29.6.13

Marvel Filmverse - Who Deserves to be Next?

So I've been pretty busy lately and I'm not sure when I'll have the time to do another redbox review.  To not become completely dormant, I decided I'd post something that's been on my mind for a while.  Marvel's universe and the direction it should go.

So it's far from a secret that I just love the Marvel movies.  I think Avengers was a glorious moment for all of us who grew up idolizing men in tights, Captain America is just what this country could do with a bit more of, and Iron Man was what made me come back to comics after I'd just about completely abandoned them for being so damned serious all the time.  Now, with all the success and piles of money that the project is rolling in, we can expect to see a lot more than just the old standby heroes popping up.  We've already been promised an Ant-Man movie in 2015, which certainly has me excited, but there are heroes that I'd like to see and so far no luck.  So here we go, my list of the Marvel heroes that I think should be popping up in theaters before the steam runs out on this crazy train.  And yes, as I said above I am aware that Ant-Man is already coming to us, but as he hasn't been officially cast yet, I'm tossing out the best name for the job, so hopefully Joss is reading and will tell Marvel to do what I say, eh?

1. Ant-Man as portrayed by Alan Tudyk


Alan Tudyk is one of the greatest actors of our time and he is consistently relegated to the background.  From his well-known presence in Joss' own Firefly/Serenity, to his hilarious performance in Death at a Funeral, to his award-worthy work in Tucker and Dale VS Evil, this actor has proven that he has the chops to be as funny or as serious as the situation demands and that he can perform equally well in drama or action.  To make things even easier, he looks exactly like Hank Pym should and has the right natural manner to make us believe.  We know Ant-Man is coming and we know that Alan is on great terms with Joss, so here's hoping we see a tiny Tudyk in 2015.

2. Black Panther as portrayed by Lennie James

Black Panther is an obvious choice for Marvel's next collection of films.  In fact, it's so obvious the only reason I can think of why they aren't already making it is that they can't think of who to play the king of Wakanda.  Admittedly, it's a hell of a choice.  There aren't a lot of actors these days that could do justice to a character of such historical and contextual import.  I went through several possibilities including Denzel Washington, Idris Elba, and LeVar Burton, before I finally settled on Lennie James.  James is one of those actors that has a very different feel from his contemporaries.  After seeing his work in Jericho I came to the conclusion that he was the only actor today that could bring the right stuff to T'Challa on the big screen.  He isn't the king of badasses like a certain other big-name to sport an eyepatch in the franchise and he isn't so soft spoken as to simply disappear.  Instead he brings a quiet confidence that works well with the royal nature of the character.

3. Doctor Strange as portrayed by Liam Neeson

Perhaps an odd choice given the proclivity of at least partially scientific rules that the current Marvel movies are tending to stick to, I feel that Strange could be an excellent addition to the franchise, particularly opposite RDJ's exceptional Iron Man.  This is a character that needs to match wits with Stark and have more otherworldly presence than Thor.  I can think of no other actor that could do justice to the part except the debonair Liam Neeson.  His iconic voice, easy action presence, and masterful leadership ability make him the only real contender for the role of Marvel's sorcerer supreme.

4. Wasp as portrayed by Stana Katic

With the above mentioned Ant-Man film already on its way I cannot help but wonder if Marvel will provide us with an on-screen version of one of my favorite Avengers, Janet van Dyne, the Wasp.  She's obviously attached to Hank Pym and would be an energetic addition to the male-heavy Avengers lineup.  Her exuberance and her obvious love for being a hero means the role needs a female lead that can offer similar skills as those needed for Ant-Man.  To that end, I've nominated Stana Katic of Castle fame.  She is very skilled at portraying a strong female lead without feeling like we're looking at another Emma Frost.  I don't have a lot to defend this one, that's really it.  Looking at all the other actresses available today the only other one I think might be able to handle this would be Kate Beckinsale and as much as I am a fan, I just don't think she can do it.  Janet can't be an ice-queen badass.  She needs to be a woman, and Katic has what it takes.

