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Friday, 31 March 2017

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier E3: Above The Law


The Walking Dead:
A New Frontier
Episode 3: Above The Law



It's been a long, long wait. Episode two came out all the way in December, meaning there's been a good three months between episodes here -- which given that Telltale seems to have been trying to settle into a once-per-month release schedule with their games, isn't that great. That said, the wait has been skewed slightly by the fact that two episodes were released at once anyway, so I suppose we're getting the wait time for episode two tacked on here.

Picking up where episode two left off, with Javi and his companions at the gates of the New Frontier, hoping to find medical treatment for Kate, only to find out that his brother, David, believed dead, is a high ranking member of the New Frontier. Taken into the New Frontier's city, Richmond, it isn't long until the group -- bar Kate, Gabe, and Eleanor -- are deemed unfit for the city and thrown out, despite David's protests. As they travel to an old warehouse of the New Frontier's, hoping to find shelter, they discover that there is a conspiracy within Richmond, and that Joan, one of its leaders, has been conducting raids on other settlements. With David's help, the group return to Richmond to take back control.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Guest Editorial: Is The 'Kidnapped Princess' Trope Inherently Sexist?


Editorial: Is The 'Kidnapped Princess' Trope Inherently Sexist?

(Guest Editorial by Reecey.)


Anita Sarkeesian, I'm coming for you.
(With words, not -- not like a knife or anything,
I understand you get that a lot.)

So apparently she’s been shooting her mouth off and making a fool out of herself again, this is hardly a surprise.

But I’m not really here to talk about that, I haven’t played Breath of the Wild, that was Doug’s job and mine is Horizon: Zero Dawn.

No, I’m going to talk about the trope of a kidnapped princess and what the issues with it are, and why it’s not an inherently sexist plot thread to use.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Flash S3E18: Abra Kadabra


The Flash
Series 3, Episode 18
Abra Kadabra



Before we talk about this episode, let's quickly talk about Legends of Tomorrow again, because its problems writing Thawne in a way that even slightly resembles the version of the character from Flash's first series have really reached a head. I realise that they are responding somewhat to the different skills of their actors: Tom Cavanaugh is very good at subtle, quiet menace, while Matt Letscher is not, but this has reached the point of absurdity.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Supergirl S2E17: Distant Sun


Supergirl
Series 2, Episode 17
Distant Sun.



So it seems like 'evil mothers' is going to be the theme of this series, as our main antagonist slots are currently filled with two evil mothers (Lillian Luthor and whatever Mon-El's mother is called), with the possibility of the President, a semi-maternal figure (especially for Kara) as a third. After all, the President has been revealed to be an alien with semi-transparent, stretched thin white skin and sharp teeth, a set of features shared by the White Martians and the Dominators, making it practically the show's shorthand for 'evil aliens.'

Regrettably, this is another Mon-El focused episode. How many of those have we had in a row? It can't be more than three, but it feels like twelve. It just feels like it's been so long. When will I see the light of the sun once again.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E24


Mobile Suit Gundam:
Iron-Blooded Orphans
Series 2, Episode 24
McGillis Fareed.



Well, we all (well, most of us) knew this was coming. The moment McGillis appeared on our screens, we all knew he was marked for death, and the moment Gaelio returned, we all knew that it would probably be at his hands. Bafflingly, some people are apparently surprised this has happened, and to those people I say: Congratulations for nearly completing what is apparently the first piece of fiction you've ever consumed! I hope you've enjoyed yourself so far.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Impure King Saga


Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Impure King Saga.



So, I did come into this series expecting to be pretty confused for a while -- I've never read the manga, nor did I see the anime six years ago, so I was aware that I'd be coming into the story part way through and would be missing out on the exposition necessary to understand some of it. But I was pleasantly surprised, because very early on -- in the first two episodes or so, even -- this story takes time to introduce all the characters, and the state of the world as it stands at that point, without dumping exposition on the viewer. By episode three, I had a good grasp on who all the characters were, what their key motivations were (even though the story never stops to have them explain said motivations), and roughly how the story had panned out up to that point, and how that would affect events going forward.

That's some pretty elegant storytelling, if you ask me, and not necessarily something I expected out of a lolzy demon-fighting anime.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Editorial: Are video games too violent? Unpacking the '89%' statistic.


