DC Comics, Jeffrey Baldwin and the Value of Symbols

- 07-08-14Comics, Featured Posted by Jason Tabrys

Superman_shield

Symbols can mean different things to different people. The sight of the Christian cross, for example, can bring hope and peace to some and inspire a sense of dread or an eye roll from others. The Superman symbol, which is said to be the second most recognizable symbol in the world after the cross, is equally capable of possessing multiple meanings.

To DC Comics and their corporate overlords, the Superman symbol represents a cornerstone of their yesterday, today and tomorrow. As such, they guard that symbol carefully and accordingly.

Todd Boyce is a Canadian man who raised $36,000 on IndieGoGo to build a memorial statue of a five year old Superman fan in Toronto’s Greenwood Park after hearing about the boys tragic death. Unfortunately, Mr. Boyce’s request to use the Superman “S” was declined by DC. (more…)

Editorial: Xbox One Adds to Next Gen Disappointment (Updated)

- 05-21-13Featured, Videogames Posted by Jason Tabrys

 

XboxOne_Reveal Two

Maybe this will all change once we get a better look, but right now, you can just smell the disappointment, can’t you? As a semi-spoiled half-futurist, I think it’s safe to say that I expected more from the last big reveal of this new console generation. That’s Microsoft’s curse. They get to close the stitch on the wound of dashed hope that was borne by an unreal set of expectations for a generation that feels like a placeholder.

No real 3-D, no holo-gaming, no photorealism, and I can’t control Master Chief with the power of my mind? Fucking bullshit.

To make matters worse, we don’t even know the depths of their possible failure because they mostly refrained from showing us real and sustained gameplay; something that has become the norm in an industry that fetishizes worthless cinematics whenever they try to rap at their audience about a new property or a re-dressed old property.

Speaking of re-dressed old properties, Microsoft probably should have embraced a Kinect re-brand in light of the tepid response that the original received.

Despite what the industry tells us, motion gaming still feels nascent with a full potential achievement that remains unlocked — the fucking wand, the twitchy camera bar, the irrelevant Wii U that bleeds relevancy from a shallow well more and more everyday — reset and rebuild, but don’t deliver unto me a corpse with sprinkles on it.

The boys in the lab over at Bill Gates’ jolly green giant project are putting a lot of burden on the back of the Kinect, further committing to the wonder of voice control, recognition, and the Kinect’s ability to now (allegedly) recognize real, human body movement as well as eye movement and the beat of our hearts and fuck that is a little creepy.

“I’ve detected weakness Dave, initiating extermination function zero. Good bye Dave.”

It’s not all bad though, the Snap function — that allows users to watch live TV (through their cable system) and split screen web search — is kinda cool, but it only pulls even with PC and Tablet capability. Again, dashed expectations pepper this reveal because we won’t see an outlet for high volume ambition in gaming like this for half a decade — at minimum — and by then, Apple will have us live streaming Downton Abbey from an antenna in our assholes.

xbox one

It’s funny, to Microsoft, this is a victory. They’re calling this thing the ONE most likely because they plan on selling it to you as the ONE device that you will need and that is the holy grail: ONE device to make all others obsolete, but this isn’t that. This is just another ONE, and I already have enough other ones that do 90% of what this one does. Prettier ones that don’t look like an Atari 2600 briefcase with a massive footprint.

You’ll need to hang on to that old 360 if you want to play your old games, by the way. The Xbox One doesn’t do backwards compatibility, but on the bright side, Microsoft did recognize that people didn’t want to be online all the time, especially if they just wanted to embrace the “single player, close out the outside world” experience that is a under-celebrated but hugely important part of gaming. So the system won’t need to be online all the time, though obviously, a great part of the One’s bells and whistles comes from full connectivity and an Xbox Live membership so that we can have that “relationship” with our TV that the introductory add teased. By the way, I’m pretty sure that you also need to love sports to enjoy your Xbox One, because FUCK did they hammer the head off that nail.

As for gameplay, I have to assume that it will also be a large part of this new system, but as I said before, we didn’t get anything approaching a significant look at that in this presentation… the one that mostly felt like a needless E3 appetizer.

Sure, we know that there will be a new Forza game and that Modern Warfare: Ghost has a mo-cap dog and fancy sounding volumetric lighting, but as a gamer, there was little here for me and right now, that just about sums up this next generation as a whole.

