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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Cowboys & Aliens

I remember thinking that this movie was going to be really good back when it came out. I saw the trailer in 2011, and I figured that it was going to be a good movie to watch. Then, a few months later, the reviews started rolling in, and I was surprised by how badly it was received. Looking back at the revenue, it only made just over its $163 million-dollar budget. It brought in about $175 million.
Thinking back, they probably should have chosen a different week to release it. The Comic-Con screening was only four days after the release of Captain America: The First Avenger.
Which is one of my favorite movies of all time.
And you know something else? Deathly Hallows Part 2 was released earlier that same month. I've never seen it, and I don't really know if it was any good, but I know it's not a smart move to release a movie, even a movie with a cast like this one had in the same month as major installments in blockbuster franchises.
So let's just say that despite the star-power of the cast, and the fact that this is probably the only movie where you can see James Bond and Indiana Solo team up with Quorra and Justin Fleegman to fight aliens.
Hey I just realized, this is the closest thing we're ever gonna get to a Galaxy Quest, Tron and Star Wars Crossover!
Too bad they chose to release it in the same month as the finale of one of the highest-profile fantasy epics since The Lord of the Rings, and what might just be both one of the greatest war-movies and superhero movies of all time.
And despite my opinion of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, that movie was still going strong well into the next month. And Final Destination 5 was coming out at the start of the next month, which would be joined literally the next day by Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Two massively grossing movies getting released a few weeks after it, combined with one of the hugest films of all-time being released the month before, and another of the hugest films of all-time being released in the same month with one of the greatest films of all-time....
Yeah, even if they'd ironed out a few of the problems I wound up having with the film, this movie was never destined for any kind of success, despite the sheer power of the cast. It was released at a really bad time in 2011, it had some big issues with presentation and storytelling, and it lacked a decent ending. I'll get into this later in the review.
But yeah, this was definitely gonna drop right off the charts pretty quickly. Sad to say something like that about a movie that's actually pretty good, but it's the truth.
So, let's talk about the plot.
Daniel Craig's character wakes up in the desert with a mysterious wound in his torso, and a massive silver bracelet on his left wrist that certainly doesn't belong in 1873. He runs afoul of some dudes, and winds up leaving them all for dead, and taking their weapons and horses.
He rides into a local town, and gets locked up, because he looks like a wanted outlaw by the name of Jake Lonergan. And because he assaulted the local mafia don's son because the kid was being a stupid and spoiled brat.
The aforementioned mafia don is actually a former Civil War Colonel and cattleman by the name of Woodrow Dollarhyde, played by Harrison Ford. They run into each other because Lonergan apparently stole a bunch of gold from Dollarhyde, and the Colonel wants to know where he stashed it. He also wants to punish him for hurting his son, because despite the fact that he despises how his son lives his life, he still wants to try and find some way to whip him into shape, and he can't do that if his son is dead.
During a standoff between Dollarhyde's men and those of the local Sheriff's, the aliens strike and abduct many a citizen of the town, Dollarhyde's son included.
Because Lonergan has a pretty effective weapon against those aliens, in the form of his mysterious bracelet, the townsfolk include him in the posse they round up to go get the abductees.
Fortunately, the following scenes are all decently made, at least until they get to the chase-sequence, where it transitions into a strange hallucination, akin to that one similar scene from The Big Lebowski, only more perplexing, and a lot less funny.
In this chase, Lonergan rescues an alien in the form of a beautiful woman, and around a campfire with some Native Americans, who had some of their people abducted by the aliens.
The woman is apparently some kind of Time Lord, since she manages to come back from the dead through a burst of golden-light.
She explains what the aliens are up to, and that her people were killed by those aliens.
See, I don't usually have an issue with exposition, but it has to be executed well. And this has been executed poorly. It's boring, and I wish it had been either cut entirely, or heavily re-written into something that:
A) Made a bit more sense
B) Didn't bring the pacing to a stone-cold stop.
And, C) Hadn't brought up some troubling issues with the ending.
Honestly, I think that the alien woman should have been written out entirely, because her presence and abilities raise a whole bunch of questions that are never answered.
From this point on, the movie picks up a bit, with the alliance of townsfolk, Apache's, and lone alien woman locating the ship that the aliens used to get to Earth.
They put together a decent plan to rescue the townsfolk and prevent the aliens from taking all the gold on Earth, and laying siege to another planet.
Jake goes back to his old gang and forces them to help the ramshackle defense force out with the siege.
Dollarhyde and the Apache's lead the ground assault, while Jake, and the alien girl, named Ella, sneak into the ship and free the captives.
And it's towards the end of this battle where things started getting real dumb. Ella takes Jake's wrist-gun to blow up the reactor core, instead of just taking one of the ones from the many, many dead aliens with the same kind of guns. And this leaves Jake defenseless aside from his useless human guns.
And then everyone acts like Ella's dead, despite the fact that she completely reconstructed her body earlier in the film.
Because his love interest is dead, Jake decides to leave Dollarhyde's town.
Dollarhyde offers Jake a job, but Jake turns it down and leaves.
