Category: Movies

John Wick is back and bringing his best for Chapter 3

John Wick is back and bringing his best for Chapter 3

Keanu Reeves’ 2014 action vehicle John Wick was lightning in a bottle.

Where Reeves was previously known in the genre as a trench coat wearing techno-superhero, the late 2010s has changed his action pedigree to that of a retired super assassin skilled in glorious gun-fu.

That film exhibited wonderful cartoony violence in a way that enthralled audiences. It was a self-contained story with a hint of mysterious flavor that could have easily stood on its own.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) was less contained. But even if its script clearly acted as the middle man for another sequel, the film was magnificent in its world-building. It elaborated on the mysterious underbelly of the first movie in a way that created intrigue rather than spoiling the fun.

And it somehow kept up a high caliber of action at the same time.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) masterfully blends and elevates the action-packed precedent of the first movie and the world-building of the second to continue an experience warranting the fourth chapter it aims to establish.

Chapter 3 follows Reeves’ titular character as he aims to reverse his excommunication from the worldwide “High Table” assassin society after killing one of its leading members in a safe haven at the end of the second film.

Like Chapter 2, this movie immediately drops its audience into a story that services its past while introducing new elements.

Wick travels to Casablanca and recruits Sofia (Halle Berry) to pay off a debt she owes. Meanwhile veteran characters Winston (Ian McShane), Charon (Lance Reddick) and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) face political repercussions at the hands of a clinical and captivating Adjudicator for the High Table (Asia Kate Dillon).

Facing the consequences for one’s actions is the name of the game, as Chapter 3 establishes multiple times while audiences are introduced to more of the assassin underworld through locales like a training academy and a currency manufacturer in the ramparts of a medieval castle.

The movie embellishes John Wick’s brilliant universe, where gory street level duels are bathed in neon lights despite being planned by codified and cordial socialites in almost baroque meeting places.

The growing universe is enthralling for series veterans, yet I would argue Chapter 3 utilizes it’s exposition in a way that gives newcomers a fun experience unraveling how Reeves got himself into trouble. Like The Hangover, but with trained assassins.

Some of the fine details would be lost, but John Wick supplements its world-building with creative action to make the experience worthwhile.

The hyper-violence of this film is a spectacle. Within the first 20 minutes, Reeves beats a man to death with a copy of Dante’s Inferno and kills motorcycle-riding goons while galloping through New York traffic on a horse.

Yet that hyper-violence is perfectly balanced by enough realism to give confrontations weight and suspense. Wick is constantly battered, retains his scars and takes multiple pauses in the middle of firefights to reload. Every body and bullet casing hits the floor with satisfying clunks.

Not all of the action perfectly hits its mark. One at the midpoint in particular feels a little aimless as endless opponents come out of nowhere.

Though even less stellar scenes have high points, such as that rather aimless fight using Sofia’s dogs to great effect. Never before have I encountered uncomfortable mauling scenes with lovably good boys.

Cinematography and color in Chapter 3 also go a long way to make action more impressive.

For example, a later firefight is dulled by losing most hand-to-hand choreography in the face of near-invincible enemies. But the scene’s nauseating green palate emphasizes how uncomfortable the once-friendly setting is for Wick.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum arguably succeeds best in that it plays well to the strengths its predecessors while keeping things fresh.

Though a few of the action scenes aren’t as stellar as others, long-time fans of Mr. Wick’s exploits will not be disappointed. Especially if they love the assassin-filled world Chapter 2 began to reveal.

And even if I wouldn’t recommend it, Chapter 3 seems like it could work as a standalone flick. It certainly did for my Grandpa.

I’m very much looking forward to the Chapter 4 this movie’s namesake sets up.

Even if it won’t have the same mind-blowing realization for me that Reeves’ great, cocky foil Zero is played by Mark Dacascos: The Chairman from Iron Chef America.


Featured Image courtesy of Movie Poster HD

Detective Pikachu made my heart swell

Detective Pikachu made my heart swell

Move over, Endgame.

You might have ended a decade of MCU movies, but Detective Pikachu played to my 20-years of investment in the subjectively best video game series of all time.

My development as a person and writer was kick-started by Mom teaching me to read with the text in Pokémon Crystal. I’ve been waiting for this movie ever since.

So, the objective side of my cinephilia can critique a few key issues. But that doesn’t take away from Rob Letterman giving me the breathing Pokémon society — focusing on more than just prodigal, battling children — that I’ve always wanted.

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Image courtesy of IMDb

Detective Pikachu follows accountant Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) as he confronts the death of his mother and resulting alienation of his father after the man goes missing in a utopian city designed for Pokémon to coincide with humans.

He does so with the help of a talking Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds — clearly channeling Deadpool while still grounded in this source material) and aspiring investigative reporter Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton).

To be blunt, Detective Pikachu is bloated with clichés.

It mimics film noir and buddy cop tropes, such as a boy who needs to learn to love again and his amnesiac animal partner. There are also multiple plot points throughout the movie’s two-hour run you’ve seen before:

  • The shady, experimenting corporation.
  • The blossoming love between main (human) characters.
  • The incidents with a substance that causes loss of control (ala Zootopia).

