SoundCloud Go: Is It Really Worth It?

Great, just what we need.  Another music streaming service.

A streaming service from SoundCloud is something that we have been anticipating ever since they started getting in cahoots with some big name label companies. Some time has passed and now here we are, the launch day of SoundCloud Go, the newest streaming service from the music platform known for its B-sides remixes and user-uploaded content.  What makes this service different from more established services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal?  Well…almost nothing.

soundcloud go
via SoundCloud

First, let’s talk about the part that you care about; the price.  SoundCloud Go is on par with the other services, offering its services for $9.99 a month or $12.99 if you sign up on the iPhone app.  What does this mean?  It means you’ll want to sign up for the service on the website, regardless if you are going to be using the Android or iPhone app.  (iTunes’ three-dollar transaction fee is a real pain in the ass) Luckily, the service offers a 30-day free trial for anybody who is weary of signing up for another streaming service.  It’s during this time that you will quickly notice that SoundCloud Go might not be what it’s hyped up to be.

What do you get for the ten dollars a month?  Firstly, you get access to a premium library of content from well-known artists as well as some deeper-cuts.  SoundCloud has been working with record labels like UMG, Sony, Merlin, and Warner to give its premium users a larger library to choose from.  The service also promises its paying customers offline listening for individual tracks and playlists as well as an ad-free listening experience.  You know, your standard music streaming fare.  The only thing that sets SoundCloud apart from its not-so-surprising lack of music…which is a bad way to be different.

I decided to run some tests on the mobile app.  I did a search for Lupe Fiasco, which yielded these results:

Search results for Lupe Fiasco…not bad.

As you can see, this provides an example of what the search results will look like for premium users.  Now take note of the number of tracks related to Lupe Fiasco.  151 isn’t a bad number.  The service seemed to have a good portion of Lupe’s library.

I was impressed that SoundCloud Go had his latest, Tetsuo & Youth, on the service.

That was a good sign.  It’s when I started searching for other artists that I started to run into some problems.  Let’s take Adele for example:

Again, not that bad…but could be better.

Once again, there was a good amount of Adele tracks, but there were some notable absences as well.  The service seems to have her albums 19 and 21 but her latest album, 25, is nowhere to be found.  The album’s key song, “Hello,” is the lone song available to users.  SoundCloud was boasting about having artists like Adele on their service…but if you’re going to boast about an artist you should probably have their library in its entirety.

What about Jay-Z?  Well…not too many marbles:

Shout-out to that hot new track “When Is Someone Gonna Sue Jay-Z?” I heard its a banger.

This might have been a search destined to fail, considering the rap icon co-owns the streaming service Tidal, but his music can still be found on other services like Spotify.  Spotify has a robust Jay-Z library…which pulverizes SoundCloud Go’s current offerings…which isn’t much.  I did other searches for artists like Rihanna and Drake…and the lack of music was pretty consistent.

The service claims to have 125+ million tracks available to users on the platform.  However, what they don’t tell you is how this number breaks down.  Based on some reporting by The Verge, 110 million of those tracks are remixes of existing songs or user-uploaded content.  That leaves a measly 15 million tracks that are totally original.  This might seem like a large number, but it pales in comparison to its competitors.  SoundCloud has made it clear that they are working around the clock to bring more tracks to the service, but they have a lot of legwork to cover if they want to keep up with the other streaming giants.  These services are all about user-retention and SoundCloud isn’t going to keep too many of its paying customers with the library that they have now.

As you saw from the screenshots above, the mobile interface remains relatively unchanged, which is a good thing.  You don’t want too much change all at once.  One of the more frustrating aspects of the service hasn’t changed however and that is the organization.  Unlike other services, SoundCloud presents its song in an unorganized fashion.  For example, searching for Adele’s album 19 gave me this:

Tis a barren wasteland of obscurity…

Nothing.  The service doesn’t organize its music by albums.  Your straight out of luck if you want to listen to an artist’s full album uninterrupted.  You have to go to each track individually and play them that way, which becomes super tedious and annoying.  Sure, you could get around this by creating a playlist by adding each song from an album individually…but who has time for that?  Album organization seems like a no-brainer…but you’ll just have to settle.

The Now Playing screen should look familiar to anybody who has used the SoundCloud app before:

Standard stuff…nothing major in terms of options.

You can’t see it in this screenshot, but most tracks will have a download button that allows you to download the track for listening later, similar to most mobile streaming apps.  You can also start track stations that play similar sounds and you can add tracks to playlists.  You can then download these playlists for later listening.  This stuff seems to work pretty well…but that’s the least surprising thing about the whole experience.  If you have used another streaming service, then you should feel right at home.

