Friday, 29 January 2016

Legends of Tomorrow 'Pilot Part 2' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt for you, please do not read further.

The second half of the pilot story for the new CW superhero show 'Legends of Tomorrow' takes all of the good moments from the first episode and adds to it, taking the time to address some of the criticism that people had about the first half and showing that despite being a show made up of recurring sideline characters and one off guest stars 'Legends of Tomorrow' definitely has the chops to stand side by side with both 'Arrow' and 'Flash' as a great show in it's own rights.

Whilst part one was light on action part two give not only one big action set piece, but two, with big scale fights that not only bookend the show nicely, but eclipse what it's parent shows have been able to do in the past.  We've got the fistfighting and martial arts of 'Arrow', the super powers and spectacle of 'Flash', but here it's all thrown in together with multiple heroes all battling on screen at the same time.

The first fight scene of the episode displayed just how grand and dynamic this show can be, with a team of variously skilled and powered characters fighting together.  Yes, 'Arrow' has become a team show, but it's a team consisting of two archers, a street fighter and a marksman, it's not very visually dynamic.  Here, however, we have Firestorm flying around shooting blasts of nuclear energy whilst White Canary stick fights terrorists.  You see a miniaturized Atom zipping around a hanger throwing people around before returning to normal size to beat the crap out of people.  Captain Cold and Heatwave fight back to back with streams of fire and ice, looks of pure joy on their faces, while Hawkman and Hawkgirl swoop in and beat the crap out of people with medieval weaponry.

It's big, flashy and it's a feast for the eyes.  It also gives us a little cameo from Damian Darhk, the current 'Arrow' villain, that raises some interesting questions for that show, such as how has Damian Darhk not aged in 40 year?

This single action scene gives us something that has been lacking from every other superhero show we've had, a team of people all doing different things in spectacular fashion.  It felt more akin to small screen Avengers rather than a regular comic book show.

The second action sequence went on to show that this kind of action wasn't just a one off though, as it threw the entire cast into the fight, this time will Rip Hunter and his amazing laser revolver (have I said how much I love that gun already?!) and a change in visual style as we get a closer quarters night fight.  The visual difference to the early daylight hanger fight makes a good contrast and makes sure that it doesn't feel dull or a straight copy of what we'd seen already.

Despite the addition of two big action sequences the show also managed to continue to deliver great character moments and some time travel hijinks, along with some serious emotional moments.

We get to see Professor Stein, Jackson and Sarah track down a younger version of Stein in order to get their hands on some tech the young scientist was developing, and get some fun Back To The Future moments as they struggle to achieve their goal without interrupting the timeline and stopping the younger Stein from going on to meet his future wife.  Once again we get to see the fragility of the timeline as Steins wedding ring vanishes from his finger, erasing his marriage from future events.  Thankfully with some help from Rip things get nudged back onto the right course and Steins past is repaired.

These scenes are great to watch, as they not only go to show just how much Professor Stein loves his wife, despite leaving her to go have adventures through time, but we also get some fun moments from Sarah.  The back and forwards banter with Stein and Sarah, and her being high yet cocky enough to still be able to beat up a bunch of terrorists shows us that maybe being on this unlikely team really is a good thing for her after what she went through on 'Arrow', and just what she needs to start to rebuild and enjoy her life.

Elsewhere we get to see a little more of Captain Cold too (something I'm always happy about) as he and Heatwave get teamed up with Atom on a heist.  Whilst I'm starting to like the Atom less and less with his very cocky and self righteous attitude he does get knocked down a few pegs by Cold, a man that he sees as being beneath him, which will hopefully go towards some positive character development.  We also get to see that unlike Heatwave, who's in this purely for the money, Cold might actually have a bit more depth to him, that maybe he does on some level really want to be a hero and change his destiny.

The biggest moment in the episode is once again the emotionally shocking one, as Vandal Savage murders Hawkman right in front of Hawkgirl.  No sooner had Carter helped Kendra remember a key part of her first life, and that she does deeply love him, then he's snatched away from her by Savage in a rather brutal scene.  I didn't expect any team deaths at this point of the show, or even at all really, so the sudden departure of Carter was definitely a shock.

It might be an easy choice, or even a cheat by the writers to chose him as the first man to go down, as they could in theory find another version of Hawkman from further in the future, but I hope they don't.  Kendra lost her son and her lover in a single day, and the effect of that should not be lessened by bringing another version of Hawkman into the show.  Let's have her dealing with that loss, with that anger and sadness without taking it away.  Plus it will give her a chance to interact with the other members
of the team, which so far hasn't happened yet.

The second half of the pilot really shows what 'Legends of Tomorrow' is capable of, fun and entertaining characters, big emotional scenes and some of the best super hero action on television.  Anyone who doubted the shows ability to stand up on it's own or break away from its parent shows will surely have their minds changed by the end of this episode.


Legends of Tomorrow 'Pilot Part 1' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt for you, please do not read further.

The latest show based on the popular DC Comics line, and newest member to the CW's Arrowverse, is the superhero team based 'Legends of Tomorrow'.  'Legends of Tomorrow' is an ensemble show featuring a roster of side characters from both 'Arrow' and 'The Flash', brought together by newcomer Rip Hunter, played by Doctor Who's Arthur Darvill.

The basic premise for the show follows Rip Hunter, time traveller and former member of the Time Masters, as he recruits a special team to travel through time and defeat the immortal villain Vandal Savage to save the future of the human race, and Hunters family.

The team consists of billionaire inventor and vigilante Ray Palmer/The Atom (played by Brandon Routh), former assassin Sarah Lance/White Canary (Caity Lotz), both halves of the nuclear superhero Firestorm (Victor Garber as Professor Stein and Franz Drameh as Jefferson Jackson), the villains Leonard Snart/Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Mick Rory/Heatwave (Dominic Purcell), along with the reincarnated Egyptian lovers Hawkman and Hawkgirl (Falk Hentschel as Carter Hall and Ciara Renee as Kendra Saunders).

Despite being initially told by Hunter that they were chosen because in their future not only would they be heroes (including the two members of Flash's Rogues Gallery) but because they'd be legends.  Unfortunately this turns out to be not exactly true, as Hunter reluctantly reveals to the group that the real reason he picked them was not only their skill sets, but the fact that if things go wrong and they die very little will actually happen to the timeline.  Rather than having the effect of knocking the team back though, this actually goes on to inspire them, to get them to want to change their fates and becomes the legends that they were told they could be.  Well, except for Captain Cold and Heatwave, who are just out to grab some expensive loot from various time periods.

