Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Ocean’s 8

I kept meaning to watch the Ocean’s franchise, and then either something would annoy me within the first few minutes or I’d get distracted and blah. The fact it was an almost entirely male cast probably factored into this, since at this point of my life, I am highly reluctant to invest in male-centric franchises, I don’t care how much I love George Clooney. But Ocean’s 8 is an all female main cast, they didn’t cast the Bitch Who Shall Not Be Named (as I shall refer to the actress who got given the opportunity to PROVE A POINT and to fight for representation and turned it into a fat joke), and while it was in theaters, I was in desperate need of a distraction. So I went. And while it makes my heart heavy to remember what happened that night, I can’t regret getting to see a good movie out of it.

A heist comedy, Ocean’s 8 centers around Debbie Ocean (the late [or better be] Danny Ocean’s sister) as she is released from prison, and falls back into the family business. Her plans are ambitious, her old partner Lou is ride or die though with a touch of emotional concern, and Debbie has spent years making sure everything will work as long as the right people are in the right places at the right time. And without the help of a single man…aside as a fall guy, that is. And she has the perfect one in mind. A diverse cast makes up Debbie and Lou’s contacts and newcomers to their types of games, and in the end, revenge is served best cold as ice.

So the movie starts off in a very subtle way that I think is supremely powerful. It shows exactly how experienced Debbie is at these types of cons, and how she takes control of any situation she is. It proves to us that this Mastermind has the skills to back up her plan. Now cue the character meetings and setting up the bare bones of the heist. Each character, in their handful of scenes, had plenty of time to establish their situations, their personalities, and their own goals, as well as their skill sets. Were some of the backgrounds hokey? Yes, but it wasn’t just the ethnic characters. I mean, how hokey is a stay at home mom who is a fence? The Indian character dealing with a mother being pushy about marriage seems hokey to us because it’s a common trope, but it’s also a common trope because it is important to their culture and the character played with it a little at least.

We also started to establish some back story for Debbie and Lou without it being some giant info dump, it was relevant to the job. There are also plenty of secrets still remaining for the women to dive into later. The heist itself was amusing, with just enough tension to keep the story moving (no spoilers!). I was trying to figure out where the ending was going and where a missing piece went, so the end reveal to me was actually pretty satisfying, even if it was predictable. (It’s a heist comedy, I don’t go in expecting to be super-duper surprised, here.)

With any kind of ensemble cast, you always have to juggle your balls in the air carefully to make sure nothing goes horrible wrong or static. This is especially difficult with an already established franchise, depending on how tightly you want to link back to it. Now, the writers did a very smart thing for Ocean’s 8. They divorced themselves almost entirely from the main group, splintering off after a sister of a main character, and building up around here with a deliberate focus, and then they kept the numbers down. So rather than trying to expand or grow a character, they got to focus the entire movie on these different personalities shifting to slot together as a team, so no one character had to be the end-all-be-all, or worse, all of them having to grow to prevent comparisons. The weakest ones to my memory are Constance and Nine-Ball, but I think both have room to grow and develop further. I also liked how two of the characters weren’t the type we normally expect for their actresses.

Helena Bonham Carter has been pretty type cast to Belletrix and Tim Burton type characters, so getting to see her in an almost bubbly (if frail) and ditzy character was a very welcome change. And I love how Anne Hathaway’s character was trying to sell the image of who we know Anne to be, but actually was a much stronger, more assertive personality type, not to mention much smarter than initially expected by the team. Now with sequels, theycan build on this core group or add or take away, depending on the job. Personally, I hope they tie in with some of the women from the main franchise.

The setting is harder to comment on due to it being set in the real world, but I did like the different shots they used, and I thought Nine-Ball’s comments on the headquarters really was cool commentary on heist clichés. Why are they always set in old abandoned warehouses? I know, out of the way and lots of room, but still, points to the hacker that the cyber security for those places is usually awful. I also loved the different styles of gala dresses that they did for the Met scenes, and actually during the movie, I had a thought. Based on Sandra Bullock’s line about her dress being old, I thought they’d actually had the actresses pull old dresses that they had previously worn to events. Bullock has been blonde before, pulling from her wardrobe at that time would make sense to me, and I thought it was a cool touch about one-time-only dresses and getting a chance to wear them again. (Ya’ll can imagine my vivid disappointment when I found out I was wrong, I was heartbroken. It was such a good idea!!!) I did like how celebrities were there playing themselves except for our main cast, and it really helped add a touch of viewing a world that we normally only get to see on television.

This movie out of all the franchise has gotten a lot of ragging for being unoriginal or lacking in tension. And I’m just really confused. After the first Ocean’s movie, we all know the formula, there is no shocker to be had her. It’s the same as the old book serials–you know Holmes is going to solve the case, you know these set people are involved. The fun isn’t in the conclusion, it’s in getting there, like that missing piece I was hanging on to. (And I started slapping Aubrey’s shoulder over…I’m a violent movie buddy, ya’ll.) It’s about enjoying eight smart women getting to be eight smart women and getting one over a male dominated world. And even if it glorifies thieves and unethical characters… I’m okay with that, because at least it shows that we can do anything we set our minds to, a message that girls and women don’t get enough of, especially in today’s political climate. To quote Debbie, “Somewhere out there is an 8-year-old girl dreaming of becoming a criminal. Do this for her.”

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Review: Top Ten Childhood Favorite TV Shows

Here’s a dallop of nostalgia for your Monday. I thought about doing Inktober, but I hadn’t done enough prep work, and we’re heading into NaNoWriMo anyway. So instead, I revisited the top 10 TV shows from my childhood that I still enjoy and think influenced me. They aren’t in actual 1 being the most influential order, 10 least, or anything like that. I just made a list of ten.

Hey Arnold!
With a completely bonkers cast of characters, I think what I loved the most was how complex some of the personalities were allowed to get. And just when you think you have it figured out, and it’s just a kid’s show again, they come out with something that really makes you thing. It also was very real about some of the family lives that kids have, and about some of the unique problems that come from living in the inner-city. Plus, the craziness of the boarding house always seemed super real to me.

