Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Superman TAS S02E04 Review: Fastest Man Alive

Superman: The Animated Series, Season 2, Episode 4: Speed Demons

Speed Demons
This is one of those episodes in Superman: TAS that everyone remembers, and rightly so. Batman: The Animated Series had featured co-starred superheroes before, but they are either relatively obscure superheroes like Etrigan or Zatanna, or members of Batman's own supporting cast. Here Superman teams up with the Flash, another one of DC's A-lister heroes, in a plotline that harkens back deliciously to a Silver Age comic.

So the concept is simple. Superman has to race the Flash for a charity case, and we get to see the Flash of Central City, a dude whose superpower is running really fast. He's introduced as an arrogant, swaggering young punk that hits on ladies and makes immature practical jokes, and honestly a bit of a dick. All the while, Flash's old enemy the Weather Wizard makes use of the speed generated by their running to generate energy for the power source of his weather-manipulating powers.

I really wished the show went into some detail as to explain Flash's powers -- at least a truncated 'eh, science experiment and a lightning bolt gone wrong' would be fine if it doesn't deserve a full flashback. But it does open the world to a bigger world of superheroes beyond just Superman (and Batman). And while other guest star superheroes won't show up until the next season, Flash and Superman's little team up is pretty cool. Weather Wizard's a bit of a flat villain, but his history with Flash and his willingness to murder his own nebbish brother gives him a bit more depth than the likes of Jax-Ur. 

Flash himself is actually probably the weakest link in this episode. While Flash is fantastic in Justice League, here he just feels like a punk. The fact that he's voiced by a different actor than Michael Rosenbaum is probably a factor as to why Flash felt so weird in this episode, but even then the dude is kind of a dick throughout the first half of the episode, before revealing that he's a pretty competent partner and superhero to Superman. The transformation felt jarring and awkwardly written -- they clearly wanted Superman and Flash to have a rivalry earlier on, only for them to respect each other in the end... but they didn't work on the middle part of this relationship too well. Still, it's a pretty small gripe and we could just brush it off as camaraderie borne of their team-up to kick Weather Wizard's ass and save sinking sailors. The action scenes in this episode are pretty decent too, and after the highly underwhelming 'Prometheon' it's a delight to watch. 

DC Easter Eggs Corner: 
  • The plotline of this episode -- Superman and Flash running across the globe for a charity race, and then interrupted with a villain's plot, is similar to a Silver Age story featuring the two of them racing.
  • Flash here isn't explicitly identified as Wally West or Barry Allen, but since Superman: TAS is in the same continuity as Justice League, it would later be revealed that this Flash is Wally. 
  • Weather Wizard, a.k.a. Mark Mardon, is one of the Flash's classic enemies, a thief who gains the power to control weather with a special wand. His inventor brother Clyde also shows up here -- in the comics, Clyde is killed early on, whereas in the live-action Flash TV show Clyde is actually the first Weather Wizard before Mark. 

Nanatsu no Taizai 235 Review: New Enemies

Nanatsu no Taizai, Chapter 235: A New Threat

So the past few chapters of Taizai has been a cooldown from the big Escanor-vs-Meliodas fight, which is easily a pretty badass fight even if it ended with Escanor pulling a bit of a deus ex machina. The resulting aftermath is pretty interesting as well, with Meliodas reverting back to his demon form... oh, and some Arthur stuff. Arthur has been... a character that is pretty problematic in that he's clearly hugely relevant to the main plot, but his whole schtick has been such a Mary Sue (he's skilled, everyone loves him, he has no character flaws, he's perfect... but he has no personality) that I can't really give two shits about Arthur. 

The previous chapter ended with the Demon King telling Zeldoris that he wants Zeldoris to rescue Meliodas and make him Demon King instead of Zeldoris, and this chapter shows that Zeldoris obviously doesn't take this lying down. In addition to Zeldoris seeing Meliodas as an enemy and a traitor, he's been, y'know, working hard to be the new Demon King instead, and he's simply being brushed aside for his prodigal brother.

Zeldoris does this big recall of all the other Ten Commandments, but they're all either dead or dispatched. The montage of all the Commandments' fates is a bit long but rather necessary, I think, even if the random revelation that Derriere and Monspiet are alive and shacking up in a random farm, tired of all this demon lord bullshit, is a bit... out of nowhere, and very anticlimactic. They're just hanging out, I guess? I dunno. 

