29.9.15

IHAO on ... Twitch streaming and Super Mario Maker

I cannot in my life think of a game I have wanted more than Super Mario Maker.  There are games I have wanted a lot.  There are games I have paid a lot of money for.  Tabletop RPG games that I need for my collection.  Old school games for the systems I have that I love and refuse to get rid of.  Rare and hard to find board games.  But with all of those games, Super Mario Maker is the only game that has had me obsessing about owning it.  Marveling at the menu system in videos I am watching.  Yes, the menu system!  Have you seen it?  It is glorious.  Part youtube, part tumblr, part reddit, part Netflix.  It is absolutely perfect.  And it is a stupid menu.  With the best music!



I have found so many creators and youtubers and twitch-streamers that are putting out content just for me.  For idiots like me who are drooling over the ability to make your own levels, to play level others have made, homages to old games of the past, new crazy stupid levels like Panga's Pit.  Watch that video if you want to see the most dangerous and ridiculous level of Mario ever made.

I cannot wait to have this game.  Really, I can't.  I'm becoming increasingly annoying about it with my wife, which is really stupid of me, considering all the other things we have to buy and get ready for a big move to our first home in just over a month.  But I cannot help it.  Every single element of this game was made perfectly and specifically for me, and millions of other people are playing MY GAME before I get the chance.  I am scouring the internet to absorb as much as I can on youtube and twitch.  GameXplains, GhostRobo Jr, so many other guys that aren't good enough to mention by name, they all have me chomping at the "chain" as it were to own this game.

The joy I am getting from Super Mario Maker, just as a viewer and a dreamer, is out-shined by my love of Ptken.  Who is Ptken?  He is utter magic, and you need to watch him.  You need to sit in your living room with this man from across the globe and enjoy his tirades and laugh and wonderfully off-key and ridiculous greetings.  "HUH-llo!"  Honestly, of all the guys that I have watched since needing to cram my head full of this game I just do not have the money to own, Ptken is the absolute best.

I have watched him spend 40 lives on one lives on one level, and loved every second.  Yes, the level is crazy, but even better is Ptken's amazing commentary.  "I can do it-uh!" *dies* "...maybe."  I do not speak a lick of Mandarin, but I am promised that "[I] can speak English here."  And Ptken knows just enough curse words and phrases to make watching amazing.  As I watched, more and more people started to follow him, and he always answered with a wonderful "Sank you follow!" to every single one.  Watching him finally overcome that amazing level was glorious.  I didn't need to understand a lick of his language, and together we all enjoyed life and watched him succeed so he could finally stuff his face with food, as he was apparently starving himself until he beat that level.

Next is a level with a school theme, and a section has him listening to a made-in-game song.  He shushes everyone around, and we all listen to this awful song that a wandering goomba plays.  And once it finishes, there is a moment of silence, before a, "HUH?!?"  And then he dies.  And we have to do it again.  It is so amazingly enjoyable.  The level is utter insanity, and not because it is made by some Japanese fella and he is from Taiwan.  It is just insane, and all Ptken can say is what I say, "HUH?!"


A later level has everyone pissed and confused for Ptken that are watching as he is beset by troll-ish trap after troll-ish trap.  A helpful English speaker points that out to Ptken, who takes a moment and responds, in English, "I know ... but ... I finish it anyway."  And he finds a way to succeed through one stupid trap, only to be stuck with another one.  But he doesn't give up.  Just a string of "this is $#!+" and he continues.  And he does it.  And it is glorious.  I know it isn't anything any other streamer hasn't done, but something about Ptken makes it magical.  I feel his pain.  His genuine pain and genuine outrage.  But then he succeeds, with a resounding "Fah Que!"

The amazing commentary continues in later levels.  Throwing a shell into a chain chomp with a "hay-shotted!" had me cheering and laughing!  His "fah queues" and "sank you, Follows" and "lemme try" and "here we go" and "okay, dis wah E-Z" and singing and mroe "fah queues" ... He isn't an amazing player by any means ... ok I lied, he is.  That level I linked to above?  He's one of the like ... people who has beaten it.  Yeah.  He spends his time and beats his levels and enjoys the game.  He is an amazing streamer.  And man.  If I had to wager a guess.

Hours I am spending watching him play.  It is the absolutely best.  Great moments of joy.  Great pits of despair.  "Woo-hoo"-ing along with an Ashley skinned Mario in one level.  Squatting and dicking around to the music as he waits for stupid bloopers to go away.  Plenty of "Whuh duh HAIL?!"s and "Sank you, Follow!"s.  Everyone in the chat, cheering him on and spamming "EZ!" when he beats a level, no matter how long it takes.  We have to demoralize the level as a sacrifice to Ptken!  And to a game that I cry at night because I do not own.


Yet.

27.9.15

FUTURE!!!!



Well golly, everyone.  It has been a bit.

I never wanted to abandon IHAO.  I love the name, I have put a lot of effort into the blog, and I love what I've done.  But for awhile, it became a huge chore to find things I wanted to talk about.  Reviews are good.  Requests are good.  But I wanted to do more.  And every time I tried something new, I was thrilled.  I love doing the Q&As, especially the really good, thinky questions.  I love sharing things and talking about them, like Sentai and the playlists.  I love writing new ideas and thinking critically, like with some of the wrestling articles and the new ending to Alien I wrote.  And I want to do that more.

So here's the deal.  I Have an Opinion is going to evolve.  I will be writing as I am inspired.  And what inspires me?  Sometimes it'll be a review for a movie I've watched.  Sometimes it'll be a playlist that I came upon for fun.  But mostly, I want to turn to everyone that reads this.  I love answering your questions and thinking deeply.  So I want to do that more.

So here's the deal.  Leave comments.  Here, on facebook, wherever you can.  And I will whenever I see one I want to write about, answer the question.  What kinds of questions?  Things you want to know my opinions on.  Entertainment of all kinds.  And I'm happy to move into the next level of doing I Have an Opinion.  If things go well, who knows.  Patreon, a podcast, there are a lot of options for the future.  I know for a fact that I will be doing NaNoWriMo, and probably sharing that here.  So that'll be cool.

So yeah... see you in the future.

~Jessel

22.4.15

Where has IHAO been?

Well goodness, hello everyone.  It has been quite awhile since ... Goodness, the end of January.  I had so many big things planned, like a Mordecai review, a love song playlist, Wrestlemania review, getting a Patreon started, Oscar reactions, and a bunch of other things.  So where have I been?  Lemme tell ya ...

Dee-di-loo, dee-di-loo, dee-di-loo ...

Imagine if you will a small town in Georgia.  Ok, it isn't that small, as the Atlanta Olympics so many years ago brought in a huge amount of traffic and tourism, which is silly that there is still such a large amount of that.  We are basically a suburb of Atlanta, though with a 45 minute travel time to the big city, so I suppose we ... aren't.  Anyway.

In my little not-so-little town, there is a local theatre.  A community theatre.  One in which I am pretty active.  I've acted in a handful of shows, about one a season, and for the past three years I've also directed a show each year.  On top of that, we have an in-house comedy improv group that performed almost-monthly and rehearses weekly.  I also teach an improv comedy class for youths, which is cool, and something I've been looking into expanding.  Anyway, I did all of that pretty normally without much disruption to IHAO.  Really, I had gotten into a pretty good groove.  A friend and I reconnected and started doing weekly films, which only helped the site and our friendship, which is cool (friendship isn't an easy thing for me, for whatever reason ... I'll talk about that some time, too, since I'm blogging for whatever stupid reason right now).  I'm also a house-husband, which is the best thing about my life, really, since my wife is so flippin' successful in her field (she's a clinical therapist).  I'm not a great house-husband, but I like to clean for the most part and I like to cook a whole heap, so it works pretty well.  Normally.

All in all, busy, but not overly so.  Though it got cranked up starting in January.  First came 12 Angry Men.  I suspect you know the story: a group of twelve jurors have to decide the guilt or innocence of a young boy convicted of murdering his father.  I played Juror #7, the guy who just wants out.  It was a nice experience, with a good group of actors.  And I was able to really do something with my character, really think about what was driving him, really push myself and the audience.  It is not a thing I normally get to do as an actor, being a fat guy that tends towards self-deprecation and humor as a defense mechanism.  It was a real good experience, and by itself would not have been much more difficult than what I was already doing.

