The Marvel Cinematic Universe is Deteriorating and No One is Going to Stop It

When you pull something off as magnificent in scope and unprecedented in scale as Marvel Studios has with their endless string of Cinematic Universe-entangled superhero flicks, you get too caught up in seeing how far it can go rather than how far it should. Herein lies the problem with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, a Hollywood juggernaut set rampaging across box office records and gleeful moviegoers alike. It’s grown to a point where people just want to keep propelling it forward for the sole purpose of maintaining its “legendary success story in-the-making” narrative, rather than forcing it to earn that title on its own through actual merit in its films. Let’s analyze the core elements that made phase one of the MCU so great and how those same elements have turned phase three into little more than a dry-heaving mess limping towards the star-studded finish line.

The Avengers

Kicking off with Iron Man, Marvel brought quite a few unique items to the table. First, they were pushing mad money behind a relatively unknown (in the public eye) B-list character. Secondly, from day one they had plans to bring him into a much bigger fold across a series of movies, culminating in The Avengers. Thirdly, they were making something topical, given the Invasion of Iraq’s prominence in 2008. Relevant, unknown and secretly ambitious? An interesting mixture, no doubt. One that paved the way for Marvel’s road to greatness.

For the first phase that ingredient list was pure and fresh, culminating in the cinematic entree of superhero fine dining known as The Avengers, the most spectacular team-up to ever hit the silver screen. But anything after that, by the aforementioned film’s very nature, was bound to start springing leaks in the hull of the S.S. MCU. Phase two was rife with plot holes across all its movies, the grossly outnumbered critic-minded moviegoers pointing out odd omissions like “why couldn’t the Hulk help Iron Man when ____ was happening?” or any number of related crossover questions that sprung up whenever a hero needed to conquer an obstacle alone even though his friends weren’t busy and existed in the same world as the movie at hand. Then problem number two started to rear its ugly head: the lack of stakes. In order to give the big heroes sequels and trilogies, Marvel had to start scrubbing any stakes from its films to ensure heavy-hitters like Thor and Captain America would always survive for another solo round or Avengers sequel. This meant that when you walked into the theater you’d already know the ending, no spoilers required. The Avengers initiative was starting to poison itself.

Topical subject matters became a crutch for Marvel, being the only element to set Captain America: The Winter Soldier apart from its relatively cookie-cutter MCU brethren. The B-list (and later C-list) characters were being developed into full-on feature films because it was quirky and therefore meme-worthy, AKA big-bucks-baiting in a world revolving solely around Twitter hashtags. Before anyone knew it, the Guardians of the Galaxy and freakin’ Ant-Man were getting solo films devoid of consequence all in the service of building up a big ‘ol MCU for the grand Avengers: Infinity War finale, a construction project still underway at this very moment. And yet, now deep into phase three, the luster is gone. The magic has faded. While audiences still gobble it up because it’s light-years better than what the competition’s putting out (looking at you, Batman V Superman), there’s a somewhat sinister corporate greed starting to overshadow the artistic merit present during the early days of the first Avengers film.

Take Dr. Strange, for example. Stephen Strange goes through the exact same internal transformation as Tony Stark did in Iron Man. And look at Ant-Man—that story’s a near carbon copy of Iron Man at every major plot beat. Marvel’s got a nice cookie-cutter formula going for turning likable B-list and C-list characters into instant A-listers, but it doesn’t hide the blatant lack of creativity. Another glaring instance of unimaginative plotting is in the usage of superheroes making cameos in each other’s movies. While Marvel never, ever explains where other characters are in times of need, they’ll call on a poorly set-up Spider-Man to join in a massive Civil War fight for absolutely no other reason than to show off the prize they got from their deal with Sony. They’re now in the business of parading heroes around for market value rather than plot, and that, combined with the assembly line nature of the MCU’s recent entries, is starting to bode ill for any true artistic innovation left in this pocket of the genre.

Similarly to Thanos, the big villain of the upcoming Infinity War movies, the only entity that can stop Marvel is Marvel themselves. If Kevin Feige can descend from his ivory tower for just a wink to look at where this rollercoaster started and where it’s headed, maybe he and the suits in charge of the operation could redirect its course towards a more savory finish line, one not even considering a still-interconnected phase five AFTER the Infinity Wars have concluded. Because where there’s a new phase, there are extended contracts. Where there are extended contracts, there are recurring characters and no stakes. And where there are no stakes, there is no point at all.

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Review of “Superhot” for PC

It’s super not.superhot5.jpg

For those of you who know the background info regarding this game, let’s get right to it: the “time only moves when you move” thing is a gimmick. It’s not a revolutionary mechanic. It’s an—admittedly, very entertaining—gimmick. It’s a single power-up that could easily be incorporated into any other FPS. Fun enough while it lasts, but hardly earth-shattering.

The campaign is meme-baiting, wannabe-meta nonsense and it lasts a short, sweet three hours at most. And while the inclusion of challenge modes is a nice gesture, it really doesn’t amount to much. The core of the game is hollow. The gimmick of Superhot isn’t enough to keep the game magnanimously heated or superlatively toasty; much as it wants to be.

And if you’re wondering why the short review, I’m just trying to simulate game length. In text.

“Lights Out” Review

maxresdefault (1)I hate horror. Absolutely hate it. And I am here to report that I, king of the Cinematic Horror Pussies Society, survived Lights Out with barely any effort.

In short, it’s not scary. Continue reading

The State of Gaming/What I’m Playing Right Now

As Friedrich Nietzsche once said, gaming is dead. Gaming remains dead. And we have killed it.

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Image Credit to Youtuber UMadBroYolo

Here’s the sorry state of the industry and why you virtually never see me reviewing games anymore: everything, literally everything, is some shitty rehash or sequel of a genre that’s already been explored to the brim. This year’s E3 only confirmed that.

Gears of War 4? Who gives a fuck. Forza Horizon 3? We’ve already had 2 of those. Battlefield 1? Ooh, another military first person shooter, such innovation. Call of Duty Infinite Warfare? Basically Halo for Halo‘s gap year. God of War 4? Literally Ryse with a Kratos skin and tacked on Brothers kid dynamic. Spider-Man PS4? It’s going to be a Beenox-grade movie tie-in developed by Insomniac. Watch Dogs 2? Looks like an expansion pass for the insurmountably disappointing bundle of corporate deception that was Watch Dogs 1. Mass Effect Andromeda? You know a whole bunch of corporate bullshit by EA is going to sully what was already destined to be a run of the mill sci-fi RPG trilogy’s sequel.

Noticing a trend here? Virtually everything is a sequel of something that didn’t need one in the first place. The racing, shooting and generic hack ‘n slash genres are so fucking oversaturated yet triple A game publishers just don’t care, as the sheeple who buy this shit are funding their own medium’s stagnation (cue the quote from the beginning of this post). I’ve had every experience they showed at this year’s E3 a million times over already in games released throughout the past decade, and as such, I’m more or less done with fresh off the press gaming. I’ll fill my time with movies and music and mediums where at least an INKLING of creativity is injected into most new releases.

What I’ll be reviewing in the way of somewhat new/relevant 2016 games:
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. Not very hopeful for it, but I remember having a silky smooth time with the first one so why not give the only unlikely sequel being released this year a chance.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. To be honest, the more they show of it the less I’m excited. It looks like they’re trying to incorporate the verticality of Dishonored‘s maps minus the actual maneuverability moves that made upward traversal so fun in the aforementioned game. This is problematic. The Illuminati-busting story should be fun, though.
-Sonic the Hedgehog’s 25th anniversary game. If it comes to PC, you bet your sweet nickers I’ll be hopping on for some break-neck speed platforming goodness.
Dishonored 2. Again, feeling kind of apathetic about this one as it does seem to display some of the annoying sequel trends mentioned above. BUT. But. It’s got purple death vine monster powers. So yeah, definitely considering it.
-Potentially Quantum Break and Killer Instinct (PC versions).

But that’s it, frankly. I know how every other tired game listed in that fat sequel-rant paragraph will play out, exactly how each will feel and since I can imagine it all, why pay money to verify my gaming clairvoyance. These industry giants have robbed the word “innovation” of its meaning with how many times they spew it in blatant press release lies.

To wrap up the post: taking time off from the stagnant hell that is 2016 gaming, I ventured back into a game that I previously couldn’t stand. That game was Darksiders 2. This time around, I played it in its entirety and wow do I love it now. Seriously, after experiencing all three DLC missions (Deathinitive edition), finishing the Crucible and beating Wicked K, I’ve gained a lot more respect for this game than I had in my initial review. Not to mention the soundtrack is fantastic. In short, go experience some oldies but goodies for cheap if you too cannot stand the slew of current sequels devoid of artistic merit or creativity.

“Captain America: Civil War” Batman V Superman 2: The Better Jokes Edition

All the same issues. Like with Batman and Superman, I had no emotional investment in Spidey and Black Panther, as they’re rushed, moving plot vehicles/blatant fan service. Hell, Spidey has LITERALLY no reason to be in the movie. It was obvious he’s here solely because the marketing deal with Sony fell through and Marvel wanted to flaunt it. Black Panther goes from “dad let me kiss your hand” to “I’m going to kill Bucky Barnes” within ten dialogue lines of finding out about the latter’s existence. Jesus.Captain-America-Civil-War-Key-Art.jpg

The drama is cringe-y as usual a la Age of Ultron; the only good, meaningful moment being the final ten minute fight between Cap and Iron Man. And even then, what WAS the shining ten minute moment of this otherwise trashy two and a half hour movie is sullied by *MASSSSSSSSSSIVE SPOILER* an instant reconciliation of ALL the movie’s potential lasting impacts on the MCU.

