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Friday, May 31, 2013


By the seven sons of Quarter! ...There's going to be a new Neverhood.

 Don't know if you've ever heard of an good ol' game called The Neverhood, but it remains one of my seminal artistic influences. The Neverhood is right up there with a certain yellow haired child and his tiger companion who shall remain nameless (and awesome).

The Neverhood meant a lot to me. It was weird, it was funny, it was hypnotic, and its absurdist approach to biblical philosophy gave me serious insight into my own religious views which helped me understand a little more about the world. An 8 year old me couldn't have asked for more.  

I sincerely dare you to hate this music.

So 16 years later, the proverbial band is back together for its spiritual successor: Armikrog. I have no words. I am genuinely overcome with emotion and as of this writing they're a good $300,000 deep. Which is great and they will definitely get $50 from myself once they start closing the gap a little more.

I'm a fair weather investor. I'm not proud of it, but I just can't afford to throw money at Douglas Tennapple for the hell of it, as much as I'd like to. If this is a project that makes your heart sing in scat blues gibberish...GIVE HERE.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A surgery and an apology.

I've just now woken up from a nice, intense, anesthesia nap (9 straight hours). Suffice it to say, sitting and typing isn't the best thing for my stitches. I'm actually kneeling on the back of my desk chair right now. So, the daily crackpot is going on a little break. Bear with me.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Borderlands 2: KRIEG Review

"Gone are the days of the tentacle and the age of the gods' mercy is far away...We are the fighters of the middle, the second act in the three-part MEAT play, AND I WILL WIN BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR!" -KRIEG

Whelp, BL2 threw out another piece of DLC and I tried to stay away from it...I really did. But after finishing up my Axton run, I just felt compelled. No one does DLC like Gearbox and BL2 is one of those games where if I decide against buying a pack, the game feels like something's missing. I gotta keep it whole.

So four days later and a good seven hours into KRIEG, what do I think? I think he's awesome, that's what I think. Is he worth ten bucks? ...not for everyone, that I don't think. I mean, at first having a playable Psycho (those dudes in white masks on the cover art) seemed too obvious. It felt like they were running out of ideas. Compared to Gaige (the other DLC character) and her wonderful audio logs, playing a whole game as a guy who continuously screams "NIPPLE SALADS!" and "How can I snap your neck if you don't have ONE?!" KRIEG seemed far less ambitious. But what doesn't seem unambitious compared to a runaway, teenage, engineering wunderkind, amputee?

"Punk never dies." -Gaige
But after just twenty minutes with the guy, I fell for him. All his little masks, the fact his skin names are in all caps, how he seamlessly fits into the world of Pandora, and how his buzz saw manages to be even more fun than Brick's fists. I should explain, every minute and a half KRIEG can go into a psychotic (natch)  melee based rage to wail on midgets and bad asses alike. Every kill fills your health to the brim allowing you to chain more and more. But keep in mind his rage never becomes a "I win" button, 'cause ol' Kriegy is very much a glass cannon. If you don't plan it right, you can go down before your first kill and even if you second wind, the gauge will be empty and you have to scramble to cover.

Everything is a double edged sword with Krieg. Dumping skill points into "feed the meat" gives you a huge boost of health, but it will make your shield delay that much longer. There are also great remixes to the traditional buff skills thrown in, like an entire new way to get a second wind. With "Light The Fuse" instead of using your guns you throw out little bundles of dynamite which detonate when the second wind gauge runs out, reviving you if you manage to kill an enemy with them. I'm personally not a fan of it, but it is delightfully different and still pretty fun.

"Uhgggggg... the choices are pretzeling my INNER LOBES!" -KRIEG
I haven't finished up a skill tree with him yet, but I'd say I've still gotten my money's worth. The character is charismatic in his screaming, cackling, yet weirdly articulate kind of way and I enjoy hearing what he has to say. His skills are fun, but more importantly, they are different and interesting. I'd go as far to say he's a hell of a lot more fun than Mya was and I liked Mya. So Gearbox continues their streak of excellent DLC. If you've ever wanted to be a psycho, your ticket to ride is $10. Have fun out there.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Arrested Development: How do you tell an old flame you've moved on?

This really happened people, a whole new season of Arrested Development! I should be bouncing off the walls, barely able to contain my excitement. And the thing is, I would have been... four years ago. I loved Arrested Development, all its perfectly intricate running gags, how it could be simultaneously subtle and absurd, and Mrs Featherbottom...oh, Mrs. Featherbottom.

