Sunday, April 23, 2017

Comic Review: Batman #21 (2017) (SPOILERS AHEAD!)

Finally coming back into the 21st Century (after finishing up with my real estate licensing state test), I've been slowly returning to all the things I once loved again, including games, books, movies, comics, etc. I've been on the fence about returning to DC Comics for a while now, especially after all of the controversial decisions they've been making these last few years. I'm not going to delve into all of that here, but I wanted to explain why I kind of jumped off the bandwagon for awhile. I did however, read DC Rebirth #1. Geoff Johns has always been a personal favorite writer of mine in modern comic books. He's the very reason I became a major fan of Green Lantern in the first place, and I was very big on following whatever DC book he would go on to write for. I wasn't really sure what to make of it. Watchmen? Being mixed into the DC Universe?

It seems I wasn't alone in feeling confused and not really sure what to make of the whole thing. Watchmen was created by Alan Moore to be a literal deconstruction of superhero fiction. It was never meant to be expanded upon, despite DC choosing to do just that once before (Many would say that "Before Watchmen" was a hit or miss affair). After hearing that this event (simply titled "The Button") was going to be a four-issue mini-series, I finally decided to give it a shot. If X-Men: Days of Future Past could tell one of the arguably best X-Men stories of all time in a span of two issues, there was certainly hope for "The Button" as well.

One of the best things about jumping into this story is that you don't need to have read much prior, in order to get up to speed. Have you read the six-issue Flashpoint series and DC Rebirth #1 issue? Then you're all set (at least so far). The issue begins with Saturn Girl watching a hockey game from in prison, realizing that one of the players is about to die. She begins freaking out and saying that someone has to stop it, while the prison guards try to calm her down. We then go to Bruce (apparently watching the same hockey game in the background), who is starting to research the smiley face button that he found at the end of Rebirth #1 (aka, the button from Watchmen). From here, we learn that the button has strange radioactive properties. A few pages in, lightning shoots out of it, knocking Bruce back and seeing his father in front of him. This is the version of Thomas Wayne from Flashpoint, still in the same bat-costume. As Bruce reaches out to touch his hand, he vanishes. After this, he reaches out to the Flash, advising him that the button has been reacting strange ever since he put it near the mask of Psycho-Pirate (a DC villain who played a major role in Crisis of Infinite Earths). He also tells Flash that the radiation of the button is getting stronger. Flash tells Bruce that he'll be able get there in a minute. That minute makes up the remainder of the issue.

Reverse Flash suddenly appears and begins to pummel Batman to the ground. He says that he was dead, but that "a power" called to him, and he is now resurrected. He then noticed Thomas Wayne's letter to Bruce (from Flashpoint), and proceeds to tear it up. Bruce manages to slow him down enough to land some hits, but it does him little good, as he continues to get knocked around and bloodied by Reverse Flash's repeated attacks. In his last few seconds before Reverse Flash can land a finishing blow, Bruce admits that he was just buying time. Reverse Flash proceeds to knocking Bruce out cold and notices the button on the ground, alongside all of the projected images of it on all of Bruce's computer monitors. This is when things start to get... odd.

After picking up the button to take a closer look, Reverse Flash suddenly gets zapped away by a blue light (the color may or may not be key here). He finally zaps back to the batcave after a few seconds, with a strange blue aura surrounding him, causing his skin to slowly disintegrate. In his final panels, he utters "God... God... I saw... God...," before collapsing on the ground, now simply a skeleton with a Reverse Flash costume. It's at this moment that Flash finally arrives, only to see the wounded Bruce and apparently dead Reverse Flash. End of Part 1.

One thing I noticed right away while reading this issue, was the paneling structure. I'll post a screenshot below, so that you can see what I'm talking about.

Does this style look familiar? If you've ever read Watchmen before, it should.

The creative team is very clearly trying to evoke the look and feel of the original Watchmen comic with this mini-series. How far the similarities go are still up for debate until we know more, however. As for who killed Reverse Flash at the end of the issue, it is more than likely that the "God" being referred to is none other than Dr. Manhattan. This is the reason I mentioned the color blue above, as it was likely meant to be another hint.

While I can't say I'm necessarily excited for this event (since I still have no clue as to where DC is going with it), I admit I am now on board to see where they take things. I'm also kind of relieved that nothing about the story has felt rushed so far, despite the short amount of issues to contain it all in. Bring on The Flash #21!


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Deadpool's Not Even Remotely Modest Gaming Review Of Yooka-Laylee (2017)

Yes, you read that right! Of all things your Uncle Deadpool could finally come back to do (review Logan, Lego Batman, Kong: Skull Island, the new Power Rangers, etc.), I've chosen to go with a video game designed to fuel people's nostalgia-holes. Back in May of 2015, a group of people (formerly in Rare) from what I'll simply refer to as the "glory days" of platforming games, got together and decided "You know what? We need more effing platforming games!!!" and thus, Yooka Laylee was born! This also caused people to reminisce about the days before Rare was bought by Microsoft, and when Perfect Dark Zero didn't yet exist. So yes, like other crowd-funded projects, we had another successful Kickstarter hit on our hands. Did this one manage to fulfill our dreams, or did we fall through with another Mighty Number Nope!? Read below, true believers!!!

Thank you for reading below. Reviewing this one is tough. I obviously enjoyed myself to some degree (as I spent over 25 freaking hours getting all of the achievements to prove it!), but I can't help but look back on how many things frustrated me the whole way through. First, I'll get the basic statement out of the way. This team did exactly what they said they were going to do: Release a 90's-era platforming game in the style of such classics as Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country. So it was written, so it shall be done. The thing is, some people forgot that you need to be careful what you wish for...

