and her futuristic sense of style.

Yes, she is often wearing rather less than can be healthy at this time of year, but it's never flaunted in the same semi-pornographic way that many other singers are portrayed right now. She dresses in a sexy manner, but you never get the impression she's uncomfortable. In a media world obsessed with perfection, beauty and overt sexuality, Lady GaGa stands apart as the most original and interesting pop star out there right now, and if even us metalheads have our guilty pleasures, I'm not so guilty about liking her.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

On Enjoying Alan Bennett

It's easy for writers to get carried away with what they themselves are capable of. I know I'm no Neil Gaiman, but I think I'm okay at what I do. Then there are those times when you're reminded just how far you need to go before you're anywhere near as proficient as you'd like to be. I'm having one of those moments tonight. Something myself and my girlfriend are very fond of is the series of TV monologues Alan Bennett is so well loved for, namely Talking Heads. The DVD box set we have contains both series and a third disc of Bennett's Telling Tales monologues.

Both in the fictional Talking Heads episodes and the true stories from his life in Telling Tales, the rhythms and elegance of his writing and delivery astound us every time. A particular favourite is the famous A Chip in the Sugar, which Bennett performs himself as the character of Graham. His ability to perfectly capture the way people of different generations speak to one another, coupled with the acknowledgement of both the dark and light sides of normal life, well, they humble us.

My girl and I are both writers for national publications, and we are both working on novels and other projects that are testing us and helping us progress in what we do, and to watch and listen to the work of Alan Bennett brings us back down to earth and reminds us we need to work hard to be better, so that we may develop far enough to one day have even the smallest amount of his grasp on characters and dialogue.

The first thing of his which I read was his book Untold Stories. I must confess I have only been awoken to his work in recent years, and that book of stories from throughout his busy and eventful (yet very normal) life was one of the most gripping pieces of writing I have ever read. Even now I dip into it and soak up the language, the worlds he conjours that are brought back to vivid life, and I marvel at them.

Everyday stories of everyday events, stories of him struggling with various issues throughout his life, all of them are played out in beautiful, lyrical detail upon the page. It makes me want to work harder at what I do, and be better than I am. It also makes me want to be more open about myself and the things I believe and deal with, and maybe one day I'll be able to put some of the things I've lived through into terms which are that beautifully arranged. Maybe. Until then I'll watch, listen and read those words and bask in days that were never mine, but feel so real.

Monday, 30 November 2009

NaNoWriMo Winner!

Just to let you know that I have actually managed to write 50,064 words of another novel this month, as part of the NaNoWriMo festivities :)

I failed last year, but knuckled down this year and have done my best to earn the picture you see here (click on the image to see my verified wwordcount at my NaNo profiile).

Actually, with everything else I do, I have actually written close to 100k this month, so you can see it's been more than a little difficult!

Now, all I have to do next is finish editing the book I wrote before this one, finish this one (its sequel) and sell them.

If anyone can recommend a good agent who deals with SF and urban (but certainly non vampire/werewolf/romance) fantasy, let me know :)

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Ain't It Cool? Yes, It Still Is.

Letting my geek flag fly high here. I got online for the first time in July 1999, after finally giving in to the notion that the internet was a good thing. The net was very much a different prospect back then, but one of the first things I latched onto was this fun little film site you may have heard of - Ain't It Cool News. Now, a decade later, I'm still visiting the site two or three times a day, and I still love the place. Okay, so they get scooped now and again by other sites, but in terms of the place being run by true film lovers, you'll find nowhere better.

It is the talkative and friendly nature of their columns and contributors that has kept me going back there year after year. Harry Knowles and the gang write in the same manner people write emails and IMs to each other, just with less typos. I love the fact that these people, Quint, Capone and so on, talk to us like the film addicts they know we are.

I even love the Talkbacks. Sure, those gargantuan spaces beneath each article are full of people threatening to each each other's firstborn children and shouting about who sucks the most. but that's an essential part of popular culture, and I love it to bits. The fact that people can be so passionate, not to mention petty, in those talkbacks shows you just what a powerful medium film still is.

Yes, it annoys the hell out of me when some idiot posts a whacking great link and stretches the talkback screen out, but I still have a blast reading the various flame wars along with the actual decent comments. I take part in those talkbacks now and again (I'm foreverguardian on the boards if you're curious), but only when there's something I really want to take part in. I'm not one of the talkbackers who go in just to correct people and be an ass. Trolling ain't a good thing, people.

Ain't It Cool News is the place that made me want to get into pop culture blogging, and they have been the biggest single influence on the way I write for the sites I'm part of. The key to that site's power is the fact that everyone who takes part in it, be they the creators of the place themselves or the overenthusiastic visitors like me, are all largely on the same wavelength. We feel passionate about these flicks and their effects on our lives, and having somewhere to go and wag our fingers and have arguments in public is very cool indeed.

I also love the fact that the site doesn't just feature big stories. Their comics, anime, DVD and soundtrack columns are all great fun, as are the random posts regarding random aspects of the lifestyle and the hobby. The interviews they run are always interesting reads, even if you loathe the person being interviewed.

If you want to know more about how the site came about, I'd definitely recommend the book Harry wrote about the early years of the site and its influence on the movie industry, along with keeping up the habit of going there a few times a day to see what's going on and who's flaming who. It's the nexus of finding out about all the things that make the movie world so good right now, along with a few of them that aren't so cool (remakes? GAAAAHHHH). Long may it reign, and long may it remain my most visited bookmark. AICN, I salute you.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Mmmm, Shelf Porn

Of late I have developed a fascination with looking at pictures of bookshelves and DVD racks that are filled with all manner of goodies. This may make me sound very odd indeed, but I am not alone. There is a big interest in checking out another geek's collection, and that isn't confined to just comic geeks and movie buffs like myself and my friends.

Oh no, this is much more widespread than that, and you will find anyone with a penchant for collecting things is happy to show off their collection to other like-minded individuals (just don't touch anything or you'll ruin the Nm rating and I'll have to get everything slabbed again... you get the picture). It could be a morbid fascination with seeing what other people do with their collections that interests me, I dunno.

I love seeing how people display graphic novels, books and DVDs in their home. I am very much of the opinion that books and suchlike are pieces of furniture as well as sources of entertainment and enlightenment. They bring life to a room, and there is little I find more satisfying than arranging and rearranging my various collections. There is something remarkably soothing about it. Nerd Zen, if you will. It also makes me want to buy more. Mmm, books.

You see, there's a marketing strategy for publishers to get in on- show people a bunch of books in a row. Guaranteed to get any bibliophile/mental completist flinging cash at you. Why do you think Waterstones and their ilk get so much custom? Because they display their wares in a tantalizing fashion.

Shelf porn is a wondrous, beautiful thing that can elicit various reactions, from the usual 'Holy crap, that's an AWESOME collection' to the 'Why the hell would anyone want a full run of THAT?' right down to 'My God, that guy's got a kitchen full of comics' (that last one is true by the way- there's a stunning Shelf Porn thread online where a guy has the biggest collection of manga I've ever seen, and it fills literally every bit of his place).

