Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Unofficial Answers to the Frequently Asked Leakycon Registration Questions

UPDATED AT 22:50 BST on 14/9/12 to clarify answers to most recent official information

Over the past weeks since LeakyCon registration opened (and then closed again) the conference’s facebook and twitter pages have been inundated with people asking several questions - questions which have been answered in various forms and by various people on multiple occasions. To try and save everyone a little time I’ll try and do my best to give (admittedly unofficial) answers to some of the most frequently asked. 

Q: When will registration reopen? You won’t just spring it on us will you? I don’t want to miss registration, please don’t randomly reopen it. (and any other form of this question you can think of)

A: Registration WILL NOT reopen randomly. Portland Registration will open at noon Portland time on September 22. For those with incomplete London registrations (see final question below) the system will reopen at 6PM London time on September 22 to complete registration, in the original order, with everyone else on the list going onto the waiting list once the conference completely sells out.

Q: I seem to have been charged in USD not GBP for London, is this right?
A: Simply: no it isn’t. You should have recieved an email last week with a link to pay the difference. Due to various issues with the previous registration company, this link is currently unavailable, but once it becomes available again you will receive another email. From there you will have one week to pay the difference before your registration is refunded and resold.

Q: How many tickets are left for London? How long is London likely to take to sell out?
A: There are less than 100 tickets left for London, and more incomplete registrations than that, so it is likely the event is going to sell out INCREDIBLY quickly.

Q: So if I haven't already started registration when do I get to register?

A: There will be a waiting list once registration sells out (which at this point it almost certainly will do on the back of incomplete registrations), so once the waiting list is open you can sign up to it.

Q: I got an email saying my registration was incomplete, but also got my confirmation emails. Which should I believe?
 If you got an email that you had an incomplete registration even though you successfully purchased one, this was because you had started the process of 
adding another person to your party. Your completed registration is fine; your incomplete one is not. You will need to try and log back in at 6PM on Sept22 to try and recomplete this incomplete registration, which you will be given the opportunity to do so as the block of 100 people including your registrations comes around. 

Friday, 20 July 2012

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

First I must be clear: what follows is a review which will hold no punches back spoilers wise. If you have yet to see the end of the Dark Knight trilogy, and do not want to read anything before you go into Dark Knight Rises, then stop reading right now. You have been warned.

It was always going to be a difficult third act for Christopher Nolan to create. With a near perfect first two installments to Nolan’s Batman trilogy, he had a lot to live up to. My oh my did he deliver on that and so much more.

Starting out eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne has turned recluse, hanging up the cape and mask for good, while Commissioner Gordon has managed to clean up the streets of Gotham in Harvey Dent’s name.

Before long though the mysterious Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway presenting a near definitive version of the character) informs Bruce - and the audience watching - that “there’s a storm coming”.

That storm comes in the form of the frankly terrifying Bane. Introduced here as an agent of Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Shadows, its nice to see the trilogy tie up the loose ends that we’ve seen come through from the first film, while moving the story forward as Bane makes good on the Leagues promises, and we see the fall of Gotham and particularly of Bruce Wayne himself.

There are sequences in the film which probably struggle to stay below the 12A rating, as the audience is forced to come to terms with the mortality and vulnerability of their hero, outmatched physically and mentally by a man even he must accept is his superior in every way.

The film’s emotional heart though is found through Michael Caine’s Alfred. Always an important part of the trilogy in a comedic sense, it feels like Nolan really moved the character forward here. It is him who gets many of the most poignant lines as he begs Bruce to simply give in, telling him simply that he “won’t bury you.” and that “he has already buried too many members of the Wayne family”. Your heart breaks as he speaks, and you literally feel yourself getting angry with Bruce as he ignores his oldest friend.

On Bane himself, there had been alot of talk before the release of the film about Bane's voice - especially following the prologue to the film which was shown in cinemas last year. Thankfully the vocal track has been completely redubbed since then, meaning thankfully that the voice was completely understandable (if a little raspy) throughout. Thomas Hardy's huge dominating figure is something audiences will come away talking about having seen the film, and while he is not as big as the character in the comics (like everything in the Nolan universe he is at least to some extent grounded in reality) he still towers over his fellow screen presences, and you truly feel a sense of dread whenever he is on screen.

The action sequences have all been ramped up from the previous installments too. Following the terrific lorry chase in The Dark Knight, there are several superb scenes in this - most notably a sequence in which about 100 police cars chase the caped crusader on the batbike (who in turn is chaisng Bane and his cronies), as they race across the streets of Gotham.

