Friday, 15 December 2017

Ghostbusters 101 – Comic Review

Originally published on Set The Tape

Ghostbusters 101 brings together the Ghostbusters with their inter-dimensional counterparts from Ghostbusters Answer the Call as their two universe’s collide with disastrous results.

When the Ghostbusters decide to try to raise some extra cash by letting members of the public come to their headquarters to experience being a Ghostbuster for themselves, the latest interns play around with the dimensional portal and encounter a ghost from another universe.

With a part of the ghost coming through the portal, the entity is able to try to pull itself back together, resulting in the two worlds merging together, bringing the two teams together to figure out a way to separate their two dimensions.

The combination of the two Ghostbuster teams actually work incredibly well together, mainly thanks to the newer team not just being carbon copies of the originals in female shells, but completely different and unique. The over the top enthusiasm and craziness of Holtzmann annoys both teams in equal measure, the friendliness and history knowledge of Patty wins over the original Ghostbusters, and Abby and Erin are able to work alongside Egon and Ray, using science as a common ground.

The book is able to give each character their own moments to stand out, to demonstrate why they’re good at what they do, and why they deserve to be a Ghostbuster. Even the relatively new characters of the 101 class get some moments to themselves, with Garrett, a character only introduce in the second issue of the cross-over, getting a poignant scene where he discovers his sick father has died by coming face to face with his ghost, giving him the chance to have a goodbye.

Ghostbusters 101 is able to mix these character moments with some fun comedy beats, with the Answer the Call’s Kevin being as ridiculous as always, and even uses the merging of dimensions for some small single panel gags, including the New York Mayor changing person halfway through a speech before reverting back to normal.

The best moments, however, are the ones that address what could have been inconsistencies, especially with the cameo appearances of the original cast in the latest film being explained away, and even the idea of Ghostbusters across multiple dimensions being tied back into the original film mythology.

Whilst in the past the Ghostbusters ongoing series has made an effort to make each dimension stand out with its own art styles, even recreating the classic cartoons, Ghostbusters 101 uses very subtle differences in the looks of the two teams and their separate New York’s. Whilst this does mean that each dimension doesn’t stand out as much as previous inter-dimensional adventures the series has done, it does mean that the merging of the two worlds feels much more fluid and natural, instead of being jarring.

A good combination of both the classic Ghostbusters films and the latest remakes, the book not only gives a great stand alone adventure that fits well into the mythologies of both versions of the franchise, but justifies that the newer version can exist without erasing what has come before; something that may help to placate the screaming man babies that condemned the latest film simply for having an all female cast.

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Thursday, 14 December 2017

Star Wars Battlefront 2: Inferno Squad – Review

Originally published on Set The Tape

The second game in the new Star Wars Battlefront series introduced audiences to Inferno Squad, an elite special ops unit within the Empire, and it’s leader Iden Version. The accompanying novel, Star Wars Battlefront 2: Inferno Squad explores the events before the story of the game, showing the formation of Inferno Squad, their first few missions, and their deep cover operation to destroy what’s left of Saw Gerrera’s partisans.

The characters of Inferno squad are written well here, with each one easily distinguishable from the other in their personality and traits, whilst also falling quite nicely in line with where they will end up during the story of the game. During the events of the book Iden is firmly loyal to the Empire, believing wholeheartedly in the institution that she was raised in, however, by the end of the book you can begin to see some of the cracks in her beliefs forming, cracks that will eventually lead to her and Del Meeko defecting to the Rebel Alliance.

Del himself is probably the most enjoyable and engaging member of Inferno squad during the events of the book. Despite being the eldest member of the squad he seems to have a sense of childlike wonder, happiness, and warmth that is lacking in many of the others. Perhaps this is because he remembers a time before the Empire, even if he was a young child, perhaps it’s just because his personality is so different from the others, but he’s one of the only characters that we get a sense doesn’t always like what he’s doing. It’s clear, even this early in the characters story, that he’s not meant to be part of the empire, that his heart is too good to be one of them.

The one character from Inferno Squad that remains loyal to the Empire, Gideon Hask, is sadly one of the least developed here. Whilst we do see his longstanding friendship with Iden, and the sense of rivalry he has with her, this could have been something that was explored further. As it is, he’s only a little more developed that we see him during the events of the game.

The book did surprise me by adding a fourth member of Inferno Squad, Seyn Marana, a character that was totally absent from the game. Unfortunately, her not appearing in the game meant that it became rather obvious that something was going to happen to the character before the conclusion of the book. Whilst her death was obvious for these reasons it was still a shocking moment, one that had more impact than I was expecting.

Whilst the previous Battlefront book had a galaxy hopping adventure on a grand scale, the Inferno Squad story tells a much smaller tale, one that focuses more on characters than action. Inferno Squad are charged with infiltrating and destroying the last of Saw Gerrera’s partisans, and to find how they are receiving their intelligence. Instead of gun fights and battles most of the story takes place within the confines of the partisan base, where Infernob Squad and the reader are left to learn about the members of the group and to try and figure out who might be the Imperial leak.

Whilst this does lead to a slower read than some of the other Star Wars books, it does allow Inferno Squad a chance to show what they are like as people rather than soldiers, how they interact with others, what they think and feel about their missions, and the effects that this has upon them once they have destroyed the rebel group.

Star Wars Battlefront 2: Inferno Squad is not the book that I was expecting, ending up being a lot slower and smaller in scale than I thought it would be. Despite this, it still manages to explore the back stories of the characters of the game, as well as laying the foundations for the eventual defection of both Iden and Del. With some surprise connections to past Star Wars stories and the return of some unexpected characters, the book also manages to tie into the Star Wars universe in more than the expected ways.

