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About the Author
Kyle is a high school English Teacher. His favorite pieces of the Nerd World include Star Wars, Stargate and the Enderverse. He writes on books, films, games and anything else he finds enjoyment in.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Review

If you’re fifteen, you probably already know this, but Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials came out this past Thursday.  The movie tacks a sequel adventure to the surprisingly highly successful film adaption to the book The Maze Runner by James Dashner.  While the first film truthfully attempted to follow the book’s plot line and stay somewhat true to the original, the second deviates a great deal. Far more than I had expected. In fact, I’ve been saying that it is only inspired by James Dashner’s The Scorch Trials.

scorch trials hangYou could call myself a fan of James Dashner, I suppose.  I don’t really care for his writing style, but his story is truly captivating.  So watching the movie  hurt my heart as his plot was reduced to a mere attempt at a blockbuster teen horror/action/suspense/romance dystopian movie.  It took me about five minutes in to realize that the film makers were going to completely abandon Dashner’s plot. I was moderately upset, but expected as much since in the first film they left out some crucially important plot details for the sequel to actually work.  Something had to be done.  It’s almost as if the film makers were like, “WHAT!!!?? MAZE RUNNER ACTUALLY PULLED A PROFIT???? WE HAVE TO MAKE THE SCORCH TRIALS NOW???? ……crap.

They essentially shot themselves in the foot after they deviated in the first one.  Dashner’s story was simply impossible, so they made a movie simply inspired by his original story.  Honestly, if I view the film in this light it helps me enjoy it a little more…..but I’m still mad.

Let’s talk about what was done well.

  1. The Cranks were nearly perfect.  Although they changed how the virus was passed along (now it’s more or less transferred in old school zombie fashion….through the blood). So the humans in the Scorch are not all already infected.  In fact, neither Brenda nor Jorge are infected when the Gladers run into them. Unlike most deviations, this one makes more sense for a film audience.  It would have taken too long to explain the complex process of the virus contraction and how it’s processed in stages.  By making it a normal zombie infection, they essentially bought themselves more time for crappy action sequences.  And what’s a crappy teen movie without crappy action sequences? f1716018a2e15b616df341a3293d7fed377d1ed4f816fbe403651b4e0b2ba824_large
  2. Jorge. Giancarlo Espocito was the best choice for this role and he easily outshines each and every actor/actress on the screen.  I was very much a fan of his performance and I feel he was the only character who was really kept true to their alternate identity in the book canon.
  3. Brenda.  Once again, Rosa Salazar was an excellent choice for the new love interest.  She blows Kaya Scodelario, who plays Teresa, out of the water. She doesn’t rock a short hairdo as well as…well….Emma Watson, Natalie Portman, or Anne Hathaway, but her decent performance makes up for it.  As long as she’s not screaming.  Seriously her screams are really annoying throughout the entire film.
  4. Alan Tudyk.  Do you really need a reason? Ok ok ok, I’ll give you one.  He as high as a kite for his whole performance, and it’s wonderful.

The Bad is an extremely long list, unfortunately, so I’ve listed a few of what I’m calling the “unforgivables.”

screen-shot-2015-05-20-at-09-09-18

  1. Aidan Gillen’s American accent. It’s horrible.  Like really bad. I go into great detail here in the article I wrote for the trailers last month. It’s even worse in the film. It would make a great drinking game. Every time Aidan’s Irish accent peeps through, you get to take a drink! Finish your drink if there wasn’t even a hint of an attempt!
  2. Aidan Gillen’s character.  He plays an interpretation of who the Gladers ill-affectionately call Rat Man in the novel.  However, he isn’t graced with this name at all in the movie.  His character is poorly written in general and I was very disappointed with someone so highly respected in the acting community.scorch trials building
  3. The multiple mazes. FILM AND BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD: In the book they discover the existence of another maze. One other maze.  It is full of girls and one boy. Thomas’ maze, of course, contained the opposite. These two maze teams are set up as competitors in the trials. In the movie, however, they discover that there are multiple mazes. Probably around like five. This felt like an attempt to ‘one up’ Dashner. It didn’t sit well with me. END SPOILERS
  4. The final and perhaps greatest sin this movie put forth is the name. In the newly structured plot, the Gladers are not tested at all by WICKED. This made me wonder why they even kept the name Scorch Trials.  Why call attention to a trial when there isn’t one? Maze Runner: The Scorch probably would have been easier to bill anyway, and it sounds way cooler to me anyway.

