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    Continued from above.

    Stylistically and tonally Thor: Ragnarok most closely resembles Guardians of the Galaxy. Like the first Guardians movie, Ragnarok feels like it occurs in many locations. It also includes a Star Wars/Guardians style space-ship dogfight. And, like the first Guardians movie, Ragnarok is a serious story told with very lighthearted charm. In the same way particularly the first Guardians movie is subtly but tremendously important to the larger MCU, Ragnarok likewise feels like it will have significant reverberations throughout the MCU continuity. Also like the first Guardians, Ragnarok feels exactly like the result of a uniquely visionary, creative, and capable director left to his own devices. In fact, while the direction is excellent, director Taika Waititi nearly steals the film as the actor behind supporting character Korg. The movie is unexpectedly tremendously violent, but the hyperbolic tone and the brisk pacing prevent lingering on the violence, making it all seem like a children's cartoon. The pacing remains quick, even when the movie spends a large chunk of its time on the planat Sakaar. After two serviceable but unremarkable Thor movies, Ragnarok vies for the crown of the MCU movies. I'm not certain that it's the verb best MCU film, but it's definitely in the running.

    Despite Justice League being the DCU’s first biggest superhero epic so far, it distinctly doesn’t feel especially epic. The threat to the world actually never reaches beyond the borders of a nearly abandoned Russian village. In fact, the heroes cause more damage to the “world” than the villain does in the picture. When a DCU film finally feels like it could actually justify a longer running time, this one arbitrarily gets limited to exactly two hours by studio mandate. The result is an odd, uneven pace that unfolds in stops and starts, never developing a sense of momentum. Focus is also a bit of a problem. The movie revolves around Batman, but the theme of the film seems to try to subtly emphasize that Batman is the weakest, most expendable member of the league. He’s been active the longest and seems to have trouble keeping up with the younger and/or more powerful team members. And to a large extent his primary contribution to the team is supplying financial backing rather than tactics, experience, intelligence, or brawn. The surrounding league fares a bit better personality-wise. Aquaman’s west coast surfer personality doesn’t make any sense narratively, but it lends a welcome breezy tone to offset Bruce Wayne’s dourness in the few scenes Aquaman is prominent in. The Flash and Cyborg both get prominent characterization by necessity since they’re new additions to the cinematic universe. Flash comes across well because he gets the most vivid personality, and he gets to rescue people. Cyborg is relegated to even more of a back-up support role, so despite effort to personify him, he still comes across as a minor supporting character. Wonder Woman continues her characterization from her previous appearances, but she also feels deliberately marginalized. The film’s story is minimal and superficial because the villain, Steppenwolf, is the shallowest villain of the modern comic book movie era. His entire plot and entire motivation is simply “because he’s evil.” Moreover, he’s entirely CG despite being completely humanoid. While there’s seemingly no reason why he couldn’t have been portrayed by an actor, he’s instead portrayed by CG that’s not highly convincing, further limiting his impact. Further bothersome, early in the film the transition from the obviously fully CG rendered Gotham City to the real world setting of Europe is a jarring transition that highlights the film’s artificiality for viewers. During the opening credits the movie is also especially heavy handed in its depiction of a “hopeless” post-Superman world. But on the positive side brief glimpses of intelligence occasionally peek through, and thankfully the film’s color palate isn’t solely composed of black and orange. Occasionally the action gets a bit typically Snyder incoherent, but thankfully most of it is competently shot and edited to be comprehensible and entertaining. And the movie contains two or three prominent cameo Easter eggs for comic book fans, one of which appears in the film’s second of two post-credits sequences. Justice League doesn’t feel as substantial or satisfying as the concurrently released Thor: Ragnarok nor does it quite rival the Avengers movies. But thankfully it’s an appreciable improvement over the very heavily flawed BvS and Suicide Squad films.

