Oct 29, 2013

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

Mobster Squad – Huh, I was pretty surprised with this movie. It’s an odd one, it’s kind of a weird mix of a totally valid historical crime drama and… Dick Tracy. And I don’t think that was accidental! The whole vibe of the movie is somewhat comic bookey. Maybe that’s because Sean Penn looked really fake in his make up. Maybe it’s because there was a digital sheen to some of the scenes. I think maybe there were some all green screen environments or something, it looked computerey. But, it kind of worked. The story is somewhat superhuman, even if it is based in reality. Still not an amazing movie or anything, but cool enough.

Zero Dark Thirty – Eh. It’s really hard to come at this movie unbiased. I’m aware of the controversy around the presentation of torture. And I am made uneasy by the torture porn nature of people’s fascination with killing Bin Laden. To the best of my ability to disentangle, it seems to be a well made movie. I’m not exactly sure why it was a best picture kind of movie, but it is done well. Like it or not, the hole lead up, especially toward the end, is exciting and well paced/executed. I wasn’t as impressed with Jessica Chastain as everyone. Besides the fact that there are strong echoes of the girl from Homeland, which I’m sure is unrelated, but not coincidental, it seems like just a good job, not an amazing job. I’m also not sure why she (the character) deserves glorification. You can’t choose the one time an obsessed person succeeded and act like that justifies the behavior. Even assuming you think her quest was worth the cost, both direct and indirect (spending resources on this instead of other things), for every one of her, there’s 1000 other obsessed people who succeed only in ruining their own and other lives. It’s kind of a survivor bias, on pretty dramatic scale.

A Good Day to Die Hard – Yeah, not good, duh. Not really as bad as I expected, to be fair. Not any worse than the last one, actually, I think a little better. I don’t get why people were okay with the last one, every character besides McClane was horrendously obnoxious. At least the couple of main people in this were tolerable. Still not good, but not overtly putrid.

Pain & Gain – This here is not at all what I expected. I thought I was going to be a wacky comedy with lots of explosions. Like Bad Boys, but with less slow mo and more dick jokes. First, I didn’t know it was a true story, which is insane. Second, it’s not all that good. Maybe they were bound to a surreal story, though that’s never stopped anyone when basing a movie on real life. I don’t know, it wasn’t exciting, it wasn’t funny, it was just kind of sad.

Bullet to the Head – So, Sylvester Stallone made a non-campy action movie. It’s not that good. It’s really violent, I was pretty surprised at the viciousness of the fighting. I don’t get how he looks like that, I guess a lot of drugs, but still, jesus. But in the end it’s just a random action movie, nothing much good to say about it.

Movie 43 – This is that weird one that’s basically just a bunch of skits, really really inappropriate or offensive skits. It’s actually pretty funny. I’m not sure I’d call it a movie, it seems more like a web series. I enjoyed it, I laughed a lot, but I wouldn’t have wanted to pay money to see it (netflix doesn’t count). Still, it was pretty funny.

Olympus has Fallen – As advertised, it’s die hard in the white house. It’s not bad, but it’s not good. It’s kind of annoying in its lack of realism, but what would my brain even think that in a movie like this. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, but I’d just as soon go watch Die Hard.

Les Misérables – This movie is a bit of a mix. Honestly the whole first 1/3 or so I was kind of not digging it. I don’t love the singing from a lot of the actors, Jackman and Crowe especially. That’s surprising from Jackman, I thought he was a theater guy. But both weren’t  very good. To some extent I just didn’t love the music itself. But there were definitely some pieces that were fantastic. Against my better judgement, Anna Hathaway’s solo was astonishing. Between this and her not completely effing up cat woman, I’m pretty confused. But there were some other songs I liked a lot, the bar song and some of the crowd songs. By the time we finished, I had a pretty favorable impression of the whole thing. I’m very interested to see it live some day, hopefully with some better singers or a different style.

Cloud Atlas – I liked this movie pretty well. It’s pretty confusing, but that’s kind of the plan. I think it’s pretty well executed, and a cool story. Everyone does a good job and the movie looks pretty nice. I liked how it took a while to figure out what came after what and what the implications of each timeline were to the others. I guess the book is more linear in that each time is nested within the story of the previous one. That sounds like a cool structure too, but I was happy the movie was this way.

Our Idiot Brother – Hm, I don’t know. It’s a weird movie, it’s kind of a family drama movie, like any other. They just stick this idiot brother core in the middle of it all. He’s connected to all their shennanigans, but he’s meant to be this sort of innocent/simple person in the middle of all the silliness. It kind of works, gives the movie more than just the sameness of these kinds of movies. It’s sweet and kind of goes like you’d expect. It doesn’t really stand out, but it’s not bad.

Parker – Honestly, I waited too long to write about this one. But I’m going to guess it was Jason Statham beating the shit out of dudes and driving fast. I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it, and I’m pretty sure I can’t remember anything about it.

