Pandragon Dan

Pandragon Dan

Author/Reviewer/Blogger

Top Five Survival Horror Games

This post is sort of a belated Halloween post – considering that I didn’t have time to do anything yesterday. But hope you all had a good Halloween – and for you trick or treaters you got lots of candy!

 

 

Anyway, I toyed with the idea of doing a Halloween themed Top Five this year, but I wanted to do something a little different to the usual “Top Five Horror Movies” or “Top Five Monsters” post. So I came up with THIS idea.

 

Survival Horror games have taken off immensely in the last few years, especially in the indie horror market. Arguably, depending on who you speak to, they are even MORE scarier than horror movies. Reason being, because, unlike in a horror movie, you are caught in the centre of the horror – you are the one being hunted and you are involved in the story. That’s a pretty frightening experience in itself!

 

Now, I don’t play a lot of horror games (because, simply, I’m a coward!) but there have been a few that I’ve played that I’ve really enjoyed. So today, in honour of Halloween, I count down my Top Five Survival Horror Games. In no particular order.

 

WARNING: Some sections may contain spoilers.

 

 

 

1. Silent Hill 2

 

When it comes to the best known Survival Horror Franchise, most people often look to the Resident Evil or Silent Hill series. Personally, I was never that fond of Resident Evil, I played the first two games, but that was about it. They weren’t bad games by any means, I just found them generic horror stories that were more about jump scares and terrible voice acting (“You were almost a Jill Sandwich!” XD). Silent Hill had more of a psychological feel to it, with each game layered with themes of inner demons and religious symbolism. Not to mention the shifts to the Otherworld were terrifying and really made you feel like you were trapped in Hell. It just had a bit more depth for me.

 

Even though I know this game is listed as the best in the series, Silent Hill 2 for me is a fantastic game. It has a deep, involving (and also moving) story that is open to interpretation – the monsters are symbolic and perfectly capture the protagonist’s (James Sunderland) inner anguish. And the music – it is both terrifying and beautiful to listen to at the same time, composed by legendary game musician Akira Yamaoka. Oh, and it also has Pyramid Head, one of the freakiest villains of all time.

 

Silent Hill 2 is not a direct sequel to the first Silent Hill game, but a self contained story – whilst at the same time continuing many themes of the first game. James gets a note from his wife to meet her at Silent Hill. The only problem is that his wife died a few years ago. Confused? Don’t worry, it will all be revealed. As James wanders through the town of Silent Hill, he is besieged by monsters and unrelenting fog as he dives deeper into the history of Silent Hill – and his own psychosis.

 

The game is very easy to pick up and play and fun. But it is also extremely creepy to play. Often you are obscured by fog and darkness and have to rely on your flashlight to guide you. You have a radio with you that emits static when monsters are nearby – and when you hear the sound, better ready a weapon! Of course, you can just run past them to converse ammo as well. The monsters are hideous and disturbing creatures, each one a representative of James’s inner anguish or his feelings towards his wife. The town is decaying and rusted, even more so with the Otherworld. You get a real feeling of isolation and loneliness in this game – with no hope of rescue.

 

But for me, it has to be the ending that does it for me. I won’t spoil the ending, but it truly is one of the saddest endings in a video game. Those that believe that the horror genre can’t move you will have to look to this game. And not only that, but there are multiple endings as well. Some of them bleak, others a little happier, some... well, a little strange.

 

Silent Hill 2 has so much psychological depth to it that you could discuss it for years and still not come to a direct conclusion as to WHAT actually happens in the game. But it’s that mix of psychological horror and human emotion that makes this game so enduring and not really a surprise as to why it’s many people’s favourite of the series.

 

 

 

2. The Suffering

 

Now this game I feel is highly underrated amongst horror games. Ok, it may not be the scariest game out there (thought it does have its fair share of creepy moments), but it does have one of the coolest stories and some of the best monster designs I’ve seen in a game.

 

The Suffering has you play a criminal called Torque – a man sent to Abbott prison (on Carnate Island) to be executed for a crime that he may or may not have committed. Supposedly, he murdered his family – but claims to have blacked out when it happened. On his first night in the cells, the Island descends into Hell and many Hellish creatures start attacking the Island. It turns out that Carnate has a history of bloodshed and evil, and Torques rage sparks of a cataclysm that summons all manner of demons forward. Torque must now fight his way through the monsters, whilst discovering the truth about his past.

 

It’s a pretty straightforward game, you run and shoot monsters, but it does add a little twist to it. Every so often, Torque can “Hulk out” and turn into a massive monster for a short period of time, ripping through his enemies like paper and turning them into mush. Interestingly, according to some notes found during the game and conversations with other inmates, Torque actually does not transfer into a monster himself – he just becomes enraged. Therefore, the monster is symbolic of Torque’s inner demons and the anger that he had felt all his life. Nevertheless, it is fun to use this to tear through the monsters!

