Matilda Book Review

front-pgeWhen I was a kid I loved reading, I would read all the time. I loved the places and times that they could transport me, an escape from the real world I found myself in. I loved escaping to Faraway Trees, meeting magical insects that lived in a peach, and being scared by saying cheese.

Though I would read anything, by anyone, there was one author that could always be relied upon to bring a smile on my face and really make the real world disappear. Roald Dahl. With his eccentric characters and exquisite turn of phrase Roald Dahl has become a firm favourite with children and their parents for decades.

Since his first book was published in 1943 Mr Dahl has made young children gasp with terror, cheer for their favourite characters and most of all giggle uproariously from the rather gruesome jokes and made up words.

Which brings me to the book I decided to review, Matilda. I first read this when I was nine years old, I didn’t have many friends and I didn’t have much of a home life, either. Matilda, with it’s themes of bullying and loneliness spoke to me immediately. First published in 1988, the year of my birth and only two years before the death of Dahl Matilda has become a much beloved character, with a well loved film released in 1966.

This year is the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth, and with all the events celebrating this milestone I thought I would revisit an old favourite for the first time in nearly twenty years.

Right from the first sentence it was immediately like a big warm hug welcoming me back to a story and characters that I love so much.

I really think of this book having two halves, the first half revolves around Matilda and her parents. Matilda’s parents are really vile, her father is a dodgy used car salesman and her mother seems to do nothing but play bingo and think she’s pretty. They both seem to hate their own daughter and resent her. The thing is, Matilda has an extraordinary talent, she is incredibly smart. By the age of three she is able to read everything in the house and even takes herself to the library to read as many books as she possibly can.

parentsMatilda uses her smarts to get back at her parents when they are unduly mean to her, she makes her parents and brother think the house is haunted by stuffing a talking bird up the chimney (in its cage, and it was returned to it’s owner, don’t worry no birds were harmed in the writing of this book), she bleaches her dad’s hair and she glues her dad’s hat to his head. This part of the book is a great source of some of that trademark Roald Dahl scrunginess, it’s all about the the kid getting one over on the adults. As kids we all feel that life could be unfair and we all wanted to get our own back on our parents, and Matilda actually does it, and she does it well. And with the reactions of her truly horrible father it provides some great belly laughs.  

miss-honeyLike other children, however, when she turns five she must attend school. This is where the second half kicks in, Matilda Vs The Trunchbull. On her first day at school Matilda make friends for the first time in her life, and she meets Miss Honey, only the second adult in her life to treat her with respect and to recognise her amazing gift. Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress of the school, is just as bad as her parents and tries her best to bring Matilda down and disbelieve her intelligence. The Trunchbull is nothing short of a bully, she holds boys up by their ears, and throws girls by their pigtails as though the she were competing in the hammer throw at the Olympics.

It’s during one of the Trunchbull’s lessons that Matilda learns she has an even more amazing talent than her smarts, she can move things with nothing but her eyes and the power of her mind. She is, essentially, magic. Matilda then devises a plan to bring down the Trunchbull and restore order at the school.

trunchbullMatilda is a beautiful story, and brought back many happy memories of reading it the first time round, Dahl has such a great imagination or small acts of striking out on your own. A common theme with Dahl is kids sticking it to those adults who seems to hate kids. This questioning of authority, that helped to inspire me to think for myself and realise that not all adults are right and should be respected. Even as an adult this rejection of authority really strikes a chord. 

matilda-bookThe illustrations from Quentin Blake are as always a welcome addition and helps to add to the story and fires the imagination.

The structure, I felt was a little episodic, and sometimes it felt like a collection of connected short stories, and I felt that the ending was a little rushed, but honestly, I didn’t really care, the characters and the story and the writing all made up for this in spades. I encourage you to also celebrate the centenary (or, just, you know for fun) to pick up Matilda, or any Roald Dahl book and give it another go, I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed like that time you decided to re-watch The Super Mario Brother Super Show.

