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Heck of a movie! (Picture by Yunus Emre KARTAL)
January continues to go strong this year! Got in a fantastic movie this week along with plenty of good reading. Can’t complain about that at all.
American Hustle – I hadn’t heard a bad word about this movie and I will say that it did not disappoint. Just phenomenally done. It’s yet another super fun heist movie. I didn’t love the voiceovers that were peppered throughout, but otherwise I’d call it a mostly flawless and fun movie. Go see it before it’s out of theaters!
Babies – While we were watching the Amazing Race, Katie noticed a Botswanan baby and it made her immediately call for a rental of this short documentary. It was definitely cute and, interestingly enough, there’s not a single narrative line of dialogue. They let the universality of humankind and human babies speak for itself.
The Amazing Race – Our trek through season 22 continues. I’m loving watching my teams compete again. Trying to keep a lid on spoilers for Kate is tough, but I think I’m managing well enough.
Justified – I’ve only got about 10 mins left of the final episode of the season left, but I haven’t found the time to finish it. I like the way they resolved the Nicky Augustine moment, but I don’t know if I’m gonna enjoy the way they tie the season up at the end.
Bought me some Paul Simon tickets this morning. Enjoy “Obvious Child”
Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die – There have been some dark, tragic moments in this collection along with some neat, life-affirming fun moments of truth. The premise is so neat because everyone dies, right? Should knowing how change anything?
Bravely Default (Demo) – On the last boss now and it’s been loads of fun. Turns out that linking with Min gives that character full job abilities that he has.
Civilization V – I’ll probably end up smiting Rome from the map by the time this publishes. Good times and good luck catching up, Dave.
Long Live the Queen – Managed to get into the Old Forest, but I haven’t done too much more here. Gonna get into this more this week, I think.
Left 4 Dead – Kate and I finished all of the L4D campaigns this weekend. I’m glad that she’s really enjoyed it and we’re gonna push right into L4D2 really soon to have even more fun.
The Walking Dead – I somehow managed to end up losing the save file that Katie and I generated, so I pushed through and replicated episode 1 really quickly for the next time I play with Kate. You hear that, Min? Super quick. By the way, the second battery is on the floor of the pharmacy.
So this is Naughty Dog’s big new secret? The music at the end echoes some of the banjo musical cues of L4D2 as do the running zombie types. The overrun NYC reminds me of Enslaved. The young girl reminds me of a younger Drake (and also a little Ellen Page) while the old guy is a little Drake meets Bill (from L4D). It’s easy to think it’s derivative and dated now, for sure, but I’m genuinely interested to see how this turns out. Naughty Dog proves in about a minute that they’re excellent at building characters. I wanted to know a bunch more about these two and why they hang out with each other. They seemed cool.
Anyway, it’s supposed to be a survival horror game and (especially if it’s co-op) I think I’m already sold on it. Nice work piquing my interest, Naughty Dog.
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.
(AHOY, THAR BE COMICS AHEAD!)
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.
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.
I thought about posting a picture of Rob Corddry instead, but I think we'd all much rather see Malin Åkerman. (Image used courtesy of Gage Skidmore)
The Wrong Side of Town – Danielle’s parents were watching the tail end of this terrible wrestler movie. It was pretty awful, so I read a Batman comic instead of paying that much attention.
Top Gear – Two of the guys bought used luxury sports cars for under £10k and they plan to follow up on how long it takes for the cars to break down and die. Funny stuff. I found James’ trip to America where he picked up a transvestite Cher impersonator to be in poor taste (as in they were using it for humor when they shouldn’t)
Top Gear (USA) – I thought I’d check this one out to see what it was like. While it’s not as funny as the original, it’s got a handle on what it’s supposed to be and its cast has a decent rapport with each other. You’d think, given how much they seem to love America in the show, they’d still use “Jessica” as their theme, but they don’t, much to their detriment.
Childrens Hospital – I thought that this show would be too silly for its own good. One of those Adult Swim shows that’s just not as funny as people make it out to be, but this was legitimately hilarious. I’m hooked! It also helps that I find Malin Åkerman (of Watchmen fame), Lake Bell, and Erinn Hayes to be quite good looking (especially Malin Åkerman). I think that I just missed Season 3, so I’ll have to wait for the DVDs on that, but so funny!
Parks and Recreation – Watched the beginning of S3 with Min since he hadn’t seen it. Brilliant show. Absolutely fantastic. Seriously, just skip Season 1 and start watching S2 onward. I find it tough to believe that you could not like it.
Archer – Watched the Zeppelin episode with Eric. All I can say is, “M as in Mancy.” So hilarious.
