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Eurovision is back.

As a connoisseur of unironic shitness Eurovision is of course one of the highlights of my calendar. Never in the field of human endeavour has so much passion, talent and money come together to produce something so unbelievably atrocious, camp and delightful.

I live for stuff like this.

Unfortunately in recent years Eurovision has begun to ditch its reputation as the world’s stupidest party and reinvented itself as an honest to god song writing contest. The result being that it’s generally won these years by acts that not only sound like the normal dance and pop hits that are popular Europe wide but generally are the same acts that are already popular Europe wide.

There are a few stalwarts flying the flag for bizarre camp (the U.K., Ireland, France) but more and more it’s starting to resemble the top 40.

This year’s crop was particularly dour. For some reason every other song was about the anguish of the singer as they lamented their broken heart.  Norway, Romania and Albania were all basically the same boring song but with the added bonus that Albania’s was badly sung.

In the dour Olympics France had an early contender with Lisa Angell – N’oubliez Pas. There is a rule in Eurovision that you can’t sing overtly political songs. A rule that is skirted and subverted fairly frequently but never so blatantly as France. Lisa Angell stands in front of a backdrop of a bombed out city and sings the following.

All that remains to me are ashes

Of my village plunged into silence

I am but a wound

A heart without an armour

How do I survive after this

 

But I am here, I don’t forget

In my village swept away by history

And I live here, don’t you forget

Erased from maps and memories

 

I remember the laughter of children

The voices of men when they left for the field

The harvest festivals

The smell in the houses

The bursts of love and joy

 

But I am here, I don’t forget

In my village swept away by history

 

When they arrived

Hidden behind their weapons

They were thousands

They laughed at our tears

 

They wished to destroy

Our beliefs and our souls

With words of hatred

That we did not know

 

I am here tonight

In the middle of these ruins

To talk to you about hope

And to sing life

And I swear

When the blood will dry

That I will rebuild my city

More beautiful than before

 

But don’t forget

In Austria.

I know we Brits bang on about the war a lot but this is just tacky. Bringing up WW2 in a silly singing contest just seems petty and vindictive.

France was a strong front runner for dreariest song of the night before Hungary’s Boggie showed up with possibly the dreariest song ever written.

Just drink in these lyrics.

Do you know our Earth is a mess?

No, keep reading. I know that opener is shockingly poe-faced and wet but it gets worse.

All the wars for nothing, it never ends

Everybody deserves a chance

All the souls, all the souls

Can you hear them cry?

 

That you live in peace does not mean

It’s okay to ignore all the pain

I see children joining the stars

Soldiers walk towards the dark

Let me ask

 

Can you justify all the eyes

That will never see daylight?

Give me one good reason to hurt

A helpless soul, break a heart

Kill a mind

 

Do you know how many innocents

Are hiding from punishment

For crimes they’d never commit?

All alone, all alone

Do they deserve

 

To die for believing something else?

For having a face someone can’t stand

Do you know our Earth is a mess?

All the wars for nothing

It never ends

 

All the souls, all alone

Hold them tight

All the souls deserve a chance

At life

Fuck me sideways. When I was 13 I was a goth (sort of, I was a kind of proto-emo really) and you best believe I wrote self indulgent mopey poetry. But even 13 year old emo me would have been embarassed if I’d written something this dreadful. I’m a pretty liberal guy but listening to this makes me realise how people who watch Fox News think liberals act. This might just be so sincerely wet that it’s made me a conservative just to spite Boggie.

What I’m saying is this song is actually worse than war. This song is a war crime in an of itself. It’s…it’s very, very bad guys.

In the best scheduling decision of all time Hungary was followed by terrifying goth Nina Sublatti from Georgia singing about how she’s a fighter, a warrior and how violence will set her free. She basically sounded like she was going to beat the crap out of and possibly eat the hippies from Hungary and I would have cheered her on all the way.

I do have to question the lyric;

“I’m a warrior, oximated”

What does oximated mean?

Oximation

Noun

(organic chemistry) Reaction with, or conversion into an oxime

Okay and oxime?

Oxime

Noun

(organic chemistry) Any of a class of organic compounds, of general formula RR’C=NOH, derived from the condensation of an aldehyde (R’ = H) or ketone with hydroxylamine.

Well, that clears that up then.

Estonia won this year’s award for most unintentionally creepy metaphors. Although the song is probably about the man leaving in the morning after sex without waking his lady friend both his lyrics and her reaction leave open an altogether more disturbing possibility.

Him: I didn’t wanna wake you up

my love was never gonna be enough

so I took my things and got out of your way now girl

Her: why didn’t you wake me up

I’m pretty sure i would have told you to stop

loosens tie

Also bonus points for the following effort.

as I got outside I smiled to the dog

Lithuania’s entry doesn’t just sound a lot like Mumford and Sons it sounds almost exactly like I Will Wait, or at least the main melody does.

Germany has cloned Amy Winehouse and spliced her with J-Lo’s bum, but forgot to give her an interesting song to sing.

Armenia’s entry appeared to be the opening number in a musical about vampires. It’s very Lloyd-Webber-esque and I can just picture them moping about being immortal in a forest in their capes.

Azerbaijan is also clearly part of the same musical with another big stage musical style song but this time about werewolves. I’m guessing the musical is a bit like Underworld with a Romeo and Juliet style romance between a vampire and a werewolf.

Poland’s entry was sung by Monika Kuszyńska an existing singer who was paralysed in a traffic accident a few years ago. Midway through the song they play footage of her walking around and performing from before the accident and the audience cheers. This was really weird. What exactly are the audience cheering here? “Yay, this lady used to have working legs! Yay, …tragic accidents!”

I suspect they’re cheering her carrying on in her career in the face of adversity which, is fine I guess but the whole thing just skeeved me out. It felt very exploitative and demeaning to me.

Anyway, the song is dull and her backdrop reminds me of some bedsheets I have.

The only thing notable in Austria’s incredibly dull entry happens at 1:45 when Austria reveals itself to have wizards and one of them sets his piano on fire. This is also possibly part of the vampire/werewolf musical sweeping Europe.

Israel kept the camp alive with a boy band effort that had a distinctly Middle Eastern flavour. It also featured one of my favourite things in the Eurovision Song contest, lyrics bragging about how good your country is.

Although on that front nothing touches I love Belarus.

Yes, I am going to post that video every year. Why?

The U.K. had an entry that kind of straddled the line between taking the piss and properly trying to compete. It’s a jazz revival thing with electro mixed in that sounds like exactly the sort of weird Euro-trash nonsense we’d do if we were taking the piss but actually is kind of a fairly popular genre at the moment. Caro Emerald, Adele, Meghan Traynor, George Ezra they’re all retro-jazz influenced even if they don’t take it this far.

The staging is also a mash up between The Great Gatsby and Tron and looks ace. Songs a bit naff in the end though.

Belgium’s entry is fucking terrifying. It’s stark and minimalist to the point of seeming like something out of a dystopian fascist future sci-fi movie. And lyrically it’s all about how we have to obey the rhythm that drives us because tomorrow we’re going to die.

It’s kind of awesome but damn is it a tonal shift from the rest of the night.

The four best songs of the night were Italy, Australia, Russia and Serbia for me.

Australia’s entry had a very Bruno Mars feel with a very catchy new-soul number that did retro revivalism much better than the U.K. entry. This felt very much like something I’d listen to in the real world and it even has clever lyrics.

If you’re wondering when Australia became part of Europe? Well it’s because they were added as wildcards to celebrate the 60th anniversary. Eurovision is massive down under so it gave the Aussies a chance to compete for a change instead of just spectating. And being Aussies they promptly showed up and did everything better than the British despite us doing this for longer.

Then they didn’t give us any points. I think we need to send the Queen over there to give them all a stern talking to about solidarity within the Commonwealth. Ireland always gives us points and we spent several centuries committing genocide over there, we’re much nicer to you lot.

Italy’s Grand Amore is a bit of pop-opera (popera?) that’s fairly generic but really, really well sung. Il Volo were hands down the best singers of the evening and would have been a fair win in my book.

Russia’s “A million voices” is actually really good. It’s classic Eurovision, in that it’s a power ballad with lyrics about peace being properly belted out, but it also sounds contemporary. It’s got a lovely melody, and is really well sung but, it was Russia’s entry and understandably the rest of Europe is a bit miffed at them at the moment. Didn’t stop it coming 2nd though.

Serbia was my hands down favourite. Basically this is a Lady Gaga song sung by a fat lass about how she’s beautiful regardless of being fat. It starts far too slow, which is probably why it lost, but it does gradually build until at the end Bojana Stamenov starts properly belting it out and looks like she’s going to start knocking over members of the audience with sheer vocal force.

Sweden won with a song that sounds like any David Guetta song you’ve ever heard. They also did the same thing in 2013 proving that the best strategy for winning is to put in an entry that sounds like EDM. Because EDM is indisputably the most popular musical genre in Europe right now if not the world. This is not great EDM but neither is it terrible. It’s mostly dull with lyrics that are painfully generic (we are the heroes of our time, but we’re dancing with the demons in our mind). The performance was clever though. It’s just done with front projection but it means singer Måns Zelmerlöw had to hit his marks exactly to get the effects to work.

Pokémon X and Y have to be the worst Pokémon main series games I have ever played.

(waits as internet erupts in outrage)

Okay have you guys calmed down now? How about now? Still going? It’s okay I’ll wait.

Feel better? Okay, I’ll continue.

I stand by that statement but I do have to offer two caveats.

The first is that even the worst Pokémon game is still really good and I did enjoy playing Pokémon X.

The second is that Pokémon X and Y are genuinely innovative and they’re trying to change what a Pokémon game can be.

Black, White and their sequels were basically the most polished and well executed version of a game that dates all the way back to the Red, Blue, Green, Yellow days of 1996.

This is a version of the game with sprites, an overhead view and Pokémon battles that have minimal sprite animation. A version of the game where you get given a choice of 3 starters from a Pokemon professor. A version of the game in which your either catch Pokémon and forfeit experience or grind them into the dust. A game in which you start off not being able to catch much but  a few Pidgeys and Rattatas and that when you walk into a cave mobs you with Zubats.

Black, White, B2 and W2 were basically the most perfect possible version of this game. The sprites were gorgeous, colourful, beautifully rendered and full of character but they were still sprites and short of hand animating every Pokémon’s every move they looked as good as they were going to. The story was clever and inventive and challenged the very core of what Pokémon is all about but it was a story that felt very grounded in the rules established by the Pokémon world in previous games. What’s more there were lots of small touches, refinements and improvements that just made the overall game experience better than anything before. Putting shops inside Pokécentres for example, or the BWT or taking away poison in the over world.

Having created basically the perfect Pokémon game the only thing you can do to go forward is to change what Pokémon is, to fundamentally alter what the base level of the games is about and throw loads of new innovations in there. And X and Y have dozens of new ideas and completely game changing shifts. The addition of Fairy type, the nerfing of weather, adding loads more variety of species to each area, Mega Evolution, experience on capture, Horde Battles, Sky Battles, the list goes on.

Some of these innovations are welcome and great improvements to the game. I love that we get more variety of species in each area, particularly early on. Whereas in most games you fight nothing but small birds and small rodents in the first few areas by the end of the second route I pretty much had a full team with a wide variety of types. That’s great, it makes the game interesting and varied from the off. Some of the changes are less well thought out. Horde Battles are basically something I avoided as much as possible. If I’m trying to get somewhere I quite like being able to one shot scrub enemy Pokémon and just get on with the story. Forcing me to attack 5 times doesn’t provide me with a greater challenge but it does drag out the time. Similarly Sky Battles are really ill conceived. They add no depth to the combat except to exclude a bunch of popular Pokémon and provide a much more limited meta game. If Sky Battles had some kind of movement mechanic they might be interesting but as it is I basically skipped them.

