Daily Archives: January 7, 2017

Zom Fu – Chapter 27

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After the master filled the general in on the previous evening’s details, the general sighed in disbelief.

“News of the Clan of the Mystifying Monkey Slap’s demise had made its way to me,” the general said.  “But the Clan of the Sacred Yet Inscrutable Tiger Claw is now gone?  I never thought I would live to see the day.”

“And yet,” the master said.  “Here we are.  As we speak, Dragonhand marches north.  He’s stronger and more powerful than ever.  He wields the Staff of Ages ad he will not stop until the Forbidden City is sacked and the Emperor’s brain is devoured.  Surely now Advisor Zhen will listen to reason.”

“Blast that dirty mongrel’s wretched hide,” the general said.  “I have warned him about Dragonhand for two decades but he has always refused to take action.  The Emperor is as beguiled by him as his father was.”

“You must make him listen to reason,” the master said.

The general nodded.  “I will try, but I have always felt that I deserve an honorable place in Heaven for not gutting that pig years ago.  He is as thick-headed as he is arrogant.”

General Tsang laid his hands on the stone wall.  “Damned brain biters.  Do you think they are in league with the Japanese heart eaters?”

“Not that I know of,” the master said.  “Though it pains me to think of how the Sacred Yet Inscrutable Tiger Claw, a move developed as a last resort in an overall strategy of self-defense, has been corrupted in the name of evil.”

General Tsang drew his sword, took a knee, and rested his head on the hilt.  “I swear on my sword I will give my life before I allow the Emperor’s brain to be eaten, old friend.”

“I know you will protect him,” the master replied.  “I must take my leave now, for I have dispatched my last two remaining disciples on missions in furtherance of Dragonhand’s defeat.  Take care, General.”

Poof!  The general was all alone.

“Advisor Zhen,” General Tsang muttered.  “I hate it when I have to speak to that fool.”

 

 

 

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Zom Fu – Chapter 26

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The Forbidden City was a vast complex of architecturally impressive buildings, walled off from the rest of the world, leaving anyone without the Emperor’s permission “forbidden” from entering. In the center of it all stood the Imperial Palace, the tallest, most luxurious structure in the entire country.

The gruff and grizzled General Tsang wore impeccably polished black armor. His posture was rigid. His demeanor was curt. In his youth, a knife had been dragged across the right side of his face, from just underneath his eye all the way to his jaw. The wound never slowed him down, but the scar remained.

The general walked on top of the city’s wall, inspecting his troops along the way. One young soldier appeared to be suffering a case of poor posture.

“Stand up straight like a man!” the general barked. The soldier immediately complied.

Further on down the wall, the general found Weiyuan and Tengfei, his two laziest soldiers. They engaged in a frivolous conversation, paying attention to anything but their duties.

Weiyuan puffed out his chest, put a dour expression on his face and did his best General Tsang impression. “‘Blah, blah, blah! I’m the boss! Blah, blah, your armor is out of order. Beg for forgiveness and kill yourself! Blah, blah, blah!’”

Tengfei slapped his knee and laughed until he saw “the boss” approaching. He straightened up quickly.

“‘Blah, blah, blah!’” shouted Weiyuan.

Tengfei looked away.

“What?” Weiyuan asked.

Tengfei kept quiet.

Weiyuan gulped. “He’s right behind me, isn’t he?”

“Unghh,” came the general’s grunt of disapproval. Weyuan quickly joined Tengfei in standing at attention.

“Do you two think it is funny to mock your commanding officer?” the general asked.

“He did it all on his own!” Tengfei blurted out. “I tried to stop him. Oh, I how I tried!”

“Lies!” shouted Weiyuan. “It was all his idea, sir! Please punish this rapscallion! He is a walking offense to the Imperial Army.”

The general grunted. “Do you think it would be funny if an assassin were to sneak through these walls and make quick work of the Emperor while you two fools are amusing yourselves?”

Weiyuan and Tengfei looked at one another then met the general’s eyes with blank stares.

“Is this is a trick question, sir?” Weiyuan asked.

The general provided the correct response. “No, it would not!”

“Right, sir,” Weiyuan said.

“That wouldn’t be funny at all, sir,” Tengfei added.

“Return to your duties or I’ll have you both skinned alive and boiled in oil,” the general said.

“Yes sir,” the soldiers replied in unison.

As the general headed down the wall, he could hear his subordinates whisper about him.

“He’s in a better mood than usual,” Weiyuan said.

“Thank goodness,” Tengfei replied.

Further on down, the general came across a soldier with a smudge on his breastplate.

“What is that?” the general asked.

The general broke out in a cold sweat and began shaking. “What is what, sir?”

General Tsang snapped his pointer finger up, brushed it across the smudge, then showed the soldier the filth that had rubbed off.

“You make me sick,” the general said.

“I…I’m sorry sir,” the soldier said. “I make myself sick as well. A thousand apologies.”

“You will get no sleep tonight,” the general said. “You will polish your armor until sunrise and you will show up for duty looking presentable or I will personally throw you off the side of this wall. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir,” the soldier said.

The general slapped the soldier’s arm. “Good. Say hello to your mother for me, Cousin Nianzu.”

“Yes sir,” Nianzu replied.

The general reached a quiet, lonely spot and took a moment to observe the city below. Bureaucrats, administrators and servants all hurried about, tending to their duties in service of the Emperor.

“General,” came the voice of an old man.

On pure instinct, General Tsang drew his sword and turned, only to find the ghost of…

“Infallible Master?” the general asked.

“The same,” the master answered.

The general returned his weapon to its scabbard. “Congratulations on your mastery of astral projection. I knew you’d figure it out one day.”

“Thank you,” the master said.

“Still,” the general said. “I’d prefer to see you in person.”

“Would that I could,” the master said. “But I can’t, for I am dead.”

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Could They Make It Today? – Transformers: The Movie (1986)

Happy Weekend, 3.5 readers.

Welcome to my new column, “Could They Make It Today?” in which I go back in time, take a look at the pop culture of my Gen X youth (we did exist though we seem to have been forgotten early) and discuss how movies and/or TV shows from the past couldn’t be made in the present (at least not without an extensive tuneup).

First up, Transformers: The Movie (1986).

Now, if you’re a member of Generation X, and again, millennials, I swear we existed…we are the Baby Boomers’ kids and you just know more about the Baby Boomers because they are hanging on for a really long time thanks to advances in science and medicine and shit.

Let me try again.  If you are are a member of Generation X, then you probably remember where you were when Optimus Prime died.

The year was 1986.  Transformers were a popular line of children’s toys that combined a childish love of vehicles and robots by having robots turn into vehicles.  Two toys in one.

There was a corresponding TV show in which Optimus Prime, a tractor trailer with a John Wayne style voice, commanded the Autobots in their war against the villainous Deceptions, lead by the evil Megatron.

So, after several years of a show where robots fired lasers at each other and missed, thus giving children a sense of excitement without burdening their young minds with thoughts of death, some dumb ass or collection of dumb asses got it in their heads to completely rewrite the direction of the series with a major motion film.

I went to it.  I was a little kid.  Had my popcorn.  Had my Transformer.  Had my seat.  I was ready to have a good time and then boom…literally every character I loved dies.

Seriously.  What the shit?  Who thought this was a good idea?

Optimus Prime and Megatron clash on the field of battle.  Megatron gets the upper hand and takes down Optimus.

OK.  That was sad.  I don’t think it was a great move for studio execs to kill off a beloved children’s character, especially the main one who carries the series.

But then it gets worse.  There’s a scene where the main contingent of Autobots (i.e. Ratchet and Ironhide, etc.), characters who had been with the series since the start, are flying a shuttle back to…I don’t know, Autobot Town, I’m an adult now so I don’t give as many shits as I used to.

Long story short, Megatron and his lackies break down the door and totally Wild Bunch the shit out of the Autobots.  I’m serious.  After years of lasers that never hit anyone, Megatron’s lasers hit everyone with great precision.

And it’s not just like, “Boom!  You’re dead!”  We see the lights in the Autobots’ eyes flicker and go out.  Smoke comes out of their mouths. Holes rip up their chassis.  It’s total carnage and mayhem.

Death has been a part of kids movies since the beginning of animation.  When Bambi’s mother dies, it introduces kids to concept they yeah, one day your grandparents are going to croak, then your parents, then pretty much everyone else you know until you end up all alone and the grim reaper puts his icy hand on your shoulder.

Personally, I didn’t even think it was cool for Disney to kill of Bambi’s mother but ok.  There’s a difference between Bambi’s mother dying and the stone cold political/ideological assassination that takes place in the Transformers movie.

By the end of the film, new Autobots take over.  “Rodimus Prime” takes Optimus’ place and as a kid, it’s basically the equivalent of your how you feel when your mom kicks dad out of the house and starts dating some new guy and wants you to call him “Dad.”

RODIMUS PRIME:  Autobots, roll out!

1980s’ Kids:  F%*k you!  Only Optimus can say that!  You’re not my real Autobot leader!

Like many cartoon shows, Transformers was a vehicle to sell toys.  Kids bond with the characters on TV, look at them as if they are friends, and then want their parents to buy them a friend they can play with in the form of toys.

But some young 1980s Baby Boomer screwed the pooch because kids were highly displeased, so much so that Optimus Prime is brought back to life by the end of the series.

