Tag: Avengers

Commitment to unexpected storytelling

Commitment to unexpected storytelling

I was planning on writing a different blog post today, but this caught me so off-guard that I had to talk about it.

Since the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in December, I’ve become a fan of YouTuber Alpharad thanks to his Ultimate Level 9 CPU Tournament video.

The premise was simple: Throw a bunch of computers onto a tournament bracket and watch them fight. Alpharad and a few friends commentated the matches, providing insights into actual competitive strategies and general comedy.

It was fun and apparently so popular that he would have been a fool not to do more.

From there I got into a few more series. Mostly other Smash-related videos like ranking all of X elements or “Stage Builder was a Mistake.”

The guy is also a fan of Mudkips and Shantae, so it’s hard not to like him!

However, the CPU tournaments were clearly Alpharad’s bread and butter.

Over time they grew into more than just a showcase of computer intelligence. Jokes about certain fighters repeated to the point of giving them distinct personalities. Then came clever brand integrations by having his video sponsors “sponsor” the winners of previous tournaments like they were sport stars proving themselves.

Sure some of those deals were a little cheeky, like having an Incineroar sponsored by the eSports team Panda Global where he serves as creative director

But still a clever idea.

Then the series grew further. Original characters were added via Mii Fighters that developed entire plot threads cleverly delivered by commentators on the spot.

I’m not sure how much was pre-planned or improvised based on genuine tournament results, but either way it was impressive to see a cohesive narrative emerge that culminated in an “Endgame” duel between light and dark.

Released two days after the newest Avengers movie.

Perfect SEO.

After a few months hiatus, the series returned with noticeable differences.

In the lore, two years had passed. Thus, much of the first episode was spent doling out exposition about what had changed — from new Mii Fighters to the off-screen reigns of joke characters like Rosalina.

What stood out most about this structured direction is how much more planning and effort clearly went into the season’s pre-production. Everything down to anime-inspired intros that are just cringe enough to be great.

Whereas the first era of the CPUCS emerged from completely different roots and had to develop into something more, the second era is immediately running with the aftermath and presenting more foreshadowing for underlying story bits.

That was exhibited magnificently for me in the episode uploaded just today.

After the time skip, a Mii Fighter called “The Agent” appeared. She was understated because she didn’t make it very far, but in the second episode she came back.

Again she lost, but this time Alpharad ended the match by suggesting she would be writing about this on her blog. Then he quickly read off a url.

I was willing to wave that off as a joke, but part of me was curious to know whether it was real.

Agent Naomi Winters’ blog is absolutely 100 percent real.

And probably made with Squarespace. Because sponsorship.

We live in a world of digital marketing, so creating websites or social media accounts to help promote a fictional story isn’t anything new.

In fact, Ryan Hollinger has a great video about the effective use of external marketing sources by Cloverfield (and not Snakes on a Plane).

Yet I felt like this guy when I discovered that the blog not only exists, but has been used since May to create a more lived-in environment:

Screen Shot 2019-06-23 at 1.59.24 PM.png

I too am now a big fan of Agent Naomi.

For what many would write off as a silly YouTube series about Smash Ultimate where cashing in is easy because no human interactions are needed for gameplay, this is an awesome bit of committed world building.

It shows how much Alpharad genuinely cares, and I can respect the hell out of that.

So if I haven’t convinced you yet, go watch the CPUCS.

I swear it’s more than just your average Smash Bros. series if you stick by it.

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”

Truly wacky

Truly wacky

I was planning on taking today to write about a new YouTube series I’ve come to love.

However, that’s on the back-burner after I discovered something more wacky to discuss from a more traditional visual medium.

I’m not blind to the fact that the 2010’s media landscape is a minefield of reboots, remakes and sequels.

Properties that aren’t based on comic books or old television and movies struggle to break into blockbuster budget range. Just look at this line-up for remakes and reboots in 2019, which doesn’t include the glut of tentpole cinematic sequels.

From The Walt Disney Company alone we have Avengers: Endgame, Star Wars Episode 9, Frozen 2and now X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

I wager this proliferation of content comes largely from two areas.

Firstly, Internet remix culture. This 2015 Tech Crunch piece elaborates further, but in essence the Internet has created a people interested in re-consuming the same ideas with transformed variations and assimilated elements.

If the blanket of ‘memes’ don’t cover that idea in a personal enough manner, I’m in the process of writing a book that’s essentially just assimilating other fantasy genre properties.

