Lucien’s First Take: Star Wars IX: Rise of Skywalker l Final Trailer

I can’t believe how bad this look.  I’ve been seeing some reactions around, and people who think this is gonna be some tour de force for the trilogy that will bring it back after Rian Johnson shit all over it, and I genuinely don’t get where these reactions are coming from.  Did we watch the same trailer?!  Because all I saw there was just blatant pandering to what fandom is left and a desperate attempt to try and bring some of the die-hards back with desperate nostalgia grabs.  John Williams makes good music!  Did you all hear that?!  And the Emperor is back!  Doesn’t that excite you?  Oh, and old-school star destroyers!  You gotta be excited about that!  Let’s watch this insufferable pile of shit.

Our first shot and I hate it.  Look, the helmet from the Endor mission!  And a lightsaber!  If only it was being used by someone who isn’t a fucking Wheat Thin.  It’s been said by everyone on the Internet, but can we all address the fact that Rey is a fucking Mary Sue?  She is perfect at everything.  You can describe her personality with a fart sound.  Daisy Ridley can’t act.  Although, you know, part of me wonders if this is really on her or if it’s the writing of the character that is just so bland that no one could make this role memorable.  I hear she was in some Shakespeare shit.  Maybe she does better.  I doubt I’ll ever know.

And look, Finn is back!  Because he’s SO much more interesting, right?  You know, J.J. Abrams had a plan for this trilogy.  It makes me wonder what could have been.  But as it stands, Finn is the equivalent of an chocolate graham cracker.  His personality is equally bland, much less interesting.  Rich Evans once hypothesized that he was going to be the Ron Stoppable to Rey’s Kim Possible.  That could have been an interesting take.  And Jar Jar Rose is back!  You know, the most insufferable character from the last film.  I’m so glad to see her.  Not to body shame, but it’s really noticeable that she’s put on a lot of weight.  Genuinely not trying to shame her, it’s just something that caught my eye.  Given her lack of personality from the last film, all I knew about her is that she’s Asian, and chunky.

From there we get some pretty nifty CG shots.  Because if we can’t have an engaging plot, we might as well have beautiful visuals!  Rey does some terrible narration, and then…oh fuck.  Kylo Ren is back.  I hate this guy so much.  He’s so bland and non-threatening.  There’s nothing about him as a villain that even remotely engages me.  In the first film they played it up like he’s playing at being Darth Vader, and how it was kinda sad, because he most assuredly isn’t.  But after the last film and what a little bitch he was, now I just wish they would kill him off and be done with it.  He says that he knows Rey.  Really?  Can you tell the audience about her, because we don’t have anything approaching a personality to lock down on this broad.

Then…oh no.  We have the Emperor narrating.  Oh fuck me.  So, because Rian Johnson is a moron and killed off Snoke, now Abrams is stuck in the position of having to find some kind of villain to actually make this plot engaging.  So now we get to have some kind of Deus Ex Machina to explain why the Emperor isn’t dead and was somehow manipulating things behind the scenes.  Jesus Christ.  This is so stupid.  Now, I get it.  Disney put themselves into a corner with this.  After all, they had to make SOMETHING to put out there and end this trilogy.  They couldn’t just leave it hanging.  But this is just sad.  This level of plot contrivance is just the worst.

Then there’s a montage of shots of cool scenery and an endless marasse of CG effects.  Rey and Dumbo (because of his giant-ass ears) having a really boring lightsaber fight.  A ship on CG water and a CG fleet coming together.  We then cut to probably the weirdest line in the film.  You have C-3PO getting a little actual puppet character to fuck with his system and hook him into something.  Then he stops and says that he wants to have one last look at his friends.  Um…what?!  When has it been established that any of these people are your friends?!  What scenes have you shared with any of these characters?!  All of your friends are dead!  Han, Luke, Leia, all dead!  Who are these fuckers to you?

We then move on to the final montage to get you revved up.  Do you remember John Williams’ great score?  Yeah, I do.  A pity it’s being waste on this shit.  And look, Billy Dee Williams!  What mansion did they haul your octogenarian ass out of to have you in this desperate attempt to cash in on nostalgia?  It’s a shame too, because I like Lando.  We then have…a horseback charge on a star destroyer.  I’m sorry, what the fuck is this?!  This is the dumbest thing I think I’ve ever seen.  Yes, because in the future all the people with lasers are going to be SO undone by morons on horseback, right?