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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Star Wars: Phasma – Book Review

Originally published on Set The Tape

‘One of the most cunning and merciless officers of the First Order, Captain Phasma commands the favour of her superiors, the respect of her peers, and the terror of her enemies. But for all her renown, Phasma remains as virtually unknown as the impassive expression of her gleaming chrome helmet. Now, an adversary is bent on unearthing her mysterious origins – and exposing a secret she guards as zealously and ruthlessly as she serves her masters.

‘Deep inside the Battlecruiser Absolution, a captured Resistance spy endures brutal interrogation at the hands of the crimson armoured  stormtrooper Cardinal. But the information he desires has nothing to do with the Resistance or its covert operations against the First Order. What the mysterious stormtrooper wants is Phasma’s past – and with it whatever long buried scandal, treachery, or private demons he can wield against the hated rival who threatens his own power and privilege in the ranks of the First Order.’

Captain Phasma, the mysterious chrome plated leader of the First Order stormtroopers, was one of the most enduring mysteries of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, though not one of the central mysteries of the film. With so much of the film, and the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi being dedicated to Rey, Luke, Kylo, and Snoke, there’s little room to explore a character like Phasma in any real satisfying way on the big screen.

Thankfully, the new novel Star Wars: Phasma not only gives us a lot of answers about who Phasma is and where she comes from, but gives us an intriguing look into the inner workings of the villainous First Order.

Despite being a story about Phasma, she’s not a main character within the book. Most of what actually happens surrounds a Resistance spy, Vi Morai, who is captured by the First Order mid mission. Being taken captive by a Captain within the First Order, a crimson armour wearing stormtrooper called Cardinal, she’s forced to tell him the information she’s learnt about Phasma’s past. Because of this, the story we hear about Phasma comes as a third hand account, one that may be filled with exaggerations and embellishments.

Whilst it’s possible that the story Vi tells Cardinal could be fake, it does feel very real, and fits with the kind of personality we’ve seen from the character even from her brief onscreen appearances. Telling a tale of her youth, growing up on a barren and desolate world, and her eventual meeting with Brendol Hux, the then leader of the First Order, Vi is able to shed a lot of light on the character. Where in the past such revelations of characters mysterious pasts can often make a character lose some of their mystique, seeing some of the things that Phasma has done as a young woman make her all the more terrifying.

With a story that feel as much Mad Max as it does Star Wars (and it’s no surprise to learn that the soundtracks the author listened to when writing the book consisted of two Star Wars soundtracks and Mad Max: Fury Road) we see a side of the Star Wars universe that we often miss. A primitive and brutal story, a civilisation barely surviving and fighting amongst itself for any resource, it feels less of a Star Wars story and more of a post apocalypse tale.

This framing narrative also allows the story to introduce one of the more interesting new characters I’ve encountered in the new novels, Cardinal. The same level as Phasma in rank, though not as favoured by the current General Hux, Cardinal was in charge of training all of the First Order stormtroopers before Phasma arrived. Having seen her martial prowess first hand, the previous General Hux split Cardinal’s duties, putting Phasma in command of the older recruits and Cardinal of the children.

Thanks to this Cardinal has had a vendetta against Phasma for years, and hopes to use the information that Vi gives him to bring her down. Without going into too much detail as to why this doesn’t come to pass, we see the internal struggle of Cardinal throughout the book, and by the end I’d come to care for the character a great deal; which surprised me greatly due to him essentially being a villain. Hopefully, Cardinal will appear in more Star Wars media to come.

Star Wars: Phasma delves deep into the backstory of one of the new trilogy’s most intriguing and visually striking characters, whilst also explaining a lot about the inner workings of the First Order military. Whilst the story does drag a little in the middle, it contains enough action, mystery, and characterisation to keep you wanting to learn more right up until the last pages.

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The Muppet Christmas Carol Re-Release Review

Originally published on Set The Tape

There have been dozens of adaptations of the classic Charles Dickens tale ‘A Christmas Carol’ over the decades, with many great actors taking on the iconic role of Ebenezer Scrooge. With a huge variety of film adaptations to choose from, ranging from the classic Dickensian ones, to modern day comedies, and even animated adventures, there’s one version of the story that captures the hearts more than any other, The Muppet Christmas Carol.

The idea of blending classic Dickens with the iconic Jim Henson puppets might seem like a strange combination, especially when you throw in a hugely respected and seasoned actor like Michael Caine and add singing, but it somehow works perfectly. Perhaps it’s because the film doesn’t try to push the silly humour too much, maybe it’s that Caine plays it completely straight throughout, or perhaps it’s the touching emotional moments the film manages to squeeze in. Whatever the reasoning, there’s only one version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ that I watch each holiday season, this one, the best one.

This was the first Muppets film made since the death of their creator Henson just two years before, and was dedicated to his memory; along with that of actor Richard Hunt, who voiced Statler, who dies during pre-production. Perhaps because the loss of these members of the Muppet family, but this is easily the darkest of the Muppet movies, with the third act of the film being particularly grim. Despite this, it’s also one with the most love, managing to warm the heart of not just the evil Scrooge, but anyone watching at home too.

The film is remarkably close to the source material, despite being acted out by foam puppets and singing vegetables rather than people, and even takes many of the lines from the original text and uses them, such as Scrooge’s reply to hearing that the poor would rather die than go to the workhouses, ‘If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population’.

It’s moments like this, along with Scrooge having to relive his worst memory of losing the woman he loved, watching people steal his possessions after his death, and facing the possibility of Tiny Tim dying that makes this a dark film. Yes, there are bright and colourful characters and jokes aplenty, but this is the kind of film that you should watch with your kids for their first viewing as it can get quite sad and frightening at times.

