Tag: Queen

Under pressure

Under pressure

I told myself I wasn’t going to do this.

“It’s too cliché,” I said. “Everyone will make fun of you for capitalizing on a wave of popularity.”

But you know what? This is my blog and I can do whatever I want.

Also, I couldn’t come up with anything substantial enough to be a feasible alternative.

So. Taking inspiration from my pressure cooker as well as Queen after the music copyright lecture in my Comm Law class (a follow-up to lectures I watched this weekend), I decided to go with it.

Let’s talk about how pressure led to me not knowing what to talk about.

Yesterday I wrote about the cool things I learned from Archivist Therese Martinez during a brief visit to the Redondo Union High School Alumni House.

To be honest… I feel like I half-assed that post.

Everything I talked about is great, and I genuinely learned a lot from Therese. But I write the vast majority in ~30 minutes while sitting in the Main Branch Public Library with less than 20 percent battery.

The ticking clock of my power situation, on top of knowing it’s a topic I will return to, led to silly things like stuffing information into a slideshow.

However, in spite of my reservations about the execution, Therese loved it. So much so that (after I made adjustments to inaccurate dates), she shared the piece with Admin.

Then with the Archives’ Facebook group.

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I scratch her back, she scratches my back, I scratch hers.

Suddenly this interesting, somewhat half-assed look at historical goods in my alma mater made my dinky personal blog blow the hell up.

3:26:19 Analytics
As of 7:40 p.m., about four hours after she asked to share.

That’s pretty awesome.

Except…

I don’t know about you, but when I have a burst of popularity it comes with baggage. Most notably the desire to follow-up with something significant and not disappoint those newcomers.

I’ve been stressing over what to write for a while now.

My first inclination was to write about my recent purchase of:

HalfGenieTitle
On the Nintandoh Splorch!

There’s a bit of a story behind that purchase.

Yesterday, WayForward announced that they are on the verge of releasing the fifth game in the Shantae series — a collection of games that have been around since the Game Boy.

I adore Shantae. In my Sophomore year I binged the first three games on my 3DS after finding the fourth on Kickstarter. Mostly while waiting for my history class with Dr. Paulo Simoes.

However I never got around to playing Half-Genie Hero when it came out because money.

So Shantae 5 was announced, and guess what I found out next:

It truly was a dangerously effective strategy.

That seemed like the perfect opportunity to write something about my adoration of video games.

Open-and-shut case for a blog post. Right?

Well… It would have been. If I had any time to play the game beyond the title screen. But I haven’t, and probably won’t until Spring Break.

Hold that thought. I’ll probably have a review of the game sometime soon.

With that struck down, it was onto idea #2: Honors Project stuff.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m writing a fantasy genre subversion novel for my big Senior Project — the equivalent of a thesis for the University Honors Program.

One of my favorite pieces of side-content for the project has been my world map.

You know the kind. Those continent overviews you see at the beginning of Tolkien books.

I wrote a whole long post all about my adventure in mapmaking this semester, so you can read that to catch up.

The important thing is that I’ve continued to make adjustments to my novel’s continent Drocux in the weeks since. Namely adding names to every location, but also adding details like rivers and roads for more realistic topography:

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HexTML continues to serve me well, and it has been fun writing out lore to explain outlandish names (such as the Xilbalar Canyon above being named after a prominent Elven activist).

But I’m still adding new ideas almost every day, and if I’m going to deep dive into my EXTENSIVE LORE, I would like to do so with the complete product.

Thus, two ideas have been struck down.

And I couldn’t come up with a decent third.

By the time I combed through possibilities, I was home and had my magical encounter with the InstaPot in my Featured Image.

The rest, as they say, was history.

Hopefully you newcomers don’t feel like this was a waste of time — or get too annoyed at my somewhat blatant attempt to throw a lot of my old posts at you. All I needed to add was something about my journalism awards to give the full flavor of Jason.

Speaking of, tomorrow I’ll probably have a more serious post about the next Society of Professional Journalists meeting.

Assuming I don’t change my mind, I’ll look forward to possibly seeing you there.

The Umbrella Academy precipitates to the top

The Umbrella Academy precipitates to the top

I don’t talk about seasons of television very often when reviewing things. More self-contained projects like movies tend to be easier to watch and digest, in my experience.

But it has been a while since I’ve seen a binge-watchable show that hit me quite as hard as The Umbrella Academy.

So much so that I forewent writing anything last night to finishing the series. Then felt enough of a high that I went out of my way to Tweet Netflix directly after midnight:

Still haven’t gotten a reply, but hopeful nonetheless.

I can’t promise this will be an entirely spoiler-free review. I won’t give away grandiose plot details, but character arcs or smaller cliffhangers from individual episodes might slip through. I don’t have a lot of experience writing about binge-worthy television yet, so not sure if that’s standard procedure.

