Pointless Nonsense

Posted in tv by Bill on July 23, 2018

Bobcat Goldthwait’s Misfits and Monsters is a TruTV anthology show that seems to be half hour dark comedy/horror anthology. The opening one is a Cape Fear-ish story with Seth Green as a voice actor who starts to hallucinate being stalked by the cartoon character he voices, and it’s kinda ok, but I figured it’s an anthology so I should see more than just one to judge it on. The second is a heavy-handed political satire, with David Koechner as a werewolf running for president and the girl from God Bless America as a reporter trying to stop him. It was pretty generic until the end, which was kind of impressively bleak. Thanks to a light summer schedule, that’s basically enough for me to finish out the season.

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Posted in tv by Bill on July 17, 2018

Who is America? Is Sacha Baron Cohen’s new series on Showtime that does his usual fake persona interview thing. The opening credits claim it’s supposed to look at America and the political divisions we have, but one of the characters didn’t touch on that at all, and two of the segments were I guess only entertaining if you want to watch the kind of reaction you’d expect people to have to a weird/idiotic person.

One character was a right wing nut who interviewed Bernie Sanders, and to Bernie’s credit he tried to have an honest conversation with the guy and just got increasingly confused by the idiocy coming from him. Another was a hippie liberal with an NPR t-shirt who had dinner with two upscale Republicans. Also to their credit, they were incredibly polite as he said more and more outrageous stuff. I’m not sure what was supposed to be either entertaining or satirical about it all (“I do this messed up thing,” “oh you do? that’s unusual but let’s not judge”). Another character was a supposed prison artist meeting with an art gallery person or something? And I think she just really wanted to be on TV so she played along with him. I’m pretty confident that without a camera crew, her reactions to him would have been entirely different. Ultimately, I didn’t get the point of any of these segments.

But then the last one really redeemed it, getting a bunch of right wing politicians to go along with a guns for toddlers program, and that was kind of amazing, and made the half hour entirely worth watching. It will probably be just as hit-or-miss going forward, but for even an occasional bit that good, I’ll stick around.

Posted in movies by Bill on July 12, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp follows up on 2015’s surprisingly decent Ant-Man with a similarly decent but less clever sequel. Were it not for stellar casting, I doubt it would have worked very well, but they can turn mediocre material into a pretty fun time.

The villains (borrowed from Iron Man) are pretty inconsequential, the dialogue is weak in places, sometimes the shrinking/growing doesn’t make sense (when they shrunk cars down, I thought they’d attach to a full-size car, because there’s no way a two-inch car could go even 30 full-sized miles per hour, and some people are deadly accurate when shooting/throwing things at moving, tiny ant/wasp people), and there’s kind of a deus ex machina. But Paul Rudd is so damn likable, Michael Douglas plays a great grumpy old man, Michael Pena is somehow great in comic relief in a movie that already has a comic lead, Evangeline Lilly is badass and hot, Hannah John-Kamen is just really hot (though underused, but it was probably best that way for the movie as a whole), and Michelle Pfeiffer is somehow still hot at 60. Also the mid-credits scene is great and got probably the strongest audience reaction I’ve heard from a Marvel movie.

Posted in video games by Bill on June 28, 2018

Remember Me has been on my wishlist for a long while and finally encheapened. I don’t entirely remember why I put it on the list, but I’m guessing it was the cyberpunk-ness. I got about halfway through before getting really pissed at the QTE boss defeat mechanic and quitting.

The setting is ok, cyberpunk Paris in the 2080s, with a pretty cool city design that was both cyberpunkish and Paris-looking (though not great character design… the protagonist is supposed be an “exotic” hot girl, but her brown hair/dark skin/light blue eyes combo just enhances the uncanny valley thing), and a pretty classic cyberpunk setup with the rich people living in corporate-controlled nice areas and the poor people in dark, wet, dirty, neon-lit slums, fucking with the fancy corporate tech.

There is a total lack of focus as far as gameplay. It seems like every other fight, there’s a whole new thing to do. It’s a parkour game, an interactive cutscene editing game, a fighting game about kick-punch combo chains, a dodging and shooting game, a following-a-ghost-to-avoid-traps game, and it was only a matter of time before it stumbled across a mode that pissed me of: boss fight QTEs.

I got through the first couple bosses only having to hit the boss a couple times to re-enter QTE mode, so it only took a few minutes to do 2-3 tries (the first time, not even knowing the QTEs were going to happen, of course I failed). Then a boss at the midway point had symbols I hadn’t seen before in the QTE section (I had no fucking clue what button I was supposed to press in the next 2 seconds when a gear type icon appeared on screen), and when I failed the QTE section, it spit me back into the fight with a 120 second cooldown before I could again use the ability that even allowed me to damage the boss. And even after getting through that a second time, I ran into a 4th QTE symbol that I couldn’t make sense of (though I realized after the fact that I’d seen it before… a dot with a circular arrow made me want to wiggle the mouse in a circle, as that is a control elsewhere in the game, but it was supposed to mean “jump”). Of course I could beat it by attrition, but the game was pissing me off. And I figured I’d only get even more frustrated at future bosses, so fuck that.

