An Incendiary Note On Doctor Who’s Retcon

Sitting at my day job, as I sometimes do,  my mind wanders to all manor of things. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the X-wing Miniatures game and Green Lantern Comics. Sometimes I also think about how weird the 90s actually were. Sometimes I wonder if we would have achieved this level of technology if the planet was only 2 tenths water instead of 7.

For some reason I feel like the answer would be no.

Last week I started reflecting on The Day of the Doctor. It’s been a while since it came out, but I got there eventually. I mean (spoilers) how cool was that episode? How completely amazing was it to see the Time Lords back in play? And Billie Piper was back as an alien super-weapon’s conscience. I mean, bangarang Rufio what?!?!

And while Tennant is one of my least favorite new Doctors, I always love seeing him along.

But as I reflected, I started thinking about the logistics of the Time War and all its subsequent events. And it strikes me, as I try to focus on my work, that The Day of the Doctor makes no sense. Like not even a little. Here is my list of grievances because I would love to argue about it on the internet.

My understanding of The End of Time is that the Time Lords are trying to break out of the Time Lock using the signal they implanted in the Master’s mind. So I believe they are already timelocked or whatever it is that the The Doctor remembers doing when John Hurt pushed the big, red button. I’m assuming he only remembers pushing the red button to activate The Moment since #9 and #10 only recall burning Gallifrey. I mean, if Gallifrey was just hidden in a pocket universe and all the Daleks killed each other in the crossfire, how did Dalek Caan pull Davros out of the time lock to rebuild the Dalek Empire and steal Earth during the 10th Doctor’s run?

And if there was no time lock how was the Lord President of the Time Lords back in The End of Time to wreck everyone’s day?

And how is it that the Doctor has always remembered Gallifrey being both timelocked and burned? In The Day of the Doctor there was a discussion about how many children were on Gallifrey when it burned. So why time lock the war if you’re going to kill everyone?

And why did 10 believe at The End of Time that all the crazy from the war would come back? He talked about the Nightmare Child and the Would-Have-Been King and a million bajillion Daleks. I get that The Doctor’s memories were confused because of… actually I don’t really get it. There’s some timey wimey about all the timelines being messed up and John Hurt, 9 and 10 not remembering this stuff. Still, my problem is not with hand-waving away his missing memories, but with the idea that both happened.

And what the hell is a time lock? I assumed that it was a point in space-time that was put in a big bubble that other people can’t time travel to. Again I ask, if it’s locked up, why burn everything? And if you’re gonna burn it, guess you don’t need the lock, right?

God I miss Babylon 5.

God I miss Babylon 5.

Also, what the hell is up with the time lords? This was THE last great war that almost swallowed the whole universe and made a man committed to fixing things talk himself into fake genocide. I was expecting some next level space wizard s***. I wanted some science-as-magic themed super soldiers a la Babylon 5‘s technomages, but even cooler.

What I didn’t expect was a generic-combat-armor-scifi-film-wardrobe-are-these-guys-cosplaying guessing game. And for my money, I’m thinking Wing Commander or the Lost In Space remake with Matt LeBlanc. Also, how did they get Gary Oldman in that movie? Wait, that question probably belongs somewhere else.

How is it the Doctor’s own people conduct a war in much the same way I would expect us to? I’m not saying they should be better at it, but one could make the argument being alive for billions of years damn well ought to make them better at it. I’m not saying they should be better in the sense that they should be morally above our kind of warfare. Part of the reason John Hurt pushed the button was because the Time Lords had become monstrous. I’m saying they should look cooler doing it. I want laser screwdrivers that look like wizard’s staves and war TARDIS battles with clever time-shift tactics.

Also, did Gallifrey actually get destroyed at one point? Is this like, it always was burned until this first time when Matt Smith changed his mind? Or is it like it never got burned and John Hurt, 9 and 10 just remember it weird because the Time lines crossed the streams or something?

Just saying.

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NPCs Are the Worst

pretty and vacant

Pretty and vacant. Kind of like Megan Fox!

I’ve been having a difficult time playing video game RPGs lately. Sure, many of them are great. Some of them have interesting stories to tell, but what takes me out of the experience every time are the non-player characters. Yep, those mindless characters with 5-6 lines of dialog that either wander around endlessly or stand in one place.

Take Skyrim, which is considered the best video game RPG by many. I was in one of the villages when a dragon attacked. The dragon killed some NPCs before I was able to slay it. As I inspected the bodies I noticed that the mother/wife of one of the families had been killed. I went to talk to each of the characters in the woman’s family; I even took her body home for them to lay it to rest.

You know what those NPCs did? The same things they always did. Telling me about the best places to buy weapons, and how scary things had gotten in the world lately. No mention of the death of their mother/wife. No sorrow. Just aimless wandering. Same dialog.

And it completely pulled me out of the game. Because there are no stakes. If the NPCs don’t seem like they care about each other when they die, why should I care about them? Why even save the world? Why redeem something so devoid of life and emotion?

John was playing Destiny‘s beta the other day. He told me that he was totally into the gameplay, but as soon as he had to talk to an NPC, he was over it.

MMO NPCs are really the worst. I remember playing World of Warcraft and watching these random computer people walking around spouting their one line of dialog. Meanwhile, hundreds of decked out warriors flooded into their city. They didn’t care. It seemed really out of place. (WoW is weird. There’s a lot of war, but very little NPC industry. I’m not sure how that economy even moves. Who is making everything? Growing the food?)

I’ve outlined what I want from an MMO RPG before. I want a game where the PCs basically run everything because video game RPGs just don’t have the AI yet to run realistic NPCs yet.

Maybe I’ve been ruined by tabletop roleplaying games. Probably. But, I feel like video game RPGs have been doing the same thing for nearly 30 years. NPCs are basically the same as they were back in Final Fantasy. It’s time for NPCs to be improved.

If I Made GOTHAM

For a little while now, I’ve been unexcited about the concept behind FOX’s upcoming Batman prequel, GOTHAM. I don’t know if it’s because Smallville teased me for a decade or because I was more excited for Heroes than I have ever beenabout any other show. Ever.

You should note that these criticisms have nothing to do with what we’ve seen of GOTHAM at all. And that’s fair. The cast looks great. The trailer actually looks pretty amazing.

But I guess I just don’t see the point. I wouldn’t be shocked if some of the show had been inspired by Gotham Central, which I quite enjoyed. The premise being what super crime in Gotham looks like from the street view the cops have.

But the takeaway of these stories for me is that there need to be superheroes. Which I totally agree with, but why would I want to watch a show that doesn’t have any?

A Different Kind of Show

So if I were doing GOTHAM, I think the first thing I would do is get rid of Gotham City. It’s too well-known and the idea of Batman is so provocative you risk creating a Batman babies program with kid Catwoman and young Joker. I say forget that noise. Instead, I would do a completely generic police procedural like you see on TNT. There would be dramatic scenes, compelling music, and beautiful, brooding protagonists staring directly at the screen a la Rizzoli and Iles or Cold Case.

And I would keep it completely mundane for the entire first season. Just the typical one-shot criminals and police drama. And then in the second season, a few episodes in, I would hit the protagonists with their first supervillain. No one knows where he or she came from or why they do it. All the cops know is they’re darn near unstoppable and they barely run them out of town.

At this point, careful observers might have noticed the tiniest hints of weirdness around the edges of the first season that foreshadowed something else going on. And then the show would go back to normal for a little bit while everyone wondered what the #$?! was going on.

And the show would carry on like that for a while. Normal police procedural that occasionally sees a supervillain pop in a do something crazy. It would be a subtle escalation that tests the limits of our heroes and gives a true view of what everyday life looks like when you have to live in a world with superpowers.

And then around season 4 the first superhero would show up. Just out of the blue, after the cops are getting used to just barely winning and seeing friends die at the hands of super crazies, a masked vigilante shows up and changes the game.