Are we Shelf Porn addicts interested in hoarding for the sake of it? Hell no, we just love to gather and arrange and display the things we love in a manner we find inspiring and reassuring. Geeks are wonderfully odd like that. I love being one, even though my own system of displaying stuff kinds of fits rather too well with the crazy-paved state of mind I'm usually in.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

When Geeks Get Old

I'm getting old. I know I am. I must be. The lack of hair and the growing distaste with what passes for popular music might be a bit of a giveaway. Actually you know what? Pop music is as crap now as it has always been (aside from Lady GaGa, who is awesome, but I'll defend that statement at a later date), and I'm not old. It's just I have an internet connection, and as we all know, an internet connection can lead to some marvellously entertaining, if completely useless, procrastination. YouTube, Daily Motion and suchlike are the main dens of sin for me right now. For example, earlier today I found myself following link after link on YouTube, watching old 1980s adverts for Cadbury's Flakes.

A random train of thought (You know the sort) had me looking for pictures of the old Photon toys from the 80s, which then led to me looking up the Photon novels, which in turn led to me finding episodes of the 80s Photon TV series uploaded on YouTube. The madness continued long into the night (This is what happened when my girlfriend is away for a few days. I regress into being a student), and before I knew it, I was eyeing up hideously overpriced old Max Headroom VHS tapes on Amazon and watching clips of the Captain Power TV series wherever I could find them.

I couldn't get enough, and it felt GOOD, DAMMIT!!! Although, once the caffeine had worn off, the sun had come up and I had remembered to change my clothes from the batch I'd slept face down on our sofa in, I took a break from hitting F5 while on Facebook, shut down TweetDeck, and realized what a sad case I was. It had actually happened. The stuff I thought was cool as a kid was now far enough in the past to warrant nostalgia (and appropriate mockery). Dear friend, I did fall to my knees and scream to almighty Zod.

Hello, I am Andrew Hawnt, and I am an ageing geek. There, I said it. I am proud of the fact, too. Mind you, my tendency to wear comics and film related t-shirts might make me look like I'm nicking style tips from scene kids. I'm not. I'm just a big old nerd that likes to watch movie trailers on the internet and puts DVDs and videos in a semi-autobiographical/mood related order.

You know what? I am going to revel in it. Trying to be sensible and grown up can go hang. I am a mature, intelligent person, I know I am, but I have every right to want comics and toys and shirts that say 'All Your Base Are Belong To Us' on them. I'm just at the age now where I can stop worrying about what's cool and just enjoy what I enjoy. Believe me, there is some serious crap that I have enjoyed in my time, but hey, each to their own, y'know? Well, that statement does have its limits. Anyone who is obsessed by things such as X-factor and its ilk still need their heads washing out with the blood of Aliens in my opinion, but for the rest of humanity, it stands.

I could say geekery is a state of mind, but it's not really a state of mind that you choose to put yourself into. You just start thinking 'Wow, that's FANTASTIC' sometime during childhood and it goes from there. Before you know it, you're writing shopping lists in Klingon and using 'Frakking' or 'Frelling' as expletives. Ah, the joys of being a bit odd. It's a good thing though. Appreciating something that excites, informs or uplifts us on various levels is a great thing to have in your life, no matter your age. Now, I must be off as someone has put my Doctor Who DVDs out of chronological order of Doctor and series. Here's to all of us having a life that is NM, or at least VGC.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Riese - The Steampunk inspired web series begins

Kudos to the makers of Riese, who have eschewed the traditional method of getting a series seen through a network in favour of releasing it themselves online. I love this approach. Taking out the middle man like this is a brave step, and one that I hope pays off for the people behind this ambitious new web series. With character deigns and settings that are sure to please the Steampunk fans, it does seem to have more to it than just pretty imagery. Granted, I've only seen the first ten minute episode so far, but it looks promising.

Occasionally you are reminded that it is a web series and made on a limited budget, but these moments are only fleeting, as the series has been shot with such style that it looks much more expensive than it really is. Set in a post apocalyptic world stuffed with Steampunk inspired costumes and devices, Riese tells the story of a young woman who is hounded by a strange religious sect as she tries to piece together her past. The plot, while not original in the slightest, should nevertheless be just about enough to keep people revisiting the series (in addition, or course, to those great visuals).

I'm just wondering though, is a large audience ready to take on Steampunk concepts? The genre doesn't always translate that well to the screen, and while I love what I've seen, I'm curious to see what other people think about it. Steampunk is big in the SF literature scene, and has been for a while, but will its status as a recent gimmick be enough to sustain a series? In all honesty I would imagine so. The genre has some great ideas, but thankfully Riese doesn't appear to be using Steampunk as the crux of the whole thing. This is a good thing, as the moment a show starts to point out what it is in big letters to its audience, its days are numbered.

Riese may not be to everyone's tastes, but it is a fun piece of independent science fiction, and that is to be applauded. Whether or not it garners millions of viewers isn't really the point- it is already a success in that it has successfully been made, features a superb cast and an interesting visual identity, and is providing a section of fandom with something they have wanted to see on screen for a long time. I for one shall be watching the whole run of Riese, and I must applaud the cast and crew for their big brass (steam powered) balls for setting out to make it.

Visit the Riese website

Watch Riese on YouTube

Saturday, 14 November 2009


Next month will see the release of ACCESS NO AREAS, a collection of blog posts and articles on geekery of many flavours, including science fiction, movies, writing, music, books and new media.

It also includes a selection of material from my personal journals along with new artciles and a BRAND NEW ESSAY. The book also includes an extensive archive of reviews that have never been published in print before.

More news on this project soon.

Right, back to beating my keyboard into submission in the name of NaNoWriMo...

Monday, 2 November 2009

John Hughes: The brat pack films that defined an era- part four: WEIRD SCIENCE

My series of articles on the mid-eighties films of John Hughes continues!

Weird Science was my first exposure to John Hughes' teen films. I'd seen the non-brat pack comedies before seeing this, but it was definitely Weird Science that changed everything for me, way back when. Here was a film about geeks who were constantly bullied while getting nowhere with ladies.

It was my teenage years in film form, well, minus the computer-created lady of course. Gary and Wyatt were the movie embodiment of my tortured teenage self. Woefully shy and nervous, yet desperate to be involved with the whole teenage thing. I'm actually kinda glad it was that way though, judging from how some of the other people I was at school and college with have turned out.

So then, onto Weird Science. The film follows the two aforementioned nerds, Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith), two woefully unpopular boys who are desperate to get girlfriends and some popularity. Their nemeses are played by Robert Downey Jr and Robert Rustler, along with Wyatt's irritating and violent brother, played with great glee by Bill Paxton.

