Lucien’s Review: Hunter Killer

Oh boy.  Oh boy oh boy oh boy.  Wanna see me let loose with some rage about a stupid movie that is stupid beyond the pale?  Wanna see me get annoyed at a movie that I got to see thanks to the good graces of a Petty Officer I know who got me an invite?  Want to see me lose my shit because of a film that is so dumb but who everyone will think is great because there’s shit blowing up?!  Well strap in, philistines, because we’re on Lucien’s Wild Ride now!  Let me tell you about the film Hunter Killer.

The premise of this movie is actually kinda interesting.  There’s an American sub on a mission to find out why another sub went dark.  After an attempted military coup in Russia, now the sub and a team of what the film alludes to being Navy SEALS (but never outright says) is on a mission to save the President and stop World War III.  Neat premise, but there’s so much wrong that my suspension of disbelief was broken beyond the pale.  Let’s get into why.  As I said, strap in.

For starters, I just LOVE how all of the Russians have such a perfect grasp of the English language.  There’s the barest hint of an accent, but that’s it.  They are American as fuck. Are people in this country just scared of subtitles?  Does the average dim-witted American just freeze up at the idea of having to read anything in a movie?  I got into a discussion with the significant other of the one who got me an invite to this special occasion (this was a special showing for a specific crowd of people) about how I hate subtitles in anime, so I’m sure this will sound hypocritical, but I’ve talked at length about how I have no issue with subtitles in a movie that is just a couple hours long.  In a series that I’m supposed to watch from start to end, having to read it all the time is what loses me.  I can’t feel connected with them as I’m constantly looking away from their performance to read what they’re saying.  Movies don’t present that problem to me.  It’s complicated.

The worst offender in the Russians speaking perfect English is the “President.”  This guy is American! He doesn’t even try to have a Russian accent!  This dude looks like some guy I would meet in Jersey!  I mean come on!

Next, the infiltration team.  I have SO many problems with these guys.  For starters – facial hair!  I have railed in the past about how it breaks immersion when I see guys who are supposed to be serving in the American military having beards.  Especially in the Navy!  You are never told specifically who these guys are, but the implication is that they’re Navy SEALS.  The Navy is rigid as fuck on this – no facial hair!  I’m hearing that it’s being fought right now, but as of the time of this post, the rules on this matter are clear – no facial hair in the US Navy.  But that’s not the only thing that bugs me about these morons.

The film tells us that these guys lost existence privileges when they go into Russia on this mission.  The idea being that they can’t be traced back to America.  Huh, that’s interesting, because they are wearing American gear, using American weapons and American tech!  Gee, I wonder which country they came from!  Having them get into civvies?  Russian military garb?  Using some other country’s weapons and tech to cover their tracks?  Nope!  We’ll just take away their personal effects.  That will totally be effective in hiding what nation you’re from.  Idiots.

Oh, and why is it that in EVERY movie about the military, you have somebody in charge who is all “let’s blow shit up!”  I love the series The West Wing, but that series had it too.  Granted, it was a little more subtle about it, playing it as tactical decisions, but still.  An actual Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would be level-headed and would know that immediately going to the extreme military option is not the smartest idea.  That they wouldn’t look at all possibilities and deliberate among their ranks to try and come to the safest approach.  But as I said, this is in every military movie, so I guess it’s par for the course.  Portraying leadership as sensible and level-headed?  Doesn’t make for good conflict in a movie and then a tacked-on respect moment later for the underling who got it all right and the commanding officer has to shake their hand or some dumb thing.

Speaking of commanding officers, the XO in this movie pissed me off.  This guy was an asshole.  There are multiple scenes of him arguing with the Captain in front of the crew on the bridge in very ugly ways.  That would never happen!  If this guy did this, I can guarantee that the Captain would have had MAs remove his ass from the Bridge.  You don’t do it.  It’s so ironic that Star Trek: The Next Generation handled this kind of BS better when Worf is First Officer when Data is in command.  Science fiction can’t do this better than real world analogues to the Navy.

And don’t even get me started on the CG in this movie.  It’s bad!  Like, low budget bad.  I was legit laughing in the scene where you have one of the infiltration guys behind cover and they are shooting at him, but you can clearly see that the bullet holes are CG.  That was awful!  That was like YouTube video levels of sloppy.  It was funny.

