I Stand Still

I’ve lived here for two lifetimes. You may think my existence rather dull; I don’t move passed the park in which I stand. You may find my life hard to appreciate, but I wouldn’t ask for anything different. I am surrounded by those like me; but we share our space with many of the world’s underappreciated wonders. The rejuvenating rain showering me with its sparkling sapphire droplets; the warm sun shining down on me, bringing out every colour of me in glimmering clarity; bird song above me as a mother witnesses her child’s first moment of life. This and so much more make my simple life so special. Maybe you quietly value the beauty of us as you walk by and perhaps you understand how we are necessary to those who live with us; more closely than perhaps you do. If so, then thank you.

As I stand here, where I always am; as I am one of the lucky ones… I think how wonderful a thing it is to be able to stand still. To look out at this land, this world we call our home and to feel safe and secure that my roots are grounded in the earth; that the breeze cools when the sun’s rays turn water to steam; that children will be laughing and playing, bringing innocent joy to every day. I think these things, looking into the distance, until a strange sound changes everything.

A loud bang…then haunting quiet. The birds happily tweeting now screech a warning; fluttering away as fast as their wings will carry them. I stand still. The laughing and playing of children becomes crying and screaming; parents run to their aid in a frantic panic. I stand still. The breeze that once cooled in the hot sun is now harsh and hot; scratching like barbed wire with each shallow breath. I stand still. The sky darkens and the beautiful distance is clouded by thick, black smog. I stand still.  Those like me wither, those unlike me wither; nothing to see anymore, nothing to take in anymore; just ash and the dark. I stand still. So many years; so many life times; so much beauty crafted over centuries… gone in a matter of seconds. I stand still.

My existence is a humble one; or should I say was? I don’t feel death, though it does claim me nevertheless. I don’t understand politics, war or hate. I don’t feel fear, but that I understand. Fear of loss. What is this, if not the greatest loss? I don’t even get to be a memory; because you left nobody here to remember. Our beautiful land is now an unmarked grave; my roots can’t even cling to the wasteland that remains. No person lives on ashes and dust; so how could this be your end goal?

All I did was stand still; that was enough for me. But now there’s nothing to stand on, nothing to stand for. Don’t you see? It was enough for me.

So… is this it? Is this enough for you? Is nothing what you wanted all along? What you wanted for us all?

All I did was stand still. Maybe, just maybe, more should have taken a moment to do the same. Then would I matter? Would you?  

 

Charmed Season 9 (Comic Book Review) Part 4- The Final Chapter….

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…Until season 10 anyway, which won’t be long now. I’m looking forward to reviewing season 10 as it is released as opposed to doing it in such a belated fashion as with this season; though I’ve enjoyed looking back at the comics and reviewing season 9 nevertheless. So, we’re on to the fourth and final volume of the ninth season. We vanquished The Source, we met the first witch and we got Prue back in a new body! It’s been eventful so far. Darklighter Rennek is still out there scheming despite his plan to reunite the sisters and send the world into chaos being thwarted. We ended volume 3 with Paige’s adopted son Henry jr. using a magic power to cover his room in ice… but hey, isn’t he mortal? Well, we get a explanation soon enough in vol. 4.

Volume 4 opens with Phoebe giving birth. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that it was hinted at by Cole in volume 3 that she was pregnant? Oops. Well, obviously there is a considerable time lapse between the third and fourth volume. Phoebe gives birth to her second daughter, Parker Halliwell. But it is not a very happy world that Parker has been born into. Magic is gone, well not gone, but switched. The sisters no longer have magic; nor do the rest of the magical community; now it belongs to the mortals. Ever Tom, Dick and Harry has a power now. Among them, Henry can transform objects and Elise can make plants grow, so they help the sisters out when suspicion is aroused. You see, now that magic is the new normal, anyone without it is met with suspicion and rumours are spreading about the government taking and dissecting those who don’t display powers to work out why they’re different. So, it’s a scary world.  Violent magic gangs are forming and the government has created magic squads to try and control them; leading to huge supernatural riots on the city streets. It’s a cool story line which merges the light wacky elements of Charmed with a very dark and sinister tone; much like the early seasons but on a grander scale.

While all this is happening, Rennek is in an unknown location, living a life of luxury. Somehow he has taken control of the world’s magic; but there’s one thing he doesn’t foresee. 

