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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Whiplash Review: Drummed down.

 Before we get started... lemmie set the mood.

Whiplash is a movie I loved and hated at the exact same time. Parts of it are horrifying and suspenseful with just dialogue alone. Parts of it are so clunky and pointless that I skipped entire scenes. I felt like I lost nothing, with a good script that shouldn't be possible.

Whenever the film is about drumming, or showing Miles Teller drumming, or if J.K. Simmons is on camera, the movie is on literal fire. But that feels like less than half of the whole thing. I'm sure if I looked more closely it would actually be the vast majority of the film. But the parts of Andrew's life outside of his sociopathic teacher's artistic dungeon are so amateurish in comparison, that they kill the film's roaring momentum every single time.

Let's start with the "girlfriend"character. I don't remember her name, but Whiplash doesn't want her to be an actual person, so I'm not too cut up about that. Screw the "manic-pixie-dream-girl" the worst female stock character in film is the "gorgeous-girl-who's-inexplicably-drawn-to-plain-uninteresting- male-lead-because-there-ain't-no-time-for-a-three-dimensional-love-interest-with-agency." That sounds petty and angry. Maybe that's because it is.  But never has a movie this good hit my pet peeve cliche so hard. Just... so hard.

He bombs in his bid to ask her out. And she says yes. He is absolutely terrible at conversation and can't stop talking about himself or his obsession at dinner. She laughs at his painful not-jokes and rubs her foot on his. If it were not for her last off screen conversation I'd buy a Tyler Durden-esque fantasy plot twist. She's barely a human being. She should have been cut out of the whole damn thing.

Oh! and there's this bizarre dinner scene at his cousin's house where Andrew wryly sh*ts on his recent division III football win after no one understands what being in Fletcher's jazz band means. Then his uncle, a grown f**king man, asks Andrew if he has any friends. Knowing that he doesn't. Parents and family that hate each other don't say "you're weird and nobody likes you." This guy knows Andrew's mom walked out on him when he was little. It's so spectacularly cruel. Family wouldn't do that! his face.

Get ready for a lot of blood on a lot of drums.

But aside from that, the agony and the ecstasy of Fletcher's homicidal jazz crucible is pure hypnotism. Unlike in the rest of the film, the slightly heightened reality works in it's favor. Fletcher's band members have the look of prisoners. Feigning humanity and outside interests until their warden walks though the door. They stand at attention, absolutely terrified that something they do will grab his.

There aren't a whole lot of actors that could handle Fletcher and Simmons owns every frame of it. His Lee Ermey rants flow naturally. His anger, horrifying. But he can switch it all off in a second. He can be warm and forgiving, again, you believe it all. His warmer side is somehow even more unnerving.

The only band teacher I ever had wasn't a fraction as rug-humpingly insane... but there were several major points of similarity. I have no doubt that Fletcher's real life inspiration didn't fall too far from the tree. Even still, he becomes just a scoach too evil in the end. It's a fun twist in the moment but again... characters in this movie have a tendency to stop doing things that make any kind of sense. That kinda robs it's staying power.

It's like they follow you wherever you go...

That and Andrew doesn't have that much to do, outside of looking amazing playing the drums. Which he does. But Miles Teller is still an unknown talent to me. In that, I'm yet to be convinced he's actually talented. Does Teller play him as a detached cypher because that's the kind of person Fletcher knows he can manipulate the most? Or is he just not that great at filling in the character's blanks left in the script? The kinda thing Chris Pratt is a third degree black belt at. Not being sure if a performance is brilliant or terrible kind of speaks for itself, doesn't it? It's like you can see smoke but you can't find the fire. Acting? Editing? Writing?  Something f**ked up, at any rate.

The fact that Fletcher isn't an unbearable caricature is award worthy. I'm not being glib, Simmons has the supporting character Oscar sown up. I couldn't be happier for him, because getting into that character must have been a special kind of murder. For all my misgivings, you should definitely see Whiplash. Because what it does well, you have never seen before. What it does wrong could easily be fixed by a rewrite. By that, I mean the director, Damien Chazelle, is an arm's length away from greatness. He's so close! Grand Piano was so much fun, and this was so dark and thought provoking. The happy medium between the two could knock me off my feet.

I'll wait for that train as long as it takes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

It lives: Dying Light impressions.

"So the game keeps track of how many times I repaired my weapon, why- wait... where the hell did it go?!!!"

Come on in guys, the water's fine. It's pretty good, at worst, is what I'm saying. More than anything else; I think WB was worried about the chance of mediocre reviews, ala Alien Isolation, than a Unity scale cover up.

It's a solid game so far, the parkour is fantastic, the combat is in tact from the original, the story is... fine. The FPS takes a dive to 30 in crowds but it's never unplayable on my GTX 780. And that's ok. I'm having a blast.

