Movies

Blacklight

When I sat down to write this review, I had to think hard to remember watching this last night. It’s one of those forgettable movies, not passing judgement as to their quality but color me shocked, to say the least, to see it with 8% critical score on popular site rotten tomatoes. Liam Neeson doing yet another grizzled ‘old warrior in a young man’s world’ helped to elevate the movie, and be the trigger that helps you remember you watched it.

The chase scenes were questionable, and downright laughable at times. The action was okay, nothing special. Acting was serviceable across the board. So 8%? Are we sure it has nothing to do with the fact the antagonists are the FBI? That the plot revolved around government agencies using their own hit squads to deal with civilians that can’t be intimidated or bought? Hilarious timing I thought to myself after having reviewed Halo which has similar sentiments. Are American writers trying to say something? Are you okay? Blink twice for help.

Overall, it was one of those late night watches. It lulled me right to sleep as the credits rolled. I would recommend it for a sleep aid. It is very mediocre but undeserving of 8%. I really liked seeing Emmy Raver-Lampman (The Umbrella Academy), it feels a bit of a shame to have this movie rated so lowly. Maybe 20-30% instead.

TV Shows

Halo (Ongoing)

Will post updates at the top as episodes come in.

Episode Nine

Well that was quite the emotionally satisfying finale! The story of Makee and John was short lived, and tragic in so many ways. Some don’t ever heal from the wounds of the past, and the indoctrinations of their future. This timeline’s John 117 was lucky enough to let go of both, and became the unstoppable Master Chief from the games. But now, I’ve formed a deep connection with the soul inside the shell and I wish to see it return.

The action was middling because the guns for his allies had seemingly infinite ammo while yet again Chief is switching it up. Hopefully this improves for the second season. And yea, finally I had the reaction of “please, you are in unknown space with your ship, them helmets should be on at all times.” Yet, I wouldn’t get to experience the actors and actresses’ faces as they delight in the possibility of the spectacle unfolding. So, I’m willing to forgive that detail.

The soundtrack was soaring, epic, and right on cue for the emotional bits. The CGI certainly improved in certain spots such as the prophets. Speaking of, reading people complain that they would never bow to a human… Oh wow, look, it’s as if the villains are capable of having long-standing plans to achieve their goals.

Overall, it was good ending to the first season. Characters are developed, heroes are defined, anti-heroes and villains as well. Worldbuilding has been established, hints have been dropped for more potential places. And the story now has a new jumping point: the possible location of the Halo ring.

Episode Eight

Could you imagine hating a TV show because the main character, god forbid, kissed someone? And then had sex? Wow, way to announce to the entire world that you, as a critic, are a sexless, virgin. Oh no, your science fiction character gets more action than you? Time to draw the line, this is a bad show! If this is what drew the line for you, then you haven’t been paying attention to the very show you’ve been hired to critique!

Imagine you’ve had no emotions your entire life, and, for the first time ever, are experiencing the chemical imbalance known as lust and love. Imagine you’ve been chemically castrated by the government, by those you live to serve. Imagine you’ve realized you’ve been indoctrinated for years and years. Imagine you now found someone who has gone through much the same experience, albeit for the enemy. The other individual knows what it’s like to be special, and in that, you find a solace together. God forbid, your show has character development.

Imagine you’ve been raised by the so called enemy and they’ve shown you more compassion than any human has. You’ve been indoctrinated for years and years to be the savior of that so called enemy, the covenant. You’ve been tasked now to infiltrate and earn the enemy’s trust. You’re a honey pot. And your target just so happens to be experiencing emotions for the first time since being chemically castrated. You achieve your goals and in that moment, experience the magic of sex for the first time. The influx of emotions you now feel are greater than the indoctrination forced upon you. You truly connect with the person beside you. (If only someone would connect with the maiden-less critics, then maybe they’d possess the knowledge to understand this episode).

And then, just as you’ve formed a connection with this other person, you learn that the masters of humans are just as bad as the aliens that have indoctrinated you. They both seek the same goal: to be as gods.

