Monday, March 30, 2020

What's Next On My List? (Games) Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

I have been cleaning back and forth and I decided to take out my old PS2 and play something, especially now that I am otherwise enjoying the Star Wars universe, as the seventh season of Clone Wars is playing on Disney+. I do believe that the cartoons and the shows by Dave Filoni have been outstanding.

The story: This is the official game of Episode III and it follows Anakin Skywalker's ascension to the Sith. The story starts with him and Obi-Wan Kenobi rescuing Chancellor Palpatine from Count Dooku, Anakin killing Master Windu and joining the dark-side, and ends with you as Obi-Wan stopping Anakin on Mustafar. You can replay the last stage with Anakin trying to defeat Obi-Wan, and I do believe that is the most fun part of the game, and I'll tell you why in a minute.
Game play: I loved this game, it was a gift for my birthday back in 2005 and I played through it in a week. Back then I did not realize you could upgrade your characters... so I did what some would call "hard mode", but it did not stop me from loving every second of the game. That said, this game gave me exactly what I missed from the movie: background. Anakin's turn to the dark-side was just a montage scene, while here, you take over the Jedi temple, kill other Jedi; and you can kill the members of the Trade Federation who were working for Darth Sidious on Mustafar. I loved that the game cut out everything, except what is important in the story for Obi and Anakin. Really, I got more of what I would have liked in the movie, and I was in charge of it and I think this is a great example of a game adding and improving the source material it comes from. It is only 16+1 stages, you can finish the game in a day, however, there is a lot of hidden stuff, so you'll want to play again, it does have four extra bonus stages where you get to try out different characters, and also a versus game, and if you have unlocked every character, you not only get the ones from Episode III but also old Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader. I just love every element of this game, it is a rare and small gem among wonderful Star Wars games, but it is in the top five for me.
Mini-Bosses: In this game all the bosses are equally hard, at least, they were for me. First Count Dooku, Grievious, Mace Windu and then Anakin/Obi-Wan combo. I have died so many times during the game, I do not believe I have cursed so much, but last week was very hard. And still, so happy to have a working PS2. The bosses have to be killed in multiple waves and if you die, you have to restart. Thankfully, cut scenes can be jumped over, which is a little but very necessary tool! You can be reminded of your failures only so many times before you smash the controller into the TV... If I can give you a hint, spend all of your gained points on "Force Heal", because you will need it a lot. And well, the game can jam here and there, and that was the only way I could beat it, because it gave me the chance to heal and not die on the hardest stages.
The Boss fight: As I mentioned the fact that you can play the battle on Mustafar as both Obi-Wan and Anakin is the single greatest part of the game. I love that both characters took up the same time in the game. Indeed, being either a Jedi or a Sith is secondary, what we love is these two characters and their story. And if you have a preference, you get the chance to use that one to defeat the other.

What didn't work? Well, the only thing that I can think of is the soundbites. Some of the things that Obi-Wan and Anakin repeated over and over again without really leaving any second for me to enjoy the music. And well, Star Wars has the best music. That said, they chose great voice actors, as the game used the actual movie clips between the scenes and even if I could have gone with less of the voice clips, it was still perfectly in sync with the story. I can say, that for the life of me cannot think of anything else that did not work.

What worked? Everything. As I stated, this is a small but very entertaining game. It has great mechanics, it isn't easy, but there is an incredible sense of joy when you do complete stages. It really does transport you into the movie, and I care for the prequel trilogy, it is the one I grew up on and I was happy to have had the chance to play this game.

Even after all these years it holds up and I really wish to recommend it to anyone who can get their hands on a copy. There are a few out there, mostly used, and for multiple platforms. I can only speak for the PS2 version, but that is great. The few bugs are actually there to help you!

Until the next item on my list!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Update, March 25th, 2020

Dear Reader,

I have decided to post-pone this week's movie review because of the virus outbreak all over the world.

I myself am home, trying to make sure I do not go out and infect anyone, as I have been feeling flu-like symptoms. And if I am honest with you: having had these two weeks already at home has been great to make sure I do not develop ANY signs of an actual influenza.

I wanted to make sure I take a second and ask you too to stay at home.

I know some of us cannot afford to do that, or you have state jobs that require your presence. In that case, I also want to thank you for your work, wherever you are, you are making sure that our world has the function to keep on working properly once the outbreak is over. 

When that will be, we can only guess, but at least I know for sure that as long as we understand why social distancing is important, we will survive this epidemic.

Make sure you take care of yourself, wash those paws properly, check reliable sources and the news frequently. If your government is shady, seek information elsewhere. The European Parliament is doing its best to inform all citizens belonging to it. 

