Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sonic X Part 13 Episodes #61 - 65

Sonic X
Sonic X
Part 13 Episodes #61 - 65

Ep 61: Ship of Doom
   While cruising through space, the gang engage in a battle with the Metarex that destroyed Cosmo’s home world.

   Another Robot of the week episode but the villain in this one is so cool it hardly matters. He’s the size of a space ship and takes down Eggman’s space station single-handedly, defeating Shadow in the process.
   After Sonic and the gang struggle to defeat him, Sonic teams up with Shadow to finally take him down, giving Cosmo some closure, but not weakening her resolve to see the Metarex defeated.

   It’s an episode that might be low on plot, but an impressive villain and decent action sequences make up for it. It’s not my favourite episode, but in terms of pure spectacle, it’s pretty cool.

Ep 62: An Underground Odyssey
   While exploring a new planet, Cosmo and Tails get trapped underground and discover a Metarex plot to create fake chaos emeralds, duplicating their power.

   This is a surprisingly decent episode. We get to see some brief flashbacks to Cosmo’s home world, giving us a taste of what she has lost, she also gets some time alone with Tails and the friendship between the two really starts to grow.
   It’s great because we finally get to see Cosmo grow a little as a character, it’s great to see.

Samurai Snakes

   Did I mention the skeleton samurai snakes? Oh yeah, there’s Skeleton samurai snakes in this episode, possibly the coolest Metarex villains so far, they’re the most 90’s looking things you’ve ever seen. They’re like something out of Mummies Alive.

   All in all, this is a good episode, with a decent amount of time spent on the characters instead of the action. The uncovering of the Metarex plot also gives the impression that this story arc is finally going somewhere.

Ep 63: Station Break In
   After discovering two Chaos emeralds are hidden in a Metarex base, Sonic and Eggman team up to break in and steal them.

   This was a pretty decent episode, the team up between Sonic and Eggman led to some pretty cool moments. The two agree that whoever gets to the emeralds first can keep them, this obviously leads to Eggman using dirty tactics to get Sonic and his friends out of the running. Meanwhile, Rouge also turns on Eggman and attempts to get the emeralds for herself.

   While there’s a little less comedic interactions between the two sides than I’d like, (this episode is pretty action heavy) it’s still a decent episode.

Ep 64: A Meterex Melee
   After breaking into the Metarex base, Sonic finds himself in a fight with their leader Dark Oak, as well as an approaching armada.

   These action heavy episodes always fail to hold my attention. I just find myself switching off when there’s nothing but fighting with no meaningful interactions between characters.
   Sadly, that’s exactly what happened here. While there’s some cool stuff going on, it just failed to grab me. The only thing of any real interest was the final battle between Super Sonic and Super Shadow which was all too brief, the fight should have been epic, perhaps having a whole episode dedicated to it, instead it’s thrown in at the end here with no real chance to go anywhere.
   While the two fight, a black hole is opened up inside the base, destroying the Metarex stronghold, but swallowing up all seven emeralds in the process.

Ep 65: Mission: Match Up
   The Chaotix appear on the ship after getting lost and damaging their ship. While Tails fixes their ship, Vector decides to pay him back by setting him up on a date with Cosmo.

   This is a really fun episode, even if it is basically just filler. The Chaotix try a bunch of different ways of getting Cosmo to fall for Tails, the most enjoyable of which sees an invisible Espio puppet an unconscious Knuckles, with a fake beard, claiming to have joined the Metarex in an attempt to get Tails to save Cosmo. It’s a delightfully convoluted plan and it won’t come as any surprise that it fails miserably.

Knux face
Knuck Puppet

   Ironically, while the Chaotix are coming up with new plans, hints of a romantic relationship do blossom between the two as Tails helps Cosmo plan a party.

   While the contents of the episode may be of little consequence, it’s nice to finally get an episode that slows down the pace and focuses on the characters instead of the action. It’s a good one. 

Sonic Says!

Men at Arms

Men at Arms
Men at Arms
Terry Pratchett 
'Be a MAN in the City Watch! The City Watch needs MEN!'
But what it's got includes Corporal Carrot (technically a dwarf), Lance-constable Cuddy (really a dwarf), Lance constable Detritus (a troll), Lance constable Angua (a woman... most of the time) and Corporal Nobbs (disqualified from the human race for shoving).
And they need all the help they can get. Because they've only got twenty-four hours to clean up the town and this is Ankh-Morpork we're talking about...

