Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Freelancin': The Death of the Star Wars Expanded Universe

I'm late again by a day.  I'm thinking I'll just have to make this Wednesday series in order to give myself more of a buffer.  Anyway, this is about Disney's announcement that the Star Wars Expanded Universe has been declared non-canon.  What have we lost?  Why was it necessary?  And really, should we mourn?

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Quiet Ones

I'm growing to hate my powers of observation.  I was looking forward to seeing "The Quiet Ones", the newest film from legendary British horror studio, Hammer Film Productions.  And I managed to stay positive about the movie for exactly thirty seconds until I spied with my little eye something distressing.  I saw that the screenwriter credit for Tom de Ville, said "Based on the Screenplay by".  Meaning the studio paid this man for his screenplay, and then ditched it somewhere during production.  This was followed by three more screenwriter credits for Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman, and John Pogue, who was also the director.  That means "The Quiet Ones" has gone through at least four revisions somewhere between its conception and release, which is always a bad sign.  Movies and screenwriters are like food and a chef.  It is great to eat a stew prepared by one chef, it is not so great to eat a stew prepared by four, each of whom are trying to complete their own artistic vision as to what the food is going to look like.  Just leave your check on the table and go eat at Burger King instead, you'll do your stomach a great service.

What we have here is yet another mediocre horror film.  It is not very good, and it is not very bad, but perhaps worst of all, it's not bad in any kind of interesting way.  You've seen "The Quiet Ones" before:  this story has been done and done better hundreds of times.  Though the concept might be unoriginal, there are a few scares to be found here and there.  However it is executed so sloppily.  This is the kind of movie that moves with terrible slowness because it seems to get impatient with itself.  As soon as it looks like "The Quiet Ones" is going to give us some stronger characterization or a firmer sense of mood, it ditches the structure-building for another predictable scare.  This isn't a movie that builds its terror continuously, it just throws out a regulation number of scary scenes, until it reaches a regulation running time, and then just ends lazily ends with a hilariously-bad ending.

More unfortunately, "The Quiet Ones" is completely unable to play to its own strengths.  For such a corny horror movie, it actually managed to amass a solid entirely-English cast with an effective visual style.  Last year's "The Conjuring" showed the world that the 1970s was the creepiest decade in history, making plaid clothing, wood paneling, and old rock music the perfect backdrop for a ghost story.  Unfortunately the plotline is a confused mess.  1970s scientists attempt to study a troubled young girl with psychic powers, apparently trying to conjure her poltergeist powers and - somehow - cure her mental illness.  Thus most of the film is sitting around a dusty old house while various kinds of quackery and bad science are performed, without much context as to how this is going to work, or what we're trying to achieve.  Worse, the characters themselves are underwritten and bland, so there is no real arc to be found.  There's no claustrophobia, no sense of an evolving story.  I don't know what was wrong with Tom de Ville's original draft, but was this final version really an improvement?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fanwank Corner: The Marvel Universe's Embrace of Freedom

2008's "The Dark Knight" was one of the more interesting films in what I'd call "The Post-9/11 Era" of pop culture.   Batman, one of the better superheroes suited to a Post-9/11 story, battles a maniac out to shatter the safe dimensions of America's greatest city, Gotham (read: New York).  Modern Batman jumped right out of late 1990s cheese, threw away his Bat Credit Card, and got on the streets, fighting a gritty battle against terror, as symbolized by a re-imagined Joker.  This nightmare of a supervillain was the nihilism of terrorism given living form, a man without any plan at all but to destroy everything around him.  This Joker wasn't throwing out Laughing Gas and making puns, he was blowing up buildings, assassinating elected officials, basically bringing the War on Terror home to the United States.  All the fear and insecurities of the 9/11 attacks came together, making for an exciting action movie based upon our modern horrors.

