Thursday, November 3, 2016

Doctor Strange

Hey guys, first film review I’ve written since June, 5 months ago. I believe this is the longest gap I’ve had prior to starting my blog more than six years ago; simple enough to explain why of course. The fervor of youtube production and watching SFV replays while maintaining the channel and communicating with various parties including multiple Capcom Cup participants drove my interest more than writing reviews. The movies that came out this year were also a fair amount less interesting than the ones last year, but I did see Hell or High Water (easily the best film of the year) recently and didn’t write a review for that so this isn’t a functional excuse either.

All of that said Doctor Strange is a great film, it isn’t quite Deadpool levels of excellent but within the constraints of the Marvel template it’s hard to imagine them doing much better than this. There are no less than five exceptional actors in the film and soon enough every actor who walks the earth will have a major role in Avengers 40 billion. Cumberbatch kicks ass, because he’s great in everything ever; even the much maligned Into Darkness. Tilda Swinton is alright is the immensely predictable master role (took me ~2 minutes from the start of the film to see the resolution of her plot arc), though given how much talent she shows in films such as Snowpiercer I guess this one amounts to a paycheck. 

Doc Strange himself is much like every protagonist ever in a slightly thoughtful film, that is to say a representation of myself, an eccentric, narcissistic, extremely smart person (always male, often white, usually tall and handsome etc.). Strange has an odd affiliation for being good that I find a special amount of affinity for and which doesn’t generally occur in most “genius” movies because they all take place in something resembling reality. But in this case given the expanded rule set we instead find a rather interesting philosophical point.

At multiple points in the film there is a reference to man’s own insignificance, a perception of oneself as an irrelevant speck in hundreds of millions, even billions of similar specks out there. Anyone with a mathematical mind is of course aware of this, the simple equation of 1 divided by 8 billion results in a number approaching zero for all intents and purposes; but it is interesting that this seems to be the focal motivation of the antagonist as well as what drives Doctor Strange to want to be significant even when faced with the impossibility of such a feat. Luckily with magical spells on your side this becomes less of an issue, but it would be cool to see this demonstrated in a more realistic universe where people strive for absolute power over everything to try to force the issue (though perhaps ultimately still becoming somewhat meaningless, even if the protagonist is someone absurdly impressive like Napoleon, Alexander, or Toyotomi Hideyoshi). It is very rare for a super hero movie to even imagine touching on such a complicated, difficult subject so I applaud the effort here, it shows someone intelligent was involved in the production of the film.

Doctor Strange is certainly one of the funniest Superhero films, even if the humor isn’t continuously entertaining like Deadpool or Iron Man 3, it just has very smart pseudo breaking the fourth wall type of dialogue throughout. Immediate mockery of obviously ridiculous situations makes the transition into them much easier, and once it becomes clear the “cool” moment isn’t just about bending buildings around randomly it all works much better just because the writing allows for you to accept such things. Amusingly Wong, the comic relief character de jour, actually kind of fails at being humorous; instead he’s just Captain Exposition (I must reference the excellent Spoonyreview of Avatar the Last Airbender here) and when no one is even slightly interested in MCU bullshit he has the worst lines in that regard. Oh, ahem, let me namedrop the avengers for no reason in this scene; oh you’ve heard of Infinity Stones? Let’s ham-fistedly reference those too. Yes the film is ultimately about stupid plot macguffins at its core, but you don’t need to make that completely obvious to me movie, let’s just pretend the shitty corporate mess part doesn’t exist and then we can enjoy an otherwise fantastic film.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

I’ve seen 4 Super Hero movies this year, though Deadpool sort of falls into its own category, the other 3 all have the mega conglomeration effect of doom where there’s a shitload of characters and it’s impossible to service all of them simultaneously. Batman Vs Superman had the fewest and somehow still managed to be the worst of the bunch, Captain America and X-Men both have an insane number and battle it out for the “not quite as good as Deadpool” throne. The thing with Captain America films previously is that they only had a small number of characters in them which allowed for a much different, enjoyable experience, but the new Cap is basically just Avengers 2.5, except Chris Evans is in almost every scene this time. Apocalypse has always been a super over the top megavillain so it makes some amount of sense that X-Men would try to have as many characters as humanly possible in there; additionally X-Men just works as a setting for massive numbers of characters to begin with.

