Editing and Me

The internet is a vast place, and it’s only been in the past 5 or 6 years that I got into watching that niche now known as internet reviewing. During this time, not long after I met and began my relationship with my fiance, we decided to try our hand at it as well. Our show was titled “Daffy Reviews”, named after my fiance’s screen name as he would be the one getting in front of the camera to review things like books and movies. He wrote the episodes himself, with the occasional input from me, and it was my job to edit everything together on good ‘ol frustrating Windows Movie Maker. For over two years, we had fun making these videos, but then real life got in the way and we made the mutual decision to stop.

In recent months, the conversation has cropped up on us possibly starting up a new series and getting back into the vid-making fray. Personally, I’m all for this. One of the best parts about getting to edit “Daffy Reviews” was being able to put what skills I gained through my journalism course in college to use. Sure, WMM was never be the best program for it, and sure, there were many times the process would be annoying beyond belief with some clips not working or uploads to Blip taking forever. But aside from those grievances, it was just plain fun. I enjoyed being a stickler for getting the timing between clip cuts just right and seeing the finished product come together after hours of sometimes stressful work. It gave me a feeling of accomplishment outside of the one other internet-related thing I handled: a wiki for TGWTG.com/now Channel Awesome.

Between the talk of making videos again, revisiting reviewers such as Some Jerk with a Camera, and diving into reviewers I meant to ages ago like Spazz Master and Il Neige, I have to say that I just miss editing. I miss it more than I ever thought I would. I don’t consider myself the greatest editor out there, especially still being stuck with WMM at the moment, and our show never got a huge amount of attention compared to others out there. But for me, the sense of satisfaction came not from the occasional views, but from creating something that represented our enjoyment for making videos and our love for others who do too. And while the internet is plastered with even more reviewers than back when we started, if we can find the time to get back into making videos, I hope we can still maintain the joy we felt doing them in the first place.

Adventures with the Avatar

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Well, all good things must come to an end, and unfortunately that applies to a couple things for me. The main one would be my fiance’s 3-week trip, which concluded early yesterday morning as we took him to the airport to make his way back to Miami. I had a ton of fun while he was with me, however, and even got off lucky with regards to how much I had to work while he was here. Even if it was probably unintentional, I’m grateful his trip wasn’t marred by a lack of time with me.

During his stay here, we continued watching “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, a Nickelodeon show we’d started watching during my last visit. I’d never seen the show, and he’d seen 2 of the 3 seasons. For the past 3 weeks, between non-TV stuff and watching movies and “The Simpsons”, we marathoned seasons 2 and 3 and wrapped up the show. With it now behind me, I can without doubt say that it’s one of my favorite cartoons I’ve ever seen.

I won’t be spoiling too many details about the show for anyone who hasn’t seen it or wants to, but the basic story is that the world consists of four elemental nations: Water, Earth, Fire and Air. These are also represented by gifted people known as benders, who can control the elements within their respected nation. There is a human called the Avatar who can learn and utilize all four elements and is considered a peacekeeper between the nations. Kind of like the Slayers in “Buffy”, a new Avatar is “chosen” upon the death of the previous one. In this case, it’s a 12-year-old boy named Aang, who at the start of the show has been in a sort of self-made cryogenic state for 100 years. As the show states during its intro, the world is in a state of war as the Fire nation has tried to seize control over the others. It’s up to Aang and his friends Katara, a Waterbender, and her wise-cracking brother Sokka to bring peace back to the land.

It might sound like a lot, but this show presents everything in a clear and concise way so people of all ages can follow along. It also does well in balancing humor, drama and action throughout, though some episodes occasionally come off as filler. Despite that, the show seems to keep something relevant in every episode, whether plot-based or character development. And while some characters would get on my nerves at times (coughKataracoughAzulacough), hardly any of them are wasted or don’t evolve in some way, even those that aren’t seen often. Surprisingly, for all the cool action, it was some of the more dramatic moments that really impressed me. The show knows how to tug on your heartstrings and you can’t help but be invested in the characters throughout their journeys. One such character for me was Uncle Iro, a man who starts off being mostly goofy but shows more and more how insightful and a bit tragic he is as the show progresses. I felt everyone in this show was well-acted, even during some of the sillier moments. 

The animation has been praised countless times for being great, and I stand by that praise myself. Sure, it does invoke an anime feel despite being American-made, but it fits no matter what the tone is. The characters will get over the top expressions during funny moments, somber ones during dramatic moments, and the landscapes will be appropriately cheerful or dark depending on the mood. It’s very clear to see what’s going on when a lot of action is taking place, and the bending looks great and gets more creative uses. I liked all of the character designs, especially the different hybrid animals the show introduces from time to time. The music was also really good, once again capturing some of the dramatic moments, both bombastic and quiet, some of the silly ones, and even some creepy moments. 

