The Culture Cast with Zack and Nick

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Review: Stitches (’12)

“I want more stitches!” – The Gorehound.

This movie is fantastic. Streaming on Netflix as of 4/21/2014 comes a movie, 2 years past, about some clown on a rampage. There’s little demand for clown-horror and nothing has ever topped It (’90) and likely nothing ever will but that’s not to say there isn’t any clown-horror. It’s surprising because many people maintain a strong fear of clowns and logically, shouldn’t there be many fearful horror movie s then? Perhaps a future analysis of clown-lacking horror movies is in pursuit…

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Stitches is very entertaining and hits all the crucial horror elements. To add more credibility, the Gorehound’s graveyard queen says that this movie was “disgusting”. That adds like 25 points of awesome because she was still able to stick through it. When moviegoers get excited for the final battle or the fight scene, the Gorehound gets going when the blood splatters. The gore flows through this one. On par with early Peter Jackson.

PHCEBEbBlYpFGG_1_mOne aspect that really sets this film aside from other films is some slow motion sequences. Most often when the Gorehound comes home from a long day and just wants something entertaining to watch, he searches for some horror flick where 5 teens must escape some killer something. There is in incredible amount of movies with this same exact plotline but it’s very entertaining and relaxing. Similar to TV episodes where you have recurring characters and similar dilemmas, so do many horror movies follow this trend… and sometimes, these generic films offer something beautiful that makes you want to tell all your friends. Well this is one of those. Go watch this film. It’s different in very good ways.

Let’s delve into the plot… some kids accidentally kill a clown at their like their 6th or 7th birthday party. It was an accident and the kid is terribly distraught. Upon the clowns dying (and inability to finish the show he initially started), he is cursed and must eventually finish his show 6 years later (or when he is 17 years old or so). Upon this birthday party, the show is finally coming to an end. The clown comes back from the dead and tries to finish off the originally birthday party.

Gemma-Leah Devereux (Kate), Tommy Knight (Tom), and Shane Murray-Corcoran (Vinny). The primary troupe.

Gemma-Leah Devereux (Kate), Tommy Knight (Tom), and Shane Murray-Corcoran (Vinny). The primary troupe.

This film is great due to the following reasons: solid acting, story, unique kills, fun characters, and potential for a future enterprise. It still has the undefinable quality which makes all entertaining movies entertaining. I want more stitches. This clown (Ross Noble) is a 20th century killer that isn’t from some low-budget movie or Full Moon Pictures. I hope to see this guy in sequels to come and fill the ranks of Jason, Angela, and Freddy. 5/5

P.S. For additional clown-related horror movies, the Gorehound highly recommends Full Moon Picture’s Killjoy series.

Survivor: Cagayan – Season 28, Episode 10 – Sitting in My Spy Shack

Tony is nuts, but he’s also surprisingly intelligent. He’s clearly the star of the season and a heavily favored candidate to return to the show as soon as freaking possible. He once again takes center stage in tonight’s episode, and it’s a rather good one. We start the episode off with Tony explaining to Trish, Kass, and Jefra why he felt the need to blindside L.J. last week. He’s able to pull his explanation off rather well for Trish and Kass, but Jefra is more skeptical. She claims she’s ok with the idea of voting L.J. out, but she wanted to be consulted on it. I don’t buy this, but it was the right thing for her to say. Still, Trish and Kass are very obviously back into the fold, with Kass remarking that her five-person alliance is her best shot at the million.

Tony is the major player this season on Survivor.

Tony is the major player this season on Survivor.

Tony only gets more entertaining from this point. He builds a makeshift “spy shack” (his second such creation this season) and spies on the conversation between Jefra and Trish. While he doesn’t really gain much insight into the game, he is able to correctly surmise that Jefra is a bit on the fence about Tony’s intentions, and rightfully so. This leads to Tony to assure his alliance mates, over and over again, that he is not going to flip or play these kinds of dangerous games any longer. This is again enough for Trish, who is clearly on Tony’s side. Tony also knows Woo won’t betray him. So again, it’s really just Jefra who is kind of waffling. This will be important to know for later.

At the Reward Challenge, the tribe is divided into two teams. Jefra, Spencer, Jeremiah, and Tasha are on one team, and they face off in a classic Survivor maze/puzzle/obstacle course race against Tony, Woo, Kass, and Trish. Jefra’s team ends up winning the reward, which means she gets to go on a BBQ lunch with the other three. This is terrible news for Tony, because it means Jefra will get a chance to bond with the outsiders, and potentially flip on her alliance. This is exactly what Spencer intends to do, and he pleads his case over lunch with Jefra. An emotional Jefra seems receptive to a flip, and even shakes on it. It appears she will ditch her alliance for Spencer’s group.