So we did get a 90's-style platformer... Completely. Down to the tee. For those who don't understand why that may be a bad thing, allow my old ass to educate you here. 90's platform games were very well received, particularly due to the success of games like Mario 64, Crash Bandicoot (which is arguably more like 2.5D), Banjo Kazooie, Rayman 2, and many others. I personally loved the Gex series myself. These games had specific features in common, like collecting a bunch of items throughout large, open-world stages, as well as big items (like Stars in Mario) to collect and finish the stage. While everybody has huge nostalgia boners over these games (and for good reason, I'd say. Scha-wing!), these games were not without their faults too. On one hand, they were mostly hard as hell. Not only because of the skill it took to move your character from place to place, but rather the impossible-ass camera system. This is one of the main reasons I know that most kids trying to pick this up in today's day and age will be extremely confused and put off by it, while the people like me, who grew up with this shit will simply mutter, "Oh God... It's back again."

Yes, the horrible camera you probably remember fighting with back then has reared its old, ugly head once again. Need to see an enemy coming at you AND be able to dodge them in time? Too bad if the camera wasn't pointing that way, because you won't be able to move it back in time! Trying to make that tricky jump that requires complete precision? Oh, that's nice... It'd be a shame if someone... moved the camera just as you were making the essential jump, causing you to die pointlessly! Yes, it will happen here. And it will happen often. I'm sorry. I am so, so sorry.

Your main controls are fine enough. Actually moving the characters around feels pretty smooth and high jumps/gliding are all well executed. Attacking could be better, but it's not bad overall. The worlds are open and vast enough, that you could explore one of the five main levels for hours and still not have seen everything there is to see. That's awesome, and one of the main things that kept me going up to the end.

So what held me back? Well, quite a few things unfortunately. And no, it wasn't just the camera. Some sections of the game would require you to transform into other creatures/vehicles and use their abilities to unlock more collectibles. The majority of these transformations were actually TERRIBLE to control. Especially that snow plow. What in the actual F$%K was up with that damn snow plow!??? God, I don't even want to talk about it, it was THAT frustrating. *grumblemumble* There were also many questionable design decisions made throughout. The strangest one off the top of my head involved the 5th mission (a level in space). Instead of having you slip into some kind of void if you fell off a platform, you'd instead fall into... water... in space... Yeah... Odd things like that really turned me off and just straight up confused me.

The voices in the game didn't help either. Do you remember that odd, but somewhat funny babbling you'd hear in place of voices during the Banjo Kazooie games? Well, it's 300x more annoying here, and I was tempted to mute the game a bunch of times because of it. The game's main villain (a large, capitalist bee in a business suit... because why not, I guess?) and Laylee were especially annoying to listen to. Also..., Laylee is racist as hell toward the other characters in the game. What's up with that!?

Here's a point I feel very awkward about making... A lot of you fell in love with me as character because of more than just my amazing ass (hard to imagine, I know!), but also the way I poke fun at the 'real world' with all of my 4th wall humor! So you'd think I would love all of the 'meta' jokes going around in this game too, right? Eh... at the risk of sounding like a hypocritical merc' with a mouth, I have to say, no. It would be fine if they made little jabs about the game's performance every once in a while (like I so masterfully accomplish... UNICORN FRAPPUCCINO REFERENCE!!!), but this game makes at least one or two with every single conversation! That's too damn much. It wears out its welcome fast, and that's unbelievably sad.

Speaking of sad, do you remember hating that annoying quiz section in Banjo Kazooie? Like it was probably the one thing you don't think fondly of when you look back on it? Well, guess what's back for no apparent reason!?... Seriously. I think these devs were convinced they had to remake Banjo Kazooie at all costs, and forget about any actual criticism it got at the time. These are not fun!!! They are annoying, and cause me to throw things that I now have to dig out of my wall... AND pay for a new wall!!! GRRRRR!!!

Okay, okay. I need to settle down a bit. It wasn't ALL bad. Like, I said, the game is still perfectly functional. For every annoying ass camera problem, there's a great idea hidden within. Some of the challenges were pretty creative and kept me curious enough to keep going and see what was up next. I also LOVED the background music that the game implemented. If anything truly brought me back to the 90's platformer nostalgia bonanza, it was that sweet sweet music. Just the right amount of orchestral and atmospheric, changing whenever you went underwater or into a cave. Ah yes, that Was. The. Shit!

You can tell this game was clearly designed for fans of the genre, by looking at the actual requirements to get to the final boss encounter and finish the game. Out of the 145 collectibles hidden throughout the game's main map and five worlds, you need to collect over 100 of them. That's... a LARGE portion of them just to get to the end. I went for them all, because I was planning to anyway, but that can be really off-putting to someone just trying to dip their feet in. It doesn't help that the final boss fight has so many phases that it almost becomes comical (except it doesn't, because you die a lot trying to figure the fight patterns out, only to have to start from the beginning and watch annoying UNSKIPPABLE dialog every time!!! WRYYYYYYYY!!!!!!). Not cool. Not cool at all. I thought you were COOL, game!!!

Despite all of my foaming at the mouth over these little nuances that brought down the experience, I still came out of the game satisfied in the end. No, really! I found myself not being able to stop until I collected every little thing, and obtained every single achievement, and not every game can get me to do that! Like I said above, this IS a 90's platforming game through and through. Whether that is a good thing or not is up to you, but I came out of it feeling content, and don't regret throwing money into the Kickstarter frenzie. But so help me, Playtonic... If we get a sequel and I find out you're throwing in more annoying quiz sections... I'll do to you what I did to Destiny!!!... Which is basically, play it after you already got my money, complain a bit, and then likely still buy whatever you put out in the future. THAT'LL SHOW YA!!!

7 Objects Named After Cheesy Puns Out Of 10

Okay, so it was actually a decent title if you're one of those gamers who wanted a true sequel to the Banjo Kazooie games, but not much else. If you weren't already in love with this style of game before, you DEFINITELY won't be after this and should probably stay far away. I still applaud the developers for their efforts and wish them the best of luck in the future... and less quizzes. Seriously, I will never stop ranting about those f#$king quizzes... TOODLES!!!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Deadpool's Force-Sensitive Movie Review Of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) (Spoilers Ahead, Ye Matey!)