And to all the goofs claiming the villain “wins” in this one, no, he doesn’t. All the Avengers are basically friends again by the end, minus Tony Stark who will be re-accepted as a buddy by Infinity War Part 2. So again, NO consequences in a Marvel film.

Moving on, the new Spider-Man, beyond being RANDOMLY found by Tony Stark with absolutely no build-up, has a hot aunt and lives in a posh fucking apartment and has zero charm. He’s easily the worst of the three Spider-Men we’ve seen. For me, Garfield remains king by a small margin over Maguire, but both still stomp the shit out of Holland.

Lastly, the Russos direct their action sequences through fucking GIFs. It’s all just BAMBAMBAMBAM without a single cohesive motion in the frame. Scarlett Johansson’s stunt double’s scenes are so shaky-cam filled you can’t even see her. Between bad stunt double filming and cuts that last only a matter of milliseconds before the next disconnected shot is slammed into the forefront, virtually all the action in the movie is an utter mess. The only two exceptions are, once again, the climactic final fight and one sick Bucky+Cap team-up on a stairwell.

The Good:

-Emotional, well-motivated final fight between Cap and Iron Man
-Great Bucky+Cap apartment/stairwell team-up sequence

The Bad:

-Zero consequences
-No build-up to the bevy of unsupported random reveals (Black Panther and Spidey)
-Cheesy dialogue
-Mishmash of sequel setups
-Airport fight is terribly overhyped. It’s underwhelming and average at best
-The movie is only a hair better than its lackluster predecessor, Age of Ultron
The giant ocean prison just appears at a point

The Ugly:

-The continued downward spiral of storytelling in the MCU

World Exclusive: The Division Review (PC)

Having procured myself a copy of a game the world is dying to play, I couldn’t not go ahead and break the nonexistent embargo to provide you all with my thoughts on the next generation of third person shooter MMO RPGs. With online servers currently live for last-minute dev testing and nothing more, I’ve gotten ample time to play through the experience in its entirety. Here’s my full-fledged review of The Division.Tom_Clancy's_The_Division_Box

A desolate New York Cityscape enters my view as the chopper drops off my custom avatar into the middle of a virus-outbreak hot zone, and right off the bat I know I’m in for something revolutionary. Let’s take it back a second, and analyze that first part. Innovation number one of The Division: custom avatars. I can make my guy (or girl!) look like he’s white, Mexican, Asian or even black. He (or she!) can even have black, white, blonde or brown hair. In other words, the customization is detailed enough that it’s like looking into a mirror every time I see my character.

Now, let’s get to talking about the wintry NYC cityscape that makes up this game’s map. What can I say: it’s a breathtaking experience. All the grays and whites are so varied in color, the urban jungle literally pops out at me every time I turn the game on. And the snow, the snow does visual wonders. I practically forget it’s concrete tower after concrete tower from start to finish on the map solely because of how alluring the snow textures are. Star Wars Battlefront, eat your heart out.

Of course, the core of any video game is its gameplay. So how does The Division‘s stack up? Pretty damn well, I’d say. It’s visceral as hell, with enemies constantly firing bullets at you. It’s innovative as fuck, letting you do this insane new thing where you can close car doors. Not re-open them, but hey, don’t want to push too many boundaries before the sequel comes out, am I right? It’s immersive as shit, letting you crouch behind cover, a cutting-edge feature sure to spawn tons of copycat third person shooters down the line. It’s revolutionary as piss, giving enemies health bars so you can actively see how much damage your gun is doing to them. What other game lets you keep tabs on enemies like that?! But most importantly, it’s dynamic as cunt. You can play your way, anytime. Care to shoot a bad guy? Go ahead. Want to fire a gun at a not-so-good dude? The world is yours. Down to penetrate some unrighteous skulls with bullets? Have it your way. You choose your play style in The Division.

And the premise shouldn’t be undersold for its ingenuity. A deadly virus being spread throughout an urban population? That’s never been done before in the entire medium! Ubisoft isn’t just breaking molds with their storytelling. They’re making new ones.

You’re probably wondering about content, at this point. Just how much gameplay can you expect to enjoy in The Division? As much as you want. If you like missions where you collect stuff, get ready for the Game of the Year, baby. This shooter sends you on hundreds of missions where you procure supplies, guns, more supplies, food, and even supplies if  you 100% everything else. And rumor has it, if you 240% complete the game you can unlock an Aiden Pearce costume. GG, Ubi.