Thank you for checking in on my small blog,
All the best to you,

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

What's Next On My List? Austenland

Now, I am going through a list of all the films I have seen and just writing down movies that I would like to talk about a little bit. After having seen these some were surprises, even hated movies, and some that just worked their way into my hear unexpectedly. So let us get in deeper:

Jane Hayes has been seeking a romance like the one that Lizzy and Mr. Darcy have in Pride & Prejudice, only to experience that real men are a bit different. In her attempt to find the one, she decides to travel to a Jane Austen theme park, where indeed love blooms, only not the way she thought it would. 

My sister saw this movie before me, although I am a huge fan of Jane Austen, I just simply did not get around to it. This was made back when romantic comedies forgot the comedy part in the second half of the movie, but this one did not. It was one of the funniest and most endearing stories I have seen in years. I liked that Jane wished to return to reality on her own, overall the story is about appreciating what we have and the world we live in. That said, it was also comical, how she wished for life to be like a Jane Austen novel, when really, that can only happen if it is scripted and somebody makes sure that you get your happy ending. Finding love and happiness is hard work, it does not fall into your lap, but as long as one is willing to be the protagonist of their own life as opposed to a side character, they will surely make the best of their story. 

Watch it? Yes, it is a delightful romantic comedy. First, it is a good lesson that reality is always messier, but it still has a lot of charm and we need to embrace those. Second, love too is messy, but we might find it in the place where we are not looking for it. The important thing is, that when it does cross our path, we make the best of it and do not turn a blind eye.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _

Keri Russell - Jane Hayes
JJ Feild - Mr. Henry Nobley
Bret McKenzie - Martin
Jennifer Coolidge - Miss Elizabeth Charming
James Callis - Colonel Andrews
Georgia King - Lady Amelia Heartwright
Rupert Vansittart - Mr. Wattlesbrook
Ricky Whittle - Captain East
Jane Seymour - Mrs. Wattlesbrook

Monday, March 9, 2020

What's Next On My List? You're The Worst

My girlfriend made me watch the pilot of this show, and I am so happy she did, because afterwards, despite HATING the main characters at first, I still really wanted to know where the story was gonna go. It was the most emotional roller coaster that I have ever experienced in my life. This show f*cked me up in a good way, a really good way and I was incredibly happy that it fell into my lap and I could see something that can only be summarized as ... real.

[Season 1-5]

Jimmy meets Gretchen at a wedding of one of their common friends, and after finding themselves in bed together, slowly realize that they care about each other... whatever that means. Neither of them are meant for adulthood, but the constant pressure of society keeps bearing on them, and overall becomes a fight over being themselves or being what everyone else expects of them. Surrounded by friends, equally self-destructive, but nonetheless important to their life, they struggle in a world that seems too focused on appearances, and nonstop competitions that do not yield neither happiness nor comfort in the world. However, if one wants to be happy, like our main characters do, then they will be!

"This is our love story… And our story is chaotic, but love is chaos. 
It's the only game in town I've played."

I was thinking about how to review this show, either going by seasons or actually talking about the stories, but I do find, overall, that what I needed to do was to look at the four main characters and see their arc over the seasons and how they got where they were supposed to be all along. It is important to note, that obviously they evolved through proper interactions among themselves, and well, some of them might not have ended up where they are had they not been exposed to some even worse than they are... which seems impossible.

Jimmy: You know that best friend in romantic comedies, who is a misogynistic asshole and you wonder why the main character would ever be friends with anyone like that? Well, THAT is the person that this show is about. And on the one hand, who would want to watch the life of that asshole? On the other hand, HE exists, and I DO wanna know his story. Life is never perfect, actually, life is messy, feelings are messy, and relationships can be difficult and cruel. Not to mention, that most assholes in the world bring some pain with them from their childhood, and it was the same with Jimmy. It really wasn't until the episode where his family visited and you finally hated them more than you hated him, that you realize where he is coming from. What I loved most about Jimmy was that he did not ever care about the consequences of his actions, however, he was unable to run away from them. The story made sure to highlight how people are held accountable for their actions, and well you can only imagine how many bad decisions Jimmy had made. However, one thing was pure, his love for Gretchen, even if overall he did not know how to express it: he is into romance, but she isn't; he has traumas from his childhood, so does she; he wishes to go against the 'norm' while also trying to be part of it. He is easy to hate because he also says out loud things that we all wish we could say, but we never do. Jimmy is a bad friend, a terrible boyfriend, but he is a good writer, and that is something that should not be forgotten, as he has a view of the world that helps him see through the mess of it all. You do not have to like him, but in the end, you cannot argue that he is not a strong person just trying to keep it together. As we get to season five, I was unable to hate him anymore, because I related to him too much, and well, that scared me... Never before did I watch a TV show and was scared by how someone so unlike me was dealing with the same issues I was. The reality of this show hit me like an arrow through the heart.

