The “One Movie A Week” Challenge

MovieReelOne thing I realized at the beginning of the year was my lack of actual movie watching.  I want to be a professional screenwriter and yet I don’t watch movies?!  

I have a number of excuses, but as with my growing list of things I failed to make time for last year, this falls among them.

So I put myself to the challenge of watching one new movie a week, and so far, I’ve been pretty good about it.  I think I missed the week before Captain Marvel but I did watch The Umbrella Academy.  It doesn’t technically count, I know.  Below, in what I’m trying to remember as the viewing order, is what I’ve watched thus far with a short synopsis and a review.

  1. Arrival: Cool premise – learning to communicate with aliens which results in a greater understanding.  It also presents an interesting question, “If you know how the story ends, do you still take the journey?”  My rating: B-
  2. Ex Machina: Another cool premise – the development of A.I. and its consequences.  It’s a slow moving film, and some of the dialogue is trying too hard to be clever, but in the end I appreciated the story.  My rating: B-
  3. Annihilation: The trailer left much to the imagination, so I was intrigued.  “Alien” object lands on Earth and disrupts the natural world around it.  In an attempt to be female empowering, which, I guess, thanks?, we follow an all woman team into the anomaly.  I felt there was too much lead up to leave the ending so ambiguous.  My rating: C
  4. Ant-Man & The Wasp: There’s a lot to be said about why I almost passed on this movie, but as we’ve all learned, in the MCU, they’re all connected.  With Avengers: Endgame on the horizon, and not wanting to miss any tidbit of information (the quantum realm will be important), I finally gave in, and I was pleasantly surprised, in part because of Wasp not playing sidekick.  At least Marvel is giving the few women it does have both brains and brawn.  My rating: B
  5. Incredibles 2: You just gotta love Pixar.  In a timely fashion, they release a film with a female superhero lead.  And not just any female but a wife and mother of three.  I love the original, and the sequel is nearly as good.  Picking right up where we left off 10 years ago, we get a family film that deals with real issues of supposed gender specific roles and flips them.  My rating: A+
  6. Polar: I love Mads Mikkelsen.  That is all. 🙂  Seriously, I would watch the man “insert mundane task”, so I was excited to see his face while scrolling through the new releases on Netflix.  Based on a comic book, it’s dark, and it has its moments, but it’s not overly satisfying.  Mikkelsen plays an assassin entering retirement in a world that wishes it were more like John Wick’s.  My rating: C-
  7. Ocean’s 8: In an era where films are being unnecessarily remade, despite an all star, all female cast, I wasn’t initially compelled to watch this film because, as I mentioned, it felt unnecessary.  That being said, I adore Cate Blanchett, another actor I would watch “insert another mundane task”, and discovered a fairly clever heist film that desired to capture the magic of the original Oceans 11 and didn’t fall too short.  My rating: B
  8. Coco: Pixar is very good at what it does.  It tells heartwarming (and heart tugging), magical stories that transport us to amazing places.  Coco tells the story of a young boy who desires to be a musician despite his family’s strict anti-music rules, and finds himself in the Land of the Dead seeking validation.  It is a beautiful film to watch, and the heart of the story is quite moving.  My rating: A+
  9. Captain Marvel: Where I failed Ocean’s 8, by not supporting it early on, because as a woman I need to support these movies so they will continue to get made, I couldn’t repeat with Captain Marvel, not after waiting over 10 years for Marvel to finally get it.  Wonder Woman was a huge success and by far DC’s best film, and yet Marvel kept dragging its feet.  And while yes, another piece of the puzzle for the MCU and the final piece before Avengers: Endgame, supporting this Captain was necessary.  And it was a fun time.  Brie Larson’s portrayal was enjoyable to watch, even if the story was not the MCU’s strongest.  My rating: B+

I switched from my star rating system to the old school lettering system…not sure I’ll do that again.  Do you agree with my ratings?  Do you have any suggestions for my next movie?  Do you want to join me in this challenge?  Let’s chat!

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Breaking Down the Dragon Age 4 Teaser Trailer

With the announcement, finally, that there would, in fact, be a Dragon Age 4, fans everywhere sighed with relief.  At least there was confirmation, despite the few years’ wait for its release, and it gave fans hope.  Some have wondered how it was that I had nothing to say about it.  Believe me, I was ecstatic at the news.  As you may have noticed with my limited posts this year, I’ve continued to be busy.

By the way, hi!  Happy Holidays!

So about two weeks ago at the 2018 Game Awards, Bioware treated fans to the following teaser:

To the casual observer, or non-DA fan, it doesn’t seem like much, but for the devoted, myself included, there are plenty of small details to analyze and get excited about.  Fan theories soon followed as each frame of the video was scrutinized, and I have done my best to avoid it all.  After all, I have my own theories.

The Dragon Age games have been amazing at connecting events and characters, history and lore to create an immense, immersive world, and this trailer I believe does that as well.  And while there are easter eggs galore, to explore each one would cause me to write a treatise, I’ll pick 3 topics to break down.

Let the wild speculation begin.

