Worst of 2017

 

While 2017 was indeed a great year for entertainment and the like, there was plenty to dislike…nay, hate about the year.

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Comic Books Vice like Grip on Entertainment Media

What started the year as yet another “Marvel” header for my Worst of 2017 list slowly grew and mutated into what is today, a catch all for comic books everything!

It should go without saying that I didn’t care for a single damn thing Marvel put out this year, from the litany of undercooked Netflix and network shows, to the ancillary, not wholly owned Marvel products like way up it’s own ass and shitty CGI-laden Legion, The Gifted and abysmal Inhumans…to the movies…one of which managed to crack the top ten of the 50 Best Superhero Movies of all time. That’s right…Thor: Ragnorok…barely two weeks old at the time…cracked the TOP 10 of a giant list of superhero movies. Give me a fucking break!

Which lead in the tail end of the year award season being pooh-poohed because it dared to not award Logan or Wonder Woman with any nominations? They are like totally worth being considered for maybe like even Oscars, that’s how compelling and great they are.

If…and this is a great if…either of those movies was worthy of a nod, I would transcend my blazing disinterest and apathy in superhero movies these days and agree that they should be recognized as something of note. Logan and Wonder Woman did nothing to deserve recognition.

Well, I would argue that Logan displayed massive balls in not only copying the plot and framing of the movie Shane, but then all meta “tongue-in-cheek” show a good chunk of said movie in the film…that’s some balls! Giving Wolverine movie cancer and a daughter redemption plot doesn’t equal award season gold!

Wonder Woman is the plot of Captain America: The First Avenger…but with a lady. Gal Gadot is hot, and looks great Wonder Woman-ing around…but she cannot act and the Wonder Woman movie does everything in its power to mitigate the actresses weaknesses by making every one else on Thermiscura speak with a shitty Gal Gadot accent. The villains are cartoonish…even for a superhero movie and the British as fuck bad guy awkwardly CGI melded with a stupid giant piece of armor climax fight was stupid as well. I guess you could reward Wonder Woman for not shitting the already reeking DCEU bed further and clearing the very low bar of female comic book hero movies?

Speaking of rip-off Spider-Man: Homecoming liberally heisted most it’s best plot elements from John Hughes movies, but when most of your fans aren’t remotely interested in any other movie outside the MCU I guess you can just do that and not get called out for it. Even if you pull a Logan and literally show the scene you’re ripping off in the movie.

Here’s to another great decade of superhero movies!

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Nier: Automata

I’ve never wanted to like a game more than Nier: Automata. What appeared to be the digital peanut butter and chocolate I’ve longed for: coupling a Platinum Games’ combat system with a nonsensical anime ass JRPG plot about sexy robots kicking the shit out of unsexy robots and having an existential crises about it for dozens of hours.

I even knew what to expect going in. I knew that I would need to play the game a few times, deal with similar gameplay elements and the like…”beat” the game a few more times to truly get what narrative Nier: Automata was selling. Nevertheless, I couldn’t do it. I know it’s Japanese as fuck, but you can only bury your game so far down in redundant anime and repetitive gameplay bullshit before I’ll yield.

Perhaps the blame for this allergy to obtuse game design came from playing the ass end of Bravely Default’s “endgame” a few times and being rewarded with slight tweaks to the ending. Fuck that game and fuck Nier: Automata for hiding away its better elements in sub par, repetitive gameplay.

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Baby Driver

Maybe you had to watch this movie in the theaters to truly get it. Like a Fast & Furious movie is a great little mindless watch, but it comes to life in the movie theater with the cars and explosions and the like rumbling your mind senseless.

To me there’s been a precipitous drop in quality with Edgar Wright’s work starting with Spaced. I think he’s a great collaborative director, but on his own, his films are always…twee. They are all sizzle and no steak…like pop music or whatever shiny disposable artifact that you would parallel his stuff with. Tastes great while you’re chewing it, but you can’t remember it when it’s gone.