Editorial: Are video games too violent?
Unpacking the '89%' statistic.


When talking about violence in video games, an oft-toted statistic is that 89% of them include violence in some fashion -- and it's a statistic that has been pretty thoroughly examined and tested and which does actually hold up fairly well. It's also, at least on the surface, a staggeringly high statistic: Nearly nine in every ten games is violent? That's truly shocking.

Statistics are undeniably useful tools for quantifying the world around us and getting a better idea of the objective truth, but it's also worth remembering that statistics are a stepping stone to examining something, not the end result. To that end, we're going to take a moment and try to unpack this famous statistic and see how it actually relates to what we know about video games.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Hard Day's Night (1964) [Guest review by Reecey.]


Another guest review! Honestly, I could get used to this middle-of-the-week day off.


Hard Day's Night (1964)

[Guest review by Reecey.]


Hard Day’s Night is a film depicting a ‘normal’ day for The Beatles, but in reality is exactly as much fluff as Spice World, which isn’t a surprise since the latter was clearly inspired by it.

One of my favourite things about this film is the piece of meta humour that shows up within the first five minutes of the film and is continued throughout the whole thing. The source of the meta humour coming from the actor that they got to play Paul’s grand-dad.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Flash S3E17: Duet


The Flash
Series 3, Episode 17
Duet.



Okay, before we get started, I'd just like to point out, after learning from Legends of Tomorrow that people in the US apparently can't even pronounce JRR Tolkien's name right, that it's not pronounced 'Tol-keen,' it's pronounced 'Tol-ky-en.' This is not difficult, you pronounce it basically how it's said, and yet out of the entire cast, only Arthur Darvill actually did this.

It was very frustrating.

Anyway, onto the show we're actually reviewing: The Flash! Specifically, it's a Flash-Supergirl crossover episode, leading on from the end of this week's Supergirl episode, and including not only Kara, but also J'onn, Sort-of-Winn, and -- joy of joys -- Mon-El.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Supergirl S2E16: Star-Crossed.


Supergirl
Series 2, Episode 16
Star-Crossed.



Oh. Joy. Another Mon-El episode. I mean, we knew it was coming, the promos were pretty clear, but that doesn't mean I'm any more excited about it. This episode does have one glimmering moment where Mon-El and Kara break up, but let's face it, it isn't going to last. Give it a few episodes and they'll have gotten back together again, to the chagrin of all.

This week's episode sees Mon-El's parents arrive, hoping to bring him back to Daxam to unite their scattered people and lead Daxam into a new era. Kara is shocked and appalled when she learns that Mon-El was Daxam's crown prince, and breaks up with him. Meanwhile, Winn is framed for art theft by his alien girlfriend, Lyra, and before long the hunt is on to find her and clear Winn's name.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E23


Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Series 2, Episode 23
Promise.



So, there is apparently some controversy over how this episode ended -- from some quarters, at least -- that is mostly to do with people managing to get forty-eight episodes into this show without figuring out that it's about how ugly, sudden, and unglorious war is, who are now shocked and alarmed that Orga didn't either survive or go out in a blaze of glory. In general, it seems like there's a small subset of fans who are only just realising that this isn't a show about heroism bravely saving the day, and that is baffling to me.

The power of expectation, I guess.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Steven Moffat Hates Women: The Masterpost.


Steven Moffat Hates Women:
The Masterpost.

It occurs to me that we've put some time between us and my 'Steven Moffat Hates Women' series, which means its high time to gather links to all of those editorials in one, easy to access place, for the reading pleasure of anyone who likes me complaining about Steven Moffat.

One of these days, I should really do one for Reki Kawahara.

Anyway, here are four editorials digging in just a little to Moffat's many, many problems with women.

Steven Moffat Hates Women, Part 1: Moffat's Five Archetypes -- A look at the character types that show up again and again in Moffat's work. Using a stable of character types isn't necessarily a bad thing for a writer, but it does speak to what your core preoccupations, motives, agendas, and ideals as a writer are, and in Moffat's case, they speak to some pretty weird stuff.

Steven Moffat Hates Women, Part 2: Women As Performances -- In which we talk about the recurring idea that Moffat seems to have that women exist only as prolonged performances for men: To wit, that everything they do is for the view and benefit of men, both in-universe and out of it.