Video Game Reviews @ The Temple

The Walking Dead – I love TWD comic. I’ve been subscribed since the 40s or 50s, I think. It’s a crazy book with some really crazy stuff in it, but it’s very good. The TV show is hit or miss, sometimes it tries to do what the comic does and it doesn’t fit the medium. Some times it steals from the comic and that’s the only reason it’s good. It has moments of brilliance (the first episode still stands out as fantastic), but it is largely just an easier-to-digest version of something else that is better. But still, I've been waiting impatiently for this game to get cheap enough to buy it, felt like forever. It finally did, and it is very good. There are a few hiccups, but otherwise it’s one of the best games I’ve played in quite a while, or at least one of the best experiences. This is an adventure game, mostly text dialogue boxes and clicky events. It’s a tiny bit wonky, not exactly buggy, but a few funky animations or weird edits that are distracting. And there are a few times where the constraints of the game are really annoying. Sometimes you don’t know a decision is going to mean what it means. There were times when I didn’t want to do something, but it was the only choice. I’m yelling to myself that I should just do this instead of that, but that’s not an option. That’s an inherent flaw to these kinds of games. But to be fair it doesn’t happen that often in the main game. It happens a couple times in quick succession in 400 Days, which was more frustrating. But besides those issues, as an experience and a story, the game is fantastic. The main story is really captivating, and plays out with a style reminiscent of the comics. I was completely wrapped up in the characters and some decisions were truly hard. There are moments that are oddly introspective. It’s just a game, none of these people are real, but the good/bad decisions were so much more weighty than silly Mass Effect style morality scales. I’ve not played any game that dealt with moral decisions in such a real and non-quantitative way. You don’t have 5 good points and 10 bad points. You just make a decision, and that has consequences. That, again, can be frustrating when you feel like you were forced to choose between 2 stupid choices. But most of the time it feels real and important. There are also moments that are heartbreaking. The kid in the attic? Man, that got to me pretty good. This game told a story like most games never can, better than a lot of other story-telling media for that matter. I’m super happy I finally played it.

X-Com: Enemy Unknown – Another game I’ve been waiting to go on sale. This one is a lot of fun. It couldn’t be much more different than TWD. It is certainly a game, very light on the story. Aliens attack. Then you kill them. End of story. The game is fun. I was never crazy into the tactical turn based stuff in the good old days. I’m not even sure I ever played an X-Com. I played others, jagged alliance for instance. But it is a lot of fun. I, thank jesus, did not play on ironman. I was actually considering it, but boy that would have been a bad idea. Too much unknown stuff that would have destroyed me. Even going through again, which I may or may not do (maybe I’ll wait for the DLC), I’m not sure I could pull off ironman. So, given that I had the opportunity to reload a mission if I really borked it, the game was great. It looks good and plays well. There’s a good amount of variety in what you can build and use to change up your squad. Though honestly I ran out of time and resources to diversify much, and ended up focusing on stuff I thought worked. But it was still a lot of fun, just not enough for me to sink another 25 hours in without the added content of DLC. So hopefully when that gets cheap in 6 months I’ll come back and play again.

Orcs Must Die 2 – Meh, this was kind of disappointing. I loved the first game. It was cute and funny, but a new kind of game play that was a blast. This one, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to add anything new. I played as the girl, because I liked her charm person spell more than I liked headshots. But besides that the game played out exactly like the last one. Maybe I didn’t explore enough into some of the new traps, but they didn’t seem that interesting. There were new weapons and buffs, but still nothing that cool. I used charm person, wind belt, barricades, dwarves, elves and acid spray. Throw in a spike plate or a freeze vent here and there, but still nothing new. I didn’t have that much fun, I just wanted to get through it. It’s not that they did anything wrong, I guess I just didn’t need more of the same, bummer.

Shank & Shank 2 – These games are side-scrolling beat em ups. It’s pretty violent, that’s kind of its thing. The art is stylized and cool. The two games play very similarly, though the second one is much much improved. I kind of wish I never played the first one, just the second, I think I might have a more favorable impression. Not that the first one was super bad, the second one was just much more polished. Though the games were well done, I wasn’t super into them. I was pretty ready to get done, even though they each only lasted 3 or so hours. Of course you could go back and do trophies and harder modes and getting costumes. I did not.

Aquaria – This is basically Metroid underwater. It’s really well done, actually. It looks nice, has its own aesthetic, is fairly intuitive. So if you are in to the Metroid thing, then it’s pretty good. And doing the whole thing underwater is an interesting gimmick. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up loving it. Partially, the metroid thing is just tiresome. All the back tracking and wandering around trying to see what key I have for what door is boring. Eventually I ended up looking online for walkthroughs because I just didn’t want to spend hours searching every corner until I found the right place. I’m not sure if it’s just me, or if the game is somehow boring, I’m going to assume the former, because I think it was very well done.

Terraria – Not sure how to decide when to review this. I guess now that I’m bored? It’s 2D minecraft. It’s fun, it’s endless, I started building a little community of houses, I started digging deep into the earth, then I got bored. And then the October update just happened to come out, but then I bought a couple games on Steam and haven’t played it since. It’s fun and all, but just like Minecraft I didn’t have the patience to go too far. Maybe I’ll poke my head back in later.

Papers Please – This game is great. You are an inspector at a border checkpoint for some ex-russian bloc type country. Nominally you are just doing your job, checking passports, looking for discrepancies, etc. With each day on the job, there’s an increasing number of rules, required documentation, etc. But you have a family, and rent and food is effing expensive. So maybe you take a bribe here or there to help keep the heat on. Then someone shows up with a sob story, needs to get into the country or some horrible thing will happen, but if you do that, you’ll get punished. And there’s some rebels, you can choose to help them or report them. There’s all these little choices, I guess there’s 20 different endings, I only got about 4. But you certainly get in to it, I got very single minded about my goals. Toward the end, when someone showed up with bad docs and was wasting my time when I could be processing more people (and therefore making more money), I literally said “Well then get the fuck out of my country".” Out loud. Great game.

Oct 28, 2013


Pretty freaking cool video of all in-camera effects. I think it’s basically really good timing the robots holding the panels, the camera, and the projectors. But it’s extraordinarily well executed.