Whilst the first good portion of the episode is focused on the bringing together of the team, the rest of the episode shifts the action to 1975, where the team go looking for clues to Vandal Savage's location.  Rip Hunter takes Professor Stein, Ray Palmer and the Hawks to track down Dr Aldus Boardman, an expert on Vandal Savage, who eagle eyed fans will remember from the Flash/Arrow crossover that introduced the characters of Savage and the Hawks.
In an unexpected turn of events Dr Boardman turns out to be the son of Hawkman and Hawkgirl from one of their past lives, who were murdered by savage when Boardman was just ten years old.  This is something of a welcome addition to the episode, as it not only helps to add some depth to both the the history of Vandal Savage and the Hawks, but it gives some emotion over to what could have been a fairly standard 'adventure in time' story.  It gives Ciara Renee a chance to stretch her wings (no pun intended) as far as her acting goes, where despite having no memory of that life or Dr. Boardman, she instantly feels a maternal instinct towards him and cares about him.

Unfortunately, it's through Dr. Boardman that both the audience and the characters learn a valuable lesson about time travel, that it's not something to be done lightly.  Upon learning that he will be found dead the next day Kendra and Carter insist on bringing Boardman with them.  Despite some reluctance, Hunter agrees to take him along with them.  Sadly, before they can even get to The Waverider (Hunter's timeship) Boardman is killed by a time travelling bountyhunter called Chronos.  Whether this is how Boardman was always destined to die, or if it's the timeline trying to 'fix' Carter and Kendra trying to change things is left unclear, but it shows that certain things will happen no matter what, which raises some questions as to the possible success of the whole plan to change the future.

Elsewhere the episode is given some levity as Captain Cold, Heatwave and White Canary chose to ditch The Waverider and hit a bar.  Their drinking session quickly turns into a bar room brawl where we get to see that despite the hero/villain division at least some of these characters can get along quite well.  The fight is quick, but well orchestrated, and made me see just how Cold and Heatwave might fit into a team made up of heroes.  As usual it helps that Wentworth Miller just seems to absolutely love playing Captain Cold, hamming up his performance in an almost over the top way, yet making the character massively endearing.  I'm hoping that we get to see a lot more of these kind of fun moments from the ensembled cast.

The standout moment of the first episode definitely goes to Arthur Darvill though.  Despite being introduced as a confident gun wielding time agent (and just for the record, his laser gun revolver is so awesome I'm already eagerly awaiting the toy version) it's the moment where we get to see his humanity that really stands out.  Once the team finds out that he lied to them about their futures he lets his guard down, he tells the team that he's no longer a Time Master, that he's essentially on the run and after revenge against Savage for brutally killing his wife and son.  

This moment could have been a bad one, it could have felt forced and cheesy, Darvill delivers it with such a genuine and understated performance that it feels very real.  It makes Rip Hunter less of an arrogant jerk and a man that our legends are willing to follow.  It's the scene that brings together a collection of people and starts to make them into a team.

Over all this is probably the best pilot episode that the CW has produced for their DC shows, and it's still not even finished yet.  Hopefully the second part of the pilot will try to pack in a little more action to even out the slowness of the first half, and hopefully without losing the character moments and emotion that we've been given already.


Wednesday, 27 January 2016

75,000 Hits!

Wow!  I never expected to get to this point,75,000 hits on my little blog!  Thank you to everyone who has visited, to everyone who has subscribed and everyone who has shared my work with others.

I would have never reached this milestone without your support.  You're all amazing!

Thank you so much.


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Maria Miller Shocked By Trans Report Hostility From Feminists

Maria Miller, former Culture Secretary and Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee spoke to The Independent on Sunday to discuss her shock at the negative response to the Trans Inquiry from a 'minority of women purporting to be feminists'.

Talking to The Independent on Sunday from her offices in Westminster, Miss Miller said that she was expecting to be attacked from within her own party by right-wingers once the Trans Inquiry was published, but was surprised by the reaction she received.

'The only negative reaction that I've seen has been from individuals purporting to be feminists', she said.

Just a quick glance at Twitter reveals that there has indeed been a negative reaction towards the Trans Inquiry, and Maria Miller, from people who are raising concerns over the notion of allowing people they view as men into women's spaces.

Maria Miller has been accused of exposing women to 'violent men hiding behind the mask of being transgender', she has been told that trans women are 'not real women' and that they are often 'violent offenders or sex offenders'.  She has been told that she is a 'traitor' to women and that she is failing in her duty to protect women.

Despite these vocal disagreements from certain sections of the feminist community Maria Miller has refused to back down from her position and has painted a target for hate and abuse on herself by insisting that these views are not only wrong, but that they go against the very notion of feminism.  She even went on to point out research by the Fawcett Society, a think tank campaigning for women's rights, that says that roughly two-thirds of feminists believe that gender is fluid, rather than binary.

'I think that all of us who are feminists know that equality for other groups of people, and a fairer deal for other groups of people, is good for us as well.  If we live in a fairer society, where opportunities are not cut off because of your gender or sexuality or race or religion, then it's going to be good for women as well as good for everyone else.'  She said.

'We should be fighting for a fairer society.  I find it extraordinary that somebody wouldn't acknowledge that.  But there seems to be an undercurrent of opinion amongst some that trans people shouldn't be treated equally, even when they've had a legal change in their gender, and that in some way is a threat to women; I simply reject that.'


Supernatural 'Devil In The Details' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt for you, please do not read further.

With the way that Supernatural left off at the Christmas break the show needed to step up and deliver something awesome to be able to compete with their cliffhanger, and boy does 'Devil In The Details deliver.

In an episode that explores the eleven seasons long mythology and manages to give us brand new and interesting stuff, the opening episode of the second half of the season delivers some laugh out loud moments, genuine tension, great character moments and a twist ending that will leave viewers picking their jaw up off the floor.

The episode opens with a bizarre and surreal scene as Crowley, acting like a child, opens his presents of Christmas morning as a depressed looking Rowena looks on.  It's only when Lucifer, dressed as Santa gatecrashes that we realise this is a dream, or as Rowena laments a recurring nightmare, and we discover this is how Lucifer began to communicate with her from within the cage, organising the whole scheme to trap Sam with him.  It's a throw away scene, despite showing us an important piece of the puzzle, but succeeds in the way that it delivers what has become a staple comedy scene of Supernatural, in which we get a little fourth wall breaking as Crowley gets a Sam Funkopop for Christmas.

Back in the real world Dean searches for confirmation that heaven were able to kill Amara with the equivalent of an Angel Nuke, where we discover that smiting from heaven causes a fallout that can kill humans, leaving Castiel as the only member of the team who can reach the blast point and discover Amara's fate.

In Hell Lucifer starts to take Sam on a tour down memory lane to try and make the point that Sam and Dean have gone soft, that the days where they'd be willing to do whatever it took to save the world had passed in an attempt to get Sam to agree to let Lucifer use him as a vessel in order to fight the Darkness.  I can't help but feel that in some ways Lucifer has a point, that in the past Sam would have agreed to let Lucifer in in order to beat the even bigger bad, but the characters have moved on since those days and matured, knowing when not to make those kinds of choices.  Unfortunately not everyone knows when not to make those stupid mistakes. 

