2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,600 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 60 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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What a Year! Musing on 2015 and what’s to come

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Well, as I write this there are only two days left in 2015.  It sure took a long time to get here.  Well, it took 363 days, but to me it seemed long.  The first four months dragged on the longest for me, being ‘out an about,’ but that was a good excuse to get back into blogging.

When you are away from home in an austere environment, it is easy to let it all get to you.  It is especially worse when you never really leave work, because you see the same people everywhere all day.  The best thing to do it to get into a routine.  My routine for those months was exercise, play video games and to blog about them.  I would pick a game that I was going to review, play it during the week, getting screenshots to use and write the blog Sunday evening.  I even bought new games online, sent them to my house and got my wife to send them to me.  I threw in a few books for variety and one personal post reflecting that I had this blog for 10 years. Sometimes I would think on what to post during the week as well.  This helped as a countdown until I go to return home, but it was more productive than marking the days on a calendar.  I even continued blogging after I returned, admittedly less often but I tried (and failed) for once a month,

So, this was a productive year for my blog.  In total, I posted 38 new posts this year, far surpassing the meager three I did in 2014.  Before this year, the most post per month I did was 15 in 2013, followed by 13 in 2006(!).  With the screenshot functions of the PS4 and PS Vita (and the Xbox One to a lesser extent) I can post pictures of the games I review which is awesome.  And I intend to keep this up in the new year.

Next year should offer a lot of things to review.  Movie-wise, we got Deadpool in February which looks to be fun.  March has the long-waited Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which looks promising, with the live-action team up of the iconic DC heroes., with Wonder Woman popping up to complete the Trinity.  Then we got Captain America: Civil War in May with Cap and Iron Man going head to head.  X-Men Apocalypse is looking good for June and we got a second DC movie in August, Suicide Squad, with Margot Robbie playing a crazy/hot Harley Quinn and Will Smith playing the “Freshest” Deadshot I have even seen.  With Doctor Strange and Gambit also coming out by years end.  2016 will be an interesting year for comic book movies.

Of course, there will be games.  Except for XCOM 2, there is not too much on my radar.  Street Fighter V looks to be a winner.  I’m sure there will be a few titles that will catch my eye as the year progresses, but I hope XSEED and NIS America port over some interesting games.  And I’m sure I’ll get the next Neptunia games(there even a Blanc-centric game, like Hyperdevotional Noire, coming out.)  And for the PS Vita, I have pre-order the Asia multi-language version (including English) of a certain volleyball/beach game similar featuring girls from a fighting game know for its advanced breast-jiggling simulation.

So 2016 should see this blog continue onto bigger, better things (if not bigger or better, there will certainly be something.)  To end 2015 on a high note this is the 100th post on this blog.  Thanks to anyone who bothers  to read this blog and my 15 followers (bots and all).  I would like to make a goal for next year:  at least 30 post by this time in 2016.  I’m sure I will come up with at least that many topics to post on.

 

Have a Happy New Year and see you all in 2016

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James, aka Xcalibar

PS4 Review: Fallout 4

Fallout 4_20151112205754.jpgFallout 4 is an Action Role playing game.  It is the fourth game in the main Fallout series (not including Fallout Tactics).  It was developed by Bethesda Game Studio and published by Bethesda Softworks.  It is available for the PC, PS4 and Xbox One.  This review is for the PS4 version.

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The Lone Survivor deals with the harsh realities of a post-nuclear world

Set in Boston in the same retro-future universe as the first previous Fallout, the game follows the Lone Survivor of Vault 111.  The game starts as you choose the sex and look of your character (My character was a female named Rebecca, and the Lone Survivor will be referred to as such) as you start the day on 31 Oct 2077.  After signing up for a  space in the  local vault, Vault 111, air raid sirens sound.  Rebecca, her spouse and their new born son, quickly make their  way to the vault where they get in just as the first nuclear bombs hit.  Once inside, they are checked out them but into cryogenic pod to sleep until it is safe to go back out.  Or so they are told.

