Wednesday, 27 May 2015

WE'VE MOVED!!!!!!!!!!

Hey everyone, so I finally have my own website up and running! Check out!

Please follow, comment on and share the website!!!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Sabriel - in honour of it's birthday

Today the first in The Old Kingdom series, Sabriel, turns 20 years old. There are a few books I can point back to as being so very influential on my life.

The first was Howl's Moving Castle; I wasn't an adventures reader during my younger years. I didn't have a great grasp of spelling or grammar, a trait I'm happy to say I still am unable to escape... wait... happy's not the right word. However it was How'ls Moving Castle that was the first ever chapter book I read, and I couldn't put it down. I don't know if it was the magical world, characters or just how endlessly creative it was but I couldn't put it down. It was the first book that was ever threatened to be confiscated from me, but certainly not the last.

From then on I was a very avid reader, a huge fan of Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynn Jones and Margret Clark''s Web Watchers... which is so incredibly dated in hind site that I have to laugh, although lovingly.

One of the book made a very lasting impression on me without ever having a chance to read it, this was Lireal. I borrowed the book but didn't have a chance to read it before I had to return it, although my father did. When the Librarian asked what I was planning to read next I said Lireal, and was then promptly told that I couldn't. Lireal was apparently too adult for me, and I should never have been able to borrow it in the first place. I'd never been told that I wasn't able to read something before and that set something off inside me.

It was in the high school library that I finally was able to get my hands on Lireal, to this day it is still my favorite book. It's the only book I've ever re-read and re-read and re-read.

There was only one other book that opened up another word for me as well, the first ever tome fantasy that I read. Sword of Shannara,  was the first time I'd challenged myself when it came to length.

However this isn't really a great birthday for Sabriel, as I've spent so long talking about how I like it's younger sibling more. While it's considered a trilogy, I see it a bit more like The Hobbit and then LOTR. Sabriel is set around twenty or so year before Lireal and Abhorsen.

So Sabriel, a happy twentieth birthday to you, one of the few books I'll re-read, part of my favorite series of all time and a truly great book.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron Review (Spoiler Free)

Once the film has been out for a while I may do a re-cap of the major reveals in more details as well as the obligatory Easter egg hunt. For now lets focus on broad terms; how does this film hold up and compare to the rest of the Marvel line up.

I called Avengers a safe movie, one that hit all the notes it was supposed to, but it was polished to an absolute gleam; and while it was very traditional for an action movie it's attempt to blend in several franchises and genres and have them all feel cohesive was incredibly ambitious. Avengers: The Age of Ultron suffers for not being as refined, the weight of having to keep so many balls in the air, supporting and introducing new characters begins to show.

Avengers 2 is not as good as Avengers 1, it's not as refined, it has too many plot notes it needs to hit and attempting to one up it's previous film. I saw it over a week ago and while I do still remember plot points and character motivations my feelings to the film are fairly, ehhhh.

Perhaps the tipping point of over saturation of comic movies has been reached sooner then most thought, or Avengers 2 simply suffers from middle movie-itis. It's not the treasured first born that was Avengers, nor will it be the chaotic misbehaving twins of Infinity Wars. It has to struggle to continue developing what was already set up, introduce new plot threads and still be a contained movie. It is eons more successful at that then Hobbit: The *missing* desolation of Smaug was, however it probably isn't up to the Two Towers level of skill either.

Let's brush on weak points and strengths; Tony vs Cap is already feeling like a fiddle played too often. We know this song boys, and I for one am not looking forward to another encore during Captain 3: Civil War. There are too many plot points and too many characters, a few clearly just making cameo's to remind the audience they exist so it isn't confusing when they show up at the end.

I'd count the humor as both a strength and weakness, it's still funny but the first movie it felt more natural, here it feels a little more forced. As if they have pauses to wait for the audience to laugh.

When it's on point however it is still genuinely funny. The new characters were also a mixed bag however I can't go into to much detail without spoilers.

