Book Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones is the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire book series written by author George R.R. Martin. This first book was nominated for multiple awards and the series has since gone on to inspire many adaptations the most famous being the beloved HBO television series.

Winter is Coming and the Kings hand Jon Arryn is dead, his Majesty Robert Baratheon is travelling to Winterfell to speak with his childhood best friend and Lord of the North Eddard Stark to ask if he would wed his Daughter Sansa to his Son Joffrey and at the same time become the new hand of the King.

Jon Arryn’s death is under speculation after his ex wife Lysa sends a raven to her sister Catelyn Stark with a theory that he was poisoned by the Queen Cersei Lannister this eventually turns out to be true after Eddard finds proof that the Queen has been having sexual relations with her brother the king slayer Sir Jaime Lannister a revelation which would soon trigger major events in the book and even more tragic deaths.

Jaime Lannister is named the king slayer after he murdered the previous king Aerys Targaryen aka the mad king.

Meanwhile outside of the walls of Pentos, the true heir to the iron throne Vicerys Targaryen is preparing to set up his sister Daenaerys with Khal Drogo of the Doth Rhaki in exchange that the Doth Rhaki army will help him take back the Iron Throne from Robert Baratheon when they storm Kings Landing.

During the wedding ceremony the Daenerys is gifted a set of authentic Dragon Eggs a tribute to her blood as a Targaryen who would tame and ride dragons thousands of years prior.

All of the characters are really interesting and have a great hook to keep you wanting to read more, the Stark family is particularly important in this novel as it is their characters that are used as chess pieces to set up the future events of the series, the young and elegant Sansa has her naivety used against her in the Game of Thrones, she is used as a piece for her father to follow eventually leading to one of the biggest twists in the series and a character death that goes to show that no one is truly safe in Georges universe.

Arya Stark is easily my favourite character in the book she is a 9 year old girl who wants to wield a sword but due to gender standards this is very much frowned upon until her father has a change of heart and pays for her to have “dancing” lessons with a master swordsman Syreo Forel, in later events in the book she ends up on her own after she escaped the guards in King Landing and now with just her sword needle in hand she needs to try and make her way to the knights watch to warn her bastard brother Jon Snow that her father has been taken prisoner.

Jon Snow is a great hero character and due to him being a bastard is unable to take the throne and gets a lot of flack from other characters in the book, he is a very talented sword fighter who is sent to the Knights Watch as it is the only place he will be accepted, the Knights Watch guards the wall that separates the Northern Kingdoms of Winterfell from the highly dangerous Wildlands. Being sent to the Watch is considered a punishment for criminals and outcasts so is nothing to be proud of, vows must be sworn of celibacy and to never leave the wall unless on official business, abandoning your brothers of the Knights Watch is punishable by death.

The only other character I feel had a really great hook in this was Daenerys Targaryen the daughter of the deceased mad king and another chess piece in the Game of Thrones this time set by her evil and manipulative brother Vicerys. Her story is particularly sad because she is only 12 when the book starts and is put through some pretty horrific moments including sexual assault and penetration, emotional abuse and having to follow Doth Rhaki traditions including eating the raw and still beating heart of a horse.

Her character becomes a lot stronger in the second half of the book and her gifted Dragon Eggs do eventually have a greater purpose in the series in an incredible sequence which ends this first part in the Song of Ice and Fire.

Other characters given a prominent role in this book are Eddard Stark, Catelyn Stark, Brandon Stark, Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister.

Brandon Stark a young and adventurous young man who loves to climb is eventually thrown from a tower after discovering Sir Jaime Lannister having sex with his sister the Queen Cersei Lannister, Brandon is left crippled and his dreams of becoming a knight are destroyed, after his fall he forgets who threw him from that tower and after waking from his coma tries to continue his life in the best way that he can.

Sansa is the most boring character in the book she is a very beautiful but na├»ve young girl who has dreams of becoming the Queen of the seven Kingdoms to her future husband Joffrey Baratheon, she is easily led and like a piece of clay is moulded by standards and behaviours she has had drilled into her by her scepters. The Queen uses this against Sansa to try and bring her over to the Lannister’s side to help bring more power to the king and their holding of the Iron Throne, apart from this nothing about her character particularly drew me in like the others but if the series continues in a similar manner to the show her character will grow to be a massive player in the game of thrones and an inspirational one too!

Eddard could probably be considered the main character he becomes the hand of the king and eventually discovers some very dark incest ridden secrets of the Lannister twins the Queen Cercei Lannister and her disgraced King Slaying brother Sir Jaime Lannister. It becomes clear that Lysa’s letter may have some truth to it and also there is a distinct possibility that his Son Brandon shared a similar fate.

Catelyn is great in this, she takes hostage the Imp Tyrion Lannister after it is revealed that his own dagger was used in an assassination attempt against the crippled Brandon Stark, it is of course later proven that Tyrion was innocent but who set him up is a mystery I am sure we will discover more of in future entries.

Finally Tyrion Lannister the shameful Imp of Casterly Rock and brother to both Cercei and Jaime plays an important role in this story. In the book he is described as having a head larger than is body with one eye of black and another of green an odd look they chose not to use in the show. In the book he is definitely one of the only decent Lannisters but is far from from a hero, he is a cunning and extremely clever person who can almost talk his way out of anything. After winning a trial in combat he is released from Catelyn Starks hold and makes his way back to his father Tywin Lannister with the help of his new sword wielding companion Bronn, he helps Tyrion get back to his father and even finds him a woman to love named Shae, both Bronn and Tyrion fight in the war between the Lannister’s and the Starks showing that even with his smaller stature Tyrion is far from cowardly.