 

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The Top 5 Halloween Video Games

Ah, October is finally here. Tis the season of spookery where we can indulge in all manner of occult entertainment. Video Games have a unique quality of being able to immerse you in another world and this can be really effective in a scary setting. These games I’ve picked aren’t necessarily the scariest but I do think they embody the Halloween vibe and they’ll definitely get you in the October mood.

 

5. Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon (2013)

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS

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Mario’s not the only one who can tackle ghosts, ever since his first solo game in 2001 Luigi has been linked to the spirit world. While Mario would take on ghosts with a thundering “Yahoooo!” Luigi is more likely to run from spooks and possible cry hysterically.

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This is part of what makes the game so interesting. At times you feel like you’re forcing Luigi through this haunted house filled with ghouls of all shapes and sizes. He shivers and jumps whenever anything goes bump around him, the character animation is so expressive. Your task is to suck up all the ghosts using Luigi’s ghost vacuum the Poltergust 5000. Sometimes you’ll have to solve puzzles to reveal the ghosts or just check every draw until one pops out (much to his chagrin). Luigi’s Mansion is the video game equivalent of a fairground haunted house… Dare you enter?

 

4. Costume Quest (2010)

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC, iOS

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Costume Quest is an underrated gem, it’s also one of the only games I can think of that’s entirely set on Halloween night. You and your friends are out trick or treating when all of a sudden these goblin guys come out and steal everyone’s candy! Even more unfortunate for your character your little brother/sister (depending on your gender choice) is kidnapped because they were dressed as a giant candy corn. So you’re forced on a quest to rescue your missing sibling before your parents find out. On your way you’ll have to fight your way through various goblin enemies but the great thing is that when you enter into battle all the kids transform into an exaggerated form of whatever costume you have on.

You start off in a cardboard box robot outfit but when you’re in battle you’re an anime style mech that shoots missiles, wear the Statue of Liberty costume and you can heal everyone with a blast from her torch and my personal favourite is the french fries costume which turns you into a Tim Burton-esque spider with fries for legs that can stun enemies with a shower of grease and salt.

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This game is just a fun time all round. It’s not especially hard so anyone could enjoy it and there are lots of goofy moments hidden around the areas so it really rewards exploration. It’s not a long game either and can probably be picked up cheap these days. It’s the definition of short and sweet… you know? like candy?…I’ll see myself out.

 

3. Mortal Kombat X (2015)

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC

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The Mortal Kombat series has always taken heavy influence from horror and action movies. In this latest instalment they ratcheted up the movie references and started adding some classic horror characters into their roster. By the time all of MKX’s DLC had been released you can play as Jason, Leatherface, Predator and the Alien Xenomorph.

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People have been debating for decades about “who would win in a fight…” regarding all of these characters and in MKX is the first time we got to test some of those theories. What makes it even better is that they’ve all been lovingly crafted to include lots of movie references in their abilities and moves. You also can’t forget about the Mortal Kombat cast of characters which includes many weird, wonderful and monstrous people. Put all this together and you’ve one hell of a hyper violent monster mash on your hands and on a dark Halloween night, what more could you ask for?

 

2. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)

Platform(s): Xbox 360/One, PS3, PS1, PSP

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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night practically oozes atmosphere from the moment you start the game. The opening sees you reenact the ending of the first NES game, facing off against Dracula himself within minutes of starting up. It’s a scripted fight that you can’t lose but it really feels good to blow up Dracula with a rocking guitar soundtrack as your backing.

After this flashback you’re given control of Alucard (the son of Dracula) after he senses a disturbance at the castle. There you’ll have to fight your way through all manner of creatures including wolves, zombies, skeletons, living suits of armor, bats, venomous plants, floating acid skulls, medusa heads, hunchbacks, creepy Lovecraftian horrors and even Death himself shows up. Drac’s castle has everything you need to throw the best Halloween party in the world.

This game is like a good horror movie. It has amazing visuals but some admittedly cheesy dialogue throughout (the intro conversation with Dracula being a highlight) but Castlevania’s hallways full of macabre hell spawn are definitely worth a visit for any intrepid vampire killers.