    I've never complained about the conclusion of the first season of Stranger Things although I do recognize that the ending is a bit ambiguous. But the final five episodes of season 2 do wrap up in a more complete and conclusive way. The season isn't flawless. Billy & Max's background story is initially teased to be far more significant than it actually is. Kali feels a bit forcefully shoehorned into the show just to give Elle a nudge in the right direction. Likewise, Murray Bauman is briefly introduced in the first episode before entirely vanishing for half of the season.

    The Gifted episodes 1-3 don't feel as cheap and artificial as Inhumans, but the writing still feels uneven, frequently seeming rather juvenile and simplistic. Furthermore, the show feels as though it alternately wants to concentrate on its characterizations or its story development and, as a result, does a poor job of developing both. The show may avoid being terrible, but it's not especially engrossing either.

    Watched the first four episodes of the Netflix Punisher TV series. Even more than prior Netflix Marvel series, this one feels the weight of its prescribed 13 episodes because the pacing is exceedingly slow for no other reason than the need to stretch the story to fill the episode count. Moreover, the story also feels a bit like a chore because the show depicts Frank Castle still investigating the murder of his family even though his own show is set a year after his storyline in Daredevil season 2, in which he seemingly wrapped up the murder of his family. On the positive side, despite action scenes being few and far between, they’re intense and satisfying when they do occur, and possibly thanks to Frank’s cautious paranoia, the characterizations and story development don’t feel nearly as arbitrary and dumb as the previous two Netflix Marvel series did.

    Caught the last quarter of the Bucs loss to the Saints. Watched the Raiders beat the Dolphins. Watched the Lions defeat the Packers. Watched the Seahawks beat the Cardinals. Watched the Bucs win an ugly game against the Jets. Watched the Falcons tee-off on the Cowboys, and the Patriots beat the Broncos. Watched the Panthers school the Dolphins. Watched the Steelers beat the Titans. Watched the Bucs beat the Dolphins, the Patriots defeat the Raiders, and the Seahawks crush the Cowboys. The Falcons' narrow victory over the Seahawks was an exciting game.


      Watched Blend S episodes 6 & 8 (since I previously watched episode 7 out of order).

      I understand that an undercurrent of darkness and melancholy runs through Mahoutsukai no Yome, but I distinctly prefer the brighter, more hopeful and whimsical episodes like the later half of episode 6, or episode 3, compared to the darker, less inspiring episode 7, or episodes 4 & 5.

      Watched Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou episode 7.

      Watched Net-juu no Susume episode 8.

      Rather loosely speaking, I think that typical high school romance shoujo anime gravitate toward one of two polar tones. There are shows like Kimi ni Todoke, Ao Haru Ride, Tsuki ga Kirei, and Suki-tte Ii na yo that have a subdued and richly dramatic tone that focuses on realism and subtlety. And there are shows like Skip Beat, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, Itazura na Kiss, and Koi to Uso that have a slightly more artificial and heavy-handed tone and feel a bit more comedy-oriented than drama-oriented. I typically tend to appreciate the former category more often than the latter category. The first episode of Itsu Datte Bokura no Koi 10 Centi Datta distinctly feels akin to the latter category. The characterizations feel a bit forced, and the rapid plot development that blurs through the characters developing feelings for each other via a montage scene suggests that the story is more concerned with depicting certain pre-planned plot points than simply focusing on the means rather than the ends. This show simply feels a bit contrived to the extent that the male protagonist's older brother is a teacher at his school who offers lollipops. I can't recollect which other similar show featured exactly the same scenario, but it was a show from within the past year or so.

