Saturday, December 28, 2013

Iron Man 3 (2013) dir Shane Black

As we all know, well those of us who know, Shane Black has scripted Christmas for a lot of us.  Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  These movies imprinted on me hard when I first saw them as a kid (I was 10 in 1987 - Mr. Black was 26 - the year that Lethal Weapon  came out).  Brutally hard movies with noir dialogue (and yes I knew what noir dialogue was when I was a kid because my father took me to a revival theater that mostly screened noir but that's another story for another time...).

So Shane Black directed and co-wrote Iron Man 3.

Fuck it.  This movie was awesome.  I wasn't expecting some of the human elements (though I should have) that Black brought to Tony Stark.  Stark's PTSD wasn't overplayed nor did it have/lean back on Hallenbeck humor (Tony Stark is too, well, Tony Stark).  I found the dialogue play between Downey Jr. & Cheedle to be not only the best parts of the movie but also the most Black-esque.

Not as satisfying as the first Iron Man movie nor as satisfying as Black's earlier works, I think that this movie will grow on me as I watch it.  Fuck, when's the last time I wanted to own a movie after watching it?  Iron Man 3 is fun and filled with mayhem and Black gets some solid performances out his crew (something Branaugh and Whedon didn't on Thor: the Blonde Douche God).

Valerie June "Pushin' Against a Stone" (2013)

Holy fucking shitfire.  The first post in months and it's about an album?

(Side note primus:  My life has pretty been suck and broke, mostly in tandem for months.)

I managed to drunkenly blunder up on and over Valerie June's "Pushin' Against a Stone" the other night when I was feeling sorry for myself (you know what sucks more than feeling sorry for yourself when you're drunk?  Feeling sorry for yourself when you're sober and watching SVU  on mute and eating crappy microwaved popcorn and still thankful you have the electricity to microwave anything).

In any case, this is one hell of an album.  It reminds me of: The Cowboy Junkies, Mazzy Star, Liz Phair, Portishead, Goldfrapp, and Sharon Jones.  It's twangy.  It's super Soul.  It's a make-out album.  It's a break-out album. It's fucking brilliant.  It flows and transitions smoother than a hand down a silk clad thigh.  It's a kitchen album.

There's a fucking guitar riff on the title track which reminds me of Cream but then track that follows ("Trials, Troubles, and Tribulations") is as good as any track off of Stewart's "Every Picture Tells a Story" (well...almost).

   

She's got some burn.

A hell of an album by a woman with one hell of a voice.  I've got her on heavy rotation, you should too.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Compulsion (2013) dir Egidio Coccimiglio

Compulsion has two draws for me, Heather Graham and cooking.  Combine those two elements with top shelf production quality, Carrie-Anne Moss, Kevin Dillon, Joe Mantegna, and you have a nasty little remake of the Korean 301, 302 (which I haven't seen because I'm not all hot and flustered by K-Horror that much...).

This is a psychological thriller for gourmands.  Where Feed is ostensibly a "foodie" (I hate that fucking word) horror movie Compulsion is food pr0n of the highest quality.  Graham's Amy is a gourmand whose entire world and sense of self, sexuality, ability to interact with other people centers around haute cuisine.  She is obsessed with food to the point of being frigging nuts.  At first it's endearing, plus Graham is ravishing in her classic dresses and aprons, but over the course of the film she gets spookier and spookier.

This is another one of those movies where the less you know about it going in the better.  Moss dishes up (no pun intended) a particularly painful performance - in the best way possible.  Dillon, well I really like Kevin Dillon but every time I see him I go, "Oh shit, it's Kevin Dillon."  I dug his character and his performance as Fred, Amy's fiance.  There's one section of dialogue in which he says something that made me say, "Oh.  Dude.  You done fucked up now."  I've been a Mantegna fan since I was a young film dork (I particularly loved him in David Mamet's Homicide (1991)) and he delivers a great performance as the straight-man of Compulsion.

What I really enjoyed about Compulsion is a two-fer.  The first: This is a movie for grown-ups.  Not because of T&A or anything of the sort.  The themes, pacing, dialogue, and ability to connect with the characters is stronger if you're older/experienced/etc.  I could easily say the same thing about some of Almodovar's work or Greenaway's classic The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1987) or  Delicatessen (1991).  The second:  No gore despite the abundance of sharp and jabby kitchen implements and some really dark happenings.  Yes, I know, gore has its time and place when the movie calls for it but my gorehound days are fading in my rear view mirror.  I still love Neil Marshall gore though, then again I love him doubleplus good.

I strongly recommend Compulsion for you folks who can appreciate a strong psychological thriller as much as they can an exquisite meal.  If not, there's always an Eli Roth movie you can fap to whilst eating Jack in the Box.   

Thursday, September 12, 2013

American Mary (2012) dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska

If you're not a "serious" modern horror fan then you might not have heard peep about "The Twisted Twins" (Jen & Sylvia Soska) American Mary.  I had been hearing drums in the dark about the movie since mid 2012 and read Film Deviant's January 2013 review when it was released.  Okay, I skimmed the review because I try to avoid as much info as I can about movies I want to see.  This is one of those movies that left me with a need to talk about it afterwards, particularly with one or two friends who I feel would have insights into the movie that would fill in some blank spots for me.

American Mary is a difficult movie to review in-depth without giving away too much.  It definitely falls into the modern Western ero-guro genre hardcore - Bizarre Mag UK hardcore (if you don't know what this means you might not want to look it up when in polite company or at work or if you're the type to be offended easily...then again you're on my site so you probably don't offend easy).  What sets Mary apart from the Excision/Woman pack is that this movie are its moments of humor (blacker than my lungs though the humor is) and there are a few moments of twisted tenderness which took me aback.

What surprised me, in the best way possible, were; the performances, dialogue, strength of not only the protagonist but of the supporting characters as well (two of which I adore), and quality of production.  Oh, and Katharine Isabelle - as a man who once went to more than a few Goth/Industrial nights back in ye olde 90s, uh, I'll tell you about it when I'm older.  Pervy joking aside, Isabelle turns in an excellent performance, at turns utterly human and empathetic and at others frankly scare me.  She reminds me of a friend I used to have in the bad old DC days.

Two performances really sealed the deal for me with American Mary: Tristan Rusk's Beatriss Johnson and Twan Holliday's Lance Delgreggo.  I'm not leaving out Antonio Cupo's Billy Barker, he did an excellent job and I think he's a great actor and, in a weird way, he was the connection character for me (insert proper cinematic term).  Rusk nailed it with, I dunno, I can't help but think Lynchian flair.  Holliday is a hired goon but delivers a monologue that makes you go, "Awww" and "Jesus fucking Christ" at the same time.

The Soska Sisters have put together an excellent movie though I'm not sure if I would call it horror anymore than I would call Blue Velvet horror.  It's a movie I wouldn't recommend to the average horror fan but if you're into the kind of weird and creepy and sexy (or any combination thereof, like sexy violence and violent sex) hell yeah, watch American Mary. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Oblivious

"Oblivion";  Starring Tom Cruise and occasionally featuring Morgan Freeman. It's 2077, earth is in ruins, the moon is trashed and civilization is supposedly on Titan. Aliens invaded, we nuked them, and now, we're sucking up the water supply to use as an energy source for the colony.  There is a giant pyramid in space called the "TeT" that controls the water sucking equipment, and humans on the planet that repair the drones; the drones protect the water sucking equipment from what aliens are left trying to destroy humanity.

To begin, let's start with this is almost exactly like every SciFi movie about aliens descending on humans, screwing up our planet and causing problems for the next century.  It's also a mash-up of several "humans vs. Aliens" movie from the 90's. 

[Ed. Contains Spoilers]


BUT, there's a funky twist - There ARE no 'aliens' ! Never Were!  The "TeT" is actually a mech control (ok, so 1 alien, but it's a machine, not an organic or even an hybrid lifeform) that is killing the human survivors that live underground on earth. And what drove those humans underground? What could one alien mech force do to humanity?  Send in the CLONES!  That's right, the main character is one of THOUSANDS of Clones! AND --- He does not know it; but this ONE clone who is the focal point, THE main character, is haunted by flashes of memory he can't place, which is where it got slightly more interesting than eating photopaper.

It's not until twist #'s 2,3 and 4 come along that we get more of the picture....we never get the FULL picture.....

In the end, I suppose, "Oblivion" is mildly interesting for those who, like my husband, enjoy post-apocalyptic films. I felt oblivious, as there is no discernible plot! WHAT is motivating the characters? WHERE is the Climax? WHO is the Hero? WHAT is the antagonist?  This film does not move properly, and was poorly drafted. According to IMDB, it started as a 'treatment' and while I have NO clue what that's supposed to be or do, it should have STAYED as such.

-side note- Tom Cruise did some decent acting, and it didn't feel forced like so many of his other films have in the past. There were also some fairly decent special effects, but they were not HEAVY.

This could have been a great story - but they rushed it too much. Questions are many, where answers are few. To say "I don't get it" is acceptable when you finish it.

I don't recommend buying this unless it's $1.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I&II (2010/2011)

Watched the last Harry Potter movie last night with some friends.  I'm glad they were patient enough to put up with and answer my non-fan questions and my cross-geekdom jokes (Neville hanging off the bridge -"Fly you fools!").  There were some cool moments in the movie though and it was cool to see some of the staff of Hogwarts proving to be badass.  Big V's snake buddy was pretty cool.  Dobby turned out to be awesome (though a very underused asset a la the Eagles in LOTR).  The Deathly Hallows tale animation was really slick - I'd love to see a movie in that style.  Maggie Smith knocked it out of the park. Neville was pretty awesome and to me, he's the real hero.

I still don't really get some of the mechanics/stuff'n'junk of the Potter-verse - e.g. the need for wands when there are numerous occasions when people are casting without them.  Why aren't there some whoop-ass international magic users coming to help?  Why didn't the Hogwarts crew enlist some more monsters (that griffon could have been handy)?  What's the back story on the subjugation of metahumans (a.k.a Why are wizards such dicks)?  Why don't warding spells refocus and rebound incoming attacks (a shield is a weapon just as much as is a defense)?  Why does England turn into an Orwellian dystopia so easily?  If Hogwarts has a legion of House Elves slave bound to Hogwarts why didn't they join in the fight?  If the Gobbos have a blind cave wyrm protecting the vaults why did it have the ability to fly on pinioned wings?  Why were they only pulling one Basilisk tooth at a time (any RPGer worth their salt would have looted that whole corpse and crafted it into something awesome [like a wand or a nice piece of hickory studded with teeth or bullets] or had the teeth stockpiled in the bag of holding)?   How did Harry and Ron get so ripped?  My friend brought up an excellent point of - "Why isn't there magic theory at Hogwarts?".  I'm curious as to why Hogwarts didn't have more of an inbuilt defense system - I mean, hell, it's a castle - where are the wall mounted scorpions and trebuchets?  Wait, if the bridge to Hogwarts was destroyed by explosion kid, how did the baddies get across - like the giants?  Was there another causeway?  Why didn't a cadre of baddies storm up from the docks?  Where was Death's cloak of invisibility?

All random questions but I never got into Harry Potter (even though I am a fantasy fan with over thirty years of experience under my belt), never read the books, or the slash, or fangirled out so I'm kind of coming at the last installment as an outsider.  Oh, and before you whine about it being for kids - shut up.  Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain and Michael Ende's The Neverending Story were also children's books.  Alexander's Queen Achren is more than a match for Bellatrix (Achren was Arawn's teacher).  Big V never had the Huntsmen of Arawn (some of my all time favorite baddies of all time, even more so than the Nazgul).

I'm splitting hairs and being grumpy.  Harry Potter is superficially entertaining and anything that gets kids to read is a good thing in my book.

I leave you with one of my favorite cross-geekdom fan pics:


"In the grim dark future of Hogwarts, there is only war."



Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Shadowrun Returns (2013) Harebrained Schemes

How do one begin a review of a game that one has been waiting two decades for?  Where does nostalgia stop and reality set in?  Does the good outweigh the bad?  How many characters are you going to make before settling on one and finishing the damned game?  And when all is said and done, "Is Shadowrun Returns a good game?"

These are all questions I've been struggling with when not worrying about bills or thinking about how to min/max stats for yet another character.  It's been making a review of this game difficult.  I've played through the first half/two-thirds of the game several times with several different character builds.  Tried different tactics, different conversation selections, difficulty levels, so on and so forth.  So does my love of Shadowrun (1993) SNES add or detract from my impressions of Returns?  Well, yes and no.

Returns is certainly a worthy successor to that old classic and I think it was well worth the wait.  The story and dialogue are great, with some particularly brilliant characters and exchanges.  It's very much a classic cyberpunk noir story but done by those led by the man who created the pen and paper game so of course it's on point.  The game is oozing with inside jokes, cameos, references that your average bear wouldn't get, and some pretty dark humor.  The score has cues from the SNES version (which made me giggle like a fat kid given free rein at a cake shop).  The graphics aren't the main focus of the experience but there's a rainy, neon-soaked familiarity and high level of detail to areas that makes me feel at home in my imagination.  It struck me as strange the other day when I was in the middle of a marathon session that I was using my imagination and playing each character slightly differently.  Instead of watching a cut scene, I saw it in my head.  In one early part of the game; my character poked a thug in the chest daring him to make a move as a feral grin played across my lips.  Another section; a tense multi-part fire fight erupted, I was covering a decker, running low on ammo as the other runners lay down suppressing fire and joking with one another.  I kept hiring the same runners for jobs, felt a rapport with them.  One mission I only brought one runner with me, a person I had developed respect and a sense of friendship for.  She asked me, "We really gonna do this?  Just us?"  I replied, "You got the nuyen to hire anyone, else go for it?"  Two runners I hired angrily whispered at one another, debating who was going to breach the door.  I said, "I'm gonna shoot the both of you if you chummers don't open that fragging door.  You want that?"

This is all coming from hours of solo play and having fun (okay, there were one or two parts where I wanted to say very very very bad words) and being surprised I'm roleplaying my characters.  Here are some of my favorites so far:


  • Puncharella: Female Troll Unarmed Combat Specialist who is dumb but has solid Charisma and is a sucker for a sob story.
  • Frank: Dwarven Technomage who might be the wimpiest Dwarf around
  • "Swingin" Johnny Shotgun:  Orc shotgun master who is just a dick and when not shotgunning people, Louisville Sluggers them.
  • La Chinga:  Sniper and drone specialist, not very charming but effective.
  • Boudreux:  Male Orc Shaman, he use swamp magic and de machete.  Nice to women, don't cotton to authority or bullies.
  • Betty:  Elven female who uses a combination of Mage and Shaman skills.
  • The Artful Dodger:  Human decker, drone specialist who is utterly useless at anything else except avoiding damage.
  • Doc-H:  Elven gunslinger with high Charisma.  Smarmy fucker who can shoot a weapon out of an enemy's hand.
  • Moxie:  Human female, Jack-of-all-trades.  Prefers avoiding conflict but uses a shotgun effectively when pushed.  Has light healing and support skills.  Uses a smoker drone for defense.  Cagey and looking for the next payday.
  • Smitty:  Elven moron with a nasty mean streak who only attacks and never asks questions.  I actually don't like him, I just made him as a lark.  Stupid knife-ears amuse me.
I don't roleplay in most RPGs or video games anymore.  With most of the big games (Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Dragon's Dogma, Final Fantasy etc etc etc) I know how the system works and know how to game it.  Stealth sniper/ranger = got it.  Or characters are "developed" so I don't have to imagine what they are like (though I really like some characters - e.g. Boone and Cass from Fallout:New Vegas, HK-47 KOTOR II, etc etc).  I'm playing a preset role, which basically comes down to am I nice or am I a dick? Shadowrun Returns has jump started my imagination and though I love the game for nostalgia reasons (along with some modern game play fun times) it's nice to be using my imagination again.

It's been almost a week since the game has come out and I've put quite a many hours into it so here comes the (I don't want to say downsides or be negative), perhaps the right term is, "short-comings" of Shadowrun Returns:

  • Outside of roleplay, dialogue decisions and points spent into Charisma don't necessarily to be influential in the rest of the campaign (at least up until where I've played).  Sure, with three Charisma Etiquette skills you can get a better price for runs and goods (and make me feel like a slick motherfucker) and Charisma is the main skill that unlocks deeper Shaman abilities.  Overall, though, it seems like my dialogue choices don't make much of a difference.  Which is a shame because I really hate Lumpy and want to stomp on his head.
  • It is difficult to really get a handle on - without looking at the forums and doing math - as to how certain skills work on dps/crits.  Certainly, the higher the skill you better you are (better gear, etc) but I haven't been able to figure out why Betty, with high Willpower and Mage skills, does fuck all for damage, even with high end magic, if she manages to hit her target.  No, I'm not dumb and know that there are many factors that math all over the place but a mage with Willpower 9 should be able to hit a target for some decent dmg.
  • There seems to be a randomness to enemy difficulty, even when replaying a mission for the umpteenth time.  This is not so much a complaint because I like being kept on my toes.  However, in one mission I whomped a Troll and then got stomped by an Elf.  In the replay, it was vice versa.
  • Shadowrun Returns will be a difficult game for "modern" players to get into.  I've read some forum posts and noticed some complaints about lack of tutorial, linear gameplay, 2LDR (Too Long, Didn't Read), hell, I imagine someone out there will be whingeing about the lack of cut scenes.  These don't factor into my enjoyment of game but from a review point I should bring it up.  Not that I really give a shit about these gamers.  I just don't want them to fuck up a good thing.

I've read all the major reviews of this game and I realized two things:
  1. This is a brilliant independent effort, created by and for fans, and the quality of the game reflects that.
  2. This is only the beginning campaign.  We've gotten used to being able to nerf the fuck out of characters pretty easily (almost without thinking).   I'm not going to whine about entering the end game without an ubermensch (actually I hate going into the end fight and just Alabama ass-kicking the boss *cough* I'm looking at you Final Fantasy VII *cough*)I have no idea what campaigns - Harebrained or user created - will bring.  And I'm excited.  This is the first time I've been interested in generating my own work.  Harebrained also included a level/campaign editor so we all can get in on the action, start our own campaigns, make the game our own.  Granted, I took one stab at the editor and went, "DERRRR, I like Baysplosions!" so it'll be a long time coming until you play a HYR campaign.
So, Shadowrun Returns.  A game of immense possibilities, with a hell of a story, might not be to the taste of some gamers but is accessible to new fans with a little bit of patience (put the game on Easy so you can enjoy the story).  It's available for PC/Mac/Tablet and doesn't require a lot of juice to run.  It's currently $20 on Steam and that's less than what you pay to go see whatever crap you're going to go see in 3D at the local multi-plex.

Well done, Harebrained, well done.  Now where the hell is my datajack?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Inspired by a fellow movie buff...

and former co-worker and a man who has a great website: Frank the Movie Watcher.  The man knows his stuff but I have to admit I'm stealing one of his ideas:  My Favorite 100 Movies.  However, I think I might have to shift it a bit because I categorize things into genres, subgenres, decades, and themes.  I'm considering twenty categories of top five or perhaps top ten of ten decades (which seems more likely).  Or perhaps I might just use a free list methodology...not sure yet.  Mr. Campbell used the EW template but I'm a sucker for footnotes and asides (aka justifications).  In any case thanks to him I have an idea to play with and write about.

Here's a trial run:

Top 10 Movies I Watch the Most:
  1. Big Trouble in Little China
  2. Master and Commander
  3. Blade 2
  4. The Wild Bunch
  5. LOTR - Director's Cut
  6. The 'Burbs
  7. Jump Tomorrow
  8. Aliens - Director's Cut
  9. Tropic Thunder
  10. Burning Paradise

Yeah, needs work...

Shadowrun Returns (2013) Harebrained Schemes: Pre-release jitters and nostalgia

Once upon a time, there was a young man growing up in a small town on the New York State edge of the Berkshires who loved few things in his world: his Sony Walkman, the "Back to the Future" soundtrack, Nintendo, military modelling, film noir, Max Headroom, Games Workshop, action movies, sci-fi, and cyberpunk.  He had been introduced to Warhammer 40,000 in 1988 and cyberpunk very soon there after, in the form of Blade Runner (the version with the narration and no stupid unicorn dream sequence).  He spent many hours reading and rereading what little he could get his hands on from the hobby shops or going through catalogs and writing dream lists of miniatures and modelling terrain.  He read Dungeon and White Dwarf religiously (when he could find copies or have enough allowance to buy one).

Then one day he saw a poster in a hobby shop, done by an artist the young man was proud to easily recognize - Larry Elmore:



It broke his fragile little mind.  Was that elf hacking a computer, via wetware?  Shotgun and magic (tee hee boobies) and DUAL WIELDING UZIS!?!  Battling in a big city, not some stupid fantasy realm.  And it was called Shadowrun.  It made perfect sense to him, the way Lionel Ritchie's "Running Through the Night" made sense.

Sadly the young man never got the opportunity to play the pen and paper version of Shaowrun.  Then when he was in high school, tearing through dystopian fiction in all its forms, learning about new music from friends a game was released for the Super Nintendo.  A Shadowrun game.  And he played the wheels off the game. Over and over again (when he wasn't making mixtapes or painting miniatures or getting into trouble) he would run through the game, experimenting, perfecting, obsessing.

Then, for a time (after the young man graduated high school and moved to a big city) he focused on various forms of bad behavior and debauchery.  While he didn't forget that which he had loved so dearly, he was distracted by wine, women, and song (to put it as politely and mildly as possible).

Following another move, this time to the Lone Star State, he slowly began to paint miniatures again, start playing more video games and visit hobby shops.  In the early 00s he was working at a bookstore and a co-worker was playing a game on his laptop in the breakroom.  The young man heard a very familiar piece of music, a cut from the SNES Shadowrun score.  It was a bizarre moment and the young man and the co-worker were soon completely nerding out about the game.

Fast forward over a decade and that young man ended up as me: 36, living in East Texas, trying to re-boot my life again.  Correction, I'm trying to re-boot my adult life.  My desktop is a HD screen cap from Blade Runner.  I've been rereading the cyberpunk classics (or in some cases re-rereading) over the last year.  I've even busted out my paints and a mini or two when the light is good.  Last year (April 2012) Jordan Weisman, the man behind the original Shadowrun released this Kickstarter video:

"Maybe you've heard of these games, or maybe your Dad has..."  sigh

Yeah, I didn't pee myself.  It was more of like when Gollum gets the Ring again and capers to his doom in...uh...Mount Doom.


Fast forward to today (07/24/2013)

If I hadn't replaced my eyes with mirrorshades I might get all misty.  

Really, a game company releases this kind of video the day before release.  A release date that was delayed because they wanted to release a quality product for their fans and supporters (and themselves).  This is the first game that I have preordered in a long time.

Almost twenty years, I've been waiting for this game.


Now if only the could be a proper Warhammer 40K movie that centered on Imperial Guard and not the damned Ultramarines.

Holy rusted metal, Batman! Reviews! On a review site!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.

It's just that most of the movies I've watched in the last few months haven't really rung my bell.  So here's a rundown and mini-review of some of what I've watched recently:

John Dies at the End (2012)  Was interesting but while watching it I realized something.  I'm not in my early 20s any more.  Conceptually and visually interesting with some decent performances I was reminded of a bit of Cronenberg and some stuff I read in the late 90s, early 00s.  Again, it wasn't bad but, like the whole Scott Pilgrim craze, I'm just not part of that target demographic.  I'm sure if I was ten years younger I would have loved it.

Crawlspace (2012)  A sci-fi thriller from Down Under that turned out to be a lot better than I thought it was going to be - mainly because though it starts as oddly derivative, it ended up going in a direction I was not expecting in the least.  Worth a watch, not going to win any awards or special place in my collection but time well spent.

Barrio Tales (2012)  A Chicano Creepshow.  I went into this expecting to turn it off after five minutes like a good deal of the total garbage horror on netflix streaming.  I watched the whole thing and had a good time too.  Don't expect anything except for what it is and it'll be just fine.  I really enjoyed the second segment and that alone made the entire watching experience worth it.  It's Summer, time for junk horror.

Silent Hill: Revelation (2012)  Pretty much completely forgettable, like a Papa John's pizza.

Last Kind Words (2012)  I don't want to say much about this movie other than it was a solid, enjoyable Southern Gothic.  Solid performances and while not staggeringly original - a well done little movie.

Come Out and Play (2012)  Another movie I don't want to say anything about because I really enjoyed it but I think I enjoyed it more knowing nothing about it.  Not for the squeemish but not a splatter flick either.  This is one of those that I want to talk to someone about.

and my favorite of this bunch:

Elfie Hopkins (2012) starring Jaime Winstone (the excellent Ray Winstone's daughter).  You can definitely tell she's Ray Winstone's kid, in a good way both physically and presence.  I really dug this British teen scream.  It was predictable in a way (thanks for the shit spoiler title American release!  dicks) but all in all was really satisfying.  If you like teen screams or have teenagers who dig horror, give this one a shot.  It's a nice change of pace from the standard hey bros and tit's'lip gloss slashers - put it this way - I liked the teenagers in this movie.  Now that's saying something.  

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Pa pa Wady: First Impressions

A few months ago an Asian grocery store opened here in Nacogdoches.  I thought I had imagined it when I went past it coming back from a work event out of town back in April and only in the last month or two have I heard more and more about it via word of mouth.

I had been thinking that it was surprising that there wasn't an Asian grocery store in Nac considering the influx of Burmese employed at one of the local factories and two of the Asian places I eat at would have to drive to Houston once a week to buy ingredients.

Amazonbutterfly had been a few times in the last month or so and finally she took me over there this afternoon.  Now it's a running joke among some of my friends that I really don't do anything for fun.  I have to respond, "I love going to non-American grocery stores.  That is fun."  I love being slightly out of my element but also having a pretty decent knowledge of ingredients and this and that just from experimenting, spending time in markets, and teaching myself what is what.

Pa Pa Wady is an excellent little market that manages to have a startlingly broad selection in a space the size of a 7-11.  Ingredients range from the Subcontinent to the Philippines with a focus on Burmese, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Thai cuisines.  The fresh produce is inspiring and a reminder that there is more out there than what you'll find in a typical American or Mexican grocery.  There's a wide range of fresh mushrooms all priced less than what you'd find elsewhere.  Seriously, I'm not even much of mushroom fan and I'm thrilled to get some next visit.

There's a selection of fresh meats along with three large coolers chock full of frozen meat, seafood, and that good old fashioned stuff that makes one realize that one's palette has limits (e.g. cow spleen, yeah, I'll eat it if I go to someone's house and they serve it but normally I avoid the waste removal organs - and brains).  I didn't pick up any of the seafood but I'm definitely going to on a future visit.

Then we get to one my favorite sections: spices, sauces, condiments, and assorted goodies.  I picked up some "super hot" fried chile paste (Dragonfly brand which I haven't tried - normally I buy Bell & Flower), some Pearl River Bridge sweet dark vinegar (I love this company's Superior Light soy sauce, I buy it by the half-gallon), and a "sweet" chile sauce from Malaysia - Yeo's (very thick and very citrus-y, I plan to add it to my al pastor).

An excellent experience, I feel inspired again.  Plus, I'm going to youtube how to speak foodie tourist Burmese.  If these folks are nice enough to open a proper grocery store, the least I can do is learn a little bit of their language.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Made dinner for a friend's mother's birthday today:

HYR poster TiNK asked me if I would help cook for her mother's birthday so I said, "Yeah, sure."  I wanted to something really light and simple (with a short amount of prep and cook time).  So she picked me up and we went to the store.

The first thing I had in mind was a variation on the fruit salad I've been getting at La Michoacana for the last month or so (damn near every day).  Seasonal fruit with lime and chile powder.  The ones at the store have a random mix of fruit but for a $1.99 it's really two solid servings of fruit and I've gotten kind of hooked on the idea of working with jicama since tasting it fresh in some of their salads.  Last week, or so ago, I was flipping through Earl Peyroux's Gourmet Cooking and found a recipe for "Salade de Pasteques" - (a.k.a Watermelon Salad) and I thought, "Well, right on, I'd like to try his version sometime but I think I found a starting point for making my own."

I didn't do any jicama or mangoes but kept it simple.  Not to crow but I was really impressed by the result.

Abuelita J's Fruit Salad: (serves roughly ten people)
  • 1/4 seedless watermelon -cubed bite size
  • 1/2 cantaloupe -cubed bite size
  • 1 pineapple - cubed bite size
  • Juice of two proper limes
  • generous amount of fine sea salt
  • liberal amount of Smoked Spanish Paprika
  • 4 capfuls of apple cider vinegar
Yeah, this requires some prep work because fuck a bunch of paying triple just because someone cut it up for you.  This is easy prep work if you have a sharp knife and good fruit.  TiNK had purchased a cantaloupe from our local Farmer's Market that was exquisite not only in a sensory way but to simply work with was dream (plus a freshly sharpened knife helped).  When your ingredients are like that, not only does the dish flourish but the "work" vanishes.  This dish is so fucking easy even I can do it.

Cube everything, put it in a big ass bowl, add everything else, cover bowl and shake like a Polaroid picture.  Add a few inches of salt, cover.   Put the whole thing into the fridge for an hour to chill.  Take out and toss again.  Serve.

The reason I used Smoked Spanish Paprika and not something smokier or stronger is because TiNK's mom ain't real into the heat.  When I make this for myself, I might use a touch of the ghost chile powder I have in reserve and add maybe some minced ginger and chopped jicama.

We also did a standard spinach/crushed pecan/dried cranberry salad.

Then for the meat she bought a solid filet of salmon (about four lbs).  I have to admit that I felt like kind of a dick at the fish counter of the grocery store, asking shit like, "When was this brought it?", "Can you bag it with ice?"  I mean I was joking and cordial about it but after my May the Fourth 2013 debacle I have to ask these kind of questions.

I was thinking of doing a baked salmon with a yogurt glaze, seemed like a good idea at the time, but when I was prepping the fish I decided not to since I've never really been comfortable cooking with yogurt (inexperience) and I didn't want to fuck anything up.  So it was a simple affair with ground rosemary (I had some fresh that I dried and then ground today), smoked black pepper, sea salt, smoked spanish paprika - more for color than taste, a liberal amount of #42, a solid drizzle of this California olive oil TiNK's mom brought back (the texture of which was more velvet than oil).  Sliced two lemons into 1/4" rounds, put the rounds on a broiler pan, then salmon on top of those.  350 oven for roughly a half-hour.  Eh, voila.

Learned a brilliant thing from TiNK today -  use a broiler pan as a baking sheet but put liquid into the pan to help steam the fish (or chicken).  I never broil anything because; a) I don't have a broiler pan, b) my oven is a piece of shit, and c) Fuck it, I'll just use my cast-iron skillet.  I'm intrigued by the possibilities.

All in all, a productive and relaxing day, and I might have stumbled across a secret weapon ingredient.  Seriously, it blew my man-panties off.  I'm not going to say anything more than that (otherwise my descriptions of the ingredient might get pornographic).

Damn, almost a month since my last post.

Apologies for dropping off posts folks but there hasn't been much going on worth a full post or article, lately. I started a new job (first time working in a restaurant) a month ago and that's been a hell of a good time.  Sure a learning curve but it's awesome.  I'm just kind of pissed it took me this long in my life to get into a kitchen.

Movies have been fairly lacklustre on the whole and I haven't seen any of the blockbusters yet - I only want to see Pacific Rim in the theater (no, I haven't seen a trailer or read anything about it - please don't mention/say/tell me anything about it).

Mainly I've been watching documentaries about food, corporations butt-fucking the environment, and Gordon Ramsay shows.  Turns out I really like Gordon Ramsay.  The Kitchen Nightmares show is kind of a crash-course for what not to do in a kitchen so for me I'm actually learning a little bit.  I want to pick up Michael Ruhlman's Elements of Cooking.
So yeah, once I have something of note to post I shall do so.  Probably some recipes coming up soon because all I've been thinking about is food.  Well food and, "How the fuck am I going to pay back student loans along with everything else?"

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rusty Taco: First Impressions Are Lasting Impressions

Rusty Taco
2801 North St
Nacogdoches
936-569-8002

I was trying to figure out what to eat for lunch today and since I have nothing but bare bones in the larder (and have been picking up things from La Michoacana as I need them) I was then stuck trying to remember a place I wanted to go that I don't go to all the damned time.  Then I remembered that a new taco joint opened recently (May 18th) on North Street in that weird location next to Subway that was at one time a hot dog place and another time a smoothie (?) place.  I checked on google maps for their location which places it on North Drive and University which is not even close.  The home site lists the Nacogdoches location as opening in June.  So I called, and not only were they open but they are until 10pm on a Sunday night.  That's pretty awesome.  I checked out the menu.  Yup, tacos, for lunch it is.

The parking lot is still a drive-in layout but there seems to be ample outdoor seating at picnic benches, though I was pleased there was in-door sixty-eight degree indoor seating.  I was grumbling to myself about them not having a bike rack when an employee (a manager) came up and said hello and, "We really need to get a bike rack."  I had to laugh.

Rusty Taco has a fairly simple layout with sit down counters next to the kitchen and a small but comfortable dining room.  Order at the counter, standard stuff.  One potential problem I see for ordering, especially when the place is busy, is managing the flow of traffic and queues.  There's a large upright cooler blocking space where you walk in and order.  It wasn't a problem when I went (after one pm on a Sunday - good luck finding a place that's not packed with church crowd in this town) but as I was eating I noticed a bit o f a bottleneck with people looking at the menu, people walking in, and people trying to get their orders.

The menu consists of a baker's dozen of tacos and there are breakfast tacos!  Booyah!  I went with the #2 Roasted Pork Taco, #3 Beef Fajita Taco, and the #11 BBQ Brisket Taco along with chips & salsa.  With a drink it was the standard lunch price of under ten bucks for one person ($2 a taco).  They have three different sauces (habanero, verde, and standard red) so I gave all of them a try.

The Roasted Pork was solid roast pork.  Moist and tender, with pickled onions and cotija cheese, yup.  Nice work.

I was underwhelmed by the beef fajita.  Not that it was bad in the least but it was just kind of bland and it didn't have the sear/char I like on my beef fajitas.

The BBQ Brisket taco, however, was pretty frickin awesome and more than made up in taste for the fajita.  I was particularly pleased with their lime slaw.  Hell, I would get a side of their lime slaw if they offered it.  The brisket was shredded and plentiful and the BBQ sauce was an accent and didn't overwhelm the meat or the slaw.  I will definitely be getting one of these again.

Of the sauces I liked the habanero the best.  It actually wasn't that hot and had a good citrus note to it.  The verde was standard verde.  The red was just too mild for me (and had a peculiar ketchup-y aftertaste).

The salsa wasn't bad, tastes the same as El Ranchero's, but was cold which was a drag.  I don't mind cold salsa if it's really chunky and more on the pico end of salsa than liquidy but the smooth stuff, gotta be warm.  The flavors blend better.  Cold, you just get tomato flavor.  A minor complaint and one that I'm sure I'm in the minority for having.

The staff was friendly and outgoing, the interior was tidy, tables were clean, there wasn't a huge amount of crap on the walls (I'm starting to get annoyed with restaurants that have too much crap on the walls), the wait wasn't long at all (I think I've waited long in crappy fast food joints), and I was full but not overfull for my bike ride.

Definitely worth checking out.  Let me know when you're going, I want another BBQ Brisket Taco and there are a couple more styles I want to check out (particularly #13 The Texican and the jalapeno sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast taco).

Thursday, May 23, 2013

XBOX One unveiled!

Oh my stars and whiskers!  I'll be able to watch live TV, a movie, Skype, update my NFL Fantasy League in real time and play a game ALL AT THE SAME TIME!  I can even use my TV as a wicked awesome monitor for Internetz!  If I need to take a piss it'll even help me find my zipper!

*dramatic pause*





Oh movie quotes from the 1980s, you help me express myself so well
 (I used to use this sample on my old mix tapes).  

The unveiling, which I watched on ye olde XBOX360, started strong.  No, fuck that.  It was depressing.  The entire event reminded me of a sad Sears photographer trying to make a sad, fat baby happy while a dour looking Mother glares at the photographer and sweats Crisco.

Okay, okay, to be fair, let me take a breath and reign in the snark.  This is not a product that is marketed to me.  None of the features revealed appeal to me (including but not limited to a Kinect that is always on, a Kinect - period, 8G of RAM, live updates to fantasy sports, the ability to watch live television, absurdist levels of multi-tasking, fuck a bunch of HALO, and interfacing with technology I have no inclination of owning).  There was minimal talk of games except for three cash cows (Forza, Madden, and COD) which is to be expected and of course XBOX is gonna save some of the fireworks for E3.

Thinking about it rationally, I realize that my ire comes from feeling discluded.  Reminds me of the time I broke-up with Playstation and started dating 360.  Though, this is different, because before it was a matter of price and other factors.  Now, I just feel as if they don't give a shit about gamers.  And since I've started a relationship with PC gaming a few years ago, she's going to make the most of this opportunity to comfort me in her bosom whilst smirking at consoles and thinking, "He's all mine now and you're never getting him back.  I have been doing all you might promise and more."