So, according to the scuttlebutt around Hollywood, Rise of Skywalker isn’t actually finished yet.  Like, as in they’re still shooting scenes with the actors.  It’s in production.  Not post-production, but production.  With two months until release, it’s still being shot.  The reason is (allegedly) that Abrams went to the Disney executives and told them he had it ready, but that not everyone is going to like the ending.  At which point, Disney flat-out told him “um, what?  You better fucking do it again then, because we want the audience cheering for more Star Wars!”  After the massive financial black hole that was Solo: A Star Wars Story and The Star Wars Experience being a ghost town that they sunk an astronomical amount of money into, Disney is desperate to get people cheering for the new trilogy that the now-disgraced writers of Game of Thrones are supposedly doing.

I know that this movie is gonna make a fuck-ton of money, because Star Wars fanboys/girls are almost as die-hard as Nintendo fanboys/girls, but deep down I really hope it fails.  I want this franchise to die with its legacy intact.  With some level of dignity.  Not be driven into the ground until there’s nothing recognizable left.  Please, for the love of Groj just let this franchise go gracefully.

Initial Verdict
3 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Making Decisions For A Better World

For those of you who didn’t know (which is pretty much everyone who reads this site because I haven’t been big about my life outside of my hobbies, fictional works, and random thoughts on nonsense in quite some time), at the end of this year, I plan to get some medical work.  See, I have made a decision that I see as very mature.  After analyzing my life and what I value, I decided that I am going to opt out of the gene pool.  In other words, getting a vasectomy.  It’s something that has been on my mind for a long time.  I really don’t like children.  There isn’t a paternal bone in my entire body.  Last time I was put directly in charge of the safety of a small child was when it was riding on a snowmachine with me and we went up a hill covered in ice because it was follow the leader.  The machine fell to the side.  Thankfully, kiddo was alright, which I immediately made sure of before the others came and got the thing off us.  But that moment told me that I just don’t need that kind of stress in my life.

But there’s more than that.  A coworker who I told my plans to seemed utterly shocked that I would do such a thing.  However, I explained my very real ethical concerns on the matter.  The world doesn’t need me to create more people.  It’s apparently an incredibly unpopular thing, but it doesn’t make it any less true – overpopulation is killing our species.  That’s not a theory or an opinion.  It’s a fact.  An Oregon State University study found that a woman who recycles at her optimum has everything she ever does undone by a single baby.  The world cannot maintain with the population growth we have seen.

How people can say this is wrong just baffles me.  The increase in people means an increased need for resources, which means more production.  Which in turn means more shit pumped into the atmosphere from the places that do the production.  Not to mention more waste as more trash is created from the ever-growing number of people.  The city I live in recently did a ban on plastic bags, and while some people are unhappy about that, I am not among them.  No, quite the opposite.  I am ecstatic.  Because seeing the unending amount of littered bags has pissed me off.  Getting used to remembering my reusable grocery bags has taken some work, but now it’s all part of the day to day for me.

As our species isn’t doing anything remotely intelligent like wrangling asteroids to mine them, which in turn will push our species forward into developing into space and expanding from this one tiny ball of shit, the only hope for humanity now is to stop reproducing at such an excessive rate.  Bring the population down more than a little isn’t just something that is a good idea, it’s an absolute necessity.  If we don’t do something drastic, NOW, then it will be the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of my generation who gets to turn out the lights on our species.  We are out of options.

Naturally, when I came out about this fact to the parents, they were more than a little shocked.  It means that the family line essentially dies with me.  Of course, the argument was made to me – what if you meet someone and they want to have children?  My response – there are thousands upon thousands of children in America alone who have no home that could be given a good one with people who care about them.  And if the person really is so dead-set on having a stupid baby, they can go off and do that.  On their own.  I will have no part in it.  My ethics tells me this is the wrong thing to do, and I will have no part in facilitating the destruction of my species.

Recently I saw a thing where a bunch of high school kids signed a pledge stating that they would never be having children to help save humanity.  That genuinely was heart-warming to me.  Seeing young people ready to do something like this in order to help maintain their future, it makes me think that maybe there is hope for humanity.

Conservative media like the weasel-faced prick Ben Shapiro says that young people choosing not to make more humans is selfish.  Oh yeah?  To who?  If the person who has to incubate a spawn doesn’t want one, then wouldn’t it be more selfish to force her to have to do so?  Oh right, Benny is a religious type (the moment anyone makes fun of him, he is the first to call Anti-Semite), so every fetus is sacred.  And if the woman didn’t want to have it, she shouldn’t have opened her legs.  It isn’t selfish to make a conscious decision that will have demonstrable good for this planet.