Oh, and Balor and Gloxinia make their resignation official, and I'm surprised Zeldoris doesn't just have the ability to murder them then and there. What have Balor and Gloxinia ever did as part of the Ten Commandments beyond make the horrible death tournament (which everyone glossed over since they're good now) anyway? Zeldoris fires them, notes that Estarossa is in a coma (which... is fair, I guess) before going full Vegeta and going mwahahahahahaha demon power and shit.

He's then joined by two demons who recently broke out of their seals, Cusack, the dude whose mustache could be mistaken for the hands of a clock face, and Chadler, who's an old man with a stick. And apparently those two are, well, former teachers of Zeldoris and Meliodas respectively, instantly raising their threat level relatively significantly. I've personally thought that the Commandments (Estarossa in particular) haven't really been explored enough to really justify them being brushed aside, especially post-timeskip where a good chunk of them are just subjected to huge worf effect hits to build up the Seven Sins (Gray Road, Merascylla, Estarossa, Derriere and Monspiet) plus how Balor and Gloxinia were handled... but eh, I'll take it. I dunno. It's still enjoyable, and while a little off I don't actually think that it's bad, so we'll go with the flow. At least this time around the enemies seem to be far more powerful that simple 'unleash Escanor' won't justifiably deal with them, so yay for that.

The Walking Dead S05E08 Review: Dawnfall

The Walking Dead, Season 5, Episode 8: Coda

Well, that was... something all right. Let me talk about the sub-plots first. Officer Baldy (a.k.a. Dawn's ally) doesn't get far, gets run down by Rick and shot in the head. The two other officers Rick uses for the prisoner exchange shrug the death off as 'eaten by rotters', Sasha gets over her short failure in record time, and no one really seems to care. Shit, Officer Rotter-Chow, you were pointless.

Gabriel's escape... only led him to go on a daft sentimental tour to make sure that Gareth was an actual cannibal, thereby causing enraging and unleashing a huge swarm of zombies, getting the church overrun, putting Carl, Judith and Michonne in danger... and, shit, he very nearly suffered a karmic death similar to the members of his congregation he left outside to die if Carl wasn't such a decent fellow. If it were Rick... Oh, and the Abraham Squad returns to give the church gang a ride to help save Beth, because there was no more point in defending the now overrun church.

But seriously, what the fuck, Gabriel. I mean, I know Rick's butchering of Gareth and the cannibals is cruel and shit, but really? You saw the legless Bob, right? And Rick's people are treating you right, yeah? And you know you have less survival skills than baby Judith, and that's before you got a nail through your foot, right? What the actual fuck, man? On a less damning manner, though, really liked the reunion with the firetruck squad. Michonne and Maggie hugging is just heartwarming, showing how much at least the core cast have grown attached to each other as a surrogate family. 

The hospital story would've maybe worked better if the other officers were people I actually cared about. Only Noah and Dawn really were distinct among the hospital people, and if the 'good one' that Rick executed, or the cop that Beth pushed down the elevator shaft, or the two cops that Rick exchanged are supposed to be actual characters I'm supposed to care about then the show's not doing a very good job at it.

Speaking of Rick... none of the conflicts that were set up last episode really mattered, yeah? Tyreese and Sasha just shrug off their differences with absolutely no conflict, Rick doesn't butt heads with Tyreese or Daryl over brutality and his treatment of Officer EatenByRotters is shrugged off... Strike Force Rick just operates like a well-oiled machine because it's not time for second-guessing, and I like it.

A good chunk of the episode is just devoted to Beth and Dawn talking, and honestly, while I really, really like Beth asserting herself in these episodes, I'm not sure who I was rooting for. Dawn's very loose and nonsensical leadership and her demanding for shit like wanting Noah to stay because he owed the community, or generally being a shit leader that no one but Officer 'Eaten by Rotters' respects, and somehow really liking Beth for one reason or another... and on the other side are jackass officers who go around running down Carol with cars, beating up old men and apparently raping people. Dawn's an unlikable bitch but she's definitely the lesser of two evils. Honestly, I'm not sure why Beth leaped to the conclusion that she has to kill Dawn, but I guess she just holds Dawn responsible for the sheer amount of emotional abuse she suffered in the hospital?