If I have two minor gripes with this show, it’s that there are times it tackles plot points in a “kid show” way. Sure, the main gang are kids themselves, but they often get into roundabout, petty arguments. One such argument was about Aang wanting to finish his task on his own without his friends’ help. It IS handled pretty realistically in terms of how pressured he feels and wanting to protect them, but I couldn’t help feeling the slightest bit irritated by the number of times it’s brought up. The other gripe involves an unanswered question that is built up over time but left hanging in the finale. Having seen the first two episodes of the show’s sequel, “The Legend of Korra”, they tease this question and leave it unanswered, much to my annoyance. Sometimes I can’t stand cliffhangers, and while minor, this was one of them. But again, both of these points are very minor and didn’t take away hardly any of my enjoyment for the show.

And while I hope “Korra” will be almost if not as good as its predecessor, I feel like “Avatar” hit all the right notes that a kids show should. It had a great look to it, knew how to keep pretty consistent with its tones, didn’t need to resort to overly lowbrow humor to get laughs and, most importantly, it didn’t talk down to kids. There was a seriousness to the show that made any tension or drama feel important to you as a viewer. It hardly ever felt sugarcoated and I liked it for that. If you’re a kid, teen, or adult who likes cartoons and especially likes good shows, I urge you to try “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Oh, and ignore that M. Night Shyamalan film. It doesn’t come a fraction close to doing the show justice.

My Foray into the “Harry Potter” Films

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Knowing my fiance would be visiting for 3 weeks, a few months ago I decided on something that up to that point I’d told myself I’d keep avoiding like the plague. The decision I made was to watch all 8 Harry Potter films with him, having only seen the first 3 through various means and never having read the books. I felt like since the hype train surrounding them had long died down, I could give them another chance and dive into that universe. Well, having seen Part 2 of the final film last night, I can safely say it was a worthwhile decision.

Anything differing between the movies and books were essentially filled in by my fiance as we watched, though I still view the movies as a movie-goer and not a fan. Because of this, it made it hard sometimes to figure out if the flaws were just the movie’s or an extension of J.K. Rowling’s writing. Sometimes it was both in an effort to keep the movie faithful to the book. For example, we both agreed that having a maze be the final Triwizard challenge felt like it was more up to chance than actual skill like the previous two were. Even if that hadn’t been carried over from the book, I would’ve still taken issue with it.

Another problem I found was that some characters were either underutilized or barely had relevance to the story. The character Tonks, a member of the Order and apparently Remus Lupin’s lover, doesn’t get a whole lot of screentime. While I found her cool, I kept hoping for more from her character that I didn’t ultimately get. Even popular characters like Draco Malfoy seemed to have little to do, especially in earlier films. I was always under the impression that he was being built up as a threat for the later films, but even in those he does very little in the grand scheme of things. They even left the fate of Wormtail aka Peter Pettigrew up in the air, when I would’ve liked to see him get his comeuppance after appearing in the majority of the series. I do know the circumstances of his death now and why it was removed, but considering adaptations like to alter things, I don’t think it would’ve been too much to ask to have a resolution for his character. These are all nitpicky points, but you expect a bit of closure for reoccurring characters.

Of the series, I still consider “Prisoner of Azkaban” my favorite, as it was a turning point in the films and also featured characters I still like, such as Sirius Black, Lupin and Buckbeak. It also had one of the tightest cases of time travel I’ve seen in a while, which was fun to watch. That’s not to say the others weren’t enjoyable, of course, but I did find both “Half-Blood Prince” (except for the ending) and “Deathly Hallows Part 1” to kinda spin their wheels a bit. In “Half-Blood”, a good chunk of the film is devoted to Harry trying to get a memory from one of his professors, and in “Deathly Hallows”, he, Hermione and Ron are forced to go on the run for most of the movie. Again, they weren’t bad, but they felt a bit less fun to watch at times than some of the other films.

With all that said, this series was well-done all around. The casting felt right throughout, the acting and effects only got better and better, the story got more interesting and dark with each twist and turn, and the Potterverse as a whole was well-thought out and a lot of fun to explore. While I still don’t feel it’s my favorite series or adaptation and I have no plans to try to read the books, I now feel almost ashamed for insulting this series back when it was in the height of popularity. I realize now that, in light of adaptations like “Twilight” and the upcoming “50 Shades of Grey”, it had that extra bit of creativity and solid writing to stand out above many others.

