Find Me On Patreon

Things have been very quiet here for multiple reasons, but they will likely remain quiet for one reason: Patreon.

Most of my work will be done through Patreon, so while some announcements might come here, and I will post some of the content here, Patreon will remain my primary interface. Should I decide to shut down my Patreon – it’s motivating me to actually get work done, so that’s unlikely, even if it doesn’t rise above beer money – my primary focus will return to this website, but until then, please go follow me at my Patreon page.

Even if you don’t act as a patron, you can follow the feed and get most of the articles released, though a few days after they are available for paying patrons.

I hope I’ll see you there.

Posted in News | Tagged , | Comments Off on Find Me On Patreon

Extraction: A Review

This review was first presented on my Patreon.

Extraction is the new Chris Hemsworth action movie released on Netflix.

The summary according to Rotten Tomatoes is:

Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) is a fearless black market mercenary with nothing left to lose when his skills are solicited to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord. But in the murky underworld of weapons dealers and drug traffickers, an already deadly mission approaches the impossible, forever altering the lives of Rake and the boy.

The action is outstanding. Hemsworth is physically believable as Rake, and the action choreography leans toward the John Wick school of extreme action. It’s done quite well and this is where the movie shines. Hemsworth has a great alter-ego in the film played by Randeep Hooda. Their two characters cut through the opposition with gritty aplomb, and when they end up opposite each other, it’s a treat.

The following is a bit of a spoiler, but doesn’t really ruin any specific plot elements—nor is the plot particularly novel or interesting—but talks about events that happen later in the movie, so you have been warned.

As amazing as the action is, I was honestly uncomfortable with the casual wholesale murder of Bangladeshi police officers. Now, the movie shows us there is corruption in the force, but not necessarily all the way through it. Certainly there is at least one high-level officer who takes orders from the baddie, but there’s no indication that the crazy number of officers mowed down by Hemsworth’s and Hooda’s characters are anything other than police trying to apprehend individuals they believe to be criminals. In fact, there are multiple instances in which a police officer could have shot and killed either of them, but instead chose to tackle or otherwise restrain them.

Were this set in New York instead of Dhaka, I strongly suspect we would have had a scene of a group of mercenaries, whose dialogue would reinforce how unrepentantly evil these people are, getting into police uniforms so that we—the audience—could root for the hero putting them all in their graves. None of that here.

I am really torn on recommending this movie. The action is topnotch, but the dehumanization of “the other” evidenced in the wholesale murder of Bangladeshi police officers honestly bothers me. I’m going to have to give this movie a 2.75 kitted-out secret squirrels out of 5. The action is great, the star power is there, but the story is pretty pedestrian and the disinterest in the humanity of the Bangladeshi police is a problem.

Posted in Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Time to Hunt: A Review

This review was first presented on my Patreon.

I had the chance to catch the new South Korean thriller, Time to Hunt, on Netflix this week. 

The plot, as summarized on Rotten Tomatoes is:

In a hopeless dystopian city, Jun-seok (LEE Je-hoon) is released from prison and plans his next step in life in order to start anew with his friends Jang-ho (AHN Jae-hong), Ki-hoon (CHOI Woo-shik) and Sang-soo (PARK Jeong-min). But their excitement for the plan is short-lived as an unknown man chases after them. Can these best friends get away from the hunt?

The story is actually pretty generic when one breaks it down. The “plan” involves the robbery of an illegal casino. Up until then, the most outstanding part of the movie was the setting and atmosphere. This isn’t a science-fiction movie per se, but it’s definitely set at some point in the future. 

The South Korea of this film is hopeless, mostly abandoned, covered in constant smog, and depopulated. I think anyone will be affected by the setting presented in the film, but if you’ve actually lived in South Korea, especially in a major urban centre, the shots of block after block of empty streets and abandoned stores have a very visceral impact.

The hunt of the title and synopsis has an assassin chasing after the young friends, and the tension gets dialled up to 11. I’m not necessarily a huge thriller fan, but have seen more than a few. Time to Hunt definitely delivers both the thrills in moments of kinetic energy but even more on the anxiety and pressure leading to those explosions. 

I would recommend Time to Hunt and give it 4 bullet-riddled bodies out of 5. This is a thrilling and tense movie with solid performances in a story that has few real surprises but serves as the vehicle to deliver its promise.