There are no new ideas.

The second cause is the success of recognizable brands. Remakes are safer investments for studios than novel properties, as general audiences are more likely to pay for a movie featuring iconography they know and love.

It’s a phenomenon you see way before 2019 in all sorts of entertainment mediums.

So to reiterate: Content generally does better if it has an established name and does something to re-contextualize old idea.

Now, with all that said…

Who the fuck decided it was a good idea to bring Wacky Races back?

1968 vs. 2017

I discovered the 1968 Hanna-Barbera cartoon’s 2017 reboot while watching Cartoon Network’s IP graveyard Boomerang with my Mom this afternoon.

My two-year late discovery of the show might be a bad sign. But to be fair, I’m not as avid a Cartoon Network viewer as I was in the 2000s.

Considering the show has two seasons, perhaps it’s popularity in circles I don’t frequent.

Wacky_Races_-_The_Creepy_Coupe
The Creepy Coupe [1]
Based on the two episodes I watched with morbid curiosity, I can’t imagine that’s the case.

It has a quickly cobbled together, rubbery and unappealing visual style akin to later seasons of Johnny Test (a show I enjoyed before its decade run gave way to factory-churned quality).

The show also has weird tonal inconsistencies. The original was true to its name, as every episode was a different wacky race with bizarre stipulations.

In the first episode of the 2017 series I watched, there was a wacky race in which the original Dastardly returned, suggesting less of a reboot and more of a continuation.

The next episode was in space, and wacky racers were now garbage collectors. For no explained reason. Even though they kept their individualized get-ups, there were no races.

A good sign for a show called “Wacky Races.”

800px-Wacky_Races_-_Army_Surplus_Special
The Army Surplus Special [2]
That said, the show’s character designs are visually appealing and the theme song is iterated upon well for a decent soundtrack.

But these are elements lifted directly from the old series, and the 2017 characters are paper-thin archetypes at best that rely on forced, surrealist humor and returning elements like Muttley’s snickering that are somehow both referential and current, all-encompassing character traits.

I’m willing to bet the pitch for the show was simply bringing that iconic laugh back into mainstream consciousness.

One thing that stood out in my viewing: I’m not sure what audience this reboot is targeting. Its simplicity is bland even for a younger Cartoon Network demographic, but there is a heavy leaning on dated references for fans of the ’68 version.

For example: In the spacefaring episode, Dastardly pretends to be Space Ghost so he can sneak onto the garbage collecting ship.

This joke was actually the catalyst for my post, because… Really? Space Ghost?

I know Adult Swim and Channel Chasers kept him relevant well beyond his shelf life, but what kid in 2019 is going to know what Space Ghost was?

In fact, this lazily executed “fellow 60’s cartoon” reference raises more questions. Why would these characters know who Space Ghost is if, as the other episode suggested, they are the grandchildren of the original Wacky Racers?

Full disclosure, I know I’m overthinking things. But when your show is so dull that this is all I can think about, there’s something wrong.

Wacky_Races_-_The_Mean_Machine
The Mean Machine [3]
Frankly this whole post probably seems like needlessly overthinking children’s entertainment. Why does Wacky Races matter as much as I seem to suggest?

The thing is… It doesn’t. Which is kind of the point.

I have fond memories watching re-runs of the 1968 show, but I’m under no delusion that it was perfect television.

Wacky Races suffered from the same budget shortcuts of endless animation loops and recycling story ideas as The Flintstones and other serialized Hanna-Barbara cartoons in its mold.

They were flawed, but incredibly important and popular parts of animation history.

The YouTuber Saberspark has a wonderful series on the rise-and-fall of different animation companies, and recently featured Hanna-Barbara.

It’s a great tribute, but perhaps it primed me to quickly perceive this reboot as a lazy cash grab. The kind of product that retroactively degrades a show’s popular perception, or even dissuades a consumer from seeking the original they may be unaware exists.

But to be honest, Wacky Races (2017) could just as easily be a catalyst for curious youngsters to seek out the original piece of animation history.

I would hope such a mediocre reboot at least succeeds in keeping its predecessor alive.


Featured Image, as well as [1], [2] and [3] courtesy of big-ashb via Wikimedia Commons

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,

img_2302-1

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

That owl sure was superb

That owl sure was superb

Gotta ride that SEO wave, am I right?

