Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gay Hobbits and Missed Experiences (The Two Aren't Related)

Hey, everybody. I know that our blogger/reader relationship has been pretty hot and heavy over the past couple of months. But before we go on, I need you to know something:

Before last Friday, I had never seen The Lord of the Rings.

Hush, baby. Ain't no need to be upset. I realize that I associate myself with the title of "nerd," and I know that most people consider Peter Jackson's trilogy to be a hallmark of nerd culture. And in all actuality, I had seen some of the movies before. A friend lent me the extended editions over the summer, and I quickly lost interest. A word to the wise: If you have something you love that you want to share, keep the extended/director's cut/special editions to yourself - unless you want to be a terrible person (love you, Shannon). Yet, I want to say that there's no problem with the fact that I had been kept in the dark for so long. If this blog's readers actually left comments, that statement would get me in some trouble.

Let's take a time out real quick. I very much enjoyed the three films, even though next to nothing interesting happens for most of the second movie. I say that because I believe that I've developed the persona of a one who only looks for negative aspects of art to point out. But come on, we already discussed this.

I must note that from what I have perceived, the lifeblood of The Lord of the Rings franchise is its excess of homoerotic tension. Almost every scene in The Two Towers features two or more male characters conversing with text straight out of the Nicholas Sparks Novel Writing Handbook. They exchange stares that last a little too long but feel a little too right. I found myself on the edge of my seat, just waiting for a Hellbenders-esque moment to arrive. If that's what keeps people coming back for each installment, I get it. Most people already know my views on such hot-button issues.

However, I'm not here to tell you that the films were as good as I expected, or that the extended editions feature Pippin and Merry doing some heavy petting (special features, indeed). I would like to address the fact that had I still not seen The Lord of the Rings, I wouldn't care, and neither should you. And that's just okay.

"It is okay, Sam. It's natural."
Somewhere along the line, our society realized the greatness of the art it was putting out, and fabricated the idea that all of it should be taken in. Haven't heard Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon? You don't know true music. Haven't read the complete works of Jane Austen? You must not appreciate literature. Nerds have become the worst offenders: If you missed out on a certain film or comic or game, your "nerd cred" immediately comes under the microscope. And in my professional, high-brow opinion, those people can suck it.

I've never seen an episode of Star Trek. I've never picked up a copy of Sin City, film or comic. I will probably never read Game of Thrones, or any of the Martin books. Most of all, I don't see any of this in a negative light. I could talk for hours on the importance of art, and why we should care about it. Even so, I recognize the sheer mountain of art available, and even more the unlikeliness that any one person could absorb it all. The most we can ask for is that we all take in as much as we can and enjoy it. If not, we'll spend all of our time regretting what we haven't seen, read, heard, or done.

The next time someone mentions to you something similar to "I have never seen The Lord of the Rings," pretend they're me. By that, I mean you should sympathize and then offer them the DVDs, monetary recompense, and/or sexual favors. Just like The Golden Rule says.

Like, comment, subscribe, or tell me that those are things only on YouTube. Either way, write something down in the little white boxes to appease me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spoilsport: Avengers vs. X-Men

It's my spring break right now, so I guess you should be happy that I chose to wake up and give you the same quality content - er, the same content as any other Wednesday. Speaking of any other Wednesday, the new issue of a new comic book event, Age of Ultron, hits the shelves. I probably won't be reading it, as money is hard to come by these days - my usual corners were taken by meth dealers. Instead, I'll be vaguely recollecting an event from last year, in a new segment called Spoilsport. When I Googled the phrase to make sure I wasn't stealing it from another publication, I came across some serendipity: while I use the word to reference the spoiling of the story, it also means a person who ruins the enjoyment of others - a phrase which sums up this blog pretty well. I'll try to keep up the clever wordplay, since I'm now pretty much the new Mr. A-Z.

Moving onto other expertly crafted works (Segue, yo!), Avengers vs. X-Men came out last summer and cost way too much money. It was a 12-part crossover with several tie-ins that I didn't read. The event also pitted Marvel's biggest franchises against each other in bouts of combat and needless arguing. Mostly, AvX was known for its overly convoluted backstory; it had more prerequisites that most of my classes this semester. This backstory is way too complicated to retread here, and it would confuse way too many readers for me to try and work into a paragraph.

Before AvX, the Scarlet Witch (a mutant avenger) used her reality-bending powers to say "No more mutants," bringing the once-expansive mutant population down to about 200 (virgins refer to this event as "M-Day"). Cyclops, who had become the self-appointed face of the mutant race, wasn't too jazzed about it. He moved the remaining mutants to an island called Utopia and became a monumental douchebag. This led to a spat between him and Wolverine, who then moved the younger mutants to a new school, to teach them instead of train them for war. We feel sorry for Cyclops, though, because he's been through some stuff. His girlfriend killed herself to save everyone from the Phoenix Force, a big space-fire-bird-thing, which brings destruction and rebirth, as mythology suggests. The Phoenix Force is coming back to Earth, and it's headed straight for Hope Summers, the first mutant born since M-Day. The X-Men believe the Force will bring life to their dying race, and the Avengers believe it'll kill everyone all crispy-like. Confused? Good.

