Oct 10, 2015

Comic Reviews

Promethea – This is an Alan Moore comic, I haven’t really read much of him besides Watchman. He has a long prose introduction that I actually thought was quite good. It is supposedly a history of this character Promethea in fiction which I had assumed to be true but turns out is all made up for the comic. The intro is not at all Alan Moore-ey, its reasoned and thoughtful. He makes up a terrible racist character in an early-1900s version of the story, which is weird to do when it’s not real. But he’s trying to make up a history of this character that reflects the world it was written in, which is actually pretty interesting. Unfortunately, to me, the rest of the book doesn’t live up to the intro. I only got Book 1, maybe the rest are better, but I wasn’t super into the story. The art is pretty good, bright and colorful and my style. But the mechanics of the plot were kind of sleepy. Not good enough to make me track down the other books.

Kill Shakespeare – This sounded cool, but ended up boring. It’s like Fables (or Once Upon a Time, for lame people), except with Shakespeare characters. They all exist in a shared world, interacting in various ways. I don’t know that stuff at all well enough to compare these versions of them to the classic version, but it’s kind of neat. And then there’s a mysterious Shakespeare who is maybe the creator or maybe a wizard or maybe a god and different people have different plans regarding him. That all sounds like a cool setup. But I read the whole first trade and I’m not interesting in reading the rest. It was okay, just not that interesting and didn’t keep me around.

Beautiful Darkness – This is one of the weirdest comics I’ve ever read. It’s an “anti-fairy tale”. Which basically means a dark and effed up story. A bunch of people, kids maybe, I’m not sure, get shrunk down to bug size and have to survive. There’s not much of a story, the pages feel kind of nonsequitor. But it does some pretty disturbing things, and the worst part of it is it’s very very casual about it. A person will die in an icky way, and then next panel, like no big deal. That is clearly on purpose, in contrast with its very cutesy art style. I guess it succeeds in what it’s trying to do, but what it’s trying to do is pretty weird. Not sure I exactly enjoyed it, though it was interesting.

Black Science – Read the first collected edition of this. It’s kind of a wacky scifi, other dimensions kind of story. The art style feels pretty frenetic, which suits the pace. It’s a little bloody, but not crazy. It’s very in media res, but you catch up pretty easily. It throws a lot out in the first 6 issues, and plows through its characters pretty relentlessly. Not sure how the next books will go, but I think I’m in to it.

Manhattan Projects – If I hadn’t also just read Beautiful Darkness, I would say this is a very weird book. It is still weird, just in a different way. It’s an alternate history of the Manhattan Project, wherein pretty much everyone is a psychopath. Einstein is some sort of evil version, some other guy is a skeleton made out of plasma or something, Oppenheimer is a replaced by his multiple personality, cannabalistic twin. So fucking weird. It feels like a really dark version of Atomic Robo, in that it’s set in the past, but there’s a lot of future tech, portals, lasers, etc. It’s pretty crazy, but I really like it, going to get more.

Book Reviews

Speaker for the Dead – I read this a few years ago, but I re-read a few months after re-reading Ender’s Game. The book is really really good. My faint, probably wrong, memory of my first reading of the two books is that I like them equally, for very different reasons, with the slight edge toward Ender. The second time around, Ender is very cool and still has the best twist around, but is just cool. Fun, interesting, actioney, cool. Speaker is really special, though. The idea of a speaker is very powerful. The idea of understanding someone so deeply you can accept even their tragic flaws, even their evilness. Ender is a bit of a superhero, and his superpower is borderline-omniscient insight, it’s a bit much. But otherwise it’s really good. The different perspective of different people and species, none of which are wrong, but which may be incompatible, that’s all very interesting. The idea of understanding why a person acts a way is valuable to me. I’m not quite so magnanimous in real life, there are still plenty of people who need to be dead, and plenty who I just don’t want anywhere near me. But I do, as a rule, try to understand where people are coming from and forgive brief transgressions. Everyone can have a bad day, the dude who cut you off could have just endured a tragedy. Or maybe he’s just an asshole. But neither reality will change your day, so let it float on past. That’s moving past the philosophy of understanding why people are the way they are and into how to be happier yourself, but it all seems related to me. Anyway, it’s a really good book with some really good ideas. How can such a progressive set of thinking be written by such a flaming bigot? I don’t get it.

Bean Quartet – I listened to the 4 books written about Bean, in the Ender universe. I did not really like them. I’m very unsure why I got all the way to the end of them, except that I mostly listened to them while I played video games and so didn’t take up too much of my life. The first one is just an echo of Ender’s Game, but not a very good one. The whole thing with Bean is extraordinarily dumb. People have been making genetically engineered super people for ever in science fiction. No one has made a genius baby that hides in toilets. So dumb. Him being a genius all through battle school is so annoying. I’m not at all on his side because I can’t stand him. It’s kind of cool to have an outside perspective on Ender, but not cool enough. A character who is just so ahead of everything and everyone because he’s so damn smart is really annoying. Then the rest of the books are a mess. The second one was okay at first because there was a lot of global politics stuff. Imagining a different world and the wars and such is a fun exercise. But then half the book is boring bullshit stuff with Petra. And the whole denouement is all about saving a girl? What? I guess there’s this whole arc where Bean learns to value love and family over the concerns of the world, but that seems remarkably dumb. And to end a book saving a princess is so ick. And then the next book is so much teenage angst and drama. The fourth book at least bothers to wrap up the story, but I could have read the short story outline and been just as happy.

Wool – This book is kind of a rollercoaster for me. It’s a post-apocalyptic thing people are living in an underground silo because the world has gone to shit. It starts out fantastic. The first 5 chapters are an amazing reversal of your expectations in this kind of book, and it totally had me going. Then it gets boring for a while, then some cool stuff happens. Then I get real frustrated with the characters, then it’s cool again. Then it’s boring for a while, then it gets exciting again, and then it ends pretty lame. I can think of a 1 page chapter that would have been a much more compelling end without really changing anything. I guess I don’t really like neatly tied up ends. Anyway, it sounds like I’m complaining, but it’s really pretty good, it just has some slogs in it.

The Martian – Well, this is exactly as good as everyone says. Funny, captivating, interesting, scientifically legit (at least to the extent I can judge, which is pretty limited). People have been talking about it since it was a little indie website thing, I just never quite got around to it. But with the movie people are freaking out and I didn’t want the spoils, so I finally read it. It’s pretty great. I guess it falls into a pretty predictable pattern of: holy shit! gonna die. But what if I. Phew, that was close. Holy shit! But that’s okay, that’s kind of the shtick, and it’s a fun one from beginning to end.

Movie Reviews

Nightcrawler – Wow, I really liked this movie. It’s about an aimless dude who stumbles into a job where you go to accident/crime scenes and film stuff to send to local news. That escalates to perhaps over the top levels, but it’s still really good. It’s a horrendously creepy job and Jake Gyllenhaal plays a horrendously creepy dude. I love the look of the movie, it feels like the 80s, dark and kind of grimy and lit by street lights. It’s a wonder how the movie is so captivating when everything about it is so gross. I was disgusted but totally taken.

The Kingsmen – Pretty cool movie. It’s pretty violent. The action is for the most part slick and cool. They push it too far in more than one instance. The people stretch and move in clearly digital ways and it takes you out of the badassery. It’s mostly good, but there’s at least 5 instances of meh. The movie walks a weird line, it’s mostly trying to be badass and cool, but then occasionally, and especially toward the end, goes totally campy. It’s funny, for the most part, but is kind of weird. But it’s pretty cool overall.

Extracted – This is an indie-ish movie about a dude who invents a machine that can go into people’s memories. It’s used for a not so nice reason and gets him stuck in a not so good situation. The rest of the movie is figuring that out and trying to get out. It’s a neat idea, and I can’t say there’s anything in particular wrong with the movie. At the same time, I was kind of bored. Not sure why, maybe the pacing was off, maybe the main dude was just too bland. I did like the end, and just the discussion of what memory really is, that was a cool aspect.

Man with the Iron Fists 2 – Holy crap is this bad. I thought I remember liking the first, but I could be wrong and I can’t find a review. But this is terrible. No one expects the acting to be good, and it isn’t. Probably the writing will suck, and it does. You might hope that the story is decent, but no dice. But it’s a kung fu movie, all those things are forgivable if you serve up some proper ninja shit. They did not. At first I thought maybe just RZA was terrible, he’s not a ninja anyway. But then everyone else is bad too. The choreography is so boring. So simple, it’s like they are running through practices they just learned last week, you can see them thinking about the next move. Really bad.

Blackhat – Holy shit. So, basically, some one read the headline for a story on Stuxnet and was like “woah, someone should make a movie about that”. And then they read LITERALLY NOTHING ELSE ABOUT HACKING EVER. Well, that’s not fair, they did google “top 20 hacking buzzwords”, and then used half of them wrong. Like straight up, did you even google how RAT is usually used, wrong. And then that’s all just a flimsy excuse for an action movie. Dumb.

