Review of Captain Marvel

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After many years the Marvel cinematic universe has released a movie fronted by a heroine. Much to my disappointment however, the already established Black Widow was overlooked in favour of Captain Marvel. Not to be confused with the DC character of the same name, Captain Marvel is a lesser known hero who has been around since the seventies. I first spotted Captain Marvel in the nineties X-Men cartoon. She was the unfortunate person who Rogue absorbed her superpowers from. Back then Captain Marvel was one of the most attractive ladies from the Marvel comics. The same cannot be said of her present day incarnation though. A questionable redesign has robbed the former Ms Marvel of her feminine traits and cool mask.

OVERVIEW

The movie version of Captain Marvel is a Kree soldier named Vers. Film viewers who have previously watched Guardians of the Galaxy should recognize the Kree Empire, as they are the alien race that Ronan the Accuser serves. Set in the nineties, the film kicks off with Vers being assigned to a squad who are pursuing some nasty extraterrestrials known as the Skrulls. Unfortunately for Vers, the mission goes awry and culminates with her being stranded on a primitive planet called Earth. It’s a strange world, where inhabitants exchange currency for entertainment in establishments called Blockbuster.

Vers isn’t the only one marooned on Earth. A small group of Kree insurgents have also crashed landed on the planet. Vers attempts to track said greenskins down, but it won’t be easy as the Kree have the ability to shapeshift. Invaders who can transform into humans? Gasp! Looks like David Ike was right all along. Anyway, in order to catch the Kree, Vers teams up with a SHIELD agent named Nick Fury. As the pair travel across the States, searching for clues, Vers begins to experience flashbacks. The sights and sounds of Earth are awakening memories that Vers had thought she had lost. Memories that may explain the origin of the mysterious energy based powers she commands.

VERDICT

My rating for Captain Marvel is a two out of five. This is probably the weakest of the Marvel movies I have seen. It reminds me a little of the early DC live action films that I am not a fan of. The movie is so dull that at one point I lost consciousness and found myself transported to dream land. Eventually I awoke and rewound the film to see what I had missed. Turns out that I didn’t skip much. Just a bunch of slow paced scenes and one too many flashbacks, which reveal Vers’ backstory piecemeal. Marvel Studios, who usually flood their films with comedy, held back on the gags this time round. Shame, as more quips would have helped counter the tedium. The few one liners we get aren’t particularly funny or delivered well by uncharismatic lead Brie Larson.

There isn’t much to recommend here, unless you are a fan of Nick Fury. In this film the Avengers mastermind gets more screen time than he usually does. This version of the character is a little younger, goofier and sports two eyes. I was impressed by the fountain of youth CGI effects used to wipe years off Samuel L. Jackson’s face. Less impressive was the retcon that explains why the character now wears an eye-patch. It’s down right stupid in fact.

One of the biggest problems Captain Marvel suffers from is that it recycles ideas from other MCU titles. The cosmic scenes and nostalgic soundtrack felt like a budget version of Guardians. Meanwhile the tale of superpowered visitor trapped on Earth harkens back to the original Thor. For me, the movie didn’t pick up until the final half hour. The finale has some good action, but be forewarned that there isn’t much suspense once Vers unlocks her potential and goes Super Saiyan. At that point Captain Marvel becomes a Superman like figure who can single handedly destroy alien fleets. Given how OP she gets the final showdown with her rival, who I won’t name for spoilers sake, ends up being more anticlimactic than Game of Thrones. For the sake of female superheroes on film, I hope that Black Widow and the upcoming Thor turn out better than this two-hour snore fest.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Review

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My Spider-Man movie sense is tingling. Here comes another film starring Marvel’s friendly neighbourhood wallcrawler, but unlike the other Sony pictures, this one isn’t live action. I wonder if it counts towards the quota of Spidey themed movies Sony has to churn out in order to retain the character rights? Aside from being animated, this Spider-Man flick is different from other releases, as the lead is not Peter Parker. The star of the show is Miles Morales, from the Ultimate universe, who I believe was created to curb cries of racism when Donald Glover was not considered for the role of Amazing Spider-Man. For better or worse, Miles opened the door for other races, genders and LBGT characters to replace popular heroes in Marvel’s comics.

