Alright Fine, I’ll Review Endgame

Contains spoilers, obviously

So, I know that back when I reviewed Black Panther, I said I was done talking about MCU movies, because I really had nothing to say about them due to the formulaic and unremarkable structure. Well, my folks apparently had other ideas, as I was dragged out to see Endgame and while I certainly don’t think it’s a good movie, it has given me a good deal to talk about, so I figured I would bother to actually give my opinions on this king of all mixed bags.

Rather than my usual structure, this time I’ll need to divide it into the things that I liked and the things that I didn’t like. Let’s try and give credit where credit is due and start off with what I liked, which conveniently starts with the opening scene. So, the opening scene is paced very well and has some genuine pathos as it shows just how devastating the snap was for people. I think it would’ve been more effective if it hadn’t been a key motivational moment for Hawkeye and instead just a demonstration of the toll taken on everyone by Thanos’ actions, but it is what it is. Compounding this are a few of the scenes that show the various characters handling the grieving process, such as Captain America at the support group. Speaking of which, Cap himself. Cards on the table, he is the one character that every movie has gotten absolutely right, and this time is no exception. I really can’t complain about anything he does, every bit of it is handled extremely well. The fight with his alternate self is really good, the scene where he gets one more look at the woman from the first movie through her window is genuinely powerful, the moment he takes up the hammer for the 1v1 with Thanos got the biggest rise of any moment from the audience, myself included, and the end of his arc was better than anyone could’ve expected from the movie. What else can I say, he’s Captain God Damn America and his character is thoroughly done justice in this movie, perhaps even more so than previous iterations. In general, the battle from the last act was also decent. The writing was fairly mediocre, but in terms of filmmaking, it was done pretty well, and conveyed the scale of everything excellently. And… that’s honestly about it. Now, on to the big things I disliked.

Big thing to address right out of the gate for things I didn’t like is Iron Man. My least favorite Marvel character is back, and doing nothing to improve my opinion of him. Up until now, the nadir of his appearances was Civil War, and while that was still his worst portrayal overall, this film arguably has the worst moment, which is early on when he starts blathering about how if his side had won in that movie, this whole situation wouldn’t have happened, and the way he whines about it is so far beyond irritating that it really drives me insane. His overall character doesn’t improve much throughout the movie either, which really blunts the effect that his death scene has at the end. Further blunting it is the same problem Batman vs Superman had with its take on the death of Superman, or at least, one of the many problems that movie had with it. In that movie, it was “give the spear to Wonder Woman”, but here it was “give the gauntlet to Nebula, or Captain Marvel, or Thor, or anyone else who could handle it, and just resurrect the guy, seeing how you already resurrected half the universe”, which honestly is an even worse version of this problem because not only is everyone an idiot in this version rather than just one character (who never was exactly characterized as a genius anyway), but also the thing they should’ve done was something they already did and repeatedly called attention to being able to do earlier in the movie. This is the point for me where it stops being a nitpick and becomes something that genuinely takes me out of the movie. Another issue I took was how underused and overhyped Captain Marvel was. The post-credit scene of Infinity War sets up her involvement, and she gets an entire movie to build hype for her appearance in this one, and in the end she’s almost completely extraneous. Aside from one moment where she destroys alt-universe Thanos’ base ship, something you could’ve written for another character to do, she adds nothing to the movie. She has a short appearance at the beginning which is completely unnecessary as the actual weight of the scene belongs to Thor, and also Thanos no longer had the Infinity Stones, half his body was shredded already, and he was generally just weaker than anyone on their own. Then she’s promptly dropped from the movie until she destroys that ship, then she squares off with alt universe Thanos for a moment but doesn’t even slow him down, so that could’ve easily been cut as well without anything being lost. It certainly doesn’t justify the year’s worth of hype she was given. So those are smaller issues, now we move into the bigger stuff. First among them, the excess of fanservice. This is the most subjective complaint, but a lot of the fanservice felt completely unnecessary and just got in the way of everything. Especially as a lot of the scenes felt like they were constructed based on what’s popular rather than what makes for the most impactful filmmaking. One big issue no doubt born from this is the time travel thing, it was a needlessly complicated aspect of the story that ultimately should not have been there. Granted, the story wouldn’t work without it, but what I’m saying is that they should’ve gone with a different story. There are some things done very well by the time travel plot, but on the whole I found it to be lacking. Then there’s the worst thing about the movie: It is painfully unfunny. And it tries, much to my horror. In the entire movie, I laughed only once, which was a minor chuckle when they were stealing the stone from past Quill, and they made a joke about how it sounded to him vs how it sounded to anyone else. But that’s mostly because it reminded me of a better movie. As for the other jokes, well, there sure are a lot of them, and none of them are good. And this brings me to the absolute nadir of the movie, the worst of the worst: that fucking meme humor. Ok, so, there are two scenes that are particularly egregious. First is a scene where Hulk is approached by 3 kids who want a photo with him, and the joke is that they don’t want a photo with Ant Man, then as they’re leaving, he dabs at them. My jaw hit the floor, and I could not believe they added that. And then it got worse. A little later on, they add a scene with Thor and his roommates playing Fortnite (seriously), and the joke is that one of them is insulted by some kid, and then Thor threatens to destroy their house with lightning. It was the most painfully unfunny thing I have ever seen in a movie, and that is one hell of an achievement. Failing at comedy truly is the worst thing, because at least failing at everything else has the potential to be unintentionally funny, but failing at comedy just makes a scene painful.

Those are the big ones in both categories, and I would definitely call this movie a mixed bag, more so than any I’ve ever seen. But ultimately the bad outweighs the good in my opinion, so my final rating for Avengers: Endgame is a C-, with a Whatever Floats Your Boat seal, because I know nothing I can tell you will make you decide to see it or not see it, this movie is so far above the grade where analysis can change minds that this is really just there to yell into an uncaring void. Huh.

Review- DEADPOOL 2

Contains a ton of spoilers

So, I have a reputation, it must be said, for disliking the Marvel movies. A not entirely unfair observation, my opinion on the mainline MCU movies is frequently dismissive at best. However, that does not apply to every movie carrying the Marvel brand name. The X-Men movies are sometimes pretty good, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was alright, and I quite liked the first Deadpool. This of course raises the question: how does the sequel fare? Well, it is probably the most fun superhero movie ever. I cannot recall so thoroughly enjoying a superhero movie in my life. It’s silly, ridiculous, and only takes itself seriously in a few moments, which honestly hit harder because of how absurd everything else is. Other than the previous roster of Deadpool, Colossus, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, we also got the inclusion of Cable, Juggernaut, and all the fucking X Force characters. Now, if you have the same antipathy for Rob Liefeld that I do, their appearance would make you extremely nervous. But all of them except Cable and Domino get maybe 5 minutes of screen time before dying in stupid ways, which honestly is the ideal way to treat them. Cable is okay, his edgy future sequences are the low point of the movie, but his demeanor in the final battle is great. Domino is actually cool, which is something I never expected to ever say. What makes this all the better is that they viciously mock Liefeld himself, from his terrible writing to his inability to draw feet. Needless to say, that was cathartic. Juggernaut was used fantastically. While he doesn’t speak much, what we do get, both from him and from others playing off him, and the fight between him and Colossus was great. The new character Yukio was decently good, would’ve appreciated more screen time from her. Firefist (excuse me while I go laugh) is funny enough in the “laugh at them, not with them” sense. The actual plot of the movie is hysterical and kept me engaged from beginning to end, the writing and dialogue are great, the soundtrack choices are okay, and really, I just thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. There really isn’t that much else to say, it’s a very entertaining movie, it’s utterly hysterical, the directing is great, everything comes together brilliantly. Thus, I issue Deadpool 2 an A+ rating, with a Pretty Good stamp of approval. Great movie, will definitely buy it when it releases, strong contender for film of the year.