I kid of course. Out of all the blog posts I’ve ever written, a football-related piece is far from the one I’m looking to blow out of the park.

It just so happens that the only thing I’ve done today beyond researching history for my novel is watch the Superb Owl. So as much as I could care less about football, it might as well serve some kind of grander purpose.

Even though that grander purpose was definitely not to get me more invested in the sport.

Because hoo boy, I’m not a fan and even I could tell that Super Bowl 53 was lame.

The game was tied up 3 – 3 from field goals alone until the fourth quarter. There the Patriots scored the first touchdown of the game and a subsequent second field goal to end things 13 – 3.

As much as I couldn’t care less, at the very least I figured I should root for the Rams considering they’re a Los Angeles team. It’s just too bad they lost after an excruciatingly boring game.

The commercials weren’t even that special, making it so the one reprieve from sportball didn’t balance out the boring game.

Probably the best spots were the brief Avengers: Endgame trailer right before the game started, the Bud Light commercial that turned out to be an ad for Game of Thrones in disguise (gotta give HBO a shout out for that majesty) and the Washington Post ad narrated by Tom Hanks toward the end.

As someone going into journalism I figure I should be happy about them spreading the good word, even if I do think it was a weird promotional gimmick with a whole story about the fact that they put out an ad in the first place?

But you know what. I’m at least a friendly acquaintance with Gene Park, who does social media stuff for the Washington Post, so I won’t complain about his business.

He’s very worth a follow. Just saying.

So okay. The game sucked. The ads sucked. What about the Maroon 5 halftime show? That had to be something good, right?

After all, the NFL was planning to do good on a petition for “Sweet Victory” from the Spongebob Squarepants episode “Band Geeks” to be played in honor of Stephen Hillenburg dying a few months ago.

They couldn’t have messed that up, right?

Well…

Let’s just say the concept was much better than the delivery.

Even I got in on the fun with my own hot take:

If anything, I suppose this was my favorite part of the Superb Owl this year. Never before have I been ‘invested’ in the game enough to watch it carefully and follow the Twitter reactions as a result.

We’re going to talk about it this week in my Gaming class, so I figured I should pay attention.

Seeing the Internet lose its mind over the Spongebob debacle and a select number of commercials was more fun than I’ve had on social media in a long time.

However, that wasn’t the most fun thing about the game.

That honor, of course, had to go to the feast:

IMG_1967

After a rough weekend, it was nice to take a little time to relax and pig out with lots of junk food.

Even if I’ll definitely have to hit the gym a few times this week to make up for it.

So anyway, that’s my sport-related content quota for the year. Anything else from here on out is pure overtime. Look forward to maybe that!


Featured Image courtesy of Paul Sableman via Wikimedia Commons

Balance is key

Balance is key

As promised earlier, my time to go radio silent for finals has come and (hopefully) gone. This weekend was just a bit too full of work for me to spend extra time coming up with blog post topics.

That said, it was a very productive weekend! I finished my nine page paper for Evolution and Creation:

Which considering how much I was dreading the assignment, the fact that I banged it out in a day or two was wonderful — and I got a lovely talking point out of it.

Then on Sunday I took my online Visual Communications exam. Was a bit harder than I expected it to be, but still squeaked out with an 84 percent…

… That was immediately balanced out by an exceedingly curved 110 percent on Exam 2. Not sure how it happened, but it means I’ve retained a high A in the class.

I also spent time putting my study guides together for two Psych exams. One of which, Learning and Memory, is officially over and done!

I got an 82 percent, though I can’t complain because even that score retains my A in the class.

Thus, all I have left for the semester is my cumulative, non-curved Sensation and Perception exam and a presentation on my aforementioned paper.

Then I am free.

I’m going to try to do a blog post every day during finals, probably culminating with a semester-in-review sort of thing. I’ve found that having some distractions to keep the stress of exam season balanced out has been especially helpful during this semester’s class cycle.

In fact, the rest of this post will be talking about the media I consumed this weekend to break up all of my studying and writing woes. Hence the Thanos reference: Studying and fun in perfect harmony.

I have TV, Movie and Video Game stuff to talk about, so it should be (mostly) fun! Plus this keeps me from the existential dread of my next exam for a wee bit longer.


Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

I want to do a full-scale post all about Smash in the early days of Winter Break, so I’ll keep things brief right now.