Sure, in the short term things will most definitely fall apart.  Our global economy is centered around constant growth, as stagnation leads to profits falling, which leads to loss of investor confidence.  After all, they want their money to grow.  We are already seeing the population increase stalling in First World nations, and the crash is coming.  Once that happens, there will be a ton of anarchy and chaos, until humanity figures out a new way to survive.  But our species appears to be somewhat resilient.  We’ll get it together.

In the meantime, sometime at the end of this year, I’m going to be making an appointment to get myself out of the gene pool and to towel off.  It’s kinda sticky in their.

Until next time, a quote,

“Doing the right thing is not always easy and not always popular, but isn’t it enough to know it’s right?” – Senora Roy

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Kingdom Hearts III

This review is going to be a little bit different than my standard reviews.  Instead of talking about elements of this game, I’m going to talk about how much I absolutely fucking despise this game.  How much I think it’s a giant piece of shit, and how much it frustrates me that this is the end of a franchise.  I remember talking about Mass Effect 3 and Life is Strange and how the endings to those frustrated me.  But here’s the thing – the ends of this games frustrated me so much because they were SO good leading up it.  Everything before the Victory Fleet goes to Earth in Mass Effect 3 was perfect.  Simply, absolutely perfect.  Everything leading up to the lighthouse in Life is Strange was fantastic.  Both of those games just died right at the end.  Where the creative energy of both just expired.

Nowhere is the expiration of creative energy more apparent to me than in this game.  I am almost shocked how unfathomably bad Kingdom Hearts III is.  And it isn’t at the end.  This game is just so boring!  I remember when Kingdom Hearts II came out.  I still have my old PS2 copy of it.  That game was a fantastic sequel.  It felt like coming home to old friends while meetings some new ones.  Every single world you explored was interesting, and getting to see characters that we had come to like again was just great.  The plot had this great forward momentum.  Sure, some levels weren’t especially interesting, but that’s okay.  You got to enjoy the ones that were.

Plus, the gameplay was refined.  We had these great setpiece moves during boss fights.  There were the alternate forms where you could dual-wield keyblades.  That was fun.  New enemies were introduced, who were a unique challenge.  New worlds, some with neat gimmicks that you could dive into.

None of that was in this game!  Not one tiny fucking bit!  The lack of anything to pull you back and make you feel the nostalgia and eagerness to get into a story is there!  How did this happen?!  How did they make a game in this franchise that has every single element wrong?!  Nothing is right!  They even fucked up the gummi ship stuff!  I am blown away that that is possible!  The template for doing all of this stuff was right the fuck in front of you!  How did you get it this wrong?!  Fucking how?!

For starters, I guess they just forgot that part of the draw with this franchise was that it was Final Fantasy mixed with Disney.  The former was completely not represented in this game!  Where’s Cloud?!  Where’s Auron?!  Where’s Leon or Yuffie or maybe some characters from games we haven’t seen.  Wouldn’t have minded getting to chill with Lightning, or Noctis.  Maybe see some of the 2D era characters make an appearance, like Edge or Yang or Shadow or…you know what, this list would go on all day.  Did Square Enix just forget where this franchise got its genesis from?!  I hate this game so much.  And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Remember my point about how the last sequel felt like coming home to old friends while meeting new people?  I figured a game in this franchise that’s the last would be like a huge symphony.  A massive production of worlds and characters that we could see all our friends, for the last time.  Closing out this huge adventure with everyone.  A franchise this epic, didn’t it deserve that?  Oh right, can’t do that.  Then they might have had to scale back on how massive the worlds are.  Why use space in a smart way, when you can just make less worlds bigger?  That sure does sound like fun.  Hell, that’s not even a good excuse, with how big some games are these days.

There is NO point in this game where it feels like you are meeting old friends.  Like you are coming together for one last ride.  That’s what this game should have been.  Going back to Radiant Garden and palling around with all your old chums.  Maybe have new Cloud in it, along with his crew.  Not a single old world, outside of Olympus.  Yeah, because that’s the place you wanted to go.  Oh wait, there was a short (and I do mean SHORT) visit back to the 100 Acre Wood.  So you could see the fun crew from that world for a little bit, until that’s over with and you never see any of them ever again.

