Friday, 26 February 2016

Star Wars Rebels 'The Honorable Ones' 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.

The first thing that I noticed about this episode, and something that got me very excited when it happened, was the fact that the episode opens with the crew of the Ghost travelling to Geonosis to investigate the Empire building a huge mystery project.  Yep, the episode dipped into Death Stat territory!

Unluckily, or possibly luckily, whatever the Empire was working on has since left Geonosis.  Disney have said that Rebels will be tying into the new films, but most people assumed that they meant the new trilogy only.  Is this episode laying some extra ground work for the upcoming Rogue One film, which is all about stealing the Death Star pans?  It could be, after all, once the crew of the Ghost file their report on the mission the Rebels are still going to be looking for whatever the Empire built.

Whilst the episode begins with this little dip into the larger lore of the Star Wars universe the main bulk of the episode is much smaller and personal, as after infiltrating an Imperial station Zeb and Agent Kallus end up in an escape pod that crashes into Geonosis' frozen moon.

Kallus is injured and the two enemies are forced to work together for survival as they wait to see whose allies will arrive first.  Initially I was surprised to find that the episode would focus on Zeb just a few weeks after he got the spotlight in 'Legend of the Lasat', but it wasn't so much about Zeb as it was Kallus.  

After so long of Kallus being an adversary it was a pleasant surprise to see the show spend the time to explore a little of the background of one of their main antagonists, and to show that he isn't the two-dimensional villain that we were led to believe.  

Despite previously bragging that he was responsible for the destruction of Lasan we find out that Kallus' role was not as grand as he wanted the Rebels to believe, and that he was just another soldier following orders as the people above him executed the destruction of a world.  We also find out that Kallus didn't take his bo-rifle as a trophy of war, but it was gifted to him by a defeated Lasat as part of their warrior traditions.  Kallus is also given a little humanity as he tells Zeb a story of how his entire squad were wiped out and killed by a single Lasat mercenary and how he was almost killed in the process.  

It's nice of the show to give us this back story for one of the villains, and make them into a character you can kind of understand and feel sorry for.  He's not just an enemy combatant, he's seen the horrors of war and is as much a victim of the Empire as anyone else.  Which is a point that's driven home when Kallus finally makes it back to the Empire, and despite being around his people, finds himself alone.  He sees admiral Constantine, but isn't even given a second glance despite being injured.  

Kallus and Zeb both find their expectations of their enemies subverted in this episode, and Kallus has some of his core beliefs shaken by what he goes through with Zeb.  I hope that this plays out into the future, that it has lasting effects.  I'd really like to see Kallus begin to question his allegiance more and possibly become an informant for the Rebellion, or even turn on the Empire fully.

'The Honorable Ones' uses the sci-fi trope of being stranded with an enemy, but does it with great effect.  There is a reason it's such a heavily used storyline in television, because it's a great one to explore characters and their motivations.  

Whether or not he events of this episode change Kallus in any lasting way it was definitely enjoyable to be able to see him as more than just a villain for once.


The Flash 'King Shark' 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.

Earlier this season we were teased with a brief appearance of King Shark, one of the show's most visually stunning villains, but the moment was gone quickly and overshadowed with the surprise return of Harrison Wells.  An entire episode being given over the the hulking villain was both a surprise and visual treat.

With King Shark in the custody or A.R.G.U.S., now headed up by Arrow's Lyla Diggle after the death of Amanda Waller, the Earth-2 villain manages to escape from the facility he's being held in (with gruesome results) and heads to Central City to finish his mission of killing the Flash.  John and Lyla travel to Central City to warn Barry and the gang of King Sharks return and stick around with A.R.G.U.S. to help capture him.  

We only get a handful of scenes with King Shark, coming to only a few minutes of screen time, but the episode uses him brilliantly, building tension as our heroes hunt him down and giving us lots of destruction as he tears apart people and buildings like they were nothing.

Other than Gorilla Grodd no other villain has been used to show just how amazing the shows visual effects team are, and when viewed in high definition this episode definitely deserves a round of applause.  Every time King Shark is on screen you can see the texture of his skin, you see his veins and muscles move under his skin and they even manage to show different expressions in a face that's much harder to do that with than a gorilla's. 

King Shark is without a doubt one of the most impressive moments of the entire Flash/Arrow universe and I'm sure will get the show more nominations for it's visual effects work.  From the brief looks we get at Doomsday from the Batman V Superman trailer King Shark actually looks better than the big threat from a multi-million dollar blockbuster.  King Shark is definitely going to be remembered as one of the standout's for season 2.

The action in the episode is sparing, but well thought through, with the final ocean based battle not only looking great, but showing just how adaptable Barry's powers have become and how adept he is at using them.  King Shark chases him across the sea as Barry runs on water, creates a whirlpool to capture the monster, then throws lightning at him repeatedly until he falls unconscious.  

To break up the shark hunt the episode also takes the time to deal with the fallout of the teams visit to Earth-2 and focuses on the effect that those events have had on the team.  The two most damaged by the events of last weeks episode are Barry and Caitlin, both of whom suffered loss due to Zoom.
Caitlin spends much of the episode dealing with watching Jay killed in front of her by Zoom (maybe, 
I still think the man in the iron mask is the real Jay Garrick) and having lost another person she loved. 

It's not an easy subject to handle, as during the course of the last two seasons Caitlin has possibly suffered the most emotionally.  Yes, Barry went back in time last season and saw his mother killed again, but this was something Barry knew would happen and has lived with for 20+ years, in the space of a year Caitlin lost her husband, and then when she finally started having feelings for someone else saw him die too.  