Thanks to these moments, some of which still bring me close to tears as an adult thanks to how well they are handled and the phenomenal acting from Michael Caine, that the end is as good as it it. By the time that Scrooge has come to change his way’s you’ve come to like him and to care for him, you want him to be a good man and to make the lives of the people around him better.

The final moments will have you smiling, possibly through tears, as you’re filled with the sentiment that one person can make a difference to others; that you can go and be a force for good and kindness in the world, even if you think it’s too late. Yes, it’s a film will silly puppets and Christmas trappings, but it’s a film with a message and a heart to it that’s important. This is why the film is still beloved 20 years after it’s release, why it’s back in the cinema now, and why it will forever and always be my favourite Christmas film.

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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Whitney's Wish

I don't usually use my site to try and encourage people to give money, not even to charities. I think that if people find a cause worthy they will go out of their way to give to it. But I'm going to break my own rules on this occasion, because I need people to know about this cause.

My friend, Whitney, has terminal cancer. She's a sweet and kind young girl, only 19 years old. I met her at work and became fast friends, bonding over our mutual love of Pokemon.

Whitney loves Pokemon, and a load of anime's, often cosplaying her favourite characters at conventions. One of her lifelong dreams was to visit Japan. She's now running out of time and chances to get to do so. Her family want to make sure this happens.

Please, visit her Go Fund Me page, read her story, and if you can, donate.

I know it's the holiday season, that a lot of people are spending more than they normally would at the moment, but please donate, even if it's a small amount. Forgo that extra bottle of wine, buy yourself one less present, skip buying a coffee today, and help make this wonderful young girls last days something that she will treasure forever.

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Monday, 11 December 2017

Piers Morgan Mocks Trans Community In Tweet About The Snow

Piers Morgan, host of Good Morning Britain and former newspaper editor, has once again lashed out at the transgender and gender fluid community in his continued campaign of hate.

The television host, who on previous occasions has argued that children should not be allowed to dress in clothing that is not seen as being for their gender, told trans people on the show that they are 'confused', denied people's gender identity to their faces, and has described gender non-binary people as 'a contagion', has tweeted further insult to the community.

With snowfall having covered most of the UK this weekend, Morgan celebrated the change in weather by tweeting that he's 'off to build a non-binary gender fluid snowperson', followed by snowflakes.

Despite many people responding to the tweet decrying Morgan's comments, he has received a large number of positive responses, and has had a number of Twitter users respond with similar, transphobic comments.

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'Back To The Future: Hard Time' Comic Review

Originally published on Set The Tape

The fourth volume of the ongoing Back to the Future series is now available in stores, and begins an intriguing tale that goes back to one small throwaway line in the first film, but adds more depth to the Back to the Future universe, and the McFly family.

During the events of the first Back to the Future film the audience learnt that Lorraine McFly’s younger brother Joey had had his parole denied. Other than this, we knew nothing about who Joey is, why he was in prison, or how long his sentence was. Hard Time looks to address this, making the release of Joey the main focus for much of the book.

Whilst the usual family drama of having a member released from prison after close to fourteen years would provide enough entertainment to fill a book in itself (the interpersonal drama and family dynamic between Lorraine and her siblings and how they react to Joey’s return is varied and engaging) things become more interesting when Doc Brown tells Marty to avoid Joey at all costs. This kicks off an investigation into why Joey went to prison in the first place, and leads to Professor Irving taking Marty back to 1972 in order to view events themselves. As is typical for a Back to the Future adventure, the two of them inadvertently become embroiled in past events when the DeLorean disappears.

With Professor Irving finding himself meeting a younger, mustachioed Doc Brown, Marty accidentally gets himself involved in Joey’s criminal activity, which involves Biff Tannen. The volume gives us a great beginning to this adventure, and explores how big an impact the imprisonment of Joey had on his family. Whilst there is still a great deal of this particular story left to tell, what we get is solid enough to stand on its own as a good look into the McFly family dynamic, and ends with a possibly dangerous moment as Marty comes face to face with a younger Biff, who may recognise him as Calvin Klein from Marty’s previous journey to 1955.

With just what happens to lead to Joey going to prison still yet to be resolved, and the possibility that he may return to a life of crime in the present (1985) it will be interesting to see what (if any) impact Marty and Irving’s presence in the past has. In addition to this three part set up, we also get a stand alone adventure that focuses on Doc Brown and his son, Verne. When Doc Brown forgets his anniversary he jumps into the DeLorean in order to travel to the future to get a present for Clara, as well as picking up some pieces for his time train.

Unfortunately, Verne has stowed away in the time machine, and ends up wandering off on Halloween 2017, where he gets a sack full of candy, and ends up being used by a gang in order to rob a shop. Thanks to his cowboy skills, and having grown up hearing about his fathers adventures, he manages to thwart the robbery and becomes a hero. Whilst this little adventure doesn’t add much to the overall story, it does give us an insight into Doc Brown’s life back in 1893, and shows us a little more of his family, seen only briefly at the end of the third film.

Back to the Future: Hard Time is a fun book that sets up for even bigger misadventures through time in the upcoming fifth volume. Whilst the fact that the story is not resolved in this book, and that it ends on a cliffhanger, may upset some readers, there’s still plenty here to keep people entertained and engaged.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters 2 #4 & #5 Review

Originally published on Set The Tape

‘The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are on the run. The ghost of Darius Dun, a crime boss whose assassination was ordered by Splinter, has summoned a group of demons – the Collectors – to abduct the Turtles, all in an attempt to hurt Splinter. Luckily Donatello reached the Ghostbusters for help before the dimension hopping demons caught up with him.

‘To confuse the trail, the boys in grey split up with the mutant heroes and went on a random run through the infinite dimensions. They take a quick pause to allow their portal technology to recharge, finding themselves in vastly different surroundings!