 

Another thing that’s cool about The Suffering is the mortality element of it. Remember how I said that Torque may or may not have killed his family? Well that’s down for YOU to decide. Throughout the game, you will meet a series of inmates and CO’s caught up in the horror and you have to decide whether to help them, leave them or kill them. How you do affects the games ending and there are three possible outcomes. Not only that, but Torque actually changes appearance the more you do things, becoming cleaner and healthier if he does good stuff, and becoming bloodier and more monstrous is he does evil. Interestingly enough, doing bad things means that health packs will heal less energy and doing good things gives you more health, almost like the game is punishing you for doing evil and rewarding you for being good.

 

There are three bosses in the game (not including the final boss) and these characters are really interesting and one of the best elements in the game in my opinion. Reason being is that they represent the various aspects of Torque’s psyche in some way. They are Hermes, a gas like humanoid that is the spirit of a barbaric CO that enjoyed torturing his victims until he, himself, killed himself in the gas chamber – Horace, a regretful inmate that killed his girlfriend in a conjugal visit and was killed in the chair, hence why he is always followed by electricity and is in constant pain – and Dr Killjoy, who was a surgeon that performed barbaric experiments on his patients and only appears through the use of old fashioned cameras. He seems to want to help Torque, albeit somewhat questionably.

 

If you get a chance to play this game then I recommend it. It’s got a pretty good story, it has a lot of action going for it and the setting has a lot of interesting history. It’s worth a look.

 

 

 

3. Bioshock

 

Another of my favourite game series. The first Bioshock game, much like Silent Hill, has a depth to it that most other horror games lack. Aside from horror, this game also features elements such as objectivism, altruism and the illusion of freewill – the kinda stuff that George Orwell would love to write about. It also has one of the best twists in any video game mid way – and one of the best villains ever. Perhaps you remember me talking about Andrew Ryan in my Top Five Video Game Villains post.

 

In the first Bioshock, you find yourself trapped at sea after a plane crash. Discovering a nearby lighthouse, you take a Bathysphere down to the underwater city of Rapture – which was previously built by Ryan so that the very best of society would live without government oppression. However, now it has become a warzone, with the people of Rapture driven insane and turned into Splicers, thanks to the overuse of Plasmids called ADAM – which gives them superpowers, but has turned them into monsters. You have to fight your way through this fallen city, battling the Splicers and trying to find his way out.

 

Man did this game freak me out! The city is decaying and some of it even falls apart, the areas dark and the Splicers... dear god, the Splicers! They are just creepy to look at! They come at you when you least expect it, their insane ramblings will creep you out – and sometimes you can’t even see them until they are in your face, trying to tear it out! I think the freakiest of these Splicers is Sander Cohen – that guy is just messed up! All in all this makes it a very disturbing game to play as you’re never sure when the enemy is going to come out at you next.

 

Luckily, you also have access to plasmids, allowing you all manner of special abilities such as freezing, burning or blasting away your opponents. This adds a really interesting battle strategy to the game as you can mix and match your tactics depending on what you have nearby, meaning that the environment is your weapon. For example, you can set a Splicer on fire and watch him run into the water, then electrocute the water to kill them. Your battles are limited only to your imagination.

 

But in order to power up your ADAM, you will have to get more. Across Rapture, there are these little girls called Little Sisters, girls that have been implanted with ADAM and now are hunted by the Splicers. If you want to get more ADAM, you must find them. However, first you must take out their guardians, the Big Daddy. A huge, lumbering monster in a deep sea suit, these beasts will attack you if you think of hurting their Little Sister – and they take a LOT to take down. Interestingly, I must say I do like the relationship between the Big Daddy and the Little Sister – you genuinely feel a connection between the two characters and almost feel sad when a Sister cries over the dead body of one. After dealing with the Big Daddy, you can choose to either save the Little Sister or harvest them. Harvesting them will give you more ADAM, but will kill her. Personally, I NEVER do this, because the idea of killing a child (even in a game) just feels horrific to me.

 

Earlier this year, they released Bioshock Infinite, one of the best games I’ve ever played. It may not have had much of the horror elements, but it was still an amazingly good game with an incredible story to boot. But it was the first Bioshock game, with its deep social commentary, incredible characters and shocking twists that made this game an instant favourite. If you want to explore this series, I suggest this is where you start.

 

So would you kindly go and get yourself a copy of this game now. :)

 

 

 

4. The Walking Dead

 

Released as an episodic series of games on Steam, The Walking Dead is actually based on the comic book, rather than the TV series. Nevertheless, it’s an amazing game to play and one of the few games where your choices actually matter.

 

Done as a kind of Point and Click Adventure (which I loved back in the day), you play as Lee – a man who was convicted of killing a senator that slept with his wife. On his way to prison, the “Walker” apocalypse begins and Lee is caught in it. Fighting on his own, he later comes across a girl called Clementine – whose parents are in Savannah – and he takes her under his protection. They meet other characters along the way – some of which the readers of the comics will know of.

