Thursday, May 29, 2014

X-Men: The great and powerful retcon

It's funny how the landscape of superhero movies have changes since the release of the first Bryan Singer X-Men movie in 2000. Back then it was pretty much accepted that if you wanted to make a movie about superheroes, you had to strip all of the comic booky elements out of it. So we got the X-Men in Matrix-style leather uniforms with a sneer about the absurdity of colorful spandex. They all still have their powers, but they feel very restrained.

Since then, we're had a string of successful comic book movies (mostly from Marvel) that embrace their comic book roots with (mostly) comic accurate costumes and bigger than life action. X-Men First Class started moving back in that direction through little things like using the uniforms of the original comic book X-Men and going a lot crazier on the powers, especially with Magneto.

That movie wasn't directed by Bryan Singer though. He left the franchise to make Superman Returns leaving Fox to replace him with Brett Ratner for X3, which resulted in us getting two really crappy superhero movies. Now he's back and with X-Men: Days of Future Past he attempts the herculean task of:

a) Creating a sequel to X-Men First Class that
b) Ties into the earlier X-Men movies while
c) Erasing the damage caused by X3 and
d) Adapting one of the more famous X-Men story arcs

The idea that someone could make a watchable movie while accomplishing all of that is laughable. Certainly none of the prerelease information gave me confidence that it was going to be good. So it was to my surprise that X-Men: Days of Future Past was actually pretty good.

(Mild spoilers after the break, just so you know)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The War on Backwards Compatibility Continues

Man, not this again. I'll concede that even as someone who like to play old games I've barely used the backward compatibility options on a lot of my consoles (portables are another story though). However, the thing that really bugs me about this is it ignores the rise of downloadable games this generation. In fact, I can actually see how the lack of backwards compatibility could actually hurt more in the long term plan.

Let's say I'm a gamer that insists on staying on top of the latest trends so I rarely ever replay games. In the past, when a new console comes out I could trade in the old one and all the old titles I still own to finance the new one. Technically I cold be "evil" (in the eyes of publishers) and use that credit to by used, but if I insist at getting the console at launch I'm probably going to be buying new by default.

With this generation though I'd only be able to trade in the games I bought on disc. I'd be effectively throwing away any titles I bought digitally, be it arcade or retail titles. That might not discourage me from upgrading to the current generation, but it might make me hesitant to get as many downloadable titles.

Now I'm pretty sure the the CEO of Take Two doesn't give a crap that I can't get anything back from my downloadable titles. Plus he could point out that right now the Xbox One and PS4 are selling better now than the lifetime sales of the Wii U, the only console still with full backwards compatibility. I still maintain that a system's launch sales don't necessarily predict a system's success (see the Dreamcast) and it will be much more interesting to see how all three consoles are doing in a year.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

How I learned to give up and love digital comics

I always loved comic books, but several years ago I had to give up collecting them. Part of the problem was I was getting too many comics then my college undergraduate funds could afford to support.

This happened during the that summer where DC was publishing 52, Marvel was publishing Civil War, and I would pick up indie titles off the shelf that seemed interesting. I got to the point where I realized just how much money I was spending at the comic book shop every week and decided to just drop everything. To this day I regret how unceremoniously I just stopped going, since I probably could have found a less melodramatic solution.

Anyway, years later I've become a successful working adult who has enough money to buy everything he wanted back then (except not really). The logical assumption would be that I strode through the doors of my local comic shop proudly and reactivated my pull list. That did happen.

While I now had the money to afford comic books I found I had no desire to collect them. Not because I felt I outgrew them or anything, but I just didn't want to go through the act of buying individual comic book issues because storing them is a pain.

Historically, comic books are a disposable medium. Readers back in the forties would pay a dime at the newsstand to get an issue of say, Batman, to read on the way to work, and then throw it away later. Even if you were one of those weird people who actually collected comics back then, you had to be careful since they were printed pretty cheap paper. This is the reason why Action Comics #1...

...routinely sells for about $2 million dollars: even though a ton of copies were originally printed, very few of them have help up to the ravages of time.

