Sunday, 30 November 2014

'Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens' Trailer Breakdown

Unless you've been living in a cave this last few days I'm sure you'll be aware that the first trailer for the new Star Wars film, 'The Force Awakens', has hit the internet.  If by some small chance you've missed seeing it already check it out.

So, lets take a closer look at what we just saw...

The trailer opens on a desert planet, that all things considered is most probably Tatooine.  Yes, there are many other desert planets in the Star Wars universe but based on a few other parts of the trailer its a safe bet.  Add on to that both of the previous trilogies have features Tatooine in their opening films, 'Phantom Menace' and 'A New Hope', and I'm pretty certain it's everyone's favourite desert world.

Here's our first look at John Boyega, one of the rumoured main stars of the new trilogy.  Some people on the web have been saying that this shot shows that or heroes must at some point disguise themselves as storm troopers, similarly to Episode IV, however, this does support reports that John Boyega is playing a Stormtrooper that chooses to switch sides.  As for those people who are saying he can't possibly be a Stormtrooper because he's not a clone, the Clone Troopers were phased out some ten years before the events of 'A New Hope', meaning that the majority of Stormtroopers are in fact normal Imperial citizens.

A new team of heroes means a new set of sidekicks, and despite R2-D2 and C-3PO set to return it looks like this little fella might be joining them as a new mechanical friend.  Rumoured to be Daisy Ridley's characters droid.  It's also worth noting the old rusted pod racer engines in the background, helping to support the idea that we are on Tatooine.

The new upgraded Stormtroopers for the new trilogy.  Despite the Emperor having been killed in 'Return of the Jedi' it would appear that the Empire still exists in one form or another.  It will be interesting to see how closely the new films will take inspiration from the expanded universe here.  Will there be some new leader of the Empire, or will Palpatine have found some way to return from the dead?

It looks like the Stormtroopers are landing in some form of night raid, and if you look very carefully you can just make out buildings with domed roofs and the distinct shapes of moisture vaporators.  Perhaps this is part of how John Boyega ends up on Tatooine.

Our first look at Daisy Ridley, one of the new lead characters, rumoured to be the daughter of Han Solo and Princess Leaia.  Some people are claiming that the device strapped to the side of her speeder bike is a lightsaber, though it looks more like one of the rifles used by the Sand People, natives to Tatooine.

Oscar Issac ronds off our new trio of heroes as a rebel X-Wing pilot and possibly a member of Rogue Squadron.

The new X-Wing fighters in all their glory.  Some reports from Abrams suggest that this shot was mostly achieved using models over CGI, which if true is very, very cool.

One of the new antagonists for the film, an as of yet unidentified Sith sporting a pretty spectacular looking lightsaber.  Obviously, there's the hilt, giving the weapon a more medieval, sword-like appearance. In addition to looking cool, it'll probably present greater defensive options to its wielder.

Crossguard lightsabers have appeared in the extended universe before, but this is a first for the films.  Plus there's something different about the quality of the blade as well, it appears to be more unstable. This might have something to do with the quality of the crystal being used or possibly because the lightsaber itself could be an ancient weapon from long before the Star Wars films.

The trailer ends with a sweeping shot of the new and improved Millennium Falcon in all her glory.  Notice the new rectangular radar dish that has replaced the old circular style one that was ripped off the hull during the assault on the second Death Star during 'Return of the Jedi'.

The final image of the trailer gives us a better close up look at the Falcon as she enters combat with a pair of TIE Fighters above the dune sea of Tatooine.

The Narrator - One last thing to discuss about the trailer that wasn't seen is the voice narrating the action for us.  There has been a lot of fan speculation over the last few days over who it is, with some people even suggesting it's Benedict Cumberbatch despite the fact he isn't in the film.  Because fan girls need him in everything in order to survive I guess.

If you listen closely however, the voice strongly resembles renowned voice and motion actor Andy Serkis, who we know for a fact is in the film playing a 'small bt pivilot part'.  Having recently watched 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' it's easy to hear the similarities between the voice in the trailer and Sirkis' growly performance as Ceaser.


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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Google Removes Homophobic Game From App Store

Google has come under fire this week as a frankly horrific game called ‘Ass Hunters’ became available on their app store.

