Sunday, October 14, 2018

Venom: Funeral Pyre


Coming as a complete surprise to me, Venom's the talk of the town! After the recent film, which I didn't think was super great, and a few new series Marvel is putting out, one of which put the symbiote back on Brock, people actually know who he is again. Who would've guessed anyone would still care about a giant buff goo-man with sharp fangs and a slobbery tongue? Well, anyone aside from me. I always cared. Even when he was stupid. Especially when he's stupid. Like this.

Comic Review: Venom: Funeral Pyre


Funeral Pyre is yet another of the Venom limited series that took place after Lethal Protector. These were a bit of a mixed bag. Obviously I love Lethal Protector, but you get stuff like The Madness as well, which... you know. Funeral Pyre falls along the latter side of the spectrum, though it still holds a special place in my heart.

We begin on the rough and tumble streets of Oakland, near Venom's current stomping grounds, as a gang called the... Jadoo are terrorizing people for no reason at all. One of their prospective members seems less than thrilled with the situation.


After they go chasing some old guy and his nephew with no aim in sight, the new guy saves the kid and sends him for help. Who else does the kid go to but somebody no one should ever ask for guidance.


Turns out the new member is actually a journalist, investigating old HYDRA labs in California, one of which happens to be the base of Jadoo. Gray, the journalist, decided to join in order to check out the old lab, but now he needs to kill someone to be initiated, or be killed himself. You know, boilerplate gang stuff. Rescuing him is easily within Venom's purview, as long as someone even more unhinged doesn't show up and ruin everything.


Shit.

So instead of everyone fleeing to their homes and calling their mothers, the Punisher's arrival somehow sparks a gang war. In the first of many distractions, Venom briefly fights the Punisher before he remembers he has shit to do. Back with JADOO, Gray explores the hideout and finds the old lab, still operational after all this time.


No time for that though, because there's a gang war on! Back with Venom, he's had no luck finding Gray, but he does find Punisher, who quickly hits him with a sonic beam and traps him in a jail cell. In the next issue, using a tendril of the symbiote, he breaks free and starts punching Punisher's van.


Gray, however, is having a poor go of it.


Having committed murder, Gray falls into despair. But now Venom's free, and with the skills he garnered as an investigative journalist, I'm sure he'll be right on Gray's trail in no time!


So his strategy is to talk to everyone still alive in town and just ask them who has a birthmark. Or just grab people at random and see if they have a birthmark or not.


Given that this is not the best canvassing method, Venom takes longer than the Punisher to find the Jadoo HQ. The Punisher slaughters his way through, forcing Gray into the HYDRA lab, specifically the testing chamber.


He pops out glowing red and real mad. Last at the finish line, Venom finally arrives at the lab, but not to a warm welcome.


As the final issue begins, Pyre, as he's now referring to himself, zaps Venom and Punisher with microwave blasts, which cook Venom like a frozen mac and cheese. They fight for a bit, with Pyre being a little bit unreasonable assigning blame. I mean, he did join a gang with no plan. It's not Venom's fault he's an idiot. The Punisher tries to nullify Pyre's power with "anti-waves" but it doesn't work.


After Venom pins him down with some equipment from the ceiling, Pyre decides to just burn the whole place down. Long story short, Venom and Punisher escape and Gray, after having committed murder and mutated into a superpowered red guy with 80's hair, probably dies. What's Venom's takeaway from all of this?


I think I'd call it more an endless stream of incompetence from everyone involved, but you do you. What's important is: dozens of people have died and nobody is ever going to be held accountable. And Pyre will never be seen again. Great job, Venom!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Venom (2018)


Venom sure was... a movie.

I'm almost unsure what to say about it. Going in, I was sure it would be the second coming of Catwoman, some weird, zany, tonally dissonant film where I would laugh the whole time. That's only, maybe, half true?

The film starts with Eddie Brock, investigative journalist, who fucks up really bad and gets fired from his job and dumped by his fiancee. There's no Spider-Man involved, which we all saw coming, but what they did doesn't really add up. It sort of skips right to the part where his life is ruined because I guess you need that to be Venom, but it didn't lead anywhere. If his life had been going fine when he found the symbiote it really wouldn't have been much different. The villain, Carlton Drake, gets symbiotes from space. Somewhere. It doesn't matter. Brock gets ahold of one and doesn't so much become Venom as the symbiote, this time just named Venom, uses his body like a puppet.

