Sunday, April 15, 2018

Spider-Man Redemption Parts 1 and 2

Man, you know who loves clones? I love clones. People always refer to the Clone Saga in Spider-Man is the worst, but there are some parts I can't help but enjoy. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some clone action!


YOU GET THAT SHIT OUT OF HERE

What I really mean is the sequel to everyone's favorite, the most 90's comic in existence, Spider-Man: The Lost Years, which I've covered previously. This is during the same period of time where Marvel decided Peter Parker was too old and married to be Spider-Man, so they decided he was in fact, the clone, and Ben Reilly was the original. But that doesn't mean Ben gets a family or a home or anything. It just means he has to be Spider-Man. And he has to keep dying his hair blond. What a life.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Redemption Parts 1 & 2


We open with who else, Kaine, Peter Parker's evil degenerating clone. He's in full-on brood mode, at some random nobody's funeral, so he can think about death. Some cops show up wondering why some weirdo in spandex is caressing a corpse, and he threatens them with the Mark of Kaine, that thing he does where his hand can dissolve someone's face somehow. But instead he does it to himself.


"I FORGOT TO GET PAPER TOWELS AGAIN!"

So after Kaine thinks about how much he wants to die, we cut to the other Peter Parker clone, only not really, (only really) Ben Reilly. He's also thinking about death.


He's sad because Harry Osborn is dead. Well, because Harry died during Ben's years of exile, had a son Ben never met, and all that clone angst. It's almost like they can take a weird subject matter and make a relatable, compelling story about it! Okay, almost. Don't worry, Ben, he'll be back! While that happens, we get narration from some red haired lady on a train. I would say, "I wooonder who!" but considering how many redheads there are in the Marvel universe, this could be anyone.

Back at Ben's apartment, Kaine breaks in and they have a little scuffle which leaves Ben knocked out cold on his floor next to a broken table. I guess this just happens sometimes? Like that's how they hang out, Kaine shows up, smashes Ben's head with a piece of drywall and leaves. After that, Ben's gotta get a drink. At the bar, who else does he run into but Flash Thompson, coincidentally talking about Peter Parker.


Well shit. It would be so weird for a Spider-Man comic now to explore depression and regret like this, where Ben's lost life is mirrored in Flash's squandered one. There's a subtle bit where they both envy Peter, even though one of them is Peter. But Dan Slott doesn't do subtle.


At any rate, after dispensing some life advice, Ben goes back to his apartment to find... Mary Jane?


No no, it's Janine! Who just so happens to look exactly like Mary Jane, but that is never once commented upon. She's back and Ben is incredulous, because apparently she seemed to have died. We cut from their tearful reunion to Kaine, who's having a fun time with friends at a bar.


There's a montage of Ben and Janine together, with So Happy Together by The Turtles playing in the background. Their happiness is cut short when Kaine kidnaps Janine! They have a chase through a closed supermarket, but don't worry, Ben finds Janine!


Oooooooh. I don't think she's taking a nap.

So we open the next issue with Ben confronting some cops who want to know what the hell is going on.


They don't get any more answers.


So turns out Kaine pulled out the ol' switcheroo, putting Janine's clothes and... a mask of her face on a mannequin. Man, he put a lot of effort into this. Did he have a bunch of outfits ready, just in case she wore something different? Anyway, we find Kaine at the "Womb," where the Jackal cloned Ben and Kaine. Typical Friday night for him, just staring at himself naked in a mirror.


After checking on Janine and being super creepy, Kaine meets Ben in the lab. They have another fight, and Ben is knocked out. When Ben wakes up, Kaine is testing out his experimental botox formula.


Ben's knocked unconscious once the cellular degeneration takes effect, and when he comes to, Kaine's brought them both to Peter Parker's house. Kaine jumps through a window, looks at a picture, and leaves. Ben falls unconscious for like the fifth time that day. Geez, I'm having some uncomfortable flashbacks to college. He wakes up on a rooftop, finding that Kaine undid his pain elixer for some reason. Also Janine is back at the apartment and perfectly okay. So... was this just the longform version of beating up Ben and fleeing? Was that it? What was the point?