‘Ass Hunters’, though being several years old, became available to download from the Google App Store but removed today following an internet petition, but not before the game was downloaded more than a staggering 10,000 times and received more than 200 five star ratings.

In the game the player takes control of a hunter with a shotgun who must make his way through locations filled with naked men.  When the naked men catch the hunter, however, he is raped by them.  The game was described on the Google App Store as;

             ‘Play and do not be gay!  Legendary game where you are a hunter and your                                                  mission is to kill gays as much as you can or escape between them to the next                                                level.  Gays may be hidden in bushes and unexpectedly catch you.  Remember                                              when they catch you they WILL do with you whatever they want.’

A Google spokesman has confirmed that the App is no longer available on Google Play.  He made no comment as to how the game became available on the site or who put it forward as a product that they wished to offer their consumers.  No apology has yet been issued to those effected by the game and Google’s decision to promote it through their services.


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Saturday, 15 November 2014

Japanese High School Encourages Students To Swap Genders For The Day

Students at the Fuji Hokuryo High School.
A school in Japan is challenging gender norms and teaching its students a little of what it’s like to be the opposite sex.  On Tuesday Fuji Hokuryo High School in Japans Yamanashi prefecture encouraged their students to swap uniforms with the opposite sex for the day, with boys in skirts and girls wearing suits.

The day was aimed at promoting a message of tolerance and acceptance to try and challenge ingrained gender stereotypes.  By all accounts the event was a rousing success, with over 300 taking part, leaving just 8% of the student body that chose not to support it.

The school principal has reported that the event was a rousing success and so popular with the students that it may well go on to become an annual occurrence.  Hirofumi Miyashita, school vice principal, said that ‘this is a project for students to observe things differently without being bound by gender’.


Trans Student Comes Out To University Class

Popular YouTuber Benton Sorensen.
A popular transgender YouTube blogger Benton Sorensen has recently uploaded am amazingly inspirational video.

When his teacher set his college class an assignment to produce a project based on ‘inspiration’, he looked close to home and chose himself to be the subject of his piece.

Despite being open and honest about his transition on his YouTube channel and various other social media outputs his class mates knew nothing about his past, making his assignment was an incredibly brave move as it meant coming out as transgender to a room full of people he hardly knew.

Whenever someone comes out as trans or gay or anything it’s an incredibly brave and risky thing to do.  To watch this young man go through that process is truly inspirational and emotional.  Some people might think that doing a project about yourself when the subject is ‘inspiration’ is self-serving and vain, but in this case Benton is right on the mark.

This video is inspirational, Benton is inspirational.  And so are all of you out there who have taken that brave step in coming out as the person you really are.  If ever you’re feeling down, if you feel that you’re nothing special remember that you’ve done something truly incredible.  You are all brave and amazing and you are all an inspiration.


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Fox Reveals The New Doctor Doom....It's Not Good

This is Doctor Doom.....
As I'm sure the comic book fans out there are aware 20th Century Fox are currently rebooting the Fantastic Four franchise, and are being met with some very mixed opinions on the details that have so far been released.

The new film will apparently be heavily influenced by the Ultimate Marvel line rather than the traditional 616 universe that people are more familiar with.  This in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, Ultimate Fantastic Four was a very good book, and introduced the whole Marvel Zombies thing in an original and very scary way before it went too silly.

What we've learnt so far is that the FF themselves will be younger, a lot younger.  I'm not able to quote the average age of the cast but they look like teenagers.  Plus, they will no longer get their powers from cosmic rays.  So far their new origin has been unspecified but many are speculating a lab accident or genetic mutations (possibly as a way of Fox tying FF into their X-Men Universe).

In a interview with Collider, Toby Kebbell has revealed the origins of his character, Doctor Doom.  Brace yourself now guys, because this isn't pretty at all.

               'I’m excited to see it too, and my nerves really… The only thing I can tease you about is 
               what I worked on most was the voice because nobody—even in the cartoons, when I was 
               watching them I was like, ‘So where’s he from?’  There’s a mild change and I’ll tell you 
               because of our history. He’s Victor Domashev, not Victor Von Doom in our story. And I’m 
               sure I’ll be sent to jail for telling you that. The Doom in ours—I’m a programmer. Very 
               anti-social programmer. And on blogging sites I’m ‘Doom’.'