Ultimate has been my ‘play a few hours a night’ de-stressor, and boy have I needed that. The process of unlocking every character one-by-one was a great experience of gradually forgetting and being reminded of how many fighters there are in the game.

Yet the biggest thing to discuss (especially with online servers still being kind of trashy) is the sheer amount of love and care that went into the game’s references. The Classic and Adventure modes are a joy to play through because each fighter and Spirit has their own thing to make them unique.

Again, I’ll go more in-depth later. Though I do feel obligated to point y’all to my friend Kristina’s review in the Daily Titan that got published today, because I happened to pick it up a few minutes ago and it’s a good.


Wreck-It Ralph 2

There’s too many nice things to say about this sequel. On top of being a gorgeous piece of animation (with special accolades to the mass-character physics of a plot-relevant spoiler toward the end of the movie), Ralph Breaks the Internet presents an interesting take on the digital world that has strong characters, ever-present metaphoric theming and super tight narrative structure.

The movie also exceeds due to a rare blend of reverential and reference-filled, self-defacing humor that I would have never expected Disney to approve. Especially for the Princesses — who I’m sure you think you know everything about thanks to the ads, but I assure you are a beyond wonderful mix of fan service and commentary.

It helps that my Dad worked for Disney, so we laughed a lot at the jokes they were putting down.

If you haven’t seen Ralph Breaks the Internet, do yourself a favor. It’s not as video game-heavy as the first, but what it offers instead is just as good if not better.


Bohemian Rhapsody

Talk about a movie with a great set-up and wasted potential.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a biopic about Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, but as my Dad aptly pointed out it winds up being more of a timeline on the success of the band than it is the trials and tribulations of Mercury’s life.

Don’t get me wrong, Rami Malek is wonderful as the lead character, surprisingly so considering how used to him as a psychopathic introvert from Mr. Robot.

The rest of the cast is good too, and the cinematography is very pretty. Plus, it’s hard to go wrong with a soundtrack composed of Queen songs.

But the narrative of the film falls really flat because it glosses over so much of the potential personal drama in favor of the band’s story. I swear, there are a number of scenes missing between Mercury and his father that would make a pay-off scene toward the end that much more impactful.

Bohemian Rhapsody is far from the worst thing I’ve seen this year. It’s kind of perfectly average, disappointingly so.

But the worst thing I’ve seen this year probably goes to:


Venom

Wow. What a hot mess.

You know it’s bad when the best part of the movie is a totally irrelevant post-credit scene previewing another movie that I would have had much more fun watching.

The only thing Venom has going for it is Tom Hardy as the titular character’s host, Eddie Brock — but even then he’s given nothing to work with. Half of this movie feels like it was left on the cutting room floor. It literally meanders until a relationship between the two that had APPARENTLY been developed without us knowing about it arrives.

Then we’ve immediately got the unearned climax to hit.

The whole experience is also generally unpleasant because of clear editing issues like awkward jump cuts. Maybe if the dialogue was better and the characters were likable I wouldn’t have noticed so readily, but because we got things like this:

It was hard to stay engaged.

Venom has been beaten to death so I won’t abuse the poor horse. Instead I’ll just say… Go watch Nando V. Movies’ fix for it instead.


Big Mouth

I can’t give you all a full review of this one. I only watched a chunk of the second season with my sister, so I’m working entirely off that.

That said, Netflix’s Big Mouth is an… Interesting experience. It’s a show all about young teenagers going through life changes, with puberty given physical form as “hormone monsters” that work off of them in a variety of cliché coming-of-age scenarios.

The premise of a physical embodiment of puberty is interesting enough to work through all the clichés in what might otherwise be a typical school-age comedy — alongside a heaping helping of gross-out and mature humor. There were about as many moments where I said, “damn that’s pretty accurate” as I cringed at something uncomfortable (like most of the musical numbers).

If you think you would enjoy a Family Guy-esque adult comedy, but a little smarter and more fresh, Big Mouth is worth checking out. I’ll probably go back and finish season 1 before season 3 comes out.


Featured Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

He was #1

He was #1

Sometimes you really don’t think about how much of an impact a person has had in your life until you see that name pop up on an obituary.

That happened for me when I saw that Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of Spongebob Squarepants, passed away from ALS complications at 57 today.

Spongebob hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind for a number of years now. If anything I’ve grown to be more resentful and dismissive of the Nickelodeon classic the longer it lives in prime time, because I’m one of those snobs that loves to go on about how the old episodes were great and the new stuff is trash.

