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What I’ve Been Doing 9 Dec 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Dec 9th, 2013 by Dan

Benedict  – 12 Years A Slave

Weird to see Benedict Cumberbatch with a Southern accent (Photo courtesy touchedmuch)

It’s been a surprisingly movie-filled week! I don’t usually talk about the sporting events I watched here, but that was a hell of a Ravens game yesterday, wasn’t it!

Movies

12 Years a Slave – What an intense movie. Extremely well-acted and a brilliant counterpoint to Django Unchained. Where Django took revenge for slavery, 12 Years a Slave makes it a hell of a lot more personal and is that much better for it. The flick is tough to watch sometimes, but it’s the best movie I’ve seen this year (so far).

Little Big League – My favorite of the baseball movies that came out when I was a kid. Holds up remarkably well as an adult. I don’t know if Min liked it as much as Kate and I did, but it’s pretty solid.

Love Actually – I expected it to be good and romantic, but I really didn’t expect the nudity or the swearing. I thought it was tame and PG-13 type stuff, but I think it’s way more interesting this way in that it’s not sanitized or too safe. Good movie!

TV

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Terry’s back in the field! Andre Braugher does deadpan so hilariously, but the popping and locking was even better.

The Mindy Project – Heck of a dance number in the middle of that episode.

The Amazing Race – So the finale for season 23 is on my DVR and I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS! I’m thinking that the Afghanimals might get eliminated and Jason and Amy might win. We’ll see!

Almost Human – I love sci-fi shows. Love ‘em. I dig shows about robots too. This is the perfect match for me. It’s pretty much a police procedural in the future at this point, but that’s cool with me. Robots! With senses of humor!

Homeland – …I dunno. Everyone’s just so unprofessional and irrational in this show. I liked that the episode was an abbreviated retelling of the first two seasons, but I hate so much about this show this season and I really hope Brody either doesn’t make it out of Tehran…or he turns on the US and becomes the big bad for season 4.

Music

I really just love “Hannah Hunt” by Vampire Weekend. I’m sure I’ve posted it here before, but we’re doing it anyway!

Books

Well Played 1.0: Video Games, Value, and Meaning – Read the essay on Ico and I’m partway through the Super Mario Bros. one. Nothing groundbreaking yet, but I love reading this kind of stuff about games anyway, so I’m not too bothered by it.

Video Games

Super Mario 3D Land – Played the first level to activate SpotPass, but I’ve been focusing on beating Phoenix Wright first so that I can get to Zelda and finish Pokemon too. So many 3DS games!

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies – Case 3 is DONE! The culprit was who I thought it was (it was really kind of obvious, actually) and I wish that I hadn’t accidentally ended up spoiling the final culprit for myself, but Case 4 is certainly intriguing so far (astronaut defendant!)

Pokemon Y – Beat Lysandre (almost lost my Min pokemon to a Mega Gyarados. He held on with 3 HP) and I’m in some cave now. Gotta get the gyms and the elite 4 done, but I’m on the home stretch. Did lose my Pidgeotto, Sawyer. Replaced him with a Marowak.

XCOM: Enemy Within – I’m on my eighth save file trying to get it going right. Game 7 was going really well…until I failed the first part of Progeny and Daniel and David died. Then I completely wiped on Slingshot’s first mission, losing Katie, Molly, Lee, and Kunal. Another wipe meant I had to restart. MEC suits kick ass. Can’t wait to get it going again.

What I’ve Been Doing 30 Sept – 14 Oct 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 14th, 2013 by Dan

IMAG0038

Just adding to my “pictures in front of ballparks with Katie” collection.

Man have I been busy! So much has conspired to keep me from getting this out until now between going to Boston and the government shutdown and all kinds of craziness, but no excuses now! We should be back to our regularly scheduled programming from here on out.

Movies

Captain Phillips – Tom Hanks deserves serious accolade for the way he played this role. It was just perfectly done and the movie itself was tense and nervewracking as things started to fall apart and the outcome (that we honestly already knew) started to become clearer. Worth seeing. It won’t be Best Picture, but maybe Hanks will get something.

