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Opinion: The top ten movies of 2017

Your rating: None Average: 3 (21 votes)

2017.jpg

Surely, readers don't need the rules for a simple year end top ten list explained to them, but in case someone does, you can find them in one of the older lists.

Review: Intimate Little Secrets by Rechan

Your rating: None Average: 3.3 (14 votes)

rechan06.jpgIntimate Little Secrets (US$9.95 from FurPlanet) is an anthology of short stories written by Rechan with a cover illustration by Teagan Gavet. Originally I expected the stories to be short, erotic pieces, but this is not the case and approaching it in that way will not lead to a proper appreciation of the work. Sex plays a role in all the stories but they are more, as the title suggests, intimate secrets where we see how different characters interact and react.

The writing is excellent, particularly with regard to the characters themselves. Each one, even characters that only appear briefly, feel real and whole. In each story, we see situations where the characters lusts, needs, and vulnerabilities are all laid bare and you can't help but find yourself caring about the characters and wanting to know what their reasons for acting a certain way are.

Movie review: 'The Star'

Your rating: None Average: 3.2 (15 votes)

thestar.jpg"Jesus our brother, strong and good, was humbly born in a stable rude."
-"The Friendly Beasts", folk song

"Well, we folks of the animal kingdom have our own version."
-Roger Miller, folk singer

Organized Christian theology has never really answered the question whether or not animals can be saved, but popular Christianity, as practiced by people rather than priests, has always seemed to think that salvation is available as much to animals as to humanity. A frequent way to tell the story of the Nativity is via the use of anthropomorphic animals. As a young child, I was at one time or another a lion and a firefly in various church Christmas pageants. Lions have traditionally been used in Christian art to symbolize Christ as King, though fireflies have never been very associated with Christmas in specific or Christianity in particular. I remember singing "This Little Light of Mine", anyway.

Which brings us to the original little light of Christianity and titular object of The Star. This is yet another retelling of the Nativity through the eyes of the animal kingdom, this time updated to slick CGI animated comedy. It's the same old story, but approximately 2.2 billion Christians around the world would attest it's a pretty decent story. So, it's got that going for it.

Review: 'Legacy', Book One in the Resonance Tetralogy, by Hugo Jackson

Your rating: None Average: 3.1 (15 votes)

Four characters travel along a forested area.Writing a fantasy tetralogy is an ambitious project. I haven't even been able to write a full fantasy yet. To commit to four books, you have to have an epic story, set in an epic landscape, with engaging characters with strengths and weaknesses enough to get them to (and through) the rough spots.

In Legacy, Hugo Jackson achieves most of this easily. His heroes are likable, with relatable issues and strengths. The tale is G-rated without being trite. The fight and battle scenes are usually nicely described, and easy to follow.

Faria Phiraco is a resonator, a manipulator of the elements via rare crystals. It is an extraordinary and secret power which she and her father, the Emperor of Xayall, guard with their lives. The Dhraka, malicious red-scaled dragons, have discovered an ancient artefact; a mysterious relic from the mythical, aeons-lost city of Nazreal. With their plan already set in motion, they besiege Xayall, pummelling the city to find Faria and rip more of Nazreal's secrets from her.

When her father goes missing, Faria has to rely on her own strength to brave the world that attacks her at every turn. Friends and guardians rally by her to help save her father and reveal the mysteries of the ruined city, while the dark legacy of an ancient cataclysm wraps its claws around her fate... and her past.

Movie review: 'Sheep and Wolves' (2016)

Your rating: None Average: 3.7 (24 votes)

A Russian poster for the movie.Sheep & Wolves (trailer) is an 85-minute Russian CG-animated movie that came out in 2016, also known as Волки и овцы (Volki i ovtsy). The writing and production took five years by Wizart Animation, whose earlier film had been The Snow Queen (2012).

Sheep & Wolves didn't quite break even at the box office, and received mixed reviews. After I watched it, I have to agree it's a middle-of-the-road film. It's not bad, it's not great - it's thoroughly so-so. On the positive side, the animation is good and very furry! But the writing... it's for kids aged six and above. There's not much in it to appeal to adults; it's what I call a "babysitting film". Plunk your tykes down in front of it and keep them distracted for a while. Still, I'd rank it a notch or two above Alpha & Omega.

Book review: "Earthrise" by M.C.A. Hogarth

Your rating: None Average: 2.8 (6 votes)

The book cover of Earthrise.Earthrise, the first book in M.C.A. Hogarth's Her Instruments trilogy, is a comfy space opera which includes some furry critters. Based on my last visit to her work (books 1 & 2 of The Dreamhealers), the furry species are nice and familiar. The crew of the TMS Earthrise has a centaur with wings, a phoenix, a mated pair of bipedal felines, and a throw-pillow tribble with strong mental powers. Most of these are descendants of slave races that humans created centuries earlier.

