Friday, 10 July 2020

YouGov Poll Says Majority Of UK Supports Trans Rights




The United Kingdom isn't a great place for trans people right now. It seems that there is an opinion piece or newspaper article demonising trans people every other day, and many of the worlds most outspoken transphobes are British, JK Rowling being a recent and loud addition to these ranks.

Despite the constant media attacks on trans people, which are so bad that trans people have been gaining asylum in other nations and have been considering leaving the UK, a new poll by YouGov has revealed that the majority of those asked support trans rights.

In a poll by YouGov for the LGBTQ+ new publication Pink News, the results showed that 57% of women surveyed said that they agree that trans people should have the right to self-identify as their chosen gender. This might not seem like a huge amount, but this is more than half, and by Brexit standards it's overwhelming and cannot be questioned.

Only 21% of those asked said that they were actively against trans people being able to self-identify. This seems to echo claims that whilst transphobes have extremely loud voices, and are given platforms to spout their hate at an overwhelming weight, they are a minority of people.

The poll also found that 50% of the population were in favour of self-identification, whilst only 27% were against it, with the remaining 23% unsure of how they felt.

This poll comes shortly after thousands of trans people and their supporters took to the streets in major cities across the UK on July 4th to protest against the governments plans to scrap reforms planned for the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) that were revealed in a leaked document reported by the Sunday Times.

Labour MP Dawn Butler has spoken about the results, saying 'It's reassuring to find out that so many women believe the same as I do, that trans women are women, trans men are men, and that trans rights don't and shouldn't come at the expense of anyone else's rights. The fact that so many more women believe in trans people self-identifying as a gender different to that they were assigned at birth shows that often the transphobic rhetoric we constantly hear about trans people being a danger to single-sex spaces is only being spoken by a vocal minority.'

As is often the case with positive trans news stories, these results have yet to be featured in the mainstream press, unlike transphobic articles.


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5 Films That Were Better Than The Book



Originally published on Set The Tape

Film adaptations of popular books are nothing new. Hollywood has been making them for decades, and there’s no indication that it’s something that filmmakers will ever stop doing. You’ve got a ready built fan base as soon as you make a movie adaptation. Unfortunately, adaptations often receive a lot of criticism for cutting content, or changing story. However, there are some adaptations that end up being better than the source material. Here’s a list of five movies that are better than the books that inspired them.



Jaws

1974 saw the release of the novel Jaws, a book that tells the story of a great white shark that preys upon the inhabitants of a small resort town. Thanks to clever marketing the book saw a lot of attention, and ended up on the best seller list for 44 weeks, selling millions of copies. This success saw the film released just a year later.

The film is widely considered one of the best movies ever made, and the first summer blockbuster. A lot of this came from the rewrites and drafts to the script, that saw a lot of the sub-plots from the book removed, including an affair between Hooper and Ellen Brody, and a plot thread involving the mob. The film made the characters more likeable, and focused on the main plot of the shark. Thanks to this the film is way more streamlined than the book, and you become a lot more invested in the central characters.



The Lord of the Rings

Any film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings was going to be an uphill struggle. Not only was the book one of the most beloved literary works of all time, but its huge length meant that a lot of content would have to be removed. Despite having three movies in which to play out the story, racking up almost 12 hours across the extended editions, director Peter Jackson still had a tough challenge.

However, Jackson chose to focus his adaptation more on the main quest of the book, removing a lot of early story content such as the journey through the Shire that didn’t add to the main story of the One Ring. This focus extended across much of the rest of the story, and other sub-plots that didn’t move the story forward or develop characters were excised.

Added to this, the removal of a number of songs characters were supposed to sing, and amazing battles, meant that the films often felt much tighter and better paced than the original books.



Jurassic Park

Another entry from Steven Spielberg – he’s pretty good at book adaptations – Jurassic Park became a record breaking film upon release, helped to move film making technology forward, and became one of the most beloved summer blockbusters of all time.

The film saw some big changes from the source material, however. Alan Grant was changed from an older man to a much younger one, played by Sam Neil; Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm survived instead of being killed; and John Hammond wasn’t eaten by dinosaurs, to name just a few of the changes. The plot was also streamlined a little, with a bigger focus on the characters having to survive the deadly creatures rather than focus being given over to their personal lives and backgrounds.

Whilst the original book is still an exciting adventure story with some great set pieces, the film has a much better pace and more likeable characters. Instead of waiting for certain characters to be killed off because they’re jerks you end up rooting for them. The success of the film would also go on to deliver a series of sequels, with Jurassic Park: The Lost World also being a Spielberg adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel.



