Wednesday, 28 December 2016

2017: Low Expectations.

In terms of the entertainment that came out in one form or another this year, to say I felt underwhelmed is an understatement. The worse thing for me is that when I think about where it is potentially headed I have little hope for improvement. For those who don't know what I'm talking about or are new to my blog (if you are, Hi) I shall run through it with you.

First off was me looking at what games were coming out this year and realizing that not only were any of them worth buying but they were exceptionally over priced. This led to me getting rid of my console, and Xbox One, and take on the project of building my own PC for gaming. It does sound like a difficult task but one of my friends on Twitter, Mike, knows a thing or two about this and helped me by working out a build and what parts to buy. I have been picking the parts off month by month and will finish it in April next year, the Xbox was traded in towards parts for the PC and thankfully before the later version came out otherwise the trade in value would have dropped. I guess you could say I got lucky with the timing on that one. Games on PC are so much cheaper so I can buy them at a much more relaxed pace than I did with console but even then, I know I'll be playing a lot of old stuff. There is only one game coming out this year that I am remotely interested in and that is if it even comes out this year, Cyber Punk 2077, but I'm not even sure what the release date of that is so I will wait and see.

Then of course, there is comics. Most would know by now how I feel about all of this but here is a reminder. Watching what happened to Marvel this year was sad, shocking, and made me angry in places. I turned away from the likes of Marvel and DC and went for the more unique stories with the independent publishers and I have not regretted it. Watching Marvel do what they did with their characters for the sake of a new audience or whatever their motivations were felt like myself and those like me who read their comics that we were the past. This new progressive audience was the future and we weren't invited for the journey. Chances are that none of their writers or artists will ever read or care about what myself or anyone like me has to say about it, but I can stop giving them my money and give them the finger. Judging by the sales drop that Marvel has suffered this year, a few other people out there came to the same conclusion.

Film and TV were also disappointments, I only went to the cinema twice this year and it has now become my record low for exactly that. My wife brought me The Shallows for Christmas and we watched it yesterday, it was a good film and I appreciated the fact that it was something original with a lead actress who can actually act. To go into why would risk spoilers so I shall just say: good job Blake Lively. What has hammered this home for me was the amount of actors (of all the celebrities) who passed away this year. Carrie Fisher was the worst as Star Wars was part of my childhood and helped influence me to write science fiction. With the passing of these greats, we are losing exactly that and being left with what to me are those that pale in comparison regarding all examples I am talking about. You may think I am being harsh and that is fair of you to do so, but we now live in an age where almost anyone can be famous for having almost zero talent. Just take the Kardashians, for god sake.

The monster that is Hollywood will continue to churn out these films with minimal effort, especially those blockbusters with a ton of CGI and very little story because they will always put bums in seats. Star Wars will no doubt continue with the Disney versions and you can bet they will milk that thing for all they can get from it. To me, it is a massive example of one of those things that should have been left alone after it finished but some people just can't help themselves. As I said though, this is Disney, if it has a chance to get a good profit and sell lots of overpriced action figures, they will do it. As for TV, there is little to speak about. The only shows I really watched were ones on either Netflix or Amazon. There was very little this year that was really worth watching and it reminded me of a quote by the writer of Network, Paddy Chayefsky, which I've probably said before. He was asked during a chat show if he liked TV and he replied "I love television. I just don't like what they've done to it". Network was the film that would predict the crap that is Reality TV about thirty years ahead of its time. Given how many accolades Chayefsky won for his writing, it is fair to say that he was on to something.

A long time ago, Bob Dylan once wrote:

"... Your old road is rapidly aging. Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand, cause the times they are a-changing".

The quoted verse comes from the section about parents and their children but I feel like it can apply to entertainment these days. I am part of an older audience who enjoyed films, games, TV, and comics when they were at their best in the eighties and nineties; the old guard in some respects. With the releases of such films as this year's Ghostbusters, almost everything Marvel did, the games more intent on milking the customer for cash than delivering a good product, the shit that is seemingly thrown on TV to see what sticks, it feels like I am part of an audience that is no longer wanted.