I'm still going to tear through the whole season like nobodies business, but I should be just a little excited. But in fact, I'm more angry Liberace is punting the next Game of Thrones episode a week down the line. That's weird right? The next season of Thrones is a sure a thing as sure things get...Arrested is a damn unicorn. Why am I not excited?!

I guess I've moved on, I couldn't pine over the Bluths forever and I've found new love for Community and Parks and Rec. But I still have a soft spot and I know as soon as I boot up the first episode I'll forget all about how much I've trained my self not to care anymore.

I can't wait.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Baseless Speculation: What will the end of used games actually do?

Look you guys! Look how monochrome!

So, the Xbox One cat is out of the bag and I don't have too many strong feelings about it. Well, I do have strong feelings about them allegedly planting cheerers in the press conference audience like North Korea at the Olympics, but lets move on. I don't have a dog in this fight and I am very curious to see how this console race shakes out. Right now I'd say the PS4 is winning the PR arms race, but I think we all know the cheaper console is going to win no matter what. Because that's where the economy is and because Sony hasn't stuck its foot in its mouth...yet.

But there are more aspects to a "cheaper" console than the initial price point and that's the used game market. No one is going to buy all their games at $60. That's absurd. I think the saturation of Gamestop  proves my point. People can get their games anywhere, but they flock to Gamestop for the discounts. I'm sure Sony and Microsoft would love to live in a world where they were like the big department stores. In which their "sales discounts" were what the product was actually worth and they could sell it at an inflated price for the rest of the year. Here's the thing though, and its really one of the best things about gamers as a consumer: We're too smart for that crap and will not take it lying down.

Ergo, gamers are reading the fine print about how Xbox One games can only be installed on "one" system and if you try to play the same disk on another (even if you already own it) you'll hit a pay wall (or will you? *rolls eyes*). The community has now become noticeably upset. We hear how the Xbox Neo will  "totally" support used games, but come on, they'll tell us anything we want to hear because we haven't bought it yet.  Like all sweeping security measures, this one will be attributed to piracy eventually and I can understand that.  But I'd like to float the idea that since video games are a digital medium and can be copied an infinite number of times; there comes a point where they can become devilishly cheap and will still be able to turn a handsome profit.

Steam in a minute!
I'll admit I used to be quite the pirate for games I was on the fence for. But once I stopped worrying and began to love the Steam I realised that there were other approaches to marketing video games. In that, games I wouldn't dream of buying ended up clogging my Steam library because there was a 24 hour sale for them at $7.50.

$7.50! The cheapest game worth a damn I've ever seen at a Gamestop is $15. The idea that a game makes all its real sales within its first two weeks of release is insane.Talented studios have been closed over this antiquated barometer of success and no one ever seems to blame the marketers for forcing a release at the wrong time. But with a daily deal system where you could easily find the newest Assassins Creed for $15 six months later, you'll sell many more copies than you would have at some BS sale price of $35.50. That's the entire point of a sale, a slightly higher profit margin with a strengthened brand awareness. I know I wasn't on the AC band wagon until AC II was going for $20. Well, until Revelations anyway... god, that was boring.

Unless you REALLY liked Suleiman the First.

Yet as much as I'd like to see all that, the wind is blowing in the direction of a dead used market. It bears mentioning that used sales profits only go to the store and not to the studio or publisher. In fact, that's why all games now have DLC, because that does go straight to the content creators. In the end, I think we all love games, and will do what it takes to get our fix. I'm not ignorant of the possibility of Sony and Microsoft (Nintendo will just make more money printing handhelds) stabbing Gamestop in the back to make one more console generation possible.

So I personally don't think the end of traditional used games will change a damn thing. It was already money producers never saw and there are ways to make similar sales systems while also cutting out brick and mortar store outlets (but that's a whole 'nuther rant). The real question, one I don't have the slightest clue how to answer, is what happens to the AAA market when all legitimate outlets sell them for a fixed price. All I can say is that's a really stupid, and shortsightedly greedy, idea...that's probably going to happen eventually.

Well that's depressing, you know what?, I'm gonna make a drink and play Psychonauts!

Hey, Luther's Coming Back!

If there's one thing about UK television that drives me nuts, its the years that can exist between seasons. Sherlock I can understand, as those two leads were incredibly busy, but Luther? I don't know what happened. I remember hearing somewhere that the ratings weren't sticking and BBC was dragging their feet on renewing. But thankfully even they can't stare down Stringer.