Honestly, the whole situation of the hospital is just so convoluted and maybe it's just me not giving a shit about anything in the hospital that isn't Beth or Carol, but it just felt poorly told to me. Beth and Dawn keep having conversations, Dawn keeps insisting she needs someone like Beth and keeps covering up for her apparently (a help Beth didn't ask or need), the two of them kill Officer McDouchebag #3... why couldn't the two of them work together to get rid of the problem cops? Or are the problem cops all dead? I genuinely cannot tell, because I'm not paying attention to which cop is good and bad. Later during the prisoner exchange it goes on smoothly... until Dawn demands Noah. In retrospect bit of a shitty idea for Strike Force Rick to bring Noah along instead of just leaving him in the building they were shacking up in. 

Team Rick refuses to give Noah up, and Beth, after hugging Noah, walks up to Dawn... and stabs her with a pair of scissors she hid in her cast. And reflexively, brutally, Dawn shoots Beth in the head in a moment that can only be described as "holy shit" and "someone kill this bitch!" An absolutely pissed-off Daryl makes sure Dawn is really dead by shooting her again, and none of the police really seemed bothered, just surprised. I'm not sure if any of the hospital people ended up coming with Team Rick in the end, though he makes the offer. Also not sure just what Beth's death was supposed to accomplish, beyond an act of defiance. The hospital's system certainly wasn't dismantled the way the Governor or Terminus was, so it really felt hollow. All we got in return for Beth's death was Noah, and he's a flatter character than Bob. 

Regardless, though, Beth died, and it's amazing considering I spent most of season three scratching my head "didn't Beth kill herself in season two?" or "wait, she survived the attack on the farm?" Beth has grown so much especially in the latter parts of the fourth season when she's running around with Daryl, as well as on her own in the hospital, that her death was definitely a lot more impactful than Bob's. Daryl's tearful reaction and Maggie literally just breaking down are the two that Beth's death impacted the most. Mind you, when Michonne and Carl met Maggie in the church, it's literally the first time since they were separated that Maggie really showed concern about Beth, though. 

So yeah, while the sudden death of Beth was a tragic, it's a conflicting and unsatisfying end to both the character and the hospital arc. 

Movie Review: The Secret Life of Pets

The Secret Life of Pets [2016]

The Secret Life of Pets poster.jpgA while back I watched this animated movie with my little nephews. Animated movies tend to be hit and miss. Most of the Pixar/Disney stuff tend to be great hits despite some saccharinity, and there has been some other great concepts that appeal to both children and adults -- solid movies like the Land Before Time, How to Train Your Dragon, the first Despicable Me or the Iron Giant would rank pretty high among my best movie list.

The Secret Life of Pets is a 3D animated movie (which wasn't made by Disney-Pixar or Dreamworks, a surprise in these days) that flew past my radar, and I wasn't even aware that it's a new thing. The concept isn't particularly novel -- we've had many, many movies  that starred animals, and the concept is a pastiche of Toy Story except instead of toys, we had pets. The main story involves little pup Max, whose life is turned upside-down when his owner adopts a far larger doofier dog named Duke. It starts off as a bit of a fight-for-dominance story before both dogs end up forced to work together as they have to survive cat gangs, dog catchers, and this wacky society of anti-owner animals led by the insanely batshit-crazy high-energy rabbit Snowball, easily the best character in the movie. The main plot isn't particularly innovative but it's serviceable enough for me to like Max and Duke and root for them to beccome buddies and the utterly bizarre and outlandish storyline behind the secret society of anarchist pet rebels led by a manic rabbit is engaging enough.

