Wednesday, March 29, 2017

2017 Summer Movies

This summer is shaping up to be great for movies. Here are the movies that are coming out that I plan to see starting with...last week. By the way, there are some pretty big gaps in here. If you know of a movie that looks awesome that I've missed, say so.

Life Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal appear in this amazing suspense film. I will not to go in to details, but this movie is the best example of cosmic horror I've seen in years. It's great. I might go watch it again tomorrow by myself. I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed this movie.

Ghost in the Shell Staring Scarlet Johansson, this live action adaptation of the classic anime movie looks good to me. Some of my more progressive friends are giving it a pass because if Scarlet Johansson is one thing, it isn't Japanese. That's fair; I understand where they're coming from. I also am excited to support cyberpunk themes in big budget movies. So, there's that.

The Void This one is another Lovecraftian horror movie. It's been getting a lot of positive reviews from the (targeted) festival circuit. The trailer looks dope, and possibly fly.

The F8 of the Furious The 8th(!) installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise. These movies keep getting more ridiculous, and more fun, as they go on. I can't wait to see what kind of over the top, dumb antics Dominic Toretto and crew get up to this time.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 There is nothing that could keep me out of this movie. If you need a plot synopsis of this, I'm not sure why you're on this blog.

Snatched ...I'm not positive about this. I'm not a huge Amy Schumer fan, but this looks kind of funny. I might be in the theater, or I might wait for a rental. We'll see when that week gets closer.

Aliens: Covenant Don't hurt me again, Aliens franchise. I sat through Aliens 4. I endured Prometheus. Please. Please. Please be decent. Peach zenomorphs are not a great sign.
Wonder Woman This is DC's last chance before I swear off anything that isn't Bat-family. (Seriously, give us a Nightwing movie. It'd be so good!) I'm not particularly optimistic about this flick, but I suspect it'll be popular with my Girl Power! friends. As long as they don't screw that angle up, I will watch it and I'll probably have a good time with it.

Resident Evil: Vendetta I am not going to say that this movie is for everyone. BUT if you're the kind of person who enjoys the campy stories that video games often produce, I think this will deliver. I have no idea how I'll watch it in theaters, I'm not expecting a major release. It might be a Fathom Events thing?

Spider-Man: Homecoming Third try is the charm, right guys? This time we've got Marvel Studios in creative control. In Captain America: Civil War they showed us our new Peter Parker, and he was great. I remember pumping my fist excitedly when he showed up in that movie. We've got one of the more dynamic Spider-Man villains, Adrian Toomes - played by motherfucking Batman himself, Michael Keaton. Jon Favreau is back as Happy Hogan - I've missed him since the last Iron Man. I'm not sold on Marisa Tomei as Aunt May. I shouldn't be attracted to Aunt May, and Marisa Tomei will always be beautiful. I understand Marvel is going to hammer on the MCU being a part of Spider-Man's world. I hope he bridges the gap between Daredevil/The Defenders and Iron Man/The Avengers, as is Spider-Man's place in the comics but I'm not really holding my breath. I think it'll be a bit before we're ready for another Spider-Man solo sto---oh my god they're doing Secret Wars we might get a proper black suit Spider-Man. ... Guys, I'm excited for this movie and I really want it to be great.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets This is a scifi action flick directed by the dude who did 5th Element. John Goodman is in it. Cara Delevingne is in it. It looks like it could be pretty cool. The comic this movie is based on is an inspiration for Star Wars, The 5th Element, Saga, and a bunch of other stuff you may have heard of.

That's it for movies for the summer. August has The Dark Tower, if you care about that. The fall has Blade Runner, Thor, Cloverfield, and a bunch of other stuff that'll probably be great. But that's later. This summer is going to be AWESOME for nerds who fit my particular profile.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Iron Fist

Iron Fist came out on Netflix last week. I've been a pretty big supporter of the Marvel shows on Netflix thus far but... Iron Fist didn't quite do it for me.

I've seen criticisms about cultural appropriations and such. I understand intellectually that this is a problem. I know that no art is made in a void, and with similar controversies popping up around other properties like Ghost In The Shell, Iron Fist was bound to take some heat for it. However, I'm a white guy who thinks kung fu (and martial arts in general) are fun to watch. It doesn't actually bother me. That's my lens; you know where I'm at.

What I know about Danny Rand (aka The Iron Fist) is that he is perpetually a fish out of water. A white kung fu master. A Buddhist-esq billionaire. A playboy with a chastity vow. If all good comic heroes are a metaphor for Jungian archetypes, Iron Fist is about the struggle to do what you're told you can't, and the conflict between spirituality and materialism. One of my favorite traits of this character is that he doesn't even seem to realize his money and his religion are at odds with each other.