I don't really get Brock's character. Through the whole film he doesn't have any agency, he's either being taken somewhere by the evil guys or being puppeted around by the symbiote. He's more or less a bumbling idiot through the entire film, being dragged this way and that without doing much on his own. There's no character arcs to speak of, except for maybe Venom (the name of the symbiote, I must reiterate, not the character of Brock and the symbiote together) who starts out evil and then at the end of the film... isn't.

That's how a lot of things in this movie go. The symbiote is harmful to wear until it isn't. The villainous symbiote just pops out of nowhere for the fight at the end. Venom wants to fight the evil symbiote at the end, despite never having mentioned it. The evil guy has very nebulous reasons, involving global warming and overpopulation, for everything that he does. Does Eddie ever actually get control of the suit? Is host compatibility important for who can wear a symbiote? How did the symbiotes survive in space? The film just doesn't seem interested in answering these questions.

There was a lot of talk earlier this week about how Tom Hardy said his favorite parts of the movie were cut, and I think it's pretty noticeable when you watch it. The bits that had a rapport between Brock and Venom were enjoyable at times, but there just didn't seem to be enough of them. Would it actually have improved the film? I dunno. Once bonded, Brock just acts like a lunatic, which I'll admit was pretty funny whenever it happened. The thing is, I have no idea if the humor was intentional. Nobody else was laughing when Tom Hardy dumped a bag of frozen tater tots on his face, ate chicken from the garbage, and vomited.

The action scenes were okay most of the time, with the symbiote being used in creative ways that I liked, but the final, like so many other superhero films, seemed to come out of nowhere. You never learn about the relationship between Venom and the other symbiotes, and then they fight. It was really hard to follow, when two very similarly colored piles of goo splat across the screen you can't really get a good grasp of who's doing what.

It's just so difficult to call this a Venom movie when it had very little to do with the classic Marvel character. It had nothing to do with Spider-Man, very little of Brock and the symbiote working towards the same ends, and none of the usual hatred and bile Venom usually comes with. Brock had little to no motivation for anything he did, and neither did the symbiote. Most of the movie was them trying not to be blown up by exploding drones.

It's hard to have a strong opinion of this movie, because there wasn't a lot going on. Tom Hardy as Brock is more funny than anything, which is weird when you consider the character he was supposed to portray. Venom, the symbiote, also voiced by Hardy, is evil, but then he's not, and the changes don't have any drive behind them. Venom and Brock never really agree on anything, there's no point where they both work together or become one character, like comics Venom. Things are one way until they aren't anymore. Did they just cut a lot from the middle which would have added these things? I'm not usually a guy who roots for longer movies, but a 190 minute runtime might have been better for this.

I'm not certain this will get a sequel, what with Sony being very tetchy on sequels if the film doesn't do super well, but I can't help but think a sequel could be better. You have all the groundwork laid for the symbiotes so they could actually work on the relationship between Venom and Eddie. Of course, it's been said the plans are for a Symbiote Movie Universe, in which case, please no.

Soooo... was it bad? I dunno. If anything it was just stupid. Things were brought up and dropped without mention, it seemed like nothing happened even though certainly something must have. It wasn't necessarily a mess, but it never came together. I either expected more, or a whole lot less.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Concept Corner: The Near Future

We all like to have control of our projects. Being told what to do by someone with authority over you can be restrictive and interfere with your vision. Aptly, a lot of creatives either reach the point where they become the authority, or try to break out and find their own means. Such an ideal works perfectly for Kickstarter, that crowdfunding site whose projects are now mostly playing cards and wallets. Or pens. Apart from those, musicians have funded albums using the site, and I actually got one!

Concept Corner: I Fight Dragons - The Near Future


I Fight Dragons, a pop-rock/chiptune band from Chicago, funded their album, initially called Project Atma before being released as The Near Future in 2014. As I was a fan of I Fight Dragons beforehand, I pledged to the Kickstarter, though I will forever regret not having the $500 necessary to get my own theme song. (THAT'S ALL I'VE EVER WANTED) Anyway, it was pretty fascinating to see an album from the planning stages all the way to a full release. They released demos, showed concepts for the album cover, and we figured out pressing vinyl can be tricky sometimes. Oh, did I mention it was a concept album? Well, more like half a concept album.

