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You’ve seen the trailers, the posters, the TV spots and the toys, yet with a week to go before The Force Awakens opens we’re still none the wiser what part Luke Skywalker will play. Chances are it’ll be an Obi-Wan style role, considering the facial fuzz Mark Hamill’s been sporting of late. Yet there are some corners of the internet where they think he may well be the villain. Some even think he’s Kylo Ren (presumably Adam Driver is there to look pretty). Worse still they even think Evil!Luke is a good thing. Let me tell you why that’d be the worst thing to happen to Star Wars since Attack of the Clones.

Cast your mind back to 1983 and Return of the Jedi. In what is arguably the best part of the whole Star Wars saga, Luke rejects the Dark Side. This isn’t some cursory rejection, one that you can go back to and reconsider. vlcsnap-2015-12-10-00h38m31s724It’s wholesale and, in the context of the film, absolute. Throughout the whole of the Original Trilogy Luke had grown stronger in the Force. With that came the temptations of the Dark Side. Not only that, but finding out that Vader is his father at the end of Empire and that Leia is his sister would only add to that internal conflict.

By the time you get to the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke turning evil wouldn’t have been all that surprising. The scenes between Luke, Vader and the Emperor on the Death Star showcase him teetering on the edge as the Emperor employs all his tricks to try and get him to turn. Like he did with Anakin, the Emperor plays on his fears and insecurities, gambling that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It very nearly works. Luke lashes out at the Emperor and to defeat Vader gives in to his anger to beat him into submission.

If ever Luke was to turn evil, it would have been then. After having spent nearly star-wars-return-of-the-jedi-mark-hamillhalf the film being manipulated by the Emperor, seeing his friends dying during the Battle of Endor and beating Vader, he still rejects it. He sees what the Dark Side did to his father and how close he is to repeating that same mistake. Unlike Anakin, he’s unwilling to give in to the temptation of the Dark Side to save those he loves. He throws his lightsaber aside and chooses dying as a Jedi than living as a Sith.

Never. I’ll never turn to the Dark Side. You’ve failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”

Going back on that would invalidate all of Luke’s development in the Original Trilogy. Yes the Prequels did some crappy stuff trying to link itself to the Originals (Vader building C-3PO?!) but I never felt that anything it did would negatively impact my enjoyment of Episode’s IV, V and VI. If they make Luke Skywalker a villain, then this trilogy is dead before it’s even begun.

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It’s the biggest show on television at the moment and the one everyone’s been talking about ever since Sean Bean did what Sean Bean does and die in a piece of fiction. The critical acclaim around the show has intensified season after season and it now rightly sits in the pantheon of Greatest Ever TV Shows. Yet in spite of its monumental success, there’s always been a degree of criticism over the shows prevalence of tits and arses. Particular criticism has been levelled at its use of “sexposition” as a plot device, as well as the frequency of female nudity over male.

Both of these arguments have merit. I may not necessarily agree entirely or in the case of the sexposition even consider it a problem, but I can see the general point. However, this Huffington Post article by Osahon Okundaye on the sexual violence in Game of Thrones falls somewhat wide of the mark for me.

Apart from seemingly quite oblivious to the nature of the books and not being a frequent viewer of the show, Okundaye misses the point in several key aspects of his argument.

His opening gambit about the timid prostitute that the Martells deal with is somewhat convincing. She is quite clearly unwilling and Oberyn’s disrobing of her is unnecessary except to give the impression that he’s capable of being a bit of an arsehole. And yet I feel Okundaye maybe misses a larger point, which is Thrones’ use of the Happy Hooker cliché. To my memory, this is the first one we’ve seen who’s somewhat unhappy about her job. Now of course viewers of the show would know that Littlefinger owns the King’s Landing brothels and the one thing he can’t stand is a “bad investment”. Perhaps a bunch of happy prostitutes is management orders, kind of like a kinky Disneyworld.

His second and main point regarding the tavern girl at the end being sexually assaulted by Polliver and his men is a larger issue and one which I have a problem with in his assessment of. I wouldn’t for a second claim this isn’t sexual violence as it quite clearly is. However I would argue its presence in a fictional world is not necessarily a bad thing.

His breakdown of the scene is either based on personal opinion or is a case of 2+2=5. He says: “It cuts to a medium shot of a groping soldier repeatedly fondling her chest for way too long.” Now, I’ve rewatched the scene I have to disagree. The camera passes over it but it’s by no means the focus of the shot.

