Man of Steel, Film of Crap

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So, let’s try and start this review off on a positive foot.  Let’s list the things I like about the movie.

1.  It sure is pretty.  The visual design is very striking. The special effects are held to a high standard, and there’s a lot of them in the film.

2.  The casting was excellent.  A lot of good, big-name actors that really fit their roles.

3.  Henry Cavill looks really, really good with his shirt off.

There.  That’s it.  That’s all the good things I have to say about the film.  Other than those, it is absolute dreck.  It is a case study in style over substance, expecting the viewer to get distracted by all the shiny, shiny visuals and completely ignore the absolute incompetence in actually delivering a film.  I didn’t like it, is what I’m trying to say.  Is that coming through at all?  There was barely any characterization, the plot was completely forgettable, and the action… well.  Let me preface this by saying I loved 300, from the same director as this movie.  I count Tony Jaa’s The Protector as one of my favorite movies, and everything in that film is delivered by fist.  I have a special place in my heart for “action porn”, those movies where the plot is just an excuse to make people’s bones break.  So, in light of that, when I say I got bored with the nonstop action in Man of Steel, you know it means something.  The introduction is bloated, while the main plot barely goes anywhere.  And the film is just joyless.  That’s the best way I have to describe it.

The problems come from the filmmakers trying too hard on half the things, and not trying at all on the rest.  Take the aforementioned fight scenes that make up most of the movie.  Sure, it was exciting at first, to see a bunch of kryptonians pounding on each other.  Yet they went on waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay toooooooooooooooooooooooooo loooooooooooooooooooooong without any progress whatsoever!   Superman couldn’t hurt the villains, they couldn’t hurt him, and neither really had much to gain from the early fights, yet they kept ineffectually slapping at each other anyway.  It was obvious they were trying to make the viewer have the feels of ‘OMG THIS IS AWESOOOOOOOOOOOME!!!!!”, what with everything that could conceivably explode doing so five times at once and the stuff that wouldn’t explode only doing so once, yet the action took forever to get anywhere, and it just got dull.  And worst yet, between the shakycam and the constantly changing camera angles, techniques that are supposed to inject energy into fight scenes, it was almost impossible to keep track of what was going on.

On the barely caring side, we can use the characterization for an example.  I was reminded of nothing more than crappy teenage fanfiction in this film.  Oh, there’s certainly nods towards developing characters, such as Superman ‘learning’ humility from his Earth dad teaching him that letting people die was more important than people knowing that somebody has superpowers, but the attempts never actually went everywhere.  Beyond that, nothing.  Superman had barely any motivation, and little character.  It wasn’t the actor’s fault, Cavill just wasn’t given much material to work with.  There was nothing to him.  He was far more of a plot device than he was an actual person.  The worst is Lois Lane.  Again, it’s not Amy Adams fault, the entire character seems to have been written like a bad Mary Sue.  She’s able to intimidate career military officers, can outgun trained soldiers, figures out who Superman is effortlessly, and the protagonist instantly falls in love with her with absolutely no development, yet she contributes nothing to the plot!  You could write her out completely, and the movie would be exactly the same.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the early drafts didn’t have Lois Lane in them at all.

And the entire film is like that.  It tries too hard with the issue of Clark Kent being accepted on Earth, and balances that out by not trying at all to have a plot beyond ‘dudes show up, superman punches them’.  It tries too hard to make the kryptonian culture seem alien, then doesn’t try at all to make its secondary characters matter.  And so it goes.  It was constantly trying to make me feel the feels that I didn’t really feel, and I was left aghast at all the obvious shortcomings.  So that’s my review.  This film is crap.