The Near Future is a rock opera that comprises ten out of the fifteen songs on the album. Though that looks like two thirds, in terms of runtime it's a little more than half. I'll only be covering the section of the album that's actually concept, since that's what this is for. On to it:

The Story

There is Boy. [2. Eighteen] Boy meets Girl. [3. Battle] Girl is gone. Boy looks. [4. Another Week] Boy finds Girl. [5. Meeting] Boy and Girl go to secret government facility to save Grandpa. [6. Rescue] Boy and Girl fight people. [7. Time to Fly] Girl hurt. [8. Requiem] Girl okay! [9. Return] Boy and Girl leave. [10. Fighting On]

Did that seem sparse? Light on detail? Oversimplified? Well the album ain't got much more for you. The main character, Boy, doesn't have a name. Neither does the... uh, love interest? Nothing has a name! Girl and Grandpa come from some far-off world or another dimension that is never explained, named, or expounded upon in any way. What's Boy like? He, er, he wants more out of life. He likes Girl, I guess. Why? Because she gave him glowy hands to fight the bad men. Why do the bad men have Grandpa? I dunno. Why do they have glowy hands? Beats me! Somehow the plot is both overwritten and devoid of details at the same time.

As his adrenaline recedes, he
suddenly realizes that even
though she is battered and
bruised, she is the single
most beautiful girl he
has ever seen.

Just as they are about to reach the exit, four more
dark-suited men and one gigantic man in a white
suit step in and bar their path. If they’re going to
escape, they’ll need to get past these five. After
a tense moment, the suited men charge and the
true battle begins.

Half of the ten concept songs are instrumentals. I don't have anything against instrumentals, they're often necessary for a good concept album once in a while. But fifty percent? A couple I really enjoy, namely "Battle" and "Rescue." The rest seem to be there to add more liner notes to what never amounts to a well fleshed-out story. Maybe if Girl had a part in some songs, or if we find out anything about anybody. Names! Reasons! Give me something more than some trite anime-lite story that props up cardboard cutouts and calls them characters. The song "Jimmy and Sally" from the non-concept portion of the album has a better story, because not only does it name the characters, it describes their personalities! I know what Jimmy and Sally are like! Boy and Girl? Nothing.

Are there recurring themes? Sure, if you can call them that. "Eighteen" is a pretty good introduction song, Boy is your everyman teenager, which isn't a bad place to start. He's poised at the start of his adult life with no real idea of what to do and set upon by other peoples' ideas of how he should be.

Everybody does just what they’re told
Everybody buys just what they’re sold
How do I escape what I can’t see?
How do I replace the broken parts of me?

That's a nice jumping-off point, sort of like Nikki from Operation: mindcrime. Problem is, you have to develop from there somehow. The only real change he makes is that he can give himself glowy hands and fight at the end. And he falls in love with a girl whose name he doesn't even know. It seems they didn't try very hard on the story, like being a concept album was the novelty they wanted, but the story itself was an afterthought. At least the music was good.

The Music

If anything else, The Near Future is good as a regular album. I Fight Dragons' big hook is the addition of chiptunes (i.e. 8-bit soundchip music) to a standard pop-rock ensemble. "Battle," one of the instrumentals, is the best example of this mixture on the album. It's used more like a synthesizer on an 80's song than the main event, which works well. You'll get a little bit here and there, though there is one song done entirely in chiptune, "Rescue." It's not exactly Animaniguchi, but it's a fast, boppy track. The video game noises they put in there are a little distracting, but make it sound like an authentic NES background song. The chiptunes are arranged by Brian Mazzaferri, who triples as lead vocals and rhythm guitar.

"Another Day" is one of my favorite tracks on the album, with the blusey guitar riffs, played by Packy Lundholm, and lyrics that probably work better if not part of the concept album. "Battle" has another one of my favorite parts, a fast, heavy bass solo, played by Hari Rad.

There's a leitmotif that runs throughout "Battle," "Rescue," and "Time to Fly," a bombastic little chiptune riff that adds a little cohesiveness the story itself was lacking. In fact, I enjoy the album more when I ignore the official story altogether. It works pretty well in that way, if you skip a couple of the instrumentals.