Spoiler Shoutout to a Certain Critic

The critic over at Forbes is a special, maiden-less breed who wrote “So in conclusion, Master Chief is about to cause the Fall of Reach by having sex with a Covenant spy.” All I can politely say, is, did you actually watch the show you are paid to review?

I don’t get paid, but I actually watched the show.

Because if you did, as you claim, then you’d know that his act of sex had little impact on the fall of Reach. Catherine and her hubris is what contributed. Catherine and her special projects, Catherine and her ‘killing of communications’. Or perhaps Makee getting tortured once again causing her to experience a traumatic flashback to getting tortured by humans as a child. All Master Chief aka John 117 did was show her that humans can love, can care, can change. He was the only one that tried to connect, to find hope.

Everyone else, yourself included, showed that humans are ugly. That they don’t care about a person as an individual, they don’t care to learn the intricacies of being. They merely judge and pass judgment without knowing the whole of events. Pro-tip: try actually watching the show you claim to review.

Episode Seven

This episode was a nice relieve from the focus being on Master Chief, and helped tell Kwan Ha’s story some more. She got a minor conclusion to her story by wrapping up the rebellion against Vinsher on the planet Madrigal, and setting the plot for what’s coming next.

We got a glimpse at the AI such as guilty spark from the games, in a drug induced vision. And hints that there’s some sort of technology hidden under the planet, powered by the fuel in the soil.

All in all, as usual, I’m excited for more episodes.

Episode Six

That beginning was so satisfying. It’s rare to give your masters a taste of their own medicine. The episode brought much needed answers and emotional satisfaction. I was just along for the ride, stopped thinking about the show. That ending was the cherry on top. Our first look at a halo ring. I really hope they renew this show for more seasons.

Episode Five

That episode ran the emotional gamut culminating in rage. Understandable pent up anger, and a glorious fight to behold with UNSC vs Covenant. Despite Kai never reloading, or anyone for that matter, and Chief somehow always picking up different guns instead, it was quite enjoyably to watch.

The dangling threat of John’s mental freedom is still in the wind. CGI has improvement as the show has gone on. That ending bit was a nice tease of more to come. And it was lovely to hear John call out Cortana, and those naysayers out there too, with his line about the game. I’m, as usual, excited for more.

Episode Four

Another episode depicting the tragedy that befalls individuals brainwashed by their superiors or agency oversights. That to take away somebody’s memories is to remove who they are. And to quote Soren, “There are no more heroes.” Nobody has the strength to stand up and fight for what they believe in. They’ve seen what happens to those that do, they meet death’s door. The entire episode is a slow psychological horror at both knowing our beloved characters could be wiped out by an evil mind, and that such events actually happen around the world daily. Rebellion is snuffed out, brutally and utterly, and the minds of the civilians continue to praise the heavens that their leaders walk on. If they aren’t brainwashed, then they live in fear. Time to go see the mystics and free our minds.

Episode Three

Oh look, the first medium to accurately portray Hunters and not shy away from the sheer horror of their existence! And y’all whined that it didn’t follow the lore. Anyways, the opening was pure horror for me, with needles and surgeries, but I still liked that inclusion, I felt that their world could show us anything. I half-expected to see nudity, and they delivered on that front too! Cortana was awesome, as was hearing the voice actress from the games. I can’t wait for the next episode.

Episode Two

What an interesting type of programming shoved down the throats of millions. The show seems to have a self-awareness of the meaning of the word, that the government programs individuals into corrupting their morals and ethics to become slaves and thralls. But there is a stronger code inside all of us, to know when something is simply wrong. This is what Master Chief is representing. That dull ache at the back of your mind that’s sickened by everything those in power ask of you, except he is the fantasy made real, the one that acts. He takes action. And through him, we get our vicarious victory against the powers that be. Yet therein lies the trap. We get pacified, and our ability to act for real gets further diminished in our minds. We continue to be complacent. For all that Halo is worth, and for all that antigovernmental sentiment, it is still a tool against us. With all that in mind, there’s a chance individuals might be inspired to be better. To do better. To know that some commands are wrong and should never be carried out. That being said, episode two is off to a great start.