The Opening Image: It looks like a sunrise/sunset over mountains, which is a familiar landscape from Inquisition.  Since the events of the third game were left open ended (which is why fans always believed there would have to be a fourth installment, I mean we just got around to who Solas actually was), this image could be interpreted a couple of ways.  It could be symbolic – a sunrise is often considered a new beginning while a sunset is referred to as an ending.  With the fate of the world dependent on the success of Solas’ plan to return the elves to their former glory by tearing down the veil, a new beginning for some results in an ending for pretty much everyone else.  It could also be representative of a location of the next game.  Skyhold, the Inquisition’s base of operations, is located within the Frostbacks, and regardless of your choice at the end of Trespasser about what to do with the Inquisition, it’s unlikely the keep would have been abandoned, and therefore still an element to consider in the next installment.

The Idol: The camera continues to move across a number of connected pieces – a skull, the pained face of, what looks like, Andraste – evident by the crown upon her head – and then red veins creeping upward.  As the camera pulls back to take in the whole of the twisted idol, fans are offered an “ah-ha” moment that harkens us back to the days of Dragon Age 2.  The red lyrium idol found in a primeval thaig that caused people to go insane is the same idol shown here.  In DA2 just a shard from the idol caused Bartrand, Varric’s brother to do unspeakable things.  What remained of the idol was repurposed into Commander Meredith’s sword, so we know that idol no longer exists, so why show us the idol at all?

Red lyrium was a major factor in Inquisition; the source of it and its effects were explored at length (finding it growing out of people was horrifying), so it’s a good guess that red lyrium, and the images represented within the idol will play a role in DA4.  Andraste is the founder of the Chantry, and one of your companions from Inquisition is now Divine.  Red lyrium in small, measured doses offers superhuman abilities, and is considered an anti-magic substance, and with the tenuous peace between mages and templars, perhaps by using red lyrium, those against mages will try to finally rid Thedas of magic.

The red veins also reminded me of blood magic, a much frowned upon use of magic in Thedas, with exception in the Tevinter Imperium.  With the Inquisitor thrusting a dagger into the mapped region of Tevinter at the end of Trespasser, it’s also possible that the story of DA4 will finally take us there, to not only explore this other world and the magical freedoms and politics associated, but also to see our old friend, Dorian again.  If you remember, he was part of a group looking to reform Tevinter, and we can be sure there are many opposed to the idea.  And powerful mages going head to head definitely sounds like at least a side quest with perhaps another excuse to use red lyrium?

The Mural: The camera draws back further and a painting appears behind the idol; one that resembles artwork Solas once painted upon the walls in his space within Skyhold.  The Dread Wolf appears on one side, the idol remains in the middle, and an elf stands in opposition.  At first glance, I thought it might be Solas warring with himself, but upon closer inspection, the elf is white haired surrounded by fire.  What we learned about Solas aka Fen’Harel during Trespasser was that he’s considered a god, and not just any god but the one that created the veil and tricked the other gods, trapping them behind it.

My guess?  It’s another Evanuris, the god-like Elgar’nan finally released from his captivity.  Known as the all-father and god of vengeance, whose symbol is associated with fire, wouldn’t he be the most logical choice to seek revenge upon Solas?  With the idol between them, the theory that red lyrium could play a major part in DA4, possibly swaying the outcome, feels like an understatement.

I lied.  I can’t end this without talking about…

The Words: And then finally, Solas speaks.  “So, you found me at last.  I suppose you have questions.”  Each game in Dragon Age has a new protagonist, and because of the spoken words in the trailer, words that echo those already spoken to the Inquisitor during Trespasser, I believe we’ll be playing as yet another new protagonist in search of Fen’Harel…among other things.  My reasoning, while I’d love to see my Warden again, that’s a dissertation for another day, is because Solas’ words feel as if he’s speaking to someone he doesn’t personally know.  While Solas will most likely be aware of this new protagonist, they will be searching for him after all, they probably won’t meet until these fateful words are spoken.

And then the teaser ends with #TheDreadWolfRises. ((chills)) Boom!  It’s all about Solas.  I may have squealed a bit. Many fans have a love/hate relationship with Solas, but I find him interesting and the possibilities are so exciting!

A new Dragon Age is on the way!  Eek!  Sorry.  I can’t help it.

Oh, there’s so much more to talk about, and this is already much longer than intended because you know I can talk Dragon Age all day long, but I’d like to hear your thoughts.  Are you excited about what DA4 has in store?  Do you agree or disagree with any of my theories?  What did you see in the teaser?  Let’s chat!

Rambling Review: Valerian

Valerian

I have a soft spot for Luc Besson’s films.  La Femme Nikita was my introduction to his work (thankfully, the intro was a good one), because there’s been the occasional let down, and yet I still get excited when I see his name attached.  Which is why I had high hopes for his latest project, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, aka France’s most expensive movie ever made, by a lot.

There was a lot of press on this film surrounding its release, and I remember Luc being unhappy with the state of the film industry at the time.  Other comic book stories translated to the screen had been dominating the scene, with some of them being overwhelmingly well received, while his comic book tale fell flat.  He felt his movie didn’t get its rightful due, not taking into consideration that maybe his film just wasn’t that good.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful to watch, but that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) compensate for a lack of story and boring characters.  I mean, when the lifeless portrayal of a shape shifting alien, played by Rihanna is one of the best performances, that’s saying something.  Because the movie is based on a comic series, I’m sure there were other stories to choose from, so I have to wonder, why did he choose this one?

