Captain Marvel Is For Better Or Worse A Marvel Movie

After nearly eleven years and twenty films, the MCU has finally added Captain Marvel to its lineup. This twenty-first film of the franchise is the first to be headlined by a woman, and she is the most powerful Marvel hero yet to get a movie. While I enjoyed the film quite a bit, I was also a little disappointed that they stuck so closely to the tried and true Marvel formula.

I thought about how best to do a synopsis of the film, and due to the fact they wanted to try and tell an origin story backwards, so that the hero could have her powers for the entire film, it is hard to do without getting all spoiler-y, but let’s just say, it is set in the 90’s and Captain Marvel doesn’t know she is Captain Marvel because she lost memory. Also, Jude Law is there to tell her not to worry about her memory, but to just worry about taking out the Kree’s (a Marvel alien race) enemies.

I get what the writers were trying to do. It is lame to have a superhero film where the hero doesn’t have their powers for half of the movie, but I am rarely a fan the tired amnesia storyline. The characters are all good enough to mostly pull this off, but I would have rather them done a traditional origin story, or just skipped the origin and moved on to something else. Like I said, with cast this good, they can do just about anything well, but I have seen a few too many people who cannot remember their pasts in my movie going history. Captain Marvel also had shares a problem with Aquaman, where the filmmakers have a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time to cover it, so the movie doesn’t really get to dig in with any one major plot thread. It just rushes from one thing to the next.

Speaking of the cast, this one was stacked. With Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Annette Bening, and Jude Law just to name a few. They pull of the signature Marvel quips and one-liners with aplomb. I know some people were worried about Brie’s Captain Marvel because the trailers don’t give her a lot of personality, but that is mostly due to the amnesia. As she starts to remember who she is, her personality starts to shine though.

Captain Marvel was not a perfect movie, but it is very much a prototypical Marvel movie. With all the action and humor you have come to expect, and now Avengers: Endgame has added a powerful hero to try and undo what Thanos has done. There are some things I would have changed about this movie, but I am happy Captain Marvel has finally made it to the big screen. It is has been a long time coming, and I hope she is here to stay.

The Quest For The Forever Game!

The Paladin and I finally beat the main questline for The Division last night. It was as anticlimactic as I had heard, but it was always going to be. Ubisoft wanted us to play The Division for 100s of hours, so to have an ending that pretty much said, “Well, you did it! Go back home to your family and friends for the few days you have left. You know, because while those half-masks look cool, really cool, there is no way they keep super-viruses from infecting you. I mean, they don’t even cover your eyes and ears. Anyway, thanks for all the help. Burn all your gear and take a chemical shower on the way out.” No, they want you to continue hunting down rogue New Yorkers with extreme prejudice for forever.

Which is kind of the problem with these games, expectations. According to the in-game stat counter, I have played The Division for 1 Day and 16 Hours, so to max out the main base, get to level 30, and finish the main quest it takes about 40 hours. For a dad that works full time. 40 hours is plenty of game. Had the game been sold that way, most people would have been fine, but that is not what happened. It was going to be the game to end all games. You would never need another game. It was the cornerstone in Ubisoft’s future financial plans. However, once it was released the hard-core players did the base stuff in about two days, and then demanded their “End Game”. AKA the real game. Judging by all the cool stuff I can play and do now in The Division, it looks like there is a lot of end game content now available, but for many players it got added too late, and they were off to the next thing.

What is curious, is that this keeps happening. Ubisoft is releasing The Division 2 saying that this time they got it right. Bungie and Activision said the same thing about Destiny 2. EA said that Anthem was a game you would be playing for 10 years. Right now, you are lucky if you can play Anthem for 10 minutes before it tries to destroy your console. Why do companies keep doing this? Why keep chasing the new MMO craze every time they come around? Games are expensive, and they are getting even more expensive to make. Even chasing niches costs a lot of money. You should go check out the Game Informer interviews they did with Obsidian about The Outer Worlds on YouTube. See how many times the lead developers, Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, said they wanted to do something, but it was cut due to time and budget, that they hope gamers are satisfied with the smaller scope of the game, or with the CEO Feargus Urquhart when he says that the reason they got bought out by Microsoft was that even “little” games now take a lot of capital, and there is no way to really afford that alone anymore.

In an era where it costs 100s of Millions of dollars to make a game, having a game out there that continues to bring in cash year after year grantees a company’s stability. Not to mention, if people are rushing through 40-hour games in days, and then complaining there isn’t enough to do, an endless game sounds like something that can fix that, so to keep striving to be the next WoW, or Warframe, or even Eve Online makes a lot of sense. Even if they keep screwing up. Because, if they get it right it can keep their company afloat while they work on other projects. Most companies will fail to create their forever game, but I don’t think we will see them stop trying any time soon. Not when GTA V is still selling millions of copies and tons of virtual currency.

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.