Besides a surprise twist in the third act, the overall situations are well-worn. Yet the actors keep them from feeling stale.

Reynolds made me love the overplayed series mascot I usually scoff at. He’s snarky, heartfelt and delivers some solid (seemingly improvised) jokes.

Minor spoiler: At one point, he sings a depressed rendition of the original anime theme song, and it’s worth the price of admission alone.

Reynolds and Smith sell the buddy cop bit, and I liked Smith and Newton’s chemistry as well — especially since their burgeoning romance ended without a dramatic kiss.

Smith carried the movie handily, surprisingly so given my lukewarm reception to Fallen Kingdom. I really enjoyed his character arc and relationship with Pikachu that shined during a heart-to-heart mid-way through the film.

That scene in particular also has a gorgeous shot where Smith’s stoic face during a sad story is betrayed by a tear that makes the neon city lights outline his cheek.

Detective Pikachu had surprisingly pretty cinematography in my opinion, outside of some shots that relied too heavily on shaky dissolves and off-center angles for my taste.

On top of that, I never once felt like the CGI Pokémon were out of place. They always seemed believably real in the living people’s arms.

Granted I might be predisposed to believing in real-life Pokémon because of my history and encyclopedic knowledge with the series. But my sister (who saw the movie with me) is less of a hardcore fan and didn’t report any concerns.

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We had a blast going together!

Ironically, I felt like the Pokémon CGI was masterful in-part because a lot of the practical effects were… Real bad? Most of the actors looked like they were slipping around on wires during action scenes.

But for me, that was barely a concern in light of the respect Detective Pikachu shows fans of the series in its overt and subtle references.

Alongside the anime’s theme song, most of the music throughout the film sounded like it could have come from the Sinnoh or Unova region games.

There are dozens of the 800+ Pokémon appearing as live models (both the recognizable Pikachu and less conventional Treeckos or Purrloins) and set-pieces (some favorites being the Latios and Latias stickers in Tom’s room, and a store named after Whismur).

Their appearances are true to established lore as well, with Charizard weakened as someone stomps on its tail flame and Slaking almost exclusively loafing around.

Mewtwo‘s powers are a less traditional example that sticks out, but even that strange treatment plays into an unexpected plot point that I enjoyed. Plus, they nailed the legendary Pokémon’s origin with an interesting new angle.

People who are not a fan of the games or anime may be somewhat lost. It immediately drops audiences in and lets most references quickly fly by. Yet enough is explained for the public to follow its plot, and the movie is funny regardless of pre-existing knowledge.

You might get more out of some jokes if you know Mr. Mime, for instance, but even if you don’t his scenes have some great slapstick with effective sound effects.

Frankly, I’m not sure what else I can say.

I’m obviously biased, but the movie is just as obviously tailored toward fans like me. From that perspective, I wholeheartedly recommend Detective Pikachu from my three-year-old heart and from the highly knowledgeable dork I am today.

But the movie also has enough family-friendly elements and appeal for non-super-fans. Some of the effects aren’t perfect, and the overall package leans on clichés, but the cast and world-building do more than enough to make up for it.

I had a blast seeing this movie with my sister. It’s a master class in video game adaptations — One that’s very much needed in the face of Sonic the Hedgehog and Angry Birds 2.

Go see it, so we can get more live action Pokémon movies. And cards to go with them:

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You won’t see a TCG fan like me complaining.

The Super Smash Bros. Cinematic Universe

The Super Smash Bros. Cinematic Universe

As many of you have seen, a trailer for Paramount’s upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie dropped today.

It’s terrifying.

But more than it is terrifying, the trailer feels frustrating. There’s a whole lot of missed potential from what I can see as a casual fan of the series, and I spent a fair amount of time ranting about it on Twitter:

The memes have been fun. Yet I can’t help but wonder how Sega let Sonic take this hit with Detective Pikachu showing us what video game movies are capable of—

Oh. Right.

Well anyway, as my friends and I spent the morning looking at Sonic, Jonathan brought to our attention an interesting take.

Much like Sonic’s obscene baby teeth and gross, gangly baby legs, I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea of a Super Smash Bros. Cinematic Universe.

Or, the SSBCU, as any sane individual would call it.

My friends’ discord group became flooded with suggestions on what could conceivably be included to flesh out the universe. By the end of the day, I fell in love with the idea of putting this list together!

But I wasn’t able to come up with everything on my own.

So let’s consider this post a work in progress, and a call to arms.

I have a collection of what movies should count in the SSBCU, some that I think could be surrogate “analog” entries in retrospect, and other media that could be related.

I’ll list them out with character confirmations based on Nintendo’s official listing.

If you have any ideas on how to flesh the list out, let me know! I think the idea is great and I would love to keep it going.