OVERVIEW

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is partly an origin story. The early scenes show Miles going down to the subway, so he can brush up on his graffiti skills. Whilst decorating the wall, with an aerosol paint can, he gets bitten by a radioactive spider that has escaped from a nearby underground lab. Said laboratory belongs to the Kingpin of crime, who is using his wealth to fund a Super Collider that can open gateways to alternate dimensions. Kingpin, who is grieving over the death of his wife and son, hopes to summon a replacement family from another world. The problem is that these experiments threaten to rupture the very fabric of reality.

Miles assumes the mantle of Spider-Man and is tasked with foiling the overweight gangster’s plan. That’s a tough ask for a fledgling vigilante, especially when Kingpin is protected by the likes of Prowler, Dr Octopus, Scorpion and Tombstone. Thankfully backup arrives in the form of other Spider people, who have been sucked into Miles’ version of New York by the above mentioned Collider. A grumpy and out of shape Peter Parker becomes Miles’ mentor. He has let himself go after separating from MJ, over his unwillingness to have kids. Wow, this movie handled the divorce more realistically than the graphic novels ever did. In case you don’t know, in the comics their relationship ended because Peter made a literal deal with the devil.

Other lesser known heroes who join the team include Spider Gwen. I am not a fan of her comics, but the movie’s take on her is cool and I love her costume design. Providing the comic relief is Spider-Ham. I would say a pig version of Spider-Man is weird, but then again Marvel comics is the place that Howard the Duck calls home. Another weird character is Spider-Man Noir – a private detective, voiced by Nicolas Cage, who hails from a colourless universe. Catering to the weeb audience is Peni Parker, a girl of Japanese descent who pilots a robot. Perhaps that is a nod to the seventies TV show that featured a mech driving Spider-Man?

VERDICT

My rating for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is five stars. Some might argue that this is the best Spidey film to come out of the Sony Pictures stable. The two hour run time flew by and after the credits rolled I was left hoping for a sequel. Despite not being a fan of woke politics encroaching into entertainment, I had no problems with Miles Morales taking the spotlight from Peter. He’s sympathetic and easy to root for. Not only does he struggle with mastering his powers, but he also has to deal with family strife and high school drama. It’s very reminiscent to the problems Parker contended with back in the sixties.

The main reason why I loved the film was because of the references and witty dialogue. I guess that is to be expected from the minds who have previously worked on the Lego Movie. I also have to say that the visuals are very impressive. That’s saying a lot, as I am not normally fond of CG animation. It’s nice to see a western studio be creative for once and not just mimic Pixar’s overrated style. Needless to say, I highly recommend Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to any superhero fan who may be reading. If you do decide to check out the movie be sure to wait until the credits finish rolling. There is a hilarious cameo at the very end, featuring an alternate version of Spider-Man that I was very surprised didn’t appear during the main story.

One Punch Man (Season Two) Review

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Good things don’t always come to those who wait. After a three-year hiatus One Punch Man has returned to Japanese television and the reception I have seen online is mixed. Many viewers have been quick to condemn season two’s visual downgrade. The consensus is that, in terms of animation and artwork, J.C. Staff have failed to meet the high standards set by their predecessors Madhouse..

Judging a piece of entertainment solely on aesthetics is a bit shallow though. Take video games for example. How many big budget releases have come out recently that boast stellar graphics, but lack the enjoyment of a more modest looking indie game? The second season of One Punch Man may look rougher, but I can get over that. I watch this series more for the comedy than the spectacle, and in that regard it succeeds. Depending on your sense of humour there’s even a case to be made that season two is funnier than series one.

I would also have to say that season two has a better antagonist. The big bad of this instalment is a martial artist named Garo. He uses his fighting techniques to challenge any heroes who cross his path. Apart from wanting to test his strength against worthy opponents, Garo’s motivation for beating up heroes comes from the belief that he identifies himself as a monster. That mindset originates from his youth. Back then Garo’s classmates would always force him to roleplay a monster, whenever the group played superheroes. Maybe they should have played Cowboys and Indians instead? Had the kids picked Garo to play a Native American, all the time, the worst thing that could happen is that he would learn archery and how to do a funky rain dance.

Garo also admires villains, as in fiction they often hold their own against multiple do-gooders. If you think about it, he has a point. What’s so heroic about a team ganging up on one bad guy? He’s the type of person who left the cinema with nothing but respect for Thanos, after witnessing how well the mad titan fared versus the entire Avengers roster.

