Reviews

X-Men: Apocalypse – A Spoiler Free Review

Friday saw the release of Fox’s newest addition to the X-Men world: X-Men: Apocalypse starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence.  Estimated to pull in $65 million this weekend, it undoubtedly was the number one movie.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it was a good one. Now, I’m a cynical person and the X-Men have always been near and dear to me, so I am biased about their films. I admit that.  I also admit that if it were up to me, I’d redo every single X-Men film that’s been released so far.  Why is that? Well, it’s a story for another day.  For now, I’ll go through the good and the bad of X-Men Apocalypse avoiding spoilers.

X-Men: Apocalypse – The Good

X-Men: Apocalypse continues to stun with its superb casting.  Sophie Turner, who plays young Jean Grey, manages to stand out and hold her own among a star-studded group.  Her portrayal of Jean Grey was, overall, much better than Famke Janssen’s as she was able to be confident and strong while fighting the overwhelming immense powers she has, where as Janssen’s portrayal came off skittish and frightened. While completely under utilized, both Olivia Munn and Alexandra Shipp did incredibly well as Psylocke and Storm, respectively. Mystique shined. Saying goodbye to Jennifer Lawrence will be very difficult after this. She turned a very forgettable character from the original trilogy into the unexpected hero of the new franchise.

X-Men: Apocalypse New Mutants

The special effects throw me off because at times they were brilliant, and others, they were lackluster and disappointing. The follow up to the now infamous Quicksilver scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past was a prime example. When it began it was unbelievable, beautifully directed even if his powers were exaggerated, but by the time it was over, the special effects look sloppy.  Angel had a fantastic scene where his metal wings were implanted and Nightcrawler’s powers were identical to those in X2: X-Men United.

X-Men: Apocalypse – The Bad

I have to admit, ultimately, I was pretty bored throughout the whole movie. It’s been a long time since I was that disinterested.  The movie just never hooked me.  It began in an elaborate scene that held no interest for me considering I was pretty unaware of most of the characters. I think the mystery of Apocalypse in the comics was part of his appeal, but with his whole background laid out in the movie and his grossly over-powered mutant abilities ruined a lot of my investment in the film.  When you name your film after a character, I expect that character to be amazing.

X-Men: Apocalypse with Storm and Psylocke

Also, can we please decide if Magneto is a bad guy or a good guy? I know he flips sometimes, but never multiple times in the same story. I prefer the later comic stories where he attempts to do the right thing by the wrong methods.  I completely understand they want the juxtaposition of Professor X and Magneto, but if they wanted it that much, they wouldn’t be so focused on their impossible friendship.  It’s unnecessary drama.

Lastly, once again, a female character gets almost completely cut from the film. Poor Jubilee; at least she had a fantastic line defending Empire Strikes Back.

X-Men: Apocalypse Michael Fassbender

Overall

This movie definitely didn’t live up to the last two, which they ironically tried to joke about, funny enough. It is, however, a great jumping off point for Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, and Alexandra Shipp to take over the series. The costuming was impressive but confusing. While the street clothes definitely conveyed the 80’s, the uniforms looked more sophisticated than the “future” films with the original cast. Unfortunately, there’s too many inconsistencies with the X-Men timeline for me to think too much on it.

I give it a 3\5 saucers.

The Grid Rating Saucer 3

 

 

 

As with all movies, I suggest you go watch it on your own. I’m sure you’ll disagree with me.

Check out a detailed rating below and if you’ve seen it, let’s us know your thoughts in the comments below!

X-Men: Apocalypse – A Spoiler Free Review

Captain America: Civil War – A Spoiler Free Review

I have been looking forward to Captain America: Civil War since it was announced in 2014.  It stands as my favorite comic book story line in the last 20 years.  Needless to say, a lot was riding on this for me.  And overall, I wasn’t disappointed. The problem was I wasn’t over elated. I didn’t give it applause after and I didn’t leave that theater eager to see it again.  I was genuinely concerned, though, for the well-being of my favorite characters in comic book history.  Before I delve into it anymore, I’ll break down the good and the bad for you.

 

The Good

Every action sequence is incredibly on point.  It is obvious that each character has their own unique fighting style because each person gets their time to shine, more or less, which hasn’t always been the case of Marvel ensemble movies in the past. While I won’t go into any specific details, Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, and Scarlet Witch do not disappoint.

The women of Captain America: Civil War are not forgotten. It’s been a very long road of asking for more Black Widow to actually seeing her at her best, and this is it. She’s strong, educated, sassy, and a true friend to her fellow Avengers.  Wanda was also given an emotionally driven story arc, which was a huge part of the heart of the film (although, weirdly, no mention of her dead brother.)

That being said, the men don’t let down either. Sam Wilson’s increased character brought a definition of a true friend to the picture.  While Captain America is fighting for Bucky the entire time, he does miss out on some of the loyalty of Falcon.  He was honestly one of the highlights. The first appearance of Black Panther was, honestly, my favorite part of the film. He wasn’t treated as a throw away addition to the team, but given his own motivation as well as taking care of his origin story in the first hour so that the official Black Panther film can be a continuation of the character already.Captain America: Civil War Fiight

Lastly, the acknowledgment of the missing Hulk and Thor was superbly well done. It’s not a giant focus, but it’s just impressive how clever it was.

 

The Bad (yes, there was some bad; deal with it)

Sadly, Spider-Man was not my favorite.  It was painfully obvious he was a last minute addition that they actually had to squeeze into the lineups and action scenes.  He only talked to a few characters! I’m not saying the CGI to render him wasn’t impressive, but I really would have liked to see him more planned out and not such an afterthought. I know what you’re going to say, they do what they can with the licensing they can. And I’m aware of this, but his introduction to the world could have been done a bit better; I know it.  That being said, Tom Holland will be a great Spider-Man.