Neon Indian – Their album was on First Listen this week. I think I only love “Polish Girl,” but the rest of the album is decent.
More WILD FLAG – Can’t wait for the album to drop tomorrow so I can start scrobbling many, many listens.
Collected Stories – Read one where a beautiful woman lost control of her corporeal self, wanted to eat an orange, and decided that the best way to do it would be to inhabit a cat. By the time she decides to do it, 3000 years have passed and she’s screwed. It was kind of weird.
(Comic books from here down. I’ve linked reviews on Comic Vine where appropriate)
Morning Glories – This story is so cool. I really dig this book, just wish it came out more often. Patience is a virtue, right?
X-23 – I liked this book more than Eric, but it remains one of the better books out there. Good writing and solid art plus the FF and I’m there.
Irredeemable – The arc moves in a surprising direction as Kaiden, Gil, and Bette Noir make their return to the strip. The part where The Plutonian traps a bunch of male models in a pool by freezing the surface was chilling mostly because I harbor a fear of drowning.
Batgirl – Barbara Gordon is no longer handicapped! Pretty good book that has a literary depth that many aren’t seeing. I have no prior history with the character, so I dug it.
Action Comics – My first Grant Morrison book and my first Superman book (I’ve ever paid for). I think that (having read a trade of his and this issue) Grant Morrison is overhyped as a genius. His stories are good/solid and well-written compared to a lot of other stuff that’s released, but I’ve yet to be really shocked by anything he does. It all feels so by the book that it’s like he’s the best at writing something conventional. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it feels like he’s being safe. Where’s the iconoclast quality that I felt when I read Alan Moore’s early work? It’s unfair to dock the book for not being overly impressed with the writer’s legend, but it’s inseparable at this point. Good read nonetheless, even if it’s almost needlessly dense.
Swamp Thing – My favorite DC book of the week. Snyder did something neat here and I really dug it. The art was also fantastic.
Batwing – Racial politics of a white man empowering a black man aside, this was a good read. I didn’t care much for the art, but I’m interested to see where it goes. The DRC is a vastly more interesting setting to me than Gotham.
X-Men – Awful book. Bad writing. Bad art. No more X-Men for me, even if the FF are hanging around.
Static Shock – I wanted to like this one more than I did. It was a little confusing because they didn’t treat it as a reintroduction to the character. I’ll give it another issue.
Casanova: Avarita – The weirdest book I read and also the most artistically interesting. I like where this is going.
Animal Man – I’m totally loving the creepy horror of this title. I hope that it ties in with Swamp Thing well, as they’ve said it would. Combining the man who has animals at his fingertips with a man who has plants would be neat.
Spider-Island: The Avengers – A tremendously silly story about Frog Man saving the day from hilariously awful villains. Great jokes and lots of fun. Spider-Island is a great event.
Mystic – Mini-series about magic. It’s nothing I haven’t seen before, but I like the Disney-style art, so I’m game.
Moon Knight – Beautiful art, as always. I really love the way this book looks.
Team Fortress 2 – One of these days I will get 10 sentry kills. Mark my words. Until then, at least this game is super fun to play.
Gears of War 2 – Played nine hours with Min. The shooting parts are so much fun, but the vehicle sections and the really weird non-shooty parts that they feel like they have to include are much less so. Still, a stellar game. Can’t wait for part three next week. Min and I still have to beat this one though.
EDIT: David correctly pointed out that I forgot:
Left 4 Dead 2 – Played a few rounds with David, Lee, and Min, including a run of my favorite map, Hard Rain. Love that game! Sad that the last map is next, but excited to play RE5.
Blame my omission on thinking about Malin Åkerman too much.
Music joins WIBD!
Well, “music” of a sort. I have a last.fm thing that is linked to my tumblr that you can use to see what I’ve been listening to, artist-wise. No, unless a new awesome album comes out, the point of this is to talk about audio programming I’ve been listening to.
Morning Glory – This one came off the girlfriend’s Netflix queue. I had some interest in seeing it myself, but I didn’t realize just how much of a chicklit movie it was. It’s not actually based on a chicklit book, but I still got that vibe. Really didn’t do it for me. Also: full bangs are terrible.
Weeds – My favorite part about this show is how it gets Nancy into these ridiculously complicated and difficult situations so I can watch her try to extricate herself from them. Hard to imagine something worse than what she just got involved in!
