Dec 20, 2011

Drunk History Christmas

Drunk History is back for Christmas. I feel like I’m complicit in the death of his liver, but this is awesome.

Dec 16, 2011

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

The Muppets – Let’s be honest, this movie isn’t very good. Half the songs are nice, half aren’t really very good. I have no particular affection for the muppets (blastemy, I know), I just didn’t watch them. So the humor is not really for me. I hate to sound like a douche, but we are firmly post post modern nowadays. The self referential meta stuff doesn’t really work anymore. A couple of the jokes did, but most of them fell really flat.  Jason Segal does a rather shockingly bad job. I guess it’s not his fault, he’s given this cheesy fake role. Hell, Amy Adams is an amazing actress, and even she seemed kind of lame. And holy balls did they look uncomfortable singing into the camera. It made me feel so awkward. Singing into the camera is dumb, guys, muppets can do it because they don’t have real eyeballs. So all this is true, and yet I leave the movie with an overall positive feeling. The thing is, it’s a very sweet movie. It’s a movie about people (muppets) overcoming, embracing who they are, a guy learning to have faith in himself, all that good stuff. Even though I’ve never seen more than 5 minutes of any muppet show, the movie left me with an overall cozy feeling, which I guess is the muppets’ special power.

The Green Lantern – Seriously, who decided it was a good idea to use MS Paint to create his mask?

The Beach – This is an old one I never saw. Leonardo DiCaprio finds an isolated beach and the community that lives there. Shennanigans ensue. It’s actually pretty good. It’s a very pretty movie, it’s a pretty compelling story. I discovered only afterward that it’s a Danny Boyle movie.  He has a chance to be my favorite directory. 127 Hours was awesome, 28 weeks later genius, trainspotting if not enjoyable at least culturally important, and sunshine and slumdog are two of my favorite movies ever. I need to go watch his others (which wiki tells me are shallow grave, a life less ordinary, and millions) and findout of he sweeps it (I’m extremely nervous about cameron diaz in that middle one).

The Captains – Yikes. William Shatner made a documentary interviewing all of the captains. Genius idea right? Turns out, William Shatner is perhaps the worst documentarian in the history of cinema. Like, amazingly bad. So bad, a mockumentary would not PRETEND to be this bad. Just wow bad. That said, it’s interviews with some of the most pivotal actors of my young life. Stewart, Brooks, Mulgrew all WERE my teen years. Bakula and Pike came much later, but still. So no matter Shatner’s incredible ineptitude, I liked seeing this just to hear the stories. But let’s focus here, Shatner is a horrendous filmmaker. He is so up his own ass about what it means to play a captain. Every SINGLE question he asks them is either a) a setup for some cheesy opinion he has on what it means to play a captain, or b) a trap, he just wants to tell a story of his own. It’s organized and paced in such an insane way, Shatner thinks he is being deep, but it’s actually very shallow and weird. But still, if you have watched a few hundred hours of star trek as I have, it’s worth it.

Fame (2009) – I’ve still not seen the original of this, this one isn’t that good. I thought it was more about dance because it had a SYTYCDer in it. But it’s mostly a teen drama, with a bit of decent music, and very little dancing. Kind of lame, sorry.

The Green Lantern – Seriously, who decided that two pieces of green apple fruit roll-up would do for his mask?

The Next Three Days – This is pretty cool. Russell Crowe’s wife is imprisoned for murder (it’s unclear if she really did it) and is out of appeals. So he figures he’ll bust her out. It’s a pretty exciting thriller that seems kind of realistic through most of it. You can’t say too much about it, I guess, watching him go through the details of the breakout is just kind of cool. Sadly, at the ending it craps out and does some very silly convenient bullshit. The whole movie tries to be realistic in a cool way. But then everything just works out so specifically in the end, it’s really annoying. But still a good movie, I guess.

The Square – This is an Australian movie. It’s basically about a couple having an affair who want to make off with some money, bad things happen, things spin out of control, etc etc. I didn’t think it was too bad. Not great, not horrible, solidly in the middle. Very much a 2.5 stars movie, if only Netflix would let me do that. If forced, I suppose I’ll put it at 2 stars.

The Green Lantern – Seriously, how’d they get ahold of the Quake 1 engine to render his mask?

Monsters – You know, this is actually almost pretty good! It sounds like a horrible movie – the us/mexico border has turned into a kind of no man’s land because some aliens have crashed there. It’s this weird mix of war zone and animal sanctuary. Then a couple gets trapped there and has to get through. Sounds shitty, but it’s actually pretty cool. The movie has a bit of a low budget feel. The aliens, which are used sparsely (a good choice) actually look pretty good. There is something about the scenes that feels limited. It’s not like they have cheap sets, it’s mostly outdoors. I can’t put my finger on it, but it feels small in scope. Which is too bad, because it detracts from what is otherwise a really cool idea. Still worth seeing, I think.

