A Miasma of Mediocrity: Mulan Synopsis

For those of you who have stuck with my blog over the interminable months it’s been alive, you know that I am relatively kind when it comes to movies. I mean, I saw Rise of Skywalker, and I was not ashamed to gush over how entertaining it was.

Clearly, I have very low standards.

As a matter of fact, many of my so-called “reviews” are nothing more than gush-a-thons where I haphazardly talk about how much I liked something. It’s like I can’t do a serious review even if I tried. I’m just caught up with enthusiasm and Below Averageness.

However, every once in a while, a movie just incites my vitriol, and what is usually a happy-go-lucky rant turns into a harsh and critiquing diatribe. (For an example of this, in case you’re curious, feel free to check out my Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald or my Cats review.)

I haven’t been to see a terribly bad movie in a while, in large part because movie theaters are a thing of the past now, what with the pandemic and the temporary closure of all my local movie theaters.

Thankfully, Disney’s live-action Mulan movie is here to save the day!

To be frank, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. My boyfriend saw it first and told me it was terrible, so I was primed for abysmal levels of low-quality movie madness. When it turned out to be very “meh,” that was actually an improvement upon my expectations.

And in order to save you, my beloved Above Average readers, from having to watch the dang thing yourselves, instead of a mere review, I’m going to synopsis the shit out of this movie.

With a few healthy helpings of Below Average commentary on the side.

Are you ready?

Thus Begins My Below Average Synopsis of Mulan (2020)

We get a glimpse of young Mulan as her father (at least I think it’s her father) narrates in the background. She’s in a field whirling a long stick around like a sword. She’s doing a bunch of fancy moves while her father explains how gifted she was in utilizing her “Chi.”

I’m going to pause here to let you know that “Chi” is brought up all the time in this movie, and it basically means mystical-inner-energy-that-makes-you-able-to-do-incredible-feats-like-jump-really-high-and-do-mega-flips-a-la-Crouching-Tiger-Hidden-Dragon-oh-and-it-might-also-let-you-do-magic. It’s like the Force, but even more unexplained.

After seeing Mulan practice using her Chi in that field, we then see the small town where she grew up. It’s a quaint place, brightly colored and rustic. Mulan’s family lives there, including her father, mother, and sister.

While trying to round up some chickens, one of them escapes, and Mulan proceeds to chase it back into its pen.

I don’t know what to tell you, but that chicken must have some pretty strong Chi levels too. It engages in some highly dubious acrobatics, but Mulan is able to keep up with it, showing off her own ability with her Chi as well. During the chase, she breaks a Phoenix statue and pisses off all of her neighbors. Apparently, it’s not proper for little girls to be incredibly agile and gravity-defying.

Late at night, her mom discusses the matter of Mulan’s Chi with her father. The two parents decide they don’t want their neighbors to look upon their daughter as a witch, so they agree she must hide her Chi abilities. And as with any secret conversation, Mulan overhears everything. However, she acquiesces to her father’s wishes, and she spends the next few years tamping down on her gymnastics.

Meanwhile, this dude named Bori Khan wants to bring down the Emperor of China. He’s amassed a sizable force, but his ace in the hole is this “witch” named Xianniang. She is magic times ten. She has incredibly long nails to attack people, she can turn into a falcon, and her sleeves are deadly weapons.

Bori Khan doesn’t seem to treat her too well, but he has made promises that when he takes over China, she will no longer be an outcast for having incredible Chi. It’s now clear that Xianniang possesses great power just like Mulan, and she has suffered ostracism and discrimination because of it.

And it’s at this point that I’m like, “Dude, maybe Bori Khan’s the good guy.”

Anyways, war is upon China, so the Emperor sends his Chancellor to summon all the men in the land to fight. (If you’ve seen the cartoon, you know the line.)

We go back to teenage Mulan, and her upcoming meeting with a matchmaker. She gets dolled up and unhappily goes to see if she’s suitable for marriage along with her mother and sister.

And apparently, it’s a crime to be a good sister. During the meeting, a spider crawls onto the table, and Mulan’s sister is terrified of them. Noticing this, Mulan picks up a nearby teapot and places it over the spider to trap it. The matchmaker gets all pissy and is like, “Did I tell you to move that teapot? No? Then why are you doing it? Stop that.”

Mulan is forced to remove the teapot from the spot and reveal the spider.

Unfortunately, like the chicken before it, this spider has got a talent for gravity-defying jumps. It leaps into the air and causes immediate chaos. Mulan tries to salvage the tea ceremony by jumping onto the table and catching pots, but some of them break, and the matchmaker thinks that’s a valid reason for saying she’s a disgrace, completely forgetting the fact that she was the one to demand the spider be seen.

As soon as this meeting is over, messengers arrive to ask men in Mulan’s town to join the army. Her dad has no sons, so he’s the one who must go to war.

That night, her dad shows her his sword, which has the words for “Loyal,” Brave,” and “True” on them. (This is kind of important later.) He goes to bed, and Mulan decides to go to war in his place.

So, my big gripe here is that not enough weight is placed on this moment. In the animated film, Mulan cutting her hair and donning her father’s armor is one of the most pivotal moments in the story. The music is epic, the lighting is fantastic, and her exit is dramatic.

In this live-action version, she just kind of…leaves.

Anyways, her parents pray to their ancestors to help her out. That Phoenix statue Mulan broke while chasing the chicken is part of her family’s spiritual ancestors.

I guess getting to the damn army encampment is a huge ordeal because Mulan ends up in a desert, with no food and no water. While she lies down in exhaustion, a freakin’ Phoenix flies above her, showing her the way to camp.

I don’t know why that part was necessary to the movie. I understand that the Phoenix is a representation of her family’s ancestors. But if you take this part out, nothing changes in the plot. I mean, the meat of the story takes place during her training.

Mulan’s time training is one of the better parts of the movie. She actually lowers her voice to try and sound like a man, and she always volunteers for late-night watches so she doesn’t have to bathe with the other soldiers. If the movie had spent more time showcasing her becoming friends with her squad, it would have been ten times more enjoyable. Every time that happened, I forgot how confused I was by Chi.

Another thing I approve of is the change in love interest. In the animated film, Shang and Mulan are considered an item, and with him being her commanding officer, it’s actually a prickly subject if you think about it.

In the live-action movie, her fellow soldier Honghui is her love interest, and that’s a much better dynamic. They start out as rivals in the army, trying to best the other, but end up on friendlier terms. When they talk in close quarters though, Honghui reveals that since Mulan hasn’t been bathing at all this entire time, she has gained a noticeable stench. That was funny.

Mulan’s commanding officer in the live-action film, Commander Tung, is played by none other than Ip Man! Yup, Donnie Yen is kicking ass in Star Wars and Mulan. Unfortunately, I think he was underutilized here.

In the movie, Commander Tung notices that Mulan is an incredibly skilled fighter, and he comments as much to her. There’s this one pretty tense-ish moment when Mulan, after looking at the Loyal-Brave-True inscription on her father’s sword, wants to confess to Tung that she’s a woman. However, just as she’s about to, Commander Tung starts talking about how since she’s such a skilled warrior, he wouldn’t mind if they arranged a marriage between Mulan (who is going under the name Hua Jun) and his own daughter.


Sadly, this is where the training part ends, and the whole movies landslides down to its unsatisfying conclusion.

Commander Tung and his army are sent to fight Bori Khan and his forces. The scale of these fights is not really clear. You know how movies like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers showcases the battle of Helm’s Deep perfectly, so that you know where your protagonists are at all times and you can understand how the fight is going?

This movie does the opposite of that.

For some reason, Bori Khan’s forces rush Commander Tung’s, and then they run away. Mulan is part of a detachment of horse riders that chases after the group. Every one of those riders is picked off by Bori Khan’s mounted archers except for her, and when she finds that she’s on her own, she does not tactically retreat. She continues forward alone.

That’s when she is confronted by Xianniang, the witch. Xianniang tells Mulan that they are very much alike and should therefore be fighting on the same side. It would have been really nifty if this convo had, I don’t know, been extended beyond this one line, but it’s not. They fight, Mulan gets a bit injured (by which I mean she loses some armor), and then…she has an epiphany.

She decides to embrace being “True,” just as her father’s sword says. She lets down her hair, even though that might not be a sound practice on the middle of a battlefield where flowing hair can a) obstruct vision, b) be grabbed by a close-range opponent, or c) catch on fire thanks to the explosive weapons your allies are using, and goes back to the main battlefield.

Since we’ve been with Mulan this whole time, we haven’t really seen how the fight has been going for the rest of the army. Turns out, it’s been going terribly. Bori Khan’s forces have bombarded Commander Tung’s forces with projectiles from far off, and Xianniang has been pestering them as a weird flock of birds (?).

Using previously unknown powers of teleportation, Mulan gets behind enemy lines (even though she had been in the middle of the battlefield not one scene ago), and she starts firing down on the opposing army with a bow and arrow. She has also placed abandoned helmets from her side on rocks nearby so it looks like there are more people with her.

