Thursday, June 30, 2016

It Came From The Cineplex: The Shallows

The Shallows was written by Anthony Jaswinski and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra.

Jaswinski previously wrote Killing Time and Kristy, neither of which I've ever heard of, and Vanishing On 7th Street, which I saw and WISH I'd never heard of. Burn!

Collet-Serra directed House Of Wax and Orphan, both of which were fairly decent little horror flicks. He then apparently entered his Liam Neeson Period, directing Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night.

The Shallows is a perfect example of the "Survival" genre, in which the main character finds themselves all alone in a dangerous (and unlikely) situation and has to figure out a way to endure. Think 127 Hours, The Grey and All Is Lost and you'll have the right idea.

I've seen many marketing blurbs breathlessly stating that the film is "The Best Shark Movie Since Jaws!" and "It's Jaws For A New Generation!" Eh, I don't think I'd go that far. Yes, The Shallows is suspenseful, and it's got a shark in it, but it doesn't hold a candle to Spielberg's terrifying fishy opus. If fact I think it'll be a long, long time before another film surpasses Jaws. If ever. And no, Sharknado doesn't count.

The film clocks in at a brisk eighty seven minutes, which is a good thing. When your entire movie takes place in one location— in this case, a rock in the middle of a lagoon— it's probably best not to tax the audience's patience too much.


The Plot:
Med student Nancy Adams (played by Blake Lively, aka Mrs. Ryan Reynolds) travels to Mexico with her best friend for some much-needed R & R. When she's ditched by her worthless, hungover friend, she hires a local guide named Carlos to take her to a secluded island beach. It's the same beach Nancy's late mother surfed years earlier when she was pregnant with her.

Carlos drops Nancy off at the beach. As she inspects it, she's immediately awestruck by its beauty. When she asks the name of the beach, Carlos refuses to answer, quickly changing the subject. Gosh, that's not the least bit suspicious. He exits and leaves her to her surfing.

Nancy hits the water, bares her tanned and very toned body and treats us to a surfing montage. She spots a couple of other surfer dudes, named Redshirt One and Redshirt Two, and joins them. OK, I made up those names. But as we'll soon see, they're apt. Redshirt One tells her there's a large rock a few hundred feet from the shore that's only visible at low tide, and to watch out for the "fire coral" that lines it. Heavy foreshadowing alert!

She then takes a break from surfing to call her sister Chloe, which provides us with some much-needed exposition and backstory. It seems her mother's recent death has caused Nancy to consider dropping out of med school. Her father gets on the horn and begs her to reconsider, saying that her mother taught her to be a fighter, and never give up. More foreshadowing! Personally I think Dad just doesn't want the tens of thousands he's spent on her tuition to go to waste.

Nancy paddles back out into the surf as the sun begins to set. The Redshirts tell her they're knocking off for the day, as it's dangerous to surf after dark (duh!) and encourage her to do the same. She tells them she wants to catch one more wave before she goes in.

As she waits in the water for a wave, she spots a large whale carcass a hundred feet away. How she failed to see this gigantic floating corpse before now, I have no idea. Maybe it suddenly fell from the sky, like the whale in Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. For some insane reason she paddles closer to inspect it, and even climbs on top of it (!). She spots a shark circling the whale, and decides a hasty retreat is in order. 

As she surfs back toward the shore, the shark slams into her board, knocking her off. She hits her head on a submerged rock, and struggles back to the surface. The shark then bites her leg, pulling her under. Miraculously she manages to free herself and make it to a small rock sticking out of the water— the very one the Redshirts told her about. She steps on a hunk of fire coral as she climbs the rock, severely burning her foot.

Nancy examines the large gash on her leg, and uses her board's ankle strap as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. She sees the Redshirts leaving in their SUV and tries to call to them, but they don't see or hear her. She's then stranded on a rock, two hundred yards from shore, with a hungry shark circling her. Oh, and there's a wounded seagull on the rock as well, to keep her company. 

As darkness falls, she rips the arm off her wetsuit to act as a compression bandage for her injured leg. With rescue out of the question, she tries stitching up her leg with her earrings and necklace, which may be one of the most horrifying things I've ever seen.

The next morning Nancy sees a drunken man passed out on the beach. She calls to him, telling him to get the phone from her backpack and call for help. He staggers over to her backpack and of course steals all her money and credit cards. Because of course that's what all "fereners" do. I'm surprised he didn't try to steal her kidney while he was at it! The man notices her surfboard floating in the water, and for some reason decides to wade out and retrieve it. Or maybe he decides to try and rescue her— it's not really clear. Nancy tries to warn him that there's a shark nearby, but he either doesn't hear or understand. She watches in horror as the shark tears him in half, and he drags his upper body out of the surf before expiring.