The action is still clear however despite being in a smaller city for the climax it feels far more spread around. The opening action seen had some laughably bad CGI at points and was clearly influenced by Captain America's montage from the first movie. It was also deliberately watered down so it didn't compete with the climax. When they are all brought together to protect something in the climax it really feels intense and close. That scene was pretty beautiful, and there were a few great moments.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is worth the price of admission, compared to many blockbusters it is fun and clever. However Ultron may not have any stings on him, but there are plenty all over this movie, it's constrained in parts and stretched in others. This is where we see the cost of Marvel's ambitious plan, service to the continuity over service to making the best product possible. It's still not nearly as embarrassing as Sony's attempt at the exact same thing but it will make me more wary for any studio attempting such a task. (DC I'm looking at you)

Sunday, 19 April 2015

A Bed of Thorns - Chapter 1

Welcome to the first chapter of Bed of Thorns, a work of fiction which will be published here with a new chapter going up each month. As we continue you can also expect sketches of the characters, drawings of the world and the environments and additional tidbits of history throughout. If you enjoy or have any criticisms please feel free to comment. Once the work is complete I'll bring it together, give it a final edit and make it available for download. Enjoy.

Roa lay in the bed; it was all enveloping softness, which alone would have made it hard to pull herself up. However she felt incredibly weak this morning, so instead she stared at the ceiling waiting to see if some strength would return. The ceiling had a holo screen that ran across it, the night sky had already swapped over to the morning loop. The deep rich forests of Harthun, the trees that grew in its intense gravity produced the strongest wood known; it was the same expensive wood her bed frame was made from. The trees blended into a towering series of waterfalls of liquid carbon. Roa knew the pattern off by heart now; she’d have to ask them to change it. As the video turned back towards the forests she tried to pull herself forward, after a minute struggling she was able to put a foot onto the ground. The stone was instantly heated perfectly for her; she took a moment to stay on her feet propped against the bed before sitting down into the wheeled chair beside her bed. The knock at the door came only a moment before it opened.

              ‘You're up already?’ Dreian asked, coming forward and greeting her with a kiss on the cheek. Roa returned the kiss and steered the chair towards the bathroom, it only took a slight push of her finger on the control to steer, Dreian walked beside her, already releasing the Roa’s golden hair from its braids. Roa thought the command bath and the water began pouring in. A single light hung in the centre of the room, its shine reflected across every corner by the mirrors that dressed the wall. Dreian gently lifted Roa from the chair and helped her remove the gown; she lowered her into the water. The bath was moulded to help her remain seated, everything in her suite had been replaced over the year and a half; everything designed to make moving easy and safer for her. Apart from the bed which Roa had refused to give up. The water came up to her chest and Dreian began gently showering and washing her hair, the temperature was perfect as always.
              ‘It’s a good sign, being able get yourself out of bed.’
              ‘Dreian, please,’ Roa said.
              ‘Of course we’ll have to wait and see if it continues.’
              ‘Dreian,’ Roa said harshly, the women stopped for a moment. Roa didn’t want to have this conversation again. Dreian opened her mouth but then closed it; she knelt beside the bath and wrapped her arms around Roa’s shoulders for a minute. She pulled herself back up and finished washing Roa’s hair. She helped Roa scrub herself clean and then stood, her smile in place as encouraging as ever.
              ‘Shall we get ready for the day?’
              ‘I’d like to relax a bit longer,’ Roa said and Dreian excused herself into the next room. There wasn’t any danger of leaving Roa in the bath alone, should she slip her implant would notify the palace immediately. She looked forward; the mirror looked back at her with someone who was nearly a stranger. Her muscular form had been drained away, she now looked frail, her skin was no longer the same warm colour but rather a washed out pale imitation. Roa had once delighted in her own reflection, watching the changes from a girl towards woman; seeing the effects of sport and time give her a firm tall figure. Now she hated her reflection, she could go for another muscle session; have them re-grow what she had lost but it always turned out to be just a cosmetic change. Roa’s strength continued to wane, and she’d come to understand that no one really knew why. Dreian hummed softly in the other room as she worked, till it suddenly stopped and was replaced by and annoyed humph.

