Archive for January, 2015

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Book Review: Nigh Book 1

Ages ago, I said something – seemingly innocuous – about how Marie Bilodeau’s writing style would lend itself to a serialized novel. Imagine my surprise when the acknowledgements of Nigh’s first volume called me out, by name, for that recommendation.

“Adam Shaftoe…This is on you!”

A portent to be sure, and while it’s not usually my role to play the Haruspex, I dare say that Nigh’s first installment bodes simultaneously fantastic and terrifying for the balance of the novel.

Even though Nigh’s inaugural entry only amounts to sixty pages (or so my Kindle tells me) it has already managed to throw this reader for a few loops. Case in point: the balance of the preamble mentions faeries. Naturally, I braced for fantasy. The novel opens, however, with an introduction to Alva Taverner, an automotive mechanic and amateur horologist. And as quickly as I settled in for day one of Shadowrun, an all-consuming mist shrouded the small town of Lindsay, Ontario, and Nigh turned my thoughts toward Stephen King.

The stopover in King’s territory, however, is a brief one. Rather than housing monsters, the mist itself is a monster. It smashes cars, manifests soul reaving avatars, and twists the terrain into a series of organic bear traps. Whatever presumptions a reader might have about Nigh being a “faerie story” of the pedestrian variety should immediately but locked in an iron box and cast into the sea. In but a turn of the page, the tedium of the small town gives way to the sort of brutality one would expect to find in the pages of an Andrezj Sapkowski Witcher novel.

Bilodeau also seems intent on keeping Nigh reasonably far removed from the usual (i.e. boring) high-fantasy tropes. Nigh’s protagonist may be of exceptional lineage, but she isn’t about to go on a Skywalker-esque journey of self-discovery. Granted there’s a mystery to unravel, but there’s no reason to believe Alva and her over-sized wrench aren’t capable of meeting the challenge before them. The absence of the heroic cycle’s prelude further suggests Nigh will more likely follow the pattern of a survival story; in this case it’s Robert Kirkman meets the Brothers Grimm.

I think it’s also fair to presume there will be a considerable environmental theme to the story. As I mentioned before, the violent nature of Nigh’s apocalypse is decidedly aimed at the edifice of human civilization. Cars are smashed under the fist of an impossibly powerful force. This same force splits and shatters roads as if they were made of cardboard. At one point, a car gets knocked off a jack, bisecting an unwary mechanic in the process. The mist rages against the humanity’s products, but people, save for the aforementioned mechanic, appear as fodder to be consumed by the mist.

Similarly, the eventual weaponization of the natural world strikes as an immediate contrast to the professional background of the central players. Consider how mechanics and watchmakers labour to maintain the artificial systems that make civilization function. In the case of watch makers, they go so far as to impose an absolute order on nature through the conscious and exacting measurement of time. I can’t imagine these pieces of character development being coincidental to the apocalypse.

While there’s much more of Nigh to come, its introduction is nothing short of fantastic. Despite Marie Bilodeau’s existing and well-deserved reputation for doing terrible things to her characters, Nigh reflects a darker turn from her previous books. Where those works were a slow burn to various horrors and cruelties, Nigh offers no such gentle warm-up. Red shirts are introduced, humanized, and then mercilessly killed in a way that would make George R. R. Martin raise a concerned eyebrow. Though thematically appropriate, here’s to hoping we don’t have to wait until spring for Nigh’s second installment.

Nigh Book 1

Author: Marie Bilodeau

Publisher: S&G Publishing


0

Movie Review: Noah

I know what you’re thinking; you’re thinking, “Adam, you hate organized religion, why in the name of Gozer’s taint would you watch Noah, let alone review it?”

Whimsy. Netflix’s ever insightful recommendation algorithms put Noah on my radar because I watched The Dark Knight Returns. Somehow Batman leads to the bible. Not sure about the math on that, but nicely trolled, Netflix. And on the subject of trolling, I wonder if Darren Aronofsky is worthy of some praise therein.