Django Unchained – Watched this with Katie to add to our ridiculously tense/heavy movie tally. Still holds up almost a year later. That scene at the dinner table where everyone’s making their moves is so tense and easily the best in the movie.

TV

House of Cards – I can’t even remember when we actually finished this, it was so long ago. The first season kind of stops right in the middle of some interesting storylines, but, on the other hand, this means that the second season will be able to give Peter’s murder room to breathe as the central conflict. I’ve never seen the British House of Cards, but I wonder if the US version is going to let Underwood win or have him be hoisted by his own petard. It was fascinating when he was being assaulted on all sides, but I’m also not sure if not letting him have some victory will feel satisfying for me as a viewer.

New Girl – They went and pulled the trigger on keeping the Nick and Jess thing and it’s turned out to be not that bad at all. So far it’s seemed that the show isn’t in danger of getting boring or losing quality because of it, which is great, but I still think that, despite the increased attention on his character, there’s very little for Winston to do that’s not pathetic or weird or just…odd.

The Mindy Project – Chris Messina is secretly the best thing about this show. He’s got incredible delivery and timing as Danny and his chemistry with Mindy is pretty great. It’s too bad I hear this show is dangerously on the bubble for next year.

Parks and Recreation – I’m several episodes behind, but I didn’t really feel the England episode. It was funny and all, but it felt like setting up the season more than anything else. That’s fine (and it’s still funny), but it just lacked that oomph. Not to mention I think Leslie’s behavior was a little out of character.

Masters of Sex – At first glance this show looks like Shotime T&A exploitation instead of a serious tv show, but man am I impressed with the way that they’ve handled the show. I don’t totally love the way that Lizzy Caplan chose to change her speaking style in the first episode, but the way that she and Michael Sheen relate on screen has this simmering heat to it. It’s just a fascinating show to watch. I read on Jacob Clifton’s TWoP recap that the show has a female showrunner and I think that’s pretty clear by the way the show deals with relationships and sex (ie: maturely and with real depth). Check this one out. It’s good.

Parenthood – After watching the first episode of this season I told Katie that it reminded me of Friday Night Lights. Turns out that it’s got the same showrunner. Parenthood has that same improvised dialog style that allows for much more natural and genuine interaction between the actors. I don’t like the show as much as I liked FNL, but I think it could easily grow on me by a lot. This style of show (ie: filled with verisimilitude) is my bread and butter, although I think the plot about the lady running for office is dumb.

Pushing Daisies – I was looking for something cute like this to watch with Katie and I think it’s just the thing (in small doses) for filling gaps in what we’re watching on a given week.

The League – I only had a chance to catch an episode and a half of this while Katie was busy doing other things, but it’s still just as solid as it’s ever been. At this point this show is what it will be until it’s done. If you like that kind of thing it’ll always work for you.

Homeland – All caught up on this one, actually. I enjoyed the Brody/Carrie-centric third episode, but I’m predisposed to like anything that takes place in Latin America with tons of Spanish in it. Drug addiction stories bore me, but let’s see where they take this Brody stuff. How cool would it be if this was how he quietly exited, stage left? I think this show would have been better if Brody died in S1. The lack of a clear-cut antagonist has made the start of this season feel kind of aimless, mostly because I’m not as taken with either Carrie or Brody. We’ll see where they go, I guess.

How I Met Your Mother – Great for aimless, distracted watching.

The Amazing Race – I’m not sure how these racers compare to all the past seasons, but I do know that this race has felt way harder than the past two seasons already. Flight drama, language stuff, bus difficulty, and tasks that have, in general, seemed more interesting. I bet I sound like an apologist to the diehards who have seen the classic seasons, but I’m really digging it so far. Too bad the NFL guys got eliminated. They were the best and they didn’t deserve to go so soon due to just terrible, snakebit flight luck.

Music

I heard this track on All Songs and I dug it. “Make It Up” by The Blow

Books

Nope. Maybe next week?