The lyrics themselves work well on their own, since most of the heavy lifting in service of the story is done by text-only liner notes. They're pretty broad as far as themes go, "Eighteen" about starting life with no direction, but that can be a little freeing sometimes; "Time to Fly" is about unleashing your full potential, finding a reason to prevail in a desperate situation. "Another Day," one of my personal favorites, is as simple as romantic regret, losing your chance at something more and having no idea if you'll have another opportunity. You just want to get over it, but you can't.

Another week goes by
The summer drags on
Turns out the time won't fly
When you're trying to move on
And in the blink of an eye you see her face
Then she's gone and run away
Why can't you find her?
Another day
Another reminder of your place

So, is The Near Future a bad album? I wouldn't say so. I give it a listen now and again, and though there are a couple mandatory skips, the whole story half is pretty enjoyable to listen to. The issue is when you try to get more out of it than just what the music itself provides. Lines don't really take on more meaning when you read the story, the extra details aren't substantial enough to draw you any further in. It's a little sad, really. If they had just gone whole-hog on making a concept album, I think they could've made something really good. Hedging your bets on a project like this doesn't really work. It's hard to get anyone on your side if you don't seem fully committed. If they don't really believe in it, how can I? On first glance, it looks like they've made half a concept album, but on further examination it turns out to be less than that. They put in half the effort, as far as story is concerned, they gave it half the runtime, and it's only half as enjoyable. That doesn't mean it's bad, it's just a fraction of what it could have been.

P.S. I Fight Dragons is currently funding another album on Patreon, in a sort of faux-Kickstarter way. Here's hoping I like it a little more than this one.


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Broly: A Life Unlived

We take it as fact that the villains of Dragon Ball Z are not complicated people. They usually have a simple goal in mind, one instantly recognizable as evil. Our characters come up against them, halt their plans, they engage in combat, and the good characters inevitably prevail. Sometimes their defeat eventually turns the villains to the side of good, which allows them more space to develop as characters, such as Piccolo or Vegeta, but otherwise they just die, without much more to define them. When speaking of one-dimensional villains from the Dragon Ball series, there's one name that seems to rise above the rest: Broly.


Out of the shallow villains from DBZ, Broly seems the most so. While Cell was programmed to kill Goku and took joy in facing a strong opponent, or Frieza reveled in conquest and victory, Broly lacked even that much complexity. Broly wanted to kill Goku. Unlike the Androids, he was not programmed to do so by someone with a grudge, unlike Vegeta, it wasn't out of some drive to be stronger. We are meant to believe that as a young child, Broly heard Goku's cries, which etched so deeply in his psyche a hatred for him, that even as an adult, the hatred has only gotten more virulent.

At a cursory glance, this seems one of the weakest reasons for a villain to try and kill Goku. Broly has no other plans, no ambitions. Does he just enjoy destruction for its own sake? However, unlike most of the antagonists Dragon Ball holds, we see Broly's past. We see his family, his origin, and looking deeply, we see something far more tragic than at first glance.


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Dragon Ball Super: Broly Trailer

CANON BROLY CANON BROLY CANON BROLY

Had to get that out of the way first. But yeah! Broly, the Legendary Super Saiyan, from the identically titled (non-canon) DBZ film, is the main event in a new Dragon Ball Super movie!


Now this film is different than the DBZ movies out there, which were little side-adventures that didn't actually matter in the main plot of the show. In fact, you couldn't even really place them in the timeline of the show, they just had ideas and villains that sometimes worked out to be really cool and sometimes did not. Broly was one of these, featured, oddly enough, in three movies, The Legendary Super Saiyan, Broly - Second Coming, and Bio-Broly. However, this new film, simply titled Broly, is actually considered canon in Dragon Ball, like Battle of Gods and Resurrection F. So what that means is for the first time, Broly is a real part of the story of Dragon Ball. Honestly, I'm jazzed about it.

The thing about Broly in his movies is that he was almost entirely one-note. See, when he was a baby, he got put in a nursing pod right next to baby Goku, who cried incessantly no matter what anyone did. Somehow, this became a crucial part of Broly's psyche, so when he sees Goku, he loses all reason and becomes an unstoppable killing machine. And that's about it. He screams "KAKAROT" all the time and has a green aura instead of yellow.