The Hour – I haven’t finished the first episode, but a few thoughts. 1. The BBC tends to have a house style that makes everything look kind of same-y. I don’t really appreciate that. All the comedies have the same “look” and all the dramas have a different, but similar “look”. 2. Idris Elba and Dominic West are so entwined with The Wire in my head that it blows my mind every time I hear their native English accents. 3. America has its share of class-based struggles with rich and poor, but I feel like England still has it a lot worse with where you went to school and nobility.
Retro Game Master – This week’s game was a golf RPG, Battle Golfer Yui. The best part of the show was how the computer kept losing by making bad shots and giving up. Definitely one of the funnier episodes to date.
All Songs Considered – As a response to the “Songs That Make You Cry” episode from not long ago, All Songs came back with “Songs That Make You Feel Good“. I’m not done yet, but the episode has had a great Stones song along with that catchy whistle tune by Peter Bjorn and John and Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over”. They should rename the episode “Songs That Make You Speed” because all of these are so fun and happy that it made me worry about tickets.
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Read the beginning while waiting for my replacement car window. Seems cool. I like Melquiades and I can vaguely see some of the connections between this and Mother 3.
Collected Stories – Finished that other short story. It was an interesting look at an identical twin whose brother died. He felt like he was choking on the smell of formaldehyde and mused as to whether his dead brother was dragging him toward death too or he was dragging him toward life. Kind of interesting. We’ll see if the rest of Márquez’ stories are as obsessed with death.
Ultimate Fallout – (the rest of these are comics) The mini-series ended with this issue. Set up some neat plot points to go from in the future. I like how much Fallout is differentiating itself from the 616 continuity. Can’t wait for the new stuff to start this week.
Spider-Girl – Very action-y with not a lot of substance, but that’s cool with me. It was fun. Good to see female characters around.
Venom – Supposed to be really good, but it was just kind of meh to me.
Daredevil – My favorite book of the week. Good art, fantastic writing, and great attention to detail. You should check this book out.
Dragon Age 2 – I think I’m somewhere in the 50-60 hour range with this game now. I was not expecting it to be this good. The decision to scale it down and focus it on a single family and city was pretty brilliant. It allows for a more character driven story. There’s also a nice benefit to making it about a different character in that I get to meet old guys from the past games and talk about my old char. Mass Effect is slightly different in that you play the same guy and they’re reacting to you. If they continue the series past 3 and Shepard isn’t the hero I hope they still keep some of the ME chars around.
Team Fortress 2 – I had one of my favorite rounds of TF2 yesterday when both my brothers and Lee were in a game with me. This game is just fantastic. Really great stuff.
Left 4 Dead 2 – Played a half hour with Dave until his net connection crapped out. Maybe we’ll finish the Dark Carnival tonight.
So glad I found this at my local Borders. An absolute delight to read. I'm keeping my eye on Langridge and Samnee
Gentlemen Broncos – Netflix told me. It said, “Dan, you’re not gonna like this movie. Two Stars.” I said, “WHAT DO YOU KNOW, NETFLIX?! YOU DON’T OWN ME!” and then Gentlemen Broncos arrived and it was terrible. I didn’t really dig Jared Hess’ work on Napoleon Dynamite, but it was still funny. Broncos has all of Hess’ excesses without any balance. I watched it at 1.5 speed so I could still hear the dialogue, but be done with the movie faster. Don’t watch it.
Wet Hot American Summer – Saw this a long time ago. Didn’t really dig it. Heard Marc Maron talk with one of the creators about how it was the 10th anniversary this year. Since I last saw it I’ve gone a little deeper into the rabbit hole of comedy nerdiness and I actually liked it a lot more this time. There’s a lot of genuinely funny comedy in here, especially the intentionally bad comic near the end.
El secreto de sus ojos – Another rewatch, this time with Min. One of my all-time favorites.
Star Trek – Min and I went to see Captain America and he told me he never saw the remake. Naturally I figured we’d remedy that and Netflix’s giant Star Trek deal came to the rescue. Netflix Instant quality is way terrible for how great Star Trek should have looked, but it’s still a really fantastic movie. I also was looking out for lens flare this time. I’d noticed it before, but now that I was looking for it…HOLY COW. They need to tone that down a bit!
Captain America: The First Avenger – Better than I thought it would be. Aside from a few nitpicks here and there, the best action movie I saw this summer. There’s a lot of earnestness and honesty in Chris Evans’ Cap that makes this movie work. Stay until after the credits. You won’t be sorry (DISCLAIMER: You might be sorry).
The League – A little more of this. Finished off season 1. It was good to get a little background into season 2. Still very juvenile and silly, but a fun diversion.