Video Games

Civilization V – I’ve been lagging behind on turns, but I’m in the score lead in both games, I think. Dave fell pretty far behind in the 3 Mesa game.

SMT IV – Didn’t manage to finish this before Pokemon came out so we’ll see if I actually finish it any time soon. I think I’m right on the cusp of making my big moral choice, but it’ll be a while.

Candy Box – Silly and weird and oddly addictive, but the impending release of Candy Box 2 on the 24th made me want to hold off on getting too into it.

Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies Demo – It’s nice to have this game series back. I’ve missed it so much while it was gone. The new 3D engine and the new sound samples aren’t the same and that’s a little distracting for now, but I was also encouraged by how weird and interesting the witnesses still seemed to be even though they were 3D models instead of pixel art. We’ll see if they’re able to capture the right aesthetic anyway.

Cookie Clicker – How do I even start talking about Cookie Clicker? Katie randomly came home addicted to this game and I’ve been roped into clicking cookies and buying upgrades and it’s so fun and I can’t stop clicking…:click::click::click::click::click::click::click::click::click:

Pokemon Y – The game I’ve been waiting all year for is finally out. New region, new 3D engine, new system. Holy crap is this everything you’d want a new Pokemon game to be and then some. So much fun. I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say as the week progresses, but I’m also doing a Nuzlocke again (and I lost on the first gym).

The Walking Dead – Started playing the first episode with Katie and I had a really good time watching her make decisions. A lot of them were pretty similar to the ones I would make when it came to being compassionate or caring toward other people (and children), but I was also way more secretive about being a convict and I didn’t like to keep silent whenever I had the opportunity to talk. Fascinating stuff and lots of fun. I hope she continues to want to play with me.

Movies of 2012 [FB]
Jan 3rd, 2013 by Dan

cinema

(Photo by jimmymac333)

Man do I love me some movies, guys. The following listing of my favorites is not limited to movies that were released in 2012, but rather what I saw in 2012 that I most want to talk about.

Prometheus – I’ve never seen a movie from the Alien franchise, but something about the trailers and the Fassbender hype made me want to catch this one in the theaters. After failing to get most people interested, Ian and I caught this flick. Look, guys, it’s not the greatest movie out there, but Fassbender is amazing, the movie is stunning, and that emergency “caesarian”? Absolutely terrifying and awesome to watch. I want to make everyone watch that hyper tense scene.

The Cabin in the Woods – Kind of related to the previous movie, but I don’t really watch horror/monster movies. They’re not my thing. The buzz on Cabin was so great that I had to face my fears and step in. What I got was a brilliant subversion of the horror genre with Whedon’s fingerprints all over it. It’s not really that scary and I honestly believe that everyone should suck it up and check this flick out. You’ll never look at a horror movie the same way.

Young Adult – The first of these flicks to have actually come out in 2011, Diablo Cody’s look at a thoroughly unpleasant woman seeking to reclaim her glory days is relentless in its brutal look at the awful person that Charlize Theron plays. The absolute kicker is in the scene where Patton Oswalt’s character’s sister effectively destroys the character progress Theron has made. Watching everything shift into place on her face was probably the best acted moment I saw this year.

The Descendants – Or the movie that convinced me that George Clooney was brilliant and that Shailene Woodley had real acting chops. It’s a beautiful family movie with an almost tacked on real estate sideplot that doesn’t quite tie in like I think they wanted it to, but it’s full of great performances and it’s definitely worth seeing.

Higher Ground – I’ve been enamored with Vera Farmiga ever since I saw her in Up in the Air, so I had to check this movie out. It’s about a woman constantly searching for meaning, but frustratingly never able to find it. She plays the part with a lot of emotion and subtlety and I just adored every minute of the performance.

Martha Marcy May Marlene – Fits in thematically with the previously mentioned movie since it’s also about a girl so lost that she ends up involved in a cult (to be fair, Higher Ground is about a fundamentalist Christian sect). Elizabeth Olsen plays the confused, frightened escapee with great skill as her brain struggles to reconcile what is real with what was brainwashed into her head. Of course you also get to contrast the horrible, but peaceful cult with the materialistic and unfulfilling real world that alienated Olsen in the first place. The film is most notable to me with how it closes. Is Olsen in her right mind and is the cult actually about to exact vengeance or not?

