Lucien’s Review: Vampyr

Oh boy.  A long time ago, I talked about how this game is being made by the studio who brought me my favorite game of 2015, and thus my standards for this were sky high.  In playing this game, and seeing the stuff that is coming out of E3 lately, I have realized some things.  The studio who brought us this game also knows that they made my favorite game of 2015, or at the very least they knew that that game was a big deal.  And it seems that they let them go to their head.  Or maybe I should have seen their other games and realized what was facing this one.  I don’t know.  In any case, this game let me down big-time.  Let’s talk about it.

The plot goes that Dr Johnathan Reid has been afflicted with vampyrism, and now he has to manage that, all while a mysterious “Spanish Flu” is working its way through London and he has to deal with that at the same time.  Meanwhile, hunters are on the loose, making a situation that could be bad worse.  All while he also has to balance the vampire caste’s politics.  It was sold to us as a game about balancing your hunger, along with the plot, and keeping the districts safe.  At face value, that sounds really cool.  It sold me.  But the devil is in the details.

First, the vistas in this game are butt ugly.  That is when you can make anything out.  Don’t tell me it’s supposed to be night!  It was night in Arkham City too, and that game had various locations all with their own sense of style.  This game was drab, and boring.  A story set in early 1900’s London has the potential to be gorgeous to look at.  Instead, you can barely tell one district apart from the other, in the tiny amount of area that you have to explore.

Which is another thing – this game’s size is pathetic.  I was thinking that I was going to get to explore London.  Instead, I am in this tiny part of the city, with the rest being this mythical thing that I hear about but never see.  Maybe it is Dontnod just biting off more than they could chew with that, but there it is.  I prefer games with broad levels instead of an open world with nothing in it.  This game seems to be riding the fence about that concept, and it fails on both.

Then there’s the combat.  At first, this is pretty fun.  You have plenty of powers to play with, though you don’t get access to any powers as you go through the game.  Instead, everything available to you is open right from the start.  So learning neat things about being a vampire and getting to immerse yourself in the experience?  That was fucked.  Between repetitive enemies and difficulty that is entirely contingent on what amount of a prick you want to be,

Oh, and while we’re talking about that, this game has a REALLY bad habit of fucking with you in the choice department.  See, I wanted to be a good guy and save the city.  So when Lady Ashbury tasked me with stopping there from being blackmail against her in a way where I didn’t kill the person, that’s exactly what I did.  I found the source, and convinced her to walk away from all this with my mesmerizing powers.  But apparently that was the wrong approach to take!  Because she turned into an undead and started killing everyone.  What?!  Why is that?!  I saved her without killing her.  Why did the game decide that I was going to fail anyway?

Next, there was Sean Hampton.  He’s turned into an undead and is eating raw flesh to satiate his hunger, saying that the Lord is going to be his guide if he ever loses his way.  I decide to give him the benefit of the doubt, even though the REALLY ominous music is not helping.  I guess I should have listened.  Because while I was able to salvage the last district that was falling apart, this one went completely to shit.  So me taking the nice guy approach doesn’t work.  Then I should just kill everyone?  This game is really bad about telling you to play one way, then not rewarding you for that.  It was genuinely frustrating to see all my effort go down the tubes.

Oh, and there’s also the busy work.  Tasks that you have to do because the game tells you to, and if you don’t, the districts that you have saved go to shit.  Like how everyone in your districts is getting sick all the damn time, and you have to save them all the damn time.  I keep having to fight through more powerful enemies over and over to keep the districts healthy all the time.  It gets on my nerves REALLY quick.

Does this mean there was nothing I liked?  Not at all.  The narrative was fairly interesting.  It has a couple of hiccups, but it keeps me going the rest of the time.  If they had only been smarter about making this game, who knows what they could have accomplished.  Not to mention a few characters stuck with me.  Most notably Lady Ashbury.  She’s a vampire who is trying not to be a monster as well, and my attempts to be a better creature of the night at least resonated with her.  That’s one person who is appreciative.

It’s painfully clear that Dontnod is coasting on the success of Life is Strange, using a TON of brand recognition.  In my opinion, it went to their head.  That’s not a good thing.  This concept could have been genuinely amazing.  I wanted it to be one thing, but came out something else.  Which hurts me because I was genuinely hoping for a cool game about being a vampire.  There aren’t nearly enough.  It’s a tragically missed genre that has so much potential.

So I will give you my crash course in a video game about being a vampire.  First, have powers be something that the character learns about over time.  Don’t just throw it all out there and tell me to run with it.  Next, make the narrative more about the vampire world than the human one.  I get the idea of choosing how much of a monster you want to be, and I am all for that concept.  But it gets lost when the humans in the game are such a pain in the ass that you constantly have to look after.  Have choosing to be a monster be more about the narrative and how you have to live with the creature or person you let yourself become.

And since you are stuck in a world of the night, make the areas you explore interesting.  Not just drab back-drops.  Give them flavor.  It’s London, for fuck’s sake.  That’s easy to do.  Some art deco style and appropriate mood lighting and you got yourself a good London dark city.  Have the vampire society have its own aesthetic, to give it a kind of alienation with the world that humans live in.