I could go on for hours about all the small details they got wrong.  Like, it’s not “oorah” in the Navy!  It’s “hooyah.”  Or the fact that how they portray Tomahawk missiles is inaccurate.  Or when they say “brace for impact,” it’s actually “brace for shock.”  Their mistakes in regards to Russian submarines.  But this post would go on forever if I did that.

What did I like?  Well, some of the military tech was cool.  Getting to see shit blow up is fun.  The violence actually looked like it hurt.  That’s rare in a PG-13 movie.  Or was this R?  I counted two “fucks” in the whole movie, so probably R.  In PG-13 you only get one.  Or did they change that?  I can never keep up.  Someone let me know in the comments.

This movie sucked.  If you like the spectacle and can turn your brain off to all the stupid shit and know nothing about the Navy, you’ll like it.  For me, I can’t do that, and I think this was stupid with a capital S.

Final Verdict
4 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

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Lucien’s Review: H.M.S. Pinafore (Anchorage Opera)

Another year, another night at the opera.  I don’t make a habit of seeing a lot of these, but I have family involved, and that goes a long way.  But as operas go, comedic always strikes more of a chord with me than dramatic.  Not to say that drama is bad, but there’s only so many dirges that one can take before you think that the main characters are idiots for going down the obvious road to tragedy.  And this is a good pick for comedic opera.  Another piece by Gilbert and Sullivan, this time telling the story of the gayest English sailors to ever go out on the seven seas.  Let’s talk about it.

The narrative goes that you have a bunch of sailors on the titular ship, and their wonderful captain, are celebrating what absolutely stupendous sailors they are.  However, we get a young tar who wants to rise above his social class and date the splendid captain’s daughter.  This while said Captain is trying to get her with a Lord Admiral who is a most silly bloke.  What follows is a story of hijinks, quirky music, and how it all comes together is absolutely absurd.  But in one of the musical numbers, even they seem to be aware of that.

A lot to talk about with this performance.  For starters, the set was all one location, and it was really good stuff to look at.  The Pinafore has never looked better.  Something about the minimalist approach, using lighting to set the tone rather then set or props worked out well.  Naturally, all the sailors were looking their best.  I will say that the outfit for the Captain did strike me as odd.  Looked more like a tuxedo than a uniform.  But that’s a minor nit-pick.  The Lord Admiral was just too much.  The powdered wig and obviously fake gut made the audience laugh really hard.  It helped that their introduction of him was just the best.

I’ve said before in previous reviews that when these performances try and play with the Fourth Wall or attempt to modernize the script, it has fallen flat on its face.  However, not this time.  This performance had some stand-out examples of Fourth Wall breaking that got the audience tickled pink.  My personal favorite was when the singers were fighting with the conductor because the song would not end and they wanted it to.  Listening to the Lord Admiral describe him as “Napoleon” was just too much.  Speaking of that character, it also tied in to my other favorite moment, when he is introduced and is again begrudging how long the song goes and the Captain helps him by pointing out that if he is ever losing the words, you can see them above.  That one line was just the best.

Which leads me into the thing that, of course, everyone wants to hear about – the performances.  You know, in all of these operas that I’ve done reviews for, there is always that one performance or the other which really stands out to me.  It was unfortunate that in Candide, while it was a stellar cast, the narrator stole the show in every conceivable way.  However, there is no such issue in this performance.  The entire cast was absolutely stunning.  This is one of the most engaging operas I’ve ever seen.  I don’t think there was a single character I didn’t like.  From the wonderful Captain, to Ralph Rackstraw, to the Lord Admiral, and the curmudgeon foil of the show – Dick Deadeye, who has him some firm beliefs about the nature of social class and loving outside of yours.

Also worth noting is the chorus.  These people helped accentuate every scene for every mood.  There wasn’t a single note off-key.  My absolute favorite example of this was when they introduced the Captain.  Them playing off him made me laugh so damn hard.  It was great stuff.  With how much was almost always going on in every scene, the fact that they were always so good and make every scene better is a testament to quality of those involved.

Which brings me to the fact that this opera had some excellent choreography.  Most every scene had so many things for everyone to do.  Some of the numbers mixing in dance, music, and acting from the performers had to be done just so, and it’s clear how hard they worked to get their timing down to a fault.  It was a joy to watch.

