Monday, 24 July 2017

Ghost In The Shell (2017)

This is a spoiler free review. I won't mention any specifics about the plot itself. There is an amazing story twist at the end of the movie which would be ruined if known beforehand.

I've always been a big fan of anime. Ghost In The Shell was one of the first animes I ever saw and it's still the best. As well as the original anime there's also been a partial remake of the original called Ghost In The Shell 2.0, a sequel called Innocence, a series called Stand Alone Complex, a second series called Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, an abridged version of the first series known as The Laughing Man, an abridged version of the 2nd Gig series known as The Individual Eleven, a movie length spin off of the series called Solid State Society and a totally new series called Ghost In The Shell Arise. Then of course there's the original manga comics. There are three story cannons in the animes so it can get a little confusing.

When the live action movie was announced I was excited but at the same time apprehensive especially when I heard Scarlett Johansson would play the lead role. There was also a lot of heated discussion online about Hollywood whitewashing movies and not understanding the nuances and culture of anime. There were requests to boycott the movie.

When the trailer was released I felt a little easier as it was clear that the movie was set in Japan and while a lot of the cast weren't Japanese there was still as least some respect paid of the original anime. I decided not to read any reviews or watch anything more about the movie until it came out so I could have a genuine unbiased opinion of it. I didn't see it at the cinema and instead waited until it came out on DVD/Blu-ray.

I'll likely receive a lot of hate for saying this, especially from anime fans, but I enjoyed the movie. In fact I loved it and will certainly watch it again. Incidentally if you've never seen the Ghost In The Shell anime you'll likely enjoy it even more as you won't be comparing scenes and instead feel you're watching something totally new.

There's a lot of CGI, especially the opening scenes, which gives it an unintentional animated look to it which is a little off putting for a live action movie. The way the movie's lit reminded me a little of The Matrix while the overall style was an exaggerated look of the anime resulting in a Blade Runner feel.

The story begins with an unseen accident where upon a woman is rushed to the hospital having almost drowned. Both her parents died in the accident. She comes too and is shocked to discover she's been placed inside a robot body. A year later she joins a police unit known as Section 9 where upon she swears that she will get revenge upon the terrorist that killed her parents. That's the opening of the movie and I won't say any more than that because of spoilers.

Scarlett Johansson plays the lead character Major Mira Killian and is convincing in her role being both tough and venerable at the same time. The movie also respects the anime in that it's not all about action, there's a lot of computer hacking and intelligence gathering too.

A lot of the scenes are similar to scenes from the original anime as well as its sequel, but shown in a completely different setting. These could be seen as a homage, to please the existing fans, but on a personal level I would have preferred if everything was totally new. It could also be seen as a prequel to the anime especially due to the way it ends, but to be honest it doesn't really matter. With the original anime having three story cannons having a movie outside of that doesn't effect it.

In summary if you're a fan of the anime don't judge this movie until you've seen it in its entirety, but if you've never seen the anime then you're still going to enjoy it.

The Major needs repairs.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Until Dawn (Game Review)

This is a spoiler free review.

I downloaded this game recently because I'm into survival horror games but mainly because it was free on PS4 if you have PlayStation Plus. I've very mixed opinions about this game ranging from "It's a boring pile of poo" to "This is a fantastic game."

The game is about a group of friends who are staying at a lodge in Canada on a snow covered mountain. Due to a prank gone wrong two of the friends go missing which results in their deaths. Their brother reunites the group a year later as a mark of respect with them staying at the same location as before. Then a psycho starts stalking them and killing them gruesomely. As the story moves on there are multiple plots, subplots and twists which I won't mention to avoid spoilers.

When I first started playing I was instantly reminded of the Telltale Game series. It's more of an interactive story than a conventional game. The pacing is excruciatingly slow as the characters are introduced. They spend most of their time arguing and there's not a likeable character among them. This may be intentional as their personalities change depending on the events going on around them and the player's choices. The player has no choice as to which player to be as the game will change from one to another as you progress.

As the game progresses there is more to do than simply react to what the characters are saying and it plays more like a conventional game albeit with quicktime events for a lot of the action. Press triangle, press square, press circle, etc to climb a wall. There are lots of things to pick up too which give clues as to what it going on.

The game's divided into episodes when you can select once you've completed it. I did find the "Story so far" summary beginning each episode annoying however as they interrupted gameplay. I found the therapist character equally annoying as he often appeared at the most inappropriate of times.