And I could not understand why he did this. Why would you leave when you could have a decent job and a decent life in the town? And maybe they could have shown Ella coming back to life (again)and Jake could have settled down, and the ending might have had some kind of impact aside from pretty much everyone having resumed the state they were in at the beginning of the film.
All in all, I think something must have gone wrong in production. The issue being that the whole thing could have been improved with a few small changes to the script, and it would have become a much better movie.
And as it is, it also seems like a movie that's had a few scenes chopped out and re-written to be a lot shorter.
Maybe being about a half-an-hour longer could have improved upon the plot, but that's no guarantee to that effect.
Honestly, I still think it's worth watching. Rent it or borrow it from the library. There are certainly worse ways to spend two hours. There are also better ways, but I think this is still a decent film, despite the issues.
It certainly deserves a sequel that improves upon everything in this film, and more. But I don't think it will get one.
In the end, I'll give it a 7.2* rating.
Funnily enough, I had a book I was planning to review this week, but my packed schedule, combined with some issues with my Nook, prevented me from finishing it in time. As such, I had to hurriedly re-write an article from last year that I forgot to publish, namely this one.
So, hopefully I will see you guys next week with my review of that book!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Transformers: Age of Extinction is the latest installment of the mega-successful, but polarizing live-action Transformers series.
Released in June of 2014, the movie managed to make back a whopping five times its budget.
And honestly, I can see why.
My opinions of the second and third movies in this series are well on record, so I won't go into the details too much here.
Suffice to say, that I didn't particularly like them.
I thought they were pretty good at their best moments, and a little insulting at their worst.
But I really liked the first one. The story was well-told, the characters were well-written, and the whole film was competently made, especially compared to what came after it.
Honestly, they weren't quite Alien 3 level of bad, but they weren't X-Men 2 level of good either.
And now we're at the third sequel. They've ditched the Witwicky's, Mikaela, Sam's replacement girlfriend, and most connection to the rest of the movies in the series, aside from The Transformers themselves, and the fact that the events in this film were directly affected by what happened in Dark of the Moon.
Our new human lead is Cade Yaeger, played by Mark Wahlberg. A struggling inventor and single father.
Cade's story starts when he starts rummaging around in an old theater with his annoying stoner assistant, Lucas Flannery. He talks to the theater owner and buys a few old cameras.
And while fooling around with a football, he finds a rusty and broken Marmon 97 semi-truck that had crashed into the theater years prior.
He buys the truck and tows it home, where his daughter, Tessa, has just gotten back from school.
Cade gets to work on the truck in his barn, and finds out something strange about it.
It is way too high-tech for its age. It doesn't run on a standard engine or fuel system.
Cahe, Lucas and Tessa suspect that it's a Cybertronian. Lucas and Tessa want to turn it over in case it's an injured Decepticon, but Cade wants to fix it up and see how it works.
After some effort and macro-surgery, they manage to revive the Autobot, which turns out to be Optimus Prime.
Optimus was attacked in Mexico City after the Chicago incident, and took on the form of the Marmon because his original disguise became too well-known. Unfortunately, that didn't help him get away, as he was heavily wounded, and wound up in the Cybertronian equivalent of a coma.
Cade does his best to fix up Optimus, but some government black-ops group named Cemetery Wind shows up looking for Optimus.
And this was one of the defining moments of the movie for me.
As one might be able to guess, these guys aren't here to help Optimus out. They're not affiliated with NEST, and Sam Witwicky is not among the group.
Cade hides Optimus and goes out to run interference with the soldiers. This doesn't work, and the soldiers put guns to Cade and Tessa's heads, threatening to shoot them if they don't tell where Optimus is.
Up until this point, I wasn't entirely sold on the movie. There were some issues with annoying characters, Mark Wahlberg's acting was a little shaky, and the five-year time-skip from the end of Dark of the Moon almost lost me.
But at this point is where the movie picked up.
Optimus Prime is hidden away, essentially safe from danger if he plays his cards right. But these people helped him, they found him, refused to turn him over to certain death, and are still, even in the face of their own imminent demises, are refusing to turn him over.
Optimus badly injured, and he knows that saving them could kill him.
And do you know what he did?
He saves them anyways. Broken, hurt, and running low on resources and fighting spirit alike, he gets up, and helps them. He refuses to quit.
Because life, is the right of all sentient beings. Because his name is Optimus Prime, and that is what he stands for. Across the universe, the Autobots fight, sometimes at the cost of their own lives, to protect others.
And he is their leader. He refuses to let these people who helped him in his time of need down. Optimus Prime gets up and fights, even in the gravest of circumstances to protect the lives of innocents.
Because when all hope is lost, Optimus Prime is there to rekindle that fighting spirit. Optimus Prime fought and died to protect planet earth. And he was willing to fight and die again to protect those who helped him in his time of need.
Optimus Prime fights, and he does his best. And for the most part, he succeeds.
With help Tessa's boyfriend, Shane, Optimus and the Yaeger's manage to escape Cemetery Wind, and flee to rally the last remaining Autobots to one final showdown.
Cade finds out they've frozen his bank account, with the help of a drone he took from Cemetery Wind in the previous fight, and confirms that they're looking for them, when soldiers show to take them in.