 

The game actually plays more like a movie than a video game. Every so often the game will force you to make a choice at a certain point – whether it’s answering a question, making a comment or doing an action. You only have a certain amount of time to make it though, or the game chooses for you. Be warned though, your choices have consequences – because what you say or do affects how the game plays out, how certain people will react to you, help you or leave to rot – and in some cases it determines who lives or dies! It’s one of these games that really makes you think about your choices and whether you can live with them or not. But this is the games main selling point, as it means that EVERY player gets a different game depending on what they want to do. There are tons of different ways the game can play out and this alone gives the game a lot of replay value.

 

Although a Survival Horror game, it is focused more on story and character development than scares. Even though there are some really intense scenes with the Walkers (and frightening), most of the drama comes from the characters that Lee and Clementine meet along the way. You will most likely find growing attached to some characters in the game, and becoming surprised at how quickly they can turn. But don’t get too attached – no one is safe in this game. And as I said, sometimes you have to make some REALLY tough choices.

 

For example, in the first chapter, the every end involves you having to save two people from some Walkers, whoever you don’t save will die. And, you guessed it, you only have time to save ONE person – so you have to decide who you want to rescue. Another chapter, one of the characters son’s is infected, but he won’t believe he could turn. You have to either talk him down to see sense, or fight him. THEN you have to decide whether he should put a bullet in his kid to stop him turning, or you do it yourself. Of course, you can always leave him as an option. And these are just SOME of the tough choices you have to make. I honestly do not think any game has disturbed me as much as this one with the hard decisions I’ve had to make.

 

All of this leads up to one of the most emotional finales I’ve ever seen in a game – in fact the whole GAME is a tearjerker in places. If you play this game, have a box of tissues ready as it will guarantee to make you cry at least once. The more you become attached to these characters, the more you don’t want them to die – and it so heart wrenching to see a character die. Never has a game had so much emotional power to it in my eyes. Even if you never read the comic, or watched the TV series, you should definitely check out this game. With excellent writing, multiple paths and complex and interesting characters, this will definitely keep you entertained, as well as scared.

 

 

 

5. Amnesia: The Dark Descent

 

I would have to say, hands down this is the most frightening game I have ever played! Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a game that has been lauded for its creepy and terrifying atmosphere, superb storytelling and immersive world. It has also set the standard for many other Survival Horror games, in particular the critically acclaimed Slenderman: The Eight Pages (which I have downloaded, but never played. Maybe one day).

 

In Amnesia, you play as Daniel (which makes him automatically cool in my eyes! XD), who wakes up in a strange castle of Brennenburg, with no memory. Finding notes apparently written by himself, he is told to find a guy called Alexander and kill him – but that he is being hunted by a “Shadow”. Daniel must now traverse the castle, with only a lantern to light the way, avoiding the horrors of Brennenburg castle.

 

As far as horror goes, this game is spot on. It doesn’t rely on jump scares, but creating an atmosphere. The corridors are dark and claustrophobic and often your lantern can’t light up too much. Eerie sounds echo throughout the creaking castle, adding a sense of dread all time. Notes left around add to the horror, especially when Daniel finds notes about his past and how he got here. All in all, it’s a pretty unsettling environment that only gets worse as the game goes on. You rarely have a moment to rest, paranoia setting in each second. Also, in this game you have a sanity meter, which can drain the more you see disturbing things – it can cause your vision to blur, your breathing to intensify (alerting you to the monsters in the castle) and you can even pass out if you go too insane.

 

But the most terrifying aspect of this game is how you deal with the monsters that you face. Silent Hill 2 may have had some disturbing creatures, but at least you can pull a gun out and kill them. The Suffering had you turn into a monster to deal with them, Bioshock lets you use plasmids – and even The Walking Dead has a few cases when you can use a weapon to deal with a Walker. In Amnesia you have NO way of defending yourself. There are no weapons in the game and the monsters can’t be killed or hurt – so you have to hide from them wherever you can. This alone makes it extremely terrifying as you have to rely on your wits to survive. But even if you hide in darkness it can drain your sanity, making an already difficult moment intense. And even when you THINK the monster is gone, you hear the music kick in – the screeching sound that notifies you that the monster is close. That’s when you know you have to get the **** out of there! Nothing has terrified me more than when I’m being chased by a monster!

 

This game I think H.P. Lovecraft would enjoy playing – in fact it was indeed inspired by one of his writings – The Outsider, which deals with the themes of loneliness, isolation and the fear of being alone. I haven’t even touched on the story of this game, but that’s because I want you to experience it yourself. The story is fantastic and, once you learn the truth of it, you’ll be horrified! I guarantee you no game will scare you psychotically than this one storywise.

 

Recently, they released a second game called Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. Honestly though, that game was a bit of a disappointment. It took away a lot of aspects of what made the first game cool (such as the sanity meter) and, truthfully, the story was a little too convoluted and didn’t entirely work in my eyes. But if you want to experience true horror, then play this game. And if you don’t believe me how frightening it could be – watch some let’s plays on Youtube and see people’s reactions to it!

 

 

That’s my top five. Please feel free to leave a comment below if I missed out any of your favs. Hope you all had a Happy Halloween! Take care and stay safe!