              ‘What do you think you're doing Lucius?’ Dreian asked frustrated, no one was meant to enter Roa’s suite without being announced; aside from her family and Dreian of course. Roa smiled, Lucius was always the exception. ‘The Heir is still getting ready; you can bother her another time.’
‘Dreian, can you bring my clothes in here, I will see Lucius in a moment,’ Roa called out, Dreian came in with the clothes and a sour mood. Roa felt a twinge of guilt for overruling her but having her unabashedly joyous friend around is exactly what she needed. Dreian helped Roa to stand; Roa gripped the sides of the dryer and was blanketed in warmth, the water evaporating from her skin and hair. Once Roa was dressed she pulled her hair back and secured it with a clip, it was a simple, unrefined look, but something easy enough for her to do without assistance. She rolled into the next room where Lucius was making himself busy with the suite’s control panel. Lucius skin was a shade darker than hers, his family had the same golden hair as hers but was mixed with a recessive red that made it shine like copper. He beamed brightly at Roa as Dreian began to berate him for touching things he wasn’t supposed to.
              ‘I thought you might like a change of view,’ he said, sliding the panel back into place.
              ‘Perfect timing, I’d been growing tired of tourist sites,’ Roa said as she looked up, the video moved through animated abstract art, colours and patterns swirled. ‘Are these yours?’
              ‘No, well a few are. Most are some artists I’ve met through the Academy, I did the blending though.’ Lucius came forward and her a big hug, he smelled vaguely of technic, his favourite art medium which left a citrus smell. The room opened and attendants came through, the flowers were replaced and the bed made, Dreian gently dusted Roa’s face with powder and then they turned towards the hallway. ‘Medical today? Lucius asked.
              ‘No, making preparations for the dignitaries next week. The war on Trilas has escalated again; the hope is another peace can be reached.’
‘So when I was invited to a party, it is in fact a tense political dinner that will most likely end in chairs thrown.’
‘I’m surprised you expected anything different,’ Roa smiled and Lucius sighed with a shrug.
‘I suppose an excuse to wear incredibly decadent clothes and dance is still worth it.’ Roa’s smiled faded, Lucius changed the subject. ‘Where are we off to now?’
I’m meeting dad and Ray’ed in the throne room. You are free to go and do anything you wish.’
‘The Heir-elect, Heir and Monarch all in one place? I’m definitely not important enough for that meeting; I’ll wait for you in the garden.’
‘Don’t you have anything to do today?’ She asked and he shook his head with a smile. It was an academy break day and he had left his social calendar completely free. ‘Then why would you waste a day off?’
              ‘I'm not wasting it, I’m spending it with you,’ he said has he turned and headed towards the gardens. Roa’s smile returned and she and Dreian continued down the halls, as they left the residency into the council halls it was suddenly bustling with movement and people. The elections had just passed and people were in a rush to get things in preparations for negotiations and any law changes. The throne room itself was more a grand ball room, three thrones stood at its head. The largest in the centre for the Monarch with the Heir’s throne to the left and Heir-elect’s to the right. Ray’ed was already inside, he had soft white curls on his chin which passed for a beard, he’s just been made the Heir-elect for his seventh term, so he’d held the position for all of Roa’s life; they nodded respectfully to each other and then hugged.
              ‘You’re looking well today Roa,’ he said.
              ‘As are you, congratulations on the results by the way,’ she said and he shrugged, they turned towards the thrones.
              ‘It continues to be a pleasure working with you and your father,’ he said.
              ‘Perhaps you will one day be Heir, and you can enjoy the pleasure of my father all to yourself.’
              ‘There hasn’t been an Heir-Elect replace the Heir in our history. So I am sure that pleasure will remain yours.’ Roa laughed softly as the door opened and The Monarch entered, flanked by his advisors. He carried himself with an unyielding urgency, tall and broad across the shoulders. Roa and Ray’ed bowed, he grunted in response before taking his seat on the Throne.