SoundCloud Go still has a long road ahead of itself if it wants to catch up with its bigger and badder competitors. I always liked SoundCloud for it’s deep-cut remixes and tracks from up-and-coming artist and DJs.  Initial tests make it seem like this can all be done for free.  What you’re paying for is the bigger libraries from more well-established artists.  Unfortunately, the content availability is slim-pickings at this point, but more content should be coming in the future.  Enough to rival its competitors like Spotify and Apple Music?  Probably not.  If you primarily use SoundCloud to catch up with newer and more underground artists, then paying for premium features is probably not necessary.  As of now, SoundCloud Go isn’t worth your ten dollars a month.  Maybe the future will prove otherwise…but I don’t have good feelings for the service moving forward.


Review: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

ethan carter coverThe Vanishing of Ethan Carter (2014)

PS4 / Rated M


Publisher: The Astronauts, Nordic Games, EuroVideo Medien GmbH

Developer: The Astronauts

Never have I felt more alone while playing a video game than I have in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.  The game literally throws you straight into the world with no guidance or hand-holding.  I’m serious, the game straight up tells you that from the very beginning.  There was a lush landscape in front of me that was just calling my name.  The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is game chock full of discovery, beauty, mystery, and sometimes horrifying imagery.  There’s some weird things going on and it’s your job to investigate.

ethan carter 1
via Push Square

Players assumes the role of a nameless detective who’s tasked with finding a missing boy.  As a detective, you have the power to rip holes in reality, giving you visuals of horrible crimes that have taken place within the game’s world.  It’s necessary to go around and put these visuals together to solve the mystery of the missing child.  A lot of this legwork involves stumbling upon a rift in reality in the environment and then proceeding to investigate the rift.  A lot of these investigations involve piecing together the events of crimes and forming a clear picture of what took place.

The game sets a tone of loneliness as there is no one to be found as you roam around the gorgeously lush world.  The sense of discovery that the game provides is immense.  The game doesn’t tell you where to go…leaving the exploration to the player.  There’s forests, lakes, cottages, and caves that you will end up exploring.  Each of these environments are beautiful and look wonderful on the PS4.  I haven’t seen the PC version but I can only imagine that the visuals are heightened on the platform.  Sometimes it’s a little tough to figure out where you need to go next, but you’ll most likely stumble upon the places you need to go without having to worry about it.

ethan carter 2
via New Game Network

The amount of interaction you have with the world is limited, but the game does a good job at enticing you to move forward.  Most of the gameplay involves pressing a button to open up a visual of a previous crime or walking around and piecing together different events of a crime. There’s also some lite puzzle solving, but nothing that will drive you crazy. That’s about it.  There’s not much to be found in terms of gameplay, but the exploration more than makes up for the lack of interaction that you have with the world.  There was a multitude of times where I just wandered away from my objective and just took in the sights and sounds.  There were many vistas and landscapes that seemed screenshot worthy.  In fact, 98% of the game is screenshot worthy.  98% is an arbitrary number…there’s no science behind it.

Remember the game Everybody Has Gone to the Rapture?  Yeah, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is basically that game but better in almost every way.  (Graphics wise, the two are comparable) In both games you are walking around the environment piecing together the events that took place prior.  There’s a sense of mystery and intrigue in both games, but TVOEC captured my interest way more than EHGTTR.  The story in TVOEC is a lot more interesting and gave me more incentive to explore and dig deeper.

ethan carter 3
via New Game Network

I feel like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a game that passed everybody by.  It didn’t make a big splash when it was first released and the talk surrounding the game waned as weeks went on.  Hell, I even passed up the game when it first came out.  I remember looking at it and having interest in playing it, but I never went back to it.  I am glad I finally visited this short and unique experience.  Its full of interesting ideas and intrigue-driven exploration.  The game also looks fantastic, probably one of the prettiest I have seen in years.  It’s an extremely immersive experience that is worth sinking some time in.

ethan carter score

Also available on PC.

Review: Three Fourths Home

three fourths home cover
via PS3 Life

Three Fourths Home (2014)

PS4 / Rated M


Publisher: Digerati Distribution

Developer: [bracket]games

There’s something about long car drives through the middle of nowhere.  They’re therapeutic and relaxing.  How about adding some rain into the mix?  The rain drops bead up on the windshield of your car as you continue on your drive.  There’s really nothing like the experience of the open road and the pleasant sights, sounds, and smells of a spring rain.  Now, what would make this experience ten times worse?  What if you replaced the rain with a tree-splitting tornado and the open road silence with a stressful conversation with your family that you haven’t talked to in a while?  That’s basically the anxiety-inducing premise of Three Fourths Home, an interactive visual novel.

three fourths home 1
via I Play PSVita

The interactive piece of fiction places you in the shoes of Kelly Meyers, a young girl traveling home through the corn-fields of Nebraska.  She has just recently moved back in with her parents and her brother after being gone for some time.  She left home in the first place to attend college, but hasn’t kept in touch with her family as much as she might’ve wanted to.  On the way home, things start to go bad as big storm starts to kick in.  Making matters worse, you’re on the phone with your mom talking about a whole slate of different topics ranging from school to your dad’s drinking problem.  Kelly’s family take turns passing the phone around as they put her through the gauntlet of family drama…the last thing you need as your pushing 80-90 mph in order to make it home before the Tornado gets the better of you.