      Just half-way through the first episode of the Idolish Seven TV series, I could already easily tell that the show was written for dramatic effect without any care for realism. Nagi appears to be at least half-French, so the show uses his foreignness to excuse his obvious sexual harassment. Iori's reaction to Tsumugi's announcement is supposed to seem adult and rational, but he's actually petulant and completely wrong. He presumes that the new manager has been employed to support his career advancement when, in fact, he's not yet even a professional idol. So until he proves himself qualified, his management company owes him nothing. And then Tsumugi completely ignores her boss' direct commands on the first day of work simply for her personal gratification, because she doesn't want to be ruthlessly professional. By the second episode more plot problems become obvious. The management company seems concerned with making its idol group a hit, but no one appears to bother supervising or coordinating the boys' stage costumes. Tsumugi's father plays a weird role of being her father and allowing her to learn from her mistakes while also being her boss and expecting her to succeed despite not giving her any guidance.

      Watched Dragon Ball Super episodes 116 & 117.

      Houseki no Kuni episode 8 continues to affirm that this show is an under the radar masterpiece. It's completely unpredictable, and every episode is filled with wondrous, magical hope and gripping sadness.

      Watched Hozuki no Reitetsu 2 episode 8.

      Watched Animegataris episodes 7-8.

      Watched Himouto Umaru-chan R episodes 7 & 8.

      Watched Osake wa Fuufu ni Natte Kara episodes 5-9.

      Watched Konohana Kitan episode 9.

      Attended the subtitled Ghibli-fest theatrical screening of Howl's Moving Castle.

      Satoko Kiyuduki's Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro volume 6 is definitely the best installment of the manga series since at least the third or fourth book. The series' primary story development has always been slow and intermittent because the story is far more about tone and characterization than story development. But volume 6 reveals some significant revelatory details and pushes the narrative distinctly toward an ending. Kuro has spent the prior five volumes slowly dying. In this volume, the corruption that afflicts her takes its greatest toll yet, but then an unexpected plot twist occurs that ‘s actually just as terrifying as it is hopeful. Once again, this volume excels at depicting a charming grim tragedy about two traveling companions walking toward their deaths while accompanying and parenting a pair of utterly adorable and innocent cat girl sisters who aren't aware that they're angelic monsters.

      After reading the first four double-length issues of the Image comic series Sacred Creatures, I'm still conflicted over it. Its narrative jumps through time, suspense, very cinematic action, and its heavy dose of supernaturalism make it feel like a contemporary thriller novel. The story almost feels like Dan Brown writing a supernatural thriller. But the major problem with the story is that it has no likeable characters. Every human being in the story is either a self-centered jerk, a prominent character with no unique, individual personality who exists in the story only to make plot developments occur, or a random insignificant background character that just populates the scene.

      The cynical reader can argue that the second issue of Sherlock Frankenstein is too bluntly emotionally manipulative. On the other hand, credit ought to be given for any typical American superhero comic book that deliberately tries to be emotionally evocative. I'm sadly disappointed that after the first two issues of John Layman & Sam Keith's Eleanor & the Egret felt very slow to develop, the third issue finally hit its stride, then the fourth issue feel rushed, the fifth and series' concluding issue likewise feels abrupt and condensed. It does manage to cover all of the narrative points that it needs to, but it does so with such brevity that it feels artificial and premature, as though the creators suddenly decided that they didn't want to work on the series anymore so hastily composed a quick ending that would just adequately wrap up the story. The first issue of Imaginary Fiends develops strictly by the numbers, but cliché is cliché because it works. The issue isn't groundbreaking or surprising, but it's competent enough to sustain my interest and curiosity. On the other hand, I was disappointed and off-put by the uneven pacing of the first issue of Infernoct. The second issue has similar problems. The second issue picks up shortly after the first but leaves the reader wondering if there was some storytelling left out or skipped over. The second issue creates the feeling that the series' creators have a strong sense of the story that's not being adequately conveyed to readers. Particularly in this issue, the protagonist and her boyfriend visit an abandoned building which they claim they were told to go to, except the telling didn't occur in the first issue. On the way they're randomly kidnapped, which seems like a bizarre and difficult to believe plot development. Then when the kidnapping turns out to be a matter of confusion, the couple volunteers to assist their former kidnappers instead of getting the hell away from them, which again feels very unnatural. I was hoping for something unique and intriguing from the first issue of Long Lost. Unfortunately it's not especially either. The first issue develops like an indie comic with a supernatural undertone. The protagonist is a young adult woman suffering from existential ennui. She goes about her daily life dissatisfied that life is so mundane and meaningless. Meanwhile a sinister ghost stalks her, which may be a figurative representation of her psychology but is likely supposed to be a literal monster in her shadow. The issue certainly suggests a possibility that its story will develop, but taken in isolation the first issue isn't especially interesting. The second issue of Malefic starts to feel a bit redundant in the sense that it's emphasizing a strengthening repetition of its story development, but the tone is still creepy, and the repetition of the story hasn't completely worn out its welcome yet.