The Wild Thornberries
Mixing a lot of fun with some education on animals and conservation, Eliza and family hit a lot of buttons for me. Goofy family? Check. Girl who talks to animals? Check. Various shenanigans due to those two worlds combining? Double check. The only thing that got me was the “wild boy” character. I hated him then, kinda hate him now. I wish we had just gotten to have these two sisters and their parents, rather than this random thing to keep the parents or older sister busy as needed. Hello plot devise disguised as a character.

ChalkZone
I saw this originally as part of Oh Yeah! Cartoons, and it’s always been pretty dear to me. I mean, come on, a whole world that has come to life due to the imagination of an artist. It’s a great concept, and it was executed very well. Plus it was just memorable. I can still hear Snap yelling, “RUDY, YOU GOTTA DRAW SOMETHIN’!” and the ridiculous situations that sometimes landed them in. The limit was really on what the artists could come up with. I just wish it was possible to see them easier, right now they are hard to find in a way that is easily viewed by those of us who are…broke. 😛

Tiny Toon Adventures
This is one of the few shows growing up that my brother and I could agree on. I think he preferred Animatics and Pinkie and the Brain, but it always came back to Tiny Toons for something for us to watch together. The humor and characters, while gendered, actually fairly represented them–there wasn’t the problem of five male characters to one girl, for example, like we ran into with shows like Power Rangers. Plus, it was legitimately funny and clever. Some of the jokes were meant for an older viewer like Taylor (five year age difference, ya’ll) and some were more on my level. Either way, it remains a very fond memory for me.

Madeline
I think this is what kickstarted the French for me. And this was just a really smart TV show aimed at a much younger audience than…just about everything else on this list. It was simpler, it was more about understanding societal rules and girls fighting for agency (or scheming for it, okay, maybe it kickstarted more than my French). Most other cartoons for that age focus so much on basic skills, such as math and color and shape recognition and such, but Madeline really goes, “Nope, you learn that in school. Here’s some of the things you don’t.” Plus, feisty female protagonists for the win!

Gargoyles
Now this list turns towards the “serious” as you all know, comedy is not my thing most of the time. Gargoyles had an amazing story, varied character designs that were still easy to tell apart to my kid brain (though when I first saw it, the episode was far enough in the series for me to be a little lost on the story, oops), and combined the mystic with the tech and the modern. It also addressed things like racism, hate groups, inter-racial relationships and how hard they can be, and dealing with the past so you can embrace your future. Heavy stuff for a kid’s show, but they were so sly about it, it wasn’t like they were preaching at us, it was just a natural, organic way for the story to go.

Batman: The Animated Series
Another one that Taylor and I could agree on, Batman feels like this universal childhood constant for my generation, even if you are now a Marvel fan more than DC (with the way the movie verses are going, I don’t blame anyone on that front). There’s been a lot better discussions on the series than I have space for here, so I’ll stick to the personal. I loved the snark, the smarts, and the action. The animation of the earlier seasons was very eh for me, I much prefer the last when it changed to match the rest of the DCAU, though the Bruce/Barbara relationship is WEIRD YA’LL. But I have never lost my love for the DCAU and that’s partly to thank because of this series. It showed me how the comics don’t have to ruin everything and make it far too complicated.

Sailor Moon
The beginning of the anime invasion, I used to wake up at six a.m. to watch this show, I was devoted. And that’s even with Serena and Rini driving me absolutely bonkers in the anime episodes, though the movies that were more manga-toned in their characters helped save them. I just loved seeing the girls getting in on the action and the fighting, on the stories of the prince and the princess, of the guardians and the way these people had to grow up. I grew up with the Dub, which is…an experience, due to the weird age differences and translations. But without it, I wouldn’t have gotten into the rest of the fandom, and considering how much I relate to Makoto/Lita/Sailor Jupiter, that would have been a damn shame. She really gave me someone to look up to growing up. She was tall, brunette and green-eyed, and tough, but also romantic. Not a lot of those to be found.

Escaflowne
This show confused the hell out of me when I first saw it. (I was too young, admittedly.) But the mystic levels to it, and the relationship of Hiromi with the rest of the world, really stuck with me for some reason. It took several rewatchings for me to understand the story, to track everything. And you know what? That’s part of why I think I enjoyed it so much. It took time and processing and lots of re-examining of information for me to completely understand. But not everything needs to be spoon fed to kids. Sometimes, they need challenged. Especially kids like me, I figured it out and then I’d get bored and moved on. Shows like this helped engage them, and as long as there were elements they didn’t understand, they’d keep coming back to it until they did.

Cardcaptors
On the other end of the spectrum entirely… Yeah, I watched the dubbed version of this too. But you know, I’m not complaining, apparently there is some downright weird stuff in the original and I think I’m better remaining ignorant. XD But this hit me in some of the same ways as Sailor Moon and Madeline. It had the magic/mystic elements of Sailor Moon, but it had confronting personal issues and struggles that elementary school students start going through. It was also about figuring out how to do things your way, rather than what was expected of you, and for someone like me who tended to overthink, it actually showed me other ways to view the world. For Sakura, everything was seen through her emotions, an empathetic way of seeing the world and how to react to it. It was a lesson in other view points that really stuck with it…and along with Sailor Moon, cemented my love of celestial themes.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look through my childhood. I might come back and touch on some of these later–I think my hero-worship of Jupiter could be cool to dive into, for example, and you know, sibling exploits are always fun. But for now, I hope you had fun revisiting the 90’s and early 2000’s.


Review: MCU Up to Infinity War (Part 3)

Here we go, the last one! Last time, we touched on Phase 2 and the first of Phase 3, and the last of the sequels that aren’t part of the Avengers. Now to finish what’s left of Phase 3. Starting with the same base I started with last time: This is not the place for an in-depth, full out review of every movie. This is, however, where it seems to be the best place for me to pause and give some of my thoughts and feelings towards the series as the whole. Admittedly as part of a series, I have a lot of movies to get through! It will be somewhat character-focused, because as someone who wants to be entertained, I am highly dependent on the characters, it’s just a fact. And I hate the Guardians, so this is NOT the place for GG talk, you 80’s babies, I’m sorry. But I will try to otherwise be fair!

