Lucien’s Review: Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

What a weird year for Marvel films.  Everyone says that they’re getting tired of all the Marvel films, because they’re so predictable and stale.  Part of me thinks that someone at Marvel heard that, and has been eager to change things up.  And wouldn’t you know it, but this year has delivered two very good films that may not have shaken the formula to its core, but at the very least have made things different enough to have people enjoying them more.  Nowhere was that more apparent than with the sequel to one of the funniest films in the MCU, Guardians of the Galaxy.  A film that not only had some surprisingly good character development, but a villain who actually caught me off guard.  Sure, the formula is there, but at least this film plays with it, and it actually feels like it is expanding on the lore of these characters, rather than just retreading old ground.  Let’s talk about it.

The plot goes that sometime after the events of the first film, the Guardians of the Galaxy are now for hire heroes that do nice things for pay.  Not a bad racket.  However, after Rocket decides to fuck things up for them because he can’t stop himself, Quill’s father comes back into the picture.  Backstories are explained, and characters’ true motivations are revealed.  A villain who actually has a motivation that isn’t just copy-paste comes up and now another battle is on to save the galaxy.  Like I said, it still has that formula, but it does it oh so well.

I’ve complained to no end how films are now basically just becoming endless CG bugs me, and I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t the case here.  This film is ALL about the CG.  It’s fucking everywhere.  That being said, it was still pretty.  I think the director knew that everyone would be noticing the constant CG so he took a very interesting tactic – use brilliant colors as a way to offset people’s disdain for it.  That’s pretty clever!  The same thing was used to good effect in Doctor Strange, though this film also had color used for comedic effect at times.  Constant, vivid colors was all over this movie, and I’m genuinely glad it was because otherwise I would have been rolling my eyes a lot over how fake so much looked.

Which is one one of my flaws.  It’s pretty clear that while Baby Groot was cute as fuck, he was never in the shot and everyone who pretended to interact with him wasn’t really interacting with him.  That was painfully obvious.  Plus, yeah, some of the sets were so blatantly just people in a room with green-screen absolutely everywhere.  I’m honestly glad I am not one of these people who watches making-of videos of movies, because I bet watching people just being in green rooms acting is both depressing and funny.

The film also brings back it’s truly fantastic soundtrack.  I love the musical choices in these film.  How each track is used also perfect goes with every scene that it goes into.  The opening is the most known and parodied, but there is a ton of places that each track is used well.  This director knows his stuff oh so well.

Speaking of, the comedy in this film is so on point.  It’s kind of nice to see a film where all the heroes are pretty much anti-heroes pretending to not be.  These people are such assholes!  I love it!  Every single character in this film is kind of a douche, but the chemistry between all of them is just fantastic.  My favorite is still Rocket.  This guy is such a dick.  He is the biggest anti-hero of them all, but the way he plays with that just makes him so lovable.  Maybe it’s that inner asshole in me who can’t get enough of it.  Hell, even Drax is funnier in this film.  His complete lack of a filter is just too perfect.  Plus, he said one of the most cathartic lines to me on a personal level.

“When you’re ugly, people love you for who you are. When you’re beautiful, you don’t know who to trust.”

For someone who struggles with body image issues due to balding that isn’t especially pretty, this strikes such a chord to me.  My self-loathing is a constant struggle.

Overall, this isn’t a perfect movie.  Yeah, the formula is still there.  But it still feels like a breath of fresh air.  I’m glad I got to see this on Netflix.  A good Spider-Man film and now a good sequel to a flawed original that takes it to the next level.  With the MCU looking to wrap up now that Infinity War is coming, I genuinely think I’ll be able to look back fondly on it.  Marvel caught lightning in a bottle, which DC is now pathetically trying to imitate.  What a shame.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Advertisements

Lucien’s Review: Death Note (2017)

