Saturday, 22 February 2014

Reaching Too High

Last week I finally got round to playing Halo: Reach, the prequel game to the overly popular Xbox series of first person shooters.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the Halo games, in fact it was the disappointing cliff hanger to Halo 2 that made me go out and buy an Xbox 360 and a copy of Halo 3.  I got to the end of the game and thought ‘you fucking bastards!’ as the credits began to roll and immediately walked to the nearest Game and bought a 360.

I never once believed that Halo 3 would be the end of the franchise, no matter how much the company said it would be.  After all if such statements were true then we wouldn’t be stuck in sequel hell with things like Final Fantasy, Police Academy, Resident Evil and so many awful fucking horror movie franchises.  So here I was, presented with yet another poor excuse of expanding the series without having the balls to commit to a proper sequel (this game did come out before Halo 4 remember).

'Reach' does give us some fun space flying sections to break
the tedium.
Halo: Reach is a game that tells you exactly what’s going to happen with the fucking title.  After all, you’re barely five minutes into the first game before the characters mention how Reach got totally fucked up and everyone died.  It’s no surprise then that you’re playing through one long suicide mission with no hopes of seeing yourself or any of the other NCP’s live past the closing credits.

With the obvious outcome put to one side the game itself was somewhat enjoyable, not the worst fps I’ve ever played by far.  The game starts with you as a new member of the Spartan Noble Unit, and given the chance to choose to play as either male or female.  I know such choices don’t amount to much in games where the most you see of your character is their hands but it was nice to have the option to play as an armour clad badass who grunts in a female voice rather than a male one.

Halo: Reach gives you a variety of missions, from roaming the sunny hills and valleys of the titular planet, infiltrating a Covenant spaceship (because we’ve never done that in a Halo game before, for fuck sake!), a futuristic city and aerial dogfights.

The Covenant come to fuck some shit up.
Whilst the locations in the game feel like a standard Halo checklist just being ticked off one at a time the way they play are at least a little bit more interesting with the inclusion of jet packs (though not in nearly enough of the game for my liking) and flying a fighter ship in space.

At the end of the day though whilst their isn’t anything particularly wrong with the game (other than possibly needing more levels.  Seriously I finished it in like a day!) it just doesn’t quite do it for me.  I think one of the main problems with this game, and something I’ve noticed from the Halo series on a whole since its move to the Xbox 360 is its dependence on multi-player to really sell its games.

'Reach' lets you play as a female Spartan, mine had pretty
pink and purple armour.
The biggest problem I have with the series are its mouth breathing teenage cunts of an audience who do nothing but play Halo multiplayer all the time, spouting complete fucking shit through their mic’s and blowing the fuck out of anyone who hasn’t played the multiplayer for two hundred fucking hours.  The single player campaign feels more like an add on, something to give the players to do when not playing the main game, multiplayer.

Not the worst game in the series but more fan service and an excuse for Microsoft to rake in more cash from a disc release of something that would be more at home as an Xbox live release.  Whilst it was a fairly entertaining waste of my time I’m glad I only spent £4 on it.


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Sunday, 16 February 2014

Thank You For Outing Me

I’ve been put into an unusual position this week at work.  A colleague of mine, a fellow supervisor, discovered the fact that I’m transgender.  You see, I’m not out at work, I’m not even presenting as Amy yet.  It turns out that this fellow supervisor knows someone that knows someone that knows me, and learnt of my situation through this third party.

Rather than try to confirm what he’d heard of come and talk to me about it he instead began to tell everyone and anyone at work who would listen to him.  Along with another person who decided that spreading the rumours would be the best thing to do, it was all around the shop before I knew what was happening.  I didn’t know who knew and who didn’t, what they’d been told and what exactly they thought was going on.

I was devastated and distraught.  There was a plan in place for coming out at work and it was never this.  I was in a rage, I was fighting back the tears.  My manager and I decided that the best thing to do would be to confront these rumours head on, to address the staff and tell them what was actually happening so as to stop the disinformation and hearsay.  So that was decided, I’d write a statement and he’d read it out to everyone and that would be that.