That was DC's take on the War on Terror.  It was one of the most successful movies of all time, and widely considered the greatest superhero film ever made.  Meanwhile, other superheroes have simply avoided world politics*.   But what about Marvel?  Marvel's film universe began the same year as "The Dark Knight", with "Iron Man".  Since then the Marvel universe has had Viking Gods, invaders from outer space, a WWII story, and will soon include a talking raccoon to its ridiculous collection of heroes.  You would assume then, looking at this eclectic film universe that it has mostly ignored the War on Terror entirely to focus on fun entertainment with a smile.  But Marvel hasn't done that.  It has embraced the times it was born into and made them fundamental to its mythos.  It is impossible to imagine, for example, Tony Stark being given his inspiration for Iron Man in the middle of an Afghan Cave in any decade other than the 2000s... Naughts... whatever the Hell the name for the last decade is.

The Marvel movies do something very interesting with the War on Terror.  Rather than have its heroes fight on the front lines of the war, staring madness in the face, like Batman did, it has its heroes transcend the war.  The Marvel cinematic universe is one where the War on Terror is a place of exploitation and manipulation, a moral gray zone of corruption which is - more often than not - a sham for its heroes to overcome.  That's not to say the threat is not real or the villains there are no less villainous in the Middle East (if anything they're too evil for a superhero film to deal with) but rather the War on Terror offers temptations for the Marvel heroes.  It is tempting for them to look upon the fear of Islamic threats and simply surrender to easy answers, such as endless security, a loss of liberty, and militarization.  But the heroes say no every time, staying heroic in ways that shame our real world peacekeepers.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


"Transcendence" is a catastrophically stupid movie.  Being a Hollywood production about cyberpunk, which combines two things producers know very little about:  science and computers, "Transcendence" was bound to be incredibly stupid.  Worse, this is a movie whose subject matter is the technological singularity, a cutting edge theory of social evolution that predicts the combination of the human brain and computers.  The natural reaction the screenwriters have to this concept is, "well this is new and revolutionary, and that's scary!!"  The assumption here is that transhumanism is inherently evil, computers are bad, technology is made of Satan, and this is a well-known universal truth, unknown only to those vile scientists deluding themselves about making the world a better place while really breaking the sacred laws of Yevon and summoning Sin to destroy another city in Spira.

What's amazing is that "Transcendence" somehow manages to become more stupid when it tries to be more open with trasnhumanism and less mindlessly Luddite.  Oh don't worry, the movie is still amazingly ignorant of computer technology, essentially treating science as magic that can do anything, but in its own pretentious way, it is trying to make a bigger statement about technology and God.  A statement which makes no sense within its own plot.  If "Transcendence" had embraced its own stupidity and just gone with a generic horror movie, albeit one with idiotic anti-science overtones, it would have been a perfectly serviceable silly movie.  Ultimately though it treats a character as a villain who is not really evil, treats clearly villainous characters as heroes, and tries to find an uplifting conclusion with the end of civilization.  This is a movie that pulled its head out of the sand and then shoved its head firmly up its ass.

The plot of "Transcendence" is a fairly generic SciFi concept of a Ghost in the Machine, only done in an amazingly clueless manner.  Johnny Depp plays Dr. Will Caster, a brilliant computer scientist who has created his own AI.  However, a group of terrorists who have no particular dogma other than a mindless fear of the singularity, target Caster and dozens of other computer labs around the country.  Caster is left slowly dying thanks to an extremely farfetched radiation-tipped bullet, and his loving wife, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), decides to upload his brain to their supercomputer.  Unfortunately now they have meddled in God's domain, creating a monstrous Super Dr. Caster, who can command the universe from his computer body.  So now the terrorists apparently become the heroes, fighting to stop this supreme AI from... healing the sick and saving the environment(??).  "Transcendence" is a mess, frankly.  It tries to transcend the cliches of Hollywood cyberpunk while sticking firmly to the pre-established tropes, meaning nothing makes very much sense.  A very simple question such as:  "who was the good guy supposed to be?" is entirely impossible to answer.  Oops?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Freelancin': JRPGs I Could Never Finish - Radiant Historia, The World Ends With You, and Xenogears

Sorry this is a day late, the Internet died on me last night, meaning I couldn't get the images required to make the video.  (Not that its really necessary, but I like to at least try to justify uploading this on Youtube.)

