My Experience of Religion in Education

So… I’m going to rant. I’ve been around Yotube a lot the last few weeks, looking at all kinds of random stuff, just jumping from video suggestion to video suggestion. During this Youtube binge, I ended up on a few videos expressing different opinions on religious teachings in schools. Some were Christian people that were dead set against evolution being taught in school because, and I quote: “It’s just a theory.” While some were atheists who considered all religion damaging to children and wanted it out of schools altogether, branding religious people idiots. Bear in mind, those are the two ends of the spectrum, there were calmer Youtubers among them, a lot more willing to compromise. Anyway, I’m not here to debate that; it just got me thinking about my own personal experience in school and I actually ended up quite angry.

I’ll start off by saying, I’m not an atheist. That shouldn’t really be an issue either way, but I have no doubt some people will make that assumption otherwise. I was technically raised Christian, although my parents weren’t particularly religious. I went to a primary school that was a safe environment, that I liked and that seemed completely normal to me. I still believe it was safe and I still enjoyed my time there, but now I’m an adult, I’m frustrated by how my education in regards to religion and how the world works was dealt with.

You see, the thing is, I came out of school with an extensive knowledge of Christianity and to a lesser extent, other religions. I could have told you what God created on each of the days, various Bible stories that we read and reenacted each year; I could have recited the lord’s prayer which we recited every morning and I could have sang you countless hymns which we chanted daily. I could even tell you the names of other Gods from other religions, because we coloured pictures of them in, of course keeping in mind that these other religions were just what wacky foreigners believed. However, if you’d asked me for the most basic explanation of how the theory of evolution works, or asked me how the Big Bang happened, I would’ve been completely stumped. This didn’t improve all that much through high school either. It wasn’t until I started looking into it myself that I really understood.

When I thought about it, it all made sense, the things the people on each end of the spectrum were saying. I have no problem with the fact that I was taught religion; my problem is that I wasn’t taught scientific alternatives. H.P. Lovecraft said something in regards to this subject and it’s one of my favourite quotes on this… I can’t find it, damn! Well the gist of what he said was that if religion is truth, then it doesn’t need to be forced on our young. All that needs to be done is to insist upon the child’s quest for truth. If God is truth and a child looks at the world with openness and attention to evidence around them; they would surely only become closer to God in doing so, if this is the universe he created.

I don’t particularly get along with either end of the Youtube spectrum on this, but I do sympathise to a certain extent with where each side is coming from. Especially in America, where arguably the religious far right is even more of an issue. I can see where the atheists are coming from with their frustration; as I too was frustrated and angered by how little non-religious knowledge about the world I was given. I can also understand the other end of the argument, the Christians who find the concept of evolution ridiculous… because honestly, that was me! Of course, monkeys becoming humans? It’s ridiculous! That’s what I thought evolution was. Had you told me that we didn’t transform from monkeys Pokemon style, but rather descended from an early species of primate millions of years a go, things might have been different!

It saddens me when Youtubers ask questions like “If humans came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” and “If evolution is just a theory, why should I believe it?” I’m not sad because they’re asking the questions, I’m sad because they’re met with such contempt for asking them. But I can understand, because with the knowledge I was given growing up, I’d still be asking those same questions. Now, you could argue that they should look into it themselves, do the research like I did… but we know how realistic that is. Sure, some will look at all the information out there and make up their own mind, but that will never be the norm so long as we are taught one thing as truth throughout our whole childhood. We trust teachers, we trust parents and in an ideal world, both will show us the vast ocean of beliefs and information, both religious and scientific, but we’re clearly not there across the board and whether we ever will be… I guess time will tell.

Well, I guess that’s the end of my rant. I know this isn’t going to change anything, I just needed it off my chest. So, to conclude, I am not an atheist, nor a follower of a mainstream religion. I believe in introducing children to a variety of what the world has in religion and in science and I believe in them making up their own minds as they grow; just as we would expect from them with any other big life choice. I do believe that raising kids with one option and consciously neglecting to show them anything else is wrong. I’m sure some will shoot daggers at me for saying that, but that’s what I truly believe. As I paraphrased from Lovecraft: Quest for knowledge should be the goal and if there is one truth, our quest will surely reach it.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Review)

 

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The latest film in the X-men film franchise was very much anticipated by me; I’ve been waiting for this for what feels like forever. The seventh film in the X-men series, this is the first movie to be based on a whole comic story. Though I haven’t read this particular story in comic book form, I had watched the animated version in the 90’s animated series, which is as close to the comics as any animated version of X-men has been. So it felt different going to watch an X-men movie, already knowing the main plot points of the story. Most of the films were based on elements of the comics, but mostly they went their own way with it. The Dark Phoenix story done in X-men: The Last Stand really doesn’t resemble the comic or cartoon much at all, but I’m not reviewing that, so I’ll try not to get distracted by my issues with that one. 

X-men: DOFP brings together the past and present incarnations of the X-men (or future…depending on who’s perspective you’re looking from). Essentially uniting the cast of X-men: First Class with the cast of X-men 1-3. This was a cool idea and something I was very much looking forward to. They got pretty much everybody into this film, more or less, even if it’s just a small cameo such as with Kelsey Grammer as Beast.

The plot is as follows. The government has waged war on mutants and we start off in a mutant holocaust. Oh yeah, side note: this isn’t for little kids. I saw so many parents with tiny tots, presumably thinking “super heroes = kid friendly”…no! We have piles of dead bodies, blood/gore, nudity and a reasonable amount of shit and fuck dropping. Anyway, the government have created robots called sentinels that are able to adapt to mutant powers; making them the ultimate mutant killing machines. To avoid this future, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) uses her powers to send Wolverine’s mind back in time and into his future self, in order to stop an assassination which leads to this war. I have no idea where Kitty (aka Shadow Cat) suddenly got time travel powers from since we’ve only seen her with the power to phase through solid objects up until now, and don’t expect it to be explained. Apparently in the comics, this role belonged to Rachel Summers, who had the ability to astral project: projecting her consciousness outside of her body. This extended allowing her to project other people’s minds into other bodies, including projecting them through time. We don’t have Rachel Summers in this film, although with all the new mutants that are introduced and barely developed, I’m not sure why we couldn’t have… but let’s continue.

