My Turtles Aren’t Your Turtles

**SPOILER ALERT: This article contains mild spoilers from the first chapter of Turtles All The Way Down by John Green. Please stop here if you haven’t read it!**

A take on reading the first chapter of Turtles All The Way Down by John Green, in which the author’s reading is compared with my personal reading.

If you haven’t yet grabbed your copy of John Green’s latest book, you’re truly missing out, and if you don’t follow the vlogbrothers (the collaborative Youtube channel between him and his brother, Hank), you may have missed his reading of the first chapter, uploaded around six weeks ago. The video has over 250,000 views and the comments section is filled with fans of John’s booked anticipating its arrival.

There’s something that seems very authentic about the author reading a piece of work to you. It feels raw, uncut and real, though we can say that this is definitely an edited chapter. In all honesty, I’d forgotten about this video by the time I picked up my pre-ordered copy.As I started reading, I began to remember these lines from a book hadn’t read yet, and it was an odd feeling. Not bad, just odd. But then I came across a name that was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time: Mychael.

As I started reading, I began to remember these lines from a book hadn’t read yet, and it was an odd feeling. Not bad, just odd. But then I came across a name that was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time: Mychael. This is a fairly unusual spelling of the name, but it doesn’t necessarily make the pronunciation any different, but I noticed. Because in my brain, when John was reading it, it was Michael, that was how it was spelt. Now, Mychael seemed like a different person to the Michael I had already met. I felt a divergence from what John had read to me and what I was reading. I think if I tried hard enough, they’d become one person but instead, I decided that John’s Michael and my Mychael were different. And that’s when it got interesting.

This surreal experience that sounds strange even when I’m typing it out got me thinking about the idea of “authenticity”. You’ve likely heard the word before in relation to so-called realness and sometimes even originality. Most things have a first or an original, which then becomes a catalyst for further things. The idea of authenticity is often very skewed in the music industry, for example, Amy Winehouse’s cover of ‘Valerie’ is exactly that, a cover so should be deemed something less original, yet it became more successful, more widely received and public, so just because it wasn’t the first you could say that it’s no less authentic than the original. Then we come to books. See, books are often “originals” just because they’re widely viewed as a “first” medium. Books provide spinoff films, TV shows, albums, merchandise that sometimes reach further but the book is still hailed as the original, the first and most authentic iteration of the text. Sounds pretty legit, right?

Maybe not. Something else exists before a book. The story itself overpowers its medium. The words you read were alive long before you read them, they existed in the brain of the writer, ideas that were honed and edited into a book. To John Green, the most authentic version of Turtles All The Way Down might well have been the one inside his head and that is what I felt I was experiencing watching that video of the first chapter. It felt more whole, more real and somehow different to reading it myself. I might never read the first chapter because I want to keep that alive.

Maybe it’s complete nonsense, but it felt nice and comforting to know that maybe for a second, I was seeing the story in a different way. Not better than how I would see it, but different. And that was pretty awesome.

What do you think? Do you feel different going to author’s readings and reading their book yourself? Do you think either is more authentic? Let me know in the comments below or on my Facebook page! Have a lovely day!

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Live Performances and Socks

Live music performance is a thing that most people are familiar with to some degree. Is it too expensive? Is it worth it? Is it a dying art? (Also Green Day).

Last Sunday (5/2/17) Green Day played at First Direct Arena in Leeds as a part of their Revolution Radio tour, and as surprising as this sounds, it was (at age 19) the first gig I have ever attended. Now, I’ve been a fan of Green Day for around ten years and I honestly didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity to see them play live, so when I got the tickets a few months ago, it honestly didn’t register that I’d be close enough to Billie Joe Armstrong that I’d be able to see the colour of his socks. But then February 5th rolled around and… it actually happened.

The thing about live music is that it’s almost always somewhat manufactured. By this I mean that immense amount of planning goes into every aspect of the performance, from the lighting right down to the set list and sometimes even what the performers wear. To some, this may take away from the authenticity of the performance but just because something is planned doesn’t make it any less special. In fact, the idea that something is so highly anticipated translates to it being popular and loved. Although people are always keen to draw a line between “popular”, “good” and “quality”, we can agree that the the power of pop culture, especially in music, is worthy of further study and popularity doesn’t take away the quality of anything.