The assembled characters have an almost whimsical balance, yet they still feel realistic. When we join them in the story, they're a well-meshed crew. There's a comforting alienness to each of them, a diversity that avoids stereotypes, but claims labels of diversity within diversity, if that makes sense. We mostly see them through the eyes of their captain.

Judge rules on Motion for Judgement in Peter S. Beagle vs. Cochran case

Your rating: None Average: 3.8 (15 votes)

As previously covered, furry author Peter S. Beagle has been in the throes of the American court system for nearly two years now, fighting his former publishing agent Connor Cochran for damages and restitution for 15 causes of action including fraud, defamation, and elder abuse. I won't rehash all the details, but Cochran's history of sharp practice is long and appalling. Mr. Beagle deserves an end to these proceedings as quickly as due diligence will allow, but Cochran would rather drag things out in a war of attrition.

One example of the Conlan Press founder's meandering through convoluted legal roadblocks was his filing of a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, on the basis there were no issues of fact to support the allegations in not just one, or a few, but in all 15 causes of action. Initially given a tentative ruling on October 24, this was contested by Cochran. After arguing the matter, the tentative ruling was affirmed. The result? All but one of Mr. Beagle's causes of action were sustained.

Anthro Northwest premier forgets history of Furlandia's rough first year

Your rating: None Average: 3.7 (22 votes)

Washington state has had a rough time with furry conventions in recent history. Rainfurrest had to shut down after they gained a sour reputation with hosting hotels due to reports of vandalism. So local furries were elated to hear of a new organization starting up by the name of Anthro Northwest. This convention, while a bit more stringent on their rules (particularly around adult material), was a welcome possible restart in relations with hotels in the region with furries.

But as activities started word leaked onto the internet of on camera release forms being deseminated for a show called "This is Life with Lisa Ling", a property of the channel CNN. Instantly locals had recollections of another incident that had occurred at another pilot convention one state south, Furlandia.

Update 11/15/17: Attendance has been announced and Anthro Northwest has been noted as being the largest attendance for a first year furry convention at 809, article updated to reflect this.

Book review: 'The Species of Blessing Avenue' by Graveyard Greg

Your rating: None Average: 2.7 (13 votes)

Cover artwork by Ninja V.The Species of Blessing Avenue is a collection of short stories by Graveyard Greg, published in 2012.

Even before I got past the introduction, I liked two things about this book. First, it's got a were-lion in its leading role. Second, it was inspired by characters created for the Buffy The Vampire Slayer RPG.

I was warned that I shouldn't have tried to read this as a novella instead of three short stories. I'll try to correct that mistake as I go along with this review.

Movie review: 'Guardians' (2017)

Your rating: None Average: 3.2 (14 votes)

The Guardians' English promotional image.Guardians (English trailer) is a Russian superhero film released in February 2017. The early trailers looked promising - fights, explosions, and a bear-guy! It's the Russian Avengers! Expectations were high, and it did well on its opening weekend... and was so disappointing that by its second weekend, it only took in 10% of its previous box office revenue.

It's a very formulaic movie. This isn't necessarily bad - Sing was formulaic too. But if you're going to use a formula, you have to do it well. You have to add a couple of entertaining surprises, mix it up a little, and maybe throw in some humor that mocks the very structure you're relying on. Guardians fails on all these counts.

Review: 'Hotblood!' by Toril Orlesky

Your rating: None Average: 3.1 (19 votes)

A gay western centaur romance isn't the kind of story I encounter enough, even in furry fandom. Hotblood! A Centaur In the Old West is a webcomic by Toril Orlesky that ran from 2013-2016. The color artwork is as stark as the landscape, but the story is a bit more complicated than the black-and-white world that the western genre is known for.

The art is lovely enough that I was mostly able to put aside the sometimes uneven pacing. As the story circles around the action, it digs deeper into its characters' pasts - and their hearts. The two main characters are not morally whole men, and therefore they caught my interest.

Rook is a centaur. In the story universe, centaurs are an integrated part of American society. There's some social stigma, but not as much as you might think for someone who looks half-animal. There's at least one centaur in the U.S. Senate, for example. Rook is employed by Asa, a human steel tycoon. We don't get to see much of the world outside of their relationship, and it's only by the second half of the story that we really start seeing the two of them bond, sexually and romantically.