So as a result, I will spend less on film unless I'm sure it is worth it, the same with games and comics as well. I will be investing more of my time in books and my own writing as a result. Penance will be finished next year and after that, I will finish off a novella that has been lurking on my hard drive for a while and after that; who knows. I have made some great connections with other writers whilst doing this, Brian Niemeier, EJ Spurrell, Bre Faucheux, Karen Long, Trever Bierschbach, C.D. Gallant-King, Robert Kroese, and a few others. I firmly believe in promoting the work of indie authors as they do not get nearly enough attention for their work, I became one myself this year so you can bet I'll do it even more in the coming year. I and those I have mentioned may not get much attention for our work compared to the more publicized folk out there, but it can be guaranteed that we can offer you something different and worth your money.

I won't just get out of the road, I'll make my own thanks.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Rogue One, I'll Pass.

I remember when the trailers and so on for The Force Awakens began to pour over the internet, my excitement was added to many others out there. I took my two eldest children to see it at the cinema and we all enjoyed it, I'll even go as far as to admit that I felt a lump in my throat when the iconic theme tune burst onto the screen. As the time drew near to the release of the DVD/Blu-Ray, my wife and I rented it via Sky and we watched it for something to do. Sadly I realized that the film did not hold up so well on second viewing, a lot of the flaws or questionable moments in the film stood out and I found myself frowning more often than I liked. An an example or two, it still bugs me that Rey not only seems to master and use the Jedi Mind trick in one film (as opposed to the three it took Luke) and manages to beat Ren in combat with a Light Sabre even though he is much more skilled than she is. It also made me wonder why it hadn't been Finn that had turned out to be the Jedi, he got his ass kicked numerous times and had a much more interesting character in my opinion but hey, strong empowered female character and all that I guess.

Now we have Rogue One on the horizon and it is a prequel film in the series, I did think about it for a moment but then decided this film really wasn't for me. Storytelling these days doesn't seem to be doing so well in the film industry, it boils down to superhero films, reboots, remakes, and very little in the way of original content. I give TFA its dues for moving the series forward with a new story but did we really need another prequel story in the Star Wars universe? If it had been a story in the new universe and had introduced some new characters, maybe I might have been swayed but Star Wars didn't really need any more prequel films, especially after the last three films.

The prequel films did have a couple of good moments here and there, especially the climactic fight between Obi-Wan and Anakin, but it also contained some of the most horrid writing and acting I have ever seen. With those in mind, I still wonder how they all managed to make a profit but of course it always comes back to the name. I dare say that if Disney made a series of bricks with Star Wars stamped on them, people would buy them. I watched them with my wife back when she was my girlfriend and when I think of them it often reminds me of those early dates we had together, but the flip side of that coin is that they helped put me against prequels. Why do we need to tell a story that we already know the outcome? You knew when watching the prequel trilogy that Obi-Wan and Yoda would live through it, you knew Anakin would become Darth Vader, you knew the Jedi would be killed off, anybody else was fair game to be killed.

I thought about this with Rogue One and came to a similar conclusion. It's fair to say that the main character, Jyn, will probably survive as Disney wants to push for more female characters in the universe. Most of the other characters in it are men so it's fair to think they stand a good chance of being killed off, Darth Vader is in the film (probably to get bums in seats) and it's obvious he will not die. Why make this film? The cynic in me comes to the conclusion that Disney wants to get as much money out of this franchise as possible, make as much merchandise for it as they can, and keep churning these films out for years to come.

That doesn't interest me in the slightest.

It is a story that doesn't need to be told, simple as that. Prequels are something that I now lump in with reboots and remakes, there is no point to them except to make easy money or that they are a result of a lack of good ideas. It's a real shame to me that this appears to be what Star Wars will become; I think this is where I will jump off and watch it go off on its merry way as it rakes in the profits. If my children want to see it or the next one, I'll offer the wife the chance to take them as it usually falls to me to carry out this task, I'm happy with a good book these days.