While I bring up how short I was in 100 Acre Wood, let’s talk about the pacing of this game.  I cannot believe how poorly paced it was!  Every world felt like they were in a rush to get it done.  That’s how I felt about this whole fucking game, if we’re being honest.  Like they were in this huge rush to get to nowhere.  Like, by the time you get to the Keyblade Graveyard, it felt like we are at the halfway point, not the end of a huge saga.  When I finally understood that we were at the end, I was in shock.  Like, seriously!?  This is it?!  Where’s the Final Fantasy characters?!  Where’s getting to go to some of my old stomping grounds?  Where’s any of that?!  Why does this game feel half done?!

You know what, I got this EXACT same feeling from Final Fantasy XV.  So, you get to that water city, and then all the sudden the whole pacing of the game just goes to shit.  Like they were eager to get it over with.  That was another game from Tetsuya Nomura.  Makes me wonder – who’s at fault for this?  Was this Nomura just running out of creative energy, or is this Square Enix’s fault for rushing things?  I don’t know where the blame for this giant pile of shit goes, but somebody clearly needs to be given a talking to.

Oh, and can we talk about the endless fucking cutscenes?!  This was Metal Gear Solid 4 levels of bad!  They never end!  It wouldn’t be so bad if the plot was engaging, but it’s not!  Don’t even get me started on the terrible scenes in the Frozen world where you have the god-awful songs from that shit-tastic movie playing in-game, and the game acknowledging that they happened.  Like, seriously?!  You’re not weirded out that a song happened and an orchestra magically is making music out of fucking nowhere?!  Ugh!

This game sucks.  I got nothing else to say.  It sucks ass!  Not a single thing in this game isn’t bad.  Aside from the Toy Story world, where I actually did feel some nostalgia for my childhood.  The one bright spot in a giant turd pile.  I’m done.  I’m done with this franchise.  It’s dead to me.  Square Enix is really going to the dogs lately.  Nomura is now heading up the remake to Final Fantasy VII, and I gotta tell ya – I’m worried.  Will this be another instance of things going to shit.  Apparently there’s a secret ending that hints of this franchise continuing.  Fuck that, I’m done.  It’s dead to me.  Some of my childhood died here.  This company is going to shit, and I don’t know what it will take to make it better.

Final Verdict
2 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR: The ‘Frozen’ Level in Kingdom Hearts III

This is the worst!  A lot of people have rightly criticized the Atlantica level from Kingdom Hearts II for the god-awful music in it, but to the credit of that level, it wasn’t this.  I cringed with most people, but there was this stupid charm to it all.  Like you could tell that those who did the voicework were really trying to make something good, even if what they had to work with is shit.  I don’t get the same feeling from the Frozen level in the official sequel.

I have FINALLY gotten around to playing it.  I am depressed (as always), and so I figured – this game is dirt cheap on Amazon now, I’ll just buy it!  So far, this game has some problems.  For starters, there are WAY too many cutscenes.  And they all go on for WAY too long.  Some of this stuff is engaging, but other times it’s so boring and I’m sitting here going – when can I get back into that action?!

Then there’s the fact that the Organization is continually handing me my ass in cutscenes and I never get a chance to fight back.  I’ve squared off against five of these dudes by now, and every time I never get to fight.  I’m going to have to kick the ass of XIII of these dudes, so can I please put at least one of them in their place?!  How long is this game where I can continually get my shit kicked in and never be able to step to them?

I knew that the world of Frozen was in this game.  In the back of my mind, I was wondering what it would be like.  Personally, I was hoping we didn’t get the world and just got Elsa.  The lady herself is interesting.  The world from the film she stars in is not.  For those who didn’t know, I HATE Frozen.  Everyone was singing its praises when it came out, and I thought it was mediocre and stupid.  Then there was the music.  Oh my fucking Groj, I could not escape the music of that film.  Everybody, and I do mean everybody, was playing it everywhere.  I despised that film from the bottom of my little black heart.

So imagine my absolute hatred when I get to the world of Arendelle, and I have the exact same fucking music from the film playing!  Ugh!  This is the worst!  It’s all so bad!  What did people like about this?!  It’s all the same bullshit you heard on the radio when this shit was coming out back in 2013.  Seriously, it’s been six years?  Seeing the dates of some of the films represented in this game makes me feel so freakin’ old.

Having to watch a video game cutscene version of the god-damn song Let It Go made me want to rip my ears out.  Who thought this was a good idea.  And they actually have Sora and the gang acknowledging that that happened.  Do they not wonder why a fully orchestrated musical number is playing in the mountains?!

Not a lot more to say, really.  This was the absolute worst.  I will accept the corny, cringe-y charm of Atlantica, but this just annoyed me.

