Sunday, 1 July 2012

Generation: Fucked

Throughout modern history since the "Teenager" developed its own sense of style, rebellion and lucrative demographic, every generation has fought with their parents, claiming how much harder their lives are compared to that of their elders crying "you just don't understand how different it is." This being said however the current generation of Under 25's have it rough and will continue to be on the receiving end of a particularly raw deal, housing benefits being cut for this age group leaving graduates to graduate and to be left in the wilderness with record debt. I argue however, that this isn't the first time our generation has faced the brunt of a politically motivated attack, rather my generation should be nothing but used to this by now.

Being a "strange" 13 year old boy, I'd listen to the news, read The Mirror my dad brought back from work an all in all enjoy finding out about the world of politics, until i noticed something, the emergence of the demonising of "chav" and "hoodie" culture, basically saying that teenager + hood = stab wound and nicking your wallet. Of course it was the education system that came under attack for it, saying we should be harder on this particular generation of deviants. As I said previously, I was 13, school is a bloody hard place for anyone of that age no matter how "hard" you want to come down on a generation and being at a year 7-9  that took itself ridiculously seriously you hardly had any room to breathe at all let alone room to be come down harder on. But no, those who have no experience of being in such a school learning the SAT curriculum wanted it to be harder. I'd forgive them and label my angst as immature and fitting in with the age old argument as a teen and then evolving past that and realising that its the same for everyone, if it wasn't for the trend i noticed to emerge...

Anticipating the results for my SATs I turned on the radio, "Are SATs too easy?" No i replied and thought nothing of it. Two years later, it was GCSE's and the same radio headlines and of course the consensus in both of these arguments were "of course they are too easy." Another two years A-Levels were the target and I'd had enough of our generations achievements being belittled at every f***ing turn by the opposition to government and the press. And of course over these seven years of secondary education our generation were perceived as criminals and deviants and such. Again, from this stand point of writing i might just sound like an angry teenager and again I'd  acknowledge, the problem being, this hasn't stopped past us growing into adults and people who lambasted us for the past decades are still making attacks on our generation.

We get to university and the press explode attacking ex-polytechnics and "mickey mouse degrees," tarring us all as lay about spongers from the loans we have to get to survive living at university. I understand these criticisms and some degrees aren't worth the paper their certified on, but at the same time you can't simply attack the entire thing without looking at the merits. It was here we thought we could accomplish something, some real change and most of us did it by voting for the Lib Dems (idiots they were as i said prior to the election but never mind) because many of us thought they were representing us against those who didn't have clue about us, but then one sniff of power and they make it worse for us than it ever has been. Not only now have our generation been politically attacked, but now we're also an ideological Atlas, our generation is the down and kicked of Cameron's Britain, all job prospects taken away and essentially turned into the debt pack-mules of DC's cuts, no hope, no money and we're labelled as the age group that's suffocating the country. Sat in a lecture theatre studying politics and trying to make head nor tails of why we are being continually treated like this a careers advisor reminds me that my degree entitles me to apply for a store managers job at Morrisons. 3 years studying the machinations of the political system and I can look forward to such a fulfilling and satisfying job of making sure some cretin has displayed the bananas correctly.

And then we graduate into a situation where there is literally next to nothing left for us. Not only has the political system victimised, patronised and vilified my generation, they've also abandoned us too. Using us to prove a point and then leaving us by the wayside with nothing to go for. "Oh but Dan, if you want to make something of yourself you have to go out  and do it for yourself!" I'm aware of this, but the people telling me this are those who experienced the boom of the Blair years and the victories of the minimum wage instead of some etonian actively recreating Dickens's Britain and continually moving the f***ing goal posts at every given chance. So go on and take our housing benefits, make it impossible for us to move into our own places, and make us completely unable to spend by either taking every job from us bar being the feudal knights in charge of the peasants of Morrisons or leaving us on the dole in our parents homes whilst they struggle to make ends meet too. And if the UN's recent report on drugs is true, there'll be a continuing boost to offset the misery that your causing my generation, surely that's not going to "build a better Britain?" After all, most of us gave up at Nick Clegg.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Five reasons Prometheus is a better film than you think

Prometheus. The divisive return of Ridley Scott to both sci-fi and the Alien franchise. The subsequent marketing blitz and media coverage can be blamed on heightening the expectation of cinema fans into thinking that the films were more directly linked than they actually are. As a result of this, cinema-goers hopes for the film were that, both of cinematic revolution and Alien: Again. Neither were the case, thus leading to an absolute kicking by the critics and the leaving of fans in a state of disappointment. I somehow circumnavigated these expectations and due to early expectation expected a disaster akin to The Phantom Menace. This abandon of hope allowed me to see the film with a freer mind. Going with a knowledge of the viral pre-release material and a new pessimistic attitude towards the film gave me a nice perspective on the film, whilst at the same being able to appreciate what this cut of the film is, a mess. This being said, the franchises lore, themes and ideas present in the film are far more substantial than the critical response seems to acknowledge. Here are five reasons why i believe Prometheus, love it or hate it, is a much better film than the fanboy kickings, the clunkily written script and the messy cut would suggest.