Which is objectively true. But I digress.

Just because the modern run of the show isn’t fantastic doesn’t mean the blockbuster of a series didn’t become a classic for nothing.

Almost immediately after Spongebob aired in 1999 (almost 20 years ago — yikes), he became the face of Nickelodeon. Anyone who watched the network at any point in the early aughts would recognize the yellow sponge in everything.

The show has been nominated for and won over 100 awards in its runtime according to imdb, and I would say it’s hard to find a more recognizable voice talent than Tom Kenny in the field of animation.

That sponge is everywhere in our pop culture landscape. Hell they even referenced Squidward in Avengers Infinity War.

We have Stephen Hillenburg to thank for that entry, as well as others like Rocko’s Modern Life.

As usual Variety has a pretty nice article summarizing his overall impact and past far better than I could.

My contribution comes a little more easily from talking about how much Spongebob became an ever-present part of my life without my even realizing it.

Like I mentioned, the older episodes are absolute classics in my mind. Almost word-for-word I could recite the plots that I watched repeatedly on weekend mornings.

The one where Squidward travels through time.

The magic conch shell.

The Mr. Krabs robot.

Long, tan and handsome.

The Alaskan bull worm.

The hash slinging slasher.

The imagination box.

Smitty Werbenjagermanjensen (he was #1).

And of course, my personal favorite episode: Band Geeks.

There are honestly too many to count. Almost all of them, interestingly enough, seemed to involve a number of the most famous Spongebob moments that became memes as the internet grew.

So many memes stemmed out of Spongebob episodes, it honestly feels like one crops up whenever another dies. Those kind of moments have become jokes and references that my friends still pass around to this day.

Slight topic shift. At one point in my life I tried my hands at doing sprite animation. Even went to a summer camp to learn more about the subject with my old friend Mitchell Winn.

One of the first projects I tried was recreating the football halftime scene at the end of Band Geeks using video game sprites.

That scene was so iconic to me that I wanted to capture even a glimmer of its majesty in a medium I’d almost never done anything with before. The project never went very far, but I distinctly recall using the Spriter’s Resource to cast Mario from Superstar Saga as a drummer using a drum set from the Scribblenauts series.

That’s how much of an impact the show had on me.

Just thinking about Spongebob drudged up that old part of me, which also helped me remember the Smash Bros.-themed desktop wallpapers I created.

I’ll have to see if I can find those to show them off, but that’s a post for another day.

I also couldn’t help but think about the Nicktoons Unite game I played on the DS back in the day, namely because it was the Spongebob level I could never beat.

Funnily enough when I tried to look for that game in my collection, all I was able to find were these two Spongebob games that I don’t even remember owning!

IMG_1537
This stupid little sponge was literally everywhere in my life. Seriously.

The day that I’m writing this, Nov. 27, is Giving Tuesday.

Originally I was going to write something promoting the Gladeo donation campaign, but in honor of Stephen Hillenburg I think it would only be right to point out some ALS charities for everyone to donate to.

Unfortunately I don’t know who’s reputable and who isn’t, so I’m going to default to the ALS Association. Go support them in honor of that iconic character living in a pineapple under the sea.

With all that said and done, I can’t think of a better send off for Stephen than this tweet.

Yet another man with a legacy that will live decades beyond his far too early passing. Rest in peace.


Featured Image courtesy of Carlos Cazurro via Wikimedia Commons

A post-Stan Lee world

A post-Stan Lee world

I don’t know that I had anything planned to talk about today amid a storm of homework I’ve been putting off. But once I saw this news come through, I knew there was really only one thing I could do: Pay tribute.

Within the last hour or so, rumors began to trickle around Twitter that the great Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee had died today at 95 years old.

Having seen a few celebrity death hoaxes in the past, I didn’t want to succumb to the emotions that came with that statement at first.

But once I saw the Associated Press confirm it, I has to accept the truth.

Since then I’ve honestly been walking around seemingly like a shell of my former self. Hell, I haven’t felt inspired to write a tribute in death for a celebrity since Carrie Fisher passed away, so you know this one must have hit hard.

How do you quantify the life of a man that has affected culture so much? How do you live in a world that, in its innate cold-nature’s cruelty to our mortality, will just keep moving forward in time without him?