Steven Moffat Hates Women, Part 3: Moffat and his Fans (and Critics) -- Having looked at Moffat's writing, we now look at his behaviour outside of his fiction, and in his treatment of both his fans and critics. Needless to say, he shows quite a bit of scorn for both.

Steven Moffat Hates Women, Part 4: The Thrilling Conclusion -- In which we tie together the first three posts to attempt to build a (semi-complete) picture of why and how Moffat writes women so badly.

Well, that was fun. Let's rag on a particular writer again sometime.

Alpha Protocol.


Alpha Protocol.



I have fond memories of Alpha Protocol. While it was commercially and critically unsuccessful, I adored it for how it managed to create a sense of your choices actually meaning something (Telltale Games, take note), and for some actually fairly solid gameplay. So when I went back to it to Let's Play it, it was always going to be interesting to see how it held up now that I'm older and wiser.

The answer to the question? Not terribly. It's not as amazing as I remember it being, but I still hold that it wasn't as bad a game for its time that everyone seems to think it was.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.


The Legend of Zelda:
Breath of the Wild.



I became a fan of the series pretty recently: Twilight Princess, a game that belonged to someone I was living with at uni, was the first game in the franchise I ever saw (although obviously I was familiar with it beforehand, it's a cultural juggernaut), and looking back on it, while Wind Waker, Majora's Mask, or Skyward Sword would likely have gotten me just as interested in the franchise, Twilight Princess was a brilliant place to start with it.

Breath of the Wild was an exciting prospect for me, as any games in franchises I like are exciting, so I bought it on release day to play it on the Wii U, because why would I bother getting a Switch just for one game when I already have a Wii U.

Set many thousands of years in the future of Hyrule, Breath of the Wild sees Link awaken in the Shrine of Resurrection, having fallen in battle a hundred years ago after Calamity Ganon, a force of darkness and malice, took control of Hyrule's army of automated soldiers and its four Divine Beasts, massive mechs that were meant to stop Ganon. Missing his memories and in a world mostly overtaken by the wild apart from a few villages scattered around, Link must restore the Divine Beasts to the side of good and defeat Calamity Ganon. As he travels, he regains his memories of a hundred years ago, and learns about how Princess Zelda struggled to awaken her powers, and how her inability to do so was a key part in Hyrule's fall.

Okay, we'll run down the bugbears with this game first. The biggest one is weapon durability. All of Link's weapons -- including, eventually, the Master Sword, although it repairs itself over time -- break, and oddly quickly too. Bows seem to be much sturdier than melee weapons, to encourage players to use archery as their go-to combat style, but in this instance, that just means 'bows are slightly less sturdy than they are in real life' and 'melee weapons are all made out of candyfloss and straw.'

I really like the blue tunics.

Weapons later in the game are considerably sturdier, but honestly, there shouldn't be a weapon durability system at all. Instead, make different weapons integral to gameplay: Have some monsters who are resistant to certain kinds of weapons, like slashing or bludgeoning, and play up elemental affinities by having some monsters be resistant to certain elements. Make different weapons attractive to a player by introducing a need for variety, not by having your weapons break after three uses.

That's not an exaggeration, either. Early weapons will snap very quickly, and there's no way to repair them, as far as I found.

The game has a handful of other technical problems, too: Moblins (specifically moblins) make the game lag for some reason, don't ask me why, and weather effects will sometimes cause battles to slow to a crawl. The weather effects are fun in theory, but often just spoil gameplay as they force you to wait inside: Lightning will hit you if you go out in a thunderstorm, and if it's raining you can't climb things, meaning that if there's a storm going on, you'll most likely just duck into a stable, put your controller down, and wait it out.

(This especially becomes a problem in the late game, where -- to demonstrate Ganon's growing power -- rain and thunderstorms become increasingly common.)

Apart from that, though, I really, really enjoyed this game.

This game has Rito in it, but also Zora?

In many ways, it feels like a response to Skyward Sword. Where Skyward Sword was heavily modular, this game is open world. Where Skyward Sword was set in the far past and had a focus on technology that seems like magic, Breath of the Wild is set in the far future with a focus on magic that seems like technology (and sometimes magic that just seems like magic). Where Skyward Sword took its cues from Wind Waker, Breath of the Wild takes its cues from Twilight Princess. Where Skyward Sword retconned Ganondorf into just a proxy for a bigger villain, Breath of the Wild turns him into a vast, calamitous force that far outstrips anything Demise ever was.