 

 

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PANDRAGON

 

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Pandragon Dan wins the Versatile Blogging Award!

Two blogs from me in one day? Well this is a VERY special occasion and I just had to share it with you.

 

 

Imagine my surprise when I checked my emails recently and found out that I had been awarded the Versatile Blogging Award by Read2Review! That’s pretty cool considering I have been a bit lax on the blogging front recently! I don’t know too much about this award – but from what I can gather it’s a pretty cool thing to be given and I thank the guys at Read2Review for awarding me this and making me feel that little bit more loved!

 

But read on, there is more to follow!

 

This lofty-sounding award is basically a mutual admiration society where bloggers recognize their peers for writing quality blogs that touched them in some way. The VBAs honor the blogger rather than specific posts. It’s a chance for bloggers to pat themselves on the back like the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does with the Oscars. Until someone starts giving out Blogscars, the VBAs will have to suffice.

 

What are the criteria, or rather the inclusion in the touch-points of “speech” you’ll want to make upon receiving such an award? Here they are:

 

If you are nominated, then you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger Award! It’s simple! Take a few moments to FEEL the warmth of the bestowed “congratulations!” Then think of 7 things to tell/share/reveal about yourself.

 

So, as a special exclusive, here are SEVEN things you may or may not know about me, Pandragon Dan!

 

  1. Aside from writing, Dan also loves playing music. He plays guitar in a band called The Self Titled , which is a heavy rock/metal band that is looking to make it big one day!
  2. Dan loves heavy metal – his favourite band of all time is Dream Theater and he often listens to them when writing.
  3. Dan is a huge lover of cats and often tries to write at least one cat into his story. He has a pet cat called Whispa – and he has created a character based on her in his up and coming novel Legacy of the Dragonkin.
  4. Even though he likes to use Manga style illustrations – he isn’t a huge reader of Manga, although he loves it for it’s over the top style and crazy nature. His favourite Manga is currently Full Metal Alchemist.
  5. He is a huge fan of Red Dwarf – and even met Robert Llewelyn (the actor that played Kryten) at a book signing event in 2008. (I'm the one on the left).
  6. His mum used to be a dance teacher. And her most famous pupil was, a very young, Orlando Bloom. (And before any of you ask, no I haven’t met him personally).
  7. Once, on holiday in Egypt, he was mistaken for English footballer Steven Gerrard by a woman.

 

Next, thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy. Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — after all, let other peeps know about a great stopping place on the web!

 

Thank you so much Kate! It’s made my day! See: Read2Review #HIGHLYrecommended!

 

Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.

 

For this, I’m picking the top fifteen bloggers/writers that I have either had the pleasure of reviewing their book, been part of a guest post/blog tour with them, or guys that I think their website/blog is just plain awesome and deserves a look!

 

My 15 nominees/winners are (in no particular order):

 

  1. Deanna Kipling - www.dekenyon.com
  2. Ryan Schneider - AuthorRyanSchneider.blogspot.com
  3. Pageturner Book Tours - http://pageturnerbooktours.blogspot.co.uk/
  4. Andrez Bergen - http://iffybizness.blogspot.co.uk/
  5. Mysti Parker - http://mystiparker.blogspot.com/
  6. Avery Olive - www.averyolive.blogspot.com
  7. Benjamin X Wretlind - http://www.bxwretlind.com/
  8. Sheenah Freitas - http://sheenahfreitas.com/
  9. Thomas Knight - http://thomasaknight.com/
  10. Sasha Summers - http://sashasummers.com/
  11. Michelle Horst - http://michellehorstauthor.wordpress.com/
  12. The Writing World - http://raebethmcgeeswriting.blogspot.co.uk/
  13. Magda M Olchawska - http://www.magdaolchawska.com/
  14. Dr Rhia - http://dr-rhia.com/
  15. Ciara Ballintyne - http://www.fantasyblog.ciaraballintyne.com/

 

 

Regards

Pandragon

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Please help Sponsor my Crowdfunding Campaign - Legacy of the Dragonkin

Top Five Underrated Superhero Movies

 

It seems that this summer is the summer of superhero movies! We’ve already had The Avengers (awesome film) and The Amazing Spider-Man (haven’t seen yet) – and with Batman: The Dark Knight Rises out in a matter of days (which I HOPE will be awesome), it seems the movie studios are feeding us the cream of the crop in superhero films!

 

Superhero movies had a bit of a bad reputation in the old days. If you look at the previous list of films based on superheroes (The Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, Elecktra, Superman Returns, Wolverine and even that DREADFUL Catwoman film to name a few), they just didn’t come out the way the filmmakers intended. Whether it be that the casting was wrong, the story was dull, or the filmmakers just butchered the source material to make it something completely unlike the comic it was based on, superhero films rarely seemed to get it right.

 

Fortunately, since the release of Iron Man and The Dark Knight, it does seem that superhero films are making a bit of a comeback and film makers are learning to show respect for the source material it was based on. But even before this, not ALL superhero movies were terrible. In fact, today I look at the top five underrated superhero movies that are actually enjoyable to watch. These are the superhero movies that I actually had some fun watching and would easily watch them again (for the most part).

