Tag Archives: Talion: Revenant

The Good Bits: January 2017

Music:

TWRP, Ladyworld (Self-Released)

twrp

My favorite album of January is a departure from what you might normally see in my music listings. Tupper Ware Remix Party (or TWRP) was brought to my attention last year when Ninja Sex Party released their covers album. TWRP was the backing band for most of the album, expertly recreating some of the most well known songs of the 80’s. With the release of their new album Ladyworld, I took it upon myself to finally check out the band’s own work and was met with a catchy delight full of positive vibes. TWRP is firmly grounded in the 80’s aesthetic, touching on elements of rock, synthwave, and funk, while focusing on a message we can all get behind: loving your lady. This is most apparent on tracks such as “R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Her” and, my personal favorite, “Body Image”, featuring a chorus both catchy and inspiring in its message. The album also features Arin Hanson (Game Grumps, Starbomb) and Ninja Sex Party, returning the guest appearance favor for TWRP on the final track “Built 4 Love.” The album is on the short side, clocking in at under thirty minutes, but I think that feels just right for a band like TWRP; it’s an upbeat listen to punch-up your day, giving you that little feel good boost we all so often need.

 

Galactic Empire, Galactic Empire (Rise)

galactic-empire

You know me, I love my Star Wars, my metal, and metal versions of non-metal songs. So having a whole album comprised of the most iconic pieces of John Williams’ legendary score turned to metal is nothing but good news. The group has put out a few videos that have made the rounds on social media and now they’ve put out a full LP. It’s a pretty straightforward album; we go from “Main Theme” to the expected “Imperial March”, then touch on a few pieces from the prequels such as “Duel of the Fates” (which uses actual vocals) and “Across The Stars” before capping it off with “Throne Room/End Title.” All of the arrangements are impeccable with excellent guitar tone and feature close attention to all the little nuances from Williams’ score. Any Star Wars fan, metalhead or no, will enjoy this tribute to one of the greatest film soundtracks ever.

 

Film:

Prometheus, (Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender)
Director: Ridley Scott
Released: June 8th 2012

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I didn’t really see any new movies released this month, but I did watch Prometheus in preparation for May’s Alien: Covenant. The Alien series is one I’m catching up on, having neglected it for a number of years. Now I’ve finally watched the prequel to the series that I’ve heard much about, opinions always mixed. My personal experience with the film turned out to be very enjoyable one, exceeding my expectations thanks to its spectacular visuals, atmosphere, and theme.

My view of the movie was prefaced with the general opinion that the film, while gorgeous, has a “meh” plot, and I can see where that opinion comes from. There’s some horror movie cliches you can pick out early on, especially if you’re familiar with the other films, and the movie raises more questions than it actually answers. But I forgive the film’s plot because it caters more to theme than revelation. The parallels between the Greek myth of Prometheus and the Prometheus crew are woven into the narrative and share the same message: if you try to get on the same level as Gods, you’re going to be in for a hurtin’. Sure, we all came here for the Xenomorph, but I appreciate where Prometheus stands as far as its own story and theme.

 

Godzilla (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston)
Director: Gareth Edwards
Released: May 16th, 2014

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Here’s one that’s been on my list since the first trailer but that got away from me. I finally got to watch Godzilla in anticipation of this year’s Kong: Skull Island, which is set in a shared universe with the former film. I’m not necessarily a long time Godzilla fan, meaning I’ve only seen one or two of the classic films and not much else. But that doesn’t mean I don’t understand how awesome Godzilla is, or at least can be in the right hands. Like Prometheus, I heard a lot of mixed reception about this film, usually amounting to, “The thirty minutes of Godzilla are great but the rest is boring.” Upon viewing, I do agree that the comparatively small amount of time spent with Godzilla is FUCKING AWESOME, but I would argue that it’s only so awesome because of all the time that isn’t spent on him.

Now, I understand why the majority of the plot spent with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, a Lieutenant in the US Navy, and Ken Watanabe, basically a kaiju expert, might be considered boring, the main reason being that neither of them are an enormous destructive monster. But I would argue that spending time with the characters is what helps create the overwhelming sense of awe that is meant to surround Godzilla. Sure, we could have had a film that was ninety percent Godzilla smashing things, but there’s always been more to Godzilla than that. The original movie essentially portrayed Godzilla like an atom bomb, an unstoppable, destructive force all the more powerful because of that sense of shock and awe. Now think about how many explosions and city destroying monster movies we’ve gotten in recent years that are soulless, mindless action (Pacific Rim being a notable except because that movie rules). The decision to focus more on the human characters and their perceptive builds anticipation to a boiling point, and when we finally see Godzilla in all his glory and hear his roar, you get serious chills. Because Godzilla isn’t here to entertain you; you’re here to witness him.

 

Books:

Talion: Revenant by Michael A. Stackpole

talion-revenant

Standalone fantasy novels are a rare breed not because there aren’t many of them but because they don’t seem to get as much attention. It’s understandable as the landmark fantasy novels are typically epic in scale and scope, spanning across anywhere from three to five to eight books. But there’s a lot to love from single entries, the most notable being that you don’t have to prepare yourself for the plunge into multiple books and you get a complete story arc all in one go. So I went looking for one, preferably something I’d never heard of before, and came up with Talion: Revenant by Michael A. Stackpole, best known for penning several Star Wars books from the old Expanded Universe. The result is an enjoyable fantasy novel that, for the modern reader, doesn’t turn genre conventions on its head, but does tell a satisfying tale of heroic fantasy.

The story tells of a man named Nolan, a Talion Justice, a highly skilled and feared warrior who, as his title implies, travels about the Shattered Empire righting wrongs and delivering retribution. They are known for their ability to suck out the souls of wrongdoers as a method of execution, which is why they are so feared. The chapters alternate between Nolan in the present, fully grown and trained, and Nolan as a boy, fleeing from his country after his family was slaughtered by a neighboring country. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this style of storytelling at first; being constantly pulled back and forth through past and present can make it hard to maintain momentum in the story, but it eventually won me over as the chapters usually parallel each others subject matter. It’s also told in a first person perspective, which I also questioned at first, but I understood it was more fitting for the story.

The big hook of the story, displayed right on the front and back cover, is that Nolan is assigned a mission where he must pose as a noble in order to protect a king from a seemingly unkillable creature. The catch? This is the very same king of the country that killed Nolan’s family. It sets the story up for a tense duty vs. vengeance dilemma, but, slight spoiler alert, that doesn’t end up being the focal point. It certainly motivates Nolan and helps define his sense of justice, but the issue itself is kind of resolved in a few paragraphs. I can see what the intent was here i.e. spend your whole life plotting revenge then questioning yourself, but I did feel slightly mislead.

The good news? The overall plot of the book is still enjoyable. Young Nolan’s training to become a Justice makes for some interesting world building and character background that contrasts well with adult Nolan’s more action oriented scenes. There’s one or two twists as well that help to elevate the exciting finale which, despite this being a standalone book, leaves some room for a sequel. If you’re one for more traditional fantasy and/or don’t particularly feel like committing to a longer series, Talion: Revenant will deliver a well executed story with plenty of action and adventure to keep you invested.

 

Currently Reading:

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

do-androids-dream-of-electric-sheep

Confession: I have never seen Blade Runner. I’ve meant to for a long time, and with the sequel coming this year I’ve all the more reason to finally watch it. But I figured, while I have the time, I should read the book that the film is loosely based on. I’ve also never read Philip K. Dick before. It’s a short book and I’m nearly done, so expect a full review next month.

 

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The Good Bits: December 2016

As I write this, I am also coming up with a post for the Best Bits of 2016, which, admittedly, is going to overshadow this one a bit. Still, I can’t leave December out of the mix, especially since the most hyped-up movie of the year came out (and I’m not talking about Sing, though it was a fun movie).

Music:

Hyperion, Seraphical Euphony (Black Lion)
Released: February 6th 2016

hyperion

Every year, before I put together a list of my favorite albums, I embark on a search for any albums that I missed during the year in an effort to weed out any hidden gems. There’s always at least one every year, and this year it came in the form of the debut album from Swedish blackened death metal band Hyperion. Nowadays, I tend to lean toward slow, progressive kind of bands and it takes a really kickass album to hook me back into something fast, shreddy, and deadly. Hyperion does just that with incredibly fast riffs and raspy vocals, but they aren’t afraid to get melodic, something I always appreciate. It’s not only one of the best debut albums of the year, but one of my favorites overall. I haven’t spent as much time with it as other albums from this past year, but I spent enough time to know Hyperion are worth keeping on the radar.

 

 

Film:

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn)
Director: Gareth Edwards
Released: December 16th 2016

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I honestly wasn’t sure if I was ready for a new Star Wars film. Don’t get me wrong, I love Star Wars and was certainly excited for Rogue One, but knowing this was officially the start of a new movie every year made me wonder if it was going to be too much too soon. Having two or three Marvel movies out is one thing because they usually span different types of genres depending on which hero is up front. But a new entry for the biggest blockbuster franchise every year? Sounds too good to be true. And while there may come a day when a new Star Wars film comes out and ends up being a dud or people begin to feel fatigued by having a new one every year, it is not this day. Rogue One is a wonderful first entry in the Star Wars anthology series, hauling in just enough satisfying fan service without leaning on it while remaining a strong film in its own right.

FYI: I’m going to do my best to keep this spoiler free even though most of you have seen it at this point

For some people, Rogue One is a confusing follow-up to The Force Awakens in that it features none of those characters and is in fact set just before A New Hope, telling the story of how the Rebellion stole the plans to the Death Star. Here’s one thing to keep in mind about Rogue One: this is not your typical Star Wars movie. It’s not even like The Force Awakens. This is, in essence, a war movie with a dash of a heist plot telling the story of how the Rebel Alliance stole the plans to the Death Star. Jyn Erso (Jones) leads a ragtag group in search of her father, Galen, a scientist and key player in building the superweapon. The titular Rogue One is composed of a few archetypes such as a snarky droid, hotshot Captain, and a deadly spiritual fighter to name a few. They may sound one note, but they’re certainly fun to be around. Once again, this isn’t a hero’s journey where we see several characters growing and changing. These are the small timers, the moving gears of war that make the big moments for bigger characters possible.

On the other side of the table is Director Orson Krennic (Mendelsohn), Grand Moff Tarkin (featuring a digitally resurrected Peter Cushing) and, the one and only, Darth Vader. While Krennic is interesting to watch, he does get a bit overshadowed by his peers. Seeing Peter Cushing onscreen again is going to be hit or miss depending on how creepy you think the CGI is. Personally, I enjoyed it and think it contributes to the film’s authenticity, though I wouldn’t want to see a whole movie led by something like that. Vader, of course, is awesome even with his expectedly small onscreen time, and is a big contributor to making the last ten minutes some of the best in Star Wars history.

I’m beginning to realize there’s way too much to cover to cover for this movie, and I like to keep things brief, so I’ll try to narrow it down: Rogue One is excellently crafted to fit the aesthetic of A New Hope and will certainly tick all the nostalgic boxes. That said, Gareth Edwards’ direction makes the film feel different from other films, rather than trying to stick to the template as The Force Awakens did. It’s fresh and familiar, and while some fans might not like the dark tones and deviations, I think there’s plenty of Star Wars magic in this film, proving that we can have more films that don’t rely on the Skywalker’s or Jedi. It’s a worth addition to the saga and I can’t wait to see it again.

 

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell)
Director: David Yates
Released: November 18, 2016

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I’m a little late with this one since it came out in November, but better late than never. Here we have yet another prequel set in the universe of one of the biggest Hollywood franchises, the difference being that Fantastic Beasts is set to kick off a series of five films. Now, I consider myself a relatively big Harry Potter fan; not quite a fanatic like I am with Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, but I grew up reading HP and they had a pretty big impact on my reading tastes as well as my writing. That being said, the idea that we’re getting four more of these movies feels like…a lot? Not that I’m judging the film on its future plans, but I’m skeptical of the series’ longevity especially where there are several other Potterverse stories that can be told (feel-good Quidditch movie anyone?). Regardless, Fantastic Beasts is a dazzling, surprisingly dark, stuffed first entry to the proposed series.

I have to give big ups to the film for being a well done prequel. Sure, you get some name drops like Dumbledore or Hogwarts, but it manages to stand on its own merits without heavy reliance on what fans already know. The cast is entertaining; Eddie Redmayne was born to play a wizard and Dan Fogler stands out as a surprisingly entertaining muggle who gets dragged into the whole mess. Ezra Miller’s turn as a deeply disturbed teenage boy is some of the best acting in the film and is the centerpiece of the film’s aforementioned dark tone. I know I keep saying “dark” as if the original Potter films were all sunshine and farts, but there are themes and depictions in Fantastic Beasts that I wasn’t expecting, from child abuse (and I mean more so than living in a cupboard under the stairs) to capital punishment.

Visually, the movie is like someone took a dab of Tim Burton to the Wizarding World, which is neat and makes the titular beasts great fun to watch and marvel at. The 1920’s New York City setting mixes in a prohibition aesthetic with the Wizarding World to great effect, staying familiar enough to keep us grounded but giving the world a new flavor. The big sticking point for the film is plot, however, which isn’t necessarily amazing or terrible, but it’s just…a lot. A lot of characters and stories are introduced to you very quickly and certain plotlines overshadow the others whenever they mingle. I would have been perfectly fine watching Newt Scamander running around NYC recollecting his creatures, but there’s also talks of the stability between wizard and muggle relations in the US, whispers of the deeds of dark wizard Grindelwald, and numerous backstories for certain characters that are hinted at then left for another film. Now, I don’t necessarily have a hard time keeping track of multiple story arcs (I watch Game of Thrones after all), but so much is happening at the same time in this film, like a child just bursting to tell about its day and moving from one big event to the next without a breath in between. It doesn’t kill the film, but it does make me wonder if I want four more of these. Is this how other people felt while I sang the praises of the The Hobbit films ?

Potter fans will (or already do) love it. If you only saw the films and likely them, you’ll like this. Even if you’ve never delved into Harry Potter before, you may like it since it’s so far removed from the original films that you don’t require much prior knowledge. I’m questionable as to the quality of future films, but for now it’s an entertaining romp and a fun return to the world of J.K. Rowling.

 

 

Currently Reading:

Talion: Revenant by Michael A. Stackpole

talion-revenant

I’m more than halfway through the book and it’s still good so far, though here and there I find things that aren’t quite to my taste. That said, the book is told from a first person perspective, something not often done in fantasy, and I’m enjoying the change. I’ll be done with this one by the next Good Bits.

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