But. I don't think this first season delivers on any of that. In fact, I found it hard to identify with anything about Danny Rand. With Daredevil, you see a flawed person struggle to maintain his life while he attempts to do the right thing. With Jessica Jones you watch someone take responsibility for her wrong doings while confronting those who have wronged her. Luke Cage is about building community by being as virtuous as possible, in face of corruption. Daredevil season two shows you someone second guessing the path they're on - what is the difference between Daredevil and The Punisher? Should Daredevil take the law in to his own hands? If you spend any time thinking about super heroes, that is a compelling tale.

With Iron Fist we get... uh. A rich guy trying to reclaim his place in the world. Maybe a bad story about family? I'm not sure. I'll probably watch it again before Defenders to see if I missed something, but as it stands this is a show about watching martial artists fake punch each other, I couldn't find anything to latch on to. Also, I thought season 1 of Daredevil did a better job delivering on the fight sequences. That's not to say there weren't great fights. I particularly liked the fight with the drunken boxer. I never get tired of seeing that style.

Then there are the plot holes they asked me to swollow. The soon-to-be Night Nurse (Claire Temple, played by Rosario Dawson who continuously knocks it out of the park) happens to find herself in Iron Fist's life. She knows he's going against The Hand. She knows Daredevil is also fighting The Hand. She does.... nothing with this knowledge. Even though she proclaims "You can't go against them on your own!" to both characters.

Jeri Hogarth (played by Carrie-Anne Moss who nails the role) ALSO KNOWS ALL OF THESE SUPERHEROS. You couldn't see it, but my arms were flaying about in exasperated motions as I wrote that. Clearly Claire will put The Defenders in touch with each other, and Jeri will provide some logistics. But after four seasons of dancing around it, after Luke Cage essentially inherits a venue for them, after Danny Rand appears with all the money needed... there is no reason to prevent this group from coming together the moment it's obvious The Hand are still in New York.

Pictured: Harvey Dent aka Two Race. I'll see myself out.
While I'm thinking about Hogarth, quick sidebar. They're getting all sorts of shit for Danny Rand being white. They're not getting any praise for Hogarth being a woman. There's no praise for Colleen Wing, who is Japanese in the comics, being played by a multi-ethnic (none of which are Japanese) actor - adding some depth to what could have been a stereotypical role. Ben Urich is black in the Netflix series. They've positioned Misty Knight to get a show that I'd be excited to watch, and her book was c-tier in the comic universe. It seems to me they're trying their damnest to diversify the Marvel universe. Yet the only thing I've heard is how they're not doing enough. It's almost like the people leveraging these criticisms aren't aware of how far these characters and comics have come, or how far the community of fans has come since the Thor movie hubbub when Idris Elba played Heimdall - and even that was tame in comparison to the enraged nerds when Billy Dee Williams played Harvey Dent in Tim Burton's Batman. I understand there's still room to improve things, but no one outside the industry ever takes the time to acknowledge comics, their tie-ins, and their fans are trying to be more welcoming to women and minorities. It certainly doesn't seem to be reflected at my local comic shop. /rant

(Edit: Since this was written I have spoken to some Asian friends of mine to hear their concern. Their complaint, rightly, is that there are not many Asian heroes shown in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some pop up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Colleen Wing are about all they have going for them. It's not much better in the comics, and they view Danny Rand as a hold over from a particularly racist time in Marvel's history.)

Anyway, Iron Fist asks the audience for a lot, and it does not reward them for it. It makes me wish they combined Iron Fist with The Defenders, a lot of my problems would have been resolved by making him a narrative supporting character and an action sequence heavy.

Fun fact, The Incredible Hulk was an original Defender. He gets namechecked a lot in the Netflix shows. Sure would be cool if they were given license to use him for the Netflix shows since it seems unlikely that he'll get another solo movie. Oooh, and Hogarth could hire on Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk) to handle vigilante related cases! I would LOVE to watch a She-Hulk courtroom drama. Season 2 of Daredevil already proved that is compelling television.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 26

This is it! We see credits on Mass Effect 3. All of the people we helped, all of the decisions we made... and it comes down to a three way choice. Hurray.

I really would have been happier if the Starchild just read my save, saw my paragon/renegade stats and did one of the three things that matched my character's history. Oh well.

We say goodbye to everyone. They send us off with what feels like the writers thanking us for sitting through all of their stories.

Over all the trilogy is fine. I don't think I can site it as my favorite video game franchise anymore, but it's still really good. As far as video game worlds go, Mass Effect's is still the one I'd want to live in. We'll pick up this series again next week when Andromeda comes out.