The game isn't as epic as Twilight Princess was, although it really does try, presenting us with a vast world, a destructive evil force so ancient nobody remembers its origins (Urboza, the best character in the game, remarks at one point that legends say that Ganon once adopted the form of a Gerudo, in a nicely done nod at the idea of 'history being distorted over time'), and a journey with high stakes and a lot of impressive set pieces. It's definitely an epic game, it just doesn't reach the rarified heights of Twilight Princess.

(In many ways, the final boss battle hammers in how it doesn't reach the same levels of epicness. Twilight Princess' final boss battle was an expansive and endlessly interesting four stage battle, pitting you first against Zelda in a game of energy tennis, then against a charging Pig Ganon that let you either approach it like a sumo wrestler or an archer, then a horseback section with light arrows, and then, finally a sword duel. It tests everything you've learned in the game up to that point, and it does so while never feeling tired or frustrating.

Link, and sparkles.

Breath of the Wild tries to do something similar with its final boss. You first face off against Ganon in a kind of spider-man monstrosity form that uses the abilities and attacks of the four bosses you've faced prior to this, and then you face off against him in his Dark Beast form in a battle that is essentially the same as the archery battles against the Divine Beasts. It too tries to test everything you've learned, but it's shorter and less dramatic.

If I was designing this game, I'd have done it slightly differently. I'd have the battle against Spider Ganon go basically as it does before, and then the first battle against the Dark Beast -- and then I'd have Link go inside the Dark Beast, landing in its interior and encountering a semi-miasmic Ganon that's closer to his Gerudo form. First, they play energy ball tennis. Then he duels Ganon in a sword-and-archery fight (hell, you could even go for Extra Reference by having Ganon wield the Sword of the Six Sages), Mipha, Revali, Daruk, and Urbosa would all appear one by one to assist, before all five deal the final blow, causing the miasma to dissolve and revealing Zelda.

Then Link and Zelda leave the interior and fight the Dark Beast again for the final stage, complete with the Divine Beasts throwing their own attacks in.)

The Divine Beasts function as both boss battles and mobile dungeons, each one
with a gimmick for altering their layout -- tilting from one side to the other, moving the water-spouting trunk,
rotating a series of segments, etc.

The game's story is good, but its narrative really shines in how it silently plays out Ganon's story for players. Since nobody in-game knows Ganon's origins, there's no exposition on how he ended up this way: Instead, the game plays with visuals, implication, and brief snatches of lore to paint a picture. We are introduced to the idea of Ganon as a mindless, animalistic force similar to the divine beasts, and as the story goes on, and if you search out extra clues around the world, two things become clear: Firstly, that it is very, very likely that ten thousand years ago, the Yiga Clan gave Ganon his own Divine Beast of their own creation, and that his present form is the result of some kind of ungodly merging process that transmuted the Beast's metal and stone into flesh and miasma; and secondly, that he is desperately trying to rebuild a body for himself, but is so eldritch and disconnected from the world by now that he has no idea how to do so.

It's a clever, engaging piece of backstory, given to the audience in a way that respects their intelligence, and I always love those.

The game is graphically gorgeous, with an excellent soundtrack (and a good idea of when not to use it -- the Great Plateau, and Link's lonely awakening, is hammered in by a near total lack of music), well-refined (for the most part) gameplay and some actually really interesting innovations. It's not the tour de force that Twilight Princess was, nor is it the sharply innovative Wind Waker, or the masterpiece of tone and oppressive storytelling that Majora's Mask was, but it is a very, very solid game.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Twelve Tasks of Asterix [Guest Review by Reecey]


The Twelve Tasks of Asterix.
(Guest review by Reecey).


When I was but a wee lass, we had a handful of VHSes that I adored. Two were collections of Looney Tunes shorts, and the other two were Asterix films.

Asterix in Britain (which I’ll tackle another time) and The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, which we will talk about today.

Both films are ones that I have fond memories of, but they both have their flaws. In this one the major flaw is this one bafflingly racist throw away section at the beginning, and a suspect at best moment later on.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Flash S3E16: Into the Speed Force


The Flash
Series 3, Episode 16
Into the Speed Force.