I won’t reveal the rest of the story, but I’ll tell you what I liked and what I didn’t like, that’s how we’ll make a review out of all this babbling. I really liked how Mystique was used. She got so much more character development in this film, in fact it was very Mystique-centric. She’s the one responsible for the assassination, but they don’t just play it as: she’s a bad guy, we must stop her. She has layers; she believes in what she’s doing and it’s not black and white. Jennifer Lawrence does a really good job in this character. I was unsure of her at first, which had nothing to do with her and was entirely due to the fact that Rebecca Romijn kicked ass in the role for three films, but she convinced me for sure. Although I’d still like to see Rebecca back, even just a cameo.

Two new characters I really enjoyed were Trask (the main villain) and QuickSilver. Trask, played by Peter Dinklage of “Game of Thrones” fame, is the creator of the Sentinels and is responsible for horrific experimentation on mutant kind. Dinklage is a really good actor and played a great villain. I don’t watch Game of Thrones, but I’ve heard fans of the show talk about him and I can see why. QuickSilver caused a stir when pictures of him surfaced. Played by Evan Peters (best known for American Horror Story), fans were pretty unkind due to the direction they went with his look. To be honest, I was perplexed myself. It looks better onscreen than in the photo shoots, but they gave him goggles and a pretty terrible wig. The main thing I don’t get is the wig. Quicksilver has silvery white hair and Evan Peters has light blonde hair, so I didn’t think it’d be tough to get his hair the right colour… but instead, they put him in a crappy wig that’s way darker than Evan’s actually hair is; it looks almost purple! Weird. Anyway, it’s a shame about this, because Peters does a great job. He’s funny and really enjoys the mischief that is Quick Silver.

There are many other new characters, but I can’t tell you anything about them really. Well, I can tell you what their powers are and that’s it. They’re in all the posters and advertising, but most of them have like one line in the whole movie, if that. I was particularly disappointed by how little we heard from Blink. They got Blink’s appearance down perfectly and she has the power to open portals, which looks really cool in the film, but sadly, as with all the other new mutants, we learn nothing about her. 

I was led to believe that the film would have the First Class cast and original cast in equal measure, splitting the film time between the two. Sadly, this was far from the case. Wolverine joins the First Class cast while the present day X-men are only seen in a few scenes. Because of this, there is nowhere near enough Ian McKellen for me. However, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender do a very good job. I like Fassbender in particular, he really does come across as a young Magneto and sells the character for all it’s worth. 

We end with Wolverine going back to the present day mutants and I won’t spoil it for you, but I really liked the ending. It fixes a lot of the stuff that left me unhappy in the third film, put it that way. It’s like Bryan Singer is saying “I’m back now, Ratner is gone, it’s okay” and I appreciated that.

Overall, this was a good film. Not a great one. There was a lot of talking and limited action. A lot of characters were neglected due to the sheer number of them which made me wonder if this story should have been split into two films. Some great new characters introduced and the special effects standards we have come to expect from the X-men movies. How would I rate it in comparison to the others? Hmm… better than The Last Stand, but nowhere near as engrossing as X2. 

I’ll admit, I fangasamed when the opening credits rolled with the classic DNA strand style effects and the original opening theme, combined with the mandatory Patrick Stewart voice over. 

I will always look forward to the next X-men film, because I’m a shameless fanboy, but I did feel a little underwhelmed by this addition. Maybe because I’ve been waiting so long, or maybe because I expected it to be more of a merging of the time lines…when what I got was another Wolverine movie merged with X-men First Class 2, while the rest of the original X-men were more like guests.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 6 (Review)

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Taking a break from the Charmed comics to look at a season of Buffy. I realise the last season of Buffy I reviewed was season 2, so the whole chronological order thing has gone right out the window… but it’s my blog, so there!

If you’ve ever been on Buffy fan boards, it doesn’t take long to notice the polarising effect that season 6 had on the fanbase. Opinion on this season is probably more split than with any other season of Buffy. You’ll find just as many people telling you that it’s the best season as you will people telling you that it was the worst thing to ever happen to the series. But I don’t care what they think, I care what I think, my blog, remember? So let’s jump right into season 6.

Season 5 ended with Buffy sacrificing her life to save Dawn and the world from massive world-ending mess of portals that hell-god Glory left behind before kicking the bucket herself. This season we start with a two parter, in which the remaining Scoobies resurrect Buffy; assuming that her soul must be in a hell dimension.

Joss and the writers say that the big bad of season six is life itself and with that in mind, this season is kind of hard to review as a whole. A lot of different things go on within the ensemble cast and this is the year where the Scoobies are probably separated the most doing their own thing. So I’m going to go through each character and review their arcs until we get to the point where they all reunite.

Buffy is resurrected and spends the first part of the season hiding the fact that she was actually in a heavenly dimension from her friends. Naturally, this leaves Buffy depressed, deciding that earth is hell in comparison to the happy place she was in before being ripped out by her friends. The only person Buffy tells about this is Spike and from this point on, he becomes her fuck buddy. Spike is in love with her (or obsessed, or both, you decide), as was established in season 5, but for Buffy, it’s really just a case of needing to feel something. This becomes a sort of addiction for Buffy, she has a lot of guilt about it but keeps going back to him. Guilt because she thinks it’s wrong for her to be sleeping with a soulless vamp, but also guilt because she’s well aware how Spike feels for her, but uses him anyway. This story raised a lot of questions for me, mainly in regard to what not having a soul means. Spike’s feelings towards Buffy do seem more than just straight-up obsessive lust, he really does seem to care for her; which I was sort of under the impression shouldn’t be possible if you don’t have a soul. However, we do see how dangerous Spike’s soul-free feelings can be when he attempts to rape her, in what is probably one of the most disturbing scenes in the series…although both Sarah Michelle Gellar and James Marsters sell the hell out of it as usual. Realising the line he’s crossed, Spike runs off to a cave to find a demon who can restore his soul. I get the reasoning behind this, but he does realise that people with souls still do horrible things like rape, right? This is my issue with the whole soul/no soul thing. It’s implied that with a soul, he’ll be capable of loving Buffy properly, but to me that kind of takes too much of the responsibility away from Spike himself. It was also established with Angel that vamps don’t feel bad about the horrible stuff they do until their souls are restored, but Spike clearly had guilt and other feelings that contradict that this season.

