Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I finished Deep Space Nine, but I still prefer Babylon 5

Deep Space Nine:

"And now that you have surrendered, I will give a generic speech about peace even though you've been trying to kill us for like 3 seasons now and are really just surrendering because Odo cut you a deal."

Babylon 5:


Something tells me Sheridan would've wrapped up the war with the Founders and dealt with the Pah-Wraiths AGES ago.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Movie Review: Suicide Squad

So I've been getting into the comics scene lately. The downside to this is trying to insert myself into the ongoing ever-changing hydra (LOLGEDDITGEDDIT) that are comics, especially when the recommended comics for newbies are...kind of dumb. (See: Frank Miller's Batman)

I think this is why the comic book movies are increasingly popular. They represent an alternative to trying to figure out the best place to start in comics that have been going on and rebooted over and over for decades. Comic book movies tend to take bits and pieces of each "reboot" to create their own universe. (Which works, as comics apparently exist in a multi-verse. To quote Linkara, "Comics are strange and confusing.")

The idea of Suicide Squad always intrigued me, although I wanted to get into the more basic comics before reading them. So I was pretty excited to see previews for the movie. The plot, for those two people who have been living under a rock:

Amanda Waller, an intelligence officer, sees a very real problem with the increasing number of "metahumans" in the world. Piggybacking off of Batman v. Superman, what would happen if another Superman-style threat occurs? Or, to put it another way, what would happen if these popular superheroes decided to use their powers against humanity? Gather up a team of supervillains to fight them. Granted, this doesn't make a lot of sense given the kind of villains we are given. Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, and Killer Croc are all unique, but hardly super-powered. The only character that really has any major skills is Diablo, and, well...spoiler alert, he dies.

There is one other super powered character, and she is the one Waller uses to convince the government to give her idea the green light. The Enchantress is, simply put, a Great Old One that was reawakened by the world's worst archaeologist, June Moone, who touches artifacts with her bare hands just to see what happens. The Enchantress shares a body with her and can take over. Waller controls their resident eldritch horror by stabbing at her heart. But, the Enchantress manages to get away with the help of her brother, Eldritch Horror #2. Together, they decide to destroy the world by, like, smooshing cars together in the sky, which the Enchantress does through random twitching and writhing, or something.

The plot falls apart when you think too hard about it. I can understand a lot of the criticisms about the movie. However, the movie is really about character interactions.

I thought it did a good job of giving us sympathetic characters who are, nonetheless, seriously screwed up in many ways. Front and center, of course, is Harley Quinn, the animated series character whose popularity exploded, making her a mainstay of Batman comics. Her particular arc involves waiting for the Joker to get her out of prison, while going along with an admittedly crazy scheme. Of course, that translates to "every day" for her. Flashbacks show us her screwed up relationship with the Joker. Recently the film has come under more criticism for cutting a more straightforward abuse scene, but let's face it, their relationship was never healthy. What bothered me most was that the film attempted to romanticize this relationship. Fantasy it may be, but when you think about all the young girls who genuinely want a man like the abusive controlling Christian Grey, it seems irresponsible for the movie to do this. They may show us the screwed up parts, but the end scene is clearly supposed to make us feel this is a happy ending.

The other characters are less filled out, but nonetheless they are compelling enough. The second important character is Deadshot, the sniper-for-hire who just wants to spend time with his daughter when he isn't killing for money. He isn't a heroic person, but he is probably the most relatable. Captain Boomerang, unfortunately, was a walking Australian stereotype (I'm fairly certain the beer he kept drinking was Foster's), and Killer Croc was easily forgettable. Katana had potential, but they gave us very little to work with when it came to her.

Diablo is the other character that draws unexpected attention. He thinks of himself as a monster due to his pyrokinetic abilities, which get out of control when he is angered. He spends most of the movie trying not to commit any violence at all, something that stands out considerably in a team of villains. In fact, he is the only truly heroic character; the ostensible "good guys" are the government, looking for super soldiers to do their dirty work; Amanda Waller, who kills her assistants when they are unexpectedly thrust into a situation they weren't "cleared" for; and Colonel Rick Flag, who is forced into working with people he has no respect for.

The real enjoyment came from seeing these people trying to work together and making a connection in spite of themselves. By the end, they work together because they want to, not because they have bombs implanted in them. Diablo sacrifices himself for them because they are the only family he has.

The fact is, it wasn't a bad movie. It wasn't a great movie, either, but it was very enjoyable. I feel like DC found what it's been looking for. The movie is dark as their movies tend to be, but it had plenty of dark humor to match.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

You know how I complained that the Civil War movie had no real conflict; that there was obviously a reasonable side and an unreasonable (see: Tony being Tony) side? Well, we have that exact same problem with Batman v Superman.

Except, see, Civil War's conflict still made sense. In Civil War, even though Tony was misguided and the government was simply being interfering, they made a good point about an American-based group meddling in other countries' affairs. Their resolution was ridiculous, restrictive, and Tony had too many feelings, but the criticisms themselves made sense.

In Batman v Superman, we have one good criticism, and the rest is Batman being even more paranoid than usual. The beginnings of Crazy Steve? After all, at one point I was absolutely waiting for Superman to declare "I am a man" and punch him.


I thought the movie was okay. Just okay. Not as horrible as everyone else thought it, but not really that good either. We start out by seeing the events of Man of Steel from Bruce Wayne's point of view. He has to tell his employees to evacuate their building. Why they hadn't done it already, we don't know. Either way, some old dude dies, and some other kid gets his legs crushed. It sucks, right? They make a great point about the absolute destruction caused by Superman refusing to just kill Zod in the first place and instead fly all over the city punching him through buildings and being punched through buildings in turn.

However, this is turned into Batman becoming absolutely insane. Like I said, he was nearing Crazy Steve levels. He becomes obsessed with Superman as a threat. He doesn't bother to, you know, go talk to the guy about what he did. Nope, he has to hunt down information about him, beating up and, basically, torturing bad guys. Because he thinks Superman might maybe possibly be a threat one day. To paraphrase, he thinks if there's even a slightest chance Superman might be a threat, they should just kill the guy.

Did I say he wasn't Crazy Steve yet? Never mind, he's Crazy Steve.

Thank God Bonkers Betty didn't happen.

Let's skip to the end. It's revealed that this is all being orchestrated by Lex Luthor Jr., who apparently decided he wanted to be the Joker that day instead. He giggles and twitches the entire time, and one wonders why anyone would give him access to alien technology, no matter how many Starbursts he offered them.

Throughout this, Wonder Woman is just hanging around in the background, doing...well, not much. Ostensibly trying to steal a picture of her posing with the boys in World War I (AM I THE ONLY ONE PUMPED FOR THAT MOVIE), but really just there to be available when Doomsday happens.


The entire problem with this conflict is that it is predicated on Batman refusing to talk about his problem, and just become increasingly paranoid until a Flashpoint paradox makes him even crazier. Dammit Barry!

And here's the kicker, the thing that made EVERYONE LAUGH SO HARD.

Batman stops trying to kill Superman because their moms share a very common name! I mean, I get what they were going for-hearing his mother's name jars him to his senses-but it was so narmtastic that it was hard to take it seriously. Plus, that solves all their problems right there. Not explaining their motives, just...moms.

For the record, Batman rescuing Superman's mom was AWESOME. I loved that scene.

The final fight was also pretty cool, although Lois, unfortunately, just made things worse.

But let's face it, you didn't come here to see Lois be cool.

You wanted to see Byron get punched in the face again.

It's okay, we all did. And he does more than get punched. He gets stabbed! Unfortunately, the combination of kryptonite and explosions seems to kill Superman.

We also get some cameos from the Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman, who decided to rule the real sea instead of the grass sea.

So, it was...kind of a mess. Not horrible; it gave us a good set up for Justice League; but...not the best.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Book Review: Bloodwalker by L.X. Cain

Author's Note: The author provided a free ARC of the ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Rurik, scarred and freakishly strong from being struck by lightning twice, works security at the Zorka circus. Normally that involves just keeping general order, but lately he has noticed children disappearing. After saving a boy from a murderous clown, he begins an investigation into the child's disappearances. However, even though the circus is supposed to be a family, Rurik finds that the subtle divisions and tensions make his job much harder.

Meanwhile, Sylvie, a bloodwalker of the Skomori clan, has come to the circus to be married by the Zorka ringmaster's wife. While there, she discovers a horrible secret, and must decide if she should risk being cast out of her clan to warn others.

This was a very compelling read. One thing I've complained about in the past was that it was hard to distinguish the different voices of the characters. But Cain does an excellent job of giving her characters unique narrative voices. Rurik is terse but often sensitive. He is treated as a monster due to his scars, and he knows he has a tentative link to the circus as his father can no longer work and he is there only because the ringmaster of the circus favors him. Despite his outwardly "monstrous" appearance he is a deeply compassionate character; often flawed and sometimes reckless, but his main motivation is to prevent the death of any other children.