Posted in Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

My Problem with Far Cry 5 (and New Dawn)

This article was first presented on my Patreon.

I play a lot of first-person shooters, especially open-world FPS RPGs, and I’ve played Far Cry since Far Cry 2. I really like the gameplay of Far Cry 5 and Far Cry: New Dawn, but I have a problem with their stories.

In FC5, the villain is a religious zealot. That is not the problem. The problem is . . .

MAJOR SPOILER FOR A GAME THAT CAME OUT IN 2018.

ALSO, TRIGGER WARNING FOR SOME REALLY MESSED UP CONTENT

REALLY, NOT KIDDING, MAJOR SPOILER. MAJOR TRIGGERS.

LAST WARNING.

The problem is that the villain—Joseph Seed—is actually the hero, or at least that the villain has been correct about the end of the world. Given the supernatural powers he exhibits at the end, and the through-line into FC:ND, it’s heavily suggested that he is, in fact, touched by the Christian God.

The guy who supports torture, forced drug dependency, eugenics, and in at least one case, a lieutenant who forces children to engage in cannibalism, he’s the messenger of the Christian God.

That’s bad enough. What’s worse is that you can’t win. If you fight him, in the end, you lose and become his prisoner. In FC:ND it’s revealed you become his disciple. If you walk away, you turn out to be a Manchurian Candidate and likely murder your friends. You can’t win.

Granted, in FC4, there were no good choices. (SPOILERS FOLLOW) You end up turning your homeland into a narco-terrorist nation, a religious extremist nation, or you leave it in the hands of a murderous dictator. But at least you didn’t become the discipline of the religious extremist, drug kingpin, or murderous dictator. I’m okay with the idea that sometimes there are no good choices. I found FC5 frustrating not because there were no good choices, but because you—as the character—can’t win. The villain always wins.

And he turns out to be the one who is actually right. Not just persuasive or entertaining (like Vaas or Pagan Min) but actually correct—the end of days is upon us and he is the chosen of the Christian God.

Further, it gets worse with FC:ND. In that game, Seed is key to winning the game. He has created a kind of Utopia, and the main character from FC5 becomes a Specialist—one of the Guns for Hire that can accompany the main character—and is a kind of super soldier following Seed. Further, Seed has found some kind of Garden of Eden tree (or maybe the tree is supposed to be the source of Iðunn’s apples from Norse Mythology) and this has given him extended life and provides the main character with super powers as well.

Then there are the villains in FC:ND, two African-American sisters who are warlords following the nuclear apocalypse at the end of FC5. While the white villain of FC5 is touched by God, the sisters are irredeemably evil. Throughout the game, classic rock indicates good guys, and “urban” music denotes villains.

I’m not saying the designers intentionally adapted racist tropes. I am saying they and everyone in the design chain was blind to it. Or am I just hyper-sensitive? I think I was definitely more sensitive after the end of FC5. It was just so jarring. 

Crazy evangelicals that literally torture people to death? Actually doing God’s work.

This really bugs me because I like the gameplay in both games. I especially like FC:ND because it’s got that great post-apocalyptic setting (yes, Fallout fan . . . at least since Fallout 3) and while it doesn’t have the weapon modding system from FC5, I like the various weapons that are available at the different tiers.

So while I love the games, I hate the stories. I’ve played through FC:ND twice and am on my second round of FC5, but the second play-throughs I’m just going to avoid the actual endings. Fuck ‘em.

Posted in Review | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ad Astra: A Review

This review was first presented on my Patreon. Please head over and support me there if you can.

I had a chance to watch a bunch of movies recently, and I’m really not sure which to discuss first. I’m going to go with the one that I had the most hopes for, even though those hopes were (spoilers!) dashed.

Please note: I saw this movie on an airplane, and it was apparently edited. One would not expect that anything key would have been removed or altered, but there it is.

Ad Astra is a science fiction drama starring Brad Pitt and directed by James Gray. It’s about an astronaut sent to find his father who is somehow intertwined with a threat to Earth (and—I think—the solar system). That’s the drama part—the family dynamic. The science fiction part is that the father is part of a mission to find extraterrestrial life and is near or in orbit of Neptune. 

