Tag Archives: review

52 Book Challenge (Week 1) ‘Too Much Information’ Dave Gorman

Week One: “Too Much Information. …Or Can Everyone Just Shut Up For A Moment Some Of Us Are Trying To Think” by Dave Gorman [332 Pages]

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Dave Gorman’s is surprisingly similar to what I expected from him. I’ve read a couple of books by comedians and it’s always interesting to see how the tone of the books matched up with their personalities.  For example, Miranda Hart’s book “Is it Just me?” is exactly how you would expect her to write. But Jo Brands novels could be written by an entirely different person and I never would have guessed.

I haven’t seen much of Dave Gorman’s work, but I have watched quite a bit of his TV show “Modern Life is Good(ish)” and the book has a very similar tone to the show. Unfortunately it can be too similar at times.

Like the show, Gorman makes use of pictorial representation. In the show this is displayed on a PowerPoint. The book similarly makes use of pictures in what is sometimes a very witty way. I particularly like:

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A lot of the material in the book is similar to what he has used in his shows. Which is forgivable, if it works in one format it will most likely work in another. However a few jokes fall flat in the book format. I pretty much skipped over the chapter where he discusses when newspapers use the word “matching” to discuss celebrities wearing outfits that don’t match at all. In the PowerPoints, he shows the photographs that the newspapers are using to show just how ridiculous the claims are. Whereas in the book, he just has to use words to describe them. Which doesn’t have nearly the same comedic effect.

It was still a good read nonetheless and definitely worth reading if you enjoy Dave Gormans comedic tone.

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Resident Evil and Representation

The Resident Evil series qualifies as a horror series, a sci fi series and an action series. Given the genre, Resident Evil is surprisingly diverse. The main character is female, the supporting cast are a mix of genders and race, men are more likely to die and there’s very little romance throughout the series. Let’s face it, even when a female is the main character in an action film, she’ll inevitably be surrounded by white male companions, one of whom she’ll fall in love with by the end of the film. So the Resident Evil films are surprisingly refreshing, which isn’t what I expected when I first came across the series.

In this post, I’ll be looking at the composition of Alices teams to demonstrate just how diverse the cast is. By Alices team, I mean anyone who Alice joins/fights with over the course of any film (in the Anderson film universe, not the games). This post contains massive spoilers, mostly regarding who dies and who survives, so make sure that you’ve seen the films first if you don’t want to ruin them for yourselves.

Resident Evil (2002)
In the first film, Alices team consists of three women:
• Alice- Caucasian
• Rain Ocampo- Hispanic American (Umbrella special forces commando unit)
• Olga Danilova- Russian (Medic)

And seven men:
• Matt Addison – Caucasian (Activist)
• Spence Parks- Caucasian (Security operative)
• James Shade- African American (Leader of the special forces unit)
• Chad Kaplan- Caucasian (Computer technician of special forces unit)
• JD Salinas- Hispanic (Special forces unit)
• Vance Drew – Caucasian (Special forces unit)
• Alfonso Warner- Caucasian (Special forces unit)

Making this the most masculine group in the series.

Olga, Vance, Alfonso and James are killed by lazers. JD is killed by zombies and Spence is killed by the licker. Chad is then killed by the mutated licker. Despite being bitten shortly after the laser room, Rain is the last to die, being shot by Matt after she turns.

In this film, only Matt and Alice survive, both being taken away to be experimented upon. So it goes from being a masculine dominant group, to an even split.

Apocalypse (2004)
The team in Resident Evil: Apocalypse consists of three women:
• Alice
• Jill Valentine- Caucasian (Police officer)
• Terri Morales- Hispanic (News reporter)

And four men:

• Peyton Wells – African American (Police Officer)
• Carlos Olivera – Caucasian (Played by an Israeli actor) (Umbrella biohazard counter measure force)
• Nicholai Ginovaef – Caucasian (Umbrella biohazard counter measure force)
• LJ (Lloud Jefferson Wayne)- African American (Former Walmart employee)

Alice meets Peyton, Jill and Terri first. LJ then joins the group, followed by Carlos and Nicholai. Another member of Carlos’ team Yuri (Caucasian, male) dies before meeting Alice. Yuri and Peyton both infected early in the film. Yuri is shot by Carlos after he turns. Peyton is killed by Nemisis. Terri is eaten by child zombies and Nicholai is killed by zombie dogs.

Interestingly, Terri and LJ are not special ops and have no combat training. (Although LJ owning customised guns suggests that he knows how to shoot.) Despite being the most inexperienced of the group, Terri dies 3rd (after the police officer and an umbrella operative) and LJ survives the film.

