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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.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Brave

Another movie from 2012, and it's just as good as everything else I've reviewed from 2012.
Aside from, you know, The Hunger Games. Which honestly wasn't as bad as we reacted to it, but was still below-par compared to everything else that came out that year.
So after having completely given my opinion on the movie away, let's get into the actual review.
Brave was announced back in 2008, as The Bear and the Bow. That name is a little less abstract than the one they went with, as bravery is central to the plot, and The Bear and the Bow gives away a little too much of the plot.
Now, while Brave doesn't have the same grand scale as its 2012 Disney Animation Studios counterpart, Wreck-It Ralph, it's fairly unfair to compare the two (As I just did) because they're setting out to do two very different things.
Since I'm not going to be talking about the plot, I'll go ahead and start on the visuals.
Pixar re-wrote their animation system for the first time in a quarter of a century so they could create the most complex animations they possibly could. And they pretty much succeeded. The environments look like they're high-definition footage of places in the real world, and I fancy myself a good eye for computer-generated images. Can't wait for off-the-shelf PCs to be able to do that, right?
So anyways, the skin effects pretty much look like they're CGI, but the cloth and hair look amazing. The sheer amount of detail that went into rendering the clothing and hair is simply astounding. Not to mention the amount of detail that went into the rocks, wood, rope, and almost everything that you might take for grated is practically true-to-life, if not literally.
So after having gotten the praise for the animation out of the way, let's criticize something.
There's this one liquid effect in a cauldron that looks like it was ripped from a screen-saver. It looks pretty cool, but it's visually inconsistent with the rest of the film. Granted, that effect is supposed to be surreal, so who knows? That little thing stuck with me, and I couldn't get it out of my head. But that's really the only problem I had with the animation.
Brave is Pixar's first movie with a female director, and a female lead. And nothing really stuck out at me as stupid, idiotic, or offensive. This is a perfect film, with in both content, and running time.
The movie clocks in in ninety-three minutes, and it's not too short, or too long. And a lot of movies that only last an hour and a half come off as rather anemic, like something was cut because the studio wanted something shorter, or something like that.
This is one of those movies that was made for its running time, not taking up too much space, and not understaying its welcome. The pacing is pretty much perfect, from start to finish, and that's something that a lot of movies could learn from.
Now, to the acting and cast.
I recognized quite a few voices, namely those of Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, and Emma Thompson. Pretty much everyone will remember Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid from the Harry Potter series, and the Bond fans in my audience will remember that he played Valentine Zuckcsky in Goldeneye, and The World is not Enough.
Emma Thompson has been in all kinds of movies, from Agent O in MIB3, to Sybil Trelawney in the Harry Potter movies, to Nanny Mcphee in the eponymous film, to all kinds of other movies throughout the years.
Craig Ferguson played Gobber in the How to Train Your Dragon films, as well as being a late-night talkshow host, and being in a ton of other stuff you might not have heard of, like Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, and plenty of what I presume to be obscure movies and stuff. Some of which I didn't even know he did, including 2006's sandbox crime-game Saints Row.
Since the plot is an essential part of the movie, I'll suffice to say that it is heartwarming, touching, tear-jerking, funny, and all those other quotes that people love to stick on DVD boxes. It's very good, and it's something I would watch again.
Hell, when I have kids I'll show them this movie. It's a great film, and I'd rank it up there with The Lion King, Wreck-It Ralph, and Beauty and the Beast as far as some of my favorite Disney movies go.
And now, the soundtrack.
It rocks. That is all need be said. And the best part is that none of the characters ever actually sing during any of the songs. All of the music is just there, and it fits so well. The movie would have suffered if it had been a musical, and I did like several Disney musicals I've seen. It uses Scottish instruments and styling to its advantage, and that's one of the best ways to make me love a soundtrack, is to stick bagpipes into it, and use it well.
All in all, I loved Brave from beginning to end. It's a great movie, and it's definitely worth your time.
Yup, just keep adding to the reasons why 2012 was an amazing year for cinema. I give Brave a 10.1* rating. There's nothing wrong with it that I can find.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sharknado/Sharktopus double feature.

Well, here we have it folks. Two of the worst movies I've seen in my life. No joking, no exaggeration. These are both pretty bad. Worse than Catch .44, worse than most things that I've ever watched.
But there is a clear winner in this, Sharknado was made a little better than Sharktopus, and it was certainly funnier than Sharktopus.
The science for both movies is essentially nonexistent. Sharknado has a laughable view of both physics and... Actually physics covers a lot of the issues with the science in Sharknado.
Sharktopus, on the other hand, has gotten its ideas of genetics and anatomy from a plot summary of the Resident Evil series and a fundamental misunderstanding of how genetic engineering and modification works.
Come to think of it, Sharktopus has taken most of its premise and ideas from Resident Evil. Only the characters are completely unlikable, the villains aren't nearly as bombastic as the would be in Resident Evil, and the monster isn't scary in the slightest.
And by the way, the animation in both films looks much worse than anything you'd have seen on the original PlayStation, or the GameCube. And I mean that. The rigging on the Sharktopus looks awful, and apparently The Asylum can't afford to render a single shark realistically...
The real difference between these two is the fact that Sharknado is fun to watch because it's funny, and because it being bad is at least partially intentional (But don't let that be any kind of excuse for how bad the rest of The Asylum's output is) and Sharktopus just seems like a failure. Sharknado is a ridiculous concept at first glance, but Sharktopus might have worked if it had been made by say, Capcom, or Michael Bay, or Steven Spielberg, or James Cameron. And if it had a higher budget, and better actors.
The big problem is that nobody in Sharktopus is any shade of likable. They're all jerks, and none of them are anything that could be considered smart!
And that just makes the story hard to care about. I care about the story in Resident Evil because Chris Redfield, Barry Burton, Rebecca Chambers and Jill Valentine are all good characters, they're likable people, with motivations one can sympathize with. At heart, they're all good people, and they all want to get out of the mansion alive. And they do their best to survive, and they don't make stupid decisions.
The characters in Sharktopus are dumb, and unlikable, and impossible to root for. I don't get what some people say about horror movies being about the villains, and the characters are supposed to be unlikable because you want to see them die. Alien and Aliens had likable characters and those were both great films.
That leads me to the conclusion that it's mostly the bad movies that do that. Because a movie lives and dies on its characters. If it's impossible to like the characters, and you wind up rooting for the villains to take them down a peg, that just means that someone else has to stop the villains, and they unlikable pricks would normally be an aside that's mentioned once and never brought up again in a good movie. Or they're one character, and the rest are all sensible.
If the characters in Sharktopus are all eaten, that means that they've got to call in more people to take it out, and that begs the question as to why they went the whole movie without calling in more than a handful of military forces to combat the creature. It's shown that the Sharktopus can't stand up to gunfire or explosives in the end of the movie, and the thing was rather obviously leaving plenty of survivors in its wake, so why wasn't there some kind of fast response?
Anyways, the damn thing eats a bunch of people, and then gets blown up. That's about it.
Now, let's talk about why this movie sucks.
First off, there are so many effects failures that it goes well beyond the point of being anything but sad.
The execution on this project is nothing short of remarkably horrible. It's hard to think of one thing this film doesn't screw up.
Onto Sharknado.
The effects suck, they use the same shots a few times when once would have sufficed, and some of the jokes are less than funny, but the movie is somewhat decent for a laugh, I suppose. But there are better movies out there to spend ninety-minutes watching. And for that matter, you could watch any number of better comedy TV shows...
Honestly, these two movies made me look upon most of the movies I watched last year in a new light. And just thinking about both of them makes me look upon The Amazing Spider-Man 2 more charitably. And especially having watched the rest of the Paul W.S. Anderson version of The Three Musketeers around the same time, it makes that movie look like freaking gem by comparison. With the existence of movies like Sharknado and Sharktopus, it makes me not only look upon the not-so-great stuff more fairly, but also upon the good movies better. It also makes me thankful that we've come as far in filmmaking as we have. We can make a gigantic transforming robot the size of a building and it looks like it's actually there! Fifty years ago, that was but a fantasy! We can generate animals that look and act like their real-life counterparts, we can generate entire cities, and worlds with computers that look like you could reach out and touch them!
And that just makes these two movies all the worse. They're produced by uncaring executives that just want to make a quick buck, putting in as little effort as possible to maximize their profit margin.
And that's why I hate these movies. The fact that they're horrible helps too, but the obvious lack of any effort being put into both films, plus the fact that one is made by The Asylum shows that all they really care about is money. That or they really are that stupid. I've seen movies put together by YouTuber's that are better than both of these.
Now, I might as well explain why the science sucks.
In Sharktopus, the titular monster has two mouths. It's even animated with two. Not sure why they decided to be accurate about that, scientific accuracy sure isn't a problem the rest of the movie has.