Having witnessed a dark version of Caitlin on Earth-2 Cisco becomes worried that the loss of Jay might be forcing their Caitlin down a path that will lead to her becoming more like Killer Frost.  The episode even teases us with this notion with an angrier and more abrupt Caitlin, but Caitlin herself points out how crazy the notion is when she finally forces the information out of Cisco.  She's grieving, and part of that is her shutting off her emotions so that she can process everything, it doesn't mean that she's going evil.

The fact that Cisco could think that shows that despite being a genius he's a little stupid sometimes, but it does help to show the bond that he and Caitlin have and how much the two of them really do care for each other.  I'm sure this isn't the last we'll see of the pain Caitlin is going through, but her journey in this episode does feel real and satisfying to watch.

Barry goes through most of the episode carrying the weight of what happened to him on Earth-2 as well, and we start to see the effect that this entire season has had on him.  He blames himself for opening the breaches between the two worlds, he blames himself for the death of Joe on Earth-2 and he blames himself for what happened to Jay.  He's struggling to see that not being able to save someone isn't the same as being responsible for their death.

It isn't until he's finally confronted by Joe and Iris to talk about what's going on that he's lifted of this burden.  He tells them everything that happened on Earth-2 and gives us one of this best emotional performances this season (other than the heartbreaking conversation with this mother on Earth-2).  Gustin steps up in this scene and gives us a Barry one we haven't seen in a long while, a man haunted by everything that he's been through and finally thinks he's had enough.

Luckily his family are there to pick him up and help him move on, and by the end of the episode he's done feeling sorry for himself.  He assembles the team and tells them that he's had enough with dealing with Zoom and the pain he's been putting them all through.  He's resolved to taking the fight to Zoom and ending things once and for all, and it looks like everyone else is ready to do the same too.

The episode also starts to build on the Barry Wally relationship, something that hasn't really happened yet.  The television version of Wally is very different to either version of his comic counterpart (pre and post New-52), so building a similar relationship between the two on screen was going to be a very different prospect.  Wally doesn't like Barry much, he doesn't like that he's such a big part of the family he's trying to be a part of and because of the things Barry is working through this episode their relationship still looks a little frosty, but they've definitely started to find some common ground to build a relationship on.  The scene with Joe and Wally in the coffee shop is an important one too, as it helps Wally to understand Barry a little more and maybe not view him as the rival he thought he was.

The episode ends with a scene that fans have been waiting months for, the reveal of the identity of Zoom.  After so long building the character up and masses of speculation from viewers it was a big moment.  Zoom returns to his lair with the body of Jay Garrick in his arms.  The man in the iron mask sees this and reacts badly (it's hard to know exactly what he's feeling with only his eyes visible) and then Zoom removes his mask to reveal....Hunter Zolomon.  

The show's producers have already spoken to confirm that Zoom is Zolomon, not Jay Garrick, but it's still a surprise moment, and one that doesn't actually go to explaining anything.  We don't know if this is the Zolomon we saw on Earth-1 or another version of him, we still don't know if that was really Jay Garrick who died and we still don't know who's inside the iron mask.  It's definitely a fun way to leave the show as it goes on a break for the next month.


Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Walking Dead 'The Next World' 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 the grim events of last week's episode The Walking Dead jumps forward in time (two weeks within the show) and takes the time to tell a lighter episode that even included a little humour after 'No Way Out's grim events.

The change in pace is a welcome one, and lets us avoid some of the banality of the post-horde events.  We know that they'd have to get rid of all the walker's bodies, but it was nice to not have to see that.  We know that they'd have to rebuild their walls, and again, it was nice not to see that.  And it was nice that they didn't inject false tension around Carl, and simply showed us that he is healing and adapting to his wound and is almost back to his old self.

It meant that the show has been able to keep its pace without having to cover these more dull moments.  We don't need to be shown them recovering immediately after the events of the last episode.  We can see them back to normal a few weeks later and believe it.  It's a pleasant turn that the writers don't feel the need to spoon feed the story as they have had a tendency to do in the past.

The episode sees Daryl and Rick going on a quick supply run, and judging from the casual manner in the way they act on the road, and the fact that Daryl begs Rick not to put his CD on before he's even done so implies that this isn't the first time the two of them have been out together since the last episode.

It feels like the past seasons, where the two of them spent a lot more time together than they have recently and they slip easily back into that comfortable relationship.  It feels very natural and relaxed as they try and enjoy this time of calm.

Whilst on the road the two of them find a truck filled to the brim with supplies that they need for the citizens of Alexandria, unfortunately things don't go according to plan when they run into another survivor on the way back home.

Readers of the comic book series will be jumping for joy as we're introduced to Jesus for the very first time, the wisecracking kung-fu prankster that looks like the son of god.  A lot of people knew that Jesus was going to be introduced this season, and were expecting him to be brought in as a way of saving Glenn during the first half of the season when we were led to believe he'd been killed.  Bringing him into the show now, after the dark and dramatic events of 'No Way Out' is a much better decision, as it allows him to bring some lightheartedness to the show without it feeling out of place.

Jesus steals the truck from Rick and Daryl and lead the two of them on an almost comical chase around the surrounding countryside, with Daryl running after him through a field as one point in a scene that has since been recut with Benny Hill music to great effect.  

All of the scenes with Jesus are great fun to watch, and despite the fact that our heroes lost a massive pile of supplies because of him you just can't quite bring yourself to hate, or even dislike the character.

As this is still The Walking Dead, there was some dark to counterbalance the fun Rick and Daryl were having, as Michonne and Spencer find a zombified Diana in the woods outside of Alexandria after Carl leads her towards them.  It's a sad moment that reminds us of some of the losses the community has been through recently, and makes the audience miss Diana again.  It also helps to resolve some of Spencer's story and will hopefully make him a better part of the community then he was in the past.