April Update

There. Is . So. Much. Fucking. Anime. I. Need. To. Watch. No fewer than 5 Spring shows, plus Darling in the FranXX, finishing Yuru Camp and Violet Evergarden, going back and watching Nichijou and Bungou Stray Dogs, maybe writing a review for After the Rain (still the best Winter show), all while balancing the typical demands of my life, and getting out at least one article a month (hopefully more this time). I have my work cut out for me. Still, I can rise to the challenge if I must, so be it. Will probably give my Spring anime impressions this month, but I’ve decided that I shall only do that when every show I’ve been watching (that I haven’t dropped) has at least 3 episodes out, so I can give a decently fair assessment of the lot of them. But then, I’ve dropped shows in as little as 7 minutes before, so perhaps “fair” isn’t my strong suit. Regardless, I’ve got a lot of work ahead.

Alright, if you’re curious, here’s a list of shows I plan to watch this season:

  • Golden Kamuy
  • Megalo Box
  • Persona 5: The Animation
  • Last Period: Owarinaki Rasen no Monogatari
  • Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai

Will deliver my impressions once all 5 have at least 3 episodes out, unless I’m so fickle as to drop one before that. Guess we’ll see.

My Review of “Black Panther”

A message to the entire film industry: please never ever cast Martin Freeman as an American ever again. 

Ok, so there’s been a ton of fervor over Black Panther, and I don’t really understand why. I mean, what is it about this movie that’s so different? Is it the story? No, that’s pretty standard to the usual Marvel formula. Are there any instantly memorable characters who will become household icons for a generation? No, not really, they’re very much within the conventions of an average Marvel movie. Oh! Are there perhaps really gripping and relevant themes and social commentary that really resonate with the times? Well, not really, at least not anything beyond “isolationism is bad and we shouldn’t do it”. So why? Why is this movie the subject of so much fervor? It’s just a standard Marvel movie with a thin coat of African themed paint on it. Nothing good, or bad, in it is unique to it, with the possible exception of casting Martin Freeman as an American character, which is bizarre and distracting. I’ve just got nothing to say. Nothing I can say about the story, or the characters, the aesthetic, the sound, just… nothing. It’s a completely standard Marvel movie. C+Whatever Floats Your Boat, I’m done here.

Thoughts on RWBY, Volume 5

Ok, so Volume 5 concluded last month, so it’s time for another round of RWBY. Volume 5 was, in my opinion, nothing short of stellar. While there were a few things I was slightly disappointed by, they’re few and far between, while everything else is absolutely fantastic. This is a strong contender for my favorite season yet. While it doesn’t have any real gut punches on the level that Volume 3 had, it does still form a fantastic continuation of what’s been building for the last few volumes. In terms of overall construction, 5 is easily the most solid volume yet. It makes very good use of having 14 episodes, and it (mostly) hits the mark perfectly. First off, the things I like. First and foremost is (most of) Blake’s story. It was perfect from beginning to, well, a few minutes before the end. While the end of it this season was extraordinarily anticlimactic (more on this later), everything building up to it was perfect. Especially everything focused on Ilia. I was extremely annoyed at how much time they were spending in Menagerie early on, but it turned out to be for the best, as it was handled in a perfectly sweet redemption arc. However, Ilia as a character has me a little concerned. See, she’s the first openly gay character in the show, and this makes me very nervous. I’m particularly worried that she’ll just be token representation, or at the very least that they won’t do anything with it, and just have it there for its own sake. I’ll talk about this more in my next article, but to me, doing that, whether for pandering reasons or just because you can, is more insulting than not doing it at all. I hope to god that’s not what they do, but there’s no proof either way yet, so I’ll have to reserve judgement, however my concern remains. However her “confession” scene is handled well, and the rest of her arc is brilliant, especially the moment she changes sides. So, at least thus far, she’s been done well, and I hope the show continues to handle her with tact and respect. While Blake’s story was the highlight of the season, it most certainly was not the only good part. The story of the other three was also great, and actually ended in a pretty damn awesome climax. However, this is where my next major issue comes up: Raven. Raven is, in my opinion, the worst character in the entire show so far, and I absolutely hate everything about her. Everything about this selfish bitch is utterly reprehensible, at least for someone like me. After all, we’re talking about someone who murdered a literal child (or at least a young teenager) in order to achieve more power. I find her character nothing short of repulsive, so the extra focus on her this season was the biggest flaw in my opinion. At least the post credits scene implies her character is moving in a better direction. But still, she’s a colossal dent on the quality of the vast majority of the season, and is the primary thing holding it back. I honestly don’t think they intended for her to come off as so horrible, which honestly makes it about 5 times worse, as she becomes more and more insufferable as it seems they expect us to root for her. Indeed, many of my friends did. I won’t pretend I understand why, but I won’t begrudge them that. It’s just that for me, Raven was easily the biggest flaw in this season, and honestly docked the score a full point. At least she got a decent climactic fight with Cinder. The subject of climactic moments brings me to my final complaint: Adam. For all the buildup they did with him this season, that plot ultimately ended in an anticlimax and is continuing with more buildup, which honestly annoys me. They spent 4 years building this up, and another season of that might start to get on my nerves. Honestly, I’m hoping they resolve this plot very soon, the buildup is nearing critical mass, and if it goes past that point, we’ll hit burnout. I desperately hope we don’t hit that point, because Adam has been a cool villain thus far, and it would be a shame if he ended up suffering from being too built up. It’s already to the point where, for a fitting climax, I’m fully expecting him to kill at least one important character, and I’m not sure he can really live up to much more buildup. I really don’t like anticlimaxes, so they had better live up to all the buildup next season. It’ll be incredibly damning if this plot ends up being disappointing, but I guess I’ll have to wait to deliver judgement on that. As for the technical side, it’s better than ever. The animation is the best it’s ever been, the OP is also the best so far, and the music in general is pretty damn good as always. That brings us to the ultimate judgement. For being the best season of RWBY yet, but still having some glaring flaws that held it back from the best of the best, I hereby issue Volume 5 with a full rating, and an unconditional Pretty Good rating. It continues the solid winning streak of the show so far, and is a very solid sign for the future of the show. This day, the triumph is theirs.