Weeds – This season is only three episodes old, but they’ve really been fantastic. Post-prison Nancy has got some secrets up her sleeve that I know we haven’t had a chance to see. Her struggles with her son and sister are dramatic gold and I’m loving everything this season is bringing to the table.
Slaughterhouse Five – Rereading one of my favorite books. It’s quite good. Vonnegut’s talent for reducing things to the absurd is at its best with Billy Pilgrim. I love Vonnegut’s humanist ways and anti-war leanings. He’s a literary hero of mine.
Thor: The Mighty Avenger – I don’t really care for Thor. He’s kind of silly. However, everywhere I looked people were telling me that this mini-series was fantastic. Thanks to Borders’ going out of business sale, I picked up part 1 (of 2) of this book and I’m really quite amazed. Roger Langridge’s writing hearkens back to the Golden/Silver Age of comics where heroes didn’t have to be brooding, angsty messes without getting too corny. The relationship between Thor and Jane is so sweet that it’s a joy to read. On top of that, Chris Samnee’s art is just perfect. It’s got that old-school look of innocence and purity that works when you’re writing about a Norse god.
Morning Glories – Nick Spencer’s series was described to me as Lost meets Runaways. Those kinds of x-meets-y descriptions don’t always bear fruit, but this one seems to work. It’s dark, violent, and horrific with a hint that there’s all kinds of intrigue in the pipe. If Spencer’s got a good plan, this could be really great. I’m liking it so far and the first trade paperback is only $10
Irredeemable – Another series with some acclaim, Irredeemable is about a Superman-like hero going ballistic and becoming a super villain. It’s really a character piece on what might cause a guy like Superman to just snap and turn evil. There’s a lot of suspense in the first issues because of how powerful he is as the remaining heroes search for clues and weaknesses. A real sharp read that I picked up especially because it’s by Mark Waid, who wrote the next thing I read.
Daredevil – It’s kind of odd that I never was into Daredevil. He’s another one of those heroes in NYC that gets no respect, kind of like Spider-Man, but perhaps a little darker. Well, Daredevil had apparently gone super, ridiculously dark in recent years. Like depressingly so. Waid has stepped in for a new #1 and a new take on Matt Murdock. He’s either got to start looking at the world with a little levity or go insane from his troubles and I’m digging it. Throw in some sharp art and Waid’s good writing and you’ve got a series that I’m really excited to keep reading.
Left 4 Dead 2 – Not a lot of change here, just going through the campaigns with David. Such a perfect game. Lots of fun.
Team Fortress 2 – Every time I check Eric’s inventory he’s got another item that I want for classes he doesn’t really play. It’s kind of unfair! We need to initiate some trades, pronto.
I love the art in this book!
San Diego Comic-Con is coming up this week, so I thought I'd make this week's post some cosplay
San Diego Comic-Con is upon us and for once I actually read comics. I’m excited to learn about Marvel’s new December event, but, in the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to.
Out of Sight – Steven Soderbergh’s Elmore Leonard adaptation was a pretty solid flick and about the only thing I’ve ever seen Jennifer Lopez do a fantastic job in. George Clooney turned in a great performance playing his usual role as well. Worth watching for their intriguing chemistry. Love noticing the similarities to other Leonard works like Justified (he loves him some US Marshals, huh?)
Role Models – Decent comedy. Nothing to write home about. I liked it well enough, even if Jane Lynch’s role is a little tired. Also funny to see Ken Jeong before he’d fully developed what’s become the Ken Jeong character. I also really like Elizabeth Banks in anything. She’s funny.
The League – FX’s comedy about fantasy football is reliably funny most weeks and laugh out loud funny on occasion. I started watching it thanks to commercials during It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and I’m returning to S1 since it’s on streaming. Always interesting to see the actors figuring out the characters before they have a real feel for it and also neat to see how pilot sets differ from real sets. A nice half-hour distraction.
FF – This month’s Inhumans origin story was lukewarm to most readers I know, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of them and I’m intrigued by where Hickman is going with this origin.
The Red Wing – Hickman’s new mini-series shows promise with a premise about wars fought across time. Could be neat.
Amazing Spider-Man – I found the writing in this to be juvenile and a little too “explain-y” for my tastes. You have art and pictures, use expressions and subtlety to do your work, please!
Avengers vs. New Ultimates – The end of this mini resulted in (Ultimate) Spider-Man dead and Nick Fury put back in charge of SHIELD. Too bad. I liked Carol Danvers a lot more. I worry that this is to have Fury in place when the Avengers movie comes out next year.
Ultimate Fallout – Bendis gets busy setting up the universe for the Reborn relaunch. Spider-Man’s funeral is a tear-jerker and the book has promise. Best thing is its weekly status. Can’t wait for book 3 to find out who the new Spider-Man will be.
