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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Noah rises to the top of the box office.

It's always interesting to see what happens to these kinds of movies financially. Religious/Atheist hemming and hawing aside, there's only one kind of faith that runs Hollywood and it is in the all mighty dollar. The short answer is, this did pretty well for itself. The long answer is it grossed about 44.5 million and averaged a B on cinema score.

I like this news for a couple reasons. One, that reactionary criticism from both sides didn't dampen America's interest in a really weird movie. Two, it could open the flood gates (sorry) for some crazy gnostic gospel adaptations. Three, I like Darren Aronofsky, even though he seemed to get away with a metric ton of wholesale plagiarism. But you know, he's still pretty great overall, and he did buy the rights to perfect blue so... yeah that's fair, I guess. So good for Noah, it sounds like a solid time at the movies. I'll probably see it eventually, and the fact Noah eventually turns into Jack Nicholson from the shining sounds amazing. I mean, the guy left every human outside of his family to drown. That would make most of us one wave short of a ship wreck... again, sorry.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dungeon of the Endless: It's very nearly almost totally ready!

For the last couple of months I've been fooling around in the early access of Dungeon of the Endless. A procedurally-generated turn-based rogue-like tower-defense RPG. That's a hell of a mouthful, but over the last couple of weeks it's managed to become one hell of a game.

It's not technically finished yet, but what's on sale is well worth the asking price. Once you get your head around the strengths and weakness of your convicts; then learn how to ration your food, (level up juice) industry, (tower defense tokens) and science, (for SCIENCEING!) you'll be in too deep to let go.

I guarantee the first time you find the exit to level 2, you will die both quickly and hilariously. Then you'll start again, and again, and again. I'm having a blast in there and I hope you'll feel the same.

Get the Founder Pack, you know you want to...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Burial At Sea Ep: 2 Impressions

Curiouser and curiouser...
If this is the way Irrational sings it's swan song, I'll be absolutely fine with that. The storied studio closes not with a RAGE- like whimper, but a competent and re-invigorating bang. Booker is dead, both of them, and only Elizabeth is left to finish what she started at the end of Infinite.

What that is exactly, I don't really know. Something to do with a little sister named Sally. But the confused motivation aside, this is incredible fan service. Atlas is back, as is Ryan, and Dr. Suchong is now more prominent than ever. It bears mentioning that all the old actors have reprized their roles, and that's almost priceless for me. If this DLC series were part of a kickstarter, I'd seriously consider coughing up $150. That's the kind of quality you'll see in episode 2.

Where the first episode struggled to cram Infinite's freewheeling combat into Rapture's focused survival vibe; the second decides to be a stealth game. Elizabeth can't just whack an enemy to death, and has a knock out/noisemaker crossbow in her arsenal. It's not just a great remix, it feels like completely different game, one that could support a play time twice as long as this should be (about 4-5 hours).

I would recommend the season pass even if you didn't like Infinite half as much as I did. This is easily $40 worth of world building, even if it isn't worth that much in length. This is Irrational at the very top of their game and they will be truly missed.

Monday, March 24, 2014

What I'm watching.

Hannibal's back and better than ever, (and I'd really like gush over that human bee hive last week) but something else has my complete and rapt attention.  That thing is Cosmos, and it's much better than I dared hoped.

I'm no stranger to PBS and NOVA, which means I'm no stranger to Neil Degrasse Tyson, so I thought I knew what to expect from his update to Segan's masterpiece. I thought I'd catch up to it eventually when there was nothing better on. I love me some NOVA, but it's not exactly appointment viewing for me. The stunning fact Seth McFarland got this on FOX in the primmest possible time slot should have been a sign for me. Seth has serious pull, but not a 13 episode, 9:00 on a Sunday, pull. Somewhere along the line, this gorgeous documentary series turned some suits into true believers. Whether it was financially or philosophically, I don't care. Because this documentary came to play.

It looks amazing and Silvestri's soundtrack soars over the heads of most feature films, but that's not what really hooked me. The script is, as they say, dynamite. I'm not ashamed to admit it moved me in ways a sermon never has. Not to say it was a religious experience, but I sit here now genuinely inspired over the size and scope of our universe. I knew the broad stokes about the magnitude of our galaxy swimming in a sea of other galaxies. But Neil breaks it all down so eloquently, I got a little choked up when it got to the "your god is too small" portion.

That being said, it's a little too patronizing at times. The catholic inquisition are basically treated like monsters, and while it's not like that comparison is unfair, it needlessly hands ammo to it's critics. Also it brings up fossil fuels to rib the audience about global warming for a sentence and drops it. It really should have picked it's battles better.

But I don't care, as I said before, I am rapt. It's just so cool without trying too hard and without dumbing anything down. I'm going to tear through the backlog and shake nervously until next Sunday. I'm just swooning over here, man.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Captain America 2 is apparently fantastic.

"Hey! Did you guys see me on Kings? Anyone remember Kings? It was really good... anyone?"

The embargo broke today and the critics are mostly falling over themselves talking about how much they love it. Its written and directed by the Russo brothers, who have an impressive list of credits, (animal practice not withstanding) come from a predominately documentary/comedy background. The word on the street is it manages to blend a political thriller with a character piece, with an action heavy super hero power struggle.

So yeah, Rotten Tomatoes is burning for it, and it looks like this will answer for the half baked shrug that was called Thor 2. Sounds good. I can't wait to see this juggling act in action.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

So the Peanuts teaser is out, and I hope you're ready for hair swirls in HD!

I grew up with Peanuts, but that doesn't mean I'm all that in love with Peanuts. My funnies allegiance lies squarely at the feet of a strangely articulate 9 year old and his tiger companion. But just because I'm not a fan, doesn't mean I don't understand/respect the hell out of Schultz's work. Proving you can say just about anything if you put it in the mouths of children, slipping themes of futility and depression in the newspapers of millions of homes for over 50 years is the kind of thing than can seduce me into saluting.

And don't even get me started on his elegant criticism of modern psychology. I'm not being sarcastic.

So now BlueSky (The Ice Age guys who have made a profitable career out of being perfectly mediocre except for that bunny short) has the reigns of what I assume is the Peanut Gang's first theatrical feature. And you know what? I don't hate it. The first thing I saw was a picture of Charlie and Snoopy hugging... and smiling. That's not the two I knew from either the comic or cartoons. That's the Charlie and Snoopy from those goddamned Metlife commercials.Where's Snoopies cool indifference? Where's Charlies ennui? 

But that's not what the trailer is about, it's just snoopy buzzing around charlie and ticking him off. Better. MUCH better. Yet still not a sign of anything in either direction of quality story telling. But I like the compromise of making CGI look and move like the old specials. It remains to be seen if they'll talk and feel like the specials too.

Call me crazy, but I'm not holding my breath for another monologue from Linus about the plight of Tolstoy's wife copying War and Peace by hand in failing candle light. Seriously.  Ctrl-F Tolstoy on that sucker. I'll wait.

So I'm cautiously optimistic. It could seriously roll up it's sleeves and deal honestly with childhood depression. That would break down Pixar's door for sure and they could use some healthier competition these days.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Thief Review: Lost in the Shadows

Going in, I really wanted to like Thief. I hadn't grown up on Garret's un-booted adventures in the 90's, and I had been absolutely starved for something to come along and give my next gen worthy EVGA 780 a workout. I had seen the critical writing on the wall and I didn't care. The textures looked gorgeous, the story seemed decent, and the animation so fluid it almost made me thirsty.

And you know what? For fits and starts Thief really lived up to it's potential. But (and there's going to be a lot of buts in this article) the whole experience left a sad, sour, taste in my mouth. Thief is a game that seems to have been reworked over and over and over again. Plot points are heavily telegraphed (like the mannequins) and yet have nothing to do with the story... ever.  Some levels have several tactics and methods open to you, while most barely have two. It seems like Thief is at least four different games that intersect and overlap near constantly, so why does it feel like the whole affair is only 3/4s complete?    

But I'm getting ahead of myself, I don't finish a 12 hour game if there's nothing interesting going on. And thankfully Thief's worst aspects don't show themselves until about halfway through. Stealing everything that isn't nailed down, and being constantly graded not just for achieving special in-mission objectives (put out all lights, don't knock out any guards, etc.) but how you play in general, makes Thief surprisingly addictive at first.

Seriously, the animation is glorious.
Every chapter is dripping with secrets and loot to grab, and while most critics thought the normal mode was too generous with it's cash flow, I thought it was just right. I even replayed the first few chapters over again to get a better score and shinier loot, even still, I was miles away from mastering perfect runs.

It's only when I reached beyond chapter 6 did things start to turn to ash in my mouth. The level design sags, and the plot becomes muddled and unconvincing. Repeating a hanging scene, only this time with peasants hanging guards, does not a compelling rebellion make. The game play does not change in the slightest when you have to deal with civilian mobs instead of coppers.

And there are some spec-tacularly creepy oil paintings to find. For whatever that's worth to you.

The spirit of the game deflates, like a giant parade balloon, slowly but inevitably. It was by the final cut scene when the whole thing sank around my face. After that, it all started to make sense. You hear about the wretched conditions of AAA development; but rarely do the horror stories of Team Bondi's three year crunch cycle, or Trendy Entertainment's creepy man child director seem to sink into the game itself.

Thief began to feel like a cry for help. As if it figured out it wasn't going to be a worthy successor halfway through and began to beg for death. The last cut scene is so bizzare and anti-climatic, it's like a metaphor for a dev team throwing down their tools and walking out. Which was honestly a shame, because the last boss fight? It was a pretty great stealth based finale.

So no, I did not like the overall feel of Thief and you should probably wait for a steep discount if you are any where near curious. That being said, all lot of things do work. The missions in which you find curios for a traveling freak show are all head and shoulders above most of the main chapters. And I found the acting to be pretty damn professional overall. I didn't run across any major bugs, just some audio splicing, and the whole thing was maxed out at a solid 60 fps. At the very least it was good to know AC IV was an isolated incident. That thing just ran like garbage

So Thief didn't manage to steal my heart... just my attention for a while.