Modi 1st year report card

The intent was for a post and a cartoon, but it fizzled half way, mirroring the topic in question.


Mad Max: Fury Road review

Hey everyone,

I reviewed Mad Max: Fury Road -- a two hour dose of weird craziness and action -- for Comic Vine. Don't worry, the review's spoiler-free!

http://www.comicvine.com/reviews/mad-max-fury-road/1900-4118/


The Phad Thai Shop

This blog post was first written in 2008. The Phad Thai Shop is still there, I still eat there and I finally got round to updating this post now in 2015!

Phad Thai is a very common Thai dish made from noodles, egg, chili, tofu, normally some shrimp or some chicken, plus onion, fish sauce, nuts, lime... ingredients can vary. You can order Phad Thai in 10 different places and get 10 different tasting meals depending on the amount and variety of sauces added, the size and type of noodles used, type of meat added and so on... Phad Thai can be bland sometimes or it can be spicy, it can be dry or saucy. You get a lot of variety out of one dish! If bought from a street stall or roadside restaurant you're normally only going to be paying 40 - 50 Baht for your lunch - it's a cheap dish to make and thus a popular lunch all over Thailand, nearly as popular as Noodle Soup (Kuaytiow).

Close to our dive shop, Sunrise Divers in Karon Beach, on the back road near the Baan Karon Resort, there's one of the most popular little lunchtime restaurants I have seen in Phuket. Every day workers in the local area flock here for lunch, and the most popular dish is Phad Thai. The restaurant does not really have a name except "The Phad Thai Shop". They also do noodle soup with chicken or beef, a good Phad Grapow with beef, a popular fried rice with crab. The menu is expanding - when I first ate here in 2005 they had only Phad Thai or Noodles and beef stew. It's open every day from quite early until late afternoon. Mostly caters to a local lunch crowd.



(above) There used to be just a wooden handwritten sign (in Thai) - now the Phad Thai Shop is easier to spot!

It's only a little place but it can be packed at lunchtime. You can get Phad Thai to eat there or take away - the take away is wrapped in a banana leaf. The cooking is mostly done by one guy, with others helping to serve noodle soup, package up takeaways etc.. You can see the huge bowls full of chicken and beef at the counter - these are ladled over the noodles. The famous Phad Thai is really tasty, and you have extra bowls of chili sauce, prik nam pla (fish sauce with chili) and dried chili on the table in case it's not spicy enough for you.



(above) Cooking Phad Thai

You can get Phad Thai there either to eat there or take away. Bear in mind that by Western standards this is not really a "restaurant" - a collection of tables in a shack by the road outside someone's house... but this is real local eating here in Phuket. If you want to mingle with the people, get on the back roads and get some Pad Thai right here! I tend to get food from here at least once a week as it's so cheap and close to work.... oh and very tasty! Phad Thai is 50 Baht and it's a huge portion.





(above) Inside the Phad Thai Shop

The place was "tarted up" a couple of years ago with a concrete floor and nicer tables, but still the same food and same price (50 Baht). Just before the Baan Karon Resort on the way from Karon to Kata on Patak Road. It's not a big obvious restaurant, just a small local place... just look for the sign saying "The Phad Thai Shop". If in doubt come to see us at Sunrise Divers first. Only a few minutes away. Part of the reason for the new sign and the slight improvement in decor was the visit of a writer from the Lonely Planet guide, who was directed here by me and a former employee at Sunrise Divers. I recall the owner being very happy to be listed in the guide and they have a 5 foot tall copy of the page on the back wall!



(above) Listed in Lonely Planet and proud of it!

The Phad Thai Shop (Karon) - Location Map


View The Phad Thai Shop near Karon Beach in a larger map

Hawkeye: The Unexpected Star of Avengers: Age of Ultron

*Contains minor spoilers*

In a movie that's full of popular superheroes and teasers about the Marvel Cinematic Universe's exciting future, one of the biggest surprises in Avengers: Age of Ultron is just how much love Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, received. Director-writer Joss Whedon certainly made Hawkeye an impressive archer in the first movie, but this follow-up does an excellent job humanizing the marksman.
How could just one man with a bow and arrows hope to make a difference when his teammates can shatter mountains with their fists, run as fast as cars, fly above ordinary people, and effortlessly humiliate armed enemies with nothing but their bare hands? The character may get ripped on for being just "a dude with a bow," but this movie proved he's an essential part of the team. He may not have fancy powers or armor, but the movie's heartfelt and humorous approach to the hero turned him into one of the standout characters -- and that's saying a lot since this is a movie that's absolutely loaded with spectacle.

Who is Hawkeye and why should you care about him? That's a question the first movie failed to answer. The Avengers showed he has phenomenal aim and some cool trick arrows, but aside from that, he was just Black Widow's friend and the guy who was unlucky enough to get brainwashed by Loki. By the time Avengers: Age of Ultron opened in theaters, he was the only current Avenger to not receive a proper amount of insight. Thankfully, Whedon fixed that by subverting just about everyone's expectations of the movie. Sure, it still has a fast pace and almost always finds a way to throw action and comedy in there, but the look at Hawkeye's personality and his life takes us out of all of the seemingly surreal craziness and makes things far more relatable. Suddenly, we get to see what it's truly like to be a "normal" human on a team full of powerhouses and geniuses.
While Clint may not be the one making the big calls or providing tactical insight, he does prove to be the heart of the team. When everything hits the fan, it's Hawkeye who's able to inspire Scarlet Witch, an incredibly important character to the story and possibly the future of their universe. Someone like Captain America or Black Widow could have given her an inspirational speech, but Clint's words of wisdom were both hilarious and uplifting. He's able to point out just how absurd the situation is, but despite that, nothing will stop him from doing everything he can to save humanity from Ultron. If a man with such a simple weapon can stand against this insanity, why can't Scarlet Witch find the courage to fight using her stunning powers? It was just the kind of talk she needed to get her back out there and battle Ultron's forces.