Castiel agrees to let Lucifer use him as a vessel in order to fight Amara, in a move that strikes me as massively stupid and immature.  You'd think by now Castiel would have enough experience with the Winchesters to know that that kind of choice is definitely going to come back to bite them all in the arse.  Can we fully blame the character though, is it because he apparently hasn't learnt anything?  Or is it perhaps because the writers still don't know what to do with the character?

That being said, it's a hell of a development.  It gives the season a whole new and interesting angle, it raises the tension and it makes things incredibly uncertain.  Will Lucifer be true to his word to help fight the Darkness, and even if he does, what will the Winchesters do to get the Devil out of their friend.

Once the cat is out of the bag, for the audience and Crowley at least, Misha Collins is amazing in his new role.  The second his facial expression and body language change it feels like Mark Pellegrino on screen.  They way he acts and the way he talks if spot on and you can tell it's instantly the Devil in a Castiel suit.  

The biggest shame with this twist is that the first thing Devileil does is to kill Rowena, in a move that has sadly become a standard for Supernatural, killing of interesting female side characters.  Yes, I know that some of you might say that's not true, but think about it, Lilith, Ruby, Ellen, Jo, Meg, Charlie, Bela, Hannah, Anna, Naomi, the second Raphael and Abbadon, all killed off over the years in a pattern of Supernatural not giving interesting side characters a real chance to stay around.  It's why I get scared every time Jodie Mills turns up because I'm worried they'll kill her off, and now they've gone and done it to Rowena too.

Other than that one gripe the show comes back to the air in a strong episode that plays true to the characters, introduces some new mythology as well as taking a look back at the history of our main characters.  The twist with Lucifer is one of the more interesting things the show has done and sets the stage for some interesting new story lines to come.


Arrow 'Blood Debts' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt, please do not read further.

After an exciting and action packed mid-season finale Arrow returns to the screen with an episode that never really rises above being anything more than just average, despite trying it's hardest to feel like it's being something more.

The episode begins with another flash forward to Oliver and Barry (Allen, the Flash) at a grave four months in the future.  With the attack on Oliver and Felicity at the end of the last episode that left Felicity bleeding in Ollie's arms I'm guessing the show wanted to momentarily fool audiences into believing that it could be Felicity in the grave.  Unfortunately, this seemed to be such an obvious red herring that it all but confirmed to me that she would survive her wounds from the mid-season finale.

Unfortunately, if the Arrow show runners wanted people to genuinely feel worried about Felicity they seemed to be completely unable to do so, as we soon saw her in hospital, awake and talking to her friends.  There was none of the usual 'life in danger' type of hospital scenes where doctors fight to keep her alive.  It all felt very anticlimactic and almost a waste of a plot that she would be so quickly be shown to be in a stable condition.

This lack of drama with Felicity was felt elsewhere too, as Oliver's anger felt a little watered down as he went on a rampage, attacking Ghosts to try and find Damian Darhk.  Yes, his fiancee had been hospitalised and he was angry, but I couldn't help but feel that there could have been more emotional impact from his actions if there was still risk that he might lose Felicity completely.  These scenes just never felt like they had that extra punch they could have, it came across as very flat and dull.

Whilst the whole episode could have easily be given over to Ollie and Team Arrow searching for Darhk they instead decided to bring back an old foe to shake things up a little, and the episode definitely benefited from it.  Lonnie Machin, Anarky, who was last seen escaping from police custody in the back of an ambulance after being set on fire by Thea earlier this season.

The reintroduction of Anarky added an extra dimension to the story, as it showed that Team Arrow have to deal with other criminals all the time, not just when there are lulls in the main story.  It makes things feel slightly more organic, that in the middle of a hunt for Darhk, in the middle of the Felicity drama they still have to worry about other costumed villains too.

The Anarky story took an interesting turn too, when instead of wanting revenge on Thea for almost killing him, Lonnie instead developed a rather unhealthy admiration of her, even going so far as thanking her for setting him on fire.  Instead, his revenge was focused purely on Damian Darhk and Hive.

It adds something a little different instead of being the run of the mill 'villain wants revenge on the hero' trope that a lot of shows have, unfortunately so far Anarky has done very little, which is a shame for a character that's very well established in the comics.  The Arrowverse version of Anarky doesn't feel enough like the comic book counterpart, and doesn't even live up to his namesake.  Perhaps this is all part of something bigger, perhaps the show runners are building Anarky up to be an actual threat, or at least someone who causes anarky.  I hope that's the case, because so far I feel that his role in the series could have been played by any villain or random thug/enforcer.

Despite the episode having multiple focuses, Ollie and Felicity, Anarky and Thea, even John beating the crap out of his brother to get info out of him, it had time to squeeze some more Damian Darhk confrontation into the mix, as he and Ollie face off again.  

It's a strange fight that ensues, on the one hand Darhk almost killed Felicity, and Darhk wants to kill Oliver, but then Ollie had just saved Darhks family too.  You can see that both characters want to kill each other, but both of them feel reluctant to do so.  It creates a strange moment as viewers were expecting a big showdown, but the show chose not to deliver.  The people behind Arrow have said that this season they're going to do something big and different with their villain, something shocking, and maybe this is helping to build towards that, but it just felt jarring as the conclusion to this episode.  Maybe Ollie was less reluctant to fight him just after saving his wife and daughter, but after that happened to Felicity I find it strange that he would not try to kill the man responsible. 

Speaking of Damian's wife, it would appear that she's more than just his wife.  Instead of the innocent wife who has no idea her husband is a villain, or the wife who knows her husband breaks the law but believes he's not a bad person she seems to be 100% absolutely aware of everything.  She even appears to be the one getting Darhk to do the things he's doing.  Is this the twist the shows teasing us with?  Is Darhks wife going to turn out to be the big villain of the season instead of him?

The episode ends where it began, four months down the line, at the side of the grave of someone that is clearly massively important to Oliver.  Whilst people have been trying to guess the identity of the graves occupant for months they can now officially scratch Felicity off the list as we see that she is alive and well.  What raises more questions though is the moment she tells Oliver to kill the person responsible for the death of [insert identity here].  Who would have that kind of reaction from both Oliver and Felicity?  Guess we still have to wait to see who's going to be killed off this season.

Despite some strange story choices and an overall lack of tension the episode still manages to pull itself together at the end and adds to the overall season arc, and gives each character a small moment to shine, even Felicity's mother and Quentin Lance get a great little moment when caught by Laurel.  Whilst this episode could have been much bigger and better then it was at least it wasn't a total disappointment.


Monday, 25 January 2016

Jeremy Clarkson Insults Trans Community, Attacks Parents of Trans Children

Former disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson has attacked the transgender community in his latest column for the Sunday Times, a column that has since been removed from their website.

Clarkson begins his attack on the trans community by claiming that the struggles of transgender community have been over exaggerated, and that left-wing activists 'have decided that we must now turn our attention to the plight of people who want to change their name from Stan to Loretta'.