A pop music scholar, Philip Auslander, in his article about female fans of The Beatles at their live shows notes that there is are elements of shared experience and even shared performance. This is an interesting concept as it focuses more on the audience than the act itself. Although neither could exist independently, it’s nice to know that within the huge industry that gives us so much great music, we the audience are valued. This is how it felt at Green Day. Yes, we’d all paid to be there but it was as though we were the performers. In a way, everyone was singing along in an attempt to prove they were a big enough fan to be there, so it was like Green Day were there to see us perform as opposed to the other way around.

Yeah, it was expensive. Things were planned out to the exact moment. It was hot and I got whacked in the face a few times. But I got the chance to see Billie Joe Armstrong’s socks (they were red) and it was like being 14 again and listening to Green Day because it was the only thing to do to show any sort of political standing. Live performances are amazing and I hope they never become as elusive as they once were.

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Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a picture of his socks.

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Does Hollywood Really Know What’s Best For Us?

We’ve all heard the phrase before, the idea that Hollywood films do well because at the end of the day, they do their market research and they learn what audiences want. But do they really have it down? Can all audiences ever be truly happy with mainstream media?

There is a growing trend of Hollywood films no longer being based upon original screenplays or even original ideas. Let’s take a look at three current popular films; Rogue One, Assassin’s Creed and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Of these, the first is sequel (or a prequel… what do you call a film that is both a sequel and a prequel to existing films?!), the second is a film based on a video game, and the third is a spinoff of a multi-billion dollar franchise that encompasses pretty much every kind of media you can imagine. Why is that? Well, long story short, it’s because they’ve already proven to be successful and, most importantly, profitable.

The only popular film out at the minute that is an original idea is Passengers and it stars two of the biggest names in film right now; Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. No doubt, most of the buzz around this film is going to come from their combined built-in audience. So, what does Hollywood have against original films? Some bring in a lot of revenue, but Hollywood hardly ever takes chances. But what we really want to know is, does Hollywood do this because they truly know what we, the audience is going to want?

Let’s look at the example of the Star Wars films. An original concept, Star Wars is universally loved. Well, episodes 4-6 definitely are, less can be said for the prequels (let’s just put the Disney ones aside for a moment). There is quite a disconnect between the two trilogies, to put it mildly, and there is a reason for this. The first Star Wars films, although pioneered by George Lucas, had the most Hollywood influence. Before A New Hope, Lucas was unheard of, the studio wasn’t going to allow him his full creative license. But after the success of Star Wars, when the prequels were being planned, Lucas was allowed to exercise more of his right as a director. Of course, he’s nowhere near being a bad director, but let’s just say that Jar Jar Binks was cut from the first three episodes…

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Source: dorksideoftheforce.com

As we all know, Jar Jar is not the most acclaimed character. It was the studio’s decision to have him cut the first time around, so do they really know what we like to see on screen? The most recent Star Wars films, The Force Awakens and Rogue One, have done even better, Rogue One being one of the most commercially successful films of 2016, despite only being out for 16 days of the year.  Star Wars is now owned by Disney, a company that knows how to make money, they do what they do very well.

Another example of this is Inception. This film was very experimental, and would, arguably, have not been taken up by the studio if it wasn’t for the fact that Christopher Nolan had already established himself as an acclaimed Hollywood director. But many would argue that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it takes away any of the cultural value, pop culture is of course, still a culture. Sure, it’s unlikely that Hollywood can keep everyone happy, but the numbers speak for themselves.

The problem here, is more about consumerism itself and the grip it has over modern arts and entertainment. Maybe there is issue with Hollywood being the main source of film, overshadowing independent productions and buying out competitions, but the rise of the internet and consumer-made media is helping to combat this. It’s clear however, that whatever is happening, as long as there are people who enjoy it, there will always be a place for it.

RIP, Carrie Fisher, thank you for being such an inspiration to many people, you will be truly missed. May the force be with you.

Are Trailers Ruining Films?

More and more it seems apparent that Hollywood are showing us the best parts of a film in a trailer to get us to that all important opening weekend. But is this perpetuating a disappointment in the actual substance of recent superhero films?

