Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

Home Of Swords, Sorcery, Superheroes, Sonic Screwdrivers, Supernatural Scares, Star Stuff, Sci-fi, Smeg, and Silliness

Friday, 30 September 2011

She Was Right...

The first five minutes of the great looking American Horror Story from Glee's Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk.

No Further Comment Is Necessary...

All credit to whoever first put this pithy observation together (
as I forgot where I swiped it from, sorry).

Fleamarket Friday:

Iconic artist Liz Danforth is auctioning off the original artwork from the inside back cover of Tunnels & Trolls Fifth Edition rules from 1979. The piece is entitled The Summoner and you can read Danforth's commentary on the art over on her blog.

At the time of writing this there have been two bids on The Summoner and the price is $202.50. The eBay auction runs until Tuesday, October 4, 18:46:11 PDT

This unique piece of roleplaying history was drawn (pun intended) to my attention by Ed over at Esoteric Murmurs.

Fleamarket Friday: The Menagerie

"Deep in Siberia, a madman holds sway over a cult of mutants in a crumbling underground military base. And then Department X agents Hugo Soloman and Pandora King accidentally drop in…

The Menagerie is 19 Pages of 7TV adventure set deep in the wilds of Russia.

It contains:
  • Five new Star, Co-Star and Extra profiles
  • A gripping all new episode to get playing
  • Five pages of stand-up scenery to build
  • New pages of script from the lost TV episode Department X and the Iron Menagerie
  • An exclusive PayPal link to get more than 20 miniatures at a great price
The adventure module is available to download from The Wargame Vault for $3.48/£2.25.

For more information about the fantastic 7TV rule set and its fast-growing range of cult TV 28mm miniatures visit the Crooked Dice Game Design Studio website.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Merlin: The Darkest Hour - Preview

The first clip from Saturday's season four opening episode, The Darkest Hour, has been released by the BBC for the new series of Merlin.

Supernatural: My Heart Will Go On

Like The X-Files before it, Supernatural occasionally takes time out to homage an old horror movie and My Heart Will Go On is a very clear tip of the hat to the Final Destination franchise (which is ironic as the first Final Destination movie famously began life as an X-Files script).

The scene is set right from the episode's opening with its elaborate, domino-style death sequence with ends up with a man being beheaded by his own garage door, then when the focus shifts to the Winchesters we begin to notice 'little changes' - that they are unaware of - such as the brothers no longer driving their Impala and Bobby Singer being married... to Ellen (who died back in Abandon All Hope), played as always by Samantha Ferris.

Digging deeper, the Winchesters discover that there is an epidemic of his random deaths across the country and tracing the family trees of all the victims puts them all as coming from immigrants who sailed to America on the same ship, The Titanic.

Turns out that rebel angel Balthazar (Sebastian Roché) prevented the ship from striking the iceberg - supposedly because he hated James Cameron's movie and particularly Celine Dion's song - and so no-one was lost at sea... however now Fate, in the form of librarianish Atropos (Katie Walder) is setting the records straight again by killing off those people who were never supposed to have been born.

When dealing with powers as omnipotent as Fate, the Winchester brothers tend to become supporting cast in their own show as it's left up to Castiel - and Balthazar - to sort matters out, with our heroic siblings merely playing the role of bait to lure Atropos out.

Nevertheless, My Heart Will Go On remains a strong episode, shifting the emphasis away from Sam, Dean and Bobby's hunt for Eve The Mother Of All to Castiel's civil war in Heaven and the fallout felt by the Earth because of it.

We're also starting to see hints of a darker side to Castiel as the war continues to take its toll on him, but it will be comforting to see an episode next week where the Winchesters are, at least, slightly more in control of their own destinies and not quite so outclassed power-wise.

Next Week:

Horror Movies By The Numbers...

Merlin, Season Four, Approaches...

Camelot stands on the brink of a golden age. But its birth will not be an easy one. For the forces of evil are gathering and the darkest hour is just before the dawn…

Coming this Saturday (October 1) at 7.50pm - straight after Doctor Who (season finale, The Wedding Of River Song at 7.05pm) - Merlin, season four, episode one aka The Darkest Hour.

The BBC synopsis of Merlin's opening episode reads:

"Merlin faces his toughest challenge yet when Morgana's blinkered determination threatens not only Arthur's future, but the very balance of the world.

"With her magic stronger than ever, the sorceress summons the mighty Callieach to tear open the veil between the worlds. Hellish creatures pour forth, killing any who succumb to their touch. With Uther a shadow of his former self, it falls to Arthur and his loyal knights, including Lancelot, to protect the kingdom.

"But it will take more than just swords to vanquish their enemy and Merlin is shocked to the core when he discovers the only way to restore the equilibrium requires a sacrifice of unimaginable proportions.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

DVD Of The Week: Tucker & Dale Vs Evil (2010)

The most original comedy-horror since Buffy The Vampire Slayer turned the "final girl" into a kick-ass heroine in 1992, Tucker & Dale Vs Evil flips the 'murderous hillbillies' trope - a mainstay of movies from Texas Chainsaw Massacre through to Wrong Turn - on its head by making the hillbillies the heroes.

Firefly's Alan Tudyk and Reaper's Tyler Labine are Tucker and Dale respectively, a couple of decent, honest, slightly naive rednecks heading out into the Appalachian Mountains to spent some time doing up Tucker's recently purchased (but previously unseen) dream vacation home (which admittedly does rather resemble the cottage from the Evil Dead!)

On the way there the good, old boys meet a gang of college kids heading to a lake - which happens to be near Tucker's cabin - for Memorial Day camping trip. The teenagers - particularly egged on by prime douchebag Chad (Jesse Moss) - mistake our heroes for "deranged and scary hillbillies" (as seen in the movies and portrayed in gruesome campfire tales).

When one of the group, Alison (Katrina Bowden of 30 Rock fame), is later saved from drowning in the lake by Tucker and Dale, her judgemental friends automatically assume their friend is being kidnapped and hilarity ensues as the co-incidences and misunderstandings escalate and the dumb college kids start accidentally killing themselves in their enthusiasm to "rescue" Alison.

Supplementing this is a backstory of the previous owners of the cabin that involves Chad and is - perhaps - the straw that nearly breaks the camel's back, piling a major twist upon an already well-stuffed melange of comedic confusion and gory slapstick comedy.

Tudyk, Labine and Bowden are fantastic in their portrayals of the "innocent parties" and exhibit real chemistry which sells the absurdity of the situation to the audience. The script by director Eli Craig and co-writer Morgan Jurgenson is filled with great banter, clever subversions of traditional horror situations and strong character-building of our hillbilly heroes.

Certainly not laugh-a-minute slapstick as the trailers may have suggested, Tucker & Dale Vs Evil however is a brilliant stab at doing something different in a genre that constantly sails close to devolving into a parody of itself.