Listen, this is a very beautiful movie. It is made with the utmost craftsmanship, and there is a real weight to the action and the sets in which that story unfold. But for all that, it seems sterile.

I found this very much a quieter homage to Apocalypse Now intertwined with the Partridge-Mackey father-son alienation angle of Magnolia. There is a lot of Apocalypse Now in the style of the story and its forward progress—and I mean that movie rather than Heart of Darkness, as there are a lot of similarities to the style of the movie absent from the novella. And while I like both that movie and the novella on which it is based, I didn’t enjoy Ad Astra.

Pitt’s character is almost completely a cypher in a way that neither Marlow nor Willard ever were. There is an in-story reason for this, but it still created a wall that didn’t allow me to sympathize with his character. And I also never really felt there was a connection between him and his father. With both Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness, this is not a problem as Kurtz is a mysterious figure, only partially revealed—even at the climax. But the father is much more Kurtz than the Earl Partridge character in Magnolia. The murkiness of the father’s character and the impenetrability of the son’s left me cold to the very crux of the movie.

And what the heck was with the moon buggy chase? It was like the filmmakers decided they needed some action. The consequences of that scene do not propel the story forward or inject anything of interest, and there is no reference back to it or the situation that created it. It is like it is from a different movie.

My opinions seem to be in the minority, so I may just have been missing something. Pitt’s character is the spine of the movie, and he was inaccessible to me. The other characters that drop in and fall out left no real imprint and seemed much more to be plot devices than actual characters, with odd turns that did not fit with the characters as presented to that point. Even the main character’s motivations—which are very clearly spelt out—ring false given everything else we are presented regarding him.

I do not recommend Ad Astra. I give it 2.5 long, drawn-out shots of beautiful space out of 5. It is a distant, unengaging story with gorgeous visuals. It offered me no emotional connection at all.

Posted in Review | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Mandalorian – A Review

This review was originally posted at my Patreon.

It was like Jon Favreau read my mind and made a show just for me.

And that ain’t the first time that’s happened.

I have become, in case you haven’t heard, a huge fan of the Mandalorian. It’s basically Star Wars as a Western, which is very much in keeping with the frontier-aesthetic of A New Hope. And while it had much of the feel of a Kurosawa samurai-movie, that is likely because there was so much cross-pollination between Westerns and samurai films. The Mandalorian, though, was much more of a gunslinger than a ronin—though the Mandalorian cultural trappings had many intersections with what movies and comics have told us was the samurai code.

The episodes moved forward at their own speed, letting us bask in the story and luxuriate in the characters. It was not slow, because that kind of implies that it should have moved forward faster. It should not have. If the pace was not deliberate, it should have been. It made the later episodes—especially the penultimate and climactic episodes—hit so much harder. Even in those, we are treated to some honestly moving scenes that affected because we had grown to know these characters, especially the titular one. 

As much of a joy as was the titular characters, the supporting cast really shone. These were great characters, and I definitely wanted to see more of them, even the ones who weren’t so nice and weren’t so honourable. They were all interesting. It was through their interactions rather than exposition that you learned about them and gained an understanding of them. 

And they all had a plot purpose, each adding to the story of the Mandalorian in their own way.

The series also introduced us to new locations, and we were allowed to savour these, all of them feeling very fitting for a Star Wars stories. Like the characters and the props, the setting was imbued with the Star Wars aesthetic, something so central to the original trilogy. 

This was a great part of my enjoyment in this series. It really felt like Star Wars. It hearkened back to A New Hope in a way not even the Empire Strikes Back did. This was not nostalgia—though it’s creation was likely set off by that—but as much an homage as samurai movies were of Westerns, which then became homages to them. The Mandalorian has all of that, baked in a delicious shell of Star Wars.  

I give the Mandalorian 4.75 terrifyingly cult Force-wielding babies out of 5—only because nothing is perfect. Also, while I can’t recommend this highly enough, I always worry about overselling something. This is the perfect Star Wars property for me, perhaps not for everyone.

Posted in Review | Tagged , , | Comments Off on The Mandalorian – A Review

Hellboy 2019

I am a big fan of the Guillermo del Toro Hellboy movies. I own both of them. I would have been quite happy to see a third, but was not angry or upset when I heard someone else was taking a run at it. How many versions of Spider-man have there been? Having said that, I only just recently finally got a chance to see it.