1. Context of Genre

There's three areas that need to be established before looking at Prometheus: the non-direct prequel which allows for further pre/sequels, Ridley Scotts most recent work and the way the franchise has been dealt with post Aliens. Firstly, the only behemoth science fiction franchise that has ever thought it necessary for a trilogy of blockbuster prequels is Star Wars, which is notoriously labelled as being one of the most soul-destroying trilogies of all time. Prometheus bares more direct comparison with the unholy Phantom Menace than it would seem on the surface. Both have rather clunky scripts, both introduce new angles on a well established franchises and both received a complete panning upon release. Where Prometheus triumphs here is, not that it took much doing, is more its style of prequel. As opposed to answering questions left by the previous films, it subtly hints and suggests at areas instead of PM's approach of "because Midichlorians and uninteresting political corruption." Whilst there is needlessly blunt exposition on Prometheus, the style in which it addresses the lore of the previous films and the lore Scott has created intrinsically is much more a victory than cringe worthy defeat.

2. Scott and Direction

Secondly we have the comparison to Scotts most recent work and again in here we see many surprising comparisons. The film in question is Robin Hood, a needless "new" take on Robin Hood set against the political situation in medieval Britain. The main comparison to be had here is the choosing of those perceived as the lead roles Noomi Rapace's Elizabeth Shaw, and the more obvious lead of Russel Crowe's Robin Hood. In both films these leads are both non-english actors attempting the accent. Rapaces accent has claimed some criticism, yet it cannot be as bad as Crowes vocal tour of the British Isles  in his performance. Across the space of a mere sentence, Crowe can be seen in Robin Hood of starting Irish, taking the ferry across the mersey before residing in Lancashire until his next breath in which he's taken the megabus to Cornwall. Whilst Robin Hoods visual style is somewhat pleasing, the film certainly isn't, leading to an end battle scene which is more "Saving Private Robin" than merry men stealing. The film was an abject failure and a weak addition to Scotts portfolio. This was the last film before Prometheus, in which Scotts authorial skill is back up to speed, commanding an already established fiction into new and far more intriguing territory than the franchise has previously known.

3. The Context of Franchise

Those who are disappointed that the film was more Star Trek than Alien are forgetting the previous attempts at recreating Scotts 1979 masterpiece. The last pure attempt at making one Xenomorph the main antagonist was Alien 3. Whilst of course this film suffered a very troublesome birth, the flaws of the film were more in concept than direction. Finchers direction could only steer the film into the realm of a character drama with a puma-like alien being superfluous, as the film is in its directors cut form as opposed to the abject mess its cinematic cut is. The subsequent film Resurrection is objectively bizarre by anyones standards being what essentially is the Poseidon adventure featuring some Romero-esque exploration of the nature of the creature itself. Whilst this description of the film makes it sound worse than Finchers inherited mess, I personally hold it as one of the best films in the franchise. Then we have the worst two addtions to the canon, the AVP debacle. A pairing of substandard action films in which the basic premise is "look! these guys fight a bit" nearly ruins the franchise entirely. It must be noted however, that Prometheus completely rejects and overwrites the mythos present in these two films. The idea that the predators gave human life technology is completely rejected by the plot of Prometheus, replacing them with "the Engineers" in a similar fashion. (SPOILER ALERT) also the idea of the xenomorph being created on earth is again shunned by the ending of Prometheus, in which a xeno-like creature erupts from an Engineer after being impregnated by Shaws squid-child (SPOILER END). This represents one of the biggest victories of the film, the reclamation of the canon from the realms of complete absurdity back into true explorative science fiction.

4. David

I suspect another factor in the films reception is the perception as to who is the lead character. Those holding the Alien: Again hopes would no doubt attach themselves to Rapace's Shaw, as is the natural assumption following Sigourney Weavers series mainstay of Ellen Ripley. Yet those going in blind to the previous entries perceived David as the main focus. The correct focus i think is to focus on David as the lead, for not only is he the strongest character in the cast, he is the most interesting and represents and confronts the films main issues, such as the investigation of LV-223's phenomena and the exploration of synthetic life. Personally, one of the triumphs for me of Prometheus is the humanization of the robotic characters from Alien. Whilst David is quite obviously an android, you feel much more attached to his potential for humanity than you ever felt to Bilbo Baggins' understated human-like performance in Alien. This also leads onto Charlize Therons role in the film, to which many fans have debated as to why she is even there. For me, she is the human equivalent of Mother in Alien. (SPOILER ALERT) For example when Holliway is infected, she coldly approaches the entrance with a flamethrower, executing protocol with an attempted cold heart yet recoils in horror at her actions, whereas Mother in alien coldly addresses to Ripley in Alien how expendable she truly is without even ushering a word (SPOILER END).