Xander’s story this season mainly centers around his and Anya’s upcoming wedding. Up until the wedding, they actually seem like the only stable characters in the series… or as stable as Anya can be anyway. This all lands in the crapper though when the wedding day arrives. Shown visions of a horrible fake future by a demon who wants revenge on Anya, Xander freaks out and tells a wedding dress clad Anya that he can’t get married. This is in part due to Xander’s fear of ending up like his parents and from what we see of them, I can’t exactly blame him. However, I’m not letting Xander off the hook. Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t force yourself into a marriage you don’t feel comfortable about… but walking out of the church leaving a devastated Anya to explain everything to the guests and send them home by herself, that’s a shitty thing to do Xander, I don’t care how quirky and lovable you usually are. This ends with Anya reclaiming her Vengeance Demon powers. She wants to use them to get revenge on Xander, but can’t because her wish magic only works for other people. She does however end up sleeping with Spike when they are both in need of solace, leading to Buffy’s secret rumpy pumpy being revealed and further fractures in the group. Xander does have a wonderful moment in the finale, but I’ll be saving that for the Willow portion of this review.

Dawn’s character arc centers around her abandonment issues. Having lost her mum and her sister in one year, then having Giles move back and forth so much; she’s kind of damaged this season. She starts stealing things, which is eventually revealed. In one of the most Dawn-centric episodes of the season, “Older and Far Away”, Dawn makes a wish to a guidance counsellor that people stop leaving her. The counsellor turns out to be Anya’s old vengeance demon friend Halfrek and the result is everyone being trapped inside the house. Tensions rise and Buffy finally has to confront Dawn about how she’s been feeling. However, Dawn’s biggest moment this season is probably in the finale, when she tells Buffy to stop trying to protect her from the world because everyone is dying around her anyway! She helps Buffy slay demons and this is a defining moment for Dawn. This starts Dawn on a path towards being a young woman rather than a child and for what it’s worth, I really like her next season. Took a lot of whining and screaming, but she got there.

Giles, ah good ol’ Giles. This is the first season in which Giles isn’t a main character. They come up with some contrived story about Giles wanting Buffy to be her own adult so that Giles doesn’t have to be killed off… not that I wanted him killed off, but the reasoning feels kind of forced. He leaves in the premiere, which I suppose makes sense having no slayer to watch anymore, but then comes back when she’s resurrected, only to leave again when the whole heaven thing is revealed. He really builds up his frequent flyer miles this season. He returns for the finale to kick some ass, but that’s another thing I’ll be saving for the Willow portion. Having such a lack of Giles takes some getting used to. I appreciate the idea of having the now adult scoobies out in the world without our favourite watcher’s guidance, but it’s not the same without him. He is missed. Also, he didn’t come back for Xander and Anya’s wedding? Really? I guess it was a good job in hindsight, but come on.

Let’s talk antagonists. This season we have a very different breed of bad guy. The nerd trio made up of Warren, Jonathon and Andrew. Warren we met in season 5, he’s the one who created the Buffy Bot. Jonathon we know from Sunnydale high and the Superstar episode; the sympathetic dork who just wants friends. Andrew is new, but happens to be Tucker’s brother (Tucker was the guy who set the Hell Hounds loose at the Sunnydale prom.) The trio make it their mission to take down the slayer, dreaming of being super villains. Warren is best with machinery and gadgets, Andrew knows a lot about demonology and can summon various nasties and Jonathon has some witchcraft ability. Things get bigger than Jonathon and Andrew bargain for when Warren murders his ex and then proceeds to murder Tara (intending to kill Buffy). It’s actually interesting to see their spiral down from petty criminals to pretty sinister killers, well, Warren anyway. Not everyone liked them, but after a series of powerful demons, vampires and Gods in the big bad role, having a group of mortals was an interesting way to go.

Now, finally we get to Willow. If you’re a Willow fan, then you’re in luck, because this season is definitely the most Willowy of the show. Willow leads the resurrection of Buffy, probably the biggest display of her power thus far. She’s able to do this because Buffy’s death was a mystical one. This leads to Willow being on a major power trip and eventually becoming addicted to magic. Now, this is probably the biggest reason for this season being so polarising. Not everyone liked this storyline. I’m on the fence about it. I like the idea, but the execution…less so. The story starts with Willow getting hooked because of the power she has. Her addiction is about abuse of power. This makes complete sense considering the amount of power she’s developed. Like an addiction, Willow ends up hurting the people she cares about because of this power abuse; most notably, messing with her girlfriend Tara’s memory, not once, but twice. She no longer respects boundaries or the essence of magic, because she no longer feels she has to. I really like how the story starts, it was a natural development for Willow’s character, a good way to create turbulence in her relationship with Tara and it’s well written. Joss doesn’t try to avoid making Willow look bad this season. There are parts this season where Willow has the potential to be very unlikable and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean we’ll all hate her forever; it’s just realistic to her story and her downward spiral. They could have continued this abuse of power; had her become just as destructive and still had her end up where she was in the finale. Unfortunately, midway through the season, this story takes an odd turn which fans and I felt a little unsure about.
Buffy is known for using the supernatural world to craft intelligent metaphors for real life; it was arguably one of the show’s greatest appeals, next to sexy vamps. This season Joss gets a little heavy handed with that and it looses a lot of the subtlety we came to expect from the show. Willow brings back old witch buddy Amy and is led to a magic crack house. Yes…you read right… a magic crack house! Willow goes to this place where magic dealer Rack gets her high on magic. Magic gets you high now. Problem is, there’s no metaphor here. Magic isn’t a metaphor for drugs anymore, magic just IS a drug at this point. They’re in a magic crack house getting stoned for God’s sake! There’s even a hilarious scene in which Amy breaks into Buffy’s house to steal a stash of sage. It isn’t played for comedy, it’s meant to be dead serious. I half expected Willow to bust in with a gun screaming “Where’s the fuckin’ coriander?!!”