Michonne confronts Carl as to why he didn't just kill Diana himself, knowing that he's more than capable of doing it.  Despite maybe trying to make us think that being shot in the face may have resulted in Carl going a little disturbed, his reasoning was almost touching.  He felt that it should have been someone who loved Diana who killed her.  It's in this moment that Carl tells Michonne that he loves her and would do it for her if the time ever came.

Despite the weirdness of telling someone you love them enough to kill them if they become a zombie it's a very sweet moment, and one that helps to show how much of a family they have become.  This developing relationship between the Grimes' and Michonne reaches a boil this week as Rick and Michonne finally kiss on screen for the first time.  I say on screen as I have a feeling this isn't the first time these two have done so.

With all of the loss that Rick has suffered through it's a rewarding moment to see him become close to someone again, and unlike Jessie it just feels right and natural with Michonne.  The two of them work brilliantly together, and Michonne is closer to Rick, Carl and Judith than she is with any other members of the group.  They already felt like a family, I guess now they really are one.


Supernatural Used A Transphobic Slur, And It's Not Okay

I've been a fan of Supernatural since the show first started airing, and eleven years is a long time to be watching something.  Luckily Supernatural has been mostly entertaining and engaging throughout, despite some problems with the format.  Their inability to stop killing off side characters (especially strong female side characters) has become a frustrating joke, and Dean can come across as a womaniser at times, but these are small gripes in a largely positive show.

Last night's episode of Supernatural (Season 11 Episode 15 'Beyond The Mat') saw the shows main characters going up against a demon who is collecting souls for them self, describing the process and 'building a nest egg'.  The demon tells the lead characters that since the devil returned to hell 'it's every demon for him, her, shim self.'

The inclusion of this one tiny word ruined this entire episode for me.  Suddenly my enjoyable viewing experience felt like a punch to the chest.  

It might not seem like a lot to some people, and like whenever any other trans woman writes about the inappropriate and hurtful use of negative and transphobic language I'm sure that I'm going to have a lot of hate thrown my way, but I feel it's important to call out the use of these kinds of words whenever they happen.

For those unaware shim is a highly offencive word, often used to insult and degrade transgender and gender non-conforming people.  It is used to insult people.  It's casual inclusion in this episode as a demon's way of listing genders is ridiculous in its execution and insulting in its inclusion.  Using the word shim is no different from using the word tranny, shemale or chick-with-a-dick.  

I know some people might instantly come to the defense of the show or to John Bring and Andrew Dabb (the writers of this particular episode) and say that no offense was intended, or even use the 'I know several trans people who use this term or refer to themselves that way' argument, but you cannot and should not use either of those reasons to try and justify the use of slurs.

Whether offence was intended or not, you know certain words are going to cause offence when they are used.  If you referred to gay people as faggots you would expect that the term would offend someone.  Even if you are the most open and accepting pro-LGBT+ person around, you wouldn't expect that phrase not to offend.  If you believe in gender equality you wouldn't refer to women as bitches or sluts and not expect to cause offence.

We are all aware that certain words will offend people, however they are used.  To turn around and say that because you meant no offence none should ever be taken from anyone is a ridiculous statement reeking of privilege.  You as a cis person might be able to hear transphobic words and shake them off as nothing, but trans people can't.  We don't have that privilege like you do.

As for the 'trans people say that' argument, yes, you might know someone trans or gender non-conforming who has no problem with using or hearing those kind of words, and that's great for that person.  It doesn't mean that no one in that community will be able to listen to those words and not be offended by them though.  

It's also an especially flawed argument for why cis people should be able to use that word too.  You're not a part of that community, so even if everyone in that community is comfortable using a word that was at one time used to oppress them, it in no way gives you the right to say it.  The N word is used frequently by members of the black community, but that doesn't mean that me, as a white person, can suddenly go out and use that word whenever I like.  It doesn't matter how often you see black people use that word in person, in film or television or even in music, as a white person you would not go and say it.  So why would you feel that you can do the same as a cis person?

Another excuse that I'm expecting to hear used to justify the use of the word shim in yesterday's Supernatural is that the word is trying to be 'reclaimed', that because it's not being used in a directly derogatory way towards a non-cis person it's somehow being empowering.  

No.  I'm sorry, but again as a cis person, or cis people, you have no right to even attempt to do that.  Unless you are a member of the group that has had that word used against them as a slur it's not yours to reclaim. Only someone within that group has the right or the capacity to reclaim it.  The N word cannot be reclaimed by someone who isn't black, faggot cannot be reclaimed by straight people and tranny, shim, shemale or ladyboy (or other terms used to put trans people down) can't be reclaimed by cisgender people.

Slurs might not effect you in your day to day life, they might be things that you can just shrug off because they mean nothing to you, but to those people who live with these insults every single day they can be massively damaging.  

I've been called a faggot, a tranny, a shim, a shemale, a heshe, a thing and a freak to name just a few.  I've been stared at in the street, I've had people point at me and laugh at me when I leave my home.  I've been spat on and told to kill myself.  These words are painful to hear, even when not being used as a direct insult.

Hearing the use of the word shim on Supernatural took something that was supposed to be enjoyable and made it painful.  I was suddenly reminded of every time I've been treated like an animal, where I've been made to feel less of a human.  

I'm sure it's easy of you to turn around and say that I'm being overly sensitive, or that I'm pushing some kind of 'PC agenda' or censorship, and I'm happy that you have the ability to say that.  To be able to turn around and say things like shim, faggot or the N word can't hurt people because they're just words means that you're an incredibly lucky person, it means that you don't have to live your life being made to think that you're worth less than other people.  You aren't made to feel worthless and wretched by the use of a simple word.