Confirmed Entries

Super Mario Bros. (1993)

You know it, you love it. Illumination may be working on an animated Mario movie, but until then we’ve got this classic of terrible cinema to fill out a whole lot of fighters. Just tell me you don’t want to see Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo beat up CGI Pokémon in an Avengers-style crossover.

  • Fighters: Mario (1), Yoshi (5), Luigi (9), Peach (13), Daisy (13e), Bowser (14)

Sonic the Hedgehog (2019)

The terror that started it all. This movie is probably going to be an utter disaster… But that means it’s also probably a blast to watch. Like a car crash after your blue cadillac haphazardly rolls around at the speed of sound. Sonic is Mario’s eternal rival, so he deserves a bad movie too.

  • Fighters: Sonic (38)

Detective Pikachu (2019)

This movie looks brilliant. Full stop. And I can conceivably throw in every Pokémon representative, so it’s a catch-all. I’ll even include Pokémon trainer, because despite the Red analog not being a character in Detective Pikachu, the Kanto starters are all there.

  • Fighters: Pikachu (8), Pichu (19), Mewtwo (24), Pokémon Trainer (33-35), Lucario (41), Greninja (50), Incineroar (69)

Street Fighter (1994)

Bet you forgot this movie existed. Well you’ll be happy to know that Ryu and Ken are in this terrible picture via Byron Matt and Damian Chapa, so you can picture them punching Bob Hoskins in the face!

For real though, can you believe Ming-Na Wen went from being Chun-Li to Mulan four years later? What a glow up.

  • Fighters: Ryu (60), Ken (60e)

Mega Man movie (????)

Keeping on the Capcom train, this is apparently a movie that’s in production. Thus the blue bomber gets to hang out with the squad!

  • Fighters: Mega Man (46)

Monster Hunter (2020)

What’s that? You really like the Capcom train? Well, lucky for you there’s a Monster Hunter movie staring Milla Jovovich in our future. There’s technically no fighter from this series, but Rathalos was added in Ultimate. So maybe there’s room for a cameo?

  • Fighters: DLC fighter, hopefully?

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005)

Alright, I’ll stop messing around. Here’s a not hypothetical entry on the list. I considered not including Cloud because this is a purely animated movie… But if Pikachu and Sonic can be “live action” fighters, why not Angst McGiantSword?

Plus his alternate costumes in Smash are literally based on this movie. So.

  • Fighters: Cloud (61)

Analog Movies

Alien (1979) or Aliens (1986)

Depending on your preference for horror or action sci-fi.

I don’t know if we’re ever going to get a Metroid movie. Samus would be a great candidate for the SSBCU’s Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel-esque leading female character, but in the meantime Sigourney Weaver seems like a damn fine addition.

Plus Ridley is literally a homage to Ridley Scott, so baby teeth Sonic can fight a Xenomorph Queen.

  • Fighters: Samus (4), Dark Samus (4e), Zero Suit Samus (29), Ridley (65)

Fast and the Furious

As someone who has never played an F-Zero game, I can confidently say that the ridiculously over-the-top Fast and the Furious franchise would be a perfect analog.

But in this case I’m going to say Furious 6 (2013) in particular because that’s when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson joined and he’s the perfect Captain Falcon.

Courtesy of wwe.com and SSB Wiki

Just saying.

  • Fighters: Captain Falcon (11)

Inception (2010)

Joker from Persona 5 just got added into Smash Ultimate. I know next to nothing about the game, but I do know it involves going into people’s memories to plant ideas or find secrets.

Sounds a lot like Inception to me. Add Leo DiCaprio into the SSBCU!

He can probably pull off that anime twink look in his Gangs of New York era.

  • Fighters: Joker (71)

King Kong (1933) or Rampage (2018)

King Kong is the obvious choice to get Donkey Kong into the SSBCU. A somewhat sentient ape who kidnaps ladies and climbs up buildings? That may as well be the original arcade game’s script. Even if there isn’t much in the way for Diddy or K. Rool.

Though for my money, I’d also recommend using Rampage. Not only is it based on a video game and has a crocodile, but the fact that The Rock stars means we can turn the film into a retroactive Thor: Ragnarok-esque team up staring Falcon and DK.

  • Fighters: Donkey Kong (2), King K. Rool (67)

Related Media

Castlevania (2017)

Every other object on this list is a movie.

But Marvel got away with putting more characters into the MCU by having The Defenders series on Netflix.

So Nintendo can get away with putting more characters into the SSBCU by making the Castlevania series on Netflix its own Defenders. Not sure if Simon or Richter are featured, but whatever.

  • Fighters: Simon (66), Richter (66e)

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008)

This game is basically a movie, right?

  • Fighters: Snake (31)

Fighters Featured: 31

Total Fighters: 82


Ehhh?