Bori Khan’s trebuchets start casting projectiles over at Mulan’s position instead of at the rest of the troops, and since she’s situated near handy mountains, the force of those shots creates an avalanche.

The battle ends with most of Bori Khan’s forces being buried alive, and most of Mulan’s comrades surviving.

Afterwards, she goes up to her friends and commanding officers with her hair let loose, clearly exuding the fact that she is female. They tell her to get lost because that’s how the story is supposed to story. If she comes back, they say, they’ll kill her.

On her way back home, Mulan is intercepted by Xianniang, who found her again in the middle of nowhere for no explicable reason. Xianniang plays the sympathy card, and I honestly wish Mulan would have sided with her. I mean, Xianniang is right. Those dudes at the army are basically her oppressors. Why on Earth should she side with them? But the moral of the story is clearly that perseverance wins the day no matter how deeply ingrained gender prejudices are. Xianniang lets slip that Bori Khan survived and is going to capture the Emperor, and upon hearing this, Mulan rushes back to her friends in the army.

After reporting to Commander Tung about Bori Khan’s plans, Mulan submits herself to be killed as long as they believe what she’s saying, and that’s when Honghui steps up (finally) and speaks in her defense. The rest of her army buddies do too, and next thing you know, they are rushing to save the Emperor.

Mulan goes from being the outcast of the group to being the veritable leader. She’s in charge of her own squad rushing forward to save the Emperor. It is a drastic change, and one that does not feel entirely earned.

During this time, Xianniang has undergone a change of heart and wants to help Mulan by turning against Bori Khan. But even though she’s shown to have amazing abilities in battle, Xianniang can do nothing to stop an arrow from striking Mulan except place her body between it and Mulan. Xianniang dies in Mulan’s arms, and we’re left wondering why, if this relationship was so important to have its own dramatic death scene, it was not explored more fully.

I hate to rush through the ending, but the movie finishes up with Mulan saving the Emperor, Bori Khan dying, and the Emperor offering Mulan a top position in the army. Not much really happens beyond that. No resolution with Commander Tung offering his daughter to Mulan. No exploration of how powerful Mulan’s Chi really is. No resolution with her friends in the army. She does get to reunite with her family at the end. So there is that.

The End.

Mulan (2020) was not satisfactory, though I wouldn’t rush to call it the worst movie ever. I had really low expectations for it, which could be why its shortcomings didn’t rankle me so much.

And I watched the whole thing so that you, my favorite Above Average people, don’t have to.

I rate Mulan a below-average-movie-that-disappoints-more-often-than-it-delights.

What the Hell Did We Just Watch: A Midsommar Review

I just got out of the theater, and I still have tears of laughter in my eyes. I have no clue what me and my friends just walked out of.

Was it worth the nine dollars to get in?

If you have a sense of humor, yes, yes it was.

You might be a bit confused about this intro. Isn’t Midsommar a horror film? Yes, I think it’s supposed to be. But honestly, it felt like a straight-up comedy as I watched it.

I feel a bit guilty as I type this. The movie covers some serious subject matters, including suicide, grief, acceptance, and cultural sensitivity. But I don’t know what to tell you guys. Maybe it’s the circumstances in which I saw the film.

Me and two of my friends from D&D (Chris and Sidney) decided to watch Midsommar at the spur of the moment. We wanted to hang out, and we were eager to watch a scary movie. When we entered the theater, it was just us and three other people in the room.

As soon as the cringey dialogue began, complete with awkward pauses, the six of us could not contain our guffaws.

From a more removed standpoint (hearkening back to my college days), I can appreciate Midsommar for its themes and symbolism.

But as a Below Average person, I think the movie is ri-goddamn-diculous.

For this review, I thought I’d give a “short,” comment-filled synopsis of the movie. However, I do heartily recommend you watch it in theaters. There’s nothing quite like it.

Are you ready?

The movie starts fairly soberly. A girl named Dani is fearful for her family’s safety due to her sister’s suicidal tendencies, and Dani’s boyfriend, Christian, is wondering whether or not he should break up with her.

Dani’s sister commits a murder-suicide, killing her and Dani’s parents with some car exhaust. Christian, the douche-nozzle, was busy talking with his friends about how he doesn’t want to be Dani’s therapist right before she calls him to let him know what happened. Christian decides not to break up with Dani in light of these events.

This is all legitimately depressing stuff.

It’s after this part that the movie takes a turn.

The movie then cuts to a few months later (I think). Dani and Christian are at a party, and Dani is surprised with the information that Christian is planning to go to Sweden in a few weeks. When the two of them are back at their apartment, Dani asks him about this trip he’s apparently been planning.

And Christian gets stupidly defensive.

Dani is calmly asking him about the trip, and he reacts as if she’s attacking him. And I get that maybe the movie is trying to showcase how much of a dick Christian is. But it was just so absurd.

THEN the movie cuts to a few days later. Christian is with his friends, Josh, Mark, and Pelle. He tells them he invited Dani to come with them to Sweden.

And he does it in the most awkward way too. Every conversation in this movie sounds stilted. Dani comes into the room a moment later, and Mark asks Christian if he can talk to him.

Initially, I thought they were going to talk shit about Dani behind her back. Mark asked Christian to go into another room SO shadily. But nah, nothing like that happens. They just go off. Meanwhile, Dani strikes up a conversation with Pelle.

Pelle is the Swedish one of the group, the man responsible for initiating the group’s trip to his own commune. He and Dani talk about the trip, and then he decides to apologize to Dani for what happened to her parents. At this point, my friends and I flipped our lids.

What kind of insensitive human being would just BRING UP the MOST TRAUMATIC MOMENT in Dani’s life like that?

The film then decides to jump-cut immediately to the plane flight that Dani, Christian, Pelle, Josh, and Mark are on.

The group are in Sweden seconds later, and they run into Ingemar, Pelle’s brother. Ingemar has brought some foreign friends to the commune as well, Simon and Connie, and as soon as I found that out, I just knew that everyone would be lambs to the slaughter. What other reason could they have for inviting a bunch of foreigners to their place.

The group decides to imbibe some hallucinogens (for reasons), and Dani has a bad trip. She sees grass growing through her foot, and she sees her dead sister for a moment. This was legitimately a scary moment, but it was somewhat ruined by the pot-head comments the characters were making.

Everyone at Pelle and Ingemar’s commune seems really friendly. They dress all in white and do breathing rituals every now and then. They’re also fond of awkward pauses and not explaining things to people. They also like to keep a bear in a cage (remember that!) just for fun.

Things are going swimmingly until Dani and the other foreigners witness an extreme ritual that Pelle’s people practice. When someone gets too old in the commune, they commit suicide. They do this by leaping off a cliff. If they survive, there is a handy man with a large wooden mallet to bash their heads in.

Simon and Connie are freaked beyond belief and want to leave, which is a normal response. Dani’s group are idiots and write this off as just part of the commune’s culture. Simon and Connie end up leaving at separate times, very suspiciously and off camera, so you know that they got offed.

Meanwhile, Mark decides to take a leak on a sacred tree, which pisses off a bunch of Pelle’s family. He’s Mark-ed for death after that.

We find out the gruesomeness of Mark’s death later that night, when Josh tries taking some clandestine pictures of a sacred book. Josh gets caught by a man who is wearing Mark’s face as a mask. Josh then gets bashed on the head, and we assume he died as well.

Dani and Christian are now the only ones left alive, but since they’re such bad friends, they don’t question Mark or Josh’s disappearance. Dani participates in the Maypole dance and becomes May Queen. The commune really seems to accept her where they’ve just outright killed the other foreigners.

Christian, on the other hand, is being groomed for a strange sex ritual. One of the girls of the commune, Maja, wants to do him, and she’s been sending him typical flirtatious signals. You know what I mean. Things like leaving runes under his bed, putting pubic hair in his pies, and dripping period blood into his drinks.

Christian takes some drugs during Dani’s Maypole dance (because why not) and is made to have sex with Maja in a room while being surrounded by more naked cult women. This part gets real gratuitous. The naked women around Christian and Maja are super…helpful. They make moaning noises in time with Maja, and an old granny-woman with sagging you-know-whats pushes Christian’s buttocks in order to make him thrust more rhythmically.

Dani, who was otherwise preoccupied with being a May Queen, hears the sex noises and peers inside the building. She sees what Christian is doing and then runs away sobbing. Other young girls of the commune who participated in the Maypole dance start sobbing in time with Dani, as if they’re feeling her grief, and it’s actually one of the niftier parts of the movie. You see how Dani appreciates and longs for someone to feel with her.

Anyways, after Christian is done, he runs out of the building buck naked. He flees into a chicken coop and sees Simon dangling from the ceiling with his eyes plucked out and his lungs removed. Then Christian gets knocked out with some drug powder blown into his face. (There are a lot of drugs in Midsommar.)

Christian wakes up paralyzed. He and Dani are in a crowd of the cult people, including Pelle. Pelle’s been in on it the whole time. Everything is revealed at this moment. The cult requires nine sacrifices during this festival, and the four foreigners were part of that sacrifice. Four members from the commune sacrifice themselves as part of the ritual as well, but the last person to be sacrificed is left up to the May Queen.

