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What I’ve Been Doing 7 May 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
May 7th, 2012 by Dan

avengers-photo-3

Robert Downy, Jr. was definitely the MVP of the movie. (Photo courtesy JakesplacePS)

Readership assemble! Min and I made the great sacrifice of seeing The Avengers for you. Our verdict? It’s excellent. Go see it, y’all. Seriously.

Movies

The Avengers – It does precisely what I thought was impossible by focusing on each individual character for a bit and giving them all arcs. Granted, most of the groundwork was laid in all the other Marvel movies, but it’s still tough to do. High props to Mark Ruffalo for his portrayal of the Hulk. His barely contained anger was chilling and, most importantly, awesome. Joss Whedon’s writing also gels quite nicely with the movie, RDJ version of Iron Man.

The Five-Year Engagement – It’s a little long, but it’s also very funny and definitely well acted. This movie gave roles to all kinds of hilarious guys like Mindy Kaling, Chris Parnell, Brian Posehn, and Kevin Hart. Not to mention the supporting roles for Alison Brie and Chris Pratt. Emily Blunt remains charming and Jason Segel is his usual lovable oaf self. Don’t expect anything amazing and you’ll enjoy this light romantic comedy.

TV

Mad Men – I have no idea where this season is headed, but man am I just stoked to be on the journey. Last week had all-star performances all around. Can’t wait to see what happened last night.

Girls – Best line: “Ok, American History X.” Awkward humor is where it’s at now, huh? Not complaining, but it’s interesting how that’s the norm now. This show continues to surprise me week to week. It’s better than you might think.

Veep – Another solid, solid episode. I wasn’t sure if the show would be able to maintain its awesomeness, but it has met and exceeded expectations. I really do love this show.

Parks and Recreation – I read one reviewer call the campaign bus running over the Sweetums guy overkill, but I thought it was hilarious. Great work by the cast, but I’m ready for the election storyline to finish.

New Girl – From week to week you’re the one show that really gives me pause, New Girl. You’re really not the best hang-out comedy out there, but you put in work that is passable and regularly funny. I feel like you get more credit than you deserve, but I do enjoy watching you, I guess. At least you name dropped Coach this week. I know you couldn’t bring him back to prevent confusion and because you had to build Winston up from scratch, but I hope you bring back Coach for an episode one day.

Community – Starburns is dead. The study group is expelled. I liked that they rallied from that dark moment thanks to Troy. Makes me wonder what’s coming up at the end of the season. Will they succeed in taking him to the A/C Annex or will the group rally in his support? Does it matter if they’re not all taking classes together any more? This season certainly deviated from that…

Music

The Fez soundtrack deserves special mention. It is a joy to listen to in the background thanks to its ambient nature, but it doesn’t let the listener get too comfortable. The dissonance creates an uneasy feeling that I’m perhaps pairing with my game experience too much, but I think it’s still absolutely worth listening to. Especially for you, Min. It’s got no words.

Books

Eh, nope. I gotta get back into reading soon. I almost bought a book this weekend, but physical books feel so expensive to me now!

Video Games

Fez – Certainly the best downloadable console game I’ve played this year. We’re talking Grade A awesomeness in its simultaneous simplicity and complexity. Figuring out a puzzle will make you feel like a genius. Turns into a bit of a pain to navigate as the number of secrets narrows down, but still a game that everyone should play as soon as it’s out on PC, I guess, since none of my readers have an Xbox (that I can think of)

Mass Effect 3 – Played a couple of levels from the Resurgence Pack. They seem big and/or complicated, but I like them. If only they’d vary the enemy types or game modes I’d be happier spending a ton more time in this game. Oh well.

Shadow Complex – It’s funny how I find save rooms so antiquated now. Losing a bunch of progress and listening to the same dialogue over and over because I died isn’t acceptable any more. Still scratches that Metroidvania itch and I dig that.