After months of being away from her sisters, Prue is out doing what she does best, demon fighting. You may remember that Prue stripped her magic last volume so that the power of three could go on without her; so technically, she’s mortal now. Not only has the switch given her her old powers back, she has all her sisters’ powers as well. The power of three in one body.

As a magic gang approaches the Halliwells, an old friend comes to their aid. It’s Darryl! Yay, Darryl. In his first appearance since the season 7 finale, Darryl is heading one of the magic squads, because God knows he’ll never escape the supernatural craziness! Armed with a cool new laser beam power, Darryl reunites with the sisters. There’s a nice moment in which Darryl asks Prue about Andy (his partner, who died in season 1), it was a nice touch.

As Prue goes outside and fights the magic gang with all she has, the sisters slowly begin to get their powers back. The more magic Prue exhausts, the more power the sisters get back. Prue starts an earth quake, Piper manages to cause a small explosion; Prue deflects an attack, Paige manages to raise up her forcefield; and finally, Phoebe and Prue share a premonition of Prue’s unconscious body on the ground. Using the last bit of magic she has left, Prue uses a power of three spell all on her lonesome to banish the gang from the area; ending with her dropping unconscious as the premonition foretold. Prue’s body is healed by Paige, but not before Prue meets Cole in the space between life and death, where it’s getting crowded and people are panicking, as the doors to the afterlife are shut due to Earth’s magic being all wonky. 

The gang venture to the Nexus of The All. I think I mentioned The All in the Neena arc right? The magical energy that runs through the world? Well The Nexus of The All is like the yummy caramel center, the high point of earth’s magic… which takes the form of a huge purple dome in the middle of the desert, usually invisible. This happens to be where Rennek is and he has the Empyreal Sword and the Grimoire (The Underworld’s Book of Shadows), which is how he has taken control of the magic. Inside the dome, the sisters can reach the full potential of their powers; which is good, because Rennek is using his magic to make soldiers out of just about anything that’s handy. 

Piper is able to blow up like ten soldiers at once and can also change the soldiers back to their original inanimate forms simply by willing it to happen. Phoebe can fly and she enjoys it very much. Paige opts for scattering the soldiers’ orbs across the world; making it impossible for them to reassemble. 

Prue manages to take the sword out of The Grimoire and get this… absorbs both into herself! Dude, how badly do you want magic in you? Not that I can blame her, who wouldn’t? She ends up with a bunch of runic style tattoos on her body and uses her new magic to vanquish Rennek and put everything back to normal. While I admit, it was a cool and climactic ending; I was a little unsure how I felt about how Prue pretty much ended Rennek’s reign while Piper, Phoebe and Paige just sorta watched… but I guess they had a big battle beforehand. Oh by the way, I loved seeing the sisters’ friends helping in the fight: Elise, Darryl, Tyler, Bailey…that was good to see, it’s nice that they have more allies now. 

Prue is now The Guardian of the Nexus and because of this, she must stay in the dome… but she uses her magic to transform it into a replica of the Manor. Cole is assigned to stay with Prue at the Nexus in order to act as a sort of messenger between her and the sisters (also giving Prue some company I guess), it’s said that if he proves himself by doing this, The Elders may let him move on. While I like the idea of Prue and Cole in this role; I have major issues with the Elders having a say over when anyone gets to move on; isn’t that The Angel of Death’s deal? Anyway, it should be interesting to see where that goes in season 10. 

It was certainly a big finale. Fan response to the final few issue was a little mixed. Some think it got a bit too “out there” and should stick to being grounded in the cozy Manor setting. I actually don’t mind the bigger story lines (season 7 was a fav of mine after all) but I get what some people are saying. I definitely preferred the first half of season 9 to the second, but the second set up a lot of stuff that will continue into season 10 and I am very interested to see what develops.

Half of the artwork in this volume is Dean Kotz, continuing from vol. 3, while the last few issues are illustrated by Rubine. Rubine’s art is quite nice; the likenesses are pretty good although some times it’s a little too obvious that the drawings are based on promo photos, making it look a little less natural than I might like. However, many of the artists improved as they did more issues, so perhaps if Rubine returns for season 10 at some point, we’ll see those creases ironed out. I thought the same with Dean Kotz…while his art was far from my favourite, he definitely improved as the season went on.