Some ideas are good but need more polish. The additional XP should be nice but X and Y were the worst scaling Pokémon games I have yet played. In every game I’ve ever played yet the badge limits to control monsters hasn’t been a factor. Designed properly you should have monsters that are roughly equal in level to your opponents at any time. The badge mechanic is to stop you just grinding out one powerful monster and dominating the game or trading in a level 100 beast from an old game. What it should not do is kick in when you’re playing normally . The gaps between gyms early on in X and Y are ridiculous. My Blaziken had made it past lvl 30 before I reached gym 2 and I was deliberately trying not to use him. Then once you’ve beaten the 8th gym there is a loooooong grind to lvl 100 and not many ways to gain the XP needed to get there. Black and White were probably the most perfectly balanced and scaled Pokémon games yet providing me with a real challenge when I reached the Elite 4 for the second time but lots of ways to gain more XP to beat them.

The biggest changes of course are the graphics, Mega Evolution and the Fairy Type.

In terms of the Graphics Pokémon has gone from a top down sprite game on a fixed grid to a 3D polygon game. This is a mixed blessing. In battles it works amazingly well. The new Pokémon especially take advantage of the opportunities for a greater range of animation and more integration between what the monster is doing and the attack. This is the best looking game for battles yet, surpassing the home console versions easily. In terms of the map it’s much more mixed. Generally it works roughly the same as any old game did with a largely top down viewpoint. Whenever it goes behind your character though it is a mess. Lumiose city is practically unplayable its so hard to navigate. The problem is there’s no camera button so it becomes really hard to orientate yourself in what is basically a big circle where everything looks the same. It’s a nightmare and I avoided going to that city like the plague. And that’s a shame because it is full of stuff to do and clearly the centrepiece of the game but I’m sorry X and Y I just couldn’t find anywhere in order to do stuff. In the end I had to resort to using an FAQ and riding cabs constantly.

Then there’s Mega Evolution

Evolution is where one Pokémon turns into a different Pokémon gaining a stat boost in the process, changing its appearance and sometimes gaining new typing or abilities.

Mega Evolution is the same in every respect but the following.

1. in normal evolution the Pokémon cannot change back to the Pokémon it was before, but Mega Evolution only lasts for the duration of a Pokémon battle.

2. Mega Evolution happens during a Pokémon battle.

3. In order to mega Evolve the Pokémon must hold a special stone and the trainer is required use a special device which looks an awful lot like a wrist watch.

I don’t like it.

It’s hard to explain why I don’t like Mega Evolution but it basically has something to do with the story function of evolution. Evolution in Pokémon is not like evolution in real life since it happens to individuals and not to the species as a whole. Evolution in Pokémon is more like metamorphosis or puberty, an irreversible change that happens to an animal as it gets older. That’s why we get things like Caterpie evolving into Metapod evolving into Butterfree. It mirrors the life cycle of a real caterpillar as it undergoes metamorphosis and turns into a butterfly.

It may not function exactly like something in real nature but it gestures towards it and helps reinforce the nature theme of Pokémon. This isn’t an RPG where levelling up is some kind of arbitrary mechanic but instead relates to an animal ageing and maturing.

It also allows for some cool story telling ideas built into what is ultimately just a game mechanic. Look at Magikarp to Gyarados or Feebas to Milotic which reference an ancient Chinese myth and the ugly duckling respectively. Cool evolutions can lead to some really cool Pokémon concepts. In fact Gen 6 actually has some of the most imaginative evolution mechanics I’ve seen in any games so far.

The key thing that cements the reality of this mechanic for me though is that it isn’t reversible. Once you’ve evolved that’s it, you can’t go back and whilst you always get a stat boost from evolution you can lose something in the change in appearance or even in a type or ability change.

Being reversible Mega Evolution is more like a form/forme change like when Rotom turns an electric ghost into an electric ghost possessing a washing machine, or a refigerator, etc. Or Cherrim opening up its leaves during the sunshine.

Form changes have been a part of the game since the 3rd Gen and I have never had a problem with them, in fact I actually really like them. The reason I like them over Mega Evolution is twofold.

Firstly Form changes usually only have an aesthetic change like Sawsbuck’s appearance changing with the season. When they do have an in-game effect it usually has an advantage and a drawback i.e. the various forms of Deoxys which sacrifice defense for speed as one example.

Secondly the form changes all said something about the Pokémon in question, they opened up a story telling ideas. Why can Deoxys change form? Because he’s virus themed and viruses mutate rapidly. Why does Sawsbuck change forms? Because his horns are tree branches and he’s showing the cycle of trees as season’s change.

Mega Evolution doesn’t do this. Every Pokémon that mega evolves does so in the same way, magic stone plus wristwatch and the designs don’t give any kind of storytelling idea other than slightly spikier version of existing monster.

What Mega Evolution most resembles is the concept of Henshin, or change, that you get in shows like Power Rangers or Kannen Rider. Think about it, with the wristwatch device, the magic stones, the special effects and the striking a pose doesn’t Mega Evolution remind you of the Power Rangers Morphin’ Sequences?

Once you realise that it becomes clear that Mega Evolution fits into a tradition of transforming and powering up that is huge in Japanese culture and all over anime and computer games. Super Saiyans in DBZ, Guyver, Digimon, Power Rangers, Gurren Lagann, Super Mario, and on and on and on.

And so whilst this is an accepted pat of anime story telling it isn’t something that has ever been part of Pokémon before and it has nothing to do with nature or mythology which is traditionally what inspires the designs and stories in Pokémon.

It’s taking a very un-Pokémon concept and inserting it into the game and it doesn’t make a good thematic fit.

It doesn’t help that it isn’t even really a very strong gameplay mechanic, a power-up with no real drawback doesn’t add much strategy to the game. In almost all cases why wouldn’t you just mega evolve any Pokémon you have that can? The only reason not to is if your Pokémon needs another item such as a leftovers to be viable.

It’s also weird that Nintendo generally gave these Mega Evolutions to Pokémon that were already very, very useable. Blaziken is only of only two non-legendaries to make it into the uber tier (well this was the case when I started writing this but now plenty of Megas and Aegislash have made this jump) and is so powerful he’s outright banned in some competitions, he did not need a Mega Evolution, neither did Garchomp or Mewtwo. Charizard appreciates the boost as does Mawile but for the most part these seem kind of superfluous.

Having said my piece let me now say that the presence of mega evolution doesn’t ruin the game for me. I don’t like it but I don’t have to use it and it is really a very minor part of the mythos.

So since we’ve talked about it so much lets review some of the Mega Evolution designs.

Mega Blastoise and Mega Venusaur

images 003_mega

One thing I should stress is that whilst I don’t like Mega Evolution as a concept that has no bearing on what I think about the designs. Most of the Mega designs are awesome and I kind of wish they just replaced the existing final stage of the monster in question. Mega Blastoise is a great example of this. Giant turtle with a cannon on its back is already a pretty neat idea but I always wondered why Blastoise had two cannons pointing at different angles. They couldn’t fire together at the same target and he’d have to angle his head out of line with his target to fire straight. Even as a kid I recognised that this was dumb. Mega Blastoise though has no such problem. His three cannons can all move so they can all aim at one target and his new one massive cannon fires straight ahead! Also his bigger cannon just looks more intimidating and overall his design looks more balanced. I’ve gotta give him points for his stlyin’ goatee too, the first in a theme of awesome beards that defines this generation.

As for Mega Venusaur…..sorry guy but you got screwed. An extra flower, extra leaves and some garlands does nothing to improve your ugly mug.

Mega Charizard Y and X

600px-006Charizard-Mega_Y charizard-mega-x

Most people’s favourite starter gets not one but two Mega Evolutions and both are awesome for different reasons.

Y fixes all the issues I had with original Charizard and in my head canon this is just what regular Charizard looks like now. My main issue was that Charmeleon had all these design elements going on, horns coming out the back of his elbows, a single horn on his head, etc that Charizard just drops. Y puts them back in though turning the elbow horns into arms wings and giving him a crown of horns that again looks more symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing than Charizard’s original horns. I love the bigger scalloped wings too which make it look much more like it could fly. And taking the patch of colour all the way up to the mouth avoids giving the impression that Charizard has a fat tummy like he did before. It’s just all around better than Charizard, more refined and improved and shows off just how far Sugimori has improved over the years.

Charizard X is awesome though because he is METAL AS FUCK! HE’S A BLACK DRAGON WITH AXE BLADE SHOULDERS AND SPIKES AND BLUE FIRE AND HE’S BLACK AND OH MY GOD I NEED TO PAINT MY ROOM BLACK AND LISTEN TO SOME SLAYER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mega Mewtwo X and Y

Mega_Mewtwo_X704deea25e6443b9009b36281052bdf7

The other OG to get two Mega Evos is Mewtwo one of the most complex Pokémon and one of the few to have a personality, motivation and character. The Mega Evos are one of the rare examples of a Mega Evo that implies a strategy. X gains a secondary fighting type when he evolves so the Evo is far more muscular with more powerful looking legs and arms, a shorter tail and big manly shoulder pads. Y in contrast just goes all out on the psychic power so the body gets smaller, the feet and arms become even less developed and the head becomes much larger combining with the tail. The contrast in designs really sells the contrast in abilities and both designs work. I prefer Y overall though even if that seems to be a controversial opinion. Everything about Y’s design seems to sell unbelievably strong psyker for me whereas there’s stuff in X’s design that either doesn’t work or just isn’t aesthetically pleasing. I hate his feet for starters which look gangly and weird for a fighting type. I also think his big purple diaper looks goofy and so do his shoulder pads.

I can’t let any discussion of Mewtwo’s Mega Evos slip though without mention Freiza. You know Freiza? The popular villain from Dragonball Z. Changes forms and looks at various stages like this.

Frieza 3 FRIEZA4 Full_Power_Frieza

Yeah there’s some inspiration going on there and I’m just going to leave it at that.

Mega Aggron and Mega Tyranitar

306Aggron-Megatyranitar-mega

One of the things I do like the in the Mega Evolutions is the idea that these monsters are somehow unnatural. That their evolution isn’t something to do with nature but something forced upon them by an outside force. Consequently many of the Mega designs look like the animal is exploding with power, almost deformed by the strength they now possess. I don’t think any two designs better express this than Mega Aggron and Mega Tyranitar. In both cases they take the design and basically add loads o spikes but they do it in a very clever way, turning design elements from the previous monster, like Tyranitar’s head spikes, into exaggerated versions of themselves. It looks intimidating, it looks effective and it really ties in with the Mega Evolution concept.

Mega Aggron I like because his ability makes him the ultimate tank. He has the highest base defence in the game and is immune to super effective attacks making him a wall. And he now looks like a wall, wider, stockier and dumpier than before. I find his weird linked head spikes going through holes to be fussy and cluttered but overall I like Mega Aggron. Mega Tyranitar similarly kicks Tyranitar’s ass. His design is just so much more balanced. Whereas before he was weirdly lacking in the head and shoulders department compared to his body and legs the addition of head and shoulder spikes makes him look more balanced and overall just bigger and more intimidating. I particularly like his chest face. I don’t understand why his tail now looks like a peeled banana but I’m happy overall.

Oh yeah and he totally looks like space Godzilla now too.SpaceGodzilla

Mega Gardevoir

 

download (2)

I’m on record as not liking Gardevoir because a disturingly high number of perverts on the internet seem to be sincerely sexually attracted to her. Putting her in a wedding dress does nothing to fix this issue.

Mega Heracross and Mega Pinsir

MegaHeracross-Pokemon-X-and-YMegaPinsir-Pokemon-X-and-Y

Japan absolutely adores beetles, in particular two varieties of stag beetles they nickname Atlas and Goliath. Elementary school kids adore catching these things, putting them in boxes and making them fight each other. And now you understand why Bug Catchers are a thing in Pokémon games. Every Japanese man at some point in his life put on tiny, comfortable shorts, got a net and captured innocent beetles to fight for his own amusement.