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1. Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC

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I don’t often see Batman come up when people discuss their Halloween viewing but he totally should be. The Bat’s rogues gallery is the stuff of Halloween nightmares. A killer clown, a human scarecrow, a crocodile man hybrid, a mad hatter, a roided pro wrestler and this game is all set in the insane asylum that they all call home.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is an excellent game whether you’re a Batman fan or not. It can also be devilishly creepy when it wants to. You spend the entire game exploring the asylum after all the inmates have escaped. In between fighting thugs you spend most of your time investigating the tragic histories of famous batman villains. You never know what unsettling situation is round the corner but the game really knocks it up a notch when you meet The Scarecrow.

After taking a dose of his fear toxin Bats starts to hallucinate in some pretty creative and sometimes 4th wall breaking ways. Rooms start to repeat, Batman’s forced to relive the death of his parents and at one point the game resets and the intro sequence starts again making you think the game may be broken.

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You’ll never forget your first trip to Arkham Asylum, it’s masterfully crafted fun house of terror and what I think is the best game to get you in a creepy Halloween mood.

Mysterium Review

Grab your Mum’s best white bedsheets and cut little holes in them, it’s time to ghost about in the haunting Mysterium! BooOOOooooOOoooooOooooOoooo

So, you’ve just bought this really spooky looking abandoned mansion, and you’re all excited about all the things you could do with the place, you could turn it into a lovely hotel/spa, make the world’s best Hallowe’en haunted house or just gad about in a top hat and tails all day pretending to be Fred Astaire, if you’re into that kind of thing. There’s one snag, the house is haunted by the ghost of a man-servant, who was violently murdered in the grounds thirty years prior, and this guy is really messing up your plans of recreating the stairs scene from Beauty and the Beast with your best bae. Naturally you want rid of this spectral pest.

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Sadly, there is no Bill Pullman

So far, so plotline of Casper, but, instead of getting the ghost therapist and hot dad Bill Pullman in, you gather six of the world’s most famous mediums to communicate with the ghost to help him pass on to the other realm and stop pestering you.

 

set-upIt is the night all hallow’s eve where Mysterium takes place, the 6 (or however many players you have) mediums have gathered round to communicate with the grisly ghost. As the ghost is very old and forgetful (and apparently very murderable), there are several different possible suspects, locations and murder weapons, one set for each medium. To make things a little harder the decrepit ghost can only communicate via the medium of vague visions, and will send out these visions to each of the mediums, who have to interpret them to guess their suspect, location and weapon. There are cards placed on the table with all the possibilities, once you think you’ve interpreted the vision given to you you plonk your crystal ball on the suspect you think it is, and once everyone has guessed the ghost will reveal who is correct and who was not. If you are correct you keep that card and you move onto guessing your location, and if you are incorrect you go back to guessing the suspect again.

I know what you’re thinking, it’s kind of like a Casper themed Cluedo, meets Dixit (another board game that uses similar vague picture cards you have to interpret), but there’s a little more to it than that. It’s better than cluedo, because you don’t have that ridiculous and frustrating board you have to move around in to find clues and what not. Though I do love Dixit, it’s very cute and endearing there’s not much more to it than looking at nice cards and guessing what the other person means, Mysterium gives that mechanic of interpreting visions and gives it a little more meat, or ectoplasm as the case may be. You are working towards something, you’re making a story about what happened to this poor murdered man. 

One major thing I haven’t yet mentioned is that this is a fully cooperative game, and though it’s an uneven game as the ghost has a very different role, everyone is working together to find the culprit. This means that the mediums can share their visions and ask for help from the group and everyone can work together to figure it out, all whilst the ghost looks on in stoney silence.

claivoyancy-tokensThough information can be shared and debated between the mediums, where you place your coloured crystal ball is your choice. However your fellow ghost whisperers might not agree and think that your vision did not represent the policeman, they might think it represented the maid. If this is the case, they can used these little clairvoyancy tokens, and place a little X token next to your crystal ball. If you were wrong in your guess of the policeman, your friend will get one clairvoyancy point for guessing correctly that you were wrong, likewise if they had put a little tick next to your crystal ball and you were right they would also get a clairvoyancy point. However, if they had put an X next to your crystal ball, but you were correct, they would not get anything. The amount of clairvoyancy points you get can have an effect on what you get to see in the next phase. This is probably the fiddliest part of the game, and can be a little hard to explain in the first instance, but once you demonstrate it and you all get into the swing of things it becomes pretty easy. Though I did find that towards the end of the game we were sometime just chucking them on willy nilly just for the sake of it, in case which I think defeats the point a little.

