Book Review – Itch Rocks (Simon Mayo)

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Itch Rocks CoverItchingham Lofte has recovered from the radiation poisoning brought on by element 126. The rocks in question, which contain enough radioactive power to solve the energy crisis or create powerful nuclear weapons, are safely hidden. With an MI5 team protecting Itch, and the information he keeps secret, it isn’t long until enemies old and new come calling, looking for the world-changing new element. Continue reading

Review Roundup 8

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Star Trek into Darkness Image 1Reviews of two quite different mystery novels, The 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison, and North of Nowhere by Liz Kessler, and two big summer blockbusters; Star Trek into Darkness and Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Continue reading

Film Review – Epic (U)

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Epic PosterRelative newbies to the animation game, Blue Sky Studios have long shown unfulfilled potential. Their Ice Age series managed to capture people’s hearts without ever producing a truly acclaimed film. Their best film to date, Horton Hears a Who! benefited from the talents of a literary creative. Epic, an adaptation of William Joyce’s The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, is their most ambitious project to date. Is this the moment the Connecticut-based outfit arrives as an animation studio to be reckoned with? Continue reading

Film Review – Iron Man 3 (12A)

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Iron Man 3 PosterTony Stark tries to settle into a quiet life with Pepper Potts but is haunted by dreams about his near-death experience in New York. He tries to cope by perfecting a new Iron Man suit he can summon onto his body at any moment but when a megalomaniacal terrorist calling himself the Mandarin unleashes a spate of inexplicable bombings against America, one such injuring an old buddy, Tony pledges revenge. Marvel’s Phase Two is go. Continue reading

Review Roundup 7

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Olympus Has Fallen Image 1A recent change in my situation has made me take a look at what’s most important to me. I’m starting to make encouraging progress with my goal of becoming a children’s author and things being as they are I’ve realised I need to fan the flames and dedicate more of my time to writing. The trouble is I have a lot of time-consuming hobbies, the least important of which is blogging. I really enjoy keeping this blog and while I’d like to carry on with it as I have been doing, I just won’t have the time. But I’m no quitter; I won’t be abandoning the blog, just pushing it to the back of the agenda. For the foreseeable future you can expect to see more roundups like this one, giving brief voice to my opinions on whatever books, films and games I’ve been digesting. I will still do full reviews for anything that means something to me and hopefully someday I’ll be able to resume normal service. So with that out of the way, here’s what I’ve been checking out lately. Continue reading

Film Review – The Croods (U)

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The Croods PosterI’ve always been a little frustrated by DreamWorks. Their success with cash-guzzling franchises like Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda has made them the most prolific animation studio in the world but they haven’t been able to marry quantity with quality with any consistency. It’s difficult to know, when attending one of their new films, whether to expect a How to Train Your Dragon or a Shark Tale. There’s no denying their ability to keep kids entertained but few, if any, of their films will ever be remembered in the same way as most of Pixar’s emotionally satisfying, story-led back catalogue. Continue reading

Book Review – Raven’s Gate (Anthony Horowitz)

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Raven's Gate CoverFourteen-year-old Matt, an orphan with strange abilities who is constantly getting into trouble, is sent to live with a foster parent in a remote Yorkshire village after being involved in a violent crime. His new guardian, Mrs Deverill, seems to be hiding something sinister and the village and all its inhabitants are creepy as hell. Matt tries to escape but somehow can’t get away and everyone who tries to help him seems to end up dead. Continue reading

Film Review – Welcome to the Punch (15)

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Welcome to the Punch PosterEran Creevy directs a very starry cast in this very stylish London-set thriller. Max Lewinski (James McAvoy), a dedicated young detective hopes for a chance of redemption when ex-criminal Jacob Sternwood’s (Mark Strong) son ends up in hospital after a botched heist. Sternwood got away from Lewinski years earlier, shooting him in the leg in the process and leaving him hopelessly embittered and plagued with feelings of inadequacy and failure. With gun-crime on the rise London’s streets have never been more dangerous but Lewinski hopes he can flush out his old nemesis and reclaim his pride. Continue reading

Game Review – 1080˚ Snowboarding (N64)

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1080 Snowboarding BoxPeople talk frequently about Nintendo franchises they want to see come back. Mario, Zelda and Metroid are the evergreen trinity of Nintendo properties that will probably live on forever (you can add Pokémon to that list although it occupies a different place in gamers’ minds as many, myself included don’t play it any more). AWOL franchises like Star Fox and F-Zero get a lot of attention from fans hoping to see them return but one other lesser Nintendo franchise I’d like to see revisited is 1080˚. I never played this original game until now but I’ve known and liked the Gamecube version, 1080˚ Avalanche for years. Snowboarding will never get the same attention as those other series I’ve mentioned which is a shame because it’s so much fun. Continue reading

Game Review – Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble (SNES)