Fuck this movie.  Fuck this fucking movie right up its ass.  This is the worst.  The absolute worst.  How terrible the live-action Japanese versions were should have been a big clue as to why this film wasn’t going to work.  The insanely over-the-top nature of the anime does NOT translate well into film.  So when you combine that with TERRIBLE American writers and a director who clearly has no talent for directing, then you end up with this pile of shit.  Yet-another anime adaptation to add to the pile.  Can whoever posed the idea of Akira being adapted into American take a fucking clue from this?!  They’re all bad!  Every last American adaptation has sucked, without a SINGLE exception.  Just like every video game adaptation has sucked.  When will Hollywood learn?  Wait, this wasn’t Hollywood’s fuck-up.  This was Netflix’s fuck-up.  I don’t have streaming here, but a friend invited me over to see it, and holy shit, it’s bad.  I hate when things I love get turned into shitty adaptations, and this was no exception.  There is so much to talk about, so let’s get to it.

The plot goes that Light…Turner (fuck that name) has the Death Note given to him by Ryuk.  That’s right, instead of Ryuk being bored one day in Shinigami Land and sending the book to Earth not caring who picked it up, in this version he gives it to Light and implies that he is the chosen one.  One of the many ways they fuck over EVERY SINGLE character in this film.  But instead of seeing this book as a way for him to create a world dedicated to his own personal sense of justice and becoming a genocidal monster in the process, Light decides that he’s going to impress a girl!  That’s right, instead of his character being a genius whose sense of morality becomes a twisted nightmare, he’s a pathetic high school loser who wants it is implied is just being used.  More on that later.  Then we get a dumbed-down version of L who is going to stop him.  Who wins?  Do you care?  If you do, you really haven’t been paying attention.

Nothing in this movie is good, aside from Willem Dafoe’s voicework as Ryuk.  Speaking of, let’s go into how every single character is fucked over.  So many people are going to say “it’s an adaptation!  You shouldn’t compare it to the original!”  Yeah?  Well then change the fucking name!  Light is turned from a genius who decides he is going to become a God under the assumed name of Kira into a pathetic angst-y teenager who is almost-certainly being led around with no agency of his own.  Whether it be Mia (their terrible version of Misa), or Ryuk, he always seems to be on someone else’s leash.  Did the idiot who directed this even see the anime?  Fuck this movie.  Light is not some brilliant mastermind.  In the anime, he is a calculating genius, who makes every move according to a plot to best the greatest detective of all time.  Every relationship in his life is part of a calculation, along with everything he ever does.  Part of what makes him so compelling as a character is how his urge to become a god ends up destroying the lives of every single person he touches, and he by the end he laughs his ass off about it.  In the film, he’s a pathetic pawn being used by pretty much everyone around him.  All of the brilliance of the cat-and-mouse game between him and L is gone.

Oh, let’s talk about L.  Do I care that they made him black?  Not even a little.  What I care about is the fact that they made him so pathetic.  I guess the director saw how he is in the anime and took that to mean that he isn’t socially awkward in the extreme and on the autism spectrum.  In this film, they decide to him him so pathetic that he has to have a song played to him to fall asleep.  This version of the character is pathetic.  That’s the only word for it.  You never sense this genius mind clouding a sense of detachment, which makes him believing that he is making a connection with Light so tragic.  He believed he had found a friend, and at the very end he realizes that he was just being used by Light.  In his last moment, he looks into Light’s eyes and sees that it was all a lie, and him and his companion died for it.  There are plenty of ways this character could have been 1000X better and been black.  The color of his skin had NOTHING to do with how pathetic and stupid this character was.  If anything, this actor is very competent.  I bet with better writing, he could have sold this a lot better.

Then there’s Mia.  A spin on the Misa character from the anime, here they make her out to be something of a force acting on Light, compelling him to do bad things with the Death Note.  Because we can’t have any of the morally gray stuff from the anime.  Everything has to be clearly black and white.  Fuck this movie.  The fact that so much of what initially makes Light use the Death Note is to please her just irks me.  In the anime, she was an insane groupie of Kira.  She was in love with him and would do anything, absolutely anything to please him.  To the point that she cut her own lifespan in half to get the Shinigami eyes.  But in the end, she realizes that she was used, just like everyone else, and it’s implied that she kills herself.  Another of those relationships that were nothing but a tool to Light and nothing more.  Can’t have that morally gray stuff in the film.  Doesn’t help that this chick acted like she should be in a sitcom.  Ugh.