Hey everybody! It's been a while, and I am completely to blame for that! I hope your holidays were happy, your bellies full, and your presents less sucky! It's been a difficult time lately, especially with the large mountain of deaths we've been seeing. George R.R. Martin still has yet to take responsibility, but I think we all know it's only a matter of time. I'm going to confess to you all, after the passing of Carrie Fisher, I almost wasn't sure if I still wanted to write up this review. All of the celebrity deaths this year have been tough, but this one hit me especially hard. This is the woman who showed me that being a princess does not mean damsel in distress (especially after becoming a kick-ass general to boot!). And I also need to point out that she was a damn fine role model in real life, who came forward about mental illness and even encouraged others to be more aware and understanding of its effects on our lives. That's a true fracking hero right there, folks.

One of the reasons I hesitated to still write this review, wasn't just because it was a new Star Wars film we were talking about here. As others who saw the movie already know, her likeness was also used in a scene just at the end of the movie. Alongside the likeness of Peter Crushing, these CGI versions of the classic characters rubbed some people the wrong way (more on that later), and it made me wonder if it was a bad idea to write up the funny junk you're used to me spouting on this thing, at this moment in time. I thought about it a little more, and it finally hit me: Carrie Fisher was funny as shit, and she'd want me to try and continue to be funny as shit for her as well! She wouldn't want us to all stop to be sad and mopey forever. This one is for YOU, general!!! <3

So I'm going to come right out and say it: I didn't expect as much from this movie. By being introduced as "A Star Wars Story" (which just sounds awful, and worthy of a "fire the marketing person" stance), people immediately had the impression the movie would feel mediocre, and those vibes didn't help me keep up enthusiasm. It also didn't help that the movie had some massive script re-writes near the end of its production, raising some red flags about how the whole thing was going to turn out. So what happened? Has the Star Wars cash cow been milked dry and buried in a pool of its own feces?

I am happy to report that, while definitely fatter, the cow is still being kept in very healthy condition, and being fed all of the right preservatives! There are flaws to be sure, and I'll be dissecting them like a proper snob soon enough, but I really need to emphasize that this is well worth seeing, and I think you too will be as shocked as I was by how well this one turned out.

So what's going on in what I'll now call the ONLY prequel movie? (Yeah, I said it. COME AT ME, HAYDEN!) We're introduced to a young Jyn Erso (played by the awesome Felicity Jones), essentially the main character of this film. Her father Galen (played by the equally awesome Mads Mikkelsen) created technology for the Imperials, and lived a pretty good life, minus all the mental torture and never being able to sleep again parts. He tried to get out, but they keep PULLIN' HIM BACK IN! The Imperials wanted more, just like that greedy asshole, Oliver Twist. Galen refused, people died, and Jyn watched as her mother was pointlessly killed and her father was taken away to construct a super weapon that I won't give away the name of, but it totally rhymes with "Meth Car." Huh..., why was THAT the first thing that came to my head?...

With all of that development behind us, we lay down the proper groundwork for the rest of the movie. Jyn, older now, meets up with the Rebels and joins K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), a hilariously blunt droid that she reprogrammed, and Cassian, a man working for the Rebels and sent to assassinate Jyn's father (unbeknownst to her of course, because what fun would that be otherwise!?). That's not all though! We also get to meet Donnie "freaking" Yen as Chirrut Îmwe, a blind warrior who has a strong belief in the Force, even though he is not a Jedi Knight. There's many other important characters (despite how small some of their roles actually were) who are all worth a mention, but unfortunately I'm not going to do that because we need to keep this review moving! Rolling, rolling, rolling...

We don't get a lot of time to really take in and care about these characters much, but they all play their parts well and that should be noted first. Most of the best lines came from K-2SO, but I think Donnie Yen personally had the best quote of the entire movie. When he and the other main characters all had bags placed over their heads while they get taken away to a hidden base, he responds "... Are you kidding me? I'm blind!!!" Priceless. Freaking. Priceless. The people in theater cackled something horrible at that part.

Comedy aside, this movie is actually very dark. Arguably the darkest in the whole franchise, in fact. I think many could have guessed that all of the main characters (outside of the ones we see in A New Hope) were pretty much doomed from the get go. Hell, I'd have been more surprised if any of them DID survive at that point. What made this movie still stand out is the things we DIDN'T already know beforehand, like the battle that took place leading up to A New Hope, the people involved, and even more importantly, what was up with that exhaust port weakness on the Death Star!? Amazingly, all of these things were finally explained to us, and in a way that makes sense. I'm so glad it made sense, you have no idea. Like, that exhaust port has been the butt of jokes since before I was even alive! It's good to tell people to finally put this in their traps and shove it!

James Earl Jones reprised his role as the voice of Darth Vader in Rogue One, and holy freaking bejeebus was he frightening!!! Okay, he had that one corny line about "choking," but everything else made me scared to be in the same movie theater. (Come to think of it, Vader making a pun about choking would also make me afraid to be in the same movie theater. What the hell man, do you get off on that kind of thing!?) Anyone who was set back by the (unintentionally) classic "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" moment in Revenge of the Sith, can finally sit back and relish just how much of a scary mofo this guy was and still is! I assure you, the final five minutes of the movie will have you gripping your theater chair, no matter how much soda was spilled on it.

There were all kinds of other nods to the previous movies too. And not just with character cameos, but actual effects in scenery and other things that only lifeless nerds like myself would notice! We'd be here all day if I picked them each apart, but know that the people behind this movie did their homework and it shows.

I also need to talk more about Jyn, because she's so worth it. Rey was an amazing character because of how gifted she was in the Force, and her ability to adapt to situations so quickly. Jyn is an awesome lead because she has NO Force abilities and STILL stood up to be brave in the face of a near suicidal mission. That battle was one of the most intense in the entire franchise, and even though clearly scared, we saw Jyn and everyone else do what they set out to do. Honestly, it brings a tear to my eye and it should yours too. Don't give me that toxic masculinity crap, I KNOW you cried too!!!