Seventh Son – Okay, first of all I thought this was based on the Orson Scott Card book. It’s not, it’s based on another book of a different name. Kinda shady to name your movie the same thing as another guy’s book. But, OSC is an asshole, so I don’t care. The movie is terrible, btw. The effects are actually good, a lot of the setup seems like it should be good. But only if no one moves. As soon as they start moving, and especially when they start talking, yikes. Not good.

Starman – This is an old 80s movie I never saw. Alien comes to earth, takes the shape of a widow’s dead husband, then they have to get off the Earth before the big bad military stops them. It’s pretty good, I’m not sure why Jeff Bridges got an oscar nomination, it’s good but it’s not amazing, he’s mostly just trying to act like he can’t speak very well. But still, it’s a good movie, dated in lots of ways, but good.

Jupiter Ascending – Yikes, not so good. For some reason I put this and Interstellar in the same bucket in my head. Interstellar was pretty great, minus the end. This was pretty terrible, including the end. It’s really a teenie bopper fantasy movie, except in space. Princesses and evil villains and quests. Except all the CG is bad, and the acting is bad. The story is pretty bad. The universe is okay, it could have worked, but it ends up being kind of forced. Not so good.

American Sniper – This movie is hard to watch. I found it pretty impossible to separate my reaction to the movie from America’s reaction to the movie. I’m very uncomfortable glorifying a professional killer. And that’s no comment on him. I don’t know if it’s true, but I can imagine that a person in that situation is only interested in making the choices that save as many of his friends as possible, and that seems pretty reasonable. But so much of the reaction to this movie is what a bad ass killer of ay-rabs he is, it’s very icky. To be fair, the movie itself shows conflict in that role, he does struggle with the reality of both war and life at home, and I think that’s really valuable. But my brain can’t ignore the jingoistic blind patriotism that surrounded this movie and this man, and that’s hard to except. Separate from all that, the movie is done pretty well. Well, except the baby, yeah, that was terrible.

Kill Me Three Times – I didn’t get this movie. It’s very quirky, not in a cute way, more like a british gangster movie. But it didn’t catch me at all. I can’t say what was wrong with it, just that I was sufficiently uninterested that I didn’t even want to disentangle the plot, which wasn’t that complicated. Oh well.

Ex Machina – I like this movie. It draws things out too much, because you can see what’s happening faster than the people in it. But as an outline it’s pretty good. I don’t enjoy the end, but I can’t say that it’s bad, they didn’t make an wrong choice, I just didn’t like it! But that’s focusing on 5 minutes I didn’t like when I liked all the rest of the minutes quite a bit.

Dumb and Dumber To - Nope.

Exodus: Gods and Kings – Meh. I’m not really sure what the point of this is. It’s not an earnest biblical movie, it’s far too shiny (literally, it’s grimey shine, but it’s still shine), too flashy (metaphorically). If it’s an action movie, well, I don’t know, just make an action movie. Although, probably should make a better one than this. If it’s a biblical movie, it should feel a lot more biblical, less like a straight to DVD 300 sequel. I feel like the whole point was just to see the plagues, and then the red sea, and those were somehow underwhelming. At first I hated the representation of god, but then the idea of a petulant foot stomping child kind of grew on me. It might be my favorite part of the movie.

Hector and the Search for Happiness – This is pretty good, but pretty weird. Like that Walter Mitty movie, the mixing of reality and fantasy is more frustrating than fun for me. I know I’m supposed to just enjoy the story, but I kept getting distracted by how it would be realistic for 20 minutes, then be a little nuts for a while. But still, it’s fun, I like it.

Wet Hot American Summer – I had never seen this, but watched it so I could see the netflix show. I wasn’t not impressed by either. The ads for the show were hilarious, but I guess that was all their hilariousness. It’s meant to be extremely wacky, I guess racey. But it just seemed stupid for the most part. You can only get so funny by being crazy and “oh my god no they didn’t”. I guess that used to work, I guess that’s Anchorman. But this didn’t work at all. I was so bored by the end of the show.

Taken 3 – I don’t know, it’s even less interesting that the 2nd one. Him being a badass was only awesome because it was so unexpected and therefore cool. Continuing to do that for 4 additional hours is super boring.

Jack the Giant Slayer – This started out pretty bad. It never got good, but it got better at least. But at first it’s objective terrible. The acting, the writing, the CG, oh man. About half way through it gets a little better, maybe I was just distracted by the plot, simple as it was. The second half is just kind of an average kid-friendly action movie. Nothing much to it.

It Follows – I guess I see why this was received well. It’s not like the writing or performances are particularly wonderful. And the hook is just as lame as any other hook, maybe even a little lamer, trying to exploit our love of seeing people doing it. But the pace of the movie is good. Though it has it’s moments, it is by no means relying on scares or gore to keep your attention. It is more thriller than horror often, so it gets points for that.

Woman in Gold – It’s hard for me to judge this movie, because I disagree with the lady. I think the movie is pretty well done. They have a simple job, just tell her admittedly remarkable story and don’t fuck it up. They don’t fuck it up. I have a problem with her not because I think she’s crazy or bad. Her story is tragic and representative of endless tragic stories to come out of that war. I just have a problem locking pieces of art away in private collections. Not a lot can trump the suffering of a victim of that war, but, to me, iconic elements of the cultural history of an entire people should be shared, not in your living room.

The Theory of Everything – Pretty good. I didn’t know much about his story, just the broadest outlines. This filled it in pretty well, and everyone does a good job. You have to wonder how much of it is smoothed over. I guess it’s mostly based on his first wife’s book, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all truth. But whatever, I don’t care about all the salacious stuff. He changed physics. Someone else would have if he hadn’t, but as it happens he did it, so that’s worth something. Cool to see the story of how it happened.

Jul 12, 2015

Video Game Reviews

Dark Souls – I tried. I really tried. In fact, I tried an extra couple of nights just out of stubbornness, because I knew it has such a reputation for being impossible. But, it wasn’t that it was impossible, or at least I hadn’t gotten to the impossible part yet. It was pretty hard, and there are basically no instructions, which is just stupid and frustrating, not fun and discoverable. But anyway, it was just SO GRINDY. As often as I die, that’s hard, but having to kill the same 10 guys over and over and over to level up or to buy equipment. There’s a god damn crest that requires 20k darksoulsbucks. That’s like 10 grinding outings. I don’t have the patience for that. I’m 14 hours in to the game and probably less than 1/5, judging by the gamefaqs. If we assume linearity, this is not 50-hours-worth fun, so, I gave up. Bummer.

The Bureau: XCom Declassified – So this is the much maligned FPS version of XCom. A travesty on the face of it (turning a classic game with a classic gameplay to just another squad based shooter). It’s not actually all that bad. In terms of story, I like it. It’s simple, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The revelation, choice, and fallout toward the end are pretty neat. It is very much in the style of XCom, with a team of rando soldiers, except your main guy, going off on missions. It’s not nearly so expansive, but it has that feel. Sadly, the soliders are terrible. It really kind of defeats the point of your squad based shooter if your sqaud will not STAND THE FUCK STILL instead of running into enemy arms every 5 minutes. It wasn’t a problem until the end, but the last couple levels when it gets more difficult it’s damn annoying for them to repeatedly ignore your stay put orders. But still, I was expecting little, and I got a bit more than that, not bad.

Ride ‘Em Low – Nah. I played for about 5 minutes. I must have gotten this in a bundle? I have no idea. The menus are too slow to navigate, you can’t use a controller, it all feels clunky. Only took a race for me to stop.

Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara – This was the remake from a few years ago of the old arcade D&D game. I have fond memories of the game. Unfortunately, it’s pretty boring by yourself. It’s got online coop, but it didn’t connect to any games. Maybe no one is playing anymore. Maybe it was broke for some reason. I played through the Mystara campaign, it was kind of fun, but not nearly as much as with people. It also comes with an older version, which I switched to but got bored with. Kind of a waste of 5 bucks :/

Miasmata – This is a game made by a couple of guys, small in scope but pretty cool. It’s first person, you wake up on an island with a disease. Your goal is to cobble together the ingredients for the cure. You find out what they are by finding journals from dead scientists around the island, you also find ingredients for other medicines to keep you going. It’s kind of a survival game, you are just wandering around finding ingredients, water, sleep, and avoiding a beast that I’m pretty sure you can’t fight against (even though you can throw things and there’s knives and axes). You have to figure it out cold, which I usually don’t have the patience for, but it’s not super complicated, so I did this time. You can find maps that fill out your world map, but otherwise you have to triangulate off of known landmarks to find where you are, to expose new parts of the map, and to mark the location of unfound (but visible) landmarks on the map without finding them. It’s a little finnicky and leads to some cheating (scanning the tree line until your cursor changes), but it’s pretty neat. There’s a lot of dying at first, but once you get the framework it’s okay. Eventually it gets a bit boring, because you are just doing the same thing over and over on a different part of the island. But it mostly works, and I pushed through to the end. Pretty cool.

