Sunday, 17 January 2016

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (Spoiler Free)


Finally was I able to gather a few friends to go and see it!

Alright this is isn’t going to be very easy and I am not one of the devoted fans so the credibility of this review is based on a mediocre fan’s personal views. I should probably point out that I haven’t pursued any of the Star Wars Universe works such as Clone Wars or Rebels, just a movie fan and that’s it.

So let’s see, I was warned by many before I went to see the movie and had been subjected to so much diverse opinions that emotionally I had lowered my expectations to a minimum before I went in. I was completely certain that it was going to be an immense letdown when considering the movie has got a disappointing 8.5 on IMDB.

 That wasn’t the case…

 Not only did I have a great time, it was the one movie from the Star Wars universe that I enjoyed the most before the cinema screen. So before I go on I should announce that amongst the new movies, and the new movies only, I find The Force Awakens to be the best, followed by Episode III in a close second.
Well firstly I did not make the mistake of going to 3D, but instead chose to watch it in a DOLBY ATMOS  room which enhanced the experience a lot. 


It was more contemporary with a touch of Nostalgia. The direction was the best (including the old movies) Star Wars direction ever. The lame and annoying Windows Movie Maker transitions between scenes were kept to a tolerable minimum and I felt uplifted by the experience because of the story flow quality. The relations and affairs were handled in a much much less mushy manner and all in all I found the entirety of the movie very compelling. And thankfully; no dart shooting koala bears or minute (meant as an adjective) lightsaber master goblins were there to ruin the experience for me. Yes that’s correct, you can shoot or hang me but I still detest Ewoks and Yoda…

However I get it…I know what it is like to be a hardcore fan to something and have your expectations crushed. I went through a most horrible series of disappointments by the (shm)Hobbit movies, the last of which I did not even bother to watch on a cinema screen. So yeah, I get it…

I have to say that neither was I moved by the new evil character which felt as if he was but a mere space filler for Darth Vader, and I cannot for the world remember his name without checking IMDB first. Was it Clio Ren??? Cleo? Clay? Argh whatever dude; poor name choice. And the choice of actor was as if they wanted to go for Keanu Reeves as Neo but they changed their minds the last second. I admit, the new antagonist comes nowhere close to the grandeur of the likes of Darth Vader or Darth Maul (who was about the only thing that was worth watching in Episode I)

As for  Snoke…The only thing I can say is this: I KNEW HE LOOKED LIKE GOLLUM!!!
General Hux was a very well-rounded character, as a matter of fact if they left out Cleo, and included only the general I think the movie may have been much better. The actor Domhnall Gleeson , whom I watched in the series Black Mirror, gave a very good performance, and as an antagonist he was more convincing than Kylo Ren (checked IMDB again).

The story line had inevitable retrospective references to the old movies and some parts did give the viewer a sense that they were watching a far too similar story in another setting. However disregarding certain aspects which usually focus on our dear Cleo, the story still stood strong enough to make me watch it at the edge of my seat at certain parts, but in full attention at all times. 

So; In conclusion I have to say that I thoroughly and truly enjoyed The Force Awakens despite the imperfections and am looking forward to watch what comes next. In the name of keeping this post spoiler free I am not going to refer to certain events which I found… well… no…! Not going to ruin it for anyone. Go find out for yourselves.

As for the allegations, I suppose I get it, but that doesn’t mean that I agree.

P.S: R2D2 was one of the best franchise makers in the history of mankind and now I have a new favorite:

Tuesday, 10 February 2015



Animal Farm was one of the books which always eluded me. Every time I decided to give it a go I read something else instead. Mainly because of the fact that I knew it was a story of precise allegory adorned with a single-sided political debate. The allegory Orwell chose to employ is so clear-cut that even with minimal knowledge one can decipher who stands for whom or what historical event was conveyed through the acts of the animals of the farm. Now I am not going to bore you with the details you already know. Old Major is Karl-Marx, Mr Jones is the Tsar, Napoleon is Stalin whereas Snowball is a vivid embodiment of both Lenin and Leon Trotsky and so on and so forth. George Orwell himself admitted to these characters in his first preface of the book and later essays when he was defending his book against many of his contemporaries who initially even refused to publish it. T.S Elliot was among these names.