You don’t do much in Three Fourths Home besides navigating text choices during the phone conversation with your family.  There’s moments were you don’t have a choice in how to respond, but it’s mostly on you to decide how you want the conversation to go.  You can be negative or positive in the way you talk with your family.  You can burn bridges or mend them.  It’s all up to you.  The conversations start at the surface level but as storm ramps up, so does the intensity of the drama.  The storm taking place outside your car is indicative of the intensity of the conversation your having with your family…which is really cool.

three fourths home 2
via Vandal

Visuals play a key part in what makes Three Fourths Home so unique.  The game’s art style is primarily black and white.  It gives the game a dreary and depressing tone, which fits perfectly with what’s happening on your journey back home.  Kelly’s in a pretty crappy situation, in more ways than one, and the visuals reflect this in every way.  The sound design, consisting mostly of sounds of rain, thunder, and wind, meshes well with what’s taking place as well.  Three Fourths Home does a pretty bang-up job of immersing players into its tense atmosphere.

Some of the controls are a little wonky and they can take some time to get used to.  I found myself repeatedly pressing the wrong buttons, causing me to in turn choose the wrong dialogue options.  It wasn’t a major problem but it led to some annoying situations that put me down a path that I didn’t want to be in.  You’re driving a car for the entirety of the short little experience, so you have to hold in one of the triggers to keep the car, and the conversation, moving.  This leaves players with an awkward control scheme that might not be too familiar.

three fourths home 3
via Game Planet

The writing is well done and searing and makes it easy to picture the people you are talking to in your head.  During the course of the game you never see Kelly’s family, but the writing leaves you room to form those characters in your head.  The game is short, lasting roughly 1-2 hours, but it builds up its characters and makes you care about them in the short amount of time.  There were times where I wished there was a little more visually going on, but the stark atmosphere of the long open road does enough more than enough to keep players going.

Three Fourths Home is short and to the point, but it tells a deep and painful story about the reality of leaving your family hanging for a couple of years.  The game succeeds in that it makes you sit back and reflect about your family and how much you talk to them.  It’s eye-opening in a way that I wasn’t expecting.  There’s a couple of rough patches here and there but this short little interactive piece of fiction is something special and worth a try.  It’s not that expensive and it will leave you moved in some form or fashion.

three fourths home score

Fallout 4 Automatron: Robots, Robots, and More Robots

fallout 4 automatron coverFallout 4 might have been released last November, but the game is far from being drained out.  New content is on the way, starting with the latest piece of DLC for Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic RPG, Automatron.  The add-on is small when you compare it to the DLC that was released for Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, but there is a substantial bit of content that adds some pretty cool features to the base game.

fallout 4 automatron 1
via 3D Juegos

Robots get the spotlight in Automatron.  The DLC is all about robots.  During the add-on’s first moments, you stumble upon a fight in progress between a caravan of wasteland survivors and a band of rogue robots.  You lend your fighting skills to the battle, but ultimately can’t do anything to save the caravan.  You defeat the robots, but the only survivor from the battle is a robot companion named Ada.  She informs you that the rogue robots are a product of the mysterious figure known as the Mechanist.  The Mechanist has been developing a high number of heavily armed robots and setting them free across the Commonwealth to help the people they come across.  Misinterpretation can be deadly however, as the robots take it upon themselves to “kill” the people of the Commonwealth, instead of “help.”

With your newfound robot companion Ada at your side, it becomes your mission to investigate who this mysterious Mechanist is and why he is doing what he is doing.  The new DLC contains a short little quest line, consisting of four new missions.  The quest line is short, requiring only about two-three hours of your time.  The story is short, but sweet and tells an interesting story that wraps up pretty nicely.  It’s nothing mind-blowing, but it will keep you entertained.  It will give you a chance to revisit some existing locations as well as some new areas, including a new RobCo facility full of deadly robots that want your blood.

fallout 4 automatron 2
via PS4 France

The quests and storyline that that DLC provides are nice, but let’s get into the aspect that everybody comes for; the robot building.  Yep, the DLC gives you the ability to modify Ada or construct your own robot.  As you make your way through the DLC, you will pick up various robot parts that you can use to customize your own robot.  You can modify things like armor, weapons, special abilities, and the paint job of your robot.  There’s a lot of customization tools at your disposal, giving players the ability to make some intense looking robots.  The customization and modding pretty much works just like the base games’ weapon and armor customization, so familiar players should feel right at home.  There’s not too much you can do in terms of paint jobs, which is a little unfortunate.  Players have the ability to give their Power Armor some pretty neat paint jobs, so I was hoping it was going to be the same for the robots.  Base colors make up the only paint jobs you can give your robot…which is a small bummer.