Making a fun vampire game is a tricky deal.  But I was REALLY hoping that this was more Vampire: The Masquerade, and less Remember Me.  Overall, this game is horribly terrible.  It’s just insatiably boring.  Dontnod really is floating on their success with their last big title, and that’s unfortunate.  Because I could look past the flaws of Life is Strange like the dialogue being wonky or the world looking odd because the aesthetic was all its own.  I went after that game for the bigger issues, like fucking up the ending to the series in a worse way than Mass Effect 3.

Dontnod really wants to capture lightning again after their last major game.  Hell, they just showcased a new game that for some reason is set in the same universe as Life is Strange about a kid dealing with growing up alone in the middle of nowhere with a drunk dad.  Don’t know why they set it in that universe, other than a way to market it to people like me.  This studio needs to assess what they want to be, because they have one good but flawed work, while several other REALLY mediocre ones.  That’s not a good look.  Take this for what you will.

Final Verdict
4 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

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Lucien’s Review: Solo: A Star Wars Movie

I swore that I am never paying to go to anything associated with Star Wars again, and I meant it.  But when my buddy called me up all sad and drunk and told me that he wanted to see it to take his mind off things and would pay my way, I decided that I would spend his money.  No sweat off my back.  After the shit-show that was The Last Jedi, this couldn’t possibly be as bad, right?  Well, yeah, it really couldn’t possibly be as bad as that flaming pile of shit.  But that doesn’t make it good.  In fact, what I would describe this movie as is painfully average.  It does nothing to surprise you, and is a boring movie to sit through.  It’s so by-the-numbers that I could see where it was going long before I got there.  Let’s talk about it.

The plot goes that instead of our boy Han Solo being some studious dude who happens to fall into crime (which is a story I would actually have liked, or at least SOME kind of inclination to who he was as a young person), he is already a criminal and working for another equally-grotesque crime boss.  The film follows him as he goes from working for that boss, to being in the Imperial military, to then being back into crime with Woody Harrelson.  Will he find all the iconic stuff from the other films and give a shit-ton of fan service so the Star Wars nerds can cum in their pants?  Well no fucking shit.  That’s a given.

The plot of this film is boring.  However, let’s not talk about that.  Instead, let’s talk about the things I liked.  There is one thing on this list.  It’s the dynamic between Chewie and Han.  When I heard the horror stories about the actor playing the titular needing an acting coach because he sucked so bad, I immediately wrote this shit off.  But then I was genuinely surprised.  He wasn’t the worst.  In fact, the moments where him and Chewie are getting to know each other and building up a repore are pretty great.  It was the only time I felt ANY investment in the film, so kudos there.

Now we get to shit I hate.  For starters – this movie is butt-ugly to look at.  What the hell was the cinematography department doing?  This is Ron Howard directing this, so it should NOT look this bad.  This is worse than Suicide Squad.  The presentation is so muted and boring and vanilla.  Not one scene in the whole damn movie stands out for being visually interesting.  If the plot and characters were more interesting, it could make up for a lot of that, but since they aren’t, it doesn’t.  It genuinely blows my mind how crappy this movie is in the visuals department, from a director who I know knows what they’re doing.

Next up, the worst role in this film, by far, is Lando.  This character was so insufferable to listen to.  I don’t hold this against Donald Glover.  NOBODY could make how awful this writing was work.  And to Glover’s credit, he did try.  But he is poorly written and I rolled my eyes a lot.  So is his SJW-bot.  SJW droid was the worst.  I do not genuinely understand why they did this with this character.  Of all the characters to have forced social justice bullshit, why the droid?  Part of me wonders if it’s a parody.  I expected Emilia Clark’s character to be all about that.  But no, it’s the droid.  I may have found the snarky droid in Rogue One to be fun, but this one is the worst.  Oh, and the forced pansexuality of Lando was just awful too.  It didn’t fit with the character given what we knew.  All of that Billy Dee Williams charm, gone.

Oh, and speaking of side-characters, I couldn’t have given less of a shit about anyone in this film if I tried.  The side-characters in Rogue One were kind of annoying, but at least they were memorable.  Here, they’re just dull as dirt.  No surprises.  No memorable traits, aside from who plays them.  I could do the Red Letter Media test on pretty much anyone in this movie and they would fail.  Not a single one of them stood out to me, so when we have them dying, I didn’t really care.  Who the fuck did?  Given the fact that this film has bombed at the box office, clearly not many.

All things considered, this isn’t a terrible movie.  It’s boring.  So insufferably boring.  I’ll admit that I was surprised that I didn’t hate the guy they got to play the titular character, but that’s it.  And the repore he built up with Chewie was genuinely enjoyable to watch.  That’s it.  The rest of it sucked.  I meant what I said about being done with Star Wars.  But since I was spending my friend’s money (the amount I spent on concessions at the theater was just spiteful.  I told him outright I was going to spend his money.  There was no lie.  He needed to be sobered up anyway, and movie popcorn is good for that.), I figured I should tell you all about it.  Haven’t been able to build up the urge to actually do the review until now.  I just didn’t know what to say.