Despite all that against Broly, I actually kinda like him. I always liked his design, maybe it's just because he's a tip-top beefcake maxed out buffways, but he had a look of incredible power you just don't usually get from DBZ villains. The weird green Super Saiyan transformation he had lended a lot of mystery to him, like this was an entirely different level from any other Super Saiyan we'd seen. Obviously his characterization was a bit lacking, but these films were more or less just extended fight scenes to begin with.

The real question is: What's going on in this film? From what I can tell, it looks like there's more Saiyans who survived the destruction of Planet Vegeta, and they come to Earth and fight. You really shouldn't expect much more than that for a Dragon Ball movie. But! From certain shots, it seems like there's going to be some flashbacks to Planet Vegeta before it was destroyed, with hopefully a new origin for Broly.


There's babies in tanks there, possibly alluding to some kind of genetic modification program to create the ultimate Saiyan. That could explain Broly's immense power and green Super Saiyan, which seems only less ridiculous now that Super Saiyan Blue exists. I'm always excited to see more adult Saiyans, firstly because they still have tails, which are rad, and secondly they won't have designs like fucking Cabba.


On that point, Broly's design for the movie looks pretty good. They swapped out his shirtless look for some new battle armor, and instead of the red sash he's got some green fur-looking garment, and some purple pants. For most of the trailer he's not even Super Saiyan, which is kind of nice since that's the only way he's ever been portrayed since his first movie. In the initial shot of Broly, he's got a device around his neck, possibly another power limiter like he had in his original movie. That seems pretty likely, since he doesn't wear one once he's Super Saiyan.


So this trailer brings up a lot of questions in only a minute and a half. Will Broly have a tail? Will we see any Great Apes in this movie? Why does Kale have a similar transformation? What's Frieza doing there? It's too early to tell yet, but I think I'm letting myself get too hyped, especially after the tensionless trifle that was Resurrection F. Ah well. Gotta be excited for something.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Venom First Trailer

So... Venom Theatrical Trailer. It's... out.


I, uh. Hm. I'm not really sure what to say about it. I'm thinking my thinly-veiling pessimism from the last trailer was appropriate.

Firstly, looks like the Agent Venom rumors were wrong, which I'm relieved about, but what's the deal with Tom Hardy's voice? Why does he have to put on some weird accent for each movie he's in? Is it even an accent, or just an odd inflection on random syllables? But I can't just blame Hardy, these lines are terrible.


"The guy you work for is the evil person."

Who... who wrote that? Speaking of voices, why in god's name did they give the symbiote a voice? And not just any voice, but the most cliche evil voice anyone has ever used. Why is it just evil right out of the gate? Typically, the symbiote is a character in-itself, but it doesn't need to actually talk to anyone to do that. They're just going with the laziest thing possible, and making the symbiote as close to a devil on his shoulder as they can get.

Unsurprisingly, doesn't look like Spider-Man is involved. Just looks like Eddie Brock stumbled on a secret company program and got the symbiote, which then makes him be evil. Is he even going to have an active role in this movie? Looks like they're going with the rote superhero story where Bad Guy is made the same time Good Guy is, Good Guy fights Bad Guy minions for most of it, and at the end Good beats Bad, the end. You'd think with an antihero as the lead, they might mix it up a bit, but from this it looks like the villains are unambiguously bad, so whatever Brock does is good.


I guess the suit looks... okay? I'm not sure I like the slimy texture of it, but I don't know what else I could expect. The eyes look too small for me. I always thought they looked better when they were bigger, more jagged, and more expressive. Since Spider-Man probably isn't a part of this, Venom looks sorta like him just because. They could have done worse, but I'm not blown away.


The only thing we can't get from this trailer is details on the villain. Obviously it's going to be the "evil person," Carlton Drake, as we were so charitably told, but the real question is: How is he going to have a big fight at the end. My guess is he's going to either alter the symbiote or find a new one and become Carnage. That seems the most predictable route, so there we go.

Gotta say guys, this is inching ever closer to Amazing Spider-Man 2 territory. But then again, after The Emoji Movie, did anyone expect Sony Pictures to produce something good? There's still a chance I won't hate it, but you won't catch me holding my breath.

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