Wonder Woman Does It Right

Very similar thoughts to Isey on this one, Wonder Woman is just an excellent super hero movie – full stop.  My wife was super pumped before the screening, and even more so after.

The film is good for numerous reasons – though the majority are due to comparisons to previous DC films.  Zack Snyder films comic books, he likes painting pictures and slow pans.  There’s very little character development, and way too much exposure.  Suicide Squad was a change of pace, though there were still some rough spots.

WW has a good story.  Diane’s child-like innocence and growth is well paced.  (Minus that one scene that is never referred to again in the movie).  The supporting cast all have their own quirks, which is really quite nice to see.  The enemies suffer from the traditional “why are you a bad guy again?” issue that all super hero movies have, but the context of WW1 helps fill in the blanks.  I like that there are real stakes in the film, and that the happy ending is bittersweet.  Diane is extremely principled, and there’s a relationship built with her throughout.   DC comics were always about people relating to the heroes, and that was not achieved until this film.

The film itself is well done technically.  The scenes are really well shot, the lighting is great, the action is fluid.  There is a lot of orange and brown.  The brown is relative to the setting (WWI) but the amount of orange really caught my eye.  The music is well timed with the action pieces, and works really well to punctuate what’s happening on screen.

I really enjoyed the final act.  It’s a relative mess mind you, but the consistent casting and choices that are made by the characters generally work.  It feels like something was achieved.  And lordy, that final blitz that WW does on the soldiers is all kinds of cathartic.

I don’t get to see many movies at the cinema.  This is one of the few that made the top of list, and one of the few that I’d actually pay to see again.

I am ever hopeful that the DC-film masters pay attention to why this film works and apply those lessons for the next versions.  Joss Whedon is doing the final part of Justice League – so there’s some minor hope there.  Aquaman still has time to be tweaked, though I have less doubts on that one to start.  I think it’s safe to say that the days of heavy exposition are done – people want to have relate-able characters.  Sorry Zach.

Marvel & Netflix

I’ve watched both seasons of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and now Luke Cage.  All of them are rather highly rated, and I can see why that is.  That said, all 3 series are filled with dumbness.  Let me explain.

All 3 are superheroes with marginal powers.  By that, I mean that they are strong and have some toughness to them (DD is a bit more complicated).  That makes them more human than say, Spiderman or Thor.  Them being human means that we can relate to them more, and they are supposed to have flaws to support that theory.

DD has some form of OCD.  JJ is an alchoholic.  LC suffers from anxiety.  The issue here is that none of them ever seem to address those issues. They start flawed, go through the story, and remain flawed.

Let’s start with DD.  He begins innocently enough, then it just escalates to a personal vendetta to save the city.  And it never stops, no matter the sacrifice.  There is no epiphany here.  He loses the girl (s), his best friend, and the bad guys win by the end of the last season.  The reason that the Punisher stands out so much is because he actually has a character arc.  Hell, everyone has a character arc but the hero.

JJ is 5 episodes too long of moping.  The best progression is on her sidekick.  Killgrave is neat when you learn the backstory but after the 60th person that he mindcontrols to kill themselves, I get it.  He’s a douche.  I still don’t get the ending.

LC is JJ time two.  The entire series is about him being committed, then backing out of helping his community.  I dunno, but if I was 100% immune to bad guys, I would just walk in, take everything they had, burn down the house, and never look back.  The one where he takes the cash and then let’s the bad guys come back worse is just dumb.  The cops are dumb.  Cottonmouth and Shades are well-written.  Claire (Rosario Dawson) is well written.  Zip is not.  He tried to shoot Luke Cage in a half dozen episodes.  Like, at what point do you realize that he’s immune?

In all three series the hero makes decisions that go against all logical judgment.  They make a choice, then go back on that choice for “reasons” that make no sense.  To be honest, this reminds me a lot of the final two Matrix films.  At the end of the first, Neo understands his power and his responsibility.  He has a mission.  Then the 2nd one starts and he doubts everything.  What?  I get that bad things happen, I do.  Even with the best laid plans, things can and will go wrong.  But when the errors happen because of the heroes, repeatedly, that’s where it gets annoying.  Let the bad guy outsmart you.  Let the ally betray you.  Let the assumptions be proven false.

