Wednesday, September 30, 2015

OtGW review: Schooltown Follies

[WARNING! This post contains spoilers for Over the Garden Wall! If you have not seen the series, SEE IT! Then you can come back and read this]

"A is for the apple that he gave to me, but I found a worm inside. B is for beloved that I call to him before he left my side."

"So, Beatrice, you sing the high part. Wirt, you sing the really high part."
Beatrice, Wirt, and Greg are walking down a clear forest path. Greg is singing a song about going to Adelaide's house, to the annoyance of both Wirt and Beatrice. As Greg tries to assign certain parts of the song to them, Wirt stops to tie his shoe. Beatrice tells Wirt to keep walking, which he does (not tying his shoe), and she tells Greg that they are not doing any singing. When Greg protests, saying that they have to do something fun, Beatrice continues to say that they don't have to do anything.

"Greg, don't you want to be more like your brother? Just always doing what you're told?"
"Just a pathetic pushover who relies on others to make all his decisions?
"Hey, what? I'm not a pushover!"
"Hold on, Wirt, let me get to my point."
Greg continues to protest, and Beatrice starts a lecture. She tells Greg to be more like Wirt: a pushover who always does what he's told and can't make his own decisions. Wirt denies being any of these things, but proves Beatrice's point when she tells him to be quiet. When Greg notes this doesn't sound fun, Beatrice says, "The world is a miserable place." According to her, life just isn't fun. This upsets Greg, and he says that he will do what he has to do. Beatrice is pleased to hear this, and requests that they pick up the pace. Beatrice and Wirt then realize that Greg is missing. He's run off on his own, saying that he needs to do his part to make the world a better place.

"No, he doesn't have a brain, he can't learn anything. Let's go, Wirt, c'mon! [whistles] Here, boy!"
"What? Did you say something? I can't hear you because I'm too busy doing what I'm told."
"What? What're you…? No, no! Let's go!"
"Oh, no. See, I'm a pushover, remember? I have to do what she tells me to do."
Greg soon comes upon a schoolhouse, which he has no desire to enter, and continues running along. Not far behind, Wirt and Beatrice are searching for Greg and happen upon the same schoolhouse. Thinking perhaps Greg went inside, they go to investigate. Inside the schoolhouse, the teacher (with a class composed of anthropomorphic animals) admonishes Wirt for being late to school and tells him to sit down. Beatrice tries to escape from the situation by saying Wirt doesn't have a brain and thus can't learn anything. But to Beatrice's surprise, Wirt goes and sits down. Annoyed by Beatrice's condescending comments, Wirt tells her that since he's a "pushover" he has to do what the teacher tells him to do. Beatrice tries to entice Wirt to leave by saying Greg might be in trouble, but that is disapproved when they see Greg outside.

"Whew, that lady's got some baggage."
"What's that? Young man, go to the dunce box!"
Beatrice tells Wirt that since bluebirds have short lifespans, the brothers are literally killing her every moment they delay. Wirt doesn't care. The teacher, Miss Langtree, tells Wirt that she won't have any nonsense in her classroom. She has had enough nonsense from her two-timing boyfriend, Jimmy Brown. And not only has Jimmy Brown appeared to have run off, but Miss Langtree's father is threatening to close the school and there is also a wild gorilla on the loose. Miss Langtree then starts singing the alphabet, using each letter to represent something concerning her missing boyfriend. Beatrice says that Langtree has a lot of issues, a comment that Miss Langtree thinks came from Wirt. As punishment, she sends him to the dunce box. Wirt happily obeys in spite of Beatrice's protests, and Langtree resumes her song.