The Silence of the Lambs

Based upon the second novel in the Hannibal Lecter series by Thomas Harris, Silence of the Lambs would become on of the best loved psychological thrillers ever made. Telling the story of a young FBI trainee who has to enlist the help of an imprisoned cannibal killer to stop a serial killer, the film received public and critical acclaim, and would win multiple awards.

Whilst the book that the movie is based upon is an incredibly well written and tight story, and the movie sticks to the narrative very closely, the film is better for two reasons: Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. Both actors brought a huge amount of presence to their roles that easily overshadowed their book counterparts. Anthony Hopkins was so beloved in the role of Lecter that he would go on to play the role two more times, even starring in the prequel more than a decade later.



The Godfather

Since it was released in 1972 The Godfather has been widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. The film was based upon the Mario Puzo book of the same name, a book that spent 67 weeks on the New York Times best seller list, and sold more than nine million copies in its first two years.

The film adaptation was a monumental undertaking, with Puzo working alongside director Francis Ford Coppola to adapt the lengthy book. Due to the size of the novel there were a number of elements that had be be cut from the film, including extensive flashbacks to the past of the character of Don Corleone. Fortunately, these scenes would end up incorporated into the film’s sequel.

Even with a number of elements from the book being cut The Godfather still came in at close to three hours long, and told a sprawling tale taking place over years. Thankfully, due to a stellar cast and amazing directing the film was able to be exciting and engaging in ways that the book sometimes wasn’t. The Godfather would go on to revolutionise the gangster genre.


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Thursday, 9 July 2020

Legend by Marie Lu - Book Review



'What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbours. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

'From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.'

YA books love a good dystopia, something that represents the injustices and hateful ways of our world, usually pushed to an extreme for the heroes to fight against. Whilst Legend by Marie Lu isn't new in giving readers a dystopian regime to rage against, it might be one of the few that takes such a deep look at the inner workings of one.

Set in a future where the US no longer exists, and the Republic now stands where California once was, the story follows two teenage protagonists. Day is a criminal of the state, an enemy to the oppressive government and the military regime they run. June is one of these people, brought up to believe in the Republic, she's been trained to be one of the best operatives the military has to offer.

Normally this kind of book would just focus on the character that's on the outside, fighting against the powers that be, possibly starting off as a regular citizen at the start of the book and learning to rise up against those in charge. But Legend splits its focus, allowing the reader to see not only how the Republic works, but shows how even a very smart person can be suckered into their way of thinking and become one of them.

We see throughout the book that June is a smart young woman, incredibly so. She is able to look at minor details and make quick, clever deductions (she made me think of Sherlock Holmes at times). She's so smart that her education and training are fast tracked, she stands out amongst both her peers and her superiors, yet she buys into the Republic.

As outsiders looking in we can clearly see that the Republic are bad. The poor are treated as less than human, children that are deemed not good enough are sent to work camps, and aesthetically they're very fascist looking. It should be obvious to all involved that they're the bad guys. But, like any real world fascist state there are people who buy into to, who work for them and believe in the system. It's comforting to think that anyone who works for a fascist state must be evil, that some moral failing is the reason why they side with the villains, but Legend shows that this kind of thing is a bit more complex.

Yes, there are some out and out villains in the book, characters that seem good to begin with, but over the course of the book we see that they have a taste for violence and no conscience; but that's not true for everyone. June, and her brother Metias, show readers this. Good, honest people who genuinely believe that they're doing good, and when they learn that they're on the wrong side do something to change that.

The relationship between her and Day is probably the most important one in the book, even more so than the relationship between June and her brother, which sets her on the road to confronting Day. Day is the person that helps to open June's eyes, to show her that there's something rotten in the core of the Republic. The way that June slowly comes around to seeing the truth is one of the more enjoyable parts of the book, and I honestly wasn't sure just how far she'd come within the events of the book. Would she go full renegade, of would she just begin to doubt the system she'd lived inside of her whole life?

The only part of the relationship that I wasn't completely sure about was the love story that developed between them. I know that this is a YA series, and enemies to lovers is a big thing in the genre, but this aspect of their relationship developed much more than I was expecting. I think I was expecting a kind of respect and friendship to begin here, with romance being explored further in the rest of the series. This is just a personal thing though, and the romantic subplot isn't a huge part of the story.

Marie Lu set up a lot of interesting things in this first book, and there are plenty of mysteries left over for loads to be explored in the next book. I'm not sure where June and Day are going in the next book, but I'm interested to find out, and to see what they'll do to take on this powerful enemy.