Let’s talk about Ryuk.  Do you like Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin voice?  Well, he does okay with it here, so you can enjoy his vocal performance.  But here’s what pisses me off – in the anime, Ryuk isn’t on Light’s side.  He isn’t on anyone’s side.  When Light’s gambit is up, and he reaches out to Ryuk to help him, he outright says that he won’t.  Early on in the series, he helps Light out, not out of a sense of loyalty, but because he finds the game that’s going on interesting and realizes that if he doesn’t tell Light about the security cameras in his room, the game will end abruptly.  In the film, he’s painted as seeing Light as the chosen killer, and even compels him to do things.  Once-again, you can’t have all that morally gray stuff about Light seeing himself as a god and believing his genocidal rampage as a way to express that.  That might make audiences question who is the good guy.  We gotta see our protagonist as virtuous at all times.

Oh, and then there’s the book itself.  In the anime, Kira’s chosen method of killing is heart attacks.  There’s a reason – to show that these people are being killed and it’s him doing the killing.  It’s a way to spread the fear all over the world because no one knows who would be killed next.  In the movie, the vast majority of deaths are done through these Rube Goldberg machine ways of dying that REALLY make me think back to the Final Destination ways of dying.  It’s like the film wanted to show off the gore.  Funny, they want to have violent deaths, but no moral ambiguity.  The exact opposite of the show, which had very contained deaths, but a TON of moral ambiguity.  I guess someone assumed American audiences can’t handle that.  Fuck this movie.

As a fan of the anime, this film spits in the face of everything that made it great.  But let’s take that away.  Let’s pretend that the anime that this director halfheartedly riffed on never existed.  This film still sucks.  The performances are boring.  The motivations make no sense.  I’ll give that Light in the anime went from zero to Little Hitler in the span of a few moments.  But the series took the time to explain why he had this viewpoint.  Plus, there was the moral ambiguity of the battle between Light and L, where the body count gets higher and higher, and the audience is left wondering if either one is a truly good person.  In this film, the motivation is that Light is being manipulated by the people around him, with little agency of his own.  That’s boring!  Give me a reason to care why he’s so evil.  L is also a bad character, written to be so incapable of surviving on his own that he has to be taken care of.

I hate this movie, and can someone please make a note somewhere that American adaptation of anime don’t work so we can stop it, already?!

Final Verdict
2 out 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode 1: Awake

I’ve talked at length about how my favorite game of 2015 was Life is Strange.  While it had its flaws, it told an interesting narrative about a girl with time powers and a mystery that unfortunately had a lackluster conclusion.  The outright-terrible ending of the game, however, didn’t ruin the entire experience for me.  I still love everything leading up to it.  It’s kind of like Mass Effect 3 in that regard.  When I saw the announcement for this, I was more than a little pissed.  I mean, why would I want a prequel?  It’s a story I already know!  Rachel and Chloe were tight as fuck, Rachel was secretly in love with Frank, she gets killed.  What more could they fill in?  I said in my First Take post that if this was just some stupid prequel telling us crap we already know and nothing else, I would ream this game a new one in a way that Square Enix would feel.  I’m happy to say that this prequel challenged my skepticism.  It’s not perfect, but for the flaws it has, it has some things done better.  Let’s talk about it.

This game is still a prequel.  Set four years before the events of the original game, we see a much younger and much more vulnerable Chloe.  She’s trying to get into a concert where a band who is weirdly playing the tune of another band (did the actual band not want their name associated with this game?  You’d think they at least would have had to have the song licensed, so why not just play as yourselves?  Odd).  After getting in trouble, it’s here that we see her meet Rachel Amber, the most popular girl in her school.  From there, our young protagonist gets involved in a new life of freedom, friendship, and maybe something more.