So, come September, my favorite modern day penny dreadful comes back...'bout damn time.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Thrilling Adventure Hour: The funniest thing you've never heard.

I've been a podcast addict going on three years now. That was way back in...2010? When the hell did that become 3 years ago?! (sigh) Anyway, it didn't take long to realize how awesome it is when virtually all my favorite comics have their own radio show. Girl on Guy, The Nerdist. WTF, hell, even Talkin' Toons really hits the spot once in a while. That's right, Yakko has his own talk show. You didn't even know you wanted that, did you?

I've been on the take ever since, filling all my driving hours (which are many) with comedian buddies cracking each other up. I listen to them as many times as I drink cups of coffee a day, so about two or three. They're pretty ingrained into my routine at this point.

Long story longer, I've been a regular at The Nerdist for a few years and always ran across their 20's radio serial satire: The Thrilling Adventure Hour. It was radioactive to me.  I've forcibly been exposed to the decomposed and painfully unfunny stylings of A Prairie Home Companion. Mere words cannot express how much I friggin' hate that show and the less said about Garrison Keillor's labored mouth breathing the better.

There's other aspects at play, mainly plays themselves. I've been dragged to many a local theater production by "friends" throughout high school and college. The tragedies I could take. Because (in my critical jerky-jerk opinion) acting sad is much easier than being funny. Say a twenty year old absolutely nails Othello. That's hard work, good on him. But maybe that praise goes to his head, maybe he thinks he can walk on water, and then maybe he butchers a Steve Martin monologue so horrifically; I wanted to bum rush him off stage and burn him at the stake to appease the comedy gods.

Huh...that got personal quick didn't it? I guess my point is that drama is universal, comedy is harder, and broad comedy is the hardest of them all. Imagine my surprise when I accidentally downloaded an episode of Beyond Belief and almost got clipped in an intersection because I was laughing so hard. Believe it...or don't (TM).


The main takeaway here is that Paul F. Tompkins and Paget Brewster are spectacular as a married couple of ghost hunting alcoholics. Brewster in particular slays me. Her performance isn't something you can easily describe. A drunk, dim, Manhattan socialite doesn't do it any justice; in fact I'm afraid you'll just have to hear for yourself. I've been a pusher of Tompkins ever since he managed to make a routine around corn, but Brewster? Who is this comic angel and which sphere did she come from?

Because believe you me, I have heard many (and I mean too damn many) mock 20's socialite accents from friends and professional actors alike. If you told me that I would some day run across one that would make me laugh out loud I just might have slapped you across the face. Its just so overdone. I couldn't conceive of a way to make it fresh and interesting. Suffice it to say, Brewster did it.

But its not just the Paget Brewster show, there's lots of different little serials circling around each other. There's sci-fi western, Sparks Nevada, which has an pitch perfect theme song and Nathan Fillion sometimes drops in as a guy named "Cactiod Jim" (after a sub-orbital species of cactus) its fun! Then another about a time traveling Amelia Earhart who fights a Joseph Gordon Levitt Nazi. You know you want it

But the writing is pretty sharp too and I have professional writers Ben Acker and Blacker to thank. So to The Thrilling Adventure Hour, I apologize.  I read a book by its cover and I'm sorry. I can tell you I'll personally never miss another...

 Fan art!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Crackpot Theory: Tony Stark is a Self Pitying Masochist.



So the motif of Iron Man 3 was the search for who Tony was without the suit. The vast majority of the film had Tony trying to rebuild his breakaway rocket armor inside a (again, strangely unaccented) child's garage. It showed he was resourceful, that he had a sense of responsibility, that he was essentially an 8 year old man, and that under all that steel and Paul Bettany he was still one hell of a guy.

Oh...but apparently all that soul searching was entirely pointless. After a heated conversation with a friend (who absolutely despised 3) over the film's faults, I had to tip my hat to her after she found a doozey of a plot hole. The end of the film shows he could have backpedaled out of all that nonsense and had any of his small army of extra suits fly over and pull his ass out of Tennessee.

The "House Party" shreds nearly all the character building of two whole acts. Maybe it could have worked if Rhodey was given an uplink (or something, I don't know) to Tony's toy chest from the military and he didn't know the password. That certainly would have given him more of a point as a character. But as it is, Iron Man 3 is a film about a man who puts his loved ones and his country in serious danger just so he can have something to more to say to his jolly green therapist.

Still, I loved the hell out of it, but that really bugs me though...Wait, I know what'll cheer me up!


Nolan North was in the New Star Trek...Apparently!

