Thor Ragnarok: Mini-Review (No Spoilers)

Nope, no writing done over the 3 day weekend.  Tragic.  This is what I’ve got to get better at as a writer who wants to be “professional.”  Yes, I had another real-world “project” that I was working on (changing rooms in my house), but it doesn’t take that long to do 250 words.  I just didn’t want to go through the hassle of setting up the computer for just 20-30 mins of writing–but the cost to that was, no writing done at all.  250 * 6 days = 1,500 words.  I one week, I could, if I could get my act together, essentially finish a “section” of a short story, or the basic “outline” of a chapter.  So the word I used above is actually something I need to tell myself when I don’t get my 250 words in–tragic.

Finally Saw Thor Ragnarok

Okay, so over the Memorial Day Weekend here in the U.S., my family and I gathered together after the holiday dinner to watch Thor Ragnarok.  I have to say upfront that it was a fun experience–it isn’t the best Marvel movie that I ever seen, but it also isn’t the worst.  I guess that’s what, after having a night to sleep on it, I would say–it was a solidly fun experience.  Unlike Star Wars, which at the moment that I write this, is having a “moment” (and not in a good way as Kathleen Kennedy seems determined to remake the brand into something that she wants and not something that the fans want), Marvel movies know what they’re audiences want: quite a bit of action, some humor (quips and some physical comedy), characters having to some (light) soul-searching, an inventive and eventful ending, and (a bit) of moral relevance (theme) and they’re golden.  This is what Thor Ragnarok delivers to its audience.  Is it flashy, like say Civil War or Winter Soldier? No.  But is it good?  Yes, yes it is.

God of Humor

So, the comedic elements in this one are super strong.  Whether they be visual gags, banter and quips, or downright physical humors, a lot (but not all) of Thor Ragnarok is played for laughs.  I happened to have liked that, but if you’re looking for (or liked) the grim seriousness of Thor The Dark World, then you’ll need to look elsewhere because they play this strictly as an action-comedy.  When there’s action, there’s a lot of it, but when there’s no action on the screen, they’re either setting up a joke or actually paying off a joke.  There’s very little else here, although to be fair, there is quite a bit of light character development of ThorLokiHulk/Banner, and the new character, the Valkyrie, whose name wasn’t really used all that often in the movie, but who both Thor & Loki recognized as a Valkyrie, so that’s (at the moment) how I remembered her character.

Not the Worst, but Not the Best

Again, I have to say that I really liked this movie quite a bit, but based on the high praise that it was given by some of the reviews when it released, I’m a little surprised that it wasn’t a stronger movie.  I suppose when you get right down to it, this may have to do more with me and my expectations than the movie itself.  While I like comedies and like to laugh (who doesn’t), my favorite genre is action.  While there’s no denying that Thor Ragnarok does have action set-pieces, for the most part, this one lent itself to comedy (think the comedy sketch of Thor sitting out Civil War that made the rounds on YouTube last summer, and you’ll have an idea of what the creators of Thor Ragnarok were going for).

Having just re-watched this vignette, I just realized that they referenced the “email” joke in this vignette in Thor Ragnarok, so this is very much a “tone-piece” for the movie.  If you like this vignette, then you’ll probably like Thor Ragnarok very much.  I was mildly amused by this, so while I really liked the movie, it probably won’t make it into my Top 5 Marvel movies.  Not to say it isn’t good, but I feel there are other Marvel movies that are stronger.

Overall Grade: B (Above Average)

My take: Hey, it’s a Marvel movie.  They’d have to really misfire (Thor Dark World) to get much less (Marvel gets me as a fan in a way that Kathleen Kennedy and the “new” Star Wars doesn’t seem to anymore).  I love what they are doing right now.  Even the movies that I feel are perhaps “weaker” entries in the Universe are still above the quality of many other movies of competing franchises.  My mother said the movie was better than she expected it be based on the other Thor movies and my step-father laughed all the way through, and myself was at least amused through most of it, but sat up and took notice through the extended action sequences.  This was, while not my favorite Marvel movie, still one that I would gladly re-watch anytime.