Until next time, a quote,

“Wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?” – Lloyd Christmas, Dumb and Dumber

Peace out,

Maverick

Bad PR 121: Blizzard, Hearthstone, Blitzchung, and #FreeHongKong #BoycottBlizzard

Oh man.  It’s been fun to watch Blizzard take the classic Open Mouth, Insert Foot approach to damage control after they prove what absolute ninnies they are and how utterly enslaved they are to a foreign power.  This is almost incredible.  Sometimes you can see the point where a company does something so astronomically stupid and you think to yourself – how are they POSSIBLY going to get out of this?  I mean, what do they say?  That’s how I’ve felt watching all this drama unfold.  Lots to talk about here, so let’s get down to business (to defeat, the Huns!)

For those of you who didn’t know, there has been a huge string of riots and civil disobedience in connection to the People’s (Commie) Republic of China looking to reign in the freedoms of the city of Hong Kong.  It’s a huge political deal, threatening the future freedoms of that city and the people who live there by an authoritarian nation that will absolutely clamp down on them.  Seeing people so willing to take to the streets and fight for their freedoms is heart-warming.  If only America had done that after the Patriot Act.  Oh well, that’s a topic for a whole other time.

During a Hearthstone tournament (a card game made by Blizzard), a Hong Kong resident by the username Blitzchung said an eight-word statement in defense of Free Hong Kong and their efforts.  It wasn’t condemning China, just appealing to keep the people in his city free.  Eight words.  However, Blizzard, who is partly owned by a Chinese company (Tencent is one of the major shareholders), decided to clamp down on this really, really fast.  Not only did they slap Blitzchung with a one year suspension, but they took his prize winnings from Hearthstone away.

From there, the news went out like wildfire.  It didn’t help that the company issued a statement that Blitzchung was out of line with his statement and that it was all his fault.  However, at the same time, they released a statement to China that was pretty much a ball-washing of how China is great and how angry they are at Blitzchung for saying what he did.  It was found out that the two people interviewing him were in on the ploy, and both of them were fired.  The stark contrast, along with the absolutely insane punishment that was so beyond the pale of what they would do to Americans caught international media attention immediately.

The Internet took off.  The story went viral in a nanosecond and soon the hashtag #BoycottBlizzard took off.  There was a ton of artwork, including turning Mei the Overwatch character into a symbol of Hong Kong resistance.  They made some rather charming Hearthstone cards detracting Blizzard for being a complete bitch to China.  And my favorite, having the Blizzard logo super-imposed over the Chinese flag.  At the same time, it was found out that plenty of employees at Blizzard were rightfully pissed about this.  There were walkouts, and they covered up parts of the piece in the center of their campus with statements in support of free speech and every voice mattering.

So the big question was, what was Blizzard’s response going to be?  I mean, it isn’t like they could say nothing, right?  Keep that thought in your mind, we’ll come back to it.  But we just got an official response from the company, and it was about as complete bullshit as one would expect.  Here is YongYea’s video on the subject –

Never in my LIFE have I seen a statement that was as clearly written by a lawyer as this one.  There wasn’t a single authentic word in any of that.  Hell, I bet a team of lawyers went over this to make sure there wasn’t a single thing that could offend their Chinese masters anywhere in that.  Blizzard saying that their relationship with China had nothing to do with their wording couldn’t have possibly been more bullshit if they tried.  This is the Internet, moron!  People have already seen the translated message that was sent by Blizzard in China, which was a harsh condemnation of Blitzchung and kissing their country’s ass!

But it goes further. See, a collegiate team of Hearthstone players decided to do a little test.  During a game, they held up a sign with #FreeHongKong and #BoycottBlizzard during a tournament.  The response to this by Blizzard was nothing.  It was non-existent next to what they did to Blitzchung.  The people who did this posted on Reddit, quite rightfully, that while their actions were nowhere near as a reckless and potentially dangerous to their freedom as what Blitzchung’s, they did prove a point.  So which is it, Blizzard?  Is having a political opinion only dangerous to audiences that China can see, or will American ones be treated with the same gloves?  Please, enlighten me.  This company is so absolutely full of shit that it is staggering.