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Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Power Rangers Beast Morphers Episode Two 'Evox's Revenge' - TV Review



Episode two of Power Rangers Beast Morphers continues to establish this new world, giving the Rangers new robot sidekicks, powerful Zords, as well as revealing some strange weaknesses in the new team.

The episode starts off by showing us what happened to the evil avatar versions of Blaze and Roxy who were teleported away at the end of the last episode, revealing that they've been transported to the 'cyber dimension'. They're quickly confronted by Scrozzle, a robot with an army of minions called Tronics. However, he's quickly beaten by Evox, and joins the villains as one of their lieutenants. Together the new group of villains forms a plan to steal Morph-X from Earth to free Evox from the Cyber Dimension.

Back at Grid Battleforce Ravi and Zoey argue over which of them should become the team leader, whilst Devon marvels at all of the technology that the place has to offer. The three of them are introduced to their new tactical companions, the Beast Bots; Jax the jackrabbit, Smash the gorilla, and Cruise the cheetah. Still impressed with these new robot sidekicks, the team are also shown their massive Zords, machines designed to combat giant monsters.

When one of the Morph-X distribution centres comes under attack the team head out to fight the threat, discovering Scrozzle and Blaze stealing Morph-X. Blaze summons a group of Tronics and the Rangers have to fight them. Midway through the fight Devon sees a dog and freezes up, Zoey runs out of energy, and Ravi begins to heat up and becomes enraged. The team get rescued by Abraham and the Beast Bots and taken back to Grid Battleforce for testing.

Back in the Cyber Dimension Scrozzle uses the small amount of Morph-X they stole to power up a Robotron, a massive battle robot. When the Robotron attacks the city Devon is dispatched to fight it in his Zord whilst the others recover. During the battle, however, Devon sees a billboard of a dog and freezes up again. This lets Abraham figure out that Evok somehow corrupted the animal DNA when they first morphed, corrupting the rangers and giving them weaknesses. Devon's cat DNA makes him afraid of dogs, Zoey needs to eat carrots to replenish her dwindling energy, and Ravi has to keep calm to stop himself from overheating. The other Rangers head into battle and help Devon to defeat the giant robot. Back at Grid Battleforce Ravi and Zoey nominate Devon to become the leader of the team.


So, straight off the bat I've got to say that this isn't as strong an episode as the first one, however, you could make the argument that whilst it doesn't pick up straight where the last one left off and does feel like a little time has passed for the Rangers at least, it is like a second part as it continues to establish the new status quo.

I kind of like that the bad guys have gone from a lone computer virus and his two minions to getting a whole support network in the form of Scrozzle. He's the one that provides the Tronic's, this seasons new foot soldiers, and there's a throwaway line that he's got hundreds of the giant robots already built and waiting to be used. It does make the bad guys feel a little more like a mirror of the heroes, there are Rangers on both sides, both use Morph-X to power their stuff, both have someone making all their equipment. It's not an exact analogue, but it works.

There's not really an explanation for the Cyber Dimension at this point though, and it's not entirely clear what it is. Is it some kind of digital world inside of cyberspace? But if so, how is it Scrozzle is a physical being and is able to build robots there. I imagine, this being Power Rangers, that we'll never get answers to this, so it's probably best for my sanity to try not to think about it too much.

The design of Scrozzle is pretty good, and is a completely new character created by the American production team and has no Sentai equivalent. His apron and tool belt looking design is reminiscent of Finster from the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and as he fills a similar kind of role I imagine that was intentional.

Speaking of cool designs, this episode introduces the Beast Bots, who are very cool. Whilst Cruise and Smash are pretty cool looking, I do have a soft spot for Jax, who looks a bit like R2D2 cosplaying a rabbit. It's also nice to have Kelson Henerson back for yet another season of Power Rangers, this time voicing cruise.

The episode has some good un-morphed fights too, with series stars Rorrie D. Travis, Jazz Baduwalia, and Jacqueline Scislowski getting to how off their martial arts and gymnastics abilities. Morphed fights might look cool, but it's always great to see the actual actors getting to go out and do some stuff themselves too. Hopefully the team behind this season will continue to show off their abilities like this throughout the season.

My biggest gripes about this episode, however, are the Ranger weaknesses, and Betty and Ben. The idea that Evox corrupted the original morphin sequence and led to the Rangers receiving a flaw isn't itself a bad idea, but the execution is a little shaky. Devon freezing up whenever he sees a dog makes little to no sense, and Zoey instantly goes from semi conscious to fighting fit whilst still chewing her first bite of carrot. Maybe they'll make this a bit smoother as the season goes on, because it's a little bit silly at this point.