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Capitalism, Ho! Aether Plays Recettear, Part 1

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I’d like you to join me a bit, as we think back and reflect. Remember the first traditional video game RPG you played. Final Fantasy? Dragon Quest? Maybe something like Ultima or Wizardry if you’re truly old school. Or it could be something like Skyrim if you were born sometime since the future happened. Doesn’t matter, we take all types here. Now, think back to that game, and remember what you experienced your first time through. Remember the grand vistas, the challenges conquered, the people you saved. Now, assuming your head’s on straight, the noble shop owner should be popping up in your minds eye. Yeah, that guy! Wasn’t he the greatest, always taking your money and giving you weapons and knick knacks in return. Wasn’t he the most interesting character of all the cast? Didn’t you always wish you were playing as him instead of those lame heroes you were forced to be? Well, this is the game for you.

Recettear is a quirky Japanese game from developer EasyGameStation and localizer Carpe Fulgur and about the glory of enterprise, about the freedom of business, about running a classical RPG item shop. In this game we follow Recette Lemongrass and her partner/loan shark Tear as experience the joys of capitalism by running a shop in a fantasy town catering to a wide variety of adventurer needs. Is it a good game? I don’t know, I’ve played a bit of the game, but I’m going into this mostly blind. But that just means we can learn about this game together, right?  It’ll be you and me, reader and writer, bonding as we experience the rises and falls of business and embark on countless fun little misadventures!  As you may have guessed from the title, I’m going to Let’s Play this sucker, but I’ve got a bit of a twist here. See, in real life, one of my primary tasks at work is running an economic development program centered around helping people start up and operate microenterprises. Essentially, I’m a small business management consultant. Will my real world business skills lead Recette to massive financial success? Probably. Video games and business are two of the many things I am very good at. In fact, I’d put good money on my discovering glorious success in this game. Of course, just talking about it is no fun for any of you, so let’s find out!

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The Line that Needs to be Drawn: The Used Games Issue

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Sometimes, I wonder what the future is going to think of this decade.  We’re only three years in, and we’ve already had so many high profile fights about the nature of intellectual property in our new technology, and that’s not looking to change anytime soon.  America’s existing intellectual property laws are antiquated and in desperate need of updating, yet said updating could easily trample all over the consumer’s rights, as demonstrated by both SOPA and the recent Xbox One debacle.  This is an issue that we’re going to see rise up again and again in the coming years, and we’re going to need to be vigilant to ensure that the rights of ourselves as consumers are being respected.

Just a couple of hours ago, the guys at Microsoft announced that they’re backtracking on the whole online check-in/used games issue.  They will respect the standard ownership rights over physical property, and they won’t require the Xbox One to be tethered to an internet connection to function.  And on a side note, that announcement is the first piece of Xbox One publicity that looks to have had the PR oversight Microsoft’s been so desperately needing since the console was announced.  This announcement is a very good thing.  However, stuff like this is going to come up again and again.  There are many corporations, especially among the largest in the game industry, who will happily use their power to force through wildly anti-consumer practices.  We’ve seen it often in recent years with the advent of particularly restrictive and invasive DRM.  Luckily, the Xbox One’s change in policy also helps to illustrate what exactly we need to be doing when our rights are challenged:  we need to argue, and we need to argue wisely, loudly, and consistently.

That’s really the greatest tool available to us as consumers.  There’s not much else we can count on.  We don’t have a consumer protection group specifically for video games, and general groups such as the Better Business Bureau have systems that are pretty easy for experienced companies to take advantage of.  And while the Xbox One’s policy would likely violate the 1st Sale Doctrine that Valve’s been accused of breaking all around Europe, we haven’t had enough high profile cases on it in America to get an accurate gauge of which way our courts would go.  Besides, we probably don’t want it to get that far.  If it became a major case, and the courts ruled against it, the game industry would likely be motivated to try and get the law changed in their favor.  Most of the other players in the entertainment industry would have every motivation to back them, and while the Entertainment Consumers Organization would fight against it, they’re really no match for the entertainment industry’s lobbyists.  And Congress doesn’t exactly have a good track record of valuing the individual citizens over the corporations.

So in a practical manner, we’re on our own.  However, as the Xbox One Retraction shows, we can do a lot on our own.  The internet gives us a lot of power to not only argue our point, but to be heard.  It gives us the power to hit these corporations both in the ego and in the bank account.  It’s what beat SOPA.  Through our strong, vocal, and consistent objections, we gave SOPA’s opponents in Congress ammunition and caused SOPA’s supporters to back down.  And it’s exactly what protected our rights here.  The Xbox One gave companies like EA, Ubisoft, and Activision Blizzard exactly what they’ve been screaming for over years, yet in the face of our opposition, they all left Microsoft to hold the line alone.  And make no mistake, we made a difference in that.  In spite of whatever official statements they may make, if we had let the used games issue pass quietly, these companies would have heralded the Xbox One used game policy as the game industry’s messiah.  It was our objections that enabled Sony to make such a huge statement out of simply keeping the status quo with their next console.  It was our making our intended consequences of this policy know that led to the fluctuations of Microsoft’s stock price that, although not exactly huge, still would have made the execs take notice.  So pat yourself on the back.  It was through our collective work that we were able to ensure our ownership rights go unmolested.

But this will come again.  It may not be in the same form as the Xbox One, but another company will come along with more power than goodwill and try to take more ownership rights away from us.  And we’ll need to handle it the same way as we handled this used games issue, and as we handled SOPA, and as we handled SecuROM.  We need to make some noise.  We need to make sure the companies attempting to seize our rights, as well as those who haven’t yet been informed, know that we’re angry and why.  We need to articulate our points in a reasonable and sensible matter, so that the heart of the issue is better understood by all.  And we need to do something the internet is horrible at doing, and keep the pressure on.  If we’re going to maintain our ownership rights over the physical pieces of intellectual property we buy, we can’t compromise on that.  We can’t get bored and leave the matter behind us, nor can we take small concessions in place of the rights we once had.  The internet age has given us more power than we ever had before in communicating with large companies, and these companies are listening.  Begrudgingly maybe, but they are listening.  We need to stay vigilant, and make sure that we’re using our ability to argue properly to uphold our ownership rights.

The Liebster Award

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So, this past weekend, I awoke to find that Lost to the Aether had been nominated for the Liebster Award by the illustrious Mental Gaming, writer of intelligent things in regards to video games, as you may be able to guess.  “Finally!”  thought I.  “A chance to show off on the grandest stage of them all!”  So I prepared my acceptance speech, had my suit pressed, and made sure to get my alluring gaze down just the way I wanted it.  Of course, it wasn’t until I had already done all that when it occurred to me to wonder, “What exactly is the Liebster Award?”  Well, it turns out the Liebster Award doesn’t, in fact, have a massive televised awards gala in which I would be the center of attention all night long.  I know, I know, I was fooled too.

The nature of the Liebster Award becomes pretty apparent when we take a look at the rules.  As they were passed onto me, they are:

First, Thank the Liebster Blog presenter who nominated you and link back to their blog.
Second, Post 11 facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions you were asked, and create 11 questions for your nominees.
Third, Nominate 11 blogs whom you feel deserve to be noticed, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know about the nomination.
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And finally, you can’t nominate a blog that’s already been nominated before.

“Wait a minute,” I hear you say.  “That sounds just like one of those Facebook/email memes!” Well, that’s partially right.  As far as I can tell, people have been posting about the Liebster Award since late 2010.  There’s a couple different strands of Liebster Award posts out there, with slightly different rules between them.  Some of the strands have people simply passing on nominations, while others have bloggers actually giving these awards to other bloggers.  But I think the biggest clue as to the nature of the award comes from its name. ‘Liebster’ is German for something along the lines of ‘dearest’ or ‘friend’, and that sentiment seems to be what’s intended for these bloggers to be awarding each other.

So what is the Liebster Award, exactly?  It’s an excellent way for us small time bloggers to get to know each other, that’s what.  Let’s do this!

I’ve already linked him above, but just in case you missed it, check out Mental Gaming here.  He writes about video games, and has some really well-thought out points about both individual games as well as the trends of the industry as a whole.  And thank you, Mental Gaming, for your nomination.  I really appreciate it 🙂

Eleven things about myself.  Hmm…  I’m really tempted to just write eleven things about my physical appearance, but you guys have to hear me bragging about my beauty every other post, so maybe I’ll give you guys a break here.