Let’s take it for granted that everybody knows the story of Noah, the ark, and god’s watery genocide. Rather than bore you with a summary therein, because the movie is pretty much what you might expect it to be on that front,  I’ll colour in a few of the details that Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel shoe-horned into this Roland Emmerich sized, but seemingly Uwe Boll photographed, disaster movie.

The movie is set on the super-continent of Pangea where the descendants of Cain have built a vast urban civilization based on mining a shiny rock called “Zohan.” Yeah, like the Adam Sandler movie. I wouldn’t waste time talking about trivia like Zohan were it not amazing in its ability to turn Noah into a science fiction movie. Perhaps the Illuminati suppressed the parts of the bible which included Zohan powered blunderbusses, generally used to penetrate the rocky exo-skeleton of fallen angels, who came to earth to help Adam and Eve after their expulsion from Eden. Zohan also proves useful when Noah crafts an holy incendiary hand grenade as a prelude to attempted infanticide.

The church and I may have parted ways a long time ago, but I don’t remember firearms and grenades in the bible. Baby killing? Yes. Cock mutilation? Check. Stoning people for…well…everything. Double check. I think we all have fond memories of god’s obvious and insatiable murder-boner. However, rock monster angels and gunplay? File not found.

Meanwhile, as Noah uses his non-union slave labour angels to build the ark, the movie diverts along two equally tiresome subplots. Subplot one delivers a world of teenage angst as Noah’s kids want to have sex. The oldest one, Shem or Shemp or something, takes a liking to his adopted sister, which is apparently not troublesome to Noah and his wife because the movie is set in bible times. Meanwhile, the middle child, afflicted with the curse of not being able to jerk off – again, bible times – almost ruins the entire ark operation because Noah “won’t find him a wife”. On that note, let’s talk about Emma Watson’s part in this freak show.

Emma Watson is something of a leading voice when it comes to advocating for gender equality, as seen in her appointment as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. She was the public face of the #HeForShe campaign. Assuming these beliefs are not the product of being in Noah, I’m left to wonder why she did a movie that celebrates one of the most misogynistic religions on the planet? There’s a scene in this movie where Watson’s character, made barren through a childhood injury, says that “Shem(p) deserves a real woman who can give him children.” The bible: demonstrating the value of women through the viability of their uterus.

Subplot two focuses on the balance of humanity not wanting to be killed in a massive flood. Even though the Caininites (PS: I know Caininite ≠ Canaanite, but I don’t know what else to call these people other than humanity’s innocent bystanders of god’s petulant wrath) are supposed to be the film’s antagonists, what with all their meat eating (the truly devout are sustainable vegans) cannibalism, and raping, the movie presents them as somewhat sympathetic figures. This is due in no small part to the fact that Aronofsky makes a point of showing us how the majority of Caininites are victims of circumstance, particularly when Ham meets a would-be wife in a mass grave.

Meanwhile, King Tubal-Cain submits that man’s monstrous nature is god’s fault as god created man in his image. Though he and his followers do some horrible things, is an audience really supposed to look at them and see their desire to survive as villainous? Tubal-Cain points his finger skyward, blaming god as the architect of a divine predestination paradox. His logic is irrefutable, and in the face of genocide, it’s hard not gaze at humanity’s doomed remnant and feel pity. Pity all the more poignant in light of Crowe standing on the prow of his ark, channeling Darth Vader, as he states there are no more innocents in the world. Ergo, all those girls who got raped, and all those people who were eaten, they had it coming.

If this divine justice isn’t enough to turn a rational person’s stomach, the screenplay takes it upon itself to try and reconcile creationism and evolution. With the last few Caininites clinging to an outcropping of rock, screaming to be let aboard the ark, Noah regales his family with the story of creation. Therein, the mythical 6-day story is a voice over set against a super-cut of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos. The world forms, cells divide, life crawls out of the ocean, and so on. One can practically feel Aronofsky reaching through the screen to pat the science-minded on the head with teleological jazz hands befitting a first year philosophy student. Alas, this shallow attempt at reconciliation is so condescending that even Noah’s kids turn against their father.

