Friday, April 22, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Broforce"

You know my love of games that are quirky as all get out? I think I've mentioned it a few times. Broforce is not exactly quirky in the usual vein I go for, but I decided to go for it anyway given my love of stupid action movies and guns (lots of guns), and I am so, so very glad I did.  I'll go ahead and say it, this game is absolutely brilliant. You run, you gun, you slice, you blow things up, and you do it all in the name of America!

The entire game, in which you take command of America's elite squad of complete and utter badasses (known as the "Broforce"), is an unapologetic love letter to the action films of the 80s and 90s, with a few references to modern franchises that are just bursting with overpowering testosterone. All the names have been changed to avoid copyright, but it's very clear who "Rambro", "The Brominator", "Ellen Bropley", and others are supposed to be. And, so long as the player rescues the hostages held in cages by the various enemies, they can cycle through the entire Broforce pretty much with impunity.

That being said, don't think this is an easy game by any means. On the basic difficulty setting, it starts out fairly simple so you can learn the controls - fighting terrorists across the world in the name of America.  But as you go on, the difficulty curve ramps up nice and good to the point where you're fighting the Devil himself in Hell. It's some run and gun goodness, not going for the usual first-person shooter of dudebro culture. Every figure has two attacks (usually a shoot and a melee, though there are some exceptions) and a super attack that has a variety of effects ("Brobocop" will target multiple enemies, "Brolander" will destroy enemies with lightning, etc.). All kinds of attacks can destroy the environments, allowing unique solutions to problems a player may face in a combat situation.

Also, it's worth noting that while the game does let you brute force your way through a good bit of it, there are many situations where that's not the best approach for a simple reason - you're a glass cannon. You can rain the destructive wrath of God on terrorists, burn the acid right out of alien menaces, and even throw a grenade into the throat of the Devil himself without a worry...but the moment that random terrorist gets a shot off on you, you're a dead man.  Of course, if you have other lives to play around with it becomes less of a problem, but you start out with no lives in the beginning of levels and have to rescue teammates (kept as hostages by the various baddies) to have any extra lives.

And believe it or not, this is on the lower difficulty setting.  The other one is called "Ironbro" and has a permadeath status for any bro that falls. Having taken as long as I did to figure out what I needed to in order to beat the game...let's just say I'm immensely glad for the revolving door of badassery we have available to us.

That all being said, this game is immensely fun and definitely is a good challenge even on the regular difficulty.  The later levels are the stuff of epic legend, charging into Hell itself to battle Satan for America! It's indeed like something out of a cheesy 80s action movie.  Which, I think, was entirely what they were going for. So, needless, to say, it worked like a charm.

HIGH FIVE ME, BROS!!!

Broforce was developed by Free Lives and published by Revolver Digital for PC, OS X, Linux, and Playstation 4.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Monday, April 11, 2016

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs" (2015)

...I have no words. What were you people smoking?

I shouldn't be utterly baffled at the existence of a film like this, given the existence of many other imitators of trashy A-List blockbuster films, but I am. Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs.  It's like someone said "we can't do a direct ripoff of Jurassic World or Cowboys vs. Aliens, so let's just throw them both into a bucket and see what happens". While the idea seems utterly ridiculous - a mining explosion in a western town unleashing God's rejected tyrant lizards upon modern Earth - I have to admit the title is a hell of an eye-catcher and it alone interested me enough to see this movie.

Five minutes in, I almost immediately bailed out.

Since I already mentioned its only good sequel, consider the opening to Jurassic Park.  A team of the park's workers are working to get a raptor into containment when it breaks out and drags one of the workers into its cage, eating the man alive.  Now, you never completely see the Raptor, but the scene is fraught with tension and mystery. You wonder what kind of creature could do this to a grown man, how the protagonists can possibly stop it or even hope to survive it. You feel invested.

At the five minute mark of Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs, we are introduced to their version of raptors...which are CGI that the Syfy Channel would be embarrassed of attacking a bunch of assault rifle-wielding mooks we don't care about. In full view. There's no mystique, no build up. Just explosion and then raptors as if Michael Bay suddenly got a hold of the rights to the Jurassic Park franchise (don't you dare, Bay!). This encounter pretty much sets the tone for the entire film, and it never, ever stops.