Magic 2014 – Ah magic. Same ole same ole. Fun for all the same reasons, kind of boring for all the same reasons. I played through the main campaign. I got really really stuck on one fight, with some rats. I resorted to googling, but it didn’t tell me any different than i was already trying. It gave me a reason to keep trying (that it would eventually work), but at that point I was just restarting the duel over and over until I got one of a very small subset of draws that would set me up to win. That’s not fun, that’s just dumb. The rest of the battles were good. The last one was fun because it was 2 on 1 and I did pretty well on the first try, which was probably a good draw too. Didn’t have the energy to do any of the bonus stuff, re-battles and such. But it was a fun distraction.

Survivor Squad – This game is pretty fun, but it’s actually just too hard for me, or I’m too impatient. It’s a top down squad game, you move 4 little people around and survive zombies. You run around and search for supplies. Supplies are actually in really short supply, that’s the hard part. Some of the levels are do-able, but the ones with infinite zombies until you kill a source are pretty hard when there’s multiple sources. It’s fun, I just got sick of dying, oh well.

7 Grand Steps Step 1 – This is kind of a board game. You move characters along an arc with tokens, picking up jewels or whatever to advance the game. It’s generational, so at some point on the board they die and you have to have had kids and given them tokens to get them good at… getting more tokens. It’s pretty repetitive after a while. By the time I got to the last ring I was pretty bored. You can fail at the last ring and drop a level, then earn your way back up and try again. After twice at that I didn’t have the patience to do it again, so, I guess I lose.

Jamestown – Rando little Gladius type game. Nice pixel style art, some attempt at a story but I don’t know why. Game is very short, just a few base levels, with the intention for a lot of replayability, re-doing the levels at harder levels, unlocking bonus levels and such. But that would require a lot more time to get good, so nah.

Defense Technica – Pretty blatant Defense Grid ripoff. I think I was the only person who didn’t think Defense Grid was awesome. And this is just a ripoff, so… It was okay for a few levels, but I got bored super quick.

Movie Reviews

Avengers 2 – Well, it’s pretty good. Like, 80% of the movie is pretty great. Fun fights, pretty funny, engaging, all that stuff. The amazingness of seeing comics coming to life is wearing off, which means you really gotta be good now. And jokes about Banner’s face falling into Black Widows cleavage… aren’t. There were at least a handful of really low brow stupid jokes in here. It felt very sitcomey and lame and my biggest fear for what will become of the Marvel movies. Lame jokes, flat characters, interspersed with bad ass fights. You know, Transformers. The first Avengers movie, plot wise, was boring, I don’t care about Loki or alien invasions. But it was the biggest most successful (in every way) comic book movie ever, so it got a pass. I don’t care about Ultron either, honestly I’m not that much of an avengers person at all. But since the X comics have been relegated to the fox ghetto, and those movies aren’t nearly as good, I’ll takes what I can gets. Still, don’t care about Ultron, so this is just filler to me. I really need them to make Infinity Gauntlet before all this goes to shit. And I’m sure it will, you just can’t put out as many movies as they are planning to put out and not have them go to shit, it’s some sort of fundamental law. So, please, please, get to Dr. Strange, and get to the Infinity movies. Make them amazing, and then the rest can blow, and I will feel happy.

The Imitation Game – This is quite good. This is the one about Turing cracking Enigma. I really like pretty much everyone’s performance. I don’t know how it matches to reality. I know, on a technical level, some of the things they threw out like Heil Hitler and the problem of Enigma are accurate. But historically I don’t really know. Aspergers/Autism is the new… I don’t know, thing that was popular a little bit ago. So this emphasizes that quite a bit, but I’m sure it’s accurate. The gay aspect is horrendous and I’m glad they didn’t shy away from addressing it, it’s sad and depressing and it happened and you should face it. He won’t be the last important person or genius to be destroyed by people being despicable.

Big Hero 6 – This is a lot of fun. I didn’t realize it was a super hero comic, I thought it was a robot comic. I guess it’s both, but I like both parts. It’s very funny, sweet. Not sure if I’d go read the comic, I think the movie is enough, but it’s cool.

Expendables 3 – I guess. I liked the first one, as stupid as it was. The second one was just too much, too stupid. This one they seemed to learn that they aren’t very good writers or funny or anything except explosions. But that’s good news. The fights are over the top and ridiculous, but entertaining. I like how in the end when everyone is fighting, they don’t even pretend to have the good guys start to lose each battle and then come back and win. They just beat the living shit out of everyone from beginning to end, fun stuff. They few times they try to be funny it’s horrible, but the rest of the time it’s fine.

Top Five – This isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, I had a strong sandler feeling going in. It opens with Rock literally just doing stand-up, pretending it’s a conversation. That happens many times, and it’s terrible (it’s pretty bad comedy, but it’s terrible shoehorned into a movie). The plot is… meh, pretty boring, pretty standard romance underneath a layer of realty show parodying. There are some funny parts, more than I expected, but still not great.

Lucy – No. Just, no no no. For fuck’s sake no. This movie is shockingly dumb, astonishingly dumb. When will people learn. If you want to have super powers, make some bullshit up. Call it an x-gene, call it midichlorians, call it a heisenberg compensator. Do not propagate a bullshit myth about our brain capacity and act like even if it was true you could somehow see wavelengths our eye is not capable of seeing, or interact with electromagnetic waves (even “simple” ones, whatever the fuck that means), or make computers work faster just because your HANDS FLOP ON THE KEYBOARD REAL FAST. Jesus christ. Literally the worst movie I’ve seen in a very long time.

Storage 24 – Rando monster movie. People trapped in a storage facility. Crazy monster starts killing. Nothing much to say about it. Feels kind of like a TV movie, but it’s not bad, it just doesn’t have anything different.

4:44: Last Day on Earth – So, through the king of all mcguffins, the word is going to end in a few hours, due to global warming, at exactly 4:44. That’s pretty dumb, on many levels, but it’s a setup for what would people do with their last day. Turns out, not much. They do it a little, they cry, they yell at each other a lot. They don’t act very well or have very good scripts, apparently. It feels kind of like a play, very localized, meant to be a character study, except the characters are kinda obnoxious so who gives a shit.

The Book Of Life – This is an animation based on Mexican cultural stuff surrounding death. I’m not sure how much it’s based on real stuff, except that there is a day of the dead. It sounds like La Muerta is kind of real, but is more of a grim reaper. And Xibalba is a place, not so much a dude, so…. But anyway, it’s loosely based on all that. I thought it was pretty great. It has a handful of faults, chief among them the very gendered character design of the main people, both men and women. That’s frustrating. But the character design everywhere else is actually awesome. The whole look of the movie is fantastic. The story is nothing fancy, kind of standard cartoon story in mexican clothing, but still good enough. I thought it was pretty funny too. All in all, pretty good.

Dracula Untold – Meh. Not bad, I guess, but really uninteresting. I guess it’s kind of cool, the way they motivate Dracula’s origin. But that’s only kind of cool, and the rest of the movie is pretty plain. There’s some neat fighting with this dracula powers, but not too much.

John Carter – Also meh. I guess it could have been ok? There are some creative stuffs in there. I like the idea that he’s badass because of gravity or whatever, but it doesn’t hold together in any logical sense. I like the alien design and factions, but it doesn’t end up mattering a lot. In the end is a pretty average scifi action movie. If it didn’t have the notoriety of being a flop, I’d think it was just random.

Into The Woods – Not good! What the crap, why does everyone love this? There’s, like, one good song in this entire movie. Literally, when it happened I said “Hey, I actually like this song”, because it was the ONLY TIME! I like the idea behind the movie, and the structure is fine enough, though I’m not so sure about the last 30 minutes. But it’s a musical, and a musical full of songs that suck…. sucks.

Whiplash – Pretty good movie. Kind of insane, especially because I’m told it’s not so crazy off of real life. Can’t imagine people being so nuts, but I guess it happens. Besides that, it’s really well done. It’s mostly about the two guys just acting at each other the whole time, and they do a pretty good damn job. No complaints.

Apr 27, 2015

Video Game Reviews

Spore – It’s been a long time since this came out, just getting to it. I do seem to remember people saying it wasn’t very good, that it was like 5 meh games cobbled together. That’s true. It’s like a couple of boring wander-around-and-eat-things games, then a couple civ games, and a 5X game. The 5X game is the only one that is remotely interesting, but it isn’t deep enough to last. I did all the standard stuff in the space section, I did not beat the Grox, it is just too much work. And the work is monotonous. Making money is boring, diplomacy is boring, war is boring. I like the size of the galaxy, there’s just not enough to do that isn’t repetitive. Oh well.

Offspring Fling! – This is a silly little puzzle platformer. It reminds me of super meat boy. But the game mechanism is that you pick up little baby version of you and chuck them around. It’s simple, straightforward, short, cute. It’s really just a flash game, I’m sure I got it as part of a humble bundle. But it was an okay palette cleanser after Spore before playing something bigger in scope.

The Basement Collection – This is a collection of simple games developed by the same person/people who made super meat boy. It might just be a bunch of flash games packaged into a group, I’m not sure. It is kind of fun, they are all simple. Some are very confusing and I couldn’t figure out. Some I played through. Fun distraction, not much else.