Part of me thinks that Disney just bought this license to make quick cash of a couple billion dollars.  But they aren’t managing it well.  They are using this license to spread their faux-belief in SJW talking points, when anyone with a brain knows that Disney doesn’t ACTUALLY buy into this crap.  They don’t give two shits about feminism and equality.  They care about money, and right now the media is all about social justice and SJW feminism, so they pander to that.  But make no mistake, once the pendulum swings back the other way, they will be shitting on social justice with the rest of the industry.  That time is coming, by the way.  The public is getting tired of it, and SJW culture eats itself.  So the day is coming when all of this is done.

Meanwhile, all of the Star Wars films that could have been good idea, or stories set in that universe, are being ignored. All of this makes me think of the Star Wars game we never got – 1313.  Sigh.  If you wanna see this film, I guess you can, but I don’t get why you would.  That’s all I got.

Final Verdict
4 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Detroit: Become Human

David Cage is something of an odd duck in gaming.  See, modern gaming has gotten a great deal of criticism from people who were big old school fans of just being interactive movies.  And nowhere is this more represented than with David Cage’s games.  This man loves him some narratives.  Every game he has made is narrative rich, very dark, VERY depressing, and with character who are motion-captured like it’s nobody’s business.  This guy has gotten himself something of a reputation for his work.  In my eyes, this man has made some games that are never perfect, but always engaging and to date have always left me spellbound by the end.  Oh, and they all have control issues like you wouldn’t believe.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get started.  This game is basically three movies rolled up into one, with all of them coming together at the end kind of like Crash.  Each narrative has its own qualities, and there is something here for everyone.  First off, we have Kara, the android who is in the service of a drunk asshole dad and his daughter.  Then we got the android Markus in the service of an artist name Carl (played brilliantly by Lance Henrikson).  Lastly, we have Connor, an android created by CyberLife to help bring the “deviants” situation under control.

As said before, each narrative brings something different to the table, so there’s something for everyone.  Kara’s is one of becoming a family and bridging the gap between an android and her human surrogate daughter.  The growth of their relationship is really touching, but it does get bogged down by a narrative issue later in the game that I am going to get into.  Markus’ story is about an android falling from a life of opulent luxury and then becoming the leader of an android uprising to help get his people recognized.  Basically the Moses story, for the religiously-minded among you, minus the supernatural element.  However, it is Connor’s narrative that stole the show for me.  He’s paired up with a drunk police lieutenant who is something of a has-been, to solve a mystery that threatens to destroy the city.  It’s a buddy-cop story, and the narrative has some great moments with that.  It’s my personal favorite.

This game’s story is gripping.  There are a lot of intense moments that will leave you thinking about them long after the story is done.  It isn’t the Cage’s narrative are super original.  The ideas of a world of android or robot servants who are abused by society is nothing new.  What I love about Cage’s games is the fact that since the narratives are not super original, the characters can be super dynamic.  Each one of our main characters has so much personality and you feel them as characters instead of the people playing them.  My favorites are, as said before, Connor and Hank.  Since I really built up their relationship in my run-through, seeing their dynamic as Hank goes from outright hating androids to having Connor and even the android’s struggles grow on him is really poetic.  There are some genuinely nice moments with them as Connor is struggling with his inner insecurities leading to becoming a Deviant.

Not to say that the other narratives aren’t good.  Markus’ starts off good, has a bit of a rough patch right when he first is heading to Jerico, but gets much, much better by the end.  Kara’s was the only one that I felt had some issues.

Let me explain.  This is going to get into spoilers, by the way, so if you don’t want to get things spoiled, then best to skip ahead a bit.  See, in my run-through of the game, I killed Alice’s father when he was beating her.  The story about Kara and Alice becoming a surrogate family was really, really touching.  Especially after I got Luther in my party.  But when I got to Rose’s place, I noticed something.  Alice is so quiet throughout so much of the game that she rarely talks about herself.  Then you get there and she refers to herself as if she’s a robot.

For a second there, I was giddy as fuck.  It made perfect sense!  This girl has had a very isolated life with a horrible, abusive man as a father.  Every human the two come into contact with after this point treats both of her and Kara like shit.  The first people to show her any kind of affection are androids.  So for her to start referring to herself like she’s one of them is a brilliantly dark psychological deal!  I can see all the narrative possibilities now.  For Kara to realize that the charge that she has to take care of is starting to have a psychological breakdown and forget that she’s human is just fantastic.  It has some great potential for dark moments when Alice has to accept that she is human, in a time when there is potentially a very violent uprising against us.

Instead, it is revealed that the girl is a robot.  And this does not sit well with me.  There are a TON of plot-holes that come up with this that never get addressed, outside of the fact that the girl does feel warmth and cold.  For starters, you feed her dinner back at her father’s place, and it is understood this has been an on-going thing.  If she’s eating the dinner, then where does it go?  That’s a neat question.  You never see her eat back at Rose’s place, so I guess that’s able to be ignored, but it still is never addressed.  Next, Rose said that the girl felt like she had a fever.  Why is that?  Do robots have a fever protocol in their programming?  That makes no damn sense.  Another one that came to me – does the father not remember that she’s a robot?  He consistently refers to her as if she’s his biological daughter, and Kara asks if she’s going to school as if that’s something she does.  I could go on and on about the plot holes but I’ll leave it there.