These are three JRPGs I could never finish for whatever reason.  I'm sure you'll enjoy finally seeing me talk about TWEWY, but since I hated playing that game, you might not like what you find.

CORRECTION:  "White Knight Chronicles", "Dragon Quest IX", and "Ni No Kuni" were actually Level-5 games, not Atlus.   Sorry about that.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Metal Gear Rip-Off V: Ground Zeroes

So what horrible thing happened behind the scenes at Konami that resulted in this turd getting shat out?  Is everybody at that company okay?  Should I be worried for their health?  Should I send Hideo Kojima a 'Get Well Soon' card?

Was this game some kind of bureaucratic mistake?  Somebody misfiled a form, and a demo accidentally wound up on the shelves for thirty dollars?  Then the mindless machinery of a corporation takes over, every individual actor blaming this nebulous group-think.  I can see the hypothetical situation already taking shape:  Says Kojima off-the-record, "Oh, I didn't want to release it as a game, this came from 'the higher ups'."  And the higher-ups blame the game developers.  The game devs blame the marketing guys..  And the marketing guys blame one Shiro in the mail room, who accidentally spilled coffee on a memo from Hideo, which was then photocopied and sent around the company, making everybody believe this game had to be released in this woeful state.  What do you do with Shiro?  Fire him?  Nah.  Give him a promotion.  Look at the scam Konami got away with.

"Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes"* is without a doubt the very worst Metal Gear Solid game ever made.  And already I feel as though I'm doing my readers a disservice by calling this thing a "game".  It is definitely interactive media, that much is clear.  There is a goal, there are penalties for failing the challenges set up by the game and rewards for succeeding them, and your physical actions on the controller result in direct feedback on screen, so it certainly looks like a game.  But once you actually play it, you'll realize that no, "Ground Zeroes" is not a game.  It's an ad.  It is a teaser.  You could not call "Ground Zeroes" a game any more than you could call a trailer a movie.  Yeah, it is indeed technically a motion picture with sight and sound simulating real people acting out a story, but that is not a movie.  It is the taste of a larger movie.

The difference though is that a trailer is free.  "Ground Zeroes" is not.  This was sold in stores - it still is being sold in stores right now.  Somebody played through this game and said "yup, this is a product I am shameless enough that I am willing to offer this in exchange of monetary funds".  The "game" is only two hours long - and that's assuming you're playing terribly.  A second playthrough could complete the entire experience in a half hour.  A speedrunner could be done in five minutes all without any kind of cheats or hacks.  As soon as you become accustomed to the controls and adjust to the strategy of the gameplay, "Ground Zeroes" is over.  The game is all warmup and stretching, no exercise.  You finish the foreplay, then as soon as you're ready to have sex, "Ground Zeroes" is out the door with your money ready to fail to please more clients.  I sure hope you were not attached to those thirty dollars, jackass.  But don't worry - there is a real "Metal Gear Solid V" coming in the near future.  But it is not this one.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


"Oculus" is a movie I watched for two reasons, neither of which are exactly professional.  The first is that that this is the major motion picture debut of Karen Gillan, TV's Amy Pond, the cute Scottish companion to Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor.  I may be many things, but a disloyal "Doctor Who" fan is not one of them.  The second and more petty reason is that "Oculus" has been produced by a company known as Blumhouse Productions, AKA, "BH Productions".  Wait a minute, BH?  That sounds familiar, doesn't it?  Why of course, my favorite element, Bohrium, goes by the symbol "Bh".  BH Productions, how dare you trample on the memory of Danish physicist, Niels Bohr!  I'll that as a personal challenge!!