Last night, when speaking to a friend of mine she advised me that I probably shouldn’t be there when it happens, that its not my job to educate people.  She said that I don’t have to be the voice for the transgender community.

So  this morning I wrote my statement for my manager to read out and I thought that was that. Then I did my morning stroll through Facebook.  The big news, that I’m sure that you’re all aware of, was Ellen Page coming out as gay.

I watched the video of her speech, her beautifully prepared words and I was amazingly touched by what she said and the bravery of coming out to a room full of people and cameras that mean that thousands, perhaps even millions would see.  A lot of celebrities that come out do so in a press release, or they have their agents release the information.  This, however, was an amazing way to do it.

A true inspiration and amazingly brave young woman.
I watched that video and thought about what she did and I threw away the statement I had written.  Ellen Page didn’t need to put that spotlight on her, she didn’t need to draw that attention in such a public coming out but she did because she hoped that it would do some good.

That’s what I needed to do.  Though I respect the friend who advised me a great deal her comment about not needing to be the voice for the transgender community suddenly felt really wrong to me.  There’s a good chance that most of the people I work with have never known an openly trans person before, there’s a chance they might never know one again after me.  If I’m not going to be that voice then who is?

I’m not saying I speak for every trans person out there, I’m not that arrogant, but until forced to deal with a trans person in their real lives most people’s knowledge of our community is based upon the misinformation and stereotypes pumped out by the media.  The place where we are vilified, made fun of and ridiculed.  If I didn’t speak out to them then how will they know the real situation?

There was no point in having someone else read a cold and clinical statement, I needed to speak to them more from the heart. They need to see the human side of what is going on and the pain and emotion their.  If all I achieve by putting myself in the limelight at work is that a handful of people gain a greater understanding of the struggle that trans people go through than surely it’s worth any kind of pain I might end up going through.

So tomorrow I will be speaking to the staff, a gathering of close to fifty people and reading the following statement out to them;

'I have prepared this statement to address the various rumours and misinformation that has been told about me over this last week.  Some of what you have heard is true, some of it is not.  It is time to confront these rumours, to dispel the lies that have been told about me and to set the facts straight. 
The truth is, I’m transsexual.  What this means, in its simplest form, is that I was born with a female brain in a male body.  I have suffered with this condition, this recognised medical condition, for years and am finally now doing something to correct it. 
Despite what many of you have been led to believe by these rumours or by popular misconception portrayed by the media this is not a choice, kink or lifestyle option.  I was born this way, with no more control over that fact than anyone in this room has over their gender, their height or the colour of their skin.  The only thing that I have had a choice about was whether to do something about it  or not, to choose to either correct this mistake and try to claim some semblance of a happy life or to continue to live in what can only be described as a living hell.  I chose the first option.
As such, over the coming months you will notice physical changes taking place as a result of my treatment.  You will see the real me start to develop physically.
All I ask during this period is to be treated with the dignity and respect that I or anyone else deserves. 
Though my outward appearance may be changing I will still be the same person that you have come to know over the last weeks and months, though you may get to know the parts of myself that I feel compelled to hide because of the prejudices put upon me by society. 
Because of this physical change from male to female I will eventually have a new legal name and title and will require the use of female pronouns.  Whilst there are many people in my life who accept and support me and even now use such pronouns and my correct name I will not be asking that if you now as I do not want to make things difficult or confusing for yourselves or the customers. 
This was not the way that myself of the management team wanted this situation to unfold.  Unfortunately, circumstances have taken this choice, this incredibly personal choice out of my hands.  As such I hope that you can appreciate that this has been an unbelievably stressful  and deeply upsetting time for me, and whilst I am happy to answer non-overly invasive or personal questions please appreciate that tonight is not the time or the place. 
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk to you all, to be able to clear up some of these rumours that have been going around and for the wonderful support some of you have already shown me.'

It’s going to be hard to stand in front of all those people and speak from the heart like that, but you know what?  It needs to be done.  In reality what’s the worst that can come from this?  That it becomes so unbearable to work their that I have to leave and find a new job?  That I get abuse?  That I get attacked or even worse killed?

