How Do You Solve a Problem Like Alita?

If James Cameron is to be believed, the technology that he pioneered to create Avatar was so that he could make Alita: Battle Angel, based off the popular manga (Japanese comic) series Gunm (Alita: Battle Angel is its subtitle). However, Avatar got too big, and now the 800 sequels that he is writing and directing are taking up all his time, so he handed the job over to Robert Rodriguez. Who I will say did a commendable job, but the movie has its flaws.

Alita: Battle Angel is about a young cyborg (Rosa Salazar) that is pulled out of a trash heap by an old scientist/doctor named Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). She doesn’t know who she is, or why she knows how to fight so well, but she is determined to find out, and maybe kick a little cyborg butt along the way.

Apparently, Rodriguez needed to comb through 600 pages of Cameron’s notes to turn Alita in to a shoot-able script. It suffers from being chopped down. There is a forgettable and pointless boyfriend (Keean Johnson), and it doesn’t have a complete story arc. The movie establishes Alita in the world and then gives her an objective. Then it ends. Fans have said this movie is true to the source material, and that makes sense, establishing the world, the characters, and the rules are usually what volume one of any comic books series is for, but I don’t think it works well for a movie.

Those two issues aside, the rest of the movie is pretty good. The cast is fantastic. I mean it has Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali, and Jennifer Connelly. It also has whatever a Keean Johnson is, but it makes up for that with a Casper Van Dien. Rosa Salazar as the star is more than able to hold her own with all that talent, and it looks like she will have a bright future, but the real star of a James Cameron movie is always the effects, and Alita: Battle Angel has them in spades.

Everywhere you look there is something cool to see in Alita. It is full of awesome moments, and I am sure that it will end up in a lot of Blu-Ray collections so people can show off the advanced features of their TVs. It does fall in to uncanny valley at times, but it is mostly able suspend your disbelief.

Alita: Battle Angel is a fine opening movie to a series, but the problem is that we have no idea if Alita 2 is going to happen. It was an expensive movie to make, and its returns have so far been the minimum to show a profit. Plus, Disney is in the process of gobbling up Fox, so Alita might end up back on the trash heap. Its best hope is that James Cameron wants it to happen, and James Cameron usually gets what he wants. As it stands by itself, it is a passible action movie, with great special effects. I had fun, but don’t expect Alita to be a game changer.

Shmee Uncovers The Truth In True Detective Season 3!

As someone who has not seen seasons one or two of True Detective, I cannot say how season three stacks up, I can only say that it is filled with great performances and a lot of silence. It is the slowest of burns. It is worth it to stick it out to the end, but it is not in a hurry to get there.

In season three, two children go missing while on a bike ride, and small town detectives Wayne Hays (Mahershala Ali) and Roland West (Deacon Frost Stephen Dorff) do their best to find them. Even though they do everything they can, this case will follow them for the rest of their lives.

From what I gather, True Detective season three is a little less strange than one and two, and it has the unique hook of taking place along at least three different timelines, but really the hook is that it has Mahershala Ali. His performance makes this show. Dorff and the rest of the cast do their best, and they are all good in their own right, but Ali makes it must watch TV.

I did enjoy that everything fit together really nice, there are no major plot holes, but the best part was the way season three played with the audience’s expectations. We know how these things are supposed to go, but how things worked out in True Detective season three was constantly surprising. Not in a cheap way, or just to pull something over on everyone, but as a reminder there is more than one way these things can shake out.

All that said, it is slow. Not that everything needs to be action packed, but sometimes if things take this long to burn the fire may have gone out. Though between the clever story and Ali’s fantastic performance, True Detective season three is still well worth watching. Just don’t fall asleep.

Shmee Furthers His Dragon Training!

It has been five years since How to Train Your Dragon 2 came out, and The Hidden World has the impossible task of wrapping up the trilogy. Something it manages to do quite well. As a sequel it should be no surprise that it doesn’t stand on its own, so you will want to revisit the first two movies before watching this one, but like the first two movies, The Hidden World has a lot of heart, and it is able to do a lot with kids riding around on the backs of dragons.

In How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World we find Hiccup (Jay Baruchel {who is the exact same age as me}) and his crew saving dragons from trappers who mistreat their dragons and use them for dark deeds, but he has been too successful in his protection of the dragons, and Berk is now overrun with wonderous beasts. He decides to start an adventure for The Hidden Word were dragons and the people of Berk can live in peace apart from the rest of population.

I might be skipping over a few things in that plot setup, but it is for the best. The Hidden World continues ageing up the characters with Hiccup and the gang now in their early to mid twenties. What is impressive about this series is how they are always able to work on real issues involved with growing up. Like how love and loss are intertwined, and that sometimes friends have different paths they need to take. It all manages to hit you right in the feels.