Life isn't going too well for Gary and Wyatt, and ever more desperate to learn how to pick up girls, they decide to simulate one on Wyatt's computer. They hook it up to all manner of supercomputers and BOOM- a bizarre reaction causes the computerized lady to become real, and she appears in a doorway in Wyatt's bedroom clad in very little. Thus their adventure of self discovery begins!

Legend has it that Weird Science was written by Hughes in just three days, and it does have something of a stream-of-conciousness feel to it in some places, especially the mental final act when the post-apocalyptic freaks appear in Wyatt's family home and lay waste to it on motorbikes, or when Chet is transformed into a lump of poo, or the catatonic grandparents grinning spookily in a closet.

Far and away the strangest of John Hughes' famous eighties films, Weird Science holds a special place in the hearts of many people who could always relate to Gary and Wyatt, or people who just wanted to be able to generate their own Kelly Le Brock in a little pair of pants. After all, people can be weird.

Kelly le Brock is great as Lisa, the product of the boys' computerized shenanigans. At first she is the smouldering beauty they always dreamed of, and then as the film progresses, her almost big sisterly characteristics are incredibly endearing. It must have been a blast to play the character of Lisa, I mean, who wouldn't want to be able to turn people into turds and have hair the size of a small planet?

Mixed in with all of the chaos and the bizarre set pieces is a typically John Hughes-style story of two misfits trying to figure out how this 'life' thing works, which is an element of the film that works really well. While the fashions and the effects have dated to a massive extent, the message is still powerful and the film is still just as lovable as it always was.

It is a much more light-hearted film than The Breakfast Club before it, which was a good move on Hughes' part, keeping his format fresh. It has the gloriously anarchic humour and bizarre situations that were the trademark touch of a John Hughes flick, and it most certainly earned its place as one of the most loved teen films of the mid eighties.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Devin Townsend Has A Point

He does, you know. There comes a time when all of the yelling gets to a be a bit too much to listen to. Dev has mentioned a couple of times recently how tired he is with the RARGH GRAGH WAAARGH in metal, and as someone who has to listen to a heck of a lot of it, I concur. Devin Townsend is a pretty good barometer of When Things Start To Suck, actually.

Back in '97 I saw him play in my hometown, Sheffield, with Strapping Young Lad. This was my first experience of the man live. Back then, nu-metal was very much the 'in' thing, and Dev unleashed a tirade against the likes of Coal Chamber, with the funny hair and the two-note riffs that were the order of the day. The same thing is happening now, to a certain extent, with the same bloody things cropping up in metal all of the damn time.

Double bass. Sweep picking. Harsh verse/clean chorus. Chuggy breakdown. More sweep picking. Cloned haircuts. branded clothes. What the fuck is happening? Did I miss a meeting, or is a big chunk of metal disappearing up its own arse faster than you can say 'bandwagon'?

Don't get me wrong, I love extreme metal, but there has to be more on your plate in order to have a balanced diet, y'know? There's more to playing metal than sounding like everyone else. That's kind of the whole point.

Devin's current project, the four-album set that began with 'Ki' and continues in November with 'Addicted' is a great example of a musician stretching themselves and doing something different to the heard, as well as different from their own back catalogue.

Check out the clips over at the Devin Townsend Myspace page, and get a load of a man making music that is damn heavy without being damn repetitive. Metal does have its boundaries, but it would be nice if they were blurred a little more often. This brief tirade is not aimed at the whole metal scene, as there are some incredible artists doing incredible things, but there are also countless bands whose image and music are easily confused.

You may now get back to learning those tricky sweeps and getting your hair just right. Make sure you're wearing the right t-shirt in your promo photos, or you may not look like everyone else, and wouldn't that be terrible?

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Fear Factory: Another Soul, Another New Machine?

While doing some research for a review for the mag, I came across information on the current FEAR FACTORY lineup. I'm on metal sites every day, and write extensively on the genre for Powerplay, and couldn't believe I'd missed the news of the 'new' Fear Feactory lineup. I am of course talking about the latest incarnation of the band, featuring vocalist Burton C Bell along with original guitarist Dino Cazares and the new rhythm section, namely Byron Stroud (Strapping Young lad, and Fear Factory since Dino's exit) on bass and drum legend Gene Hoglan (Strapping Young Lad, a million other projects) behind the kit.

This came as a bit of a shock, really. Fear Factory are one of my absolute favourite bands (check out my Last.Fm profile for proof of that) and to have Dino return after the well-documented animosity following their breakup after the 'Digimortal' was a surprise to say the least. Granted, the relationship between Dino and Burton goes way back, but the exclusion of Christian Olde Wolbers and Raymond Herrera seems a bit odd. I'd be interested to know what happened to lead up to this new lineup, especially as technically (I believe) Raymond and Christian remain part of Fear factory in some contractual manner. But above all, I hope the music is back on form.

There's an album on the way from the 'new' lineup, namely 'Mechanized', which I can't wait to hear. Basically what I am hoping for is a genuine new start for the band and not just a touring greatest hits package, y'know? I guess I can understand the desire for a more successful formula after the relative commercial failure of 'Transgression' (which was pretty good) and to a lesser extent the album before that, 'Archetype' (which was fantastic), but I just hope it sounds pure.

Okay. I took a break from writing this for a while and I have now read up on the feud that has been going on between the various members. My curiosity is satisfied, but I feel kind of dirty now. The most important thing everyone that isn't involved with the band should be thinking about is the music that will be made. We know Dino is on top form still (get a load of the Divine Heresy stuff he did), and I hope that some of that fury is being brought over to the 'new' Fear Factory.

This is a band that defined a genre, and for me, defined an era. 'Demanufacture' and 'Obsolete' are amongst the best albums I have ever heard, and I want their legacy to continue with some more great music. What I'd personally like is for their future music to be judged on the material itself and not the circumstances surrounding its creation. We all love a bit of gossip, but it should never eclipse the question- how's the music?

I hope all can be settled between the various musicians, and that the fans are treated to something monumental.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

From your genre addict...

Hey all, I have some new articles to offer you this week. Apologies for the long breaks between content on here- moving to a new city and settling into things has taken a little getting used to. That said, I'd like to point you at a new site I have started, naamely THE GENRE ADDICT. This is a blog which is updated with a full horror/science fiction/fantasy/etc review every day.

It is mostly movies, but will include the occasional book, comic or audio review as well. While the site features 95% brand new material (and will continue to do so), I'll also be posting the odd review from my archive too. Add it to your feed reader or bookmark the site and check back every day for new content from me.

In news on this site, this coming week will see the next part of my John Hughes retrospective go live at last (WEIRD SCIENCE) and a couple of new music articles relating to the rock and metal scene. Until then, go check out THE GENRE ADDICT!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Flesh For The Beast - DVD review

My journey of discovery with the cheapest, nastiest buckets of low-grade gore continued today with a viewing of the low budget train wreck/masterpiece (depending on your outlook) known as Flesh For The Beast. Here's a film that has a lot going for it, but ultimately is rather incoherent, even for a low budget horror flick. Where many films with such a small amount of cash to work with tend to look absolutely awful, this one is, visually at least, quite a way above the crowd.