As one might expect, they decided to walk back just a fraction of their punishment on Blitzchung, such as giving him his winnings back, in the desperate attempted to try and save face.  Not gonna work, Blizzard!  Your press release from the head of your company looks like bullshit, so you doing that is just a pathetic attempt to deflect.  How is your team of lawyers not able to bullshit better than this?  Between your lawyers and your PR team, there should have been some grade-A bullshit in this

So, what’s the PR lesson here?  Something I learned in the aforementioned (and horrifically boring) Comm. Law class is that there is an option in a crisis situation that one can take.  It’s risky, but sometimes it’s the best option that you have at any given time.  And that option is…do nothing!  Do absolutely nothing and hope that all of this will blow over.  Quietly do things to try and mitigate the worst of it, but have zero official response to anything.  Basically, do a media blackout of the whole affair until the storm blows over.  I gotta say, in this instance, I think Blizzard would have been a thousand times better served by just saying nothing than what they did.  Because if anything is going to fan the flames of this, that response was the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a tire fire.

And all this proves a contention I have made a long time ago – all theses companies who claim that they are super LGBT-friendly are full of shit.  It’s a lie.  One that they perpetuate for the same reason that they are condemning Blitzchung in China – because they want money.  Being pro-LGBT is in right now.  Not saying that’s a bad thing, but that’s what it is.  But it’s all for the same goal – securing as much money as they possibly can.  It’s why you know they don’t talk about the LGBT stuff in China (no ghosts, no gays, that’s the rule).  How people are able to believe that this company or Disney or any of the others aren’t just playing the game of profits with this social ideology is beyond me.

They really shot themselves in the foot here.  If the company can’t learn from this and take the smarter approach to just keep their mouths shut, then Blizzcon at the end of this month should be an absolutely fantastic shit-show.  Really hoping it is.  Desperately hoping that the audience decides to just troll the living daylights out of Blizzard as they unveil their next big mobile game that gives the finger to PC gamers where they made their fortune on.  I’m sure investors won’t notice.  Just kiss China’s ass enough and they will keep giving you those truckloads of microtransaction dollars.

The lesson is – if you have no good response, then don’t say anything.  Trust me, you can’t look much worse than this.

Until next time, a quote,

“With all the variations, one wonders how many deaths are hidden poisonings, with the truth known only to the dead.” – The Count, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Retro Review: Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Let me tell about two things.  First, about what I would argue is the greatest heist movie ever made.  This film is just fantastic.  It had a massive all-star cast, some at the height of their popularity like George Clooney, and some who were just breaking into the arena in the A-grade status, like Matt Damon.  Everyone had a ton of personality and their performances were just the best.  Second, I want to tell about about one of the greatest remakes ever made.  Not all remakes are shit.  It’s just that in the modern era (and I am glad to see this is something that Hollywood has moved away from), they are all shit because they are made for different reasons.

See, a great remake can be done, if the goal is to bring something new to the table.  You don’t want to make a film that is just another retelling of a different story.  You want to take your own angle with it and make it something that people will remember.  So you look at films like The Birdcage or Scarface or The Thing.  You see movies that were taking their own spin on the source material and doing something truly unique with it.  Not doing like a modern shitty Disney film (is there any other kind at this point?) and just cashing in on people’s nostalgia.  And let me tell you, Ocean’s Eleven hits the nail on the head with this.  Taking an old heist movie from the UK and making it American and giving it a modern flair.

The story goes that Danny Ocean is released from prison after he got busted doing what he does – stealing things.  Now, he’s a free man and is already looking to get back into it, with a heist of three Las Vegas casinos.  A man with a plan, he assembles a team of the absolute best in the world of crime, for a score that is unlike anything that had happened before.

What makes this film work is two-fold.  First, you have the acting.  Every single role in this film is perfect.  Every actor is just phenomenal, bringing their A-game.  Clooney definitely steals the show.  That guy is one of those actors who has fallen off the grid, but films like this remind me why he used to be on top of it.  Brad Pitt is pretty great too.  One of the things about this film is how they used subtle ways to characterize each role.  With so many characters in the movie, sometimes you had to have little cues who is being interacted with.  For Pitt’s character, it was food.  You often see him eating things when you first see him in a scene.  That’s fantastic.  He brings this great charisma to the role.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the late Bernie Mac.  RIP, Bernie.  Sad thought that eventually I will be saying the same thing about Bernie Sanders, but I digress.  He was pretty fantastic in this as well.  The scene with the van salesman is just hilarious.

The second thing that makes the film work is the writing.  I cannot tell you how much I love films where it is almost entirely told in truly perfect dialogue.  This film had dialogue so snappy that it made me think of something by Aaron Sorkin or even Tarantino at points.  Ocean had the best of it.  The way he could move through scenes by talking to people is the best.  Clooney really deserved props for it.  Not sure if he got any.  My memory that far back isn’t great.  It was now over almost a third of my life ago.  I feel so fucking old.