Left 4 Dead (1 & 2) – David finally built himself a new PC which means he can finally play modern shooters with me! We started our co-op experience with lots of Left 4 Dead. We finished all the campaigns in the first game and now we’re working on 2. I’ve been reminded of just how spectacular these two games are and how much fun Left 4 Dead was. Good times.
Torchlight – Finished the main game. Now it’s just kind of grinding for the other achievements and for loot’s sake. I worry that this game is gonna tire me out too much for when Diablo III comes out, but then I remember that Diablo won’t be out until 2012, at the earliest, and I breathe much easier.
Portal 2 – A little co-op with the hermano. Good stuff, even if he smashed me with some giant, movable blocks. Can’t wait for some dlc maps…
Team Fortress 2 – The surprise entry this week. I played for 12 hours this weekend and had a real blast. The Strange Weapons have been the coolest draw for me since they level up as you “feed” them with kills. So much fun. Played a lot with Eric too, which is nice. I don’t think I’ve played an FPS with him for that much time since we played Goldeneye. What a blast.
A performance from Tremé
Tomorrow night’s the All-Star Game, but my coverage might be a little different than usual. I plan on watching it with friends, so there may not be a liveblog, but I will cover it in the morning. In the meanwhile, here’s what I’ve been up to.
Rx Bandits – Saw the Bandits down at the 9:30 Club on Saturday for their farewell tour. I don’t think anything will match the unparalleled emotion I felt at Five Iron Frenzy’s “Winners Never Quit” tour back in 2003, but it was a special show. They’re not writing off being a studio band, but that may have been the last time I’ll ever see the Bandits and they did not disappoint. Great show. The tour t-shirt puts me up to 5 RxB t-shirts. I think I’ve reached excessive there.
Carancho - Ricardo Darín’s strong showing in El secreto de sus ojos attracted me to this movie. In it, Darín plays a carancho (translates to vulture), or an ambulance chaser, who scams victims out of their settlements. The story is a little uneven, but it’s clear to me that Darín is ridiculously talented and I love seeing him in anything. Gotta track down more of his films.
Tremé – Finally got around to watching the season 2 finale. Good stuff. It’s neat to see the differences between Tremé and The Wire. David Simon is clearly not compelled to make this show more watchable by limiting the live music or giving it a more structured plot, but that’s ok sometimes. It’s nice to see the different storylines just play out because, hey, that’s life. Good to also see the Vietnamese shrimp boats as a preparation for an eventual Gulf Oil Spill storyline.
Dead Like Me – As a fan of Pushing Daisies, I was not surprised to learn that this was a Bryan Fuller show. The same little quirks were apparent in the early episodes and although he left the show rather early in its run, his DNA runs through it. I gotta wonder about Fuller’s preoccupation with death and women with masculine nicknames…Anyway, it’s a pretty solid show that my girlfriend is watching and I hop in for an episode or two wherever she is. The premise, that the main characters are grim reapers who collect souls that are about to die, is pretty neat and I dig the characters. I also like that it was a Showtime show, so the writers are free to let the characters talk like real people.
Mad Men – Last weekend I just blew through S3 and S4. This is a fantastic show. I do love it when a show finds itself continually evolving so it’s neat to see how far the characters have come since S1. It was a little troubling in the 4th season to see Don struggling, but I’m excited to see what S5 brings in 2012. This is seriously one of the best shows I’ve seen in ages. Very good.
Chew – New issue (#19) came out last week. Toni appears in this one and she’s rapidly grown on me as one of my favorite characters. The latest issue sets up a lot of neat plot points that I’m excited to see born out and also reveals some interesting secrets about the Chu family. Definitely the best so far in the new arc.
S.H.I.E.L.D. – My love affair with Jonathan Hickman’s work has not abated yet. His examination of the secret history of an organization that a lot of Marvel fans kind of take for granted is very interesting. Could have interesting implications for the greater Marvel universe, but it also ties in very nicely with Hickman’s work in FF. Gotta wonder if Hickman has some serious father issues, because it’s yet another book of his thematically dealing with fathers and sons, but this time with a fate vs. free will wrinkle.
Fantastic Four/FF – More Hickman, more awesomeness. I finally got around to reading Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four and I was seriously impressed. I mean, we’re talking a breadth of narrative that’s still bearing fruit in his current issues of FF. FF is one of my most anticipated books every month. I can’t wait to see what The War of the Four Cities will bring and whether or not the issues with the Council of Reeds (first introduced at the start of Hickman’s run back in 2009) will be resolved in this arc.
Ultimate Fantastic Four – Still cool, but man does it pale in comparison to the work being done on FF. Almost done with it, so I’ll continue for now.
Torchlight – Picked this guy up for $2 or so in the Steam summer sale. and it was well worth the purchasing price. Definitely scratching my Diablo itch with some seriously addictive game mechanics. Playing as the pet class and loving all the summons, but on Very Hard the final dungeons are proving challenging. I’m afraid to try it hardcore next, but the challenge is calling me (for those who don’t know, hardcore mode means that death is permanent for a character. THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE!)
Left 4 Dead – David finally built himself a new computer allowing him to play all the sweet games of the past that we couldn’t play before. We played No Mercy last night and it was a real blast from the past. I can’t wait for him to see the ways the game has evolved in L4D2! I’m sure he’ll find it just as awesome as I do.
inFamous – Beat it on very hard on the good track. Considering an evil run for trophies, but, truth be told, this game is middling, at best, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to motivate myself to play it again with more interesting options on hand.
StarCraft 2 – Played a couple of quick rounds with Dave and one of his friends. Still solid, but I’m not always in the mood.
Super Potato in Akihabara
As is typical of me, I played a ton of video games this year. Here’s a listing of what I played along with a few short (or long) words on each game. For the most part, this list is restricted to games released in 2010 unless I did not play them until this year. It’s also mostly in chronological order, with some skips here and there.
Mother 3: Definitely did not come out in 2010. I reviewed it already, but let me say that there is significant beauty to this game. Affecting and heartwrenching, this is easily among the best games I played this year. Do not play this on an emulator because the music-timing of the battles is deliciously fun and the time lag of emulation makes that impossible to experience.
Mass Effect 2: The first AAA game of the year. My review trended toward disappointing, mostly due to the way that story was handled in this iteration compared to part 1. Still, an undeniably great game whose heist-story mechanics and plot are unique and interesting in the gaming landscape. I can’t wait for part three in November.
Heavy Rain: Almost as exciting as actually doing the chores your imaginary wife forces you to do in real life. The execution just missed with this one and its plot twist was asinine and felt cheap. If you’re allowed to hear the thoughts of the protagonists, but you fail to provide a logical reason as to why that person is lying to us (himself?), you’ve lost me.
Pro Yakyu Spirits 2010 (Professional Baseball Spirits 2010): My baseball game of the year. I love taking the Carp to the Japan Series each year. I spent countless hours developing my franchise. This game was worth every dollar I spent importing it.
Final Fantasy XIII: Thoroughly disappointing. Expect more from me on this (edits from the future!), but SqueEnix really dropped the ball something fierce here. A game that suffered from complete lack of creative direction. Final Fantasy XIII is the head of the snake eating its own tail that has become SqueEnix.
Yakuza (1, 2, )3: Did not put that much time into this one, but I did play its prequels to completion. Fiercely Japanese in design, I just haven’t found the time to get deep into this gem. I’m sure it’s actually pretty great.
Mega Man 10: It lacked some of MM9’s magic (partially by being easier), but still a razor sharp example of why the Blue Bomber captured our hearts in the first place. Pump Man’s power, while heavily reminiscent of Leaf Man, is deliciously fun to play with. Using it again Solar Man was also tons of fun for me.
Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilve: It was fun to go back to the best two games in the series. The Pokewalker was stupid, but I have high hopes for Black & White. These games are easily dismissed as rehashes, but they’re still white-hot proof that JRPG design doesn’t have to be needlessly complex to be addictive and elegant.
Alien Swarm: Valve gave me this game for free. I played it maybe twice. Decent fun, but I’d rather play Left 4 Dead 2.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey: Never beat this game. SMT continues to be ridiculously tough and legitimately mature in their presentation of mankind’s eternal struggles against its darker tendencies. Maybe it’s the first-person dungeon crawling, but something about this game prevents me from ever picking it up most days.
Sam & Max: The Devil’s Playhouse: I’m lumping all five episodes into one entity. I find TellTale adventure games to be workmanlike in quality. With the exception of the last two or three episodes of Tales of Monkey Island, they lack the extra oomph that could make them truly great. That said, The Devil’s Playhouse was the most hilarious Sam & Max iteration yet. From Sam & Max’s insistence on pronouncing General Skun’kape as skunk-ape to their episode-wide fight over what to call the menacing Sam clones (Samulacra or Doggleganger?), these games were absolute riots. Now if only TellTale could figure out how to make them great games as well…
Monster Hunter Tri: One gaming session. The sword swipes pack so much friction it’s beautiful. Despite this, never picked it up again. Got a sick black classic controller out of it. Now if only I played Wii more often…
Super Street Fighter IV: Played the hell out of last year’s iteration. Opted to play other games since it was structurally similar to vanilla Street Fighter IV. Kind of wish I’d played it a lot more this year.
