Arlock writes (personal). An outlet for Glossolalia

Posts tagged “Review

Rogue One

I haven’t done this in a while, so let’s talk Star Wars. I’m not going to go into too much detail, but there may be spoilers here.

Rogue One. Yes, it has flaws. No, I don’t care. I’m seeing a lot of hate online, but to my mind, everything that is being touted as a flaw actually strengthens the movie. The film was technically excellent, brilliant visuals, solid acting, great direction and sound, but mediocre meta-plot (let’s chase the info around), and a few largely pointless characters. In fact, I’d say this movie was solid overall. Yes, it could have been more, specifically underutilizing the threat of Vader, but it also could have been so much worse. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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So quick summary. This is, for my money, the best movie set in the Star Wars universe. However, this is NOT the best Star Wars movie. I say that because Rogue One does not follow the same beats as a traditional Star Wars movie. This isn’t a lonely boy-child rises to be the chosen one in a black and white universe where no one has even heard of moral ambiguity. This was a team effort, not Jedi saves/destroys the day yet again. We deviate from the Action/Adventure Space Fantasy for prepubescent teens and get a more grown-up movie without going all grim-dark.

For me, the modelling, set re-creation, and general feel of the move to reflect New Hope was a winner, but this was then built on by adding action & combat sequences that were actually really well done.

So to address the criticisms

Characters being too ‘special’.
There seems to be a lot of angst that these characters aren’t ‘everyman’ characters rising to overcome their humble backgrounds to become true heroes. Bollocks. Screw the hero’s journey, it’s been done to death in the main storylines.

In this instance, all the characters (even Bodhi in many ways) are outstanding individuals. They have to be if they have even the slightest chance of succeeding against an opponent with overwhelming superiority in manpower and resources. Jyn at 16 was an exceptional soldier in the most extreme faction of the rebellion (before succumbing to abandonment issues). Chirrut was an elite defender of the old Jedi temple only a few steps down from a Jedi himself (before the temple got trashed). Baze is packing a Mandalorian weapon and skill set. Even Cassius is one of the rebellions best operatives. These guys are all flawed, but they are badass and know what they’re doing. They have to be because they’re going up against an entrenched enemy stronghold and insurmountable odds.

This movie had characters, rather than caricatures. Star Wars has always required a suspension of disbelief, I mean who seriously doesn’t think Obi-Wan wouldn’t have spaced Luke the first chance he got after seeing he had all of Anakin’s worst traits? In this iteration, the characters were so much more believable and that allowed me to invest more heavily in the story.

As an added bonus, in this movie the Stormtroopers haven’t been told to deliberately miss, so they are a viable foe.

The Empire
The Empire in this one is real, it’s in your face and active in every aspect of the world. This is an entrenched power, confident in its superiority. The rebel faction is at best an irritation, a gnat that is too agile for the behemoth to swat. That, right there, is the empires only weakness. It is too big, too powerful, too entrenched. With that size comes all the baggage of command structures, bureaucracy, petty power struggles, and an inability to react quickly to threats such as surprise rebel fleet attacks, or a surgical insertion of elite saboteurs. You know, those guerrilla tactics effective against a superior but inflexible opponent. Make no mistake, the Empire at no point appears threatened by these Rebels, and that is how it should be… right up to the moment their Achilles Heel is struck in episode IV.

The shout-outs…

oh, so many shout outs.

  • Tarkin was being very Tarkinish
  • Goldenrod and the blue beeper make an appearance… fanservice… Meh. (but I kind of cheered at the time).
  • Senator Organa makes an appearance… kind of nice (I kind of grinned at the time)
  • … and mentioned a female Jedi who he’d been hiding (yep… definite Clone-Wars grin at that one).
  • Vader was in a bacta tank (cheers),
  • … then made a ‘choke on it’ quip (groaned, but remembering the whiney arsed Hayden Christensen portrayal of Anakin, reluctantly accepted it),
  • Vader did some Sith stuff (totally just fan service… yet WOW… totally worth it!)

Villians

Yeah, we could talk about Vader, Krennic and (maybe even Galen Erso, or General Draven) here but the true villain is the in-fighting that palgues Empire and the paralytic indecision on the Rebel; side. Krennic knows there has been a leak and is too busy trying to save his arse to simply quarantine the files or let anyone up the chain know that there could be an issue. Everyone else is going ‘we had a leak, your security sucks’ while Krennic knows full well the source was his chief engineer, a guy who just happens to have nothing left to lose. He’s the ONLY one who understands the seriousness of the issue, and he dies with his secrets. On the other side, Rogue One isn’t just fighting the Empire. It is also fighting the lack of support and entrenched leadership by committee, and that’s an enemy we can all relate to.

The Robot wasn’t funny

WTF? Seriously, what part of Star Wars has ever been funny? C3PO whinged, Jar-Jar annoyed, and even BB-whatever was merely cute. Star wars never did funny outside a bit of teenage pandering slapstick. That may be why I found the occasional dialogue induced chortle in this movie so refreshing. K-2SO wasn’t an amusing sidekick, it was a character that happened to be a robot.

This movie doesn’t need to exist

Okay, that’s true. But I’m very glad that it does. It’s just a shame that we aren’t likely to see these particular actors return to the Universe again.

This movie should have been the Saving Private Ryan of Star Wars

Yes, that would have been cool, but in case you missed the memo, Disney now owns Star Wars. So that was never going to happen.

Oh and Rogue One Easter Eggs That Slipped Right By You…

… I wonder if there is going to be a whole new generation of baby girls named Jyn now?

 


Batman vs Superman

bvsI’ve decided I’m not going to bother watching the latest Zack Snyder slug-fest. Sorry DC, think I’ll wait for Suicide Squad. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of both Sucker Punch and Watchmen so I’m not just anti-Synder, but the first Man of Steel was such a joyless timesink that I don’t see the point in revisiting it. Also, I don’t know how anyone could meet, much less surpass, the first two pitch-perfect Nolan Batman movies.

Apparently, that makes me part of the problem; because I’m told that critics being critical of a movie is now problematic. But when they are critics that I generally agree with, and the flaws they’re pointing out are the very things that are usually deal-breakers for me. Well, why would I pay money to go see a movie I’m not going to particularly enjoy, and in doing so support the production of sub-par movies?

I’ll wait for it on Nexflix methinks.

 


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DareDevil Season 2

DDIntro

 

Our favourite blind pseudo-ninja is back, backflipping in the rain to beat crime. Took me four days from start to finish binge-watching this show. Six episodes a day, with a two-day break in between. (Broke some ribs recently so getting comfortable hasn’t been easy).  So no spoilers here, but I truly enjoyed season 2.

With the series taking a Mad Max-esque approach of the named protagonist being the window from which we see their world, but not always being the focus of the story, the welcome addition of Electra, The Punisher “You put them down, they get back up, I put them down, they stay down!”, and Karen’s evolution really made the season for me. Still, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Season 1, and nowhere near as much as Jessica Jones.

It wasn’t as fresh as Season 1, lacking much of the awesome big-picture politics. In fact, the antagonists in this series seemed to exist purely for the heroes (and anti-heroes) to react to, lacking any real depth of their own. No Kingpin here. There were also a few scenes that were awesome but seemed to be carbon copies of season 1. For example, Season 1’s hallways fight now takes place going down a set of stairs this time and doesn’t come off nearly as well, maybe because we’ve seen it before.

…also I am not going to forgive Ramirez for leaving all those unanswered questions about the Hand and Black Sky.

also

Fisk (season 1 spoilers) http://www.polygon.com/2015/4/15/8421775/daredevil-netflix-kingpin-marvel

A Good Season 2 Review (spoilers) http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2016/03/21/a-sub-par-daredevil-season-two-yields-a-great-punisher-season-one/#7c343bc52b36

EDIT: Extra Link

io9’s take on season 2 http://io9.gizmodo.com/8-things-we-loved-about-season-two-of-daredevil-and-4-1766455847 which I agree with 100%

 


Why Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine is Actually Way Better Than The 2016 Deadpool – Dorkly Post

 I have to concur with this article. Some very salient points.

Just hear us out.

Source: Why Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine is Actually Way Better Than The 2016 Deadpool – Dorkly Post


STAR WARS (prequel trilogy) recap

Prequel

The Phantom Menace: Monk-Diplomats go to resolve a trade dispute, and end up triggering a full-blown war. Picking up the most irritating character ever to appear in Hollywood, they rescue a princess from capitalism, are happily complicit in slavery, take a woman’s child away from her, and prove that democracy doesn’t work. Along the way, they use laser swords to break hundreds of easily replaceable robot killers rather than jam the signal directing them. Then in a fit of rage, the Jedi kill the only person who may understand what is going on. They do NOT solve the trade dispute.

Attack of the Clones: While most of the movie is spent talking about a bad thing that may happen, the worst thing to happen is a love story apparently scripted by an autistic 9-year-old who has heard that girls and boys like each other when they grow up. Introducing an army cloned from the nastiest bounty hunter in the known universe, who are used to blow up hundreds of easily replaceable robots. Also, a pointless bad guy who is easily repelled by a bouncing muppet. The “too old to be trained” padawan spends most of his time stalking a woman 20 years his senior.