 

Ok, so let’s set the ground rules for this one. Firstly, I am NOT including any of the latest Marvel films that make up the Avengers storyline – nor am I including any of the Chris Nolan Batman films. Simply because all those movies already kick ass. Also, this is purely based on films I’ve seen – so I may miss a few out. And finally, this is all just my own personal opinion.

 

So here they are – in no particular order.

 

 

 

1. Hellboy

 

This is one of those films that everyone raved about when it first came out, but no one seems to talk about it anymore. It’s a shame because this film, and its sequel The Golden Army, are actually decent films.

 

I never actually read a lot of Hellboy comics before this film, but after seeing it I actually did read it a little more. And you know what, they’re pretty good. The storyline is very basic – a demon child raised to fight mythological creatures, but it actually works.

 

I love the character of Hellboy in the film – he has a great sense of humour that makes for some very funny scenes. And that is one of the reasons that I like about this movie – unlike other superhero films at the time (that tried to fill their plots with drama and angst), Hellboy wasn’t afraid to have a little fun and didn’t always take itself seriously. It knew how silly it’s plot was and didn’t try to overdo the drama.

 

Also, the monster design and costumes are just awesome! Guillermo Del Toro did a fantastic job bringing the world of Hellboy to life and his monster designs actually feel original and lavish. Ron Pearlman is excellent as Hellboy, capturing both the human and monster aspects of the character. And his one liners are just brilliantly delivered!

 

All in all, as long as you don’t take the plot TOO seriously and just sit back and enjoy the ride – this is a great film and one worth seeing.

 

 

 

2. Spawn

 

Seeing as this film is kinda reviled amongst Spawn fans, I might get some raised eyebrows for this one. But in truth, I do actually like this movie. It takes some liberties with the source material and adds in a little bit more humour than the comic does – but I think that actually works in the films favour.

 

Spawn is the best selling independent comic character (at least back then), created by ex-Marvel artist Todd Macfarlane. It told the story of an soldier that was betrayed by his own people and killed. Sent to hell, he made a deal with the Malebolgia and became a hellspawn for his dark army so that he could see his wife and child. But when he returns, his wife has remarried. Angry, Spawn decides to take revenge and uses his power to protect the innocent. Since his beginnings, he has fought everything from scantily clad angels to cyborg mafia types – even killing god and becoming the new King of Heaven at one point!

 

The film Spawn pretty much follows Spawn from his humble beginnings, becoming a hellspawn and then trying to avenge his death. During this, he is hassled by a monster called the Violator (appearing as the Clown), played brilliant by John Leguizamo. Spawn is also guided by a former hellspawn named Cogliostro, played by veteran Scottish actor Nicol Williamson in his last film role. For those who don’t know, Nicol Williamson was an immensely talented actor that was once described by playwright John Osborne as “the greatest living actor since Marlon Brando”, but he didn’t seem to do anything after the Spawn movie. I recently discovered that he died in December 2011 of throat cancer – which is sad.

 

Anyway, one of the things that fans of the comic don’t like is that this film has a much lighter tone and tends to take some liberties with the source material. But if I’m being honest, I always found the comic a little TOO dark sometimes, so I actually don’t have a problem with the film being a little lighter. The Clown does bring in a lot of cheesy humour to the role that I kinda like. Also, in fairness to the filmmakers, they do actually keep close to the original costume designs of the characters. Spawn’s costume looks awesome and even the Clown looks pretty good. Some of the special effects are a little questionable (this was 1996 remember), but for the most part they’re decent enough.

 

Ok, so maybe it isn’t one of the best adaptations of a comic, but in actual fact it’s really not the worse film ever made. It has more than a few issues and problems – but if you don’t know the comics or just want a movie that you can turn your brain off and enjoy, you might want to check this one out.

 

 

 

3. Kick-Ass

 

Kick-Ass asks the question that everyone else has wondered. Why don’t we all try to be superheroes? Answer – because we’d get the living crapped beaten out of us! The story follows a young boy who decides that he wants to be a costumed fighter (who wouldn’t?) But after getting the living crap kicked out of him and ending up in hospital, he has many nerve endings destroyed and replaced by metal limbs – meaning that his pain receptors are dulled. Continuing on his (rather pointless) quest to be a hero, he quickly becomes famous through Youtube and Myspace (seriously does anyone actually use Myspace anymore?). The other heroes in this story are Big Daddy and Hit Girl, a Father-Daughter combination out to take out a big mafia boss in a revenge story.

 

The movie garnered some controversy for Hit Girl (only 10 or 11 years old, but an expert martial artist) saying the C word at one point in the film. What I found kinda funny is that THIS would be the one that upsets people – yet no one batted an eyelid when she went around shooting people up. Many thought that this was gonna be like a teen movie when it first came out – but actually it is one of the bloodiest superhero films I’ve seen in a while! It doesn’t hold back on the violence and, in many ways, is actually one of the more realistic superhero movies – although it gets ridiculous near the end.