"The world is absolutely lousy with people, and I hate them all. I hate everyone but you."
— Jimmy 

Gretchen: All my life I had friends who went through difficult times, some even developed variations of depression, which was scary, but never strong enough to debilitate any of them. Here is, however, Gretchen, who has been suffering from manic depression all of her life, and when Jimmy least expects it it hits again and she finds herself completely unable to act. Well, the others were mad, the others were lost, when you know that people should be expressing emotions, it is very hard to relate to someone who does not express anything. It is in those times when they need you the most that they usually end up losing everyone. Jimmy stays with Gretchen, but her depression cannot be cured, it is part of her, and he can chose to love her with everything or to leave before it gets too hard. Jimmy, Lindsay and Edgar all stay by her side, completely unable to do anything for her, but staying is what she needs. Gretchen's depression comes from various traumas in her childhood, and at the end of season four she has the most painful monologue on how everyone will leave in the end because she is unlovable. It is only then that Jimmy can say out loud that it is just the negative voices in her head speaking, and she is very lovable. However, part of her condition is that she needs to be reminded of that every single day of her life, and that is a hard task, it just is. But if she was dating anyone but this also screwed up British mess, than she would end up always believing she isn't good enough. The show ends with them choosing to be together every single day of their life, without any paper or rings, and we see a series of images from their future and it is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, as she is likely to suffer from postpartum depression as well. But he is still there, to remind her everyday, because she is perfect in his eyes, even with the issues she has. Overall, when I look at their relationship I cannot help but see how much fun they have together. How much laughter surrounds them and good memories, despite the possible bad days, and that was something that I knew I really hoped to have in my relationship too. 

"I just moved in with my boyfriend and I don't have any stuff except for a food processor and, like, nineteen thongs, because even though at first we were like, 'I am not wearing that,' the patriarchy somehow convinced us that visible panty lines were unacceptable, so now I've just grown accustomed to the feeling of a fabric rope against my actual asshole all day. And anyway, even if I did buy the stuff of a life, there's nowhere for me to put it because I'm not sure this dude really wanted me to move in because I'm an irresponsible monster who burned down her apartment with her vibrator!"
— Gretchen

Lindsay: She was the most seemingly two-dimensional character in the whole show, however, the more I sat and looked at what happened to her over the seasons, I could just see that her life was happening in front of her, when she was not yet ready for that life yet. She was a kid who gave in to the pressure of not just society, but her family and her endless fighting with her sister. My favorite episode was when she decided to stop fighting with her and telling her that she loves her. Her sister of course cannot do anything about it, as her existence hinges on them competing, but Lindsay grows up, really becoming a better version of herself but first hitting rock bottom and working herself up. Having had a persona she aspired to be on the outside left her not knowing who she is on the inside. She decides to leave her husband, the best man she ever knew and they actually find their way back to each other once she truly deserves to be married to him. I was happy that they found each other again, because I do believe that some of us actually do meet the person that we are meant to be with, just often at a wrong time. It was so with her and Paul, who might not have been a great person, but his identity was based on him being married to her, and having lost her, he lost his ways too. All the characters in this show were toxic, not just to themselves, but the people around them as well. And yet, that is how they learned from each other, to see the people they do not want to become, which might be the most f*cked up thing that I can think of but it also something we all do: keep bad people around to make ourselves feel better. 

"Look at me. You knew it was a snake when you picked it up. You knew who I was. 
You don't get to act surprised now."
— Lindsay

Edgar: The veteran hero, who seems to be out of place among these self-centered sociopaths, might after all be in the right place. You see, Edgar was damaged, seemingly beyond repair, and although he might not have fit in with this crowd at first, he was actually also an outcast from a "normal" group of friends. Edgar's struggle as a veteran who cannot seek help from a government that promised to care for those who fought for its country was just too real for 20 minute sitcom. He results to weed to try and improve his life, and even if he does get a lot better, it is not a long term solution, however, for the first time in his life he is able to function and keep a job and learn that he has a life aside from the traumas of the war. He also learns to care for these crazy people around himself. He does go on his own path, but he could not have done any of that had he not learned that those who ended up backstabbing him were the people who were in fact nicer to him. At the end of the day, no matter how terrible Jimmy might have been to him, even with their differences and disagreements, he always remained his best friend. And even Edgar could see the self-destructing nature of Gretchen and Lindsay, like watching a car crash, but he more than anyone understood that he was unable to help or fix them, until he fixes himself. He developed a relationship with Lindsay, which was really based on mutual respect and friendship, only once both of them tried their best to become better people, highlighting that you draw to yourself good people only when you are good yourself, and as long as you are toxic, so is your environment.