Unfortunately, they don't manage to escape this, and Shane's car winds up getting destroyed, and Lucas gets melted by a grenade thrown by a Cybertronian bounty-hunter named Lockdown (Voiced by Mark Ryan).
With help from Optimus, they manage to escape to an abandoned gas-station en-route to rally the four remaining Autobots. There they stock up on supplies, and stay for the night.
The next day, they make their way into the desert. On the road, Optimus scans another semi-truck, and transforms into a shiny new form.
This scene was pretty awesome to watch as well.
 In the desert, they meet up with Bumblebee, Hound (Voiced by John Goodman) Drift (Voiced by Ken Watanabe) and Crosshairs (Voiced by John DiMaggio)
Cade figures out that the drone he took was made by a company called Kinetic Solutions Incorporated, or KSI. They manage to pinpoint the company headquarters in the rebuilt Chicago.
And from the footage they pulled from the Drone, they find out that KSI has been killing Autobots and Decepticons alike.
Footage of Leadfoot and Ratchet (Voiced by Robert Foxworth) being killed is accessed, and Optimus vows to kill the man behind it all, Harold Attinger (Played by Kesley Grammer)
And this is when you realize he is seriously mad. And that Attinger is a dead man. It takes a lot to make Optimus Prime mad, and there's no better way to seal your own death warrant than hurting his friends.
They infiltrate the KSI compound, and begin looking into what they're working on.
Among many other things, they appear to be making artificial Transformers out of the Transformium they've harvested from Autobots, Decepticons, and mineral deposits alike.
Despite valiant efforts by Autobots and humans alike, they get found out, and Attinger gives chase with two of KSI's prototype Transformers, Stinger (Based on Bumblebee) and Galvatron (Based on Optimus Prime and Megatron)
While Bumblebee takes on his imposter, Stinger, Optimus is locked in combat with Galvatron. Optimus finds out that Galvatron doesn't have a spark (The Transformers equivalent of a soul, but something that can be physically destroyed) where other Cybertronians do.
During the fight, Lockdown injures Optimus, and hauls him off to his ship, taking Tessa with him.
While inside, Tessa grabs a tire-iron and fights off some of Lockdown's drones, while Lockdown jails Optimus with a group of unknown Transformers.
Lockdown explains that the creators of the Cybertronians has put a bounty on the head of Optimus Prime, and they're calling back their creations so they can rebuild the universe.
While Lockdown's henchmen give the members of Cemetary Wind a Seed (An alchemical device for creating Transformium) the remaining Autobots, along with Cade and Shane, sneak onto the ship.
Cade and Shane split off to find Tessa, while the Autobots go looking for Optimus.
The Autobots make their way to an escape pod where Lockdown keeps his trophy collection, and separate the ship as Lockdown jumps into Hyperspace.
Cade and Shane loot a weapons cache and manage to find something about their size, and escape the ship, joining up with Bumblebee and Crosshairs.
When they land, Optimus tells the others about what he felt while fighting Galvatron. The essence of his brother-in-arms turned enemy, Megatron. Brains, an Autobot they rescued from the KSI compound, confirms that Megatron repeatedly infected all of the Galvatron prototypes until he finally had a chance to break free from KSI control.
Optimus decides it's best to leave humanity with the mess they've created, thinking the last nine years a futile effort, but Cade convinces the Autobots to stay and fight.
Cade warns the KSI head , Joshua Joyce (Played by Stanley Tucci), about Attinger's plans to detonate the Seed in a populated city to seal humanities hatred of the Cybertronians, and he cuts ties with Attinger.
Funnily enough, that's similar to what Galvatron wants to do, use the Transformium to create more Decepticons. As it is, he just hijacks all of the KSI prototype Transformers and uses them as his army to beat down the human and Autobot resistance.
Attinger's right-hand-man, James Savoy (Played by Titus Welliver) goes after Joyce and the seed, with Galvatron hot on their trail.
Cade and the Autobots manage to get Joyce to safety, but the ship the Autobots took gets shot down before they can get the seed away from Earth, and Savoy catches up to them.
Cade and Savoy engage in combat across many rooftops, while the Decepticons close in on their position.
Optimus knows that they're outnumbered, so, working off something Lockdown told him, pulls a sword from the armory inside the ship they grabbed, and confirms something. I'm not sure what, but I think Optimus might have been one of the knights of the round.
He then sets free the other prisoners in Lockdown's trophy-room, who turn out to be the Dino-bots.
With that extra backup, the Autobots manage to subdue the Decepticon uprising, but Lockdown returns to reclaim his trophies.
Attinger has followed his now dead field-commander to the general location of the Autobots, and holds Cade at gunpoint, but Optimus makes good on his promise, and blasts Attinger away.
Unfortunately, Lockdown uses the sword Optimus pulled from the armory to impale him to a wall, just barely missing his spark.
Bumblebee arrives just in time, and he and Cade run interference while Shane and Tessa free Optimus from the wall.
Optimus kills Lockdown, and the Autobots finish off the remaining Decepticons. Galvatron retreats, vowing to come back and finish the fight.
Optimus sets the Dinobots free, and leaves them and the other Autobots to protect Earth, while he jets off into space with the seed in hand, set to confront the Creators.
