The Films of Ridley Scott [ER/FB]
Sep 30th, 2011 by Dan

Yet another great video by Kees van Dijkhuizen. Scott’s filmography is almost too robust for such a short video, but this is definitely a great montage nonetheless

Evan Longoria and An Amazing Night of Baseball [WMQ]
Sep 29th, 2011 by Dan

Longoria at Bat

Not the same at bat as last night, but you get the idea (Picture courtesy DJOtaku)

What an amazing night! Wow, that was fantastic! I was just on the edge of my seat all last night…

My evening began with the final Marlins game of the year against the Nats. It was the end of an era, really. The Florida Marlins are technically no more (they’re officially no more on 11 November) and I wish they closed out Joe Robbie Stadium with a bang, but instead they went out with a whimper. That happens when you face Stephen Strasburg, I guess. Still, listening to Mike Lowell reminisce about the old team and ballpark and just seeing it all finally come to an end is kind of heartbreaking. I hope that the new name reinvigorates Miami like it did for Tampa. I also really hope the “leaked logos” are not the official logos. We’ll see come November.

In bigger news, the Tampa Bay Rays locked a playoff spot in dramatic fashion. They scarily fell behind the Yankees 7-0 thanks to a grand slam by Teixeira and countless other home runs and they didn’t really make a dent until the 8th. Then things started to happen.

The bases loaded. Walk. 7-1. Hit by pitch. 7-2. Sacrifice fly. 7-3. THREE RUN HOME RUN BY LONGORIA! 7-6!

Finally it was bottom of the 9th. Two outs. Two strikes. Dan Johnson steps up and recreates the 2008 magic. Home run barely over the right field fence! Tie game!

Nothing much happens until the 12th. Minutes before his at-bat, the Red Sox manage to lose their rain delayed game to the Orioles in walk-off fashion. Longoria comes up to the plate. Works the count to 2-2. Fouls off a pitch…HOME RUN BARELY CLEARS THE LEFT FIELD WALL! The Rays are going to the playoffs!

It was a wild night with an added bonus: the Braves managed to blow their game too and were eliminated from the playoffs. What. A. Night.

The Race Gets Tight! [WMQ]
Sep 28th, 2011 by Dan

Higher Res Screencap of the Game

This could be me again if I go to the game

In case you not baseball folks don’t know, the Tampa Bay Rays season all boils down to today. At best they go to the playoffs. At worst they stay home. In the middle is a one-game playoff against Boston.

Just to break it down further.

Best case: Tampa Bay beats the Yankees, Boston loses to the Orioles. Tampa goes to the ALDS.
Middle cases: Both Tampa Bay and Boston win their games or lose their games. They play a one-game playoff to determine who goes to the ALDS
Worst case: Tampa Bay loses, Boston wins. Tampa goes home.

As a lovely little side note, the Braves are in the exact same position with the Cardinals and may lose their playoff berth. God I hope that happens.

House of Lies [IB/ER]
Sep 27th, 2011 by Dan

I already love everything about at least half this cast. Don Cheedle from everything, Kristen Bell from Veronica Mars, and Ben Schwartz from Parks and Recreation. Can’t wait for January.

What I’ve Been Doing 26 Sept 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Sep 26th, 2011 by Dan

Moneyball Movie Poster

Doesn't get much better than being portrayed by Brad Pitt in a movie. (Photo courtesy nsusco)

It’s fitting that I watched a movie about baseball considering how much baseball I also watched this weekend. Had to watch to support the Rays. They’ve got three games to make up a one game deficit. You can do it, Tampa Bay!


Moneyball – Not too bad at all. We’re not talking “the best baseball movie ever” or anything, but it was enjoyable. It’s always nice to see a good baseball movie. I didn’t love the stylized baseball shots with the all black backdrops (looked kind of cheap), but it was still lots of fun. Seeing Chris Pratt (Andy from Parks and Recreation) play a more serious dramatic role (but still kind of comedic) was really neat. I liked it, but I’m glad I saw it with Ryan. Tiffany would have hated it.


Up All Night – This show is actually pretty neat. Will Arnett and Christina Applegate make a good pairing for a show about an unplanned baby that they do genuinely love, even if they haven’t figured out how to integrate it into their lives yet. I’ve got another episode waiting on the DVR to get around to sometime this week. It’s not nailing it yet, but it’s good enough that I’ll give it a few more episodes.

Top Gear – Saw both last week and this week’s eps and the guys turned cars into trains to pull cars down the tracks. It was pretty hilarious. The demolitions competition at the end of this week’s was pretty cool too.

Talking Funny – I kind of wish they had a woman on the panel too. I mean, what’s that say when you’re advertising your special as a look at comedy from the who’s who of the biz, but you don’t have any women on the panel? Ricky Gervais was the most “intellectual” of the bunch (almost to pretension) and Seinfeld was the purest, most “elemental”. I wish Chris Rock said more and I thought Louie C.K. was among the funnier of the four.

How I Met Your Mother – The worst part of any episode remains any time Ted is on screen. I don’t know if the writers get that his pretentiousness is super off-putting, but it’s kind of terrible. There were definitely some funny moments in the first disc (I’m catching up on Season 5), but, while I like the show, I don’t love it. ESPECIALLY when Ted is on screen

2 Broke Girls – This was decent. I mean, it’s a totally safe sitcom being mostly carried by Kat Dennings, but I like Kat Dennings, so I’ll give it two or three more episodes. Wait, did I say safe? Definitely a decent amount of jokes about semen, orgasms, and exchanges like “You’re getting me wet.” “That’s the point.” It seems kind of edgy for 2130 on CBS, I guess, but definitely not that edgy compared to other stuff I watch. I like the gimmick with the money raised counter at the end. Reminds me of a reverse Battlestar Galactica.

Weeds – They totally had a Vonnegut reference in there (“So it goes.”), but there’s so much going on and unresolved with only one episode left that I’m at a loss to see how they end it effectively. It’s been a good season with the budding rivalry between her and Silas growing, but I worry about how it can have a satisfactory ending with only 30 mins to go.


Extra Hot Great – One of my favorite podcasts, Extra Hot Great did a Fall TV preview this week that was funny and cool, per usual. Their mixing things up for Game Time for the next few episodes since Joe clinched the crown. This is definitely a great podcast to listen to if you’re into pop culture stuff (specifically TV and movies).


Reamde – Neal Stephenson’s latest hit shelves this past week. So far so good. It’s got a lot of Stepehnson elements (obsession with guns/weapons), but hasn’t had any of his stereotypical nerdiness yet. Mentions of twitter/facebook/wikipedia kind of date the book, but, at the same time, I think that’s kind of what he’s going for.


SI: Cloak and Dagger – Just gorgeous art and fantastic writing. Comic books like this remind me why it’s worth spending my money on them. Just beautiful.

Daredevil – Not as good as the first three, but still quite good. The cliffhanger panel is killer awesome.

The Red Wing – A very interesting premise with the traveling across dimensions too. The way the pilots explode across time when they’re destroyed remains the most striking image in this book.

SI: Spider-Woman – Didn’t really do it for me. Not that interesting.

Ultimate Comics Hawkeye – Good, but not great. I still feel like Hawkeye as a character is almost non-existent

Wonder Woman – So popular this week that I had to buy it digitally (sold out in all other formats). It was a good book with neat art (I love how Chiang draws Diana as full-figured/muscular) and I hope they continue with the Greek mythology bit because that will lead to great horror comics. Greek gods and their mythology are among the most interesting, graphic, and crazy sources for stories out there.

Video Games

SO MUCH GEARS OF WAR 3 – Tons of it. Still so much fun. I can’t wait for Min to be done with his schoolwork.

Left 4 Dead 2 – Dave and I finally finished all of the main story campaigns in this. We might go back and do some other extras, but for now I think we’re done. Lots of fun.

Resident Evil 5 – Back playing this. I miss actually having to buy and upgrade weapons, but it’s still tons of fun. Glad I’m playing this again. It’s insane and super fun.

It’s Jake. From State Farm. [ER]
Sep 25th, 2011 by Dan

Yep, this is my new favorite commercial.

Abby Wambach: Queen of Headers [WMQ/ER]
Sep 23rd, 2011 by Dan

Headers are really bad for your head, but Abby Wambach is really good for America. Good to see Team USA continuing their streak of being awesome.

Gears of War 3 Campaign [GO]
Sep 23rd, 2011 by Dan

Gears of War 3 - "Ashes to Ashes" trailer screenshots

Dom's emo beard is the lynchpin the game revolves around (Picture courtesy GamingBits)

Yesterday I did two stupid things. When I started up my Public Arcade mode campaign I enabled “Scavenge Mode” (or whatever the mutator is called), which forces players to scavenge for ammo rather than find it littered about in ammo crates. Then, around midnight when I was hovering around Act IV Chapter 5 I thought, “Boy, there can’t be much more left to this game. I should just finish.”

Four hours later (ONE spent on the final boss alone (more on that later)) and I had beaten the Gears of War 3 campaign on Hardcore.

Some quick thoughts:

– Remember how your least favorite part of Uncharted was that part where the Nazi zombie monster things attacked you? Epic must have misinterpreted how almost everyone on earth hated that part and decided to put in a part in Act III/IV that’s just that, but more explode-y. Easily my least favorite part of the campaign.

– In fact, all the melee enemies are a pain in the ass. Lambent wretches especially. Holy shit do they deal a lot of damage when they explode.

– Hey, everyone, don’t play the campaign on Hardcore with the Scavenger mutator on. Seriously, you will regret it against the final boss. It’s a long fight and quite the slog, but it’s made worse by the complete lack of ammo drops that comes from playing on Scavenger. We fought Queen Myrrah for so long because we had to let each member of the team die to respawn with ammo again just to do damage to her. What should have been a 10 minute boss battle instead took us 60-90 mins. You don’t have to listen to me, but I’m right.

– Min and I just finished playing Gears of War 2 and the distinct lack of Maria in this game only makes it better. She still affects the game somewhat (see Dom’s beard), but the roster of players shifts so much and (apparently) Dom and Samantha are kind of an item now(?) so it’s a little better.

Emily vs Claudia

My deep love for Claudia Black's role as Chloe Frazer alongside Emily Rose in Uncharted 2 is what prompted this picture instead of just Black (Photo courtesy Yembles)

– Speaking of Sam: she’s not in the game enough. It’s sad. I mean, it’s not Nan McNamara’s fault that Anya is totally boring and lame, but I’d still prefer to have Sam around more often than I’d want Anya. Since Anya is kind of a legacy character I see why we get her for the last parts instead.

Gears of War 3 - "Ashes to Ashes" trailer screenshots

Anya, you are boring. Sorry. (Photo courtesy GamingBits)

– Speaking of boss battles two points before, the Lambent Berserker is stupid long. I know we’re far past the arcade days where enemies flashed red to indicate damage/proximity to death, but the Berserker, man…it just takes a licking FOREVER with almost little indication that you’re doing ANYTHING to it. It’s pretty frustrating. We fought that dude for an hour too.

– “Mad World”‘s return was pretty awesome.

– The context it returned was not. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but it was a cheap resolution to that character’s story/arc.

– I did enjoy that our principals each semi-got their own moment. I would have traded, I dunno, some of Cole’s ridiculous amount of exploration in this game for more about Samantha.

– Jeff Gerstmann was right, making mutators stupid-hard to unlock does nobody any favors. Why do this?

– The best sign that this is a great game is that I want to keep playing it more along with similar games. I want to get to Resident Evil 4 HD, Uncharted 3, and Resident Evil 5 (with David) as soon as I can.

– Stop having so much school work Min. We need to play through this campaign pronto!

Status Report: Gears of War 3 [GO]
Sep 21st, 2011 by Dan

Gears of War 3

(Courtesy csullens)

Hey guys, Gears of War 3 is really good.

I’ve only played the first act in Arcade mode and ~20 waves of the new Horde mode, but it’s awesome.

Arcade Mode

I really like the addition of the score/kill tracking in arcade mode. It makes things extra interesting and adds that nice competitive edge to the cooperative proceedings. I fixed my NAT this morning to allow me to host so that I could pick Mutators too. These are modifiers, like the skulls in Halo, that allows you to change the game subtly. There are two ones available right away: one that forces ammo scavenging instead of allowing ammo drops, and one that makes enemies fire like headless chickens when they die.

I can’t wait until I unlock the Laugh Track. I think that would make Gears even more hilarious to play.

Four player campaigns make a huge difference. Having three other dudes around allows them to make things even more chaotic and crazy awesome. I don’t think you can do four player local, but that would be sick. I want to be able to play this game with Ian and Min

Horde Mode

The new Horde mode has you earning money that you use to upgrade defenses and buy weapons. Guess what, guys? It’s awesome. It’s just so much fun to kill these relentless waves of enemies (thank god it’s not all Tickers like it was for me and Min when we tried it in GoW2) and try to survive. The boss waves every ten rounds are pretty brutal. We had to face two Berserkers in the first boss wave that just decimated us. Our second boss wave at 20 had a Lambent Berserker, which is only vulnerable at certain times. He was tough!

It’s been lots of fun and I can’t wait to play some more when I get home today.


At first I thought I’d be playing multiplayer games as Anya all the time…until I realized that the new character, Samantha Byrne, was voiced by Claudia Black (she played Chloe in Uncharted 2) and was super awesome. New multiplayer avatar selected!

The Subtle Art of Deconstruction [FB/GO/BT]
Sep 19th, 2011 by Dan

Colonel: Raiden, turn the game console off right now.
Raiden: What did you say?
Colonel: The mission is a failure. Cut the power right now.
Raiden: What’s wrong with you?
Colonel: Don’t worry, it’s a game. It’s a game just like usual.
Rosemary: You’ll ruin your eyes playing so close to the TV.
Raiden: What are you talking about?
Colonel: Raiden. Something happened to me last night when I was driving home. I had a couple of miles to go. I looked up and saw a glowing orange object in the sky. It was moving irregularly. Suddenly, there was intense light all around. And when I came to, I was home. What do you think happened to me?
Raiden: Huh?
Colonel: Fine, forget it.
-Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Adaptation is a postmodern deconstruction of the difficulties faced by the screenwriter in adapting a work from one form to another and even the act of screenwriting in general. It’s a truly bizarre little film in which the screenwriter himself is a character tasked with writing a script which he writes to be the movie that you, the viewer are watching. It really does make sense in context and it works brilliantly…except when it doesn’t.

My problems with Adaptation, as a film, begin when Charlie Kaufman, our screenwriter and protagonist, begins to call out the very act of deconstruction. It’s entirely possible to deconstruct a genre or the act of making a movie itself (see Singin’ in the Rain for a pop culture example) without pointing out that you are doing just that. Again, I’m not against deconstruction or lampshade hanging or exposing tropes. What bugs me is when you point at it and say, “Hey, look at how clever I am here!”

Kaufman’s arc through the movie is one of insecurity and struggle as he tries to find a way to turn something that would otherwise be unfilmable without “Hollywoodizing” it and an honest portrayal of the often pointless and uneventful nature of life as it is. In fact, that is also a central theme to Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, the book which Kaufman was charged in real life (and in the movie) with adapting. At a loss with how to proceed with his screenplay, Kaufman attends a “hacky” seminar recommended by his twin brother (who exists in the film, but not real life) where real life screenwriting instructor Robert McKee systematically tears down everything that the movie has done to this point. It’s not the most subtle moment in the film, but it’s still not as bad as when Kaufman deigns to ask a question asking if a pointless, non-event driven film could be successful (never mind that Seinfeld already proved in the 90s, without a shadow of a doubt, that non-entertaining entertainment was equally viable). When Kaufman highlights what he’s trying to do in the film is precisely when I stop being interested in it. I don’t want him to usher me along, I want to cleverly figure out the parallels he’s drawing.

There’s another similar scene at the end where he is speaking in voiceover and he explicitly calls out how McKee would hate this. We already got it, Kaufman. You didn’t have to do that. Let us earn our payoff.

I will also submit for your consideration the bad joke that is pointed out as such. Sure, comparing an issue of Spider-Girl to a film by Charlie Kaufman hardly seems fair, but within its pages we have Anya crack a joke at an enemy that is marginally bad only to have the Hobgoblin mock it and call it terrible in the next panel. Pointing out how terrible it is doesn’t make it funnier and the enjoyment derived from laughing at a joke being not funny will never equal laughing at a joke that is funny. The gains end up being less than what you’d expect, plus future jokes, regardless of quality, will seem worse to the reader because the narrative states that the hero is not funny.

All I’m saying is that pointing out what you’re doing or pointing out that something is not very good undermines the effectiveness and the humor of the media. It’s cutting yourself off at the knees and it reeks of insecurity and a lack of confidence. It is assuming that you’re not talented enough to get your point across effectively and asking your audience to forgive you for it.

I don’t know Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty‘s script top to bottom, but there is a brilliant piece of art that doesn’t outright tell you what it’s doing. It is a game that actively derides the player and insults him for playing it, which is bizarre, and it withholds everything the player wants from it. After the prologue, the character is forced to control pretty boy Raiden instead of series hero Solid Snake. Raiden is generally whinier, has an annoying girlfriend, and was trained to do his job by video game simulation rather than practical experience. When faced with a task, Raiden seems to succeed, but often his efforts are a waste of time, at best, or a complete failure, at worst. At one point the game even strips Raiden of his clothing and equipment and all he can do is a melee attack.

The game widely cites meme theory and the propagation of media while simultaneously telling you that it is a video game even to the point where it addresses the player and asks the player to turn it off and do something else. It gets precariously close to approaching the outright, “Hey! This is a deconstruction!” territory that Adaptation inhabits, but the key difference is that it never does. Where Adaptation readily admits it’s a movie about writing a movie and has Kaufman and his twin brother talk about naming a serial killer “The Deconstructionist” in Donald’s screenplay, Metal Gear Solid 2 only says, “I am a video game,” but doesn’t stretch to “whose purpose it is to deconstruct the player/narrative boundary.”

Maybe I’m the one missing the point here. Maybe there is a sublime art to deconstruction where everything is fair game. If breaking the rules of cinema is the point of your movie, shouldn’t it be ok to break every rule, including “show, don’t tell”? Am I just angry that I can’t pat myself on the back for figuring all this out because Charlie Kaufman already told me it was all true? In any case, here I am some 900 words later writing about this movie and maybe propagating the desire to see it to someone else.

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