  1. I have a fairly large ego on account of my incredible good looks okay you guys can at least let me have one!!!
  2. I drive one of these:                                        X90.MMshow96 Yes, it is just as weird as it looks.
  3. I haven’t done any traditional sit-down-at-the-computer writing for a couple months.  I’ve been trying to learn to draw better for a couple of years, and it’s been cutting into my writing time.  This past year, I decided to combine my drawing and writing time by creating a comic, and I’ve been working on that more than any other creative endeavor recently.
  4. Though I identify as left-handed, I’m probably closer to being cross-dominant than anything else.  My left hand is more precise, but I have more strength in my right.  I tend to mix between my preferred hand depending on whatever activity I’m doing.
  5. I really enjoy wine.
  6. I wear jewelry more often than most men.  I’ve got pierced ears, I regularly wear pendants and necklaces, and I commonly wear bracelets and wristbands when going out.  I hate wearing rings, however.  They just never feel right on me.
  7. I love to dance, although most people would probably tell you I’m not very good at it.
  8. I am half-man, half-tiger.  The tiger half’s probably magic or something, so I could be a wizard too.  And there’s a very good chance that the tiger’s some sort of Sacred Beast.  Also, I’m likely the last of my line, and I’m planning on being the patriarch of the Next Great Warrior Race.  What I’m saying is, if there comes a time when the world’s needing to be saved, and you are traveling across the land picking up all the characters with unique skills and backgrounds you find, I might be a good person to have in your party.
  9. I like faeries.  Manly as I am, it’s true.  I always insisted on playing Oberon whenever it came time for the school performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  10. I live in an alpine desert.  My hometown often makes the state news for being the coldest place in the United States on any particular winter day, even more so than Alaska.
  11. I overloaded my schedule and took summer classes in order to get through college in three years rather than four.  Once I realized graduation was upon me, I immediately regretted that course of action.

And now, Mental Gaming’s got some questions for me.

1. One common food that you can’t stand?

Peaches.  Freaking peaches.  I can’t stomach them, I can’t bear the smell, and even the thought of putting one in my mouth is causing me to gag as I write this.  Peaches are the devil’s ovaries, and I hate everyone I see eating them just a little bit more.

2. Least favorite book you’ve ever read? Why didn’t you like it?

It was one of the later books in the Sword of Truth series.  Phantom, I think?  Terry Goodkind is an excellent world-builder and can be a good writer, but over the course of the series it becomes clear he really needs to be reigned in to do his best work and it seemed that his editors were pretty much letting him have free reign.  I really enjoyed the early books in the series, but Goodkind’s problems with writing seemed to get worse and worse as it went on.  He’s really given to extremely lavish descriptions, which can be good when used correctly, but it has a tendency to really slow down the plot in his later books.  Still, I had stuck it out that far, although my endurance stretched thin, when a second major writing problem of his just broke things for me.  Goodkind has a tendency to just have the two major characters be unquestionably morally right all the time, and has a habit of using them as a mouthpiece for whatever philosophy’s on his mind in spite of how badly it may mesh with the story.  In this case, he had the main character explain how stupid and unreasonable it was to believe in an afterlife because there’s no possible way anyone would have any evidence of it.  This is in spite of the fact that this same character had spoken several times in the past to the souls of the dead, and has at least twice traveled to the world of the afterlife and back.  Moreover, one of the big villains of the story was the ruler of that afterlife, and one of the people the main character was explaining this too, who accepted his explanation without complaint, had not only communicated with that ruler but got her powers from him.  That moment, I felt, showed such disrespect to the books’ own continuity and the story that had been built up so far that I just couldn’t take it anymore.