Willow goes cold turkey and eventually makes up with Tara, only for Tara to be caught in the crossfire when Warren tries to kill Buffy. Willow naturally loses it and absorbs all the magic books at The Magic Box to get revenge on the nerd trio. This is part of why I think the abuse of power story should have been stuck with; because that’s where she’s back at in the finale. Sure there’s a scene where she absorbs Giles’ magic and gets a buzz, but that’s not the reason she’s doing it; she wants the power; she’s on a mission. Willow flays Warren alive and goes for Andrew and Jonathon. Willow will kill anyone who gets in her way and determined not to let Willow kill again, Buffy is forced to fight her best friend. This is a huge moment for these two and for fans. Buffy kind of gets her ass kicked, but before Willow can kill her, Giles returns, enthused with the power of an English coven. Tension with Giles and Willow grew after the resurrection as Giles was the only one that really took Willow’s casual attitude to huge magic seriously, so seeing them fight is pretty epic. They destroy the Magic Box and Willow absorbs Giles’ magic, after which she leaves to destroy the world.
So…who saves the day? Who has the power? ….Xander. Yep, this season doesn’t end with a massive fight to the death. It ends with Xander telling Willow he loves her and as corny as it sounds, it’s great! This is the first big Willow-Xander scene since the high school years and it’s an incredibly well acted scene by both actors. Willow breaks down in Xander’s arms and the dark mojo leaves her system without killing her, which they feared it might

So, how did I feel about this season? Season 6 is actually my second favourite season of the show. It’s probably the darkest season of the series and I personally like my show’s dark. It does however have it’s light, comedic moments like Once More With Feeling and Tabula Rasa. It has that balance and it probably wouldn’t feel like Buffy without it. Sure I was unsure about Willow’s addiction story line, but I do love the Dark Willow arc that it concludes with. Much of this season is saved, in my opinion, by Alyson Hannigan’s acting. She really gets to show off what she can do this season and boy does she rise to the challenge. It’s a shame that Tara died, because I felt like she was only just really becoming her own character this season and I was really starting to like her a lot… but I understand why it had to happen for the finale; I can’t think of anything else that would have driven Willow over the edge to such an extent.
I loved the musical and can still remember all the song lyrics. I missed Giles, but was glad to see him in the finale. Speaking of the finale… I’m going to say something very controversial here. I kind of wish Willow had died. It’s not that I don’t like her, I do, I like her a lot actually. But think about it…

Xander does his speech, Willow breaks down in his arms, the magic leaves her system and the stress on her body takes its toll. Xander holds his best friend in his arms. De-magiced Willow smiles at Xander, a tear trickling down her cheek and simply says “Thank you”. Xander whispers “I love you” one last time before Willow closes her eyes. Xander weeps with his best friend in his arms.
Season 7 would have brought the group back together. First mourning the friend they lost and then learning to carry on without her. As a result, the final season would have been magic light after such a magic heavy season, focusing more on slayers fighting vampires. The First would ruffle everyone’s feathers by appearing as both Joyce and Willow, leading to a determined Scoobie gang fighting the ultimate evil, spurred on by the memories of the people they’ve lost. Slayer strength and slayer strength alone wins the final battle. The series ends with a montage of past characters, with Kristine Sutherland and Alyson Hannigan sharing a speech off screen over it that ends on Buffy’s face looking into the horizon and the last narration, a nod to Buffy’s previous speech: “Be brave, live…for me.” Buffy smiles.

(End credits)

Okay, so that was indulgent of me, but I would’ve liked it. I did like the way this season ended… I guess my feelings are just tainted a little by the direction Willow went in season 7.
Overall, this was a very strong season which I really enjoyed. It ended with the Scoobies coming back together, as it should be and opened up a lot of new stories for season 7 for everyone. With the climax of this season, you can tell the story is heading towards a conclusion.

Oh and if you’re wondering why I haven’t said much about “Once More With Feeling”, that will have a review of it’s own. This has gotten crazy long as it is. Later guys.

Charmed Comics: Season 9 Review (Part 2)

 

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Welcome back to the Charmed season 9 review! This part will focus on volume 2 of the season, consisting of issues 6-12.

The first thing I want to comment on is something I forgot to mention in part 1. I spoke a little about what I thought about the art quality and I neglected to mention cover artist David Seidman. Seidman illustrated every cover for the series and does a great job every time. His artwork is so detailed and realistic that it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s a complete illustration. It seems he is staying on as cover artist for season 10 and I’m very happy about that because it’d be hard to imagine the covers without his amazing work.