At the Immunity Challenge, the tribe faces off against each other on a balance beam while also simultaneously balancing a small rubber ball on a handheld post. It is a difficult-looking challenge, and indeed four tribe members drop out fairly quickly. It eventually comes down to Spencer vs. Tasha once again (it feels like they’re up against each other for the necklace every week). Tasha is able to hold out long enough and beat Spencer, winning immunity for the week. Back at the beach, Jefra once again decides to flip, this time back to her original alliance. She informs Jeremiah of her intentions not to vote with his group. Now Jeremiah and Spencer realize they are vulnerable. Meanwhile, Tony is on an all out search for the super idol (the one discussed last week). Of course, he ends up finding it. We find out that it can be played after the votes are read, but that it cannot be transferred to another player. Tony, therefore, must play it on himself.

At Tribal Council, Spencer calls Tony out in front of everyone, announcing that Tony is playing the strongest game and making all the right moves. Spencer indicates that he would vote for Tony for a million dollars if Tony makes it to the end of the game. The tribe then votes, and Tony pulls out a “fake” idol, which is actually the real all-powerful idol he had found earlier. He intends to bluff, but it just ends up looking kind of silly. Spencer, however, plays his idol, because he knows the vote will be either for Jeremiah or himself. Spencer’s move to play his idol was right (always play it if you believe you’re in danger), but Jeremiah gets sent packing from the game. He’ll join two other ex-Beauty’s as well as Sarah on the jury, and maybe he’ll vote for Tony in the end as well. We’ll see.

-Z-

A Return to Form for a Dying* Medium

*In America, anyway

The glory days of the American anime industry are long gone. From about 1998 to about 2006, companies like ADV, Funimation, Central Park Media, Geneon, and Media Blasters all saw big sales and increasing amounts of fan and media attention when Japanese animation, or anime, briefly went mainstream. I was suckered into it as well, first seeing ads for Akira on MTV in the mid-90s, and then staying awake late at night and catching weird little animated shows at off-times on basic cable. I was also really into Street Fighter II, the animated adaptation of which remains one of the best videogame-to-movie adaptations out there. By the early 00s, thanks to the combination of the “Cool Japan” fad and the proliferation of Sony’s PlayStation 2, DVDs were selling like hotcakes, with even mediocre releases of bad shows like Love Hina selling incredibly well. Individual volumes of shows like Cowboy Bebop and Neon Genesis Evangelion were rumored to be selling nearly 100,000 units a piece or more, which at $30 a disc was a big deal. ADV, a now-defunct Texas-based anime distribution company, claimed to generate 150 million dollars in sales in 2004 alone.

During the boom years, Cowboy Bebop was a perennial favorite amongst anime fans.

During the boom years, Cowboy Bebop was a perennial favorite amongst anime fans.

On television, Cowboy Bebop and FLCL gained continuous, almost ubiquitous airtime on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, where they aired over and over and drew strong ratings, which contributed to the earlier mentioned DVD sales (I purchased every volume of Cowboy Bebop, meaning I spent almost $200 on six DVDs back in 2001-02). That same network also helped finance a second season of The Big O, a cult-show with much of the same look and feel of early 90s toon hit Batman: The Animated Series. The SyFy network began airing anime again as well, bringing back a block of time devoted to it once a week. Children’s shows like One Piece, Naruto, and Pokemon became marketing machines, generating billions in sales for companies like 4Kids Entertainment (which no longer owns the rights to the Pokemon anime, it should be mentioned). By this time period, anime was so popular that it was famously parodied by culturally important, long-running American television series such as The Simpsons and South Park.

Read on…

Read more of this post

Tips for Surviving C2E2

The Culture Cast crew are no strangers to comic book conventions. Between the three of us, we have attended multiple conventions over several years. Yes, we realize that might be a bit sad, but we accept the lives we lead. With the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) coming up and becoming more and more popular, I thought it would be a good idea to look at this convention and provide some tips for new comers. Eventually, a permanent link will be provided for this post and it will be updated as seen fit.

C2E2Image

The tips here are specific for C2E2, but can be applied to other mid-to-larger sized conventions.

Planning:

  • Getting tickets can be fairly easy through the C2E2 website or through various Chicago-area comic book stores. It is advisable to buy your tickets in advance. They will be more expensive at the door. As of 2014, C2E2 has never been sold out.
  • If you are retailer, artist, library, or education professional, you may qualify for professional registration in which you can get a free or extremely reduced price ticket. Take advantage of it, but be aware that professional registration closes about a month before the convention.
  • Be sure to check the schedule of events and decide what panels, celebrities, writers/artists you want to check out. Have some sort of loose schedule will help you out tremendously when organizing your time at C2E2. The panel schedule is usually release about three-to-four weeks before the event.
  • Decide how much money you want to spend. It is very easy to get carried away with all the stuff able to purchase. Know what is in your budget and stick to it.
  • It might be worth taking the day off of work following the convention in order to rest. Also to look at all the new junk you just bought.