The plot isn't all that important here (viewers who check this film out are there for the gore and the skin), but it serves its purpose. The gist: A group of parapsychologists are invited to a big, spooky mansion by a rich lunatic in order to study and ultimately do away with some spooks.

It's handled well considering the tiny budget. As ever with low budget films of this ilk, the cast is patchy to say the least. Dialogue isn't so much spoken as hiccuped and thrown at the outside world. There are one or two amongst them that are above the others in terms of ability and delivery, which works in the film's favour, but this makes the film a little disjointed as a whole. You're kinda thinking 'Oh, he/she's cool' one minute, and the next you're staring dumbfounded at the plank of wood reciting syllables before the camera. There's a fun cameo from former Bond girl Caroline Munro and also horror veteran Aldo Sanbrell too, which add a nice touch to proceedings.

The effects are nicely done, but there are occasions when the 'demon' makeups/masks look a bit too much like party masks. The infamous 'writhing in gore' scene is pretty screwed up, and worth watching the film for in itself. Basically, if you know what you're in for with Flesh For The Beast, then you'll get it in spades. A fun little film that has actually had a great deal of thought put into its execution. In fact, the way it is shot actually brings to mind the classics from Hammer. A mixed bag indeed, but an enjoyable piece of schlock.

Friday, 9 October 2009

DVD review: Stuart Gordon's Deathbed

It kind of annoys me when a producer gets top billing over the film's director. Stuart Gordon, of Re-Animator fame amongst other things, is billed right over the title, when the film was directed by Danny Draven (although Gordon was on set a fair amount).

Credit to Draven, who did a pretty admirable job with this 2002 movie from Full Moon Pictures and Darkwave films. Where so many low budget horror flicks rely solely on nudity and ridiculous gore to keep people watching, 'Deathbed' differs by offering some actual tension in its construction.

Yeah, it's cheap and some of it looks as though it was shot on a mobile phone, but for the most part it is an enjoyable little flick that does something a little different. Fantasies and suppressed memories begin to invade the life of a children's illustrator and her photographer boyfriend after they find an old metal bed in a secret room in their apartment building. The fantasies become ever more violent and unnerving, and finally the madness starts to spill over into the real world.

Yes, there is nudity. Yes, there is gore. However, neither are gratuitous. While the acting and script are well below par, it is Danny Draven's direction that kept me watching. Lord knows it wasn't the performances of the cast.

The best has been made of a stretched budget, and padding is minimal throughout the film's scant 82 minutes running time. That said, the epilogue isn't really needed, and could have been trimmed a bit, if not cut altogether. Far from being a great film, Stuart Gordon's DeathBed is good late-night viewing for the dedicated horror junkie who doesn't mind cheap productions and wants something a little different.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Pagan Fire CD/DVD Set (Nuclear Blast Records)

As compilations go, this is damn good value for money. If you like your metal with a folk flavour and with some intelligence behind the bombast, then this Nuclear Blast compilation from 2008 is an essential purchase.

As an overview of the more Pagan/Nordic/Folk influenced end of the extreme metal spectrum, there are few surprises here, but for the cheap price tag on this set, you can't go wrong.

On the Pagan Fire CD you have Bathory, Enslaved, Amon Amarth, Korpiklaani and all the usual suspects, each serviong up a choice cut that sums up their individual styles. Yeah, I'm sick of 'Battle Metal' by Turisas showing up everywhere as well, but it is in context here, and will have you raising a flagon just as it always does. There are 16 audio tracks in all, and well worth checking out to get you up to speed on some of the most important names in modern metal circles.

The DVD features eleven videos, some from bands on the CD, and some from others such as Battlelore, Einherjer and Tyr that aren't represented on the CD. As with many extreme metal videos, the quality varies, but again you are given a good cross section of material to go at.

If you're already up on the big names of the more esoteric side of the metal scene then there's not a huge amount to draw you to this package, although the DVD compilation is very cool indeed for fans of the scene. This is an ideal package for those wanting to get the gist of a big part of the current metal landscape, and also a good example of just what an important label Nuclear Blast is.

Find 'Pagan Fire' on Amazon

On Cosplay

I kind of get it, but I kind of don't, too. Cosplay is one of those strange aspects of geekery and various fandoms that seems at once very cool and very silly. The attraction? I can understand it being fun, and not just the dressing up part. I'd imagine the making of costumes is quite an entertaining hobby, but I can't imagine doing it myself.

For one thing, I don't have the build for it. The only person I look like is Adrian Edmonson (it's the lack of hair that does it), and there's only so far I would get by Cosplaying Eddie from Bottom.

In my line of work I've been privy to countless images of anime and comics fans in elaborate costumes with replica props, being photographed in dynamic poses and being great adverts for cosplay in general. Then again, there are all of the others that have seared my eyes with their terror- people so very wrong for Cosplaying that I want to grind my eyes with limestone chunks if only to get the image of these becostumed terrors from my mind.

Actually, there is one instance of cosplay as an adult that I must confess to. I swear it was an accident. When Doctor Who came back in 2005, I was surprised and elated to discover that my idol, The Doctor, was dressed exactly as I was at the time.

This made me where the V-neck shirts, black jeans and boots and leather jacket even more than I already did. I was cutting edge for once in my life (well, as cutting edge as dressing like a Time Lord can make you), and in a fit of fanboy hysteria, I bought a replica sonic screwdriver to carry around in my jacket pocket.

I tried to persuade people that it was practical, as it was a torch, but their 'Yes mate, of COURSE it's useful' sort of comments brought it home to me. I had become one of those people who was dressing up as a fictional character, and you know what? I think that's when I started to understand a bit of the attraction of Cosplay.

It's fun. It's harmless (as long as you're not one of those terrifying guys dressing as Pikachu). It is also remarkably sad and nerdy, but hey, that's the whole point of fandom, isn't it? Who am I to judge?

To be honest with you, I envy you Cosplayers. You are infinitely more talented with your crafting abilities than I'll ever be, and while I may jeer and point and smirk, I'm really rather impressed.

Now get out of that Cloud Strife costume and go and make some friends, you sad creature ;)

Thursday, 1 October 2009

New issue of POWERPLAY Rock and Metal Magazine out now!

The latest issue of POWERPLAY ROCK AND METAL MAGAZINE is out now! Packed with interviews, reviews and news as ever, this month features my interview with THEATRE OF TRAGEDY along with my latest reviews, including the new Theatre of Tragedy album, the latest LYNCH MOB disc and the debut from OMEGA LITHIUM, which is my personal favourite album release this month.

Once again the magazine looks great and continues to go from strength to strength in terms of content. The cover feature, an interview with KISS, is great reading whether you're into the band or not! Get yours today!

