Infinity War: A Satire

This is going to go into huge spoilers for the film “Avengers: Infinity War” if you haven’t seen it and don’t want spoilers. Go away for now.

 

Seriously, you’ll want to get lost.

 

Scram.

 

Still here?

 

‘Kay.

So, Infinity War was a pleasant surprise. Not the least of which it was rated 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, which for a superhero film by Marvel, is fairly low. I expected a popcorn action blockbuster with little heart. Just a temporary sweetness that quickly subsides like my low-carb shortbread. One of my worries about the film was that it would play it safe, like Marvel tends to. That means that they would kill as few characters as possible, lower the violence to killing or random robots or mutants (well, they did kinda stock to that here), and generally keep it a PG rated film where you go home happy in knowing your characters are safe and secure.

This did not happen lol.

Indeed, Infinity War occurred as it does in the comics, comics I do not read, and so I was shocked and appalled when the main villain, Thanos, won. Thanos, having come from a planet that got destroyed through overpopulation, seems to think that the Universe could benefit from his desire to decimate half the universe. In order to do so, he has to collect all the cosmic gems that go into his “Infinity Gauntlet”, which lets him wield the power of the stones to do anything he wants. Now again I stress, Thanos won. What ended up happening was a horrific set of scenes without any music where people just started disappearing into dust. Civilians, superheroes, everyone alike. In most cases the people simply didn’t know what was going on; however, in Spider-Man’s case his death for some reason takes several seconds longer than the other characters. This lets him express a boyish fear to Tony Stark as he slowly passes to dust. The film ends with Thanos retiring to a hut looking sad for doing what he figured he had to do. Credits roll.

This places the film, taken alone, in the rare literary genre of “satire”. Satires really interest me as stories. Compared to the four great stories of literary history “comedy, romance, tragedy, and satire” – satire is the odd man out. The Ghost of Christmas Past, the creepy uncle no one talks about, take your pick. Satire is depressing and frankly, not that enjoyable! What defines the difference of satire to the other stories is that the characters go down a destructive path leading to disaster – but unlike a tragedy – there is no hope for the future. Now, Marvel probably will have another big Avengers film where somehow Thanos’ process is reversed, everyone comes back alive, yay. However, we can’t assume that despite the large contracts given out to many of the ‘dead’ superheroes, that they’ll all make it back.

It’s a bold move. Satires are not what the blockbuster audience is used to and it doesn’t provide the rewarding dopamine burst of “happy” to your brain cells like a more uplifting film would. I, myself, feel the same way with films that have dark and near-hopeless endings. A few come to mind, “Logan” which came out last year was absolutely fantastic but it ends as a tragedy. I bought Logan…It’s still shrink-wrapped, and it will be for quite some time, because I know how sad I’ll feel at the end of it. The feel is sadness, and when you have some moments to kick back with a movie – I don’t know about you – but a movie that will make me sad usually doesn’t come first to mind!

So, if we define Infinity War as a satire then what is the point of it all? I actually think it teaches a pretty good lesson that isn’t taught in life much anymore: failure. Failure happens, we’re not always going to win. Look, I personally have no shortage of self-confidence, in fact admittedly I struggle with having too much confidence and fight daily against it becoming arrogance. When you win or are lucky all the time you get complacent, feel entitled, and become stubborn and set in your ways. Failure, like a forest fire, burns but with that “burn” comes the opportunity for learning and regrowth. I’ve come to accept some failure in my life as a good thing, it humbles me and helps me think and ground myself back in reality.

The elephant in the room is that we know this satire won’t last. Soon enough the superheroes will be super and find a way to partially restore the damage Thanos has done. However, until that happens – which is likely in a few years – we can enjoy the bold move Marvel took with this film.

BATTLETECH – First Impressions Review

BATTLETECH, a turn-based tactics strategy game released this week, was a game I had pre-ordered and been waiting for with a lot of excitement. The game was developed by the original creator of Battletech/MechWarrior Jordan Weisman. Weisman, still spry in his late 50s, wanted to create a computer game that mimicked the original board game he created in 1980.

My thoughts on Battletech so far as I write this are complicated. Do I enjoy the game? Absolutely, I’m having a blast so far and it’s definitely worth the money. The reviews are glowing so I’m not the only person feeling this way. Across the board the opinion is that Weisman has delivered a magnum opus, a carefully crafted, and definitive, MechWarrior experience.

However, there are a few glaring issues when it comes to reviewing the game – even a first impressions review such as this. It comes down to the word “accessibility“. BATTLETECH is a very complicated, deep game, and it has a gigantic if not outright cruel, learning curve for those unitiated to the Battletech universe. The game’s tutorial section, a small 5 minute interlude to the campaign, teaches you only the basic mechanics of how to play the game: move, shoot, jump. It doesn’t teach you anything else and for the unitiated, given the difficulty of the first mission, I could see people getting frustrated and giving up on the game immediately!