Review- Freedom Writers

Due to the demands of the United States public education system, I was forced to watch this travesty of a movie and write this review, which I hope will be some sort of catharsis. Now, I know I don’t normally post my class projects, but I felt this needed to be uploaded in the full uncensored version, so the anger canflow much more freely and my style can be much clearer. So, let’s get this miserable ordeal over with. Freedom Writers was written and directed by Richard LaGravenese, who has… nothing of particular note on his résume, which is honestly a sign of things to come. It stars Hilary Swank, Patrick Dempsey, and a bunch of other actors. Before I get into this review, a quick disclaimer. This movie is based on a true story. I don’t care. Even if it is, it’s not a documentary, now is it? No, it’s a movie, a fictionalized account of events, and so I shall treat it as a story. Don’t like that? Then make a documentary. It doesn’t matter how realistic a production choice is, what matters is how it works in the movie as a whole. This is a movie, so I shall treat it as a movie. Got it? Good. Now, on to the movie itself. (Warning, I hated this movie, like, a lot, so I’m probably about to spit fire)

 

First off, as always, the most important element in any story, the characters. So… are they likable? No. Are they interesting? No. Are they distinctive enough to stand out in any way from the characters of various other movies in a similar style? No. And that’s just the class. The protagonist and pseudo-antagonists fare far far worse. The main character is astoundingly poorly written, and it’s infuriating after a while. Despite being based on a real person (which you’d think would give them more to work with), she still feels like a soulless archetype. It doesn’t help that Swank is very clearly phoning in her performance here to an insane degree. Now granted, this isn’t a very good role to bring your A-game to, but she doesn’t even remotely try. Dempsey and his character fare even worse, with a completely bland performance and a terrible character. The worst scene in this vomit stain of a movie is when he wants a divorce, because they unironically use the line “But I can’t be your wife” when she’s happier with her job than he is with his. It’s funny because it’s sexist! Now remember that an adult human being was paid to write that line, paid possibly thousands of dollars, and feel free to join me in smashing your head against the wall. While Dempsey’s character is easily the worst, the antagonist-teacher, reminiscent of Professor Umbridge from the Harry Potter movies, is still a strong second. If she wasn’t so cartoonishly presented, her arguments about stuff like precedent, seniority, etc would actually have a lot of viewers swayed to her side. A part of me thinks that’s why she’s such a caricature, because they don’t want you doing that. Audience manipulation, or just utter incompetence? I leave that for you to decide. The only other character with any focus lasting more than 90 seconds is one class member named Eva, who honestly has little to nothing compelling about her and just gets annoying quickly. Everyone else is remarkably flat, having pretty much just one trait, tops, and almost no focus (if any at all). I really can’t think of anything else to really say about them, so we must move on.

 

Now for the story. The story is as generic as you can possibly imagine, despite being based on true events, which I strongly suspect is a result of the awful writing, which fails to present events in any way other than what we’ve gotten in every other movie in the genre. So, Swank’s character (who for the purpose of comedy, I shall refer to as Mouthpiece from here on) moves into a school district full of delinquent kids (of various ethnicities). Aside from the crude behavior of class members, she also has to deal with a comically racist and patronizing administrator (whom I shall refer to as Strawman for the rest of this ordeal), as well as the bizarre mannerisms of her seemingly emasculated husband (who I shall refer to Trash Can Fire, because that’s what his character is). Note, no disrespect to the actual people these characters are based on, I’m sure they’re all lovely individuals, it’s just that they’re portrayed with no depth or real complexity, which poorly represent the actual people they characterize. The class is full of kids who fancy themselves gangsters, and speak in remarkably obnoxious fashion. Quick tangent here. I don’t care if this manner of speaking is “realistic”, you’re making a movie, so you should always go with what would make it more tolerable for the viewer, rather than “realism”. To that end, overuse of slang is always annoying, and writers need to stop putting it in their scripts so often because they have absolutely no idea how to write it. To be clear, it would still be annoying if they did know how to write it properly, but seeing how they don’t, because screenwriters generally aren’t the sorts of people who’ve ever used slang in the last 30 years, it becomes infuriating to listen to. Even if it’s a period piece, slang is the quickest form of language to become dated, even faster than pop culture references, so using it in your script will really make the overall product drag, because it’s not tight or radical enough to hold up in modern day. Was that use of slang words annoying to read? Good, that’s the point. So anyway, when Mouthpiece first enters the class, it’s just a bunch of obnoxious, poorly characterized kids who argue with each other in obnoxious ways. Then there’s one class member named Eva (whom I shall refer to as “Wannabe”, because if this movie is going to act so dated, then I don’t see why I can’t make references to 90s stuff like the fucking Spice Girls), who screams at Mouthpiece for not understanding the “gangsta” struggles (ok, I’ll stop the slang), but she’s the only one who isn’t treated as just part of a collective mass. So what traits does she have? Well, her backstory is that her father was arrested on what she believes to be a false charge, even though he’s a high profile gang member, which would honestly make arrests for any reason at least somewhat justified. You know, the law nailed Al Capone for tax evasion, but whatever, moving on. Her actual opinion on being in a gang seems wildly inconsistent, sometimes describing it as horrible and sometimes as the most important thing. Now, a competent writer would reconcile these conflicting opinions to show the contrast between them as indicative of her wavering loyalty to the gang as a whole, or how she tries to justify the awful things she’s seen but ultimately can’t because her conscience is too strong, but I think we’ve established that this movie doesn’t have one, so that doesn’t happen. Instead her characterization feels inconsistent throughout the film, until the script kinda forgets about her after her subplot concludes. As for everyone else, either they just get one character trait, or possibly none at all, as almost the entire class is just treated as a monolith. A lot of early named characters fall into this trap, notably Jamal (I think that’s his name, he doesn’t appear much after his introduction), because the script seems to forget about them and just never touches on them again. Now, a competent writer would be very careful to balance the named characters in terms of screen time and development, ensuring that characters important enough to have focus are given enough development to have a semblance of personality and humanity. But again, this movie doesn’t have one, so the script just forgets about most of the named characters, and any appearance they make after this happens, they aren’t given any dialogue to separate them from the entire rest of the class, so the entire class seems monolithic. This is an appallingly bad decision, because drama like this is a character driven genre, more so than almost any other, which means that flat characterization results in a wholly uninteresting final result. The only characters who are really given personality traits, flat archetypes though they may be, are Mouthpiece, Strawman, Trash Can Fire, and Wannabe, hence why I refer to them with stupid nicknames (well, that, and I can’t actually remember their names). So anyway, her subplot is focused on having seen a member of her gang murder a store owner, while someone else is framed for the deed, so she needs to decide whether to tell the truth or not. You know, “snitches get stitches”, etc. That subplot sounds like it could be interesting, right? She’s torn between loyalty to the gang and her own conscience, could make for compelling drama. NOPE! Instead, it’s barely focused on for most of the movie, it “climaxes” in this horribly shot courtroom scene (more on this later) and is, you guessed it, never mentioned again. So, ignoring that colossal waste of time, the main plot involves Mouthpiece trying to convert the class from delinquents to semi respectable students, while Strawman is constantly the most annoyingly condescending person imaginable, and Trash Can Fire is just inconsistent and bizarre all around. His one and only consistent character trait appears to be a sense of consistent emasculation because he dropped out of college, and it gets annoying incredibly fast. Every time this guy is in a scene, I just want to scream. So things progress this way for a while, Mouthpiece reforms the class, Strawman condescends to her and says it’s an impossible task, and Trash Can Fire acts really passive-aggressive. The idea of comparing gang violence to the Holocaust is… an interesting idea, potentially captivating if done right, but highly offensive if done wrong (especially for someone of my background). So, which one is this? If you guessed “interesting”, you’re wrong. If you guessed “offensive”, you’re also wrong. If you guessed “neither, because the movie does nothing with the comparison other than use it as an excuse to include Holocaust descriptions/lessons, without really connecting it to the actual situation, so it just comes off as jarring and lazy”, then you’re right. You know, if they handled it any worse, I would indeed be offended by it (touchy subject for me), but honestly, other than the fact that they do nothing with it and just include it in order to shoehorn a bunch of Holocaust related stuff into the movie, which indeed does bother me, because invoking the Holocaust is a very serious affair, and I believe it shouldn’t be done lightly, ultimately this movie doesn’t do anything offensive with that approach. Anyway, things go along like that for a while, until for some reason Trash Can Fire decides he hasn’t had enough screen time, so we enter the worst fucking scene of the movie. He, in his infuriating passive-aggressive way, gets a divorce, because she’s too active with her own interests, and he can’t stop angsting about it, and despite constantly angsting about having dropped out of college, as well as working what we’re told is a pretty good job, he decides that without that weird sense of superiority he apparently felt and then lost when she actually became devoted to her job (thanks, traditional gender roles), he would prefer to be alone. And again, I must repeat, he unironically uses the line “but I can’t be your wife” as his justification. It’s funny ‘cause it’s sexist! Oh, LaGravenese, you’re the next John Hughes, everyone in the country will laugh at your genius comedy! In the bottom of my heart, I sincerely hope this isn’t actually quoting the real guy that Trash Can Fire is based on, because if it was, in reality, unironically stated by an adult human being, in similar context to how it was written here, I will stick my head in a toilet and hopefully drown there. You know, as horrendous as this scene is, it’s not even notably bad enough to qualify for my list of worst scenes ever. Though admittedly, I’ve had to sit through literal rape dungeon scenes in the past, so I guess that was a bit of a high bar to clear. It’s not offensive (other than offensive to my intelligence), it’s not disgusting, it’s not even harboring malicious subtext. It’s just stupid, which in a way is even more damning than any of those, because those at least make it worthy of note, worthy of being discussed, even if that discussion is it getting ripped to shreds by critics. This just deserves to be forgotten. Anyway, my anger at that scene has tired me out a little, and the rest of the plot is so inconsequential that it can be quickly summarized with little issue. So, what happens after that? Wannabe tells the truth in the court scene (I’ll tear this scene a new one shortly), then promptly is forgotten about. And then the “main conflict” is more or less revealed: Can Mouthpiece keep her class for their junior and senior years? You know, despite this being the most cliché conflict ever used in this genre (seriously, every fucking movie does it), I would be willing to forgive it here if they at least present it differently. So… do they do that? If you sincerely think they did, then you clearly have not learned your lesson yet. They present it in the exact same way every other movie in this genre does, with the actual legitimate concerns of the school board portrayed poorly, no actual complexity to their points, and of course, the fake out. A note to every filmmaker doing this plot or any like it: S-T-O-P STOP DOING THE FUCKING FAKE OUT! Not only was it never good to begin with, but it’s been done, and done, and done, and done, and done, so much that it’s just annoying. You’re not fooling anyone, you’re just doing the most boring cliché in the genre again with nothing new or interesting to add to the formula. Stop it. Anyway, the movie more or less ends on that note, so I guess we’re done going over the plot. Moving on.