So, all of this being said, what are the criticisms?  Well, the biggest one for me is the second act.  The first act is flawless from bow to stern.  Every second is pitch-perfect and the narrative goes along smoothly.  However, the second act almost feels like it was unsure how to end itself.  You have the main characters confessing their love, agreeing to marry, and preparing to leave.  I kept waiting for the shoe to drop on conflict between Ralph and the Lord Admiral, but it REALLY took its time getting to that.  And how the whole thing resolves was a big moment to me of “wait, what?”  Not something I can hold against the performance, though.  It’s just one of those things that stuck out.  Perhaps Gilbert and Sullivan wrote themselves into a corner.  That’s not to say it was without merit.  The aforementioned fight with the conductor was in the second act, and it’s when I laughed the hardest.  The narrative just dragged on a bit.

Another thing worth mentioning, and I want to make very clear that this is a pointless nit-pick, is the saluting.  Something I didn’t know if you knew, but British and American salutes are different.  In the US it’s the flat blade.  However, over in the UK it’s the open palm.  I suppose only people who pay attention to these things would be bothered, but it stuck out to me.  If we’re gonna make the characters British, that stuff sticks out in my mind.

Overall, this was a fantastic performance.  Everyone involved should be proud of their contributions.  I haven’t seen a performance this energized and pitch-perfect in a very long time.  Some little issues here and there, but if this kind of thing is your jam, you won’t be disappointed.  Or, since the last shows are today anyway, you wouldn’t have been.  You snooze, you lose, after all.

Final Verdict
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Retro Review: Macross Plus

I didn’t think the day would come.  The day when I would find the perfect anime.  So many series have come close to absolute perfection, but then fallen short in one way or another.  But then I came across this gem, and it blew away every expectation that I have ever had.  As in for all time?  An anime that was made so long ago, and did more in four episodes than so many series do in 24.  A tribute to its genre, and fast climbing my list of favorite anime.  Let me tell you about Macross Plus.

The Macross franchise has a very long history of anime, ranging in quality.  But one thing that they all have in common is some breath-taking animation.  These series were the hallmark of a generation of anime.  When companies were willing to throw money at whatever and you had to do everything by hand.  None of that exists today.  There are no risks.  There are not great works.  It’s all just computer-generated, creatively bankrupt garbage.  Modern anime is so high on my shit list that it isn’t funny.

So what do you get when you get the creator of Cowboy Bebop and Yoko Kanno together again and making something in the Macross franchise?  You get this!  And holy shit!  This series is something else. Telling the story of two fighter pilots, two fighter jets, an old flame, and a shadowy villain who wants to exploit an AI to their own ends, this series has everything going for it.  With emotional moments, great action, and some fantastic voice-acting, I made my point about how it makes a series that gets a story done in 4 episodes that others don’t in 13-24.

I can’t think of anything I have seen with this quality of production outside of a feature-length film.  The animation in this series is breath-taking.  The action scenes have such perfection that my mouth was hanging open for the entirety of when they happen.  Not a single frame in this series doesn’t look absolutely stunning.  My favorite scenes are the ones with the fighters.  Every action set-piece is a work of cinematic brilliance.  To think that this is what Shinichiro Watanabe is capable of with enough money and talent behind him.  Makes me wish he hadn’t made his most recent pile of crap series.  Oh well.

It’s hard to really talk about this stuff.  Negative reviews are always easier.  There’s always more to say.  Let me put it to you like this?  Do you like absolutely everything that matters having fantastic detail put in, and a series that clearly has no financial limitations because it’s only four episodes long?  Well you’re in luck!  Because that’s what this series is.  It’s like a full-length movie’s worth of effort, chopped up into four perfectly beautiful pieces.  With action that’s biggest flaw is that it has to end.  But I get why.  If they had the kind of animation for that all the time, their budget would die.  This series knows when to scale back and let mood be more of a story-teller to give the animation budget a break.  Very clever, Watanabe.

Something people lose sight is the digital animation just can’t capture the real world the way that hand-painted cells can.  There is something about light and shadow that can be done in hand-painted series that just can’t be duplicated.  The way this series plays with light and shadow is a testament to that.  You forget how great this stuff looks until you can see it again at its best.