The Force Awakens: The all-powerful, all-knowing, Monk-Diplomats are nearly all killed by their bodyguards. (With the exception of the little green one, because he is too short to shoot in the head). The man who has orchestrated the deaths of millions makes that final irrevocable step into evil by using his hands as a Taser (the lesson here is that murder, corruption, betrayal, and being a political conservative are bad, but using electricity is the True Evil). Then the surviving Monk-Diplomat fights the traitorous apprentice he apparently didn’t train all that well and leaves him on fire on the side of a volcano. Mercifully he only has his limbs burnt off and gains PTSD and pain-fueled madness. Obi apparently then goes off into the desert to plot an intricate revenge where he gets his former pupils son to finish the murder he couldn’t go through with himself.


STAR WARS (original trilogy) recap


Original

Star Wars: An anti-social religious fanatic tries to talk a naive farm boy into patricide. On the way, they do untold damage to the military-industrial complex by destroying the universes most advanced space station but ultimately accomplish little.

Empire Strikes Back: When an assassin turns out to be his son, a government official manages to disarm the boy. Simultaneously capturing a group of mass-murdering insurgents.

Return of the Jedi: The young farm boy has come to understand his attraction for his sister, and now mind-rapes people. The solitary hope for an almost extinct religion puts himself and his sister at risk to rescue a smuggler from a crime-lord and then teams up with cannibalistic teddy bears to destroy (for a second time) the universe’s most advanced space station.

Update: Colbert also explains it quite well.


Ten more books (21-30)

Next ten books and these were chosen for a number of reasons. Some I selected because of the unique way they dealt with magic, or because they dealt with magic in a military setting. Others just sounded cool 🙂

The Mirror Empire – Kameron Hurley

mirror empireThis one was a gem, some great concepts in regards to biological/magical innovations, living weapons and structures and a gender fluidity which does wonders to let you know that ‘our fantasy creatures are different‘. Having said that, and having thoroughly enjoyed the book despite moments of confusion, but I’m in no hurry to pick up the next novel in this series. Guess I loved the complexity of the world, but the characters never really grew on me… lots if stuff happened, but I’m not sure why, and I didn’t empathize with any of them enough to truly care.

The Godless – Ben Peek

For a story about the godless, the gods may well be the best part. Good story, good characters, and some nice tight storytelling still the best part is the unspoken question “how long does it take for an immortal to die?”

American Craftsmen – Tom Doyle

ACraftsmenAgain some great concepts, the story starts off pretty strong, maybe wrapping itself in the flag a little tightly, but by the second act… sweet confederate Jebus, how much ‘Yay, America’ ‘Freedomssssss’ can you take? I thought the book was a good read at the time, but looking back all I can picture now is the self-congratulatory backslapping of how awesome this pseudo-America is. There’s national pride, and then there’s self-abuse, and this strays a little too far towards the latter for my tastes. The dominance of Good vs Evil is decided by the ghosts of a civil war battlefield and other assorted patriotic masturbatory fantasies masquerading as plot. For all that, I did really like some of the characters.

The Rhesus Chart – Charles Stross

This is the first book in this set that has left me wanting more. I don’t know how I missed Stross all this time, but I’m hunting down the rest ASAP. Think Dresden Files with a focus on practical metaphysics. The ideas in here are pretty original, and so much more realistic than half the attempts to explain away the mechanics of magic, minimal hand waving here and some pretty meaty plot.

The Heretic Land – Tim Lebbon

Some books are good, some just have good ideas. This book is both. The ideas here are big, and they are explored in a big way that is only possible in a stand-alone novel. You couldn’t top the climax of this novel easily, and hell, it’s just refreshing to read something where I don’t have to wait for book three (or book seven) to come out months after I’ve forgotten the plot of the preceding volumes. Some great stuff here and a satisfying solution ending.

Gods and Monsters: Unclean Spirits

Gods&MonstersI love chucks blog, but this is the first book of his I’ve picked up. I’d heard this described as an ‘American Gods’ written by an actual American, and I was really hoping to be inspired by the signature third-person-present writing style. To be fair, this book hits the mark stylistically and reads like you’re watching a movie (not sure I can explain it any better than that). The story, however, struck me as American Gods Lite. It seemed to be missing many of the deeper nuances of Gaiman’s work. As a hero’s journey, this book kicks arse, as a modern myth, it’s a little thin. Nay, not thin, anorexic. Maybe that’s because I’ve read so many variations on this theme, still the distinctive storytelling style is well worth checking out.

Total Recall: What is real? – Philip K Dick

Everyone loves the D. This is aa compilation of Dick’s shorter works, and they still pack a punch as many as 60 years after they were penned. It seems that every sci-fi movie that comes out of Hollywood (yes there are aa few) are asking the questions Dick asked, or equally common are direct translations of his work. The times may have changed and the technology in his works may look somewhat dated, but the underlying questions are as relevant as ever. My favorite would have to be The Electric Ant, though possibly not for the reasons you might think.

