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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Winter Soldier Review: Coup De Grâce.


I wish I could be contrarian about this. I wish my voice could stand out from the chorus. I also wish I had gotten this done a week and a half ago, but here it is. The Winter Soldier was fantastic. It was both a solid political thriller and super hero action set piece, as well as damn decent character drama.

This should be the point where Marvel slips up. Where their shtick wears thin, their well of stories runs dry and the shadow of an absent Downy Jr. looms large. None of these are the case for Cap 2, though most were for Thor's second go around. I was scared about TWS precisely because Thor 2 was just so stunningly predictable.

Apparently, they had to go back and add more Loki to the mix. Seeing as he barley took up a 6th (far and away the best 6th) of the film can you imagine how much more earth we would have had to take? I'm getting off topic, but The Dark World had me really frightened, guys. It wasn't "bad" in a "you couldn't pay me to see it again" kind of way. It was just disappointingly boiler plate. It even walked back it's solitary piece of character growth in the last second, seemingly just to salt my wound one more time.

Cap 2 made up for all of that and then some. I'd almost be fine with all marvel movies from here on out being tangentially related to Captain Rogers. Chis Evans isn't simply that good (he is), the plot isn't simply one of the strongest so far (it is), and the action sequences don't simply build on each other and become more impactful as they go (they do).

All of those things coupled with such breezy editing and a direction so confidant I'm convinced cocaine was involved, we have one the best super hero films ever. The fact it all seems to build to something greater is exciting instead of disappointing. I didn't throw my popcorn at the screen and hiss at the strings of obvious cliffhangers. I was more than satisfied at that point and I understood they had to leave me wanting more. And brother? I want MOAR.

Dude, what are you doing with 70 bookmarks? That's embarrassing.
We last left Steve in the hands of Shield, (a clandestine government agency laser focused on protecting the world from supers and aliens, can you believe I typed that with a straight face? ) after the events of the New York invasion and his struggle fitting in to society after 50 years on ice. He's more than happy to run errands for Director Fury, just as long as he can keep his nose to the grindstone and not get too close with anyone he doesn't already know.

 But something begins to stick in his craw about shield, Scarlet Johansson is constantly trying to set him up both romantically and professionally. It seems he hasn't been privy to all the parameters of his operations and has been responsible for padding Shield's bottom line at the expense of civil liberty.

This whole sequence here is just... I don't even... it's so great. It's beyond the expressive power of the English language.

Cap's not too happy about that, but Fury demands that he stow it, his pay grade isn't high enough for him to explain himself. But as one of the tensest and most balls out amazing car chase chases I've ever seen will soon prove... neither is Fury's. What comes next is hard to explain without spoilers, so I won't. The movie's called the "winter soldier" so what a bout him? That's a good question, and let me answer it by saying you'll forget about him, mostly. Right up until he pops out of nowhere and grabs the narrative by the throat. Sebastain Stan dosn't have a whole lot to do with what could be easily misconstrued as just anouther cybernetic ninja assasin (I know, I know, another one?) but he makes it work. In fact, I wouldn't call the "final battle" a battle at all. It's the most emotionally complex finale of any Marvel film to date.

Man, I haven't even name checked Robert Redford yet, and he's fantastic. Same goes for Anthony Mackie who turned in one hell of an interview for TWS. Seriously, I was laughing so hard my cheeks hurt. If he doesn't do audio commentary I'm straight up not buying the dvd:

Will Smith should be absolutely terrified.

I'd just end up recapping the whole film if I got into those guys. Everyone has room to breathe here and nearly everyone arcs in a meaningful way. Except for Dani Pudi's cubical drone. But he has less than a minute of screen time so, I guess sacrifices must be made. It's so much fun and I'm in the process of nagging my friends into seeing it again. It's the most entertaining treatise on civil liberty you will ever see. You wouldn't expect a American multimillion dollar film to attack drone ware fare so explicitly and so viciously. But it does so with with and finesse to spare.

Add that to an end credits sequence that's a monochrome homage to 70's paranoia thriller posters and The Winter Soldier has exhausted all the buttons I have left to be pushed. I haven't had this good of a time at the movies since The Lego Movie. But I haven't had this good a time at a super hero flick since The Avengers. That should be enough to get most of you out to see it, though most of the world already has. For a film that should smack of stone faced propaganda, that's incredible. But than again, so is The Winter Solider.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Anniversary!



It's been a whole damn year since I started this thing, and I can't believe I actually stuck with it. While I eventually fell into an every other day post slump, I never let the Crackpot go. Even though I really wanted to.

And you know what? I'm proud of this, I'm glad I'm still writing here, and I have serious plans to keep at it.

So thank you all for reading, it means more than you know.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Blogspot ate my homework.



So... I was gonna publish my Winter solider review today then do something special for my anniversary tomorrow. But fug it. I'm pissed I managed to piss away 800 words after slacking off for 4 days already. I'll do better next year, I promise.



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Borderlands 2: The Pre-sequal, Handsome Jack Rising.



   I know I promised you guys a winter soldier review, and I know I promised you guys a goty article on Bioshock Infinite... I'm actually pretty torn up about that. I never sounded convincing enough, it read too much like a true believer instead of objective criticism. I wasn't going to change anyone's mind with it, and it felt like a failure in that regard.

But uh... I don't care about that right now, because there's Borderlands news and it is both surprising and positive. The so called "pre-sequal" is set in between the events of Borderlands 1 and 2 on the infamous Hyperion moon base. We'll see Jack at a better time in his life. A less self absorbed/megalomaniac part of his character arc. If that was all the lore updates they had for me, I'd be more than satisfied. But this is gearbox. This is their flagship and they haven't let this world down yet.