It is really very clever how George manages to bring these characters together in such an expansive and lore ridden world without making it overly complicated. Since the series goes down the path of following multiple characters giving each their own segments makes a lot of sense and it allows readers to get a feel for Westeros without overwhelming them with too much coverage in this first part.

This first book is obviously very Stark heavy and only really gives us a perspective from the “Hero” characters, while I would have liked to have seen some chapters from Cersei’s point of view I feel that maybe it would have made her character motivations too obvious from the get go not to mention completely ruining the shock of a unforeseen character death, I hope that future entries in the series give us some more characters to follow but for now a higher focus on one house worked for the best. I have always considered Jon a Stark so in my eyes he counts too leaving only Tyrion of House Lannister and Daenerys of House Targaryen as the other houses we follow.

Tyrion’s story is fairly simple but Daenerys is a massively important player in the Game of Thrones and her segments are truly captivating, we see tremendous character growth with her becoming a leader throughout the book and slowly becoming more ruthless as she lets her inner Dragon grow, I really enjoyed her parts as it was a massive difference to the more controlled segments of the Lannister’s plots and Starks downfall. Daenerys was a shy and innocent young girl thrown into the deep end to become a Khaleesi or wife of the Khal a powerful figure who will birth the next leader of Khal Drogo’s army, she is truly destroyed inside and out by her twisted brother who only has selfish goals but overall by the end of the book the only person left standing in the fire is Daenerys and I cant wait to see her grow even more in the next part.

George took an approach too put more focus on his characters and world building than having deep descriptions of the lands, a lot of it is left to readers imagination and I think this was a wise choice considering how complex this story truly is, it doesn’t have a starting or end point and it doesn’t necessarily have an obvious path to follow, we don’t know what the outcome will be of this book or the next and as I have already stated anyone can die.

So many major important characters are introduced in this book to help tell the story of a Song of Ice and Fire but also to help direct the characters to set up future events. It is difficult to know who to trust at this point especially if you haven’t seen the show. A lot of players in the Game of Thrones are sly and will tend to give false persona’s in order to manipulate other players to make bad decisions and almost all of them have both good qualities and a dark streak, trust no one and be prepared to have someone you were rooting for die or maybe show intentions you may not have initially expected.

As someone who love the HBO series and has watched it numerous times from start to end I was a little disappointed to discover that the first season was a copy and paste of this first book so I already knew what was going to happen, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment at all but I hope that while reading the next books in the series I notice some major differences other than character ages and Tyrion’s eye colour.

A Game of Thrones has got to be the greatest first entry in a fantasy series of all time I was hooked from just a few pages, I feel what George achieved with his writing is phenomenal and without his hand to write it, this massive of a book project would have been almost impossible, you don’t need to have seen the show or read many of the chapters to feel a connection and full understanding of these characters and the world of Westeros.

Game of Thrones is what can only be considered a must read for any fan of the fantasy genre it is graphic, sexual and at times disturbing but even without those adult themes this is seriously one of the greatest books I have ever read, my copy was almost 800 pages long and it only took me a week since I was reading more than 100 pages a day, something that is very rare for me personally but honestly I was addicted to a story I know all too well at this point but a timeless tale that I cannot wait to continue with A Clash of Kings

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Movie Games: Ice Age (2002)

Welcome to another edition of Movie Games the series where we look at licensed games from the past and see how much they follow the plot of their movie, this time around we will be covering the 2002 classic Ice Age from Blue Sky Studios which had only one videogame for the Gameboy Advance.

But before we dive into that first lets go over the plot of the movie spoilers ahead so beware!

Scrat the Sabertooth Squirrel accidently cracks open the earth and causes a large avalanche which he barely escapes but is trod on by a herd heading south to avoid the forthcoming Ice Age.

A clumsy sloth named Sid wakes up to find he has been abandoned by his family so he moves south by himself, he upsets a pair of rhinos and is recued by a grumpy mammoth named Manny the two continue to travel south together much to Manny’s annoyance.

Meanwhile Soto leader of the saber tooth tigers attacks a human village trying to eat the chiefs baby as an act of revenge for the killing of his pack members, the village is destroyed but the baby is no where in sight, a member of the pack Diego is sent on a personal mission to find the child and bring him to Soto alive and ready for consumption.

Sid and Manny discover the baby and its mother floating in a river, they manage to receive the baby before the mother loses her last strength and drowns.

Diego catches up with the duo and encourages them to give him the baby so he can take him back to his tribe on Half Peak, Manny agrees as long as they all go with Diego leading them so he can be watched.

Our trio continue their adventure across the treacherous and icy land getting into many shenanigans including a water melon fight with Dodo’s and a rather dangerous ice slide.

Eventually they come across cave paintings and one set of a mother and baby Mammoth being murdered by hunters, this turns out to be Manny’s previous family and the reason why he keeps to himself.

At the end of the movie Diego nearly falls to his death in a river of lava but is rescued by Manny, when they arrive at Half Peak, Diego confesses his betrayal and the trio are attacked, Diego takes a near fatal blow during the final battle with the Sabers, Soto is killed instantly when he is impaled with falling icicles causing the rest of his pack to retreat in fear.

Manny and Sid mourn Diego believing him to be dead and finally return the baby to its tribe, Diego joins them afterward when he has more strength.

The trio now closer than ever remain as a pack and walk together towards warmer climates.

In a post credits scene twenty thousand years into the future Scrat is washed up in a block of ice on a deserted island, when he is thawed he manages to find a coconut which he again tries to bury by smashing it into the ground causing the earth to crack and a volcano to erupt…. whoops

now over to the video game adaptation

The game is a fairly standard 2D platformer with players starting at point A and needing to get to point B and normally having to defeat a boss at the end of most levels.

You play the game interchanging between Manny and Sid who each star in their own stages.