              ‘You look well,’ he said to Roa, ‘she has been improving?’ He asked Dreian before Road had a chance to respond.
              ‘Yes sir, she was able to get herself out of bed without assistance this morning,’ Dreian said encouragingly and Roa sat in silent, angry embarrassment. The Monarch looked over Roa briefly and then turned to Ray’ed.
              ‘It is becoming difficult to communicate with the royal family of Attlion; I’m concerned they may end up avoiding the negotiations.’ The Monarch sounded annoyed as he thought of the lost month of deals and negotiations should the meeting never go ahead.
              ‘I doubt Ademas would change their mind so suddenly, they have a lot of infrastructure projects that would be greatly affected by another escalation.’ Ray’ed said, ‘It would be better for us to look at our own issues, we are tracking a spike in the population. Fifth Dome could face severe shortages in the next few decades.’
              ‘The surveying has come up with a few options for a sixth Dome, but would we be able to finish it in time to release the pressure?’ Roa asked.
              ‘Assuming no delays with the construction and habitation, however it would be best to institute some population controls just in case.’ Ray’ed said and The Monarch grunted.
              ‘Those always go over well; as would diverting most of the funds into a new Dome construction.’
              ‘You can’t really be concerned about that, it doesn’t mean...’
              ‘Start drafting a proposal,’ the Monarch cut through Ray’ed straight away.
              ‘I’d like to take charge of this if there are no objections,’ Roa said and the other agreed.  The meeting dragged on, details of the state ended up being superseded by small details of the party. Do we need to look over the seating arrangements again?' Roa asked in frustration, the last three discussions kept ending with the same conclusion however The Monarch continued to look over the display.
              'We should place the ambassador of Attlion next to Roa,' he finally said.
              'That's where we've put Lucius and besides...'
              'Ensuring the guests are well greeted is far more important than chatting with your friend,' The Monarch cut Roa off again and she curled her nails into the arm of her chair but remained silent.
              'It would be taken as favouritism as we've discussed. It makes perfect sense for one of the heirs personal friends to take that position.' Ray'ed said with a sigh, he stretched out his back and found a seat. The conversation continued for another half an hour before The Monarch finally stopped trying but with an announcement he would look over the plans again himself. He left with a curt farewell and the others bowed.
              'What I'd give for the ability to be able to throw furniture,' Roa said once he'd left, Ray'ed laughed gently while Dreian huffed at the thought.
              'Perhaps next meeting I shall bring enough antiques for the both of us it is more fun if it's something expensive.' Roa laughed and they headed out of the throne room. 'Much planned for the rest of the day?'
              'Lucius is waiting in the garden,' Roa said and Ray'ed smiled.
              'Ohhh?' He said with a big gesture, Roa shook her head with a calm smile. Ray'ed had always been the closest thing to an uncle for Roa, Roa was momentarily thankful as he was one of the few people who didn't treat her differently now, but then her smile went away and they travelled on in silence. Roa rolled into the garden, the air was as crisp as always with the clean sky blended yellow and green. The dome was near invisible through the glare from the star, the arching columns that rang along it were in full bloom of plants and trees although it was impossible to see them from the centre where the palace stood. The garden itself was rounded like most of the buildings, circular enclosures with plants native to Cradle. Their kingdom didn't have any native life to speak off, so everything had originally come from other star systems. The most impressive feature of the garden was the space clock which stood in the centre, six round timepieces held by a tree of silver. Each of the domes was represented by a timepiece as well as one for Cradle, showing both its calendar date on its surface and relative to their kingdom. 