The X-Men are pissed at the Avengers for being too simple.
The byline for AvX has its who's who of Marvel Comics creators. Writers include Bendis, Aaron, and Brubaker, and their scripts come to life through Adam Kubert, John Romita, Jr., and John Romita, Jr.'s fascination with cheekbones, among others. And I'm wasting too much time with logistics. Here's the story.

Our tale begins with the Avengers doing Avengery things. Everyone's favorite nobody, Nova, crashes down (most likely killing hundreds, but they never address that part) with the message, "It's coming." Jump to some exposition with Cyclops being a dick, and we see that Hope can make everything go all Tabasco with her Phoenix powers, which she prematurely has or something. This causes the Avengers to find out what readers have known for some time: the Phoenix is back, and it's headed towards Hope.  So they go to Utopia to negotiate, but Cyclops is a dick. So Dickclops decides it would be fun to start a war with the Earth's Mightiest Heroes; we get our "Avengers Assemble," a big portrait of all the Avengers, and the fight begins. End issue one.

From here, we go into an all-out brawl, complete with out-of-place philosophical quotes. My favorite is, "Irradiated muscles strain. Organic metal groans. Windows shatter miles away. The San Andreas Fault shudders with each blow." I guess Jason Aaron is on the same level as a sophomore philosophy major. After more quotes like this gem here, we see Spidey and Wolverine going after Hope. She fries Wolvie and bounces, end issue two.

Somehow, the X got the jump on the A while they were, and Magik helps them all escape. Captain America then splits up his team and sends them across the world to look for Hope. Cap, who took Wolverine with him on his crusade, pulls a Cyclops and kicks Logan off the plane, Air Force One style. End issue three.

"I'm the best at what I do." That's the quote, right?
Wolverine, now stranded in Antarctica, kills a polar bear and uses it to keep warm. In Antarctica. Science. He's saved by Hope, who decided to track him down, for reasons. They steal a rocket ship from A.I.M., and head to the moon. Because screw it, we want to go to the moon. It's the hippinest hoppinest place in space, because the Avengers and X-Men have no trouble getting there as well. Don't worry it's the Blue Area of the moon, with an artificial atmosphere. Science. Also, the Phoenix Force is here. End issue four.

More fighting, but on the moon. But here's where it gets interesting. Hope's juicing out the Phoenix Force powers something fierce. Wolverine had just made a pact with her to kill her if things got out of hand. She didn't want to go all Dark Phoenix on everyone's asses. But Cyclops ain't having that, no sir.

Hope's there to fend for herself while Tony Stark flies a big suity thing straight at the incoming Phoenix Force. He messes up, because the Phoenix splits and goes into Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, and Magik, creating the Phoenix Five. End issue five.

Here we have Charles Xavier making a visit to Cyclops and his new god complex, telling him to cut it out. But he can't, because the Phoenix Five have become Jesus in spandex, making the world a better place to live. Oddly enough, they just had everyone get a recycling bin. In this issue, we find out that there's some ancient Asian prophecy that's clearly Hope defeating the Phoenix with the power of the Iron Fist (don't ask). So the Avengers break into Utopia to grab Hope, who's been held there for a while now. They get their asses handed to them until the Scarlet Witch (remember her?) appears and saves them. End issue six.

Seven is a short issue, so it's time for the lightning round. X-Men aren't happy, they go hunting for the Scarlet Witch. No luck. Tony Stark learns that he should try combining science and faith to beat the Phoenix, or something. Namor finally gets to the Scarlet Witch, and she takes him down. To exact revenge, Namor uses a tidal wave to attack Wakanda, a fictional African nation led by Black Panther. End issue seven.

With that, a big fight with Namor ensues. In the fray, Wolverine takes Hope to a place I cannot spell, because it has ties to Iron Fist. They do things. The Avengers (with most of the heavy lifting done by Scarlet Witch) take out Namor; the other Phoenix Four arrive just in time to see the Avengers leave and absorb Namor's portion of the power. All the Avengers are now in K'un-Lun (I looked it up, it's K'un-Lun), and Wakanda is destroyed. End issue eight.

Issue nine is probably my favorite of the series. I'm a big fan of Spider-Man, so this pretty much cemented that feeling. The issue begins with the Avengers fighting a war they've all but lost with the Phoenix Four. Just in time for Spidey to give Hope a chat about power and responsibility, we see that Colossus and Magik have taken some Avengers prisoner. It's time for a rescue mission to go to crap. And it does. So Spider-Man turns on his lovability and pulls an "I'll hold them off, save yourselves." Once Spider-Man's all good and destroyed, he uses some of his comic relief powers to trick Magik and Colossus into fighting each other, thus giving their powers to Cyclops and Magik. End issue nine.

Lightning round, part two. Cyclops attacks the Avengers. Hope fights him with the help of a...dragon. Hope somehow wins and teleports him away. The normal X-Men aren't too happy with how things have been going, so they call on Xavier to talk some sense into Cyclops. End issue ten.

For reading this far, here's a picture of a red panda.

Issue ten opens with the Avengers recruiting The Hulk. This has no impact on the story whatsoever. So I thought I'd tell you about it. Next, Xavier rallies the troops and combines the Avengers and X-Men to fight Cyclops together. Because Cyclops is a dick. Speaking of Cyclops and dicks, his relationship with Emma isn't going too well. Both want power, and that's not okay. So Xavier tries to reason with Cyclops. Since you can't negotiate with a phallus, it doesn't work out. And since this is a comic, there's a fight scene. After many punches and quips, Cyclops attacks Emma and takes her power. In a fit of pissiness, Dickclops sets his sights on Charles Xavier and kills him. It's happened before, so I'm sure he'll get better. Nevertheless, this is all he needs to become Dark Phoenix. Spooky. End issue eleven.

Last one, promise. This one's just a giant fight scene. Dark Phoenix Cyclops is wrecking everyone, up until Nova (yep, the one from issue one) comes out of nowhere and tackles him to the ground. Scarlet Witch and Hope arrive - it turens out that their cooperation is the key to defeating Cyclops. They use the power of friendship to kick his teeth in. Because stories can't just end, the Phoenix Force then transfers to Hope. Several sighs later, she uses it to fly around the world and put out Cyclops' fires. Lastly, she holds hands with her new BFF to say "No more Phoenix." Afterwards, they have a sleepover and watch The Notebook. With that, everything's hunky dory again. And since Marvel needs new interest in the X-Men books, they start having new mutants pop up all over the world.

Cyclops goes to jail and Captain America launches a sales campaign for Marvel comics. End issue twelve.

There's Avengers vs. X-Men for you. If this post was exhausting to read, just know that the series was just as exhausting to follow. I'm going to go watch some TV. My head hurts.

The emoticon penis thing seemed to work last time, so just do that again. Would you like to read more about (hopefully shorter) comic events? Like, comment, subscribe. Or whatever the blog equivalent is.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Take the Bad with the Good

I started writing amateur reviews for films about three years ago. It was part of a pet project I had to make my high school's newspaper a little less sucktastic. My articles were mostly well-received, except by those who got off on reading multiple surveys on people's favorite Thanksgiving treats. I enjoyed writing them; they allowed me to be a bit more active when going to the movies, and they gave me an outlet to flex my writing muscles. Yet, while people liked my writing, they seemed to have a problem with the asshole who put the words to paper. To this day, I get a lot of people telling me, "Payton, all you do is tear things down." And to them, I have a message.

Oh, honey-child, you know I do.
No. No, I don't only tear down people's hard work. Unless the project is poorly constructed, lazy, or associated with Jennifer Anniston. But I digress. Despite being a frequent user of the Internet, I try to keep my cynicism in check. I tend to give most things the benefit of the doubt, and I always look for the good until the bad shows up with sparklers in a star-spangled skirt and does high kicks. But I digress.

Instead, I tend to absorb my entertainment with a sense of caution. There's so much crap out there that I think we should be careful of how we take it in. Movies, TV shows, games, or whatever else may not seem terribly important, but think about it. Which part of 2012 excited you more: the election or the summer blockbusters?

Whedon 2016
Then again, I'm not condemning the enjoyment of that which is objectively bad. You're going to like what you like - haters gonna hate. Just be sure that what you like has some heart to it, or at least strikes a chord with you personally. 2008's Wanted is one of my favorite films. Is it any good? Not really; in fact, it's pretty freaking stupid. But it's enjoyable as crap. Will you see me ranting about how it "defined a generation" or "is incredibly underrated?" Nope, but I will squeal like a girl if you show me the assault on the Fraternity.

I still get tingles.
Like what you like, no matter how bad. But the minute you start placing The Hunger Games on the same level as The Departed or The Hurt Locker, you can bet I'll call you out on it. Because The Hunger Games is a bad film. Sorry you had to hear it from me. As for me, I'll keep reviewing - it's fun. However, if I piss you off, just don't read it.

But really, keep reading. I mean it. Don't go...

I've had so few comments on this blog, I'll settle for emoticon penises in the section below. You have my permission.