A few hours later the Redshirts return, and somehow miss the half corpse lying on the beach. Nancy calls to them, and instead of driving for help, they stupidly get in the water and paddle out to her. She tries to warn them of the shark, but Redshirt One says there aren't any in the area. Right on cue, he's attacked! Redshirt Two tries to make it to the rock, and Nancy pulls him out of the water. Unfortunately the shark pulls him back in. Told you they were redshirts!

Redshirt Two's GoPro camera helmet floats past the rock (product placement!) and Nancy risks her life to retrieve it. She records a goodbye to her family, and tosses it to shore, like an electronic message in a bottle. 

Nancy realizes she's running out of time. Not only is gangrene setting in on her injured leg, but the tide's rising, and her rocky refuge will soon be under water, leaving her vulnerable to attack. She fixes her seagull pal's dislocated wing and sets him adrift on a hunk of broken surfboard. She then times the shark, who keeps methodically circling her rock, noting that it takes it thirty two seconds to complete a circuit. 

As the shark passes, she slips into the water and swims through a smack of jellyfish (I kid you not— a group of jellyfish is called a smack!) to avoid the shark. She and it are both stung, and she manages to make it to a nearby buoy. She climbs up onto it, and opens a box on the side. Inside the box is a flare gun with several shells. She tries to signal a passing cargo ship, but the flares are duds and don't soar high enough to be seen.

The shark rams the buoy, and Nancy shoots it with a flare. Immediately the whale oil in the water ignites, burning the shark. You'd think that would be enough to chase it away for good, but apparently it just pisses it off. It begins wildly attacking the buoy, tearing off bits and pieces, including one of the chains anchoring it.

Nancy falls into the water, and as she's beneath the surface, she notices the buoy's chained to a rebar-spiked base on the ocean floor. She gets the bright idea to pry the remaining chain off the buoy. She hangs onto it as the heavy chain drags her underwater toward the base. The shark sees and swims quickly after her. She lets go a second before reaching the base, and the shark slams into it at full speed, impaling itself.

A little boy (not buoy) finds the GoPro helmet cam and sees Nancy's message. He runs to get his father, who turns out to be Carlos (small world!). They find Nancy washed up on the shore. As Carlos bends over her, the delirious Nancy sees a vision of her late mother smiling down on her.

One year later, Nancy's fully recovered, albeit with a nasty scar on her leg. She teaches her younger sister Chloe how to surf back in her hometown of Galveston, Texas, as her father looks on proudly.


• As the film opens, Nancy's being driven to the hidden beach her mother surfed years ago. Apparently the beach is such a well kept secret she doesn't even know what it's called, nor where it's located. Despite this, she's somehow able to hire Carlos the guide and tell him exactly where to take her. 

How the hell is this possible if she doesn't know the beach's name or location?

Nancy: "Por favor, señor. Can you take me to my mom's secret beach? I don't know what it's called, but she surfed there twenty five years ago."

Carlos: "Ah, sí, sí! Señora Adams' Secret Beach! Everyone knows where that is! Hop in!"

• After Carlos dr
ops Nancy off at the secret beach, he asks if she'll need a ride back to town when she's done. She says no, she'll call Uber. Carlos looks puzzled and says, "Who's Uber?"

Jesus wept.

OK, I get that this was supposed to be a funny line, but instead of making Nancy seem like a clueless American tourist, it just makes her look like a drooling moron. Not only is it ridiculous for her to expect Uber to service such a remote and secluded region, but even if they did, why wouldn't she have just taken one of their cars to the beach in the first place?

So what was her plan when she brushed off Carlos and told him she didn't need a ride back? He just drove her twenty miles along a one lane dirt road to a hidden beach. Was she planning on walking back, while carrying all her gear? Would anyone in their right mind really not put even a second's worth of though into how they were going to return?

This is some classic plot trickery here. All she had to do was tell Carlos to meet her back at the beach at 6pm. Then she wouldn't have been stuck on a rock for two days with a hungry shark circling her. The only reason she doesn't ask for a ride back is to artificially place herself in danger and keep the movie from only lasting fifteen minutes.

• Speaking of plot trickery, there's a ton of it going on in this film. In fact you can almost see the script ticking items off a checklist in order to strand Nancy in an improbable (and easily avoidable!) situation. Her friend bails on her so she has to go surfing by herself. The secret beach she's surfing has no name, so she can't tell anyone where she'll be. She refuses a ride back from a helpful stranger. She stays in the water after the other surfers have left for the day. She leaves her phone (with the magical reception) on the beach. No one can hear her cries for help. The flares in her flare gun are duds. And on and on...

• As Nancy prepares to surf, she slowly strips down to her bright orange, extremely tiny bikini. We're then treated to a lengthy scene of her sensuously slathering sunscreen on her arms and shoulders, as the leering camera slowly moves over every inch of her shapely, toned body.

