X-Men: Days of Future Past Review

First off, let me just say hello! As you may have noticed, I am not Jarrod. My name is Mandi and I hail from another blog. Like Jarrod, I help the Nerd Army as a Commander and I’m super excited to be guest blogging over here. So it’s nice to meet you all!

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on to my (mostly spoiler free) review of X-Men: Days of Future Past. I have been beyond excited for this movie since it was announced and it did not disappoint. The performances are amazing, the writing is amazing, the effects, the storyline, the subtle “Easter Eggs” for fans are all amazing. And yes, this movie does erase the utter and complete train wreck that was X3.

X-Men: Days of Future Past begins in the future with a voice over from Professor X that’s completely reminiscent of the original X-Men movie. Xavier explains to us that there is a new threat out there: the sentinels. If you grew up on the comics or the Saturday morning cartoon like myself, then you know what the sentinels are. However, if you are one of the few people that feel completely lost, they are mutant hunting robots that fight the X-Men through several story arcs.

It’s revealed, though, that these sentinels not only hunt mutants and their human allies, but also any humans that may have a mutant child/grandchild in the future. Eesh! We see mutants and humans being forced into what can only be described as an internment camp and truck loads of dead bodies are being unloaded into piles because that’s just how many of us they’re exterminating. I can easily say the future is looking pretty horrible!

We cut away from this chilling scene to find several recognizable mutants holding out in a bunker: Bishop, Blink, Colossus, Iceman, Shadowcat, Sunspot, and Warpath. I was very excited to see Daniel Cudmore return as Colossus. Seems to me, seeing him “metal up” in X-Men 2 was just not enough for the fans. If you agree, then you’re in for a treat!

 

The sentinels have tracked them to their location and send down three bots to destroy the mutants. Kitty Pryde and Bishop take off running and let the others deal with the bots as they hide in a vault so Kitty can use her ability on Bishop (more on this later). The action that takes place between the mutants and the sentinels is exactly what I was hoping for! Iceman skates on ice and freezes one, Sunspot roasts another, and Colossus beats on the third with Blink and Warpath. Take that bots! But wait, don’t celebrate yet. The frozen sentinel adapts to emit heat, the roasted sentinel adapts to shield itself with ice, and the last adapts to being covered in organic steel. That’s right, they can change to defeat any mutant!  The sentinels fight their way to Kitty and Bishop but it’s too late for the bad guys, because they fade out of existence. In fact, everything fades out of existence as if the whole thing never happened.

The movie takes us to China where we see all of our mutant friends are actually alive and well. The X-Jet lands and Professor X, Magneto, Storm, and Wolverine pile out to chit chat. Let’s face it, in this future you can’t just sit down over coffee to discuss your mundane goings-on. Instead you talk about how you avoided being skewered by sentinels. Turns out, Kitty Pryde has been sending Bishop’s consciousness back in time to warn them all that the sentinels are about to find them so they can relocate. Which is perfect, because something happened very long ago that needs to be changed. Xavier explains to them how the sentinels were created and how he wants Kitty to send him back to fix their awful future. Unfortunately, doing so would completely rip him apart and I don’t know about you but I don’t feel like watching the Professor be demolecularized again (in that terrible, awful movie-that-must-not-be-named). If only there was a mutant in the room that could heal almost instantaneously… oh wait!

Kitty agrees to send Wolverine back while the rest protect them. This will be their only chance to do this and once the sentinels slice their way to Kitty, they’ll just have to hope Logan was successful. Xavier explains to Wolverine that he must get the younger Charles to help but that he was a very different man in the 70’s. On top of that, he will also need the help of Magneto who might be pretty difficult to get to. But best of luck to you bub! This is where I will leave you in the story line because you absolutely must see this movie.

I must say, this is a really great way to handle time travel. It completely removes the wibbly wobbly issue of running into your younger self and the younger consciousness doesn’t remember a thing after the fact. In Logan’s travel through the past, you will see some familiar mutants as well as new ones. My favorite newcomer to the movies is Quicksilver; he’s a total smart ass and completely emulates a teenager that moves way too fast.

There’s even a really cool Easter Egg with him. If you know who his father is, you’ll enjoy his exchange with Magneto in the elevator. I wish there had been more scenes with Quicksilver but to be fair, this movie is so jam packed that it probably would have been too much.