Lucius lay beneath it, his eyes closed but eyelids were constantly twitching, even on a supposed day off he was sketching.
              'Dreian I can take care of myself from here, why don't you rest for a while.' Dreian was about to object but Roa gave her a pleading look and she sighed.
              ‘Call me if you leave the garden; I’ll be nearby,’ she said and Roa thanked her. She rolled over to Lucius; he looked over to her and smiled. ‘Been working on anything in particular?’ Roa asked and Lucius shrugged.
              ‘Doing some plotting out for my next piece but it’s not working,’ he said but he shook away the frustration. ‘Any more meetings today?’
              ‘No, I’m meant to have class this afternoon, but I can probably get out of it.’ Lucius pretended to be appalled at the idea. ‘Considering how many times she’s cancelled on me of late I think I’m well within my rights to return the favour.’
              ‘I thought you were going to talk to her,’ Lucius said and Roa scowled.
              ‘And right after that I’m going to tell my father exactly what I think of how he acts,’ Roa said and Lucius sat up. ‘I just,’ Roa began but exhaled in surrender. ‘Hamoura has always been, distracted, but this last month I’ve barely seen her at all. It feels like I just keep losing people even when they’re still here.’
              ‘I’m still here, and I’m sure Dreian is here,’ Lucius said encouragingly grabbing her hand. ‘In fact I’m surprised I can’t see her right now, is she camouflaged as a statue?’
              ‘No, she’s hiding in the tree’s,’ Roa said and she gave a quick smile.
              ‘I’m sure Hamoura is just working on a new project, no doubt she’ll show up soon with her lab slightly singed and another revolutionary discovery.’
              ‘Like my twelfth birthday you mean,’ Roa asked and they laughed. The rest of the day passed by slowly, relaxing in the garden. Dreian showed up briefly to let Roa know that Hamoura had to cancel class and Roa gave Lucius a ‘see’ look. Lucius offered a lesson on art to make up for it, Roa was surprised Dreian didn’t actually object; and an intensive art lesson lasted for an entire half an hour before they relaxed into conversation.
              ‘Have you seen Sera recently?’ Lucius asked and Roa shook her head. ‘I knew she’s busy but I wish was better at keeping in touch.’
              ‘She’ll be at the party, so we’ll see her then,’ Roa said and she stretched softly in the chair. Roa attempted to pull herself out but barely managed an inch out of her seat. Lucius stood up and moved quickly over to her.
              ‘Did you want to lie down?’ He asked and Roa nodded, he picked her up out of the chair, huffing slightly as he did.
              ‘You ok?’ She asked.
              ‘Yup, just making sure I don’t drop you,’ he said as he gently laid her down on the grass. Roa felt her cheeks go red and she turned slightly away. Lucius grabbed one of the stabilizing pillows from her chair and placed it under her head before sitting down next to her.
              ‘How’s the Academy going?’ Roa asked and Lucius ran his hand through his hair.
              ‘It’s… good, just this current project, I can’t get it to work at all.’ Lucius leaned back, ‘the technic just doesn’t have a long enough kinetic memory; I’ve been talking with some engineers to extend it but the colours start fading when we do.’
              ‘If it can be done I’m sure you’ll figure it out, there isn’t really any who are as good with technic as you.’ Lucius laughed.
              ‘Clearly you need to come by the Academy sometime; the pieces are getting better each month. One of the new artists has already started to play around with randomized technic; I don’t even know how she is doing it.’ Lucius kept talking about the new pieces coming through; a lot of the specifics went over Roa’s head as she’d never really worked with the interface for technic. It wasn’t till he started talking about some of the political art coming through that her interest really spiked.
              ‘What’s the mood with the pieces, I haven’t been able to get dad to tell me much about any discourse?’
              ‘Really? That seems like a pretty important thing for you to know.'
              'A point I have made many times over, this last year he just... it doesn't matter you can tell me now. ‘Roa looked to Lucius who hesitated.
              'I thought you already knew,' he said, 'Ray'ed only won his title back by a couple of dozen votes.' Roa's eyes widened. 'A lot of people see that he's too close to you family, they want someone who will represent them.'
              'And that’s Mall'eh Say right? She was the one who was almost elected?' Lucius nodded, 'I'd heard she was popular but I didn't know.' Roa shook her head, she hadn't really considered that one day it wouldn't be Ray'ed as her opponent for the throne.
              'Roa there’s something else,' Lucius said, 'there's a lot of talk about voting in the Heir-Elect, they don't know that you can do it.' Roa's stomach gave way and she pushed herself up sharply, her arms gave way under her and she crashed back to the ground. 'Roa!' Lucius shouted and Dreian came running.
              'What happened?' She asked as she gently helped Roa to lie down again.
              'Dreian I need to speak with The Monarch,' Roa said and Dreian tried to insist she see the doctor first. 'I will speak to him now.' Roa said and Dreian placed her back into the chair. Roa steered back inside, heading towards her father’s office. An attendant waited outside and explained he didn't want to be disturbed. 'Tell him I will see him now,' Roa demanded, the attendant uncomfortably stood as he closed his eyes and opened communication. Within a few seconds he opened them again and cleared his throat.
              'I'm afraid The Monarch isn't available to speak with you,' he said, and he positioned himself between her and the door. Roa herself boiled with anger, she wanted to push past him but Dreian rested a hand on her shoulder.
              'We understand he's busy, I'm sure he'll be able to make time soon,' she said and the attendant nodded gratefully. Roa felt her hands shaking, she bite back her anger and nodded silently. Turning back towards her suite, she rolled on in silence. 'Perhaps you should head home now,' Dreian said to Lucius at the door and he nodded.
              'I'll see you soon, ' he promised as he gave Roa a hug and headed off. Roa didn't respond, once inside Dreian helped her change and braided her hair. Roa could now feel a bruise across her shoulder blade; she bruised very easily these days.
              'Dreian, upload the last few months of news releases onto my screen.' Roa said as she was laid into bed, Dreian nodded and quickly set it up. She went to sit beside Roa's bed, 'that's all. Good night.'
              'You haven't had any dinner yet.'
              'Good night Dreian,' Roa said and Dreian frowned.
'I know you're upset, and I won't say you don't have reason to be. But I won't let you starve yourself just because of that. If you eat while you read I'll leave you in peace.'
              'Ok,' Roa conceded as she began flicking through the news. Dreian brought the food in, already cut into small pieces, Roa was able to stomach some of it to start with but as the night started to draw on she continued to eat and read. She chided herself for not paying more attention; she'd assumed she would just be told if there was a change in public opinion. She could no longer assume her father would tell her anything she thought bitterly.  She had near nine months of news to catch up on, a lot she could skip over but she read in depth on any of the articles regarding Mall'eh Say or herself. Her implant told her it was four in the morning when she finally dropped to sleep.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

