Monday, May 30, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse Review (some spoilers)

Pictured: one angry blueberry.

I've been on quite the roll in regards to the theater lately. Despite regularly adding anywhere from 140-170 movies to my memory banks each year, only a handful of them are witnessed on the big screen. I've already broken my usual numbers for that this year with most of them being opening weekend or even opening day.
Seeing all these flicks right outta the gate has made it very easy to keep up on the comic book flicks this year. Within the past few months I've gotten to witness Deadpool (good). Batman v. Superman (rubbish), Captain America: Civil War (damn fine, if a tad messy), and now the latest spandex adventure, X-Men Apocalypse. So far it is the second worst reviewed X-Men film, just ahead of the abysmal Origins. Are we really dealing with something that bad, or are critics overreacting just a little? The Answer is more complicated than you may think.

First off this installment is set fully within the odd prequel time line that seeks to both reboot the old flicks while still playing nice with them and never completely making sense. For instance; you may recall the ending of Days of Future Past where Mystique pretends to be William Stryker as the military fishes Wolverine out of the river. At the time, it was meant to serve as an indication of how this new continuity could change old events if only they'd remembered to do anything with it. That twist is completely ignored which should serve as an indication of what kind of flick you're getting into. That's not to say it's terrible, just very shortsighted. That shortsightedness affects other elements of the film, so as we cover the things that work with this film, keep in mind there's usually a side of it that doesn't.
Pictured: the movie I want to see.

Something Good: Fassbender as Magnito, and his solo plot in Poland.
Everybody knows Michael Fassbender is a damn fine actor. I haven't always enjoyed his version of Magnito, especially in First Class where he brought an extra side of ham. Through the sequels he's done much better and his work within the first act of this one is astounding. Turns out after the events of Days of Future Past, he went into hiding in his native Poland, eventually marrying and fathering a child with gifts of her own.
One day some of his co-workers at a steel mill find out who he really is and take lash out at Eric and his family. This is some of the best material in the whole movie and I would have honestly preferred a solo Magnito flick of this style.
After being recruited by Apocalypse, Magnito quickly turns to a floating sadsack/weapon with almost nothing to contribute. Worse still is his placement at the end where he's not only made a miraculous recovery from his despair but doesn't even get a smack on the wrist for his part in nearly destroying the world and killing fuckloads of people.

Speaking of killing, this is easily the most gruesome entry in the series with beheadings, crushing, flesh rending, and even body horror. It's surprisingly dark stuff until the last act. At that point, while the world is suffering tremendous cataclysmic events, streets are suddenly empty and action is reduced to blasts of color with little consequence. It's very odd considering the opening minutes feature people being smashed like soda cans.

Something Good: Kodi Smit-Mcphee as Nightcrawler
Missing in action after X2, Nightcrawler finally returns to the franchise under the guise of a new actor who keeps the core of the character intact. Nightcrawler is used more for comic relief here than in his previous appearance yet he remains enduring as all hell.

Something Bad: Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique.
For the third time in a row, Jennifer Lawrence proves to be horribly miscast in this role. And even with as much as I don't care for the actress herself, I won't place the blame solely on her. This prequel trilogy has framed mystique as everyone's tortured rock star girlfriend instead of a mysterious troublemaker with plentiful baggage.
Here she's supposed to be the inspirational leader of this fresh team yet despite freeing Nightcrawler from cage fighting slavery I really can't point out any accomplishments on he part. At best she nearly gets herself killed which spurs all her boyfriends into action. The less said about her hammy line-delivery the better.

Something that sorta works: Quicksilver
After stealing the show during the last movie, Quciksilver is brought back so he can hunt down his father, Magnito. Naturally he provides good comic relief and more crowd pleasing superspeed scenes but that's it.
Nothing comes of his quest to find daddy, and there's basically no character growth to speak of. He's just here to provide some levity.
Pictured: a waste of time with wings.