Where to Stay:

  • It is Chicago. There are plenty of hotels and several are connected to the convention (with shuttle bus services). Because I live in the area, I never had to book a hotel room, but what I do know is that they can get pricey (again, it’s Chicago). The earlier you can book a hotel, the better.
  • C2E2 does have a block of hotels they arrange deals with.  Check C2E2′s website and book a room early.
  • However, if you wanted to save on some cash, you can always get a hotel in the suburbs. There are many fairly inexpensive modes of public transportation to get from the ‘burbs to the city.
  • Do you know people in the area? Crash with them!
  • Do you have friends that are going to convention as well? Share a room! That would cut down on the price.

Right Before:

  • Get cash from a local bank branch/ATM. It is easier to have cash on you as opposed to using your credit card (some booths may not accept it). You can also avoid any lines at the ATMs in McCormick Place.
  • As mentioned above in “Planning”, check out the schedule of events and artist alley locations. The convention floor is going to be confusing at first, but if you have an idea of where things are, it will be much easier to navigate.
  • Make a list of the panels and people you want to see. This might seem obsessive compulsive, but it makes life easier.
  • Also worth considering is to make a list of the stuff you might want to buy. Want that specific Superman crossover event? Writing which comics and issue numbers the story is in will help you out a lot when searching for it.

Transportation:

  • McCormick Place has three parking lots. They range in price from $14-$21. Lot B would likely be the best bet as it is the cheapest and is within a short walking distance to the North and South Building. If the convention is held in the West Building, there is a parking lot right next to it, but it is more expensive. The distance from Lot B is a little longer, but nothing too bad (especially considering that most of your day will consist of walking around).
  • Another option is public transportation. Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) trains and buses are inexpensive and reliable. If you are coming from an outlying area, the Metra trains that takes you into Ogilvie Transportation Center or Union Station are other solid choices. Check the online schedules to plan accordingly.
  • C2E2 also has a free shuttle service. It travels to and from various Chicago hotels in addition to Ogilvie Transportation Center and some CTA stops. You can check the C2E2 website each year to see the different routes the shuttle takes. Usually, the shuttle picks up every 30 minutes.
  • C2E2 also teamed up with ParkWiz where you can purchase a parking pass for $25 a day which not only would work at McCormick Place, but other recognized ParkWiz partners as well. This could be great if you are coming in from out of town and staying in the city.

Packing:

  • Comfortable shoes. This should be your number 1 priority. Don’t buy a brand new pair before the convention. Your feet will thank you.
  • Wear something comfortable. I usually recommend a t-shirt (featuring your favorite superhero!) and jeans. I’ve usually found McCormick Place to be a bit chilly. I would advise a hoodie or a long sleeve t-shirt if you are one to get cold easily.
  • You can probably skip a jacket. Even it gets a bit chilly outside, you are a mostly short walk to the car. You will likely not need it inside the convention center and it can get in the way.
  • Bring a backpack. This will be an excellent way to carry various items that you buy or get as free swag.
  • Bring an extra battery or a charger for your camera. This will likely depend on how many pictures you plan to take.
  • Bring your cell phone charger, especially if you have one that just drains battery power. In a convention hall like McCormick, this can be a strong possibility.

At C2E2:

  • Friday has been in the past to be a lower-attended day. Crowds will still be there, but it will be nothing like Saturday. Saturday will be insane and will continue to be so as C2E2 becomes more popular. Be prepared to a lot of people. This can be overwhelming.
  • Even though Saturday is the busiest day at the convention, it is also the biggest cosplayer day. Get your cameras ready.
  • Set your phone to vibrate. You won’t hear the ring. You just won’t. Chances are, if you are like me, you won’t even feel the phone vibrate. If you are expecting a call, check it every once in a while. If you are there with friends, just send texts to each other to contact one another.
  • Watches are your friends. Makes it easier finding a non-existent clock on the floor show and helps you keep tabs on when the panels you want to see will start.
  • Use the wristband on your camera. Even though much of the convention floor is carpeted, if you drop it, it can still break. And that would be no good.
  • Plan! If there is some item you want (such as an exclusive) or a popular writer/artist in the artist alley you want to see when you first get there, know where they are and get there fast before something sells out or a line gets too big.
  • Be on the lookout for some sweet, free swag. In the past, the Marvel booth passes out some cool posters from either upcoming comic storyline or for whatever their next big movie is. Other booths have free stuff to promote what they have. However, don’t be greedy. Take one unless taking extra is encouraged.
  • Be nice to the C2E2 Crew members (the volunteers) and staff. Most are very friendly and are just trying to help the show flow smoothly. Don’t get in their face about something you don’t like. They likely have no control over it.
  • If you go to see a special guest and a C2E2 Crew member is standing there with a “I’m the Last Person In Line” sign. Don’t get discouraged immediately. Check back a little later. If a line moves quicker than expected, it will open back up again.
  • Don’t be an ass to people in the Artist’s Alley. They are there to have a good time too. If you don’t like a particular writer/artist, then don’t go see them.
  • Just don’t be an ass to anyone. It doesn’t really help anything.
  • Please shower and brush your teeth before you come to the convention. Your fellow attendees will thank you.
  • If you are a cosplayer and are wearing a cool costume, don’t get overly annoyed if people ask you for a picture.
  • Alternatively, if you see a cosplayer and want to take their picture, ask nicely.
  • Bring tissues and hand sanitizer. Conventions are the best way to get sick.
  • Learn where the restrooms are. This can save your life.