Valerian offered us a glimpse into an amazing world, but the lack of a compelling introduction and the lack of interesting lead characters had me contemplating turning it off within the first 15 minutes, but I believed, and hoped, that sticking it out would lead to a satisfying end.  It did not.

Major Valerian played by Dane DeHaan and his partner Sergeant Laureline played by Cara Delevingne are basically special ops officers sent in to recover sensitive material in an illegal transaction.  They later learn that their mission was part of a cover up of a shameful military commander’s actions from years earlier – the decimation of a planet and its inhabitants.

PearlsKnown as Pearls, these beautiful, androgynous aliens, thought to be primitive because of their simple existence are nearly extinguished during a war they aren’t even a part of.  I think they’re the best part of the entire film.  We soon discover they’re basically geniuses, learning advanced math and science theories and practices in a matter of years not only to survive, but also because they wish to return to their way of life.  But as clichéd villains go, the ol’ commander doesn’t want any reminders of the past.

That’s the plot in a nutshell.

The side story is the uninteresting love connection they’re trying to force on us between the Major and the Sergeant.  There is absolutely no spark between the two leads.  Their performances, for me, were flat and dull.  Valerian, as we learn through a quick recap, is a womanizer, and most likely for sake of the film and in the hopes we’ll root for them, becomes fixated on his partner.  There is absolutely no cause for this other than their close proximity to one another.

Suddenly, he’s proposing, and that dominates nearly every conversation between them the rest of the movie.  Ugh.  And this coming from a romantic.

I was bitter that such a beautiful, overachieving movie would fall so flat, especially in such capable hands – those same hands are responsible for The Professional.  The advances in technology have allowed us unlimited potential in our imaginations in regards to translating that to the screen, and I think that Valerian relied too heavily upon this.  Enamored with their visuals, they forgot that some of us were paying attention to why we were there in the first place – the story.

Ah well, not every time out can be a winner.  Will I continue to support Luc and his visions?  Of course.  But whereas I was disappointed that I didn’t initially see this in theaters, I’ll probably weigh this endeavor against any future films and the feelings of immediacy at seeing it in theaters in way of support.

Twoandhalfstars

What I’ve learned recently is that when my expectations have been high, I’ve been disappointed, like 99% of the time.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by films I had low expectations of, and that’s a sad truth to face, especially in light of the fact that I want to be a part of said industry.

Do you agree or disagree with my take on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets?  Share your thoughts below.

Rambling Review – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

*Spoiler free review ahead.

Witcher 3

This “more than just a piece of eye candy” is Geralt of Rivia.  Swoon.  He’s from a fantasy land where once upon a time, a conjunction split the veil between worlds, allowing mystical creatures to spill into his.  In an effort to battle the “forces of evil”, the Witchers were created by terrible means, Geralt among them.

This 2015 Game of the Year winner has all the facets of well, everything, not just gaming, I’m drawn to – Medieval-like fantasy world, old world order of potential do-gooders, magic, sweeping backdrops with a rich, layered history – it was without fail that this would become my new favorite thing.

I was nearing the end of my first playthrough when for Christmas this year, The Sis bought me a series of books, and that’s when I learned a bit of the history of The Witcher.  I had no idea the game was based on novels by fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski.  The first book, The Last Wish was published in 1993.  That’s a long time to be clueless about something I was destined to love.  There are currently eight books in the series, three games, a failed Polish movie and tv series, and a new show by Netflix was just announced.  Now that could prove interesting as everyone is on the hunt for the next Game of Thrones-like series.

I started the game completely oblivious to the storyline as I had not played the previous two.  Not the best idea when the world you’re walking into is already so established.  Maybe it was because of this, I felt a bit of disconnect initially from Geralt.  I didn’t know who he was, where he had been, or why people hated him because he was a Witcher.  His purpose seemed like a good one.

There was war brewing on all fronts and with monsters running amok, no one seemed concerned with the other impending threat, the Wild Hunt.  Frightening, almost unstoppable warriors with skeletal armor from another world, the Wild Hunt appears with a frost that dramatically affects the world around them.  And these “things” were chasing after my (Geralt’s) ward-like daughter, Ciri.Ciri

The beautiful girl with an interesting background and the voice of a Dragon Age character (Hawke from DA2) immediately became my concern (and I do mean mine).  And that became the true purpose of the game – find and protect Ciri.

I had to force myself to play the game the first few times, which did not thrill me because I had been so excited to play after watching a trailer.  This one, specifically: (*Be forewarned that this includes content not suitable for all ages.)

After those initial attempts, I decided to just follow the main storyline objective and things became more clear.  I was still a bit lost when it came to matters of politics and the hatred towards witches and non-humans, but the further I delved into this world, the easier it became to navigate, and then suddenly, I was in love.

The game is beautiful and expansive.  Cut scenes are cinematic, and there are a lot of them.  Many times I felt like I was in a movie that I was lucky enough to be able to move around in.

*Helpful hint: Unlike some games, you can not put the controller down and walk away during conversations.  Often times there are timed responses, so you don’t want to lose out on that choice.

There were a number of comments made by people in-game who thought they knew who Geralt was.  I chose to make him more kind, almost out of spite because no one was going to talk about my boy like that in front of me and get away with it.  Also, in part because I always play the “nice guy” when morality meters are involved.  Sometimes we chose to fight, but sometimes we were merciful, giving our enemies reason to pause.  The more I played, the more I liked him.  The mutagens given to him as a boy to make him a Witcher made his hair turn white and stripped him of his outward emotion, but he has a good sense of humor, is loyal, and cares deeply.