Now onto Volume 2. We start this volume with a Phoebe-centric issue called “Morality Bites Back”. Now, my feelings on this were split when I found out about it. If you read the first part of my review, my feelings on Phoebe should be clear. I don’t like her, in fact I often loathe her. In the early seasons I loved her, but she devolved into a horrid, self centered and detestable human being who I would’ve been glad to see the back of. So with that in mind, I wasn’t sure I’d like a Phoebe centered story much. On the other hand, the issue acts as a follow up to the season 2 episode “Morality Bites”, probably one of the best episodes Charmed did and back in the days where Phoebe was a likable character who took responsibility for her actions and cared about people other than herself.
For those who aren’t aware, in the episode “Morality Bites” the sisters traveled to the future after Phoebe had a vision of her own execution. In this future, Phoebe is on death row after using her powers to kill a murderer after he killed her friend and got away with it. Magic has been exposed and modern day witch hunts are the result. This was one of Charmed’s strongest episodes, in no small part because of how it ended. Phoebe spends the episode wanting to escape and her sisters spend it plotting to bust her out, but when they finally reunite, Phoebe decides to take responsibility and is willing to burn for what she did and to keep her sisters safe. Her sisters watch her burn… and in a show that usually has a convenient easy way out handy, it was pretty shocking to watch.
In “Morality Bites Back”, Phoebe finds out that her work colleague Mika is dating the very man that she murdered in this future, Cal Green. It was thought that after learning the lesson, the future they saw would not come to be, but Phoebe worries that Cal may not be any different. It turns out Cal beats the women he dates and the friend of Phoebe’s that he killed turns out to be Elise, who had dirt on him to print in the paper. The events lead to Phoebe revealing her witchcraft to Elise so that they can get Cal locked away, making her one of the few mortals to know the secret.
This was a really good issue overall. It was a story that I’d always wanted to see revisited and it didn’t disappoint. The issue also reveals Phoebe’s power advancement; the power she used to kill Cal in the alternate future. It turns out to be her Empathy power, which has escalated, allowing her to reflect all of Cal’s rage back at him, using his emotions against him and at the same time forcing him to feel the pain and fear of all his victims; overloading his mind and killing him. This is the first decent power advancement Phoebe’s had since season 1 in my opinion (many will probably disagree with me on that, but suck it) and it’s about time she got a power that can do some serious damage.

A lot of stuff goes on in this volume. Piper’s daughter Melinda is revealed to have whitelighter powers, which causes some confusion since Leo was mortal when she was conceived. It turns out the Elders made her half whitelighter (yeah, apparently they can just do that) so that all three of Piper’s children would be twice-blessed. The main thing this brought up for me is that it implies that Chris has been a twice-blessed child all along and that just raises hundreds of questions about why the hell Wyatt is so much more powerful if that’s the case! I know first borns are meant to be the strongest, but it’d be like if the show had started with Prue getting twenty or so powers while Piper and Phoebe still just got one each! There’s no comparison! Anyway, the whole point of this is supposed to be so that the power of three can transfer to Piper’s kids once the sisters die, but this ends up being revoked by the end of the volume, which really makes me wonder what the point of it was at all! Was it just so that Melinda wasn’t the odd sibling out? In the end, the power of three could potentially go to any of their kids… although I honestly don’t think it should transfer at all personally, but whatever.

Speaking of babies. Paige takes in a sprog of her own after saving him from a demon attack after his mother had been killed. She senses that he is still alive in his dead mother’s womb and, get this…orbs him out of her body! Why the hell have any of the sisters put up with the pain of child birth if Paige can do that? Anyway, this turns out to be Henry jr. and it’s a nice twist considering both Paige and Henry were adopted as children. It’ll also be interesting as the series goes on to see how he’ll cope with being the only mortal kid in the family.

Now, back to Neena. Neena’s identity is revealed in this volume. Phoebe and Paige learn it from Leo, while Piper learns about it in another dimension that Neena has blasted her into. It turns out Neena is the original witch, who, along with her partner, tapped into a force known as The All (which is basically the source of all magic). The two of them having all this power together was too much for the universe to take, so The Elders separated them. Neena is hellbent on getting revenge on The Elders for taking her partner away and intends to merge the heavens and the underworld to bring about a new world order and open a portal to both The All and her lover. Many a familiar face is seen: Cole helps Piper get out of the dimension she’s trapped in and a near death experience has Paige reuniting with all of the Warren line, including Patty and Grams.

The Warren witches take on Neena’s army while the sisters fight Neena herself. It takes all the Warren line to bind Neena’s powers, after which, the heavens and the underworld are separated and Neena is banished to the dimension in which Piper was trapped. However, since Neena was driven to do what she did by The Elders, as a compromise, Neena is given half of every year with her partner. It was a good ending. Neena shouldn’t have been vanquished and I’m glad she wasn’t, because even though her methods weren’t justifiable, she was easy to sympathise with. I like characters that aren’t so cut and dry, good and evil. Neena has layers. She has bitterness and vengeance, but she also has passion, love and a belief that she’s doing the right thing. That’s a good antagonist.
Oh, I forgot to mention…during this battle, Leo gets inside the vault. Viewers of the show may recall the vault as being place that held the urn of Goddess power used in the season 5 finale. Leo gets hold of a sword, known as the Emperyal sword, which also gives him wings. Yeah, so he has magic again. He can make the sword and wings disappear, calling upon them whenever he wants, but there is a price. We’ll get into that later. All I have to say on that now is: Leo, if you want to stay mortal, stop picking up or signing up for all the crazy magic stuff! Elder, Avatar, weird angel sword man… let the witches handle it!

The volume ends by raising a question on everyone’s lips. Why, if every other witch in the family could come down from the heavens to help fight, was the Charmed Ones’ late sister Prue not present? Fans knew that the reason for Prue never being in Charmed again was the fact that Shannen Doherty and Charmed were never ever getting back together… but it never made sense in the show when mom, grandma and any other dead relative was popping down to say hi on a regular basis. So it’s good that this is finally addressed. Grams and Patty basically B.S to the sisters about Prue’s whereabouts and when Cole turns up after the sisters have left, Patty pleads for him to find Prue. Finding Prue is exactly what we’ll be doing in Volume 3.

This volume was pretty good. The conclusion to the Neena story didn’t disappoint. The only down side to this volume is that it’s very heavy on exposition, both with the Neena story and with Melinda being twice-blessed. Although all the exposition is necessary, there are points where you just want to get into the action. This is part of why I buy volumes instead of issues usually. If I’d bought one issue a month, I think there are one or two that I would have been a little underwhelmed by. But a great story overall.