As I said in the beginning, the film begins with a mining team accidentally unleashing dinosaurs which proceed to eat several of the miners and lead to a cave in from an explosion. That's not the end, alas, as we are given several subplots to juggle at once. There's that of the return of Val (Rib Hilis), nicknamed "the Cowboy" by the town, who apparently has some kind of past relationship with another character Sky (Casey Fitzgerald) that ended badly and thus he hasn't been to the town in some time and is currently at odds with the Sheriff (John Freeman), Sky's new boyfriend.

Then there's Sinclair (Sara Malakul Lane) who is on the payroll of a Mr. Marcus (Vernon Wells) and trying to get the mine reopened following the accident as well as holding together her wavering reputation being that she's fresh out of college and a flight risk for her company. And then there's the one survivor of the mining incident Quaid (Kelcey Watson), who tries to warn everyone but is just written off as a crazed lunatic suffering from survivor's guilt. So, basically, he's our Crazy Ralph for the evening.

Oh, and Val's father (Eric Roberts) is in jail because...town drunk? Not really sure what the deal is.

You know what all the subplots are lacking? A reason to care.  In the beginning, only Quaid's crosses over with the plot, with him discovering the first of the elusive raptor's victims. And, like any sensible American in any given hypothetical combat situation, he gets his guns...which leads to the most over the top sequence (and a welcome change from most of the bad acting) where he takes on a raptor with an AK-47, screaming in a way that would make Rambo proud.

Really, besides the bizarre choice of trying to marry the warring genres of the Western and Science Fiction, it's your standard monster movie.  Something is discovered, it kills people, the officials in charge of the area either can't or won't do anything about it because money, and it ends up being up to a group of ragtag regular folks to handle the situation. Add in some vaguely explained backstory and you basically have "Monster Movie 101" ready to go.

Unfortunately, a tried and true plot does not make a tried and true movie.  The acting is bad, and I mean atrocious. Most of the actors severely under act and give reads of their lines as though English isn't a first language of theirs, and the pauses in some exchanges are way too long, such as a point before Sinclair "angrily" tells Marcus to not point at her face. There are leaps in logic by characters that make no sense. And, as I've maligned it before, the CGI on the dinosaurs is just hilariously bad, especially when more flood into the plot following another detonation (because, y'know, if it's worth being stupid once...). On the other hand, one of the few places where I'll give this film credit are in the practical make up effects.

Though the wounds caused by the various dinosaurs are very gory, I wonder why they left corpses in such good condition after chowing down.

But really, I can't get onto this movie too much. For what it is, it's actually rather enjoyable. It's one of those "so bad, it's good" kind of films.  The only thing that keeps it from being truly awesome is the fact that focus is placed on the wrong character. Our main character shouldn't be Val, it should be Quaid. He has a stake in the events from the beginning, wanting to avenge his friends who were killed in the first mine detonation. He's the one to first take on one of the raptors and learn of their reliance on methane, which leads to their eventual defeat (read: BOOOOOOOOOOOM!). He even takes charge in a crisis situation when he and several other characters are boarded up in a bar Shaun of the Dead style. It makes sense and it gives the audience a way to sympathize with him, thus making him more relatable.

And we're supposed to care about Val and his issues with Sky because...umm...err...uhmm...

That being said, the film goes into full on insanity mode in the last twenty minutes, dropping the character building and completely embracing the campiness of the idea of raptors fighting a bunch of hillbilly townies. Now, am I disappointed that we didn't get an awesome climax of Ransik and Alex Grady teaming up to fight dinosaurs? Yeah, but at least they didn't do something insanely stupid with this concept like they could have. It's dumb action shlock that spits into the face of science, flips it off, and then blows up a town for shits and giggles. It's not Oscar bait for certain, but it isn't trying to be. It's just trying to be dumb science fiction and, as dumb science fiction, some enjoyment can be found in it.

Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs is a production of The Oracle Film Group and distributed by Marvista Entertainment in the USA,

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, April 8, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Fallout 4: Automatron"

Well, it was unavoidable.  Given that Bethesda has for some reason taken it upon themselves to do what the modding community does way better, it was inevitable that they would eventually come around to the idea of "hey, maybe building robots as followers would be something they'd want".  And, surprisingly, they hit the nail right on the head this time...unlike that time. But enough about gigantic wastes of time, here's another gigantic waste of time...the difference is that this one is actually fun!