5. Luke Cage as portrayed by Tyler Perry

This will undoubtedly be the one for which I get the most crap.  Luke Cage is an obvious movie choice for Marvel and will, if we're very lucky, come pre-packaged with Iron Fist.  They're fan favorites and with how much Marvel's on a roll right now, I think they'd have to really try to mess this up.  That said, there are a ton of options for casting Cage and the decision isn't nearly as difficult as it was for Black Panther.  Why then do I risk the farm on a character actor who already showed he can't handle action in the fantastic flame out that was Alex Cross?  Because I think he could do it and make it different from what all of Hollywood would expect it to be.  I'm not a Tyler Perry fan for the most part, though he has done a couple films that I've enjoyed, but I can promise you he wasn't wearing a dress in any of them.  No, what makes Perry my choice is the fact that he is a huge, imposing man with a presence that can only be described as cuddly.  He reminds me in some ways of Michael Clark Duncan, another truly great actor of our time and the man who I would've cast for this role if fate hadn't intervened.  Still, I think that Perry could bring a quality take on a role that would otherwise go to the actor formerly known as The Rock, which just shouldn't happen.  Please, Marvel, don't give Power Man to The Rock.  Please.  Pretty please.

And that's it.  No, I'm not about to suggest Carol Danvers.  Let her be well-written in the comics and maybe, but right now she would only damage the films and that's something we don't need.  Agree?  Disagree?  Have a hero you want to suggest?  Hate me forever?  Why not tell me in the comments?

Until we meet again, game well.

-Strormer

Edit: Images were removed due to copyright claim.  Ah well.  I guess people do notice this little silly blog that I only post on once every few months.

9.6.13

Redbox Review - Bioshock Infinite PS3



Hello all. Strormer here and this is the Redbox Review for Bioshock Infinite. So I'll admit right off the bat that I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to do this review. Bioshock Infinite is a game that has been reviewed an analyzed just about to death, but the redbox near my apartment basically left me with this or Medal of Honor: Warfighter. So Bioshock Infinite it was. I'm going to go ahead and shorten the title to just Infinite both for conservation of characters and to avoid confusion when the inevitable references to Bioshock come up.

So this review will be a little different. There are plenty of places to go and hear about the extensive meta-narrative, gorgeous visuals, and enjoyable gameplay that makes Infinite a superb game, and I wouldn't want anything I'm about to say make you think that this is anything less than a superb game. In fact, this is the first game I've picked up that I've seriously been tempted to keep it for two days, breaking what amounts to the one rule I set up for these reviews only three in. This is one of those games where everything is so seamless that you can easily lose a few hours without realizing it, and that's wonderful if you've got the time and no one to berate you for spending as much time on a video game as they spend watching Duck Dynasty. No, what this review is going to tell you is how Infinite doesn't live up to its name.

I know what you're saying. “If it's so good, then why am I about to tell you how it fails to do what it sets out to do?” Well, because that's just it. To quote a famous internet personality, “like a variant of the uncanny valley effect, the closer to Portal perfection a game gets the more glaring the flaws become.” And now that I've reached my quotation mark limit I'll tell you why. Infinite does not set out to be Bioshock. Yes, it sets out to be a massive, deep, philosophical romp through an alternate conceptual reality wherein we examine our own social structures, but it doesn't want to be a tense game of exploration and horror. Infinite is a daring adventure in the skies and aims to give a sense of swashbuckling action.

So where does that leave us? Well, as far as a sweeping concept, Infinite doesn't do too poorly, although there are a number of places where it could've gone further. This is also where it really suffers from comparisons to Bioshock. Andrew Ryan was such a wonderful villain and the world held together so nicely in context that it was difficult for anything to measure up, In fact, after Bioshock 2 came out I figured they'd just stopped trying. Well, they tried, and they perhaps got as close as they were going to, but you still can't shake the feeling that you're not fighting a sinister plot as much as you're in a shooting gallery where all the targets are racists. Yes, the race issue is the central tenet for much of the plot, and yes it is handled with all the grace and subtlety of a level 2 barbarian at a formal dinner.