 

The effects and cinematography are next on the chopping block. Many a bad plot has been saved by unique and interesting directing and effects in the past (one of my all time favorite popcorn movies, Equilibrium, falls into this category), so that it can at least be somewhat enjoyable as a spectacle, though admittedly I’ve never heard of a drama achieving this. And while LaGravenese is a terrible writer, maybe he has some talent as a director, right? Hahaha… I don’t know why I get my hopes up for anything of the sort. There’s no real aesthetic or visual elements to make this movie look particularly interesting, it’s mostly just flat and bland. But is it at least shot well? I’ll give you a moment to guess. Did you guess “no, it isn’t”? Good, you’re starting to catch on. Not only are most scenes flat and boring, but on occasion, they get utterly infuriating. Remember when I said earlier that I would eviscerate the courthouse scene at a later time? Well, this is that time. In the entire scene, I couldn’t stop mentally screaming “YOU HAVE A TRIPOD! USE IT!”, because it’s shot with some of the most infuriating shaky cam I’ve ever seen. For no reason at all, the camera acts like it’s balanced on a fucking vibrator,  and not only does it distract from the scene, but it causes me physical eyestrain. So the directing is utterly abysmal, which is consistent with what we’ve seen so far. Moving on.

 

Now for the music. The music, much like everything else in this movie, can be slotted into one of two categories: “Boring” and “Obnoxious”. If there’s any instrumental score at all, and I’m not entirely convinced that there is, it all belongs in the “Boring” category. Don’t remember any of it, didn’t notice any of it, it was flat and dull. Now, occasionally they’ll use what I assume is licensed music, and it goes in the “Obnoxious” category. Now, I suppose I should mention I generally despise hip-hop, rap, and associated musical genres, but even if I didn’t these songs are poorly implemented, distracting, and a drain on the overall movie (as surprising as it is that this movie can sink any lower). So that’s the music covered.

 

You know, what makes this especially infuriating is that this movie did show potential. For 60 seconds, all the problems of the movie vanished, and it did something right. The scene in the Holocaust museum was competently shot, competently acted, had little dialogue, was quiet and atmospheric, and actually did evoke a bit of emotion. So congratulations, Freedom Writers. For the span of a single minute, you didn’t suck.

 

Overall, this movie is terrible. Utter failure in every way. The characters are either boring or obnoxious, the story is flat and uninteresting, the writing is utterly incompetent, the cinematography is either headache inducing or completely uncompelling, and the music is flat out terrible. Since everything I can list in the film is an abject failure, minus one scene, obviously this grade is not going to be a good one. So, I’m issuing this travesty a D- rating, only escaping and F because there was one scene I liked, and also it never managed to offend me, or be hilariously bad enough that I would watch it ironically. As for level of recommendation, I’m stamping it with an I’LL SEND YOU BACK TO HELL! mark, denoting a terrible work that just doesn’t qualify for the worst of the worst. Hopefully I won’t have to watch anything this awful for a while, but I understand that a lot of my readers have a conscious desire to see me suffer, so… that is not a good sign. I’ll see you next time.

Let’s Talk About Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2 was a game I was really looking forward to last year, but didn’t buy until lately because the PC port was utterly fucked on launch. But now I’ve got it, and it’s time to talk about my thoughts on it. The original Dishonored was my favorite game of 2012, over games like Borderlands 2 and XCOM: Enemy Unknown.  It’s also one of my favorite games of all time, but that’s another story. I’ll end up bringing virtually every element of it that I liked as I compare them to their counterparts in the new game.

