By Scott Murray
Some of the best movies are the ones that provide us with several memorable lines. Without question, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is such a movie. It was tough picking just a handful of them to feature here, but here goes nothing:
It seems to be that the only thing you've learned is that Caesar...was a salad dressing dude.
It's always funny when older adults try to repeat contemporary high school vernacular. However, Mr. Ryan needs to do that in this scene in order to make a point. When he does, his delivery is sincere...and hilarious.
How's it goin', royal ugly dudes?
To me, this line is about comedic timing and choice of words. Things seem to be going well for the guys as they attempt to rescue the princesses from having to marry against their will. However, when King Henry suddenly appears, it takes the air out of the room. At this point, anything could be said coming out of the awkward silence, and Bill picks something that mixes a common greeting with a funny insult.
All behold, he ate the pig. Thus proving that he's a...Ziggy Piggy!
I'm not sure the REAL Napoleon would've tolerated the crazy Ziggy Piggy waiters, but who cares? It's amusing seeing them get in his face, poke him, stick a button on him, call him a pig and oink at him. After all, those guys have no idea who's in front of them. While suspending disbelief, I also tend to wonder what it would be like to have to act like that as part of your job.
Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t!
I know it's just one word said over and over again, but it's Napoleon bowling! As a bowler, I've never had this particular thing happen, but I've been mad at my ball enough to want to repeat the words.
Tell me about your mother.
Aside from, "You can call me Siggy," Freud attempting a random therapy session at the police station is quite hilarious.
The only true wisdom that consists of knowing...that you know nothing. That's us, Dude!
I loved these lines so much, my wife bought me a t-shirt with them on it.
Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.
The line itself isn't original, but the use of it was GENIUS. Nobody could see it coming, and I remember the movie theater bursting out in laughter when Socrates said it. Bill & Ted probably don't watch soap operas and had no idea what he said, but we did. I love that kind of random and unexpected humor.
Here's the deal...what I win, I keep. What you win...I keep.
All of the historical figures have their moments, including Billy the Kid. It was clear when he walks into the room that people were intimidated. Yet, our clueless heroes just thought he was cool enough for their report. In my interview with Dan Shor about Billy the Kid, he mentioned that he did research on the real man, but was told to throw it all out the window. Nonetheless, his card game rules made for a great line.
San Dimas High School Football Rules!
While many of the historical characters probably weren't rooted heavily in fact, we all know that this guy exists in several high schools. He didn't do the work, and it was apparent to everyone. However, he still had to get up and do something. So, why not leave the stage with a bang by turning the presentation into a pep rally?
By Dennis Keithly
After catching up on some television shows in my effort to be a better-informed geek, I decided to turn my attention to some movies. But, where to start? While pondering that question, the trailer for Alien: Covenant was released. Instantly I knew what I needed to watch next. As a fan of the original Alien movie and its sequel, Aliens, I had long wanted to watch Prometheus. Finally, I was going to have the chance.
What I Knew Already
I remember hearing years ago, when Prometheus was in the development stage, that Ridley Scott was helming this project. Reporting in the early days of the project seemed somewhat muddled. Some reports stated Prometheus was a prequel to the Alien franchise. Other reports claimed this was an something entirely different.
Somewhere along the line, the mystery vanished, and it was commonly known that Prometheus somehow concerned the “Space Jockey” seen in the original Alien movie. If you don’t recall the Space Jockey, this was the alien pilot found on board the alien spacecraft that the crew of the Nostromo discovered. The pilot died at his station among a field of pods on the bridge of his ship. Of course, those pods were eggs for the Xenomorphs, the famous aliens of this series.
So, I knew going into this viewing that the story had something to do with the Space Jockey and the Xenomorphs.
Before I get into my initial reactions, I will comment a bit on the story. The movie begins on a planet with an abundant source of water. A humanoid alien, that viewers will come to know as Engineers, stands on a cliff near a waterfall. He ingests a dark liquid, and the audience sees his DNA begin to break down. The Engineer then convulses and begins to fall apart, literally. Next, the Engineer’s body falls into the water, and again audiences see his body disintegrate. But wait, the DNA reactivates in the water of this world.
I’ll admit, I was thoroughly confused by the prologue of this movie when I saw it. It was only after I finished the movie and reflected on the beginning that I began to understand. At least, I think I understand. The Engineer sacrificed himself to seed this world with life. That was intriguing.
The Search for “God”
After the prologue, the focus shifts to a cave in Scotland. Archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) explore the cave and find a cave painting depicting a giant figure set against some spheres believed to be distant stars. Humans discovered the art of many of earth’s earliest civilizations all over the world.
Of course, Shaw and Holloway conclude that the figure depicted is an alien being of some sort. Furthermore, they deduce this alien engineered life on Earth. Using their discovery, they convince Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) to fund an expedition to what they believe is the alien’s home world. In other words, they are on their own quest to find God and settle any and all creation myths on Earth, but fortunately, this isn’t Star Trek: The Final Frontier.
Things Fall Apart
Eventually, the starship Prometheus arrives at this planet. David (Michael Fassbender), an android left to watch over the hibernating crew, awakens mission director Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theoron), Captain Janek (Idris Elba), and the rest of the crew. The atmosphere on this planet is toxic, so the crew wear suits to protect them from the environment and set out to explore an alien structure. Once inside the structure, things start falling apart.
As this blog is not meant to be a comprehensive review, I’ll highlight a few plot points. The Engineers are indeed found, but they are believed to be dead. However, David finds a lone surviving Engineer in stasis. Peter Weyland accompanied the crew on this mission in the hopes the Engineers could save him from death. The Engineers had other ideas.
Apparently, the Engineers were in fact bio-engineers. They conducted experiments, and eventually at least one of their creations escaped containment killing nearly all of them. Contrary to the hopes of the crew of the Prometheus, the Engineers had a nefarious purpose. Their creations in this compound were intended to destroy life on Earth for an unknown reason. As the crew of the Prometheus explores the mystery, all but one fall prey to the bio-creations of the Engineers, thus this becomes a classic Alien story. The film concludes with the birth of what Alien fans would recognize as an early Xenomorph.
The greatest strength of Prometheus is the lore and world building. The prologue makes little sense until the rest of the movie is viewed. Out there in the galaxy is the answer to the question, “Where does humanity come from?” The Engineers have a story that is intriguing and perplexing.
The visuals were fantastic. Prometheus captured the aesthetic of Alien and Aliens. The interior of the Engineers’ stronghold is a clear predecessor to the architecture of the Xenomorphs in the Alien films. The Prometheus starship is a clear predecessor to the Nostromo from Alien. The Engineers and their creations clearly belong in the same galaxy as the Xenomorphs.
David, the synthetic or android, was interesting as well. Weyland manipulated him from behind the curtain. However, Weyland was conflicted. Although, he didn’t have a soul, and he was loyal to Weyland, he cared for Shaw at the very least. Or, perhaps his loyalties changed when Weyland perished. Regardless, he seems to be a favorite subject of debate and discussion for fans.
However, even after I finished the film, Prometheus leaves plenty of questions unanswered. For instance, why did they want to destroy life on Earth? What had humanity done to warrant a death sentence? In addition, if they didn’t come from the planet the crew of the Prometheus discovered, where did they come from? Were these Engineers rogue scientists or were they acting in accordance with the will of their people? What was their mission?
Fortunately, Prometheus has a sequel coming in Alien: Covenant. One can hope that many of these questions will receive answers there. I have my doubts. Covenant looks much more like Alien and Aliens. The focus of those movies was action and survival. Where the Xenomorphs came from was not as important as surviving. In fact, their origin was irrelevant to the story and resolution of the crisis at hand.
I think I went into Prometheus expecting a film much more like Alien. In that, I expected a survival tale. The premises of those first two films in the franchise was survival, containment, and escape. Granted, those are indeed elements to Prometheus, but they are secondary. Shaw and Holloway set out to find answers to a mystery. That was paramount. They found some of those answers, but they also discovered more questions. Also, I found it frustrating that a ship containing a scientifically literate crew continually made unscientific decisions, such as removing their helmets just because the atmosphere appears breathable without conducting more tests.
It is not that I didn’t enjoy Prometheus, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. However, having had time to reflect on this movie and discuss it with friends, Prometheus would likely benefit from a second viewing to further examine the mysteries of this film. Unfortunately, I’m not sure when I would or could make time for that.
Also, given that I am not itching to do so solidifies my opinion somewhat. To be certain, Prometheus was a superior movie to the sequels to Aliens, Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection. I’m hoping Covenant will be even better.
By Scott Murray
I don't need to tell you that movies can generate emotional responses. Films that make you laugh and cry are nice, but the ones that generate an epic geek-out can be even better. With geek movies now hitting theaters every year, we get plenty of geek-out opportunities, but not all of them will last. In other words, you may geek-out the first time you see it, but after that, as B.B. King would say - the thrill is gone.
That's why I wanted to highlight three of my classic geek-out moments that continue to generate a geek-out response every time I see them. They just never get old.
"General...would you like to step outside?"
I was 7 years old when Superman II hit theaters, but that was old enough to be really mad at General Zod for causing havoc all over the country. It was really tough to sit there and watch all of that happen while powerless Clark Kent could only stand by and watch. That is what made his re-emergence at the Daily Planet so epic.