Incremental innovation, empty hype and a lot of redundancy — right now, this future looks bent. Wake me when the PS5 gets announced.

UPDATE: Now reports are surfacing that the Xbox One will indeed need to be connected to the net once daily and — though there is a bit of confusion on this — it seems like there will be some kind of fee associated with playing used games. Fees that could range from $40-$60.

UPDATE 2: Regarding the used game fee, Major Nelson has responded, saying:

We know there is some confusion around used games on Xbox One and wanted to provide a bit of clarification on exactly what we’ve confirmed today. While there have been many potential scenarios discussed, today we have only confirmed that we designed Xbox One to enable our customers to trade in and resell games at retail.

Beyond that, we have not confirmed any specific scenarios.

Another piece of clarification around playing games at a friend’s house – should you choose to play your game at your friend’s house, there is no fee to play that game while you are signed in to your profile.

 

Enter the Cage: ‘Seeking Justice’, ‘Trespass’, and Why Nic Cage is Magic

- 03-17-13Featured, Film, reviews Posted by Jason Tabrys

Cage

He is our greatest over-actor, and yet for years I thumbed my nose at Nicolas Cage, damning him for his inability to re-create the brilliance that he has exhibited a handful of times thanks to superior material, divine intervention, or Faustian barter/trading.

Thankfully, I have evolved and realized that Cage is a vapor that cannot be contained by convention or weighed down by the expectations of others. He is not for us, but for future generations that will be choked numb by an avalanche of technology and distance. For them, Nicolas Cage films will be a road map back to the abundant emotions that only the ghosts whisper about.

For them, he will be a truth, not an oddity. So, with that in mind, I have embraced the embrace of the Cage and his electric howl.

Do you doubt my song and my near-religious conversion?

Do you not realize that Nic Cage has rumbled with fish, raced and then struck the moon, had a honeymoon and then died in Las Vegas before breaking into Alcatraz? Do you not recognize that he cut his fucking face off, brought out the dead, talked to the wind, saved the Declaration of Independence, fought off bees, lit his skull on fire, got dangerous in Bangkok, and then drove angry while seeking justice?

Cage Vamp

Cage is a dinosaur skull owning vampire and a thunder God who lives in a German castle, plays the mandolin, and fucked Elvis’ daughter after he fucked the woman who would one day become The Punisher’s psychic wife. How about you?

Cage was too much man to be Krypton’s last son and as the adage goes, his hair has more range than most other actors. Can you telekinetically make your hairline dance? Didn’t think so.

His madness is method, his eyes are wide, wild, and white and his warrior cry can castrate a bear from three miles out.

In an age when Liam Neeson is the accepted definition of cinematic toughness because he trained Batman and punched a wolf, Nic Cage merely laughs inappropriately, trains a pint sized vigilante and then eye-fucks a unicorn while riding a dragon bareback and some of these things are exaggerations!

Cage octopus

Hell yeah, he owned an octopus once! He also worked with both Sean Connery (James Bond) and Jon Lovitz (the exact opposite of James Bond) over the course of two years. Moby took one look at Red Rock West and wrote a song about Nic Cage because Nic Cage is made of stars, and so to commemorate that, we bring you a look at two of Cage’s films in what may become a regular thing here if the mood strikes us me.

Without further ado, film reviews and slightly less peculiar word choices.

Seeking Justice

The first of four Cage movies that I watched last night in an unhealthy binge of whisper/scream acting, Seeking Justice stars Cage as a high school teacher whose wife (played by Mad Men’s January Jones) gets sexually assaulted on the streets of New Orleans. Beset by grief and sitting in the waiting room in the hours after the attack, Cage’s character is approached by Guy Pearce, who plays a shady stranger that offers Cage a chance at revenge through his group of vigilante do-gooders, provided Cage promises to return the favor one day.

Cage Vamp

All in all, the premise sounds like the basis for an interesting and grimy examination into the sadistic parts of an emotionally destroyed brain and the dark places that can get visited in moments of deep duress. It’s easy to empathize with Cage’s character in that moment when he agrees to this deal with Pearce, and it’s interesting to see the reality of what he has done settle around his shoulders and bleed into his heart. He is a defacto murderer, but he tries to move on. Sadly, Pearce and others in the organization keep coming for him.

I would have loved this movie had it accepted this simple premise and not tried to weave a somewhat complex and mostly implausible conspiracy that taints the police, mild-mannered friends, and many others. This could have been a bare thriller, casting Cage as a man who has to run from a sin that many of us might entertain if put in the same set of horrific circumstances.

The end is painfully predictable, but Cage is solid and so is Jones, who I usually can’t stand. Guy Pearce should have written “Pass” on his forehead so he remembered to run away from this thoroughly cartoonish black hat role, rather than report to set everyday. That was a Memento reference  in case you weren’t picking up what I was throwing down.

Overall…

Cage Face Seeking Justice

Trespass

Directed by Joel Schumacher, Tresspass makes the same mistake as Seeking Justice in that it takes a simple premise — a home invasion that unites a divided family against masked theives — and corrupts it with ambition and a need to give every single character busy work.

The film stars Cage, Nicole Kidman and Liana Liberato as a diamond broker, his desperate housewife, and his rebellious daughter, and Cam Gigandet, Ben Mendelsohn (who is quite good in this), Dash Mihok, and Jordana Spiro as the masked thieves who invade Cage’s posh house looking for a quick score.

Cage is fantastic in this one, employing some kind of high pitched, dweeb tone to oversell his flaccidity and architectural over-compensation. He also refuses to give the thieves the money that they desire and gets the living crap beaten out of him for his trouble making ways, so if anyone is still pissed off about Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, this is an Ikea bed built for you to sleep and dream on.

Cage Vamp

The real trouble — with the story — begins when we go behind the mask and start learning about the thieves’ backstory. Mihok is a sadistic heavy, Mendelsohn is small time dope peddler looking to payoff a debt that he owes to Mihok’s employer while keeping both his little brother (Gigandet) and his psycho stripper girlfriend in line. By the way, it’s Gigandet’s character that hatched this whole plan and he’s actually in love with/stalking Kidman’s character without cause and with tremendous, negative effect.

I weep for what this could have been had they kept the thieves faceless and kept the domestic squabbles in the forefront instead of efforting to make a more Better Home and Gardens friendly version of Panic Room on crack. But hey, it’s Schumacher, so it’s just gotta be busy and wrought with an abundance of layers that suck all the air out of the metaphorical room and clog the story with needless knick knacks that we have to climb over to get to the point.

With that said, it’s a good film that could have been better. Overall…

Cage Face Trespass

So, two Nicolas Cage reviews and a testimonial to the man’s genius. Clearly you, dear reader, won at life Plinko. Stay tuned, maybe next time we’ll talk about Knowing and Amos and Andrew.

Opinion: The End of Nintendo

- 02-01-13Featured, Videogames Posted by Jason Tabrys

DD

With reports that Sony will debut the PS4 in three weeks and with a possible holiday release on the table, the next generation has begun. Soon, Microsoft will follow with their Xbox 360 follow-up and Nintendo will sit there, their latest system not even a year old, their gamble foolish from the start.

A few years ago, when the Wii pioneered motion gaming — making it a must have system for casual gamers, families, and a lot of people who had never before owned a console before — it seemed like they could do no wrong.

Back then, the mobile gaming market wasn’t dominated by smartphones and tablets. Back then, Sony and Microsoft got caught on their heels, fighting a war over half the available market.

Then, back then ended. Android and Apple seized the mobile market and Sony and Microsoft eventually lowered their prices, marketed their systems as home entertainment hubs that could do things that the Wii could not, and then they entered the motion gaming market as well, with the Move and the Kinect, robbing Nintendo of the one thing that made them unique.

What makes them unique now? Their lack of foresight, and their pending irrelevancy.

See, when Sony and Microsoft had Nintendo beat, the House of Mario doubled down and brought a new system to market, even as it’s peers were writing off this generation and preparing to move into the future.

Will that system, the Wii U, be able to stand in against competition that will surely have them beat in every facet of the game? All signs point to no.

nintendo-wii-u

The End. 

Companies die. It’s a sad thing because it means jobs and legacies vanish, but Atari just filed for bankruptcy, and Sega abandoned the console game years ago, fully aware that smaller companies cannot compete in the console wars against companies like Sony and now Microsoft — a lesson that Nintendo is now learning more fully.

Why am I so confident that the end is near for Nintendo, the home of NES and Gameboy, one of the industries’ forefathers?

I’m confident because they’re already beginning to erode, even before the next Sony and Microsoft system hit the market. From a report on Forbes.com:

Nintendo cut sales forecasts for all of its hardware and software today, most notably the Wii U. The company slashed shipping estimates on the Wii U from 5.5 million to 4, and software estimates from 24 million to 16.

The article goes on to say that, despite a profitable holiday season quarter, that Nintendo still suffered an annual loss last year. Again, this is in the last days of disco for an ending generation, and Nintendo couldn’t even live up to their own expectations with it’s new, shiny product (with current gen performance capabilities) that they are now locked into.

What about the DS and the 3DS? According to TGDaily:

The company also cut forecasts for its other consoles. 3DS sales are now likely to be 15 million by March – 14 percent fewer than predicted – with DS sales down eight percent on their forecast at 2.3 million.

Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m eager to dance on Nintendo’s grave. I grew up with an NES in my living room and adored the N64, but the past is the past and Nintendo’s corporate overlords have demonstrated a lack of vision and painful ineptitude when it comes to reading their own marketplace.

Who is the Wii U for anyway? As I said, motion gaming is now available on every system, so they have no edge there. What about hardcore gamers? Turns out they require top-line graphics and strong third party developer support — things that the Wii U doesn’t provide. Home entertainment fans? The Wii U doesn’t have a Blu Ray player. Budget conscious shoppers? You can buy a 500 gig PS3, with the Blu Ray player for the same price as a base model Wii U with only 8 gigs, and that doesn’t even count the cost of an extra tablet controller.

Is Nintendo pondering a price cut to try and gain a foothold? No, their doubling down on their failures once again.

Like I said, I don’t want Nintendo to fail, but they’re handheld products are equaled by other multi-functional products that are viewed as essential by most consumers, something that renders their products in-essential. Furthermore, they released an overpriced, under-performing, awkward to use console that doesn’t meet the demands of the average consumer, a consumer whose expectations are set to rise when Sony and Microsoft announce their new products, products that I imagine will one day host Mario and other Nintendo properties as the company stumbles down the same ravine that Sega did.

It didn’t have to be like this. The future was plowing toward the station and instead of waiting, Nintendo jumped too early and fell right onto the tracks.

They could have strived for innovation, they could have aimed for a niche, any niche, but instead, they relied on the strength of brand loyalty and the assumption that Wii owners would rejoice over backwards compatible peripherals, and everyone else would wait for the system to offer a healthy library of games.

Sadly though, the market doesn’t wait, and now Nintendo’s window has closed and they are a cautionary tale.

Game Over.

Means, Motive, and Opportunity: How we get Played as Suckers

- 08-21-12Featured, Film Posted by Jason Tabrys

When celebrities speak, people listen. That’s a mostly ridiculous thing — particularly when they stray and try to speak on matters of actual importance  (Shalom Dave Mustaine, you crazy motherfucker) — but it’s a part of the benefit of being  beloved, trusted, and worshiped. The trouble is, too many of us fail to keep one eye open and one hand on our wallets when we bow down at the altar and sometimes we get swindled because of it.

Today news broke that Bruce Campbell — “Ash” from the original Evil Dead (and Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness) — had told Digital Spy that he had seen Fede Alvarez’ reboot while in post production and that it was “fabulous”.

Naturally, numerous sites like ours ran with the story and proclaimed that Campbell was endorsing the new Evil Dead. Some noted that Campbell was a producer on the film that he was “endorsing” or wondered if Campbell was merely making the “obligatory promotional speech” and others, sadly, did not and in doing so they ignored a key piece of information.

Now, this is not to say that because Campbell has a vested interest in making this film a successful reality that his words carry no weight of truthiness. This could be the honest summation of things seen by a man whose word is un-impeachable — but it could also be thought of as a compensated endorsement, an un-labeled advertorial, or all of the above. Whatever it is though, it most surely is Campbell’s job and it is a job that most people realize he’s doing when he’s doing it. The thing that bothers me isn’t a celebrity doing his job, it’s us not doing ours.

See every day press releases and “leads” come in and then thousands of other sites feast on the trough. What comes out the other end is what you and I read on a daily basis. Some of it is awesome, a lot of it is shit that sacrifices the truth and details for snark and shiny over-valued brevity, and some of it is reported on to gain favor or earn a pat on the head. Everyone has done this and I mean everyone including me and this site, though I sleep at night knowing that I personally do it infrequently and I’m trying real hard to quit just cause if “pimpin aint easy”, you can’t imagine how burdensome ho’in is.

This is the game though — kiss a little ass then (hopefully) kick a little ass — but when people lay down and don’t so much bury the lead, but bury the thing that reveals the lead to be bullshit in an effort to earn favor or appease their need to do little more than cut and paste, well it is a bit stomach churning when you consider the reason why you’re reading and why we’re supposed to be writing.

That reason — as far as I can tell — is to get informed and to inform, and that means every little annoying tidbit should be considered and sometimes you should bite the hand. So when Campbell lowers that jaw and does the cheerleader thing, or when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman praises Michael Bay‘s coming assault on the origin bread and butter of his co-creation (a project that Eastman will be a consultant on) — call it as you see it internet and be as good at your job as these people are at theirs because smart people can tell what’s up and dumb people are just being made dumber by frothy bullshit.

One last thing: While I don’t have any ill regard for Campbell talking up this project, and while I understand both his stated reasons for supporting this picture and those left un-stated (being awesome doesn’t pay many bills on their own) I also have to applaud heartily people who can and do resist that urge.

There aren’t a lot of people in this world who would say no to $2 million dollars but Alan Moore did when DC wanted his seal of approval for Before Watchmen, something that was going to come out regardless of whether he took the money or told DC to fuck off.

Amazingly, Moore (maybe) figuratively told DC to do just that and in doing so he solidified himself as a man without an agenda, a man with unquestioned scruples, and a brilliantly rare idiot. In his own words from the interview on Leftlion:

“You can’t buy that kind of empowerment. To just know that as far as you are aware, you have not got a price; that there is not an amount of money large enough to make you compromise even a tiny bit of principle that, as it turned out, would make no practical difference anyway.”

I don’t expect others to be able to do what Moore did, both in terms of their wealth or standards, but that doesn’t mean his action isn’t superior to the fields and fields of people who have said yes to similar things and been nothing more than typical.

As for the new Evil Dead: wait for it to come out, see it, and then make up your mind about the authenticity of Bruce Campbell’s endorsement then — I know I will.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and not NerdBastards.com. 

Davids vs. Goliath: The Challenge of Speaking Against Marvel and DC

- 04-19-12Comics Posted by Jason Tabrys

We’ve all had those jobs. The jobs that we want to storm out of, double-handed flip-offs on full display with a smile and a string of profane words so severe that they would make Andrew Dice Clay wash his own mouth out with soap. Sadly though, that’s just a fantasy for most of us. A “one day I’ll” that dances around in our brains during the blissful peace of a cubicle daydream. That’s why Chris Roberson (iZombie and Superman) is destined to become a momentary icon, not only did he tell his boss to go to hell, but that boss was DC Comics, and he did it in a very public, and embarrassing way by questioning their ethics and the way they treat writers.

Now, Roberson wasn’t explicit in speaking on the details of his mistreatment by DC, hell he didn’t even say he was mistreated — and who knows, maybe a few well placed tweets on the way out the door are merely the appetizers to a more stout statement on DC, everything is a teaser for another teaser nowadays, an ad for the big reveal. Maybe that’s how Roberson will play this, and maybe he won’t say anything more — focusing on his work and building a career away from DC. One thing is clear though, it takes guts to stand in against Goliath and it is something that is uncommon due to the long memory of powerful people. (more…)

Should ‘Avengers’ Be The End For Marvel Films?

- 04-19-12Comics, Film Posted by Luke Gallagher

With glowing reviews for The Avengers beginning to surface, I can’t help but wonder if the films May 4th release date will mark the end of Marvel’s movie madness, or if it will be just the beginning? In my opinion this is it; anything post-Avengers will pale in comparison. I mean, how can you reach the pinnacle of the super hero genre with a team driven dynamic (of epic proportions), one that has been building through five separate preceding films and then go back to making standalone features, especially if those features are required to service the narrative of the bigger world? If I could use fireworks as an example: The Avengers will be the grand finale. Would you want to go back to sparklers and firecrackers after seeing a wide-eyed spectacle in the sky? (more…)

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