‘Peter Venkman and Michelangelo appear in Zoo Amsterdam, a city of anthropomorphic animals, where Peter was mistaken for a demon by that dimension’s paranormal investigators – the Ghostbusturtles! Ray Stanz and Raphael found themselves in a frozen forest, ambushed by Scandinavian spectres! Winston Zedmore and Leonardo wind up in a world of pure war, narrowly avoiding death at the hands of an unfeeling army of androids!

‘Back in the Ghostbustbusters’ home dimension, Egon Spengler and Donatello work on a trap that will send the collectors directly to the Containment Unit, a prison they can’t escape from … if the two teams can manage to trap them in the first place. Donatello has an idea about how to make that happen … and the clock is ticking.’

The concluding two parts of the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters cross-over event brings the story to a satisfying conclusion as each member of both teams gets a chance to show their strengths, we get a great emotional moment with the Turtles’ long dead mother, and experience some awesome action.

The first few issues of the cross-over have been doing their best to keep the two teams separated, and to stay one step ahead of a confrontation with the series’ big bad. The fourth issue concludes our heroes independent adventures and brings the two teams back together.

The pairings of Turtles and Ghostbusters works very well, with each duo getting a chance to connect, learn from each other and grow in some way, especially for the Turtles. Michelangelo learns that he can talk his way out of situations that would usually descend into violence, and is encouraged to look into psychology by Venkman, Raphael is confronted by the fact that whilst he’s a good person he’s filled with negative energy because he cares too much, and Leonardo learns some battlefield wisdom from a fellow soldier in the form of Winston.

Whilst a lot of team-up series would have characters working together and fighting alongside each other, that would be about it as far as any development would go, with the focus being on action and adventure. Making the choice to focus these early issues on character instead, to give our heroes these smaller moments in which they can grow and learn, is so much better. It shows a level of depth that is sometimes missing from these characters, and a maturity from the writer that shows you don’t need to focus on fighting and witty one-liners in order for a team-up to be great.

Towards the end of the story the two teams find themselves brought back together in an otherworldly dimension that is home to the spirit of Tang Shen, the Turtle’s mother. This scene acts as a great coda to everything the Turtles have been through in the proceeding issues, and all that they have learnt. It’s a great scene that helps the Turtles to come to terms with some of their emotional realisations, and reassures them that it’s okay for them to be who they are, even with their faults, especially if they have their family with them to support them.

The final action sequences of the event are well made, with the Turtles fighting with glowing, proton powered versions of their own ninja weapons to be able to combat their ghostly opponents, whilst the Ghostbusters blast them with proton packs. After a number of issues showing how good friends the two teams are, getting to see them all gathered together and fighting a common enemy is a real treat, especially as it’s the first time that they’ve done it in this story.

A lot of cross-overs rely on some outdated comic book tropes, such as the two teams fighting each other before realising their friends, and put character development to one side in order to cram action into each and every issue. Thankfully, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters 2 breaks away from these rules to do its own thing, to tell a story that’s more about two groups of friends rather than two groups of heroes. It gives our characters quiet moments of contemplation and introspection, it allows them to learn about themselves and grow as characters, but when the time for action comes it also delivers some new an innovative action sequences. A must read for any fans of either franchise.

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Sunday, 10 December 2017

Next Star Trek: Discovery Novel To Focus On Saru

The latest Star Trek: Discovery novel, entitled Star Trek: Discovery: Fear Itself will be focusing on Saru, the first officer of the U.S.S. Discovery.

Written by James Swallow, the novel will be a prequel to the series, a story that focuses on the start of Saru's Starfleet career, exploring his time on the U.S.S Shenzhou, and him being the first Kelpien join Starfleet.

'Lieutenant Saru is a Kelpien, a member of a prey species born on a world overrun by monstrous predators...and a being who very intimately understands the nature of fear. Challenged on all sides, he is determined to surpass his origins and succeed as a Starfleet officer aboard the U.S.S.  Shenzhou. But when Saru breaks protocol in order to prove himself to his crew mates, what begins as a vital rescue mission to save a vessel in distress soon escalates out of control. 

'Forced into a command role he may not be ready for, Saru is caught between his duty and the conflicting agendas of the two antagonistic alien races. To survive, he will need to seek a path of peace against all odds, and risk compromising the very ideals he has sworn to uphold.'

Star Trek: Discovery: Fear Itself is die for release on June 5th, 2018.

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Christian Teacher Suing School After Being Sacked For Transphobic Discrimination Against Pupil

Joshua Sutcliffe, a secondary school teacher who was recently fired from their position at a school in Oxfordshire following an investigation into transphobic behaviour has announced that they will be suing their former employers.

Mr Sutcliffe claimed that he accidentally misgendered a student on one occassion, and immediately appologised for doing so, however, it has been reported that this was the last of several incidents in which he misgendered the same student, despite being informed not to.

After the event the students mother complained to the school, informing them that Mr Sutcliffe had misgendered her son on numerous occassions, calling him a girl in front of other students.

Mr Sutcliffe told the school's senior staff that he personally didn't see any harm in calling a transgender boy a girl, but did not intentionally do so in order to remain professional.

The school suspended the Maths teacher in order to conduct an investigation into these claims, and later chose to fire him after reaching the conclusion that this was not an isolated incident, and that he had 'contravened the school's equality policy' and 'demonstrated discriminatory behaviours'. As such, his employment was ended.

During the investigation Sutcliffe complained to the press, stating that he believes it was against his human rights to make him call a trans student by their correct pronouns, and that the school was pushing a 'liberal, leftish agenda', calling the school's equality policies 'totalitarian'.

Following his dismissal Mr Sutcliffe has written to the school to inform them that he intends to take legal action against them.