There’s a lot to say about this prequel, and it’s a lot of the same stuff one could say about the original game.  For starters, the dialogue is just as bad as the first episode of the last game.  Maybe this is a trend with this game.  I don’t know who their writing staff is, but no teenager anywhere talks like this.  But just like the original game, that grows on you after a while.  It sure as hell grew on me.  So there’s that.

The visuals are much better.  They’re using the Unity engine, and it really stands out.  The faces in-particular.  My biggest complaint with the original game was that the faces were so inexpressive.  Better facial animation would have made some of the best scenes of dialogue even better.  Here, there is much more expression, and it makes the dramatic climax of the episode really good.

One thing I do miss is that the time powers are gone.  Now, instead of being able to rewind and make a choice about whether or not you want to follow through with something, you have to basically own it.  Not gonna lie, that does bother.  You also can’t restart episodes from various chapters.  That’s kinda frustrating too.  Here’s hoping future episodes fix that.  But you do have some new mechanics.  Like this back-talk mechanic that makes no sense in reality but it is kinda cool that you get to play mental games with people.

Let’s talk about the characters.  There are some REALLY weird voice-actor changes that totally take away from characters.  For example – David.  I grew to like him at the very end when you finally see under the hood of his mental problems if you tell him that Mr. Jefferson killed Chloe and he shoots him.  Whoever they got to replace him as a voice actor does NOT sound at all like a torn-up veteran.  The first guy they got was a douche, but you believed he’s a tormented veteran haunted by what he saw.  This guy sounds like a fucking doofus.  There is no presence with this guy.  Same with the dude they got to replace William.  I can at least forgive that because you only see William in dreams.  His weird speech patterns fit with the scenes they are in, but still.

Ashly Burch is back to play Chloe, and I genuinely do like her character more.  It’s pretty clear that the voice actress is older, but the performance feels more genuine.  Stereotypical punk Chloe is cool and kinda hot, but young and vulnerable Chloe is genuinely more interesting.  One of my biggest complaints from the first game was the fact that we never got to meet Rachel Amber, since I assumed that the power Max had has some connection with her.  Thankfully, I at least know that’s right.  But that gets into spoiler territory for this game.

Something I’d like to add is that there is one genuine improvement over its predecessor.  So many choice-based games make it so that the choices feel meaningless.  This episode doesn’t!  There are a ton of variations, little things that change in scenes because of choices you make.  It was surprising when I’d go through the same scenes over again and have them play out differently because of things I’d done.  That’s pretty cool.  It gives me some hope that the decisions I make in the end will actually amount to something.

Overall, this game is about growing up.  It’s about Chloe accepting that her dad is dead and making a new friend and how she can’t deal with how alone she is.  We also get to peek into the life of a character who I always wanted to meet.  But I am glad to see that it isn’t just a prequel to stuff we already knew.  They actually go back even further than recent history and give us some stuff.  We get some hints as to the nature of the supernatural in Arcadia Bay, which I am desperately hoping they run with.  I’m curious to see where this goes, and while I do hate how much Max gets shit on, we have two new characters to see where things go.

Final Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Observer

I find myself in a very strange position – having a game where there is nothing wrong with it in terms of appearance, gameplay, or performance, and yet I was totally and completely bored by.  This is a game that has nothing fundamentally wrong with it.  I just got so bored playing it.  How is that possible?  Maybe it’s just not the kind of game for me?  I honestly don’t know.  There could be a lot of self-reflection in my future as I think about this game and what it represents to me.  This review may end up with me just stroking my own dick as I think about why I didn’t really enjoy this game as much as the Steam community seems to, but so be it.  I do want to talk about it.

The story goes that you’re in a 1980’s style dystopian future horror movie.  Everything about the aesthetic screams old school horror films.  This game seems to have taken some cues from Alien: Isolation in that regard.  You play as Daniel Lazarski, voiced very well by Rutger Hauer.  I like the voice acting from this character.  Rutger isn’t known for being able to boom.  He plays the broken down old man very well.  He is an Observer.  They’re a new kind of law enforcement who can go into people’s minds and take information that they don’t want to give up out of their heads.  It’s a dark concept, that admittedly has a lot of potential.  Now he’s on the trail to find his son, with whom he is estranged, and gets involved in a plot of murder and deception, all inside the heads of the dead or dying.

This game has a very unique look.  I liked the retro feel of the tech in this game.  You have all these holgraphic displays, mixed in with computers that look like they were coughed up from the 80’s.  It’s cool stuff.  Seeing games willing to eschew the modern film convention of making all the technology super advanced is really refreshing.  A pity Hollywood can’t seem to do that.  The problem here is that since the game really doesn’t take a large amount of time building the world it inhabits, I didn’t find myself getting into this beyond the most basic “that’s kinda cool” sorta way.  Which is really unfortunate because there was a lot of loving detail put into the environments.

Hacking into people’s minds brought me to another game that this one clearly took a lot of cues from.  Well, not really a game so much as what could have been a game – P.T.  After the death of Silent Hills, a TON of games have been trying to take that concept and run with it.  To extremely varying degrees of success.  In my opinion, this game didn’t seem to rise to the ambitious goals Hideo Kojima was trying to do the way others appear to be.  All the intricacies of P.T.’s environmental puzzles connected to being in a single hallway are lost on this game.

Then we get the sections that it’s clear they took from a previous work, Outlast – the moving around and hiding sections from a monster that you can’t kill.  These sections got very tedious, very quickly.  It was so easy to predict where the monster would be, so all the tension that could have come from hiding from the creature was lost in a nano-second.  I found myself wishing that they could have just ditched those entirely for maybe more creative environmental puzzles in the world of people’s minds.  For all the potential the idea of jacking into people’s heads has, they really seemed to not want to take any crazy chances with it.  I can think of 100 ways to make it a surreal nightmare all off the top of my head that they didn’t even try.  I kind of want to see this idea done again by a studio that is a little more ambitious.  Maybe Kojima can take a crack at it after he is done with Death Stranding?  Just a good idea.

Which brings me to the fear element – this game isn’t scary.  At all.  They really should have ditched the fear side.  I guess the fear is supposed to come from the idea of what it means to get into people’s heads and how that is violating their minds.  But here’s the thing – 99% of everyone you jack into is dead.  This concept could have been made immediately more disturbing if you had living people who are desperately fighting you in their minds from getting to their secrets.  Like maybe have an investigation where the Observer is so desperate to get to the answer that he’ll do all sorts of crazy shit in people’s head.  As I said, this is a really neat concept, that I want to see done better.

I guess my biggest problem here is that this game feels like a ton of potential that wasn’t wasted, per se, just not taken far enough.  If they wanted to make a game where the implication of what you’re doing is supposed to be the scary thing (which I like on a VERY large level), then why not go all the way with it?  I mean REALLY fuck with the player.  Make it so that the player feels like they are partly to blame.  Have them also so eager to get to the answer that they are pushing the main character to do all these things.  Maybe some Fourth Wall moments where you put on the player that what they’re doing is wrong.  So much potential in this thought process.

This is not a bad game.  I just got very bored by it.  To me it feels like a game that is riffing off other games and doesn’t go out of its way to be its own thing.  Which is a bummer, because the kind of game I described above, I can see Rutger Hauer being an amazing addition to.  Hopefully this isn’t his last foray into video games before he passes.  He is quite old.  It will be a shame when he goes.  He’s a great actor, and has the chops for great voice acting too.  But that’s just my thoughts.  Let me know what yours are below.

Final Verdict
6 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Shin Godzilla

What a fascinating film I just watched.  I love me some old Godzilla movies.  The effects are so bad, but the kaiju fighting is just too much fun.  Plus, watching them dubbed adds an extra layer of cheese that cannot be compared.  I didn’t really like the new Godzilla movie that America made, partly because there was so little of the actual monsters.  A similar criticism could easily be leveled at this movie, but I won’t.  Why?  Because this film just took the most fascinating approach.  There is a lot to unpack here, so let’s get down to it.