All in all, this was an excellent movie. It started out a bit rocky, but really picked up after about twenty minutes.
And a good thing too, because this movie is almost three-hours long.
For the most part, my only issues with the movie are limited to that stretch of time. Mark Wahlberg is a fine actor for the most part, but his calm demeanor in the beginning was a little out-of-touch with the situation at hand. I'm not sure if it was an issue with direction or the script, or if the character was just trying to calm his daughter down by not panicking himself, but even if it was the latter, it still came off a little strange.
The best approach to that would have been a comment on how he was being so calm, and then maybe he could say something about not being calm inside.
Anyways, he's fine throughout the rest of the movie.
And honestly, I think some of the issues with Transformers 2 and 3 were the fact that the joke characters took up too much screentime. Fortunately, Brains doesn't make too many jokes.
And not to be cruel, but I think that Lucas's best scene was the one he died in. He didn't serve much purpose otherwise.
The most common complaint I've heard about this movie was that it didn't make much use of Steve Jablonsky's theme song for the series, known commonly as Arrival To Earth.
Honestly, I think the soundtrack arrangement was pretty spot-on. Arrival to Earth is a very upbeat song, suited for battles where the Autobots are winning, or where a victory is overwhelmingly in their favor.
And this isn't a very upbeat movie. Most of the time, the odds are stacked against the Autobots, and any victory can barely be called such.
But when they used it, it was very effective. That's the thing about iconic themes, they have to be used at the right time for the perfect effect. When Arrival to Earth starts playing in this movie, it's at the right moment, with the right effect. When it starts, Optimus rides Grimlock into battle, the tide of a hopeless fight turning, just when all hope seemed lost. When that song starts playing, you know they're gonna fight and win.
And even though they could have followed that up with The Touch for slightly greater effect, I think it worked fine as it was.
Age of Extinction is rated the lowest out of all of the live-action Transformers movies, with an 18% on Rotten Tomatoes. That's one point below Revenge of the Fallen, and eighteen points below Dark of the Moon, my personal pick for worst of the series.
Even my previous pick for best in the series, Transformers, is rated above it, with thirty-nine percentage points, placing it at a 57% rating.
And I think that's pretty unfair. Even though I think there was some room for improvement in some areas, I still like it better than Revenge of the Fallen or Dark of the Moon.
And even though Transformers is a movie I really liked, I have to say that this was slightly better.
In the end, I give Transformers: Age of Extinction a 10.1* rating.
Some may wish to dispute this, and I won't try to argue with them. There are a lot of people who don't like Michael Bay movies. I don't personally understand why, but I won't try to argue with them.
And do you know what? I think it might be as good as Days of Future Past.
This is Alex, signing off for now. I'll see you next week, and we'll see what I've got up for review!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

X-Men: Days of Future Past

So, here's X-Men: Days of Future Past!
This movie is based on one of my favorite story arcs in the X-Men comics. Hell, the TV series adapted this arc, and it was freaking awesome!
There certainly are changes that have been made, but the story is still great. In fact, I think it might have become one of my favorite movies.
I have no idea how it's supposed to tie into the end of The Wolverine, since they don't really explain why The Sentinals have managed to take over the world, or why Professor X is still alive, but considering that X3 wasn't a great film, I suppose it's a good thing that they just went ahead and made a good film. Maybe they'll explain what happened in the intervening decade or so between this film and the last, maybe they won't. Honestly, I don't care.
So, let's go over the cast. They've got the regulars from the first three movie, Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Anna Paquin as Rogue, Halle Berry as Storm, Shawn Ashmore (Previously known as Jake from the Animorphs TV series) as Iceman, Kelsey Grammer as Beast, and Ian McKellen as Magneto. From First Class they've got Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique (Who looks amazing, as always), James McAvoy as Young Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.
New cast members include Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde, Omar Sy as Bishop, Daniel Cudmore as Colossus, Booboo Stewart as Warpath, Adan Canto as Sunspot, and Fan Bingbing as Blink.
Honestly, even being an X-Men fan, I didn't know any of the new people aside from Kitty and Colossus. When I saw Sunspot, I thought he was either Johnny Storm or Pyro. He certainly looks like The Human Torch.
Anyways, as far as great movies go, this is one hell of a film. And by the way, spoiler warning. This movie erases X-Men 3 from continuity by the end of it all.
Yes, it took them three good movies and one great movie to wipe one bad film out.
And I'm glad Fox has paid its dues for taking that awesome ending of X-Men 2 and wasting it on the plot of X-Men 3, because now they've managed to make the whole situation worthwhile.
The story is about time-travel. Pretty much everyone knows what Days of Future Past is about, but for those of you who don't know, it takes place in a dark future, with complete control over superhumans and mutants by the governments of the world. This is essentially the story that Heroes ripped off for at least its first and second seasons, if not more.
So anyways, the movie hops back and forth between the future, and the past. And finally, they solve the problem presented to them.
The strange thing is that a few things that were mentioned in the movie contradict certain events in the previous films. Magneto drops the names of a few people who died, who were alive during the events of X-Men 3. I believe that this means someone else has been messing with their timeline, but honestly, X-Men 3 wasn't too great a film anyways, so who cares.