Devil Survivor 2 – Just unlocked the ability to transfer between Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya instantaneously. I wish the third region had been Sapporo, Hiroshima, or Okinawa. This is a sharp game. Very similar to DS1, but that was a sharp game too. I’m wondering where the story is going in this one, but not in a bad way. I really should play this more…

The Old Republic – The Trooper story continues to be interesting to me. I like the whole “Reassemble Havoc Squad” thing it’s got going on. I even like the companions! Sergeant Dorne, the Imperial defector, seems like she’d add an interesting wrinkle to my game, especially since she disapproves of my character’s rule-breaking habits. The storytelling in this game is absolutely superb. So glad that Min and I are playing this now, but we’ve only got a week before Diablo 3…

What I’ve Been Doing 19 Sept 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Sep 19th, 2011 by Dan

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

"Shit"

It may look like I’m insulting Gears, but I’m really not. That’s legitimately the closest those guys come to eloquence most games. They’re fantastic games, but their stories are fundamentally idiotic.

Movies

Thor – I’m pretty sure that complaining about blatant product placement in a movie was last interesting five years ago, but I found the Southwest Airlines advertising in Thor to be too much. Did not like. The movie itself was cool, although Natalie Portman’s character had nothing to do but be a pretty damsel. Don’t get me wrong, she’s good at that, but I wouldn’t have minded her being more active (like Peggy in Captain America). Her portrayal of Jane was true to Thor: The Mighty Avenger, aside from her career, so at least there’s that. I hope she comes back for The Avengers (and that The Avengers is good).

Adaptation – Charlie Kaufman (of Being John Malkovich fame) really kind of cheats here in a movie screenplay that we’ve all just thought about handing in, but that is ultimately kind of lazy on a spectacular level. On the other hand, it’s not too much unlike the New Yorker articles it’s quasi-about where the writer is as much a part of the story as the story (in that Gonzo/New Journalism kind of way). Adaptation is postmodern and deconstructionalist and it works best when it’s not pointing out how obvious it is that Kaufman’s doing this (see the obnoxious callback to McKee and voiceover in its final voiceover), but it’s a clever movie that’s more interesting that it ever should be. If you’re really bored this can entertain you, but this movie about writing a movie strains interest. Perhaps if it was written a little better?

TV

Weeds – About two weeks too late I called that this season is all about Silas and Nancy and it became truly obvious now. It’s funny how the Botwin lines have been drawn since the Lars revelation last season. I can see trouble starting in a lot of directions for Nancy, so I wonder if the payoff this year will be worth it, because I’m not seeing it yet.

Top Gear – Didn’t finish the episode!

Archer – So funny this week! This three-episode mini got off to a great start. Can’t wait for the rest of it next week. The jokes about Rip Riley being a 1930s relic were absolutely hilarious.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Yep, these guys are still the worst people in existence. Loved the closing scene with abandoning the prostitute in the hallway, even if it was shockingly terrible. I don’t think the “Mac gains 50 pounds” gag is working yet.

Parks and Recreation – Finished rewatching S3 with Min this week. So great! “Calzones are useless. No one likes them.”

Music

Even more Wild Flag – I think I’ve hit my threshold with obsessively listening to this new release. I’ve got tickets to see them in October, so I can’t wait.

Books

Collected Stories – Still no stories not obsessing with death. Still interesting in a surreal, well-written way. Still tough to read.

(THAR BE COMICS BELOW!)

Batwoman – Not sure if this was the best book of the week or Daredevil was, but it was certainly the prettiest. J. H. Williams III’s art was astounding. I’m so in for this new book.

Amazing Spider-Man – Still enjoying Spider-Island, even if this book was relatively mediocre. Stage 2 mutations begin!

Ultimate Comics Spider-ManThe new Spider-Man is Miles Morales. I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to see where this goes. It was surprisingly well done and unique from Peter Parker’s story.

Spider-Island: Herc – This book was terrible. What a waste of time. If you want a good Silver Age-style story, read Thor: The Mighty Avenger instead.

Spider-Island: Spider-Girl – Middling. When you’ve only got three issues, you can’t waste the first one because then your second and third will feel rushed. This felt kind of rushed.

Daredevil – Still the best book, all-around, that Marvel is putting out. Loved it and I loved the way that the sound villain was integrated with Daredevil’s sound “vision” for ludonarrative resonance. Great stuff.

Nedroid Read the first printed collection that Anthony Clark signed and sketched in. Super funny stuff. I love Nedroid.

Video Games

Team Fortress 2 – I’m up to 210 achievements in this. I think I’ve got 169 to go! Can’t believe how much I play this game nowadays, it’s so good! Loving the way that the new trading systems are integrated with Steam. It might even get me playing Spiral Knights at Min’s behest.

Gears of War 2 – Min and I beat it this weekend. As I said before, the story is idiotic while the gameplay is mostly solid. Hey game devs: the parts where you make us drive tanks or ride Reavers and stuff are stupid. Torque bow enemies are also assholes. Min and I spent an hour clearing this one room because we kept getting shot with arrows. Ian was also over on Saturday for a marathon session that was lots of fun. Can’t wait for Gears of War 3. I’ve always felt that I’d missed the boat with the releases so now I’ll get the chance to be “in it” for the co-op campaigns and maybe a little Horde/Beast multiplayer. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

What I’ve Been Doing 8 Aug 2011 [FB/IB/BT/GO]
Aug 6th, 2011 by Dan

The new Spider-Man is Miles Morales, a previously unseen character motivated to do good by Peter's sacrifice...or so Marvel says. I've yet to read a story issue with him in it.

Movies

Horrible Bosses – Part of me thought it was hilarious and part of me thought it was passable. There were some really strange story beats in this no doubt because this wasn’t the dark comedy it was advertised to be. I dunno what the proper word for it would be…dim comedy? Without implying that the comedy was stupid, I mean to say that Jennifer Aniston’s part in the story was treated completely differently than the two male bosses and was resolved in a way that felt tacked on. Decent movie, just not the funniest thing I saw this summer (:cough: Bridesmaids :cough:)

TV

Weeds – Having Heylia return to the show last week just reminds me how well-served this show is by its travels and changes. Being able to call back to the first couple of seasons and get a great emotional response is not easy. The story is moving in an interesting direction, but I’ve yet to see it thematically gel yet. I wonder if that has to do with Jacob Clifton’s fantastic summaries on TWoP being canceled? Great season so far.

Frisky Dingo – This is one of those 11-minute Cartoon Network comedies that Adult Swim specializes in. Had some genuine laugh out loud moments and some stupid stuff too. I think I like Archer a lot more (not CN).

Retro Game Master – I totally forgot to mention that I’ve been watching this. Kotaku bought licensing rights to bring RGM to the states and I’ve been enjoying watching the Kacho, Shinya Arino, try to conquer all kinds of classic games. Some episodes are better than others, but they’re usually pretty funny/interesting.

Books

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing – The central conceit of this book, that the real Thursday Next is missing, ends up being somewhat detrimental. I’m still legitimately enjoying the book, but I find that following the “fictional” Thursday around is less interesting than the “real” Thursday. Still got about a hundred pages left and I’m loving the book.

Slaughterhouse Five – Finished up the reread. Poignant and interesting. I love how layered Vonnegut’s writing is. You can choose to believe that Billy is telling the truth or not. There are clues layered all throughout the book that would prove either interpretation.

Ultimatum – Went back to read the old crisis for the Ultimate Universe that was supposed to change/relaunch it before this whole Death of Spider-Man thing. Wow, this was terrible. It was pointlessly violent, jumped around with no real narrative focus, and was just plain bad. I’m glad the side-universe is not mired in this anymore.

Secret Warriors – Got another book in. Still really interesting. Can’t wait to keep reading it.

Y: The Last Man – Finished my reread. It’s even better the second time. I love how deep the characters became and where the whole thing ended. Post-Y-chromosome Earth was interesting, but I really hope that kind of thing never happens for real!

Ultimate Fallout – The above panel came from this book. Our new Spider-Man is neat, but I won’t know more about him until this week. Racial controversy aside, he seems cool, but a little too similar to Peter in personality. Can’t reinvent all parts of the wheel, I guess. The other two parts of this book were pretty neat too. Always nice to read Hickman’s work.

Snarked – Roger Langridge’s look into the world of The Walrus and The Carpenter seems neat, but I don’t know if I’ll keep reading.

Moon Knight – I think this may have been my favorite of the releases this week. The art was just stunning and fun. This is a pretty cool book that I’m sure a lot of people aren’t reading or giving a chance.

Irredeemable – Speaking of underground books (I don’t actually know the circulation for this, but it can’t be huge), this was way depressing this week. Interesting, per usual, but depressing. The Plutonian is back and kicking all kinds of ass and he’s caught Earth with its pants down…again. The story is interesting, but it’s a bummer my favorite character didn’t make it in this issue.

SHIELD – Another gorgeous comic book. It’s still very confusing, but a book filled with Renaissance and Enlightenment scientists is always gold in my eyes.

Video Games

Catherine – I played this game just a little too haphazardly to get the ending I wanted. See, I was actively pushing away Katherine, who I find obnoxious, while answering questions like I would (in a quasi-responsible way), which resulted in me getting a Katherine ending. Ah, well. At least I’m having fun with the game on my second playthrough. I’m really down with the block puzzles. I might have more to say about the game in its own detailed post, but we’ll see.

Team Fortress 2 – Played so much of this over the weekend! I’m so close to getting the Scout achievement I’ve been chasing so long (1900-something/2004 kills). I’ll probably get it tonight or tomorrow night. It’s a lot of fun, but I’m kind of sad about having to play some other classes for a bit for achievement’s sake.

What I’ve Been Doing 1 Aug 2011 [FB/IB/BT/GO]
Aug 1st, 2011 by Dan

FLCL

My favorite cosplay from the con

Otakon was this weekend, but my stolen camera prevented me from photographing any of the cosplay. The example above was taken by Eric.

This week was comic book heavy. There was a huge sale at Eric’s shop that I took advantage of along with some Amazon orders to finish off small runs of series I was reading.

Movies

Barney’s Version – It’s weird to see movies prominently set in Canada. This Can-Lit adaptation is pretty good. I can see why Paul Giamatti won a Golden Globe for this. Again, solid, but not great. I think this one was probably better as a book.

Be Kind Rewind – I liked Eternal Sunshine, so I figured I’d give this Michel Gondry film a try. It’s another passable movie. It’s got heart, which I love, and Jack Black not Jack Black-ing it up too hard, which I also love, but, and this may just be me, Mos Def’s earnestness came off more like he might be developmentally challenged, not sincere. Not a terrible way to spend 102 minutes, but not the best way either.

TV

Better Off Ted – I thought this show was really funny when it was on. It still is, but I can also totally see why it was canceled. Not bad for when I want to watch something no streaming when I’m eating a meal or something.

Weeds – This season has been really good! I love how much this show evolves and I actually dig the new NYC setting. I’m interested in where this Doug plotline is going (for once!) and I’m also impressed by how much Hunter Parrish is killing it yet again as Silas. This week also brought back a character from the early seasons, which is part of what makes this show so great. There’s an established past that can be referred to even though the present keeps evolving…you know, like real life.

Books

One of Our Thursdays is MissingA REAL BOOK?! Yep! The Thursday Next series has always been remarkably funny and clever to a sneaky degree. Sure, some knowledge of literature is assumed, but it’s mostly stuff that any educated person would come across naturally. Any other gaps can be filled by Wikipedia. Funny in a way that books rarely are anymore, this one is really pulling me in.

Slaughterhouse Five – Still making progress, but sidelined by OoOTiM (see above), this story remains one of my favorites.

Daytripper – Twin brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá created this fantastic, beautiful, somber series about the important moments that define our lives. Like real life, they frame the beautiful with the somber. Each issue is framed with the death of the protagonist, an obituary writer for part of his life, and an obit about where his life is when he “died”. Beautiful art, good writing, and a plot that is deep and engaging while remaining light and digestible.

Air – A series that’s supposedly acclaimed, but whose premise falls entirely flat to me. It’s about a stewardess who is afraid of heights and shadowy conglomerations trying to get air technology that doesn’t use oil. Just…boring. I didn’t really like the art either. Really did not resonate with me.

Thor: The Mighty Avenger – Finished off the eight-issue (over WAY too soon) run of the delightful and excellent series by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee. Fantastic lines, beautiful art, and light, happy dialog that reminds us our heroes don’t have to be angsty or violent to be interesting. It’s just sweet and fun and if you don’t like it, it’s entirely possible that your heart has turned to stone.

Amazing Spider-Man – I gave the book another try after thoroughly disliking #665. The latest, #666, remains far too wordy and doesn’t let the characters or art breathe, but I also read some back issues around where Peter joins the FF that were absolutely delightful. More importantly, they were funny. That’s what Spider-Man books are all about. Sure, there’s plenty of Peter angsting and brooding, but there should also be jokes. Funny jokes! I’m on-board for Spider Island (or, should I say, #SpiderIsland (no, don’t ever say that))! Hope it doesn’t disappoint.

Ultimate Fallout – The book lost a little focus and fun this issue between Tony Stark’s mystery rich people secret society and Kitty’s angst (overusing that word today, I know), but I still enjoyed the writing of the latter while I was intrigued by Jean Grey and The Hulk. Not the best issue, but I can’t wait for the reveal of the new (Ultimate) Spider-Man in this week’s book.

Irredeemable – This book continues to get better and better. I’m all caught up in continuity and I’m just loving the drama and struggles between The Plutonian and the remaining, surviving heroes. The most recent issue had quite the cliffhanger as the end of the arc, which is disappointing to me only in that my favorite character may be out of the story for a few issues. Mark Waid’s book remains one of my favorite reads at the moment.

Incorruptible – The companion piece to Irredeemable has the world’s worst supervillain reforming and becoming a superhero after witnessing The Plutonian’s mass murder/destruction of Sky City. Max Damage (dumb name, I know) is initially clueless about being a hero, but his development (and the addition of Alana Patel, The Plutonian’s ex-girlfriend, to his cast) makes for a really interesting story. I love the unstable partners (Jailbait and Headcase) and the recovering alcoholic police lieutenant on his side. Irredeemable has a grander scale and a more interesting ensemble, but Incorruptible’s more focused nature makes for an equally interesting character study. I wish the two intersected a little more, but it’s not the biggest problem.

FF and Fantastic Four: Dark Reign – Guess what? I like Jonathan Hickman’s writing. You’ll see more of that later on in this blog, but I enjoy it. FF is currently mired in some backstory that has me intrigued, but most fans bored, while the old issues I read in Dark Reign were funny, satisfying, and tied in nicely with later Fantastic Four/FF books.

Ultimate Fantastic Four – Nearly done with my run through this series. Main continuity beats it in terms of quality, but the situations inherent to the Ultimate Universe are still interesting.

Secret Warriors – More Hickman, this time writing about Nick Fury exiled from SHIELD. Makes sense why he started the Brotherhood of the SHIELD book, but I’m wondering now if the two are related, especially since HYRDA called themselves “The Spear” in an early issue of this book. I’d love for Hickman to just revamp the Marvel universe’s perceptions of SHIELD and, considering the huge revelation of this book’s first issue, I’d say he probably succeeded at that. Yet another book for me to collect!

Moon Knight – Bendis’ attempt to revive the oft-canceled series about a multiple personality disorder superhero has been remarkably good. I don’t want to spoil any of it, but I doubt you can be disappointed with the first two issues of this. I haven’t read beyond that (there’s one more), but it’s a lot of fun. I’m digging it.

Cowboy Ninja Viking – Just trying to finish off the book. Two volumes. Most certainly canceled due to lack of sales, but not with enough lead time to get a satisfying conclusion. I really feel like the second set of issues didn’t deliver on the fun promised by the first five.

Morning Glories – I get such flashes of Lost every time I read this book, which is a good thing. Sure, the whole “violence at a prep school” thing has been done to death, but it’s quite interesting here in this context. I’m at the edge of my seat wanting to find out what will happen next issue.

Wolverine/Deadpool One-Shot – The first story in this book was funny, involving Deadpool, Wolverine, cross-dressing, and a robot, but the second story was a little too madcap and stupid.

Y: The Last Man – The reread continues after much delay! I really dig this story and how well it deals with the post-apocalyptic aftermath of the elimination of the Y chromosome.

Video Games

Team Fortress 2 – I’m tantalizingly close to realizing my Scout achievement goal of 2004 kills (3/4 of the way there is closer than you’d think!). Getting back into this game was definitely a shock to me.

Catherine – The central conflict of this game is choosing responsible, bossy Katherine or impulsive, immature Catherine. It’s impossible to go into this game without any baggage (unless you’ve never dated anyone) and mine is screaming out at me every time I play this game. Sure, I abhor cheating, but Katherine’s bossiness and smothering, maternal nature reminds me so much of my Ex that I can’t stand her character. Throw in tons of blatant (and subtle) masculine/feminine symbolism and Freudian levels of horror and fear toward women and you’ve got a game that is more interesting to think about than to play. The block puzzles are neat, but they’re not doing it for me. Probably doesn’t help that I’m not very good at them either…

What I’ve Been Doing [FB/IB/BT/GO]
Jul 18th, 2011 by Dan

Cloud Cosplay Otakon 2010

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.

Movies:

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.

TV:

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.

Books:

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.

Video Games:

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.

What I’ve Been Doing [F/FB/IB/BT/GO]
Jul 11th, 2011 by Dan

2010 Pine Leaf Boys scene from Treme, Breaux Bridge April 30 (23 of 34)

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.

Music:

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.

Movies:

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.

TV:

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.

Books:

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.

Video Games:

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.

Who Will Be The Next Spider-Man? [BT]
Jun 23rd, 2011 by Dan

Peter and Ben

Awesome alternate cover for USM #160

So…uh…yeah. (Ultimate) Peter Parker is dead. 160 issues, just under 11 years, and tons of stories later he is no more. Next month we’ll probably get his funeral with Ultimate Comics Fallout, which may go for a few issues, I don’t know, because there’s no set launch date for Ultimate Comics Spider-Man (yes, they’re going back to that title), but what I’m most curious about is who the next Spider-Man is going to be.

Personally, I want it to be Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman, who is a female clone of Peter Parker in the Ultimate Universe. She’d be perfect. Think about it: she’s got all of the same memories as Peter up to her birth as a clone, so she’s got that inborn affinity for Aunt May, MJ, and Gwen built in already. Do we really need another origin story for some kid who gets spider powers? Last the Ultimate Universe heard of Jessica Drew she was an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., which we already know was tired of Peter Parker damaging up the city with no responsibility. The relationship is there and it already makes sense.

Unfortunately, as you can see in this link, it seems like they’re going in a different direction. I suppose a female lead for UC Spider-Man might not resonate with readers, but I just have no clue what’s going on here. Will they just cherry pick another Spider-Man clone to fill the part? I do think that Kaine died and Tarantula has too many arms, but there is an x-factor that meets most of Jessica’s criteria, but is male. See, Ultimate Scorpion is also a clone of Peter Parker and he was last seen in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody. Would Bendis use him as the new Spider-Man?

Ultimate Scorpion

Could you be the next Spider-Man?

The story could be intriguing, I guess. Ultimate Scorpion didn’t really demonstrate having spider powers (I don’t think, that was a long time ago), but he did demonstrate having Parker memories. If Bendis wanted to turn him loose as a Not-Peter who was Peter it would be good for drama, I suppose, but I think it would be kind of cheap in a way that using Jessica Drew wouldn’t be. Having someone who looked like Peter, but wasn’t Peter seems like a copout to me, I dunno (even though Drew is also a clone, her gender differences make her different enough that no one would mistake her for Peter). It doesn’t help that Peter’s face was photographed and seen during his final fight with Osborn, so a clone wouldn’t be able to have the home life that we’ve come to love with Peter Parker. Said home life doesn’t even seem to exist what with Ultimate Comics X-Men taking Bobby, Kitty, and Johnny out of the Parker home. Anyway, I’m rambling, but I’m excited to see where they take UC Spider-Man. Will they launch alongside the DC revamp and try to cannibalize sales or will they wait until October to be clear of the big event? I’m too impatient to wait!

Jessica Drew

Sadly the more interesting choice might not happen

3-Minute Expert [ER]
May 6th, 2010 by Dan

Think you know about the Skrulls? Me neither. Comic Vine, a sister site to Giant Bomb, has this great 3-Minute Expert series that teaches you all you need to know about a comic book topic in…3 minutes.

Summer of Arcade, 1 G$ in Losses, Twisted Shadows, and More![Game Overview]
Jul 17th, 2009 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.

There’s been a lot of news this week, so let’s get right down to it.

The Xbox Live Summer of Arcade schedule has been announced and it looks like there are some great games coming soon.

22 July – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled – A 3D update of the classic arcade and SNES beat-em-up, this game could be fun, but then again, the 3D models just look so uninspired compared to the cartoon and their pixelated counterparts.

29 July – Marvel vs. Capcom 2 – The most famous of the Capcom vs. series, MvC2 was one of the worst kept secrets in video gaming. We’re all excited to see it arrive soon, even if the game makes absolutely no sense and is hectic as hell.

5 August – Splosion Man – Don’t know much about this platformer other than that 1up.com kind of likes it.

12 August – Trials HD – Some motorcycle racing platformer. :yawn:

19 August – Shadow Complex – Epic’s latest project was surprisingly not Gears of War related. This Metroidvania-style game has a lot of promise and a great pedigree. Will it deliver?

English Downloads

The English have figured out something before we did:

Music game downloads are becoming a significant share of music sales.

They’re looking into counting them on the downloads chart to try and track them a little better. I applaud their practical thinking.

My national pride (the 4th wasn’t that long ago) requires me to say, “Hey, at least we figured out dentistry first!” Sorry UK, nothing personal.

Trailer Time!

Some great trailers and videos about Mass Effect 2 and Uncharted 2.

40 Novels?!

While we’re in the vicinity of Bioware coverage, why not mention this alarming statistic about The Old Republic, Bioware’s upcoming (in 201X) MMO.

The good folks at Bioware claim that TOR will be as long as 10 KOTORs. Now, Knights of the Old Republic was a plenty long game, but the scope we’re talking here is, wait for it, forty (40!) novels worth of dialogue that’s ALL SPOKEN. That’s going to be a lot of audio.

L4D2 and Nerds

Has a week gone by since L4D2’s announcement that I haven’t talked about it?

EA and Valve have decided to show off the new game, specifically a campaign called “Swamp Fever,” at next week’s San Diego Comic-Con. This means I may have more news next week to post about. Good on you Valve and EA

Everything Old is New Again

Much has been said of the recent resurgence of the fighting and adventure game genres. The most recent Giant Bomb Bomcast (Downloadable Here) made a joke about how we were back in the 90s with the punchline being something like “All we need is for Starcraft and Diablo to come out again.”

Well Starcraft II is scheduled for a late 2009 launch, but analysts are starting to get skeptical (quite frankly, so am I), especially given statements by Blizzard itself. They want about four to six months to beta test the new game, but we’re already at a point where only five months remain before 2010.

My prediction: mid-2010.

Two Million?! USO!

Dragon Quest IX went and had two million pre-orders set for the game before launch. Guess what, it sold about two million. Lines weren’t as ridiculous as they were in prior years, but it was still something of an event.