The overall tone of the film was just sad. There was some great jokes, and Marvel avoided the gritty tone that takes over so many films today, but it was a legitimately depressing film. I don’t know what I was expecting with Civil War, but it wasn’t this. I was anxious for death in every scene. I was surprised by some of the brutality by these characters.  I didn’t know where it was going, and I was truly scared. I had never felt like that in a Marvel film before.Captain America: Civil War Cap v Iron Man

Lastly, Iron Man and Captain America were easily mishandled. Choose Team Cap or Team Iron Man; it doesn’t matter. Both tread the line of good and selfish. Despite what others say, neither is a true hero. They get in their own way. They’re blinded by their own arguments that, to use a phrase used in the film, catastrophe easily ensues. Now that’s expected in a good war story, and flaws in everyone are important, but we’ve held these guys to such high standards before, I don’t see why we have to give them a pass now. I’m hoping that future films can redeem both Avengers for me.

I’ve seen a lot of people give this film the highest possible rating they can, and I find that difficult to accept because of what Marvel has done before. It’s important to still be critical of what is produced so we can continue to appreciate the amazing. We’ve been so spoiled by Marvel in the past that it’s easy to forget films like Iron Man 2. Civil War is good, still one of the better Marvel films. It is not, however, without flaws. That being said, I will go see it again and I am so looking forward to Dr. Strange.

Rating Saucers 4.5 out of 5

 

 

I give Captain America: Civil War 4 UFOs out of 5.

The film officially releases in North America on May 6th, 2016.

Captain America: Civil War – A Spoiler Free Review

Disney’s The Jungle Book – Spoiler-Free Review

The Jungle Book, for me it’s an animated film Disney put out way back in 1967 but the powers that be have decided to change all this with two new live action feature films from competing companies. You see, Disney and Warner Bros. don’t have enough to battle over with their comic book genre films, so now we have The Jungle Book from Disney which hits theaters this Friday, April 15th in North America and Warner Bros. Jungle Book: Origins (though IMDB drops the “Origins” part of the title) set to drop in October 2018. I want to explain this so there is no confusion because the stories are different, the casts are different, the movies are different. Warner Bros’ film will star Christian Bale (Bagheera), Benedict Cumberbatch (Shere Khan), Cate Blanchett (Kaa), Andy Serkis (Baloo), and Roham Chand (Mowgli). To contrast, this year’s Disney version stars Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), Idris Elba (Shere Khan), Scarlett Johansson (Kaa), Bill Murray (Baloo), and Neel Sethi (Mowgli) with Lupita Nyong’o (Raksha), Giancarlo Esposito (Akela), and Christopher Walken (King Louie). With well over two years before we see WB’s incarnation, I expect more roles to be filled but for now, these are the primary casts.

So let’s talk about The Jungle Book from Disney. I was able to catch an early screening Monday night in 3D. My goal here is to talk about overall quality and expectations you should have going into the movie and will avoid spoilers. Things that have been shown in trailers\previews might get mentioned though, so you’ve been warned.

The Jungle Book - Shere Khan and Idris Elba

Visuals

As I noted, I saw The Jungle Book in 3D. I felt that overall, the 3D experience was solid and less gimmicky than most. That is not to say it’s without gimmick but for the most part, it was immersive and sharp. I enjoyed the extra sense of depth it provided and it reminded me of the ways Avatar used 3D a while back. Now, the 3D does fail during major scenes of movement and action. There are two scenes in particular that I am thinking of, one involving Mowgli running and another involving a lot of primates. In both cases, the CGI lost its crisp realistic style and the 3D lost its immersive sense. The former scene even included one of my pet peeves which is when water is splashed and it hits the camera lens like we are watching the movie through a window. This bothers me in 2D films but when the goal is a 3D experience that feels immersive and includes depth… why would you put a window in front of me? It seems counter-intuitive. The primate scene in question made me think of the barrel scene in The Hobbit, though this one is not nearly as bad.

The CGI in general was stellar. I felt that the animals consistently looked realistic and even moved as such. Even though the animals can talk, they are not overly anthropromophized. They are just animals that we happen to be able to understand. I never felt that the animals were poorly done and the CGI weaknesses in the two scenes I noted might have been unique to the 3D experience. I intend to see the movie again in 2D, so I’m looking forward to comparing.

The Jungle Book - Kaa

Casting

The cast is nearly perfect. Bill Murray, of course, nails Baloo but no one is surprised at this. I love Bill Murray and will watch just about anything he is in but this character isn’t much of a stretch for him, though I’m not complaining. Idris Elba is a fearsome, intense Shere Khan and I can’t imagine Benedict Cumberbatch getting close to matching Idris’ presence. I think my favorite scene is actually Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa. Though short, the scene is powerful, intense, creepy, and the voice work is great. She’s perfect for the role and I’m glad they went in the direction they did with the character. Everyone else did a great job. Bagheera, Raksha, and Akela are not in the film as much as I would have liked but then again, the wolves don’t have anywhere near as much of a presence in the original animated film, so I should be grateful. Neel Sethi as Mowgli is fine but fairly forgettable. It’s his first role and is credited as an introduction, so I am not going to be overly critical here. He’s young and inexperienced, so I look forward to seeing his future roles.

The only issue I take with casting is Christopher Walken as King Louie. It just doesn’t work. While I loved him in various roles like Pulp Fiction or even Click, he does not work as King Louie. His voice is too Walken-esque. The character’s song isn’t even a song in this incarnation because Walken isn’t really going to sing, so he speaks it. It just doesn’t work. He’s not intimidating, he’s not threatening and the voice does not match the visual of the character.

The Jungle Book - King Louie

The Jungle Book: Conclusions

The Jungle Book is a great live action adaptation of the original story that, if memory serves me, stays true at least to the major components while expanding on some in ways to enhance the story. The special effects are realistic, accurate, and impressive throughout most of the film while the voice cast is nearly perfect. I think the film suffers from two primary issues, the push of 3D and the star-studded cast. 3D can be fun but it’s usually completely unnecessary and I think this is an example of that. The 3D gets in the way, lowers CGI quality, and becomes distracting or completely forgettable. The all-star cast is a lot of fun but also distracting because you know Bill Murray is the bear and Scarlett Johansson is the snake. It pulls you out of the experience at times.

Overall, I give the film 3.5\5 UFOs. It’s a good movie and better than I expected for a live action interpretation but there is room for improvement.

