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12 Nov 2013

The Many Foibles of Nintendo

Sorry about this, but I feel the need to rant about the constant stupidity of one of the world's largest computer console manufacturers.

So, the 'brand new 2DS' has been released, but before I get to my issues with it, I have to travel right back to the N64. First off, in an era with the brand new disc based Playstation and Sega whateveritwascalled, Nintendo, in their not quite infinite wisdom, decided to stick with cartridges. Because of this very poor decision, they lost out on the phenomenally popular Final Fantasy VII; a series that had been released on their consoles for almost a decade before. Their excuse? Short loading times. But, with short loading times in those days came short games.
And then we come to their worst decision with that console. The controller. For those of you too young to remember, it was similar to the Playstation controller, except with abnormally long handles, AND a completely unnecessary third prong. I've yet to meet a human being with enough hands to hold that thing properly, so what most people did was hold two of them … throughout the entire game. They didn't even need to switch handles because, wisely, no game ever took advantage of this system.

Then, their next great idea was the Game Cube. They had fixed the controller by then, and now it looked similar to the so-awesome-it-hasn't-really-changed-in-four-generations Playstation controller, but, they still thought the public wanted shorter games. So used a smaller disc to that of Sony. This meant they could not even tap into the DVD market that Sony now dominated with the PS2. A decision that popularised the use of the format.
And then we had the Wii. Apart from its stupid sounding name, it hadn't moved on technology wise, except for its gimmicky controllers. I admit, I did enjoy playing on it for this reason, but when your entire sales pitch is a gimmick, it isn't going to last. Having stuck to the previous generation's technology, they couldn't even boast superior graphics.
So, out comes the Wii U with honestly, their worst idea for a controller since the N64. It has a screen in it! Wow! Remember the Dreamcast? Yeah, that had a screen in its controller and that forced Sega to cease console making and become solely a software developer. A controller should be invisible. It is a means to an end. Putting a heavy screen in it and forcing the player to look away from the television is counterproductive.

And now we come to their handheld consoles. Don't get me wrong, back in the day the Gameboy was a genius piece of technology. It was portable! No other console ever was at that time. Until Sega's Gamegear came out. In colour! And with a screen in between the buttons, meaning you had a good hold of the console rather than scrunching your hands up at the bottom. Nintendo did not fix the colour until the GBA (no, I'm not counting GBC because it could not render anything other than like ten different colours) and they didn't fix the screen position until the DS. Which I will now say, is another of their silly gimmicky ideas. Two screens! You're getting twice the screenage for your money!
So what about the 3DS? Well, it had 3D capabilities without the need for glasses, which was cool. But that was its only selling point. And now we have the 2DS which is like a standard DS, but without the clamshell design. What's more, the 'two screens' is actually only ONE screen! Yup, that's right your dual screen system is lying to you. All they've done to keep the DS gimmick is place a plastic strip across a screen that could have been quite large.

Basically, Nintendo have survived in the competitive market of Xbox and Playstation by using cheaper old technology and gimmicks. Sooner or later, they're going to have to start making games other than Mario.

Oh, yes, I went there. That fat little Italian plumber has kept the company in business for years, despite being only fun enough to fill a few bored minutes, and even then, it can struggle. Every other game stars this character and it's getting on my nerves. Nintendo are just the champions of unoriginal content provided by gimmicky hardware.

/rant. Next time I'll be back with something a little more positive. I just had to get this off my chest.

29 Oct 2013

Doctor Who 1983-2003: The Decline and Dark Ages

The third decade of doctor Who began as it was meant to go on. With the Myrka.

The eighties have often been derided for silly monsters and rubbish special effects, and while the final form of the Mara, the Kandyman, and the aforementioned Myrka are rubbish, there are some truly fantastic moments.