Another thing the How to Train Your Dragon movies are known for is how amazing they look, and The Hidden World can be jaw dropping. While the people are still cartoony, the world itself can be photorealistic at times, and the animators consulted with cinematography wizard Roger Deakins on how to set up a lot of their shots. How The Hidden World uses its ‘camera’ is amazing. I hope more cinematographers get in to the animation game, because it really helps.

There is not a lot I can say about the cast. I mean it is the same cast, and they are still good, so no issues to report. F. Murray Abraham plays a fun villain, even though I find his motivation to be the weakest part of the story, but that is not on the actor.

I hope they do end the How to Train Your Dragon franchise with The Hidden World. Its ending puts the perfect bow on this series. The How to Train Your Dragon movies had no right being as good as they are, and I have no problems recommending The Hidden World to fans of the previous movies. If you have not seen the first two, do not start here, and it can be a little scary for little kids, but those two cautions aside, it is a great movie for the whole family.

Anthem Pre-Launch Update!

Hey it is me! Remember when I said that I wouldn’t be getting Anthem or The Division 2 until after they had been out a few months (like last week)? Well, it turns out a Streamer that I follow on Twitter, Exellion, had other ideas. I won his Anthem contest, so now I am playing the 10 hour free trail period of the game, and I thought I would give a quick update on what has changed.

The biggest thing that I have noticed right off the bat is that the frame rate is better. I don’t think it is perfect, but it doesn’t have the big hitches that it had before. I think the game is a little blurrier, so I am guessing that they dropped the resolution down a little bit, or they made the dynamic resolution a little more aggressive. Either way, the game is now much more responsive.

You can run in Fort Tarsis now! In the demo you had to walk from place to place to talk to quest givers, but now you can go a little faster. Running may be an exaggeration, but faster is faster. It isn’t a big thing, but it shows BioWare/EA is at least listening to their fans.

Once you get past the opening you get to choose your Javelin. You aren’t just stuck as a Ranger, and the other Javelins are sweet. I am loving the Storm. Hovering over the battlefield dropping lighting blasts and raining down bullets. Apparently I am not the only one, I have seen a lot of Storms out there. I am almost to level 8 where I get to pick my next Javelin, and I think I am going to go Colossus. Be a big bruiser that can mount a mini gun or two. Seems like the tactical opposite of a Storm, so that should be fun.

The biggest change is that I have not crashed or dropped once. There was one connection error that happened during matchmaking, but instead of crashing the game it just took me back to the Expedition screen so I could launch match making again. Which is how it should work.

That isn’t to say everything is peachy, I am still not sure how BioWare/EA expects this to be a ten year game. Apparently the main quest is only 30 hours long, and there is only free-play and the one Cataclysm (Raid) after that, so you are left with just playing the story over again at higher levels which doesn’t sound like enough for hardcore fans. For me, 30 hours and then being out sounds fine, but I would like to hear how their content roll out is going to work. Something they have yet to elaborate on.

Anyway, I am having fun. I am playing on Xbox One, so if you see Shmee out there, say “Hi” or emote a wave or something. Maybe we can drop lightning on some baddies together.

I Am Going To Wait To Buy The New Looter Shooters

I recently played the Anthem Demo and The Division 2 Private Beta, and I came away impressed with both of them. I love being able to fly and the verticality that Anthem has. The Division 2’s location change is nice, but it is its tweaks to its shooting mechanics that really do make the game play better. More like an actual shooter, instead of a bunch of stuff to just auto-lock on to while hoping for a better LMG, so why wait? Because as good as these games are, they will be better a few months down the road.

This has been true of every MMO and now Looter Shooter ever released. The launch is rough, or even if the launch is fine, people complain there is not enough content to keep them busy, or the grind is not tuned properly. Who knows what else. The devs will apologize and then the game will have a big patch and play way better with tons of new stuff to do. It would be funny if people would learn their lesson and stop expecting perfection day one, but they do, and the forums and Reddit blow up with angsty gamers.

Here is the deal, it doesn’t have to be that way. Wait with me. Three months from now when the game is 50% off and the first be patch comes out, jump in. You will have missed all the drama and the unresponsive servers, and just get a fun Diablo style loot fest for you and your friends to play. Better yet, if we all start taking this approach maybe games will be complete and play the way they are supposed to at launch. Maybe, if we stop paying to be beta testers, devs and large companies will stop treating us like beta testers.

Look Anthem and The Division 2 look like fun, and they are on my list to play, but just not at launch. Gamers are always looking for the next big thing, but perhaps we would be better served working on our massive backlog of games for a few months and let the new shooters on the block take their time to get ready for us, or play the anomaly that is Apex Legends that came out of nowhere fully formed and ready to go. Huh, imagine that, a game launching complete and mostly free of bugs with stable servers. That almost deserves to be rewarded even if you don’t like Battle Royal.