Pointless Nonsense

Posted in movies by Bill on May 1, 2016

special-correspondentsSpecial Correspondents is Ricky Gervais’ new Netflix movie with Eric Bana, Vera Farmiga, and Kelly MacDonald, about two New York radio journalists who are supposed to go to Ecuador to cover a war, but instead hide out in NYC and fake their reports. It’s not very good. A few laughs here and there, and Vera Farmiga is quite good in this, but I felt like this was a setup for a satire of the news media, when instead it was a… story about the loser white guy growing some confidence and realizing the cute girl likes him, which is a story that’s been told a million times before.

Posted in movies by Bill on May 1, 2016

jurassic-worldFinally getting around to seeing Jurassic World, and it’s ok, but it relies a lot on dinosaur spectacle. The plot/characters aren’t that exciting at all.

It is pretty similar in approach to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in that it tries very hard to recreate the original. Ill-advised dinosaur theme park leads to disaster. Jerkwad nerd partly to blame. An adult couple and two kids who are not theirs run around the park trying not to get eaten. Rich guy who runs it is basically well-intentioned, but we’re supposed to ignore the fact that he’s responsible for all the deaths that happen because he built a very expensive death trap. We learn an important lesson about… hubris, or nature, or something. But I have a lot more affinity for Star Wars than I do Jurassic Park, and I thought the Episode 7 characters and plot were great, whereas here they’re… fine, but nothing special.

I realized the similarity to TFA prior to realizing the writer/director of this is attached to write/direct Episode IX. Which is kinda weird. His resume is this and Safety Not Guaranteed, the indie Aubrey Plaza/Mark Duplass time travel whatever thing. Which is quite a leap from low budget straight to the Jurassic Park and Star Wars franchises.

A lot of the plot relies on this massive tourist destination having shitty cell phone service and next-to-no radio signal among the guards.

Posted in movies by Bill on April 30, 2016

keanuKeanu is, unfortunately, not as good as I’d hoped, but still pretty decent. Key and Peele star as a pair of suburban professional guys who pretend to be gangster types in order to recover a lost cat. Most of the best parts were in the trailer, but they were pretty good, and there were a few other jokes that worked well. Plus, as was often the case with action-oriented sketches on their show, the action was well done.

Posted in video games by Bill on April 28, 2016

bioshock-infiniteBioshock Infinite is the third of the Bioshock trilogy that I bought in the Steam summer sale 2014, having not finished the first one (great design, intriguing story, I hated the gameplay), and skipped the second one (I heard it’s not nearly as good as the others). I was going to play this about a year ago, and I started watching youtube videos to catch me up on the story, only to find out that it’s almost entirely unrelated, which kinda pissed me off for investing all this time watching those videos, and further postponed me trying this out. But wanting to take a break from Telltale after Game of Thrones (spoiler alert: almost everyone dies), it seemed like time to finally get around to this. And it turns out to be pretty good.

Not unlike the first game, you’re on the water and then you find a lighthouse that’s the entrance to a fantastical city. This time, it’s in the sky rather than undersea, and the place isn’t abandoned. Instead of a Randian utopia gone awry, it’s a fully functioning society that’s highly religious and reveres the American founding fathers. It seems to be a utopia as far as 1910 goes, with advanced technology, everyone seeming all happy and everything. You’re a P.I. sent to the place to find a girl, and you’re trying to sneak around, but it turns out the founder of the city and “prophet” knew you were coming and warned people about you. And you start to see the hidden dark side of it all.

So an hour in, you actually start shooting stuff for the first time. Which indicates that it is even more story-focused than the first one, which is right up my alley. Instead of the one guy over the radio, you have a hot girl following you around to fill you in on plot info, sorta be your partner, and she finds money and ammo for you sometimes. There is a plot twist of sorts that I saw coming from really early on, but there’s other stuff that happens towards the end that I didn’t anticipate, so figuring that out ahead didn’t really detract from the ending.

The gameplay is much less frustrating than the first one. Rather than a somewhat unhelpful map, you just hit a key and it gives you an arrow to your next objective. There’s still the thing where you have a mix of guns and “vigors” that give you various superpowers, and they also throw in four slots to hold gear that gives you special abilities, and a shield that prevents you from taking damage for a little bit and recharges when you take cover. I still forgot to use the vigors a lot of the time.

Other things:

  • At first launch, the game has over 30 seconds of unskippable company logos. That’s just insane. It’s kind of a shit menu too. To resume, you first have to press the any key, then select “main game,” and only then can you select continue. And there are animated transitions between each of them. They’re nicely designed menus, but take too much time the 8th time you start the game up.
  • There’s a lot of early 20th century music which is kinda neat. Also anachornistic music. Overall a quality soundtrack.
  • There’s a major side character with Jennifer Hale doing almost exactly Bastila’s voice from KotOR, which is kinda weird, but I like that voice so I’m not really complaining. The voice of Ashley from Mass Effect also does a side character voice too.
  • There are three DLCs, what looks like a two-chapter story one that ties more closely into the first game, and one that’s action-based. It’s cheaper to get all three than to just buy the story ones, so I may end up doing that.

Posted in movies by Bill on April 20, 2016

jlvttJustice League vs Teen Titans is the latest DC direct to video animated feature, which came out a few weeks ago without me realizing it. I’ve never been that big of a Titans fan, so this didn’t have much attachment for me. Also, I think way too many things are having hero vs hero stories right now. It’s good for a change of pace now and then, but with Batman v Superman, Cap: Civil War, and another Civil War coming up in Marvel comics, this is just more of the same. However, it does feature a surprisingly long Dance Dance Revolution battle between Damian Wayne and Beast Boy. Which is dumb here, but Batman v Superman could have used one of those.

I know nothing of Raven, but her backstory was central to the plot. It was pretty meh, as these things are becoming, increasingly. If the Killing Joke one isn’t impressive, I might quit bothering with them.

Posted in tv by Bill on April 20, 2016

nightmanagerThe Night Manager is the BBC miniseries imported to AMC with Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie, based on a John le Carre novel. I do tend to enjoy the cerebral espionage stuff like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (which was also a le Carre adaptation), and this is more of the same. Not super exciting, but still my kind of thing.

Hiddleston (who I am still not entirely used to seeing without the Loki hair) plays a hotel night manager who stumbles into information about an arms dealer (Laurie) and tries to do the right thing, and then a globe-trotting spy game ensues.

Hugh Laurie’s character is named Richard Roper, not to be confused with the film critic Richard Roeper. The werewolf guy from the original Being Human, whatshername from Broadchurch and Peep Show (not Dobby, the first main love interest) also appear, and a British that guy who always plays smug pricks plays a smug prick. There’s also some kinda hot blonde girl, and a kinda hot mystery ethnicity woman at the beginning.

Posted in video games by Bill on April 19, 2016

puzzle-agentPuzzle Agent is another game from the Telltale Humble Bundle. You are Nelson Tethers, FBI Agent in charge of the Puzzle Research Division. Basically, you watch crudely animated cutscenes (like Home Movies from Adult Swim kinda?), occasionally interacting like an adventure game, which inevitably lead to puzzles. The story is as comedic and not-terribly-funny as the FBI having a Puzzle Research Division would suggest.

The puzzles, mostly logic-based, are very easy until the end (except for a couple where the real puzzle was figuring out the object of the puzzle). And it’s short. Probably if I’d paid the full $5 price I’d have considered it disappointing, but for a small portion of $12, it’s not bad at all.

Posted in movies by Bill on April 17, 2016

confirmationConfirmation is HBO’s tv movie about the Clarence Thomas hearings. It’s essentially just a recap of what happened, nothing groundbreaking. It doesn’t even necessarily take a stance on who was telling the truth.

I was 12-ish at the time, and did follow what was going on, but I didn’t really have a grasp on what a big deal both the supreme court and sexual harassment were. Nor did it seem odd to me at the time that a committee entirely comprised of old white guys were deciding on this thing. So it is kind of interesting to relive it with a different perspective.

Wendell Pierce is Thomas, Kerry Washington is Anita Hill, Jeffrey Wright her lawyer, and Jennifer Hudson as Angela Wright. Greg Kinnear plays Joe Biden and absolutely nails his voice. Treat Williams plays Ted Kennedy and nails his giant head. Some guy plays Arlen Specter, but there’s another actor playing Alan Simpson who I think looks like 2008-ish Arlen Specter, so that kinda detracts from how well I perceived his Specter.

Posted in video games by Bill on April 15, 2016

got-telltaleGame of Thrones is the first of presumably several games from the Humble Telltale Bundle I’ll be playing. It’s just like The Walking Dead, which I found both annoying and compelling. Good story, forced into interesting and difficult decisions, annoying gameplay. Story-wise, it falls I think between seasons 3 and 4 of the show, so spoilers ahead if you haven’t gotten there yet.

One thing it has over The Walking Dead is the cast. Margaery, Tyrion, Cersei, and Ramsey (and it looks like Jon Snow in chapter 2) are voiced by their TV actors, with probably more to come. I find Margaery’s model fascinating, because in some angles and expressions, they capture Natalie Dormer’s unusual hotness perfectly well with the piercing eyes and crooked smile and all. But from other angles, she looks like an angry cat.

Another advantage is the move away from puzzles. Based on at least the first chapter, it’s decisions, QTEs, and pointless interactivity. Which I kinda appreciate, it’s almost 100% an interactive story. I don’t really see why I need to click to pick up a piece of cloth, then click and drag to wipe blood off a sword (that’s an early example that was probably meant as a tutorial, but they drop in something like that every once in a while… click and drag to hold your wound open so the Maester can treat it). But compared to the first chapter Walking Dead‘s 20 minutes of going in and out and around a train car to get it started, this is a big benefit.

One gripe I have compared to TWD is that you bounce around between characters. Within the first hour, you play as three different characters. In some ways, that makes sense for the GoT thing, since the show is all about a large cast of characters spread all around a fictional world. But I don’t really like when in any kind of interactive story, you control more than one character. It feels more like you’re playing the role of co-author, but I prefer the sense that one of the characters is me. Since I can’t be two or more people, any time I control more than one, I lose that sense of identity.

Gripe #2: this is a 2014 game, one that both runs from Steam and has you sign into an account from the publisher, and it does not sync save files between computers. I had previously set up individual tasks for games to sync between computers and my NAS, but this and getting a new laptop gave me an opportunity to switch to syncing the entire Documents folder. So I guess most games that don’t already do so will sync without me even thinking about it now.

It takes place in the aftermath of the Red Wedding, and you play as three different people associated with a minor house with strong ties to the Starks. They’re obviously on the outs with the Boltons now running things in the North, so you’re scrambling (from various directions) to keep House Forrester together and in a relative position of power. First you’re a squire at the Red Wedding, and the only survivor of your house’s delegation. Then you’re the kid who’s the new head of the house. Then you’re the kid’s sister who’s over in King’s Landing serving as a handmaiden to Margery. And you’re kinda working together-ish, or at least your actions in one setting affect the other characters.

I’m enjoying the story, they are still good at forcing you into tough decisions, and the stats at the ends of chapters to show you what other people chose are great (other people are monsters), and the gameplay is less annoying that TWD, so I find this to be pretty good overall.

Posted in video games by Bill on April 13, 2016

talosThe Talos Principle was recommended to me a while back, was on sale for $10 in February, and I’m just getting around to playing it. And obsessively finishing it within a few days. It’s a Portal-ish puzzle game, first person in a 3d environment, solving a bunch of individual puzzles, some that teach you new solution techniques and tools, some that mix together everything you’ve learned to create bigger challenges. I completely loved the puzzle solving element.

The story kinda sucked, though. It’s very philosophy-centric, I guess? Or something. I basically stopped paying attention about 1/4 of the way through. The game also had one major flaw, in that there’s a possible endgame that is totally unclear that it’s an endgame. Some big doors open and the booming voice that talks to you the whole game tells you to come on through, so you do, and it’s like “hey, way to go, game over.” Leaving things you wanted to do undone, and forcing you to find the part in the weird menu that lets you load older autosaves.

There’s a thing where you can find a bunch of hidden items to unlock other levels, but the hidden items are far too well hidden. There are probably dozens, and I think I saw less than 10 the entire game. Looking at youtube, some of them are ridiculous, and I have no interest in that.

But the puzzles were great. $10 well spent.

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