This section is the lightning round for ideas my friends and I tossed around that are either jokes or so weird that I honestly couldn’t count them

  • Game of Thrones as Fire Emblem representation? Don’t know enough about GoT to accurately parse that out, but I’m willing to mention it for SEO purposes.
  • The Legend of Zelda T.V. series was floated around, but I’m not sure I take that as seriously as Castlevania to be extended material. Zelda deserves a flagship movie.
  • My friend Mitchell suggested playing 127 Hours on two separate televisions, with one version color corrected to give James Franco a blue shirt. It’s the only way I can conceivably include Ice Climbers, so I’ll mention it here.
We’re through the Endgame

We’re through the Endgame

For days, all I’ve heard about Avengers: Endgame is that it is perfect. There was not a single bad thing said about the 22nd Marvel Cinematic Universe film.

That couldn’t be true.

This movie is three-hours long. It simultaneously culminates two-dozen films, sequelizes a massive blockbuster and ends stories for characters we’ve known over 10 years.

There was no way it could balance that and still come out perfect — even if everyone seemed to agree otherwise.

Without spoiling me, by the way. Thanks y’all!

But I had an open mind. The family watched Infinity War last night, then Dad and I did a deep dive into the One Marvelous Scene series on YouTube to prepare.

I even wore my finest Marvel socks for the occasion:

Three hours later, we left the theatre. Then came chores. Almost three more hours later, I sat down to write.

I still don’t understand how it was actually perfect. Better than I was led to believe.

Because this movie isn’t just a beautiful, all-encompassing endpoint for a decade-long story. It also makes every other MCU movie feel more important in hindsight.

I mean every movie.

I don’t care about Thor: The Dark World. But this movie genuinely made me care about it.

Endgame even improved characters.

Pepper Potts never really did it for me, in part because I hate Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop pseudoscience.

But the way she plays into Tony Stark’s arc made me care about Pepper Potts beyond her cute version in the Nickelodeon cartoon.

In fact, the arcs given to each of the original six Avengers are about as fitting as I could ever hope to create (without spoiling them — yet).

Granted there is one thing about the movie I’m not a huge fan of in concept. Like Infinity War, Endgame starts with no context and uses the assumed familiarity of long-time fans to set up obviously telegraphed emotional ploys. Both dramatic and comedic.

The opening scene is Hawkeye spending time with his family on house arrest, paralleling Ant Man & The Wasp. I cringed in anticipation, as they make it obvious we’re about to watch the snap’s effect on this previously-unseen Avenger.

But the scene’s obvious dramatic intent didn’t make it less effective.

The moment is escalated by becoming Clint’s jarring driving force for the story, and informing his growing connection to Black Widow.

There are a dozen scenes in the movie that I could take a similar fine-toothed comb to because they’re blatant emotional ploys. But they’re effective and well-deserved story beats for MCU fans, as obvious as they are.

There are also references to jokes and cameos from other Marvel movies that are obvious callbacks, but emphasize the fleshed-out relationships between characters as far-flung as Thor and Rocket Raccoon, or Captain America and Spider-Man.

Hell, even things like “girl power” scenes that have gotten the studio crap from brainless fans in the past have seemingly been cranked up just to rub it in people’s faces.

But even this moment, which may have gotten an eye-roll out of me in a less well-crafted film, was arguably one of my favorite scenes. Because it emphasized how the MCU has developed some fantastic characters, who all got time to shine in the…

Big CGI Fight Scene™ between two armies. A scene that actually epitomized my feelings toward Endgame.

Again, in literally any other movie I would feel numb watching a mindless clash between mostly faceless mobs that includes moments of character fan service and callbacks.

But Marvel has elevated that mindless action to such a high degree for their decade-long viewers that it creates transcendent filmmaking.

In his One Marvelous Scene video, Nando v. Movies read a quote from this A.V. club article that perfectly captures my thoughts on how the MCU reverses action movie conventions. It’s worth a read.

When that army battle ended, my heart was racing so hard that I got worried.

Then five seconds later, the movie left me crying at three different scenes that wrapped up multiple stories supremely well.

All in a movie where I laughed out loud, and got to appreciate unexpectedly beautiful character dynamics like Iron Man and Nebula.

But on top of all that, this movie genuinely made me excited for a post-Endgame Marvel.

I thought once the core six were gone, I’d feel more apathetic because characters like Dr. Strange, Captain Marvel or Black Panther strike me as better ensemble heroes.

But torches were passed. And certain movies staring certain characters with certain plots sound amazing as a result.

There isn’t much I can do from here besides gush and spoil things.

So I’m going to do that. In the meantime, go watch Avengers: Endgame.

Believe the hype. This movie is, truly, a Marvel to behold.


Featured Image courtesy of IMDb

Continue reading “We’re through the Endgame”

The Rochlins watch GTFO

The Rochlins watch GTFO

My Gaming in American Culture class has taken me all over the proverbial map when it comes to consuming all different kinds of media.

From tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons or Barbie to re-reading books like Ender’s Game or Ready Player One with new lenses. From watching terrible video game-based movies like Tom Hanks’ Mazes and Monsters to documentaries like Second Skin that touch on the psychological effects of an increasingly isolated digital culture.

For my upcoming class, I had to watch a kickstarted documentary from 2015 called GTFO.