I envy your ability to walk through life and have words bounce off you, because for me, and a lot of people, words have the power to completely destroy me.  Your words can break me.  Your words can kill me.  And to throw these words around without any care or understanding for the damage they cause is reckless and irresponsible.

I'm not sure how I feel about Supernatural right now, I'm not sure if I hate the show or simply pity it for stooping to that level.  What I do know is that I'm eleven years into watching it but don't know if I can bring myself to carry on.  One tiny word did that, one word broke something I loved.

Words have power, they can be amazingly good and they can be destructively bad.  Writers have an obligation to recognise this and make sure that they aren't proliferating the use of destructive and hurtful language.  I hope that Supernatural learns from this mistake, but judging from history I'm sure this won't be the last time I hear these kind of slurs on television I love.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Supernatural 'The Vessel' 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 a few adventure of the week episodes this week's episode of Supernatural gets back to the main story of the Winchesters trying to find a way of fighting Amara.  

When Sam finds references to items on earth touched by God, called the Hand of God, that possess massive destructive energy he and Dean believe that they may finally have found a weapon that they might be able to use against Amara, after all, if these items contain some of Gods power then surely they can hurt a being as powerful as him.

Digging into the history of the Men of Letters they discover that the group at one point possessed one of these items, when a female agent of theirs (a Woman of Letters) called Delphine stole it from the Nazi's during World War 2.  Sadly the submarine that was transporting Delphine and the Hand of God to America was attacked by a German warship and sunk with all hands lost.

With no other leads to finding other Hands of God Dean comes up with a drastic plan, to get Castiel to transport him back in time onto the sub to retrieve the weapon before it gets sunk.  Lucifer (still secretly possessing Castiel) agrees to the plan, knowing that he alone doesn't have the power to defeat Amara, and sends Dean back.

Unfortunately Delphine has warded the sub against supernatural creatures, that include angels, leaving Dean trapped alone with no way back to the present.

Dean manages to find Delphine and convince her that he's from the future and needs the hand of God to defeat Amara, getting her to agree to destroy the warding on the vessel.  Meanwhile in the present Sam finds a spell that will allow Lucifer to break through the warding, but gives up hope of it working when he realises that it will need the power of an archangel.  

Lucifer tells Sam that he will 'try' the spell, still pretending that he's Cas, but when Sam suggests that he gets extra power from touching Sam's soul Lucifer can't keep a straight face any more and reveals his true identity.  Lucifer tries to kill Sam but is stopped briefly by Castiel, who still has a small amount of control.

Back in the 40's the submarine comes under attack from the German warship, forcing the crew into desperate action.  Knowing that they are going to be destroyed they decide to at least take their enemy with them and Delphine powers up with the Hand of God moments before Lucifer jumps in and snatches Dean and the Hand of God back to present day.

Sam warns Dean as Lucifer attacks the two of them, attempting to gain possession of the Hand of God.  Unfortunately the object has been completely depowered and appears to be a one shot weapon.  Lucifer contents himself with being able to at least kill the Winchesters, but gets cast out of the bunker by a blood ward created by Sam.

Supernaturals time travel episodes are always enjoyable, mainly due to Dean's inability to blend into any other time period than his own, but the results of Dean in World War 2 are definitely much more sobering than him trying to be a cowboy.  For the first time in a long while (since the episode 'The End') that didn't really have a lot of laughs, instead choosing to make Dean watch the deaths of everyone around him,

The conversation he has with one of the crewmen asks Dean about the future of the war to see if his friends and family have a better chance of surviving is a small moment, but one that manages to pack in a lot of emotion.  

The reveal of Lucifer being in Castiel's body is a welcome one, as it keeps the momentum of the series going, and adds extra conflict for the Winchesters as, despite saying otherwise when trying to get Sam to agree to be his vessel) Lucifer seems to have in no way changed his ways and wants revenge on the brothers for stopping him back in season 5.

The episode also gives us a brief look at what has happened to Crowley now that the real King of Hell is back on the throne.  Crowley, surprisingly, has been kept alive, and seems to be some kind of pet for Lucifer, kept chained up in a hole in the wall in an awful shirt.  Keeping Crowley around is definitely a mistake on Lucifer's part, and I'm sure he'll manage to break free at some point and rush to aid the Winchesters in getting him out of Castiel and back inside the cage,

'The Vessel' might not be the best time travel episode the show has done, but it introduces a new element the the lore of the Supernatural universe and keeps events moving at a brisk pace with the reveal of Lucifer inside of Castiel. 


Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Academic Julia Gasper Compares LGBT Texts To Paedophillia

Well known anti-LGBT+ activist Dr Julia Gasper has attacked Oxford University's social sciences library via Twitter for stocking LGBT+ literature.

The library posted an image to show their support for LGBT+ history month and showcased a number of the books they stock that cover LGBT+ issues.

Dr Gasper launched into a torrent of tweets that aimed abuse at the library, stating that 'this unsavoury paedophile movement should have no publicity or promotion from any university'.

She described stocking LGBT+ texts as being 'a disgrace to Oxford' and went on to say that 'Most 'LGBT' history is invention, fantasy or wild distortion and it has no place in academia.'

She has also since contacted one of the librarians demanding that he remove the books.

Dr. Gaper is a former member of the political party UKIP, but found that the party wasn't extreme enough in their views and has since joined the English Democrats.

In the past she has described homosexuality as a 'form of behaviour' rather than a sexual orientation and claimed that same sex attraction is a choice.

She has complained that LGBT+ people have complained 'constantly of persecution' and that we are not sufficiently greatful to hetrosexual people for creating us.  She has also opposed marriage equality, gay families adopting children and has stated that there are strong links between male homosexuallity and paedophillia.