Manny sees the most action as he has the majority of levels, his stages are fairly basic in design he moves slowly because of his large size but can use his trunk for both physical attacks and for shooting nuts.

Sid’s stages are side scrollers and they are just awful, the screen moves way too fast to the point where one tiny mistake you will die, you don’t have time to make decisions on how to tackle certain jumps or avoiding enemies and the absolute worst is that you have barely anytime to grab the acorns!

Acorns are a collectible you can find all over stages with each level giving players a goal to find 40, the acorns basically work as a life system, you take damage you lose one and that will leave you with less chance to make the goal.

If you do manage to collect all 40 acorns in each of the 10 levels you will get a pretty lame bonus stage that is really not worth effort in my opinion, it doesn’t offer anything new and has all of problems of the other levels.

The basic gameplay is fine and you can tell that a lot of inspiration for this game actually came from Donkey Kong Country.

The stages are riddled with Dodo’s and other creatures which can be defeated by hitting them or bouncing on them, sometimes you have bounce across them or slam the ground to flip certain enemies over and then bounce on them … you seeing the similarities here?

In this games defence on a short budget they did an ok job, it is far from perfect with issues such as off screen platforms to jump too, unnecessary back tracking, bad hit detection and of course way too fast side scrolling but if you can look past all of this it has unlimited lives and with patience you can then experience the surprisingly pretty well designed boss fights.

There are various battles in the game and all of them are fought by Manny, there are these giant seeds in levels that can be used as ammunition against larger creatures and bosses.

The bosses each have various designs and require different strategies to defeat, there are two ways to defeat boss one is as mentioned with the seeds and the other is by slamming onto them, how you can achieve this will differ between boss variants but overall is really easy and wont take very long to figure out.

Graphically the budget didn’t stretch very far with this, some fairly low quality pixel art is used for character sprites, the backgrounds are pretty impressive and have a lot more detail even managing to keep up with the fast auto scrolling segments.

The soundtrack is pretty decent for a licenced game and the real issue is the lack of tracks and how much they replay the same small tune on a loop it can get a little annoying but thanks to this games short length of around 1 hour it doesn’t drag on too long that it becomes a problem.

So how closely does Ice Age GBA follow the movie?

Well lets be honest apart from a few screen captures from the film at the beginning and ending, this game goes in a complete different direction to the film and while I think this does work a lot in its favour allowing for some variants in boss fights and enemies, I think it’s departure missed out on so many opportunities for levels based on movie scenes, we could have had Sid running towards the screen while jumping obstacles and avoiding the Rhino’s or a fun slide level based in the Ice Caves. The biggest sin of all is that they never made a stage based on the memory sequence with Manny’s family, it would have been a great opportunity to change the art style and make some more creative choices that tie into the script.

While this isn’t exactly a faithful adaptation I wouldn’t go out of my way to call it a good video game either, effort was made to try and do something creative here and while I will say that for a knock off DKC clone this is far from terrible it failed in so many ways with its gameplay issues, repetitive soundtrack and uninspired visuals that all that it truly has left for its self is the creative boss battles and an overall simple experience for very young gamers. 3.8/10

I think for our next movie game we will jump into Ice Age the Meltdown to see if lessons were learnt from this.

see you then …. p.s there are three versions of that one so wish me luck !

Padawan

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Book Review: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Salem’s Lot is the 2nd novel by horror author Stephen King, it was released in 1975 as a successor to his first story Carrie which released the year prior. Salem’s Lot is often considered one of Kings best works, it sold very well and proved that King was a horror legend in the making and had the talent to be more than a one hit wonder.

Before we continue, this review is a part of our Stephen King Deep Dive series, I will be comparing the novel to the adaptations we have already discussed so there will be spoilers!.

A writer Ben Mears is returning to his home town of Jerusalem’s Lot to base his next story on a house of horrors from his childhood. When he was a child Ben was dared to break into the Marsten house where he soon saw the hanging body of Hubie Marsten. The image of the swaying corpse stuck with Ben his entire life and ever since the Marsten House had stayed abandoned and casting an eerie presence over the town.

The Marsten house has recently been purchased and converted into an antique store ran by Richard Straker, his business partner Kurt Barlow is never seen which leaves Ben feeling uneasy and we soon learn this is for good reasons.

While Mr Mears is definitely a more focused on character I wouldn’t necessarily call him the main character because in reality the entire town is put to paper giving almost every resident there own story and importance.

King is able to write in a way to give the town an established presence which can resonate with readers so that we have a full understanding of its layout, character relationships and the feeling that everyone knows each others business, it had a small town feel something that helped me feel connected to the book after once living in a small town myself.

So with all of the writing to ease us into Salem’s Lot it takes a long time for the vampires to actually come into the book, I’m talking more than 100 pages which is unfortunate because the novel is a bit of a slow burner, the first half of the book does take a little bit of patience but its definitely worth it for all of the horror we get in the second half.

I don’t think the legacy of Salem’s Lot has really done it many favors, when the book first came out no one knew it was vampires which helped with the patience of the Kurt Barlow’s reveal and also made certain scenes more creepy such as the disappearance of Ralphie Glick but because the book is so famous now we already know its vampires so we don’t have much of the initial mystery element to draw us in.

The book is really creepy and King has a natural talent of writing eerie and disturbing scenes which are genuinely scary, for me nothing is more upsetting than horror that involves children and this is no exception, there is a few scenes in this book that really freaked me out and both were to do with the children, the first was the initial vampire reveal with Danny Glick’s eyes open in the coffin and the window visiting scenes come to mind when discussing some of the scarier moments in the story.

Here is one of my favourite lines from the book which really shows how King can make his story telling scary without the use of visuals.