Let's call this episode what it is: A protracted excuse to surgically remove every other speedster in the story except Barry and Savitar from the equation. It is thorough, too: By the end of the episode, Jesse has gone to Earth-3, Wally is traumatised and not up to being Kid Flash, Jay is trapped in the Speed Force, and even Zoombie was destroyed (temporarily, presumably, he's still needed for Thawne's motivation). 

When writers do this, I'm always a little confused by it, because it reeks of putting the cart before the horse. Instead of building a storyline based on having three or four speedsters who can go up against Savitar, it instead takes them all out of the picture in the most contrived ways possible, so it can have its one-on-one fight at the end.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Editorial: Home Console Legend of Zelda Games, Ranked Worst to Best.


Editorial: Home Console Legend of Zelda Games
Ranked Worst to Best.


It's time to court some delicious controversy, because if there's one topic that makes gamers irrationally angry, it's differences in opinion over the quality of Zelda games.

For this editorial's remit, the clue is in the title: The ten Legend of Zelda home console games, ranked from worst to best. For the purposes of this editorial, I'm not counting side games (like Link's Crossbow Training), because, honestly, why would I.

Remember, this is just my opinion, but equally, my opinion is always objectively correct always. So there is that.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E22


Mobile Suit Gundam:
Iron-Blooded Orphans.
Series 2, Episode 22
Scapegoat.



It's another slower episode today, as the gang settles back in at Chryse and prepares for the coming storm, and that's fine, I think. After the big blowout battle a few episodes ago, including Shino's death, it's nice to have a couple of slower episodes, especially when those episodes, while slow, still have plenty going for them in terms of character development, plot build-up, and emotional stakes.

It also pretty closely matches this show's formula in general: Battle, falling action, rising action, battle. We're on 'rising action' this time.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

What We're Watching 12/3/17


What We're Watching
12/3/17


Yesterday was a busy and also not especially brilliant day, so this post is, regrettably, a day late. Still, we've been watching some interesting stuff, so let's take a moment to talk about three television shows.


Broadchurch S3.

Broadchurch remains one of the UK's great national successes, with its first series having become such talked about event television that spoiling people was considered to be a crime worthy of summary execution. The second series, while less well-received, was still plenty popular. We're now two episodes into the third series, currently being touted as the last series.

(Given that showrunner Chris Chibnall will shortly be going to work on Doctor Who, a show with a notoriously punishing schedule, I can believe it.)

So far, the third series lacks the electricity of the first, but is a marked improvement over the second, whose only real highlight was the court case plotline. Shifting the focus away from murder (for now), this series instead focuses on Ellie and Alex attempting to track down a rapist who might constitute a threat to the public. It's an interesting tack: The first and second series mostly shied away from the usual crime fiction tack of 'the criminal could strike again,' so it's a welcome variation to see a criminal who could (and probably will) harm someone else.

So far, I'm enjoying it a lot. I do definitely recommend it.


Hyouka.

I've only watched the first episode of Hyouka so far, and I was only sort of half watching it at that, but I've enjoyed what I've seen of it so far. It has a slick animation style, engaging characters, and an interesting if somewhat overused 'high school detectives' plot.

It wins points for the interesting altered-reality sections from main character Hotaro's viewpoint, where words flow over him like water, or deuteragonist Chitanda is seen with flowing hair and luminescent leaves around her, which are all very pretty to look at.


Powerless.

Powerless is a fun, light-hearted sitcom set in the DC Universe, following members of a branch of Waynetech devoted to making devices that keep people safe from the fallout between superheroes and supervillains. It's a tongue in cheek look at superhero tropes, which would be fine if that wasn't a concept that's been done to death.

The show is fun enough, but it leans a little too heavily on its DC roots, to the point where I can't help but wonder if the show would be more fun if it took place in a superhero universe of its own creation, rather than constantly making jokes about Batman.


Friday, 10 March 2017

Editorial: 4 Things I Definitely Won't Be Reviewing.


Editorial: 4 Things I Definitely Won't Be Reviewing.


Can we make this a regular feature?

Maybe. There's a lot of stuff I don't review.


Iron Fist.

Back when Daredevil started airing, I told myself that I would finish and review all of the Defenders' series. Well, I broke my word to myself, as I've yet to finish Luke Cage, months after it became available for Netflix, which means I won't even be attempting to watch Iron Fist.