It feels like Nolan looked back at everything which had worked in the previous installments - a villain worthy of a superhero movie from the maniacal point of view, while still being firmly grounded in reality, a witty and fast moving script, and a concentration on the true angst and suffering of the hero. This Batman (and it has been alluded to in the previous films) is only a man, and you truly find yourself believing he could die at any moment - especially as this is the final act of the trilogy.

The supporting cast are great, as ever - from the appearance of Cillian Murphy’s psychotic Dr Crane as a judge in the kangaroo court Bane has setup to be judge jury and executioner, to the ever watchable Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, everyone is superb.

New comer to the franchise Marion Cotillard too does a fantastic job as Talia Al Ghul. While perhaps not the best kept secret - indeed I think just about everyone who announced her casting the movie originally attributed the role to her - the twist ending surrounding Cotillard’s true identity in the film was remarkably well handled, coming at a moment of true power in the film, and to say there was audible gasps in the cinema I was in when the revelation finally came through would not be an exaggeration

The film is as close to perfect as anyone could honestly hope for, making good on the promises of the franchise, and improving across the board to produce that most wonderful of things: a trilogy ender that is not just as good but better than what came before. I cannot wait to see it again, as I know there will be things I missed the first time around, but to be clear, this is the best movie this year to date. Not the best superhero movie, not the best blockbuster, THE BEST MOVIE. PERIOD.

Footnote: It was awesome to see Nottingham's Wollaton Hall double as the newly rebuilt Wayne Manor. Seeing my town on the big screen like that was mental :D

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Review: Katy Perry: Part Of Me

Over the last several years, a new genre of film has grown into being: the 3D-concert-movie-cum-documentary. The latest example of the breed, featuring pop megastar Katy Perry brings forth plenty which will keep her fans entertained, and enough good cinema to keep everyone else on board.

The film sets about explaining Perry’s christian upbringing, and how at seventeen, she felt almost rebellious writing songs which her strict christian mother comments that she “would not her own daughter perform on MTV.”

This struggle only intensifies as the singer moves out to LA, coming up against rejection and manipulation from several major record labels before she is finally able to hit the big time.

Of all the 3D concert movies recently, its definitely not the worst, although it doesn't live up to the high watermark of something like Justin Bieber's Never Say Never - which I reviewed here - or Michael Jackson's This is It.

Somehow as believable and frankly adorable as Perry’s zany personality is, the whole product just feels a little too over produced. Too afraid to ever say anything against her (while being unafraid to point the finger elsewhere) or to show Katy in the wrong.

Interestingly it’s at it's best when the whole fairy tale falls down and you see her as a human being,  especially in a key sequence during her divorce from Russell Brand (a moment the entire movie feels like it is building towards). It feels like you are finally seeing Katy in a real raw moment, and this particular sequence is perfectly mixed with the live performances to bring meaning to the lyrics.

If you are a fan of Perry’s music you are going to love this film, and for those who aren’t, it has some interesting things to say about the way people cope with juggling fame and relationships. Its a long way from perfect, but it’s undeniably fun, with a soundtrack which will have even fairweather fans wanting to sing along at the top of their lungs.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Amazing Spider-man

Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Martin Sheen, Rhys Ifans
Release Date: 3rd June 2012
Rating: 12A

When I first heard Marvel were rebooting the Spider-man franchise, I couldn't help but feel it was too soon. Tobey Maguire had only just had his turn, and what a great turn it was.

Having seen The Amazing Spider-man though, Marc Webb has crafted a universe which lets the audience forget about what has gone before, grounding Peter Parker’s story closer to reality, coping more with the human issues and his human relationships - with his parents abandonment, and with his struggle to find love, among others.

The always excellent Andrew Garfield steps into role of the webslinger, bringing a rather cock-sure interpretation of the role to screen. He uses his powers because he can, sometimes to the extent of almost abusing them.

This is perhaps best emphasised when we see Peter discuss the “masked vigilante” wreaking havoc on the streets with police chief George Stacy over the dinner table, as Peter tries (and fails) to argue that what Spider-man is doing is in the public interest.

It is not just Garfield who shines though. The peripheral cast is equally impressive, from Emma Stone’s turn as love interest Gwen Stacy, to Rhys Ifans’ maniacal portrayal of Dr Curt Connors (the villain of the piece, The Lizard). On the subject of The Lizard, it must be said that the CGI surrounding the mad scientist's transformation is incredible. They manage just the right mixture of physical effects and CGI to bring the dark creation to life.