'As far as I was concerned, men who want to be women were only really to be found on the internet or in the seedier bits of Bangkok.  They were called Ladyboys, and in my mind they were nothing more than a punchline in a stag night anecdote.'

Frighteningly, after these comments Clarkson went on to tell a story about how he wanted to personally abuse the parents of a transgender child at an eight-year-old's birthday party, 'She was born a boy  but had insisted from the age of three that she had a girls name and wore girls clothes, and later, she went to a girls school.  And her parents had simply indulged this whim.  I was horrified.  I wanted to seek them out and explain that they are free to live a lunatic life, washing their armpits with charcoal and liking Jeremy Corbyn's thoughts on how ballistic nuclear submarines must be built by the comrades and then used as flowerpots.  They must not, and I was going to emphasise this with spittle, be allowed to poison the mind of a child.'

'It's what kids do: dream impossible dreams.  You don't actually take them seriously.  You don't take them to a hospital when they're 10 and say 'He wants to be a girl, so can you lop his todger off?'  Because what's going to happen five years later when he's decided that being a man isn't so bad after all and he's in the showers at the rugby club?'

Clarkson also went on to mock the idea of transgender prisoners, a particularly insulting thing to do following the deaths of a number of trans inmates last year, before denying official figures on trans issues.  'I was told there are 650,000 people living in Britain today with some kind of gender 'issue'.  Well, I just sat there shaking my head, because the simple fact is: there aren't'.

The kinds of comments made by Clarkson are the inane, hate filled dribblings of an idiot so desperate for public attention that they will say anything in order to get the spotlight shined on them.  Clarkson has a history of saying homophobic, racist and mysoginistic comments that most people would have expected that it would only be a matter of time before he turned his bigotry towards the transgender community.

His comments have been met with outrage online, with thousands taking to twitter to condemn the things he said, to point out where his facts are woefully wrong and ignorant of scientific data, and where he's being just a downright disgusting human being.

Clarkson feels that children being allowed to live as their true selves and transition are somehow being harmed, and that their parents are 'poisoning' their minds.  The sad truth is that this is not the case, children are born trans, whether parents want it or not, which is evident by the number of young trans people who do not have the support of their parents.  Perhaps Clarkson is unfamiliar with these cases though, and assumes that trans children aren't put through psychological and physical torment by parents who don't support them, perhaps he's unaware of the number of trans children who self harm, the number of trans children who take their own lives because they have no support of parents.  I guess in his mind these statistics simply don't exist, because then his whole view of trans people would quickly fall apart.

Clarkson admits that he likes to view trans people as a punchline, or some dirty sexual object that is best left hidden from sight.  He laughs at our dead, condemns those who want to help and support us and denies our issues are even real.  He even goes on to deny our existence by claiming that government figures outlining how many trans people there are in the UK are lies.

Jeremy Clarkson is a dinosaur.  He's a man stuck living in the past because he's too afraid of the better world around him, a world where a straight, white man like himself, with homophobic, sexist and racist views isn't idolised, where he's held accountable for the things he says and does.  Remember, this is a man who threatened to have someone sacked, then punched them because he couldn't have some hot food when he got back from the pub.  That's the kind of disgusting person Clarkson is.

As said previously in the article, the comments made by Clarkson have already been removed from the Sunday Times website, so they at least understand that the comments made were wrong and have taken them down.  Has there been an apology for it being published in the first place though?  No.  Does there appear to be any consequence for Clarkson's actions this time?  Again, no.

A petition has already been launched to have Clarkson fired from his new show being produced by Amazon.


Friday, 22 January 2016

Nintendo Removes Gay Cure Drug Plot From 'Fire Emblem: Fates'

Nintendo has confirmed that they will be censoring content from their UK and US release of Fire Emblem: Fates, an RPG for the Nintendo 3DS.

In Fire Emblem: Fates the player character can form a bond with other game characters, and even form romantic relationships.  However, in the Japanese version of the game players are able to enter into a romantic relationship with a lesbian character named Soleil, despite the player character being male.

In the Japanese version of the game players can chose to secretly slip a magic powder into Soleil's drink.  If they do so Soleil, who is described as being shy approaching women, will then see men as women and women as men.  The game's protagonist is then able to romance Soleil.  Once the magic wears off Soleil says that she loves the main character, despite the fact that he is male, and even goes so far as wanting to marry him.

Despite the game being released in Japan Nintendo have chosen to remove the plot line from their western release.  In a statement to Nintendo World Report a Nintendo representative said 'In the version of the game that ships in the U.S. and Europe, there is no expression which might be considered as gay conversion or drugging that occurs between characters.'

The decision to remove these aspects of the game have likely come following various members of the public pointing out that the plot line closely resembles both gay conversion and date rape drugging.  Whilst the game itself does not contain explicit date rape or corrective rape, the actions of the player character closely resemble them enough that people felt the need to highlight the issue.

As to be expected, reactions to the news have been mixed, with some gamers praising the decision to remove the questionable content, whilst others have been decrying the decision as being 'censorship gone too far'.


'Love, Or The Witches Of Winward Circle' Book Review

One of the thing's I've found from being a writer, even a small time relative nobody like myself, is that every now and then someone approaches you to review their work or give your opinion on something they've produced.

One of these such requests came to me from the author Carlos Allende.  Carlos liked some of the articles I'd written, some of the opinions I had on certain subjects based on my viewpoint as a transgender woman, and asked if I would read his book and give my thoughts on it from that perspective.  Actually, the exact words Carlos used were 'don't be kind, please destroy it', well Carlos, here goes...

'Love, or The Witches of Winward Circle' is a hard book to accurately describe, and I immediately found that even the description on the back cover led me to expect certain things of the story whilst reading it.  If you are able to bear with me for a moment I will try to explain what I mean.

The back of the book reads as follows, 'Nineteen-year-old Josie Garcia is torn between true love with a down-and-out poet and the monetary stability that only a rich husband can provide.  She owes rent - two months - and while her little landlady is docile enough to pretend that she has forgotten about the money, she's also a self-taught witch, planning to chop Josie's head off and use it as the main ingredient in a potion to recover her lost youth and become the beautiful woman she never was'.  After reading the blurb I dove into the book, and for the next 100 pages got to know who I believed was Josie.

The story begins with a dying old woman, a witch, who wishes to confess to her sins and absolve herself to god before she dies and gets dragged to hell.  We get to know the woman and her three daughters, Victoria, Rosa, and a third daughter who is very badly mistreated and never once even named.  Close to the first third of the book is spent getting to know this family, where we learn that witchcraft is very real, that demons and werewolves and vampires exist, along with some of the bizarre things the old witch did in service to the devil.

As the old witch dies and we begin to follow her daughters I believed that the youngest daughter was going to be the Josie that was described on the back cover, after all I'm a hundred pages in and she appears to be the main character.  In a curve ball of expectations though the author jumps the story forward by decades, jumping from the turn of the century to the 1950's.  It's at this point here, eight chapters in, that we finally meet Josie, who is the lodger at the home of the witch's three daughters.