When We Wake - Review

So this year I've decided to try the AWWC (Australian Women's Writers Challenge) in which I will be reading and reviewing five books by Australian Women; conveniently I have had one sitting on my too read list since September.

When We Wake is a, say it with me everyone, young adult dystopia. Actually that isn't really fair, its the future, it's not perfect as it's dealing with the consequences their past but it's real and it's very human. There is no secret experiment where young able bodied teenagers are forced to run mazes... for reasons.

Let's start with a bit of a spoiler free talk over the plot; Tegan is our main character; living in Melbourne's near future. Her life is awesome until it is suddenly cut short and she wakes up in the future from an experimental cyro system. Propelled into the life of a celebrity by the fact she is the first person to be successfully revived Tegan has to deal with having suddenly lost everything in her in edition to the disillusionment that the future may not be as perfect as her and her friends had protested for,

What the authors wants to look at is laid out right into the first few pages as Tegan is off to a climate change protest rally. Karen Healy keeps the focus nice and tight by having the 'future' only be 100 years forward, allowing some major changes to have taken place but for a lot of society to be recognisable. The book does feature a number of some distopic ideas with warring countries, limited resources, human rights abuse but there is no evil villain. There are a few antagonists but they are all humanized to a degree and none of them sit in a total seat of power.

There is a lot that could be dissected in this book, the author clearly had a lot she wanted to explore. The effects of climate change, Australia's treatment of immigrants, autonomy and how our technology or the future could impact that autonomy. Although she doesn't really go into the last one as much; it's more a plot device to ensure Tegan is controlled by the state.

I really enjoyed how Healy clearly takes her audience seriously enough to understand a lot of the issues themselves, although sometimes the exposition hammer is wielded and the big secret of the government is fairly easy to guess. I'd say it's on the young end of YA with the writing style and the dialogue is probably one of my least favorite parts as it feels forced. The characters however are all a lot of fun and have their own motivations, yes the main characters are all a little too good. I was getting a bit of a Power Rangers vibe of 'these can't be real teenagers cause no teenage is that good'. Tegan is the only one who is perhaps a bit more selfish then that, Healy makes a point of us knowing that while she does care about the social issues she is protesting but is more happy to be spending the time with her friends. Which makes sense, Tegan is our audience stand in and is the one who needs to learn about caring for the issues over her own personal drama.

I suspect if young me had of picked up this book it could easily have been one of the ones that blew my mind; there is a lot in this book and it means sometimes they only get the opportunity to scratch the surface of the issues. I'm interested enough to read the next in the series and see where Tegan's adventure continues.

If YA is your bag then this is a really good quick read, and if your in the target audience this could really be something that speaks to you.

So far, a really strong start to the AWWC; although it has been pointed out to me that this may be a cheat since Karen Healy is in fact a citizen of New Zealand, however she spent a lot of time in Australia and the story is set there so I'm going to count it.

Oh it is also fantastic, and yet somehow hilarious, to be reading a book where the future relationship between Australia and New Zealand is in anyway important.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Cinderella, contrast and compare. And Exciting NEWS!

Hey everyone! So starting this month I'll be doing something new. Serialised creative stories, a chapter a month (hopefully more once I switch to part time for my paying job). Once the story is then finished I'll be bringing them together into a novel. So be ready for the first Chapter of Bed of Thorns; a sci-fi re-telling of Sleeping Beauty. But speaking of fairy tales, lets look at Cinderella.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of the Disney Princess genre, there are very few films in that genre that I will skip, even the ones that are Disney knock offs rather than actual Disney. So I went into the new live action Cinderella with decently high expectations, I wasn't expecting anything ground breaking but I also wasn't expecting to leave disappointed.

Rather than just going through the movie we are actually going to do a compare and contrast, with the animated Disney Cinderella and the live action Ever After staring Drew Barrymore with the new Cinderella film. Which is a straight remake of the animated one and yet tries to ape the strides that Ever After took and falls woefully short.

