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Come on, Genchu! All Ken wants to do is suppress his more sensitive feelings by focusing on rage! Stop throwing excuses at him, geez.

 

For anyone expecting me to blab on about Justice League, I have not seen it. I don’t know if I will, as the DC films are a bunch of sloppy messes and the holidays have put limits on my free time! I do have a morbid sense of curiosity as to how the Snyder to Whedon chop job turned out, but if there is anything that may get me to see Justice League, it’s the news that Danny Elfman composed the soundtrack, and slipped in his ’89 Batman theme and John William’s classic Superman theme. I can get behind that.

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Oh, Ken, can’t you just be happy to see him?

Do I even have anything to talk about? Just been continuing my quest through Mario Odyssey. Joe apparently 100% the game already because he’s a Mario champ. I played through this weirdo game called Doki Doki Literature Club. It made me wildly uncomfortable and laugh out loud a bunch of times, so take that as you will! But it’s far more of a visual novel than an actual game, so it’s hard to recommend to anyone who doesn’t want to do a lot of reading (or is turned off by cringe worthy anime harem cliches, even if they are eventually magnificently subverted).

Upon many recommendations, I’m also slowly watching my way through Stranger Things. It’s pretty cool, the soundtrack is wonderful, I love the cast, but I wish everyone wasn’t so intensely mopey (although the story justifies it). I’ll probably have more thoughts on it when I’m caught up.

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Ken and Genchu meet face to face for the first time since Ken was a wee angsty boy! I’m sure their first conversation in years will be full of pleasant recollections.

SPOILERS

I saw that Thor Ragnarok movie that everyone seems to like. Guess I liked it too! This film is super into its comedy. the whole thing is a barrage of jokey jokes, which start to land to more resounding effect the further in you get. I don’t think I really started laughing until Bruce Banner showed up about two thirds of the way through the film and  began bromancing it up with Thor. A lot of the jokes revolve around marvel fanservice, with characters referencing previous film events, especially the original Avengers. Much of the big coliseum battle between Thor and Hulk was shown in the trailers, so all the jokes in that scene fell flat for me, as I’d seen them all. That’s also the only coliseum fight in the movie, it does not push its Gladiator trope very far.

Infact, there may be TOO MANY jokes in Ragnarok. There’s some big, dramatic stuff that happens in this movie that SHOULD carry heavy emotional weight, but that’s generally not the case due to frantic editing or undercutting cornball one liners. That’s not to say it’s BAD, it’s good! Ragnarok is a fun time; flashy, colorful, Jeff Goldblum infused, and even legitimately hilarious here and there! It’s easily the best of the Thor movies, although that’s not a terribly difficult bar to reach, and it establishes some big, new paradigms for the MCU. But it’s also kind of a sloppy film, full of loose logic, convoluted world building, and vague relationships and timelines. When exactly did the Valkyries try to kill Hela? How quickly do people age in Asgard? Why did Odin die, or is he dead, or what? Are there only, like, 100 citizens of Asgard? What was Hela’s long term plan again? How come Odin and Loki didn’t share a single word between them even during Odin’s big death scene? Awkward! But, whatever, I’d still recommend seeing the thing, it’s good.

Dramatic stuff that was given little to no emotional weight:

  • The death of Thor’s buddies from the previous two Thor films (Volstagg, Hogun, and Fandral)
  • Thor’s disfiguring wound.
  • The destruction of Asgard (the joke that undercut it was pretty funny, though)

 

 

 

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Yeah, Yori, you’re ALRIGHT in my book!

I’m TRYING not to let Mario Odyssey and Fire Emblem Warriors consume my life. The first is the best game I’ve played this year that doesn’t involve a sword, and the second is a super rad army murder simulator with a massive roster of characters I love.

Mario Odyssey is like pure magic! I do think the camera is not great, and controlling the T-Rex isn’t nearly as fun as one might hope, but those are some super minor nitpicks among the pure platforming ecstasy that is this game. The soundtrack is also quite fantastic and eclectic, and I already have a hard time imagining playing a Mario game without Cappy the sentient cap. (I really love that long distance jump move.)

I don’t know when it happened, but at some point Fire Emblem became my second favorite Nintendo franchise (Metroid being the indisputable first), pushing Zelda down to third. Having said that, I loved Hyrule Warriors, which was the only Musou game I’d played outside of Samurai Warriors on the ps2. HW was a pure fanservice game, and ended up having deeper gameplay mechanics than I’d expected.