This sudden shift in both the setting of the story, and the unusually late inclusion of one of the lead characters definitely put me on a back foot, I daresay a deliberate move from the author to surprise readers and show them that this is the kind of book that will go out of its way to supplant expectations.

In a development that seems to go against everything we learnt out the younger sister, still never named but referred to as 'the little woman', as having showed no desire to be anything like her witch mother suddenly finds herself craving the youth and beauty of the young Josie, and begins to teach herself magic in order to regain her youth.

What follows from here are two separate, yet interwoven stories, as the little woman tries desperately to find a way to bring her plans to fruition and Josie navigates her way through the complexities of her love life.

Things unfold in bizarre and almost ridiculous fashion, where strange coincidences and ludicrous decisions makes the plot wist and turn and develop in ways that you at first wouldn't expect.  Whilst some of themes events may feel a little too silly and unrealistic,the book makes clear from even the front cover that it considers itself to be a farce, and in that regard it definitely lives up to its claim.

Whether it's accidentally murdering the wrong young woman, twice, or accidentally getting caught in the middle of a baby kidnapping and arrested, many of the situations in the book definitely meet the requirements of being exaggerated and over-the-top, though sometimes it does stretch this idea a little too far, and towards the end of the book the farcical nature was beginning to wear a little thin.  Luckily, however, the author didn't feel the need to stretch his story out overly long, and the book reaches a conclusion long before these comedic elements begin to detract from the overall quality.

The little woman is for me the most tragic character in the book, and one that I felt sorry for, despite her engaging in black magic, killing young women and even stealing a baby.  We see how even from an early age she was mistreated by her family, with her mother and her sisters treating her more like an animal than a member of the family.  We see how she works hard every day of her life to help people, and to make her horrid sisters comfortable but gets no thanks or kindness in return.  Despite going out of her way to perform some down right evil deeds the little woman is the character I felt the most for during the course of the book.

In contrast to this I found Josie to be a very shallow and at times nasty young woman.  The very first time we meet her she's lamenting over what to do with her life, which of her many boyfriends she should commit to.  What makes this scene feel quite horrible though is that when talking about her many suitors she appears to feel little to no emotion about any of them.  All that she cares about most is which of them has the most money, who can provide her with the most comfortable life.

Whilst Josie does end up sticking with the poor young artist Russell she is often complaining about his lack of money, the company he keeps and his inability to prove her with the lifestyle she wants.  She does things for selfish reasons, she lies and steals and intentionally hurts people just to get what she wants.  Despite everything she eventually goes through towards the end of the book, I never once feel sorry for her, or even really care about her.

Perhaps this is intentional on the part of the author, perhaps Carlos wants to buck tradition and have the stereotypically evil old witch to be the character you care for, whilst the innocent teenage girl acts like the heartless monster.

Other characters in the book can sometimes feel a little shallow and one dimensional, though there are a few exceptions, where I found myself genuinely wanting to know a little more about them.  Eva was one of these characters, a young woman who was friends with Josie's boyfriend Russell.  Throughout the book we get little pieces of her back story, and discover that Eva lived through the events of the holocaust, having been in the concentration camps in Nazi Germany.  We get teases of a character with a deep psychological scars, of someone trying to put their life back together after living through these very real horrors.  Unfortunately all we experience of Eva is through Josie's eyes, so she's made out to be a nasty woman, only out for herself and trying to steal Russell away from Josie.  Every time the two characters meet I end up wanting to see more of Eva, whilst also finding myself disliking Josie more and more.

There's a lot in the book that I enjoyed, and a lot in the book that I didn't, though mainly because I disliked one of the leads, the things she said and did and the way she treated people.  There's some surprisingly shocking language employed in the book too, and I'm not talking about swearing here.  I'm hoping it's because of the time the book is set, but there is some use of racist and homophobic language throughout.

I'm guessing it was some of these moments that made Carlos send me the book in the first place, that he wanted to know how a member of the LGBT+ community would take some of these offencive parts.  I can only speak personally here, whilst hearing people in the book using racist and homophobic language certainly took me out of the book for a moment whenever I saw it, it's true to the time and the setting.  I don't like that kind of language or sentiment, and whilst I believe that there is no place for it in today's society, it was something that was present during the 1950's.  There are certain parts of history that you can't sugar coat, because people have done some horrible things, but I don't think it should be included just for the hell of things.

In 'Love, or The Witches of Winward Circle' there are a lot of very open and free thinking characters, members of the laid back artistic community, and there are plenty of moments in the book that could include casual racism but don't, probably because a lot of these characters seem to be less bothered about certain topics such as race, gender and sexuality.  When towards the end there's a sudden outburst of homophobia, and some very horrible terms, it feels kind of out of place in comparison to the rest of the book, where many similar moments were not included.

I understand that this moment was an important one, that a certain character had to become angry enough to act in a certain way, but I'd like to think that there could have been another way to get to that point without having one of the 'heroes' of the story resort to calling someone a 'faggot'.

All in all I enjoyed the book, despite it being something that I probably wouldn't have picked up myself.  The story is different and interesting, and whilst some characters are very shallow and one dimensional, there are enough interesting characters to make up for that.

A quirky and interesting read, that will leave you both satisfied and a little baffled too by the end.  'Love, or The Witches of Winward Circle' never seems to take itself on hundred percent seriously, and isn't afraid of going against the norm in order to tell it's story.

Buy 'Love, or The Witches of Winward Circle' at:


Barnes & Noble

Indie Bound


Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Flash 'Potential Energy' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt, please do not read further.

Season 2 of The Flash has definitely been an improvement on the first season, not that there was anything particularly wrong with the first season.  While the show has been gradually getting better and better the opening episode of the second half of season 2 feels a little bit of a let down.

'Potential Energy' follows team flash as they try to get their hands on a new weapon in their fight against Zoom, namely another meta-human with the ability to slow down everything around them.  Fans of the Flash comic will surely be grinning as soon as the name the Turtle is mentioned, sadly though the character isn't as fun and visually engaging as their comic book counterpart.

Instead of a strange troll like man in a turtle costume, complete with shell, we've got Battlestar Galactica's Aaron Douglas in a hoodie.  Whilst I appreciate that the show runners probably want to make the show realistic in many ways, this is the show that has has giant psychic gorillas, sharkmen and people flying around with their heads on fire, so a guy in turtle outfit wouldn't exactly be stretching believability here too much.