The Grid Rating Saucer 3.5

 

 

 

Are you looking forward to The Jungle Book? Have you seen it yet? Comment below!

Disney’s The Jungle Book – Spoiler-Free Review

Hardcore Henry – A Hardcore Review

Hardcore Henry brings many thrills, some really great, and others not so much. If you are looking for a non-stop, over the top action movie Hardcore Henry will not disappoint. If you value compelling characters or a slightly believable plot, I wouldn’t recommend spending the $10 to see this movie. Wait for it to come out on Redbox.

While we can appreciate the artistic approach, Hardcore Henry is a fun one-time novelty. Call of Duty is a game, not a movie. Now down to some details but don’t worry, no spoilers. Jump the image below for The Good and The Bad.

Hardcore Henry Still

Hardcore Henry’s Good

Overall Film Quality and Visuals:

  • First person view adds stakes and terrifying falls
  • Creative deaths
  • Played Queen “Don’t Stop Me Now”
  • Large variety of weapon usage including a Gatling gun

Narrative:

  • Honorable Mention – written for the effects and immersive experience

Hardcore Henry Wide Poster

Hardcore Henry’s Bad

Overall Film Quality and Visuals:

  • Loss of view with fast motion scenes
  • Motion sickness is inevitable
  • Some scenes are directly from a Call of Duty game

Narrative:

  • Little to no attachment to the characters
  • Over-acting
  • Foreseeable plot twists
  • The “Boss Fight” falls flat
  • No clear motive
  • Random musical number
  • Some characters existed simply so they could be killed

 

I give this film 2.5 UFO’s out of 5.

The Grid Rating Saucer 2.5

 

 

Have you seen the first big screen first-person only film, Hardcore Henry? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Hardcore Henry – A Hardcore Review

Criminal Movie: A Review

Criminal Review

I’d like to start this review by saying the movie Criminal is complicated, to say the least. It almost feels like a few movies put together.
I really wanted to like it from the beginning.
That being the case, I’ve split this review into different parts;
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good:
This movie has one of the most original premises I’ve seen in a while. Essentially, imagine an evil version of Billy Bob Thornton from Sling Blade wakes up with the memories of Jason Bourne. Would he still be evil? This premise kept me in my seat.
This movie has the largest assortment of actors who have been in comic book movies this side of an X-men sequel. Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gal Gadot, and Gary Oldman. And, those are just the ones on the poster. Needless to say, their acting is superb, they totally embodied the characters that they portrayed.

 

The Bad:
Where should I start? Criminal starts with a LOT of jump cuts from city to city, person to person. It’s kind of a spy thriller so it makes sense, but, you really need to pay attention to what is going on.  One of the most interesting characters is killed off in the first half of the movie, which I thought was a poor choice, as far as story is concerned. The main character, played by Kevin Costner, is not a likable guy. He does some stuff at the beginning of the movie that almost had me walking out, almost. Throughout the movie, his character changes immensely, but, it’s still unnerving.
There is a little girl who accepts this character almost immediately, which is also unnerving, as she has no idea who he is, and her mother has absolutely no reason to trust him at all. These scenes could have been better explained, in my opinion.
Gal Gadot is not given nearly the screen time that she deserves and her character was handled poorly.

FIN02_Criminal_1Sht_Payoff_VF_s

The Ugly:
Shaky Cam, Shaky Cam everywhere. If you have trouble with this, be aware. Also, I was expecting Kevin Costner’s character to bust out some Kung Fu, or Krav Maga, but, the best we get is prison moves and brute force. Some of the more violent scenes are very graphic and can be disturbing to sensitive viewers.
In addition, there was a whole subplot about guys who could be Bond villains, computer programming, and nuclear missiles. These were wholly unnecessary in my opinion. Overall, this felt like most other recent Kevin Costner movies, such as The Postman and Waterworld, both of which I enjoy to this day, but, mainly when they are on cable. So, this movie may end up as a stocking stuffer from the bargain bin at your local Wally World.

TLDR;
If you enjoy movies with interesting plots, that are well-acted and feature some big names, Criminal is a good romp.
If you like action scenes and explosions, you will enjoy Criminal.
If you have trouble with shaky cam and you don’t enjoy hasty jump cuts, Criminal might be a movie to skip.

criminal-2016-ryan-reynolds1

Oh yeah, and Ryan Reynolds is in this movie. Who knew?

Criminal Movie: A Review

Miitomo: The Best of Social Media

Last Thursday Nintendo finally launched its new account and reward system, My Nintendo, that replaces Club Nintendo after a year hiatus. Along with this good news comes a fun little app called Miitomo. Inevitably, if you are friends with any Nintendo fans or the young at heart, you’ve likely seen an influx of Miis scattered across your social media that would rival your own Mii Plaza. I, unfortunately, will probably lose a few friends and followers by the time this particular hype train leaves the station, but I have no regrets. If you have not boarded that train, give the video above a watch to see what you’re in for and join me on this journey.

Miitomo is best described as a social media app that allows you to be the best version of yourself. You also get to post (Mii)fotos, satiate your desire to answer ALL THE QUIZZES, have a slightly repetitive time sink of a game, and be surrounded by friends who actually want to see it. For the icing on the cake, there are no ads and you get actual rewards for playing that include free games for the 3DS and useful perks for Miitomo itself. The launch video does a fantastic job of showing how to get started and some of the features. I have to admit that I am a terrible human being and take entirely too much enjoyment in making the Miis say awful things. It is truly an affliction and I just cannot help myself. Thankfully my friends have a tolerable sense of humor, or have somehow managed to exceed my own twisted thoughts. Personally, I blame Nintendo for doing such a fantastic job on text-to-speech and allowing some significant free speech (type ALL THE FOUR LETTER WORDS).

MIITOMO

Well, we do live in America.