Yes, there's a plot and it's even a fairly decent one that involves the Commonwealth suddenly being overtaken by a robotic menace that is taking a page from the aliens from The Twilight Zone and are trying to "save" man...by killing every last organic around.

We all knew it was coming with Windows 10. We were more than warned.

Thus, it's up to the Sole Survivor of Vault 111 who is now the General of the Minutemen/Agent of the Railroad/Paladin of the Brotherhood of Steel/Director of the Institute to team up with a dry-witted 'bot by the name of Ada and take out the bots in question and discover the location of their leader - the sinister Mechanist. Yes, it seems that the character is making a return from Fallout 3...in name, at least, but that's not really the main selling point (and, indeed, it should not be). No, the main draw here is the customizable robot buddies.

Once Ada gives you the blueprints for the robot crafting station, you can get to work on any assortment of robotic parts that you have while crafting others depending on the perks the player has in their Science and other crafting skills. Any combination, you can imagine. Even your robotic companies like Codsworth and Curie (the latter pre-synth) can be modified in various ways. If you're not looking to bump up your skills, though, bits and pieces of robots can be salvaged from the newly-implemented scrapbots (though, oddly, not from existing robots in the vanilla game) that can be used to modified robots.

And, if you're feeling adventurous, you can just build one at any settlement through the station using your resources.  Including adhesives. Adhesives, that thing that there is never enough of and really should have been implemented far, far more in the game due to the fact that it's part of the mods for almost every item you can craft! Really, Bethesda! I don't wanna get up on a soapbox here, but you're hilariously unforgiving about this sort of thing. And yes, before anyone brings it up, I know you can "grow" adhesive, that isn't my point.

Not much more I can say about the actual add-on, though. It's what you'd expect from a Fallout game and it brings with it the quirkiness of "lol robots". Having a customizable companion to be a combat heavy or to have a good packmule (I affectionately named my first creation "Packrat") or to be ready for just about any conceivable situation is definitely a handy thing and not something I could ding Bethesda too much for.

Fallout 4's Automatron DLC is now available from Bethesda for PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

MadCap's Trailer Reactions - "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"


You know what? Considering the last time I went to the movies (no, I'm not letting it go), I ain't even mad. In fact, I'm actually genuinely excited for this movie. Disney and Lucasfilm actually had the balls to set a film before A New Hope.  Really, I don't think that people appreciate the sheer testicular fortitude that was necessary to set a film before the original trilogy.  It was really a move that only a titan like Disney could do. After all, no one's dared to ever try it before...
NO! NONE OF THAT! SHAME ON YOU!
But yes, it seems that the Star Wars saga is getting a prequel movie that fans don't have to be monumentally embarrassed of,   This comes to us in the form of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  I have to admit, I was skeptical when I heard talk of a non-episodic Star Wars film coming out. Even more so when I heard of the upcoming Han Solo and Boba Fett (yes, he's still the most overrated character to exist outside of Batman) films. But this one, it seems, has some real promise and it's just oozing out of every detail of the trailer. Go watch it, enjoy it, imbibe what it does tease.

And yes, I know, I should be the first one to complain about what little the teaser gives. I did that when The Force Awakens released its first teaser. This, however, is a teaser done right - mostly because the plot would have been obvious to a brain-dead invalid if they saw this one, unlike Episode 7's.  Yes, it seems we're going back to the early early days of the Rebellion against the Empire, namely before Luke Skywalker left Tatooine to become a Jedi.  The plans to the Empire's newest battle station, the Death Star, are up for grabs and the Rebels send in a crack commando by the name of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) to steal the plans.

It seems that she won't be alone in this, but for now we see only Jyn as she fights off Stormtroopers and shows herself to be a competent agent who is not one to play by the rules. The internet being what it is, they've already taken her out of context and pulled her apart as some kind of uber-feminist icon who is going to be Mary Sue to the max.

Okay, internet. You've proven that 1) you don't actually know what "Mary Sue" means and thus have lost the right to use that word. And, 2) it's a teaser. It's not even a proper trailer! Let's wait and see before we start throwing around judgments, eh?