If you’re not won over yet by the groundbreaking innovation that is The Division, I’m not sure I can save you. But, I can try. If you’re on the fence about forking over $60 for the game and aren’t sure if you’ll be satisfied with your purchase, allow me to ease your nerves. You only need to spend $40 extra dollars to guarantee year-long satisfaction with your purchase and experience unsegregated gameplay through the revolutionary season pass system. With this, you can pay for the whole game up front and let the content come to you at a carefully planned pace designated by Ubisoft to ensure maximum fun over the course of the year. This game has your best interests for the next 365 days in mind from day one. You can’t beat that.

While I could comment on the expert voice acting and stellar performances in The Division, I just can’t find the right words to describe them. Same goes for the graphics, which have only been exponentially upgraded since E3 2013. So instead of rambling about all that, I’ll finish my review on this note: if you trust Ubisoft to deliver a quality product, then you’ve had this masterpiece coming at you for a long time.

Top 5 Most Disappointing Movies of 2015

This section always makes me sad. Very sad. In a medium I love so dearly, why must shit cloud its artistic shelves?

Honorable Mention: A Most Violent Yearmaxresdefault (1)

It’s honestly a good flick, but in no world can it justify its run time. The plot is solid but could be condensed to forty minutes. When I can shave off over half the movie’s run time and still piece together every single story element, that’s an issue. A Most Boring Year is good, if you’re doing spring cleaning with it on in the background or something.

5.) Black Mass
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Damn, organized crime movies just can’t get it together this year. Basically, Johny Depp’s makeup looks ridiculous, the movie is tediously slow without the skilled tension mounting of, say, the Godfather series, the pacing is awful and god help me did they waste Corey Stoll’s character. He singlehandedly could’ve saved this movie if they’d introduced him in the second half rather than the final twenty minutes. There was potential for a great throwdown and the movie just says “use your imagination because it DID happen we’re just not showing it.” No, Black Mass, I go to a movie to SEE cool things. Not imagine them.

4.) Spyspy-poster
If I were viewing this movie as a comedy, what it’s ADVERTISED as, it’d be my worst movie of the year simply because of how awful and devoid of humor the whole thing is. I give it the benefit of being a comedy/spy-thriller hybrid though, as the actual execution of the spy stuff wasn’t that bad. Still, not funny whatsoever. Two chuckle-worthy one-liners are all you get and the run time is much longer than those two sentences, I assure you.

3.) Star Wars: The Force Awakens
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This movie managed to rip my heart out even though I went in with zero expectations. It’s just so soulless. As much as people hate on the prequels, at least they TRIED to tell a new story. This shit is just a shameless rehash of the original trilogy’s plots rolled into one gargantuan pile of Disney money-generating garbage. The story has so many ridiculous conveniences after the first twenty minutes that I honestly couldn’t take it seriously, and my friends and I were laughing from the halfway point to the finish line at how much of a joke this reboot was. And it IS a soft reboot, because if it wasn’t, what the fuck is their justification for calling this Episode 7 when it’s just a supercut of Episodes 4, 5 and 6?

2.) Avengers: Age of UltronAvengers-Age-of-Ultron-Trailer-1-Quicksilver-Saves-Captain-America-570x237

Disney is knocking it out of the park this year with people eating up their shit and throwing money at by-the-numbers cookie cutter action flicks. My issue with this movie is, simply put, it’s the week of Ultron, not the age. He is the most poorly written villain I’ve seen in my LIFE. In the first trailer, he was fucking scary, in a good way. In the movie? He’s a comedian who never uses any of his fucking powers, literally just to let the good guys win. HE CAN HACK THE INTERNET. You know how much damage he could cause within a matter of seconds? He could’ve started WW3 and been on his merry way while the Avengers drowned in a sea of global violence. But no, he hacks one bank account then plays with vibranium cylinders for the rest of the movie. It’s pathetic, and I really hope none of the writing staff are proud of themselves for this, Joss Whedon and his secret ghost assistants or otherwise.

1.) Terminator GenisysNE1PqyiYsqPO54_1_a
At least the other movies had some form of endearment going for them. Some scene or line of dialogue I could pick out and go “hey, that wasn’t so bad”. This movie has pasties on tits, special effects from the 70’s and a lead female who can’t decide whether she wants to be Juliet or Sarah goddamn Connor. The plot is garbage and riddled with the same kinds of awful conveniences and plotholes Age of Ultron and The Force Awakens had, just without even a glimmer of the same charm. Ew. This movie is just ew.