 

However I DO have some problems with this film. Firstly, a lot of the characters lack any kind of humanity (even the heroes) and seem to go around killing people without any care or remorse for their actions. I also though the Big Daddy revenge plot had a major plot hole in it that didn’t really justify his actions for revenge – nor his reasons for including his daughter in his revenge scheme, although I did like the dynamics between Big Daddy and Hit Girl.

 

For those thinking about becoming a superhero after seeing your idols on the big screen, you might wanna check this out first. Kick-Ass raises a lot of moral questions and could be debated about for years to come, but it is a film that you should check out at least once.

 

 

 

4. Watchmen

 

If you had to ask me which is my favourite superhero film of all time, I’d say Watchmen. Purely because it is one of the most faithful adaptations of any comic – pretty much following the story word by word!

 

Watchmen, written by the legendary Alan Moore (one of my favourite and most influential writer for me) is considered by many to be the greatest comic book of all time. At a time when superheroes were portrayed as clean cut heroes, Watchmen portrayed superheroes as realistic characters with incredibly complex personalities and amoral values. Set in an alternative timeline where Richard Nixon is still president, the comic (and the film) chronicles humanities struggles with an upcoming nuclear war with Russia. Over the course of the 12 issue comic, the threat of nuclear war is constantly foreshadowed, with images representing a ticking clock (the Doomsday Clock) being a recurring theme of the plot. Meanwhile, a former superhero (Rorschach) investigates the death of a former hero – which leads him to a much bigger conspiracy that could affect the world. All these add up to a very dark story that is mysterious in nature, yet highly entertaining to read. It also has one of the bleakest and ambiguous endings of any comic.

 

Many said that Watchmen, as a comic, was unfilmable. Even Alan Moore himself said he didn’t think his comic could be filmed. But Zach Snyder did a fantastic job in my opinion. He captured the look and feel of the comic almost perfectly and followed the story as much as possible. Watching this film made you absolutely believe that you were watching the comic come to life. Sure, they cut out and change bits here and there, but that was to be expected. Some complained that the film has a much more upbeat feel than the comic, and many were upset by the slight change in the films ending. Myself, I don’t have a problem with the changes made – it still feels faithful to the comic.

 

Acting wise, these were kind hit or miss. Jackie Earle Haley was amazing as Rorschach and I actually believed him to be the character in seconds. Jeffery Dean Morgan was equally as good as the Comedian, Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl and Billy Crudup as the emotionally detached Doctor Manhattan were also great. But I gotta be honest, the roles of Silk Spectre and Ozymandias (played by Malin Akerman and Matthew Goode respectably) were a disappointment. Silk Spectre was just too plastic and dull and Matthew Goode just lacked the psychotic feel that Ozymandias had in the comic.

 

But overall, this film stays VERY true to the comic and for that I’m thankful. This was one of those films that HAD to be done right, due to Watchmen being so iconic. And I think that they did it justice. To this day, I still feel that this is one of the most faithful adaptation of the original source material.

 

 

 

5. Batman: The 60’s Movie

 

“Wait!” I hear you cry. “You weren’t going to mention Batman.” Well, actually, I said I wasn’t going to include Chris Nolan’s Batman. I never said anything about the OTHER Batman movies!

 

There have been so many adaptations of Batman over the years that for some, it’s hard to pick a favourite. And don’t get me wrong, I love Chris Nolan’s Batman films as much as I love Tim Burton’s Batman films. But, if you were to ask me what my FAVOURITE Batman film of all time was – hands down, it will be the 60’s Batman!

 

I don’t care that this series completely butchered the dark feel of Batman – I LOVED this series as a kid and still do today. I love the campy, over the top feel, the cheesy acting, the fact that Batman and Robin always have the right gadget to help them out (and they all seemed to be labelled as well) and that they can solve anything in just a matter of seconds with just the smallest of clues (seriously, even McGuyver would blush at the way they solve some things). I even love Caesar Romero’s portrayal of the Joker and the fact that they had to put makeup over his moustache as he refused to shave it! All in all, I just love this series and it makes me laugh every time I see it today.

 

This film for me was a real treat when I first saw it. It was one of the first time where Batman had to go up against not one, but FOUR of his villains! For a fan of the series, this was a big thing for me! Sure the plot is utterly ridiculous and over the top, but I still love it. It also has one of my favourite scenes of all time. Batman finds a bomb about to explode and, not wanting to endanger any innocents, sets out to dispose of it. But finding nowhere to get rid of the bomb without hurting civilians (and ducks), Batman turns to the camera, frustrated and says.

 

“Somedays you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

 

I LOVE the way that he says that line like it’s an everyday problem. And yet he says it with such verve that it makes it sound both ridiculous and badass at the same time! It’s kinda like that line in Snakes on a Plane where Samuel L Jackson says “I’ve had it with this mother***ing snakes on this mother****ing plane.” It’s such a terrible line, but Samuel L Jackson still somehow makes it sound badass.