I only have a few gripes in a-minor to add to this whole thing. The first is involving the CGI characters. While I do applaud the efforts of the team who put both Tarkin and Leia's likenesses out there to help connect the movies, it did admittedly feel a little weird despite. I'm not exactly sure if I could even come up with a better solution, or if I'm just talking out of my ass (that was a joke, I ALWAYS do that! :D ). I started to say it above, but I'll spell it out more here since you're all typical Americans who like it that way: The characterizations were severely lacking for most of the main cast. Again, I don't think this could have really been helped though. I just don't think there was any way they could have introduced a whole new cast that large and somehow made us care about them all by the end. Most people already felt the film was moving at a snail's pace in the first half (including actual snails, who proceeded to compliment the pacing and said they didn't understand what everyone else's problem was). The final gripe I have may seem silly to some, but this is kind of important... In Force Awakens, we finally did away with that ridiculous Hollywood trope of the female protagonist having to be saved by a male character, regardless of how strong they were. In Rogue One... it came right back at us again. Like, what the hell, people!? You couldn't let Jyn have some justice for her mother's death at the end? Nooooo, you had to make Cassian come back and save her at the last second instead. Ugh. Come the hell on!!! *mumble grumble wumble*

Phew, alright. I'm okay now... As I was saying, before the whiny entitled nerd rant, this is an amazing movie, despite the flaws in it! If you are a true Star Wars fan, you will walk out of that theater energized and filled with, dare I say it..., HOPE!!! Despite the slower first half, things pick up so well afterward that you won't even notice there was a problem. Jyn is awesome and a worthy lead role, Vader is badder than ever, and the whole thing just felt so... STAR WARS-Y all the way through, that it's impossible for me not to still recommend it. This is now permanent Star Wars cannon and it is more than worthy of it. Rogue One had no business turning out this well, but it did, so deal with it, and nerd out with me about it already!!!

8.5 Uses Of "I've Got A Bad Feeling About This" Out Of 10

People who complained that The Force Awakens was too derivative of the classic Star Wars movies can finally shut the hell up! This is the "different" movie you asked for and it rocked like Freddie Mercury singing "We Will Rock You," while riding Darth Vader's shoulders! I'll see you all again to talk about this stuff next year. In the meantime, I'll go back into my "2016 sucks" brooding hole with Kylo Ren, who I hear specializes in that area. Toodles!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Deadpool's Magical Mystical Movie Review Of Doctor Strange (2016)!!! (Spoiler-Free, Because That's How I Roll)

Holy crap, people!!! How long has it been since Uncle D has sat down with you and told you a story? No, I don't remember when the last Marvel movie came out either. And yeah, I admit I skipped out on reviewing Suicide Squad. I mainly blame Justin though. (That freaking guy. Quitting his last job and getting all dramatic about the "emotional damage" it caused him. Wah wah, Justin! Get another job you damn hippy wannabe! Love you.)

You would think that the Marvel movies would be getting stale by this point. Sales figures have yielded mixed results with that, but overall it's still been PRETTY DAMN GOOD considering this is now the FOURTEENTH effing Marvel movie and Phase III is only just getting its feet wet. (I keep telling that asshole to just JUMP in the pool, so it'll be less cold, but I digress...) These movies are showing no signs of stopping, and somehow, we're still crossing territories we never have (or even thought we would have) before. Honestly, if I told you fifteen years ago that we'd be seeing a movie about the origins of the 'Sorcerer Supreme' someday, would you have believed me? Don't say you would! You're lying! You are the worst liar, I swear.

So what IS Doctor Strange all about? Tough cookie to describe, but I'll munch into this one head first (... *much*). Stephen Strange is a very famous doctor, who performs all kinds of incredible surgeries with his hands that he spends way too much time washing and staring at creepily. One day, he gets into an accident that HE caused, damaging the beautiful miracle surgery hands, and taking away their mint condition status. He looks for options to get his hands (that he can no longer creepily stare at the same way) back to normal, and eventually comes across people on another continent, who he believes can help him heal. Little did he realize what he would really get himself into...

You may have noticed my asshole-ish tone when describing Strange's character. (More asshole-ish than usual, I mean!) Well, there's kind of a reason for that. Are you ready for this bombshell to drop? Here it is... :

Stephen Strange is arguably a bigger asshole than Tony Stark.

... I'll give you all a minute to really process that.

No, I'm serious. This guy is completely egotistical to the point of madness, he's rich as f$%k, he only saves people he considers to be "worthy of his time," has no concern for other's well-being unless it affects his status, has a bad-ass collection of watches and a nice car that I'm admittedly completely jealous of, never accepts responsibility for his actions (even when told he's about to rip the entire time/space continuum apart!), and did I mention the creepy hand-washing thing!? I'm not going to lie to you all. I had a very hard time feeling any shred of sympathy for this guy. I guess you could say this is a reflection of how good an actor that Benedict Cumberbatch truly is? I mean, the guy also played Sherlock, and was a major asshole in that too. Huh...

(Seriously, I love Cumberbatch as an actor, so don't even think about flaming me after this. You know I know who you are...)

The pacing of the movie is a bit uneven, but I think that's one of the things I ended up liking about it the most (outside of the effects of course, which I am SO going to devote an entire paragraph to later!). It's no secret that the Marvel movies have all followed a very strict formula. If you didn't already realize this until now, and I've somehow ruined your entire love of the series, leading you to question what else society's been keeping from you, then I'm sorry, but also glad to hear you're taking your first steps! With that said, I can finally state that some of the strict/boring setup of the previous movies is finally starting to fade a bit. The majority of this movie actually does focus on character development and world building, more than "boom boom, whirly boom boom!" Not to say there isn't a lot of spectacular "whirly boom boom" to go with it, but I think you can see where I'm going with this. Instead of having a fine line between good and evil, we actually see two groups very mixed in thoughts and goals, as well as having their beliefs be constantly questioned. It's a beautiful thing that I'm sure Neil deGrasse Tyson would very much approve of (even though he probably doesn't appreciate the actual science of the movie as much. Ugh, I can feel you judging me from here, Neil. Back off with your actual scientific facts!!! (But seriously, can I call you Neil?) (Wow, I've used a lot of brackets in this paragraph...)).