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So, you’ve all worked super hard, the ghost has been banging out visions left and right and the mediums have been interpreting them like Sherlock Holmes on an all night coke bender. All mediums have guessed their suspects, locations and weapons before the end of the 7th hour. Congratulations! You get to move onto the suspect line up. You all place your sets of cards into the centre, the ghost will give you all a shared vision made up of three cards, one to represent the suspect, one for the place and one for the weapon, they will be placed face down in a random order, then depending on how many clairvoyancy points you got earlier depends on how many shared vision cards you get to see. If you got less than 7 you only see one card, if you got up to 10 you get to see two, and if you get 11 or more you get to see all three.

There is a secret vote, whichever suspect gets the highest vote is the medium’s guess, if they guess correctly, the ghost will pass onto the other realm with peace and tranquillity, if they are wrong the ghost is doomed to wander the mansion for another year until next Hallowe’en.

vision-cardsMysterium is a great party game, it plays up to seven people (six mediums and a ghost) so it’s brilliant when you’ve got a crowd and you’re breaking out the emergency chairs. I love that it’s a co-op game, so you’re all working together, it means that even if you’re still waiting for your vision to appear for that round you can still be thinking about your friends vision and helping them so you’re never just sat there waiting around. As there is a two minute time limit on getting your crystal balls and clairvoayncy tokens once all the visions have been handed out there is a feeling of urgency and rushing as everyone rushes to get their guess out and look at what other people have guessed and if they think their companion was correct.

crowsOn top of it all, this is simply a fun game, the cards are beautiful and so well designed and made, and it can be funny when you get a fruit house or a hot air balloon or a mouse and you need to match it up with the cards on the table, it could be anything on the card, the colour, the main object or a tiny speck in the background that could relate to your card on the table. I love the fact that it brings people together, and unlike other co-op games like Ghost Stories or Pandemic this feels a lot more relaxed, and less pressure to do everything or else you’re going to let everyone down, it’s about gathering round and trying to figure out what on earth the little man and the umbrella are supposed to represent, and this can produce some good times and some good laughs. 

It’s not just the cards that are well designed, the big hidy board the ghost uses to keep all of the visions and what location/suspect/weapon goes with which medium is perfect for keeping track of the game, and it even has a lovely piece of artwork on the front facing the mediums, there’s even a little clock stand for you to assemble to keep track of the rounds.

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Playing as the ghost isn’t something I’ve even talked about yet! When you’re the ghost, you are basically in charge of the whole game, you’re responsible for keeping track of which medium needs what cards, and trying to find vision cards you think they can interpret. This can be incredibly fun when you see someone getting something you thought was really tough, or incredibly frustrating if they are not seeing the really obvious clue you gave to them. Sometime you just want to yell out, but you must stay quiet, otherwise the game is kinda ruined. It can be a little less fun than playing as a medium as there is a little pressure on you to keep track of the game and to come up with clues for the mediums to interpret, but it can also be great fun looking through all those cards and sending them out into the ether for analysis. 

Overall this is a great party game, it’s fun, it’s relaxed, it brings people together, it can be just the right amount of frustrating. This is the perfect game to dim the lights, light some candles and play some spooky music to on Hallowe’en.

 

Dirty 30 -Movie Review

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I have a confession… I haven’t bought a movie for years. I get DVDs for Christmas but generally I just wait until a film is out on Netflix or NowTV before I watch it.

Dirty 30 was different. I’ve been watching YouTube for years now and Grace Helbig was one of the first people I ever subscribed to and of course this lead to me to following Mamrie and Hannah Hart (not related). I’ve followed the holy trinity for years now and they’ve never failed to keep me entertained.