And I think the main issue with this is padding – stretching of material.  The movies have 2.5 hours to tell the story and a single bad guy plot.  The Netflix series have 13 hours to fill, but only a single story and only a single bad guy plot.  I can understand that the movies have really crappy bad guys.  Netflix addresses that by dedicating a whole hour to their backstories and motivations.  Fisk is extremely well done.  Cottonmouth is a solid one too.  Diamondback makes little sense.  Killgrave has some sense of pity.  Electra is solid.

Ok.  That leaves 12 hours to go. In each series you could cut it in half and it would be better for it.

The really sad thing about it all, is that it’s still miles better than anything DC/Snyder has released.

First Post of the Year

Half way through Jan and not a post to be seen.  I need to get on that.

The final stretch of the holidays was a blur, followed by the stomach flu, then more work than I expected.  Being able to write has been a challenge, one I need to actively make time for.  Still, some minor updates.

Grim Dawn

I’ve played a ton of this game.  The higher difficulties are quite challenging compared to normal mode, which is nice.  My lightning shaman is fun to play, though I’m looking at building a pure tank for the next run through.  While the maps themselves are not randomized, the enemies generally are, and the loot certainly is.  I rather enjoy that depth in the game, especially the ability to re-configure your skill layout.  That’s one of my pet peeves in Path of Exile, you’re stuck with a specific item set based on your locked-in skills.  Mind you, leveling in PoE is a lot faster than in Grim Dawn, so it sort of works out.

New Tablet

My youngest daughter took a couple tries but successfully broke my table in the fall – or at least the digitizer.  I’ve been unable to repair it, so I spent some time looking for a replacement.  I don’t generally like to buy equipment unless there’s a good deal to be had, and I’m not one for a $90 tablet either.  Things worked out when I found the Nvidia Shield Table K1 for $199.  Spec-wise, it’s comparable to tablets in the $400 range, and it has an optional controller (which works great).  I ordered it shortly after the holidays and I am quite impressed with it.  The only real downside is the lack of a charger.  Since it’s a tablet, it needs a solid 2ma plug, and cell phones are not often above 1.  I have 1 charger that’s making due but the other ones are darn slow to charge it up.

Games play and look amazing.  Spending some quality time with KOTOR now.  For a game that came out in 2003, it’s aged remarkable well.  The tablet controls are more than adequate, with the exception of swoop racing.  For that, I absolutely need a controller to get ace times.  Otherwise though, superb port and worth every penny.  Now if only I could get XCOM to work on it…I’m sure there’s an APK somewhere.

Force Awakens

I was able to see this with my family at a VIP cinema.  It’s one of those that you sit in leather recliners, they serve food and beer and overall a much better experience.  I’ll be honest, I had shivers watching it.  It’s not the best movie ever made, far from it, but it hits every single note required for a solid boost of nostalgia and “newness” to make it work.  It was enough to convert my wife to Star Wars fan and my kids are certainly interested as well.

I won’t post any spoilers but it’s fair to say that’s it’s eerily similar to Ep4 in the paces.  There’s only minor merchandising in the movie (BB8 notably, and he’s a great R2 surrogate), the acting is pretty solid, and the visuals are impressive.  I look forward to the next installment.

Board Games

This is in 2 parts actually.  Over the holidays my kids got some board games and I wanted some as well.  Junior Monopoly is pretty good at teaching counting and the games are fairly quick.  Junior Catan is about trading gains today for gains tomorrow, which is interesting to see a kid figure out (even adults).  The staples of Uno, Trouble, Perfection, Kerplunk and Rebound are also additions to the pile.

For myself, I picked up an expansion to Imperial Assault, Twin Shadows.  That came with 2 heroes, 2 villains and some extra baddies (Wampas!).  There was a pretty big sale on acrylic paints at the craft shop over the holidays, so I’m making my way through all the miniatures now.  I’d say I’m about ¾ of the way through now, in terms of actual miniatures, but only half of the way through painting, as what’s left is individual models.  Painting 9 Storm Troopers is slightly more work than painting a single hero.

It’s remarkable how much skill progress I’ve had these past weeks though.  Looking at what I started doing, compared to what I’m doing now… it’s neat.  I can paint twice as fast and it looks a whole lot better.  I’ll post a picture of my Nexu (the cat from Ep2) soon to show an example.  To finish them off, I need to restock on some flock and rocks to fill out the bases.