And in the awful heavy silence of the house, as he sat impotently on his
bed with his face in his hands, he heard the high, sweet, evil laugh of a child
-and then the sucking sounds.

There is a romance in the book between Susan Nolan and Ben Mears I never really got into this part of the story but by the end you do feel a little sorry for Ben after his reaction to her becoming a vampire.

Mark Petrie is easily the best character in this book, he is so cool in this and I feel like neither adaptation really did his character much justice, in the book he has nerves of steel and is from the beginning a bit of bad ass. This Mike takes down a massive school bully and is able to sleep straight after seeing his dead friend outside of his window, he is a natural escape artist and expert on all things monsters making him a perfect candidate for a vampire hunter.

One thing he does in the book I thought was really clever was tightening his muscles when being tied up by Richard Straker, he does this so that when his muscles relax it is easier for him to slip his binds.

Another really interesting character was definitely Father Callahan the local priest with a drinking problem who in this book becomes some what of leader to the vampire hunts nearing the conclusion, making an ultimate sacrifice to save Mark Petrie, Callahan is forced to drink the blood of Kurt Barlow but is not turned into a vampire, this gives Callahan ties to Satan preventing him from re-entering his church and heading down a dark path, he gets on a bus and flees Salem’s Lot a sad ending for such a prominent figure but he will return in a future entry of the Stephen King Mulitverse.

So there are some moments in the book that may upset some readers this includes child abuse, sexual assault, sexual themes and the deaths of children. I don’t want to go into any detail with these but these are really bad and are highly detailed so they could very easily cause some discomfort for some readers so please keep that in mind if you want to read this.

The most accurate adaptation is the 2004 mini series which not only made characters much more similar to how they were originally written but also took a lot of scenes directly from the original story, certain parts were definitely changed for example Father Callahan does not fight Ben Mears in the book and does not murder Matt Burke.

Unlike the 1979 version the 2004 adaptation includes some of the side characters stories, it has a big focus on Ben Mears past with the Marsten house and even Kurt Barlow is more closely mirrored in the 2004 version as in the book he does not have the blue skin and does talk, he is manipulative and charming convincing his victims to allow him to bite them and to become his followers.

The original mini series is really good and to be honest I actually prefer it to the remake but you cannot deny that for accuracy the 2004 version does take much more inspiration from Kings writing.

In our next deep dive we will be taking a look at Kings third novel The Shining so look forward to that!.

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Salem’s Lot (2004) Mini Series Review

In 2004 we got another television adaptation of Salem’s Lot it was directed by Mikael Salomon and starred Rob Lowe in the starring role of Ben Mears, this adaptation is based in the early 2000’s and was filmed in Australia.

The plot here is very similar to the 1979 adaptation which we have already looked at so I won’t go into too much detail here, but to sum it up the series follows a writer as he returns to his childhood town discovering it to slowly be overridden by vampires.

This particular mini series is often looked at in a negative light when compared to the far superior 1979 mini series but personally I really appreciated this for what it gave us.

The casting here is absolutely fantastic and in many ways is better than the original mini series, we have some big stars and veterans to the acting scene in this not only including Rob Lowe as Ben Mears but also Donald Pleasence as Richard Straker, Andre Braher as Matt Burke, Samantha Mathis as Susan Norton and James Cromwell as Father Callahan, all of these performances are very memorable and each actor put everything they had into their roles.

Donald Pleasence is one of my favourite actors and is amazing in almost every project he works on, here is no exception he plays Richard Straker and gives the character a new lease of life with his drugged up and more eccentric take on the manipulative and sly figure.

James Cromwell deserve some recognition for his portrayal of father Callahan a bit of a bad ass priest with a drinking problem. Cromwell gives the character a real sense of leadership, control and doing everything he can to send the vampires back to hell. I will discuss Callahan’s character in more detail during our book review.

I finally want to give credit to Dan Byrd who plays the teenager Mark Petrie he gave the character a more heroic arc than we saw in the 1979 version, I like this Mark he’s really cool and for a kid he can seriously handle is own and isn’t afraid to get into a fight if need be. The 1979 Mark was one of the highlights of that version but he was more wimpy and we never really saw him get into much action, Byrd’s portrayal is much more enjoyable and overall someone I feel will more likely have the audience rooting for them.

A modern day setting works really well for this, the series actually begins and ends in a modern hospital where a dying Ben Mears is on life support after falling out of a window while battling with Father Callahan, a really great and gripping start to this series and along with narration throughout the production provided by Rob Lowe really helps to keep the audience understanding exactly what is going on and how the character of Ben Mears is feeling and thinking during specific moments.

To be honest I really like this version and I think it has a lot going for it, providing a much different experience to the classic 1979 series but also in a lot ways a different story because this does have a lot more side stories from the novel as well as some that were made specifically for this series and unfortunately in many that was its downfall.

The two episode run of this is so crammed together that everything happens so quickly and it is difficult to really understand characters motives or to really feel much connection with what’s going on during these side plots making certain dramatic moments not having much of a reaction from me personally.

Now you may consider this criticism a little bit harsh but I will say that both version have this issue and its simply down to the fact that Salem’s Lot really needed a television series with at least one full season to really make sure that all of the really important stuff is covered and to also make sure that they help audiences really connect with the towns folk.

Lets not forget that in the original book the vampire stuff doesn’t happen until around the half way point but that discussion will be coming up next in our wrap of this Salem’s Lot series.

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A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987) Review

A Return to Salem’s Lot is the “Sequel” to the 1979 mini series, director Larry Cohen had originally wanted to direct the 1979 adaptation but lost the role to Tobe Hooper. Warner Bros later approached him to direct a low budget film for them and he suggested a sequel to the Salem’s Lot mini Series.