Lately, I have found that the spark the cinema-going experience has been somewhat dulled by something I couldn’t quite specifically fathom. At first I thought it was age. Some of you will be familiar with the four quadrant model that dictates the four main audience demographics; men over 25, men under 25, women under 25 and women over 25. The more squares a film hits, the higher the likelihood of its popularity.

www.screencraft.org

screencraft.org

However, the “easiest” two quadrants are males and females under 25, so most blockbusters aim to please this demographic. I may not be over 25 yet, but I did do Film Studies for two years and it left me quite cynical, so my first thought was that I had grown disinterested in Hollywood film and superheroes and action and fun and I was going to die alone and boring, because that’s what happens when you become a grown-up.  And then I suddenly felt like Tom Hanks in that Carly Rae Jepsen video. As I clung to the fragments of my youth, I watched every single superhero film that came out in my lifetime (yes, that includes the 2008 Incredible Hulk).

But then I made a very crucial revelation at this point, out of the recent superhero films (Batman Vs Superman, Deadpool etc) none of them I thought were bad, I actually really enjoyed them. So what made me initially disappointed? What had already happened to make me disinterested in the actual source material? THE TRAILERS!

By this, I mean that the experience of the trailers can sometimes eclipse the film itself. Yet, a good trailer usually reflects a good film, (of course there are always anomalies). What other factors are at play here? Now, the Deadpool trailers were absolutely brilliant, but upon reflecting on the actual film, I found that I couldn’t laugh out loud, as I felt I’d already experienced it. Several times. Whereas, with the Batman Vs Superman trailers, I felt they were on par with the film. But I didn’t dislike Deadpool, not even a little bit. It was absolute gold.

At this point maybe we can deduce that genre has an impact on this. With comedy, you’re likely only to get the desired reaction the first time you see the material. Even with great comedians like Peter Kay, who you can watch over and over and still laugh at, if you see it too many times consecutively, it can get old fast. Then you have to wait what seems like an age to be able to enjoy it again. With Deadpool being largely a comedy film, hearing the jokes several times before seeing the film took away some of the value and novelty of it. But with Batman Vs Superman, the attempt at comedy was minute and it focussed on action, offering a very different relationship between trailer and film.

In addition to this, many argued that putting Wonder Woman in the Batman Vs Superman Trailer took away what could have been an epic twist. However, other said that using her as a selling point was a smart move for DC, as they’ve been getting a lot of flack lately for not being as far on with their cinematic universe as Marvel is. Using Wonder Woman as a tool to increase revenue for the opening weekend undoubtedly helped them, but there wasn’t much else that could be described as novelty present in the canon of the film itself.

When this is compared to the Suicide Squad trailers for DC’s upcoming summer blockbuster, there is significant shift. Obviously excluding Will Smith (Deadshot), Jared Leto (Joker) is credited most often on posters and such, however, he is hardly present in the trailers. On the other hand, Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn) is extremely prevalent throughout, while being second to last in the list of main cast members. This makes it feel like DC are using Jared Leto’s name and star power to sell the film but are restricting the imagery of the Joker as a kind of secrecy tactic to increase buzz, because that’s really who everyone wants to see. Whereas, the image of Harley Quinn/ Margot Robbie is more notable as Robbie has been in the public eye in the recent past with American Hustle and other successful films, and Harley Quinn is often forgotten from popular media.

Overall, yes a good film is often mirroring a good trailer, but the tactical use of star power and imagery can manipulate the audience response. Also, different genres of film seem to gauge different trailer/film paradigms which can shift with time. Ultimately, the trailers generate a lot of buzz (or lack thereof) and it’s up to you to decide how involved you are in the advertising of media.

Do you think trailers add or take away from the novelty of film-going?

Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

 

Five Shows Likely To Be Renewed

If you’re as sad as I am about the cancellation of Utopia, (which if you haven’t seen already, it’s available on Netflix) here’s something a bit more positive; five great shows that will probably get renewed if they aren’t already! (Yay!)

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Admittedly, this one could go either way… Although it’s got mixed reviews for the later episodes, I still really rate this show. It is set in the Marvel universe, featuring a small band of SHIELD agents, including our very own Phil Coulson. The thing about Agents of SHIELD is that it can be a bit of a tossup and may make you lose faith in humanity. Whether that’s a good thing or not is really a judgment call. Okay, Agents of SHIELD can be a hassle to watch and you’re screaming at the TV but the writers did their jobs well of making you fall in love with the characters in the first place. For that, Marvel, bravo.

