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December 2010
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Monsters & Mullets: Steel Dawn (1987)

Steel Dawn Never heard of this Patrick Swayze-headlining, post-apocalyptic re-feudal-futurisitc samurai gladiatorial western?  Neither had we.  In what would prove to be a prophetic bit of cinematic recussitation, we dug Steel Dawn up out of the bargain bin at a cut rate DVD store.  Turns out, everything about Steel Dawn is bargain bin and/or cut rate.  Just about the only part of Steel Dawn that isn't cut rate or bargain bin is The Swayze himself, gamely swirling around in a whirlpool of bad extensions and Vaseline-smeared lenses. (Steel Dawn was released the same year as Dirty Dancing, which might go a long way towards explaining why you missed it the first time 'round.)

Steel Dawn does boast one thing that sets it apart from every other Patrick Swayze-headlining, samurai-futuro-gladiatorial-feudal-western out there: the worst kissing scene ever committed to celluloid.

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The Kitschies: Children's Crusade by Scott Andrews

Scott Andrews - Children's Crusade[This is the first in a set of five reviews - each looking at one of our 2010 Kitschie finalists. As part of our commitment to a transparent judging process, we'll run through each of the books in turn with our criteria in mind. Please take part in the discussion below!]

Scott Andrews' Children's Crusade wraps up his three part contribution to Abaddon's "Afterblight" shared world. Introduced in Simon Spurrier's The Culled, the Afterblight posits a grim future where the majority of the world's population has been wiped out by a nasty little virus. Although Mr. Spurrier and several of the other authors focus on the big cities and the big picture, Andrews focuses his part of the story around a boarding school in the country. Over the course of three books, his protagonists - Lee and Jane - fight off a variety of nasty folk, from cannibals to kidnappers.

Children's Crusade is the series' explosive finale. It lifts the veil on Jane's mysterious past, forces Lee to confront his dark side and concludes with a vicious battle in the Houses of Parliament.

Diving in with our criteria...

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Monsters & Mullets Bonus Feature: Hawk the Slayer the Drinking Game

Hawk the Slayer It is a truth universally acknowledged that the best way to view movies both be-monstered and be-mulleted is with a glass of some fine beverage firmly in hand, and that the constant progression of that glass from hand to mouth is likewise of the utmost necessity. 

It is, furthermore, of the greatest factuality that very few monsterous, mullety movies require regular oblation more than Hawk the Slayer.

And so it is with great pride that Pornokitsch presents to you this Monsters & Mullets bonus: the Hawk the Slayer Drinking Game.

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Underground Reading: How to Solve a Mystery

Last week, I beat up a lot on Ledru Baker Jr.'s The Cheaters. I found this 1952 thriller to be noteworthy for having the worst climax I'd ever read in a Gold Medal paperback. And that's saying a lot. 

Normally, according to the rules of the genre, the detective/cop/wounded hero finds out whodunnit and then tricks them into capture. An alternate, less stylish option is to shoot them, and then hear their dying confession in front of a neutral witness. The protagonist of The Cheaters takes neither of these two paths. He merely spends the last few chapters of the books torturing the bad guys. Matches + fists + cutting implements = resolution. Charming.

Here are two other - more traditional - ways of going about it from the same time period. Spoilers, as you might expect, are inevitable.

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New Releases: The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

The Heroes The Heroes is Joe Abercrombie's fifth book, and what a book it is. Unlike the sprawling epic format of The First Law trilogy, or the lengthy structured sequence of Best Served Cold, The Heroes focuses on a single event. 

Following the unification of Styria, the Union has a great need to reassert itself on its Northern border. Unfortunately, the Northern lands are under the rule of Black Dow, as dark a bastard as ever sat on a throne. Due to some rather clumsy military maneuvering on both sides, the Union/North war has been distilled into an awkward siege in the Valley of Osrung (previously insignificant). 

On one hand, this is vastly significant. The Powers and Dominions that rule these lands are deeply involved - including many familiar faces from the previous books. Will the Union prevail? Will the North win out? The importance of this three day confrontation will rapidly become clear, even to Mr. Abercrombie's new readers.

On the other hand, this is a Joe Abercrombie book, so screw the greater significance: this is a worthless valley in the middle of nowhere and a lot of people are messily dying over it. Or in it. On it. All around it. I'd like to make a sweeping point about how the best of a generation are left on the field of battle, but, again, this is Abercrombie, and most of these folks are fairly unpleasant.

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Monsters & Mullets: Hawk the Slayer (1980)

Hawk True story: there has been a single, inevitable, universal response to "I'm going to watch and review every '80s high fantasy movie I can find!"  "All right," people say, "but when are you going to watch Hawk the Slayer?"

So it was that Hawk the Slayer  achieved an almost mythical status in my mind.  It became the ur-film; the uber film; the one film to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

Naturally, it was the film with which Pornokitsch chose to ring in the new year.  Yes, we invited several friends over, invented a drinking game, and watched Hawk the Slayer between the terminal minutes of 2010 and the stacatto bursts of blinking Christmas lights and distant fireworks that ushered in 2011. (And for about 45 minutes on either side.)

And did Hawk the Slayer hold up?  Yes, my friends.  Hawk the Slayer held up very well.  Very well indeed.

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New Releases: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of KingsBrandon Sanderson has gained a popular following for his ongoing work finishing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. His own trilogy, the Mistborn series, also showed great promise: Mr. Sanderson skilfully blended existing fantasy tropes and described a detailed magical system that piqued the curiosity of readers. 

Both these impressive efforts are dwarfed by Mr. Sanderson’s monumental new book, The Way of Kings. As the first volume in an epic high fantasy series, Mr Sanderson’s latest work has gathered attention and praise from fans and critics alike. The Way of Kings is present on many bloggers’ best of 2010 lists, and, according, at least according to a survey on Tor.com, is viewed as one of the best fantasy books of the last decade.

There’s no question that Mr. Sanderson has written an immensely popular and entertaining high fantasy. But he has also exposed, and fallen into, many of the genre’s lingering faults.

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"Blimey, what a lovely thing. As a confirmed geek, I'm proud and lucky to be in such illustrious company. I can't thank Pornokitsch enough for the support they've given my St Mark's Trilogy, for accepting my clumsy bribes with such grace, and giving me an opportunity to witter endlessly about how great I am (Buy my books! Reading them will make you irresistible to your preferred gender or species!)" -- Scott Andrews, finalist for the 2010 Kitschies