Hawkeye's role technically isn't "important" compared to Captain America or Iron Man when it comes to the bigger picture, but his arc gave us all such a better emotional connection to the character and it made him infinitely more likable. It's cool he can shoot an arrow absurdly well and has a variety of pretty awesome trick arrows, but now when we see him in Captain America: Civil War, we'll know the guy firing those arrows isn't just some generic fellow who occasionally cracks a joke or two.

Mortal Kombat X: Jason Voorhees review

Today, Mortal Kombat X's first Kombat Pack combatant, Jason Voorhess, is available for anyone and everyone to purchase. Back when it was announced the iconic killer would be the first character in the DLC pack, there was a whole lot of negativity. Many were upset it wasn't Spawn being selected, but a lot of people expressed concern over the murderer's move list. "How can a guy with a machete bring anything awesome to Mortal Kombat X, a game that's full of crazy powers?" Some degree of skepticism is understandable, but if NetherRealm Studios is adding a character, the odds are pretty good they believe it's because they can give the character some entertaining moves. Thankfully, they didn't disappoint and Jason Voorhees feels like a solid addition to the roster.

Just like everyone else, the classic movie character has 3 variations. His are slasher, unstoppable, and relentless. My top choice is slasher, a variation that allows Jason to use his signature machete for melee attacks with better range, vicious combos, and a few special moves. Two of the combos -- brooding and machete launch -- are very easy to pull-off and leave your opponent open to additional combos. With Jason, it's very easy landing a combo that could do around 24%, and I say that as someone who really isn't all that good at the game. Two of his special moves, bloodshed and psycho slash, are just downright brutal. The third unique one for this variation, machete toss, just gives the dude a ranged attack as he throws his bladed weapon. It's not a particularly fast or original ranged attack, but it has proven to be useful.
The lumbering guy also has a boost called "killing machine," which is also available in the relentless variation. That move gives you a temporary "armor" that allows you to go unfazed by all of your opponent's attacks. The only downside is you can't jump and at the end of the boost, Jason is left vulnerable for a second or two. So, if you're going to use that boost, make sure you know what you're doing, otherwise you'll end up totally open to attacks. All in all, slasher is definitely the "easiest" variation to use and unleashing combos with that machete is a blast. It may be a "simple" weapon compared to the options other characters have, but NetherRealm Studios made sure using that sharp weapon is a really good time. If you like Sub-Zero's cryomancer variation or Scorpion's ninjutsu variation, then slasher is definitely something you'll want to use.

Relentless seems to be the most advanced variation, one that'll be very useful in the hands of especially good gamers. You know how fodder in movies always attempt to run from killers and totally fail at it? The special move "pursuit" is inspired by that. For around five seconds, your opponent's controls will be inverted and they can't dash or run. If you use this in combination with lake mist, a "teleport" Jason gains in this variation so he can sneak up behind his opponent, then it's pretty obvious a truly skilled player can humiliate their enemy. In this variation, Jason is also "damned," meaning his damage increases as his health gets lower.
Seeing as Jason doesn't have his machete for melee attacks in this variation and the final one, unstoppable, he has plenty of other oh-so-harsh moves to dish out. For special moves, we have back breaker, choke, and tight squeeze. And yes, they're all as savage as they sound. You'd think we'd be used to shocking displays of violence in this game by now, but these are still delightfully cruel. For combos, Jason has two very easy ones called camp killer and final friday. They do 15% and 17% damage -- which seems great for such an easy to land set of attacks --  and man, they're wicked. Seeing this slow and strong killer grab, crush and toss his enemies is a real joy, and I say that as someone who isn't a big follower of Jason's movies. All variations also have a dash attack called temple punch, a basic way for him to close the gap pretty quickly.

The final variation, unstoppable, could be a game changer in the hands of a tactical player or even when a match appears to be a coin toss. This is where Jason can temporarily boost his damage via punishment or slowly regain health via rise. Using the health regen and then using time consuming moves like throws really helps out and, assuming you can juggle, the damage boost can prove to be really helpful. However, what makes this variation really standout is a little feature called resurrection. If you lose the round, Jason will get back up and whatever is in your super meter will be used to replenish his health. This can only occur once per round. So, if it seems like you might lose in a close fight and you believe an enhanced or X-Ray attack is too risky, this feature could be hugely beneficial.
Jason's fun to use, but it is a little disappointing more time wasn't spent on unique dialogue in the match intros. Obviously, Jason doesn't talk, but there isn't much variety here. There's a few amusing ones here and there (Cage and Ferra/Torr), but based on my experience, it seems like everyone only has one line about the character and some are as simple as, "Who are you?" Sure, it makes sense they wouldn't know who he is, but it would have been great to see them use this chance to really make each character's personality shine. Thankfully, Jason's X-Ray attack and brutalities are every bit as jaw-dropping and over-the-top as you'd want them to be. His X-Ray attack, the horror, puts his machete to good use and his enemy's spine is shown no mercy whatsoever. This X-Ray can also be used for a brutality. After Jason damages the person's neck, he has no problem lopping it right off. There's also ridiculously amusing entertaining ones like breaking someone in half with his knee or slicing them apart with his blade. And best of all? They're all unlocked right away. Oh, and his ending is definitely fitting for the character.

As for his fatalities, the one called "Kill for Mother" is easily the most memorable. Fans of horror movies will love how it's handled because it's clearly pulling a ton of inspiration from classic slasher flicks. From a quick close-up shot of the machete to the victim's shocked reaction to the sound effects, it's a blatant nod to the dude's history and it's surprisingly cinematic. Plus, slowly slashing someone apart is a pretty effective way to make sure they're down for the count, right?
His other one, sleeping bag killer, feels like a missed opportunity. As you can tell by the title, he grabs the person by their ankle and then begins to violently smash them over and over. On paper, it sounds gruesome and oh-so-perfect for Mortal Kombat X. But the execution? It's just, well, weird. When Jason smashes his enemy and then drags them, a limb just snaps off during each drag. The implication is he's smashing them with such great force and then pulling them extremely hard, but having the limbs just effortlessly tear off like that feels odd. Having him brutally smash someone multiple times, to the point of them doing that horrifying gargling noise, would have been more effective. Or it would have been really cool if it was environment based and they had him drag the person to a solid object in a stage and then he smashes them against the object over and over again. There aren't that many stages, so this wouldn't have been too big of a task.