Alan Wake – This game didn’t really work for me. The mechanic is theoretically cool – enemies are harmed (or made vulnerable) by light. So there’s a lot of playing with that. I don’t feel like it’s super successful in making you scared of the dark, because you are forced to spend so much time there. Instead you are just using light as bullets (in addition to actual bullets), instead of running from light to light, though that does happen too. The story is kind of boring, didn’t catch my attention, so the game felt long. The game is fairly well done, it just wasn’t great for me.

Mark Ecko’s Getting Up – Nope. Much too frustrating to try to play in 2015. In my defense, it’s not because it’s old, it’s because it’s a terrible port. I can forgive it looking kind of assey. I can forgive it for the UI interaction being slow and clunky. I can’t forgive making no effort to map the controls to mouse and keyboard. Or not letting you reassign buttons. Or even change mouse sensitivity. Or that the camera spends more time glitching on wall boundaries than being useful. I didn’t even get two hours in, I have too many games to play to waste time on this one.

Stronghold Crusader HD – Another game I couldn’t get into. I got like four missions in and gave up. I didn’t even lose the last mission, it was just such slow going I couldn’t keep going. It’s also kind of oldish, but I struggle to think I would have enjoyed it then. It’s a pretty slow-paced RTS. It takes forever to gather resources, to grow a city, to build an army. The interface is janky, the battles are super frustrating. I feel like a modern version of this might be decent, but I wouldn’t risk it unless it was super cheap (and right now it’s $50, so, no thanks).

Hacker Evolution – This is a weird little game. It’s a faux hacker game, entirely run on a command line, which is neat. The “hacking” is really just three commands – to decrypt (whatever that means), to crack a password, or to apply an exploit. The game is to figure out, from files and clues, what servers to look for and hack. It’s simple, but different. You have money to upgrade equipment and manage your “trace”, which is basically health. It’s a bit hard because there’s only a subset of paths through the game (don’t buy too much stuff, don’t hack unnecessary servers) for which you will have enough money to make it. And as far as I can tell you can’t go back a level to undo spending too much money. At the end of the game, I literally sold off all my equipment to reduce my trace enough to win (including my storage space, despite the fact that one of the conditions of winning was taking a file that resided in said storage space…). If that hadn’t worked, and my only choice was to start from the beginning, I would have found an alternative choice called uninstall.

Rochard – This is a little side scrolling platformer. You have a gravity gun from Half Life, basically. You mess with gravity, solve some puzzles, shoot some bad guys (or, preferably, obviously, throw things at them), beat the bad guy, game over. Only took a few hours to run through, nothing amazing, but a few fun mechanics, fun game.

Sol: Exodus – This game got terrible reviews. It’s an indie space shooter. I didn’t think it was that awful. It doesn’t feel that great, but it’s not awful. But then two missions in the game decided to delete my save. No messages, no crashes. I finished a mission, it went to load the next level, but instead loaded the main menu with my save deleted. Not interested enough to play through even just those 2 levels to get back to where I was. Oh well.

The Void – I don’t know, man. It’s got great user reviews, people think it’s so clever. I find it super opaque and frustrating. Not interesting enough for me to push through that and figure out the dang game. I almost uninstalled, then gave it another shot, still had no idea what was going on, so removed it. Sorry, maybe I’m just too impatient lately.

Antichamber – This is a neat little first person puzzler. The graphics are very simple, kind of line drawings. The mechanic is a gun that can pick up and put down little colored blocks. As the gun advances it gains more control (duplicating blocks, making them move around, etc). It’s pretty interesting, pretty challenging. I figured most of it out, but struggled at the end. Had to use walkthroughs to figure out a handful of the puzzles. Maybe I would have gotten them eventually, but definitely not in the time it would have taken to lose interest, so I feel like it was a good call.

The Ship – This is a multiplayer game from a few years ago. You are on a ship, you are given a target. Everyone else has a target, someone has you. You wander around trying to look innocent, tracking down your prey and killing them with a variety of weapons you find laying around the ship. But don’t let the crew or security or cameras see you. I only played once and I’m honestly not sure if I was playing against humans. It might have all been bots. I won, which makes me think it was bots. Or maybe it’s so old that only people who aren’t very good are playing. It was kind of neat, probably a good party game, I might play it once more, but that’s about it.

Apr 26, 2015

Movie Reviews

Boyhood – Waaaaiiiit…. people thought this was good? This was terrible. Like, objectively terrible. There are some subjective things, like maybe you like slice of life more than I do. Maybe you like just a story about a family more than I do. But there are objectively terrible things. No one wants to hear high schoolers opine about life. And sure as fuck no one wants to hear those high schoolers become college kids and start talking like philosopher potheads. Holy christ that was painful. Also, there was one scene in the middle where the kid is talking to the mom and the camera is cutting back and forth and it was literally the most stilted awkward poorly written poorly acted 15 seconds I’ve ever seen in a professional movie.

Gone Girl – Yikes, that’s a bummer. This movie is pretty distressing. No way to say why without giving it away, I guess. It’s a good story, the first half keeps you wondering, the second half is kind of bananas. Then end is just plain unsettling. It’s all a bit over the top, unrealistic. But it’s pretty good.

Birdman – Sad face, this wasn’t as great as I had hoped/heard. It was good, I guess, but not at all amazing. The faux one shot thing is very cool from a filmmaking perspective, but that only lasts about 30 minutes. I love the idea of the movie, and as far as I can tell all the pieces are good. But somehow it just didn’t hit me. It felt kind of like the Wrestler, that’s a weird comparison, but tracking a sad washed up kind of delusional dude, it seemed familiar. And I loved the Wrestler. But this was just, okay. Sad.

Godzilla – Meh. They forgot to put Godzilla in their godzilla movie. Okay, I guess he’s there a little bit. And the reversal of expectations regarding his purpose is actually cool. A number of things are decently well done. But too much of the movie is spent staring at people staring at screens that give them information about Godzilla. Not enough actual godzilla.

Art and Craft – I’m very torn on this story. It’s a documentary about a modern day art forger. He doesn’t do it for the money, he does it either out of some sort of mental handicap or out of a weird megalomania/maniacal persuasion. He gives the art away, making up some story about dead family or a church, and apparently fooled tons and tons of museums. It’s a very interesting story, how he does it, why he does it. He is contrasted with a guy with a captain ahab like drive to catch and punish the forger. Both are a bit crazy, and that’s interesting. So I’m okay with there being a movie about this guy, but then there’s an art exhibit of his forged art. I have a hard time celebrating a forger. It is interesting, but it’s also terrible. Then the movie ends on this unsettling note that he’s giving up forging for museums, and he’s going to go forge for people. Like, tell someone that he found their dead grandma’s diary? But it’s a lie? That’s even worse! I don’t like it.

Interstellar – I actually liked this a lot. I love the tone and the look of it. For the most part I really like the space exploration and the aspects of that sort of travel that they deal with. It’s largely pretty realistic. It kind of goes off the deep end eventually. Makes some shit up and contorts it around to make an interesting story. I don’t really like that part, but if I turn off my brain and try not to make it fit into reality (which much of the rest of the movie would), I’m okay with it. Pretty cool.

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – Meh!! The first movie was a cool idea (as similar to Battle Royale as it may have been), but was clearly leading up to the actual interesting part – the revolution. The second movie was a complete waste of time bringing nothing new to the table that the first movie didn’t already establish. Finally here we get to the revolution’s beginnings and it’s kind of… meh. Katness is completely unconvincing as a spark. Her brave and inspiring speeches fall really flat to me. I like the overall arc of the revolution and the complications that might expose (revolutionaries eventually become rulers…). But none of it really holds together for me.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Pretty good. I remember  being shocked at how good the first one was. This one is pretty good too. I like how it fits in the history of the originals. At least, I assume it does. Maybe they’ll change something (or already have in a way that’s not obvious), a la reboot. But it seems to fit, which is cool because you have a feeling of inevitability for how things will play out. But you still get caught up in it. And it’s cool to see how things go to shit despite the best intentions of some, because some others are assholes, human and ape.

Teenaage Mutant Ninja Turtles – This isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it’d be. Not that it’s good. It’s got some pretty low brow humor. It is very michael bay in style – slow mo and explosions and such. But that stuff is cool in parts. Megan Fox isn’t as atrocious as you’d imagine. I wouldn’t say it does anything that the old movies don’t, though. It’s not less dopey, it’s not more fun. So, whatevs.

Spring Breakers – Nope. Best case scenario, the director is deluded and thinks they are making art but is actually making soft-core porn. Worst-case scenario the director is incredibly cynical and tries to layer some faux art bullshit on top of their porn movie to trick people, but knows that it’s all garbage. Either way, just go watch porn.

The Maze Runner – Y’know what, I actually kind of like this one. In many ways it’s just a teeny dystopian movie. But I like the setup, the execution is serviceable. There’s no teeny love bullshit. I like where it ends. It’s nothing amazing, but it’s a good enough world and the movie doesn’t screw it up.