      I'm seemingly one of the few ardent fans of the Punisher: War Zone movie. Jon Bernthal plays a more intense, brooding version of the dramatization that Thomas Jane introduced. Both depictions work, but they're far more cinematic than comic book-oriented. Director Lexi Alexander & star Ray Stevenson literally brought to life Garth Ennis's Punisher Max comic books. Particularly Bernthal's characterization is an almost schizophrenic contrast of a stone-cold loner who desperately clings to both his warm memories and his few personal relationships. Ray Stevenson's characterization was simply a relentless punisher, a fighter and tactician whose only concern was fulfilling his self-prescribed mission. So after watching Netflix Punisher episodes 5-10 I continue to respect the series' reasonably intelligent drama and tension (especially in comparison to the mostly laughable Iron Fist and the only somewhat improved Defenders). The action is intense, but the Netflix show still doesn't reach the deliriously satisfying comic book excess of “War Zone.”

      Watched the Vikings beat the Lions. Watched the bad Redskins beat the even worse Giants. Watched the Falcons outpower and out-skill the Buccaneers. Watched the Rams beat the Saints, and the Steelers beat the Packers. Watched the Ravens beat the Texans. Watched the Cowboys easily beat the Redskins.
      Last edited by John; December 1st, 2017, 11:15 AM.


        Watched Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou episodes 8-10.

        The first half of Houseki no Kuni 9 is very affecting. Viewers see Phos emotionally tortured by guilt and the understanding that finally achieving what she dreamed of wasn't remotely worth the cost she's had to pay for it. The episode's second half is more lighthearted but also introduces the natural possibility of a psychological element that previous hasn't existed among the crystal girls.

        Watched Hozuki no Reitetsu 2 episodes 9 & 10.

        Watched Dragon Ball Super episodes 118 & 119.

        I like Net-juu no Susume, and episode 9 is fine. But episode 10 emphasizes the weakness that I dislike about the show. Episode 10 feels as if it's deliberately trying to hinder the story development and keep the pace slow. The protagonists are all adults who have no reason to be ashamed about their interactions or relationships. Yet they're so self-conscious that the story borders on feeling unrealistic. I'm stunned and even a bit disappointed that Sword Art Online, a series revolving around younger characters and seemingly intended for a younger audience that Net-juu no Susume still treats the relationship between its two PC game playing protagonists with more maturity than this show does.

        Watched Blend S episode 9.

        Watched Precure A la Mode episodes 38-41. I'm relieved that the sweets castle outfits don't appear often because they're silly looking.

        Watched Umaru-chan R episode 9.

        Watched Animegataris episode 9.

        Konohana Kitan episode 10 is a very pleasant one.

        I found a copy of the 1995 Elementals: Ghost of a Chance one-shot comic and bought it because it was written by Elementals creator Bill Willingham. I read it, but I don't get it. Chronologically it's set later in Elementals volume 2 after the events of the Oblivion War, which I never bothered to read. So I don't know who many of the characters are. Moreover, nothing seems to occur within this comic that justifies its existence as a special one-shot. Moreover, nothing about the writing exhibits the unique voice that typically makes Bill Willingham's scripting interesting. I can see why this is a disposable, forgotten comic.