The common conception of Warriors/Musou games is that all you do is mash the X button to win, but, at least in these Nintendo spinoffs, there’s a good amount of strategy that goes into managing the battlefield and properly timing your combos. I was initially worried when I found out that the weapon triangle would be a factor in Fire Emblem Warriors, specifically that it would make playing as a favored character for each mission impossible, instead forcing you to switch to characters you may not like or may not be in a good position. But it turns out the weapon triangle and the ability to order your companions around the battlefield and switch playable characters on the fly ends up turning the game into a real time version of the Fire Emblem Franchise’s 3DS progenitors. Desperately scrambling to position your troops where they can make use of their weapons advantages in map overview mode and then switching to your boots on the ground to wipe out countless soldiers with super rad flashy animations, all to killer electric guitar mixes of Fire Emblem themes is basically pure FE fanservice, and a great time.

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We could all use a good cry.

So Star Trek Discovery continues to be violent and dark and basically the antithesis of everything Star Trek. On a whim I started watching The Orville on Hulu. It’s not what I would call GOOD (Seth Macfarlane’s brand of ubiquitous ‘awkward’ humor doesn’t really do it for me), but it IS far more Star Trek-ish than Discovery could ever hope to be.

The first two episodes of Orville are heinously bad. The main character, a Starfleet-surrogate officer played by Macfarlane, starts the show by discovering his wife is cheating on him. Skip ahead a year, and he’s assigned as captain to a mid class exploratory vessel named The Orville. His now ex-wife is assigned as his first officer.  A running gag, that may very well be the pillar of comedy the show runs on, is quickly established where the captain brings up his wife’s cheating on him in front of his crew and anyone else in earshot ad nauseam. Sexual harassment runs pretty much rampant on the ship, and I guess it’s supposed to be funny, but it’s not, especially since it’s established that he’s equally as responsible for his failed marriage, if not more so.

The thing is, when the show isn’t throwing in ‘humorous’ awkward conversations or random anachronisms, it actually plays its plots mostly straight. Episode three sees a noticeable shift in the show to episodic drama-based story telling, with a storyline exploring the moral quandaries of performing a sex change operation on an infant; a clear allegory for societal gender issues. It ends with notable moral ambiguity. The fourth episode involves religious suppression of science to perpetuate the consolidation of societal power, although it’s resolved rather easily. Even so, The Orville scratches my Star Trek itch surprisingly more effectively than STD.

The Orville was originally marketed as something like Galaxy Quest the TV show. The writing is NOT as sharp as Galaxy Quest, and the humor frequently takes a back seat to the drama, which plays in the show’s favor as the drama is more effective than the humor.

Also, I have to mention the show’s soundtrack, which is incredible and most definitely elevates the storytelling.

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Yeah, Genchu! Where the heck were you??

Do you like scifi police procedurals? Well, Blade Runner 2049 is pretty rad. Although it’ s hard film to recommend because its oppressive sound design, slow pace, and exceedingly long run time of 2:49 hrs could be a major turn off to many.

But it’s so darn beautiful. I honestly enjoyed it more than the original Blade Runner, which is a movie I’ve always appreciated for the visuals  and atmosphere but felt otherwise lukewarm on because I find it to be Harrison Ford’s worst acting to date (seriously, he’s so hard to watch in it), and there’s just not enough of the more interesting characters on screen, namely the replicants. 2049 could be seen as derivative, as it’s admirably mimicking the original film’s visual style, but also expanding on it and the world. A LOT of the narrative details are left abstract in the sequel, but the same is true in the original, probably even more so. What 2049 seems to do much better than the original is give us some empathy for the main character, as well as a more cohesive narrative overall (one that didn’t require seven different edits post theatrical release).  I do want to bring up the controversial ambiguity of the first film and how it affects the sequel, so SPOILERS.

In the original film, Ford’s character, Deckard, is either a replicant or a human depending on if you ask the director or the screen writer. The sequel does not give a definitive answer to the question of his biological makeup, but does make it clear that Rick Deckard and his love interest Rachael, from the first movie, had a child. This is a big deal in the sequel as there is a replicant revolutionary movement brewing. The whole crux of the planned revolution is that replicants can have children, and therefore do not need to rely on humans for survival and can break free of enslavement.

The thing is, if Deckard IS a human, that means we still don’t know if replicants definitely can reproduce without humans. All we know is that female replicants, or maybe just Rachael specifically, can carry a pregnancy to term, but we don’t know if it requires a human male. If it does, the replicant revolution could potentially run into some problems. Since the replicant uprising is a major world building story thread, I wish 2049 had given us a specific answer on Deckard. Another solution would simply have a second example of two known replicants creating a child, although that might have made the significance of Deckard’s child less narratively important.

Personally, I’ve always thought Deckard was human, and the idea that he had attributes of replicants or could fall in love with one showed that the perceived difference between humans and replicants was more self imposed than a societal necessity.