On the main menu is the option to see how the game was made and to see the voice actors. That was very interesting and a surprise that they used their true likeness as characters within the game.

I managed to finish the game with two characters surviving, it is possible for them all to survive depending on the decisions you make so I'm certainly going to play it again at a later date. I did enjoy it once the action got going but I'm sure the slow pacing and annoying characters put a lot of players off. 

Ashley is spooked by a rocking horse.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Why I Don't Use Goodreads

Generally speaking I use my own website to promote my books along with Facebook and Twitter but I have looked at Goodreads in the past but felt it wasn't for me. There are two ways to sign up, you can use it to read and review books or you can sign up as an author to specifically promote your own work. I didn't really like it due to the fact that there's no requirement to purchase a book before leaving a review. They also group books together by author name meaning that my books will be in a list along with every other author named Raymond Johnson. Just a quick Google search will reveal at least seven authors of that name. It's never really bothered me as Amazon Kindle's listings don't work that way and know the difference between one author and another of the same name.

I've used Lulu Forums to discuss book issues in the past, especially when I was starting out, and I found them to be invaluable with kind, friendly people giving advice. I've also used Amazon Kindle Forums but found a lot more spiteful comments among the good. It just seems to be the way that an unmoderated forum attracts more trolls. I'm unaware if Goodreads is moderated or not but from what I gather it seems it's not.

There's been some controversy recently and Twitter arguments about two authors who share the same name, with one accusing the other of plagiarism, while those in defence accusing the other of homophobia.

I'm lucky to avoid this kind of nonsense with my own books but I do wonder if other authors named Raymond Johnson often get annoyed with me. Maybe similar things have happened that I've been totally oblivious of. Sometimes I do get very odd reviews of my books. The strangest was a review that said "This reads more like a horror than a romance" when the book was about sailors being attacked by mermaids and sirens. Why they thought it was intended to be romantic is lost on me.

Anyway back to my point. If you do find authors named Raymond Johnson on Goodreads it's not me for I never use it. they may even have my books listed among their titles but it's simply down to the way Goodreads works. They are not stealing my books or my reputation. If you purchase a book within Goodreads it will still link to the correct author in the Kindle website.

Take Goodreads reviews with a pinch of salt.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Feeling Nostalgic

I've been feeling nostalgic recently. I think it was an episode of Dr Who that caused it because he met a previous incarnation of himself, his first self in fact, that's been making me think about the past. I know I've made lots of mistakes over the years, and while it's important not to dwell upon them it is still important to learn from them.

I've been playing Perfect Dark Zero on the Xbox 360. Apparently it's also available on the Xbox One and the way it's designed Xbox One and Xbox 360 players can play together. While the game isn't as popular as when it first came out it is still more popular that it has been recently due to Xbox One players joining in. It's probably getting on for about ten years now since that game come out, which in gaming terms is a long time.

I've also been playing a game called Los Amores De Brunilda on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega. I suppose technically this doesn't count as nostalgia because it's not a game I've played in the past and it was created in 2013 but the fact that it's been created for the Sinclair Spectrum it kind of has that retro feel. In fact a lot of the games on the Spectrum Vega were created relatively recently. I've been tempted to make some myself, specifically for the Vega, but even the simplest of games require a lot of time and patience. I could probably write a full novel in less time than making a game from scratch. I do miss those days though, I loved making adventure games. However an adventure game with eighty locations required at least eighty pictures and would take over a month to draw. I wish everyone was taught how to program just so they'd realise how much work it actually consists of.

There are some things that I don't think twice about doing yet in some ways could be considered nostalgic to others. For instance even though I watch movie downloads, blu-rays and DVDs I still have a video recorder and lots of tapes. I occasionally buy anime on video if it's not available in any other format. I've also got audio tapes as well as CDs.

I know I'm getting older yet I feel the same inside. I could mention I'm balding with a fat belly but I've been balding with a fat belly for years. My physical health is good with no aches or pains. People in my family are getting older, children are growing up, and new children are being born. I feel I've stayed the same but I've probably changed in ways I've not noticed.

I appear to have gone off subject with this blog entry. I think the point that I'm making is that it's good to keep up with the latest technology but it doesn't have to be at the expense of previous tech. And no matter how old you get you still feel the same on the inside.

Old bodies with young minds.