So, the question is which film handles the burden better, and the answer is quite easy for me; in X-Men there are quite a few strong character moments for at least half a dozen different characters in the film, maybe more like 8-9; in Captain America there’s only like 3 or 4 even though there’s like 5 times as many characters than that in the film, so while the individual performance of Robert Downey Jr. might be the second best thing in either film (second to the mighty Fassbender, naturally) it doesn’t really make that much of a difference in the long run because there’s  just a shitload of dead weight along with him. That’s not to say X-Men doesn’t have its share of weak characters either, but the situations that they’re placed in at least work a little better and it doesn’t feel wholly manufactured. Hell X-Men actually has a fucking villain in it instead of some jackass that runs around behind the scenes because people didn’t like Age of Ultron that much.

Alright so enough of the comparison talk (mostly compensating for absent previous reviews), let’s dig a little deeper into X-Men: Apocalypse itself.  The best moments work extremely well, Magneto’s brief family life, another fucking amazing Quicksilver music montage, Wolverine straight murdering a bunch of people; but there is a fair amount of cheesiness to be had as well. Apocalypse is a really great villain for a cartoon and a pretty poor one for a film adaptation, that said I think the movie did a pretty good job of making it work, they even included “Yo this dude gets BIG!” without it being completely absurd. However there’s a lot of James McAvoy sweatily saying stuff to himself, and that kind of only works if Fassbender is involved somehow, since McAvoy is destined to be a pretty good foil for much better actors, beginning with the Last King of Scotland.

As far as the general cast of characters: Cyclops is played by the kid from Mud, Mud is the best theatrically released film from 3 years ago (in the era before Edge of Tomorrow and Mad Max) and a Palme D’or participant from 4 years ago, kid from Mud is a fantastic actor so good shit there. His older brother (?) Havoc is okay, I guess he looks like an edgy 80s cool kid or something? Seemed better than previous performances. Sansa Stark plays Jean Grey and her accent is even more weird this time, she’s not even in the same universe of attractiveness as Famke Janssen so needless to say it doesn’t work very well, apart from being a poor actress (though good for angst and still better than Daenerys). Nicholas Hoult is no longer Nux, sadness; he’s still good as Beast though. Angel is a terrible character in everything and he was vaguely passable in that role here. Nightcrawler seemed to be impersonating previous era Nightcrawler, whatever. Storm was evil for a while, so that was new; just gets way out acted by Oscar Isaac in every scene. Psylocke was around and did action stuffs, good for her. Quicksilver was absolutely great of course and Jennifer Lawrence was alright. Rose Byrne is in this movie, no fucking clue why.

Overall I liked this film a fair amount better than Captain America and it might be the best “Power of Friendship > Super Bad Guy” Superhero movie since Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s far from perfect but it does fit in rather well with the rest of the X-Men universe, which thankfully has always had a somewhat unified vision instead of just an identical template to work from like the rest of Marvel. Can Josh Brolin outdo Oscar Isaac is the question of the future, unfortunately I don’t know as much about Thalnos cartoon/comicwise so it’ll be a tougher performance to judge. I do love me some Brolin though.

Aside: Hugh Jackman has now been in 8 X-Men Movies, though he just had a (great) cameo in First Class, outclassing Robert Downey Jr.’s 6 appearances. Supposedly he’s not coming back but that seems to be a common tune for Super Hero actors. It felt like Christian Bale was Batman for an eternity but it was just 3 movies, and even the atrocious Tobey Maguire only graced our presence for a mere 3 as well.

Monday, March 14, 2016


Note: Written for Reddit so may sound weird in terms of formatting

Greetings friends, I achieved 100k kills today and gained the Platinum trophy (now in the hallowed echelons of 0.1%). I’ve been playing since the day the game came out, but instead of just mindlessly grinding out the last 55k or so kills I needed I stopped playing, anticipating an eventual PS+ release. I wasn’t aware that the PC platform was cross play so that never came to mind, and thus the waiting continued. And continued… Until one begins to question one’s sanity… Aha! At last almost a year later Sony finally caved and gave us a good PS+ game again. And so the game was fun for a time in multiplayer as more of the near release general insanity and less of the methodical efficiency reigned. Of course in remarkably short order that faded again and I was sort of wallowing in some odd boredom state, but then I realized this simple thing: Solo is fun when you’re fucking incredible at the game. Any solo or co-op game with an extremely high skill ceiling enables a sort of out of body experience where your hands and brain continue doing the motions but you consciously are simply observing yourself doing these nigh impossible feats. I’ve had this feeling before in a few different games, most recently Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, in which I was so much better at the Wolfpack mode than everyone else that I single handedly got the experience and credit gain nerfed (and shortly stopped playing thereafter, sadly the competitive multiplayer aspect was mostly ruined in Black Flag after being easily the best multiplayer experience for the entire generation for 3 games running).