Wanderlust – The first truly slight movie on this list, Wanderlust has David Wain’s quasi-troop at their funniest. It’s not gonna win any Oscars, but Wanderlust is a happy, fun movie filled with funny people. I mean, any movie that makes me like Jennifer Aniston has got to be worth mentioning.

The Five-Year Engagement – Sure, it’s just shy of a standard rom-com, but this flick is getting special mention for the fine work of Alison Brie and Chris Pratt. Those two are amazing.

Goon – A hockey epic for the modern day. I have almost zero complaints about this movie. It tugs on all the heartstrings with a story as far from cloying as possible. It’ll make you laugh, wince, and maybe cry, but you’ll love it.

21 Jump Street – Who knew that Channing Tatum was secretly hilarious? It’s probably getting a little too much credit, but this is a genuinely funny movie that I expected to be completely idiotic and forgettable.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home – My first Duplass Brothers film. I guess they call this kind of indie film mumblecore, but that’s kind of reductive. It’s a sweet story about brothers, which is the kind of thing I’m a sucker for.

The Avengers – The biggest movie of the year! Do I even have to talk about it? I want to give props to Mark Ruffalo for being brilliant as Bruce Banner and, hey, while we’re at it, I thought ScarJo did a fine job too (so did everyone else).

Argo – A strong competitor for my favorite flick of the year. Who doesn’t love a heist flick? Especially one that’s actually based on real events. 70s facial hair, great, tense performances, and international spy intrigue. It goes to show that you don’t need James Bond flair to make a good, exciting espionage movie. Plus “Argo fuck yourself” is a great line.

Lincoln – Another heist flick, but this one is about getting votes for the 13th amendment. Everyone you could possibly think of is in this flick, but I think its fatal flaw is the whole biopic aspect of it. Lincoln was an incredible man, I don’t doubt that, but in this movie he’s never wrong, always gets the last word in, and is generally a god among men. Worth seeing.

Holy Motors – Gets the WTF? Award this year. Truly bizarre in a way that only French cinema dares. It’s not my cup of tea, but it’s also brilliant. The accordion segment was pretty sweet too

Pitch Perfect – I love movies about music or singing. I don’t care that this is the most stereotypical, formulaic plotting out there. Obviously there’s gonna be discord, one girl is devoted to the old way while the new girl has a revolutionary way to look at things and, guess what, she’s right! Look, who cares about that? Rebel Wilson is hilarious and Anna Kendrick is super charming. Don’t fight it, just enjoy.

Django Unchained – I’m not above stating that this is the most important movie of the year. I’ve heard that some of the events depicted in it are exaggerations of the horrors of slavery. I don’t know if that’s true because I didn’t live in the 1800s, but I think that this movie is properly intense and strikes the right balance between over-the-top violence and the real gravity of the situation. Cristoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx, and Samuel L. Jackson all deserve recognition for their amazing performances. If you’re only gonna see one movie on this list, make it this one.

What I’ve Been Doing 31 Dec 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Dec 31st, 2012 by Dan

Django Unchained - Affiche France

A French (I think) poster for Django Unchained (Photo courtesy Lyricis)

I had a really fun weekend hanging out with Eric’s family as they went to catch movies in shifts. Maybe when she gets a little older I’ll just babysit while you guys go catch the movies together.

Movies

This is 40 – During the movie I realized that Judd Apatow is making slice-of-life style movies. Sure, not a whole lot “happens”, but there’s tons of character work. Sure, some of it is just there to be funny, but the movie was the funny version of all those indie dramas about lost love and/or the maturation of relationships. Going into this think more Funny People than Knocked Up. Also Apatow’s kids do an alright job acting.

Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino did something tremendous with this film. It’s just brutal and intense and everyone is doing a fantastic job. Foxx and Waltz are stupendous in their roles. Samuel L. Jackson was particularly brilliant too. A lot of critics have been saying this movie drags, but I think it moves along quite well. Everyone should see this movie.

