Twenty Years of Halo: Conversations From The Universe & The Art of Halo

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios

You know, despite all the effort that goes into all this supplemental material, whether it’s I Love Bees, the canonical novels, and what we’ll be discussing today, the games themselves still pretty much stand on their own and I probably could have saved myself a lot of trouble by just doing a retrospective on them instead of on everything Halo related I can get my hands on.  For completions sake though, we might as well talk about these which were released alongside Halo 2 and gave us more context for the series; not just in terms of the ongoing narrative, but the story behind the scenes as the games were being developed.  Let’s take a look!

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Conversations from the Universe – 2004

Halo 2 got a Limited Collector’s edition release which came with a making of disk that I’m not going to try and track down, and a booklet called Conversations from the Universe that had a bunch of letters from characters within the Halo universe.

A bunch of them are rather pointless.  There’s some musings from 343 Guilty Spark during the events of Halo that just reiterate what they already said out loud in those games, and there’s an entire spaceship battle that as far as I can tell means absolutely nothing to the overall story.

The ones that are interesting are about characters questioning things such as Cortana questioning0 whether Spartans or AIs are the better tools for the UNSC, and a conversation between two members of The Covenant as they try to figure out why The Prophets have decided to destroy the humans rather than have them join their Covenant.  They ARE a religious cult after all and I for one would LOVE to see a couple of Elites go door to door asking humans if they’ve hear the good news about the Great Journey.

“I didn’t want to say anything, but those Scientologists jerks have been killing it in this section of the galaxy!” “Freaking Xenu. Why doesn’t the green demon go after THAT guy?”
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Cinema Dispatch: Tom & Jerry

Tom & Jerry and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Tim Story

The pandemic has been awful for everyone, but I have no doubt that a few movies were relieved to avoid having to release in theaters and have dismal box office returns; particularly the movies that were already being pushed further and further back looking for the least competitive window possible to MAYBE scrape by at number three on slow weekend.  My Spy certainly springs to mind, as does this movie which didn’t exactly light the world on fire with its trailer and frankly I was not looking forward to sitting through it when Warner Bros put it on their HBO Max slate.  Still, even if it looks a bit cheap and cheesy for the big screen, perhaps it plays a bit better on the smaller one and will find its niche in the streaming market.  Is this a fun little romp for the kids that captures the spirit of these classic characters, or is it yet another lousy cash-in that’ll come and go faster than the LAST time they tried to bring these characters to the big screen all the way back in 1992?  Let’s find out!!

Thomas D Cat and Jerome A Mouse are two critters roaming the streets of New York City; one looking for a place to stay that has lots of cheese and the other hoping to be the world’s most famous keyboard playing feline right after Keyboard Cat.  Their paths cross when Jerry interrupts his concert in the park and after a series of convoluted antics; one ends up in a fancy hotel chomping holes into walls and stealing food while the other is left homeless and with a broken keyboard.  Try to guess which one is which!  Said hotel by the way has a new employee named Kayla (Chloë Grace Moretz) who faked her way into the position and is trying to prove herself by fixing the hotel’s mouse problem in preparation for an upcoming celebrity wedding that will take place in the hotel’s banquet hall.  The current supervisor (Michael Peña) is skeptical of Kayla and is looking for any excuse to get rid of her, so she has to bring in a mouse catching ringer and decides to hire this cartoon cat that clearly has it out for the little mouse.  Will Tom be able to stop Jerry’s antics and earn a decent salary to fund his hopes and dreams?  Will the wedding go off without a hitch, or is there more going on with the celebrity couple that can only come to light via cartoon animal violence?  I know the movie is out and I’ve sat through it already… but are we sure this is even a real movie? 

Did they actually get her to be in this, or is that just a cardboard cutout!?
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Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (02-24-2021)

AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT

Revolution is creeping up on us each and every week and the last episode was a particularly awkward attempt to jam in as much storyline as possible and to the expense of the otherwise great matches on the show.  Now that so much of the groundwork for the PPV has been set, does this episode find a better balance between the stories they wish to tell and the matches they want to put on?  Let’s find out!!

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Jon Moxley Vs. Hollywood Hunk Ryan Nemeth

Not even gonna save him for the main event?  Considering the GIANT news (nyuk-nyuk-nyuk) that broke before the show, I’m guessing AEW was anticipating a larger than usual audience at the start of the show and they wanted to give the people their money’s worth.  Now Ryan Nemeth gave Pac a darn good squash match last week and it’s basically the same thing here.  Moxley is so overpowered for this that he gives Nemeth a slap and the dude flops over like he got speared by a truck.  Nemeth is tenacious though and he gets a few knees in as well as a good looking Drop Kick, but Moxley just needs a few suplexes to put Nemeth away less than five minutes into the show.  I kind of wish they had done a bit more here as Nemeth could have DEFINITELY sold for longer and Moxley could have done a few more super moves, but the point here is less to put on a memorable match as it is to set the stage for Moxley’s post-match promo.  He needs to address Kenny Omega’s challenge to an EXPLODING BARB WIRE DEATH MATCH and frankly he just seems tired and exasperated.  He knows this is utterly ridiculous and that there are better ways to handle this, but he doesn’t have it in him to turn it down.  In his own words, he’s an addict and even if he knows this is a bad idea he can’t stop himself from diving headfirst into it.  In this way, Kenny may have an advantage as there are ample opportunities for chicanery in something as ludicrous as an EXPLODING BARB WIRE DEATH MATCH, but as he says to everyone who tries to step up to him, the most important thing is to not miss.  If Kenny bungles this and doesn’t finish Moxley off, he’s gonna regret it and may even lose his belt in the process.  Moxley’s character is exactly who he’s always been so even if the promo feels like a lot of his other promos, it’s still quite compelling to hear.  I’m very skeptical about something called an EXPLODING BARB WIRE DEATH MATCH which APPARENTLY includes land mines outside the ring (yeah, sure. Whatever you say), but Moxley and Omega are two of the best guys at this company and hopefully the gimmicks don’t get in the way too much of what will surely be a great match.

Continue reading “Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (02-24-2021)”

Twenty Years of Halo: Halo 2

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios

Halo 2 was developed by Bungie and ported by Gearbox and 343 Studios

To this day I have never owned an Xbox so Halo 2 was always out of reach for me.  Oh, what’s that? A Windows Vista port?  Yeah, this was back in the Stone Age when all I had was a Windows XP, so no I never got around to playing it on PC or on Xbox until they FINALLY released The Master Chief collection and I bought it a few months ago on Steam.  The game has pretty universal acclaim, and introduced a lot of features that would be refined in the sequel Halo 3, so getting my hands on this gem after all this time will certainly be an interesting experience; no nostalgia to cloud my judgement, and not the next gen experience I enjoyed when I got the Xbox 360.  Does it hold up is this a classic better left in the past?  Let’s find out!!

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I like to start these with discussing the narrative first, and if I were to give this game one GIANT thumbs up, it’s that the story is actually pretty darn good.  Not PERFECT as the ending left me rather unsatisfied and I had to look up a few details on the wiki when all was said and done, but it definitely soars above the original in this regard.  Following the events of the first game (and also the novel First Strike, though I don’t think there are any overt references to that in here), Master Chief is back with the UNSC and chilling out on the Cairo space station.  While we see him getting commendations and trading witty barbs with Sergeant Johnson, we also see The Covenant having a decidedly less celebratory congregation as Thel Vadamee, an Elite solider who was in charge of the operation to reclaim Halo and use its weapon (we all know how THAT ended up), is getting jeered and condemned by the leaders of The Covenant; known as The Prophets.  He’s stripped of his armor, burned with a symbol of shame, and with nothing else to live for… agrees to be the top solider of The Prophets.  Yeah, apparently if you screw up SO badly that you’re effectively convicted of treason then you can qualify for the position of Arbiter which Vadamee agrees to since he doesn’t really have anything better to do.  I joke, but Thel Vadamee is the reason to play this game, as he’s not just an interesting character filled with conflict and contradiction, the voice work for this character (done by none other than Keith David) is top notch and he gets across all the mixed feelings that this character has to embody.  He’s part of a proud warrior race so he speaks like a Klingon with twice as much acting range but the story puts him through his paces as he goes on one suicidal quest after another only to find more questions and challenges to his faith at the end of each path.

“None of this makes any sense!  Why would they release all the Halo games on PC, EXCEPT for Guardians!?  Infinite is coming to PC, but not Guardians!?”
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Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #37

Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America

The one good thing about being as hopelessly behind as I was and having to play catchup throughout December and January was that I got to read A LOT of books in a short amount of time.  The wait between the last issue and this one has been EXCRUCIATING as I kept checking back every week in February to remind myself that yes, it’s still not coming out for another week or so.  No mini-series to keep me occupied in the mean-time either, and you’d think that by now IDW would take a gamble on a concurrent series, but nope!  A full month without Sonic comic goodness for me!  Was the wait ultimately worth it as we get started on a fresh new story arc, or will I be willing to wait TWO months after reading this?  Let’s find out!!