I would be happy revisiting the original trilogy if I can find a version without all the added effects and scenes Lucas for some reason, thought were needed. That scream Vader makes at the end of ROTJ that was added in was cringeworthy as hell.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

2016 in Review: The Good.

The worst times I have when writing these articles is that thinking of what bad stuff to write about is the easiest part, thinking of the good stuff tends to be difficult. I really do find that a shame but this year finding such easy points was not nearly as difficult as before, I'm pleased to say. I often find myself expecting the worst in things such as comics and movies etc but I am happily surprised when the best arises from as such. As before, I am always happy to debate these things in one form or another but once again, here we go.

5: DC Comic Sales.

I'm not a DC reader, I must point that out from the start before going into this. Whilst I have enjoyed the odd Superman or Batman graphic novel here and there I really haven't collected any of their series. Some of them were so big by the time I got to them, the thought of collecting the back issues was a pricey one and it put me off a great deal. I didn't like the idea of The New 52 because it was just another form of reboot to me and I couldn't get onboard with it so I ignored it. They started things yet again with the Rebirth event and again I found it just wasn't for me so I left it be, but I do give them respect for being able to sell their comics and outdo Marvel. In January they only had one comic in the top twenty, in June that number jumped to fifteen, in September the number went up to seventeen but then was down to nine in October, but only because of a number of new series from Marvel. Good on them, I hope the sales continue for them.

4: Success of Suicide Squad Film.

It made me laugh watching the media doing its best to defend Ghostbusters before, during, and after its failure. It was one of many examples of how the media has become too progressive for its own good and should be taken with large pinches of salt and that is such a shame. The Suicide Squad trailers came out and instantly people took issue with the way Harley Quinn was shown, Rolling Stone (of all people) called the character "The Best and the Worst Thing" of the film whilst a horrible article for Buzzfeed called her "damaged dolly jerk-off material". The reviews continued to flow in but director David Ayer took the criticism well and declared the "movie is made for the fans" and I loved the fact that he said that whilst silently giving the finger to the critics in the process. The film sits poorly on Rotton Tomatoes thanks to the critics, but the audience clearly thought much more of it but it has been a financial success. The film's budget was $175 million, its box office intake was $745.6 million and a sequel looks to be on the way and I found it pleasing to read about. Oh, and to those who were complaining about Robbie getting changed and showing her bra in the trailer: give it a rest. I didn't hear shit from any of you when Chris Pratt was topless in the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer except how good he looked. Talk about double standards.

3: Brian Niemeier Winning the Dragon Award.

Brian is someone I know through Twitter and even did a live stream with once a while back. He was nominated for a Dragon Award for his book Souldancer and it won. It meant that it became the first indie title to win a major award and in my mind, that was a big thing. To me, it is a damn good example that if someone really wants to find a good story in this day and age, the indies are the way to go. Brian did suffer for this along the way though, he found himself being shadow banned by Twitter during the year in an attempt to shut him down but it clearly did not work, as I understand it his popularity grew and so did his sales for both of his books. His third book will be out soon (at the time of writing this) and I wish him all the success in the world, hopefully the day will come when he and I meet.

2: Rolling Stone Sued over its "Rape on Campus" Story.

If my dislike of the media hasn't been justified enough for you then I would hope that this example does the trick. The story behind this is a very long and twisted one which was a combination of lies and more importantly, sloppy journalism by someone who should have known better. Sabrina Rubin Erdely's article sent shockwaves everywhere upon its initial release but when people began to question it and its "facts" started to fall apart, the floodgates opened. Rolling Stone has now been successfully sued over the story and Erdely shown to be nothing but an incompetent hack, I can only hope that the university administrator who sued gets a large sum of money from all of this because I doubt Rolling Stone will learn anything from it. Erdely has been silent on Twitter for two years (at the time of writing this) and I can only wonder if she will dare to write anything ever again, who would ever take her seriously after all this? I know someone who was falsely accused of rape by a woman he met on a night out and it turned his life upside down until she eventually admitted to the police that she lied. It is not nice to see so I really hope that should something like this happen again that it is properly investigated because it really can ruin lives.