Let’s start off with colin Baker. I never used to like him much. I found him to be quite unlikeable. But then, this was the point; to make a lead character who is initially unlikeable but whom you warm to along the way. Unfortunately Baker was not afforded this opportunity in his televised stories. In audio, apparently he’s much better. I have watched Real Time and I found to to be brilliant, so I may check out more of his audio stuff. As for his companions, we mainly had Peri, who was an okay character, but often felt miserable. She kept moaning about going fishing, or not going anywhere interesting. For someone who chose to travel with the Doctor, she doesn’t seem to like it all that much. Her final episode however, was fantastic, if only for BRIAN BLESSED (imagine that shouted in a deep bass voice). If any one-off character is begging to return to New Who, then this is it. King Yrcanos was just a joy to behold. His confusion at the Doctor’s tactics is wonderful, and his relationship with Peri was believable and while her ultimate fate was a bit confused, neither her death, nor her marriage felt wrong.
And then we have the overly enthusiastic Mel. I didn’t like her. Not really. There were moments she shined, but overall, her intense pluckiness just got on my nerves.

So, after Baker’s unceremonious exit, we are back to form with Sylvester McCoy. His first series left much to be desired, and was probably the worst in the history of the show, but he was definitely great to watch. So come the end, we are now treated with one of the best eras of the programme. The Doctor and Ace, and the final two seasons.
Starting off with the fantastic Remembrance of the Daleks, we watch as the Doctor grows darker and more mysterious and clearly the best since Tom Baker’s gothic horror period. While Ace has one of the most complex character arcs of any companion with the last season focused almost entirely on her and her history. And while all of the stories of this final season had earthbound elements, it didn’t feel like the loss I felt when Pertwee was exiled to our planet.

So, finally, we come to the end of the classic era. It ended on such a high, but it was too late and we had to wait seven years before anything else arrived. Or, most people did. I didn’t even know the programme existed at that age, but over the next few years, I heard quite a bit about it, and when the news broke that the Doctor was returning for a one off movie, I was looking forward to it. And so, forever more, Paul McGann is MY Doctor. He was the first I ever watched a full episode of and was fantastically portrayed. The story, while messing about with continuity, was also a fun tale.

Over the next few years, I’d heard a little more about the show, and I remembered seeing the first Dalek episode with William Hartnell. Because of this, I feel I am in an almost unique position, for a person my age, to recall those early stories with childhood nostalgia. Every time I see the opening titles I am transported back to my childhood.

With the absence of the show on television a wealth of new material was published in the form of books, audio dramas, comics etc. So much that I wasn’t able to fully take it in in the six months I allotted for my Doctor Who marathon, but it is something I would love to fully immerse myself in the future as long as the BBC understand that ebooks and print on demand technologies are readily available to take advantage of and which require no need to spend loads of money on expensive reprints. Come one BBC step into the 21st century!

9 Sep 2013

Doctor Who: The Golden Years 1973-1983

The Doctor's second decade on air famously has many of the shows best received episodes. The decade was also dominated by arguably the best Doctor, Tom Baker. And during the majority of these years, there's hardly a dud episode.

We start off with the tail end of Jon Pertwee's era. Here we see the departure of Katy Manning's Jo Grant. I never really liked her, she seemed to only be there because she was pretty, though she did fulfil the grandaughterly role the Doctor hadn't had since probably Victoria. Anyway, to replace her we had the fantastic Sarah Jane Smith. While I don't think she's quite as good as everyone says, she's definitely a decent companion and better than most that came before.

So once the Doctor regenerates into Tom Baker, we have almost a completely different show. The format changes from the mainly Earthbound stories of Pertwee's era to travels in time and space. The way Doctor Who should be. But not only that, once we get into Baker's second season, we enter into some very dark territory.

It was during this time that the programme had many advocates against the horror and violence it portrayed. I've scoffed at these in the past, and even today, I will remind anyone that there is an 'off' switch and you are not required to watch anything. However, having now seen the transition from the beginning, through four different incarnation of the main character, and for it to almost suddenly change into this weekly horror, I can kind of understand their viewpoints. Doctor Who used to be good family viewing; by the mid seventies, it was great mature horror. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be a child in 1976 watching the Deadly Assassin and seeing the Master in his emaciated form. Even today the work stands up well.

But then, of course, due to all this pressure from 'television decency campaigners', the show went on a lighter road. But for the most part, it didn't descend into silliness (they would save that for the late eighties). Once the rather fantastic, but violent, Leela left, we are treated to one of the best seasons ever, the Key to Time. Unlike every other season to date, this one followed a loose arc around the Doctor and new companion Romana to recover the lost segments for the eponymous Key. This also introduces two characters who are begging for a return in the new series, the White and Black Guardians.