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Show Us The Gameplay!

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Tom Cruise with the dialogue caption: “Show me the money!”  Image Source: The Social C Suite (http://thesocialcsuite.net/show-me-the-money/)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 2357 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

I haven’t written anything as of yet–I wanted to do the blog post first and get it out before the long holiday weekend (U.S.).  Hopefully, if I don’t write today, I’ll be able to write at least 250 words over the 3 day weekend–that’s my goal, at least.  Let’s see on Tuesday if I can actually make it happen.

Games, Games, Games

Okay, so for the most part, my blog entries for the past two weeks have centered (mostly) around my writing endeavors as I try my best to find the best way to navigate the Work, Life, Writing Balance.  I’m actually going to veer a hard left today and move more into video games and gaming for the next two weeks.  Don’t worry, I’m still going to update the word counts and give a brief description of how the writing is going, but as E3 approaches, I want to shift focus just a bit for a while to cover some aspects of gaming that are intriguing.  Sometimes, like today, the writing and gaming will intersect (at least tangentially), but not always.  Just wanted to give you a head’s-up about where the blog is headed in the next couple of weeks.  Oh, I should mention that sometime in the near future, I’ll (hopefully, *fingers crossed*) be seeing Thor Raganarok in the near future & I’ll post here and update my Favorite Marvel Movies post when I do.

Gamplay is King

So, today I watch a trailer for a game called Earthfall (aha, tricked you, didn’t I.  Gamers are all up in arms about a “little” game called Battlefield V at the moment–I’ll actually cover that at a later date–maybe).  However, as you can see from the trailer below, the game looks to be a 4 person cooperative shooter against aliens.  The problem is that is all I can gather from the trailer.  As there is no actual “gameplay,” it is hard to decide if I should put it on my “radar” or not.  Is it a 1st person or 3rd person shooter, is it online only or is there a single player component (campaign), what does the moment-to-moment gameplay look like, etc.?   Yes, yes, I know that I simply google it and find out all of this information, but the point I’m trying to make is that I shouldn’t have to.  If you want me to purchase your game, show me (in gameplay) why I should do so.

We should be past creating a trailer, but not releasing any information about, especially since the game releases on July 13th, which is less than 2 months away (and knowing that a game goes “gold”–i.e., features “locked in” so that the discs can be pressed and shipped to retailers or downloaded for purchase doesn’t inspire confidence).   At most, show one trailer–the trailer below is the 2nd major one, and then start showing gameplay.  Even if they reveal gameplay at E3 in about two weeks time, I’m going to have to wait on reviews because, like movies, when companies aren’t confident that their product is good, they’ll often hold off releasing detailed information on the product until the last minute, hoping to “trick” consumers into seeing it/purchasing it before the initial waves of bad reviews start to flood in.

How to Do it Right!

So, last year, a racing game called The Crew 2 caught my eye.  It is the sequel to The Crew, a game I loved and sunk hours into over the past two years since its release.  The Crew 2 did have a trailer, but it has also consistently released gameplay elements, showing off the various parts of the game.  They’ve released so much that I’ve had to put it on media “blackout” so that I don’t see too much of the game and spoil the surprises of the new things that they’ve added.

As I know what The Crew 2 is and what its gameplay looks like, I’m all in and willing to invest my hard earned money “sight unseen” in it because I’ve seen enough gameplay of the new game and I’ve played enough of the old game to know that this new game will be right up my ally.  Also, as it comes out June 29th and my classes end on July 3, this will make the perfect “getting through your summer classes” gift to myself.  Earthfall might have also been included in this transaction had they shown more gameplay, but as it stands, I’ll probably pick up God of War instead and (if the reviews are good), pick up Earthfall on sale around Christmas time.

To any developers (or future developers) who may stumble across this blog post, please remember–“Gameplay is King!”