That’s Dani.

The commune people ask Dani if she would rather sacrifice Christian or some rando from the commune.

She chooses Christian because he is an absolutely horrible boyfriend.

Christian is then stuffed into the disemboweled bear (the bear from the beginning!), kept paralyzed, then burned alive.

Dani smiles as she watches on.

And those are the bare bones of Midsommar. Reading over my synopsis, I can’t find the hilarity I felt when watching the movie. It might be one of those experiences you have to be there for in order to understand.

I rate Midsommar a there-are-almost-no-words-to-describe-my-feelings-while-watching-it-but-I-had-a-great-time-so-I’m-going-to-recommend-it-to-everyone-I-know-even-if-I-know-they-won’t-like-it-just-because-I-want-to-see-what-happens.

The In-Depth Halo 3 Synopsis That No One Is Asking For


You guys probably thought I forgot all about my synopsis project to summarize every major entry in the Halo video game series. You’d be forgiven for thinking so, because it has been a long time since I wrote my Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 summaries.

But I’m back, baby! And I’m ready to give you a Below Average, not-so-short summary of my all-time favorite video game series once again.

Let’s get into Halo 3!

Last we saw Master Chief, he was on board a Covenant ship headed to Earth. Earth is under attack by a massive Covenant fleet, so yeah, they could really use his assistance.

Cortana was left behind, plugged into the space-faring Covenant city, High Charity. Chief promised to go back for her, and we’re sure she is currently holding her breath in anticipation.

Miranda Keyes, Avery Johnson, the Arbiter, and 343 Guilty Spark were on a Halo ring, aghast at the prospect of all the Halo rings in the universe being set to blow. After just barely managing to stop the Halo they were on from being fired, safety protocols now have every Halo primed to fire from a single location called the Ark.

Side note: Seriously, what kind of safety protocol is that?!

If you’re at all confused by what I’m talking about, then clearly you haven’t read my past two summaries which can be found here and here!

Halo 3 opens with Master Chief plummeting to Earth from space because he wasn’t smart enough to find a usable life pod. He crash-lands his body into a dense forest somewhere in Africa.

Johnson and the Arbiter somehow got to Earth before the Chief even though he was in orbit and they were on a distant Halo ring at the end of Halo 2. They find the small crater where the Chief landed and inspect the immobile body of our favorite Spartan. The Chief’s armor locked up on impact, so for a quick second, Johnson thinks the Chief is dead.

Side note: That could never have happened because then we wouldn’t have a game to play.

The Chief wakes up, and there is a friendly reunion between him and Johnson.

But then the Chief catches sight of the Arbiter. Master Chief didn’t play Halo 2, so he has no way of knowing that the Arbiter is one cool guy. He just thinks the Arbiter is a dangerous Elite lurking behind Johnson. Quick as a flash, the Chief pulls out a Magnum and jams it under the Arbiter’s weird four-mandibled jaw. Luckily, Johnson speaks up and tells the Chief that Arbiter’s on their side now.

The Chief grudgingly puts his pistol away, but you can tell he and the Arbiter are not entirely trusting each other.

The group makes their way out of the forest, and after some mishaps with some Brutes, Johnson, the Arbiter, and the Chief are picked up by a Pelican and taken to an underground bunker where the UNSC is holing up. Miranda is there, and I still can’t understand why it took so freakin’ long for Chief to land on Earth. Miranda had the time to set up an entire base of operations!

Anyway, once there, Miranda and Admiral Hood fill Chief in on what’s been happening. The reason behind the Covenant invasion of Earth is apparently some artifact that is buried in Africa, just outside the city of New Mombasa. Hood sends Chief to attack anti-air defenses the Covenant have set up around their dig site so that he (Hood) can bomb the shit out of them with his ships and stop them from recovering the artifact.

Chief does a fantastic job of taking out the anti-air defenses, but the Covenant get to the artifact first anyways. The artifact was this Forerunner portal opener, and the Covenant fleet, which is carrying the nefarious Prophet of Truth, goes through the portal without a second thought to Earth and its people.

With perfect dramatic timing, just as the Covenant depart through the portal, a Flood-infested ship appears above Earth and crashes near where the Chief is. He and the Arbiter have to fight their way aboard the Flood ship, and while in there, they find a broken recording from Cortana, who is still on board High Charity. In the message, she warns them that about the Flood and says she has found a way to get rid of them on the Ark.

Chief, who trusts Cortana implicitly, goes through the new portal with the Elite forces. The Elites, after breaking away from the Covenant, have a warranted vendetta against the Prophets and the Brutes.

Once through the portal, we’re treated to the sight of the Ark. It looks like a massive starfish in space.

Unlike most starfish, this place spells doom for humanity (and lifeforms in general). The Prophet of Truth is dead-set on activating all the Halo rings, so the Chief and his buddies immediately get to work on attacking the Covenant barricades Truth has set up around the activation room on the Ark. While trying to bring down these shields, Johnson gets captured.

It’s never outright stated (at least I don’t think it is), but only humans can interact with these Forerunner devices. This tidbit becomes mega-important in Halo 4, but for now, it’s only important because Truth needs to use Johnson to activate the rings.

Miranda Keyes tries to rescue Johnson from Truth, but there is no way she can get him out of there alive. Johnson tells her that she has to kill both of them since they are the only way Truth can activate the rings. Unfortunately, she hesitates to shoot her friend, and she’s spiked by Truth (goddamned bastard). Truth then takes Johnson’s hand and forces him to start the activation process.

Master Chief and the Arbiter have been running all over the Ark, shutting down shields and trying to reach the activation room. Their friendship has no doubt deepened after spending so much quality time together.

They get to the chamber too late to save Miranda, but they do get there in time to stop the activation process. Some Flood zombies come up to them and help them to the activation platform. Since firing the Halos would destroy the Flood, it’s in their self-interest to help the Chief and Arbiter.

Once the Chief reaches Johnson, he takes out the Brutes guarding Truth. Then the Arbiter takes up his energy sword and slices into the Prophet of Truth. It’s a double-whammy for Truth, because not only did the Arbiter literally stab him in the back, he was also in the middle of getting Flooded. Good riddance, I say.

The rings are stopped from firing, and that’s when the Flood decide to turn on their temporary allies. The Arbiter and the Chief then have to fight against the Flood forms who had just been helping them. They make it out okay, and they discover an awfully convenient Halo ring is being constructed on the Ark.

This Halo ring is special because it would get rid of the local Flood infestation without threatening the rest of the galaxy.

Before the Chief goes to this new ring to activate it, he finally returns to the Flood-consumed High Charity and rescues Cortana. She’s a little worse for wear, but it’s a huge relief to have her in the Chief’s head once again.

The two of them along with the Arbiter travel to this new Halo ring, ready to fire it up. The Flood start attacking them relentlessly, but they all make it to the ring’s activation chamber.

However, when Johnson joins up with them and tries firing the ring, 343 Guilty Spark goes crazy and lasers him. This entire time, Spark has been helping the humans in order to contain this Flood outbreak. But if the Halo ring is fired too soon, it will fall apart afterwards.

And Guilty Spark cares more about the Halo ring than he does about saving the world. Master Chief lasers the insane Spark in return, but it’s too late for Johnson. He dies from his wound, and it’s up to the Chief, Arbiter, and Cortana to fire the Halo ring alone.

Just as Spark said would happen, the Halo ring starts breaking down around them. The three heroes of the universe have to race to the safety of Johnson’s parked ship using a Warthog he left behind.

Side note: Johnson parked reallllllllllly far away from the activation chamber. Did he really walk all that way?

They miraculously make it onto the ship, the Forward Unto Dawn, and Arbiter rushes to the bridge to pilot the ship out of there. The Chief and Cortana are stuck in the loading bay because some wreckage cut them off from the doorway. Arbiter manages to pilot most of the ship through the portal they came through before it closes. However, only his half of the ship made it back to Earth. The Chief, Cortana, and the back end of the Forward Unto Dawn is left adrift in deep space.

The end of the war is celebrated on Earth, but the game truly ends when we see the Master Chief climb into a cryo-tube on the broken-down Forward Unto Dawn. He plans to sleep until someone finds his and Cortana’s beacon and comes to rescue them.

His last words to Cortana are, “Wake me if you need me.”

And then he goes to sleep, leaving poor Cortana to just sit in the ship by her lonesome waiting for someone to find them.

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5 Review: Turning the Tables on Fate

As I write this, I know that people are going to be steamed at Game of Thrones. This latest episode, “The Bells,” is an emotional wringer. Characters die, and some of their deaths spit in the face of some rampant fan theories. I checked on Twitter to see general reactions, and a lot of people seem pissed that all this character development has “gone to waste.”

That’s the phrase I keep seeing.

“Gone to waste.”

I don’t think that.

Now, I’m not saying I was thrilled to see the destruction in this episode. But I do not think that a single part of the show has “gone to waste.”

One of the things I like about Game of Thrones is the idea that fate is just a word. Sure, beings like the Red God or the Three-Eyed Raven occasionally swagger forward throwing their weight around, but at the end of the day, death is the only sure thing in this world. Magic and miracles are fickle.

Death doesn’t care whether you grew as a person, got your revenge, or met the love of your life. It just is.

So even though Episode 5 of this season wiped out a bunch of main characters, I do not feel as if the whole show has “gone to waste.”

That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

So the episode opens with Dany still mourning the loss of Missandei back on Dragonstone. She has not been eating or sleeping. She has been keeping to herself.

I felt terribly sorry for her while watching this because no one goes to her to comfort her or be with her in her hour of need. Her isolation is an awful thing, and I wish someone could have reached out to her.

Varys is taking this opportunity to write letters. Who these letters are for exactly is unknown. We do know that each letter basically contains the secret of Jon’s birth. Apparently, Varys is doing more than talking about betraying Dany. He is actually betraying her.

Tyrion decides to remain loyal to his queen. He tells her that Varys has betrayed her.

As if to underscore that point, when Jon arrives at Dragonstone, Varys approaches him and not-so-subtly tells him that he should be king. Thankfully, Jon remains his loyal self and tells Varys he is loyal to his queen.

However, when Jon goes to see Dany, she is clearly a wreck. She sits alone at a fire with a very uncommunicative Grey Worm nearby. When Jon comes in, she tells him of Varys’ betrayal and, perhaps for the last time, reaches out to Jon. Jon maintains his loyalty to her, but knowing that she is his aunt prevents him (damn) from comforting her in other ways.

Later that night, Varys is arrested by the Unsullied. He’s taken to the beach where Dany, Tyrion, and Jon are waiting.

Yes, you guessed it. Varys is put to death for treason against the queen.

It was a very sad moment because you know that Varys is acting for what he believes to be the good of the realm. When I first saw this moment, however, I couldn’t help thinking about how ardently he used to promote Dany’s cause. His betrayal felt sudden, and I couldn’t blame Dany for wanting to punish him.

Though maybe Dany should consider another form of execution instead of roasting people alive with Drogon all the time.

Just before Dany’s assault on King’s Landing begins, Tyrion begs her to keep the common people in mind, the innocents of the city. He tells her that the bells of King’s Landing will ring when Cersei’s forces have surrendered. If they do ring, Tyrion pleads for Dany to stop her attack on the city. Dany nods once.

Now, Jaime, if you recall, left Winterfell and Brienne to return to King’s Landing and Cersei. He got himself caught by Dany’s forces outside of the city. Dany tells Tyrion about this, and of course, the first thing Tyrion does when he reaches the army’s encampment is find his older brother.

What follows is one of the most emotional scenes in the whole episode. (And there are a lot of emotional scenes.)

Tyrion knows that Jaime is going back to King’s Landing to rescue Cersei or die trying. Tyrion knows that Cersei is a tyrant that Jaime can’t help loving.

But he releases him anyways.

They hug each other one last time, and Tyrion tells Jaime that he (Jaime) is the one person in his (Tyrion’s) life who has never thought of him as a monster. Then they part ways.

The day of the battle arrives, and I honestly thought things were going to go terribly for Dany’s side. Their forces were severely depleted after their fight with the Night King, only one of the original three dragons remains, and the defending army is bolstered by the Golden Company and the Iron Fleet.

But Game of Thrones got me.

Once Dany arrived with Drogon, King’s Landing was doomed.

Drogon set all the scorpions on fire. The battlements never stood a chance. He and Dany just flew by so quickly. The Iron Fleet posed no threat either. Drogon set those poor wooden ships ablaze in seconds. And the Golden Company? They were incinerated.

Eventually, the Lannister forces throw down their arms because they realize how futile it is to fight against a dragon when all you really have are swords. Cersei can only watch in displeasure as the bells of King’s Landing are rung.

Here’s the thing.

Even though the bells were rung signalling the surrender of King’s Landing, Dany decides to burn them all anyway. She starts taking Drogon on strafing runs over the entire city, over soldiers and innocents alike.

Poor Jon Snow, who was leading the Northern forces through the city, has to watch as the scene devolves into chaos. Soldiers on his side, the “good guys,” start rampaging through the streets, slaughtering women and children. Jon actually has to kill one of his own men who was trying to rape a woman.

Aside from seeing Daenerys’ face as she makes the decision to destroy everything, we don’t see her expression at all once she begins. The rest of the slaughter is seen from the perspective of the people on the streets.

However, back at the Red Keep, Cersei is finally persuaded by Qyburn to get the hell out of dodge. She, Qyburn, and the Mountain descend the stairs, hoping to reach Maegor’s Holdfast and survive the onslaught.

Two parties are trying to reach Cersei specifically at this point. Daenerys isn’t one of them. She’s just looking to set everything on fire. Jaime is trying to sneak into the Red Keep to get Cersei out of there. And Arya and the Hound are trying to get inside to murder her.

Let’s start with Jaime.

He has trouble getting into the Red Keep through the front gates, so he goes through the secret tunnel that leads from a cave on the beach to the caverns beneath the Red Keep. Unfortunately, Euron, who somehow survived Dany’s assault on the Iron Fleet has washed up to this exact spot. The two engage in a sword fight, they both get wounded, but Euron gets wounded more.

It was a lot more intense than I’m currently describing it, but all you need to know is that Euron eats it and Jaime makes it (for the most part).

Arya is as determined as Jaime to reach Cersei, but for completely different reasons. However, once they reach the Red Keep, the place is shaking and crumbling apart from Dany’s attacks on the structure. The Hound pulls Arya aside and brings her to her senses. He tells her that no one is coming out of this place alive, and she should get out while she still can. There’s no hope for him, but there’s still hope for her.

For once, Arya chooses life over death.

It was sweet to see this moment of closeness between her and the Hound. But it felt oddly out-of-character for Arya to decide to just leave him.

The Hound meets Cersei, Qyburn, and the Mountain on the stairs as they’re coming down and engages in battle with his brother. Qyburn tries to stop the Mountain from fighting the Hound and gets a skull full of rock for his trouble.

Cersei is now officially alone.

And even though she started this whole thing, I felt bad for her.

God, this episode was all about me feeling bad for people who may or may not deserve it.

The Hound and the Mountain duke it out. It’s epic as fudge. At one point, you think the Mountain is going to pull his Oberyn Martell special on his brother, you know, thumbs through the eyeholes? But the Hound stabs a dagger into his brother’s eye, then pushes him off the building for good measure. Sadly, the Hound also falls off with his brother since it was a whole-body kind of push, and the two Clegane brothers meet death together.

They either splattered on the concrete or the flames from Drogon’s fires consumed them. Either way…oof. There goes the Hound.

Cersei makes it to one of the lower floors of the Red Keep, but she’s all alone. You can see the despair on her face. And just when she needs him most, Jaime appears beside her. He’s made his way to her with two stab wounds from his fight with Euron.

Their reunion, next to Tyrion and Jaime’s hushed good-bye, was strangely the moment that choked me up the most. I never liked Cersei much. She is such a selfish woman, with no thought of kindness in her head. But I felt…moved…by her desperation.

And Jaime has changed so much since we first saw him in Season 1, but he still can’t escape his feelings for Cersei. He traveled to King’s Landing knowing he would probably die, just so he could die with his twin/lover. That whole incest thing is still weird, but now it has a sense of pure sorrow to it that feels earned.

Jaime leads Cersei back the way he came, but the tunnel he used has collapsed from the destruction Dany is wreaking up above. Together, Jaime and Cersei are crushed by the collapsing cave.

Arya’s journey through King’s Landing is the most harrowing one. Following her through the burning, crumbling avenues was exhausting just to watch. It has the same kind of chaos to it that the D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan has. She has some near misses, but she makes it out of the city alive.

And that’s where the episode leaves us.

There is only one more episode to go before the season and the show ends for good.

With most of Season 8 done, I can look back at the show in its entirety.

And you know what?

I can honestly say no matter how the show ends, my time watching it has not “gone to waste.”

A Taste of Venom

Venom movie
via: shortlist.com

I’m definitely a terrible reviewer of movies.

For one thing, I always post about them months after they come out. This is due to the fact that I schedule my posts weeks in advance. So while I may have seen the movie quite promptly, the post I write about it will be published way after the fact.

Also, I am a completely informal reviewer. I am so informal I should put “reviewer” in quotes to further demonstrate how inadequate I am.

I “review” movies.

There we go. That’s better.

I can’t help but be in a perpetual audience state of mind. I don’t have an innate grasp on filming techniques or schools of acting. I just watch the damn movie and then decide whether I like it or not.

But I think there’s something to be said for reading about a movie’s qualities from a total amateur.


In my humble opinion, it was a tad mediocre.

I went to see it with no bias. After Solo, I’ve learned never to judge a movie based on people’s preconceived notions of how it will be. So I went to see Venom with a completely open mind, and it failed to impress.

The movie is about this reporter named Eddie Brock.

Side note: Yes, I’ve read Venom comic books, including the ones where Venom was partnered with Flash Thompson.

Eddie is living the good life with a solid reporting gig and a loving fiancée. Unfortunately for him, he loses it all when he tries to find some dirt on this corporate tycoon. He gets fired in disgrace (because that’s how powerful this tycoon is), and his fiancée leaves him.

Side note: She didn’t leave Eddie because he got fired. She left him because HE got HER fired. She was the corporate tycoon’s lawyer or something like that, and Eddie snooped around on her computer in order to take the guy down. Her law firm put two and two together after Eddie tried to spill the beans about how messed up this tycoon is, and they let her go.

So Eddie loses everything.

Meanwhile, the corporate tycoon has been researching how to pair humans with alien symbiotes. (See? Another reason I’m a bad reviewer. I forget the names of the characters and then become too lazy to Google them.) The results of this research are gory and graphic, so I have no idea why corporate tycoon thinks this is a good business investment.

When Eddie attempts to infiltrate the corporate tycoon’s research facility, he ends up having a close encounter of the symbiotic kind, and that’s how he meets Venom.

Venom is the name of the symbiote that pairs with Eddie, and honestly, their interactions are the best parts of the movie.

Side note: Why do symbiotes have names of their own?

Eddie acts like a total freak when Venom is with him, but even when they do reach some sort of equilibrium in their partnership, it is hilarious. Seriously, if Venom had then become some weird kind of buddy-cop story, I would have been all for it. The absurdity of their interactions are the highlight of the movie. At one point, when they have to leave the top of a skyscraper, Venom offers to launch Eddie to the ground from a window. The scene then cuts to Eddie in a descending elevator, with Venom muttering, “Pussy,” in Eddie’s head.

Instead of the Venom/Eddie action-bromance we all wanted, Venom got mired in the corporate tycoon’s plot.

The corporate tycoon pairs with his own alien symbiote, and the grand finale of the movie is a fight between two CGI goo monsters.

So one of the biggest flaws of the movie is the villain. Corporate tycoon is just too corporate tycoon-y. He’s a caricature, a stereotype. A nonsensical stereotype at that. He witnessed some absolutely brutal failures of symbiote pairings, and he still thinks it’s a good idea to try it out. And then near the end, when he pairs with his own symbiote, he seems totally cool with the idea of that symbiote bringing down more of its kind to Earth and taking over the planet. How the hell is he okay with this?

The rules of alien symbiosis were also very shaky. It was fine at the beginning, when Eddie himself was trying to figure out what was going on, but by the end of the movie, I still had no idea how the symbiotes functioned. At one point, they say that symbiotes can only pair with specific people who suit them biologically. If you try and pair a symbiote with someone they don’t match, the results are gruesome. This leads you to believe that Venom pairing with Eddie was a rare occurrence. But later on, Venom pairs with Eddie’s ex in order to go meet up with him. Was she a match too? If not, why didn’t she explode into bloody little bits?

Eddie’s ex also presents a whole set of problems on her own. For someone who was rightfully angry at Eddie, she sure is ready to forgive him by the end of the movie. Plus, she’s not as scared of Venom as any sane person would be. She actually witnesses Venom tear the head off of someone’s body with his mouth, but she’s still okay with letting Venom get inside her later on.

If you’re a big comic book movie fan, go ahead and give Venom a watch. It’s not the worst a comic book movie could be. But it’s definitely not the best. I rate Venom an I-like-Venom-the-character-so-of-course-I’ll-watch-his-movie-once-but-then-I’ll-never-watch-it-again-unless-forced-to.


The Story of Halo 2: For Those Who Are Vaguely Interested

It’s that time again folks. Time for another Halo synopsis for beginners. You should probably skip right on past this post if you’re not inclined to read a fairly lengthy post on the events of the Halo 2 campaign.

We left off in the first game with Master Chief and Cortana escaping the exploding Halo ring. The beginning to Halo 2 opens on the Covenant Holy City, High Charity.

Side note: Nearly everything that the Covenant gives a name to sounds religiously zealous.

An armored Elite is being escorted to the head of a throne room by these large, furry aliens we have never seen before. These big guys are called Brutes, and you’ll learn to appreciate the new dynamic they bring to game-play. They have a habit of going berserk and charging at you in a rage when their shields are down.

These sickly-looking aliens, also hitherto unseen, are waiting for the Brutes and the Elite on these floating chair things at the head of the throne room. These are Prophets, leaders of the Covenant, and they have gathered to give the armored Elite a talking-to.

Apparently, they blame the destruction of the Halo ring on this hapless Elite. See, the Covenant viewed the ring as holy, and its destruction is “unforgivable.”

Whatever. These pretentious ass-wipes can go suck an egg. Did they honestly expect a single Elite to stop the destruction of a planet-sized Halo ring?

So the Prophets upbraid the Elite and decide to punish him like the assholes they are.

Side note: For some reason, Halo 2 has the aliens speaking English even though in the first game they spoke in an unintelligible gibberish.

Meanwhile, conversely, the Master Chief and Sergeant Johnson are getting rewarded for surviving the shit-storm that was the first encounter with a Halo ring. They’re getting an official ceremony on an orbital station above Earth.

See? Humanity appreciates its heroes.

So while Chief and Johnson are getting medals, the Elite back on High Charity is getting branded as a heretic in front of a raucous crowd of aliens.

The contrast is not lost on us.

Anyway, all good things must come to an end (Valar Morghulis). The medal ceremony is interrupted by a sudden attack on Earth by the Covenant fleet.

Questions as to how the aliens discovered humanity’s home planet are ignored in the face of the destruction the Covenant immediately begin wreaking on the planet. Chief and Cortana get back to work immediately, taking down a Covenant cruiser with their own dirty bomb and then traveling down to Earth’s surface to bring the fight to ground-level.

Helping the Chief are Sergeant Johnson, the guy who knows what ladies like, and Miranda Keyes, the daughter of the unfortunate Jacob Keyes from the first Halo. 

Thanks to Master Chief’s awesomeness, the Covenant invasion is repelled, and the Prophet who was leading the attack, the Prophet of Regret, beats a hasty retreat. Miranda, Johnson, and the Chief decide to follow him through the slipspace jump he makes, and the whole bunch of them end up at another Halo ring.

How convenient.

Meanwhile, that Elite who was wrongfully disgraced is brought before two other Prophets. They have decided to give him the mantle of Arbiter. This position is given to Elites who devote their lives in service to the Covenant and who always take on the most high-risk missions. It’s a position of honor, but it’s also a guaranteed suicide attempt.

Like I said before, those Prophets are assholes.

The newly-named Arbiter is appreciative of his chance to redeem himself though. He is given his first mission to track down an escaped Elite who is called the Heretic. This Heretic leads a band of rebel Elites and Grunts who fight against the rest of the Covenant.

I like this guy already.

While the Arbiter fights the Heretic, the Heretic hints that the Prophets have been lying to the rest of the Covenant. However, instead of getting to the truth of this statement, the Arbiter just kills the Heretic anyway.

343 Guilty Spark makes a surprise appearance. He survived the explosion of the first Halo, and he encountered the Heretic afterwards. Spark’s teachings were what convinced the Heretic the Prophets were deceivers.

You think for a moment that maybe now the Arbiter will listen to what Spark will say, but a Brute shows up and zaps Spark down before a longer conversation can be had.

This Brute has a name, and it’s Tartarus. And no, we don’t like Tartarus.

Back with the Chief, he and his friends land on the new Halo ring, still in pursuit of the Prophet of Regret. No matter how many guards are thrown at the Chief, he shoots them all down and then punches the Prophet of Regret to death.

Side note: No, seriously, Chief punches the Prophet to death. It’s in the game. You get close to the guy in his stupid floating chair, you hop on, and then you start whapping him in the face. It’s pretty funny.

After this, the Chief falls into a lake and is yanked further down by this weird tentacle thing that appeared out of nowhere.

The game then chooses to have players play as the Arbiter after that cliffhanger of a mission. The Arbiter has been sent to the Halo ring as well to back up the Prophet of Regret. (He’s a tad too late.) Since the Chief is partially responsible for the Arbiter’s disgrace, the Arbiter can’t wait to confront him again.

But that all takes a backseat to political maneuvering. (Because we all play Halo for the politics.)

The Prophets have decided to replace the Elites in the hierarchy of the Covenant with the Brutes. This pisses off a lot of Elites.

The Arbiter mostly stays out of this debate. He’s already been demoted if you think about it. The Prophets of Mercy and Truth send him to find the Index to the Halo ring. If you recall from the first game, the Index to a Halo ring can be used to set it off, which would destroy nearly all life in the galaxy. The Arbiter doesn’t know this though. He thinks, as does most of the Covenant, that firing the Halo rings will initiate a Great Journey. (Which it kind of does, if you think of death as a great journey.)

Since the ring poses such a threat to all life, including humanity, Miranda Keyes and Johnson are also on the hunt for the Index.

They get to it before the Arbiter does, but the Arbiter steals it from them.

This victory is short-lived for the Arbiter because Tartarus shows his ugly mug and steals the Index from the Arbiter, right before kicking him down into a bottomless chasm. Turns out the Prophets don’t want to simply subdue the Elites onto a lower hierarchical rung; they want to eliminate them from the ladder completely.

Don’t worry. The Arbiter didn’t die.

Turns out that the tentacle creature that took the Chief also rescued the Arbiter. The tentacle creature is none other a Gravemind, a collection of Flood organisms that talks. Yup, the Flood is back too.

The Gravemind talks to both the Chief and the Arbiter and tells them that they need to stop the firing of the Halo ring. It’s in all of their interest to do so. He finally shoves in the Arbiter’s face that the Prophets have been lying to everyone about this Great Journey.

Side note: The purpose of the Halo rings is to destroy the Flood.

The Gravemind then teleports the Chief and the Arbiter to different places so that the two of them can separately work together to prevent the ring from firing. Chief ends up on High Charity. As he walks through the bowels of the city, he and Cortana realize that she has to be left behind in High Charity’s network. Cortana destroyed the last Halo ring by blowing up a ship’s reactor core, which caused a big enough explosion to tear apart the ring. Both she and the Chief realize she might need to do the same thing with this Halo ring if all else fails. (Arguably, High Charity would cause an even bigger explosion than the Pillar of Autumn.)

However, the Chief has to follow one of the Prophets, the Prophet of Truth, to his departing ship. Truth is heading back to Earth, and who knows what kind of mischief he’s planning back there. Chief has no choice but to follow him.

So Cortana and the Chief part ways, with the Chief promising to come back for her.

Sad face.

The Arbiter gets the cooler end mission. He rallies a bunch of Elites to his cause, and he and his buddies attack the Covenant forces. He saves Johnson, Keyes, and 343 Guilty Spark, and together, the three of them stop Tartarus from firing the Halo.

But only just in time.

Unfortunately, since Tartarus actually put the Index in to activate this ring only to have the procedure suddenly halted, the Halo rings everywhere have been placed on standby, ready to be activated from another remote location as a kind of fail-safe. This means that if someone gets to that remote location, they could fire every existing Halo ring with the press of a single button.

Side note: What kind of fail-safe is this?!

Halo 2 ends with the Prophet of Truth’s ship appearing back near Earth, the Master Chief hidden aboard it.

That was the worst cliffhanger of my life.


The Slender Man Experience

Slender Man Poster
via: digitalspy.com

If you’re like me, modern horror movies provide a bit of a conundrum for you. Back in the good old days before I was born, horror movies relied on suspense and that excellent sense of rising dread.

God, I love old horror movies.

Nowadays, it’s jump scare this and jump scare that. My poor little caffeinated heart can’t take it.

Unfortunately for me, the curiosity center of my brain hungers for those horror movie plots. I don’t know what it is, but I adore crappy horror movie plots. I’m addicted to them.

With older horror movies, I can just watch the thing and be satisfied. With present-day horror movies, I either have to suffer through roughly an hour of bleh acting and heart-jolting scares in order to get my horror movie plot fix, or I have to read the synopsis online like a craven loser.

Which brings us to today!

I went to go see Slender Man in theaters.

It’s been ages since I’ve gone to see a horror movie in a theater. If I decide to risk watching a current horror movie, I usually Redbox it or something. But my friends, The Twins (everyone calls them that, with capital letters too), are leaving to go to school in Sacramento, and I wanted to hang out with them one last time.

And since we had once played Slender: The Arrival together, seeing the Slender Man movie seemed apropos.

The good thing about this is that I can now tell you the plot à la Below Average so that you don’t have to subject yourself to the movie like I did.

Note: The movie is not good. Surprise.

Okay, so it starts with four friends hanging out in high school. (How original.) There’s Katie, the red-haired, soft-spoken one, Chloe, the normal one who has lost her father, Wren, the sarcastic biting one who wears a lot of black, and Hallie, the main character one.

These four girls want to have a fun hang-out night at Katie’s house. While at school, they invite some boys they know to come along too, but the boys decline, because apparently they have some super secret cool thing to do amongst themselves instead. Oh, and Hallie has a crush on one of these boys.

Fudge, what’s his name?

Let me Google this real quick.

Tom! His name is Tom. Okay, so Hallie has a crush on Tom.

Fast forward to that night at Hallie’s house. Hallie is having dinner with her bland parents who we don’t see much of throughout the rest of the film. We also get to meet Lizzie, Hallie’s younger sister. Apparently, the two sisters have a close relationship, and the movie tries to hammer this home by showing some “banter” between them, but given how Lizzie is not invited to hang at Katie’s as well, I’m calling bull-turkey.

Wren comes over to pick Hallie up, except she doesn’t have a car, so I guess by “pick up,” they mean “walk together to Katie’s house because we obviously all live within walking distance of each other even though we live in what looks like a wooded suburbia with vast distances between each house.”

At Katie’s house, we find out that Katie’s dad is a drunk. He’s passed out on the couch when Wren and Hallie show up. Katie leads them up to…huh. Was it a basement or an attic? Can’t remember. Anyways, Katie takes them to a private room where Chloe is already waiting, and of course the girls start giggling and drinking vodka because that’s what all high school girls do.

Chloe then reveals that she knows what the boys were so busy doing that they couldn’t hang out with them. Tonight, the boys are planning to do this ritual to summon the Slender Man. Cue spooky music.

Side note: What high school boys would forego hanging out with some girls in order to try and summon a fictional horror monster? I mean, Tom clearly had a thing for Hallie, given how ardently they stared at each other in the hallway and how sweetly the music played just then. And I’m pretty sure Chloe had a thing for another one of the boys.

Wren then decides that they should do the same thing. (Because why not.) She searches online for steps on how to summon the Slender Man. And here they are (don’t be alarmed, they’re pretty stupid):

  1. Find a specific Slender Man Summoning Video.
  2. Close your eyes while the video plays until you hear three bells chime.
  3. Open your eyes after the third bell and watch as some random-ass images of forests and white symbols flash on the screen.

You know, the theater I went to actually had warnings out front about how this part might not be good for people who experience vertigo or epileptic seizures.

After the four girls do this, they’re all noticeably shaken for some reason. If it had been me, I would have thought, “What the fuck? That’s it? Why is Slender Man able to be summoned from an online video when he’s always been portrayed as this woodsy kind of monster? Is Bigfoot now available through Skype? Can I contact Dracula through a YouTube video?”

Actually, scratch that, I wouldn’t have even watched that video because I’m a skeptical scaredy-cat. I mean, why risk something scary happening?

Katie more than any of the other girls was affected by the video. She’s clearly out of it right after.

Anyways, fast forward to a class field trip to a historic graveyard. (My high school never took me to a graveyard for a field trip, I can tell you that.) Wren tries to talk to the girls about nightmares she’s been having. Chloe appears to be fine, but Hallie has been having nightmares too.

We know Hallie’s been having nightmares because we’ve seen them. They’re basically artsy shots of the dark woods with a random gate placed in the middle of them. Also, the limbs of trees seem to move a lot.

Katie doesn’t even respond to Wren’s queries. I think she’s been acting weird since she saw the video, but her friends only vaguely seem to care. The graveyard is located near a woods (of course), and Katie keeps staring at it. Her friends try to usher her along with the rest of the school group, but Katie lags behind.

We then cut to the end of the field trip when everyone is standing by the bus while the teacher searches for Katie because she has gone missing.


What the hell were her friends doing? They clearly noticed she was falling behind. Did they not stop to walk with her?!

So it’s official, Katie’s missing.

The girls are back at school, and they’re hanging up posters everywhere. Hallie is tacking up posters on a cork board when Tom approaches her. He asks her how she’s holding up, she says she’s okay,  and he lets it drop that he and the guys ended up not trying to summon Slender Man. They chickened out.

Ugh, what assholes.

Wren is pretty disturbed by her nightmares, so she correctly assumes that Katie’s disappearance is connected to the Slender Man summoning thing they did.

It’s weird; it’s kind of all Wren’s fault that they did this, but she’s the first to pin their problems on the right factor. So you kind of side with her the whole time.

Meanwhile, Hallie spends the night home alone with her sister Lizzie. You know, if I had daughters, and one of their friends had recently gone missing, I would not leave the two of them alone in the house.

Anyways, while Hallie and Lizzie are home alone, someone breaks into their house. As a member of the audience, I didn’t even think for one second that it was Slender Man. It was way too early for that.

So who else could it be but Katie’s drunken father searching for his daughter.

Hallie tries to talk him down, but he gets pretty angry, blaming Hallie for introducing his daughter to a cult and that’s why she’s gone.

The scene then cuts away to the police leading Katie’s dad out of the house. Hallie and Lizzie’s parents are shouting at him as he’s escorted away, and Hallie watches from her bedroom window.

Side note: Everyone’s house in this movie is creaky and has two stories. That allows for everyone to walk up stairs in a noisy fashion.

Later at school, Hallie tells Chloe and Wren about what happened last night. She mentions how Katie’s dad blamed them for getting Katie into a cult. This is the evidence Wren needs to prove that something related to Slender Man was definitely bothering Katie. She convinces the other two girls to help her break into Katie’s house so that they can look for clues.

When they get there (Katie’s dad is distracted by Wren consoling him), Chloe and Hallie discover that Katie has taken up art. She’s drawn scritchy pencil sketches that depict the woods and Slender Man. They find her laptop and they take it away. (They steal it.)

Since all besties know each other’s passwords, the three girls are able to log onto Katie’s computer. Once they comb through her search history, they find out that Katie has been visiting Slender Man sites and forums. She has also had an ongoing chat with some stranger online. This stranger seems to have a lot of information about how to deal with the Slender Man. Wren takes it upon herself to talk more to this stranger. She tells the stranger that Katie is missing and that she believes the Slender Man took her. She also asks the stranger if it’s possible to get Katie back. The stranger says that in order to get Katie back, they have to offer something to Slender Man of great importance to them.

Insanely, Wren manages to convince Chloe and Hallie that this is something they need to do.

So the three girls go into the woods at night. They have to burn three things of value to them and then wait with blindfolds until the Slender Man takes their offerings. Wren warns them several times that under no circumstances are they to remove their blindfolds, no matter what. They are not supposed to look at the Slender Man.

Chloe, who has been the pretty solid-thinking one of the group, decides now is the time to stop using her noggin. (Though to be fair, if she had been using her noggin before, she wouldn’t be in this situation.) She takes off her blindfold.

She sees the Slender Man’s face, or lack thereof, panics, and runs off. Wren and Hallie then take off their blindfolds and try to run after her. When they eventually find her, she’s now kind of out of it. She has no recollection of seeing the Slender Man.

Basically, Chloe is now fucked.

True enough, she’s back at her house playing on her smartphone when she gets a video call from an unknown number. She answers it (argh, why?) and it shows that someone is taking a video of her house from the outside. Whoever is doing this begins moving through her front door and up the stairs. When it reaches her bedroom, BAM! Jump scare, Chloe screams and we assume the Slender Man took her.

Or not.

Side note: Slender Man rocks a smartphone now.

Back at school, Hallie and Wren have been plagued with hallucinations of their own. Hallie has gotten off pretty lightly. She sees the Slender Man in the distance when Tom tries asking her out. Wren got the short straw in that regard. Her hallucination happens in the library and involves a full-on chase sequence through rows of never-ending books. When Slender Man catches her, she momentarily gets no-face syndrome.

Understandably so, Wren is flipping out. Chloe has called in sick for days now, so Wren gets Hallie to go check up on her so that they can compare Slender Man notes. When they get there, they peer through the front window instead of just knocking on the door. Chloe jump scares them (and me) by just walking to the window. She looks awful. She looks aged. And she’s clearly not in a good state of mind. She’s just staring blankly out the window like she’s halfway comatose.

Side note: Where is Chloe’s mom?

Hallie and Wren just leave without even trying to talk to Chloe, and it’s right then that they have a fight. Wren is at the breaking point due to her library scare, and she begs Hallie to help her figure out what’s going on. Hallie is of the mindset that ignoring the problem will make it go away. Besides, she has a date with Tom.

Wren gets angry, understandably so, so the two friends part ways less than amicably.

Hallie gets ready for her date, and then walks over to Tom’s house.

That’s where the date is at.

Tom’s house.

And his parents aren’t at home.

Some date.

Hallie and Tom start making out, but the festivities come to a halt when Hallie hallucinates that Tom’s face is all disfigured and distorted. She screams bloody murder, and this disturbs Tom so much so that he stops kissing her.

Hallie then explains everything that has been going on with her and the girls. Tom kind of treats it as a joke and begins searching for the video to summon Slender Man. Hallie makes him promise not to watch the video, but we all know that he’s going to.

Next day at school, Hallie is late to I’m guessing biology, where they are dissecting eyeballs. She tries to catch Wren’s eye, but Wren is petulantly not giving her the time of day. Tom is also late to class, and when he sits down with shadows under his eyes and strange marks on his arms, you just know that he was a dingus and watched the video.

At night, Hallie suffers some pretty awful tree-horror nightmares, and when she wakes up, she hears her sister screaming. She rushes to Lizzie’s bedroom. Her parents are there, and apparently Lizzie is suffering some kind of attack.

They take her to the hospital where Hallie continues to have weird waking hallucinations. At Lizzie’s bedside, Hallie hears her sister scream something about him not having a face. Hallie puts two and two together and figures out that her sister must have messed with Slender Man.

She rushes back home and goes to her sister’s computer. Lizzie’s search history is filled with all those things that were on Katie’s. There’s even a convenient video that shows Lizzie in the woods with someone attempting to contact Slender Man.

And that someone turns out to be Wren.

I honestly got a bit lost here. I’m guessing Wren took Lizzie into the woods with her to try and contact the Slender Man again, but why would she do that? The first time went over so well and all.

Anyways, Hallie storms over to Wren’s house (they all live so close by, remember), only to find Wren about to jump out of her bedroom window. Wren is sobbing about how there is no way to get Slender Man off your back. He doesn’t want something important to you. He just wants you.

Hallie gets Wren off the window sill, but it was all for nothing since Slender Man magically bursts some tree branches through the window and yanks Wren off to oblivion.

After seeing that shit, Hallie does not book it back to the hospital. Instead, she has an epiphany. She recalls/flashbacks to what Wren just said to her about Slender Man only wanting them.

She runs into the woods, finds Slender Man, and says, “Take me.”

Okay, so I got the gist of what happened. Hallie, wishing to save her poor sister Lizzie who she is oh so close to, decided to offer herself to Slender Man in Lizzie’s place.

But why does she run away from Slender Man after that?

Seriously, Hallie said “Take me” to Slendy, and then when he made the slightest motion toward her, she shrieked and ran away.

What happened to the noble sacrifice, eh?

Anywaysies, Hallie gets swallowed by a tree, Lizzie wakes up normal but distraught at the hospital, and then the story ends happily ever after.

I wonder what happened to Tom.

Halo for Beginners: A Short (Not Really) Summary of the First Halo Game for Those of You Who Are Curious

I love Halo.

It’s my absolute favorite video game of all time, and it holds a very special place in my heart. As such, expect more posts about Halo in the future.

Today, I thought I’d provide a commentary-laden synopsis of the first game’s story, just in case you don’t know squat about Halo, but you really want to fill that empty place in your soul that you never realized was empty until now, so of course, you want to fill it.

I am not in any way sponsored by Microsoft or anything, but I highly recommend this game to anyone who has a love for:

  1. Immersive sci-fi universes
  2. Faceless protagonists
  3. Celtic music
  4. Space vehicles named after animals
  5. One hell of a good time

Anywaysies, let’s begin!

Me wearing my Master Chief helmet and T-shirt
Aw yeah, let’s do this

Our story starts in an unknown region of space. A giant space-ship flies closer to us. This is the Pillar of Autumn (which is one of the best names for a spaceship EVER). We hear two voices from on-board discussing whether or not we “lost them.”

The first voice is that of Captain Keyes, the captain of the fine, rectangular ship we’re seeing. He’s a gruff-looking dude, but he’s just dripping with honor and duty and all that jazz. He’s a stereotypical ship captain. The next voice is female, and it is from the ship’s AI, Cortana. (Remember her, she’s important.) AIs get to select how they appear to people, and Cortana chooses to show herself as a naked, gorgeous-looking woman who is blue and covered in lines of data.

Apparently, Keyes, Cortana, and everyone on the ship is running away from an enemy alien force known as the Covenant. (Why the aliens would name themselves the Covenant is beyond me, but that’s what they’re called.)

The Autumn made a jump through slipspace (think hyperspace from Star Wars), but Cortana fears that the Covenant, with their uber-advanced space technology is going to follow them. Sure enough, Covenant ships appear, and there is no way the Pillar of Autumn can outmaneuver them all.

In front of the Autumn, Keyes and Cortana spot a strange object. (I’m gonna let you know now, it’s Halo.) It’s this giant ring-shaped world just floating in the middle of space. Since there’s nowhere else to go, Keyes decides to land on that.

(Honestly, I would have been a little more hesitant to land on a humongous ring. How would you even land on that anyway? The inside of the ring is covered in oceans and landmasses, and the outside appears to be made of this vibrant metal.)

While Keyes is readying the ship for the battle ahead, he tells Cortana to wake up the Master Chief, and the way he says it, you know that the Chief is going to be this bad-ass guy who solves everyone’s problems.

Master Chief is in some kind of cryo-sleep pod, but he was frozen while still in his suit of armor, which is fortuitously lucky because he’s thawed and woken up without so much as a cup of coffee, let alone a shower. The Covenant has begun their attack on the Pillar of Autumn, and some of them have boarded. Chief has to rush through the halls of the Autumn weaponless, dodging plasma fire left and right. He makes it to the bridge without a scratch because he’s awesome.

Once he appears in front of Keyes, the Captain tells him the situation. Since they’re landing the ship on the ring-world, Keyes wants Master Chief to take care of Cortana and stop her from falling into enemy hands. Cortana’s like this detachable hard drive with a personality, so if the Covenant got a hold of her, they could learn a bunch of human secrets, which would be not good, to say the least.

Master Chief’s armor comes complete with a USB port kind of thing, so he takes Cortana from the Pillar of Autumn’s control board and plugs her into his helmet. From this point on in the game, Cortana can speak to Chief (and us, the player) directly, telling him where to go and highlighting points of interest on his faceplate/visor/heads-up display.

Keyes then hands the Chief an unloaded pistol and sends him on his way. (We find ammo soon enough, but seriously, Captain, you just sent your best soldier into certain danger with an unloaded weapon. Shame. Shame. Shame.)

Chief and everyone else on the Pillar of Autumn make their way to escape pods and jettison themselves toward Halo.

Except for Keyes. He tries to land the Autumn manually. Those kinds of giant ships were probably not meant to land on a planet ever, but Captain Keyes sometimes makes decisions that aren’t rational. (Like giving his super soldier a pistol with no bullets.)

The escape pod the Chief is in makes a rough landing, so rough, in fact, that everyone else aboard it dies from the impact. Master Chief and Cortana have to behold the splendor of Halo all by their lonesome. (And I’m telling you, it looks phenomenal. When you look up in the sky, you can see the inner surface of the ring stretch up to each side of you. It’s freakishly beautiful and unforgettable.)

They don’t have long to take in the surroundings. The Covenant, damned fast bastards that they are, have landed on Halo too. They hound the Chief everywhere he goes. Cortana leads the Master Chief to several pockets of human survivors, and it’s while they’re getting them to safety that Cortana overhears from some Covenant chatter that Captain Keyes has been taken prisoner. He managed to land the Autumn, but the Covenant got to him before he could regroup with Master Chief.

The game then takes the Chief to this midnight mission where he has to sneak aboard a Covenant cruiser and take back the Captain. He gets to use the sniper rifle prolifically, picking off Covenant Elites (the tall human-ish aliens), Jackals (the shield-carrying aliens), and Grunts (the pathetic small aliens).

Master Chief meets Hunters on this mission too, these giant armor-covered aliens that shoot giant, green blasts of plasma at him that can take down his shield faster than Cortana can scream, “Chief!”

Once on the Covenant cruiser, Cortana and the Chief make it to the brig. The cruiser is a damned maze. Without Cortana, Chief would have gotten lost. And every surface appears to be purple. (Is purple the Covenant’s favorite color?)

Chief rescue Keyes. While he was in captivity, he learned from his Covenant captors that Halo is a weapon, and they want to use it against humanity. Keyes can’t have that happening, so he decides that they (and by they, he means the Master Chief) have to get the controls to Halo before the Covenant do.

Keyes then sends Master Chief and Cortana to look for a Map Room, which will tell them the location of Halo’s Control Room. Without any breaks, he sends them to the Control Room as soon as they know where it is. Master Chief is a one-man army. (Some of the credit goes to you, the player, for handling the role of the Chief so well.) He takes on waves of the Covenant. Friendly soldiers might join him occasionally, but they drop away like flies. (Especially if you’re playing on the Legendary difficulty setting.)

Once Master Chief and Cortana get to the Control Room, he plugs her in to the system. (I don’t know how or why a human AI is compatible with the console, but that’s just how the story goes.) Turns out, Halo was made my an ancient race of beings called the Forerunners, and they built it for a specific purpose.

Before Cortana can tell Chief exactly what the purpose is, she flips out. She starts shouting at him to find Captain Keyes and stop him from whatever he’s doing. (Apparently, there was no time for a simple explanation.) But Master Chief is an awesome super solider, so he just runs off to do as he’s told.

Cortana sends the Chief to Keyes’ last known location. It’s in this weird, swampy area. (The environment is clogged with moss-draped trees and eerie fog, and you immediately start getting the heebie jeebies.) To make matters worse, Keyes was checking out an underground part of Halo, so the Chief has to take an elevator down to these gray, subterranean hallways where everything looks the same.

As he makes his way through these hallways, he catches sight of Covenant bodies. They’re just lying everywhere. Master Chief just arrived, but already, it’s ghost town. (No way, you think to yourself, did Keyes take care of all of these guys.) Since Master Chief left Cortana plugged into the Control Room, she’s not around to tell him where to go. (You really start to miss her nagging and bossiness right about now.)

Eventually, he enters a room sees a collection of dead human soldiers. He goes to an abandoned helmet nearby and watches a recording of what happened. Keyes and company stumbled onto a door the Covenant had apparently been trying to lock immediately after opening it. Not using any sort of logic, Keyes ordered his soldiers to open the door again. Inside was something worse than the Covenant. A bunch of skittery little creatures with tentacles that can worm their ways inside your body start pouring out, and you watch in horror through the recording, as Keyes and his group is overrun.

Enter the Flood.

The small Flood creatures that infect people (humans or Covenant, it doesn’t matter which) are known as Infection Forms. Once they’re inside you, they turn you into these zombie-like creatures, known as Combat Forms. Instead of Covenant, Master Chief now has to fight these guys.

(Once the suspense is gone and you know what you’re fighting, the Flood aren’t that hard to deal with. They’re still creepy and gross, don’t get me wrong, but you’re the Master Chief. You don’t need to panic when you’re the Master Chief.)

After getting a bit lost a couple of times, Chief makes it back to the surface. The Flood are attacking from all sides now. It was preferable fighting them in the metallic hallways underground than in the misty swamp above. But suddenly, as if from nowhere, these floating machines emerge from the fog and start zapping away at the Flood.

Another machine appears, happily humming, and it tells the Master Chief that the Flood has broken out and it needs his help to contain it. Then, without permission, it teleports him away.

This machine is called a Monitor. It’s a robot the Forerunners (makers of the great Halo, remember) made to keep an eye on the facility. His name is…343 Guilty Spark. (I know, it’s a weird name.) The other machines zapping the Flood are called Sentinels. They just seem to exist to zap things.

Guilty Spark teleported Chief to a place called the Library, so that he can collect an Index. This Index, when placed in the Control Room, will activate the Halo and then destroy the Flood.

Spark seems a little off-kilter as he leads Chief through the Library. He keeps humming to himself and randomly saying, “I am a genius.” Meanwhile, Master Chief has to fight a flood of Flood around every corner. The Library is infested with them.

After what feels like hours following 343 Guilty Spark through countless corridors, the Chief finds the Index, and Spark teleports him back to the Control Room.

(Wish he could have teleported us right to the Index, but then a whole mission of the game would be gone.)

Once at the Control Room, Chief walks right up to the panel where he plugged Cortana in and puts the Index there. The rooms buzzes with some kind of energy, but then the buzzing fades away, like something was turning on and was then turned off. Guilty Spark is confused, but then lo and behold, Cortana appears, royally steamed at Chief. She was the one who stopped the activation of the Halo from within the system.

She berates the Chief for being a moron (essentially) and tells him that Halo does not destroy the Flood. Rather, it destroys the Flood’s food. Any living organism that the Flood could infect within 25,000 light-years is eradicated with a single burst from Halo.

Chief is like, “My bad.”

Spark doesn’t see what the big deal is. He insists on firing the Halo. However, with some quick thinking on Cortana’s part and some quick moving on the Chief’s part, the two run away from the Control Room with the Index still in their possession.

So now, not only does Master Chief have to fight the Covenant, he also has to fight the Flood and the Sentinels (those machines that zap the Flood, but now have no compunctions about zapping Chief).

Quite randomly, Cortana gets a message from Keyes. (He’s alive? What? How did he survive the Flood? Short answer: he didn’t.) He was absorbed by a Hivemind, a goopy collection of Flood parts. The Flood, as a collective, wants to know where more living and infectable organisms can be found, so they’re trying to probe Keyes’ mind to discover where Earth is.

Like a champ, Keyes holds on to that information long enough for Cortana and Master Chief to make it to his position. Once there, Chief punches a hole through Keyes’ skull, removing the Captain’s neural implants (which have the codes to the Pillar of Autumn, conveniently enough).

The Chief and Cortana return to the downed Pillar of Autumn. Cortana’s master plan is to blow the ship up, which will cause a large enough explosion to destroy the ring-world and everything on it.

The last battle is a tough one. 343 Guilty Spark sends a gazillion Sentinels Chief’s way to stop him, but with enough perseverance, he and Cortana set up the ship to explode. Master Chief then has to race through the ship to get to a hangar bay before the ship blows up in order to find a ship that’s capable of flying in space. (You literally race through the ship. You get in a vehicle and drive your way to the end. It’s funny, but when we were walking through the ship, the hallways didn’t seem large enough to drive through.)

The Pillar of Autumn blows up.

Halo is destroyed.

Master Chief and Cortana live to fight another day.

Phew! That was a lot. But you just can’t condense greatness.