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Combat can get bloodly

Rebecca is woken up an unknown time later to see two people trying to take her son.  Trapped in her pod, she can only watch as her husband is killed and her baby taken.  She is put back into cryosleep but wakes up 200 years after the bombs fell.  With the rest of the vault dwellers dead in their pods, she is the Lone Survivor of Vault 111,  She goes out into the remains of Boston, known as the Commonwealth to find her child and get revenge for her loss.

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Helping people like Preston and the Minutemen can give you allies in your new world

The game world is a large open world.  You can follow the main quest or wander and take many of the side quests.  You meet up with various factions such as the Minutemen, the defenders of the Commonwealth that have fallen on hard times, or the Brotherhood of Steel, a faction from the previous games.  You also encounter many different enemies, such as Fallout Staples like Feral ghouls, Deathclaws, Super mutants and human raiders.  New enemies factions pop up, too, such as the paramilitary group, the Gunners and androids called Synth, some who look completely human.  that work for the shadowy Institute.  The Institute figures heavily in the disappearance of the Lone Survivors son, so you will ben encountering their agents a lot.

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Feral Ghouls, especially glowing ones, can be a pain.
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Synths are a new threat

Like Fallout 3, you will also have companions to help you on the quest.  Some prefer you if you help out the citizens of the Commonwealth, like plucky reporter Piper, Synth private eye Valentine and Brotherhood of Steel Paladin Danse.  Some prefer if you cause trouble, like ex-Gunner MacCready, ghoul Hancock and pit fighter Cait.  Some are romanceable (by both sexes) which can get you special perks.  Of course, it wouldn’t be Fallout without your canine companion, Dogmeat!

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Piper is a reporter that doesn’t mind getting into trouble.
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Dogmeat!!!

Leveling up has changed from the last game.  One you get your initial stats, you get a point  for every level gained.  You can use it to increase your SPECIAL stats or use it to choose a perk (instead or choosing a perk every 5 levels or so)  Some perks can only be chosen if the corresponding SPECIAL stat is high enough.

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Romanceable characters give you a special perk.

The inventory is largely unchanged save for how clothing and armour are handled.  Armour is now worn over clothing, and there are separate parts for the chest, arms and legs.  The iconic power a..  Establishing settlements or armour is different too.  The armour runs on fusion cores  which you can find throughout the game.  The power armour consists of a frame to which you can customize with the parts of different models of power armour.  Each parts has its own hit points and when it is depleted, it is useless until repaired.  Luckily there are power armour repair stations available in most settlements.

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Not just the Brotherhood has power armour

There is also a bit of settlement management as you can help establish settlements to help increase the Minutemen’s ranks.  You can build houses, defenses, food sources and crafting tables.  By establishing settlements or recruiting established ones can you can summon Minutemen to help or even call in artillery for support.

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Ronnie helps you obtain blueprint for artillery.

Fallout 4 is one of those games that you can play for hours and still have lost to do.  There is no level cap and the game continues even after the main quest is done..  With interesting characters, various places to explore and a lot of enemies to fight, this game is sure to keep players busy, even without the addition content that is coming next year.

4.5/5

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Curie is a robot that you can recruit as a companion

 

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Help her out, and Curie becomes (almost) human

 

 

PS4 Review: WWE 2K16

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WWE 2K16

I’m not really into wrestling.  I can go years without watching it on TV.  When I do, it is usually to figure out who’s who in the latest wrestling game.. I enjoyed the PS3 versions of the WWE 2K series (and the SmackDown Vs Raw before that) for the create a wrestler features that allow me to create my own characters and fight.  I especially like creating my own Divas (WWE’s term for women wrestlers) and had many of them, from original ones to ones from other video games, movies, TV and music.  2k Games (who took over for THQ when they went bankrupt) brought the series to the PS4 last year with WWE 2k15, but without many of the features that it had in the last gen, including the ability to create female wrestlers.  That make many fans, including me, unhappy with the game.  This year, however, 2K has brought back some features that the fans demanded.