After a great opening scene that would portend an instant classic…Baby Driver mashes the twee button and just doesn’t relent for the next unwieldy two-hours run time with a scene of the titular Baby bringing coffee to his heistmates. There’s lyrics superimposed on the background and other twee elements that instantly ejected me from the movie.

Baby Driver spends way too much of it’s time trying to be clever and making sure you the viewer know it. But what’s more galling is that after awhile you begin to realize you’ve seen elements of this film before. As if Edgar Wright just took his favorite elements of various films and just…”remixed” them. It’s a problem I’ve had with Mr. Robot as well, this copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy pop culture pastiche that has seemingly eroded any originality one could bring to the cinematic arts.

And while Baby Driver boasts a fantastic cast, they are all wasted with insipid dialogue, inconsistent characterizations and a refusal to follow any logic outside of “because plot”. Ansel Elgort and an atonal Lily James have no chemistry, and I half wonder if Anna Kendrick wasn’t supposed to be the “adorkable girlfriend”. The plot of the movie is very stupid, and not in that fun Fast & Furious way. Moreover, for some action/car/heist movie it is overly long and has one of the stupidest endings I have ever seen.

The only redeemable part of Baby Driver is the driving sequences, those were dope!

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Okay…I’m being hyperbolic here…Breath of the Wild wasn’t the worst by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a great game, and I put dozens and dozens of hours in to it earlier this year. I could be more specific if Nintendo had some sort of counter to tell me, but I’m merely guessing. I beat it. I do know that.

Breath of the Wild’s problem is that while it’s great open world game, it forgot to still be a Zelda game.

Clearly the inspiration for the game was the original NES Zelda, where you could go anywhere your heart desired, to parts that would kick your heart in the dick and send you to the GAME OVER screen, to try again from the start screen. And Breath of the Wild has that feeling in spades, I was constantly getting my shit pushed in by lowly enemies and frantically cycling through stick weapons as I would break dozens trying to kill two bad guys!

The weapon degradation system was bullshit, easily. Even the mighty Master Sword was not immune from its bullshit, as it would “break” and need to recharge. It would stay whole during boss battles and Hyrule Castle, but it wasn’t the most powerful weapon to use. Goddamn if I didn’t primarily use it though! I’ll take a few more whacks at an enemy if it means I don’t have to pause the game and shuffle through a dozen hoarded weapons every five minutes!

Shrines are a great idea, but they aren’t dungeons. I get their necessity in the game world and the give/take design they foster between grip meter and heart containers. However, I would’ve enjoyed if some of those shrines were cobbled together to make a few dungeons. Did we really need 156 of the damned things?

The other problem with the shrines occurs if you have been playing games for more than a decade. Between Half-Life, Portal and any other of the myriad of physics based puzzle games, I’m somewhat good on that mechanic. Breath of the Wild offers a few wrinkles to that tried and tested formula, but sometimes I would’ve enjoyed fighting a Wingnut or Stafflos in a locked room for a dungeon key or macguffin. Instead, I had to stasis a block, then whack it a bunch so it could clear a gap, and press a button to open a gate. Fun…but only the first three dozen times.

Even the dungeon adjacent divine beasts were lacking! Great puzzle boxes to figure out, but mostly devoid of enemies or anything fun to do once you got up in them.

And the Zelda series has a pretty great bench of baddies, so why I was only fighting a fistful of the same guys repeatedly? The only difference coming as you got further in to the game and they changed color signifying a “level up”, making them more of a hassle, and things I just avoided in the back end of the game.

While Breath of the Wild wasn’t literally the worst, it was still very disappointing to play a Zelda game that had so little of what made the previous games in the series so great. I don’t mind the taking liberties with formula, and I loved all the small details Nintendo crammed in to the game, but they stripped out too much of the Zelda DNA. I was also super bummed that after keeping Ganon at bay for nearly 100 years Zelda wasn’t an old crone. It would’ve totally fit the dark and dire tone of the narrative if you rolled up on her after a century and her power was waning because she was old and dying, but nah we get young perky Zelda with that thick ass!

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American Gods (TV Series)

American Gods is a book that I really enjoyed, and had no problems with anyone trying to adapt it, be it for the big or small screen. Adaptations of Neil Gaiman’s work have been spotty at best, but there is no shortage of people trying to adapt anything of his. There’s a quality to his work that really shouldn’t be so hard to translate in to something just as magical as his written words.

With an amazing cast, and Bryan Fuller at the helm, you’d think this would be a slam-dunk…but I’m here to say….Nah, it didn’t do it for me.

I can’t quite pinpoint my problem with it. Maybe the expansion of certain plot elements that seemed to just be a fierce padding to the main plot goings on. Mainly the “B” plot of Laura Moon and Mad Sweeney, which dovetails with the “A” plot of Shadow and Wednesday in the finale…but…Meh?

If you look up “all sizzle and no steak”, I’m fairly certain you’ll see a picture of Bryan Fuller, a lot of his shows have that Tim Burton-lite esthetic that’s hard to ignore and all of his shows have great premises. It’s just that the execution winds up being so lacking, which makes watching American Gods so frustrating.

I’m fine expanding the roster of “Gods” to include more females, but when they’re done so abysmally, why even bother in the first place? Do we need a constant looming big bad to have a thread that runs throughout the season? For that matter, why expand Laura Moon if you’re not going to give her much to work with outside of her already two-dimensional book characterization? Did she need a tired road trip plot that really did nothing but pad the length of each episode and extend the plot out so that they could claw more than one season out of the books plot? It seems like a shitty parallel copy of the “A” plot road trip from the book, wherein the places Shadow wound up told much of the story. Be it with Shadow himself or the various old nigh on forgotten gods and their tragic backstories.

American Gods looks great, don’t get me wrong. It’s beautifully shot and looks expensive, but it doesn’t really do much story wise, and doubly so if you’ve read the book and were looking forward to a somewhat faithful adaptation. Oh well, there’s plenty of other Gaiman properties to cherish in the meantime.

 

 

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Worst of 2017

The Best of 2017

2017 was a stellar year for entertainment of all kinds! So much so that narrowing down a list to just a scant few seemed impossible, but here it is.

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Transformers: The Last Knight

I don’t know if this movie broke my mind, or some earlier film did so, but I thoroughly enjoyed the fifth Transformers movie way more than any human possibly could have. Typically, when I participate in the summer blockbuster season, I take my brain out and just enjoy the flashing lights and loud sounds. No movie before has been that and so much more! This is also coupled with my new “coping mechanism” for dealing with movies these days: “Fuck you, that’s why!” This answer covers any question that your pitiful human brains desire for filmic competency and linear structure may come up with. This mechanism is applicable to all movies as well as one with such greatness as Transformers: The Last Knight.

Why is there a protracted King Arthur scene, nay other film narrative all up in the beginning of this movie? Fuck you, that’s why! and they introduce a dope ass dragon Transformer! Because…fuck you, that’s why! Why is Bumblebee fighting Nazi’s in a heretofore unexplained historical tinged flashback that would possibly retcon the entire “canon” of the films? Fuck you, that’s why!

Transformers: The Last Knight is Michael Bay at his finest, or at his worst, you can never really tell from one frame of this movie to the next. All the elements of a Bay film are here: hot girls, sweet looking cars, loud noises, flashing lights, dumb plot that loosely  threads the disparate tax write-off location based elements together. That the movie then tries to place the entire Transformers films in to some sort of cinematic universe is itself as brazen and dumb as to actually be genius!

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The Young Pope

There wasn’t a single television show this year that captured my entire being so much as The Young Pope. A ten-hour long foreign film that explores faith, humanity, tradition and mythology. Like most religions, it can be impenetrable to those who try to take on its singular elements without wholly giving over to its charms. Moreover, like most things that have to be taken on faith, The Young Pope cruelly refuses to answer the questions it poses or fails to even bother help you comprehend the larger picture its painting. Few shows demand patience and reward it like this show does, and that’s what makes it so great.