But it is Tom Baker's last season that I think is better even than the Key to Time. Disregarding the first two stories, The Leisure Hive and Meglos, we have the E-Space Trilogy, a series of loosely connected serials about the TARDIS being lost in another universe. And at the end we have the wonderful return of the Master. This season has many themes that flow from one to the other, the theme of entropy and decay, the feeling of being at the end. More than anything else to come before it, this feels like the last season. And I will argue to the ends of the Earth the Logopolis is the best and most epic (by a MASSIVE margin) departure for a Doctor. Nothing like it before or since has ever even come close.

It was the Master's first proper story since kind of regenerating, and he ends up destroying a sizeable chunk of the known universe! But what got me is the cliffhanger when the Doctor agrees to work with the Master to rectify his mistakes. It's odd because in pretty much every story involving the Master up until this point has concluded with this same scenario. But because of the epic scale of the destruction, and the general epicness of the entire serial, and indeed the season as a whole, it is just such a powerful moment.

And then the Doctor regenerates into Peter Davison. Now before embarking on this marathon, I had only watched a few serials from this era. I had enjoyed Davison's portrayal, but felt some of the stories had been a bit lacking. But having now watched two seasons with him, I don't think the show really put a foot wrong. You've got some cracking tales like Kinda which has an incredibly creepy dream sequence and some good psychological horror. The wonderful Earthshock which managed to make Cybermen good again after to rather poor Revenge of the Cybermen; it also did double duty of making the death of Adric a sad occasion, when usually I, and most fans, would have been overjoyed. Yeah, Adric was the only companion since Susan that I have hated. And who can forget the Black Guardian trilogy? For the first time since the very beginning, we have open distrust in the TARDIS, with a possible murderer onboard. And within this arc, we have some cracking serials with the overarching theme of immortality and death, something I have been writing about for the past year in Emergence. It's a very dark season when you get into it, but then we finish off with the gratuitous romp that is the Five Doctors, ready for Davison's final season, and the unfortunate decline of the programme.

5 Sep 2013

How to truly and effectively combat piracy

So, you've just made a film, or written a book, or composed some music and you release it for sale. Lots of people buy it, but there are some little buggers out there who just want to take it from you without paying for it. What bastards!

This is piracy and, needless to say, I am against it. I have heard many justifications for it from 'the artists get paid too much', to 'it's not stealing, it's copying', and 'everyone does it'. The fact of the matter is, you are not entitled to that content. Your life will not be affected in any negative way if you do not have it. Dodging payment on something you don't need cannot be justified.

But still people do it.

Why? Three reasons.

  1. The official content is far too expensive. In an era where a cinema trip can cost upwards of a tenner before you even buy your popcorn, this is a valid concern (though still not justifiable).
  2. The content is unavailable in your area, or at that time. There's a reason Game of Thrones is one of the most pirated shows in history (aside from it being fantastic). It's because it is only shown via channels that one must subscribe to, and for someone like me, who only has Freeview, it's not easy to watch until the DVD comes out. And that can be months away; ample time for people to spoil it for you.
  3. It's free. Yup, people pick up things they don't have to pay for. People will take advantage of 'Buy one get one free' offers, even if they won't use the free one. Most of the people who get dodgy copies because they're free, don't end up watching, reading or playing them. I mean, I've got a load of books on my kindle that I've downloaded for free (legally, mind you) that I've yet to read.
So, yeah, nobody does it out of some noble crusade to lower wages of the 1%, they do it because they want the content now and they want it for nothing.

So there are many strategies. Governments have tried to crack down on it by restricting the rights of individuals to do what they want with the stuff they bought as long as they don't pass it on to others. You have the annoying unskippable ad on every DVD. You have loads of stuff happening that tries to stop pirates, yet precious little trying to make them redundant.

So, what do I suggest? To combat number 1. Cut actor's salaries. Seriously, these guys get paid millions. There's no need for anyone to get paid that much. And not just actors, but everyone else involved in the production who earns more than half a million per film. Also, special effects. They're nice, but I think we can all agree that in most cases, they are not needed. With literature, ebooks need to be much cheaper than their paper counterpart. People aren't stupid, paper costs money, but a few kilobytes costs nothing. The authors, editors, and publishers put in their time and money to make the content, but at the end of the day, physical copies of books cost a lot more than a digital file and the end price needs to reflect that.