Something that really doesn't work: Angel.
Ten years ago we got to see founding team member, Angel show up in The Last Stand only to be completely wasted. Now the character returns with a new actor only to once again be completely wasted. There is no reason for him to be in this story. What's worse is that while Last Stand left the door open for him to one day return and actually do something, this one kills him off. What the actual fuck is that about?

Likewise: Psylocke
Speaking of pointless plot threads, meet Psylocke. She's here to do ninja moves and look thick in a spandex onesie. Mission accomplished.

Might Work Later: Storm.
Alexandra Shipp takes over the role of Storm. From other times I've seen the girl she doesn't seem like a bad actress, and frankly she's pretty easy on the eyes. However; her goofy attempt at an Egyptian accent doesn't work out and she makes karate noises whenever she uses her superpowers.
On the upside, by showing her life as a thief we've already got more depth to this character than ever before. Small Victories.

Not gonna work: Cyclops
Tye Sheridan is our new Cyclops and.....well....he kinda sucks. He gets the dick part of the role just fine but he doesn't have the charm or range of someone like James Marsden that allows the character to be an enduring dick. Instead he makes poop face like all the time. Oh and he makes karate sounds too.

Doesn't Have to work later so let's have fun: apocalypse
Apocalypse is and always has been a ridiculous and annoying villain. He's made for some grand stories no doubt, but he's still just a big angry blueberry with a love for speeches. Kudos to the filmmakers for having the stones to leave him mostly comic accurate. Oscar Issac does his best to deliver a strong performance through pounds of make-up and layers of ludicrous dialogue. Honestly, you'd be hard pressed to ask for a much better screen version of this character. He's silly, talkative, and overpowered, just like in the pages. Points there.
Pictured: a teenage girl having a fit, which turns out to be a good thing.

Probably gonna work. Jean Grey
Strangely deep voiced Sophie Turner takes over the role of Jean. She does a decent enough job of selling the girls emotional state, primarily her fear of her own powers. There's a good balance of her having a a casual relationship with her teammates while still being slightly closed off. Problem is her story is all on repeat. We've already seen Jean struggle with her fears and begin to unleash her Phoenix powers which is exactly what we get here. Nothing new. This is another problem with the movie.

If not for the angry kool-aid man, this would almost serve as greatest hits mix-tape for the franchise. We get to see Magnito suffer a family tragedy in Poland, again. Get to witness Quicksilver perform a daring hyper-speed rescue, again. Wanna see Strykers old base, and watch Wolverine escape the weapon X program again? You're in luck. Wanna see Cyclops get his powers in school again? The school comes under attack, again. Professor X is kidnapped so his powers can be used for evil, again. Watch the phoenix force save the team, again. You get my point.
All that repetition adds up to another big problem. Nothing really important to the franchise happens here. It's all very shiny and yes it is entertaining. In the end you've been sitting around for two hours so a psychic can loose his hair and tell a bunch of teenagers to put on silly costumes. I'm ok with that setting but did we really need a whole prequel trilogy plus time travel to get there?

It may seem like I hated this one but that's not true. It's simple junk food viewing and competently made. Decently paced with a few strong performances to make up for the bad ones. Action's pretty solid there's just nothing new which when combined with issues that have plagued the series for years it all just seems rather pointless. Let's try and rank it against it's brethren from worst to best shall we?

9 First Class (rubbish)
8 Origins (easier to watch rubbish)
7 The Last Stand (meh)
6 Apocalypse (pointless fluff)
5 Days of Future Past (well made but convoluted)
4 The Wolverine (only the R rated version)
3 Deadpool (good fun)
2 X-men (simple and classic)
1 X2 (solid all around)

And with that we're on break from superhero flicks for a while. Unless you count that new Ninja Turtles movie. Honestly, my theater going may slow down again as the Summer looks fairly bleak other than The Conjuring 2 and Kubo and the Two Strings. Maybe that's a good thing. I can finally try that summer reading everyone talks about. I mean there's always more X-Men.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Motor City Comic Con 2016