Green Day: Rock Band: Played it once, exported the tracks to Rock Band 2/3, never felt the need to boot it up again. Despite only 1 hour of playtime, unlocked an achievement. Fixing the ‘D’ rank that came as a result on Giant Bomb is the only reason I will ever boot this up again.
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies: Practically perfect in almost every way that a JRPG should be. I understand why the story was left more generic than years past, but the lack of an interesting narrative is what kept me from finishing.
DeathSpank: Played the demo once. Bought it on PC to support Ron Gilbert. Might actually play it one day. It seemed funny.
Comic Jumper: Hilarious in a juvenile way, I slogged through the repetitive, mediocre gameplay just to see more of this game. I think Min “played” this the right way. He watched me beat it and got to enjoy the presentation without having to touch a controller.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty: Am I the only person who hates what they did at the end of this story? Sure, it has legitimately far-reaching consequences for the sequel, but I think they’re also legitimately less interesting. Still, as perfectly constructed a game as they come. I fell out of playing it, but it definitely feels like I could pick it up at any time and have fun with it.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game: A loving tribute to River City Ransom wrapped up in a franchise that I really enjoy. Sounds like a recipe for success to me. Loads of fun, but, like most middling brawlers, starts to wear on you toward the end as there’s not enough variety introduced in later levels.
Worms: Reloaded: Love Worms. Loaded this up once and never did it again. I’ve hated all Worms interfaces since Worms 2, mostly because they obfuscate and hide customization options more and more as they transition toward console friendliness. I wish they’d put more effort into their PC version.
Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, Dead Rising 2, and Dead Rising 2: Case West: I’ll lump these all together since they are mostly the same game spread out into chunks. The prologue and epilogue (Zero and West, respectively) are just small and feature-gimped enough that they lack the oomph of the full retail release. Dead Rising 2 itself was everything I wanted it to be. A more robust co-op system would be all it needed to be top tier, but I still had loads of fun with it. As a bonus, Min and Dead Rising 2 taught me how to play Texas Hold ‘Em this year.
Civilization V: You probably saw my review where I hated on the terrible AI. I haven’t played since they patched/fixed it, but if they did it right, this game could totally fall back within my good graces. I do sincerely love this game, it’s just not what I hoped it would be and, in its present form, not as good as IV.
Rock Band 3: Harmonix went and made a perfect Rock Band game. Now all I’ve got to do is get my hands on a pro-guitar and I might actually learn something practical from a game that lets me indulge in all my favorite music.
Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale: Ever wanted to run a JRPG item shop? This indie game translated from Japan is charming and fun, but I haven’t had the time to devote myself to it yet in 2010.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West: So good until the end. Can a stupid ending mar an otherwise good game? Yeah, kinda. I still loved it for the great acting (weird to say, right?), but stupid ending + sub-Uncharted 2 traversal-style gameplay mires this one in the mediocre bin. The fighting system could also have used a little less frame-lock in its animations (is that what this is called?). Can’t count how many times I died because I was stuck in a seconds-long super attack aimed at the air.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn: Unparalleled artistic vision ties this game together. I haven’t put too much time in, but it seems super easy. I want to play with a friend to get the most out of this. What do you say, Min?
Super Meat Boy: Juxtaposing Kirby and Super Meat Boy is wrong on so many levels. One is like chamber music. Beautiful, complex, but not so complex it’s tough to listen to. The other is kick-you-in-the-teeth, bite off a squirrel head, make you a man heavy metal. Super Meat Boy is so deliciously crunchy in every way that it might be the best game game on this list. Where Starcraft II is perfect with a Beatles-type polish, Super Meat Boy is The Clash; unabashedly punk rock. I love this game. It’s so addictive and fun.
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX: Did I say Super Meat Boy was perfect? Pac-Man CE DX (PMCEDX) is video gaming distilled to its primal essence. Eat a whole train of 30 ghosts and I dare you not to feel primitive fun stir deep within you. Words cannot express how great this game is in bite-sized chunks.
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge: Is it cheating to count a re-release? This is probably the greatest adventure game ever now with a commentary track recorded by the big three: Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman, and Tim Schafer.