Sylvie was a very relatable character. She seemed to be an anxious kind of person, which I can definitely sympathize with, and in her character arc she must overcome her natural hesitation and timidity to act. I found it difficult to read the chapters in which her new husband abuses her because they were very well written. I loved that the book depicted her escaping from an abusive relationship and coming to understand that her husband was in the wrong, not her.

The supporting characters were colorful and well-written as well, and I enjoyed that otherwise unsympathetic characters were complex.

Finally, the twist at the end was very creepy. I started working out who the actual "villain" was about halfway through; I think it's a fairly obvious twist. But that was only half the fun. The entire revelation was incredibly bizarre and very unique.

I did find Rurik's immediate feelings and jealousy for Sylvie a bit odd, but their connection was based on mutual human sympathy rather than the lust often depicted in fantasy books. I found their eventual relationship to be believable and sweet.

I also enjoyed the little blurbs from the Bloodwalker book at the beginning of each chapter. Bloodwalkers are, basically, those who prepare bodies for burial in a traditional way. I was unable to find out if these were real Romanian practices; when I tried to Google it I got a lot of sites about Orthodox funerary practices. I'll keep looking. Anyways, it helped build a picture of the Bloodwalker culture, and it was easy to understand why Sylvie cared deeply about her job as Bloodwalker even though her society was flawed.

Overall, it's an excellent and strange book-part mystery, part horror, and lots of fun all around.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Movie Review: Jurassic World

I expected this movie to suck. I expected it to suck horribly. I have sequel skepticism. I went in for the dinosaurs and nothing else. actually wasn't that bad. The idea of the theme park finally coming together, with all the tourism it involves, was a good idea. What better way to do a dinosaur movie than to give the dinosaurs a huge buffet? There was a rather disappointing scene where our first sweeping view with sweeping music was...a bunch of tourists. Last time we had that music, we saw dinosaurs.

In fact, overall the movie was cheesetastic, but that didn't make it bad. We had a token character that was obviously a shout out to the nerdy "original" fans. You had the infamous "Raptor Whispering" scene, which was in fact silly, but also kind of adorable. The characters were decent, standard movie characters, except for Hoskins, who practically carried a literal villain card to show to everyone. His arc, wanting to use the raptors as "super soldiers", is a shout out to the narmtastic original script, which called for raptors to be carrying guns. Which would have been amazing, but also even more ridiculous.

So, was it a great movie? No. But it was good. And fun. And it had a T-Rex! Everyone loves T-Rex.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Movie Review: Sinister

For some reason I thought I had made a blog post making fun of Sinister and how it was basically a Slender Man rip off. I thought of it at the time, so it's possible my thoughts were so loud I thought I actually posted them. Who knows?

Anyways, I was in fact wrong about that assessment. Sinister did manage to be its own thing. Unfortunately, it was just...underwhelming.

A very important aspect of horror is the build up and the suspense. Timing is everything, and the movie does that well. It unfolds slowly, and becomes more frightening the more you know. That was done well. The innocuous sounding titles of the videos the character watched became scarier the more you saw what they really meant. As such, the movie built anticipation.

Unfortunately, the second important aspect, the pay off, was a let down. For one thing, I still don't think the monster, Bughuul, was that scary looking. It looked like a guy in a raggedy shirt making an attempt to look like the Joker. I thought he looked a bit goofy.

The other problem was the children themselves. Their "stalking" the main character through the house wasn't scary. It was hilarious. It looked like exactly what it was-kids being silly and trying to prank someone. It was the supernatural equivalent of knock and run.

Plus, some of the logic just doesn't hold up. Why film everything (except because Slender Man vlogs were, in fact, popular at the time the movie was made)? Why go through this elaborate set up where the children must kill their families (under mind control) before Bughuul takes them/eats their souls/whatever? Also, Bughuul finally taking the main character's daughter was a let down. When you have a threatening monster, you expect them to act threatening. So when the monster doesn't drag the child into the screen, and instead picks her up and gently carries her in, it looks rather narmy.

The final problem was the characters themselves. I just couldn't care about them. The main character is, simply put, a selfish jerk. In order to write true crime, he thinks he has to move his family around to these different murder sites. Why? How many true crime authors actually do that? He does this knowing the impact that moving the kids around will have, as well as the way locals will treat his family. The other characters were two dimensional. What do I know about the mom? She's...umm...British. The kids? The son has night terrors that aren't related to anything, and the daughter is an artist who draws the creepiest stick figures and unicorns ever, even before she starts using blood for her art. That's it. I couldn't find it in my heart to care what happened to these people.

So, the movie succeeded at build up, and failed at pretty much everything else. What could have been genuinely scary was just...well...boring.