Posted in Miscellaneous

For the Geek in me, 2016 was awesome! Part 2

These are the top ten films I saw last year, some weren’t realised in 2016, but that’s when I saw them.

10: Jupiter Ascending

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This was a strange little sci-fi movie, with an odd cast in odd roles, but to be honest was highly entertaining. Maid from a large family Jupiter (Mila Klunis) finds out that she is alien royalty and is then caught up in the politics of a human race that has colonised much of the galaxy, not just one planet. It’s action packed, high concept and looks very good. Flawed in places, it’s just nice seeing a fresh story on the big screen.

9: Transformers: Age of Exinction

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On the other side of that, we have the 4th Michael Bay-verse Transformers film. To be honest, after the snore-fest of Dark of the Moon, this was something of a relief. We are without a returning Megatron and the bad guys here aren’t Decepticons, but are in fact the human race, who are interested in creating their own Transformers and sell the Autobots out to get that power. Also gone is Shia LeBouf (I think we can all be glad of that) this time we have a going broke Kade (Mark Whalberg) and his daughter and her secret boyfriend. There’s an attempt at plot, great set pieces, villains who are both relatable and others that are moustache twirlers and dinosaurs. It was a good deactivate your brain movie and I always enjoy them.

8:Doctor Strange

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The fact this is only got to my #8 tells you how much fun I have had at the cinema this year. Benedict Cumberbatch embodies the arrogant ass that is Dr Stephen Strange, who after a car accident loses everything and travels to the east in search of miracles and last hopes to restore his surgically gifted hands. Instead he becomes an acolyte of the ancient one (Tilda Swinton, once again playing not quite right, but captivating) and learns alongside several other sorcerors. He’s sceptical, but gifted and ends up becoming a decent sorcerer, just in time to face the threat of the Dread Dormammu. Visually stunning, well shot and acted, it follows the marvel movie origin formula and leaves us with a character ready for more adventures. I and my wife (the Mighty Rosie) enjoyed this quite a lot.

7: Star Trek Beyond

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Didn’t go to the pictures for this, possibly not a great choice. This was the best of the three Nu Trek films so far in one aspect. It felt like Star Trek. It was character driven, well plotted and just felt like Trek at it’s best. Pine, Quinto and Urban just nail their parts perfectly and the rest of the cast are really enjoyable in their roles. There’s silliness, high octane action, character development and by the end, you want to see another one. Star Trek into Darkness was not good. This however, puts this franchise back on track.

6: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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I wanted to give this a higher position, but I think this is where it needs to be. This was everything we wanted Episode 7 to be. This was Star Wars, but without a lot of the crappy stuff that disney and Lucas have tried to force down everyone’s throat. Rogue one is the story of what happens just before the original Star Wars. The Empire has built the Death Star, this is the response of the nascent Rebel Alliance. We have spaceships, robots, Darth Vader and all the cool stuff that isn’t lightsabers, but for the first time, a sense of actual threat. We don’t know these characters, so we don’t know who will survive, who will betray the others, who will fail. Without the Solos and Skywalkers crowding the screen, we get a well written, exciting story that happens to take place just before the Star Wars trilogy.

5: Suicide Squad (Extended Cut)

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Another one where I skipped the cinema for, this was just bags of fun. An all star cast, playing no-star characters. Amanda ‘the Wall’ Waller (played by Viola Davis) and Rick Flagg put together a rag tag group of villains (Deadshot, Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, El Diablo, Captain Boomerang, Katana and the Enchantress) to combat extra-ordinary threats. Their missions are dangerous, ridiculous and highly entertaining. Everyone nailed the spirit of the characters from the comics, or made them more fun for the movie and Harley Quinn and Killer Croc are particularly entertaining. We also have Batman & the Joker, but they don’t over-power the movie and in the end, we finally get a well made fun DCEU movie.

 

4: Captain America: Civil War

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It starts getting trickier here, 4, 3, and 2 are so close that this ranking doesn’t really matter. This was an Avengers film more than a Captain America one. The main Cap elements are the supporting cast from his films and the connection to Bucky. This film was based loosely on the Civil War comic series from 2006 or so. Loosely is the best way, given the chance I will rant for hours about how I don’t like Mark Millar’s Civil War, the execution is so bad and that takes from the idea. Here the idea is ran with. Rather than paint Iron Man as the villain, this time I see Tony Stark’s point so clearly and it’s reasonable, so is Captain America’s and the dividing line between the team members makes a lot of sense. There’s also a hero v hero battle that makes the price of admission worth it. Everyone does well in this movie and Black Panther and Spider-Man are perfectly portrayed. 5 films that gave is Spider-Man (ish) characters and the real Spider-Man shows up in Captain America. This was tons of fun.