In 2014 the three YouTubers starred in Camp Takota and after seeing many a YouTuber try to make is as an actor/actress, I was wary that my three favourites would follow in their footsteps and appear wooden and over act. Nevertheless, I bought Camp Takota (probably the last thing I bought before Dirty Thirty) and was pleasantly surprised when I found that the three women were good actresses and I enjoyed the film more than I had a lot of high budget films.dirty-30-mamrie-hart-grace-helbig-hannah-hart

When I heard Dirty 30 was being made, I knew it was something I would eventually want to watch and I looked forward to behind the scenes on YouTube. I didn’t realise however, that I would be buying and watching Dirty 30 the day it came out because I was just too impatient to wait until it was on Netflix.

Dirty 30 follows Kate (Mamrie Hart) on the approach to her thirtieth birthday. After receiving a letter in the post which she wrote to herself as a child, she realises her life is in a rut. Kate’s two best friends, Evie (Grace Helbig) and Carlie (Hannah Hart), manage to convince Kate she should have a big party for her thirtieth in the hope that she will maybe get out of her rut.

I loved everything about this film. Not only are the main three YouTube starts great actresses but the supporting cast are excellent. Never once did I feel any of the cast were wooden and the real life friendships between the cast was clear on screen as well as they normally are off.

The story itself was great, I’m anyone’s for a bit of romance and this film was full of it with a nice helping of comedy to go with it. I loved the character of Kate and, as a 28 year old female, I felt I understood her completely as a single female just trying to work it where their life if headed. Along with this I felt the friendship between Kate, Evie and Charlie was just brilliant. They were the perfect mix of people who met in school and stayed friends despite living completely different lifestyles.

dirty-30-movie-poster-612x380Evie and Charlie were the perfect sidekicks, I loved Evie’s constant enthusiasm, wether it was about throwing a party or helping alpacas with alopecia while Charlie’s competitive nature made for excellent comedy.

As I said, I love a bit of romance and I was completely absorbed with the romance between Kate and Dan, I spent a lot of my viewing time just waiting for them to realise their love for each other. Like a lot of Grace Helbig fans I also ship Grester (Grace and Chester See) so much and from the second Ben (Chester See) took a shot from Evie’s belly button, I was hooked.

Now I don’t want to ruin anything for those who haven’t seen the film but the ending was just as great as the beginning and middle. If you want some light humour with a good helping of romance then I would certainly recommend Dirty 30.

5/5 stars.

To watch the trailer click here.

My Top 5 Harry Potter Conspiracy Theories

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I’m going to start off with apologising. I’m aware I’ve been a tad awol the last few weeks but I’ve been moving house and between my lack of Internet and the constant stream of visitors, I’ve just not had a chance to post. I’m back now, however, and I plan to stay back.

Last week Jake gave us his top five Pokémon conspiracy theories. Now I love Pokémon and I really love conspiracy theories so naturally I read the l straight away before reading it a second time to make sure I took it all in.

Now if you’ve read any of my previous articles then you’ll know how much I love Harry Potter (if you’re not aware, I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned the books is in every non review piece I’ve written here) so naturally I got the idea to go hunting for some Harry related conspiracy theories. I’ll be honest, there’s not many out there and most of the ones I read about were very questionable, (I know, all conspiracy theories are ridiculous but most of time they make some sort of sense) some of them were utterly terrible with no evidence to back them up. Nevertheless, I thought I would give you my top five;

1 – Draco Malfoy is a werewolfimage

I chose to start with the worst one on the list – they get better, I swear.

After book 6, it is regularly mentioned that Draco is sickly looking and paler than normal. The theory is that after Lucius Malfoy failed to get the prophecy in book 5, Voldemort decided to punish him. We’d previously been told that if someone got on the wrong side of Voldemort, he would use Fenrir Greyback to bite the wrongdoers children by way of punishment which is how he is bought to get revenge on Lucius.

We have some evidence to support this theory, to start off with, the book never actually confirms that Draco is a Death-Eater (ignore the films-I’m aware he shows his Dark Mark at the end) so many believe that when Draco goes into Borgin and Burkes at the beginning of book 6 and shows Borgin something on his arm and mentions how he is a friend of Fenrir, he isn’t showing a Dark Mark, he is actually showing off his werewolf bite.