Posted in video games by Bill on June 25, 2018

Dying Light is not normally my kind of game, but I saw that the sequel is going to have an interesting looking faction system with choices that change the environment, and it’s got a guy working on it who did really good faction/choice setups in Fallout 2 and New Vegas… so I was curious to try the first one and see if I liked the world. I actually ended up liking the setting ok, but I felt like the game has a difficulty problem and found it frustrating and quit not too far in.

The world is ok. You’re in some fictional middle eastern (I think? but some people have Aussie accents) city where a zombie virus has taken over, and they’ve walled it off to quarantine it, trapping some survivors in with the zombies. You play as an American working for the GRE, an organization that seems kinda shady but they’re trying to cure the virus at least. You parachute (non-HALO) in during daylight, and your plan is to go undercover and try to find who has some stolen research towards a cure. Everyone should see your chute and be suspicious of any new people, so this should totally not work, but it does. And you quickly meet two factions of good guys and bad guys. Oddly, for a game I’m playing because its sequel offers interesting choice mechanics, this game has no choices. Like, you can decide what order to do quests in, or whether to skip sidequests, or whatever, but cutscenes have no interaction whatsoever.

The difficulty issue apparently came up in a lot of reviews: the early game combat can be unusually hard, even on the lowest difficulty setting. It was especially annoying because when you die, you get dropped back off at the last safe zone you encountered, so you have to run for a minute or two back to where you died if you want to try again. So if you wanted to just try the fight repeatedly to practice and get better, you have to put up with a lot of running in between. It’s listed as an FPS, but early on all you have is pipes and clubs and other melee weapons. And you can only swing like 5 times before you’re exhausted and need to wait several seconds to recover, maybe 15 times before you need to repair your weapon, and each zombie takes 3-4 hits to bring down. Most of the fights are trivial, but sometimes they drop a bunch of zombies on top of you in a small space, or sometimes you have to fight humans (who block, which means only some of your attacks get through, which means becoming exhausted a lot).

Normally I’d think “no problem, I’ll just do some side quests and level up,” because… that’s typically how video games work. But after attempting 3 or 4 sidequests, I found them frustrating as well.  I’m sure I could look up combat tutorials or just keep trying until I got better, but the game has given me a general mood of frustration instead of fun, and that’s not why I play games, so I’m just moving on to something else. Steam’s summer sale anyway, so I have a lot of options.

Posted in movies, top10, tv by Bill on June 20, 2018

The TV season is over, so my annual top 10 of stuff:

TV Half Hour:

  1. The Good Place is impressive for turning a concept with a clear expiration into a multi-season storyline that’s as engaging as anything on TV. Like Prison Break’s “what happens after they break out?,” I just assumed once her secret got out, the show would fall apart.
  2. Bojack Horseman‘s fourth season was my least favorite to date, but still excellent. Some of the darkest moments of the series so far, but still funny.
  3. Corporate is odd at times, with no characters to root for (because they’re all the worst), and the only way you identify with the protagonist is by understanding his misery. But it’s also funny and its cynicism feels appropriate for 2018.
  4. Brockmire‘s second season has been quite a bit better than its first. I would not have recommended the first for anyone who wasn’t a baseball fan, but the second season gets a bit more universal. His dying father’s last letter to him is one of the funnier lines I can remember in anything.
  5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt premiered a half season the day after Arrested Development’s much more hyped half season, and was considerably funnier.
  6. Great News/The Mick were both cancelled in what seemed like a brutal TV offseason. Very different shows, but I’ll miss them both.
  7. American Vandal took an unquestionably stupid concept and turned it into an engaging mystery that was probably the biggest surprise of the year to me.
  8. Rick and Morty was probably better than a lot of the shows above, but most of my memories of the show this year have been related to its insufferable fans.
  9. Barry should have been funnier, being a half hour show with Bill Hader, but I did actually get wrapped up in the plot towards the end, and I’m now really interested in season 2.
  10. Love finished its run as one of Netflix’s more underrated shows, but I may just be saying that because I find Claudia O’Doherty really attractive (and not just because of her accent).

Honorable mentions: The Guest Book is a quality anthology-ish series especially if you liked My Name is Earl/Raising Hope, Room 104 is a mostly-dramatic actual anthology that mostly wasn’t very good but its fifth episode, “The Internet,” was amazing. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is still good, but I could do without weddings on sitcoms. The Detour is still good but this was their worst season so far, Santa Clarita Diet improved quite a bit over season 1.

TV Hour+:

  1. Killing Eve is the new hotness right now, having just wrapped up its first season a month or so ago, so I’m probably overrating it, but it was a damn good show.
  2. The Orville is kind of stupid in parts, and Seth MacFarlane can’t really act, but I really loved the first season. It’s truer to the spirit of Star Trek than anything else since Voyager ended. It’s optimistic and earnest and not afraid to take on complex issues, but it still keeps a sense of adventure.
  3. Black Mirror‘s 4th season was the weakest so far, but still one of the most interesting shows out there.
  4. Game of Thrones‘ seventh season feels like forever ago, but it was within the last year. The common complaint seems to be that the plot is losing its way after it passed the novels, and that may be true, but it’s still a bigger spectacle than anything else on TV.
  5. Preacher made progress moving to New Orleans. I still think the spirit of the series is as a road trip. That might be too expensive so it might never happen, but it’s
  6. Killjoys is routinely fun and features Hannah John-Kamen who I’ll watch in most anything.
  7. The Expanse was in mid-season at my arbitrary 6/1 cutoff date, but it’s been pretty good. Glad Amazon came to the rescue.
  8. Jessica Jones wasn’t nearly as good as season 1, but I liked season 1 so much that even with a big dropoff, it could still be a quality season.
  9. Sneaky Pete is another one that took a step down in season 2, but I still liked it.
  10. iZombie left off last year with a huge change in the status quo, but made a better season out of it than I thought possible.

Honorable mentions: Altered Carbon has a lot to like but somehow kinda disappointing in the end, Defenders was kind of a letdown, Lethal Weapon is better than it has any right to be, though I’m curious how it’ll handle its casting change, Counterpart has a really cool concept but it’s kinda slow.

Movies:

  1. Thor Ragnarok is probably peak MCU non-seriousness, unless they do a Nextwave movie (and they should definitely do a Nextwave movie).
  2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri hopefully doesn’t mean Sam Rockwell becomes a super serious actor now.
  3. Dunkirk is not normally my kind of movie, being relatively light on story and character, and heavy on visuals and war stuff, but it worked
  4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi remains controversial among fans, but I still enjoyed the hell out of it.
  5. Black Panther I maybe go the other way on, not quite loving it as much as everyone else seemed to, though I still thought it was excellent.
  6. Logan Lucky is a well-crafted heist movie, and I am a sucker for those.
  7. Wonder Woman managing not to suck was already an achievement, but that it was actually pretty great is amazing.
  8. The Big Sick isn’t too exciting, but it’s funny and an interesting story.
  9. Spider-Man Homecoming is probably going to turn out to be one of the more forgettable MCU movies, but they cast Peter well, and that goes a long way.
  10. Avengers: Infinity War is really half a movie, so I can’t be too high on it until I see where things go after it.

 

And I’m too far behind on comics to make a top 10 this time around.

Posted in movies by Bill on June 17, 2018

I checked out Blade Runner 2049 despite not having seen Blade Runners 2 through 2048. I’m not a huge fan of the first one. Amazing visuals, painfully slow moving. And this one is… exactly the same. Glad I saw it, no reason ever to see it again. Ana de Armas is hot.

Note: if you watch it on HBO Go and find it annoying that they letterbox the thing with gray bars instead of black, someone’s fix for it is explained here.

Posted in tv by Bill on June 12, 2018

Succession is HBO’s new drama with Brian Cox as a Donald Trump/Rupert Murdoch type. He’s a billionaire in charge of a media empire, kinda going senile, and faced with the prospect of handing off his business to his fuckup kids. Steve Carrel’s partner from The Big Short, Kieran Culkin, and the girl from Predestination are the main kids who seem to be jockeying for position.

The plot itself is pretty thin. It’s just about power grabs in the family company, but I found the first episode surprisingly funny, in a dry, dark way. I’d only half paid attention to the ads, and they made it seem like Serious Business. But I thought that could have been a fluke, so I wanted to see the second before making a decision, and it held up. Turns out the creator was a writer from The Thick of It (the show of which Veep is basically an American version) and Peep Show, so the humor makes sense. I’m on board for season one, and it’s already been renewed, so that’s a good sign too.

Posted in movies by Bill on June 11, 2018

Hotel Artemis is as John Wick-ish movie about a night where the shit hits the fan at a secret hospital for criminals. It looked like an action movie from the trailers, but there’s not a lot of action at all. More of a moody crime movie in an odd setting, with an impressive cast that doesn’t have a lot to do, and some cool ideas that don’t go very far. It’s not bad, but there are some interesting ideas and character concepts that aren’t developed. It’s all over quite quickly, and it wraps up the plot just fine, but too many characters get a build-up like they’re going to be a whole thing, but then turn out to just be plot devices.

Posted in tv by Bill on June 8, 2018

Cloak and Dagger is a new series on Freeform based on the Marvel characters, a black dude with a big magic shadowy cloak that envelops people and teleports them to a dark dimension, and a white girl in a ridiculous cleavage outfit who shoots daggers made of white light out of her hands.

The show has them as involved in an accident when they’re ~6, don’t cross paths again until they’re teenagers, and coming into contact again causes powers to manifest. Also they both have been horribly traumatized and their lives are super sad.

Probably 10 years ago I would have loved this, but there are a million superhero shows and movies now. I have a lot more patience for fun and action and intrigue with superpowers, than slow-moving tales of angst and woe. I only made it through the first hour of the pilot. Also (spoiler), what kind of idiot thief tells her victims true facts about themselves that are personally identifiable? Or uses tickets that they stole?