Why not a Turtle that looked like this?
Aaron Douglas would rock the shell look.
Elsewhere in the episode we spend some time touching base with all of our cast members, almost like the show is taking the time to remind fans that certain characters exist after a month's break.  'Here's Cisco, he can vibe, remember, he's talking about vibing right now'.  'This is Iris, she's kind of like Barry's sister, but they kind of love each other too'.  None of these moments are out of character, but with each character getting to do a tiny bit this episode it makes certain things feel a little lost.
I'd have preferred to have spent more time with Iris and Joe trying to get to know Wally than the two or three scenes we did have, and the moment between Cisco and Harry in the van where Harry tells the story of how Zoom got his name was a brilliantly written and performed moment, that showed a growing bond between the two and some genuine humanity from Harry, but once again, it was another great moment in a episode full of little moments.  This one scene could have been much better elsewhere, in this episode it felt too dark and deep because it was surrounded by all of these other, lighter moments.

Despite the main thrust of the episode being about trying to capture the Turtle and use his abilities as a weapon in the fight against Zoom, the episode very much felt like it was more about Barry and Patty.  Their relationship has been building all season and finally reached critical mass this episode.  Barry realised that the relationship had reached the point where he either had to commit to Patty and tell her that he's the Flash, or move on.  Considering how many other people know his identity it's a surprise he kept it a secret from her for so long.

Fortunately for those who are sick of people finding out Barry is the Flash, and unfortunately for those who enjoyed Barry and Patty's relationship, Patty decides that she's done with Central City and chooses to leave, breaking up with Barry in the process.  We all knew the relationship wouldn't last, the show was telling us that Barry was going to end up married to Iris in the very first episode (the name Iris West-Allen on the newspaper from the future in the pilot episode, for those with a foggy memory) but that being said it's a shame to lose Patty.  She was a genuine fun and engaging character, who could be kind of goofy and sweet one minute, but pulls a gun on a giant sharkman the next.

The biggest moment in the whole episode came right at the end, however, as the villainous Reverse Flash came running back onto our screens.  This isn't the same Reverse Flash we've already seen in the show, or rather it is, but not at the same point we've seen him.  This is the Reverse Flash the first time he travelled back in time to the present, before he ever met the Flash, before he killed Nora Allen in the past and before he stole Earth 1's Harrison Wells' face.

As such the Reverse Flash still looks like himself here and is played by Matt Letscher rather than Tom Cavanagh.  It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out, and the situations that could arise.  Barry now has two evil speedsters to contend with, and one that he knows will eventually go back in time and kill his mother.  Barry already came to some kind of resolution about his mothers death last season when he travelled back to that point in his time line, but how is that going to play out now?  Plus, Eddie killed himself in the season 1 finale to stop the Reverse Flash, Eddie being his ancestor, and it appeared to erase him from existence.  If that's true, how is the Reverse Flash still around, is there some kind of time travel rules that are coming into play (possibly as a way of introducing Rip Hunter) or is this a Reverse Flash from another dimension?  Whatever the explanation for his return, it's sure to play out in some spectacular ways.


Star Wars Rebels 'A Princess On Lothal' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt please do not read further.

With the first half of the second season having Agent Kallus chasing our rebel heroes around the galaxy to little effect it began to look like the only threat to the crew of the Ghost might have been the Inquisitors.  Luckily the first episode of the second half of the season shows just how competent and organised the Imperial Army can actually be.

With the losses suffered in the mid-season finale Senator Organa decides to send some extra ships to the rebels to help them in their fight against the empire.  The ships are being brought to Lothal by none other than Organa's adoptive daughter and future hero to the rebellion, Princess Leia.

Expecting to be able to bring the ships to Lothal and simply hand them over to the rebels Leia is surprised when the Imperial beef up security and seize the vessels.  Leia is then put in the tricky situation of trying to get the rebels the ships they desperately need, whilst maintaining her cover as a member of the Imperial Senate.

What ensues in a fun episode where Ezra and Kanan imitate imperials, Princess Leia pretend to be kidnapped, the crew of the Ghost pretend to capture Ezra and Kanan, Leia fakes an escape and a prisoner rescue.  There's a lot of things going on, a lot of plans and trickery, and whilst it might be easy to dismiss this as a throw away episode, but the way the writers use Leia shows us a side of the character we've never seen before, her before she was an open rebel and working in the shadows.

It's also a good episode for Ezra, where he is still given time to mourn for his parents, and process their loss after finding out they were dead in the last episode.  His loss doesn't overtake the episode, it doesn't slow things down, instead it gives the episode a little depth that it otherwise lacked.

With the rest of the season promising to delve deeper into the Jedi/Sith lore, and to raise more connections to The Force Awakens (Ezra holding a green cross-guard sabre being a particularly stand out moment from the trailer), but the inclusion of Leia and the focus on the conflict between the rebels and the empire are a welcome connection to other aspects of the new film, and makes a more personal connection with the character appearing in both.


Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Steve Rogers To Return As Captain America

Marvel comics have announced that original Captain America Steve Rogers will be returning to the role this summer after a year of absence from the role.

In a move that many fans could see coming, due to the release of a new Captain America film this year, Steve Rogers will once again wield the shield as Captain America.  The character will star in a new ongoing series called 'Captain America: Steve Rogers', and will come with the creative team of Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz.

After losing the super soldier serum that gave Steve his powers and extended youth and vitality Steve aged rapidly, causing him to give up his identity of Captain America, though he did remain active within the super hero community behind the scenes.  The mantle of Captain America was passed to the former Falcon, Sam Wilson.

Marvel are stating that Sam will remain in the role of Captain America, and will keep the iconic shield, resulting in two Captain Americas in the Marvel Universe.

'When Steve handed the shield to Sam, it didn't come with any caveats,' Marvel said.  'It's his.  Steve respects and admires what his old partner is doing, and wants him to carry on.  There are enough problems out there, and enough bad guys, to keep them both busy.  They'll have different missions, Sam will fight the battles no one else will go near, while Steve is faced with a resurgent threat from his past, Hydra is back, and stronger than ever.'

With two Captain America's and the shield remaining with Sam, Steve finds himself in possession of a new shield.  The new shield is reminiscent of his original world war two shield and has been designed by 'Captain America: Sam Wilson' artist Daniel Acuna.

'It's shape is similar to the original shield Cap had back in the 1940's, the pointy one, but this one has two main innovations; its tip can be deployed as an energy blade so Cap can cut into things, and the shield can be divided into two, so Steve can use both halves, one on each arm.'  Jesus Saiz said.

Fans are excited to both see the return of Steve to the role and to see two very different and unique versions of Captain America.


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

'Extinction' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the film to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story elements spoilt for you please do not read further.

Nine years after the zombie apocalypse two feuding survivors live next to each other in the snowy wilderness, with a nine year old girl stuck in the middle, that is until the mutant creatures return, this time bigger, faster and scarier than before.

Director Miguel Angel Vivas tries to bring something different to the standard zombie apocalypse film, by adding family drama, a new type of setting and a monstrous new type of zombie creature.