1: Revelations and Hypocrites.

Usually, I would not take too much comfort in the suffering of others but with this part, I fully intend to do so. I was a supporter of Gamergate back in the day, I wanted to see the gaming media clean up its act but myself and those like me were branded the most terrible things for doing so. It was always the same people saying these things as well, usually from behind the safety of a blocking program on Twitter. These people made themselves out to be saints in a murky world and acted like they could do or could never have done wrong in the world, but over time that proved not to be the case with some of them. Let's start with Devin Faraci, a man who was opposed to Gamergate and once called its supporters "misogynists and absolute monsters" and some more colorful statements as seen here. That came crashing down when he was accused of sexual assault by a woman and shortly afterward had to step down from his post at Birth.Movies.Death as a result. Oops.

Matt Hickey was another moral crusader and opponent of Gamergate who's past caught up with him. He had written an article for Forbes criticizing Microsoft over its use of scantily clad female dancers at a party and used such wonderful phrases as "prevalent sexism" and "it's good to know Microsoft is taking this seriously". Well, he was later arrested and charged with three counts of rape against women after running a scam as a man recruiting women for porn. Stories indicate that this could go back much further with him after three more women came forward to accuse him of raping them. He has since pleaded "not guilty" to the charges but the trail has only just begun.

Sunil Patel was also another one who had been very much against Gamergate and was one step away from donning armour, a sword, and shield in order to fight the good fight. Some of his tweets can be seen here in this article but once again, the past caught up with him. Several women came forward to complain of Patel's sexual harassment towards them and as a result, he was dropped by multiple publishers regardless of his apology. Patel's Twitter account has since being protected and his site shows no updates of any kind but the bitter irony sticks out like a sore thumb.

In fairness though, there were those in Gamergate who were not perfect and in one case at least, got their just deserts. Benjamin J Barber was prosecuted and sentenced to six months in jail and five years probation after he apparently decided to get back at his ex-girlfriend by posting their sex videos online. This was a dipshit that tried to get Ian Miles Cheong arrested and even stalked Randi Harper and took photographs of himself outside her workplace and as a result provided those against Gamergate with plenty of ammunition in the process.

Examples like these really show to me that when those like the above mentioned shout the loudest in public about things that they perceive to be wrong, then there just might be something dodgy behind it all. It just goes to show that there really isn't much need to fight with some people online as they will hang themselves over time if they have enough rope, all you need is a little patience.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

2016 in Review: The Bad.

This year will be one to remember, that is for certain. Brexit, Donald Trump winning the presidential vote, and a number of celebrities that died this year, I could go on and on but my god I didn't think I would ever see a year like this in my lifetime. However, there were other events and so on that made this year either good or bad and as I had once done with Metaleater, I decided I would once again cover each one in two separate pieces. As you've probably guessed, this one will cover what I consider the bad points. They are ones that I have chosen from a personal point of view that annoyed me in form or another and I will say right now that I am happy to debate these with anybody should they feel I have been unfair or now. Ok, here we go.

5: The Media STILL bashing Gamergate.

As far as I am concerned, Gamergate quietly ended some time ago. People still mention it from time to time but the SPJ events were the beginning of the end of it for me, many of the people whom I follow on Twitter who did use the tag no longer do but that hasn't stopped the media talking about it. The first was one of  "Five Guys" himself, Nathan Grayson, where he used it to talk about Steve Bannon being hired by Donald Trump. The article failed to mention Grayson's own ethical breaches which were discovered and his ties to Zoe Quinn but hey, he's obviously the forgetful type.

The second one I've seen (I know there are probably others, I know) was thanks to Matt Lees for The Guardian. The article was very one sided and against the movement as a whole, it did its best to warp the events involved in the whole thing but strangely missed out large chunks of information. Much like Grayson's article, Lees failed to mention that large amounts of ethical breaches had been discovered with almost every journalist involved and even where the SPJ got involved. The best part though? Lees is said to be the business partner of the husband of Leigh Alexander, who's article for Gamasutra helped spark Gamergate back on August 28th, 2014. Some things in journalism will never change I guess, but as long as "journalists" keep doing stuff like this, we will always be there to call them out on it.