But enough about that, let’s talk about me. As you may have surmised that is indeed my favorite topic. According to PSN Profiles I was the 14th Grand Lord ever to exist (used to be 2nd, I guess they demoted me in my 7-8 month AWOL period, but hey 14th sounds better), so yes in contrast to what some of you may believe I’ve been around since the dawn of Helldivers time. I was the top Illuminate player for much of the first major war and at that time being at the top of the leaderboards meant more than just sitting around sniping Enemy Master kills all day every day, you actually had to go out there and do some legwork yourself. I wrote up several tier lists around launch and they hold up reasonably well, of course not including then non-existent DLC. Back then everyone thought Justice was the greatest, of course they weren’t too bright.

For all you new guys and PC players the Illuminates used to be really fucking hard, like way harder than every other race by a factor of three or four; most enemies had almost twice as much life and the MC guys had much better tracking, did more damage, and the control switching lasted for much longer. So being the top Illuminate player was no small feat. Of course now I can just roll around with Double Freedom (which incidentally was also the best weapon against Illuminates back then, but not a single handed murder machine precluding all other stratagems like it is now) and just obliterate everything.

However somehow not playing the game for months and months made me much better against bugs while solo, that and I bought the Toxic Avenger which is just totally insane against bugs, but also a fun and dynamic weapon that’s interesting to use. Hence Bugs became almost as fun as the Illuminates, and now we have a double threat of satisfaction. As to the Cyborgs… well anyone who enjoys fighting them is obviously a communist (note I may or may not be a Marxist in real life) post the introduction of dogs.

I am not going to stop playing Helldivers entirely as I initially thought I would, the reason being there’s no other game to get that sweet euphoria of playing extremely well with no actual mental effort on my end; and games with super high skill ceilings are extremely rare. However with the release of Salt and Sanctuary tonight I’ll be focusing on that for a while, then Dark Souls 3 comes out and obviously same thing there, I spend about 5-6 hours a day screening, editing, and uploading Street Fighter V videos, and I start work (thankfully online) in April which’ll eat at least another 4 hours out of my day for 5-6 days a week. So I just don’t have much time, but I’ll try to stick around; I may for instance participate in the coming Illuminate Homeworld siege.

To the developers: Thanks for making such an incredible game with such a high skill ceiling. Make more DLC like the Avenger and less DLC like the Sickle. Hell if you had lead with the avenger I might have just bought every piece of DLC you put out (note: I may or may not have made like 5 times my investment back on Helldivers). Always backload the OP shit man, simple business strats. This is what happened to the guy who designed dogs before he designed them. Before you start work on the next game I’d recommend some personality readjustment training and/or more lobotomies. Lots more lobotomies.

Valgresas, 14th Grand Lord, Epitome of Super Earth

Sunday, February 14, 2016


When I went and saw Deadpool there were but 3 trailers, all of them of course being Super Hero movies; and there’s another 2 aside from those coming out this year, racking up the total to a whopping six. The last time a Ryan Reynolds super hero movie came out there were but four super hero movies that year and everyone was having a crisis, bubbles, crashes, Marvel will only last for a few decades et cetera. But rest assured, Marvel may be dead as a fighting game aside from periodic necromantic wizardry; but Marvel movies are eternal. If you thought they’d go away before you died, well you were wrong; as the present Marvel slate is only setup until like 2030 or something, but the continued success of these films will extend it well into 2070 or so. Stan Lee will still be alive then, of course, making cameos.

Fret not friends, for Deadpool is fantastic; and well on its way to an absurd $130 million box office total. In fucking February no less. More words that start with F. Speaking of the F Bomb there’s plenty of those in this film, the action is frenetic, the nudity is gratuitous (off by one letter, damn), and the humor is on point more or less. I don’t think I disliked a single character in the film, a rarity for such a diverse set of characters; I’m sure if I ever go see Baffleck vs Superman I’ll despise at least a good 70% of the characters, especially the ones in the art museum sequence filmed like 5 miles away from where I am.

The structure of the film is relatively curious, but is simply used as a method to introduce fourth wall breaking and then proceed to pick apart every relevant movie in Ryan Reynolds’ storied Super Hero career amidst fondling Morena Baccarin (who’s been in a preposterous number of TV shows but never starred in an A-List film as far as I know, shoutouts to Stargate SG-1, she still looks exactly the same 10 years later), shooting/stabbing bad guys, and having a comedy routine with a blind lady and a random comedian dude (both wonderful performances). The film starts in the middle, mind blowing I know. There are really only two big action sequences in the movie, one right at the start and another right at the end, so the rest is pretty much all of the above instead, e.g. actual Valentine’s Day movie stuff. Dumb Humor? Check. Smart Humor? Check. Romance? Indeed. S and M? Oh yes.