Unfortunately the character drama adds little to the overall experience, as the character aren't complex enough, and the twists and secrets aren't surprising enough to be effective.  The story follows Patrick (Matthew Fox) and Jack (Jeffrey Donovan) nine year after an unspecified event caused a global zombie outbreak, where they are holed up in neighbouring houses in the snow covered town of Harmony.

Through flashbacks and conversations we learn that Jack's daughter Lu, played brilliantly by the young actress Quinn McColgan, isn't in fact Jack's daughter, but that of the almost hermit like Patrick.  Due to Lu's mother Emma having died due to Patrick's alcoholism, and his inability to stop drinking, Jack threw Patrick out of their home and took Lu on as his own daughter.

Whilst this does add extra drama to what could be a fairly bland zombie survival story, the fact that Lu is Patrick's daughter plays out too slowly over the course of the film, and by the time of the big reveal it had become glaringly obvious and lost most of its shock factor.

The flashbacks are often a little too vague too, at first I thought Emma died in the films prologue when she was bitten by a zombie, but then it looks like she simply cut her arm off in order to survive, but died later on during a supply run with a drunk Patrick.  I say looks like because the film plays these scenes as rather vague, leaving people to do a little thinking about what happened rather than being straight out told.

What the film does do quite nicely though is it's setting.  With the exception of a brief prologue that shows the events of the initial zombie outbreak the whole film is set in a snow covered wilderness, and this does give the film it's own look and feel that sets it apart from most films in the franchise.  The snow covered environment is never explained in the film, it's not clear whether our heroes are living in a colder climate in hope of keeping the undead away from them, or if this is the result of some kind of climate shift.

Whatever the reasoning for the snowy setting it doesn't matter, as it not only gives the film its own visual style, but also acts as the catalyst for the new type of creature Patrick and Jack have to face.  The zombies, long thought died out by the films heroes, have simply been changing and adapting to their new surroundings.

The films creatures are no longer the standard zombie, but have become fast, blind creatures more akin to the crawlers from 'The Descent' than your standard Romero shuffling corpse.  These new creatures are fast, they can climb walls and their bites no longer cause victims to become infected.  What trait they do share with their old zombie selves is the need for a bullet to the head to kill them.  If you thought destroying the brain was hard enough when they're shambling corpses wait until they're leaping across the walls and crawling on the ceiling.

The film comes alive when the monsters show up at least gives us an entertaining finale that raises the stakes and tension in an otherwise slow going character driven story.

The film might not be perfect, but it is entertaining and engaging enough to keep me entertained for the entire run time, plus I'm interested in reading the original book that the film is based on, 'Y Pese A Todo' by Juan de Dios Garduno, which surely can't be a bad thing.


Monday, 18 January 2016

Two Transgender Women Stoned in The Streets in Germany

Two transgender women have reportedly been stoned whilst walking in the street in Dortmund, Germany, simply for being trans.

The two victims, only identified as Elisa, 37, and Yasmine, 50, told police how three teenagers grabbed their hair and breasts and attacked them.

'Within seconds they were pushing us around.  It was only then that I realised what they were saying, 'You sluts need to be stoned!''  Elisa told Sat1 TV at the weekend.  'And that's what they did, they grabbed gravel from the ground and threw it at us.

'Before that they tried hitting on us.  For them, that's okay, but when they realised that we were transgender they felt their honour was hurt.  That's why they snapped.'

According to police reports of the incident, the two women were followed by the three men, aged between 16 and 18, for some time before the trio began insulting the women in Arabic, saying 'such people should be stoned to death'.

The report also states that Yasmine responded to the insults, which resulted in the men grabbing rocks from the ground and throwing them at the women.

The group also pulled on the women's hair, and even sexually assaulting them by grabbing and groping their breasts.  The attack only ended when police arrived at the scene.

The passing police car stopped at the scene of the attack and arrested them.  Two of them have been described by the police as 'well kown multiple offenders'.  Two of the men were released, but the eldest has remained in custody.


'The Visit' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the film to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt please do not read further.

M. Night Shyamalan tries once again to produce an effective film, yet fails in what has become a repeated pattern.  Long gone are the days that Shyamalan meant quality, and unfortunately for him 'The Visit' just continues to point out that maybe he was a one trick pony with 'The Sixth Sense' and that maybe he's just not a very good filmmaker.

This time round Shyamalan turns his hand to the found footage genre to tell the story of a pair of teens who visit their estranged grandparents for the first time, only to discover everything is not as it would first appear.

The initial set-up, of two young teenagers out in the middle of nowhere with a pair of creepy old grandparents whose actions become progressively more and more disturbed might be a good one, but the tone never holds true, flicking between 'horror' and comedy too often to maintain one consistent feel, the 'twist' ending is so telegraphed that it might as well come on the cover, and the story never becomes anything more than just bland.

The choice for making the film a found footage film feels very bizarre, and kind of unnecessary.  The conceit that the daughter is trying to make her mother a documentary film about the visit to the grandparents in order for the mother to find some kind of closure for events that happened 19 years before is just silly.  There's no need for it.  The film could have been just a normal film, with the children still wanting to find out what happened between their family all those years before, without them making a documentary about it.

The film being found footage adds nothing to the story, or even to the tension, as the majority of the film doesn't have any tension or horror in it anyway, and instead feels like it has been shoehorned in simply so that the director can 'have a go' at that genre.  The film doesn't benefit from being found footage at all, if anything it suffers from it by limiting what story can be told.  Perhaps Shyamalan wanted to direct as little as possible and thought that only using one camera angle would make things easier for him.

The story itself is so dull and silly that it really struggled to hold my attention.  The nighttime antics of the 'spooky' grandparents were never scary enough to make it feel like a horror film, yet the film took itself too seriously for it to feel like it was planned as an intentional jab at found footage films.
The predictable Shyamalan 'twist' was made so obvious so early on that I predicted it to my partners a good half an hour before the film revealed the 'shocking' revelation.  Here is where the spoiler warning comes into play, so you've already been warned, the grandparents aren't the real grandparents.

This becomes super obvious throughout the film as no one else who knows the grandparents ever gets to see them on screen, them having mysteriously 'just gone out' whenever anyone comes over, along with the fact that grandma spills something on the kids laptop camera so that their mother can't see them, with no other part of the laptop suffering any ill effects.  It was becoming so obvious that these grandparents the children had never met before weren't who they were meant to be I was almost willing them to get killed off for their stupidity.

In actual fact these fake grandparents were escaped mental patients who broke out of the facility the real grandparents worked out, killed the real grandparents and pretended to be them in order to spend time with the grand kids because, well, just because.  Neither one of the fake grandparents had any real motivation to do anything they do other than 'because'.

When you consider that they were supposed to be mental patients you begin to question the whole film, how did they escape?  How did they find out where the grandparents lived?  Why was no one in the area looking for them?  Why did no one come by to check if the grandparents were okay when they suddenly stopped coming to work the same day the mental patients escaped?  Why did the fake grandparents remain relatively sane at the start of the film, but became obviously disturbed by the end, did they just think 'fuck it' and stop trying to act normal?