But if this is an Errol Flynn-esque action adventure then what we're really here for isn't just the plot and setting, but the combat, and in that I can say that Infinite exceeds or at least meets Bioshock's standard. At least it does on occasion when all the pieces fall in place. There are some spectacular fights where you really feel like a dashing hero leaping into the fray to save the day. Unfortunately these are few and far between and the connecting linear corridors of endless generic foes is such a slog that it sometimes decreases the enjoyment I get from using my sky-hook to rend my foes into bits. Almost. The combat is still visceral and the vigors, reskinned plasmids for those who don't already know, are versatile and entertaining enough to keep me playing around with them. Here again though, we find some glaring issues. Firstly, you get to carry two weapons which basically means you carry around your primary weapon that you'll be using for 99% of the game, and your monstrous heavy weapon that you reserve for bosses, and make sure you pick well because if you don't you'll be screwed like nobody's business. Often times I simply stuck with the same pistol I'd had since the beginning of the game and kept a peppermill in my back pocket for particularly large and relatively stationary enemies. The sad truth is that this problem could've been solved by adding a vending machine for various weapons to the game, not just weapon upgrades. The vigors helped keep me engaged, but ultimately even those got reduced to my two standby powers, shock and possession. By the way, 2K, bees are better than crows, but thanks for giving me something. Also, the menu is clear for the most part, but how to change out your vigors should be a little more clear. I went far too long into the game before I realized that I could change which vigors were equipped and how to do so. Still, I thought “duh” when I figured it out, so take that how you will.

This is all benefited greatly, however, by the presence of Elizabeth, who represents my feelings towards this game perfectly. Elizabeth is generally pleasant and convenient, keeping me alive in combat when I need it most, and does a great deal to turn what could've been one monstrous escort mission into exactly what it should've been. Action. Not action like Chuck Norris, but action as in a series of intentional interactions with the world. There is very little downtime and it is used to particularly good effect, deepening your connection to Elizabeth and her plight. Unfortunately, Elizabeth is also where the game falls apart the most. Her power to open holes in reality, theoretically offering endless possibilities for creative play, usually breaks down into one of three choices, item caches, mechanical allies, or hooks and cover. Now, forgive me Infinite, but that seems very finite to me, and not infinite at all. Still, I love her character. There was one moment in the game where she began to cry in huge, obnoxious sobs and I thought, oh no, here we go, so much for a strong female character, and then she turns around and goes to town on her opponent's head with a wrench like Gordon Freeman on a particularly bad day. In fact, the only thing that I feel could've made her character feel more strong and independent is if she had been able to join in combat, but her support role is good enough, I suppose. Also, one last nitpick; why the hell does she not pick up lockpicks. That makes no sense at all, from a player or designer perspective. Can't have her be too effective I suppose. Still... :P.

This all still adds up to a wonderful game that you should go out and buy right now, if you haven't already, or even if you have just so you can give it as a gift to someone who hasn't. Still, there's one last complaint I have to throw at Infinite. The handymen are not big daddies. They evoke not of the emotions that came with the big daddies. I don't feel for them, even when you tried so hard to make them sympathetic with that whole “they're people” micro-plot. I'm not scared when I see one. I'm not excited at the impending conflict. I'm bored and frustrated. In fact, most of the boss-tier foes feel more tedious than terrifying. This is perhaps why I tried to find the most efficient means available to dispatch them. I want to move on. I don't want to deal with these guys. That, more than all the shooting galleries in the world, makes combat slow down. I won't talk about the whole ghost thing, it's not worth mentioning. Suffice to say, enemies should not be a choice between inconsequential until they cluster-fu*k you or time-consuming bores. Remember, with swashbuckling comes fluidity. Don't just let me be that way, let my foes do the same. That makes things interesting.


Please, please, don't let this confuse you. Infinite is a truly great game and deserves all the praise it has garnered since its release. I would recommend buying it as soon as possible. It's pretty, deep, adventurous, and creatively anachronistic. Is it a good rental. I would say yes, provided you're willing to pay for two to three days, not just one. Could you beat it in a day? Yes, easily, but this is a game that should be given time. It deserves exploration. When you're actually playing, the small issues quickly fade into the background, but every so often you'll catch yourself thinking “what the hell?” Still, on balance, the moments where you catch yourself thinking, or shouting, “HELL YEAH” or “WHOA” more than make up for it. A solid game and exactly what you should expect as a successor to Bioshock. Now let's all go and burn our copies of Bioshock 2 and agree that it never happened. Until next time, game well!