In a statement released today by the Christian Legal Centre, who are supporting Sutcliffe's case, said that Sutcliffe had not received the correct training.

'The child had self-declared as 'male', but Mr Sutcliffe, who had been given no formal instruction on how he was to refer to the pupil, said 'well done girls' in her presence.' The statement said. 'When the pupil became irate, Mr Sutcliffe sought to diffuse the situation and apologised.

'Nonetheless an investigation began, during which time Mr Sutcliffe was prevented from teaching and forced to spend all his time in isolation in the staff room. Following the week long investigation, the school found Mr Sutcliffe to have 'misgendered' the pupil, 'demonstrating discriminating behaviours' and 'contravened the school's equality policy'.'

The Christian Legal Centre previously released a statement on the case before Mr Sutcliffe's firing in which is referred to anti-discrimination policies as 'silencing' and 'punishing' teachers.

'This is one of a large number of cases we are encountering where teachers are finding themselves silenced or punished if they refuse to fall in line with the current transgender fad.' The chief executive Andrea Williams said.

Mr Sutcliffe has yet to comment on this announcement of legal action against the school.

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Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse Trailer Released

The first trailer for the upcoming animated Marvel movie Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse has been released.

The film stars Shameik Moore as Miles Morales/Spider-Man, Brian Tyree Hill as Miles' father Jefferson Davis, Mahershala Ali as Miles' uncle Alan Davis, and Liev Shriver in an unannounced role.

Loosely based upon the Spider-Verse comic event, the film will see Miles come face to face with multiple versions of Spider-Man from different dimensions.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse will be released December 14th, 2018.

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Friday, 8 December 2017

First Trailer For Manga Adaptation Alita: Battle Angel Released

The first trailer for the upcoming Robert Rodriguez film Alita: Battle Angerl, the Hollywood adaptation of Yukito Kishiro's manga Battle Angel Alita, has been released.

The film is set in a post-apocalypse future and focuses on Alita, a cyborg who has lost all memories of her past and is found in a garbage heap by a cybernetics doctor who rebuilds her and takes care of her.

The film stars Rosa Salazar as Alita, Christoph Waltz as Dr. Dyson Ido, Jennifer Connelly as Chiren, Mahershala Ali as Vector, Ed Skrien as Zapan, Keenan Johnson as Hugo, and Michelle Rodriguez as Gelda.

Alita: Battle Angel is set for release July 20th, 2018.

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Man of Steel and Justice League Tie In Series Krypton Trailer Released

The first trailer for the upcoming Superman series Krypton has been released ahead of it's 2018 premier.

Set within the DC Extended Universe, the series will act as a prequel to Man of Steel, set 200 years before the events of the film. Following Seg-El, the grandfather to Kal-El/Superman, the series tells the story of the fall of the House of El, and Seg-El's fight to redeem his family's honour.

Krypton stars Cameron Cuffe as Seg-El, the grandfather of Superman; Georgina Campbell as Lyta Zod, a recruit in the Kryptonian military in a forbidden relationship with Seg-El; Ian McElhinney as Val-El, Seg-El's grandfather and explorer; Shaun Sipos as Adam Strange, a human archaeologist transported into space who became a hero; and Blake Ritson as Vril Drox, the man who will go on to become the villain Brainiac.

No release date has yet been given, though it has been confirmed that Krypton will air on SyFy in 2018.

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2018 Movie Preview: The New Mutants

Originally published on Set The Tape

Before audiences rejoin Professor Xavier and the rest of the X-Men in the upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix, audiences can return to the X-Men universe with the release of The New Mutants.

Directed by Josh Boone, The New Mutants stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Illyana Rasputin/’Magik’, Maisie Williams as Rahne Sinclair/’Wolfsbane’, Charlie Heaton as Sam Guthrie/’Cannonball’, Henry Zaga as Roberto da Costa/ ‘Sunspot’, Blu Hunt as Danielle Moonstar/’Mirage’, and Alicia Braga as Cecillia Reyes.

Set to be the eleventh film in the X-Men franchise, The New Mutants shifts its focus away from the Xavier School For Gifted Youngsters and the characters that we know, and will tell the story of a group of young mutants that are struggling to survive in a world that hates and fears mutants.

The New Mutants has promised to shift the tone of the X-Men universe, leaving behind the bright costumes and super heroics that the franchise is known for, instead choosing to embrace horror; an area of the X-Men universe that has been explored many times in print, but not yet on film.

Josh Boone and the cast are already a good indication of this change, with a director best known for the drama The Fault In Our Stars, and actors from The Witch, Stranger Things, and Game of Thrones a sign that Fox are willing to embrace a different feel for the film. Fox chairman and CEO Stacey Snider has said that the film is less of a superhero piece and more of ‘a haunted house movie with a bunch of hormonal teenagers’, crediting both One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and The Shining as inspirations for the project.

The New Mutants were the first ever spin-off team based around the concept of additional mutant super teams at Marvel Comics, debuting in Marvel Graphic Novel #4 in December 1982, written by Chris Claremont. The team would go on to prove popular enough to merit their own ongoing title that would last for several years. Over the course of this initial run all of the characters that appear within the film made their appearances. The book has returned a number of times since this original run, with many of the characters going on to reappear.

The fact that Fox is taking advantage of these spin-off characters is a great source of comfort for X-Men fans, especially with the increasingly confusing continuity of the main series. With the X-Men films having become so bogged down in their own interweaving stories and conflicting chronology it will be a great relief to have an X-Men project that manages to stand on it’s own.

Yes, Deadpool existed as it’s own entity, but it acknowledged these inconsistencies and changes in the other films (though with a sly wink) that it reminded viewers that this was just another part of a larger, more confused whole.

