Nine years ago, Robert Rodriguez's Sin City hit theatres, heralding a new era for comic book films due to its unique visual design and darker, true-to-comic content. But my how things have changed since then. Just think, now we’ve got a vast library of Marvel films, an immensely successful Batman trilogy and a handful of highly entertaining adaptations (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Kick-Ass, RED etc) under our belts. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is not only an excruciating experience to endure but harbours some deeply disturbing traits. 

The story is separated into three sub-plots which kind of overlap and weave through one another. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about any of the stories: they are simple variations on one revenge trope or another. Eva Green plays the titular ‘dame to kill for’ Ava, who entraps Dwight (Josh Brolin) in a plot to kill her husband, which leads to Dwight engaging the services of heavy hitter Marv (Mickey Rourke) when things start looking a little hairy. At the same time, Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is exercising his daddy-issue demons by playing high stakes poker against his deplorable father, Senator Roarke (Powers Boothe). And finally there’s stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold Nancy (Jessica Alba), who hates the Senator for past sins and blah blah blah all very generic and boring. Sorry, but when the story is so paint-by-numbers simple it’s really not worth going through.

In yet another poor offering, serious questions should now be asked about Rodriguez's relevance as a director. There's been a rather steady decline in his work for the past few years. His uber-cheap, indie-slapdash approach echoes a certain charm, yet sadly that echo is getting awfully faint and boringly predictable. His over-reliance on ultra violence is more cartoonish than I'm guessing he's intending it to be. Rodriguez supporters over the years have claimed that a subtle social commentary underpins his work, but that commentary is now undetectable. His style is at best a day late and a buck short. I'll happily steer clear of future films with his name attached.

Like the river of slime in Ghostbusters 2, this film has an appalling amount of misogyny-fuelled aggression towards women, constantly flowing just beneath its surface, masquerading as a homage to film noir. This films relishes violence against women like a maladjusted child pulling the wings off a fly. In this messed up corner of the world, apparently women can only be whores, strippers or devious vixens out to con every man in sight. This is sending out a very poor message to the film’s target audience, which I'm guessing will be males aged seventeen to thirty: precisely the age bracket that can help change misogynistic attitudes in pop culture and society in general. Sure, the women get their moments to shine in this film, but they have to do it clad in either ridiculous S & M inspired costuming or stark naked. The treatment of the female characters is so offensive it’s almost laughable.

It’s time for Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez to sit down and watch The Hunger Games or revisit Alien and wake up to the fact that women have bucket loads to offer when it comes to playing characters who are required to kick ass and take names. Please don’t waste your time with this film. The quicker this comes and goes, the better off we’ll all be.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is in theatres now, if you see the film and agree or disagree with my thoughts, feel free to drop a line below.

- Stu

Having previously glowingly reviewed Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys, Pluto, and the anime adaptation of Monster, it should come as no surprise that the manga series that preceded those previously mentioned series is another absolute masterpiece. Honestly, I had to head to the superlative store just in case I ran out during this review. In short, don't bother reading this review unless you're in the mood for some unbridled gushing, just go buy this title instead.

On of the worlds greatest surgeons, Dr Kenzo Tenma, is faced with tough decisions every day, decisions that can literally mean the difference between life and death. The pinnacle of  morality, Dr Tenma finds himself seemingly responsible for countless deaths after unknowingly creating a monster the likes of which he has never experienced.

Suspense is the name of the game and Naoki Urasawa is a star player. This MVP manages to make the titular "monster" seem to be something greater than simply a bad guy. Like with real life murderers such as The Red Ripper, Citizen O and La Bestia, the villain in this series is more monster than man and although there is no hint of anything supernatural, Urasawa manages to weave a web which is so chilling that it comes across to be ghostly. This intricately woven web introduces a wide range of characters who all seem well established even if they only last a short while before being dispatched.