Let's look at the environment first; Cinderella of all of them most looks like it takes place in a fairy tale world. It's bright colours and flawless costumes, it has a world that looks remarkably clean. The Animated movie in contrast is very contained, there aren't any scenes of the outside world from her house until she goes to the ball; and Ever After is a fair dirtier movie. Pledging itself to some degree of historical accuracy... some.

The environments: set up clearly the tone each one is going for, the animated movie which focuses more on how Cinderella is contained to help contrast how special it is when she goes to the ball; the live action which is more interested in setting up a world where magic is possible and characters that are archetypes rather than characters. Ever After however is far more focused on character and making the fairy tale more like a possible event than a parable.

Speaking of characters lets really look into the meat of the issues here, the characters.

The Prince: I'm a little torn if I like the Prince in Ever After or the live action Cinderella more; Ever After's prince was a tad more flawed. Vulnerable to pride and making the mistakes that come with it, so his relationship feels more deserved, the both have flaws they need to get over. The live action prince is torn between love and duty but we don't see much more of him beyond that; however Rob Stark (Richard Madden) does play a whole hearted charming prince who any Game of Thrones fan will be happy to see finally wind up happily ever after.

The animated price is the least developed prince of all the Disney princes; and that is saying something.

The Step-Mother: This is one of the closest races there is; each of the portrayals have their own strengths. The animated step-mother is straight up evil, it's an incredibly menacing performance there is no effort made to try and humanise her. The animated step-mother gets points for simply being the most memorably evil. Ever After and the live action  both try to show the step-mother as being evil from hurt caused by their new husbands never giving them love and instead showing Cinderella as his only family. However nether really does anything with it and Cate Blanchett turns evil far too quickly for there to really be any chance of understanding. Anjelica Huston on the other
hand, has over a decade to turn Cinderella into a slave and displays occasional moments where it's suggesting her own pain is causing her to inflict this pain on Cinderella.

They try a similar thing with Cate Blanchett, however Blanchett is playing it as evilly as the animated movie and every attempt at humanising her comes off as shallow. There is a moment when things really could have been tied together; Blanchett's character says that she married to give a chance to advance her daughters and there is this implication that she resents Cinderella for being this idea women who could marry a prince while her daughters are too inadequate to get advantageous marriages. But no, they don't tie it in with this sub-text of how society places restrictions on women, she destroys any chance of having her character ever be redeemable by saying she is cruel to Cinderella as Cinderella is good an innocent... And that's it. That is her motivation. Blanchett really is far too good for this role.

The animated movie, like most Disney animated movies of the past, is not interested in humanising the step-mother. She is cruel and evil because some people are just cruel and evil. While this villain could have slipped by, they did such a fantastic job animating her; really the animated movie really is just incredibly powerful in it's small moments. Especially with Cinderella, however we'll get to more in a moment.

A poorly humanised villain is simply more frustrating than painting a villain with the broad brush of saying evil because evil. So even though I do love Anjelica Huston and Cate Blanchett it simply has to go to the animated step mother. Brilliantly drawn, classically cruel and controlled giving a fantastic subdued but constantly threatening performance, Eleanor Audley is the best evil step-mother.

The supporting cast: Wow, I spent a lot of time on the step-mother, let's speed through some of the supporting cast. The step sisters are usually just comic relief, although occasionally effort is made to humanise Anastasia/Jacqueline, although usually it is just done by making her more of a push over by her mother and step-sister. It doesn't excuse what she does, just makes the audience feel bad for her as well. We'll give this to Ever After for having the two sisters actually act differently and not being unbearably annoying.

The fairy god mother, it's surprising that this character is usually the least interesting character, they really are only there as living deus ex fairy. A plot device to get Cinderella to the ball. Da Vinichi from Ever After is our stand in fairy god mother and is the most developed... but that isn't saying much. Have to go with the animated one for some bibbidi-boboidi-boo action.

The animals; no one wins on this one. The animals are either way to prominent in the movies, just there to reference the animated movie or not there are all.

Cinderella: Now Cinderella often gets a lot of flack for being a problematic character; she's one of the most passive Disney Princess's. Tying with Sleeping Beauty as the most passive in fact. So a lot of modern interpretations seek to address that; they give her character and chances to prove himself. Ever After is perhaps the clearest example of this, making Cinderella well learned, and keen to escape the situation she's in but without any means to; she suffers through the movie but when she is given a chance to rescue herself she does. Animated Cinderella is a kind and caring person, still totally good hearted despite the abuse she has suffered.