Where I really must object is in his next paragraph: “These few minutes of excellent dialogue are ruined by the guards we can still see groping that poor woman over Polliver’s shoulder. They add nothing to the crucial dialogue, so why are they there? Who is enjoying this detail?” Again, not only is this pure opinion but I would also argue he’s missed to entire point of this scene. Does the assault of this girl add anything to the dialogue? No. But does it add to the scene? I would say it does. As with every other instance of sexual violence in the show I can recall, it exists to make the viewer uncomfortable. You aren’t meant to enjoy it. As for saying it adds to nothing to the dialogue, I don’t even get that as a complaint. Part of what makes Game of Thrones a cut above the rest is that stuff goes on beyond the dialogue.

That scene is also all about Arya and her journey down a dark path. When these men are killed, we aren’t conflicted. These aren’t just men following orders or commanded by a monster, they’re monsters themselves. Seeing them put down by the Hound and Arya personally makes me feel somewhat satisfied.

What really adds insult to injury is that this guy has even had a chance to ask George R.R. Martin about this! And he’s still not satisfied despite an entirely reasonable answer. His solution would seemingly be for Martin and the showrunners to have Thrones exist in a world entirely at odds with the one they’re trying to reflect. Martin is on record as saying that this story is loosely a War of the Roses allegory, only with dragons and monsters beyond The Wall. Certainly the universe is meant to mimic early-to-mid second millenium Europe, with certain aspects more primitive and others nearer the Renaissance. “Instituting gender equality,” as he suggests, would not only be a total departure from this period but it would utterly ruin many of the main female characters plot arcs. Arya, Brienne, Daenerys and Cersei’s journeys would be infinitely weaker for such a move without a patriarchal society to fight against. It would also defeat the point of this very idea as these are some fantastic feminist characters that would be destroyed with that same pen stroke.

It’s more than reasonable for a person to have a problem with the sexual violence in the show. There’s a lot of it and if that bothers you I don’t blame you. But you can’t misrepresent what happens or project your own opinions in an unfair and ignorant way. Saying stuff like: “at best, it obscures the plot and at worst, it makes a real evil look attractive,” is purely trolling. If anybody finds the sexual violence in the show attractive that says far more about them than it does the show.

If Okundaye finds the sexual violence in the show repugnant then Jesus Christ, I hope he never reads the books…

Of late, I’ve been bitten by the film-collecting bug, particularly when it comes to the acquisition of Blu-Rays. As such, in times of austerity but where having some retail therapy to help lighten up your day, it’s important to know where to go looking for the best deals.

When it comes to Blu-Rays, an important thing to bear in mind is that as they’re more durable than your standard DVD, buying disks second hand is less of a risk. This opens up a whole range of pawn, charity and second hand shops that you may not have considered before. Major retailers of second hand good like CeX or Cash Converters are a great place to browse for bargains, as more often than not they’re cheaper than online, even than the used section of Amazon or eBay. Plus you don’t have to pay P&P. For instance, I recently picked up the BBC Wonders Special Edition for £8 and the Star Wars saga for £40 from CeX, saving me £31. Moreover, if you’ve got DVDs you’re wanting to upgrade or just get rid of, getting the exchange price as opposed to the cash price can net you a few extra pounds to knock of the total price of your purchases. With CeX, check their website if there’s something you’re wanting in particular. The price on there will be the same as the price in store and you can check to see if they have it in stock. Personally, I wouldn’t buy anything direct from the website though as I’ve heard a few horror stories and I’m not that desperate just yet.

Another useful tip I’ve found is to have an Amazon Wish List full of Blu-Rays you’re interested in buying. If Amazon reduces the price then your wish list will show you the drop in price compared to how it was when you added it. This is particularly useful around Christmas and January during the sales and your patience can really pay off. Also, if like me you’ve a memory like a sieve then having a place online where you can check what you’ve been interested in buying of late is a real help. Especially if you’ve a smart phone and can check it when you’re on the go, it can save you a lot of time and money. Beyond Amazon, you’ve also got the likes of Play and Zavvi. Though with Play shutting down its own retail section and Zavvi’s reputation for poor service I’d use them more as a last resort. You get cheaper prices and in fairness more often than not you’ll be fine, but it’s up to you if you want to take the risk.

Keeping an eye on Internet forums is another good way of staying informed and up to date with the latest promotions and sales. Not only are the vast majority free to join, but also you can engage with a community of like-minded people who may be collectors of special editions or just your average movie fan who likes a bargain like myself. Also consider taking a look at YouTube for channels with folks who search for bargains or are collectors and give tips on where to look and what deals are out there.

Finally, with the news that both Blockbuster and HMV are going into administration it’s a good time to look for any deals they may have as a result. HMV are still running their 3 for £20/5 for £30 deal, as well as their blue cross sale, so as long as they’ve not been picked clean it’s worth a look. Similarly, Blockbuster is a good place to look for pre-owned stuff, especially if it’s one of the stores that will be closing down soon. I’ve picked up some real gems from their pre-owned section before so it’s definitely worth having a browse.