Displaying Urasawa's trademark "cartoony yet semi-realistic" (a term of my own creation, shocking I know) artistic style, he manages to make the aforementioned large cast of characters all appear to be distinct from one another, not only physically but in personality as well. A facial expression here and distinctive body language there all go towards creating a world which appears to be as organic and individual as our own. Urasawa takes a slightly different tact than many other manga creators when dealing with Western characters. Instead of just focusing on fair hair and big noses, he creates characters which are somewhat more subtle in appearance, focusing instead on the shape and proportions of noses, faces and eyes.
Suspense prospers when surrounded by quality characters and the build up of suspense begins to pay off immediately instead of waiting for any form of resolution. Dr Tenma, the main protagonist in this story, is a great man in so many ways. His abilities with a scalpel are coupled with an altruistic personality which makes him immediately likable. While he may be a little bit impressionable when it comes to matters of a professional nature, his true sense of self is eventually revealed, and deconstructed, in what is an at times harrowing ordeal. What happens to this truly great man matters. While this may seem as though the often touted "Master of Suspense" may have jumped the gun, but that statement could not be farther from the truth. Instead, Urasawa consistently feeds the reader with information which both teases and satiates interest. Instead of waiting for one all encompassing finale, which is no doubt coming, Monster Volume 1 continually delights while still maintaining an incredible level of mystery and intrigue.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Naoki Urasawa is the greatest living manga creator and an absolute treasure of the art form. Extending beyond the manga realm, he is a master of story telling in general and of the three stories of his that I have read (Monster, Pluto and 20th Century Boys), I have in no way been disappointed. Needless to say, I'm extremely excited for Viz's December release of Master Keaton by Hokusei Katsushika, Takashi Nagasaki and the master himself.

- Ryan
Monster: The Perfect Edition Volume 1 is available from Madman now.
I'll be honest, I'm not huge on getting video games as soon as their boxes grace the New Release shelf. Rare is the instance in which $90 nets me a disc that gives the playtime, graphics, gameplay and story that could justify costing the same as around half the Attack on Titan manga volumes that exist right now.

The most recent example of New Releases letting me down was Watch_Dogs. Hype, price and a distinct lack of creativity and innovation condemned it as nothing more than a pleasant distraction; maybe worth $20 or $30, but anything more and it'd better at least come with a hip-flask full of my favourite whiskey.

So rather than hang onto an uninspired sandbox I probably wouldn't play again until Christmas holidays (if then), I traded Watch_Dogs in for that new Destiny thing those Bungie guys released. Lemme tell ya, irrespective of the trade-in off-setting the price a little, Destiny would still be infinitely more worthy of gameplay even without the hip-flask.

Click to enlarge
Plot is fairly simplistic - you're a Guardian for the last human city in the whole of ever, fighting against three alien enemies who all fall under the aegis of something called The Darkness (ominous!). You have to slap, shoot, speed past, skewer and splatter on the ground the various agents of The Darkness (very ominous!) and also kill your fellow players in the blood-soaked Crucible multiplayer mode, all the while levelling up a character who will eventually become so overpowered you're kinda given to wonder how The Darkness (still ominous!) ever managed to survive this long in the first place.

Full disclosure for those looking towards an interesting story or engaging plot: you will not find either here. That's not to say either element Destiny offers is bad, far from it, but this is less geared towards the Mass Effect or Fallout realms of getting us engaged with character development and story arcs than it is more in the XCOM and early-days Halo universes of mostly getting by through setting and things you do about town. There's very little to orientate new players besides a few perfunctory statements rattled off occasionally by 343 Guilty Spark your Ghost robotic companion, voiced by Peter Dinklage.

But there's a reason for the lack of narrative depth as opposed to the grand scale of Destiny's world-building. It's because the game is shooting for a significantly more MMO-directed audience that almost seems to want to do World of Warcraft but better and with guns. There are missions for soloists and fireteams, there's PVP and Horde-based "survive an onslaught" game modes, tons of vendor trash to be flogged from your groaningly-full inventory and a pair of factions to join just to bifurcate players a little bit more. The story missions themselves almost take second place to the social experience Destiny provides, which is good only insofar as you're willing to entertain it.

Thankfully, I was. At time of writing I've clocked probably two dozen or so hours since release day, taking turns to do things by myself and things by myself with people occasionally pretending to help. The gameplay is fairly unchanged from Halo's simple run/gun/reload control scheme, and the addition of (in my character's case) magic powers to the FPS repertoire kept things quite fast and more awesome. The world maps and main hub area for players are all quite expansive and pretty; it's nice to see Bungie adopting a bit more of a non-linear approach to how the single-player pans out compared to Halo's guided tour setpieces. Sure, you could go follow that mission marker on Mars or Venus to an objective to keep the story going, or you can diverge off the beaten path, accidentally run into an enemy sixteen levels higher than you and enjoy your new life as a raspberry jam imitator.

It's also great the way Bungie have put in some little social touches to things like waving to other players. Rather than just the vestigial bowing to another player who's just kicked your ass and looks likely to be back for seconds once he washes the blood off his boots, you can actually start dance parties. Dance parties. The fate of the human race is at stake as The Darkness (much ominous!) moves to consume the Earth, and you have the option to make your character dance a merry jig on the spot. Oh, and you can also play soccer, with a real soccer ball. Yep. Those are things you can do.

