"Paddington 2 honors its star's rich legacy with a sweet-natured sequel whose adorable visuals are matched by a story perfectly balanced between heartwarming family fare and purely enjoyable all-ages adventure."
- Rotten Tomatoes Paddington 2 Critics Consensus
"I'm gonna wait for the goofy gorilla review."
- the late ba, Internet commenter
Reviewing Paddington 2 at this point is less an exercise in reviewing a movie than reviewing the very idea of a reviewing a movie.
It broke the record on the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes for most reviews for a movie that still managed to retain a "100% positive" rating on the site with 187 "fresh" reviews, beating the previous record holder, Toy Story 2, which had 163. And though Flayrah reviews do not count towards the 'Tomato-Meter', even if they did, I have no intention of Armond White-ing the movie. It's a good movie. See it.
Get a writer, an artist, a musician, and a programmer in the same room and what can you make? Well a video game, obviously. However, you need to remember you only have one of each, so you’re not going to be making the next Skyrim in your lifetime. So what do you do? Well, use the visual medium of gaming to tell the story you want to tell in a slightly more interactive way. You’re now on your way to creating a visual novel.
While most visual novels could barely qualify as games to some, these literary heavy games are the go to for the more well-read, and perhaps more ‘casual’ gamer, that doesn’t mind letting the words immerse them in their worlds.
The genre has already had notoriety in Japan for awhile, but just like the anime craze heading to the West in the 1990s, this storytelling medium is starting to get recognition in other parts of the world. Digital platforms, such as Steam, are allowing for niche games to find a market where one may not have existed before. And if furries know anything, for better or worse, is what happens when niches connect by wire (or wireless these day).
Our fandom, in the past couple of years, has shown that it too has caught onto the rising genre and has jumped in with both paws, and for the lack of a better term— are leaving their mark upon it.
Intimate Little Secrets (US$9.95 from FurPlanet) is an anthology of short stories written by Rechan with a cover illustration by Teagan Gavet. Originally I expected the stories to be short, erotic pieces, but this is not the case and approaching it in that way will not lead to a proper appreciation of the work. Sex plays a role in all the stories but they are more, as the title suggests, intimate secrets where we see how different characters interact and react.
The writing is excellent, particularly with regard to the characters themselves. Each one, even characters that only appear briefly, feel real and whole. In each story, we see situations where the characters lusts, needs, and vulnerabilities are all laid bare and you can't help but find yourself caring about the characters and wanting to know what their reasons for acting a certain way are.
"Well, we folks of the animal kingdom have our own version."
-Roger Miller, folk singer
Organized Christian theology has never really answered the question whether or not animals can be saved, but popular Christianity, as practiced by people rather than priests, has always seemed to think that salvation is available as much to animals as to humanity. A frequent way to tell the story of the Nativity is via the use of anthropomorphic animals. As a young child, I was at one time or another a lion and a firefly in various church Christmas pageants. Lions have traditionally been used in Christian art to symbolize Christ as King, though fireflies have never been very associated with Christmas in specific or Christianity in particular. I remember singing "This Little Light of Mine", anyway.
Which brings us to the original little light of Christianity and titular object of The Star. This is yet another retelling of the Nativity through the eyes of the animal kingdom, this time updated to slick CGI animated comedy. It's the same old story, but approximately 2.2 billion Christians around the world would attest it's a pretty decent story. So, it's got that going for it.
Writing a fantasy tetralogy is an ambitious project. I haven't even been able to write a full fantasy yet. To commit to four books, you have to have an epic story, set in an epic landscape, with engaging characters with strengths and weaknesses enough to get them to (and through) the rough spots.
In Legacy, Hugo Jackson achieves most of this easily. His heroes are likable, with relatable issues and strengths. The tale is G-rated without being trite. The fight and battle scenes are usually nicely described, and easy to follow.
Faria Phiraco is a resonator, a manipulator of the elements via rare crystals. It is an extraordinary and secret power which she and her father, the Emperor of Xayall, guard with their lives. The Dhraka, malicious red-scaled dragons, have discovered an ancient artefact; a mysterious relic from the mythical, aeons-lost city of Nazreal. With their plan already set in motion, they besiege Xayall, pummelling the city to find Faria and rip more of Nazreal's secrets from her.
When her father goes missing, Faria has to rely on her own strength to brave the world that attacks her at every turn. Friends and guardians rally by her to help save her father and reveal the mysteries of the ruined city, while the dark legacy of an ancient cataclysm wraps its claws around her fate... and her past.
Sheep & Wolves (trailer) is an 85-minute Russian CG-animated movie that came out in 2016, also known as Волки и овцы (Volki i ovtsy). The writing and production took five years by Wizart Animation, whose earlier film had been The Snow Queen (2012).
Sheep & Wolves didn't quite break even at the box office, and received mixed reviews. After I watched it, I have to agree it's a middle-of-the-road film. It's not bad, it's not great - it's thoroughly so-so. On the positive side, the animation is good and very furry! But the writing... it's for kids aged six and above. There's not much in it to appeal to adults; it's what I call a "babysitting film". Plunk your tykes down in front of it and keep them distracted for a while. Still, I'd rank it a notch or two above Alpha & Omega.
Earthrise, the first book in M.C.A. Hogarth's Her Instruments trilogy, is a comfy space opera which includes some furry critters. Based on my last visit to her work (books 1 & 2 of The Dreamhealers), the furry species are nice and familiar. The crew of the TMS Earthrise has a centaur with wings, a phoenix, a mated pair of bipedal felines, and a throw-pillow tribble with strong mental powers. Most of these are descendants of slave races that humans created centuries earlier.
The assembled characters have an almost whimsical balance, yet they still feel realistic. When we join them in the story, they're a well-meshed crew. There's a comforting alienness to each of them, a diversity that avoids stereotypes, but claims labels of diversity within diversity, if that makes sense. We mostly see them through the eyes of their captain.
The Species of Blessing Avenue is a collection of short stories by Graveyard Greg, published in 2012.
Even before I got past the introduction, I liked two things about this book. First, it's got a were-lion in its leading role. Second, it was inspired by characters created for the Buffy The Vampire Slayer RPG.
I was warned that I shouldn't have tried to read this as a novella instead of three short stories. I'll try to correct that mistake as I go along with this review.
Guardians (English trailer) is a Russian superhero film released in February 2017. The early trailers looked promising - fights, explosions, and a bear-guy! It's the Russian Avengers! Expectations were high, and it did well on its opening weekend... and was so disappointing that by its second weekend, it only took in 10% of its previous box office revenue.
It's a very formulaic movie. This isn't necessarily bad - Sing was formulaic too. But if you're going to use a formula, you have to do it well. You have to add a couple of entertaining surprises, mix it up a little, and maybe throw in some humor that mocks the very structure you're relying on. Guardians fails on all these counts.
A gay western centaur romance isn't the kind of story I encounter enough, even in furry fandom. Hotblood! A Centaur In the Old West is a webcomic by Toril Orlesky that ran from 2013-2016. The color artwork is as stark as the landscape, but the story is a bit more complicated than the black-and-white world that the western genre is known for.
The art is lovely enough that I was mostly able to put aside the sometimes uneven pacing. As the story circles around the action, it digs deeper into its characters' pasts - and their hearts. The two main characters are not morally whole men, and therefore they caught my interest.
Rook is a centaur. In the story universe, centaurs are an integrated part of American society. There's some social stigma, but not as much as you might think for someone who looks half-animal. There's at least one centaur in the U.S. Senate, for example. Rook is employed by Asa, a human steel tycoon. We don't get to see much of the world outside of their relationship, and it's only by the second half of the story that we really start seeing the two of them bond, sexually and romantically.
For our final foray into lycanthropic cinema, comes— a movie I saw as a Sci Fi Channel original movie. It never even had a theatrical release in America. I will point out that it is by far the greatest Sci Fi Channel original movie ever produced, but I need hardly point out that is not a big accomplishment.
But, sometimes, hidden in the terrible filler, something emerges from the shadows. Perhaps I waste my time watching bad Sci Fi movies, but they provided a baseline. It's harder to know when you've got a good werewolf movie if you've never seen a bad or even just indifferent werewolf movie. Of course, if you don't have the patience to sit through the bad (with or without the MST3K patter), you can just take my word for it.
Dog Soldiers is a gory blast.
I Am Dragon (trailer) is a Russian fantasy/drama film that came out in 2015 and yes I know it's technically a wyvern. When I showed clips of it to dragon furries, that's the first thing they said, in a tone of voice like I'd gotten their hopes up and then betrayed them.
For a live-action film, it uses a lot of computer graphics (around 85%), and looks pretty good! The setting felt very real to me. Production costs were about $18 million, and it flopped at the box office. As movies go, it's... ok. I say this with some reluctance. If you're a fan of dragons, you're not missing much.
Back-story: A line of dragons lives on a secluded island, and in a medieval town, the people perform a ceremony and song with which they offer their maidens as sacrifices. This summons the dragon who flies off with one of them, until one day a warrior decides he's going to rescue the woman he loves. He finds the island (too late to save the maiden), slays the beast, and the sacrificial rite is turned into a local wedding ritual, minus the dragon.
Occasionally, there comes a pair of movies that share remarkably similar themes that come out together. Sometimes, as in Antz versus A Bug's Life, there's evidence that one of the movies was designed as a direct competitor to the other. More often than not, however, there's just something in the water. Just last year, Disney went out of its way to advertise how unique a movie Zootopia was for featuring a fully anthropomorphic animal world in the one year in the history of American feature animation where that was not a unique quality. These things just happen.
1981 was one of those years, featuring not one, but two werewolf movies utilizing cutting edge (for the time) makeup effects that also happened to be horror comedies as opposed to straight horror movies. The Howling came out first, but it was the scrappy underdog that went up against the real Hollywood juggernaut, An American Werewolf in London, written and directed by John Landis, an up and coming director who hung out with the likes of Steven Spielberg.
Though An American Werewolf in London is an acknowledged classic of the horror genre and features a ghoulish sense of humor (Landis was, and still is, best known for Animal House, early poster taglines noted this movie featured "a different kind of animal"), it is, like The Wolf Man, very much a tragedy. And not all the tragedy is on screen.
As a kid, I was given many cheap Wal-Mart editions of the writings of children's author Thornton Burgess, including The Adventures of Old Man Coyote, which contained a back cover blurb that was given a header simply saying "The Howling".
I bring this up because the movie referenced not very appropriately by that children's novel back cover is, on one hand, overshadowed by a similar werewolf movie that came out the exact same year, but has still managed to find itself embedded into pop culture deep enough that it gets its own call outs. I'll be covering that more popular werewolf movie eventually, but of the two werewolf movies of 1981 (three if you count the sorta-werewolf movie Wolfen), The Howling is my favorite.
Of all the werewolf movies I plan on covering, it has the most obvious flaws. It, more than any other, is going to take a very forgiving attitude to dated special effects. At least The Wolf Man has its iconic status going for it. The Howling also features one really cheap jump scare early on, but, to be fair, it makes up for this with one of the most earned jump scares in horror movie history later on. And finally, one of the main reasons I really love it so much is also something people can find annoying.
It's a postmodern werewolf movie. The rules of the werewolf movie have been codified. Now it's time to start playing with them.
"I guess I just sort of ... grew up."
— Ask Jappleack
It's been seven years to the day since My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was first aired, and the geek world changed that day.
So let's talk about the 2017 movie. As far as the story goes, it's pretty bog-standard at this point for MLP:FiM. Bad guy appears (the Storm King, voiced by Liev Schreiber), three of the four magical alicorn princesses prove themselves worthless by getting instantly captured, so it's up to the fourth princess and series protagonist, Twilight Sparkle (voiced by Tara Strong), with her six friends - Applejack (voiced by Ashleigh Ball), Fluttershy (voiced by Andrea Libman), Pinkie Pie (also voiced by Libman), Rainbow Dash (also voiced by Ball), Rarity (voiced by Tabitha St. Germain) and Spike (voiced by Cathy Weseluck) - to save the land of Equestria with the magic of friendship. Which they used to be able to straight-up shoot people with, but they lost that ability back in season four.