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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Why Steam users are exeptionally smug today.

It seems like Steam is snowballing into quite the console competitor. Not really though, Sony and Microsoft could take Newell with both hands tied behind their backs GTA V sold 39 million copies without a PC version at all, but the number of active users under Valve's belt is staggering. There are 65 million of us now, at least 30% of which joined in the last year.

This whole "Steam Machine" business may have a better shot than I dared hope. And this is all coming from a guy who couldn't wipe it off his hard drive fast enough. A guy who only saw Steam as the epileptic gatekeeper that would only let him play New Vegas between the hours 1:00 and 6:00 AM. Fast forward 3 years later and I've saved at least, at least, $300 dollars off of Steam sales alone. I'm not logging off anytime soon.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hey! So Mike Rowe was in this crappy 90's video game...

Everyone's favorite blue collar emcee and opera singer (seriously) went through some pretty lean years... come to think of it, he may be there again. But either way, we need to talk about "Radio Active." In that, I'm gonna let Rowe talk about Radio Active:

"And so it came to pass that I auditioned for and won the coveted the role of Bobby Arpeggio," Rowe wrote on Facebook, "the central figure in what the producers called 'the first truly interactive gaming experience designed exclusively for the personal computer — the music trivia adventure called Radio Active!" (I called it 'Name That Tune,' but whatever.) I packed a bag, flew to San Francisco, and slipped into the wardrobe that was waiting for me. A week later I had a check in my pocket, and was off to the next gig."
What prompted all this? A fan showed him a screen grab of him in the game and got him to open up about it a little.

Don't look directly at it. You actually need one of those mirror boxes they make for solar eclipses.

"When I saw this image, mixed in with all the other kind expressions of support, it made me laugh out loud, and reminded me that when a man can't deny his past (or his outfit), he might as well embrace it."

Thanks Polygon!

Monday, October 28, 2013

So it's been a while...

I have been reasonably busy the past week, what with a new night job and other nagging responsibilities... I kinda forgot about the crackpot. But no more! I guess I could talk about Netflix shows I'm trying to get into. Scandal is shaky, soapy, and ridiculous. But I can't shake the fact I kinda like it. In Bruges just popped up and I highly suggest you all watch it. It's both the funniest and most sympathetic performance of Colin Farrell's career. Plus he punches out Zeljko Ivanek. It's delightful.

Gaming wise I'm back on a self destructive Civilization bender. It's taken me almost 8 years but I've finally got one of these:
I  managed to pull off a science victory on normal mode. I feel like I finally "get" Civilization. Again, it's taken me quite a few years to get here. Game after game of me stumbling around in the dark tripping over feature after feature and slowly figuring out what to do with it all. Diplomacy? the hell do I do with that? Why do I have so many spies? Why is my entire empire represented by a red frowny face? But I think I get it now, maybe in another 10 years I can give hard mode a spin.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Games for Windows Live is irritating even in death.

I hate GFWL. I've hated it ever since it made Fallout 3 run slowly, locked me out of dlc in Bioshock 2 seven times, and just generally acted like a fidgety piece of garbage designed by people who live in a place that just rains bandwidth. But thankfully Microsoft is finally driving a stake through it's desiccated corpse.

Good news right? Well it turns out all GFWL save games are encrypted... so all of your saves are going to get wiped. Three days after I got back into Arkham City, BAM! The 30 some-odd hours I put into it's riddler trophies and challenge rooms evaporated. I love that game, but there was no way I had the patience to go through all that again. Thankfully my save files were still there, but I'd have to do some coding back flips to get steam to read them again.

The wages of sin in pc gaming is hexadecimal... and death.

After a solid three hours trying to untangle GFWL's wires I had nothing. But the great thing about PC gaming is there's always someone more talented than you out there working on the same problem. That person's STEAM id was Andrew and he patched up my files good as new.

Thanks buddy. I won't forget this.

He's one of the good ones, folks.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ubisoft's delay of Watchdogs hit em' hard.

According to a up and coming indie rag called The New York Times, Ubisoft's stock has plummeted by a quarter following the decision to delay the game Watchdogs for would could end up being six months.

I'm all for new franchises and taking your time to get them off the ground right, but to the public it seemed like copies of the game would be ready to ship in a couple weeks. They even offered bundles of the game for the new Xbox and PlayStation. Something is seriously wrong with this company and the market has already said as much.

The rift between production and marketing was fatally massive in this instance. The left hand didn't know the right hand was months behind schedule and the whole company is taking the hit. The thing is, if the game really is as good as I hope it is, (I've got the same wait and see stance I had with Beyond: Two Souls on it) no one in the gaming community will care.