Destiny's approach to RPG elements is quite streamlined and, I imagine, easily accessible for people unlike me who aren't used to tracking fifty different stats and equipping a plethora of buffs to keep laissez-faire approach to how MMOs usually work. There's some customisation to be had but it's a lot more open for people not keen on lots of confusing numbers. It's also entirely possibly to knuckle through the game with any arrangement of class, weapon or favourite brand of Earl Grey without having the challenge be too overwhelming if you picked the "wrong" playstyle. I like that it's a group experience that emphasises a much more laidback, almost casual approach to gameplay - that's not to say it's for casual gamers specifically, but it's certainly a much more accessible affair to handle when compared to its complex for-veterans-only counterparts of things like World of Warcraft or Fallout.

But by that same token, those who are looking for something complex and incredibly challenging may be disappointed. Destiny's been hyped from day one as 2014's biggest impending game release and also possibly the cure to three separate Ebola strains, and while it doesn't fail to meet expectations the same way Watch_Dogs utterly did it might still leave those hoping for a deep gaming experience a bit wanting. This is less a reinvention of the wheel than it is a pretty manufacturing of a wheel with some nice tyre treads and a reliably bitchin' car to stick it to, and if all you want is a reliably bitchin' car to do the groceries in then you could certainly do much worse.

I don't regret buying Destiny, and I foresee many whittled-away nights and weekends spent on the Moon blasting The Darkness (still very ominous!) and my fellow men for a good while yet. It's fun, has a great look and some serviceable gameplay alongside a multiplayer experience that's a refreshing change from the dude-bro exclusivities of Call of Duty and Battlefield or the mother-themed epithets of League of Legends and DotA. If you've got a hankering for some story-lite space opera with the ability to start a random dance flashmob during a soccer game at the top of a space tower, you could certainly do worse than Destiny.

- Chris

Last weekend I had a chance to interview Curt Pires about his new mini series POP, which has just started from Dark horse Comics. We talked about the creation of series, the team involved and little about what's to come next. Enjoy.

Billy Tournas: Hi Curt, thanks for taking the time out for this interview. In POP you take a quite dark look at the world of manufactured popularity, and the idea of pop culture being made for people. What drew you to this idea and made you write POP?

Curt Pires: I've always been intrigued with and find myself analyzing the systems that govern our reality the frameworks that envelop our existence, and it was always there staring me in the fucking face, when I turned on the TV. Men and women crying and begging for their 15 seconds to Paula Abdul and that other guy. I flick the channel, Britney Spears, selling some other product, stepping into the bathroom, piss on her feet she’s not wearing shoes. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s everywhere, and I couldn't seem to ignore it or make it go away, so I processed it the only way I knew how: I wrote about it.

This is third comic project of yours which has had some connection to music, with your other works called “LP” and “Theremin”. Did you always plan to do a third music book? Was the genesis of these the works around the same time? If so how much did they change moving from project to project?

It sort of occurred organically, I wasn’t beholden to the idea of creating a third music book just to state that I hate created one, but it was something that sort of just forced itself into existence.  Had the idea for POP, the very first kernel of the idea, around the time Ramon and I put out LP, so yeah. Everything is always really evolving, even as I write, things are changing, stories are shaping, it’s the way it works.

In the first issue of POP we meet the two lead characters, Coop and Elle. How did the creation of these two come about? How do you see them as individuals and what are their strengths and weakness going into the rest of the series?

I think to sort of define their strengths and weaknesses in this sort of manner really undermines one of the key points of the series: humanity. They’re both trying to rediscover what their “humanity” is, warts and all. None of us are perfect, and that’s part of the process.

One surprise enjoyment I had with the first issue was the two as yet unnamed boyfriend/girlfriend enforcer characters. They looked like they were modelled on Joey Ramone and Joan Jett, another thing I enjoyed. They very much felt like a polar opposite of what a “pop star” would be and more punkish, was that on purpose?

Again another element of the universe shaping the story, but I suppose Jason and myself did want them to look rougher, more fucking minimalist.  Sex Pistols. Antipop. They’re forces of antipop. Negative charges smashing against the positive. Their names are actually Boyfriend and Girlfriend by the way. Where we’re going we don’t need first names.

This entire series based on the first issue alone feels like a labour of love. That’s a testament to the entire team of talent you have involved in this project. Can you tell me how you brought them together and what they each bring to the table other than their work?

Jason Copland: I met and hung out with Jason at a couple cons. He bought 'LP' from me in Toronto

Pete Toms: friends with Pete through twitter/internet. He’s a genius cartoonist, we talked about working together on something but it never worked out, so when we we’re looking for a colorist I brought him on board. I loved his work on Sacrifice, loved his work on Colonial Souls (they yet unreleased Nolan Jones/Andrew Maclean jam) and knew he could do it.
like the first week it was out, and read it and asked me what drugs I was on when I made this. I laughed. Kept running into each other and decided to work on something. Something became POP.