Events and Panels:

  • Give yourself a good 30 minutes to get to a panel (perhaps a good 45 on Saturday). This is mostly for the bigger DC/Marvel ones. More than likely, if you are late getting to a panel, you will not be allowed in.
  • When a panel is full, it is full.
  • C2E2 hasn’t gotten to San Diego levels. Chances are you will be able to see multiple panels a day. Just plan accordingly
  • If you can, don’t try to save seats. Especially for the bigger panels. If you are asked not to, don’t get angry about it. You are not the only one at the convention.
  • When asking questions at a panel:
    - Don’t be rude.
    - Don’t start a back and forth conversation.
    - Don’t shower the panelists with praise.
    - Just ask the damn question.
  • Don’t ask for an autograph at a panel. You will get booed.
  • If it is a DC Comics panel, please don’t ask about Wally West or Stephanie Brown.  It was obnoxious two years ago and still is now.  They are coming back, okay?
  • Be aware, some events are in the evening after the main floor closes. Be sure to check these things out. Most can be fun, if a little off the beaten track.

Food:

  • McCormick Place has food courts in each of their buildings. Be aware, they are all expensive. There are also a McDonalds and a Connie’s in the bottom level of the North/South buildings. They are a bit higher than average.
  • Bring snacks with you to the convention. I recommend something that isn’t too sticky (like a zip lock bag of Cheerios). This way, you won’t get sticky hands as you rummage through various booths. That said, still bring a napkin.
  • You can also bring food from the outside. Before arriving, bring some sandwiches that will save for later (Subway or Jimmy Johns can be viable options).
  • Bring a water bottle. Not only will this provide much needed hydration, but it is easily refillable anytime during the day!
  • If you need Starbucks, there are plenty around McCormick Place.

Resting and Recharging:

  • You will go nutty if you don’t take a load off during the day. Find a nice spot to rest your legs every so often.
  • C2E2 usually has a main stage area with seating in which ever building the convention is being held in. There is usually something fun going on on the main stage.
  • If the convention is held in the South Building, the food court is on a second level above the convention floor. Not only is this a good place to sit, but it gives you are cool look over everything.

Concluding Notes:

These are just some things to consider when going to C2E2 or a similar convention. Not everything will apply to you. We also welcome new suggestions and other tips! Please feel free to contact us via email, Facebook, or Twitter.

I’d like to give a thank you to Kelson Vibber of SpeedForce.org. He previously wrote a “Tips for Comic Con” article detailing how to survive the San Diego Comic Convention. His article inspired me to write this one, and he graciously allowed me to use a similar format.

Be sure to check out some of our other convention coverage over the years centering around the Chicago-based conventions of C2E2 and Wizard World.

The Conventions Podcast
Taking the Con Out of the Comic Con
Nick’s C2E2 Experience (2013)
The C2E2 Podcast (2013)

Trek Tuesday: 50th Edition – An Introduction

Hello everyone!  This is the fiftieth “Trek Tuesday” entry!  I am honestly surprised this column has lasted this long!  To celebrate this “milestone”, I am going to look at, arguably, one of the more perplexing questions facing Star Trek fandom: how to introduce Star Trek to new fans.

A few months ago, my girlfriend and I were channel-surfing before the Super Bowl when we came across an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  She, who knows little about Star Trek, said we should watch some of it while we waited for the game to begin.  The episode in question was “Yesterday’s Enterprise” – arguably the most inaccessible episode of TNG possible (largely due to the alternate reality element of the episode’s narrative).  Coming in mid-way through it did not help matters in the slight.

Over the next twenty minutes, I found myself trying to explain what was happening, how and why it was different from what is usually on the show, and what it meant for Star Trek overall.  More and more questions continued to emerge every time I explained something.  It was a losing battle.

Star Trek wants to welcome you!

Star Trek wants to welcome you!

However, this situation did get me wondering on how do you get someone who isn’t a fan into Star Trek?  The Star Trek franchise is so big, that it is tough to sift through it all.  True, you can start with one of the pilots, but which series would you pick?  “Caretaker” is a great first episode, but the rest of the series is lukewarm at best.  Also, wouldn’t you want to show something Trek that really shines?

There are lots of Star Trek episodes that are critically loved.  Perhaps one of those?  But would some of those be too entrenched in their own mythology to really be appreciated by the non-fan?

One can make are argument to show a strong episode from the original Star Trek series.  Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock are cultural icons.  They present a familiarity that people can be comfortable with.  The problem with that is that the show is from the 1960s.  TV production/storytelling was very different back then.  It can be tough to really adjust to the form.  I don’t think that would be my first choice.

The original Star Trek movies might be good to consider, particularly The Wrath of Khan.  However, like the original series, there could be a slight roadblock with the slow-burn nature of the films.  None of this is a bad thing, but if you want to hook someone, you need to know if the person can appreciate older films and their styles.

An episode of The Next Generation?  That is certainly a possibility. It was, after all, the most popular of all the series when on the air, and Patrick Stewart has since become a household name (thanks, in large part, to this, the X-Men film series and his appearances on American Dad).  The only issues with a TNG episode is that some of their best are either “one-off” episodes (“The Inner Light”, “Lower Decks”) or banks on a familiarity with the show (“Family”, “Sins of the Father” and, to an extent, “The Measure of a Man”).

I wouldn’t even consider Deep Space Nine or Voyager for one reason: No USS Enterprise.  I know that seems petty, but if you want to hook a new fan, there needs to be something that people know and the Enterprise is that thing.  For that matter, I wouldn’t consider showing an episode of Enterprise either, despite my love for the series.  There is an Enterprise, but there needs to be more.  Don’t get me wrong though, there are plenty of good episodes in those series I would show after the indoctrination introduction has begun.

While I would lean towards the original series films or an episode of The Next Generation, I have to admit that if I was going to get someone into Star Trek and I needed a gateway drug, I would have to pick 2009’s Star Trek.

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The perfect Star Trek gateway drug.

I know.  I bunch of Trekkies just punched their computer monitors.  Here me out.  While it isn’t as strong as some of the prior movies or TV episodes, it has nearly everything for a non-fan to get into the franchise:

  1. A ground-zero approach.  You don’t need to know anything.
  2. It’s fun and adventurous.  Very much in spirit of the original series, but with a modern approach.
  3. It still has a sense of history.  The movie is a reboot, but feels like it is connected to something bigger.
  4. It is Star Trek at its core.

If you show this to a non-fan and they like it (even just a little), then you can start bringing in the big guns.  This worked in 2009.  It can work again.  Star Trek Into Darkness would also be a viable candidate if it wasn’t for the Old Spock cameo.

2009’s Star Trek can do what “Yesterday’s Enterprise” couldn’t: get someone interested in Star Trek.  From there, you can start to bring out the bigger guns such as “The Inner Light” or “The Trouble with Tribbles”.

Keep in mind, this is just my reasoning.  Whatever is chosen, the key is knowing the person you are trying to hook.  If you know what they like when it comes to TV/Movie entertainment, chances are Star Trek has an entry that they will enjoy.  From there, it is just all down here!

~N

To another 50 more!

Game of Thrones – Season 4, Episode 3 – Breaker of Chains

After being spoiled to last week’s surprise death on Game of Thrones, I was hoping to go into last night’s episode knowing nothing about what transpired or what the aftermath of said shocking death would be like. Unfortunately, that did not happen. But it’s ok in the end, because this wasn’t really an episode of Game of Thrones that could be spoiled all that much anyway. Pieces were moved forward, there was some nudity and violence, and things were said in various British accents. That’s pretty much all you can ask for from a rather ordinary episode of this show. At the very least, we didn’t have to waste any time with Bran and the brother/sister (are there names Meera and Jojen? I don’t care) north of the wall.

Daario Naharis played a key role in last night's episode of Game of Thrones.

Daario Naharis played a key role in last night’s episode of Game of Thrones.

We are, however, treated to another great Tywin Lannister scene, wherein he grooms a young Tommen (Joffrey’s brother) for an impending kingdom. He also explains the importance of solidifying one’s kingship by having children, which Joffrey wasn’t able to do obviously (it is also of utmost importance now that Joffrey is dead as well). Charles Dance has been excellent as Tywin since his first scenes back in season one, and he continues to do great work here. The less mentioned about Jaime and Cersei’s sex scene, the better. I personally wish I could erase it from my mind completely. Needless to say, it was unpleasant and unnecessary.