I've been on a bit of a roll lately when it comes to checking off new experiences. In the past few months I've visited an Ikea store and built their furniture, joined up with Costco to experience the wonders of bulk meat and booze, just checked out my first Whole Foods yesterday....fuck that place. On Saturday the 14th however, I was able to notch off a big one by attending Motor City Comic Con in Novi, Michigan.
I'd been angling to hit up the convention scene for years now but something always got in the way of checking one out. Usually it was that I found out about a good one too late, couldn't afford it, or just couldn't get out there. The closest I'd come to something like this was abook sellers convention but that wasn't quite the same, plus most of those people were dicks if we're being honest. I wasn't even planing on going to this show until I found out the week before that my brother-in-law had gotten a ticket, so I spent the $37 bucks to get my own ticket and reminded myself at the end of each work day that I'd be there soon.
The first portion of our journey was a good hour and a half drive to Novi, on the edge of the greater Detroit area. Upon hitting the off ramp we could see our first signs of convention activity as traffic was packed in tight until we veered off to the left for some proper nourishment.
A long day of convention navigation meant we were going to need plenty of energy. We'd planed on hitting up One World Market, an Asian market that doubles as a damn fine sushi restaurant. As we consumed our pile of eels, mackerel, and smelt roe we began to see some fellow con goers in the form of girls in tights and plastic armor. Not an altogether unpleasant sight while downing a bottle of Picari Sweat, an oddly thick Japanese sports drink.
Finally it was time for the convention itself. We paid ten bucks to get into the primary parking lot which didn't save us from spending a good twenty minutes analysing line after line in search of one empty space. We finally found a spot at least a quarter mile from the entrance. Of course upon entering the main floor we had to navigate the twisting line to check get our bracelets and finally join the fray.
Closing time, when you can finally breath.

I really can't overstate the sea of people jammed into this place. My crowed surfing skills took on a major workout as I slithered and slid through multi-directional hordes. Even then contact still happens. I'm talking weird, you better be confident in your sexuality kinda contact. Straight up, junk is gonna collide with other junk. Sure most of the time it'll be innocent stuff like Darth Vader slamming into your shoulder cause he can't see for shit. Every so often though you'll find yourself in an aisle where no matter what you do, your genitals are gonna shake hands with somebody and a strangers goods will give you a good old howdy in return.
That level of over stimulation continues on the audio front. With all the walking, buying, talking, screaming, dinosaur sounds, and industrial air-conditioning units struggling to keep up with the sheer volume of human funk there's a sound not unlike the ocean waves accompanying every nanosecond of your visit. Only that ocean has a twisted obsession with Dr. Who.
So yea, the main floor can be quite the workout to deal with. Even if you go the farthest secluded corner it can be tough to find breathing room. Once you do find that safe haven you'll immediately find that the absence of immediate human contact allows you to feel the air conditioning at its finest.
Admittedly the main area isn't always so bad. Near the end of our visit the crowed had thinned enough to give some breathing room. Odd since only an hour before we were struggling just to get within view of a long box full of old Marvel essential collections. As you might imagine, this is why I didn't nab anywhere near as many photos as I'd hoped since standing still is a good way to get your ass kicked or trampled.

