Friday, 24 August 2012


Everyone loves Mario, don’t they? How could you not love an Italian plumber thought up by the Japanese with a propensity for grabbing as much money as he can whilst shooting fireballs from his hands? Seriously, they should make a movie! What? Oh, yeah… my mind had blanked that out. In all seriousness, Mario has been around for a bloody long time now, with each Nintendo platform ramming him down our throats like the newspapers with pictures of Prince Harry’s bottom. As with his Royal Gingerness, it has often been a case that, despite all the new clothes, the Emperor often seems to be running about in the nuddy. With his cock hanging out…

Super Mario Brothers 2 could have been great. Mario’s recent 3D game was pretty innovative, if shorter than Tom Cruise, and the console has the power to handle all sorts of magical trickery. That said, the game was not developed by the normal Mario guys, and it really shows. The best thing you can say about it is that it’s a Mario Game, and as such it’s not a bad one. Mario jumps about in the usual scenarios, forever trying to get his girlfriend back and jumping on many heads. The stages are ball achingly familiar, as is the gameplay, and in the end it’s nothing more that Mario’s Greatest Hits. The graphics are suitably clear and as details as Mario games are ever likely to get without a fully digitized Bob Hoskins being introduced, and the 3D is utter shit. Yep, they’ve gone and made a Mario game specially for the 3DS and it hasn’t actually got any 3D to speak of.

In an attempt to give it a lifespan beyond the normal levels, you can play co op with a friend, but not unless they are in the same room, and you can revisit levels to see how many coins you can get. Whoopee! Etc etc. Super Mario Brothers 2 is all about the coinage, by the way, with Nintendo challenging players to get (deep breath) one MILLION coins, a see through attempt to keep fanboys playing until they reach this magical number and valiantly hide their disappointment when they see the ‘reward’.

As with the recent Sonic revival attempt, Super Mario Brothers 2 does nothing new. If you absolutely love Mario then I’m sure you will already have this, and will be telling everyone how awesome it is and how you absolutely love the 1 million coins reward (see top picture if you don’t want to actually do it yourself - that’s fecking IT - a title screen!).  There is the usual replay value in getting the hard to reach bonus coins, and a few branching levels and even a mushroom world, but it’s no more than previous games have done. In the end, it’s Another Mario Game that is fun to play but ultimately a little boring, as you have seen it all before.



It’s pretty much a given that if you liked The Expendables then you’re gonna have a lot of fun with the sequel. It’s also pretty much of a given that if you thought the first film was a steaming pile of poo then this one isn’t going to change your mind. It doesn’t want to change your mind, because as far as it’s concerned if you didn’t like the first film it doesn’t want to know you, and nor do I.

After the coming together of so many hard asses of the movie world in The Expendables, it’s only natural that a few more famous faces (and fists) have been added to the mix. What we get here is bigger roles for Bruce Willis and The Governator (well, ex-Governator now), plus the bonus of Chuck Norris (who is cool as cool can be) and Jean Claude Van Damme (that wrinkly guy from the beer adverts) as a dastardly villain who goes by the name of (and I really can’t believe they did this) - Villain. Look, if you say it with a French accent it doesn’t sound the same, so they get away with it, but only just. Also in the mix is Liam “Brother Of Thor” Hemsworth, who may as well be beaming down to a strange planet on Star Trek with a red shirt and a “Shoot Me” sign taped to his back, so obvious is his impending doom.

The film benefits from a straightforward, linear plot that doesn’t make the audience think too hard as they watch the fists and bullets flying (quite graphically, too). Barney Rubble, I mean Ross, and his Expendables (so THAT’S why they called it that!) start the film off with a big action bit, then Bruce Willis gets them to go off and get a briefcase from plane that’s crashed somewhere off in Eastern Europe. Piece of piss, they think, but Van Damme is lurking, setting in motion events that mean the lads have to kill lots and lots of people who despite being mercenaries would fail the marksmanship tests at the Stormtrooper school on Tatooine. Seriously, these guys would have trouble fending off an attack by barn doors.

The thing is, it really doesn’t matter, as we don’t want our good guys dead, we want them to spray bullets and kill every single motherfucker in the room!  We want them to spout a few terrible quips that we will smile at regardless of how corny they are! We want them to unsubtly refer to their previous action movie careers! We want to see Rocky against Van Damme, and by all that is unholy we get all of these things plus big explosions to boot.

The Expendables 2 isn’t for the faint hearted. The fights are brutal, and the bullets go through people with plenty of blood splatter. Behind all this, you are always aware that this is a tongue in cheek, video game of a movie, and all the bad guys are just asking for it, the little tinkers. It’s a deliberate homage to bullet laden action movies where one man could kick an army’s ass, but pieced together with the modern film makers art and skill (and budget). All I know is I spent most of it sitting there with a big shit-eating grin on my chops, and that’s good enough for me. If The Rock isn’t in number 3 I’m going to sulk.