Elsewhere in King’s Landing, Oberyn Martell receives a surprise visit from Tywin, who asks him to join the jury of three who will decide whether or not Tyrion is guilty in Joffrey’s murder (which it doesn’t seem he is). Oberyn uses the opportunity as a chance to get closer to solving the murder of his sister, niece, and nephew and accepts, knowing that the Lannister family will owe him a favor. Tyrion is imprisoned in a dungeon in the Red Keep, and a visit from Podrick fills the audience in on just what is happening. He will soon face a trial over Joffrey’s death, Podrick is being compelled to testify against him, he cannot see his bodyguard Bronn, and he might be able to visit with his brother Jaime. All told, it doesn’t look great for Tyrion at the moment.

The mayhem in King’s Landing continues with Sansa Stark, as Ser Dontos safely whisks her out of the city and to what can only be assumed to be safety. It is revealed that Lord Baelish is behind Sansa’s rescue and that he is to pay Ser Dontos for the footwork involved. Baelish, however, has Dontos murdered instead to keep him quiet. I don’t know what he has planned for Sansa, but it definitely doesn’t look good for her. I also forgot just how little we’ve seen of Baelish, going all the way back to the end of last season. He was presumably to be in the Eyrie with Sansa’s aunt. Now that he has the Stark girl, he may just end up there in the next few episodes anyway. At Dragonstone, Stannis Baratheon is becoming impatient with Ser Davos, who has been trying to put together an army. Ser Davos gets the idea to hire sellsword armies from across the Narrow Sea, but he needs to come up with a way to pay for it.

At Castle Black, Samwell is struggling to keep Gilly safe. He notices all the prying eyes of the Night’s Watch and doesn’t like their intentions. Gilly feels safe, but Samwell thinks she’ll be safer at a nearby town. He is almost sure to be wrong, but he takes her there anyway and sets up work for her in a bar/keep/whorehouse that looks like it has seen many better days. Raiders from beyond the wall continue to attack and plunder villages in the north, intending to draw men from the Night’s Watch into open battle. The men understand, however, that they cannot engage the raiders in combat lest they leave Castle Black up for grabs. Desperately short on men, they receive further bad news when it becomes clear that deserters have set up shop in Craster’s Keep north of the wall. Jon Snow must now lead a group of men to the keep to silence the deserters. They cannot let Mance Rayder know just how depleted they are.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryan and her army approach the free city of Meereen with the intent to sack and destroy it, just like they did with Yunkai and Astapor last season. Meereen sends out its champion fighter, who insults Daenerys by urinating in front of her army. Daario volunteers to take on the champion, and does so quickly and impressively, felling his horse and then decapitating the man with his curved blades. Daenerys implores the slaves of the city to rise up against their masters, launching chains from several cannons into the city, the intent being for the slaves to chain their owners in revenge. The episode ends here, and I imagine we’ll be filled in on more of this next week. This storyline could definitely use a little polish and a little more development. We’ll see as the weeks continue.

-Z-

Star Wars: Legacy (Vol. 10) – Extremes

LEG-10

Cade Skywalker is tearing through the galaxy looking to hunt down the Sith and taking the war to them. I feel that we have gone down this path before. The Sith search Cade out, he strikes back and hunts them, and goes into hiding. Rinse and repeat. I suppose I don’t mid this too terribly much, but it is becoming formulaic. At least it isn’t completely predictable, and authors John Ostrander and Jan Duursema execute the same pattern differently.

I do appreciate all the plot threads of the series starting to converge. The situation on Dac which I couldn’t have cared less about has firmly weaved its way into the lives of our main characters of Cade, Blue, and Syn. It gave Cade his first targets in his war against the Sith. His abilities are clearly growing stronger, as he is demonstrating a higher skill than he did at the beginning of the series.

It is interesting to note that he constantly has to correct people when they call him a Jedi. He isn’t one, or at least doesn’t consider himself one. Is he telling the truth, or just lying to himself. Cade has been an interesting character because he straddles that line. While it is unlikely he would fall to the dark side, he very clearly doesn’t follow the path of the Jedi. Yet, he keeps being pulled into that life. It will be interesting to see where he ends up at the end of this series.

We also meet a new character, Eshkar Niin (aka Darth Havok). I feel with his character, I messed something. He is established and has backstory with a few of the key Imperial characters (including Sia Fel), but as a reader, I felt like I should have known him. As if he should be already familiar with us. It threw me as I felt I forgot something. I suppose there might have been indirect mentions, but this new addition and the initial mystery surrounding didn’t quite work.

And then we have the return of Darth Krayt. His return is never explained. It is just a basic “I’m alive now”. Ostrander and Duursema have done a pretty good job this far in explaining how things work in this world. Hopefully that will continue to the next collection (since it is also the last).