Within about 30 minutes of answering questions and dressing my Mii up in silly things, I came to a solid theory. Miitomo seems to have drawn some of the best features of a game released two years ago called Tomodachi Life. The game itself is difficult to describe, but can be most related to a very weird voyeuristic version of The Sims. While it was repetitive and got stale quickly, the game had a unique quirky charm of being bat@#&! crazy with the most random dialogue and cut scenes. This app immediately reminded me of the good times I had in that bizarre game. I have come to the conclusion that Nintendo released Miitomo simply to record all of the weird things we say to keep their inevitable Tomodachi Life 2 fresh and exciting. I am likely very wrong, but on the slight chance that I am not, you heard the conspiracy here first, folks.

MIITOMO

This escalated quickly.

MIITOMO

#MiitomoStyle with Friends!

What about you, my fellow Nintenerds? Have you given Miitomo a shot yet? Need some random time waster in your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and relish in any fun moments you’ve had in the game so far. Feel free to add Mii as a friend using the QR code!

MIITOMO

Go ahead, add Mii!

You can always contact me on Facebook and Instagram @crystalbatdesigns!

Miitomo: The Best of Social Media

Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Books That Time Forgot

I don’t feel like I read enough science fiction anymore, and it bothers me. Not all of us have the spark to want to read, and many of us had our enjoyment for the written word driven out by the mandatory reading our primary or secondary schools forced on us. That said, science fiction, in my opinion, is strongest and most fulfilling when coming from the written word.

If you go to a science fiction convention, how many characters or cosplayers are literary characters? Okay, I love comics, don’t get me wrong, but I am excluding graphic novels. I imagine you could be having trouble trying to think of someone.  This is what I am talking about when I say I know I am not reading enough, because I am just watching, or looking. Science fiction at the moment, at least to me (and disintegrate me if you think I am wrong here), seems to be focused on watching and passive participation, at least when it comes to the media we all enjoy.

Reading a book is my idea of the purest way to experience the genre. The wonderful thing about sci-fi is that it requires imagination. Sure, some of it could happen – some of it has come to pass, but at the end of the day the genre that we all know and love is based upon letting go of a little bit and embracing imaginative storytelling.  Where is the imagination in watching a science fiction movie? Sure, we can appreciate another person’s imagination, but the image, the sounds, the emotion…..we aren’t creating that with our own minds. It is just there, projected. Graphic novels are a little better, but still, the art, the expression, they are there. This is why having the right artist for the graphic novel is so important, because you are presenting in essence a book, but you are substituting art and another person’s imagination in place of the readers’.

Good sci-fi also has to have one thing to anchor it. Strong character development and believable characters. I would read a book about  pixies that ride cyborg rainbow farting unicorns, but without those pixies having motivation, personality, a good story arc, it just becomes crap – not something that stirs the imagination. I mean, maybe the cyborg unicorns rebel and then pixie land becomes a blood and glitter soaked apocalyptic wasteland. There is something of a struggle for a protagonist to work on.

So where is this all going in relation to my title. A while back I decided I was tired of watching movies and reading tie in books. Or reading books that are an extension of a toy or video game. I wanted to get back to the root of things. That is when I discovered Burroughs. Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Burroughs wrote several books and if you have not in some way come across one of them, you have been living under a rock. Any of you that saw Batman V Superman have.  And I bet I am about to blow your mind – his works inspired Superman, and that trailer for the Legend of Tarzan….guess who wrote Tarzan? He also wrote The Land That Time Forgot as well. If this hasn’t piqued your interest or sent you to Wikipedia already then keep reading.

I love adventure stories, especially ones in a science fiction setting and even more so if they throw in a dash of romance. Ok, maybe not a dash of romance, a lot of romance. E.R.B. essentially wrote romantic novels for boys and men and wrapped them in stirring adventure.

While it could be argued that Tarzan of the Apes could be his most well known character, I will argue that The Princess of Mars has had the biggest impact on the genre of science fiction. So what is this book about, and why is it so important in science fiction?

Well for starters, there is a princess of Mars, but she is not the protagonist, although she is an interesting character in the book. The main character is actually a man from Earth named John Carter. Now if you know your sci-fi, you will know a few years ago that Disney had a financially disappointing outing trying to make this book into a live action film, basing its name on that of the main character. Love the film or hate it, it shouldn’t influence a decision to read the book.Princess_of_Mars_original cover

 

In the book, John Carter is a man looking to put his past behind him. He was on the losing side of the Civil War in the US and had gone out West to seek his fortune and a fresh start. Along the way he is transmitted to Mars by alien technology and has to make the most of the situation. Luckily for John, having just survived a war he can hold his own among the war-band tribes of Mars. The fun thing is though, since he is from Earth, which has a higher gravity, John is tougher than his new found companions in many respects. This is where the inspiration for Superman comes from, and one of the most direct connections between the two characters is their ability to jump great distances. Fun fact for those of you who are not Superman fans, Superman originally couldn’t fly. He could only jump long distances. He was also an alien stranger that came to a new planet.  But I digress. john carterr

To be frank, Princess of Mars really held my attention, and one of the reasons it did so was because of the princess herself. This woman is not helpless, and is a warrior scholar in her own right. The romance between her and John is great, as it is a nice slow burn, and it is done tastefully, she doesn’t just fall into his arms. If you have seen the film John Carter that Disney made, you may notice that the Princess Dejah Thoris doesn’t really follow the typical Disney Princess formula.

Then there is the action. Pulp fiction has some of the best action, and Burroughs arguably did the best job of describing and choreographing action sequences. He did just enough to describe the fights while leaving a bit open to the imagination. The perfect mix of knowing what was happening but not knowing who would come out on top.

If you get the chance, A Princess of Mars is actually in the public domain, so you can either pay to read it, or in some cases find a free copy online. Gotta love that!

So now that I have touched on A Princess of Mars, it is time to head back to Earth to a meet a rather famous literary character. Tarzan of the Apes.

tarzan original cover

Tarzan is the character that made Burroughs famous, and he milked the character to death. Even today, most people know who Tarzan is before they reach the age of 8 years old. The character is iconic, as is his partner Jane. Admit it, the famous line “Me Tarzan, You Jane” came into your mind as you were reading that. Surprise….that’s not how it actually goes in the book, and Tarzan, he’s pretty smart.