Have a great weekend, and for those in the U.S., have a great and safe Memorial Day Weekend!

Sidney




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Day One

Day One of Writing

So, there’s this new YouTube channel that I recently discovered called Film Courage and it has interviews with screenwriters, producers, and actors and is basically a channel dedicated to helping beginners break into the the movie and television industry. It features advice in the form of long-form interviews with these individuals, but it understands that most people don’t have an hour/hour and a half to watch the entirety of the interview and breaks them out into smaller, more manageable 10-15 “chunks” that talk about 1 or 2 specific elements of the craft.

I recently found one that was especially impactful called “Day One of Writing a New Screenplay.”  I’ve linked it below if you want to check it out, but basically the screenwriter tells how he gets started on new project and how he budgets his time to get the project done, and his advice for ending so that you’re ready to work on it the next day.

 

Walking the Walk

What I love about this video interview by Mark Sanderson is that he is super professional in his approach and much of his advice deals with both professionalism (i.e., sticking to a schedule) and working from an outline (still being creative even though he has a general idea of where he’s going.  I also liked the way he creates strategies to help him become and stay creative.

I started Project Independence on Wednesday night.  I tried to work on Project Paradise Thursday night and try to hopscotch between the two, but I’m probably not going to be able to do that (435 words on Project Independence and only 31 words for Project Paradise).  I’m probably just going to have to pick one “weekday” project that I work on through the week and one “weekend” project (right now, probably my Ship of Shadows graphic novel).  I’m going to try to work on 1 “script” page this weekend.  Again,  as I’m only shooting for 250 words a day, I need to figure out what it means if I blew through that goal for one project and didn’t even come close to meeting the goal for another.  Does it mean I’m more interested and ready to write one vs. other and should stick with the one I’m seemingly invested in until I finish?  Or is it that I was just enervated one day, where I was exhausted the next?  Not quite sure.

“Bottom Line is: ‘You Have to Write and Stick to a Schedule'”

I’m trying to take his advice and try to fit it into my life because the “daily schedule” is one I’m still trying to conquer.  I don’t know how many artists I’ve lost for my graphic novel projects (four (4) is my current count although it may be more) because I couldn’t produce work fast enough because I wasn’t able to keep to a daily writing schedule and let work and school interfere with writing.  I’m not really a fast writer–I only type about 35-40 words per minute, which is fairly good, but isn’t amazing, but I often slow down when writing because I’m trying to think of the words that I need to describe the action I see in my mind.

I’m not sure what I’ll try to write tonight, but whatever it is, at least I’ll put my behind in my seat and, as the man said, “write and stick to a schedule.”

Sidney




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Potpourri May 2018

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So this (short) post is just a little bit about everything that I’m currently doing right now.

  • Watching The Expanse: I’m not really feeling the show all that much, but I need a “spaceship” show at the moment to get me through Final Exam week and help me as I get my car repaired.  Will probably do a mini-review of it after I watch all the seasons (there are 3 total, but only seasons 1 & 2 are currently “free” on Streaming via Amazon Prime.
  • Project Poet (Rough Draft): Two-Thirds (⅔) way complete.  Not really happy with the way it is turning out, but then again, I guess that’s what rough drafts are for.  There’s no magic in this one, so it doesn’t really seem like a Fantasy story, but it is one that I really like the idea for.  I may have to find a way to add in a “magic system,” however, because it seems really slow and boring otherwise.
  • Recently Watched Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: I’m putting this one on the list to remind myself that I need to do a mini-review of this movie as I saw it about 2 weeks ago.  I didn’t much care for The Fifth Element (never actually managed to ever get through the whole movie), but I thought this might actually win me over.  Spoilers for the mini-review: it didn’t. 🙂
  • The trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp has just been released.  Now this is a Marvel movie that I think I can get behind this summer.  It looks really fun!  And best of all, NO SPOILERS ANYWHERE IN SIGHT!  🙂  🙂

 

  • Finished the OUTLINES for two (2) new Projects: Project Paradise and Project Independence:  I finished the plot outlines for two new stories.  Both are science-fiction stories that I’m really excited about writing over the summer.  More on these projects as when I finish the Rough Drafts for them.

Well, that’s all I have for right now as I need to work on finishing several small school-related projects.  Talk to you later!

Sidney




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Spoilers Redux

avengersinfinitywarnospoilers_Youtube

Cast of Infinity War looking at the camera.  Image Source: YouTube

Avengers Infinity War Partially Spoiled for Me

So, my car wouldn’t start Saturday so I didn’t get to commute home as I have done every weekend since starting school.  Rather than let this defeat me–very demoralizing–I simply tried to distract myself through schoolwork, Netflix, and YouTube videos.  I was watching a video on the upcoming Spider-man video game published by Insomniac games (one of my favorite developers) and made the mistake of scrolling through the comment section to get a sense of what the gaming community thought of the game.  Right there in full view, with no warning or anything, some goofball posted a major spoiler about three characters in the movie.  I read the first two before my brain realized that it was a blatant spoiler (intentional, no less–no spoiler tag, no “spoilers,” nothing, just done to troll).  I stopped reading and didn’t see the third, but I reported the comment.  Yes, I reported it falsely–YouTube doesn’t have a report feature for “being a jack-behind,” so I reported it under commercialization.  Yeah, probably not kosher, but hey, if the poster hadn’t been such a twit, I’d have left his post alone.  It had 17 replies, probably angry responses to the spoilers, but when I reported it, it dropped off the comment section–but the damage was already done.

 Marketing through Fear of Spoilers

While it was ultimately the posters fault, I still partially fault the marketing of the movie for encouraging people to run out and see it before they were spoiled on it.  They got people into the seats and became the number one movie opening of all time by making this an “event” film, but in doing so, they created a culture where a “jack-behind” and troll out there would feel embolden, no invited, to see the movie first and then to create and post as many spoilers as possible in as many places as possible with the understanding that if you haven’t seen it yet (in the first weekend), then you “got what you deserved” if you were spoiled on the movie.  I’ve a report still to write and a Final Exam to take, so Disney and their marketing department really screwed the pooch for me.  My mother still wants to see it (although her desire was diminished once she discovered it wasn’t in Imax 3d), but mine is greatly diminished because of the spoilers and the way the movie was marketed and the release date changed.

It’s such a big topic that even the directors have asked fans to respect the movie-going experience:

Ah, well, its just a movie, right?   =/

Sidney




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The State of Destiny (Destiny 1 and Destiny 2)

Today, I want to quickly talk about the video game series Destiny and its current slate of games (Destiny and Destiny 2).  After a strong start, Destiny 2 is currently in free-fall with its players.  Many hardcore players are leaving for other games.  The original Destiny supposedly had a slow start, but found its footing after the release of the Taken King.  Those of you who read the blog from the beginning know that for the longest time, I had a Destiny countdown clock widget on the side of the blog.  I was an avid Destiny player.  However, Bungie, the creators have made a few mistakes that have caused me to fall away–but they aren’t the same mistakes that the current “narrative” would have you believe so I’ll cover what I think are a couple of the biggest ones.

“Shared World Shooter” vs “MMO”

Bungie was quick to point out that Destiny wasn’t an MMO (which has certain connotations in the game community), but was rather a “Shared World Shooter” (implying that it was a shooter first and that it was a shared world between you and other players).  You could intersect with other players or go “lone wolf.”  Well, that appealed to me–however, in actuality, the game functioned like an MMO.  You needed a “crew” to do the best missions, The Raids.  The content they added changed the game and the paradigm, and they kept tinkering with the game mechanics, rather than creating new (better) content to flesh out the world.  They “sold” the game in marketing one way, but the presented the game in practice another.