3. Why’d you decide to start blogging? What motivates you to continue blogging?

That’s a good question.  I’ve long enjoyed producing content for the internet; it makes me feel like I’m balancing the scales for all the lurking I do.  However, usually I’ve done that through other people’s sites.  I’ve written several articles for various game sites around the web, participated in a couple different forums, and was even an administrator and was instrumental in building up what is now a very large roleplay forum.  I’d been nursing the idea of having a site to myself, one where I’d own all the content I produced, for a while, but was never really confident in my ability to strike out on my own yet still reach an audience.

Then I did a series of ludicrously manly cooking posts on Facebook, and all of a sudden a good number of my friends were nagging me endlessly to start a blog so I could post more of that kind of thing.  I hadn’t intended to be doing anything like that this year, I knew it was going to be a bad one as far as time goes, but they were both relentless and encouraging, so I ended up diving in.  Of course, I immediately started producing a different kind of content, so now almost none of the people who originally wanted me to have a blog are following this, but I’m still glad I took the plunge.

As far as what motivates me now, I just enjoy creating.  I’ve got a small audience here, one I truly appreciate, and that helps with the motivation, but it’s the fun in writing posts that keep me going.  My schedule has been making it so I can’t write as often as I like, and when I do have the opportunity, I have to choose between this and other projects, but I find creating for this blog to be really rewarding.  Even the posts that aren’t that popular, like my visual novel work.  Writing for this blog has given me the opportunity to write the types of things I never have before, and that’s something I value.  It’s also giving me experience in a whole new type of writing.  I’ve done a lot of creative writing, and a lot of official work-based writing, but I’ve rarely had an opportunity to do the kind of personality-based writing of the type seen on this blog, and while I think I’m still finding my voice here, I really value the opportunities to stretch my skills.

4.  What’s one hobby that you used to do, but don’t do anymore?

Music.  I started playing the clarinet when I was eleven years old, and kept it up through college.  I was really good at it, too.  I made the all-state band a couple of times, I was section leader in a state champion marching band, and I got to play a solo in a concert at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Ireland, among others.  Music made up a huge part of my life.  I had picked up a couple other instruments both inside and outside  the school band, nearly all my friends were musicians, and I was more committed to the school band than I was the rest of my classes.

College ruined it for me, though.  I was pursuing a business major, and ended up going to a college with a quality business school but a subpar music program.  I had sold off most of my instruments to raise money to attend, leaving me with just the clarinet and the college band classes I took as electives my sole musical outlet.  And the band classes were so bad.  They had just lost their long-time instructor the year I joined, and went through a couple during the years I was there.  During football season, the main band class was entirely devoted to providing half-time entertainment for the college games.  Outside of football season, the music was just not challenging.  Most of the pieces we played were honestly a step down from what I performed in high school.  I almost never practiced outside of class, yet I still had no problem with the music we played.  Moreover, because I was usually first chair, but not a music major, I went through a lot of resentment from both the other students and the music faculty.  The band director usually liked me, which is probably why I managed to be first chair as long as I was, but I know the jazz and vocal directors, for some reason, were really set against me.

The combination of those factors in college just drove the love of music out of me, and I haven’t played anything since graduation.  I’ve been meaning to fix that, and have had my eye on an electric piano for a while, but I’ve never been able to muster up enough money to justify buying it.

5. Favorite cooking disaster story? (Doesn’t have to yours, just the best one you know of)

 

I was over at a ladyfriend’s place for dinner, and she was making corn cakes.  The recipe called for baking powder, but she mixed it up and used baking soda instead.  Apparently those are two very different things.  We didn’t notice anything was wrong until we bit into them, and they tasted just like bitter, burned baking soda.  There were other ingredients in there, I’m sure, but the baking soda taste overpowered everything.  To this day, I can still taste it in the back of my mouth when I think about it.

6. If you could choose to read/write fluently in a foreign language of your choice, or you could speak fluently in it, but not both, which would you choose? And which language?

I’d say speak fluently, and Japanese.  Outside of English entertainment, I probably consume Japanese entertainment more than anything else, so speaking Japanese would open up more options for me on that front.

7. Favorite fictional character?

D, from Vampire Hunter D.