No action to be found in this episode. Lots of worldbuilding, always enjoyable. Soundtrack is one of those I’ll be listening to outside of the show. I love the sound work overall, the thumps of the armor as they walk, the clank and rumbling of the train cart through space.

Showing John’s upbringing was a lovely touch, as was making our point of view into the UNSC’s raising of the Spartans as negative. Immediately you can tell that John is indeed a victim, as is his friend, Soren.

Overall, I liked this episode as well.

Minor Spoilers

That closing arc of going willingly back into the fold knowing that you may be destroyed in doing so is poetic and yet, I feel a pang of worry for our hero. That he’ll be brainwashed, and overrode, reduced to being the faceless mask of the video games. It’s a nice change to actually worry for the protagonist instead of knowing everything will be okay due to plot armor (like Marvel’s most recent outing, Moon Knight).

Episode One

Around 40 minutes in, I suddenly understood all the middling reviews. The parallels to current governments is strongly on the nose. Yes, the government would kill you, distort your message, and lie to the general public all to keep the black gold flowing into their pockets. You cannot interfere when they decide to ravage the landscape and local populace for natural and heavy minerals. Rio Tinto knows this well.

Halo as a show is off to a great start. It’s jam-packed with goodies such as the radar from the games, and the ammo counts, to the sound of a shield recharging. There’s even a Mass Effect reference at 34 minutes. We get to see all the old favorites besides Master Chief, like Dr. Halsey and Commander Keyes and his daughter, Miranda Keyes. With all that aside, and watching it with no expectations nor preconceptions, or comparisons to the source material, I am thoroughly enjoying the show. In fact, I didn’t want the first episode to end; I want all the episodes now.

I like that they went with their own reality for the show, it gives creative freedom. It’s not like the games brought anything new to the genre besides the Spartans and their suits. Larry Niven’s Ringworld series would like a word. Aliens attacking humanity ain’t exactly fresh. The graphics for the aliens in the show could use a bit of a touch-up as the feeling of CGI and fakeness was too strong, perhaps a different technology or method could have been used? I enjoyed how they introduced the Spartans to us with the idea that they are cold and unfeeling killing machines. To the people trying to survive without being robbed blind by the UNSC and their black gold demands, the Spartans are essentially boogeyman. The government’s own special hit squad, and you’d be na├»ve to think they don’t have that in our present times.

And now the face reveal! I dig it, and it fits the storyline! Did people not understand that? If you’re raised your whole life with the notion that this Spartan is a killing machine. Unfeeling. Alien to you. The boogeyman. And then you see that it is all together too human? You start to realize things, the gears in your head start to spin. You, who have been raised to question things, will now question this. What happened to him? Who did this and why? You empathize with him. He is no longer this unfeeling thing, but a thing that feels and understands you. And it wants to help you. Now that goes against everything you’ve known, and you want to see where it goes because the alternative is death. Moving on, Pablo Schreiber is excellent and I love seeing his performances.

The opening sequence was another aspect I liked, as it shows the surgical scars on John’s body, and then the cool animation of the armor being sculpted onto his body as if by nanites or something. I liked that the girl was Korean, and the commander lady in charge is Indian as it helps establish credence that the UNSC really is a worldly organization, that humanity has truly spread themselves out amongst the stars.

I loved where the end of the episode went. It gave Master Chief agency over his life, and set him onto his own path. He’s breaking free of the chains set upon him by his corrupt masters – and that message we simply cannot have in today’s day and age.

Overall, I highly recommend it. Once again, I love seeing more science fiction shows pop up. I think that if you watched it without comparison to the grail games on high thrones, you’ll find it enjoyable. And if you are not one of those, and you like sci-fi, you’ll like it.