Accessibility...See, the game assumes you know, what Matt knows. Matt has been playing MechWarrior games since he was 14 years old. I know when my mech has a “LRM 15, AC 2, SRM 5” exactly what those mean. They represent different weapons to be used in very specific situations (and not used in many others). I as a long time player, know when and how to use those weapons and it’s very comforting, like slipping my hands into an old glove, as I play. But the game teaches the new person absolutely nothing about those weapons. In this game wasting ammo is a big deal and you will not only waste ammo but overheat your Mech by shooting all your weapons at once. I think many new players will get caught doing that: and they’ll pay for it dearly. The game is TOUGH, I knew what I was doing and I still failed the first mission the first time I did it.

Additionally, the Battletech universe has long-established the Mechs that exist in it. Part of the fun for established players is using, and fighting, Mechs developed way back in the early 1980s and through the 1990s, dozens of popular chassis exist. The problem with this is when Matt encounters a Catapult Mech, I’ll know to bum rush it right away, knock it to the ground, then target its critically-weak cockpit and fry the pilot alive with my lasers or autocannons. If I encounter a Clint, which I did, I will immediately target his left arm because it holds a very dangerous PPC cannon. I will defang it, then destroy the rest of it at will.

But see what happened there? It was my knowledge of those Mech types gained over 20 years with this franchise that allowed me to beat them. If you think this game is going to tell you that Clint has a PPC on his arm or that the Catapult is only good at long ranges and has a weak cockpit, you’d be wrong. As I alluded to earlier, this is a very difficult game and I think it would border on unforgiving for new players. This carries on in the game once you get to the point where you have to outfit your Mechs with equipment and weapons. This is a tough process because the game doesn’t hold your hand. You need to balance the amount of heat sinks with the various weapons but you’re not going to know what heat those weapons generate unless you know the universe of MechWarrior well like I do. You’re not going to know why you need to stack weapons in your chest and shoulders, not your arms. New players won’t know why they need to keep ammunition dispersed in the vitals of their Mech.

Lastly, and unrelated to stuff above. The game seems to have poor performance. My gaming PC runs red hot playing the game only on the medium setting and to be honest the graphics aren’t that great. I am surprised and disappointed the game so stresses my system for mediocre results whereas other games I’ve played with way better graphics (World of Warships, Resident Evil 7) do not tax my system nearly as much.

So my verdict at first glance? BATTLETECH is a hard-core experience that rewards long time fans with what they want. We have our old Mechs and tech/weapons we grew up with, it’s familiar, just in a new type of game with a new story. However, the game is punishing to newcomers and may dissuade new gamers from the Battletech universe entirely, which would be a tragedy for how good these games are with their original designer still proudly helming the ship 38 years since its creation. I’d give Battletech a “B+” grade on first glance.

 

Imminent Memories Is In Print!

My first book, my passion project, is completed! I am so happy to have finished this journey, it was amazingly fluid at times and also really trying at certain points. I had to stretch my mind over five genres including some subject matter that disturbed me to write about. It’s one thing watching it – it’s another putting the “pen to paper” yourself. How Stephen King remains sane after all these years I do not know.

In the end it came together fast. On Sunday April 15th I blew out my ankle on the best run of my life and it will be a long time to recover. To address that frustration or quasi-depression in being robbed of my chance of running glory (I was on a 24 minute pace that morning…A pace that would have won me the 5KM outright that I was training for) I pushed through in getting this blog up and running and also to finish Imminent Memories. The book is a collection of 5 short stories and probably most reflects the Netflix series “Black Mirror”. Though, I did not see Black Mirror until the book was complete, the tone and styles are somewhat similar. Themes I address are artificial intelligence, politics, warfare, digital immortality, and more.

The book is for sale online here: http://www.blurb.com/b/8689353-imminent-memories

A short preview can be found below.

Thanks for your support!

P.S. I’m totally geeking out over getting my own ISBN number.

 

Johnny Cash – “Hurt”

“What have I become, my sweetest friend?” – Johnny Cash, “Hurt”.

I said I’d be reviewing “whatever” here on this blog. That could be any media but a reoccurring theme for non-films (ok, most of them too) is that it needs to be something that makes me think and become reflective. Johnny Cash’s song “Hurt” recorded in 2002 slowly before his death is one such song. It makes me think, it has every time I’ve heard it since it came out, and I had to talk about it.

The song itself is a cover of Trent Reznor’s song, which you can find on YouTube. Passionate and disturbing in a very different way, I would actually not recommend looking it up so the Cash version is the one that sticks in your mind. The trick to the emotive power of this song is that you have to understand where Johnny Cash was in his life. This is a man who enjoyed huge fame, wealth, accolades, and women. Yet, in so many ways he messed up his private life.

He was at various points a womanizing cheater, a drug addict, he attempted suicide, he dealt with a messy divorce, he even started a forest fire that almost killed him while in a drug induced malaise. He was charged with several misdemeanors (though he never did any hard time).