The plot of this film is just focused exclusively around Godzilla.  No other kaiju to fight.  This movie has our titular monster as the big bad, which again sounds like it would be boring, but this movie just so odd.  It tells the story of a new Godzilla in a world where he never existed, now coming for Japan (what is his beef with that place?  What the fuck did they do to him?) and the Japanese government desperately trying to save their country from destruction.

This film is perhaps the most political movie I’ve seen in years.  It’s weird.  95% of this movie is spent with characters just talking.  There is so much talk about Japanese politics that you almost forget that you’re watching a Godzilla film for a while.  I wanna hate that, but I don’t.  Getting to see this Japanese government and some genuinely-likeable characters desperately trying to figure out what to do in the face of an international threat that is looking to take excessive measures to stop Godzilla is genuinely touching.  The head of a special department who is trying to figure out a way to stop Godzilla specifically is my favorite.  You genuinely get the feeling that he is invested in this effort to save his country.

Since the entirety of the movie revolves around the political sphere, if you hate listening to people talk about politics for almost the entirety of the 2 hour runtime of this film, you’re gonna hate it.  That’s the big and small of it.  Even when you see things happening in service to the plot of the film, they always find a way to bring it back to the the government’s efforts and how international pressure comes into play.  It’s actually kinda smart.  You genuinely feel for these people who are stuck in a world where they have red tape and public to worry about.  I like this perspective.  In the American film, it was all about a small section of military characters, none of whom were particularly interesting.  This movie has a kind of authenticity because they keep it focused on Japan and make the outside world as not evil, but disconnected.  You can take all this for what you will.

That being said, this film has a LOT of elements that are silly to the point of ridiculousness.  Since there are a lot of American characters in this movie, you get some genuinely funny Engrish.  This female character who is the American liaison to Japan is my favorite.  It’s clear that she’s a Japanese actress and English is NOT her first language.  But believe it or not, they get real American actors to play American parts.  The problem is that the writing for these actors is clearly done by somebody where English is their first language.  So the dialogue is so fucking stilted.  It’s kind great.  Oh boy.

Speaking of ridiculous things, let’s talk about the effects in this movie.  In the old films, it’s clearly someone in a suit.  This time they decided to trade in the suit for CG, and it’s…terrible.  I love it.  When you first see Godzilla in his original form, it looks so bad that I was laughing my ass off.  The eyes especially.  That was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time.  Maybe that’s why they worked so hard to keep the focus off him.  Because too much time with the monster and we would have been laughing our asses off.

But it isn’t devoid of cool effects.  There is one scene that just blows me away.  It’s when they finally do real damage to the monster, and he loses his cool.  What follows may not be amazing, but is done with so much finesse and really good musical cues that you feel how desperate the situation is.

One thing I do wanna point out is a track used in this film.  When I first heard it, I laughed my ass off.  It’s so clearly robbed from Evangelion.  I mean, to the point of shameless.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I know that FUNimation is at least partly licensed in the production of this film, I’d be amazed that they haven’t sued the living shit out of this studio.  It’s so obviously the track from Evangelion.  They do change it just a little bit later in the film, but it’s not enough to make me think it’s anything else.

I also wanna talk about this film’s weird habit of suddenly taking strange angle shots right the fuck out of nowhere!  I mean nowhere!  They’ll suddenly have a shot from the weirdest angle and then cut away.  Whoever was behind that decision, I want to know why.  These shots just come and go in a split-second, and serve no purpose in any scene they are in.

Overall, I’m not sure how to rate this film.  There are a TON of flaws that one could easily nit-pick to death.  But, I had fun watching it.  This is a genuinely entertaining movie, for me.  Maybe it’s because I liked these characters, and the politics they were talking about was genuinely interesting.  I don’t know.  But your mileage with this movie will vary.  So glad I watched it with subtitles.  If I had had to suffer the dub, I know I wouldn’t have been able to take ANY of it seriously.  The genuine strength of the performances comes out only in original Japanese.  This review may not make much sense to you, but this is the best I can talk about it.  Do with my review what you will.