Similar to the last film, despite the fact that there are more men in the team, it ends with an even split of gender. Two men survive; Carlos and LJ go on to join the Nevada team. And two women survive; Jill is kidnapped and although Alice technically dies in this film, she is brought back to life by Umbrella.

Extinction (2007)
The team for Resident Evil: Extinction consists of four women:
• Alice
• Claire Redfield- Caucasian (Leader of the human convoy)
• Betty- African American (Nurse)
• K-mart- Caucasian- (Role unknown. Member of the human convoy)

And five men:
• Carlos – From the last film
• LJ- From the last film
• Mikey- Caucasian- (Electronic operative)
• Chase- Caucasian- (Police sheriff)
• Otto- Caucasian- (Bus driver)

Both Betty and Otto are killed in a raven attack. Mikey and Chase are killed in the Vegas attack, during which LJ is turned and killed. Carlos then sacrifices himself.

This leaves only three women alive: Alice, Claire and Kmart. This is the first instance of one gender completely outliving the other and from this series, it isn’t surprising that it’s the women who manage to survive.

Interestingly, this is the first film to incorporate romance, with LJ and Betty’s date and it being implied that Kmart has a crush on Carlos.

Afterlife (2010)
The team in Resident Evil: Afterlife consists of three women:
• Alice
• Claire – From last film
• Crystal Waters- Caucasian (Waitress, aspiring actress)

And six men:
• Luther West- African American (Sports personality)
• Angel Ortiz- Hispanic
• Bennet Sinclair- Caucasian (Director)
• Kim Yong- Asian (Bennets assistant)
• Wendell- Caucasian
• Chris Redfield- Caucasian (Soldier)

This is the second most masculine group and is the least trained in combat. Unlike the other teams which have comprised of Umbrella operatives or police officers, Chris is the only one with military training.

Wendell is killed by zombies after attempting to spy on Alice in the shower. Crystal proves to be one of the most useful members of the group, announcing that she is a swimming champion, she is unfortunately killed immediately after she swims to the armory. Angel is killed by Bennet during his escape (I’m still not sure why he had to kill Angel to get to the plane…). Kim is reluctant to go in the sewers and due to his hesitancy, is sliced in half. And Bennett is presumably killed by the bad guy after being locked in.

Similar to the first and second film, despite being a masculine group, two men (Luther and Chris) and two women (Alice and Claire) survive the film.

Retribution (2012)
In (what is currently) the final film in the series, we have an equal split gender wise, with five women and five men. The women consist of:
• Alice
• Suburban clone of Rain- From previous film
• Jill Valentine- From a previous film
• Becky- Caucasian (Child)
• Ada Wong- Asian

And the men are:

• Luthor- From previous film
• Barry Burton- Caucasian
• Leon Kennedy- Caucasian
• Sergei- Caucasian
• Tony Rosato- Hispanic

Despite this being the most even grouping in term of gender, it ends up being the most uneven (in favour of the women). Tony is killed by Plaga Undead in Moscow before meeting Alice. Sergei is then killed by a licker in Moscow. Suburban Rain is also killed by licker. Barry is killed by Carlos’ umbrella clone and Luthor is then killed fighting Rains umbrella clone.

This leaves Leon as the only man standing. Conversely, only one of the women died, meaning that Alice, Jill, Ada and Becky all survive.

This film is similar to Extinction in that it is one of the few that has a (albeit brief) focus on romance- Leon puts his hand on Ada’s knee and is immediately rejected. The focus is more firmly on the friendship between Alice and the members of the team such as Luthor and Jill, as well as her motherly relationship with Becky, her clone’s daughter.

Children in the series
Interestingly, the only children in the film series (ignoring the red and white queens) both look alike, and both have physical defects. Angela Ashford (Angie) has a degenerative condition which would have led to a life in a wheelchair had it not been for the T-virus and Becky was partially deaf. The part of Becky wasn’t interestingly designed to resemble Angie. The part could have easily been a boy as the casting call was for a boy or girl of around 6 years old for a character named either Ben or Becky, dependant on the gender of the actor. Becky also wasn’t designed to be deaf, Aryanna Engineer (who is partially deaf) was simply the best actress for the part, which is incredibly rare for deaf actors.

Bad Guys
The enemies throughout the film series are normally white male. Unlike Alice’s teams, there is far less representation in the Umbrella Corporation. Arguably, this is intentional and is demonstrative of the corruption in business. It also furthers the notion that minorities and women are the underdogs, which encourages you to support them.