And this is where it gets really interesting. The show turns out to have been a hero origin story the whole time, but from the perspective of our dynamic police force. And like the cops, the show doesn’t reveal who the hero is or how they became what they are. Instead we’re left guessing if it’s one of the supporting cast or some bit criminal from season 1. Could just be some guy no one knows.

Maybe eventually the police even form an alliance, if they ever figure out he’s not just another nut job and stop trying to arrest him.

GothamAnd I would have the story arcs for each season pre-written, so we could lay down clues and foreshadow events years out.

At least that’s how I would do it, with nods to sources like Gotham Central, Irredeemable, and Nemesis –works I’m stealing from in spirit if not directly.

It would be a long con for sure, and I expect no basic cable station would want anything to do with it in the age of instant gratification television. And if it did get a first season, there would be the constant threat of cancellation. But imagine audience reaction once it started to get real. And maybe this kind of show is too conceptual for modern television. Hard to say, but I do think we live in an embarrassment of superhero riches. As the genre’s creative boundaries stretch further and further, maybe some enterprising, young artists will read this and steal it.

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Game Mastering

Edge of the EmpireI had a really good roleplaying game session over the weekend. I generally end up “gamemastering” for my friends because I’m generally the person to organize the game and come up with ideas. I’m not a huge fan of doing it because I would prefer to just roll a character up and focus solely on that. Universe building isn’t really my forte.

But the other night, I had a really good time running a game. It’s like my nearly decade-and-a-half of running RPGs coalesced into something that was fun for the players (I think), but also really, really fun for me. It was a nice change of pace. I’m generally concerned with other people having fun.

So, bearing in mind that I ran an awesome game that I’m still really excited about, here are my game master tips.

1.) Be prepared, but don’t over prepare.
Having a basic idea of what you want to do is great! Coming up with some interesting encounters (and I’m not just talking about combat encounters)  that you can run is also a really good idea, but don’t prepare to the point that you can’t run off the rails. No one wants to play an on-rails tabletop RPG. People have video games for that. Be flexible. And be prepared for anything because players will go off in directions that you didn’t expect.

2.) Play to the strengths of the medium.
When I started running games, I was very much influenced by the video games (Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, etc.). However, that isn’t really the way to go. I mentioned going of the rails in the previous tip. That might be the true strength of RPGs. You can do ANYTHING. You want your character to invent a flying machine that can shoot magical lightning in order to fight against an evil mayor’s unjust taxation? It’s possible. Even in a game that isn’t exactly about that. Give your players some freedom. It makes things more interesting.

3.) Consequences
Give your players freedom, but don’t give them freedom from consequence. In real life, your actions have repercussions. If your players rob a store, you’d better have the constable come after them. If they tick off a crime lord, you’d best believe that a bounty will be put on their heads.

4.) Keep your energy up.
If you aren’t excited, your players won’t be. You’re there to have fun. If you need some snacks to keep the energy up, do it! Take a break if you feel your energy flagging.

Those are the things I keep in mind when running a game. Your mileage may vary, but these have served me well in all my years of GMing. If you have some tips, share them in the comments!

 

Something Something of the Planet of the Apes

Ah the reboot, the Hollywood method of pumping new life and new revenue from an existing intellectual property. A way  of turning each franchise into a choose-your-own adventure story. In many ways and though to far less profit, it is what we have done recently here at The Cool Ship.

Image property of 20th Century Fox

Image property of 20th Century Fox

The Planet of the Apes was an absolute revolution when it first hit theaters in 1968. The film boasted the largest FX budget of the time and the sweet baritone of future NRA president, and the guy who seems to love screaming at the end of sci-fi movies, Charlton Heston. The film also starred Roddy McDowall as a frightening realistic (at least for the time) talking ape.

The film is about a team of astronauts who crash land on what they think is an alien planet, but turns out to be the Earth in a distant future. In this future, apes have evolved beyond men while man as we know him has experienced a sort of devolution and has been enslaved. The movie’s beautiful climax when Heston’s character enters “the forbidden zone” and discovers the remains of the statue of liberty is one of the most heartbreaking on celluloid. Planet of the Apes grossed very well for the time.

From that moment forward, for about 10 years, a Planet of the Apes sequel was released bi-yearly, each with an even more ridiculously long title ; Beneath The Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Stop The Planet of the Apes I Wanna Get Off the musical. That last one was a joke… and not even my joke… it’s from the Simpsons.

Image property of Fox television

Image property of Fox television

The Planet of the Apes sequels are all horrible. I know The Planet of the Apes sequels were awful because they only cost about $4 on Blu Ray… for all of them. That’s roughly 80 cents per film. The original film is available in a standalone Blu ray for $16, or you can get a boxed set of the entire series for $20. I could cite any number of reasons, from decreased budget to watered down scripts to less interesting actors for the shift in quality, but I think you get the idea. I won’t even go into the 2001 reboot except to say that Mark Wahlberg is a pretty poor substitute for Charlton Heston (keep in mind this is 2001 Marky Mark), and the final scene posed questions that could only be answered in a sequel that never came.

image property of 20th Century Fox

image property of 20th Century Fox

2011′s Rise of the Planet of The Apes has taken us back to where it all began. It attempts to answer the question that no one was asking; “how did those apes get so smart, and the humans so dumb”.  The CGI is like nothing ever seen before and as an action movie it does pretty well.

James Franco is a scientist (still with me?) testing a drug meant to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s in humans on chimpanzees. The tests are shut down when one of the apes goes… oh I can’t help myself … Ape S@#! and cause the entire lot to be destroyed. Franco smuggles one infant chimp out of the lab. The chimp called Caesar is crazy smart due to the Alzheimer’s drug passing from his mother. Caesar ultimately is responsible for giving “rise”, if you will, to The Planet of the Apes.  You can see where this is headed, right?  All and all a fine if unnecessary film addition to an incredibly overworked concept. However, it is successful in showing a logical path to the world we were exposed to in the original film.  The most amazing thing about this movie and the coming sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is Andy Serkis as Caesar. His movements are recorded by a state-of-the-art suit and transcribed for CGI. This setup makes for a most believable sentient monkey. Has he ever been in a movie? As a person?   Serkis achieves what took Roddy McDowall hours of make-up in the original.

I look forward to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes with cautious optimism: we may yet get the follow-up film we have been waiting for since 1968, or we may just as likely get another 80 cent sequel.

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Dune, Nostalgia, and our Rose-Colored Past

DuneI first read Frank Herbert’s Dune when I was in my tweens. I was reading a lot of Star Wars novels at the time, and I started looking for something a little meatier. While browsing the shelves of the local Barnes and Noble, I saw a “staff recommends” sign next to the small paperback copy of the book. The sign read, simply, “Read the book that inspired Star Wars!”

Done. I bought the book with my hard-earned lawn mowing money.

And I loved it. Especially the litany. I would recite the litany against fear when I was afraid to do something. Before tests. Before rollercoasters. Before asking a girl out.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing… only I will remain

I read Dune again recently for my monthly book club, and I still loved it. It held up. It might not have been as good as my nostalgia made me think it was, but it was still solid.

I also recently read Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule for the first time. It wasn’t very good, but it was recommended to me multiple times by many people. Did nostalgia make it seem better to those people than it was?

This week, National Geographic Channel began airing The ’90s: The Last Great Decade? It’s an intriguing look back at decade that I began as a child and ended a high schooler. Many of the images and stories shown still deeply affected me: the Berlin Wall crumbling, the giant fan gathering after Kurt Cobain’s suicide, the missiles raining down in the Persian Gulf,  Nancy Kerrigan’s  anguished cry of “Why!?”

Memories began surrounding those moments. Where was I when I heard the news? When did I see them on TV? Who was reporting the news at the time? How did I feel? And the feelings I had at the time began to rush back. I was scared when I saw the images of the Gulf War. I was happy to see the people celebrating as the Wall came down.

Nostalgia is so powerful, but it’s a double-edged sword. I am who I am today not because of those things that happened, but how I remember them happening. I’ve recommended books, movies, video games, and foods based on my memory of them. But memory can be fooled pretty easily. Food that tasted AMAZING on a date with my wife might not taste as good to me when she’s not around. A song I remember listening to when I was carefree and driving around in my first car simply isn’t as good when I listen to it now (I’m looking at you, Meet Virginia).

Thankfully, Dune is good enough to stand up to my nostalgia. The Litany Against Fear still calms me down. But nostalgia is big business. There are whole websites dedicated to old video games, old toys, old candy, old things. These places count on you wanting to buy the stuff that made you happy when you were young, but beware–the things you loved as a kid probably aren’t as good as you think they are.

That doesn’t make the joy you had back then invalid. It doesn’t make your feelings about anything worthless; however, it might be good for us to realize that the lens we are looking through is rose colored. The past is great. We all had awesome times that we are fond of, but we shouldn’t long to be there again. We shouldn’t get stuck there. We should look forward to the new nostalgia we can make, try to make good memories today, and not fear the future.

After all, fear is the mind-killer.

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What Batman Means to Me.

In honor of the 75th Anniversary of Batman, I’ve decided to write about my favorite hero of all time, The Caped Crusader.

"You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?" [image prop. of Warner Bros.]

“You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” [image prop. of Warner Bros.]

One my fondest childhood nerd memories was when I went to see Tim Burton’s 1989 classic (and I legitimately mean that), Batman, starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. I was only six or seven at the time, but for me it was a life-changing experience. The moment when he was holding the purse-snatching thug over the side of the building and the thug frantically asks, “What are you?”, and Gotham’s Dark Knight replied in his fearsome, non-just-gargled-glass tone, “I’m Batman.” He then tossed the terrified scumbag back to the roof and leaped off into the shadows of the city. I had goosebumps when I first experienced that scene and have every time since then. That was the moment when I knew Batman was my superhero, the hero that would forever be the paramount of all heroes. None would ever compare to him and none have, save for The Doctor, who could ever only tie with him.

Just in case you need your memory jogged, this is the moment:

Growing up, I was a Batman fanatic. I had toys, I had t-shirts, I had comic books and anything else I could get my hands on. I was obsessed. I used to run around the yard or the playground pretending to be Batman. I would sit and watch reruns of the ’60s Batman television series with Adam West and Burt Ward. When I received an original Game Boy for Christmas one year, one of the first games I got was Batman: Return of the Joker. I almost wore out the cartridge playing from playing it so much. I lost count of how many times that I beat the Joker. I could not get enough of Batman.

He was the best kind of hero: incredibly intelligent and clever, strong, agile, trained in many styles of martial arts, and resourceful. He was rich, which when I was a kid, was freaking sweet. He was a detective, using his brains to solve crimes instead of running around beating the confessions out criminals. He had the best costume in comic books. And he didn’t kill, which I tend to disagree with every now and then, but it’s an admirable gesture. My favorite thing about him was that he was human. He wasn’t a super-powered alien or a robot or a god, nor was he given powers by some sort freak accident. He was just a regular guy using his brain and the gadgets he made to clean up the streets of Gotham.

Batman: The Animated Series [image prop. of Warner Bros.]

Batman: The Animated Series [image prop. of Warner Bros.]

Throughout the years, my admiration has never wavered, never faltered. Even with some less than desirable mishaps in the adaptations of the character (Batman & Robin), I’ve always stayed true. Thankfully, there have been more good than bad when it comes to Batman on the big and small screens.

For example, Batman: The Animated Series, which is widely regarded as the best adaptation of the Dark Knight ever to be created. I wholeheartedly agree. The superior writing, the phenomenal animation work by Bruce Timm, and the outstanding voice acting from Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (Joker) that will forever be ingrained into the memory banks of every fan of the show. If you haven’t watched every episode of that entire series at least once, you haven’t truly lived. I mean seriously…what have you been doing with your life?!

Here’s one of my favorite episode’s, Joker’s Favor:

Batman TAS – 1×22 – Joker’s Favor

Most, if not all, of the other animated version have been exceptionally entertaining but none so much as Batman: TAS. It’s quite difficult to live up to its perfection. The Batman, Batman Beyond, The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1 & 2, and pretty much any other animated version that came out were all done remarkably well, especially Batman Beyond. It was essentially a sequel to TAS, but its story took place in a future Gotham where Batman had become to old and broken to continue on. He had hung up his cape and cowl and chose to retire until a young man by the name of Terry McGinnis came along and took up the mantle. Once again, the series was blessed with excellent writers, stories, characters, and voice actors, which makes this series a close second to the greatness of TAS. Will Friedle (Eric Matthews from Boy Meets World) was a fantastic choice to voice Terry. Beyond is another series that needs to be viewed multiple times just because it’s that good. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, an animated movie continuation of the series, is a top notch choice for multiple viewings. For a children’s animated film, it was actually somewhat disturbing, but not in a bad way.

The movies were another story though. They started off really well and then descended on a downward spiral with each sequel. Tim Burton brought Batman to life in 1989 with the first of two films (Batman Returns being the second), starring Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight. Keaton’s Batman is my absolute favorite version of the character. To me, he was the perfect Bruce Wayne and Batman. He was dark and menacing, charming and aloof, heroic and fearless, all when needed to be. The films were dark in their tone, just as they should’ve been, and the villains were amazing: Jack Nicholson as The Joker, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, and Danny DeVito as the Penguin created three of the best villains ever to grace the screen.

Then 1995 came along, Tim Burton and Michael Keaton didn’t want to continue doing the films, so Joel Schumacher and Val Kilmer took over as director and star, respectively. Things changed rather quickly with Batman Forever. The scenery was dark but not as dreary, everything turned neon and bright, and the villains became a little more over the top. They introduced an older Robin, changed Harvey Dent from black to white, and cast Jim Carrey as the Riddler. Actually, Carrey’s version of the Riddler was one of my favorites. Yes it was a bit over the top, but if you pay close attention, it’s not hard to tell that it’s a homage to Frank Gorshin’s version from ’60s series. I don’t hate this film, I rather enjoy it.

Now as for 1997′s Batman & Robin, that’s a whole ‘nother story. I despise this poorly-written, over-acted, over-the-top, campy, cartoonish piece of trash with all of my being. George Clooney became Batman, Alicia Silverstone became Batgirl (and also Alfred’s niece, not the Commissioner’s daughter), Uma Thurman hammed it up as Poison Ivy, Bane became a mindless henchman, and Arnold Schwarzenegger took a huge dump on my favorite Batman villain, Mr. Freeze. HUGE DUMP. I have never been so appalled by a film in all my life, and it’s mostly because of his performance. It makes me sick just thinking about it.  This film is such a blemish on the film history of Batman that most fans, including myself, completely disregard it as part of the series. It makes Phantom Menace look like Citizen Kane.

Awful. Just awful. [image prop. of Warner Bros.]

Awful. Just awful. [image prop. of Warner Bros.]

Luckily, eight years later, Christopher Nolan came along and rebooted the films with Batman Begins. In doing so, he also restored my faith in cinema as well as humanity. This film essentially brought Batman out of the comic book and into the real world. Nolan gave the Batman mythos depth and grounded it in reality, making viewers feel as Batman was flesh and blood and not some cartoon character. Begins was the start of one the best film trilogies ever, followed by The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Christian Bale did a remarkable job with the characters of Batman and Bruce Wayne, although his Batman voice did need a bit of work. He was able to capture the character in a way that rivaled what Keaton had done before. And with TDK, we were graced with the greatest interpretation of The Joker that we may ever see, thanks to the late Heath Ledger. Such a sadistic and homicidal, yet still hilarious, version that even Jack Nicholson’s version pales in comparison. And I will fight anyone who says differently (not really though). It was a sad day when Nolan declared that he would not be continuing with the series after the third film, after he had done such amazing things with it already. An even sadder day came when it was announced that Ben Affleck would be taking over as Batman, but that’s a rant for another time.

And let’s not forget about the games, mainly just the Arkham series, because pretty much every other Batman game has sucked. Except for Batman: Return of the Joker for the original Gameboy, of course. If you want to experience what it’s like to be Batman but don’t have billions of dollars to buy all the gear and don’t feel like getting the crap kicked out of you, then play the Arkham series. Well written, well designed, and they brought back Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill! Truly some of the best games ever made and worth every minute you’ll spend completely engrossed in them.

But I think I may have gotten off topic… What Batman means to me. For me, and I know this may sound corny, Batman has always been a hero. He’s a sign of hope in even the most grim of situations. A light in the darkness, if you will, even though he dwells in the darkness. He’s justice when there is none, courage in a city that is drowning in fear, strength even when the world breaks your back and leaves you for dead. As a kid, when I was afraid, pretending to be him or asking myself “What would Batman Do?” helped me to overcome a great deal of fear. Some might say there are other real heroes to look up to, but to me, he was real. He was the hero I needed in the worst of times. He was a mortal human who fought a great deal of injustice and super-powered villains and never faltered. He just kept fighting. He’d keep going if it killed him. He was and always will be a great protector. And in my opinion will always be a greater and more powerful hero than Superman ever could be. The fact that he could die at any moment, be killed by any foe he faces, and yet he continues fighting and protecting and making sure justice is served, without killing, is what makes him so incredible. Out of his greatest tragedy (the murder of his parents), he has gathered the courage and strength to become the greatest hero that Gotham, and the world, has ever seen. And because of that he has become the one of the greatest heroes many in the real world, including myself, have ever seen.

To me, Batman is courage, strength, hope, determination, intelligence, kindness, justice, and so many other wonderful things that have helped make me the person I am today. And I will continue to use what I have learned for the rest of my days. I will pass this knowledge on to my children and I will teach them about the greatness of Batman and how truly spectacular he is and what they can learn from him. He will forever be a part of who I am.

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Charting a New Course

transparent ships bigHey everyone,

It’s been awhile… hasn’t it. A lot of life changes were happening for a lot of us, so we went away for a little bit.

But now we’re back.

And we’re doing things a little more simply now. You’ll notice the look of the site has changed. I’m sure it will undergo further revisions as we discuss (argue?!) and refine what we’re doing here.

Who are we? Oh. Yeah, maybe I should reintroduce us.

I’m Tj. I’m the guy that generally takes care of The Cool Ship and tries to keep the ol’ girl on course. John and Rob have been here since the inception (bwaaaaam) of the site. Gabrielle is here, too. And Mr. J. Fortune. And more! I’d encourage you to go back through the archives and read some of our stuff. I think you’ll find that it’s generally pretty good, and you’ll get a good feel for what we’re doing here. We’re just people with opinions, writing in our own little corner of the Internet.

Come along with us.

Tj

This Oil Bath is Going to Feel so Good

Star Wars is going to get an oil bath. Or a memory wipe.

In what I’m sure will make millions of fan boys cry out in terror, Lucasfilm/Disney announced today that any book, comic, video game, etc. set after Return of the Jedi would no longer be considered Star Wars canon.

I see this as a profoundly great thing. It lets the new caretakers of Star Wars take the good ideas from the Expanded Universe and dump the dumb stuff (of which there is a lot).

I tried reading some of the expanded universe stuff recently, and it was terrible. Maybe it’s because my imagination was better as a kid, but even in the “good” EU novels (Like Heir to the Empire) there were stupid ideas. For instance, the clones had to have an extra vowel in their names for some reason (Luuke, Joruus). And little creatures that make “force bubbles” where Jedi can’t work? Ugh. And don’t even get me started on the stories where there are thousands of Emperor clones.

I do hope, though, that the good ideas will find homes. Grand Admiral Thrawn is a superb villain, and his second-in-command, Captain Pellaeon is great, too. And I have a love for the X-wing books and those characters as well.

While many fans may disagree with me, I think this is an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan. I’m looking forward to the future.


 

Farewell, Ultimate Warrior

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually watched any sort of professional wrestling and an even longer time since I actually enjoyed it. It’s nowhere near as great as it used to be, just a hollow shell of the massively spectacular extravaganza that it once was. Today, the “sport” is nothing but an over-the-top, testosterone-fueled, overly dramatic soap opera filled with 2nd rate actors and models who showboat more than they actually wrestle. It’s like if Days of Our Lives was filmed at a gym and they threw in some T&A. I won’t waste my time anymore.

Hulk knows who the real champ is.

Hulk knows who the real champ is.

When I was growing up, I was fortunate enough to be able to witness the better days of wrestling. I was able to witness the awesomeness of Macho Man Randy Savage, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Jake the Snake, Sgt. Slaughter, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and many other greats. They were the true artists of the sport, back when it was truly a sport. And one of the greatest ever to step into the ring was the Ultimate Warrior. The man was legendary from the very beginning. He was all muscle, mayhem, and neon face paint. He stood down from no challenge, he feared no opponent. He was a larger-than-life personality with the wrestling skills to match. He WAS wrestling. In my honest opinion, he was greater than even Hulk Hogan.

Sadly, the world has lost this legendary figure. Warrior passed away on Tuesday, just days after being inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame. His induction speech seems quite ominous now, “No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others, it makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized.”

We lost Andre the Giant, then Owen Hart, then Mr. Perfect, then Macho Man, and now the Ultimate Warrior. It truly is a sad day for what was once an incredible sport. I like to think that all the wrestling legends we’ve lost are wrestling each other somewhere out there in the great beyond.

R.I.P Warrior. You will forever be missed.

 

[image source: WWE]

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Deus Ex is Ruining my Dreams

I recently began playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution on PC. I got the “Director’s Cut” when it was on sale on Steam, because I wanted the best possible experience.

The game is great! I like the RPG elements; the story is mysterious and interesting. There are many ways to play the game, and I want to try them all. I think I can safely say that I haven’t been fully immersed into a game for a  long time. And it’s killing my sleep.

I don’t often have vivid dreams. Generally, I don’t remember my dreams, but when I do (and I’m in that place where I don’t know I’m dreaming…you know what I mean), I often have visions of danger dancing in my head.

The world of Deus Ex is dangerous and frightening. In it, corporations seem to have all the power. Humans are “augmented” with bio-mechanical upgrades to be harder, better, faster, stronger.

Daft Punk

Like these guys

The cyberpunk genre is compelling. Questions about how technology affects our minds and bodies, what it means to be human, how we should treat artificial intelligence, and how the poor can compete against the rich really tend to spark my imagination. But it also scares me to death, and when I immerse myself in that kind of world for a few hours…

Well, I have dreams.

Dreams where I’ve been modified against my will. Dreams where I am me, but the people coming to get me are modified, so I’m living a Most Dangerous Game that I can’t win. Dreams where the only way to save my son’s life is to make him part machine.

I hate these dreams!

But maybe my nocturnal visions are an indication that the aforementioned questions are important ones. It’s not just about my dreams; Deus Ex, William Gibson, Shadowrun, Blade Runner and countless other cyberpunk genre books, movies, and games emphasize the significance of the theme.

I want to finish the game, but it’s been a long time since a form of entertainment has affected my sleep so consistently.

Have you ever had entertainment affect you (or your sleeping patterns)?

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The Walking Dead Recap/Review: “A”

Are these people cannibals? So, pretty much the only atrocity we haven’t been subjected to, YET, on The Walking Dead is cannibalism. And I don’t know if you noticed, but as the Terminus shooters were herding Rick and company through the streets and alleys, there was a glimpse of…”meat” laid out behind a chain link fence. Also, there were voices coming from several stacked shipping containers yelling for help.

Plus, before Rick, Carl, and Michonne met up with Daryl, they dwelled on how hungry they were. Foreshadowing? I think so. Then, later, before the poop hit the fan in Terminus, there seemed to be a lot of meat-ish looking food to be had.

Cannibals? Maybe.

Just sayin’. I mean, I hope I’m wrong, but, after all, this is The Walking Dead.

Highlights from the season finale, “A”:

- Rick, Carl, and Michonne are still on their way to Terminus. And they’re hungry. Seriously, a lot of time was spent on talking about how hungry they are. Not that food hasn’t always been an issue, but the first part of “A” seemed to focus on it. A lot. Rick teaches Carl and Michonne (how did she not know this?) how to set up a snare to catch small game TO EAT. This is obviously important and very heavy-handed foreshadowing for what would happen once they get to Terminus. More on that later, though.

- They camp for the night on the road next to a trashed vehicle, which Carl is sleeping in while Rick and Michonne shoot the breeze outside. Suddenly, Joe and his band of nasties show up! Somehow, Joe worked out that Rick killed one of his guys back in “Claimed,” and he and his men have been tracking the trio ever since. (Wait, what? How did that happen? It must have conveniently taken place off camera, because it was certainly not shown that Joe and/or any of his men saw Rick at all! Not to mention Michonne or Carl! WEAK.) Joe has a gun to Rick’s head, another guy is covering Michonne, and a creepy pedophile is eyeing Carl in the vehicle. Then, Daryl comes out of the shadows and tries to convince Joe not to kill his friends. Joe and his guys turn on Daryl start to beat him. Joe declares that Daryl will be beaten to death, Michonne will be raped and killed, Carl will be raped and killed, and then, Rick will be killed.

So, let me just point out, we’ve had child murder on this show, and now we’re faced with the rape of Michonne and Carl. Disgusting.

Rick flips out and bites Joe’s throat out (literally), which allows the other guys to be taken down. The creepy pedophile is viciously killed. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about this scene, because I had to look away. It was too much. Joe and his men certainly deserved to die, and if my son had been threatened in a similar manner, I think I would have reacted in much the same way; however, it’s something I decided not to watch due to it’s graphic nature.

- The next day, Rick, Carl, Michonne, and Daryl continue on their way to Terminus. (Daryl explained what happened since the prison, and Rick welcomed him back as a brother.) When they reach Terminus, they decide to scout it out and go over a fence rather than enter through the front gates. Carl goes with Michonne to scout rather than Rick, and the boy explains to her that he’s having “thoughts” and is not who is father thinks he is. What? Not sure what that meant, but at least he and Michonne had a nice moment, so that’s good, I guess. See, she had noticed that Carl was kinda avoiding Rick and asked him about it. I inferred it was because of Rick’s recent tough decisions (not helping a dude surrounded by walkers, etc.) and the brutality with which he took down Joe’s group, but it wasn’t explained.

Daryl takes in the scene during the Terminus herding. Image courtesy of AMC.

Daryl takes in the scene during the Terminus herding. Image courtesy of AMC.

- Before going over the fence, Rick buries a bag of guns, ammo, and arrows in the woods as a just-in-case plan. Seems smart to me! They hop the fence and enter a warehouse, where they find the lady on the radio broadcasting that Terminus is a safe place. Other folks are there, too, making signs…or something. They are greeted nicely enough, told to disarm, searched, and then welcomed to Terminus. They even get their weapons back! So, Guy who Appears to be the Leader from Terminus (GAL) tells Nice Guy from Terminus (NGT) to show them around, and he leads them out into an open area, where Tasha Yarr (TNG, anyone?) is cooking bits of mystery meat. She offers it to them, and Carl is just about to take some when Rick notices that NGT has a pocket watch that looks suspiciously like the one Hershel gave to Glenn. Rick also sees someone in what looks like prison riot gear and someone else wearing a poncho that looks like Maggie’s (It was Maggie’s, right? I think so.) Rick grabs NGT and holds a gun to his head, demanding to know where the watch, the prison riot gear, and the poncho came from. A sniper appears on a roof, but NGT waves him off, trying to calm Rick down. It doesn’t work. Then, GAL appears on a roof, and after a couple of half-hearted attempts to diffuse the situation (during with NGT pleads with GAL not to “do it”), signals gun fire from the roofs. Rick, Carl, Michonne, and Daryl are herded through streets, alleyways, and buildings (It was so very like the way Rick described the animal snare, btw. TOLD YOU IT WAS HEAVY-HANDED FORESHADOWING. It was also during these scenes that they ran past the “meat” and the stacked containers that had people inside yelling for help. I had to rewind it a couple of times to make sure I saw and heard what I thought.) until they reach a fence and a line of gunmen. GAL threatens to kill Carl unless Rick cooperates and goes to stand in front of a train car. Slowly, they are each forced to line up in front of the car before entering into the dark car. Once they are inside, they see Glenn, Maggie, Bob, Sasha, Tara, Abraham, Mullet Man, and the other girl.

- The episode actually ended with a grain of hope, when Rick states that the Terminus folks have messed with the wrong group of people. I thought it was hopeful, at any rate.

FADE TO BLACK on the episode and season four of The Walking Dead.

There are still lots of loose ends, of course! Where’s Beth? Who snatched her? Was it conveniently someone from Terminus?  And what about Tyreese, Carol, and Judith? I think they’re probably already at Terminus somewhere, because as Rick and co. were entering the train car, the camera let us see trampled powdered milk boxes. I’m thinking that those point to Judith, somehow. Hopefully, she’s still alive, but maybe they already made a meal of her! IF they’re cannibals. IF! Of course, they could just be another group of crazies.

WHY DID RICK AND THE GANG BELIEVE IN TERMINUS? Arrive and survive? Come on! Obviously a trap. At least, Rick had the foresight to go in the back way. Ugh.

Also worth mentioning about this episode where the frequent flashbacks we got of happier times at the prison when Hershel was teaching Rick how to be a farmer. We got a little more story about why Rick seemed to eschew weapons and leadership in favor of planting. Turns out it was all for Carl, of course. That wasn’t hard to figure out, though. Still, it was nice to see the show address it.

So, I think that’s it for me and The Walking Dead! There was just too much this season. Too much gore. Too much violence. Too much sadness. Not enough…hope.

The world is already a dark place with too many evil people. But, at least there’s hope.

 

[[Featured image courtesy of AMC.]]

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Live-Action Turtle Power Returns!

The Turtles got a makeover. (image property of Nickelodeon Films)

The Turtles got a makeover. (image property of Nickelodeon Films)

When I first heard of a live-action Ninja Turtles reboot, I was excited. When I heard Michael Bay was the guy behind it, skepticism set in. Let’s just say I was on the fence. I’ve enjoyed his Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street remakes but the Transformers series has been hit-or-miss, so I haven’t been sure what to think. But this trailer has restored some faith in Michael Bay for me. He may have actually pulled this one off, even if he did cast Megan Fox as April O’Neil (wtf, really?!). I really wasn’t too keen on the way the Turtles look now but after watching this first trailer, the new look is starting to grow on me.

If you haven’t seen it, watch it now:

Pretty awesome, right?! And Willian Fichtner as The Shredder! The only thing missing is Casey Jones, but I don’t see him showing up until the sequel. If we’re lucky, maybe in an end credit scene in this film. *crosses fingers* It’s gonna be difficult to top Elias Koteas’s performance though.

I, for one, have become much more excited for this film. How about you?

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Where is my Fandom?

I’m having a bit of an existential crisis. I used to be a fan in the literal sense of the word: fantatic. I used to be able to talk your ear off about comics, movies, video games, board games, and I would do so with glee. But, lately, fandom has been kind of annoying to me. Every time I see a post by a Doctor Who fan, I just want to unfollow them. When I see people arguing over which video game console is the best, I want to give up on the internet altogether. It’s not that I’m not a fan of those things; it’s that I’ve lost my patience for the fandom.

Just this morning, I saw a friend make a post that was ripping apart Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. That movie came out over half a decade ago. People are still complaining about The Phantom Menace. It released 15 years ago.  For half my life, I’ve been hearing people complain about that movie. And I was complaining right along with them, for the most part.

What changed me? You know, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s that I had kids. Or started my own business. Maybe I’m just tired all the time. Maybe the fandom is just getting younger. But, I am just getting weary of it all. I’ve started unfollowing so many of the Facebook pages of things I like. Some of the Doctor Who pages are the worst.

Pond gagI hate stuff like the above picture. I don’t find it even remotely clever. The picture doesn’t really fit, and it’s sappy as all get out. I think maybe I’m just incapable of loving a television show like some other people on the internet.  Maybe our TV shows actually become a religion to some.

 

Being a kind of geeky dude, this is starting to worry me. While maybe I’m just growing up, there’s a part of me that feels inexorably linked to geek culture. I don’t want to give it up. I like gaming. I like sci-fi and fantasy. I like comic books. But, I feel like my quest for moderation might be harming my geek credentials. And I can’t believe that it’s an actual concern for me.

Maybe it’s my desire to belong with like-minded individuals that makes me worry that I’m falling a bit out of hardcore geek culture and into “dreaded” casual fandom, but I’m not JUST a geek any more. I have family, friends, church responsibilities, job stuff. Honestly, in the face of that, maybe falling a bit out of fandom’s gravitational pull isn’t such a bad thing.

So, if you’ve been where I’ve been, how did you get your fandom back? Or did you just leave it behind?

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The Walking Dead Recap/Review: “The Grove”

Last night’s “The Grove” was not a pleasant episode. But, I suppose there would be something fundamentally wrong with me if I declared any episode of The Walking Dead to be a pleasant episode. After all, the show is a parade of miserable hopelessness punctuated by the occasional high point.

It’s the high points that get me in trouble, really. They come right as I’m ready to toss the whole thing aside. They come right when I’m ready to be done forever.

What are the high points? Oh, you know…When the show focuses on something OTHER than the abject horror of the survivors’ situations; when I momentarily forget that anyone can turn into a rampaging death machine at any instance. And perhaps that’s the point of the whole show: to visualize the terrible truth of humanity at its most base, to realize that there will always be circumstances under which anyone of us can become a monster. Maybe whatever those circumstances are can be construed as beyond our control, just as the show’s characters can’t control what they become in death. But, the stark horribleness remains: the monster has always been there.

Highlights from “The Grove”:

- During a pit stop on their way to Terminus, Carol and softie Mika take a walk in the woods, so Carol can lecture the girl on being tough. It doesn’t take, and Mika declares she wants to be nice, that everything will work out, blah, blah, blah. The pair come upon a house, and Mika interprets it as vindication for her way of thinking. Meanwhile, Tyreese and Crazy Lizzie (Borden…get it? You will.) are waiting for Carol and Mika by the train tracks when they see a walker coming towards them. The walker falls and somehow snaps its legs/arms in some combination that prevents it from moving. As Tyreese is about to kill it, Crazy Lizzie stops him, saying there are times when you don’t have to kill walkers. For some reason, Tyreese listens and leaves the walker alone. Stupid.

- The four decide to stay at the house for a while, and Mika has to shoot a walker that pops out and tries to get Crazy Lizzie and Judith. Carol sees this as progress. Huzzah! Later, though, Mika is unable to shoot a deer, and Carol is discouraged. Sad panda.

- Carol, who is making tea or something else that requires a kettle of boiling water, sees Crazy Lizzie playing tag outside with a walker. Carol, a sensible lady, dashes out and stabs the walker, causing Crazy Lizzie to lose her mind and begin screaming at Carol. See, Crazy Lizzie thinks that walkers are just people…just different. Crazy.

Carol does what Carol has to do. Image courtesy of AMC.

Carol does what Carol has to do. Image courtesy of AMC.

- Crazy Lizzie is feeding walkers again. Ugh. Remember, she did the same thing at the prison. Ugh. Mika follows her and catches her in the act with the walker on the train tracks. The sisters fight, and Crazy Lizzie stands firm in her belief that walkers are still people. The fighting attracts the attention of a passel of singed walkers that straggle out of the woods and chase the girls. (They’re blackened because –I’m assuming– they’ve come from the fire that Daryl and Beth set. Interestingly enough, Carol, Tyreese, and the girls have seen the smoke, and it’s not that far away.) The sisters run back to the house screaming, and Carol and Tyreese come to the rescue. In the end, all four end up shooting the walkers down. Carol sees Crazy Lizzie’s participation in the shooting as progress, and later that night, she tries to encourage the girl. Crazy Lizzie calmly states that she now knows what she has to do. Let me just say that at this point, I told my husband it was going to be something bad. Carol assumed Crazy Lizzie meant she knew walkers were bad and had to be shot, but sadly, that wasn’t the case.

- The next day, Carol and Tyreese are out hunting and talking. Tyreese confides that he has been dreaming about Karen, and Carol looks conflicted. (I kept telling Carol to keep her mouth shut, but I knew it was coming. That’s just how television works.) Remarkably, Carol doesn’t tell Tyreese that she’s the one who killed Karen and the other guy know one cared about, and they make their way back to the house. When they get back, they find Crazy Lizzie (Borden…get it, now? Ugh.) with a knife and bloody hands. She’s killed Mika in an attempt to prove that walkers are the same as people and pulls a gun on Carol when the older woman moves closer. Lizzie demands that they let Mika turn, and Carol agrees so she can get the gun away from Crazy Lizzie. During the exchange, Crazy Lizzie reveals she was about to kill Judith, too. Tyreese picks up Judith and leads Crazy Lizzie away, while Carol does what needs to be done off screen.

- Crazy Lizzie is confined to her room while Carol and Tyreese discuss what to do. They finally come to the conclusion that the girl can’t be around other people. Carol suggests that she go off with her, but Tyreese talks her out of it, and they silently agree on what must be done. So, Carol takes her out and shoots her. Carol shoots Lizzie.

Stop. Wait. Did you guys get that? We’re watching a show where they just executed a crazy little girl. We’re watching a show where said crazy little girl murdered another little girl.

They had no choice, you tell me! And I agree; they had no choice. But, the fact remains that this SHOW IS FOR ENTERTAINMENT. YOU JUST WATCHED TWO LITTLE GIRLS DIE FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT. I did it, too, though.

I am sad.

- That night, Carol tells Tyreese that she killed Karen and the other guy (David?) at the prison. She explains a bit, then tells him to do whatever he needs to, all but giving him permission to kill her. Instead, he does the  unthinkable (at least in this show), he forgives her! They decide they cannot stay at the house, and the next morning, they get back on the tracks and continue to head for Terminus.

Then, the episode ended.

I think I’ll watch the rest of the season, but after that, I think I’m done. I just can’t stand it, any more. I’m not trying to be dramatic, but I have to consider WHY I’m watching this show! What redeemable qualities are there? There’s no hope. It’s a constant struggle for survival against impossible odds.

There’s enough of that in real life.

 

[[Featured image courtesy of AMC.]]

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Ladies and Gentlemen…the “Real” John Constantine.

A spot-on Constantine, at least the look anyway. (image property of NBC)

A spot-on Constantine, at least the look anyway. (image property of NBC)

Since the unofficially leaked pic has created such a buzz, NBC has released an official image for their upcoming television adaptation, Constantine, based on the comic series John ConstantineHellblazer. And I’ll be damned if he doesn’t look almost exactly like he came straight off the pages of the comic. This makes me incredibly excited because Hellblazer is one of my favorite comic book series’ and John Constantine being a close second to Batman as favorite comic book character.

Welsh actor Matt Ryan will be portraying the titular character in the pilot (which will hopefully lead to a series), with David S. Goyer writing the script. The pilot (and potential series) will stay truer to the comic books than the 2005 Keanu Reeves film of the same name (which I am also a fan of, even though it strayed from the comics a bit). With Goyer writing and the spot-on look that Ryan has, I have great faith in this pilot. The only thing that worries me is NBC, but not much. Constantine isn’t exactly TV-PG or TV-14 material, it’s more TV-MA, which means there may be a possibility of the network watering it down a bit. However, with shows like Hannibal, The Blacklist, and Grimm being such huge successes for the network and being of a darker, more mature nature, I think they’ll be able to keep it as close to the original material as possible.

If this pilot does well, a series should follow, and if we’re lucky we’ll finally get a Justice League Dark movie (directed by Guillermo del Toro). I could see a Swamp Thing film or television series spawning from a Constantine series, since he was a recurring character in the comics. And if a JLD film is made and does well, we may even see a Deadman and/or Zatanna film in the near future. To me, this is more exciting than a film about the main Justice League. This is even more exciting than Batman vs. Superman, and I’m a huge Batman fan.

I’m crossing my fingers that this works out.

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The Walking Dead Recap/Review: “Alone”

One is the loneliest number.

What else did we learn today, kids? In general, bad things happen when you’re alone. Also, Bob isn’t a fan of being alone.

Touching on a theme that this show is overly fond of, last night’s “Alone” beat us over the head with the familiar lesson of DON’T THINK YOU CAN MAKE IT ALONE YOU’RE GOING TO DIE ALONE STAY IN A GROUP WE WON’T MOVE THE STORY ALONG UNTIL YOU GET THIS VITAL INFORMATION THAT YOU SHOULD ALREADY KNOW.

All caps and a glorious run-on sentence is about as subtle as The Walking Dead.

Highlights:

- Bob! Bob was the star of the before-the-opening-credits scene. Oh, Bob, I’m sorry, but I don’t care how you took up with our valiant band of survivors. It’s enough for me to know that they found you on a supply run. But, no. We had to see how Bob was STRUGGLING by himself before Glenn and Daryl found him and took him back to the prison. HE WAS ALONE AND THAT IS NOT GOOD PERHAPS HE SHOULD STAY WITH PEOPLE AND BE SAFER. What a fluff scene. Jeez.

- So, Daryl is teaching Beth how to track and use the crossbow. She’s doing pretty well, sneaking up on an unsuspecting walker, when she steps on a snare of some kind, and Daryl has to rescue her. He takes down the walker and frees Beth, who now has a hurt foot. We don’t know the extent of the damage, but she’s limping, and Daryl has to help her quite a bit. They come on a cemetery and well-kept funeral home, where they decide to hole up for a bit. Beth is taken by the care someone has shown the cadavers (someone has also dressed up and applied makeup to some walkers, too. Gross.) and the tidy house, and she waxes elegant about how there are still good people in the world. Daryl’s not so sure, but he begins to be convinced by Beth’s optimistic views. Oh, and also, Beth plays the piano, while Daryl listens from a recumbent position in a coffin.

Pianos don't attract walkers. It's a well-known fact. Image courtesy of AMC.

Pianos don’t attract walkers. It’s a well-known fact. Image courtesy of AMC.

A ragged dog trips Daryl’s alarm wires, and he tries to befriend the creature, but the dog runs away. Later in the evening, while enjoying some remarkably dust-free and organized stores from the house, Daryl and Beth are discussing that they think someone has been in the house recently. Daryl decides that they should wait for them to come back and “make it work,” meaning, I thought, they would try to make a life there. Suddenly, the wire alarms are tripped again, and Daryl, assuming it’s the dog again, opens the door WITHOUT LOOKING OUTSIDE FIRST. Of course, it’s a passel of walkers, who force their way in. Daryl leads them into the house and yells for Beth to grab her stuff and escape. He lures them to the embalming/preparation room, stabs a bunch, and manages to double back and get out of the house. He finds Beth’s bag, which looks to have been hastily dropped, and looks up just in time to see a car speed off with, we assume along with Daryl, Beth inside. So, Daryl makes like Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans and starts running after the car. He follows the road until he comes to a three-way split. Exhausted and defeated, he collapses in the middle, unsure of which way to go.

After a time, a group of unsavory types surround him. The leader goes for his bow, but Daryl leaps up, punches the guy, and trains his arrow at the man’s skull. Of course the rest of the men draw on Daryl, but our hero holds his stance. The fallen man starts to laugh and gets up, introducing himself as Joe. It’s clear that these are not nice guys. Let me repeat that: these are not nice guys, ya’ll. Daryl gives his name, and the scene ends, giving the impression that he has taken up with the group…at least for the time being.

BEING ALONE IS BAD! But, is it the worst thing?

- Bob, Sasha, and Maggie are struggling to survive. Shocking, I know. Maggie is still determined to find Glenn, but Sasha wants to find a safe place and settle down. Bob, WHO HATES TO BE ALONE, is trying to keep the small group together. They see the signs for Terminus and start heading that way, because Maggie is sure that’s where Glenn would go to look for her. One morning, Bob and Sasha awake to find Maggie gone, with a note scrawled in the dirt telling them to not risk their lives. Bob convinces Sasha to follow Maggie…but she doesn’t really want to. They continue along the train tracks and find notes from Maggie to Glenn, telling him to go to Terminus. The notes are written in walker blood, by the way. Gross.

They come to a small town and Sasha decides to part ways with Bob, opting to stay in a nice brick building. Bob tries to convince her to continue on, even kissing her (finally), but Sasha remains resolute. So, Bob continues, and Sasha goes into the building. She goes to the second floor and starts looking around. At one window, she looks down to see some bodies laid out, and one looks familiar. She inadvertently and unsurprisingly knocks out the window, which falls and makes a huge crash. One of the bodies immediately sits up. It’s Maggie! But, of course, the noise draws lots of other walkers, and Sasha dashes down to help Maggie. The pair take down all the walkers, and then, Maggie explains her ridiculous train of thought. Apparently, before completely leaving Sasha and Bob, she overheard Sasha saying Glenn was probably dead and that she (Sasha) wanted to find a place to set up in a town. Maggie filed that information away in her head, and after deciding SHE COULDN’T MAKE IT ALONE, she decided to wait for Bob and Sasha at the next town…which just so happened to be the one they stopped at. Nice coincidence, eh? I have no idea why she would be laying down with a bunch of bodies, though. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for her to be up in the same building that Sasha picked? It had a nice view of the train tracks, and Maggie could have easily seen Bob and Sasha.

Whatever. It’s not like this show makes a ton of sense, anyway.

Sasha and Maggie decide to continue on to Terminus and catch up with Bob, who doesn’t hear them until they are about 20 feet behind him. Seriously, why didn’t they call out sooner?

- The episode ends with Glenn looking at a sign for Terminus, and we know (or think) that Maggie was right; Glenn is going to go to Terminus to look for her.

So, that was “Alone.” What did you think? It seemed like a fluffy episode to me, chocked full of unneeded and unhelpful scenes. Not much to advance the story, except Beth getting Beth-napped and Daryl hooking up with the unsavories. I’d like to think those nasty-looking men are behind Beth’s abduction, but I’m sure it won’t be that simple.

Only three shows left!

 

[[Featured image courtesy of AMC.]]

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NanaNanaNanaNana BAT-NEWS!

Just when you thought it couldn’t get better than Batman: Arkham Origins, this happened:

That’s right, Rocksteady is back with Batman: Arkham Knight. Everyone thought they were done with the franchise and Warner Bros. Games Montreal would be taking over the series, but while you were busy with Origins, they were secretly creating the grand finale that is Arkham Knight.

I want to drive it SOOOOOOOO bad!

I want to drive it SOOOOOOOO bad!

From the trailer, you can see that Two-Face and the Penguin have returned to wreak more havoc and carnage on the city of Gotham. It has also been announced that the legendary Kevin Conroy has returned to voice Batman, as it should be. And it appears that Batman is more armored than he has ever been, so I’m gonna say that there will be a MASSIVE amount of fighting in this game. Best bit of news that I’ve heard is that the Batmobile will be drivable! ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME?!?! The beastly-looking, Tumbler-style Batmobile is drivable. Thank you very much, Rocksteady. If you were real, I would hug you.

Unfortunately for me, this game will only be for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Windows. I do not currently have either of the two systems and my computer is not powerful enough to run a game as incredible as this will be. If anyone would like to donate either a Xbox One, a Playstation 4, and/or a powerful gaming computer to me before this game comes out, I’ll be waiting a while to play it. Sad face.

In other Batman-related news, Gotham has cast its Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. Fox has cast David Mazouz as the preteen Bruce Wayne and Camren Bicondova as teenage Selina Kyle before she became Catwoman. Bicondova is a newcomer, while Mazouz recently co-starred with Kiefer Sutherland on Fox’s Touch. Along with following Gordon’s pre-Batman years with Gotham P.D., the show will also follow Selina’s early days as a thief and pickpocket. However, the show will also follow a young Bruce Wayne after his parents were killed and before he becomes Batman, which means we may be looking at a lot of crying and whining and tantrums about how unfair it is that his parents were taken away from him. I’m sure we’re in for some rebellious acting out and more things of the like. The first season might get annoying for Bruce’s story, at least until he starts training. Hopefully it’ll be more of a background story to Gordon’s tale.

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The Walking Dead Recap/Review: “Still”

Last night’s episode, “Still,” continued a fascinating phenomenon on The Walking Dead. You know what that is?

A good show.

Amazing!

So, what made this a good episode? Honestly, sometimes, it’s hard to tell. After it was finished, I didn’t want to kill myself, so that’s a good thing. I think it’s because they didn’t focus so much on the hopelessness of their situation. Since Beth is still around, she’s providing a bit of light in the dark world.

Geez, that seems kitschy even to write. But, I’m serious! Yeah, there was a fair share of walkers and cheap scares, but that’s not what this episode was about, and I appreciated that. Wholeheartedly.

Highlights:

- “Still” started with Daryl and Beth on the run from a horde of some size. We don’t really know how big it was, because the pair hid in the trunk of an abandoned car as the horde straggled by, moaning and banging into the car (they’re not very graceful, after all, are they?). They wait out the night in the trunk and loot the rest of the car the next morning before continuing on their way.

- They set up a camp in the woods and settle in for the long haul…at least Daryl wants to. But, Beth has other ideas. For some reason, she’s decided she needs to have her first drink. Daryl thinks it’s a dumb idea, but eventually follows her. They come to a country club and find the requisite number of dead folk and walkers (cheap scare alert), before making their way to the gift shop, where Beth finds a nice yellow polo shirt and white sweater to exchange her manky tank tops for. No booze in the gift shop, though, so on they go!

Look at you, Daryl Dixon! Being all smolder-y in the walker apocalypse! Image courtesy of AMC.

Look at you, Daryl Dixon! Being all smolder-y in the walker apocalypse! Image courtesy of AMC.

- As they pick their way through the littered halls, Daryl sets a grandfather clock upright in an effort to clear the way. It’s no time at all before the stupid thing chimes three times, and, of course, walkers come shambling. They run into an open room, where Daryl takes the walkers out with a golf club, using one walker’s head as a nasty engorged ball…which, of course, bursts and gore spatters Beth’s nice white cardigan. Gross. She takes it off, of course.

- Finally, they find the bar, and Beth locates the last bottle of  peach schnapps. It’s the last bottle of anything, really. As she considers the bottle and what it means in her uneasy trek to adulthood, not to mention everything and everyone she’s lost, Beth finally breaks down in tears. If you’ll remember, Beth was a big proponent of NOT crying. Ever. At all. Peach schnapps was the straw the broke the camel’s back. Daryl, who was playing darts (using photos of the club’s muckety-mucks rather than the dart board), decides Beth’s first drink can’t be peach schnapps and leads her away from the country club.

- Daryl takes her to a house in the middle of the woods with a still. He tells her that he and Michonne came across it on a run one time. Daryl and Beth get some of the clear moonshine and enter the house, which turns out to be a sort of replica of Daryl’s childhood home. At first he won’t drink, but Beth convinces him to, and they play “I never/ Have you ever?” But, the questions, lead Daryl down an unfriendly road to remembrance, and he has a breakdown of his own. A walker, who has been sniffing around outside gets the brunt of his anger as Daryl decides to teach Beth how to use a cross bow. He’s yelling. She’s yelling. The walker is moaning. AMAZINGLY, though, no other walkers are drawn to the noise. Beth puts an end to his rant by stabbing the walker through the head. Daryl dissolves into tears, blaming himself for what happened at the prison, thinking he could have done more. Beth hugs him from behind, and he quiets down. (Note to self: Don’t get Daryl tipsy in the walker apocalypse.)

- That night, Daryl and Beth, are out on the porch talking. Daryl reveals more information about his past, and we learn that he didn’t really have a job before the “end.” All he was doing was drifting around with Merle. Daryl is convinced he can never amount to anything, that he can never be anyone. Beth convinces him not to live in the past, and they decide to torch the house as a sign that Daryl is moving forward. So, they do, scattering very flammable moonshine about and lighting it aflame. As walkers start to approach the house, Daryl and Beth both flip it off and move into the night as the blaze burns behind them.

Let’s hear a round of applause for heavy-handed symbolism! Daryl is burning down his past! So is Beth! …kinda.

Lemme just say I was so afraid they were going to…um…seek solace in each other’s arms. I am SO GLAD that’s not where this went! That’s not to say that it still couldn’t. Anything’s possible, right? Ugh. Carol would be cheesed though.

Four more episodes left!

 

[[Featured image courtesy of AMC.]]

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Tom Slick and Super Chicken Should Be Next, Right?

In 1997, we were given George of the Jungle, starring Brendan Fraser.

Then, in 1999, Brendan Fraser returned as Dudley Do-Right in Dudley Do-Right.

In 2000, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle was released.

Now, we’re getting Mr. Peabody & Sherman, featuring the voices of Ty Burrell, Patrick Warburton, Mel Brooks, and Stanley Tucci.

So when exactly is the world going to get a Tom Slick and/or a Super Chicken film?! Am I the only person wondering this?! (Probably)

All of these characters were created by the creative genius, Jay Ward, and were all fantastic cartoons from back in the day that were part of the childhoods of thousands, including myself. So why are these two characters being neglected? Both have great stories that could easily be adapted and expanded on and both are exceptionally humorous.

Tom Slick is an all-American racecar driver who competes in various races with his trusty car, the Thunderbolt Grease-Slapper. He’s accompanied by his girlfriend, Marigold, and his elderly mechanic, Gertie Growler. His rivals are the evil Baron Otto Matic, and the Baron’s stupid lackey, Clutcher. You have your story foundation right there, now just some crazy hijinks and a fantastical adventure and you’ve got a hit. You can even bring back Brendan Fraser to play Tom Slick. I’m sure he’d be down for pulling off the trifecta. Think of the film as a comedic spoof of the Fast and Furious films but made with a Mel Brooks-style of satire.

Super Chicken is the alter ego of the wealthy Henry Cabot Henhouse III, was a superhero who fought crime with his trusty lion sidekick, Fred. They would fly around in an egg-shaped air vehicle, saving people and stopping criminals. When trouble arose, he would drink his “Super Sauce” and don his “Super Suit,” then he would let out the battle cry of “Quick, Fred, to the ‘Super Coupe’,” and off they would go. Just think of a film version of the as a comedic, CG version of Green Hornet (the tv series, the 2011 film). Animated animals, superhero antics, and cheesy one-liners…kids would go nuts for this film.

Both of these films could be box-office smashes, both playing off of the nostalgia factor. Tom Slick would pander more towards adults, while Super Chicken would be more of a family film, but both have great potential that needs to be tapped ASAP. Get on it, Hollywood!

 

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