Random Thoughts

I had read several user reviews in addition to the official critics, and I disagree that this version of Master Chief is a perversion of the character. If anything, this version is the best depiction because he’s finally his own character. In the games, he’s always been nothing but a puppet, slave to Cortana or the UNSC, even to the player. By not giving him a face, the player can imagine themselves as the Chief, and roleplay that way. He’s a great poster boy for militaries around the world – does horrific shit, never questions orders, never rebels. A perfect killing machine. Now I could be totally wrong by later episodes, but it seems to me that he’s realizing to the extent that he’s been manipulated by his superiors and is starting to rebel. He’s starting to think for himself. And that is an imagined world I wish to see more of.

Movies

Black Crab

I went blind into this movie because I saw Noomi Rapace. I’ve always enjoyed her performances of a stoic tough warrior with a softer side, sometimes motherly. This fit the bill. She stars as Caroline Edh, a young mother turned soldier in a future war that sees prolonged conflict. The enemy’s nationality unknown. She’s recruited for a mission along with several others to deliver a cargo to friendlies deep behind enemy lines with the special premise of having to skate under cover of darkness across an icy archipelago.

The tension was taut throughout the movie, as the party navigated the dangers of their journey. And the story seemed to run its natural course when I noticed there was still 35 mins left in the movie. I wondered what it could do, where it could take us and I was happily surprised in the direction it did take. In today’s political times, it was rather refreshing (more on that in the spoilers blurb). The action had me on the edge of my seat because it felt like the characters were fighting against the rising tide. Sounds of gunfire, and ice cracking with the wind whistling about, the sense of cold desolation came across well.

Noomi Rapace did an excellent job, and during an emotional scene in the later half, she pulled me right in. I couldn’t help but tear up alongside her. Jakob Oftebro followed her lead in that regard. With the portrayal of his character, of a soldier haunted with leadership and the knowledge that comes with it. The rest of the party played to their roles well, as the sniper, the medic, and the inevitable ‘not an idiot on purpose’ soldier.

Overall, I loved the movie. The soundtrack had a futuristic vibe to it, tense when needed, played with your heart, and pumped it up when necessary. I recommend it!

Spoilers

I knew as soon as I finished watching this movie that other reviews will call it poor timing, bland, and a tasteless depiction of war. Some might draw a direct comparison to the recent war in the western media’s eyes, like the refugee camps near the start of the film. They might consider that because the enemy is nameless that it makes the whole conflict not have any impact. They’re missing the point. The bad guys in the movie, the antagonists, were not the invading force but the defending nation. They were going to use biological weapons regardless of the cost on human life. And having a defending nation be the bad guys in a movie was very refreshing. Too often the aggressor is depicted as evil, and rumor and propaganda run rampant. The movie also depicted the defending military using backhanded methods such as lying about a child’s location to a mother to motivate her, or lying to their soldiers that locations have been bombed. They need soldiers focused for their war, properly motivated through manipulation. That is a very brave outlook to show in a movie with the recent turmoil in the political climate.

Games

Elden Ring

To preface, I am a hardcore gamer as it were. I started with Doom, and have played every category possible, I’ve worked my way through all of the souls games, even the Nioh series, I remember playing Ninja Gaiden, I know it all. I love games, and I put my all into them. So as it were, when I find sections unsavory, I don’t merely say it due to my inability but because there is serious fault to be found instead.

I was part of the masses so excited for this, I had my preorder copy ready and waiting. I read up on what it would offer, the sheer scale and scope, and I was bedazzled by it all. I had absolutely loved Dark Souls Remastered, and in many aspects Elden Ring delivered. That sense of awe and mystery as you explore uncharted regions, completely unsure of what to do except wander, and kill what you can, run from what you cannot, and slowly accumulate a massive hoard of treasures and loot. The rush and exhilaration of the dance of death, of timings and striking, blocking or dodging, and then the sense of victory over your opponent. The scale of grandeur is vast, with serpentine labyrinths, and even the simplest cave will yield a lengthy exploration of its secrets. Hidden walls aplenty, and a lore that can be pieced together to explain the world, and your purpose. And in doing so, start to realize what must be done. It took me roughly 15 hours to realize I had to go to the Stormveil Castle, and by then, I was severely over-leveled for the boss.