One thing that surprised me about season two was Saitama’s lack of screen time. He spends a big chunk of the series competing in a DBZ style fighting tournament. That keeps him away from the main storyline, which in retrospect is a good idea. Twelve episodes of Saitama knocking out foes in one hit would get stale. One Punch Man has a great supporting cast of quirky characters, so I didn’t mind seeing them get a moment in the spotlight. I was especially impressed by the action scenes featuring Metal Bat who, as his name implies, kicks ass using a piece of baseball equipment.

Another minor character who is worth mentioning is King. He is finally revealed this season and turns out to be the complete opposite of Saitama. King is a weakling who through serendipity has managed to earn the reputation of being the strongest man on Earth. That is in contrast to mighty Saitama whose feats of strength never get acknowledged by the public. Early on in the season the pair become friends. Despite being a joke character, King occasionally utters lines so inspirational that they even manage to motivate apathetic Saitama. King is also the only person able to defeat Saitama in combat… granted that is only in video games!

My rating for this season of One Punch Man is three and a half stars. I am giving the series a slightly lower grade than season one, but not due to the lower production values most people have crucified it for. In terms of gags and characters this season matches the series that came before it. My beef with season two is with its finale. The fate of Garo is left up in the air, as is the plot about a monster organization recruiting superhumans into its fold. Unresolved plot threads really irk me in anime. I understand that the manga is still ongoing, so this sort of thing is inevitable, but it must be said that season one concluded better. The first series holds up as a standalone piece, whilst season two doesn’t. Fingers crossed that we get a third season to see what happens next. One Punch Man is popular enough to get a follow up, but then again so was Haruhi Suzumiya. We all saw how that property vanished without a trace, after the sequel we waited years for didn’t quite meet expectations.

The Rising of the Shield Hero (Anime Review)

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One thing that anime is guilty of is recycling ideas. Case in point – The Rising of the Shield Hero. This twenty-five episode series features a young adult who is transported to a fantasy world. Once there he transitions from being a complete nobody into a mighty hero, who all the girls fancy. Hmmm, where have I heard that before?

OVERVIEW

Naofumi Iwatani is the protagonist of this Isekai show, which is based off Aneko Yusagi’s light novels. A neko? I had no idea that cats wrote books. Anyway, when Naofumi arrives in the kingdom of Melromarc he discovers that he is one of four youngsters who have been plucked from Japan and tasked with protecting the land from waves of hostile monsters. Each of the spirited away chaps is given a legendary weapon to help them with their mission.

As you may have determined, from the show’s title, Naofumi misses out on winning ownership of a cool sword, bow or spear. Instead he has to make do with a magical shield. The artifact protects him from harm, which is handy, but carries the massive con of barring him from wielding offensive weapons. That sucks. I can now see why no one ever wants to play a tank in RPGs. Naofumi’s lack of attack power wouldn’t be so bad, if he could recruit some party members to aid him in combat. Alas, that is not possible due to the events that occur in episode one.

Early on in the series Naofumi is falsely accused of rape by the kingdom’s princess Myne Sophia. Just like the target of a #MeToo accusation, Naofumi is vilified by the public. Ouch. Isn’t it scary how smears, which aren’t backed by any evidence, can ruin someone’s life? Due to his tarnished reputation, Naofumi is unable to hire allies via conventional means. Instead, he resorts to buying slaves. First up he purchases a sickly racoon girl named Raphtalia, who he trains in the ways of sword fighting. Later on he also snaps up a baby Filolial (pretty much this world’s version of a Chocobo) named Filo.

CONTROVERSY

It appears that Naofumi is a bit of a loli magnet. Filo may resemble a giant bird, but viewers soon learn that she is capable of transforming into a cute cherub. Raphtalia develops a crush on Naofumi, which could be creepy given that she is underage. Thankfully the series avoids going down the Bunny Drop manga route, by having Naofumi treat his sidekick like an adoptive daughter. If two lolis aren’t enough to satisfy your questionable taste in love interests, Naofumi later groups up with petite royal spellcaster Melty. He saves Melty from assassins in one episode, only to have the authorities accuse him of kidnapping her moments later.

Back when the series first started airing it was funny to see some sectors of the internet get outraged by the show’s content. Apparently having the lead be accused of sexual assault is outrageous. Some sensitive types refuse to accept that such claims could ever be false. Much ado about nothing, if you ask me. I don’t think the series writer was making a political statement. She just used the plot device of “hero gets betrayed by comrade” to inject drama into the story. Other viewers condemned Shield Hero of promoting slavery. Again, I just don’t see it. Naofumi isn’t whipping Raphtalia and forcing her to do manual labour. He rescues her from life in a cage, nurses her back to health and treats her with nothing but kindness.