To combat number 2. Make it available everywhere, forever, and at the same time. If you have a programme on a subscription based channel, sell it worldwide for a quid or so per episode as soon as it is shown. And of course, the price could drop when the DVD comes out not long after. Literature doesn't suffer too badly from this as books are usually available on Amazon in all their shops as soon as released. Unless you're a publisher who wants to push sales of the far more expensive hardback, leaving the ebook release until a few months down the line. Just ... no.

To combat number 3. I don't really have much of an answer for this. If you make content, you want to be able to make a living off it and therefore have the money to support yourself while making more content. However, there is a way around this, and that answer is Kickstarter. I've only recently heard of this site, but it's loaded with possibilities. The idea is that a content creator asks for the consumers to pay for the content before it is created. Anyone who donates a certain amount is then able to get a copy of the finished product, and the creators can then sell the product in other places for a much cheaper rate with every penny being pure profit. They could even give it away for free.

So, if you get a project funded by kickstarter, don't pay a fortune to anyone, and make it available everywhere at the same time, I guarantee that you'll have very little trouble with pirates.

19 Jul 2013

Doctor Who: The Beginning 1963-1973

I don't like Susan Foreman. I think she's whiny girl who's scared of everything and gets herself into trouble. With the possible exception of The Sensorites, she shows absolutely no character development. So why was I bawling like a little baby when she left?

Because of William Hartnell, that's why.

In the last episode of the Dalek Invasion of Earth, Susan has a dilemma. She wants to stay with David and help to rebuild the Earth, but is worried about how it would hurt the Doctor. The Doctor knows this, and makes one of the hardest decisions in his life ... to finally let his granddaughter go. He knows she wants to, and that he is the one holding her back from making the decision. It is his loss we feel. He loves Susan, and even though I don't, I can empathise with him and feel how much it hurts him to leave his granddaughter behind, possibly never seeing her again.

I defy anyone to watch this episode and tell me that classic Who was shallow, vapid entertainment.

In reality the entire first season was like this. While there were Daleks, Marco Polo, Sensorites, Robespierre, etc. behind these monsters and heroes, we have a character drama about two lost humans, abducted from their home by a couple of alien fugitives.

In the first story, there's loads of clashes between the TARDIS crew, from the time when Ian thinks the Doctor has kidnapped Susan, to the time the Doctor berates them from trespassing in his machine. When the doctor, in a fit of indignation at being called a liar about the function of the TARDIS, takes them to the far past, he is indifferent to the suffering of a wounded 'primitive' while Ian and Barbara force him to help. It is also fitting that the two schoolteachers, who view the TARDIS as mere fantasy, are also viewed as fantastical by the cavemen. They have technology that must seem magical to humans living thousands of years ago, yet their view of the TARDIS is the same.

Then we are taken to Skaro, the home planet of the Daleks. The story is rather average with a lot of filler, but the cliffhanger scene of the Dalek eyestalk coming towards Barbara almost feels as if they knew the enemies were going to be a success. But again, it isn't all about the Daleks. Ian and Barbara are still coming to terms with their kidnapping, and can't even be sure they can trust the Doctor, especially once it's revealed that he lied about the TARDIS breaking down just so he could satisfy his curiosity about the city, and thereby getting them captured.

It isn't until the next story though that we get a truly character driven plot. While the denouement is probably one of the silliest moments in the shows history, the lead up is purely about the characters and how Ian and Barbara are suspicious of the Doctor, and angry at him for kidnapping them, but the Doctor reminds them that it was they who entered his ship in the first place. Everything that has gone before, now comes to a head. It is truly wonderful.

Unfortunately, such character driven pieces were mostly abandoned after a few years on the air. While characters still drove much of the plot, the tensions between members of the TARDIS crew remained virtually non-existent until the arrival of Turlough in the eighties.

When we get to Patrick Troughton's era, we see some of the best examples of stories in black and white Who. Both of his Dalek episodes are fantastic, dealing with such ideas as 'What if the Daleks had a human mind?' One of my favourite stories has to be the Enemy of the World. I'm not usually a fan of doppleganger plots, but this was great in spite of it. No need for a monster of the week, just good old fashioned political thriller.