Now for Ben and Betty. I don't know why the Power Rangers brand is trying to put a comedy duo into the show. I know that the very first season had Bulk and Skull, and they became beloved by the fandom, but that was over a very long period. The moment that Bulk and Skull stand up to Astronema and her army at the end of Power Rangers in Space is one of the greatest moments in the franchise, but that was earned across 283 episodes that came before it and years of character development. Ben and Betty aren't going to get that, and just feel silly and annoying. The set-up for this season, for it being a special combat unit run by adults with funding and backing isn't the same as kids in high school; high jinks don't really belong in a dangerous workplace.

Despite these small issues, I really liked the episode, and it finishes setting up the new season well.


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Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Night Train by David Quantick - Book Review



'A woman wakes up, frightened and alone - with no idea where she is. She's in a room but it's shaking and jumping like it's alive. Stumbling through a door, she realises she is in a train carriage. A carriage full of the dead.

'This is the Night Train. A bizarre ride on a terrifying locomotive, heading somewhere into the endless night. How did the woman get here? Who is she? And who are the dead? As she struggles to reach the front of the train, through strange and horrifying creatures with stranger stories, each step takes her closer to finding out the train's hideous secret. Next stop: unknown.'

I have to be honest, when I read the synopsis and saw the cover for David Quantick's Night Train I was expecting something of a horror book. The dark and moody cover and the description of waking up on a train surrounded by dead people definitely gave it more of a horror feel, but after a while it slowly emerged that I'd had the genre completely wrong. Night Train is more of a science fiction dystopia story, though it takes its time in revealing this.

The majority of the story is more concerned with the central characters than the world they inhabit, apart from a few fleeting moments and a handful of flashbacks you never even see this world. The story is about the train and the people inside it.

The lead character is a woman without memory of who she is of how she got inside the train. She finds herself in a carriage surrounded by dead bodies, but can't find any clues that can help her. She even seems to have lost the ability to read, and looking at writing gives her awful headaches, so the small scraps of newspaper that she finds can't even help. Luckily, she soon comes across Banks, a man in a similar jumpsuit to hers, who also woke up on the train without any memory. Luckily, however, he can read the name on her jacket, and tells her she's called Garland.

Together Garland and Banks work their way through the train, moving from one strange carriage to the next, trying to find answers to the mysteries that plague them.

And that's about all that I'm going to say about the plot, and anything else would really be giving too much away, and even now I kind of feel like I might have revealed too much. Night Train is about the sense of mystery that surrounds the characters. They don't know anything, and we're in the exact same boat as them. Occasionally we will get some answers, some background information or clues to the world, but these happen to us as they happen to the characters, and we don't end up knowing more than they do.

The book throws a lot at both readers and the characters, and at one point in the book its stated that each carriage is a clue to what's going on, but I have to be honest, that statement doesn't really help too much. Thinking back on what I saw throughout the book with the knowledge I had at the end I don't see how us, or Garland, were supposed to reach that conclusion with the clues provided. Perhaps more information would have presented itself if the characters had investigated more, but this doesn't really happen. So because of that I'd advise to not try to figure out too much of what's going on. You won't predict everything that happens, and you won't know everything until its spelled out for us.

I have to admit, this did annoy me a little. A good mystery presents you with clues that will help you to figure out what's going on. A big bit of the fun is trying to figure out the answers to the puzzle. When half of the clues that you need to find those answers are held back it becomes almost pointless to try to find those answers, sadly, you're not told that this is the case until the end, and by then you're just being told the solution.

The book is also very light on details. We don't get a lot of insight into the characters or why they're doing what they're doing. I know that they don't have their memories at the start of the book, and that's fine, we don't need to get their entire back story, but some insight into how their mind is working would have been nice. We don't get this, we don't get to see how this situation is affecting them, or what their thought processes are, we just have to see them reacting in sometimes very odd ways. Their are times where the tings that the characters say and do don't quite make much sense, and seem to go against who they've been established as so far, and I can't help but think a little bit of insight into their mind would help with this.

I think this is something of a byproduct of the the fact that the book is written from a very detached third person point of view. I get why Quantick would want to do this. Their are points where the characters split up, or we get flashbacks, so a first person story wouldn't work with this in mind if the narrator was Garland for example. However, a third person perspective can still occasionally delve inside the characters heads.

Their were times that I didn't quite like the story being told here, where I found Quantick's style of writing, where he shifted between characters and locations from sentence to sentence made it a little hard to follow. At times the book felt like something of a dream, and some of the moments seemed to have a disjointed quality to them when it changed from scene to scene. This might not be for everyone, but it certainly gave the book its very own feel.




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