WWE 2k16 is a wrestling game based on the WWE wrestling promotion.  It is developed by YUKE’s Future Media Creators and Visual Concepts and published by 2K Sports.  It is the 17th game in the WWE game series (going back to WWF SmackDown! from 2000) and is the second for the Current console generation.  The game  is available for the PS4, Xbox One, PS3 and Xbox 360.  This review is for the PS4 version.

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Main Menu

The game, similar to the previous versions  has three game modes.  Play allows you to play any match type, from One on One, Tag Team, Triple Threat, Fatal Four Way, 6 Man, Handicap, Tournament and Royal Rumble.  All match types, save Royal Rumble are playable by wrestlers of either sex (though inter-gender matches, sadly, are still not allowed.)  Then there is MyCareer, where you create a (male) wrestler and play as he rises to become a WWE Superstar.  This year’s 2K Showcase features Stone Cold Steve Austin as you replay some of this most memorable matches and unlock challenges in Special Objective sub-mode.  Finally WWE Universe is back, as you can manage the different brands, add you won created wrestlers and play through a year of WWE shows, or ones that you create.

There are a lot of match options in the game.
There are a lot of match options in the game.
Creation Suite
Creation Suite

Yes, the creation suite is back and features the return of Create-a-Show and Create-An-Arena.  Using the logo manager, you can upload custom images to the WWE 2k servers and download them into your game.  You can use it to recreate your favorite wrestling promotion’s set up (such as WCW or TNA) or create your own (The Brazzers arena I downloaded had an interesting design that makes the floor seem REALLY sticky.)  You can also use custom images to create you own title.  You can even choose how Lillian Garcia announces your created title with up to 8 choices  You can also create tag team belts and choose what gender completes for them  Yes, women’s tag team belts are possible and you can have you custom Diva compete for it.

You can create you own champiuonships from Singles competition,,,
You can create you own championships from Singles competition,,,
...to Tag championship for either gender.
…to Tag championship for either gender.

Yes, the Create-a-Wrestler mode has corrected its omission and brought back custom Divas.  There is a variety of custom faces available, which is good because the face morphing tools is complicated  as ye adjust the shape of face parts by moving points around its shape.  You can also map a face form a picture though sometimes it looks off.  There is a variety of hair for each sex (more for males) though for the females, it is missing a few styles from the older games like high double ponytails.  The body shape slider is pretty straight forward, though the height scale is a mess as it doesn’t use feet and inches but a scale from 5.2 to 8.0. were 6.0 comes after 5.9.  and created divas, by default, are as tall as default created males.

You can choose a face template or adjst it manually
You can choose a face template or adjust it manually

As for the CAW clothing options, there is definitely more options than in WWE 2K15.  There are costume parts inspired by WWE performers in a separate tab and there is a  large selection of generic costume parts for both the head, torso and bottom.  There aren’t too many outlandish parts (though there are still halos and angel and demon wings, although smaller) and the sexes do not share parts, with the females not getting clothes like a karate gi and the males unable to wear female clothes,  Also there are no options for patterns, although you can upload a pattern as a logo an apply it to your character’s outfit, though results can be hit or miss.  The announcer name are now made of three parts, a nickname, first name and last name.  There is a large number of options and you can leave one or two blank if you wish.  You can also have one additional attire for your CAWs  Other than that, it is the same as last year.

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You can use uploaded logos on your CAWs
Or use WWE logos, shape or letters to get what you want.
Or use WWE logos, shape or letters to get what you want.

The Create-a-Moveset and Create-an-Entrance also return.  The Create-a-Moveset is the same as last year, with some moves having their name changed to something generic if a Superstar is no longer with the WWE.  There are only 16 “generic” move set templates, each given a name to reflect what past Superstar inspired it (Charisma Personified is definitely Jeff Hardy).  Unfortunately there are no generic Diva inspired templates (AJ’s would have been nice, but Lita’s and Trish Stratus’s are available via paid DLC).  The Create-an-Entrance again features both an Easy Creation (copy an existing Entrance, adjusting only the video and music) or Advanced (adjust actions on stage, on ramp, outside and inside the ring separately).  Unfortunately there are not many generic entrances and no joke ones like “guy on cell phone” or “Clumsy wrestlers.”  the one they do have are let overs from wrestlers that go pulled from the game, like AJ Lee and the Great Kahli.  and the worse is not custom music.  This is more of an oversight of the system hardware as both the PS4 and Xbox One do not allow you to save music on the system (though they even removed it from the PS3/Xbox 360 versions).  If there is a way around it, I hope they include it in the next game.