Also, the manga Pluto is, like, incredible. I recently finished it, and was consequently filled with real human emotion. It’s basically an alternate universe Astroboy story with heavy themes and a bit of serial murder. I admittedly know little to nothing about Astroboy, but that did not stop me from enjoying Pluto.  The premise is that humans have created advanced robotic lifeforms that now live alongside humanity. The more advanced robots look just like humans, but that hasn’t stopped good old prejudice from creating a bit of social strife. Among all this, a mysterious figure starts serial killing all of the world’s most advanced robots, one of whom is Astroboy (or Atom, as is his original Japanese name). The artwork is incredible and the story is gut punching. It’s like a mix of Bladerunner and Silence of the Lambs, with some classic shonen heroics thrown in for good measure at the end. I can’t recommend it enough! And if you hate reading manga, there’s an anime scheduled for 2020.

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Come on Yori, all the guy’s asking for is a little beheading, is that so much?

So Joe caved in and subscribed to CBS All Access to watch his precious Star Trek, allowing me to reap the benefits of his lack of willpower! We watched the first three episodes of STD (that’s Star Trek Discovery‘s unfortunate acronym), and my feelings are decidedly mixed. On the positive side, it looks great, with plenty of slick, high budget effects that feel right in line with the new Abram films.

Thankfully, STD is a bit more smartly written than those films, but it’s also not THAT smartly written. The acting is strong, the directing and cinematography are top notch, but the plot is all over the place and is working overtime to be ‘not just another Star Trek show’. It’s the Stargate Universe of Star Treks, trying to be darker and edgier in an attempt to appeal to a larger potential fanbase; the kind that love raw, violent dramas like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. Certainly STD isn’t that level of grim, but you’ll see far more explicit gore in its first three episodes than you’d ever expect in Star Trek. The contradiction here is that CBS has made it far more difficult for those potential new viewers to watch the show by locking it behind its subscription streaming service. Likely the only people ready to fork over money to see STD are hardcore Trek fans, who will then be dismayed to find that the show is not a true return to form but a major formula mix up.

SPOILERS FOLLOW

In terms of how it fits into the canon, well, it really doesn’t. The technology seems significantly more advanced than what we’ve seen in any of the Prime Universe shows and yet it takes place 15 (?) years prior to The Original Series. It’s really more of a Star Trek soft reboot than any sort of continuation. The main character is Sarek’s adopted daughter (geez, Spock, how many siblings did you have??), and her apparent struggle to control her emotions in the face of almost certain death at the hands of a monster-like Klingon Empire.

The Klingons in STD are less cultured and individually diverse than what we’ve seen in the TNG era. The old shows had Klingon characters with many different personalities, grappling with a warrior culture that expected them to fill a roll. They felt nuanced. Not that I expected to get that same nuance from STD’s two episode premiere, but this new version of Klingons definitely come off more animalistic and bloodthirsty, with relatively simplistic internal politics (someone shined a bright light and they all went to war). I’m hoping/guessing that will change as the show goes on, but right I’m willing to give the new Klingons a pass. I honestly don’t care much about canon as long as the story is well structured with satisfying character arcs, and I do have some issues with those aspects of STD.

Specifically, the first two episodes are bloated with a massive amount of drama and action, and yet only have two characters, maybe three, we’re supposed to care for (the science officer has some endearingly quirky dialog but is mostly observing the conflict between the captain and first officer). By the end of the two part opener, the captain is dead, and the first officer is labeled a mutineer and sentenced to space prison. The lead up to that outcome is a confusing mess involving an away mission of ONLY the captain and first officer. They beam over to a Klingon flagship to capture their leader in the hopes of turning him into a symbol of failure, as opposed to killing him and turning him into a martyr for the Klingons to rally around. Why only these two go on this mission is a big fat mystery, the only reasonable answer being that they’re kind dumb. The captain gets stabbed by the klingon leader and then the first officer kills him with her phaser. I don’t know why she didn’t use stun and complete her mission, maybe she couldn’t control her anger. Either way, it seems to be the catalyst to the show’s main ‘redemption’ plotline for first officer Michael (her first name is Micheal, they acknowledge that’s an odd name for a woman so maybe we’ll get an explanation for it).

I almost wish the first two episodes had been completely skipped in favor of revealing those backstory elements in flashbacks. It might have been a more clever way to dramatically reveal Michael’s story while jumping straight into the show’s actual premise. The third episode sees Michael transferred from prison detention to the advanced science ship Discovery, where she’s put to work assisting with some very shady science projects to potentially help win the war against the Klingons. This leads me to believe the show’s structure will be episodic ‘science projects of the week’ where Michael works to figure out how whatever she’s working on will be used in war, and then grapples with the shady morality of the crew and their ultimate goals, and whether she should sabotage Discovery’s efforts in the name of moral principle, or work toward a fast end to the war they she feels personally responsible for starting (which, honestly, would’ve started even without her).