Ryan Ferrier: He’s one of my best friends. Letters all my stuff. It was my first time playing to a sold out audience and I needed to have him in my corner making my dialogue, making the captions sing.

Dylan Todd: Again a brilliant artist. I knew I wanted the book to be an “art object” on every level so naturally design is a big part of this. I knew Dylan was plugged into the essence of pop culture in a very pure way, and knew he could lead us to where we wanted to go.

Looking at all the covers for the series, I noticed that Issue #1 is the only that has the barcode in different place covering Elle’s mouth. I’m assuming this was a conscious decision based upon her nature as a product?

Yep, exactly. 

The back page of issue #1 has a Triangle with an eye in it, and what seems to me like lyrics of a song. Is this to bring home the Elle’s creators are an Illuminati-sequel organisation, and are these lyrics for a song she was potentially meant to have?

No, it’s actually a poem I wrote. It’s just meant to exist as a poem, that can sort of contain the ideas for the entire series and set out an energy for the book. It’s actually my favorite part of the first issue. Writing it cut me open and made me feel alive in a very real way.

I listened to Billy Idol’s ‘Rebel Yell’ album whilst reading Issue #1, given the title is taken from a track off said Album. Do you have a suggestion on an album everyone should listen to with each other issue?

I think listening to the albums the tracks are from is an interesting idea for sure. I’m actually making Spotify albums for each issue, so I’d probably recommend that. Here’s a link to Issue One

I always ask this question to every creator I interview. Do you have any advice for creators starting out?

Make the comic only you can make. Make the comic that will eat you up inside if you don’t make it. There’s lots of advice out there, “how to guides”, script critiques--it’s bullshit. Just make art that feels fucking real to you, and the universe will notice.

Finally can you tease our readers with a little bit about what’s coming up for the rest of the series?

DMT, riding the waves of a four dimensional experience, car chase, snuff film, scooter, the programming, gun shots, the children awaken.

Thank you very much for chatting with me, Curt


POP #2 will be on sale September 24th. You can find it and the previous issues digitally from the Dark Horse website, or from your local Comic Book store. 

Theremin, can be found at Monkey Brain comics here

Curt Pires can be located on Twitter and his Blog
Jason Copland can be located on Twitter and his Site
Pete Toms can be located on Twitter and his Site
Ryan Ferrier can be located on Twitter and his Blog
Dylan Todd can be located on Twitter and his Site
This is it. The final installment of the 4 year long feature film / OVA foray back into the Gundam UC universe. Gundam Unicorn volume 7 neatly wraps up all of the loose ends and plot points that have been introduced over the previous 6 volumes and if you’ve been following the series yourself, you’ll know that there was plenty to put to bed.

Laplace’s Box, that mysteriously powerful something has been located and revealed and takes us back to where it all began. Banagher is hot on the heels of Full Frontal winding up back at Industrial 7 but before his final battle, Banagher must first get through the Rozen Zulu and Banshee Norn. 

Needless to say, this series could not successfully be resolved without a massive amount of action and action we get. Instead of slicing through nameless, faceless automatons, Banagher and the Unicorn face off against  Angelo and Riddhe, two extremely capable pilots in two extremely powerful mobile suits. What eventuates is a high stakes sequence of beautifully realised action. Animation studio Sunrise have used every bit of their feature film equivalent budget to create some of the most glorious, razor sharp and frenetic animation that you’re likely to see. Gundam 00 looked fantastic but there’s no denying that Unicorn is the absolute best looking addition to the series yet. The mech designs are also up there and completely memorable. Even the cynic in me who thinks that the Gundam franchise is heavily influenced but Gunpla sales is satiated and filled with desire to build my very own Sinanju.

This series was initially slated to be a 6 part series but was thankfully extended to 7 parts. With so much industrial and political intrigue still unfurling into this 7th volume, there is no way, without seriously compromising the pacing of the story, that it could have been wrapped up in 6 parts. When it does get wrapped up, however, the finale has one of the best pay offs I can remember with some crazy twists and characters still developing even late into the game.

When speaking of character development, it’s unfortunate that Banagher in particular comes across as being so one dimensional with the only string to his bow being his staunch anti-war stance. Surrounding characters, however, manage to shine where Banagher doesn’t.  Bright Noa, Londo Bell and “Char” are all far more interesting with the latter being far less “evil” than first thought while still maintain a desire to conquer. 