If you can't tell by the posters up at the top of the article, the Sharktopus doesn't have a tail. The tentacles come out of the rear of the creature. Which doesn't make any kind of sense. If you wanted to cross a shark and an octopus, you could stick the tentacles around the head of the shark and leave the tail alone. Or stick the shark mouth in the underside of the octopus.
Which begs the question, who greenlit this program, the head of The Umbrella Corporation?
No, because their super-weapons weren't strange crosses between creatures, they were just straight mutations of other creatures. The Neptune was just a giant shark. The Tyrant series was essentially just giant humans with enhanced stamina and regeneration with maybe some built-in weapons.
But I suppose we know now who the forebearers of the people who crossed Ripley with the Xenomorph in Alien Resurrection were. It only took them a few hundred years for them to get it right. If you can call bringing the Aliens back "Getting it right"
Sharknado, on the other hand, is an affront to physics, as opposed to genetics, as I noted earlier.
And anatomy and biology to lesser extents, but that's a minor thing compared to how badly they screw up weather physics.
Towards the end of the film they decide to blow up the Sharknadoes. While that's something that could possibly be accomplished, it certainly wouldn't work with the puny-ass bombs that they did use. Even if they managed to get all of the explosive material they had access to into one of the Sharknadoes, it probably wouldn't have dispersed it.
It makes the characters look stupid for thinking that would work, and it makes the filmmakers look stupid for having it work!
No, I won't be giving either of these a score, because they don't deserve it. It's so far below-par that I don't even want to try to quantify how bad they are.
So, on that note we'll be moving on to the best year for movies in recent memory next week, 2012! See you then with Brave!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Grave of The Fireflies (Finished)

So here's that review I promised of the 1988 animated film from the legendary Japanese Studio Ghibli.
Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most heartbreaking films I've ever seen, I'm just gonna lay that out there.
Don't go into this movie expecting a lighthearted fantasy story like Kiki's Delivery Service or Ponyo. Yes, studio Ghibli is famous for their family movies. Just a warning, this movie will make even the most stone-hearted of people cry.
The movie is only eighty-nine minutes long, but it was one of the most brutal eighty-nine minutes I've ever experienced.
You see, it's about these two orphans in Japan. Towards the end of World War II, their mother dies in an air-raid and they have to go live with their aunt. Their aunt steals from them and says that they're worthless.
All throughout, you keep expecting their situation to get better, but it doesn't. It just gets worse. And worse.
I've studied a lot into World War II, and if you look into how badly the Japanese treated their POWs, then you've got an idea of how badly they treated their civilians.
So since this is one of the most heartbreaking movies I've ever seen, let's just talk about the technical aspects of it.
Towards the beginning of the movie, the frame-rate was taking a nosedive every now and again, making it look extremely choppy, which is kind of odd since the Dragon Ball anime predates this film by two years and had very smooth animation. You'd think a feature film such as this would have a higher budget than a television series that predates it by two whole years.
Or better yet, fix it for the DVD version the way they remaster pretty much everything these days.
Anyways, I noticed that the lip-sync is sometimes a little off, but it's not too far from what's being said.
You know, at the beginning you know exactly how the movie is going to end. Unfortunately, that doesn't make the ending any less crushingly painful. It's sort of like how I was rewatching Doctor Who: The End of Time earlier in the year. I had already seen it before several months prior, but we were powering through the series to prepare for the 50th Anniversary special. And right at the end, I cried my eyes out.
Even though I knew what was going to happen, even though I hadn't shed a tear the lats time I saw it, when the ending rolled around my heart just burst open and the floodgates came crashing down.
I've seen lots of movies in my lifetime. None of them have ever made me as physically depressed as Grave of the Fireflies has. And yet, it's still an extremely powerful film. The way it ends is so sudden, so sad, and yet somewhat happy. In the end, I'm glad it didn't go on more than an hour and a half. The sheer brutality of the contents of this film manages to make it feel like it's nine hours long, and DEAR GOD is the a horrible, wonderful movie.
Personally, I would rank this right up there with Casablanca and To Kill A Mockingbird in my book. It's one of those films that everyone needs to see at least once, and I can tell you that it's certainly something that I'm going to show my kids someday.
So all in all, it's a terrible film. I had to go read a lighthearted story about a monkey-boy from outer-space travelling the world collecting wish-giving artifacts.
I give it a 10.9* rating. If you have not seen this movie, you need to, I cannot stress this enough.
And now, to follow up a somber review such as this one, next week I'll be reviewing...
*sigh*
I can't believe I'm actually doing this.
Sharknado.
Don't worry, I'll have a better review out the week after.