Ongoing Investigations: Case #235

hisui_icon_4040 I think is was easy to dismiss The LEGO Movie as utter trash cinema based on a toy like Battleship or the Bayformers movies. It did seem like something that had the distinct potential to be horribly mediocre. But a careful look at the pedigree of the movie was far more encouraging. Phil Lord and Chris Miller worked on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs which was another animated movie that was easy to dismiss but got a good amount of praise. The duo’s major involvement with the first Cloudy movie and then the lackluster reviews of the second movie (which they were largely uninvolved with) shows that their touch can really make a movie. So the almost universal praise for The LEGO Movie makes far more sense when you know that fact.

The movies signature song Everything is Awesome says everything you need to know. It just sums up the infectious joy that permeates the movie. It goes out of its way to try to make everything just plain fun. At the same time if you think about a lot of the little pieces of the movie are brick jokes that point the way to big events later on in the movie. In fact this is totally a movie that rewards you for paying attention. There is always two or three things happening in the background begging for a re-watch on video with a pause button. Just watching the main character go to work is an Easter egg hunt in of itself. The posters, billboards, and characters in the background are always doing something that will reward another viewing.

In many way the 80’s Space Man sums up the movie for me. As a kid who grew up with LEGO in the 80’s the figure was just something you had. You had to get a space set and you had to get the 80’s Space Man. So him showing up is not totally surprising. But when you see that he has that crack in his helmet that almost every 80’s Space Man got when you removed his helmet wrong struck such a cord in me. That part of the darn helmet always broke because its plastic was so much thinner (especially if you try to take it off with you teeth.) The character totally works if you never had that figure as a kid BUT if you did it is an immediately says with wink and a nod that, “We know” without saying a word.

There are also some interesting meta-contextual themes running through the course of the movie. Like the Toy Story movies it has a simple story that extremely entertaining but there are some deep cogs moving in the background if you wish to explore their mechanisms. I don’t want to give them all away but the loving critique of big budget summer movies it fairly obvious but at the same time never mean-spirited. It reminds me of Hot Fuzz in the respect.

I assume that like 80% of the people who read this part of the blog have already seen the movie and are just nodding at what they are reading. Another 1% just never wanted to like movie and all the hype around it only makes it worse. This really for the last 19% who keep saying, “I know it keeps getting good reviews but it is a film about LEGO. How good could that be?” I’m telling you take that leap you might fall into that 1% but I’m firmly convinced you will be part of the greater 99%. If nothing else, the sooner you see the movie the more likely the movies little final act reveal will not be ruined for you. It is a nice perk to be able to go into the movie and for it to be a surprise.

Also this.

narutaki_icon_4040 As per the entire Internet’s suggestion, we saw The LEGO Movie from Warner Bros. Animation. And it came as no surprise when everyone was right, especially considering some of the team is behind the unremembered, but awesome, Clone High series. The LEGO Movie a really high-spirited film with amazing animation. I want to see it again already!

The way LEGO is used in the film is exactly how it should always be done. Much like the many small productions we’ve seen online, the film uses LEGO for everything including all of the effects. Little details stood out to me during the movie. Like how paint on the LEGO pieces was imperfect, fuzzy at the edges, scratched or chipped; you could see smudges and cracks. It was great to see the movie trying to evoke the actual toys rather than working on making everything super slick. Nevertheless the animation is impressive on a ton of levels.

The humor is a blast as they skewer popular culture, mass media, and grown-ups. They tackle the mythos of being average, showing that being “normal” doesn’t mean being useless. And of course there are plenty of cameos.

I was surprised about the twists the film took near the end and ended up appreciating it all the more for those decisions.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching, reading, or playing outside of our main blog posts. We each pick three things without much rhyme or reason; they are just the most interesting things since the last OI.

sep-videogames

hisui_icon_4040 It really feels like Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is stalling for time.

It has been almost a decade since the Kingdom Hearts II came out. While there was finally an official announcement of the third game at E3 in 2013. But that game will not be out for a while. So until then they will keep making spin-off games.

Most of the time the spin-off games seem to be filling in some side story part of the universe. 358/2 Days seemed to want to explore Roxas and Birth by Sleep was setting up Kingdom Hearts 3. They all seemed to have a very deliberate purpose. You might not have cared for that purpose put it was there. Dream Drop Distance seems solely there so there can be a 3DS Kingdom Hearts until something substantial happens in the plot again.

The game begins with Yen Sid (The wizard from the The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) telling Sora and Riku that they need to go on quest to learn how to master Keyblades. Despite the fact that they have been whipping ass with them for two games plus several spin offs. Sora and Riku even bring that up. But apparently that was all baby level stuff and the real deal will require an official quest so they can be true masters.

The problem is that really reeks of needing something to do until Kingdom Hearts 3. I know they have keep the franchise alive and in people’s memories while they work on the next game. I’m sure there are going to be one or two big teasers at the end. The problem is this all feels like a video game filler arc.

All that said the game itself plays fine. It is always nice to have some action RPG fun on a portable system. You don’t have Donald, Goofy, and a Disney character in your party like a main game. Instead you have two little familiars that follow you around. You can get formulas for different familiars. You can also have them fight in Pokemon style battles with cards.

There is also an unusual mechanic that makes you switch between Sora and Riku. Both characters have a meter that slowly depleted as you play. When it hits zero the character your switches. Technically they fall asleep, building on the dream motif of the game and as the ideas of the franchise as a whole. It does come off strange that if you fall asleep in battle the enemies just wait around until you wake up. But such is video game logic.