Thus do we return to the subject of trolling. If this movie is meant to celebrate Christian mythology, it’s an abject failure. It shines a light on everything that is alternatively evil and perplexing about the flood myth. If Noah’s a bible movie, it’s the worst public relations imaginable. Alternatively, it could be a brilliant attempt on Darren Aronofsky’s part to give would-be atheists a primer on all the ugly parts of Christian mythology. In truth, I honestly don’t know what I should make of Noah. The only thing I’ll say for certain is that Noah is a lousy movie which plays at being as over-the-top as a Peter Jackson adaptation of Tolkien, but falls flat on its face with unlikable characters, retrograde social messages, and lousy special effects.

Noah

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Written by: Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel


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Award Season – Part 1 – Prix-Aurora Awards Best Fan Publication

A quick note on programming. Today’s post was supposed to be a review of the first book in Marie Bilodeau’s serialized novel, Nigh. A trip to the hospital (not serious, all is well) and a burst water main (again, not serious, all is well) got in the way of me doing any writing yesterday and has left me running on no sleep for about 36 hours. In this state, I wouldn’t trust myself to review Dr. Seuss, let alone a writer whose chops put me in mind of George R.R. Martin or Andrzej Sapkowski. Hey, what do you know? I bounced back.

Rather than pressing my luck, I’m going to devote today’s post to some preliminary chatter on award season. It’s a sure sign of the new year when one starts to notice writers talking about which of their works are eligible for award nomination. Last year, I was mildly disappointed when the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association’s Prix-Aurora Awards cancelled its category for “Best Fan Publication” due to lack of nominations. I’d be a lying prat if I said some part of this disappointment wasn’t wholly selfish. It’s not like I campaigned, mind you, but there’s always some very small, very vain, part of me that holds out hope. The greater loss to not seeing a Best Fan Publication award is some very fine writers missed a chance to be recognized for their efforts. Want an example?

Check out Speculating Canada: Canadian Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy. Why? Because Derek Newman-Stille is a hell of a writer. His reviews are outstanding, and his essays are the sort of thing that offer a blueprint for improving this little community of ours. Read his work, be a better person. End of line.

There should be more than enough quality fan writers to prevent us from seeing a second shutout year. I would also implore CSFFA members not to presume that the designation of “fan” constitutes a lower-tier of creative endeavour. The distinction between “professional” and “fan” is rooted in if a person is paid for their work. In terms of quality, I believe the high level of professionalism that goes into most fan work speaks for itself.

And if for some reason you, gentle reader, wanted to toss the Page of Reviews in the ring for Best Fan Publication – if only to ensure there’s an actual competition this year – I wouldn’t kick up a stink.

For your consideration, here are three of my favourite pieces from 2014.

Marginalization and Stephen King’s Rage – April 23, 2014

The Unanswered Question of Land Claims in Homeworld - July 4, 2014

Babylon 5: The Last Best Hope for Empathy – August 11, 2014

There. That’s as shameless and award-grubby as I get. Can I go to bed now?


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Game Review: Elite Dangerous

I couldn’t tell you how much time I’ve invested in Elite Dangerous. Certainly more time than I spent playing EVE Online the one summer I was unemployed. During this time, I’ve done everything David Braben’s remake of the great-grand daddy of space trading/combat games has to offer: hunting bounty, piracy, mining, exploring, playing the commodities market, and alternatively harassing and helping other players. These adventures across the galaxy have led me to one conclusion; I really like Elite Dangerous, but I don’t think you, gentle reader, will feel the same way about it. And don’t get me wrong, not liking Elite Dangerous is probably the normal reaction to this game.

Perhaps, as modern gamers, we’re a bit spoiled with our endless tutorials and help screens. If I think about games that have challenged me in recent years, my mind goes to things like Dark Souls, Spelunky, and Risk of Rain. These games are unapologetic for being brutally hard, but they do have an achievable end-game. Elite Dangerous is equally brutal in its difficulty, yet lacking any purpose beyond amassing a shit ton of credits and earning the title of “Elite,” which instantly raises the question, “why bother?” Granted, Frontier Developments has promised expansions and better multiplayer interactions, but those things have yet to happen. This leaves me looking at the release build of ED and seeing it as little more than a very big, very beautiful, sandbox. It is the very embodiment of the phrase “A mile wide an inch deep.”