The whole thing is nothing but wasted potential, when the potential if the girl was a biological human and is losing her mind was infinitely more interesting.  When I thought that was where they were going, my mind was racing with Kara having to deal with this and being pushed to her limits while the heat is on.  Given that this is a David Cage game, it makes sense.

But that’s just one gripe.  The only other main issue I have with this game is the same one that everyone has with every David Cage game ever made – the controls.  Tank controls are back, ladies and germs, and it’s no less frustrating here than it has ever been.  Not to mention the insane QTE’s that are all over the place.  I can’t bitch too hard, as it is a David Cage game and you come to expect this stuff.  Since I am used to it, I am not too annoyed.  Still, would have been nice to have that get less in your face.

Aside from the narrative, there are lots of other things to talk about.  There is another reason that I love Connor’s arc the most.  Since he is helping the cops, you look at a lot of crime scenes.  It becomes L.A. Noire all over again, and that’s awesome.  You know, the fun examining of crime scenes and interrogating people kind, not the boring shooting lots of people way.  The gradual arc of the cases getting more intense and Connor having to push harder and harder to get the truth is really great stuff.  Not to mention how you have cases where things are happening on a time limit.

This game has some added challenge that other David Cage games have no had – strict time limits to get things done.  You have some complicated things to get done in a limited amount of time, and failure to do so may result in a main character’s death.  That’s another thing about this game – permadeath is a thing.  You can get all three of the characters killed and outright fail.  David Cage has always held that he didn’t like the idea of game failure being a thing, but it seems he has moved on this and allowed it to be allowed.  And once you lose a character, that’s it.  There’s no way to get them back.  I like that.  Helps you really want to be careful about the shit that you do.

One last thing to mention is that this game has a neat thing where the game helps you avoid the endless QTE’s of complicated tasks by having the character preconstruct a solution with you having to use the crime scene analysis tool to analyze the best route to get things done.  I like that.  Cage’s style is growing, despite some of the long-standing issues.

Overall, this is a marvelous game.  It was at the top of my list for this year, and thus far it’s my favorite to date.  It’s a dark game.  It is a depressing game.  You will cry, if you’re a pathetic little bitch like me.  But if games that are lauded as interactive movies in the way that David Cage’s are are your jam, you’re going to find a lot to like.  I loved Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, now this one is on the list as well.  Do with that what you will.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review (Sort of): God’s Not Dead and God’s Not Dead 2

I am not feeling very good today, and a friend of mine has these two films on bootlegged DVDs because he has religious family who gave him this stuff.  And I can safely say that I have seen the worst, the absolute worst in Christian propaganda films.  This is more going to be a discussion of what about these films annoys me, rather than the films themselves, because that’s a wash.  Both of them suck.  I will have a Final Verdict for them and justify it, but I really am just looking to talk about Christian propaganda films and how these two movies are exemplary of what is so wrong with them.  What an awful use of my time today.

First we have God’s Not Dead.  This was Pure Flix’s claim to fame, and they have never forgotten that.  Every chance they can they will shove that in your face.  In it was have Josh Wheadon, which always makes me think of Wil Wheaton (Shut up, Wesley!).  He has an philosophy class with the EVIL philosophy teacher played by Kevin Sorbo.  We also have a dozen other characters because that film has more subplots than Carter has little pills.  It’s really bad.

Here are the tropes in this film that exemplify themselves in other Christian movies.  First, we have Kevin Sorbo as the EVIL philosophy teacher who comes right out in the very first class and, instead of doing what an actual teacher in college would do at the start of class, like go over the syllabus or give some basic rundown for how things will work with that class, he has to make very clear the film’s forced message – God is Dead!  The quote by Nietzsche that religious people take such umbrage with without understanding it at all.

When Nietzsche said that “god is dead”, he didn’t mean there is a literal God and he is literally dead.  What he meant was that religion’s roll in society was coming to a close.  But the religious crowd have been touting that as the great heresy against their respective belief structures and how it must be destroyed.  One of the many stupid points in this film.

Since our good boy Josh is too good to do what the strawman philosophy professor tells him to do and write “god is dead” for that day’s only assignment.  Another sign that this is not even a real college course in any way.  Strawman course with a strawman teacher.  Christian films don’t set the bar very high.  He can’t write that, so the professor challenges him to a debate about the nature of God’s existence.  Another thing that philosophy isn’t exclusively about, but this film really makes it out to be.  In fact, this whole damn movie paints college as the act of EVIL secular society and people in there are snobbish assholes.