Taken on its own, it's great. Taken as a part of the greater X-Men franchise, it's great. And taken as the movie that erases the events of one of my least-favorite movies of all time from existence, it's unmatched.
And you know something? They didn't have to pull a hard reboot, like Sony seems to be wanting to do with Spider-Man.
And it's just a shame that Jennifer Lawrence wants to leave after X-Men: Apocalypse. It would be amazing if she would stay on with the rest of the cast for a few more movies.
So, I totally recommend this movie. If you want to, you can go back and watch the rest of the series if you want, or you can just watch the first Wolverine movie, First Class, and The Wolverine, and then this movie. Honestly, I was surprised that this movie worked so well on its own, since it's been a really long time since I've seen the first three X-Men movies. I admittedly have a good memory, but the details were a little blurry.
So anyways, X-Men fan or not, check this out. It rocks.
All in all, amazing. I give it a 10.1* rating.
I'll see you next week with Transformers: Age of Extinction!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Agents of SHIELD, Season 1

So I just got back from a three-day run at Coastcon over in Biloxi, and I had what I would say is a decent time.
I didn't buy anything while I was there, but I did find some cool freebies. There was a table with papercraft figures, and the first day I got a 1-up mushroom from Mario, the second day I got a paper Spock, and today I got a paper Stormtrooper.
Somebody else was passing out free copies of Pathfinder Tales: Reign of the Stars, which I was happy to take. Haven't played Pathfinder, but I'll take a free book.
I also got some weird single CD these people were passing out called "Otter Popstars Original" with music supposedly made by some cartoon otters, somewhat akin to Alvin and the Chipmunks.
I also met Tony Amendola, who portrayed Master Bra'Tac of Chulak in Stargate SG-1, and Edouard Kagame in Continuum. He was awesome to talk to.
Also met the writer for Peter is the Wolf, a webcomic that I read through a while ago, and got his signature on one of the Peter is the Wolf handbills he was passing out. So that was fun.
Running the games was a little less fun, since on Saturday we barely had any peace and quiet, and on Friday we didn't have enough time to finish. Today was a lot better, because we finished the game, and managed to actually have fun doing so.
Anyways, onto the review!
Agents of SHIELD is a great show.
Seriously, I think it's amazing so far. I only just finished up season 1 a week ago, but I think it's great.
So, Agents of Shield follows on from the end of The Avengers. Phil Coulson is back, and raring for action. He's got a new lease on life, an elite team of SHIELD operatives under his command, and a state-of-the-art hover-jet as a mobile base. The team consists of Agent Grant Ward, Agent Melinda May, the team of Super-scientists Agents Fitz and Simmons, and a genius hacker named Skye, who isn't a SHIELD agent, but might as well be.
Throughout their adventures, they retrieve alien technology, track down and imprison supervillains, team up with aliens, and solve problems that would potentially destroy the planet.
They develop the characters very well, they pace the show competently, and it fits in well with the rest of the MCU. Part of the show even ties in with the plot of Winter Soldier.
And honestly, when I first saw this show, I thought that it wasn't going to fit in with the rest of the series too well, but it does.
Unfortunately, there aren't too many characters from the main series showing up on the show. It's pretty much restricted to Agent Coulson and Nick Fury. If they could get RDJ, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffulo, Scarlet Johanson, or Benedict Cumberbatch onto the show, it would be pretty damn cool. Unfortunately, I don't think that's very realistic an outlook.
It'd also be nice if they would introduce one of the big-name major heroes on the show, but that doesn't seem very realistic either.
I like how they're using mostly original characters to populate the cast, it means that nobody can have any preconceptions about their personalities.
Now, since this ties in with Winter Soldier, it explores some of the ramifications of the Hydra takeover of SHIELD. And not to spoil anything, but one of the characters is a career-long Hydra infiltrator.
This comes straight out of nowhere, and the traitor is a character I didn't expect to work for Hydra.
There are hints scattered throughout the rest of the series, little things that make the whole storyline worthwhile. Things that mean it makes some kind of sense.
And there are small hints that otherwise didn't make sense that actually work in context after you figure out who the traitor is.
And one of the strongest parts of this plot-thread is that they didn't try to buy-back that characters betrayal. Nothing to make the situations seem ambiguous, nothing that makes the character seem justified in their actions.
There are some small things that make the character in question more complex. Such as showing remorse for betraying those who considered them as close as family, hesitating at certain actions that someone else might not have thought twice about.
Sure, it's highly unlikely this character will have any kind of realistic redemption arc. They're not quite in the kind of position Loki, Harry Osborn from the original Spider-Man series, or Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z were. There's no way they can completely absolve themselves of their crimes, but they're in a position where they can either do their best to redeem themselves and finally make the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the Earth, or go down that dark path, deeper and deeper, until they finally die at the hands of one of the heroes.
Honestly, I would appreciate either possible route.
In the cases of villains who turned heroes, Loki started out as a decent sort, who could have succeeded in becoming a great hero if he hadn't been placed in a bad situation, and ultimately managed to redeem himself (For the most part) in a quest to avenge a fallen family member with his brother, Thor. Yes, he did do some terrible things, but honestly, I still like Loki as a character. He's got some depth to him, which allows him to make a compelling hero and villain.