As for the rest - Mon Mothma only looks like the old Mon Mothma in the fact that they're both pale and woman shaped, the Empire looks as awesome as ever, and John Williams doing the score is never not a good thing.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is set to be released by Disney and Lucasfilm on December 16, 2016.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, April 1, 2016

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Castlevania"

Retro cover, retro caption!
Does everyone remember when I went into the Nintendo Rebirth Universe? Good, then I don't have to explain ti all.  Needless to say, the second offering from Nintendo's company-wide reboot of all of its properties would not have been completely without their acquisition of Konami and their bringing in the Belmont clan to the new multi-game universe they've started up with the new Super Mario Bros. (not to be confused with New Super Mario Bros. a few years ago).

Indeed, our game does begin with the Mario Bros. being brought by the enigmatic Mr. Game N' Watch to a location described as belonging to the "Smash Bros. Initiative" and he shows them a familiar whip and the Belmont family crest, which transitions into a flashback to Transylvania in 1691 and we are introduced to our protagonist, Simon Belmont (voiced by Nolan North) heading into Castlevania proper to tackle the Belmonts' long-time foe Dracula (voiced by Troy Baker). We are looking at a young Simon who has thankfully not suffered from the events of Castlevania II: Simon's Quest.  Because, y'know, this is a full on reboot. Although they do have a funny scene when Simon reaches the first checkpoint of a man in the words telling him to "prosess Dracula's rib" before Simon punches him in the face and demands he speak English.

But it seems that the battle against Dracula is not to take place in the beginning like in Symphony of the Night, but is - in fact - a vision of the future given to Simon by a mysterious seer, who sets him on his path to Transylvania.  This time, unlike Symphony of the Night, the entire game does not take place within Dracula's castle, but there are several (admittedly linear) paths to the castle through such scenic locations such as graveyards, forests, and even an underground cave system.

Castlevania makes a smooth transition to 3-D (at long last given the N64 attempts).  Simon controls very well with the Wii U remote. Cracking that whip has never felt more visceral and satisfying as Vampire Killer whacks into an enemy, like any good beat 'em up.  The secondary attack items are very useful in this, and control just as well, though the Boomerang Cross spawns at an admittedly much lower rate than I would like, and you sadly don't get to keep items between the separate levels save for the lead in to the finale fight with Dracula.

If you've played the first Casltevania on NES, then you've pretty much played this with a slightly less nice coat of paint. Each level ends with a mini-boss and the difficult is ramped up as you go on in a way that we haven't seen from Nintendo in a long, long while and it's a welcome change very much in line with what they're bringing with the reboots. So well done, Nintendo.

Also, much like the DC Extended Universe, they're doing plot weaving flawlessly.  Throughout the game, there's hints of a greater evil even beyond Dracula, as well as cameos from Alucard and Simon's ancestor Trevor that warn him of it.  Indeed, even as Dracula is defeated, we get a post-credits scene of several of his minions being led by Death (who is, unsurprisingly, not dead after his particularly difficult boss battle) who are putting away a sarcophagus into hiding that Death says contains the "Master Hand". It's up in the air what he means, but there's no doubt that it's going to be something important to come, as Game N' Watch mentions it to the Mario brothers as well once the game is finished, and it seems to be enough to get them to agree to join the Initiative, ending the game.

However...there is the matter of a little light-blue light that's seen in some scenes with Simon, and is again seen in the present spying on the Mario Bros. and Game N' Watch, and even gets to deliver the last two words of dialogue.

"HEY! LISTEN!"

...gee, I wonder what it means...

Castlevania is now available from Konami and Nintendo for the Wii U.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

MadCap At The Movies - "Batman vs. Superman Dawn of Justice"

...look, I tried, okay?

I know what you'll say. "Oh, Madcap, you're just being a big, stinky Marvel fanboy!". "Oh, MadCap, I don't know why you're ragging on it so much. It could have been a lot worse and it's an improvement over Green Lantern, at least!" My answers are, in order, "You're absolutely right, and I've never claimed to be anything else" and "Yes, and I'm sure you love the writing of Russell T. Davies, too. Idiot." Really, though, I did walk into the theater this afternoon with an open mind and open heart. Though my dislike of Batman is well cataloged on this very blog (look back far enough, I'm sure you'll find something), I love Superman and I'm one of the few people I've found who bother to defend him as a symbol of hope and a defender of all things good.

...Zack Snyder is apparently not one of those people either, but I'll get to that.

Regardless, I went in with expectations low, but having some hope that maybe the critics were wrong.  Maybe the rage of the fanboys was needless and silly, and maybe DC had pulled out a golden egg from their goose instead of another pile of manure they would force feed into my mouth.  So, really, this one is on me. It's a lesson that sometimes it's not all hype and that things can, in fact, just plain suck.  And that's Batman v. Superman Dawn of Justice in a nutshell.