John Wick – I thought this would be better. I guess it has some cool gunplay. But it’s mostly people getting their heads blown off in slick ways. That’s cool for a bit, but it’s not super memorable. And none of the melee stuff is all that great. It’s a fine revenge, don’t-piss-off-the-badass, movie, but not all that special.

Muppets Most Wanted – This was actually pretty fun. I’m not a huge muppets person, I didn’t watch it when I was young, so I don’t have the nostalgia. And when you go back, it’s fun, but just kind of dopey. Like the simpsons, you chuckle to yourself, but not too much more. Still, I chuckled a fair amount, I think more than the last one, it was fun.

Rapture Palooze – Er, I dunno. It’s a really weird comedy about the rapture and Anna Kendrick and her boyfriend try to stop the antichrist who is just kind of an a-hole. It’s weird. It’s the type of movie that could be one of those movies. But it’s just kind of average goofy, not next level goofy.

King Arthur – This is a little reimagining of the Arthur legend. Except, a lot less legendary. It reminds me of the Hercules movie, like the normal dudes behind the magical story. I like that, as I liked it with Hercules. The story isn’t particularly epic, and there’s nothing else amazing. Just average.

Redemption – Another Jason Statham. Trying too hard to be serious, forgetting that we only press play because of the kicky punchy.

My Awkward Sexual Adventure – This isn’t terrible. It’s kind of just a romantic comedy where the guy tries to get his ex girl but falls for the new girl. Except the layer on a bunch of over the top sexuality just to be crazy. It’s kind of funny in it’s goofiness. It’s not so extreme that it’s trying to be offensive. It’s just crazy enough to try to make people gasp a little. Below all that it’s pretty average, but it’s fine.

RoboCop – Meh. Doesn’t do anything better than the first one. I know the first one is kind of campy at this point, but this just replaces that with a kind of blandness; that’s not a fair trade.

Brick Mansions – I didn’t realize this was a remake when I watched it. But I’ve seen District B13, and this movie has the dude from District B13, and this is obviously just that movie. Except they replaced another bad ass ninja with Paul Walker. So… kind of a downward move. It’s in english, but it’s not like I watched the first one for the dialogue. No point in this, just watch B13.

Earth To Echo – Not a great movie, but it’s sweet. The acting is pretty bad, most of the dialogue too. But I like the little alien and the basic story, simple as it is. It’s cute.

Parallels – I actually really like this one. It is clearly a pilot for a TV show, not a movie. As such, it is woefully incomplete as a movie. The characters get very little exploration, the whole thing is rushed, it ends on a cliffhanger for pete’s sake. But given that it has a SyFy B-level vibe to it, it’s at the top of the SyFy B-level heap, I think. I like the setup, the actors all did fine for what they were given. I’d love to see a full show.

You’re Next – This is just a random slasher movie. There’s a couple purposeful twists, but not really surprising. Not like I had it figured out, just that they were not big shockers. Nothing special, nothing horrible.

Love – I didn’t really get this. It seems like my kind of movie, dude stuck in space. Then it gets all weird an I didn’t really follow. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention, it just seemed dopey instead of cool. Contrasted against Interstellar, when it got goofy and weird, I still like it. This one, not as much.

Atari: Game Over – Short little documentary about the infamous Atari landfill in New Mexico. It’s a decent summary of video game history and cool to find out what was actually buried in the desert.

Mar 27, 2015

Event Reviews

Premium Blend – 2014 edition of my favorite dance performance. Except, not this year. I feel like I’ve enjoyed each year of Premium Blend less than the one before. But every time I’ve at least had one or two dances that I really liked, and a bunch of other decent stuff, often too much ballet. This year had exactly one thing I liked, and the rest was kind of meh. The dancers were good, no one screwed up, just kind of bad or boring choreography. The first one was a modern thing with a bunch of glass objects (mostly drinking glasses, but a couple other things too) that the dancers interact with. The dancing is fine, nothing great, and the prop stuff makes me nervous. It’s like improv, I can’t enjoy it because I’m too worried that a disaster is going to happen. The next was a very short duet, it was very average. Felt like a forgettable so you think you can dance duet. Then there was a series of dances based on motion. They were really kooky, but not in a way I enjoyed a lot. Some okay ideas, I suppose, but not great (plus some annoying music). Then there was dance of all men. I really liked it in theory, but it ended up being kind of a snoozer. The best thing was the kinda creepy old lady behind me had to say was that the men were good to look at (to be fair, I’m sure the number of times a creepy old man has said that about the girls in that auditorium is probably countless). Then there was a tango series that was pretty cool. It had a bunch of different pairs doing a bunch of different tango stuff. It was brief, but very cool. Last was an excerpt from a ballet. Probably a cool thing for them to do, but it wasn’t a ballet that excited me. I’m still not 100% on board with ballet, it has to be different, not the normal stuff, that is still a bit boring to me.

The Tempest – This was done at a space at Pima. It was decent. It was limited cast, people playing more than one character, which was done pretty well. The acting was good, the sets were minimal but sufficient. It wasn’t great, it didn’t feel amazingly professional. But for what it was I thought it was decent. I’d never seen or read the Tempest, but it’s a good enough story.

Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana – This is, obviously, a flamenco show. It’s pretty standard, I think. Which isn’t to say it’s bad, it just doesn’t seem very different than other flamenco shows we’ve seen. The dancers are good, the musicians are good. Flamenco isn’t my #1 dance, it’s a ways down I suppose, but it’s cool. I don’t like the solos very much, but the group stuff and duet stuff is pretty good.

Sequence 8 – So this is a cirque du soleil kind of thing. They are french, I gather, and they are fucking ninjas. I’ve never seen a cirque show, even on video, let alone live. So I can’t really compare who is better at what, but these were pretty damn good. It is musical, which is good, some of it was as much dancing as anything. But the amazing stuff is the crazy acrobatics. There’s a trapeze dude who is pretty bad ass. A juggling dude that’s crazy. There’s a girl who can touch the ceiling bouncing on a flexible board called a russian bar. I googled it and I guess it’s common enough, but I hadn’t seen it before and it was amazing. I was pretty captivated from top to bottom, great show.

Guys & Dolls – I’ve never seen any form of this, it was pretty good. There were some real life troubles. The sign language interpreters were standing in front of us blocking 1/4 of the stage, which was frustrating (they could have moved 2 feet to the right, I think the people could still have seen them). And there was a legitimately crazy guy in the audience. Well, maybe not crazy, maybe just handicapped in some way, but rocking back and forth, making noises. There were police waiting for him at the end. Oh, also, someone had a cell phone conversation for a solid 45 seconds, no exaggeration. Yikes. But if I can somehow see past all the bullshit, the show was well done. The music is fun and the style is fun. It’s set in the 20s or so, and written in the 50s, so some of the attitudes are pretty antiquated, but it’s mostly fun. The people were pretty good singers, it was good.

Richter Uzur Duo – I’m not sure what I expected from this, but I really liked it. It’s a music professor or something from UA on guitar, kind of a classical guitar style though that might be wrong, and another dude on a cello. They play quite the variety. Some classical stuff, some covers of popular music (beatles, queen), some eastern european cultural stuff. All of it really good, really fun. Really enjoyable.

Feb 21, 2015


Awesome little modern day nursery rhyme. Funny too.

Book Reviews

Fahrenheit 451 – Among the many many gaps in my classic scifi knowledge, this is pretty high. For some reason I didn’t even read it when I did 1984, A Brave New World, and We a few years ago. But it is very very much in the style of those books. It is an old time dystopian. A single man is afloat in a world that is very foreign to us and seems even foreign to him. He struggles as he comes to realize the weight of his world, and eventually flails against it. It’s very different from the modern dystopias, with the band of teenagers fighting against the system. But it’s pretty good, it’s short, and it does it’s job, and it’s good.

Three Body Problem – This is a very well regarded Chinese science fiction book. I was really excited for it. Aliens, video games, mystery, what’s not to love? But it really didn’t come together for me. Style wise, it doesn’t work. It’s either because the translation is bad, or perhaps (I suspect) this is just the style of a Chinese writer. And to American ears, it sounds awkward. The dialogue in particular is so stilted and exclamatory. I’m giving it a lot of credit by assuming it’s a cultural stylistic thing. If it was an american author, I’d say it was actively bad. Besides that, even the story doesn’t work out for me. While the mystery is developing, it’s cool. But the pay off is kind of weak. It’s not revelatory, it just kind of slowly rolls out with a resounding meh. And the attempt to ground it in some sort of physics-based reality is forced and unconvincing. Everyone seems to love this book, so it must just be me, but I actively dislike it.

Foucault’s Pendulum – I picked this up because of the Templar graphic novel I read. In the afterword, the author talked about various things he read about the templars. This is supposedly the “thinking man’s Da Vinci Code.” I, uh, disagree. This, I’m pretty sure, is the first time I’ve ever given up on a book part way through. It took 50 pages before ANYthing happened. It took another 50 before the actual plot started. For another 40, nothing happened, and I gave up. This guy uses 5 words where one would do. It’s so long and rambling and pointless. Maybe he’s a genius and it all wraps together at some point and your mind is blown. But even if that’s true, you can’t drag someone through hours of crap on the hope that the payoff is worth it. The drag at least has to be enjoyable. The book couldn’t be more opposite of 3 body problem. The language is so ornate and over the top. Just because it has big words, doesn’t make it smart. Just because he has a thesaurus and has 5 synonyms for every adjective, and uses them all in one sentence, does not make him smart. I didn’t like 3 body problem, and I did finish it. But that doesn’t make it better than this, this was just so unbearably long I knew I wouldn’t make it.