Poker Night at the Inventory: Strong Bad is unbelievably annoying, but banter between Max, Heavy Weapons Guy, and Tycho are always a joy. The second half of this year’s poker lessons were learned here. Now if only I could get straight flush and four-of-a-kind hands so that I can 100% the achievements in this game!
Back to the Future: The Game: The voice acting and atmosphere in this game are both spot on. Unfortunately I hit a game breaking bug and had to start over. That sucked.
Limbo: First played this on 31 December, so it still counts. Deeply atmospheric, but darkly disturbing and difficult for me to stomach more than once a day. I want to go more into that in another post. Unfortunately for the game, I think the controls are a touch floaty, which I mostly find frustrating because I need to beat it dying fewer than 5 times for an achievement.
And that was 2010 in video games (for me). I missed some huge ones (Super Mario Galaxy 2, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, Call of Duty: Black Ops), but I think I got a good spread in there. Here’s to another great year in gaming for 2011.
Most impressive ensemble goes to the gaggle of Doctor Whos, but this was definitely my favorite Otakon cosplay ensemble.
The USA’s second largest anime convention came and went and I took pictures of it. Yes, Otakon 2010 happened, but, no, I didn’t want to actually pay admission to go in since I don’t watch as much anime anymore and I didn’t know any of the artists that were appearing, so I freeloaded along with my brother and took pictures of the cosplayers who were coming into or leaving the convention center on Saturday.
As long as there are anime conventions there will be Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon cosplay.
I’d only ever been to one similar convention before, MegaCon in Orlando, but I was thoroughly impressed by the degree of cosplay on display. Maybe it’s because it’s an anime convention and not a general comics convention, but it seemed like the majority of the attendees were in costume rather than just shlubbing it like I did back in the day.
I refused to leave until I saw some Phoneix Wright cosplay.
We spent two hours or so just hanging around the front and side doors (we weren’t allowed inside without badges) snapping pictures of cosplayers who didn’t mind the attention, marveling at all the costumes. I don’t have much more to say beyond that, so here’s a gallery of my favorite costumes from Otakon 2010 (sorry dialup users!).
Good to see such faithful Bebop cosplay is still going strong
I have no idea what anime this is from, but this girl is quite good looking, so I snapped a shot. For bonus points, check out the old man behind her looking at her ass. EDIT: It appears to be a Disgaea 3 Gunner costume.
"I can't get over how FAST they all are, it's not even fair. I'm calling zombie bullshit on that, you know? They're not...ALLOWED to be so fast." Plenty of L4D cosplay, which makes me a very happy Dan.
The Tenant Doctor Who on the right was actually a fairly good looking lady. Great costume, too.
Anyone who visits this blog knows I love Pikachu cosplay.
A crew of servbots! Not super complicated, but it works. Makes me want to play Dead Rising...
One of the most impressive costumes of the show. This is an amazing Ashitaka from Princess Mononoke.
A MUCH more elaborate servbot cosplay.
All he was missing was a chocobo in his 'fro, but he had the L'Cie brand on his chest and an accurate magicite thing (I forgot what they were called!)
Very accurate gun and costume for Gurren Lagann.
I love all Ace Attorney cosplay! We need to see more Apollo Justice too!
Fantastic Burton Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter
It's a shame this girl had the huge Buster Sword with her becasue this shot is so far away from her elaborate costume and ridiculously blue eyes (HAD to be contacts)
Great Red-Haired Shanks cosplay.
Bayonetta. Her heels aren't guns, but still a good costume.
Nick's got a bile jar!
The most fearsome pirate on the seven seas, Buggy the Clown
Mihawk cosplay. Nice sword and costume!
A great cast shot of One Piece. I took this one mostly because I noticed Water 7 Nami in there.
I could never pass up Rockman X cosplay.
SUPER SAIYAN! I love the level of dedication to make blond eyebrows too
Mugiwara (Straw Hat) no Luffy. He asked me if I wanted him to pose. I said "Of course!"
The heroes of Code Geass
I was wondering why she didn't move out of the shot until I realized she was Namine. Great cosplay pair.
Doctors Who throughout the ages.
BONK! Great Scout costumes!
Better Scout Cosplay
I love that she's even got herself a turret!
Another convention staple, Yuffie the ninja.
"I think I hear a hunter!"
A fantastic Lucario costume that is crazy detailed. Too bad the Internet ruined such things for me by making me immediately think furry.
I also photographed a sniper. Wait a second! It's a spy disguised as a sniper!
Dark Sora? Elaborate and awesome all the same.
Amazing attention to detail with the full L'Cie brand there too. Wow.
Growing out those sideburns takes real dedication.
Not cosplay, but my favorite part of the convention. So cute!