I so wanted Nanci Drew's entrance theme to be 'Dead Honey" by Die Mannequin
I so wanted Nanci Drew’s entrance theme to be ‘Dead Honey” by Die Mannequin

You can also upload and download CAWS, custom arena and logos from the WWE 2k16 servers.  But, like the last few versions, the service is really unstable sometimes with the server becoming unavailable.  2k is working on it but it is a bone of contention on the forums.  There is also a limit of 20 downloads every 24 hours and a maximum of 100 custom logos (including those on CAWs or arenas you have downloaded.

You can customize your own arena to play in.
You can customize your own arena to play in.

For those of you who care about the actual wrestlers, there are a lot.  The game post over 120 WWE superstars (not including DLC), but there is a catch to it.  There are some wrestlers that have different version of themselves as individual characters.  Besides wrestles like Mick Foley who had multiple personas (Dude Love, Cactus Jack and Mankind are all in the game, there are two Big shows (one as Paul Wright) two Chris Jerichos, two Kanes, two Mark Henrys (None of which is Sexual Chocolate) two Rocks, three Stings, three Undertakers, three Triple H (including him as Hunter Hearst Helmsley), and five(!) Steve Austins (including Stunning and Superstar versions, with hair!).

Universe mode can see rival form between wreslters
Universe mode can see rivalries form between wrestlers

When it does down to it, what makes a game is the gameplay and graphics.  The controls are almost the same as last year, with the pin kick out meter being different (hate it).  The graphic are nice, but looks the same as last year and there are a few glitches here and there.  Characters wearing long coast during entrances can have a glitch where the bottom of the coat gets stretch across the arena.  Sometimes the announcer messes up the names.  And, on occasion, when she wins, WWE Diva Paige turns invisible and you see an empty ring during the post-match celebration.  She doesn’t do that in real life.  At least, not the last time I checked (and I googled.).

Invisible Paige. She might be naked.
Invisible Paige. She might be naked.
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Lita (available through paid DLC) with a custom logo

Another thing that bothers me is with the custom logos.  While the uploading of the logos is great and a lot of folks are doing creative things, you have to upload the image and then download and it is available to everyone.  You cannot delete any images that you upload either.  I wish there was a custom logo move that you can create your own signs and/or be able to upload something that would only be downloadable by use and would disappear after 24 hours.  That way, if you wanted to create a logo that some might find objectionable that you wanted for you own person use, you could create it yourself offline in the game

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Tag Team match – Avril Lavigne and Candi Cane Versus the Bellas

WWE 2k16 is definitely better than the last game and is on the right track to improving even more.  While the creation suite is great, I still want to see modes like Create-a-Finisher and Create-an-Entrance movie return.  Custom story mode needs to make a comeback as well, as with being able to take game video and uploading them to You Tube and Twitch, I think a lot of folks would have a field day with it  Custom music would be nice, but between the hardware not allowing it (a step back) and the legality of being allowed to upload music (even though the game videos don’t include the Entrance music, even the WWE’s own!) I don’t see it happening.  I was ready to give up on this series after 2k15, but 2k16 roped me back in.  Fans from the THQ days and those who like the series up to 2k14 should check it out.