It can definitely be a rewarding hobby and I know I’ve found myself spending far too much time weighing up the pros and cons over whether or not I want to get something or hoping it’ll go down in price. Making the leap up to Blu-Ray and building up that library can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it doesn’t have to be an expensive one. And at the end of the day, so long as you’re happy with what you got, that’s what matters. Just don’t pay through the nose for it.

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I’ve just come back from my local Game store hoping to pick up a bargain, following their recent decent into administration. Miraculously, the Game in Eastleigh has actually stayed open. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the store I once worked at in Winchester which ceased trading yesterday. For all the bad press and complaints (many of them legitimate) that the company received, I’ll miss Game should they disappear from the high street completely. This is my Woolworths, really.

A lot of press coverage has focused on Game’s financial mismanagement. I think even the owners of Portsmouth FC would look at what went on at Game Group and raise an eyebrow. One of the biggest and most avoidable mistakes was having so many stores within such close proximity to each other. I know for a fact that Southampton had two Game stores and a Gamestation within around 500 yards of each other. What’s the point? It’s never going to attract enough new customers to offset the massive rent bill. Going by other comments and articles on Game’s situation, it seems this was a common trend nationwide. 

So is there a place for a dedicated video game retailer on the British high street? I think so, yes. Obviously it will never be able to compete with online retailers or supermarkets in price. Tesco is selling Batman: Arkham City for less brand new than Game is selling it pre-owned for instance. However, where a dedicated gaming store can deliver is in customer experience.

One of the complaints leveled at Game and Gamestation was ignorant and pushy staff. I can’t really speak from experience on the ignorant staff aspect as when I worked there everyone knew their stuff. I can definitely say that the pushy staff complaint was due to orders from on high. It’s actually part of the training DVD you watch that you should approach every customer and ask if they need any assistance. It’s entirely the wrong way to go about things. Anyone with a basic understanding of human body language can tell the difference between someone just browsing and someone who’s completely clueless. 

If stores such as Game, HMV or Gamestation want to thrive, they need to engage with customers in new ways. One way to do this could be through developing a community of gamers at your local store via multiplayer tournaments, game clubs and the like. Make people want to come to your store for a number of reasons besides picking up a game. How great would it be to have multiplayer parties when the latest Call of Duty game comes out at the store where you bought it? Sure, it might cost you a couple of quid more, but you’d meet new people, get tips and advice and have a pleasant shopping experience. It doesn’t have to stop there either. Throw in things like console repair and maintenance or help with getting started on things like XBox Live and you foster good will and trust with people. As someone else pointed out; look at Games Workshop. People don’t just go in there to buy models or paint. They’ve developed a sense of community where people can go and have fun and play some games and they seem to be doing okay. Why can’t the same be done with video gaming?

I don’t want to see gaming stores disappear. As poorly as Game was run, I’d rather have it in a more streamlines, reduced form than not at all. And whilst I doubt that any company CEO’s are going to read this, I hope it goes to show that the situation isn’t hopeless and something can be done to have a national gaming store.

On the surface, Robbie Savage and Joey Barton are two footballers cut from the same cloth. Both are/were immensely physical players, tearing around the pitch like men possessed and picking up their fair share of bookings along the way. But something else now links these two: Twitter.

Savage and Barton aren’t the  only footballers to have joined the social networking site. It’s become very popular with sportsmen around the world as a way of communicating with fans without pesky journalists twisting their words and mining for quotes. Where these two differ from many others, and to a greater extent, is in how much Twitter has helped to change peoples opinions towards them both.

For example, were it not for Twitter then the lingering impression of Joey Barton would have been one of a violent thug. Instead, Twitter has allowed us to see him as a rather intelligent person, fond of quoting philosophers, who has quite a strong social conscience (see his campaigning for the release of documents relating to the Hillsborough disaster) and regrets his problems in the past, both on and off the pitch. Similarly, Robbie Savage has developed from one of the most loathed men in football to a top BBC pundit and has even got his skates on to enter this years Strictly Come Dancing.

I wouldn’t dare say that these two have gone from pariah to paragon in the eyes of all the public. That would clearly be nonsense. You only have to look at some of their re-tweeted messages that are full of abuse to see that they’re still divisive members of the footballing community. But I think it’s fair to say that they’ve changed a lot of peoples preconceptions of them. They’ve certainly changed mine and I can’t be the only one to have developed a far more favourable view because of their Tweets.

I guess it goes to show that Twitter can not only be an instrument for social change, but also a handy PR tool.