During my play-through I only modified Ada, so I can’t speak too much for what it’s like to create your own robots.  However, it was a lot of fun and had enough tools to let you be creative in the type of robot you want to make.  You can develop Sentry Bots, Mr. Handy Robots, Assaultrons, and other robots similar to what you can find in the world.  Speaking of robot enemies, there’s a plethora of new robot enemies that you’ll encounter in Automatron.  They range from simple junk bots to massive, and slightly terrifying, Sentry Bots with skulls for faces. These new robots will prove tough to fight and there were a number of battles were getting overwhelmed was pretty easy.  The game sets the level requirement to 15, which makes sense.  Any level one player will get mowed down in seconds.  The robots aren’t too tough, but they will put up a fight unlike some of the other enemies from the base game.

fallout 4 automatron 3
via Softpedia

A mark of a good DLC is if it enriches existing content in addition to providing something new.  New stuff is always nice, but if the DLC doesn’t give you a reason to go back to the base game, then what’s the point of making it an add-on?  Automatron gives players a whole new set of customization tools that give the incentive for you to go back through the wasteland to collect materials for your new robots.  I was a little lukewarm at first when the first two Fallout 4 add-ons were small little experiences, but Automatron proved its worth pretty quickly.  The pack’s price, $9.99 (the price if you didn’t pick up the Season Pass), is worth it if you are hesitant on picking up the, now more expensive, Season Pass.

Review: Daredevil Season 2

daredevil s2 posterDaredevil (Season 2) (2016)

Netflix / TVMA

Action / Crime / Drama

Starring: Charlie Cox, Jon Bernthal, Deborah Ann Woll

Creator: Drew Goddard

Morality seems to be a hot button topic in superhero movies and TV these days.  This weekend was the debut of Batman v Superman, which focuses heavily on the actions of Superman and whether they are warranted or not.  We also have the impending release of Captain America: Civil War, which looks to put the Avengers in check for their destruction that they construct around them.  The intentions are always good behind a superhero’s actions, but you have to consider the innocent that get caught in the crossfire.  A different type of morality is at the center of Marvel and Netflix’s second season of Daredevil.  This time we have another strong season that raises the question as to whether killing is warranted or not.  It’s not the most original idea, but the season shines nonetheless with a strong story and amazing cinematography.

daredevil s2 1
via Slate

Charlie Cox reprises his role as Matt Murdock, a lawyer by day and the devil of Hell’s Kitchen by night.  The other two employees of Nelson & Murdock and good friends of Matt are Foggy Nelson and Karen Page, played once again by Elden Henson and Deborah Ann Woll respectively.  The group dynamic between the three is tested this season, unlike last season.  Last season there was tension here and there but this season we have a heightened sense of mistrust and stress, thanks in part to one of the biggest cases they have ever had as a law firm.  This big case involves Frank Castle, also known as the Punisher.

The Punisher, played brilliantly by Jon Bernthal, is a cold-blooded vigilante that isn’t afraid to take the law into his own hands…by any means necessary.  He’s a killer, with the mindset that taking the bad guys off the street for good is much better than Daredevil’s methods of putting them in jail.  After things go bad for Castle, he is put on trial for his actions.  New York and Hell’s Kitchen are tired of this vigilantism that has been taking over the city.  The public wants him out of the picture, as well as Daredevil.  Morality is a key idea that is brought up time and time again as the season goes on.  The Punisher’s character is kind of boring at the beginning of the season, but he starts to become a more multi-faceted character when we start to learn about his true motives and how he got to be the person that he is.  Even though he’s dirty in his ways, he started to become a lot more likable as time went on.  His relationship with Karen is fascinating as well and makes for some tense moments.

daredevil s2 2
via Digital Trends

One new character that was consistently interesting throughout the season was Elektra, played by newcomer Elodie Yung.  As an old love interest of Murdock’s she comes back into his life and literally flips things head over heels for Murdock.  She’s equal parts elusive, sexy, and fiery, making her one of my favorite characters this season.  She also tests Murdock’s ability to balance his normal work life and vigilante life, another big theme this season.  Between the massive court case and a gang of sinister thugs posing a threat to Hell’s Kitchen, Murdock really has his work cut out for him.