In all honesty the film is as far from a sequel as you can get, apart from the town name none of the previous characters return here and there is little reference to the mini series. The poster shows the Master behind the film title but to my surprise the he is also absent in the film, a great example of false advertising to sell a product.

This film follows two protagonists Joe an anthropologist studying human nature in African Tribes who returns to the USA to take care of his Son Jeremy a teenage trouble maker who is threatened to be thrown into a mental health institution.

The pair travel to Salem’s Lot the childhood home of Joe who has inherited an old farm from a deceased relative, during the daytime the town is run by Human Drones as a ruse to hide away the towns dark secrets. At night all of Salem’s Lot vampiric residents roam the streets looking for human or animal blood to drink so that they can survive.

The leader of the vampires is Judge Axel a manipulative and influential old man who reveals to the vampires to Joe and promises not kill him or Jeremy providing that Joe will write a study of Vampire behaviours and life styles to be released in 200 years time.

Joe is desperate to leave the town and even during an escape attempt he is caught so he wants to comply just to see him and Jeremy safe but unfortunately thanks to a manipulative young girl, Jeremy is having a hard time choosing not to turn into a vampire and this becomes another major plot in the movie and another issue for Joe to help him with.

I want give some praise to actor performances in this as for a cheesy sequel to a story that never originally had one most of the actors in this put a lot of heart into their performance’s.

Michael Moriarty who played lead protagonist Joe is really good in this and gives a really convincing performance as a concerned father but also a bit of an asshole who at times can be selfish especially around work.

Judge Axel played by the late Andrew Duggan is really great as the villain in this and comes across as fairly innocent but will draw blood if it means he will get what he wants, a strange comparison but the character actually reminds of Lotso from Toy Story 3 as both characters have similar goals and personality traits.

My final praise goes to the late Samuel Fuller an actor and real life WW2 veteran who plays an eccentric Nazi Hunter who has come to Salem’s lot looking for an individual. He eventually teams up with Joe to try and destroy all of the vampires in town.

Everyone else does an ok job here but isn’t exactly memorable and the only annoying performance came from Ricky Addison Reed who plays Jeremy but to be fair its more the character than the performance. Jeremy is so unlikable in this, he is whiny, annoying and overall a stereotypical “bad kid” but the character is so over stereotyped that its a lame and seriously corny performance from an actor that probably could do a better job if given some decent material to work with.

You can tell this was a low budget production but to be fair they did the best with what they had and some of these effects are actually pretty decent and to my knowledge do not rely on any CGI, the film obviously uses a lot of fake blood but the burning effects are pretty good especially when using holy water. Judge Axel’s final form looks a little silly and cheap and was obviously this films take on the Masters make-up but here it kind of sucks and to be honest they would have been better leaving him with his human face and finding a creative way to kill him.

A Return to Salem’s Lot is a pretty good vampire flick all things considered, it isn’t deep or will stick with viewers for a long time but as a B-Movie it is a lot of fun and while it doesn’t hold a candle to the 1979 mini series it has some really great performances, some decent effects and a story that is silly but still compelling and you will to see it through till the end, you can tell a lot of work went into this and while it didn’t have much connection with the mini series or Kings book there is some respect to those versions and its obvious that the name wasn’t only used to sell the film but does actually try to be a proper continuation just with new characters.

Next time we will be taking a look at the 2004 Salem’s Lot mini series a very much forgotten version and I am very eager to see if it holds up.

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Salem’s Lot (1979) TV Mini Series Review

From his first story and straight into the second, welcome to the beginning of the Salem’s Lot deep dive, in this series of articles I will be discussing every major adaptation of Stephen Kings second book Salem’s Lot before finally discussing the original story to see which version is the most accurate to Kings vision.

We will be starting this deep dive with a television mini series which was funded for development and broadcasting on Warner Bros Television. In Europe the tv series was cut down from its original 3 hour length to only 2 hours and was released as a movie. Today we are discussing the full 3 hour version

In this film we start in Guatamala where Ben Mears and a young boy Mark Petrie are on the run from the remaining Vampires of Salem’s Lot

We are then taken to a flash back of Ben Mears revisiting his home town of Salem’s Lot in order to garner inspiration for his next book, specifically a book which is to be based on the old Marsten house, a home which gave him childhood trauma after he discovered the hanging body of Hubie Marsten.

Unfortunately Ben’s plans to move into the house are put to a stop after he discovers the home has been purchased and converted into an Antique store ran by Richard Straker the partner of the Austrian Immigrant and rarely seen Kurt Barlow.

Throughout the nights victims both adult and children are disappearing only to turn up much later, pale and sickly before dropping dead and re-waking with a taste for blood.

Its a grizzly and sad mystery with no one knowing where to turn or just what the heck is going on, the victims have the signs of Vampirism but only Ben and Mark truly believe in this possibility, can they save Salem’s Lot from these blood sucking parasites or will they also join the legion of the undead?

This re-telling of Stephen Kings novel garnered a lot of hype from Horror Fans thanks to its director Tobe Hooper who directed the popular 1973 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

At this point I have read the book and its clear to see that a lot of the gore and sexual themes of the novel have been altered for Television which was expected, thankfully Director Tobe Hooper handled this extremely well managing to keep key moments from the book in this version and while they are heavily altered they are still scary and manage to deliver on plot progression.

A great example of a scary scene is when Ralphie Glick pays a nightly visit to his older brother Danny, Ralphie had previously gone missing and was presumed dead. This eerie performance from actor Ronnie Scribner alongside the ghostly effects is the perfect balance to leave watchers with chills.

To be honest compared to some other films of this era the effects in this are really impressive, the film didn’t use any CGI imagery and had a high dependence on physical effects and makeup, CGI was still in the very early stages at this point with its first ever appearance being the 1973 film Westworld. Physical effects always work better in the horror genre and this is no exception.