But this time I was not alone. GTFO is all about the treatment of females in the video game industry — both in production and play. That particular subject matter drew interest from other members of the Rochlin household:

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I’m assuming they would have otherwise rolled their eyes at the prospect of a documentary about video games (or at least Aly would), so it’s nice that we all had a subject to collectively appreciate.

… Well, it’s not nice that we had to appreciate the examination of sexual harassment/discrimination/misogyny/insert-buzzword-here in any industry.

That’s about what you can expect here, if you’re interested in the subject.

Subjects ranged from women being pressured in professional eSports, the distinct lack of females in game production (only occupying about 10 percent of the industry), the day-to-day harassment in the voice chats of games like Call of Duty, and more large-scale harassment public scandals like Gamergate.

Though Gamergate was a smaller subject, as the major example of harassment highlighted was Aris Bakhtanians’ treatment of Miranda Pakozdi on a livestream marketing campaign for Street Fighter x Tekken in 2012.

I wasn’t privy to that particular story prior to the documentary, but luckily journalists like Jason Schreier have always done their jobs well.

It’s crazy stuff, but not that crazy. Which is an unfortunate takeaway of the documentary to me.

When interviewees shared and even read out examples of terrible rape- and death-threat filled messages they’d received while gaming, my mom and sister seemed pretty shocked.

And yeah, there was some pretty graphic and intense shit read out.

Yet I’ve been gaming for a long time and saw the proliferated multiplayer days of Halo 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on the Xbox 360 — before I refused to fix my broken console to spite my friends for some ultimately forgotten comment that annoyed me.

I’ve seen that kind of stuff happen, and I have a lot of female friends who play video games that have similar stories to tell.

So I can’t say I was surprised by anything in the documentary.

Which is unfortunate in itself, but the reality of the situation.

However, it’s not a reality that everyone knows about as multiple subjects remarked. The fact that such a well-composed and thorough documentary exists is great in that regard.

I’d definitely recommend watching it for that reason: More awareness is never a bad thing — even if it might put you back $5 for the day.

Especially given some interesting ideas fielded, such as hoping that encouraging more women to get involved at all levels would cause the toxicity to recess. It’s much harder to attack a woman if there are eight in the voice chat than if there’s only one or two.

But that’s enough of me sucking the oxygen out of the room.

I watched a documentary about treatment of women with a couple women, so it only seems right to let them have the last words.


Dara’s Corner:

I’ve always been aware of misogyny and how it is used in the video game industry. However, I was not prepared for how deeply pervasive it really was portrayed in this documentary. It think a lot of the problem stems from the anonymity allowed, and like my husband says, “on the internet, no one knows you are a dog…”


(And Introducing) Aly’s Corner:

Yayyy I finally get one of these! I walked into watching this thinking I’d be bored out of my mind, but it was actually super well done and intriguing for me. I never really considered myself a gamer, mostly because I can’t just sit down and spend hours finishing a game (Jason can attest to that), but the treatment that women in gaming go through is everywhere in society, and it’s kinda scary to see.

Gobble gobble, shinobi

Gobble gobble, shinobi

Alright, let’s do this one last time.

I don’t have a long post today, just wanted to slip something in while spending the afternoon with my friends.

Today’s is a relatively small gathering. Me, my buds Juan and Mitchell, plus this surprise guest:

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Squirrel?

Everyone else is either not on Spring Break or has work/family commitments, so we’ll have to bring this wall-crawling rodent into the fold.

Even if they are in a terrible resolution thanks to all of that light glare from a different house.

I just hope that little guy likes shitty movies and video games — pretty much the only things on the menu.

See, first thing we did upon gathering was watch a particularly terrible movie on the vague recommendation of that James A. Janisse I talked all about yesterday.

An $3,500 independent comedy horror film from 2009 called ThanksKilling.

It’s a gloriously fun and terrible movie to watch with friends. However, I can’t recommend it to everyone because it is very raunchy and off-color.

There’s a good few slurs thrown around and some nudity.

But the killer turkey really does steal the show with his fowl-mouthed one-liners. Literally the first line in the movie is him telling a half-naked pilgrim from the 1600s that she has nice breasts.

In a far more graphic way that I’d rather not write in my little personal blog.

If you’re cool with stuff like that and want to just see a hilariously bad low-budget movie, I would recommend it.

Since leaving the engrossing world of ThanksKilling, we’ve transitioned to video games.

First Juan showed us a little bit of his prowess at Devil May Cry 5:

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Don’te might cry?

And then we’ve begun a journey into Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

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Captured in bad lighting for… Dark shinobi reasons. Let’s go with that.

The latter game I’ve been interested in checking out since watching Dunkey’s video (which spoils a particularly wicked boss fight). It’s cool to see it from the beginning now that we resolved some technical issues on Juan’s laptop.

I’m not in control for the most part, so I can’t imagine I’ll absorb enough to talk about the game in any extended capacity. Unlike that Shantae review I keep putting off.

All-and-all, this is just a nice break from the internship hours I’ve been racking up over Spring Break, and one of the last times I’ll get to see my friends before summer kicks off.