And then the doctor gets exiled to Earth and turns into Jon Pertwee. Now let me get this straight, I don't like formulaic stories, however, I love Doctor Who's formula. The idea of a mysterious man arriving in a blue box, resolving some danger and then disappearing without needing to be thanked, is one of the true genius ideas of the show. I love it when we see the TARDIS materialise at the beginning of an episode and then dematerialise just before the credits roll with that music. But we were denied that with Pertwee's exiled years. And yet, the show still went from strength to strength. His first years as the doctor gave us two cracking stories, the Silurians, and Inferno. In the former, we were treated to a race originally from this planet and who now want to colonise it again. It is a moral dilemma, an invasion from our own planet. And then Inferno gives us a fast paced alternate reality story, placing the Doctor on his own for the majority of the serial.

The following year gives us an introduction to the Master. This is a character who could so easily be a melodramatic villain, but Roger Delgado pulls it off. His chemistry with Pertwee is so wonderful, you can really believe they were friends once.

While Doctor Who had it's not so good moments (the Dalek's 'pet', the bubble-bath of terror, and the less said about the spaghetti monster, the better), overall, in its early years, it was a show with depth. Something that contrasts with its early big screen films starring Peter Cushing. These films lacked the character development of the series, turned Ian from a courageous hero into a bumbling fool, and concentrated on how many Daleks they could cram onto the screen. When people think of early Who, these films are what they are likely to perceive the show as, but it couldn't be further from the truth.

17 Jun 2013

On the Dangers of Metareading

WARNING: Contains spoilers for season three of Game of Thrones. As well as Buffy, Angel, Firefly/Serenity, and the Avengers.

Forget Joffrey. He's just a spoiled little brat. And even then, Tyrion, Tywin and Cersei have a modicum of control over him. It's Walder Frey who's the most evil man in Westeros. For those who have watched it, you know what I'm talking about.

I've loved reading since I was a child. I've loved television and film for much longer. And in all these years I have never been so shocked so much by a sudden and unexpected plot development. So it got me thinking about why. And I've decided it violates the agreement between the writer and reader/viewer.

If anyone is familiar with the game Dungeons and Dragons, or any other role playing game, and sometimes in video games in general, you may also be familiar with the concept of metagaming. The idea behind this is you think of the game as a game. When you think this way, you start to question why a Dungeon Master did this or that, what the point is in a certain event, or, more dangerously, not thinking a DM would do such a thing.

Readers and viewers all do a similar thing, if only subconsciously. There are certain things we expect in a story. Some of these are:

  • The protagonists always win (even if they lose things or people along the way, they still come out on top)
  • The guy always gets the girl
  • The protagonists have at least enough virtues to make you root for them
and most pertinently for this post:
  • Main characters always live to see the finale (if not always the end of the finale)
For my analysis, I will need to define protagonist, antagonist, main characters (MC), secondary characters (SC), and supporting characters or extras. MCs are those with whose eyes the story is viewed, and whose story we follow. SCs are those who support the MCs or antagonists through the plot, but whose own story is smaller than the MCs. Protagonists are the primary characters in the story; those people without whom there can be no significant plot. Antagonists are those who force the protagonist to move the plot along. For example, in Harry Potter, Harry is the protagonist; Hermione and Ron are MCs; Dumbledore, Mrs. Weasley, Fred, Ginny, Malfoy, etc. are all SCs; Voldemort is the antagonist; Grawp, Fleur, Lavender, Professor Binns, are all supporting characters.

To kill off supporting characters is easy. Heck it's expected. I mean there's a reason for the term Redshirt. It's used as a device to show the reader/viewer that the situation is dangerous. To kill off a SC is also expected, but only to up the ante, or to force the protagonist to follow a different path, or to further them along their current one, especially if they were beginning to doubt it. MCs are only ever killed at or near the end of the story, and even then, it's rare. Even Joss Whedon, known for his gleeful murder of SCs, never killed MCs (without bringing them back in some way), Buffy, Angel, Giles, Willow, Xander, Mal, Thor, Iron Man, all survived to the end, while many SCs like Anya, Book, Wash, Fred, Joyce, Tara didn't. These rules are the reason I didn't believe the two burnt bodies Theon displayed were Bran and Rikkon. It just doesn't happen.