I don’t mind David Harbour’s Hellboy, but I prefer Ron Perlman’s. I was happy to see Ian McShane, and it kind of felt like a very different take on Dr. Bruttenholm than John Hurt’s. It’s kind of like I can prefer Sean Connery’s early James Bond portrayals, while still enjoying Timothy Dalton or Daniel Craig’s version.

The Bond franchise is kind of useful to illustrate how I think about film series and various incarnations of characters and stories. I prefer aspects of different Bond movies even when it’s not my favourite Bond – For Your Eyes Only would have been a truly great Bond film with a truly great Bond, but instead ends up as a good Bond film and a highlight in Roger Moore’s otherwise abysmal run. That’s kind of how I feel about Hellboy – it’s not that I dislike any of the particular character choices, but unlike For Your Eyes Only which would be immensely improved by having a better actor/version of Bond, I think the various incarnations of these characters could be good if only they had a stronger vehicle.

Unfortunately the writing is just bad. It’s not so much the dialogue, it’s the internal inconsistencies, occasional appearance of idiot plots, and extraneous additions that kill this version. I really like Neil Marshall and have since seeing Dog Soldiers. He’s generally solid and I have pretty much liked if not loved the movies he has directed. I have a strong suspicion that too many fingers spoiled this particular pie, and that Marshall was crowded out by other chefs in his kitchen.

I actually would not recommend the new Hellboy. It’s not a complete waste of time and has some entertainment value but it is not a good movie and can be frustrating, especially if you are a fan of the comic or the previous incarnation. If there’s another one, I just hope the studio picks a director with a vision – as I suspect they did here – and then get the hell out of the way and let that vision blossom.

You can find out more about the 2019 adaptation of Hellboy at Wikipedia or IMDB.

Posted in Review | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Hellboy 2019

Venom, A Review

Venom was a movie I thought I’d be interested in seeing because of Tom Hardy’s role in it, but then never really bothered to seek it out. It sought me out, and I can understand, now, my minor but not motivating interest.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the movie, but there is also nothing particularly right. The fights are infused with CGI – due to them including either Venom himself or something similar – and so (for me) lacked weight or impact. They also were presented with quick edits and the chaotic, close-in style that can work when it is handled by someone who allows the audience to follow the action, but in this case – and so many others – just hides the lack of good choreography.

Everyone involved in the movie does a fine job, but even Tom Hardy seems to lack real investment in his role. This may be due to the writing, which is pedestrian. Sure, there are some good one-liners, but in general is pretty prosaic and lacks anything distinctive. The characters are not particularly well-developed but fit into standard molds, which likely makes it easier for the writers and directors but gives the audience nothing new or special.

So while everything is fine, nothing is outstanding. If you have the time and it’s playing, sure, give Venom a watch. I don’t think you’ll regret it. By the same token, there are a lot of really good movies out there, so choose wisely.

You can find out more about Venom at Wikipedia or IMDB.

Posted in Review | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Venom, A Review

Overlord, A Review

This first appeared at my Patreon on 29 July, 2019

I’ve finally seen a bunch of films I likely would not otherwise have seen, and I of course have opinions of all of them. I want to start with Overlord, which had an intriguing premise for anyone who used to love Castle Wolfenstein or Return to CW.

If you know nothing more about Overlord, just know going in that it’s not a straight ahead war movie, and the reference to CW should clue you in as to how things are going to unravel/roll out. It’s a fine movie for Castle Wolfenstein-esque adventures, but if you aren’t interested in that particular and kind of specific genre, I can only offer a very lukewarm recommend.

The movie falls down on its characters. This is a plot-driven movie and the characters are stock standards rather than thoughtful explorations. An odd facet is the ignoring of the blatant racism and segregation of the period. To me, this may be much closer to how a pulp RPG campaign might treat the subject, and I found it odd at first but not off-putting. However, I am not a person affected by racism, so it’s certainly easier for me to accept that kind of decision, but would be interested to know how it was otherwise accepted.

So if you are looking to see something inspired by Castle Wolfenstein, and if stock characters and the removal of historical racial tensions don’t bother you, you might find Overlord of interest.

You can find out more about Overlord at Wikipedia or IMDB.