Okay, to be more serious, "Oculus" is a decent horror film, which I am always depressed to point out, is a very rare thing in this century.  Maybe the old fads of endless remakes and miserable found-footage "Paranormal Activity" wanna-bes have finally ended and horror directors have found a new fad, one started by last year's "The Conjuring", which is to make good horror movies.  You know, films that are actually scary, starring sympathetic characters, and relying upon mood and tone to create their scares, not gimmicks.  I know it is a radical change since Hollywood has grown comfortable making crap horror for most of this century, but "Oculus" is a nice little horror movie, with a basic enough premise that makes this sort of creepy fun seem completely effortless.

"Oculus"'s plotline can be viewed as a mash-up of several Stephen King novels and stories.  Clearly a lot of inspiration for the attitude of the evil towards the heroes, and the brilliant horror build-up is very King-like.  The structure is like that of "It", where the heroes who defeated an evil being in their childhood must come back again and defeat it finally in their adulthood.  Only instead of a killer clown (that is really a spider) the demonic force is a haunted mirror with powers to tamper with reality and distort the characters' minds, similar to the chilling short story, "1408"*.  During the past storyline, the children must watch as the mirror breaks their parents, turning their father into Jack Torrence from "The Shining".  The past and present storylines are interlinked, increasingly so as the characters go more and more insane.  The mirror distorts everything in the film, until all it is impossible to tell what is reality and what is illusion, and the characters are helpless victims in a mad storm.  With all of universe seemingly bending to the mirror's wicked will, can their be any of escape?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past Trailer

If you bothered watching last year's "The Wolverine" (and really, I wouldn't recommend it), you would have been given a great final teaser involving the seemingly magical return of Magneto and Professor X to the X-Men film universe.  Here's the movie they're making out of that return... and boy does it look like a clusterfuck:

Apparently EVERYBODY is in this movie, up to and including Peter Dinklage, inexplicably.  He's built an army of robots that look exactly like vacuum cleaners to - you guessed it - kill all Mutants.  Therefore, somehow, Wolverine is going back to the past to meet up with the cast of "X-Men First Class", and do time travel stuff that will save the world.  You know, because the X-Men movies didn't already suffer from huge ungainly cast problems, might as well compound the error by doubling the cast with past and future versions.  I was really excited to see Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen back at the end of "The Wolverine" - they're really the heart of this X-Men franchise, not Hugh Jackman as Fox seems desperate to prove - yet this trailer has completely squashed my expectations.

What's becoming increasingly obvious to me is how cheap the X-Men franchise looks.  Back in the early 2000s, these really were the best superhero movies you could hope for.  Now of course in our much greater modern world of "The Dark Knight" trilogy and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we have much slicker professional superhero films.  Yet here we are again with this cheesy X-Men film, which feels not only like a throwback to the 1970s but also the early 2000s.  It looks like a mess.  And you know what happens when an X-Men movie is a mess.  Need I remind you of "X-Men Origins Wolverine" (which might somehow become canon again after this stupid time travel bullshit is over)?

Hey, at least Ellen Page is coming back for this.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Bravely Default

"Bravely Default" is a game I have been eagerly anticipating for about three years now.  It has been a long difficult wait, seeing a fair share of deep suffering, and uncertainty as to whether Square Enix would allow the game to ever reach the United States*.  As the months of waiting turned to years, I became irrationally bitter at other Final Fantasy releases.  My manic mind stared at games like "Theatrythm Final Fantasy" and wished death upon its players and developers, for no reason other than the game's speedy localization.  Clearly turn-based JRPG withdrawal was doing terrible things to me.  But then, in February, the game was finally released.  God was in his heaven, all was right with the world.

Now you would never guess this from the title, but "Bravely Default" is actually the newest Final Fantasy game.  It isn't called "Final Fantasy" because Square Enix prefers to use that brand name to advertise its latest bloated psuedo-turned based, psuedo-real time disaster, like "Lightning Returns".  "Bravely Default" was made to be a side-project built to appease the old turn-based RPG fans:  the people SE considers to be ancient un-cool nerds barely worthy of their business anymore.  The entire game is a throw-back to the mid-90s era of JRPGs, specifically games like "Final Fantasy V".  It has fully turn-based gamplay, no Active Time Battle for this title, a relatively simple plot without huge FMV spectacle, a light-hearted cast who refuse to brood for hours like the so-called "cool" modern Final Fantasy characters are famous for, and it has a cartoony art style.  It's an adventure of four youths defeating evil, saving Crystals, defeating an evil Empire, and even using classic Final Fantasy Jobs and magic.  "Bravely Default" is ten times more of an authentic Final Fantasy experience than we have seen in years.  And of course, for that reason, it cannot be called "Final Fantasy".

But I'm not really here to bemoan the endless stupidity of Square Enix.  I have already covered that depressing subject dozens of times - and will continue to beat that dead horse until the Humane Society files a lawsuit.  Instead I am here to celebrate "Bravely Default", the greatest turn-based RPG to be released since "Dragon Quest IX".  It doesn't matter that Final Fantasy's head is neck-deep up inside its own ass, or that the top brass of Square Enix were honestly shocked that RPG fans still love turn-based classic gameplay,   I don't care what you call your Final Fantasy games, just as long as good old-fashioned games are still getting released - the kind Momma used to make.  We can still have a nice journey with new friends, save the universe, and have yet another great game on our 3DS.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Capain America 2: The Winter Soldier

I've had a difficult relationship with Marvel over these long four and a half years of Planet Blue.  I know the comic book fans have been living lives of unending euphoria and glee, but as for us non-comic book fans, let's be honest, the Marvel films have been pretty hit or miss.  I will admit that the Marvel invasion was definitely a step-up for superhero films as a genre.  I'll take the 2010 "Captain America" thirty times over the 1992 "Captain America", and I'll take it three-hundred times over the Reb Brown "Captain America" films from the 1970s.  Still that's like choosing between getting stuck in traffic for six hours or getting run over by an Abrams tank.  Neither choice is exactly on my bucket list, you know?

The early Marvel movies, such as "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk" were these awkward early dates, trying just a little too hard to impress.  Clearly Marvel had been off the dating scene for about a decade, and it came off more than a little desperate.  But then America decided this strange movie studio with its goofy superheroes was cute, and the courtship continued.  Marvel then moved for the grand romantic gesture - the big move to cement the relationship:  "The Avengers".  But you can't just pop the question like that, you have to get the moment exactly right.  So Marvel had to spend years setting up the universe, building these half-complete two-hour-long advertisements that barely counted as movies.  "Thor", "Captain America 1", "Iron Man 2", each one sadder than the last.  But now finally "The Avengers" came and passed, America said yes, we looked absolutely beautiful in our white dress, and now we will have to live with Marvel and superhero films till death do us part.

Luckily now that "The Avengers" has come and gone, the Marvel film universe seems to have finally reached a higher level of maturity and confidence.  "Iron Man 3" was not a soulless mid-chapter simply around to set up characters, it was a fully-fledged action comedy.  And here, with "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", Marvel continues to use its established characters to create huge involving stories which stand up entirely on their own.  They know by now that America will be hugely impressed by just about anything they do, so now they've taken to breaking into other genres.  "Captain America 2" takes the patriotic shieldbearer and uses him not to punch Hitler in the face, but rather solve a complicated spy thriller conspiracy.  Its a huge movie with impressive action scenes and some interesting twists and turns, a perfectly fine blockbuster.  The honeymoon period between America and Marvel shall continue, as superhero movies continue to rise in average quality every year.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Freelancin': Game of Thrones Season 4

I started a job last week so I couldn't quite manage to get an episode of Freelancin' made.  Anyway, here's a rambling commentary on Game of Thrones' triumphant return to HBO.

Monday, April 14, 2014



So let me compose myself and pretend to be an actual critic again for a minute.  I was really looking forward to "The Raid 2: Berandal", the sequel to the 2012 ball-bursting, head-splitting, teeth-shattering chunk of badass that was "The Raid".  If you haven't seen "The Raid" yet, you will forever remain a child - an unfinished creature tragically ignorant of life's greatest pleasure.  And of course, that greatest pleasure is the gleeful sense of being a Roman Emperor, watching the brutality from your special box, as Indonesian gladiators break each other into pieces in symphonies of violence.  Do you cringe?  Do you giggle?  You could burst into spontaneous applause?  It doesn't really matter, because "The Raid" movies are a goddamn show, here to entertain.  Entertain they definitely will, be it gore in your eyes or smiles on your face.  So shove down the popcorn and watch the gore fly.

The plot this time is a direct continuation of the events of the first "Raid".  Where "The Raid" was an extremely simple story:  Indonesian cops breaks into a building, fight armies of thugs, fists fly, and then one dude gets his throat cut open with a fluorescent light bulb, "The Raid 2" takes the lead cop Rama, Iko Uwais, and places him in a hugely complex "Infernal Affairs"/"The Departed"-esque undercover operation filled with rival factions and moral grey zones.  Rama after infiltrating the local crime syndicates, becomes just one minor player within a Shakespearean history play of ambitions, conspiracies, and betrayal.  One thing that has not changed though is the primary rule of "The Raid" universe:  every problem can be solved easily with Indonesia's martial arts, Pencak Silat.  The greater your Pencak Silat, the greater your lifespan.

"The Raid 2" expands "The Raid"'s already incredible visual style and incomparably awesome action beats with a vast gripping human drama.  Even though the tone has gone from mere exploitation excuse plot to crime epic, the exploitation still went along for the ride.  "The Raid" was simply a thrill ride, just a pile of loops, corkscrews, and machetes to the face.  "The Raid 2", is in comparison, a real movie:  expressive, dramatic, and probably more than a little bit bloated.  But now you can have people getting beat down with blunt objects and a serious movie with character arcs and development.  "The Raid 2" therefore is everything at once - a huge feast of a movie.   Probably the best movie of 2014 so far.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Space Dandy Season 1

Shinichiro Watanabe is probably not a household name.  But that's only because average American households are bastions of ignorance, who focus far too much on Kardashians than great Japanese cartoons.  However he is easily one of the most acclaimed Japanese directors living today, having created two of the greatest anime series of all time, "Cowboy Bebop" and "Samurai Champloo", and one the best anime movies ever, "Macross Plus", all things average American households are unaware of, tragically.  With a mixture of film genres, musical styles, and comedy intertwined with character drama, Watanabe's stories were some of the finest Japan has ever produced.  Spike Speigel jumping out of an exploding church, Fuu turning gigantically fat after eating several times her body weight, an evil vocaloid taking over planet Earth with the power of music, these were all worlds Watanabe created for our pleasure.  He's currently number 87 on my list of people who I someday need to buy a beer, just behind Sting*.

Unfortunately the last decade since the characters in "Samurai Champloo" found the Samurai that Smelled of Sunflowers has been mostly Shinichiro Watanabe-less.  2012 saw a very low-key coming of age story as a young student learned the power of jazz music in "Kids on the Slope".  That was a story that was extremely personal and heartfelt for its director, a strikingly low-key production about life and relationships.  So naturally I completely ignored it for something incredibly silly and gonzo, "Space Dandy", which is much more my speed.  "Space Dandy" is a comedy anime supervised by Watanabe featuring the adventures of a self-important blowhard with a pompadour, wandering around a 1950s-style pulp SciFi novel, usually getting himself and his friends killed every episode.  Watanabe's job is not taking full creative control of every episode, instead he is effectively the executive producer while each individual episode is directed by other people, giving the series an feeling of random anarchy every week.

"Cowboy Bebop" was a mixture of jazz, SciFi, and old-timey Western plotlines.  If you're expecting something relatively serious, inspired by action films, and incredibly influential in converting millions of Westerners into discovering the magic of anime, you will not find it here in "Space Dandy" which is not a mixture of a film and musical genre.  Its mostly just a mixture of retro SciFi posters and post-modern ridiculousness.  This is the Watanabe that created Radical Edward, not the Watanabe that created Spike Speigel.  This is a show that will jump around, defy continuity, and have its heroes die in some planetary explosion.  Or turn into zombies.  Or get trapped in a "Groundhog Day" loop powered by a possessed calendar.  You know, whatever the director feels like this week.  And average American households will instead be watching something far less interesting, the poor bastards.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Stormlight Archive: Words of Radiance

"Words of Radiance" is the second novel of The Stormlight Archive, a series of a planned-ten epic fantasy novels from prolific author, Brandon Sanderson.  Three years ago, while in visiting a part of the world straight out of fantasy literature, I read the first book, "The Way of Kings", and wrote a rambling absolutely terrible post about it.  You don't have to read that post, but the book itself is definitely worth your time.  Sanderson is a better writer than me, do not worry.  "The Way of Kings" was easily Sanderson's best novel, bringing a new level of imagination, creativity, and excitement to the fantasy genre.  Its really startling the level of detail Sanderson has put into his world, creating several sciences of magical forms, a completely new culture, and a world geography built around a constant barrage of attacking storms.  All of that continues with the second volume, "Words of Radiance".

Final Fantasy wishes it had the creative powers of Brandon Sanderson.  Certainly the worlds of Spira and Cocoon are not lacking in the fantastic elements, but JRPGs rarely manage to add a coherent culture, religion, and scientific reasoning behind all of its magical elements.  More importantly, Sanderson indulges in his hokier instincts - the climax of "Words of Radiance" is essentially a "Dragonball Z" flying battle involving a Super Saiyan - yet never allows all of his sillier action demands to get in the way of characters.  "Words of Radiance" might be almost too character driven, as just like "Way of Kings", it spends most of its 1000+ pages slowly building the characters, developing their interactions, and having them reflect (often rather endlessly) upon their decisions.  What's important is that Sanderson can bring everything:  the spectacle, the humanity, and the color of the world, and that's a quality almost unique to him alone.

The star of "Words of Radiance" is Shallan Davar, a beautiful red-haired teenaged scholar with magical powers, a magical sword, a fairy companion, savant-level powers of drawing from memory, and a charming sense of humor which immediately makes every male her age fall in love with her.  So we're dangerously skirting Mary Sue-ness with this protagonist.  Sanderson uses a revolving protagonist for his series, so Shallan will only be plot tumor for this one book, and her current happiness is ephemeral, clearly.  The first book starred the much less cute Kaladin Stormblessed, a bitter slave being worked to death by the corrupt aristocracy that took his future and murdered most of his loved ones, so "Words of Radiance" comes off as something of a more bubbly high school adventure than a dark war novel.  Luckily Shallan is still well rounded as a character, Kaladin is still around to be one of the best fantasy characters of all time, and Sanderson sets up the story well for the remaining eight books.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 2014 Look-Ahead

The bitter misery of winter has finally passed.  After a brutal season in which Roland Emmerich's predictions for a global warming apocalypse turned out to be adorably naive compared to the weather nightmare the Northeast suffered, the Sun has come out.  The evil snow goons have melted, mankind is victorious for another year.  And now we can bury our dead, rebuild our homes, and look forward to a glorious future of warmth and peace.

At least until it gets cold again, which since it is April, will probably be within the next thirty seconds.  Now comes the freakish weather cycle where spring, winter, and summer will do epic battle across the sky, as the climate of New Jersey flips wildly back and forth with an unpredictable madness that will most likely eradicate all life on this planet.  We know at the end that summer shall rule, leaving winter beaten and bloody for another six months.  But until then, our world will be ruined by the war of the seasonal gods.  Warm lovely days will bleed into frigid deathly winter, and then suddenly after torrential rains flood our streets, the entire landscape will be set ablaze by 10,000 degree solar flares.  What kind of a sick month makes you turn on your air conditioner one day and wear a winter jacket another?  April, that's what.  Watch your balls, because April is coming for them.  And just when you think its safe, May will come wanting revenge!

Anyway, since its the first of the month, let us do our usual recap show.  I'm thinking this time we will begin with the major video games getting released in April:


No, we're doing movies first.