Whoopsy-doodle! How're they gonna get out of this one?! Find out next time!



Saturday, April 7, 2018

Ready Player One (2018)


Ready Player One is Reference the Movie. You probably knew that already. I assumed I did. I even read the book, with the slew of 80's cameos and plot points throughout. But somehow, it didn't prepare me for the film. It's one thing to read a bunch of names on a page, it's another to see, in a mainstream movie, Tracer from Overwatch on three separate occasions. It's another thing to see the Iron Giant, where the entire point of his character is that he is not a weapon to wage destruction, being used as a weapon to wage destruction.

There's some plot in there, I guess. Wade Wilson or whatever is a normal kid who figures out the big important thing in a game and then he and his online friends (who all happen to live in the same city) get to the final big game thing before the big evil corporation. The big evil corporation that views the entire gameworld as a money-making venture. Who uses knowledge of these properties towards the goal of profit, but has no real attachment to any of them. You know, like the big corporation that created this movie.

Is this what movies are now? I'm well aware that no idea is truly original, but could you put a little more goddamn effort in? Half the film is a cavalcade of images from things you've probably seen before, but devoid of context or meaning. They have the dance from Saturday Night Fever. Does any of that have to do with the themes from that movie? Of course not. If you include a reference to a previous work, you want it to have some connection to your creation, either similar themes or character arcs, or something. This just had them thrown in there, like a facebook post on being a 90's kid.

Even apart from the references, of which that leaves little, it wasn't super great. Early on it seems the point of the film is that running to a virtual reality to escape your problems is bad. But nope. Turns out that's just what was needed to get everything you ever wanted, and only then should you take off the VR goggles. For most of the movie I assumed the evil corporation was the government. They have a task force that runs around with guns and forcibly abducts people for their debt, so I figured they were the police. But at the end, it turns out police do exist when they arrest the bad guy! How were they not involved with any other part in the film where shit is blown up and people are shot?! It should not be a big twist in your movie that police exist!

The character designs they didn't take from other people who actually cared about what they created are all pretty lackluster. The female lead looks like a red Na'Vi, the male lead looks like Jack Frost, and that's really all you get. I just don't get this video game from a purely in-universe perspective. How can an entire game world run when everything is just taken from somewhere else? I don't play World of Warcraft expecting to make my character into Spider-Man, it's only good when it has an inner lore to follow.

It's not as patently offensive as, say, a Transformers movie, but if I ever so much as dipped my toe into investment in the plot, I was instantly taken out by seeing a Spawn, a Ninja Turtle, or a Batgirl placed haphazardly into a scene. They say you shouldn't remind viewers of a better film within your own, but obviously Spielberg had some high hopes for this one, because he did not shy away from that at all. They put entire scenes from another movie in this one and it didn't matter in the slightest. It could've been any movie they chose, they just wanted you to see one and say, "I remember that!"

That's the movie. A whole bunch of little moments endlessly repeating, hitting that Pavlov's Bell that makes you say, "I remember!" Anything original they may have created here is overshadowed by the far better works they paid no respect to. Instead of this movie, I'd much rather rewatch The Iron Giant, TMNT, Dune, The Shining, Child's Play, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, King Kong, or Godzilla.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Ready Player One (April Fool's!)


Ready Player One is Reference the Movie. Going in, I was apprehensive, but I warmed up to it eventually, it ended up being pretty charming. I mean yeah, the plot was derivative, the songs were all old, and it just kept naming old properties in an attempt to make you remember that they exist, but it seemed more original than I had heard.

Most of the movie was CG, which I assume takes place in the virtual world. I guess it looked alright. I didn't really get a lot of the characters, I think I must've missed the references, though for a few the materials referenced seemed really old. And not even, like, video games, which I thought was the point.

