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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Arrival Review: We need to talk.

Humanist science fiction, when done right, are some of my most favorite films. Joints like Close Encounters, Silent Runner, and even Contact for the most part celebrate my favorite parts of humanity. They say we're at our best when we solve our problems instead of punching them. That our ingenuity and empathy are what slowly makes this world better.

That is the thesis of this linguistic thriller. Yeah, there's a linguistic thriller out there right now and it's wonderful. It may not last the test of time and it may not win best picture but this movie just made me feel better. That's rare enough as it is.

Amy Adams plays a linguist drawn in by the military to learn the language written by pilots of several alien disks scattered in random places on earth. Each country has their own team with their own disc. Cooperation is easy at first but when progress is slow the super powers begin to think everyone else is holding out on them. Replace giant aliens with a rogue nation and it shows you an agonizingly believable portrait of how the world will most likely end. In silence followed closely by bombs.

The most impressive thing I noticed about the film is it's sense of mood. Every scene whether it's a quiet cottage by a lake or a cramped plastic MASH hospital carries a solemn sense of... well.... doom. This world isn't ending in a loud and fiery war but in a withdrawn, caffeine addled, depression. The fact the first person to speak to the aliens winds up being institutionalized is a nice, almost cthulian, touch.

This entire film is a puzzle and in retrospect there were tons of clues towards the twist 2/3's of the way through that I thought was earned. But your experience may very. I've already had one fight with a friend who thought it was tripe. I liked it! Though whether you buy it or not you can't deny the actual aliens are worth the ticket price. The secrets of their language and motives make for a good story but it's most artful in how answers get doled out. I mean, I thought the whole show was wrapping up only to glance at the time (my phone was on the lowest brightness, I swear!) and realize there was an hour to go.

And don't get me wrong, those 2 hours flew. I was just concerned it was ending too soon. Which I say is a high compliment when a film ends and you're sad it's over. But not Arrival. No, Arrival ends exactly when it has to. Leaving me with a firmer confidence in the best of us. The idea that in the end... maybe we really can "all get along."

He has a line at the end that will be the cheesiest damn thing you've ever heard. Just know that.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Well apparently the new Final Fantasy isn't a disaster at all.

He swallows his own hair a lot, I bet.

I've been cold towards Square Enix for a long time now. Whatever spark they had is long gone and they've descended into late seventies Disney malaise. The last Final Fantasy I played, the second 13 one (Jesus the things I have to say to describe the way they name these games), was nothing. A game in search of a point it never found.

This is at least longer and much better overall than I'd imagined a game that took 10 years to make would be. Games can be in the oven too long and as a rule the clock runs out at 5 years. After that you tend to get stuff like Resident Evil 5. Competent, but soulless. 15 at least has a decent main cast and is scored no lower than a 8 so far.

So after Dishonored 2 bummed me out (Orwellian dictatorships are too close to home right now) this looks like it could pick me up. I can grit my teeth through some anime cheese for a 50 hour grindy jrpg jaunt.  I could use some damn positivity at any rate. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Count

"Kneel before me mortal and weep your greasy tears."

For the past few months I've decided to get real about weight loss. Not that I was much of a chubster, after I got out of college and away from the endless buffet anyway. But I thought I could do better.

Exercise wise I'm about the same. 2 hours of cardio a week, 30 pushups a day. Nothing crazy. It's when I really started caring just how many calories I was eating a day that several things began to dawn on me.

1. I had done a lot of the leg work already drinking skim milk, eating only turkey or chicken, and slowing my alcohol intake to maybe one beer a week.

2. My best friends were traitors. Things like pasta were way more caloric than I wanted to believe and pesto. Dear lord, my beloved pesto managed to cram more than 3,000 calories into a jar barely bigger than my fist. It hurt then and it still hurts now. I might just throw the rest of it out...

3. I'm in the best shape of my life because I did it for me. My love life might be on a downturn but I knew that couldn't be the only reason to stick with my plan. I lost 12 lbs. and kept it off because I choose to live this way. It's also important to note that I'm not depriving myself of anything. I still eat massive bowls of pasta and red sauce at the end of long days. I can still buy a 5th of gin one week, budget my way around it and not need another bottle the next week. In other words I didn't go to war with my pudge. I diplomatically blitzed it into submission.

If this comes off as a humble brag then... ew, I'm sorry you read this. I put this up more for myself. So that if I fall off the wagon I have a carbon copy of a mindset that worked.  

Stay the course big Ned.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

No, you can't have Planet Coaster unitl you finish Dishonored 2.

"But! But! You never let me have any fun!"
I like Dishonored 2. Like, a whole bunch. But I'm just not in the right mood for it. I've been busy, busier than I've probably ever been in my entire life. I need to relax and walking around in a fully realized dictatorship (fantastical or no) is decidedly not helping with my anxiety.

But soon I'll start building a sci fi/western mash up theme park called "Serenity Now." Just after I rescue DH2 from landing on my pile of shame. Then I'll be able to deal. Hopefully. ;)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Rollercoaster Tycoon is dead, long live Planet Coaster.

Two theme park sims came out this week and the competition wasn't even close. Planet Coaster, made by refugees from Frontier who made the effervescent RT3 13 years ago, has won out handily with steam user reviews and critics alike. Roller Coaster Tycoon World, made by the desiccated corpse of Atari, is apparently every bit the cheap cash grab it appears to be.

Rejoice! The theme park sim has risen from the grave. I'm relived one of them was actually good...

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Holy HELL, the clockwork mansion was worth my money.

There are good setpeices and there are great setpeices. Then there are set pieces that just raise the whole damn bar. There's a bizarre practicality behind a mansion that is literally one giant elevator and I am in love. I'd better save some stuff for the review but yeah, it'd take a huge let down of an ending to take the stars out of my eyes now!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dishonored 2 has something that should become industry standard.

No save sub-menu or anything! Ye gods...

Bethesda's games have been doing this for a while but we finally have a new convert. Another game that has a two step quicksave! Pause, hold down RT, and poof! quicksave. I love that and I love this game... so far. The dialogue is pretty painful. I mean there sure is a lot more telling than showing and it's a little jarring at times. "I should bring up the minutia of Corvo's background!" No you shouldn't, random guard. Not unless you have a point to make and I'm not gonna hold my breath on that one.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Dishonored 2... so far so great.

Since Steam has already turned on the PC version, I was a bit surprised to see it run so well on my rig as it does. Everything stylistically and mechanically you liked about the first has been retained. Spectacularly so. The haggard faces, the Lovecraftian steam-punkyness, best stealth money can buy, it's all still there. The only complaint I have is in the narrative department, it feels kinda rushed and a couple main actors are less than stellar.

Still having a great time choking guys out, though!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A non politically motivated video:

Here's a clip from a movie I love. It has absolutely nothing to do with what the current director of the FBI did today. At all.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Crash Bandicoot is now a motor mouthed exposition machine.

You never forget your first and and thus Crash will always have a place in my heart. While it is kinda neat that both Spyro and Crash are in their own animated series together (if I told my 8 year old self this would happen he would flip. His. Sh*t.) it's also... pretty damn awful. It's like he's just reading his own wikipedia page and is steering right towards the sand trap that claimed Sonic 15 years ago. In other words, he's more product than character now. You can see why Naughty Dog severed ties with Universal so quickly.

STILL! That's Mark Mothersbaugh's original theme tinking away in the background and I won't deny that put a big goofy grin on my face.

Hold on, I'm not done...

Ok. Now you can go.

Have you listened to... SPONTANEANATION?

As an amateur podcast guest, please hold your applause until the end of the blog post, I'm also mildly addicted to podcasts. If I'm driving, I'm listening to podcasts and at about 4 hours of driving time a week I've got time to kill. Since the death of my beloved Superego, Paul F. Tompkins has made his own improvised sketch radio show to ease the pain. It's much more informal and under produced which isn't necessarily worse... just different.

It's still funny as hell and I dare you to find a comedian that's this funny just talking to himself. As improv comedy goes you're gonna like some more than others but I'd say the hits outweigh the misses for the most part. Though I'd keep an eye out for any episode with Brandon Johnson or anyone from the Superego crew.

Do have a listen.