On top of this, when Voldemort learns that Tonks and Lupin are having a baby, he turns to Draco and says ‘maybe you can babysit the Cubs’

Yes, this is very far fetched and yes, J.K. Rowling has confirmed this one isn’t true. I kind of like the idea that Draco’s blood isn’t so pure anymore though.

2 – The Dursley’s are really lovely. They were just moody from being around a horcrux too long.image

As we know, Harry is a sort of horcrux and in order to save the wizarding world, he had to kill the sort of horcrux within him. We also know that while Harry, Ron and Hermione are on the hunt for horcruxes and are carrying around the locket, they all get really moody because of the evil spirit within the locket.

What if that’s why Vernon, Petunia and Dudley are so miserable all the time? Maybe they just got moody because of the evil spirit within Harry…

Whoever thought of this theory is clever but it doesn’t really make sense. I mean Petunia was always jealous of Lily and called her a freak when she used her magic… Harry wasn’t even an egg in Lily’s overies at this point never mind a horcrux.

3 – Harry and Ron are actually good at divination.image

I don’t know if this one can actually be classed as a conspiracy theory because it was probably written into the books on purpose but in Goblet of Fire, Ron and Harry haven’t done their homework for divination so they just make up some stuff.

They write:
-in danger of burns (Harry’s first task against a dragon)
-loses a treasured possession (Harry’s second task where he must find Ron)
-‘stabbed in the back’ (the third task where Moody-but-not-actually-Moody sets him up)

So are Ron and Harry secretly seers? Probably not but I like this one.

4 – Rita Skeeter is J.K. Rowling

This one is probably my favourite. The theory goes that after telling one too many false stories, Rita Skeeter was banished to the muggle world. Here she fell on hardliners and took up writing to get by. She decided to write about the most famous boy she knew – Harry Potter.

Of course if this one is true then it means that J.K. Rowling is actually Rita and the wizarding world is all real. That’s why this one is my favourite.

5 – Dumbledore = deathimage

When I read this one, I was so confused but then when I got my head around it all, it was brilliant.

So Harry, Snape, Voldemort and Dumbledore make up the characters in the Tale of Three Brothers.

It had previously been suggested that Voldemort, Snape and Harry made up the brothers.
Voldemort was greedy and wanted something to make him powerful (The Elder Wand) but in the end, it was the thing that made him powerful which killed him
Snape was forever in love with Lily and after her death he looked for ways to remember her (the resurrection stone) but in the end he could never really bring her back and so he died.
Harry just wanted a peaceful life really (the invisibility cloak) and when his time was up he greeted death willingly.

Now to go along with this theory, someone wrote that Dumbledore represents death and it seems to fit perfectly.

In the tale, Death gives each brother an item. In the books, Dumbledore makes sure Harry has all three items in the end and just like in the end of the Tale of Three Brothers where the third brother greets death like an old friend, Harry greets Dumbledore like an old friend when he is about to die.

J.K. Rowling has even agreed that this one is great so that’s why it’s number 1.

My Top 5 Tim Burton Movies

Tim Burton has been wowing audiences with his distinct visual and story telling style or years, earning him cult and auteur status amongst his biggest fans. His stories of outsider characters trying to fit into society has touched the many people who also feel like they do not belong. He has become a voice for the freaks, the weirdos, the misfits.

I have been a big fan of Tim Burton’s since I was a kid living in a small village. A distinctly round peg, trying to fit in a very square hole, the stories of skellington men, the scissorhanded, and the plain strange were a great comfort to me, as I knew then that I as not alone in the world. Although perhaps some of his more recent films haven’t quite hit the mark (I’m still not sure what Dark Shadows was all about) his earlier work still endures and is as popular today as they ever were.

With Tim Burton’s latest release, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children right around the corner, I thought I would compile my top 5 favourite films of Tim Burton’s for your reading pleasure.

5) Beetlejuice

beetlejuiceIt’s the ghost with the most. Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), the vile (but let’s face it, hilarious) human exorcist is employed by the ghostly Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) Maitland to get rid of the terrible Deetz’s, who have moved into their home and taking over.