As you may have guessed the theater was packed, granted we went to the busiest theater but still it was full to the brim with 16-19 year olds. To my right was a sagely fellow passing popcorn and pop with his friend immediately in front of me, both parties fumbling (with moves that Cam Newton would admire) with it and a phone throughout the film. I rarely have any issues with the theater going populace but these two dumbasses were just a tad distracting. The smell of booze was in the air; wonderful.  The friend I went with insisted on staying through the credits so I admonished him, pointing out loudly how absurdly stupid these two gentleman surely must be, and stood up defiantly. I then came back in the theater and watched the Stinger a few minutes later and it was pretty good. The most interesting thing is that Deadpool specifically mentions throwing away your garbage, and then this mass of irascible teenagers proceeded to do so; leading me to wonder what the percentage impact such a blasé PSA could have on the populace.

Aside: I legitimately think The Hateful Eight is a funnier film than this one, however that movie Tarantino could make while he was in a Coma with no real issue; and Deadpool is just about the hardest movie imaginable to nail; especially considering the lead they cast. They absolutely crushed it. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Revenant

After a handful of delays I finally got to see the Revenant last night at a near midnight showtime. The film is about 2.5 hours long so in the twilight of the Thursday midnight opening it might be one of the last opportunities to see a theater in a completely desolate state afterward; with nary an employee in sight. This film is fascinating for a number of reasons, not the least of which being its relative basis on a factual story. There are various elements that are constructed or adjusted for the film for obvious reasons but the actual core of the story, i.e. man gets mauled by Grizzly Bear, is left for dead, then crawls for 200 miles back to civilization seeking retribution, appears to be something that actually happened.

The first part of the film is a bit longer than I was expecting, but it did give the director an opportunity to introduce the characters and have them speak actual dialogue for a while. For the majority of the film very little is actually spoken, and I think the big reason why this is Dicaprio’s best performance to date is that he didn’t have to talk much (and about half of his dialogue is in a different language). A big issue Dicaprio and many other actors have is falling into the trap of playing almost the exact same character in every movie; regardless of the design of the character itself. This isn’t the same as being typecast, it’s simply a style of acting that lacks in range. However if you totally negate that aspect and make 90% of the acting physical: groaning, gurgling, crawling, limping; then it works pretty damn well.

Visually this film is absolutely gorgeous and was almost exclusively filmed in the wilderness of Canada (where the film is largely set) in natural light settings. The innumerable difficulties that this poses have been well documented, but it is certainly a fantastic achievement in cinematography alone. There is an odd obsession with the usage of rivers in the film which makes the exact way that Dicaprio survives seem a bit specious at times; but hey it’s a really ridiculous survival story to begin with so you should be able to bend your logic circuits a bit. I did find it odd that they never addressed Hugh Glass’ broken leg/foot directly, since setting a bone is a somewhat common film device lately why not have it in the Revenant somewhere, but that’s a relatively minor quibble.

The rest of the cast is very solid, Tom Hardy’s great as you might expect considering he’s Tom Hardy. Domhnall Gleeson delivers possibly his best performance ever, though it’s more an exceptionally competent role instead of an extraordinary one. The film has no real weaknesses and is basically a mish mash of Castaway, The Grey, and No Country for Old Men; with only the final film in that list really being on par with this one. Of course I still have to answer the big question, and no the Revenant is not better than Mad Max; it’s certainly the best not Mad Max of the year though.

Aside: I saw Snowpiercer recently since for some reason the upgraded Comcast interface is basically Netflix; really fantastic movie I’d probably stick it in 3rd for 2014 tentatively, behind Edge of Tomorrow and Birdman. Chris Evans is great in not Captain America roles (not to disparage the Cap), also worth watching in the Iceman starring Michael Shannon; another true story except about an incredibly prolific contract killer/family man.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Meaning of Life

“It’s a series of mediocre occurrences that add up to more or less nothing.” This was my response to a question I was asked today. The question was simply “Do you have any bad days?” Since my reflexive response to “how are you doing” in the hospital where I volunteer is just fine/good et cetera, as it is for most people. The sentiment itself is unremarkable, even astonishingly common in American society; I’d venture to guess 95% of people feel the same exact way about their lives as I do about mine. But what is remarkable is my oddly emotional response to having to say it.