Final Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

I’m about to get very unpopular right now.  I hated the first three Spider-Man films.  Why?  Because I hate Tobey MaGuire.  I’m sure he is a perfectly nice person, and I have seen movies with him in it that I like, such as Pleasantville.  However, I do not like him as an actor.  How he was able to carry the role in the aforementioned film is beyond me.  Maybe they got that one director in a million.  I don’t know.  Whatever the case, he was insufferable as Spider-Man.  There is the meme about the many faces of Tobey Maguire, well, that’s all I can think of when I watch those movies.  Andrew Garfield was a little better in the role.  At least in the first film he starred as.  I at least felt like he was trying to fit into the role of the character.  Still, he ended up being destroyed by studio interference.  Though, that’s what happened to the original films too.  Huh, there might be a clue about Sony and their vicegrip on this franchise in there somewhere.

But for the first time in, roughly 15 years, I actually feel like I have watched a Spider-Man movie.  It’s finally happened!  I knew it would be after I saw this actor in the role in Civil War.  Tom Holland was perfectly cast.  He looks the part.  He sounds the part.  Everything about this kid just screams Spider-Man.  I really liked this movie.  Is it perfect?  Hell no.  But as far as doing justice to this character and making a good Spider-Man film, this movie is the closest we have ever gotten, and part of me is worried that Sony is just going to fuck that up down the road.  Let’s talk about it.

The plot picks up 7 months after the events in Civil War, where Parker is back in school and trying to balance being a superhero and desperately hoping to be involved in something larger by Stark once-again.  Meanwhile, there is a villain who actually has a pretty neat motivation secretly working toward a goal, and Parker is the only one who can stop him.  It’s pretty standard superhero fare, but man is it all in the execution.

Once-again, Tom Holland rocks this role.  I feel like I am legit watching Spider-Man live up to his namesake!  The acting is great all-around.  Holland rocks the main role.  His buddy Ned is pretty fun too.  He’s funny.  He plays the sidekick role really well.  Plus, you actually believe that him and Parker are friends.  Their friendship all comes through due to the chemistry of these actors.  Next up we have Aunt May, who is featured much less than I thought in this movie.  They also gave her glasses for some odd reason.  But you actually feel her compassion for Parker.  The love interest in the film is actually a pretty nice character.  I don’t care that they changed her ethnicity.  It’s all good to me.  I liked her character.

A role that stood out to me was the villain.  Everyone knows it’s the Vulture, so I’m not spoiling anything there.  But he is a pretty neat character.  So many superhero films lately have a problem of boring antagonists.  We actually get to see where this man’s motivations come from.  Is he super deep?  No.  But it’s a hell of a lot deeper than the paper-thin villains I have seen in some of Marvel’s movies.  Plus, he is played by Michael Keaton, who totally owns the role.  He is nefarious and in it for himself, but you can see where he’s coming from.  And I like how they were able to get past the whole “we’re not so different” angle in this film in a pretty clever way.

But there is one performance that just bugs me – Mary Jane.  Do I care that they also changed her ethnicity?  No.  Not even a little.  What I do care about is the fact that they made her into the biggest garden-variety SJW ever!  She’s annoying.  She’s preachy.  I half-expected her to talk about her Tumblr page, it’s that bad.  How Peter is going to get past that and want to be with her in future films is beyond me.  This character was downright insufferable.  Is this a nitpick?  Absolutely.  It didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the film overall.  See, I can handle SJW pandering so long as it’s in a good movie.  But whoever directs this next, can we PLEASE make this character a little more likeable?

Tony Stark also comes back, and I was a little disappointed in this.  Robert Downey Jr was fine and all, but I was kind of thinking that Stark was going to go at this from the angle of him trying to become a father-figure in Peter’s life.  They framed it that way in the trailers.  There is one exceptionally-good moment where he is castigating Parker, but that’s pretty much it.