What is easily the weakest part of the movie, however, is the gigantic amount of side-characters who... don't actually do anything. The movie starts by giving us a little montage of all the animals who live in Max's building,  including a couple other dogs -- a pug, a dachshund, a lazy-ass cat, a mute little songbird and a little guinea pig -- who ends up following Gidget the over-excited romantic pomeranian (pomeranians are cute and I approve of this choice) around as she tries to find her love interest Max. Along the way they gather allies, including long scenes devoted to introducing Tiberius the hawk who tries so hard not to eat his friends and Pops the basset hound who's like this old who basically owns a mansion... but no one other than Gidget really ever mattered. You'd think having a savage hawk on her beck and call would be a great asset for the action scenes, but Tiberius barely does anything after his introduction scene. And, like, it's obvious that these guys are just there to get some laughs, but even in the oldest Disney movies most of the funny secondary characters either only stick around for a single scene, or are relevant to the story in some way.

The movie's funny enough to enjoy and the voice acting are pretty neat (Gidget and Snowball are two standout ones with amazing voice acting). The movie isn't particularly smart and is just an excuse to jump from this one crazy thing to the next, but the movie is filled with unapologetic energy enough to be fun, with a couple of brief introspective moments on Max and Duke's part when they find out that Duke's former owner never looked for him because he passed away. It does feel a bit out of place when the scenes preceeding and succeeding it are all manic madcap chase scenes, but eh.

The weaker parts of the movie -- weak undeveloped secondary characters and a couple of scenes that just plain don't work (what's up with that sausage scene, huh?) -- end up kind of being brushed away by the rest of the highly-energetic movie, and even some of the more extravagant filler scenes end up looking impressive by the amount of moving pieces -- like the scene of Team Gidget moving from a penthouse to the sewers through an insane amount of wacky contraptions. Overall, though, it's a movie whose main strengths are the voice acting and the animation, not the actual story or plot or concept. It won't be mistaken for a bad movie, but it's not particularly spectacular. It's unmistakably fun, though, which is definitely what it was going for.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Movie Review: Cloverfield

Cloverfield [2008]

So, I like monster movies. And in 2008, they made this movie called Cloverfield, where the movie doesn't play out like, well, your average monster movie. Instead of following a third-person worldview, Cloverfield is a 'found footage' deal where a video recorder held by a bunch of people who's at ground zero when some really weird shit is going down is shown to you. Oh, and it's recorded over the dude's old holiday video tape and stuff. The movie follows the protagonists, Rob, Hud (who holds the video), Lily and Marlena as they escape the devastation that has wrecked New York City (i.e. a big-ass kaiju) and save Rob's girlfriend, Hud. The monster is barely seen other than at the end, and it's more of these characters attempting to survive the ground zero of a giant monster attack that's the whole point of it. There's the couple of justifications that Hud's camera is like latched on to his hand and he's partly using the video-recording bit to calm himself down, and the fact that our protagonists tend to not actually be super-involved with anything that's going on and more witnesses than participants also helps a lot in maintaining the suspension of disbelief. 

It's a pretty decent concept, and executed pretty well. It's a pretty tense ride as the party dwindles, showing some really great shots like the moment where they were jumping on the collapsing building, or when they are bought up to the military helicopter to witness the napalming of the monster, or the chaotic running that our heroes do as they encounter military forces trying to do their best to bring down the monster. But most of the movie's themes comes from just how chaotic everything is, as out characters are just flabbergasted by all the chaos, with Rob being shocked at his brother's death and clinging to the fact that he's going to save the girlfriend he had a fight with, and everyone else just along for the ride even if it involves going through the dark subway tunnels or jumping across buildings and shit.

It's a pretty decent watch, and keeping the monster's identity and backstory ambiguous is also well-done and fits well to the 'found footage' gimmick the movie's doing. We don't know if the thing is an alien, some Godzilla-esque ancient species disturbed from its slumber, a Lovecraftian Old God or what-have-you, but it still manages to be thrilling all the same. All that matters is that it's rampaging. It's going around tossing around the heads of the Statue of Liberty and shit, dropping tick-hound creatures that infect you with an exploding disease if they bit you.

It's a nice blending of thriller-horror tropes and the weird sci-fi kaiju tropes, and while it's honestly a straightforward plot, the execution is relatively well-done that it's a pretty enjoyable, if sllightly strange, movie. 

Monday, 18 September 2017

Hunter x Hunter 370 Review: Hiatus!

Hunter x Hunter, Chpater 370: Observation

This was a review I wrote halfway through and never uploaded during the week when it came out. Mostly because I'm just so super-done with this excruciatingly long prince competition, where things get built up and built up and built up but nothing really happens. And each chapter is just full of gigantic buildup and exposition and promises that interesting things will happen, but interesting things... never actually happen. And this chapter's honestly another example of this pretty banal pacing. 