It is Martin Sheen though who is the real revelation. If ever there was someone who you would think of to play Uncle Ben it would be him. He is such a trustable, loveable screen presence, and when the inevitable comes, your heart breaks in a way which somehow it never did in the original Spidey movie.

All in all, this film is a reboot which achieves exactly what it sets out to do. Marc Webb has managed to create a universe which really does overshadow everything which came before, and gives a much more rounded look into the backstory of the world we are inhabiting. This really is: The Amazing Spider-man

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Review: Prometheus (SPOILERS)

Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron
Released: 01/06/2012

In space, no one can hear you scream. That was the tagline to 1979's seminal science-fiction-cum-horror film Alien. There have been several sequels to the film over the years, but now, more than thirty years later Ridley Scott is going back to space to explore where the story (not just of Alien but of mankind itself) all began.

When two archaeologists find a series of cave paintings from different civilisations, all pointing to the same constellation, and all suggesting a race of super beings coming down to earth, it isn't long before they realise they must assemble a team and head out there in search of the origins of humanity.

Noomi Rapace impresses  with her Elizabeth Shaw, a devout christian, searching for answers, but refusing to give up her faith despite what she discovers. It is a weighty role but she does not disappoint, drawing the audience in and really making them care about her fate.

Michael Fassbender also has an excellent showing as David - an android, and by far the most morally ambiguous character in the film. His motives seem to suggest he is on one side one minute, while going completely the other way the next. Intriguing to note of course that we find ourselves questioning morality more for the only being without a soul in the film than anyone else.

From sweeping views across a harsh alien landscape to more familiar structures and interiors which hark back to the original film, no one could accuse the film of going half heartedly about its design, and this is to the credit of all involved.

Unfortunately as good as the film looks it is far from flawless. It certainly starts well, raising intriguing philosophical questions while not forgetting its horror roots, but the film rather falls flat in its final act. Some dodgy CGI, as well as a need to leave something for the inevitable sequel, means that in the end not everything gets tied up and you're left scratching your head.

If Prometheus 2 comes along and answers these questions, all may be forgiven, but for now nonetheless we have a fun and thrilling (even if not entirely sound) horror film which will no doubt have audiences on the edge of their seat throughout. From a scene of self-inflicted surgery which makes the scene of the alien eating it's way out of John Hurt's stomach look like child's play, to the very final shots, there is plenty here to keep fans of the franchise happy from start to finish.

Verdict: Not without flaws, but thoroughly entertaining and plenty of thrills. 3.5/5

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Stop Kony - Not For Invisible Children But For Justice

If you have been anywhere near a social network today you will no doubt have seen the words Kony 2012 plastered across every other status. If you’ve yet to watch the 29minute viral video which is spreading, and don’t know what the whole campaign is about allow me to first fill you in on the basics of what is an incredibly complex situation.

Joseph Kony is the leader of a rebel militia in Uganda which calls itself the Lord's Resistance Army (or simply the LRA). The group have massacred huge groups of people, and abducted hundreds of young children, brainwashing some for their cause - making them child soldiers.

In 2008 the International Criminal Court issued warrants for Kony and several other members of the LRA including Vincent Otti (Kony’s deputy and second in command), but all of the organisations major players have to date evaded capture.

Kony 2012 as the campaign is being called is a campaign which seeks to “make Joseph Kony famous.” It does not seek to justify nor deify his actions, but rather to make the entire world (many of whom, myself included, were not aware of the LRA’s attrocities) stand up and demand change, and demand of policy makers the the Kony be captured before the years end. 

A noble cause no doubt, but of course like so many things that seem to good to be true, the truth in and of itself is not so simple, and in the 24hours since the explosion of the campaign into the public consciousness there has been an equal explosion of questioning of the partys involved in bringing it to light in the first place.

The campaign is being spearheaded by Invisible Children, a not for profit organisation who have been working to raise awareness of the plight in Uganda for several years, and an organisation who are themselves not unbridled by controversy - not least over the way they use donations. For an indepth look at some of the problems with IC as an organisation I suggest reading
http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/ and http://ilto.wordpress.com which both offer a far more indepth analysis than I could hope to offer, but again below you will find an incredibly condensed version of what they have to offer.

The 3 top people at the company are on close to $90,000 a year, which does not include any travel expenses (which for a US organisation working in Africa then proceeds to take up an even larger portion of the donations which are supposed to be going to aid).

So while the idealism of the campaign - there is a bad guy, lets all come together to try and stop him - is fantastic, the methodology (pay IC a certain amount per month and they will send you a kit full of posters and wristbands to raise awareness) are problematic.