Are you ready for the effects paragraph? HERE is the effects paragraph!!!... In the next one.

... OMG those effects tho!!! I am usually the first pretentious dick to criticize overuse of CGI in movies, to the point where there's no imagination to the product, but this yielded a much better result and actually gave me some hope for the technology. The parts of it that look cheesy are much fewer and farther between. Everything else is absolutely dreamlike. Buildings opening up and closing/flipping sideways and upside-down like it ain't no thang! Journeys into multiple astral planes and universes. It's just so damn pretty, that you can't NOT talk about it. If this is a sign of future CGI use in movies, I may actually be on board again. (I can also finally stop saying the last Mad Max movie was the only thing to get CGI right, even if for totally different reasons. HOO-HAH!)

This is also a pretty small thing to mention (to the point where Ant-Man would probably notice it first), but this may be the first time I left the theater actually humming and remembering a Marvel movie's soundtrack!!! Seriously, have you EVER done that with a Marvel movie before? Because I sure as hell didn't, and I don't remember anyone else saying they did either, so it must be true!

Is this the greatest Marvel movie ever made? Lol, nope. Not even close. It's one thing to have Strange's character evolve as far as it did, but... He's still an ass. He mainly got where he did from reading and learning (admittedly due to his photographic memory), and not from evolving as a person so much. That's not to say he didn't have ANY evolution whatsoever, but... damn. Wong put it perfectly when he said "... But you've still got much to learn." It's cool that they're obviously building this up so that Strange's character can grow even more, but what are we actually teaching the people who watched this movie in the meantime? Without going into direct spoilers, the "heroes" of the movie only won their fight with the "villains" by tapping into dark arts they were not supposed to, due to the risk of damaging the entire time-space continuum! And this was only considered after a certain someone's master was caught doing the same thing (whether for a just purpose or not). So... do whatever horrible means necessary to win a fight? Is that the message? I got nothing there.

There was also a huge (understandable) controversy over who was chosen to play Strange's teacher in the movie. While I am still kind of surprised over who the movie execs picked as well, I won't pretend that Tilda Swinton did a bad job with the performance either. She kicked a lot of butt in fact! But it's... still weird. I hope I can get some more clarity on that decision at some point. Other actors/actresses felt underused in their roles here; the most obvious being Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo. He's really a mix of different comic book personalities into one, but that wasn't the issue here. Hell, I liked the fact that he wasn't just a straight up "muahahahaha evil" guy. But his character didn't get enough time to shine. We still only barely scratched the surface while learning about his motivations. Honestly, if the "villain" didn't go around and kill anyone in this movie, you'd have questioned whether anyone could consider him a villain character at all. I guess I can't hate on this too much, since it obviously leads to awesome winding paragraphs like this, where I let my full inner-nerd out, but I'd have still liked to see a lot more of this. Hopefully, now that the origins are out of the way, we can jump right into things next time!

8 uses of "Dormammu, I've come to bargain!" out of 10

Sorry to get all "movie critic" on yer butts, but I really did have a lot of opinions on this one. That's a good thing though, right? Can I get an actual job doing this yet, so I can STOP shooting things!??? No? Oh, okay... See you next time, true believers!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Book Review: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (1987)

I'll begin this review with a confession: As much of a diehard fan as I am of Douglas Adams' 'Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy' series of books, I have never really developed an interest in reading the two Dirk Gently novels until recently. It's strange too, because The Hitchhiker novels were some of my favorite books of all time back when I had first read them (which I would still gladly include in my top 10 now). You would think I'd have been more curious to delve into these at the time! I have another confession to make: What gave me the motivation to finally pick it up, was the information I had heard and seen regarding the new TV series on BBC America (currently airing as I type this). It looked like it could be a lot of fun, and was something I felt immediately curious over. The week before it aired, I ended up finding a paperback copy of the first book at a library sale, and figured I could hardly go wrong for the $.50 it cost me. Imagine my surprise to find out that it has almost nothing in common with BBC's new series (so far)! But that's not the point here, as this blog is about the novel, and not the TV show.

I'm going to try as best I can not to come off as if I'm jumping from place to place during this review, but I have a feeling it will be difficult to do, since the book itself is written in such a style. The first few chapters merely give us information about the setting, with some clues about what we're even supposed to be taking in at this point. Dirk? We don't even hear a mention of his name until the end of chapter 4. Sounds odd, yes? Trust me when I say you don't even know the half of it. We're introduced to multiple characters (such as The Electric Monk, Richard, Gordon, Reg, and others) with seemingly no connection to each other. Cue Dirk (also known as Svlad Cjelli), who comes in to somehow bring it all together and solve a murder. This isn't done by any typical means however, as this is a holistic detective agency, meaning that Dirk believes in the "interconnectedness" of all things in the universe. He simply can't be bothered by trivial matters, such as physical evidence, to solve a case.

It's hard to look back on this book and recall when it all actually started to come together and make even a semblance of sense. Sure, there are plenty of clues that the reader can pick up on and figure out on their own, but there are so many other strange and wacky plot points to throw you off track, it's actually remarkable. Because of this confusing nature, I admit it was a bit difficult to stay interested during the first quarter or so of the book. It reminded me of how confused I was the first time I read Frank Herbert's "Dune," not being able to understand the terminology being thrown at me right in the first chapter.

Like "Dune" however, I am very glad I stuck with this book all the way to the end. When things finally did begin to come together, it was almost impossible to put down. I can attest to this, due to the fact that I stayed up until about 4 AM to read the last quarter of it in one sitting. (Honestly, when your book consists of plot twists involving ghosts, time travel, and the secrets of the very universe itself, who can say no!?)