 

3: Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (Extended Cut)

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There are two ways of looking at the recent portrayals of Superman by Henry Cavill. Either Zack Snyder doesn’t get Superman and this is further evidence of fresh ideas needed…OR he’s playing a long game and a more recognisable Superman is coming. The second idea is furthered through this film about a Batman who’s gone off the rails, a Superman who hasn’t really embraced being Superman and a Lex Luthor who founded Facebook trying to get them to kill eachother, because his dad was an asshole. With the addition of extra footage, we get a more even film, with greater characterisation and more indepth plot. The set pieces are just as awesome, Gal Gadot owns the screen as Wonder Woman and I saw Aquaman on the big screen. Overall I enjoyed this film a lot more than the internet told me I should.

 

2: X-Men Apocalypse

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I am not going to say much about this film, except this film is like the 90’s X-Men comics. It’s outlandish and ridiculous, but a hell of a lot of fun. Cyclops is back on the team, we get a likeable (if still prickly)Jean Grey and less Wolverine. Also the ‘Sweet Dreams’ scene is amazingly funny.

 

There was no doubt what was going to be the film of this year for me.

It was the beginning of a happy ending.

 

 

 

 

1: Deadpool.

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Ryan Reynolds is Wade Wilson. Watch any movie he’s been in, any interview he’s done and that character was made for him. Rather than translate and existing story, the makers of this film got the essense of what makes Deadpool work and made a film around that character. We get the odd easter-egg and familiar notes, but this film felt like Deadpool. It looked like Deadpool and above all, it was balls to the wall fun from beginning to end, with action, humour, 4th wall breaking and a charm that many comic book movies are lacking. I highly recommend this film to anyone, even if you have never heard of Deadpool. It doesn’t matter, my sister in law. (the Unstoppable Hev) loved it also and she couldn’t be further from my neck of the woods.

 

2016 was a shit year for many in the real world, but we got a ton of great movies as well. Just looking back at this stuff, makes me realise that it isn’t as bad as that, because the real world stuff from my own life wasn’t too bad either.

 

Ttfn internet people

Next Time: TV, cuddles on the couch with the Mighty Rosie was good for two reasons this year.

Posted in Miscellaneous

For the Geek in me, 2016 was awesome! Part 1

Time for some top tens and positivity for our inner geeks.

These are the top ten comics I read this year. Proving that while the world at large wasn’t much fun, entertainment wise was pretty awesome.

10: Titans

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An interesting comic series that follows the story of Wally West and his forgotten team, the original Teen Titans, the art is a little 90’s, but it has been a very compelling tale about a Flash that we have all missed.

9: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

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An interesting tie-in comic that adds a very bronze age marvel comics feel to the 90’s kids show. The art is decent enough, but the story is fun, has a few twists and turns and yet is also quite kid friendly. Pricey for what you get, but am thinking that in tpb form, this will read really well.

8: Essential X-Men

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An interesting anthology title, part of Panini’s UK reprints, this gives you 3 comics, for the price of one comic and apart from the gap from original release to this reprint, this is a great idea. All New X-Men is in there, showing the original X-Men team trying to cope in the modern world, not doing great. Extraordinary X-Men is Storm trying to save as many mutants as possible and struggling and Uncanny X-Men seems to be a variation on Uncanny X-Force, only with Magneto leading. All headlining books and for a third the price, all worth getting.

7: Superwoman

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One of the newer Rebirth characters, this is a fantastic story of what happens when a Superman supporting character becomes a superhero, but with it not being a positive thing. Superwoman’s powers are harming here and will kill her and she’s trying to do the right thing as long as she can. An excellent stand alone series with a strong female lead.

6: Mighty World of Marvel

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Another Marvel UK reprint series, this showcases Doctor Strange, Ms Marvel and Black Widow and again the pricing makes it a decent enough proposition. Whatever story isn’t working, turn the page and another will. My favourite title within this, changes month by month.

5: Action Comics

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Dan Jurgens writing the pre-Flashpoint Superman? Yes please mate. Superman and Lex Luthor both trying to live up to the legend of the Nu52 Superman, while battling one another, this is a great series, well paced, intelligently written and as per the title action packed. There’s even a Clark Kent running around.