Video Game Reviews

Walking Dead Season 2 – Jeez, this game is fantastic, just like the first one. Like the first one, it has plenty of faults. It’s less and less a game. In the first one I feel like I walked around and clicked on stuff more, that was limited this time. It’s mostly conversation trees and clicking now and again to shoot something. So, maybe it’s not a game. Like the first one, there are some bullshit false choices. Making me choose among bad options when there are clear other options. Only once, this time, did I do a thing and not realize what I was doing, but it didn’t end up having any consequence. But none of that stopped it from being an amazing experience, it’s just really well written. I read the comic, I watch the show, you’d think I’d be sick of the same old stories, but not when they are so good and you are given just a tiny bit of agency in their outcome.  I experienced the game in a way I don’t usually experience fiction. I was legitimately sad at the end. When someone from the previous game shows up, I was relieved, just to see a familiar face. I forgot for a while how badly he had fucked up. And then I remembered, just as my character started to remember. And I struggled with reconciling what type of person he is, just as the character did. I was shocked when people did terrible things, and felt hopeless when it all went to shit. I just don’t feel like that in any other form of entertainment, even a really good movie, because I don’t feel like I’m part of it. Crazy good.

State of Decay – For some reason I decided to play two zombie games at once. They couldn’t be more different from each other. This is kind of an open world GTA zombie game. I actually liked it a lot, I wish it had been more fleshed out. The open world thing (well, open 2 square miles…) really works, scavenging for supplies, building a base, etc. That makes a lot of sense for a zombie game. It is unfortunately limited and in the end pretty inconsequential. I put a lot of effort into building defenses and getting supplies, and I’m not convinced it made a single spit of difference. The plot is so short to begin with, I feel like I could have blown through the story and never done anything to my base. It only lasted as long as it did because I dragged it out doing other stuff, but then the other stuff didn’t matter. The learning curve is real steep. I only discovered death was permanent when I lost my first survivor. It took me two additional survivors to learn to not put myself in bad situations. That’s all pretty cool and I like it, I just wish it had been made a little more clear. In general I feel like the instructions are lacking, and while I don’t need a tutorial in every game, if you are going to make esoteric rules and structure, you have to give me a way to figure it out, besides trial and error. Overall, I liked the game, I just wish the plot was twice as long and the open world mattered in any way. I’ll keep an eye out for the DLC going on sale, maybe it will fill in some of those gaps.

Besiege – This is an early access game on Steam. It’s pretty cheap and it sounded fun, so I picked it up. Its basically a siege weapon building game. Kind of like Kerbal (which has yet to go on sale for cheap enough for me to play), but with catapults. It’s very simple at the moment, only a handful of levels and limited building options. But even that much was pretty fun. I feel like I got my money’s worth doing as much as I have. If it (hopefully) continues to develop and add levels and features, it’ll be pretty fun.

Duke Nukem Forever – Wow. I knew it was going to be bad, I didn’t think it would be this bad. Functionally, its amazingly boring. It plays really loose, it feels like you are floating through the world. There’s no weight to the weapons or environment. It feels like a very simple FPS from 10 years ago. But the point, the character, is terrible. I don’t know if 1) I would think it was funny if I was 13 or 2) the world is just different. Peeing in a toilet, slapping a weird alien boob, saying campy one liners. Maybe that’s just not 2014. Maybe if it came out when it was started, it would have landed. But now it just seems lame. It’s not even enough of a thing to be offensive, it’s just so dumb. It’s like how you aren’t offended if a 5 year old says something sexist… because they’re five, they don’t have real opinions. There is exactly one funny part of this game, which is the loading screens. They actually say funny things, like “If you die from falling, it’s probably your fault” That’s funny. There was genuine wit, nothing deep, but funny little meta comments in there that made me laugh. The rest was terrible and I couldn’t be done with it fast enough (yes, I finished a game I hated, don’t blame me, I have a disease).

Assassin’s Creed 3 – I’m a bit behind with this series, but this was pretty fun. It’s all the same tricks, except in revolutionary America. There’s new alternative weapons, most of which I didn’t use except for guns which was kind of fun. And the long reload made it interesting. Otherwise the game is pretty much the same. I remember liking 2 better, for some reason. I was into all the art and architecture stuff. The revolutionary history was kind of neat, but didn’t strike me the same way, I’m not sure why. It also didn’t feel as big. I could be totally wrong, it’s been years, but this one didn’t feel quite as open. But it was fun and I liked it throughout. I did not like Uplay, however. Besides that it’s inconvenient. Besides that Ubisoft’s DRM policies are bullshit. When I had literally 30 minutes left to play in the game, Uplay went down and I couldn’t play. Couldn’t play the game I paid real dollars for because Ubisoft can’t be bothered to keep their servers up and they are afraid people who were never going to buy their game are going to steal their game, which they are going to do anyway. So, that’s the last Assassin’s Creed game I buy. Bye bye Ubisoft.

Deadlight – I like the idea of this game, but it doesn’t really land. It’s a very XBLA type of game - 2D sidescroller, animated backgrounds, somewhat cartoony style, cut scenes made of still images. It’s a zombie game, you are a dude looking for his family. It’s very short (3 hours), which is good because it’s not fun enough to be longer. The game play doesn’t have a lot of variety, mostly platforming. Fighting is pretty lame, which maybe they do on purpose to make you more scared? But you do have to fight on occasion, so it’s annoying. The interaction is a little clunky at times: jumping the wrong way, finicky acceptable paths, etc. Overall, it’s not a great game, but I’m sure I got it super cheap, so okay.

Angvik – Basically, imagine Rogue Legacy, with Terraria graphics, without the skills progression. You get to choose your class, which really just affects your starting equipment, but that’s pretty important. Armor is your health, and killing without weapons is rough. The controls aren’t great, after 3 hours I still find it challenging to jump on something’s head, I always am one pixel off and then I die. Everytime you beat it, the difficulty goes up, I only beat it twice before I got sick of it. I probably got it as part of a humble bundle or something, it was a decent distraction for a couple hours, nothing much else.

A.R.E.S. – Another humble bundle game (probably, I’m just trying to clean out my steam library a bit, ha). It’s just kind of a side scrolling shoot em up. It’s basically metroid, I guess, without nearly the expanse in terms of game play or levels or enemies. But it was a fine for a couple hours.

Euro Truck Simulator 2 – I honestly can’t believe this is a game. I’ve never been much of a sim person, I don’t have the patience or the skill. But yikes, all you do is drive a truck! I’m not saying it’s false advertising, I just don’t get it. I look at reviews and everyone thinks it’s great, it’s a big world (well, half a continent) and it’s so interesting to see the scenery and cities. NOPE! It is amazingly boring to drive from city to city. Have to be careful to follow all the laws and it takes for damn ever. After 3 hours I’ve only made 1/10 of the money I need to buy my own truck. It was fun for about 10 minutes figuring out how to back up a trailer using just my rear view mirrors. The other kind of hilarious part was when I fell asleep playing. 4 times. I felt like I real life trucker.

Anomaly Warzone Earth – This is another indie game, it’s kind of a reverse tower defense (you are the hoard, attacking the turrets), but with more agency. You have control over your units’ path. You can’t stop or speed up or turn around, you have to go forward and just control where you turn. The enemy has standard turrets – guns, AoE, chain lightning, etc. You have different units of your own, mostly trading off armor or attack power. You also have some super powers (healing, cover, attack). It’s pretty fun, it gets hard at the end, I only barely won. It doesn’t over stay its welcome, which is good, 14 levels in and out.

Saints Row IV – This is exactly what you’d expect, which isn’t a bad thing. The series is already GTA on goofy juice. This ups it even more, now it’s GTA in the Matrix. The guns get crazier, the powers get crazier, the vehicles get crazier. I suppose that could be boring, but it’s still pretty fun. I played for over 20 hours and managed to do all of the main content. I did not try to ace every challenge and find every collectable, but I did most of the good stuff. I was done by the end, but I enjoyed it throughout.

The Binding of Isaac – This is a weird little rogue like. It was either not fun enough or too hard for me, not sure. I didn’t get very far and didn’t try very hard to get further. It has an odd style, kind of reminds me of ren and stimpy or something. It’s not as gross, exactly, but it’s got that rough sloppy sort of look. I’m not sure why it didn’t hook me, but after an hour I gave up.

Greed Corp. – This feels like a board game, which is cool. It’s tile-based, you control units and take territory. Each tile has a height, when you mine the tile for money the height of it and all neighbors are reduced, too low and it goes away. So you are trying to control territory, build units, kill the bad guy, it’s kind of fun. There are four “factions”, but they operate exactly the same. So that’s kind of boring, after the first 6 levels with one faction, you play 6 more with three more… It would have been more fun to have some sort of progression, powers or units or something. It was really kind of boring by the end. But I pushed through just for the sake of it and it was fun enough.

