Wednesday 30 January 2013


A bunch of guys called Western Fictioneers came together with this Yuletide feast of short stories. But these creepy tales are not just for Christmas but for all seasons.

Whoever did the edit for this anthology has to be praised for this collection as they have got together with some great writers. There is Robert Randisi (aka J R Roberts of 'The Gunsmith' series fame) riding alongside James Reasoner, Chuck Tyrell, Matthew P. Mayo and James J Griffin with many others.
They bring a wild bunch of tales that sees a sheriff dressed as Santa take on a gang of bank robbers with the help of an unseen companion. A story that is told with great wit.
'Angel In The Badlands' has a really good finishing line. Meanwhile, a back story to the Johnson County War has a killer suffering the consequences of shooting the head off of a china doll.
And in Cheryl Pierson's story (she is one of three females writers here) she brings back to life the Arthurian legends with Arthur, Ginny and Lance facing off in the west.

Good stuff - I loved all fifteen tales.

Monday 28 January 2013


To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the 1972 release of Deep Purple's 'Machine Head' Eagle Rock Entertainment produced this tribute album in September 2012.

This album, as can be seen from the cover, is a real who's who of metal and includes Def Leppard's vocalist Joe Elliott and Guns n Roses Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum.

The opening track 'Smoke On The Water' comes from Papa Roach's vocalist Jacoby Saddix teaming up with Carlos Santana. The album also has a second version, a different take, by The Flaming Lips.
'Space Truckin'' is in excellant hands of Iron Maiden while Metallica fires up with 'When A Blind Man Cries'.

This album is an excellent tribute to one of the great bands of its time - one that has lasted over the decades.

Track Listing:
1. Smoke On The Water - Carlos Santana and Jacoby Saddix
2. Highway Star - Chickenfoot
3. Maybe I'm A Leo - Glenn Hughes and Chad Smith
4. Pictures Of Home - Black Label Society
5. Never Before - Kings Of Chaos /Joe Elliott, Steve Stevens, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum.
6. Smoke On The Water - The Flaming Lips
7. Lazy - Jimmy Barnes and Joe Bonamassa
8. Space Truckin' - Iron Maiden
9. When A Blind Man Cries - Metallica
10. Highway Star - Glenn Hughes, Steve Vai and Chad Smith

Wednesday 23 January 2013

THE SWEENEY - 2012 dvd

This movie is based on an old British tv series 'The Sweeney' which starred John Thaw as Jack Regan and Dennis Waterman as George Carter. In this movie which revolves around the hunt for a bunch of Serbian jewellry and bank robbers. The script is rather basic and the lines between police and criminals are blurred. Though it has to be said that the set pieces were well staged if predictable. Exception to the rule was the shootout in Trafalgar Square and through the National Gallery - no masterpieces were damaged in the making of this film - handguns vs assault rifles left me wondering. The way that Regan and Carter worked back in the Seventies was well bonded - the only bonding I saw was between Regan and Lewis which made me wonder if the writers had mistaken Regan for Morse. Having said that Regan and Nancy Lewis did work well together in much the same way as the original duo. I did like Ray Winstone's 'Jack Regan' but disappointed at Steven Mackintosh being typecast as Nancy Lewis's cuckolded husband and typical jobsworth. He is much better than that. Maybe, I would have enjoyed the movie more had it not had 'The Sweeney' tag - as a straight British cops vs robbers - but this may be not for the die hard fan.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

BLACK OPS 2: Thoughts On Games

So the countdown begins towards the first downloadable set of maps that become available on 29th January.
So far the multiplayer maps have looked good, the graphics are that touch better than Modern Warfare 3. So, no complaints there.
However, and it may be happenstance or just plain coincidence that this month's issue of 'XBOX 360 - The Official XBox Magazine or OXM, is carrying a review of the online gameplay. The verdict of the unnamed author is that, with a score of 9, that it was a highly refined return to form.
It makes me wonder - but then he states that he plays 'Domination' and that no one plays 'Team Deathmatch'. Right OK, then I don't know what or with whom I am playing.

I am of the opinion that the writer was doing nothing more than a PR job for the game. There is no mention, in the article, of the countless complaints on Facebook and various forums about the gliches, lagging, migrating hosts and error messages that are still existing.