So with that being said, I’m going to wrap this up and get back to that.

Tomorrow I will return and presumably have something a little more substantial. I hope.

A video series to die for

A video series to die for

I can’t remember the last time I was so productive.

After a long night’s sleep, I got up early today and went to the gym. Then I came home, showered and made myself breakfast:

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Eggs AND bacon? Wild.

I don’t even know who I am anymore.

After all that, I also went ahead and kicked off my work for the day. Mostly sending out emails to various sources.

It’s the least I could do after wasting most of yesterday thinking too hard about Wacky Races. I love the post, but boy did I spend way too much time writing it.

Naturally that means it’s time to waste more time blog writing. Gotta finish what I started.

I’m always on the lookout for new videos and podcasts to play in the background of my life.

Those usually involve video game content (though I might have to reshuffle some mainstays after reading this stellar Kotaku article), but I also really enjoy movie-focused videos.

“Kill Count,” a new series I recently discovered by the channel Dead Meat — hosted by James A. Janisse — fits the latter.

Yet it fills a different niche than I usually focus on: Horror movies.

Specifically appreciating the often creative, over-the-top kills in horror movies. Or, as the pendulum tends to swing, also lampooning the uncreative and lazy sides of horror.

When the channel first appeared in my recommendations, I was a bit misled. I expected the videos to just be montages. A Buzzfeed-esque “top ten kills” kind of premise. Specifically my first experience was for John Carpenter’s 1982 classic The Thinga video of his I watched because I’ve been interested in the film’s practical effects recently.

But that video, and the “Kill Count” series as a whole, is much smarter.

It’s essentially a series of spoiler-laden reviews, talking about movie plots, development cycles and places in history as much as they focus on the kills.

Every video also includes a break-down of the victims in each film (showing the interesting bent toward male deaths in cinema), a specified “best” and “worst” kill distinction as well as a live bit playing on events from the movie.

However, I think one of my favorite things about “Kill Count” is how funny the series is. The videos are nearly satirical movie reviews that provide great commentary and mile-a-minute jokes.

Janisse breaks the fourth wall a lot to remind the audience that they’re watching a review for yucks more than a serious catalog of deaths.

My favorite instance was in his 2010 Predators Kill Count:

“I just do these videos to make jokes, y’all. I’m not an official dead body census taker.”

I’m in the midst of binging through his reviews of classics like the Alien movies, and they’ve been wonderful background noise while working on Gladeo pieces.

Pieces which should be published by the end of the month, as far as I’m aware. Just so you all can keep it on your calendars.

Janisse also has a podcast that I may have to be on the lookout for now that I’ve blown through The Dropout.

So that’s my recommendation for the day.

If you like horror movies, comedic takes and creative deaths, “Kill Count” is worth a watch. Just as long as you don’t mind spoilers.


Featured Image courtesy of Gaurav Shakya via Wikimedia Commons

Jordan Peele brings Us, a captivating horror/thriller/slasher experience

Jordan Peele brings Us, a captivating horror/thriller/slasher experience

I don’t typically go to the movie theatre to see horror movies.

The last time I did, I watched the Blumhouse classic Truth or Dare on a date. Horror movies peaked in that moment, and I decided I never needed to see one on the silver screen again.

Just kidding, it was a dumpster fire.

It also had nothing to do with the reason I don’t see horror movies. I’m just a baby when they’re done right.

But I loved Jordan Peele’s Get Out, so when Us was coming out and my friends Juan and Nina were interested, the perfect opportunity to support this great filmmaker arrived.

Before I jump into the movie, I’ll briefly address the elephant in the room: I had an awful experience watching Us. Won’t go into too much detail because you can read through my angry Twitter thread.

I just think it’s worth mentioning because I enjoyed this movie, especially talking with my friends about it on our drive home, but I wasn’t as enthralled as I could have been.

That said, there’s plenty of objective things I can say about this movie.

Us follows the Wilson family — Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), Gabe (Winston Duke), Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) — as they vacation in Santa Cruz. Adelaide’s nerves get the best of her as she recalls coming across a doppelgänger of herself at the boardwalk’s hall of mirrors over thirty years earlier.

Her fears are justified when a family of doppelgängers, each deformed and known as the Tethered, arrive to torment and kill them.

There isn’t a whole lot else I can say without spoiling the film, yet there are a couple of major plot beats that I feel are worth addressing. Some of you may consider them minor spoilers.

Fair warning.

Most notably that compared to Get Out, Jordan Peele’s newest movie is a bit more predictable. If you’re anything like my friend Jonathan, you can probably guess the explanation why evil clones suddenly arrive.

That being said, the way the story is handled completely supersedes that complaint. Peele’s world and characters are so engrossing that you almost don’t care why the Tethered have arrived until it’s explained.

Even with the explanations given, there’s a decent amount of mystery left on the table to keep viewers mulling over questions. That’s clearly the intent.

It doesn’t matter why certain things happen so much as it matters that things are happening and the characters need to deal with them.

It’s great that Peele has created such an interesting scenario that you want to know more after the movie cuts to black, but you don’t NEED to know more to enjoy it.

Beyond this mysterious lore, Us has two other major draws: The cinematography and the acting.

From the opening scene of a young Adelaide wandering the hall of mirrors on the Santa Cruz boardwalk, it’s clear that Us is a marvel to watch. Tension mounts immediately just trying to figure out which girl (and which exit sign) is real.

There are scenes all over the movie that stick with me. From Nyong’o’s Tethered character Red slamming Adelaide’s face into a glass table, leaving her reflection shattered, to the first reveal of Tethered outside the Wilson family in a gruesome scene.

This movie is more of a slasher flick than a horror/thriller at times, and it handily capitalizes on all of the blood-gurgling imagery and sound effects you’d expect.

However, arguably the best scene comes toward the end, where Nyong’o’s bug-eyed, Tethered face is large in the foreground as the grounded regular version is creeping up with a fireplace poker.

It’s gorgeous to watch, and highlights just how amazing Nyong’o is in the movie.

Every actor plays two roles. A normal, quirky human and their scarred, primal Tethered counterpart.

Besides perhaps Alex at times (who I would give a pass being the youngest actor in the movie), everyone nails playing the duel versions of themselves — in some ways completely alien, but in more ways amplifications of each other’s good or bad sides. I particularly liked how Duke captured a hulking, imposing monster of a man and a crippled, goofy family man.

Yet nobody plays like Lupita Nyong’o.

I’ll frankly be upset if she doesn’t at least get a Best Actress nod for this. Nyong’o became a real powerhouse to me with Us, much like Daniel Kaluuya after Get Out.

Hers is the only Tethered that speaks, and every word comes out hoarse as she struggles to talk. It’s a bone-chilling performance, especially combined with her rigid, mechanical mannerisms.

The fact that she plays that intensity against a normal, terrified version of herself makes it stand out that much more.

A lot more of my negatives with this movie come from my viewer experience — laughter at inappropriate, tense moments and Instagram glowing two rows ahead does not mesh with suspenseful horror. So it’s hard to tell what parts I didn’t like for the movie or for the audience.

But I can absolutely say what I enjoyed about Us, even if I’d like to see it again. The cinematography is great, the acting is amazing and any sort of plot hole or missing lore just serves to create a captivating and mysterious experience.

I’m certainly still thinking about ideas the movie posed, and how some reveals completely re-contextualize the movie — one of my favorite things in film.

And that’s not to say anything about the killer Bernard Herrmann-esque score by Michael Abels.

Us is a great movie, and a wonderful second showing for Peele. I would highly recommend it (even if you wait to see it in the dark at home).

Yet it offered one thing more shocking than anything else:

How the hell did Jordan Peele context switch between directing such a suspenseful, deep horror film and goofy high jinx voice acting for Toy Story 4?

The man truly is an enigma.


Featured Image courtesy of IMDB

Captain Marvel is an excellent, if flawed, lynchpin for the MCU

Captain Marvel is an excellent, if flawed, lynchpin for the MCU

So, guess who just saw Captain Marvel? The movie which Meninism Magazine voted worst blight on masculinity since Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters.

I kid. Any relation to real-life absurdist magazines or misogynistic straw polls is purely coincidental.

It’s just hilarious to me how reactionary the hate for this movie has been leading up to its release.

But that’s neither here nor there. I’m not here to make political statements.

I’m here to review a Marvel movie.

As a general disclaimer, I wasn’t excited for Captain Marvel like I was for Infinity War.

Not because of the aforementioned testosterone backlash — though I’ll admit some of the film’s advertising seemed a little too determined to prod that tiger.

I just happen to know next to nothing about Carol Danvers, so it was going to take a lot to convince me she is the Avenger’s one true hope.

Luckily, the experience was more fun than I expected and proved the heroine’s place in this narrative.

Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson as “Vers,” an amnesiac member of the Kree Empire’s armada of intergalactic warrior-heroes locked in conflict with a shapeshifting race of alien terrorists called the Skrull.

Vers has visions of a human life as Air Force pilot Carol Danvers, and winds up on Earth before her untrustworthy narrative is resolved.

There she must sort out her fractured past, flush out the invading alien threat and have buddy cop adventures with Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury — over ten years before he starts the Avenger’s Initiative in 2008’s Iron Man.

The movie starts strong by putting the clichéd complexities of an “amnesiac protagonist” on the back burner for an in media res emphasis of the living world in Marvel’s deep space, similar to Guardians of the Galaxy.

But when things got to Earth, I became concerned.

The burst of mid-90s nostalgia pandering — complete with a Blockbuster video and Stan Lee cameo rehearsing for his appearance in 1995’s Mallrats — is fun and gives Larson a quirky “fish out of water” bit reminiscent of Wonder Woman.

I imagine it’s not uncommon to levy comparisons to DC’s female-led superhero film, but I think the better comparison is with Solo: A Star Wars Story.

My least favorite part of that origin story was the way it condensed every bit of information you know about the character’s past into the span of a week. It was blatantly referential rather than clever and story-driven, weakening Han Solo as a character.

When Captain Marvel introduces Nick Fury, dropping bits and pieces of recognizable information for MCU veterans to say,

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I was afraid the film would fall into the same trappings of timeline condensation.

However, it handles itself far more tactfully, and instead ties huge loose ends of a decade-long story into succinct bows. It’s, dare I say, a marvel how well Captain Marvel stands as the “inciting incident” for the rest of the MCU.

The final product is not my favorite Marvel film as an overall experience. But the wonderful cast helps solidify the movie’s place.

Jackson is a stellar second lead. His interactions with Larson, Carol’s best friend Maria (played by Lashana Lynch in a performance that stood out despite a late entrance) and the kitty Goose were solid cinematic glue.

I have to give extra props to the effects department for selling a de-aged Jackson so well over almost two hours.

The alien races’ full-makeup and costumes also worked, with Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) each nailing their roles as Kree and Skrull commanders respectively.

Thanks to them, the “alien war” serving as Captain Marvel‘s crux was far more interesting than I expected based on YouTube think pieces setting up certain Avengers as confederates due to the Skrull’s infamy in comics.

The movie also benefitted from being smaller in scale than I expected.

Everything was very interpersonal, only briefly referencing “world threatening” stakes that most superhero movies rely on. As an added bonus, this made the effects more contained, befitting plot and action where needed.

But of course, there’s the lead. Brie Larson is charming and wonderful as the kick-ass, witty, and snarky hero who growls at aliens and doesn’t need to prove herself to anyone.

I had a few smaller gripes with her character, such as the only injury she ever suffered being a bloody nose (mostly to contribute to her mysterious past) and the forced reliance on amnesia tropes as a whole.

Though that’s more on the screenplay than her performance.

It’s also worth mentioning one of my Dad’s complaints with the film: She very quickly accepts a sudden shift in perspective on [Spoilers]. That, in turn, feeds my own issue that after the character development, her powers seemed incredibly vast considering their somewhat modest origins.

That said, an action set piece at the end of the movie makes great use of visuals to show her strength and definitely sold Captain Marvel as a powerful ally in the upcoming second fight against Thanos.

The film’s score also offered some distinct positives. It relied more heavily on variations of the main theme than a glut of pop songs (like Guardians), and there was a stand out moment where Western vibes took over the melody during a one-on-one confrontation in the desert.

So that, in a nutshell, is Captain Marvel.

A solid enough Marvel flick that perhaps falters most in its primary storyline’s reliance on amnesiac origin story clichés, but makes up for it with beyond excellent world building, special effects befitting a more personal adventure (that really only got wonky once or twice) and a top-notch cast.

All playing second fiddle to the cutest cat ever committed to film.

After Captain Marvel, I’m very ready for Endgame to hurry up and hit theaters, because if the mid-credit stinger was any indication, it should be a wild ride.


Featured Image courtesy of IMDb

My Grandpa is Into the Spider-Verse

Broke away from my homework long enough today to venture into the wild, rainy yonder so I could spend some time with the family.

Not the usual suspects though.

No, today I went out to the movies with my sister, cousins Josh and Erica, as well as our collective Grandpa Joe!

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Ain’t we the cutest?

After all the unexpected chaos of Grandma Rhea last weekend, we decided it would be a good idea to spend a bit more time with the big lug. Get him out of the home, have some fun.

So we took him out to the movies, and lunch soon after!

As the cheeky, self-reference headline suggests, we all watched Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. For Josh and I, it was a repeat viewing. For the rest it was a first.

I’m sure a lot of you will remember that I fricken adored that movie the first time I caught it.

Pleased to report that I liked it just as much, if not more, on the second go.

However, I imagine the more pertinent question on your mind is how my Grandpa felt.

Well… The reaction I got after the movie ended was, “It was alright. But I wouldn’t see it again.”

I can’t blame him. There’s a whole lot of action and visual overload throughout the film for an 87-year-old.

Granted I’m not sure it matters, all things being equal. The important part is he had a great time being out with us, especially at Johnathan J. Rockets afterward where we could chat and eat.

Might not know who his favorite spider-person was, but I’m still glad to have shared one of my favorite recent movies with him.

Grandpa wasn’t the only one seeing Spider-Verse for the first time, however. Alyson and Erica both seemed to love it, and I’m definitely looking forward to doing this gag on repeat.

For my money, the movie stayed fresh thanks to easter eggs and foreshadowing moments early on.

I live for that shit, and movies that do them well tend to become some of my favorites. Like Fight Club.

Except I’m not going to talk about Fight Club. It’s in the rules.

Instead I’ll use a part of this post to talk about some of my favorite moments of foreshadowing here, since they add a great dimension to the film.

If you haven’t seen Spider-Verse yet, don’t read past this point. I don’t care that it’s probably past spoiler barrier, it’s still an experience I’d recommend fresh.

That means you, Mom and Dad. Don’t be reading this next part yet.

Continue reading “My Grandpa is Into the Spider-Verse”