3.5/5

Helen Huntress and E.Z. Ryder
Helen Huntress and E.Z. Ryder
Candi Cane (from Rumble Roses)
Candi Cane (from Rumble Roses)

 

 

Review: “New” Nintendo 3DS XL- Hyrule Edition

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The Nintendo 3DS is the current line of portable video game consoles from Nintendo, following the Nintendo DS before it as well as the Game Boy family of handhelds.  Coming out in North America in 2011, it boasted a stereographic 3D system that was designed to made the graphic pop out.  I was an early adopter of the system and I was not too impressed with either the 3D or the available games.  In fact, In the 4 years I have had it, I only got 10 games, mostly getting AAA games  (Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS), remakes of older Nintendo games (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time) and niche Japanese games (Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers and two Senran Kagura games), not counting the 20 Virtual Console games I got as an early adopter thanks to the Ambassador Program.  Mostly, it was I was mainly using my PS Vita as my “To Go” console, taking it with me the last two times I was “out and about” in the world.

With the newer games, such as Smash Bros, I found myself playing my 3DS more, but wishing for a model with a bigger screen.  So, the “New” Nintendo 3DS XL (released in North America February 2015) is that, XL meaning that it is bigger and the “New” indicating upgrades to graphic and performance with addition features not found in the older version.

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“New” 3DS Xl next to original 3DS

The XL version is larger, no surprise there with the two screens being bigger as well.  The layout or the controls and buttons has some minor changes.  The D-Pad and thumb stick are still to the left of the bottom screen and the face buttons (A,B,X,Y) are still on the right, with the left and right bumper buttons on the top edge of the lower half.  The Home button is still bottom centre beneath the lower screen, but has an elongated oval shape.  The Start and Select buttons have moved and are now below the face buttons.  Additionally, the “New” 3DS has a C-Stick, a little nub at the top fight of the lower screen that can be used to move the camera in some games as well as two more buttons ZL and ZR at the top by the bumper buttons.  The C-Stick and Z buttons work like the ones on the Circle Pad Pro, an add on that was used for some games in with a second thumb stick would be useful.

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Both systems open

Since it has “3D” in its name, lets talk about the systems 3D system.  Like the older models, it still uses the stereographic 3D system (essentially, it show two copies of the same image, one on top of the other to create “3D”) with the new Super Stable 3D system that detect the angle you are looking  form and adjust the image.  Like the older system, it game make it seem like it is 3D, with the new system helping to keep the effect if you move your head.  It works okay, I guess, but I am not a fan of it.  I usually play with the 3D turned off.

Other changes are the placement of the cartridge slot and SD card slot.  The game slot has moved from the top of the low half, in the centre, to the bottom left of the lower side.  The slot for the SD card is no longer on the left side of the unit, nor does it use standard SD cards.  The slot is not underneath the casing of the bottom half, near the battery and requires a micro SD card, either standard or HC (High Capacity) versions.  The unit does come with a 4 GB micro SD card already in the unit, so you don’t have to go out and get one, unless you have a large card in you old 3DS and plan to transfer to the new one.

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Back compartment open to show micro SD slot

The Transfer process is pretty simple and the steps are laid out in the instruction manual that comes with the system.  Under System Settings-Other Settings, select System Transfer on page 4 on both systems and follow the instructions.  It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour so it is best if you plug both in.  You have the option of re-downloading any titles you have on you old SD card or transfer it to the new micro-SD card using a PC (a micro-SD adapter and a PC with a SD card reader is required.   While transferring you will be treated to animations of little pikimans moving you data. So if you plan to upgrade to a new one and you have stuff to transfer, buy the new system first and do the transfer.  If you reformat your old 3DS before transferring, you will lose all of your stuff.

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Size comparison between micro SD and regular SD.  Canadian Quarter is there for scale

Other than that, it is just like the regular 3DS.  The new is the same, with the newer firmware adding themes that can be downloaded form the Nintendo eShop (some are free.)  The eShop does require you to have a login which can be used on the Wii U as well. Most software is tied to the console downloaded on, unless System Transfer is used.  Spot and Street Pass works the same as does all the software that is preloaded in new consoles.