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Castle – Now, if I was the betting gal, I would bet all of my possessions (because I’m a broke ass student writer who has zero money to gamble with) that Castle will get renewed for another season. Why? Because it’s f**king brilliant. The story follows a mystery novelist and a detective as they solve “unusual crimes” in New York City. The interwoven comedy and satire is so brilliant, it is beyond my capabilities to describe it. Basically, if you like Sherlock, you’ll probably like this too. Heads up if you’re going to binge-watch though, there are seven seasons.

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Once Upon A Time – This is pretty much a sure thing because let’s face it, if you haven’t watched this already, you’re going to. That’s not a threat, it’s a promise. Who doesn’t enjoy exciting new spins on fairy tales? This show is seriously contagious. You see a GIF on Tumblr and next thing you know you’re cramming in “one last episode” at 4am, your essay is long forgotten and you are lying in a pile of empty snack packets. True story.

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Gotham – Yes, Gotham has officially been renewed for a second season, which is super exciting news for my fellow comic book fanatics. If, like me, you have been following along in Britain, you’ll be a little behind our friends across the pond, but so far the first season is everything one could hope for a pre-Batman crime-filled city.  The casting is great, the narrative is top-notch and the character arcs are tantalising – I cannot oversell this show.

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Hannibal – Another personal favourite of mine, Hannibal is a cult classic. It’s based on a character from a novel Red Dragon, but you will most likely have heard of the Dr Hannibal Lecter; the forensic psychiatrist that moonlights as a serial killer with cannibalistic tendencies. This programme will have you all over the place, you’ll be torn between seeing him as a victim or a villain… It’s the perfect thriller-horror series that will keep you in suspense until you just can’t take it anymore and then immediately take you to a place so beyond your understanding that you’ll feel physically sick. You’ll watch it for the sadistic pleasure but you’ll stay because you start to have sympathetic feelings towards a cannibal… Deep stuff.

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So there you go, five shows that you can dig your teeth into and in the near future, you won’t feel the soul-crushing pain of cancellation. Happy watching! 

Like this list? Want more like this? Let me know by leaving a comment or posting on my Facebook page!

Fanatical About The Flash

As an avid DC fan, it’s surprising that The Flash is one superhero that I personally haven’t had a lot of exposure to, here is a take on their current TV series ‘The Flash’ from the point of view of a ‘Flash virgin’.

*SPOILER ALERT: This article will contain spoilers for the latest episodes of The Flash aired in the UK, this may also include theories on future episodes based on The Flash in other media.*

Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to review the first episode of The Flash as I did with Gotham, so now I thought I would amalgamate all the previous episodes to form what is my understanding of the franchise so far. I haven’t had a lot of exposure to The Flash at all, only 90s TV series, which I don’t really remember. Most people view Aquaman as the ‘lame’ superhero, but as a child, I loved Aquaman and I thought The Flash was lame. Having super-speed as your sole ability always seemed a little less cool than say, Batman, who has no powers at all but is agile and smart, therefore can defeat his foes using his own resources. Having said that, now I’m older, I find it more interesting how in the new series, Cisco and Caitlin are helping Barry do all sorts of things with his speed, so it doesn’t seem like it’s ‘just speed’. I’m writing all of this a lot more personally, simply because I’m new to this franchise, so this is just my take on what’s happening so far.

Firstly I just want to bring your attention to something I did recognise, which I probably shouldn’t have and the only reason I knew this was because of the game DC launched a few years ago, DC Universe Online. In case you’re not aware of this, DC Universe Online is an MMORPG set within the DC comic universe, centring around Gotham and Metropolis. In the game, one of the first levels is a partnership with the Flash (if you choose to be a superhero that is!) against a gorilla with superhuman intelligence called (General) Gorilla Grodd. Some of you may recognise the name, it appeared on a cage that Doctor Wells was contemplating a few episodes ago at STAR labs. From what I gathered about Grodd on DCUO, is that he was a human at one point but he feels that by devolving into an ape he’s gained more than he gained by being a human. His aim is to basically devolve the general populace to their ‘ape form’. Because of the cage, I’m inclined to believe that the genetic work that Doctor Wells mentioned he did alongside (that other guy he killed) may have experiemented on Grodd and therefore caused his superhuman intelligence.