Obviously this isn’t a “surprise” beyond the fact that it’s happening somewhat unexpectedly right now. The internet has been talking about Stan Lee’s inevitable passing for years, lamenting the possibility of the older man disappearing now that he has become a ubiquitous part of our movie-going culture if nothing else.

In fact, take a look at any of the stories that have already come out about Lee’s passing and you can tell they’ve been written and on the back burner for a long time, ready to update once the day came.

Personally I really like the piece Variety put out. It captures a lot of the good and the bad of Stan Lee’s life in a degree far better than I could as an arguably fledgling comic book fan.

To be honest, that’s kind of the craziest thing about my feelings toward Stan Lee’s death right now. I’m not even a huge comic book fan — so I can’t imagine how terrible other people must feel.

While a much younger Jason had a vague appreciation for certain comic book animated shows like Teen Titans or Batman the Animated Series (both DC properties I know, but that’s beside the point), it wasn’t until the Marvel Cinematic Universe boom began with 2008’s Iron Man that I started to steep myself in the world of comics.

Also, I guess you could count “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?” from the mid-2000s as part of my early exposure to Stan Lee. But I feel like that old show is a topic for another day.

I’ve seen almost every movie put out by the studio since their cinematic universe project began (outside of, say, Iron Man and Thor 2). Having grown into my own as an aspiring writer alongside its release schedule, I’ve come to really appreciate the way they create such an extensively connected story, one that makes me more and more excited for each entry to see where it can go next.

Sure, I know the films are somewhat formulaic and arguably predictable for anyone who knows the comics… But like I said, I don’t really. Only since the movies have grown in popularity have I personally started to research different famous comic book arcs and find YouTube channels dedicated to comic book stuff so I can educate myself on the matter, like NerdSync or Nando v. Movies.

Both of whom have also become regular parts of my life through binging their podcasts on my long commutes to-and-from CSUF.

So the Marvel movies have really been my gateway into comics. And all of them have one unifying thread.

A creative giant who has a cameo in all of them.

From what I’ve read there are a few more Stan Lee cameos pre-recorded for Captain Marvel and Avengers 4 at least, but they’ll certainly be more bittersweet than ever before.

Though not any more bittersweet than never seeing him cameo again after, even if Avengers 4 seems like as poetic an end point as they come.

Rest in peace, Stan Lee. A man who will truly live in forever in his creations.

Excelsior.


Featured Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

Script Doctoring at its finest

Script Doctoring at its finest

If I haven’t made it totally obvious around here, I like movies.

I like movies a lot. A good chunk of that love comes from my dad, who was a pretty serious actor for a while and continues to work in the movie industry, currently for Fandango as I’ve discussed in the past. Thanks to him I’ve seen all kinds of flicks from throughout cinema history.

As time has progressed, seeing movies with him (and the rest of my family by extension) has essentially become a fun exercise in script doctoring. While a ‘script doctor’ may be an actual industry term for someone who consults on a script before it is put into production, I mean it more in a post-viewing thought experiment sense. Being able to walk away from a movie and discuss what could have been done to improve upon it.

Granted there are elements of hindsight involved knowing everything that happens as a finished product rather than seeing it in its fledgling development. A development that may be plagued with other problems that lead to less than stellar end products.

But we discuss things with those points aside. We have no real qualms given that none of us have any intent to create our own movie anytime soon. It’s just fun talking about how we might have improved certain things.

Superhero movies have been an excellent source of that internal debate for the last few years. Especially thanks to the Marvel and DC cinematic universes attempting to create larger, cohesive universes. That kind of large-scale project opens up tons of opportunities to pull from previously established canon in both the comics and movies to determine what might be better ways of moving in the direction those studios are going toward.

DC movies are the obvious ‘easy target.’ You’ve probably heard all of the comments: They ruin a bunch of popular characters. They’re doing everything to catch up to Marvel in too much of a compressed timeline. The dark, gritty approach to superhero storytelling isn’t utilized well.

For the most part I can’t say I’d argue. There are plenty of recent DC movies that I thought I would love just based off trailers which wound up being disappointing. Suicide Squad and Batman V. Superman come to mind immediately.

However, there’s plenty of good things going on in the DC cinematic universe. Things that we all want to work out better in an overall context because of how iconic the characters are.

The Batman and Justice League animated series’ from the 90s/00s were huge parts of my childhood. I knew Batman and Superman and all of those characters growing up because of how iconic those shows were, given the fact that I was never much of a comic book reader.