As the game progressed, I learned why people both liked and feared him.  Witchers are considered freaks themselves, unnatural.  As a hired monster slayer known as the White Wolf, not only is he a fearsome warrior with a bloody reputation, he’s also known as being quite the womanizer.  There are a few women to romance in the game, and Geralt, looking the way he does and having women throwing themselves at him took each opportunity.  Although to be honest, I’m not sure how likely this all would have been back in 2007.  Thank the advances of technology!

Geralt's Gaming Versions

Helpful tip: Romancing multiple characters can bite you in the a** if you’re not careful. 

The witch in the trailer is Yennefer, Geralt’s long time, on again-off again lover. Triss She’s powerful and self-assured with a biting wit, and it’s easy to see why she and Geralt are continually drawn back to one another.  While she aligns herself with powerful allies, like kings and emperors, the adorable and sweet Triss Merigold is helping witches escape the fires as hunters close in.

There’s history with each of these women, and more of their pasts are divulged as the game continues, making it understandable why Geralt, and I, had a hard time choosing. 😉

There’s a great deal to discuss with this game.  There are many facets and intricate details that made this game so mesmerizing and engaging, but I will draw my rambling review to a close.  Perhaps in the near future I will post a Witcher Review: Part II.

Like Dragon Age, where your character’s decisions influence the world around you, I failed on occasion to complete certain side quests in a timely fashion and that ended up shaping the world for the better or worse (Eh, it was my first playthrough after all, and it’s all a learning curve.), but because of the immersive quality, this is a game that has definite replayability.  It’s a word.

If you enjoy the fantasy trope RPG, this will, without a doubt, speak to you…as it did me.  By far, one of the best games I’ve played.  Yes, you read that correctly.  It’s up near Dragon Age.  And now that I have a few books at my disposal, let the new obsession begin.

 

5stars

So, I’m smitten.  How about you, fellow gamers?  Have you played?  Let’s discuss!

Rambling Review: Logan

Logan3I haven’t done a review in ages!  And instead of being overly late to the party (like I usually am), as this movie is still in theaters, I thought I’d give this one a shout out.

I try my best to only watch a trailer or two of any film I’m interested in seeing.  I don’t read other reviews, I don’t seek out spoilery information, and I try to ignore social media posts (which is almost a permanent state at this point, as I’m always behind in everything), so I didn’t know too much about what to expect from this movie before viewing it.

I haven’t finished the Wolverine film series, or even the newer X-Men films, so I’m uncertain to any tie-ins, but this definitely felt like a stand alone film and didn’t require much explanation as to what had been happening up to this point.

Side note, I went to see this by myself.  I like going to the movies once in a while on my own, but clearly this was a shock to the two men seated near me.  “You’re here alone?” One of them asked.  “Yes.”  I responded.  “You came to see Logan by yourself?”  “Yep.”  I heard him sort of huff in surprise.  I didn’t pay enough attention to the accent to narrow down where they were from, but clearly this was a strange idea to them.  I’m not sure if it was because I was lone woman, or because I was a lone woman at a superhero movie.

At the conclusion, he asked if I liked it.  Yes.  Yes, I did.

*I like to write reviews as if I were talking with a friend, so I try my best to keep them spoiler free. 🙂

Logan2

As I said, I didn’t know much about the film before entering the theater.  The fantastic pairing of Johnny Cash on the trailer was enough to spark my interest, especially with Logan looking so weathered and forlorn.  He looked like a man whose age had finally caught up with him; a man who has seen a great deal and lost just as much.

The film is set in the not too distant future, and we’re introduced to a Logan who is clearly unwell, whose claws are getting a little rusty, has a limp, and is drinking himself into oblivion.  The strong warrior doesn’t appear to have much fight left in him, and becomes a reluctant protector of a young girl with similar powers.  And I do mean reluctant.

Mutants have gone the way of the dinosaur, and Logan is looking out for himself and the Professor, who is now in his 90s and unable to control his powers due to seizures.  Apparently there was an incident that killed a number of people and mutants in the recent past, and Logan is doing his best to keep him safe and protected.  He just wants to earn enough money to buy a boat and escape to a quiet life – enter the bad guys who think they’re good guys.

There’s been a secret project going on for years, because there’s always a secret project, and when the lab rats get loose, the big guns come out in force to clean up their mistake.  And do they ever come out in force.  There are loads of great fight sequences – Logan’s claws are still as sharp as ever, and we discover, so are the little girl’s, and she’s a dangerous little thing.

The movie is about both a literal and figurative “journey”.  Logan has lost everyone he’s ever cared about, save Charles, and he doesn’t want to care about anyone else, no matter how she might tug at the ol’ heart strings.  He’s not who he once was, and he’s not who everyone wants him to be, he’s just…tired, of it all.

The film took some unexpected turns, but honestly, they felt right.  It wasn’t a traditional spandex-clad superhero film, and I think that’s what I liked best.  It was a more “reality” based look at an old hero and what they, or any of us, are willing to fight for.

There was one aspect of the storyline that I felt was a little forced in, and a cliche of sorts – the whole white hats vs black hats kind of thing, facing yourself, and your past, but as parallels go, it wasn’t too bad.  *This one is hard to go into too much explanation without being spoilery. 