Adorable scary boss bear sleeping

I have sunk in nearly 60 hours since its release and I cannot with any good conscience recommend this game to anyone in its current state. There is a boss you have to eventually beat, a lovely fellow called Starscourge Radahn, in a sort of cinematic battle with summoning NPC’s resembling a raid. I cannot understand how any individual at From Software, especially the director, Hidetaka Miyazaki, let this pass quality control. There is nothing fun about it. It is a tedious, downright frustrating experience that completely sullies, mars, and ruins Elden Ring. It is the ultimate representation of the developer idea of “Fuck you, player.” Every moveset in the boss’s repertoire is capable of killing you in one hit, lovingly called a one shot. To add insult to injury, in the boss’s phase 2, he acquires 4 magical skulls that all one shot, and have an explosive radius. The insult comes in that there’s this item, a magical physick, that lets you combine different effects for a one time use. One such effect says to block any one hit. Well, General Radahn doesn’t obey the rules. Even with that on, he’ll still instantly kill you with one of his skulls.

The fact this is a necessary boss, and not mentioned in any reviews leads me to think everyone of you lying, gaming “journalists” was paid off, and with as easily as a free review copy. A 10/10 implies that there isn’t a single moment during the entire game that slows down, or infuriates, or straight messes with the player. I could do every single thing correct, make 0 mistakes, and General Rahdan will kill me still. Skill has gone out the window, and is replaced by luck. Until there is a patch severely downgrading or balancing the boss, I will not be playing this game. From Software has lost the ball hard, and I think the director has let all the praise get to his head thinking he can do no wrong. He needs to relearn what makes a boss good, and replay Dark Souls. There wasn’t single moment in that game that I felt was unfair, or complete bullshit, everything had a way to be overcome without sweating bullets. Man’s come so far up his own ass, he can’t remember what it’s like to not be made of bullshit. I have done everything leading up to the Erdtree, except for General Bullshit. Well, that’s a lie, pretty much all of the northern snowy region is composed of bullshit bosses where skill doesn’t matter because the other half of the battle is luck. I don’t feel great that I beat X boss, or an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. No, I feel cheated, like “oh, he didn’t do his bullshit move this time around.”

Elden Ring is a 7/10 game at best, masquerading itself as a 10/10 because it brings several new things to the open world genre and does them exceedingly well. And yet, in all its brilliancy, it spectacularly falls apart towards the end. The powercreep in the strength of mobs and bosses is insane, and the player cannot compete with it. There isn’t enough of a farming method in the late game (80s and up) to grind the stats needed to have a somewhat even playing field. It is obvious that the early game and mid game received lots of love and care, lots of polishing, but this final bit feels like slog and a half. Fun has gone out the window because everyone can kill instantly while I have to whittle away their hp.

I started my playthrough as a melee user wielding a longsword and a shield, I transitioned into a great shield with a +19 longsword. And I was doing good. But then the wall known as Radahn showed up, and the snowy region and suddenly, melee weapons that didn’t have some sort of magical power sucked immensely. It felt like all my efforts at bettering myself went down the drain, 60 hours down the drain because I feel like a fly trying to attack a giant. So I used the in-game option to rebirth, and change my stats around to a new build. I reformed myself as a mage, and found the enemies I struggled against earlier die in 2 hits from my spell. My special katana could one shot most enemies. I felt good again. Like I had purpose. I tried a random boss that was giving me trouble as a melee, and wiped the floor with him. Emboldened by this endeavor, I set out to fight General Radahn once more. This time, I can consistently get him down to low health but then his bullshit breaking the rules skull kills me through my one time invincibility shield. To those that have beaten him, congratulations, but don’t try and tell me that he’s remotely a good boss. He’s the worst designed boss in the history of boss fights, and that’s saying something. If you’re telling me the director came up with this, then it’s time he retires from games for good. Be a consultant or something.