But, then again, this is a magazine where the letters editor, in response to a request about 'Dead Island', stated that if OXM had been aware of a Load/Save problem they would have mentioned it. A few pages on in an article about some of the best games around they still gave 'Dead Island'a score of 9 'despite the Load/Save' problems.

So why buy the magazine? Because it is a good indicator of what games not to buy. Games like 'Deus Ex' and 'Dead Island' were rated by them - within a week of release those games were taking up space on the pre-owned shelves.
Still, one of the good things about Blockbuster is/was a good place to rent a game. At least I could try it out before buying.
Little wonder really why there is a lack of 'demo' games out there - maybe, if there were we would buy less and manufacturers would up their game and produce something that works first time without applying endless updates and patches - some of which make matters worse.

Wednesday 16 January 2013


Back in the day one of the biggest fictional icons was 007 James Bond. Bond was created by Ian Fleming who, during World War Two, came up with the idea of a decoy known as 'the man who never was' and the snatch and grab raiders known as 30 Commando.

Not only was Bond the subject of several novels but also depicted in a comic strip in the Daily Express. He was described as the man every man wanted to be and every woman wanted between the sheets (funny that the backs of the Jack Reacher novels carry the same sort of catchphrase).

Anyway they decided to make a Bond movie - originally it was going to be 'Thunderball' but it was 'Dr.No' instead. Whichever way this series started half way through the novels.

The chosen James Bond was an actor called Sean Connery. The last time I had seen Sean Connery was in a movie 'The Frightened City' where he hurled the villain Herbert Lom into the spiked boss of a shield.
To me, Connery was James Bond and the best one. Somehow he matched how I imagined Bond to be and he improved from film to film. However, Bond did a Dr.Who and regenerated into Roger Moore and he is th only Bond that I have a problem with.

While James Bond was a strip in the Daily Express; so the Evening Standard was running Peter O'Donnell's 'Modesty Blaise'. Modesty, too, was turned into a movie with Monica Vitti and Terence Stamp as her sidekick, Willie Garvin. As with the 'Thunderball' script so too was O'Donnell's script dumped with the result that the 'Modesty Blaise' movie was more of a spoof than anything else. While Terence Stamp was Willie Garvin, so Monica Vitta, a blonde, was no Modesty. Modesty Blaise was dark haired and resembled to a degree Samantha Egger. Both Samantha Egger and Terence Stamp had impressed in the film version of John Fowles novel 'The Collector' that they just seemed natural to play the leads in 'Modesty Blaise'.
Even a second attempt in 'A Girl Called Modesty' failed to make an impression.

So when it was announced that Lee Child's novel 'One Shot' was to be filmed I was quite excited. Though, again, perplexed that the first Jack Reacher film started in the middle of the series. So, who would play Reacher - I had no preconceived ideas but expected that it would be either Russell Crowe or Hugh Jackman. Jack Reacher is 6'4" tall and built like a brick ****house and not the sort of guy that even The Incredible Hulk would want to get on the wrong side of.
The choice was well understandably 'box office' - Tom Cruise.
Although, I enjoyed the film of 'Reacher' I could not help but think that this was a Reacher story with Agent Ethan Hunt (Mission Impossible movies) substituted for Reacher - in the same way that I saw The Saint replace Bond in 'Live And Let Die'.

Maybe, I'm just a purist but casting is important. Die hard fans (and Die Hard wouldn't be without Bruce Willis) of Jack Reacher can't all be wrong