The Fly – Woah, this is pretty gross! I’d never seen it. I guess I didn’t really know the story, either. I think it’s a pretty good movie! All these years later, and it’s a pretty solid horror movie. Much more in the tradition of Hyde or something –a scientist turning into a monster. And yikes is it gross. I’m not saying it’s the grossest movie I’ve seen this year. But I am saying it’s up there, and given that it’s 25 year old physical effects up against modern CGI, that’s pretty cool.

Set Up – Ugh, I just watched to see how bad this is. Not puke bad, but bad. 50 cent is some criminal, gets double crossed, tries to get revenge. Bruce Willis is in it for no good reason. Some other people too. Lots of people shoot each other, nothing interesting happens. 50 cent, to his credit, is no worse than anyone else in the movie.

The Green Lantern – Seriously, where’d the producers find that roll of christmas wrapping paper to use for his mask?

Jedi Ninjas

Super cool choreography. Ending is hilarious too.

Dec 11, 2011

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

Rango – This movie is pretty fun. There’s not really a whole lot to say about it, it’s funny, it’s cute, it’s a nice adventure. There is the slight distraction of someone in the room yelling about how the Mojave desert doesn’t have saguaro cacti. But besides that, it’s a good movie. Plus, I was doing the yelling the stars in Wall-E twinkled when they were off planet. So, half a dozen.

Captain America – Well, better than Thor, that’s for sure. The more I think about Thor the less I like it. A few good hammer swings, and the rest of the movie kind of sucked. This one isn’t amazing, it’s kind of average in a lot of respects, but it wasn’t as boring as Thor. They do a fair job of getting the Cap ethos right. I’ve never been a cap guy, he was always too clean cut and boring for me. But if you are going to do him, you have to get the underlying stuff right. He is kind of painfully noble and good. He’s very much the Marvel Superman. Both of those characters can be very boring without the proper context and are a challenge to write because of that. But that’s the character, and they did a fairly good job of sticking to that blind nobility, so that was good. Action was alright. Dude with a shield just isn’t all the spectacular, at the end of the day. As part of a team in Avengers he’ll be great, I think.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Against all odds, this movie is quite good. It’s about a 16 year old kid who thinks he’s suicidal because his life is so hard. He goes into the psychiatric ward of a hospital to get help. He there meets a few wacky characters, including Zack Galifinakis playing as normal as he ever has, and also including a cute girl (of course). This movie is in imminent danger at all times of being horrendously cliché, cheesy, and trite. Oh boo hoo, poor 16 year old upper middle class white kid’s life is hard. But amazingly, this movie has just the right awareness of that weakness. It, and the kid, know that his life isn’t that hard and that some people have a lot worse to deal with. But a lot of us have lives that aren’t that hard, and it’s a fair point that we should all chill the fuck out and enjoy what we have. Even me saying that sounds trite, right? But this movie has an honesty to it, aware that it’s not the oracle of truth, but still has something good to say. On the flip side, I’m not sure how I would have react to this if I watched it while depressed. There is a tendency to get wrapped up in your own “problems” and reject any external opinion. So it’s possible a movie with a message on how to enjoy life will be lost on those who need to most.

The Adjustment Bureau – This movie is pretty good too. The premise is there’s a bunch of people whose jobs are to keep everyone on “the plan”. And if you deviate (on purpose or accident) they try to correct. Then someone tries to go off plan, for love no less, drama! Sounds kind of corny, and it is kind of corny, but it’s pretty entertaining. Mostly in a popcorn way, not a mind blowing way, but still fun to watch.

Hanna – Meh. I remember seeing the ad for this so long ago and thinking it looked awesome. A teenager girl assassin? Cool! And all the imagery of this pale girl in the pale scenery was very striking. Unfortunately, the movie just doesn’t live up. Too much talking, not enough fighting. Weird story that feels slightly non-cohesive. I wish it had been great.

Season of the Witch – Okay, so, this isn’t the worst movie ever. I know, crazy. It’s not good, it’s super duper average. Nothing about it needed to exist that you couldn’t get elsewhere done better. But all that being said, there is stabby stabby and fighty fighty and things look ok and the story is whatever and Nicolas Cage doesn’t totally annoy you. So it’s fine.