Scream may have got all 'post-modern' on slasher movies, but the killer was still a deranged someone in a mask with a big knife, Tucker and Dale Vs Evil manages to make the people with the chainsaws the sympathetic characters and the jerky college students the threatening ones.


Swordmaster Kim Turney and Ben Hoffman, of The Academy Of Theatrical Combat, go at it with single cutlass in "fight class"!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Monster Mash: The Devil's Rock (2011)

Every so often the recommendations on Amazon will throw up a tantalising - and cheap - DVD that I've never heard of and The Devil's Rock was it's best suggestion to date.

This is a minimalist New Zealand horror flick set in the Channel Islands on the eve of D-Day, 1944. A pair of seasoned commandoes - Captain Ben Grogan (Craig Hall) and Sergeant Joe Tane (Karlos Drinkwater) - are sent in to sabotage a gun emplacement, but surprised to find the place deserted and loud screams coming from a nearby bunker.

Believing it could be an Allied soldier being tortured they investigate, only to discover dismembered German bodies all over the place and strange, occult symbols drawn over every surface.

There are also two survivors - SS Col Klaus Meyer (Matthew Sunderland) and a woman (Gina Varela) who is the spitting image of Grogan's dead wife, Helena.

With a main cast of four - and one of those is killed off reasonably early on - The Devil's Rock is a powerful, tense, claustrophobic thriller about a man being forced to make a deal with the devil to triumph over a different kind of evil.

Don't be put off by the "Saw With Swastikas" quote on the DVD box; it may be a catchy soundbite but it totally misrepresents the film and undermines its intelligence.

Packed full of occult detailing - with a sprinkling of Lovecraft in there to keep the geeks happy as well as a nod to Raiders Of The Lost Ark - writer/director Paul Campion delivers an incredibly gory horror movie that doesn't rely on the bloodsplattering for its shocks, but works on a subtler, Black Magic level (like a Dennis Wheatley story).

Although it is casually graphic, The Devil's Rock draws on atmosphere and dialogue and  is as much about the characters' reactions to the situation as it is about the demon that has been summoned from the pits of hell.

The performances from the main three characters are all spot-on, swinging from subdued to aggressive as the scenes demand, almost giving the film the feeling of an intimate play.


Demme Varou
(lesser demon)

The Demme Varou is a lesser demon that can only appear in the world of man if summoned by a dark sorcerer with the correct text to hand, the text also comes with the conjuration to send the Demme Varous back to the pit it came from.

The Demme Varou is a flesh-eating demon of lust, able to instantly switch between its true demonic form (a red-skinned, horned, naked female with a pair of jagged bone stumps in its back where once it had wings) and the appearance of a loved one.

Telepathic, the demon will read the minds of all those present and select a loved one (living or dead) of the strongest personality - or leader - of the group as its adopted form.

It will then attempt to manipulate the group and separate them off into individuals so it can easily feast on their flesh.

#ENC: 1 (summoned)
Size: Human
HD: 6
AC: 2 [17]
Attacks: claws x 2 (1d8) - if it hits with both claws, it has grasped its victim around the head and unless the target makes a STAT check of 5d6 versus (STR+Level) the next round (as he unable to do anything else) to break free, the Demme Varou expands its mouth to bite off the victim's head and swallow it whole! This attack is made at +4 and does 2d10 damage. If this kills the person, the Demme Varou has swallowed their soul and they cannot be resurrected by normal means, unless their soul can somehow be recovered (and it's not as simple as cutting open a dead Demme Varou!). Otherwise, the victim may attempt to break free again the next round or the demon will chomp again. While eating someone like this the demon can do nothing else.
Move: 12
Save: 11
  • Damage Immunity - the devil is immune to all non-magical attacks, however it can be bound in cold iron. If attackers can somehow slip iron manacles on the beast that are then secured elsewhere it will be unable to break the chains or escape (although it can pull the chains out the wall if they are not secured tightly enough!).
  • Telepathy/Shapechange - as above.
  • Charm Person - after the Demme Varou has assumed the likeness of a loved one, the first time it appears to the person whose mind it plucked the image from, the DM must make a secret save versus charm magic (at -4)  for that person (and only that person) or they will be completely convinced that the creature is who it says it is. This charm will drop if the creature changes shape (either to another human or to its demonic form) and the victim is allowed a straight saving roll to shake off the charm every time someone presents a piece of evidence to prove the creature is not who it says it is.
  • Create Illusions - Once per day the Demme Varou can create an illusion which will affect all who see it and fail their save versus magic. This illusion (sound, sight, smell only - it cannot be touched) can only take the shape of a humanoid creature and will last until everyone seeing it disbelieves or one hour has elapsed. This illusion is part of the demon's bag of tricks to separate a party of adventurers or draw them out of protection.
  • Weakness - the Demme Varou cannot cross running water, which is why sorcerers often summon them on islands as they then have no escape and will be more inclined to serve their new master.
CL/XP: 10/1,400


Pouch Of Protection - When a sorcerer summons a Demme Varou, it's important that he transcribes - or tears out - the words to dispel the demon and keeps them on his person, usually in a pouch around his neck.

As long as he does this the Demme Varou is unable to cause him mortal harm and, only to him, will be merely as strong as a normal human female.

The pouch itself is non-magical, it is the power of the words contained within.

As always, these role-playing write-ups have taken some liberties with the creatures and objects from the movie (including slightly altering the French name of the demon).

Look! Up In The Sky! It's A Bird! It's A Plane! It's...

One minute we're being bombarded by falling satellites and the next we're crashing into a planet full of monsters!

Thanks to Quiet Earth for drawing this trailer for Monstrosity to my attention.

And, seriously, folks, if you're not following Quiet Earth you're missing out on a whole heap of incredible genre movie news and updates.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Game Of Thrones - Season Two Tease...

The first, brief (and footage-free), teaser trailer for next year's second season of Game Of Thrones, which is due to premiere in the Spring.

There's a bit more information though in this trailer for A Game Of Thrones - Genesis, the PC game due out on Thursday.

[COMMUNITY TABLE] The Rag And Bone Man...

Raggy Dan, the rag and bone man, from children's TV show Trumpton
Another of the things I love about living in Tonbridge is that we still have a rag and bone man doing his weekly rounds in the side streets of our town. Of course, he doesn't wheel a cart or use a horse-drawn wagon these days, but I still hear his incomprehensible shout of "anyoldiron" (or some such) from the cab of his slow-moving, flatbed truck at he comes down our road.

I guess I can be a bit of sentimentalist, but I really like this very-British traditional connection to our past and it got me to thinking how easy it would be to repurpose such a concept for a  roleplaying campaign.