Oh, but Techland? Having your weapons disappear after you've repaired them 5 times? Boo. BOOO! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. 

All the boos.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dying Light is being kept in the dark.

Right after Ubisoft pushed the half baked Frankensteinian horror, Unity, out the door last fall... we all assumed no one would try something like that again. At least not so soon. They knew Unity was a mess and they kept their review embargo up till launch day so the die hards wouldn't even smell the fire.

To be fair, Dying Light review keys have been released to publications... 12 hours before launch. But that's just antagonistic. A legal loop hole to avoid the phrase "embargo." For is it not exactly that in everything but name?!!

Sorry if I'm being dramatic, but I'm one of those lucky pre-orderers and my feet could not be colder right now. Granted I'm also one of those folks that played, and immensely enjoyed, both previous Dead Islands... so I guess I know exactly what I'm buying. Or do I? Maybe Techland can't handle their new engine and it runs like molasses. Maybe the parkour-combat never pans out and gets dull after a few hours. Maybe the more serious tone of the story is somehow more awkward and tin-eared than ever before.

Something is making WB Interactive's stock holders skittish. I can't wait to find out what that is.  I also can't type letters in a way that expresses deep seeded sarcasm.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sid Meier's Starships is... who the hell am I kidding? I want it.

So it looks like instead of DLC for Beyond Earth, we're getting a full game spinning off from it's pretty decent fiction.

You get to customize whole fleets of ships? That scratches some itches, I'm down for that. That whole "Harmony, Supremacy, Purity" dichotomy makes a come back, that's a good plan. It's all about exploration and tactical combat? Stop, SMS... you had me at starships.

 It looks to be the big budget remake of FTL, which is great because I never really cared enough to spend more than 20 minutes with it. The art was just too sparse for me. Starships, on the other hand, is lookin' good!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I hate my own creation.

I hate my Selma review. Much like I hated my Bioshock Infinite GOTY review. I wish I could do the movie more justice. I wish my problems with Selma were more coherent. I wish it were longer and more in depth.

I hate it. But I'm going to make it work.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hey, McCracken! Where's your Selma review?

It's... in turnaround. I, quite frankly, wanted to like it more than I did and my review was a bit too harsh to put up on on friggin' MLK day. I like the movie, don't get me wrong. It absolutely moved me to tears. Several times in fact. But is it best film/director material? Well... this year? Yeah, a nomination at minimum. I'm not going to get into what a "12 years a Slave" win means to the 2015 ceremonies. That is a disgusting can of worms I dare not open.

 I'll have it up tomorrow, I promise. And all y'all Johnson whiners just get off it. OOOOOOOO! he used the "n" word! He's being vilified! Don't expect me to back you up completely. Although I will concede a little.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I now know the exact size of my steaming pile of shame.


Never gonna happen... plus, how do you "finish" something like FTL or Civilization anyway? Also, everyone should do this. Just go to your profile page and copy all those numbers in that address. Watch Firefly 103 times?! It says that like I haven't already done that...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Interview Review: Tempest in a Tabloid.

Is the Interview worthy of it's controversy? No. But is that something that can ever be justifiably held against their creators? Even making believe they were assassinating a real world leader, Rogan and Co. couldn't have possibly imagined an international incident on this scale. Topped off with Obama saying to Rogan's bosses "Come on, guys... you're making your country look bad." Probably. He probably said that.

All that aside; and I concede that's a ton of stuff to throw aside, but all the same... it's a fun movie. After being dragged to "This is the End" and having a ball in spite of myself, I've grown to appreciate what these guys can do. And if James Franco wants to be a goofy, self centered, man-child in the face of one of the most brutal dictators on earth I am all. Goddamn. Ears.

Rogan and Franco feel like they're playing characters from different movies. That Rogan's producer wants to be in a satire shooting for the brass ring of Dr. Strangelove and Franco's Entertainment Tonight host wants to do Team America. Actually... that's perfect for both their character arcs. You know what? I started that as a criticism, but I think I just peeled back a level of meta! Damn.

But seriously, If you can get over the fact Franco is a cartoon (a funny cartoon to be fair) than you will get much more out of this. But even if you hate every second both these guys are on screen, Randall Park is a sight to behold. He turns in a performance that could work in a straight drama, if you tweaked the dialogue a bit. He's never a straw man and he's never too sympathetic. His love of Katie Perry and Margaritas are adorable, his murderous rage, believable. I won't go as far to say he gave a performance the film doesn't deserve (it's a better movie than that) but it's a very pleasant shock. Oh, sh*t! I almost forgot about Diana Bang.

I know, I'm sorry. Please forgive me.
She's just so perfect as the disillusioned master of propaganda. Is she also the de-facto love interest miles out of Rogan's league? Yeah. But they at least address it this time and she filled in all her character's blanks like a pro. Like Park, she did a ton of extra credit most critics didn't even bother noticing. Like, just her posture and walking style sold a lifetime of indoctrination. And when she breaks ranks she starts talking slower and quieter (like she's bugged) for the rest of the movie, no matter what! She's tremendous.

Expectations are a dangerous thing. Once in a blue moon they're met. Toy Story 3 comes to mind. Sometimes they're exceeded, I think I've seen The Avengers 5 times now. This is not some grand comic think piece about the plight of the North Koreans. But it still does those issues enough service to make those not in the know, more aware. This a fun, funny, little movie that gets better as it goes along. 

Jenny Lane? Take it away.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Bob knocked it out of the park today.

I'm a fan of "movie" Bob Chipman, I haven't missed a video of his in almost 2 years. His blog's in the margin there, too. In the wake of the French cartoonist attacks; which is now also the French kosher grocery attacks... haven't heard much about that,  there's a lot of nuance that get's trampled in the rah' rah' rahs' for free speech.

Like how maybe some of Charlie Hebdo cartoons were xenophobic or borderline racist. I'll let Bob take it away. This is damn good journalism.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Jungle's: Platoon.

I've seen Selma and The Interview and my reviews are incoming... but I still love jungle so much I gotta post some of their tunes:

Damn, this kid...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Internet feels alot safer today.

Mr. Wheeler... you have the floor.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has come out in support of net neutrality. And I quote:

 “We’re going to propose rules that say that no blocking, no throttling, [no] paid prioritization, all that list of issues, and that there is a yardstick against which behavior should be measured”

This is some seriously heartening stuff. Things looked pretty grim for a while with companies like Verizon making threats to the tune of "It'd be  a shame if our high speed connection installations stopped before you voted on NN... wouldn't it?" Seeing the head of the FCC come out in support of the three pillars of NN is a great thing, sure nothing's been signed into law yet, but language this strong cannot be an empty gesture.

At least I hope not.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dungeon of the Endless Review: Doors within Doors.

Everyone makes a fuss when steam greenlight drops a deuce. But little attention is paid when a title goes off without a hitch. DOE is one of the best turn based-procedurally generated-tower defense-dungeon crawlers ever made... and nobody seems to be talking about it.

That description is a little wordy, but it's not that complicated. You play as a small squad of interplanetary prisoners who crash landed into a massive ancient cave during a routine transfer. It's made up of interlocking corridors and opening a door starts a turn. You may find treasure or new squad mates, but mostly you'll find waves and waves of monsters. You can stop them from spawning by turning on the lights, you can set up automated defenses then too, but that takes energy. You don't have a whole lot of that. You need dust to keep the lights on, food to level up, industry to create defenses and so on.

I haven't even brought up science yet, but I've already dumped too much info on you. If you love roguelikes (right, it's also one of those) than this'll be your favorite new dominatrix. Because "flawless" strategies can fall apart in seconds, taking your most beloved squad member with it. This is a game of involved planning in the face of a great, dark, unknown. It's my most pleasant discovery all year and it's charming attention to character is just frosting on a cavernous cake.


There's a roster of 18 heros. Some are smart and handy with a pistol, others quick on their feet and with a sword, and others are lumbering tanks with massive rifles. All are decent characters. In fact, certain formations will net you some back story while you elevate to the next floor. I was often disappointed when I got the odd squad that would only spout canned expressions. Until I found the formation that caused my two stars to fight to the death... I didn't make it out of the next floor alive.

This game is full of surprises like that, there's literally a scrapbook of secrets and enemy clues in the main menu cobbled together from your soaring victories and crushing defeats, alike. Died a floor from the surface? Well you managed to unlock some awesome chick in a flame retardant suit. So that's cool too. Spreading yourself too thin in a level will almost often spell death. But you may run into game changing weapons, or build a massive stockpile of industry and food. This a game that lives and dies on it's risk/reward ratio and I've found it finely tuned.

It's also endlessly replayable... maybe the title gave that away, but it is. You can unlock new starting conditions (escape pods) that drastically change the way the game's played. The armory pod starts with 4 overpowered heroes but you can't make offensive turrets the whole game! The infirmary changes all power ups into risk/reward drugs and gets rid of auto healing at the end of turns! All your strategies for the vanilla game fly out the window with each pod, I haven't even began to wrap my head around most of them.

There's really not much else to say, it's quite the little gem. Like a lost masterpiece from the PS1 era that happens to have lighting effects. I think you want it. I think you want it right now.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

I'd call my new Keurig a wasteful piece of decandence... if it didn't make a perfect cup of coffee in under 5 minutes.

Curse your black coffee magic.
I love it... but I hate it.  I have that dealy that lets you put bulk ground coffee through the thing... but that in itself is now too much of a thing. Damn you Keurig, damn what you've done to my patience for not-too-hot-...damn-that's-perfect caffeinated beverages!