Control Point: Shadow Ops #1 – Myke Cole

ShadowOpsThis may be fantasy, but it might as well be military SyFy. Great if you like that sort of thing, and some well-developed world building and characters, but too much army for me. Yes, there was some great stuff in here, but for my money Veteran and War in heaven (see next) are a much cleaner army feel. Still, a good read, and miles above  American Craftsmen as far as the story itself goes.

Veteran // War in Heaven – Gavin Smith

These two both proved to be a great all-in, blow shit up, military tall-tales. Maybe the characters take an unbelievable amount of damage, and maybe they should have died more times than I can count, but hey, what’s a bit of suspension of belief amongst friends? These are tales to enjoy, writing to savor and characters to snort at. I believe the correct description would be “a ripping good yarn”. The characters don’t always ask the right questions, and even when they do they don’t always get the right answers. There’s a level of nuance in this work that is lacking in the earlier two military stories, and it asks some big questions without beating you about the head with them. Also… Them are awesome. Best aliens I’ve encountered in a  while.

PS It’s actually a while since I’ve read some of these, so your mileage may vary.

 


Ten more books (11-20)

Next ten books, and we’ve got some doozies here.

annaAnna Dressed in Blood – Kendare Blake
For a first book, this is a pretty good story and a nice easy read. Loved the easy style and the take on the supernatural world, particularly everyone’s willingness not to notice it.

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
I have mixed feelings about this book. I was immediately sucked in by the writing style of the first few pages, but quickly realised I wasn’t connecting with the female saccharine sweet main character while the male lead apparently had no redeeming features. My first instinct was Mary Sue and… what is the antithesis of a Mary Sue? After the mid-point, things changed, and I’m glad I stuck with the book. Some of the communications issues struck a little too close to home, and the unveiling of the true nature of the main characters was a slow-motion car crash, one I couldn’t look away from. This wasn’t a cheap twist ending, but a true slow reveal, and love it or loathe it, definitely a book worth reading.

Dreams-of-Gods-and-MonstersDreams of Gods and Monsters – Laini Taylor
To be fair, I picked this up at the local supermarket. I bought it partly because of the blurb, but partly because of the cover. I was 2/3rds of the way in before I realised I’d read the first book in this series some time ago, and that I hadn’t particularly enjoyed it.  Strangely enough, I did really enjoy this one

The Last Guardian – David Gemmell
Pulp fiction in its truest form. Gemmell books are filled with familiar characters, familiar situations, and little in the way of deeper meaning. I love them for that. This book is no different, if you’ve read Gemmell, you’ve already ready this book, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t revisit it. Heroes and adventure, light and easy.

TrickThe Trick is to Keep Breathing – Janice Galloway
This book is both awesome and painful. The writing style makes the character real, their mental collapse intimate, and their situation familiar. It also hurts my brain. This is a must-read, but it’s a must-read ONCE. To be fair I wouldn’t have picked this book up normally, not a style I particularly seek out, and I guess I have to thank Tertiary Education for pointing me in this direction. Definitely a book that makes you think.

The Golden City – John Twelve Hawks
Again the last book in an ongoing series, and one I hadn’t seen the beginning of. Unlike Gods and Monsters, this book did not stand on its own and given the style I won’t be going back to look at the rest.

American_godsAmerican Gods – Neil Gaiman
A revisit to an old favourite. I think every nerd, geek and fantasy freak I know has a copy of this stashed away on their bookcase. Arguably one of Gaiman’s best works and certainly one of my inspirations. The idea that gods are sustained by belief is hardly new, nor that gods very natures are shaped by their followers, but it is rarely address so well.

Hot Sleep – Orson Scott Card
Well… that was a snooze fest. Mediocre first half, then a whole new sub-par story for the second half. This one goes in the resell-to-the-bookstore pile

BigBrotherBig Brother – Lionel Shriver
I must admit, Shriver confuses me. Her work is the gives you the depth and unchallenging read of genre fiction, without any of the entertainment value and escapism. If I wanted to lose myself in a dreary world with superficial hat tips to the societies underlying problems I’d stay at work with Facebook open.

Proxima /&/ Ultima – Stephen Baxter
Okay, so two books rather than one. That’s okay, its also a dozen stories rather than two. Baxter takes us on a long and epic journey through several generations of a particular family. Think an alternate history that takes the long look at unfolding events. The first book was powerful, leaving me wanting to know more. The second, however, didn’t give me what I needed. Maybe it’s the revolving cast of characters, but I lost interest. It may also be that there are so many interesting secondary characters that I would rather be following. Still, some truly massive ideas here, and well worth checking out.