As such I am not surprised Pinsir and Heracross got some Mega Love. Thing is, these both could work as just regular evolutions for these Pokémon who are just single stage evos in the game. They don;t have the exaggerated almost deformed thing going for them that many Megas do nor are they vastly improved versions of the original designs, they just look like what Sugimori’s sketch for an evolved Pinsir probably always looked like.

Of the two I like Heracross  more since his proportions, small head, short body, short legs and massive arms, really sell the idea of strength and power. That and I have no idea what the hell those orange things are in Pinsir’s design.

Mega Manectric

 

MegaManectric-Pokemon-X-and-Y

Are you okay Mega Manectric because that looks really heavy. That, that can’t be good for your neck. Do we need to get nurse Joy to help you little guy?

Mega Aerodactyl

MegaAerodactyl-Pokemon-X-and-Y

Continuing our theme of awesome beards, Aerodactyl is positively satanic with that Van Dyke and the new spiky evil eyebrows help sell it too.

Mega Alakazam

download (1)

So the evolution line for Abra, Kadabra and Alakazam goes like this.

Starts with no spoon.

Gets both spoon and moustache.

Gets an extra spoon and an even bigger moustache.

Following that logic the only place to go with a Mega is multiple spoons and an epic hermit beard. And he pulls it off well. I particularly like the yoga pose.

Mega Alakazam, you can’t fault the logic.

Mega Kangaskhan

115_mega

On the one hand Mega Kangaskhan feels very natural. What’s the ultimate form of a Kangashkan? Why using it’s baby in its attacks. Makes perfect sense and helps fill in some gaps in the Kangaskhan life cycle.

On the other hand, I really wish the baby Kangaskhan looked more like a Cubone so that this bit of fan canon could be true.

cubone_marowak_kangaskhan_by_periculant-d34ejtb

Mega Blaziken and Mega Lucario

257_megalucario-mega

Two examples where I massively prefer the mega form to the original design and wish this design just replaced it.

In Blaziken’s case I love Torchic and Combusken and despise Blaziken. May main complaints are that his hair is stupid, he had some weird feather cock thing going on, he didn’t look like a chicken and his hair is stupid. Well he still doesn’t look like a chicken but his feather cock is gone and his hair is much less stupid. In fact the change in shape to his chest and head balance his design much better giving approximately equal space to his body, head and legs. Unrealistic, yes but aesthetically pleasing. The new chest is more reminiscent of samurai garb too typing in with his martial arts theme. And the colour scheme just seems more dangerous and imposing.

Lucario is similarly much improved. I never got the love for the standing up, kick boxing dog before as he looked like a mess of randomly combined elements. I like Mega Lucario though. Like Blaziken his new shapes mean that space is more evenly distributed, the flare to his collar and dreadlocks add much needed visual interest to his head area and his slightly thicker, chunkier thighs balance out his height. Plus the addition of extra smaller spikes make the big hand, foot and chest spikes seem more organic. I like the change in colour scheme too which again seems darker and more imposing.

Mega Garchomp

garchomp-mega

You know how adding the colour red and more spikes actually seemed to improve Lucario? Well it doesn’t work for everyone.

Plus the original scythes looked more badass, your Mega can’t be less badass, that makes no sense.

Mega Scizor

212_mega

Scyther was such a good design and whilst Scizor wasn’t better he still had charm. This though. It’s all square and boxy where it should be sleek and knife like. And those legs, they looks barely attached and just weird and angular. This is a mess of a design and all the worse because both Scyther and Scizor are really great designs.

Mega Gyarados

MegaGyarados-Pokemon-X-and-Y

You know how we all think Gyarados is bad ass? How he has such a cool, sleek design that just screams rage and power. Yeah. It is amazing how much of that is owed to his neck. For some reason get rid of his neck and he goes from being bad ass and dangerous to unbelievably derpy. Magikarp is, in fact, marginally less awkward looking than this.

Mega Abomasnow

MegaAbomasnow-Pokemon-X-and-Y

What I don’t like about Mega Abomasnow is that design concept has disappeared. Abomasnow is supposed to be a tree covered in snow but nothing about these shapes suggests that in the slightest. Divorced from the concept though and this is a nice design. It conveys power really effectively. The stocky design with the head in the centre suggests size and the hunched over pose where it can’t even support itself really suggests weight. The exploding effect caused by all the lines radiating from the centre says power too, almost as if Mega Abomasnow is nearly exploding with restrained strength. It’s a cool design but it isn’t Abomasnow.

Mega Meditite

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So Meditite is one of the worst design ever, combining slutty lips, hammer pants and the kind of hat stoned people who went to India once routinely wear.

Mega Meditite retains the  hammer pants and draws more attention to them, retains the slutty lips and replaces the dumb hat with, and I didn’t think this was possible, an even dumber hat. It also adds some scarves.

I suppose the logic is that Meditite is ridiculous so for the Mega we’re going to double down on the ridiculous? It kind of makes sense.

Mega Ampharos

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So Ampharos is an electric/pharoah/giraffe. What is the natural next step in that deeply confused concept?

Got it.

Pirate

Male Model from the cover of Harlequin romance. It was the missing link all along.

Mega Absol

 

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I think everybody likes Absol. He has such a unique design. He doesn’t really look like any distinct animal you can name but he does look like an animal and his yin/yang thing was subtly but effectively incorporated into his design.

Mega Absol is more of the same really except they’ve really, really leaned heavy on the emo thing. Absol always had this emo aspect to his concept since he was the harbinger of disaster and as such people hated him. They’ve now refined that by making him a literal angel of death and giving him the hair cut of Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy. He pulls it off though.

Mega Mawile

 

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I’m on record as not really liking Mawile because on first glance it is nigh on impossible to tell what is going on. Namely that I know it has a second face but could never see it. Mega Mawile though, so much better. Getting rid of the forward facing top knot, adding a second mouth and having the mouths stand up just looks so much better. The mouths both more obviously read as hair and look more like they’re attached to Mawile.Plus the new mouth design looks more threatening. This is another Mega that should just replace the original.

Mega Gengar

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Mega Gengar is considered one of the game’s absolute power houses, banished to uber tier he is regarded as annoying, amazing and powerful.

It is a shame then that his design is horrendous.

What’s wrong with Mega Gengar, oh god what’s right with it? Let’s start with a list of design elements that seem to serve no purpose. What is that gold thing on his head? What are the arm things he suddenly has if they even are arms and similarly what is that weird tail thing? Why is he glowing from beneath? On good Pokémon designs I understand why something is there, it’s either a signifier of some meaningful element (i.e. Bulbasaur has a bulb because he is a grass type) or to improve the aesthetics (i.e.  Charizard has a band of a second colour on his chest to break up what would otherwise be a large flat space. On Mega Gengar though I have no idea what anything is doing.

Even worse he used to have a cleanly defined design concept, he looked like Celfable’s shadow, and now that has disappeared.

However the biggest sin Mega Gengar commits is that he is at worse poorly drawn or at most charitable drawn in a style that doesn’t match the other designs. By this I mean that the other Pokémon are drawn with a realistic approach with regards to perspective, whereas Mega Gengar is drawn more like a comic strip character. Judging from how his body and arms are presented Gengar is in 3/4 profile here so he’s looking at about a 45 degree angle to our left and down. The means we shouldn’t be able to see his whole mouth, it should curve round to the other side of his face where we can’t see. similarly his right eye should be lower and his left eye either higher or gone entirely. It just looks wrong and disconcerting.

Mega Gengar looks better in game but this is easily the worst artwork from Sugimori. Not only is it a bad design, it’s a bad drawing.

 

Mega Houndoom

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Remember back when Pokémon started and became the biggest thing on the planet? Remember the religious groups in America who saw it as a tool of Satan? Can you imagine how hard they would freak out if Mega Houndoom existed back then?

Mega Banette

 

 

 

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Speaking of child unfriendly, hey everyone it’s the gimp themed pokemon. Whose arms and legs are actually evil monstrous tongues. Because you’re never too young to learn about consensual S and M.

One of my running jokes is that the pokemon designs often reflect whatever the designer was looking at in his office that day. I wonder if that implies to the gimp mask pokemon.

 

The Fairy Type

The other massive change to the game in X and Y is the addition of a new typing, Fairy, the first new type since 2nd ed. This is a massive change but a very welcome one as it re-shuffles the meta game making long term threats like Hydreigon weaker whilst boosting some weaker monsters that have been languishing in lower tiers (Azumarill). It’s particularly welcome in that Fairies are Dragon killers and prior to 6th ed Dragons were easily the most over powered typing. With a massive suite of resistances, only two weaknesses and only one type that resists Dragon, Dragons were just the best typing on paper. And as one of their weaknesses is Dragon type the best way to kill them is often to have a Dragon yourself. Fairies having an immunity to Dragon attacks puts a solid counter on this but not so much that Dragon’s have been utterly nerfed, as can easily be seen by the fact that Garchomp is the most commonly used Pokémon in competitions.

In addition to nerfing Dragons, Fairies are pretty tough themselves. Most are specially defensive focused with a sideline in special attack and good neutral coverage. Xerneas using Moonblast can walk through teams until he reaches a special wall and the edge on Fighting and Dark types just makes them better. They lack a diverse movepool to make them as uber as Dragons but Fairies arrived as a top tier challenge. The effect of this is to create the need to try and get some Poison and Steel attacks onto your team to take out Fairies, and Steel and Poison are not normally considered attacking types so this shakes up the meta further.

My main complaint with Fairy types is that I don’t get the concept of the typing. With something like Water the concept is clear, this animal lives in or shoots water, make it a Water type. But what makes something a Fairy? It mostly seems to be the big pink blobs of previous generations like Clefable and Jigglypuff but then Chansey and Audino are big pink blobs and they didn’t get Fairy. Fairies in mythology are tied to elements and usually represent different flowers, rocks and other natural phenomena but that idea largely inspires Pokémon anyway and is way too broad for a typing. In practice the only common theme seems to be that Fairy types are cute, playful and free spirited so it reflects a personality more than an element. But then there are lots of cute playful Pokémonthat didn’t get fairy either (Pikachu, Plusle and Minun, Cherrim, Pachirisu) Fairy doesn’t seem to have a defined conceptual space and that bothers me.

Sylveon

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The first Fairy we ever saw sets the tone for most of the new Fairy designs in this generation. It’s pink, it’s cute, it’s covered in bows and frills and it references some stereotypically girly hobby or activity. In the case of Sylveon that would be the practice of dressing up your dog in cute outfits with little bows. It’s a nice spin on the eeveelutions = dog breeding thing without been too on the nose. Plus I just like Sylveon, it’s a balanced, striking design. One thing that does weird me out though is that the bows and ribbons are a part of her, like, made of flesh. Euuurggh,

Swirlix and Slurpuff

 

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Girly activity number 2, eating sweets. Yes, I know men enjoy cotton candy just as much as the womenfolk but in Japan going out for sweets is seen as a very stereotypically feminine thing to do, so we get the sweet pokemon. Unlike Vanillish, the ice cream monster, Swirlix and Slurpuff do have legs so they’re marginally less silly, only marginally though. And that gap gets wiped out by Slurpuff’s hilarious face. I can’t tell if he’s happy or suffering from a concussion.

Spritzee and Aromatisse

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Hey guys, did you realise that the Kalos region is supposed to be France? Oh, you did? What was your first clue? Was it that the region looks exactly like France? Maybe it was how the game seems to pack in every single stereotypical thing about France Gamefreak can think of. So we get fashion! art! fine dining restaurants! and perfume, personified by giving a cockatoo a big nose and making it pink. It kind of works but the lack of a mouth robs Spritzee of much of her personality.

Then we get to Aromatisse who personifies…can can dancers.

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I know I requested less sexy Pokémon but this, this is not what I wanted. Aromatisse is horrifying, her flirtatious leg haunts my nightmares. Can can dancers may be French but they are not suitable subject matter for a children’s computer game or as the basis for designing cute animals.