Yep, that's right, Doctor Victor Von Doom, scientist magician ruler of the nation of Latveria is going to be a disgruntled blogger and hacker.  Seriously? 

....this is not Doctor Doom.
Well Fox, if this is true, and I'm sincerely hoping it's not, then you're probably going to have some seriously upset comic book fans on your hands.  But then look what Marvel Studios did to The Mandarin, people still love them, so maybe you'll get away with it.


Thursday, 6 November 2014

Getting Continually Blocked on Facebook

As I’ve written in the past I’ve been having some trouble with Facebook lately.  I’ve had an account deleted around the time of the whole Real Name debate.  I’ve had my account shackled without explanation, being unable to use half the features of the site such as having a ‘like’ button or being able to make comments.

Fortunately for me this ban on my account was lifted on the 4th of November, letting me use my Facebook account fully again.  Then today, not two days after getting my account back I’ve been locked out of all the features again.  Once again with no real explanation as to why.

I’ve messaged Facebook asking them for an explanation, and to unlock my account but so far have received no response from them.  If their total ignorance during the last incident is anything to go by then I doubt I will hear anything from them this time either.

I use Facebook a lot, I use it to promote my blog and my column at Planet Transgender.  The simple fact of the matter is that using Facebook gets my web presence out there.  It gets me more hits.

Without the use of Facebook I’m not doing as well.  An article of mine received over 8,000 hits in just one week, Facebook Name Debate and Having my Account Deleted, since then I’ve been struggling to get 1,000 in a month.  I know that sounds selfish but that’s one of the reasons why I want to be using Facebook.

Perhaps it was the article that got me so many hits from Facebook that was the issue?  Has calling them out on their frankly disgusting policy made me something of a target to them?

Maybe, maybe not.  To be honest I doubt that I’m that special to warrant that kind of attention from them.  Whatever the reason for all of these blocks and bans it’s getting to the point where I’m getting ridiculously bored by it all.  I think it might be about time that I leave Facebook for good.


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Belfast Bakery to Face Legal Action For LGBT Discrimination

It looks like Oregon bakery ‘Sweet Cakes’ who have been in the news the past year for refusing to create a wedding cake for a gay couple and their subsequent court hearing are not warning enough to other companies about refusing to do business with people based on ‘religious beliefs’, or homophobic views as they should be called.

A Belfast bakery has also refused to create a pro-marriage cake, once again citing ‘religious grounds’, will be facing court over allegations of discrimination.  An LGBT rights activist, Gareth Lee, ordered a cake from ‘Ashers Baking Company’ earlier in the year for the International National Day Against Homophobia party held by QueerSpace Belfast.

Shop staff originally took an order for the cake, depicting the Seasame Street characters Bert and Ernie embracing with the slogan ‘support gay marriage’.  The owners of the business later contacted Mr Lee and informed him that they would not be producing the cake as they felt it went against their religious beliefs.

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland found ‘Ashers’ to be breaking anti-discrimination laws, demanding that the company apologise for their actions and pay Mr Lee compensation.

Instead of doing so, however, ‘Ashers’ have chosen to take a stand and have refused, stating that: 'We’re continuing to hold to the stand that we took originally because we believe it’s biblical, we believe it’s what God would want us to do, and we also think that if we do cave in to the Equality Commission at this point it’ll put pressure on other citizens who are defending their view of traditional marriage.'

The Commission has warned the bakery that if they do not change their standpoint and make an official apology soon then they will be facing legal action.


Saturday, 1 November 2014

An Old Foe Returns in a New Form

Tonight saw the amazing return of iconic Doctor Who villain, and my personal all-time favourite, The Master.  However, a lot of people found this reappearance surprising, and in some cases disturbing, as he is now a she.

It would appear that during The Masters last regeneration he transformed into a woman, now calling herself The Mistress, or Missy for short.  Played by the brilliant Michelle Gomez, Missy has been making appearances during the series since Peter Capaldi’s first episode ‘Deep Breath’.  Many quick minded fans, myself included, put together the connection from her name and went into the episode hoping eagerly for the reveal we were given.