The Graduate – I had never seen this. It’s…. boring as hell. This is a great movie? This won oscars? It’s sooooo slooooooow. Dennis Hoffman, I now realize, is who Michael Cera has been basing his career on. He does awkward for 2 hours. It’s kind of amusing, his first attempts at sex are pretty funny. But the rest is just snoozefest. The whole rest of it is just not that interesting. I get it’s iconic, the whole under the leg shot. In fact there’s a fair amount of interesting cinematography. POV, reflections off mirrors, other stuff. But not enough to make it a good story. And then there’s the famous wedding thing at the end, which sparked an archetype that lasts till today. But that still doesn’t make it a good movie.

The Man Who Cried – Ok, so Christina Ricci is a russian jew, forced out to Europe, trying to make it. Then something with an opera singer, she bangs Johnny Depp the Gypsy for a little while, things go belly up, and she heads off to America. There’s nothing actively wrong with the movie, just boring. Neither an interesting look into immigrant life, nor a compelling story.

Mystery Team – Yikes, this is pretty bad. I like Donald Glover in Community and all, but whooboy. I mean, I see where they are coming from. There are some very funny moments. And where the rest of the moments (read: 95% of them) fall painfully flat, I get what they were thinking. They had ideas that were funny, things that should have worked. But the execution was really bad. The artifice of their ridiculously naïve characters wears thin literally in 10 minutes. I mean it, we watched the first 10 minutes of this probably 6 months ago, and I only just now forced myself to finish it. It was better than those 10 let on, but still pretty bad. I feel bad, because I see what they meant, and why that should have made me laugh. It was just too forced and felt pretty lame, sorry.

Insidious – I thought I heard this was amazingly scary. It’s waaaay not. It’s basically just Paranormal Activity (non of the found footage bs though) plus poltergeist. Really, more of the latter than anything. It’s not offensively bad or anything, but it brings absolutely nothing new to the table.

Trust – Wow this is a rough one. It’s about a young girl who gets tricked by an old guy online into meeting him, gets raped, and then the family tries to deal with that. It’s pretty brutally forthright with the subject matter. Uncomfortably so. I mean, if you make a movie about a creepy evil bastard who tricks/forces a little girl into sex, there are some things that have to come up. Showing the girl in this bathing suit he buys her, showing flashes of him kissing her and implications of worse. It’s really icky stuff. I don’t know how the actors did it, honestly. But then all the after stuff, is pretty honest too. A helpless dad, a family that doesn’t know what to do, and a a very very very confused girl. The girl does a pretty good job of expressing what can’t really be expressed. She defends him, she hates him, she loves me, she hates herself, it’s awful. And in the end the movie makes a really surprising choice to stick to their guns and face up to the fact that things don’t always work out. That you have to move on even though the fair thing doesn’t happen. I’d almost call it brave for a movie to make such a clearly unpopular choice. You could also call it exploitative, but let’s be generous I guess. It’s a pretty tough one, I certainly never need to see it again, but it was well done.

Paranormal Activity 2 – Didn’t like the last one, which everyone universally agrees was better than this one. So, I don’t like this one. Shocker. See my comments for any found footage horror movie ever. Copy paste.

Agora – Kind of an interesting movie, set in late 300s AD in Egypt. It shows the Christians coming to power, kicking out all the rest, and generally being fuckers. The main character is a philosopher woman (who was apparently a real person) who is eventually vilified because the bible says women are for baby making only. It’s an upsetting movie, because it’s based in reality. Christians really were fuckers (just like people in power before them). The destruction of the library is maddening (though it may not be true). It’s a pretty well done movie, though it may play with truth too loosely. The woman basically pre-discovers Galileo’s research 1300 years early. That at first annoyed me, but I suppose it’s not crazy. Some other greek philosopher pre-discovered Copernicus’ heliocentric theory 1300 years early, no one listened to him. And in the intervening years, I’m sure *someone* thought of elliptical orbits, it just didn’t “catch on” or whatever. So maybe it’s not crazy town. Anyway, decent movie!

The Warrior’s Way – Ehhhhhh. This seems like a good idea. Ninjas in the old west, awesome, right? Ehhhhhh. Not well acted, certainly. Not well scripted. Production values are ok, feel a little limited. The action is decent, it’s all slow-mo 300 style fighting, which is pretty cool. Watching the main dude take out ninja after ninja is kind of awesome. A 20 minute collection of the fights in this movie would be pretty bad ass. The movie, not so much.

TiMER – Okay, not really. It’s the future, everyone can go to the doctor and get an implant that tells them how long until they meet their soulmate. But only if the soulmate also has the implant, it stays blank until then otherwise. It’s an ok idea, I guess, pretty dorky. Besides the concept, the movie just isn’t done all that well.

Objectified – This is a documentary about industrial design. It’s a little bit in love with Apple. Granted, they are known for their industrial design. Then again, because they are known for it, people assume they are the end all, which is kind of self sustaining. It’s a kind of interesting movie, just about how people think about design. It’s a bit up it’s own butt, but it is a kind of interesting insight into the minds of designers. Worth the time if you are bored and the only movies netflix has added this week are police academy 28 and the 6th season of that show with that guy from the movie in the 80s.

Red State – This movie is basically about christian wackos. It’s sort of Kevin Smith’s version of the Waco standoff. The wackos kidnap sinners and kill them, eventually the authorities come in to stop them. That’s really all there is. People do a good job and all, but if it wasn’t Kevin Smith, I don’t think it would be a very noticeable movie. It’s got kind of an freaking awesome end to the siege, though, I’ll give it that.

Video Game Reviews @ The Temple

Okay, I’m really really behind on this. Largely due to a whole pile of indie games (damn you humble bundle!!!) that are piling up in my Steam account. That effing halloween sale didn’t help either. But, let’s make some progress. I was waiting to put more in this, but now the Thanksgiving sale happened and I am overwhelmed, I’ll push this out and do the next batch later!

Alpha Protocol – So this is basically Deus Ex. I know the most recent DE just came out, but I only buy games that are 5 bucks on steam, so I’ll get to that in a year or two. This is from a year or two ago, and it’s quite good! It was pissing me off something serious at first because it wouldn’t run. FIRST big budget game I try to play on my fancy new computer, and no dice. Letting steam do the PhysX install ended up being the secret. The game itself was actually very good. It looks great, it’s decently well acted. There’s nothing amazing about the story, it’s kind of a normalish secret agent story, but it was still good. I went half stealth half hacker, which was alright. I have the feeling that the different paths aren’t all THAT different. Hacking got me into some doors and computers more easily, but that’s only barely different than shooting everything in sight. But still, it’s fun. The action is fine, set pieces are a little monotonous, but not bad. I was actually pretty happy with this.

Amnesia: Dark Descent – And we have a new winner for scariest game I’ve ever played. Silent Hill is still up there. The difference there is perhaps that I played it on console. Playing on a huge TV from across the room just isn’t the same as a computer screen a foot away with headphones on. The first night I played in the dark too. God damn did it freak me out. It’s from the same guys who made the Penumbra series, which was alright. Those games were a bit buggy, I found I could kill bad guys by throwing boxes at them repeatedly, which ruins the suspense. What is amazing about this game is how utterly helpless you are. No weapons, you can’t run very fast, and you get scared easily. You have a health meter and a “sanity meter”. The more time you spend in the dark, the more freaked out you get. Also spooky events, and being near monsters, and looking at monsters decrease the sanity bar. You can’t fight, you can only hide, or run, but that doesn’t usually work. It’s basically a puzzle game, walking around finding the right pieces to get further into the castle. But hooboy did it scare me. More than once I considered stopping, that it wasn’t worth it. I’m sure you could play this game un-scared. Don’t put headphones on, and just blunder around. If you die, oh well, reload. But if you take just one step into that immersion and really act like you don’t want to die, it scares the bejeebus out of you.

Civ 5 – Oh look, I played a civ game again. I’m pretty sure I haven’t played since Civ2. It seems basically the same to me. I’m sure Civ experts have all kinds of opinions on how things are different, but it’s the same idea. I went through once as the Japanese on the normal difficulty, winning militarily. It wasn’t super hard. I was never in danger of extinction. Sometimes I made bad choices and started a war too early. But presto chango reload from 10 turns back and that was erased. It did kind of take over my life for a week or so, as civ tends to do. I don’t know if I’ll ever play another campaign, there’s just too much stuff to try. But christ, I got it for 7.50 on sale, I can’t really complain.

Atom Zombie Smahser – Indie game, top down looking at a few city blocks, zombies over running a city, try to get in and save as many people while fighting off the zombies. That’s a single level, many levels make up a city map and you go from place to place trying to save as many people as possible. It’s actually very fun, and pretty challenging. I only went through it once and managed to win (by getting enough points before the zombies got enough points, even though they had thoroughly destroyed most of the city). I tried to play again but found I didn’t have the patience for it. But perhaps I just have too many games to play

Hammerfight – This game is SO GREAT, but I got stuck on a level and really annoyed. It’s a physics game, but you are a little flying pod with a huge weapon attached (hammer, axe, sword). The physics come in in that you have to swing your pod around with the mouse to make the weapon swing, and then move the pod at the same time so that the swinging weapon hits similarly equipped enemies. It’s really fun and works pretty well most of the time. But then I got to this one level with a boss that can kill you in one mega-blast that he generally does right away, and I stopped. I feel like I’m missing something, how does a one-shot-kill boss make any sense? Sometimes he literally does it the moment I enter the room and I have to restart the level. I don’t understand, so I gave up, sad.

Revenge of the Titans – This is basically a tower defense game, but there’s resources involved, and research in between levels to develop new weapons. It’s pretty fun, cheesy little glowey graphics. But eventually I reached a point I couldn’t beat, and gave up. There’s a lot of that going on…

The Stanley Parable – This is actually a Half-Life 2 user add-on. It’s a very quirky little story. No fighting or actions. You are a worker in a building, and everyone disappears. You try to find out what happened. There is constant narration which tells you what to do next, unless you ignore it and do something else, in which case it gets mad at you. It’s extremely clever and very humorous. There are multiple endings depending on how you play. It’s very short, a single run through takes maybe 10 minutes. Very weird, but totally worth the time.

Event Reviews @ The Temple

As I Lay Dying – We saw this at Rogue Theater, a small theater on University. It’s a nice space, a little sterile, but fine. It’s a Falkner story, I guess, which I know nothing about. It’s a depression era type thing, about a family taking their mother to be buried. It’s a pretty sad story, the moral seems to be life sucks and then you die. For the most part the actors do a decent job. The doctor kept forgetting his lines, which was irksome, but everyone else was fine. The main guy and the daughter were maybe a bit better than the rest. Some of them, particularly the mother, the youngest son, and the religious neighbor, had a hard time deciding what their accent was. It’s supposed to be southern-ish, but it was occasionally british, or maybe scottish, I think I might have heard pirate in there. The sets were very simple, but good enough. There was an extraordinarily weird performance piece in the middle with one of the men taming a horse, but the horse was acted out by one of the women. I guess it gets points for trying something different, but it didn’t work. The musicians were extremely good, and there was a little jam session before the play started that was great too. All in all certainly a worthy experience.

Faust – Well, I tried opera again. The verdict is in – I don’t like opera. I really believe it has nothing to do with the quality. The best jazz player in the world doesn’t mean much to me, I don’t like jazz. The best opera singer in the world is still singing music I don’t like. Within the context of not at all liking the art form, this one seemed good. It’s about a dude (Faust) making a deal with the devil to regain his youth, based on some old German legend. The guy playing the devil was pretty great. He had the look, the attitude, and was my favorite voice singing music I didn’t enjoy. Everyone else seemed to do fine, though the friend, Siebel, was too quiet. In general the orchestra slightly overwhelmed the singers, really. The re-imagined opera did the AWFUL bullshit thing people do nowadays of putting words on the wall. It really annoys me, this emphasis of the themes in such a lazy way. The creator defensively points out in the program that he did not take anything out of the dialogue, that the words were purely supplementary. But I still think it’s lazy, if you can’t get your point across with just the story (and people have been doing so for almost a couple hundred years now with this opera), then you are doing a shitty job. On the flip side, the modernization was not as annoying as it often is, especially the devil in the modern context. And I thought the church and the mental ward set pieces were great. The harshness of the lights in the mental ward had a real impact. And the entire church seen was fantastic. But, it’s still an opera, oh well.

Premium Blend – This was great again! We went 2 years ago with a pair of free tickets on a whim. We missed it last year to my great dismay, but we got there this time. I think it wasn’t as good as last time, but still very good. Last time there was more variety, I feel. This time was all ballet and modern, with one exception. The opening ballet was pretty impressive. There was some girl who was maybe a big deal, but I didn’t think she was that great. The main dude was very very good, though. We were in the second row and for the first time I could see how much work the ballarinos (is that a thing?) had to do. Especially since she was kind of sucking, it was all his job to guide her and correct her spins and such. And some of the lifts were pretty impressive. The second ballet piece wasn’t so great, and had some horrendous outfits. There was an extraordinarily quirky modern thing, where the 3 dancers were a punctuation mark. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was cute. There was a reeeeeeally modern thing centered on the idea of how we order at starbucks having something to do with your personality. The dancing was good, but the theme was obnoxious. And they did all this meta stuff where the dancers talked and such. It was the worst part of the show 2 years ago when they did that, and it was this time. I’d rather dancers just dance. The stand-out was this tap/jazz/swing/ballroom thing. It was soooooo great. I don’t really love tap, I appreciate it, but I don’t end up enjoying it that much. But this was just awesome. They would all tap individually, then pair up for swing/ballroom type dancing, and go back and forth, it was freaking fantastic.