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Monday, December 30, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street Review: Ludefellas.

Talking about this movie is a struggle for a couple of reasons. One, it feels like there's too much ground to cover for a single review. Two, it seems like when I really think about it, there isn't much to talk about at all.

It's the same Scorsese shtick you've seen before, but different. A entire film's worth of material is covered in it's first 40 minutes alone, yet it seems to repeat itself two more times before the end... but differently. Half of me wants to call it a complete waste of time, half of me wants to call it a masterpiece. It's the most effective piece of manic film making I've ever seen. Except for the first 20 minutes, the entire film is paced like the coke sequence from Goodfellas. Does that sound exhausting? It should, because it is.

But it's a good kind of exhausting. Because it's just so charming, it felt like it was always two steps ahead of me. Say there's a scene with DiCaprio sniffing cocaine out of a hooker's butt hole with a straw (there is). In the back of my head I'm over it "yeah I guess that's kinda funny in a schlocky, desperate kind of way" I think to myself. But Scorsese knows I'm in that head space and adds just a little something that brings the visual punchline together and suddenly I'm laughing the loudest of anyone in the theater.

It's 3 hours of that, over and over. DiCaprio is coning the rich and poor alike with phoney stock bids and eventually sets the tone for the next decade of wall street trading. He uses that capital to land a trophy wife, a mansion on the most valuable real estate in America, and to fund a crippling addiction to a sleeping pill discontinued in the early 80's. He's so rich he was on drugs that didn't exist anymore!

I'd like to think there isn't a shirt that can make me hate someone instantly... but there it is.

This is the Dicaprio show, for sure, but a standing army of bit players get some of the spotlight too. Jonah Hill is the creepy sidekick and he kills it. Some of the more improvised scenes drag with him, but it's crazy how skeevy and adorable he is all at once. Also, Margot Robbie makes the most of her 20 some-odd minutes of screen time by owning every single second of it.

She's got the kind of screen presence you can't teach, and I'm not just talking about the her scalding good looks. On paper her role as the second wife goes from being naive arm candy to half-hearted landscaper. Not a whole hell of a lot for her to work with. But the more I think about her choices, the more I realize she's playing a lot more than she's getting played. Which is kind of awesome. But sadly there's no three dimensional female character within a square mile of this movie, but it's not her fault.

Does this film do justice to the reality of the real wolf's reign of life wrecking selfishness? I can't say, his daughter has some choice words for us viewers, and they're worth reading from what I saw. But what I can say is this is Scorsese's best movie in  well over a decade and it's extended quaalude overdose sequence is worth ten bucks on it's own. It's great, insanely repetitive, and if you give it enough time it'll give you one hell of a contact high.

Is Mob City smart, boring or... hell I don't know, Jay what do you think?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Troy Baker on the Indoor Kids

I'm no stranger to podcasts, which means I'm no stranger to the Nerdist network. The Indoor Kids in particular is one of the more interesting discussions being held on the games industry. Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordan are enjoyable enough on their own, but stir in some adorable marital back and forth you can only hear from the couples you know are gonna make it, and it becomes the most entertaining discussion being held on the industry.

They've had some legitimately good episodes before, the Bioshock Infinite double date was hysterical. But sometimes true luminaries from the business drop by, Tom Bissell and Film-Crit-Hulk come to mind, and those always stand out. But after their sit down with the actor Troy Baker (who's so effortlessly charming it makes me physically angry) something tugged at me in the back of my head. Something that said that this is worth remembering.

Some like to wring their hands and say the industry will soon crash just as it did in the 80's.
There may well be a financial culling of the herd. But to suggest our culture will simply abandon gaming as we did back then is absurd and I should probably write a whole 'nuther article about that... moving on.

But with people like Baker and Johnson turning in performances like Joel and Ellie, it's no longer a matter of time before games catch up with the quality and the subtlety of film. I say we're already there.

Listen to the episode not just for your own curiosity, but to pay things forward for people like Baker. He more than deserves an hour your time, and I promise it's worth your while.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Steam Winter Sale is scrumptious!

The best thrice yearly thing in PC gaming is here again, this time with a frostier texture. The Summer, fall, and winter sales consistently outdo themselves. And this one is no exception.

Max Payne for $4.00?

Right here.

Tomb Raider for $13.00?

They got that too.

Borderlands 2 GOTY for $15.00?!


Breath it in guys. Breath in the steam.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Yellow Sea is a Netflix gem.

I'm always up for a hidden gem. I'm usually never too hyped and almost always surprised. Sometimes the surprise is that I think the movie is actually terrible... but either way, I'm out of my comfort zone.

I've always wanted to dig more into Korean cinema. I goddamn loved  The Good, The Bad, and The Weird, but Thirst left me dry, and some bastard spoiled Oldboy for me. So when I'm not in the mood, 9 times out of ten, I'll stick with American Dad episodes I've seen a million times instead of broadening my horizons.

The Yellow Sea has a fascinating first 30 minutes (that's all I've seen so far, I got an early shift) and I can't wait to finish it. But before I go, I'll say I love how the Chinese/Korean border politics drive the conflict. I'm just along for the culture now. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Florida tea party Facebook group has co-opted that Bioshock Infinite mural for their banner.

Yep... that mural.

I wish I had something to say about The National Liberty Federation using one of the most satirically racist paintings I've ever seen unironically. But there are no words for this. Except maybe, wow.

...and why.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Here's a devilishly good trailer for House of Cards, season 2.

I really liked the first season of House of Cards. Perfect? no. But taken as an experiment for an entirely new mode of entertainment consumption I found it wildly successful. It kept everything that made the British original unique, while taking advantage of what would make an American setting interesting. So yeah, 2/14/14 is a red letter day for me, and those letters read Netflix.

And I like how the composer fit that spiritual into the main theme, there.

Nice one, Beal!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fallout 4 IS real. But the teaser was fake... I don't know, I've lost the plot now.

Kotaku's investigative team is saying that Fallout 4 is real and will be set in Massachusetts, as was long thought to be the case.  This comes from leaked documents from a casting call for a Bethesda project called "The Institute" in which the phrase made immortal by Ron Pearlman is found.

So, there! They're totally working on it. Boston's cool, I can get behind that too. I'm just breathing a huge sigh of relief here, it had been far too long for me. It's been over 3 years now, I need a new Fallout yesterday.

But I can wait.

Here's some of the leaked documents:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ben Whishaw as just been cast as...

The suspenders are a clue...

wait for it...

Freddy Mercury. And it's about damn time, I've been waiting for this biopic (for better or worse) for four years now. Now that Wishaw is surviving member approved, maybe we can finally get somewhere. I love Queen, goddammit. I just love them so much.

And if you don't (no judgement) then you hate life and/or yourself. No judgment.

 Life hater.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

TellTale Games is doing Borderlands now too. Seriously.

I did not see that coming. Don't they have enough pokers in the fire already? Between Fables, The Walking Dead, and now Game of Thrones odds are at least one of these is going to be terrible. But at the very least...

...we get a little more Handsome Jack!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Rick and Morty Pilot Review: 100 all day long forever... some things.

Lord knows I'm a fan of Dan Harmon's work, and lord knows I've seen a fair amount of Adult Swim in my day. But given the economic circumstances of late night animation I've felt like too many concessions are made to create anything that rises above "yeah... that was pretty good." Everything that is, except the Venture Bros. But that started in 2003 and we're still months away from anything resembling the second half of it's 5th season. Again, concessions.

So what are we looking at here with Rick and Morty? A middle school kid named Morty and his estranged mad scientist grandfather Rick, dealing with "high concept, sci-fi rigamarole." In essence, an American hitchhiker's guide with a few family sitcom trappings. Rick keeps pulling Morty out of school for some quality adventure time, and his parents are trying to keep him from flunking out. That's about the gist of it, but is it any good?

If the pilot is any indication of what's to come (I've embedded it below) I think I've seen the Lawrence of Arabia of budget animation. It's shocking how fluid everything is, how alive everything feels. Having been subjugated to damn near every season of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and it's maddeningly repetitive character poses in college, this is the best I ever hoped to see from AS. You know, besides the Venture Bros.

But is is funny? Yes! Good lord, it's funny. It scratches my Douglas Adams itch something fierce, while also having some fun side details I didn't see coming. Rick sneaking in alcoholic belches in the middle of lines should have been irritating. In fact, a lot of critics give the show hell for it. But as a guy who tried his damndest at a formative age to master the comic burp, I gotta give Justin Roiland (co-creater of Lemongrab fame) credit for both variety and intensity. My ten year old self is seriously jealous.

This is hands down, the best AS pilot in history. It ain't perfect and it may not blow your hair back. But it's got a good budget, confidence, a solid story line, and a sexual dream sequence that had me in stitches. If you can't find something to like about Rick and Morty I will honestly be surprised. Or you just don't like Adult Swim and you take pleasure in stomping on other's positivity.

In which case, WHY?! I just wanted you to think I was cool...

Here's the stupid video, you jerk. I never liked you anyway.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Bioshock Infinite, Burial at Sea Review: A Little Moth to the Flame.

It's that time of year again, where you look back on what you've played and wonder which was the best. It's a short list this year and Infinite is definitely on it, so I picked it up again to see if I still had such strong feelings for it.

Normally when I hear a dlc pack is kind of a ripoff I stay as far away from it as I can. But damn it if Colombia didn't suck me back in again, and damn it if I didn't want to see what Irrational has been up to for the last 7 months. So I sprung for the season pass which netted me the "clash in the clouds" combat arcade mode, some exclusive equipment for the main campaign and of course "Burial at Sea."

Full disclosure, I've been a rabid fan of Rapture since '07. Seeing Ken Levine take another crack at it with a brand new engine and a stronger focus on character all set before the 1959 civil war sounded spectacular. But in my heart I knew I couldn't really go home again. There's no way they could really bottle that exact magic again. As much love as I have for Bioshock 2, as well as it's dlc, neither  developer truly nailed what came before.

A week ago, the notion of a nearly 3 hour experience for $15 would make me bristle. Artistically I knew it's possible for something that short to be worth that much, but I had to see it to believe it. And quite frankly, if I didn't bet on Bioshock I knew I'd regret it eventually. So here I stand before you, a true believer. In short?

I went home again.

We all saw the noir opening re-introducing Booker and Elizabeth as citizens of Rapture rather than fugitives of Colombia. It was pretty cute the way it mocked the private eye trope of lighting a feme fatal's cigarette with incinerate, but how soon would it be until that shtick wore thin? I'm all for a new and shinier version of what is, to me at least, the most perfect possible criticism of objectivisim. But seriously, why were we here again? Why are characters from an alternate reality a good century in the past doing here? Is there truly anything left to say about either them, or Rapture in general?

I didn't get answers to those questions. For the next four and a half hours, BAS slowly made me understand I was merely asking the wrong questions. From first stepping out of Booker's new office it hit me, that feeling only video games can hit me with. A need to drink in all the atmosphere around me as meticulously as possible.

A lot of games let me down in that regard, even Infinite itself at times. But BAS passed in flying colors. If a room doesn't have something for you to loot, it has something interesting to show you. Every inch of this chapter is dripping, positively drowning, in detail and fan service. Burial at Sea is something everyone can play, but it's custom built for the Rapture faithful. The required reading is only the original, in case you were wondering. Precious little of 2k Marin's crack at the franchise is present except for the Hop-up Cola boxes and a screening of the Cohen art film "The Black Dream." I could write a whole dang article on the deafening silence that is Ken Levin's opinion on Bioshock 2, but that's not important right now, and as long as we're talking about Sander Cohen...

I would have paid $60 for more of that magnificent bastard.
There is a spectacular Cohen cameo capping off the first 3rd of BAS that just made me weak in the knees. T. Ryder Smith's performance is one of my all time favorites and his ten extra minutes in the spotlight was more than enough for me. The whole thing could have ended right there, and I would tried to be upset about it. I would have certainly written a negative review. But deep down, I would have been satisfied. But that's where the chapter starts to get violent!

Things have swung back in the direction of survival horror, and it's surprising how intense the last couple thirds of chapter one get in such a short amount of time. It feels like a demo for a full game, that's how detailed everything is. There's so many new splicers, a new microwave gun, a spectacular jingle for bucking bronco, and almost 20 audio diaries. Again, my name tag might as well say "corporate shill." But I had a f%$king great time guys, hand to god.

Yes, you can totally run through it in under 2 hours. You shouldn't. If you're a rusher, this is not for you, it's that simple. Everyone else? The folks who like eavesdropping, staring at art in a gallery, digging through trash cans, and setting up traps? This chapter gets put on the shelf that houses the most exemplary dlc I've ever played. I'd like to be more objective and take off my moldy rabbit mask...

...but I can't.