Flabebe, Floette and Florges

 

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The most Fairy looking fairy-type. For me the defining characteristic of a Fairy is that it’s a flower spirit. However, Pokémon already has the Grass type, about  a hundred designs of plants with faces so how do you convey Fairy? The solution hit upon here, of having an animal that sits on a flower, carries it and eventually wears it is ingenious. Beyond that though I don’t have nice things to say. I don’t understand Floette’s enormous eyebrows (the work on Florges as exaggerated eyelashes), I don’t understand Floette’s ear/hair, I think the faces for all three lack personality and generally these are pretty meh. Also minus one point for yet another Pokémon in a bra. No! Bad Nintendo. No!

Dedenne

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This generation’s electric rodent is Dedenne (his name is straight from Japan, it’s an onomatopoeia for the noise of electrical wires) and I think he’s great. I love designs that take an element and incorporate their element logically and interestingly and Dedenne is a textbook example of that. His whiskers turn into electrical transmission wires and his tail into a power cable and he looks like a cute, happy mouse. Sugimori can do this kind of thing in his sleep by now but I’ll always welcome this kind of design.

Klefki

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So I’ve started writing the entry for Klefki about 5 times now and each time it just devolves into rarge blargle OMG SO VERY VERY STUPID. Do I even have to write about it? We know it’s lazy, we know it’s dumb, we all hate it right? They didn’t even have the decency to put a spike on it. This is every lazy and horrible trend in pokemon design embodied in one beast, one horrible monstrosity that OMG SO VERY, VERY STUPID!!!!!!

Carbink, Diancie and Mega Diancie

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I’m not normally keen on the inanimate object style Pokémon but there are things you can do with it that I like. Geodude is one of my favourite Pokémon of all time despite being essentially a rock with arms but he has a couple of things going for him. 1. Limbs. 2. a face. 3. a personality. Carbink lacks all these things. It’s a rock with eyes, and eyes drawn in such a way that I can infer no personality. It’s just boring.

Diancie in contrast has limbs, has a face and has a personality and as such I like her. I don’t love her (I wonder where she got the dress from) but she’s okay. If you’re going to do Rock Fairy this is what a Rock Fairy looks like to me, cute, happy, perky with adorable jewels, pigtails and a big poofy dress (the rock). Like other Kalos Fairies she embodies the stereotypically girly notion of precious gems but they don’t go overboard with it in her design. That of course is because they saved the overboard for her Mega which…I like. If the design concept for the Megas is OTT version of the original then yeh, Mega Diancie certainly pulls that off.

Xerneas

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The legendary Pokémon for X is a fantastic design. He looks like a real animal but incorporates dozens of clever ideas and concepts. His X shape is subtly but effectively incorporated(if you can’t see it the X forms between the front legs and the crown of horns), the crown of horns are a striking visual in their own right but really connote the idea of some powerful forest spirit, his sword legs look cool and dangerous, his expression is imperious and proud and the colours in his horns suggest his Fairy typing without painting him pink.

In keeping with the theme for this generation of “plagiarism” I can’t help but feel like I’ve seen him before though.

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Chespin, Fennekin and Froakie

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So normally I review each evolutionary family as a whole but I thought I’d do something different this time. As news was coming out about Pokémon X and Y we got the starter monsters revealed as a trio, then their 2nd stage and finally they’re 3rd stages. I thought I’d replicate the impact somewhat here. So let’s look at these three on their own. Well, out of just this Fennekin is easily the winner. Fennekin is simply but she’s cute and the ear hair being turned into flames is one of those design elements I was discussing with regards to Dedenne. Chespin has more potential but I can’t work out what he is. Is he a squirrel? a chipmunk? a rat? He’s certainly some kind of rodent but I don’t know what. I can’t parse his hat as any kind of plant either. Normally it’s pretty clear what the plant aspect is meant to be but again, no clue.

Froakie meanwhile looks like Benjamin Franklin.

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You can never unsee it now.

Quilladin, Braixen and Frogadier

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BWA HA HA HA HA HA

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Just, oh my god, breathe. BWA HA HA HA HA HA! *gasp* inhale. BWA HA HA HA HA

Really? Really?? Do I even need to say anything? Look at him, just, stare at it. It is majestic in its awfulness.

You know what makes it better. The way its drawn here he looks like he’s fallen over and can’t get up. Like he’s lying on his back. And he’s just so gosh darned cheerful about it! Life has dealt Quilladin a bum hand but he is not going to let it get him down.

Frogadier is just kind of there. Oh and Nintendo, you don’t have to make the water starter always blue guys. We get that frogs = water without the help.

Braixen though is just awesome. She really reads as witch with only a few witchy icons but they work very well. I especially lover how her fur becomes a cute skirt. She looks like a teenager too which works for a 2nd stage. And I just love the flaming branch she uses. I like when Pokemon have natural weapons (Cubone, Leavanny) and a witches staff that shoots fire just feels like a natural fit.

Yes sir the Fennekin family definitely one the design lottery this time.

Chesnaught, Delphox and Greninja

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And then Delphox shits the bed.

She just looks ugly and awkward, there’s too much…stuff. Her design doesn’t feel flowy or balanced it feels baggy. I know she’s wearing a robe but it looks like she has just too much fur, and worse some of the fur doesn’t make sense as witch clothing like whatever is going on at her shoulders. Plus her ear hair is just ridiculous now, it doesn’t look like fire anymore it just looks ugly. What a tragic waste of a good design concept.

Chesnaught however, redeems himself. Revealing himself to be a hedgehog…groundhog…muskrat okay I still have no idea what animal he is, but he does at least look knightly now and suitably intimidating. His overall shape works now, still being rounded but now the round shapes are all in the shoulders and back which convey power rather than roly polly cuddly chubbiness. He still isn’t very planty though.

Greninja goes from meh to undisputed coolest design in this generation. He’s a ninja, always cool and like all the best designs they convey ninja without giving him anything that doesn’t also convey frog, it’s all in the pose, the colouring and the body shape. That and the tongue which is inspired. Turning his long frog tongue into a scarf is just a terrific idea, even if it does go back to this year’s theme of “plagiarism.”

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Playing one of the great enemy’s games were we Sugimori-san? Shame on you.

Greninja also retroactively makes Froakie make sense. To reflect the setting of Kalos we have our fairy tale character, the knight, the witch and the thief. The Ninja look subs for thief but Froakie looks like a stereotypical Japanese bandit.

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Bunnelby and Diggersby

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This years useless mammals you catch early in the game are a better effort that most generations. Rabbits are good animals to base designs on having several iconic features you can fiddle with, in this case the ears. And in my opinion turning the ears into hands is a neat little idea that works well. The Diggersby evolution of that concept I also dig, turning the ears into excavators and giving him a control panel to manouveour them.

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Other than the ears and Diggersby 5 o’clock shadow (another one for the beards list ) there isn’t a huge amount else going on here though.

Fletchling, Fletchinder and Talonflame

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Talonflame….?

Talonflame?

You didn’t even try did you localisation team? Talonflame is actually a really neat design, He’s a hawk, on fire!!! And he has warning stripes on his tail. He looks menacing and you just panicked didn’t you.

Talonflame.

Here are 10 more creative names for a bird on fire than Talonflame.

1. Falcook

2. Hawkindle

3. Falcomet

4. Napalcon

5. Scorchawk

6. Firaptor

7. Robinferno

8. Peregrill

9. Hinoraptor

10. KFC

Scatterbug, Spewpa and Vivillion

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God, do I have to?

Scatterbug and Spewpa are just a mess, somehow bland and cluttered at the same time and I have no idea what the high concept is behind them. Easily the worst caterpillar in all of Pokémon.

Vivillion though, I like, a lot. She’s themed around LCD televisions and consequently that’s why her wings look like patterns of pixels and why her antennae resemble digital TV antennae. She’s a nice twist on a butterfly design already but what really makes her is all the different wing patterns.

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Sure it’s a blatant ploy to make it feel like there are more designs in this Gen than there actually are but it’s kind of cool. I also like that the different designs are linked to different geographic regions. That’s something that’s true of real animals and so  it’s nice to see it incorporated into the games. It also forces you to trade internationally which is a nice way to big up the new GTS and Wonder Trade improvements.

 

Lileo and Pyroar

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So we have had a lion Pokémonbefore (the Shinx family) but Lileo and Pyroar are the first lion monsters that really resemble the animal. Again, considering how iconic lions are and how often they feature in children’s picture books I’m surprised it took us this long.

There isn’t a huge amount to say about these two, they’re basically just cartoony drawings of lions, I’d have liked a bit more fire integration personally.  The one cool bit of fire integration they have done is incorporate the Kanji for fire into the pattern of Pyroar’s mane.

Skiddo and Gogoat

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In contrast Skiddo and Gogoat are much more what I like. Animal they haven’t done before? Check. Element incorporated sensibly into the animal’s shape? Check. Lack of unecessary clutter? Check. Use of patterns to break up large areas of flat colour? Check. Everything I want and in addition to the element these two also have a secondary theme of being motorbikes. Can’t see it? Check the horns, Skiddo is meant to be a dirt bike and Gogoat has the swept back handlebars and backrest of an old school Harley chopper.

Pancham and Pangoro

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Another pair that tick all the boxes, animal we haven’t done, no flat blocks of colour, uncluttered design, element incorporated, etc. What really sells me on Pangoro though is his evolution mechanic. Pancham only evolves when he levels up and there is a dark type in your party. And when he does he goes from being slightly cocky troublemaking kid to a full on bancho.

What’s a bancho? Well it means delinquent or gang member, and they look like this.

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I love that, he only evolves when another dark type acts as bad influence on him. That’s such a fun idea and such a great example of how evolution can be used a story telling tool (and another reason why I hate Mega evolution.)

Furfrou

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Furfrou is a pokemon that exists for one reason and one reason only. As if there weren’t enough clues, may I remind you that the KALOS REGION IS MEANT TO BE FRANCE!

DO YOU GET IT YET?!!!

So of course we have to have a French poodle. But wait, Furfrou doesn’t look like a French poodle? Well he does when you take him to the hair dressers and pay to have him styled like thus.

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The concept of a customisable Pokémon design is one I quite like. I’m a big fan of Rotom for example and adding more options like that I think is a good thing. But beyond the gimmick there isn’t anything else to Furfrou.

Espurr and Meowstic

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Please enjoy some of the internet’s finest Espuur death stare Memes.

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86f

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Also female Meowstic has a beret becasue IT’S SET IN FRANCE!!! FRANCE!!!!! FRAAAAANNNNNNNNNNCE.

 

 

Honedge, Doublade and Aegislash

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So this is a much better way to do the “it’s set in France” thing. France of course has a long history of chivalry and knights and the chivalrous values to some extent are still relevant in France today. Doing something with knights is a good idea and Honedge is a truly fantastic idea. A ghost sword is just inherently cool. Weapons are cool and weapon themed monsters are cool but the idea of this ancient blade coming to life to fight again just resonates with so much personality.

You can ruin a good concept with bad design though but fortunately Honedge is great. I love how the scabbard works as face but also reads as believable scabbard design. I love how the ribbon becomes a hand grasping the blade and I love the eye that appears to be part of the scabbard but is in fact built into the hilt. It’s a great idea executed flawlessly.

Doublade and Aegislash I like less but I still like. I’ve never been a fan of the combine two together evolution style so Doublade gets points off for that and Aegislash’s handle doesn’t look like any sword handle I’ve ever seen but overall a fantastic set of designs.

 

Inkay and Malamar

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So these two are just weird. In case you don’t know, to evolve Inkay you actually have to turn your 3DS upside down. This is because Malamar is just Inkay upside down so the tentacles turn into Malamar’s hair and the head fins turn into Malamar’s legs.

It’s a very clever idea and takes great skill to pull off effectively as they have but I can’t say I’m in love with the actual design of either monster.

Binacle and Barbaracle

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So its fair to say that Binacle is dumb. It’s a hand stuck to a rock with a face. Worse, it’s two hands stuck to a rock and I never liked the designs that feature more than one monster since something about it just strains my credulity. For example, you hatch an egg, you should get one Binacle, not two and a rock.

That said your theme is barnacle pokemon. I’m impressed you did it this well.