The next post up should deal with 2016 predictions.

Inside Out

This weekend we babysat my wife’s cousin’s kid, so it’s a nephew that’s twice removed I think.  I’m not terribly good at family tree math.  I have 2 girls, so the added “Godzilla in the city” of a little boy was fun to watch.  Not that my girls are princesses mind you, but they certainly don’t have the same aggressive nature little boys have.

Easy enough of a day, Santa Clause parade, good weather, crafts, legos, food.  Then we sat down to watch a movie in the basement.  Kids love popcorn and the 8 foot screen helps too.  My wife suggested we watch Inside Out, that there Pixar movie.  It certainly had some positive reviews from critics.

Pre-amble before the ramble.  I’ve seen nearly all Pixar movies.  They strike a nice balance between kids movies about exploration and some adult jokes inset as well.  My kids generally like them, in particular the Toy Story series and Cars.  As a general rule, they follow the same plot arc in each movie.  Picturesque situation to start, disaster for the main character, lessons learned (and hijinks), 2-3 spots of ups and downs, revelations, back to beginning.  While it’s a simple formula, it’s the character’s strengths and weaknesses that make a film work.

Inside Out has a single lesson learned in the movie, it’s OK to be sad (or perhaps that you can feel more than joy and be happy).  And it’s the most depressing kids movie I have seen in years.  From the moment Riley steps out of the car to see her new house, until the moment she steps on the bus, it’s disaster after disaster.  The kids kept asking questions as to why everyone was crying all the time, why they kept falling and losing things.  When Bing Bong goes away…the hell man, is this ol’ Yeller?  This isn’t to say it’s not a good movie, it’s really quite a good one.  It’s more than the concepts are not ones that a kid can appreciate until they are quite a bit older.  It’s a psychoanalyst’s dream mind you, and I think that’s my issue.

Riley (and her parents) aren’t on screen enough.  They are complex people.  Riley’s emotions on the other hand are clearly one-dimensional – that’s the whole point.  Seeing Anger shoot flames is funny the first and second time, after time #6 you’ve had enough.

It’s a weird thing watching kids’ movies as an adult.  You’re not looking for the same thing anymore (well, maybe I am), so you sort of lose the ability to appreciate it on the same level.  I like to watch my kids watch a movie.  Their reactions and questions say a lot about what they are thinking and how they are absorbing the material.  I guess we’ll come back to Inside Out in a few more years.

Running Around in Fallout 4

I just seem to be wandering around lately in game.  There’s a whole lot of “oooh what’s in here” going on.  Mind you, I completed the Fort Hagen part of the main quest, so I’m seeing more synths and the Brotherhood of Steel’s vertibirds are showing up all over.  As I’m exploring further into the land, more difficult enemies are starting to show up.  The far north east corner had a neat little tower protected by raiders.  I made my way to the top and notices a fight between 2 deathclaws and some legendary raiders take place.  Deathclaws won, I sniped from afar and collected some nice loots.

I found a fish packing plant on the NE corner, completely surrounded by dead raiders.  So that’s a good sign right?  Anyways, I stepped in, searched around and nothing except a giant pit in the middle.  So of course I head down.  About 30 syths later I exit the pit and get ready to leave.  Opening the door has an ambush attack force of synths waiting for me too.  Every darn corner in that place had something waiting to kill me.  Even when I thought it was all over, more combat.

It’s these neat little adrenaline rushes that are a ton of fun in game.  You’re never really quite sure of what’s on the other side of that wall.  There’s a 50% chance there’s nothing there, but if there is something, odd are very high that it wants to kill you.  That the game is able to insert so many areas of silence and slowing of pace allows the firefights to mean more.  This isn’t a Michael Bay movie, that’s for sure.

 

Interstellar – On My List

So let’s get this over with.

  • Chris Nolan – check
  • Anne Hathaway – check
  • Michael Cain – check
  • Hans Zimmer – check
  • Sci-fi – check
  • Transcendence – check
  • Do not go gentle – check

And why can’t I give them my money now?