With The New Mutants rumoured by the director to be the first part of a trilogy, hopefully it will manage to remain separate enough from the rest of the films not to be damaged by association. It’s entirely possible to include connections to the larger universe without interacting with it in any real way, just look at how Legion managed to be a part of the X-Men’s world whilst still being it’s own entity.

With a cast of some of the best up and coming young actors working in film and television at the moment, a director that has proven that they can deliver an effective film about teenagers in extraordinary circumstances, and a trailer that genuinely sent shivers down my spine, let’s hope that The New Mutants delivers on its promises and gives the X-Men franchise the jolt it surely needs.

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Thursday, 7 December 2017

First Trailer For Jurassic World 2: Fallen Kingdom Released

The first trailer for the sequel to Jurassic World, Jurassic World 2: Fallen Kingdom, has been released.

'It's been four years since theme park and luxury resort Jurassic World was destroyed by dinosaurs out of containment. Islar Nublar now sits abandoned by humans while the surviving dinosaurs fend for themselves in the jungle.

'When the island's dormant volcano roaring to life, Owen and Claire mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from the extinction-level event. Owen is driven to find Blue, his lead raptor who's still missing in the wild, and Claire has grown a respect for these creatures she now makes her mission.

'Arriving on the unstable island as lava begins raining down, their expedition uncovers a conspiracy that could return our entire planet to a perilous order no seen since prehistoric times.'

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom stars Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing, Chris Pratt as Owen Grady, BD Wong as Dr Henry Wu, and Jeff Goldblum as Ian  Malcolm.

The film is set for release on June 22nd, 2018.

Star Wars: Lord of the Sith – Book Review

Originally published on Set The Tape

Set between the events of Revenge of the Sith and Tarkin, Lords of the Sith (written by Paul S. Kemp) focuses on Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine as they come under attack by rebels on the Twi’lek home world of Ryloth.

The book focuses on both the titular Sith Lords and the leaders of the Ryloth rebels, which includes Cham Syndulla, the father of Star Wars Rebels’ Hera. Splitting the action between these opposing sides, we get to see not just the inner workings of a rebel faction that we see in The Clone Wars and Rebels, but also the relationship between Vader and Palpatine, something that hasn’t been explored in film.

It’s these interpersonal relationships that make up the focus of the book, despite it also providing several spectacular action sequences. With the rebels Cham takes a secondary seat, despite being the leader, to share centre stage with Isval, one of his most trusted lieutenants.

Isval is possibly the most interesting character in the book, a woman who suffered at the hands of Imperial agents in the past, now taking out her pain on those who have enslaved her planet. It’s not just her position in the resistance that allows her to alleviate the ghosts of her past, taking time to sneak into Imperial controlled cities, she finds young Twi’lek women selling their bodies to Imperials to survive, and murders those men who would take advantage of them. Saving these young women from a fate like hers, stopping Imperials from using and abusing their bodies, providing these women with the means and money to get away and start a new life gives her some solace, but ultimately cannot save her.

In a lot of ways this is what Lords of the Sith is about, damaged people. Cham Syndulla, a man that’s been fighting to free his people for decades, has to keep repeating to himself ‘a freedom fighter, not a terrorist’ to try to convince himself that he’s not become a monster like those he fights against.

We also get to see a very young Vader, one that was recently Anakin Skywalker and is still dealing with the traumatic events of Revenge of the Sith. We see the old Anakin shine through as Vader pilots his fighter through swarms of Buzz Droids, he thinks about being a Jedi, and even finds himself having emotional flashbacks to his crippling on Mustafar.

He’s not the man we see in the original trilogy, he’s still finding his footing as a Sith Lord, and as such relies on his master in ways that we’ve not seen before. He looks to Palpatine for guidance, he gives him is loyalty and gives him any information without hesitation; all this despite wanting to turn on his master at times, the way all Sith must eventually do.

Despite the book humanising Vader in a lot of ways, when seen from the point of view of the resistance he’s a thing from nightmares. There’s one particular moment when Vader floats his way through open space to board a resistance ship, brutally killing everyone onboard whilst Cham and the others are forced to listen to their screams via an open com channel. The deaths of these resistance fighters aren’t see, we simply stay with Cham as he experiences these event from afar, yet it’s one of the most horrifying scenes in the book.

Palpatine is also well served through the events of Lords of the Sith, getting to once again show that he’s a powerful warrior as well as a master tactician. Forced to cross the savage surface of Ryloth, Palpatine is forced to engage with enemies, tearing through his foes with force powers and lightsaber alike. Whilst the films paint Vader as a villain, he always feels as if he’s following an agenda of some kind, even if that doesn’t align with those that are morally right. Palpatine, is not like this, he performs actions that border on pure evil, killing indiscriminately and for little reason. Even Vader finds his actions shocking at times.

Lords of the Sith is a grim book, and has a tragic end. It’s impossible to show how powerful and cruel the Empire is without innocents and those fighting for freedom suffering at their hands. Despite this, the book contains hope, it shows that heroes will have the will to fight on even in the face of unstoppable evil. Much like Rogue One, Lords of the Sith focuses on the darker side of the Star Wars universe to deliver a story of tragedy and bravery.

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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

School Defends Decision To Sack Gay Teacher

South Coast Baptist College in Western Australia has defended it's decision to terminate the employment of a teacher because they had come out as gay.

Craig Campbell revealed his sexuality to his employers (previously reported on here), but soon found himself without work when the school would not offer him any further shifts as a relief teacher, despite being a member of staff at the school for two years.

Following Craig's termination the head teacher of South Coast Baptist College Des Mitchell, pictured on the school website beside the motto 'rigorous minds, compassionate hearts', told media that Craig's sexuality was 'inconsistent' with being a teacher.