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The design on the Hyrule edition is based on The Legend of Zelda. Figma Link not included

The one I got was a  “Hyrule Edition”, featuring a Gold faceplate with the Tri-Force symbol from The Legend of Zelda series.  This special edition is only available at EB Games in Canada (Gamespot in the United States) and cost an extra $25 than the regular “New” 3DS XL model.  It was on sale during the run up to Christmas and again, at least in Canada, during EB Games Boxing Day sale, in which you save $30.

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Themes like this Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask are available to purchase

The “New” Nintendo 3DS is a great system and has definitely gotten me to play more of my 3DS games.  The 3D is better, but still not my thing but the bigger screens are great, especially when playing Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS (that the games official title!).  I wish there was a screenshot option of this system as I’d would do more review on 3DS games.  Some games do allow you to take pictures and save them to the micro-SD cards, but there is no way to transfer them to you PC wirelessly.  While I do still prefer the PS Vita in that regard, games for that system are becoming few and far between.  The Nintendo 3DS library has a few gems that are not Pokemon or other “capture the monster and fight ’em’ type of games.  With old favorite getting remake  and new games, both first and third party that are not too kiddish (though I do enjoy the new Skylanders game) I may add a lot more games to my library.  And I might have to bring my 3DS along the next time work takes me abroad.

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While there is no system Screenshot feature, games like Super Smash Bros lets you pause the games and save pictures to you SD card

 

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While Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson have a photo mode to take picture of the characters in various outfit.  Nice clean photos…
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Yeah, not dirty at all…

 

 

Review: Fantastic Four (2015)

Screen-Shot-2015-08-07-at-3_26_36-AM.pngI have always thought that the Fantastic Four comic would be the worst comic to adapt into a live action movie. The whole set up was hokey even in the 1960’s: A brilliant scientist, his best friend, the scientist’s love interest and her younger brother launch in to space to observe a rare cosmic phenomena only to be bombarded with cosmic rays and gain unique super powers. They would then form a team (because why not?) to defend the Earth from threats terrestrial, sub-terrestrial, extra-dimensional and from out of this world. And their names ranged from classic (The Human Torch was based on a older character) to simple (Invisible Girl/Woman and Thing are pretty spot on) to downright arrogant (Who calls themselves Mr. Fantastic? He must be a monster between the sheets or Sue would’ve took him down a peg.) Despite this, they are an important part of Marvel’s history so naturally they would try to make a movie . They have done so: One was never released and only exists in bootleg copies and another had faults, but did well enough to spawn a sequel, which did its best considering the main threat was a purple-helmeted planet eating giant, at least in the comics but a Galactus-shaped cloud in the movie. But, in order to withhold the movie right from Marvel’s parent company, Disney, 20th Century Fox release a new Fantastic Four, directed by Josh Trank. Would this finally get this storied comic book franchise right.

Short answer, no. Long answer, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

The movie follows Reed Richards and Ben Grim in, what I guess, was their senior year in high school (while the actors look way past their teens) So, the set up is similar to the Ultimate Universe version (if you don’t know what that is, don’t worry. Marvel crapped that away years ago.) Reed’s science project, a interdimensional gate (how is he still in a public school if he is building interdimensional rifts?) gets the notice of Dr Franklin Storm, a scientist who runs an organization that is trying to build a similar device. Reed meets Dr. Storm’s son, Johnny, his adopted daughter Susan and a certain Victor Von Doom, who was working on the institute’s version of the portal. . When the government threaten to take over the project, Reed calls Ben and, along with Victor and Johnny, travel to the place they call Planet Zero. While there, the planet erupts violently, seemingly killing Doom and bombing the other s with radiation. Susan, is in the control room when they teleport back, getting caught in the explosion that follows and getting doused in the same “cosmic rays.” Of course they each develop powers, Reed can stretch, Johnny can emit flames and fly, Sue can turn invisible and has telekinesis and Ben is a super strong rock guy with no genitals. Some are thrilled, some are not (you’d be too if you were rendered a eunuch) and the government wants to you them to rebuild the portal and go back. But someone is waiting for them.

I had a hard time watching this movie. The acting is bad. Not horrible, but you never start to like any of them.. Kate Mara is the worse, with her dead-eye performance making me yearn for Jessica Alba in the role ( and Jessica had more charisma). The rest, well I didn’t feel it. The making them teens make sense, not casting actors in their thirties to plan them was not. Well, most were late twenties but they did not look the part. And, what they did to poor Ben! Was giving him CGI shorts too much for their budget? Or go the Watchman route and have Ben hang out in all his rocky glory? With a name like the Thing, there has always been jokes and speculation about the Thing’s…thing, but to castrate him like this is horrible.

My biggest gripe, however is that they failed to get Doctor Doom right. No movie so far has given us an authentic Doom (Rise of the Silver Surfer came closest, but still fell short.) A little Fantastic Four 101: Doom was not around for the space mission that gave the team their powers. He had no power, save those for his technology (he a bit of a mad scientist) and magic (he’s a double threat!). He was as smart as Reed, but his ego usually gets the better of them (and this against a guy who calls himself “Mister Fantastic!”) His connection to the team was that he knew reed in College and he blames him for an accident that gave him a scar! Surely with that origin, some screen writer could give us a Doom that is a plausible threat, one that would rival Darth Vader in sheer bad assness (and the scene in Empire Strikes Back, where the heroes meet Darth in a banquet hall? Doctor Doom did it first.)

This movie fails as a super hero movie., It fails as a science fiction movie about four friends mutated by cosmic forces. I would not be surprised if Fox shoveled out this movie just to keep the rights to the franchise   While they’ve been doing good with the X-Men franchise as of late, this new version of the FF does not work. They are still threatening a part 2, though fans are hoping they will reach a agreement with Marvel/Disney similar to the one reached with Sony over Spider-Man. They won’t. Fox can be dicks sometimes. Look how long it took the ’60s Batman TV series to be released on DVD. With Marvel disbanding the Fantastic Four in the comics and the movie director disowning the film, 2015 has been a lousy year foe Marvel’s oldest superhero team.  If you want to see the Fantastic Four done right, watch the Incredibles. Or if you have to have Johhny, Ben, Sue and Reed, watch some of the cartoons, preferably the “90 version, not the one with H.E.R.B.I.E  (Not the Love Bug, though they are now owned by the same company…) Even the movies with Chris Evens and Jessica Alba are better (they do have a charm to them,). Don’t watch this one, you will just be sad.

 

1/5

Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Star Wars The Force Awakens

Star Wars fans have had a rough go for the past 15 years. The Prequel Trilogy was over all a disappointment to the fans. The Phantom Menace put many off Star Wars with the whiny kid Anakin, trade blockades, Jar Jar Binks and Darth Maul, a villain that seemed so bad assed and poised to be the face of evil for the films, barely gets used and dies at the end of the movie. The next two movies were better, but fell short of redeeming the series. It would take a CGI animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars (not to be confused with the Clone Wars mini cartoons that aired in the years between Eps 2 and 3) to get Star Wars back on track and make us like the Force again. They even tried to make Jar Jar likable but they are not miracle workers. The Clone Wars make Star Wars cool to a new generation. But there was a disturbance in that Force when Disney bought Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise. A million voices cried out when they cancelled Clone Wars. They started a new cartoon, Star Wars: Rebels, which some see as inferior to The Clone Wars (they’re wrong, by the way. It gets good.) And they announced a new movie, the first live action Star Wars film in over 10 Years, continuing the story from after Return of the Jedi. 30 years of stories, from novels to video games to comic books are suddenly non-canon to give the writers a blank slate to craft the next saga of the Star Wars universe.

Of course with a movie like this, built up in the minds of fans for over 30 years. Much like the Prequel Trilogy, the new trilogy will have a hard time meeting the fans expectations. The post-Jedi novels had Han and Leia marry and have three kids. A New Republic takes over in place of the Empire. Imperial factions consolidate in the outer reaches of their territory. Dark Jedi emerge from hiding in the Outer Rim. Finally Luke Skywalker establishes a new Jedi Temple and begins to train the next generation of Jedi alongside his wife, Mara Jade, and son. All of this, and much, much more, have been cast aside as the new movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, establishes a new history for the Republic and the Empire.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is Episode 7 of the Star Wars series and the first of a new Trilogy, set thirty years after the events of Episode 6: Return of the Jedi. The movie mostly follows the story of two characters; Finn (John Boyega), a storm trooper in the First Order (the reformed Empire) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) a human female living as a scavenger on the war scarred planet of Jakku. When Finn starts to question the methods of the First Order he decides to escape. Freeing a Resistance pilot who was captured on Jakku, Poe Dameron, they set out to escape the Star Destoyer. Instead of leaving the star system, Poe intended to return to Jakku to pick up his droid, BB-8, who holds a partial map to the location of Luke Skywalker, which the First Orderand one of its generals, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) seek. They escape, but crash land on Jakku and Finn is separated from Poe. Meanwhile, Rey rescued the BB-8 Droid form a scavenger and allows it to follow her to the nearest town to await its master’s return. When Finn reaches the same town, he see Rey being attacked by the local thugs and moves in to help. Rey defeats the attackers on her own and chases Finn down as BB-8 identified the jacket he is wearing and belonging to its master. Finn lies and says that he is Resistance and agrees to help Rey return the BB-8 to the Resistance. With the First Order hot on their trail, they quickly look for a spaceship to escape in. Settling on a abandoned Corellian YT-1300 light space freighter (look it up,) they took out several Tie Fighters and escaped into hyperspace. Fortunately for them, the ship’s old owner was looking for that ship…

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Rey, Finn and BB-8 run as the First Order close in.

The movie continues on re-introducing the viewers to key concepts like the Jedi, the Republic and the Empire. Familiar faces from the original trilogy pop up, too. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know that our heroes encounter Han Solo and Chewbacca. You also see Leia Organa, now called General, as she leads the Resistance against the Frist Order. Kylo Ren is also given screen time as you learn his motivation for finding Luke and why he reveres Darth Vader so much. You also get to glimpse the real power behind the First Order, the Supreme Leader Snoke, a scarred alien of unknown origin who leads the First Order and the Knights of Ren. Much like with the Emperor, we do not see much of him, but he has a larger role in this film than the Emperor had in his first appearance, The Empire Strikes Back. And, of course, you see one of the main characters begin the journey to becoming a Jedi that will play out over the new few films.

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Kylo Ren fills in the position left vacant by Darth Vader: Resident Bad Ass

 

I really liked the movie. I do not want to post spoilers or anything, but I felt that Finn and Rey are likable characters that can carry the new trilogy. Kylo Ren and the First Order are great antagonist and seem far more competent and fanatical than the Empire was. Kylo is a menacing enough villain for the movie, but he is much less so menacing and a bit more whiny when the helmet comes off (maybe it’s genetic?). He is more emotional when disappointed than Darth Vader ever was, but he is a lot less homicidal than Vader, thrashing a console rather than killing the lackey who brought him the bad news. Like all the new blood in this series, he has time to develop into a more menacing character, as Rey and Finn become more competent heroes.

I can truthfully say that I am not disappointed with this film. It is a great Star Wars film. Star Wars fans who can let go of their hate and the Expanded Universe continuity will enjoy this return to a galaxy far, far away. J.J Abrams did a great job capturing the spirit of the original trilogy and moving the series forward. Truthfully I had concerns over his involvement in this film (and not just because of his overuse of lens flare), with his Star Trek reboot, while pretty good, had some (what I consider) chronological and logical errors that detracted from my enjoyment (asked me about my nu-Star Trek/Muppet Babies argument, in which I compare Kirk and Chekov to Baby Kermit and tadpole nephew Robin. And, honestly, I am not a Trekkie). With the new Star Wars Trilogy being a continuation rather than a reboot, there shouldn’t be any rewrites to already established (i.e. in the movies) continuity. And best of all, there is no Jar Jar Binks, and that should be enough to get Star Wars fans excited again.

 

5/5. Because I like Star Wars.