Borderlands 2 – This is fun for a while, but gets old pretty quick. It’s not that it’s bad, it is exactly what it means to be. And I’m sure it’s more fun with a group. But it’s just more of the first one. There’s no real variety to the missions, go kill 10 of these, or find 5 of that. Mow down a billion bad guys and get a slightly different gun. For a while I was doing all the side quests, but I gave up by halfway through the game, I just didn’t have the interest. It’s fun and goofy and all that, I just got bored quick.

Bleed – Tiny little indie platformer. One stick to move, one stick to shoot, jump button, that’s about it. It’s very short, which is exactly what I was looking for. I suppose I could go back and do harder modes, but nah. It’s cute, it’s fun, it has a female protagonist, it doesn’t intrude on your life, good stuff.

Feb 16, 2015

Movie Reviews

22 Jump Street – This movie is legitimately hilarious. I remember the first one being a complete shock, in that it was funny at all. I think this one is even better. It plays a very careful but very successful game of being extremely meta, just committed enough to sell the jokes, but never taking itself too seriously. The meta stuff is over the top, constantly making comments that apply more to the movie as a sequel than their mission as a sequel, but it all works. The story is whatever and just a scaffold for the funny. The end credits is actually the best part, I was laughing almost continuously. Pretty cool.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – This movie was much less of a lot of things than I thought. Less action than I thought. Less spy stuff than I thought. Less twists or turns than I thought. It was really pretty straightforward. Good guy. Good guy’s wife. Bad guy who is established immediately. People fight. Movie over. It wasn’t exactly bad, just 100% average.
Maleficent – I wouldn’t have believed it, but I liked this movie! It’s got its faults, quite a few, but on the whole it’s decent. The CGI isn’t great. Angelina Jolie is kinda bad too, mostly just too up her own butt about the part. The 3 fairies are terrible and should have been cut out entirely. But besides that, it’s pretty good! The tree army is just about the coolest thing this side of Middle Earth. Most of the fantasy stuff is original and realized in a creative way. The reversal of the story isn’t necessarily mind blowing, but it’s good. The role of the prince is my favorite thing in the world. Good stuff.
The Fault in Our Stars – The trouble with this movie, is it’s 50% sad and touching, and 50% inane teen romance movie. And it’s mostly sorted chronologically. The first half is pretty meh, and really standard teenie junk, kind of obnoxious really. But the second half, I mean, jeez, they are dying and it’s sad. And they do a good job with that stuff, so it’s pretty effective. Also, I really like the infinity metaphor. It’s corny, I know, but it makes sense to me, so that was good.
Hercules – Um, I don’t know, I kind of forgot about it already. I seemed to remember enjoying all the fighting. It’s a good little switcheroo part way through. I did really like how they handled the mythology aspect of everything. It was very sensible, like I could really see some less grand version of that happening. And to me anything that points out how silly mythology is, is really pointing out how silly religion is. So I enjoy that.
I, Frankenstein – This movie isn’t very good, but it’s not terrible. It feels very much like another Underworld movie. It even has the same bad guy. Instead of vampires vs. werewolves it’s gargoyles vs. demons. The demons are basically just vampires anyway. And the gargoyles are basically angels. But angels are kind of lame and gargoyles haven’t been used since the cartoon, so it’s cool. And then Frankenstein’s monster is there for some reason. The acting is pretty bad, the dialogue, especially on Frankie, is very bad. But the big fights aren’t too bad. I’m not sure that a movie like this can be more than it is, but this was a good basis. Just didn’t work out that way.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 – This movie is fun. I remember thinking the first one was fun, though not as fun as everyone else seemed to think. This one is pretty similar. It’s cute, it has some fun dragon fights, there’s some good jokes. It’s pretty likeable all around.
Step Up: All In – So, get this. There’s these dancers, right? And they are in economic trouble. Now here’s the crazy part. There’s a competition! If they win, all their dreams will come true! Also there’s bad guy dancers, a dance off in a bar, the crew breaks up 30 minutes before the finale and gets back together 5 minutes before, and two really pretty people make out for a while. Oh yeah, and there’s some pretty good dancing at the end.
Sin City 2 – I loved the first one like everyone else. This one is pretty much the same, but it feels too late. It feels like call backs to the original. But the first one was so amazing because it was original. Even with such amazing source material like the comic, there just hadn’t been a movie like this. But now there has, and this is just another one. It’s not bad exactly, it just feels like anyone could have copied the style of the first one and made this movie.
Killing Them Softly – Meh. This is a mob movie, about some fuckups and a hit man etc etc. I guess I kind of get what it’s going for, but in the end it’s kind of boring. It’s not different enough for how slow it is, so I was a bit sleepy.
Oculus – Shockingly, I liked this movie. There’s kind of an evil mirror and a girl is determined to prove it is evil, or stop its evil, or something like that. The evil mirror has evil powers, chief among which is making people think something else is happening than really is. That leads to an unreliable narrator situation, which I generally don’t like. But something about this one worked.
Knights of Badassdom – Ugh, terrible. This is just a stoner movie dressed up in LARPing outfits. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t fun, it was super dumb.
The Rocketeer – Not sure I had ever seen this one. It’s a silly, fun enough, 90s sort of family action movie. Nothing much to say, pretty likeable.
Jobs – Ppt. Pretty lame rendition of this story. I’m not sure that it accomplishes anything that the old Pirates of Silicon Valley doesn’t (and much less in the non-jobs arena). Ashton Kutcher is a terrible Jobs, he just sounds like Kelso. That dude is doomed with that personality for the rest of his life. Woz gets totally screwed over, which was covered in the tech reviews. I’m not sure that a Jobs movie is necessary, I feel like we all know the story. But if there is one, it’s not this one.
Drinking Buddies – This is a half scripted, half improv (percentages may be slightly different) about two couples and it’s kind of obvious the two couples should be swapped. So a few things happen, it’s just kind of a timely peak into their lives. It’s okay, the conversations come off pretty natural which I guess was the point. It’s not super memorable or consequential, but it was an okay way to spend some time.
Nymphomaniac Part 2 – There was no reason to watch this, the first half was awful. But I had to see how it went, it’s like stopping a movie halfway through, can’t do it, I have a disease. Anyway, this one is just as bad. Maybe worse because it’s got an equivalent number of virtues (none), but loses its shock “appeal”. Weirdly, a couple of majorish actors show up – WIllem Dafoe, Christian Slater (okay, I’m stretching the word major). I guess they think this movie supposed to be deep? That its some artsy out-there boundary pushing movie? Nope. It’s just dumb. You made a bad choice.
Tai Chi Zero – This movie is super wacky. It’s like Scott Pilgrim and a kung fu movie had a baby. It’s basically a kung fu movie, kind of a western-influence vs. eastern tradition thing. But on top of it is this 4th-wall-breaking hokeyness. The on-screen text, like a guy ritchie movie or like scott pilgrim, talks right to you. Things like (and I don’t know the chinese actors’ names) “Bob Jones, playing the hero Frank Johnson. Bob Jones is a three time world champion of tai chi!” Literally! I mean, literally without the american names. So it’s actually pretty fun, and the fighting is good and fun. Reminds me a lot of Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. The only problem with the movie is the good guys… aren’t. This village, that is supposed to be imposed upon by the imperial technologists, is full of xenophobic assholes. You treat a guy like shit for his whole life, one of your community, and you are confused when he comes back and doesn’t mind knocking your stupid house down to make a railroad? Fuck those guys, maybe you should learn not to be dicks and people will leave your shitty little village alone. Anyway, besides that, good movie.
Lovelace – This is a movie about Linda Lovelace. It’s kind of average, nothing super bad about it, nothing super amazing. Her story is, of course, sad. I didn’t know any of it, but it’s pretty bad. Not much else to say, kind of a bummer.
The History of Future Folk – Here’s another quirky movie. Very indie. It’s… an alien comes down to earth to do something bad, but then music convinces him earth is pretty cool? That doesn’t sound very good, and it’s not very good. But it’s kind of entertaining in a low budget dorky sort of way.
Jarhead 2 – This movie is very different from how I remember the first one. The first one was certainly a war movie, but it had a surreal drama to it that was really effective. This one is much more just a war movie, but it was actually pretty decent. I kind of expected a lame shooty shooty movie. It’s not incredibly deep, most of the characters are set up in their roles and they do their thing. The end kind of doesn’t make any sense – false dilemmas and forced heroics. But besides the end it’s actually good at its job.
Automata – This is scifi robot movie. It’s basically I, Robot. The robots even have rules. But I actually kind of like it. It doesn’t read any new ground, but I like the look of it, I mostly like how it plays out.
Super – Meh. This is another real life super hero movie, except just kind of sad. Sad guy with a sad life is mostly crazy and tries to do heroic things. He succeeds when he shouldn’t because it’s a movie, but even that is sad. Then there’s the thing with Ellen Page, which is more than a little creepy. It just felt like some icky wish fulfillment by the filmmakers. Maybe that’s weird to say in a movie full of wish fulfillment, but meh.
Carrie – This is the new version. I’m not sure if I ever saw the original, I definitely haven’t read the book. It’s a good story, nice and revengey. Everyone loves to see people get what they deserve. Well, maybe more than they deserve. Even though I don’t know if I saw the original, I imagine this is the exact same with cell phones. Which is fine, good enough story that it’s worth making it for a modern context. Wasn’t totally buying the carrie-rage at the end, seemed a little goofy to me.
13 Sins – This is kind of a … the best comparison is Saw. Which isn’t a favorable comparison. A guy gets a call, he can make money by doing a simple task. Then more money, with more outlandish tasks. Take it as far as you can imagine. Like all of these types of movies it’s ridiculous. Like people with so much power, and money, and control would waste their time playing bullshit games when they could just run the world. Or, assuming they already do run the world, the level of omniscience is still over the top. So the movie eventually gets too gross or too unrealistic and kind of crap. Not surprising, I guess.
Resident Evil: Retribution – Just another RE movie. They are just kind of the same thing over and over. Every movie ends with a cliffhanger, because they know they can crap out another one 2 years later and make their 10 bucks back. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just so samey. There wasn’t any particularly exciting fighting or shooting. Pretty boring.