VERDICT

My rating for The Rising of the Shield Hero is three and a half stars. It’s an enjoyable series that executes the overplayed Isekai troupes of the genre better than most other anime do. Akin to Goblin Slayer, the series starts off on a serious note and proceeds to get more light hearted (and harem like) as it goes along. The story isn’t deep, but is smart enough to throw in the occasional swerve to keep things interesting. Aside from vanquishing waves of monsters, Naofumi ends up in the middle of a clergy led uprising and later crosses swords with warriors from a parallel world.

Character wise Naofumi is more mature than other fantasy leads. He grows stronger by overcoming hardship, rather than being a prodigy from the offset. Unlike the other buffon-ish heroes Naofumi strives to protect the innocent, rather than fight for riches or glory. The fact that he aids people, rather than turn his back on them, after they branded him a villain shows what a good guy he is. Someone who is not good in the slightest is Myne. I found her to be despicable to a cartoonish degree. She is rather one dimensional, but like any good heel succeeds in the role of being someone you love to hate.

In terms of Shield Hero dislikes, I can’t say that I was a fan of the show’s CGI. The computer effects weren’t terrible, but some of the action scenes would have looked better without them. On a personal note, I also don’t get why MMO mechanics are inserted into a story that takes place in a genuine fantasy world. Why do the characters level up and learn skills from a menu? Can’t they just train hard and research magic from books? Raphtalia even evolves from a cute girl into a mighty lady, akin to a Pokemon, after earning enough experience. Now I am confused. We can’t lewd ancient characters who look like prepubescent girls. Is it okay to lewd a child who evolved into an adult? I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole. Sorry Raphtalia. I don’t want the FBI knocking at my door, so I am picking Queen Mirellia as best girl.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Review

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I am proud to report that I completed Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night on Saturday. That’s quite the achievement, as I rarely finish Medtroidvania games. Just like when I play first person dungeon crawlers, I tend to have fun for a while until my terrible sense of direction strikes. Sooner or later I get lost in said title’s digital labyrinth – forcing me to eventually give up in frustration.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Bloodstained is the latest game from long-time Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi. The Japanese video game maker parted ways with Konami, years ago, as the company had no plans to make any new Dracula slaying titles for the foreseeable future. Apparently the management at Konami don’t think that 2D action RPGs are profitable. Koji proved them wrong with a successful Kickstarter campaign and positive sales figures, once Bloodstained was released.

In this horror themed adventure, which feels a lot like the excellent Castlevanias I played on the Nintendo DS, players control a cute waifu named Miriam. In my opinion she is a very attractive lady. Should you disagree fear not, as it’s possible to change her default appearance once you locate the cursed barber shop that lies hidden in the castle Miriam is exploring. Said castle is teeming with monsters. Thankfully for the protagonist she is a skilled fighter who grows stronger with each foe she vanquishes.

One way that Miriam increases her might is by upgrading her gear. Better weapons/accessories can be picked up from slain enemies, purchased at the shop or crafted using the materials Miriam finds on her travels. The arsenal Miriam can wield include various types of blades, whips, firearms and footwear. If physical combat isn’t your thing worry not, as Miriam can command magic too. The creatures she kills sometimes drop shards, which allow Miriam to mimic the deceased’s powers. My favourite ability transforms Miriam into a bunny girl, who is capable of delivering devastating Chun-Li kicks and Super Mario style head stomps.

It took me around twelve hours to complete Bloodstained’s story. My time with the game is far from over however. At the time of writing I still have loads of optional quests to complete, secret bosses to beat and stat boosting meals to cook. On the horizon there is also a bunch of free DLC to look forward to – including new playable characters. The first character that has been announced is a badass samurai who is voiced by David Hayter (of Metal Gear Solid fame). A co-op mode has also been promised, although I don’t care about that as I have no friends.

My rating for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is five stars. It’s by far the best game I have played this year. Be aware though that my score is based solely on how much fun I had with the game. If I factored other things into the equation I would have to downgrade that assessment slightly. Gameplay wise Bloodstained has few flaws, but on the technical side of things it suffers from the occasional overly long load time. It’s something I can live with on the PS4 version of the game, but I hear the performance is even worse on the Switch port. With that in mind, it’s probably for the best that the Vita edition got scrapped. I can only imagine how much it would have chugged, had it ever seen the light of day.