We then get to suffer through the debate, and this is just amazing.  The debate between our hero Josh and the EVIL professor is basically watching the absolute paragon virtue fighting it out with Ray Comfort’s vision of an atheist.  All of the terrible arguments that Josh makes are ones that I, a pseudo-intellectual asshole who got my degree in journalism could handily refute.  It’s terrible.  No atheist argues the way that the EVIL professor does, and Josh’s points are never refuted in a way that any atheist would.  It’s a stereotype beating a strawman.

Naturally, the whole film is really just a Christian circle-jerk.  All the Christians who feel so downtrodden in a country where 80% of the population identifies as Christian can sit there and feel so validated by what’s on the screen.

Overall, the film is terrible, but to stupid to be frustrating.  It’s almost kind of fun to watch Kevin Sorbo’s terrible acting.  That guy has always sucked.  But the next film absolutely takes the cake for Christian circle-jerk factor.

God’s Not Dead 2 came out and now we have Sabrina the former Teenage Witch and now reborn Mega Christian (no joke, the actress is very, very Christian now) starring as the teacher who is being trampled down by the EVIL secular society and their EVIL secular values as the EVIL ACLU is brought in to try and destroy her.  This film is made to have fundamentalist, conservative Christians cumming in their pants because their absurd sense of siege can be blasted all over the screen.

This film is the worst.  The absolute worst.  None of what happens in this movie would have happened.  If a teacher at a public school went into religion with a student, would they get talked to?  Maybe.  But this whole insane thing about her nearly being fired would never have happened.  It would have been just “yo, don’t get too crazy into the religious stuff, we don’t want to upset anyone, so just tone it down, will ya?”  And then any sensible person who gets the separation of church and state would be like “sure.”  That’s where this would end.

But no, they have to get the EVIL ACLU involved to try and destroy this woman’s life.  Because the ACLU is so awful, right?  Fighting for the constitutional rights of citizens to be upheld.  Those bastards!  Oh, and the film tries to head off the argument about separation of church and state by saying that nowhere does it say that anywhere in our law.  Here’s the thing this movie doesn’t get – part of the job of the Supreme Court is to interpret the laws as they are written.  It’s the reason that Roe v Wade gave women the rights to their own bodies, or Obergefell v Hodges granted gays and lesbians the right to marry in all 50 states even though that isn’t in the Constitution either.  It’s that branch’s job to interpret the laws in respect to other issues.  So in the case of Everson v Board of Education, it was strictly laid out the separation of church and state in respect to public schools.

You can’t explain that to conservative Christians, though.  For whatever reason, these fucking morons have this inexplicable sense of siege in this country, and I will never understand.  I know so many people in atheist groups I have been a part of online who are teenagers and say that they can’t say who they are to their parents because they would disown them, or even fear for their physical safety.  But nope!  It’s all Christians who have it so hard.  Hand to Groj.  Ugh.

This film has court scenes that are so bafflingly stupid.  From characters being questioned and the ACLU representative never objecting even though it is so obvious that this has nothing to do with anything.  Like when Lee Strobel is on the stand.  Hell the ACLU has no cross-examination then, and you can bet your ass that I’d be all over that guy if I had him in a courtroom to testify under oath.  Trust and believe.  Then we get this teenage girl running in and not only does the bailiff not do anything, but they allow this girl to take the stand.  Then, when it is patently obvious how much this case has been a breach of legal rules and how it would so obviously get destroyed in appeal, the film doesn’t do that.  Because after all, they have to suck the religious cock and make all the religious people blow their metaphysical load all over these films.  It’s the worst.

Unlike the other film, there was nothing to enjoy there.  That film is the worst, the absolute worst.  It’s religious propaganda at its worst and I hate that I devoted time to actually taking it in.  I don’t get how religious people aren’t offended by how their religion is made to look in films like this.  It’s terrible.

These films suck.  Don’t watch them.  Ever.  Oh, and the Newsboys fucking suck!  They are the worst group ever.  Brings to mind that great quote by Hank Hill – you’re not making Christianity better, you’re making rock worse.

Final Verdict:
God’s Not Dead:
4 out of 10

God’s Not Dead 2:
2 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Avengers: Infinity War

The MCU was lightning in a bottle for Disney.  It was a perfect vision of Kevin Feige that was seen to fruition through dedication and some missteps.  Not every film is great.  Hell, not all of them are good.  In fact, some suck.  But they don’t suck so hard that they ruin what the franchise has been shooting for.  Since the Internet exists, you are able to ignore the missteps and keep track of the good ones.  After this saga is over, I will be compiling my list of favorite films in the MCU.  Why then?  Because after having seen this film, I genuinely believe the only place they can go after this is someplace stupid.  There will never be another height that can be reached beyond this.  This is as high as the franchise will ever go.  And let me tell you, that is high praise indeed.

This film is the culmination of everything that the MCU has been shooting for.  When I heard about a series of films in a shared universe, this is what I figured it would all build up to.  And let me tell you, it panned out so perfectly.  I was so afraid that this film was going to suck, but so much love and dedication was put in to making everything about this film work.  This is the best film in the MCU to date, and the stakes for the final film couldn’t possibly be higher.  We have a lot to talk about, so let’s get down to it.

I don’t really wanna talk about the plot, because the Internet already knows that.  What I want to talk about are the performances.  As I said, this is a culmination of everything that the films have been building up to.  That means that every performance is symbolic of everything that has been building up.  What does that mean?  It means that like Civil War, it has to have every character staying in character with who they have been up to now.

And since there is convergence, we get to see those personalities playing off one-another.  So we get to see Tony Stark, an ego that is utterly massive, playing off Doctor Strange, who is also such an ego.  Their banter is just amazing.  What’s more, the parental bond between Stark and Spider-Man is just fantastic.  It leads to a truly heart-wrenching moment toward the end once plot stuff happens.  It is the most emotional climax of the entire franchise thus far.

Who are my favorite performances?  I will list them now – First, Tony Stark.  This guy is just the best.  His ego has really toned down since the beginning.  This isn’t the totally egotistical asshole from the first Iron Man film.  He’s had time to learn, and when the moment he has been fearing for all this time finally arrives, you can see that fear all over his face.  Next up is Parker.  Having fallen in love with this character even more after Homecoming, seeing him now in the thick of such a massive dilemma is pretty great.

Then we have Doctor Strange.  I actually really liked his film, and think he’s an interesting character.  He accepts that there are things more powerful than he can understand, and now he is working to make himself a better man.  Benedict Cumberbatch has such presence with this character.

I also really loved Rocket.  I am also going to be making a list of my top 10 MCU characters, and to be honest, he’s going to be very, very high on that list.  It’s really great that they paired him up with Thor throughout the bulk of the film.  I have always hated Thor as a character.  He’s boring.  He’s arrogant, but not in the fun snarky way like Stark.  But in this film we see him very, very emotional.  The film opens with him being utterly destroyed emotionally by Thanos kicking his ass and destroying his people’s only hope for survival.

Which brings me to my favorite performance of the entire film – Thanos.  One thing that people can rightly accuse the MCU of is having really boring villains.  That’s a totally fair statement, given how I can barely remember the names of some of these people.  We’ve had film after film leading up to this guy coming into play, and Groj-dammit is his performance the thing that steals the show!  This guy is a really complicated villain.  He has motivations that are not always easy to understand.  He appears cold and insane, but then you see other sides of him.  Sides that are almost sympathetic.  You actually feel for this guy when you realize that, as horrible a person as he is, there is some part of him that does have emotional attachments and is able to rationalize what he’s doing.  What’s more, despite his violence and genocide, he is engaging.  The film takes several scenes to just have him talking to people, and getting to know his back-story.  It’s pretty great stuff.  Every character thinks they got him figured out, but they really don’t.

That leads me to the best part of this whole movie – it’s darkness.  You have the DCEU trying (and failing, horribly.  It’s dead to me) to be dark and gritty, but Marvel is kicking their ass even at that.  They can’t even get the dark and gritty shit down right.  This film has a giant purple monster as a villain and they make him more human and malevolent than any of DCEU’s boring-ass villains who are supposed to be “realistic” could ever hope to be.  Ironic, I think that the purple-haired monster is more of a human villain than the ones in ANY of DC’s live-action films.  Go fucking figure.  Not including Chris Nolan’s movies, of course.

What is the biggest drawback?  For me, it’s the fact that Disney films have a bad habit of human that is when you have some character doing something, and then you have the “awkward…” moment.  I was told the previous Thor film was dripping in it.  The Last Jedi was too, and it sucked the film down.  That’s not to say that all the comedy in this film was bad.  Some of it was pretty on point.  But Disney could stand to do less of the “character does something weird/silly and everyone is awkward” humor.  You didn’t need it in Guardians 2, and you don’t need it all the time here.  Don’t get me wrong, totally glad you have humorous moments.  It makes the really ugly moments hit that much harder.  Though I can’t possibly see how the next film can have anything happy when this film ends on such an ugly note that it will blow your fucking mind.

I’ve already heard so many of the people who defend The Last Jedi saying that this film subverting expectations and people loving it is bullshit because they did that in that film and everybody hated it.  Here’s the thing – subverting expectation is easy to do, but it has to feel like it has meaning to the story you are trying to tell.  In this film it does.  Every time they do it, it feels like it has a point.  In that OTHER movie it doesn’t.  It feels like them trying to make some political point, or having some SJW-approved element to shove in there.  Subversion doesn’t make a great work, if it’s not used well.  In this film, it was used perfectly.

Another thing that got my attention, and this is a bit of a spoiler, is that since the film ends with Thanos winning and the Avengers being mostly killed of, it made me think about something.  See, as adults we realize that they aren’t going to be dead forever.  We know that the Infinity Gauntlet will be used to bring them back.  But how many 9 year olds are sitting the theater bawling watching Spider-Man turn to ash?  Or Groot die, again.  That’s some pretty dark shit.