"So my theory is hotdogs are not actually dogs, regardless of what they teach you in school. But you guys don't go to school, huh? I'm gonna stick with you guys."
Outside, Greg is hanging out with some other anthropomorphic animals who are not going to school. Greg, happy to be with kindred spirits (others who don't like school), suggests that they play Two-Old Cat. The animals don't know how to play and Greg plans to show them. As they go around trying to find two old cats, a gorilla comes running out of the bushes. Greg and the animals scatter. In the school, Miss Langtree is still singing her song and Beatrice tells Wirt that she is not happy with the situation, a sentiment that Wirt is perfectly fine with. The school bell is rung, and Miss Langtree assumes that it's already lunchtime. In actuality, Greg and his animal friends are trying to warn people about the gorilla. After a short chase, they manage to knock the gorilla down and go to hide out in the school, where they file into the dining room.

"Oh, potatoes and molasses: If you want some, oh just ask us. They're warm and soft like puppies and socks, filled with cream and candy rocks!"
Lunch time is rather dreary. The potatoes are bland and Miss Langtree's piano music is slow and sad. Wirt tries to eat, but Beatrice snaps that no one told him to eat yet. Greg, determined to make things better, spies a jar of molasses on the shelf and gets an idea. He asks Miss Langtree to play a livelier tune and she happily obliges. Taking the molasses, Greg sings a nonsensical song about potatoes and molasses while mixing the two together. Everyone soon joins in the song, playing some form of musical instrument. It seems that everything is brightening up, but then Miss Langtree's father comes in.

"I didn't invest in a school for fun! I thought we were trying to do important work here! Teaching animals to count and spell!"
The man is unhappy that his money appears to be going to waste. He only wants important work to be done at the school, teaching animals how to count and spell, not have fun. Miss Langtree begs her father not to close the school, promising it won't happen again. Mr. Langtree is determined to ensure it won't happen again: he takes all of the musical instruments and orders Miss Langtree to put everyone to bed.

"Ok, Wirt, I'll admit it. You seem like a pushover, but you're not."
"Deep down in your heart, you're a stubborn jerk! When are you gonna give this up?"
"Maybe never! Maybe I'll never give this up."
Everyone, including Wirt, Greg and Beatrice, goes to bed. It's clear to Greg that all the animals are upset, and he himself is disappointed that in trying to make the world better, he only made things worse. Beatrice, meanwhile, admits to Wirt that she no longer sees him as a pushover. Instead she now sees him as a stubborn jerk and asks when he is going to stop being so. Wirt, in ironic defiance, says that perhaps he'll NEVER give up. This gives Greg an idea. Encouraged by Wirt's "never give up" comment, Greg tells Wirt that it's time to save the day.

"Ok, I think he's asleep. Let's go steal his stuff!"
Wirt, Greg and Beatrice sneak out of the schoolhouse and into the woods. Unfortunately, Greg doesn't really have a plan. Then they spy Mr. Langtree. He laments to himself, saying that his home and life savings went into making a school for animals. He regrets that he needs to sell the musical instruments just so he can keep the school open. With the school problems, Jimmy Brown having run off, and the wild gorilla on the loose, Mr. Langtree just wishes that something would go right for once and falls asleep underneath his coat. Greg now has a plan: steal Mr. Langtree's stuff!

"What is this?"
"It's a benefit concert for the school."
"Ah, isn't it grand? All these fine people giving out of the goodness of their hearts? Not like my Jimmy Brown."
In the morning, Mr. Langtree wakes up to see that all the instruments are gone. He is very upset about this, until he stumbles upon a musical performance. All the animals are playing the musical instruments and people are coming to watch and give them money. Mr. Langtree wonders what is happening and Wirt tells him that it's a benefit concert to raise money for the school. Miss Langtree is very happy about this, but starts to go into another lament concerning Jimmy Brown. All of a sudden, the gorilla pops out and tries to attack her.

"So, want me to tell Greg it's time to get going?"
"Nah, let him have his fun."
Mr. Langtree, panicked, tells Wirt to do something. Wirt attempts to run at the gorilla, but trips on his untied shoelaces and falls against the gorilla, knocking it down. The gorilla's head flies off, revealing Jimmy Brown to have been in a gorilla suit. Jimmy explains that he joined the circus so he could buy Miss Langtree a wedding ring, but when he got stuck in the gorilla suit, everyone was too scared to help him out. Jimmy and Miss Langtree share an embrace and everyone cheers. Mr. Langtree happily reflects that something finally went right and Greg starts singing Potatoes and Molasses on the concert stage. Wirt asks Beatrice if he should tell Greg it's time to go, but she decides to let Greg have his fun. As they watch Greg conduct the concert, Beatrice tells Wirt to tie his shoe, which he does.