This movie isn’t especially complicated.  The heist itself is, but through the use of fantastic dialogue writing and some great performance regarding the heist itself, we got a film that oozes style and charm.  For some of these actors, it was roles that helped make their careers.  For others, it was films made at the height of theirs.  And for characters like Saul, it was roles at the twilight of their careers.  If you haven’t seen this movie, you really owe it to yourself to take the time to watch it.  I really do believe it’s the greatest heist movie ever made.

Now if only the TERRIBLE sequels and the even worse all-female remake hadn’t been made, this film’s legacy would be cemented in heist movie history.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Retro Review: Eternal Sonata

How did a JRPG with a partial focus on the life of Frederic Chopin, my second favorite classical music composer, escape my notice until now?  I heard about this game not too long ago, so I went to Amazon and got a copy.  This game is such a surreal experience, and it has joined the pantheon of my favorite JRPGs.  I have no idea where the concept of this game came from, but you know what, I’m glad that it’s a thing.  This game has all the components one would expect of a Tales game, without any connection to the franchise.  Let’s talk about it.

The story is told from the perspective of a dream that Frederic Chopin is having on his deathbed.  Inside the dream he is in a world of music, where everything is named after music in one form or the other, even though some of the names don’t make sense, as they weren’t around during Chopin’s time.  Musical puns aside, the story goes that this world is one where the only people who can use magic are the ones who are dying.  We follow Frederic and a team of companions as they go from place to place looking to find a way to save the lives of this world, and their friends within it.  Along the way, they learn about themselves, and their place in this strange reality that Frederic has told them is all in his mind.

First things first, this game looks absolutely amazing.  The visuals here are really something, especially for the time in which it was made.  Every environment is meticulously detailed in that cell-shaded Tales style.  This fact does partially work against the game, as the enhanced level of detail means that they had to cut side content to a certain extent.  Which means that this game is pretty linear.  But there is never a segment of the game that something doesn’t pop your peepers a bit.

Another thing is the characters.  More specifically the voice-work for them.  You have some hardcore veterans of anime voicework here.  Almost all of them, really.  Patrick Seitz voices Frederic.  You have Johnny Bosch, Mona Marshall, Mary McGlynn, and pretty much everyone else from the best days of anime dub work.  Every character has a ton of personality, no matter how minuscule their role is.  The villain is just the best.  Count Waltz is just chewing the scenery so freakin’ hard.  It’s pretty great stuff.  Frederic is my favorite character.  Patrick Seitz brings him to life as he is on a mission to figure out what his life has been about and what the meaning to everything was as he knows that the end is near.  This game is very bittersweet, as there is another character named Polka, who is able to use magic and is trying to make the most of the time she has left.

Combat in this game is turn-based, with characters able to move around a space and engaging in active combat.  But you have a few seconds before moving where you can plan your attacks and what you will do next. Combat in this game is deceptively simple, but it grows on top of the base it lays down, bringing in combos and chained special attacks.  By the end of the game, you are able to chain combos and special attacks between characters and really rack up some damage.  But the enemies are no slouches.  This game has a steep learning curve, but once you get good at it, it feels pretty spectacular.

The linearity of this game is the biggest thing holding this game back.  See, one of the things you do in the game is collect Score Pieces, which allow you to do performance sessions with other characters.  However, you really have to look around for these things, and sometimes you don’t have a piece that goes with the person you are performing with.  And doing these sessions is a worthwhile thing to do as it will allow you to get some pretty great stuff.  However, if you don’t have a piece that compliments the person you are performing with, then you’re just screwed as dungeons that you cannot revisit will have these people and if you miss out, sucks to be you.

One thing that’s worth mentioning is that the game will take times out of it when it is thematically appropriate during the story to perform pieces by Chopin, along with give you some actual history of the man himself.  Given my love of his music, for me this was great stuff.  The imagery included during the scenes help tell some stories about the life of a man who died young but lived quite and austere life.  If you don’t like this kind of music, it will be something you hate, but for those like me who do, I found this to be fantastic.  Between this game and the little vignettes about Upik and Aleut culture you can unlock in Never Alone, it makes me wonder if there is something to the idea of video games being potential good tools to teach people.  Especially young people.  Call me crazy or an old timer, but I genuinely find it engaging stuff.