Now that you've got an idea of how life works on the con floor, what about the features? We'll let's get the celebrate area outta the way. I'd thought of getting someone's autograph while I was there. In the end I decided not to because while there were celebs there I certainly liked, Adam West, Terry Jones, James Marsters, and Jason David Frank. He may be a cock but he's still the green ranger dammit! Much as I like those folks, none of them are essentials for me. If there was a shot at meeting someone like Shatner, Van Damme, or my old b-movie heroes like Ferigno or Reb Brown. I'd give good money to let those guys spit on me. Also, upon reaching that area we encountered our first talkative stranger who shared his disappointment with the Adam West and Burt Ward photo op. Essentially his experience chalked up to standing behind them while they carried on a conversation with each other, oblivious to his existence. On the one hand I can understand how it must be for a cult celeb who appears at hundreds of these event over the years but at the same time I can totally sympathize with the irritation this guy had at spending over a hundred bucks to be ignored while taking a very awkward picture.
Still, there's something to be said of the experience of just seeing these people in the flesh. Many people don't know this but over time when watching tv series and such you're brain will identify those characters as friends, which is part of the reason you bawl like a baby when a character dies or your show gets canceled. The head gremlin is sad it won't get to see its friend anymore. Thanks to that phenomenon, just seeing some of these people from across the room makes you feel kinda good. Like bumping into a cousin while shopping for groceries. Just seeing these folks was enough for me, I don't need Batman's autograph cause I finally saw him in real life. That was enough.
Another neat part of glimpsing the celebs is realizing that some of them are legitimately better looking people in person. For as much as Jon Bernthal gets made into a blood soaked mutt in his various tv shows he's actually a pretty handsome guy. One with a rocking beard I might add. I was also very pleased to see that Katrina Law is really damn pretty without the 30 pounds of makeup CW shows generally apply to their actors. Kinda sad that I didn't get to see Allison Mack despite sitting just 50 feet away from her when she helped to judge the cosplay contest. Had a bit of a crush on her during the Smallville days.

On the topic cosplay and fine ladies, I promised you all a picture of me with some fine cosplay girl and here you go.

It's hard to see in the photo but that predator has boobies. Never thought I'd have the chance to do a double take at predator breasts but life never ceases to surprise. In truth there were plenty of fine ladies around, almost took aquagirls green spandex clad hip bone the eye at one point. I really did want to bring home some more photos of cosplayers but due to us being there mainly during peak hours it was just too tough to get someones attention let alone a spot to pose.

I did get to sit in on my first ever cosplay contest. There's an odd phenomenon where some of the best cosplayers there didn't participate while some weaker ones did. For instance, our lady predator friend and this guy with an outstanding Abrekiller/White Dino Thunder Ranger (who's to say whether he's a sentai or power rangers fan) costume didn't compete when they would have gotten a great response. On the other end there were some in the contest with really basic costumes. Thankfully there were still some highlights like this great pumpkin who practically got a standing ovation.

One sad discovery of the evening was one of the most embarrassing things I've ever witnessed. Now I've got nothing against cosplay, actually hope to give it a shot one day pending a proper budget and another convention to visit. That said, cosplay contest skits provide a massive level of secondhand embarrassment that ranks just behind Christian pop music. Seriously folks, bring your costume, bust out the poses, but please leave the script at home.

There were a few side attractions we did not indulge in such as the anime viewing room or video game room. Hell, we didn't even catch any of the panels though none of em really peaked my interest other than the Daredevil one which I believe we arrived too late for.

What did eat up a lot of our time and was possibly my favorite part of the show was the marketplace. We're talking seemingly miles of comics, trades, novels, art, crafts, games, toys, all kinds of goodies. Some of this stuff was at surprisingly good prices too. All in all I brought home a couple of Marvel Essentials collections, Defenders, and Daredevil that feature plenty of issues by Steve Gerber. I also grabbed the hardcover collection of Spider-Man Graphic novels which I can easily see getting a couple blog posts out of. My best deal was at a game store that was selling stuff twenty percent off the MSRP. Found a copy of Ticket to Ride Nederland and walked away with it for twenty bucks. Consider if you will that this expansion has been slowly disappearing from stores and frequently retails in the upper thirties and forties online. You can imagine my pride.