So, let’s start with the mechanics. The sequel, just like the original, is a stealth-action game starring a protagonist who mixes tech gadgets with supernatural powers to get through the levels. This continues in the second game, but dialed up to 12. First and foremost, the advertising has been very clear about how there are 2 playable charcters. You can choose to play as Corvo Attano, the protagonist from the first game, or Emily Kaldwin, one of the other main characters from last time. Early on, I was worried that they would play largely the same, or that one would be clearly better than the other for everything. Thankfully, the game avoids this, and both characters have very distinct differences that are still extremely viable for general play. So let’s begin with the original hero, Corvo Attano. He plays the same as always, with the same powers as last time. The twist this time is that every power has way more uses than last time. The classic Blink now has 3 upgrades. One turns it into Daud’s Blink from The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches, which is a massive improvement as it allows you to change your destination, even in midair, while time is stopped around you. One is the classic range improvement, and the third one allows you to kick enemies backwards by attacking at the opportune moment while using Blink (this is every bit as funny as it sounds). Dark Vision is back, and it now has the ability to predict enemy routes (which is fucking awesome, by the way). Bend Time is largely the same, except you can increase the duration and how fast you move. Nice little bonuses, but nothing insane. Possession has 2 changes. Now you can possess bodies, and you can chain possession into a different host if you feel like it, which I didn’t use too often, but when combined with the Separation Trauma bone charm (which makes enemies pass out when you unpossess them), this power can wreak some real havoc on the enemy. Windblast is much the same, but now you can shift it to hit the whole area around you. Devouring Swarm is also the same, but you can now make the rats follow you. Aside from those, there are some passives, stuff like double jumping, blocking projectiles, and even crafting bone charms, where you can place up to 4 traits on them at the risk of corruption (more on this later). So, Corvo is very good all around, and he’s pretty well suited to most possible scenarios. Emily, on the other hand, is a lot more specialized. Most if not all of her powers are offense focused in some way. For instance, instead of Blink, she has a power called Far Reach. This is objectively worse for stealth than Blink is, because it lacks the “whoops, I’m gone” aspect that Blink has. However, it’s also better for combat than Blink is, as it can be used (with an upgrade) to pull enemies over to you for immediate assassination/knockout. Useful in combat, but not stealthy at all. Next is Shadow Walk, which was hyped up in the trailers as something really awesome. And honestly, it is. You’re faster, you can sneak by enemies easier, and you can execute them in really cool ways. Next is Domino, aka literally the most useful power in the game. With this, you can link up to 4 enemies so that if one dies or passes out, it affects all of them. This is especially handy, considering how rare sleep darts are. Now imagine combining this with Chain Possess Separation Trauma. The potential for causing a ruckus is near infinite. Next is Doppelganger. You can use it for 2 purposes, depending on upgrades. Either distract guards away from you, or have it fight alongside you like the Whalers in The Knife of Dunwall. I’ll be honest, I don’t use it much. Then there’s Enthrall, which can distract enemies for a while, allowing you to sneak past. No crazy twists, but it works pretty well. So, all of her powers are built around eliminating enemies directly, with minimal focus on other ways to get by. This is made more interesting due to the New Game Plus feature, which allows either character to access every power in the game, so that Domino/Chain Possession mayhem idea is absolutely possible. As for the weapons arsenal, it has also been expanded since the last game. The classic sword, pistol, and crossbow are back, but with added twists. Now every weapon has two “masterpiece” traits, of which only one can be chosen once the blueprints are found. Plus, these masterpiece traits are different depending on which character you use. For instance, Emily can choose between perfect accuracy at long range or bolts that pierce targets for her crossbow, while Corvo can pick between very high fire rate and the ability to mark 3 targets and kill them all at the cost of 1 bolt. These are available for every type of weapon, the pistol, crossbow, sword, grenades, and even armor. Speaking of which, the actual arsenal is bigger as well. The crossbow has the classic bolt, sleep dart, incendiary bolt options (the latter being very useful for clearing bloodfly nests, more on this later). But now there are two new bolts, the Howling and Stinging bolts. Howling bolts blind enemies, and Stinging bolts make them run away. The Stun Mines from The Knife of Dunwall are back as well, which are very useful for nonlethal players. In addition, Sticky grenades are now available, which are very useful indeed against Bloodflies. Aside from that, the arsenal is more or less the same. The other big innovation to the combat is that enemies can now be choked and thrown in the middle of a fight, and enemies on the ground can be either stabbed or non lethally stomped on. This means Action Low Chaos is technically possible (especially when combined with the Blink kick and Domino abilities), though very difficult. This is pretty cool as an addition, and very helpful if you fuck up at stealth (like I always do) but don’t want to kill the guards who spotted you. So, overall, the core mechanics have improved leaps and bounds from even the first game. But mechanics are only a part of this game, how is the rest of it?

Next up is the world and level design. The world itself is honestly inferior to the first game. The original Dishonored took place in Dunwall, a truly fantastic city in terms of design based on Victorian London and other Steampunk works. The opening and ending missions are still in Dunwall, though sadly none of the nostalgic locations like Clavering Boulevard are present, but the vast majority takes place in Karnaca, which feels more live Venice. I don’t like it nearly as much as the original game’s world, but it’s still acceptable. Instead of rats, the plague this time is caused by Bloodflies, which, while less inspired, are arguably more horrifying because fuck stinging insects, I hate them. They usually guard nests, which you can destroy by hitting them with your sword, setting them on fire, or using grenades on them. When you destroy the nests, all the Bloodflies collectively pass out, which is a kind of cool touch. However, the biggest shortcoming for the game in this regard is the enemy variety. The only enemies you’re likely to see are guards, dogs, overseers (basically guards again, they don’t even have the music boxes anymore), and witches (basically guards, but with the addition of Blink). Gone are fantastic enemies like the Tallboys of the original, and nothing really replaces them, except maybe the Clockwork Soldiers, which are indeed very fun, but not to the level of the original. A particularly fun way of killing them is to Bend Time, then hit them with a Sticky Grenade and stick a Springrazor to them. It’s not quite as cool as freezing time, shooting a crossbow bolt, and sticking a Springrazor to it in order to 1-shot a Tallboy, but it’s still a fun way to mess around. So overall, the enemy variety has lost a fair amount of the magic from the first game. As for the actual level design, it’s just as good as ever. Let’s take the first in-game Wall of Light as an example. To get around it, what can we do? Well, we could take out the guards and shut off the windmill powering it. Or we could go through a Bloodfly infested apartment, killing all the Bloodflies along the way by throwing liquor bottles at them which burst into flame. Or we could go through an apartment where Overseers are looking for an Outsider Shrine, and loot the valuables within. Or go even farther, and just walk along the roof of a walkway on the ground. If you’re on New Game Plus, you could also do things like Bend Time or Possess a guard to get past the Wall of Light, and this applies to future missions as well. So the Play Your Way aspect has definitely survived into the second game, and it might be even stronger than ever. As for the individual levels, each one is unique, and each one has a very clever gimmick to it. There’s the Addermire Institute, basically a hospital with a very dark secret. Then there’s the Clockwork Mansion, an awesome concept that I wish was explored further. Then the Royal Conservatory, a kind of demented museum full of witches. There’s a level featuring a war between the Howler gang and the Overseers where the player can help either side, or find another way to get past the situation. The Stilton Manor might just be the coolest level gimmick I’ve ever seen. Being able to traverse back and forth in time between the ruined mansion of the present and the time it was in its full glory as a way to get by obstacles. The Duke’s palace is a classic infiltration mission, though one where it’s very easy to get around the level by getting up to the roof and has the opportunity for some truly awesome maneuvers, like jumping off the tallest edge and breaking your fall by possessing an enemy right before the ground. The last level is also pretty cool, being about sneaking into a ruined Dunwall Tower full of witches, with objectives like turning the power back on in order to activate the elevator to reach the throne room where Delilah is. Overall, they’re pretty damn memorable levels, which is all I can really ask for. Sure, there’s nothing as brilliant as Lady Boyle’s Last Party (though the Stilton Manor comes close), but it’s fantastic anyway