The camera angles were specifically inspired by the works of Alfred Hitchcock such as his 1960 masterpiece Phycho, these inspirations are particularly prevalent during shots of the Marston House and certain closeups when characters meet their end.

The cast and crew for this special was in all ways fine, not one performance is particularly uninspired and you can tell a lot of care went into certain portrayals, the biggest barrier to actor performances is actually the way this story is cut together, this is a long book and while the most important parts of the story are included even some of those had to be significantly shortened to fit into the 3 hour length of the special, this left earlier scenes of the special feeling a little rushed and choppy which I personally feel had a big impact on allowing actor performances to thrive and help make viewers become attached to these characters and it is a shame because apart from this the 1979 TV mini series is excellent.

For a low budget mini-series this is seriously well directed and its dark and gothic inspired imagery make for some really creepy and scary moments, you can tell a lot of care went into this entire production and while it does have its problems specifically with pacing which in turn affected actor performances over all what we did get was an almost perfect adaptation of that original book, yes it was heavily cut down but with good reasons and something I will explain in more detail when we discuss the book and also why a page for page adaptation just wouldn’t work too well on the screen.

up next in this journey through Salem’s Lot is the 1987 “Sequel” A Return to Salem’s Lot

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A Plague Tale: Requiem (2022) Review

A Plague Tale: Requiem is a survival horror/stealth game developed by Asobo Studios and is a sequel to 2019’s excellent Plague Tale: Innocence, the game released in 2022 for the PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC and a cloud based version for Nintendo Switch.

6 months after the events of Innocence the De Rune family and Lucas are still on the road living in a house provided by the Order, Hugo has had his macula under control but due to stress brought on by a recent conflict he loses control and the rats come back. This time the power of the macula is much worse than before, it is slowly taking over Hugo and becoming a major threat to not only France but could easily spread world wide if not destroyed. The family are sent on a boat to Marseille but soon split up when conflicting opinions on whether Hugo needs to die or not cause a rift between Amicia and her mother, in a desperate bid to find a cure for her brothers illness her and Hugo head to the Island of La Cuna looking for a cure to the Macula, this island had only ever been seen before in Hugo’s dreams but does it really hold all of the answers?

The gameplay here is very similar to the previous entry, Amecia and co will be needing to sneak their way through most of this journey, the most common enemies are soldiers and with her trusty sling shot Amecia is able to easily kill those without helmets, unlike the first game this entry actually encourages different styles of play including violence, opportunism and remaining unseen, opportunism was my favourite because I like to collect anything I see and did find myself using found materials in crafts and alchemy.

In the game you can craft various secondary abilities including fire, extinguisher, flammable tar, and odor to attract rats. I used extinquish the most to easily take out enemies with the rats while still remaining out of ear shot. Speaking of rats now that Hugo’s power is revealed we can control the creatures in the majority of times they appear, the rats will eat Amecia alive but Hugo can take control to send them to the enemy soldiers instead.

A new whipping mechanic was added, it only appears every now and again as a way to get Amecia out of a pile of rats and has very limited use, it helped me more than once but ultimately it took away from the games difficulty when compared to innocence.

The chapters are still on set linear paths but there is more room for trying different strategies with larger and more open areas that hide more than their fair share of herbarium collectibles (now including feathers) and the larger areas giving players the chance to build up the three different playing styles.

A new collectible here is the souvenirs, these are hidden secrets in chapters that will trigger special dialogue and cutscenes between characters.

Visually the game is gorgeous on PS5 and is a vast improvement when compared to Innocence, with the success of the previous game it seems a higher budget was used here to give us a more more visually inspiring experience and while the differences between the two games are only small Requiems small adjustments such as more realistic skin tones, clothing textures and giving the rats more believable fur really does make a massive difference.

Olivier Deriviere┬áreturns to commit to the composition once again, the soundtrack really is fantastic and remains dark and eerie and giving off a vibe of loss, in the first game loneliness was a key element to the story and the soundtrack helped to emphasise those feelings and here while this part of Amecia and Hugo’s journey sees a lot more allies and new friends a new type of loss is clear, being lost on what to do and losing loved ones is definitely key to the story telling, while the soundtrack barely differs in style to innocence its adaptability works well for the emotional story telling of the narrative and in many ways it has a bigger impact on this story because as players we have had enough time throughout the two games to get attached to these characters.

After finishing Innocence I could not wait to get my hands on Requiem to see the next part of Amecia and Hugo’s journey, the game did not disappoint but also gave me something I never expected, one part of this game made me emotional and even got me to shed tears, I wont spoil which part but I rarely cry at games so this was unexpected, I think its mostly due to the games writing and how they get the players to connect with these characters and only want to see the best outcome for them.

Requiem is a fantastic game and I recommend playing it providing you finish Innocence first due to this being the second part to that already very story driven game.

9/10

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Movie Games: ELF (2003)

Welcome the second edition of Movie Games a series where we look at a film and then its video game counterparts to not only discuss a games quality but how accurate of an adaptation it is.

In this Christmas episode I will be deep diving into the the 2003 comedy film ELF starring Will Ferrell, this movie only had one videogame adaptation releasing on the Nintendo Gameboy Advance the same year as the film.

First a Recap of the movie and I wont be shy on spoilers so be wary!

On Christmas Eve a baby from an orphanage crawls into Santa’s Sack and is taken to the North Pole, an older Elf agrees to raise the baby and 30 years later the now adult and much taller Buddy is struggling to fit in with the elves, he finds out he is a human and decides to travel to New York City to find his real father Walter Hobbs.

Buddy passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then walked through the Lincoln Tunnel.