This is my second favorite X-Men film, after the first one back in 2000, and probably number 6 on my top 10 of superhero movies.  It wasn’t what I was expecting, and that was a good thing.  All the X-Men movies of late have not inspired me to care about any of these characters I once liked.  Remember the X-Men cartoon?  The writers, directors, etc. really should have taken a note from their predecessors.

You don’t have to be a superhero fan to enjoy this film.  It’s a tale we’re all familiar with, it just happens to be “enhanced”. 😉

4.5 stars.jpg

If you’ve seen Logan, what did you think?

4 New (to me) Favorite Shows + 1

TVblueIt’s hard enough to keep up with the shows I’ve been watching for years (because I haven’t paid for television in nearly 5 years and generally have to wait to stream), let alone stay current with the torrent of new shows available on the numerous outlets nowadays, but since I want to be a part of it all, I had to make a concerted effort to watch some new things.

I decided to go through my various lists and watch the first episode of a number of shows, and see what struck me.  Here are the “new to me” stand outs:

lastkingdom4.  The Last Kingdom – A wonderful show I discovered via Netflix is the BBC import The Last Kingdom.  Set before England is a united nation, the story follows the life of a young Saxon prince who is captured by an invading Dane army and becomes their earl’s slave.  As the years pass, he becomes more Dane than Saxon and eventually becomes the earl’s adopted son.  His journey is a strange one as he discovers that despite his true heritage, he is a man that doesn’t really belong in either world, and yet finds himself at the center of the great changes that are to come.

It’s a period piece set in England.  For me, that’s all it really takes, 😉  but there is something unique and captivating about this show, and I definitely recommend watching the first episode like I did – I’m sure you’ll be hooked too.

galavant3.  Galavant – A comedy musical set in Medieval times starring Timothy Omundson?!  I was in from the moment I saw the first preview, but because of the not-having-tv-thing, it was just another show that got pushed to the wayside…until Netflix.  The first two seasons popped up and I was hooked from first song – Thank you, Alan Menken! (of Disney movie fame: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Tangled to name a few).

The series follows Galavant, a knight on a mission to reclaim his lost love, but as you can expect in a comedy, things don’t always go as planned.  The show is more adult oriented despite the light hearted presentation, special guests make regular appearances, and without commercials, the 18 episodes are only about 20 mins long, so it’s an easy binge watch.  And then I discovered the horrible truth – Galavant had been canceled.  I think the show is really wonderful, and cleverly done.  I’m sad to learn that there won’t be any more of it.  If you’re looking for something different and just plain fun, I highly recommend Galavant.

vikings2.  Vikings – This was a show I longed to watch, but again, did not have access to, and then I got access to Hulu and voila!  Even if I hadn’t been entranced by the first episode, which I totally was, this show was one I was willing to put a little effort into.  Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.  It’s fantastic!  Vikings are often portrayed as this brute invading force, but this show takes us inside their world and, in particular, the life of Ragnar Lothbrok.

Tired of the routine set by his earl of sailing east to lands they have repeatedly pillaged, Ragnar makes a daring-rogue decision and builds a boat of his own to travel to new destinations.  Ragnar, besides being easy on the eyes, is a compelling character to watch.  He’s a clever man played by a subtle actor who says a great deal with his eyes.  (I’m a sucker for that, hello, Mads Mikkelsen.)  And then there’s his wife, Lagertha, a famous warrior known as a shield maiden.  She is an amazing character and my eyes are drawn to her whenever she’s on screen.  She’s a force to be reckoned with, and it’s satisfying to find a character like her.

I’m only on season 2, and there’s already been betrayal and sacrifice (literally) and loss.  I can’t wait to see what else is in store for these characters.

strangerthings1.  Stranger Things – Everyone was talking about Stranger Things so I decided to watch the first episode to see what all the hype was about.  If you’ve been on the fence, get off of it already and watch this hit from Netflix Originals.

Set in the 80s in a small town, this sci-fi series follows a group of friends, four 12 year old boys who are sort of the geeky outcasts.  (In hindsight, they’re the boys I wish I would’ve befriended when I was 12 to learn how to play D&D.)  When one of their friends mysteriously disappears, a new friend mysteriously appears, and a “strange” series of events follow as this tale unfolds.

There was a lot of information about this show on every social media outlet (there still is as season 2 is close at hand), and it was hard to stay ignorant to the premise, so if you’re like I was, I won’t give too much away because it is really well done and a lot of fun to watch.  I have to say I was surprised how much I enjoyed this, because I didn’t know what to expect, so maybe that’s a good thing…I’ve been disappointed more often than not recently when I’m looking forward to something…and despite the fact that Winona Ryder is one of the leads, she is still not a good actor, the show is worthy of your time.

And the +1 is currently in the  “undecided” section:

blackbutlerBlack Butler – The Sis has already watched all the available episodes and is a fan, but I’ve only watched a few, and am still on the fence.  I really like the premise which is about a young boy, the heir to a vast fortune in Victorian England, who makes a deal with a demon to avenge his family.  The demon then becomes his constant companion in the way of his butler, and he is “one hell of a butler”. 😉

Japanime seems to be a cross between a couple of animation types, a beautiful, stylistic art, and this odd, campy, almost childish variant.  Black Butler has both, which sometimes pulls me out of the story because the two styles are drastically different, but this is a mainstay in their animation, I’ve discovered, so it’s just something you have to get used to.