Questions over morality and good vs evil are introduced, particularly with the unveiling of Laplace’s Box and the way in which it could truly destroy a nation. Without ruining any surprises, the true contents of Laplace’s Box is so satisfying and befitting of this wonderfully thought provoking series. If all series utilised plot points as deftly we’d be surrounded by masterpiece’.

While many first time Gundam viewers may be lost along the way (even I found it hard to keep up at times), this is a must watch for already established Gundam fans and a great introduction to the universe for the unacquainted. Offering far more than the usual child soldier in a robot schtick, Gundam Unicorn is richly populated, evocative and brilliantly animated, and also has a stunning soundtrack by my new favourite composer, Hiroyuki Sawano. Gundam Unicorn has reinvigorated my love for the franchise and has me hopeful for even more localisations in the near future.

- Ryan

Gundam Unicorn Volumes 1-7 are available on DVD now from Madman.

Thanks to the fine folks at Paramount, I got a chance to sit down for a few minutes with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller. Both super nice guys who were happy to provide some insight into what goes on behind the scenes of such a massive blockbuster. You can also check out my review for the film right here.

- Stu

Mention the term ‘reboot’ in some quieter circles of the internet and you’re liable for a pasting. The slightest hint that an older story is being retold causes people to lose their freaking minds. Mild mannered 30-somethings start proclaiming that their childhoods are being violated as if under an attack from a Viking horde, which of course is utter nonsense. So … Director Jonathan Liebesman has remade Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and guess what?! It’s actually a fun action film, possibly even better than the 1990 version and, judging by the screaming nine year olds who were in my cinema, the only audience that matters seem to agree. This may not be the definitive Ninja Turtles experience, but it’s far from the worst thing that has had the Turtles name slapped on it over the years.

So New York City is under threat from the evil Foot Clan, a gang of ragamuffins who are running amuck, untouched by authorities. Luckily, the dogged April O’Neil (Megan Fox) is hot on their heels, in search of the big news story that will finally make her a legitimate reporter. One fateful evening, Ms O'Neil witnesses the Foot Clan in action and the efforts of four vigilantes who are prepared to fight back on behalf of the city. This leads April to discover who the vigilantes are and uncover secrets about her own past. The vigilantes are four ninja Turtles who, whilst young and brash, must unite for their greater challenge in the form of an old foe returning to wreak havoc on the city: the infamous Shredder.

This film has a tonne of issues which I could easily needle away at. For instance, the story is paint-by-numbers, the graphics are choppy and it all felt a tad rushed, but despite these flaws it still won me over. This may have been because my expectations were set so low and possibly because I’ve had zero to do with the franchise for the past fifteen years. But maybe that’s the trick when it comes to these major releases; maybe we all need to just stop being so nostalgically invested and we’ll possibly enjoy ourselves again. It’s a move for kids. Teenage. Mutant. Ninja. Turtles. Read that ridiculous series of adjectives back again. If you’re looking for character depth and plot development from the kids genre, I suggest it’s time you pick up a book or think about graduating to a different kind of cinema. As a superhero film, it’s on par with Sam Raimi’s Spiderman: not exactly ground-breaking but it gets the job done.

In terms of the performances, the biggest shock coming out of this film was Megan Fox as April O’Neil, who up until this point in her career has only ever been paraded about in skimpy clothes, leaning suggestively over things. She’s not going to steal any roles from Meryl Streep any time soon, but she did well given the material. Will Arnett plays Vernon Fenwick, who is essentially April O’Neil’s sidekick and is around primarily for comic relief, and a half-baked plotline of him having a crush on O’Neil. William Fichtner, as Eric Sacks, turns in yet another solid showing. The man has an uncanny ability to bring gravitas to even the most silly of situations; just the kind of performance this role was crying out for. The Turtles themselves are voiced by Johnny Knoxville (Leonardo), Alan Ritchson (Raphael), Jeremy Howard (Donatello) and Noel Fisher (Michelangelo). Whilst they are distinct from one another, there isn’t a lot for either performer to do and honestly they get lost in all the CGI wizardry.

This film may not be every fan’s cup of tea, but it does at least capture the spirit of adventure that makes the Ninja Turtles such an endearing franchise. Whilst I wish that studios could make films which both capture the hearts of fresh young audiences as well as gratify the cynical peter-pan fanboys, the reality is it’s difficult to satisfy both camps. Give this film a chance and you may be surprised how much you actually enjoy yourself, and if not … just wait til the next reboot comes around the bend.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opens in cinemas Thursday the 11th of September.

If you see the film and agree or disagree with my thoughts feel free to launch your hate mail below or come over to our Facebook page and tell me how wrong I am.

- Stu