Once Superman asked Zod to step outside, I had a geek-out moment that internally said, "YEAH! Party's over, bitch." Okay, maybe not those exact words at age 7, but you get the idea. This scene still generates a response today.
"Here it comes."
I've said it for years - I'm a Kirk guy. I love his swagger, cockiness, and confidence - especially when it comes to sticking it to the bad guy. There was arguably no better time to witness that then in Star Trek II when Khan thought he had beaten the Enterprise crew. Unfortunately for him, Kirk doesn't believe in a no-win situation.
I remember seeing this movie in theaters. As Kirk, Spock and Saavik pull up the prefix code, the fantastic music of James Horner began to swell. An over-confident Khan thought he was going to get a transmission of Genesis information, but when Kirk says, "Here it comes"...it drops Reliant's shields and allows the Enterprise to counter attack.
When this happened, the crowd in the theater burst into applause. I still feel like doing that every time I watch this scene.
"Jabba...this is your last chance. "
Speaking of over-confidence...Jabba the Hutt exuded plenty of that, especially when he had Luke, Han and Chewie standing over the Sarlacc Pit. Luke was my hero growing up, and nobody wanted to see him master The Force more than me. Watching him enter Jabba's Palace and making quick work of two Gamorrean Guards was a pretty good indicator.
Yet, watching him stand on that plank as Jabba scoffed at his threats to free them or die...I have to admit I was a little panicked. There seemed to be no way out. Then suddenly...
and whoa, GREEN LIGHTSABER!
Then opening a can of Jedi Whoopass on Jabba's cronies!
It was just so awesome. It remains my favorite Star Wars moment. The best part about seeing this scene today is that I not only geek-out a bit, but I still feel some of that child-like emotion from the first viewing (though I like experiencing it better without the EXTRA Sarlacc mouth in it).
I guess you could say there's a common thread here. All of these scenes involve the good guys turning the table on the bad guys. So, yeah, I guess I'm all about the heroes. Don't get me wrong - I think Zod, Khan and Jabba are cool too. They're just not supposed to win.
In keeping with my resolution to become a “better informed geek,” I decided to check out Gotham. I initially passed on this series when it debuted in 2014. My thought was that if it took off, I could always catch up. Over sixty episodes later, I’m just getting around to it. Therefore, I watched the first two episodes from the first season.
My Initial Reluctance
Gotham tells the story of a young James Gordon before he became commissioner of the Gotham police force. One of his earliest assignments is to investigate the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Yes, they are the parents of Bruce Wayne, also known as Batman. Chances are you already knew that about this show. My initial reluctance to embrace this show was the pitch. I had heard that series featured Gordon combating Batman’s enemies while Bruce Wayne grew up. This wasn’t appealing. I had visions of Gordon with a bushy mustache taking shots at Penguin complete with his top hat, caw, and umbrella. I’m pleased to say that the final product is far better.
Caution: Not a DC Guy
So, up front, I should say that I’m more of a Marvel kind of guy. I always have been. Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero. Over the past few years, I’ve read an increasing number of comics and focused on Thor, Iron Man, and The Avengers. As for DC titles, I have only read a few issues here and there. But…Batman. Who doesn’t love Batman? If there is one character from the DC universe for whom I feel I have a reasonable knowledge base, it is Batman. So, even though he wouldn’t be appearing in this series, that is why I decided to check out Gotham. How does it do?
In nearly any Batman story, there is a theme of corruption. That theme primarily presents itself in the police force. Gordon, whether as commissioner in the comics or a as young detective in Gotham, struggles combating that corruption. In Gotham, his partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) is a little too comfortable with a local crime boss known as Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith). Later, in episode two, when a homeless veteran is murdered in the streets, Gordon confronts the first responder that should have secured the crime scene. When the first responder retorts that he was at a restaurant that pays him $50 a month to look after the place, Harvey sides with the first responder. These examples demonstrate how corruption is both subtle and patent in this series.
Bullock’s and other officers’ ties to the criminal underworld create difficulties for Gordon. Another crime boss, Carmine Falcone (John Dorman) takes notice when Gordon is taken hostage by Mooney’s gang. Before Gordon and Bullock are butchered, Falcone and his gangsters show up to save them. Falcone explains to Gordon how he had an understanding with Gordon’s father, a former district attorney, about the criminal underworld and how it should be run. Ultimately, Gordon must fake the murder of one of Mooney’s henchmen, whom DC fans will recognize, but more on that later, in order to save himself and family.