At the time Mr Mitchell said, 'I shared with him that at present there is an inconsistency with his beliefs on sexuality and the college's beliefs. At the time Craig requested to be a relief teacher at SCBC, he had a very clear knowledge of the college's Christian values and related beliefs. At present, for us, we chose not to employ someone who's openly gay.'

Unfortunately, as the school is a religious facility it is exempt from anti-discrimination laws. Western Australia's LGBTI Advocacy Group has called for these rules to be changed to protect LGBT+ employees.

The group spoke to ABC News on the issue, stating that 'That exemption is now out of date and out of step with community feeling. this is no longer a political issue. It's a human rights issue.'

Despite this, South Cost Baptist College have insisted that they made the correct choice, insisting that religious freedoms are important.

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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Alien Resurrection 20 Years On

Originally published on Set The Tape

Alien 3 was a film that had a lot of audience expectation, the teaser trailer was released before the film had a script, and the film made promises of the Aliens reaching Earth. Whilst the film did not deliver on this initial promise, and was met with poor reviews at the time, it went on to become beloved by fans of the franchise. Alien Resurrection has not gone on to be beloved after a poor release.

After the death of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley at the end of the third film many people felt that it would be impossible to continue on the franchise without her. Whilst Fox did consider several films that would bring the aliens back but leave Ripley dead, ultimately they felt that the character had to return, and as a result Alien Resurrection was born.

With Ripley dead, Fox tasked an impressive young writer to pen her return, Joss Whedon. Whilst Whedon wrote several versions of the script, most of which included a finale taking place on Earth itself. However, thanks to studio interference and requests for changes Whedon left the project, resulting in the film becoming substantially different from what he originally intended.

It’s easy to see how a version of this film would have fallen more in line with what we’ve come to expect from Whedon, with the pirate crew of the Betty having a very watered down version of the stereotypical Whedon banter. Perhaps if Whedon had been able to perfect a script, or even have been given the directing job himself the film would have been better received. Instead, the directing fell to Jean-Pierre Jeunet, a renowned French director for whom Alien Resurrection was his first American film. Jeunet brought his distinct style to the film, bringing along French special effects supervisor Pitof, and cinematographer Darius Khondji, to help him craft his own unique vision for the film.

Unfortunately, it was this mixture of new art style and a fractured script that led many people to feel that the film failed to live up to the previous instalments, which ultimately led to the poor critical reviews and low box office takings. The alteration in the design of the Alien is one of the poorer points of the film, with the dark biomechanical design making way for a brown insectoid look that felt too far removed from the original Geiger design. Plus, the bizarre human like creature that makes it’s appearance towards the end of the film is far too drastic an addition to the mythology to win people over. Thankfully, the human cast of the film offer some degree of entertainment, with particularly good performances from Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, and Ron Perlman.

Weaver plays her part interestingly enough, a clone version of the original Ripley that has become part alien herself. This is aparently a request that Weaver herself made in order to play a different version of the character. Whilst this new version of Ripley was interesting, the best scenes of her (where she remembers Newt and speaks about her to Winona Ryder’s Call) were cut from the theatrical release of the film, leading to a performance that never quite feels like the Ripley she should be.

Alien Resurrection falls short of it’s mark in all regards, from script, to characterisation, to visual effects. If it weren’t for the Alien Vs Predator films a number of years later Alien Resurrection would be the worst film in the Alien franchise, however, if you discount to cross-over movies, it’s still the worst.

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Monday, 4 December 2017

Star Wars Battlefront 2: 5 Unmissable Star Wars Games

Originally published on Set The Tape

Star Wars Battlefront 2 has recently been released, and marks one of the most exciting new Star Wars games in years, incorporating excellent gameplay and a story that fills in important pieces of the Star Wars canon.

With so many other Star Wars games already available to gamers, how do you know which games are a must play, and which need to be avoided like The Phantom Menace? Here’s a list of five unmissable Star Wars games.

Star Wars: Republic Commando (2005)

The prequel trilogy introduced a lot of new elements to the Star Wars universe, not all of them good. One thing that it did do, however, is to explore the Clone Wars, a conflict that was mentioned in passing in A New Hope and had been intriguing fans for decades. Whilst the Clone Wars television series would go on to look into this conflict in depth, Republic Commando was the first game to use this setting, and took a unique gameplay style for the series.

Instead of playing as an established hero, piloting an iconic vehicle, or being a Jedi, you were part of a four man Clone Trooper unit taking part in the initial battle of the Clone Wars. A squad based first person shooter set within the Star Wars universe, Republic Commando is still an enjoyable and unique experience.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2 (1997)

Following on from the hugely popular Doomlike Dark Forces, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2 returned players to the role of heroic mercenary Kyle Katarn, though this time is added lightsabers and force powers to the first person shooter games.

With an expanded gameplay style, and a story that built upon the former expanded universe in new and interesting ways, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2 became a guide for how to make a great Star Wars game for years to come, and helped to solidify Kyle Katarn as an all time fan favourite character, one that we’re still waiting to be brought back into the new extended canon.

Star Wars Battlefront (2015)

The first of the new Battlefront games, Star Wars Battlefront was an excellent example on how to make a Star Wars game that looked and felt like a part of the universe. With over a dozen online game modes to choose from, and a series of unlockable rewards to earn, Star Wars Battlefront has a lot of content in what is a fairly simple game.

Despite lacking a single player campaign, something that the sequel addresses, the game has enough content to keep gamers playing for hundreds of hours, and the very nature of online play means that even if you play the same match over and over again, you’re guaranteed to have a new experience every time.

Super Star Wars (1992)

The oldest game on this list, Super Star Wars is an excellent side scrolling run and gun adventure that puts players into the role of Luke Skywalker through the events of A New Hope; though the games does take a lot of liberties with the story.