Jan 6, 2015

Comic Book Reviews

So, at some point I realized I hadn’t done this for a couple years. So I just kept adding to this for a really long time, whoops.

Habibi – This is by Craig Thompson, the guy who did Blankets, which I loved. It’s a very very different story. It’s fictional, about a pair of orphaned kids in a fake islamic country. There are two parts of the book. Visually, everyone on the planet agrees it is stunning. The detail and precision and skill is astounding. The art is beautiful, but the use of patterns and writing is shocking. He’ll have an entire page that looks like an intricate rug, all drawn by hand, every pattern slightly different. He makes a very big deal of written arabic, uses it throughout and attaches a lot of meaning to the visual letters. He spends a lot of time on symbology and myth, and it’s all extraordinarily beautiful. At over 600 pages, it is an amazing work of art. The other side of the book is the story, which many people seem to have a problem with. It is nominally about these two kids, an older arab girl and a young black boy. She is sold into marriage at a single digit age, escapes, and has various abuses put upon her for the remainder of the book. He is a slave, treated poorly for no reason other than that. Many more things happen, but to say them would be to tell you the book. Point is, it does not represent islamic culture very positively. A lot of people are made very uncomfortable by that. I was not, because I don’t think he’s lying. Of course, not every islamic person is like this, so it lends itself to criticism to show nearly every islamic person in the book as pretty nasty. Nonetheless, when I read Infidel, I didn’t get upset because all the men in that book were evil. It was a true story, they were evil. This is a story about evil men. I can walk and chew gum, and just because I see a bad islamic person, doesn’t make me think they are all bad. Nonetheless, if the story was about guys that were like me, but were all evil, I’d probably not be thrilled either. Reaction appears pretty mixed, a lot of people don’t like it due to the cultural stuff, but I thought it was a pretty fantastic book in a lot of respects.

Asterios Polyp – I’ve got to get this one down now too, because it was an amazing book. It’s kind of a lame seeming story, a well to do architect has some bad times and goes on a bit of a journey. It of course has to do with love as well. The book is beautiful, there’s all manner of deeper meaning, much of which I’m sure I missed. However, the one thing I have to point out is this amazing visualization of how we look at each other. He’s talking in the book about how reality is an extension of yourself. And so our self colors the way we see everything, including each other. That’s a maybe common enough concept, but the real genius is as he’s saying this, he does a very simple thing in that he draws every character on the page in a completely different style. There’s a person made of dots, a stick figure, a japanese character shaped like a person, scribbles, a sketch, a normal picture, a wire frame, etc. He posits that maybe we get along with some people naturally (and draws them in the same style) and others not so much (and draws them very differently). Then throughout the book when Asterios is having a particularly hard time understanding someone (usually his wife), he draws them in radically different styles. It’s an amazing representation of how sometimes a person, a conversation, a situation, or the whole world seems like it’s in a different language, like it just has no sense to it. It’s really kind of awesome.

Building Stories – This one is kind of crazy. It’s a comic, kind of, but it comes in a big box. The box has 19 different …. things in it. One is a normal graphic novel, one is a kind of little comic strip from a newspaper, one is a big fold out 4 “page” cardboard thing, almost like you unfold a board game board. All are centered around this one woman who lives in a building in some city. There are stories about her past, her time in the building, her time later in life, the neighbors in the building, a bee in the building. The genius of this, besides telling a good (if extremely depressing) story, and besides playing with the format, is that you can read it in any order. There are no instructions. I happened to read the big board one first, which gave me a very brief, wordless, summary of a day in the building. Then I read a story about the woman’s past. Then I read a story about the bee that was squished by the neighbor in the big board one. Then about the lady in the future. Then about the neighbor. Maybe there’s a perfect order that would be chronological, but it super duper doesn’t matter. Instead you jump in out and out their lives at almost random times, but it all works. It’s really a pretty awesome experience.

Shooting War – This is kind of a political book. It’s about a random unknown blogger who just happens to be filming during a terrrorist attack. This gets him a lot of attention, which eventually leads to him being the blogosphere’s war correspondent. The story is okay, pretty overt, not particularly believable. The art is good, but occasionally they use photographs (or photorealistic painting, I’m not positive), which I found really distracting. It’s not cartoony normally, but it’s definitely not realistic, so to have a photograph of a exploding car thrown in wasn’t good for me. In the end I didn’t find myself liking this very much, though I’m not positive why.

Ten Grand – This book is pretty cool. On the face of it, it’s not that different – a mob enforcer, but with a heaven/hell context. But it’s pretty well done. It’s basically a noir, it has art that reminds me of 30 days of night, which really fits the story. Oh look, I just googled 30 days and it’s the same artist. Go me. Anyway, it looks great. At the end of the first issue (I’m not sure if it came out in issues), it says, hey, go to this website and listen to an audio version of this. At first I’m annoyed that it didn’t tell me that at the START of the chapter. But I listened, and it was fantastic. Really well done, and a way I’ve never ever consumed a comic book. So cool. Story ends on a to be continued, aaaaarg. I guess I’m getting the next one when it comes out.

Pride of Baghdad – This is pretty weird. It’s about 4 lions that get loose from a zoo when Baghdad is attacked in 2003 (very very loosely based on a true fact). I guess it’s supposed to be a parable. The 4 lions are meant to represent 4 attitudes regarding the war and/or occupation and/or Saddam’s reign (i’m not sure which or if it’s all 3). There’s an idealist, a pragmatist, an optimist, and an apathetic…ist. It’s a little on the nose, but it’s pretty good. It didn’t blow me away, but it’s a solid story and a very interesting way to approach the subject. Kind of an Animal Farm for the Iraq war, in comic book form.

Joe the Barbarian – This is a really interesting book. I feel like I should absolutely love it, and instead I only like it, I’m not sure why. It’s about a kid with diabetes who is having an episode. He needs to get downstairs to have a snack, and the power went out. That goal turns into an epic fantasy journey, where he has to save a land populated by his toys and pet rat from a dark force. It’s kind of a genius idea. The real life events, which presumably don’t take long, are echoed in a dramatic fashion in his fantasy, it’s really kind of cool. For some reason I don’t love it, though. I found it slightly confusing, not that I didn’t follow, just that it didn’t gel somehow.

Skullkickers – This is a series that is pretty unabashedly about cartoony violence and silliness. It’s about two guys, a tall bald guy and a short dwarf, who are mercenaries. It’s pretty silly, but it’s pretty fun. They get drawn into various schemes larger than their pay scale and shenanigans ensue. It’s got a healthy dose of nerdy D&D influence with silly +1s and “adjective noun of action” items laying about the place. It’s goofy, but it’s fun.

Tale of Sand – This is a little adventure story, it’s been a while since I read it so I’ve forgotten. It’s beautifully drawn, just gorgeous. It’s got kind of a nathan drake-ish hero running through a surreal world. I can’t remember much about the story, but I think it was pretty fun.

Templar – I quite like this one. It’s set at the time when the Templars get disbanded and many killed (I didn’t know anything about this, apparently they were the bee’s knees, then the french king decided they were big for their britches, so labeled them all evil, everyone kind of went along, eventually pressuring the pope to renounce them, no more templars). The conceit is that a couple guys get away and go on one last adventure for their order. It seems like a silly idea, but it’s pretty well done. It’s got a good mix of action and humor. It mostly plays out like you’d imagine, but it’s fun all along.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic – This one is pretty sad. It’s a biographical work of a woman who had a kind of messed up family. It’s not terrible, she wasn’t tortured, she wasn’t starving. But it’s interesting to see how small choices affected her personality (or at least she believes they did). There were some genuinely bad things about her parents, her father mostly. They didn’t necessarily directly affect her, but the whole thing is about how the whole is built of up many parts. It’s pretty good.