Annnd then she puts on a black wetsuit, covering up the areas she just covered with protective lotion. So what was the point of that? I've never gone surfing, so I don't know if you're supposed to wear sunscreen under your suit, but I'm guessing not. Obviously the only reason the sunscreen scene exists is to give the men in the audience something to ogle.

• Nancy gets pretty darned good cell phone reception on this secluded, no-name beach. She's even able to video chat with her sister in Texas, without any lagtime!

Meanwhile I'm sitting here in the middle of a city and my phone's only got two bars.

• When the drunken man wades into the water to retrieve Nancy's surfboard, he's attacked by the shark. Instead of actually seeing this happen, the camera focuses on Nancy's face, as she watches the attack unfold. Somehow seeing her horrified reaction was worse than witnessing the actual event. The mind can always imagine something worse than it can see. Well, mine can, anyway.

• By the way, this is some "hidden" beach. Nancy encounters two other surfers while there, and later on a drunk actually staggers by!

• Kudos to the seagull that keeps Nancy company on her rock. He turned in a surprisingly nuanced performance!

• When Nancy shoots the shark with the flare gun, the water around it erupts into flames. Whaaa…??? I think what happened here was the oil from the nearby dead whale leaked into the seawater and ignited. After all, that was the point of the entire whaling industry of the 19th Century. Whales provided lamp oil, which is presumably highly flammable. Or is that inflammable?

• I'm a bit fuzzy on the end of the film. Nancy unfastens a chain on the side of the buoy, and its weight apparently pulls her underwater, faster than a shark can swim. Or did it? As she grabs the falling chain, there's a sort of ratcheting sound. It almost sounds like the chain is being rapidly retracted into the base. Is that a thing? Do buoys have retractable chains? This would actually make more sense, as I think a retractable chain would pull her under faster than one that was simply falling by its own weight. Unfortunately it's not quite clear if this is what's really happening (at least not on a first viewing). 

Of course if it is retracting, this begs the question— how the hell does Nancy know that's how buoy chains work? Is she a mechanical engineer as well as a doctor?

The Shallows is a taut little survival thriller that's long on suspense, short on plot. It's also highly contrived, as the main character's predicament becomes progressively worse, almost to the point of hilarity. It doesn't help that the shark acts more like a horror movie slasher than a wild animal, as it almost seems to have a personal vendetta against humans. I give it a C+.

It's All Relative

Saw this yesterday— there's a new bargain store opening here in my hometown.

Take a long hard look at the store's mascot. Apparently Albert Einstein is alive and well, going by the name of "Ollie" and selling quality items at reasonable prices in Evansville, Indiana!

"When you shop in Ollie's Bargain Outlet for two hours you think it’s only a minute, but when you shop in a Walmart for a minute you think it’s two hours.
That’s relativity."

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Choose Wisely!

I went to my local cineplexery this past weekend, and saw this: they're playing Disney/Pixar's Finding Dory right next door to the horror-survival shark flick The Shallows.*

I'd be lying if I said the sadist in me isn't hoping that some harried, inattentive parent gets confused and takes their precious snowflake into the wrong theater!

*Apologies for the lousy photo quality. Stupid phone camera!

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Island Of Misfit Toys: Godzilla Apology Press Conference Figures

Welcome to a new feature here at Bob Canada's BlogWorld. As longtime readers of my blog know, I'm a grown-ass man who still collects toys and action figures. Hey, it's not weird, it's a hobby. Yeah, that's it! A hobby! You can justify almost any socially awkward behavior by labeling it a hobby!

Anyway, now and then I run across a line of toys so weird, so bizarre, so delightfully off the wall that they deserve to be exiled to The !sland Of Misfit Toys!

Tonight's Misfit Toys come from— where else Japan. I have a feeling most of the toys featured here will come from The Land Of The Rising Sun, where things are often just plain weird. And I don't mean weird in a "Oh, their culture is different from ours" way, but a universal, everyone else on earth would think it's weird way.

Case in point the Godzilla Apology Press Conference Figures. See, in Japan, when a public official or celebrity messes up or is caught doing something inappropriate, they're expected to hold a press conference in which they apologize while bowing low, and beg for forgiveness. So of course it only makes sense to sell a line of toys featuring kaiju doing just that!

Here we see an abashed and contrite Godzilla bowing before a podium (that has to be a hundred feet tall), issuing a heartfelt admission of guilt.

"Mistakes were made. Cities were destroyed, and innocents were trampled under my enormous feet. Buildings were razed by my radioactive breath. I will do everything in my power to make sure tragedies like this never happen again."

I recognize Godzilla's name there at the top of the podium, but I have no idea what the vertical text says. If anyone out there can read it, feel free to translate it for me.

