Sep 282014
 

We have hit a critical period in the online gaming community, which happens to overlap with a similar discussion going on within the internet community and even the world at large. That conversation is about the rights of female gamers and members of online communities to feel safe and comfortable with their fellow gamers. We have increasingly seen “battle lines” drawn, with videos such as the ones by Anita Sarkeesian calling for equal rights to be then viciously attacked online; with female celebrities accounts broken into and nude photos released; and finally with the Emma Watson United Nations address last week calling for men and women to stand up for equality. There has been no better time to examine where we are and where we would like to see our community go. There is a vocal minority of men online who are fighting these changes, and who are feeling attacked in turn, and we need to understand that we are in this together, regardless of sex, and together we can improve and grow this hobby.

The fact of the matter is, roughly half of all gamers and internet users are women (surprise, right?). For so long gaming has been seen as a male-dominated hobby, and maybe in it’s infancy it was, but the facts no longer support a male-dominated scene. In spite of this, many if not most female gamers have given voice to many sexist practices and deep-seated biases still visibly present. This is seen in real life as well, but most acutely from the gaming sector. The anonymity of the internet and most online lobbies creates an atmosphere where it is easy to look down upon, be dismissive, or even angry at, a perceived minority. I think that it is likely a majority of male gamers have witnessed this happening, and would be willing to admit it is a problem and would like to see change, but don’t know what to do or even think it’s being “overblown”. There is also a very vocal group of male gamers who fight against calls for equality, saying it is merely feminist attacks on men, and tend to become increasingly hostile with any and all recommendations for change.

Of course some of what we hear is extreme, from both sides. What should be very clear however, is a majority of female gamers have seen or experienced this sort of behavior, some many times over. I know that I have heard accounts from friends of treatment they have received, or how a specific games portrayal of a female character was poor or even insulting. This is often exacerbated by long-standing sexist practices women start seeing from childhood. Drawing lines in the sand and pointing fingers is simply causing each to grow farther and farther apart. We have to be able to take these accounts seriously, and have to be willing to see what we can do to help fix them. All this takes is respect and understanding, accepting that there could be a problem and be willing to listen to alternatives, and standing up to those who are creating the problems. This can lead to more inclusive, and realistic, gaming experiences and communities, which is in everyone’s interests.

Of course this is all coming at a crucial transitional period for male gamers as well. Our generation has started questioning what traditional ideas of masculinity and “maleness” actually are. Gaming is central to this discussion, as it is only recently becoming more accepted that gaming is a healthy and fulfilling hobby for adults as well as children, while many still scoff at such an idea and look down upon our hobby. With all the changes men are facing, it can be extremely easy to be dismissive when viewing problems faced by women, as we are already defensive about gaming in general. Just remember, we are all facing problems and overcoming hurdles, and we can get through them faster by helping one another with our problems. Gamers have more in common with other gamers, male or female, and we have to understand that fighting amongst ourselves only weakens our position to the “traditional” world view. Gaming moves incredibly fast, and it’s time we agree that there is no place for hatred, bigotry, sexism, racism, or any other -ism in such an important aspect of our lives. For gaming to grow and gain mainstream acceptance, we have to fight against these ideas and fight for equality, for every gamer and every person.

I know for many of you this will be preaching to the choir. For the others, who will be apt to say that I have been “taken in” or am overblowing the issues, please reconsider the accounts of your friends and family, and examine your own behaviour. We can only move forward by admitting that we may have to change and accept other groups, no matter how hard that may seem to be. If men and women together can fight for equality and understand one anothers troubles and differences, we can create a lasting community that is filled with realistic and relatable characters, and maybe learn something about ourselves in the process.

 

Sep 272014
 
HFS

“…if not now, then when?”, asked Emma Watson, in a speech she gave at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City last Saturday. Surely, the quote is one that many of us have heard in our lives, one that is meant to foster courage in the face of fear and uncertainty, to prompt a feeling of personal responsibility when presented with an imposing task. Watson, the UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, introduced the quote near the end of her speech, when she admitted that she had been quite nervous prior to her speech.

And why shouldn’t she be nervous? As a graduate of an International Relations program, the prospect of giving a speech at the UN is simultaneously exciting and incredibly intimidating one. But, in such a situation, my nervousness would stem only from the pressure I placed on myself, whereas Watson was likely nervous for additional, more serious reasons. She was introducing a UN campaign called HeForShe - “A Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality,” and if you have already read Mystie’s and/or Cassi’s posts on TLo42, or, really, if you have been following the news at all for the past few weeks, then you know that it is a frightening time for women. Hackers recently stole and released personal, nude photos of several prominent female celebrities; Anita Sarkeesian was forced from her home after receiving death threats for, well, doing nothing wrong at all (I refuse to craft a sentence that even begins to describe a “rationale” for these threats); several of Sarkeesian’s supporters have been similarly targeted. And, of course, this does not even include the sexual abuse and discrimination women continue to experience on a daily basis. Plain and simple, women are, at the very least, not afforded the same opportunities as men anywhere in the world. At worst, they are explicitly denied basic human rights. Sadly, as Watson noted in her speech, “No country in the world can yet say that they achieved gender equality.” Indeed, Watson’s deeds did not go unpunished. She, too, was threatened with a leak of personal nude photos (and, no, the fact that the stunt may have been fake does not diminish the meaning of the underlying threat).

This reality is why another quote Emma Watson used in her speech is so important to me: “Statesman Edmund Burke said all that is need for the forces of evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.” All I have to do to allow the denial of human rights to women to continue is to do nothing. Combined with her questions of “If not me, then who?” and “If not now, then when?”, the quote has provided an incredibly strong motivator for myself and men around the world to take this opportunity to speak out, stand up, and offer our support in the fight to secure an equal future for men and women alike.

There can no longer be any question as to who this issue affects or involves, either. Watson extended what she called a formal invitation to men to participate in the conversation, explaining that “men don’t have the benefits of equality, either.” And while I’m not personally inclined to complain about the male sex lacking in equality in the face of recent events, I’d be flat-out lying if I said that I hadn’t taken notice of the cultural norms affecting men, as well: we are supposed to be strong – even aggressive – and keep our emotions in check, to mention only a small subset of the cultural pressures men face. And as Watson so rightfully said, this has an immediate consequence of shaping the norms that affect women.

In the past, I struggled with identifying the best way to get involved and show my support for women’s rights, other than to continually try to participate in conversations that make me consider the topic on a regular basis; thanks to my wife and the wonderful friends we have that make up TLo42, these conversations usually crop up often enough to meet that requirement. But I recently realized that the current climate in gaming and the world in general, as caustic as it may be, demands only the simplest action as a first step – and I’ll leave it to Slate writer Phil Plait to put it in words (emphasis mine):

This isn’t about [loathsome knuckle-dragging Men’s Rights Advocates and their ilk]. It’s about women, and men supporting them. It’s about all of us. And doing this isn’t white-knighting, it isn’t mansplaining, and it isn’t weak, or unmanly. It is, quite simply, doing what’s right and standing up for others.

I have no claim to solutions for these problems; I cannot hope to know how to stop the hatred and violence and oppression and othering of women on the Internet and in the world.

But I know how to stand up for my friends. I know how to write, and how to make myself heard. And I can hope that other men will do this as well, because while I don’t know the whole solution, I know a part of it, a significant part of it, is just showing that we are listening, that we care, and we want to help.

And that’s why I stand with Emma Watson.

I, too, intend to do what’s right. I, too, am going to stand up for others. I, too, stand with Emma Watson. And Anita Sarkeesian. And women everywhere. And I stand with the 148, 137 other men who have already visited heforshe.org (at the time of my commitment) and resolved to support them. That’s one of the most beautiful things about HeForShe: it’s so simple. So, my fellow men and boys, make yourself heard, be counted as a HeForShe, as I have:

HeForShe

 

The fight will go on, probably, sadly, for years to come. But this is where we make our initial stand. Click the picture above to head over to heforshe.org. Because, if not you, then who? If not now, then when?

Sep 262014
 

When news first broke of the massive amounts of celebrity nude photos leaked, a friend made an interesting point to me:

If this had happened even just a few years ago, all that would have happened is everyone would have brushed it off. Some would have snached up tabloids in line at the grocery store and really no one would have thought twice about it. Now we’re discussing violation of privacy and women’s rights.

What’s changed?

Recently, video games had a really, really tough week. Anita Sarkeesian – creator of the blog Feminist Frequency and a video series called Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, released a video discussing the use of of woman–and violence against women–as backgrounds or plot drivers in video games. For this she was was abused online, threatened and forced out of her home by said threats. Along the same lines, many video game developers, writers and various people in the industry were and are facing similar treatment.

But why are we talking about this now?

Haven’t video games have always been like this? Isn’t this what makes media what it is? Why should we change something that has worked for years?

The short answer, of course, is because I think we can do better than that.

There has been a lot of talk about whether Sarkeesian and others were right or wrong in their arguments, whether sexsism in video games or media exists, whether this abuse is a real issue, is being overblown, or worse – threats against these women are being faked. (update, in this case I don’t mean threats like releasing nude photos are faked, because apparently in that case they were, but people expletive twitter attacks were faked or photoshopped.)

Yet the positive side to all this and what’s important and what’s different from those few years ago is that we’re talking about this. People are standing up and saying we can do better than this.

Not only do I feel this is important for the progression of woman in the field of video games or the media, but for the actual mediums as well. It’s easy to make the argument that we get video games that uses classic tropes that are just fine using classic video game tropes. But by thinking outside the box and challenging the status quo, maybe we can get a better video game.

But change is difficult, and to make this change, we’re going to have to go through a lot more push back and a lot more trolls. In an article regarding this topic, in an opinion article by polygon, writer Chris Plante points out:

“One side [of this argument] has folded its arms, slumped its shoulders while pouting like an obstinate child that has learned they are getting a little brother or sister but wants to remain the singular focus of their parents’ affection.”

There will probably always be the argument that this isn’t really an issue. That without these women tropes in video games the storylines wouldn’t be the same (who will the hero save if not the damsel in distress?). That women should just deal with it, because that’s life.

But why not do better? We can say forget that and make a better story line. We can find a better way to promote our case than through the the promise of naked women.

All of this will be better if nothing else because it challenges us to not be lazy. To think outside the box instead of falling back on these tropes because they’ve been done before, because they’re easy.

Whether or not you agree with Anita, Emma Watson or others trying to change things and their opinions, you should be supporting the idea of trying to raise the bar.

In the case of Sarkeesian, it should be important to note that her video isn’t asking much of video games. She’s not saying video games shouldn’t touch these themes or they should stay away from them. She simply asks them to just take a step back and try to look at things a little more critically.

“Now–to be clear–I’m certainly not saying stories seriously examining the issues surrounding domestic or sexual violence are off limits for interactive media. However, if game makers do attempt to address these themes, they need to approach the topic with the subtly, gravity and respect that the subject deserves.”

So join us, let’s give this subject the respect it deserves.

Let’s raise the bar.

Let’s change the conversation.

Sep 222014
 

I was checking all my social media during my lunch today, ’cause that is what you do in 2014 and I came across this in my News Feed.

why would we even be surprised anymore?

why would we even be surprised anymore?

And I got mad. Not just irritated, or slightly perturbed, but enraged. Just yesterday I was sharing the beginning of this story: Emma Watson speaks out at the UN that feminism isn’t a dirty word and it’s for everyone. She has started a campaign entitled “HeForShe” encouraging men to take part of the fight. [It’s getting pretty heavy holding it up by ourselves over here.] I was impressed and proud that Emma had taken and put a very public face on an issue that we have been fighting over here in the Nerd World for way way too long.

And guess what happened. She got the same treatment (albeit fairly mild compared to some) that anyone speaking up against misogyny in gaming has gotten. They couldn’t attack her argument because their logic sounds a little like “Women shouldn’t talk. Just let us covet and hate women as much as we damn well please. Oh, and give us sex when we are nice to you/want it.” So, they attack her personally. For Emma Watson this first threat is to expose her (literally) in a way that makes anyone feel vulnerable. For Anita Sarkeesian (www.feministfrequency.com) it was exposing her in the way of ruining her anonymity on the web by threatening her home and the people she cares about.

And I’m fucking tired of it. I’m taking a stand. The League of 42 is taking a stand. This is no longer an issue that we can sit on the sidelines and let other people fight for us. This is getting to be a “You are with us or against us” issue because sitting around letting anyone attack Emma or Anita is letting them attack us. Letting them beat down the people who are fighting this fight for us.

According to “The Science of Happiness”, it takes 5 positive things to erase 1 negative one in your dealings with people. So, Anita, Emma, here’s hoping that the 5 of us standing with you silences 1 of the trolls you are fighting.

Sep 022014
 

Well, this is embarrassing…  it turns out that I and the majority of the web pegging YouTube/Google as the probable buyer of Twitch.tv were perhaps a tad premature. Instead, a surprise offer from Amazon came from out of the blue, and they have been officially confirmed by Emmet Shear, CEO of Twitch, as having purchased the company for a cool $970 million . Surprise!

twitchretro2

This is the most recent and most obvious sign of what most feel Amazon is gearing up to do, which is take on Google and Netflix as a global information/content behemoth. Twitch, which didn’t even exist four years ago, has blown up into what has become a lucrative business streaming content from video games and the gaming scene in general. Amazon’s opportunity seemed to come about after Google hesitated on their deal out of fear of antitrust lawsuits (as YouTube fulfills a relatively similar service, albeit recorded).

So now the question will be what this means for Twitch. This is far and away Amazon’s largest purchase to date, which means they regard it as a very important part of their strategy moving forward. The fear with Google being the buyer would be they aggressively shut down anything remotely approaching copyright infringement. As with the last article, Twitch is very borderline as is with this. Streamers make a living posting live video of themselves playing games, which so far most game companies have embraced, even if it could technically be pursued in court, as it also brings great publicity (League of Legends). Furthermore, up until recently, many streamers would play music from their collection or from a separate streaming service while they played. This has more or less been shut-down with recent moves by Twitch. Whether or not this was in order to help facilitate sale is unknown, but as long as the game content remains untouched, this is a reasonable and very prudent move.

twitch-bandwidth-01

Overall, I have to think this will be better for Twitch than if Google had purchased it. Most signs seem to point to Amazon not wanting to limit Twitch in any way, and more or less keep business as usual. However, I think in the next year we will start to see a much wider array of video content available in Twitch, especially with recorded video (as YouTube, now a direct competitor, has been the major place to store these recordings). Amazon most definitely wants to compete with Google to be the end-all be-all of content providers, and Twitch is one of the first and most important foundations to that strategy, so they will be taking extra care to continue providing the same quality of service. Google may not have had quite the same need to do so, as they already control a huge sector of the market.

So just like everyone else, we are waiting to see how this turns out, but I myself have a better feeling about the Amazon purchase than I would have with Google, and it sure seems to set up an interesting clash between two of the biggest names on the web.

 Posted by at 6:28 pm
Jun 192014
 

Welcome to the second installment of June’s JUST GO SEE IT: Review and Rethink Edition! Up for another look this week is How to Train Your Dragon 2, the sequel to the animated adventure that featured…you guessed it: dragons! I’ll try to avoid any spoilers again, though to be fair, the trailers for this movie are quite spoiler-y on their own!

While the first How to Train Your Dragon focused on the emerging peace between the people of Berk and the dragons they had seen as mortal enemies for so long, the second movie begins with a scene that quickly illustrates just how integrated into Berk’s existence the creatures have become since Hiccup and Toothless befriended each other. In the scene, several of the characters from the first movie are taking part in a competitive game where they ride their dragons around the island, collect live sheep, and throw them into baskets for points. The island is conspicuously empty in the first few frames of the movie, but as the characters begin to score points, we see that the only reason for this is that all of the Berks (Berk-ites? Berkies?) are gathered in the grandstands around the goal area, cheering on their favorite dragon-Berk team – it’s clearly a popular community event.

CastBuncha cool kids.

Other scenes showed the dragons taking part in daily life in more constructive ways that don’t depend on their ability to fly. One such scene features a big, fat, lazy dragon, who we find plopped down, slumbering in the middle of the blacksmith’s shop. The blacksmith walks into the area, and playfully shouts at the dragon for falling asleep and “allowing the forge to go out.” Sleepily, the dragon sits up and hawks a massive fireball into the forge, and, in true hilarious family movie fashion, he nearly ignites the whole shop in the process! I liked both the blacksmith and sheep-game scenes because they represent a cleverly imaginative way of thinking about how dragons could possibly be integrated into human life. Not that I’m necessarily expecting that to happen anytime soon.

It’s hard to point out other *particular* aspects of the movie that were fantastic, because the entire thing is just incredibly heartwarming and fun. There were a few particular plot points that I was not a fan of, but that wasn’t due to poor writing. I freely admit that I am just hard to please when it comes to character and story development at times. Other than those brief points, though, HTTYD2 is quite fantastic. The animation is beautiful as it was in the first, and the characters are ridiculously lovable. Toothless continues to somehow remind Mystie and I of our cat (we’re not the only ones, though – a friend recently told me he thinks the same regarding Toothless and his cat!), and the baby dragons are so freakin’ cute. A soundtrack that includes Jonsi of Sigur Ros can’t hurt, either!

PosterMeow.

Therefore, overall, I’d say there is no need for a rethink here. JUST GO SEE IT! And take your kids, friends, and family with you – this one is definitely great for everyone, at any age.

Jun 132014
 

Hello readers! It’s been six days since I gave you your movie viewing assignments for June, and I’m ready to follow up with the first ever “Joe’s JUST GO SEE IT Review and Rethink Edition!” Mystie and I just got home from seeing Edge of Tomorrow, which, as you’ll remember from my earlier post, is an alien-battling sci-fi action movie co-starring Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise that is based on a Japanese novel called All You Need Is Kill. I’ll do my best to keep any spoilers out of this article, and I’d ask any commenters to do be conscientious and advertise any of their own with full-on caps lock and asterisks so that each of our readers can form their own opinion! (NOTE: Linked images may take you to other pages containing spoilers.) EoTPoster First up: I loved this movie. As I previously mentioned, I was a bit apprehensive about the possibility that Tom Cruise could ruin a film that I felt had great potential, but from where I was sitting, Mr. Mission Impossible did okay. It did feel like Cruise had a much larger number of speaking scenes as compared to Oblivion, however, and the writers of Edge of Tomorrow didn’t do us any favors by making his character, William Cage, all that likable – at least not immediately. I did my best to chalk that up to the character’s development, though, and tried not to concentrate too much on Cruise himself. After a short time, I came around. 

CruiseEoT“What do you mean you ‘came around?’”

However, I had no problem immediately loving Emily Blunt’s character, Rita Vrataski. What. A. Badass. Holy hell. In a war with missiles soaring all over the battlefield and machine guns shooting off thousands of rounds per minute, what is our fearless heroine’s weapon of a choice? A freakin’ giant sword, that’s what. It’s eerily reminiscent of Cloud’s sword, though I don’t think the prop artists meant it to be a slap-you-in-your-face reference or anything like that. We meet Rita early on, when Tom Cruise, befuddled and thrown to the ground in the middle of an attack by the alien army, looks up and sees her taking out several baddies.

BluntEoTOh yeah, also: her nickname is the “Angel of Verdun.” Epic.

Luckily, neither Cruise’s nor Blunt’s characters get too trope-y in the film, which allows the viewer to enjoy the spectacular scenes playing on screen. As I have seen some mention, the “Live/Die/Repeat” plot device calls to mind the one used in Groundhog Day, but it is hard to fault the writers for employing such a fantastically interesting tool here, particularly when considering how they twist it to fit the mold of Edge of Tomorrow. Visually, too, the movie is great, although I don’t necessarily mean that in the sense that the imagery specifically was great. Several of the shots of the desolated environment are incredible, sure, but what I found especially extraordinary was the artistic development of both the aliens and the mechanical suits used to fight them. I thought that the aliens in particular were fantastic; they were creative without becoming overcomplicated, and are deeply deadly and fearsome.

I’ll close this article out by introducing the “Rethink” part of “Joe’s JUST GO SEE IT Review and Rethink Edition,” where I will decide whether I was right to being excited about a particular film on the month’s original list. In Edge of Tomorrow‘s case, I think it’s pretty clear that there isn’t a whole lot to rethink, given that I started off with “I loved this movie.”

JUST GO SEE IT!

Jun 062014
 

Youtube-twitch

Has YouTube (and by extension, Google) done what so many rumors flying around the internet are reporting? Are they, as we speak, hashing out the details to a hefty $1 billion deal to purchase Twitch? At this point, all signs seem to point to yes, with the delay likely due to ongoing negotiations over just how independent Twitch will remain. What does this mean for the suddenly booming business of online game streaming?

Honestly, there is a large potential upside to this deal. Most seem to feel that Twitch was growing so fast that a sale was inevitable, as Twitch’s user base now numbers in the millions, across PC and next-gen consoles, as current hardware and internet speeds have made it easier than ever to stream content. YouTube has long been the behemoth of user-generated content, and with Google’s massive wallet backing them, it could open the door to streaming becoming a truly mainstream hobby.

Furthermore, rumors have also stated that there were several other interested parties, including Microsoft, before the supposed victor emerged. Google is far and away a better option, if a deal had to be made, to ensure impartiality among systems. Had Microsoft bought Twitch, Sony would have likely dropped Twitch to form their own service, splintering the community. Microsoft may have also attempted to drive use more towards the Xbox and away from the PC, as their general strategy has been to move away from gaming in the PC marketplace. So if a deal was truly inevitable, why not Google?

However, there are a lot of potential problems on the horizon, should Google/YouTube complete this purchase. First of all is the highly unpopular requirement of Google Plus forced upon YouTube users, and Twitch could very easily follow suit. Social media is, at the very best, a polarizing topic with many, especially amongst Twitch’s main users, and could cause some to drift away, frustrated by such requirements. Forcing additional services such as Google Plus in order to participate in Twitch is a huge pitfall to be avoided, and it is to be hoped Twitch is negotiating away from such a requirement.

Finally, what could be the biggest problem facing Twitch in the event of a Google purchase is YouTube and Google’s strict enforcement of copyright infringement. Video game streaming walks a fine line with videos that heavily feature in-game footage and often music. This sort of content has, rather famously, been relentlessly shut down at every angle on YouTube. Now, many video game companies will happily allow streaming in order to increase visibility and interest (League of Legends most famously), but it could become an extremely difficult area to navigate, depending on developer and publisher action. This is a very difficult problem, with no clear answer, and it is central to Twitch’s business model. How will YouTube and Google choose to navigate it? And could it bring about a drastic drop in interest, right as video game streaming seems to be taking off?

Many in the video game community, especially those whose livelihoods now depend on services like Twitch, await further news of a deal with bated breath. There are many areas which could cause a stumble and a setback, but there is also potential for improvement. It will all come down to how Twitch negotiates this potential deal, and how much Google and YouTube plan to interfere with an already successful model. In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, head over to twitch.tv and find out exactly what video game streaming is all about, and just how easy it is to get involved.  

 

 Posted by at 9:27 am
Jun 022014
 
Edge of Tomorrow

Welcome to Joe’s JUST GO SEE IT for June 2014! This is the first post of what will become a monthly column where I, your eponymous host, discuss a handful of movies in the sci-fi, fantasy, or otherwise nerdy genres that I am excited to see. These lists are not meant to be exhaustive – on the contrary, we want you to leave comments about movies you are interested to see as well! We may also exclude some (*coughtransformerscough*), because, after all, this is Joe’s JUST GO SEE IT!

Anyhow, without further ado, here are my JUST-GO-SEE-ITs for this month! They are sorted chronologically, from the nearest releases to the furthest. Trailers are included so you don’t even have to leave the page!

Edge of Tomorrow - June 6

If you’ve been a reader since the inception of TLo42, then you know that I had nothing but great things to say about Oblivion, a simultaneously post-apocalyptic and futuristic sci-fi flick starring Tom Cruise. If you haven’t been a reader since that post, then you might not already know that I absolutely loved that movie, despite the fact that Tom Cruise is often an overly intense actor that often camps up an otherwise good movie.

Such is the situation I’m hoping for with Edge of Tomorrow, in which Tom Cruise repeatedly fights aliens (or, at least, advanced machines) in a battle that seems to be reoccurring. The film co-stars the fantastic Emily Blunt, who looks to be both Tom Cruise’s trainer and love interest. The trailer, which I beg you to watch, all at once reminds me of elements of Inception and Elysium, and, weirdly, both Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Groundhog Day, though I doubt that Edge of Tomorrow will be as dramatic or hilarious as those films (respectively, of course). The basic concepts that you see in the trailer are mind-blowing, and even though I consider myself clever, I’m not completely sure I know which world we’re seeing is real. Or is that even the right question to ask? I don’t know, but I know I want to see it.

The Signal - June 13

This is one I have been excited about since I first heard about it on Reddit and looked up the trailer, which starts with Laurence Fishburne, and almost immediately features the incredible question, “Are you from Earth?” Fantastic visuals follow, evoking both fear and intrigue. There is some amazing cinematography at the end, and the music is perfect.

One of the most striking parts of the trailer, though, is that one critic, Joey Paur of Geek Tyrant, calls The Signal “a mind-bending experience.” That is a fantastic–in the literal sense of the word–description if I’ve ever heard one, and if I hadn’t already been sold, I would have been at that point. This movie looks incredibly interesting, and is easily the one I am most excited about on this month’s list.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 – June 13

Rounding out this month’s list is the follow-up to How to Train Your Dragon, an incredibly wonderful and entertaining animated film released in 2010. If you haven’t already seen the first one, I’d suggest you do so ASAP in order to establish the back story for the second one. Here’s a hint: there are dragons involved.

As with many of DreamWorks’ films, the first How to Train Your Dragon was a heartwarmer, and the second looks to follow up on that, emphasizing Hiccup’s family. New dragons are introduced, too, however, and even Toothless gets a few new characteristics. I’ve been waiting for this follow-up the minute the credits started rolling after the first movie; How to Train Your Dragon is a great franchise that can really bring out the kid in anyone. And I mean, come on. Dragons!

That’s all for this month – you have your assignments! But as I said, we’d love to hear from you about what you’re excited for this month, so leave us a comment or tweet at us @theleagueof42 if you’ve got some suggestions of your own! In the meantime, don’t forget the popcorn!

Apr 102014
 

This is your only warning that there be spoilers ahead!

GOT1

It’s that time of year that we can all finally go back to fearfully wondering which of our favorite characters are about to be killed off, yet again. Well, except for those of us who have read the books that is, we already know who is about to die (can you sense the smug? Mwah ha ha). Except for where we don’t… because HBO likes to mess with our heads and occasionally kill some other character, because damnit, G.R.R.M. just didn’t take it far enough! A frequent criticism of his I’ve heard.

Anyway, where was I? Oh right! The fourth season of Game of Thrones has officially kicked off, breaking the viewership record for the show in the process. This introductory episode changed the tone somewhat from some of the prior seasons, as we are starting to get to the part of the series that has slowed down and focuses more on exposition. Not a bad thing at all, but definitely a different direction than the first three seasons, and we get a bit of a taste of that here. Definitely a very solid episode, but nothing yet that really sets the bar for the season.

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The majority of the episode took place in King’s Landing, where Jaime has returned to his family, albeit missing a wee bit of his hand. The scene where Tywin melted down and re-forged Eddard’s sword to create two new ones, one of which went to Jaime, was a very cool scene that was definitely overflowing with symbolism. Followed by Tywin demanding that Jaime give up his spot in the Kingsguard in order to rule at Casterly Rock. Jaime flatly refuses this and leaves (and of course then suffers the spite of both Cersei and his-probable son Joffrey). Jaime has quickly become one of my favorite characters, and even considering his pretty evil deeds in the past, it’s hard to not feel compassion for the guy, misguided though he may still be. Oberyn Martell also made his triumphant entrance, demanding satisfaction for the brutal killing of his sister and her children at the hands of the Lannisters. He is going to become one of the more intriguing storylines in this season, looking forward to that!

I thought the bits with Daenerys and Jon were the flattest of the episode. The scene with the dragons was pretty badass, sure, but it’s hard to disguise the fact that she is pretty much just wandering around in the desert, not taking back her throne like I want her to. I do like the new Daario, but we didn’t really get much of a chance to meet him, so looking forward to seeing him in future episodes. Jon had to deal with some of the repercussions following his little escapade beyond the wall, but nothing really has come of this yet.

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My favorite parts of this episode was the scenes with the Hound and Arya. Arya has long been one of my very favorite characters, in book and show, and her relationship with the Hound is a pretty interesting one. The Hound himself has become a bit of a fan favorite, which I think is mostly due to Rory McCann’s excellent portrayal, but he and Arya form quite the effective team. This culminates in an excellent fight in an inn with some Lannister men, where Arya is able to retrieve her sword and kill Polliver, the man who murdered her traveling companion Lommy in the last season. Arya is out for revenge, and this was a big move from her character, as her method was quite deliberate and cold-blooded. She is out for vengeance, and Polliver wasn’t even on her list! I can’t wait to see what this odd duo gets into in the next few episodes.

 

 Posted by at 9:56 pm