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And honestly, I don’t know why.  D’s a total Mary Sue character.  A well-written Mary Sue, but a Mary Sue nonetheless.  He can fix most everything, can conquer any obstacle without much justification, and can beat most anybody in a fight no matter how disadvantaged he is.  While he does develop and show a bit of his rounding over the course of the novels, it’s a really slow process, and 17 books in he’s not that much different than he was at the start.

I’m sure part of it is nostalgia.  Another part is that he fits so perfectly with the world of the series, especially the novels.  Also, he’s just really cool.

8.  A song that you’re embarassed of when others catch you listening to it?

Eh, I don’t really get embarrassed by my entertainment choices anymore.  If I like something, I like something, and if it doesn’t fit in with the social consciousness than that’s their problem.  The closest thing would probably be anything dubstep.  I enjoy some dubstep, but anytime anyone else catches me listening to it they always seem to call on me to explain what I see in it.

9. One place you want to go in the next 5 years?

Aww, I only get one place?  Hmm… I’ve been idly thinking out trips to England, Japan, and Australia for a while.  I’d say one of those.

10. One thing you love that a lot of people hate? (Or vice-versa?)

The Metal Gear series.  I like the gameplay, I like the atmosphere, I like the cheesiness, and I like the twisty turny conspiracy plots that try way too hard.  I don’t think I enjoy them on the same level as the traditional Metal Gear fan, but I still have a lot of fun with them.

11. Have a unique mannerism?

I crouch a bit at the knees when I walk.  I just find it easier to walk that way.  I’ll also often put my hands into fists when I don’t have anything else to do with them, rather than just letting them hang there.

And… that’s that.  Now, I’ll just need to figure who I’m going to pass this award along to…

We Used to Own This City! The Saints Row Retrospective: Saints Row 2

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Saints Row Retrospective Introduction hereSaints Row 1 here, Saints Row The Third here.

Saints Row 2. This is where it gets real. The first Saints Row was good and all, but this is where the series cut its teeth. You’ve probably heard of the Saints Row series being wild, chaotic, and proudly removed from reality, but if you started with the first Saints Row, you would understandably end up confused. “Why don’t I get to crash into things on a quad while on fire?” you might ask. “Where are the missions where I let lose with a septic truck?” “I thought I would get to kill people with a giant purple dildo!”

Well, you don’t get to in the first game. That game has its moments, but it still leaves a foot in the real, the rational, the “mature.” It was content with its position as being “mostly a GTA clone” and did not stretch itself any further than that. Saints Row 2 was where the series got its wings, where it finally took efforts to distinguish itself from Grand Theft Auto and its many imitators. And although Saints Row 2’s gameplay did get updated, that’s not what really sets it apart. This is where the Saints Row character was defined. This is the game that established the insane moments, wild fun, and blatant, loving immaturity the series is known for. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Denver Comic Con: Tale of The Line

Denver Comic Con should have been a slice of fandom heaven in the center of Colorado.  Only in their second year, they’ve already amassed a strong array of star power and quality panels.  With their lack of experience, one might wonder how they were able to pull it off.  Well, this past weekend, I found the answer.  In order to arrange this con, the organizers have turned to the darkness, dealing in powers beyond their control.  It involves contracts.  But not the kind of contracts we mortals are experienced in, no.  These contracts are of the sort entered into with outerworldly demons and signed in blood.  These contracts are of the sort that can only be paid with human lives.  These contracts are of the sort that unleash true horrors upon this world.

In order to hold this convention, the Denver Comic Con organizers summoned from the depths the Great Beast known only as The Line.  And The Line hungers.

I have stared down the gullet of this beast.  And I have emerged unbroken, but not entirely unscathed.  Others were not so lucky.  The Line feasts not on mortal flesh but on one’s very soul.  I watched as grown men were reduced to quivering messes.  I watched as strong human beings fell beneath the weight of The Line.  I survived, but it was only through luck and the gains of those fallen long before me.  I can take no pride in it, for I was able to do nothing to stop The Line from devouring others’ souls as it attempted to mine.

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