Now here is a trailer that has been getting a lot of internet backlash. Scarlett Johansson stars as a killer android in the cyberpunk universe of Ghost in the Shell. Based off the Japanese anime film from the 90s, this live action interpretation looks gorgeous visually, but a lot of fans are worrying right now about how well it is going to adapt the story of the lauded film/manga. Because although the trailer seems to indicate a successful transfer of the anime’s futuristic world and aesthetics – minus the lighting and composition, which is disappointing, but I digress – there is no telling if the original’s themes are going to be simplified for general audiences as Hollywood often likes to do.
And this is fair criticism, especially considering the director at the helm here has only one other big-budget film under his belt. Rupert Sanders directed the 2012 film, Snow White and the Huntsmen, which currently has a 48% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I don’t even trust Rotten Tomatoes considering how often cinematic scat manages to find high freshness ratings on the site, a constant reminder that the human race is a sickness to the earth, but that still means the only other movie he’s made is hot garbage in the eyes of many. Not exactly an amazing track record. Then again, maybe he was disillusioned by the Hollywood factory line. Perhaps he didn’t care to put effort into Kristen Stewart pretending to be a fairy tale character in a film that turned out to be nothing more than a forgettable but stinky fart in long string of shitty, overly-produced fairy tale movies.
I think that’s what everyone in the comment section really has to be wishing for, anyway. With fingers crossed, we all just have to wait and see and hope that this Sanders guy, who probably doesn’t even know the first thing about being a senator in Vermont or getting robbed by the democratic party, can deliver something worth watching. Not just a regrettable kidney stone in a long string of shitty, overly-produced adaptations and remakes.
With ScarJo’s name attached to the project, we can at least say that she is definitely one of the coolest actresses in Hollywood. Black Widow, Lucy (which was stupid but whatever), and Mindy from The Spongebob Squarepants Movie. That’s the kind of person that runs on walls with dual pistols and enjoys it. I appreciate that at least one person working on this film is enthusiastic in making it aside from the set designers and maybe the cinematographers. Because really, the original movie looks golden. An anime that isn’t also an embarrassment is rare, so I definitely will be watching that to see how this remake stands up.
If nothing else, I can see this movie being a decent collection of colorful lights to have play in front of your eyes as you gorge on popcorn in a dark room alongside the other bipedal apes who enjoy the act of sitting in dark rooms and gnashing loudly on butter and salt. In the scenario that this movie does turn out to be doodoo, then hey, there’s always that 1995 anime and Ms. Johansson’s low-quality noods somewhere on the internet.
Hollywood really wants us to go watch science fiction movies. We’re all plenty aware that Disney is going to bombard general audiences with annual Star Wars movies from now to 2020. In addition to the numbered entries in the series, we’ll also be getting side stories of characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Han Solo as individual films. I personally can’t wait to find out more about Dexter Jettster™ and his 50’s themed diner.
As for non-Disney controlled properties, a film adaptation of a French comic series and a live-action adaptation of a popular anime are both coming soon to silver screens near you. One of which has the director of The Fifth Element on board, and the other has Scarlett Johansson looking practically butt nekkid. As god-king, I will now pass my ultimate judgements for these movies based on their trailers. Will they find the land of milk and honey that is my favor? Or will my growing sense of apathy toward Hollywood damn them for eternity?
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
I suppose we should just start with the morbidly obese elephant in the room: the Star Wars. Sometimes when I’m alone, I think. And sometimes when I think of the hideous mass of tumors that is Disney’s empire, with it’s lumpy, misshapen form lousy with boils, and dollar bills strewn about its gurgling, amorphous figure clinging to its sticky, milky flesh… I sometimes forget that I actually enjoy some of the viscous waste goo excreted from its various udders.
Certainly not all of it. If someone puts Mickey Mouse™ ears on my body when I die, they best know I’m waking tf up and dragging them to hell with me. I don’t like Disneyland. I don’t like musical numbers. Pixar’s lost their touch. Disney princesses are about as interesting as a glass of hot dog water. And the next person who tells me The Lion King is “just like Hamlet,” is getting a collected volume of Shakespeare across the temple.
It just so happens that one of Disney’s many tentacles is currently absorbing the nutrients of Lucasfilm’s monolithic franchise (and therefore my childhood), so I have to put up with it. So far, it only seems like the dialogue is awful. That’s the right word. Awful.
Cliches and lame excuses for interesting dialogue have been evident since the first trailer’s “This is a rebellion… I rebel,” quote broke my ankles and stole my SSN. I thought that would be the worst of it. But then the “Rogue… Rogue One” line in this trailer threw bleach in my eyes and laughed at me for ever thinking that. Now I’m Brailling it.
Speaking of severely debilitating vision impairments, Donnie Yen’s inclusion as a blind guy-with-stick is a rock solid casting choice. I’m very happy to see my Ip Man cross-contaminated with my Star Wars, even if it is just an obvious ploy to net the elusive Chinese dollar that Force Awakens totally and hilariously missed.
Unfortunately, the yin to to Yen’s yang comes in the form of the theatrically stunted oaf, himself: Forest Whitaker. Thus raising the question: “Who let this happen?” Really, I will be taking note of casting during the credits. How has Morgan Freeman still not been cast as the sagely, old Star Wars character yet? The guy will read the script of a high school stage production if you promise him a scalp massage and two coupons to the Long John Silvers. How could he deny this check?
I would call this a let down, but naturally I’m saving those feelings of disappointment for when Darth Vader shows up in the film for 5 whole minutes of screen time. I can’t wait to see his nondescript face plastered all over cereal boxes, toys, clothing, and adult novelties, accordingly.
Stepping back from the flaming roast I’ve just created, I would be lying if I said the cinematography in Rogue One doesn’t look stellar. I actually want to pay money to see the action scenes in this film. The practical effects look great, and considering the production pedigree, I can expect an amazing soundtrack to play over the whole nonsensical thing. Never mind all that story stuff when you got good pew-pew lasers. Who watches movies for good stories anyway? Certainly not this red-blooded American, that’s for sure.
It’s been a long, torturous drought. The crops have all but died, and the livestock have grown terribly ill. What’s it been? 5, 10, 15 years? I know. It’s been a long time. There’s been many a trial and much strife. Trouble in paradise, to be certain. But rejoice, friends. The prodigal son has returned! Toil those dead soils no longer and follow me into the future. Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.
Okay… I think that simple “I’m back,” just rang up the entirety of my extended metaphor budget for the rest of this review… But whatever, you only get this one life. Swag it as hard as you can. Am I right or am I right? Okay, unless you’re Hindu as a mug and believe in samsara. In which case, you still only get this one life to swag, but can pretend like you don’t. Unless you’re on God-King Xerxes level like me, in which case your reign will last another thousand years. Damn. It feels good to be a gangster.
Oh yeah, right. I had a review to write… I knew that. You think I didn’t know that? Why are you looking at me like that…? Wow. I just came here for a good time and I honestly just feel so attacked right now. Here. Here’s your damn review. Don’t hate me cuz I’m beautiful. *rambling, ego-fueled gibberish ends**review begins*
Not unlike eating a hundred Twinkies or getting a winky in the stinky (allegedly), X-COM: Enemy Within (Firaxis, 2013) is one of those things that you never truly comprehend the difficulty of until you attempt it for yourself. But unlike those two things , the sense of accomplishment that makes it all worthwhile doesn’t also entail a vague, intangible sense of self-loathing and disgust. Enemy Within is the re-release of X-COM: Enemy Unknown (2012), and comes packaged with all the DLC and expansion content as well as the base game, making it the most complete version available. After sinking in an almost embarrassing amount of time shooting E.T.’s in the face, I can firmly say this is one of the most criminally overlooked console games of the ps3/Xbox 360 generation. For those who can appreciate a slower, more methodical and strategically focused experience from a game, this is one that not only delivers an awesome campaign, but is very accessible for newbies to the genre.Premise: Aliens have invaded our planet. It is up to you as the commander of X-COM, a black ops military organization funded by Earth’s national super powers, to fight back against the hostile invaders and save our species from being eradicated. A bit of a tall order for the average person, some might say, and the game reflects that in its gameplay. After the relatively simple tutorial missions, the game takes the training wheels off and doesn’t take long before asking you to race that bike in the Tour de France. Jumping between two different modes of play – combat and resource management – the game constantly forces the player to weigh decisions between short-term and long-term gains/consequences. The micro level of this occurs in the game’s strike team operations, where you take the reigns as armchair general and command a squad of up to six soldiers. Playing these missions on the game’s “Classic” (aka: hard) difficulty is no walk in the park. Though you see the battlefield from a bird’s eye view, the maps are shrouded in darkness until you move a soldier into the area. And after losing soldiers by being too overzealous in my approaches, bum rushing them into rooms where 2 or 3 aliens were apparently just playing tiddlywinks waiting for us to show up, I learned pretty early on that this is a game where being overly aggressive is about as good for your continued health as being black near a police officer. (ooh topical)This is easily where most of your time in X-COM will be spent. Because, unless you’re either Rain Man or someone who finds sick pleasure in throwing lambs to the slaughter, excelling in this game requires a thorough understanding of your soldier’s classes and strengths, smart utilization of your non-replenishing resources (like rockets and smoke grenades), and a little bit of luck. Since it is a turn-based game, any shots you take at enemies are based off percentages, which are based off a soldier’s distance from a target and if the target is in cover, which is based on whether or not you suck. But of course, you can still get f*cked when you line up a 90% successful shot and still miss. Because probability. Because math. Because go f*ck yourself. Nothing says elite martian-killer like missing the large, floating tentacle beast hovering five feet from your face. This is probably the most annoying aspect of Enemy Within. It’s in those moments when I would lose immersion in the game. And I feel the need to add that the load times in this game are insane. Literally insane. Like, they’ll put you in a psyche ward because you’ll have lost your mind waiting to take back that seemingly ingenious flanking maneuver that ended with three of your best soldiers dead. These two things can combine to make some very frustrating moments. I recommend saving often if you plan on keeping any hair on your head.Since this is the expanded version of the game, there’s a lot of new customization options that make this version of the game stand out from the original. And I’m not just talking about painting your squad to look like the Power Rangers, though it is true that not doing that is to play the game wrong. Enemy Within has another currency/resource called “Meld” that is specifically used for enhancing your soldiers. Meld can be spent in a gene lab to give your fighters useful new abilities, like being able to live past an initial death or the ability to leap to the roofs of buildings. This is an excellent way to tug the rope in your favor as the game’s enemies become more resilient (read: a bigger pain in the ass). In addition to genetic modification, Meld is also able to be spent on the new MEC class. Unlike the typical Sniper, Heavy, Assault, and Support classes of the base game, MECs cannot hide behind cover, but can become walking tanks through upgrades. Wielding Rail Cannons and being able to literally rocket-punch foes through walls isn’t cheap however, as MEC costs are considerably larger than gene mods. And thus, not only is it challenging to collect Meld (which is found in missions, but is only acquirable during a short number of turns), but knowing how to spend it wisely is also an ordeal in itself. Is it better to save up for that sweet MEC upgrade or spread the love around to the rest of the recruits? In the end, it’s seeing how these decisions pay off that raises the quality bar of Enemy Within, as it makes the decisions of the player impact the game in ways they might not see immediately. Making tough choices is an important part of leadership, and the game does an excellent job of capturing that sense of player agency. X-COM: Enemy Within has a couple rough edges here and there. For one, it’s possible this game doesn’t even have a soundtrack, or at least, an unmemorable one since I literally can’t remember if there was ever anything playing outside of the corny cutscenes. This isn’t a major gripe, but as someone who appreciates a good OST, as demonstrated by almost every other review I’ve written, it’s a plus I sadly cannot bolster onto Enemy Within‘s resume. In terms of technical performance, the game is generally fine, but sometimes levels would load in with muddy textures and I would puke and it was a mess and nobody cleaned it and now I’ve been evicted and I live in the Gaylord Stadium. So yeah, that sucks. Especially (!) considering those heinous load times. Like, what were you even loading? A troll face? Speaking of trolling, let’s talk about the ending of the game. Can you say “underwhelming?” The final mission is set up to be the most “awesomest thing evarrr” and then when you kill the big bad, it’s just like “congrats, homie. Here’s some stats on how you did.” I mean, the story is never exactly 2001: A Space Odyssey, but a pat on the back is not decent closure for having just saved the human race. At the very least, give me one of those quirky credits sequences with the aliens dancing or something. Like damn. Got me feeling like Rodney Dangerfield over here. No respect, I tell ya.
(God bless you, Rodney. May your soul Triple Lindy in eternity.)
That all being said, it would be heretical to rate this game low. The flaws aren’t all that apparent, and so long as you play on a difficulty level on par with your skill level, the overarching experience makes X-COM: Enemy Within worth at least one playthrough. There’s even a secondary mode for sadomasochists called “Ironman,” where you play on the hardest difficulty and can’t take back any of your mistakes because it just hurts so good. Essentially, it’s the gaming equivalent of the Christian Grey experience. Personally, the appeal of pulling out my own fingernails weighs slightly more favorably on the scale, but to each their own. Enemy Within is an incredibly deep and engrossing game with a lot of content on offer. I didn’t even get to mention the optional Exalt side missions where you fight against human cultists who seek to aid the aliens, and I didn’t play any of the online multiplayer. But that really just adds to the argument doesn’t it? There are a couple of small issues, and it’s certainly not a game for everyone, but there’s a lot of game to enjoy and it’s an exemplar of its genre. To quote from Heinlein’s Starship Troopers: “Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor.” So go out there and scalp yourself some little green men. For queen and country! Obligatory Number at the End: 8.75/10
Hey there. Just a little nugget right here for those who are still reading. If you liked what you read, why don’tcha be a pal and leave a comment? Even a racially insensitive one that will offend my Tumblrina otherkin sensibilities like, “Hey, this was purdy good,” or “wow friggin about time you posted, scrub.” It feels good to be kicking it in the driver’s writer’s seat again (which is actually just my bed while I bump heavy ass trap music like a damned fool in my headphones), and I appreciate all feedback. Thank you!!
And finally, here’s a taster for my next piece, in which I’ll discuss how Korean pop music has ruined my life for the better: