The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses

I really am slipping in my old age. Like, badly, too. Back in August, the wife and I took a trip to Newark, something that we never do, to see the Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses show at the Prudential Center. If you're not familiar with the Symphony of the Goddesses, it's a travelling orchestral concert showcasing the music of the Legend of Zelda games. If you're not familiar with the Legend of Zelda games, then I can't help you.

Photo from Lady Geek Girl (glad she was able to get close)
Anyway, the show was really good. I wasn't quite sure what to expect before we got there but it was definitely more than what I thought it was going to be. One of the coolest parts was before the show when the show's arrangers held a small costume contest for the few fans that came in cosplay. While most of the contestants were dressed as Link or Zelda, there were two really awesome costumes on the panel. The first was a Great Fairy, a woman dressed in the wrapping vines of the big-nosed fairy that replenishes your health in Ocarina of Time. The other is the Skull Kid from Majora's Mask. This guy went all out with his costume, even going so far as to pair it with a villainous Moon accessory. I wasn't able to get any pictures myself but luckily I found a blogger who was at the same show as me so you can see the actual costume for yourself.

When the show started, they jumped right into things, giving a short overview of what to expect. A medley of music from across the games, starting with the 8-bit versions and running straight through to Skyward Sword, showed that there was to be a little bit of everything throughout the years. After the interlude, the concert broke down into four movements, each one composed of a specific theme and specific game. Though they could have done something to incorporate all of the games in the Legend of Zelda series, they narrowed it down to Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and A Link to the Past.

This was the only photo that came out good.
Though I'm not overtly familiar with all aspects of the musical score from the Legend of Zelda games, sitting there and listening to each movement unfold gave me goosebumps a couple of times. In addition to the full symphonic music, a large video screen hung over the orchestra, displaying clips and scenes from the different games as the music unfolds. Watching that, especially the older games like The Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link, and A Link to the Past, I saw my childhood fly right before my eyes. Even the different aspects of Ocarina of Time, one of my favorite Zelda games of ever, made me feel inexplicably happy.

Even though they didn't focus on each of the games, they did manage to touch on all of them, devoting a little bit of time to the major games in the series. And one of the best parts of the show was at the beginning of The Wind Waker movement when the conductor actually led the orchestra with the Wind Waker.

As you can see from the lack of pictures I didn't have a very good angle for photos. Those that I did take came out like crap because the place was dark. But I did take a couple minutes of video so here's a little medley I put together.

If you're a fan of the Zelda games and Symphony of the Goddesses shows up in or near your city, do yourself a favor and check it out. It's definitely worth seeing. I was even able to get half-price tickets because they had a promotion on Groupon. Given the price I paid and that I was able to make a night of it with the wife, Symphony of the Goddesses was a great choice.


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.... Small Screen Winner or "Nick Fury Part 2"?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. There’s not much more I need to say about it. I have been excited for this show ever since it was first announced. As a huge fan of Marvel Comics as well as the recent The Avengers, a show like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is exactly what a fan like me needed. I’ll admit, I had my reservations, most of which revolved around whether they could nail a good tone for the series. But I relied on the fact that Joss Whedon was running the show, not to mention that a comic book shares a lot with television in how they both present material in an episodic way, and I trusted there would be good things in store.

Whedon sets the tone right at the outset. One of the very first scenes we’re treated to shows off a wide range of gizmos and gadgets, the kind of things that James Bond would kill to get his hands on. So at the very beginning we know that this will be more than a standard procedural show. On top of the gadgets, the first scene sets the stage for the action of the show, which was also cleverly done. Instead of the smooth martial arts most television secret agents seem to be able to wield, the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. utilize a clunky street-fighting technique. It’s not pretty but it’s effective. It’s also fun to watch.

One thing that’s sure to please is the return of Agent Coulson. While this was no secret, with all of the show’s advertising promoting the hashtag #CoulsonLives, it was still great to see him back in action. Whedon does a nice job of explaining what happened to Coulson, how he stopped breathing for 8 seconds during the events of The Avengers and was hidden away by Nick Fury in Tahiti. He also goes the extra mile and implies that “Tahiti” is not entirely what it sounds like.

What I like about Coulson is that he has a heart. When faced with a situation with a logical outcome of the death of the enemy, he refuses to accept it and searches for the way to save the target. That’s not standard secret agent fare right there. That makes Coulson likeable and relatable. It might also make him a terrible agent, risking the lives of hundreds or thousands of people, but it makes him probably the most super hero in the show.

I loved seeing Cobie Smulders reprise her role as Maria Hill. She was one of my favorite parts of The Avengers and I was disappointed at how underused she was in the movie. To see her get more of a role in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is such a treat, even if it is for a few minutes in couple of episodes per season.

I also liked seeing J. August Richards playing the down-on-his-luck, super-powered single dad in Michael Peterson. (Beware: Some spoilers in that link.) Peterson is introduced at the start, being thrown into action right away. Then the majority of the episode focuses on his transformation and struggle to deal with his powers. He does a great job fighting with his morality while managing to remain likable to the audience. We understand his plight and want him to come out on top. I was sorry to see him get a “guest starring” credit, though, as he seemed like he would be a good addition to the team.

Speaking of the team, I can’t say that I enjoyed all of the characters so far. Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) was tolerable, if not completely 3-Dimensional. I loved the enigmatic hacker, Skye (Chloe Bennet). Her beginnings as a lowly computer “pirate”, spreading information about the events S.H.I.E.L.D. is trying to cover up, make her the loose cannon. It would be hard to predict what she would do in a situation since she doesn’t have the same training as the rest of the team, but despite that she still manages to hold her own. So far, the only character I’m really not crazy for is Melinda May, played by Ming-Na Wen. She doesn’t do anything in the episode that makes me dislike her, but she also doesn’t really do anything. She has one little kick-ass moment at the end, but this wasn’t enough for me to care about her. Hopefully, she will evolve going forward and reveal a bit of her past but right now she’s just way too flat.

I loved the way Whedon and the other writers connected the show to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From the shot of a young boy staring at a collection of Avengers action figures in a storefront window to the power source of the episode’s antagonist, viewers never forget that the show is an extension of the movies. But it doesn’t feel forced, either. A few well placed one-liners and everything flows naturally. It makes me wonder if they plan on using the show to place a few Easter Eggs about the upcoming movies. Given how well the two media mesh, there’s no saying Whedon can’t use the show to open up a storyline that can’t be explored in a full length film.

One particular line that caught my attention was when they described the “hooded hero” as an “unregistered gifted”, an idea that brings to mind the Civil War storyline from the comics. When you tie this together with the “The Avengers aren’t Level 7” line Coulson drops early on, then you have to wonder how the Avengers would react if they found out that S.H.I.E.L.D. was registering super powers. Could the pilot episode be hinting at a possible Civil War story, either in a movie or the show? It may be a stretch but at this early in the game, anything’s possible.

But probably the most enjoyable part about the pilot was Coulson and Peterson’s final exchange. The scene cleverly illustrates the showrunner’s decision to not include super powered heroes on the team. In the beginning I was hoping to see a rotating line-up for super heroes, now that they have the platform to make it work. However, after hearing the dialogue in the last scene, choosing to include human characters, those getting by on their natural talents instead of relying on gamma-enhanced talents, was a gamble but one that will probably pay off big time. But if they have the chance to drop Cloak and Dagger into the show, then goddamn it they better do it.

Tie all of this together with the winning formula from the movies, such as the sly nods to the comic books (“With great power comes...a ton of weird crap you're not prepared to deal with”, “Excited to be coming on our Journey Into Mystery?”) and some of the best CGI I’ve ever seen in a  prime-time show (which I understand isn’t saying much but the CGI is really damn good) and so far, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is looking to be a hit. I'm just wondering why they chose not to give Stan Lee a cameo in the episode.


Bruno Mars and the State of the "F" Word

I heard Bruno Mars' new single "Gorilla" on the radio yesterday. It wasn't the first time I heard it; I did manage to catch it during the MTV Video Music Awards last month but I was so preoccupied with trying to figure out what the deal was with the CG gorilla on screen behind Bruno to really pay attention to the song.
Also, why was Lady Gaga
dressed like The Little Mermaid?
So, in essence, yesterday was the first chance I got to listen to what the song is all about. All I really have to say about it is... what? (That's not really all I have to say. If it was, this would be a short, boring post.)

You can listen to the song over on YouTube in case you haven't heard it.

I get what the song is about. He's basically promising that he'll plow some girl so good that she'll be smacking his chest in enjoyment. "Making love like gorillas" as he puts it. My shock isn't really with the song itself but with the hypocrisy of the FCC.

The FCC, or Federal Communications Commission, is the governmental body that regulates radio broadcasts. They are the reason that most radio and televisions have to air on a seven-second delay, which allows them to censor inappropriate content, like the words "shit" and "fuck". Now, what bothers me is that in 2013, radio and television stations still cannot say "shit" and "fuck". Though there has been some leniency when it comes to "shit", a movement started by Comedy Central and South Park in the early aughts, "fuck" is still on the "do not air" list with the FCC.

So, here we have a song about two people fucking, told in fairly explicit detail (Yeah, I got a fistful of your hair/But you don't look like you're scared/You just smile and tell me, "Daddy, it's yours."/'Cause you know how I like it,/You's a dirty little lover). Now all of this is OK by the FCC's standards. However, he drops the eff word in there (And you're screaming, "Give it to me baby,/Give it to me motherfucker!") and that needs to get censored.

This, in my mind, is hypocrisy.

As a society, why are we so preoccupied with a single word? The word itself is not harmful. It's just a word. Shouldn't it be the ideas behind the words, the actually definition that hold the meaning? On the internet, a lot of people now use the word "fark" as a substitute for "fuck". How is this not as offensive? The two words look very similar, sound similar, represent the same meaning, yet one is banned by nearly all media outlets and the other is allowed to have free reign. What sense does this make? In all honesty, I don't have an answer for this.

It's a pretty good song, I won't lie. I wouldn't call myself a fan of Bruno Mars but I will say that his music doesn't annoy me like lots of other R&B artists. (Is Bruno Mars considered R&B? I don't even know any more.) But "Gorilla" bothers me because it sounds like a Penthouse Letter put to a beat. All it is is a sexual fantasy that Bruno Mars was able to capitalize on. I mean, that's all fine and well, being able to make money off of ideas he masturbated to as a fifteen year old. If he can make money writing spank material, then he's done his job well. I just don't like the idea of sexual fantasies crossing over into pop culture like this.

Red Hot Chili Peppers did something similar twenty years ago with their "Sir Psycho Sexy", a song I used to love when I was 12 but now just seems to be an appalling attempt to create music out of misogyny. Though that particular song never went on to radio hit status and did include a lot more vulgarity than "Gorilla", in my mind, the two are very similar.

It seems I went on a little digression there but keep in mind I'm not trying to put Bruno Mars on blast but in so many ways, "Gorilla" is just the musical equivalent of 50 Shades of Grey. Sure, it may be popular and it may even be good, but does it hold any real artistic value? With the message that he's sending, is it really any less vulgar than he he just said "We'll be fuckin' like gorillas"? Because at the end of it, that's really the whole point of the song.

And not for nothing, but at 5 foot, 5 inches, I have a hard time imagine Bruno Mars "making love" like a gorilla but if so, good for him.


Review: Sleepy Hollow

Washington Irving created a timeless villain in his Headless Horseman, a character that first appeared in his short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” way back in 1820. Though it hasn’t been beaten like a dead horse the way vampires and zombies have, the Horseman has been resurrected many times, from the Tim Burton movie Sleepy Hollow to one of the most memorable episodes of The Real Ghostbusters.
The one that turned him into a badass biker.
The pilot of Sleepy Hollow opens with Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), a British soldier fighting for the American Revolution (though this is actually explained later) facing off against a particularly tough opponent, one that continues to attack him even after getting his head sliced off. Crane is mortally wounded and does a Rip Van Winkle, “waking up” 250 years later. This was a clever touch by the writers, successfully combining both of Washington Irving’s most popular works. At least, it's clever if it was done intentionally.

The Headless Horseman is introduced into our time period rather quickly, facing off against Sheriff August Corbin (Clancy Brown) and his partner, Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie). The outcome isn’t that fortuitous for Corbin who loses his head during the confrontation (wait…is it a spoiler if it happens in the first 10 minutes?).  Just after this, Harold (John Cho, who really doesn’t play Harold) finds Crane and takes him into custody. Mills’ search into his story, that he worked for General George Washington during the Revolutionary War, leads her to uncover a supernatural plot that involves the entire town of Sleepy Hollow. (I was also excited to see Orlando Jones’ name in the credits but he really doesn’t do anything in this episode. Hopefully, that will change down the road.)

From the first few minutes of the show, they pretty much establish the theme as "demonic". Even looking past the whole “Headless Horseman” thing, the editors get a little heavy handed when Crane first appears in the 21st century, a scene set to the soundtrack of The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil”, which also plays during the introduction of a nameless priest. Not only that, but Corbin’s police car is number “66”, which, as we all know, is a single digit away from the Number of the Beast. So right off the bat, the viewer can expect something evil ahead.

The supernatural elements run conveniently throughout the people in the town as well; Mills has a ghostly experience as a child that ties to her future. She reveals this in an info-dump to Crane during their moment of bonding. But it goes even deeper than that, engulfing most of the town, which is again also expressed to the audience through a well-placed info-dump. In between all of these expositional dialogue scenes, director Len Wiseman sprinkles a generous portion of POV shots, turning many different objects into cameras, such as car windows, a door peephole, and a decapitated head. It did get on my nerves a little but at least it was a creative change from the stagnation of other prime time shows.

I also liked Crane’s curiosity in the new world around him, though he seemed to take his current predicament rather easily. Waking up 250 years in the future should induce a little more incredulity, one would think. The Pilot features a lot of hokey one liners, such as Crane’s surprise at the number of Starbucks a small town like Sleepy Hollow has and the AR-15 toting Headless Horseman, but these are all minor quibbles for now. If the Headless Horseman starts to sling skulls around his waist to create a set of swinging “Bay Balls”, then I’m officially checking out.
Like this, but with more teeth.
The show moves at an agonizing pace, following in the footsteps of recent small screen disappointments like last year's The River and Alcatraz. Unlike those, however, Sleepy Hollow really picks up during the show’s climax, when Mills and Crane face-off (get it?) against the horseman while they search for his head. The final scenes were shot very well, forgoing the popular method of quick cuts and obscured action to imply action and instead used a lot of steady-cam shots, letting the audience actually see what the hell was happening. Though the episode comes to a satisfying conclusion, it ends on an interesting, and creepy, cliffhanger.

In all honesty, though, Wiseman’s direction is probably the reason this pilot episode is so entertaining. Having worked on a number of blockbuster movies such as Underworld, Total Recall (2012), and one of my favorites Live Free or Die Hard (OK, maybe “favorites” is an overstatement but still…it’s fun as hell), Wiseman has a great grasp of directing action, and it really paid off in this episode. The main draw of Sleepy Hollow is bound to be the literal battle between good and evil. So far, Wiseman has proven that he will be able to handle those scenes and it translates wonderfully into an exciting show.

I’ll admit, Sleepy Hollow had more of a plot than I originally imagined it would. Though it did seem to be loosely strung together by the threads of an upcoming Apocalypse, the story unfolded pretty well. It allows the writers the ability to introduce newer, more severe threats than just the Headless Horseman, but can easily be wrapped up quickly if the show doesn’t do well. All in all, though, I hope Sleepy Hollow does well. Given the surprise I was treated to with the Pilot, I’m really curious to see what the writers have in store for the first season.


The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones, A Review

Imagine drawing that over
and over and over and...
It’s pretty sad when you forget that you see a movie just three weeks after seeing it. That’s kind of what happened with me and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. I went with my wife to see it the Sunday of its release and would have had trouble explaining it even after walking out of the theater. (Those of you concerned about spoilers, beware. I do give away a few plot points below.)

My wife loves stuff like this; she’s the reason I saw all five Twilight movies. Fun fact: I bought my wife this book years ago for Christmas, knowing it would be up her alley and after reading the first few chapters, she put it down because she ”couldn’t get into it”. When she found out that the book was being turned into a movie, she got excited about it anyway. Seeing the trailer really cemented in her head that the book appealed to her.

Anyway, I offered to take her to see it since she always has to put up with my movie choices (see The Wolverine). By the end of the film, I had to admit that it wasn’t that bad. Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t good, either.

The movie focuses on Clary (Lily Collins), a high school aged girl that has some sort of magic powers, can see things other people can’t and has an unexplainable compulsion to draw the same symbol over and over again. She meets Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), a dreamy, mysterious boy who carries swords and kills things. Naturally, she’s drawn to him and when her mother (played by Game Of Thrones Lena Headey) goes missing, she learns that she is a Shadowhunter, a secret cabal of fighters imbued with special powers by the blood of an angel to fight demons. Once we learn about Clary’s heritage, all logic gets thrown out the window.

Like that, but with less coherence.
So, so many things in the movie just made me roll my eyes, practically audibly in the theater. For a race of ancient demon hunters, they do so many stupid things that I had to wonder how they didn’t die out in a few minutes of demon hunting. In one scene, Clary’s possessed fortune-teller neighbor has her and Jace pinned down in her apartment. Jace’s demon-hunting buddies, the brother sister team of Alec and Isabelle (Kevin Zeggers and Jemima West, respectively), rush in to help them. Isabelle gets tossed to the side and Alec gets stabbed to hell. Meanwhile, Clary’s fully human, geeky best friend, Simon (Robert Sheehan), overpowers the demon powered woman for a good 15 seconds, allowing Jace to kill her.

This isn’t the only thing that really got to me. Between the big bad guy getting easily distracted by a bright, shiny thing in the middle of the fight to a glasses-wearing geek suddenly not needing his glasses anymore and just shrugging it off like he just got over a cold. All of that is on top of the trite plot twist involving the main characters and you have a shoddy story meant to entertain teenage girls.

Image courtesy
And let’s be honest; this movie is Sony’s Twilight. Lion’s Gate Entertainment, the company that produced Twilight made a buttload of money, not just on the movies themselves, but on the merchandising as well. You can’t go anywhere without seeing something with Kristen Stewart’s stupid face on it, even after the last movie has come and gone. So with The Mortal Instruments, what is supposed to be a 6-book series, Sony is doing whatever they can to cash in on some of that merchandising. Weeks before the movie even hit theaters, Hot Topic had a full display of items based on the movie, such as shirts with the faces of actors no one has ever seen and jewelry with no significance. Sony also announced, before the movie even came out, mind you, that they would begin filming the sequel later this month to be released next year. This was before they knew the movie would barely make its initial budget back. Granted, I understand that movies have been given sequels based on less box office gross that $73 million, but to announce that sequel even before knowing that… Sony is throwing a lot behind The Mortal Instruments and their desperation is starting to show.

At the end of it, though, The Mortal Instruments is just another success story for a lesser known author. Though Cassandra Clare has had nominal success in the publishing industry, she was never a household name. And the movie did spark interest in her books, which have begun to sell even better now. So good for her for writing a series that a major movie studio found interesting and for expanding her career, even though her books don’t appeal to me. Lucky for Clare, though, 50% of my household will ensure that 100% of my household will see these movies.


For Anyone Who's Ever Wanted To Separate Themselves From Society...

So as I trolled Twitter this morning, as is my usual habit when trying to avoid work, I came across a link in my timeline. It was retweeted by someone I follow and directs to a blog named Messy Nessy Chic. As I clicked on the link, I came across one of the most wonderful sites I've ever beheld.

A 1970s underground bomb shelter built to resemble an everyday suburban neighborhood.

Looking at a few of the pictures I'm sure you'll agree just how amazing this thing is. The outdated decorating choices aside (really? Pink trim in the kitchen?) having a house like this is every weirdo's dream. Not only do you get to live in a home completely separated from the rest of humanity, but it doesn't have the same "Apocalypse" feel that other bomb shelters have.

The house is located at 3970 Spencer Street in Las Vegas and can be purchased for the low price of $1.7 million. I just love the 360° nature view all around the home. Not only does it negate the inevitable ennui one would naturally feel from living 15 feet below ground, but it makes everything feel like underground Umbrella Corporation headquarters from the first Resident Evil movie. I'm not sure if that's much of a selling point, but it's true. Add to that the awesome feature of adjustable "outdoor" lighting to simulate different times of the day, including twinkling stars at night, and this place is a real winner.

I spent a little time Googling other fallout shelters like this one but couldn't come up with anything that can hold a candle to this one. However, I did find a few helpful resources if you ever wanted to build your own bomb shelter, including one site where you can purchase all of the necessary components.

With the impending zombie apocalypse, this may be the smartest purchase anyone could make.

(Images from MessyNessyChic.com)
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