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.