Oh and in case you’re wondering why they look like hands, they look like a Goose Barnacle which is a variety native to Japan.

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In case you’re wondering why that’s in a bowl, it’s because it’s food. Japanese people will eat anything that comes out of the sea.

Barbaracle should be everything I hate. I hate monster designs where more than one animal comes together, I didn’t like Binacle and I don’t like anthro monsters but Barbaracle is just kind of brilliant.  Having each limb also be a head is just neat. This isn’t like having three Diglett’s hanging out somehow equals a new organism this is 5 different organisms working together as one monster. That makes Barbaracle a  siphonophore, a colony of specialised multi-cellular animals so closely integrated they cannot survive on their own, like a Portuguese man of war. It also makes perfect sense, you never see just one barnacle you always see a few sticking to one rock, but having them co-operate to turn that rock into a body is clever.

Plus he looks grumpy, and I love all the grumpy faced monsters.

Skrelp and Dragalge

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I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I completely understand why they have so many fish, that doesn’t mean any of them are interesting.

Clauncher and Clawitzer

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I fucking love this!!!!

Firstly Clawitzer is based on an animal which is inherently awesome. He’s a mantis shrimp and if you don’t know why they’re fantastic watch this video.

 

BTW Nintendo, the one time it would have made sense to colour your animal like a clown having an accident in a paint factory you chicken out and make it blue.

So a mantis shrimp has the fastest punch in the animal kingdom, it can punch so fast it literally makes explosions!!! So how do we exagerate and cartoonify that?

Let’s turn one of its claws into an enormous cannon which is also shaped like a shrimp!

Genius!

I love Clawitzer and everything about it except it’s boring blue colouring, I want my Mega Evolution with an even more enormous cannon and a tiny body still the same size and I want it now Game Freak!

Helioptile and Heliolisk

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I don’t know why but I’ve always had a thing for frilled lizards. I think I can trace it back to The Rescuers Down Under where a frilled lizard is one of the cast and I just always thought he looked cool. Heliolisk however is no frilled lizard. This is a frilled lizard.

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That pathetic wimpy thing Heliolisk has round his neck can’t compare. I get that it’s meant to be a sunburst but  don’t get why they’re sun themed in the first place. They’re an Electirc type, sun is more of a fire type thing.

Tyrunt and Tyrantrum

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and

Amaura and Aurorous

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It has taken us 6 generations to get the most obvious dinosaurs out of the way. A T-Rex and an Apatosaurus,  probably the most famous and iconic dinosaurs that every kid aged 6 knows about. Before we got to them we did ancient sea scorpions, archaeopteryx and even trilobites (all hail Lord Helix). And I can easily see why, Sugimori just doesn’t have any interesting ideas for what to do with a T-Rex and an Apatosaurus.

Tyrunt starts well, the proportions sell baby dinosaur well and he looks both cute and powerful. Tyrantrum though, it’s a T-Rex. Admittedly It’s a T-Rex with an awesome beard but aside from a head crest (which is okay) and a fur collar (which is baffling) it’s just so-so.

Aurorous is much better. The basic problem with an Apatosaur design is one of body proportions. To fit the shape into the size restrictions in Pokémon you end up with a massive gap between the head and body. Adding the fin helps this and balances out the design but turning the fin into the Aurora Borealis and the curve of the Apatosaurus’ neck into a snow covered mountain side is just inspired.

Hawlucha

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I think we’re all agreed that Hawlucha is everyone’s favourite design this generation right? I mean, it’s a luchador hawk. All luchadors are inherently awesome and have visually interesting designs and the choice of animal, a high flying beastie with an intense stare just suits it perfectly. This little guy just exudes personality.

Goomy, Sliggoo and Goodra

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Okay, let me spoil Goomy for you.

Those two adorable little dots. Those aren’t eyes, they’re nostrils. The cute green chubby cheeks? They’re its eyes. Instead of being a cute cuddly wuddly goofball Goomy is in fact creepy and alien.

So Goomy, Sliggo and Goodra are based on slugs, snails and a H R Geiger guest directed episode of My Little Pony respectively. You’re probably thinking, okay, snails, that means France again right. And you’d be right. But you might also be wondering why the hell they’re dragon type? Well, let me tell you all about the Lou Carlcolh.

From Wikipedia

Lou Carcolh, or the Carcolh, is a supposed mythical beast from French folklore. It was described as being both a serpent and mollusk at the same time, taking characteristics from both types of animals. Its massive and long body carried an enormous shell upon its back, much like a snail‘s shell, that was believed to live in underground caverns in southwest France. Its gaping mouth was surrounded by several long, hairy, and slime covered tentacles that could extend for miles. These appendages stretched out from the cave it inhabited for a long distance and laid upon the ground among its own viscous slime. They would ensnare and drag back to its abode anything within reach. It would then swallow the victim whole with its gigantic mouth.

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image taken from Atlas Games

And since Dragon type refers more to being based in myth than any physiological characteristics, Goodra is a dragon.

Also beard. Horrible slimy chinbeard but still, beard.

Phantump and Trevenant

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So is Gen 6 the generation of “I can’t believe it took them this long to do that idea?” Because evil tree seems pretty obvious. Evil tree is like on of the first 10 monster ideas I come up with when I’m DM-ing. Certainly way before evil mask, evil candle or evil keys.

That said the reason it may have taken this long is again that I don’t think Sugimori has anything new to add to the idea. Trevenant is a generic evil tree that could appear in anything from Final Fantasy to a Mario game. In fact, with the relatively realistic proportions and high level of detail it doesn’t even feel particularly like a Pokémon design.

Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist

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I showed my fiance Pumpkaboo’s design when X and Y first came out and I don’t think she’s stopped squeeing since. I personally don’t get it. I agree he has a cute, fat bottom and his name is inherently funny but I kind of find him creepy.

I also like that they avoided the obvious route when making a Jack O Lantern monster. The added bat touches really make Pumpkaboo his own monster and give him his own distinct feel.

Bergmite and Avalugg

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I do like these two. Avalugg in particular has such a unique design, the flattened top is so distinctive and so different from not only every other Pokémon but most monster designs in general. And in a weird way it makes him seem powerful and imposing. It’s also a nice spin on the idea that iceberg’s are small on top and huge underneath. Bergmite is all top and is small, Avalygg is all bottom and is huge. And in addition to that it references one of the more bat shit insane moments from history. Check his Pokédex entry.

“The way several Bergmite huddle on its back makes it look like an aircraft carrier made of ice.”

That is a reference to a plan the British had in WW2 to build aircraft carriers in the North Sea made out of Pykrete, a sort of frozen cement made of wood chipping. Pykrete is actually an amazingly durable material, about as strong as steel and very cheap to make….provided of course you keep it frozen, but that isn’t as hard as you might think. Ice is a great insulator and the original Pykrete aircraft carier took 3 years to melt. Yes, years. The Mythbusters once made a boat out of it. You can read more about it here and find out why it was ultimately scrapped.

Noibat and Noivern

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It is entirely possible to read Noivern’s ears as the eyes of an owl looking sideways, this marginally improves this dull ass design.

Also another fur collar. Going back over the designs I actually count 18 fur collars this generation. That compares with only 5 awesome beards and that is catastrophic.

Yveltal

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Fur collar number 19. I know why it is here though, it helps balance out the shape.

I really like Yveltal. I’m a sucker for a few things and birds with horns are one of them plus turning those wings into hands. Yveltal has not one, not two but three weird hand wings (beating previous champion Lugia) and his pose makes him look like one massive grasping talon reaching out to get you. It’s all very cool and intimidating helped further by the black and red colour scheme, the lack of a mouth (which is always scary) and the weird but sinister black veins. It also incorporates the Y shape subtly but effectively. Between Xerneas and Yveltal we got two great legendaries this generation. Also, Gen 6 gives us the fewest legendaries yet with just 3. Yveltal, Xerneas and Diancie. Yeah I know about Hoopa and Volcanion but until they officially release them I won’t be reviewing them because I won’t be able to get a decent image and…

I forgot one?

Which did I forg..ohh. Oh.

Zygarde

Zygarde

 

Is a piece of shit.

You want more, okay. He’s a Ground/Dragon. Nothing on his design says ground or Dragon. His Z is barely there and the shape is ruined by his back crest which is just one of many design elements which signify nothing. Why the back crest? Why is he covered in hexagons? Why is he asymmetrical?  This design is a combination of elements that neither work individually nor as a whole, he’s crap and I didn’t want to end the generation on him so let’s look at Hawlucha again.

hawlucha

 

So much win.

In general Gen 6 is a mix of trying too hard but failing and succeeding but being boring which applies to the gameplay as much as the designs. That said Gen 6 has staked out a course. The first 5 Pokemon were all in one evolutionary tree getting better and better. But now, now nothing will ever be the same again and franky, I’m excited to see what comes next.

 

 

It’s all coming together.

Last year I wrote a piece explaining why I thought Disney had chosen Big Hero 6 as their first Marvel property to turn into an animated film and highlighting some of the issues in adapting the comic in a racially and culturally sensitive way.

I’m pleased to see from this trailer that a lot of what I talked about has come to pass. However, Disney have opened up a whole new can of worms with some of their decisions.

Let’s start with the good. I love the tone this trailer gets across. The low key slapstick, the mixture of humour with a genuinely threatening villain and the easy going heart to it. I wish more Super-Hero stories in any medium had this tone and it certainly gives me Incredibles vibes.*

They’ve also chosen to focus on ” a boy and his robot” as their main story telling angle which I think is a good choice. Big Hero 6 is not a thematically dense concept, it basically amounts to “Hey Japan is different, lolz” so grabbing onto something in the property that shows more promise for exploration is a good idea. A boy and his (insert noun here) stories work well for animation and children’s cinema and some of the greatest animated films of the past 20 years (The Iron Giant, How to Train your Dragon) have used it as a basis.

The animation is good, as to be expected of Disney, although you can now add me to the chorus of people who are getting a little sick of how samey Disney’s character designs are getting.

Also is that Lord Deathstrike?

Lord Deathstrike Big Hero 6

I mean, I know that the odds that a character named Lord Deathstrike will appear in a Disney movie are about as likely as me voicing him but he sure does look like him doesn’t he?

big hero 6 lord_deathstrikeWhere this goes wrong is San Fransokyo. Oh my, San Fransokyo.

When it was announced that this film would be set in an amalgam city of Tokyo and San Francisco I thought it could go one of two ways. Either it could be clever and cute, a good way to point out cultural differences and make some gentle jokes about them, or it could be horribly, horribly offensive combining every stereotypical Japanese thing the creators could think of.

What I did not expect is that they would get the wrong country. Because San Fransokyo looks great, it it’s meant to be San Beijing.

Seriously, those “Japanese” touches like the lanterns and the roofs that flare up at the corners. Those are Chinese. You will find them in Japan, in fact they’re not uncommon but that’s because China has had an incredible cultural impact on Japan. But in the style and colours used in this trailer they feel way more Chinese to me than Japanese. And even then they’re a touch that goes back to the pre-Meiji era and are only seen nowadays in temples and other historical buildings. There are so many icons of modern Japan you could include and other than some Katakana and Kanji Disney simply hasn’t!

What San Fransokyo really looks like is the China Town in San Francisco expanded out to encompass the whole city. And while I know a lot of Japanese people live in the San Francisco China Town, guys the clue is in the name as to which country it more closely resembles.

Here’s hoping the trailer just gives off a wrong impression and the film gets it better.

The stripping out of Japanese culture though continues onto the characters. Big Hero 6 is a team composed of 1 robot and 5 Japanese people or Japanese-Americans. Big Hero 6 in the movie? 2, maximum. That’s a big cut Disney. The premier Japanese super-hero team now has Japanese members as the minority. I know why you’ve done it, the setting demands a mix of Asian and Caucasian people to reflect the mixed up Asian and Western architecture and you don’t think an all Asian cast will fly for American audiences. In fact you’ve actually increased the team’s diversity in one way by adding a black man to the mix, which I applaud, but, I still feel like it has missed the point a little bit.