I’ll give Vol 2… 8/10

See you soon.

 

Charmed Comics: Season 9 Review (Part 1)

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So I felt like doing a comic book review and since it has recently been announced that Charmed has been renewed for a tenth season in comic book format, I figured I’d review its ninth season prior to its release.

For those who aren’t aware, Charmed ran for 8 seasons on television; following Piper, Phoebe and Paige, three sisters known as The Charmed Ones; destined to be the most powerful witches the world has ever known. Each sister has her own special powers and together they have The Power of Three, the ultimate magical force against evil.

When I heard Charmed was getting a comic book continuation, I’ll admit, I was very skeptical. There were two main reasons for this. The first is that I felt the show’s final season was pretty terrible; relying heavily on rehashed stories and horrible writing. The show was meant to end at season 7, but was given another renewal despite the story clearly being wrapped up. So, after season 8, I was quite happy for the show not to be coming back in any format. The second reason is that I had a bad experience with canon comic continuations in the past. I’m talking about the comic book continuation of my favourite show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I wanted to like it… if Buffy was continuing in any form, I wanted to love it. I just couldn’t. It was terrible. I even stuck a whole season, then attempted to start the following season, I was that determined. But it wasn’t Buffy, not for me anyway. So I try to pretend the comics don’t exist and just stick to my box sets. Anyway…back to Charmed.

I bought season 9 of Charmed in four trade paperbacks, or volumes; because I don’t have the patience for monthly issues and the volumes tend to be better value for money. So I’ll be reviewing the season in four parts, one for each volume of season 9.

Season 9 starts about a year and a half after the events of season 8 (not including the flash forward). Piper has had her third child, Melinda and has sold P3, in hopes of finding a place to open her restaurant. Phoebe has had her first daughter, Prue (usually called P.J.) and has married Coop. Paige has had her twins, Tamora and Kat, and is still mainly focused on her whitelighter duties. Okay first, let me talk about these kids. If you like children as much as I do, you’ll be glad to hear that they only appear in certain issues. Piper’s daughter Melinda will be following in her big brother’s footsteps later on; using her powers in various reckless and dangerous ways…but Piper of course will not be binding her powers because, erm, dragon conjuring babies will be dragon conjuring babies!? I love how Chris is just the quiet one that gets little to no attention, talk about middle child syndrome! The main thing I want to talk about is the names of Paige’s kids. A lot of fans complained about the randomness of the names Tamora and Kat, but honestly, I can totally buy Paige giving her kids quirky, random names. I never saw her as a traditionalist and think it’s definitely her style.

The main arc this volume involves a mysterious new female baddie called Neena, who is stealing the blood of past innocents to resurrect The Source of All Evil inside a giant statue. For those who don’t know, The Source of All Evil (usually just shortened to The Source) is what it says on the tin. It takes many forms and the sisters have vanquished many of its forms, but since evil never dies, it’ll come back eventually. That’s the theory anyway.

So, they successfully do this, bringing forth the Golem Source (that’s not an official name by the way, just what I’m calling him). The sisters take in the innocents they can find for protection and The Source uses a spell to hypnotize every nearby mortal so that they try and kill the sisters. Paige’s husband Henry being a mortal, means that he tries to choke her to death. It’s a small part of the issue, but the emotional impact continues for them; the implication being that they’ve both experienced and seen violence in the home growing up in the system. On that note, I have to say, Paige and Henry’s relationship was one of the few things I loved about season 8 and they continue to be really well written in season 9. They’re a couple you really route for. They’re not perfect, they have their issues, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less in love or great for each other. They’re everything that Phoebe and Coop aren’t… but I’ll get to that pairing later.

Upon being faced by The Source, Piper gets her blood thirst on and is ready to bury is stoney ass once and for all. Having The Source back brings back all sorts of anger surrounding the death of her sister Prue and Piper is through with having to deal with him. Piper instructs the gang that they must use all the magic they have to try and vanquish him for good. Paige orbs around with a cauldron, collecting bits of power from each member of the magical community to make a potion from. Phoebe writes a spell summarising all the magic in The Book of Shadows and Piper reacquaints herself with Excalibur. Using all this power, they vanquish the Source, however Neena casts a spell that sustains his power long enough to share it among her demonic army. She sits on a throne with her power base growing, but still doesn’t let us know what she is…yet.

Okay, so let’s talk characters. One great thing about the comics is that the dialogue is so spot on. You can easily imagine it in the actors’ voices on TV. After doing her mandatory “Waaah I want a normal life!” bit near the beginning, it was good to see Piper suck it up and get back to her matriarchal leader role. Also glad to see that P3 has been sold. Piper owning a nightclub never made sense to me. She dreamed of owning a restaurant, so she quit her chef job to open a night club that didn’t even serve food…huh? Plus, the main point of P3 was to get bands on the show and to have musical interludes, making it a pretty pointless location to have in the comic version.
I’m happy Paige has accepted her whitelighter duties and has a fixed purpose now. For far too long in the show, they flitted about with what Paige was all about. They seemed incapable of picking one thing and sticking to it, preferring to throw whatever random plot device served the episode at her instead. Also, as I’ve already said, I love the stories between her and Henry. Honestly, I think I like them more than Piper and Leo these days (ooh controversy), but Piper’s still my favourite scary b/witch.
Then there’s Phoebe. Ah Phoebe. The bane of my Charmed viewing for so long. The most self-centered, horrid, narcissistic character I have ever had the displeasure of watching. Well, she still has her moments that make me want Piper to just blow her up and have done with it, but overall, she’s not all that bad this volume. There’ll be more on her soon though.