Extremes was a solid collection for a penultimate tale to Star Wars: Legacy. I see the strands all coming together and, hopefully, there will be a solid send-off that to resolve this chapter of the Star Wars saga.

Stray Thoughts:

If things had been different, I feel that Moff Yage would have sided with Emperor Fel when he was exiled.

Now, Calixta/Corde is ordered to find the traitor. Except only that she is the traitor. Wonder how long she can stretch out that investigation before suspicions arise.

Remember that Mandalorian form Tatoonie? Has that story been completely dropped? Or will he return next time?

Spoiler Alert 2: The Lament Continues…

Zack and I were texting each other earlier today about how there seems to be a shift on when big blockbuster movies are being released. Lately, it seems like big pictures such as Fast and Furious 6, Star Trek Into Darkness, and the Marvel movies have been released overseas first by a few weeks before their North American premiere. This, of course, has led to an increase in spoilers appearing on the internet before those living in North America have even a chance to see the movie.

It can be a frustrating experience especially if you want to go into a movie completely blind. It also doesn’t really keep the best interests of the domestic audiences. Already today, places like Yahoo News (which, let’s face it, hasn’t been an actual news site in years) have published lengthy articles on the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man 2 due to the fact that it is already out in Europe. The film won’t be released in the States until May 2nd, but people can already easily discover what exactly goes down in the film including a surprising ending sequence.

spoilers2

No less than five or so years ago, you can avoid spoilers for a movie after it opens by just avoiding its Wikipedia page. Now, it seems that you can’t go anywhere without encountering them. Now, I’m not so much talking about websites that deal with spoilers and rumors for movie such as Superhero Hype or Bleeding Cool. I’m talking about general, mainstream news outlets.

Normally, earlier international release dates do not personally bother me. The reverse has been the case for years. This seems only fair. Plus, Hollywood depends more and more on the international markets. It makes total financial sense to release it overseas first. And, with places like Yahoo News, those articles really only pop-up on your newsfeed based on your prior clicking habits. I would suspect that general movie goers who are not movie nerds probably won’t see or care about such articles.

However, even if someone isn’t movie buff and sees these articles pop-up, there is absolutely no restraint in the article. If Yahoo has a spoilery story about, for example, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the author won’t buffer the spoiler. Instead, he or she will slap it right in the article title. This is where the problem lies.

TASM 2 has had one of the most insufferable marketing campaigns in recent memory.

It won’t be out for weeks, but you can learn everything about it without even trying.

Many times, a twist or surprise in a movie makes the entire movie worthwhile. Could you imagine how much less of an impact The Sixth Sense would have been in 1999 if people knew the twist ending? This type of reporting is getting very much out of hand.

I know the argument can be made in that once a movie is released, it is fair game. But, if it hasn’t been released in all the major markets, is it? I would take the same stance when films open in the US first before going international.

The strange thing that Zack and I noticed is that people just don’t seem to care anymore. People seem to want to know the twists in a flick. I get that some people like to be spoiler hounds, but it just seems that it is more acceptable to know all the beats in a movie before you go and see it particularly with the Millennials and Generation Z. Perhaps that’s the reasons: since technology and the internet have been integral parts of their lives, the acceptance of internet spoilers comes much more naturally. Wow…I think I just blew my mind.

I know I’ve lamented on this stuff before, and I’ll likely do it again in the future. It just seems like this has become too rampant an issue for me to really enjoy the movie-going experience. With films not being released worldwide on the same day (or within the same week), this issue will undoubtedly just continue to grow.

~N

Survivor: Cagayan – Season 28, Episode 9 – Bag of Tricks

Tony is unpredictable. Tony is not to be trusted. Tony is playing a scorched earth game. But Tony, unlike Russell Hantz in previous seasons, has not played a hateful game of Survivor, at least not until tonight. His move tonight greatly resembles a classic Hantz blunder, and I feel it could cost Tony not only the trust of his remaining alliance members, but also ultimately the game itself. As the episode opens, we are treated to Tony thanking Spencer for the “compliment” of voting for him at the previous week’s Tribal Council. Though Tony wants people to think that he’s flattered by being a threat in the game, he is actually quite paranoid that he will be voted out. This sets the stage for the rest of the episode, and it’s not particularly comfortable to watch unfold.

Tony and Woo discuss a possible blindside on tonight's episode of Survivor.

Tony and Woo discuss a possible blindside on tonight’s episode of Survivor.