In 2013 she published posts on a UKIP forum that described LGBT+ people as 'lunatics', reitterated the link between homosexuality and paedophillia, and claimed that LGBT+ people prefer sex with animals over other humans.  This resulted in the forum being shut down and she was even publically condemned as having a 'war against homosexuals' and being 'unacceptable' by UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

Since then she has also claimed that the LGBT+ community have fabricated the Nazi persecution of LGBT+ people, and has attacked World AIDS Day as a celebration of HIV/AIDS and homosexuality.


Star Wars Rebels 'Homecoming' 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.

'Homecoming' is the episode that finally goes into the back story of the Ghost's captain, Hera, and gives us some great character moments and fun action sequences.  

With Phoenix Squadron suffering more losses Hera and Sato believe that a larger ship is needed in order to provide protection for their fighters.  Knowing that the Empire has a large carrier ship in orbit above Hera's home world of Ryloth the Ghost sets out to capture the ship, with the help of some local resistance fighters.

These fighters will all be recognisable to fans of the Clone Wars, as their leader is none other than Hera's father Cham Syndulla, accompanied by Gobi and a now grown up Numa, all of whom featured in the Clone Wars story 'Innocents of Ryloth'.  If you're unsure of who Numa is, she was the tiny Twi'lek girl that Waxer and Boil took care of through the war zone, in one of the more heartwarming stories of the series.

With most of the Ghost crew more than happy to have the assistance of a legendary freedom fighter like Cham, with Kanan practically hero worshiping him, it's a different story for Hera as we learn not all is well between father and daughter.

The two of them are at odds, Cham can only focus on Ryloth and the Twi'lek people, where Hera sees the larger fight against the Empire and how Ryloth is only a small part of that.  Through their arguments we get to see more of Hera's past than we have before, and the motivations that drive her.  We even learn that Hera found Chopper as a child during the Clone Wars and rebuilt the damaged droid herself, showing us a stronger connection between Hera and Chopper than we were aware of before.

Hera falling into her natural French-influenced Twi'lek accent when arguing with Cham (the first time we've heard her talk like this) is a great touch, and feels very realistic.  Vanessa Marshall definitely gave her best performance in the show to date.

Whilst the Rebels want to capture the Imperial ship whole Cham and his team want to destroy it as sign of defiance against the Empire in an attempt to rally support on Ryloth.  The two teams go up against each other but Hera eventually convinces her fellow Twi'leks around to her way of thinking and they manage to capture the carrier, destroying another Imperial ship in the process, which gives Cham the action against the Empire that he was wanting too.

Whilst the quick change of heart from Cham and his team felt a little easy it made for a better resolution than having them against the rebels, it gives some kind of resolution for Hera and her father, as well as leaving the door open for their return later on in the show.

As a side note, the episode also gave us some excellent Jedi action as Kanan and Ezra used the Force to throw each other down a hallway through rapidly closing doors in a tactic that's not only inspired but looks very cool on screen too.  More of these two working together like that in the future please Dave Filoni.


Supernatural 'Love Hurts' 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.

'Love Hurts' gives us a fairly standard monster of the week episode, with a little Valentine's Day flavour thrown into the mix for fun.  

Initially believing that they are dealing with a shapeshifter who is transforming into peoples lovers in order to kill them the Winchesters soon discover that they are actually dealing with a Qareen, a type of Jinn that tear people's hearts out.  

In a more family friendly version of the plot of 'It Follows', the Qareen is being used as a cure, being passed on to each new victim with a kiss.  Once it has killed its latest target it works its way back down the chain to the person who started the chain.  Yes, it really is that similar to 'It Follows', but it's also a hell of a lot more entertaining and engaging than the 2014 film, and not only because it's Supernatural ('It Follows' was just dull throughout, despite some interesting things it tried to do).

When Sam and Dean figure out what is going on Dean kisses the Qareen's latest victim, placing him at the end of the chain and it's new target.  

At this point I expected that the Qareen would change to assume the shape of Amara (which it did) and that Sam would see this and the connection between Dean and Amara would be out in the open.  Instead, the writers took a bit more of a mature route for the characters.  Sam never saw the Qareen as Amara, but when he asks Dean what form the Qareen took Dean tells him the truth.

Dean goes on to tell Sam that despite wanting to stop Amara, despite the fact that he wants her dead, whenever he's around her he can't help but feel love towards her.  He tells Sam that when the final showdown comes he's not going to be able to help.  Sam tells Dean that he understands and doesn't blame him in any way.

Thank god!  I thought that this was all being set up to be another secret that blows up between the two of them to add 'drama', instead the characters handle it with a level of maturity that they've rarely shown before.  Dean stops keeping his 'big dark secret' and Sam takes it all in his stride.  Rather than using this moment to push the two of them apart they say 'okay, you can't fight Amara, so let's figure out a new approach'.  It's refreshing and something that was definitely needed 11 seasons in.

It also deflates a little tension from the fact that the Lucifer possessed Castiel knew about this connection.  Yes, he may still try and use this against our heroes at some point in the future, but at least he can't hold this knowledge above Sam's head as some kind of weapon anymore.

A fairly enjoyable stand alone episode that played a small part in the overall series arc and showed some of the growth and maturity of the Winchesters.


Male Rape Charity Given Thousand To Tackle 'Taboo'

Survivors UK, a London based charity that supports the male victims of rape, has been given a £78,000 donation from the Mayor's office to try and tackle the stigma around the issue.

The charity is aiming to reach out to more victims of rape and to try and raise awareness and understanding that male rape is also an issue, as well as trying to provide a 'safe space where they can get help'.

In a report by London Assembly member Kemi Badenoch it was estimated that around 92,000 rapes and sex attacks went unreported to police and authorities between the years of 2010 and 2014.