How did I miss this? How did I miss north? I'm a guy who keeps close tabs on his favorite character actors, because in this day and age, really talented actors seem to finally be getting a break. I mean, do you see Kristen Wiig as a lead in an 80's comedy that's especially Pretty in Pink? Exactly.

For those who are muttering "who the hell is this guy?" I'll tell you. Nolan North is this guy:

Imagine Indiana Jones was Nathan Filllion...sounds great doesn't it?

And this guy:

And this guy:

And this guy here:

Pretend I meticulously orchestrated the contrasting finger pointing.

Raise your hand if you just figured out why you've never heard of him, yep, these are all roles in video games. But he never actually spoke in Into Darkness, or at least, I never heard him. I would have pegged him immediately then, but I'm sure there were reasons, maybe it got cut for time or something. I don't know and honestly? I don't care. JJ Abrams did not have to do this, and by North's account, he just really wanted too.  

So what's this? the man with the keys to the new Star Wars properties has respect for the video game world's best and brightest? Maybe he'll be giving Chris Avellone a call next, I can dig it. I mean people aren't saying he's the greatest writer in video game history...but I'm saying those people are wrong. (if my first article didn't give that away)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Vote Knope!: A Beginner's Guide to Parks and Rec.

I'll start this primer by answering the first question I'm always asked by anyone who hasn't seen Parks and Rec. So it's just like The Office right? No! No! A thousand times, no. While I was on board The Office for the first couple of years, I confess I bailed pretty early. Years before Michael Scott left, years before the writing fell to pieces, and years before Jim and Pam became... that couple.

Something about it just rubbed me the wrong way, it was impossible to put my finger on. I still thought it was funny, I thought the characters were interesting people I'd hadn't seen given justice on TV before (I've known about 4 different Merediths), and the pranks were so good I cursed the gods for not thinking of them myself. I liked The Office, but I couldn't make myself love it.  

Around the same time I had heard Parks and Rec was gaining steam, this would be about halfway through season 2. I wanted to believe the modest hype, being a long time fan of Amy Poehler, so I looked up the pilot...and was thoroughly unimpressed. It was the same feeling The Office gave me, only this time Scott was a blonde woman in the government, what were the critics making a fuss over?

So I skipped ahead on Hulu and watched the last one they had up... then the clouds broke and I saw the light. It was the Halloween episode focusing on the infamous middle school vandal:

It was fantastic, it was a completely different show with the exact same cast. Every character in it had something to do and manged to be hilarious doing it. I had enjoyed myself more over those 20 minutes than the first two years of The Office, but why? I now had no choice but to throw myself into my studies to properly achieve a master's degree in sociology to understand how a person cou- I spent the weekend blowing off homework and devouring the series. 

I figured it out. The Office was a show you laugh at, Parks is a show you laugh with. Parks never had the "hey, look at the freaks!" vibe I could get from The Office sometimes and "The Big Bang Theory" always. It was like a revelation. It didn't have to mine laughs from the cast's collective misery. After 6 episodes the writers decided to change Poehler's Leslie Knope from a pitiful lunatic to an admirable one. Thus, they purged nearly all cynicism from the show proving that great comedy can effectively (and consistently) come from the heart.

So here we go, These are what I believe to be the best points of entry to Pawnee Indiana:

Greg Pikitis-S2: EP, 7

You never forget your first time (as much as I tried, zing!) and Pikitis still holds a very special place in my TV heart. I cannot recommend a better first episode. Its funny, its fast paced, its Louis C. K.'ied, and there's a twist ending! But seriously folks, please watch the second season front to back, but if you really must insist on browsing...

Ron and Tammy-S2: EP, 8

The one right after it is just as great, if not greater. Setting up the library as Pawnee's root of all evil, as well as pitting the real life married couple of Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally
against each other, made that season's mission statement loud and clear. The statement was "We are going to try to make this the funniest damn show that's ever existed." three years later I say they succeeded.

94 Meetings-S2: EP, 21

This isn't one of the best episodes, but it does show its greatest strength. I'm not a fan of the A story here, what with Leslie trying to save a historic Gazebo that takes a majority of the running time. The B side, with the office trying to run through almost a hundred meetings with Pawnee's local wackjobs in one day, is more than worth it. Even if there are aspects of a P&R episode you don't like, it will assuredly bungee towards something you will love if you give it five minutes.