A Nice Quiet Weekend

I finally had a weekend to spend with the family, or more specifically a chance to recharge my batteries.  I spent Friday on the couch, in between bouts of sleep, finishing up Ni No Kuni and watching a few flicks.  With a 5 month old in the house, going out to the movies isn’t really in the cards so much, so the wife and I try to catch something on Netflix or a rental once a week.  With every rental store within 40 clicks closed, that second option is a bit harder to take.   So here’s a quick rundown of the relaxing weekend.

The Avengers: I like the Marvel universe; it’s full of tropes and exaggerations of character faults.  I like Joss Whedon’s ability to create realistic dialogue.  If this was the first time I was meeting these characters, then the pacing of the movie made sense.  Each has had their own movie before so it seemed like rather long exposure to get to the meat. At least the first half had Coulson and the second half had Hulk.  That part was really well done and I’m looking forward to seeing Mark Ruffalo try his hand at Banner again.

Prometheus: Alien/Aliens are amazing movies that had helped define the sci-fi horror/suspense genre.  Prometheus was co-written by Lindelof, of Lost fame, so you kind of know where the movie is going to end – with question marks.  The movie ended a little too quickly for me and could have used more exposure in the half-way mark of the story.  You can see that the ending is trying to tie into the first Alien movie (scene for scene) but then you remember this is a different planet.  Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender are the real reasons to watch it.  Just be prepared to leave logic at the door.

Brave: I wanted to see this at the cinema but never had the chance.  Pixar doesn’t make bad movies and this one is no different (it won an Oscar after all).  Brave takes the Disney princess trope and turns it upside down.  Merida is a strong willed girl being groomed to being a queen.  I am a massive sucker for Scottish lore and this one has quite a few bits in it, so I went along for the ride.  Good mix of comedy and heartstrings but perhaps a little too dark for the wide public, Brave is a movie I’m going to go out and buy on BluRay soon.  There is too much artistic quality here to leave to DVD and the story is something I want my girls to see time and time again.

Skyfall: A return to basics for this 50 year old franchise makes for some rather poignant scenes.  For some reason, I pay way too much attention to the scenery in a film and give massive praise to the directors of photography when well executed.  The entire movie is filmed in yellow or blue, with the odd spot of white.  Bond has some odd lines, but the film’s villain is the real joy.  Instead of trying to kill Bond, he tries to convert him to his cause.  Maybe a bit off the deep end, he’s methodical, intelligent and resourceful.  It’s sort of like the Mirror-universe in Star Trek, an anti-Bond.  One of the best films I’ve seen in quite some time.

That’s a lot of movies for one weekend but I really wanted to put the brakes on big plans and just sit back and enjoy the company.

Let’s Talk

First off, nerd boner.  Jesus does Chris Nolan make even the most trope things look amazing.

I mentioned this in the past but to quickly recap Superman is a view on what humanity should be.  He is the embodiment of everything we wish to be and yet is saddled by humanity.  Man of Steel is more than being able to reflect bullets or take physical abuse, it is a mentality of acknowledging he can never fit in to society.  He will always be an outcast an his need to belong to something is the true challenge he can never overcome.  His one weakness is doubt.  It’s something we all share.

It’s no secret to people that know me that I have a love affair with Chris Nolan.  The man simply can do no wrong in that his films explore humanity.  There is no black or white, just grey.  Even the Joker wasn’t evil, he was psychotic.  Taking a story that’s been told thousands of times, he brought Batman back to the basics.  He brought credence to the superhero genre as more than an action flick (and DC tends to be easier to do this with).

Superheros are today’s myths and legends.  For all the mystery surrounding them, all the absolute power, in the end they are fallible.  Otherwise we could never relate.

Edit: Found this neat quote from Stephen Goyer, the writer of the new flick.  It related to his thoughts around the Secret Origin Superman comic.  This has been my thought about Superman for some time.

There is a heart breaking moment halfway through the first chapter in which young Clark is told the truth about his heritage. He races out into the night, sobbing, stumbling through the cornfields. Eventually, his foster father, Jonathan, finds him.

“I don’t want to be someone else,” says Clark. “I don’t want to be different. I want to be Clark Kent.”

[And here’s the kicker…]

“I want to be your son”

Right there in that moment, Geoff contextualized Superman in a way that I’m not sure has ever really been done before. I had an ‘aha’ experience when I read that. For the first time I was able to grasp how lonely Clark must have been when he was growing up. And what a sacrifice Clark must continually make by being Superman.