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Donkey Kong Country 3 Dixie Kong's Double Trouble BoxThere’s an unusual trend that can be found in SNES games towards the end of the console’s life cycle – platformers starring sidekicks. Yoshi’s Island, the sequel to Super Mario World in which the earlier game’s clan of dinosaur buddies took the limelight away from the Mario brothers, is a fine example but Rare pulled the trick twice. The first sequel to the hit Donkey Kong Country didn’t even include the famous gorilla as a playable character, handing the baton instead to his sidekick Diddy. A year later in this third outing Diddy too ended up shelved while his sidekick and monkey squeeze Dixie took the lead role. We’re still waiting for Donkey Kong Country 4: Kiddy Kong’s Day Out. Continue reading

Film Review – Jack the Giant Slayer (12A)

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Jack the Giant Slayer PosterJack (Nicholas Hoult) is a farm boy in the Kingdom of Albion who loses himself in adventure stories to escape his humdrum existence but when a chance encounter with a monk sees him trading his horse for some bean-like ancient relics and the kingdom’s princess shelters from a storm in his house adventure comes to him. Legend speaks of a land above populated by giants defeated in battle long ago by Eric the Great. When one of the ‘relics’ Jack receives sprouts a mighty beanstalk that lifts his house and the princess skywards, Jack volunteers to join a rescue party to save her. Continue reading

Game Review – Trine 2: Director’s Cut (Wii U)

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Trine 2 Director's Cut TitleOne thing I’ve long regretted about being too poor to afford a PS3 or 360 is not having access to the rich and exciting range of low-priced download only software the HD consoles have enjoyed over the years. It’s not that the Wii hasn’t had an alternative but the games on WiiWare never enticed me in the same way. With the Wii U here I’ve been anxious to catch up with what I’ve been missing and the darling of the Wii U eShop’s early days is this dazzling puzzle platformer from developer Frozenbyte and it’s easy to see why. Continue reading

Top Ten Skies of Arcadia Tunes

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Skies of Arcadia Legends Top Ten ImageSometimes when a review for a game (or whatever) that really means something to me comes along it seems that just a review isn’t enough. I talked at some length in my recent love-letter to Skies of Arcadia: Legends about the soundtrack and how much it enriches the game with its innumerable mood-setting melodies. It seems only fitting now that I take a moment to really honour the game’s wonderful soundtrack with a good top ten. So here are my ten favourite individual tunes from the OST. Any one of these conjures feelings of pure escapism and adventure one way or another and they are all tunes I could happily listen to just for themselves. As usual with this type of Top Ten there’s no waffle from me. I’ll let the music explain itself. Continue reading

Film Review – Oz: The Great and Powerful (PG)

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Oz The Great and Powerful PosterCreating what is, essentially, a prequel to one of the best-loved films of all time must be a thankless task but in the case of Sam Raimi’s Oz: The Great and Powerful, not only did the film-makers have to face the potential for fan backlash, they had to do it whilst constrained by copyright. Warner Bros. still own the rights to everything in the classic 1939 film so Disney’s new movie was not allowed to borrow any ideas it came up with that weren’t taken directly from L. Frank Baum’s source novels. This even extends to the exact shade of green of the wicked witch’s skin. How do you appeal to people’s fondest memories when invoking them is legally taboo? Continue reading

Book Review – Divergent (Veronica Roth)

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Divergent CoverIn Veronica Roth’s future-dystopia story, Divergent, the first of an as yet unfinished trilogy, the post-nuclear war society of Toronto has been split into five factions of like-minded people. The idea is to apply lateral thinking to the prevention of future wars by nurturing a culture that upholds certain qualities; the virtuous opposites to five of the human flaws that give birth to conflict. Thus ideal led to the creation of Amity, Candor, Dauntless, Abnegation and Erudite, the five factions designed to counter aggression, dishonesty, cowardice, selfishness and ignorance respectively. Everyone in this rigid society must conform to one of these character types and those that don’t are considered dangerous. Continue reading

Game Review – Paper Mario: Sticker Star (3DS)

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Paper Mario Sticker Star BoxGiven the number of times I’ve reviewed games made by Intelligent Systems it should come as no surprise that I’m a fan of the Paper Mario franchise. This series of spin-off RPGs began on the N64 and have become famous for their creativity and charming stationary-themed world of paper-thin characters. This 3DS entry, the first on a handheld, is the fourth game in the series and, like the platforming-orientated Super Paper Mario before it, changes up the formula. The focus this time is on stickers. Continue reading

Game Review – Skies of Arcadia: Legends (GC)

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Skies of Arcadia Legends BoxAs long as there are dreamers with the courage to pursue their dreams, the world will have heroes. Continue reading

Film Review – A Good Day to Die Hard (12A)

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A Good Day to Diie Hard PosterKnowing when to quit is an important thing. The Die Hard franchise, once a torch-bearer for action cinema, reaches its fifth instalment with A Good Day to Die Hard, a title rather more apt than its creators would have intended. Many will argue the series should have wrapped up after the third instalment which nicely rounded out probably Hollywood’s best ever trilogy of action movies, and that bringing John McClane back after a long hiatus with Die Hard 4.0 was a step too far. I’m inclined to disagree. For all its faults that film still found some of the spirit of earlier movies and is plainly miles better than this entirely superfluous fifth outing. Continue reading