Ms Badenoch said, 'Male rape is rarely mentioned.  No victim of rape or sexual assault should feel that they have nowhere to turn and be made to suffer in silence.'

Survivors UK chief executive Keith Best added, 'We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.  What we are seeing is that in many institutions, like schools, prisons and care homes, sex abuse is a problem.'

Survivors UK is hoping to use the new funding to continue the work that they already offer.  The charity helps more than 150 through counselling and 2,500 people remotely a year and has over 20 years experience helping the victims and survivors of rape and sexual assault.


Monday, 22 February 2016

Martin Freeman's Role In Captain America: Civil War Revealed

Captain America: Civil War is set to be one of the most eagerly awaited comic book films of the year, in a year full of great comic book films (and some awful looking DC films).  With a massive cast that no only reunited a lot of the MCU's fan favourite characters it also introduces several new characters, one of which will be played by Martin Freeman.

Since the announcement of his inclusion in the film fans have been eager to find out who he will be playing.  Well, now his part has been revealed.  Martin Freeman will be playing Everett Ross.

The name may be familiar to some comic book readers, who will recognise that Ross is the United States' main representative to Wakanda.  This not only adds more to the inclusion of Black Panther in the film, but allows Freeman to appear in the upcoming Black Panther film (set for release in 2018, directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Chadwick Boseman and Andy Serkis).

Reports are stating that Freeman's version of Everett will be a member of the Joint Counter Terrorist Centre in Civil War.  A newly released photo of Freeman has him standing beside Emily Van Camp's Sharon Carter, which has already resulted in fans speculating that she is also a member of the Joint Counter Terrorist Centre since the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D. after the events of Captain America: Winter Solider.

Captain America: Civil War is set for release on April 29th.


Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Walking Dead 'No Way Out' 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 events of the mid season finale of The Walking Dead putting every single character with the exception of Enid and Glenn in life threatening danger (it's nice to see Glenn as the relatively safe guy for once), 'No Way Out' was set to be big and have at least one loss, boy did they deliver and then some.

The episode opens with Daryl, Abraham and Sasha confronted by the Saviours, the men who follow Negan (a name every Walking Dead reader knows and has eagerly been waiting for), and held at gunpoint.  With several armed men facing them and no backup it was one of those situations that deep down we knew the trio would get out of, but the question was how.  

Not knowing how our survivors could possibly overpower half a dozen men with assault rifles and pistols and having to listen to Christopher Berry give his chilling yet also friendly monologue ramped up the tension.  

When Daryl gets led to the back of the truck we all kind of knew that he'd over power the man he was with, but how was he going to save the others.  Well, the answer was an explosive one, Rocket Launcher.  The moment when the Saviour exploded in a shower of fire and body parts was both surprising and almost laugh out loud funny.  

Whilst it might have been satisfying to see the Saviours so quickly killed their deaths are surely going to be remembered by Negan, and if he wants revenge for their loss, surely Daryl becomes a target for his anger.  Is this the show setting up a reason for Negan killing off Daryl in the season finale?

Back in Alexandria the tension is even higher as we rejoin Rick, Carl, Michone, Gabriel, Judith and the Anderson family as they try to sneak their way through the hordes of zombies that have over run the town.

Their plan, to cover themselves in blood and guts and blend into the horde, is a good one, and we've seen it work in the past, unfortunately the plan is only as strong as the people involved and Sam was never going to be strong enough to deal with everything that they were facing.

Being surrounded by walkers finally gets too much for the kid and he starts to break down, unable to keep going.  Jessie desperately tries to get him to hold it together but it all proves to be too little too late as the dead tear into him, eating him alive in front of the others.  Jessie screams out and is overrun by walkers too, leaving Rick to try and break Carl free of her death grip before he's taken too.

Rick manages to hack Jessie's hand off in order to save his son, but are confronted by Ron, who brings a gun to bear on them.  It's not surprising that Ron finally snapped like this, he's been blaming Rick for the death of his father all season, and now Rick's plan ended with the rest of the boys family killed in front of him.  

Before he can shoot Rick though Michone impales him on her sword and leaves him for dead.  As she stabs him, however, the gun goes off and he hits Carl in the face, blowing his right eye apart.  Fans of the comics knew that this was coming, we've been waiting for it for a while now and have pretty much been expecting it every time Ron approaches him with a gun.  With two fake out moments already this season Carl's time was up.

The moment was not only a great treat for comic fans, but played out brilliantly as Rick has to watch his potential new family wiped out one after another (he kept saying he had no designs on Jessie, but we all know he wanted to be in a relationship with her) and the effect was brilliant.

After managing to get Carl to safety and medical help Rick loses it completely and walks out into the street on his own in one of the ballsiest and most stupid moments in the shows history.  Amazingly though it pays off, as his lone stand against the entire horde actually manages to rally the citizens of Alexandria to come out and fight alongside him, even Father Gabriel and Eugine take up arms to help.

It's a moment that comes close to feeling cheesy and over dramatic, but manages to hold itself back from going all of the way, instead playing out effectively as a great coming together moment for Ricks group and the Alexandrina's.  It bonds the two groups together like they've not had to before, and goes a long way to proving to Rick that maybe the Alexandrians aren't quite as babied and useless as he first thought.  Though that could also have something to do with having lost those more coddled members of the town to the Wolf attack and the walker horde already.

A lot of characters get a moment to shine this week, with Glenn managing to save Maggie, and barely surviving by the skin of his teeth AGAIN!  Abraham gets to turn up at the last minute and deliver a cheesy one liner.  Daryl gets to shoot a rocket launcher not once but twice.  Even Denise gets to shine as she not only manages to talk the Wolf around to becoming a more noble man (until Carol kills him that is) but she steps up in her role as medic in order to save Carl with a confidence and authority we've not seen in the character before.