So, that’s season 9 done. Been fun to go back over it. I’m very happy Charmed is back, despite my initial reservations. This is a very good comic book continuation. It transitions smoothly from screen to page and remains very true to the show, both with story lines and characters. Say what you will about the Buffy vs. Charmed debate, but I do believe the Charmed comics have succeeded in doing what, I’m sad to say, the Buffy comics failed to do in so many ways. This really is season 9, a natural progression to the story. I don’t find myself using the “well, it’s a comic” excuse, which really isn’t even an excuse. This fits so easily into the Charmed canon that you can feel secure in the fact that the Charmed-verse is in very good hands. Not only that, but the comics have rekindled my love for Charmed. After season 8, I was happy to say goodbye to Charmed; I thought the series had had everything squeezed out of it that it possibly could… and not in a good way. But the comics answered questions the show didn’t; it brought new life to the Charmed-verse and its characters. So way to go Paul Ruditis, Zenescope and everyone else involved in this great comic book series.

Charmed isn’t over. I’ll see you in season 10.

5 Characters I Would Like to See Get Spin Offs

I’ve been watching some Angel recently and it got me thinking about spin offs. Angel was spun off from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I can completely see why they gave him his own series. The character’s past had been explored somewhat in Buffy, but with a character that had lived for centuries, it pretty much stood to reason that they probably wouldn’t be able to explore all that as much as they might like in a show where he wasn’t the central character.
Anyway, this got me thinking about which characters from which TV shows I think would make good spin offs (or would have made, since some of these are no longer airing). Some of these ideas were actually suggested, but most were just made up by me. We’ll start with a Buffy one since I already mentioned it:

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1) Rupert Giles (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

This spin off actually was in the works but sadly kept running into obstacles. The dark past of Buffy’s watcher, Giles; had been touched on a little in certain Buffy episodes and Joss Whedon wanted to do an England based series in which that could be explored more. Joss had collaborated with the BBC to try and bring this show about, which was to be titled “Ripper”, nearly securing a 90 minute film; described as a classic ghost story… but sadly it wasn’t meant to be. Joss Whedon has recently mentioned the spin off again though, so fingers crossed; maybe one day. Buffy was a hugely popular show and Giles was a much loved character, so it certainly has potential. Plus, Anthony Stewart Head is a very good actor who could certainly hold his own show.  

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 2) Penelope Garcia (Criminal Minds)

Criminal Minds attempted a spin off not so long ago called “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour”, but it got cancelled after one season. I think the problem is, Criminal Minds sets itself apart from other crime dramas. The BAU’s methods for catching criminals make it unique… so to try and do another show with another group doing the same thing, in my opinion, takes away from that a bit. If Criminal Minds did do a spinoff, it should be something else different that stands out and I think a great way to do that would be a Garcia spinoff. Garcia’s hacker past has been explored in a few episodes and with the growing significance of cyber-crime; a show with her at the helm could be very interesting. Plus, everybody loves Kirsten Vangsness and the more Garcia the better. Oh and if they added Nicholas Brendon’s Kevin Lynch as her main sidekick, they’d be golden… diamond, with platinum and glitter bits even!

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3) Salem Saberhagen (Sabrina the Teenage Witch)

This one may seem a little nuts, but come one, we all watched Sabrina for Salem mostly, right? He’s a sarcastic, talking cat, what more do you need? Okay, well if you did need more, how about this? So many years/decades/whatever after the last episode of Sabrina, Salem is coming towards the end of his sentence as a cat… but in order to complete his sentence, the witch council sets him certain tests/tasks to prove that he has learned his lessons and really changed. Salem is sent on all kinds of adventures and hilarity ensues. You know you’d love it! Sadly they only attempted one Sabrina spin off, centred around her cousin Amanda; attempts which obviously failed; no doubt because it was far too similar to the show it stemmed from.

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4) Cole Turner or Drake De Mon (Charmed)

I was torn with this one. There were two demons in Charmed who stole my heart. To be fair, Cole was in it longer, so I should probably give this to him… but at the same time, Billy Zane was just so fun to watch as Drake, that I can’t imagine a spin off with him being anything but super fun. Both would have themes around fighting their demonic natures and trying to do good, but they’d also be quite different since the characters have different tones. A Cole spin off would be more broody and gritty, while I imagine a Drake spin off would be much camper and comedy centred. Either way, who wouldn’t watch these guys? Actually now that I think of it, why am I trying to choose? Put them together in a show!