Civil War tore our team into pieces. Following any one of the pieces would lead to problems, as it wouldn’t be fair to the other and give unnecessary biases. So the next movie went completely separate from them, picking up a new hero: Dr. Strange. Now, Stephen Strange can go one of two ways. He can be too much like Tony, so cue lots of repetitive nonsense, and now we’ve got a new style of magic involved, one that is–by nature of the comic source–Asian in influence, and with him being white, this can cause problems. The studio…actually made it worse by casting most of the major “good” characters as white. This hung like a shadow over the film, tainting what is otherwise a fairly enjoyable movie. Strange is a jerk like Tony, but he’s less of an idiot than him, so it’s more watch this self-absorbed man being forced to care about someone outside of himself rather than taking responsibility for his lax behavior.

That being said, I love how they made his magic so different from Thor’s and Loki’s, or even Wanda’s powers, and it really adds layers to the powers of this world. At times, the environments seemed very much like Inception, which got kinda dizzy for me, but at the same time, it was cool. At least until the end when they turned into bad kindergarten drawings, but you know, only so much they could do. I felt the same way about Ant-Man when he just kept shrinking and shrinking, that sort of thing is just really hard to conceptualize.

…Ya’ll, I still haven’t seen Spider-Man: Homecoming. My usual streaming sources don’t have it because of how hard-core they are being about only certain services having it, my Contour doesn’t have it available to rent but only as a digital copy, and I’ll just be honest, I am waaay too Spidey-ed out to want to invest 25-30 bucks buying a movie I may not even like. This is sort of the pitfall they are going to run into with this character. I love watching him in the ensemble films, but I just don’t have the emotional energy to watch his solo films in theaters, and then if I don’t catch the super narrow window where I can rent it… I just don’t see it. But that being said, I’ve heard it was great, and whatever happened in it seems fairly contained. (There was apparently some Tony/Pepper drama that I missed, but it seems somewhat resolved by Infinity War, sooo relevance doesn’t seem high. Yet.)

So now we come to my least favorite of all the Avengers. I just have so many problems with Black Panther. He’s hardly ever written well, which is a problem shared with Thor, and probably how he got on to my dislike list. But then they just do things with his character that just…squick me out, like the betrothal aspect of the Dora (it’s a harem, ya’ll), and the way his relationship with Storm went down (which felt very….”these are two black characters from Africa, of course they should get married!” rather than anything I could invest in), and then his token goddess is BAST who is a predominantly FEMALE worship goddess… You can see why he started leaving a bad taste in my mouth. As did the fact that Wakonda had to be this huge-ass secret from the rest of the world, leaving the rest of Africa to carry on with a pretty huge economical burden, which I am not touching on in this review because that is a mess I don’t know all the details about.

Civil War gave us our first look at this character, and he was…surprisingly tolerable to me. I was very much on the fence, but because he was actually written well, and that fixed half of his problems, I gave the film a chance. And I’m honestly really glad I did. All the parts of his character that I hated got either removed or twisted to make so much more sense, and that includes the side characters and Wakonda as a whole (in fact, it was part of the major plot of the film). The women characters were built up, and allowed to do so much that I really wish it would carry over to the rest of the franchise. My only critique is I think it was released at the wrong time. I think we should have gotten Black Panther right after Civil War, or at least closer to it (like flipping it and Dr. Strange?) because Dr. Strange didn’t do a very serious death-fake-out, and while Black Panther did it, it was when trailers for Infinity War were already out with T’Challa yelling, “Get that man a shield!” Sorta…takes the wind out of their sails.

Whelp, last one. The first part of Infinity War. (Call the next Avengers movie untitled all you want, it is effectively Infinity War Part 2, I can see the elements that they pushed into this movie and Ant-Man and the Wasp to get around doing a two-parter.) I’m not sure what’s left to say about this movie that hasn’t already been said. I mean, I’ll be honest, I was cringing my way through 80% of the Guardians and Thor, with the remaining 20% being the big fight scenes, Gamora and Thanos, and Thor at the forge. But I don’t like those Marvel movies, so those sections weren’t for me. The rest of the movie was meant for the people like me, who came for the snarky, action movies.

I loved the dynamic between Wanda and the Vision, as well as with Rhodey and trying to bridge the gap between Steve’s team and the U.S. government. Steve coming in and taking charge filled us with relief, and Tony, Dr. Strange, and Peter Parker working together was a barrel of fun (especially the Aliens joke). The ending conflicts filled me with terror and heartbreak, and it was such a brave choice, I applaud them for it. I think Peter Quill was an idiot…but Peter is always an emotional idiot, so I’m not sure why people are shocked by it. I found the lack of Hawkeye until the end credit scene as a name drop to be a cop-out, though, and… I have strong feelings about Black Widow in this movie, but that’s going to have to be another blog post where I dissect some of the female agents of SHIELD. They barely nodded at this reunion between Natasha and Bruce, which was mildly infuriating. I also feel like this movie made Thor: Ragnorak completely pointless, and that just seems like a waste of everyone’s time.

Now as the last of Phase 3 wraps up, the MCU is at it’s big turning point. Most of the original Avengers cast wants out, due to either wanting to work on other projects or wanting away from iconic characters that are now typecasting what type of movies they can get work for or just an age thing, in addition to some of these characters’ just wrapping up what limited plot was available for them in the initial set-up. The plan (or so I’ve been told) is for Captain Marvel to be the new “center” of the MCU, and that’s…daring. Not because of a female anchor, I am all for that, but because of Carol Danvers. I love Carol, but she has two modes depending on who writes her–she’s either just as awesome as Steve, or she’s a self-righteous bitch. There is no in-between. So either everything is going to keep going on, full-steam ahead, or it’s going to fall apart.

For now, all we can do is wait and see.


Review: MCU Up to Infinity War (Part 2)

Alright, we are going to TRY and keep this from becoming a three parter. Last time, we touched on Phase 1, as well as most (and I emphasize most) of the sequels to those films. Now we’re on to the rest of the series, so lots of ground to cover. Starting with the same base I started with last time: This is not the place for an in-depth, full out review of every movie. This is, however, where it seems to be the best place for me to pause and give some of my thoughts and feelings towards the series as the whole. Admittedly as part of a series, I have a lot of movies to get through! It will be somewhat character-focused, because as someone who wants to be entertained, I am highly dependent on the characters, it’s just a fact. And I hate the Guardians, so this is NOT the place for GG talk, you 80’s babies, I’m sorry. But I will try to otherwise be fair!