One of the things that hurts the season a bit is the lack of a strong villain.  The show’s debut season had The Kingpin, who was a fantastic and dynamic villain that proved to be a true menace.  Unfortunately, we don’t get a villain like the Kingpin this season.  The first half of the season makes it seem like the Punisher is the real enemy, but then the focus switches to the people that murdered the Punisher’s family.  Then there’s a mythical group that comes into play as well.  As the season drove towards the end, it started to become confusing as to which group of bad guys posed the biggest threat.  The last couple of episodes were pretty strong with a huge dose of intensity, but I never really understood who was the primary target of Murdock.

daredevil s2 3
via Yahoo

Just like the previous season, Daredevil continues to have some of the grittiest and heart-pulsing fights that we have seen.  Last season’s “hallway fight” took the internet by storm and we get a couple more “hallway fight” scenes this season, paying homage to the original in a way that will surely please fans.  The fights are well cut and put together, graceful with a touch of style.  They were always super fun to watch and they never became boring or too thin.

There’s a lot of powerful moments in this season of Daredevil that will please fans all around.  When it comes down to the thick of it, I liked the first season just a tad more than this season, but both seasons are special in their own way.  The second season has a nice share of callbacks to the first season while taking the show in a new direction.  The season suffers a little from a sluggish start and a lack of a clear villain, but don’t let that sway you from watching the latest iteration from one of Netflix’s best shows.

daredevil s2 score

Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

dawn of justice poster
via The Reel Word

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

PG-13 / 151 min

Action / Adventure / Fantasy

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams

Director: Zack Snyder

Batman v Superman is the worst movie you will see this year…maybe even ever.  The movie will make you hate Batman.  It will make you hate Superman.  It will make you hate Wonder Woman.  It will make you hate the Justice League and everything they stand for.  Oh, and how about that Lex Luthor guy?  Lex Luthor?  More like Lex Goober, am I right?  How did director Zack Snyder let this piece of garbage see the light of day?  It spits in the face of comic fans.  The movie will make you lose faith in comics.  In fact, you might as well take all the comics you own and take them outside and thrown them in your front lawn.  Once you do that, light up a match and throw them on the pile of comics you just threw outside.  Watching your prized collection of comics burn in the Spring sun will probably be more entertaining than Batman v Superman.

dawn of justice 1
via Uproxx

If you have been paying attention to the preemptive reviews for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the above paragraph is a summation of what you will find.  Alright, maybe I’m being a little too harsh but I’m not that far off.  The movie is getting slaughtered by critics.  Currently the movie is sitting pretty at an overripe 30% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes.  That isn’t good by any stretch of the imagination.  However, the fan score is a little more generous, sitting at 74% last time I checked.  In summary, the reviews are mixed.  It’s a polarizing movie that suffers from an overhyped promotion and release.  Dawn of Justice is inherently a fun movie to watch.  Who doesn’t want to see DC Comics’ best go at each other?  However, the movie has some drawbacks related to the story as well as the existence of its spoiler-heavy trailers.

Dawn of Justice, directed by Zack Snyder (who doesn’t really have a spotless track record when it comes to these types of movies), acts primarily as a story about Batman and Superman and their quests to take down LexCorp’s Lex Luthor.  Secondly, it serves as the springboard for future Justice League movies, introducing us to some of the superheroes that we are going to see.  I would have rather had a movie that just focused on its main objective, but instead it gets a little muddied with the Justice League stuff.  Lack of focus is a common theme as we get a wide collection of different ideas that Snyder just doesn’t seem to execute on.

dawn of justice 2

The question of whether the world needs a man like Superman, played by Henry Cavill, is brought up as one of the movie’s major themes.  The destruction that he leaves in his “heroic” wake is a concern for Batman, played by Ben Affleck, as well as Gotham and National city.  This idea has some weight behind it.  It’s an idea that could make for a strong movie if handled right.  Unfortunately, the last thirty-forty minutes of the movie, filled with fighting and destruction, kind of negates what Snyder was trying to set up.  This is just an example of the kinds of holes you will find scattered throughout Snyder’s over ambitious plot.  Snyder tries to cram too much stuff into one movie in hopes of creating some megalithic epic.  Instead we get an overcrowded and incoherent plot that left me exhausted instead of exhilarated.

The characterizations of Henry Cavill’s Superman/Clark Kent and Ben Affleck’s Batman/Bruce Wayne are where the movie exceeds.  The two do a great job at playing their respective heroes.  I didn’t know if I was on board with Ben Affleck’s casting at first, but he has grown on me as time has gone on.  Lois Lane, Clark Kent’s coworker/girlfriend at the Daily Planet, played by Amy Adams, does a pretty good job as well.  Unlike past depictions of the character, she is more than just a damsel in distress this time around.  Although she has her moments where she’s in need of the man in the cape, she is her own character that does her own things.  Her relationship with Clark Kent is a little more fleshed out which was nice to see.  She also does her own sleuthing during the middle part of the movie.  This whole aspect of the story seemed unnecessary but at least it made her feel like an integral part of the story.  Finally, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was very promising.  We don’t see her too much in the movie, but some of the movie’s best moments are when she’s on screen.  It gets me excited for her solo movie if nothing else.