At the point when “Hurt” was released Johnny Cash was only a year away from his death. His wife June was to pass only four months before he did in 2003. This was a man who knew that the Reaper was not far away. He could see the vultures start circling overhead and with so little to look forward to – it was time to look back.

The voice we hear is subtle yet emotional. Cash does not ‘over sing’ the lyrics but there is a tremble in his voice that carries through the entire song and is more noticeable during the chorus. I would like to say his voice aged like “fine wine” but that would be a clich√©. While I think his voice is great for the song, there’s a sense of weakness. It’s as if it saps the energy (and positivity) of the listener. We’re sharing an experience with this man though and I believe that empathy, if we feel it, shows our humanity.

Let’s break down some lyrics I think are especially important:

“And you could have it all, my empire of dirt, I will let you down, I will make you hurt.” Going off nothing solid here I think Johnny Cash is thinking back to the “empire” he built as a star but that it meant nothing for the time he spent away from his children and the destroyed relationships his career left in his wake.

“I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel, I focused on the pain, the only thing that’s real. The needle tears a hole, the old familiar sting.” Here I think the connections are more concrete. I can’t believe Cash would have thought of anything but his drug use and suicide during this time. Honestly, I think that type of reflection would take a lot of courage for him to do. This period for him must have been dark and shameful in retrospect. Like a blot on his soul he cannot purge and is making an attempt to resolve.

“I wear this crown of thorns, upon my liar’s chair, full of broken thoughts, I cannot repair.” The “crown of thorns” takes a little understanding of Christian terminology as it refers to a literal crown of thorns given to Jesus to mock his “kingship”. In this case, through the lyrics Cash may have realized that his “kingdom” of wealth and fame was a mockery as well – what good are those things when he hurt the people around him?

The saddest part of this line; however, is the phrase “I cannot repair.” That’s the truth, that’s why we try to live life with so few regrets. Fact of the matter is, when we screw up, that becomes history. It happened, it can’t be undone. Forgiveness exists sometimes but lets not lie to ourselves that somehow undoes the damage. The scar is still there and its’ ugliness will remain.

This wasn’t a “happy” review, you might feel a little depressed and wondering why you should give this a song a listen if you haven’t heard it before? Because it’s real.

Look, I love to take pleasure in the beautiful parts of life – but life doesn’t always come up ‘roses and daffodils’. We make mistakes, we hurt ourselves, we hurt those that we love. We make choices that dig holes for ourselves – then we keep digging.

We need to learn to appreciate each season of life even if it is a bitter tonic.  There is satisfaction though, in having the courage to look to our past, own it, confront it, and try to make peace with it as best we can.

Now try listening to the song with that perspective:

Crazy, Stupid, (Scandalous), Love

Ironic, but my first movie review here is the type of film I almost never watch: the romantic comedy. It was recommended to me by my brother for…Well, reasons? I’m not big on synopses so I’ll keep it to a minimum and as general as I can with these.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is about a number of different people either falling in love or dealing with breakups. There is a pretty large assembly of characters but it primarily revolves around Steve Carell’s character “Cal” who’s being divorced and has no clue on how to enter the dating world. He meets Ryan Gosling’s character “Jacob” who’s a perennial ladies’ man only into women for one-night stands. He takes Gus under his wing to get him back into “the game”.

The movie’s strengths are that it is entertaining and keeps you interested in the story. At the end the movie intertwines most of the characters in a pretty good and unexpected climax. The characters are well-acted, especially Gosling who absolutely steals the show, in a role that requires unexpected breadth from him.

However, did you notice I didn’t use the word “funny”? While entertaining, I only had a few chuckles. In addition, there’s a pretty awkward (RE: “scandalous”) subplot of a 17-year-old babysitter trying to gain the affections of one of the adult characters. At the end of the film a 13-year-old boy who has a major crush on that girl is given what is very strongly implied to be nude photos to “tie him over” until they can possibly date when they’re older. This is framed as a sweet act but to me it came off as creepy and tasteless.

I would recommend the film to those who have struggled in finding their match, crushed on an older person, had a major childhood crush, or just want to see Steve Carell in an almost shot-for-shot remake of “The 40 Year Old Virgin”.

+Good cast

+Interesting story

+Fun ending

-Lack of big laughs

-Creepy subplot

Final grade: B-

 

 

 

 

 

The Therapy Begins!

First things first – this blog is solely designed for my own entertainment (IE: therapy) which others may or may not find interesting. When I’m down, upset, or just bored, writing usually makes me feel better. However, since people seem to enjoy reviews of stuff and my writing, hopefully you’ll get something out of this.

The idea of this blog is simple: I will review movies primarly, video games and books secondarily, and anything else I feel like reviewing at random times. There will not be any set dates for postings: whenever I feel I need to do one, I’ll make one.

The hyphen in “Re-View” is more than just style. I will be reviewing many books, films, shows that have been released for many years, even decades. I have a soft spot for media I feel has been overlooked or forgotten. Many of these films can now be found on Netflix, YouTube (for digital rental) iTunes, etc. I hope a few of you at some point take these recommendations to heart.