We’ll just skip Iron Man 3 and Thor: Dark World, I already gave my impressions of those, though I will add a mention that at this point, those two franchises were starting to show their weak points. Not past the point of redeeming, but fraying. We were still lacking in strong female heroes, and we were relying purely on the momentum of the first Avengers movie to get our way to the next arc. And then we got Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Ya’ll. Black Widow and Agent 13 live!

Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, and Bucky Barnes are a joy to watch, there is no doubt about that. But we finally got introduced to two fairly powerful female agents: Sharon Carter in her debut, and she was minor but fun, and then Natasha was finally able to escape her Every Woman shell. We got to see an actual personality to her, her sense of priorities which are wildly different compared to Steve’s and even Sharon’s, because this Natasha is first and foremost an assassin who now works for the good guys. Finally, Natasha could stand on her own. Add in the welcome dynamic between all the boys, and it was like a breath of fresh air.

And then Joss wrecked it. I told you all, I don’t like him anymore, and you are about to find out why. Short answer: Avengers: Age of Ultron. On the more minor, personal level, he confirmed the Ultimate Hawkeye route, which you all know that I am so hardcore on the Bobbi/Clint train, this is a betrayal of the highest order. But even if you push past all of that… This movie was a mess, and it had a lot of potential. Ultron was a great villian, and for all the obstacles of Pietro and Wanda due to them technically being X-Men, they did a great job in-story of modifying them. Pietro’s death even hit me hard!

But it was so much just throwing one-liners at each other, some of them working and some of them not, and with massive plot holes. I guess they just relied on people watching all the side shows and everything else for some of the small things? But I barely kept up with any of it at this point besides knowing some of it existing, so I felt like I was constantly missing something. And Black Widow, who had just come out of Winter Soldier as a better character…was the love interest? And a kinda shitty one at that. (Traci called this, I was shocked that my canon ship somehow became the crack ship and her crack ship became canon. Still am.) This movie felt like a pretty big step backwards for me.

Ant-Man did not help matters. It felt like trying to combine Iron Man and Thor, so not only was I getting the “My main protagonist is an idiot, ugh,” issues, but also second-hand embarrassment like I got from the other. Add in that I don’t like bugs, and yeah. This felt like a wash for me. Not even the fact that, for once, we weren’t focusing on a romantic interest as a reason to change but instead a family including a cute daughter, was enough to pull it back. I was crossing my fingers and praying for something to try and save this universe for me.

And as much as it broke my heart… Captain America: Civil War did it. There weren’t just a bunch of snappy one-liners going on, but an actual heart happening. And yeah. It hand-waved some hard set facts–such as the fact that there is no way the governments were able to create those Accords that fast–in order to make it work. That had to have been something waiting in the wings for years. But I bet that’s still waiting to be fully played out. I love the idea of these heroes trying to wrestle with their accountability. I loved how letter of the law versus spirit of the law had to be discussed, and like real life, no one was able to stay calm about it. And even when they are finally all on the same page again… Tony Stark dropped the sarcasm and the guilt and the need to be the smartest guy in the room to admit that he couldn’t let this go, because of his mother. It was raw emotion, and I left the movie wanting to cry.

Thank God, at this point, the MCU started to pick up again. But darn it all, I’m not going to be able to cover it all here. So I guess we are going to get a third part to this mess, so look out for that this weekend when I wrap up the rest of Phase 3, at least that’s been released.

…You know, this gives me time to finally watch Spiderman: Homecoming. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing.


Review: MCU Up to Infinity War (Part 1)

This is not the place for an in-depth, full out review of every movie. This is, however, where it seems to be the best place for me to pause and give some of my thoughts and feelings towards the series as the whole. Admittedly as part of a series, I have a lot of movies to get through! It will be somewhat character-focused, because as someone who wants to be entertained, I am highly dependent on the characters, it’s just a fact. And I hate the Guardians, so this is NOT the place for GG talk, you 80’s babies, I’m sorry. But I will try to otherwise be fair!

Let’s go back to the beginning, ya’ll. The Hulk movies…were not the greatest start to this franchise. In fact, there were arguments that the first one isn’t even meant to be tied in with the series. I can see either way on this one, but you gotta admit, this was the early foundations for trying to figure out which way to approach the MCU. It is hard for me to have an opinion on these, they are so fragmented from the rest and the characters just aren’t consistent all across. I vaguely remember enjoying the second one with Ed Norton at least a little, and I wish we hadn’t lost all of it when he left. There were some shards there of something that could have been cool.

But the definite marked beginning of what we know as the MCU was with Iron Man. It was literally all we could ask for out of a Marvel movie. And it helped prove that if you film it and make it good, they will come! And honestly, I didn’t mind Iron Man 2 as much as other people seem to, in fact aside from addressing PTSD, I actually think Iron Man 3 is the weakest of the films. Tony is an idiot, this is a well established fact. I do think they’ve done an excellent job of trying to not only modernize it, because let’s be honest, Iron Man needed some serious help to appear like something of the current century, but also helping with some of the culturally insensitive areas. I do think there are issues with it going so hard-core to the Middle East and portraying them as an enemy, but it also tried to cushion that at least a little. Do I think it was enough? No. Also, Tony is still an idiot, and I cringe my way through some of his moments. But he is so brilliant and so much fun, I can’t help waiting for the next part.

I went into the MCU with two least-favorite Avengers. And Thor was the second-least-favorite, so his movie coming next was definitely my make-or-break with the series. Again, I’m the opposite of normal people. Most people don’t like how serious the first two Thor movies are, and the last one is usually the hand-over-fist favorite. I’m the other way around. Thor and Thor: Dark World were amazing in my opinion. I laughed without feeling like I was dealing with a big blonde idiot with the power of a god, though sometimes I still had second-hand embarrassment issues. And then the third movie was one giant second-hand embarrassment issue at times. Thor has gone the way of the goofy doof from the first two movies, and this brings me great personal pain.

Mostly, the Thor movies provided me with my favorite side-characters. Like so many girls my age, I love Loki, if only because of what crazy amount of character they’ve given him. But I also love Sif, who represents so much to me personally, and feel like she got gipped. (I understand, Jamie Alexander moved on and has a tricky schedule for filming, still not helping!) And of course, for a short scene, we got the premier of my favorite Avenger of all under normal circumstances: Hawkeye. There is a story about the three of us sitting on a sofa, because like hell was I going through this pain fest on my own if the movie was bad, Aubrey was trying to defend herself from Tsuki who was still young and ornery at the time. And we see Barton get the bow. And I lost it. Much to the confusion of Traci and Aubrey, who had no idea who Hawkeye was. We had to pause and rewind.