The show runners promised us an exciting second half to the season, comparing it to feeling like an action movie.  If the opening episode is anything to go by then hopefully they're right, as The Walking Dead has a habit of feeling slow and stale at times.  Hopefully this episode if setting the tone for things to come.


Saturday, 20 February 2016

Supernatural 'Don't You Forget About Me' 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.

This is one of those great Supernatural episodes that reminds us just how good the show's recurring cast can be, and brings back fan favourite Jody Mills.  It's well known that Supernatural doesn't keep side characters around for long, with most being killed off in moments that make fans rage and cry, but thankfully it looks like Jody and her girls are here to stay, at least for a while longer.

When Sam and Dean get a phone call from Claire (the daughter of Cas' vessel Jimmy) they head over to visit the family of traumatised monster victims they helped to create.  Whilst Claire is still struggling to try and live something of a normal life it's nice to see that Alex (former vampire pet) is living a fairly normal and happy life, and Jody even seems to be enjoying being a surrogate mother to the two of them, despite the difficulties.

Whilst Sam and Dean aren't a part of raising Alex and Claire the two of them can't help but step into something of a parental/mentor role this week, and we get to see some very mature moments from the brothers.  Sam is kind and understanding, where as Dean is blunt and to the point, giving each of them different opportunities to bond with Alex and Claire.  

We also get some great comic moments through the domestic set up this week, especially as the boys are awkwardly brought into family conflict over Alex's sex life whilst they gorge themselves on mashed potato and chicken-shaped chicken.  It's laugh out loud funny as Jody tries to get them to back her up by pointing out that men don't always have a condom on them, and is met with deafening silence and panicked expressions from our heroes. It's great to see that despite going up against demons, gods and literally death itself something as simple as a sex talk can terrify them.

'As long as everyone wears a condom, we'll be fine.'

Whilst Claire's claims that there's a monster in town initially get chalked off to a mixture of trauma and her desire to be a hunter she's soon proven to be right as a victim from Alex's past returns for revenge.  The family are taken captive by someone that Alex lured to her vampire nest when she was younger and badly beaten, with Jody suffering a broken leg and Claire being bitten in the process.  Luckily the Winchesters arrive in time to save the day, and even Claire gets another monster kill under her belt.

Instead of sparking further chaos within the family unit the event brings Alex and Claire closer together and actually looks like it's made things better for all involved.  Alex is even more determined to live a normal life, Claire becomes set on becoming a hunter and Jody agrees to help both girls be the person they want to be.  The episode turns them from a group of survivors trying to live together into an actual caring family unit that's sure to be fine going forward.

'Don't You Forget About Me' might be a detour from the overall series arc, but when it's this entertaining, funny, heartwarming and bring back beloved characters (I challenge anyone to say Jody Mills isn't beloved by fans) it's well worth it.


Star Wars Rebels 'The Call' 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.

'The Call' is an entertaining episode, but it's a fairly standard story that has definitely been done before.

The story begins with the crew of the Ghost low on fuel and searching for a fuel refinery that's supplying the Empire.  Not only is the Ghost desperate for a resupply, but the rest of the rebels are running low too, which shows us an even more strung out and desperate version of the rebels then we've seen in any of the films.

Close to empty and running out of time the ship is found by a group of purgill, a type of huge space whale (yes, it would appear that every sci-fi universe has to have some kind of space whale).  Hera immediately recognises the creatures and warns the crew that they're a dangerous nuisance, that they destroy ships and have cost the lives of her friends in the past.  Having the normally kind and caring Hera being the member of the crew to be the negative voice for once is a nice change and shows a side to the character that we've not really seen before.  

Despite Hera's hate towards the purgill Ezra can feel a connection to them through the Force (the same kind of connection we've seen him use before) and gets the crew to follow the whales, who quickly lead them to the refinery.

Kanan, Ezra, Sabine and Chopper launch an assault on the facility in one of the episode's best scenes as the four of them free fall towards the refinery in their brightly decorated helmets.  During the assault on the refinery Ezra is knocked down into the gas filled pit.

Close to dying Ezra manages to reach out with the Force and communicates with the Purgill, using affinity for animal life to get them to not only save him, but to help the rest of the team pnd complete the whole mission.

The episode has some cool moments, the free fall and Ezra riding on the back of the purgill are all visually awesome, but the story feels very stand alone, there wasn't even a hint that fuel supplies were running low in the episodes leading up to this.  It's hard to tell how much this episode adds to the overall story, but from the mid-season trailer warning about Ezra's increasing power, perhaps his growing ability to control animals will be brought up again.


Friday, 19 February 2016

Trans Beauty Queen Stripped of Title For Not Being 'Trans Enough'

Last year 23 year old transgender woman Jai Dara Latto, from Walkerburn in Scotland, was crowned as the winner of the Miss Transgender UK competition.  Now, however, she has been stripped of her title by the woman who runs Mis Transgender UK, Rachael Bailey, after claiming that Jai is not infact transgender.

The accusations come following Miss Bailey claiming to have seen footage of Jai from an upcoming BBC3 documentary, to air next month, in which Jai is filmed at home relaxing in a pair of boxer shorts and being seen working out at the gym in shorts and a t-shirt.

Miss Bailey claims that this is proof that Jai is not living her life full time as a woman, instead branding her as a drag queen.

Speaking to the Scotsman, Miss Bailey said 'When Jai entered the competition, she said that she was full time and she's not - she's a drag queen.  The documentary showed her living as a gay male in her boxer shorts.  Underwear is very important to transgender females - one of the first things people do is change their underwear as it makes us feel like we are finally a woman.'