For weirdoes like myself, who find a subtle pleasure in buying cargo at one space station, flying to another, and selling said cargo, amid a sandbox that is literally the size of our galaxy, this is just fine. I like making spreadsheets to record my trade routes. I like listening to podcasts as I fly my ship about the cosmos. But let’s take a moment to work through the reason why I do those two things in concert with playing Elite Dangerous.

Someone on the Frontier Forum once said Elite Dangerous is only fun if you have something else to do while you’re playing it. I think this allegation is truer than most of us who play the game would like to admit. Space, as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy tells us, is very big, and much of space is exactly that, space. Cruising about a solar system is often slow going, even at fifty times the speed of light. Elite Dangerous leans entirely toward reality in terms how it presents the galaxy as a 1:1 scale rendering of our own Milky Way. It’s technical achievement, to be sure. As a space nerd, it’s a total wet dream to pick a direction and see what’s out there. But if you’re somebody who wants a modern Wing Commander Privateer, Elite Dangerous can often be as much fun as getting hauled out on a drive through the country with your parents. Only in combat, docking, or scooping fuel from a star does ED demand a player’s full attention. This raises the question, are we actually playing a good game when we have to manufacture distractions from the extensive boring bits?

Then there are the spreadsheets. I love spreadsheets. I lovingly refer to EVE Online as Spreadsheets: The Game. Where my use of spreadsheets in EVE represented the game spilling over into my real life, I find that I’m keeping meticulous records of everything that happens to me in ED because the future is surprisingly inconvenient in its ability to manage data.

Suppose I want to visit station 1 in system X, it seems pretty pathetic that my ship’s computer can manage the math behind a FTL jump to get there, but can’t remember the prices of commodities on station 2 in system Y. Maintaining spreadsheets to manage the finances of a multi-player company in EVE is one thing, but having to keep records because Frontier Developments wants to insert an artificial barrier to success within the game’s trading system – which at the moment is the only way to make the kind of money necessary to buy the biggest and best ships in the game – seems to reflect some poor design.

Yet I keep going back to the game. I keep strapping on my mid-range cargo ship and scribbling down notes about low-priced tobacco and palladium. When I get bored of the scenery and podcasts, I switch to my hunter-killer ship, put on some Kenny Loggins and go blow up some pirates. While I enjoy myself in ED, I’m very aware of the fact I’m compensating for an imperfect game, which leans heavily on payer investment in Elite’s mythos, out-of-game social communities (e.g. the Elite Dangerous forms and reddit), and a player’s innate love of space.

Which brings me back to the biggest bug-a-boo of gaming: accessibility. While I would never argue that a game needs to be all things to all people, such that Elite Dangerous ought to cater to my mom’s gaming abilities, an appropriately accessible game is tailor made for anybody who wants to play it. This is where Elite Dangerous fails a pretty significant litmus test. Everything about Elite Dangerous, at the time of this review, tells me it’s catering to a very narrow niche of gamers and biting its thumb at everybody else, even if those players had a good time with Freelancer or Privateer and want a modern analogue. ED is out  to initiate the hardest of the hard-core space junkies into its ranks. Once you’re in, the game comes off as a weird libertarian environment; it proudly pronounces anybody can succeeded in Elite, but only if they are smart enough to get there on their own. It forces me to look at out of game for support and advice on how to be successful. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a John Galt station out there in the ‘verse. Is this why we play games? To struggle to find a purpose and then to depend on the largess of others to succeed in said purpose? Here I thought we played games to get away from how life tries to grind us down with those things.