        I bought, then read, the first three issues of Wonder Woman/Conan because I found them on sale. I suppose I wouldn't call the first half of the series “bad,” but it's neither inspired nor very interesting. Regrettably, a rather large portion of the story is devoted to essentially rehashing the same flashback over and over again, and also a dull montage scene demonstrating time passing. Wonder Woman has amnesia, so she's a high-strung combination of mopey and prideful. For some unfathomable reason, Conan comes across as almost reasonable. He's called “Conan the Barbarian,” yet very little about his characterization seems barbaric. So rather than a contrast of personalities action-fest, the first half of the mini-series is a rather dull road trip in which Conan tries to be a gentleman in order to get along with temperamental Wonder Woman. And, for some unexplained so far reason, Wonder Woman is just a normal human woman with no superhuman strength or abilities.

        The first issue of Dynamite's John Wick prequel comic is the first “movie” comic I've read since Highlander: American Dream. At least unlike Highlander, artist Giovanni Valletta draws a passably recognizable rendition of Keanu Reeves. Unfortunately, certain other parts of both the art and the writing seem to take significant shortcuts. For example, Wick interrupts a private hold-up, but it's only after the fighting and shooting is over that the story reveals the fact that another bystander was in the room who wasn't depicted before or during the unfolding scene. And in a series of panels a gunman points his weapon at Wick but is suddenly unarmed and being shot by Wick. Presumably John took the man's gun and turned it against its former owner. But still comic book panels create the appearance that the assailant's gun vanished, and Wick somehow materialized a weapon out of thin air.

        Black Magick remains commendable because it's so realistic and hard boiled. But the downside of being realistic is that issue 9, like prior issues, seems to develop at a snail's pace.

        Read the five-issue Shirtless Bear Fighter mini-series. It's an obvious parody of vintage “G-Man” secret agent action thrillers mixed with a sort of South Park style juvenile humor. It's amusing and occasionally just a bit more inspired and creative than expected. My biggest gripe with it is the protagonist's lack of arsenal. He almost exclusively relies on his “bear punch.” I would have liked to see a bit more range of offense, for example, “Bear uppercut,” or “bear haymaker,” “bear right hook,” or “bear cross-counter.”

        Curiosity motivated me to read the first issue of DC Comics' Mystik U, a story in which Zatana gets zapped back in time to relive her high school days. Despite the first issue being an extra long issue, the comic ironically feels like it rushes to go nowhere. Seemingly nothing of importance occurs, yet the storytelling is very jumpy, as if it's over eager to get to whatever scene is upcoming. The issue feels a bit like a poorly edited episode of Scooby Doo from which a few seconds of footage has been removed out of each minute of running time. The story development just feels slightly disjointed.

        Paper Girls issue 18 is fast paced and action-oriented.

        Read Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County: Brand Spanking New Day, the second print collection of Breathed's revived Bloom County comic strips. The creator hasn't lost any of his wit because this year old strips are every bit as creative, funny, and satirical as the classic 80's strips.

        Listened to U2's new Songs of Experience album. Seemingly the previous record, Songs of Innocence, took a lot of criticism for lacking individuality and feeling like redundant contemporary rock. Given that I'm not an audiophile, the skillfully produced and very confident accessible musicianship on “Songs of Innocence” are exactly what made that album appeal to me. The current Songs of Experience is getting better critical reviews calling the music more distinctively U2's signature sound. Perhaps specifically for that reason I find the songs on the new album less catchy and appealing. They're definitely more personal and a bit more experimental. But in my ears those exact characteristics are what make the songs more difficult for me to relate to. In fact, one of the songs on the new album I appreciate most is the final track “13 (There is a Light),” which is, in fact, just a remix of “Song for Someone” from the Songs of Innocence album.

        The Bucs outplayed the Packers, but just a handful of mistakes gave the Packers the win. Watched the Saints beat the Panthers, and the Seahawks beat the Eagles. Watched the Steelers win that game that the Bengals should have won. Watched the Falcons win a narrow victory over the Saints. Watched the ugly Bucs loss to the Lions, the Eagles beat the Rams, and the Steelers narrowly beat the Ravens.