Upon arrival in New York Buddy is searching everywhere for his Father, causing havoc along the way, eating discarded gum, running around evolving doors and jumping across zebra crossings.

He finds his father in the Empire state building but is soon thrown out after Security is called by Walter Hobbs himself, the security sarcastically suggests Buddy goes back to Gimbels.

Taking the request literally Buddy goes into the department store and is mistaken for an employee of Santa’s Village here he meets the friendly but unenthusiastic Jovie, Buddy is so excited for Santa coming to visit the store that he stays behind over night to decorate the store. The next morning Santa comes to the store but its an imposter, Buddy rips off his beard and a fight ensues, Buddy is arrested but bailed out by Walter Hobbs who takes him to a doctor for a DNA test which proves a positive match!

Walter reluctantly takes his Son home to meet his wife Emily and his other son Michael, Walter doesn’t warm up to Buddy as quickly as Emily does and wants to throw him out onto the streets but Emily insists that Buddy stays with them until he recovers from his fantasies.

Buddy soon becomes a friend of Michael after he defeats his school bullies in an epic snowball fight, the two mess around the Gimbles department store and bump into Jovie, Michael encourages Buddy to ask her out and she says yes, after the date goes really well Buddy runs to his dads works to tell him that he is in love not knowing that world renowned author Miles Finch is there.

Finch who is short in stature is mistaken for an Elf by Buddy and his extremely offended walking out on his deal with Walter, Walter in a rage tells buddy to stay out of his life, buddy leaves and writes a goodbye letter to his family, while making his way back through New York City he spots Santa’s Sleigh crashed at Central Park, the Sleigh runs on Christmas Spirit but it had finally ran out and Santa asks Buddy to help him get it back.

Meanwhile Walter is now in another meeting with the CEO of the company after he finds Miles Finches notebook which is full of ideas, Michael bursts in and emotionally convinces Walter to choose family over work losing his job in the process, Walter and Michael find buddy in Central Park, the two makeup and help Buddy with his mission, Walter dresses as Santa to try and divert the Park Rangers while Michael takes Santa’s list and reads it on live TV convincing viewers of Santa’s existence.

Jovie remembers when Buddy told her “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear” and begins singing Santa Claus is coming to town, the New Yorkers all join in and even Walter gets in on the action finally giving the sleigh enough power to fly again. In the finale we see Buddy spending Christmas with his family and the following year visiting his Papa Elf in the North Pole along with his Wife Jovie and their baby Susie, a truly happy ending.

The GBA videogame is a 2D platformer and for the most part it controls fine but the game is really bare bones when it comes to its gameplay, this is as generic as 2D platformers can get.

I will give some props to the game for adding various goals into some stages such as collecting all of Christmas Lights and the letters to spell NEWYORK.

Other stages are designed as either top down platformers or minigames, the worst of these stages is easily jumping across the Icebergs, this stage had really bad issues with landing, in most cases you would hit the water when you had definitely landed on the iceberg but because it wasn’t centred the game took that as a miss, the stage is very long and at some points the platforms you need land on are moving which makes it even worse.

Jumping is very floaty in the game in all platforming levels, the iceberg was definitely the worst offender but some other simple platforming such as jumping over the polar bears also proved to be needlessly difficult at times.

The minigame stages are all fine but very generic and extremely easy, examples of what to expect are the usual repeat the button presses, link up the pipes and hit the targets, minigame staples that we see in almost any game.

I’m not going to criticise the game on being generic as that’s almost expected from this, what I will criticise however is how lazy this adaptation actually is they use screenshots from the movie with no dialogue text to give players any idea on what is going on and to top this off the levels are not even accurate to movie.

Small errors such as the snowball fight including elves instead of school bullies,a lack of Walter Hobbs and his family (minus one screenshot at the end of the game) levels with plots including collecting Christmas lights, helping Santa deliver presents and a very small number of movie screenshots which no context make me wonder if this was released either before the movie or developed by a team who had no idea of the plot, needless to say its a pretty lame game and an even worse movie adaptation.

The soundtrack is awful we are only given some very simple audio loops or really bad chiptunes of Christmas songs just another another way to rush development and give the game even less originality.

This Christmas watch the movie but do yourself a favour and skip the GBA game!

2.7/10

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Book Review: The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien was first released in 1937 and was the first story in the Middle Earth series and acts as a prequel to the Lord of the Rings, it tells the story of Bilbo Baggins a hobbit who enjoys the simple things in life, sitting by the fire, reading books and smoking his pipe, one day Bilbo is visited by Gandalf the Wizard and a band of Dwarves who wants his help to steal a vast treasure from the Dragon Smaug who lives inside of the Lonely Mountain.

I think this book does a fantastic job at displaying character growth and change, this is especially prevalent with Bilbo Baggins who begins his journey as a hermit and a recluse, hiding away in his Hobbit hole and living a boring life ending the story as a Hero, someone who has experienced the outside world and now understands a greater value of themselves while still enjoying the simpler things in life.

The Dwarves minus the leader Thorin Oakenshield are mostly forgettable and struggled to maintain my interest, Thorin definitely has the most character development due to his tough nature and general grumpiness towards Mr Baggins, he is also a Dwarven King who is desperately trying to reclaim the Dwarven home in the Lonely Mountain.

Gandalf plays a small role in this story as a means to bring our band of heroes together, he comes and goes as goes offering small bits of advice to Thorin and company but overall does not stick around and takes a step back in comparison to his role in the later Lord of the Rings story. I think Gandalf’s absence here is actually to the books benefit for a few reasons, first of all he is far too powerful and while the orcs and goblins are a threat in this they would be no match for the more powerfully superior Gandalf the Grey.