So the gameplay and level design are absolutely wonderful. But how’s the story? Well, the main villain this time is Delilah once again. Apparently, getting a sword jammed through the roof of her mouth just wasn’t enough to stop this bitch. So she turns either Corvo or Emily into stone, depending on who the player chooses to play as. The remaining character then escapes to Karnaca, and needs to figure out why Delilah is seemingly immortal, as well as eliminating her key allies. First is the Crown Killer, a sadistic serial killer who framed you for their murders and destroyed your reputation. Next is Kirin Jindosh, the inventing genius responsible for powerful machines including the new Clockwork Soldiers. At the same time, you need to rescue Anton Sokolov, who had a sizable role in the first game. I would’ve rather had Piero back, but I’ll take what I can get. The next target is Brianna Ashworth, curator of the Royal Conservatory, witch, and probably Delilah’s most important ally. Then you just have to take out Duke Abele, and it’s on to Delilah herself. While the targets (with the exception of the Duke and the Crown Killer) are nowhere near as memorable as the last game, they’re good enough for what they are. There are also other major characters like Paolo, head of the Howler gang. He’s nowhere as near as fun as Slackjaw from the original game, but he’s alright. Billie Lurk from The Knife of Dunwall makes a reappearance as well, although we never get to see her fight. We even get a pseudo-cameo from Daud himself, as he appears on an audiograph with the narration from the Low Chaos ending of The Brigmore Witches playing (slightly different, though, so they actually got Michael Madsen in for the part). There’s also less to the story than the first game, but it’s still in pretty good shape. The last thing to talk about in the story is the ending, which is exponentially weaker than the original game. It’s not as flowing, the protagonist only has a small part in it, and it feels disjointed. That said, it’s not a massive buzzkill, so I guess I can’t complain too much. So overall, the story is considerably weaker than last time, but it’s still alright.

Last off is the technical stuff. So if you get bored by this kind of thing, skip this part. The actual graphics are, indeed, way better than the original game, though I had to play on Low. The soundtrack was alright, nothing all too memorable. Granted, the original game only really had 2 memorable tracks (the trailer song “The Wake of Eden” and the ending tune “Honor For All”), but this one has pretty much none. The voice acting is very good, with Erica Luttrell and Stephen Russell giving very fantastic performances as Emily and Corvo. Vincent D’Onofrio really hams it up as the Duke of Serkonos, which is much appreciated. Rosario Dawson is alright as Billie Lurk, although she doesn’t have all that much to work with. The Outsider got recast, and while Robin Lord Taylor is alright, he just doesn’t live up to the original performance. The guards are also decent, and if you listen to the male guards for long enough, you may hear a particularly hilarious limerick. Now, the big one: performance. My PC is a decade old, so I waited months before picking up the PC version, in hopes that it would be patched by the time I got it. Good news is, it runs at a stable framerate. Bad news is, it has issues when first loading. It skips and stutters for a little bit, and then it runs smoothly. So, the performance isn’t as utterly fucked as it was on launch, but it’s not great. So, the technical side scrapes by on the visuals and voice acting, but is held down by poor performance and boring soundtrack.

Overall, Dishonored 2 is a wonderful game, with the stellar mechanics and level design making up for the weaker story, duller cast, and less interesting world. It’s not a full S, because those issues are so notable, but it’s still a top tier game. As such, I am issuing Dishonored 2 a full A+ rating, with a Pretty Good seal of approval. Definitely worth buying, and I look forward to playing it over and over again, just like the original. As far as I’m concerned, this series has the potential to become one of the best franchises in video game history, and I’m very excited for what Death of the Outsider brings to the table. Fingers crossed, hoping that will be good.

Thoughts on Wonder Woman (2017)

So, another DC superhero movie. I’m going to be honest, my opinions on DC movies are almost never in line with the common consensus, so I guess I should explain what I think of the last few. I really liked Man of Steel, it’s one of my favorite superhero movies. Batman vs Superman is deeply flawed and has some really boneheaded decisions, such as the inclusion of Doomsday, but (having only seen the Ultimate Edition) I actually do like it. It’s not a great film, but it’s passable. And then we have Suicide Squad. Ok, look, despite all the hatred this movie gets, I don’t think it’s that bad. It’s one of those proverbial “guilty pleasure” movies, where it’s not campy enough to be enjoyable as a completely lighthearted action film, but it’s not so serious as to be enjoyable as such. Instead, it seems to take itself a bit more seriously than it should, and so the holes in its silly premise stick out very prominently. Despite that, it’s still a kinda fun movie, largely because of how great some of the cast is. The whole point of this tangent is that my opinion on pretty much every big DC movie in the last few years is different from the average internet commenter. With that said, Wonder Woman, the newest addition to the DC canon. Before I get into this, know that I’ll be spoiling the fuck out of this thing, so if you want to avoid that, I say go watch it and come back. It’s worth a look, at the very least. Now, on to the film.