The mechanic itself is more odd than anything else. It is not really that annoying but at the same time it is not super compelling. You have a decent amount of control over the switches if you want to use consumables. But the fact that you are forced to switch seems sort of arbitrary. Nine times out of ten I would have switched back and forth anyhow. The fact that your forced to switch on a clock that is mainly but not totally out of your control just never seems fun. And that is probably its greatest crime.

Also the game makes me realize that goodness gracious the Kingdom Hearts universe is convoluted. Even with the encyclopedia that you grow as the game goes on mostly acts as a refresher for the crazy rather than an explanation. It is one of those universes where you are either in it to win it with the details or your just going to have hand wave away some stuff that seems much more important that it probably is. But that is the way it is with any long running Byzantine fantasy series.

The new included worlds that I have seen so far are Tron Legacy and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. They both seem like mid tier Disney titles to include. They both seem like titles are sort of have a more lukewarm fandom in the Disney cannon as opposed to the more popular titles like Wreck-It Ralph or Tangled. But I guess you would save titles like that for a console debut as opposed to a portable unveiling. I will say so far there have been far fewer Square characters in the mix. The game starting with The World Ends with You is hardly insignificant but overall the presence of Final Fantasy characters seems diminished.

So far unless I’m totally wrong and there is a mid game shift this seems serviceable but hardly unskippable. If you’re jonesing for a portable action RPG or need something to play with Sora in it than it is not a bad choice. But considering how many other quality games (that can steal your life) there are for 3DS it is an easy candidate to throw on the bottom of your queue as well.

sep-comics

narutaki_icon_4040 As a true blue Scooby fan, I have been reading the new Scooby Doo! Team-Up series by Sholly Fisch and Dario Brizuela. In the first two comics they team-up with old friends Batman and Robin, plus in the second installment the gang meets Ace the Bat-Hound!

Dario Brizuela’s art hits on that iconic 70’s look of the show, even with Batman and Robin.

The real fun in these comics is their willingness to poke fun at themselves as well as having a working knowledge of Scooby Doo! history. And it is all done with love, not swerving into treating the series like a subpar joke.

sep-anime

hisui_icon_4040 As Kate was on vacation recently I took that opening in my nightly schedule to do some catch up on series we don’t watch together. For some reasons I decided that I would finish up Monogatari Series: Second Season. I blame certain people. Certain people who might like Ougi Oshino a bit too much.

There is a certain shifting in gears to the Monogatari Series. The first season mostly played with the formulas you see in both harem shows and supernatural dramas while at the same time pandering to many of the same expectations. The series was extremely popular due to its bold visual style and snappy writing.

Then there was Nisemonogatari. There was a distinct change in tone. Bakemonogatari never shied away from fan service or sexuality. It was always present. But Nisemonogatari was like constantly talking to a horny teenager while wearing a revealing outfit. The toothbrush scene is the infamous pinnacle of that awkward lasciviousness. The fact that plotlines like Deishuu Kaiki going nowhere did not help.

Monogatari Series: Second Season goes back to the original formula. The fan service is present but toned down to merely 7 instead of 11. The plot lines have more weight to them and feel much more conclusive. Things actually happen. Situations change. Characters have major character arcs. It feels like things are in the works. It is very clear there are still major unresolved plot lines but at the same time it feels like at least some of them are being tied up.

I will admit this series of stories definitely had me warm up to Shinobu. She is still a bit in the little on the uncomfortable little girl (no matter how old she is) area but she at least seems to be more fun as a character and not just a fetish factory. Nadeko probably undergoes the biggest character arc here in several unexpected ways. Also while mostly being ignored in the previous series Senjougahara get a decent amount of time to shine as well. Since in many ways she is the main female lead that is a welcome shift.

My biggest reservation actually is Izuko Gaen. She does not actually appear that much. But the way she is described by other characters really makes her fee like she is a Jun Aikawa type character.  This is a BAD thing. Considering Jun is the worst thing about the already horrible Zaregoto series that is quite an accomplishment. Maybe she won’t be as bad. It is just a little worrying.

I will mention that if you don’t care anything about this series (and there are several strong reasons why what might be the case) you should watch the 4th opening. How it switches between an 80s animation style and a 2010s atheistic is quite an accomplishment. The singing is sort of lame but it almost adds to the experience. The animation itself is worth checking out for its pure style and animation. I don’t think you should watch a whole series just for that but an opening is an easy pitch.

If you liked the first season but was burnt by the second there is a good deal to win back your interest. But if you never liked the first season then the formula has no where near changed enough for anyone to be won over by this season. It is more a return to form than an ascension to something greater.

sep-comics

narutaki_icon_4040 The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks is a comic strip that is as tongue-in-cheek as the title suggests. Hurdles that Superhero Girl must overcome include finding an arch nemesis, not being a third wheel in her roommates relationship, forgetting to take off her mask, depreciating commentary from bystanders, and living up to her famous older brother.

I really enjoyed that our heroine is the superhero of a small Canadian town, not a big city. That doesn’t mean however that there aren’t outbreaks of crime, often in the form of ninjas. So there is some action throughout, but the story really shines in the humor and the non-death defying situations.

Those ninja’s I mentioned? Well, just how does one deal with the king of the ninja’s bursting through the window at your job interview? The Adventures of Superhero Girl can tell you.

The one-page format really works for this series of strange and funny interludes. And it feels like it could go on for as long as the jokes keep flowing.

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s