Black Butler is available on both Netflix and Hulu and the Hulu version has both the dubbed and subtitled versions, I believe.  I would recommend the subtitled versions, because Sebastian, the butler, has a wonderful, soothing voice.

Have you watched any of these shows?  What do you think?  Wanna talk about any of them?  Let’s chat!

A Discrepant Writer Reviews: Suicide Squad

I’m breaking from routine this week.  It’s time to mix up the schedule, so for today, I thought I would do a review…I’m really, really behind in those.  I mean, I never even talked about Star Wars.  Who am I?

As always, I will do my best to keep my review “spoiler free”.

SuicideSquad.png

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that DC is trying to play catch up with Marvel.  Marvel has been interweaving their stories since day one and while not all the movies they put out are stellar, they’ve put out a few great ones and their story telling only continues to get better.  From what I’ve seen so far of the DC cinematic world, the same cannot be said.

Suicide Squad, on initial inspection, sounded like an interesting premise: gather together some of the comic world’s worst and let them do something good knowing that if it all goes wrong they’re the perfect scapegoats.

First of all, there are so. many. characters, and for some reason, we needed the backstory of each one.  Actually, no, we didn’t.  As a writer, I’ve learned that when introducing a group, you should find an interesting way to do it, so it sets them all up with their individual character traits and personalities, and doesn’t waste too much time.  This did not happen in Suicide Squad.

I wish I would have timed it, but I felt the set up for all these characters was somewhere in the 45 mins range.  Way too long.  And a lot of their backgrounds could have easily been summed up in a line of dialogue.  With stories of this genre, and with a lot of side characters, I don’t feel that full histories are necessary because we don’t need to emotionally connect with each person on screen.  Besides, the movie is only two hours long.

Then there was the plot, or lack there of.  What a convoluted mess.  Honestly, I felt that the director was having so much fun showing off his cast and special effects that he forgot they were supposed to be doing something – the mission – which, again, was all over the place.  With a comic book history that spans 75 years, there are a number of topics to choose from, and yet this is where they really fell flat.

harleyThe one redeeming thing in the whole movie: Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn.  Besides being absolutely gorgeous, her sweet-crazy performance was the highlight of the film, in addition to the very few interactions we got with Jared Leto’s Joker.  Long time comic book fans are well aware of the twisted relationship they share, and considering the information of how much footage was shot of the two, I think most movie goers were surprised/disappointed with the less than 10 mins that actually appeared in the film.

This is probably because they were trying to make leads of all their characters, and now this is why so many fans are calling for a Harley/Joker film with these two actors reprising the roles.  They were fun to watch.

2stars

Sadly, this film was an overall disappointment.  It had its moments of comedy, but they were few and far between.  Comic books are fun, and yes, they often deal with real world problems, but the characters that are coming to save the day wear tights and capes.  Regardless of wanting these stories to feel “real” with a darker side, they should maintain their levity and fun.

Well, that’s my take any way.  If you saw the film, what did you think?

A Rambling Review: Les Revenants (aka The Returned)

LesRevenants

I love any show or film that keeps you guessing after it’s over.  Days later, you find yourself still wondering what some things meant and still have some pretty big questions.  The French supernatural drama, Les Revenants aka The Returned is just this type of show.

Currently contained within two seasons of just 16 episodes, with no talks of a third season, you will find partial closure and yet be left with that open ended feeling knowing there are no answers to be found.  At least not yet, if ever.  It’s one of those rare gems that lets you ponder its meaning – something I consider very French.

I’m not sure how I discovered the show initially, I think it was recommended by someone I follow somewhere, and I’m glad to have found it, although the wait between seasons was unbearable at over two years.  Both seasons are now available on Netflix.

The story is based on the 2004 film They Came Back, and is about the return of a small town’s deceased residents for no apparent reason.  They don’t all return at the same time, and many of them died at different times throughout the years, leaving the townspeople and their loved ones confused and frightened.

JulieVictor

They don’t look like zombies.  They don’t even look dead.  They don’t bear any marks of how they died and many of them have memory issues depending on how long they’ve been gone, so they’re just as confused.  It makes for an interesting story to see how some of them are welcomed back to their lives while some are not.

Then there is the trouble with the town’s dam.  The entire first season I remember looking at the water and thinking, “What’s really going on in there?”

It’s hard not to go into too much detail with only 16 episodes and four “families” primarily to follow.  This review could easily be much longer, but I want to keep all the mystery alive (pun intended?).  🙂

With so much to watch nowadays, I’ve become rather picky with which shows I stick with and which I give up.  If a show doesn’t grab me within the first few episodes, I don’t want to waste my time.  I know I’ll get flack for this, but I couldn’t get into Breaking Bad or, more recently, Daredevil – two shows loved by nearly everyone I know.  You may find the pacing of The Returned a bit slow initially, but that is part of the magic of this series in particular.  You get to see quiet moments in these people’s lives, and because of that, you feel you understand some of the characters better.

The Returned has an American spinoff that was airing nearly simultaneously and I don’t understand why.  This is one aspect of the Hollywood system that baffles me.  Why was creating a new show based on a current show necessary?  Are subtitles too difficult or cumbersome for the American audience?  Besides, the American version was cancelled after one season.  So no closure for you guys.