It's easy to compare Dirk's character to that of Shelock Holmes and The Doctor from Doctor Who, the latter in particular. This isn't a coincidence, as Adams actually came up with this idea for Dirk Gently during his time writing for Doctor Who. If you were to look up the serials "City Of Death" and more importantly, the cancelled "Shada," then you would likely notice multiple similarities (which I will not post here at the risk of spoiling any major plot points in this book). I would argue that Dirk is nuttier than both Sherlock and The Doctor put together, and I do not say that lightly. This is a man that made trips to other continents and added it to a woman's bill, while claiming it was all in the name of finding her lost cat!

What really makes this disjointed novel still work in the end is Douglas Adams' brilliant use of wit and humor. If anyone can pull off something as utterly ridiculous as this story, and still make it feel worth your while, it's Adams. I found myself rethinking old scientific concepts that I had always taken for granted growing up, and caught myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion. It was also a relief to see that none of the chapters or paragraphs in this book were wasted. Everything really WAS connected and it made the remainder of the read far more satisfying. I am also tempted to re-read it now, and to go in with a completely different mindset to the earlier chapters that confused me so much the first time around.

This is far from a perfect book (and I admit, I have a hard time recommending it to everyone, due to the confusing and fragmented nature of the storytelling as a whole), but any fan of Hitchhiker's Guide and the remainder of Adams' work owes it to themselves to give "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" a try. Even with the abrupt and arguably anticlimactic ending, I never felt that my time reading this was wasted in any way. If you have never read any of Adams' other work before, I would suggest starting with Hitchhiker's Guide (as so many already have) and going from there if you decide you want more of that same kind of charm. Whether or not the new TV series succeeds, this book is not to be missed.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Thoughts On A Video Game Con (2016)

With fond memories of the previous year, I was more than happy to attend A Video Game Con as a panelist once again. I was also glad to see it getting a second year, as not only did I enjoy the events, but I also reconnected with many friends (as well as gained many new ones) in the process. Did it hold up against its promising first year, especially with even larger special events planned??? Read below to find out!!!

The first thing my friend Willie and I noticed, was that the structure of the con was more or less the same, but with some slight tweaks that we felt made the event even better. For one thing, the hallway to the right of the entrance was no longer cramped with vendor tables. This allowed everyone to easily walk through and not feel as claustrophobic as the previous year. Even more important; the parking was clearly laid out this year with a helpful map, so that no one would have to worry about finding spaces. Two MAJOR plusses!

Unlike the previous year, my Streaming 101 panel was not scheduled until 3:00, so my friend and I had time to look around in the dealer/vendor's room first. Although it wasn't the largest vendor selection ever, I can honestly say that it was by far most comprehensive group of gaming vendors I've ever seen (and I'm including big conventions like New York Comic Con when I say this)! No matter what your preference (NES, Super NES, Sega Genesis, Famicom, Super Famicom, Playstation 1-4, Xbox-Xbox ONE, etc.), just about everything you could imagine was there in some way, shape, or form. I even remember spotting some of the old LCD handheld games that I played as a child.

I made some purchases at the vendors, but tried not to go too nuts (as it's very easy to do over there!). I made out with copies of Tetris, Super Mario Brothers 3, and The Legend of Zelda (gold cartridge) for the NES. I also got a nice used copy of Parasite Eve, which I have played many times before, but never owned previously. I held back on many other things, and decided I'd sleep on a few other items I was thinking about.

After getting lunch from the awesome truck right outside the building, my friend and I went into the arcade/stage room to check out what had been set up. Willie, his friend Brian, and I all teamed up to win The Simpsons Arcade Game together, and even got to enter our initials in the high score column! I also got to meet Pat Contri (known as Pat The NES Punk on YouTube). He was selling copies of his new book, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide To The NES Library. When I say this thing was a giant tome of a book, I mean it was a GIANT TOME of a book! It contains over 450 pages with titles, illustrations, and descriptions of over 750 NES games. It was well worth the price, and Pat was kind enough to sign my copy for me. I lucked out too, as I believe the book sold out not long after.

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After glancing around the freeplay room and signing in to confirm I was still doing a panel (thanks for pointing that out to me before it was too late, Keith!), my friend and I made our way to Panel Room 2 for setting up. Thankfully, unlike last year, we had a laptop that was actually working right (thanks to Willie!). I was also thrilled to see more people come into the panel than last year. For those who don't know, my panel last year was literally one of the first two of the entire convention, starting at 10:00 AM. Almost no one was even in the building yet by that time, and people were still waiting in line to even get inside! On top of that, there were numerous technical issues we had when trying to set up. So to make a long story short again, I was ECSTATIC to have my panel start a bit later, as well as have a bigger audience this time around.

As the name states, the point of my panel was to both introduce the concept of streaming video games to others, and educate them on how they can get started on this fun and exciting hobby. I'm happy to say things seemed to go pretty well! For one thing, there were no laptop issues to speak of, as the one my friend lent me didn't overheat or slow down at any point. The audience also really seemed intrigued and entertained by the things I was saying. It was a great sign that so many wanted to take my business card, including the people who had to leave before the panel had ended. I even recognized a girl who came to my JRPG panel the previous year, which meant I couldn't have performed too badly, right? The highlight of the entire panel for me, was finishing up the first video of one of my funny short clips and asking if they wanted to see more, only to hear cheering of "YEAH!" and clapping in reply. I left things feeling accomplished, and more like I could finally just breathe and enjoy the convention.

The rest of the day was mostly a mix of walking around more, playing more freeplay games, and finding and talking with more friends and staff. I also have to give a shout out to Paul of Retrogames for taking the time to talk with me about the ins and outs of starting a small business. It's all advice I will absolutely take to heart, and appreciate the brutal honesty that I know I needed to hear.

We finished the day by going to two late night (18+) panels, "Anime Parliament" and "AHH! Video Game Cartoons," both of which were extremely funny and entertaining. I even participated in a game during the latter panel, where we had to try and fill in the blanks to sentences with something funny/dirty to win candy. Good stuff! And I definitely slept extremely well that night, since I was so tired from all the chaos.

Despite everything I listed above, it was the second day of the convention where the "real" main events took place! On one hand, we had The Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN) as the guest of honor, as well as Bootsy and Kyle Justin. On the other, we had the recently discovered Playstation/Nintendo prototype system that was originally believed to be an old folktale on the Internet. Needless to say, it was quite a lineup!