Another thing, if a SC does die, they usually get a big send off whereby they do something heroic. Or they're just in the series finale when the writer is fully entitled to slaughter half the cast, simply because no one will be needed again anyway.

So. Why was the wedding scene in Game of Thrones so danged shocking that I STILL haven't gotten over it? Because Robb was a MC and he was killed in cold blood. When I first began watching the series, I was sure Eddard was the MC, but when he died, I realised I was wrong. The main characters are his children. With the exception of Denaerys and Stannis, pretty much the entire story is witnessed through the eyes of these people. Sansa in the south, Robb in Riverrun, Jon to the north, Bran and Rickon in Winterfell, and Arya on the road. As MCs, they are essentially immortal. Thinking of the book/series as a story i.e. metareading/metaviewing, you know they cannot die based on these rules. When a writer breaks these rules you get shocked. Tara's murder in Buffy was something I was in denial about for ages afterwards because it broke the rules of the heroic death. The wedding scene in GOT was shocking because they violated more rules. No one had a heroic death, they killed a MC, and to top it all, they built the entire episode up to be almost the exact opposite. The massacre came out of nowhere because the viewer was given conflicting information. In contrast, Tara's death was merely a consequence of another evil act. Not only all this, but Robb's wife was killed by repeatedly stabbing her unborn child, rather than killing the woman outright as if they wanted the baby dead more than the woman (which they probably did to deprive Robb of an heir).

To conclude, the wedding scene broke as many rules as could be broken and was preceded by completely misleading events, making it the most shocking scene I have ever witnessed on television. Also, you can see there is no right mind set to have, to make this scene any less shocking. If you didn't metaview, you'd be invested in the story and the characters, and still be as upset. 

Game of Thrones has achieved a new level of brilliance. True unpredictability.

25 May 2013

6 months to watch 50 years of Dr. Who

So, after that finale, I've decided to watch every single episode of Doctor Who and ALL its related spin offs (yes, including K9 and Company).

Now, I've set a deadline for this, and of course that deadline has to be the 23rd november. So that gives me less than six months in which to do it. Now, I figure I can watch maybe eight eps of the original series a day, then maybe two or three of the regenerated series. And I'll fit Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures somewhere around there. Also, because I don't half arse these things, I'm also going to watch the Children in Need and Red Nose Day specials, as well as the Tardisodes, prequels, Pond Lifes and everything else.

Now, I've got a day job, so it won't be easy to fit that in with reading and writing as well, but I don't work every day, so on those days I get off, I could watch double the amount I usually would. And imagine the time I'll get to watch it during my forthcoming week off!

There is one major problem though. I don't own all the DVDs, and many episodes aren't available in that format. I don't have enough money to spend on buying all of these, so I will rely on a combination of Lovefilm, YouTube and my own pittance to pay for any DVDs I need. It's doable, and shouldn't affect my writing output at all, so you'll still get regular Chronicles as normal.

Plus, watching all this Who will give me some inspiration for a special short I plan to release later on in the year as a special celebration of the show. Yes, that is an official announcement, and you heard it here first and all that.

While I'm watching these, I plan to update the Blog to tell y'all how I'm doing, with each one dedicated to a single Doctor. Also, at some point in time and space, I'll write a special on my thoughts of this phenomenal programme.

Anyway, without further ado, an unearthly child beckons ...

2 May 2013

Does Twilight Deserve to be Hated?

So, the other day, I decided to sit down and watch all five films in the Twilight saga, just to see what they were like. I ended up getting through them all in less than forty-eight hours. So, what did I get from the experience?

Firstly, they're not vampire movies. They're chick flicks, with vampires. Just like Ghost was a chick flick, with ghosts. So the series should be judged on how good they are at being chick flicks, not by how good they are at being vampire films. My conclusion? They are surprisingly good chick flicks. Most romances follow the same plot: Girl meets guy, girl loses guy, girl and guy make up, happy ever after. This kind of story only appears in the second film, New Moon. throughout the rest of the series, Edward and Bella are in a relatively stable relationship.