Having Luke fight a giant Sarlaac Monster, pilot his Land Speeder around desert pirates, and jump and climb over moving platforms to get inside the Jawa’s Sandcrawler might seem like expanding the story of A New Hope too far, but they make for such fun and amazing gameplay experiences that you’ll find yourself not caring.

With the added fact that it has retro game sensibilities when it comes to difficulty curve and utilising ‘game over’ to punish struggling players, this is probably the most challenging game on the list.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003)

Before they became well known for Mass Effect and Dragon Age, Bioware made a name for itself by producing what it still the best Star Wars gaming experience, one that not only throws you deep into the Star Wars universe, but explores one of the most interesting legends of the franchise.

An RPG game set some 10,000 years before the events of the films, Knights of the Old Republic tells a tale of intrigue, betrayal, and redemption as players explore a universe incredibly familiar, yet completely different to what they have seen from the franchise before.

It’s hard to talk about Knights of the Old Republic without giving away the story, and I really don’t want to do that as it’s an amazing story, but if you haven’t played this game and love Star Wars you’ve done yourself a disservice.

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Monday, 27 November 2017

Fundamentalists Launch Christmas Boycott Of Target For Transgender Policy

A Christian fundamentalist group, 2nd Vote, has renewed the boycott of Target this week, citing the companies policies of tolerance and acceptance of the transgender community.

A member of the group, Lance Wray, spoke to the Christian Post to say, 'Despite the impact to their bottom line, Target continues to champion the left's radical agenda. Not only does Target contribute financially to liberal activists, but its dangerous policy of allowing men into women's restrooms and bathroom facilities remain in place.

'Let's continue holding Target accountable for it's left-wing Activism! Our #AnywhereButTARGET campaign continues this Christmas shopping season and we need your help spreading the word.'

A video on the groups website has claimed that the boycott of Target has led to a loss of profits for the company of 43%, and the stock being down 30%.

However, financial and business experts have said that these difficulties have been down to competitors and online shopping.

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Katie Hopkins Leaves Daily Mail Days After Attending Far Right Hate Group

The controversial columnist and former radio presenter Katie Hopkins has left the tabloid The Daily Mail days after footage emerged of her giving an anti-Muslim speech at a far right meeting in Florida.

Hopkins has been no stranger to stirring up hate in the past, having been criticised for her stance on multiple subjects, including having recently called for a 'final solution' for the Muslim community.

After footage emerged of Hopkins speaking at an event organised by David Horowitz Freedom Centre, an American far right think-tank and anti-Muslim organisation.

During the speech Hopkins told the audience that it was 'our time', and encouraged those in attendance to arm themselves with 'the help of the NRA'. She also went on to tell them that she had been reported to the police for hate crimes and inciting violence, before going on to tell them that parts of the UK were run by 'Muslim mafia', and that there is 'institutionalised discrimination against whites' across Britain.

Today, a Daily Mail spokesperson said that Hopkins' employment with them had been 'ended by mutual consent'. This follows Hopkins losing her position at the radio station LBC in May for a tweet that called for Muslim deaths.

Interestingly, Hopkins also appears to have deleted all of her tweets on the social media site Twitter.

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Star Wars: Rebels ‘In The Name of The Rebellion Part 2’ Review

Originally published on Set The Tape

The second part of ‘In The Name of The Rebellion’, the story moves away from the collective Ghost crew to focus on Ezra (Taylor Gray) and Sabine (Tiya Sircar) as they learn more about the mysterious project the Empire is working on, as well as the true lengths that Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) is willing to go to.

Whilst the first part of this story lacked a great deal of bang, the second half of the story manages to pack in action, intrigue, and tension as it forces the youngest members of the Ghost crew to infiltrate an Imperial shipment containing a deadly cargo; a giant Kyber Crystal. I knew going into the second part of this story that we would be getting some connections to Rogue One, Saw’s presence guaranteed this, but I wasn’t expecting it to cram in Kyber Crystals, kidnapped scientists, Death Troopers, and the mention of Krennic (played in Rogue One by Ben Mendelson).

With the first part of the story focusing so closely on the inner workings of the Rebellion it was a genuine surprise that the second part didn’t follow the same course. Whilst it would have been possible for Ezra to see how dark a path Saw was travelling by having them perform any kind of mission against the Empire, connecting it back into Saw’s ongoing story was an inspired choice.

How far you’re willing to go to achieve your ends became an important question in this episode, with Ezra and Sabine trying to rescue the captured scientists, but Saw willing to let them all die to deliver a blow to the Empire. From here on out I don’t see Ezra really questioning the methods of the Rebellion again, or at least not in the same way he did in the first part of the story. He’s learned what the other side of the fight is willing to do, the lengths that people like Saw are prepared to go to, and it frightens and appals him.

The confines of the Imperial transport also makes for an interesting location for the action of the episode, with firefights in tight confines and dark hallways, and an especially creative sequence where the Rebels take down a squad of Death Troopers in the smoke. The inclusion of the Death Troopers, whilst welcome, led to one jarring moment. In Rogue One the Death Troopers spoke with a strange garbled language, impossible to understand, yet here they were speaking normally, with the squad leader actually developing a personality over the course of the story. Whilst this wasn’t a bad thing in any way, it did throw me out of the episode for a moment as it was so different from Death Troopers we’d seen in the past.

It also struck me this episode how much closer to his film look Saw had developed. He’s not got his breathing problem yet, and still has both legs, so there’s still plenty of room for the series to use him again and explore his descent into near madness. Hopefully he will appear again before the end of the series, especially as his relationship with Ezra will be very different going forward.

A vast improvement on the previous episode, and one that acts as a great second part, yet also manages to work well as a stand alone episode.

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