The bad guy was pretty entertaining to watch, what with maniacal schemes to kill a lot of people, though there were a few twists and turns in there that didn't make a lot of sense to me. Are there no police in this world? It seemed like nobody cared about what happened to these characters, but I guess it wasn't real life so whatever.

I didn't expect the whole thing would be a mystery plot, or take place entirely in CGI London. Did all their avatars have to be really small compared to the game world? The romance was odd to me, I thought these characters were supposed to just fall in love during the movie, but the way it worked out it's like they were already in a relationship before the movie began. That's probably more my problem than the movie's.

Now I know it's supposed to be full of old stuff, but the score in particular was bizarre to me. Like, yeah, 80's songs, but why did all of them have to be Elton John covers? Were they just too lazy to find other artists to use? And why was one of the main characters a Sherlock Holmes avatar? Another thing, where did this goddamn annoying frog come from? I hated it every moment it was on screen, but was it supposed to be from something?


So yeah, I guess it was okay, but I really don't get what the hype is about. They made a whole bunch of alternate posters, and I think that misled a lot of people. This is the only one I found that actually looks like the movie.


If that looks like your thing, I guess you can go see it. I just don't get it.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Concept Corner: Operation Mindcrime

The media we use to tell stories are often just as important as the stories themselves. Books are fundamentally different than films, which differ from theatre productions and so on. They present characters, environments, and feelings in new ways, and being taken in by each can be a completely unique experience. One medium that's got me hooked is the concept album. Put simply, it's a musical album with a plot. Each song advances the story, introduces characters and the world, but works as an album in its own right. The plot can be lightly referenced, it could have dialogue segments between songs, and some have plot details written in the liner notes of the lyric book. Sometimes artists come out with just one concept album in between their usual fare and others build their entire brand on concept albums. They can even be adapted to the stage or screen, as Jesus Christ Superstar was; first a play, then a film.

What I'm trying to say is: I love them. Especially the ones that go full-bore with odd dialogue segments and cheesy lines all throughout. You can enjoy them as a normal album or listen a little more intently and figure out what's driving it. We're going to take a look at some albums worth looking at, starting with a prime example of the genre.

Concept Corner: Queensryche - Operation: mindcrime


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Annihilation (2018)

I just saw Annihilation, and I wish I had seen it sooner.


Based on a book of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer, which I didn't read, Annihilation is a sci-fi/horror film that reminds me very much of H.P. Lovecraft. The basic plot reads as this: A meteor falls out of space in what I think is Florida, which then creates some shimmering field around itself (called the Shimmer) that is slowly expanding. Anyone sent in never comes out, save for one man, Natalie Portman's husband, Oscar Isaac. Natalie Portman's character, Lena, after ending up at the facility tasked with researching the Shimmer, decides to join with the researching team about to go on an expedition. They enter the Shimmer, but only Lena returns.

With themes, the film shared a lot in common with my favorite Lovecraft story, The Colour Out of Space. A meteor begins a strange transformation in the landscape and creatures, and is essentially incomprehensible. If you had told me this was an adaptation of that story instead of Jeff VanderMeer's, I would have believed you.

It starts slow, but the buildup just raises the tension until the real action starts. And by "action," I don't mean fighty Avengers action, I mean suspenseful, nightmarish, body-horror type action. The effects are great, you can tell they used practical effects when they could, and the CGI was something they spent a lot of time on. One effect near the very end of the film mesmerized me.

The film is overall surreal and terrifying. Even when there's not a big monster doing something, things just seem off enough to grab your attention. It takes its time, doesn't try to rush any reveals, and you don't learn everything about everyone right off the bat. To avoid spoilers I won't say much more, but the ending was more nightmarish and uncanny than anything before. I had a hard time figuring out exactly what was happening, and I loved it. It was stunningly creative in its design and concepts, it's definitely one where I want to listen to the director's commentary when I have the chance.