As Wikipedia says, a rag and bone man would traditionally "collect old rags (for converting into fabric and paper), bones for making glue, scrap iron and other items, often trading them for other items of limited value"... which sounds a perfect concept for a pseudo-Medieval non-player character - especially in a society with no refuse collectors or street cleaners - and a great set-up for a community table (also inspired by Gorgonmilk's Goblin Market community project).


Ogden the rag and bone man is a gruff, leathery-faced individual, wearing a tall, strange hat of an unrecognisable style, who steers his junk-laden horse-drawn cart through the city streets at a slow pace, calling out near-incomprehensible growls of "anymetalanyboneanyoldrags", stopping his cart when someone has a donation for him - which he will examine with a cursory glance then chuck in the back of his wagon.

The rag and bone man will know what objects actually are about 50 per cent of the time, but will always bluff about their versatility and value anyway. He has a family to feed after all.

For a token fee of one gold piece, Ogden will allow people to root through his day's takings, but if they actually want to take something away that will cost a bit more.

Otherwise he takes his stock home each night, where he, his wife and his dozen children sort through it for anything of value, anything that can be reused etc His wife stitches together old bits of rags to make shawls etc, while the children take to the streets trying to sell 'recycled' items.

What has the rag and bone man got on his cart today?
  1. A couple of interestingly-shaped, twisted pieces of wire (actually part of an expensive thieves tool kit - which any rogue would probably recognise [STAT  check on 4d6 vs INT+LVL] that add +10% to lock-picking attempts). (Sir Timothy Of Kent).
  2. A piece of dead coral shaped like a lobster (actually a holy symbol of a sea goddess, looks nice, but it otherwise nothing special) (Simon Forster)
  3. One 'leaky' bag of holding which contains several hundred gp worth of loose coin but cannot be accessed normally. Roll D4 for type of coin (1GP, 2SP, 3CP, 4PP) and 1D10 for the number of coins that fall out of the bag daily. (Marc Gendron)
  4. a set of rings in different colours knotted to an old piece of string. The material of the rings is essentially worthless, but the order they're put on which fingers have different effects on the user (is STR+1, DEX+2, INT -3 etc.) (Marc Gendron)
  5. A heavily stained and discarded scroll which is only partially legible, but recognizeable as a heavy-duty spell...if only the new owner could figure out what the missing words were... (Marc Gendron)
  6. A duty bottle of dark glass. Inside is a fairy, trapped there for years; she will be very grateful to be freed and will tell her rescuer where some valuable treasure is located (Simon Forster)
  7. A gnawed leg bone, most of the marrow sucks dry. It is actually part of a dead god, and if anyone sucks the remaining marrow, they gain the ability to cast a randomly determined 1st Level Cleric spell once per day (Simon Forster)
  8. Scrawled on a scrap of dirty fabric in a mixture of Thieves' sign and common the location of a grave robber's loot.(TJ)
  9. A pair of dirty glass beads. They are actually IOUN stones (type determined randomly) (Lord Gwydion)
  10. Half of a broken holy symbol of a lost god or goddess. If the other half is found, the wearer becomes immune to energy drain attacks.(Lord Gwydion)
  11. A battered yet matched set of six pewter tankards carved with the stern bearded faces of famous dwarven kings. (satyre)
  12. A tangled mass of four crooked tarnished silver links that with a successful INT check becomes a puzzle ring.(satyre)
  13. A small, hand-painted portrait of a noblewoman. It is sentient, she is an evil ancient spirit and if given 1 hit point of blood the spirit will give advice, but can only speak once per day for one round. She is an expert on history and the origins of magical objects (but not always the function). Can she be trusted? She may have plans of her own...(Steve)
  14. A pick pocket boy hiding under the cart. He is either in league with Ogden (maybe one of his kids) and tries to steal from the PCs while they are looking about or he just hides from an angry would-be victim (rorschachhamster).
  15. A set of four magical silver rings, each with a protruding, small fang sticking out. These are vammpire fangs and if the rings are worn like knuckledusters and used as such in battle, any punch will cause extra bleeding damage (how much is up to the DM, I'd say 1 to 4 points, depending on rule system?), plus for each punch there will be an extra point or two each round due to the bleeding being hard to stop, as it magically flows from the wounds. This damage will only stop when the victim tends his wounds. Any vampires seeing a person wearing these rings will either fly into a rage or plan to get them, as the use of the fangs is seen by them as a great insult. (Steve)
  16. A small damp stained battered box containing three used glass eyes, two are clear with a brown iris and one is milky white with a blue iris. All eyes have a bit of dry stained skin still attached. The milky one might be a quickling-sized crystal ball. (Damian)
  17. A well-made soft leather boot is trapped under lots of other junk, when it is pulled out a recently amputated leg (below the knee) and foot is still in the boot, the leg is grey but still warm to the touch. If the boot and leg are dropped onto the street, it very quietly starts to hop away. The boot is an elven boot. (Damian)
  18. A very thick and boring book on human behaviour. A PC who reads the dense text must make an intelligence roll (or equivalent). If he/she makes the roll the PC gains a profound insight into how humans think and will have a permanent subliminal chance of detecting any lies told by a human (percentage chance 20% or whatever DM sees fit).(Steve)
  19. x
  20. x
  21. x
  22. x
  23. x
  24. x
  25. x
  26. x
  27. x
  28. x
  29. x
  30. x
Please add your submissions in the comments section below and the table will remain open until we have a full d30 worth of interesting, quirky, junk items.

Cheer Youself Up On A Monday Morning...

I first came across this on Sub Continent Of The Killer Apes, but I've since seen it popping up all around our little Interwebz gaming ghetto (not only is it highly entertaining, but it's also kinda inspirational!)

Probably the best four minutes you will spend on the Internet this week!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Doctor Who: Closing Time

While I had every confidence in scriptwriter Gareth Roberts (one of my favourite of the current Doctor Who writers), I wasn't 100 per cent convinced that Matt Smith and James Corden would be able to recapture the surprising magic of The Lodger again when they reteamed in Closing Time.

Despite the unexpected brilliance of The Lodger, I had grave doubts about what could easily have become a rerun of the buddy-buddy comedy pairing of Craig Owens (Corden) and The Doctor.

But once again I was pleasantly surprised. In fact I would go so far as to say that Closing Time surpassed The Lodger in its comedy/drama juggling act.

The Doctor has been travelling on his own (possibly for about 200 years) since the parting of the ways last week, and while we don't know how much time has passed on Earth one of the episode's many poignant scenes reveals that Amy has moved on with her life... in a surprising fashion.

The Doctor is doing his "farewell tour" - much like The Tenth Doctor did in The End Of Time (part two) - and has just popped in to say 'goodbye' to Craig, who he discovers has not only moved but now has a young baby with girlfriend Sophie (Daisy Haggard), when he 'stumbles' upon strange goings-on at a nearby department store in Colchester.

Electricity is being drained away, people are disappearing mysteriously and silver rat with glowing eyes has been spotted around the store.