The whole film just feels lazy and built on a series of scenarios that just wouldn't happen.  I understand that you have to suspend your disbelief when going into a film, especially a horror, but this is just going to far.

Once again M. Night Shyamalan delivers not just a poor film, but a woefully bad one.  Another one to the ever increasing pile of bad films he's produced.  When will people stop giving him credit for 'Sixth Sense' and 'Unbreakable' and realise he isn't a good writer/director?


Saturday, 16 January 2016

'Bone Tomahawk' Review

'The Hateful Eight' is not the best western movie starring Kurt Russell released in 2015, that film would in fact be 'Bone Tomahawk'.

'Bone Tomahawk' gives a strange, and chilling opening scene, somewhat reminiscent of the opening scene of Game of Thrones, as we follow a pair of cowboys who stumble into somewhere they really shouldn't.  We get a brief look at the main threat of the film, but then are quickly ushered elsewhere, eleven days later, as the film begins proper.

From this opening scene we're given what some might consider a fairly formulaic western film, where a small town sheriff, played by Kurt Russell, has to gather together a team of men to go and rescue some kidnapped townsfolk.  This standard type of set-up gets a horror shift towards the end when the kidnappers are found, a strange tribe of cannibalistic natives.

This merging of western and horror have been done before, and we've had cannibal westerns before, but rarely has it been done this well.  What makes 'Bone Tomahawk' stand head and shoulders above many of these films though is that it's very much built on character.

The majority of the film follows our band of cowboys travelling across the desert chasing after the taken townsfolk, and this gives us plenty of time to get to know them and see just how interesting they are,  With most of the young and able bodied men off on a cattle drive when the call to arms goes out we've got a small band of heroes to follow, just four.

This small group means that each character gets their own moment to shine, they get to build up their own unique character.  We get the town sheriff Franklin Hunt, played by Kurt Russell, his over the hill backup deputy Chicory, played by Richard Jenkins, the gentleman gunslinger John Brooder, played by Lost star Matthew Fox, and Arthur O'Dwyer, played by Patrick Wilson, husband to one of the kidnapped townsfolk struggling to keep up with a broken leg.

Writer/Director S. Craig Zahler is more than ready to give plenty of time to his main characters, to let them play off each other and build character through the way they interact with each other.  Whilst they may begin as average western character tropes, by the time we reach the films third act they've become fully formed and fleshed out characters that we actually care about and want to see make it through to the end credits.

Unfortunately for our characters not all of them will make it out alive, and the third act becomes very tense, bloody and violent.  This final act could have played out very dull, or even over the top in the hands of the wrong director, but instead the tension ramps up and turns the film from an interesting character story into a tense horror with the ability to cause discomfort more along the lines of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The film is incredibly well crafted piece, that isn't afraid to let scenes unfold slowly, to have tension build organically to breaking point.  This is helped by beautiful, and at times spooky, cinematography and a minimalist, almost nonexistent, score.

The designs of the cannibal tribe are somehow something familiar, yet new and terrifying with some creepy and unique twists that make them stand out from most cannibal tribes.  Coupled with some excellent practical effects and one of the most gruesome murder scenes I've seen in years make them a truly scary foe.

A film that is a good addition to both the western genre, with great characters and writing, and the horror genre, with some incredibly tense scenes with a very scary foe.


Friday, 15 January 2016

'The Danish Girl' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the film to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points and story spoilt for you please  do not read further.  

I've been very unsure about writing this article for a while now, I've been trying to put my thoughts about The Danish Girl into some kind of sense and struggling.  There are a lot of conflicting thoughts about this film, which might make this a little different from my other review pieces.

By now you'll all be aware that the story of The Danish Girl is that of Lili Elbe, a real life figure in trans history who became one of the first trans women to undergo gender realignment surgery, played by Eddie Redmayne.  

For some people, that straight away has been an issue with the film, the fact that a cis man has once again been cast to play the role of a trans woman.  Whilst some people might argue that in order for a film such as The Danish Girl to get made, or the attention it has received, the studio had to go with a cis actor, as using a trans actor would turn the studios off.

However, a little looking back into the history of the films production, a process that took ten years and about as many attempts, you will find that at one point Nicole Kidman was cast as Lili.  Breaking away from the standard man playing a trans woman trope Kidman would have been made up to look like a man in the pre-transition scenes, then present as herself during Lili's transition.

Personally I think that doing a transition story with cis actors this way would have been vastly better than casting men to play women, as it would help to reinforce to people that trans women are women, not just 'men in dresses' as some people would say.  The loss of this casting is a sore point for me, and I don't like the fact that a cis man is once again playing a trans woman.

That being said, Redmayne is a good actor, and plays the part he is given well enough I suppose, though I can't help but feel he got the part half down to his looks and half to the fact that he won an Oscar the year before.  The Danish Girl very much feels like a film made to earn an Oscar, rather than a film trying to tell Lili's story the right way.  

For me, and please bear in mind this is only my personal opinion based on my own experiences as a trans woman and transitioning, but the film made me feel very uncomfortable in some places.

The early parts of the film, where Lili is discovering who she really is feel like a story of forced feminisation written by someone who is only aware of the notion of trans people.  In these early parts of the film Lili seems to be more a creation of then Einar's wife Gerda, who dresses her up in women's clothing to model for her art.

Einar protests but is teased and bullied into it by his forceful wife.  The scenes that follow seem to focus on the clothing making Lili rather than any part of herself.  It's all about her touching silky dresses and stockings, with long shots of her focused on the way these clothes make her feel than anything else.

Einar is encouraged into dressing as Lili, a name given to her teasingly by their friend, and what follows is a montage of what plays out as Greta creating a female identity for her husband.  It all focuses on teaching him how to move like a woman, what to wear, how to do makeup, all orchestrated by Greta.

Like I said, this is only my opinion based on what I went through, but I never once experiences a 'thrill' from women's clothing, I never got excited running my hands over lave stockings and silk dresses.  Seeing it portrayed this way in the film just makes me feel a little uncomfortable, and it doesn't feel true to me.  

I know that this might not be true for everyone who transitions, it's just how I personally feel about it.

Coupled with a slow and at some points dull story it just leads to a film that left me bored, disinterested and waiting for the end.  Yes, the acting was okay, and the film looks pretty enough, but it just feels lacking something.  The problem is, I can't even describe what it might be lacking, because I don't know.  It just feels very flat and stretched thin, with no substance to it.

Do I think that The Danish Girl is a good film?  Not really.  It's not very exciting or engaging and left me feeling bored.  Does it feel like a film that represents trans people well?  Again, not really, not for me at least, though I understand that others disagree with that.  Will it win an Oscar?  Possibly, but then it  does feel like the film was made to win an Oscar more than anything else.

I'm sure not everyone will have as many problems with the film as I do, some people will even praise it for being a great film for the transgender community.  But it's not for me.