In the end, this movie really isn’t worth the trip to the theater.  If you really want to see it, wait for Redbox.

Did you see Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials? What did you think? Do you agree? Leave your comments below.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Review

Bowser Party: Mario Party 10 Review

The tenth installment of the virtual board game Mario Party 10,  released in March of this year, has been the brunt on several jokes throughout the gaming world and endless negative critiques on their new approach. As far as hatred goes, I do not find myself among these ranks since I find myself playing it often when my wife and I have friends over, but I still can’t shake the feeling that Mario Party will never be the great game it used to be ever again.

There are multiple reasons why this game simply doesn’t meet the mark.  Primarily it has to do with its gameplay structure. It pretty much mirrors Mario Party 9‘s changes. Minigames of course are a huge part of it, but almost every other element has been completely rethought and changed. Truthfully, it was almost as if everything my childhood loved about Mario Party would forever be forgotten on today’s generation.  For those unaware, the gameplay has shifted to individually moving characters on a game board. Each blue space landed on grants the roller three coins, red spaces, their opposite, take away three coins. Blue spaces have been replaced with being granted a special dice block.  These dice consist of slow dice, 1-3 dice, 4-6 dice, multiple dice…etc.  Red spaces simply are non-existent expect for in Amiibo play.  More on that later.

So you may be asking, so do I still get coins from minigames? Ha! Nope! So are there coins at all??? Well, uh…..no. Mario Party without coins?? Yep.  Instead, your character collects stars. These are essentially replaceable with coins from the previous Mario Party games. You win them from minigames, and the board awards you with them if you land on the right spaces and choose the best route. Essentially, you’re still competing for stars, but the stakes are much lower.

Mario Party 10 KartThe actual board work has completely changed as well.  All of the players ride in a cart of sorts together.  Characters take turns being the leader, or director of the cart, and are responsible for everything that happens when they are in command.  For example, if they pass through a gate rewarding 10 stars, then they go to the captain.  This is a pretty cool idea on paper. However, it simply falls short in practice.  The problem is that it completely destroys the competitive nature of Mario Party and simply doesn’t even compare with its forefathers.

What about the other modes of play, and the minigames?  I’ll start with the easiest to talk about, the minigames are very standard Mario Party minigames, and they really are a lot of fun.  It really does feel like the older games when you’re playing them. However, the problem is that they have no stake in the single player at all really.  In the older games, you had to gain coins to buy stars to win, which you really only got from minigames.  The games in the new installment only award those pesky stars, and they’re fairly generous to the point where the competition falls through the cracks.

Mario Party 10 Amiibo BoardIn the honesty of full disclosure, I’d like to come clean and say that I am too cheap to buy all the pesky Amiibo. So I haven’t actually played this one, but I’ve done my research.  Amiibo Play allows you to enjoy a similar style of gameplay that is nostalgic of the old ways.  Blue spaces award three coins, red the opposite, and stars cost twenty coins. Even the way you navigate the board is similar.  However, the board is small, like really, really small, and it’s completely linear with no freedom of direction.  Once again, the development of competition fails.

Mario Party 10 Bowser ModeLast, but not least, the part everyone has been waiting for.  What about Bowser mode? A brilliant idea really.  Have the fifth player control the Wii U Gamepad and play as Bowser.  I agree, it was a brilliant idea. However, this is one of the most broken games types I have ever played in my life of playing video games…which has been my life…all of it. Of the five times that I have played the Bower mode, team Mario has one once and from some of the articles I’ve read, looks like we got lucky.  Here’s the premise: team Mario all have to roll their dice blocks and hope to get far away from Bowser, who, when his turn arrives, rolls four dice to catch up.  Unless Baby Bowser gives him another die….which he does….a lot…then Bowser rolls five, or six dice to catch up which he almost always does.  In fact, if he doesn’t catch Team Mario, Baby Bowser will let him roll again! Yeah, this game type is so broken, it isn’t even funny.  I keep waiting for a Nintendo patch, but it hasn’t happened yet and probably never will.

All in all, I can see what Nintendo was trying to do and I can really respect them for trying to mix things up.  They have some great minds over there coming up with great ideas. Unfortunately, the execution was poor. I haven’t given up on the franchise and wouldn’t mind seeing some more work on it.  Mario Party 11 could be the break through. Seriously, it has potential. It just needs a lot of work.

Have you played Mario Party 10? Do you agree or disagree? Comment below! We’d love to hear what you think.

Bowser Party: Mario Party 10 Review

Scorch Trials – Worse Than Maze Runner?

A few weeks ago 20th Century Fox released a second trailer for it’s new teeny bopper, summer wanna be Hunger Games sequel. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. However this does classify as nerdy material. So I feel the necessity to address it.

scorchtrialsMaze Runner actually did pretty well in the box office, and many of my high school students quoted it as their “favorite movie ever!” It’s no surprise why.  It’s targeted at youthful teenagers who don’t know good cinematic gold. Perhaps it’s that I’m getting old and crotchety, but the movie was absolute garbage. Mostly because it failed to address some very important and clarifying parts from the book– namely Teresa and Thomas being able to communicate telepathically.  Seriously, this is an extremely important plot point.  Like picture a Spider-Man movie where he can’t climb walls. It also had multiple plot holes and poor story telling technique.  Here’s a great video if you’d like an in-depth dissection of it’s flaws.

Let’s be honest for a moment though, it can’t be held to a crazy high standard. I mean James Dashner, the author of the YA series, is no Hemingway.  In all honestly, he’s a pretty crumby writer, but the story is actually very interesting and captivating.  He has a good way with characters and drags you into it nonetheless…so maybe he is a good writer?? Regardless, this series is far from being a classic, so it’s hard to rip into too much.

With the new addition to the film series coming out this September, I have been very interested how the filmmakers are going to adapt the text.  So let’s look into what they’ve shown us so far. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t look good. Have a look for yourself first though:

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials – Trailer 1

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials – Trailer 2

The Bad

  • I’ve never watched Game of Thrones (go ahead, stone me) but everyone keeps telling me that Aidan Gillen is some god of acting ability and plays a debonair sly fox on the show, but I’m really not seeing that in this trailer.  In fact, I’m seeing the exact opposite. This is most likely due to the fact that his American accent is atrocious. Seriously, if you missed it the first time, watch it again and laugh till you’re blue. It’s really bad, like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins bad. I feel like Doc Brown asking, “Does everyone talk like an American Irish hybrid in the future? Or is that just you?”  Not to mention that he looks nothing like Ratman is described in the book.  Maybe that’s unfair, but it bothers me.
  • What’s with the scene with Thomas and the rest of Gladers escaping into the Scorch…. In the book they are sent by Ratman as the second phase of their testing hence the title Scorch Trials. There isn’t a whole action sequence with a man with a hybrid American Irish accent screaming, “You’ll never survive in the Scorch!!” I hate it when movies add completely unnecessary action to try and spice up the film. Whatever happened to allowing the plot to be the selling point of your story? Citizen Kane anyone???
  • This last point is the most annoying to me because it completely destroys the most integral plot point of the book. Teresa is freaking with them!! What the crap!!?? This completely destroys the whole “There was another maze” plot point as well as the way WICKED toys with Thomas at the end of the book. I’m trying to address this as spoiler free as possible so if you haven’t read the book, trust me, It’s really important. There has to be another Maze though, because they bring it up in the trailer and Aris and several other integral characters are in the cast. Adding Teresa to the main group just ruins the whole plot. The only possible reason that I can think of including her with the rest of the guys is that they failed to bring in the telepathy part into the first film. Wow, that’s really destroying this entire series isn’t it?

The Good

Well there isn’t much, but there are a few things that I found somewhat exciting.

TST_Brenda

  • The Scorch looks perfect! In fact pretty much every setting in the trailer looks really awesome! They didn’t spare any expense on detail for sure (maybe they should have gotten some better actors, but hey it’s a kids movie).
  • The little bit we see of Brenda is pretty good.  She at least looks well cast.  She fits the description pretty perfectly.  Really the Cranks look pretty good in general.  I’m excited to see what they do with the rest of the Crank characters and hope that they’re developed well.  Especially Brenda, but I have low expectations because Teresa is there….but moving on.
  • The second trailer appears to follow the book better than the first.  So maybe they learned their lesson from the first film…most likely not though.

 

Overall, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials looks substandard.  I have very low expectations for this film, and don’t worry, I’ll be reviewing it here for sure.  Keep your eye out for it! But until then, What do you think? Am I off my rocker, do you agree with my student that The Maze Runner is the best movie ever and see the second having success? Let me know in the comments.