Gordon’s fight against corruption puts him at odds with the rest of the police force. He clearly doesn’t approve of Bullock’s methods, but as a novice detective he has little leverage to push back against them. He certainly tries. A certain amount of corruption is expected by the police force in this series. It is the cost of doing business in Gotham. Clearly, Gordon’s resistance to and fight against corruption is a theme of the series, and it is done well.
Bruce Wayne and Alfred
Bruce Wayne, played by David Mazouz, teases behavior that might one day lead him to become Batman. In the premiere, he balanced precariously on the roof of Wayne Manor until Alfred (Sean Pertwee) noticed and called him down. Later, Bruce holds his hand over a candle attempting to see how long he can stand the pain before Alfred barges into the room. Alfred has a heavy burden. He is clearly the guardian to a troubled ward. Pertwee turns in a good performance as a firm parental figure who is both loving and stern when needed. However, he knows Bruce needs a mentor in a fashion that he cannot provide. Therefore, he turns to Gordon.
Likewise, Mazouz plays a young Bruce Wayne very well. Bruce is clearly confused and conflicted. He doesn’t know how to handle the death of his parents. He understands someone is to blame, and he wants some sort of vengeance. His inner conflict leads to self-destructive behavior. Of course, audiences know he will grow up and don the mantle of the Bat someday. His scenes in the first two episodes were short but adequate. Bruce clearly respects Gordon. So far, he is showing just enough hints that he’ll one day become the man under the cowl.
Batman’s Rogues Gallery
What is a good Batman story without his rogues gallery? Gotham gives a fresh take on many of the Bat’s enemies. There aren’t any vats of chemicals or other terrible, random accidents to give rise to these villains. They are all grounded in the grittiness of Gotham city itself.
First, there is the “Cat.” Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), the Catwoman from the comic books, is a young, and apparently homeless, woman who witnesses some of the largest crimes in Gotham. In the premiere episode, she is a silent witness and petty thief. That changes with the second episode. She takes on a much larger role. As an orphan child, she is often overlooked on the streets until someone specifically begins targeting such orphans. She hasn’t yet become the expert burglar seen in the comics.
Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), the Riddler, is already in the habit of asking annoying questions. He starts the series as a forensic examiner working in the lab of the police department. At least in the first two episodes of this series, he isn’t a villain. However, it is easy to see his style develop. He cannot resist teasing out his discoveries to the rest of the police force when he has a bit of forensic discovery to share. Bullock has little tolerance for Nygma’s antics and shouts the examiner down rather than indulge him.
Oswald Cobblepot, the Penguin, was a henchmen of Fish Mooney. He made a power play to displace her. Unfortunately for him, his power move failed, and he fell out of Mooney’s graces. It was Cobblepot that Gordon had to pretend to murder. Of course, Gordon doesn’t murder in cold blood, and he let Cobblepot go. Whatever you do, don’t call him “Penguin.” These first two episodes set up an ongoing plotline detailing the Penguin’s rise to power.
Finally, there is Ivy Pepper. Ivy is the daughter of a man framed for the murder of the Waynes. She is a witness to his demise. Although she is just a child, there are clues to her alter ego. First, of course, is her name. Second, she is surrounded by plants in her parents’ apartment. Compared to other children, she is a quiet child. Like Bruce Wayne, she has her own tragic childhood that will likely shape her future.
Gotham is not as colorful as many superhero themed shows. At least in the first two episodes, there are no super powers displayed by anyone. Of course, Batman didn’t have any. However, he had plenty of enemies that did. Instead of telling stories of epic battles between heroes and villains, Gotham focuses on Gordon’s detective work and the rise of Batman’s many enemies. In that way, it is similar to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
This show has piqued my interest. I’ve heard unflattering reviews of this series. However, I found it engaging. Batman has been done many, many times. Some, such as the aforementioned Dark Knight trilogy, are successful. Others, not so much. Batman’s story is well known throughout geek fandom. Therefore, it is difficult to engage those fans who have high expectations. This show may not have met everyone’s expectations, but I’m enjoying it. I didn’t expect to like watching a young Bruce Wayne, but I find his development intriguing. Gordon is the white knight of this series. His armor is slightly sullied, but he is a man of principle. I’m looking forward to following his journey and the rise of Gotham’s most vicious criminals.
By Scott Murray
In last week's Geek Directive Podcast, we discussed the new subscription box that Disney is putting together. Evidently, it will include movies, TV shows and video games all in one place. So, GANNIN asked us if we could create our own content box...what would we put into it? The answer for me was easy - I'd want one called RETRO BOX, filled with 1980s greatness. Here are some of the stuff I'd want inside of it.
I miss the days when "MTV: Music Television" was about actual music. It was so great to be able to turn it out and basically get a visual radio station featuring great bands and some very creative music videos. I've wanted to have a channel on satellite TV to offer hours of classic music videos for some time, and I think a retro box would be a great place to queue them up! I'm talking everything from Huey Lewis & the News, The Cars and Cyndi Lauper to Van Halen, Twisted Sister, Midnight Oil and ZZ Top.
I realize that a lot of classic shows are available on DVD and Blu-ray, but it sure would be nice to scroll through them all in one place. It would have to include the original V television series. I would also want The Muppet Show, The A-Team, and Knight Rider. I'd want comedies like Silver Spoons, Different Strokes, Night Court and The Jeffersons. Finally, I want some of the shows that are hard to find today like The Powers of Matthew Star and The Wizard .
AFTER SCHOOL SHOWS & CARTOONS
I would definitely like to have some of the programs I watched before/after school, as well as some Saturday Morning Cartoons. Granted, some of these shows may not hold up in my adult brain, but it would be fun to re-visit most of them. I would want some classic shows produced by Sid & Marty Kroft. There would have to be some Battle of the Planets, Masters of the Universe, and Star Blazers included in the mix. I'd also like to queue up some Fat Albert, and some classic Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry.
How could I have a Retro Box without movies? The 1980s were an awesome time for movies, and there are several titles that still hold up. Naturally big franchises like Star Wars, Star Trek, Terminator, Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones would be in there. I would also need The Last Starfighter, Wargames, Back to the Future and E.T. It wouldn't be complete without classics like Weird Science, License to Drive, The Breakfast Club, Can't Buy Me Love and Coming to America. The list could go on and on, but they would all have to be there.
No Retro Box would be complete without video games. I would want the manufacturer to produce produce more of these than the Classic NES consoles. Considering it felt like Nintendo made 12 for the whole country, that wouldn't be a tough order. However, I would also want games from classic systems like the Atari 2600. This means titles like Ka-Boom and MegaMania. I would also like to play stuff from the arcades, including the classic Star Wars games, Spy Hunter, Drangonslayer, Galaga, Phoenix, Afterburner and Tempest.
It seems as though Disney will sell their new box for about $100, and this box would definitely be worth that price. I'd feel like a kid in the 1980s again...only with a hint of 2017 kids since I would be on it all day and would never go outside.
By Dennis Keithly
I made a New Year’s resolution. Let’s call it a “soft” resolution.
I decided this is the year I’m going to catch up. It seems the older you get, the busier you are. The busier you are, the less time you have to indulge in all your favorite geek passions. So, over the last dozen years, I feel like I have missed out on more and more. Therefore, this is the year that I start catching up.
All those wonderful super hero shows that Netflix has been releasing? I’m going to watch more of them. Those crazy science fiction films from the past few years that weren’t exactly family friendly? I’m there. This is where it begins. Taking a cue from Comic Book Noob, I’m dedicating some of my free time to becoming a “Better Informed Geek.”
Where to Start?
I don’t want to give the impression that I haven’t seen anything from the past few years. I’m a Star Wars die-hard. If it’s available, I’ve seen it. The Marvel cinematic universe? I’m all over that as well. I was thrilled with Deadpool last year and let down by the DC cinematic offerings of Batman vs. Superman and to a lesser degree, Suicide Squad. With that in mind, I decided to try something a little different. My first indulgence is Firefly.
I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me, “I can’t believe you haven’t seen Firefly!” Honestly, I can’t believe I haven’t seen it either. It seems to have a huge following. At Dallas Comic Con last year, I saw countless references to it. So, I decided to give the premier episode a viewing.
What I Already Knew
I knew very little about Firefly. Of course, there was a starship, and I knew its name was Serenity. I also knew that the lead character and captain, played by Nathan Fillion. I’ve heard many people compare Fillion’s role to Han Solo from Star Wars, or at least state it was inspired by Han Solo. I also knew that Alan Tudyk, a darling of geek culture that provided the voice for K-2SO in Rogue One, had a role in the show as a character named “Wash.” Finally, I was aware that Morena Baccarin had a role. I must admit I was only aware of her from her role in Deadpool.
First off, the environment of Firefly surprised me. I had never paid much close attention to the details of the imagery I encountered for Firefly. My brief glimpses gave me the impression that the show was somewhat steampunk inspired. That really isn’t the case. Firefly is a western in space. Indeed, it contains many of the trappings of the classic western. The attire of the cast features pants, shirts, vests, hats, holsters and other accoutrements of the old west.
Despite the presence of motor vehicles and starships, citizens populating this galaxy frequently employ horses of all things. The show features a frontier doctor, Dr. Simon Tam, played by Sean Maher. It even has a frontier preacher, known as a Shepherd, Darrial Book, played by the recently departed Ron Glass. Even the soundtrack for the show lends a decidedly western atmosphere.
Next, the use of the starships was intriguing. This isn’t Star Wars or Star Trek. Fuel and upkeep are paramount to the crew of the Serenity. Like the Enterprise, there is an engineer, played by Jewell Staite as Kaylee. However, the Serenity's maintenance is much less formal than what you would expect aboard the Enterprise. Kaylee’s love for the Serenity is no less than Scotty’s for the Enterprise though. Beyond that, the ships of the Firefly universe, at least in the first episode, seemed far less armed. Instead, attacking vessels rely more on running down their opponents and boarding them. The climax of this episode involved the Serenity and its crew attempting to outrun a gang of savages. Weapons fire was never exchanged.
The world building accomplished in a single episode was remarkable. Granted, when viewed commercial free, this episode is 86 minutes long, so there is more time than a typical one hour show to establish an environment. However, in that 86 minutes, Firefly provides a prologue in which Captain Malcolm Reynolds (I know his name now) and Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres) fight in the Unification War (I admit I looked that up).
Their side is overwhelmed by the Alliance in the war, and thus, he becomes a smuggler with Zoe as his second-in-command. Over the course of the episode, the western feel is neatly established through character costumes, titles, mannerisms, and technology (they use guns that look like six-shooters at times). Joss Whedon, the show creator, writer, and director, established a rich universe in the confines of a single episode.
Admittedly, I haven’t seen all of Whedon’s creations. However, I am very familiar with the Avengers franchise. Unfortunately, a movie like Avengers sets the bar incredibly high. So, I was slightly disappointed with the overall production of Firefly. This isn’t a fair criticism. For one, Firefly is nearly fifteen years old. Also, it likely didn’t have anything near the production budget of a movie like Avengers.
This relates to my second point. Most of the budget for this show seems to have been spent on special effects for the spacecraft. The sets, outside of the ship, were minimalist. It worked for the most part. It was only slightly distracting that this show seemed like it occurred on a backlot, similar to the original Star Trek, rather than on the plains and small towns of a frontier space colony.
The initial episode tells a satisfying story of a captain and his crew trying to make their way in a galaxy coming to terms with a recent civil war. Captain Reynolds is a determined man and loyal to his crew. His crew reflects that loyalty as they make their living smuggling goods and transporting passengers throughout the galaxy.
The tone of this show is somber. Although it has its light hearted moments, that isn't a label I'd use to describe the first episode. I’d recommend this series to anyone looking for alternative take on the classic science fiction space odyssey. I’ll certainly watch more episodes, and just maybe I’ll blog about them here.
By Scott Murray
In a recent episode of the Assembly of Geeks podcast, we discussed which movies pleased and disappointed us the most. With the new year offically underway, I have some specific hopes tied to some of the geek movies coming out in 2017.
The Lego Batman Movie
I am a big fan of The Lego Movie. More importantly, I am a big fan of Lego Batman's role in it. In fact, I once set Batman's self-made theme song as my ringtone for a short time (much to my wife's chagrin). Will Arnett brought the perfect blend of self-deprecating humor and badassery to the character. So, I was pretty stoked when I heard they were giving him his own movie.
The first two trailers for the movie made me laugh out loud and took my anticipation to a whole new level. However, the most recent trailer for The Batman Movie seemed more like a typical Batman animated adventure (with the exception of things like Robin ripping his pants off).
My hope: Is that the movie will have that perfect balance of parody humor and awesome Batman antics.
After Batman & Robin (and the movie lull that followed), my Batman fandom was buried in the weight of disappointment. In a way, the last two attempts to make Spider-Man movies have done the same thing. They never felt completely like Spider-Man to me (or as they say today - it wasn't MY Spider-Man). Tom Holland's appearance as the web-slinger in Captain America: Civil War gave me hope.
The first trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming was decent and had its moments. I'm hoping they just held back a little bit as I have big expectations for this one.
I am a fan of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. However, I am not a fan of Man of Steel or Batman vs. Superman (even though I liked the heroes that were featured in it). To me, the DCCU has a messy track record, and it didn't have to be this way. I want 2017 to be the start of something better, and I think Wonder Woman is the perfect character to put things into a better place.
After a failed television revival, a Smallville-style TV show idea that never saw light of day and executives who couldn't figure out what to do with her...I'm so glad she has this movie. However, that makes success even more important. Warner Bros. has shaken things up, and this will be the first film on Geoff Johns' watch. I'm hoping for the best!
I've seen the other Thor movies, and I'd say they were "okay". I find them to be a little underwhelming or just a little "meh". I think the approach to Ragnorok has the potential to improve those feelings. The additional actors like Cate Blancett, Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson and Jeff GoldBlum, along with characters like The Hulk, Doctor Strange and Captain America, gives Ragnarok the chance to easily become my favorite Thor movie.
(See Wonder Woman comments.) Just...get better. Just do it better.
Star Wars Episode VIII
I'm saddened to think that I'll be watching Episode VIII with a heavy heart this year. I loved the idea that General Leia could be instramental in the possible redemption of Kylo Ren. Who knows how things will change. However, I hope we'll get more answers this time around - especially if they will END the Snoke theories. I also hope this will be a fantastic addition to the saga that doesn't feature anything that remotely resembles a Death Star. Oh, and more Captain Phasma, please!
By The AoG Team
The Assembly of Geeks team is devastated to hear about the passing of Carrie Fisher today. As we mourn this difficult loss, we all wanted to share some thoughts and memories.
From Scott Murray:
As a kid, I remember one of the first lines from Star Wars that made me laugh was, "Would someone get this walking carpet out of my way?!" It was the perfect line for the strong, brave, no-nonsense character that re-defined "Princess". I met Carrie at my first Star Wars Celebration in 2002, and it was both a thrill and an honor rolled into one. She made me laugh at that convention as well. She told everyone that George didn't smile much (even after the success of Star Wars), so he asked ILM to digitize one on his face. Her strength, humor and bigger-than-life presence will be missed both on and off screen. I'm so glad she got to be part of this new era of Star Wars...adding to an already incredible and impactful legacy.
From Regina Davis:
The galaxy mourns together today as we bid farewell to Carrie Fisher. She gave us all a precious gift. When she gave life to Princess Leia, she made the universe expand ten-fold. While Leia was not the first self-reliant woman in Science Fiction, she was special, she was groundbreaking. When I was a child,Leia was a symbol of individualism I had not yet been exposed to in any medium. As I grew, I discovered her real-life counter-part was just as inspirational. We should all be grateful to have been given such a legacy of wit, bravery and adventure. She truly was magic.
From Jeff McGee:
To many people, Carrie Fisher is Princess Leia, and that’s where it ends. Her story was winding and tumultuous, and that's part of why I am so heartbroken over her passing. She lived the “typical” Hollywood story of fame at a young age, followed by years of drug abuse. However, she rose above it all and fashioned a career for herself as an amazing writer. She drew on her own experiences and presented them in a way that made us hold a mirror to ourselves. At 60, she was just getting a second wind of renown, and I have no doubt that she had many more stories to tell. I’ll miss her wit, her talent, and her inability to be false. More than that, I’ll miss the work we never got to see. May the Force be with you, Carrie.
From Emily Kelley:
I am absolutely gutted to hear of the passing of Carrie Fisher. Before Hermione Granger, Leia Organa showed me that women could be beautiful and feminine along with being smart and strong. She was a leader and hero in her own right, something I had not seen as a young girl before seeing Star Wars. Aside from Star Wars, Carrie was outspoken about her own addictions and mental health issues — helping immensely to shed light on the stigma and struggle so many of us geeks face — across multiple best-selling books and endeavors. Carrie was also a devoted mother, friend, and geek icon who gave so many of us so much joy and inspiration. She will be greatly, greatly missed.
From Matt Moore:
Because of Carrie Fisher, it was never odd to for me to experience and enjoy works of creative fiction with strong female characters who acted on their own accord in a bold and forthright manner. As the original Star Wars trilogy came out, I was always drawn to her leadership role in the Rebels and wondered how her character, Leia, could soldier on in spite of such crushing loss. That's because of Carrie's acting. She made that role into an icon, one that will far outlive us all. It goes without saying that the Star Wars firmament has lost a bright and shining light, but her presence will always be felt, by old fans and new fans. My daughter is nine. Her ONLY Princess? Leia. She told me the others don't matter.
From Genese Davis:
Thank you for braving the way...inspiring strength, tenacity, loyalty and poise. You embodied the warrior spirit and showcased that there's a leader in all of us. You will have an everlasting place in our hearts. Rest in peace.
By Scott Murray
Overwatch has quickly become one of the most popular video games on the market today, and deservedly so. It's a simple but brilliant concept that features fun characters to play in a FPS-style setting. The random maps, colorful characters and challenging situations keep everything fresh. I've played it more than I've played any other game for some time.
I wasn't sure if I was "ready" for Competitive Play when it was launched, but I immediately jumped in and played it. When the first 10 placement rounds were complete, I finished with a player rating of 41 (on a 1-100 scale). That's about where I thought I'd place. While I used to play FPS games all the time (and I love MMO PVP), I knew I was still getting used to it all again.
However, it wasn't until the I started playing games after the placement rounds that I noticed some frustrating flaws. Before I get into these, let me just point out these things:
1. I have never, ever been one of those players who constantly complains about games and developers in public, private or online forums.
2. I have no delusions about my skill level. I think I'm in the mid-range....not elite, but not someone who doesn't belong in Competitive Play.
3. I love the game itself.
So, with that out of the way. Here's what's making things a lot less fun.
The player rating algorithm penalizes me for bad teams
It didn't take long after getting a 41 rating, to end up in the 20s. The worst part of it was that I had very little control over what a team game did to MY personal rating. I could medal (even gold medal) in categories like heals, eliminations, objective time or objective eliminations and it would still dramatically lower my rating due to a team loss.
On July 4th, I had a run where I lost about 10 out of 12 games. In a game where I was voted EPIC, led in team damage and got 3 gold medals...and I dropped to 23.
That isn't right.
I got into a match with a friend, and he had multiple medals in that match. He was basically an Overwatch Rambo...killing it in damage, kills and objective time. The player rating algorithm said, "Meh, so what. Your TEAM lost, so we're going to make your rating suffer."
If you you're stamped with a SKILL RATING, that implies it represents YOUR skill...not the team's skill.
The player rating has a confusing purpose.
I'm not saying there should be no penalty for a loss. Nor am I saying you should be rewarded for losing. What seems to be causing the confusion and frustration is assessing personal and team penalty. Since the only thing the game has attached to Competitive Play is personal rating, it's the only win/loss stat that is affected.
Here's the other problem - Blizzard is either just as confused or is simply offering canned answers in response. I tweeted them about my frustration with MY rating taking a big hit over a team loss. This was their response:
Right. Knew that. So, why is a bad TEAM going to affect my rating so much?
Okay, fine. Then why is there a PERSONAL player rating? Why are there PERSONAL medals awarded? Why is there even a PERSONAL level you can achieve? If it's more about TEAM and less about PERSONAL achievement...then, should we not care about our personal rating even though you gave us one?
Whether Blizzard likes it or not, the personal rating becomes a goal.
They say it might be about team, but people care about that rating number attached to their account.
I can say this from not only personal experience, but people I've talked to in game - once you drop into the 20s, it becomes seemingly impossible to get back into the 30s or 40s again. Due to the hits the game makes you take via losses (no matter how good you were), you are likely not going to win enough to get back there again.
Losing streaks seem more common than winning streaks, and if you're trying to get your rating back up...you feel like you're gambling. I might think:
Is that the experience Blizzard wants players to have? I figured they'd want people to play for hours on end. What good is it to encourage players to learn and improve, when you can do just that only to get heavily penalized when your randomly selected team plays like they still need improvement?
If it was a little easier to move up or not so automatic to move so far down, I think this would all be a lot better.
Your rating suffers for disconnects and teammates bailing on you.
So, as if a bad TEAM experience couldn't make your PERSONAL rating worse...get in a group where 2-4 people leave you to take on an entire team. You're screwed, and so is your player rating.
If you disconnect accidentally, when you log back in...your lowered player rating is waiting for you. Or you might get a situation like I had where:
1. You get disconnected
2. You log back in, only to see your rating has already been reduced.
3. Your'e able to jump back into the same match
4. You win, but it still shows you a graphic of your rating getting lowered. So, you won...but you're rating goes down.
Again...you might not deserve it, but you're going to get hit.
Look, I understand it's a new game and changes will be made. I just hope the Tweets above don't fully represent Blizzard's attitude about these issues. Like I said, I know I'm not the only one bothered (and sometimes demoralized) by this. Also, let me reiterate, I'm not saying I deserve to be in the 60s or 70s. I AM saying that I'm a better player than to be unfairly stuck in the twenties. I also understand ratings are ways they can attempt to match up equally skilled teams.
However, if your rating is 25, but in reality you're 39, the system isn't doing it properly anyway.
I think some of this could be improved by changing the 1-100 system. Maybe it needs to be 1-500 so that there's more room to take a hit and not feel like a bad team just put your performance in the cellar. Or maybe just a new and improved algorithm could make a difference.
What if your team lost badly, but you spent quality time in the objective getting kills? Is it possible for your PERSONAL performance and your TEAM performance to cancel each other out? In other words, your rating doesn't move up or down?
If team play and winning is the main goal, I'm just saying Blizzard needs to help us continue to be driven to achieve that goal. I'm already enjoying the game, and I care about my player rating enough to keep trying to get it back into the 30s or maybe 40s.
I'm putting the time and effort into playing hard, and better yet - improving. That is a PERSONAL goal I know they want people to have. So, I'd like them to help us believe we can improve by not penalizing us for certain game elements that are way beyond our control.
Geek topics from AoG hosts and contributors.