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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes Review: The Hate Escape.

Caesar... is... sad.

They did it. They really did it. They made a near perfect trilogy of films after changing directors a third of the way through. They pioneered a motion capture tec so convincing I forget I'm looking at FX 10 minutes in. They managed to fit a touching amount of humanity and nuance in a story told in broad, vibrant, strokes. What these films have to say about politics, war, and civilization deserves to become immortal. This is Shakespeare with gorillas and guns and by god it all works. 

Whoo! I'd better slow down a bit, don't want to sound like this is the be all end all. I don't see a screenwriting oscar in it's future. Still though, these films are so good and so unique I can't help but trip over my own words while I evangelize them. They always play against my expectations. When I expect to see apes conquering the fading world of man; I see apes struggling to stay alive while man does a fine job killing itself.

In the aftermath of Koba's rebellion, his former faithful kowtow to the last bastion of military strength in America. Wouldn't you know it, it's a skin head militia. War wears its incendiary politics on its sleeve. It shines a spotlight on this country's biggest social issue and screams "All these people want is a world where they're in charge. Get it?!"



These "donkeys" are branded and sent to work as dishwashers and pack mules. They betray the future of their own kind only out of spite for their old leader. Subtle ain't it? Naturally, Caesar and co. want out of the Red Woods ASAP. Their scouts found a way, but how do you sneak 200 odd apes around an army?

Caesar is a lot more tired now, his fur snowy with age. He's ready to give his life to make sure his people get out. The dirty secret is this movie isn't about a war at all. It's about the torture and suffering required for leadership. Uneasy lies the head and all that.

I'm sure there was a version of this script with a more Christ-like Caesar but thank god this one is anything but holy. He is consumed by betrayal and it gets him nothing but trouble... and a mute blonde kid. It's fun to see them work in the original's use of mute humans, though this time it's cause is viral instead of surgical. The single best scene is all about Woody Harrelson's skin head commander facing the silent future of humanity and tragically losing his sh*t.

So emotional...
There's so much more I want to talk about. But they've managed to keep the last 2 acts a complete secret and I'll be damned if I spoil what this movie is really about. Serkis is still tremendous as Caesar, Maurice is still the world's most lovable orangutan, and Steve Zahn singlehandedly saves the film from being a complete bummer. No small feat.

I'll need to see it again to see how it stacks up against Dawn, one of my 10 perfect movies, but right now they're pretty close to each other. It's rare to see movies that understand intrigue, politics, and humor all at once. Even rarer to see those movies get top spot at the box office. Let this be a lesson to all aspiring filmmakers. This trilogy had it's "thinking man's sci fi" cake and ate it too. So can yours.


Kentucky's favorite son.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Internet Gold: Hunt for the One Nostriled Man.



One of the best things about the information age is that you can think of something that should exist (a music video of Weird Al's Albuquerque using footage from Breaking Bad) and poof! There it is, perfectly realized:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Siskel and Ebert review Mask of the Phantasm.

http://comicsalliance.com/files/2013/04/untitled-2-1365193762.jpg


If you listened to the podcast last week, this post makes a lot more sense. It's also just fun on it's own watching these two be all "Has the animated series been better then the movies this whole time?!"

Yes, gentlemen. Paul Dini kicked even Burton's butt.


Wasteland Survival Guide Vol. II: Smelling Roses.


It took a fair bit of mod tweaking, but I've finally come around on Survival mode. The necessity for food and water feeds into the necessity for maintaining multiple settlements. Which means I've had to dive into the half of Fallout 4 I cared for the least. I'm not a builder. I would have much rather have 3 more cites like Good Neighbor than have that minecraft chaff in the game at all. But now I've got all the food I can eat, tons of clean water to sell, and a flourishing chain of surgical clinics. I've got supply chains running all up and down Boston. There's an island off to west whose shoreline glistens with ballistic turrets, automated rocket launchers, and a civilian militia 20 women strong.

I liked settlement building so much I turned Spectacle Island into Themyscira.

I see what I've been missing, it's been a lot. Did you know there were legendary settlers you can recruit? The vault tec salesman's one, except he's a ghoul now. I always felt sorry for that bastard. I did not see Survival mode giving me a fleeting sense of closure. That was damn sneaky of you, Survival mode. Cut that crap out.



Monday, July 10, 2017

This guy thought he could come into MY town...


...mess with MY people.

You all right there, Piper?










Even he knows the ponytail isn't helping...












Whoever did these magazine covers isn't getting paid enough











Seriously Piper... what's going on?



Saturday, July 8, 2017

Wasteland Survival Guide Vol. I: "I'm THIRSTY."

The starch... is an absolute good. The starch is life.

Survival mode is not what I expected. After 6 hours with it I'm both delighted and frustrated. There are great ideas mixed in with punitive nonsense. It's like a 10 course meal and you can't stand 4 of them. Clearly a lot of effort went into it, like it was a pet project of someone high up in Bethesda. If you're the kind of person who wants all games to be a little bit like the long dark, this is certainly that.

I adored New Vegas's hardcore mode. Ammo weight becoming a thing, eating, drinking, and sleeping being necessary. It made the game just involved enough to be more interesting rather than irritating. Fallout 4 has all that and oh, so much more. In New Vegas sleep, thirst, and hunger, would only effect you if they ran out. You would die. Now those things have four depths each taking about 5% off your action points like radiation on your health bar. Oh, and the second levels start deducting SPECIAL points. One time my strength got cut by 4 and I was literally too tired to move.