Like most art, nobody remembers if something was late, just that it was good.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

All is Lost is apparently one of, if not the best, movie of Robert Redford's career.

So why is this the first I'm hearing about it? There I was this morning on the lovely rotten tomatoes casually trying to remember what The World's End's box office was, and bam! A 93% film pops up that I've heard absolutely nothing about.

I pride myself on my nerdly fact checking ways. I'd like to think I have my ear to the ground with most things pertaining to news, movies, and games. In that order. I'd written Redford off years ago as his stint as a director dried up in the late 90's. He wasn't bad or anything, just not worth keeping an eye on. Now he's in a one man perfect storm with rave reviews? Shame on me, I guess.

Would you just look at that righteous crag? The man was born to be nautical.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sleepy Hollow Episode 1-4 Review: The Most Lovable Kind of Bonkers.

Hand to god... this does not suck.

The first few minutes of the pilot were off putting. The haphazard conveniences that throw the main cast together was even harder to sit through. From the first time I heard about the show's premise I was out for blood. This was all so ridiculous, so stupid, why was I doing this to myself? I don't really know. I could have spent those three and a half hours somewhere much more productive, but I didn't. You know what? I didn't mind.

Sleepy Hollow knows exactly how silly it is, doesn't care, and makes the very best of a bewildering creative situation. It's pretty good. As funny as it is scary. Nothing on the level of someone like James Wan, but there are very good ideas behind the show's monsters. A resurrected witch whose skin smolders like ember. A Native American sand man that takes on all the properties of actual sand. A physical performance behind the headless horseman that is just so ludicrously bad ass I rewound almost every scene he's in at least once.

The show simply does not deserve the actors it has. Tom Minson as Ichabod Crane and Nicole Beharie as his sidekick... wait, that's not right. The roguishly handsome British lead is totally second fiddle to the black female sheriff. I kinda love that. They are both everything the show needs and more. They can talk about things like headless zombies and apocalyptic prophecy as if they almost believe it. But they nail the levity harder than most dramas do. Ichabod messing with a car's power windows in awe had me chuckling in spite of myself. 

The show speaks to the child in me. One that grew up on Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Goosebumps, and Power Rangers. Sleepy Hollow is the blackest possible sheep those shows could produce, with more than twice the budget of all of them put together. It's a pretty good time If you turn off the side of you that loves Breaking Bad and French New wave, pour a drink or two, rip open some pretzels, and curl up under your favorite blanket in the dark.

It ain't Fringe, it ain't even The Walking Dead, but it's not bad. And as a guy with a violent allergy towards reality TV; I'll take well acted and executed hokum over Toddlers in Tiaras any damn day of the week.

Can we talk about how much I missed Orlando Jones?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Frozen's snowman mascot continues to freak me the hell out.

I get the economics behind children's entertainment. I get why Avatar has all those cutesy hybrid animals. I get why every princess movie needs a Flounder or a Chip or that chameleon in Tangled (which in itself was kind of an awesome about face on what girls should keep as pets).

Which brings me to this... this, thing:

"A flash of lightning illuminated the object, and discovered its shape plainly to me; its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, the filthy daemon, to whom I had given life."

It's design is so lazy, yet simultaneously overproduced. Looking at it is like staring the soulless bureaucracy of Disney filmmaking in the eyes and I don't like what I see. It feels like one half of the production just couldn't be bothered to give two sh*ts (design), and the other is pulling all their dead weight (everyone else). If I directed this I'd make sure Olaf was either the most visually intersting character in the film, or that he was barely in the trailer and had absolutely nothing to do with marketing material.

It's gentle swinging hips follow you around the lobby and it is all you will see when you close your eyes at night.

Shockingly, we don't live in a world where we can just wish ourselves to the helm of a new Disney property. But what I do get to do is watch from the sidelines slowly and ominously shaking my head while judging a book by it's cover. You know what kills me though? I like Josh Gad. I really really do. He deserves better than this forgettable, by committee, homunculus.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Stanley Parable DEMO Review.

You may think it odd I would review a demonstration of a product, being that I haven't actually experienced said product and would literally be judging a book by it's sales pitch. But we aren't talking about books, we're talking about video games! So stop being silly.

I've played quite a few demos in my day, but never before has a demo actually failed to produce a demonstration. In the 15 to 17 hours I spent with the Stanley Parable demo (I couldn't see the sun so time was obviously meaningless) all I saw was a so called "narrator" falling over himself to impress upon me the worthiness of his product. An endeavor in which he failed most spectacularly.

I experienced nothing down there, absolutely nothing at all. No tantalizing foreshadowing, no dramatic irony, no existential guilt, not even a sliver of angst or regret. How dare a narrator tell me how to feel?! It was beyond insulting. Both intellectually and logically... and emotionally.
And almost physically.

Perhaps the narrator would be better served in a different vocation, one in which he is not so hilariously ill suited. I am not sure which, so don't yell at me. Just know that The Stanley Parable demo is a spectacular failure of both epic and prodigious proportions.

Now will someone PLEASE... tell me why I can't stop crying?

It's absolutely brilliant.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Frictional's SOMA has me wide awake.

Things have been a bit hectic for me lately. Not so much work related as resume and cover letter related... *sigh.* I've seriously considered calling this the Every Other Daily Crackpot. But back to business. I love horror. Correction: I love horror done right. Which means I'll see one foreign horror film every two years, and one American horror film every 6 years. That's the time it takes for the global film industry to get it right. I'm talkin' El Orfanato, the original Paranormal Activity, and The Conjuring. I love great horror, and I have little to no patience for chaff.

The greatest thing about the golden age of indie gaming has been a respectable return for the horror title. Starting with Amnesia, running through Slender, and all the way up to Outlast, the last few years have seen a much better track record in gaming than in film. You may know that Amnesia's devs didn't work on "A Machine for Pigs" and I've been dying to see what Frictional was up to in the mean time. Well... now we know.


 Yup. I've got my wallet right here and... what's that? 2015!? 

Well, dang.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Oh yeah... Amalur wasn't half bad.

Maybe you've heard of Amalur a couple years back. Or maybe you heard about how it's publisher was run by (and into the ground) by pitcher legend Curt Schilling. The long, sad, story of 38 studios is worthy of several  posts and Monday morning quarterbacking. But that's not gonna happen just yet, because I'm pretty distracted by the one product they did manage to ship: KoA: Reckoning.

I played it for a good play through and a half about two years ago, thought it was ok, put it down and didn't touch it again until last Saturday. I'm having a ball. I now know how big it is (gargantuan) how good the story is (not very), how convincing the acting is (uniformly better than Skyrim's), and if certain crafting recipes snap the game's economy like a twig (you bet'cha).

Armed with my tapered expectations and a whole season of Superego running in the background, I was ready for what, if anything, held up. Almost everything did, surprisingly. It is a truly massive single player RPG with fun and fluid real time combat; as well as a rewarding leveling system that lets you mix and match the traditional thief, warrior, mage, fare. Not to mention a deep blacksmithing skill that let's you name all your stuff! I love crap like that. I've got a dagger named "Brutus's Brunt" and a frost staff called "The Witch's Spit." Love it.

But while I am skipping conversations and using fast travel as early and as often as I'm able, there is something that gives me pause. That is Grant Kirkhope's amazing score:

The publisher's tarnished reputation aside, this is absolutely worth your time. So what if the story is kind of a mess? So what if the last third becomes appallingly easy if you're even half invested in any crafting skill? It's beautiful, fun, and spectacularly well made. Plus, isn't it free for PS Plus users right now?

Come on, it straight up looks fun, admit it!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Gravity Review: Slipping the Surly Bonds of Hype

I want call this a science fiction epic, but I'm not sure that applies. I mean it technically is fiction, and about science, but there's nothing remotely fantastical about it. This could happen, we have the technology. In that sense a movie about a mining disaster is sci-fi. But enough abut that crap, I'm here to shout what you've already heard everywhere else, that gravity is amazing. That somewhere between 2001 and Die Hard is a masterpiece of dramatic tension and Newtonian physics. That you should choose to eat dinner afterwards, and that all the technical Oscars this year belong to it.

You will believe you're trapped in space. There wasn't a single moment I doubted where I was. The fact this movie used so much green screen you could make the argument it was an animated film is astonishing. You need to see it in IMAX, but if that's too rich for your blood, the 2D theater experience is almost just as good. That's right, I've seen it twice, it's that unique. That's the best part about Gravity, you've never truly seen anything like it. It's slavish commitment to the awkward physics of anti-gravity is absolute. You feel just as helpless as Dr. Stone, which reminds me of the other surprising thing about the film.

I would have bet money years ago that I'd never see an award caliber performance form Sandra Bullock. Don't get me wrong, I love her to pieces, and I've paid good money for her films good and bad. But I see her getting another Oscar for this. Her character progression is phenomenal. A realistic reaction to the petrifying death sentence of her situation with a bad-ass streak that only get's stronger with time. Gravity's "all is lost" moment is hard to get a bead on at first because it seems like every other scene is an "all is lost" moment. But you'll know it when you see it, it's a performance so quietly heartbreaking, it earns floating anti-gravity tears. That's amazing, because that's ridiculous.

But I do have a bone to pick with wardrobe. I know this was an expensive movie to make and I don't want to wade into the gender politics required to make an $80 million movie with a female lead. I just don't think Bullock pulling a "Ripley" was necessary. Sure Cuaron does his damnedest to make it a visually metaphorical scene, but a panty shot is a panty shot and it's on the wrong side of voyeuristic.

You just want to reach through the screen and give her a hug.
That's a nit pick, I'll admit it, I'm usually the last person to complain about Sandra Bullock's legs. But even so, it's an easy scene to put out of your mind for the rest of the roller coaster ride. And buddy? It's intense. Even if you groan through all the banter and character development (Stone's back story is pretty clunky) the action beats and oxygen based ticking clocks are the new high water marks of dramatic tension on film. I've never heard an entire audience collectively gasp for breath before... it was priceless. If you're sick of the deafening cacophony of modern action scenes, know that the best bits of gravity take place in almost total silence. It's terrifying.

So do yourself a favor and dig your fingernails into an armrest for 90 minutes. This is the kind of film making that makes the tide rise. The kind of movie that makes everyone in the business try a little harder. It may not have the ponderous atmosphere of Kubrick's masterpiece, but I assure you he's beaming in his grave all the same.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Damon Lindelof's Mea Culpa.

I actively hate the last 10 years of M. Night Shyamalan's career. A shocking stance for a film critic to take, I know, but bear with me. He's just so aggressively set in his ways, so intrenched into his most irritating shortcomings as an artist. He cannot, and will not, take criticism. When the tide first started to turn against him after The Village (the last film of his I actually liked) what does he turn around and do? He casts himself in his next film as a prophet, whose critic is mauled by wolves.

It's crap like that which frustrate me the most. He's not a William Castle type, reveling in the shlock he makes with a knowing wink. No, he's a deluded hack who refuses to even address his issues, let alone attempt to fix them. Which brings me to Damon Lindelof. I think he's a talented writer who's earned his place at the table without being too mainstream. Aside from Prometheus, I think his career has been rock solid. But like M., he's got problems. He can get a story off the ground like a champ, but his landings are rocky at best. I didn't actively hate the Lost finale... but I could have waited a whole year for them to make a TV movie to get it right. Now that I think about it, that whole last season was a non starter. As soon as the temple showed up I crossed my arms and said "Sh*t. They're not wrapping up a damn thing." And they didn't. It wasn't the disaster many have claimed (did you see the crap they pulled on Dexter?!) But there was a ton of room for improvement.

The last couple years has shown a more defensive and bitter Damon who got increasingly irritable about answering, over and over, why he made the Lost ending suck. That would make any of us bitter "You know that business you helped start 8 years ago? Why did you suck at it so much?" Come on guys, we would all punch that dick in the face. So when Breaking Bad ended softly and satisfyingly (review inbound) Damon got this tweet: "Did you see that, Lindelof? That's how you end a show."

How did he respond? Brilliantly:

"I agreed to write this piece because I am deeply and unhealthily obsessed with finding ways to revisit the Lost finale and the maddening hurricane of s*** that has followed it, I am Walter White. Arrogant. Conceited. Selfish. Entitled. Looking for ways to blame everything and everyone but myself, even though it is perfectly clear the situation I find myself in is of my own making. And here's the worst part: I'm still naive enough to believe I can attain some level of redemption." 

"I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really...I was alive."

Bravo, sir. And thank you for your humility. We did not deserve it, but you gave it anyway. I hope you grow as an artist from this, and that others will follow... I really liked Into Darkness, too. So there's that.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What I've been watchin'


I, like most of you I'm assuming, cringed when you heard Ricky Gervais would be playing a mentally retarded man in a nursing home. I felt like his heart was in the right place, but I put it on the back burner for a week or two. That was a shame, because it's a soberingly honest show with nothing but love for the handicapped. Mentally or otherwise.

It doesn't make the character of Derek precious or anything. Like the criminally underrated "The Ringer"it shows the handicapped as they are. Not too dim, not too likable, just human. My biggest mistake was thinking it was a comedy, but like Orange is the New Black before it, I adjusted to how bleak it was going to be. The first five minutes felt like an entire episode, that's how draining it is. This is not a "curl up with a cup of tea before bed" kind of a deal, you gotta be ready to feel for the twilight years of your fellow man. Derek's sh*t is real, I guess we have Netlix to thank for that.

But that's not to say it isn't funny, hamster on a piano is gonna be stuck in my head for weeks, but it is more of a character piece. Karl Pilkington plays along as the caretaker the best he can. If you don't know the back story on the guy you may have no idea what I'm talking about. But watching the look behind his eyes that scream "I can't believe Ricky talked me into this" adds another extra layer that makes him even more strangely endearing. 

So... yeah, it's pretty damn good. Somber, but poignant. It's worth a shot.