Although ultimately the revelation of the whys and wherefores of the cybermen under the floor are a bit 'convenient' and weak, really they were just the MacGuffin for the character interaction between The Doctor and Craig, with the added dynamic of the baby (who prefers to be called Stormaggedon, according to The Doctor, and regards Craig as "not mum"), the episode swings wonderfully between cracking humour - the running gag about shopworker Val (Lynda Baron) believing the two men are a couple works very well - and genuine tugs at the heartstrings.

Even the hackneyed resolution of an enemy being defeated by the power of love (I think I threw up in my mouth a bit just writing that) works because of The Doctor's attempts to explain the scientific reasoning behind their victory.

There's also some brilliant insight into why The Doctor likes to have human companions around (as he explains to Craig people are always more willing to talk to someone with a baby), we learn The Doctor's great trick for silencing lesser minds (another running gag that never grows stale) and all the time Garth Roberts continued to mine new strata of humour and social observation without simply recycling lines from The Lodger.

I was also impressed by the way the ending - before River Song's coda - tied the series up in a nice little bow by showing where The Doctor had got his Stetson and the all-important blue envelopes from (as seen waaaaay back in The Impossible Astronaut).

There still remain a lot of questions to be answered next week (as we know - obviously - that The Doctor somehow escapes his final death as the BBC has just revealed information about the Christmas Special, which features Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor!) and not just the how, but more about The Silence and their motivation, what exactly is River Song's involvement in all this and what 'The Question' is?

I'm assuming the eye-patches block The Silence's ability to slip out of your memory when you look away...

Next Week:

Now I Know How Darth Vader Feels...

Dire-logue from Marvel's John Carter: A Princess Of Mars #1

How Lord Of The Rings Should Have Finished...

Everything wrapped up in two minutes...

Ladies & Gentlemen, Come In, Come In, Always Room For More...

picture swiped from here
Is this the biggest influx of new Followers this blog has seen in a single week? Let's say it is as we are now tantalisingly close to breaking the 200 mark.

Quite a few signed-up after the highly entertaining Worst Movies Blogfest - and I can you assure you that I do talk about movies as well as gaming (and comics) here. Sometimes even gaming with ideas swiped from the movies I've been commenting on.

Please stand with me, brothers and sisters, in welcoming this veritable tidal wave of new henchmen (and hench-women) signing up for our big adventure:

* Marcy of Mainewords (author of two fantasy novels - The Way to Dendara and Fairy Tail - and the recently completed Almost Paradise, a paranormal historical romance).

* iZombie [2vs8] of Two Thumbs, Eight Fingers... (a very cool magazine-style blog covering geeky and cheezy films and TV)

* Shells of A No. 2 Pencil, Stat (author of the Young Adult sci-fi romance Exiled, which will be published on November 11)

* MaDonna Flowers of HalloweenCostumes.Com (the awesome sponsors of our recent werewolf costume giveaway)

* Knightsky of Alien Shores (one of my regular gaming/comic book blog reads)

* Chris Anderson of Grimm Studios Blog (former host of my favourite roleplaying podcast, the late, lamented Grimm Studio's Podcast and a long-time friend, supporter and commentator)

Friday, 23 September 2011

If Ed Could've, Ed Wood... The New 'Plan 9'!

Kingdom Of Gladiators (2011): In the Italian/American production Kingdom Of Gladiators the sword and sorcery genre has found its own Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Starring a trio of pro-wrestlers (Matt Polinsky, Leroy Kincaid and Annie Social) as its ad hoc heroes, a supporting cast of LARPers (I don't know they were LARPers, I'm just guessing as they all seem to have supplied their own costumes) and an Italian tourist castle as its main location, this movie is a laugh-a-minute from its opening spiel to its closing rainbow (yes, it ends with a rainbow!)

Although the acting is uniformly dreadful across the board (not helped by an overwrought script from Marco Viloa and director Stefano Milla that randomly pads out sentences with meaningless portentous wordage), special mention has to go to the dead-pan "comedy" stylings of Bryan Murphy as King Wolfkahn - who pretty much steals the show with his monotonous, emotion-free delivery.

If you're not already crying with laughter by the time you spot Matt Polinsky's distinctive bomb-shaped neck tattoo then you haven't entered into the right spirit - and surely the impromptu wrestling match between him and Leroy when they're searching for the magic sword with their magic sunglasses should have tipped you off that this isn't Shakespeare.

What passes for a story in Kingdom Of Gladiators is the aftermath of a secret pact between Wolfkahn and agents of the Dark Lord to secure peace in his kingdom, Keemok, at the cost of his offspring (we later discover the demons aren't particularly on the ball here), but after ten years the demon Hel returns with some vague plan of wiping out humanity by resurrecting a giant earth elemental creature called Guano (or something).

Hel shows up in the form of Wolfkahn's superhot missing daughter Luna (Suzi Lorraine), the movie's main eye candy, and at the start of The Grand Tournament (to choose Wolfkahn's heir); a slight misnomer as a succession of stunt men (and women) in ragged armour fighting in a castle courtyard in front of an audience of about 50 peasants isn't exactly what I'd call "grand".

There's some mutterings about the demon needing a blood sacrifice, but that doesn't stop Wolfkahn from continuing with the tournament - and it has to be said that there is, at least, one cool kill during the fighting. However, most of it unfolds at a lamentably slow pace that totally lacks the trendy "bullet-time" slo-mo I suspect they were trying to emulate.

The choreography does make great use of the old playground "sword-stab-under-the-arm" gimmick for a lot of its killing blows though and one lucky gladiator - having been stabbed through the head with a spear - rolls over and reveals a completely wound-free face!

Every so often, odd things occur that are completely unexplained - the strangest of which is when one audience member suddenly stabs another and no-one takes any notice. I wondered if it was part of the demon's great scheme, but it was never referenced again.

People wander around, talking heads pop up every now-and-again with a new bit of exposition to move the plot on, Annie actually wears a chainmail bikini, there's some titillation (although no nudity),  people die and the storyline hangs together with the barest of threads, but ultimately it doesn't matter.

There are a couple of stand-out special effects - namely the 'entrance to the Underworld' and the giant underground rock creature that our heroes are trying to stop awakening - but mainly, except for vast amounts of obvious CGI blood, this is pretty effects-free fantasy fare.

It is, though, twisted genius that would make Ed Wood proud. Kingdom Of Gladiators is truly so awful it has to be seen to be believed - possibly with the aid of large quantities of alcohol - because although played straight it is actually one of the greatest comedies of the year.

If has one thing going against it, it's that Kingdom Of Gladiators only lasts 81 minutes. Once sampled, you know you will want more...

For further insights into the making of this gem, check out the roundtable interview with the director and stars over at Sledgehammer.

Sarah Jane's Last Adventures...