Captain America remains Aubrey’s favorite of the films to my knowledge, and you know, I can see why. This was almost the perfect movie. (Howard was a little annoying and not enough women, but otherwise, perfect movie.) And while I went in with this boot-laced, stick up his butt image of Steve Rogers in my head, Chris Evans really helped me relate to this figure from comic book history so much better. He’s part of why I was able to feel such outrage during the Hydra snafu that happened a couple years ago (that I’m still mad about), because I now care about this character and I am invested. Chris really helped a lot of people who wouldn’t normally be able to get into comics find something to connect to…and he has a lot of fun, and you can tell. I’m going to miss him. (I’ll get to the sequels further on in this conversation.)

Now we hit the first Avengers movie. Back then, I still liked Joss Whedon…my change of heart will become apparent as we go. But we got to bring all these strong characters together, which means interactions and conflicts as different priorities mix. It soft reset Hulk which I think is for the best because Mark Ruffalo has done some great things with Bruce Banner that have helped modernize him and he has some great chemistry with the rest of the cast. He really brings the sense of humanity to the Hulk that makes him less ridiculous of a character. It brought in some of these side characters we’ve gotten glimpses or short interactions with to help show that hey, us normal people had things handled. We got to see this team come together…and we loved every second of it. I cheered, I wanted to put Tony and Steve in a get-along shirt, I snorted in laughter, it was a great film.

And yet, this is also where some of the big, glaring holes in the MCU started showing. The only female of the original core group called the Avengers is Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow, which puts the character in a sucky spot that she’s been in the comics for years too. She has to be not only Every Woman, but Every Spy, Every Assassin… They share the last one a little with Hawkeye this time, but now we have a new problem. This is where the costume reflected the decision right away that we were going Ultimate Hawkeye. And that’s a tricky spot to be in considering what happens with him, not to mention that aside from some stuff at the end, we didn’t get to see any of Clint’s personality due to the story construction, so Hawkeye fans (including Jeremy Renner, if I understand correctly) were vastly disappointed, and female fans continued to feel under represented.

Whether or not those holes will be addressed… Well, look out for Part 2.


Review: Cloak and Dagger Season 1

I swore off the television/Netflix side of the MCU after Agents of SHIELD went down the Bobbi/Hunter road. It was the nail in the coffin for me, partly because they kept bending if not outright breaking their own rules for Rule of Cool. I mean, if Bobbi is good enough to be undercover at HYDRA forever, with no mention of her being former SHIELD that converted, then it’s really dumb to have her get caught a few episodes later by a HYDRA plant within SHIELD. (Not to mention my inner shipper noped out. When Bobbi and Hunter were making tentative steps to become friends after their ugly divorce, I was fine, but then they rekindled their romance and I was just…done with it.)

But Cloak and Dagger have always been a soft spot for me. They used to make guest appearances in X-Men fanfics as filler characters, usually as kids that Rogue and Remy had in class or on trips, and when I started messing around with the MCU for RP purposes, I loved getting to use them as future Avengers. I mean, there’s so many ways that they as characters could go wrong, and there is such inconsistency with them in the comics, that doing them right has always been something I wanted to see. So when I heard that they were getting a series on Freeform, as soon as I knew what the time and days were going to be, I set up my DVR to make them my weekend splurge while I ate brunch.

And I gotta say, I don’t regret it at all.

They managed to make some much needed modernization to the premise. Rather than making them experiments or mutants, both of them usually homeless, they instead decided to focus on more modern (and less stereotypical) living situations. Tandy, rather than being straight homeless, instead uses an abandoned church as a halfway house of sorts rather than live with her mother’s problems, and possible questions as Tandy is an established thief by this point. Tyrone lives in a nicer part of New Orleans, though he grew up in a poorer area before the death of his brother. He attends a Catholic school, where he is part of the championship basketball team, and he tries to keep his head down. Their powers were caused by an accident that cost Tandy her father and Tyrone his brother (sorta), though the exact specifics of what caused the change are still unknown, even at the end of the first season.

Speaking of New Orleans, oh my God. I really wasn’t sure how I felt about the series being set there. I mean, it helps the show have some separation from events like the Invasion and the Spider-Man conflicts, not to mention the events of Infinity War, and that gives the series a lot of wiggle room. But it was also only very vaguely tied to the world as a whole till towards the very end, which for fans like me can be annoying. But then they started to weave the culture of voodoo, of Mardi Gras celebrations, of the division between the wards, and the rich history of the city itself. And I was instantly sold, especially as they began to tie in with this concept of the Divine Pairing. It was some brilliant writing and creative decisions. My only complaint is we don’t see as much of what we, culturally, associate with New Orleans, but you know, they wanted the focus on the characters, so I can respect that.

For the main characters, I loved what the two actors brought to Tandy and Tyrone. There were times where they both felt a little flat to me, but then they didn’t have hardly any moments of levity so the flatness was probably caused because we saw pretty much the normal and then the drama/anger, with nothing on the other end of the spectrum. I can’t say I miss it, though, because the story was so intense. I also liked how they balanced power, and how the characters had to discover those powers. Towards the end, I wished we saw more of how Tandy was figuring out her hope vision like she was, but I was also so happy that Cloak finally ate somebody and what that means for season two, I instantly forgave it. (…I don’t know WHY I love that aspect of his character, okay? I just do.)

One element that really modernized the series is the elements of what happened to Tyrone’s brother and where Tandy’s father worked. Racial tensions and police violence/prejudice has always been an issue, but it’s definitely gotten worse or at least we’re acknowledging that it is a bad thing and needs changed. Having Tyrone, who has moved out of the gang’s territories, still have to be afraid of police and his history with them really adds some needed depth to the character. As for Tandy, we get questions of environmental concerns while continuing to have our way of life, the balance of power, and where is our civic responsibility and where does it become a matter for something bigger than us? She also addresses domestic violence, and at least a little on the violence against women. Both also tap into how do teenagers deal with grief and pressure.