In fact let’s dig into the characters a bit more. Starting with our hero, Hiro, and his pet robot Baymax.

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Here’s what I wrote about Hiro and Baymax in my original piece.

Big Hero 6 2

Hiro and Baymax are clearly affectionate homages to a number of Japanese characters. Hiro is a super-genius kid who builds a robot protector for himself. That’s an idea that mixes bits of Getter Robo, Tetsujin 28 and even the Kenny’s from Godzilla.

And here is some info from screencrush.com

Ryan Potter portrays Hiro, a robotics prodigy who has “the mind of a genius—and the heart of a 14-year-old. His state-of-the-art battle-bots dominate the underground bot fights held in the dark corners of San Fransokyo. Fortunately, big brother Tadashi redirects Hiro’s brilliance, inspiring him to put his brain to the test in a quest to gain admission to the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. When a tragic event changes everything, Hiro turns to a robot named Baymax, and they form an unbreakable bond—and two-sixths of a band of high-tech heroes on a very important mission.

It sounds to me like Hiro is largely unchanged from his comic incarnation of “boy genius.” I suspect that Hiro is the character that Disney saw the most potential in, making him the hero and basing the film on him. To that end he is basically the same character. Baymax however has been tweaked considerably.

Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit) cares. That’s what he was designed to do. The plus-sized inflatable robot’s job title is technically Healthcare Companion: With a simple scan, Baymax can detect vital stats, and, given a patient’s level of pain, can treat nearly any ailment. Conceived and built by Tadashi Hamada, Baymax just might revolutionize the healthcare industry. But to the inventor’s kid brother Hiro, the nurturing, guileless bot turns out to be more than what he was built for—he’s a hero, and quite possibly Hiro’s closest friend. And after some deft reprogramming that includes a rocket fist, super strength and rocket thrusters that allow him to fly, Baymax becomes one of the Big Hero 6.

Baymax in the comics was designed and built entirely by Hiro. However, when Hiro’s Father died he used some of his Father’s brain engrams to program Baymax. That makes Baymax a combination of Hiro’s friend, his bodyguard his father and his nanny. Disney however have switched the tragic death from Father to Brother and also made Baymax a construction of Hiro’s Brother. This simplifies the relationship considerably emphasising that Baymax and Hiro are in effect brothers. It’s a bit more conventional than the comic’s version but riffs on many of the same emotions and probably works better in the limited running time of a film.

Next up is our only other remaining Asian, Go, Go Tomago, played by Jamie Chung.

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She’s tough, athletic and loyal to the bone, but not much of a conversationalist. Popping bubble gum and delivering well-placed sarcasm are totally her speed. The daredevil adrenaline junkie is at her best on wheels, and when Go Go joins forces with Big Hero 6, she rolls like never before, using maglev discs as wheels, shields and throwing weapons.

Big Hero 6 Go Go Tamago

Wild rebellious Go Go was the Wolverine of the group, the bad ass outsider who don’t take no bull. She’s been de-aged and her criminal past is gone but her personality and team function are largely the same. Also her name is still misspelt. She should be Go, Go, Tamago i.e. the Japanese word for egg. Although considering they changed her powers the egg joke doesn’t work any more anyway. I dig the new costume too, it’s both more sentai than her original sentai inspired outfit and more modern.

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Fred, voiced by T.J. Miller, has been de-aged, gone from Asian to White and gone from having a Godzilla shaped ki aura to just turning into a Monster.

Big Hero 6 Fred

Other than that he’s mostly the same, a stoner in a hat with badass monster related powers. He’s the comic relief of the group and it looks like he’ll continue to be playing that role. Also, I like his new Monster design. It does feel quite Asian without specifically referencing a particular monster design I can think of. I will miss his Devil Dinosaur t-shirt though.

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So that is what Honey Lemon, who will be voiced by Genesis Rodriguez which is a Super-Villain name if I ever heard one, looks like in the film. Here is what she looked like in the comics.

Big Hero 6 Honey Lemon

…..

…….

That’s, um, that’s quite the change.

Honey Lemon was a play on Cutie Honey, a popular anime character who is mainly famous for being full on naked during her magical girl transformations. Honey Lemon the comic character is consequently, sexy, confident and playful with some stuff from other anime characters (most notably Doraemon) thrown in.

From the character design alone it’s clear that Honey Lemon in the film is not going to be the same character. Other than a power-set and a name they have nothing in common. Problem being that now Honey Lemons’s power-set and name don’t make sense. She’s called Honey Lemon as a play on Cutie Honey, a character she now no longer resembles. And her power-set is grabbing things from her purse, not exactly the most subtle of satirical jabs.

That said I am not surprised they changed her. Whilst Honey Lemon was hugely inappropriate for a kid’s film the bigger problem is that she’s a parody character, not a character intended to work on her own merits and she needed something done to her to appear in this film.

Finally we get to Wasabi, formerly Wasabi no Ginger.

Here is what Wasabi no Ginger looked like in the comics.

Big Hero 6 Wasabi No Ginger

And here is what I wrote about him.

Finally there’s Wasabi-no-Ginger which is a name that is simply unacceptable. Honey Lemon is stretching it but Wasabi-no-Ginger isn’t a clever pun so much as it is the equivalent of a Japanese comic introducing a morbidly obese character in a cowboy hat called Burger McRanchdressing. Try and count the stereotypes in this short character description guys. He’s a sushi chef (1) but also a samurai (2) who fights by using katana (3) and sushi knives (4) that he makes from his body whilst wearing wooden sandals (5) and a Hawaiian shirt (6?). Whilst the other characters are a spin on existing Japanese characters Wasabi-no-Ginger is the result of throwing everything Chris Claremont knows about Japan (sushi, samurais…Hawaiian shirts?) into a blender and calling the result a character. You know in the Super Friends how the Native American guy who grew got called Apache Chief rather than something that described his powers like Giant Man, or Gigantor. That is the level of patronising we’re dealing with here in Wasabi-no-Ginger.

I hate, Wasabi no Ginger.

Now, here is what he looks like in the film.

big-hero-6-character-rollout-wasabi

Wasabi (voiced by Damon Wayans Jr.) is committed to precision. He’s super smart and just a touch neurotic, but the big and burly neatnik can’t help but join the cause when Hiro needs him most. As part of “Big Hero 6,” Wasabi amplifies his martial arts skills with jaw-dropping plasma blade weaponry. Sharp doesn’t even begin to describe this guy.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

He’s not a sushi chef. He’s not a Japanese stereotype, he can’t be because he’s not Japanese. He doesn’t wear geta, he doesn’t fight using katana and he has a personality beyond “everything Chris Claremont knows about Japan.” Even his name makes more sense since both wasabi and plasma are hot. Plus, he adds further diversity to the team and avoids being a black stereotype too! It’s such a low bar to hurdle but thank you, thank you so much Disney for doing it.

So based on all this info I’m still looking forward to Big Hero 6 and cautiously optimistic that this will be another Incredibles. I’m nervous about San Fransokyo but Disney’s last 2 films have really clicked for me and I’m hoping they continue on with their mini renaissance.

 

*The Incredibles is in my top 5 favourite Super-Hero films and until Marvel got their shit together was basically number 1. It still remains the best Fantastic Four film ever made too.

 

Night of the Dead is an institution in Leeds. Part of the Leeds International Film Festival it’s a horror movie marathon that runs from 10 o’clock in the evening until 10 o’clock in the morning the next day. Well, sometimes 10, sometimes 11 or 12 or the next day or weeks later. They overrun a lot is what I’m hinting at.

As well as showing a whole bunch of horror films it also features tons of funny or twisted horror shorts, competitions, games and sometimes interviews with directors.*

The shorts are routinely amazing, showcasing some of the sharpest, funniest writing I’ve ever seen in the horror genre and some real originality and inventiveness. To that effect I’ve put as many of the shorts from this year’s festival as I can find on Youtube at the end of this post. Warning, most of them feature gruesome, violent and explicit content. NSFW.

And it’s a good thing the shorts are good because the films they show are usually awful. The hit to miss ratio of this event is just appalling. I’ve been going for three years now and have seen 14 films at Night of the Dead and I can honestly say 3 of them were good. A further 2 were so bad they’re good and 1 (Little Deaths) may be the most upsetting thing I have ever seen. Mostly though the films they show are distinctly average horror efforts showcasing maybe one or two flashes of invention against a backdrop of bland, predictable mediocrity.

But it’s a fun time so I thought I’d review this year’s crop of films for you.

* This is always a mistake because the crowd at Night of the Dead get fairly rowdy. As an example after I watched Little Deaths the 3 directors came up to talk to the audience and the first question asked of them was “why is yer film so shit?”

100 Bloody Acres (2012)

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100 Bloody Acres tells the story of two brothers, Reg and Lindsay Morgan, fertiliser manufacturers in rural Australia who produce a speciality organic fertiliser that’s proving quite popular and effective with local farmers. What’s their secret? Why ground up human remains of course! Oh but don’t worry, they’re not murderers. For now they’re restricting themselves to stealing bodies from traffic accidents, as Reg does at the start of the film. But that means a spotty supply at best and the Morgan’s need to get enough bodies in to fulfill a big order they have coming up. They might have to resort to murder if their luck doesn’t change.

Unfortunately fate intervenes in the form of three young adults trying to get to a local music festival who hitch a lift with Reg. He isn’t intending to kill them but when they discover the dead body he has in the back of his van, well, he can’t very well let them go after that can he?

Horror Comedy might actually be my favourite genre of film. Good examples of the genre represent some of my all time favourite films; Evil Dead 2, Gremlins 2 and Shaun of the Dead for example. I’m not sure why I like it so much but I think it has something to do with the nature of both individual genres.

Horror and comedy are the only two genres that work to evoke a direct physical response in the viewer, laughter in the case of a comedy and fear (so screams, elevated heart rate, etc) in the case of horror. Oh and porn too of course. You don’t need to analyse the characters, the story structure or the mis-en-scene to determine if a comedy is effective. If it made you laugh it’s a good comedy and that’s all there is to it.

But I find myself struggling with both horror and comedies these days. I very rarely watch a modern comedy I like, or a modern horror film that scares me. Partly it’s an age thing. Both genres rely on novelty to some extent and once you get the beats and rhythms of a joke or a scare down it can be very hard for a film to have novelty for you.

And a horror comedy is even harder. Not only does it have to scare me and make me laugh but those are two very different things with very opposing tones. Making something funny can completely undercut any sense of menace it held and make the scares impossible.

So yeah, horror comedy is very hard to do but if you pull it off you’ve made something really special.

100 Bloody Acres does not pull it off, but it very nearly does.

100-bloody-acres-image-01

The failings are all on the horror side. This film never scared me, once. Worse I never really felt a sense of dread or tension, even slightly. It just isn’t a horror film.

What it is, really, is a farce with potentially horrific consequences. All farces are predicated on the protagonist trying to avoid something bad happening but usually that bad thing is embarrassment, or losing their job, or losing money. In 100 Bloody Acres the bad thing is being turned into ground fertiliser but other than that and some gore that’s played for laughs there isn’t much horror in this supposed horror comedy.

As a farce though it is great! A good farce is a hard thing to construct anyway but gut wrenchingly funny if you can manage it and 100 Bloody Acres does. The film is hysterical from start to end full of colourful funny characters and some great gags. I particularly enjoyed the only example in cinema I can remember of chekov’s cum rag and the line “he wants my potassium”.

It also avoids many of the sins of bad farces. None of the characters are idiots. Some characters are stupid but their actions make sense for what they know and what they want at the time, nobody does something for the sake of a cheap gag it all emerges naturally from the situation. Also all of the characters are likeable and well drawn with nobody coming across as a lazy comic stereotype.

Basically if you like a good farce and don’t mind gore then you will enjoy 100 Bloody Acres. It’s no classic but it’s a funny, smartly put together comedy.

Unfortunately it was all downhill from that point on.