Aside from sheer anger I rarely feel any particular emotion for long periods of time, my personality is just a continuous sardonic, purely logical observance of everything that goes on around me. I am, by my own design, bereft of most human emotional response systems. My goal once upon a time was to eliminate impulsion from my thought process, since being impulsive is the easiest way to fall into a trap in a strategic setting; so now I don’t have that more or less. I’m able to step back and take a prudent look at more or less everything. While I occasionally feel anger it almost never perpetrates a foolish action on my part, just because of the built up resistance to impulsion.

The admittance of my own mediocrity as a spoken word was enough to create some amount of sadness or depression in my mind; since it’s easier to skirt around the concept than address it so directly. I don’t believe all human existence is futile as some might and as the nihilistic sentiment above may perpetrate. I simply believe that most, even the vast, overwhelming majority of human existence is futile, that a scarce handful of great men and women dictate the course of history and everyone else is an irrelevant speck, more or less. I also believe the last person to fit that description in full died 195 years ago.

However the ability to become such a great person is not unique, surely, and the sheer population of the world strongly implies that there are thousands of individuals with an equal capacity for thought as any great conqueror or philosopher of old. So what makes them different than those that came before? Why, luck of course. Luck, providence, divine intervention, whatever you want to call it, what’s most important in dictating a person’s future is the situation into which they’re born, and while the population of the world increases the number of candidates for greatness it also has led to a general promotion of mediocrity and reliance on predictability. A person who is hiring someone in a modern climate wants a candidate to do exactly what is expected of them with little or no variance, the person who does exactly what they are told with no glaring failures and no remarkable successes. That is the ideal candidate for a job. Do you feel that you are unremarkable, identical to every other soulless cog in society? Well, good for you because you are that ideal candidate. Unfortunately for me, I don’t feel that way.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Hateful Eight

A good way to approach the Hateful Eight is to think of it as another Reservoir Dogs or 12 Angry Men; it is not by design or construction a Western persay; that is simply the setting of the proceedings. The film is basically a stage play with two different settings, one which dominates most of the film; it isn’t like Macbeth where there’s a dozen different locales so you could make a traditional style of movie out of it. With that in mind the film is almost three hours long, or about twice as long as the first two films. So, it should go without saying that the film does not have the rigidly perfect pacing of Reservoir Dogs (easily Tarantino’s best film) or the continuous momentum of 12 Angry Men, and on the grand scheme of things The Hateful Eight is ultimately inferior to a couple of masterpieces.

However that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see the film; I will say it is baffling just how pleasing a movie this is to sit through. Traditionally even the best three hour films have their tedium and boring moments, and at the end your ass is just sore from being in that damn chair for so long. Not so with the Hateful Eight; there is a short scene at the beginning of the film that drags for a few minutes but once you’re past that it’s nothing but solid Tarantino Dialogue and ridiculously over the top violence the rest of the way.

Another way to think of this film is in the context of Kingsman: The Secret Service, and I’d venture to say they’re basically the same movie just with different plots and genres. If you wanted 90 minutes of Sam Jackson laughing his ass off and swearing up a storm, this is your movie. Sure, sure there’s no “This a dope ass top hat!” scene and the funniest actual (unprintable by a Caucasian not named Tarantino) line is delivered by Tim Roth; but Sam Jackson is just loving this shit the entire time. Kingsman X Reservoir Dogs, the movie magic you never knew you wanted.

As for the rest of the cast, all of them are great. Haven’t seen Michael Madsen in a long time; and while he doesn’t have any “Stuck in the Middle With You” going on he’s still pleasantly satisfying. Mr. Orange returns with a British accent this time, Mr. Brown narrates a bit to explain why “Domergue’s Got a Secret.” I mourn the absence of Harvey Keitel, but all in all the entire cast performs just as well. Jennifer Jason Leigh is getting Oscar consideration and she certainly holds her ground in a fairly difficult role to sell, but like many of this year’s performances hers isn’t an astonishingly amazing one or anything.

If you have any remote interest in the American Civil War there’s a whole shitload of references to that, even moreso than something like Josey Wales; and I have to say Tarantino’s general knowledge of the time period is rather endearing. Even as someone who finds most of his work to be at least slightly overrated it’s hard to not admire his ability to make a three hour movie that’s not boring for any extended length of time; let alone with a single setting. I guess since I’m boxed into the idea of rating films I’d put this one roughly on par with Creed, joining a three way tie for 5th place.