4: Wonder Woman

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Greg Rucka returns to fix Wonder Woman. There you go, a one sentence reason to read it. The series is split in two, odd numbers are the current stories of a Wonder Woman trying to work out why her memories are messed up and trying to get home to Themiscyra. The even numbers are Wonder Woman Year One, spelling out the new origin and it’s been fantastic. Diana is naive, but not stupid, peaceful, but ready to kick all kinds of ass. This is the Wonder Woman series that’s been missing for a while and am loving it.

3: Future Quest

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This is a fun and light hearted series, establishing a shared universe for all the Hanna Barbera shows from the 1960’s and 1970’s, including Space Ghost, Johnny Quest, the Herculoids, the Impossibles, Frankenstein Jnr, Mightor, the Galaxy Trio and BIRD-MAN!!!!!!! I’m sorry, you do have to shout that bit. It’s silly and fun and comics should be a bit of both sometimes.

2: Superman

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I have made no secret that I didn’t like the Nu52 Superman, not because of the new continuity, or that the old stories no longer ‘matter’. It was because this character didn’t act like Superman. This ‘new’ Superman is caring, helpful and optimistic about a humanity that he feels a part of. Add that to being a husband and father and we get a fantastically rounded character and a fresh very human take on the original superhero.

1: DC Comics Rebirth Special

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When this was announced, it was a very been here before sort of feeling. Post Zero Hour, post Infinite Crisis, post Flashpoint, post Convergence and so on. Every few years, DC tried a facelift and reset for it’s titles and it was becoming quite obvious that it wasn’t working, like really excessive plastic surgery. But this wasn’t a reboot, revamp, or re-start, this was more an attempt to reinvigorate the DCU, whilst adding back in some of the sense of hope and fun that the high-collared and grim/gritty/dark Nu52 seemed to do away with. This was more about staying true to the spirit of what was, without crapping on what new stuff worked. In one issue of a comic, DC seemed to say “Yup, we fucked up, but I think we can make it work again.” It was the first comic from DC in 5 years that gave me some hope. It’s lead to me reading DC again on an ongoing basis and was well worth taking the time to check it out.

That’s comics done, TV Next>

Posted in TV Stuff

Kamen Rider Ramblings: Agito

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Kamen Rider Agito was the second of the Heisei era of Kamen Rider, a tokusatu (sci-fi/special effects show) from Japan. There were many commonalities between it and the first Heisei series Kamen Rider Kuuga, including an affable lead, motorcycles, non-human opponents and specialised police divisions as well as horrific murders and explosive battles

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Agito is the story of Shoichi Tsuhgami, who is found on a beach and is amnesiac, he is taken in my college professor Yoshihiko Misugi, also living there are Misugi’s son Taiichi and his niece Mana Kazaya, who recently lost her father to an as yet unsolved murder Shouichi is friendly and eager to help and takes over the cooking, cleaning and gardening for the Misugi family Agito is also the story of Ryou Ashihara, a young swimming hopeful, trying to recover after a horrific motorcycle accident, Ryou is cynical and self involved and has little thought for anyone but himself. A third protagonist is Matoko Hikawa, a police officer who after saving lives on a boat during a severe storm is re-assigned to the G3 unit, a police division set up after the events of Kamen Rider Kuuga, to battle the unidentified life forms, should they ever reappear. This armour is very much modelled after Kuuga, with the compound eyes and concentration of armour on the chest and shoulders. These three characters share the hero’s role as a new threat of ‘Unknowns’ arises.

SPOILERS: (For a 14 year old show)

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Heroes
Shouichi spends over 40 of the 51 episodes with no idea who he is, so spends most of the time not really doing very much in the way of character development. He is affable and optimistic and similar to Yusuke Godai in Kuuga takes his transformation into the super human Agito very much in his stride. Ryou Ashihara is the obnoxious bad boy of the show, prickly and argumentative, but is nonetheless noble and caring. Both these young men battle the monsters for little to no motivation beyond helping the person being attacked. Matoko Hikawa is driven by duty and need to prove himself worthy for a job he feels he isn’t really suited for. Honest, committed and at times clumsy, he is a perfect foil for the flaky and artistic Shouichi and vice versa.

Secondary Characters

Shouichi’s supporting cast is the aforementioned family, the stern and sincere, yet sometimes goofy Professor Misugi, the bratty 10 year old Taiichi together with 17 year old Mana, who over time develops psychic powers. Hikawa works on the G3 team along with the hapless doof Omuro and the petulant genius Ozama, who really has a talent for upsetting anyone she ever talks to. These three find themselves often in conflict with Toro Hojou, an unpleasant and ambitious officer, all false smiles and sharp tongue. There’s also Hojou’s partner Konno a middle ages detective with an obsessive fondness for ramen noodles. There’s also several of the passengers of the Ataksuki.