The Master Plan-Freddie Spaghetti S2: Finale

They say the reason M*A*S*H lasted as long at it did was that whenever it rotated cast members, it always traded up. We may have lost Brendanawicz in the end of season two, but in his place rose Ben Wyatt and Chris Traeger who are (literaly?) the best pinch hitters since the 4077. Each bringing a new, or refining an old, dynamic on what was already a well balanced show. With their addition to the cast, P&R was ready to move beyond the "cult hit" world and confidently stride on their way to greatness! (pictured below)

Flu Season-S2: EP, 3

This is it. This is my favorite. I know you're not supposed to do that, they say it gives the others personality issues. But if you put a gun to my head demanding my favorite episode, Flu season is it. P&R already existed in a heightened reality, but now half the cast had a creative excuse to act even weirder. Their opportunity is not wasted and what follows is simply glorious. If flu season dosen't make you a believer, than I'm afraid to say, nothing will. But please, give it at least a couple episodes. Once it's got you in its friendly, vice-like, bear hug, it will never let you go.

...and you'll never want it to. VOTE KNOPE!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness Review, Superman Vs. Robocop.

Matt Ferguson, Everybody!
Before I start, full disclosure, I am not a Trekkie. I've sat through a fair share of Next Generation and DS9 yet I have remained unevangelised.

Its not that I overly disliked or look down on ST (being a yellow dog Brown Coat myself) but it just didn't grab me the way a show of that length would have too. I'd need to stick with it, through the good times and the Riker guts, and I don't have it in me. So whether these new films are the second coming or sacrilege I do not know. But what I do know is I walked into the theater both times with healthy optimism and both times I left thoroughly impressed.

The prevailing mantra over at my dearly beloved Rotten Tomatoes is that the acting is solid and the story is a mess. Here I find myself disagreeing with the majority of ID's detractors. I actually found the story fairly coherent and continuously surprising. Most of the time when I peg a character as a traitor I'm right, so I was delighted to be wrong in both instances. The villain's ultimate goal was sound, the cast's reactions to the evolving situation were understandable, and the progression from set piece to set piece was most...logical (sorry).

 The overarching themes of the film appeared to be guilt and greed. It opens on a thinly veiled exploration of white man's burden and ends on a declaration against warmongering for the sake of  accomplishment. Without a good roster of characters sounding off on what they mean to them, the themes wouldn't mean squat. So I'll happily agree that the critics who enjoyed the stylings of Pine, Quinto, Saldana, and Pegg were absolutely right.

"Is that...Is that how big my part is?!"
Putting these four actors in a tube together is comedy gold, which is another surprising strength of the film, its really damn funny. After three years without seeing the first installment again, I had forgotten that Spock and Uhura were a thing. The way they remind me without a character simply explaining it to the audience was refreshing... and when Kirk did just that 20 minutes later, it managed to be hilarious. In that regard, all you need to do to tickle my critic bone is to give me enough Simon Pegg being Simon Pegg. And there is so much Pegg in here you guys! All those little ticks and whines only he can add to the end of otherwise mundane line readings is a rare talent that he uses most wisely here. In fact this very nearly becomes the Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Sherlock movie. Oh! speaking of which...

"Something, something, something, darkmatterrrrrrrr."
Cumberbatch is pretty disappointing. Pulling off a broad villain of "eeeevil" caliber is hard, thankless work and unfortunately Cumberbatch chews the scenery more than anything else. In his defense the script doesn't give him much to work with either. We're supposed to fear him and what he's capable of. But we never get a clear picture of what that is, exactly. He has a weakness that ends up being the best plot point of the film and John Harrison's story is ultimately one worth telling, thankfully. And as long as we're getting complaints out of the way, I loved Carl Urban in Dredd, but his Bones always comes off as a bad impression. I want to like it but I just can't. Oh, and Alice Eve's lengiere shot!? That was embarrassing JJ, come on. I'm at a loss of what else to say about ID without spoiling its best surprises and character moments. Though I'm curious as to what repeat viewings will feel like. Maybe that's where the story falls to pieces, but I'm pretty sure critics are just venting their delayed frustration from last year's Batman. If you really want to talk about a gossamer web of preposterousness, we'll talk about "Rises." So in the end, this isn't a great movie. But it clearly didn't want to, and it doesn't have to be, one. To me, the most honest reaction you have to a movie is the first thought that pops into your head when its over. For me?

"That was almost too much fun."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Freshly STEAM-ed: Torchlight 2 Review

A look at the Steam store's hidden gems and buried skeletons.