Scorch Trials – Worse Than Maze Runner?

A Review of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Apparently this is even true in galaxies far, far away. Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope is a masterpiece and succulent fusion of two very different genres. Contrary to what one might think, it is not simply Star Wars written in Shakespearean dialogue, but its own separate piece of art generating flawless finesse in taking our boy from Tatooine and re-imagining his story told in Victorian England by the Bard himself.

It may be fruitful to compare this style to something akin to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame Smith. However, I find it very different. Smith simply took the original writing of Jane Austin and had fun playing with the words by changing out words like “love” with “brains.”  Doescher doesn’t do this at all. Apparently, Lucasfilm gave him all sorts of freedom to do pretty much anything he wanted. So this book is best described as a Star Wars and Shakespeare fan’s attempt to blend the two genres into something equally as beautiful. If you’re asking me, he succeeded. Now to the good stuff. What makes it awesome?

ShakespeareswvaderThe Mechanics 

Anyone who paid attention in High School English remembers that William Shakespeare is arguably the greatest writer/storyteller/poet/Renaissance man of all time. They will also remember that the reasons he is recognized as this is by his impeccably unique writing style. He pretty much invented the English Sonnet for crying out loud, not to mention modern story telling. The man was a genius to put it lightly. So, like myself, when hearing that this book existed, you most likely asked yourself, how can someone pretend to match the elegance, craftsmanship, and artistry of the The Bard? it’s simply impossible. Call me a little obsessed with the guy, but It is virtually impossible to match Shakespeare’s talent. Doescher doesn’t quite make it there, but he’s pretty dang close. Here were the main pieces of Shakespeare’s writing style that Doescher nailed on the head.

  • Iambic Pentameter. Once again, for those of you who paid attention in school, this word is familiar. But to those who didn’t, you’re very confused at what I may be getting at. An overwhelming amount of Shakespeare’s work is written in iambic pentameter. I would go as far as to say that around 95% of it is, making this the most essential thing for Doescher to excel in. Quick English lesson to aid the confused: most people in school are taught that iambic pentameter is simply ten syllables per line. However, it is far more complex than that. It follows five (penta) pairs of iambs (one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable) to create a cohesive rhythm. If you would like to learn more about this in detail, follow the link here for a great TED video explaining it in depth. Doescher does this without breaking a sweat. It seems, flows, and sounds nearly exactly like Shakespeare. In fact, he even uses it with characters speaking different languages, like Chewbacca with Shyriiwook, Greedo with Rodese, Jabba with Huttese and even R2D2’s beeps and squeaks. Here’s an example from Verily, A New Hope next to a selection from Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare so you can get the idea of what this looks like in action.
    • “How LONG, now, ERE thou CANS’T aCHIEVE lightSPEED” -Obi Wan (Act III, Scene 4)
    • “if MUsic BE the FOOD of LOVE, play ON” -Duke Orsino (Act I, Scene 1)
  • Puns: Shakespeare is truthfully the King of Puns.  One of my favorites comes from Romeo and Juliet in a conversations between Sampson and Gregory in Act I, “Sampson: I will show myself a tyrant. When I have fought with the men, I will be cruel with the maids, and cut off their heads. Gregory: The heads of the maids? Sampson: Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads; take it in what sense thou wilt.” Doescher includes several puns throughout, but most of them are a play on what us Star Wars fans expect to see vs. what he actually does. So I’ll let them be a surprise.
  • ShakespeareswlukeAsides and Soliloquies: One of the most common ways that Shakespeare develops his characters is by allowing them to talk privately to themselves. It’s a well known proverb that “a man is really only himself when he is alone.” Shakespeare utilizes this truth in every play he wrote in order for the audience to fully understand his characters better. He does this with two different methods, either an aside (character talks only to him/herself and no one else can hear) or in a soliloquy (a monologue or long speech when the character is the only one on stage). These mediums are especially helpful to aid the audience to see development in the most difficult characters. In Hamlet, the main character with the same name has, over the years, been labeled the most difficult character. This is why Shakespeare awards this character with 4 of the 5 soliloquies in the play, one of them carrying some of the most famous lines in history, “To be or not be, that is the question,” and “Aye, there’s the rub.” There are two characters in particular who are given multiple asides and a few soliloquies to gain our understanding. Han Solo and R2-D2. The latter is most interesting, because, when speaking to others, R2 uses his beeps and squeaks, but, when speaking to himself or the audience, he speaks good old Galactic Basic Standard, or what we call English.
  • Songs: Shakespeare loves to write lyrics to songs to express deep emotion with his characters and allow them to pour out their feelings. Two of the most famous songs are sung by Ophelia in Hamlet and Ariel in the Tempest. Doescher gifts this wonderful blessing to none other than Princess Leia after the destruction of her home planet Alderaan, and it is beautifully written as well.

The Art of Re-Imagination

shakespeareswjabbaAs hinted above, this story is not simply a carbon copy of Star Wars. It’s a beautiful merger of two different genres in a new re-imagination of a well known story. Doescher takes some liberties, and includes some scenes I may not have. Namely the discussion between Jabba and Han. Deoscher also sheds some light on some arguments and where he stands on them. So you should read it and see where he stands and keep your eye out for my review of The Empire Striketh Back.

Are you a Shakespeare enthusiast? Have you read this book? Let us know what you think in the comments.

A Review of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope

Halo 3 – Retro Review

The following is a review I wrote in 2010, three years after the release of third installment of the legendary Halo series. So forgive the poor writing of a 17 year-old high school student.  I simply thought it would be a fun throwback on a huge game in my history.  I’ve edited some glaring grammar mistakes and some things that didn’t make any sense, because they were really bad….I’m an English teacher, forgive me. But other than that, the review is complete in all it’s retro glory, so enjoy!!

Halo 3

Halo 3 has a very bland campaign as far as story line goes, but comes jam packed with action and conflict offering a very balanced difficulty on all four playing levels: Easy, Normal, Heroic, and Legendary (and Mythic after locating and activating the Mythic Skull) which is where I think that the first Halo may have made a mistake. Feel free to argue with me on this one, but I think that the campaign on Halo: Combat Evolved was far too difficult. This may be simply an excuse cause I have yet to finish it on Legendary but that’s beside the point.

Halo 3 - Chief & Cortana

Like I stated earlier the campaign on Halo 3 is very bland and offers little character development or story. In this area, its predecessors succeed where it fails. If you are planning on buying this game simply for story then you will be disappointed. It’s very difficult to follow and all the characters (including Master Chief) are very flat. It took about three plays through the game to actually figure out what was going on.

Halo 3 - Master Chief

Now on a much brighter subject the multi-player. The Halo franchise is and always will be about the multiplayer. If you are one of those wackos who still think it’s all about the story, please read again the first couple of paragraphs. (Future Kyle interruption, you probably also read those horribly written books too!  Ok future Kyle out.) Halo 3 brings a few extra things that the originals didn’t offer such as additional equipment like power drains and bubble shields. I am still trying to figure out if I like these or not and I’ve been playing this game for quite a while. They add little to the gameplay and seem pointless at times but there are a lot of people who can execute them with great skill and it really adds to their game strategy, then there are people like me who just don’t use them that much. Ehh to each his own I suppose. One of the earlier complaints about the multiplayer was constant lag. The game still is somewhat laggy online on a few occasions but for the most part its pretty normal. Not nearly as bad as MW2. The only problem that people have expressed and I am going to completely shut down the argument is that the shields your character have are completely unrealistic and stupid! Well the point of the matter is OF COURSE THEY’RE UNREALISTIC THE GAME TAKES PLACE IN THE 26TH CENTURY FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!!!!!! They can get away with stuff like that, and its not a bad thing that it is harder to kill someone; it just requires a different skill and technique.

Halo 3 - Master Chief Running

 

On a different topic, let’s discuss game types for multiplayer: there are a lot of game types because year after year they have added so many. The classics are all still there like slayer, territories, odd ball, ctf, and juggernaut. Some new ones like assault and now online plenty of strange and different variations of these games have been designed such as Griffball, fiesta slayer, SWAT, and Team Sumo. All of them (with the exception of territories) rock in their own way; everyone has their opinions. It’s up to you to decide what your favorite game type is and which ones suck, no review could tell you otherwise, but just so you know, territories suck… a lot! (Future Kyle interruption, which is why this playlist no longer exists.)

Halo 3 - Legendary Edition

What did you think of Halo 3? Was it worthy of the franchise? Comment below!

 

Halo 3 – Retro Review