Saturday 12 January 2013


Main Characters: John (John Wayne) Tom (Dean Martin) Matt (Earl Holliman) Bud (Michael Anderson jnr) Morgan Hastings (James Gregory) Dave Hastings (Dennis Hopper) Curley (George Kennedy) The opening credits has a train heading towards a station where three of the Elder brothers are waitng for the fourth brother John to arrive. And the soundtrack theme by Elmer Bernstein tries hard not to sound Magnificent Sevenish. The only person to get off the train is Curley - dressed in black. Still John, a known gunfighter, turns up for the funeral of his mother but hides in the rocks above and observes. The main story, set in 1898, has a side issue to the central tale of greed by Morgan Hastings (it doesn't take long to suss out that this is the guy who shot the brothers' father Bass Elder in the back and robbed Katie Elder of her ranch with the claim that Bass had lost the farm to Hastings in a card game). The west of the time was changing and expansion was on the cards. Hastings owns a gun store but has eyes on a get rich scheme and, indeed, there were those of similar ilk in real life. Katie Elder is a respected character - the loss of the ranch had left her in poverty but she had the ability to provide for herself. Most of all she was proud of her sons who she loved with a passion - though, in truth, they neglected her. But Katie was determined to see that one of them, Bud, got a college education and make good. Of the other three sons John is the gunfighter, Tom is a gambler wanted for a murder in New Orleans and Matt is a failed mercantile shopkeeper (and the only brother to get killed). As the brothers delve into why their parents lost their ranch so Hastings begins to panic. He arranges for the Sheriff (Paul Fix) to get a copy of the Wanted notice on Tom and when he goes out to make the arrest Hastings shoots him in the back. The Elder brothers are arrested and transported to Laredo. On the way they are ambushed by Hastings and Curley. At this point Curley and Matt Elder are killed and Bud wounded. The three remaining brothers return to town and hole up in the blacksmith's shop. Tom manages to kidnap Hastings' son, Dave, and Hastings kills his own son but does not prevent him from confessing to the Judge (the temporary law) about his father's guilt. Cue the final shoot out. On the whole there was a lot going on that just a superficial western - John Wayne played to type wearing the same clothes that he wore in most of his westerns. Still, he was a western icon and, until Clint Eastwood came along, stood tall above the likes of Randolph Scott and Audie Murphy. The only time that the film jarred with me was the fact that the wagon drivers taking the the Elders and their escort to Laredo were all in Morgan Hastings pay. The intention was to say that the convoy had been attacked by the 'Elder Gang' and that the brothers had escaped. Flaw there is if that had been the case then those drivers would have been the first target. A minor point. Still, I enjoyed this movie directed by Henry Hathaway and worth a visit. In a world driven by explosive gunplay and action it is nice to just sit back a watch how the west was once envisaged. It is said that the movie has a basis in the true 1888 story of the Marlow brothers.

Thursday 10 January 2013


While the story campaign is ok as it spans two eras - 1980s and 2025 - with different kinds of weaponry that shows good technological imagination. The star of the show though are the excellent graphics that are three dimensional. However, the game isn't the problem its the multiplayer side that is. It doesn't matter where you go - playfire, xbox live or even the Black Ops 2 facebook page - the complaints are all the same. These concern the lag, the jerky pictures, consistent error message like 'the game is no longer available' and 'the server has timed out' (whatever that means). In the middle of all this the team from the developers, Treyarch, announced that they were coming online to play. Well, it could be assumed that they would see for themselves what everyone was complaining about. Believe it or not I, for one, did not experience any problems. Come Monday it was business as usual and the complaints still roll in. I guess it can be understood why the attitude amongst gamers is that the developers have got their money and are not listening. After all if they didn't encounter problems why should they pay any attention. So all in all the story mode and the zombie campaigns are fine - and multiplayer just doesn't work. With four new maps coming out on January 29 on the Xbox 360 (and during February if you own a PS3) problems need to be ironed out. That, in turn, begs the question why do PS3 owners get left behind - like the multiplayer there doesn't appear to be a level playing field between consoles let alone continents. Among all the stats on the Facebook page is the fact that 14 million people have prestiged while playing on line - some of them making Master Prestige. You don't acheive anything for this - just lose everything that the player has spent time unlocking. A bit pointless, then. The other big complaint is about 'campers'. I agree there are those who set up a tent and sit around admiring the scenery and popping off those that spoil the view. On the other hand there are those who are deploying their 'character' and 'load out' in a tactical manner. No point in using a sniper rifle to run around with. A good 'sniper' will camp, break line of vision with target, take out target or targets and move. (A good lesson to learn via Battlefield 3 and Medal Of Honour:Warfighter). Pitfall here is that if your sniper loadout includes stealth attributes then this is a waste of time because the KillCam will give your position away anyway. Unfortunately, the developers do not give the right cover (ie:bushes are solid and not flexible like the real thing - though the 'Vortex' map on Modern Warfare 3 was excellent). Also, they deal with straight lines - no allowance for bullet drop or wind direction. Also, each map requires a different approach and loadout anyway - but its fun to sit back and watch your team mates and the opposition run at each other. They might have a high kill rate but they, also, have a high death rate. So value for money? Not really - stick to Call Of Duty:Modern Warfare 3 where there are no problems. Or try the superior Battlefield 3.