'When I confronted her, she just said that I didn't have a leg to stand on and it is difficult.  It is basically one transgender person saying to another 'You're not transgender enough to be in our competition'.  It sounds daft when you put it like that.'

In addition to winning the title Jai was given a £3,000 modelling contract, which has also been taken away from her and awarded to another contestant, a £5,000 cash prize, and £10,000 worth of surgery in India.  Jai has already turned down the prize of surgery, wishing to wait for gender confirmation surgery on the NHS.

Jai has said that she was approached by Miss Bailey, who claimed that she had broken the terms and conditions of the competition by not being 'full time'.

She went on to say that, 'I am transgender.  It seems to me that Rachael has based her claims on her subjective information from having viewed the documentary Miss Transgender, which is yet to be aired.  I gave consideration to sharing a letter from my doctor on my gender dysphoria, but decided against it.'

'The documentary clearly shows me living full time  in my community, functioning on a daily basis, interacting with family, friends and others in my desired gender role.  Being transgender is not some exclusive club.  There are many of us in it and we are all different from one another.'

Rachael Bailey's fixation that only a certain way of dressing or presenting is what makes someone 'trans enough' is an incredibly shortsighted and damaging one.  It insists that not only do trans women have to match perfectly to some pre-ordained definition of female, but it's also quite misogynistic when you look at it.

Miss Bailey insists that only by wearing 'women's underwear' are you 'finally a woman', but would she levy these same rules onto a cisgender woman found wearing boxer shorts?  I very much doubt that.

These kind of views make it incredibly hard for trans women in society, as if you are seen to act in any way that is deemed 'masculine' it is suddenly used as an argument that it must be proof that your entire gender identity, presentation or even life is a construct based on a lie.  Miss Bailey is here saying that if you do not fit her very narrow view of what should be considered female it must automatically make you a man.

Well, I'm calling bullshit on that.  Wanting to wear boxer shorts to feel comfortable does not suddenly mean that you are lying about being a trans woman, if it did the same would have to apply to any woman who has ever worn boxer shorts, even for a moment.  Surely these other women are lying about who they are too.

It also begs the question of where else Rachael Bailey draws this line of rigid womanhood?  'You like the colour blue?  Sorry, you're not trans enough'.  'You prefer action films to romantic comedies?  Nope, you're a dude'.  'You have male friends and prefer beer over wine?  Well then you're just living a lie'.

This isn't as much about what makes a person trans enough (the answer to which is, if you're trans you're fucking trans enough!) but the way people view oppressive gender stereotypes.  You would hope that as a fellow trans woman Rachael Bailey would know better than to make those kind of judgements on other trans women, sadly it would appear that she does not.

Wanting to wear the clothes that make you feel comfortable doesn't change your gender identity.  Liking certain things does not change your gender identity.  Having a body that does match your gender identity does not change your gender identity.

I've been in this kind of situation myself, where another trans woman questioned my validity as a trans woman, where I was accused of being a closet cross-dresser or gay man because my Facebook didn't have enough picture of me out in public. It was crazy, it was frustrating and it was upsetting.  But it made me realise that for some people, no matter what the situation, sometimes nothing is ever enough.

So I'd say to Rachel Bailey what I said to this other person, 'who the fuck are you to judge other people's lives?'

You don't need anyone else's approval, you don't need to meet anyone's standards to be yourself.  You're all 'trans enough', whether you've finished your transition or if you've only just come out to yourself.  You're all 'trans enough'.  Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.


Male Student Told To Remove Elsa Fancy Dress Costume For 'Violating Gender Norms'

A 13 year old boy was forced to remove his fancy dress costume when his school principal deemed that it violated gender norms.

Last week at Ethan Chase Middle School in Menifee, California, students were permitted to attend classes in fancy dress costumes.  Students were encouraged to come dressed as characters from Disney movies.

Austin Lacey chose to attend dressed as Queen Elsa from Frozen, complete in sparkling blue dress and long blonde wig.  The costume was reported to be a hit with students, with many posing for pictures with him.

Unfortunately school principal Chris Hernandez was less than pleased with the costume and ordered Austin to remove it before he then confiscated it.

In a statement made by Romoland School District, superintendent Julie Vitale said, 'This action was taken in accordance with district policies.  At no time was there an indication that the student was expressing any particular message.  The principal's action was based upon the need to stop a general disruption to the school environment.'

The superintendent went on to state that the school district 'prides itself on having policies and practices that support all students regardless of gender identity or gender expression.'

Despite this reassurance Austin's mother, Brooke Francev, told local television stations that Austin 'was later informed that the principal does not believe that boys should be dressed like girls.  I can't believe that there are still people out there who hold those beliefs, especially on a day when it was intended in good fun.  It really shouldn't have been an issue.'

Austin is not transgender, by has said that since his treatment he's taking a stand on the rights that people have, and Austin's mother has said that other students were upset by the incident and wish to promote a week of cross-dressing in solidarity with the LGBT+ community.

The decision by principal Hernandez to force Austin to remove his costume is a questionable one at best, especially when the reasoning he gave was that it was 'causing a disruption'.  Unless Austin was the one and only student to take part in the school's fancy dress that day it is highly unlikely that he was the only person having pictures taken with him.

If the school did not want to 'cause a disruption' perhaps they should not have chosen to host a fancy dress day, an idea that was guaranteed to disrupt the normal school day.  Instead, it would appear that a school official used that as an excuse to hide their own prejudice at gender variance.

The fact that Austin is not a trans or gender variant teen should not be an issue here, it's the schools reaction that should be.  On a day where students are encouraged to dress up and have fun a student is singles out and punished because of the beliefs of one person that boys shouldn't be dressed as girls.  I truly hope that there are not trans or gender variant students at Ethan Chase Middle School, as it has become quite clear that they would not be made to feel welcome there.