You can't walk for more than 5 minutes with being sleepy or peckish, or parched. So you find yourself devouring all the cram,  mac'n'cheese, and dirty water in your pack to stave off the crippling consequences. In the process I took out a third of my health bar in RADs and... well let's just say radaway now behaves a lot more like actual chemotherapy now.

It's all really, REALLY, annoying. At least at first, because then I decided I needed to play differently. The lead belly perk, something I'd never conceive of choosing normally, made my crop of mutfruit magically RAD free! The industrial water purifiers used to be something I'd make just because I could. Now that stimpaks dehydrate you, the 30+ bottles of the stuff I make a day are vitally necessary. I also noticed that melons hit both hunger and thirst at once making it worth it's weight in friggin' platinum. I found smart ways to game the new systems and now... well I still think I get too thirsty too fast but I'm still truckin' along.

I could go into how emotionally devastating it can be to loose 45 minutes of progress to one legendary radioactive mole rat who came out of absolutely f**kin nowhere... but I'll save that for Vol. 2.

Raise your hand if you've actually had one of these. Not bad, right?



Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fallout 4: Deathmatch.



The steam sale this year was kind of a bust, it's my fault for being able to afford the things I want when they're first available. Damn you, reasonable income! But I'm nearly done with my 100% Bloodborne run and I need something... different. I've never liked playing the modern fallouts at high difficulty because outside of VATS the combat ain't nothing special. Sad to say.

But I do like the sound of survival mode.* Only being able to save while resting sounds devastating. That's going to change the entire way I approach the game. Each enemy has the ability to erase hours of progress; the cruelest possible fate in any Bethesda game. It wasn't a bug that ate your save file this time, it was your own damn incompetence!

Hell, while we're at it, lemmie try out this savant build. This is the kind of madness I need in my life right now. The fun kind that that doesn't end with radioactive ash hanging in the air. Apropos of nothing, my travel plans won't include Japan or Korea for a very long time. Everything's going to be fine!


*I'm modding fast travel back in because f*ck. THAT. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Back to Bloodborne.



The Souls games were the greatest thing to come out of the last generation. At least to me. They were truly something new. An action RPG that relies on reflexes as much as arcane statistics. Where the level design is as striking and tragic as it's monsters. It's a series that is going to be copied again and again for years to come.

I've ripped each game apart except for one. One I appreciated, but not as much. It was a distant admiration. Bloodborne may have hit higher highs than the Souls trilogy, but at the cost of it's endless replay-ability. In BB you have half as many weapon and armor choices, the levels are more linear, the yharnam architecture gets copied and pasted a bit too much, and the chalice dungeons were kind of a waste of time.

At least that's what I thought at launch. Years later a handful of patches sweetened the pot a bit. For one, the loot has been vastly improved. The blood gems (weapon mods) have more depth and variety to them. I don't remember ever being able to slap some electric damage on my sword cane or shave off some of it's stamina cost. They get even deeper n' weirder in the late game. The loot situation is so good... it made me want to finish the chalice dungeons.

This is an area that tried to be great. It almost got there. The act of a chalice ritual (setting the odds of good loot drops for a dungeon) is brilliant. You can make some crazy ass dungeons if you want. With tight corridors choked with obnoxiously over leveled enemies with ridiculous amounts of health who happen to drop the best loot in the game. Grinding is a problem in souls games, you can never really blow past a boss because you got over leveled. I'd get stuck on a boss and put the game down for a while. In Bloodborne you can make a dungeon way past your level, suicide run it for blood stones (damage upgrades) and kick the shadow of yharnam's ass. They keep you from running into the same proverbial walls and I like the idea.

I get why they're there, but the appeal of souls is lost when the level design goes to sh*t. Once you spend an hour or two down there you know exactly what the layouts are like. After 4, you've seen every room it can generate. I'm at the deepest level and I'll tell you I am sick to death of these rooms. I mean, god help you if you find the courtyard area, you will get lost for at least 10 minutes. Different enemies can shake things up but even the treasure rooms don't surprise me anymore. I know exactly where they can show up.

That being said, this is my longest run by far and I am loving this combination rapier-pistol thing I found. I can shoot and stun an enemy while smacking him around. The enemy AI thinks "melee combat= no bullet stun" but not with this. I trick them into a fight they can't win. I am a goddamn matador. BB on it's own is a 9 out of 10. The chalice dungeons on thier own is a 7 at best. But together, now that I see them as a main quest vacation/loot slot machine I'd say BB is now my second favorite game Hidetaka Miyazaki has made. I'm really glad I gave it a thorough second chance.

Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go get my ass kicked:

Sunday, July 2, 2017

I don't understand what's going on.



It's been an amazing summer so far. Mild, breezy, and rain enough to keep things green. I should be loving this, but my hollow need of politics has kept me pretty glum. We are in uncharted historical territory, at least for America. I don't want to fly off on a crazy 25th amendment rant because neither of us have time for that. But come on guys, the people at the Nixon library are really enjoying themselves lately. I think we all know why.

I don't understand what's going on behind the scenes and off the cameras. But I think I know why the President is acting out his dizzy pile-driving fantasies on twitter. In The Wire, when Carcetti becomes mayor, he gets a blistering speech about the reality of politics. The job has it's perks and the decor is fancy... but you gotta eat sh*t and like it. Every. Day.

It takes a certain kind of person to be a politician in charge. Not everyone is cut out for it. A man who has spent 40 years hiding behind lawyers instead of grappling with his failures may not be cut out for it. Just a thought.