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5) Cletus: The Slack Jawed Yokel (The Simpsons)

If a spin off was to be made of The Simpsons, I personally think it should be more adult oriented. Now, arguably, The Simpsons isn’t really kid friendly… but I’m talking more like Family Guy/South Park level of raciness. Also, it would have to focus on a character that people enjoy, but also who wouldn’t be missed too much in The Simpsons. So although I may love Flanders for example, I wouldn’t want a spin off for him because such a huge part of his comedy is about interaction with the Simpson family. Cletus, in my opinion, would be a great peripheral character to explore; doing a cruder comedy centred on him and his hillbilly family. Looking at the messes they get into and how other people respond to them and how they live. Could make for a good show.

Charmed: Season 9 – Volume 3 (Comic Book Review)

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Okay, so I finally got round to rereading the third part of Charmed season 9 so that I could review it with my memory refreshed. This volume is a biggy. It’s not my favourite volume, but I say it’s a biggy because it centers around what is possibly the most controversial story line in the series. First, some backstory…

Throughout Charmed, fans were asking, where’s Prue? Well, we knew that Shannen Doherty didn’t want to return to the show after being killed off, but it never really made sense considering all the spirits in Charmed (including their Grams and mother, both of whom made fairly regular appearances) that Prue would for some reason be the exception. Unable to get Shannen Doherty back on the show, the writers ignored this issue and went on with the show without bringing it up. In season 9 they answer this question: where is Prue? At the end of the last volume, we had every Warren witch except Prue joining the fight and that question was raised by the sisters. In a cliffhanger, mother to the Charmed Ones, Patty, begged Cole to try and find Prue, implying that she is missing. 

So that’s where we left off and I’ll get into Prue’s story soon, but before that, this volume starts with a few more episodic issues. The first of which is a stand alone Piper story in which Wyatt casts a spell to clone Piper when she neglects to spend much time with him while she’s working on opening the restaurant. It was a fun episode and a nice call back to the season one episode “Which Prue is it Anyway?” The episode ends with Piper’s restaurant opening and we see that she has named the restaurant “Halliwell’s”, a simple but perfectly fitting name.

Sadly, the next issue is boring me just thinking about it. Brace yourself folks, we have our first Coop-centric episode. Oh boy. One positive thing I will say is that it gives us much more insight into how cupids are made and what it entails; it also makes a valiant attempt to flesh out Coop’s character a bit, because God knows they made next to no effort with that in season 8. But here’s the thing… Coop is boring. Maybe it’s just me, although listening to other fans I really don’t think it is, maybe we’re all comparing him to Phoebe’s past boyfriends too much… I mean, if he’s being compared to the likes of Cole and Drake, no wonder he falls flat. But honestly, if I used one word to describe Coop, it would be ‘bland’. As boring as I found this issue, quite possibly the most boring issue of the season, I appreciate the effort to make him more of a character. When you look at the other husbands: Leo has been in almost the whole series, so it’s fair enough that he’d be more developed… but look at Henry. So much more was done to develop him in season 8 and he quickly became a fan favourite. Meanwhile, Coop felt like more of a tacked on after thought to hook Phoebe up with. It seemed they liked the idea of Phoebe ending up with a cupid so much that they thought that in itself would be enough to keep people interested and as a result, many were left seemingly unimpressed. The issue does however make him more sympathetic and gives us a look at the rather sad way in which cupids are made. It turns out they are the souls of deceased babies, which lends Coop to a pretty sad backstory.

Paige’s twins develop their powers this volume. Splitting Piper’s molecular manipulation ability and receiving less developed versions; one gets the power to slow this down, while the other gets the power to set fires. This brings up more issues for Paige and Henry in regards to magic when Tamora sets the house on fire. They agree on binding her powers until she’s old enough to control them… gee, maybe Wyatt should have been raised by Paige and Henry!