4: Ghostbusters and the Media.

To this day I have never seen the media behave so biased as they did to promote and even defend the 2016 version of Ghostbusters. The film has since caused Sony to suffer a seventy million dollar loss and a sequel is unlikely, I really cannot say I am sorry to read about it. The treatment of people like James Rolfe after he dared to speak out against it was quite frankly disgusting and it is examples like this that I find it very tough to believe anything written about in the media. Apparently, there is an animated series or something like that on the way but I can only predict that such a thing will not last long. On a personal note, I did fear that my views were possibly getting in the way of my children wanting to see the film so I thought I had better ask them. My eldest son was not interested, my youngest son was too young and my youngest daughter cannot stay awake in the cinema to save her life, so it just left my eldest daughter. I walked into her room and cautiously asked if she wanted to see it, and then braced myself for the worst. She looked up and me and screwed her face up before answering me with "oh god no, it looks awful!"
Fair enough.

3: The Mocking Bird Cancelation and Aftermath.

I wrote about this a while ago and still very much stand by what I said. I still find some amusement in my various exchanges with David Bentancourt over his story for The Washington Post and his eventual blocking of me when I repeatedly asked for proof of this harassment. The comments section of that article is a giggle to read, especially when other commentators echoed what I had said and that the comments section has since been closed. It has gotten to a point now for me where I read stories like his and require a lot of proof before I can believe them, as far as I am concerned now: he was twisting the truth heavily to write that article and get some clicks. Such a shame that journalism has become this way, or as Sean Hannity said on Twitter regarding the press coverage of Trump:

2: Celebrity Outbursts over Trump's Presidential Win.

I love nothing more than seeing the rich and the famous lecturing people on how they should vote. They tried it with Brexit over here and the UK and it failed, they also tried it in the US with Trump and it failed just the same. With Trump, however, the fail was much more spectacular as they took to Twitter to express their outrage and sadness over the whole thing and I couldn't help but laugh at some of them and how bitter they were over it. Joss Whedon crawled back onto Twitter this year and he put out the Save The Day video where he got a bunch of famous actors etc to try and persuade people to vote for Clinton but it obviously didn't work. I can only imagine how the next few years in the US will be but as I have said before, I will judge Trump after four years because I think it is fair and I do not want to join in with a large number of people who are doing their best to end him. The celebrity reaction brought out responses like this and one from an online friend of mine, author Bre Faucheux who highlighted some of the celebrities quite amusingly. Many of these people I hold in much lower regard than I did before and will have a job to take seriously again, but I just hope they learn that when you try to talk down to people on important issues, sometimes they really don't like it.

1: The Decline of Marvel.

This one always hits me the hardest as I have been buying and reading Marvel comics since I was a child. Some of their stories have easily achieved iconic status and their characters, legendary. This year though, that all seemed to just get swept away as characters were changed, killed, put into daft stories, and unwanted politics were thrown in for good measure. The sales of Marvel's comics have reflected this though and it has been painful to watch happen, in January they occupied eighteen of the twenty spots in the top twenty sales, in June it had dropped to five, in September it was just two but had risen to eight in October. Even though I do not like the site nor the guy that wrote it, the article in Bleeding Cool that first talked about this really was an early warning sign and now here we are. I was one of many people who turned their back on the company and it's products to go to the independent companies and try their content, I have never looked back from doing so but the feeling of disappointment is still there. I purged my collection of any modern Marvel comics a while ago but kept hold of the older collectibles because they reminded me of better times when they had the star talent on board and not some of the people they have now. Part of me wants to see the company shake itself out of this situation and go back to how it was but my feeling is as long as Disney owns it there will be no change. I have thought long about what moment really sums up where Marvel went wrong the most and it didn't take long to be reminded as to which one. It is one that many people I have spoken to often reference, I shall conclude this article with that piece, from the now cancelled Angela Queen of Hel, and see who else draws the same sad conclusions that I and many others did from it.