But let's start with the plot, shall we? There isn't one.  Okay, there's vague trappings thanks to the machinations of Not-Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) working over the government in order to get his hands on Zod's ship from the end of Man of Steel, spoiler alert.  He has somehow managed to set up conditions in various situations around the world that will eventually lead to rigging a fight between Superman (Henry Cavill) and Batman (Ben Affleck), as the title suggests.

And beyond this point, I give a spoiler warning.  So, if you want to know nothing else about this film, don't read past this point.  Now, if you're one of many, many people who word of mouth has reached about this and you're not going to ever see this, then read on.

...

...okay, you good?

Wonderful.

Let me go ahead and talk about some of the characters.  Namely Lex Luthor, because he is a joke in this movie.

I'm sorry, let me rephrase that and make it more quotable for everyone.

JESSE EISENBERG'S PORTRAYAL OF LEX LUTHOR IS A FUCKING JOKE IN THIS MOVIE.

I wish I were even kidding, but I can't joke about this.  Every single scene that he's in, He's melodramatic to the point that saying he's chewing the scenery would be far, far too polite to describe what he's doing.  He's chewing the scenery into a fine powder, spitting it out, then snorting it up Tony Montana-style. For Mr. Eisenberg, it seems that subtlety is a concept that he's vaguely heard of maybe once from someone who told him about a dream they had about it. Having seen none of Eisenberg's other films at the time of this writing, I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt and say that it's just poor direction from Snyder, which just makes it all the worse.

The film also goes out of its way in two scenes to mention that he's not actually Lex Luthor, but is actually Alexander Luthor, Jr., the son of the original, which to me smacks of last-minute reshoots. It's as if someone looked at the performance given and told Snyder that anyone who tried to convince the world that that abomination was Lex Luthor - a character who was played for years masterfully by such actors as Gene Hackman, Kevin Spacey, and the legendary Clancy Brown - would not survive the mass lynchings that would follow.  So, he's regulated to Luthor's son - who apparently is actually a minor character in the comics - and thus, Snyder presumed, saved him from his rightful fate for not stopping and saying "No, this is a really stupid idea".

Not in the court of the MadCapMunchkin, Mr. Snyder.  I find you...

Why didn't you go with Bryan Cranston, DC? He could have pulled this off.  This guy, though? No. Just no.  Your casting choice was bad, and you should feel very, very bad.

Now that my well justified rage is out of the way, and Zack Snyder will be in the Phantom Zone for a bit, let's talk about our two main characters. The ones people actually came to see.

BATMAN
You know him, you love him (I don't), and he's played by Ben Affleck this time around.  I admit, I was one of the several people who reacted to the announcement of his casting a while back with "Buwha-?!", but he's honestly not that bad. We've had worse Batmen, after all.  Even George Clooney proclaimed that he wasn't qualified to comment on who would make a bad Batman or not, seeing as he'd completely trashed the role (not that that was his fault entirely, however, but that's neither here nor there).  

Affleck, I think, legitimately balances the two sides of Bruce Wayne and Batman. That is to say, his performance acknowledges the truth that Batman is a sociopathic creature hellbent on justice and pretty boy millionaire Bruce Wayne is just the skin he hides behind in order to operate in the daylight.  And I don't say that as a bad thing, it's actually not something we get to see a lot of in the films. Also, another thing, is that we get to acknowledge that whole crazy fact that Batman is human and unless he has prep time and the proper resources is nothing more than a squishy meat shield when going up against god-like beings like Superman or Wonder Woman.

This when I was really afraid they'd go the Frank Miller route of having him be able to take on beings like Spawn without breaking a sweat, and that his eventual fight against Superman would be insanely one sided in his favor rather than the guy who actually has superpowers.

Also, I'll be blunt - he kills people in this version. Like other adaptations, there's...really no way of getting around this. He crushes people with the Batmobile, he ziplines vehicles with people inside of them so that they collide with other objects and assure that no one gets out of there without at least a severe spinal injury. It kind of completely ruins his moral grandstanding about Superman when he's outright committing mass murder.  Oh, because they're criminals, we aren't supposed to care? YOU HAVE A CODE, BRUCE! WHAT WOULD YOUR MOTHER SAY?!