It is now just over a week until the last season of The Sarah Jane Adventures begins on CBBC.

The three stories - Sky, The Curse Of Clyde Langer and The Man Who Wasn't There - that the amazing Lis Sladen filmed before her death earlier this year will be a poignant send-off for The Doctor's greatest companion.

Part one of Sky will be shown on October 3, with part two the following day.

Review Round-Up: Kull The Conqueror; The Statement of Randolph Carter; Hatchet 2; Grimm Fairy Tales, Volumes Six To Eight

Kull The Conqueror (1997): When Arnie refused to return to the Conan franchise for a third outing that script was rewritten to accommodate another of Robert E Howard's barbarian heroes in the form of Kull The Conqueror.

Beyond the name, Kull isn't a Howard character I'm overly familiar with, but I doubt that he's simply the cut-price Conan that Kevin Sorbo is saddled with playing here.

Ignoring the Howard influences (as usual I suspect they are limited to names and places, rather than story or atmosphere), Kull The Conqueror is a bog-standard, no frills, PG-13 swords-and-sorcery adventure. It's not particularly bad in most respects, it simply isn't anything particularly original or inspirational either.

Kull (Sorbo) is a wandering barbarian who hilariously stumbles onto the throne of Valusia - much to the chagrin of various nobles who feel it's theirs by right.

In a move to usurp Kull, the nobles side with insane wizard Enaros (Edward Tudor-Pole) to summon the spirit of the demon-queen of Acheron, Akivasha (Tia Carrere) - tying it into the recent Conan The Barbarian movie, if nothing else.

After bewitching Kull to take her as his queen, Akivasha frames Kull's beloved, a miserable and unenchanting fortuneteller called Zerata (Karina Lombard) for his supposed murder and then claims the throne of Valusia for herself - again to the chagrin of the snubbed nobles.

Meanwhile Kull heads off to the Isle Of Ice to bring back a magical MacGuffin to defeat the demon-queen and hijinks ensue... as you might have guessed.

Although there's a bit of rumpy-pumpy, overall Kull is very family-friendly and bloodless, being more reminiscent of Sorbo's stint on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys than hardcore swords-and-sorcery fare such as (either) Conan The Barbarian film.

The Statement Of Randolph Carter: This is the first full-cast adaptation, audio presentation from 4dio - and where better to start with a spooky slice of Lovecraftiana!

Available for £3.16 as a four-track album on iTunes, The Statement Of Randolph Carter manages to be both eerily atmospheric and affordable, while the 24-minute duration makes it perfect for bathtime or pre-sleep listening.

And you can't argue with the price as well, for a great, professional performance that promises a great future for this fledgling company.

4dio's latest releases are Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, for £3.95, and Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky, for £1.58.

Hatchet 2 (2010): Nothing cheers me up qucker - when I'm in the doldrums - than a good splatter flick and Hatchet 2 certainly delivers on that score.

Which is not to say it's a great movie; writer/director Adam Green's one-man campaign to the reclaim the old school slasher genre for the 21st Century has stuck so closely to the original formula that the sequel is, sadly, a pale imitation of the first.

Picking up where Hatchet left off, lone survivor Marybeth (the original's far more pleasing Tamara Feldman swapped out for Danielle Harris) heads back to New Orleans where she meets up with souvenir salesman and phony voodoo priest Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd) and gets him to organise a hunting party to return to the swamps and track down the murderous 'ghost' of Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder).

It takes a long while - a good half-hour - for the hunters to all get together, including Marybeth's uncle Bob (Tom Holland), who is possibly the single-most monotone and emotionally-stunted actor I have ever seen, before they all head back into the swamps the good stuff can begin.

It also doesn't help that Marybeth - as portrayed by Danielle Harris - isn't a particularly sympathetic or likeable character.

Everything feels more light-weight than last time, with almost no effort being made to sketch in backstories for the hunters before they get picked off by Crowley - although Green takes obvious delight in the drawn-out, buckets-of-blood-and-gore death scenes (several of which are quite inventive, while others are just plain nasty).

We do learn some more of Victor Crowley's tragic - and paranormal - origins and find out about Marybeth's family connections to Crowley, but after the long build-up, the slaughter of the not-so-innocent seems over too quickly.

Hatchet 2 is a decent extension of the Hatchet storyline, but after the tongue-in-bloody-cheek Grand Guignol of the original, I kind of expected more (and not just more gore) from the sequel. At least Tony Todd is always good value for money and Kane Hodder turns in a surprisingly touching performance as Victor Crowley's father, Thomas, during an extended flashback.

I'm still keen to see Hatchet III when it's released, but not as excited as I was to see this movie after I saw the first.

Grimm Fairy Tales, Volumes Six To Eight: These three volumes, building up to giant, trans-planar conflict in Grimm Fairy Tales issue 50 (which is where I jumped onboard reading the individual issues) is where the overarching backstory really comes to the foreground, eventually superseding the reimaginings of classic fairy tales with an on-going fantasy story.

But that doesn't mean to say that these three volumes are bereft of the great storytelling that hooked me into the series back in volume one. In fact volume six contains one of the most striking stories - boasting incredible, photo-realistic art by Dave Hoover - in its dark and twisted version of the Pinocchio story. There's no Disney happy ever afters here!

Rather strangely, this volume also includes a version of Dorian Gray, which I wouldn't have even thought qualifies as a fairy story, and yet it still works in this context - as a segue from the previous violent tale, Puss In Boots.

Several of the stories in these volumes are also sequels or continuations of earlier stories, helping to establish players who will presumably be important characters in the main storyline.

And finally, in volume eight, we are introduced to the land of Myst, the magical realm that Sela Mathers draws her power from and where much of the future events will take place.

Reading these trade paperbacks has certainly clued me in more of the backgrounds of the people I've been reading about in recent issues of Grimm Fairy Tales, but I certainly wouldn't say I now know everything. Far from it, but, at least I'm reasonably up to speed on who's on who's side and and the major whys and wherefores.

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the Grimm Fairy Tales Source Book (hopefully for my birthday in a couple of months), which should fill in some gaps in my knowledge.

Fleamarket Friday: Iris Is Back... And In Purple!

A new collection of Iris Wildthyme short stories is available for pre-order from Obverse Books.

For £10.99 (plus £2.05 shipping in the UK), this fifth collection of tales involving the eccentric Time Lady - to be published on October 31 - is the first Iris book to be co-edited by Cody Quijano-Schell, with first Iris fiction from Doctor Who luminaries David McIntee, Paul Ebbs and Iain MacLaughlin and Star Trek author Steve Mollmann, wrapped up in a cover by Mark Manley.