Overall, this is a fun game.  It’s got its flaws, and the message of the game can feel REALLY ham-fisted sometimes, beating you over the head with the obvious moral lesson.  But if you can see past that, there is a really fun JRPG here that will feel right at home to people who enjoy the Tales franchise.  I’m glad I heard about this game.  It has been well worth my time.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

A Response to Andrew Yang’s Universal Basic Income, From an Alaskan

Greetings Andrew,

I’ve been following your campaign for the primary with some interest for some time.  You have a lot of ideas that line up with my political values.  Though don’t take this the wrong way, I’m going to be voting for Bernie in the primaries.  He’s got the best chance against Trump.  Your ideas are interesting, and I hope you go further in your career to be at a position to make them realized.

But there is one position that I’ve got some serious contention that I think you have missed.  You talk about there being Universal Basic Income.  As you’ve put it, people get $1,000 a month, that they can spend how they see fit.  Your reasoning for this is something I take seriously.  Automation is going to hurt a lot of industries.  And the idea that we can just retrain some of the older employees for new jobs like out of work truckers is a pipe dream.  This issue will need some thorough examination, trust and believe.

However, your position on universal basic income is flawed.  You use the Permanent Fund Dividend here in Alaska as your chief identifier to the program being used and working.  Every year we get a stipend of money from the State, which comes out of a fund of State money that they play the stock market with, so depending on the oil revenues and the market, it can be bigger or smaller.  Though the Recession of 2008 finally caught up with Alaska now that the oil is drying up, and we’re already seeing oil companies start to ditch the state, like BP has done.  As such, the State of Alaska is having to pull from that fund to plug the financial hole that is growing because this state’s chief source of revenue is going cold.

A lot of what is happening in regards to this state’s failing financial future is our own fault.  Alaska is about as red as a state can be.  A dear friend once described it as Texas, but with snow.  So they will do absolutely nothing to raise the revenue.  Our most recent governor ran exclusively on the fact that he would make the PFD the full amount as decided in a formula that was laid out during its inception.  But to do that, in the current financial climate, he would have to essentially bankrupt this state.  That’s how big our financial hole is.  This state is close to financial insolvency.  The solutions to this aren’t one anyone will like, but it’s getting to the point that we’re going to have to talk about things like bringing the state income back (Alaska doesn’t pay it), or raising the gas tax by a margin.  No one likes it, but this state is bleeding to death.

None of this really ties in to my chief objection to your point of view, I just want to give some context to where I’m coming from on this.  Here’s the thing, Andrew, the PFD right now is a microcosm of this state’s problems and a problem with this entire country.  Because stripping half the PFD away to plug this state’s financial hole has not been popular among the oldest demographic of America.  In fact, seeing how these people have reacted to losing half of their free money because this state won’t do something as simple as reinstate the state income tax is just baffling to me.

See, the generation before mine up here LOVES to talk about how entitled millennials like myself are.  I’m not Gen Zed.  I’m firmly in the millennial category.  And according to people like this oafish uncle I have, my generation is so entitled and wants everything given to us.  However, these same people are the ones who stamp their feet and cry like babies when half of their free money is going away.  Never mind that if we don’t do something soon to increase the state’s revenue, it’s all gonna go away.  The PFD is on borrowed time.  It won’t be here much longer, if nothing changes.  We can’t slash the budget to make this problem go away.  Not anymore.

What’s more, I work for the state, in a section that involves children and money.  Make your inferences as you will.  Our Division has a policy regarding the PFD, if they are in arrears.  We can and will take it.  All of it, up to the balance owed.  PFD day, every year, is the worst.  Call after call after call with angry, wrathful people who are mad that their free money is being taken away because of an obligation they don’t pay.  What’s more, I have heard excuse after excuse about why they deserve it.  Like I said, this money has turned so many people into petulant children.

So when I hear you talking about how Universal Basic Income is the only solution to the problem, I gotta say, I’m not so sure.  An entire nation of petulant children like the ones I’ve had to deal with.  Like the ones who post meme after meme decrying the government up here for taking their free money because the state is dying and we have to plug the financial hole.  While that same government slashes the budget to ribbons and does the opposite of what they intend to do.  I’m not going to be in this state for much longer.  Alaska is dying, and anyone who thinks otherwise is ignorant of life.

You have a lot of interesting ideas, and I do wish you the best in your political road to come.  But your idea of UBI has some definite flaws, and as you use Alaska to help prove your point, I thought it was worth taking the time to point out that the PFD isn’t the slam dunk argument you make it out to be.

Until next time, a quote,

“There is no more expensive thing than a free gift.” Michel de Montaigne

Peace out,

Maverick