Plot

The main story revolves around a ferry called the Ataksuki, which on a routine trip, gets caught up in a battle between two opposing forces, one light and one dark. The lighter brother, sensing his defeat is imminent sacrifices himself, dividing his power into millions of pieces, which hall to Earth and enter millions of people all over the world. His brother, who claims credit for creating people (yup, the villain here called Overlord is apparently God) is appalled by this and sees this power in mankind to be an abomination and sends his angels to kill anyone with this superhuman potential, because he can’t love these altered humans. These angels (or Lords) are animal based creatures who kill anyone with this potential as well as anyone related by blood. Some of these Agito seeds are active within people (Shouichi, Ashihara and a surgeon called Kino) which tells them of these attacks and guides them to defend the advancement of humanity. Like Kuuga this is very formulaic, we have plot moving forward, some character scenes and battles with the Unknowns. But this differs from Kuuga in three very specific ways.

1: The police and the primary lead don’t work together, almost at all.

2: There are 3 riders through most of the series and during six episodes, there are 4.

3: The pacing is punchier and flows much better.

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There are three Agito riders and a non-Agito rider.

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From left to right we have G3/G3-X is a robot battle suit utilising advanced weapons, support and build in AI to out think and out shoot the unknowns. Mostly worn by Hikawa, this suit kills a good number of the monsters.

Ryou Ashihara becomes  Kamen Rider Gills, a more organic and animal-like with spikes and tendrils used as defensive weapons, he also had a great “Henshin” sequence.

Then there’s Agito, with his weapons and alternate forms, including the brute force Burning mode and the final Shining form.

At the end there is Another Agito, a surgeon called Kino, suffering from his past, another survivor from the Ataksuki, heroic to a point, but often controlled by his darker impulses and motives.

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The unknowns (or Lords) have a very half man/half animal look to them and murder in a variety of disturbing ways.

The Good

Agito is better paced and more tightly plotted than it’s predecessor, more stuff happens organically and the many threads and associated characters are woven together better. Here we get to see several points of view, including the villain’s. With three riders, plus police, we get a great cast of characters leading to an ensemble show which really works. Shouicih is a fun character who’s openness and ebullient nature is nothing to do with his anmesia as when the gaps of his life are filled in, we learn he is exactly as he always has been. While similar to Yusuke Godai from Kuuga, he is a more sympathetic character. The battles are better choreographed and the unknowns are more of a serious and escalating threat with their own understandable motivations. A slightly smaller supporting cast gives each character their own moments and there are less dropped plot-lines than before.

The Bad

Some plot-lines are dropped and how the series starts doesn’t jibe with how it ends with little reason behind the change. Some mini arcs have characters doing the same thing several times and the tone in some scenes is in question as some moments are played for laughs, while we have murders and monsters a minute later. Also as a villain, Overlord doesn’t really do much for most of the series.

Overall

Kamen Rider Agito is a fun and interesting series and has the edge over Kuuga in many ways, including acting, effects, pacing and music. There’s a more layered story, told from mulitple viewpoints. There was less filler than before, which I did appreciate. I dipped my toe in with Kuuga, but dived in with Agito.

Next Time: Kamen Rider Ryuki: Damn I am in fact addicted.

 

Posted in Talking on a Terrible Tuesday

Talking on a Terrible Tuesday 4: In case you haven’t guessed, I’m back

Hi there internet people, have made it back to work and after 4 hours, there’s been no blood spilled. So there’s that.

Seriously though, am trying to start this year as I intend to go on. Battling my issues with therapy and exercise has done well, but to be honest, I also need to tackle my weight and eating habits, so me and my wife (The Mighty Rosie) have joined a slimming world group. We joined with a  large number, but there were more than a few couples, which made me feel better. Didn’t want to be one man in a room with 40 women. It’s not a sexism thing, I just feel out of place enough, y’know? So today is the start of that journey. I have learned some things, 1: I don’t like raspberries as much as I thought I did. 2: I don’t need to snack quite so much as I thought. 3: I should have already been doing this, but at least I am doing so now.

I am already changing, have made better choices when eating out, passing on huge steaks and ribs, opting instead for grilled chicken and fish and my nibbles for my desk is bananas. I have also been social (I know, it’s ok, I was surprised too) a guy from college reached out and we’ve been e-mailing and shit, but last Wednesday we met up and watched Rogue One (the new Star Wars movie, which my wife was so glad to have avoided seeing) and I really enjoyed it. On the Friday, we went on a trip to Chester to visit an old school comic shop and I have had a lot of fun doing it. While the Mighty Rosie is geek-friendly almost geek-adjacent and while I do have online people who are geeky, it’s been a long time since I have had a friend out in the world who is as geeky as me, something we have in common. It’s nice to have that again, a nice reminder that a lot of the time I’ve been alone has been circumstance and social anxiety, rather than something being wrong with me.