After Tony’s post-TC tirade, he plans to set in motion a secret L.J. ouster. He sees L.J. as a huge threat, rightfully so, in the game. Tony feels like making L.J. the main target will take some heat off of his own back. Again, he’s right about this, but Tony also doesn’t factor in that L.J. is in his own alliance, L.J. is 100% trustworthy, and L.J. has absolutely no reason to backstab Tony at this point in the game. Tony is playing too hard, and he reasons that planting the idea of a Woo blindside in L.J.’s head counts as L.J. backstabbing the alliance. Thus, Tony will now be able to vote L.J. out of the game without feeling guilty about it. It’s a messed up logic, but Tony’s a messed up player. I can’t tell whether he’s a genius or just utterly insane.

At the Reward Challenge, teams are divided into groups of three. The groups will face off against each other in another puzzle/maze hybrid. The winning team will receive a day of luxury including a shower, massage, and chicken wrap meal. The winning team ends up being Tony, Jeremiah, and Spencer. Tony uses the time with the two men in order to plant the seed of an L.J. blindside in their heads, hoping that allying with them now will reap rewards for his game in the future. Spencer, meanwhile, points out in a confessional that Tony is not to be trusted. Spencer, Jeremiah, and Tasha don’t really have anything to lose, however.

Speaking of Tasha, back at the beach she attempts to pull L.J. aside and talk strategy with him. He doesn’t want to, however, noting that a side conversation with Tasha will only continue to fuel Tony’s paranoia. Tony spends a considerable amount of time shoring up his secret vote plan against L.J. by lying to Woo and trying to get Trish on his side. Trish is no dummy, however, and feels that splitting up the alliance of six would be a bad idea for them at this point. Tony seems to relent a bit but still can’t get the idea of an L.J. blindside out of his head.

The Reward Challenge is a classic game of Survivor memory, where host Jeff Probst picks a series of colors, and the tribe members must individually recall the colors in order. The battle comes down to a showdown between Tasha and L.J., with Tasha pulling off the victory. This all but seals L.J.’s fate, even if he doesn’t realize it yet. At Tribal Council, he reiterates to Jeff the importance of the alliance of six, and even though the women stick to their word, Tony and Woo flip and vote L.J. out of the game, much to soon as well. I will miss his handsome horse trainer-ness. In the process, Tony becomes a huge villain in the game, and it appears as if this needless blindside might be the difference between him winning or losing the game.

-Z-

Garfield: The Movie

Today is my friend Mandy’s birthday. To honor that, I am going to look at the film version of one of her favorite cartoon strips: Garfield: The Movie. Starring Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Bill Murry (as the voice of Garfield), this film gets a lot of flak. Heck, it even has a 15% on Rotten Tomatoes. That isn’t a good sign.

But, here’s the thing: I don’t think the movie is that bad. It isn’t great by any means, but I don’t think it entirely deserves the reputation is has built for itself.garfield

In Garfield: The Movie, we find the titular lasagna-eating fat cat trying to deal with Odie, the new dog that Garfield’s owner brought home. Garfield continuously is trying to make life hard for the dog, but then goes a step too far when his actions indirectly cause Odie to be stolen by a nefarious television host who hopes to use Odie’s show-stealing talents for his own gain. Feeling guilty, Garfield now has to track down Odie.

The story isn’t the most original, and there are lots of clichés. Surprisingly, it doesn’t bother me all that much. When I sat down to watch this a few years back (it was on TV and I was too lazy to change the channel), I was expecting the absolute worst. Maybe because my expectations were so low that I couldn’t possibly be disappointed. The movie, at worst, is inoffensive. Kids would be entertained. Is that really so bad? There are much worse movies out there for kids.

There are some strange bits in the movie. Garfield is a CGI creation, which makes sense. Yet, all the other animals are real. Even the ones who talk. Why? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for all the pets to be in the same animated style as Garfield? Maybe the budget couldn’t afford it.

And the film also suffers from the “hey, let’s be edgy with pop-culture references!” syndrome that a lot of these adaptations have. Did we really need a Black-Eyed-Peas song to pop up? Or Garfield to sing and dance to “I Got You”? Probably not.

Garfield: The Movie isn’t revolutionary, but it isn’t terrible. It is light entertainment that can be easily digested and disposed of. I suppose a lot of the disappointment that came with this film has to do with people wanting it to be better. I can get behind that argument. Garfield is up there with Charlie Brown and Snoopy by being one of the most beloved comic strip characters out there. If you are going to do a movie, you better get it right and it better be good. There were a lot of misfires this film made, but at the end of the day, Garfield: The Movie can be enjoyed for what it is.

~N

Trivia: Bill Murray supplies the voice of Garfield. Garfield was originally voiced by Lorenzo Music in a series of TV specials in the 80s and 90s. Lorenzo Music also voiced Peter Venkman in The Real Ghostbusters cartoon – a character Bill Murray, of course, originated in 1984’s Ghostbusters.

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