One minor point that I'm surprised hasn't gained any traction, but all the main characters are women in scientific fields. It's the sort of thing they tried to market Ghostbusters 2016 with, but in this film it's not just a cash-grab move. I wasn't even aware of the cast before going in, but you would think, especially given the tone of the most recent Oscars, that somebody would be making a big deal out of it. I'm just sort of bewildered that this isn't getting any attention, I thought this was what everyone wanted...?

Sadly, looks like the film ain't doing too well in the box office, which is a real shame. I guess this is the kind of thing that happens when you're out the week after Black Panther, the most popular movie ever made. If you're a fan of the surreal, sci-fi, or want to see something you haven't before, I highly recommend Annihilation, as long as it's still in theaters by the time you read this. Or if it's on Netflix, I guess, which is the only venue it's being released in outside of the US.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Venom Teaser Trailer

Did you guys know there's a Venom movie coming out? It hasn't really become reality to me yet, everything I've been hearing about it sounds like rumors from a soon-to-be-cancelled project. But I guess it is actually happening, 'cause we got this teaser trailer.


In contrast to the other Sony Spider-Man film being made, Into the Spider-Verse, I'm not super excited about this one.

It just seems weird to me to have a Venom standalone movie without him being introduced with Spider-Man. Is Spider-Man gonna be in it? If not, why does he have a big spider on his chest? I'm almost afraid they would just get rid of that, but more than likely they'll just make up some bullshit reason.

From the looks of things, the film may have Eddie Brock's cancer as a prevalent story element, which was made a part of his history well after he was introduced in the comics. There's a lot of shots of hospitals and stuff, including an MRI, but then again, it could be he's subject to some kind of experiment involving the symbiote.


Speaking of the symbiote, the teaser shows what looks like a crashed spaceship, and afterwards a shot with a bunch of scientists with a tube of goo, so it doesn't look like they'll do the space shuttle thing from the 90's Spider-Man animated series.


I just don't know about Tom Hardy playing Eddie Brock. He was good in Mad Max, but Bane left a bad taste in my mouth I can never wash away. If this is meant to tie in with current Homecoming Spider-Man, the age difference between them would be really weird. Brock is supposed to be a contemporary of Peter Parker, which ties in with the whole evil double thing he's got going on.

It may be even more odd if the rumors currently circulating are true, and that this is less a retelling of the classic Eddie Brock Venom and more like Agent Venom, the newer iteration with Flash Thompson. I'm wary of that, since Agent Venom only worked because it had two characters' histories to work from, both Flash and the symbiote's. If Eddie Brock in this film has no connection to Spider-Man or Peter Parker, is he even really Venom?

It can't be judged too harshly based on a single teaser trailer, but I'm gonna dial down my cautious optimism to thinly veiled pessimism. There's no way I'm not gonna see a Venom movie when it first comes out, but at this point I'm expecting less Amazing Spider-Man, and more Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Let's Watch Woody Woodpecker

The self is a nebulous concept. Our identity, though seemingly concrete and continuous, shifts constantly throughout our lives. Things we believed were permanent facets of our personality alter considerably and until confronted with the difference we hardly notice. Like the Ship of Theseus, parts are replaced again and again, until the only point of reference is our physical appearance. We look back and find ourselves strangers, with confusing decisions and incomprehensible demeanor.

If such a thing goes unnoticed within ourselves, what about those we know? What changes could they undergo if we haven't seen them in years? Our memories betray us, giving us no indication of what they could have become. What changes lurk unseen behind their facade? How much of one's mind can you see through their eyes?

And what a pair of eyes this is.


What has happened to you, my old friend? You look so similar, and yet... You fill me with dread. Who are those people? Why does that woman look so aroused? There is only one way to know. I shudder at the thought.

Let's Watch: Woody Woodpecker