New Year’s Eve was spent at Knowsley Safari park before a quiet night in. Not  a big fan of New Year, but we spent it warm, with loved ones and laughing and told 2016 to kiss our arse. Yes I have been ill over Christmas, yes it’s made me miserable, but I have loved the time I have had with my family away from work. So while I need to be work me for a bit, I am going to attack this year and make it my bitch, more fun, more relaxation and more joy.

I’m glad to be back on WordPress and I have missed you all.

More is coming,

TTFN

 

Posted in Talking on a Terrible Tuesday

Talking on a Terrible Tuesday 3: 2016 can just F**k Off!

(Written 27 December 2016)

Less than 20 minutes ago, I heard that the writer of Watership Down, Richard Adams had died, another celebrity loss. Ten minutes ago, I learned that Carrie Fisher had also died, this time of a heart attack. I don’t always react to celebrity deaths, these are not after all people I have met, but they are people who had an effect upon my life. George Michael made music from my childhood to his untimely passing, it was almost always great music and it turns out he was more charitable than we knew. My wife (the feeling less Mighty Rosie) was quite hurt, this is a year where we have lost Lemmy from Motorhead, Prince and David Bowie too, yet Bono is still here.  (I should apologise to U2 fans here, I should, but not going to) and now this.

Carrie Fisher was one of the stars of the first three Star Wars films and as bad as the dialogue was in those movies were. she have a spirited and layered performance as a princess of a destroyed world and senator of an abolished senate. She took was she had and ran with it. If that was all she had done, she’d still be a star, but it wasn’t. She was also a screenwriter and author and worked on a number of great films including When Harry met Sally, The ‘Burbs, The Blues Brothers and a small but entertaining turn in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. She was also hard at work for Make a Wish Foundation and a vocal opponent of the stigma relating to mental illness and above all an honest, free speaking voice in a world that so often wants comforting lies. She was funny, sharp and acerbic, but with a loving heart and whenever she was on TV (Such as her small role in Catastrophe or even as herself) she brightened up whenever she was on. There are several people who will miss their friend and I cannot imagine their loss, but millions will miss the legend that was Carrie Fisher.

The rest of 2016 hasn’t been much better in other ways either. The rise of extremist views, the unfortunate Brexit vote and shambolic fuckery that followed it. We lost a shitty Prime Minister in the UK and gained and less likeable one. The economy has tanked again and the future of our dealings with Europe look pretty grim. When looking over the pond, the American Electorate VOTED FOR DONALD <ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME?< TRUMP! Now in a previous post, I may have pointed out that I understand how that happened, but as I see his picks for the cabinet and his epic tantrums on twitter, his upcoming inauguration becomes a scarier and scarier thing. That is less a problem than the voter apathy, renewed xenophobia of the US as it relates to these facts. This is going to a rough few years and if I were of a praying persuasion, I’d be praying for everyone over there who isn’t an affluent white male, because they will take the hit as a result of choosing this affluent white male.

On a personal level, it’s been a bad year in work and a very up and down year in may ongoing battle with depression. The fight is on, but that means that I am feeling more of the punches. This year has been about loss, fear and division, it has broken my heart and torn at my resolve, but you know what…..

FUCK IT!

2016 will cling on till it’s dying moments, but it will end and we will get that surge of new year hope.

2017 will be better. Will the news be more cheerful? No

Will famous people not die? No

Will politics become more honest? No

But that really isn’t what I mean. 2016 has backed a lot of people into the corner. We feel like we can’t go on, but we can. When the bell goes at Jan 1st, come out swinging. 2016 has had a lot of bad, but it’s not been all bad all the time and we need to fight to make more good. I’m not going to completely remove my depression or anxiety, but I will battle it. Instead of it being feel sorry for myself time, it’ll be clobbering time.

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I had a great holiday in May and I will get away again in 2017, I will fight to make more time or me, for my son and will do all I can to make my wife feel like the Mighty Rosie that she is once more. I will learn something new, will write more, get along with people more and simply be more.

2016 did it’s best to break us.

It didn’t!

2017 will try it too.

It won’t!

We are more powerful that the things that beset us and the first step is realising that, the second is proving it.

We can all become better versions of ourselves, so why don’t we?