One thing I do have to harp on, at least a little. I think too much focus was put on Tandy and her mother wanting to go back to their rich, opulent life style. They tried to back track a few times and have Tandy focus on the loss of her father, but it kinda got undercut by her focus on money. I mean, this could be a character flaw, but I don’t think there was a strong enough comparable flaw in Tyrone to make it buyable in Tandy. I also wish they had focused a little more on the fact Tandy was assaulted, defended herself before she was gang raped (if I’m remembering the episode right), and yet was told that it was considered even basically because they weren’t going to arrest the boy who attacked her after she agreed to talk to police. This is a huge thing! I wish it was discussed more, for the sake of the teenage girls watching the show if nothing else.

My last note is on side characters. They weren’t the focus of the series, yay, but I loved to like some and hate others, so they served their purposes well. I wish we’d had a little more time with the actual head of Roxxon if only because I wanted more info about what they were digging for, but I’m hoping those answers will come up in season 2 despite what happened to the guy. Similarly, I was super iffy on O’Reilly’s boyfriend and was so sure he was working for the dirty cop until the end, so there definitely could have been some more work done to make us sure that we are supposed to like him and be as devastated by his death as O’Reilly. (Who, btw, I am super excited to see what happened to her in season 2 and what it’s going to be like for Cloak and Dagger to fight against her…if they are fighting against her.)

Overall, this series was definitely amazing. I wish they hadn’t tied it to Iron Fist via O’Reilly and Misty being best friends, but eh. I can shoulder aside my issues with that particular part of the MCU, and I can hope to see some more great things and ties to the rest of the overall universe. I definitely hope Cloak and Dagger continues to have several seasons, and doesn’t go off the rails like some of their compatriots.


Review: Don’t Buy Star Stable Online

I am actually even deeper in this wagon than Ginny, but I was willing to hold stuff up until I had my Nuzlocke up to replace it. (Also, since there has been a minor site reconstruction as a result, it seemed like a good post to come back with, more on that next week.)

As I’m sure you all are aware of, I have gotten very disenchanted with SSO (Star Stable Online) since I originally started playing. Heck, I was the one who got Ginny involved. I found the game originally in under-grad, and then once I graduated, I found an ad, remembered how much fun it was, and bought the game. Ginny getting involved was an organic part of the process–I’m a casual, story-driven gamer, she is much more involved than I am in gaming mechanics but pretty much the same way, it was something fun we could do together.

The purchase of the game should have been our first red flag. It always took me two or three tries to get any kind of transaction to take, and Ginny had even worse luck. I think part of offering a game on an international level is being able to function in that country for purchases. It was a pain in the ass, to put it mildly, and I had to stay on their tails to get it resolved if I made the purchase during the week. If I made it during the weekend (you know, when most of their specials were going on?), I was on my own.

But we got it purchased, and for a while, we had fun. There were regular story updates, even if some of it was really weird, and Ginny and I had a game we could play together. We even started making the avatar into different personas, and then they turned into characters of their own. We admittedly got a little lost in what quest we had to do to keep going at one point–both of us only had so much time and energy in a day, especially with me working full-time, and the game’s story isn’t exactly laid out in a logical fashion. (Not to mention, it’s front-loaded as all get out. Like way more than any kid’s game should ever be. The crazy insanity of Zelda games is in the middle/end, people, not the beginning!)

Cue the second problem with the game, which I’ve ranted about before (not that it matters now). Nothing matches. Like, even things that belong to the same set don’t match. It’s bizarre and painful. I don’t know if they aren’t keep swabs, or if they don’t have someone on staff who is like me and can tell if colors are more than two or three shades off by hairs. (I’m terrifying.) Just, way to drive me nuts. Not enough to drive me from the game.

The big turning point for me was when the intro to the game changed (which was about when Moorland got its makeover and Josh changed). Suddenly this goal that the character had, as weak as it was, to attend this special academy (I’ve lost the name to time) was gone. And with it, I felt like we lost a lot of drive as a character. Why were we at this camp that was not very camp like? How could we be Aideen reborn when nothing let us actually be a hero? To make matters worse, story updates started dying out. Instead, it was frequently special events and new horses being announced, maybe a new area, but nothing was being resolved.

I thought maybe if we were patient, it would get better. They would dangle something in front of me–like something advancing what happened with Marley and his brothers and the Baroness…only to get something about horsemanship so appallingly wrong that I spent HOURS afterwards ranting at Ginny about it. And that’s with me giving them enough rope to hang themselves with. In addition to that, we discovered that story we had already completed was now changing, with no way for us to replay it. So sometimes when a character seemed out of whack to us, it was because we were playing with the original personality rather than the blandness that exists now.

By this point, I am disillusioned. Like, it had been fun originally to sort of mock the ridiculousness of some of the scenarios, but now I was looking at them from a writer’s stand point. And I was disturbed. As writers, we have a certain level of responsibility. Not a lot, but enough. Keeping the story straight and logical is part of it. So is showing civic responsibility. Giving a young teenager kerosene and a match? Or carrying a torch on horseback across the country side? Not so much. And I can’t even begin to touch on all the plot holes, we’d be here all day.

The game became a giant stress ball of disappointment to me. And that was the exact opposite side of the relaxing activity with Ginny that it was supposed to be. I had to stop playing to prevent myself from bursting into tears on a regular basis as each update, I was only going to be disappointed again. I thought maybe, maybe there was just something going on behind the scenes. Give it five years, and I could come back and it would be my game again. I hoped. If nothing else, it gave me more time to focus on my own stuff, and to start designing a dream-game with Ginny rather than playing a game that wasn’t fun anymore.

But now there’s the latest bomb dropped. See, I was what is referred to as a lifetime Star Rider. It means I shelled out twice (if not three times) as much as what I would ever pay on a video game in order to never have to buy it again, and that’s just for the game, not the extra Star Coin packages I would buy for myself around the holidays. This is versus their subscription rates, which go for varying amounts of time and rates.

Except Lifetime doesn’t mean lifetime, apparently. Instead of deactivating free players who have never paid for the game ever and have had accounts for years, they instead free up server space by deleting accounts that haven’t logged on in two years. Including Lifetime.