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My first ten hours with Mass Effect: Andromeda

I decided to get early access to Mass Effect: Andromeda. Now I have opinions. A word on spoilers: I try not to give away anything important (as far as I know) here, but... if you're sensitive to spoilers I make no promises beyond this point.

You know about the animation problem. It's like they forgot to put muscles around the eyebrows and cheeks. It is a problem, and I hope they are able to fix it. This is compounded by the slightly cartoonish textures and color pallet. When the animations go wrong, they can look like something out of a Warner Brothers cartoon. Only... unintentional.

A lot of people are screaming that this is the end of the world. They say Mass Effect sucks now. But does it?

The basic combat feels similar to previous games - duck behind cover, shoot enemies who are also ducking behind cover. They have removed the ability to tell your squad mates to use specific powers, but you can still tell them where to go during a fight. You are no longer married to a single class. Instead you swap out class profiles from the menu (or hot keys f1-f4) at any time. You unlock profiles by putting skill points in one of three ability trees. They have added a 'jump pack,' which allows you to leap up approximately 30 feet and to dash about 10-15 feet. Depending on which class you have equipped the dash may have additional attributes such as invisibility or warping. Finally, abilities combo off each other better now. They are clearly labeled with something that says "This ability starts a combo" and "this ability ends a combo." You shoot an enemy with the first ability, then the second, and something awesome happens - my character has been triggering explosions with a 10 foot radius, but I understand there are other things you can do.

Overall I like the changes to combat. I was never much for ordering my squad mates to use powers - though it was a requirement to get through the game on higher difficulties. The ability to change builds on the fly addresses a concern I had in previous games where my build was at a clear disadvantage in some fights, while it was laughably overpowered in others. I like that I can use singularity as a sniper build, or that I can switch to a shotgun-wielding teleporting biotic with hp/shield buffs when the situation demands it. The various scenarios the game threw at me in the first section of the first open planet were diverse enough that I didn't feel like I was running down a linear hallway or fighting in to one of four prefab buildings.

Which leads me to the dichotomy of uniqueness. The more hand crafted the environments are, the fewer of them there can be. So far, no two places on the first story map are the same. In fact, they seem pretty different and clearly have a history. That's great... but if there are going to be dozens of planets I don't know if they can keep this up. There are 7 "golden worlds" that the explorers intended to colonize. I imagine each enemy faction will have a center of power, and then there are the missing ark ships. The impression the demo wants me to have is that each of those are filled with pretty great stories of tragedy, betrayal, and redemption. I want that to be the case. I just am not sure it's possible on the scale I've been shown so far. Eventually I expect to see enemy bases to repeat themselves; maybe in three tiers, like outpost, military hub, and capital. In the demo we are supposed to find one such base. If you decide to push the boundaries a bit there is a second; obviously with the same architectural style. I wasn't able to explore the second one due to what I assume was a plot element, but it seemed to be a good bit different than the first base.

Multiplayer. It has it. I tried maybe five games? Maybe eight? Somewhere in there. The match making sucked. I had two playable games. A few others that I slogged through but did not enjoy. When it made me host (what, why?) my computer slowed down like crazy, team mates were complaining about rubber banding. I bailed on it. I hope it worked out better for them once I left. My computer is VR-minspec, it hasn't had problems with other recent games so... I dunno what's happening there. Hopefully the day one patch will fix some of that?

The final thing I want to talk about is story and player choice. I will dissect a complete side quest, so it will get spoiled. I will talk about them AFTER I post the videos of my play through from twitch. I do not complete the sidequest in the videos, but it does get pretty spoilery.

Here are the videos.

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Okay, still with me? Great. If you've played a Bioware before you've seen some variation on the "Help! My husband is wrongly accused of murder, please prove his innocence!" quest. ME:A has one such quest. You gather evidence and find out that while he did not commit the murder, he meant to. I think this is a new wrinkle in the way that quest goes. Ignoring the fact that it is incredibly unlikely that two people would shoot at a person at the same time, and that one would miss, it leaves the protagonist in a strange place. This person is an attempted murderer, but he is about to be exiled for a crime he didn't actually commit. Of course the game doesn't present you with an option to retry him for the lesser crime... you can either free him or exile him. So what would you do? The justice system was wrong. The guy is wrong. If you exile him, he's likely to join your enemies. If you free him he's likely to do something stupid when things get bad. It's forced, but it's a shade of grey that Bioware games rarely achieve. ...then they spell that out for you. "Life is rarely black and white," says some shitty bureaucrat who refuses to do his damn job. I am hopeful that this quest was supposed to foreshadow choices you have to make throughout the game. The hamfisted nature of it and the dialog leading through it make me uncertain that it will deliver on that front. Still, if they get 50 tries to make a quest that's morally ambiguous, a couple of them will be good even if it's accidental.

I will be streaming as much Mass Effect Andromeda as I can manage starting at 11pm (or whenever the game releases) Monday, March 19th. Come check it out.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 25

We start with some multiplayer (as will be a theme until this is over). Let's talk about the Geth. It's Geth History Month. Learn about the Morning War. Learn about the fate of the Geth and the fate of the Quarians. Speaking of history, we find a Prothean napping on Eden Prime. He's kind of a jerk. It's a cultural thing. Miranda shows up to ask for alliance help with an unnameable task. We do some treasure hunting. Finally, we reach Thessia and discover the link between the Asari and the Protheans. It doesn't go great, for anybody.

Here's the video.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 24

More multiplayer. Then we're off to rescue some Cerberus defectors. After that, the Quarians have a bit of a geth problem. We get started on that, with a cliffhanger ending!

Here's the video.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 23

Apparently I was having connection problems with Episode 22. A lot of side quest-doing got broken into separate videos. You didn't miss much.

In this episode we start boosting galactic readiness with a few matches of multiplayer. After that we chat up the crew, save some ardach-yachi (or whatever they're called), then chat with the crew some more!

Here's the video.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 22

Raid on the Citadel! Our plucky heroes face off against the human rights protest group, Cerberus! Betrayal! Redemption! Furthered agendas and machinations!

Here's the video.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 21

Biiiiiiiig episode today. Like, 6 hours. I sort of lost track of time while playing this on. Someone in chat alerted me to the frame rate issues. I did a bit of research and I think it gets addressed. Should be fine going forward. Then we go wrap up as many side quests as we can. ...Then we head to the Korgan planet and save some Turians, stop some Cerebus scheme, and---do something with the genophage. Did I save the Krogan people, or did I scam them into helping the Turians without unleashing a horde of Krogans on to the galaxy? Watch to find out.

Here's the video.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 20

The rubber meets the road in ME3. We're off to Palaven to recruit the Turians! But of course they're not in that easy. We need to get the Krogans to help the Turians. The Krogans want... a cure for the genophage. Thankfully, the Salarians have that cure! Lots of gun play in this episode. And lots of chatting.

Here's the video.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 19

This is the first episode of Mass Effect 3. We learn immediately that Anderson is no longer on the council - for some reason. It didn't bother me so much the first time through, but in retrospect this should have been the first warning sign.

In this episode we escape Earth, then we escape Mars. Liara rejoins the crew and settles into - and promptly forgets - the girlfriend role. The council still sucks at fighting the reapers. There's lots of set up. Lots of talking. A few early decisions pay off.

Here's the video.

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 18

Roll credits! That's Mass Effect 2 in the can. Tali and I share bacteria. Then we lost a few party members - but not the same party member I lost the first time I played this game. So that's new an exciting. I'm a bit bummed that I lost anyone - but when I'm playing through the games this fast, I suppose it's to be expected. Who lives? Who dies? There's only one way to find out.

Here's the video.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 17

This is a long one. In this episode we help Tali face charges of treason, then we recruit Thane on Illos. While they were wrap up helping Liara and a few random locals. After that, we recruit the pala--er, justicar. Thane asks us to settle business with his family, so we do that. Then Justicar Samara asks us to help with her family. So we do! Somewhere in there, I mess things up with Jack. Thankfully, Tali is quick to swoop in. We wrap up the firewalker missions, and stop a geth plot to destroy a human settlement on a gas giant. After this, there's nothing left but to get the super weapon and head off to Collector space.

Here's the video.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 16

Grunt is growing plates in strange places and has taken an interest in the female clans. We go help him mature from whelp to full-grown krogan. Then it's off to the citadel to help Garrus on his mission of vengeance.

Here's the video.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 15

Today's video has us doing more loyalty missions. This time for Jack, Miranda, Jacob and Morrida. So much got done! Progress has been made! I think we're still on track to finish this series before Andromeda comes out.

Here's the video.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 14

In this Episode we explore a derelict ship and pick up Grunt. After that we have our first face-to-face with the Collectors. It was a pretty rough fight. Exciting times!

Here's the video.

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 13

Jack acquired! She's a bit of a jerk, but I know there's a heart of gold there. <3 We also paid a visit to the Citadel, got our specter status back. Over all it was a pretty good day in the Milky Way.

Here's the video.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 12

More planet scanning! So many planets, so much scanning to do! We help some of the crew get the equipment they need, and we put Zaheed in his place. Damnable mercs.

Here's the video.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Wednesday, March 1, 2017