I cannot know however; if Orwell was aware of the fact that in creating something so precise he was still writing about a vicious circle that is applicable to any utopia or ideology because when viewed from a more universal perspective, one can clearly see that the book in fact has got more to do with utopian doom than Stalinism or the Russian Revolution: That one rotten apple placed on top is enough to ruin the entire bushel.  Which is the reason why Orwell, in disguise of a donkey named Benjamin displays his pessimism about ideologies: "Life will go on as it has always gone on—that is, badly."  Right from the horse’s mouth, or better yet the donkey’s mouth. Ideologies and utopias are doomed to fall apart for as long as people follow their leaders blindly. And even when they seem to work, greed mixed with power will turn any utopia into a despicable, uninhabitable yet inheritable dystopia. 

From this perspective Old Major stands for any wise ideologist whose intentions are well, Napoleon is a fantastic portrayal of any politician who exploits an ideology. And Squealer is not Molotov in this case, it is the newspapers and national news we watch on television, through which we are fed lies on a daily basis. Many conformist Boxers did, do and will die and many Mollies will find another place to inhabit. The supreme power of government will always release its dogs on the streets under the name of police force to silence the smart whereas the sheep will always yell words they do not even understand. Animal Farm is universally pessimistic and rightly so when we look at our own contemporary world.

I guess in concluding this post I have to agree with Henry David Thoreau when he says: I heartily accept the motto,—“That government is best which governs least;” and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which I also believe,—“That government is best which governs not at all;” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.

But first animals need to learn how to read for themselves.


Sunday, 1 February 2015

Mass Effect Trilogy

Mass Effect trilogy was the rpg I had chosen to spend my summer with (yea I know Summer is over 6 months past but I completely forgot I had written this post, way to go..). Recommended by a good friend who was also kind enough to lend us his old PS3 and all the three games. I wasted no time and began the first game back in June. I was thinking of writing a separate post for each game but as I progressed I realized that the games got a higher merit as a trilogy and so what I am aiming for is a post of ultimate Mass Effect experience, thats because as far as gaming goes, it IS an experience.

Developed by the Canadian company Bioware, the first game of the trilogy was released back in 2008 followed by the sequels in 2010 and 2012. Watch the launch trailers below if you like to get an idea before reading this post:

The game exclusively dwells on one hero’s story, namely Commander Shepard whose main mission is to save the entire galaxy from a mechanical race called “The Reapers”. The story seems to be a run on the mill, mediocre, heroic sci-fi drama when put in a nutshell but the twists and turns will leave you with your jaw dropped on the floor. Plus how you convey something can be much more important than what you say.

Before I evaluate each game within its own merit I have to talk about the overall quality of the games. Bioware’s skill in transferring events and decisions caused or made by the player makes these games what they are, even more so than the Dragon Age series. Because while in Dragon Age you get to get a peek at your old companions and your former hero is solely mentioned in passing conversations, here you get to play through your much valued hero into a series of events spread throughout three wholesome games, interact and in most cases get to recruit old companions into your crew. This, results in your human nature to create a special bond with those characters (because we humans can empathize even with a pencil) and what happens to them really matter to you. As a matter of fact it carries you to dangerous and yet enjoyable degrees of empathy. Considering the fact that, the Mass Effect Trilogy is much like watching a very dramatic and absolutely moving sci-fi series where you get to act as the main hero in shape of an avatar, you need feel no shame if you tear up a little, or I don’t know, maybe blubber like a child at one point or another.

As it always goes with Bioware, the companions they create are so engaging, so well rounded, so well done, that you will have to remind yourself constantly that they ain’t real, they just seem like real. You will always come up with a favorite, it is impossible to avoid that, but you will like and sometimes admire each and every companion for what they are.
Now let us move on to the first game;

Mass Effect:

Action-wise, Mass Effect in my opinion is the poorest production of the whole series and that is not because it doesn’t include action but mostly due to the fact that the shooter side of the game doesn’t come anywhere close to the story side. The options in battle and how you develop your character are rather limited in comparison to its sequels. What I mean is that in character development you might need to spend a whole lot of points for skills that are of no use on the battlefield which puts you in a bind. The skills are not as powerful as the sequels either so despite the slow action, fights are considerably more difficult on casual mod, than the rest of the games.
What I liked?
Almost everything (especially the fact that you can equip new goodies at any point you wish) except for Mako, the jumpy space Cherokee…
What I didn’t like?
Mako, the jumpy space Cherokee…
Other than that everything was acceptable at worst and the game stood strong for a first game. There was room for improvement of course, which they focused on, in the next game.

Mass Effect 2:

The story of Mass Effect 2 was even more engaging than the first game, at least I thought so. Skill development gets plainer and choices seem more limited than the first game but those choices let you exclusively dwell on the skills which are battle-specific. You do not need to lose points on electronics and intimidate and such. You can build a character which is more efficient and formidable during the fights. Speaking of which, Mass Effect offers a better sense of action for this reason too. Weapons aim and shoot better, biotic and engineering skills hit harder and the visual effects in battle are highly improved. Taking cover during fight was bound to the x button on PS3 which also avoided your Shepard to go hiding behind various objects unnecessarily. The idea of guns having ammo was introduced in ME2 which was a lot to my liking. “The power wheel”, “aim”, “gun selection wheel”, “shoot” action buttons exchanged places which made your handling of the controller a lot easier.
All those comforts come with a price of course because although the fights seem easier they require better planning and strategy than simply going bam bam bam and pew pew pew.

As for the story side: I said earlier that the story was very engaging all the way through. The dialogues still come with the diplomatic and intimidate choices of lines but they are reduced in numbers, instead during conversations you will get a flashing option of blue wing in order to take a diplomatic action or red star in order to take a renegade action. You will have limited time to act on it and press the L2 or R2 on PS3 otherwise you miss it. I rather liked this addition to the game because it makes you follow the conversations more intently. 

ME2 also comes with a great variety of companions of different species and dispositions. From heartless killers to virtuous assassins, from mysterious thieves to babbling scientists, ME2 offers the biggest range of companions in all three games. They all got their own stories and quests to earn their loyalty and interactions with them are developed in great detail. If companion interaction is taken into consideration ME2 was the best of the trilogy.

I cannot reveal much about your vessel in ME2 without revealing important plot complications and despite the fact that you will probably learn what happens in the first 20 minutes of your play time I still don’t want to spoil the surprise. Suffice it to say that:
 “It’s bigger, it’s badder, ladies and gentlemen it’s too much for Mr. Incredible!”

What I didn’t like?
Being stripped off a map and a radar which shows the location of your enemies without having to press anything.

Mass Effect 3 :


This final game of the series and the story of Shepard had been a great source of speculation, criticism and/or praise. But we can easily claim that the technical traits are superb when compared to its predecessors. The skill development is neither too plain nor too complicated. Things like exploring planets with Mako or scanning planets to find resources, opening crates and bypassing doors, they have gotten a lot easier while the fights have gotten considerably harder. You can choose to play a story mode which lets you make all decisions yourself or action mode which has your character act without your interference, so those who are fans of rpg can play story mode whereas fans of action games can also enjoy fights without dialogue wheel interference.

There is also the multiplayer option which is not just a technical addition but is essential to the end of the story as well. Now I am not sure how much in favor of it I stand because this is supposed to be a solo rpg and passive-aggressively pressing people to play the multiplayer mode doesn’t sound so fair. However after trying it a few times myself I have to say that I found it very enjoyable indeed. So; Multiplayer option is not a faulty side of the game but it’s connection to the end-game story sort of is.

As for the story of ME3; here there were a lot of fans divided into different opinions, there are those who loved it all the way through, there are those who liked the story development but loathed the end and there are those who found ME3 to be the weakest of the trilogy. I aim to keep this post spoiler free so without revealing anything I will add this: I knew the end game from the beginning of the first game (how could I not? It was all over even on the Dragon Age forums), maybe for that reason it did not affect me all that much or changed my good opinion of the third game. Especially the free downloadable extended cut tied up a lot of loose ends for me so I count myself amongst those who enjoyed the third game all the way through. As for those who hated the end and it took them by surprise, I have to say that there was a whole lot of foreshadowing in the game you could have picked up on; you really couldn’t guess or you just didn’t want to believe? I feel for you though and understand perfectly well where you are coming from. It wasn’t an easy bite to swallow for sure even when it comes with a warning...

Rounding up this post, I thoroughly enjoyed the Mass Effect Games. It is not just a good game for sci-fi fans but for all those who enjoy a good rpg no matter the setting. Keep your guard up and give it a try.

 It is an awesome game damn it! 

Monday, 17 November 2014

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Our show airs on every Sunday between 20.00 - 22.00 UK time. We play a wide range of musical genres that fall under the categories of Prog, Prog Rock, Neo Prog, Symphonic Prog, Crossover Prog, Rock, Hard Rock and occasionally Metal and Progressive Metal. The music is good and the atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed. So if you are interested please like us on Facebook and join the group.
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Sunday, 25 May 2014

Game of Thrones

High Fantasy's Nemesis

I am supposed to tackle a very hard review with this one and try to evaluate Game of Thrones without stepping on the toes of so many fans and see myself tragically fail at that.

 For those, who are fans and are reading this review, please try to bear in mind it is the work which is being criticized and not you. All works are presented for the likes or dislikes of people who have got their absolute rights to admire or loathe it.

Now I cannot say that I loathe it but I am so not a fan.

Game of Thrones, A song of Ice and Fire was first published back in 1996 under the category of High Fantasy which in my opinion was a mistake for it doesn’t have anything to do with High Fantasy at all. But more on that later…

However it met its glory and fame in 2011 with HBO’s decision to make it into a tv series. Now we have come to learn HBO’s habits by now, after so many series they aired, we are sure of two things: There will be brutality and there will be a lot of boobs. B&B of another kind if you will…

I cannot deny for a second, that the show is a very expensive production with talented actors and directors. Except for Lena Headey…I mean I watched this woman in The Remains of the Day, Century, The Jungle Book, 300 and now in Game of Thrones and she thinks smoldering and frowning a lot is acting. Somebody please get this woman an acting coach, she has got but one expression for all emotions… Although I dislike, like many others but for different reasons, the cardboard, irrevocably evil characterization of Joffrey, I heartily hail Jack Gleeson for doing such an amazing job with the role at such a young age. The kid’s got talent that’s for sure.

The misé en scene of the show immediately drags you in. When it comes to settings, the books or the show stand second to none, in its own category.

As soon as you begin watching the show or reading the books you will be engrossed in a variety of characters…initially…after a while you will learn to establish emotional barriers between you and the characters you watch or read about.

And that is where the books and the show fail for me. Again…more on that later.

Now lets begin with the length of the story. We cannot for sure tell how long it will take Mr. Martin to finally get to his point and bring this world to a sound conclusion; but we can say that if he has been writing the books since 1991 (that’s right) and in 23 years winter couldn’t even show up, then we have got an enormous problem in that I fear he will pass on before he can finish what he began. As a matter of fact I often wondered if he suffers from ADHD (genuine concern, not mocking) because the stories he creates started very much to resemble a messy child’s room who instead of doing some tidying up messes up even more by dumping more junk in the middle and then goes ahead dealing with something else, his attention never in one place. I think much like the child in this scenario, Mr. Martin is bored and too hyperactive to do his chores.

I have but one question on this matter…Whatever happened to “Less is More”? The best things in life are the things that end, like life itself. And like in gourmet dining, the author should always leave the reader wanting more. I know it means less money but to me quality is more important than quantity. I know I am angering a lot of fans at this point, but I am speaking out of experience and popular mechanics: Stretch something too far and it will come loose or break.

I can certainly see the appeal though. The intrigues, the murders, the battles, the feudal rivalry, mother of dragons who is wandering in the middle of nowhere still, the wall, snow zombies, bastards, prostitutes, blood, gore, nudity, violence and incest. Game of Thrones certainly has got it all.

What it doesn’t have for me, is a hero with whom I can share a special reader-protagonist bond without having to worry that he/she will die in vain. Please note that I am not saying just “die”, I am saying “die in vain”. Writers kill their characters off for various reasons. Most fiction main heroes die in order to inspire enlightenment in other characters and in readers or viewers. A hero’s death is something that affects us all as a whole. Now it is important to know when, who and how often to kill in a book and I understand that Game of Thrones is highly liked by a lot of people because of the fact that anyone can die. I was also quite impressed by that fact until it started to get a little old. As a matter of fact as the body count started to climb up I started to feel as if I was watching “24” in a fantasy setting.

When it happens once, you get sad, twice you get mad, three times you find yourself constantly on guard in order not to empathize with a character too much. You create emotional barriers which will prevent you from rooting for someone. And if you let your guard down, you are running the risk of ending up like this:

So what happens when you have to stay on guard?  Your escapism is ruined. You find yourself in a more realistic, almost historical world. As an author, treating your characters as ruthless and objective as a historian can be good or bad. For me it is not to the advantage of a work allegedly claimed to be fantasy but then again what is fantasy?
Is it elegant maps, swords, elves, dragons, magic and alternative worlds? Black smokes coming out of lady bits??

Or is it something more?

While it does set the ambiance for you, fantasy is and has always been more than just a setting. It is not an absolute obligation that literal other worlds, maps, magic or dragons are included for a work to be a fantasy fiction. Such is the case with Scissor Hands which features none of the above and yet it is still fantasy.

So what is it?

It is the sensation that you find yourself in a world which is different than ours; as opposed to finding our world’s realities in a fantasy setting. Better read a history book in this case and learn something useful along the way.

It is the emotional complacency that at the very end somehow the good shall thrive or escape the evil. Like it or not, unfortunately this is the bottom line of fantasy fiction. NOT fearing that if you root for someone too much you might find yourself, repeatedly subjected to emotional abuse by the writer.

Tolkien, Salvatore, Weiss, Hickmann, Greenwood are some of the masters of High Fantasy.

And yet Mr. Martin is being called the “American Tolkien” by some with a work which is not even High Fantasy. A High Fantasy Fiction has got strict patterns which exclusively dwells on one hero’s rite of passage with a good vs evil motif, where evil is finally undone by the good. For more info on High Fantasy please check this link:

The science of genre or quality (characteristic) does not tolerate exceptions and is merciless. Pluto lost its planetary status because; of the three criteria it did not meet one.

Mr. Martin’s work is a historical fiction in a fantasy setting. A “realistic fantasy” if you will. It has also been called Medieval Fantasy but anyone who has read Pillars of the Earth will know exactly why it is not Medieval Fantasy either.

In short, apart from the unfortunate resemblance in initials I do not see common ground at all with J.R.R Tolkien. Apples and Oranges, Oxford and Clarke…From a son who will say “For as long as I have got breath in me, no one touches Silmarillion”, to a writer who seems to feel compelled to write because he has hit a goldmine.

Borrowing someone else’s fame is not an indicator of originality and it is not a praise either. If you value him and his work you should let them stand on their own feet, not on someone else’s accomplishment. I should think he wouldn’t appreciate being referred to as a nationality and someone else’s surname either.

Now in the name of being fair the early works of G.R.R. Martin were worthy of praise and he did accomplish a lot. He has been in the world of fantasy long enough, even before I was born, so he must know what he is doing. Which leaves me with one assumption: He sold out to the sweet taste of green banknotes and decided to go for sensationalism.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think he has done amazingly well with his first few books of this saga; there is absolutely no doubt there.  

Maybe I am being way too rigid with him. Maybe we are watching the birth of a new sub-genre. It may take some time to understand its outlines and criteria. But it will take even more time to see if it will endure the sands of time, because the best critic is the time itself. Of course we are going to have to wait for him to finally finish it so that we can discuss the series’ worth in a better informed fashion. A good conclusion can always turn things round so I haven’t lost all hope for Game of Thrones yet…just my patience.

However, as it is now I think I can sum up the formula of GoT as follows:

Characterization: A variation of historical figures: Feudal or Byzantine.

Plot: Arbitrary, too many complications that go on eternally with few resolutions following the suspension and climax. Written to shock and provoke. Blatant sensationalism.

Format:   Soap-Opera. Now don’t be in a hurry to take this as an insult. Soap opera format has been the basis of many series we watch today. It is a very clever structure, aimed to keep the people interested for a long span of time. There is a main story which will not find its conclusion because of endless complications till the very end of the series itself but, there are another 10-15 stories surrounding the main one which begin, develop and end, in order to provide the viewer some sense of closure and respite every now and then. A whole lot of series of our times were inspired by the lowly soap format but they did a great job with it.

Length: Blatant commercialism.

Setting: Fantasy

Now I am aware that I might have been too harsh in my criticism at times so I would like to point out the fact that it was never my purpose to offend anyone. I hope you will excuse my occasional subjectivity along with my objectivity and try to understand that a work this famous will receive both praise and criticism. After all, these days you can’t even swing a dead cat without hitting Game of Thrones.

Either way, if by this review I offended you, I do apologize in advance.

But I think I treat everyone fair by writing this:

If you like reading about a protagonist you can freely come to cherish, rite of passage, good versus evil and triumphs, a story that doesn’t keep going for 20 years and meets a timely end, Game of Thrones is not for you.

If you like reading about feudal conflicts, palace intrigues, politics met with great violence in a fantasy setting that will never disappoint you by coming to a timely end, Game of Thrones is for you.

Now I should take my advice and conclude at last…