There was no way I could leave without getting something from the many artists who gathered to sell their wares. I saw a few stands with work I liked, even perused Jim Cheung's booth for a bit though he seemed preoccupied with something at the time. On the farthest wall of the building I came across Mike Maydak who applies a graffiti style to classic comic and sci-fi material. I liked it a lot and almost bought a full canvas until I decided to save some money just in case (don't make much above minimum wage you know) and went with a print that will fit perfectly on the wedge wall above my light switch

So that was my first real convention experience. Overall, I'm a little mixed on it. I like the marketplace, the odd sights and occasional interaction with fellow oddballs. At the same time, the constant battle for space and air can get overwhelming and some of it can come across as bit skeezy. It's like watching a movie with tons of potential that only turns out to be pretty good. I'm not against the notion of visiting some more and that's what really counts. Just think I need something a little more focused like a horror convention.

Sadly, I have to return to the real world and get some sleep. Got awful work to do in the morning. At least I get a new paycheck this week so I can afford some new distractions. Night everyone.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Ikea Billy Bookcase

Call me crazy or judgmental but it seems like there's an instinctive behavior for people to occasionally showcase a complete lack of sensible thinking. How else could one explain coming back from a day of physical labor only to eagerly commence construction on Ikea furniture? Yet that is exactly what I did last week when I spent the night building a bookcase rather than relax and indulge in video games and TV.
Admittedly this wooden beast has been something of a growing necessity for some time now. I've frequently mentioned my large collection of horror films. Well that very collection outgrew it's old home long ago. Just take a look at the old Sauder shelf threatening to break under a mountain of dvds and blu-rays.

Clearly you can understand my need for an upgrade and months ago I thought I'd come across the solution thanks to my first visit to Ikea. It was back in the cold dark month of January during a trip to pick up my niece from the airport. At the time I didn't buy much of importance other than a delightful milk frother and delicious elder flower drink but the idea stayed with me. A Billy bookcase seemed like the only affordable option for restoring dignity to my bedroom. My mother was actually nice enough to pick it up during an unrelated trip, possibly because she realizes new employment means infinitely more horror flicks are on the way.

Popular opinion seems to be that Ikea furniture is a pain to put together. I've built more than a fair share of basic furniture over the years and this actually ranks as on of the easier projects I've ever dealt with. Perhaps what confuses people is the absolute lack of written instructions, the included version being strictly illustrations. Look at these twisted marshmallow people fret over their new goods.

I'm a little hesitant to show the finished project since there are further improvements to be made. For one, I'm in need of two more shelves for a proper movie display. Furthermore as you can probably tell I've got zero room to expand. Well that's not fully true. Thanks to my awful new job I can afford to upgrade a few series to blu-ray versions that take up much less space. On the other hand, this isn't my full collection as public domain sets along with out of date formats like VHS and CED are in the closet. Even so, I might be able to work with this thing until Christmas. After that I'm screwed.

One more advantage to this billy shelf is I can add my Funko pops and such to the display. Originally I thought of placing characters in front of their respective series though seeing as I'm a fan of variety, I'll most likely continue move them around to suit my mood.

You'd be completely within your right to question whether this article has any point or merit. Honestly I just wanted to share a home improvement project and properly document the moment I brought Ikea into my home. It's practically a rite of passage, somewhere between your first time driving a car and the first time you wake up with sticky shorts. Besides, it was something of a family affair as we lined up the movies all the way from the front door to the bathroom. Even the dogs joined in. You already saw Rustybear resting atop a line of blu-rays.

Wrapping up with a pleasant announcement. I'll be heading to the Motor City Comic Con in Novi MI this Saturday. Expect a full write up probably early next week and hopefully pictures of some fly cosplay honeys. I might put together a lil cheap press tag with the site on it so if anyone sees a sleepy guy with a cosmicsparky tag on his shirt, come up and say hi.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger Episodes 6-11

Continuing with my new physically draining job has shifted my downtime into a constant influx of spirit boosters. No I don't mean booze and coffee, though I've been going through plenty of that. I mean lighthearted entertainment to serve as a reminder of the simple pleasures in booze...and coffee. Yeah.... anyway my point is that Zyuohger has been one of the best shows for maintaining my sanity and I think it's time to give you all a round up of what's been happening.