The best performance easily goes to James McAvoy. He once again portrays the younger Charles Xavier and after the events of X-Men: First Class, he is a very broken man. His school has lost all of its students, his family has fallen apart, and he just cannot handle facing it. Instead, he uses a serum developed by Beast to remove his ability which in turn gives him back the use of his legs. McAvoy delivers incredible performances, from practically spitting obscenities in Wolverine’s face, to showing the audience his internal struggle when it comes to the serum that he feels he needs. Any time McAvoy was on the screen, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the emotions he was able to evoke and I can’t wait to see what he does in the next movie.

Sadly, the worst performance goes to Jennifer Lawrence. This makes me so sad because I love her as an actor. It’s my theory that the makeup and prosthetics that create Mystique somehow dampen her performance. Lawrence always gives subtle facial expressions that really enhance her acting and I can’t help but think that the dark blue skin of Mystique makes that difficult to see. That being said, her best scene is when she’s broken into Trask’s office and a single tear rolls down her cheek as she looks through his files. That one tear is full of hatred and pain and it’s absolutely chilling.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is easily the best X-Men movie to date. It’s a reboot that completely puts Trek‘s JJ Abrams to shame. Don’t get all huffy, I love JJ Abrams. And I enjoy the new Trek movies for what they are: amazing action movies. It just seems to me that if you’re going to reboot a franchise, you should do so with the fans in mind and not to bring in a new audience. When you go see this movie, remember to watch for the scene after the credits. Even if you have no idea what you just witnessed, you will still have a pretty good idea of what we’re in store for in the next movie. If you ask me, 2016 cannot come quickly enough!

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What is Toku?

Greetings Toku fanatics.  My name is Biohybrid.  Jarrod invited me to work with him to cover a subject I know quite a bit about: Toku.

You who are uninitiated might ask “What in heaven’s name is Toku?” It’s my job to tell you, and with any luck, get you interested in this awesome genre of nerd-dom.

Now, to start off, I should tell you the term “Toku” is an abbreviated term for the Japanese term “Tokusatsu”.  For those who know jack about Japanese, this still means squat to them.  Tokusatsu, when translated to English, means “special effects”.

You may be thinking well that’s in most tv shows and movies right?  You’re right, BUT in Japan there is an entire genre focused on just special effects. In fact,  most everyone on Earth has seen Toku and probably just haven’t even realized it.  You may claim bull all you wish,  but if you’ve seen ONE old school Godzilla movie, you’ve watched Toku.

 

Godzilla is known as a kaiju tokusatsu (kaiju meaning “strange beast”).  It was the brain child of one Eiji Tsuburaya and was the predecessor of modern toku today.

Since Godzilla, Toku has broken off into several franchises and sub-genres which I will cover in depth in future articles.  For now I’ll just give you a condensed list:

There are many more you can explore at your leisure but the above list makes up my little corner of Toku.

I hope this and my future articles will spark an interest in this amazing genre and get you engrossed in its majesty.  For now, this is Biohybrid saying Sayonara!

And Then I Added Food Critic to my Resume…

It goes without saying that I like food. My affinity for food has been both a blessing and a curse, but as I have told many people before, the love is not just about eating. The love stems from the pure art and incredible science that cooking can be. With each flavor pieced together, a chef can bring together a true masterpiece like a painter does with every stroke of the paintbrush.

Sure. You can call me a food snob when I argue that restaurants like Applebee’s and Chili’s have played large roles in the devolution of the American palate. That and Guy Fieri.

At one point I wanted to attend culinary school and eventually open a bistro with a bakery/deli up front, but soon realized cooking was just a hobby that I did not want to turn into a career. So what could be the next best thing for a foodie? Food critic! Well. Maybe more of a food blogger since I’m still trying to make a name for myself. Oh well. That means that all you readers have the privilege of being privy to my very first food critique.

So without further adieu…

Thursday nights are typically reserved for date night with my girlfriend. We have favorite restaurants that we tend to stick, but this time we wanted to try something different. She loves Mexican, so I Googled top rated Mexican restaurants in Atlanta. That lead me to The Original El Taco which, in addition to positive reviews, also had a good Zagat rating. The Original El Taco it was. I found myself excited to try a new taco joint here in Atlanta. Unfortunately, that excitement all but disappeared by the end of the meal.

The first impression was certainly mixed. While the seating was organized and spaced out well so that no one was cramped, the restaurant was almost unbearably loud. If the source of the noise was just chatter from nearby there would be no problem, but the music was far too loud. No. Not I’m getting old and can’t stand loud music loud. It was loud to the point that we could barely hear our server. Fortunately a separate gluten free menu helped to balance out the initial impression. Unfortunately it did not improve the overall experience.

Our server took our drink orders, and then after a few minutes we decided on an appetizer: house chips with the house salsa and an order of the queso. Our server put the order in right away, but the kitchen was certainly not concerned with getting the appetizer out to us.  At least ten minutes after ordering our appetizer our server returned to take our entree orders and noticed that we hadn’t received the chips, salsa, and queso yet.  After a few more minutes we finally had our appetizer.

First of all,  the house salsa served with the chips was phenomenal. The roasted tomatoes gave the salsa a nice, robust flavor followed by just a slight kick at the back end. If that salsa wasn’t already amazing enough, diners have a salsa bar to choose from different house made salsas. In addition, to the house salsa one could indulge in the fantastic romesco sauce (a bold, mildly spicy mixture of Fresno chili peppers, peanuts, and roasted vegetables), a nice and subtle tomatillo salsa, pico de gallo, and, my personal favorite, their “El Demonio” (The Devil) salsa; a fiery mango habanero concoction. The salsa hits all the sweet notes with the mango and a slight hint of honey at the front, but then as soon as you think you conquered “El Demonio” the fiery habanero hits you at the back end.

On a side note, I LOVE salsa especially when I have options at a salsa bar. In fact, a Mexican restaurant’s house salsa is one of the main gauges I use to determine the quality of said restaurant. In my opinion, good salsa usually means good food; bad salsa means really bad food.

Unfortunately my gauge was not working this time.

No matter how good the salsa is, nothing can be done when the chips used to eat said salsa are absolutely AWFUL. Sure they were fresh, held up well to the salsa, and had a nice crunch to them, but they were severely over-salted. I’m not talking about a little too much salt to where you notice it more than normal. I’m talking about chips so heavily salted that my palate was ruined. With my palate turned into a salt lick and guzzling water like a dog after a hot run, I turned to the one thing I thought would assuage my disappointment: the queso.

Boy was I wrong. The queso was just mediocre, run-of-the-mill queso. Not great and not bad. Just nothing to set it apart from the typical fare you can get at any cheap Mexican restaurant. In fact, it was the complete opposite of the chips: not seasoned well and lacked flavor.

Our entrees arrived only a few minutes after we received the appetizer, which was a little surprising, but beside the point. I ordered the smoked chicken taco (with crema, guacamole, and cilantro), the pork carnitas taco (with chili sauce, pineapple, lime slaw), and the refried black beans. Both tacos were on corn tortillas, and I was able to have fresh jalapeños on the smoked chicken taco rather than the normal fried jalapeños. I was excited to see if my entree would be more inspired than the appetizer. Unfortunately, bland became a recurring theme.

As for the smoked chicken taco, it was like eating bland upon bland upon bland; a three-layered taco of sheer disappointment. I suppose I can break the layers down starting from the top. The smoked chicken was not only overcooked and tough, it somehow made it onto the taco without any seasoning whatsoever. The one ingredient that gave the chicken any semblance of flavor was the fresh jalapeños topping the mundane poultry.  Then just under the chicken was, apparently, the crema. Could have fooled me because I certainly did not taste it. Then the “guacamole”.

I know that each chef has a different take on guacamole. Trust me, I’ve had a lot. Regardless of the chef, when I read guacamole as an ingredient I expect guacamole not chunks of avocado that add nothing to the taco.  Hoping things would improve, I moved on to the pork carnitas taco.

Unfortunately I allowed myself to be too optimistic because the second taco was only a slight improvement; the trend continued. Although the pork was not as overcooked as the chicken–albeit not by much–rather conservative seasoning was a problem again.  The chili sauce the pork was marinated in added nothing to the pork. Nothing at all. Well, except for color so you knew that the pork was marinated in something.  The saving grace, preventing the taco from being a complete dud, was the coleslaw. The coleslaw was amazing.

I can be very picky about coleslaw. Coleslaws made with far too much mayonnaise become overwhelmingly bad as the mayonnaise hogs center stage, much like the horrible stage actor whose ego prevents him or her from seeing that they are ruining the whole production. Other coleslaws can be far too heavy-handed with vinegar and that just ruins the palate.  The perfect coleslaw is a happy balance between the two which is then combined with the right amount of cabbage, seasoning, etc.

This coleslaw was perfectly balanced; the right amount of acidity cut by the sweetness of the pineapple. Just the right amount of mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together but not dominate the flavor profile of the coleslaw.  I could honestly just sit and eat a giant bowl of the coleslaw and be completely content. Maybe top it with a little bit of the El Dominio salsa to add a little kick. Hell, I’d order the sub-par pork carnitas taco again if that was the only way I could eat the coleslaw.  Mmm. I could go for some of the coleslaw right now, but I digress.

The only other positive of the entire meal was the refried black beans. In fact, I found myself completely surprised by the beans. Refried beans at most Mexican restaurants typically are made with pinto beans and tend to be cooked in lard, vegetable oil, or another type of fat. One simply has to take one taste of most refried bean recipes for the amount of fat used to become obvious, as they are usually rather heavy and greasy. The amount of cheese certainly doesn’t help.

The Original El Taco’s beans were the complete opposite; almost the point of confusion. I went in with my fork for to retrieve the first bite expecting the slight resistance of dense beans, but instead it slid right into the beans as though they were a puree. The texture/mouth feel of the beans was no different. The beans were smooth, fluffy, and not heavy at all. I could not figure out how, but the beans were either cooked in much less fat than most refried beans, or used a lighter oil/fat. Can I just have a tub and a huge spoon now?

Unfortunately, a great restaurant delicious sides and garnishes do not make. There are simply not enough positives for The Original El Taco to make up for the negatives. Either the executive chef was off that night and the sous chefs have no understanding of proper seasoning. Or the restaurant expects the diner to have several margaritas and not care about seasoning or the quality of food because their palate has been dulled. I conclude that the latter is more likely.

If you just want to hang out with friends, drink a few margaritas, and munch on mediocre food by all means go to The Original El Taco.

If you want good, or even great, tacos and other fare stick to phenomenal Atlanta joints like Holy Taco, Taqueria del Sol, or Bad Dog Taqueria in Emory Village. Even Raging Burrito has better tacos.

 

Now that I’ve ranted enough about the experience, let me introduce my rating system. It is essentially a ficheesythumbsup1ve star system, but instead of a star you’ll see this little guy:

 

 

One cheesy thumbs up is really bad and five cheesy thumb ups is perfect. My rating for The Original El Taco is as follows:

cheesythumbsup1

cheesythumbsup2

 

 

 

 

MMPR Morphs Back to the Big Screen

Well… I woke up to some interesting news this morning: a new Mighty Morphin Power Rangers live action feature film is in the works. According to an announcement released today, Haim Saban (creator of MMPR/Saban Brands) has teamed with Lionsgate (The Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight) to “re-envision the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”

I am a little torn on how I feel about this re-envisioning. We have seen what can be done to ruin beloved series (re: Transformers, TMNT, etc) so I am experiencing a bit of trepidation, and I think such feelings are justified. This is a series I cherish and do not want to see it ruined. Yet I find myself excited. It has been almost 20 years since the Power Rangers were last in the theaters (Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie). Turbo’s predecessor, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995),  was great for the time, but many super fans like me have wanted to see a modern version (For me, re: modern, not dark and gritty).  As noted in the announcement, both Saban Brands and Lionsgate understand that “with an extensive and extremely devoted worldwide fan base as well as a deep and detailed mythology, the Power Rangers are primed for the big screen.”

This also feels a little bittersweet since I secretly hoped my script would be discovered, but that is beside the point.

The timing of the partnership, though, is not surprising considering we are on the heels of the 20th anniversary. Over the last year or so, Saban has built up the anniversary with the creation of the Power Force (a team of 20 people/groups hand-selected to promote the anniversary) and the build up to the return of many historic rangers in the current Power Rangers Super Megaforce season, it is understandable that Saban would move in this direction.  And he seems quite content in doing so with Lionsgate.

“Lionsgate is the perfect home for elevating our Power Rangers brand to the next level,” said Saban. “They have the vision, marketing prowess and incredible track record in launching breakthrough hits from The Hunger Games to Twilight and Divergent. In partnership with the Lionsgate team, we’re con!dent that we will capture the world of the Power Rangers and translate it into a unique and memorable motion picture phenomenon with a legacy all its own.”

This statement begs one question: What will this re-envisioning entail? Will the movie fit within the canon of the series? Or will it be a complete reboot and retell the story? I’m anxious to know what Saban will do. My only hopes are that they do not go dark and gritty with MMPR. And that Saban files a restraining order against Michael Bay.

Let me know what you think about the news.

*****Update*****

Can’t believe I didn’t think of this earlier, but who would you like to see cast as the Rangers?