Here's a penitent Mechagodzilla, announcing he's stepping down as a rampaging kaiju in order to "spend more time with his family."

A humbled and regretful King Ghidorah reads a prepared statement declaring he's taking a prolonged leave of absence.

"I've consulted extensively with my heads, and we all agree that it would be prudent at this time to temporarily remove ourselves from office and reflect on our future. Futures. Whatever." 

Lastly, a positively defiant Hedorah (aka the Smog Monster) refuses to bow or resign, as he apparently believes his actions were justified and he did nothing wrong.

Oh, Japan. If you didn't exist we'd have to invent you!

The Walking Kids

Last week Alana Hubbard, a New Jersey-based photographer, unveiled her newest photoshoot, which features children recreating iconic scenes from AMC's hit series The Walking Dead.

Hubbard posted the photos to Facebook, and as you would expect here in the Offended States Of America, the internet lost its collective freakin' mind.

The Jittery Soccer Mom Brigade was so disturbed by the photos that they immediately sprang into action and reported the photos to Facebook, causing the social network to temporarily ban Hubbard for seventy two hours. Facebook officials later admitted they'd jumped the gun and suspended her in error, and have since reinstated her.

Hubbard defended the photos, saying that she doesn't see any difference between this and kids playing Cowboys & Indians. Sorry, sorry. I meant Evil Prairie Colonialists & Noble Oppressed Indigenous Population. Gotta be careful how you phrase things these days!

Hubbard went on to say that none of the kids in the photoshoot have ever seen The Walking Dead, and as far as they were concerned were just having a blast playing dress-up. She says the blood and gore were added after the fact in Photoshop, sparing the children's delicate psyches.

Personally I don't see a problem here, as I think the photos are a riot. Kids like pretending and dressing up, and they like monsters even more. Well, they did, until their uptight parents started banning everything even mildly exciting from their homes. 

I remember watching monster movies on TV when I was ten years old or younger, and I loved them. They didn't permanently damage my fragile mind, and I like to think I turned out OK. I gave up trying to make a skin-suit from the women in my basement pit long ago! People need to lighten the hell up.

Finally, Hubbard claims that every kid in the photoshoot had parental permission to be there. Some parents even provided their children's costumes! That pretty much shuts down any arguments right there. If the parents of these kids were OK with it, that's good enough for me. You don't get to tell other people how to raise their own kids, no matter how much it "offends" you.

Hubbard says she plans on another filming another Walking Dead photoshoot soon, this time recreating scenes with seniors sixty five or older! Maybe that'll shut up the whiners!

Here's a photo of the Season 6 main cast. From left to right we have Lil' Carol, Lil' Daryl, Even Lil'-er Carl, Lil' Rick, Lil' Maggie, Lil' Glenn and Lil' Michonne.

It's Lil' Morgan and Lil' Rick! Lil' Morgan is no doubt trying to explain why he needs an entire super-sized ninety minute episode to explain how he got his sweet bo staff skills.

Lil' Carol makes do with the ingredients she has in Alexandria and bakes some acorn and beet cookies. Judging by her expression, it looks like she just sampled one of them.

Here we see Lil' Eugene, Lil' Rosita, Lil' Abraham and Lil' Maggie, taking a break during their merry jaunt to Terminus. Hey guys, when you finally get there, don't ask "What's for dinner?" You won't like the answer!

Obviously no one ever taught Lil' Eugene about basic gun safety. He's gonna have to change his name to "Lil' Lefty" if he keeps that up!

Aw, it's a post-apocalyptic family portrait, featuring Lil' Rick, Even Lil'-er Carl, Microscopically Lil' Baby Judith and Lil' Michonne.

Lil' Jesus and Lil' Rick are ready to kick zombie ass.

Note that Lil' Jesus' beard here is only slightly less fake-looking than the one worn on the show by his adult counterpart.

Lil' Abraham tells his crush Lil' Sasha that life's too short in the Zombie Apocalypse, and since she ain't got many other choices, they might as well hook up. Seduced by his silver tongue and irresistible charm, Lil' Sasha sighs and says, "Eh, why not?"

HAW! It's Lil' Merle! And he's chained to a fence, seconds away from sawing off his own hand to escape. I should point out that he's got the wrong hand cuffed to the fence here, but I'll let it go.

I'm impressed that Hubbard somehow found a kid that actually looks like a young Michael Rooker!

It's a Greene family reunion. There's Lil' Maggie, Lil' Hershel and Lil' Beth. 

Once again, I should point out that Hershel's missing the wrong leg here. Does Hubbard have some sort of weird "bilateral symmetry" disorder?

Twitchy Lil' Father Gabriel's never looked cuter! Here he is watching over Oddly Normal-Sized Baby Judith. You better not let anything happen to that baby, Father!

Here we see Lil' Daryl trying to lead the Walker Parade away from Alexandria. Watch out for Lil' Dwight, Lil' Daryl!

Lil' Sasha, traumatized by life in the Zombie Apocalypse, copes in the only way she knows how— by trying to become one of them.

OK, even I have to admit Hubbard may have gone a bit too far with this one.

It's Lil' Negan, with his beloved weapon of choice, Lucille.

Here we see a recreation of the Season 6 finale. Maybe if we study this photo we can finally figure out who the hell Negan kills.

And we'll close with my favorite— Lil' Carol and Even Lil'-er Lizzie from the horrifying episode The Grove. "Look at the pretty flowers, Lizzie!"

Lighten up, people!

This Is Why Automatic Ad Generation Is A Bad Idea

Take a look at this actual image of the Yahoo home page I saw yesterday. Note that it features a story about an eleven year old boy who was attacked by a shark… next to a very unfortunate ad for the Discovery Channel.

Hey Yahoo— you might want to think about retooling the automatic ad generation algorithm on your site.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

It Came From The Cineplex: Warcraft

Warcraft was written by Charles Leavitt and Duncan Jones, and directed by Duncan Jones.

Leavitt previously wrote K-PAX, Blood Diamond, Seventh Son and In The Heart Of The Sea, which should tell you everything you need to know about his talent level. Jones previously directed Source Code (meh) and Moon (which wasn't bad).

Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones is also the son of the late David Bowie. Bowie's real name was David Jones, but he apparently changed it so as not to be confused with Davey Jones of The Monkees fame.

Warcraft is of course based on the video game franchise by Blizzard Entertainment. The story's taken more or less from the 1994 game Warcraft: Orcs And Humans.

It's a decent, if somewhat derivative high fantasy film, that manages to humanize its Orc characters and give them some much needed dimension and depth. Think the Klingon episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and you'll have the right idea.

If you're not a fan of the Warcraft phenomenon, don't let that scare you away from seeing the film. I've never played even a second of any of the games, and I didn't have any trouble following the movie. There are plenty of Easter eggs, in-jokes and hidden characters in the film that only fans of the games will recognize and appreciate, but you won't need a Master's degree in Warcraft to enjoy it.

The film was first announced back in May 2006 (!), but was dropped because Blizzard feared comparisons with The Lord Of The Rings films. Given that Warcraft prominently features Orcs, this was probably a valid concern.

It was then scheduled for a 2009 release, and then pushed back again until 2011. Legendarily awful director Uwe Boll approached Blizzard Entertainment to direct the film, but they wisely had security throw him out of the building. Sam Raimi was then set to direct, but was ultimately replaced by Duncan Jones in 2013. It was Jones' idea to "humanize" the Orcs, and make them more than cardboard adversaries.

The movie has severely underperformed in America, grossing just $42 million so fa against its $160 million budget. I'm not sure why the film hasn't caught on with audiences. Maybe it's coming too late now that the games' popularity has faded somewhat?

Oddly enough Warcraft is an enormous hit in China. It raked in over $200 million there, received the widest ever release and becoming the all-time highest grossing film. If there's ever a Warcraft 2, it'll be because of China, which is fast becoming one of the biggest influences in Hollywood.

Like many modern blockbusters, Warcraft seems more concerned with setting up a franchise than it does telling its own story. It's not as blatant about it as some (I'm lookin' at you, Dark Knight V Hopeman), but it's obvious they're prepping for a sequel.


The Plot:
We begin on the planet Draenor, the home world of the Orc race. We meet Durotan, the leader of the Frostwolf Clan, his pregnant wife Draka, and his best pal Orgrim Doomhammer. Get used to these kinds of names, because the movie's chock full of 'em. Unfortunately Draenor's become uninhabitable, as the powerful warlock Gul'dan has befouled it with deadly fel magic.

Gul'dan unites the various Orc clans into a massive Horde. He drains the lifeforce from a camp of Draenei prisoners, and uses it to open a portal to the world of Azeroth. He plans to take the Horde through the portal, conquer Azeroth and set up housekeeping there. Durotan has his doubts about this plan, as he just wants to live out his life with his family and pending son. Gosh, these Orcs aren't really bad sorts after all. They're just like us!

For some insane reason, Durotan allows his wife Draka to join the raiding party. As they pass through the portal to Azeroth, Draka goes into labor. Once there, Gul'dan delivers her baby. Unfortunately it's stillborn, probably due to Draka leaping through a weird interdimensional portal to another world. Gul'dan uses fel magic to drain the lifeforce from a nearby dear and bring the baby back to life. Durotan names the baby Go'el.

The Orcs raid several human settlements in Azeroth, which draws the attention of Anduin Lothar, commander of the army of Stormwind. Lothar finds a "failed" mage named Khadgar rooting around the bodies, seemingly violating the dead. Khadgar says he was examining the bodies, which contain traces of fel magic. Lothar takes Khadgar to King Llane of Stormwind. There, Khadgar suggests the King consult the powerful mage Medivh, the Guardian who protects Stormwind. Fortunately the actual movie's far more coherent than this convoluted synopsis.

Lothar and Khadgar pay a visit to Medivh, who's sculpting a giant clay golem. Gosh, I wonder if that'll become important later on? Medivh is intrigued by the threat of deadly fel magic, and joins Lothar's scouting party. The soldiers are ambushed by a group of Orcs. Medivh uses his powerful magic to kill most of them. The Horde's leader, Blackhand, along with Durotan and Orgrim, manage to escape.

Khadgar finds an Orc-human hybrid called Garona, and captures her with a spell. Lothar takes her back to King Llane. When Garona offers her loyalty to Stormwind, Llane frees her. She leads the human soldiers to spy on the Orc camp, where they learn that Gul'dan plans to bring the entire Horde through the portal to Azeroth.

Meanwhile, it finally dawns on Durotan that he has no quarrel with humans, and Gul'dan is the true enemy. The dark mage destroyed Draenor and if not stopped, will do the same to Azeroth. Durotan invites King Llane to a meeting, hoping to form an alliance with the humans to destroy Gul'dan. Khadgar reads a book he "borrowed" from Medivh's library, which implies that Gul'dan couldn't have opened the portal on his own, and had to have help from someone in Azeroth. Just then Medivh sees Khadgar's research and burns it, taking back the book. Well, that certainly doesn't seem suspicious.

Durotan and his Frostwolf Clan meet with King Llane to negotiate an alliance. Naturally they decide the best place for this conference is in the middle of a steep-walled canyon that makes them sitting ducks for potential attackers. As Garona translates for Durotan and Llane, Blackhand and a force of Orcs attack right on cue. Medivh sets up a forcefield to separate the humans and Orcs. Unfortunately, Lothar's son Callan, who's a Stormwind soldier, finds himself on the Orc side, and is killed by Blackhand. Durotan realizes there's no hope for an alliance, and reluctantly retreats. Medivh is severely weakened by generating the field, and Khadgar and Garona return him to his headquarters. Khadgar notices Medivh's eye's glowing green, a sure sign that he's using fel magic— and that he's the traitor.

Khadgar returns to Hogwarts, er, I mean Dalaran, the magical school he attended, but fled before his training was complete. He meets with the mages there about Medivh. They confirm that he's been corrupted by fel magic, and possessed by a demon to boot.

Back at the Horde camp, Blackhand throws Durotan into prison, and wipes out the Frostwolf Clan. Gul'dan then infuses Blackhand with fel magic, making him even more powerful. Orgrim realizes Durotan was right about Gul'dan, and helps Draka and her baby escape. The imprisoned Durotan challenges Gul'dan to Mak'gora, a traditional Orish duel to the death for leadership of the Horde. Gul'dan accepts the challenge, but cheats by draining Durotan's life force, killing him. Well. That was certainly unexpected! The other Orcs disapprove of Gul'dan's cheating, but are afraid to speak up, lest he drain them as well. Gul'dan then sacrifices his human captives to open the portal, allowing the remaining Orcs on Draenor to pour into Azeroth.

Meanwhile, Draka flees with her son, pursued by the Horde. She places Go'el's baby carrier in a river and he floats serenely away, which is nothing at all like the Moses In The Bullrushes legend from the Bible. She's then shot and killed by the Horde.

King Llane sends Lothar and Khadgar to deal with Medivh. Once there, Medivh activates his golem, which comes to life and attacks (told you!). Lothar manages to destroy the golem, while Khadgar battles Medivh. Khadgar manages to kill the demon possessing Medivh, mortally wounding him in the process. With his last ounce of strength, Medivh closes the portal from Draenor and opens one to Stormwind. This allows Llane to evacuate most of the human prisoners from the Horde camp. Medivh then dies, and the portal closes. Llane, Garona and a small group of human soldiers then face the entire Orc Horde.

As the hopeless battle rages, Llane tells Garona she has to kill him. He claims this will bring her honor among the Orcs, and they'll make her their leader. She'll then be able to hammer out a treaty between the two races. Garona is hesitant, but realizes he's right. She kills Llane, and is instantly revered by the Horde. Lothar retrieves Llane's body and sees Garona's knife sticking out his side, and realizes she killed him. Since he wasn't made privy to Llan's plan, he believes Garona betrayed Stormwind.

Blackhand challenges Lothar to Mak'gora. Lothar accepts and defeats him surprisingly easily. Since he won fair and square, the Orcs allow him to leave with Llane's body (because like Klingons, they're all about honor, dontcha know).

Back at Stormwind, the leaders of Azeroth— humans, dwarves straight from the set of The Hobbit, and some freakish-looking high elves
— form an alliance against the Orcs, and elect Lothar as the leader of their forces. Orgrim takes one of Durotan's tusks from his desiccated body as a memento. Go'el's basket washes up on shore, and the Orc baby is found by a passing human.

• I appreciate the fact that Jones made the effort to humanize the Orcs, making them real characters with actual lives and a culture. They're infinitely more interesting than Tolkien's Orcs, who have little or no depth and exist solely as cannon fodder. It's always more interesting to see how a conflict affects characters on both sides. Kudos!

 I get that Orc women are probably sturdier than human females, but... why in the name of sanity did Durotan think it would be a good idea to let his just-about-to-pop pregnant wife jump through a supernatural portal and take part in a battle?

• Speaking of Orcs, they were all very well done, and the CGI looked as realistic as possible for such outlandish designs. Unfortunately every time I saw a close up of one, all I could think was "How can they speak with those giant tusks jutting out of their mouths? And why aren't they constantly drooling?"

• From what I can tell (I've never played any of the games or read any of the books), most of the character designs in the film are spot on, matching their game counterparts almost perfectly. Movie Gul'dan in particular looks like the game character come to life.

• Supposedly some forty minutes were cut from the film for time. Let's hope there's a Director's Cut that restores the footage, which will no doubt make the story flow more smoothly and flesh out a few of the characters.

• I really liked the way magic was depicted in the film. Whenever Khadgar would cast a spell, his hands would be surrounded by a ring of glowing, arcane runes floating in midair. It's a pretty cool effect I've not seen before.

The upcoming Doctor Strange movie appears to use this same effect, or one very much like it, but Warcraft beat them to it by a good six months.

• We're told that Khadgar ran away from wizard school before his training was completed. For a "failed" mage, he seems pretty darned powerful to me. He casts spells and forms force fields left and right all through the film. If he'd actually completed his training he'd probably be just a step or two away from being a god.

Gratuitous Use Of The Wilhelm Scream: At one point Lothar and his men are ambushed by Orcs in the woods. One of the Orcs grabs a human and effortlessly flings him into the air. He utters the Wilhelm scream as he goes flyin.'

OK, it was a fun little Easter Egg the first 49,573 times it was used, but the novelty's starting to wear a bit thing. It's way past time this sound effect was retired for good.

• Dominic Cooper plays King Llane, and Ruth Negga plays Lady Taria, his queen. Hmm. Both have played characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and they're currently starring together in AMC's Preacher series. Why do they keep turning up in the same projects? Are they a package deal?

Turns out that Cooper and Negga have been dating since 2010, and live together in London.

• The half breed Garona is the film's "hot" character, so she's much sexier than the standard Orc female. As such she's much more human looking. Well, apart from the green skin, pointed ears and what appear to be Tic-Tacs in the corners of her mouth.

What is it with all the green women in sci-fi and fantasy tales? You've got the Orion Slave Women from Star Trek, She-Hulk from Marvel Comics, Gamora from Guardians Of The Galaxy and now Garona. There's definitely some kind of "emerald fetish" going on here.

• So is Medivh really Garona's father? 

Garona's half human, half Orc, and she explains that her Orcish mother was executed for giving birth to an "abomination" like her. Why they didn't kill Garona as well is apparently none of our business. 

When Medivh meets Garona, he tells her that when he was younger, he travelled to a far land, where he found "a strong and noble people." Among them was a woman who he fell in love with, and "accepted him for what he was." When Garona asks what happened to this woman, Medivh hurriedly changes the subject, indicating he doesn't want to talk about it. He then conjures up a magic blue flower and gives it to her.

He never comes right out and says it, but it seems like a pretty big hint that he's her daddy. Plus I can't think of any other reason why he'd tell her that story unless he thought they were kin.

It's all moot anyway, since Medivh dies at the end of the movie. Or does he? I suppose it's always possible he could return for the sequel.

• Khadgar returns to Dalaran, the magical school he fled as a youngster. There he's confronted by Alodi, some sort of seer who gives him advice. Alodi was played by an uncredited Glenn Close.

Hmm. Close had a fairly large role in Guardians Of The Galaxy, and now this bit part in Warcraft. Is... is Glenn Close a nerd like us?

• I was very surprised that the script didn't shy away from killing off several main characters, including Durotan. Well done! Well, not well done to the killings, but to the fact that the plot wasn't always predictable.

• It was interesting to see an epic fantasy battle that featured firearms in addition to the usual swords, spears and bows. It was a bit jarring the first time I saw a human shoot an Orc with a gun, but after I got used to it, it was pretty cool.

• Azeroth seems to feature three main races: humans, dwarves and high elves. Unfortunately the dwarves here look EXACTLY like the ones from The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings films. And I do mean exactly. The first time I saw one I thought, "What's Gimli doing in this movie?"

They look like they're wearing some of the leftover armor from The Hobbit. And they're even wearing the big rubber hands to help them look like short, squat people!

Maybe there's only so many ways to depict a fantasy dwarf, but I think New Line and Peter Jackson could successfully sue if they wanted.

The elves on the other hand, couldn't look more different than their Tolkien counterparts. I'd go so far as to say they're downright goofy looking, what with their glowing eyes, protruding Andy Rooney eyebrows and foot-long pointed ears.

• As Draka's being pursued by enemy Orcs, she sets her son Go'el adrift in a river, where he floats merrily downstream until he's found by a passing human (thus setting up a sequel). 

Sigh... why would anyone write a scene like that at this point in time? There's no way to film it without invoking thoughts and comparisons to Moses. Surely there was a better way to introduce Go'el to his new family?

• As I mentioned earlier, the movie's filled with Easter eggs and shoutouts to the various Warcraft games. I'm not going to list them all here, as you can easily find them on the interwebs. I will say it's obvious that the film was made by people who love the games, and made sure they got all the details just right for the fans. That's rare these days in Hollywood, when the norm is to ask, "What can we change?"

Warcraft is a rare breed in Hollywood
— a videogame movie that actually works. It's surprising and derivative at the same time, as it attempts to build a dense and complicated world, and give some depth to its "villains." It's worth a look on the big screen for the spectacle and battle scenes alone. I give it a B.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Art In The Wild!

I was browsing in my local comic bookery last week, and imagine my surprise when I walked past the gaming section and spotted my RARRR!! game on the shelf! Cool!

OK, so technically it' s not my game... it's published by APE Games. They're a Texas-based company that's been manufacturing fine board and card games since 1977.

But I did create just about all the art for the game a couple of years back. You can read all about that particular project here. Apparently the game has just been reprinted, hence its appearance on the shelves.

Imagine, my monster art is sitting there on the shelf next to Star Trek and Minecraft games! I'm somebody! I'm finally somebody!

Of course now that I've spotted my game in the comic shop, I'm going to become obsessed with it and check to see if both copies are still there every time I go in. And of course if they are, I'll immediately become despondent and hide under my desk all weekend.

In order to prevent that, I suggest you all immediately check your local comic shop for the RARRR!! game, or better yet, order it directly from the APE Games site.

Sounds Like Troub-El To Me

Back in May, the Siffy Channel announced it was producing a new Superman prequel series titled Krypton. This week, they finally released details on the project.

According to Siffy, the series "will be set two generations before the destruction of Superman's home planet, telling the story of his grandfather, who's fighting to restore his family's honor following a public disgrace."

No doubt he'll successfully refurbish the family name just in time for the planet to explode. That's pretty much what has to happen, right? We all know Krypton's destiny. Who wants to watch the struggles of a group of people who are doomed to die in a few years? 

On the other hand, that worked out pretty well for Game Of Thrones, so never mind.

The pilot will be written by David S. Goyer, the "screenwriter" of both Man Of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. That right there guarantees I won't be watching. Hell, I may even take an ax to my TV to make sure I don't see even a minute of the show by accident. 

Goyer's pilot will no doubt be dark, dreary and full of self-loathing characters wearing grim, pained expressions, who look like they don't want to be in their own show. It's too bad the show's set before Batman V Superman, else Jimmy Olsen could make a cameo and get shot in the head again. Just for fun!

So first we had Gotham, a Batman series without Batman in it, and now we've got a Superman-less Superman series. I honestly don't get the appeal of these types of shows. Who wants to watch a superhero show without any superheroes? Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. suffered from this problem in its first season, but the producers wisely course-corrected and finally started giving us some comic book action.

Siffy released a plot synopsis of the Krypton pilot, and it's a doozy. The show will center around Superman's grandfather Seg-El, an "athletic, quietly confident" man in his twenties. Obviously the Seg-El name is a little nod to Jerry Siegel, the co-creator of Supeman. His possible love interest is Lyta Zod, who has a family tie to General Zod, and is a reluctant warrior. 

Also in the cast is Val-El, who's Seg-El's own grandfather, who discovered the Phantom Zone, Ter-El, Superman's great grandfather, and Dev-Em, described as a "Kryptonian juvenile delinquent." 

It all sounds like a bunch of Driv-El to me. In fact I'd go so far as to say it's Terrib-El. Dispicab-El, even. The whole thing's Inexcusab-El. It's Unthinkab-El. Whoever greenlit this project is Certifiab-El. OK, I'm done.

The show begins production this summer, and will likely premiere in the fall, just in time for a Christmas cancellation.
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