Then you get the music.  As I said, it’s Yoko Kanno.  Everything that that woman touches is absolute gold.  Macross Plus is no exception.  I know I’m gonna start sounding like a broken record, but my favorite parts of the series with her music are the action ones.  This woman can make crazy escapades by the two main characters and their fighters into something special.  Of course, Isamu’s scenes always take the cake.  Kanno has a gift for writing music to suit his out of control nature.  I don’t know what she does, but it’s great.

But the creme de la creme on this franchise has got to be the voice acting.  Did you know that Bryan Cranston has done voice work in anime?  Neither did I!  And wow!  Does this guy even know how to do bad work?  It amazes me how this dude is pitch-perfect in his role.  He genuinely steals the show in every conceivable way.  The rest of the cast is good and all, but Cranston outshines them without even trying.  Given that this series was made in 1994, the fact that he is so young makes perfect sense!  His character is too.  Hot-headed, out to prove that he’s the best, with the talent to back it up.  But he doesn’t just have that in his repertoire.  There are some genuine emotional moments that really stick with him.

All that being said, I do have to talk about the rest of the cast.  It’s a star-studded affair.  They got some of the best from the period when this was dubbed to do the work, and they all shine.  The role of Goa is pretty good too.  Playing off Isamu’s asshole, he comes off like kind of a dick, but you can see the bad history between them.  The scene where the two fight is just great.

When I think of the glory days of anime, this is what comes to mind.  The days when directors were given a crap-ton of money and nobody knew if it was going to come back to them or not.  In this time were produced a wonderful amalgamation of some of the greatest anime ever produced and some of the biggest piles of shit.  But it was just that – one or the other.  And this series is among some of the best ever created.  In a class of its own.  It is a perfect anime, capturing the perfect time to make it.

Final Verdict
10 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Marvel’s Spider-Man

The game I have been super stoked for ever since I started working at an office with a big-time Marvel fan as a coworker.  Granted, I was already excited for this game, but him and I talking about it got me even more stoked.  This license has unfortunately been abused by so many people.  The number of bad games vastly outnumbers the good ones.  But when I saw Insomniac putting out a gameplay demo, I could see that they had learned so much.  Sure, parts of it looked like they were riffing on the Arkham games, but whatever.  It’s still Spider-Man at it’s core.  After all that waiting, does the final title live up to the hype?  Let’s talk about it.

The plot goes that it has been eight years since Peter Parker started to do his thing as Spider-Man.  He’s firmly established, and has put away a decent amount of his rogue’s gallery.  After all these years of doing his thing, he’s not too far from where he started.  He’s poor as fuck (because he’s an idiot and keeps turning down money for ethical reasons.  Dude, you can’t do your best as a super-hero without a decent bankroll?  Ask Tony Stark how that works for him), but doing his best to improve humanity as much as he can.  The game begins with him putting away one of the biggest of his baddies – Wilson Fisk.  Just when you’d think things would calm down with Fisk behind bars, a new baddie is on the scene, ready to make things even worse.

I have so much to talk about with this game.  Let’s start with how it plays.  Everything about making this a fun game hinges on how well it plays.  And this is where I get to tell you – this game is buttery smooth!  While I’m sure the size of the world is not to scale with actual New York, it is a huge playground, and everything about getting around it is great.  This game’s web-swinging is all about getting and maintaining momentum.  The developers knew that if that aspect sucks, the rest is going to be tedious.  Getting around New York is so much fun!  You unlock fast-traveling pretty early on, but I never found myself using it.  Jetting around the city as the Spider is just too much fun not to.

Combat in this game is similarly about maintaining movement.  Spider-Man isn’t the toughest dude, so you have to be able to move.  Using your webs, dodges, and gadgets, you keep the flow of battle going.  As time goes on, there is a diverse amount of villains, though that does eventually tie in to one of my criticisms.  But we’ll get there when we do.  My favorite way to play is stealthy, and it’s kind of a bummer there aren’t more levels that let me do that.  Even the areas where you have to clear out enemy bases, they don’t let you clean the whole thing out stealthily.  I wish they did, because it’s the most fun part.