Thus we’re left with a game which is likely going to struggle to grow its base of players. This is a real shame, because Elite Dangerous is a genuinely gorgeous game. It’s a monument to how David Braben blazed trail for the likes of Origin Systems and Volition. Yet it’s a dick of a game that seems utterly indifferent to a player’s success. I consider myself a shrewd trader and an excellent shot and I’m still thirty or forty hours from buying a ship which that says “I wear long pants”. Still, I know I’ll go back to Elite Dangerous, because, for once, I’m part of the target demographic. I don’t mind making my own fun as I haul ass through the boring emptiness of space. Since there’s no free to play mechanic, I like killing an hour or two making fake money as the activity exists within a fair system.  Be that as it may, I’m pretty certain I’m the exception to the rule in this case, and the rule is that Elite Dangerous is probably going to turn off more people than it draws in.

 

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Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

There comes a point when a man must ask himself, “is there something wrong with me?” There’s a looming sense of dread hanging over my desk as I write these words. Once again, I’m arguing against what everybody else is saying, and I’m not doing it as troll, either. Truth be told, I wanted to like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but the script seems so woefully deficient, chalk-a-block with rough patches and gun battles in lieu of narrative or character development, that I found the entire proceedings to be quantifiably poor – perhaps just-below-average if I’m going to be very charitable.

It seems to me, Cap 2 really wants to be Cold War porn in the vein of The Hunt for Red October. There’s a palpable desperation in the way the writing tries to frame this story as a thinking man’s action movie: Steve Rogers as Jack Ryan – albeit with super powers – working to stop a form of technology that will reinvent war. It won’t do for Cap to simply beat up his enemies; he has to follow a series of breadcrumbs to unravel a mystery. If Cap 2 offered a clear consequence and tangible foe from the outset (e.g. a missing Russian nuclear sub destabilizing US-Soviet detente) it might work. Alas, the Marvel universe exists in parallel with our own universe, which means the only contemporary war this movie can mobilize, while speaking to its North American audience, is the War on Terror.

Read this loud and clear, The War on Terror is not sexy. The War on Terror is a weird, sticky, morass of short-sighted ideas married with the sort of xenophobia and jingoism that would have made Benjamin Disraeli turn a shade of red. Where a character like Black Widow is easily suited to such a world, it is utterly alien to Captain America. This brings me to my first major let-down with The Winter Soldier, this should have been Black Widow’s movie. Full stop.

Steve Rogers, as the living embodiment of Roosevelt’s America, is a beacon of idealism. Since idealism doesn’t compromise, there’s little room for a moral conflict on the part of the idealistic character. This makes for an overly-simplistic “good versus bad” dichotomy and, in turn, reduces Steve Rogers into a very shallow character amid a movie that’s trying to dig into his character. Black Widow, however, comes from such a dark place that she – and the audience – might not reject being tempted into HYDRA’s web of intrigue.

Returning to the hero at hand, it seems plain enough that Cap’s writing committee recognized the need to add some depth to their leading man, lest he start coming off like Superman. This explains the decision to backfill his inner struggle after Bucky Barnes’ reveal as the Winter Soldier. It’s not a bad gambit, and it might have worked if the audience had a reason to care about Bucky Barnes.

To my recollection, Bucky was merely along for the ride in Captain America: The First Avenger. The scenes that would have developed his character were glossed over during the montage of Cap’s campaign against HYDRA. More to the point, having flashback-Bucky tell pre-serum Steve he isn’t alone strikes as pretty tone deaf to what Cap’s been through. Cap had the Howling Commandos for the first movie, and he had the Avengers in The Avengers. Now he has Black Widow and Falcon. He’s not exactly Bruce Banner in terms of isolating himself from the world.  Say nothing for Cap’s stranger in a strange land culture shock vanishing to the point he can now riff dialogue from Wargames with Black Widow. For the record, Wargames came out a year before Black Widow’s movie-canon birthday. I guess she had plenty of time to be nostalgic in the KGB…even though the Soviet Union fell when she was 7. Pretty sloppy with the details there, Marvel.

This leaves the movie stuck between being a rehash of the “optimism versus pragmatism” trope and a generic superhero movie, which traded mustache twirling in its villains for homo-erotic whispering. The dangerous (i.e. interesting) option would have been to leave HYDRA completely out of this movie. Let SHIELD compromise its principles on its own. Turn Maria Hill into the villainess who wants to avenge Nick Fury’s death from the helm of a Helicarrier. Let Captain America find himself on the wrong side of the line without the Nazi-turned-Illuminati bullshit.

What remains of all these missed opportunities is a movie whose story is so messy and convoluted that the bad guys’ goal only becomes clear in the third act. Moreover, it takes an hour for The Winter Soldier to dispense with the preliminaries. It then comes as no surprise when the heroes’ journey through the conspiracy within SHIELD is so linear as to be a game of connect the dots. There are no moments where Cap and Black Widow have to look at each other and go, “Well I have no idea what to do next.” In those occasions, where the characters might otherwise have to be smart and figure things out, there’s always a disposable character standing by to offer up necessary exposition and scene bridging. In a nutshell, Captain America: The Winter Soldier feels like filler. Filler built on more filler; it’s filler Inception. It’s meant to get us from one Avengers movie to the next, because god forbid people have to wait a few years between movies.

I give it three grumpy cats out of five, and may Galactus have mercy on my soul.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Directors: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Stars: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson


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Whitewashing: The New Normal in Genre Movies

Scarlett Johansson is quickly becoming the avatar of everything that pisses me off about Hollywood.  First, she was the voice of the incipit manic-pixie-dream-Cylon in the (sigh) Oscar award-winning Her. Now she’s landed the role of Major Motoko Kusanagi in an upcoming, live-action adaptation of Masamuni Shirow’s anime masterpiece Ghost in the Shell.

Nothing personal, ScarJo, but you have about as much business playing a Japanese cyborg as I would playing Detective John Shaft. Imagine the outrage at the idea of a white man playing Shaft. Now ponder why so much of Hollywood’s white washing is at the expense of Asian peoples.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; this is why we can’t have nice things.

Did we learn nothing from M. Night Shyamalan casting a bunch of white kids for a live-action adaptation of The Last Airbender? I guess not since the majority of film critics gave a pass to All You Need is Kill Edge of Tomorrow Live Die Repeat, despite Hollywood turning the originally Japanese protagonist, Keiji Kiriya, into a white guy called William Cage played by (double sigh) Tom Cruise. Nor should we stop talking about the fact that J.J. Abrams gave us an Englishman second only to Winston Churchill in Englishness for the role of Khan Noonien Singh. The 1960s were more progressive in casting a Mexican to play Khan.

It is on that note I think we must acknowledge that we’ve reached peak-incredulity when it comes to Hollywood’s shitty casting decisions. After all, Sir Ridley Scott has very clearly illustrated the face of the shape of things to come in his explanation of why he cast an Englishman to play Moses and an Australian to play Ramses in Exodus: Gods and Kings.

“I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such. I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”

Well excuse us, Cecil B. DeMille. Does this mean we get to throw pies at Ridley Scott the next time he dares to talk about the “art” of filmmaking?

If an auteur of Scott’s caliber is content to offer up a rationalization that, in terms of cultural sensitivity, is a stone’s throw away from the “durka-durka-jihad-jihad” scene in Team America: World Police, then what hope should audiences hold for Rupert Sanders to cast an Asian Major Kusanagi? I’m sure the director of Snow White and the Huntsman is in a place where he can tell the studios to fuck off and cast whoever he likes in his movie. I can’t imagine a single scenario where doing so doesn’t get him kicked off the project and replaced by some other up-and-comer who cares more about working than he does whitewashing and cultural appropriation.

If this is the mentality within the industry, a mindset likely fueled by focus groups filled with people who don’t know any better or are too slack-jawed to care, then it doesn’t take an oracle to forecast the situation getting worse before it gets better. Katara, Kusanagi, and Khan are only the beginning of the tidal wave of whitewashing. Last year’s box office returns demonstrated Hollywood is almost exclusively interested in investing in known properties, and there’s a world of much loved anime, and non-English stories in general, waiting for their turn at a big-screen, live-action adaptation.