Harry Osborn (From the Raimi series) was the victim of misinformation. For all he knew, Norman Osborn and the Green Goblin were different people, and Spider-Man had actually sneaked into his fathers room and killed him. He was a decent person that was pushed into a horrible situation through a combination of bad information and bad luck, and he wound up redeeming himself in the final battle against Venom in Spider-Man 3, standing with his friend, and overcoming the manipulation of his fathers ghost to become a hero.
And finally, Vegeta. Vegeta lead a two-man invasion against the defenders of Earth, contributing to the deaths of Tien, Chiaotzu, Piccolo, and Yamcha.
And finally, he stood against Goku and Gohan in the final battle of the Saiyan saga.
Goku and Krillin spared his life, and Vegeta went on to turn against the man who'd killed his father, destroyed his entire species, and blew up his home planet.
In another situation, where the Z-Fighters and Vegeta didn't have The Ginyu Force as a common enemy on Namek, the series probably wouldn't have turned out the same way, and Vegeta might have slipped further down the dark path Frieza and his mentors had set him on.
Vegeta is probably the most similar example in this entire little tangent to the character in question, as he started out with horrible intentions, but changed as time went on.
Vegeta would up allying with Krillin, Goku, and Gohan to take down The Ginyu Force, and from there they further teamed-up in the fight against Frieza.
And in his final moments before Frieza killed him on Namek, Vegeta realized that if he'd been in Goku's shoes, he could have turned out a lot better, a lot happier, and a lot stronger.
And I'll bet that his relationship with Bulma, coupled with the fight against Frieza on Namek was what ultimately made Vegeta into a hero. He still wanted to become the best fighter there was, but he had a wife and son he cared for to protect. Still a little selfish, still a little bit full of himself, but in the end, he wound up being a great hero.
And what I see for this character is them confronting their inner demons, and fighting their hardest to right the wrongs sewn by Hydra. And maybe even sacrificing themselves to protect the world and the ones they care about.
And possibly earning themselves a second chance like Coulson was given. Except Coulson was a hero like Steve Rogers from the beginning.
So anyways, judging the season by itself, as well as a part of the MCU, I like what it is. I can also see it going interesting places. I hope Joss Whedon and ABC keep up the good work.
Sorry this was kind of late, I was wiped out Sunday and didn't have the time to finish the article.
I'll see you next week with X-Men, Days of Future Past!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie that took me a while to get ahold of. As soon as the local library got it on DVD, I had my spot in the queue reserved so I could watch it. The trouble was, that I was about twenty-fourth in line for the film.
Multiply that by the maximum time limit on DVDs at the Gautier Library, which is seven days (Eight if it's due on a Sunday or holiday) you get a total of a hundred and twenty-eight days, or four and a quarter months. Luckily it only took about three months to get it in, and despite being so far behind in the queue, the disc was actually still usable.
So, Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the latest installments in Marvel's ongoing Avengers series, and they don't seem to be losing any steam on the road to Age of Ultron.
The film begins in the 1980's, focusing on a boy named Peter Quill. His mother is dying of cancer, and he is rather devastated by that fact.
But he doesn't get long to grieve, because he winds up being abducted by aliens.
After that, the movie flashes forward to 2014. A mysterious masked figure is exploring a planet, when he takes off his mask and reveals himself to be Peter Quill, having in his possession a copy of the mixtape from the beginning of the film, and the headphones and cassette-player that he had back in the eighties.
One thing I have to note, is that the soundtrack they chose for this movie is pure awesome. Hooked on a Feeling, Cherry Bomb, Ain't No Mountain High Enough, it's packed with the awesome hits of yesteryear. And they're all used perfectly.
Admittedly, this is the kind of music I grew up listening to, so it's hitting that sweet spot I have for music from that era. So that was one of the things that made this movie awesome.
The other things were the fact that the whole thing just... Works. It's amazing.
Peter Quill (Played by Chris Pratt) is now known as Star Lord, and he's hunting for treasure. He find what he's looking for, and heads for a planet known as Xandar to sell it to his fencer, but the fence throws him out, and Peter gets ambushed by Gamora (Played by Zoe Saldana), an assassin and adopted daughter of the infamous warlord, Thanos. She wants the treasure Peter found in the ruins, but then they get ambushed by a Treeant named Groot (Voiced by Vin Diesel) and a raccoon named Rocket (Voiced by Bradley Cooper). Their antics get themselves tossed in prison, where they meet a giant and very literally minded pale dude with red tattoos (I assume they're tattoos) named Drax (Played by David Bautista) inside the prison, who has a beef with Gamora's former employer, the Kree Fanatic, Ronan The Accuser (Played by Lee Pace)
Ronan killed Drax's family, and Drax is out for blood. God only knows how he got locked up in a place called "The Kyln" maybe he insulted someone in some kind of command by being so literal.
Something I need to talk about is the characters. They're absolute gold. From their antics to their dialogue, everyone rocks.
Star Lord is slick and confident, but also flawed and funny. Rocket Raccoon is hilarious in every way while still being somewhat grounded. Gamora is beautiful, sympathetic, and awesome. Groot, despite having so little dialogue, is an amazing character. He's sweet, loyal, and absolutely hilarious. And the rendering on him and Rocket is simply amazing.
And finally, there's Drax. Bautista is awesome as Drax, being able to pull off Drax's intellectual literalness while still being intimidating as all hell when the time comes. Drax is one of the best parts of the entire movie, his lack of understanding of metaphor is used so well to create so many funny jokes. Honestly, I want to see more of the character, and of Bautista playing the character!
See here, Miz? This is what makes an A-lister, being in a good movie, and being appealing to watch, as opposed to starring in a couple of direct-to-video sequels to a movie that people didn't like.
Anyways, moving on.
Groot, Drax, Star Lord, Gamora, and Rocket manage to escape from the prison in an absolutely ingenious way. They flee the planet and head for a place called Knowhere.
There, they get drunk and start fighting. Both with each other and with other bar patrons.
Rocket, Groot, Gamora and Star Lord go to sell the treasure to a collector, while Drax goes to make a call.
The treasure blows up the collectors gallery, and Drax has summoned Ronan to Knowhere.
Ronan takes Drax down easily, and Star Lord, Rocket, and Gamora go head-to-head with Ronan's space-fleet, lead by Gamora's adopted sister, Nebula.
Nebula is portrayed by Karen Gillan, best known as Amy Pond from Doctor Who. She shaved her head for the role of Nebula, which I think was a bad idea. The characters blue skin would have gone well with Gillan's luscious red-hair. And I'm not sure if they were doing something strange with her voice in post production to hide her Scottish accent, or if they were trying to do so on-set, but it just doesn't seem to work that well.
Honestly, I think that if she'd kept her hair for the role and played up her Scottish accent, it would have made the character even more dynamic.
Nebula shoots down Gamora's ship, and Star Lord contacts an old "friend" to teleport the both of them out of the vacuum of space. That old "friend" is Yondu Udontu, (Played by Michael Rooker) the man who abducted Star Lord from earth in the eighties, and who Star Lord has an uneasy relationship with.
Ronan has taken the treasure for himself, looking to use it to take over the galaxy, universe, whatever.
Rocket, Groot and Drax attempt to lay siege upon Yondu's ship, but Star Lord has already convinced Yondu to let him and his team (That would be Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and Drax) help recover the treasure.
Ronan decides he can now take down Thanos, and calls him up to tell him so. Nebula, like pretty much everyone in the Marvel universe, hates Thanos, and is pretty quick to betray him given the opportunity.
Star Lord calls up the Nova Corps (Those who arrested Star Lord and company earlier in the movie) for help, and manages to ally The Ravagers (The name of the members of Yondu's fleet) with The Nova Corps to take on Ronan and his fleet.
What follows, is one of the most amazing sequences of scenes I've ever seen in my life. The Nova Corps blocks Ronan's flagship, the Dark Aster from landing, while The Ravagers take down Ronan's fighter-ships, while Star Lord, Groot, Drax and Gamora breach the Aster's hull to take out Ronan.
The action-scenes consist of Groot, Star Lord and Drax taking out Ronan's soldiers, and Gamora fighting Nebula.
Afterwards, The Aster busts through the wall of Nova Corps ships, and crashes on the surface of Xandar.
And this was easily one of the saddest scenes I've seen in a film. Right up there with the ending of Wreck-It Ralph and the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Groot sacrifices himself to protect his friends, forming a ball of branches to soften the blow of the impact.
When they crash, Rocket becomes a ball of pure rage. Gamora and Star Lord distract Ronan, while Rocket fixes up one of his guns for Drax to blast Ronan with.
Star Lord grabs the treasure as it drops from Ronan's staff, taking the energy of the sphere into himself.
Gamora, Rocket, and Drax join hands with him, and they use the energy to vaporize Ronan.
And thus, they become The Guardians of the Galaxy.
All in all, this was one of the most awesome movies I've seen in my life. Marvel has not disappointed yet, and I have high-hopes for Age of Ultron.
Hell, I even have high-hopes for Howard The Duck. If they keep this trend up, then this is going to turn into one of the most legendary film series of all-time.
I give it a 10.1* rating. I'll see you next week with my review of the first season of Agent's of Shield!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Mullberry

Mulberry was a British sitcom that aired thirteen episodes between February of 1992 and May of 1993. And it's probably one of the funniest shows I've ever seen in my entire life.
The title character, Mulberry, comes to the home of an elderly woman known for being difficult with her servants. The woman, Miss Farnaby, has recently dismissed one of her servants, and Mulberry appears to apply for the job.
Except that her manservant, Bert, hasn't put the ad up yet. So this Mulberry character seems somewhat psychic, or perhaps supernatural.
This show used to air in reruns weekly on PBS, and I caught a few episodes back in the day.
A while ago I saw the complete series in one of the local libraries, and decided it might be nice to pick up and watch. And I was surprised by how funny it all was.
And by how melancholy some of the series was. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen any show that's made me both this happy and this sad all in one episode. Aside from Doctor Who, maybe.
Funnily enough, the plot is actually one of the strongest aspects of this show. And comedy with an interesting serial plot isn't something I've seen very often.
Throughout the series, we see glimpses of a mysterious figure in a black trenchcoat, continually shadowing Mulberry. And Mulberry hints at some sort of purpose of being where he is.
Miss Farnaby is a hermit, holed up inside her mansion, hardly leaving, and treating pretty much everyone poorly. Mulberry has set out to make her life better, to bring her some kind of happiness.
And eventually we find out why, but I won't give that away just yet.
Along the way, we are taken on a hilarious and sad journey with the characters of Mulberry, Miss Farnaby, and Bert and Alice Finch.
Gradually, Mulberry brings Miss Farnaby out of her shell, and she softens to the world.
But time is not on Mulberry's side. He winds up being abducted by the mysterious figure, and we find out exactly what his purpose is.
The Stranger is in fact, Death. Mulberry is his son, and has been sent here to escort his first soul out of the realm of the living, but he doesn't want to, because he's become attached to Miss Farnaby, Bert, and Alice. He doesn't want to leave, and he doesn't want to take Miss Farnaby away from the world before he brings her some true happiness. His father gives him a rather short time limit of I think three or so months to ease Miss Farnaby out of her shell and to the point where Mulberry is comfortable with ending her life.
Unfortunately, the series never came to a conclusion, having ended after the second season, and never being continued. Rather unfortunate, considering how funny it was and how well-written the characters and story were.
As prime candidates for a reboot go, I'd say it would be great if  they could somehow capture the same kind of spark Mulberry did before.
Unfortunately, this concept is something I wouldn't want to trust anyone to pull off, because the original was so well-made, I'd be afraid of them ruining the entire concept.
As far as television shows go, I'd say Mulberry is worth your time. It lasted thirteen episodes, it's hilarious, and despite the fact that it never got an ending, I actually think that it's better like that.
The show was heart-wrenchingly sad enough as it was, and seeing Mulberry having to take the life of his friend would have been devastating to watch.
After that, the show probably would have ended for good, Mulberry leaving Bert and Alice alone, going off to bring others a hint of joy before their time came. Doing his best to make the world a happier place, while also performing his duties as Death.
So, all in all, I say that the show was excellent. If you can find it, pick it up, it's well worth your time.
I give it a 10.1* rating. I'll see you next week with Guardians of the Galaxy.

Image source: www.imdb.com/title/tt0103496/

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest HD

 As some of you who have been following the news may know, a remake of Final Fantasy Mystic Quest was recently announced for the PC, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android.
It was apparently contracted out by Square Enix to a United Kingdom based company known as Dark Design Games.
After the news was broken, Kotaku reached out to Square Enix for word on the project, and they gave the following statement:
We are aware of the 'FINAL FANTASY MYSTIC QUEST HD Remake' project, and can confirm that it is not a Square Enix project nor endorsed by Square Enix in any way. We take the protection of our IP very seriously, and will be speaking with Dark Design Games to address this matter.
Jake Jackson, the head of Dark Design said that Square Enix "have their wires crossed a bit" and that Square Enix of Europe had officially endorsed the project.
I spoke to the author of the Kotaku article I have linked in the "Sources" section and he linked me to a reddit thread alleging that the installer was infected with adware.
I reached out to Jake Jackson to see if he could provide me with a copy of the game for review, but I was unable to obtain one and either confirm the rumors of adware, or debunk them.
The next day, I saw the Kisareth Studios logo on the Dark Design website (You'll remember them from my Chronicles of a Dark Lord reviews) and reached out the the company president, John Sierra to see if they were actually partnered with Dark Design.
Unfortunately, I was unable to get word from him at the time.
And today, I found a status update on the Kisareth Studios Facebook page stating that they had acquired Dark Design Games and they were able to confirm for me that the Mystic Quest HD project was indeed an officially license Square Enix product, quoted below;
"It is an officially licensed Square-Enix project and is being published by them. A forthcoming statement from Square-Enix will confirm this, in addition to a statement from Dark Design Games regarding this matter that will be sent to all major media outlets."
The release is scheduled for next Friday, and I would hope that it will see a Steam and major console release soon afterwards.
I haven't got any word on what engine the game is built in, so the potential for an Xbox Live, Nintendo eShop or PSN release is an unknown quantity at time of writing.
In addition to aforementioned Facebook post, when I hit up the Dark Design website I noticed a yellow version of the new Kisareth logo on the Dark Design website.

So, here's hoping that when the game is released it will be awesome! As always! Why would we hope for a game to be bad? Maybe if we lived in !dnal etisoppo
So, that concludes this unplanned little foray into reporting on current events, I'll be back to regular reviews come Sunday!

All sources are cited below, for those of you who wish to read into this further!

Sources:
http://darkdesigngames.com/#store
http://kotaku.com/fan-made-final-fantasy-mystic-quest-remake-seems-like-a-1688055419
https://www.facebook.com/KisarethStudios/posts/1043888015625287
http://www.reddit.com/r/pcmasterrace/comments/2x5j7g/found_some_interesting_reading_on_the_mystic/
Cover taken from: www.thecoverproject.net/view.php?game_id=2493 and edited with Paint.net

Update notes;
Blogger apparently deleted one word and rearranged another while it was publishing the article, so I had to paste in the correct version to make the opening make any kind of sense.