The main plot line has received a nice dose of depth from this second batch of episodes. Something I find very exciting is that the main villain has already started to make his own moves against our heroes rather than relying solely on his underlings. With that, the threat level has gone through the roof with the team actually suffering their first defeat by episode 10. Not to mention the previous episode where the entire world was nearly destroyed by a giant man-eating plant. After the entirety of Ninninger where it felt like there wasn't much of a challenge for the good guys it's great to see them struggling for their victories.
A new character has arrived, the birdman who helped Yamato when he was just a wee lad. This guy has the champion symbol that will allow the Zyumen to return to their world but he won't let them have it since he thinks of Zyuland as some horrid place that should be locked away. It seems like birdie is going to be the sixth ranger whose already been showcased in magazine previews as Zyuworld. He's got a multicolored scheme with the abilities of at least three different animals. This could be a sinister development as we found during the two part tale where Yamato got his Gorilla powers that a Zyuman sharing their abilities must sacrifice some of their life force. If the new ranger goes around collecting life from other critters he could prove to be quite the rival.

Speaking of special abilities, I neglected to say much about the teams enhanced senses last time as I wasn't sure if it was an important detail or just some novelty that would quickly fade away. The series has proved itself to have a brain and provided pros and cons for each these unique gifts. Sela for instance has fantastic hearing which has allowed Yamato to contact her from across town simply by yelling, or let Sela track down survivors in rubble. On the flip side, while fighting a monster that brainwashed people with noise, she proved to be weakest to his attacks. Out of all them, Amu got short changed in this department as the writers have yet to come up with a good use for her sense of taste.

The group has continued to develop as well. There have been hints about Yamato's parents (seems like they're probably dead), his uncle finally got a moment to showcase himself as something of an artistic philosopher. We learned of Sela's devotion to her family who she misses greatly. That was paced out over a few episodes as well so we're not getting shafted with the typical one episode emotional arcs anymore.
Possibly the best development for the team came in episode 11 when Yamato lies to his friends and goes off to fight the baddies by himself so the others can try to reclaim the champions symbol from the bird dude. After learning what he'd done, the four Zyuman gave up on the symbol and made the decision not to simply defend the human world because they're stuck there but because they chose save people and help their friend. That's a very important detail as unwilling heroes soon become tiresome. Having them all make the decision to work for the common good is something that sets this apart from the past several series where characters were driven by selfish desire or a lack of anything better to do.

What good would these spandex clad warriors be without equally nasty villains? Not much, I'd say. Thankfully the Deathgaliens are proving to be quite a fine batch of asshole. So far we have two main generals who make up most of the evil schemes. One is the freaky cube man with the ability to rebuild his body. His plans are more straight-forward physical affairs with large monsters and attack power. The other guy likes deception and trickery. He came very close to wining in episode 9 with the aforementioned man-eating plant that tied up the zyuohgers and tortured them until a mole robot saved their asses. The big boss, Master Ginis takes a balanced approach to his evil games, mixing tricks and raw destruction together for good measure. So far the lady of the group has yet to do much of anything other than providing light support and giving monsters a coin to reach gianthood.

While the majority of the show is working out quite nicely, there are still a few hiccups to work out. One is the aforementioned lady villains doesn't have much to set her apart other than a pair of metallic boobs. Likewise, Tusk continues to be the least developed member of the main cast. Also, this years Kamen Rider crossover was something of a bust as it ended up being more of a glorified cameo.

This show continues to rekindle my passion for Sentai. It's actually gotten to the point where it makes flaws from the past few seasons even more apparent. It's a good time to be a Sentai fan and since I'm positive I'll be keeping up with this show, the format for these recaps will probably change soon so I can mix in a little more detail. For now, I've gotta get back to work on an article for another website and dread the upcoming work week.