Given how little buzz I've seen for Iron Fist -- in fact, I didn't even realise it was out until a few days ago (is it out?), it seems that I'm not alone in this, and that, in fact, nobody is watching Iron Fist, at all, ever.

Which is how it should be, really.


Logan.

At this point, we all know that Fox has a statue of Wolverine in their studios, which they pray to and possibly sacrifice people to, but this has to stop. I've never met anyone whose reaction to another Wolverine film -- or even Wolverine cameos -- has been anything other than sheer exhaustion.

Who is going to see these films? Who's buying them on DVD? Where is Fox getting the idea that people want these? Is there just a silent majority of people who go and see any film with Wolverine on the posters?

It's baffling to me, and since there's nothing about Logan that I find remotely interesting, I will be giving it a miss.


For Honor.

In fairness, I've heard For Honor is pretty good -- from some people, at least, there are plenty of other people saying it's terrible. But the game never really caught my eye, and in a part of the year where we're just getting a deluge of good games, For Honor just hasn't made the cut.

While the concept is interesting, words 'co-op focused' and 'Ubisoft' will always instantly turn me off any game, and the game doesn't bring enough interesting new ideas, or enough of a compelling story, to the table to balance that out.


Sleepy Hollow S4.

An attempt was made. About six minutes into the first episode of the fourth series, though, I realised I was bored out of my skull, and the attempts promptly ended there.

From a reviewer's perspective, however, it feels that this fourth series is already guaranteed to be bad. In a small cast, losing one of your two central characters more often than not sounds the death knell for a show, and Sleepy Hollow was already floundering -- and had been floundering since the moment Moloch died.

Ultimately, it just doesn't interest me, personally or professionally, and for that reason alone I'm not going to expend forty minutes a week on it.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Reecey Recommends: Just A Minute.


Just A Minute
(Guest Article by Reecey.)


Sometimes you need to write an editorial that serves no purpose other than to talk about something you absolutely adore in an attempt to get other people to love it just as much.

So consider this a greeting to all the wonderful readers of Fission Mailure, not just in this country, but around the world.

Can I write my self satisfying editorial about how much I love this radio programme with no deviation, repetition or hesitation for sixty continuous seconds?

No, no I can’t.

It doesn’t work in text anyway, how would hesitation even work? Or would a buzzer sound and Paul Merton say ‘hesitation, I’m afraid’ every time I use an ellipses?

(Which would make an amusing game for when you’re playing Final Fantasy VIII, surely.)


BUZZ!


Deviation, Squall Leonhart's never even been a contestant!

Well, he’s got me there.

To our subject, then.

For the uninitiated, Just a Minute is a Radio Four panel game created by Ian Messiter and hosted by the venerable Nicholas Parsons CBE.

The format was tested out several ways in the fifties, but the version we know and love today was first aired in 1967, three months after the launch of Radio Four.

(As a side note, if you’ve ever seen The Boat that Rocked, then you’ve had a brief and sensationalised history of the climate surrounding the birth of Radios One to Four.)

It’s relevant, Paul.

You may think I’ve left out mentioning the original host, but I have not. Nicholas Parsons is the original host. This will be his fiftieth year hosting.

The man is ninety three years old.

He’s older than both Bruce Forsyth and Dick van Dyke, two men who seem to have never not existed. He’s older than the Queen.

Yet despite these mind boggling facts, his performance on Just a Minute is still cheerful and sprightly, and he doesn’t at all com across as a fossil. A little old fashioned, but never particularly ignorant of the modern day. Which isn’t an easy thing to do, because when you’re an older white gentleman, coming across as a fossil is the easiest way to play the straight man to varying comedians, some of whom are young up and comers.

It’s a testament to how long running this series is that Paul Merton, who is now well established as a comedian (he once presented Room 101) and a regular on the programme, only had his television breakthrough in the same year he offered to join the show as a regular.

The man he was stepping into the shoes of was Kenneth Williams of Carry On fame.

If you can find episodes of Just a Minute with him in (he only recorded three hundred and forty four of them), you really should, the man was a comic genius and the Carry On films do not show that to its fullest extent.

In fact, because of the simplicity of the format, it gives all of the comedians an excellent platform to show off their personal brand of comedy and the ability to play off each other to hilarious effect.