(Sort of) REVIEW TIME!
Ok, so where do I start? I'm going to start with saying that I am not a professional reviewer, and so I can't really call these things reviews. They're more like personal opinions. I try really hard to see how certain things fail, and I'm sorry if some of them go completely over my head. This episode in particular is going hard underneath that microscope because, while I personally enjoyed this episode, among many Over the Garden Wall fans this is considered one of the weakest episodes. I haven't seen anyone who's actively disliked this episode, but it appears that most people agree that it isn't the best episode. I am going to try and see why.
Now, I'll say this again: I rather enjoyed this episode. It isn't my favorite episode, but I never thought of the episode as bad, weak, or boring. (That spot goes towards most of episode 8, but more on that later). The atmosphere was much lighter and more storybook-ish compared to the previous episodes. And this appears to be the most common criticism - pretty much the only criticism - toward this episode.
I can see where the people are coming from with this complaint. I mean, just in the last episode we had this incredibly atmospheric and creepy story. And in the episode before that. we had a demon dog chasing after our protagonists! We're pumped for another dose of surreal creepiness, and what do we get…? Anthropomorphic animals, bright and cheerful atmosphere, and musical numbers. It feels like a disappointment to not receive a tense and atmospheric episode, or a fast-paced and shock inducing episode.
Again, this is the most common complaint I've seen regarding this episode, and again I understand where it's coming from. Now allow me to deliver my personal opinion on this.
When I first watched this episode I was admittedly surprised by the change of pace. I actually wasn't aware of how surprised I was until I moved on to the next episode and realized, 'Hey, that was a weird episode.' However, I didn't think that the lightheartedness made the episode weak. I find that the episode helps you notice just how dark and atmospheric the overall show really is, as well as give you a break from all the darkness. It would be rather discouraging if every episode was dark and tense. The characters and the viewers would never be able to catch a break!
And really, the fact that people were already associating a certain atmosphere with the show after only two episodes is rather impressive. Two episodes in, and people were already thinking, 'Ok, Over the Garden Wall. I know your style. Come at me.' Then the show played with our expectations, giving us something we weren't ready to associate the show. The show didn't stay within its seemingly established boundaries of dark and atmospheric, but showed just how diverse it could be.
If you say this episode seems out of place and you don't enjoy it as much because it isn't as dark as the past episodes, that's fine. I understand. Me personally, I rather like this episode. Thank you for listening to my rambling, and let's move on to a different subject because I really need to wrap up this long over-due review.
How were the characters in this story? I thought that they were good. I found the interaction between Wirt and Beatrice to be fun to watch, with Beatrice's insults being met by a rather passive-aggressive counter-attack. The little conversation where Beatrice says Wirt is a jerk rather than a pushover is one of my favorite moments in the episode.
Greg got more screen time in this episode, and we get to see a little bit more than the goofy and oblivious little kid. He's goofy and optimistic for a reason: he wants to light up the world through that goofiness and optimism. I like the part when Greg realizes that his fun fest just made things more miserable. I wish the writers had developed that more, but I supposed there is only so much you can do in a short time frame.
Beatrice and Wirt also get some development in this episode. Wirt is becoming more confident and independent (which he proves, ironically enough, by pointedly depending on what others tell him to do), and Beatrice sees that the world isn't always and doesn't have to be a miserable place.
The music in this episode was more upbeat and childish, kind of like something you would hear in an old cartoon. And of COURSE I kind of have to talk about the best known song in the series: Potatoes and Molasses. This song so easily gets into your head, and I've seen mixed reactions of love and hate towards it. I kind of like the song myself, but my favorite song has got to be the teacher's song: Langtree's Lament. Seriously, it's a freakin' clever song! Look up the full song if you want to see what I mean.
So, I'm really hitting the time limit on how long I should be taking to write this episode review, so I better wrap it up. I liked this episode, and while it certainly isn't my favorite episode, I never found it weak. Just unexpected. All in all, I give this episode the overall rating of 8.9/10.
Join me next time when I review the upcoming episode: Songs of the Dark Lantern.