Speaking of OMEGA LITHIUM, check out the first video from their debut album:

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Micro Budget Horror- A Very Guilty Pleasure

Of late I have been devouring micro budget horror movies faster than a cheap zombie picks at fake guts. I can't get enough of them. They are terrible films, yes, but they are films nonetheless. You have to respect the makers of these films, you really do. While many people the world over have ideas for a film, few actually manage to get their arses off the forums and actually do something. Okay, so many of these films are utter trash, made for peanuts and shot with a hand-held camcorder, but hey, these people did it and have a movie out. Have you?

Micro budget horror is an acquired taste, and possibly much better when drunk, but I can't help but love the crap I've been watching. While a great many of these films follow the standard slasher route a la Halloween (Such as 'Butchered' and 'The Attendant', for example), there are some that come with a good dose of originality and some actual skill involved. Plus, it is interesting to see just how many filmmaking tasks each individual can pull off.

A couple come to mind from the stack I've viewed recently. First up would be Live Feed from 2006, which I watched with an old friend over several bottles of wine last week. Yeah, the acting is generally poor, but the effects were pretty good, the pacing was quite decent and the plot was better than a good few big budget horror outings of late. It may have helped that we were getting a tad incoherent while watching it, but it certainly had enough in the way of gore, outrageous set pieces and daft cast members to keep us entertained.

The other one that has really stuck out from my adventures in bargain-bin schlock is Blood Gnome, a fun little potboiler from 2004. For starters, the DVD itself is impressive as it carries extras to match your average big budget release. The film itself is stupid, but stupid in a fun way. A crime scene photographer starts seeing tiny carnivorous critters at murder scenes, which are invisible to everyone else. The film follows his attempts to get everyone to believe the things he's seeing, while the body count mounts up in quite impressive style (despite the bin liners used as set dressing in some scenes...hehehe). The cast has a couple of strong members, and the creature effects are great fun. There's even an appearance by B-movie queen Julie Strain, during the climactic gorefest at a shoddily realized BDSM event. Yeah. Mad, but a giggle.

Of the two, Live Feed is a better film, but it's still a bit of a chore to sit through if you're used to people that can act... That said, I loved it, just as I've also loved crap like Jigsaw, Skinned Deep, Maniacal, Hunting Humans and all of the other filmic atrocities my TV has been subjected to lately.

Give these things a chance. I know they're hard to sit through, but there are some gems in the scene to be had. Yeah, there are a ton of them that are a waste of time and money, but as long as these people try to put something together and get it released, I'm willing to give it a chance. I should really, lest an army of cheap rubber gnomes comes for me in the night.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Starting Over

So. Myself and my lady have moved to Nottingham, and my comfort zone, aka Sheffield, my home town for all of my 31 years on this planet thus far, is no longer around me. This is weird, but it's cool. There are kinks to work out, like not having our broadband connected yet (yay for cafes with free WiFi!), but things are going pretty well.

It's weird. Moving, even though it's not really all that far away from the city that spawned me, has given me enough distance from the past to start thinking about where I am with life right now. It's a pretty good place, actually. We have a nice place, are starting to meet a few people, and finding our feet in a new city.

That's not to say that this is being taken lightly. Man, I'm kind of terrified, to tell you the truth. This is a whole different world to me, and I'm feeling a little out of my depth. I'm slap bang in the middle of a section of town awash with fashionable people who seem to have been chiseled from a far more attractive subtance than myself. I feel a bit like an alien amongst all of these good looking, well dressed denizens of a highly trendy society.

In short, I am craving some grime. Nottingham has its grime, but it's not the grime of home.

We visited Sheffield last weekend, and saw a huge number of friends we'd missed since moving. I guess that being away from the place is making me appreciate things more. Things I had, things I have, and things yet to come along. Starting over is scaring the hell out of me, but it's kind of nice.

Normal service will be resumed shortly. Lots to post for you.

Monday, 17 August 2009

KEVIN SMITH: Why I never tire of the man's work

Kevin Smith is bad and wrong. He must be. Someone who has unashamedly made a career out of 'dick and fart jokes' must be the absolute antithesis of a true artist, yes? No. The man is little short of a genius to many people, and I am proud to be one of them. I don't always get along with his films, with Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Dogma being lower on my list of favourites than other films in his catalogue, but a number of his flicks are very, very dear to me.

The two that are most precious to me personally are Clerks 2 and Chasing Amy. These two films captured something that I hadn't seen since the Breakfast Club, in that despite the comedy, they did have something to say to the viewer, and had some pretty raw emotion in them. I think that is why I'm such a Smith nerd, and never get tired of listening to the man talk on commentaries or SMODcast shows, or watching his films. There are sublime moments in every single one of them. Yeah, even jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I think.

I even loved Jersey Girl, which was almost universally panned by everyone that laid eyes on it. I watched it for what it was- a bitter-sweet film made by a guy that felt he was growing up a bit. The cast were great, especially the late George Carlin, who you really want for your own while watching it.

Aside from the serious bits of his films, the feeling that they have been made by someone who very much gets where his audience is coming from is another aspect of why he remains a favourite with so many people. That's why the original Clerks was such a hit. It took a very mundane setting and showed audiences the comedy of everyday life, from the viewpoint of a hitherto unheard demographic.

Hell, I've been a Clerk most of my working life, and I still relate to Dante Hicks more than I should do. It's those characters and situations that stick with fans so much because, even taking the mad bits into consideration, many of us have lived those situations ourselves. That may not include donkey shows or dead guys in toilets, but you get what I mean.

Sit and watch any of the live DVDs he's put out and you get the same thing from them- he's like us, the people who sit and argue about what's going on in the background in A New Hope over pizza, then have a few beers and unload your deepest fears to your best friend in a slightly drunken haze. You get through the misery and laughter, you fight back a tear, and you agree on sticking a movie on. For me, in that frame of mind, it'd be one of Smith's. They feel like home.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

John Hughes: On the passing of a hero

I'm still in some shock from the death of John Hughes. As some of you will know, I've been in the middle off writing a series of pieces on his much loved brat pack fims of the 1980s, and news of his passing came through just as I was going to do the Weird Science article.

Everything has changed now- references to Hughes will have to be in the past tense, and now we know he'll never revisiot Shermer, Illinois. I wrote an article on his passing for another outlet, which was then published on Ezinearticles. That piece is reproduced here.


John Hughes - A Tribute to the Late Director of the Breakfast Club
By Andrew Hawnt

The death of John Hughes has hit me hard. While most celebrity deaths don't really hit home that much with me, the news of John Hughes dying from a heart attack while out walking in New York has had a profound effect on me. This man was the force behind the films that helped shape me as a person.

The pathos and integrity behind the laughs of films such as The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful and all of the others of his main active period remains as powerful as it ever was, and with his passing we have lost a true great of the cinema.

The reclusive genius had also created other things such as the massively popular Home Alone movies, but it is that spate of brat pack classics that he will probably be most remembered for, and those films are a legacy that anyone would be proud of.

A generation of film fans and filmmakers were created by those films, each of them containing a magic that teen movies have never been able to recapture since then, no matter how hard they try.

Look at Ferris Bueller's Day Off for example. Yes, it was anarchic in the extreme, but the characters of Ferris, Cameron and Sloane rang true as teenagers of the time, struggling to find their place in a changing world.

Thinking that the man that brought us those five misfits The Breakfast Club, Duckie from Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller and all of those other classic characters from Sixteen Candles, Weird Science and so on is gone is heartbreaking.

Many fans were hoping that he would return to his roots and create something meaningful and beautiful, like those early films, instead of the string of Beethoven sequels and the like. Sadly this wasn't to be. There have long since been rumours of a Breakfast Club sequel, but nothing emerged.

Even the less successful films of that amazing period in his career, such as Some Kind of Wonderful, which starred Eric Stoltz, Lea Thompson and Mary Stuart Masterson back in 1987, have a hell of an impact on the viewer. This is thanks to their accurate portrayal of the difficulties people face when trying to find out who they are as people during the latter years of teenage life.

While the Home Alone movies, Baby's Day Out, Beethoven and others in his later work don't have the critical acclaim of his early films, they still go to show the influence and success of his career.

Here was a director and writer who remembered what it was like to be a teenager right down to the most minute of details, and he brought that understanding to every character. Even in the madcap chaos of Sixteen Candles, the first of his brat pack sequence, the characters come across as people in their own right, with real concerns.

There is often talk of directors who define a generation of cinema, and with the films of John Hughes it is an apt description. He captured a certain period, a certain mindset and generation with perfect clarity, and the stories have proven to be timeless enough to be appreciated again and again, no matter the trends.

It is always sad when someone dies, but when their body of work was so respected and adored, it breaks the heart. Here was a man who had little controversy in his life, and after his massive 80s fame drew back from the limelight and became something of an urban legend.

He continued to work, but he never returned to what he did best, which was making people think and making people realize that life wasn't quite as clean-cut as your parents may have you believe.

Here's to you, John. You were, and remain, my hero. You got me through my troubled teenage years with those films and those characters, as you did for millions of other people. I would imagine a lot of other people are feeling the same right now. Rest in peace.


Andrew is a widely read pop culture blogger and nationally published music journalist with a passion for bringing you the latest news and opinions on, movies, TV, collectibles and popular culture in all its forms.

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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Remakes - Hollywood Gets Lazy

By Andrew Hawnt

Checking my various feeds each day, along with the biggest movie related websites, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain interest in the product of Hollywood. Where once there was a sense of excitement and anticipation when a new project was announced or leaked, be it via internal spies or intentional viral marketing, now there is a sense of dread. I head to the feeds wondering which classic film is next up for the shabby remake treatment.

Of late, there literally is not a day goes by without another much loved film being remade, and it really is a worrying trend. Instead of coming up with new ideas, or optioning the thousands of books, comics, stories, spec scripts and more that they have at their disposal, studios big and small are languishing in a creative limbo and just rehashing old material in order to cash in on brand familiarity.

This is a terrible trend, as it breeds apathy towards the medium and suppresses creativity. If people are content to pick up DVDs of films they already have (just with a different, lesser cast and better effects), then there will be less chance of truly original films being made by big studios.

Smaller studios may well be producing derivative work in all genres, but they are still managing some originality in there too. It is understandable if the films that are being remade really weren't that convincing the first time around, or if a series really needs a reboot (Batman, for example), but remaking everything in sight is only going to annoy your audience in the long run.

Good examples of remakes working are films such as the 1986 version of The Fly, or John Carpenter's version of The Thing, both of which took the premise and did something new and interesting with it- those films carry the same stories but told in such a manner that they feel fresh and compelling in their own right.

The current upsurge in 'That was popular, lets do a cheapo remake quick' attitudes in la-la land seems to bypass the notion of originality altogether.

The stores (both physical and digital) are absolutely bursting at the seams with content as it is- nobody needs or wants most of these remakes/reboots/reimaginings, and the audiences are starting to get a little fed up with the same old things being offered time and again. We didn't need an Omen remake.

We never asked for A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th to be remade, and we certainly never entertained the thought of remaking Hellraiser or Highlander, and yet they're all being produced. All that happens is the films end up as bargain bin DVDs and the reputation and appreciation of the original films is tarnished by the new incarnations, which are rarely a patch on the real thing. Hell, even Poltergeist and The Creature From The Black Lagoon are being regurgitated into substandard popcorn fodder as we speak.

Put down that stack of films you want to cash in on and go and read some of your slush piles. In those piles you'll find more originality that we have seen onscreen in a decade. If you must, simply MUST make something that already exists, then adapt a book or a graphic novel or even an anime series. Don't keep plundering the vaults for classics to ruin.

What happened to you Hollywood? You've never had the best ideas in the world, but at least you had ideas at all.
Andrew writes for the pop culture/memorabilia site and its popular blogs, covering the latest and greatest in film, TV, music and comics merchandise and collectibles.

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Monday, 13 July 2009

R.I.P. Charles N. Brown

Charles N. Brown has passed away at 72.

This saddens me greatly. Charles was the founder and editor of Locus magazine, pretty much the only magazine in the world dedicated to fantasy and science fiction books and writers, as well as covering the conventions and fiction mags that have made up the industry. Locus started out as a fanzine and ended up becoming the authority on F&SF literature, and it always seemd to be Brown's enthusiasm that kept the magazine, and indeed a good chunk of SF fandom, alive. The magazine is to continue without him, as he wanted. He died in his sleep, on the way back from a SF book convention. R.I.P. to one of the biggest fans of the fantastic in fiction there's been.

Monday, 22 June 2009

John Hughes: The Brat Pack films that defined an era Part Three: The Breakfast Club

Once in a generation, there is a film so definitive, that perfectly captures the concerns and motivations of a certain chunk of the populace that it becomes a perfect snapshot of a time and place, an animated history book if you will. The Breakfast Club is just such a film, and is far and away the John Hughes movie that is dearest to my heart, and the hearts of many film lovers the world over (Kevin Smith, for example, is a huge fan of The Breakfast Club). While yes, very little actually happens in the film action-wise, there is a staggering amount of stuff going on with those five characters.

The premise is simple. Five mis-matched teenagers are trapped in school on a Saturday for a special detention period. All of them have their different reasons for getting stuck there, and all of them are wary of the others. Over the course of ninety minutes they discover more about themselves and each other than they ever expected to. They form friendships, vent about life and bare their souls to a much greater extent than you generally see in teen films. There is tension and conflict aplenty as the five main characters struggle to understand each others' backgrounds and personalities, and the limited setting gives the distinct impression that this would work brilliantly as a stage play.

Humour is there in spades. But it is the interaction between the characters, and their gradual move towards friendship, that is truly great here. The chemistry between the five leads (Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy and Anthony Michael Hall) is breathtaking, and as these five archetypes of teenage school life, they capture the insecurities of that time of life impeccably. Aside from one teacher, the janitor, and some brief glimpses of the kids' parents, the whole film is played out by the five leads, and largely in one room. It is a fascinating look at what happens when you stick a bunch of people together who think they have nothing in common- a common ground will be found eventually.

The Breakfast Club is a cathartic masterpiece of 80s cinema that has lost little of its power even now, almost 25 years after its release. Its trademark theme tune, 'Don't you forget about me' (By Simple Minds) fits perfectly, the cast are uniformly good (with the five main players finding their feet as actors just as much as the characters are finding their feet as people), and the script is an immaculate looks at the perceptions we have of others as youngsters.

Glimpses at the home lives of the characters (through their conversations) fill out their personalities beautifully. The iconic heated exchange between Andrew (Estevez) and John (Nelson), in which their home lives are explored (giving rise to the famous 'Do I stutter?' line) is very tense- these are teenagers and they are unpredictable once their tempers rise- and the payoff is very satisfying. The climax to the film is beautifully handled, and (aside from Ally Sheedy's makeover) remains true to the characters instead of giving us a neat, Hollywood style ending.

The characters evolve and move on, everyone learns there's more to life than their own path, and the audience is left feeling they have changed a little too. The Breakfast Club may be about five very clear stereotypes, but as its fans will agree, there is a little of each of them in all of us.

This is about as perfect as a commercial film can be. Both written and directed by John Hughes, it is an early gem in the decade that defined his career as an active filmmaker.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

John Hughes: The Brat Pack films that defined an era Part Two: Sixteen Candles

Sixteen Candles ushered in the age of the 80s Brat pack film for real. There has been other films that had almost managed to do the same, such as Fast Times as Ridgemont High, but it was this decidedly disjointed film that caught the imagination of a certain generation and heralded a glut of similar films, none of which matched the Hughes pack.

This is the film that made Molly Ringwald the 80s starlet that she was, as well as serving up some very politically incorrect lines (mainly aimed at exchange student Long Duk Dong) and a veritable Time Capsule of 80s-a-rama. All of the staples of 80s teen films are present and correct, nerds, jocks, the ubiquitous prom queen, they're all there, but Sixteen Candles isn't ripping anything off- it is pretty much the starting point for what came after.

It's funny and warm, but not as great as what would come straight after it (The Breakfast Club). The film feels a little too chaotic for its own good, which is why I hold it slightly lower esteem than the others. You can certainly see what the intention was, but ultimately the film is too busy and cluttered.

The plot follows Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald) on her sixteenth birthday, an event which her whole family appear to have completely forgotten about. Mix in a lovestruck nerd (Anthony Michael Hall) and a chisel-jawed hunk (Michael Schoeffling), various misfit teens and a syrupy ending, and you have the ingredients of an 80s superhit. It'd good in episodic chunks, but as a whole it leaves you a little cold, and while the in-jokes and Hughes humour are there, they haven't quite matured enough to offer something truly special.

I think it's the ending that I never really got on with. I do love the film but the happy ending feels either tacked-on as an afterthought or something of a damp squib. The John Hughes Brat Pack movies all contain elements that were evident in Sixteen Candles, but used in a more refined manner. Fun, but ultimately unsatisfying.

That said, it is a great snapshot of 80s teen life and culture. The fashions, the music, the hobbies, the preoccupations are all true to the era, which is a big draw of these films now. Sixteen Candles is an interesting look at a bygone era, but little more than a curiosity now, and doesn't really give any clue as to the genre-defining film that would follow it a year later.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Across The Seas of Mind: Now available from Amazon!

My 2008 anthology ACROSS THE SEAS OF MIND is now available at thanks to the publishers I use. Once you've got your copy, feel free to post a review or a rating. You can find the book on at the following link:

'Across The Seas of Mind' by Andrew Hawnt on

Sunday, 17 May 2009

John Hughes: The Brat Pack films that defined an era - Part One: Introduction

John Hughes: The Brat Pack films that defined an era Part One: Introduction
By Andrew Hawnt

There is a series of films made in the 1980s that perfectly captured a particular brand of humour, a particular era of popular culture, and a particular time of life for millions of people all over the world. The misadventures of everyone's teenage years go a long way to shaping the people that we become, and it is easy to get caught up in the angst of the age when living through it yourself. The teen movies from the mind of John Hughes gave something special to the misfits and dreamers of a generation, and continue to do so for new fans now.

Thankfully, the films have not lost much of their lustre or impact for many fans as years have passed. John Hughes would, of course, go on to create films such as Home Alone, but it is the teen Brat Pack movies of the 1980s that he is most fondly appreciated for. Over the course of a series of articles, I'll be looking into what made these films so special, one at a time.

This is a labour of love. The films I'll be covering, namely Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful, mean very much to me. I discovered the work of John Hughes when Weird Science was aired on British TV one night back when I was 15. Following that exposure, I was hooked. I picked up the others as soon as I could and certainly got my worth out of those classic VHS tapes. I still have each one, and although DVDs have replaced pretty much everything, I can't bare to part with those films. They were like friends to me at the time.

I saw those films as something of an escape from the troubles I went through at that point in time, but I also saw them as a reminder that I wasn't the only one who had tough things to deal with. They also made it clear that life can be funny just as much as it can be upsetting, difficult and downright odd. This period of John Hughes' career ended in 1987, when he branched out into broader comedy with Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Something is missing from the current crop of teen films. At least to these eyes. This may be more to do with my advancing age marching on past the 30 mark and towards oblivion, but it may also be to do with the fact that the film industry, popular culture and society as a whole were rather different back then. That said, many of the situations and problems faced in these films are things that will fit with every generation.

After the 80s, the audience that had grown up on the films of John Hughes found a new, more adult hero in the form of Kevin Smith, whose films Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy did the same thing that the classic John Hughes films did for their target demographic- told them that there was someone out there making films that understood what it was like to be them, to grow up surrounded by pop culture, changing fashions, changing attitudes and changing technology.

John Hughes' personal and private life does not interest me, as it should be. What I want to talk about is a series of his films that helped shape me as a person and were there for me when I was without a friend in the world. It is a strange relationship that you build with these films, and I look forward to exploring that relationship for you.

Coming soon: Part two- Sixteen Candles

(c) Andrew Hawnt 2009

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Laid To Rest: A review of the new horror hit on DVD

The horror genre has been treading water for a while now, thanks to the endless remakes of classics and Western retoolings of Asian horror films. It had been growing stale for a while, but that rash of remakes has been, for want of a better term, nailing the genre's coffin shut somewhat.

Thankfully there are still the odd gems that crop up and take you by surprise. Laid To Rest is just such a film. The premise is very, very basic. Masked psychopath butchers a bunch of people. That's about it as far as the story goes, but it is handled in such a way that it feels very fresh and very powerful. The difference is, you're actually bothered about these characters throughout the film, and when various people meet their (very) grisly ends, you're hooked even more.