Now, on a sadder note, yesterday we lost a comedy legend. Robin Williams was a big part of my childhood, appearing in movies I liked such as “Aladdin”, “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Hook.” He’s one of those comedians who felt untouchable, who was bursting with energy and silliness and couldn’t be stopped for a second. When I learned later in life that he was a huge nerd on top of it all, especially for “The Legend of Zelda” series, it only cemented my admiration and respect for the man. This is the second time this year someone I thought had their life together sadly did not, and it only makes this whole thing sadder for me. But, as with many public figures, what ultimately matters is not how they left us (although depression is never to be taken lightly), but the legacy they left us with. And Robin’s was a big one, one that left an impact on fellow comedians and fans alike. I hope he’s found peace, and that he knows he’ll never be forgotten for generations to come.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” Review (Spoiler-Free)

Guardians_of_the_Galaxy

Yesterday I finally got around to seeing the latest Marvel film “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Like many people, I went in knowing next to nothing about the Guardians. And while it may not be my absolute favorite of the Marvel movies so far, I can safely say it was a fun, entertaining ride for its 2-hour length.

The general plot involves wanted outlaw Peter Quill aka Starlord coming across a seemingly unimportant artifact that later has major relevance to the plot and motivation of the main villain, Ronan. Ronan is a Kree who’s fed up about being peaceful with the people of the planet Xandar. After Starlord is captured and thrown into jail, he teams up with an unlikely bunch of fellow inmates to retrieve the artifact and stop Ronan’s evil plans.

The plot is about as complex as any other Marvel movie, if slightly less easy to follow with the abundance of alien-esque locations, names and beings. There were times that it was a bit cliched, and while most of the jokes made me laugh, there was the occasional one that either missed the mark or made me laugh because of how stupid/cheesy it was. Overall, though, I was invested through the movie and especially so as I got to know the characters.

I loved practically every character in this movie, even the villains themselves. Aside from Starlord, I really enjoyed Groot, a tree giant who can barely talk aside from saying “I am Groot” and had cool powers, and Rocket, a genetically altered raccoon who is tough and has a knack for building things. Both of these characters have been talked up as stealing the show, and I can agree with that as I felt they had some of the best lines and moments. However, Starlord had great bits as the only human of the group, Drax the Destroyer was actually pretty funny and also sympathetic despite his brutish appearance, and Gamora was simply an awesome assassin, easily one of the coolest female characters I’ve seen in a while.

This movie had plenty of action throughout in the form of space battles, shootouts, and hand-to-hand combat. I didn’t feel bored once and the film moved at a relatively brisk pace. Better yet, this film spends the majority of its runtime showing off different planets, which was a cool way to open up the universe. The only gripe I had with this was the constant need to show each location via text each time a new one was revealed. It was slightly annoying, but given the obscurity of the source material, I got that it was necessary.

As usual, there is a stinger at the very end of the film. I’ll say this much: If you don’t know much Marvel lore (either comic or older movie attempts) or you expect to see something plot relevant, don’t bother staying for the stinger. It’s literally a throwaway gag at best. Some people seemed to find it funny, whereas I just found it to be a little funny but mostly confusing reference. Both Richard and I agreed that it wasn’t worth the wait, though your mileage may very. If anything, it fits in with the more humorous tone this movie has.

Overall, “Guardians of the Galaxy” was a big, loud, kinda dumb but fun romp. I’m excited to see more of these characters and if they’ll interact with some of the other big-name Marvel heroes in future films. It’s easily one of my favorite movies of this year so far.

I give “Guardians of the Galaxy” a solid 9/10.

 

 

Slacking Off

I’ll admit it, I haven’t been in a blogging mood this week. A lot of this is due to me working the first half of this week at Dairy Queen, which is going decently well so far. Still not looking forward to when the major events hit town because of the increase in traffic, but I guess I’ll manage.

The other reason is what’s happening later today. My fiance, Richard, will be visiting me for 3 weeks once I pick him up from the airport tonight. As you can probably imagine, I’m super excited to spend time with him (work or no work). His visit has been the main thing on my mind this week, and it’s kinda affected my blogging urge.

But besides those things, the third reason why I’ve slacked off is just a pure lack of inspiration. I’ve chosen to put off playing video games and reading until he arrives, am still following Adventure Time as my pretty much sole consistent TV show, and not much has happened in my life outside of work and relaxing. Things will definitely pick up over the weeks that he’s here, though, and I’m especially hoping to take him to the annual flea market to find some cool stuff.

At this point, I can only say that I’ll try to make the effort to blog at least once a week as usual, even if it’s about my blogging (or lack of) itself.