Nowadays most people keep their comics after buying them. Either because they are collectors who think that newest version of Action Comics #1...

...will be worth millions of dollars in the future (note: it probably won't) or they are normal people who like to read comics and don't believe in throwing them out. Regardless of the reasons, the fact is if you collect individual comic book issues they are eventually going to take over your living space. And while this is also true of say books or video games, comics books have a double whammy of being difficult to reread because there is no good way to store them allows you to find what you want quickly.

The obvious solution is to only buy comics in trade paperback form, but that means you generally have to wait until they finish a story arc to actually read them. This is assuming that the run even gets collected in trade paperback form, since this isn't always guaranteed if the series wasn't a huge success.

This is all a really roundabout way of saying that I finally decided to start buying comics digitally, primarily through Comixology though on occasion I'll get them through the Barnes & Noble Nook Store. Not only has this allowed my to get caught up on stuff I was reading, it's helped me discover a lot of stuff that I missed. In the future I plan on posting mini-recommendations here. In fact, I planned to talk about one this time, but I kinda went off on a tangent.

In any case, next time for sure true believers!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

From out of now update!

So it's been a while since I've written here, but ever since I've started writing fiction again it was only a matter of time.

Speaking of which, what I've been writing lately is a novel. It's not the first one I've ever started, but with any luck it will be the first one I finish. Unlike a lot of other times, I actually have a incentive to finish. Specifically Harper Voyager is actually going to be taking unsolicited submissions for e-books in October.

Now I'll admit that I will be pleasantly surprised if I get accepted. For one, I'm a little rusty at fiction writing. For another, I don't have any finished manuscripts so this project will realistically be my only submission. A goal does do wonders to focus a project though, so I'm keeping my moral high.

Of course now that I have an end goal, I need to know just how far along I am. The submission guidelines ask for a manuscript that is 80,000-120,000 words, which seems reasonable (though I don't have a good example handy for comparison. Totally up all the words I've wrote up so far (which requires me to dump everything into one document, since I've been saving chapters in separate files) I am up to 10,000 words.

The doesn't seems like a lot, but since I've not even at the quarter mark of my plot that is perfectly fine with me. I'm also allowing for the fact this is a first draft and that is a good chance when I go over it again I'll beef up some sections that aren't as good as I remember them being when I wrote them at two o'clock in the morning (funny how that happens).

In any case, I hope this a sign of good things to come to this largely ignored blog. I hope to actually make some posts about comics, video games, books, or whatever stuff I've been enjoying.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. World

Just got back from seeing "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World", and I have to say that it was a surprisingly good movie.

DISCLAIMER: Yes, I read the original comic. I remember picking up the first volume, but it wasn't until the third one that I fell in love with the series.

So with that in mind, the first time I heard that they were making a live-action Scott Pilgrim movie I thought it was a joke. I honestly did not realize that it was in fact real until I saw the trailer. At which point the movie went from being just a joke in my mind, to a really bad one.

In retrospect, I still don't think the trailers won over too many movie goers. I mean just look at this:

"On like Donkey Kong"? Was that ever a good line? And even if it was, it couldn't possible sound any more insincere coming from a movie trailer. It's no secret that the only thing Hollywood likes geeks for is to be the social-awkward, genius/comic relief stock character, and the fact they cast Micheal Cera as Scott Pilgrim almost ensured that they wanted this to be the next Napoleon Dynamite.

So I was quite surprised that the movie was largely faithful to its source material and barely hit the "geeks are awkward" comedy well. This isn't to say it's a perfect movie. Actually it would be more accurate to say that it is two halves of two different, but potentially, perfect movies fused together to one good, but definitely, flawed movie.

Actually, let's take a step back a bit. I just realized I wrote the last couple paragraphs with the assumption everyone out there knew what the hell Scott Pilgrim was. Where if that was actually the case, I probably wouldn't have to write anything to being with.