Even if that does happen, as ridiculously small a chance as it is it won’t necessarily be a bad thing.  I’m not saying I want to die, I’m not saying that I’d accept death in any way.  What I guess I’m trying to get across is that even if the very worst happens as long as I’ve made even one person more aware of transgender peoples struggles and more open to helping our community than it would have been worth every moment.

There are so many terrible things happening in the world for the LGBT community right now, and none of them are going to get better on their own.  People won’t stop taking their right away, wont stop attacking or killing them unless others stop them.  Again, I’m not saying I have the power to change the world, I’m only one person after all.  But by making even one person change their views it’s doing something, something that can go on to effect even greater changes.

All the world needs for the evil people in it to achieve their goals is for the rest of us to do nothing.  So my friend was definitely wrong, I am the voice of the transgender community, and so are you.  So is everyone out their.  We speak for the trans, the gay, the lesbian, the black, the white, the old, the young, anyone who needs a voice.  It is down to all of us to help each other and make the world a better place.

Our silence is the greatest weapon that those who want to oppress us have.

Barely two days ago I didn’t think this.  This week has thrown my world around and sent me through an emotional rollercoaster and forced me to re-evaluate how I think of myself and the life I have.  So to those that outted me, those that forced me into this position I genuinely and honestly say ‘thank you’.  Thank you for making me a better person.


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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

'Justice League: War' Review

I like reading comic books, and DC in particular.  I started out interested in comics from an early age having watched the 90’s Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons on a Saturday morning and was drawn into the world of Marvel and their characters.  It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I actually started reading comics and it was at this point I was drawn more towards DC.  Their characters, history and the legacy of the universe is what won me over.  I liked the fact that I could go back and read about the Golden Age Flash, see him meet Barry Allen, see Barry train Wally West and Wally eventually take over for Barry and grow into the mantle himself.  It felt real and natural and there was so much character growth.

With that said I have to admit that I was upset when DC announced the New 52 and rebooted their universe.  Some of the changes they have made have been okay, some of the new stores they’ve told have been brilliant.  But on a whole I miss the old universe, I miss the history and depth it had.

The first new book of this new universe was Geoff Johns’ Justice League title that told the new version of the formation of the Justice League.  In this new version they had the six classis characters of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Wonder Woman, The Flash (Barry Allen) and Aquaman.  The seventh spot on the team went to Cyborg this time round rather than the much better Martian Manhunter, one of the best and most powerful characters in the DC Universe.

Darkseid invades the Earth with his armies.
Despite liking Johns’ work I really didn’t like this new Justice League.  I found the characters all came across as either idiots or arseholes.  The story was fairly run of the mill with nothing new or interesting to it and by the end of it I found myself with a sinking feeling for the whole of the new universe.

DC’s latest animated film ‘Justice League War’ is based on this new origin tale and is the start of their new line of ‘New 52’ movies.  For the most part I’ve enjoyed the DC animated films and went into this one with a bit more of an open mind, especially as they’ve added Shazam (Captain Marvel) to the roster too, another character that I absolutely love.

Shazam replaces Aquaman in the Justice League roster.
Unfortunately the film captured everything of the original story and magnified it.  A dull plot that’s pretty much one long boring fight, characters that are just shit and go against what they should be and the worst thing a film can do, it was just boring!

I’m really disappointed with DC for this offering.  Green Lantern acts like a cock, Superman just wants to hit everyone (except for Wonder Woman who he wants to fuck),  Shazam acts like a stupid kid (yeah I know he is a kid but what happened to the wisdom of Solomon?  He’s supposed to be wise when he’s powered up for Christ sake!).

Wonder Woman is handled particularly badly too, I know that she’s new to ‘mans world’ but she acts like she’s lived alone in a cave for years her interaction skills are so poor.  Unless she’s the only person who was on Paradise Island she’s clearly got some kind of autism.  I don’t mean that in a harsh way, I know people with autism and they’re lovely, but Wonder Woman here just seems like a poorly handled stereotype of someone with an inability to social interact appropriately.

The heroes fight each other as much as the enemy.
I suppose I have to be nice about some aspect of the film, apart from the terrible story, dire characters and bad voice acting…um, some of the animation is nice I guess.  It’s not the worst looking DC animated movie, that award has to go to the fucking dire ‘New Frontier’, but pretty animation can’t save a poor film.  If anything it makes me think of the terrible ‘All Star Batman and Robin’, a pretty book but other than that it was fucking dire!

I hope that this is not the shape of things to come for the DC films, this film barely held my attention and kind of shit on some characters that I really like.  Please DC, stop fucking over existing fans that respect our company and your heritage just on the off chance that you might draw in some new fans.


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Saturday, 8 February 2014

Riddick-ulously Good Fun

I’ve been finding it hard to post on my blog lately.  It might be down to the fact that I started it when I was unemployed and now that I’m working a full time job I’ve got bugger all time to myself anymore.  It might also be down to what I’ve found myself thinking of something of  rather British way of writing.  Every time I do one of my reviews I’m always trying to write things ‘level-headed’, to find the good in things I’ve not enjoyed or to present a level argument as to not piss anyone off and appeal to as broad an audience as possible.  All good in theory, but it does make things dull to write and take more time as I’m always trying to be ‘nice’.  Well you know what…


The world seems to be full of loud angry dicks who just shout out their opinions on things with no attempt at being either reasonable or coherent and get showered with praise.  So that’s where I find myself standing now, at a crossroads on how to proceed.  Do I carry on as I am, being nice and well reasoned and trying to squeeze out a post every now and then until I reach the inevitable point of insane boredom with thee whole things and just let my blog die?  Or do I just try to have a little bit more fun with things and not give a shit if I drive off some people who just wont agree with some of my opinions?

Well I’ve gone with option number two.  So be prepared to see me turn into an opinionated dick who will say it as I see it whether you like it or not.  With that statement in mind you might be expecting my review of the latest Vin Diesel growlathon ‘Riddick’ to be an excuse to just let rip and tear the film apart like most other reviewers have seemed to enjoy doing.

Not this time!  No, I like the Riddick films.  Yes they’re over the top and silly and Riddick himself oozes so much testosterone that he’s like the thing that grew out of the cum muffin came if played by Arnie, Stallone and Dolph Lungren (not Bruce Willis though because he’s that much of a tosser that he’d ruin a game all about being a fucking tosser!).  There are faults a plenty as each film seems to flip around all over  the place in tone and setting and has created what can only be described as a incoherent universe, but you know what it’s still entertaining.

I’d much rather watch a film like this, one that takes risks and tries some new things rather than just playing by the standard formula.  The Riddick films were somewhat lucrative but never massively successful to the point of warranting a studio made sequel, hence this new film being for all intense and purposes an independant movie.  It was made as a thank you to those fans that stood by the franchise when everyone else tore it apart and an acknowledgement that this was the series that launched Vin Diesels career.

Riddick as Lord Marshall of the Necromongers.
It’s because of this that I can’t help but see the film as a much worthier sequel than many of the other franchise films released in 2013.  It’s got more character than Hugh  Jackman’s latest outing as ‘Wolverine’ and by god is it miles fucking better than the cinematic abortion that was ‘Iron-Man 3‘, the film that spent two years and countless trailers, tv spots, poster, interviews and fifty years of comic continuity building up the prospect of an Iron-Man fighting the Mandarin only for the film to turn around and fuck us in the arse!

‘Oh but it was really funny when Ben Kingsley was speaking in a silly English accent and drinking beer’.  Well FUCK YOU!  If you think that then you’re the kind of mouth breathing twats that Marvel Studios apparently now cares about more than actual fucking fans of the comics and characters.  I mean god fucking forbid they actually stay true to the essence of the character rather than just going for cheap fucking cinema laughs!  Wait, where was I?  Oh yeah, ‘Riddick‘.