Monday, 22 September 2014

Thank You for Smoking

Thank You for Smoking
Thank You for Smoking
Christopher Buckley
"Nick Naylor is just a regular guy trying to earn a living. In these neo-puritanical times, it's a challenge to defend the rights of smokers and a privilege to promote their liberty. Sure, it hurts a little when you're compared to Nazi war criminals, but Nick's just doing what it takes to pay the mortgage and put his son through school. As chief propagandist for the tobacco industry he can handle the insults from the antismoking zealots, but death threats are a different matter. Someone wants to prove just how hazardous smoking can be - and if Nick isn't careful, he's going to be stubbed out."

Friday, 19 September 2014

Sonic X Part 12 - Episodes #56 - 60

Sonic X 
Part 12 - Episodes #56 - 60

Ep 56: An enemy in need
   Eggman convinces Knuckles that he has turned over a new leaf, leading Knuckles to battle against Sonic for possession of the chaos emerald.

   This was a really enjoyable episode, Knuckles’ gullibility leads to some really funny moments. When he explains Eggman’s change of heart to the rest of the gang Amy flat out tells him he’s an idiot and points out the numerous times he’s already fallen for the same trick. Also, when the battle with Sonic begins, instead of worrying for their friends safety, the rest of the group just goes about their business, so used to the two fighting that it has no effect on them anymore. It’s good to see the Sonic series pokefunat itself and it's pretty funny.

   As for the rest of the episode, once Eggman’s plan is revealed, they’re attacked by a Metarex leading to a decent battle between it and Eggman’s giant mech to end the episode. It’s a good one.

Ep 57: A Chilling Discovery
   After another Chaos Emerald appears on their ships radar, the gang travel to the frozen planet….Freezy…great name…

   They may not be anything terrible about this episode but sadly (and perhaps, predictably) there’s also nothing great in it either…
   The group land on the planet, find the emerald and do battle with the Metarex protecting it, that’s really all there is to it.
   Sadly, after the great overarching narratives that made up the second half of series one, we seem to be back to the episodic robot of the week formula that made the opening episodes of the show such a chore to get through. Prepare for more tedium ahead…

Ep 58: Desperatly Seeking Sonic
   After a battle in space, Sonic crash lands on yet another planet. While he steals a chaos emerald from Eggman, Amy cream and Cosmo work on retrieving the planet egg from a cowardly Metarex.

Girl Power

    Not a great episode, but it’s good to see the girls get some time to shine. The Metarex that has the planet egg manages to trap the three of them, but rather than fall into the damsel in distress role, the three girls repeatedly break out of his traps and continue the hunt.
   Sadly, towards the end and completely out of the blue, this plot is dropped so Sonic can have his showdown with Eggman, it’s a real shame because this could have been a great opportunity to give the female characters room to grow a little. Instead, we’re treated to yet another fight between Sonic and Eggman…

Ep 59: Galactic Gumshoes
   When the Chaotix are hired by Vanilla to deliver some items to Chris, the gang mistake their ship for a Metarex attack squad.

   A pretty pointless one but a fun one nonetheless. When the Chaotix board the gang’s ship it leads to a bunch of funny scenes where they’re mistaken for Metarex, the most enjoyable is when Charmy dresses in armour to protect his from the groups attacks, failing to realise the armour only makes him look more like a Metarex.

   Eventually the problem is solved but Vector decides it’s not suitable for Cream to be out in space (which is…actually a totally fair point) and tries to kidnap her and bring her home to Vanilla. This second half isn’t half as entertaining and the decision at the end is a little cheesy. That said though, this is an amusing enough episode, it’s just great to have the Chaotix appear again.

Ep 60: Trick Squad
   While exploring Eggman’s ship, Rogue stumbles upon a secret. Shadow is still alive, frozen within a capsule powered by a Chaos emerald.

Dun dun dun!

   Aside from the reveal that Shadow is still alive, there’s really not much going on here. The gang travels to a planet destroyed by the Metarex and do battle with on of them. It’s another boring robot of the week episode, saved only by the cliffhanger which sees Shadow awaken, find the emerald that drew Sonic to the planet, and return it to Eggman. 

Sonic says


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
JK Rowling

   When the Harry Potter books were first released I was a huge fan. I quickly became obsessed with them, reading them constantly, buying up the first run of merchandise, dressing as Harry himself for Halloween and eagerly awaiting any scrap of information about the upcoming film adaptation. As the series wore on however, I slowly found myself losing interest, as the wait between releases grew with each instalment I found myself getting less and less excited for the next book. I struggled through the Order of the Phoenix when it was released and during the seemingly never ending wait for the Half Blood Prince, I grew up a lot and Harry Potter just wasn’t an important part of my life anymore. I read HBP and couldn’t remember the events of the previous book, I had forgotten who all the new characters were and I just gave up with the series.
   The final instalment in the series, The Deathly Hallows was released in 2007 and I didn’t bother to pick it up. Until recently it was the only book in the series I’d never read.