5. The Beauty and Potential of it all

The visual style of the film is surely the most pleasing aspect to the film, the direction in the opening sequence of the film is by far one of the most stunning things i've witnessed in a cinema in recent years (in 2d mind). The visual trauma that occurs in certain areas of the film is also horrific, caused by such acute visuals. The potential that the film lays down is unquestionably ambitious and huge, with the themes of creation, robotics, faith and life and death itself is nothing short of high concept. And yet again the fact that its packing out cinemas world-wide is nothing but good for cinema, in a trend started by Christopher Nolans Inception, high concept blockbusters have become more common than in previous times, followed by films such as Source Code and The Adjustment Bureau. Whilst the themes maybe clunkily addressed, the film for me felt like a new era for the franchise, the hints and suggestions towards the Alien myth and notions at mythology in general feel like Scott and Lindeloff are hinting at a far wider fictional universe, a canon in which would dwarf the series beleaguered past post Aliens at least and would breathe new life back into a creature that is a shadow of its once boxer-browning self.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Nintendo Fiasco and the Golden Opportunity Missed

With the big threes press conferences out of the way at this years E3 convention, it's safe to say the last conference left a lot of gamers somewhat underwhelmed. The Nintendo Wii U, guilty last year of confusing its traditionally less tech-savvy Wii user base by not clearly stating it was new hardware, squandered what can only be described as a rare chance for them. The chance at hand took the form of capitalising on Microsoft and Sony's announcements of being able to use tablets or the latters Vita in conjuction with games to create the same effect of the Wii U's unique tablet control system. Whilst Nintendo pandered to its long time fans sporadically with titles such as the launch game Pikmin 3 or New Super Mario Brothers U (yes, sequels are finally going past the traditional x into all forms of algebraic equivalents) and a handful of handheld titles it was Nintendo's swan song that left the potential Wii U-ser base (this hopefully will be the only time this pun is used ever, but alas you know it won't be) deflated.

mushroom kingdom on lsd Pictures, Images and Photos
Above: Like this but replacing the quaint "tree-top village" vibe with "Fisher Price does Disney World"

I am of course talking about "Nintendo Land"which looks like Playstation Home, but instead  instead of the most soul-less shopping centre in history it carries the form of a theme park decorated by the contractors responsible for the most garish counties of the Mushroom Kingdom. The park is apparently populated by "new multi-player experience" which, you'll realise once you've seen it in action, is code for NOVELTY FAMILY FRIENDLY MINI-GAMES skinned up in your favourite franchises. This image into Nintendo's future looks disturbingly like a HD/First Party mirror, being held up at the third party turgid faeces of the now obsolete Wii's dying days. I do not dispute that the Wii-U has massive potential still to take hold of its competitors position in the market, in fact i would adore to see my childhood fanboy-ism be restored back to its once nauseating levels but if Nintendo were aiming to convince the "Hardest of the Core" (he actually said that), Reggie Fils-Amie and co got it bang wrong. All it would have taken for me to put the rose tinted glasses on and repress the other monotonous drones of "Fitness" and Call Me Maybe to which i've become accustomed to, would have been one other familiar face outside of that fetid theme park where even the most racist Disney characters of the past would be ashamed to be represented. If Link popped up with a dirty gritty HD face or Samus Aran being badass (provided not developed by Team Ninja) would have lifted me out of this hole. Hell, even a sodding Pikachu frying something wouldve been better than "You say future, we say mini-games." The worst part of all this was that they introduced it like a revolutionary step in the Smash Brothers series, a game that would have assured them many first day buyers. But no, hope left faster than Andy Coulson runs from a court-room audience.

Above: Wii, Wii never changes

There's still time however for Nintendo to patch up this zit of a press conference with its show floor and possible 3DS announcements, but the bottom line is they already risk losing the hardcore before the system even hits shelves. The golden situation of Microsoft and Sony already giving into peer pressure and making their systems able to accommodate    other devices to mimic the console is brilliant news for Nintendo in the third party development arena, but if they lose the core, they turn this advantage into a threat. Unless Nintendo pull the Meowth out of the bag, I predict another 3DS-esque launch and a possible crippling drop in their share-price. This being said, at least Wii M-U-sic wasn't announced.