Tarzan of the Apes is such a famous story, most people think that they know it and never give the book a chance. Huge mistake. Massive.

To tell a personal secret, I am a huge romantic. If there isn’t a good love story to attach to the main character, I can lose patience. Tarzan pays off. Probably 3/4 of the story is jungle man growing up in the jungle and becoming lord of the apes. The last quarter of the novel is probably one of the more passionate love stories I have read, but it has one of those endings that just leaves you screaming for the next book. I won’t spoil it for you, but you really need to read the book because to my knowledge no movie, comic etc has actually followed the original plot because it just has THAT ENDING.

If you decide to read Tarzan, do yourself a favor and buy the sequel when you buy the first. You’ll understand once you have read it.

tarzan vs kerchak by mandy kart

So those are two of Burroughs’ better known and influential works, but I am going to throw in a third and personal favorite: The Land That Time Forgot. This book has flippn’ everything. World War 1, German submarines, dinosaurs, fantastic islands…it’s epic – and naturally, there is a romance as well.

I really do not want to describe what is in this book, because it takes so many unexpected turns. Obviously, the characters end up in a land that time forgot, but how they get there is half the fun. When they get there…that is great, and the island has a secret that isn’t just dinosaurs, it goes deeper than that. The good Mr. Burroughs essentially took what Mr. Doyle (The Lost World) had done and gave it action, romance and mystery rather than just make up a story about an expedition that had some hard times.

Edgar Rice Burroughs - Sea Monster

If you have read this far, hopefully I have stirred some interest in some books from a bygone era of science fiction. From a time before super heroes or special gadgets. Back when the stories were utterly fantastic and the characters were deeply developed, so much so that you feel like you know them, that you are them. I believe that by reading true classics that a deeper appreciation of what good science fiction and adventure is, and by doing this we can begin to hold the genre to the standard that it set all of those years ago. It also opens up the door to other incredible works like Frank Herbert’s Dune series, Asimov’s Foundation trilogy – there are so many great stories out there.

So how about you, have you read any of Burroughs’ books? Is there a work of science fiction that you have read that inspired you and developed your love for the genre? Let us know in the comments below!

Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Books That Time Forgot

Batman V Superman: Spoiler Free Review

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has been one of the most anticipated films of the new century, if you didn’t already know. Why? Because so much hangs on this one movie. For years now, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros have tried to create an interwoven universe of their heroes, similar to the Marvel and Star Wars franchises.  However, they were derailed by the shortcomings of Green Lantern and The Dark Knight Rises, not to mention the unwillingness of both Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale to continue what they’ve built.  The movie has been put against impossible odds, which has, unfortunately jilted many opinions without ever seeing the film.

Truth be told, no one is ever going to recreate magic. As fans, we latch on to certain art that inspires us to be better people. At no point in time has lightning struck twice.  We love Harry Potter, so why would we love Beautiful Creatures? That’s not how this works with Marvel and DC, though.  The MCU has produced 13 films since 2008, not all of them good, by the way, and continue strong. The DCEU only has two under its belt. It’s working to create its own magic in its own unique way. Stop comparing the two companies right now. I promise that if every comic/cinema/superhero fan continues to do that, both companies will cease to be successful.

Why do I digress so much? Wasn’t this a review? Yes it is. I digress because as of now Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice has received such terrible critical reviews that it seems personal. From the beginning, this movie has been faced with ridiculous adversity that it truly feels as if it is a critical attack against the film. Why don’t people want this to succeed? Because it’s not how they would do it? Because they have an idea of what a superhero film should be and that’s how all of them should be? Well, that’s not how things work.

I loved the movie. And I was a staunch anti-Batfleck advocate. This was not how I would have done a Justice League film. At no point, though, did that make it a bad movie. If I can get over that, so can you.

Your Grid Daily writers saw the film Wednesday evening and it affected us very differently, so you are going to get three mini reviews from three different people who all enjoyed the film differently.

Batman v Superman: Trinity Character Posters

Derreck’s Batman v Superman Review

It’s dark, it’s gritty, and it’s intense. BvS takes the lead of films like The Dark Knight and Synder’s own Watchmen. As many know, it takes a lot from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. This is not just from the design of the Batman mech suit. The entire tone of Batman and Bruce Wayne is inspired by Frank Miller’s work. This is an older, more brutal Dark Knight and it shows in nearly ever scene. Ben Affleck does a superb job throughout and quickly became my favorite live action incarnation of Batman. Gal Gadot is intelligent, smooth, confident, and outright fierce. When she isn’t taking up the sword, she is keeping one step… or maybe three, ahead of everyone else. When she is in full gear with sword and shield, she becomes an exhilarating force that took more joy out of battle than her titular counterparts.

This is not the early 2000s Justice League cartoon. It’s not bright and funny; it’s dark and gritty but that’s okay. If gods came to Earth and started crushing cities, things would seem pretty grim and there wouldn’t be a whole lot of joking around. I urge you to not only see this film but do so with an open mind and an understanding that it is trying to do something different, something fresh, and it’s doing it with three of the most iconic superheroes of all time: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, the Trinity.

Overall, the movie is building to so much. A lot of time is taken to build the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) since their approach is essentially the opposite of the MCU. BvS is part Man of Steel sequel, part companion story and it lays the seeds for nearly all future DCEU films. With that in mind, I think it’s very important that people go to see this movie. Batman v Superman is the beginning of the DCEU. Man of Steel opened the door but Batman v Superman took the first steps toward building this universe. I can’t wait to see the rest of the films.

On a final note, if you have not seen Man of Steel or if it has been a very long time, you should probably watch it (again). A lot of the beginning of BvS takes part during that film and the whole movie is essentially a response to those events.

Batman v Superman: Ben Affleck Batman

Rae’s Batman v Superman Review

I loved this film. It was definitely one of the better superhero movies I’ve seen in awhile. I say that because I wasn’t expecting any of it.  Every bit of it was a new take on the Trinity for me, which was ultimately refreshing. It’s not every day someone can show me a new incarnation of Batman. But that’s what DC has always been; reinventions of the same characters for years, proving that everyone has built these characters, from writers, to directors, to actors, to fans.

Jesse Eisenberg was a complete surprise for me. His spastic portrayal of Lex showed layers of his psychoticism peel away as the movie went on. He was a Lex that was worthy of being a Superman villain, unlike some of his predecessors. I rather enjoyed how his brilliance and craze overlapped into a well developed character. Ben Affleck as Batman is still not my favorite Batman, but he’s the only Batman who has been a detective since Adam West. That alone was enough to get me on his side. His relationship with Alfred was another surprising move. Arguably, the two were the closest that I’ve seen to an accurate portrayal of the comic book characters, including the animated series.

I was never convinced that the movie was going to be bad. And it wasn’t. The choppy ADHD beginning was the Snyder way of getting 75 years worth of exposition for these four characters (I’m including Lex in with the Trinity) out of the way. So, there was a few stylistic choices I would have done differently, but overall the movie makes me entirely too excited for the continuations.

Batman v Superman: Gal Gadot Wonder Woman

Ryan’s Batman v Superman Review

This movie was good.  Better than the reviews would lead you to believe, but probably not as good as what you want it to be.  It has a lot of issues, the main one being the amount of story lines that they try and follow, most fairly unsuccessfully.  You have the Batman introduction story, Superman dealing with the repercussions of Man of Steel, the actual Batman V Superman story, the setup for the other characters in Justice league, Setup for the Wonder Woman movie, and the titular dawn of the Justice League.  That isn’t even touching on the movie’s villain stories.

The movie could have shaved off 30-40 minutes of the excess small story lines, and it would have helped it feel less bloated and jumpy.  The cuts between the scenes in the first hour or so of the movie felt like Zach Snyder forgot his ADHD medication on editing day.  That covers the majority of the bad for me.

With all the bad things out of the way, there were some good things.  Some of those things delve into spoiler territory, so I won’t cover those now.  The casting was great.  I had some doubts with Gal as Wonder Woman, but she was great.  She stole every scene she was in, and her character was handled brilliantly in the short amount of screen time she received.  Zach Snyder has a lot of issues that plague all his films, but the movie was beautifully cinematic.  A true feast for the eyes.

If you liked Man of Steel you will love this movie.  If you didn’t like MOS, you probably won’t enjoy this movie as much as I did.  Either way, I recommend avoiding spoilers, as well as going in without preconceived notions of what the movie is.  Forget all the negative reviews, walk in the theater, and have some comic book style fun.

Justice League

What did you think of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Did it live up to your expectations? What would you like to see in future DCEU films? Comment below!

Be sure to catch all three of us on Wednesday for Screen Heroes! We’ll be talking about this movie in great detail with lots of spoilers. So stay tuned and subscribe on iTunes at screen-heroes.com!

Batman V Superman: Spoiler Free Review

Dead Drift: The Indie Spotlight

Today we turn our indie spotlight to web show Dead Drift. You should give it a watch by clicking here. It’s a short little five minute episode kinda thing that shouldn’t take too much of your time.  Dead Drift is a futuristic sci-fi take on The Office style of comedy that pits three crew members in a interstellar mission where things, well … uhmmm, they get a little weird.

The show consist of short 5 minute episodes with interactions between Captain Ryland Banks and Technician Maurice Morris. In between the conversations or short little asides, the characters break the fourth wall and talk directly to the viewer, much in the way that is seen on The Office.

Described as a screwball buddy comedy Dead Drift is pretty darn funny. Having Technician Morris squaring off with Captain Morris is hilariously done and well acted. I couldn’t help but to chuckle at Star Trek references but what is so funny is that the two man crew is so incompetent. We all have a picture in our head of NASA sending the best and brightest out there but these two are not it. Morris is a insubordinate and a malcontent who has contempt for his Captain. Captain Morris on the other almost graduated West Point and can’t help but to be anything but inspire leadership, Captain Picard he is not.

Banks

Almost Graduated West Point

Morris

Sending Sass Your Way

HANNAH

The Only Competent Crew Member

One scene in particular has the Captain trying to get a replicator to make him, tea, earl grey, hot, and is too incompetent to figure out the device. When he called Morris to correct the problem the technician gives him sass and says holding up a induction clamp voltmeter “I’ll just use my tricorder and run a level 3 diagnostic.” Just about any Trekkie would recognize a level 3 diagnostic. In another scene, Morris runs out of toilet paper and decides to use a technical manual to finish his business and some how manages to use it despite it actually being a tablet. Who says eBooks will replace paper print anyways?

The screwball crew is eventual joined by a sexy and competent AI named H.A.N.N.A.H. Playing the role of the comedic “straight man”, her character does a great job of punting joke set ups to Morris and Banks. And as you might imagine Hannah’s perfect capabilities make these two slobs look even worse.

 

Dead Drift Clones

Attack Of The Clones

There short mission takes them to their first port of call to visit a Mars station where a German Commander named Schneider has is dead wife cloned, multiple times… things get weird for Morris and Banks.

Schneider

You Better Believe German Accents Can Be Funny !!

On the whole, this is great little show, funny, crisp, and sharp in its unique sci-fi brand of comedy. Every episode comes in at just under 5 minuets so it makes it easy to watch either on the go or in that short break between tasks. Dead Drift is a great sci-fi show that deserves to be given a chance to entertain you, if even for a few minutes. Check out there website and check out what they accomplished here.

Have you watched any of Dead Drift yet? Comment below with your thoughts on the series!

Dead Drift: The Indie Spotlight

Allians: A New Collectible Card Game

Have you ever wanted a personalized game character? Imagine a card game where you are both player and card! The company Claimony is making that a reality with Allians. Inspired by the classic collectible card games and fantasy leagues, you can draft your team and develop their unique traits. Your team can then wage war with a dash of competitive card games and betting. Engaging in tactical battles and climbing the battle to glory! If that all seems too normal, or average, Claimony steps up the game by connecting your personal card, with your personal Steam account. The system only requires the URL for your Steam account to generate a Champion Card. By default, the card will feature your Steam ID, however, you can upload your own original artwork instead. Your Champion’s attributes are based on your Steam performance and typically range from 0 to 150. The Combat Level is an indication of the Champions overall strength. It’s derived from all attributes with extra weight to the top attribute and range from 1 to 15.