However, another thing that all of the fun in this game hinges on is the boss fights, and holy shit did they get that right!  The only complaint I have about how fun these boss fights are is how few of them there are.  Each of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery that you get to right has a unique way to fight them, and there isn’t a single one that I wasn’t at least a little wowed by.  There is a new villain brought into the game who hasn’t been seen outside the comics – Mister Negative.  And this dude is no slouch!  Not only is he a cool character with a neat narrative to tell, but he is not fucking around.

In addition to getting to play as the web-head, you also get to play as MJ and Miles Morales.  Oh no!  Getting to play as a woman and a black young man!  How will I identify with them if I don’t share a gender or skin color with them?!  That’s what idiots in the social justice sphere think when I see things like that.  But you know what, I think of my favorite part of the game was getting to play as MJ.  There is a bit where you have to use her to give directions to Spidey in order to stealthily save a ton of hostages.  That mission was tight!  You are almost entirely through MJ’s perspective, seeing the Spider do his thing from her point of view.  Kind of gives me some sympathy for being one of his villains.  Chasing this guy must suck.  But Miles’ bits were fun too.  A part where he is sneaking past two of the Sinister Six made my nerves go haywire.  Since neither him nor MJ has Spider-Man’s abilities, you have to play their bits as stealth missions, and every one of them is fun.

Oh, and I can’t talk about this game unless I sing the praises of the visuals.  This game looks unbelievably good!  I mean holy shit!  The environments are phenomenal, and it looks so good as you’re blazing through it.  Each time of day brings a nice perspective, though night and rain aren’t the prettiest.  Still, it’s a great-looking game.  Every environment is brought to life with incredible attention to detail.  Especially with the titular character.  Whether it be the Iron Spider suit from Avengers: Infinity War, or my favorite suit, the Dark Spider, each of them looks fantastic.  And you get them almost all the way through.  None of that cutting to the suit that appears to be the mainstay of the Spider in this game.

But with all the good things, there are some negatives.  First, the side-missions are not especially interesting.  There is the intro of Black Cat, but I’m only stoked for that because of the DLC with her that I cannot wait for.  I wish I could get to actually go after her in one of those games.  People think that everyone ships her and Spider-Man together just as a fanfiction thing, but there is an actual bit on the comics where he outright does the deed with her.  There is a panel where you see both of their clothes, and him saying it was a good decision.  Spider-Man has a habit of getting with almost all of his fangirls.  His sexual resume is actually really impressive, when you think about the fact that he is such a dork in his alter-ego. There was a digression.

The side-missions in the game are almost all either tedious or not especially interesting.  For example – you go around taking pictures of all the various landmarks in New York, in addition to the Avengers Tower, the Sanctum Sanctorum, and the Wakandan Embassy.  You know what would have been nice – something to go with that.  A kind of journal entry or something.  A little blurb on Parker’s experience or knowledge of these places.  He talks about knowing King T’challa when you take a pic of the Wakandan Embassy so why not give us something about that?  It’s a weird thing to not include.  Would have made me more excited to get this pictures if I could have had me a little NYC Wikipedia in the game.  Have some comic book perspective, which is especially prescient since there are plenty of things you take pictures of that are only in the comics.  Should give the people who aren’t super initiated some context.  Just seemed like a missed opportunity.

Also, the enemy bases that you take out got REALLY repetitious after a while.  Especially as it becomes just new varieties of enemies that have bases you have to take out.  It would have been nice if there were bases where you could only use stealth, or at least could take out every enemy with stealth and have that be the end.  Instead, no matter how quiet you are, the game eventually forces you to right waves of enemies, and especially with the Sable bases, it gets tedious really fast.

Another thing that I thought about – if you are going to riff on the Arkham games, which I have no problem with because they made it their own, why are their no character models?  The character trophies in the aforementioned game series let you take a look at the characters after you take them out.  I kinda would have liked that.  Especially since so many of them have a very unique look.  The game has a cool photo mode, so why not that as well?  Just putting it out there, it’s a missed opportunity.  While I’m at it, you let me choose so many different suits for Spidey, why not some outfits for Peter Parker?  Always seeing him in flannel gave me hipster flashbacks.

