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Mister Terne (Wiltshire, England)

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Meg: Primal Waters
Meg: Primal Waters
by Steven Alten
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 4.70

1.0 out of 5 stars What went wrong?, 16 Mar 2014
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I am going to state from the start that I discovered Steve Alten with his first novel Meg. And just so that we are all clear, I loved it. Thinking nothing of it, I then chanced on the sequel, The Trench. How did that compare? Well, I might have loved Meg, a solid, blockbusting novel with wall to action, a brilliant central concept in the idea of a 60-foot megladon shark on the loose, and thrilling action sequences, but, to be honest The Trench was even better. The not-quite-brilliant climax of Meg was suddenly long forgotten, replaced by the exhausting climax of The Trench that took us deep into the Mariana Trench to face megladon sharks and so much more. A thrill-a-minute that left me climbing the walls in frustration that I had to wait so long for the next book in the series. For this reason, this review is particularly painful to write.

Meg: Primal Waters must rate as one of the worst novels I have ever read and having only recently read The Howling (a novel that Guy N. Smth's Night of the Crabs can look down upon from such a great height it makes me dizzy thinking about it - and before you ask, I am a huge fan Guy N. Smith, just not the over simplistic prose of his early offerings) that is saying something. To begin with there are far too many characters. I say characters, but what I mean is walk-on parts. It is astonishing how many points of view we are offered, names, names, names coming at us, mentioned once, and then never seen again.The action sequences are full of great ideas. One of my favorite, a simple but brilliantly conceived idea has an attack on a boat that leaves a fisherman strapped to a chair engaging in pole and line fishing being dragged to the bottom of the sea, seems over before it has started. The lack of detail is only rivaled by the lack of suspense. I won't carry on with spoilers for those that haven't read it but when a line simply states that a "character" is dead, you know that any notions of show rather than tell are not going to be found here.

The irony of all this is that, as a fan of the series and its potential, I am looking forward to the eventual film. The reason? There are enough great ideas here to fill several films and Primal Waters would make a cracking film, a real summer tent-pole movie to lay waste to all others. The problem is that instead it has been rendered as a terrible book. In fact, I would say that what we have here is little more than a very detailed screenplay. Characters are set up with two lines of prose and then whatever action scene they are involved with immediately plays out. Any sense of person, of place, of anything beyond the action and dialogue is rendered in the simplest, most direct terms possible. As a result, the book is simply unengaging. You feel like someone is telling you a story that is only half-complete. I mean, it is one thing to have to use one's imagination, but when the starting point is as simplistic as "a boat", "the sea", or even, "the meg", the effort required quickly becomes tiresome.

Considering what grand epics of entertainment the first two books in the series were (worthy inheritors of the mantle once occupied by Jaws), this underwritten sequel is little more than a troubling footnote. I have all ready got "Hell's Aquarium", the next in the series to read. I am now wondering if it is worth the bother or will a once brilliant series be furthered dragged down into the depths of sub-pulp fiction? What is particularly troubling is that the last Steve Alten book I read, The Loch, was also a crushing disappointment. is that Steve has simply lost his way, or is his efforts to turn Meg into a movie sapping his once prodigious talent? Just what went wrong?

The World is Ever Changing
The World is Ever Changing
by Nicolas Roeg
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating insight into the mind of the greatest director ever, 2 Feb 2014
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All right, I am more than just a fan of Mister Roeg. With that in mind, was I ever going to to think of this collection of thoughts, memories, and ideas as anything less than a masterpiece? No. Still, for other like-minded people who have an interest in the films of Nicolas Roeg this is nothing less than an essential purchase and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It contains a good selection of photographs too.

Dracula (Classic BBC Radio Horror)
Dracula (Classic BBC Radio Horror)
by Bram Stoker
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 13.44

5.0 out of 5 stars A great version of a classic novel, 2 Feb 2014
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To begin with, a few points to note ...

Firstly, this review is for the Classic BBC Radio Horror from Radio 4. Secondly, I am a huge fan of the novel by Bram Stoker. Thirdly, I am a huge fan of BBC Radio 4 plays. You can probably guess where this review is going now but for what it's worth ...

This is an excellent version of the story. Not 100% faithful (not that it could be in just a bit over 3 hours) but remarkably faithful nonetheless. An eerie opening has Jonathon Harker waking to find himself in a monastery after the events of the first act of the novel. On first listening to this recording I was immediately concerned that my favorite parts of the novel had been unceremoniously cut. This made the subsequent flashbacks that related the events of the novel's first act, when they did come, even more welcome. Using a flashback structure also added an emotional element that is not in the novel and suggested that this was going to be something special. My hunch was not wrong. The way the story unfolds genuinely captures the spirit of the novel in ways that other versions have failed to do (I have my sights set on you, Mister Coppola!). Fantastic performances convey every aspect's of the novel's mystery, horror, and romance. And a particular mention for Frederick Jaeger whose almost otherworldly performance so wonderfully captures the strange exoticism exuded by the count. The use of sound effects is minimal but engaging, from the opening Gregorian chant that accompanies Harker's stirrings to the howling winds that blow through the Borgo pass, ensuring that you not only have a very real sense of where you are but adding an eerie undercurrent to some all ready disturbing scenes. There are other BBC radio plays (Frankenstein, The War of the Worlds) that are almost as good, but none that are better. Quite simply, if you love the book ...

LEGO Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars (PS3)
LEGO Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars (PS3)
Offered by Gamesbuyer
Price: 14.26

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Easy, repetative, and full of bugs. An epic disappointment., 19 May 2013
I have enjoyed playing all of the lego games thus far, bar one. That one was Harry Potter, but was less a fault of the game than it was of the material with endless treks through Hogwarts ultimately wearing this player down.

The Star Wars games have fared much better, and I would highly recommend them, with the exception of The Clone Wars. It may be a lack of familiarity with the TV series, but the game is highly episodic in nature. Ineb=vitible given the source material, I suppose. But what is less forgivable is the lack of interesting game play.

The whole game can be played in just a few hours, but this did not blight previous versions with the free play aspect being a welcome addition. Unfortunately, this time the game is let down by too many levels that require the same skill set, namely building cannons, tanks, bases etc. on baseboards whilst fending of cannons, tanks ... you get the idea. It really does feel like played one, played them all. This aspect becomes frustratingly apparent in freeplay whereby boredom quickly sets in.

The previous Star Wars games encouraged you to whip through the story, enjoy the funny cut sequences (something else that is lacking here) and move onto the free play where you could spend ages completing the game. What ensured a keenness do to the latter was the varied game play and locations. But by the time I reached the "epilogue" of "The Clone Wars", and found that yet more buiding of tanks, cannons, bases etc. was required, I was all ready feeling I'd seen it all before. Moving onto free play has engendered little further fun at all, and left me feeling bored and regretful of the overall experience. A great shame, as given the number of locations and incidents in the Star Wars universe, and given the previous Lego Star Wars games, a great game should have been a given.

I would carry on to mention the sort of bugs that will leave you having to restart levels just when you are about to complete them, but I really don't want to give this very average game any more of my time.

I'm off to play the original trilogy and the prequals ... back to back ... far much more fun ... even if I have been through them all twice before!

Dread [DVD]
Dread [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jackson Rathbone
Price: 6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Read the short story first... and then watching something else, 4 Mar 2013
This review is from: Dread [DVD] (DVD)
Adapted from an early Clive Barker story, what should have been a terrifying and highly original film is a sordid mess of torture porn, conventional slasher film and trite teen melodrama. The fascinating story of a man obsessed with exploring the very nature of dread by experimenting on unwilling victims, in many ways a classic serial killer story but whose "serial killer" doesn't actually kill anyone, is reduced to a dull teen movie that owes more to the Hostel films than anything of real note.

The story is Boy meets boy. Except the boy that the boy meets turns out to be a lunatic, with a back story borrowed from a dozen eighties slasher films, who likes to confront victims with their worst fears. Tedious direction, murky photography, terrible dialogue, and the sort of soundtrack that I have come to expect from lesser films are all perfectly balanced by performances that allow a real dungeon movie like "It Waits" to look down on it. This no mean feat, but it is not to be applauded either.

However, in spite of the film's many shortcomings, what really grates is what a missed opportunity it is. The short story, Dread, is nightmarish, disturbing, and had an outrageous ending. Whilst the same could be said of film, Dread, unfortunately it would be for all the wrong reasons.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 4, 2013 10:30 PM GMT

1876: Number 3 in series (Narratives of empire)
1876: Number 3 in series (Narratives of empire)
by Gore Vidal
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His best book, if you discount Julian, Live From Golgotha, Burr..., 28 Dec 2012
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I am going to keep this review short. Or at least try. This is isn't the sort of book I would normally review, given that it was written by a giant of literature whose other works I have greedily devoured and, in some cases, enjoyed more. However, seeing that there were only three reviews praising this book and given the author's untimely passing, I just wanted to add my voice to the fray shout its praises. For those unfamiliar with Gore Vidal's work, 1876 is the third volume of his lengthy treatise examining the history of America. What distinguishes this work from the varying qualities of what came before, and after, is that is another memoir from a man who is possibly Vidal's greatest creation, Charles Schuyler. Through his writings we are made privy to the changing face of politics in America's centennial year. But for me, the (fascinating, to be sure) story is secondary to a character that is so real you will be hanging on his every word. Interestingly, Gore Vidal himself declared this novel's predecessor, Burr, his personal favourite of his books. Well, Burr may be the better novel, but it is 1876 that will break your heart when you read its final pages. Witty, beautifully written, and insightful to the point leaving me feeling that my accrued knowledge was just a whisker above ignorance, the combination of Burr and 1876 should be considered a real modern classic. Unfortunately, the former has been overshadowed by lesser novels and the latter deemed little more than a footnote to The Narratives of Empire. A shame, as 1876 may just be Gore Vidal's best book, if you discount Julian, Live from Golgotha, Burr, Creation, Kalki, A Search for the King...

Weekend [DVD]
Weekend [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Cullen
Offered by fat_buddha
Price: 5.99

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I think Merchant-Ivory did it better..., 28 Dec 2012
This review is from: Weekend [DVD] (DVD)
I have just finished watching Weekend. Like a one night stand with a good-looking, opinionated, egotistical bit of rough, I find myself woefully disappointed. Given the great reviews that the guy film has received only adds to my disappointment. What was touted as a heartbreaking film about a brief encounter between two men was in fact just an extended conversation, punctuated by an occasional bit of explicit sex and recreational drug use. I realised early on that this was not going to be the new classic I had been hoping (finally, a riposte to Parting Glances' breakthrough success), but a filmed version of what I seen and experienced on more Saturday nights out at The White Swallow than I care to remember. That isn't to say that the film is badly made. Indeed, director Andrew Haigh proves himself a more than capable director with a fascinating eye for detail. In addition, he has helped coaxed performances so astonishing from his two leads that at times you feel you are intruding on their private lives. Unfortunately, all of this fantastic work is undermined by an unstructured script that meanders its way through a narrative so slight that if it had been a thirty minute short it would have soon outstayed its welcome. When it comes to fleeting romances there have been better films made. It seems ironic that when one of the characters starts talking about A Room with a View, it suddenly occurred to me how much Weekend is like that other Merchant-Ivory classic, The Remains of the Day, another story of repression, romance and heartbreak amongst the working classes, only with straights, and with any onscreen ejaculate.

Torso [1974] [DVD]
Torso [1974] [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Richardson
Price: 10.16

4.0 out of 5 stars A minor classic from the golden age of horror., 8 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Torso [1974] [DVD] (DVD)
I have to admit that I was somewhat put off by the title of this one. If that sounds somewhat dismissive, it is mean to. Titles like this were meant to capture the unadventurous imaginations of a jaded public who would rather indulge Hollywood's latest trite outpourings than take the chance on a little, otherwise unheard of film lurking on the bottom shelf of their local video rental store. In addition, Shameless Video, all too aware of this, have done their best to take us back to those heady times, of standing round in crowded, smoky rooms staring at row upon row of uncertified films, by presenting Torso with a particularly lurid cover and citing the by-line "Where whores meet saws". The fact that the original Italian title is hidden in the small print only confirms their commitment to its one-time-notorious video nasty status. On the other hand, the fact that the Italian title, I Corpi Presentano Tracce Di Violenza Carnale, translates as "bodies bear traces of carnal violence" means that they needn't have gone to so much trouble.

At its heart, Torso is classic giallo, no more and no less. The basic premise is of a killer with a damaged childhood killing off women and men (just for a change) in a variety of gruesome ways for reasons that are disclosed in the film's closing minutes. No surprises there then. However, what lifts this particular giallo out of the mire, if not to the dizzy heights occupied by the likes of Blood and Black Lace and Tenebrae, is solid direction from Sergio Martino and the ingenious editing skills of Eugenio Alabiso. Together, they have conspired to create a cracking thriller that moves from admittedly sketchy early scenes to a tense trapped-in-a-chateau final that would have tickled Hitchcock.

There are the usual shortcomings, of course. The acting is mostly functional. This is hardly a surprise considering the characters are little more than a parade of victims and red herrings. Still, since I mentioned Hitchcock, you could hardly call the likes of Lila Crane and Sam Loomis three-dimensional creations. The special effects leave a lot to be desired, too. Rubber heads are crushed in close up and latex limbs are sawn off with little realism. Taking into account the limited number of special effects technicians working in Italy at this time (the days of the great Sergio Stivalletti were still some eight years away), the parade of crude effects can easily be forgiven.

I know it seems that I am now running off a set of excuses for the film's various shortcomings, and, yes, I could go on... But if you are reading this review, chances are that you probably have a penchant for low budget horror and know what to expect. So do yourself a favour and check out this satisfying entry in the great giallo tradition. If nothing else, you can be assured of a more entertaining time than with Hollywood's recent disappointing efforts.

The Cabin In The Woods [DVD]
The Cabin In The Woods [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chris Hemsworth
Price: 5.00

8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The history of horror in 95 minutes, and not neccessarily the good bits., 8 Oct 2012
This review is from: The Cabin In The Woods [DVD] (DVD)
Others have said it, but it is worth repeating; The Cabin in the Woods is a difficult film to review without discussing the plot in detail. However, since disclosing the plot of the film in detail would effectively render the viewing experience pointless for those that have not seen the film yet, I am going to try and keep my ramblings spoiler free. Here goes...

From the jarring opening, that suddenly switches from a group of teenagers preparing for a trip to the eponymous cabin to two government workers idly exchanging pleasantries as they prepare for the task in hand, it is immediately apparent that this is not going to be your usual teens-in-peril horror film. Indeed, as the film progresses and events take a turn for the increasingly strange, the viewer's questions quickly pile up. That isn't to say that the film is devoid of the familiar. On the contrary, from the opening shot the clichés pile up thick and fast. The expected archetypes, the jock, the nerd, the determined heroine, are all present and correct. The antagonists, on the other hand, take the form of shadowy observers and (possibly) mad scientists; even that seventies horror staple, the menacing gas station attendant, is trotted out to issue some expected unspoken threats. However, to be fair, the clichés are there for a reason. Unfortunately, the reason is both the film's triumph and its downfall.

Others have said that The Cabin in the Woods is a "love/hate letter to the horror genre", but I feel that a more accurate description would be a protracted, dull discourse on the history of the horror film and all of its trappings. If this criticism leaves you feeling that I didn't like the film, you would be only half right. That is because The Cabin in the Woods is a film of two halves. A parallel plot structure has two stories playing out. The first is original, startling and could have been the subject of a groundbreaking horror film, the likes of which we haven't really seen since 1987's Hellraiser, it saddens me to say. The second is effectively a tick box of clichés meant to inform the first, but unfortunately just drags the entire production back down into the dirge it was trying to rise above. To say that this is a great shame is a huge understatement. After the clichés have piled up, a completely bonkers finally 20 minutes erupts in a welter of fevered imagination that only hints at what the film could have been. If only they had made the first plot, and those final, hopelessly rushed 20 minutes, the main focus of the film, they might have had something special. Instead, what we have is the longest twilight zone episode since M. Night Shyamalan took us to The Village. And although the twist is genuinely a great one this time round, its late appearance can't rescue The Cabin in the Woods from being just another cabin in the woods.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 10, 2013 12:51 PM BST

Kill List [DVD]
Kill List [DVD]
Dvd ~ Neil Maskell
Price: 5.44

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Everything that is wrong with horror..., 27 Aug 2012
This review is from: Kill List [DVD] (DVD)
I am going to keep this short and sweet, or at least try to.

To begin with, the number of stars accompanying this review should convey my feelings, and there are many reviews listed here that can convey why this film is so disliked. Just to ensure my feelings are clear, however, I will say that I found "Kill List" dull, derivative and, perhaps explaining my previous two criticisms, predictable. I appreciate that if you did not see the ending coming, the final reveal could be as devastating as "The Wicker Man" or, more recently, "The others". Unfortunately, much like The Sixth Sense, second guessing the climactic reveal has left what could have been a horrific and disturbing climax has unfortunately been rendered impotent. As I recall the impressively gritty realism of the first act, and the violent thrills of the second act, both bolstered by terrific performances from all concerned, I can only try and hold and back my vitriol as I remember how the tedious and imitative climax (I am straining not to mention "The Wicker Man" again, but it is hard to keep a genuine classic down) undid such sterling work.

What I do find fascinating, however, is how films like this and "Eden Lake" are having extraordinary praise heaped upon them. Put up against genuine classics of the horror genre ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"; "Halloween"; "The Shining"), and even long unfortunately forgotten curios ("Straight on Till Morning"; "Blood on Satan's claw"; "Long Weekend") they are found wanting. But reading through the positive reviews of these films, a clear commonality becomes apparent. So many of the reviews bemoan the lack of originality currently on display. And I can see their point. In the examples scattered throughout this review I have cited films considered classic and cult. But I have not specified the year of production for any of them. For some this is without issue, but for others you would be forgiven for wondering if I meant "The Wicker Man" (1973) or The Wicker Man (2006). The fact is that the horror genre is in decline, and has been for some time. I believe it is that has led to the distinct split in reviews for films like "Kill List". Whilst some welcome its attempts to do something different to the spate of remakes and retreads that have been forced on us, others cling to the wonders of the past as a means of escaping the diatribe of the present. Perhaps I do fall into the latter group, but I still have hope that I will see a modern, genuinely brilliant horror film can stand side by side with past greats.

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