One of his earlier works this is full of that typical Burton style, there’s plenty of stripes, dark humour, wonky angles everywhere (especially in the ghostly government offices) a dark twist on suburbia, there’s even an early appearance from Jack Skellington, albeit it’s just his head on top of the merry go round Beetlejuice turns himself into. It’s a rip roaring comedy with some great set pieces and memorable scenes, not to mention a great calypso soundtrack.

 

4) Big Eyes

big-eyesThe most recent of Tim’s movies to make the list, this is based on the true story of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams). Margaret was an artist in the 60s, who met and married fellow artist, Walter (Christoph Waltz). After realising Margaret’s paintings got far more attention during shows he began to pretend the works were his own, keeping the lie going for years, making Margaret work in secret, even from her own daughter from a previous marriage. Eventually the lies and secrets take their toll on Margaret and she plans to break free from her captor.

Although there are many things that might seem like typical Burton themes, the horrors of suburbia being the biggest, though I would say that visually it is very different from a lot of his other films. It’s all about bright colours, and rather than a fantasy like setting Burton keeps it real and simply for his colour palette, costumes and settings. He also explores the theme of domestic abuse, though I felt that this came secondary to the main story and could have been explored more.

 

3) Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

pee-weeFrom the latest, to the first. Burton’s Debut feature from 1985, might seem like a silly film about a strange man child. Really though it’s a masterclass in taking the absurd reality.

Pee Wee (Paul Reubens) has the best bike in town, it’s red, shiney, and really, really cool. One day as he’s shopping for new bike accessories Pee wee’s bike is stolen! Oh no! As you can imagine he is devastated, and sets off on an adventure of a lifetime to get it back. Along his cross country trek he meets many different people who help him to his destination. Every person is weird in their own unique way. They have a dream of some kind that sets them apart, makes them different in some way.

It might not be a film that will teach you about the human condition, or help you to learn about historical figures that lived 1000 years ago. It will, however make you laugh like a 3 year old mainlining sugar, and will provide an excellent way to spend a couple hours of your life.

 

2) Edward Scissorhands

edward-scissorhandsProbably Burton’s biggest criticism of American suburbia. Though set at the time it was made, in the late 80s/early 90s the small community at the centre of the story often feel like they’re stuck in the 1950s, but in style and attitudes.

Edward (Johnny Depp) lives on his own in a big, creepy castle overlooking a pastel coloured community, one day a lovely lady called Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest) wanders up to the castle, in the hopes that someone will buy her Avon products. Instead of a makeup starved housewife she find Edward, who she decides to bring down to stay with her and her family in their house. Though initially the new and unusual person is accepted by the community, though the tides turn when he does not want to sleep with one of them, and things begin to turn a little more sinister.

It’s a lesson on how suburbanites can often seem like good people, but the attitudes of the community can often be dictated by one person, and if you are not considered favourable by that one person then you do not have a chance in the community. The additional love story between Edward and Peg’s daughter, Kim (Winona Ryder) makes this a true modern fairy tale. This also marks the first collaboration between Burton and Johnny Depp.

 

1) Ed Wood

ed wood.jpgThis is my favourite Tim Burton Movie to date. It tells the tale of movie director Edward. D. Wood Jr, who was voted the worst director of all time in a 1979 poll thanks to movies such as Plan 9 From Outer Space and Bride of the Monster. If you’re not familiar with those titles, but you loved The Room, I suggest you look them up, they are a classic of the ‘so bad they’re good’ genre.

Starring Johnny Depp as the titular character this is very different from a lot of other Burton movies, there’s no campy, twee, yet twisted setting, there’s not even a Danny Elfman score (they had a minor disagreement at the time). It’s even shot in black and white, which gives it more of an arthouse and realistic feel. A large portion of the story is about how Ed is a transvestite, and about his acceptance from the people around him, this is dealt with with sensitivity and unquestioning acceptance. Most of all this is a story about one man’s passion to get his movies made, his movies are his life and without them he is nothing, yet he is always suffering setbacks and ridicule, but he keeps going, he keeps pursuing his passion no matter the cost, and that is why this is the best Burton movie.