Overall, this is one of the greatest, if not the greatest superhero film I have ever seen.  It shows what a masterful work the MCU was, and since Kevin Feige is leaving after the sequel to this, I am going to tune out then.  There is nowhere this franchise can go but down.  I loved this movie, and I think all of you should see it if you haven’t already.  It shows that even the MCU can be a mature, grim place.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: God of War (2018)

Holy shit.  I just went through an experience.  It was a pretty damn awesome experience.  Sony is showing that it does single-person games like nobody else.  Both my favorite and second-favorite games of last year (Persona 5 and Horizon: Zero Dawn, respectively) were Playstation exclusive.  In the age when you have companies like EA saying that single player isn’t what people want anymore, Sony is showing them just how wrong they are.  It’s pretty great stuff.  And thus we get a game that isn’t a reboot, but an actual sequel to one of the greatest franchises of all time.  But this is a game all its own, and while it isn’t perfect, it is so fucking awesome.  Let’s talk about it.

The first things to know about this game is that it is NOT for the uninvested in this franchise.  If you aren’t aware of what happened in the previous entries of the game, you are going to be SO lost.  Everything from where Kratos gets his unbelievable strength to why he is so dead-set on not telling his son the truth about what he is and where he comes from will fly right over your head if you don’t know what happened.  And the game doesn’t exactly help that.  There is no true exposition dump, but given how the game is set up with one of the most marketed mechanics, maybe that’s for the best.

Next, a lot of people have said that this game is riffing pretty hard on The Last of Us, and I would be lying if I said that I can’t see the influence.  But there are some pretty clear places where it differs from the other game.  Lastly, this game controls VERY differently than any God of War game up to this point, so if that’s a deal-breaker for you, then you’d best give this a pass.  The older entries were all about fast-pacing and combo build-up.  This game is about strategic combat and good use of power-ups.  There are even moments where you have some Dark Souls peek in.  But it also fits with how this game is designed.

The plot of this game is where you have Old Man Kratos (yeah, it feels like an Old Man Logan kinda story) in Norse mythology land.  After the events of the previous game (which they never really say what happened.  Like, how did Kratos get there?  How did he survive stabbing himself with the Blade of Olympus?  Who is Atreus’ mother?), he has fled Greece and the utter destruction he left in his wake and started a family in this new land.  Having met a woman, fallen in love, and had a child, some unknown event happened and the mother died.  The plot of this game is pretty simple.  Kratos and his son Atreus are taking the mother’s ashes to the highest peak in all of the Nine Realms.  But as with anything associated with Kratos, what stars as something simple becomes something very complicated.

What do I love about this game?  There are a lot of things.  For starters, while I wasn’t expecting the slower pace in combat, I got into step and began to see things more strategically.  You start with the Leviathan Axe, shield, and your bare fists.  But over time, you gain a new weapon.  One that should be familiar to everyone who played the previous entries.  The moment when it revealed that you get your old standard back, I was giddy as a school girl.  The nostalgia factor was palpable.

Which brings me to the next thing I love.  This game knows what franchise it’s in.  There are moments, a lot of moments where Atreus is talking about the crazy things that his father is doing and making it sound like this is such a crazy thing, and you’re thinking “oh kiddo, I’ve faced worse.  A lot worse.”  This game does a good job putting you in the seat of being Old Man Kratos, partly because of how this story is told.

They did change the voice actor for Kratos, and it isn’t the worst pick.  This guy is actually what I think of when I imagine Kratos as an old man.  The deeper voice is pretty alright.  Which made it annoying when there is a scene in Hel and you have this other guy doing the voice of a younger Kratos who appears in flashback.  Why?  It totally would have worked to have this dude be the person who voiced Kratos as an old man.  Why not have the older version for a scene referencing what happened in Greece before?  Kind of an homage.  They had the same voiceover for Zeus, so I just don’t get it.

Next up, I love the characters.  Everyone you meet in this game has so much personality.  What’s more, it’s pretty great to see Atreus being all youthful and nice with people, while his father is still the ultimate prick.  Part of why the voice change works is because this guy is still such an asshole!  He got the Kratos character down to a fault!  It’s pretty great stuff.  Which brings me to Atreus.  I like this kid.  For the most part.  For the first two thirds of the game, this character is a nice contrast to the cold, dark, violent mannerisms of his father.  His kindness and optimism, and the way he talks about how his mother was a lot like that, makes me really come to care for him.  It makes a scene later when he is horribly sick and potentially dying that much more impactful.  That being said, in the last third of this game, they give this kid a HUGE character shift after the truth about his existence gets known that just bugs me.  He does eventually come around, but for a while there the little bastard was downright insufferable.  Props to the voice acting for Atreus.  The kid they got for this was on point.

But don’t go thinking that Kratos is just a stick in the mud the whole time.  This guy has some real character development.  It is pretty awesome seeing how his character grows over the course of the narrative from a stern asshole, to a loving father who genuinely does care for his son and wants to do right by him.  I feel his compassion there as he talks with Atreus and more and more becomes a loving and outgoing father.  At least as much as his Spartan nature allows him to be.

I’ve spent a lot of this talking about the story stuff, but for those who read my site, you know that the story is the thing I care for most.  If that sucks, it doesn’t matter how the rest of the game is.  Let’s talk about some of the other stuff.