Outside of the big characters like Spiderman or Hulk, I wouldn’t know anything about Marvel until they began their own cinematic universe. Though, to be fair, as amazing as that universe is there still are flaws. It just happens that the flaws are less noticeable due to how much is going well around them.

I would also say that the MCU has been a big thing to me because of how amazing an example it is of creating an extensive universe. Of crafting stories that all tie in together and create one giant experience.

For someone who wound up becoming a writer, it’s amazing to see.

But all of that aside, I feel like I’m getting too tangent-y with what should otherwise be a simple post. Basically, I love discussing the flaws and successes of each superhero movie with my family because of their merits as good cinema and because of the engaging universes they create.

That post-movie critique is frankly as important to me as the movies themselves.

This summer, I’ve taken those interests in post-critiques to a whole new level. My realm of consistent YouTube views has expanded into more analytical channels, rather than simply let’s plays and other video game stuff.

Some notable examples, because I’m honestly using this post as an excuse to promote these people include:

  • NerdSync — A channel focused on looking at not just obscure bits of comic book stories and trivia, but looking at them through the lens of the real world history that led to in-universe decisions. Great 10-minute watches which have taught me so much more about comics themselves that also often promote other comic book-related creators on YouTube.
  • Captain Midnight — More or less the same idea as NerdSync, examining decisions in comic books (primarily their movies) through the lens of real world decisions and general tropes surrounding them. Includes interludes on every video showing commercials and media properties from earlier decades related to modern-day cinematic counterparts that are very recognizably stylized and pretty cool.
  • Mother’s Basement — Kind of does for anime what channels like NerdSync do for comic books. Examining the problematic or successful underlying writing tropes and such which go into beloved shows. Loves to bash on Sword Art Online, which I find hilarious having never watched the show but knowing just how hated it is by anime fans.
  • Just Write — If you want to be a writer like I do, this channel is a good place to spend some time. They look at popular media (be it books, television, movies or some combination of the three) to pick apart specific traditional writing clichés or innovations. Some really notable pieces on shows like Westworld or the modern-day Star Wars trilogy that I love and have been able to use as some writing inspiration for my own novel.

These guys join a pantheon of other more analytic-focused channels that I now enjoy the catalogs of, amongst mainstays like Game Theory, Cinema Sins and Wisecrack.

None of these creators are the reason I decided to write this post in the first place, however. I found a brand new addition to this list today that really pushed me over the edge.

Nando v Movies is a channel that looks at all different movie genres (though primarily superhero flicks) through an analytical realm similar to the others I listed. Picking apart tropes and clichés to see what works and what doesn’t.

But Nando does something a little different to stand apart from the crowd.

He is, essentially, a very well-researched script doctor.

What my dad and I might do just based off knowledge of the cinematic universes we’re observing after watching a new DC movie, he does using a full breadth of comic book history to draw upon.

He quite literally acts out brand new scripts for scenes that either minutely or majorly change a film in a way that drastically changes things. I don’t think I’ve seen any videos of his that misses the mark in making both good and bad films better in some way, shape or form.

He doesn’t just look at the major cinematic universes too, though his work on lackluster DC flicks are pretty amazing. He also looks at the Marvel Netflix shows and other major blockbusters. Star Wars, Ready Player One, Jurassic World. All of which are given minor adjustments with so much heart that they feel like they could be easily canonical.

Even if he too acknowledges in part one of his Justice League rewrite that he has the benefit of hindsight and no movie-making pressure. That’s sort of where I stole my own earlier disclaimer from, as a disclaimer.

Side note, investigations and fan theories for the current Star Wars films have become some of my favorite things. Because I enjoyed the Last Jedi, but I’d almost say I enjoy fan-generated ideas for the Last Jedi better than what we got in theaters.

Now with all this said, I don’t always agree with the content of the creators I’ve mentioned here today. But I feel like that’s just as big a part of the magic behind watching them as the amazing theories and insight they’ve been able to cobble together for mediums I haven’t paid too much attention to.

The Internet, for as divisive as it can be, is an excellent place to pose ideas and invite civil debate. I love having the opportunity to compare my own ideas and headcanons to their own.

So that’s essentially my pitch for the day as I finish this post seeing I’ve somehow almost hit 1,500 words. Go out and find some analytical content for your favorite things.

It’s not only an excellent way to kill time, but an excellent way to kill it with engaging, thoughtful material.