Posted in Review | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Overlord, A Review

Avengers: Endgame – A Very Late Review

 I finally got a chance to see Avengers: Endgame along with my family. I went in with some spoilers, but that never really bothers me. I can read the same book or see the same movie over and over again, and still be invested, so a few spoilers wasn’t a problem.

This isn’t really a review, because I’m pretty sure I’m the last person on the planet to see this movie, and no one is looking for pros and cons for spending their hard earned cash. Having said/written that, we’re going to call it a review for a lack of a better term.

If you are wondering if this is a good movie (or your wondering if I think it is), it is. If you have been following and enjoying the Marvel movies, it might have even been a great movie, with some really emotional beats as well as bombastic action on a massive scale. The actors really delivered and the Russo Brothers created something involving, exciting, and enjoyable.

I had a few problems – the main one requiring a spoiler to really dig into – which I will do below – but for now, let’s just say that the movie is not really internally consistent. It doesn’t actually make sense without assumptions, and this seems wrong considering the framework they build for the logic of the movie. The system of the movie’s reality is built up, discussed, and drives the main planning, but when it comes time for putting those millions up there on the screen, it’s jettisoned.

That was the big gripe. The second one has to do with Hawkeye’s character arc in this movie. It was really unnecessary, except as fan service. It’s built up then pretty much dropped – except the accoutrements he continues to carry and use through the rest of the movie. It also seemed like a little too much of a fridging of his wife – killing a female character to motivate a male character. Considering the nuance that was put into the exploration for how characters addressed the outcome of Infinity War, Clint Barton’s seemed crude. I think it might have worked better if only some of his family were lost – specifically his children. Think of the dynamic between a key character who has a new family – a young daughter – which that character fears to lose and Clint, who has lost his children. Clint wants his kids back desperately, but is he willing to risk someone else’s to do so? The choice that he and Natasha must make is then even more poignant for him.

And thank you, so much, for sad sack Thor. Ragnarok really helped to create a story arc for him through all three of his solo movies in which he learns about himself. And in this one, he learns some harsh lessons about his ability to cope with failure – real failure. He continues to grow with the help of strong people around him. Maybe he is the strongest Avenger (I mean, he’s not, but let’s just roll with it), raised in a warrior culture, seeing battle as a means to prove his worth, but he has learned to look to others, to value their wisdom and their input. He may not be as bright as Odin, but he is becoming wise.

So I give Avengers: Endgame 5 infinity stones out of 6. It’s a hell of a movie to see on the big screen, but it stumbles on its own convoluted logic and makes some choices that seem lazy to me. Still, it is a must see if you are a Marvel movie fan.

Okay, some spoiler stuff after this image. You have been warned (though I imagine that warning is unnecessary).

The whole plan is based on not changing anything in the past, then they murder 2014 Thanos and his army. And there’s not even a question about it after Avengers HQ gets totaled. Cap, Iron Man, and Thor go after him and they all seem ready to kill him. There’s no discussion of “well, our Gauntlet should be able to alter reality so that even though he is destroyed in the future, 2014 Thanos and his army will continue to exist and time will move forward as it did.” Nope. “Don’t do anything to change the timeline . . . but let’s murder this dude that is basically the prime mover for all that has happened leading up to this moment BEFORE he does any of that stuff.” And then saying “you’ve got to get the stones back exactly when you took them!” I mean, I guess that’s to address the multiple realities problem of which the Ancient One spoke, but there’s also the question of the realities created because Thanos dies during Guardians of the Galaxy so what happens to the reality of Infinity War?

And as to Clint, imagine the scene on Vormir when he and Natasha are arguing about who will sacrifice themselves. Clint desperately wants to see his children, but he can’t let his best friend sacrifice herself in his place. You know there’s a part of him that wants her to do it, somewhere in the dark recesses, so that he can have his family back, but he can’t let her.

And Clint might have had an interesting take on Tony’s dilemma. Again, Clint wants his kids back, but Tony is risking his own child – they are messing with timelines and multiple realities. Again, can he sacrifice others for his own needs? Of course, not, he’s a hero, but he’s the most human of heroes, so we can certainly expect him to struggle a bit with it.

Posted in Review | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Avengers: Endgame – A Very Late Review