The whole movie was intended to reset the series and bring it to a futuristic 2005 (which, sadly, is now in the past) with the robots turning into sleeker, more futuristic robots.

Clearly, the assumption in the board room was that they’ll kill off all the main characters (even Megatron and company get converted into new characters) and then the kids will throw away all their old toys and buy these new toys.

Just as clearly, these people did not know kids.  Have you ever tried to pry a beloved toy out of a kid’s hand?  Good luck.  Kids kept playing with their old transformers.  In the battles that played out on living room furniture, Optimus and friends were still alive.  T

The new replacements were seen as wannabe step-dads trying to buy our love with ice cream and thus, the series didn’t last much longer after that.  The movie pretty much blew up the whole enterprise.

The idea went over like a lead balloon and was so widely rejected by kids that a GI Joe movie that came out around the same time was quickly rewritten to prevent Duke from dying.  Those suits were totally gunning for Duke and he was only saved because Optimus’ death went over so poorly.

Could they make it today?  Well, they do make it today.  Now the Transformers films have become these grand scale Michael Bay action/disaster movies with plenty of action and very little plot.  And yes, occasionally a Transformer will buy the farm in these movies but the millennials didn’t grow up with them and Generation X is still too old to care.

Although personally, I was sad when Jazz gets ripped apart in one of the new films.

I think the film taught the toy/cartoon industry complex a valuable lesson.  You don’t have to kill off characters just to introduce new toys/characters.  There was no reason why the Autobots couldn’t have lived and still made friends with new characters/toys that could be sold at parental wallet draining prices.

This is what frustrates me with the millennials.  They think the baby boomers are mean and greedy and hey, I feel your pain.  I’ve been feeling it ever since some Gordon Gecko-esque fancy suit wearing 1980s baby boomer prick decided that subjecting my young self to a scene where all my favorite toy characters suffer from political assassination was a good idea.

In conclusion, Generation X exists, and while Transformers movies continue to go on strong, the powers that be have learned to not kill off beloved children’s characters all willy-nilly.

 

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Top Ten Worst TV Show Endings/Series Finales Ever #9 – Dexter (2006-2013)

It’s been a year since I began this list but I always knew I’d get back to it sooner or later.

Dexter.  It raised us up so high only to bring us crashing so far down.

Needless to say, we’re talking about how the series ended, so if you haven’t watched it yet, beware of SPOILERS.

In a world of sequels to sequels and reboots of reboots, Showtime’s Dexter had a rather unique premise: a serial killer who you could actually root for.

Michael C. Hall starred as Dexter Morgan, the Miami Homicide forensic analyst who, in his spare time, feeds his twisted inner need to kill (which he refers to as his “dark passenger”) by murdering bad people.

The series starts off strong.  Seasons 1 and 2 are particularly great.  Season 4 Dexter meets his match in the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow) and then after that, the whole shebang just begins to unravel.

At the heart of the show was the fact that Dexter, believe it or not, was relatable.  Sure, you don’t kidnap evildoers, take them to a secluded area, wrap them in plastic wrap and then stab them, but at some point in your life, maybe you’ve felt like you don’t fit in.

Dexter suffers from that same anxiety.  He has a hard time making friends.  He has a hard time sharing his feelings because he doesn’t have any, yet he’d like to have some.  He brings a box of donuts to work everyday to use as a social crutch/ice breaker (i.e. he can’t really strike up a conversation with someone without the excuse of, ‘Hey, would you like a donut?'”)

We’ve all been there and yet, we all (hopefully) see improvement in our social circles as long as we keep trying.  Over the course of the show, the Miami Homicide Division becomes Dexter’s family.  The various detectives become his brothers and sisters.  Hell, one of them even is his sister in the form of foul mouthed Debra (Jennifer Carpenter).

Throughout the series, we see the toll Dexter’s double life takes on him.  His job is to help the police department uphold the law.  Yet all too often, he uses department resources (databases, crime lab, etc.) to track down bad guys and kill them before his colleagues can collar them.

Moral issues arise.  Is it right to do something evil, even if it is against someone evil?  Is it wrong to be a vigilante?  Doesn’t allegiance to the legal system mean that we take the good with the bad, that sometimes a bad guy gets off on a technicality in order to make sure good people aren’t railroaded?

In the beginning of the series, Dexter operates with a moral code (passed down to him by his police officer father) that serves him well.  Be thorough and don’t make a mistake (i.e. don’t kill someone who didn’t do something wrong).  Don’t share this secret life with others.  Don’t get caught.

In the first two seasons, Dexter’s murderous craft is an art form to behold.  He uses intelligence, trickery, deception, science and skill to catch his victims, kill them and make them disappear without leaving behind so much as a single trace.

Alas, in season three the writing starts to get sloppy and Dexter begins going from methodical mad man who thinks of everything to guy who wants to be everyone’s friend.  Dexter shares his secret with a district attorney played by Jimmy Smitts, and from thereon, starts sharing his double life with others throughout the series.

That seemed dumb to me.  I remember thinking, “Yeah right.  No one can keep a secret like that for long.”  The whole point of why this character was interesting is because he does so much evil in his personal life and yet still manages to show up to work everyday and beguile a group of colleagues who treat him like a member of the family, fool his sister, his girlfriend, even the step-kids that he takes on as a step-father figure.

Every TV show raises a question.  Here, the question is, “Will Dexter ever get caught?”

That’s the question that kept us on the edge of our seats, season after season.  Will Dexter slip up and be discovered?  Will the people he works with in Miami Homicide end up looking like and feeling like fools when it comes out that one of their own was a murderer?  Will one of the detectives end up taking Dexter in?  Will Debra and Dexter square off?

Alas, the show jumps the shark when Debra discover Dexter’s secret life.  Despite her character being presented as a strong law woman, she goes nuts, quits the force and starts helping Dexter cover up his shit.  Just never seemed like something she would ever do.

Personally, I was waiting for years for that moment when Debra makes a difficult choice to haul her own brother in but I never got it.

The show sort of redeems itself when Deb, faced with the decision of whether or not to back up Detective LaGuerta (Lauren Luna Velez) or side with her brother, chooses her brother and shoots LaGuerta.  Not really an outcome I was rooting for but OK, I get it.  Family bonds are strong and sometimes people do shitty things they don’t want to do in the name of saving a family member’s hide.

To me, the obvious storyline would have been for Sgt. Angel Bautista (David Zayas) to end up in some kind of showdown vs. Dexter and Deb.  Bautista and LaGuerta were married and though divorced, he still loved her.  He looked at Dexter and Deb as his own brother and sister, even including Dexter in on his bowling league.  Surely he could have discovered this and felt betrayed and there could have been some awesome final season long manhunt where he tracks him down but no…nope…Bautista just remains a clueless dummy to the end.

Where was I?

Right.  The finale sucked not just because it sucked because it was just one long arc of suck that began in season five and culminated in the disastrous finale.

Deb dies off screen.  We don’t see it.  We’re just told it as a side note, as if it is an afterthought.

Dexter motors his boat to the hospital and pulls up to a ramp and you’re supposed to just nod like an asshole and be like, “OK.  I guess hospitals have boat ramps.”

Dexter then picks his dead sister up out of her hospital bed and walks out the front door with her, past nurses and doctors and security and yeah, I get that they were all dealing with the complications of a hurricane but still, someone would have noticed this.

Dexter then leaves with Debra, again from the hospital boat ramp, and deposits her in a watery grave in a part of the bay where he dumped all of his chopped up victims.

For a brief second you think this is interesting symbolism.  Dexter feels like shit that his double life caused his sister so much pain that it essentially killed her so he dispatches her as if she’s one last victim.

But then you just end up thinking that Dexter is a sack of shit and maybe his sister deserved a nice police department funeral with the flag draped over the casket and the twenty one gun salute and a head stone for people to put flowers on but no, he drops her carcass off in a part of the ocean filled with chopped up bodies.

Dexter, you asshole.

Oh, so then Dexter leaves his young son to be raised by Hannah McKay (Yvonne Strahovski), a murderous wench that he hasn’t even known for that long.

I always felt the writers missed out a potentially awesome story line.  There really should have been a season where Dexter and Hannah get married, go to jobs by day, then serially kill together at night.  Showtime really should have hired me.

So then Dexter points his boat at the hurricane and sails towards it.  And you’re like, “OK…well this is all shit but at least there’s a resolution.  There’s an answer.  Dexter finally feels like such a shit heel for his life of crime that he kills himself.”

But nope.  The writers wouldn’t commit.  In one last brief scene, Dexter has taken a job in the great Northwest as a lumberjack.

So that’s pretty much it.  We watched this show for years only to find out that he becomes a chopper of wood in the end.

Truly, one of the worst TV show finales ever.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you shouldn’t have read any of this.  But at any rate, seasons one through four are great and then it probably should have just stopped at four if the writers weren’t going to take it seriously.

That showdown where Dexter’s friends/family finally take him down…or that big final case where Dexter beats all the odds and walks away a free man one last time never materializes.  It just fizzles out and then leaves you with a promise that one day a show might be developed about a murderous lumberjack that, let’s face it, you won’t really want to see.

 

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Movie Trailer – Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Loving this trailer, 3.5 readers.  The Guardians of the Galaxy are back with humor, action, 1970s songs and Baby Groot.

What say you, 3.5?

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