Since my friend and I had to come extremely early in order to get one of our volunteer friends to the convention before it opened, we were able to get inside pretty quickly once 9:30 hit. Since there was a decent amount of time before lining up for AVGN even began, we went back to the dealer's room once again. I finally made a purchase I had been on the fence about since the day before (partly because I didn't even know the device existed until said day!). The HoneyBee Gold is a converter piece that allows your NES to play original Japanese Famicom games on it. How does this work? Well, it's all in the number of pins! NES cartridges have 72 pins, while Famicom cartridges have 60. This converter is basically a middleman that you plug a Famicom cartridge into (similar to a Game Genie). After that, you're good to go! It's considered the most sought-after type of converter, so I pretty much had to get it. In the process, this has now opened me up to a whole world of gaming from Japan that I never even imagined myself collecting in the past. The good news is that most Famicom games are actually cheaper than their NES counterparts, as well as many of the Japan-only releases.

Following this, I went with my friend to a booth that had all kinds of Famicom games in it. We pretty much picked the entire counter apart. Even the titles in full Japanese, we were usually able to recognize, and kept calling the names of each one out as we realized. We apparently shocked one of the guys behind the counter, because he looked at both of us (almost with his jaw open) and said "Wow... You guys know your stuff!!!" I guess he had a harder time figuring out what he had before putting it up for sale. I ended up getting the first Saint Seiya title for the console, "Saint Seiya: Ougon Densetsu Kanketsu Hen." Whether it's good or not, I always remember the first games I purchase on each system, and this one will be no exception when I finally get to try it.

Once we went to go line up for The Angry Video Game Nerd, we were already pretty far back, as it went all the way out the building! Luckily, we met a lot of new friends in the line and we helped each other pass the time. Finally getting up to the front was a great feeling. Unlike most conventions, where you are rushed out as soon as your autograph or photo op is complete, this was an actual meet and greet. I chatted with him about as much as I could think to mention at the time. I actually got him to laugh pretty hard at one point too, saying something along the lines of "I find it hilarious how you did this as a persona, while it ended up attracting other imitators, who were actually legitimately angry people! They never realized that they were really the punch line all along!" He said he had never heard it described that way before, but said it had a ring of truth to it and thanked me for coming up with it. We also took a picture, making the trademark angry face he's become so known for. He was a very down-to-Earth guy and it was very nice talking with him.

The fun wasn't over yet, however! It was time to check out the Playstation/Nintendo console prototype. As a gamer, I must confess, it was incredible seeing this device up close. There is no way to truly describe seeing a controller with the Super Nintendo setup, and a Sony Playstation logo on the front (while the Nintendo logo was on the back)! I tried to take pictures of the console and its ports (though some pictures came out a bit blurry unfortunately). I am very grateful to everyone who made it possible for us to see this prototype. It added a special kind of experience that I've never quite seen at a convention before (including both big and local events).

The remainder of the consisted of walking around, playing more games in freeplay (such as Mega Man 3, Capcom Vs. SNK 2, and others), and talking with more people. I was also thrilled to see my friend Jeffery win the cosplay contest with a new friend he had literally just met the day before! Since the convention closed earlier on its second day, there wasn't much left to do other than say goodbye to everyone and look forward to next year.

Although brief (even with the second day added), this convention left me with a lot to think about. It's been a dream of mine to start my own business, as well as run a convention, and the things I learned left me with more knowledge on the subjects. Unfortunately, it also left me with a bit of dread. Obviously, not all news regarding these types of ventures are going to be good news. There's a serious amount of sacrifice one has to make in order to make their dreams possible, and it's not hard to be pulled back by it sometimes. Make no mistake, however. I will not give up, and I will not stop trying, ever. That much I can promise.

I'd like to thank all of my friends who helped make this event a possibility for us once again. Paul, Nicole, Coryn, Anthony, Cathryn, Keith (who I always manage to look like an idiot in front of), Elyse, Kathryn, etc., you are wonderful and I wish you all the best. To all my new friends and old, I look forward to connecting with you all again soon as well. It's always a real joy to connect with people over similar passions, and I can't wait to do it all again. See you next year, fellow gamers!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Classic Cinema: Rashōmon (1950)

It was only a matter of time before I got into an Akira Kurosawa movie for this classic film blog, and mark my words; this will certainly not be the last (as The Hidden Fortress, The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and many others will likely reach this blog someday). There is no simple way to describe the impact that Akira Kurosawa's directing had on the world (let alone all of Japan). A large amount of the movies and TV shows you enjoy today actually exist due to said influence. Whether it's through plot direction or film technique, you can usually find Kurosawa's name at the end of the rainbow. As with my previous entry, I'll be using this post to describe both the chosen movie, and what makes it so historically relevant. The film I've chosen to discuss for this blog is Rashōmon, the first movie of Kurosawa's to reach international acclaim, including the United States after its release in 1950. It was based on a short story called "In The Grove."

Rashōmon tells the story of multiple characters involved in a murder scene. Each person involved (a samurai, his wife, a bandit named Tajōmaru, and a woodcutter) tells their version of the story to the court. But there lies a grave issue: each account of what happened is completely different from the last! Just as you believe you are finally getting to the bottom of the story, you hear another person tell a tale that completely contradicts the previous one.

The movie begins with a woodcutter and a priest, sitting under the Rashōmon city gate and waiting for a heavy rain to pass. Another man comes out of the rain to join them, and tries to determine why the two look so perplexed. They each begin to explain of horrible events to which they are still trying to make sense of. The woodcutter then begins to tell his story, oh how he was walking through a forest with an axe in hand. After many careful and interesting camera maneuvers to make us truly feel isolated in this forest with him, he spots a dead body and immediately runs away in fear, before telling the courts of what he saw. Or at least, that's what we're lead to believe...