Finally, I have to talk about something which is a minor spoiler.  Spider-Man unlocks an AI program in the suit Stark left him, and she is entirely too much fun.  The scenes where her and Parker are arguing about stuff are just great.  Desperately hoping this character becomes a mainstay of the series.

The effects and action in this movie are pretty good, but since this film is really character-driven, I honestly don’t have much to say about that.  Vulture was a pretty good villain.  Seeing Spidey doing his thing is pretty awesome.

The final thoughts on this movie is that it’s loads of fun.  It’s not perfect.  It’s being held back by the fact that it has some scenes that drag and an SJW-tastic character who was grinding my gears every time her preachy ass was on screen.  But overall this was loads of fun, and it is my favorite Spider-Man film to date.  But here is where I am worrying.  Sony has said that after the last Avengers film, they are cutting ties to Disney’s Marvel.  Please don’t.  These people know what’s what!  Having their input has gotten you so much farther.  Let them stay involved.  Granted, Kevin Feige is leaving the MCU after this, which is when I plan on tuning out, so maybe it’s all for the best.  We’ll see what happens, but at least I finally got ONE good Spider-Man film that makes me believe this character is Spider-Man.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Little Nightmares

I’ve talked before about how one of my favorite Indie games is the 2D puzzle-platformer Limbo.  A game that combined creepy atmosphere with some pretty enjoyable puzzle elements and an aesthetic that was all its own.  I still enjoy that game whenever I am bored and just looking for a nice zen way to pass time.  Here we have another puzzle-platformer, not quite 2D with a creepy atmosphere and an aesthetic all its own.  And just like the other one, while it isn’t perfect, for the genre it is in, it is very good.  And creepy as fuck.  Let’s talk about it.

Beginning with a literal nightmare, you wake up as a tiny person.  What is this person?  Why are they tiny?  Where are they trying to go?  This game has absolutely zero dialogue of any kind, so you never know the answers to those questions.  I could and may one day do a Critical Examination post on what my interpretation of the world and the creatures within it represent, but that’s for another day.  Suffice it to say, nothing is as it seems in this world.  Even your tiny, adorable, defenseless character has some darkness about it that you will never truly understand.  Which can lead to some genuinely horrifying moments as your tiny person descends into whatever darkness has possessed it as well.

As with Limbo, this is a game that is less about overt fear and more about the subtle implications.  This game is creepy as fuck.  Some of the things you come across made my spine tingle.  However, this game is very good about keeping things within enough nebulous to let your imagination do the heavy lifting.  I like that.  With so many horror games relying on jump scares, it’s nice to see a game that eschews that for an experience that is totally based on the creep factor.  So the place can make the fear come to life.

Which isn’t to say that it’s all about atmosphere.  This game has some creepy-as-fuck monsters living in its world.  From the long-armed blind creature that seems to be taking tiny people for some unknown purpose, to the hog-like chefs who are eager to chop you up, and the lady herself who is running this joint, the designs of the monsters here is just fantastic.  And since you are a tiny person with no weapons of their own, all you can do is hide.  You are completely powerless in the face of what is after you.  Running and hiding.  That’s it.

Since this game is a puzzle-platformer, you may be wondering how those elements hold up.  And I gotta say, pretty well.  Since this game is 3D in many places, it makes you have to think vertically about challenges, and how certain environmental elements can be used to solve puzzles which are all about progression.  Every environmental puzzle is about getting from A to B.  But sometimes you have to back to A, then to C, then back to A and you finally have a way to get to B.  Can it be a little confusing a times? Sure.  However, one thing I really like is how the game does NOT hold your hand.  Right from the start you have to figure out the control scheme and using the lighter you have on your own.  With so many games choosing to hold players hands, this is a very nice touch.

It is worth pointing out that this game is very short.  Only a few hours long.  For the short length, it may be a little overpriced, but I think I got pretty close to my money’s worth, so I’ll let that slide.

Overall, this is a solid entry into its genre, and creepy as fuck to boot.  There really isn’t much more to say about it.  If games like Limbo appeal to you, then check this out and get ready to be unnerved.

Final Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick