The current presidential election cycle has made Facebook insufferable these days. As the various screeds flow across my feed from people who would normally be reasonable friends, I am noticing what I am calling, "political word trends." Out-of-the-blue people start using the exact same words to describe something with which they have a political beef. I know this is essentially the same thing as talking points (like when every Democratic operative on the planet described Hillary "powering through" her illness), but what I am seeing is just a little more subtle.
I enjoyed the original Call of Juarez and its spin-off, Gunslinger, but this one didn't really grab me. It tries to mix things up by letting you play each level as one of two characters, Ray or Thomas. But, in the end, it's still just a very standard shooter with bland environments and no real weapon variety. I guess learning Ray's backstory (this is a prequel) was interesting and there was a real attempt to craft some genuine character development. Otherwise, it was just so-so to me.
Okay, here's another Borderlands sequel. Actually, this is more of a large expansion pack to Borderlands 2—using the same engine and most of the same mechanics. The only new additions are the low-gravity environments and oxygen management. Admittedly, the ability to jump hundreds of feet into the air is pretty fun and opens up many of the levels, but, in the end, it's still the same old game: run towards the map marker and shoot anything that gets in your way.
Well, Gene Wilder died a this week so it's fitting that the next CD in my queue would be the Willy Wonka soundtrack. Gen X'ers are filled with tons of nostalgia over this movie and the songs therein, but can any of us sing a single line from "Cheer Up Charlie?" Nope. That song is trash that nobody remembers. The rest of the CD is filled with gems like "Candy Man"—a personal favorite because it is my go-to karaoke track. Also, there's quite a bit of film dialogue between songs, which is always a plus for me.
I bought Radiant Historia based on its reputation as one of, if not THE best RPG on the Nintendo DS. Well, it's a JRPG so take that praise with a grain of salt. In fact, when I first got it, I manged to clock about 20 hours but eventually got distracted by other games. It's easy to lose focus from this extremely text-heavy game. Once again, many clicks are wasted on redundant "..." dialogue boxes and the accompanying, un-skippable "..." word bubble animations. So, it took four years and a fun romp through Etrian Odyssey for me to muster the energy to attempt another play through. Rather than pick up where I left off, trying to remember the convoluted plot up to that point, I started anew. During this run I would try my darndest to differentiate between all the cutesy anime characters and not lose focus.
The main touted selling point of Radiant Historia usually is its complex time-travelling plot. At first, being able to redo past events to alter the current ones is an nice mechanism. However, once you are deep into the game and there are dozens of points to which you need to return again and again, it becomes a drag and a nuisance. For me it didn't help that there seemingly was no way to skip the endless cut-scenes (I discovered it's the "start" button about 30 hours in). Despite the grandiose concept, there isn't that much in terms of branching story lines that would, like a Telltale game, lead to a unique game for each player.
Amazon recommended this movie to me probably because I have watched a lot of Kung-Fu movies lately? I think we can relax about the singularity and A.I. for the time being. Turns out the computer who picked this one is a moron. Not that this is a bad movie, it's just a little weak on the Kung-Fu. What it does have is a stereotypical indie film look and feel. There are lots of overly-long shots that linger on compositions that, no doubt, the director thought were gaze-worthy. If that's what you need to do to get to feature-length, fine.
I knew most of the story of The Mist from an abridged book an tape that we listened to as kids on some long car trip. Like a lot of Stephen King stories, it's a dumb concept that, when made into a film, depends more on the directing than the plot. Fortunately, this movie does the clichéd apocalypse survivor thing pretty well. Take a bunch of folks from all walks of life, trap them together, and watch as they devolve into anarchy as the looming threat grows. The pacing is good but the CGI monsters are terrible and that ending...
This is the follow up to Emilio Miraglia's The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave. Red Queen sits more firmly in the traditional giallo structure of a modern (well, 1970's modern) murder mystery with touches of horror and gore. There is much stronger plotting and characterization and it's overall a better movie.
This one's a strange Gothic horror and giallo hybrid. Meaning, lot's of cool 70's decor within an ancient castle. Very early on it's established that the main character is a prostitute killing psychopath, and yet we are supposed to care that he is being haunted by the ghost of his dead wife. Like a lot of these Italian films, the plot is an afterthought. Stylish visuals, lots of nudity and a brilliant Bruno Nicolai score are the focus here.
A reasonably good martial arts movie that borrows a lot of its plot structure directly from The One-Armed Swordsman. The star of the show here is the titular guillotine: a giant yo-yo/bird cage that lands on an enemy's head and does its work. At times it feels like a slasher movie as the guillotine effortlessly claims its victims one after another. There isn't much fight choreography here, and overall it's pretty silly, but I was entertained through most of it.
Etrian Odyssey is an old-school RPG in the vein of Wizardy or The Bard's Tale. That is, you assemble a party of adventurers, go to a town hub to gather quests and equipment, then delve into an uncharted labyrinth killing monsters and mapping your progress. There isn't much of a story to follow here. Your goal is to find the "secret of the labyrinth" which, spoiler alert, has something to do with global warming (97% of scientists agree this is a dumb twist). Exploration and combat are the real core of the game, and the mapping of the maze is the primary gimmick. A task for which the DS is excellently suited. No need for graph paper. Just use the stylus and mark your map directly in the game. I can't tell you how frustrating it was playing Bard's Tale, carefully mapping away, only to have my time-consuming efforts foiled when the map ran off the edge of the graph paper. I'd then have to tape a second piece to the side or, worse, start over from scratch.
For the past half-year or so I have been participating in the PRF Monthly Tribute series where various artists and friends cover a different band each month. This month I did a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Big Love." I thought there were not enough references to Zardoz in the Fleetwood Mac oeuvre, so I fixed that.
Required reading for anyone who is sick of the political name calling and soft bigotry that permeates every single political post on social media. Written in an entertaining and adequately humble style, The Righteous Mind provides a well-researched, scientific answer to the question, "Why can't we all just get along?"
It's been quite some time since I picked up my Nintendo DS.
Stephen Chow could not save this tone deaf action/comedy. Made in the late eighties, there are maybe two or three genuinely funny moments in the movie. The rest barely rises to the comedic heights of an episode of Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Mix with that action that is way too violent for the grade school tone and a squirmy love interest plot line involving a teacher and student. It's hard to believe Chow amounted anything after this.