REVIEW: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – Torn in two

Firstly…SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS!!! And LOTS of them! Okay, got that? Good. Let’s move on.

I’m depressed. Not a lot. But a bit. I’m definitely down. It’s been about 15 hours since the credits rolled on the midnight screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the funk is still there.

Bad movie, you ask? No, not at all. In fact, while it borrowed heavily from the original (in order to assure my generation of fans that we were in safe hands, I suspect), and while there were some story issues, it was a resounding success, both as a stand alone film and as a new start for a film series torn apart by the taint of ‘the prequels’.

So why am I depressed? Well I’ll tell you… Continue reading

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REVIEW: “The Walking Dead” S6 PT1: an opportunity lost

So, half way through the ‘season’ (what is a season in “The Walking Dead” universe, anyway?), and it’s a case of what could have been.

“The Walking Dead” (TWD, henceforth) is at it’s best when it’s less about the terror of the undead and more about the horror of the living themselves. When the writers use the show’s milieu as a cypher to explore humanity’s inhumanity, as well as its ability to rise above, TWD moves beyond it’s genre constraints. Characters are allowed to engage with the Big Questions, and the show resonates with pathos.

So what went wrong in Season 6? Continue reading

Armada BOOK REVIEW: the difficult second novel

‘Armada’ is Ernest Cline’s long awaited second novel, following the critical and commercial success of the wonderful ‘Willy Wonka meets The Matrix’ romp, “Ready Player One” (probably my favourite book that year – henceforth ‘RP1’). It tells the story of Zack Lightman, a high school kid whose life revolves around playing video games, making pop culture references with his friends, and working in the dream teenage boy job: a video game store run by a guy who’d rather just play games than actually work. Raised by his mother after his father died in an industrial accident, Lightman lives an otherwise comfortable life in middle America – that is, until an alien space ship arrives and turns Lightman’s life upside down – or right side up, really – and he is drawn into a conspiracy of alien invasion and secret government agendas.

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Video games and the narrative of frustration

The quiet night is shattered by an explosion of screamed profanities. I bolt upright, half-awake, and blink at the bedside clock: 1am glows red and angry.

Now, we live in a neighbourhood with its fair shares of late night family screaming matches and drunken parties. It’s an army suburb, so people come and go, thus the sense of community is fragile. This time, however, the yelling is coming from my own lounge room, from my own wife. “Fuck! Fuck you! You piece of fucking shit!”

I’m frozen at the realisation. And still dazed, I wonder: who is in my house, and why on Earth would they piss off my wife?!

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Cultural sensitivity and art – part one: Glenn Rhee and “The Walking Dead”

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If upon reading the title of this post you’re asking yourself, “Who the hell is Glenn Rhee?!”, then clearly you are neither a reader nor a watcher of “The Walking Dead” (henceforth TWD) comics (in which he is known only as Glenn – that’s important) and TV show. For the purpose of this post, however, my major point of reference will be the show.

To clarify, Glenn Rhee was (I’m assuming if you’re reading this you are aware of his fate) the only Asian major character represented in this long running and popular series (was the zombie plague particularly effective against the Asian community? Hmm…). Quite possibly there have been Asian zombies (I know, I know: walkers), but for the purpose of this blog, that doesn’t count.

Now, a confession: this post isn’t really about Glenn Rhee. Rather, it’s about Glenn Rhee, and my mixed feelings about Glenn specifically, and about the racial representation in books, film and television in general, using TWD as a example…mostly because I’m likely to get more reads if I just keep saying Walking Dead, Walking Dead, Walking Dead…

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Gender and reading…and while we’re at it, race, sexuality and the movies.

(WARNING: the following blog post contains an abundance of morally outraged italicisation)

Some time ago I made a decision related to my reading habits: I decided to rotate books based on the author’s gender (fiction and nonfiction, and including comics) – and, just to clarify, in no way restricted by biological birth.

My ‘why’ is quite simple: I am a card-carrying, unapologetic Affirmative Action acolyte. That is, I absolutely believe the only way to address in-balance across almost any field is through the adoption of quotas to ensure parity of representation and a fairer society.

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POV and the ‘Rules of Writing’

I want to discuss Point of View (POV) in fiction – a particular bug bear of mine in these early days of my shift from dramatic (back?) to prose writing – and the problems with ‘rules of writing’. But first, a labyrinthine, self-important digression.

It’s only natural at some point in the ‘pursuit of art’ to make a leap for the “Rules”. After all, art is full of uncertainty. There is no winning, or getting to the end (only temporary rest breaks between projects), there is just the pursuit. And that can be pretty unnerving.

For most of us, when we first began doing our thing, we just did it. We wrote. We stood up and performed. We drew. And – not initially, at least – we did not consider the merit of what we were doing. We did it to do it (mind you, childhood trauma is a magical stimulant, hey folks?…)

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