After kinda enjoying the wisecracking robot in the Poker Night game, I did decide to check out Borderlands (and I needed a break from the grimness of Telltale’s Walking Dead game). I was slightly worried by the fact that it’s a shooter, but it’s also a Diablo-esque stuff-gathering game. As a shooter, it’s decent. Lots of different weapons, although they tend to be of only a few basic types. I can’t imagine the graphics were impressive for the time, technologically, but they do something to give things a cartoony look (normally they use cell shading for this, but it isn’t quite that). That works to a good effect, and goes along with the game’s sense of humor. Which is really the saving grace of the game. Being primarily a shooter, I tend to find those boring single-player (and I no longer have interest in playing them multiplayer), but they had enough laughs to keep me going (the one that I liked most was in one of the DLCs where the MacGuffin is a (paraphrased) “Wireless Information Reading/Encoding Device, or W.I.R.E.D. — wait, that’s a terrible acronym for something wireless”). The sequel appears to have been better received, so on to the steam wishlist it goes.
Instead of just levels, action is doled out in quests. The upside is that you have regular breaks built in, and quest markers to guide you. The downsides are first that you can only have one active quest tracked on the map at a time, so you have to switch back and forth between quest list and map to find the nearest objective, and second that the quests (and enemies) are heavily keyed to level. If you fight something a few levels under you, it’s a one-shot kill with with a sniper rifle to the torso. If you fight something a few levels above you, it takes like 6 headshots. The bosses present the greatest challenge, and the bosses appear in the story-related quests, so you’re basically forced to do all the side quests to level up to make the bosses doable.
The RPG elements are very minimal. The story is thin, and you make no decisions in it. You just kill shit and the story happens to you. And you just gain experience and get to choose traits for your character, to make you more effective with certain weapons or whatever.
They have both vehicles and a fast travel system to cut down on the traveling between locations, which is good, but the implementation is frustrating. They could have done a lot to cut down on the travel time, especially in the DLC (I grabbed the Game of the Year version… General Knoxx > Claptrap Revolution > Zombie Island > Underdome Riot, if anyone cars). I did find it funny that prior to Claptrap in Poker Night, Moxxie was the only character I knew from the series, but she doesn’t even appear until the DLC. Annoyingly, it has several unskippable company logos at the beginning. I had to do some googling to find out I had to fiddle with some .ini files to not have to learn that 2K Games and Gearbox published/made it, and that it’s best played with nvidia every single time I started it.
X-Men Apocalypse is too fucking long. Who the hell decided two and a half hours was a good length for an over-serious superhero movie? If a superhero movie is that long, it’s going to need to either be a non-stop roller coaster ride, or full of comic relief. Neither was the case here. Quicksilver and Nightcrawler provided a little comedy, but it was mostly Apocalypse being menacing, Magneto feeling tremendous man-pain, Mystique running away from her past, mutant kids trying to control their powers, and Storm/Angel/Psylocke doing almost nothing.
It was ok and all. I was worried it’d be worse. Apocalypse is someone I used to dread seeing on the X-Men cartoon. Thanks to low expectations, I’m not disappointed. Better than the third one and Wolverine Origins. That’s not particularly high praise.
I did find it interesting that almost everyone is doing a foreign accent. German Nightcrawler is Australian. American Jean Grey, Beast, and Moira are English, English, and Australian. Canadian(?) Stryker is Australian. English Xavier is Scottish. And unrelated, but the kid who plays Cyclops reminds me of that guy who was on Roswell and then played Booth’s brother on Bones.
Spoiler to follow:
- There’s a moment straight out of that Futurama episode where Fry drinks 100 cups of coffee and saves everyone from a fire with super speed.
- There’s a moment right near the end where Moira flashes on all the moments in previous movies where she fell in love Xavier. And a moment a few minutes earlier where Magneto has the exact same flashes back to moments with Xavier. Clearly, Brian Singer is in the camp that thinks Magneto is in love with Xavier, because he presented the two almost identically.
- The death toll for this movie has to be in the hundreds of millions.
- Storm, Angel, and Psylocke seriously do nothing in this movie. Storm gets a hint of a story arc, Angel gets… some lines of dialogue. Psylocke, meanwhile, is a prop. She’s as much of a character in this as Blink was in the last one. Brian Singer uses purple-themed Asian girls as props, not characters. Also that costume was not flattering on Olivia Munn. It might not be flattering on anyone.
- The post-credits thing teases a villain I dislike almost as much as Apocalypse, so… not too thrilled about that either.
Preacher somewhat loosely adapts Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s comic series for AMC, with Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga, and Rudy from Misfits.
They keep the basic idea the same, but a few obvious changes right off the bat. They skip the religious mythology part of the origin, and open with genesis hurtling to the Earth. I don’t know if they’re going to get into the more fantastical and/or blasphemous elements later (although it already is fairly blasphemous), but the early focus is definitely on character, comedy, and action, with the supernatural stuff on the back burner. Maybe they’re taking a cue from Game of Thrones and introducing that stuff slowly, get people to buy in to the characters and setting first, and then jack up the weird later. Or maybe they’re thinking there’s a cap on how much blasphemy they can fit into a TV show with sponsors. We’ll see.
They also seem to be abandoning the road trip aspect, and are having the principals all, for various reasons, show up in the same town in Texas. So rather than setting off on his quest, and meeting Cassidy and Tulip on the way, Cassidy and Tulip come to where Jesse is. And they have the Quincannon plant in town. Which is probably just for budgetary reasons. But I think the show will more or less work without that. It does potentially lose some stuff… I assume they’ll have to make a few trips elsewhere to fit in a few things happen at some point, and it might start to get absurd with all these various characters dropping by middle-of-nowhere Texas at some point, but
It’s actually pretty promising. The action is fast-paced and very violent. Other than having some trouble understanding him sometimes, Cassidy is excellent. Tulip… it’s weird hearing that kind of southern accent coming from a black person, but otherwise she’s pretty great too. If they have the budget to keep the action scenes as good as they were in the pilot, it will at least be watchable. And if they manage to build up to the dark humor and character moments from the comics, it could be a great show.
The Nice Guys is Shane Black’s latest thing along the lines of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, this time with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. Not exactly the leads you’d expect for a very comedic PI story, but it works. Very well, in fact. The only real complaint I have is that a couple of the big jokes were given away in the trailers.
Crowe is basically the straight man (and the heavy), while Gosling is the idiot who stumbles his way into clues and leads and things. Gosling’s character’s daughter sort of plays the Penny Gadget role, being the smart and capable one who helps clean up after her father’s fuckups. Since it’s set in the 70s, there could totally be a sequel set in the early 90s or something.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is pretty middling movie. The plot is your standard spy fare. There’s a thing or person that it’s really important the bad guys don’t get, or that the bad guys have and it’s really important that it’s taken away. Our hero(es) work to prevent them from doing the bad thing with some allies, who may or may not really be allies. Global travel, sex, and chase scenes ensue. Guy Ritchie’s usual bag of visual tricks make things a little more interesting, but not much.
Oddly, Armie Hammer is one of the only Americans in the cast, but he’s playing a Russian, while Brits Henry Cavill and Jared Harris struggle to do convincing American accents. I started to think Alicia Vikander was really short, but that’s just apparently from standing next to 6’5″ Armie Hammer. Elizabeth Debicki plays the evil chick, and she’s way hotter here than she is on The Night Manager, I think owing to a much different hair style.
The only weird thing was that (spoilers for the tail end, but it’s an irrelevant detail) U.N.C.L.E. was unmentioned until the last scene.
Poker Night at the Inventory and Poker Night 2 are two more Telltale bundle games. These are just poker games (5 handed winner-take-all NLHE with aggressive blinds, the second one offers optional NL Omaha as well) with licensed characters as talkative opponents. Lots of jokes.
The first has one of Sam and Max, one of the Penny Arcade guys, the heavy weapons TF2 guy, and Strong Bad. None of which I really care about. But I got pissed off because I folded a winning hand to a series of all-ins on the first hand (check, bet, I raise. Check-raise all-in, call all-in, I become convinced by low flush on a paired board must be no good, opponents reveal trips and a garbage pair). It pissed me off later when I lost what should have been a split pot on an all-in (my A3 vs A6, QJT47 board, that busted me out). I ended up having to play 5 games to win once (break-even, money wise) and move on to the second. It wasn’t really until I was on a big stack and bullying the table around that I felt comfortable with anything, because the AI players are so unpredictable.
The characters in the second are much more my style. Brock Samson (voiced by Patrick Warburton), Ash from Evil Dead (not voiced by Bruce Campbell), the other one from Sam and Max, and a robot from Borderlands that kinda sounds like Bill Cipher from Gravity Falls but isn’t. The dealer is GLaDOS from Portal, and there’s someone I think also from Borderlands tending bar. Kinda like a steampunk mime with prominent cleavage. The AI is a little less dumb, or maybe I’m just getting used to the kind of dumb it is. GLaDOS has a lot of great lines in this. “The blinds have been increased to 264 and 4C8 in base 23. I’ll give you a minute to work that out before I deal.” Also when you get knocked out, “It appears you have lost all your chips. Oh well, it’s only money. Your money. Twenty thousand dollars of it. Right down the drain.” The robot from Borderlands was also pretty funny, to the point that I added the first game to my wishlist. I’ll probably give it a try if it’s ever cheap enough.
Anyway, they’re very slow moving poker games. And apparently the second one unlocks items for Borderlands and Team Fortress games (and maybe others, I quit before getting anything else). Amusing dialogue, but the poker is dull, so it’s not worth it.
Puzzle Agent 2 picks up where Puzzle Agent left off. Continuation of the story with more (similar) puzzles. A few are frustrating, not for their actual difficulty, but for either interface issues or ambiguity of the rules. But for virtually-free with the bundle, it’s a perfectly ok. The list price is still $10, which is definitely too much given the quality, age, and length (probably 3 or 4 hours… steam has it at 6 for me, but i left it running while I alt-tabbed out a lot).
Chappie intrigued me at first, but when it started to seem like non-comedic Short Circuit (but at least the indian guy is indian), I no longer cared about seeing it in the theater. But I saw that it was on one of these channels I probably shouldn’t be paying for, so why not?
It is a little more complicated than Short Circuit, but it doesn’t really get into the stuff about Ai that really interests me. Or, at least not until the end, when it kinda raises the idea of some of that and either leaves it unanswered or intended it for a sequel that’ll never happen. It gets points for being more ambitious than your average robot action movie, but it ultimately isn’t that great as an action movie or as a scifi/robot movie.
The fact that it’s all South African is kind of amusing in a few parts. Obviously Die Antwoord is weird as hell. That guy seems like a psychopath (I’m fairly sure he’s not acting) and the girl sounds like she’s 6. One of the South African characters who speaks English is subtitled in English. Seems kinda silly, I admittedly don’t understand every word, but I got the gist. And Hugh Jackman has like a demi-mullet, a haircut that I imagine is not as uncool in South Africa as it is in the rest of the world? I dunno.
Captain America: Civil War was very good on the scale of summer blockbuster action movies, but pretty ordinary as far as Marvel movies go. That speaks both to the quality of Marvel’s output and a reasonable amount to be disappointed with in the movie. Spoilers to follow:
All the actors are well-cast. The old ones, obviously, but Black Panther and Spider-Man shine in limited time, too. It’s closer to Winter Soldier in tone, so it’s not non-stop jokey, but they do pepper in some humor throughout, and it works. There are some quality action scenes (though a little too much of the shaky-cam early on). My complaints lie with the whole hero vs hero conceit in general, and with the villain’s plan.
Captain America, believed to be the paragon of goodness, the conscience of the team, he thinks “we need to be able to ignore the borders of any country on earth and kick the shit out of people there without any oversight.” Which is a patently stupid position. If Captain Russia were swinging by Chicago to beat up some Hydra guys, we’d be rightfully pissed at the collateral damage. So naturally he gets half the Avengers to sign on to his stupid idea. Meanwhile, Tony Stark’s rationale for being for oversight is to look at the mess in Sokovia and be like “this is our fault.” No Tony, this is your fault for making Ultron. You’re taking the right position for a stupid reason. Maybe all those other Avengers sign on to Cap’s side because they’re like “fuck you Tony, at least take responsibility for your shit.”
Meanwhile, the main villain is Baron Zemo, reimagined here is as a Sokovian Col. rather than a Baron. But still Zemo. He has Joker-level ability to predict unpredictable events, because his plan relies on first creating a war within the Avengers, then them reconciling enough that two people will be at a specific place at a specific time so that he can have the big reveal that I thought was obvious from the beginning but hopefully some people were surprised by it. But it took a million things going right at exactly the right time for his master plan to come to fruition. Moreso than most contrived movie villain plots.
But it was an enjoyable time at the movies. Just an Iron Man 2/Thor 1/Cap 1 level enjoyable time, rather than being up there with the better Marvel movies.
Houdini & Doyle is a new Fox series about the supposed real-life friendship between Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini. But turned into what looks like a case-of-the-week mystery thing, because… TV. It’s kinda X-Files maybe-supernatural style, though. The commercials made it seem like the House guy created it, but he’s just an executive producer. The actual creator did write about a dozen House episode though. As the actual man was, Houdini plays the skeptic, and Conan Doyle is the believer (I had to look that up, but apparently he was a believer in reality too). And there’s a girl, because it’d be too gay for network TV if it was just two dudes all the time. Stephen Mangan from Green Wing/Dirk Gently/Episodes is Arthur Conan Doyle, and the actor I will forever think of as Private Dancer plays Houdini, complete with the kind of Jew-fro hair. And I don’t know the lady cop from anything.
It’s not bad, but nothing too exciting. Probably if this was coming on in the fall, I wouldn’t bother with it. But as it’s starting as other series are starting to wind down, I’ll probably keep up with it since there won’t be much else on, and hope it gets better.