Allians from Claimony

Allians from ClaimonyPlanning: Used to reveal hidden information. Based on your efforts in Strategy and Other genres. Also influenced by Sports and Adventure games.
Endurance: Helps you withstand tough opponents. Based on your efforts in Simulation and MMO genres. Also influenced by Strategy and Racing games.
Aggression: Commonly used to overpower enemy tactics. Based on your efforts in Action and RPG genres. Also influenced by MMO and Other games.
Reflex: Helps you evade and confuse your enemies. Based on your efforts in Action and Racing genres. Also influenced by Indie and Sports games.
Luck: Lets you take advantage of your surroundings. Based on your efforts in Adventure and Indie genres. Also influenced by RPG and Simulation games.
To further personalize your Champion, you must choose from a variety of factions:
Seeker: Seeking wisdom and power through understanding the world around them.
Primal: In need of freedom and individuality through free expression and competition.
Zodiac: Mysteriously keeping secrets within their circle to outwit their enemies.
Infiltrator: Lone wolves who love to manipulate and spy on others to gain intel.
Guardian: Team players who are very protective of their allies and their reputation.

The role of factions will be made clear during the upcoming Kickstarter. The link will be provided as soon as it is available.Allians from Claimony

Check out Alliansgame.com to create your personalized card.

Have you looked into Allians? Comment below with your thoughts on the new CCG.

Allians: A New Collectible Card Game

Star Trek Horizon: The Review

Star Trek Horizon is a fan film set in the era of Star Trek: Enterprise. Work on the project took about 3 years and has been described as a love letter to the Enterprise show that went before her time. Back in November we got a chance to chat with Tommy Kraft from Star Trek Horizon and you can find the interview here. Now that the film has been released and after having a chance to watch it I was really impressed with it. And you can watch it to on youtube here. I mean it’s not that it’s flawless, but as far as fan films go, Star Trek Horizon is a shining example of what a fan film ought to be. I was particularly impressed with the story and the acting. Special effects were also very excellent.

Star Trek Horizon: Trailer #1

-Story Outline-

I really enjoyed the plot and it was a far better send off to the show than the Enterprise final “These Are the Voyages…” It starts with a battle scene between the out matched NX-04 Discovery and several Romulan Bird of Preys in the Earth solar system. Discovery has information about a Romulan secret weapon of devastating power being built just outside of the solar system. With this information a task force is put together to remove this threat on Starfleet’s doorstep consisting of Enterprise, Discovery, and some Vulcan vessels. In the desperate battle that ensues, Discovery lands the final death blow on the Romulan station but there is more to it. The station was just the tip of the iceberg.

Star Trek Horizon - Romulan Base

It is eventually discovered that the station was relaying power from another location. Disturbingly it is discovered that an agent from the future has been manipulating events, giving the Romulans access to awesome powers that are centuries beyond them to help them in the war with Starfleet. Despite temporal tampering, the crew of Discovery finds a way to set things right, destroying the weapon and taking care of the temporal interloper for good.

-Plot Reaction-

The plot with Horizon is what sets it apart from most fan films out there as it’s really good and flows from one part to another. Horizon actually makes you forget you’re watching a fan film, and that’s how you know its good. There have been a lot of Star Trek fan films out there, even some with veteran Star Trek actors but they never really pulled this off (cough cough, Star Trek Renegades) . It was Horizon’s superior storytelling and how all the pieces fit together that pulled this immersion off and it’s what makes it so enjoyable to watch.

Star Trek Horizon - Discovery

The only complaints I’d lodge against the plot are ones that can be found with the Enterprise show in general: the frequent use of transporters, too much being known about the Romulans, to name a few. But since this was the mood of the show I can’t say I really blame Horizon for it. Hey it works for the era they’re in, I guess. Despite these cannon problems Horizon actually did an excellent job of having face-to-face time between the Discovery crew and a Romulan antagonist. Due to his “Balance of Terror” style helmet, his Vulcan like features were hidden. The crew had conversations with him and never knew his people shared common ancestry with another founding member of the federation, the Vulcans. This was a really clever way of having the characters share a scene together and I have to give the makers of Horizon props for it. As an Original Series fan this means a lot.

Star Trek Horizon - Captain Hawk

Some more solid critiques of the film are only slightly more severe. I don’t think the story was helped by the idea of having a Romulan defector deliver the intelligence about the weapon. I also didn’t care for the plot point of having her surgically altered to appear human just to avoid anyone in Starfleet seeing a Romulan and breaking canon. She could’ve have just have easily been a third party alien as proir collaborator or something like that. It’s just a little too hard to swallow considering the no contact precedent already established between Starfleet and Romulas. I also found it a little odd that Discovery was calling the shots in the battle to destroy the Romulan weapon when Enterprise was with her, especially when it is established that Archer is still in command and he has seniority. It just doesn’t make sense and falls in to the trope of having a fan film stars out shinning the show that they making a film for. Having another NX class ship instead of Enterprise or having Archer otherwise disposed would’ve been cool; promotion would’ve been a nice idea. Besides, I think after building four of those NX class ships they ain’t prototypes anymore, but I digress. Maybe a little more progression from the Enterprise show was missing. These are only small nitpicks of an otherwise excellent story but as being a plot-Nazi, I had to get those little nuggets out there.

Star Trek Horizon - Discovery

-Acting-

As far as acting is concerned it’s actually pretty good. At times the film struggles to grasp the characters’ personalities and they don’t really come off as distinct as they should but acting isn’t the blame. It’s more due to the writing of the lines than the actors themselves. But this shouldn’t be surprising as this is one of the hardest things to pull off for any show, not just fan films (cough cough Star Wars prequels). Often times you’ll have characters saying exactly what happen instead of their lines injecting a characters personality of their own on it.