The bits with his origin story are brought up and even have a few scenes, but don't actually clog the narrative thanks to the fact that DC must have had some brain cells still working and decided it ought not to be the focus of the film...except it kind of is, since it serves as a plot point in the final fight so that Batman realizes that Superman's actually not a bad guy. Because, y'know, the World's Greatest Detective can't do that by opening his eyes.

I will say, Snyder apparently hasn't gotten over his bizarre non-sequitur dream fetish from Suckerpunch!, since Batman has at least three bizarre nightmares that contribute nothing to the actual plot (except, I think, an early-bird cameo of Booster Gold. Not that that actually helps anything). By the way, he has one of these where he's murdering people. With guns. Because, y'know...Batman. Totally against guns. Though, again, this is another "wtf?!" moment I would question Zack Snyder about...if I hadn't banished him to the Phantom Zone.

My other problem with both his portrayal of Bruce and Batman...comes in the timing of the character. And that's more of a problem to put to the writers and director.  At the time of the film, Batman has been active in Gotham for twenty years. Twenty years. Twenty years of fighting crime, having sidekicks, and protecting Gotham that we have not yet seen, resulting in a far more dark and jaded Batman than the common one most people know.  It's a bit The Dark Knight Returns...and I both love and hate it. I love it, because Affleck's version fits so well to it...and I hate it because it's twenty years of character development that we haven't seen and are supposed to just accept regardless of what damage it might do to the character.

No, DC, you don't just do that. You don't just throw twenty years into the background and just insist that it's there. And no, I don't care if the solo movie for Bats covers it or not, the fact is that it wasn't important enough for DC to show us before they threw us into a crossover film.

SUPERMAN
Which brings us to Superman.  The golden boy of Metropolis, the hero who is a staunch defender of truth, justice, and the Ameri-why are they having Senate hearings on Superman? In a bizarre twist from where you'd think logic would follow, the people seem to have a mixed reaction to Superman from the events of Man of Steel, debating why he's here on Earth, what his purpose is and if he's here to help us or to destroy or conquer us.

...I'm not going to go into the fact that the people of the DC Universe are stupid, but the people of the DC Universe are pretty astoundingly stupid. Superman has, up to this point, done nothing but try to save people and protect the Earth. Please call me when you want to quit being idiots.

Then again, the same could be said of the people of the Marvel universe - I'm looking at you Civil War...

Henry Cavill's reprising the role of Superman...and he's adequate in the role. Nothing really to complain about, he's even gotten a little bit less wooden since Man of Steel.

AND THE REST!
Some quick notes here, since we're going to be going through here fast.  Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and the others returning from Man of Steel are pretty good, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth is phenomenal and he should be in the role much as Michael Gough was.  That is to say, until he dies, if you please.  Who am I missing? Oh, right, Wonder Woman.

...yeah, she's in all of about ten minutes of screen time. Probably less than that. I'll wait to form an opinion on Gal Gadot or her acting ability until I've actually seen it.  That being said, she seems to have the physicality down well. Her short fight scene near the end of the film is pretty good and her entrance in the Wonder Woman costume is one of the few moments of this film that has any concentrated awesome - something that is absolutely vital in a superhero movie.  The only real problem I have with her being in the film is that she only serves to highlight cameos of other heroes...which I'll get into in a moment.
And now, at last, we come to the ending.  I don't have to give another spoiler warning, so here we go - Superman dies.

No, that's not a typo. Superman dies.

You see, that earlier plot point with Faux-Lex getting access to the Kryptonian spaceship? He uses it and Zod's body in order to participate in Kryptonian mad science and create...Doomsday. Yes, that Doomsday. And given the storyline that Doomsday is most famously attached to, you know what's coming. Yes, indeed, with the use of a Kryptonite spear (because shut up, that's why he can wield it without it killing him by proximity), Superman kills Doomsday and is in turn killed by Doomsday.

...except he's not really dead because the final scene of the film shows the dirt on his coffin (left by Lois Lane) starting to levitate off of it. Because comic books.

And I shouldn't be mad at that, but they really drag the scenes of his funerals (yes, funerals because - like in The Dark Knight Rises - nobody can acknowledge that the hero and his alter-ego are the same person) out way too long for such a rather pointless payoff. We know Superman is going to come back, we know he's not going to stay dead. There was no reason to do that. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan didn't feel the need to immediately make it clear that Spock wasn't really dead (spoiler alert) just after his passing (yes, I know Leonard Nimoy did the narration at the end after test audiences didn't like the original, shut up).