All things considered, the Resident Evil movies are fantastic when it comes to representation. It passes the Bechdel test with flying colours, with little to no emphasis being put on the female characters love lives. The mix of gender and race throughout Alice’s teams are refreshing and it’s great to see a lot more representation in films like this which can get pretty stuck in their traditional tropes. Let me know what you think of the series. Did you notice the difference in representation? Love it? Hate it? Let me know!

Toy Story of Terror: Review

I wanted to post a review of the latest installment of the Toy Story series over Halloween, but life got a little hectic. So here’s a no longer seasonally appropriate review of Toy Story of Terror.

Toy Story of Terror is an episode length feature with a running time of approximately 21 minutes. The film follows on from Toy Story 3, with the toys belonging to Bonnie instead of Andy (I’m still not over that ending and I never will be). The film opens with the toys watching a classic horror film, each giving their own opinion about what the heroine should do in the situation. Very quickly they find themselves in a similar position and Jessie takes the role of our horror story heroine.

Early on Jessie gets trapped in a toolbox for about a minute and has a panic attack. When Trixie the dinosaur asks “What’s the matter with Jessie?” Mr Potato-Head explains that “She was abandoned in a box for years”. A deliberate reference to the other most heat breaking moment in the Toy Story universe; Jessie’s abandonment . Jessie’s panic attacks don’t really match up with her introduction where she was content to be shipped off with Woody and the gang, but I don’t particularly mind the lapse in continuity because its actually pretty impressive character development, especially for a kids film.

The toys find themselves in a series of horror movie clichés: the car breaks down and they end up spending the night at a motel during a thunderstorm, all of which are pointed out by Mr Prickle-Pants. The group spilt up, leaving Jessie alone in an enclosed space, where she has another mini panic attack. Jessie is later separated by the group again and a lot of the screen time is dedicated to her acting like a typical horror heroine, running from some unknown danger, which turns out to be an iguana which collects toys which his the manager of the motel sells online (another call back to the second film and Jessies introduction to the series).

The toys are reunited when the manager places Jessie in the same cabinet in which the other toys are being stored whilst the manager attempts to sell them online. Someone pays two thousand dollars for woody and Jessie is similarly sold for a large amount of money. (Interestingly the address on the shipping label is Al’s Toy Barn, another reference to a previous film). Jessie is told to get in one of the boxes in order to save Woody and she has to face her fears in order to save both herself and Woody from confinement.

All in all, its not really that much of a Halloween story, just the few moments of horror parody at the beginning. However, it is a great depiction of fears and panic/ anxiety attacks and it is good to see Jessie as our lead instead of the usual focus on Buzz and Woody. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the Toy Story of Terror, especially the way in which the main plot is Jessie battling her anxieties.

Adaptions of Fullmetal Alchemist; 2003 vs Brotherhood.

If you’re reading this post, then you’re probably aware that there are two separate versions of the anime ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’. The original manga version was first published in Square Enix’s magazine Shōnen Gangan between August 2001 and June 2010. The first version of the anime was broadcast from 2003 to 2004, and since the manga wasn’t completed at this time, the anime was free to develop it’s own plot separate from the source material. In 2009, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood was premiered and this was designed to more closely follow the plot of the manga.

There are a lot of debates within the fandom about which adaption of the story is best and which version should new fans start with, so I’m going to outline the main advantages and disadvantages of each and hopefully come to some conclusion.

(Warning: Plenty of spoilers ahead!)

1. Plot

The plot of Brotherhood makes a lot more sense and is a lot better thought out, which makes sense as it’s the plot which was created by the original author. The 2003 version got a bit weird and tried too hard to come up with an interesting ending for the story, taking far too many liberties with the science behind the universe. Dropping Edward in our world in the middle of World War Two was certainly original, but also pretty absurd and a lot of the rules of the Gate weren’t really established. Whereas Brotherhood made sure that the rules of equivalent exchange and how they were applied by the Gate would be fully understood.

Winner: Brotherhood. Hiromu Arakawa is a queen. Her plot is far superior and it’s clear why people felt they needed to make a new series to follow what she wrote.

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2. Character Development

The first episode of Brotherhood got a lot of bad reviews saying that repeating events lead to a lack of suspense and because of this, a lot of key events in Brotherhood were glossed over because they assumed that their audience had already watched the 2003 version. For example, in Brotherhood Maes Hughes pops up briefly three or four times before he dies, whereas in 2003 the audience is given time to see his relationships with all of the other characters before his death and his character is developed in a lot more depth. This means that his death is a lot more hard-hitting in the 2003 version, because they’ve allowed the audience to become attached to him, whereas in Brotherhood, it’s just assumed that you already know who he is and how important he is to the other characters. Therefore, anyone who has only watched Brotherhood won’t find Hughes’ death nearly as traumatic as the 2003 viewers would.