The full list of contents is:
  • Amser Gwyll - Steffan Alun
  • Dance of the Voodoo Valkyries - David McIntee
  • Fantômville - Nick Campbell
  • Flash Rogers Conquers the Universe - Richard Salter
  • Running with Caesars - Geoffrey Hamell
  • The Many Lives of Zorro - Richard Wright
  • Her - Simon Bucher-Jones
  • The Web of Terror - Iain McLaughlin
  • Frank Reade Jr's Electric Time Canoe - Steve Mollmann
  • The Bronze Door - Paul Dale Smith
  • Iris in the Dead Man's Gulch - Paul Ebbs
  • The Burrowers - Jim Mortimore
  • The Devil Wears Panda - Cody Quijano-Schell
  • Amser Gwyll (reprise) - Steffan Alun
For an insight in to Iris's complex backstory - both within, and without, the Whoniverse - good places to start are here and here, while her audio adventures (with classic Doctor Who companion Katy Manning as Iris) are available from Big Finish.

More Urban Exploration Coming Soon...

Crack The Surface - Episode II - Teaser Trailer from SilentUK on Vimeo.

The sequel to the enthralling Crack The Surface is being edited together from six weeks of film footage shot in cities such as New York, Indianapolis, Chicago, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Montreal.

I'll let you all know when it's released.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Top Of The Pile: A Game Of Thrones #1

George RR Martin's A Game Of Thrones: I've read the book, watched the TVseries, do I need the story told to me in yet another medium? No. Will I continue to read the comics anyway? Of course.

Martin's bleak epic (and, so far, neverending) of feuding lords in the low-magic world of Westeros comes to Dynamite Comics courtesy of Daniel Abraham's faithful adaptation and Tommy Patterson's fine artwork.

While the television show was praised for its faithfulness to the source material I wonder if the comic might be sticking a bit too close, and overlooking the differences between books, television and comics. Would someone who had not seen the show or read Martin's original, for instance, have picked up on the major shift of location from the Stark's at Winerfell to Dany and her sleezy brother across the sea in the land of the Dothraki? Or even the earlier jump from the prequel action at The Wall down to Winterfell?

There is no explanatory text for these segues, or extrapolation of all the names and places that are bandied about yet, unlike the book, the reader can't read on if he wants an explanation of who all these people are. It's certainly unfair to expect them to turn to the Internet or some other source of information when the comic should be able to stand on its own.

That gripe aside, it's fascinating to see a different artistic interpretation of the characters, events and locations. Having only really come to the book with the advent of the TV show, my images of the characters are primarily shaped by the actors from the show - yet the only major difference I've noticed so far is Patterson's version of 'The Others'. Of course, as my knowledge of Martin's world is limited to the first book, I can't comment on the accuracy of this portrayal or how much is artistic license.

Ultimately, it will be interesting to see how long Dynamite can keep the comic book running and how far into the saga it remains financially viable to keep publishing it. Hopefully, enough Thrones' fans will pick it up so it can keep running and running as long as Martin keeps writing the books - but I do feel, even if just for new readers, the comics could benefit from a couple of pages of scene-setting "background information" - as seen in the Warlord Of Mars comics.

Harry's Coming Home!

Tickets go on sale next month for the Spring 2012 opening of The Warner Bros. Studio Tour - featuring "The Making Of Harry Potter".

Based at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, the production home of the Harry Potter films for over ten years, the walking tour will feature the authentic sets, costumes, animatronics, props and effects used in the production of all eight Harry Potter movies, as well as showcasing the British artistry,
technology and talent that went into bringing this beloved film series to life.

Among a series of never-before-seen exhibits, spread around 150,000 sq ft (including two dedicated sound stages), on the three hour long tour, visitors will be able to walk onto some of the most memorable sets from all of the films in the Harry Potter series including the iconic Great Hall, Dumbledore’s office and many others.

Tickets will be £28 for adults and £21 for children and pre-booking is probably essential as I expect there will be mad demand for these!

Initially the studio tour - Warner Bros' stresses this is most definitely not a theme park - will focus entirely on the Potter franchise, but it is expected to embrace other Warners' films as it grows (I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a Dark Knight or Sherlock Holmes exhibition there eventually).

How to get there...

Supernatural: And Then There Were None

Freed from Purgatory, the season's Big Bad, Eve (Julia Maxwell) aka The Mother Of All (who also happens to be a rather hot babe, of course) starts a cross-country stroll stirring up monster activity and driving humans to bloody murder with her latest creation - an ear-worm that possesses its host.

Her path of chaos is like a giant neon sign for Bobby and the Winchesters and it leads to a cannery, which appears to be a focal point for the troubles... and there they meet fellow hunter Rufus (Steven Williams) who has also been on the case.

However, even as the show turns into an ensemble piece with the addition of old friend Rufus to the team, our heroes discover they are not the only ones working this investigation when they bump into Gwen (Jessica Heafey) and grandfather Samuel (Mitch Pileggi) - who Dean, obviously, still hasn't forgiven for selling them out to Crowley.

Things go from bad to worse when they all become aware that the creature they are tracking - the nameless slug that crawls into a person's brain and turns them into a stone-cold killer - is inside one of them.

And Then There Were None is nothing particularly new or original, being largely a rehash of the set-up in John Carpenter's The Thing, but it does feature a surprisingly high hunter body count and the shock departure of some familiar faces from the show (unless they come back in some undead form later on down the road... which is always possible).

Possibly the most crucial scene is Sam and Dean's interrogation of the creature - while it is inside someone else - and they gain some insight into Eve's plans for world subjugation. Ultimately though her desire to give the hunters "a message" seems slightly facile when it's basically the same fate as she plans for the rest of the world anyway and only really serves to show her hand a bit prematurely to the one force on the planet that knows of her existence and is possibly in a position to do anything about it.

In the end, And There Were None is a tense, although unoriginal, episode with some unexpected twists that are slightly undermined by the raison d'etre of the whole "trap" that has been laid for the hunters.

An unfortunate side effect of the genre is that you establish an incredibly powerful villain with near-omnipotent power and instead of simply annihilating its opposition, it prefers to toy with its prey ... giving them enough time to stake it in the heart!

Next Week

Striking Gold Again In The High Street!

One of the many things I love about living in Tonbridge is the plethora of decent charity shops in the High Street, which have a good turn-over of stock often catering to my geeky bent (who could forget my incredible discovery of a collector's stash of mint-on-card, superhero action figures last year?).

This week's discoveries were on a smaller scale, but no less exciting.

Just the other day I was in the Oxfam Book Shop, browsing their fantasy section, when I espied a David Gemmell hardback that I didn't recognise the title of (Echoes Of The Great Song).

I took it down off the shelf, noted the price (£2.49), and started to flick through to see if it was part of one of his cycles that I knew... and then I saw on the title page it was autographed by the late, great, man himself (and I'm a sucker for that kind of memorabilia of people I admire)!