The new Cinderella attempts to marry these two concepts and ends up being the weakest part of the movie and why the movie ends up failing as a whole. The motto of the live action movie is have courage and be kind. This motto is repeated endlessly and is why the prince falls in love with Cinderella before the ball and why she is able to talk to animals and why the fairy god mother shows up for her. Cinderella is never courageous however, she is a doormat. Cinderella is well learned in the new movie, she has skills and intelligence that would allow her to find a life outside of her step mothers control and became a servant when she was old enough to escape, and is shown to have friends who could assist her living outside of the house. In fact she does try to escape, but decides it is cowardly to run away from the abusive situation she is in.

It was cowardly for her to run, because she says no doubt many people have it worse than she does.

... ... ... oh movie... no.

Contrast this with the animated movie, again in this Cinderella never escapes, however we are given no evidence to suggest that she could. Cinderella has lived like this since she was a child, we don't know that she has ever been outside the house. She also doesn't take the abuse in the same way; again I have to praise the animators who managed to give a lot of quiet dignity. Cinderella carries her head high at all times, its a small little sign that she isn't broken; it isn't until her dress is ripped that she finally breaks down. The dress tearing scene is chaotic and emotional; I've heard some refer to it the closest Disney has ever gotten to depicting a rape scene. And it was, until Maleficent and the scene where she wakes to find her wings removed. In contrast the live action scene has a sleeve ripped, that's it. Just one small rip; the scenes just can't compare in emotional weight. Movies have a simple language, which is 'show don't tell'. The animated movie never needs someone to exclaim the moral as 'have courage and be kind', Cinderella shows it through her actions alone and is rewarded for it.

It is really just hollow in the live action Cinderella movie; Cinderella claims to be endlessly kind and the film ends with her forgiving her family for the abuse. Yep; she forgives her abusers. Not gains some understanding about their motives, or any appreciation for the difficulties the Step Mother might face as a single mother in this time period. Nope, forgiven without question... they still get banished from the kingdom along with the duke who dared to stop the King marrying a peasant girl to protect the Kingdom. So, justice is served?

The live action movie really doesn't bring anything new to the table, although some great character work is done with the Prince and the King, it just adds nothing to the 'canon' of Cinderella. It is inferior to the animated movie it tries to improve upon. Meanwhile I love the hell out of Ever After and the animated Cinderella film; both are different however and each do succeed in what they are attempting.

I'll be updating again on the 20th as I turn the other passive fairy tale princess Sleeping Beauty into a sci-fi heroine.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Citizen Four - and how many of you are actually aware of the new Australian Laws going through?

I was very much on the fence about seeing Citizen Four; I think it shows how badly informed on the topic I was since I kept getting Edward Snowden and Julian Assange confused; I'm also concerned about how uncaring I was about the revelations that were coming out.

However we'll get more into the politics and why it's so important right now in Australia; but for now let's review the documentary itself. I haven't seen the two other documentaries by Laura Poitras, the three together are considered a trilogy on post 9/11 America. I can say that it isn't required for you to have watched the others to really enjoy this documentary.

The atmosphere is designed to feel intense from the beginning as they go over the security measures that Snowden was introducing to try and release the information. Perhaps it is because I didn't know enough about his reveals going into it but from a film point of view the danger felt to sudden and didn't match with the visual and audio tone. Things however pick up very quickly and once we finally meet Snowden the documentary really hits its stride; the footage all feels incredibly natural. Helped by the fact the subject Snowden is fairly charismatic. There is an ongoing sense of tension that makes the documentary seem like another world from the one we live in, but then it keeps grounding itself to remind us that the tension is real and exists in our world. The only real criticism I have is that the soundtrack doesn't really fit, often feeling the only artificial aspect.

So, if you are a fan of the documentaries, then definitely check this one out. And if you aren't, still go see this movie.

We are way to cavalier about how about our privacy and rights in exchange for a little bit of ease; however in Australia, the Labour Government recently said it would fold on the issue of data retention. No I've not been blogging in a while so I'm not going to jump straight into a political rant but I would strongly advise anyone to look up the issue and if you feel as strongly about it as I do. Speak to your local member and let them know.

Next time, just a review without the political rant...well... actually I make no promises!