 

So yeah, many hardcore fans of Batman will probably hate me for saying this is my favourite over the other Batman films – but I can’t deny how much I love this movie. It’s a part of my childhood, and most importantly it’s FUN to watch!

 

 

So those are my picks. Agree or disagree? Please feel free to comment below with your views/feedback.

 

Until next time!

 

 

Regards

Pandragon

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Guest Post - A bit of a background ramble about One Hundred Years of Vicissitude by Andrez Bergen

It's that time again when I host a very exciting guest post from a writer who is keen to post a little something on my blog (I love it when people guest post on my blog!). Today, I'm joined by Andrez Bergen, the author of Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat.

 

 

I mentioned this novel in my Top Five Indie Books You Should Be Reading (original link HERE ) and I once again am going to suggest that you go out and read this book! It is by far one of the most entertaining and original reads I've read in a long time. If you love a bit of Blade Runner and Mad Max, mixed with some Japanese cinema and Humphrey Bogart - all blended with Australian slang and humour, then you will love this book!

 

I was recently contacted by the author Andrez Bergen about his upcoming novel, One Hundred Years of Vicissitude and suggested that he drop by some day and do a post on my blog to let my readers know about it. He pretty much sent me one the very same day! Thankfully my schedule was clear for Wednesday so I automatically made plans to post it.

 

So I present to you today - the guest post of Andrez Bergen, where he talks a little bit about the thought process behind One Hundred Years of Vicissitude. He is a very intelligent writer and geuninely nice guy that has a wealth of knowledge and I am always interesting in hearing the process behind the creation of a novel. Hope you enjoy reading it!!

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A bit of a background ramble about

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF VICISSITUDE

by Andrez Bergen

 

 

In around 2007, I was fishing about for a concept for a new novel to get my teeth into, preferably something related to Japan since I'd lived here for six years already by that stage.

 

That was when I read about identical twin sisters from Nagoya - Kin Narita and Gin Kanie - who were born in 1892 and lived to be over 100. I found myself wondering about the relationship of these two women, mirror-image centenarians, and how they might perceive one another.

 

I’m an old fan of Shakespeare’s Othello - Frank Finlay’s interpretation of Iago in the 1965 film version rocked my socks in high school - and the thought occurred to me that possibly, just possibly, an identical twin living a hundred years with a sibling may harbour feelings other than love and devotion - perhaps baser emotions like envy or hatred might develop. Being Japanese, however, they’d hardly exhibit these feelings to the outside world. Or would they?

 

At the time I was still working on my first novel, Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, and there’s a scene in there in which a geisha is involved. Somehow the two threads connected: identical twin geisha beating out a living for a century. I did a small amount of research into the period around World War 2, and then I shelved the concept, instead breaking my back finishing off Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.

 

Last year I published that novel and began thinking seriously about novel #2.

 

I’m not sure why, but I picked up the notes I’d made for the twin geisha story, and mixed and matched these with an earlier idea I had for an update of the medieval yarn about Tristan and Iseult. At the same time, I had Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat sitting in my brain, fresh still, perhaps even hard-boiled, and I decided to make one of the twin geisha the grandmother of a central character in that book, Nina ‘Laurel’ Canyon - she was, after all, half Japanese - even though the link is not fully explored and isn’t essential to the elements of the new novel - which I decided to call One Hundred Years of Vicissitude, in a respectful wink at Gabriel Garcia Márquez.

 

Somewhere along the line over the following months the Iago-Geisha-Medieval potboiler segued into a deeper tale of love, death, redemption, and poor judgment when it comes to marriage partners. I inducted another character from Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat - the antagonist, Wolram E. Deaps - and made him the narrator, with the opportunity to thus flesh him out, rather than the principle twin I was developing.

 

Along the way I took a much-needed trip to Kyoto thanks to the generosity of a group of wonderful students-cum-mates I teach English to, and the novel became a beast unto itself. Some of its ideas and directions came from listening to music, from long walks through back-streets of Tokyo - as well as, of course, the visit to Kyoto - and I was as inspired by my wife Yoko and daughter Cocoa as I was by the cinema of great Japanese film makers like Akira Kurosawa, Satoshi Kon, Kon Ichikawa, Seijun Suzuki, Masahiro Makino, Mikio Naruse, Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu.

 

Some manga-ka you might know also get a respectful nod - including Osamu Tezuka - along with actors like Toshiro Mifune, Meiko Kaji and Takashi Shimura.

 

Thrown into the mix are the Japanese Red Army, the only visit to Tokyo by the Graf Zeppelin, saké, sumo, The Tale of Genji, James Bond, Lewis Carroll, Raymond Chandler, the Brothers Grimm, American comics from the '60s, and the 1945 fire-bombing of Tokyo by 300 B-29s.

 

Finally, there's the homage to my grandfather Les, an Australian soldier in New Guinea during World War 2, a man I barely knew but cherish the memory of all the same.

 

The novel will be published through new publisher Perfect Edge Books in around August this year. The publisher has been incredibly supportive from the moment they got whiff of the project, and this will in fact be their first publication.

 

Fingers crossed that the whole caboodle works for others outside my own headspace.