This game is GORGEOUS!  I have a basic bitch PS4, and it looks absolutely stunning.  The visuals are a cut above.  It’s not Uncharted 4 levels of detail, but it is still downright fantastic.  I love this game’s visual design so much.  Some of the Nine Realms aren’t especially interesting, but when this game shines, it really blows me away.

One thing that I am surprised they didn’t get very well was the sound design.  The soundtrack for this game is really…forgettable.  It doesn’t stick with me the way any of the other games have.  I can still hum some of the tunes from God of War III pretty clearly, but not this game.  In fact, there is a very large amount of quiet time where you are just listening to the environment.  It’s kinda nice.  But then the music that does kick in, it lacks a certain amount of punch.

All in all, this game is damn-near a masterpiece.  It’s one of the most engaging narratives I’ve played in a VERY long time.  A lot like Uncharted 4, it feels like a logical extent of the story, and while there are a few things holding it back, it’s pretty damn great all the same.  And this is the FIRST of the PS4 exclusive games this year.  Sony is really coming out swinging this year, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Candide (Anchorage Opera)

You know what I like?  Pretending I am a cultured person and not a pretentious idiot who goes to the opera in my hoodie because I am can’t be bothered to give a fuck and change into something nice.  Thanks to an awesome family member who was part of this opera and scored me a ticket because I am also poor as fuck and filled with horrible angst about the fact that I am going to be 30 in November and have no future built and my savings is a cute idea that occasionally gets bigger when I don’t have medical bills, car repair, and living expenses.

Given that I am feeling an astronomical amount of depression because of my kitty being murdered, it was nice to get the ticket and have a reason to leave my shitty apartment.  I didn’t know ahead of time that this opera was a comedy, and it’s all the better for it.  Going in not expecting to laugh and then getting to do so was pretty great stuff.  I have a lot to say, so let’s get to it.

This opera was so close to absolute greatness, held back by a couple of scenes that dragged.  And when I mean dragged, I mean DRAGGED.  They go on way too long, don’t really go anywhere, and by the time it’s done I am left thinking this should have been shortened down or cut altogether.  What’s that?  It’s offensive to the original work?  You may be right.  But I’m a complete asshole who judges things based on my own criteria.  It’s like I’m some sort of critic or something.  Weird.

But what this performance got right, it got so right!  For starters, the set design.  I genuinely loved how this opera worked.  They had this brilliant idea to go for a minimalist approach.  You have the orchestra on stage with the performers.  And they designed the set so they could work around them.  Hell, there was even a great bit where one of the characters fucked with the conductor.  In the narrative, that’s literal.  Dude was a great sport about it.  Genuinely made me laugh out loud.

Plus, the lighting.  Oh man, do I love the lighting.  There was this great trick where they had a huge piece of cloth at the back, with a light behind it so that they could set the mood for whatever scene they were in without complex transitions.  There was no moving parts to this set, so it worked even better.  So many scenes were made a lot better with the lighting changing on cue.  Bravo.  Plus, there was the lighting on my favorite character, but we’re coming to that.

All of the roles in this was pretty good.  It’s clear how much heart was in every piece.  Now, since this opera is kind of a blend of opera and play, there were some scenes where people who clearly have a voice for opera are doing straight acting, and for some that can be a little off-putting.  It admittedly caught me off guard a few times, but after a while, you grow to accept it.  It’s kind of like Life is Strange‘s dialogue.  It’s off-putting at first, but over time you grow to get invested in the characters and so the strangeness is pretty alright.

What you need to know about this opera is that it is not meant to be taken seriously.  Serious things do happen, but the performers and the narrative make each one out to be either a reflection of the absurdity of the characters or the message that is being delivered to you by my favorite character in the entire production.

There are not words to discuss how much I love the narrator.  This guy completely and utterly stole the show in every single scene that he is in.  He had so much charisma and performance that you are left wanting to sit down and listen to story-time with this dude.  He works the scene so well.  What’s more, this guy has several hats in the production as other characters.  In one instance, this dude actually has these hot female attendants come out and help him change into another costume to be one of those character on-stage.  That’s awesome!  This dude oozed cool in every line.  I cannot possibly sing his praises enough.  My bi side may be showing pretty hard, but god damn!  It’s not often that I get annoyed when the other characters are on screen because I’d rather here the whole damn thing told to me by this guy.

But don’t let me make you think the rest of the cast is bad.  Far from it.  There is a TON of heart from every performance.  It’s not their fault that the narrator has such complete control of every scene that he’s in.  The titular character has a great voice, and admittedly it’s his voice that becomes the most odd to hear because of his operatic performance.  I didn’t have an issue with a single person in this production.  It makes my gripes with certain numbers worse because you have people who I do like in moments where the scene can clearly get where it’s going 1000X faster and you are stuck waiting for them to do it.

Overall, this is a great load of fun.  I could watch that narrator tell me any story in the world in that voice and be satisfied, but that aside, it’s fun.  Certain scenes do really drag, but when this performance is on point, it is really on point.  I wish I could have gotten this out in time for you all to see it, but if nothing else, I can help pimp the local opera company in the city I live in.  I’ll take that.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick