Monthly Archives: December 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — Here’s what’s wrong with Rogue One

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a highly entertaining, fan-serving, and re-watchable addition to the Star Wars canon.  But it’s got some problems.

Mainly, it needed to either scale-down or scale-up, but it’s stuck in Sarlacc’s throat, half-digested, left messy and smelly.

Here’s what I mean (Spoilers Ahead):

1) Too Much Fan Service

We already have a movie with tons of characters and places and events crammed into 133 minutes.  Fan Service is cool, but do we really need to see the two thugs who harass Luke at the Mos Eisley cantina?  And of course an SW film must have C-3PO and R2-D2, but their cameo seems more like an awkward product placement.  What I enjoyed more than these straight-up fan-pleasing moments was seeing Jimmy Smits, once again as Bail Organa, reminiscing about the good old days (AKA The Clone Wars) with another prequel holdover, Genevieve O’Reilly’s Mon Mothma.  I’m glad this Disney Star Wars film acknowledged that Episodes I-III exist, unlike The Force Awakens.

star wars ponda evazon

Ponda and Evazon made a stop in Jeddha before Tatooine.

2) Chirrut and Baze

Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe and Wen Jiang’s Baze Malbus are the most interesting characters in Rogue One.  If any characters deserve a spin-off from this spin-off, it’s these two.  They have the best entrance but the worst exit.  I mean, Chirrut gets killed flicking a switch.  Single-handedly wiping out a squad of Stormtroopers is one thing, but when the Death Troopers arrive, we first need to see how bad-ass the Death Troopers are, and then we need to see how more bad-ass Chirrut is.  We don’t get either.  Come on!  Donnie Yen played Bruce Lee’s master in 3 films!  Let him go out whooping the Empire’s elite in dirty hand-to-hand melee.

star wars chirrut imwe

More Chirrut please.

There’s a lot more here with Chirrut and Baze.  Chirrut has great faith, and has Jedi-like command of his senses, but he is not force-sensitive.  He’s not a Jedi as we quickly learn.  If he were, he would have been purged anyhow.  Just the fact that a temple guardian survived Order 66 and the purges is an interesting story in itself.  Perhaps there’s guilt and why he’s loitered at a dead temple for almost two decades.  Lots here with these two and why Rogue One missed an opportunity.  Hopefully, there will be more on them.

3) Jyn’s Kyber Crystal Necklace

Whenever you introduce an object with significant weight, it needs to mean something.  At the beginning of the film, Jyn receives from her soon-to-be-murdered mother, a necklace with a Kyber crystal, which powers lightsabers (as well as WMDs).  Kyber crystals are a big deal.  At that moment, I’m thinking this artifact will have a pivotal role by film’s end, but it basically disappears by the time Scarif is blown up.  Again, more things thrown in to this messy stew, under-developed, that ultimately detracts more than adds.

What is the story with this necklace?  Remember, Galen’s generation fought in The Clone Wars.  That means he fought alongside the Jedi for the Republic (as well with Tarkin and Krennic), and probably knew at least a few of them personally given his position.  So the Kyber crystal must have greater significance than we get from the movie, but we just don’t get it and are left wondering.

star wars kyber necklace

It’s not exactly the Ring of Power but needs more play in Rogue One.

4) The Ending

The movie ends with Leia and the Tantive IV launching into hyperspace.  We know from Episode IV that she’s on her way to Alderaan and that she gets intercepted by Vader.  First of all, why isn’t she going to Yavin 4?  Why wouldn’t she go to the Rebel base directly?  Ultimately, that’s where the Death Star’s plans end up and where it’s successfully analyzed.  It’s probably the best place to go.

And I’m not sure how far Alderaan is from Scraif, but Yavin 4 is not that far.  It doesn’t take that long for the Rebel fleet to arrive at Scarif from Yavin 4.  So again, why wouldn’t Leia go to the Rebel base when it seems like it only takes a few hours, or even minutes, to get there?

Also, how does the Tantive IV get intercepted by Vader at the beginning of A New Hope?  We all know from the other Star Wars films, once you hit hyperspace, that’s it, they gone.  At the end of Rogue One, Vader’s watching from the Alliance flag ship as Tantive IV disappears.  How quickly is he able to get to the Devastator from there?  How is he able to stop Leia over Tatooine?  And why is Leia at Tatooine and not Alderaan or Yavin 4 by then?  Before Rogue One came along, we just assumed the battle happened nearby and Tantive IV had a reason it couldn’t go to hyperspace, probably damaged from the battle.  But now, we’re left wondering how it got stuck in the Outer Rim.

star wars tantive IV

Shoulda gone to Yavin 4.

5) The Big Fuse

Okay, so Galen Erso added a flaw to the nastiest weapon in Galactic history.  I wrote about this before watching the movie, and now that I’ve seen it…I still don’t like it.  It means that a dude designed a flaw that was meant to be exploited.  Something that was impossible without the Force suddenly became very much possible.  It gives too much credit to Erso, and takes away from the power of the Force, and Luke’s accomplishment in Episode IV.

rogue one star wars story galen erso

Galen Erso: the true hero of the Alliance?

That vulnerability could happen without Rogue One’s justification, which serves more to redeem Galen Erso than anything else.  Death Star was designed and built over twenty years.  Geonosians and the Separatists started it, and then was handed over to the Imperial designers, of whom I’m sure there were many.  It was relocated at least once and built by slaves.  There was great pressure to finish it — from the Sith Lords!  Of course there will be flaws!  Actually, I’m surprised there’s only one, and it was one that was impossible to exploit without providence, until Rogue One came along.

Rogue One could have done with less, or gone the other way and added another 20-30 minutes to clean up some messy distractions.  A movie with a similar plot, Guns of Navarone, is at 158 minutes.  And actually, why not go all the way and hit Seven Samurai epic-ness at 200 minutes?

Rogue One is not a bad Star Wars film.  Actually, I would place it above The Force Awakens (see my rankings here), but it could have been better.

 

 

Star Wars Films Rankings, from Best to Worst

Ranking the Star Wars Films, from best to worst:

1) Empire Strikes Back

star wars empire strikes back

No surprise here.  This is still the top SW film, by far.  Best acted, best written, best twist, and the best battle scene, even if the AT-ATs remain the biggest waste of military funds in galactic history.

Star Wars

AT-AT: they’re big, slow, and they’ll blow up if they trip.

2) A New Hope

star wars a new hope

Episode IV increases its value with the release of every new SW title.  It sets up Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi beautifully.  And the briefly mentioned lines of exposition in the first SW flick became “A-ha” moments with the release of Episodes I, II, III and now, Rogue One.  For example, Tarkin’s announcement that the Emperor has dissolved the Senate has a more significant impact having seen its corruption and incompetence.  After Rogue One, we know why the Death Star has a fuse.  A New Hope is the well-constructed bridge that keeps everything together, which hopefully The Force Awakens will be for future episodes.  Like the Battle of Yavin, it is the center of the Star Wars universe.

3) The Phantom Menace

star wars phantom menace

Yes, we have Jar-Jar and midichlorians and some bad acting and writing, but Episode I is a good movie.  Like A New Hope, it has to be re-watched after having watched the other Episodes.  We see how Palpatine uses everyone, even the Jedi, in subtle ways.  It’s brilliant.  And the movie establishes the emotional bond between Anakin and his mother, and his days as a slave, which resonates when we see Vader in Episodes IV-VI.  The Phantom Menace also has the greatest lightsaber battle, something I’m appreciating more after watching Vader mow down hapless Rebel shipmates in Rogue One.

4) Return of the Jedi

star wars return of the jedi

Jabba, Sarlacc, Rancor, et al, are all good fun, but what’s the purpose of the first half of Episode VI?  It feels more like a stand-alone than an Episode.  And does the chosen one, Darth Vader (w/ Luke’s help), really bring balance to the galaxy by destroying the Sith?  I mean, when Lando blows up the Death Star, wouldn’t Palpatine blow up with it?  Overall, though, it’s a satisfying finale to the original trilogy.

5) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

star wars rogue one

Entertaining action flick with fan-service galore.  No opening crawl, but they didn’t forget, “I have a bad feeling about this”.  What’s not to like?  Well, a few things I’ve listed here.

6) The Force Awakens

star wars force awakens

Good to see Han, Leia and Luke, and Rey is an intriguing character, but come on, the Starkiller base?  Just a bigger Death Star, of which we’ve seen two blow up previously.  Now we have #3, and it’s the same dance: disable shields, hit it with everything you got.  And a poor kid on a desert planet who turns out to be force sensitive.  Sound familiar?  Episode VII might move up the list depending on Episodes VIII and IX.

7) Revenge of the Sith

star wars revenge of the sith

When Anakin kills Dooku at the beginning of the film, that should’ve been it.  End of movie, Anakin has turned to the Dark Side.  But we have 2 more hours until Vader screams, “No!”

8) Attack of the Clones

star wars attack of the clones

Obi-Wan is a warrior, diplomat and a detective.  Who knew?  This Mystery Sci-Fi takes us everywhere from a noir-Coruscant to a very wet Kamino to a very dusty Geonosis.  What haven’t we seen?  Yoda is awesome, though.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard — Back to Simple = Back to True Evil

Resident Evil is going back to its roots, which is good news to end a pretty crazy 2016.

It’s horror again.  One place, one haunting, one madness.  The only difference is that Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is first person, but the guns and puzzles are still there.  And based on the trailer, we’re back to the “don’t-play-this-alone-in-the-dark” scary of the originals in the series.

The Japanese release trailer shows us what we want to see…or don’t want to see.  Creatures and ghosts and monsters in dark corridors ready to jump out and rip us to oblivion.

After the messiness of Resident Evil 6, simplicity is much desired, and 7 seems to be bringing simple back, with a vengeance.

Game will be out world-wide on January 24 and in Japan on January 26.  Windows, PS4 and Xbox One.

resident evil 7 biohazard video game

Seasons of Heaven — What the Official Trailer shows us about the game

Nintendo reminds me of childhood.  Lazy but magical summer afternoons playing Gyromite, Duck Hunt, Kung Fu and of course, Super Mario.  Many years since the first Nintendo Entertainment System and now we are on console #7, the Nintendo Switch.

And one of its first exclusives is a game about…childhood.

The official trailer for Seasons of Heaven sends us to one of those magical summer afternoons.  Grass is green, breeze is soft, and flowers are colorful.  There’s a child and a French bulldog who’s smarter than your average French bulldog.

But all is not well.  It’s a post-apocalyptic world.  There are monsters and other challenges.

seasons of heaven video game

Our protagonist is a special child.  He has Asperger’s syndrome, but he is strong and clever.  And good thing because danger and obstacles surface with each step in this mysterious world.

The trailer gives us a vast open world with high towers and plenty of puzzles to solve.  Many games come to mind, especially from the Nintendo world, but this one seems different.  There’s a quietness.  A peacefulness, even in moments of darkness.

Our hero gets help during his journey.  His dog, of course, but also angels and spirits.  And this world is indeed a spiritual one.  Stone heads, towers both tiny and gigantic, and even an Egyptian god.

Childhood is magical, mysterious and scary.  Seasons of Heaven gives shows we can make it, no matter how difficult our road may be.

Seasons of Heaven, which is based on the book, will be out in 2017.

For Honor Trailer: The Shugoki — More than a sumo wrestler with a big stick?

Next time you see a fine lady at the bar, ask her, “Who would win in a fight: Viking, Samurai or a Knight?”  It’s sure to start an engaging conversation and land you a date.

Yes, one of the more interesting pick-up questions of all time is now a video game.

For Honor pits Samurai, Knight and Viking, and it’s all mano a mano bloody warfare.

The Shugoki trailer showcases one of the samurais.  Actually, he’s more of a sumo wrestler with a huge staff-mace type thing.  Not the grace and speed of the samurai, but more of a European brawler.  Plate-crushing strength.

for honor video game

So far the historical mesh-up seems to be the only competitive advantage here.  It’s a first-person adventure game.  Hack-and-slash with intriguing multiplayer modes.  Ultimately, the character classes are the usual suspects (more or less) and gameplay appears to be standard hack-and-slash.

And the Shugoki is a turn-off.  It’s just a big dude with a big weapon hacking away.  Hopefully there will be more creative uses of this guy, but the trailer doesn’t show much more than a brawler.  I could just play Street Fighter.

More than anything, the big sell is the potential for major battles.  Large-scale warfare using real tactics.  A first person version of Total War.  That would be different and it would definitely set this game apart.

The game is available on Xbox One on February 14, 2017.

for honor video game

Old Time Hockey Announcement Trailer — Banging Heads and Scoring Goals, Good Times!

I always preferred the lower-level hockey to the NHL.  More brutal, more raw, more old-time hockey.  I’ll take the IHL Ice Dogs to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks any day.  Latter couldn’t risk even a scratch on their pretty-boy multi-millionaires like Selanne and Kariya.  This was the 1990s and old time hockey had already gone a decade ago.  Players wore helmets and dirty plays meant the box or more.  But the IHL still featured brawls each night and refs who shrugged their shoulders more than blew their whistles.

But then the IHL folded, the Dogs disappeared, and no more old time hockey.

So, thank the gods of ice for V7 Entertainment’s Old Time Hockey!

Makes me grit my teeth just thinking about it.

Old Time Hockey Video Game

The first ten seconds of the Announcement Trailer shows us all we need to know.    Small arenas, rowdy fans and scruffy helmet-less thugs with skates swinging lethal weapons called hockey sticks.

You know what happens next without having to see it, but the trailer shows us anyway.  Melee and all-out brawls, sometimes involving the entire team.  Blood and gloating and all the testosterone-fueled antics this side of Donald Trump.  Still a doubting Thomas?  Looks at them scars!  They real.

Old Time Hockey Video GameOld Time Hockey Video Game

Still have no clue what it’s all about?  Here’s all you need to know, from the game’s site:

Experience hockey the way it was meant to be played in this old school arcade style hockey game where blood on the ice is just another day at the rink. 70s afros, big moustaches, no helmets, dirty hits, bench-clearing brawls, goalie fights, stick fights, ref abuse and locker room language – that’s Old Time Hockey. Players in this league live by one simple rule – Never look at the puck, just take the body. Timely hits are crucial in this dangerous sport where getting on fire is the difference between winning and losing.

Yep, it’s Old Time Hockey.  Love it.

It’s out early 2017 to PS4, Xbox One and Steam.

Old Time Hockey Video Game

RULE on Kickstarter — War in Silicon Valley?

I’m constantly thinking about war.  At the grocery store, at the office, the ball game…what if war broke out here and now?  Where would I take cover?  What am I wearing?  Where would I get guns?

War is highly unlikely in my Silicon Valley neighborhood.  (Except the tech variety between Apple and Samsung and Google and Facebook, et al.)  No, the nastiest thing about the Valley are the rent prices.

But what if war happened here?  What if war happened in your neighborhood?

That’s the premise behind Rule, a Massively Multiplayer Real Time Strategy Game from Australian developer Boyd Robertson.  It’s currently on Kickstarter well short of its AU$ 10,000.  But this game needs to be funded because I want to see tanks on the streets of Palo Alto!

rule video game

The proof-of-concept online demo didn’t work for me and I gave up after trying to sign up and failing a couple times.  But it doesn’t look that great anyway.  Based on the video, the actual real-world map doesn’t seem to come into play.  Soldiers walk through forests and ignore streets altogether.  It’s just background.

But at this point, it doesn’t matter.  The concept is cool.  If the game will have me place troops on the Google campus in Mountain View and invade Apple’s Cupertino, then that’s all I need.

And here’s the full list of promises if fully funded:

  • Worldwide gameplay map – all 510 million square kilometres of Planet Earth. Your hometown will be in this game.
  • Hundreds of diverse unit types on land, sea and air – submarines, special forces, stealth bombers and more.
  • Deep real-time strategic and tactical combat system – blitzkriegs, trench warfare and commando raids!
  • Detailed (but streamlined) resources and construction system.
  • Sophisticated alliance system
  • Mod support
  • Free to play, NEVER pay-to-win – no microtransactions for shortcuts or gameplay advantages. If you lose, you’ll lose fairly.

Yep, this game will be awesome.  Fund it and let loose them bombs!

rule video game

Guardians of the Galaxy 5-part episodic series — Telltale’s most RAD game yet

Teaser trailers usually don’t say much and the teaser for the Guardians of the Galaxy video game doesn’t tell us anything.  But what’s there to tell?  It’s Guardians of the Galaxy and it’s Telltale.

We see a Rad Mix cassette tape drifting in space, as iconic as the Star Child from Kubrick’s 2001.  Ah, the cassette tape — those glorious days of pirated music — and the Walkman, the symbol of the “Me” decade.

Telltale will release the 5-part episodic series in 2017.  Unlike some of their darker series, this one is sure to bring out the laughs.  Yes, tree, racoon, and the walkman.  What more do you need in a video game?

Death Stranding Trailer — What is Death Stranding?

We don’t know much about the new Kojima game, Death Stranding, but speculation is good fun.

And actually, the trailer, introduced at The Game Awards, tells us a lot.

First of all, the game’s got cash.  It’s got three heavy-weights in Mads Mikkelson, Guillermo del Toro, and Norman Redus.  All great names, all great talent, in one video game.  That alone is enough to buy this blind.

As for the story, it reminds of Cuaron’s Children of Men.

The Guillermo character is carrying an unborn baby in an artificial womb, which is basically a glass jar with fluids and a synthetic umbilical cord.

death stranding video game

He’s hiding.  From what?

Nasty, slithery creatures with tanks and guns and WWII era planes.

He stands in front of a sewer tunnel, ankle-deep in yucky water, as a baby doll floats by.  It appears he’s waiting.

The doll continues its journey into the sewage, and is met by a group of underground (literally) soldiers.  These aren’t ad-hoc partisans, they’re well-equipped pros led by Mr. Mads.

But wait, they’re not good! guys

Nope.  We know this because Mads’s eyes are bleeding.  Bleeding black goo!  And his men…they’re connected to him by cables.  That’s not good at all.  Perhaps a type of  umbilical cords as well…?  The men disconnect from him when he sends them off to find Guillermo and the baby.

Who are they after, the baby or Guillermo?

Hundred bucks says the baby.  It’s either the last baby on Earth or some kind of a Messiah baby.  The Chosen One, I guess. Obviously some kind of a DNA stranding break-through…. Or not.

We’ll see what the game is all about, but the story is intriguing and with the heavy-weights behind it, especially Kojima, this is definitely a game to hook up our umbilicals to.