Because Wilhelm (Jack's right hand) and Athena (ex-atlus assassin who hasn't been seen since waaaaaay back in the first game) are playable characters. Even if the game is a cash grab, they've proven to me several times over that no one has more fun with cash grabs than these guys... in terms of Borderlands.

I'm aware of the shady BS surrounding Colonial Marines. How they shoved that piece of garbage out the door and probably siphoned funds from SEGA to fund Borderlands 2 in the bargain. But again, this is Borderlands. The most intentionally funny RPG series ever. One that never seems to get the creative respect it deserves. While this may be out sourced to an Australian dev team, Anthony Birch is still at the creative helm, and he's done a spectacular job so far. Even if it gets absolutely toxic reviews, I'll still pick it up on a steam sale.

I mean come on... Jack's back!

Thanks Polygon!

Look at that shiny MALIWAN something-or-other... god I want it.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Friday, April 4, 2014

Burial at Sea ep 2 Review: heureux, heureux à en mourir



And with that, Irrational games is dead. The studio that personally justified my jump to the last generation, and breathed life in into a fictional world that's up there with wonderland and middle earth, is "restructuring."

Though this may not mean that the Bioshock series is "over," it's creator has washed his hands of it, and whoever takes up the mantle next will have a target the size of the entire critical community on his/her back. But there is one morsel left, the finale of Infinite's story DLC: Burial at Sea. A stealth based romp through Rapture's secret prison and a teary farewell to both Rapture and Columbia.

I know the general reception has been tepid, and I happen to agree with the majority of their points. The plot gets lost more than Carmon Santiago in a Where's Waldo convention, and the ret-conning of Fitzroy's homicidal motivation is as hamfisted as it is unnecessary. I've always thought the turn of Fitzroy from humble people's champion while in hiding, to tunnel visioned murderer in victory; was not only an accurate portrayal of actual uprisings, but a damning commentary of how violence begets violence ad infinitum. Really, a foreshadowing of the finale's multi-dimensional dilemma.

And while I had hoped Burial would at least answer more questions that it raised, and that we'd get treated to a heapin' helping of Andrew Ryan one last time, both of those hopes were dashed. I walked out more confused than I went in (why the hell do we care about SALLY?!), and Ryan only makes the one cameo. But you know what? This wasn't about giving me what I expected. I wasn't expecting the opening sequence to be so beautiful, so hilarious, and just so goddamned perfect. I wasn't expecting to see so much of ol' Frankie Fontaine, I will play though episode 2 just to see his last scene again. It's also just so goddamned perfect.

Hey it's the rumbler! Levine almost referenced Bioshock 2! That must have been painful for him.

I didn't think you could so easily remix Infinite's combat to strictly a stealth affair so easily. But it works like a charm. Playing as Elizibeth, but without her tear powers, is a world apart from Booker's bullet hell repertoire. But once you get oriented, Rapture becomes a much more dangerous and satisfying place. I'd say the whole episode lasts a solid 6 hours, if you really want to root around for plasmid upgrades and secrets. But but the real focus is on the story. As occasionally disappointing as it is, everyone is on point and the dialogue is razor sharp. I knew there were missing pieces here and there (Atlus sets you up to raid Ryan's compound and it never really happens), but I didn't care. They say a great movie is one with 3 good scenes and no bad ones. By that logic, Burial at Sea was a fine conclusion.

There's a fun stealth shooter/survival game underneath it's story driven exterior. But all you'll remember, and care about, is whether or not it ends. Whether it ends well and whether it sets itself up for a sequel. The answer is yes. This is a definitive end for Ken Levine's Bioshock titles. I liked it. I'll definitely play it again and have just as much fun with it. The fact I'll probably never see a game with this kind of budget from Mr. Levine again is saddening.

It feels like he's just getting started. It's a damn shame this is where he and Bioshock part ways. Even if you hated Infinite you owe it to yourself to see what they've done here. Even if you're disappointed, you'll still be fascinated. Because there are 3 perfect moments that will make it all worth it.

And with that, I say goodbye to Bioshock. Most likely, forever.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I did it. I finally shot up with an MMO.


I love video games. That's not a secret, and while I wouldn't describe what I do to be much of a problem, I do know what I can be capable of. Say, after a nasty break up, I'd fall down a civilization hole for a few weeks. So I always made a point to stay away from MMO's. One; because I don't need to know if they'd become an issue for me, and two, I'm not going to subscribe to something I'd already dropped 60 bones on.

This, compounded with the fact I find the vast majority of high fantasy (elves, dwarfs, etc.) beyond tedious, meant nothing in the genre caught my eye regardless. But The Secret World looked different. It threw the typical swords and sorcery bunk out the window and sank it's teeth into techno myths. That originality and possibility sounded like something I'd end up at least appreciating. But there was both a hefty subscription and tepid reviews, both of which have reversed* in the last couple years. The subscription is gone and it's unsung creative successes floated to the surface. Then Steam sold the game, all it's major dlc, and some starting loot for $20.

Even if it physically bit me in the ass, it was a steal. I mean, The Last Remnant made my CPU scream like the shoe from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but that was under $4 so... I honestly didn't mind. I also don't mind TSW so far. The writing's ok, the story doesn't start with a lore dump, and I'm getting the hang of the camera movement. I can't see myself getting addicted though, and it's just as well. If it wasn't for Steam I'd never have even given this genre the time of day. That's why I love those guys.

*I mean, look at those user reviews.

 I am for this kind of batsh*t enemy design, ALL. DAY. LONG.