Earlier in the week I had been drawn into the Hospice In The Weald charity shop by its window display of Star Trek books (none of which actually interested me enough to purchase them), but instead I came across a complete, mint, boxed edition of Reiner Kniznia's Lord of The Rings board game.

In the days before the Tuesday Knights (even before our Formula De league), Pete, Nick, Jeni and I used to play this when we got together every month.

Not exactly sure what I'm going to do with it, but it was a bargain at £3.

Returning To Life Next Month...

Just in time for Halloween, Robert Kirkman's zombie epic The Walking Dead lurches back onto our television screens for its second season.

Also, by sheer coincidence, The Asylum has its rather good-looking Zombie Apocalypse debuting on SyFy (in the States) on October 29.

ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (teaser) from Nick Lyon on Vimeo.

Could Zombie Apocalypse be The Asylum's strongest mockbuster to date?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Red In Tooth And Thing...

A 'red band' trailer has been released for the forthcoming prequel to The Thing, confusingly also called The Thing:

Even more potentially confusing is the fact that, for all intents and purposes, it appears to be hitting the same beats as John Carpenter's original classic 1982 movie (itself a remake of The Thing from Another World, from 1951, and an adaptation of the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr).

The Return Of Anton Dean...

With Steve making one of his welcome, if rare, appearances at our gaming table last night, he and his brother, Pete (our Top Secret SI gamesmaster) engineered a fantastic bait-and-switch on our team of fledgling secret agents.

Armed with another of Pete's extensive pack of briefing notes, objective photographs etc, our team - Bicky (me), Big M (Simon) and Bruno (Kevin) - were equipped and ready to infiltrate a late-night party at a Spanish villa and gain information about arms supplies going to international terrorists.

We were onboard our small plane, ready to paraglide in, when a call came scrubbing that mission and redirecting us to a cruise ship, the MS Corona, heading towards Monte Carlo.

A certain genetic scientist, Doctor Miguel Salcedo, was onboard with four bottles of his deadly "aqua staphylococcus" virus, and our employers had strong intel that terrorists had infiltrated the ship and were after the virus.

It was about three hours before the ship was due to dock and so we were dropped onto the top deck - with instructions to protect the doctor and his assistant (Marcelina Lomas, our 'mole' in his operations) and prevent the virus falling into enemy hands, without drawing attention to our actions.

Stowing our chutes under the swimming pool tarp, we received another message from Orion (our employer) that a fellow agent was already onboard - the legendary Anton Dean - and instructing us to make contact.

Dean is our old gaming group's answer to James Bond, a character of Steve's who appeared in both our original Top Secret games and in our Villains & Vigilantes universe (as both a secret agent and the star of movies based on his life!).

I had a genuine frisson of fanboy delight to suddenly discover we would be working with a character who, to me, ranks up there with my old Acrobatic Flea persona as one of the great creations to come out of our '80s gaming days. In that single moment I had one of those 'eureka' moments when a little voice in my head said: "yesssss, this is why I play roleplaying games".

Now resembling George Clooney rather than Pierce Brosnan, Dean is older, wiser and has trained up on modern technology (his speciality now is computer hacking), but still just as cool as ever.

We woke him up and began our stealthy inspection of the ship. There was some faffing about as usual (well, we're gamers, not actually trained spies), but with Dean streaming surveillance footage from the ship's security cameras to his phone we eventually found ourselves outside the door to Dr Salcedo's cabin.

Only, as Dean discovered (from the bullet that grazed his chest), it wasn't the good doctor "sleeping" in that room! I managed to subdue the goon using my dart gun - I'd taken this in preference to my standard pistol, as I thought it would be of more use on a stealth mission (and I knew Pete had been rather miffed that the previous mission had turned into a running gunbattle rather than an intelligence gathering mission; although he freely admitted that was primarily the fault of the module we were using).

There were no further clues there, Miss Lomas seemed to be missing from her room as well, we found out that the ship's band were a group of imposters (all pretty much from piecing together surveillance footage and computer records) and then spotted a lone female wandering around a deserted rear lounge.

At first we thought it might be the missing Miss Lomas, but it actually turned out to be a very hostile terrorist with an automatic rifle.

"Sauve" Dean provided a distraction (playing the 'lost passenger looking for a drink' card), while Bruno snuck up behind her and put a gun to her head. I then moved in and kicked the rifle away, once she had finally let it fall to the ground, before Big M could step up and interrogate her.

We didn't get much, just her name and the first name of who she was working for, but it was a start.

At that point, we had to call it a night, and arranged the next Tuesday Knights session for October on a date that Steve should be able to make it back - so we can wrap up this assignment with a full complement of players.

I don't know how much of the set-up was in the module Pete had used to brief our characters - Lady In Distress (Mission Module TS 003) - or if he had merged it with a second adventure module, but I have to say it was yet another brilliant evening of gaming and I'm pretty certain everyone enjoyed themselves... which is, ultimately, the main goal.

Much mirth was also gained  from Bruno's summation of our mission, at one point, being that our job was to take out the "tourists" (instead of "terrorists") on the ship. We didn't let that one drop for a long time!

Meanwhile Anton Dean had spent the entire evening in his dressing gown and pyjamas - Arthur Dent turns superspy!

The M/S Corona

[COMPETITION] And The Winner Is...

The winner of the I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters... werewolf Halloween costume draw is:


Stéphane has been notified and is currently liaising with competition sponsors for delivery of his prize package to the UK.

Thank you to everyone who entered ... and better luck next time.

Max On TV!

The short movie channel ShortsTV
, in North America, will be playing Max Neptune and the Menacing Squid this Saturday (September 24) at 9pmPT/12amET.

ShortsTV can be found on At&t U-verse, Direct TV and Dish Network.

The pulpy, retro sci-fi classic is also being sub-titled for broadcast in foreign markets and hopefully I'll have some news about this in the near future.

And don't forget Max Neptune T-shirts and DVDs are still available from the show's store.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Super-charged Monsters? Cheers, Gary!

Dipping into my recently acquired copy of the fascinating Cheers, Gary (a collation of Gary Gygax's responses to fan questions on EN World, from September 2002 until February 2008, just before his death), I stumbled across am interesting insight into "what might have been" (on page 341).

Answering a question about escalating power in player-characters (in the light of the d12 for barbarian's hit points in 1985's Unearthed Arcana for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons), Gary reveals how he still kept the playing field level:
" critters were assigned 7-12 HPs per HD in my AD&D campaign... Also, with increase in damage due to Strength, all large and powerful monsters, including ogres and giants, gain a damage bonus equal to their number of HD."
(my emphasis)

Gary adds that although that rule wasn't in Unearthed Arcana it "would have been included in the revised edition of AD&D that I was planning".

Cheers, Gary can be purchased directly from the editor, Paul Hughes, via his Blog Of Holding for $25 (plus shipping).

All proceeds from the sales of the books to Gygax Memorial Fund.