[Check out this charming little fanart of Miss Langtree and her class by mintyburps on Tumblr]

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Artemis Fowl movie!?

So, Sir Kenneth Branagh, the guy who acts as Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a director. He is collaborating with Disney… to make an Artemis Fowl movie.
[I would insert a gif here if my computer wasn't being such a jerk about it]
Eoin Colfer (the author of the Artemis Fowl series), has delivered his approval of this, and I'm as excited as all heck. Some people are rather dubious, due to the fact that DISNEY is the company working on this. Personally, I don't have much against Disney, though I might be more at ease about this whole thing if, say, Warner Bros. was the one working on the thing.
Now, while I am not too concerned about Disney working on the Artermis Fowl movies, there are a few things I am concerned about. For now, I'm just going to be talking about my NUMBER ONE CONCERN.
The casting and writing of Artemis Fowl himself.
Artemis Fowl is an interesting character. He starts off as a sort of villain. No, he DOES start out as the villain. A pre-teen villain, an incredibly dry and snarky villain, a remarkably egotistical villain, an absolutely BRILLIANT villain, but nonetheless a villain we find ourselves rooting for. Sure, we feel sorry for Holly Short and her predicament (and I personally hated Artemis for putting her through emotional torture). But all the same, we admire and often support Artemis' charismatic attitude and brilliant plots.
Now, yes, Artemis becomes more of a good guy/anti-hero as the series goes on, and I may talk more about that and other later-in-the-series events in a different post. In this post though, I'm just going to be talking about the first book. Because I am legitimately concerned about how Artemis is handled on screen.
Artemis scares people. They're expecting a little kid, but no, they meet a cold and condescending young man. One who is a prodigy, knows that he is a prodigy, and is not averse to rubbing people's faces in it. He never comes off as an annoying kid who pretentiously flaunting his intelligence. He is pretty scary. [I would be giving example quotes from the book(s), but I appear to have misplaced them, so that's a problem].
That is very important! In order for Artemis to not come of as an incredibly annoying and pretentious, this requires effort from both the actor and the screenwriter. Artemis needs to act enough like an cold and villainous adult that Holly Short will have absolutely no qualms delivering a hard punch to his face. Yes. That happens in the book. It's a good moment because Artemis got what he deserved.
Not only that, Artemis needs to carry an authority about him. He orders his bodyguard Butler, and Butler's sister Juliet, like a professional. He is their employer after all. Again, Artemis cannot appear as a pretentious kid ordering older people around. He has legitimate authority.
There are of course times when Artemis acts like something more than a villain or employer. He is pretty much one of those villains that you meticulously analyze…

…like Loki. Only since the story is actually ABOUT the villain and not from the POV of the people facing the villain, we have a LOT more insight into what is going on in their head and why they do what they do.
Artemis wants the fairy gold to fund searches for his missing father. Artemis GIVES UP a part of the fairy gold to Holly Short in exchange for the health of his grieving and delusional mother. As much of a 'not-kid' Artemis is, nothing matters to Artemis more than family. He likewise cares for Butler and Juliet, and I would talk about the complex relationship between Butler and Artemis, but that's for another post.
Some of my favorite moments in the first book are the times when Artemis interacts with his mother. He's less of a child genius and more of a kid who just doesn't know what to do. There is the time when we are first introduced to Mrs. Fowl, and she angrily throws her son out of her room because she doesn't recognize him. There is the time when Artemis thinks he hears his mother talking to his father and he runs to her room, and is disappointed and almost horrified to see that it is just another one of her delusions. Finally, there is that one time that Artemis acted like a child, greeting his cured mother with a hug, and anticipating celebrating Christmas with her.
I'm seriously sorry if this post seems like it's all over the place. Even I sometimes don't know where I'm going with this.
Anyway, the point is, Artemis is an incredibly complex character. Most minutes he's a brilliant mafia lord, very few and vital minutes he's just a messed up kid. I would hate for this character to be messed up by poor acting and/or poor script writing. I don't know of that many child actors, so I have no idea if there is a legitimately good preteen actor out there.

These guys are the ones that fans most hope will be considered for the role of Artemis Fowl. I recognize Asa Butterfield from Ender's Game, which I don't remember that well to be honest. From what I can remember though… he might be good for the role?? And I have no idea who the other three guys are, or at least I don't recognize them. I'll have to look them up, but who knows? Maybe one of them could perform a very good Artemis Fowl.
Irish screen writer Connor McPherson will be working on the movie. Ok, I seriously don't know enough about this guy to either be dubious or hopeful. I'm leaning more on hopeful, cause HEY, he's Irish! And the Artemis Fowl series largely takes place in Ireland! Is this relevant to Artemis Fowl himself? I don't think so, but… Ugh, my brain is starting to shut down this subject.
Make this Artemis Fowl movie good, Disney! You had better make it good…

Monday, September 7, 2015

Words from Scott Cawthon

I became intensely interested in gaming because of Scott's amazing game series Five Nights at Freddy's (which I may or may not talk more about later), and even became interested in game making because of Scott. I'm just so inspired by a lone game developer who pretty much single handedly took the gaming world by storm. He saw a good story, and he did what he wanted with it. Just… Scott Cawthon is right up there with Peter Jackson as one of my biggest inspirations.
Thank you for continuing with what you're passionate about, Scott. It's incredibly encouraging.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Top 5 Favorite TFP Characters, Number 5: Knock Out

So, trying to give myself a rest from reviewing Over the Garden Wall, I decided to make a list of my Top 5 Favorite Transformers Prime Characters. My original idea was to make a Top 5 list of my favorite Justice League episodes, but the thing is, I am about two or three episodes short of making a certain judgment. In other words, I haven't seen all Justice League episodes, so I don't really know what my favorite episodes are overall until I have seen them. So until then, I went for something a little simpler: Top 5 favorite characters list.
A few years back I made an NCIS favorite characters list that listed each and every single character I knew from NCIS and ranked them from most favorite to least favorite. Even then, I soon realized the complications. There are certain characters I don't really care enough about, and so by the time I posted my top 5 characters, I began judging the other characters on how indifferent I felt about them until I could get to my least favorite character.
Here are the links to the posts, by the way, if you want to see them. I wouldn't recommend it. They are rather very bad and narrow-minded, and I have some very different opinions and better reasoning now. Also, there are some rather unfortunate typos (which I may or may not edit)... Why do I keep them around? I like to see how I've (hopefully) evolved. Please don't read them….
This time, I'm going for a different route. Just list my top 5 favorite characters! Why top 5? Because I don't think there are enough characters for me to make a top 10 list… And I'm afraid I'm too indifferent about certain characters to make a full list. I'll make one post per character, from 5 down to 1, número 1 being my most favorite character. So let's start the actual post now, shall we?

Transformers Prime is one of my most favorite cartoons in the Transformers franchise, and one of my most favorite cartoons in general. I'm sure I've said this before. It was dark, had some excellent stories, both continuous and contained, and even had some pretty funny moments. But I think what I love most about Transformers Prime is the characters. Yeah, the humans were actually pretty interesting (which is impressive), but I'm talking, of course, about the Transformers themselves.
Both the Autobots and the Decepticons had some rather memorable bots in their ranks, most of them being pretty enjoyable to watch. They each had their own personality, their own back stories, their own motivations. There really wasn't a character I disliked in the series…!
Ok, that's a lie, there just might be one possible exception… But the point is I really liked, and still like, the characters. And what do have we here? A list of my top 5 favorite TFP characters of course! Whether they be Decepticon or Autobot, they are viable for the list. So let's get started!