dawn of justice 3
via HitFix

A character I did not like at all, and one of the most common criticisms of the movie, is Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor.  Putting it simply, he just didn’t work for me.  I’m not your biggest DC fan on the block, but I always pictured Lex Luthor to be a more serious and menacing figure.  Jesse Eisenberg captures Luthor’s intelligence, but almost nothing else.  He’s a little too off-the-walls crazy and goofy as if he was trying to mimic the Riddler or the Joker.  Any time Lex popped up in the movie I just couldn’t take him seriously whatsoever, which usually points to a weak villain.  The villain isn’t supposed to be the source of comic relief, at least in my eyes.

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing of all is the presence of Dawn of Justice’s trailers prior to the movie’s release.  The trailers just straight up gave away too about what was in store for the movie.  We saw Wonder Woman and Doomsday in the trailers, a publicity move that just doesn’t pay off.  The two were shown in the trailers to get people to flock to the theater, but the two characters would have benefited the movie a lot more if they were big surprise reveals.  Doomsday, the movie’s final villain (it’s not really a spoiler that I say that because hey, it was all in trailer), did not leave a big impression on me.  I can thank the trailers for that.  His presence in the trailers can also lead you to more conclusions about the movie, which I am not going to reveal because they would be spoilers.  However, if you go into the movie with these conclusions drawn up in your head, then prepare for the movie’s final scene to fall a little flat as well.

dawn of justice 4

Cinematography is where Dawn of Justice excels.  Snyder might not know what he is doing when it comes to the movie’s story and ideas, but the movie is a visual treat.  The fight scenes are beefy and well-shot.  They’re a little slower when compared to the Marvel movies, but they are still fun to watch.  The final fight scene, which spans the movie’s final forty minutes, is a big piece of eye candy.  There are times when it becomes a garbled mess of action, but watching Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman fight Doomsday was thrilling and exciting to watch.

As far as Summer blockbusters go, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice might disappoint some people.  In a post Nolan Batman trilogy world, we expect a lot more from superhero movies these days.  When compared to the Nolan Trilogy, Dawn of Justice doesn’t have a prayer.  The movie is a dumb fun superhero popcorn movie that has some issues that will polarize fans.  I personally enjoyed myself, but it’s not a movie that I will be itching to go see again.  Dawn of Justice is a movie that tries to do too much.  It’s a movie that crumbles under the weight of expectation, but it doesn’t break.

dawn of justice score

The Ups and Downs of The Passion Live

Whether your religious or not, the story of Jesus and his crucifixion on Good Friday is a story that you have probably heard at one point or another.  It’s an important story, one full of love, sacrifice, and strength.  It’s a story still relevant to us today, even though it took place almost hundreds of years ago.  As important as the story may be, there is still a large demographic of people that are not too familiar with the story of Jesus.  This was the motivation behind actor and director Tyler Perry’s live telecast, The Passion Live.  The live “musical” telecast was broadcasted Sunday night on Fox and is a more modern and contemporary retelling of the story of Jesus and his crucifixion.

the passion live 1
via The Inqusitr

Live musicals have started to become very popular in the past couple of years.  NBC was the originator of the live musical format, debuting musicals like The Sound of Music Live! and Peter Pan Live!  Fox soon followed in their footsteps with January’s Grease: Live.  The shows have attracted a large audience and their “rain or shine” live production fascinate audiences.  The decision to bring the story of Jesus to this live format has its pros and cons.  The show debuted primetime on Sunday night, which is a pretty good way of getting the story to the most amount of people.  Unfortunately, this meant that it had to compete with popular shows like The Walking Dead.  It seemed doomed from the start.  However, the telecast’s biggest draw was the feeling of curiosity.  How were they going to tell the story of Jesus in a modern fashion?  What angle where they going to take?  What kind of show is this going to be?

The Passion Live swaps out the robes and religious locations for jeans and the popular locales of New Orleans.  A large live stage was set up along the Mississippi river at Woldenburg Park.  This is where the event’s narrator, Tyler Perry, and the rest of the musicians set up shop.  There was also a number of pre-recorded segments that followed Jesus and his disciples, shot all around New Orleans.  There was also a large-scale procession carrying an illuminated cross through the streets of New Orleans, starting at Champion Square outside the Superdome and making its way to the live stage at Woldenburg Park.  They went all out in terms of production, which kind of detracted from the whole story that the show was supposed to be centered on.

the passion live 2
via The Christian Post

The big man himself, Jesus, was played by Jencarlos Canela from TV show Telenovela.  Jesus’ mother Mary was played by Trisha Yearwood, who didn’t really do too much besides sing on the main stage.  The two most important disciples in the story were Peter and Judas, played by Prince Royce and Chris Daughtry respectively.  Finally, Pontius Pilate was played by singer Seal, who had some of the most notable musical performances of the night.  The cast all in all was pretty good.  They hammed it up during their musical numbers and there wasn’t too much acting during the short pre-recorded sequences, but they tackled their roles nicely.

The musical performances were…well, the interesting part of the night.  If you were expecting gospel and church music, then you definitely did not get what you expected.  Contemporary music was the theme of the night.  Songs like Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally” and Evanescence’s “Wake Me Up” are examples of what you heard during the course of the night, because you know, Katy Perry and Evanescence are the first two artists I think about when I think of the Bible.  Seal impressed the most with performances of “We Don’t Need Another Hero” from Mad Max as well as “Mad World.”  He didn’t have too much involvement in the story up till the end, but he pretty much killed it with his two performances.  Chris Daughtry also gave some of the better performances of the night.

the passion live 3
via IB Times

If The Passion Live focused on just the performances and the actual story of Jesus and the Passion, then all would have been dandy.  Instead, there was a bunch of needless distractions muddying the waters.  Tyler Perry’s narration was a bit excessive and kind of made the show about him.  He just kept talking and talking, introducing scenes as they came about.  It’s a bad sign if the show’s scenes needed that much narration and set-up.  The scenes and the musical performances should have done the talking.  The cross walk, although good in intentions, didn’t really fit in to what the show was about.  There were pre-screened interviews along the way, with families and war veterans.  These segments were okay, but once again, it took the attention away from the main story at hand.

The Passion Live was a weird, and interesting, idea that dropped the ball in execution.  The music was top notch but the handling of the event was not.  Unlike the other live musicals that have come to TV, the story was not the main focus.  All of the outside stuff took the spotlight.  If Tyler Perry would have just centered the production on the story of Jesus, then we might have had a unique production on our hands.  Instead we got a telecast that felt like a Super Bowl halftime show instead.

the passion live 4
via IB Times

Review: LEGO Marvel’s Avengers

lego avengers cover
via Superhero Hype Forums

LEGO Marvel’s Avengers (2016)

PS4 / Rated E

Action / Adventure

Publisher: WB Games

Developer: TT Games

At this point, I will pretty much play any LEGO game that you put in front of me.  LEGO and Traveller’s Tales have been putting these games out for years, largely without change in the classic LEGO game formula.  Sure, there have been changes along the way like open world gameplay and voice acting, but the actual backbone that these games run on has stayed tried and true, for better or worse.  This has turned a lot of people away from these games, but I find myself coming back over and over again thanks to the franchises that the games tackle.

lego avengers 1
via Gameinformer

This time around, Marvel’s highly popular Avengers franchise gets the spotlight.  This isn’t the first time that Marvel’s superheroes have gotten the LEGO treatment.  This games predecessor was aptly titled LEGO Marvel Superheroes.  With Marvel’s Avengers, the first two Avengers movies, along with some of the other Marvel movies that have come out around them, are the primary focus with the main cast of characters being everybody’s favorite band of superheroes.  Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, the Hulk, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and the Vision make up the main selection of superheroes that you will be able to take control of, along with a surplus of other lesser known characters.

Anybody that has seen the first two Avengers movies (seemingly everybody at this point) should instantly be familiar with the story’s main happenings.  There’s nothing new or original here.  In fact, the voice acting is all cut from different parts of the movies.  Some people find this pleasing, but I find the audio kind of jarring.  The audio is never edited to fit the situation happening on screen so you might get Captain America yelling with wind blowing in the background while the game has him just talking normally in a wind-less room.  Jarring moments like this always make me question the choice to pull audio from the movies, but I guess there really isn’t an appealing alternative.  The generic voice acting has been okay in the past but it’s really nothing to write home about.

lego avengers 2
via Game Side Story

The aspect that gives these games their trademark charm is the slapstick humor and hilarious retellings of popular movie scenes.  All of that humor is present and still strong as ever.  I have to give the writing team a little credit here, because they manage to make me laugh over and over again over the stupidest things that happen on screen.  They don’t have too much liberty to tell their own story since they are closely mimicking existing storylines, but they manage to put a spin on classic scenes while staying true to the source material…in classic LEGO fashion.

Maybe the game’s weaker aspect is the unoriginality of its gameplay formula.  There’s fifteen levels for you to play through spanning the events of the two movies.  Within these levels there are things to collect and characters to unlock.  You won’t be able to get everything on your first run through, so Free Play mode allow you to go back through the levels with all of your unlocked characters to pick up anything you have missed.  Sound familiar?  Outside of the levels are the open world areas that offer up side missions and well, more collectibles.  The city of Manhattan is the main open world arena, but you also get to visit smaller and more condensed locales such as Washington D.C., Sokovia, the Avenger’s ranch, and Asgard.  There’s a lot of things for you to do in these areas, but you’re going to be doing a lot of the same stuff.  Side missions are aplenty, but a majority of these missions are either fetch quests or beat-em ups.  They start to get tedious after a while, turning things into a grind when you are going after 100% completion.

LEGO® MARVEL's Avengers_20160203115411

Collecting and unlocking characters are one of these games’ strong suits and that is no different for LEGO Avengers.  In fact, there is a wide range of characters spanning from extremely popular to wildly obscure.  Like I mentioned before, heroes like Captain America and Iron Man are present but there are also lesser known heroes like Squirrel Girl and Bengal.  There’s a lot of deep cuts on the rich roster that will please any hardcore Marvel fanboy.  I didn’t have a clue who have the characters were, but that’s a cool thing.  It made me go and dig out some info on some of the characters I was unlocking.  Needless to say, you’re going to find someone new on the roster.

There’s good things and frustrating things that make up LEGO Marvel’s Avengers but hey, that’s pretty much LEGO games for you these days.  TT Games hasn’t really done anything to change the aging LEGO game formula and that’s frustrating.  There’s a lot to like however in this iteration, like the deep cast of characters, fan service, and humor.  Basically, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is another solid LEGO game that will satisfy comic fans and younger kids alike.

lego avengers score

Also available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PSVita, Wii U, 3DS, and PC

Review: Agent Carter Season 2

agent carter s2 poster
via Hey U Guys

Agent Carter (Season 2) (2016)


Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Starring: Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, Enver Gjokaj

Creators: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

The kick ass and take names female agent Peggy Carter takes a trip to the sunshine drenched Hollywood for the second season of Marvel’s Agent Carter.  The ABC show was an under-the-radar fan favorite during its premiere season.  The shows first outing was a short eight episode “mini” season that told a compelling story in a fun era and setting.  The show’s sophomore season, a longer ten-episode season, takes the setting to gorgeous Los Angeles where a strange and slightly terrifying case awaits the SSR agent.

agent carter s2 1
via Hit Fix

Played once again by Hayley Atwell, Peggy Carter has made a name for herself as one of the SSR’s elite agents.  After her heroics in the first season, she is a hot commodity.  After moving to the SSR’s offices in California, agent Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) gets involved in a case involving dark matter, a mysterious substance that has scary and dangerous side-effects if it comes into contact with humans.  After arriving in LA, we quickly see the effects of this substance when Roxxon scientist Jason Wilkes (Reggie Austin) and Hollywood actress Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett) break the container holding the substance, spilling it on themselves and causing a major chemical reaction.  The substance has differing effects on the two individuals, with Whitney receiving a deadly power that allows her to absorb any human that she comes into contact with.  This power makes her, well, power-hungry, quickly turning her into a dangerous adversary to Carter and the SSR.

Agent Carter isn’t alone in her fight however, with some familiar friends joining her side.  Everybody’s favorite, and one of the reasons why the show shines, is Howard Stark’s butler Jarvis, played brilliantly by James D’Arcy.  The show has a healthy amount of humor, with D’Arcy’s Jarvis being the main source.  He was great last season but you can tell that he has slipped into the role with ease and he rocks it.  There’s also the aforementioned Stark (Dominic Cooper), but we don’t see him too often this season.  We do however see a good bit of agent Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray), a familiar face from last season.  He’s one of the more intriguing characters, changing sides like it’s no one’s business.  He kind of throws you through a loop and you never seem to know which side he is on at a given time, which makes him fascinating.

agent carter s2 2
via Days of a Domesticated Dad

When dealing with a substance like dark matter, the story gets inheritably stupid at times, and by stupid I mean a little out of whack.  The plot lines in the first season seemed grounded and believable, but there’s a lot of science and mystical wonders that rear their head this season that make you scoff a little.  Nonetheless, the story was entertaining and kept me entertained during the course of the season, with only a few sluggish moments here and there.  That’s one of the perks of having a shorter more serialized season.  Most shows of this nature have around 22 episodes, which often translates to a couple filler episodes.  You can’t say the same for Agent Carter.  It’s consistent and it’s entertaining.

I’m having trouble picking which season of Agent Carter I enjoyed the most.  They were both great and each had their memorable moments, but I have to give the edge to the first season.  This season’s story was entertaining, sure, but the first season was a more compelling affair, with seemingly a lot more at stake.  The new sun-soaked Hollywood locales provide a nice backdrop for a fun and action-packed show that deserves more attention than it is given.  With Hayley Atwell signing onto a pilot for another ABC show, the future of Agent Carter seems a little uncertain at the moment.  However, with the way things wrapped up this season as well as the reaction from the show’s dedicated fan base, all fingers point to another season in this show’s future.  Let’s hope.