IMDB Link:

Monday, 13 August 2012

SPARKO (Karl Stephan) - Graphic Novel Review

Sparko is quite a thing, coming across as the weird, unappreciated love child of Jamie Hewlett, Neil Gaiman and Tim Burton. No, I don’t know how three men can have a love child, but maybe that was why it was unappreciated. Fuck, I’m just rambling here, and if you want a paternity test go see Jeremy Kyle. Oh, actually, whilst I think about it, the mother could have been Lenore, the little dead girl, but that would just be weird, right?

Anyway. On to Sparko, the creation of Karl Stephan, a person who might just be the creator you’ve been looking for. When he contacted me and asked if I would review his graphic novel, I certainly wasn’t expecting 170+ pages of creativity, more like a few dozen pages of poo that I could smarmily make fun of. I have only seen the online version, but rest assured if you like your comics bound (with gags), it’s available by clicking on the magic Amazon link at the bottom of the page.

The first thing that hits you about Sparko is the art style, which really does bring Jamie Hewlett to mind, crossed with Roman Dirge (Lenore). Although black and white, it’s incredibly sharp with nice detail and the occasional background gag. It suit’s the story perfectly, though, and that’s just fine and dandy (or Beano, if you must) with me.

The story itself is sometimes a bit convoluted but always fun. On the surface we have forgotten rock star Norman, who has been moping around for years after the accidental death of his girlfriend, swapping sex drugs and rock and roll for, well, drugs. He gets embroiled in a takeover bid in the  hidden under-world of London that’s sort of like Gaiman’s Neverwhere, where London’s history lives on, never forgotten but mostly misremembered. His lot is thrown in with that of a spunk filled (not like that, dirty boy!) tearaway called Belle, who was in our London to steal a relic so that the Queen’s son, who has been kidnapped….. Oh, bugger this. If I go on it will just spoil all the mental surprises, so I’ll just say it’s twisty, turny, topsy, turvy and very tight.

The sense of humour is pitched just right, with cultural references sneaking in but not getting in the way, plus tons of snappy, funny dialogue. In amongst all the daftness and high adventure, there’s still time to tell Norman’s sad story as he tries to get over the girl he once lost. Although I was a bit daunted by the length at first (it was rather near bed time), I read this in one sitting because I just had to know what would happen, and also it was fun. This is the sort of thing that could be serialized in the Judge Dredd Megazine and make a lot of fans, but until that happens it is something that you really should check out, because some gems are not meant to stay hidden.

Amazon UK Link:

Publisher Link:

Saturday, 4 August 2012

URBANSNAKE - "WHo Says Goodnight" Album Review

This came out from nowhere, dropping into my inbox with an ominous “ping”. There’s what seems to be a million heavy metal bands out there trying to get attention and share their music, and there’s just not enough time to listen to them all, but I clicked on the Urbansnake link to see if they were worth my time. Well, obviously they were, because you’re reading this review, but there’s more to Urbanskae than just making me sit up and take notice.

Too many metal bands these days lack what I would call heart. Sure, they make loud, heavy music with a varying success rate, but there’s often something missing, something that Metallica had in the old days, something Pantera exuded. It seems to come with new, hungry bands, getting beaten out the longer they go on, especially if they gain success and end up doing what they are told rather than what they want. Noo Yoik's Urbansnake have more heart than a butcher’s shop, more passion than Valentine’s Day and more belief than the Vatican. This, my friends, is metal as it was always supposed to be.

“Who Says Goodnight” has some very good tracks on it, to put it simply. They don’t try to be too clever, and have a sound derived from Pantera, Sabbath, Testament and all those old buggers. They fuse melody with massive, stomping riffs, and whilst you can sing along you can also headbang like a bastard to every track. Opener “Cracks Of War” really sets the tone, coming at you like an anvil on a rope, with Vinny Corvino’s vocals blasting out with utter conviction amongst a riff that will peel your flesh. If the whole album was this good, it would beget the maximum rating without a doubt, and even though it isn’t, it’s still a powerful album with plenty to like.

Obviously, I like this, and I really don’t go for a lot of new metal bands these days. Like I said, Urbansnake have that extra something to go with some cool metal tunes. There’s a decidedly retro tone to them, and they’re not trying to be the next Avenged Sevenfold, but if you like your metal to hearken back to the days when it stuck a finger up at the world and rocked with it’s cock out, Urbansnake might just be for you. Go to their site and take a listen.

Band Site (song streaming)