What makes the series different from other romances is the vampire aspect. Admittedly, a human falling in love with a vampire was handled a lot better in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but Twilight address the notion of the human potentially becoming a vampire. This makes a huge difference. For starters the films talk about whether vampirism is a curse or an incredible power. Having to live off blood, and being drawn to humans more than any other animal. In a world where vamps are not fundamentally evil, how does this bode for those who want to live peacefully with humans? And how is a recently newborn vampire supposed to look at her father as anything other than food?

The other thing is the immortality. Edward is over a hundred years old. He may look seventeen, but that doesn't mean he acts like it. How many hundred year old people do you know who agree with sex before marriage? How many centenarians seem 'old fashioned'? Okay, you may not know many at all, but look to the older generation in general. They have these old fashioned values. And so does Edward. He wants to marry her because that is how he was brought up and what he has been taught to value. As one of the modern teenagers says, the only reason an eighteen year old gets married today is if they've been knocked up. I know of very few films dealing with immortality that address these kind of changes in society (though there are plenty that deal with changing technology).

Also, the action scenes, what little there are of them, are surprisingly good. For this kind of film, you'd expect the action to get glossed over, and treated as a necessity rather than anything to be admired. I found myself enjoying the action, far more than I have in many action films where millions have been spent on special effects to make action boring (here's looking at you Michael Bay). The only gripe I have is that the final battle scene is played out inside a character's head and you don't find this out until it's over. Twenty minutes later. It's a cop out. However, I'd watch it again because it was done well.

Which brings me on to my last and final point: They are beautiful films. You turn the sound down and look at some of the scenery, or the way characters are lighted and filmed, the vivid colours and contrast of forests against snow. It's nice to look at. Okay, at many points during the films it looks dull and grey, but this feels right for what's happening on screen: it's a rainy day, Bella's moved to a new school, she's not exactly happy, the screen is washed out a little. Then when things are a little better for the protagonist, the colours are more vivid.

So, the negatives? Ugh, sparkly vampires. It's an interesting concept as to why they can't go out in the sunlight, but it completely goes against their nature, Edward makes a show of all his predatory traits, and then he gets sparkly. Seriously? That's just going to give you away to your prey. Something else could have been done to show why vamps avoid the sun, but can still go out without burning up. Also, the two leads aren't really very good. On the rare occasion they're both smiling, they feel right, but most of the time, they're only a marginally better couple than Neo and Trinity.

So, yeah, I'd watch them again, but they're certainly not in my top hundred films. And they do not deserve the hate poured on them by people who think these are vampire films. After all, they're still better vampire films than the Underworld series.

16 Apr 2013

What makes Game of Thrones so good?

So it was the 'in' thing and when so many people said to check it out, I thought it might be a good idea. And of course, after seeing the first season I was hooked. I then went out to buy the book and will probably finish it today. Then, the other day, my mother's partner and I sat down and made our way through the entire second season so we could catch up. Yup, that was ten hours of a rainy Saturday watching people fight and have sex.

So what is it that is so good? The afore mentioned fight and nookie scenes can be got elsewhere, so it can't be that. The plot? Well, it certainly has much going for it, but as has been said many times (and is a big criticism of the Star Wars prequels), the public don't tend to like overly political stories. Game of Thrones is loaded with politics. The title itself screams of politics. But that kind of story is done very well, and certainly appeals to people, like myself, who enjoy political intrigue.

But what makes the plot? Is it arbitrary points arranged in a timeline in order to achieve an overall story? No. Game of Thrones is the single best example of character driven fantasy I've ever had the pleasure of watching and reading. Every character has their motivations, wants, and flaws. Every character has a choice and the outcome of that choice moves the plot along. It also helps that every character is an engaging one, even the detestable Joffrey, or the shallow Sansa.

And each character has an arc, and many change over the course of the story. One of my favourites is Daenerys, she goes from a shy naive young girl forced into a marriage, and turns into a strong independent leader, and my favourite for the Iron Throne. Both Robb and Bran have lordship thrown on them at early ages. And then there's Tyrion. You go through most of the story with this dry witted and cynical dwarf who's simultaneously hilarious and wise, and then he tells you of his early marriage. Suddenly you really feel for him. And hate his father before you even meet Tywin Lannister.

Honestly, I wouldn't care if there was a plot or no, as long as I could spend time with these characters.