Add that to the fact that literally a grand total of zero characters outside of Kurapika, Tserriednich, Benjamin, Queen Oito, Zhang Lei and Bill are actual characters means that 'ooooh, little kabuki doll is the nen power of someone trying to kill all the other someones!' is something that I literally cannot be arsed to really care about,  considering each chapter really likes introducing even more characters with weird names that end up not doing anything interesting at all. They get a scene, here and there, but then don't do anything at all.

Like, yeah, there are some among the bodyguards that can use nen, someone who can see the Silent Majority kabuki doll nen ability, and this ability called the Tsuchibokko, four nen snakes that can kill a person in 11 seconds (which, considering Hunter x Hunter's insane 'all of these stuff happened in the span of a second' stuff that happened during the Chimaera Ant storylines, it's not as impressive as it sounds). Like, once more, there's an assassin hiding amongst the bodyguards and whatnot that Kurapika is training, but I just can't bring myself to care. We just go from huge rambling exposition to a big ambiguous thing, and then more huge rambling exposition. 

Like, if the Silent Majority user has been killing people throughout the entirety of the pretty long prince arc, that would feel like an interesting subplot that has been running throughout all of this big arc. But things are just introduced simply for the sake of making things more unnecessarily complex, and it's not something I am particularly fond of. Sadly the manga's about to go into a hiatus without the plot really feeling interesting beyond 'huh, that's kinda cool I guess, hopefully that will do something next chapter' every  other week. Like, I'm not sure if it's just me not looking at Hunter x Hunter with rose-tinted glasses, but looking back at this arc I'm genuinely baffled how people still sing praises about the manga as if the writer is a god that can do no wrong. Like, I'm not the biggest fan of the Chimaera Ant or the election arcs, but at least I feel like things happen in those arcs -- even the exposition-heavy election arc. Here is just feels long-winded just for long-windedness' sake.

Tokyo Ghoul:re 141 Review: Thank You Yomo

Tokyo Ghoul:re, Chapter 141: A Sufficient Stain

Gonna be relatively quick with this chapter. It's mostly just a huge action chapter with lots and lots of things happening, and it's pretty cool.

The chapter has two main parts, with the first half focusing on the Yomo-vs-Mutsuki (oh, and Aura Junior, the twat) fight and the second half focusing on the Suzuya-vs-Touka fight. And it's pretty cool stuff. Tokyo Ghoul isn't a manga that has prolonged fight scenes, and it's honsetly no surprise that the Yomo fight ended so quickly this chapter (though if we had a couple more in the future I'm not going to be surprised). The Yomo stuff starts off with Yomo at a disadvantage, and we know for sure he loses an eye, but he manages to trick Mutsuki -- who's so dang smug -- into thinking that they have the advantage over the very tired and wounded Yomo... only for him to unleash a crapton of electricity through the water from the destroyed pipes, frying Mutsuki into a crisp. I'm not entirely convinced Mutsuki's dead, but he's definitely out for the count.

Aura Junior, though... Yomo just grabs him by the neck and snaps his neck. Thank you, Yomo. Aura Junior is just a villain with a huge hate-sink, unlike the more nuanced Furuta and Mutsuki. For him to literally just die like a bitch? Thank you, Yomo.

On where Suzuya is fighting Touka, Hinami and Touka are making their last stand, blowing their way through the CCG agents. But when Suzuya and Hanbee come in, they're just clashing and swinging around their sword, blocking kagune blasts and shit. It's obvious that Touka and Hinami are at the back foot, though, with them being disabled one by one until the last two-page spread has Suzuya slicing down Hinami. That's the big cliffhanger this chapter, and next week I guess we'll see if Touka's is really doomed to die here, or if it's just Hinami. Or is Hinami even dead? I dunno. Pretty big shakeup regardless, though... I'm curious where this will all go. Hinami is admittedly not the first in line amongst the 'characters I thought will die' list, but if the writer does want to kill both Touka and Hinami it does make sense to go from Hinami first before Touka. We'll see how things go from here, though.