‘Riddick’ follows on five years after the events of the last film, ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’, with the titular hero (because I fucking hate the term anti-hero) as the leader of the marauding space Goths the Necromongers.  A concept that got a lot of the piss taken out of it in the last film but one that I loved, I mean what’s not to like about fantasy/sci-fi mash up of necromancers and un-dead and the Borg.

Katee Sackhoff joins the franchise as Dahl the bounty hunter.
So there’s Riddick, enjoying all the perks of being Lord Marshall of the Necromongers, including long conversations with Karl Urban, funky armour and full frontal shaven crotched sex puppets (really, who wouldn’t go for that if they were ruler of the hot space Goths?  I know I fucking would!).  But after a while all that sex and sitting on a throne bores him and he longs for the home he never knew, Furia.

Off he pops with a little band of Necromongers who take him to what they assure him is Furia, only to say ‘sorry, no it isn’t dip shit!’ before trying to kill him.  Left for dead on a deserted planet Riddick is forced to fight monsters, hunt for food and raise a puppy in order to survive.  Eventually he finds a nicely abandoned bounty hunter station filled with traps and a distress beacon, which all comes in handy as he soon realises that an oncoming rain storm will awaken all the nasty beasties that are hibernating underground.

Exactly how he realised this isn’t really that clear, I can only surmise that he found a copy of the script lying around the planet and skipped ahead the sneaky bald bastard!  With no way off the planet and monsters on their way Riddick does the only ballsy thing he can do and activates the bounty hunter distress beacon, bringing a dozen highly equipped mercenaries to his front door.  All highly capable bad-asses they are soon reduced to screaming school girls when confronted by the man they came to hunt.

Riddick shows his softer side.
What ensues is a series of sneak attacks where Riddick slowly whittles down the ‘bad-guys’ (though in a film like this that term is pretty fucking redundant) until there’s a much more manageable number.  He sneaks into their camp, steals the mcguffin needed to fly one of the space ships and proceeds to leave the planet and makes his way to freedom.

Only kidding!  Well, while that would have been what anyone else what have done Riddick instead takes said item, drags it out into the desert for miles and buries it until the mercs agree to work together with him.  Again, exactly why he did this is again left completely unclear other than as to not have the film end there and then.

As expected the mercs think it over for all of five seconds before going ‘hell no you murdering nut job’ and lock him up just in time for the rain to come and wake up the man eating monsters.  What comes next is what could easily have felt like a complete rehash of the latter  half of ‘Pitch Black’ with Riddick and his uneasy allies trekking through monster infested planet with an important space ship component strapped to his back.

Yet somehow the film manages to keep things feeling fresh and original rather than just a straight copy and paste from the first film.  Character dynamics have shifted around and feels fresh and original. Though I still think Riddick could have saved himself a lot of bother by not hiding the one thing needed to escape but then the film would have had a much duller conclusion so I guess I’m going to over look some slight stupidity for further enjoyment.  Especially as we get to see more of Riddicks funky space dog who not only feels convincing and has a great personality all of his own.  I even found myself upset when it got killed, something I never thought would happen with a CGI character as they’re usually the first ones you’re hoping to see dead (yes I’m looking at you Jar Jar FUCKING BINKS!)

Does Riddick attract monsters or something?
The film ends with Riddick in a much better position for a sequel than the other two films, and I’d very much like to see another.  Riddick get off the planet (sorry SPOILER ALERT!) and is still determined to find his long lost home planet of Furia.  Something that doesn’t feel one hundred percent convincing unless you’ve seen the Directors Cut of the second movie that introduced a Furyan goddess/spirit guide/ excuse for another hot girl in the film and gave Riddick super special Furyan powers (I shit you not he got super powers in that version of the film!).

Without all that extra back story and mythology that was cut out of the regular theatrical release of the film it just feels a bit weird that Riddick is that gung-ho about finding Furia.  I mean he only really just found out that he’s one of the last survivors of a race of alien warriors that were wiped out by a galactic despot because he heard a prophecy that one of them would one day rise up and kill him, and holy fuck I just realised that it’s a massive fucking rip off of Dragonball Z the plagiaristic bastards!  Still, makes Riddick a better Dragonball film than ‘Dragonball Evolution‘!