The other reason is because his absence gives Bilbo more of a chance to become a hero by using his wits and quick thinking to solve problems in ways that are unique to his character. Gandalf is not only a very powerful magic caster but is also incredibly wise and intelligent so would already know the best ways to defeat enemies. Bilbo uses his quick thinking to trick the creature Gollum during his game of riddles not only saving his life but allowing him to keep the magic ring he found.

The main purpose of this story was too expand into the Lord of the Rings so Bilbo discovering the ruling ring is the most important and prevalent part of the book, here the ring does turn the wearer invisible but Middle Earth was still not fully imagined so Mount Doom, Sauron and the Nazgul were still very much absent at this point.

For as short as this book is coming in at only 304 pages Tolkien’s writing style allows for some decent world building without taking away from the main story, the descriptions are subtle but do the job in allowing readers to fully imagine how Tolkein had drafted the different areas such as Rivendell and the Mountain to be.

Some major differences worth noting between this book and the three motion picture adaptations are as follows

During the scene with the trolls in the movie Bilbo keeps them talking about how to cook the Dwarves before the sun turns them to stone but in the book it is actually Gandalf who tricks them by throwing his voice to sound like one of the other trolls.

In the book Bilbo gets his Elven blade sting from the Trolls cave where as in the movie it is first discovered by Gandalf.

Saruman and Galandriel are not mentioned in the book but do make appearances in the motion pictures.

Radagast the Brown is one of my favourite characters in the book but his role is vastly increased during the movies,

In the movies we get to see fan favourite character Legolas make a return, he is not mentioned in the book

Finally Azog the white Orc leader is not in the book but is part of Middle Earth lore being killed years before Bilbo’s Journey.

Other major differences are in connection with character deaths that I do not want to spoil here.

I have read the Hobbit three times and it I cannot wait to read it again, it is one of my favourite stories and holds a very important place in literary history, if your not a fan of reading I recommend listening to the story read by Andy Serkis (Voice and character actor for Gollum) he does a fantastic job and even commits to his iconic Gollum Voice!

This is one adventure you surely do not want to miss out on

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Arthur Christmas (2011) Review

From the minds of Aardman animations comes Arthur Christmas a computer animated film about the Christmas family who have forgotten the meaning of Santa.

When one childs gift from Santa is forgotten the youngest family member Arthur takes it upon himself to try and deliver it before sunrise against the wishes of his father Santa Claus and his older brother and head of operations Steve.

He is joined on his journey to Cornwall with his Grand Santa, an old reindeer and wrapping Elf Briony.

The story is very well written with each character having different ideas on what Santa should be and how the story is written does eventually bring them all together in the end, in a perfect moment concluding the mission they realise that only Arthur embodies the true spirit of Santa, its a really beautiful moment and the highlight of the movie.

The characters truly drive this movie and without such an iconic British voice cast I don’t think the film would have been able to portray such realism and emotion in the Claus family.

Steve voiced by Hugh Laurie is next in line to become Santa, he has taken a more modern approach to the holiday by creating the S1 a present delivering Spaceship with GPS and hyper speed, Steve is serious about order and making sure that everything goes to plan, he is somewhat of an antagonist in the film as he is clearly seen as superior to the rest of the family even by Santa himself, Steve wants to be Santa but he doesn’t understand the magic and sees it more as a job. Steve doesn’t want to bring back the missing present because he thinks it isn’t possible or important since all of the other presents got delivered anyway.

Santa Claus is played by Veteran actor Jim Broadbent who was perfect for this role he has a very naturally jolly and gentle voice so just playing himself was the best option and that’s what they went with and it works really well. Santa in this doesn’t want to retire event though his old age is beginning to affect his ability to do the job properly, he is getting forgetful and lets Steve make decisions for him even though technically he is the boss, even agreeing that Steve always knows best when Arthur tells him about the forgotten child.

The best character in the entire movie is definitely Grand Santa he is played by Bill Nighy who won an Annie award for his performance. Grand Santa is the last of the Santa’s to use the traditional method of sleigh and reindeer to deliver presents, he dislikes Steve’s new modern tech and goes along with Arthur only to prove that the old method still works and that he is capable of being Santa after he was put in early retirement for nearly triggering World War 3 .

Arthur voiced by James Mc avoy is the glue that holds the family together, he works in the letters department replying to all of the letters written to Santa, Arthur was the first person to communicate with Gwen who asks for a bicycle, Gwen soon becomes the forgotten child and Arthur knows that if the present isn’t delivered she will no longer believe and will lose out on the magic of Christmas. Arthurs selfless act to deliver the present eventually does bring all of the characters together and fixes the holes in the Claus Family.

Other characters worth mentioning are Mrs Claus (Imelda Staunton) and Bryony Shelfley (Ashley Jenson) Mrs Claus is desperate for Santa to retire so they can spend their last years together and Bryony Shelfey is the Elf who originally finds the forgotten gift, she tags along with Arthur and Grand Santa to make sure it is delivered in time for Christmas morning.

For only their second attempt at a CGI film following on from Flushed Away visually the film still manages to capture all of the charm and simplicity of the character and set designs.

I think what makes the film so special is its portrayal of a family who has lost its connection due to work, in this movie Christmas has become a dividing point for the Claus family, there are arguments for how the job should be done that has managed to cause a massive drift apart between the family members and this is something that isn’t repaired until the finale thanks to Arthur.

In the real world work can take over many peoples lives and can cause neglect, stress and general anxiety and depressions for a lot of families, while this element is very light in this film it was still nice to see this being portrayed in a family film.

Arthur Christmas is one of my absolute favourite Christmas movies of all time it is tons of fun to watch and filled to the brim with classic Aardman British Humour, it has charming animations, an iconic cast and is overall a film to put on every year.

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