A good looter is hard to find these days, wait...never mind. They're friggn' everywhere! The act of "looting" is one of the most voraciously addicting aspects of gaming and all developers know it. The trick is developing it well. It can be too generous, too stingy, too repetitive, too predictable, and it only works if all those aspects are in check. In other words, its chemistry.

An action RPG like torchlight, despite its large roster of characters to build, places to roam, enemies to kill, and quests to fetch, its only as good as it's loot system. So my reaction to the game after running through two characters over a few months is...favorable. It's occasionally great, but in the face of Borderlands and even Darksiders II, I see room for improvement

"Two barrels? Psh, its been done."

It's far less expensive than those other two games, $40 less, even. But after a good long while into a new game+ I was bored. I was just doing the same things over and over and over because the game wouldn't let me try out any other tactics. It had made me set in my ways against my will because there were serious problems with the leveling process. In that, you can read your skill trees front to back but still have no real idea what your new skill will be like until you've invested in to it halfway. That takes hours, and if you had more than three points spent on a useless ability there was no going back. The vast array of skills and abilities demand experimentation, but the game allowed no room for it. Worse still, they guzzle so many skill points to be worth a damn that you would have to spend an entire play through nurturing five out of  30 skills to stay in fighting shape. That's boring. 

This is a picture of twice as much time as you're ever going to want to spend with one character.

But again, loot is the name of this game, and great loot heals all wounds. But sadly, that fared even worse. 6 times out of 10 when I came across a "legendary" piece of loot, it was for another character. It was a cheap, irritating, way to force me to play multiplayer and trade with others. Which would have been fine, except none of my friends who have a PC play this game (enough anyway). So all it accomplished was taunting me until I lost interest in continuing to loot. Which also translates into not playing the game because that was the whole damn point.

It's strange it left me so cold, because I really wanted to love it. In fact, there are many things I still admire about it. It's charming score, its fluid (delightful) animation, its crisp sound design (pistols especially), and the way the monsters feel like natural species in their element rather than things made up to kill you. Brilliant people made this game, and it is one hell of a game, the last thing I want to do is to sell TL2 short. Its necessary to point out that all my grousing comes from long term exposure. Meaning none of these complaints floated to the surface until after I had beaten it twice. I'm not complaining about it being bad, I'm angry at how close it came to being perfect.

"So what do you guys think? Too blue? ...Its too blue, I get it. Good talk."

Yet, while I was busy complaining about the lack of my ability to re-spec my character, the developers patched in the ability to do just that. Which brings up the best feature about this shindig: Steam Workshop! If there is a problem you have with the game, a vast community of modders have most likely already fixed it. Further still, there are entirely new characters, pets, bosses, dungeons, and equipment ready made to sweeten your pot. All are free and are downloaded directly where they need to be without you needing to open up the hood of your root folder. Just subscribe and sit back while it streams.

So if you're looking for a solid looter on the cheap, there is no better place to look to than Runic game’s stylized little romp. I may be hard on it, but that's just because I love it and want it to improve. I'm sure the right concoction of mods to smooth out my grievances exists, so I guess I better start mixing, I hope to see some of you in there.

"You did not just step on my new boots!!!"

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Transformers in Slow Motion: aka "Pacific Rim."

 Ladies and gentlemen...this could be something very special.

Blow this sucker up full screen!   

I actually liked the last one a little better so here, have both, and let your inner 8 year old squeal with joy!

Have a Friend for Dinner, Tonight at 10.

Join me for something delicious on TV this evening, more of NBC's Hannibal!  The last show I watched on TV because I couldn't wait for the internet to catch up was Breaking Bad. Folks, in my book, Hannibal is right up there with Breaking Bad. Its so good, other networks are licking their chops at its low ratings so they can pick it up for themselves, should it be canceled. I've already spoke at length on its hypnotic cinematography, brilliant acting, and absolutely disgusting  murder victims.

Its a really good show folks...but don't just take my word for it:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Crackpot Theory: Dr. Shultz is kind of a Dick.


Get it?

Got it?


So I finished watching "Django Unchained" again the other night, and I felt I was right about it the first time, its Tarantino's best movie. Its so hard to watch, yet so painfully funny, that the only other thing I've ever seen remotely like it was the marginally inferior "Inglorious Bastards." That's good company to keep, no question.

But something really bothered me the second time around. When Shultz was about to give Django everything he ever wanted after he had spent the last winter giving Shultz everything he wanted...Shultz goes and shoots Candie in the chest.

"No, my Gatsby face is completely different. Why does everyone keep saying that?"

Yes, it sets up the grand finale and allows Django the opportunity to break himself out of a slave drive for once, but come on. The only reason Shultz shot him was to move the story along. Everything we had understood about the character says he would never do that to either Django or Hildy. When he kills Candie he signs Django's death warrant and he would have known that.

"Hey, yeah...what the hell Waltz?!
There's better ways to keep the story development right where it is without making Shultz so selfishly suicidal. Like what if Candie tried to club him to death when closing in for the hand shake? What if Candie never really intended to let them leave?  Its a humongous plot hole in an otherwise wonderful movie, that's why I'm bothering to whine about it. Django's worth it, and he deserved better from the good doctor.

I'll play myself out:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Grave Encounters Review: a horror film afraid of its own screenwriter.

Grave Encounters is a anomaly in many ways. For one, its a horror film on Netflix with a star rating higher than three, which is stupendously rare. For another one, its a horror film on Netflix I've managed to watch past the first twenty minutes and actually finished. I couldn't even do that for "Call the Midwife." Which was a different kind of horror, "Bore-or".

I don't finish any movie without it doing at least 3 out of 4 things right:

Pacing- The ability to keep me from pulling out my phone.

Dialogue- Determined by how little I try to finish actors sentences/ block out what they're saying. 

Story- Measured by the intensity of my craving to see how it ends.

Acting- Divined by how much I forget about judging the other three.

If one is satisfactory I'll wait 10 minutes for another to impress. If that happens, I give it 20 minutes. If it can pull off three I'll finish it up and will probably write a positive review. Four and I will definitely praise the sucker and possibly watch it again a year later. So how did GE do? The short answer is "better then I thought" The accurate short answer is "but..." The accurate long answer is the rest of this article.
Horror Movie Disease #26: Fate Temping Tourette's
Yes this is a found footage movie and no, I don't think its a gimmick any more or less tired than the teen slasher framework. These horror style choices can work just as effectively as any other, so it doesn't loose points from me on that front. This film's biggest problem is further under the surface.

The set up works well enough. For a good long while you buy the cast as a reality show film crew that fudges details wherever they can to heighten the reality of their fiction. Its actually pretty fun to watch them coerce more details out of the groundskeeper and even demand better takes of "reality." The way it exposes the bald face lies of shows like Ghost Hunters and Paranormal State tickled me pink. How pink do you ask?
This pink... god I hate Ghost Hunters.

But all hubris in horror must eventually be answered for and I applaud the script for keeping the paranormal hocus-pokus to a minimum for half of the run. Though this may have been a budget issue than a creative decision (more on that later). For the first half we are treated to serviceable dialogue delivered by some damn good actors. Merwin Mondesir plays the camera man/arbitrary black character with a surprising amount of depth. He tries to hide his fear of never seeing his family again with an intentionally unconvincing braggadocio that, besides being given the only backstory in the whole film, the material doesn't call for. Sean Rogerson's  role as the host character will be pegged by the audience the instant he opens his mouth. He's so good I could have sworn I'd seen him on TV before.

"So...this script has an ending right? ...Right guys?
Everyone else is...not bad. They don't really matter. Everyone else, that is, except for Ashleigh Gryzko. The movie simply doesn't deserve her performance. Once the ghosts start rattling their chains, all the actors switch gears to "scared mode" and stay there, Only Gryzko tries to dig deeper. I have never seen a mental breakdown so excruciatingly pathetic as hers, which also makes it the most honest. If I could throw some pixie dust in the air, wish, and make her famous I would. But unfortunately, Ryan Reynolds grabbed the last box (ziz-ing!).

So now we come to the ending. By which I mean, there isn't one. Its the classic tale of writers who are really good at making introductions, better at rising action, and have absolutely no f**king clue how to tie up a plot thread. Crap just starts happening. It seems like its going somewhere at first, but ten minutes to the end I realized it was just killing time. There's a fine line between being open to interpretation, and making s**t up as you go along. GE is guilty of the latter.
 The link's up top, see for yourself.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Metro last light: "Meant to be Played at a Premium"

I've hinted at how DLC can be used for evil and the new Metro game is handily making my case for me. DLC should only be used to add to an already whole experience. Your Fallouts, your Borderlands, even your Dishonoreds, all knew this rule and lived by it. But its when parts of the whole become chopped off and sold at a price for the more discerning and dedicated player that DLC becomes exploitative.