Many of the old Trek shows have had some very weak pilot episodes, if not all of them, and  I don’t even think STD’s is the worst of the lot. The setup has a lot of potential for great television. I’m specifically reminded of Fringe, which also had an episodic ‘science project gone horribly wrong’ structure to it for the first couple of seasons, and they were great.

So STD has potential, and yet I can’t help but feel this is not what Star Trek’s themes have always been about. The Trek Universe has always favored political allegory, and asked us to question the normalcy of our modern world when compared with the idealism on display in its vision of the future. From the originals series’ commentary on race with “ Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” to TNG’s questioning of gender norms in “The Outcast”, this has always been Star Trek’s greatest strength. And, considering the world we live in today, where injustices have become so nakedly visible that they’re no longer shocking, don’t we need that Star Trek commentary more than ever? But who knows, maybe STD is revving up to blow us away with insight.

PS. I also saw Blade Runner 2049 and loved it, but maybe I’ll talk about that next time.

 

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Lesson…learned?

I just finished Samus Returns, and it’s so great. It’s the Metroid I’ve been waiting for, THE FULL PACKAGE! I was on such a high, I immediately started a new game in Fusion mode (somehow I managed to acquire the new Metroid amiibo from my local Toys R Us, even though their site said they had no stock)!

I feel like Samus Returns does for Metroid 2 what Zero Mission did for classic Metroid, a great re-imagining which re-enforces and builds on existing canon, making a continued narrative between the games more palatable. The ending of Samus Returns adds a lot more visual narrative that links it to Super Metroid, and I love that! Heck, it even throws a bone to Metroid Fusion, which I also love. Not that the Metroid franchise NEEDS a coherent canon, but that sort of light world building wired into all the games has always appealed to me.

One thing that is really silly, though, is that the entire Galactic Federation council had a unanimous vote to send one for-hire bounty hunter on a mission to wipe out the most powerful genetically engineered race of sentient weapons in the galaxy. Like, they didn’t think it’d be a good idea to send at least an armada as backup or something? Maybe everyone else was too busy with other ‘galactic stuff’. Not that they needed to over complicate the story, but having some sort of Chozo barrier around the planet that will only allow Samus to land unharmed might’ve helped with the logic of that setup.

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Yori takes a bloodless victory! Or maybe not!

Sorry about the missed update last week! I went on a family vacation to northern California to see the redwood forest. I posted some photos in the news post below this news post, which most people probably didn’t see because our site has a weird way of prioritizing posts. I don’t have much to say! I’ve been chipping away at Metroid: Samus Returns, and it’s great! It’s pretty much everything I like about Metroid, although I’ll have to wait until I finish it before I compare it to AM2R, which was incredible (or maybe I just like the soundtrack better).

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I Visited Endor

I went on a family vacation in the California Redwoods along the coast this week. Due to some poor planning on my part, it kind of ruined the update schedule, so there’s no page this week. I will share some of my favorite photos from the trip, since I’ve got nothing else to show! I also played a lot of Monster Hunter Stories during the trip. I randomly decided to download the demo just before the plane trip, fell in love with it, and ended up buying the full game. It’s super cool.

Seeing the Redwood (sequoia sempervirens) forest is a surreal experience. It’s the forest that you see over and over again in movies because it looks so alien and prehistoric. Our tour guide pointed out areas that appeared in Jurassic Park: Lost World, which I found highly entertaining, because, if you think about it, redwoods wouldn’t have even been possible on Isla Sorna due to the overly warm and humid climate (the redwood forest maintains a temperature range of roughly 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit year round), and because all the wildlife put on the island to accommodate the dinosaurs wouldn’t have had enough time to grow into something that looked like a centuries old giant tree. But maybe I’m over thinking Lost World.

I did have a lot of Endor nostalgia while walking through the forest. In fact, I went on the trip with the simple goal of locating an Ewok. Despite my best efforts, though, I was unable to find a single Ewok reference in any local shop or building we visited, which was very disappointing (but I’m sure the Ewoks are out there somewhere). Apparently it’s scientifically impossible to determine the exact age of a redwood, because they grow genetic clones of themselves off of the shallow roots at their base, so a 1000 year old redwood tree may actually be a continuation of a previous 1000 year old rewood tree, but still technically the same organism. Even when a rewood falls over, it doesn’t die, but instead will sprout new vertically growing trunks from its horizontal position. As long as their in their preferred habitat, redwoods are surprisingly hard to kill. I only bring this up because it sounds wild enough to actually be Star Wars lore, but it’s the REAL DEAL.

 

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