THINGS TO COME (Whether you like it or not)
I know that Marvel gets a lot of crap for its plot weaving in its movies, but this film has taken the cake. The LexCorp database on metahumans is so blatant an attempt to keep audience interest that its almost heartbreaking.  The appearances by the Flash, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg are nice and are actually some of the highlights of the time.  Unfortunately, the entire thing smacks of DC realizing they screwed up by not following the Marvel method and bringing in everyone at once, screaming to their audience "You like these characters, right? Well, they're going to have their own movies. That's right, and you're going to love them. Please, stick around. Please! Please! HEY! STOP LOOKING AT MARVEL! STOP IT! STOP IT!"

But, nevertheless, as Bruce tells Wondy at Clark's funeral, he's getting a team together. A league for justice...if only they had some kind of word for that.

Also, Luthor apparently knows of someone "out there" who has seen the events of the film and is coming. Darkseid? Maybe he'll get to use the Anti-Life Equation in this universe. Hope springs eternal.

CONCLUSION
This film is just an absolute mess.  It smacks of laziness coupled with being rushed, being rewritten, and being reshot a few times over.  The main villain is an absolute joke, with a plan that anyone with common sense would have been able to figure out - much less super genius Bruce Wayne twenty years into the game - and that completely derails the film and removes the credibility from the name Lex Luthor to the point that they had to throw Doomsday into the mix to try and save it. And failing.

Mix it all in with the dark, depressing, humorless feel that Snyder's direction evokes from everyone and everything, a moral conundrum about the purpose of Superman that a brain damaged four year old could answer, and trying to hammer in cameos and promises of things to come that DC has repeatedly proven they no longer have the right or ability to make (if they ever did at all), and you end up with this crown turd of absolute awfulness. While there are a few good point, that's like finding the pieces of whole corn.  It doesn't really matter, because they're still covered in shit.

It ultimately comes back to the feel. Snyder is not a good director for Superman.  He was good with Watchmen, and I loved it. I will even say, to a degree, he was good with Man of Steel - which I liked, but I will never say it didn't have problems - seeing as he actually did something new with the character. But, on the whole, he just doesn't get Superman. Superman is not a dark and gritty character. Now, by that same token, I'd love to see a Snyder-directed Batman. He's already done it once (Rorschach taught Batman everything he knows, after all).

It's been a problem with DC films that Marvel doesn't have - the lack of just a good feeling overall. The reason Marvel films have done so well is that they're fun.  One of their most successful films to date, Guardians of the Galaxy is some of the most fun I've had at the movie theater in a long, long time.  Even their darker edged films, like Captain America: Winter Soldier, had the darkness but still managed moments to keep things light in the right moments. Yes, I said "in the right moments", because to do a good drama, you need balance. You go too far with the humor, it'll be taken as comedy. You go to serious on the drama...you get this.

And I'll be honest, I don't want this to be the standard that DC goes by.  Batman and Superman are two of the most iconic superheroes of all time, if not the most iconic superheroes of all time. People around the world who have never even seen an actual comic book, much less ever read one, knows who they are.  Before Marvel actually started producing their movies, I could only think of maybe a handful of their properties who had that kind of prestige. Batman and Superman are two parts of my childhood, and the childhoods of many other people all over the world, and they both deserve better than this steaming pile.

I sat in that theater, and there was not a cheer as Superman and Batman first met on the streets of Gotham. There was no cheering as they and Wonder Woman teamed up to fight Doomsday. No round of applause at the end, looking forward to a glorious future of the DC Extended Universe. It just...wasn't there. No heart, no mirth, no spirit. For the world is dark and hollow, and even hope is something nary a man dare have.

Wrapping it all up, in a nice little bow, for the TL;DR crowd - this movie sucks and you'd be better off never seeing it. Ever.

Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice is now in theaters from DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Watership Down" (1978)

...god, this movie is depressing!

Okay, that might be me just getting a little bit ahead of myself.  Watership Down is a 1978 offering from Nepenthe Productions and given to us by those wonderful folks across the pond in merry old England - and it shows with the use of John Hurt in a prominent voice role, as well as several of the other seven actors that the United Kingdom has to offer also voicing the animals in question.