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Not sure about you guys but I'm looking forward to reading it already! Anyone who makes references to Kurosawa is ok in my books!

 

A huge thanks to Andrez for taking the time to post on this blog and I hope you'll all join me in wishing him luck for the new release. Be sure to also check out his blog at this LINK . Please do leave a comment

 

Want to host a guest post on this blog? Send me an email at PandragonPublishing@gmail.com to discuss.

 

Until next time!

 

 

Pandragon

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Why I Love Megas XLR - Because Pandragon Digs Giant Robots!

During my college years, I watched a lot of cartoons (probably more than I should have) when I wasn't studying - or wasting my student loan on alchohol and musical instruments that I could barely afford. Cartoon Network was one of the channels I ended up the most time on - watching great cartoons like Static Shock, Samurai Jack, Teen Titans, Spider-Man, the Animated Series, Yu-Gi-Oh, Duel Masters and even the updated He-Man cartoons now and then. But MEGAS XLR was one of those shows that I watched almost religiously. Why, you may ask? Simple - because it KICKED ASS!

 

MEGAS XLR was essentially a parody cartoon of the "Mecha" genre of animation that was popular at the time - essentially, giant robots beating the living heck out of each other. The plot revolves around a giant robot called MEGAS from the future, that was supposed to be used in a fight against the Glorft - an alien race that have conquered Earth. It get's sent back into the past - where it ends up in the hands of two Jersey slackers, Coop and Jamie - who "Pimp" it out, replacing its head with a hot rod (as you do when you get an alien robot appear in your back garden I guess!)

 

They are joined by Kiva - a kick ass warrior heroine from the future who originally comes back to retrieve MEGAS, only to see what Coop has done with it. As can be expected, the Glorft follow them back to the past and all sorts of fighting takes place.

 

Essentially, MEGAS XLR works as a kinda "monster of the week" series, where Coop and co would fight a new alien/robot - whether it was on Earth or another planet. The episodes generally parodied various other classic series, with some examples being Sailor Moon, Transformers, Power Rangers (and by proxy Voltron), etc. And other times it parodies rather obscure references, including The Prisoner and Planet of the Apes. All of which is done with it's tongue firmly in cheek. As a show, and unlike most other cartoons of the time, it does not take itself too seriously and it isn't afraid to have fun. The show also makes pop at various pop culture - including a TV station called Pop TV (an obvious pop at MTV), which usually ends up getting destroyed.

 

The humour of the piece stems from the characters of the show. Coop is a lazy bum of a guy that would rather drive fast cars and play video games - but when the time comes, he will stap in and kick some butt. Problem is, Coop has no idea of the destructive power that MEGAS is capable off, he always finds a way of beating the baddies, but not without destroying half the city in the process! But as it's a cartoon, no one (miraclously) is hurt. He's a refreshing change from the usual "save the world" kinda heroes and it's good that he isn't perfect and ends up screwing up a lot. Despite his impetious nature and appetite for destruction, he's a likeable character and a source for most of the shows humour. And his "heroic speeches" are both utterly cheesty just completely badass!

 

Jamie is his sidekick, a cowardly young man that always acts tough when trying to score with chicks, but often ends up cowering away in the face of danger. He's always the first one to point out the danger in Coops plans and always end up hiding during the fight. He's another source of comic relief but is also a likeable character. Kiva is the heroine of the piece - and she kicks ass! She isn't afraid to get up close and personal with the badies and show off her martial arts skill. Despite this, she has little understanding of the past, given that she grew up in a war torn future - so it is amusing to see Coop and Jamie teach her about their "interests". Kiva always tries to approach any battle with a monster stragetically, trying to find out weaknesses in the opponent - although usually Coop ignores her advice and charges in head first into battle. Kiva usually ends up having to bail the two guys out (usually Jamie) so she's a great character for the female watchers.

 

The characters are great, the action is epic, over the top and cheesy and the humour will be enough to raise a chuckle - especially if you know the source material they are parodying. But the thing I love most about MEGAS XLR? The soundtrack is just sweet! The music rangs from pop punk to full on heavy metal - and it is just AWESOME! I swear I have never seen a cartoon with a more adrenaline pumping soundtrack - I even spent years trying to track down a place where I could download it, it was that awesome! If you're not a fan of heavy music then it won't be for you - but anyone that enjoys a good moshing track should definately check this out.

 

There were only 2 seasons of this show (that I know of) as it was cancelled after just a year. Which is a shame because this was an amazing show that was a fun watch. It wasn't released on DVD as far as I'm aware, but you can download it on Xbox Live and Itunes as far as I'm aware. If you want a great, no nonsense cartoon that is full of humour and over the top action, or just want to turn your brain off for about 30 mins or so, then I recommend you check this cartoon out.

 

Tagline of this series was "Chicks dig giant robots" - and you know what, I dig giant robots as well. It's a show that I doubt will ever be bettered in terms of pure kickassery! Yeah, the show was that great that I just made up a word to describe it!

 

Until next time guys!

 

 

Pandragon

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