I should reserve judgment until the system comes out and games are revealed.  Yeah, fuck that, I'll just save my pennies and buy some shit off of newegg.com for a fraction of the price of a new console.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Dark Souls - I'm losing the fear. Minor game spoilers and build theory.

Yes, you read that right.  Dark Souls and I have achieved an understanding and if not an understanding than a grudging mutual respect.

I'm not going to give away any plot spoilers or major walk-through info but instead I'm going to tell you a few things that I have picked up through trial and error and bullshit.  I am currently almost level 70 with my fourth character - a Pyromancer/sniper build.

Pyromancer is a beast in combat.  Combined with a 40 Dex and a +10 Black Bow of Pharis and +9 starting armor and 20+ vitality/endurance I can dish out a good amount of dps at long and medium ranges.  Short range still gives me trouble but I've juiced up Combustion and a couple of light melee weapons for those get stuck in moments.  Also dumped a bunch of humanity into the Chaos Servant Covenant for extra boom boom.

I've even developed a kind of love for PvP in Dark Souls.  I know, right?  I've even won a couple of fights though most of the time I dread being invaded, usually because I'm desperately trying to recruit for a boss fight.

Anor Londo is one of my new favorite levels in a game.  Hell, Dark Souls, is rife with a multitude of areas I really dig but Anor Londo is a sniper wet-dream.  Stunning vistas coated in an amber light that provides for an interesting change in scenery from the rest of the first half of the game.  It is a dangerous area if you're not prepared but coming on the heels of Sen's Fortress (a trap laden nightmare that gave me a headache for almost a day on my first run-through) Londo is just stunning.  Plus it's a great place to grind before and after you beat the area boss.  Run a circuit and make 20k souls, bonfire, rinse, repeat.  For ranged attacks, it's brilliant.  I couldn't imagine taking on some of the enemies up close but I reckon if I was built for melee it wouldn't be so bad.

Now that I am at the (I think) halfway point of the game story wise I have to wade into new areas and get out of my grindy comfort zone during my next proper game session.  I plan to grind a bit for humanity and souls so I can be loaded for bear before tackling the unknown.

Dark Souls has turned into less of a nightmare and more of a luxurious challenge.  I am not stomping the game but I feel I have a definite fighting chance backed up with some skills and some inventory and hard won knowledge.  Even crappy one shotter enemies will eat your lunch if you don't pay attention to your actions.  It is a far cry from AFKing a pack of wolves in Skyrim to nerf your armor stats.



Friday, May 03, 2013

"May the Fourth Be With You": Hooligan Youth Cooks edition.



That's right folks I'm serving up some vittles for the 2nd Annual May the etc etc Star Wars party.  This time I'm gonna theme up the main dishes I am working on more than last year.  I started poking wookiepedia with a bantha prodder for cuisine ideas and realized, shit, I already embrace the four tenets of Mandalorian cuisine (I'll get to those later).  As far as main dishes go I wasn't too impressed with a large amount of the glop the humanoids eat.  No way in hell I'm making Huttese or some weird Rodian muck.  I'm doing one dish in the Mandalore tradition and one in the Twi'lek.

Mandalorian cuisine is based on four tenets (thanks to Melyc'inya's awesome forum post from 09) which encompass heturam (mouth burn), hetikleyc (nose burn), yai'yai (richly nourishing), and a fourth that doesn't have a term but seems to be a variation of wok hei.  I'm not going to be making this dish terribly heturam or hetikleyc but I figure a well-rounded flavor with a touch of piquant and just a stab of heat.  Enough to notice the knife behind the smile.

I ended up deciding on roast shatual, a dish based on the fauna of Mandalore.  Being unable to acquire shatual on this backwater planet I am using two ten pound pork butts.  One will be roasted with #42 and the other with a little something I've code named "Order 66".  It's gonna be so good you're gonna slaughter Jedi.

The second dish is something the Twi'lek came up with, mynock.  Yes, I know, the mynocks are chewing through the external power cables.  Instead let us chew through them.  I've decided to go with chicken drumsticks (proper meaty ones not crummy bar food ones) in their stead.  I couldn't find many sources on the style of Twi'lek cuisine but I figured it'd be more a savoury, subtle style.  A mix of roasted coriander, ajwain seeds, and peppercorn blend has given them a light, floral aroma with a slight hint of white pepper heat.

I will also be serving mynock legs as the evening progresses based on what people might be interested in.  You want spicy?  I can do that.  You want smoky?  I can do that too.  You want sweet?  Well, just for you, this once.

It's been kind of fun planning theme dishes.  I'm not as hardcore about Star Wars as I once was but I do love the setting (and AT-ST).  I'll post recipes and fun stuff I come up with as the evening goes on and I promise not to yell at anyone in Huttese, unless they get into my safe zone.

p.s. If you're really nice I'll set you up with something I learned to make on Socorro.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dark Souls (2011) What happened after I lost my save file.

Initially my reaction was like this.  Then I kind of got "mad at dem eggs" and restarted with a new character.

Dark Souls during a second go through is a little easier.  The game still hates you but just knowing a few things about how the game works and what areas you can exploit and what items not to waste but it still hurts like a bastard to have lost the time, though not as much as it hurt to lose a big old stack of souls and humanity due to a stupid mistake.

Here's a couple of the things I learned with no spoilers and some friendly advice (even though apparently one isn't supposed to give advice about Dark Souls if you're "hardcore" - meh).

I changed my class from thief to wanderer, mainly because wanderer isn't quite as squishy as thief nor bohunky as warrior or knight.  Not that the class ultimately matters because you're going to be putting points into skills you enjoy/prefer.  The skill lvl cap is 40 and over-all lvl cap is over 150.  Still you don't want to waste time putting time and effort into a skill that will ultimately prove useless (e.g. Resistance).  Plus you don't want to waste precious points you'll need for equipment and skills.

I've a pretty simple PvE build Soul Level 38 Wanderer with a decent combination of range/melee and been hoarding resources for better equipment I know I'll be finding down the road.  I also bought a metric fuck ton of arrows and fire bombs to just range aggro enemies.  There are a couple of spots where you can plink an enemy from across a canyon and sometimes they will simply charge straight at you  (and thus fall into the ravine and die) instead of legging it the long way round to attack you.  Work smarter, not harder. 

The piddly little spell Aural Decoy has also become a fairly useful resource for triggering ambushes, sending enemies running off cliffs stupidly (or close to a cliff edge so I just walk up and bash them off), or giving me a few seconds of breathing room so I can run awa...I mean...tactically retreat. 

Being forced to restart has also allowed me to enjoy the game a bit more instead of running around screaming like a n00b on fire (or dying every other fucking minute).  There are some nice looking vistas and some interesting enemy animations and graphical touches.  I've gotten used to the controls and quick-changing through items is a breeze (learn from this Bethesda).  Not going to jinx myself because I'm dreading going into the new areas (if I can ever beat the boss I need to take down - son of a bitch just clobbers me) but I am digging the new pace of game play.  I still have to be cautious and alert (even crummy enemies can ruin your day if you're careless).

One downside to where I am in the game is that I am going to have to get some serious grind on in order to break through the current ceiling I have hit.  I'm just of wandering around, looking at stuff, and trying not to die.  I did, finally take down a baddie that was one-hitting me over (and over and over), through sheer lameness (cast Aural Decoy to lure him out of his hiding spot then fire bomb him, and wash and rinse and repeat over and over).  But this uncle-fucker of a boss demon is starting to piss me off to no end.  Sigh.  Looks like I'm gonna wander and loot for the next game-play session or two. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dark Souls (2011)

We're gonna take a trip down ye olde nostalgia gaming lane for a moment, bear with me:

Remember in the olden days when RPGs did not come with a map, or they came with a rudimentary one and you couldn't expect a full map from Nintendo Power for a few months?  When a game seemed to actively work against you to the point where you thought the game hated you, and you alone?  Secrets and hidden prizes were the reward for exploration and exploitation on a second play-through?  You had to grind through  mobs just to hoard whatever meager XP and GP they dropped just to get an advantage over the next dungeon?  Imagine a time when you didn't have to wait for load screens.  Imagine a RPG system you couldn't instantly nerf.  Remember when death brought a tangible cost to your character, not just in L33T perma-death mode?

Well, dear readers.  I think that I might have found such a game. Dark Souls kept me playing from around 2AM Saturday 04/20/13 to 5AM 04/21/13 - sober  (I played a couple hours of Puzzle Quest waiting for Dark Souls to download) and I think I've barely scratched the surface to this beast. I have checked no FAQs, no cheats, no hints (except for in-game), no game manual, and no one I know has played it.  

Dark Souls is not a loot'n'run, it is not Skyrim, it is not going to kiss your boo-boo when you fall off your training wheels.  Dark Souls doesn't give a fuck if you like it.  In fact, if you don't like it then you weren't gonna hack it anyway, so take a walk down wash-up lane.

Dark Souls can be summed up very simply, "Do it again and do it right this time."  But in a very Kafkaesque way, you are lost and somewhat scared  of what you're doing.

Do I have your interest?

I remember reading about Dark Souls on a couple of "hardcore" gamer and RPG junkie sites back in '11 but I got distracted by Skyrim and all that folderol.  It just slipped through the cracks until Saturday evening, while I was looking for a game to download and play.  For $19.99 I figured, "Fuck it.  Worse comes to worse it's an RPG I can tear through and review."

Load up, character class selection, etc etc, yeah I got this...

During the beginning of the game, what sparsely is a tutorial, I died.  Okay, not a big deal.  Wait, I died again?  Okay...learning a new game, it's a little different than Skyrim and Dragon's Dogma.  Ah ha!  Got the bastards that were killing me!  Huzzah!  What's down this hall way?  FUCK.  I just got one shotted in the "tutorial"?  A peculiar combination of rage and fascination came over me, the likes of which I haven't felt since my early days in EVE.  Okay.  I took a sip of my water and rolled the kinks out of my neck.  Then got killed again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  At one point the rage set in and I stormed in...and got killed again.  And then, the rage turned into, well if you've seen me hardcore game and bulldog a problem, or if you've seen me when I'm past anger and into calculation shut-down mode...that time I didn't die.

Then after I got through "the tutorial" I found myself in a land where everything hates me.  There are no mission markers, no map, no nanny NPCs, no explanations, and no crutches.  In a strange way DS immerses you in the game the same way Ico did.

I could write more about my experiences with Dark Souls but that would take away from yours.  What I have to say is that I haven't been this challenged by a game in a long time (besides some platformers which I suck at anyway).  I have a few problems with the mechanics but I can't tell if that's because of my character class choice (Thief) or just having a gaming experience that won't allow me to be comfortable.

Here's one thing I will tell you.  Every time you use a Bonfire - which acts as a hub for leveling, inventory control, etc, etc - all enemies (except for big bads) respawn.  Bonfires are few and far between, so a route you may have just barely cleared is now repopulated.  It's actually kind of brilliant and I figured out one nerf trick (figure it out for yourself) because you need to not only grind but practice survival.  I'm almost at lvl 35 and can one hit some foes, if my timing is right, but I got careless and swamped and died in no time flat.

Do I love Dark Souls?  Well, the game looks good and the voice acting is excellent.  Inventory control sucks.  For an action-RPG that focuses so heavily on combat I wish I had a few more moves in my play book.  Weapon shifting is awesome though and feels really natural (and vital in combat) between left and right hands.  I normally have a shield equipped on left hand with a bow in a secondary slot, sword and spear in right.  The maps are "small" but dense with exploration and enemies, you'll do a lot of running around/backtracking but through exploration and survival you'll discover links between areas to diffuse the backtracking.

Do I love Dark Souls?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  It is the first game in a long time which almost made me smash my controller into the TV.  I feel totally lost in some areas and it's only adrenaline, luck, and a touch of skill that has allowed me to survive.  I may not love it yet but I will dominate it.

p.s.  Remember in Fallout 3 the first time you beat a Deathclaw?  That satisfaction?  Imagine that feeling every time you defeat an enemy.

p.p.s. It took a strong force of will to write this post and not just play Dark Souls.   

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Django Unchained (2012) dir. Quentin Tarantino

Hold on to your pretty pink bonnets, dear readers...

Django Unchained is the first Tarantino movie I have thoroughly enjoyed since Jackie Brown.  I mean, from start to finish I had a good time and I'd be willing to watch it again, hell, right now.

Now as we all know, as I have soap-boxed at length, I have had a lot of problems with Tarantino's last couple of films.  I went into Django Unchained with arms crossed, a big bowl of snark-covered popcorn and a large piss'n'vinegar (easy on the ice), ready to take a big ol'grumpy dump on this movie.  Then as the credits began rolling and I laughed smugly at the use of Bacalov & Rocky Roberts' Theme from Django (1966) I realized this was a good opening shot.  Wait, Morricone did some original music for the film?  What?  Wait, is this starting out as a good movie?

Now don't get your hopes up, Joshua.  Inglourious Basterds started off brilliantly too...

As Django Unchained progressed I felt myself both surprised and drawn in by the film.  I am a Jamie Foxx fan and I really dig Christoph Waltz and their on screen chemistry just worked.  It felt like a natural rapport.  I think I prefer the first half of the movie over the second but that's just me.  The first half develops nicely at its own pace with a good number of moments where Tarantino and director of photography Robert Richardson put down some classic shots which reminded me of movies I grew up on (e.g. Jeremiah Johnson  [1972]).  I'm kind of surprised one or two cues weren't used from Jeremiah Johnson but, meh, less than nit-pick.  It is kind of amazing what Tarantino and crew can do when they can sit and enjoy a comfortable silence with their audience.

The humor of the first half, one segment in particular, actually made me laugh.  In a strange way the humor reminds me of a warped version of the first half-hour of Blazing Saddles (the rail-way sequence of that movie remains one my favorites in all film comedy - despite, or maybe because of the surreal and absurd racism).  One of the running jokes throughout the movie is definitely from the Brooks school.  Waltz himself proves to be an actor who knows that comedy hinges on delivery and timing.  His smooth talking bounty hunter (though with a decidedly bloody streak) has a pragmatic Germanic approach to his work and is hard not be taken in by.  Foxx was part of the In Living Color crew and Booty Call (1997) is damned funny movie.  Since the early 00s he's done far more serious roles and has developed into an outstanding actor.  His Django has a charm, humor, and playfulness to the character but Foxx tempers a great deal of comedy with the seriousness of his character's role.  He portrays a caring, charming man who must harden himself to survive at all costs.  Not at all an uncommon archetype in action films but Foxx doesn't come across as a Blaxploitation anti-hero or cartoonish.

The second half works well and is much more Tarantino-esque, dialogue and action-wise.  The bloody climax reminded me of Better Tomorrow II, which is not surprising but I thought Tarantino was going to go the route of the original Django (which has an ending that has to be seen to be believed, okay BTII also has one of the best endings to any action movie ever made).

There are a number of elements of the second half of Django Unchained which took me off guard:  Leonard DiCaprio's Calvin Candie and Samuel L. Jackson's Stephen performances, the impact of grotesque violence, Tarantino's ability to draw out tension, not necessarily through snappy dialogue building to a cathartic violence (which he does at one point but at that point it works) but waves of tension, slow boiling, and a fairly extreme feeling of righteous vengeance.

I knew DiCaprio was going to do a solid job - I've grown to like him as an actor over the last decade or so (hell, he's only three years older than me so I've seen most of his movies one way or another).  I was not expecting the malevolent glee he portrayed on screen and he was able to come across as not a caricature.  I was not expecting Jackson to deliver the performance he did.  Yes, I am a Samuel L. Jackson fan, you're a Samuel L. Jackson fan, we are all Samuel L. Jackson fans.  Yes, he given great Uncle Rufus-esque dialogue but what made him a joy to watch in Django Unchained was his body language, the way he chameleons his character, and the way he manipulates events.

There is one section of the second act (I should not be using halves as much as I should be using 'acts' for this movie) where Tarantino really lets the tension mount.  I have to admit that I was worried and rapt in my attention.  Is this it?  Is the shit going to go down?  At one point I said, "Don't do it.  Not yet."  I was seriously pins and needles like a motherfucker.

I was surprised by Tarantino giving a bit of depth of his violence and its impacts on his characters.  I have seen all of his movies and this is the first one which has a theme of revisiting horrific violence, things you can't unsee to use the modern parlance.  The key scene, which is revisited later in the film, is not so much gory as it is hard to watch.  Certainly it is one of those scenes which sets up the bad guy as a truly twisted fuck and mitigates the violence that comes to him in the end, however the protagonist cannot put it out of his mind, despite the other horrors and violence he has seen or he has perpetrated.  It is an interesting device that I've seen in other movies but nothing in mainstream cinema (that I can easily recall).

The violence visited upon the evil-doers in act three.  I tell you what, those motherfuckers deserve every ounce of it.  Wait, but, as an individual I do not condone the use of violence in any form.  Fuck that, this is a movie and those fuckers need to get dick-shot.  Django Unchained ends up being pure vengeance fantasy. Not to say this is a bad thing, movie-wise.  By the time I got to the climax of the movie I almost wanted him to go Nero Django.  This movie ends bloodily, at a few parts to the point of absurdity (some of the foley work during this sequence made me laugh, but again a minor nitpick), and fails to carry the weight of a movie like The Wild Bunch but Django Unchained is not The Wild Bunch.

I guess I should probably say something about the way "race" and "race relations" were handled in Django Unchained.  Then again, I'm sure there are all kinds of papers and articles about this movie out there which are better written than this post.  One question I keep going back to is how the movie would have been received if it had directed by a black man or woman instead of Tarantino.  Yeah, Tarantino has been controversial because of his use of racial epithets back in the olden times of the last century and?  If Spike Lee or Antoine Fuqua ot John Singleton had made Django Unchained (I love John Singleton movies, actually I could see Singleton making Django Unchained albiet with a less Tarantino-esque script) would the public response had been the same or different?  There are many points of conjecture and I could bring up masking, signifying, source something about Uncle Remus, and add in something about fashion and freedom ("You wanna dress like that?") but this probably isn't the time nor place.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about Django Unchained was that the movie is its own thing and not a collage of "hey cool movie reference after cool movie reference Tarantino onanism" (or maybe I just have not seen all of the movies Django Unchained is referencing).  However, there is one tiny section of dialogue between Foxx and Franco Nero (the original Django) - "The 'D' is silent."  "Yeah, I know."  For some reason that one line, delivered so dryly dismissive by Nero, works for me.  Thanks for acknowledging that we get your references, Mr. Tarantino, now keep making movies as good as Django Unchained.      

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Oz, the Great and Powerful? (Guest Post by Tink)

I was genuinely curious to see what Disney could do; Story, plotline, Character development. As for visuals, I expected nothing less than "Alice in Wonderland".

Disney has this problem of taking on massive projects and failing miserably. Ok, so Pirates did fare OK, but after the second installment, it began to lose steam really fast. by the end of the third, I was done with Jack and Barbosa and Will. Putting it bluntly, Disney goes too far, reaches too hig and often falls short. Just to give you an idea of where my expectations were, I knew that this could be good or it could be terrible, with only a little middle ground for mediocre at best.

Unlike most people, who want to be surprised and amazed, I watched every trailer and read several critiques on the film. As with any Disney LAF, they were mixed reviews. The trailers gave you stunning views of the CGI world of OZ, plenty of the action shots, and a touch of the "love story".

At this point, I was now ready to view the film for my-self, so I trucked my family to our Local Carmike 6 Cinema....I will NOT go into detail about the awful experience we had or the horrific service, just state that we will NOT be returning there to view anything. Ever.  MOVEING ON!

As best, I found it to be decent for anyone under the age of 14.  The story is about a 2 bit hack circus magician/con artist with a lustful eye for things beyond his reach; money, power, fame and women. He's thrust into a "fairytale" world  (by a tornado, no less) and meets up with Theodora.  Props to the Casting director for giving us a least some beautiful faces to look at - Mila Kunis is hot, and as her sister, Evanora, Rachel Weisz is wickedly sexy. The sisters are predictable, and so is the story. Boy meets girl, he likes her, she likes him, tells him too much, sister is jealous, plots and schemes to remove boy from picture and it goes downhill from there. In between is an adventure through this CGI world that is decent....it's not Alice, and it appears the spent most of their budget on the pre-tornado scenes. The faults are with the overuse of green screens and sadly, 90% of ALL movies fall prey to it. It's more budget conscious, this is true, but it lacks definition and the sense of TOTAL immersion you get from location shooting.

That being said, it's nearly impossible to make a fantsay movie without CGI, so it should be seamless. "OZ" is not. IN fact, that was the #1 gripe.

I find that the lack of continuity between character stories and overall plot direction is worse than glaring CGI errors. I can forgive visual artistry if the story is well composed, but this was not.

The directors used to many devices to push the weak story, and gave the audience information, instead of having us work it out on our own; they basically dumbed it down. Do they think us so lacking in invention, imagination, and intelligence? - YES!

Much to the pity of Mr. Baum's work, Disney has produced another "flop".

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bioshock Infinite (2013) Irrational Games

I finished Bioshock Infinite this afternoon and since I did reviews for Bioshock and Bioshock 2 (08/15/2007 and 09/11/2012 respectively) I figured I should do a review of the latest installment.  I had been avoiding as much press and marketing about BI as possible except for checking out the teaser a year or so back.  I enjoyed most of the first two games (some minor quibbles) and wanted the same unknowing going into BI as when I first visited Rapture (one of my favorite game experiences - except for the last act).

As much as I loved exploring Rapture I am glad that Irrational Games created a new world for me to explore.  What a world it is.  I'm going to have a hard time making this review as spoiler free as possible, not because of the story - which is good and the critics are lauding but it ends up being a bit well, pot head philosophy for my tastes, but because I don't want to give away the fun of discovery.

It's an excellent game experience, maybe not worth buying right out of the gate what with all the DLC and GOTY edition inevitably coming down the pike, but it delivered a solid fifteen hours of game play (though I don't know how much of that was devoted to backtracking and looking for collectibles, etc).   For me, what drew me in were the same elements that drew me into Rapture, the setting and bizarre sense of, perhaps not immersion, but surprise at some of the subtler elements which seem meaningless but enhance the over-all experience.  This isn't an explore roaming adventure RPG type of game, in fact it's pretty linear, but each area has its own stuff to look at.  As with Bioshock I ended up reading signs, eavesdropping, and moving at a leisurely pace like a tourist on holiday.  I read a menu board, I listened to a barber shop quartet, I laughed at the historical references (one of which relates to a RL conversation I had about a month ago about when certain states enter the Union), I wondered if people would get a good number of the jokes and references because they are trivial and vaguely esoteric (if you're smart and over the age of thirty, or are well versed in pop culture and history before the age of cell phones you'll get the jokes and references).

Aside: If you're knowledgeable about American history from say 1880-1915 you'll definitely take interest in how the game handles race issues, eugenics, robber barons, etc.  Hell, if I taught a class on the time period I would assign the game.

I really dug the mechanics of combat, standard FPS controller layout, but combat was pretty fluid.  The enemy AI was solid though there were a number of times I could just bottleneck them in a hall or doorway and meat grinder them.  Two things any game should have these days are enemies who notice when Fred just drops dead next to them suddenly (and then ring the shit-storm bell) and don't turn a hallway into an abbatior a la Better Tomorrow II (If Fred, then Smitty get shot in a doorway in front of me I'm gonna huck a grenade and get the hell into cover and pretend to reload in order to trick the attacker).

Hooray, no QTE!  Thank you, Irrational Games!

The special vigour skills (formerly known as plasmids) are okay but nothing particularly grand, especially when compared to Bioshock (HORNETS!) or Dishonored (RATS!).  I am a little non-plussed by BI's skills because on the console you can only have two equipped at a time, sure you can switch them out easily (hold down L1/LB and a wheel pops up, thank god I didn't have to Skyrim through a menu), and on a PC you can just hotkey everything but switching them out mid-battle didn't encourage experimentation.  I ended up using two pairs of skills Possession & Electricity and Fire & Swarm.  The other skills just gathered dust.

Only being able to carry two weapons is becoming more a standard in games, one that I approve of, three or four weapons max (say melee, two hand guns, and a rifle or other two handed weapon - I've often thought that a slot system would work well the number of weapons you can carry is based on holsters, etc combined with weapons taking up a certain number of slots based on weight and size).  For BI I found that between exploring and my standard forage methods (along with a rule of thumb that one of the weapons I carry is the same as what the enemy carries - e.g. an AK-47 so I have ample opportunity to have ammo) I didn't really have to worry about running out of ammo.  Once I maxed the amount of vigour I could use I ended up going with a standard carbine and heavy revolver combo.  I could make most shots that would require a sniper rifle with the carbine and the revolver was a one shotter once I got it modded out.  This is not say that there aren't quite a few different types of weapons in the game.  I just ended up sticking with what worked for me.

There was minimal screen clutter (I guess enough people griped out all the UI clutter in the first two games).  Thank you, Irrational Games.

And I have thank them for making one of the best supporting AI characters I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  Imagine, a supporting NPC who isn't totally fucking useless and/or made of tissue paper (granted if I had to be escorted out of a firefight I'd be pretty useless but I also wouldn't go running into a wall of bullets - after the firefight I'd be looting every corpse for ammo and gear and collectibles).  She is a joy to work with, enough of a help to keep things interesting but not a crutch.  During a firefight, if she has the resources she'll throw you what you actually need, not "Oh you have a splinter,  here's the biggest medpack I could find!" You don't need to babysit or micromanage her, she gets her ass into cover when the shooting starts.  If you're just looting mundane shit she sticks close but will look at stuff or just lean against a wall, she'll mention if something is worth finding.  Most importantly, she's not fucking annoying or just tits.  I actually kind of like her and reminded myself once that her eyes were "up there" and not in her corset.  A female character in a game I like and respect?  Shit, I dunno if that's happened since Beyond Good and Evil (an absolutely top shelf game you must play, especially since it's been rereleased in HD).

The protagonist ain't so bad himself.  Now, it's so very hard to not make comparisons to the protagonist (and his story arc) of Bioshock (the "Would You Kindly" scene has got to be one of the best in video game history).  That being said Booker DeWitt is a kind of standard down on his luck "man with a tortured past" kind of guy.  DeWitt's voice actor Troy Baker sells it though (he has done a shit ton of good voice work - upon checking out his imdb profile - huh, from Dallas, he's kind of cute, uh, yeah, tough guy shit).  There were a few moments where he really needed to sell it - remember the guy who did Max Payne's voice work (James McCaffrey) during the really dark turns?  Baker manages to do that.

The music is top notch.  I really don't want to give away spoilers on the music.

Bioshock Infinite is an excellent game and one I recommend.  "Where's the but?"  The buts are I don't know if there's much replay value and there's a chunk of the last third which felt, unnecessary.  Not the ending but the third act just kind of gets a bit wonky, like it belonged in another game.

The replay is, I am curious about this and if you know - don't tell me, well, there are a handful of "choices" to be made in the but I'm seriously doubting if they really make all that much of a difference.  If they created a whole new story based on the choices I'd be interested but as it is I'll buy the game when all the DLC comes out and it's twenty bucks before I play it again (and be an asshole to every one as I am during second play thoughs).

The elements which drew me in during the first two thirds of the game were lacking in the last third, Infinite suffers from - though certainly not as badly - the last third of Bioshock.  The set-piece near the end was slog - though certainly not as bad as the boss fights of Deus Ex: Revolution).

Quibbles aside.  Play it.  I prefer Dishonored for mayhem and exploration but Bioshock Infinite is a gaming experience well worth having.  Just don't get high and talk to me about the ending.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Product review: Lazer Street Helmet - Belgian Chocolate

So after a bad experience of: drinking and bicycling and bouncing my already scarred and dented noggin off the sidewalk about a fortnight ago (no blood this time, just a wide knot on my upper left temple which healed up after consuming a large amount of steak) I finally broke down and bought a helmet.

I had been looking at helmets all over the internet but only idly.  So I went to The Bike Shop and had a RL look.  Now I had been leaning towards a Nutcase Sharkshin Matte (which I still kind of want due to color and lack of labels on the helmet) but since I was there I saw and picked up the Lazer Street Belgium Chocolate.

Not having worn a helmet before (pfft, helmets in the late 80s, early 90s?  Sure if you were some kind of a wussy momma's boy) I wasn't sure what to look for.  I knew I didn't want one of those fancy alien helmets the Spandex riders wear (good on them for being hardcore and aerodynamic but neither article of clothing would work for me).  I knew I wanted something simple and not a feminine color.  Basically it was either blue, pink, or the Belgium Chocolate (which was at the very bottom of the stack of helmets - and a little dusty).  Considering I  mainly wear earth tones, brown it was.

What I didn't know is that there are single impact and multiple impact styles of helmets.  I'm not sure how the design style or code works for each type but I didn't see much point in spending money on something that I'd have to replace after one good knock (though I plan to do my best to only bike sober from now on).

I also vaguely knew the size of my head in cm.  I had recently had my head measured, I don't remember why now, but I think I have almost a 28" noggin which makes it a large.  Not quite an orange on a toothpick but it is a cinder block head.  The Lazer large comes with two sets of inserts to help fit the helmet to your head, one thicker and one thinner, they attach by velcro and are super simple to switch out (I did this while waiting at the counter).  The chin strap was a little trickier to get right (probably because I hadn't monkey'd with one before).

I'm not sure what the upsides are supposed to be for a helmet but I can tell you what I like about it.  It's pretty comfy and once I got the chin strap right feels fairly secure.  The vents actually keep my head cooler than when I ride without it so the circulation is good.  My forehead actually gets cooled down pretty well and the foam insert things seem to soak up a good amount of sweat which would normally pour down my face and blind me.  It is a pretty light helmet (450g or less than 1lb for us non-metric people) but the weight is comfortable and I feel that it's study enough not to shatter (it's also a multiple impact helmet).  "And I even like the color."

The downsides are not really downsides but I can see them becoming problems in the future.  The first is, even with the inserts and chin strap secured it still feels a little loose.  Perhaps loose is not the correct word, maybe not entirely secure.  When I shake my head the helmet shifts a little.  Not much but it makes me worry about my head if worst case scenario happens.  I guess if I had a full head of hair then it might be more secure but I ain't got hair.  I might try a medium for the next helmet.  I also thought a bike helmet would have more of a hardhat/military style webbing suspension on the interior for it to rest on the head.  There is also a lot of text on it, which I plan to cover with Hooliganyouth stickers anyway so it's not a huge deal.  Additionally the dings and scrapes just from carrying the thing, chucking in a basket, etc. are pretty visible.  Again not a huge deal but if it was a matte finish it wouldn't be as apparent.

All in all I'm happy with my purchase - which came in around the average $60 mark for this kind of helmet.  I feel quite a bit better riding with a helmet than without.  It's not that I'm an old lady, it's that I can't afford a visit to the hospital.

Hope that you and yours are well fed and not letting life get you too down.  Ride safe and if you operate a motor vehicle stop pulling halfway into crosswalks and driveway, indicate your turns, and for the love of bacon do not wave me on when I can see cross traffic coming on fast.  Oh, and texting drivers delenda est.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

When Gravity Fails - the movie?!?!?!?!?!

I was clicking around imdb and found that Stephen Derrickson is helming a film version of one of my top-five favorite sci-fi books of all time.  When Gravity Fails is George Alec Effinger's cyberpunk-noir set in the Middle East and I love it.  It's one of those books that I buy a copy whenever I see one used.  I hope they don't fuck it up. 

The Possession (2012) & Sinister (2012)

Did a supernatural double feature with the lady last night (who is also a hardcore action movie fan).  I wasn't expecting much from either movie but then again I don't expect a lot from most horror movies these days.  Not because I'm overly critical but because, well, they suck.  As for these two movies, the critics are split down the middle (not surprising) with Ebert coming down on the thumbs-up for both (kind of surprising).  Personally the reviewers who I don't like didn't like the movies (*cough* Marc Savlov) so critic reviews aren't changing my opinions of the movie. 

Achtung!  No spoilers!
I was pleasantly surprised by both movies.  Okay, Sinister had some hair-raising moments but first The Possession.  Loosely based upon the urban legend of the Dybbuk Box, it's a story about a divorced guy who buys his daughter a Dybbuk Box at a garage sale and the ensuing terror.  For a PG-13 movie it's got some serious creepiness factors to it.  One scene isn't supernatural terror but there's an intensity to it that has made it stuck with me.  Overall the movie was well done with a protagonist, played by Jeffery Dean Morgan, I actually managed to like and sympathize with (instead of most of the under-the-age of thirty dickbags who populate horror movies).  Well shot and totally lacking in flailing found footage camera work.  Oh and that guy I thought jokingly was Matisyahu, yeah that's Matisyahu.  Worth watching as a double feature with The Unborn (2009).

Sinister was one of those movies I saw the trailer once awhile back and then refused to read anything or watch anything about (I've done the same thing with Mama).  I'm glad I went into this movie fairly cold beause some of it was severely intense.  I was pretty leery of Ethan Hawke being in a horror movie (though thinking about it, I did enjoy Daybreakers - critics were split on that one too) but he worked in the role.  There's a level of failing desperation to his character that worked for me.  His Ellison Oswalt, a true crime writer who was on the NYT Bestsellers' List in his early 30s is now a man in his early 40s who needs another hit book, financially and emotionally.  His actions are brought on by these factors and the rest of the movie sprials out of control.  If it hadn't been a horror movie it could have made the plot for an interesting indie character drama/thriller.

As far as a supernatural horror movie goes, Sinister comes out swinging right from the get go.  There aren't any real lulls in the tension because even if there's not something supernatural going on there's domestic tension as Oswalt and his family splinter under stress.  One particular scene of high tension is one in which nothing happens.  It was kind of a startling scene (and very well shot) because of the other boo! scares that kind of abound.  Yeah, there are quite a few boo! scares in addition to some seriously twisted goings on.  While Sinister is in no way "gory" it is pretty hardcore.  The sound design is really excellent as well, with a soundtrack that just pulses with intensity.  Actually, thinking about it, the sound design was brilliantly done and well balanced (unlike some movies which thunder their scores and Bay-splosions at you while mumbling the dialogue so you feel like some old fart, "What'd he say?  Who has the soup or the natural?").  Sinister is definitely worth watching.  Hell, I want to watch it again.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Skyrim: Dragonborn DLC (2012) Bethesda

Fus ra...oh here we go again.  Yes fine folks I finally picked up the Dragonborn DLC, primarily because there's fuck all else to play right now and even EVE gets tedious after a while.  If you have a good game to recommend or let me borrow that'd be cool.

Dragonborn is, actually pretty good, though for 360 it's still plagued with crap-ass load times, freezes, and glitches.  Last night the game froze on me about a half dozen times due to an auto-save bug.  This is the last time I play a Bethesda game on the console and quite possibly the last console I buy for a long time.

If it weren't for the glitches and bugs and the recurrent voice actors Dragonborn would be awesome.  Unlike Dawnguard, which was literally just more of the same, Dragonborn opens up a new island under the control of Morrowind.  Half of the island is a volcano ash wreck and the other is fairly familiar by this point.  The area design is different and while it's desolate there's some interesting stuff to look at.  There have been a couple of dungeons that actually surprised me by their design and puzzles.  There are new enemies which are pretty awesome and challenging if they take you off guard.  New armor, new weapons, loot, loot, loot...

What I am happiest about is simple - lots to explore and get rewarded for doing so.  I've spent two solid evenings of gameplay just wandering around.  Dragonguard has a lot packed into it and even more to reward exploration and patience.  There's a good number of sidequests (so far) based around treasure hunting and some tantilizing clues about further rewards for exploration.  In particular, it's not even a quest but there's a puzzle in a Dwemer ruin that can only be solved by going to the other Dwemer ruins.  Ancient ruins?  Treasure?  Fortune and glory?  Hell yeah!  However one of the puzzles in a Dwemer ruin took me about an hour to solve without a FAQ.  I said some bad words.

As for the DLC story arc?  I have no idea.  I haven't even started it.  You guys know me, as soon as I get the chance I book it cross country.  Story?  What?  Save what?  Huh?  Fuck you, I gots loots to find!  It drives some people nuts, especially if they are attempting to watch me play.  It's also part of the reason why I feel main story end game are often such a let down, I've done everything.  I'm basically a freaking God and then I just smash the end boss into a paste.  Personally I kind of miss the Dark World element in Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past or the insane time travel involved in Dragon Warrior VII (which I think is a better game than FFVII) - something to keep the game going to add some depth to it.  Oh well.

Is Dragonborn worth $20?  If it weren't so buggy, yeah.  All games have bugs, I know this - you know this, games freeze sometimes okay.  It's an imperfect world, screws fall out.  But at this point and for a company of Bethesda's stature, it's absurd.  In a way they remind me of the old joke about Jaguars, having to buy a mechanic when you buy a Jaguar or one of those super expensive dog breeds that's so in-bred it can't breathe right.  It's slovenly.

Basically, when Dragonborn is good, it is very, very good and when it is bad, it is awful.

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