I hope for a third season because I would love to see a bit more of this story and its people, and get some answers to those questions still rattling around, but if that doesn’t happen, we can feel some of that unsettling closure that comes with foreign film.

Have you seen the show?  Or its American counterpart?  What are your thoughts?  I’d really love to discuss some of my theories, so join me in the comments!

A Rambling Review of Captain America: Civil War

I’m going to switch things up a bit this week.  No Quote Monday or Quote Monday on a Tuesday.  Nope, it’s movie review time!

As you may have noticed, I still have yet to post a review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Deadpool, among so many others, and there are a handful in the draft stage just waiting to be revisited.  I’ll get to them eventually…

Civil War

Because you know I have to talk about Captain America: Civil War (or Avengers Part 3).  Don’t worry, it’s spoiler free!

For months I’ve avoided most of the buzz in order to keep the mystery alive when the film finally came out.  Most of you know I’m Team Cap – here’s a little refresher as to why.  If you haven’t seen Captain America: Winter Soldier, here’s my ramble on that great movie.  It ranks among my top five in the superhero genre, and I think Civil War may have just joined its ranks…so which one gets the boot then…?

In today’s social media driven world, it’s hard to remain naive to story developments and spoilers unless you’re like me – dedicated to the ignorance.  I have to avert my eyes on so many things, because as you all know, I’m always behind.  It’s difficult sometimes and exhausting to almost always be on the outside, but it usually pays off.

It boils down to this – I don’t want my movie going experience to be ruined, and this harkens back to the time when I was a kid and all these devices of inundation had yet to be invented.

I didn’t know the actual premise of the movie, because the storylines of some of the movies versus the original comic book series have been altered.  There were great memes of why Steve Rogers and Tony Stark might be at war, like this gem:

CivilWarMeme

But the actual storyline is much more interesting, obviously, because in the continuing Captain America theme, it deals with the current political climate.  After all the recent damage done by the Avengers while they’ve been trying to stop alien attacks and Hydra infiltration and global extermination, some people feel that they don’t care about what they leave behind, the collateral damage.

There’s no accountability, and the U.N. is calling for oversight by way of the Sokovia Accords – a document that requires the signatures of all the Avengers to comply with a U.N. council that will determine when and where they are needed.  Those who don’t sign will forcibly be “retired”.

Captain America and Iron Man have differing views on this topic, and for good reason, which leads to their falling out.  Another touchy subject, and a running theme, is what to do with Cap’s best friend, Bucky aka The Winter Soldier.  Oh, Buck Buck.

I like Iron Man a great deal.  It was his first movie that paved the way for all the subsequent films, and the first Iron Man is still one of my favorites, but I’m a Cap girl, all the way.  It’s easy to side with either man in this film, but my solution would be to find some middle ground, but as you might suspect, there’s more going on then just this document to fuel such a division in our team.

I squealed in both delight and fear during the trailer of Cap, Bucky, and Iron Man fighting.

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A great scene by the way, even if I felt it was a little unsportsmanlike, but again, there’s good reason.

Marvel has done an excellent job of weaving their universe through their films and Civil War is no different.  As most of you fellow geeks already know, Suicide Squad (which arrives in August), Black Panther, and yes, another Spiderman movie are all on their way and get a little peek in Civil War.

Overall, a wonderful film that brings to a head all the previous movies and their consequences.  I can’t wait to see what else the MCU has in store for us!

5stars

I’m already planning on when to see this again, in part because apparently only one other person, besides me, laughed at something and I can’t remember what it was.  The Sis and our friend both laughed at me afterwards as they reminded me of this, thinking that apparently the joke was meant for people of a certain age.  Sheesh.  A side note for those of you over a “certain age” and know of the RDJ film Only You, you’ll find a little nod to that movie as well.

And remember to stay for the credits, not only to pay homage all those hard working men and women who remain unseen, but also for the easter eggs.  I’m still surprised by the amount of people who leave the theater after all this time.

Have fun at the movies!

I Finally Played DA: Inquisition DLCs

DAII am so thankful for having such generous friends, like “D”, who let me borrow his XBox One in order to complete the Dragon Age Inquisition story line.

I still have a 360, which is by no means a bad thing, except to the multi-billion dollar gaming industry that dictates my game play.  I love the Dragon Age series, for many of you, this is not new information – just type in “Dragon Age” into my search bar to see all of the devotion.  I’ve already done a number of posts on the series, and so much more…

When it was announced that the DLCs for Inquisition, the extra content that gaming companies release that sometimes add a number of extra hours to enjoy, or not depending on the series, would not be released on older consoles, like my 360, I won’t lie, I was on the verge of tears.

Deep breath.

I had invested money and lots and lots of time to play the new game and then I was told I wouldn’t get any of the extras.  Nope.  Not having it.  It was kind of a slap in the face.  If the gaming companies are moving forward with the technology that comes with the newer consoles, then why did they even bother to release the game on the older ones?  I’m not going to rant about this now, but know there is a rant a comin’.

Needless to say, the DA:I extras did not disappoint and playing on the One was superior; the graphics are amazing, the details crisp, the subtitles and codex much easier to read.  I had one concern, moving over my character from the 360 to the One.  I read a number of articles that all said the same thing, but they were all incorrect.  I tried a variety of tactics to import the data, but they all failed, so if you’re like me, behind the times, let me give you a tip I received after talking directly with EA.