Okay, now to Prue’s part. Cole finally finds Prue in Salem, but she doesn’t look like Prue. Here’s the story:
When Prue died, she was still tied to the destiny of The Charmed Ones and it tore her soul apart as that destiny hadn’t been fulfilled. Even though the prophecy transferred to Paige, Prue was still connected and for that reason, the true potential of the power of three was never reached; explaining why they needed their ancestors to vanquish the Source and The Hollow to fight Billie and Christy etc. By entering the body of a witch who’s soul had been taken, Prue returned to earth and the sisters became stronger now that Prue was on the same plane… this is why all of the power advancements this season occurred around the same time. Prue has adopted the alias, Patience, and is guiding witches in Salem. She is not too happy to be found, because if she comes into contact with her sisters, the whole prophecy goes to hell, because there was never meant to be a power of 4… and thank God for that, because if I wanted that sort of fan-fiction indulgence, I’d read it online for free!
But of course, not everything goes to plan for Prue. A darklighter named Rennek who worked with Neena in the previous arc is plotting against them. Rennek was a powerful darklighter and a nemesis of Leo… I don’t think I mentioned him in the last review, because he did basically just act as Neena’s minion, but now she’s gone, he’s working his own mission. Rennek orchestrates a meeting between Paige and Prue and as soon as Paige touches her… BANG! Like literally, bang. An explosion knocks them both on their asses and the sisters’ powers start going insane. Piper’s freeze begins to spread rapidly across the country and demons are rising up from the underworld to take advantage, while Phoebe completely loses control of her levitation and finds herself rocketing to another state. Once reunited, the sisters only have one way to set things right; someone has to give up their magic. Feeling left out now that Prue is back and feeling the strain that magic is having on her family life, Paige makes a potion to strip her magic. It’s a nice and emotional moment for the sisters, trying to convince Paige not to take it and seeing how far she’s come that she’s actually willing to. Cole suggests to Prue that maybe part of why she was still linked was that she couldn’t let go emotionally and Prue admits that that maybe the case. Heroic and self-sacrificing as always, Prue takes the potion from Paige and gives up her own magic. This pissed off a lot of Prue fans, but I think it was 100% true to the character and loved that she did it for Paige. Prue leaves, stating that she made a new life for herself now, but that she’ll keep in touch.

Oh and while all this was happening, Rennek took Leo and did something spooky… but more on that in the next review.

The volume ends with a one shot of Paige called “Crossed Triple Crossed” a nod to the episode “Charmed Noir” in which Paige was sucked into a book called “Crossed Double Crossed”. When it turns out Henry jr.’s biological dad belongs to a crime family, Paige conjures a private detective from a book to help get the proof she needs to send him away and keep her son safe… naturally, she’s double crossed. It’s a fun story that you can completely imagine in a Charmed episode; in fact I’d say that of the Piper issue too. Both those stories are the exact kind of episodic storylines you can imagine on TV. Not that you can’t imagine that with the more arc centred issues, just something I felt particularly strongly reading the one shots in this volume.

Now let’s talk art work. All but one issue are illustrated by Dean Kotz in this volume. His artwork hasn’t been the strongest in the Charmed comics, although I do think his work generally improves as the season goes on. He’s very good at drawing settings, like the Manor or the streets of San Francisco, but his work with characters and likenesses has split fans. As I said, I do think he improves as he goes on and I am happy that they managed to stick with an artist for a whole arc in order to keep a consistent look this time round. One thing I will say however is that emotional expression on his characters can fall short sometimes. Not always; I actually thought he did a great job in “Piper’s Place” for example. But sometimes, the characters just aren’t really expressive enough. Fans especially picked up on this in the scene in which Prue reunites with her sisters… I noticed it in the next volume when Phoebe is giving birth: her mouth is open like she’s screaming, but the rest of her face is pretty much expressionless. I also sometimes have trouble differentiating between the husbands. Sometimes I think I’m looking at Henry and then realise from the dialogue that it’s Coop and vice versa.

This volume wasn’t my favourite. I did enjoy the way in which Prue was brought back and it had me looking forward to seeing what directions they would take her character. For the record, I’m imagining Prue’s new appearance as Portia De Rossi… oh come on, we all read it and picture it being acted out on TV and you know it!
When we really got into the story of this volume, it was great…but there was a lot of exposition to get through and although it was necessary, I guess I was expecting a bit more of a battle at the end of it; although I do realise much of this is set up for the final arc. As great and well done as Prue’s come back is, I honestly found myself enjoying the one shots more in this volume. They were nice breaks from a pretty intense story line and both made for fun issues.

I’ll give this one 6/10

See you for the final volume.

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.