At the same time, and before, and after, I was directing American Buffalo, the next show in that space at the theatre.  It is an amazing show, and we are currently halfway through the run, which is why I can finally breathe again.  The show has had some barriers and difficulties, like losing time because of losing an actor, and having to rehearse basically every night of the week every week until we opened last Thursday.  But golly, is it a great show.  Of the three shows I've directed, two of them have been able to capture my vision, which is awesome, and puts me above the curve.

Between 6 hours rehearsals, running around doing prep before hand, set building, costume finding, publicity concerns, and a million other things, we also had our improv group.  My favorite misconception of improv means that there is no prep.  That's just crazy.  Improv is not the same as a play, certainly.  Improv is much more like a sport, as my roommates and I have been postulating, which requires practice, running through techniques that make the show better, and improving those improv-ing muscles.  Of course, it couldn't just be that though, as we had some shake-ups at the theatre of the local power structure.  Resign-ings, promotions, quitiing, money-issues, publicity problems, all sorts of things.

I also should point out that all this work is unpaid.  That doesn't make a difference mind you, but it does take its toll.  When I'm rehearsing, I'm not cooking, which means we are spending money eating out.  Also, because of time crunches, we are eating worse because we have to eat fast.  Add to this above cocktail of scheduling, stress, and hardwork: depression, ADHD, insomnia, and the small amount of free-time activites I try to have in roleplaying games and board gaming, loneliness, food poisoning, sinuses from the changing seasons ... Well, I spiraled.

In this metaphorical gif, I get to be Emma Stone.  So ... you know ... that's a plus.

It has been a long almost three months, is what I'm saying.

What does all this mean for IHAO, which was finally starting to get on a roll?  I don't know.  But I felt like I really needed to share SOMETHING.  I'm the kind of guy who needs to talk out his feelings to stop ... feeling them.  Well, stop holding on to them.  And that's what I'm doing.

Once things start to get more constant, IHAO will as well, I'm sure.  And I have some other cool stuff lined up soon, plus all the neato summer movies coming.  So, see you folks soon.  More than likely.

~Jessel

30.1.15

IHAO on ... Galavant season 1



ABC has been doing a pretty cool thing.  You see, television is changing as a medium to broadcast entertainment.  With Netflix and the increase in DVD sales, but mostly Netflix, television channels need to produce content not only more often, but more efficiently to keep the audience tuning in.  But there has been no way to improve the actual amount of time it takes to make an episode of a television show: roughly 7 days for a complicated 30 minute show and 9 or 10 days for an hour-long show.  Yeah, look at those numbers.  Simple math let's you know that they have to start airing things before they are done filming an entire season.  On top of that, human decency means that there are times when those actors, grips, props guys, producers and the like all get time off, like Christmas.  Add in scheduling conflicts and random accidents, making a television show becomes a much larger endeavor.

So, like I said, ABC has been doing a pretty cool thing.  They have been creating short-run shows, with smaller episode orders, to fill in the gaps of broadcasting when their regular shows have to take the breaks in broadcasting that are inevitable.  Agent Carter is the post-WW2 super-spy Marvel show that filled the gap of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  But considering I just cannot get into Agents of SHIELD, I also didn't really give Agent Carter much of a thought.  But I have heard good things.  Wait, I'm getting off track.

So, as I've said a few times before, ABC has been doing that pretty cool thing.  And even cooler, their big show Once Upon a Time had to take a break, so they brought together a super talented group of people to make a short 8-episode musical comedy miniseries show, Galavant!  Hit the music!

See what I did there?

Galavant is a musical, made by everyone involved that made Disney's Tangled, except it is a tongue-in-cheek live action comedy.  It is ... pretty good.  Good enough that I wanted to talk about it with all of you folks.  The characters are all interesting, the performances are all fun, the sets are amazing, the costuming mostly great, and the story is classic.  It is one of my favorite things to talk about, actually, when it comes to how "silliness" affects narrative.  There are a few ways to do it.  There's to have a silly premise and then treat everything as seriously as you can, despite the silly, which I have really loved in One Piece.  Then there's having a serious premise, which then some silly things can happen but you stay true to your goals, which is how I like to run roleplaying games.  Then there's Galavant, which takes the piss right on the whole binary concept I just made up and goes straight down the middle.  The characters are all thought out and serious, except thy are ridiculous and silly.  The plot is a great fantasy plot, except some of the details are just ridiculous.  The musical nature of the show leads to comedic songs all the way through and meta-jokes, like asking when someone learned how to dance after a number, but then there's other moments of just straight drama.

Galavant is not going to be for everyone, mostly because it doesn't do one things straight through.  It enjoys every element it can have.  Serious songs, silly songs, important character beats, ridiculous ones, they are all mixed in.  And with that mixed bag, I would absolutely call Galavant a mixed bag.  I enjoyed quite a bit of it, and then I found myself going "meh" for bits of it.  Especially some of the songs, as they tend to always shoot for joke songs, and I really would like there to be a non-joke song every once in awhile so that I could just hear these good actors sing.

So why should you be excited for it?  Because it is a cool new way of thinking about television!  It is higher quality programming with a smaller episode order that is used as a win-win between bigger shows, but in fact is way better than the bigger show that surrounds it.  Once Upon a Time looks fake and CGI-y all the time, and the acting is so ponderous and heavy that it gets bogged down.  Galavant is able to do most of the same tropes, with better sets and costumes AND actors, with an amazing team, but it is a quarter of the length, so you can enjoy it and be done with it.  On top of that, the season finale absolutely shows that ABC is planning to give its audience even more, which is only a good thing in my book.

I would say give it a shot.  At 30 minutes and episode, and only 8 episodes, even if you don't care for a small part of it, it'll be over quickly, and you can move on to great other things.  Me, I'm excited.  Rutger Hauer, Vinnie Jones, that guy from Frankenstein's Army, two hot chicks, Magnitude, and the only good thing from Psych, all working together to make something with the guys who made Tangled, the last Disney musical.

Grade:B+

29.1.15

IHAO on ... The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

I have not been watching enough movies recently.  Part of that is because I'm acting in a play for the first time in a few years.  Part of it is because I'm also directing a play.  Part of it is because of watching animes like Fate/Zero and One Piece.  Part of it is depression and insomnia, the cocktail I'll never be rid of.  But MOSTLY it is because I've been playing The Binding of Isaac.

LOOK AT THIS AND TELL MY YOU DON'T WANT TO GIVE THIS A CHANCE, I DARE YOU!

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is an updated version of the original Binding of Isaac.  It is a Rogue-like birds-eye dungeon crawling adventure game.  Or ... let me try it like this.  It is like those SNES and Gameboy Legend of Zelda games, if it was just dungeons, and the dungeons were randomly created every time you played, with 100x the items, secrets, specials, and other stuff.  It has a bunch of hidden characters, a branching final dungeon system, and is just ... phenomenal.

How phenomenal?  Here, let me explain it like this.  I bought the game a little before Christmas, on the day it came out.  I put 300 hours into it, then had a huge bug problem that erased every ounce of gameplay I had.  So I started over, and am now farther than I was in half the time.  The game has a bit of chance, but is mostly a skilled video game.  It is a solo experience, but it creates stories to share with friends that play the game.  It has insane secrets that make for huge accomplishments when you do find and unlock them.  And better than all that, it is fun.  You are a poor naked kid, shooting his tears at all the monstrosities in his basement as he climbs deeper and deeper into his Alice in Wonderland on an acid trip hell, fighting flesh bags, sentient poops, ghosts, skeletons, and carries around the remains of his beloved pets and stuff he found in his crazy mother's purse as she tries to kill him because God told her to!

The game does have a major problem, though.  And that is the bug I mentioned above.  The game was plagued by bugs and huge glitches for the first month it was out.  It's why I haven't talked about it until now.  Because those bugs and glitches were a HUGE problem.  But enough time has passed that they are all fixed, and I absolutely feel I can recommend the game now!

It has easily become one of my favorite games, and with a really good run only taking around 25 minutes, it is a great time waster and brain-rester, which is a thing a depressed, ADHD, insomnia like myself needs.  I swear, I play a little between each article or each chore, just to keep my brain working and focused.  I cannot recommend the game enough.  Go buy it on Steam right now, it is only $15 bucks, and considering I've put 454 hours into it, that means it is absolutely worth the price.

28.1.15

IHAO on ... LootCrate and MeUndies (and other subscription services)

I really enjoy shopping.  Shopping for others, weighing options and watching sales for me, looking for deals, looking about stores ready to find a hard to find item.  In college, my friends and I were all super close to an enormous flea market and we basically went at least once a month, if not every weekend.  My amazon wishlist is ridiculously long, and I maintain it and prioritize it and everything.  I just love that stuff.  Why did I say all that?  I needed a segue paragraph to get into what I actually wanted to talk about ... which you already saw as the title of the article ... which means I kind of just wasted time ... *ahem*



LootCrate is awesome.  My wonderful wife got me a subscription for Christmas, and the january box just came in.  If you are unaware, the idea behind Lootcrate is you subscribe to their service, and each month they put together a "goodie bag" of nerdy stuff and send it to your door.  Every month has a different theme, but they always try to deliver an awesome box.  The Christmas box I actually ended up divvying up as gifts to other people, but the January box blew me away.  A cool t-shirt, a super cool tie, some sunglasses, a weird little Dr. Mario/Dr. Who/toy mash-up thing, a comic book, a notebook thing, it was just filled with great stuff.  On top of that, the presentation itself is amazing.  The box can be folded inside out to have an awesome grey and orange (my favorite colors!) old school NES for your little toy to play on.  I have him sitting up on top of bookshelf, gun in hand, presiding over the living room like a video game sheriff.

What do you mean this is an excuse to show off other stuff I collect, like rare Labyrinth books and Ravenloft stuff?  :D

I am a big fan of LootCrate.  But more than LootCrate itself, I am enamored with the subscription model of buying stuff that is popping up.  NatureBox is a heathy snack site I've been looking into for awhile now that does subscriptions of good snacks.  They have a huge variety, you pick what you like, and they send it.  But unlike LootCrate, you can also micromanage your order.  Didn't like that Pineapple Cashew Curry something or other?  Then you can for next month get something different from their frankly enormous menu.

I also just got my first order from MeUndies.  I have only made one New Years resolution that ever lasted, and that was to never wear boring socks again.  I love colorful fun socks.  Well, MeUndies has awesome socks, ON SUBSCRIPTION!  So I bought my first pair, then signed up for subscription, where you get one unique pair a month.  But even better than NatureBox and LootCrate, if you don't like the socks for the month, just say "skip it" and it doesn't cancel your subscription, you just skip that month!  EVEN BETTER, they sent me a free snapback and a letter thanking me for joining and being part of their "family."  Yeah, it is marketing, but it is totally marketing that worked for me.  My wife and I decided to try the underwear as well on subscription, and they are fabulous as well.  The quality is amazing.

Even better than all that, if you guys want it cheaper, I can do that too!  MeUndies has made life even easier and I can get you a big ole 20% off!  Let me know and I'll hook you up, cuz!

I'm super excited about this model.  I love the ones I'm involved in, and want to look into more.  These kinds of subscription services are great for companies, and even better for us as consumers.  Take a look, and if you want cool socks and underwear, I'll give you that hook up!

27.1.15

IHAO on ... Horns



Joe Hill is a writer I've enjoyed for quite awhile.  Locke and Key is a comic book I could not put down and loved getting until my local comic shop screwed up my order and got me behind and missing pieces.  I'll eventually fix it.  In the back of one such comic of Locke and Key, Joe Hill put a few chapters of his book "Horns."  It was awesome.  I've been excited about it for a long time.  Then I found out about the film version, and I got more excited!  And I finally got it on blu ray after it never came around my town for a cinema release, and ...

Street Sharks drum roll ...

It is fantastic!  It is super super duper good.  With a few minor problems objectively and one really really petty subjective problem, it is absolutely a great film, and probably would have made my list of Best movies of 2014 if I had been able to see it then.  Luckily, is a frontrunner for this year instead!

Horns is a fantasy thriller about a depressed and downtrodden Ig, a young man who is seemingly wrongly charged with the murder of his long-time girlfriend.  The entire town hates him, telling him to go to hell.  Also, he wakes up with horns growing out of his head.  And things just start going weirder, a little darker, a little funnier, and a lot more thrillingly.

Horns revels in its characters, its actors, and its story.  It is an emotionally powerful narrative with awesome actors like Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple, and a truly edge of your seat mystery, all brought to a fever pitch because of all the imagery and actual demonic powers happening.  The film has a very familiar narrative format, probably because Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King and the two of them have an incredible way of stringing a narrative together.  Better than all of that, Alexander Aja, the director, does an amazing job with really pushing what a film can do.  He uses amazing visuals, awesome camera work, and breakneck pacing to crank this film to 11.  I mean, truly amazing visuals.  The makeup work is just phenomenal.  Probably the best makeup work I've seen in a film in years.

The film is mostly flawless.  There are very few female characters, and most of them we only hear their dark and dirty secrets which wouldn't paint any character favorably, and in fact it doesn't beyond a small handful.  And the treatment of its lead female for the purpose of plot could possibly really hurt some folks who are sensitive to women being "fridged."  I understand the problem, but don't personally think it hurts things in this film.  Much like the Bechdel test, women being fridged is not a quality problem, but a litmus test that shows a larger problem in writing.  There are stories that need to be told and can be told when unfortunate things happen to people, and love and revenge and murder are all thrilling story components.  But I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fridging.  Also, I'm being purposefully obtuse about that wording just in case it is a little too spoilery for some.
This was the best fridge gif I could find.  Also, link here for learning more about women in fridges.

The other objective problem is that there are CGI snakes, and sometimes, the layering is pretty lazy.  Like, they are clearly fake snakes.  And ... yup, that's it.  That's all the negatives I have from a filmmaking perspective.  And they are completely negligable, in my opinion, because of the ride and performances this film gives us.  The film is a DEEP film, with lots to sift through and a whole lot of amazing shots, effects, and symbolism, but none of it so in your face to ruin the experience.

I have one incredibly lame subjective problem that is not a problem, but I figured I'd share it: this film has a real pulpy feel to it.  It is a dark, thrilling fantasy murder mystery.  And there is some awesome nudity and emotional stuff (that is not a phrase I thought I'd write, huh) as well as satire and comic stuff as well as action, just ... so so much great stuff.  And ... the emotional stuff didn't quite get me.  I've become a softy, and the film didn't make me cry.  Yeah, my only other negative is that this awesome movie didn't make me cry.  Shut up, me.

Grade: A++

26.1.15

IHAO on ... the Royal Rumble 2015



I ... I ... I am at a loss for words.  My emotions are ...


Ok, let me first talk about the party we had.  9 people, plus my wife and I, came together to party for the Rumble.  It is my favorite PPV of the year, and we have a small betting pool we do where we all draft numbers and then we earn money based on the winner, the most eliminations, and the "Bushwacker" or lasted the shortest amount of time award.  We all had snacks and we all had a good time as a party.  The best part was having new watchers come, as well as my dad, who was a hit with everyone because he is funny.

What about the PPV?  How were the matches?  They were all pretty much crap, with an even crappier Rumble with an even CRAPPIER ultimate decision.  And there was a pretty enjoyable Championship match.  Let's ... ugh, let's dig into each of these pretty quickly.  Gifs are from wrasslormonkey, go check him out.


THE ASCENSION ARE MADE TO LOOK LIKE FOOLS

The Ascension were awesome in NXT.  They had this amazing prestige, power, and presence.  They had an awesome moveset and an awesome attitude.  They worked hard, even in little reactions.  They also got brought up to the main roster.  And were immediately mocked by JBL, humiliated by Legends, and then had this match versus the New Age Outlaws where the legends run rough all over the Ascension, they were not allowed to do any of their normal awesome offense and instead just did restholds and got beat up, and then we are supposed to forgive it because of a poorly rushed Fall of Man.  Ugh.


THE USOS ARE POINTLESS AND THE MIZ-MIZDOW ACT IS OLD

A tag team championship match, featuring a non-team and the most boring faces in the company.  The match itself was fine.  Acceptable.  And that is the best thing I can say about it.  Uninteresting, unmemorable, a waste of time, but acceptable.  Oh, and hey, watch one of the Usos botch the stupid Uso-spot that is in every damned Uso match.



THE BELLA TWINS AND NATALYA AND PAIGE JUST ... MESS UP EVERYTHING

I am a defender of women's wrestling in the WWE.  I spent much of last year defending Paige and the Bellas, pointing out how good their matches were, how hard they were working, all of that.  So let's start this new year by having a terrible tag team match.  An eight minute long match that they messed up basic tag team rules, botched some crazy spots, everyone came out looking worse for being in it, and ended in confusion.



Yup, that's a ... sitout hair-pull drop-toe neckbreaker.  Totally.  Look at Brie's face.  She is pissed at Natalya, super duper pissed.  And she should be, because Natalya is the one who messed up every single spot in this match.  She messed up a tag, she messed up this spot, she messed up every spot.  Paige worked hard, Nikki worked hard, Brie worked hard, and it didn't matter, because this match was trash.


That is what you deserve, Nattie.  At least in a year and 8 months we'll see a Total Divas episode about this.  *eye roll*


BROCK LESNAR WINS A DECENT TRIPLE THREAT, CENA STAYS TERRIBLE

Cena hit the AA so many times, the joke at the party was to keep going up the alphabet, where Cena ended at GG, which means "good game" online, which is a funny coincidence and why I remember it.

This match was pretty fun.  In retrospect, it was really good in fact.  But that is only after putting it against the terrible Rumble match to follow.  Lesnar and Rollins worked real hard.  Cena was Cena.  The match built to some enjoyable nearfalls, and the final sequences were pretty good.  I was certain Rollins was going to win, but Lesnar pulled it out after taking an amazing hit from a big elbow through the table.



ABSOLUTELY ONE OF THE WORST RUMBLE MATCHES I'VE EVER SEEN

This Rumble match was ... ok, here's a metaphor that is absolutely a great way to explain it.  All of us watching this match was like all of us eating gross ice cream.  The recipe is ice cream, and we all had a hilarious time eating it with each other ... but at the end of the night, you have disgusting ice cream in your belly and feel like complete crap.

This match is terrible.  Every single decision made in this match is the worst possible one.  The fans clamor for the company to hear them, and are constantly barraged with a real life heel president who says "you'll like what I give you!"  Roman Reigns is shoved down our throats, choking us as fans, and ruining him.  The booes once Daniel Bryan is eliminated super early in the match is almost deafening.  Once Roman comes out, it is even worse.  Once he wins, even the Rock, who was brought in as a "surprise" to help try to get Roman over with the fans ... well, look at his reaction to the booes once Roman wins:


The highlights of this match were the two legends.  Bubba Ray is back, which is cool, and I hope he sticks around.  And DDP showed up, which is awesome.


I feel cheated when the faces I'm rooting for as a fan were all embarrassed and destroyed.  A first time viewer heard the reaction and asked me "so, do they not listen to the fans when they make their decisions?" and I answer the very humbling and sad answer "basically, yeah, the fans are ignored."  He shook his head and couldn't understand how a company works like that.

The hashtag #CancelWWENetwork trended for a long time after the Rumble.  Lots of people showed screenshots of their cancellations.  I ALMOST want to cancel myself, but NXT and these reviews keep me around.  The Miz, surprisingly, reacted the perfect way for this terrible, terrible PPV, featuring one of the worst Rumble matches I've ever seen:


23.1.15

IHAO on ... Boyhood



This is the second in my series of Best Picture nominee reviews for the 87th Academy Awards, the first being Birdman, or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance.  A little backstory, since this movie actually has some: this movie took 12 years to film.  It actually films in semi-real time a story about a child, and his growing up.  Actors signed up and worked for 12 years in short stints, including our lead little kid actor.  It is a huge stunt, and something that absolutely needs to be watched.  So let's dig in.

*turns on the blu ray*

*turns off the blu ray ... almost three hours later*

Ugh.

Roll credits.

Boyhood.  A film that took 12 years to make.  12 years to write this script.  12 years to come up with a story that was worth watching.  Instead, we get a drama about all the moments that are just about people talking about the moments that were worth watching.  Why show a divorce when you can hear people talk about it after they are emotionally over it?  Why show a kid excited about a scholarship when you can just have him talk to a random NPC out-of-nowhere character we only see in this scene to talk about it?  Why show a kid having a hard time with classes and homework when you can just have random characters show up and telling him that he is doing bad at turning in his homework and such?  Why have plot when you can have conveniences and coincidences?  There are multiple scenes where characters talk about things that happened in this kid's life that WE DO NOT GET TO SEE!  WHY NOT?  WHY DO WE JUST GET LIP SERVICE INSTEAD OF REAL FILMMAKING AND STORYTELLING?!

I do not want to disregard the gamble and the work put into this film.  Filming for 12 years, making decisions on the fly, having to cast your actors at a young age and hope they continue to do well all throughout.  And I won't even say that the gambles didn't pay off, with Ethan Hawke getting his big resurgence recently.  But I cannot say this is a good movie.  It isn't a bad movie, or even an average movie.  But it is not a good movie.  It fails to be about anything that mattes.  It is like watching a fake documentary about uninteresting people.  It is just people talking about things that happened between cuts in the lives of these fake people.  There is only one sequence that kind of has anything actually happening, and that is the end of the "first act" if I can even call it that.  What a novel approach to filmmaking, film a bunch of idiots doing nothing, talking about nothing ... well, not talking, more like mumbling.

I cannot understand how a film that's only achievement is that it took a super-long time to make, had no final script, and barely does anything beyond just being a movie.  It doesn't strive to do anything but an exercise in filmmaking.  It doesn't succeed at anything it tries to do, it merely accomplishes them.  It isn't hard to be perfectly in "period" when it was shot in order over 12 years.  It isn't hard to show a child grow up when he literally does that and you don't have to work for it or do any filmmaking, clever writing, or make up.  This movie just wastes time, showing its theoretical exercise as some huge technical achievement, and people act like it is.

I am mad that so many people are talking about how amazing this film is, when it isn't!  It is nothing.  It is the lack of art.  It is an exercise.  Even I was bamboozled by it in this very review!  I was all "this movie isn't mediocre, it is good, it really is!" and then I list all the terrible problems.  All the details that prove that statement.  This film will be remember as an exercise, and completely forgotten outside of that.  I do not, cannot, and will not recommend this middle of the road, boring, LONG AS HELL, talk-fest that does nothing of value.

Grade: C-

21.1.15

IHAO on ... Foxcatcher



Foxcatcher is not a Best Picture nominee, but it is a best actor, best supporting actor, and a best director nominee, so I figured I should give it a watch.  Plus, I was intrigued.  The real life story is super interesting, I love wrestling as you folks reading may well know, but I also loved amateur wrestling.  I was in my high school wrestling team for ... a few months?  I only quit because the coach at the time told me I had to pick, wrestling, or all the other extracurriculars I was doing.  So I picked choir, theatre, academic bowl, and everything else.  Anyway, let's talk about the movie.

I don't think it's very good.  It is really slowly paced, the plot is kind of obtuse, and while all the acting and music and shots are good, some great in fact, the wrong stuff is being talked about.  Let's talk about the plot.  It is the story of the Schultz brothers and their dealings with John E. du Pont.  There is a lot of information in the real world about it, but this is a fictionalized, condensed version of the whole encounter.  I normally do not care for spoilers, but I can say that the movie deals with ... uh ... ok, so I can't say that.

That's one of the biggest problems with the movie.  I did not think it did a good job of actually telling the story.  We see some bits and pieces of things that happen, but none of what it means is conveyed in film.  I suppose the film is kind of about ownership and being a prisoner and maybe some homosexual stuff and a little bit of betrayal, but not really, and ... ugh.  The film has a good atmosphere that lasts way too long and ends up being a burden instead of a bonus.  The film is so thick and so long and so "audience, figure this out all on your own" that it just becomes this big goopy thick mess of ... nothing.  Oh, better metaphor, it is like oatmeal.  Really thick, pasty oatmeal like my wife likes to eat it.  There are bits of wonderful fruit in there, like the actors, or small scenes that are really emotional, but you have to eat heaping spoonfuls of grey, lifeless, flavorless gunk to get to those good tasting bits, which only make up probably a tenth of the film, if not less.

The Academy's reaction to stupid oatmeal movie.

Let's talk about the acting.  Steve Carrel does ... ok.  Mark Ruffalo does ... Ruffalo-y.  And Channing Tatum knocks the ball out of the park.  So of course, he is the only that isn't nominated, which is a huge disservice to him.  He has so many scenes he does so well in.  And the others ... they just don't.

This movie feels like it was a script written to be about DuPont.  Then the real Mark Schultz got involved, as a producer and as a consultant, so some extra focus got put on the Mark Schultz character Channing Tatum played.  Then they found they had a GREAT actor doing an INCREDIBLE job, so they edited more of him into the film.  And they were right, the Schultz stuff was the great stuff in the movie.  But the original script was about du Pont, so the film and the director forced it to stay on that path, even though that is a disservice to the fantastic acting of Channing Tatum.

Channing, if you for some reason are reading this, I think you were robbed.  You did awesome.  And you are becoming a favorite actor of mine.  Keep making movies, even crappy ones, and keep working as hard as you seem to be.  I'll keep buying tickets.

All of that said, this movie is still above average.  It has a bunch of great components, it just focuses on the wrong bits and is a terrible slog to get through.  It is on the low end of a B, but it is still a B.

Grade: B

19.1.15

Arbitrary Numbers: Top # Triumphant Songs

A new year's resolution for me in 2015 was to become happy with my body image.  I'm not shooting to lose weight, I'm not shooting to be "sexy" or any of that.  I just want to be happy.  So I'm eating a little better and working out a lot more.  Not like the gym or anything, I have never been able to strive in a gym environment.  I got myself DDPYoga, and have charged myself to do it and to walk/job 30+ minutes MWF every week.  My success rate as of this article being written is 50%.  That is way more than I have done in the past year, though, so I'll take it.  And I'll keep striving.

Because of doing a lot more walking, I listen to a lot more music than I had in the previous year.  I put in short shorts, a long sleeve shirt, do my DDPYoga routine, then head out into the 30 degree weather and just start walking with my mp3 player as my only company.  And every now and again a song come on that helps me work and fight and push on.  I am not the most athletic dude, but I am a persistent one.  Once I start working out, I generally keep going way past you would think a guy my size and shape could.  Some of those songs ... they give me a feeling.  I feeling I want to talk about.

These emotion playlist videos have been fun for me, and I thought I'd try to make sure I do one a month.  And this one, I knew I needed something to strive for, just like with working out.  So I'm going to pump myself up, get myself ready to fight, to win, to be a hero.  I'm going to do the ...


TOP 8 TRIUMPHANT SONGS 
(on my mp3 player)


"Hero of the Day" - Metallica



This is the song that started my mind along this path.  Well, kind of.  But it is the one I searched for to start the playlist.  Yeah, normally I just random until I find one and go, but this song to me is the exact song I mean when I want to talk about triumphant songs!  It is driving, engaging, but not just "epic."  It is a very personal song.

Oooo, I can tell you all the first time I heard the song, too.  In my freshman year of college, my new group of friends and I had somehow gotten into Dragonball GT.  Not Dragonball Z, but the next one in the series.  But there is a AMV for Gohan or Goku or Gowhatever with this song over it.  It was excellent, and it absolutely resonanted with me.  Not the lyrics, not the video itself with whatever character it was, but the music, put over those images.  I see a heroes striving, pushing, fighting, never backing down, never losing, never failing.


"Perfect Cell Theme" - Dragonball Z

Huh.  Well, that's just kind of funny right there.  I love randomized music and how it all works together.

This theme song for me has nothing to do with Dragonball Z.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I never heard it in context of Dragonball Z.  I only ever heard it in context of a fight my best friend in high school and I created between two of our own characters.  I don't know who came up with the fight, or who brought the music to it, but the whole this is forever entwined in my brain space.  Check it.  Play the song, and read along with me.



Imagine a warehouse.  Boxes around, crates, covered in tarps.  The air is dusty, the light outside the man windows is bright and it makes the shadows longer and darker inside.  At one end of the room is a man who looks a combination of Dave Bautista and Andre the Giant.  A Behemoth of a man, enormously muscular, wearing the tightest grey jeans and a mesh tank top over his enormous frame.  He grinds his teeth and stares across the warehouse to a young man.  He's toned and muscular like a gymnast.  He has short platinum blonde hair, kept at an even buzz with his slightly darker beard.  He wears a navy long sleeved athletic shirt and matching tights, without gloves or shoes.  He shifts his weight, and you can see sparks come off the concrete as his skin scrapes across it.

Suddenly they both bolt towards each other, a massive Behemoth and an explosive gymnast ready to Crash into each other.  Every time the gymnast slaps his hands on the Behemoth, a small explosion is created.  Every pounding footstep creates small holes in the floor as he pushes himself forward.  Backsprings and flips as he tumbles around the Behemoth, landing a few blows, before the enormous fashionable man smashes him across the face and the Crashes backwards into a crate, exploding.  They keep fighting, and fighting ...

He and I spent hours, days, months creating characters like this and pitting them against each other.  We played online chatroom roleplaying games with other characters.  But this song, and this fight, was the most realized one in my brain.  And man, does it get me pumped to feel like Crash as I walk quickly in my workouts.  Come on, I'm not going to run full tilt, I gotta work up to it, sheesh.


"Playing With Fire" - Paula Seling & Ovi

Eurovision is awesome!  Do you know what it is?  It is basically a Europe-only Olympics for songs!  It is fantastic, super fun to watch, and a thing I want to review this year if I can, because the years I've watched it I've loved it.  One of the best things about it is the rules and the voting, but that's for another day.

A song I LOVED from the 2010 Eurovision was this one.  It was fabulous, rocked my socks off, made me want to dance and fight and run and win!  I feel like a champion, for really no reason, especially because the song did not do Romania very well that year, mostly because of a boring live performance.  But I don't care, I love this song!  More people need to listen to more Romanian pop songs, I think.


"Dark City" - Machinae Supremacy

Goodness, how do I start talking about Machinae Supremacy?  They are a ... electronic heavy metal band?  They are fantastic, is what they are.  I've loved heavy metal for the longest time.  The driving rhythms, the dueling guitars, the fervor of the music, the pulsing and generally surprisingly heartfelt lyricism.  But Machine Supremacy did something a lot of heavy metal bands I listen to never did: it made me think.  I've loved Rhapsody of Fire and older hair bands like the Scorpions, I've enjoyed Dragonforce, and I've gotten into DreamTheater, but Machinae Supremacy's music really forced me to sit down and think about what they were doing musically.  They weren't all double bass pedals pounding or wailing guitars.  They always did something musically ... significant.  And that was always awesome.

Dark City has been a soundtrack song in my life for a long time.  I've wanted to use it in many places, and it was the original intro to my old IHAO videos before I switched to something a little more easily parced down.  I found the song by ACCIDENT when I was looking for the score to the film Dark City.  And I was blown away.  This song absolutely has always resonated with me as a heroic triumph.  As a theme song.  As a way to enter the battle, to fight my enemies, to declare myself the victor.  It absolutely is awesome to have on this list.


"Kick Ass" - MIKA

I saw Kick-Ass in theaters.  It was ok, a little better than that, really.  I've soured on it since then, but never on the soundtrack!  That movie had a rocking soundtrack.  And this song, which I thought was amazing, was the winner!



MIKA is awesome.  I had heard so many of his songs and never realized they were all the one guy because they always did so many different things.  But his soaring falsetto makes me want to SING AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS as I race towards my goal!  I may not be that "young" anymore, but the song the rest of the song absolutely hits me in such a great way!  Look, here's just the chorus lyrics.  Sing them in your brightest falsetto and keep running ... metaphorically or not!

We are young
We are strong
We're not looking for where we belong
We're not cool
We ARE free
And we're running with blood on our knees


"Nothing Left" - Delain

Hey, remember heavy metal, me talking about it before?  Well, let me mention that Delain is probably the BEST heavy metal band, period.  It is a super-group, made up of the former keyboardist/song-writer from Within Temptation, the bassist from Nightwish, the drumer from Epica, guys from Orphanage, and the amazing jazz singer Charlotte Wessels.  If any of those band names mean anything to you, then you know just how rocking Delain absolutely is.

"Nothing Left" is probably not the first Delain song I would have picked if I wasn't doing this via random.  I'd probably pick The Gathering or April Rain; but I'm glad the God of Random did.  The song is fantastic, and has a lot of really cool bits and pieces to the music.  I love the name, and the metaphor the song strives to use as its central message in the lyrics.  It gets me pumped and pushes me farther and farther.  I will strive, I will work, I will win!  LET'S DO THIS!


"I'm on a Boat (explicit)" - The Lonely Island ft. T-Pain

Ha!



This brag-and-swag rap song by comedy MCs the Lonely Island is PERFECT!  It straddles that bragadocious attitude you need to push yourself, it's funny, it's REALLY well produced.  The song rocks.  Everyone knows it.  It also curses a lot, which for me is awesome.  I may not curse on this site, but I like cursing.  It's like when you stub your toe.  Cursing reduces the pain, that's actually scientifically proven!  So working out, pushing my fat body to keep doing the hard yoga stuff or just keep running ... yeah, cursing helps push me farther and harder.


"We Are One" - 12 Stones



Let's talk about wrestling!  Specifically, a thing I talked about before, the Nexus.  This was their song, as they shook up wrestling for ... like, a week before getting completely derailed.  But I was all in!  I was ready!  I was one, I was rooting for this new crop of characters all ready to murder John Cena.  That didn't happen, but that doesn't stop the emotions, man!

This song is a driving rock song about solidarity!  Even though I am listening to this song alone, I feel myself running alongside all my heroes, all the guys I love, ready for battle, ready to win.  There's an awesome drum beat that is simulated marching steps, and it gives me a rhythm to move to, to stay in time with.  I love that stuff.  This song, and so many of the other ones on this playlist, are what keep me going after it feels like my thighs are going to burst into flame and my lungs around going to completely deflate.  I'm gonna do it.  I am one, I am one, I'm the chosen one!

(( 0-0 ))

I bet I could find more and more songs like these, songs that get me going and keep pushing me to exceed my limits and excel.  But for now, this is an awesome mix, and I'm happy to leave it as is.  As I've done the past few times, you can check out the playlist here whenever you want.  See you next month with another Arbitrary Numbers Playlist ... February will be love songs!

16.1.15

IHAO on ... Oscar Season and the 87th Academy Awards Nominees



I do film reviewing as my main job here at I Have an Opinion (click the link and like us on Facebook, too!  Then share it!  COME ON!).  Last year I wanted to touch on the Academy Awards, but didn't really feel like I had the opportunity or time.  But this year, I was paying attention, and I'm going to be reviewing every single Best Picture of the Year nominee before the Oscars air, as well as a bunch of other ones, so that I can come to a conclusion based on what the Academy says.  I already told you all what my Best Films of 2014 were, now its time to see where I line up with the Academy.

But, firstly, looking at the nominees list, I got a few things to say.  *ahem*


HOW IN THE LIVING HELL DID INTERSTELLAR GET SO MANY NOMINATIONS?!  IN THE SOUND CATEGORIES NO LESS!  I don't care if you like the film, if you love Nolan, or you hated it like I did, every single person can agree that the sound in Interstellar is ABSOLUTELY AWFUL TRASH!!!!!  HOW CAN INTERSTELLAR THEN BE NOMINATED FOR BOTH SOUND MIXING AND SOUND EDITING AND ORIGINAL SCORE?!?!  WHAT IS GOING ON?!?!?



Ok, with that out of the way, let's touch on some other thoughts I had looking at the list:

 - Awesome, Birdman hit almost every category I thought it would!
 - I really need to see Foxcatcher, so I'm throwing that on my list
 - Guardians of the Galaxy really should have gotten more, but genre is a hard sell.  It is also very interesting, and a thing I never noticed, but there isn't a way for the Academy to think about soundtracks or mix of songs as important to a film, which is nuts considering how many films that would affect, especially Guardians' Awesome Mix Vol. 1.
 - Editing is normally shorthanded to "movie with the most edits in it," but the nominees this year are a lot smarter and filled with way better technique.  I'm very interested in what will shake out here.
 - Gone Girl's only nomination being for Rosamund Pike, while deserved, really shocks me.  I mean, I had a hard time with that movie, remember, but still, I thought for sure at least Fincher would get a nomination.
 - Seeing Nightcrawler show up for screenplay is pretty fantastic.  I've liked Dan Gilroy's writing, and I think this is a good script.  Hell, I could see myself in a few weeks, when I do my official predictions for the Awards, going with Nightcrawler over Birdman.
 - Between Big Hero 6, BoxTrolls, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 - which I actually saw in theaters but walked away feeling it was so average I couldn't even muster up a review for it - I think the choice is easy.
 - If "Feast" doesn't win best animated short, then something is wrong with the world.  It was for me the best part of Big Hero 6.  I'm crying now thinking about it.

That's my thoughts so far.  I'll keep you all abreast of each Best Picture nominee, and I'll try to do at least one a week all the way up to the awards next month!  Until then.

15.1.15

IHAO on ... Chinese Zodiac starring Jackie Chan



There was a rule in my household.  A very simple rule that seems to have worked for all movies at all times: Jackie Chan movies are good movies.  I've bought many movies based on this premise.  I have yet to be wrong.  Well, had.  Because today, on the evening I write this, this rule of cinema law became broken.

Chinese Zodiac is terrible.

It is a real bad movie.  Awkward camera shots, really terrible editing, awful dialogue and acting, weird music, and worst of all, most of the action is just ... boring.  Or even worse, it lacks the special quality that makes Jackie Chan scenes so much fun.  At the very end of the movie, in the Guinness Record setting credits, you see a stunt fail, like you normally do for Jackie Chan films in the credits as fun bloopers and proof of hard work.  And it is just ... a maybe two foot fall from a picture frame hung from the ceiling like a swing, and Jackie just laying on his back, getting up with all the speed and grace of a tortoise, medics and actors all around him trying to help him up.  It was the saddest, most discouraging thing I had ever seen as a Jackie Chan fan.  Chinese Zodiac makes me just so so sad.

The year of our lord 2012 - the day that Jackie Chan officially became too old.

So what's the plot?  Lazy.  Really really lazy.  The whole movie is lazy from a story perspective.  JC - yes, that is really Jackie Chan's character's name in the film - runs a smuggling group that steals priceless artifacts.  They are hired to get some bronze statueheads that look and are treated like they are as heavy as a standard American football.  The bad guys trick them, some weird political stuff, volcano sequence, happy ending after that.  Weird action beats all throughout, with only two true Jackie fight scenes, both a little inventive but nowhere near worth watching the film for.

I am disappointed more than anything with this movie.  I have lived 30 years of a life with the fact in my brain that the worst Jackie Chan film was the Tuxedo, which wasn't too bad, or Rush Hour 3, which was bad, but still slightly watchable.  That was the worst.  That was the bottom of the barrel.  And now, my ignorance has been shattered.  Chinese Zodiac exists, and is terrible.  Unwatchably terrible.  Edits don't make any sense, the movie has both too much plot and moves way too fast, I couldn't tell you a single name other than JC, and the action beats are all ridiculous at BEST and indeed get to a point that is ... well, pointless at the end.

Really, do not give this a watch.  If you must anyway, you may find some joy in a few minutes of action in this almost two hour long slog, but they are not worth it.  Please, just go to youtube for them.  Camera fight and couch fight should do it for you.  Just ... leave this film alone.  I do not want you to experience the deep melancholy I have now reached.  I watch these films to save you the pain.

On top of this, One Piece Collection 11 got pushed back to February.  :'(

Grade: F

14.1.15

IHAO on ... Fate/Zero



Normally, I try to make sure I have watched everything I review completely at least once, many times twice, to get a strong critical opinion, as well as personal opinion of the subject.  But television shows become difficult to review because of that.  I can put three or four hours into watching a film twice, or six hours for a wrestling PPV, but even the smallest of television shows take almost twice that long for me to watch and review.  So I thought for this review I would instead give my impressions on the first five episodes, and a lengthy and personal backstory to the franchise it belongs to.  Plus, the next collection of One Piece is coming to my home the day you all can read this because Amazon pre-orders are great, and I'm just in a crazy excited anime mood.

Fate is the ... prefix? category? ... think like "Dragonball" - it is a set of entertainment stories that all take place in a shared universe.  That universe is a modern fantasy world, where mages and arcane pedigrees and ancient relics exist.  Where the Holy Grail is summoned into being every somethingorother years and is fought over by seven Masters, all who have summoned Servants, each connected to a particular class of Servant: Saber, Archer, Lancer, Assassin, Rider, Caster, and Berserker.  It is a crazy imaginative world, and Fate/Zero is a pre-sequel to the main story, Fate/Stay Night.

In college, a friend took a chance and thought I may enjoy Fate/Stay Night, a visual novel video game semi-adult entertainment ... thing.  It is like a voice-acted, slightly animated choose-your-own-adventure novel.  It was amazing.  It was mindboggling, and kept me up many evenings as I went through its massive story.  The story is so massive it requires time travel-y, alternate future shenanigans to hear it all to completion.  It got an anime I cannot wait to own and watch of its own.  The plot of Fate/Stay Night is the events of the Fifth Holy Grail War.

Fate/Zero is the events of the Fourth Holy Grail War.  And it is realized completely in one story, which is the anime I just started.  So let's talk about that anime.



The first thing to know is it is a dense show.  The entire first episode introduces you to so many characters and concepts, you almost have to know what Fate is before you start watching.  I knew bits and pieces of the story that was told to me during the events of Fate/Stay Night, and I still got lost a little first time through.  The second thing to know is that it is a beautiful animated anime.  It reminds me of Attack on Titan and DeathNote, both of which are shows with amazing animation (and a whole lot of ridiculously overblown terrible plot ... man, I need to write my thoughts on DeathNote I guess ... or just point out I have the same opinion of it as I do on Attack on Titan ... yup, I did that.  Mini-review, DeathNote gets a C+-).  It is almost on par with a Studio Ghibli production of sheer artistic skill, though it is achieved in a different way.  I ALSO really need to get more Ghibli films a chance, considering how much I love My Neighbor Totoro ... here we go, another mini-review: My Neighbor Totoro is an amazing film.  Completely amazing.  Grade: A+++

I can go on and on about the technicals of Fate/Zero.  The voice actors all do a GREAT job, with some recognizable voice talents in there like Crispin Freeman, Kari Wahlgren, Jamieson Price ... really, go look at the imdb page and just check out these actor's workloads. The animation is smooth and beautiful in all its magic and all its fantastical details and even beautiful in its mundane elements.  They do an awesome job of using 3D animation represent a lot of the magic and the backgrounds, so that every move and cut and slash and fight and stab and magical attack and effect all have actual effects on the background.  You ever notice how in cartoons, if a character was going to interact with something in the background, it would be a different color?  Yeah, that is completely mitigated here and looks really great.  Oh man, and the music!  The score is absolutely gorgeous, and I've really come to love the opening theme.

The first episode should absolutely hook most anime watchers, though it is dense.  The second episode should do even more.  And if you aren't hooked by the third, I just don't know what is wrong with you, but I suppose there is no point in pushing on, to be quite honest.  There is absolutely a barrier to the enjoyment of this anime, but by episode three Fate/Zero has established everything you need in a good way that has you invested in the story, hopefully.  But, there is a huge problem ... this is absolutely a sequel.  Yes, it takes place chronologically before Fate/Stay Night, but it assumes you understand the premise, it introduces elements that you are supposed to understand how they work quickly so it can move to new stories.  It is not an easy anime.  I like that, personally.  It was the thing that got me interested in Attack on Titan and DeathNote, and while my opinion on both of those shows soured, that comes from them lasting much too long, in my opinion (obviously).

Fate/Zero has two seasons.  Both on Netflix.  Both no more than 13 episodes.  And it finishes its story then and there.  I think it is absolutely worth any one who found anything I said interesting so far a chance to give this show.  That sentence was very poorly worded, but I'm not gonna change it.  Watch Fate/Zero.  I recommend, as a fan, and as a critic.  I cannot wait to dive in even farther to the show.

Grade: A++

Edit: I try to write these reviews ahead of time so that I can have a nice bank and keep myself up to date, just in case I get sick or busy and am unable to find time to watch things like I need to.  Well, I did get sick, with a sore throat, so I spent this entire morning before my review got posted tearing through the first season of the show.  I can say, without a single doubt, that this show is phenomenal.  I would still recommend that if you are at all interested in the Visual Novel of Fate/Stay Night to not watch Fate/Zero yet, but if you aren't interested in the enormous amount of hours to put into Stay Night then I cannot recommend Fate/Zero enough.  The fights are amazing, the animation is immaculate, and the story is intense and thrilling, all in one of the coolest anime worlds I've seen.  This is probably the second best anime I've ever watched.  It is intense, thrilling, and awesome.  I have gone ahead and added a grading because I feel much more confidant in that grade now.

13.1.15

IHAO on ... Horrible Bosses 2



I did not see Horrible Bosses.  I didn't see it for a very simple reason: I don't like Charlie Day, Jason Sudekis, or really Jason Bateman.  If I don't like the three leading men in a comedy, yeah, pretty sure I don't want to see it.  And it isn't really their fault.  They are pretty decent actors.  It is just they almost always play the EXACT SAME CHARACTERS.  Jason Sudekis is smiling doofy idiot sex guy.  Charlie is manic high-pitched tweaked out idiot.  Jason Bateman is stuck up egotist know-it-all guy.  Why do I want to watch that over and over again?  Well, I was taken to the movies by a friend anyway, and he bought my ticket, so I watched it, knowing nothing of the first film.  Nothing, I couldn't tell you an ounce of plot.

Before I get into this movie, first I wanna talk about the trailers.  I haven't done a Trailer Trash in a long while, mostly because my tablet got broken and then replaced and the app I was using doesn't work as well on the new one.  Is that a thing you guys would like to see back?  Lemme know in the comments.  Anyway, I hadn't seen a lot of the trailers in front of this film, and it looks like we are in for a lot of stupid comedies coming up in the next few months.  I am not a stupid comedies kind of guy, not really.  Sometimes I can get behind one, and sometimes the craft of the comedy is perfect, but in the end, I always prefer cool characters doing cool things, and comedies tend to focus on garbage characters doing asinine things.  So be looking forward to those reviews coming this first few months of the year 2015.

This is what my theater going experience is probably going to be like until April.  Help me.

Ok, so Horrible Bosses 2 ... was way more enjoyable than I expected.  In fact, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, the third act in particular.  The movie opened with a bunch of Austin Powers style jokes and the kind of dialogue you expect from Always Sunny meets SNL meets Arrested Development, which irritated me to no end.  The ... I guess they were too big to be "cameos" but man they sure felt like cameos for Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, and Jamie Foxx, whatever, their parts were ... meh.  The actual plot tried to fit the idea of this whole "bosses" thing too many times in five minutes, as if being self-employed is some huge deal.  But once we actually met Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine, and the plot actually started going with the kidnapping and stuff, the movies started to get me involved instead of just rolling my eyes and sighing at the stupid sex jokes and gross out humor.

Then Act 3 happened.  And man, did it impress me.  One of my favorite movies of the past few years was Tower Heist.  It had heart, it was really funny, it was pulse-pounding, and it was a good heist film!  That's what this movie turned into, for the most part.  There was a small worthless section with Jennifer Aniston I could have done without, but yeah, it was pretty fantastic.  It played out in a really cool way that I know I have seen before, but not done this well or like this.  Sean Anders, who I had completely written off as a terrible director actually did some really great work!  I am still legitimately impressed with how well the last third of the movie went.

I wish I could say the rest of the movie was worth watching for me.  But I bet you if you like a harmless adult comedy, and like the comedians here, and don't care about stupid plot and characters, that this movie will not only be a comedy you'll really enjoy, but it may also actually impress you.

Grade: B ... ALMOST +

12.1.15

IHAF ... A. Lee Martinez

It is A. LEE MARTINEZ APPRECIATION DAY!  Someone strike up the samba music, let's dance!









What do you mean, I just used this article as an excuse to post all my favorite dancing gifs?  You, sir or madam, are ill informed.  I used A. LEE MARTINEZ APPRECIATION DAY as an excuse to talk about one of my favorite authors writing today.  So what is so great about A. Lee Martinez's writing that I have to do not one, not two, but SEVEN dancing gifs?  Well, let me explain.

Back in college, and I am unsure how I came upon the book or who got me into it, but somewhere along the way I got a copy of Gil's All Fright Diner.  An innocuous little book, with a splendidly silly, semi- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy looking book.  Read the back, and I find it has vampires and werewolves and ghosts and zombies and cthullu-esque creatures, all mixing it up around a small diner.  It was an odd conceit, so I read it.  And it was really good.

That was a lot of build up, with all the other gifs, for just "really good."

I liked the book.  It read exactly like a film I wanted to see.  EXACTLY, in fact, as I pictured Owen Wilson and Brad Garrett as the main characters Duke and Earl (they don't get the joke), a werewolf and a vampire who are just dudes, not monsters.  And that's the magic of A. Lee Martinez books.  But let me continue telling the story, there, chumbawumba.

I liked the book.  I definitely didn't love it, but it was fun, with great characters, good scenes ... it really is a good book.  So I went back to Books-a-Million and grabbed the other A. Lee Martinez book they had, In the Company of Ogres.  That book ... I liked less.  It had some bits that were good, and I liked the lead character, but as a pretty straight forward fantasy book, even with some tongue-in-cheek-ness to it, I felt it wallowed around in way too many characters and just wasn't that enjoyable.  It felt like fantasy Stripes, like it was missing the meat that elevated Gil's with its really good characters.

So I shelved Mr. Martinez's books for awhile.  A few years in fact.

So I suppose none of this is sounding the most positive it could be.  But ahh, you are missing the wonderful thing here.  A man is not defined by two books.  He is defined by ... well I mean, too many things to calculate, because you cannot distill a man down just based on the writing of two books he wrote.  And I never stopped thinking about those books, like them or not as the case legitimately was.

I eventually went looking for another book by him.  I saw The Automatic Detective, which is a science fiction film noir.  I gave it a shot ...

This editorial is already long.  Come on!

Holy crap you guys, holy crap, the Automatic Detective is a flippin' AMAZING book.  It did everything I loved about Gil's, with its real, fully fleshed characters, but then created this amazing atmosphere of pulpy dread, terror, and adventure.  Mack Megaton, the book's protagonist, is one of my favorite characters I've ever read, period.  And the book itself, a few years removed from In the Company of Ogres, really excelled.  I was hooked.

Next up was Monster, another book with an incredible set of characters, and awesome big ole adventure, and really grounded emotions and thoughts.  This time, we have a cryptid exterminator, who takes care of those goblins under the bed or the yetis that wander into your supermarket.  Why this isn't a movie starring the Rock is BEYOND ME.

After Monster was Divine Misfortune, where worshiping a god was more akin to really bad online dating, and every pantheon of myth's gods existed.  Once again, we got awesome characters in our human protagonists, an African-American couple, and their decided up god, Luka, a happy-go-lucky (literally, he is a luck god) raccoon.  Once again, we got a great pulpy high adventure story.  And even better, just like in the past two books, we get realistic characters.

All of these books might sound like they are Terry Pratchett in nature, comedy mixed with genre.  But that's what you are missing!  In fact, what a lot of people are missing about Mr. Martinez's books.  There is a very subtle bias that readers have towards "genre" and "comedy."  Both are seen as light, without substance.  Just look at the Oscars, which to a fault award films that are dramatic or historic and actors who are dour or "realistic" with their amazing awards, even though other films come around that are better, with better acting, but because they may be Space Opera starring a raccoon and a talking tree, they may not get the same recognition.  A. Lee Martinez's books have may have a colorful cover and a premise that is filled with pulpy wonderful goodness, but his books have a backbone of truly skilled writing and plotting, and characters with real emotions, choices, and relationships.  When you think of these books, or really most forms of entertainment, as "genre" or "comedy," what you are subtly thinking is that they are worth less than other books or films or television shows.  We need to stop that.  And I think buying up all of Mr. Martinez's books is the best way to do it!

Divine Misfortune lead me to Chasing the Moon, an intriguing but not quite as good book centered around cthullu-esque mythos.  But for every book of his I don't care for, three more arise that make me fall in love.  In quick succession we got: Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain, which has one of the most complicated protagonists I've ever read, and was fabulous; Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest, a send-up to the "Hero's Journey" with even more incredible characters, that I in fact wrote a review of a year or so ago; and One of These Doomsdays, which you can find online for some crazy wonderful reason, as he isn't publishing it, which is BONKERS because I am LOVING IT!  It isn't finished yet, and I hope he ends up publishing it anyway, because I want it on my shelf.

To top it all off, I've been going backwards and reading the books I skipped.  I'm enjoying but struggling through Too Many Curses, and I still need to get A Nameless Witch.  I also need to rebuy Chasing the Moon and In the Company of Ogres, as my own copies have been lost.  To top all THAT off, I helped fund a short story book he wrote which featured a short story for each of his ten published books!  That is coming in the mail to my home any day now, and I cannot wait to dive into it.

To top all THAT OFF, I am an avid reader of his website, as he blogs about film, television, writing, and all sorts of stuff.  He and I don't see quite eye to eye on some things, but man oh man, we both tend to have the same opinion when it comes to "darker and grittier is better" that was sweeping through our entertainment not long ago.  Even when I don't agree with him, I love hearing his thoughts.  He shares them all the time on twitter and facebook as well.  And he writes other short stories and flash fiction you can check out all the time.  I was even able to send in a suggestion that he wrote a flash fiction of, which of course is awesome.

I am inspired to write because of A. Lee Martinez's books.  I am inspired to write because of his opinions.  I am inspired to work harder, to maybe see more of my writing published.  And even better, I am inspired to read.  I don't read as much as I used to.  I suspect most people don't.  So let's change that.  It is a new year, so let's fix that!  Go to amazon or Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million or wherever you can, buy an A. Lee Martinez book, your favorite I talked about, or my favorite, or the ones I liked least to see if you agree.  Let's support an author who is writing exciting, incredibly well made books that don't have to choose between having good characters and good story.

And THAT is how I am going to celebrate my January 12th, A. Lee Martinez Appreciation Day.

I Have a Favorite ... author, A. Lee Martinez

A quick grade guide to each of his published novels I've read completely

Gil's All Fright Diner - Grade: B+
In the Company of Ogres - Grade: C-
A Nameless Witch - n/a
The Automatic Detective - Grade: A+++
Too Many Curses - n/a
Monster - Grade: A++
Divine Misfortune - Grade: B+
Chasing the Moon - Grade: B
Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain - Grade: A++
Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest - Grade: A+++