...yes, I was too lazy to go through everyone's IMDB pages for any other connections that you might know.  John Hurt is good enough for me, he's good enough for you.

The film begins with an explanation of the lore of rabbits from the novel - yes, there was a novel and, no, I haven't read it - that they (and all animals) were created by the sun god Firth.  Rabbits, in the beginning, multiplied quickly and made food scarce, so Firth spoke to the Rabbit Prince and told him to keep his species in line.  When he refused, Firth gave a bunch of wondrous gifts to all the other animals and made many of them predators against the rabbits.  When he thought that the rabbits had learned their lesson, Firth blessed them with quickness and wit, so that they might be able to outrun and outsmart their predators.

As the tagline on the poster says, "But first they much catch you."

The actual plot picks up when the rabbit Fiver (Richard Briers) has a vision about the end of his warren. He goes with his brother Hazel (John Hurt) to talk to their chief, but are dismissed and decide to take on a journey to escape the fate of their home themselves. Eight manage to escape, finding a world fraught with dangers unimagined by the brace including snare traps, rats, a cat, and even...evil rabbits.  The film makes you really feel for the plight of the rabbits quickly, pulls you in and makes you want to see them overcome their adversity.

There are eight to start, but the film only really focuses on three of them.  Hazel (Hurt) is the leader and is the one who comes up with plans that will inevitably always go to pot because they always do.  So much to the point that he becomes one of the dangers.  There's Fiver, who is - like Cordelia in the early few seasons of Angel - known only for precognitive visions and wobbly bosoms (maybe not that last part).  Unlike Miss Chase, he spends most of his time either getting caught up in Hazel's plans or having trances that could either be mystical or epilepsy.  And then...there's Bigwig (Michael Graham Cox).

Oh, how does one describe Bigwig? Imagine if Miles Teg were suddenly polymorphed into a rabbit and was no less completely badass. That is Bigwig. (If you don't know Miles Teg, then go read Dune, you Neanderthal).

Their overarching adversity here being survival, and it's the theme that resonates strongly throughout the whole film almost from start to finish.  The rabbits journey to Watership Down (which is apparently the name of the hill, but is still rather confusing as all get out that that's the name) is the point of the entire film and, even when they have avoided a great deal of the troubles of their world, they are forced to fight for their small slice of paradise in order to keep it.

Also, to the film's credit, man does exist in this world but the film doesn't feel the need to beat us over the head with an environmental message about how they're destroying the environments of the rabbits or some such rot. There's only a few short scenes where the humans appear at all, and even then one of the humans actually helps one of the rabbits in the climax of the film. I can really say it's refreshing.

Another way this is refreshing is in the level of violence.  No, that's not actually a joke - this is insanely brutal for a kid's film.  And, yes, this was marketed to children being from that era where animated things were for children, as well as being an ironic twist on American's being considered the uber-violent nationality.  It actually reminds me of that one Eddie Izzard skit talking about the differences in British cinema and American cinema (Watch it here) being turned on its head.

Really, there's very little held back here.  There's blood, maiming, the whole lot of violent acts that one rabbit can visit upon another.  Really, for an American child having concepts like death and the afterlife even acknowledged is extremely hardcore.  The animation showcases it well, though, and helps add to the film's overall feeling.

The animation itself is really good (for the era) over all.  The rabbits are reasonably expressive and few of scenes are animated with anything less than top quality (again, for the era).. Mind you, there is one really trippy sequence set to Art Garfunkel's "Bright Eyes" that I'm almost entirely certain was inspired by long session that involved the use of expensive methamphetamines.

The villain is also entertaining, if a little cliched.  The "General" Woundwort is the leader of the evil group of rabbits and is made of pure, unadulterated badass from start to finish.  The rank is well earned, as Woundwort is one hell of a fighter and is able to take on Bigwig in a knock down, drag out, and then go on to fight a big, black dog - the latter fight of which he might have actually survived in the end.

...spoiler alert.

But yes, very glad I was coaxed into watching the film in question.  It's enjoyable, even if the ending left me more than a little confused.  But, I suppose, an ambiguous fate is better than no fate at all. If you get a chance to see this movie, I suggest you do it, if only because it's a really rather enjoyable one.

Watership Down is brought to us by Nepenthe Productions, and was distributed originally by CIC (in the UK) and Avco Embassy Pictures (in the US).

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.