Pointless Nonsense

Posted in movies by Bill on April 19, 2014

son-of-batmanSon of Batman (“Son of the Batman” would have been a much cooler sounding title) is the latest DC direct-to-disc animated movie, this one a loose adaptation of Grant Morrison’s Batman and Son arc in the comics.

For some reason they frame this around Deathstroke killing Ra’s al Ghul (who they’ve decided is Deathstroke’s former mentor or something?). Deathstroke is voiced by Greg from Dharma and Greg, which is weird as hell, but he’s actually not bad. They have Ubu betray Ra’s, which I don’t think ever happened in the comics.

Talia is disappointingly voiced by Morena Baccarin, who can’t really sell the femme fatale aspect of the character, and her calling Batman “Beloved” just sounds silly. A middle eastern accent of some sort would have made all her lines work perfectly. Still, she gets a couple nice moments, including operating a hand-cranked arrow-firing gatling gun.

They continue doing the thing where they pronounce Ra’s al Ghul’s name “raysh” instead of “raz,” which bugs me.

Two spoiler things, one of which is at the very end:
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Posted in movies by Bill on April 19, 2014

gijoe-retalI was assured that G.I. Joe: Retaliation was better than the first one, but that sets the bar pretty low. I wasn’t going to bother until it showed up on Netflix.

The cast of the first one was pretty horrible, C-Tates, Jonathan Pryce (who still can’t do an American accent), and the two ninjas are I think the only ones who return, but this movie is mostly about the Rock and Adrienne Palicki as Roadblock and Lady Jaye, respectively, who are a huge improvement over Tatum and Rachel Nichols. Technically Flint is a major character too, but the actor is boring and he doesn’t get much for story or anything (other than he wants to bang Jaye). They also bring in Jinx, who is kinda hot, and has a weird French/British accent.

Ray Stevenson plays Firefly, and he like Pryce also can’t do the accent he’s trying for. RZA plays a blind swordsman not particularly well. Some new guy plays Cobra Commander, but we don’t really see his face and his voice is digitally altered, so I could have done it just as well. He does get the classic Cobra Commander helmet, though, so that’s good.

Anyway, it’s an improvement over the first one, but still not very good. It’s just kind of a generic action movie with goofy code names and ridiculous villains. But I guess I’m not really the target audience, I watched the cartoon but I was to young to really remember it. And I had zero G.I. Joe toys. Lots of He-Man and a few Transformers (and a couple Go-Bots from when Santa misfired one year), but no Joe.

Posted in movies by Bill on April 19, 2014

deceptive-practiceDeceptive Practice: The Memoirs and Mentors of Ricky Jay is a documentary about Ricky Jay and the people who taught him sleight of hand, which is available on Netflix streaming. It drags towards the end, but it’s pretty decent. A fair amount of clips of him when he was younger, with long hippie hair, which is weird.

Posted in tv by Bill on April 16, 2014

fargoFargo is the non-adaptation of the Coen brothers movie of the same name, only connected to the film by location and the general subject of rural crime.

The cast is impressive, with Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, and Keith Carradine, among others. Martin Freeman not having a British accent is a little creepy, though. He’s Watson and Bilbo and Tim from the British Office and all sorts of exceedingly British-accented roles, so it took a while to buy into him as an American. But by the end I was ok with it.

The pilot is interesting enough, though a little long. They probably could have cut some stuff, but FX seems obsessed with having their shows run consistently long.

Posted in tv by Bill on April 8, 2014

turnTURN is AMC’s new American Revolution drama about the Culper Ring. It stars the kid who played Billy Elliot, Robert the Bruce, this That Guy, this That Guy, the not-Charlie-Day scientist from Pacific Rim, and a lot of people I don’t recognize.

It’s hard to tell at first who is American and who is British, since only some Americans have American accents. There’s a whole group of soldiers in no uniform that I’d assumed were American until they started killing soldiers in blue coats. But I guess it is supposed to be a spy story so having trouble knowing who’s on what side is do be expected.

I’m curious about how they will handle slavery going forward. The main character, a “good guy”, owns slaves. And they didn’t shy away from showing them on occasion. This goes awry quite a big in movies and TV, by showing the hero be “good” to his slaves, as if that makes it ok. And as if the problem with slavery is that some slave owners are assholes, and not the very concept of owning a person.

But I’m not curious enough to keep watching. The pilot ran 90 minutes (with commercials) and it didn’t exactly fly by. The most interesting part of the Culper Ring to me would be Agent 355, but I’m sure that won’t come up until much later. And as far as I know, we still know nothing about the real life 355 at all, what she did or what her name was. So there’s no sense watching a show I find kind of boring to wait around for that.

Posted in tv by Bill on April 7, 2014

amandacrewSilicon Valley is Mike Judge’s new show on HBO about a tech startup. The pilot was only ok, but promising. The laughs are pretty infrequent, but a lot of the characters and situations ring true. The douches who talk about their app like it will solve world hunger, the cult-like company cultures.

The main character is actually the worst actor in the cast, I think. He’s just “guy in over his head” and while he fits the coder role just fine, I don’t particularly like him or find him funny, which is weird for a comedy protagonist. Martin Starr plays the satanist coder guy, T.J. Miller plays the older stoner still riding on a one-time modest success story, that guy from The Internship is yet to really make an impression on me but he seems right for a comedic programmer, Kumail Nanjiani as the token South Asian guy, and Amanda Crew plays the only woman who has a line in the pilot (pictured, because she’s hot).

Posted in movies by Bill on April 6, 2014

muMonsters University is something I didn’t get around to seeing in theaters, both from still remembering a regrettable Cars experience, and my general distaste for prequels. I mean I realize it’s a kids’ movie, so there was no doubt that our heroes would triumph in the end some way or another, but there’s still something inherently dull about already knowing where the characters end up. But the movie’s fine. Relatively disappointing for Pixar but that’s a high bar to clear.

Posted in movies by Bill on April 6, 2014

cap2Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a big step up from the first one, and my initial reaction is that competition for the first Iron Man as the best Marvel Studios movie.

It’s quite a different tone from the other movies, though. Much less comedic, much heavier on the action. There weren’t a lot of laughs at all, but a lot of drama, chases, sneaking around, and it generally seemed like a 70s spy movie, but with superheroes and a giant budget.

Spoilers:
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Posted in video games by Bill on April 3, 2014

daoDragon Age: Origins is the confusingly-named (because it sounds like a prequel) first entry in BioWare’s Dragon Age series, where you take the role of a Grey Warden, a member of an order whose job it is to stop The Blight, a thing that happens every few centuries where a bunch of demons try to take over the world.

You spend most of the time doing quests to deal with the political stuff that goes along with getting the various factions to work together and build an army to go fight the darkspawn that make up this Blight. And like Mass Effect, you gather a bunch of companions to fight with you personally, and you can bang some of them.

It took a while to grow on me. I don’t know if it’s specifically the Dalish Elf beginning that sucks, or if they all suck because they didn’t put much effort into the origins that not many people would play (there’s at least 6 different opening stories based on your race/class/background). But once I got past that part, or really once I started to acquire companions, it got a lot more interesting. Especially Morrigan, perfectly cast with Claudia Black voicing her, who just kinda constantly gives you shit and is generally hilarious. In the end, I enjoyed the game quite a bit. Though the list of things I think they could have done better is quite long.

Unlike Mass Effect, where your character is a human named Shepard and you just choose some background information that doesn’t affect much story-wise and your class that only affects combat, here you pick your race and class and background, which will select one of 6 or so totally different scenarios for the first few hours of the game. You also can pick your name, which doesn’t really do anything except it means no character ever refers to you by name. And while Mass Effect just had a male Shepard and a female Shepard voice with North American-ish accents, here the different races have different accents (human nobles have British accents, dwarves have American accents, and everyone else seems to be a hodgepodge, one elf had a really strong Canadian accent, she talked about journeying “oat” into the forest), so basically your character is semi-mute, because they would have to supply at least four versions of almost every dialogue option to voice the game (male/female, american/british) to cover the background options. It seems like they could have designed around it. Like no matter what race your character is, make it so they were an orphan raised in Antiva (where Zevran is from), so you just have an Italian sounding accent (or I guess Orlais would work too, but Leliana’s French accent was kind of annoying so that would be less than ideal). And that would also explain why you don’t know anything about the situation in Ferelden, so your ignorance of local politics and customs and things would make a lot more sense.

As usual for these kinds of games, I sucked badly early on. Part of it was not understanding the combat system too well (I think I failed to completely read a couple of tooltips at some point and misunderstood a couple of game concepts, but even having finished I don’t understand a lot, I know as a backstabbing rogue I should have pretty high dexterity and cunning but no idea which is more important at all), but part was also putting skill points in persuasion that gives me extra dialog options, instead of in things that would help me fight. For anyone in the same situation of not wanting to focus on combat right off the bat, I would recommend avoiding the mage circle early on. There’s a long (and IMO terribly boring) stretch of solo combat in there that I had a terrible time with.

If anyone does try playing this for the first time, once you enter the open world (which is several hours in), I would recommend going to Redcliffe first, Denerim second, the Brecelian Forest third, Orzammar fourth, and the Circle last. Orzammar and the Circle have the most combat you have to do on your own, and I think for most everyone that will be easier later in the game. Your character has a wider set of skills/better equipment, and more importantly, you know what you’re doing a lot better.

It is weird that they practically force you into a certain group composition. Without a rogue, there are a lot of locks you can’t pick, so you’d miss out on a ton of loot. Without a mage, you can only heal with potions, so you’d go through them like crazy. Without a warrior, it’s tough to wear the heavier armor, so it’s hard to absorb damage from groups of enemies. The only option you really have is what to do with that 4th space, but I think Morrigan (a crowd control mage who can also learn some healing) or a second rogue (since rogues either specialize in backstabbiness or archery) make a lot more sense than another warrior. And given that, I’m annoyed that they offer you 2 rogues, 2 mages, and between 4 and 7 warriors (depending on how you count the dog and golem and that two of the warriors don’t coexist). Like why not another mage or rogue? If your main character is a warrior as well, then you get next to no choice in group composition. I suppose there is some variance with the specialization, but mages and rogues specialize too but you only get a couple of them.

The fancy version on steam comes with a shitload of DLC stuff. A bunch of random equipment (some of which they don’t tell you, but you have to go to bioware’s site to download about 20 small files and then hunt down the install program to put them in the game), a new companion, several side missions, a full expansion and 4 smaller standalone missions. I finished the main game and have done the first of the four small standalone DLC missions (which was about an hour of gameplay) and am about 90 minutes into Awakening, the standalone thing that is considered a full expansion so I’m assuming it will be quite a bit longer.

Some spoilers to follow, for anyone who hasn’t played this five year old game yet but for some reason is still planning to, and because this isn’t long enough yet:

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Posted in tv by Bill on March 28, 2014

surviving-jackSurviving Jack is that new show with Stabler from SVU as the asshole dad, which I am only trying out because they haven’t posted last night’s Colbert Report online promptly. I quickly saw the name of the guy who wrote Shit My Dad Says (no idea why I knew his name), so I quickly became confident that it would be no good. Which appears to be an accurate assessment. The son is in the “woe is me” teen years but there is no way to sympathize with him at all. His parents love him, they are happily married, father’s a doctor so no money problems, he’s a star athlete, the hot girl at school he likes skips past hinting and invites him to her bedroom while her parents are out of town. This is ideal teen years, really.

The actress who plays his sister is kinda cute but that’s all I can really say positive about it. I do wonder if the existence of this show is why spoiler happened on spoiler to even mention the title, probably, since it was just last night, though.

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