Savaged (2013)

Savaged-teaser poster-thumb-300xauto-30444

I’m a big fan of bad films. I’m rarely happier than sitting around with a bunch of mates, drinking good beer and ruthlessly mocking something terrible. Troll 2, The Room, Birdemic, etc. I would much rather watch these again than masterpieces like Citizen Kane or The Godfather.

Films can be bad for lots of reasons. Some have bad ideas that no level of competency can save (Baby Geniuses comes to mind), others have grand visions whose reach exceeds the filmmakers grasp (like the low budget video cheese form the 80’s that produced any number of Blade Runner, Star Wars and Terminator rip offs), some more are just the product of lazy apathetic film makers who weren’t trying very hard and so produce a lackluster result (Catwoman) and best of all are the films where the ideas and execution all combine to forma perfect storm of “what were they thinking” (Manos, Troll 2, etc).

Savaged is a rare species of bad film indeed, the kind of film where almost everything clicks. Almost everything. The story has a good idea, the production values, editing, direction, cinematography special effects, they all work but one, thing is off and it overshadows and pulls down everything else in the film. It’s like painting the Mona Lisa but inexplicably giving her a clown wig. Sure the rest of the painting is a masterpiece of composition and technique but all you can see is the clown wig and it is hilarious.

Savaged tells the story of a deaf mute girl (Amanda Adrienne) who decides to travel across the southwest of America to move in with her boyfriend in California. Along the way she is captured by a gang of rednecks, raped, stabbed and left for dead in a shallow grave.* A Native American Shaman** attempts to bring her back to life but instead merely infests her with the angry ghost of an Apache warrior. Fueled by supernatural powers she sets about getting revenge on the people who killed her.

That’s kind of an awesome story idea right? I mean, dodgy sexual politics aside supernatural rape revenge thriller is pretty original and it’s a solid narrative concept. Native American imagery is kind of under-utilised in horror too so this has real potential.

And in many ways it fulfills that potential. The story hits all the obvious beats at the obvious times, it provides the gore and action you’d expect and you get to see horrible bastards meet their comeuppance.

Savaged-2013-Movie-Image

It’s directed by Michael S. Ojeda who has not directed a full length film before but has extensive experience on T.V. and has worked as a cinematographer and a second unit guy before. Based on the strength of this he’s got a bright future ahead of him as the film is shot and edited brilliantly. It avoids the usual issues with shaky cam and instead puts together coherent and exciting action sequences.

He does have one slightly dodgy directorial decision in that he at some point decided to shoot the entire film through an Instagram filter but overall he’s a fine director.***

However Michael S. Ojeda also wrote this film and that’s where the clown wig starts to come in. The script for Savaged is irredeemably atrocious, just jaw droppingly terrible. This is a film in which the following lines of dialogue are spoken by actual human beings who were (presumably) paid money to say them.

“When I kill something it stays dead!”

“Something dead’s been living here.”

And my personal favourite, said with utter sincerity.

“Will we be together forever?”

“Yes, forever and ever and ever.”

Everyone in this film talks like idiots. They sound like aliens that are trying out this strange human concept you call language. It’s just hilariously, appallingly wrong.

And whilst those examples are the highlights, trust me every line spoken is at best clunky and at worst hysterically bad.

Some of the actors gamely struggle with it. Tom Ardavany who plays West seems to know that his character is supposed to be a real badass but whilst he’s trying really, really hard to sound tough his lines are so poorly written it gives the impression of someone just trying to bullshit his friends that he’s all hardcore.

Other actors…do not fare as well. Brionne Davis, who plays our heroine’s boyfriend, singularly fails to give a believable read once. Every word that comes out of his mouth sounds like he’s some kind of robot speaking words as somebody else types them. There’s one scene where he’s supposed to be ominously threatening our villains about all the horrible things his girlfriend is going to do to them  which is intercut with scenes of her reaping carnage and destruction. It’s obviously supposed to be a “cool” moment but it’s just so annoying. When he’s finally silenced by a blow to the head from a fire extinguisher the audience I was with cheered and I must confess, I yelled “thank you!” out loud at that point.

And he’s not even the worst offender, that honour goes to the Apache Shaman. There’s a scene at the end of the film with him and the boyfriend that is so difficult to watch that it threatens to circle round from bad to Dadaist genius.

The effect is to undercut any attempt at mood the film tries, but of course it keeps trying. It’s trying to show you The Exorcist, or Alien, or The Shining but all you can see is that every character is wearing a clown wig and it never stops being funny!

Savaged is far from the worst film I’ve ever seen but it’s a are and special kind of bad that has its own charms and if you’re an aficionado of bad films I strongly urge you to watch it.

*The film was advertised as being like I Spit on your Grave so I knew there was going to be a rape. I did not expect the girl who was going to be raped to be a deaf/mute and I could feel the audience bristle with discomfort when this was revealed. It’s as if we all thought “I’m fairly sure this is offensive” all at the same time.

**He shows up and my friend Dave said “Oh dear I think something racist is going to happen.” Dave was right.

***Oh and one scene where our heroine is gifted with magical Apache weapons which has to be seen to be believed.

On Air (2012)

on-air-poster

How’s this for a Twilight Zone pitch.

Late Night Pirate Radio D.J. Doc Rock (Marcus Knufken) takes a call one evening from a mysterious killer called The Night Slasher who has been murdering women in the unnamed German city they both live in.

The Killer’s ultimatum; he has a woman at his mercy and he will kill her in one hour unless Doc Rock convinces him not to.

That is a simple and brilliant premise for a high concept Thriller in the style of Phone Booth or Buried. It’s full of potential for suspense and I was really looking forward to On Air at this year’s Night of the Dead.

Suffice it to say I was disappointed.

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On Air singularly fails to build up tension because the story is told incredibly ineptly. To put it bluntly I didn’t understand what was happening most of the time and if you don’t understand what’s happening there can be no tension. Tension is all about expectation. You know something bad is going to happen and you wait, breathlessly, hesitatingly with mounting horror for the bad thing to happen or be averted and the tension to be released. However if you don’t understand what is going on there can be no anticipation of what will happen next and thus no tension.

I’d be tempted to right this off as me being an idiot but after the film ended my friends and I argued for a good 10 – 15 minutes about what had actually happened and only then we did reach a  tentative agreement. Clearly we can’t all be idiots. I mean this is a German film so there may be some translation issues but the problems with comprehensibility run much deeper than that.

The main issue is that this is one of those thrillers that wants to provide you with a twist every 10 minutes to make you rethink your assumptions. That would be fine except some of those assumptions are baffling or contrary to what the twist implies. For example; one of the twists later in the film is the revelation that The Night Slasher has captured the police detective’s daughter. This is presented as a shocking twist but for whatever reason I was under the assumption that this was the case already. So rather than me going, gasp, how shocking, i’m instead thinking “wait, wait I thought he knew it was his daughter that had been captured, why is he shocked now?” Some parts of the set-up seem to be assumed and just aren’t explained. For example I didn’t realise that the film is set in the D.J.’s house until the last 15 minutes because I quite sensibly assumed that people don’t tend to have full radio studios in their basements so this was something of a shock to me but is presented NOT as a twist.

I spent most of the film being confused and then just growing increasingly irritated by the fact that I was confused and was struggling to follow what was happening.

Trying to figure out what’s going on in a film can be exciting and interesting. Something like 13 Monkeys, for example, requires you to pay close attention to follow the narrative and decode what is happening. But in 13 Monkeys I got the sense that Terry Gilliam knows what he is doing, whereas in On Air I just grew increasingly annoyed at what I decided was incompetent film making.

Annoying to watch, not scary, not particularly inventive and wasting a potentially clever premise. It’s not even so bad it’s good it’s just devoid of any cinematic pleasure whatsoever.

They Will Outlive Us All (2013)

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I am going to horribly spoil the plot of this film. I am going to horribly spoil it because the only thing really worth talking about in this film involves a spoiler.

Ready.

The setting is 2016 New York in a future that has been wracked with hurricanes due to climate change. Life carries on mostly as normal but the repeated hammering by storms that New York receives has messed up the infrastructure massively. The emergency services are taxed to breaking point and basically won’t attend most problems. There is a curfew in effect, blackouts are common and water supplies are spotty. Supposedly you can drink the tapwater again but to roommates Margot (Jessi Gotta) and Daniel (Nat Cassidy) it smells kind of funny so they stick to bottled water.

And it’s a good thing they do because something in the water is causing the following things to happen 1. people who drink it get sick 2. after they get sick they appear to turn into slow moving, not particularly aggressive zombies 3. after a bit of wandering around as a zombie a giant cockroach crawls out of their mouth and they drop down dead.

Margot and Daniel discover points 1, 2 and 3 in very short order and then spend the rest of their day barricaded in their shit hole apartment fighting a pair of giant cockroaches. They kill one and trap the other one in their toilet.

From a mixture of celebration at having dispatched the monsters and wanting to forget this ever happened the two room mates start drinking heavily and pass out on their couch. Margot sleepily gets up in the middle of the night and goes to the toilet where she falls asleep on it.

Wherein a cockroach crawls up her ass and into her stomach and she then vomits it out of her mouth.

I’ll let that sink for a moment.

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This is a film in which a women quite graphically, and at length, vomits an enormous cockroach. One that had previously entered her from (one presumes) her anus.

I was all ready to go on a “horror films are misogynistic” rant but the actress that played the scene, the writer that wrote that scene and the director and cinematographer that shot it are all women. In fact they’re the same woman, Jessi Gotta. So I guess I just have to wonder what the hell is wrong with Ms Gotta and leave it at that.

Anyway after that…memorable, scene the two room mates kill the remaining cockroach and after getting washed up a bit the two friends head out into a New York overrun with zombies.

The End.

You may have noticed not a lot happens in that plot summary and that’s because there isn’t much plot to summarise in this film. There are maybe 4 or 5 scenes that actually contribute to the plot and they could comfortably be told in a half hour.

And yet this is a 73 minute film? What the hell takes up all the running time?

The answer is not a lot. Mostly it’s just the two main characters sitting on a couch and talking.

But those scenes of the two characters talking are the best parts of the film.

The closest comparison to They Will Outlive Us All that you’re likely to have seen is Kevin Smith’s Clerks but even that isn’t a perfect comparison. Like Clerks TWOUA is exceedingly low budget with a very small cast and only a few locations. Both aren’t hugely concerned with plot or narrative although both make token gestures towards it (TWOUA significantly moreso). Both use a very limited set of camera angles and focus on naturalism and naturalistic dialogue. The main difference is that where Clerks had jokes TWOUA has gross out horror moments but the main bulk of both films is just the feeling of hanging out with the main characters. Most of TWOUA is dialogue but it isn’t particularly witty or insightful it’s just kind of normal.

What keeps the film going is the chemistry between the two leads. These two seem like genuine friends and their dialogue sounds like the kind of pointless conversations friends have with each other when just hanging out. After a few minutes of this the two leads become really likeable and it becomes quite fun to just spend time in their company.

Even at 73 minutes it’s far too long though and as much as it’s nice to just spend time with the two leads they can’t sustain your interest for as long as they’re asked to.

So They Will outlive Us All. If you’d like to hang out with two fairly pleasant people for over an hour and then see one of them vomit up a cockroach this is the film for you.

Antisocial (2013)

antisocial-poster

There’s a reason lots of low budget film makers make zombie movies. Zombie movies are easy! They require a small speaking cast of usually no more than 5 or 6 characters, they’re set on at most 1 or 2 main locations and those locations can be as prosaic as somebody’s house and they have a really simple easy to copy story structure. A bunch of people hole up in a single location, argue, fight zombies and die off one by one until either all are dead or some survive.

The only real cost is cameras and make-up and even then you can cheat the make-up if you’re really poor. Honestly it’s so simple you and some mates could make a full length zombie film in your backyard in an afternoon without too much hassle.

That doesn’t mean it would be any good though.

Zombie movies are easy but good zombie movies, significantly harder. Good zombie movies require things like scripts, actors and directors that can create tension and those are all hard.

So maybe you cheat and you make a zombie movie, but with a twist! And again there are plenty of zombie movies that take that approach. Zombie Movies are basically a microcosm of genre as a whole. Genre is all about taking familiar elements and recombining them in novel ways, zombie movies are usually about taking the same stock elements but applying one novelty to them. For example it might be a traditional zombie film but take place in a different location like space (Dead Space), or a school (High School of the Dead); or maybe it’s a traditional zombie movie but it’s happening to a specific group of people like forensic pathologists (13 Eerie) or Yakuza (Versus) ; maybe you mash it up with another genre like romantic comedy (Shaun of the Dead) or a crime film.

This opens up the genre massively allowing for new ideas but also the potential for some biting* satire as in Romero’s “of the Dead” series and as such Zombie films have actually attracted some of the smartest horror film makers over the years who want to use the simple story structure to make a point.

Antisocial’s innovation is to change the way the zombies work so that rather than the plague being spread by biting or airborne virus it is instead spread by (spoilers) facebook.

Okay not facebook “The Social Red Room” because they don’t want to get sued but yeah, facebook.

Hey, what a neat satirical idea! The concept that our dependency upon things like smartphones and social networking has turned us all into zombies. It’s like updating Romero’s consumerist satire from Dawn of the Dead to the Millenial age. Okay movie you have my attention, what are you going to do with this idea?

…..

(crickets)

….

Oh, nothing, You’re going to do nothing with it. I see.

EYES_01

Antisocial has a very clever premise that is rife with potential for social commentary, satire or even paranoid horror but the filmmakers have wasted it entirely because having thought up this premise they clearly thought that that was enough and the film would just kind of happen around it. No effort whatsoever has been expended upon developing the script in any way shape or form to capitalise on this premise.

Instead the film is filled with endless tedious scenes of chaarcters having some variation of the followign argument.

“I’m not infected.”

“Yes, you are.”

“No I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. You went on facebook and we have already established at this point that everyone who has been on facebook will turn into a zombie.”

“Yes but I won’t.”

“But you will.”

….turns into zombie and attacks everyone

That’s it, that’s the whole film over and over again for you. Tension? Comedy? Satire? Forget it.

Dear makers of Antisocial, it is not enough to have just one good idea. You also need a decent script, actors and director. Go get those and then try and make this film again.

* pun intended

So that was this year’s Night of the Dead. Two absolute wastes of time  and worse, wastes of good premises(Antiscoial and On Air), one good film (100 Bloody Acres) one film so bad it’s good (Savaged) and one film that is alternately boring, pleasant and disgusting (They Will Outlive us All).

That’s better results than most years.

We also had a host of shorts which I’ve included at the end here for everyone to watch. I couldn’t find every short that was shown on Youtube but suffice it to say this gives a representative flavour.

Fist of Jesus is simply amazing. Gory, ridiculous fun. I’m not going to spoil any of it for you, just watch it now and thank me later.

Alastor is okay. It has a nice premise and some decent moody camera work but is a touch dull and long for the story it has.

Both Box films are more a showcase for some clever animation but they’re fun bits of fluff.

Cargo is so creative, and inventive and amazing it borders on genius. One of the smartest and most moving takes on the zombie genre I’ve ever seen

No, Teenage Mutant Ninja Origins is not dead but I need to watch the 2000’s more anime styled series and the new series before I can talk about it further. In the meantime watch this.

NES and TMNT are up there in my personal favourite things list but last time they were combined we got the TMNT NES game and the world’s most difficult video game level; the underwater bomb disposal level. This is significantly less irritating.

 

So this is a thing that happened today

I theorised that we’d probably get Mega Evolutions for the new three starters in X and Y but I did not expect them to go back and come up with Mega Evolutions for the original three.

I’ll be critiquing the actual designs when we finally get a list of all the pokemon that are going to be in this game (which should be soon right, we’re less than two months away and have still seen hardly any monsters) and I do a full design review but just briefly I like Charizard and Blastoise a lot but Venusaur still looks incredibly derpy I’m afraid.

The Digimon comparisons feel even more apt with the use of weird wrist devices to trigger evolution. Now weird devices to trigger evolution have existed in Pokemon before, evolution stones, weird rocks, etc but again they were permanent changes to your monster. Using some kind of weird device to temporarily shape shift your monster and power it up is entirely Digimon’s shtick and it feels weird to have it in a Pokemon game.

And as if that weren’t weird enough going back and doing it to the original three feels even weirder. These three guys are up there with Pikachu as the first things most people think of when they think of Pokemon, messing with them just seems, ill advised to me. I’d prefer these guys to be left alone really to stand as all time classics but adding something new doesn’t take the old stuff away agin so whatever. And hey if 10 year olds think Charizard is cool again I’m fine with that.

Still I am happy I can play with a Kanto starter again. Since I have a Venusaur and a Blastoise saved on my current game I guess I can get a Charizard, and add Mewtwo, Golem and Zapdos to it and recreate my old Gen 1 team.

 

 

So I was disappointed to find out that skipping posting on Saturday did not cause the internet to break in half. I was half hoping that the lack of regularly scheduled Mummyboon content would cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth and that my inbox would be flooded with suicidal lamentations.

Sadly this was not the case…all I ask is your undying affection and obedience without hesitation. Is that too much?

Nonetheless you might be wondering why I no post? Well because I’ve been on holiday enjoying the wonders of Northern France and Holland (and yes it was Holland specifically before anyone gets pedantic). I’d built up a bit of a buffer before going away but didn’t have a chance to post anything between getting home and Saturday coming to pass.

I didn’t want to skip the week entirely though but I don’t have the time to put anything particularly complicated together so here are my comments on a few nerdy news announcements.

BH6_D23

Whilst I was gone D23, Disney’s big annual fan convention happened and we learned lots about upcoming Disney projects, including one I’ve written about before Big Hero 6.

“Big Hero 6” features brilliant robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who finds himself in the grips of a criminal plot that threatens to destroy the fast-paced, high-tech city of San Fransokyo. With the help of his closest companion–a robot named Baymax–Hiro joins forces with a reluctant team of first-time crime fighters on a mission to save their city. Inspired by the Marvel comics of the same name, and featuring comic-book style action and all the heart and humor audiences expect from Walt Disney Animation Studios, the CG-animated “Big Hero 6” hits theaters in 3D on Nov. 7, 2014.

Whilst I still think San-Fransokyo is an appalling name I kind of like the notion that this is going to be a world that freely mixes bits of Japanese and American culture. The Golden Gate Bridge with Torii Gate stylings in the concept art posted above is particularly nifty. Considering this is a property that was two American guys doing their best to affectionately parody Japanese concepts and ideas that themselves were often riffs on American concepts setting it in a world that is a strange mixture of American and Japanese culture is a smart idea. It also avoids the potential problem of audiences in America being put off by a Japanese setting and too much Japanese cultural baggage.

Nintendo have announced loads of Pokemon news recently, particularly regarding the new games X and Y. Whilst Black and White basically perfected the formula as it has stood for 5 generations now X and Y seem to be shaking up the game considerably. 3D graphics and movement, customised attack animation,  new ways of battling (Sky Battles and Horde battles with 1 pokemon against 5 aggressors) riding pokemon and a new type, Fairy type.

Incidentally I totally called Fairy Type back in this blog post here. You may refer to me as Nostradamus from now on.

But the only change I want to talk about is Mega Evolution.

What is Mega Evolution? Why watch the video above and find out.

Well, did you watch it? Did you find out what it is?

Fucking stupid, that’s what it is.

Okay, okay, gameplay wise this isn’t a massive deal. Pokemon that change form have been a feature of the games since the 2nd generation. Now usually these form changes don’t happen during battle and if they do they usually don’t effect stats whereas clearly these new forms will all improve the pokemon’s stats as well as alter their appearance. That’s fine by me. I don’t think Baziken or Mewtwo need to be any better than they already are but  it’s a cool mechanic and it allows for four stage evolutions which was always going to happen at some point.

What I have a problem with is that it turns the game into Digimon.

In Digimon evolution is a temporary thing. You activate it for a short period and then when your monster has used that strength boost it reverts back to an earlier stage in its development. Also all these stages have terms attached such as champion stage, ultimate stage and of course “Mega”*

Evolution in pokemon is a permanent mutation with pros and cons. Although your monster gets stronger it also gets less cute and learns moves more slowly. Also it can change the typing and the ability entirely and once your evolve there is no going back. Mega Evolution then isn’t an evolution in pokemon terms, it’s a power-up coupled with a sprite change. It shouldn’t be called evolution.

I doubt it will bother me too much whilst playing the game (unless it becomes a major plot point) but it is the first piece of X and Y news I’ve actively disliked.

On a more positive note Nintendo also announced Pokemon: The Origin, a oneoff anime special that will tell the story of Red and Blue.

Who are Red and Blue you may ask? Well they’re the stars of the original pokemon games and the original pokemon manga.

“Isn’t that Ash Ketchum?” you oh so naively ask?

NO, NO IT ISN’T ASH FUCKING IDIOT KETCHUM! YOU SHUT YOUR DAMN MOUTH NOOB! RED IS AWESOME ASH IS A TEN YEAR OLD IDIOT WITH SOME KIND OF GROWTH DEFICIENCY AND…

Sorry I, may have lost my composure for a bit there.

But to answer your question more succinctly, no, Ash is the star of the anime and is very similar to Red but Red existed as a character prior to the anime and has a few key differences. For starters he is a much more seriously minded character and a far better pokemon trainer. Ash has never won a league but Red became the champion of the original league and an enemy trainer in Gold and Silver.

This new anime is the first time Red and his rival Blue will feature in a cartoon. I’m usually not a fan of the pokemon anime. It’s fine for what it is; a cartoon to get kids interested in buying pokemon games and toys and whilst I haven’t watched the original Japanese version** the English dub can be surprisingly funny at times.

Pokemon: The Origin though looks like a lot of fun. As well as pushing all my nostalgia buttons hard the animation looks gorgeous. Nintendo may have convinced me to watch a pokemon anime for the first time since I was ten.**

Last bit of nerdy news to discuss is the announcement of the new Doctor Who: this guy.

Peter-Capaldi-Doctor-Who1-1060x655

My reaction to the last two new Doctor announcements was “who?” followed by “he’s a bit young isn’t he?” followed by instantly loving them once I got to see them perform as the Doctor. So the fact that my reaction this time was “oh I know him, good actor,” followed by “oh and he’s the oldest doctor since the first, interesting.” might just mean that I have doomed Capaldi’s efforts before they begin.

Seriously though Peter Capaldi is a fine actor and he can do that turning emotions on a dime thing that David Tennant used to do in his sleep. He’s bound to be significantly less physical than Matt Smith but this is no bad thing, and the age gap means we can shake this companion/doctor romance stuff that has permeated nearly every doctor/companion relationship in the modern show.

I also like the fact that millions of fangirls on twitter are upset that they cast an older bloke because I am perverse and enjoy the misery of others. Especially fangirls and fanboys.

It will be sad to see Matt Smith go though. He is easily my all time favourite doctor. It’s all in the way he moves; like an alien who isn’t sure what his arms are for.

Sadly Steven Moffat will be staying on as show runner which is a shame. I love Moffat as a writer, Coupling, Sherlock, these are some of my favourite TV shows of all time and the episodes he wrote whilst Russell T Davies was in charge of Doctor Who were among the best the show ever produced. However, his tenure as show runner has been overall bad. There have been some highlights and some good stories but the general quality of stories has taken a sharp turn down.

So that’s my thoughts on some recent nerdy topics. Tomorrow normal service resumes with some film reviews.

* this knowledge gained entirely from the anime, I never played any of the games

** this isn’t strictly true actually, I used to watch it on the treadmill at the gym in Kobe but between running and it being in Japanese I didn’t really follow the dialogue very well. Other things I used to watch whilst on the treadmill included baseball and sumo which are a bit easier to follow without dialogue.

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