Good lord, this is a mixed bag if ever I’ve seen one. The first thing I have to talk about is the main heroine. She just isn’t all that compelling, to be honest. Sadly, the writers seemed to take a more Marvel-esque approach and sent most of her screen time with this really stupid running joke about her trying to take conventions of early 20th century life (such as clothes, manners, guns, military leadership, etc) and compare them to the customs of the Amazons. It could’ve worked if handled pitch perfectly, but it drove me crazy after a while because of how annoying I found it. There are some moments where I want to like her, but I just can’t because she’s so alien to common sense. Compounding this is the fact that Gal isn’t that great an actress. Thankfully, it’s never hard to understand what she’s saying, but her ability to emote leaves a lot to be desired at times. Even weaker than her is the main villain, Ares, played by David Thewlis. Right there is his first problem. The casting choice works fine when he’s in disguise for his first appearances in the film (more on this later), but even when he shifts into full war god form  for the final battle, he still has the same face, same physique, and same voice. I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t work. It feels awkward and doesn’t fit the tone at all. It would’ve been better if they’d gotten someone who’s really good at being soft spoken but can dial up the intensity when needed, like Daniel Day-Lewis. Definitely a weakness of the film. However, with that said, I absolutely need to talk about the supporting cast. While the early supporting characters (the other amazons) are all pretty forgettable, it’s the main set of other protagonists that forms easily the best thing in the movie. First off, they got Chris Pine, and that guy is just plain likable. He’s got a ton of great lines in this movie and he delivers them amazingly. He had me in stitches laughing at times, and when he needed to be serious, he could pull it off quite well. Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, and Eugene Rock are great as well, even if they get a lot less screen time than they should. More on this later. Despite the ever irritating Characterization Via Gimmick trope appearing yet again, it’s a bit more forgivable this time because all the actors are so good at their roles. Other than Ares, there are two villains early on: General Ludendorff and Dr Maru, played by Danny Huston and Elena Anaya respectively. Huston is really fun to watch, almost as much as the support crew. You can tell he’s having a blast, and it absolutely shows. Anaya is more reserved, but she’s still pretty good at what she does. But again, they needed more development, and they didn’t get it. More on this later as well. Aside from that, most of the characters are barely in it. Chris Pine has this funny little assistant, but she’s only there for a few minutes at most. So, the character cast is pretty hit-or-miss.

Now for the story. The first act takes place on the island of the Amazons, setting up the existence of Ares, a weapon that can kill him, and the childhood/powers of Wonder Woman herself. Then Chris Pine shows up with a German battalion in hot pursuit, and a bunch of people die in the resulting battle. Everyone wants to keep Pine locked up, but he tells them about an experiment the German army is working on for a type of mustard gas that can burn through masks. This makes absolutely no sense, but it works as a plot catalyst. Ah, what the hell? I guess I’ll explain why. According to their explanation, it’s based on hydrogen instead of sulfur. Thing is, that sulfur is the most important part of the molecule, and the structure is set up in such a way that it can’t function if the sulfur is replaced with something else because it holds everything together. Plus, it’s not necessary to change mustard gas in order to counter gas masks, that stuff soaks through clothes and rubber already, so gas masks already do very little to stop the horrific damage it does to people. Okay, science lesson over. Now, back to the plot. Because of Pine’s explanation, Diana (soon to be Wonder Woman) uses her insane powers to steal a bunch of relics (her outfit, lash, shield, and sword) and runs off with him in a a sailboat. He wants to get the notebook on gas research to London, but she wants to go to the front line and assassinate General Ludendorff (no relation to the real Erich Ludendorff), the guy overseeing the project, because she assumes that he’s Ares and is possessing the German army to make them act evil. Yes, this is the worst part of her character, and I find it incessantly annoying after a while. Anyway, they go to London, share the document with the details of the project, and end up going to France themselves with three others after the British leaders refuse to intervene because they can’t jeopardize the armistice. Anyway, they head off to the front, reclaiming a town because Wonder Woman can deflect bullets with her wrist guards and shield. Skipping forward through an espionage ball, the village getting bombed, and tracking Ludendorff to his secret base, let’s pick up here. Wonder Woman kills Ludendorff, only to realize he wasn’t Ares, he’s only a human. She goes nuclear as a result, and refuses to do anything. Chris Pine and crew go off to prevent a plane loaded with the gas from bombing London, and it’s revealed that their one sponsor in Parliament is actually Ares. Wonder Woman fights him and is losing when Chris Pine sacrifices himself to destroy the plane, so she goes even more ballistic and kills Ares. The war ends soon after, story over, whee. Okay, so what do I like and what do I not like about the story itself? What I find especially interesting is that this is a superhero movie that would work better without the superhero stuff. Or rather, the main plot and the secondary plot would both work better as separate movies. Because they’re both packed into one, they end up being crushed together and neither gets all the development it should. So, I feel like it would be better as 2 different movies, maybe with some crossover between them, such as characters from both partaking in the same battle once or twice. The first movie would be the plot of Wonder Woman hunting Ares during WWI, and the idea is that it’s focused more as a “manhunt” type of plot, hunting down his associates and trying to figure out who he’s disguised as. Flesh out everyone more, focus on the main plot almost exclusively. Meanwhile, the subplot about Chris Pine and co tracking the storage of gas would be its own movie, a kind of crazy over-the-top WWI action movie, kind of in the vein of Wolfenstein, but a different time period. I dunno, it’s just an idea, but I feel like it would work better. Since they try to pack so much into one movie without extending the run time to match,  both plots end up getting squashed together and neither really gets developed as much as it should be. Quite a shame, and it’s my biggest problem with the movie.

On the technical side, the film is just fine. The visuals are competent, though I wish the color was a little stronger at times. The sound is alright, the actors range from passable to great, the music is solid, etc. Nothing especially remarkable.

Overall, this is a solid movie. Not as good as Man of Steel or the Dark Knight movies, but still good nonetheless. The plot unfortunately suffers from being too big for the run time, but it’s made up for with strong technical aspects and (some) very likable characters. The excellent supporting cast makes up for the weak heroine and weaker villain, and it all balances out. Because of this, I am issuing Wonder Woman a rating, with a Minimum Rental recommendation. It’s probably not something I would buy on Blu-Ray or anything (though considering how much my folks loved it, I very well might have to), but I would definitely say it’s worth seeing, as it’s a pretty decent movie.

Thoughts on RWBY Volume 4

Ok, so I haven’t really had much opportunity to talk about RWBY, with the exception of my rumination on the fan wars. But Volume 4 just wrapped up last month, in the middle of me trying desperately to finish my specials, and I figured now was the time to throw in my two cents. RWBY is one of only 2 shows that I’m following week by week, the other being Season 2 of Konosuba. See, I’m not a big fan of watching currently airing shows, preferring to examine older stuff because I can go more in depth with it, I can look at the possible endings to the overall series (the ending being one of the most important aspects of anything for me), show how it’s held up over time and how it fares in the current climate, and generally just cherry pick the ones most worthy of note, as most things aren’t all that worthy of focus, especially not for a guy juggling school demands with trying to write no fewer than 5 projects at any given time. RWBY is that 1 in 2,578,917 exception that I follow so closely while it’s still airing and take such a heavy interest in before it ends. With that said, my thoughts on Volume 4.

