Inferno

Inferno is a bit of an oddity, as both a Dan Brown novel and a movie.  As a novel, it’s the darker and more mature of his Robert Langdon series (there’s no other way to describe an ending where the characters are relieved only 1/3 of the world was sterilized).  The film adaptation is now happening over 7 years after Angels & Demons hit theaters.  Let’s not forget all the other weird things surrounding the film, like how the project started out as an adaptation of The Lost Symbol (the third book) before the studio decided to skip over straight to Inferno.  Too long of a sequel gap with a somewhat troubled production, the deck is definitely stacked against Inferno…and yet, it was a really enjoyable thriller.

Some might complain about the spoilers in the previous tag but (A) that’s only how the book ends and (B) it’s hard to talk Inferno without using spoilers.  The plot synopsis (Robert Langdon must team up with a doctor to solve Dante-related puzzles while thwarting global conspiracies in order to stop a virus from sterilizing the human race) is almost completely invalidated over the course of the film.  As is true in every Dan Brown work, few things are ever as they seem.  So, the viewing experience centers on the audience not only getting interested in seeing how everything pieces together but if it makes any sense.  Inferno makes full use of dramatic tropes to convey the sense

A more meta recommendation for Inferno is the acting talent involved.  Tom Hanks in a starring role automatically makes any film watchable.  Felicity Jones is the female lead and since she’s going to be the main lead in the upcoming Star Wars: Rogue One, some people might want to see if she has the talent to carry a movie.  Inferno proves that she does.  Irrfan Khan is also a treat to watch.

This isn’t to say the movie’s perfect.  The film starts slow and takes its time before the pace picks up substantially (which fits thematically within the story but isn’t too exciting to watch).  The book was darker and edgier than Dan Brown’s other works but the movie’s a bit more upbeat and action-heavy, which can rub some people the wrong way.  The ending, in particular, doesn’t end with the heroes’ efforts to thwart the release of the Inferno virus mostly in vain.

However, most people are looking for an enjoyable way to kill 2 hours worth of time and for that reason, Inferno serves its purpose.  The movie’s a fun little romp with phenomenal acting talent.  Go in with those expectations and Inferno should meet them.  Besides, has there ever been a terrible Tom Hanks movie?

100 Songs from the 1980’s

Pop Icons released a video titled “Best of 80’s music” that was pretty atrocious.  While opinions are subjective, it was really odd to see some songs that were omitted for…well, no reason in particular (like Van Halen’s Jump).  So rather than merely “dislike” the post, it made more sense to make my own list to compare and contrast.  Of course, that video was a little over 8 minutes and only included 66 songs but since video-editing is out of the question, I can list up to 100 in text format and link to the appropriate video.

The only criteria I used were one song per artist (otherwise people like Michael Jackson would own the list), no more than one song per album (sorry Maniac), the song had to be a single (otherwise Heaven and Hell would made the cut), had to have been released in the 1980’s (Pink Floyd’s The Wall came out in 1979) and preference was given to songs that appeared in Grand Theft Auto:  Vice City (which would be an excellent response to anyone who asks for a “best of the 80’s” compilation).

  1. Take On Me” – a-ha
  2. Back in Black” – AC/DC
  3. Summer of ’69” – Bryan Adams
  4. Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” – Aerosmith
  5. Madhouse” – Anthrax
  6. Heat of the Moment” – Asia
  7. Never Gonna Let You Down” – Rick Astley
  8. Turn Up the Radio” – Autograph
  9. Walk Like an Egyptian” – The Bangles
  10. Mickey” – Toni Basil
  11. (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” – Beastie Boys
  12. Hit Me with Your Best Shot” – Pat Benatar
  13. Call Me” – Blondie
  14. Livin’ on a Prayer” – Bon Jovi
  15. Let’s Dance” – David Bowie
  16. Flashdance…  What a Feeling” – Irene Cara
  17. Heaven is a Place on Earth” – Belinda Carlisle
  18. Glory of Love” – Peter Cetera
  19. In the Air Tonight” – Phil Collins
  20. Karma Chameleon” – Culture Club
  21. (I Just) Died in Your Arms” – Cutting Crew
  22. Pour Some Sugar on Me” – Def Leppard
  23. Rainbow in the Dark” – Dio
  24. Money for Nothing” – Dire Straits
  25. A View to a Kill” – Duran Duran
  26. The Final Countdown” – Europe
  27. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” – Eurythmics
  28. She Drives Me Crazy” – Fine Young Cannibals
  29. I Ran (So Far Away)” – A Flock of Seagulls
  30. The Message” – Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
  31. Welcome to the Jungle” – Guns ‘n’ Roses
  32. Out of Touch” – Hall & Oates
  33. Miami Vice Theme” – Jan Hammer
  34. Rockit” – Herbie Hancock
  35. Sunglasses At Night” – Corey Hart
  36. What About Love” – Heart
  37. I Wanna Dance with Somebody” – Whitney Houston
  38. The Power of Love” – Huey Lewis and The News
  39. Don’t You Want Me” – The Human League
  40. White Wedding” – Billy Idol
  41. Need You Tonight” – INXS
  42. The Number of the Beast” – Iron Maiden
  43. Centerfold” – J. Geils Band
  44. Thriller” – Michael Jackson
  45. Super Freak” – Rick James
  46. I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” – Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
  47. Don’t Stop Believin’” – Journey
  48. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper
  49. Working for the Weekend” – Loverboy
  50. Like A Virgin” – Madonna
  51. Jack & Diane” – John Mellencamp
  52. You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” – Judas Priest
  53. Celebration” – Kool & the Gang
  54. Danger Zone” – Kenny Loggins
  55. La Bamba” – Los Lobos
  56. Bassline” – Mantronix
  57. Peace Sells” – Megadeth
  58. Down Under” – Men at Work
  59. One” – Metallica
  60. Too Young to Fall in Love” – Mötley Crüe
  61. Ace of Spades” – Motorhead
  62. Broken Wings” – Mr. Mister
  63. Sister Christian” – Night Ranger
  64. Straight Outta Compton” – N.W.A.
  65. Your Love” – The Outfield
  66. Crazy Train” – Ozzy Osbourne
  67. Ghostbusters” – Ray Parker Jr.
  68. St. Elmo’s Fire (Main in Motion)” – John Parr
  69. Automatic” – The Pointer Sisters
  70. Every Breath You Take” – The Police
  71. Batdance” – Prince
  72. Another One Bites the Dust” – Queen
  73. Cum On Feel the Noize” – Quiet Riot
  74. Keep on Loving You” – REO Speedwagon
  75. All Night Long” – Lionel Richie
  76. Start Me Up” – The Rolling Stones
  77. Rock Box” – Run-D.M.C.
  78. 18 and Life” – Skid Row
  79. Raining Blood” – Slayer
  80. Jessie’s Girl” – Rick Springfield
  81. Born in the U.S.A.” – Bruce Springsteen
  82. We Built This City” – Starship
  83. Mr. Roboto” – Styx
  84. Eye of the Tiger” – Survivor
  85. Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – Tears for Fears
  86. Wild Thing” – Tone Loc
  87. Africa” – Toto
  88. What’s Love Got To Do With It” – Tina Turner
  89. I Wanna Rock” – Twisted Sister
  90. Total Eclipse of the Heart” – Bonnie Tyler
  91. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” – U2
  92. Red Red Wine” – UB40
  93. Jump” – Van Halen
  94. Chariots of Fire” – Vangelis
  95. Missing You” – John Waite
  96. Walk the Dinosaur” – Was (Not Was)
  97. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” – Wham!
  98. Here I Go Again” – Whitesnake
  99. Kids In America” – Kim Wilde
  100. Owner of a Lonely Heart” – Yes

Best-selling PS2 Games

The GameFAQs poll for today asks “Of the top 10 best-selling PlayStation 2 games of all-time, which is your favorite?”  The answer is obviously Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas but there were some titles on that list that were surprising to see (Tekken 5!?).  Since the poll options are listed alphabetically instead of by sales figures, pulling up the numbers led to some interesting finds.  With this data, people can see the effects of marketing, brand recognition and sequel fatigue.

Below are the poll options listed from highest sales to lowest…

  1. Grand Theft Auto:  San Andreas (27.5 million)
  2. Grand Theft Auto:  Vice City (17.5 million)
  3. Gran Turismo 3:  A-Spec (14.89 million)
  4. Grand Theft Auto III (14.5 million)
  5. Gran Turismo 4 (11.76 million)
  6. Metal Gear Solid 2:  Sons of Liberty (7 million)
  7. Final Fantasy X (6.6 million)
  8. Tekken 5 (6 million)
  9. Final Fantasy XII (5.2 million)
  10. Kingdom Hearts (4.78 million)

Grand Theft Auto and Gran Turismo absolutely dominate the top half of the list.  Thanks to a combination of marketing, notoriety, critical acclaim and brand recognition, each GTA sequel improved on its predecessor on every conceivable metric.  It’s also worth pointing out that San Andreas set the bar so high that the next GTA game (Grand Theft Auto IV) never surpassed it and the bar wasn’t cleared until GTA V.  Coincidentally, Grand Theft Auto V was also set in Los Santos, the first city players see in San Andreas.

While there’s not much of a drop-off between the two Gran Turismo games, there has to be some series fatigue going on there because all the other excuses don’t apply. Sales in the European market increased but decreased elsewhere between Gran Turismo 3 and 4.  While Gran Turismo 3 came out earlier in the PS2’s lifespan than Gran Turismo 4 did (2001 v. 2005), that didn’t stop San Andreas (2004) from reaching the top of the list.  The same reason could also apply to the slight dip between Final Fantasy X and XII.

It’s not surprising to see Metal Gear Solid 2 on the list, given the hype and anticipation that surrounded the game.  It was shocking to see the drop-off from Sons of Liberty to Snake Eater (3.7 million), though.  Sons of Liberty is rather infamous for its complex plot and movie-length cutscenes but seeing the effects of that divisiveness play out on a business scale is pretty staggering.  Sales for the next game dropped almost in half!  That’s pretty depressing, especially since Snake Eater is widely regarded among Metal Gear fans as the series’ best.

It’s amazing to see how certain continents propelled some games on the list.  Nearly 2/3 of Tekken 5’s sales (4 million) were in Europe and the continent also loves itself some Gran Turismo.  Grand Theft Auto is built primarily on American sales.  If we were looking at sales on a specific area vs. total sales, this list would look a lot different (if we looked at Japan only, for instance, Dragon Quest VIII would make the cut and Grand Theft Auto would tumble down).

One final note to takeaway from all this is that all of the listed games are either PS2-exclusive (Gran Turismo, Final Fantasy) or started out that way before getting ported (Grand Theft Auto, Metal Gear Solid 2).  Thanks to a strong relationship with publishers/developers and the success of the PS1 (which the PS2 was backwards-compatible with…), the PS2 ended up being the best-selling console of all-time.  Never underestimate console exclusivity.  It’s one of the main reasons Nintendo is still afloat, after all…

Luke Cage

Marvel’s Netflix division is still going strong with Luke Cage.  While it’s an excellent TV series, there is one pet peeve:  While its plot references fellow series Jessica Jones, Luke Cage doesn’t keep the main thing that should carry over.  Jessica Jones‘ penultimate episode and finale established that Luke Cage, despite his toughness and strength, is vulnerable to concussive force.  That doesn’t carry over into Luke Cage and there’s at least two instances where the lead should be dead.

It should go without saying there will be spoilers for the first seasons of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.

Towards the end of Jessica Jones, Jessica and Luke (who’s mind-controlled by Kilgrave) fight and Luke ends up taking a shotgun blast under his chin.  Now the bullets themselves don’t kill him since they can’t puncture the skin.  However, the concussive force of having shotgun pellets impact his face can knock the brain loose from the cranial spinal fluid it’s floating around in.  This can have all sorts of effects, from inducing dizziness and headaches to altering a personality (if they survive).  Further reading on the effects of internal injuries induced by blast trauma can be read at National Geographic.

At the end of Luke Cage‘s third episode, Luke is in a building with his landlady and is subjected to a blast from a rocket launcher when he uses his body to shield her.  The resulting explosion brings down the building on top of him.  Regardless of his super durability, Luke should have died from the resulting internal injuries either from the blast going off next to him or the building coming down on him.

What if he hand-wave all that way and chalk up the discrepancy to Jessica Jones‘ writers not coordinating with Luke Cage‘s?  Maybe someone wrote Luke to be tougher than it really was?  This is a pretty plausible explanation, especially with a corporate umbrella as expansive as Disney’s.  Even if we buy into that explanation, though, someone didn’t do the research on what happens when a rocket explodes next to you.

Obviously, the fire from the explosion wouldn’t have incinerated his skin but it could still affect him internally.  Luke would have died from the fire eating up all the oxygen in his vicinity, resulting in either a collapsed lung or the fire scorching his respiratory system.  A collapsed lung would have resulted from the air pressure rapidly changing due to the force of the blast.  The rapidity of this change flattens the lung and makes it impossible to breathe.  Luke and his landlady would have then suffocated to death.  If the lung doesn’t collapse, then the explosion’s heat and chemicals used to create would have scorched the airways of the victims.  With the airways set ablaze and respiratory system torched, both of them would have asphyxiated.

I’m no Doctor or even WebMD but TV Tropes pointed this out too.  This is also only the first instance Luke should be dead.

The other instance occurs shortly after mid-season when Luke is shot twice by bullets that can pierce his bulletproof skin.  Let’s put aside “there are safe places to shoot someone” trope and marvel at the fact that Luke Cage is able to move around, defend himself, fight (not at his best but still…) and not bleed out on a 12 hour drive to Georgia from Harlem.  Let’s also marvel at how Luke and Claire can travel across multiple states through multiple congested metros (Philadelphia, Washington D.C….) notorious for how congested they are traffic-wise without stopping for 12 hours.  It’s almost as if a writer ran directions through Google maps and rolled with it…

This piece detracts from an otherwise brilliant show.  Luke Cage has kickass music, a unique yet suitable tone and presentation as well as some great moments and themes that it explores.  Thinking the main lead should be dead after 3 episodes really hung over the series though.  It keeps the show from eclipsing Daredevil as the best Netflix show.