Gorilla Grodd as depicted in DC Universe Online

Gorilla Grodd as depicted in DC Universe Online

Speaking of Doctor Harrison Wells, I had my suspicions from the start of the series that he’s not part of the Flash canon. I googled it and there’s a number of theories flashing around about who he really is, implying that Harrison Wells may be an alias. Some of these theories include him being Flash from the future or a descendant of Reverse Flash (who presumably killed Barry Allen’s mother). An interesting thing to note about Doctor Wells is that he has the ability to see into the future. He asks Oracle (again, something I know because of DCUO) to look for the Flash in future headlines. I say this is interesting because this is something I have a theory about. This isn’t crystal because of how little I know about it and the fact I’ve never actually read about it and only heard of it but I have to mention… The Crisis on Infinite Earths. For those who don’t know, this was a twelve part series of comic books by DC that initially started to celebrate the 50th anniversary, but evolved into a way of correcting the continuity errors that DC were (and still are!) reknowned for. We all know the go to method of rectifying errors in the fantasy genre… Yep, it’s time travel.

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Doctor Harrison Wells

I now bring your attention to the latest episode, The Man in the Yellow Suit… At the very end, we see Doctor Wells looking at a yellow flash suit. So we know that he is a liar but “how so?” is now the question. Cisco mentioned that there were two Flashes, one red one yellow, but the one Wells has is yellow like the man in the yellow suit or Reverse Flash. We saw Doctor Wells get beaten up by this guy, so how is it that he has a yellow suit when the other Flash must be red? My thoughts are that either two Harrison Wells’ exist in the same time stream or one was his past/future self (yes I am focusing my theories on time travel). Or maybe there’s another Flash or even a robotic Flash that Wells controls… Either way I am completely hooked.

The Flash and Arrow

The Flash and Arrow

I also have to mention the Flash vs Arrow crossover episodes, of course. I have to admit that one of the reasons I was apprehensive about before The Flash started was DC taking advantage of crossovers and using them too much in a cheesy way to launch their new show. Arrow is absolutely brilliant and I was initially scared that DC would ruin Arrow in an attempt to make The Flash just as successful. I could not have been more wrong. The crossover was quite tasteful and I enjoyed how Felicity was brought in earlier to create more of a rapport between the characters so it wouldn’t be disjointed in the future. If DC really are planning to eventually create a TV Justice League, I’m actually quite excited to see it.

Overall, I think the series is going really well and it has definitely drawn me in. If you haven’t seen The Flash yet, I highly recommend this series. I sincerely hope it continues to soar to new heights in the new year, along with Arrow.

Honcho-SFX Christmas Jumper Review

It’s getting really cold as we set into the core of winter and Christmas is approaching. It never fails to surprise me how fast December goes by, but here we are with less than two week until Christmas!

As a general rule, I purchase a lot of fandom themed merchandise and something that is becoming increasingly popular this year is fandom Christmas jumpers. So I decided to jump on this bandwagon and get myself a Frozen Christmas jumper from Honcho-SFX.com, a website that sells fandom apparel and accessories. I haven’t ever bought a product like this before, as usually I would opt for a t-shirt, but this presented me with a refreshing change.

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First of all, I’d like to mention the shipping. I was pleasantly surprised to receive my order within three days. As a consumer that buys products online frequently, I can say without doubt that for this kind of item, I usually would expect it to have arrived a week later than it did. On top of this, the shipping is free in the UK, I think I speak for most Internet shoppers when I say that in most cases, free shipping takes the longest.

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Stitching and detail before washing

I was surprised that on the website a size 12 is classified as a ‘large’ as opposed to the usually classification of ‘medium’ for this size, however I found that the sizing worked well for this product. I say this because I purchased a size 12, a size I would usually get for t-shirts and I anticipated it being too small, but it was actually a very comfortable fit. It was baggier than I expected, which works well for this sort of product.

The quality of the jumper is nothing short of excellent and I say that with complete conviction. The item was exactly as pictured on the website, with the glitter snowflake detail and print. It was relatively warm with just a vest top underneath it. I was worried that the glitter would come off in the wash, but to my surprise it stayed intact in a cold wash (as specified in the care instructions).

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Detail after washing

Priced at £25.99, it’s not too expensive and for a product of this calibre, one would usually pay a lot more. Fandom t-shirts are often priced at around £15-£25 for a good quality product that won’t wash , as this is a jumper I would expect it to be this price in comparison.

Overall, I was very pleased with this product and although it is no longer available on the website, I would recommend buying a Christmas jumper from Honcho-SFX as the quality and service I received was brilliant.

See their range of Christmas jumpers here.