A few other notable performers are the late Clement Freud, famed raconteur Gyles Brandreth, former Bake Off presenter Sue Perkins, angry man David Mitchell, not a pro skater (even if he sounds like one) Tony Hawks, late famed astronomer Sir Patrick Moore, time travelling actor David Tennant, famed transvestite Eddie Izzard, part time lord of hell Andy Hamilton, current QI host Sandi Toksvig and the host and main panelists of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.

(Which is a subject for another day.)

There are far, far too many to list here.

A rogue's gallery.

It’s something of a testament to how much I’ve listened to this programme in my life that only after six hundred words does it occur to me that the rules may not be quite as self explanatory as I think they are. So, a brief explanation:

At the beginning of each round one of the four panellists is given a subject and it is their aim to talk about it for a full minute without violating any of these three rules.

No Repetition: This is the easiest one to grasp, you cannot repeat words unless they are on the card describing the subject. Of course, exceptions are made for basic words like ‘and’ or ‘the’, unless the panellist is taking the michael with them. Ah, additionally, singulars and plurals count as different words for this rule.

No Hesitation: Still, pretty easy to get, don’t pause for thought. Tripping over your words also counts, as does pausing for audience applause. Something that trips up new players an awful lot.

No Deviation: Initially this strictly meant deviating from the subject, but it’s been expanded for comedic effect to things like deviating from reality, deviating from logic, deviating from the truth and deviating from the English language as we understand it.

If the panellist breaks any of these rules, then they can be interrupted by another panellist, and if the challenge is correct, the second panellist takes over the subject and aims to speak for the remaining time.

Points are given for posing a correct challenge, having an incorrect challenge posed against you, speaking as the whistle goes and an extra point on top of that for speaking for the full minute. Bonus points are also awarded for being especially funny during challenges.

If this all sounds a bit weird, it’s actually far, far easier to learn the rules by listening to the programme once or twice.

Describing what makes any particular episode funny is difficult at best, unless it’s got Julian Clary in it and his entendres cause you to laugh so hard that you swear you can taste blood in your mouth, because these rules are so simple that the rotating panel can do all sorts of things with them. From Clement Freud rules lawyering his way to victory, Paul Merton deliberately using singulars and plurals to trip new players up, Kenneth Williams’ tantrums, all the way to Sue Perkins ribbing Nicholas Parsons and Gyles Brandreth talking about some great political figure of the twentieth century who he of course knew personally.

Everyone has their own spin on the formula and brings something unique to the show and its discourse, and that’s what’s given a programme originally inspired by a smug teacher attempting to embarrass his pupil such lasting appeal and such a loyal fanbase. Not just in this country, but around the world.

They did a couple of episodes in India once, it was great.

So, I suggest you take the time to listen to it when you can (it is available on the BBC World Service and online) and soon, you too will feel the immense satisfaction of when someone starts with a topic and keeps speaking, uninterrupted, until the whistle goes.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Flash S3E15: The Wrath of Savitar.


The Flash
Series 3, Episode 15
The Wrath of Savitar.



I admit, despite my reservations about Savitar, they've set up some interesting time travel shenanigans here. Savitar is from the future, but the near future, meaning that Barry and company will see his origins either this series or next series, thus creating a potential situation where they get to know Savitar now, and then they create him and send him into the future, and then they have their confrontation with Savitar from the future.

He's also obviously HR.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Supergirl S2E15: Exodus


Supergirl
Series 2, Episode 15
Exodus.



I saw one news outlet describe this episode as 'not pulling any punches,' I am reminded of how incredibly unusual it is for Americans to actually try their hand at structured criticism of authority figures, and how ugly the reprisal is for anyone in the US who tries, and how, as a result, their bar for what counts as a scathing, hard-hitting critique is ludicrously low.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans S2E21


Mobile Suit Gundam:
Iron-Blooded Orphans
Series 2, Episode 21
For Whom.



It's interesting to chart how fandom views McGillis. When the show started, everybody hated him, and it seemed most people enjoyed his presence but disliked him as a person by the end of the first series. Then, at some point in the second series, people decided they liked him, and then -- at about the point where he was revealed as a paedophile, but I'm not going to examine that case of 'correlation is probably not causation' too deeply -- that they loved him.