TV

Portlandia – I guess this was an early start to the season. No real hilarious sketches, but funny enough.

The League – Finally caught up with the final four episodes of the season. The League is getting a little more ambitious with its serialization efforts, but it was an interesting season. I thought that Shiva would be revealed as Ted, but I guess we’ll find out about him next year?

Music

I really dig Angel Haze’s flow

Jessie Ware is ill too

Books

Not this week.

Video Games

Borderlands 2 – Finally got to play this with three others. Lee, Min, and Yin rounded out our single-syllable club (I’m only an honorary member because I go by Dan) and we made decent progress on the first section. I think it’s really slow to start (god I hate climbing that freighter…), but I’m hoping it gets to be more fun. It’s just fun to roam around with friends because the game itself appears to be fairly middling.

FTL: Faster Than Light – A little Engi B action that ended poorly. Nothing to get too excited about.

Sleeping Dogs – Getting open world fatigue already. I miss Saints Row’s silliness. Gonna burn through this.

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors – Got the True Ending this past weekend. Absolutely brilliantly done. Just fantastic the way it all ties together. If you like slightly interactive fiction I highly recommend this game. I mean, how often does a game actually integrate its mechanics into its story like this one does? Just brilliant.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Tried and failed the Slingshot DLC once. Time to try it again!

Movies I’m Excited to See [FB/ER]
Sep 27th, 2012 by Dan

Ran into an article today running down the big Oscar contenders for the second half of the year. Made me think about what movies I was pumped for this year. Here’s what I’m digging:

Anna Karenina

Here’s the thing: I don’t care for period pieces, I don’t care for literary adaptations, and my lack of familiarity with Anna Karenina means I have no attachment to the narrative. Then I look at how beautifully shot this movie seems to be and I worry a little (in the Moulin Rouge sense (a movie I did not like)), but think, “No, this is going to be epic and breathtaking.”

Silver Linings Playbook

Jennifer Lawrence? I could leave it there, but I’ll go on. Director David O. Russel also directed one of the more enjoyably quirky movies I’ve ever seen in I Heart Huckabees. Add in Bradley Cooper and the romantic comedy aspects and I think this is one I’ll easily get Tiffany to agree to seeing.

Wreck-It Ralph

If you don’t know why I’d want to see this then I don’t think you really know me. I’ll probably go with Min because I highly doubt this is one that Tiffany wants to see too.

Rust and Bone

Ok, so your protagonist has her legs bitten off by a killer whale. Seems a little melodramatic, no? Still, a sexy movie featuring the sexy French language and the sexy Marion Cotillard? Yes, please!

Skyfall

Goddammit I love the Daniel Craig interpretation of Bond. Add in Javier Bardem, whose chilling work in No Country For Old Men still haunts me, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Gotta see this on IMAX too. Looks stunning.

Killing Them Softly

Thanks to Snatch I’ll pay to see Brad Pitt in a gangster movie any day of the week. Too bad playing The Fugees in the trailer would be confusing and thematically inconsistent.

Django Unchained

I still get chills every time I hear Jamie Foxx say, “I like the way you die, boy.” Inglourious Basterds proved to me that Cristoph Waltz was a force to be reckoned with and I’m looking forward to seeing what Tarantino does with this very charged material. I wonder if I’ll be able to find a showing in North Carolina?

Les Misérables

I don’t want to hear a single word about how much you can’t stand Anne Hathaway, David. The fact is that she’s a much better actor than you give her credit for. As for this movie, well…I’m not familiar with the original musical, so I won’t have those preconceived notions holding me back from enjoying this, but I worry that the overwhelming popularity will lead to a very safe (and boring) production. I guess we’ll have to see how it comes out…

Django Unchained Trailer [FB/ER]
Jun 7th, 2012 by Dan

Quentin Tarantino sure is making a name for himself in revenge fantasies (Kill Bill and Basterds come to mind). Django looks interesting…

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