The series has toyed with the idea that Galliferyans (remember guys, Time Lord/Lady is a title not the name of the race) can also change gender when they regenerate, even stating very clearly in the 2011 episode ‘The Doctors Wife’ that it is a possibility.  This episode, however, makes the first time in the series that we have actually seen it in the flesh.

There were many reactions to the reveal on the internet, particularly Twitter, some very pleased with the revelation, some a little less so.

A huge range of reactions from the fans.  I even chuckled a little at the Brian Blessed one.

For all those people who are complaining that The Master is now a woman and are quitting the series.  Good.  The rest of us don’t want you.  If a character that belongs to a species that changes their bodies when they’re dying becoming female disturbs you then there’s something wrong with you.  One value this show fosters is that no matter what species people are, what their outward appearance is they're still people with decent personalities and people you can care about, a message that we should all adopt in the real world.  What if it was a black Master, or Asian?  Would that be terrible then too?  What happens eventually when the Doctor changes gender?

One of the best moments of the show in years.
Oh, we all know that that day is coming.  Fans have been clamouring for it for a long time now.  And that’s probably what this is about.  Yes, it’s some brilliant storytelling and one of the best things they’ve done to the character in decades, but it’s very clearly a test run to see how people react.  A female Doctor is coming one day, though hopefully not for a while because Capaldi is brilliant.

At the end of the day who cares if the Master is a man or a woman?  As long as she’s good in the role, and so far she’s been absolutely brilliant and I want loads more of her, it shouldn’t matter at all.


Elle Fanning to Play Transgender Character in New Drama

A new drama show currently in early stages of production called ‘Three Generations’ has cast the actress Elle Fanning to play a transgender character.  Set in New York, the show will follow Fanning as Ray, a young transgender male who reaches the decision to transition.  The show will also feature his mother, played by Naomi Watts, as she struggles to come to terms with her only daughter becoming her son and his lesbian grandmother, played by Susan Sarandon.

Whilst some films and television shows have received criticism for casting Cis actors in trans roles, such as Jeffery Tambor in ‘Transparent’ and Jared Leto in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, the fact that the show will be focusing on someone who is in the very early stages of transition.  Some people might find this casting decision to be a misstep, but I’m hopeful that this will be a good show regardless of that and will accurately portray the process of transition and the effect that it has not only on the individual going through it but their whole family as well.


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Terminating The Franchise?

I’ve been a fan of the Terminator films for as long as I can remember, Terminator 2 was one of my core movies as a kid, alongside Aliens, Predator and Labyrinth.  I love the first film, I think it’s a fantastic sci-fi horror, the second is a kick arse action film that makes Linda Hamilton one of the best action heroines around, the third…..well let’s not talk about the third one, and Salvation was a great film that made the machines scary again.

So other than one bad apple a pretty good series of films.  With that in mind when they announced a fifth film that would not only star Game of Thrones Emila Clarke but also return Arnie to the series in a role that’s not just a cameo I was excited.  Now though, less so.

The film has a terrible name; Genisys.  Genisys?  That’s not even a real word.

The film will re-write the whole Terminator timeline and erase the other films.

And finally, these pictures that have just been released.

Emila Clarke as Sarah Connor.
Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese.
Jason Clarke as John Connor.
Matt Smith as a yet unnamed character.
I know that these are just promo images, but they instantly put me off the film.  It looks too shiny and clean and Hollywood for a Terminator movie.  

As I said earlier the film will also be going against established Terminator lore.  In this new film, apparently, Sarah Connors parents were killed when she was just a little girl and she’s been raised by Arnies T-800 who she calls ‘pops’.

I don’t know what it is with films anymore.  It seems that certain franchises can get away with anything because they’re trying to appeal to masses of fans by casting certain stars rather than making good content.  Arnie back?  Yep, they’ll love that.  Game of Thrones babe?  Yep, they’ll love that.  A former Doctor in a time travel film, oh the Whovians will adore that. 

It kind of feels the same as Peter Dinklage in Destiny.  People are being cast in films and games and TV purely for the wow factor or to draw people in.  Just based on what I’ve seen in recent images and heard of the plot this film is going to be even worse than Terminator 3.  Something I didn’t think was actually possible.