After the narrative powerhouse that was Volume 3, Volume 4 had some pretty big shoes to fill. With Volume 3 ending on the worst thing ever happening, Volume 4 skips ahead several months and tells the separate stories of the 4 members of Team RWBY. Ruby is taking the remnants of JNPR to Mistral in order to investigate the next plan of the enemy, Weiss has been taken back to Atlas and has to deal with her family situation, Blake is returning to Menagerie to see her parents, and Yang is staying on Patch to deal with the fallout from losing her arm. While the screen time is heavily focused on Ruby and Blake, all 4 stories are still fleshed out pretty well. While many fans complain about it feeling like an in-between period that could’ve been skipped, I would strongly disagree. Stories like Weiss escaping her oppressive father and Yang learning to live her life with the hand she was dealt are pretty important to the show as a whole, and we get flashes of what Salem is planning in a few episodes. Jaune, Ren, and Nora are fleshed out a lot more this season as well, with the latter two in particular becoming far more compelling as characters and getting more about their backstories and dynamic explained. We also needed a cooldown period after the intensity of Volume 3, and Volume 4 does a good job at that. JNRR heading to Mistral gets by far the most screen time of the 4 stories, which I’ve once again seen fans complaining about. I would reply by saying that it’s the one where the most happens. Volume 4 is already heavy on dialogue, and devoting more time to the other stories would mean even more dialogue. Ruby and crew traversing the wilderness allows more room for major events, like when they’re hunted down by Tyrian and get their asses kicked by him until Qrow shows up and saves them. On that note, the fighting and animation. The animation studio got a new program to work with, and it really shows. Not only are the new models outright fantastic, but the animation itself is really smooth, the environments are incredibly detailed, the lighting is better, and the visual aesthetic in general works extremely well. The fight choreography is excellent, though the directing isn’t the best. Obviously, the standout fight is Qrow vs Tyrian halfway through the season. It’s an absolutely fantastic fight, and it’s easily the highlight of the season. So overall, RWBY is just as visually spectacular as always. In terms of sound, we’ve got several interesting changes this time around. New additions to the voice crew include the legendary Chris Sabat, the almost as notable Aaron Dismuke, and my secondary nemesis Josh Grelle. Surprisingly, Josh actually does a phenomenal job as Tyrian, and he sells it perfectly. This is starting to make me think that he’s always being cast wrong, and maybe he’s a better lunatic than edgy teen (aren’t we all). Chris only gets a few lines as Dr Watts, but there are hints that he’ll be important more in later seasons. Aaron has probably the most lines out of the three, playing the role of a farm boy who’s getting stalked by the ghost of Ozpin. While this is kind of hilarious, it isn’t developed especially well, and I’d like to see it expanded upon in future seasons. The soundtrack is on the same level as the others, Jeff Williams is great as always. Getting back to the four separate stories, it’s a pretty difficult comparison. Ruby has a really good one, the trek to Mistral is quite compelling. I find the exploration of Weiss and her home situation to be interesting, especially with the glimpse at the attitude of the obnoxious aristocracy in Atlas. Jacques was built up as being really terrible in previous seasons, but honestly I think that his reveal is disappointing. He’s nowhere near as controlling or abusive as we were lead to believe, and the big moment of shock that it builds up to seems like an anti-climax. Given the information we’ve received so far in the show, it doesn’t seem like it should matter nearly as much as it does. Blake has a rather interesting plot about reconciling with her parents, though I feel like Sun has regressed in quality of writing, so a few things he does get kind of annoying. His little bit in the last episode is kind of interesting, I guess. It’s a shame that he’s definitely going to be dead by the end of next season (seriously, he’s going to get destroyed when they go to take on Adam). Yang has by far the least screen time of the main four, in stark contrast to the amount of spotlight she had in Volume 3. Honestly, her plot has the least going on, as it’s about adjusting to life without her right arm. Short bits like the flashback or the nightmare sequence are rather interesting, and the discussion between her and Tai about what she’s supposed to do from here on is pretty good. By the end of the season, it seems like she’s back in business, and the ending theme is entirely revolving around her plot as well. Hopefully, Volume 5 really steps up to the plate and gives us something phenomenal. On that note, I guess I’ll leave off with some speculation about Volume 5. Obviously, Watts has infiltrated Mistral, and appears to have one of the teachers (potentially even the headmaster) as a mole. However, I think he won’t put the major plot through until Volume 6. So what do I think Volume 5 will be about? Well, it’s stated at the end of Volume 4 that Adam is planning to overthrow the head of the White Fang and take the position for himself. Blake wants to prevent that, and take over instead. So, I think that Volume 5 will largely focus on that conflict. The White Fang have formed the backbone of the opposition force so far, and the conflict against them will likely take up most if not all of the focus next season. Plus, Blake and Yang both have a grudge against Adam, and he’s been heavily built up so far as a major threat. So the climax and resolution to that conflict is likely going to be a huge focus. With that said, the final confrontation of that story is probably going to be Blake, Yang, and Sun vs Adam. Should that happen, Sun has no chance whatsoever of escaping alive. Not only is he no match for Adam, but he’s pretty much expendable from a story perspective. The only thing he can really do for the story anymore is get killed in front of Blake, in order to heighten the drama of her vendetta against Adam. Regardless, that’s what I’m guessing will happen next season. I guess we’ll see. As for Volume 4, I give it an A-, with a Buy it, you moron stamp of approval. Hopefully Volume 5 can push this show into Pretty Good territory. We’ll know soon enough.

Throwback: “The Hunger Games Review Part 3”

Before I get to the review, a bit of backstory. The Hunger Games is infamous for ripping off Battle Royale, but Battle Royale had a sequel. Battle Royale 2 focused on the survivors of the original trying to overthrow the government. It was widely criticized and labeled as an inferior film. The Hunger Games, apparently not learning, gave us Part 3, about the survivors of the original trying to overthrow the government. Here we go again.

Once again, we begin with the characters. All the old characters are the same, and the new characters are still boring. You have generic rebel leader with generic secret plans, generic squad commander with no personality, and various characters that only show up for a chapter or two, including generic squadmates 1-5. Nobody sticks out as interesting, and everyone is the same bland shade of UGH.

The story is by far the worst in the series. So, as it turns out, the secret thirteenth district, which was thought to be a nuclear wasteland, is actually a fully armed resistance HQ, and so they move out to destroy the Capitol. They do this by conquering the individual districts, of which we get to see 2 and 8, and then fighting in the Capitol itself. Meanwhile, Bread Boy has been kidnapped, and so they kidnap him back, only to find that he’s a danger to himself and others. The biggest problem with the book is that it suffers from shove-as-many-characters-into-the-finale-as-possible syndrome. This means the book is packed full of characters, none of whom have any actual character, and it expects you to remember who everyone is, and it expects you to care about all of them. The problem with that is since nobody has any character, nobody cares, and the sheer volume of characters causes them to bleed together into a thick, gray sludge. This distracts from the overall narrative, which is terrible anyway.

Once again, the film sound is awful. Jennifer Lawrence, while she might be a good actress (I don’t know), simply can’t deliver the lines that she’s presented with. The music in the film is just as bad as always, and nothing sticks out.

The actual visuals in the film are passable at best. Nothing is memorable for being any good, and most of the stuff still looks obviously fake. Kudos to the opening scene, though, which looks like something out of a holocaust drama.

And here’s where the philosophy got out of control, mutated into a monster, and tried to devour the townsfolk. Half the god damn book, including 95% of the last 3-4 chapters, is just spouting philosophical nonsense. And not even good philosophical nonsense. It’s more of “why our species sucks”, like we’ve seen thousands of times.

Overall, this was a mess. Bad story, forgettable characters, bad acting in the film’s case, and a shopping list of other problems bog it down. Unlike the other 2, both the book and the film earn the same rating. I issue The Hunger Games: Part 3 with a D- grade, and an I’LL SEND YOU BACK TO HELL! rating. This is absolute garbage, and you must avoid it. There, now I don’t have to touch this ever again. I’ll see you next time.