Blood Red Throne – Union of Flesh and Machine Review

When I first heard this band’s 2007 album Come Death they quickly shot to the top of my favourite bands list. They were everything I’d been looking for since I got into death metal. They had plenty of fast technical riffs but also knew when to slow it down which is something death metal bands often forget. A textbook example of the genre, this is a band you could show someone if they ask “What is death metal?”. Over their next 3 releases they’ve been consistently good but unfortunately “Union of Flesh and Machine” was a disappointment to me, in a pretty unusual way.

 

blood-red-throne-union-of-flesh-and-machine-e1465305129574

 

This newest release marks a change in singer for the band and it is immediately noticeable. The new singer’s voice is a bit lower giving the songs some more bass. I feel like the band might have adjusted their guitar sound to match his voice because everything sounds a bit lower. I don’t know if I’m sold on this new sound, it does make them sound heavier overall but they lose some distinction in the riffs and at times it can sound like a dirge.

 

The first couple of tracks “Revocation of Humankind” and “Proselyte Virus” are great openers. They hit hard, fast and never slow down. As you can tell by the album cover and song titles BRT are unabashedly death metal. All the songs are about murderin’ or gross things happening to people and that’s fine. Sometimes I just want a band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously especially in the metal genre which I believe to be inherently ridiculous to begin with.

 

Track 3 is where things start to get problematic for me though. First red flag is the song title “Patriotic Hatred”, sounds like a polite way to describe racism. The next thing I noticed was the voice over at the start of the track and my heart sank. They’ve used some voice over from the video game Hatred which is a horrible game both quality wise and in concept. Hatred gained some bad publicity October 16th 2014 when it’s first trailer hit. It’s essentially a game where you control a white guy with long black hair and a trench coat who decides it’s time commit a mass shooting. You’re literally given points for killing innocents and police officers and in the end blow up a nuclear plant to take out most of New York.

 

Basically it’s the game that all politicians think Grand Theft Auto is. They touted it as a response to political correctness in games so naturally it was championed by far right gaming hate groups like gamergate. Then it came out and people realised that in addition to it being a tone deaf white power fantasy it was also a crappy game and it got destroyed by any review site that bothered to cover it (most refused). The icing on this poop cake is that the developers (Destructive Creations) made the news again for alleged links to hate group Polska Liga Obrony (Polish Defence League) which they of course denied.

 

I messaged BRT just to make sure they weren’t racists and while they were fairly condescending in tone they did explain their side:

 

 

 

Why Blood Red Throne decided to hitch their wagon to a garbage fire like Hatred is beyond me. Frustratingly the song is actually pretty good! Just give me a version with the voice over track muted and I honestly would have liked this album a lot more.

 

 

After this momentous low point the album gets better. “Homicidal Ecstasy” kicks in with a really powerful main riff. It a prime example of how to slow down your death metal but still keep it heavy and intense. The title track “Union of Flesh and Machine” is another standout track but after that the album does have a bit of a lull. There are a few songs that sound similar to previous tracks in structure but I’ve played in metal bands and I know how easy it is to form song writing habits so I can’t judge too much.

 

The last two tracks are pretty much bonus tracks. “Leather Rebel” is a Judas Priest cover in a death metal style of course. Priest songs work well when a heavier band covers them probably because they influenced their style anyway. They approximate Rob Halford’s high vocals using the backup vocalist’s higher pitched screeches. I’m not that much of a fan of these type of vocals, he sounds a bit like Tokka from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze.

 

tokka

 

The last track “Mary Whispers of Death” is a redone track from their first album “Monument of Death”. Before I realised this I was going to say this was my favourite track on the album but I guess that just means I much prefer their old writing style.

 

I was really looking forward to this album coming out but it’s just been a massive disappointment in a multitude of ways. It’s a very rare occasion that my two favourite things video games and death metal come together but unfortunately it was in the worst way possible. If no more of my favourite bands could associate themselves with racist game developers that would be great, thanks. I can only hope that this is just growing pains because of their recent lineup change and hopefully they’ll be back on top form for the next album.

 

★★☆☆☆