Ya’ll, I don’t know how to even explain to you how I feel about this game. I guess because at this point, I am completely apathetic. I found what I thought was a fun, inviting game for a casual player that didn’t require me to have five to six friends who also played. Instead, it turned into a money-grabbing, greedy corporation that I can no longer support in any way.

My SSO Diaries and other reviews will be up until Sunday, when I will be back with another blog post, and I’ll be taking those down. As much as I love the traffic they bring me, and get all nostalgic sometimes, I just can’t continue to offer free publicity for a game that I don’t think is worth the time or money to play.

(But don’t worry if you are super attached to Misty. She has been revamped into a new character that is much more rounded, and has a lot more personality. I’m hoping for Ginny and I to start a new blog for her and the rest of her friends/world in 2019.)


Review: Mistress of Thieves

Hey everyone, sorry there was a bit of a delay on this one. (Check out my social media for the full story.) I was a little unsure where to start in the Kindle Store, to which the answer is not on the app if you are looking for the self-published section, but I stumbled upon this one after a lot of digging among the traditionally-published crowd, and thought it was worth a shot!

In Mistress of Thieves by Carrie Summers, Myrrh is an up-and-coming freelance thief who’s lost her only true friend. The city guards finally captured her mentor, an aging rogue and the closest thing she had to a family. He’s dead now. She’ll be next if she doesn’t figure out who betrayed him. As she begins her search, she’s double-crossed by a fellow freelancer and sold out to a shadowy new crime syndicate. With a sack over her head and wrists tightly bound, she’s delivered to the lair of the syndicate’s boss, a man named Glint. Certain he intends to kill her, Myrrh is surprised to learn that he has other plans. An unrepentant scoundrel, Glint is as charismatic as he is complex. And he has information about her mentor’s disappearance that will upend everything she thought she knew about the city’s underworld.

So this was a surprising amount of fun! It seemed like it was going to be super dark and grim, but the writing found ways of inserting some humor that made me grin without making the main character an idiot–actually, she’s rather brilliant, if impulsive at times. The second person point of view was sort of iffy for me, I don’t particularly like it, but it was done well enough that you eventually tune it out. It wasn’t as strongly fantasy as my usual taste, but there was enough that I can see how it ended up in this section rather than anywhere else.

The characters’ backstories were well-done, as was the balance of the cast. Myrrh was fun to follow, though I’m disappointed we didn’t learn her real name yet. Considering the crap that went down, I think if she had told Glint her real name, it could have had a deeper emotional wound…but the writer might also be saving that for later, so you know, I’m okay with it. Nab was friggin’ awesome. I was like, “Oh, little kid to look after, the cute bait.” And then he actually appeared and was a smart brat and I was like, “Okay, not what I expected, but BETTER!” I love realistic kids, especially when Myrrh gave it right back at him. Glint’s backstory was a lot…smaller I guess?…in terms of scale than I was expecting, but it worked, and I totally get it if the world is meant to stay focused here.

The romance was actually done well. It wasn’t something that started in the story, it felt organic in terms of how it built, and when the plot twist is revealed, it added another stab to the heart without having gone to super cliche levels. I also didn’t feel like it took over the story, and it didn’t completely eat up Myrrh’s goals. That thrills me to death. In fact, I think it hurt Glint more than it did Myrrh, which is a nice role reversal. In a similar vein, the female characters were more plentiful than usually shown in thieves’ guild type settings, and I loved the variety. We had more than just the geisha assassin (as the trope is called) and the girl thief, and what we saw was fun. I hope we see more of them.

My only complaint is so minor, and relates entirely to the fact I bought the book on Kindle. The large city that the book was set in was broken down by districts, bridges, and a river. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the layout right in my head (it’s not numerical like you’d think!), and that left to me getting a little confused. Now, Tamora Pierce’s Provost Dog series is very similar for the first two books, and I had less of a problem. That’s because I own physical copies, and it was a lot easier for me to toggle to the map in the front. The Kindle version of Mistress of Thieves not only sticks the map in a kinda weird spot, but I don’t have a Kindle-Kindle, I use my Android phone (which is not the biggest thing ever), so setting bookmarks sucks. As a result, it was halfway useless to me as a reference.

This was a fast but fun read that I enjoyed. It kept the plot simple without getting really convoluted or losing itself down subplots, and it kept true to its characters, even if that meant the ending wasn’t your typical Happily Ever After. Overall, I highly recommend it, and I hope the sequel that comes out next week is just as good!

…Just get the physical copy. 😛


Review: Criminal Minds Season 13 Episode 17

I have discovered something, the past couple years. Namely, that I am incapable of watching and keeping up with a show for an entire season. So that leaves me with limited options. Either I binge the season once it’s over, which is a waste of a weekend if I have a full weekend to spare, or I find a show that doesn’t require me to see every single episode of what’s going on, without getting completely episodic. Criminal Minds is a perfect example of the latter.

That being said, they made a grave mistake. The episode last week was in my home town. This is going to get ugly.

(Note: This is not a serious review of the show as a whole, it’s too long and much like Law and Order: SVU, I have mixed feelings on later seasons. I might do it as a series or something at some point, but not right now.)

So I didn’t even make it three minutes in. The first victim pulled up to his house, and I was like, “Okay, I might buy there being a house like that on the north side of Guymon. Maybe. But where do you think we have that many trees?” Fun fact: the Panhandle has SOME trees, but it’s mostly in residential areas, and between the drought and ice storms, a lot of those were dead and chopped down by the city.

…The clown under the bed did scare the crap out of me, not gonna lie.

I’m curious where the BAU flew INTO. There isn’t an airport in Guymon, the closest they could get is either Liberal (doubtful) or Amarillo (more likely), and either way, you are in the car for at least another 45 minutes or two hours. But we skip that, “who doesn’t have an airport, pbbbth…”

We see an overview shot of Guymon, and it’s this neatly spaced out grid, small town, fancy admin-type building, and I’m like, “Uh, no.” I based Imyl off of Guymon, okay, and it is STILL too neatly laid out, I am not even joking. Guymon is an illogical sprawl of a place, and Main Street is very tightly packed in terms of space…sort of. (Okay, the big municipal building is on a block by itself, but it is SOLID BRICK, none of this fancy molding.) What boggled me the most though, was the literal street. Guymon is famous (or infamous) for Main Street being brick. Not pavement, not any type of concrete. Brick.

