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Saturday, November 29, 2014

How I learned to stop worrying and love the beard.

I have a lot against the hipster movement. I mean, at least the free lovers had some sort of ideological bent. Their identity had the teensiest spark of motivation. But why you would grow a handle bar mustache, wear a top hat, a silk vest, a bow tie, and ratty sneakers just doesn't effing compute.

I see seas of lumberjack beards everyday and for the longest time I didn't understand them. But for whatever reason, be it my recent break up or the fact my barbasol had turned to liquid, I stopped shaving. The results have been shockingly complementary. The ladies seem to like it, and that is all the justification I need for damn near every significant thing I've ever done. So I get it, hipsters. A little. Kinda. Why can't you get better shoes?!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tales from the Borderlands Review: It'll blow your mind and break your heart.

 I never get episodic games day one. The same way I never get season passes on day one. I'm not going to pay for something I can't have yet. But I have a weakness for The Borderlands. I also have a weakness for glowing reviews. Ultimately the chocolate got in the peanut butter and I couldn't stay away.

I'm glad I didn't. This is singularly the best episode TellTale's ever done. Full stop. I'm seriously wondering if they blew their budget on it. I thought it would end 3 stunning action sequences before it did. This is a true labor of love and only makes a great series of games even better.

I'm no fair weather fan either. I've been there since their Monkey Island reboot back in 2009. As much as I love their work on The Walking Dead (which was honestly better written than a third of the actual show) it's clear form the first 20 minutes of TFBL they've been dying to be funny again.

What we have here is a taught comedy thriller set in Gearbox's world of Pandora. This point and click adventure fits seamlessly into the background of the main series's signature first person shooter framework. This is a world where nobody needs half of a reason to shoot someone and take their stuff. A perfect setting for the classic "deal of a lifetime gone wrong" scenario. Our duel protagonists are a malcontent Hyperion junior executive who's just had a decade of brown nosing rendered pointless; and a native Pandoran con artist looking to pull the right job that can set her and her kid sister up for life.

"Hold still, this baby has one hell of a massage setting."
They both unreliably narrate the chain of events that lead them to be hogtied together while a masked man points a Conference Call at their faces. I know, I know. "Hyperion." "Pandora." "Conference Call." That's all jargon you don't need to know. You don't need to know anything about Borderlands going in to enjoy this game. In fact, I've always believed Telltale interactive narrative games are the perfect gateway for folks that can't stand video games. I'd love to see what my dad would make of this if he earnestly gave it a shot. It's story is effortlessly gripping because a lot of the heavy world-building lifting has been done in three feature length games already.

Like I said, you don't need to know what the best shotgun in Borderlands 2 is to appreciate Tales. But there is some amazing behind the scenes fan service if you've got sharp enough eyes. Like how Rhy's dialogue choices have a holographic Hyperion look. Whereas Fiona's stick to a folksy wooden style. A Jakobs, style. Jargon again, apologies!

Credit where credit is due, this is the best cast TellTale has worked with. No matter how good The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us were, and they were both damn good, the background characters always sounded a little flat. Wolf had it the worst, half that cast had me checking my watch. I feel TT knew about that, because there's no other explanation for every every single character in this one episode being so awesomely on point. The random bandits you talk to, besides the first one who's clearly Keith Szarabajka being predictably gruff and delightful? All hilarious.

And you just know he double parks.

And you bet that's Patrick Warburton from Family Guy as that smug Hyperion exec. You know that's Chris Hardwick as Rhys's right hand, Vaughn. Rhys himself is the never-not-stunning Troy Baker. And that August character was totally Nolan North. Sure TT nailed down the biggest names for their Game of Throne's adaptation next month. But these are great lesser-appreciated talents they've probably had on a shortlist for years. They did not waste the opportunity.

Oh, and the soundtrack has been kicked up like nobodies business. I won't beat around the bush... The Walking Dead's score was garbage. Absolute. Garbage. This is not. While some tracks are recycled from BL2, there's a great techno Morricone-esque theme for the menu screen and a few other gems sprinkled throughout the more action oriented sections. They really stepped up their game all over the place this time.

I've also been getting earfuls from some holier-than-thou critics calling this the best borderlands game, period. I get that they didn't like the shooting and looting from the main series and they'd be right if they were just whipping the first game's confused shrug of a story. But 2 and the Pre-Sequel were so much more than that. These games have always had sharp characterization. Perhaps they went for the laugh more often than story, but so what? It's about time a role playing game had a damn sense of humor instead of a phone book's worth of po-faced lore. My point is that TFBL shows Pandora in a light that a shooter never could. A different angle on what was a fun and fascinating world, already. TellTale didn't magically make it relatable and three dimensional all of a sudden.

Now that I got that rant out of the way... I guess I should ask what you're still doing here. Why aren't you throwing $25 bucks at your monitor or phone right now?! I'm not futzing around, this 2 1/2 hours of content is totally worth that much. There's 4 more coming down the pike at some point... maybe 6-8 months from now. I mean, they will have to work around Peter Dinklage's schedule now, so it's gonna be a long haul. But it's also gonna be a hell of a ride, folks.

So strap in.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The 302 Post Spectacular!

Well look at that, I passed the 300 mark without blinking an eye. I'm pretty proud of my little blog. Even if it's a 90% bounce-to-hit ratio echo chamber, sometimes, somehow, somebody reads some random junk I threw up on the internet for 5 to 10 minutes. That's so much more than enough. That's as if I had a  miniature cival war recreation set I poured over for years and somone just showed up to admire it one day.

I didn't ask for it, but I got noticed anyway, and it feels amazing. Here's to 302 more!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"There are... contingencies." Behind the scenes of Tales from the Borderlands.

You're going to want to stay to the end of this one, as there are eggs of easterly nature. Plus it looks like the game's coming along swimmingly, as it fixes the biggest problem I had with the walking dead season 2. I.E. the in game soundtrack was terrible. The soundtrack for this trailer is not. It's techno-bluesy fun and I could not be more on board with all this by now.

Oh... and they're doing Game of Thrones at the exact same time. Damn, guys... let someone else have the world on a string for a while!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I'm Not Dead!

Just crazy busy with work... and Inquisition. It's so good, too good. Gooder than even the most of the critics are saying. I mean, I don't know what IGN's problem with the villain was. I think he's great. Or at least the presence of him in the story through 2 thirds of the game is a refreshing change of pace for Bioware.

The original Mass Effect was their last central villain and that was almost 10 years ago! But seriously, one of our guys just quit and I've been swamped.

I'll get back when I can, Crackpot!

Monday, November 17, 2014

I've got some time off!

And I don't want to give away too much information about my private life, but here's a hint about what I'll probably spend most of that time doing:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

This is the best season of South Park in Years.

I've been watching South Park since I was Stan's age. It's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. While I'd argue it's been a better show longer than the Simpsons, I wouldn't disagree that the past 5 or 6 years haven't exactly measured up. I've seen em' all at least once because there's always something about each episode that's worth watching. I may hate that Honey Boo Boo one, (why does everyone spit on Randy Newman so much?") but I could listen to that James Cameron song for hours.

But this season, free from the demands of both their admittedly solid video game and their career defining block buster musical, they have come back to the show with their guns drawn. Ready to shoot down their harsher critics.

Most of the episodes this year have had a shared continuity. Whether it's the gym being burnt down by Butters or Randy secretly being 18 year old singer songwriter Lorde, it's been a refreshing season so far. But I guess I like Nathan and Mimsy more than most people. I mean, come on, the wacky races with alternative fuel cars was damn good work.

But it's with Grounded Vindaloop that I feel I need to blog about South Park, which is oddly something I've never done before. Hands down, this is the best story driven episode in years... maybe ever. It's not funny, or at least it's only funny for about a 6th of the time. It's a testament to the show's commitment to it's characters that we can follow them down a virtual reality rabbit hole and not even care that's not gonna go for a belly laugh. Not to rag on the Simpsons too much, but making Homer progressively stupider over 20 years did not a compelling character make.

This has been a great year for South Park, a humble creative renascence the likes of which shows more than 10 seasons deep never see. I'd say it's worth coughing up some dough to Hulu+ to check it out:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Review: True to Caesar.

Tomorrow, you can see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes on the internet. On Google play and what have you. Which is great for several reasons. Either you've been waiting months for this thing, or you needed an excuse to release a half finished review that's been festering in your draft archives for  months.

Either way, this is a good movie. If you've seen Rise at least twice, I've found it's an even better movie. In fact, this is one of the rare sequels that works best as a double feature. In much the same way Quantum of Solace is a better film back to back with Casino Royale. Seriously. Try doing that. 

But it's not exactly the same situation, because Dawn is a much, much, better film than Quantum. As well as one of the best war movies I've ever seen. Well... at least one of the best movies "about" war I've seen. But it ain't perfect. Far from it. There's a mini series worth of material here that isn't given enough time to breathe. I'd have loved something like a 6 part BBC affair. That would have been a more effective way to tell this story of doomed peace between species.

We'd need 2 episodes from each side and a 2 part finale. One; because the humans aren't given a fraction of the nuance they need to be compelling and two, I could watch Caesar's mo-capped band of apes for days. They are singularly the finest achievement in CGI since Gollum. But as such, the film gets rudely awakened from it's wonderful dialogue free "apes being apes" scenes for it's clumsier rising action sections. The humans are a script draft away from being good, they have a small amount of characterization that keeps them from detracting from the movie, but in the end they only serve to create conflict. And with that... I'm done talking about the people. Let's talk about what this film truly mastered.

I'm pretty sure that guy has polio.

Sure, they nailed Caesar in Rise, but you only saw maybe one or two other apes manage to become characters near the end. Now there's an entire army to contend with and most are given personalities as well as names. Yes, Koba was spectacular, and I'll get to him. But Blue Eyes? Rocket? Caesar's wife (even though most of her part was cut but is still pretty great)? Are all given enough attention to suspend my disbelief completely for hours. So much so; that I say that even when it's cutting edge dulls, they'll still teach lectures on the film's ability to say so much with the tiniest ape facial tick.

Of which, the most belong to Caesar's heavily crowned head. Only Caesar was raised by humans and only he understands that the invading human tribe only want their hydro-electric dam (THAT'S vaguely familiar) for energy and little else. Caesar is in charge because he's the only one of two apes that has any sense of foresight. He knows engaging in violence, even defensibly, will eventually spill buckets of innocent blood. But where he shows restraint, his followers see weakness, and Koba sees an angle.

The scarred lifetime lab rat has love for Caesar, but only until he sees his opening. His campaign of manipulation is the highlight of the film and is delivered in a surprisingly subtle and multifaceted performance by Toby Kebbell. The man manages to turn two words "human" and "work" into a riveting monologue and that's no sh*t.

Yes, this is ridiculous and no, I don't care what you think.

Elsewhere, Gary Oldman is fine as the hardline human leader, doing the typical Oldman special. Which is finding depth the written role hardly provides. Though that scene with the war torn apple tablet was pretty special, I'll give the script that one.

But for me to call a movie "great" I need to have my expectations exceeded. Sure I knew Caesar couldn't keep the peace and maybe I should have seen Koba's ultimate betrayal coming 10 miles away. The point is, the most interesting part of the film is the final act and this is the exact sentence I stop talking about it.

The finale rocks and the ending finds that tricky middle ground of setting up a sequel while managing to actually end. I'm looking at you, Catching Fire. I'm also shaking my head, Catching Fire.

But yes, the film is great. It's got a bigger heart than I expected and more in depth world building than I thought it would. I mean, I would love to frame and hang the concept art of Caesar's village on my wall. But in short, this is the big budget humanist sci-fi film I've wanted to see for a very long time. I liked Rise, quite a bit actually, but Dawn is operating on a whole different level. It answers questions about storytelling I never thought to ask. Questions like, "Is political turmoil exponentially more compelling when told through the lens of genetically altered primates?"

Yes. The answer is yes.

Friday, November 7, 2014

What's up guys? It's been too long.

I really, REALLY, think they have a shot at making this special. Here's hopin'

Asteroid. Sighhhhhhh. I'm still optimistic.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Lies! Filthy Lies!!!!!!!!

Another false Fallout alarm. As you were people. I'm not crying...

Though I guess I should take solace in the fact that it won't be called something as corny as "Shadow of Boston" Yick. That's something.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Fallout: Shadow of Boston, is finally trademarked.

So now Bethesda's share holders know it's a thing... how much longer till' we see a teaser? Honestly the longer we wait the more I feel we have a Resident Evil 5 on our hands. Something that took too long, looked and played great until you finished it for the first time, and was ultimately incredibly disappointing.

Am I wrong? Christ, I hope so. Though if they truly didn't start on it until that Dragon-born DLC finished, that time line adds up. It's been almost 2 years since that. But here's the obvious question...

Why isn't it Fallout 4? Could it be (and I'm REAAAAAALY out on a limb here) they gave that honor to Obsidian? Because they made the best Fallout game in 15 years and my personal favorite game, period.

Something to think about.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I've changed my mind on The Walking Dead.

Screw the red wedding, this. This girl right here...

I used to adore that show. Hang on it's every word, re-watch the first 2 seasons at least once. I loved it, all my friends loved it, I couldn't get enough of it. But, much like Dexter, the bloom fell off the rose for me. First when Darabont was sh*tcanned, that stung. Then when season 3 slowly devolved into the embarrassing repetitive mess it was at the end.

I didn't even think about that show for the last year and a half. Until 4 days ago. I've changed my mind. I'm typing up a think piece that started off as a season 4 review, but became as much about it's huge audience and social impact as it is screaming Shane and CORRRALLLUUULLLLL's name.

Think you're gonna like it.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


OOOOOOOOO!!! WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY- (The Colbert Report ends it's 9 year run on Thursday December 18th and I'm absolutely not having the same sort of reaction one typically has when a close relative dies) YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?????!!!!!!!!!