*If you started your game on the 360, you need to download the free version of The Black Emporium on the 360 before you can advance.  If you have all the DLCs for the One, you will obtain The Black Emporium in the pack.  Using the character you want to continue playing with, visit the emporium and create a new save.  On the screen there will be an option for exporting via the emporium to the One.  Nowhere did I ever find this information; most sites suggested using the cloud which, according to EA and my own findings, is incorrect.

You do need to have XBox Live in order to save this information to your account which is how the One will find it when you load it.  Now, on the One, under Extras there is the “Import from 360” option.  Character info will pop-up to ensure it’s the correct import and…Voila!  I wasted hours trying everything else.  Footnote, your character won’t import exactly, although it is pretty close, so I had to make a few changes which is why it’s good you start in the Black Emporium.

DAI JoHThe first DLC is Jaws of Hakkon, a new region to explore in the Frostback Basin.  There are a number of missions to complete while you search for the remains of the last Inquisitor, who is believed to have died in the area hundreds of years ago.  You will learn a great deal of history during this time with tales of the Avvars, the creation of the Seekers, and the previous Inquisitor and his political ties, lineage, and reasons for being in such a remote location.  The map is a bit confusing, as it is a place of peaks and valleys, so travelling from one location to another sometimes takes a little effort finding that one path.

With the new DLCs, you obtain new weapons and armor, but if you play these after the initial game, the armor ratings will be much lower than anything you currently have equipped, so use the schematics to build yourself something new, although most items remained of a lesser value than my current stock.  My favorites were both of the Qunari armors; they show a little skin and really are nice looking on your female Inquisitor in particular, and Dorian, because everything looks good on Dorian.

There are a lot of things to fight, so I think I ranked up twice before leaving the area (one must have been a carry over from Descent which I played first, because so much fighting), and there are loads of crafting items to utilize.  There are also more ocularum shards to find that will open a specific door in the area, useful before the boss fight.  Lastly, instead of runes, there are now sigils that have both positive and negative effects.  I didn’t use any, not yet anyway.

DAI DescentDLC number two is The Descent which takes place in the Deep Roads.  If you’ve played the previous two games, you’re probably like me and sort of huff at the thought of traipsing through the Deep Roads yet again, just as the Wardens must.  Wink wink.  Those blasted darkspawn!  And there are just. so. many and it is difficult.  Even at my high rank, I had to drop down from hard to normal in some areas because the enemies were just relentless and never ending.  I’m having nightmarish flashbacks just typing that.

I played Descent first, I’m not sure why, but if you’re early on in the game play, I would suggest visiting this area sooner than later because there is a ton of money to be made.  I think I ended up with 100,000 gold in addition to some great new armor and weapons.  You do have to be in Skyhold to access this mission from the war table, so you have a little time to rank up beforehand.

The Descent is a long, winding mission to solve the mystery of these random earthquakes that have started affecting the area.  This is of great importance because the dwarves mine lyrium, the whole of their economy, which both mages and Templars rely on.  You end up travelling further than anyone has before, and the landscape is quite beautiful and a little reminiscent of Blackreach in Skyrim.

Trespasser

The final DLC is Trespasser.  This is the one I couldn’t wait to get to – the end.  You cannot go back to anything unfinished once you begin, and you will receive a little pop-up at the war table with this warning.  The story takes place two years after you have defeated Corypheus, having been summoned by the council to the Winter Palace to defend whether there is still a need for the Inquisition.  After the events, you will have the opportunity to make this decision.

All of your friends have returned and you can interact with each, so make sure you talk to them multiple times to instigate cut scenes.  I played first as my female mage who romanced Cullen.  Great cut scene, fyi.  There is also a great scene with Dorian, as well as a couple of fun things with Vivienne and Josie.  There are dog treats to find which you will give to the mabari Cullen has taken a liking to that add perks such as cunning and magic, etc. but as this is the last DLC, I was confused as to why this was necessary.  Your rank will be high, your armor and weapons will be top notch, and you will have so many abilities you won’t know which ones to choose from most of the time.  This is one thing I wish they would have included from the previous two games, the ability to open the wheel of choices for all those abilities you have acquired so you can actually use everything in your arsenal.

This DLC is a great story for a number of reasons, one of them being that it continues to tie together other topics from the previous games.  The eluvians, the elven mirrors that have played a role in each game, are your means of travel in Trespasser while you try to stop a pretty big threat.  I won’t give anything away, but will only say that this paves the way for a great Dragon Age 4, which is years away, if at all, since it hasn’t been announced yet, and the creator of the series left Bioware a little while ago. 😦  So, wait, there’s a job opening?!  Bioware, please announce at least the promise of a new game…there are still so many story lines that require closure!

I freely admit it that I will play these DLCs at least two more times with my other characters I’ve created so I can see the endings for each, or at least until my friend asks for his XBox back.  This is the same friend I was able to encourage to play the game in the first place because of my (great) interest in the series.  For gamers who like RPGs, start at the beginning with Dragon Age Origins, forgive Bioware for Dragon Age II, but still enjoy it, and then find your way to Inquisition where all these stories converge.  You won’t be disappointed.

Game on!