With the crisis as White Park Chateau narrowly averted and Tails successfully Frankenstein-ing Omega back together, we begin this issue rather low-key as everyone is heading to the newly crafted Restoration home base so that Belle (the living puppet with a mysterious backstory and a clown nose) can find a place among the normal folk and not spend her time in an underground bunker.  Okay, TECHNICALLY The Restoration HQ is in an underground bunker as well, but theirs is super nice so it’s still an upgrade!

“Yes, we even have a Starbucks!  Starbucks doesn’t even EXISTS in this reality and they somehow managed to get a franchise in here!”
Continue reading “Super Comics: Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) – #37”

Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (02-17-2021)

AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT

With the Revolution PPV only a few weeks away, it’s time for AEW to kick things into gear and get us excited to pay for one of their shows instead of watching it for free on TNT or on YouTube!  There are definitely a few plates that AEW have dutifully been spinning for the last few weeks, but the card still feels a bit underweight especially without an announced Main Event, so will this week prove to be the jumping off point for THE ROAD TO REVOLUTION, or will we be getting more of the same old same old?  Let’s find out!!

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Hangman Adam Page & Matt Hardy Vs. The Hybrid2

So this was supposed to be an eight man tag match with Hardy Party and Page going up against TH2 and Chaos Project, right?  I haven’t found any word on WHY this was changed (AEW is usually good about letting people know about COVID cancellations) but I guess that Private Party is busy with their Impact storyline which is  a bit disappointing as I’d like to see how Page works with the duo, but we’re still in for a good match regardless.  TH2 have certainly come into their own in the last month or so becoming regulars on the program where before they were stuck on Dark, and while I don’t like Hardy’s gimmick right now (I guess I should stop calling him Huckster Matt and use his proper name Big Money Matt) he’s definitely gotten back into the groove of things after his disastrous feud with Sammy Guevara.  TH2 prove to be worthier foes than Chaos Project so Matt Hardy spends most of the time taking moves from Evans and Angélico while Page is on the sidelines waiting for the hot tag.  Angélico once again is a standout for some of his inventive mat work, and while Jack Evans is no slouch and definitely shows off his acrobatics here, he’s the one who eventually screws up and allows Page to get the hot tag and runs wild over both of them.  Elbows, suplexes, Powerbombs, the only reason I didn’t expect this onslaught to actually end the match is that we’re barely five minutes into it!  Now I said Jack Evans was no slouch and I DO mean that, but the one thing that people will remember about this match is his botched Phoenix Splash.  He has Matt Hardy on the mat and jumps up to do his twisty thing, but he doesn’t get enough distance and just lands on the mat; having to fall over to pretend that he actually HIT Matt Hardy with the movie.  I can’t imagine this would have been the ending of the match in any case, but thankfully Hardy gets his shoulder up and a minute later Hangman lands a Buckshot Lariat on BOTH of TH2 at the same time.  With both men down and Page keeping an eye on Jack Evans, Hardy gets the pin on Angélico to get the win.  After the match, Matt Hardy is ecstatic about his thirty percent contact with Page because apparently Matt Hardy doesn’t watch the show, and Page has to give him the heartbreaking news that the contact is not what he seemed.  The revised contact is brought by the Jaguar’s mascot Jaxson de Ville for some reason and we learn that it was NOT for a management contract but for a match at Revolution between Page and Hardy which, after a bit of negotiation (and baby face teasing), has their first quarter earnings on the line.  Hardy is not happy that he’s literally going to have fight for his pay and promises that Page is going to regret this at which point Jaxson de Ville starts attacking him!  Oh no!  It was Isaiah Kassidy the whole time!  Well not to be outdone by Hardy Party, The Dark Order along with Negative One run out to fend off Page’s attackers and show that they are still on his side even if he ditched them a few weeks ago!  I guess they don’t give homework these days considering how often Negative One is on national television, but in any case this was a fun segment.  The match was okay but ultimately perfunctory as it was all about the post-match angle which was a pretty excellent build up for a Revolution match.  The PPV has been a bit anemic as far as booked matches (especially with the Shaq match getting moved to Dynamite), so it’s impressive that they managed to do so much in this one angle.  Heck, I was VERY down on this whole storyline for weeks now, and this is one of the more interesting matches on the PPV card!

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Twenty Years of Halo: I Love Bees

Artwork by Usbaia

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios

I Love Bees was created by 4orty2wo Entertainment

Alright, I’m gonna be honest here.  We’re one game, three books, and a fan made web series into this retrospective, so I thought I had a good handle on things… but then I started researching this I Love Bees thing, and I’m in WAY over my head.  I’ve never participated in an ARG and simply trying to find out what happened after everything has already has been solved has proved to be more than my patience can normally sustain, so I’m not going to be able to give you a full breakdown of this experience or will fully appreciate it the way that many people still do to this day.  I can only try and come in here as the layman trying to get a complete picture of the Halo Universe and what makes this series tick, but trying to unravel this mystery and extract the relevant details kind of reminds me why I even felt the need to do this retrospective in the first place.  The Halo narrative always washed over me even when I was enjoying the games and some of the other content around it, and in trying to fix that problem I just end up feeling that way all over again with this ARG game that took place prior to the release of Halo 2.  I put in the time though and I have what I think is a reasonable approximation of what this was, so let’s take a look and see what this whole I LOVE BEES thing is all about!

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One of the things I didn’t want to do when trying to understand this series is to troll the Halo wiki and just get my information there, but I spent about ten minutes perusing the I Love Bees website and just threw my hands up as it’s just a collection of nonsense obscuring tiny fragments of things that may or may not be relevant to the upcoming game, and the Summary on Wikipedia does a good job of telling me what the point of this is.  I Love Bees is an ARG game developed by 42 Entertainment as a promotional device for Halo 2 and to expand on the lore of the franchise.  The story is that back in the novel First Strike, the big inciting incident to kick off the third act is that The Covenant somehow managed to find out where Earth is and The Masterchief along with the rag tag crew of soldiers who survived both Halo and Reach have to stop them.  What I love Bees reveals is HOW The Covenant found Earth via strange messages on the site, cryptic data, and eventually an audio drama which has been collected into a twelve episode series that I listened to from beginning to end.  Right around the time of the Fall of Reach, a UNSC shipped called the Apocalypso found an alien artifact and was taking it back to Earth.  The artifact is some sort of lost Forerunner tech that the Covenant wanted (from the sound of it, it was a mini-Halo?) and so they sent an EVIL AI called The Seeker to infiltrate the Apocalypso and corrupt it’s AI called Melissa.  It seems to have worked because Melissa caused the ship to explode just outside of Earth’s orbit, and Melissa was broken more or less in half; one half found its way to some teenager’s computer named Jersey in New York City who named this fragmented AI Durga, and the other half was sent back in time to the year 2004 along with the remnants of The Seeker.  This is where the AR Game comes into play; the part of Melissa in the past (itself getting split into The Sleeping Princess and The Operator) as well as The Seeker are the entities who were running the game and took over the I Love Bees website.  Everything we learned from I Love Bees and its related stuff (including phone calls to payphones that players had to be at during specific times on specific dates) are supposedly fragments provided by these two corrupted and fragmented AIs.

Say what you will about these B Drops, at least they aren’t telling people to overthrow a leftist cabal of baby eaters.
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Cinema Dispatch: Willy’s Wonderland

Willy’s Wonderland and all the images you see in this review are owned by Screen Media Films

Directed by Kevin Lewis

You know, Nicolas cage may not be in big Hollywood movies anymore but he’s got a decent eye for the VOD and Indie markets.  He’s worked with guys like Panos Cosmatos, he was in probably the best HP Lovecraft movie in I don’t know how long, and that Brian Taylor movie Parents was an absolute trip and frankly should have gotten much more attention than it did.  Now he’s starring in an unofficial Five Nights at Freddy’s movie which would otherwise looks like an Asylum knock off.  Say what you will about Cage, at least he hasn’t gotten to Carmen Electra, C Thomas Howell, and Danny Trejo levels yet!  Does Nicolas Cage prove once again prove his savviness at picking low budget projects, or was this just an easy paycheck for all involved?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins with a mysterious stranger (Nicolas Cage) getting the tires on his car ripped apart on a random country road near a dead end country town.  How much of a dead end is this town?  They don’t just lack any sort of internet service here, they don’t even have the infrastructure to support ATMs which means that Cage can’t just pay for the tires; he has to do this the old fashioned way with a favor and a handshake.  The town Business Guy (Ric Reitz) offers to pay for Cage’s new tires if he spends the night cleaning his janky as heck pizza place called Willy’s Wonderland; a children’s pizzeria with a cast of animatronic characters that love nothing more than to sing their happy songs for the children.  Unfortunately the little pizza shop has a VERY sordid past but that’s about to change as our local Business Guy is hoping to fix it up and get it running again which is all going to start with a little bit of elbow grease and a lots of window cleaner!  Cage silently agrees and is locked inside for some reason, but he doesn’t mind because he’s got a job to do and a bag full of PUNCH COLA to keep him nice and hydrated!  All is not as it seems however as some local kids led by Liv Hawthorne (Emily Tosta) are trying to burn the place to the ground but decide to try and convince Cage to come out first before they do it.  And why would they want to do that?  Well if the creepy animatronics and shady deal with the Business Guy wasn’t enough of a clue, it turns out this place is haunted for some reason and that she has some very grisly experiences with the place, so turning it to ashes will bring some degree of closure for her.  Still, seems like a bad idea to just run into the pizzeria full of haunted and murderous robots no matter how fluffy their fur is and it turns into a fight for survival as the teens try to escape the death trap and Cage continues to clean up stains wherever he finds them!  Will the horrors of this place finally be put to bed with the help of our mysterious stranger?  What exactly is keeping this place standing all these years, and why is Business Guy so gung ho to reopen in the first place?  Will Nicolas Cage clean the floors so well that you could eat off of them!?

“Is there an ostrich behind me?”     “Yes.”     “Is he tracking in mud?”     “Uh… maybe?”     “I hate it when they do that…”
Continue reading “Cinema Dispatch: Willy’s Wonderland”

Super Wrestling: AEW Dynamite (02-10-2021)

AEW Dynamite is owned by All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan, Shahid Khan, and TNT

We’re back with another week for Dynamite action!  Beach Break was a PRETTY big disappointment all things considered, but it did end on a particularly high note with a great main event and a HUGE surprise for anyone who’s a fan of New Japan.  Will they capitalize on this buzz and give us an episode worthy of this new union, or will we have to wait for the Revolution PPV for something interesting?  Let’s find out!!

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Darby Allin Vs. Joey Janela – TNT Title Match

So is it just me or is Joey’s role here to be a tune-up guy for champions?  Granted it’s better than being a jobber for mid-carders, but he really seems to LOSE a lot despite getting all these opportunities!  I guess I shouldn’t complain as long as it means Darby gets to spend five minutes focusing on something other than Team Taz, and frankly Janela does a darn good job making him look good!  Allin’s strength is not in his… well strength, but his endless tenacity so Joey gets to do a lot here and looks like a genuine competitor for Allin’s title; particularly an early flurry of offense including a drop onto the apron and a Suicide Dive.  Darby essentially has to outlast Janela as he’s one of the few people that Janela could physically intimidate, so he waits for his opportunities to strike and does what he can to survive devastating moves such as when he goes for a Coffin Drop but Janela catches him into a German Suplex followed by a Thrust Kick for a two count!  If there’s one thing that felt a bit disappointing about the match, it’s the ending which of course ends with a Coffin Drop.  Considering that the last few moves prior to that were a surprise Pile Driver from Janela and an Avalanche Code Red from Darby, neither of which were enough to finish the other guy off, it feels a bit anti-climactic that Joey stayed down because Darby dropped down on him.  It works as an ending in some matches, but in something this focused on endurance and devastating moves, it felt a bit underwhelming. Aside from that though, this was a GREAT match that did a darn good job of making both of them look like superstars!  Maybe you don’t want Darby having matches EVERY week because you know he’ll insist on destroying himself whenever he gets in the ring, but we definitely need more title defenses like this.

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Twenty Years of Halo: Red vs Blue Season 2 & 3

Red vs Blue and all the images you see in this retrospective are owned by Rooster Teeth

The Halo franchise is owned by Xbox Game Studios

We’re back with our Halo retrospective, and once again we’re talking about something that isn’t technically part of the series!  After the success of season one, the folks over at Rooster Teeth knew they had something big on their hands and started right away on Season two.  The second and third seasons both released in 2004 (season 3 finished up in early 2005) so we’ll be looking at both back to back as the Blood Gulch Chronicles grows from a bunch of people bickering in a canyon to those same people bickering in different places!  Let’s get started!

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Red vs Blue Season 2 – 2004

By season two they had a better grasp on the concept and the characters which leads to some fun and unexpected story beats, but for every place that they manage to improve it just shines a spotlight on the places they don’t budge an inch.  I wasn’t keeping count, but they did lessen their overall use of the R-word and the more mean-spirited bickering is less omnipresent.  However, there are still some issues throughout the season that hold this series back; particularly the way they pumped the gay jokes up to eleven.  Donut is not without his fun moments, but the joke being that he embodies what the writers think is funny about gay people (the pink armor, jokes about girly things, etc) is a constant thorn in this series’ side throughout its first five seasons.

“I’m super!  Thanks for asking!”     “I didn’t ask.”
Continue reading “Twenty Years of Halo: Red vs Blue Season 2 & 3”