And to say nothing of just how beautifully shot the entire series is. The Young Pope is a visual powerhouse that delivers on how awe-inspiring Rome can be and why it is the seat of the Catholic Church. Jude Law is commanding in his role as the titular character and is supported by a great cast of known and unknown actors, with no real weak links to be found.

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Super Mario Odyssey

In a surprising toss up between this and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey came out on top.

It was a revelation to me seeing as I’m not the biggest 3D Mario fan. I don’t actively hate  them, but have always found that I enjoyed Mario more in his 2D outings and less so when I was trying to jump on a goomba….a goomba of all things…and would misjudge by just a hair and get hit by it. On the other hand, this same misjudging would lead to a fall off a platform, and other frustrations that always kept me on the outside looking in on 3D Mario games.

And look, Super Mario Odyssey still had those frustrating elements that kept me from truly enjoying past 3D Marios, and I had a goodly amount of bullshit “not-my-fault” deaths, but I think the capturing element is what truly made me enjoy the game so much. It broke up the monotony of “Woo-hoo!”-ing, hopping and bopping my way as Mario, misjudged and mistimed leaps and all. The captured creatures and enemies broke up the gameplay in such a way that I was still Mario 80% of the time, but I didn’t get frustrated banging my head against a particularly trying element as I could usually capture a nearby enemy and find something else to do for a moment.

The game is expertly paced as well, with the lesser kingdoms not demanding much of your time, and none of them really commanding much in the way of collecting to move on from it to perhaps a better kingdom more worthy of exploring. I was pleasantly surprised time and time again by what Super Mario Odyssey had on offer and that there was plenty of platforming to be found, though I do wish the 2D platform sections were more plentiful and challenging instead of the delightful aperitif it more often turned out to be.

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Final Fantasy Tactics

For years…nay decades I’ve always been one of those guys that would roll their eyes every single time a strategy-RPG would come out and those certain denizens of The Internets would cry that it wasn’t Final Fantasy Tactics (FFT)…and nothing ever would be…ever!

I’ve never been much of a Strategy-RPG man, but as I’ve gotten older, and presumably, more patient in my gaming tastes…not to mention how haphazard Japanese RPG’s can be these days, I decided to give FFT a turn.

Lucky for FFT that I have a hard rule for playing JRPG’s: play at least ten hours. That’s about the length of a typical JRPG “tutorial” and when the game finally trusts you to play it. FFT was no different, and in fact, at around the ten-hour mark it busts out one of the hardest skirmishes at Dorter Slums. I found it so hard I had to restart the entire game, play those early hours again, and was finally able to best it….barely.

After that point the game rarely stat checks you or offers much of a challenge, the only real difficulty coming from poor ally/enemy placement and wonky AI. By the time I finished the game I had a pain train team that was nigh unstoppable and dealt awesome damage so the end game and beyond offered nothing of note challenge wise. I can’t tell you if I actually got better at the game and its bullshit or the game stopped trying, but I never ran in to anything nearly as frustrating as the beginning dozen or so hours.

FFT boasts such a great, compelling story and gameplay that I’m surprised SquareEnix hasn’t remade it several thousand times. And woe be to you who wish to find something similar to play after you finish FFT as literally nothing compares…I have become one of those fans now!

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Big Boi: Boomiverse

Here is I was lamenting the sad state of hip-hop when Big Boi heard my cries for a fresh modern romp through the dirty south and released Boomiverse this past summer.

In a time when rap is apparently just mumbling over a beat during the third verse of a female pop singers umpteenth diss song, or just making noises, Boomiverse is a throwback to a time where rappers spit about real shit that mattered: big booty‘s, money and sex!

Tracks like “Chocolate”, “Freakonomics” and “Kill Jill” were truly great and I even found “Mic Jack” to be awesome even though Adam Levine shows up to try and ruin it.

I hardly ever find an album worth of extolling come years end but Big Boi’s third solo outing was too excellent not to say something about it.

 

 

The Best of 2017