Speaking of Phoebe, she gets her powers restored this volume. In season 6, Phoebe had her three powers stripped for selfish misuse (what a shock).  By the end of the series she had only regained the first, her premonition, after a whole episode of caring about innocents more than herself. She gets her second power, levitation, during the time between season 8 and this volume. So the only power we actually see restored in this volume is her Empathy, which she gets back when she senses the intense love of a couple. The thing I didn’t get about this… wasn’t Phoebe meant to earn her powers back? Earn them back by actually caring about others? That’s how it happened with her premonition, even if she did forget the lesson entirely an episode later. All she’s doing in this case is bitching about having to take part in a mass-wedding event! Anyway, she’s re-powered now…how the power of three survived without the power to float six feet and bitch about other people’s feelings is beyond me!

Speaking of powers, there are some new ones this season. Each sister develops a power advancement within the first 6 issues. That may seem very close together, but there is actually a reason they all advance at the same time… a reason that will be revealed in part 3. For now, I’ll just tell you what two of them are. Paige is the first to have her powers advance and now she can generate force fields. These are pretty much identical to the ones that Piper’s son Wyatt could create. Paige can use them to protect herself and others, deflect attacks, contain things and bounce demons off it… she usually refers to it as an orb shield. Just to note, this is the first witch power (or hybrid power I suppose) that Paige has gotten since she joined the series; her power to move things with her mind by teleporting objects being the first. Another sister long overdue for a power advancement is Piper, who hadn’t had one since season 3! This season, while fighting the Golem Source, Piper develops the molecular power to generate heat. This is essentially a far more controlled stage of her explosion ability which allows her to heat, melt, burn or boil things. Proving to be very versatile, she once even used it to move Paige’s force field across a battle ground by creating a hot air balloon effect by manipulating air molecules. Phoebe gets her advancement in the first issue of volume 2, so I’ll address hers in the next part of the review.

Wow this turned out long! To think I originally intended to do a whole season review in one post! Overall this is a really strong volume. It successfully reintroduces the characters and the show’s mythology in a way that both rekindles the interest of fans and invites comic book readers who perhaps haven’t watched the show. It was great to see The Source vanquished using the power of three and the mystery of who Neena is definitely had me making theories and posting on the fan forums. The stories and dialogue are well scripted and very easy to get into. The art work varies as the artist changes half way through. The artwork in the second half of this volume is definitely more realistic and detailed, but even the more cartoonish art in the early issues is admittedly nice to look at. My main issue with changing artists is that they need to be far more strict about the look of new characters. It’s not a big issue when they are old characters that are based on actors who’s likenesses we’ll recognise, but if it’s a character debuting in the comic, the look has to be consistent regardless of artist changes. This isn’t such a problem in this volume, but it becomes more apparent in later volumes…I’ll get to that later.

Overall 8/10

Response to Kevin Swanson on “Frozen”

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It’s been all over the internet recently; Christian pastor and radio host, Kevin Swanson, took to his microphone outraged, OUTRAGED I tell ya! Why? Well, because of a Disney movie of course. Swanson wanted to “enlighten” people about the recent Disney hit “Frozen”. For those who haven’t seen it, ‘Frozen’ is loosely based on ‘The Snow Queen’ and follows Elsa, a girl with the power to create snow and ice. The film also follows her sister Anna, a talking snow man named Olaf, heroic mountaineer Kristoff and his reindeer Sven. 

Swanson’s claim was that the film promoted lesbianism, homosexuality (love how those are two completely separate things) and bestiality. 

Let’s start with the bestiality claims. Swanson believes that this is a clear theme in Frozen and he sees this in the relationship between Kristoff and his reindeer Sven. Now, having seen Frozen, Kristoff clearly cares a great deal for Sven and openly shows affection towards him… and I guess in Swanson’s mind this equates to bestiality. So by special Swanson logic, I suppose anyone who has a pet and who shows affection towards an animal, must be into animal sex. I wonder if he sees this in other human-animal friendships in the media. Perhaps Wallace and Gromit were doing the dirty… don’t even get me started on War Horse! Clearly to care for something, you must want to screw it; what other explanation is there? If Swanson can’t differentiate between these two things, frankly that’s his issue, nobody else’s.

Now let’s talk lesbians. The target of this part of Swanson’s outrage was the snow queen herself, Elsa. The “reasoning” behind this is mainly that Elsa has, and I quote a: “lack of male suitors” or interest in men. She displays absolutely no interest in women either, but since she doesn’t have a boyfriend, go out on a dating spree or get married off by the end of the film… she has to be gay! This thinking really sums up the sort of guy Swanson is, doesn’t it? All you single girls better be careful, don’t want people thinking you like the ladies; better get hitched ASAP before the rumours start! It’s pathetic, misogynist, dark age, bullshit. Not that any of us should be surprised by it. 

Swanson claims that Disney is the most pro-gay organisation in the world and while Disney certainly has some clear opinions, you’d think being so extremely pro-gay, they might have…oh I dunno; one openly gay character perhaps? Which they don’t, but that won’t stop Swanson analysing movies with his unusually wired mind until he finds something that’ll fit his claims of “the gay agenda”. Swanson believes that Satan would most likely buy Disney to brainwash our kids and also believes that Christians will be burned at the stake due to gay marriage (how he reached that conclusion is for his therapist to know). In all seriousness though, this is straight up paranoia. We know this, but for some reason, put religious buzzwords like God, Satan, sin etc. behind it and we shrug it off like it isn’t as deeply disturbing and worrying.

All I can say to Swanson is: it’s all in you. You’re watching children’s films and finding sexual and satanic meaning in them. None of the things you see in Frozen are actually there. Anyone who now relates Frozen to these things, has your ramblings to thank, not Disney. It’s coming from your warped mind which, I’m 99% sure, could find Satan in absolutely anything! The only thing putting the innocence of children on the line is when adults like you take something like “Frozen” and twist it into something sinister. You did that! It’s on you!