If you plan on playing Mortal Kombat X for months and months to come, then yeah, I'd say Voorhees is definitely worthy of your $4.99. His variations can be enjoyed by both casual and competitive gamers and the studio definitely put Jason's strengths to good use. It's too bad one of his fatalities isn't all that stunning and he may not have the most original move list around, but the masked murderer definitely fits right in.

Still here and still enjoying life in the Rai and Thailand...

Being uncertain what I should write about today I decided to share a-day-in-the-life sort of post to shed some light on what daily life looks like for me these days.  Seldom is any one day eventful enough to make a good story so I am going to recant a period of several days if you don't mind.

We just returned from a five day trip to Bangkok with a short one night side trip to Hua Hin.  We were stuck in that horrible holiday traffic down to Hua Hin but we were with friends so it really didn’t seem to matter, making several stops along the way to break the monotony and eat.  We had some great meals garnished with even better conversation.

One night in Bangkok the four of us went to a popular Thai musical, Homrong, which I was a little surprised to find I enjoyed tremendously.  I have admittedly been out of touch and was impressed with every aspect of the staging and performance.  It was a far cry from what I was exposed to during the brief time I spent appearing on Thai TV.  I am so glad my wife arranged for this fantastic evening of entertainment.

It took me a couple of days after returning to Chiang Rai to recover from the long days in Bangkok, to a point where I felt like getting back on the bike.  The day I felt ready turned out to be very hot and I could feel that it was not a great idea to complete my intended route so cut things short at 55 km.  The following day we drove into town to run some errands and have lunch.  I really do enjoy spending time with my wife and it seems to help with my recovery.

The next day I stumbled out of bed quite late in the morning.  Having learned to listen to my body, when it wants to sleep, I let it.  I would have preferred to have coffee first but Cookie looked like she needed a walk more than I needed my caffeine fix, so she came first.  The Health App on my iPhone 6 says I average between five to ten kilometers each day between walking Cookie and puttering around the house, which I found interesting.  I spent most of the day writing and corresponding but thought better about posting what I wrote.  Regardless of the lies people spread about me in some circles, I am not going to stoop to their level and say slanderous things about them.  Anyway, no two days begin or proceed in the same way and that is the way I like it.  Perhaps that is one reason I have found life in Thailand much easier than some have.

Yesterday by late morning I felt good enough to contemplate another bike ride, after two days of rest.  It was only a few degrees cooler but that can make a big difference.  I got started around 11 am and felt so good I stretched my ride to 74 km.  I rode through one area where the trees had been uprooted the night before and several power lines were down with the poles snapping at the base causing a domino effect and pulling down adjacent poles.  Crews were hard at work trying to repair the damage and locals were harvesting the fallen tree, determined not to let all that good wood go to waste.  I never know what I will encounter while out on the bike or who I may end up talking with when I stop to buy water at a roadside shop.

Last night we were kept awake by thunder and torrential rain which continued on past one in the morning.  Then this morning we were rudely shaken from our slumber by three loud explosions which I am guessing came from a 100 day merit making ceremony in our village.  The funeral which is in progress now won’t be finished for a few more days so I doubt the noise came from there.  Since we are thinking about going to Sunday Brunch at the Meridien today I guess it is just a well we didn’t sleep in.  Cookie has already had her walk, the fish have been fed and I have had my coffee so things are moving along quite nicely this morning.

To follow up, we drove to the Meridien expecting a quiet lunch for two.  We ended up bumping into several people there but chose a table next to two other couples we have known for sometime but don’t see all that often.  We had a great time catching up and ended up being the last to leave.  I always enjoy these spontaneous encounters.  We drove from there to a another friends house to drop something off before heading to Central Plaza for a little shopping.  With all that we still made it home in time to feed and walk the dogs a little after sunset.

I know many people who struggle with the lack of a regimentation and routine in their daily lives.  External forces have always controlled what they do and turning inward is not something they are familiar with or care to try.  Some try to replace old routines with new ones but that can be hard to do in a new country.  The wise ones, in my opinion, adapt to a new way of life instead of clinging to what they know.  After all, isn’t change a major reason for moving to another country?  If you are not willing to step outside your comfort zone, do yourself a favor and stay home.

Recently I have stumbled upon a new way for me to combine new and old media.  I have discovered magazine bundles which can be downloaded and viewed at my leisure on the computer.  I understand this is not something new, but it is new for me.  The variety of material exposes me to topics and articles I might not otherwise read.  I used to like magazines but there are no big city bookstores in Chiang Rai so they had faded from my awareness.  I quite like reading almost anything on my 5K iMac.

In the health and fitness related magazines one comes across articles dealing with longevity and the secrets of aging well, which is something on my mind, especially now that I am in my sixties.  The majority of things on their lists are easy for me and are things I naturally do as a matter of course.  Where I fall short is in my ability to surround myself with people who are not toxic and encourage one to live a better, healthier life.  Fortunately I don't find it necessary to lean on others.

That said I seem to make do with the people I have in my life, even if they are scattered over the globe.  Sometimes I get requests to meet for coffee in Chiang Rai, from both new and old readers.  I recently received an email from one guy who has been around since the beginning of this blog and it looks like we may get the opportunity to meet after all these years.  That is something I am looking forward to later this month.

So that is what my life looks like these days.  I am not into fixed routines, fixing things or building things though I have been know to make minor repairs in a pinch.  I don’t belong to any groups.  My wife is still my best friend and favorite companion after nearly 18 years together.  We tend to gravitate toward interesting people we both like and who typically do not live full time in Chiang Rai.  My wife and dogs are more than enough company for me on an average day and when we do get together with our friends there is always so much to catch up on.

Here are a few Hua Hin shots taken with the iPhone.






Golden Corral, Freehold, NJ - Revisited

In December 2014, I wrote about the new Golden Corral located in Freehold, New Jersey. This is the closest Golden Corral location to the Metro NY area. Our experience there was not the greatest and if this was a first time to any Golden Corral I likely not go back. We found ourselves in that area in April and other than Asian buffets, there are no other buffets in this area. I thought that despite that first visit, we would go back again and see if things were the same or if they have improved.

The CW promos need a lesson in spoiler etiquette

We all know the internet can be a pretty ugly and negative place. With so many people having no issue spewing their hate, I often try to focus on talking about the things I love. I'd much rather support what I enjoy than tear down something I'm not a fan of. However, the CW's handling of promos for The Flash and Arrow has been bothering me for several months now and I just have to talk about it. Yes, this article includes SPOILERS for the latest episodes of the two comic book shows.
The point of a promo is to tease an upcoming episode, not spoil big moments and drop reveals. It doesn't matter how obvious the twists may be; it's just not the job of the promo to show us what should be important scenes in an upcoming episode. The job is to promote the fact those big scenes are on the way, make us think about how they'll play out, and get us excited to eventually see them in context. I've been doing my best to avoid ranting about this for quite some time now, but I simply can't resist after last night's Arrow promo. Again, spoilers ahead.

In Arrow, Oliver Queen has joined the League of Assassins and is on the path to become the next Ra's al Ghul. He underwent harsh conditions and brainwashing to erase "Oliver Queen" and accept his new identity, Al Sah-Him. This week's episode revealed a pretty obvious twist: Oliver's been faking it just to earn Ra's trust. After all he endured on the island and what not, it's pretty easy to swallow him holding up to this kind of treatment. Many of us were assuming that would be the outcome or some plot device will be used to break him free of Ra's influence. Then, Oliver locks his allies in a room and releases the Alpha and Omega virus -- something that apparently has no cure. We're meant to believe he was faking faking it and this was all an elaborate trap to kill the strongest ties to his past in one fell swoop. Many viewers won't believe this for a second, but the cliffhanger ends on a note that attempts to make us believe his supporting cast just died. Odds are that wasn't really the uncurable virus or there's some deus ex machina that'll save them. Still, the objective of this episode is to leave us asking two questions: is Oliver still on Ra's side and did his supporting cast really just die? To many of us, the answer is obviously no and no way. I mean, we know one of those characters will star in the spinoff series and to kill the entire supporting cast like that would be absurd. But less than a minute after that scene aired, we received a preview of next week's episode -- one that immediately reveals the supporting cast is not only alive and well, but also back in Starling City. Then it also shows us the scene of Arrow standing up to Ra's and exclaiming, "My name is Oliver Queen!" Did I know both of these things will happen? Absolutely. Is it the job of a promo to show me these key things before the episode airs next Wednesday? Hell no.

I find it very difficult to believe next week's episode doesn't have 20 seconds worth of footage that doesn't blatantly show the supporting cast is just fine and it doesn't show Oliver's big moment as he stands up to Ra's. They should tease these moments. Show us a moment of tension between Ra's and Oliver, or a quick shot that'll make passionate viewers go, "Hey, I totally just saw Diggle! See, told you there's no way they're dead!" A promo should reward passionate fans with great teasers and get them speculating about how everything will play out; not show how things play out. When even a casual viewer can get the basic idea of the next episode's story and key parts, you know you've spoiled too much. It doesn't matter that the twists are obvious to many of us; they aren't obvious to all of us and showing us right away immediately takes away any small feeling of there being actual stakes in what just happened.

The Flash is usually a little better with this. For example, the way it recently teased Barry trying to outrace bullets didn't spoil that twist and the one for the latest episode didn't ruin the story progression with Iris or show us cool parts from Grodd's role. However, the "Who is Harrison Wells?" promo blatant reveals they do indeed find Wells' body and that Barry, Cisco, and Caitlin do find Reverse-Flash's hidden room and gaze at the costume. In a promo, you need to give us fan service that doesn't take away from these major plot points. Show Joe and Quentin, Cisco and Laurel, and the team searching. Show a bit of action. Show a reaction shot of the group looking shocked.  Passionate fans will be able to recognize the setting and put together the pieces on their own. Casual fans won't be blatantly spoiled. It's more exciting for both groups that way. Oh, and seeing as The Flash already showed us Oliver will stand by Flash in a fight against Reverse-Flash, how can anyone question, even for a second, whether Oliver Queen is still a good guy or at least going to be good in the near future? Knowing he'll be fine takes away a vast majority of the drama, tension and emotion that's displayed as people like Felicity struggle with losing Oliver yet again. There needs to be more communication between the minds behind the shows and the promo department. If I was writing for the show, I'd be upset to see the work I'm doing is being spoiled a week before it airs. Now, I'm sure some of you are thinking, "So don't watch the promos. It's that easy." To me, that's missing the point of this article. I shouldn't have to worry about witnessing game-changing moments and having the whole story spelled out for me in brief promos that air right after the episode ends. We should see footage that gets us excited and leaves us speculating. Imagine if the promo for the final episode of Breaking Bad blatantly revealed the fate of the two lead characters? Or revealed the plot device that plays an important role? That sure would have been ridiculous, right?

Do I know Oliver Queen will stand up to Ra's al Ghul and say his true name? Of course. Do I know his entire supporting cast is still alive? Obviously. But just because I'm certain these things will happen, it doesn't mean I want to see them unfold just seconds after the latest episode has aired. Look, I know I'm being repetitive here, but it's not the job of the promo to spell out and reveal big plot points; it's the job of the promo to tease them. A promo needs to build our anticipation for an episode and allow us to eventually enjoy those critical scenes in proper context; not already witness them and then enjoy them a second time as they play out during the episode. Will fans still love seeing Oliver angrily say, "My name is Oliver Queen!" Most definitely. Should we have already seen this big moment? Well, I'll let Dr. Evil answer that one for me.
I still love you, Arrow and The Flash. But seriously, CW, you can promote your episodes without giving away really important and critical stuff. The episodes have more than enough footage to get us hyped, okay? And don't even get me started on how much those sizzle reels spoiled. I mean, finding out Quentin and Ray discover Arrow's identity that far in advance?!

Roche Limit: Clandestiny #1

Seeing as I haven't read the first Roche Limit series, I can't comment on whether any themes have carried over into this sequel or say how this debut issue holds up to the previous run. However, what I can say is the first issue of Roche Limit: Clandestiny is some damn good sci-fi. Not only is this first issue totally out there, fully embracing much of the potential a science fiction universe has to offer, but it's also surprisingly human.
Written by Michael Moreci and with visuals by Kyle Charles (art), Matthew Battaglia (colors), Sarah deLaine (flora/fauna), Tim Daniels (design), and Ryan Ferrier (letters), this first issue throws you into the middle of a pretty intense dialogue. It doesn't hit you with a ton of exposition; it just pulls you right into a mysterious moment and has you wondering what the hell just went down. Everything just hit the fan for two characters and their conversation will have your mind racing. What really just happened? What was the point of this mission? Where are they? She's going to kill what?! Before you know it, we're given a splash page that immediately made me think, "Could this protagonist be the next Ellen Ripley?" I sure hope so.

You can tell Moreci is pulling some elements from quite a few iconic sci-fi franchises, but for me, what helps this standout is how the lead character, Sasha, is being presented. She's not just some one-dimensional and strong lead character. You can tell there's an interesting backstory here and I'm left honestly wanting to see what it is. She's courageous and intelligent, yet you can also see she's somewhat broken -- a quality which is revealed in a pretty clever and emotional way, too.  My connection to the rest of the cast isn't nearly as strong and I can't shake the feeling that at least one or two of them are there just to serve as fodder, but I'd rather not race to conclusions about how they'll be handled just yet. I may not recall all of their names or even be able to immediately tell them apart, but so far, their dialogue feels natural and it leaves me feeling optimistic they're not just there to spew exposition and they're instead there to feel, you know, human.
When it comes to the bigger picture, this first issue sets up quite a few plot points. Honestly, I couldn't even tell what the overall theme was going to be because there's totally different plot threads popping up as we progress through the story. However, once we reach the end, it seems far more clear. It's tough to discuss this part without spoiling it, but let's just say 2015 seems to be a big year for this subject. Last week, I saw two movies posing similar questions. Despite that, this story element doesn't leave me feeling like it's something familiar or unoriginal. The newspaper article in the very end gives us some much-needed information and has me feeling like this story has a ton of promise. Without it, I'd be left feeling very in the dark about the cliffhanger. So, I believe the article was a nice way to give us readers some important information without harming the issue's pacing or making some characters randomly fill in the gaps.

This almost feels like Prometheus in the way it's setting up one big mystery after another. From horror elements to interesting questions, you can tell each one has potential. Now, I know Prometheus is a polarizing movie, but, based on this issue, this feels like it's going to give us a proper amount of insight into each of the elements that were just established. It would be hugely disappointing if that wasn't the case, but given how organically this first issue puts everything in place and teases them, I'm left feeling confident each of these subplots will receive a good amount of attention. Only time will tell, though!

Aside from a few small criticisms (e.g. sometimes eyes appear too far apart; rarely the environments seemed to lack depth), Roche Limit: Clandestiny #1's visuals are a nice mix of humanizing displays of emotion and gorgeous shades of purple and blue. Whether it's a fast-paced crash landing or just a simple conversation, the use of angles always kept me feeling immersed in the story. I may have some small, personal criticisms with some of the anatomy, but these visuals rarely pulled me out of the moment and I was left properly understanding and appreciating a vast majority of what was occurring. I especially enjoyed the occasional close-up shot of the eyes for the more dramatic moments.
Sure, I'm left with a whole bunch of questions, but what good story would reveal everything in the first chapter? A solid sci-fi tale needs to engage your eyes and your imagination. Roche Limit: Clandestiny #1? Yeah, it definitely does that. If you're craving some smart sci-fi, you have no good reason not to check this out. It's just $2.99 and new reader-friendly, people! Man, now I'm left wanting to pick up the first volume's trade. I guess that'll help kill some time before the next issue is released, right?

4.5/5

The Flash "Grodd Lives" review

*Yes, there's spoilers in here. Watch the episode first!*
"I can't believe I'm down here looking for a supernatural gorilla. I'm terrified of regular gorillas!"

CW's The Flash may only be in its first season, but that's not stopping the show from totally embracing the source material and giving us fans a whole lot of love. While the show's been doing an excellent job building up the Reverse-Flash story, this week's episode, "Grodd Lives," brings in a telepathic gorilla named "Grodd." I'm guessing if a casual viewer heard what this episode is all about, they'd probably think it's pretty silly. Comic fans, though? It's kind of surreal this is already happening. Thankfully, the handling of Grodd is far from silly. The foe is frightening and full of promise. Not even a banana joke takes away from this villain's formidability.
Look, obviously the special effects for Grodd aren't going to be on par with the motion capture used over in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; this show just doesn't have the same kind of budget. So, it is blatantly obvious Grodd is purely CGI. But considering just how much we see of the character, I have to say they did a pretty solid job bringing the big fellow to life and they made him look pretty damn intimidating. To top it off, David Sobolov gave the perfect voice to this scary and imposing threat. With chilling expressions and a fitting voice, you can definitely understand why detective Joe West is so terrified when he comes face to face with Grodd. Thankfully, the "metagorilla" also has a pretty spectacular action sequence. It's not the longest one around, but it most certainly delivers. For once, Barry attempts to end a fight before it even begins by dishing out a swift and powerful attack. It's no surprise the fight isn't over with a single hit, but what is a surprise is how Grodd reacts to it. Witnessing the giant enemy catch the hero's hand and then effortlessly toss him away was totally thrilling.

After going through such a rough patch, I really love how it's Iris who technically saves the day. She may not have the technical knowledge Caitlin and Cisco have, but she can motivate Barry like no other and it was a satisfying way to follow-up all of this episode's tension and drama. The shot of Grodd's defeat is really cool, but part of me was left thinking, "What about the people in the train?" I mean, if the subway train hit something like that, I'm guessing the conductor  would stop the vehicle. Maybe Grodd then ran away instead of lashing out? Also, that train came very soon after the other one. Maybe Central City just has a more efficient commuter system than they do over here in New York? Whatever, it's not a big deal and the awesomeness of that slow motion shot vastly outweighs those questions.

Before I talk about the drama, there is one more thing I'd like to mention about Grodd. Technically, he's just a diversion in this episode. I guess some could label him as a villain-of-the-week, but what helps Grodd stand apart is the amount of depth and previous hype he received. When the episode is over, you can tell this isn't the last we've seen of the character and there's definitely more story to tell with him. And let's be honest, Gorilla City would be a little tough to swallow in this world. Even if you can make it work, then introducing it to Central City would be quite a task, especially since it isn't the main story this season. So yeah, I think his origin story was a fine way to introduce him.
An explosion between Barry and Iris has been building for quite some time and, after Iris finally realized who the Flash is in the last episode, the time has come for that overdue and very passionate talk to take place. While the show does get into some heavy and heated dialogues -- I'll get into those soon enough -- what I love about this show is it always manages to sprinkle in some personality. Before and after a big and dramatic talk between Barry and Iris, we get some much appreciated humor from Caitlin and Cisco. They do everything they can to justify why they should listen to the talk and then they do everything they can to act like they totally weren't paying any attention when the talk concludes. Even later on, after a solid heart-to-heart moment, there's a bit of humor as Iris accidentally presses on her father's injured ribs. This show has plenty of character-driven drama, but it always remembers to make sure we're enjoying the experience, too. It never goes overly dramatic for too long and I love it for that.

As for Iris and Barry, I think it was mostly handled well. Like Barry said, Iris has every right to be upset. Everyone close to her has been blatantly lying to her and now she's finding this all out in such a short period of time. Gustin's physical responses felt fitting -- they were often a mix of empathy and a bit of frustration. It's a lot to take in for Iris, but I can't help but feel somewhat annoyed by two of her reactions. Firstly, when Barry opens up and says he finally knows who killed his mother, you can see a compassionate reaction build in Iris, but then she quickly makes it about her situation and never returns to the subject. I understand why that made her question Eddie's safety, but come on, she understands just how important that is to Barry. It's surprising she didn't bring that up again, even when she's in that mindset. Secondly, her blaming her father for Eddie's situation made me say, "That's harsh, Iris." Technically, the logic holds up, but man, that's some cold logic. But hey, I guess we've all said things we regret, right?

As usual, actor Jessie L. Martin offers a powerful performance. You can't help but feel sorry for the guy as he's beyond petrified of Grodd and the final scene with his daughter was legitimately heartfelt. Iris has every right to be upset and hold a grudge, but seeing her father suffer is the wake-up call she truly needed. It allows her to realize they did this because they love her. It's something she of course knows early in the episode, but disappointment and frustration took over and understandably so. Was lying to her the right thing for them to do? Probably not, but it's time to move forward and have the honest talk they need to have. It's an appropriately moving and humanizing conversation, one which puts the drama behind them and allows them to focus on what's now important: finding Eddie and stopping Wells. It makes me so happy they resolved this conflict in the span of one episode. I could see them dragging out Iris telling them she knows until the cliffhanger. Then there's an episode full of drama. Then there's an episode that allows them to resolve it. Instead, this tension gets the attention it deserves, everyone has mostly natural reactions, and then they're able to put it behind them. Thank you so much for not making this conflict last any longer than it needs to!
Wells isn't in the spotlight for much of this episode but he definitely isn't forgotten. As a comic fan, Eddie Thawne's last name immediately made me (and countless others) question the character's future. "How long before he potentially turns evil?" Well, this episode adds a little more weight to that question and leaves me wondering if they're purposely building him towards a more villainous future or if he'll remain strong and end his time on the show as a good guy. Noble, but heartbroken. I hope it's the latter, but we'll just have to wait and see. Oh, and it's also worth noting that Wells had some very amusing dialogue in that sequence. The one about his intelligence immediately comes to mind.

One of my biggest criticisms of the episode is really pretty minor. Joe hesitates for way too long during the heist sequence. I get what they're trying to say there: good guys don't want to kill and Joe is most certainly a very good guy. But to have an experienced detective hold off firing for that long against a heavily-armed gunman -- one who just shot two of his partners and is now taking aim at him? It's just a little too silly and took me out of the moment. Maybe -- just maybe -- you can say that, deep down, Joe was waiting for the Flash. However, as an experienced officer, waiting for that long in that dangerous of a situation is just foolish. Anyway, that's a lot of words for such a minor critique, but I think it was worth noting.
Random thoughts: So, now that Wells' cameras are taken down, I guess they have like, zero security in S.T.A.R. Labs? It's pretty funny how Iris just comes and goes as she pleases. You'd think they'd put something in place now that Wells is out there and knows where they operate. They probably know it won't do them much good, but something is certainly better than nothing at all. I love how Wells is hiding right under their noses. Also, I was left wondering why Wells didn't have Grodd kill Joe, but I'm guessing it's because that would make the team act emotionally and that would make their actions less predictable and potentially far more dangerous. He didn't need them broken; just distracted. Lastly, I'm glad they didn't cheese it up and have Barry and Iris kiss when it was blatantly implied the feelings are mutual. I didn't mind it in the previous episode (they were going to potentially die in a minute or so), but now that Eddie's in trouble? That would have been messed up, so I'm glad they brought it up. Oh, and I can't help but love how Cisco's dropping so many movie references and then Grodd's final scene is a blatant nod to King Kong.

"Everything Grodd did, it was just to distract us." That line probably makes some people think this episode was filler, but I disagree. In just one episode, The Flash handles a major dramatic plotline (something other shows may have dragged across several episodes), properly introduces the world to a major villain, and it makes a few small developments with Wells while also dropping a teaser or two. "Grodd Lives" may have a little too much emotion and drama for some viewers and I do think a reaction or two from Iris was frustrating, but overall, I believe it was all handled in a fairly realistic way. Best of all, it addressed the drama head-on and didn't save the resolutions for another day. Even if you aren't happy with that arc, aren't you at least glad they got it out of the way and didn't make it last for a few episodes? Plus, Grodd was awesome. Man, when he caught Barry's punch? How can someone not love that? This may not be one of my favorite episodes, but it sure is an important one and it takes some critical steps to set the stage for what's to come. Thanks to The Flash's personality, excitement, and heart, you really don't need to be a comic book fan to love this show. 

4/5

News to amuse - May 06, 2015

Last week Rahul Gandhi continued his make over by visiting Vidarbha where few farmers had comitted suicide. I don't know who to pity: the depressed, futureless and the hopeless or the farmers.

Tired of the condescending attitude of Indian media after earthquake, Nepalese started #GoHomeIndianMedia campaign on twitter last week. Of course, to make it the trending topic, they had to ask the Indian media personnel on Twitter to RT their tweets.

TJ Jose, Inspector General of Police, Kerela, was caught copying in the LLB exam. Unbelievable! Our country is going down the drains. The guardians of law are not following the law themselves - why did he not bribe the invigilator to keep the matter hush.

Young players of W.Indies like Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels and Jason Holder deliver superlative performance as W.Indies defeat England in a test for the first time in six years. Now that they have proved themselves, hopefully they would get to do what the best players in W.Indies do - play for CSK, RCB and MI in IPL.

Roger Federer won the Istanbul Open yesterday. In other words Djokovic and Nadal did not play Istanbul Open.

Viswanathan Anand finished second in the Shamgir Open yesterday. In other words Djokovic and Nadal played Shamgir Open. Wait! That doesn't sound right.




Man of Steel vs. Avengers: Age of Ultron - Let's talk about the destruction

Avengers: Age of Ultron is finally in U.S. theaters and comparisons to Man of Steel have already begun. In Joss Whedon's sequel to The Avengers, an especially big focus is placed on the Avengers doing everything they can to make sure innocent people aren't harmed during their explosive and crazy battles. Obviously, this is pretty different from Superman's struggle with Kryptonian forces who sought to terraform Earth -- a process that would kill every single human on the planet. Do I think Superman could have done more in his conflict and he made a few foolish decisions? Absolutely. However, I do think the handling of destruction was used to illustrate different points in both movies. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, it's there to remind us that being a hero is all about saving people. In Man of Steel, it's all about showing the seemingly unbelievable nightmare Kal-El had to overcome in his very first conflict as a superhero.
First and foremost, I feel obligated to point out differences that should be obvious. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the team is mostly full of experienced characters who have worked together and they follow Captain America, a guy who's just oozing hope and he makes you want to be a better person. When a train is speeding through a crowded area, would Quicksilver have saved civilians if Captain America hadn't given the order? If it wasn't for the super-soldier, would the speedster have focused on grabbing his sister, Scarlet Witch, and raced both of them to safety, only to then feel heartbreak as he realizes how many people were killed by that swift decision? With everything happening so quickly, I'd say it's a possibility and it's one worth thinking about. That just goes to show the influence Steve Rogers can have on even an inexperienced individual. In addition to being an experienced team led by a tactical genius with a heart of gold, it's worth noting the Marvel team had prep time and way more resources. As a battle with Baron von Stucker sent explosives into a city, Tony Stark had the means to order robots into the city and had them warn the people to evacuate. They don't listen to Stark's technology, but hey, A for effort, right? In the final conflict, the Avengers had time to warn the authorities about what's coming their way and did everything they can to help people evacuate. And then when everything did hit the fan, they still tried to save people while fighting plenty of Ultron robots. Each of them had their own task and they were often spread out. For many, the balancing act of saving people and defeating the immediate threats was fairly doable. They have experience in the field, many teammates, a whole lot of resources, and they even had time to prepare. DC's powerful hero didn't have any of those luxuries.

It's a pretty common misconception that Superman destroyed most of Metropolis. While Superman does make some errors in his fights -- don't worry, I'll address those in a bit -- it's the World Engine that's responsible for a vast majority of the destruction in the city. Some people called Zack Snyder's handling of those sequences "disaster porn." All of the violent madness didn't have me cheering or exclaiming "awesome!" It's not there to enthrall you; it's there to shock you. To me, it shows just how ridiculously formidable Superman's first challenge is. How can anyone hope to overcome something so disastrous? The movie didn't pull any punches; it showed us Zod's forces are heartless and they had no problem slaughtering humanity. They viewed us as ants and had no hesitation whatsoever crushing us under their absurdly strong and durable feet. This wasn't a threat that had me saying, "Yeah, Superman will obviously win and all will be well." It's a threat that had me thinking, "Superman needs to stop this right away because this is freaking insane and humanity has no chance stopping it on their own."
I would have loved to see a more inspiring big screen version of Superman, but instead what we did receive is one that I believe feels more appropriate for the DC Cinematic Universe's "realistic" tone. They're going for something different and, so far, I'm liking it. Clark spent his entire life holding back and avoiding conflicts. Now, his first day as a superhero is against characters who are just as powerful as he is and they're more experienced in combat. With civilians out of the way in the Smallville battle -- a luxury the Avengers didn't have -- this novice hero still attempted to move the fight twice (he failed both times as his enemies grabbed him). Even though the odds aren't in his favor, he's still able to save a few troops who are unlucky enough to be in the war zone. He obviously can't save everyone when two powerhouses are on top of him, but you can't really say he didn't try to, either.

"Why couldn't he fly Zod out of the city?" That's a question I often hear. It's just a one-on-one brawl, right? Well, I imagine it's for the very same reason that Iron Man couldn't take Hulk away from a populated region. Clark spends much of the skirmish getting handled; he's still new to using his powers against others and he's spent his entire life trying not to get into fights. He's the one who's knocked into orbit! During that encounter, much of the damage is caused by Zod's attacks. I'm not saying Superman didn't cause any damage, but it always baffles me how someone can watch the Battle of Metropolis with an open mind and say, "Yeah, Superman destroyed most of the city." When Zod throws Superman through multiple buildings, are we really blaming Big Blue for that destruction? Or what about when Zod takes down a building with heat vision? Or all of the damage the World Engine unleashed? When Superman does briefly have the edge, he's punching Zod between and around buildings. He's not smashing the villain through anything and everything he can -- a tactic that Zod used just moments later against the hero.

Look, I'm not saying Superman's actions are without blame. Stuff like his punch after the "you die or I do" line is obviously a big mistake. Part of me wonders whether that building was already empty. Seeing as that takes place quite some time after an alien ship started attacking the city, you would imagine most people have fled the buildings in that region. The first building the two go crashing into -- the one that Zod destroys with heat vision -- appears to be empty, after all. Honestly, it probably wasn't completely empty, though. Aside from that punch and Superman smashing Zod's face against glass (which is pretty minor damage compared to what we regularly see in comics), I think a huge portion of the damage done in that encounter is because of Zod's actions, and with the alien general being on top of him, Superman doesn't exactly have time to fly around and pull everyone out of the rubble.
When the LexCorp truck hits a parking garage and blows up, Superman is left gazing at the chaos. I'd say there's two possible reasons for this. The first: the dude is simply staring at the blast and would probably love Michael Bay's movies. The second: he's looking in the structure to see if anyone needs help. I'd like to believe it's the latter and it seems safe to assume so, but seeing as Zod comes rushing in, there's no way to tell for sure. That said, I absolutely think Clark's responsible for taking at least a few lives in the Smallville fight. I mean, I do get what Snyder was going for when Clark lashed out. The hero spent decades holding back, but now, someone who can withstand his punches has crossed a line by attacking his mother. After years of attempting to keep it cool, Clark finally unleashes. He tackles Zod all the way through what appears to be power plants and they eventually plow through a gas station and the location explodes. There was at least one car at a pump and you know there's at least one employee in there. So, Clark snapping (I swear that pun is unintentional) absolutely resulted in killing at least two innocent people in that scene.

While I do think Clark made a few mistakes, it's important to remember this is his journey to becoming Superman and the guy just learned how to fly -- that really goes to show just how new he is to all of this. To top it off, he's on his own against overwhelming odds. I view it as someone doing everything they can to stand up against the ultimate threat and they'll push themselves as hard as they can to make sure the villain doesn't succeed. It may not be a "cheerworthy" action sequence, but that's also kind of why I love it; it's offering something different. He may not feel like the comic book Superman many have come to know and expect, but he held his own against a threat that seemed impossible to overcome. He didn't destroy the city. Because of his actions, much of Metropolis is still standing. (There's several shots that reveal just how vast the city is.) You may not like how he saved the day, but in the end, he did indeed save the entire planet and there were certainly more than a few instances of him putting himself in danger to save others throughout the movie. So, I still view Man of Steel as Clark's path to becoming Superman. Now that he's made his debut and protected Earth from its first alien threat, here's hoping the dude shows more of the qualities you'd expect from him in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The first trailer shows how the world is reacting to him, but we've yet to see how he's responding to all of the praise and hatred. This will be a critical movie for the character.
If there's one thing both movies are guilty of, it's glossing over the ramifications of the destruction. In Avengers, the Battle of New York receives a little bit of follow-up, but it's mostly there to quickly say how the world feels about the team and then goes to offering more humor. In Age of Ultron, we see a statue is built that honors the humans who did what they could to protect each other on that day, but aside from a body count and talk of construction in Daredevil, the Battle of New York is basically forgotten before another large city (and in turn, the world) is put in danger. Tony Stark says he sends aid to the city ravaged by his fight with the Hulk and, in the big finale, the Avengers are able to get a majority of a city's population to safety. However, once the day is saved, it rushes to teasing the Marvel Cinematic Universe's future. We can assume Stark will once again send aid, but I imagine many people are now left without homes. A huge portion of the country was removed, after all. It would be fitting to see something like Stark saying he'll dedicate some of his resources to creating housing complexes and what not. You'd think he would feel a little guilty after his weapons previously caused so much pain and suffering to those people and now so many of them have lost everything they own.

In Man of Steel, we go from one of the most powerful scenes to a more lighthearted sequence. A major U.S. city just suffered a devastating attack and there's no follow-up whatsoever. There's no talk of Superman helping to search for people in the rubble or him helping them rebuild. It just jumps to business as usual. People are back in the city like nothing has changed! It's an odd move seeing as the world just witnessed such a colossal tragedy. Thankfully, it looks like the Battle of Metropolis will play a key role in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice's story. Better late than never, yeah?

Watching Avengers: Age of Ultron and then saying that's how the destruction should have been handled in MoS just isn't an opinion I agree with. They're totally different situations with totally different tones. I do understand why someone would feel that way, though. Could Superman have made a few smarter decisions? Absolutely. Do I think the handling in AoU is more inspiring? For sure. But to me, the horrifying and shocking way the destruction is handled in Man of Steel fits the story's tone. It goes to show just how staggering the alien invasion is and illustrates just how far Superman must go to save humanity. It's a movie that shows us how just one man stands against a devastating, overwhelming, and terrifying alien invasion. If people that powerful are going to clash in a populated area and it's taking a more "grounded" approach, the battle's going to be devastating no matter how much the hero tries to contain the damage.

Avengers: Age of Ultron reminds me why Captain America and his allies are heroes that deserve our admiration. As the world around them crumbles, they want to make sure they use their abilities to protect the people who are trapped in the middle of all the craziness. Man of Steel reminds me that Kal-El went through a ridiculously daunting and frightening experience to save humanity from his very own people. Both movies involve a whole lot of destruction, and both involve heroes doing everything they can to prevent the death of more innocent people. They just go about presenting it in completely different ways.