“Vanilla” Destiny was actually better than “Taken King” Destiny

So this is one where the majority of Destiny players and I part ways: “Vanilla” Destiny, before all the myriad of changes, was actually pretty good.  Bungie got too involved in listening to criticisms and changed the game based on people who had left rather than those who stayed.  Their goal all the way through The Taken King seemed to be to “recapture” those who had left the game rather than on those who had stayed.  Those who stayed just wanted more story.  Had Bungie prioritized that over changing weapon balancing, fixing “cheeses” to bosses (ways of defeating boss characters in ways unintended by the developers), etc., I don’t think Destiny series would be in the position that it is.  They made a different mistake with Destiny 2, but the result was the same.  They focused on story in Destiny 2, but forgot that the players wanted compelling content for the endgame (additions that I didn’t care for, but seemed to resonate with other members of the hardcore Destiny community–such as Trials of Osiris).  Destiny 2 should have included all the major components of Destiny and added new components to satisfy gamers until the next major expansion, but this didn’t happen–they went back to changing systems and mechanics that worked perfectly fine in Destiny, such as having two primary weapons, etc.

Here’s an example of Destiny 2 gameplay (PvP) from a high-level, highly skilled player, “Ms. 5000 Watts”:

The Social Network is not always Right.

The point that I’m trying to make is that by listening to the vocal fans who don’t even play the game and trying to create a game for them, Bungie lost focus and helped to dilute the game for those who were still playing.  I no longer play Destiny because of the multitudinous game currencies, not getting enough story and answers about the The Traveler and The Darkness.  I’m sorry, but I’m not all that interested in the “Lore” of the Guardians–The Curse of Osiris DLC, I’m looking at you–I want to find out what the Traveler and why its Light is gone and how I can “heal” it and I want to find out what the Darkness is, why it hates the Traveler and what I can do to stop it.  I want to be able to do that on my own or with a team of 3-6 players (no less–sorry to inform you BungieDestiny is only fun by yourself or with a full”fire-team” because that’s how you designed it.  Those 2 player events are annoying!  To be honest, anything under a full 6 players is not really ideal, but I understand how hard it could be to get 6 players together to do all the content, but Bungie really should be designing with 1, 3, and 6 player/players in mind).

Basically, if anyone at Bungie reads this post, please stop listening to the forums and start listening to the people who actually play the game and to your own designers.  The people who have left the game and who are “slagging you off” in the comments are never going to be satisfied with what you create–no matter how good it is.  Your best bet is to follow the original creative vision you had to tell an epic story about The Traveler and The Darkness and let the fans who are really invested follow you along for the ride!

Sidney



Star Wars The Last Jedi

 

star-wars-the-last-jedi-poster_slashfilm_com

This is another shorter blog today–I have a feeling that this will be the case until Fall Break next week, but a couple of big trailers dropped over the past couple of days.  Today, I want to (briefly) talk about Star Wars The Last Jedi (SWTLJ) and my feelings about it.

I’m including a link to the trailer below, in case you haven’t seen it, but I’m going to be honest here.  From a flat out fan of ALL things Star Wars (even the Prequels–which I dislike), I’m not really excited by this trailer.  Now, there are elements of the trailer that are really exciting–such as the apparent fight between Finn and Captain Fasma, a look at Supreme Leader Snoke, a new (furry) alien, and space battles–lovely, lovely space battles, but on the whole, I’m not really interested in where the trailer seems to be heading: Luke tries to teach Rey, fails because of her immense power, and she joins with Kylo Ren, the most angsty teen villain I’ve seen since the Twilight movies.

Ugh.

Now, I’ll reserve judgment until I actually see the movie, but this trailer did nothing to get me truly excited to see it.  The music wasn’t epic, Rey’s journey/Finn’s journey didn’t come through, way too much Kylo Ren–I mean, he is the villain isn’t he.  Why the heck do we get to see his journey?  He isn’t the heart of the movie; that honor goes to Finn and Rey.  I could go on and on, but I just don’t have the time.

From a life-long Star Wars fan, here’s hoping that the movie is much better than the trailer.