Retrospective review: 'Dog Soldiers'

Your rating: None Average: 2.4 (5 votes)

dogsoldiers.jpgFirst of all, happy Halloween!

For our final foray into lycanthropic cinema, comes— a movie I saw as a Sci Fi Channel original movie. It never even had a theatrical release in America. I will point out that it is by far the greatest Sci Fi Channel original movie ever produced, but I need hardly point out that is not a big accomplishment.

But, sometimes, hidden in the terrible filler, something emerges from the shadows. Perhaps I waste my time watching bad Sci Fi movies, but they provided a baseline. It's harder to know when you've got a good werewolf movie if you've never seen a bad or even just indifferent werewolf movie. Of course, if you don't have the patience to sit through the bad (with or without the MST3K patter), you can just take my word for it.

Dog Soldiers is a gory blast.

Movie review: 'I Am Dragon'

Your rating: None Average: 4.8 (17 votes)

The dragon swoops down on Mira to carry her away from her town. She never stands in that location during the film.I Am Dragon (trailer) is a Russian fantasy/drama film that came out in 2015 and yes I know it's technically a wyvern. When I showed clips of it to dragon furries, that's the first thing they said, in a tone of voice like I'd gotten their hopes up and then betrayed them.

For a live-action film, it uses a lot of computer graphics (around 85%), and looks pretty good! The setting felt very real to me. Production costs were about $18 million, and it flopped at the box office. As movies go, it's... ok. I say this with some reluctance. If you're a fan of dragons, you're not missing much.

Back-story: A line of dragons lives on a secluded island, and in a medieval town, the people perform a ceremony and song with which they offer their maidens as sacrifices. This summons the dragon who flies off with one of them, until one day a warrior decides he's going to rescue the woman he loves. He finds the island (too late to save the maiden), slays the beast, and the sacrificial rite is turned into a local wedding ritual, minus the dragon.

Freedomain 'Cult' leader to furry, "Leave your otter family."

Your rating: None Average: 2.3 (10 votes)

A recent video has popped up on Youtube and was sent to me by a corgi friend of mine. Apparently someone by the name of Stefan Molyneux had interviewed a furry in a video named: The Shocking Furry Fandom Conversation. Yes, Really!. Given the thumbnail containing the mugs of the leaders of the Furry Raiders I thought this person was interviewing them, but as it turns out the content of the video didn’t seem to have anything to do with the controversial alt-furry group.

Or at least that is what I thought coming away from the video. As I did more investigation into this Mr. Molyneux and the methods in which he is infamous I started to come to a bit of a more darker conclusions and questioning the intent of the video. Could this seemingly innocent interview with a random YouTuber actually be a propaganda piece crafted to fulfill as a recruitment tool aimed at furries? A way to take aim at those in the furry fandom and have them join the Freedomain fandom, a group which seems to have been noted as having cult-like qualities by some press releases?

Well I don’t know about all that. In fact, the reason I put the word cult in the headline is simply because Stephan put the word sex next to furry on his video’s thumbnail. And like me seeing those two words together for the purpose of click-bait made me eye-roll, I’m sure seeing his organization being called a cult all the time earns similar expression from Mr. Molyneux. Also, inquiring to Patch, he seemed to indicate that Leon was an actual person and the conversation was legitimate. So, with that in mind, I gave it a second watch and highlighted items of interest, both good and bad in the conversation.

Retrospective review: 'An American Werewolf in London'

Your rating: None Average: 2.3 (3 votes)

anamericanwerewolfinlondon.jpgOccasionally, there comes a pair of movies that share remarkably similar themes that come out together. Sometimes, as in Antz versus A Bug's Life, there's evidence that one of the movies was designed as a direct competitor to the other. More often than not, however, there's just something in the water. Just last year, Disney went out of its way to advertise how unique a movie Zootopia was for featuring a fully anthropomorphic animal world in the one year in the history of American feature animation where that was not a unique quality. These things just happen.

1981 was one of those years, featuring not one, but two werewolf movies utilizing cutting edge (for the time) makeup effects that also happened to be horror comedies as opposed to straight horror movies. The Howling came out first, but it was the scrappy underdog that went up against the real Hollywood juggernaut, An American Werewolf in London, written and directed by John Landis, an up and coming director who hung out with the likes of Steven Spielberg.

Though An American Werewolf in London is an acknowledged classic of the horror genre and features a ghoulish sense of humor (Landis was, and still is, best known for Animal House, early poster taglines noted this movie featured "a different kind of animal"), it is, like The Wolf Man, very much a tragedy. And not all the tragedy is on screen.