Lastly, why is there no New Game Plus mode?  Another easy piece of missed opportunity.  The Dark Suit is my favorite, and I kinda wanted to go through the game with it the whole time.  Maybe this is just me nit-picking, but it seems like an obvious bit to have.

Overall, this game is very, very fun.  I am liking it a lot.  But it’s not perfect.  The side-stuff can get a little old, and the enemy variety does grow stale after a while if you work diligently to get through all the character stuff.  But this is definitely a Spider-Man game in a class of its own.  It’s a perfect template to build off of if there are any sequels.  Hopefully we get at least one.  Norman Osborn being in there means that Green Goblin has to make an appearance at some point.  Guess I spoiled there that he doesn’t in this game, but it isn’t that bad.  He is still a central character, and you can see that when it gets there, it is going to be insane.  With three pieces of DLC that the devs have promised are going to be big story enhancements, we’ll see what it becomes.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Eye In The Sky

I’ve recently been watching a lot of military films.  Got this girly-mate who is in the Navy and what she tells me every day just makes me jealous.  The life she leads there doesn’t sound exciting, but it is interesting.  Given my day job working at an office where I input data all fucking day, believe me, her world is a magical Narnia kingdom that I’ll never get to see.  This film slipped my radar, which is unfortunate, considering it is Alan Rickman’s last film.  This is a very political movie, showing that war is more than just combat.  What I like is that while it asks hard questions, and there is a clear side that the film is on in the ethics of it all, it at least didn’t shy away from the hard questions.  It does let you come to your own decision.  Let’s talk about it.

We have Helen Mirren as Col. Katherine Powell, working on a joint task force with British and American military to capture known terrorists before they can be involved in a plot.  However, when they travel beyond where they can realistically capture them, and their only option is to eliminate them, it becomes a political mess.  Especially when a civilian becomes involved.

This film had a lot of great performances all around.  Helen Mirren REALLY stole the show for me.  This woman is a powerhouse actress, and nowhere was that more on display than here.  Her dedication to her task, needing to see the mission done, and how she quickly grew tired of the politics was just great.  Next up, we have the late Alan Rickman as the General in charge of the mission on the military side.  He is similarly tired of the politics, but is dedicated to his duty in the utmost, so he will not act without his orders.  The various members of the British government are all pretty great as well.

Finally, we have Aaron Paul as the US Air Forces drone pilot, and the woman he was paired up with.  It is such a shame that Paul’s talent in movies is wasted on a lot of crap, because we see stuff like this and it’s clear that he can put in a great performance.  It isn’t stupendously amazing, but he makes you feel for this character.  I can sympathize with how ugly a situation it is.  To be stuck between his morals and his duty.  The scene where he stands tall to Mirren’s character is just phenomenal.  The tension in that scene is bananas!

But what really sets this film apart is how it takes an uncompromising look at the politics of war without sounding especially preachy.  You actually do understand where people are coming from.  There is the woman who is part of British political side who doesn’t want the blood of a child thrown at the feet of Britain.  You have the others who all seem toothless and refuse to act without someone above them covering their ass.  There is also a great bit where you have a contrast between American and British military and political ideologies.  The depth they go into here is pretty good stuff.

As I said, the film definitely does have a side that they chose, but it isn’t rubbing your nose in it.  They leave on it, but have the story end in such a way that you as the audience have to make your own choice.  As for me, I’m with Mirren and Rickman’s characters.  The loss of an innocent child is horrible.  I totally understand.  But when you see all of the terrorism, especially in the UK and EU, the idea of not taking action is even worse.  I felt myself getting worked up with the characters as they demanded the right to take action, but seeing the aftermath reminded me why it’s never easy.  And it shouldn’t be easy.  If it ever comes to that, we’re doomed as species.

Military stuff fascinates me on a lot of levels.  It’s a whole other world that I can never be a part of because of my head injury.  If WWIII ever comes to pass, I can’t be drafted.  That reality, that world and all of the rules, regulations, and intrigue that come with it is beyond me.  That genuinely bums me out.  Not just me.  Got a girly-mate who always wanted to be a fighter jockey, but she lost her ability to speak, so that means she is out as well.

All things considered, this is a really good movie.  Not a great movie, but really, really good.  If you like a movie about the politics of war that doesn’t just suck the military’s cock, I would recommend checking it out.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

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

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