    Having now finally picked it up, and finally rounded off the series I have to say, I really regret not doing it sooner. This book is epic.

   In a break from series tradition, the final book does not see Harry return to Hogwarts. Instead, it sees him on the run, hiding from the death eaters who are asserting more and more control over the wizarding world. Both the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts itself have fallen under Voldemort’s control. The dark lord has won.
   With two of the seven Horcruxes (magical artefacts that imbued with a part of Voldemort’s soul, making him immortal) destroyed, Harry, Ron and Hermione spent the remainder of the book hunting down the remaining five before taking the fight to Voldemort to decide the fate of the wizarding world once and for all.

   The tone in this book is the bleakest of the series. Right from the off there’s a sense of how massive the task Harry faces is and how impossible the task seems.
   One of the earliest scenes features the death of a pretty important character to the series. What’s so haunting about this moment is how unceremonious it is. The character dies off screen, there’s no epic battle or heroic last words, he’s a major character in the series but simply becomes another casualty of war. From that moment on Rowling’s intentions with this book are clear. This war isn’t going to be pretty, there are going to be major consequences for Harry and his friends, it’s going to be brutal.
   It’s a bleakness that never lets up, even the victories that our three main characters are immediately overshadowed by the enormity of the task that remains. Destroyed a horcrux? Great, but there’s still four more to find. Escaped the Death Eaters? Well that’s all well and good but there’s nowhere to hide, you just have to keep running.

   The book is a  massively emotive piece of writing. Having followed the last seven years of Harry’s life, to have gone through all of those experiences with him and to see the dark place that they’ve led is devastating and Rowling plays up to that feeling as much as she can. There are so many moments in this book that hit home in an immensely powerful way. Pretty much every scene, every interaction between characters, every death, every memory will have one fan crying their heart out as they read it.
   For me, the most emotional moment in the book took me by complete surprise as it happens in the opening chapter.

   As Harry gets ready to leave the Dursley’s home for the last time, he has one final confrontation with his abusive Uncle Vernon. Harry is justifiably unforgiving about his uncle and the treatment he received over his years living with him.
   As he vents his frustrations, Harry gets backup from an unexpected source, his cousin Dudley. Dudley mentions that, despite how much Harry put up with over the years, he still saved his life. He expresses his gratitude to him, says he’ll miss him and wishes him luck….then shakes his hand.
   That one small moment of recognition, of apology, regret and resolution coming from Harry’s childhood antagonist, hit me harder than any character death or high intensity moment across the whole series.
   I don’t think I’ve ever cried at a book, but Dudley shaking Harry’s hand brought me closer to tears than anything else I’ve ever read.

    As ever of course, Rowling knows how to break up the doom and gloom with enough comic relief and lighter moments to keep the pace varied. There are several funny scenes throughout the book, the groups daring break in to the ministry of magic, which sees Ron, disguised as a ministry worker, forced off mission when a higher-up gets him to perform some menial work is probably the funniest of all. These sections, coupled with some happier moments, really help break the tension and give the reader a much needed respite from the horrors that are building up around Harry.

   I won’t go much into the actual writing because, after reviewing the six previous novels, I’ve nothing much else to say. Rowling’s writing is as solid as ever and her ability to build a world that feels so fleshed out and genuine is a skill to be admired.

   The Deathly Hallows is the perfect finale to the Harry Potter series. It’s dark, epic and heartbreaking but still manages to provide enough warmth to keep you from falling into utter despair.
   I’m so glad I finally decided to return to the Harry Potter series, that I took the time to finally read Rowling’s conclusion in her own words. The experience has given me a newfound respect and love for the Harry Potter series. I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same connection to these books that I felt as a child but the love I feel for them now as an adult is a different kind of love. No longer a blind obsession, I hold the Harry Potter series aloft with respect for the impressive world, engaging characters and gripping plot that Rowling created. It’s truly a remarkable achievement, one that deserves to be celebrated.
   And so, you can certainly count me, once again, among the endless ranks of the Harry Potter fandom. It’s good to be back. 

JK Rowling
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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Sonic X Part 11 - Episodes #51 - 55

Sonic X
Sonic X
Part 11 - Episodes #51 - 55

Ep 51: Friends ‘til the End
   Chris and Sonic run away to the mountains  after Chris shuts down the Chaos Control device.
   They hide out in a cabin Chris visited as a child until Chris realises he was wrong to keep Sonic trapped on earth.

Sonic and Chris

   This is a really nice episode. It’s great to have a whole ep that’s nothing but interaction between two characters, especially seeing how little time Sonic and Chris actually spend together. The dialogue they share is great and Chris grows up a lot when he realises he has to let Sonic go.

Ep 52: A new start
   The last episode of either Season 1 or 2 depending on which version of the show you’re watching, this episode sees Eggman launch an attack on his homeworld in the absence of Sonic.

   The battle here feels a little forced, there’s no real reason for it other than to fill up the episode, I can’t help but feel this one would work better if they’d just added an extra ten minutes onto the last episode, dealing with Sonic’s return home onwards.

   That said, it’s still a pretty cool episode, we get to see a little more of Sonic’s world, though not quite as much as I’d like, a highly emotive reunion between Sonic and Amy and a really cool finale which shows Chris and his friends as adults, working on a chaos control device to take them to Sonic’s world.
   It’s really cool and was originally supposed to be the end to the show before another season was demanded by fans (for some reason). All in all, it’s a pretty cool finale.

Ep 53: A Cosmic Call
   While battling a mysterious robot in space, Sonic uses chaos control to scatter the emeralds across the world.
   After recuperating at Eggman’s base, he leaps straight back into action when another robot attacks, stealing the planet egg, the world’s lifeforce.

Adult Chris

   A pretty uninteresting opening to the new series to be honest. While the Metarex are a pretty cool series of villains, their designs are too generic for my tastes. They just don’t look like Sonic characters.
   As for the plot, there’s not a whole bunch to hold your attention. The episode ends with the adult Chris finally getting his machine to work, teleporting to Sonic’s world, and turning back into a child…..oh dear…

Ep 54: Cosmic Crisis
   Cosmo explains to the gang that she is the last of an alien species whose home planet was destroyed by the Metarex. The gang build a spaceship intending to take the fight to the metarex themselves.

Fight fight fight

   This is another weak episode, the main body of the ep is a fight between sonic and another Metarex and it’s just dull…to be fair, this is still in the beginning stages of the arc, we’re still learning about the metarex and their goals…but yeah….it’s boring…

Ep 55: H2 Whoa
   The gang land on a water logged planet, searching for a chaos emerald. While hunting, they are attacked by a group of fishy metarex.

   A decent enough episode, this one sees Chris battle with the emotions surrounding his newfound predicament. When attacked by the Metarex he tries to put his kung fu training into effect but finds it ineffective due to the lack of strength in his child-like body. The frustrations of being a grown man stuck in the body of a kid begin to wear him down and he struggles to find his place in the gang.
   It’s pretty interesting and while it never goes as deep as I’d like, it’s an interesting look at Chris’ psychology after travelling to Sonic’s homeworld. 

Sonic Says 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Half Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince 
JK Rowling

   From a book I didn’t love to one I absolutely adore. After the overly drawn out fifth instalment, book six in the Harry Potter is the adrenaline shot the series needed. The sixth book delivers all of the plot advancement that the previous chapter but does so in a much punchier manner, delivering hit after hit after hit with several fascinating developments throughout and a couple of killer twists.

   Harry returns to Hogwarts for his sixth year but it is a very different place, after Harry’s battle with Voldemort in the Ministry of Magic, the wizarding world knows that you-know-who has returned. No longer hiding in the shadows, Voldemort has begun to make moves toward dominance…the war has begun.

   Once again, Harry’s role in the action seems a little secondary; after all, he’s still at School while Voldemort plots out in the real world. However, this time around, Harry’s actions throughout the book feel much more purposeful. He makes many trips with Dumbledore into the pensieve (a device which allows the user to travel into other people’s memories) to unravel further, the origins of Lord Voldermort. We get to see some of his family background as well as Dumbledore rescuing the young Voldermort, then Tom Riddle, from an orphanage to take him to Hogwarts. All throughout Riddle is a sinister figure, suggesting the evil of Voldemort always lay somewhere within him.
   These flashbacks are a great way of explaining how Harry’s nemesis was gradually shed of his humanity to become the beast he is today, they present a grim and frightening look as Riddle rots away, though they also do a great job of humanising him. The reader almost feels sorry for him when he returns to Hogwarts for the last time to apply for the position of defence against the dark arts teacher, already showing the signs that his lust for power is destroying him.
   The book isn’t all doom and gloom though, thankfully, Rowling breaks up the growing tension with some spot on comedic relief, leading to some of the funniest scenes in the whole series.
   Most notable of which sees Ron eat a box of love potion spiked chocolates intended for Harry, which make him fall in love with the girl who sent them, much to the chagrin of Ron’s girlfriend.

   The plot demonstrates yet more of Harry and his friends growing up. Ron and Hermione seem to move closer together and Harry actually starts a relationship with ron’s sister Ginny (though he does break it off towards the end of the book in a effort to keep her safe). It’s all a much needed chance to humanise the characters, to give them some real world experiences instead of magical ones and it works perfectly. It’s never too soppy or overdone, it’s just right.

   And then there’s the ending. I shouldn’t even need to type out what happens at the end of this book because I doubt there’s a single person alive today that doesn’t know the eventual outcome of this story, even those that have no interest in reading the books.
   Put simply, it’s arguably the best and most shocking conclusion to a piece of media that my generation has ever seen. The final act of the Half Blood Prince is akin to learning for the first time that Darth Vader is Luke’s Father, that Rosebud was a sledge, that Sherlock survived his fall from the Reichenbach. It might sound like it’s overselling it, but no, it’s honestly that damn good.

   The Half Blood Prince is JK Rowling’s masterpiece, it ups the tension while delivering vital information to the plot but keeping the action, intrigue and humour all perfectly balanced. It’s a hard thing to pull off but she manages perfectly and leaves the stage set for book seven’s dramatic conclusion. And after the events of Half Blood Prince…who knows what might happen? 

JK Rowling
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Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Sonic X Part 10 - Episodes #46 - 50

Sonic X
Sonic X
Part 10 - Episodes #46 - 50

Ep 46: A Wild Win
   Emerl wins the fighting tournament and gets the Chaos Emerald. However, the energy from the emerald makes him go berserk and he attacks the stadium.

   I didn’t enjoy this episode half as much as the tournament itself, but it has its moments, most notably the ending, which sees Emerl take down Sonic and his friends before Cream jumps in and takes him down.
   After being a defenceless little kid throughout the series, it’s good to see Cream actually doing something and the fact that it’s her that saves the day is pretty cool.

Ep 47: Map of Mayhem
   When a G.U.N. ship goes missing, Sonic and Co. set out to investigate. Meanwhile, Eggman steals a map that leads to a mysterious lost continent.

   This story is pretty weak to be honest. Eggman wants to find a lost continent because it has a volcano that, if forcibly erupted, will cause a chain reaction that covers the earth in lava.
   It’s a pretty dumb plot that leads to a pretty dumb, boring episode. The only real redeeming factor is Eggman’s giant pirate ship, which is utterly badass. I loves it…I want one.

Ep 48: The Volcanic Venture
   Sonic and Co. follow Eggman to the island where he intends to set off the volcano in what must be the most boring episode so far….holy crap…is that Mothra?

No...seriously, Mothra...

   Yeah, for some reason, the island is inhabited by Godzilla villains, which means we get to see Sonic take on Mothra (or Mothmacin as she’s called here) and M.O.G.U.E.R.A. (Mongroun). There’s even a statue in a cave that looks a little too much like Godzilla himself to be a coincidence.
   Exactly why there are Godzilla characters on the island is unclear. It’s suggested that the people who lived there built them but…why are they Godzilla characters? Not that I’m complaining mind you, seeing Sonic go toe to toe with some of cinemas most famous kaiju is freakin’ awesome.

This is the best thing ever...

Ep 49: The Beginning of the End
   The group learn that Sonic’s world and Earth were once one and the same, and that if Sonic and Co. do not return home soon, time will freeze as the two  world’s timeframes merge.

   This is a slow, plot heavy episode and it’s all the better for it. There are some pretty emotive scenes here such and Chuck’s speech to Tails about how much he’ll miss him when he returns home and Chris’ emotional breakdown as he tries to get Eggman to admit the whole scenario is a trick, which it isn’t.
   Chris’ sadness at the thought of not getting to see Sonic and his friends anymore is touching and the slow pace of the episde allows for that tension to build perfectly. It’s a great start to the arc that will see Sonic sent home.

Ep 50: Running Out of Time
   This episode starts with a rogue G.U.N. agent launching an attack on Eggman, suspecting he is planning one last attack before returning home.
    It’s a bit of a weak opening to what is otherwise a pretty cool episode. The main body of the episode sees Tails and Chuck complete their chaos control machine and the gang offering their final farewells before heading home. Ella offers Amy a book of her recipes and Topaz breaks down completely when Rouge leaves.


   It’s an emotional episode and delivers some great moments. The episode ends on a great cliffhanger, with Chris shutting down the machine before Sonic can step through, desperate to keep him on Earth.

Sonic says: Destroy all monsters