If you just want the brief review I gave to my old advisor Mitch Ziegler today after judging a write-off competition: Go watch the show.

It’s a quirky, interesting take on the superhero genre from Dark Horse Comics, which has a style more reminiscent of The Addams Family than Iron Man.

I was clambering for more as soon as it ended, which is about as big a compliment to the ten-episode Netflix original I can offer.

More spoiler-y, deeper thoughts ahead.

When you succeed in making Ellen Page the relatively “normal” girl in your ensemble, you know you’ve succeeded in creating a fascinatingly strange world.

The show (and comic, though there are some plot differences) creates a world where 43 children were miraculously conceived and birthed one day in 1989. Seven of whom were adopted by a man who combines superhero family patriarch of Professor Xavier from the X-Men and strange eccentricities of Count Olaf from the A Series of Unfortunate Events books.

It’s never really elaborated on whether the other 36 children have superpowers, but they really don’t matter.

The Umbrella Academy quickly veers away from the cliché serialized superhero gathering the premise almost preassumes to focus on those seven children once they’ve grown up. All in some way broken by their odd abilities and idiosyncrasies wrought by a calloused, distant father.

Every character becomes a great case study on their own, while also bouncing off one another well.

Except perhaps for Ben (Justin Min), who died prior to the series and comes into play as a foil for Klaus (Robert Sheehan), whose powers allow him to see and speak to the dead.

Klaus’ character is actually a fantastic generalization for the series.

During the first episode, I found him repugnant. To stave off the screams of the dead he’s haunted by, Klaus has become a near-useless junkie. Most of that episode features him bumming around the Academy half-naked, stealing their now-deceased father’s antiques to sell for drugs.

It’s an archetype which is played up to the point of nausea. A lot of the first episode is somewhat nauseating, with seven stereotypically quirky characters (the shamed Hollywood actress, the stoic leader, the hardened Nightwing-esque vigilante, etc.) being introduced alongside a whole host of plot points.

But as the show gets past that first bout of exposition, all the characters warm up.

Klaus, for instance, has a phenomenal scene with his brother Five (just “Number Five.” I promise it isn’t that weird) trying to get information out of a prosthetics lab. It plays the extreme bluntness of someone numb to the world in a very funny way.

Then Klaus goes through a harrowing experience which leads to him sobering up, and in the process he became my favorite character.

Or he would have, if Aidan Gallagher didn’t absolutely blow everyone else out of the water as Number Five.

Five can teleport to different points in space, and eventually learns how to teleport through time as well. In the process, he gets himself stuck in a desolate future.

When he returns to the past, the time travel reverts him back into a 13-year-old boy, just with all the experiences of a near 60-year-old man.

Gallagher brings a fantastic dry wit to the character, and his 50+ years of combat experience combined with teleportation makes every action scene with Five a visual marvel.

For someone who has only had roles on Nickelodeon sitcoms before, I was shocked by how hard he hit the ground running. Even while talking to a mannequin.

All of that said and I still haven’t touched on four of the siblings — one of which is portrayed by Ellen Page, who deservedly gets the lead credit as a straight man character who glues her wacky family together and has one of the better overall arcs.

Then there are the villains, Hazel and Cha-Cha (Cameron Britton and Mary Blige), who are at once intimidating antagonists and compelling, sympathetic characters.

While I adored The Umbrella Academy‘s characters, the show had a lot more to offer.

It’s an incredibly dark, surreal take on a superhero story. Think of the semi-dysfunctional but ultimately loving family dynamic of The Incredibles set in a My Chemical Romance music video — a sensible comparison.

The killer soundtrack is well-utilized, with songs ranging from Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” to They Might Be Giants’ “Istanbul,” alongside The Sex Pistols, Radiohead and more. Plus some solid standalone tracks.

A lot of the visual effects also stand up quite well in a world glut with high-budget superhero stories. Most everything in the set design feels practical, and the display of powers — teleportation, conjuring ghosts, etc. — occurs infrequently enough to feel rich and well-produced.

Only in the last episode is there a traditionally high-octane effects show that is over-the-top, but fittingly so with how much it was built up.

Honestly, I’m not sure what else I could say about this show without my little review devolving into relentless gushing. If I had one substantial complaint, I would have liked to see more of the children flashback scenes. The older character studies are great, but a series featuring the cocky kids stopping crimes would be really fun.

Despite that, The Umbrella Academy is a very solidly acted, well-produced series with enough of a dark, cynical sensability to keep even the most exhausted of superhero media fans engaged.

I’ll just be here waiting for season 2 to come out. If you’ve heeded my advice, hopefully you’ll be right there too.


Featured Image courtesy of IMDb.

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