          Watched Ballroom e Youkoso episodes 13-15.

          Hirune-hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari is very nicely animated, and its animation expresses a lot of personality. Unfortunately, I want to like it more than I entirely do for two reasons. At two hours, the film is a bit over-long. The film does need time to develop its scenario because the story reveals itself slowly. And although no singular scenes feel excessive, the total impact feels as though the movie slightly outstays its welcome. A bigger problem is that the movie doesn't adhere to its own logic. The movie unfolds in protagonist Kokone's dreams and waking life. As the two settings begin to blend into each other, the film takes care to explain how. For example, magic in the dream world is the equivalent of X or Y in the real world. And the colossus in the dream world represents the looming 2020 Tokyo Olympic games' opening ceremony in the real world. But most of the film's climax is depicted in the dream world without clear parallels to the real world. So viewers are left confused and wondering what's actually occurring simultaneously in reality outside of Kokone's fantasy. Abruptly, during the climax, much of what occurs seems to not have direct figurative equivalency to the real world.

          Although I watched all of it, I didn't like 2010's Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei. I thought it was redundant, pretentious, and a bit annoying. Its 2017 sister story feature film Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome, on the other hand, is brilliant. The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl revels in visual artistic exaggerated flourish. Moreover, it avoids all of the weaknesses that hindered Tatami Galaxy. The movie has a brisk pace. And unlike its predecessor, “Walk On Girl” doesn't wallow in self-pity. The protagonist of Tatami Galaxy spent his time complaining the life wasn't fair to him. The characters of “Walk On Girl” are optimistic. They actively struggle to make connections and achievements and help themselves. In fact, the theme of the movie seems to be that youth is making interpersonal connections, so as long as people stay friendly and sociable, they remain vital, energetic, and youthful.

          Watched Himouto Umaru-chan R episode 10.

          Houseki no Kuni episode 10 is a really beautifully directed episode. The pacing, atmosphere, camera shots and editing in this episode are all exceptional.

          I really want to like Mahoutsukai no Yome more than I do. I like the show's atmosphere, and the TV specials and earliest episodes of the TV series were very affecting. But the show is so wrapped up in flashbacks that it lacks impact. There's no tension or suspsense in seeing what's already happened, and we've gotten so little time spent with the characters in present time that we haven't developed sufficient empathy for them or curiosity about their backgrounds. So the constant flashbacks seem more like distractions than advancement of the story. The series is best when Chise encounters other supernatural beings and creatures, but she only gets to do so in brief moments in between the show's constant flashbacks.

          Watched Kekkai Sensen & Beyond episodes 4-10. Unexpected, I think this second season that doesn't have an underlying continuing story is actually stronger than the first season. The episodic focus actually works better for this particular series considering its tone.

          Konohana Kitan episode 11 is the best the series has been in a little while.

          Animegataris episode 10 introduces as many new questions as it answers.

          I first watched Last Jedi in 3D IMAX on Friday morning, then again in standard projection on Saturday at 11. To stay spoiler-free, I'’ll say that I was very pleased and satisfied with the film. My personal two biggest nitpicks with the film are not the primary one that most critics initially address, so in that respect my complaints about the movie are very minor. Upon first viewing I was very pleased to perceive the film as primarily Luke Skywalker’'s story, particularly focusing on him learning his final lesson to complete his Jedi training. On second viewing I paid more attention to Poe Dameron'’s character arc and appreciated the nuance within it. I respect the film'’s balance of serious tone with humorous moments. I'’m grateful for the film’s respectful treatment of the legacy characters. And I think this film does a wonderful job of immersing viewers into the “Star Wars” universe and atmosphere.

          Watched the Dolphins outplay the Patriots and the Broncos beat the Colts. Watched the Chiefs beat the Chargers.