Laid To rest is an independent slasher film from director/writer Robert Hall, and stars his wife, Bobbi Sue Luther, in the lead role. The rest of the cast raised an interested eyebrow when I first heard about the film, as it features both Lena Headey and Thomas Dekker from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, as well as several other very talented people. The cast is on a rather higher level than your average sslasher effort, which goes a long way to pulling you into the tense story.

Star of the whole thing is undoubtedly ChromeSkull, a new slasher icon that brings to mind a sleek amalgamation of Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Patrick Bateman and in terms of cruelty, Hannibal Lecter. Without saying a word, he is a huge presence, played to chilling effect by Nick Principe, who is destined to play some of the aforementioned titans in other films. He has to be. Anyone that can put that much charisma into a performance while wearing a chrome skull mask and never saying a single word is meant for greatness.

The production values of the film are excellent considering its budget, with some truly impressive splatter and very inventive kill scenes. One particularly grisly moment comes when a character's entire face is hacked off in full view of the camera. Cinematography-wise it is reminiscent of other recent urban horror efforts such as the Wrong Turn films, but the crew have put a very personal spin on things. With a small cast, great visuals and the makings of a new legend in the ChromeSkull character, Laid To Rest really delivers everything a horror fan can want in a film.

Extras: Making of Feature, Special Effects feature, Deleted scenes, bloopers.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Clerks 2: it’s turning into the new Breakfast Club

I slipped Clerks 2 on again last night while home alone, and came to the realization that it has become an adult version of The Breakfast Club to me. The film that saw me through my teenage years has finally been usurped by what is pretty much its logical successor. Clerks 2 means a lot to me.

I know it seems a little sad to say that a film hits you somewhere very personal, but Clerks 2, for all of its crude humour and obscenities, is a raw look at friendship and coming to terms with life as it advances.

There are some moments in the film that are very lyrical, and the interplay between the characters reminds me a little too much of my own circle of friends. I’ve always said, ever since seeing the film at the cinema with a bunch of friends when it first came out, that it felt like I was living the plot. I’m not, not by a long way, but there are situations and trains of thought in that film that are universal to my generation.

I’m 30 now, and youth is giving way to responsibility, alongside the realization that adulthood is well and truly underway. I’m still the puerile, excitable little geek I’ve been my whole life, but things are evolving and I’m becoming a little more sensible and a little, dare I say it, wiser. That’s the beauty of Clerks 2. You get to see Randall and Dante finally take control of their lives. Yes, Dante and Becky don’t come together under the best of circumstances, but their plight feels real.

Want to give yourself a reality check and remember what it is like to actually feel and think and live? Watch The Breakfast Club and Clerks 2 back to back, and remember that while life is far from perfect, it can be pretty damn sweet.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Cannibal Apocalypse DVD review

I’ve been reading up on the greats (and the not-so-greats) of the cannibal and zombie subgenres of horror, and this film kept getting mentioned, so I thought I should check it out. Thank (Insert deity) here for HMV sales. The version I bought is the uncut edition of this insane 1981 film. The film was banned for a few years, and it is easy to see why when watching it. John Saxon takes the lead over a cast that has a couple of other decent performers in it, but Mr Saxon is far and away the best thing about the film. The idea of the movie is nice and different- cannibals let loose on city streets, instead of in the jungle. The cause of this cannibalism is a rabies-like virus that makes whoever is infected with it crave meat. A group of Vietnam veterans had brought the virus over from their ordeal in the war, and while John Saxon’s character is (almost) okay, his two buddies ended up locked up in an institution.

His former friends escape, and the mayhem begins. This is a very different approach to a horror film, and while there is gore galore, the film seems a whole lot more serious than its genre would normally allow. There are some interesting ideas on show here, handled pretty well by director Antonio Margheriti, but the film is let down by a number of atrocious actors delivering rather suspect dialogue. The action is nicely staged and well shot, and the splatter effects are suitably horrific, but it is the concept itself that raises this above your average horror fare. It’s just a shame the cast is so terrible aside from Saxon!

The most interesting scene, for me anyway, was the shootout in the deserted supermarket, between one demented cannibal and a group of bikers he has started offing following a chilling incident in a cinema. This scene alone was worth the paltry sum I paid for the film. The soundtrack is another matter. It is so utterly wrong for most of the film that it is almost comedic. Funky disco beats accompany extreme, brutal violence, resulting in a very odd viewing experience.

The transfer is crisp and clean considering the age of the film and the original materials it was created with. The sound is a dull mono mix but I couldn’t really expect anything else. There are some fascinating extras on offer though, with a 54 minute documentary on the movie, trailers, filmographies, a tour of the locations, and a short feature on the film’s notorious edits that were made in the era of the video nasty. It is nasty indeed, but it is the ideas that are more horrific than the action itself. Certainly a film that is probably only enjoyed by sadistic horror diehards, Cannibal Apocalypse (despite its misleading title- what apocalypse?) is an interesting entry in the horror pantheon that delivers on most of its hype.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Anvil! - The Story of Anvil: The film arrives in the US

So the marvellous documentary ANVIL! - The Story of Anvil is about to arrive on US screens. The film has been out in the UK for a while now, and I'd like to tell the people in the US that are wondering whether or not to see it that their tickets will be well worth the money. The film is wonderful, and there is a great deal to be enjoyed in it whether you're a metal fan or not. Lips and Robb are fast becoming heroes to many people through this film. Now that people are waking up to the band and their music, the dream that is fought so hard for during the film is coming true. By going to see it, you are actively helping to create a new ending for the film- you are making the dreams of these people come true. In all honesty, it is deserved.

I've seen the film twice on the big screen, bought the CD (the one you see made in the movie) from the band and even bought the book, for the simple reason that by the end of the film you are genuinely on the side of the band. I felt compelled to help out and show my appreciation the easiest way- by checking out more of the story and the music itself. I wasn't disappointed. The album 'This is Thirteen' is an excellent album of no-frills, old school heavy metal, evoking the classics. The reason is evokes the genre's classics is because these guys were one of the bands that created the genre we love in the first place.

The book tells the full story of the band's early years up to the present day, and the voices of Robb and Lips are plainly audible when you read it. I recommend you see the film first, then buy the book, as it really works well as a companion piece. Some of the asides in the book are unforgettable, and the whole thing is very much on a par with the film itself. The two items work so well together.

I truly, honestly hope that the Anvil movie opens up new avenues for the band. As a fan of rock and metal, the film is enlightening and fun, but that goes for anyone as a general viewer too. In my capacity as a journalist for a national rock magazine I get to interview musicians and review their albums, but seeing this film has opened my mind to the concept of rock stars being normal people even further than it already was. These two guys are genuinely likeable, their story is equal parts hilarious and compelling, and it is honestly the most moving metal documentary I have ever seen. Please, please go and see it, and you'll realize that for once, the hype is for real.

Anvil's website
Anvil- The Story of Anvil movie site
Anvil- The Story of Anvil book site (UK)