"Maybe she’s not texting you because she knows the only reason you’re checking in is to make yourself feel better. Yeah, maybe Gretchen wants to get on with her life and never think about you again. Maybe she thought you were dead, Jimmy. Checking tips on the hotline, coming home night after night to an empty house with only your scent on your pillow to cling to for comfort, until it too faded away and she was left all alone with nobody to make breakfast ramen for, alone with nothing but her scentless pillows and haunted thoughts of all the friends she lost in the war."
— Edgar

I do believe that when you are in a relationship this show hits you harder. But there is something incredibly raw about it, real and overall just honest. It was the funniest and the hardest thing I had ever watched and I am better for it. When people tell you that life isn't easy, that love is messy, that we need to learn from our mistakes, and that we give up too easy before working for what really makes us happy... well... this show deals with all of these things. I do believe that some of the most well known sitcoms in the world have tried to deal with hard stuff, but being aired on big channels, like NBC or CBS in the end they did not really take a stance on break ups ("We were on a break!"), or divorce or mental health... really, the main idea in sitcoms is for you to love the main characters/family and everything revolves around making sure you always care for them. This show, however, does not give a sh*t if you like the characters or not, and that is what makes it so relatable: we often hate ourselves, don't we? We have days when looking into a mirror is incredibly hard. But we have to anyway. Jimmy, Edgar, Lindsay and Gretchen share the responsibility of shoving each other in front of that mirror, and they are better for it, as they will only grow if they face themselves. 

Watch it? Most definitely. Be ready to see a rawness to relationships that neither 40 minute dramas or any kind of show that deals with marriage and relationships has ever attempted. The most serious shows that I have seen still refused to take a stance and yell and curse and point out how hard life really is. If you need a good slap in the face, this show is for you! At least, that is my interpretation of the show. What is yours?

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ 

Chris Geere - Jimmy Shive-Overly
Aya Cash - Gretchen Cutler
Desmin Borges - Edgar Quintero
Kether Donohue - Lindsay Jillian
Allan McLeod - Paul Jillian
Todd Robert Anderson - Vernon Barbara
Janet Varney - Becca Barbara

Monday, March 2, 2020

What's Next On My List? Horns

Now, I am going through a list of all the films I have seen and just writing down movies that I would like to talk about a little bit. After having seen these some were surprises, even hated movies, and some that just worked their way into my hear unexpectedly. So let us get in deeper:

"In the aftermath of his girlfriend's mysterious death, a young man awakens to find strange horns sprouting from his forehead." (imdb)

I could have given a summary myself, but I would rather not. This is one of those movie reviews where I do not review anything at all, but think of it as more of a recommendation. I watched this movie after my sister told me to, and had she not watched it with me, I might have never seen it. I have a terrible phobia of reptiles, so this was hard, but she said that it is good enough for me to overcome my issues - which I did not! I just closed my eyes through those scenes. The Biblical references were not lost on me, and for once I was not mad about the use of this reptile as a weapon and a tool in story telling, because it would not have worked without it. Of course, the world is not responsible for my phobias, so I will have to go around it.
That having been said, my sister was right in making me watch this movie because it is simply wonderful. The main reason why you should watch it is to see not just one of the most passionate displays of love ever to be recorded on film (in my humble opinion), but for Daniel Radcliffe. If anyone doubts the acting skills of this man simply because they did not like all of the Harry Potter adaptation, then this movie will set them straight. He is both a villain and a hero, he has this strong American accent that puts others to shame, he has chemistry with every single person that he shares the screen with, either actress or actor, and you cannot help but stare in awe at the talent of this young man.

Watch it? Oh my god yes. This movie fell completely under the radar, in my opinion, and the rating on imdb does not do it any justice. If not for my phobias I would have already read the book that it was adapted from, written by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King, one of my favorite people in the world). I know that it was the books' success that brought about the movie, and I cannot give commentary on the adaptation angle, but from just a movie perspective it was almost a 10/10. Well... you know... the snakes...

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _

Daniel Radcliffe - Ig Perrish
Max Minghella - Lee Tourneau
Joe Anderson - Terry Perrish
Juno Temple - Merrin Williams
Kelli Garner - Glenna Shepherd
James Remar - Derrick Perrish
Kathleen Quinlan - Lydia Perrish