DVD Of The Week: 13 Assassins (2010)

The theme of 'honour' is often central to samurai movies, but I can't think of another movie that has handled its complexities as well as 13 Assassins.

Directed by Takashi Miike (who I tend to associate with graphic and disturbing horror movies rather than chambara swordfighting flicks), this is the story of 12 samaurai and a woodsman, who acts as their guide, plotting the death of the Shogun's half-brother, the evil Lord Naritsuga (Gorô Inagaki).

Naritsuga isn't Darth Vader/comic book evil, but a full-on, conscience-free psychopath, whose violent appetites, arrogant ambition and total disregard for human life threaten to shatter mid-19th Century Japan's fragile peace.

Of course, because of his blood ties with the Shogun (he's also the son of the previous Shogun), he goes unchallenged, until the Shogun's advisor Sir Doi (Mikijiro Hira) gets tacit approval from the Shogun to deal with the problem "off the record".

Doi recruits seasoned samurai Shinzaemon Shimada (Kôji Yakusho) for the difficult task - Shinzaemon's only chance is to ambush Naritsuga on the road back from the capitol to his family lands, when he's accompanied by around 70 soldiers.

In this time of peace, finding trained samurai up to such a task is hard work, but eventually Shinzaemon assembles a hit squad of a dozen and comes up with a plan to divert Naritsuga's caravan through a village which Shizaemon will have had fortified and turned into a "death trap".

While the plot is very straight forward, the story can get rather complex for a Western viewer as the opening, explanatory text flashes by fast enough to give you whiplash, and then the dialogue is quite heavy with a lot of names and places (much like Game Of Thrones in that sense) and much, if not all, of the motivation for the protagonists is driven by the concept of honour - they know it's a suicide mission, but it's the right thing to do to save their country (before Naritsuga can assume the high political office that has been offered to him by his half-brother).

On the other side of the coin, Naritsuga's chief samurai Hanbei (Masachika Ichimura) - an old frenemy of Shinzaemon - knows that his master is evil, but also sees his obligation as protecting his master with his life and not questioning orders.

The first hour-and-a-quarter of 13 Assassins sets the chess pieces in place, motivations and reasons are established, the assassination team is assembled (and some have a brief tussle with some henchmen of Naritsuga's clan), but all this building up to the stunning finale, a 45-minute running battle between the assassins and Naritsuga's army (which turns out to be far bigger than they first believed).

Now, I knew in advance of the much-heralded 45-minute battle scene and wondered if Miike could pull it off. And the simple answer is: yes. It's almost a mini-film within the film, never gets repetitive or boring, allows all the assassins their moment in the spotlight, is incredibly creative and bloody (without being unnecessarily gory) and wholly convincing. It shows how a small force of highly trained individuals with a strong leader and a solid plan can take on a much larger force and achieve some sense of victory.

There are, of course, some similarities between 13 Assassins and Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, but not to the detriment of either film.

Top Of The Pile: Demon Knights #1

IDW might currently have the license to produce official Dungeons & Dragons comics, but Paul Cornell's Demon Knights (one of the few titles in DC's rebooted universe that I'm interested in) is a Dungeons & Dragons comic in all but name.

The heroes even meet up in a tavern - it doesn't get much more D&D than that!

Even though it's part of the new DC Universe, Demon Knights is set firmly in the (DC Universe's fantastical version of the) Dark Ages (it says so on page eight), four centuries after the fall of Camelot (and, yes, there are cameos by Merlin and the sword Excalibur - both of which I expect/hope will reappear in the future).

Demon Knights is Paul Cornell on top form, packing the issue with dry humour, British swearing (sod, bollocks and arse abound), an exploding baby (I know as a newly minted godfather I shouldn't condone such things, but...), swordfights, magic and draconic dinosaurs - all immaculately illustrated by Diógenes Neves.

In this opening issue, the initial conflict is established (the advancing horde of The Questing Queen, with old school DC evil sorcerer Mordru at her side) and our magnificent seven heroes are thrown together (in the aforementioned tavern) to face the aforementioned horde and prevent it from wiping the village of Little Spring off the map.

Our protagonists are: Jason O' The Blood (aka the Demon Etrigan), Madame Xanadu, Vandal Savage, The Shining Knight, Al Jabr, Exoristos and a mysterious horse-mounted archer. The first three are immortals, while I know nothing about the others (The Shining Knight's name I recognise, but, as with many of these characters, I think her personality is probably completely different anyway from earlier incarnations).

There's not really much plot per se so far, and most of the characters are just 'names' to us at present, but I'm totally won over by this title and hope that DC give it the legs to run and run that Marvel so cruelly denied Cornell with his incredible stint on Captain Britain And MI-13 the other year.

[Editorial Note - Although I'll be getting my 'pull-list' copy of this later in the week from Andy at Paradox, I'd ordered a copy of Demon Knights from Forbidden Planet as well, on the understanding that it was going to be signed by Mr Cornwell - so I could have a framed copy on my gamesroom wall. As you can see from the cover scan above, it wasn't signed, and I am awaiting an explanation from Forbidden Planet who, I have to admit, are usually very on the ball about these things!

UPDATE (September 21): Forbidden Planet has apologised - but has sadly sold out of the signed copies - and offered to refund me the cost of the comic if I return it. To be honest that seems a lot of hassle for a couple of quid so I'll probably just hold onto it and have a duplicate copy - and they refunded my postage costs anyway on the larger order that this was included in.]

Monday, 19 September 2011

What Is Warehouse 13?

A video introduction to the ins and out of Warehouse 13 - by the cast and crew - for those who haven't got on-board yet with one of the greatest shows on television.

Video courtesy of Bleeding Cool.

[COMPETITION] Last Chance To Wolf Out...

Today is the final day to get your name in the hat to win the best prize we've yet offered on I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters...: a werewolf fancy dress costume, complete with "ani-motion mask".

The draw will be made at 9pm (GMT), which gives you six, short, final hours to get your name in to me to be in with a chance of winning this fantastic outfit from

Remember Minnesota-based is willing to post this prize anywhere in the world - so, if you've been holding back because you don't live in the United States, there's no need (you will only be responsible for paying any import taxes or fees).

To be in with a chance of winning all you need to do is send me an email at the usual contact address with the subject line of "Werewolf Competition". The text of email need only contain your full name and the state/county and country where you live.

And just to get you in a wolfy frame of mind here are a couple of trailers for forthcoming werewolf-related projects:

The Howling Reborn is a reboot of the classic movie franchise coming to DVD on October 18.

Dog Soldiers: Red from Kismet Entertainment Group is the first official teaser trailer for the upcoming Dog Soldiers: Legacy web series.

The company is also in the early stages of pre-production on a sequel to Neil Marshall's Dog Soldiers.

Thor: Love & Thunder (2022) + Dr Who (2022)


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