Of course by that I’m referring to the bestiality and Satanic connections… as for your fear of gay people taking over the world or whatever the hell kind of conspiracy theory you have going; grow the hell up! Open a book of 21st century research and you might feel a little easier living in a world that isn’t 100% heterosexual, Christian, white male. If people being different scares you so much, whatever…but don’t expect to be treated like a mature and intelligent adult until you start acting like one. 

 

Shows That Should Have Kicked the Bucket But Didn’t

This is a list of shows that should have been cancelled but kept going despite major declines… many of them are still going today! In most cases, these are shows that were at one time great, but often the notion of ending something on a high is alien to the folks in charge. Note- although these are numbered, they are not ranked, so in no particular order:

1) Two and a Half Men

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Seriously, what is this show even about now? The premise of the series has completely dissolved and the title doesn’t even make sense anymore! Truth be told, the show started wearing thin before Charlie Sheen had even left; with the “half man” Jake being fully grown and Alan becoming more and more redundant… but since the death of Charlie’s character, the show has just disintegrated. I have nothing against Ashton Kutcher, but he fits into the cast about as well as a flamingo fits in with vultures! His character sponging off Alan despite having no relation to him makes no sense. Jake is fully grown and has lost all the charm he had as a young boy; also losing the cute relationship he had with his grandmother.
All in all, it stopped being Two and a Half Men and turned into Two Losers and Ashton Kutcher…which just isn’t something I’m interested in watching.

2) Family Guy

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Perhaps Seth MacFarlane should put an end to the series and come back for specials every so often; he clearly has too much focus on breaking Hollywood anyway, this would give him time to do so. The fact is, Family Guy has declined a lot in the last few years; perhaps it’s because of how Seth’s focus has shifted, I don’t know, but either way, fan’s have noticed. Some long running jokes have become nothing but lazy, boring filler with the humour drained from them completely. Ratings have dropped considerably and the recent “Bryan dies” gimmick which was reversed after a few episodes after huge controversy, is a clear sign of how desperate the show is to get noticed the way it used to. Just do a movie or two and go out with some dignity left guys.

3) Charmed

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Charmed announced that there was a high chance that the seventh season would be its last until the WB renewed them for one more season last minute. So last minute in fact, that season seven had been filmed and the cast and crew had a series end wrap party! Two things were wrong with Charmed having a season eight- 1) The WB slashed the budget dramatically but demanded “new blood”, because of this, new faces were brought in while some veteran characters disappeared or got killed off; way to know what the fans want from a final season guys! 2) Season 7 was blatantly written as the last one, so carrying on was incredibly labored and ended up focusing more on the new faces than it did the main characters; because their story had ended. As a result, what we do get is new characters hardly anyone liked, rehashes of old story lines and countless furious fans. Fortunately, they picked things up a little for the two part finale, but it certainly didn’t make up for 20 episodes that made fans want to kick the TV!

4) Supernatural

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Let’s all be brutally honest here… at this stage in the game, Supernatural is sustained by fangirls and fanboys drooling over the two leads (or maybe just the one lead now, because the one who used to be in Gilmore Girls really didn’t age well did he?). Anyway, what used to be a deliciously dark and gritty show has been blown completely out of proportion in recent years. Repetitiveness dragged the series down to the level of resorting to cringe worthy “comedic” episodes which look like the script consisted of the sentence: “Make the tough guys do stupid stuff, it’s funny, no?” This show just got way too big for its boots.

5) The Vampire Diaries

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If not for the ongoing vampire obsession, this show wouldn’t have made it passed season 3. For the record, I used to love this show based on the book series (which FYI was published quite some time before Twilight). The first two seasons were really good and the series had a lot of promise. Sadly, the third season was repetitive and painfully boring and season four stopped being The Vampire Diaries and started being Twilight the series; doing story lines that were such blatant rip offs and so far from the books that many devoted fans threw in the towel. But then as I said, the unwavering vamp fanatics will probably keep it going until the first couple of really good seasons seem like a distant dream that never was! They’ve even made a freakin’ spin-off now, God help us.

6) Sex and the City

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Okay this one is kind of cheating, because it’s actually just the second movie that shouldn’t have happened. The series ended after six seasons then did a movie that was very successful and gave the franchise a great ending that everyone seemed pleased with. But oh of course they got greedy and did a sequel! This is sort of similar to Charmed’s last season in that the story had clearly been ended; there was nothing left to do. In this case, we have the girls going on vacation in Abu Dhabi in the sequel that was about an hour and a half too damn long. Why too long you ask? The story (or lack of) didn’t warrant anywhere near that long. Carrie finds an old boyfriend on vacation, causing issues with herself and Big despite them having had their final happy ending moment in the previous film making for tedious repetition. Meanwhile the three other leads really don’t do much of anything that’s memorable. No real development and an incredibly condescending views of other cultures which bordered on plain offensive. Give it a miss, the first film was the perfect ending anyway, you’ll honestly miss nothing!

7) Sabrina the Teenage Witch

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Many factors played a part in the seventh and final season of Sabrina the Teenage Witch being a shambles. Firstly, several actors were lost; three being the most notable. The first two are Sabrina’s aunts Hilda and Zelda. Their departure was never going to be a good thing, because truth be told, there were many fans who watched the show more for the aunts than they actually did for Sabrina herself, especially in the later years. Sabrina became the only character with magic in the series and that made for a season that was far less enchanting than it had been in the past. The third big character loss was Josh. Josh had been Sabrina’s boyfriend on and off since the fourth season and the love triangle between Sabrina, Josh and Harvey was a recurring theme throughout the series. Season 7 was meant to be the climax to that, with Sabrina and Josh getting engaged and Harvey running off with Sabrina in the end. Sadly, the actor playing Josh wanted to leave to pursue his amazing career that never existed and because of this the story line was changed to allow for Sabrina to meet a guy at work who she hardly knew and who we hardly knew, so that they could get engaged ridiculously quickly and end the story the same way. Yeah… it fell a bit short overall.