Macross starring Daniel Radcliffe as Hiraku Ichijyo, Nathan Fillion as Roy Fokker, Natale Portman as Misa Hayase and Liam Neeson as Admiral Gloval

Evangelion starring Jack Gleeson as Shinji Ikari, Benedict Cumberbatch as Gendo Ikari, and Kristen Stewart as Misato Katsuragi

If I thought it would make any difference, I would point out for the benefit of any Hollywood types that ever stumble across these words that I am, in fact, a 33-year-old, white, male and I’m perfectly content to see Asian people in leading roles on both the big and small screen. Alas, I’m sure said Hollywood types would quickly rebut that I, and likely you, gentle reader, are not within their target demographic; we are not “the North American Market”.

Recall the words of Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black: a person is smart; people are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals. People make up the North American Market, and said market demands endless seasons of The Bachelor, Honey Boo Boo, My Big Fat Fabulous Life, and watching a man be eaten by a snake. The North American Market is terrible, and until it does better or demands better – either option is fine with me – there’s no reason to believe the whitewashing won’t continue along its current trajectory.


2

The Second Riff – What Should We Do?

In case you missed it, on Monday I launched the much-delayed, but still pretty enjoyable, Wing Commander Riff Cast. It’s two hours of me and my friends bashing the hell out of one of 1999’s worst movies.

Even though it took me a lot longer to produce the Wing Commander Riff Cast than I had initially expected, I learnt enough about audio production of this scope to be able to replicate and improve on the process. Oh yes, I want to do another one. We have the technology. We have the know-how. Gentlemen, we can make it better, faster, and with more snark.

Additionally, I feel I owe an act of contrition or two for taking so long to get the first one finished up.

This time around, the hardest part of the process is going to be picking a movie. Since we reached back into the distant past of the 1990s with Wing Commander, it seems only fitting that we take on something a little more recent for the second Riff Cast.

After consulting with Rotten Tomatoes, I’ve put together a list of some of the worst movies of 2013 and 2014. I’ll leave my fate, and that of my co-hosts, in your hands.

What’s the next movie you want us to subject to a Riff Cast?


4

The Wing Commander Riff Cast

That’s right, boys and girls, it’s here. The Wing Commander Riff Cast is now live, very late, but live.

But, Adam, what is a riff cast?

Pretty much exactly like a rifftrax, only with cheaper  production values. Myself and co-hosts Ken Waterhouse and Matt Leaver got together and watched 1999’s cinematic low point, Wing Commander. Then we watched it again and recorded all of our snarky comments for your listening pleasure.

Even though this project took far longer to finish than initially expected, it remains the first in a series of riff casts that we plan on producing over the coming months. Now that we know what we’re doing we can put these things together much faster and without having to do another kickstarter.

Speaking of Kickstarter

This project would not have been possible without the incredibly generous contributions from our funders, the Officers’ Club.

Aces

Adam Love, author of Principles of Investing: A Complete Introduction to Stock Ownership, Basic Valuation, and Risk Assessment.

Matt Moore, author of Touch the Sky, Embrace the Dark: tales of the bizarre, the terrifying, the all-too-near future, is a new short story collection from multiple Aurora Award nominee Matt Moore.

Beverly Bambury, publicist specializing in science fiction, fantasy, crime, mystery, weird, horror, comics, and other creative pursuits.

Top Guns

Hugo Chesshire

Kate Heartfield

Nick Matthews

Rebecca Pascoe

Leah Petersen

K.W. Ramsey

Jeremy Rowland

Hayden Trenholm

Steve Umstead

How do I listen to this damn thing anyway?

Easily enough. Queue up the DVD release of Wing Commander to the title menu. Then hit play on the riff cast. After a brief introduction you’ll hear me give you a countdown to click “start movie.” From there, you need only fasten your seatbelts for two hours – yes, it’s a two hour movie – of one of the worst things ever.

Who did the art?

The riff cast logo is the product of the brilliant and talented Akira Arruda.

Who did the music?

The riff cast theme is a cover of the original Wing Commander (PC Game) anthem, courtesy of The Blake Robinson Synthetic Orchestra.

Click here to download the Wing Commander Riff Cast