Winner: 2003. I will never get over Hughes’ death.

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3. Unique characters.

I  will always love the 2003 version of Wrath. He was adorable and you really felt for him and sympathised with him regardless of what he did. But I have to give this one to Brotherhood. If you missed out on Ling and his guards, then you really need to give Brotherhood a watch.

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Plus, 2003 missed out the Armstrong sister Olivier, a high ranking military officer with a great deal of power who isn’t once sexualised (a rarity for any form of media).

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Winner: Brotherhood.

4. Character Design

Brother definitely has an advantage with the character designs. For one thing, Edward actually grows up and it has a much more realistic grasp of time and aging.

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There’s also the way that the two animes deal with the restored version of Alphonse. In the 2003 version, his body hasn’t aged since he performed the human transmutation, and he dresses like a miniature version of Ed.

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Whereas in Brotherhood, there’s a much more realistic depiction of what happened when Al’s body was left at the gate, and he initially appears incredibly malnourished, which better ties into the theory that Edward eats and sleeps so much because he’s providing the nutrients for both of them.

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Winner: Brotherhood. A far more realistic depiction of how the characters would look.

5. Hohenheim’s Back story

Both plots heavily rely on the reason behind Ed and Al’s father Hohenheim abandoning them while they were young.

In the first anime, Hohenheim used the Philosopher’s Stone for hundreds of years to switch from body to body in order to prolong his life with his lover Dante. After meeting Trisha, Hohenheim decides to stay in his current body but as his body started deteriorating, he realizes that he can’t lead a normal life and has to leave his family.

Whereas in Brotherhood, Hohenheim is originally a slave from Xerxes, known as “Slave Number 23”. Hohenheim was used for an experiment by his master who his blood to create a Homunculus. The Homunculus helps Hohenheim to raise his status and teaches the King of Xerxes how to achieve immortality. The attempt backfires on the king, and the immortality goes to Hohenheim and the Homunculus (now known as ‘Father’), sacrificing the citizens of Xerxes in the process. Hohenheim is possessed by half of the citizens of Xerxes and after discovering that Father plans to sacrifice Amestris, Hohenheim leaves his family to travel around the country to leave shards from his Philosopher’s Stone in strategic places around the city.

The 2003 version is certainly more sympathetic, he physically couldn’t stay with his family without his skin rotting off so him leaving is pretty justified. But Brotherhoods version better ties into the plot, and is a better depiction of the emotional struggle that Hohenheim goes through and his intense survivors guilt.

Winner: Brotherhood. Sorry Dante.

6. The Homunculi

In the 2003 anime, the homunculi are presented as being the results of failed attempts at human transmutation. This allows for more human characterization, especially with Lust being bombard with flashbacks of her past life. It also presents a very obvious weapon for dealing with the homunculi, as they’re vulnerable to their own human remains. It also means that the Elrics mother Trisha became a homunculus since she was also the product of a failed transmutation. This plot development doesn’t really make sense. Trisha is designed the sin of Sloth, and given the powers of water, which doesn’t match her sin.

Whereas in Brotherhood, the homunculi are the manifestations of Father’s sinful aspects, which he removes from himself. This better explains why the homunculi are named after the seven deadly sins, and the designs of the characters better match their aspects. For example, instead of having the power of water, Sloth is a towering creature, bulging with muscle mass, who has absolutely no desire to do any work, but is forced to against his will. This is far better suited to the characterization of the sin, and just makes more sense. We also get the same human/homunculi moral dilemna, as Ling freely chooses to become the homunculi Greed, and constantly switches between the two personalities.

Winner: Brotherhood.

7. Opening.

As far as I’m concerned, the best part of the original openings was the repetition. You could always reply on Alphonses’;

“Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is alchemy’s first law of Equivalent Exchange. In those days, we really believed that to be the world’s one, and only, truth.”

And for that quote alone, I’m giving a point to 2003.

Winner: 2003.

8. Ending.

2003 ended with it’s sequel film Conqueror of Shamballa, which kind of ended on a cliff-hanger. The film ends with Edward and Alphonse trapped in Germany, trying to figure out how they’re going to demolish a portal to their own world without the use of alchemy. It basically ends with the pair never seeing their friends again. Which is pretty depressing and doesn’t actually feel like an actual ending.

Brotherhood kind of has the same feel. The brothers are going to go their separate ways to travel and amalgamate the worlds knowledge about alchemy. This also feels like it deserved a sequel, however it was far better at tying up loose ends, and giving the characters their happy endings, something sorely missing in the 2003 version.

Winner: Brotherhood. “A heart made fullmetal.”