5. Knock Out

"Yes, right, you're one of those."
"Come again?"
"Never understood why any self-respecting Decepticon would choose 'automobile' as his vehicle mode when he could have flight."
"I like the way I look in steel-belted radials."
While trying to compile this short list, only three bots were instantly on the roster, hands-down, no contest. Knock Out, of course, was one of those bots. It's almost hard to say what I love about this guy in a coherent manner.
Knock Out is the Decepticon medic. He's one of the few Decepticons with a ground form, he's one of the few Decepticons without any actual weapons, he's the shortest 'Con on the show, and he is hilarious. In my opinion, Knock Out is apart of the funniest moments in the show. With Knock Out's narcissistic personality, his constant quips and sarcasm, his awfully over-confident attitude, his cowardice, and of course his obsession with having a perfect paint job…

"You painted my paint job! Prepare for surgery!"

…and the fantastic campy performance by Daran Noris, it is kind of hard to take him seriously. Both the Decepticons, Autobots, and the general audience would agree. But it's not just the humor of this character that makes me love him so much, because quite frankly Knock Out can be one scary as scrap character. I honestly wonder why any 'Con would trust this guy enough to lay down on his medical slab!
Knock Out is kind of underrated. I mean, the fandom knows of his awesomeness, but his own teammates often underrate what he can do. Sure, everyone knows that he is a medical and scientific genius, but if Knock Out wasn't such a coward, I know he would kick a lot of aft on the field. He wields a mean electro staff, and he took down Optimus Prime! And that was in his debut episode!
While I am disappointed we don't see much of Knock Out's full potential on the field, the show more than makes up for it in how scary he can be when in his element. Oddly, while Knock Out is apart of some of the funniest moments, he is equally apart of what I see as some of the creepiest/scariest moments of Transformers Prime. Knock Out can be really scary when in his medical lab. He has no qualms performing surgery on a live patient, or performing experiments on the carcass of his dead partner (and by extension performing experiments on the live human inside said carcass).
I think one of the creepiest moments is in episode The Human Factor, in which a man named Silas uses the dead body of Breakdown (Knock Out's partner) to keep himself alive. Renamed CyLAS, he proposes partnership with the Decepticons, but when he fails to impress Megatron, he is handed over to Knock Out's dissection table. And Knock Out couldn't be happier about it.

"He will be a fascinating case for study."
"I will leave no fiber or fiber optic unexamined."

Just the cold glee Knock Out shows in having both a techno-organic lab rat and revenge for his partner is enough to give me chills every time. That, and CyLAS' yells of protest while he's being dragged away. [shudder] It's hard to see Doc Knock as a doctor with his sarcastic and all around uncaring beside manner, and mad scientist tendencies. On an unrelated note, when I first started getting interested in Team Fortress 2, there was something about the Medic that struck me as familiar.

"No worries, Herr Kommandant."

I can't imagine why it is...
Knock Out's survivalist tendencies are another thing that makes me wonder why anyone would trust this guy, and attributes to both his funnier and more chilling moments. Knock Out is pretty much motivated by whatever could benifit him the most. He supports the alpha dog, he supports the winning team, he is more than willing to abandon the Decepticons if the Autobots end up winning… Which is exactly what happens by the end of the series.

"Ah, such luster."

"What? I'm joining the winning team."
I really want to know more about how this guy interacts with the others now that he's an Autobot. Seriously though, Knock Out is so intent on power and survival that he was willing to off Megatron himself! Twice! Granted, both times the big guy was helpless on his medical table, but still! That takes some real ball bearings.

"But… if I disconnect before a proper power down, the link is severed, and… the big guy will never emerge from Starscream's head."
All in all, I just love Knock Out. He's sarcastic, he's funny, he's a complete coward, and gosh he can be scary as scrap. Daran Noris does such a fantastic job voicing this snobbish, vain, pretentious 'Con, and I think that the character would not have been nearly as enjoyable without him.

[Check out this fanart of Knock Out trying to be a good and trustworthy Autobot medic by the-starhorse on Deviantart]