So to start from the beginning, "Scott Pilgrim vs the World" is an adaptation of a series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley. In it the titular character falls in love with an American girl Ramona Flowers and the story deals with their relationship. Except that in order for our hero to date Ramona, he must defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends. I don't mean that in a metaphorical sense either; he actually has to fight seven evil exes that range from sports/action movie heroes to ninjas to vegan super psychics. The whole package is wrapped in a candy shell of interesting side characters, stylish art and clever video game references.

The movie attempts to adapt all six volumes of the original Scott Pilgrim, but the way it does so differs significantly from the beginning and the end. The change will be most obvious to those who read the original comics, but even if you haven't you would have to be blind to not notice the change of pacing. After boyfriend number three the story kicks into high gear and never comes back down. The effect works surprisingly better on screen then it does on paper, and the second half of the movie still stays pretty true to the source despite despite mostly doing its own thing.

Still I can't, help but feel the movie would have been better if it had just rearranged the story altogether rather then the halfway approach. Makes me wonder if their original plan was to make two movies, one for volumes 1-3 and one for volumes 4-6, but then found out the studio wasn't planning on a sequel. That's merely my speculation though.

Anyway, what surprised me more then the fact the movie managed to do a good job of adapting the story of the comics was that Micheal Cera managed to do a good job of being Scott Pilgrim. I won't lie: I thought Micheal Cera was a fundamentally terrible choice of casting. In the comics Scott Pilgrim is best described as being loud and dumb, and while Micheal Cera can do the latter quite well, the former seemed quite beyond him. Somehow it works, and while he is still not my perfect casting choice he still makes a a good Scott Pilgrim.

This one idea encapsulates the whole move: it's a good adaptation, but not a perfect one. For all the stuff they manged to fit in, shuffle into new place or adapt in an interesting way, there's still a lot of stuff that was missed. Again, I think the film makers would have been better off either going completely faithful or crazy with the original story, but I'm happy with what they made.

Of course the biggest tragedy is that this movie completely failed to appeal to an audience. Fans of the comics probably snubbed it for being too difference, fan of Micheal Cera probably walked out in confusion, and the geek population who may have genuinely enjoyed it dismissed it as hipster garbage. Years from now, Scott Pilgrim may be redicscovered as a lost gem, though I'm sure that's a cold confort to the studio and producers of the movie.

I feel like there's so much I could still say about the movie, but I'm trying to avoid outright gushing or spend all my time comparing the movie to the comic. My point is if there is still a theater that is showing the movie anywhere near you, then you should see this movie. It's got some cool effect, interesting characters and is just a fun movie. If you like it, then you can always track down the original comics, but don't conisder it required reading to enjoy.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Welcome to Rapture, now get the hell out!

I'm trying to decide whether I should be excited over the announcement of the next Bioshock. While I loved the first game in concept from most everything I've read the second game was largely an unnecessary rehash (before anyone rushes to the latter game's defense know I haven't actually played it, because I still haven't finished the first game. I may love the concept, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired). So the idea of a third sequel sends off warning signals in my head.

That being said, the new trailer looks good (though what trailer doesn't really?). And while it's easy to crack jokes about how the game will be 'Splicers on a Plane' at least they actually realized how implausible it was for a decaying underwater city to somehow continue to exist.

Perhaps this this game might be the one that actually adds elements and expands the series properly. Either way, I'm probably not picking up this game at launch.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

NiGHTS: Can I Enter the Dream Yet?

For all the games I've ever played, there are at least five more I really wish that I had. I've been working hard to make up for what I've missed, but there are some titles that are harder to track down then others. Like pretty much anything on the Sega Saturn.

Since that oft-maligned console was damn near impossible to emulate until relatively recently, it meant that the only way to play Saturn games was the old fashioned way. This wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the fact that the old-fashioned way quickly becomes the really-expensive way. Like the triple digits kind of expensive.

Could be worse, I could be collecting NEO GEO carts

Anyway, the end result of this is despite actually owning a Saturn, I have very few games to play. This is why I picked up  NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, the Wii-exclusive sequel to the original NiGHTS Into Dreams, when I saw it on sale for about $10 used. I had always wanted to play NiGHTS, at the very least to understand what it was and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.

Boy how wrong was I.