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9. Movie.

Each of the series has an accompanying film. For the 2003 version, we have the sequel ‘Conqueror of Shamballa’, in which Edward attempts to get home after finding himself in Germany. Whereas after Brotherhood, we got the mid-quel ‘The Sacred Star of Milos’.

The 2003 movie wins hands down. As odd as the premise was, it was well executed and built up to an impressive climax. Whereas Star of Milos was by far the worst thing produced by the company. The animation is crude in comparison to Brotherhood, and the plot doesn’t really fit into the overarching storyline.

Winner: 2003.

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Final score: 2003-3. Brotherhood- 6.

So Brotherhood wins!

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Now, this is all just my opinion, so feel free to argue with me in the comments. Let me know if you think I’m right, or if you think that I’m missing some of the advantages that the 2003 version had. I’d love to hear from you guys.

Nostalgia Time: ‘We’re Back: A Dinosaur Story’

I recently realised that my 10 year old step-sister has seen none of the films that I watched as a child. This is naturally a disaster and I needed to intervene. So we’re revisiting some of the old classics, most of which I haven’t seen since I was her age. I figured that while I’m re-watching the films, I might as well write up what I think about the films, particularly whether or not they’ve stood the test of time.

So first up; ‘We’re Back: A Dinosaur Story’

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I found this film in the supermarket the other day for only £2, and the nostalgia was too great so I just had to buy it.

I hadn’t seen this film since I was a kid, and could just vaguely remember not really understanding the plot. Re-watching it… I still don’t understand the plot.

If you haven’t seen it before, let me break it down for you:

• An alien and a scientist (Captain Neweyes) got back to find some dinosaurs and give them cereal which makes them smart.
• Captain Neweyes shows them a wish radio, and apparently all of the children in the 90’s were wishing that they could meet a dinosaur.
• The dinosaurs go to the future, and are dropped in the middle of New York so they can meet the museum curator for the Museum of Natural History.
• They miss the curator and meet a young boy (Louis) instead.
• They become friends with the boy, and another girl (Cecilia) they meet.
• The kids run away to the circus which is run by the bad guy (the scientists brother; Professor Screweyes).
• The bad guy predictably tricks them. He gets the kids to sign a contract and turns them into monkeys, blackmailing the dinosaurs by offering to rip up the kids contracts if the dinosaurs take the antidote to the brain cereal.
• The dinos take the antidote, and become an act in Screweyes Fear Circus. But don’t worry, the children fix it by Cecilia wishing “let no bad happen” and Louis healing the dinosaurs with the power of love and cuddles.

I’m not joking about any of that. This is the plot of a movie produced by Steven Spielberg. To quote the Nostalgia Critic; “This is the Land Before Time on crystal meth!”

Basically, it’s premised on the fact that kids are stupid.

The plot is repeated a ridiculous amount of times. And there’s even a moment when one of the dinosaurs spots a poster of the antagonist, turns around, looks at the camera and says “Professor Screweyes? That’s the bad guy!” As if it wasn’t painfully obvious already.

Weird thing is, as pandering and childish as it is, this film has one of the creepiest villain deaths I’ve ever seen.

The climax of the movie takes place in Screweyes circus, and as the good guys leave in their UFO/steampunk aircraft, Screweyes is left alone, stood in a spotlight in the darkness. And then we get this: “Brother! Brother, wait! When I am all alone… when I have no one to scare, I get very frightened myself.” Screweyes was driven mad after the incident in which he lost his eye, and his entire life has been spent scaring other people so that he doesn’t feel as frightened. When he’s in a position of power he’s incredibly confident, but now he’s compleetely broken. His crows start to circle and suddenly cover him. Then, while the circus audience watches, he’s devoured by the crows, leaving nothing but the screw that took the place of his eye. Words cannot do this creepy, creepy scene justice.

The film is incredibly dated. (I went to look up when it was made and found that it was created in 1993. The same year which I was born, which made me feel really old.) And a lot of the old American slang went way over the head of my little sister.

All in all, it’s a great mindless film for children, but it’s not the kind of fun-for-the-whole-family entertainment that Disney provides. I can’t see parents sitting though this film and laughing at jokes carefully weaved in for the adult audience, it’s just very obviously nothing more than a child’s film.

It doesn’t help that a lot of the movie makes no sense. Like how the dinosaurs can just wander around New York without being noticed.

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And I have no the hell what little alien guy was, he looks a bit like a Space Jam reject…

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Although I will always love Rex’s song…

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So I suppose the film does have some redeeming features. Has anyone else seen this film recently? Did it live up to your expectations? Let me know in the comments!