Now, as we enter the very last stretch, public opinion has shifted back around to hate again, as people increasingly view McGillis as a charlatan, a charismatic conman whose plans were never as well thought through as he thought they were, and whose mistakes are now coming back to haunt Tekkadan.

That's very satisfying to me personally, in all honesty. Very satisfying indeed.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

What We're Playing/Watching 4/3/17


What We're Playing/Watching
4/3/17


Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

I got this game yesterday, and haven't had much chance at all to play much of it. Literally, I'm still on the tutorial plateau that is meant to teach you all the stuff about dungeons, survival in the wild, and so on.

What I've played so far, however, I've really enjoyed. The graphical style is very Skyward Sword, but the gameplay and story construction owe more to Twilight Princess than anything else. The survival elements are interesting, but somewhere around the time when Link broke his sword, I decided weapon durability was a pain.

(Luckily, new weapons are literally everywhere.)

Combined with a pretty unique aesthetic for Legend of Zelda and a plot that is already really interesting, it makes for a game that so far seems pretty special.


Horizon Zero Dawn.

This is where the 'watching' part comes in, because while Horizon Zero Dawn looks very interesting, I myself don't own it. Instead, I've been watching the stream of it by Reecey, who you might remember from Gideon's Day (1958) a few days ago.

It's almost uncanny that two open world games with survival elements about a hunter surviving in a  post-science-fiction world came out so close together, but it's also definitely a coincidence. A happy one, because Horizon Zero Dawn manages to weave an intriguing plot and interesting gameplay in just the first two hours.


The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel.

A game I've been Let's Playing and enjoying a lot, Trails of Cold Steel is basically what you would get if Final Fantasy VIII and Valkyria Chronicles had a child, and then that child was raised by Persona 4. 

It's odd. Very odd. But for all that, it's actually a lot of fun. It's got a cool turn-based battle system with a surprising amount of depth, a fun setting, quite a few engaging characters, and a graphical style that is juuust this side of modern to be tolerable to my delicate sensibilities.

There's a third game due to come out -- most likely next year or the year after for those of us in Europe -- so luckily I have plenty of time to play the first two games before that one even considers gracing our screens.

Friday, 3 March 2017

RWBY Volume 4


RWBY
Volume 4



It's taken me ages to get around to this review. Somehow, other stuff has always come up, all of them automatically taking a slot in my schedule before RWBY. But we're here now, looking at the fourth volume of RWBY, after an excellent third volume.

Picking up weeks or months after the end of volume three, volume four sees the titular team having split up. In Mistral, Ruby travels towards Haven Academy with a grieving Jaune, Nora, and Ren, but their journey encounters problems when Qrow is poisoned and they encounter a Grimm from Ren's past. In Vale, Yang recovers from losing her arm, clashing with her father in the process. In Atlas, Weiss is stifled by pressure from her own father, along with her brother, culminating in her being imprisoned in the mansion. Meanwhile, Blake joins up with Sun to go to Menagerie and reconnect with her parents. In an unknown location, Salem's inner circle is revealed, and Cinder attempts to recover after being caught in the effect of Ruby's silver eyes, while elsewhere in Mistral, a farmboy wakes up one day to find Ozpin's mind inhabiting his own.

Supergirl S2 Act 1 Masterpost.


Supergirl
Series 2, Act 1
Masterpost.



























Thursday, 2 March 2017

Gideon's Day (1958) [Guest review by Reecey.]


Gideon's Day (1958).



(Guest review by Reecey.)

Hi everyone! I’m back with another review of something I just happened to watch, and this time I don’t have to warn you about scenes of sexual assault!

Just murder!

How many? Three. Three murders.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Flash S2E14: Attack on Central City


The Flash
Series 2, Episode 14
Attack on Central City.



So it is that we hit the second of this series Budget Sink Two-Parter, which purports to have an invasion of Central City by gorillas but in fact barely has anything of the sort. It's an odd episode, this one, combining an inherently silly premise (intelligent gorillas from another dimension are attacking) with a weirdly somber and grim tone. I can understand the logic of having this be the episode where Barry struggles with whether he should kill someone, since Grodd isn't human and does himself exist in a society where kill-or-be-killed is often the order of the day, but it makes for some very jarring tonal shifts.

I'm sorry, writers, seriousness and giant gorillas just don't go together that well. Ask the people who keep trying to make gritty Planet of the Apes films, they'll tell you.