Incredible that 60 hours can be ruined by one experience

Loved the character design

Overall, even with the masterful combat, the scope and scale of the world, the wonder of exploration, it all gets marred by having a necessary boss be such a burden that it ruins the entire experience. The end game does little to help alleviate that feeling either, with enemies that seem to exist solely to make player exclaim, “oh, what bullshit!” I don’t recommend this game in its current state, and every single reviewer that gave it a 10/10 needs to take a good long look at what that actually means.

Update 1

I consulted with the reddit nerds and was able to bypass said Captain Bullshit. I shall continue my adventure, and will post updates after that. As it were, I stand by my words. This boss is in need some kind of balancing check, whether it is his ability to switch aggro (who he’s attacking) on a dime, or his skulls/floating rocks? that obey no rules and instantly kill.

TV Shows

Peacemaker

There’s a scene early on where our titular character sits down at a bar, next to his attractive co-worker, and she tells him off for being a racist, murderous, piece of shit. He looks taken aback, and reflects on it.

Given my opinion on The Suicide Squad, I just know that Gunn wrote this scene and parts of Peacemaker’s overall story as a means of calling out his haters. It sets the tone for the whole adventure. To me, it says, “I know some of you hate this character, but let me show you why I don’t.” And I have to give credit where credit is due. Peacemaker is a good TV show albeit not without minor nitpicking – not everyone’s acting was stellar, more on that later. I promised my friends I’d do my best, and separate the artist from the art. Like the greats, Roman Polanski, and others. I’d watch, setting my bias aside.

First and foremost, I thoroughly enjoyed John Cena as Christopher ‘Chris’ Smith aka Peacemaker. I watched a bloopers compilation of the show, and at one point Cena replies back to a joke about great actors that he shouldn’t be included. The man sure is humble as his comedy is on point in every scene. In fact, without him, the show wouldn’t nearly have same effect however strong the writing is. He carried the leading role well, and I want to see him in more leading roles rather than supporting. Chukwudi Iwuji was quite good. I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing him beforehand. I enjoyed his performance and look forward to seeing more of him.

Now my nitpicking. Jennifer Holland, who keeps hiring her? Still as wooden as the day I saw her all those years ago in Zombie Strippers. She’d pull me out of immersion each time I saw her. And then we have the token character of the somewhat sassy, fat, black woman played by Danielle Brooks (wonderful performance). To Gunn’s credit, despite having to use that trope, it was delightfully done and self aware. I found myself wondering where was this tasteful and smart dialogue, and interaction in the previous movie. And it wasn’t just her, many characters would do something frustrating or idiotic, and the audience would get that feeling of annoyance and then immediately be appeased by dialogue that calls it out right away. It was a rollercoaster of being knowingly played with, that I didn’t want to get off of.

Before I continue, the character of Vigilante was interesting. It is a peculiar choice to make a psychopath the comic relief. It really makes a statement all on its own. This world is so messed up, that the funniest guy is the one that’s most insane. If this was Batman, such a character is the most terrifying. That contrast is called out by Gunn, in a lovely scene between Peacemaker and his elderly neighbor on that age old argument whether Batman should kill. Self awareness of the property source seems to be occurring more and more, and that studios are allowing it, it’s setting up for an interesting time in entertainment.

I’m aware of the similarity between how Vigilante was written and to Ryan Reynolds’s Deadpool. That was obviously intentional. It doesn’t detract from the character or Freddie Stroma’s performance, but a fun little call-out. In fact, I found myself thinking he stole whatever scene he was in. I found him delightfully infectious.

I want to say it was fun to watch Robert Patrick as a villain, but he’s made a career of that. This was no different. His character served only to further Peacemaker’s development, and it was obvious from the first appearance.

Overall, it is an excellent companion piece to accompany The Suicide Squad, and stands strongly on its own. John Cena is quite the comedic force to be reckoned with. James Gunn created a masterpiece for DC’s halls. I recommend this dark adventure, but I still think the character is a murderous, piece of shit.