You wanna drop 40 some odd bucks on a bunch of paint jobs for your guns? Go for it. That's cosmetic, like streamers on the handles of your new bike. You aren't profoundly experiencing a different game than anyone else, but you are more invested and theoretically getting more out of it. If that's what you want, its your money and retailers shouldn't feel remorse for tapping that market. But games are expensive and sixty bucks should get you everything a developer has developed at launch.

When the hardest difficulty setting is billed as "the way its meant to be played" and is then made available only to those who pre-order it and sold at a premium to everyone else, I get steamed. It says a lot about  the game's backers, the state of video game marketing, and a fair bit about the product itself. Single player gaming is seen as a pricey indulgence in the industry today as it is. So they will continue to scramble to find more ways to circumvent the used market and pad their bottom line.

 I'm absolutely fine with publishers finding better ways to feed their shareholders. If they have a product worth selling I'll buy it. I'll take a half pound of cherries with my five pound crate of oranges. It's when that crate of oranges is padded with too much tissue paper, and the last sixth of them are only sold as premium "super oranges" that contains critical plot development... ok I've lost the metaphor. 

The point is, difficulty modes are relatively simple to implement and make a world of a difference in re-playability. It's not a new part of the story, it's not cosmetic, It may not even be that good, and the only reason its not in the core game is because of ass headed marketing jag offs.

So I here stand, thoroughly miffed. Good day internet.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Community Survives.

Another year, another nail biting finale for one of my favorite shows. Not that it was that suspenseful, no, I'm talking about worrying over whether or not that was the end. But it got picked up! That's been great news in the past, but what about now?  has it "jumped the shark" as they say, or does it still have some legs?  The answer is a lot of yes...and a little no.

Community has had a complicated history both with myself and it's network. After it finally embraced how weird it could be, I was hooked like nobodies business. Very few shows have an ensemble as inherently funny as well as effectively dramatic, adding more fuel to my "the best actors are comedians" argument (more on that tomorrow).  Community understands the most effective humor comes from tragedy, and every single member of its cast is essentially a tragic figure. Yet they're lovable not in spite, but because of their flaws. Making what seems to be an exercise in childishness to be an earnest character drama.

But remember, its funny as hell.

Which leads us to he end of last season and the summary dismissal of the show's creator and showrunner, Dan Harmon. It stung. It stung because it seemed like cast member Chevy Chase had a lot to do with it. I know this is a business and casts aren't really ever as collaborative and happy as they seem on dvd extras...but I wanted to believe Community was.

Yet instead of killing it, NBC decided Community should continue. Whether it would be a proud success story, or a shambling zombie, remained to be seen. So a year later, what did we see? A little of both. It was essentially the first season all over again, missteps alined with hints at greatness. Perice's (Chevy Chase's) random disappearances notwithstanding, this was not the abomination I was expecting, and for that I am thank full. Though, understandably, this was far from the show's finest hour.

Still, the finale managed to bring the last remaining plot lines to a close. Did Greendale change Jeff? Was the darkest timeline ever going to be paid off? Were they ever going to bother to write Chase off the show? The answer ended up being yes. In that way the season was a success, in that way, I am hopeful for the future. Sure they haven't been picked up for a full season; seeing as they aren't on the fall schedule, but I can live with another 13 episodes. I'm sure the rest of us Greendalians can too.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Cabin in the Woods Review: Netflix Y'all! Um...You. All.

Damnit Netflix, you have to stop doing this. The last time I wanted to cancel you plopped "Top of the Lake" in my lap. Now you've got a whole 'nuther season of "American Dad!" ...and whats this? for me? you shouldn't have. I really can't stay mad at you buddy, not if you keep up this Whedon related goodness.

So yeah, "Cabin in the Woods" is on Netflix and this marks maybe the third time I've seen it. I am not a guy who rewatches movies and I only own maybe less than fifteen actual dvds. Only my personal best of the best  ever gets seen again and in the case of one ludicrous outlier (Hot Fuzz) sometimes twelve more times. But that's a very very special case.

Anyway, you have already probably heard about it and probably had the better parts ruined for you, and that's a shame. The last act is really something special and even I could not have foreseen the gaping depths of meta Whedon and his writing partner pulled off here. In just under 90 minutes they boiled down the essence of horror into something that was simultaneously thrilling and hilarious. So if you havn't checked it out yet please do.  You may not like it as much as I did, but you are going to laugh and you are going to have a good time...but the more I think about it the film, the more I miss Bradly Whitford.

Recommended Viewing

Fran Kranz:

Bradley Whitford:
The West Wing
The Good Guys