Indeed in the video itself IC effectively set a deadline for Kony’s capture: December 31st 2012, when they say the video which started this whole movement will expire. This feels misguided, as Kony has been at large for years, and has evaded capture to date despite numerous attempts to bring him to justice.

It’s important that now the eyes of the world are on him because it means politicians around the globe will step up and help to bring international condemnation down upon him in a way which they would be less ready to do were their no public support. But if come December 31st Kony has still evaded capture we can’t just allow our efforts to expire in the same way as the video. Because the moment we show a sign of letting up so will the political pressure.

Equally problematic seems to be Invisible Children’s proposal for exactly how to go about stopping Kony. They are currently using donation money to fund the Ugandan national army as well as lobbying for US and international troops and advisors on the ground going after Kony.

After the blunders in Iraq, effectively starting a war to take out one person, it feels like the idea of ground troops is one which is going to hold little water with anyone, policy makers or civilians once they take a step back from the furore of the campaign.

Is all this to say we should do nothing? Not all, and if it takes a somewhat misguided organisation to at least have raised awareness of the issues then fantastic. I still wholeheartedly support the idea of spreading Kony’s face far and wide, making it so that the whole world knows who he is, and have the whole world in support of his capture, but I simply do not believe that paying Invisible Children for the privilege is a requirement nor a necessity.

What is really important: keep posting Facebook statuses, keep tweeting, keep writing to your MP or congressperson. Write to celebrities who can spread the message to their followers, spread the message as far and wide as possible. Joseph Kony and his mob need to be stopped. They need to stand trial and the families of the children who were abducted deserve justice.

For decades’ Kony has gone undeterred, and now the spotlight is finally on him it is up to each and every person who sees this story to keep it on him. The moment the pressure lets up, and the world goes back to it’s complacency is the moment people like Joseph Kony win.

But above all else: let us make this campaign about Joseph Kony and not about a viral propaganda video - let it grow beyond the misgivings of Invisible Children as an organisation and let it take on a mind of it’s own.

Let’s make history, but let’s do it the right way, so that one day our children can grow up in a better world.  

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Mike Lombardo Situation

This weekend myself - and many of my friends in the Youtube community - have been shocked to discover that Mike Lombardo, a 23year old musician on youtube, was being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the exchanging of explicit images with underage fans.

Lombardo had worked closely with DFTBA Records and the nerdfighter community at large over the past few years, and many in the fandom looked up to and respected him and his musical talents.

I myself had the oppurtunity to interview Lombardo about a year ago for my university radio show, and held the utmost respect for him. All that respect has disappeared following these shocking revelations.

While it should be made clear that he has not yet been officially charged, there is a sworn affadavit from the FBI agent dealing with the case who has seen the photos in question (which were sent to 2 girls, one 15 and one 17), so it seems increasingly unlikely that this is all simply a misunderstanding.

Innocent until proven guilty certainly, but the facts as they stand simply don’t look good there’s no two ways about it.

I write today though not to demonise Mike, but to implore the rest of the world who will see this story and say “Oh well, it just proves what we’ve been saying about the dangers of the internet” to take a second glance.

I have been a part of this fandom for the best part of the last 10 years, and for a long period of that time I was a legal minor. I - and hundreds, even thousands like me - understood the inherent danger we placed ourselves in. We were conversing with people in some cases more than double our age, and in many cases (such as at conferences or even just as friends outside of it all) arranging to meet people we had only ever spoken to online.

Now clearly the case of Mike Lombardo shows that in some ways that innate trust was misguided, but it would still never stop me doing the same thing all over again were I back in that position once more.

While there are bad people in the world, and people who will try and take advantage (and the law is in place to ensure these horrible people are dealt with), 99.99999% of the people I have met online I would deem to be the closest friends I have. Through the Harry Potter fandom, and more recently the nerdfighter community on Youtube I have found a home and I have found a family who I truly know I can trust with my life.

So should we be more wary of the fact that predators are out there, even in places online that we assume to be inherently safe: yes. But that does not mean that there should equally be an inherent assumption that everyone we meet online is a sexual predator.

This is I admit a somewhat rambling blog post - far from my most eloquent at any rate - and for that I apologise, but I needed to get these opinions out. I need the world to know that at it’s heart there is still a goodness and a respect that comes with the sense of community that I have felt online, and that I will not let a minority abusing that change the way I feel about the internet and it’s power to bring us together.

For more on the story, I would suggest these posts, firstly by LeakyNews, and secondly by Lauren Fairweather, both of whom write far more eloquently than I have managed.