 

One scene in particular exemplifies this is where the Romulan villain disappears via a transporter and the Captain just say “where did he go?” Instead of him literally saying what happened it may have been better for him to say something a little more specific to what a character might say. Imagine for example putting Archer, Tucker, or T’Pol in the same situation and they would’ve reacted differently with what they said. It’s in the lines and the dialogue that characters are defined and this is throwing the ball to the actors. If it’s a good pitch, they can hit it out of park. What worries me is that viewers often confuse acting with writing. I’m afraid they may reject the performances expecting it to be something like what they see on television. The scenes and character interactions aren’t quite ready for the big leagues yet but are still far better than a lot of other fan films. There is no shame in this though, as just about every other show in their first season struggles with this problem. But in the case of Star Trek Horizon, the acting is pretty good when you take this into consideration.

Actor 1 St Horizon

Now that I think of it, I actually liked the acting, especially when compared with fan films or even indie films in general. Ignoring some of the dialogue, the actors did a great job. Paul Lang as Captain Harrison Hawk has some real charisma that hints at some grit just underneath the surface, perfect for an action film. I would’ve loved to have seen Captain Hawk as a little more martial though. And his chemistry with costar Jeannine Thompson is nice to see; I love their interactions. Marc Bowers as the XO has some real stage presence in his own right. I also had some fondness for Tom McClure as the Security Chief. He seemed to have some personality on his own, it just came naturally. Lastly, all of the Romulans were done excellently. Coming off with just the right amount of smugness and over confidence. The final villain in particular was especially well done. You could just sense the bile and hatred for Starfleet oozing out of him, loved it.

Star Trek Horizon - Romulan

-Special Effects-

Lets just say Star Trek Horizon looks awesome. The outer space battles look fantastic and getting to see the NX-01 in action one last time is wonderful. Even getting a few close in shots of the name Discovery being painted on the hull is a nice treat. The other Vulcan and Romulan ships are done nicely and their maneuvers are what you’d expect to find in action scenes. When you’re watching the space battles you have to remind yourself that this isn’t a professional show because its hard to tell as it looks that good.

Star Trek Horizon - Space Dock

The interior shots may not be for everyone, but the look actually grew on me. It looks like a hybrid approach was used for the set, partially building objects in the foreground while doing the rest of the back ground with special effects (i.e. green screen). This has two effects; it kinda makes for static shots of scenes, and makes it all look a little off or weird. Wel, at least if you expect television level of set pieces that is but it isn’t all that bad in my opinion. To lessen this, everything as a soft glow or fuzz to it that actually grew on me, gave it a nostalgic look. It kinda stylizes the look of the film and unifies it all together.

Despite the limitations of static shots from background replacement, Horizon counters this by striving very hard at having movement in its scenes. Though much of the film is zoomed very close or shot statically to minimize the special effects work needed. There are still quite a few scenes of movement and panning shots, people walking down corridors and across scenes to help this along. This really makes Horizon stand out among other fan films who had back grounds that were done by a programmer instead of a carpenter to save money. Horizon looks much better doing it because of the resourcefulness of their team. I have to give a nod of respect to the technique and ambition to the special effects.

Star Trek Horizon - Behind the Scenes

Sound and music are often the unsung heroes of television and Horizon has these in spades as well. Everything sounds great from doors opening to mysterious alien tech sounding the way it should. Music feels appropriate for the scenes and sounds a lot like season 4 of Enterprise. The subtle component of audio is in attendance for Horizon and feels perfect.

-Conclusion-

Star Trek Horizon is an excellent fan film and should stand as an example of how a fan film should be made. It hits way above its weight class because of its story, acting, special effects, and sound. If their where awards for fan film, they’d be walking away with arm loads of them. Though at times the dialogue leaves the characters a little too bland and poorly defined, this is understandable. It’s one of the hardest things of making a show. Despite this, enough of the core elements of the characters remain to make you forget this is just a fan film at times. The story more than makes up for it and moves you along from start to finish with little down time between. At the end of the day this stands as worthy tribute to abruptly ended Star Trek Enterprise, one that fans of the show would enjoy and should give a look. Star Trek Horizon easily ranks as one of the better fan films out there, keeping deserved company with Star Trek Continues and the Prelude to Axanar short. If you like Star Trek Enterprise or Star Trek fan films in general, give this one a try.

Have you watched Horizon yet? What did you think? Sound off below.

Star Trek Horizon: The Review

Radiation Day, the Comic Book – Review

Radiation Day is a post apocalyptic story, nicely drawn, and is a respectful nod to the Mad Max sub-genre. Set in the not-to-distant future, it follows the two main characters: an optimistic young man named Six, who often has a smart quip on his tongue, and the older more experienced man named Osa. The jaded and erasable Osa has first hand knowledge of the world before the rock hit and he has been in too many tight spots to let his guard down. On a seemingly simple errand run Osa, Six, and some others are ambushed. As for the core aspects of Radiation Day … …

Radiation Day #1 - Rad Day 3

Art

It’s actually much better than I expected; I mean there is some stunning stuff here. Radiation Day does an excellent job of portraying the characters consistent with what you’d expect the characters to act. A person that is a weasel, looks and acts the part. Action is really nicely done and there some really epic scenes. The only drawback may be the lack luster backgrounds, its not so much lacking detail as the backdrops are a little lacking of character of their own. Frames and transitions are also a little dull but I’d chalk that up more to the resources at hand. That being said the art work has some snap to it.

Radiation Day #1 - Rad Day 2

Writing
The story flows nicely and draws you in, thanks in part to Osa and Six who jump of the page with personality. Where so many stories fall short, Radiation Day does this very well.  When Osa is grouchy and apprehensive it makes sense. And it is naturally complemented by Six’s youthful innocence and smart aleck comments.

Radiation Day #1 - Rad Day 4

Bottom Line

For those of us who like Mad Max style story then Radiation Day is for you. It has laid a good foundation for an adventure story where life is on the line and survivors have to work together to overpower the chaotic world that they live in. I look forward to seeing some gritty style story’s from Radiation Day.

Radiation Day #1 - Rad Day 5

Radiation Day is a new series published by our friends at Project-Nerd who have recently started PN Publishing. You can get Radiation Day #1 now, digitally.

 

Radiation Day, the Comic Book – Review