I started reading an article on Kotaku about the launch and it didn’t quite feel like it was by Brian Ashcraft as my RSS reader said it was. It sounded more like…well, I watched a video on the story (good read) and pretty much knew by then that it was Tim Rogers. It’s worth reading and it provides a look at what a modern Dragon Quest launch is like in Japan now that players can just pre-order their games at local convenience stores.

UFC…yawn…

UFC president Dana White says “EA doesn’t give a fuck about mixed martial arts.” That makes two of us…

The real point of the story is that White tried to pitch the ridiculously well-selling UFC Undisputed 2009 to EA a few years ago, before MMA was big, and he was turned down. Now he says that if any fighter signs to be in EA’s upcoming MMA title (creatively entitled MMA), they can kiss the UFC goodbye.

This now makes for two (three, counting this one) more paragraphs about UFC than I ever want to see on this blog again, so I will close with Penny Arcade’s accurate rendition of every UFC match ever.

VIDEO GAME BREAK!

SOUR / 日々の音色 (Hibi no Neiro) MV from Magico Nakamura on Vimeo.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Get ready to say “That’s ridiculous.”

Modern Warfare 2, the sequel to Call of Duty 4, has a special edition coming out that includes functioning night vision goggles. The less said about how ridiculous that is, the better.

Club Nintendo Rewards

If you were a Platinum member of Club Nintendo last year, you can earn yourself a Punch-Out Wii download that will allow you to box Doc Louis, your personal trainer. It’s kind of crazy, but also way cool.

1 Beellion Dollars

You know how EA has that pesky monopoly on football games due to an exclusive deal with the NFL?

Well, according to an economist, that deal has cost gamers about $926 million due to lack of competition allowing EA to raise their prices.

EA thinks this is ridiculous and I kind of agree. Guess what, Mr. Economist? If 2K still had access to NFL licenses, they probably would have sold their game for $60 too.

Looks Neat and Shadowy

That dude, Michel Gagne, who’s famous for leaving Disney and making his own cartoons has got a game in the works and it looks beautiful. Watch:

The game is called Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and it looks quite good and retro-tough. All of the footage is in-game, apparently, so it also looks pretty kicking.

Filmmakers Bleed: Iron Man
May 6th, 2008 by Dan

It was back in 2002 that Spider-Man paved the way for the new wave of comic book movies and, aside from a few Marvel mistakes (Hulk, Daredevil, Ghostrider), the genre has been continually evolving and, surprisingly, getting better. This past Friday saw the release of Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr., and I’m happy to say that it easily falls within the top five best comic book movies I’ve ever seen.

For those unfamiliar with the character, Iron Man is the superhero alter ego of military contractor billionaire Tony Stark. I say superhero, but really Iron Man is a guy in a suit, not a true superhero (as in a dude with superpowers). In the movie, Tony Stark is kidnapped by a terrorist group seeking to use his technical knowledge to create weapons for them. Instead of creating the missile they want, he creates a very rough version of the Iron Man suit and escapes, prompting him to start a life as Iron Man.

It’s almost a shame that these comic book movies have to spend time introducing the origins of the characters. While Tony Stark segments are all really awesome and funny, we’re treated to a lot less Iron Man action than one would expect. Instead we see plenty of the prototyping and creation process with only a little bit of fighting all the way at the end. I suppose this is the difference between a great comic book movie, like Iron Man, and a masterpiece of a comic book movie, like Batman Begins. If you’re honestly looking to watch Iron Man to see a balls-to-the-wall action movie, you will be disappointed. I think it works really well for the movie though, since Robert Downey Jr.’s performance is unparalleled as he plays that role he does oh so well (see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and his chemistry with Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Terrence Howard as Jim Rhodes steal the show from the hero itself. To give you an idea of how awesome he is, Downey Jr. even acts beautifully when onscreen with robots

Downsides: The enemies of the movie are pretty weak, but it’s an origin story, so I suppose I can forgive that. Tony Stark’s goatee also looks really stupid. Other than that, a great comic movie that will not disappoint anyone who even only kind of enjoys this sort of thing.

My recommendation: See it.

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