It’s becoming painfully obvious that no one has done their research, here.

The inside of the police station and the hospital got a pass, I’ve never been in one and the other was close enough. But then we get the second victims. Another nice house. More trees. I’m sorry, maybe I’m biased because I (literally) grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Guymon, but come on! We are not that well off!

Finally, it’s winding down. They are getting enough clues, we are seeing bits of our villains–yes, clowns, circus life fell apart. Okay, fine. I’m even going in my head, “I can think of a couple of fairs, they could maybe get work there?” But nope. We go…rodeo? I’m sorry, someone actually thinks rodeo clowns are actually clowns? Oh honey, no. No, no, no. Trust me, they are not the same thing at all, and being a good clown in no way preps you for what a rodeo clown does. Rodeo clowns are, predominantly, bull wranglers on the ground. Just bad, bad, bad, bad. Someone is going to get hurt.

But we’re going to a rodeo! Guymon has one of the largest outdoor rodeo arenas in the country, Pioneer Days literally is a HUGE DEAL in Guymon (we haven’t seen hide or hair of it, but I will give them leeway), and it goes on for a full week if not longer depending on slack, surely this will be right.

We go to this piddly little arena that I swear could barely host my play-days. Just, just, what is this, I don’t even! And underground rodeo, whaaa? I’ve never heard of this. People hosting roping events for some cash or running play-days, sure, but no one pretends these are rodeos. There’s no point when there’s a huge friggin’ rodeo every year! Color me boggled. (Ginny, btw, was laughing at me by this point.)

At this point, I was very obviously done. Did the ending make me sniffle? Of course it did. But I didn’t see anything really tying it to Guymon, and they definitely didn’t do their research beyond some cursory scans for stuff they could use in the show.

If nothing else, this really disenchanted me with the newer seasons. I swear, the older ones weren’t this dumb. Or at least I hope they weren’t.


Review: Love Never Dies

This is joining, “She Slays Monsters,” as a sort of weird review, but I’m been obsessing, so here we go. Note I’ve listened to the original cast recording, and watched the Australian production, soooo. I have opinions.

Love Never Dies picks up ten years after the events of The Phantom of the Opera. Still alive, Eric has relocated to Coney Island with Madame Giry and Meg, running a carnival/side show titled Phantasma. But he is unable to forget Christine, and when opportunity comes, he brings her to his new home. But both Eric and Christine have a secret they are carrying that will change the lives of Madame Giry, Meg, Raoul, and Christine’s son, Gustav. Things aren’t quite settled yet, and Christine will have to chose again…and face the consequences.

People have very strong feelings about Phantom. Some can’t tolerate even the first five minutes of this musical. And you know, I see their point when I listen to the original arrangement. It dragged, badly, with tons of chorus numbers, it made Madame Giry into a monster, confirming that Eric is too violent to deserve a happy ending, and it kept spoiling the ending! Even if people can stand Phantom (and some can’t compared to the book), the sequel tends to give them hives.

That being said, Love Never Dies was rearranged at one point, easing the plot issues, and it also helped make Eric more approachable. Are there still holes? Oh yeah, plus new ones. They cut out important information, such as that Eric has been helping Meg learn to sing (which explains why she is not just dancing anymore), and it emphasized how she was trying to get the Phantom’s attention at her mother’s urging. The production I watched also didn’t have Meg dancing enough, so that was a bad casting call I think, since the character is a trained ballet dancer and would retain at least some skill. Overall though, the restructuring of the musical made it something that those who love the musical of Phantom can appreciate too. Even the original writers and composers agreed that it was better, so proof that editing is important!

The setting of Coney Island was…both fitting and weird? It’s a very obvious place for Eric to hide, in a side show and carnival type setting. It’s somewhere he is familiar with from his childhood and he can blend in there easily. Madame Giry and Meg are the oddballs as far as fitting there, and it takes a lot of plot wrangling to get Christine and Raoul there for the meeting of all the players. That being said, I can’t think of anywhere else this could be set, so by process of elimination, it must be the best place for it. I felt like the music at least helped with the contrast, the songs Meg sang, particular “Bathing Beauty,” what Madame called vaudeville trash in the original and made me snort in laughter, helped contrast with Christine’s opera, showing just how far they’d fallen/shifted around.

Oh, characters. I feel like Raoul pulled a 180, and whether or not it makes sense…sort depends on your experience with the prequel. I had to watch it a couple of times and THINK about it, and realized that what happened was a disillusionment. Raoul believed himself in love with Christine (when he was just infatuated), believed himself to be this big hero (because he was the society favorite between him and Eric), and even won in the end…only to realize he didn’t love her, he wasn’t ever going to be as important as Christine, and so he forced himself to keep winning. Christine, in return, finds herself in a trap of her own making. She went with the society choice, especially considering how intense and violent Eric can be, only to have it all fall apart underneath her and she’s trying desperately to keep it all together.

Eric of course is the defeated villain, but rather than focusing on revenge, he still wants his original goal–Christine. Madame Giry is trying to recoup what she has lost by manipulating her daughter, and Meg… Meg fell for it and can no longer stand herself, so she wants Eric to rescue her like she thinks he rescued Christine from being another girl in the chorus, not realizing Christine’s talent and heart aren’t something that can be learned. It  makes the ending very bittersweet for everyone. As for new characters, the trio of “barkers” makes less sense in the rearrangement than it did in the original, and overall Gustav is very bland, but considering the fact he’s ten, I am betting there is some limitation there.

So what about the plot? Well, it’s pretty straight forward, not a lot of surprises. Even when you cut the spoiler-ridden stuff out of the original scripts, you figure out a lot of it before it happens. I do like the conflict that is shown between Raoul and Eric, and how it shows how time has affected these characters–Raoul is still trying to be the hero and is aggressive in stance and words, but Eric is more willing to let his words fight rather than physically engage until it is defensive. And Meg’s little bit before Christine performs really helps highlight how defeated she is. The ending drags though, even when cut. I honestly think it still needed work to pare it down.

Overall, I think this musical can be watched. Do you have to watch and make sure what version is being performed? Oh yeah. But if it’s the Australian rearrangement, I highly recommend at least trying it if you liked Phantom of the Opera as a musical. It is entertaining, and if nothing else, as a writer it’s a good example of what editing can do to change how a story is presented.