The first account we hear of is that of Tajōmaru (the bandit), who saw a samurai man and his wife travelling by, and immediately fell for the woman after gazing at her. He advised he laid out a trap to lure the man away, in order to steal his wife and avoid having to kill the man. He tied up the samurai and led his wife to them, where she was allegedly "seduced" by the bandit. The wife then demanded that one of them must die, so that she would not have to live with the shame of two men knowing of her "dishonor." The bandit's plan obviously went sour by this point, resulting in the two of them having to sword fight, and the wife running away without a trace after also trying to fight back with a dagger. The bandit claimed responsibility for killing the samurai and raping his wife.

We then hear the story from the samurai's wife, and the movie officially gets more confusing from this point forward. Her story contradicts the bandit's in many ways, with the sole exception of the samurai being killed. She states that after the bandit raped her, he left temporarily. Her husband simply stared at her coldly, and when she freed him and begged him to kill her in order to no longer live with the shame, he simply continued to stare. She claimed to be so disturbed by this, that she fainted, only to wake up and find her husband dead. Her dagger was found in his chest, leading us to now believe that she killed the samurai.

To make things even more peculiar, we then hear the story of the deceased samurai. How? Well, a medium is performed, in order to allow the dead samurai to speak on his behalf. For those who don't know, a medium is a practice that is performed in order for people to communicate or mediate with the dead. This process is almost casually used in order for us to hear of the samurai's account. Once again, we hear a completely different story. After Tajōmaru raped the samurai's wife, he asked her to come with him. She agreed, but only on the premise that he killed her husband, so that she would not have to live with the shame of having been with two men. Tajōmaru was shocked by this request and hesitated for a bit, before grabbing the wife, and giving the samurai a choice: either he lets her go or kills her. The samurai responded with the now famous line "For these words alone, I was ready to pardon his crime." The wife ran away, and the bandit followed with chase. He eventually gave up and came back to the samurai, setting him free. The samurai then killed himself with the dagger mentioned in the bandit's account of the story. The dagger was also apparently removed from his chest by someone else afterward.

We now return to the Rashōmon gate, with the three men pondering over this peculiar situation. The woodcutter begins to lose patience and shouts that all three stories are incorrect. He then reveals that he did indeed see the whole thing, but didn't want to get involved.

In the woodcutter's account of the story, Tajōmaru had tied up the samurai and begged his wife to join and marry him. She instead proceeded to freeing her husband. In a strange twist, the samurai refused to fight Tajōmaru, saying that he had no desire to risk his life for her. The wife chastised them both, saying they were not real men, and heavily pressured both of them into fighting. Both men were completely scared, but eventually began fighting. The fight, according to the woodcutter, was far more imbalanced and messy. They were extremely nervous, making careless swings and rolling around constantly. The fight resulted in Tajōmaru winning by a stroke of luck, though it could have easily gone the other way. The samurai begged for his life before Tajōmaru finished him off, and the wife ran away in fear.

The discussion between the three men is interrupted by the sudden sound of a baby crying. They run to the other side of the gate and find it there, with a kimono and amulet. The visiting man takes the kimono and amulet, receiving criticism from the woodcutter for stealing from an abandoned baby. The commoner immediately hits back, revealing that he figured out the missing dagger was in fact stolen by the woodcutter, and that he was "a bandit calling another a bandit." He leaves the woodcutter and priest, saying that all men are motivated by self-interest, and nothing more.

In the final moments of the film, the priest loses just about all hope for humanity. The woodcutter reaches for the baby, before the priest pulls back out of suspicion. The woodcutter explains to the priest that he already has six children, and that one more wouldn't be a big deal to him. At this moment, the priest then realizes that the woodcutter stole the dagger in order to help provide for his family. He advises that his faith in humanity is restored again, and hands the baby to the woodcutter. The rain finally stops and the woodcutter walks home with his new child in hand.

Although it may not be clear in my description of the film above; this movie does not actually contain a large amount of dialogue. The filming was meant to carry the story along just as much, if not more than the dialogue that complimented it. Kurosawa was heavily influenced by silent films, and it shows here. Many would argue that taking the minimalist approach to filming actually increased the impact of this story, rather than hindering it. There were no expensive set pieces to be seen; just forest, the Rashōmon gate, and the courts (of which we never actually heard the judges speak at any point).

Filming technique has always been a strong part of Kurosawa's magic, and this is great movie to point it out with. Kurosawa was said to be one of (if not the) first directors to point the camera straight at the sun to craft a scene with. Every shot taken in the forest is made to give us the feeling that we're truly in a wide-open area, while still making us uneasy; as if we are being watched at the same time.

What of course makes this story interesting more than any other factor, is the conflicting perspectives of the people telling their accounts of the story. Even after hearing the woodcutter's version of the situation, we are never really told if any of these accounts were right or wrong. Some may have been completely right, completely wrong, or partially right, and we'll honestly never know. That is left for the viewer to surmise on their own, and to this day, there is no real answer. I watched an informative interview with Robert Altman (of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, MASH, Nashville, and numerous others), who described another important aspect this movie had on future films. He pointed out that up to that point, we simply told ourselves to believe everything we saw onscreen. This film simply threw that concept out the window, and left us completely vulnerable and confused.

Have you ever seen a movie or TV show, in which the characters involved are trying to resolve some type of mystery by describing conflicting accounts of a situation? Rashōmon is the reason this type of storytelling even exists in film, and yet, the movie still makes it feel like a fresh concept, even now. It is such an iconic film, that the term " Rashōmon effect" is actually used to describe this very concept today.

It's easy to recommend Akira Kurosawa's works to film-lovers or those aspiring to get into classic cinema, but naming which films are the most essential can sometimes be a bit more difficult for enthusiasts. I can say with full confidence that this is not one of those cases however, as it universally seen as one of the most important works to come out of one of the most important directors in film history. In future blogs, I will be happy to talk more about Kurosawa's continued inspiration on Western cinema.

Stay tuned for the next blog entry, where we'll be taking things back a bit and going into one of my other favorite directors of all time, Fritz Lang, and his classic silent film, Metropolis.